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Bachmann's Missteps; White House Stimulus Stumble; Interview With Rep. Tim Murphy

Aired September 14, 2011 - 20:00   ET



Tonight is Michele Bachmann's latest misstep the beginning of the end of her presidential campaign? By most accounts Bachmann did well in the CNN/Tea Party Republican debate taking Rick Perry to task on his executive order requiring girls to get the HPV vaccine suggesting he was catering to pharmaceutical maker, Merck.

And then she did this.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll tell you this, I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that -- took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.

It can have very dangerous side effects. The mother was crying when she came up to me last night. I didn't know who she was before the debate. This is the very real concern. And people have to draw their own conclusions.


COOPER: That was Bachmann on the "Today" recounting what some unnamed stranger allegedly said to her.

Now we have no reason to doubt someone actually said this to Mrs. Bachmann but it is incredibly irresponsible of her to repeat what this person said as part of her argument against the HPV vaccine and then suddenly throw up her hands and say, you'll have to make of it what you will.

"Keeping Them Honest," the CDC says there is absolutely no evidence that the HPV vaccine has any link whatsoever to onset of mental disabilities.

Now it's certainly new phenomenon for politicians to stretch the truth and manipulate facts. But Bachmann is spreading all-out falsehood here. A dangerous falsehood at that. And it is not the first time she's done this by any stretch of the imagination.

I just want to play you some of Michele Bachmann's other statements in the past, and keep in mind, there's no political wiggle room here on these statements. No gray areas, no spin. What you're about to hear is just flat-out factually incorrect statement.


BACHMANN: I think we know that just within a day or so, the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him. He'll be renting out over 870 rooms in India and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

That's why this week it's ironic and sad that the president released all of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserves.

Is that abortion? Does that mean that someone's 13-year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus that night? Mom and dad are never the wiser.

The executive director of Planned Parenthood in Illinois said they want to become the lens crafter of big abortion in Illinois.

I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter and I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence.

Like Speaker Pelosi, who has been busy sticking the taxpayer with her $100,000 bar tab for alcohol on the military jets that she's flying.


COOPER: Well, the latest CNN/ORC poll which was done before the debate has Bachmann in seventh place as Republicans' choice for the presidential nominee, behind Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.

So the question is have the falsehood -- the misstatement, the false statements that she's made caught up with her? Do voters care about the truth?

Joining us now live, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen and Ron Carey, who is Bachmann's former chief of staff.

Ron, thanks for being with us. You were Bachmann's chief of staff. Why does this stuff seem to happen over and over again with her? I mean is it willful on her part? Is it carelessness? What is it?

RON CAREY, REP. BACHMANN'S FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Michelle is very impulsive on a personality standpoint. And she -- to her credit she reads an awful lot of information, but sometimes I'm afraid that she reads maybe 80 or 90 percent and leaves out or forgets the 10 or 20 percent that can change the outcome.

So her impulsive nature coupled with the fact that she sometimes doesn't digest information as carefully as she should leads to these kind of impulsive statements that sometimes are just off the mark enough that it's -- it makes her into a more of a provocative controversial figure.

COOPER: So are these things which are written out in advance for her or these things which are -- are in her head and pop out?

CAREY: No, she's -- that's one of the challenges I found with working with Michele, and it's consistent with what other people have worked with her, is the fact that she doesn't use her staff well. She's pretty much independent and does her own research. I mean she'll be out there on the stump preparing her own remarks and speaking off the cuff with no staff intervention or involvement whatsoever.

So it's really difficult to prep her and help her kind of fact- check before she goes out speaking because she will be out there speaking and you'll say, where did this come from? And it's something that she may be heard on TV.

I mean a great example, I think just a month or so ago when she kind of flubbed the Elvis anniversary and she probably heard something that morning on TV about the anniversary of Elvis and she interpreted it while listening carefully as his birthday instead of the anniversary of his passing.

And that's just -- you know, it's really hard for the staff to manage her -- lack of ability to stay on script.

COOPER: And David, that's certainly, you know, one of the minor things, the Elvis thing. But the -- a lot of the things she's saying are serious issues with serious political ramifications and -- that you shouldn't be making misstatements about like mental disabilities being brought about by HPV vaccine.

It doesn't seem, David Gergen, that these things stick, though. That, you know, we are constantly pointing out this is factually incorrect and yet it doesn't seem to -- at least up until now -- hasn't really had much of an impact on her?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, the -- Americans are very forgiving and often a person will start with a sort of a sizzling background and they'd done well, they're well-meaning, compassionate as she is. And when they get into the -- when they get into the big time and they get into -- you know, this is the NFL, in effect, she's playing in that it's a much tougher game.

And you know you're forgiven one or two but you get a whole string like this particularly this last one. And I think it has done serious damage to her campaign. Because in this last event about the vaccine, you know, what she has said, in effect, has given further fuel to this whole anti-vaccination crowd that is -- claims that all sorts of vaccinations cause problems for children, especially getting vaccinated for autism.

I mean vaccination can lead to autism. That's what the argument is. If you get vaccinated for various childhood diseases you get autism. That's been proven wrong. It was very wrong headed. A lot of kids didn't get vaccinated as a result and there's parts of this world where, you know, a number of deaths went up for children that are attributed to that.

And this sort of, you know, anti-vaccination, this is sort of an anti-science view that she's embraced here, and I think, you know, she didn't do it willingly. I mean she just -- I think she just mistakenly did it. It's very dangerous because it encourages parents not to get their children vaccinated.

And to go back to this Centers for Disease Control you cited earlier, the CDC is one of the most important scientific institutions we have and they have recommended that girls, young girls, 11 and 12 years old, be vaccinated against this HPV because it is the most commonly -- common sexually transmitted disease and it can be dangerous for children.

And to sort of play against that and say, no, don't get vaccinated at all is, you know, frankly irresponsible and she ought to right away say, I made a mistake on this one. Own up to it and try to move on.

CAREY: Well -- I mean if I can comment. I mean, David I think is a bit off on the fact that she -- I don't think -- in defending Michele, she didn't say don't get vaccinated. She said that parents should have the right to make that decision, not have it mandated by the government.

COOPER: But Ron, she's saying that --


COOPER: And I'm using her term, mental retardation and then kind of throwing up her hands and saying, you know, make of that what you will, I mean that's pretty damning stuff to be thrown out there with -- you know -- and to have it be medically incorrect information.

CAREY: Well, I guess I'd like to really say is that, you know, Michele has been known ever since she was elected to Congress here or ran for Congress, as making very provocative statements, and it really has impacted her in Minnesota in -- she has a history of underperforming compared to other Republicans on the ballot and I think the one thing the Republicans will agree upon this year is that Barack Obama needs to be a one-term president, but when you look at the field of candidates as we get more serious we're going to look at candidates as to how electable are they?

And Michele, consistent, in 2006 she was on the ballot with Tim Pawlenty, and Pawlenty outperformed her in Michele's congressional district by over 6 percent. In '08 McCain outperformed her by over 7 percent. And in 2010 he defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate with a strong three-party or three-person race, defeated her in 14 of the 15 House districts or state House districts.

So Michele, even though she has a very red district, I mean 24 of the 25 state legislatures in her district are Republican, so it's a deep red district.

COOPER: Right.

CAREY: But she consistently underperforms other Republicans on the ballot and that to me -- my concern is that these provocative statements drive away independents and moderates who we need to have with Republicans to defeat Obama in 2012.

GERGEN: Can I come back on that? I agree with what you just said, Ron. I just want to make a point -- say one thing. The people who warned parents that if they had their children vaccinated they could easily become autistic, did terrible damage because it persuaded a number of parents not to have their children vaccinated.

And to warn that getting vaccinated for HPV causes mental retardation is making exactly the same mistake and causes -- and particularly when it comes from a leading political figure in the country.

COOPER: We got to -- we got to leave it there, gentlemen.

Ron Carey, it's good to have you on. David Gergen as well.

CAREY: Thank you.

COOPER: Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @Andersoncooper. A little behind on the tweeting tonight. I'll try to get the -- get caught up during this hour.

Coming up, accusations of a White House stimulus scandal in Washington. Did the Obama administration rush alone to the crown jewel of the green energy push? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And a stunning blow for the Syrian opposition. A beloved anti- government leader seized by Syrian forces reportedly tortured after months of being in hiding on the run. Will his death inspire even greater commitment from the protesters on the streets? We'll talk to a friend of the dead man who is determined to speak out despite great risk to himself.

Plus Isha Sesay has found other stories tonight -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, stunning new revelations from Casey Anthony's father, George Anthony. He says he believes his daughter drugged his granddaughter, Caylee, to sedate the toddler so Casey could go out and have a good time.

Details from the exclusive interview and much more when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Tonight "Keeping Them Honest," with President Obama on the road selling his $447 billion jobs plan which some are calling stimulus two, there are new questions tonight about a cornerstone of stimulus one.

A $535 million loan to a company called Solyndra that makes solar energy panels. The company that's now declared bankruptcy laid off all 1100 of its workers and was raided by the FBI last week.

And on top of the failure of the business, there's growing controversy over whether the White House actually tried to rush that loan through government channels. E-mails have been uncovered by the "Washington Post" that showed that in August of 2009, White House officials were consistently bugging the Office of Management and Budget about when they were going to decide on the more than half a billion dollar loan.

See at that point the Energy Department had tentatively approved it but the OMB, the Office of Management and Budget, was still doing a final review. The problem was, the White House wanted Vice President Joe Biden to announce the loan approval at the ground breaking for the company's factory so time was of the essence.

So here's an example of the e-mail exchanges. In one e-mail a White House assistant mentions the upcoming Biden event and asks if there's anything, quote, "anything we can help to speed along on the OMB side."

And they get this response from an OMB staffer, quote, "I would prefer that this announcement be postponed. This is the first loan guarantee and we should have full review with all hands on deck to make sure we get it right."

Now a lot of people who work in an office might recognize or see that tone and think that they were just trying to cut through red tape and the White House is certainly playing -- characterizing it as that.

Today White House press secretary Jay Carney said what the e- mails show is a, quote, "urgency to make a decision about a scheduling matter." But Republican investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee which held a hearing on the Solyndra issue today came to the conclusion that the pressure from the White House may indeed have changed the way OMB reviewed the loan.

There was also concern that e-mail showed there were red flags about the company's financial viability even before the loan was approved. ABC News obtained an e-mail, particularly damning e-mail between DOE staffers and -- excuse me, an e-mail between DOE staffers and the e-mails predicted, and I quote, "The model runs out of cash in September of 2011."

Turns out that prediction was true. The company declared bankruptcy late last month with U.S. taxpayers now holding the bag on more than $500 million loan.

Last week, the FBI and agents from the Energy Department's Inspector General's Office raided the company's headquarters in California. No one is going on record with what the raid was all about but the DOE inspector general usually investigates allegations of fraud and wrongdoing.

Still, Energy Department officials are also defending the decision to back the company saying the loan application was almost complete before President Obama even took office. But at today's congressional hearing Republican Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana said Solyndra's failure could be a harbinger of things to come.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: While this was one of the poster child -- poster children of the first stimulus bill, the president right now is touting what I call son of stimulus. Another bill to come through. Spend more taxpayer money, to do more things like this.


COOPER: When White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked back on September 1st about Solyndra's failure he said there are no guarantees in any business.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The whole purpose of this program, which has a broad portfolio of many companies that are -- that are doing well, was to invest in cutting-edge technologies, that -- you know with some government assistance, with some government loan guarantees, would help us establish a beachhead in the vital industries that will allow America to compete in the future.

There are no guarantees in the business world about success and failure. That is just the way business works and everyone recognizes that.


COOPER: Congressman Tim Murphy was at the congressional hearing today. I'm going to talk with him in just a moment.

First let's take a look at Congressman Murphy today in an exchange with Jonathan Silver, the executive director of the Energy Department's Loan Program's Office.


JONATHAN SILVER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEPT. OF ENERGY LOAN PROGRAMS: Well, we talked -- this staff talked with the company on a regular basis.

REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I really want you to stop throwing everybody else under the bus. I hear you throwing all your staff under the bus. I want to know. You're in charge. You've handled loans of this size and now you're saying it's everybody else's fault but you, except you're in charge.

You tell me what you as a person in charge did, with half a billion dollar of taxpayer's money now saying it's all my staff's fault. I didn't know. I can't do anything about it.


COOPER: Joining me live from Washington Republican Congressman Tim Murphy.

So thanks for being with us, Congressman. Solyndra represent just over 1 percent of the loan guarantees under that Energy Department program. It's the only one that's gone bad. You know the White House says, look, sometimes businesses fail.

In your opinion what makes this bankruptcy different?

MURPHY: It makes it different because in January of 2009, the credit group already voted unanimously to say this is not good. And it was a couple of weeks later that suddenly that decision was reversed. And also in September of that year, you saw the e-mail that says this whole company is going to be out of money in 2011.

Now Mr. Silver came on board in November. And he said it wasn't my fault. Everybody came before me. But he also said shortly after that exchange we had, that they didn't get one check. The checks kept coming. Even though comment after comment was showing this company wasn't doing well, they didn't have the money. They went to restructure loans and this is when a real bomb went off here, too.

The law clearly says, we pass, that they cannot change where their money goes to if the company goes belly-up. It was supposed to be the taxpayers get repaid first. What he said was, their lawyers advised them they didn't have to pay attention to that law, changed it so the private investors got their money first.

So a number of things began to occur here which shows the taxpayers are out of $535 million, the other investors get their money back. We may not see any of that. And so it's all these other elements. It isn't whether or not the company could survive. And some of them don't.

The issue was, there was lots of signs before the first checks were written that it wasn't going to work and lots of signs after the checks were being written to say, we shouldn't go any further.

COOPER: So is it your belief that the Obama administration, basically, was just pushing this deal forward because they so much wanted to be seen as doing something? Or they so much wanted to promote green energy they felt this was like the perfect company to give a large amount of money to?

MURPHY: Well, I don't know if it was the minds or hearts of the Obama administration but what's clear to me in talking to Mr. Silver, that here's a man who talked about, with the companies that he had been a major player in, they were invest -- capital invested, entrepreneurial capital, that he was used to loans of this size and more.

And clearly, if you're involved with investing private people's money, at some point if you say, look, we shouldn't throw good money after bad because this company can't survive, you can't do what he simply said and this as well, but this was all about building the building on time.

You have to fill the building with people and products and make it happen and it was clear to me from what he was saying is he had information before him from staff that was saying it couldn't work. But then he said, well, it's the staff's fault. And when it came time to change the law, he said well, it was the lawyer's fault, not his. And that's what really troubled us a lot.

COOPER: But this program existed under the Bush administration. Was it a problem then or do you think it's just something about the way it's being executed on this particular deal?

MURPHY: Well, the program came through under the Energy Bill of 2005. It was -- but that was setting it up. The money actually was coming through later on. What occurred here however was the folks before President Obama took office, in January of 2009, they said, don't go any further. We're unanimously voting not to do this.

And it was a couple of weeks later after the inauguration of President Obama it came through. Now let the facts speak for themselves. I don't know if there's a link there or not. What I do know is pretty clear. There was substantial and repetitive evidence from people within the organization of DOE, Department of Energy, saying this is not going well. This company cannot survive.

COOPER: Right.

MURPHY: And they kept putting money into it.

COOPER: Congressman Tim Murphy, I appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you.

MURPHY: Thank you so much, Anderson.

COOPER: I'm joined now --

MURPHY: Appreciate you shedding light on this.

COOPER: Joining me now CNN political contributor, Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Jim Dyke, president of JDA Frontline and former communications director for the RNC.

So, Paul, given what we saw in today's hearing, give what we just heard, how much do you think of a potential problem could this be for the Obama White House?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. The truth is, it's too soon to tell. We have no idea. This is just now beginning to come to the public light. But there's parallel on both sides, right? The facts are what they are. And I think that they will come to light. Congress has legitimate oversight function here, whether it's a Democrat or Republican Congress, Democrat or Republicans White House, Congress needs to be keeping an eye on where the taxpayers' money goes. I think all voters think that that's a good thing.

The risk, of course, for the Obama administration is if there's any wrongdoing uncovered, I haven't -- we haven't seen any yet, the risk for the Congress, though, is if you look like you're being partisan in an investigation, it can hurt you politically. We saw this, you know, when I was in the White House and the white water and impeachment investigations going on.

And it hurt the Republicans politically. There have been other times, though, when, for example, John McCain was investigating the Abramoff scandal, where people did not think he was being political and it I think probably benefited him politically. So it's an odd thing. The less sort of overtly partisan you are probably the better off you're going to be if you're a member of Congress on this.

COOPER: Jim, how damaging do you think those e-mails are?

JIM DYKE, PRESIDENT, JDA FRONTLINE: I think it's too soon to tell. I agree with Paul on that.

Look, I think this puts a lot of pressure on Senate Democrats to look into this as well. They don't want to come across as if they're trying to give the White House a pass or cover up this.

I think this also provides a real opportunity for Republicans and Republican presidential candidates to contrast themselves with the president in the sense that they believe in empowering the private sector and this is a clear example of President Obama's administration empowering the government to make decision.

You heard Jay Carney say it and I think the response to Jay Carney is that the government shouldn't be in the business of the private sector. That's not what government is for. So I think that's a real political headache. If not, as things continue to come out, possibly criminal wrongdoing.

COOPER: Paul, what about that? I mean especially right now where, you know, they are looking to -- what Republicans would call, you know, institute a second stimulus, could this become part of that conversation? I mean it seems like it already is becoming part of that conversation.

BEGALA: Well, it is but that seems kind of partisan. Congressman Murphy who's a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania just told you that this law was passed in 2005. Now if my memory serves, we had a Republican House, Republican Senate, Republican president in 2005. And so it's kind of hard to say that the program itself is somehow some liberal idea.

If it was passed and signed into law -- if Congressman Murphy's chronology is right -- under a Republican administration. But I think the challenge here, look at what happened today. President Obama is out pushing his jobs' bill. He's talking about jobs. And the only issue in America today is jobs.

I think today's hearing, perfectly legitimate oversight. But if, over time, it looks like it's political then you'll have this contrast that we had every day in the Clinton White House. The president is working on jobs and the Republicans on Congress look like they're just trying to do endless politics of investigation.

I'm not saying that's what happened today at all. They need to look into this. But there is a risk of carrying it too far.

COOPER: But, Jim, from a Republican standpoint it does fit into the mantra of the government is not the one to create jobs and this is evidence they -- I'm assuming they would say, of the government not doing a very good job of trying to stimulate business.

DYKE: And it's not necessarily the existence of the program that's the problem. It's -- a lot of it seems to be the execution. And what seems to be the administration's intention to provide this company with a significant amount of stimulus funds, whether they deserve them or not -- I'm on the board of American Crossroads and they have -- we filed a four-year request with the Department of Energy to find out if political appointees were sitting in on board meetings.

So there's a real question as to the relationship between the government. It's not -- it's not the program, the problem is the government's relationship and involvement in directing resources to try and generate jobs.

Paul is right. This is about jobs. This is about dealing with regulations that the president has put in place that are strangling our economy and keeping small businesses from being able to perform.

COOPER: Good discussion, guys. We'll continue to follow it obviously.

Paul Begala and Jim Dyke, thanks for being here with us.

Still ahead, the shocking death of a beloved Syrian activist killed by government forces said to be tortured sparked new outrage from anti-government protesters and the U.S. The real story behind the arrest and reported torture from one of his friends tonight, still on the front lines, still being hunted and risking his life to talk to us tonight.

And the clock is ticking for a Georgia man on death row. He faces execution in just one week. Most of the prosecution's star witnesses have recanted their testimony. The story in tonight's "Crime and Punishment" when we continue.


COOPER: In Syria tonight, the grisly death of a much loved opposition leader triggers new outrage from demonstrators, human rights groups, even the State Department.

The body of 26-year-old Ghiyath Matar, a key organizer in the Syrian uprising, was returned to his family on Friday.

As you can see, we're going to be showing you these images of his body. Very disturbing.

According to his friends, he appeared to have been badly beaten and bruised, tortured according to fellow activists.

They say he was on the run for three months when he was arrested last week in the suburb of Damascus. We can't independently verify the details because Syria has refused our repeatedly and ongoing our request for visas.

Meantime, the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad continues to insist the bloody government crackdown now in it's sixth month is an effort to root out armed terrorists. The State Department has called on Assad to end his assault against the Syrian people singling out this man as a champion of peace, committed to the confronting the regime's, quote, "despicable violence."

Earlier tonight I spoke to a close friend of his. For his own safety, we're not going to use his name tonight. We're just going to call him Ameer, a fellow activist. Ameer was the last person known to have seen him before his arrest.

He joined us by phone from a safe-house in Daria. As we listened to him, now remember, he is risking his life so that you will hear his words tonight.


COOPER: What was he like?

AMEER, SYRIAN ACTIVIST (via telephone): He was very nice guy. He was very smart, very lovable. He was smart and brave, courageous.

COOPER: We're seeing video of his body -- on his body, what do you see? It looks like there are bruises along his chest, what are those?

AMEER: Actually, I don't know what kind of torture they used with him. There are marks of, maybe, electrical shock or I don't know what and the abdomen, there's like a stitched --

COOPER: Why is it so important for you to risk your life to speak out? Why was it so important for him to risk his life and speak out?

AMEER: Actually, this is our weapons to speak out. We have no other weapon.

COOPER: Ameer, do you worry now about you getting caught? Do you worry about being taken yourself? AMEER: Actually, it doesn't matter I mean, to be frank I try not to be caught by them, but if this happened, so what? My friend was killed under severe torture and my other friends are under -- are arrested now.

And there is a very big risk that they will have the same destiny as my friend. So it doesn't matter for me if I'm caught because the revolution is going on and I'm very sure of our victory.

COOPER: Really? You're sure of your victory even though your friend is dead and your other friends have been imprisoned and they may come for you, you believe that you will get freedom? That Syria's people will have the chance for freedom?

AMEER: Definitely. There is no chance for this regime to maintain what it had already broken, but the freedom is coming. This is a belief that we have here.

COOPER: Ameer, I hope you see it.

AMEER: Hopefully very soon.

COOPER: Ameer, thank you for your bravery and thank you for talking to me.

AMEER: Thank you, Anderson. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Stay strong.


COOPER: Let's get the latest now on some other stories we're following. Isha Sesay has the "360 Bulletin." Isha --

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a mix message from Iran about those two American hikers jailed on spying charges. Today, the Iranian judiciary said it was only considering a request to set bail contradicting the Iranian president's earlier statement that the men could be freed in a couple of days.

And in Libya, Gadhafi loyalists face a new deadline. The country's interim leadership today gave people in the pro-Gadhafi stronghold of Bani Walid just 48 hours to leave the city.

George Anthony, Casey Anthony's father today said he thinks he knows how his granddaughter, Caylee, died. In an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw, Anthony said he suspects his daughter or someone with her, may have drugged the 2-year-old so Casey could go out and, quote, "have a good time." Casey Anthony was acquitted of first-degree murder in July.

And a "360" follow. Gumby has surrendered. He was last seen trying to rob the San Diego 7-11. But oddly, nothing was actually taken. Today, Jacob Pears and his getaway driver, Jason Garama, both 19 turned themselves in. No word yet on what, if any charges, will be filed. Anderson, as the foreigner in these strange lands, who or what is Gumby.

COOPER: It's a long story. I don't understand is how the guy can hold a gun with Gumby hands because Gumby doesn't really have fingers.

SESAY: What is Gumby? You can't say it's a long story and leave me hanging.

COOPER: That's like asking "what is a rainbow? What is a cloud?"

SESAY: You're getting all philosophical.

COOPER: Yes, you can't define Gumby. Gumby will not be put in a box.

SESAY: Gumby is out of the box?

COOPER: That's right.


COOPER: All right.

SESAY: Thanks for leaving me hanging, appreciate it.

COOPER: And Pokey, that's another whole story. We got to take you to the Florida Keys -- you have no idea what I'm talking about.

You go to the Florida Keys today, one tough turtle was released back into the wild. This is Sarah, an endangered loggerhead turtle with a four foot spear embedded many her head. See the x-ray. Amazingly she survived and today, the animal hospital staff set her free in the Atlantic after five weeks, very nice.

SESAY: Great stuff, there she goes.

COOPER: There she goes.

SESAY: She's like, I need to get out of here.

COOPER: Get me out of here.

SESAY: That is an incredible story, Anderson. Let's face it, when you talk turtles, there's only one thing I think of and to be honest it gives me the --

COOPER: Turtleman! That's how you do it on our show!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's smiling for you now!

SESAY: You see? Times like this --

COOPER: That's Turtleman.

SESAY: Now I miss home. COOPER: I recommend any viewers -- if they want to see the entire Turtleman video, it's like a local news report -- I forgot the station. Go to Youtube and type in "turtle man" and it will pop up. It's three or four minutes. It's well worth the watch.

SESAY: Yes, take me home. I want to go home.

COOPER: I bet that reminds you of jolly old England watching Turtleman right there.

Up next, the controversial case of Troy Davis who is set to be executed in Georgia next week. Legitimate concerns have been raised about his conviction for murdering a police officer. The courts have upheld the conviction. We're going to lay out both sides of the story and you can see the evidence for yourself.

Also ahead is scathing federal report places blame for the deadly and devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.


COOPER: "Crime and Punishment," tonight the controversial case of Troy Davis, a man who's been sitting Georgia's death row for two decades now.

Back in 1991, he was convicted of murdering an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Georgia. Since then, three dates were scheduled for his execution. Now Davis who is 42 years old is set to be executed one week from today.

What has so many people concerned about the case, however, is the possibility that a man may be put to death for a crime he may not have committed. In the years since the trial, seven of the nine witnesses who testified against Davis have recanted their testimony and no physical evidence linking him to the murder was presented at trial.

In various state and federal courts have reviewed the evidence and all have upheld his conviction and even so, prominent supporters of Davis from both the U.S. and around the world are pleading that the execution be halted and that Davis be given a new trial. Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's anything, but a routine question.

(on camera): How scared are you of possibly being executed?

(voice-over): But it's relevant because the man I'm talking to, Troy Davis, may soon be a dead man. A jury only took a few hours to decide he was guilty of murdering a police officer in Savannah, Georgia, a few more hours to decide on lethal injection. Brenda Forrest was one of the jurors.

BRENDA FORREST, JUROR AT TROY DAVIS' TRIAL: He was definitely guilty. All of the witnesses, they were able to, you know, to I.D. him as the person who actually did it.

TUCHMAN: There was no DNA or physical evidence against Davis. The primary reason he was convicted? Witness testimony. The slain police officer's wife trusted the witnesses.

JOAN MACPHAIL, OFFICER MARK MACPHAIL'S WIDOW: They were just so adamant about what they saw, when they saw it.

TUCHMAN: But this is how the juror feels today.

FORREST: If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row. The verdict would be not guilty.

TUCHMAN: What she knows now is this. Almost all the prosecution's star witnesses have changed their stories. Some saying police pressured them to say Troy Davis did it. One of those people is Darrell Collins, a prosecution witness who signed a police statement implicating Troy Davis.

DARRELL COLLINS, WITNESS AT TROY DAVIS' TRIAL: I told them over and over and over I didn't see it happen. They put what they wanted to put in that statement.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail was working an off-duty job here. He was providing security at night for this bus station and for this Burger King restaurant that's currently out of business.

There was a homeless man in this parking lot who was being harassed and intimidated. He yelled for help. The officer ran over and seconds later, the Officer Mark MacPhail was shot and killed. It was tragic, horrifying and chaotic. And two decades later, it all still is.

(voice-over): The man who admitted to harassing the homeless person went to police the next day and told him he saw Troy Davis shoot the officer. Wanted posters went up all over Savannah and a reward offered to catch the so-called dangerous cop killer. Racial tensions inflamed.

After the shooting, Troy Davis was in Atlanta, four hours away. His sister says scared for his life.

MARTINA DAVIS-CORREIA, TROY DAVIS' SISTER: So my brother decided to turn himself in. They already had a shoot to kill order on him.

TUCHMAN: This man, Derrick Johnson, a pastor, got in touch with Davis. He volunteered to pick him up and drive him back to Savannah to surrender. He says Troy Davis insisted he was innocent. The pastor never told the story to a reporter before and was stunned the DA's office never interviewed him.

(on camera): You're with this man for four hours and you bring him back to Savannah to police custody and they never interviewed you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never. TUCHMAN: Never asked you a question about your journey?


TUCHMAN: What he said? If he had a weapon? If he admitted to the crime?

REV. DERRICK JOHNSON, CONVINCED TROY DAVIS TO SURRENDER: Nothing. And this is the one case where nobody wanted to know and I don't think now, looking back, that anybody cared.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The pastor is one of many who now believe that facts be damned. Troy Davis was going to be arrested for murder. As for the Savannah police they always said their witness interviews were taken properly, no coercion and prosecutors stood by the conviction.

But a number of witnesses have signed affidavits changing their original testimony. A former prison inmate, she writes, I was scared that if I didn't cooperate with the detective, he might find a way to have me locked up again. So I told the detective that Troy Davis was the shooter even though the truth was I didn't see who shot the officer.

And a witness named Jeffrey Saffnel writes, the police came and talked to me and put a lot of pressure on me to say Troy did this. They made it clear that the only way they would leave me alone was if I told them what they wanted to hear.

During the trial, Davis' attorney tried to convince the jurors a man named Sylvester Red Coals was the killer. We tried to find Coals to give him a chance to have his say. We talked to his family members, but couldn't track him down.

MACPHAIL: I don't believe that Red Coals is the one that killed Mark at all.

TUCHMAN: But among those who believe the case should be re- opened are politicians who don't always agree with each other ranging from former president, Jimmy Carter to conservative former Georgia congressman, Bob Barr.

Troy Davis has been hours away from execution three times. He's now one week away from his fourth execution date. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Savannah, Georgia.


COOPER: We're joined by senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin now. He's been following the case for years. What do you make of this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a really hard case. This legal saga has been really extraordinary. The Supreme Court, the only time I've heard of it, ordered a federal district court, to hold a new hearing in this case in 2010, just last year. And the judge in that case had two days of hearings and wrote 170-page opinion saying that the seven of the -- of the seven witness we heard who recanted, it was immaterial. That all but one of them were insignificant witnesses.

And the one wasn't even believable at the time he testified in the first place. So he discounted all of the arguments that have been made over the years. And ordered -- said that Davis was guilty.

But, I mean, in a case with no DNA and in a case with just based on eyewitness testimony, with this much uncertainty. It's really a chilling thought to think he may be executed.

COOPER: Do you think it could be postponed again?

TOOBIN: You know, it really seems like they're close tout of option this is time. There's a hearing on Monday. The execution is scheduled for Wednesday. There's a hearing on Monday on the Board of Pardons, but the Board of Pardons has never in the past in Georgia stepped in on this case before.

And I don't think they're going to step in again. I don't doubt that his lawyers, who are incredibly determined, will try some last minute gestures with the district court, court of appeals or Supreme Court, but I think this may be it.

COOPER: The burden on him has been to prove innocence, not at this point reasonable doubt?

TOOBIN: Well, that's right because, you know, the courts -- one of the curious facts about our law is that, the Supreme Court is never said it is unconstitutional to execute an innocent person. You would think they would have, but they've never held that.

They say, if you get a fair trial, we are not going to disturb the verdict. Our job is to see whether you got a fair trial, whether the evidence was admitted correctly. Whether you got legal help, but if the trial is fair, we're not really going to look at the evidence. And that's the question raised by this case.

COOPER: It's fascinating. Jeff, we'll follow it. Thanks very much.

Up next, the federal government pointing the finger and blame for last year's deadly oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We'll tell you where they're pointing it.

And what an honor, I'm now a wax figure at Madam Tussaud's. I'm not going to let it go to my head, it gives me a good reason to put myself back on tonight's "Ridiculist."


COOPER: I now have an identical twin at Madam Tussauds Wax Museum here in New York. Good thing he doesn't say anything. I like my job here, but I'll make him part of the program tonight. He's joining on the "Ridiculist." We'll have that, but first Isha is back with the "360 Bulletin." Isha -

SESAY: Anderson, a federal report released today concludes that BP, Transocean and Halliburton, all share responsibility for the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year. It said all three companies violated federal safety regulations. Eleven workers died in the initial explosion.

An apparent engine problem caused evacuation of United Airlines flight at Washington Dulles Airport today. Passengers used the emergency slides. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was on board. A spokeswoman said she was not injured.

And mystery solved, Michaele Salahi, star of "Real Housewives of D.C." has not been kidnapped as her husband called police to suggest. Tareq Salahi reported his wife missing yesterday, but a Virginia sheriff spoke to her by phone and said that Mrs. Salahi told him she's with a friend and does not want her husband to know where she is.

This is where it gets interesting. A spokesman for Journey guitarist, Neil Shaun says, Salahis is with the musician.

COOPER: I just don't care. I don't care about either of to them. I've never want to talk about them. I stopped watching that series when they were on it.

SESAY: Don't stop believing.

COOPER: I never believed in the first place.

Just ahead, I understand a lot of folks on Twitter and I can't find my Blackberry, are quite amazed that you don't know who Gumby is.

SESAY: Except it must also be said that there are those that came to my defense from Canada and places like that and saying I'm not alone in my lack of knowledge.

COOPER: Well, listen, you know, this program is all about learning new things.

SESAY: Yes. I feel enlightened.

COOPER: Yes, if we can teach you one new thing, today, Gumby, tomorrow, Pokey. Who knows who is next?

SESAY: My, gosh, before you know it, I'll just be greater than I am.

COOPER: Do you know who Migilla Gorilla is?

SESAY: What is that? Not very helpful that everybody is laughing at me.

COOPER: All right, "The Ridiculist" is coming up in a moment. I'm going to immortalize in a wax. It's kind of cool, kind of creepy, kind of corpse like at the same time.


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And tonight, well, it's a rare occasion, though not entirely unprecedented, I'm putting myself back on the "Ridiculist" for being, well, kind of blown away by myself, at the unveiling of a wax figure today at Madam Tussauds here in New York.

Look, I'm going to be honest. This isn't one of those things that I ever expected. You know, a Nobel Peace prize, maybe an Academy award for best jawline in a documentary. Sure, but my own wax figure in the heart of "Times Square?" Absolutely not.

And no, the photo op was not connected to the publicities surrounding the launch o my new daytime talk show, check your local listings. How dare you think that? This is about nothing more than my love of sweet, pasty, imitation flesh and yes, I look forward to that line being taken out of context. Anyway, take a look and see if you can figure out which of these pale guys is lucky enough to be the real me. It's me, ha, ha.

Kind of cool, right? Now, I know what you're thinking that this has all gone to my head and I'll become a star who talks about himself in the third person, but you're wrong. Anderson cooper is not that kind of guy.

It's not like Anderson Cooper would just summon a CNN camera crew and start rambling about what his wax double means for his own mortality. So, yes, it's very surreal. I mean, I think this is what I'll look like when I'm dead, I guess. That's a little depressing to know what you'll look like when you're dead.

All right, so I got a little bleak there. Don't worry though I quickly got my impromptu news report back on track and focused on the details of the process.

It's amazing that they took like more than 250 photographs of my head and this suitcase with all these different eyeballs in it. I guess I have three different colors of blue in my eyes, which I was unaware of.

That's right folks, give me a camera and a microphone and I'll tell you just how blue my steely blue eyes are. Get on board, America. Get on board, but of course, it's not like I'm preoccupied with my look.

I keep thinking that I have salt and pepper hair. It depresses me to think I have gray hair. So in my mind I think it's salt and pepper, but this is clearly evidence that I don't have pepper left. It's all salt.

Me, me, me. My, my, my. All right, so fine. I'm a little focused on my hair color. Who cares? We can't all be Zen about it as Dr. Drew is. But look it's not like the Anderson Cooper was so amazed by his wax statue that he kept wanting to touch himself.

It's amazing that the skin, even like the, like the little razor stubble. Sort of -- you want to pat him. I think I look kind of like a jerk. I'm not sure I would want to hang out with this guy.

Yes, and by jerk, I mean, corpse. But seriously, it is a true honor Madam Tussaud's. It's obviously world famous. There are artists who are incredibly skilled. I'm very grateful to be included. It such a tremendous tradition that goes back many years, for example, there is Joan Collins. I believe this was taken just before she slapped her wax figure and threw it into a swimming pool.

Then more recently, there was the Rock, who clearly just bench pressed a Honda Civic there. Beyonce has also been immortalized in a wax. That exhibit though I think will only be complete once artists sculpt the girls from Destiny's Child following her dirty looks. Here is British singing sensation Susan Boyle. I believe our own Piers Morgan got his start as her intern if I'm not correct. I believe that's true. ' No surprise that superstar Justin Bieber has his own wax figure, though he appears to have frightened it a little bit. But of course, my favorite likeness is the one that captures the intangible quality of the man himself, should be no surprise, the one and the only Larry King.

Take a good look, artists and sculptors. That is how it's done.

It's not. I just can't get over that monkey.

As for me, I will forever be grateful for the people at Madam Tussauds. I hope you go visit them if you're ever in New York. And be sure to say hello when you see me, wax or otherwise, on the "Ridiculist."

That does it for 360. I'll see you at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.