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Arizona Governor Vetoes 'Birther Bill'; Will European Troops Enter Libya?

Aired April 18, 2011 - 22:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news tonight: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed her state's first-in-the-nation birther bill.

And we're to bring you more on that in just a moment. We begin, though, "Keeping Them Honest" and the ugly offspring of birtherism, that's a word, and bigotry. Most people who doubt that President Obama was born here also sharply deny that their suspicions are rooted in race.

A woman named Marilyn Davenport is no exception to that. She's an elected Republican Party official in Southern California's Orange County. And you will have to decide whether her denial of allegations that she's a racist is credible.

Friday afternoon, she forwarded an e-mail. At first, she called the fuss much ado about nothing and then late today, she changed her tune a bit. You will have to decide which version of that rings true.

So, first, let's begin with e-mail in question. It's this. This is what Ms. Davenport forwarded, President Obama's head on a baby chimp's body, a mother and father chimp sitting beside him. And above it, the text said this, "Now you know why no birth certificate."

County GOP Congressman Scott Baugh is one of the people who got that e-mail. He says he replied to the e-mail telling Ms. Davenport, it was -- quote -- "dripping with racism and in very poor taste."

Well, by Saturday, "The Orange County Weekly" had the e-mail itself. The paper says Ms. Davenport declined to comment on it. She did though send an e-mail to fellow party Central Committee members calling the leak cowardly, the e-mail a joke and the fuss over it all much ado about nothing -- quote -- "I'm sorry if my e-mail offended anybody," she writes. Notice the if, if it offended anybody. She goes on, "I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding the origins of his birth."

"In no way," she continues, "did I even consider the fact that he's that half-black when I sent out the e-mail. In fact, the thought never even entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race." She closes by claiming a double standard that applies regarding this president and that there was no media outcry about George W. Bush e-mails.

And, again, you can decide for yourself whether you think that's an apology or the non-apology apology. She's since issued another apology. I will get to that one in just a moment. First though, I want you to hear what a fellow GOP committee member, Tim Whitacre, had to say. He received the e-mail, the offensive e-mail, and we spoke a little bit earlier tonight.


TIM WHITACRE, ORANGE COUNTY CENTRAL COMMITTEE: Who of us, Soledad, hasn't at any given time either said something, sent something or forwarded something we regretted doing?

She didn't sit there and go ha-ha-ha and types all sorts of stuff with it. She simply forwarded something on it that was relating to wonder why there's no birth certificate, now you know well. And I don't support the e-mail. I would never forward it out. And I guarantee you she will never do that ever again. She is greatly apologetic for what she has done.

Marilyn is a fine Christian lady. She would never do anything to hurt anybody in any way, shape, or form. She did not send anything out with premeditated intent to denigrate or offend anybody. It was something that came in. Knowing what she knows now, as some things have been explained to her, she greatly regrets the mail being forwarded.


O'BRIEN: Mr. Whitacre also told our producers that Marilyn Davenport is an elderly woman can barely work a computer. Yet according to the apology we just read to you she's been using e-mail since at least the Bush administration. She certainly knows how to send it. So it's not a question of that, but whether her judgment was good in deciding when to hit send and when to hit delete. But she is right about George Bush being targeted for scorn, even compared to a chimpanzee, Curious George, in fact, bear in mind though, at the time Mr. Bush was being lampooned for a lack of intellectual curiosity, not his parentage. Nobody was questioning whether he belonged to the country or, literally, in the human race.

And it is risky to draw too many collusions from any work of parody to kind of over-interpret it. But America has a pretty sad history of dehumanizing not whites, but African-Americans, by likening them to chimpanzees.

So perhaps with that in mind, Ms. Davenport late this afternoon issued yet another apology and it goes like this. "To my fellow Americans and to everyone else who has seen the e-mail I forwarded and was offended" -- was offended not, not if offended," I humbly apologize," she goes on, "and I ask for your forgiveness of my unwise behavior." She continues, "I say unwise because at the time I received and forwarded the e-mail I didn't stop to think about the historic implications and other examples of how this could be offensive." She goes on to say, "I am an imperfect Christian lady who tries her best to live a Christlike, honoring life."

That's a very, very, very, very, very different apology than the first one. And again, it's up to you to decide which one rings true. I talked about it tonight with Scott Baugh, he's the chairman of the Orange County Republican Party. Here's what he said.


O'BRIEN: Were you surprised when you, along with many other people, got this e-mail?

SCOTT BAUGH, ORANGE COUNTY GOP PARTY CHAIRMAN: Oh, sure, I was shocked. Marilyn Davenport is the nicest lady you Have ever meet. She's kind. She's never said a bad word about anybody. That's why I was particularly shocked to receive that e-mail.

O'BRIEN: Do you think it's a racist e-mail?

BAUGH: Well, there's no question the e-mail is racist. The only question is what was in Marilyn heart, what was her intent. But I don't think there's anybody on our committee or anybody in the world really that doesn't see it as a racist e-mail.

O'BRIEN: So she gave an apology that I -- wrote an apology, really, that I thought was sort of what I call the non-apology apology, which was, you know, I'm sorry if you were offended but I'm not that sorry.

BAUGH: Right.

O'BRIEN: What did you make of her apology?

BAUGH: Well, the original apology that I saw was not an apology at all. It blamed the liberal media, it blamed the others who probably were too sensitive, so to speak. It's like, if you were offended, I am sorry. It never took ownership of the issue. And a real apology doesn't blame others, it takes ownership of the issue and sincerely says I'm sorry for doing what I did. And that apology didn't have any ownership that the e-mail was racist whatsoever.

O'BRIEN: Her defenders have seemed to insinuate that she really didn't understand maybe that it was racist. Do you think that's possible?

BAUGH: Well, you know, it's possible. I mean, Marilyn is a sweet lady. And -- but there's no question that the e-mail is racist and it's -- I find it odd that you wouldn't consider it racist.

But what we encouraged Marilyn to do early on is understand the impact of what she's done. And I don't think she understood the gravity of the impact of the offense until maybe today. But prior to that, I don't think she did. And that's why this controversy continued to drag on.

O'BRIEN: She said in one of her responses, well, you know, I have black friends and this is sort of much ado about nothing. Has there been an outcry from African-Americans, certainly in Orange County as well as outside Orange County? BAUGH: Oh, sure. Oh, sure, sure. Yes, a civil rights group calling for her resignation. I called for her resignation first. I thought it was so far over the line that it was hard to find any reason that you would send that e-mail.

O'BRIEN: Her defenders have said there was nothing evil in her heart at the time and that, in fact, it's a personal e-mail and that she certainly shouldn't be asked to resign if you're sending out a personal e-mail to a list of your friends.

BAUGH: Well, first of all, it wasn't a personal e-mail. It was an e-mail sent out to a list of Central Committee members,follow, elected public officials. She is an elected public official. When you send an e-mail out to other elected public officials, it's not a private e-mail any longer.

O'BRIEN: She has written a second apology which talks about sort of really feeling much more humble about the fallout.

BAUGH: It sounded like it was a lot more heartfelt. It sounded like she accepted responsibility for the racist content of the e-mail. And I look forward to see it.

O'BRIEN: She says, "I am an imperfect Christian lady who tries to best to live a Christlike, honoring life. I would never do anything to intentionally harm or berate others, regardless of ethnicity."

You believe that or don't believe that?

BAUGH: I do believe that, knowing Marilyn, I believe that. I think that in large part I don't think she measured the consequence of what she was doing. I don't think she understood the gravity of the impact this would have. And apparently she has since then come to realize that this was a terribly offensive and racist e-mail to many people.

O'BRIEN: Do you still think she should resign?

BAUGH: Well, again, first of all, I have not seen the apology. She hasn't issued it to me or through the committee. And we will have to evaluate that. The Ethics Committee will evaluate that.

But the bottom line is being sorry for something and having a sincere apology doesn't undo the action, it doesn't unring the bell, it doesn't stop the consequence. So there are still consequences for what she's done and what she's done will continue to bring controversy to our party so I'm inclined to think at this time she should still resign from the committee.

O'BRIEN: So this has been so much fallout from this, do you think people have a sense that if you're Republican in Orange County or maybe even California that this kind of thing is OK?

BAUGH: No, not whatsoever. You know, there's racism exists in a lot of different places unfortunately and it exists in both parties. And the question is what does the party do when racism raises its ugly head? And our party moved quickly and swiftly and thoroughly and the consequence was a demand of resignation.

Under state law, we can't vote her out of office because she's an elected official, but we will be measured by our reaction to this and our reaction has been swift.

O'BRIEN: Scott Baugh joining us tonight, thank you, Scott. I appreciate your time.

BAUGH: Thank you.


O'BRIEN: We have got now more on the breaking news. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's veto of the nation's first birther bill, which would require a long form birth certificate or a handful of other documents for anybody who wants to be on the Arizona presidential ballot.

In a statement Governor Brewer said this. "I never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president of the greatest and most powerful nation on Earth to submit their early baptismal or circumcision certificates among other records to the Arizona secretary of state. This," she writes, "is a bridge too far."

The governor also said she does not support designate that single person as the bill does to be a gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate. Arizona lawmakers could still override her veto. There's more breaking news to tell you about. Up next, late word that the Europeans are planning to push for boots on the ground sending troops into the embattled city of Misrata. Just ahead, Greg Mortenson, his book is a bestseller. His organization is renowned for building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But tonight there are allegations that some stories in the book are fiction and so are some of the schools. And there's money questions, too. We have got his reaction as well. We will talk with Alex Heard, who spoke recently with Mortenson, also CNN's Peter Bergen and Nicholas Kristof of "The New York Times." That's all ahead. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: There's breaking news tonight about Libya. There are reports that the European Union is prepared to send up to 1,000 troops, which has been pounded by Moammar Gadhafi's forces for nearly two months now.

Both Reuters and Britain's "Guardian" newspaper report that the troops will be deployed to secure deliveries of desperately needed aid and supplies and that they would not engage Gadhafi's forces. Now, these reports come as serious questions are now being raised about NATO's role in Libya. Specifically, doe it have enough munitions and fighter jets to protect Libyans from Gadhafi's forces?

NATO says, yes, it does, though they admit they're having difficulty striking Gadhafi because he's hiding weapons in populated areas. In Misrata rebels flat out say that NATO is not doing enough to help them. They say in the last few days the shelling by Gadhafi's forces has been intense and at least 24 people have been killed since Sunday with dozens more injured. A rebel spokesman told CNN that people in Misrata feel disappointed and let down by NATO and that there have been no airstrikes by NATO against Gadhafi's forces in four days. He also said that Gadhafi's forces aren't threatened by NATO anymore.

Let's get right to these developments. We are joined by retired Army Major General James "Spider" Marks. He's the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. Bob Baer joins us as well, he's the co-author of "The Company We Keep" and a former CIA officer. It's nice to see you both, gentlemen.

General Marks, let's start with you. Let's start with these new reports. In fact, European Union wants to send in the ground troops to protect humanitarian efforts, but you said no matter what route this all takes you think ground troops will be inevitable. Is that right?

BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I do. You know, at some point there has to be a presence on the ground that at a minimum can keep the warring parties apart if there is some type of accord that can be reached that allows the rebels to hold some piece of Libya and Gadhafi to hold his piece of Libya.

But if the European Union gets involved, we have a history of seeing humanitarian efforts kind of go bad or at least expand. There's always a sense of mission creep. We have personal experience with that in Somalia. The best intentions and then we have to leave after 18 Americans are slaughtered at the hands of rebels in Somalia.

We have a similar experience in the Balkans. So we have to be very, very wary of the fact that ground troops are going in or humanitarian reasons and that's very pure but there is a real sense that this could expand.

O'BRIEN: just going in for humanitarian reasons, Bob, is sort of a new front, a new chapter in the conflict. Do you think the time has come to send them in especially in light of what Spider Marks is talking about, mission creep?

ROBERT BAER, INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, TIME.COM: I completely agree. This is mission creep. It is inevitable.

The rebels are not a cohesive force. You know, if we don't go in, if NATO doesn't go in or the European Union and put people on the ground there will be a massacre in Misrata and a couple other places. And also, those forces, I would hope they help in the sense that they would target Gadhafi's forces, paint them so that the air force can hit them. As it is now, they're in built-up areas. It's hard to see them. And air cover, airpower at this point is just not going to do it. And another thing is I don't have a lot of confidence in the European Union. I was in Bosnia when they were there. It was an utter failure and eventually the United States had to come in. This is a conflict that's going to be tempting us in the months to come.

O'BRIEN: General Marks, the rebel forces, as I said just a moment ago, have said that there's been no bombing in four days and there's a report in "The Washington Post" that says, U.S. officials are quoted as saying NATO is running out of those precision bombs and munitions. Can NATO actually really realistically beat back Gadhafi's forces?

MARKS: Not with -- only through the application of air, it can't be done. NATO flew 42 strike missions it announced on Saturday, but I don't know where those strike missions took place and clearly the rebels who are on the ground and engaged and are really in a siege, if you will, in Misrata are saying that those strikes are not as effective as they should be.

So clearly, as Bob indicated, there needs to be a direct correlation between what our end states are that we're trying to achieve. As an international community, whether it's the E.U., United Nations, NATO, or the United States very specifically. And right now there's a big gap between what we see and what we hear we want to try to achieve.

O'BRIEN: Bob, what's the strategy in dealing with Gadhafi? The guy is clearly massacring his own people. Why not just target him personally, why not try to oust him specifically as opposed to what the strategy is now?

BAER: You know, I just don't see halfway measures solving this.

Gadhafi has said he will hold on, even if he has to retreat from Tripoli. He will continue to fight. He will continue to push Libya to a much worse civil war. And I think we should really face the facts that we're talking about regime decapitation. He's got to go. The man is crazy. He will light the country on fire.

And we just have to come to terms with that or get out completely and let it go where it goes. But that would lead to a huge humanitarian disaster for North Africa and for Europe. So I think, you know, unfortunately the last thing we need is another war in the Middle East. But in order to win this one, we have to go in with complete power and for regime decapitation.

O'BRIEN: But General Marks, you know, Bob is talking about regime decapitation. But when you listen to the rebels, they talk about something that's disorganized, unfocused. How much of what's happening now is basically a reaction of sort of a lack of clarity of mission?

MARKS: Well, it truly is.

You know, the rebels responded. And I think all of us, the international community and the rebels themselves were caught up in a sense of immediacy that they saw in Tunisia and they saw in Egypt. And so there was an -- and even the United States. Our president certainly saw what took place, the juxtaposition of those two countries that surround Libya and said, you know, this is going to take place very quickly. We need to achieve some momentum. We went in for humanitarian reasons, which is an inappropriate way to start any type of engagement because when you define it by humanitarian means, you have incrementalism in the application of force.


O'BRIEN: What does that mean?

MARKS: Incrementalism means we're going to start small and then will play it by ear. We're playing it by ear. And we have also very cynically, we sent a message to the rebels that we were here to help. We're really not helping the way that we should based upon the message that we sent.

O'BRIEN: So then Bob, what should happen now? There are some options. You could I guess retreat, retrain the rebels. Is that realistic?

BAER: No. It's not. You know, training a force like that is going to take six months to a year. And even at that I'm not sure. These people are very difficult to train. There's no cohesive force. There are no military commanders.

General Haftar is or Colonel Haftar is not capable of leading this force. We can't even identify commanders. The way we're doing it now, we're ensuring a conflict that could go on for years.

MARKS: And Soledad, if I could follow on to Bob, to that very point, you can, the key thing that the rebels need to do is realize that they can if they're not going to win, at least they need to win by not losing. And right now they're losing.

So a consolidation of some sort, and to Bob's point, it may take time to achieve success, but that is the thing that's in their favor and it's time.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to ask both you gentlemen to stick around for a minute while we bring in CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman. He's in Benghazi, which is as you know the rebel stronghold in eastern Libya.

Ben, I know you were in Misrata earlier today and I know it wasn't for very long, but what did you see?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we saw was a city very much under siege by Libyan forces surrounded by three sides. It's actually coping far better than I expected. They have two months of food, a supply of two months of food. Unlike in the east, they seem to be fairly well-organized militarily. They have managed to hold off the Libyan army for quite some time and actually take some -- inflict some casualties upon their enemy, unlike in the eastern part of the country. They have managed to build up proper defenses, taking advantage of the urban terrain. So all is not lost for the opposition forces. They are doing well in Misrata in relative terms. The worry is in the east where they just don't seem to be able to get their act together.

O'BRIEN: We have heard word that the opposition forces have been very disappointed, no bombing strikes in four days or even more now. What did you hear specifically from the opposition about NATO and NATO's role and NATO's backing, frankly?

WEDEMAN: Well, they have been complaining that for the last four days there have been no airstrikes in the Misrata area, they're told, they say, because of bad weather. What we saw was actually fairly good weather. It was partly cloudy. There was a full moon. It wouldn't have been a problem, I think, for airplanes to strike in the area.

And this is a complaint you hear not just in Misrata but in the east as well that NATO uses the weather as an excuse, but the weather, it changes a lot. Sometimes in one area, you can have a sandstorm in the morning. In the afternoon it's bright, sunny, and clear. The feeling is that they say they are providing information about targets to NATO, but the problem is that this information is relayed back to an operation center in Benghazi and from there to the NATO command and somehow along the way the messages simply get lost or aren't acted upon in a timely manner.

O'BRIEN: That sounds confusing and unfocused. Ben Wedeman, General Marks, Bob Baer, thanks, gentlemen, appreciate it.

Coming up next, Greg Mortenson he wrote a bestseller, his organization is renowned for building schools in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. Tonight though allegations that some of the stories in the book are fiction and some of the schools are, too.

Also ahead tonight, last year's Gulf oil spill killed thousands of birds. Tonight we will preview an HBO documentary that tracked the rescue of a single brown pelican. That's straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: There are some stories that are out there that are so moving, so well told, that some editors call them too good to check. That's because they know if they do check they will find out they're really that, just good stories, not actually true.

"Keeping Them Honest" tonight, the question is simple, is "Three Cups of Tea" by former mountain climber Greg Mortenson one of those stories? It is a moving, well-told bestseller, one of two central stories in it is about failing to reach the summit of K2, the world's second tallest mountain, how he got lost and then stumbled into the Pakistani town of Korphe. There Mortenson says the locals cared for him and he in return made to them a promise. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw 84 children sitting in the dirt during their school lessons. Most of them were writing with sticks in the sand. And it was at that very rash moment they asked for help to build a school.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I built a school and 78 more and still doing it today.


O'BRIEN: The rich and famous helped with their donations, including President Obama, who gave $100,000 of his Nobel Prize money.

But now there are questions about that and another key story in that book, as well as how many schools have actually been built and how much money and how it's been spent, for instance, the story behind this picture. Take a look. Mortenson claims that these are the Pakistani Taliban. He claims that, back in 1996, they captured him and held him for eight days.

Now take a look at this. Same picture, but this time it's him with his alleged Taliban captors, but he's holding an AK-47, and you begin to wonder if, in fact, he's a hostage or if he is a visitor.

That photo was provided by one of the men who actually runs a think tank in Pakistan. We should point out we can't independently verify that particular photo, but he spoke today with CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Greg Mortenson says that you kidnapped him. Did you?

MANSUR KHAN MAHSUD, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, FATA RESEARCH GROUP: No, he's lying. He's lying. We didn't kidnap him. He was our guest. And we treated him as a guest.

WALSH: If you saw Greg Mortenson now, what would you say to him?

MAHSUD: I would simply say, why would you defame me and my family and my tribe? We treated you well. We housed you in our homes. So why the hell you have made all these lies about us?


O'BRIEN: Then there are questions about the school building mission. CBS News' "60 Minutes" recently looked into 30 of 141 schools that Mortenson's organization, CAI, says it built in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And they found that roughly half of those, 30 were empty, built by others, or receiving no support at all from CAI.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE CROFT, "60 MINUTES": The principal of this school told us that the institute had built six classrooms poorly several years ago and, since then, not a single rupee.

In Afghanistan, we could find no evidence that six of the schools even existed, most of them in war-torn Kunar province.


O'BRIEN: That was "60 Minutes" Steve Croft.

Then there's the money. Now, according to "60 Minutes," an analysis of 2009 receipts CAI spent just 41 percent of the money it raised to build schools, but $1.7 million, again, according to "60 Minutes," went to Mortenson's book-related expenses.

To put that in context, that's more money than they spent on schools in Pakistan that year.

So here is what Greg Mortenson sent via e-mail to his supporters about the allegations on Sunday; said this, "The 60 Minutes interview paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo, and a microscopic focus on one year's IRS 990 financial and a few points in the book 'Three Cups of Tea' that occurred almost 18 years ago."

Mortenson declined our request for an interview. He did, though, recently speak to Alex Heard, the editorial director of "Outside" magazine. And Alex joins us now, along with CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen and also Nicholas Kristof of "The New York Times."

Gentlemen, it's nice to have all of you. Alex, let me begin with you, and I have to tell you, when I was watching this last night on "60 Minutes" I was so disappointed. I loved this book. What did Mortenson tell you in your interview with him? You had one of the very rare interviews. I mean, what did he say to give context to what was a major piece about a lot of problems in his organization and his book?

ALEX HEARD, "OUTSIDE" MAGAZINE: Remember, when I -- when I spoke with him he hasn't seen the "60 Minutes" report or the Jon Krakauer article that's coming out shortly or is available now. So he was going -- he was sort of guessing on what the allegations were, and I kind of was able to walk him through what was likely coming.

So we just went through the major things, you know, the story about Korphe and the kidnapping and the allegations of financial impropriety. And for all those things he has an answer. Now, whether they're going to prove satisfactory, I think it's too early to tell, but you know, in each case, he gave me his side of the story.

O'BRIEN: But part of his side of the story was, "Well, I wasn't a journalist and there is this compression of time and, you know, you take literary license." What did you make of sort of all of those answers when you asked him the Korphe story, which is such an important, critical center of the book, seems to not exactly be true? HEARD: Yes, and his answer to that evolved a little bit. I talked to him three times over the weekend and kind of in the middle of the weekend, and finally got him to tell me that the story as it exists in the book definitely isn't true.

He says he did go to the village upon his -- right after his descent from K-2 and was there a few hours rather than a few days, as depicted in the book. And the story he tells is that he went to Skordoo (ph) and then in the book says he immediately came back to the village. And that's where they had the great moment where the -- you know, the discussion occurs and the vision takes shape to start building schools.

What he told me is that that part happened a year later, in the fall of '94, rather than '93. So obviously, the story in the book isn't accurate, and that's clearly established.

O'BRIEN: All right, Peter, let's talk about this other claim that we were mentioning a minute ago. Mortenson said he was kidnapped by the Pakistani Taliban, and he told Alex in an interview, all I know is that I was there in the area where Taliban had originated. They didn't call themselves Taliban. Maybe they were; maybe they weren't. I was detained against my will."

When you read that, what do you think?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think it's true. Manfro Khan (ph), the guy that was supposedly one of the kidnappers that CNN just interviewed, and you show on the screen, somebody I know. I've done a fair amount of work with him, commissioned academic papers from him in Waziristan, where this alleged kidnapping took place.

And the fact is, is that Manfro Khan (ph) is not a member of the Taliban; wouldn't have kidnapped Greg Mortenson; and these pictures speak for themselves. Greg Mortenson was here as sort of a tourist, was shown around.

The Taliban, by the way, didn't exist in this part of Afghanistan in 1996, as -- as he claims. And indeed, the Taliban had banned photography at the time these photographs were taken. And also, which kidnapping in history features not only the kidnapping but the victim holding a gun, as Greg Mortenson is doing in this picture? It just defies logic, you know, Soledad. It doesn't make sense.

O'BRIEN: Nick, you've written about Mortenson's charity and the schools, and you visited the schools, the Central Asia Institute. When you heard about the controversy first, what did you think?

NICHOLAS KRISTOFF, "NEW YORK TIMES": I just find it heartbreaking. I -- you know, I admire what Greg has done. And I don't know what to make of some of these. These are clearly really serious allegations that are being made about the accuracy in the book and about the way the money is used.

But on the other hand, I also have seen firsthand some of the schools and operations in Afghanistan. And they're real, and they're truly impressive. Those that I saw.

And I also think that the -- that Greg has touched on an amount of truth, that in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that books are better than bombs. And I hear that this controversy is going to obscure that larger truth.

O'BRIEN: You know, the books are better than bombs. This is -- "Three Cups of Tea" is required reading for U.S. troops that head into Afghanistan. I have to imagine, Peter, that that's going to change in light of this, don't you think?

BERGEN: Well, they might be marketed as, you know, more like a novel than perhaps nonfiction.

I mean, the problem here is, you know, also for Viking Penguin, which published the book, you know, Nick Kristof has written many books. And I'm a great admirer of his work. But I think it's going to be hard for Penguin going forward to say, if it turns out, as I think it is true, that there are some fabrications in this book, that this book is somehow a work that is based on fact.

And the problem is, as an author myself writing nonfiction books, you know, we want people who go into book stores, who buy nonfiction books, to go in with the confidence that they're actually buying something that's based on fact. And there are thousands of authors around the world who write books who don't take these short cuts.

And, you know, even if it were charitable to Mortenson, he's basically agreed, "Yes, I took literary license. Yes, these stories aren't really actually basically fundamentally true." And he's blaming, I think very unfairly, by the way, his co-author in the statements that he's made to Alex Heard, essentially saying, "Hey, it wasn't me. The dog ate my homework. It was the other guy who wrote the book who got all these things wrong." Which I just think is, you know, disingenuous, to put it mildly.

O'BRIEN: When you interviewed him, Alex, did he come across to you as somebody who was trying to scapegoat his co-author? He said, you know, "He's the journalist, not me." And "I was traveling a lot, and I've been really, really busy, and he was the guy who was really, you know, doing the compressing."

Or, you know, sometimes he comes across, Mortenson, that is, in interviews as a little bit clueless, a little bit out of it. And then he also kept saying, "Well, you know, it was almost two decades ago."

What did you make of all these excuses, really?

HEARD: Well, he -- people have met Greg Mortenson know that he is a different sort of person. You know, he's -- he's -- he has done a lot of great work over there. And I think it's -- we should be careful not to immediately throw all of that out, because -- because here are some questions being raised. He's -- you know, he can be an odd person to talk to.

And when I asked him about that, I gave him a chance to, you know, say, you're really just saying it's -- this was something that happened to you? It wasn't -- you weren't a participant in these inaccuracies. He didn't really take that chance. He kind of said, "Yes, I didn't really understand publishing or nonfiction writing." And it was almost like he got rolled by the process.

And that's -- that's too bad. But obviously, it's not a good enough answer. But I don't think it means that everything in those books is a lie.

And remember, in "Outside" magazine we did a profile of Mortenson where our writer was with him from start to finish on one of his missions in Pakistan, and everything he saw happened, from a crazy scene at a bank where they -- he and an associate took $200,000 in cash to pay teachers, and a scene when they opened the school, and that school exists.

So there's a lot of real, tangible stuff that has grown out of his work and CAI. And I think people should be careful not to just think it's all a fraud, and there's nothing good to be salvaged from any of this.

O'BRIEN: Yes. But you know, when you mention the money, it always gets tricky when you're dealing with a charity, that last year they made $24 million. And I think anybody who hears that 41 percent of the money that was raised went to building schools. You know, often people will get very frustrated if the money they're giving does not literally specifically go to the thing that they've been reading about or been told about.

Nick, do you worry that this is the kind of thing that a donor is going to run from?

KRISTOFF: Yes, I do worry about that. You know, there is in general, I think, often a dysfunction between the charities, or organizations that have the best of intentions but aren't always very well managed.

And frankly, there is, to some extent, a problem in the non- profit sector with a lot of organizations that aren't run as efficiently as they should be. I think there should be a wake-up call to the sector as a whole, that it -- that it needs to, you know, be ready for more scrutiny, welcome that scrutiny.

I think the CAI and, frankly, Greg handled this, you know, really poorly. I think they should have come out earlier and responded much more fully to, you know -- earlier on.

But again, I would also just echo what Alex said, is that it's really hard to build schools in the middle of nowhere. We don't know fully yet what happened. And to some extent, I mean, there are serious questions but we should reserve questions -- reserve judgment to some degree.

O'BRIEN: Well, we will see what happens. It unfolds over the next days and months. Nick, thank you. Alex and Peter, as well. Still ahead tonight, the images you'll remember were just heartbreaking. Thousands of birds coated in oil after the largest oil spill in United States history.

New there's a new documentary that follows the fight to save one of those birds, the brown pelican. We got a preview.

First, though, here's Isha Sesay.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, new information tonight about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and a new tool in the clean- up effort. How robots are being used to help in areas that are too dangerous for human workers. That's coming it right up.


O'BRIEN: Wednesday marks the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico which killed 11 men and unleashed the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Four point nine million barrels of oil poured into the Gulf over 85 days. Anderson reported on the disaster for months, and this week at 360, we're going to bring you special reports from the Gulf to show you recovery a year later.

Tonight, a look at the birds caught in the spill. It's estimated that between 6 and 7,000 birds were killed, many of them coated in oil. Thousands more were injured.

There's a new HBO documentary which shows the effort to rescue one of those birds, a brown pelican. Here's a preview of "Saving Pelican 895."


DR. ERICA MILLER: We don't name them. We learn quickly in this field not do to do that, because you get too easily attached to them and something happens that they don't, the outcome isn't good, it's much harder to deal with if you know them personally. His number is 895, LA-895, or the 895th bird brought in live oil to Louisiana.


O'BRIEN: "Saving Pelican 895" airs Wednesday night April 20 on HBO.

Joining me now, the filmmaker, Irene Brodsky. Nice to see Irene. Thanks for talking with me.

First and foremost, you know, it's so interesting to see a story that's so big: 85 days of oil just sort of lugging into the Gulf. And you tell the story that's such a narrow thread, one single bird. Why focus on bird?

IRENE BRODSKY, FILMMAKER, "SAVING PELICAN 895": Well, I think we all saw these images, and they were so overwhelming and so tragic and so sad.

And you know the head of HBO Doc Film, Sheila Nevin (ph), she called me last year in Portland, Oregon, and she said, "What if you went down to the Gulf and just tried to make a film about one bird? Do you think we could do it?" I think we both thought that, if we could distill the stories of all those birds maybe into one life, we might have something.

O'BRIEN: Is -- was it hard to get one bird? Was it hard to getting access to one bird?

BRODSKY: Well, I think it was hard to get access to a lot of things about last year's spill. But once we filmed 895 being captured, we just decided we'd stick with him through thick or thin, whether he lived or died. And that was a really key component. We just kept that focus like a laser throughout the whole time we were there.

And there were a lot of hoops to jump through, because every time he changed hands, we had to get a new set of permissions. And so that was especially complicated.

O'BRIEN: Why was the permission so hard for a single bird?

BRODSKY: Well, the thing is these birds, they weren't just cared for by one group. You know, you had state and federal agencies capturing the bird. Then you had the international bird rescue groups actually rehabbing the bird.

And then you had, of course, other federal and state agencies again releasing the bird. And so every time we had to follow the bird to a new pen, even in his rehabilitation, we had a new person who we had to get a permission from.

O'BRIEN: You really see the compassion of the people whose job it is to go and save animals. And I want to play a quick clip from the documentary and then ask you a question on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lose a bird, it's probably not the end of the world. We feel we're responsible, and how can people question that we shouldn't care for these animals?

There are some countries that believe that you should just kill these animals and not care for them. Generally, they don't want to put the time and the effort and the money towards it. Populations are made up of individuals, and if you start looking at individuals as they're not important, then ultimately the population becomes unimportant.

It doesn't mean everybody has to wash a bird. It means that everybody should, in my mind, support it, because it's just like when someone gets hurt on the street, and you take him to the hospital. You may say, "Oh, it's just a street person" or whatever. It's a human life. And it deserves care and respect, and we're saying the same thing.


O'BRIEN: I love that clip, because it's such a metaphor for, you know, the bird being humanity. You know, are you willing to save humanity or not?

Now, at the same time, did you worry that -- and I won't give it away if the bird lives or dies, but did you worry that the bird living became a metaphor for good news and the bird dying becoming a metaphor for the Gulf dying? How worried were you going through the process?

BRODSKY: That's a really good point. And I think that we really had to understand that the bird would be iconic, whether he lived or died, because really, this bird, he is representative of both the destruction and the hope.

And I'm not giving away the ending by saying that, because I think there are parts of his experience, being rehabilitated, moments of it, even when you see he's doing OK that are just -- it just doesn't look right to see a bird have to go through something like this and just to be in captivity. It's easy to forget that just even being in captivity, even though there's all these watchful eyes and everyone is trying to take care and rehabilitate this bird, it's very traumatic for these birds to be handled.

And so, when we were making the film we really made a point not to add any more stress to the bird. We only filmed the bird when he was being handled by his rehabilitators. We never spent time with the bird unless someone had to feed him or bathe him or marinate him in his presoak solution. We never tried to imprint him with human contact any more than he already was being imprinted.

O'BRIEN: Well, I won't give it away either. "Saving Pelican 895," it's a wonderful documentary. Irene Taylor Brodsky joining us tonight. Thanks for your time.

BRODSKY: Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Coming up, what robots have discovered at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant.

And on tax deadline day, the White House releases the president and first lady's tax return. We'll show you how much money they earned last year when 360 continues.


O'BRIEN: And we're following several other stories tonight. Isha Sesay joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Soledad, the death toll from Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami is approaching 14,000. And another 14,030 people are missing. Meanwhile, remote-controlled robots at the crippled nuclear power plant in Japan have found high levels of radiation at two reactors.

Here in the U.S., at least 45 people are dead after at least 97 tornadoes touched down in 12 states across the plains and southeast. Hardest hit is North Carolina, where 22 people were killed.

Water recovered but not enough to recoup a day of sharp losses on the Standard & Poors, noted outlet for America's long-term credit rating. That sent investors running, shaving nearly 250 points from the Dow at one point. The index ended the day down 140 points.

Speaking of cash, the tax returns of President Obama and the first lady showed they earned $1.7 million last year, most of that from his book sales. That's actually down from $5.5 million back in 2009. The Obamas paid $453,000 in federal taxes, and they donated 40 percent of their income to charities.

And Soledad, can you hear that ticking?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I can.

SESAY: Yes, you can. You can hear it loud and clear. You have until midnight. Can you hear it. Until midnight tonight, file your taxes.

O'BRIEN: Yes. How much time is that? I have an hour and three minutes to get them done.

Thank you so much, Isha.

SESAY: Don't sweat it.

O'BRIEN: That's really helpful at this hour of the night. I so appreciate that.

Isha Sesay for us.

Lots more ahead at the top of the hour, starting with breaking news on Arizona's birther bill. The outrage over an e-mail depicting President Obama as a chimp. That's all ahead.