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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Loaded Language on Campaign Trail?; Do Romney and Ryan Disagree on Budget?

Aired August 14, 2012 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

We begin with "Keeping Them Honest" with the presidential running mate who is getting all the headlines tonight. And it's not Paul Ryan. We're talking about Joe Biden. And so are lots of people.

And now he's responding. We are going to play what he said shortly.

He's defending and people are arguing about whether something that he said today amounts to ordinary campaign rhetoric or racially loaded language.

Here's the vice president today in Danville, Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at what they value and look at their budget and what they're proposing. Romney wants to let the -- he said in the first 100 days he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street. Going to put you all back in chains.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Mr. Biden today at a rally in Danville, Virginia. The crowd of 800, like the city, is roughly 50 percent African-American. We let it run a little bit long so you could hear the reaction and judge for yourself how that phrase, put you all back in chains, played inside the room.

Outside the room, the blogs were erupting. A contributor to the conservative "National Review" accusing the vice president of using racially coded language or, as it's called, blowing a dog whistle.

Here's the estimable veep, "he writes, "Dog whistling like Cesar Millan." Over on Town Hall, one headline reads this: "Joe Biden Race Baits in Virginia."

The Romney campaign reacted sharply as well. A campaign spokeswoman said this -- quote -- "After weeks of slanderous and baseless accusations leveled against Governor Romney, the Obama campaign has reached a new low." She goes on, "The comments made by the vice president of the United States are not acceptable in our political discourse and demonstrate yet again that the Obama campaign will say and do anything to win the election."

Now, as we mentioned at the top, Vice President Biden responded late today at a campaign stop in Wytheville, Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The Romney campaign put out a tweet. You know tweets. Put out a tweet, went on the air, went on the airway saying, Biden, he's outrageous, insane. I think I said, instead of unshackled, unchained or -- anywhere, outrageous to say that.

That's what we have had. I'm using their own words.

I got a message for -- if you want to know what's outrageous, it's their policies and the effects of their policies on middle-class Americans. That's what's outrageous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That was the vice president, Biden, late today. Here's an Obama campaign spokesman earlier on THE SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You understand, Jen, that the words, and the vice president uttered these words, he says, he's going to put you all back in chains, in chains.

You know, those are very, very powerful, strong words. I don't know if he ever said anything along those lines before. Do you think he wishes he had a do-over?

JENNIFER PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, the Republicans in Congress and Mitt Romney himself often use the phrase unshackling, unshackling from Wall Street from reforms, because they think it's not the right approach. We think it's the right approach. The vice president often talks about unshackling the middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: She said Mr. Biden was using a metaphor.

And "Keeping Them Honest," both sides do, talking about shackles or chains or slavery. Now, House Speaker John Boehner a couple months ago quoting Harry Truman said Americans can choose freedom or slavery. He was talking about the economy. And so were all these lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY WHIP: We believe can be stronger if you unshackle what holds us back.

SEN. MIKE JOHANNS (R), NEBRASKA: It's our task to unshackle job creators from regulations and mandates.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: To unshackle the private sector.

MCCARTHY: That's why the Republicans have a plan that will unshackle America.

BOEHNER: Unshackle businesses.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Now, obviously, they're using a metaphor and so is anybody who's talking about unshackling the economy on unchaining Wall Street or unleashing the military or running an idea up the flagpole to see who salutes.

But "Keeping Them Honest," that's obvious. And that's not really the point. The point concerns Mr. Biden's choice of metaphor, given where he was and who he was talking to.

As we said, he was in Danville, Virginia, the same Danville that was the last capital of the Confederacy, the same Danville that was at the center of major racial unrest during the civil rights summer of 1963, the same Danville that CNN's Peter Hamby calls the heart of the African-American vote in Southern Virginia, the same Danville in a state that is now considered to be a swing state and that could very well be key in deciding who wins the presidency.

That means lots to talk about with our political analysts this evening, Roland Martin and Republican strategist Ana Navarro with me.

Nice to talk to both of you.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Likewise.

O'BRIEN: Roland, I'm going to start with you.

When you think about the context, the vice president was not talking to a room full of white people in Iowa. He was talking to a heavily African-American audience in the South with a history, I was just explaining. Doesn't that -- you and I talk about racially coded language all the time. Isn't that clearly racially coded language?

MARTIN: Right. I think we're making a mistake. You said that half of the room was African-American. Who were the other half of the room?

In the video that I saw, if you play that video back, I see more whites in that video behind Biden when he was talking than I saw African-Americans. And so if the room was half black, what was he basically saying to all the white folks in the room? I'm not talking to you all right now, I'm talking to the black folks? I think the key thing here is, what is the context? When he used the whole notion of unshackled when it comes to Wall Street, I get that, because what we have been talking about is how Wall Street had folks in subprime loans, how they were sitting here in terms of high interest rates. We use the phrase don't be shackled or don't be a slave to debt.

And so I understand the comment. I get the context of the previous sentence.

O'BRIEN: All right.

So, Ana Navarro, I have a feeling you're going to say this is a double standard, that if, in fact, we were flipping the script here and in fact we were talking about that same exact quote, but coming from a white person who was addressing -- maybe the new potential V.P. who was addressing a white audience and talking about race, we'd be talking about the dog whistle. We'd be talking about racial coding.

Do you think it's essentially a double standard?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it is a double standard, Soledad.

Look, you know, you have got in Roland, you and me three people of color. We understand what racially tense language is. And Joe Biden understands it. I want to tell you this. I know Joe Biden. And I know there isn't a racist bone in Joe Biden.

But there's a lot of outrageous stuff that comes out of Joe Biden's mouth. Let's remember that this is the guy who, four years ago, described Barack Obama as -- and I'm going to read because I want to make sure people know I'm quoting -- "the first mainstream African- American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

This is the same Joe Biden who in earlier this year was taking on an Indian accent and pretending to be a guy from a call center, same Joe Biden who told an Indian group, oh, you know, you can hardly go into a 7/Eleven or Dunkin' Donuts these days if you don't have a slight Indian accent.

Look, these things are outrageous. He is no longer a senator. He's the vice president of the United States. He has to behave that way.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Help me out here.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Yes.

MARTIN: I'm confused here. So, let's say Joe Biden didn't say chains, but he said wants to keep you in shackles. The previous comment dealt with unshackled. I think the point there is people get that. So, look, we can sit -- and, look, I understand coded language. I totally get it.

But it's also based upon what did he say before he used that particular sentence? And when you talk about how we dealt with Wall Street, when you talk about the fact that, look, Congressman Paul Ryan voted against the bill that would have said credit card companies have to notify us 45 days in advance before they raise interest rates, and so I think we get that.

We know what that means, payday loans, how people are slave to debt, how -- dealing with that. So I get it. So if he didn't say the first line, then I'm with you on the second line. But that's the setup to the second line.

NAVARRO: All right, but, listen, Roland, let's say -- let's also admit this.

Joe Biden has developed in the last four years a reputation for being the gaffer in chief. And that reputation allows him a lot of flexibility to say some ridiculous stuff, and he gets away with it. He gets away with it because we all say, oh, that's good old Joe being good old Joe.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Are you saying, Ana, that it's a gaffe or are saying that it's intentional because he understands the history of the area that he's in and he's sending a coded message to people in the audience?

NAVARRO: Look, I think Joe Biden is a very intelligent man.

I think he understands the community. I think he knows exactly what he's doing. And I think he knows that he's got a lot of room to wiggle because we all say, it's Joe Biden and his Bidenisms. You know, anything that an elected official says that makes you cringe, choke, snort, or laugh is now going to be called a Bidenism.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: OK. Again, Soledad, if 50 percent of the room was black, why are we somehow discounting the other half of the room?

Now, if the whole room was black, I get it. But we can't just say 50 percent of the room was black. Again, so what was he doing? I'm talking only to the black people? Could he have been talking to the whites in the room as well when he talked about want you to be in chains in terms of Wall Street and shackling folks with debt, wanting consumers to run up their credit cards, wanting them to have those subprime loans?

Could he very well have been talking about that?

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Come on, Roland.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, Ana.

MARTIN: No, I get it.

O'BRIEN: The other day, the Romney campaign was releasing ads accusing the president of getting rid of the work requirement for welfare recipients, wanting to send a check for doing nothing at all. Not only were there people who fact-checked that and said that is not accurate.

There was also critics who were talking about another element, the same thing, the racial coding, the undertone of conversation, the dog whistle we have been talking about. The Romney campaign says that's not what we're intending at all. There is no dog whistle here.

Isn't it possible that in fact that just as they say that, that what Vice President Biden is saying is also accurate?

NAVARRO: Well, then maybe he should, I didn't intend to make any sort of racial undertone. I didn't intend to have this as a dog whistle.

But we have seen, time and again, that the Obama campaign does not take these opportunities to distance themselves from what All right, mistakes. Last week, they didn't want to distance themselves from an ad where they were basically accusing Mitt Romney of having killed a woman from cancer. They didn't want to distance themselves from when their campaign deputy said, you know, that Mitt Romney might have -- you know, was a felon.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: I mean, it's time for them to show a little leadership, a little conviction, a little character. I think it's a missed opportunity by President Obama and his campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: This is called they're trying to throw everything into a pot like his gumbo or something like that. That's what it's all about.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: ... double standard.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Let me tell you, if Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney had said this today, the NAACP would be demanding an apology and Jesse Jackson would be setting himself on fire in front of as many camera as he could find.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Paul Ryan has said unshackled. Mitt Romney has said unshackled. John Boehner, Eric Cantor. Come on, now.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: ... adopting a fake Southern accent.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: OK, I think for both of you...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Roland, you should never fake an accent on TV unless it's your accent.

O'BRIEN: For both of you, I think it's fair to say, from both campaigns -- whew, you guys are making me work tonight. It's been the summer of doubling down. People are not really apologizing. They sort of just say well, you know, we said it, we mean it.

Roland, let me ask you sort of the bigger question. At the end of the day, what are the political implications? Does this conversation hurt the Obama campaign? Does it help the Romney campaign? What do you think the impact is?

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: No, what helps is when you get to the substance of what he was talking about.

And when he referenced the unshackling of Wall Street, that is the real issue. Just last night, when I talked about Representative Paul Ryan's voting record, he was against the Consumer Protection Bureau. He did not want the checks on Wall Street. Derivatives, the reason we got in trouble, he delayed putting those regulations in for a whole year. He voted for that.

That's what Biden was talking about. That's the real substance of this issue, in terms of Wall Street not wanting any regulations and Wall Street wanting to continue to put their thumbs on people with those subprime loans, with predatory lending, with high interest rates. That's the real issue.

You want to talk about substance? Let's deal with that, Ana, vs. this nonsense of, well, it was the chains. The fact of the matter is, Wall Street wants people like that so they can keep their profit margins high.

O'BRIEN: All right, Roland and Ana...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: I absolutely agree. Roland, I think instead of making racially tinged comments to his audience, he should have been talking about the 14 percent unemployment rate that African-Americans suffer under Barack Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: And that will be, people, our final word for a moment.

I'm going to ask you to stick around. We have got some new tape to show you. Paul Ryan confronted for the first time with a question about Mitt Romney's budget plan and he has a little bit of a tough time answering that. We're going to talk about that coming up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Social Security turned 77 today. But it's Social Security's younger cousin, Medicare, that's been getting all the headlines. Medicare's not so healthy. And there's a political battle over how to fix it. You have probably heard of some of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Actually, if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan became president and vice president of the United States, they'd be able to end the Medicare guarantee, shred the health care safety net that Medicare has provided for more than 50 years, and turn Medicare into a voucher program, leaving seniors really out in the cold.

JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: Medicare has had $716 billion taken from it and put in Obamacare. And with all due respect to your analyst that said some of it went back to Medicare, a very small amount went back to Medicare. About $700 billion was taken away, which reduces the payments to providers and reduces services.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So tonight we're setting aside the partisan back and forth. Instead, we have called in a specialist, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta, to help make sense of President Obama's Mitt Romney's medicine for Medicare.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Hey, Sanjay, first, let's talk Medicare. Compare the president's plan to the Ryan plan.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest iteration is the Ryan-Wyden plan. There was a Ryan plan, but then he co-authored this plan with the senator from Oregon, Ron Wyden.

Basically, I think the best way to describe this is that for people who are 55 and younger, this is who it's going to impact, so about 10 years from now, when those people start getting to retirement age, there's going to be a different sort of option.

People can opt to get a stipend, which right now is projected to be about $8,000, and use that money to buy into the private health care industry. So they can say, look, I don't want to do Medicare. Instead, I want to use this money and buy my own insurance.

Before, there was no Medicare option as part of that. Now you can still opt to stay in Medicare. That's an important point because they're not saying they're getting rid of Medicare. They're just making other options available, believing that that competition will drive down prices.

People talk a lot about these cuts. And what they're really talking about is capping the amount that Medicare can grow over the next 10 years. And when they do the projections, they figure that they cap the growth at just a half a percent over normal gross domestic product, that will be about $700 billion in lost money.

Both the Ryan-Wyden plan, as well as the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, do the same thing. They both have those sort of caps in place. So there's a similarity there as well, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So, where, then, does that money come from, that $700 billion that everybody's been talking about?

GUPTA: Well, it's interesting.

So as part of the Affordable Care Act -- and this has been one of those things that has been very controversial. But people talk about this thing known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Essentially, this is a 15-member board that looks at Medicare costs, health care costs overall, and says, OK, we're projected to go over now so we got to figure out some places to make cuts.

As far as the Ryan/Wyden plan, it really has more to do with this belief that if you engage the private sector, it's going to bring the Medicare costs down overall, and they're going to be able to accrue those $700 billion or whatever the number is finally after 10 years as a result of that.

O'BRIEN: If you get that money, then, if it's coming from that direction, where does it go eventually?

GUPTA: With regard to the Affordable Care Act, if you look through it -- and I have read through this a couple of times now, all 2,000-some pages -- you find that, you know, the idea of providing preventive services, for example, for free, meaning no co-pays, no additional charges, completely free, all that costs money.

And a lot of the money that they get as a result of a cap in Medicare growth actually goes back to provide some of those services, to provide some of those services under the Affordable Care Act. We don't see that in the Ryan/Wyden plan.

You don't see where that money goes. But the idea that that money would go back into Medicare, back into the safety net, back into the federal entitlement to protect people who are 65 and older, there's not evidence right now in the Ryan/Wyden plan.

O'BRIEN: Right. Sanjay Gupta, thank you for walking us through that explainer. Appreciate it greatly. GUPTA: You got it, Soledad. Any time. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

And getting to some breaking news now, we have gotten some tape of Paul Ryan's first one-on-one interview. He's appearing tonight on FOX. And he got a question about Mitt Romney's budget plan.

And here's how he handled it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: The budget plan that you're now supporting would get to balance when?

RYAN: Well, there's different -- the budget plan that Mitt Romney's supporting gets us down to 20 percent of GDP government spending by 2016. That means get the size of government back to where it historically has been. What President Obama has done is he has brought the size of government to as high as it hasn't been since World War II.

We want to reduce the size of government so we can have more economic freedom.

HUME: I get that. But what about balance?

RYAN: Well, I don't know exactly when it balances, because we haven't -- I don't want to get wonky on you, but we haven't run the numbers on that specific plan. The plans that we have offered in the House balance the budget.

I would put a contrast. President Obama, never once, ever, has offered a plan to ever balance the budget. The United States Senate, they haven't even balanced -- they haven't passed a budget in three years.

HUME: I understand that. But your own budget that you...

RYAN: You're talking about the House budget?

HUME: I'm talking about the House budget.

RYAN: Yes.

HUME: This is -- your budget is going to be a...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: The House budget -- the House doesn't budget unto the 2030s under the current what we call measurement of the CBO baseline.

We believe if we get the economy growing, if we get people back to work, we will balance the budget within 10 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: All right, back now with political analysts Roland Martin and Republican strategist Ana Navarro.

Roland, I will stay with you on this. What was your takeaway from that? Clearly, there was a difficulty in articulating exactly what the Romney budget was, and he said he hasn't run the numbers on it.

MARTIN: Since the previous discussion was about language, I look at the language Paul Ryan was using, Congressman Paul Ryan was using.

He said -- quote -- "The budget plan that Mitt Romney is supporting." That sounded as if he's not the V.P. choice. Romney made it clear that he's advancing his own budget. So Congressman Ryan might want to get on board of the Romney plan, since Romney picked him.

Then he also kept saying that we in the House. Then he said that, "We believe that the budget can be balanced in 10 years."

Well, who is we? Is it his House budget or is it the Romney budget? He's the V.P. candidate who should be supporting Mitt Romney's plan. Sounds like he isn't fully convinced yet.

O'BRIEN: So, Ana, it was interesting to hear, I thought, Paul Ryan constantly trying to sort of shift back -- and this is clearly a strategy, because you have seen it a lot -- to the contrast between the Romney-Ryan team and what Obama, President Obama, is presenting.

And Brit Hume was very much sort of keeping him back on track to talk about either the Romney budget or the Ryan budget. And also it was interesting to me that he really can't escape the Ryan budget, as much as John Sununu was telling me, it's not about the Ryan budget, it's about the Romney budget.

Ana, I would like you to address that.

NAVARRO: Well, look, it is about the Romney budget, but in order for it to be about the Romney budget, they have got to run the numbers and they have got to get very sharp about the contents of the Romney budget.

I frankly give him some slack today. He's been at this now for three days. He's been in the House and he's been talking about his plan for many, many years. This is his third day on the job. But, you know, I saw Mitt Romney here in Miami yesterday get asked some questions and he also was not very sharp on the answers.

This is going to be a big part of the campaign. It's going to be a big part of the campaign in my state of Florida, where there's so many seniors and where there's Medicare issues going to be huge. If we're going to have a real debate, if we want to make some real distinguishing between the two plans, my team has got to get very sharp, very knowledgeable on what they're talking about.

And once Paul Ryan does that, let him loose. He's a very articulate guy. He knows what he's doing. He's wonky. With the addition of Paul Ryan, we just raised the bar.

MARTIN: Hey, Soledad.

NAVARRO: We're not talk about dancing horses anymore, but he's got to know what he's talking about.

MARTIN: Hey, Soledad, he might want to look at the 1980 plan when Ronald Reagan was running. Of course, he was running opposite George H.W. Bush, who called his plan voodoo economics.

When Reagan picked Bush, he quickly changed his view on that. Ryan might want to quickly change his view. At some point, Congressman Ryan's going to have to let go of his budget because he is not the candidate. And it feels like, based upon that interview, he does not want to let go of it because that's what's made him a darling of the party.

O'BRIEN: How much of that, Ana, is that with a lack of details about the Romney budget, everybody kind of goes back to the very, very detailed Ryan budget that obviously the new V.P. pick knows a lot of details about?

NAVARRO: I think it has a lot to do with that.

Look, you know, I have seen Paul Ryan in action. This is a detail guy. This is a policy guy. This is a wonk guy. And one of his great challenge is that he's able to talk about these things in layman's terms. But he's got to know the information. They have got to run the numbers. They have got to be able to do a comparison and contrast of the two plans.

So Paul Ryan is coming to Florida this weekend. This is the issue in Florida that could make or break the election. I hope they are very, very sharp by the time he shows up here.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: No, he's got to drop his budget. He's got to drop his plan really.

O'BRIEN: Ana Navarro and Roland Martin, I thank you both. Nice to chat with you this evening. Appreciate you.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: A lot more happening tonight -- a veteran's charity accused of mismanaging donations now facing fallout. Wait until you hear who no longer wants to be associated with the group. We're "Keeping Them Honest" straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: A wall of fire across the West -- the latest on the massive battle to try to contain the flames when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Now, another "Keeping Them Honest" report. There is fallout tonight on a veterans charity accused of mismanaging donations.

We told you about the "Help Hospitalized Veterans Foundation" last week when the state of California filed a complaint alleging the directors of that charity paid themselves huge salaries and even bought golf memberships with the money that was supposed to go to injured and sick vets.

You might recall our own Drew Griffin tried to get some answer from the charity's president, Mike Lynch, who wouldn't answer a single question about how that money was spent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I got to ask you about the money though. I mean, that doesn't answer any of the questions about the money that they're -- that's it? That's all you guys are going to say?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Well, now a TV star, a former president, and a former presidential candidate, who's a World War II vet, all demanding that they be removed from the "Help Hospitalized Veterans" web site. They no longer want to be associated with any way with the group.

Drew joins us now to talk about what it's all about. Hi, Drew.

GRIFFIN: Hi, Soledad. You know, we're talking about tens of millions of dollars raised by this group. Among other things, that charity, "Help Hospitalized Veterans," was accused of using that donated money destined for hospitalized vets to pay for $80,000 in those golf club memberships, a $389,000 salary to the president there and even making inappropriate loans.

So imagine, Soledad, you're actress Marg Helgenberger of the CBS show "CSI" and you know this public service announcement is floating around the internet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARG HELGENBERGER, ACTRESS: Thanks for hhv.org. There are so many ways that you can say thank you to a hospitalized veteran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Yes, that's the actress basically encouraging people to give money to "Help Hospitalized Veterans." Well, now the actress wants her face, name, removed from anything HHV does.

Her spokesman told that Marg was deeply disappointed when she learned of these allegations and immediately had her name removed from the organization and she is hardly alone. Former senator, presidential candidate, Bob Dole whose picture was prominently displayed on the HHV web site is also backing away. In a statement, e-mailed to CNN, the former Republican presidential candidate and World War II vet, I might add, said he supported the charity and its former president early on thinking he was helping veterans and their families with most of the money he raised.

It was only later that Dole said he learned much of the money raised by HHV went to salaries of its then president and other top executives. He wants to be disassociated with the group.

And former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush none too happy this photo was on the HHV web site also, a picture with the charity's President Mike Lynch.

The Bush family says that's just a photo. They never endorsed the charity. All of these folks want their images and names not to be associated, Soledad, with "Help Hospitalize Veterans."

O'BRIEN: So we saw you, Drew, trying very hard to get some kind of response from the charity's president last week. Have you gotten any answers about, you know, where all the money that's been donated -- and clearly it's a fair amount, where it's gone?

GRIFFIN: No, not from the president who you saw there, Soledad, Mike Lynch. Not from the charity's attorneys today. We e-mailed them, tried to reach them. We just have a posting on the group's web site.

This is what it says. While disappointed in the recent accusations leveled against the company, HHV looks forward to responding with facts and information that should change the current perception of HHV for those who are willing to listen.

Boy, we have been certainly willing to listen to anything they want to say, Soledad. We just can't get any answers from them. California's attorney general basically asking all of the officers of that charity be removed immediately. We may not get any answers from this group until they go to court.

O'BRIEN: So, in the meantime, you've been getting some positive feedback and positive results on the reporting that's been on done on other charities as well.

GRIFFIN: Yes, we're going to leave you with a good positive story. You know, we've been featuring a small homeless veterans' charity in Birmingham, Alabama. A little group called, "Three Huts and A Cot."

This is the group was sent those coconut M&Ms if you've been following our reporting, sent to them by the "Disabled Veterans National Foundation." Well, instead of being sent the one thing they really needed, money, to fix windows on their old homes.

One of our CNN viewers in Washington State took notice and sent "Three Huts and A Cot" a single check for $50,000. This weekend, the new windows were being installed.

This will not only make the home for these homeless vets more comfortable, it's going to really cut down on the heating and the cooling bills, which have been a major expense for that charity over in Birmingham, Alabama.

O'BRIEN: That's good news, you know, because I think you get very dismayed by some of the reports of the fraud that's happening in some of these charities.

And to hear that there are people doing good with the money they get, that's good news. All right, drew, thanks, appreciate the follow-up on that.

And lots more that we're following tonight. Susan Hendricks will join us with a "360 Bulletin." Hi, Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Soledad. Sixty wildfires are burning in five western states. One of the largest fires is in Central Washington State where at least 60 homes have been destroyed. Meanwhile, in Idaho, a 20-year-old firefighter was killed when a tree fell on her while fighting the steep canyon fire.

A mother and her son are behind bars in Florida accused of shoplifting from toy stores across the country and selling the goods online for nearly $1 million. An investigator he is proud. Mica Polaris' goal was to steal stores in all 50 states within one year.

A California man was arrested and faces various charges for allegedly stealing computers and other items worth more than $50,000. Now the robbery happened at the home of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. No one was home at the time.

And Merriam Webster is adding 15 new words to their collegiate dictionary among them, take a look, bucket list, man cave, sexting and aha moment, of course, the signature phrase of who else but Oprah.

O'BRIEN: That dates from 1930s. I thought Oprah made it up, actually.

HENDRICKS: It dates back to the '30s?

O'BRIEN: Yes, it dates back to the 30s.

HENDRICKS: That's an aha moment.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it does. It was my aha moment when I learned that. All right, Susan, thank you.

HENDRICKS: Thanks.

O'BRIEN: Major developments to tell you about in Colorado City, Arizona. A desert community populated by members of the polygamous sect, FLDS, its police has been accused of misconduct. But now it's no longer the only force in town. We've got that story coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: In Arkansas, trying to prove what Travis Carter's family considered impossible. Police re-enact what they say was a suicide, a gunshot to the head while handcuffed. A "360 Follow" is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: As we have reported on this program, Warren Jeffs, the leaders of the polygamous FLDS sect appears to remain firmly in control of his followers from behind bars. He is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting underage girls.

Take a look at what might be the latest piece of evidence. This poster of Jeffs was given to CNN by law enforcement source who says it was found in an FLDS school.

It says this, where is the faith to set me free? How much longer will it take to have a clean prepared people that will obey father's commandments? I've been imprisoned for days. What are you doing about it?

There have also been questions and complaints about the activities of the police force that patrols two desert towns populated and controlled by FLDS members.

But in a major turn of events, they are no longer the only police force in town. Here's Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sergeant Michael Hogart is doing something he's never done before. Regular daily patrols of Colorado City, Arizona. A polygamous community controlled of nearly every way by the FLDS church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Normally you can rely on the municipal police to help you. You cannot rely on that here.

TUCHMAN: Sergeant Hogart is part of the Mojave County Sheriff's Department. The sheriff is Tom Sheahan.

SHERIFF TOM SHEAHAN, MOHAVE COUNTY, ARIZONA: They are doing only what the church wants them to do and what their leaders tell them to do.

TUCHMAN: Their leader and prophet is Warren Jeffs who's currently in jail for sexually assaulting two underaged girls. But he still leads the polygamous church and issues orders to his followers.

The U.S. Justice Department has recently sued Colorado City and the adjacent town of Hilldale, Utah, alleging, in part, the local police, known as the marshal's office, routinely deny proper protection to those not in the ridge. For example, this man, David Bistline, was recently kicked out of the church. He says the police stood by as his wife and seven children were taken away from him.

DAVID BISTLINE, KICKED OUT OF THE FLDS: Just about killed me. I just closed my eyes. I felt like my soul was just out there floating around somewhere.

TUCHMAN: And then there's this man, Isaac Wyler, one of 40 brothers and sisters. He left the church eight years ago.

ISAAC WYLER, KICKED OUT OF THE FLDS: I got kicked out. They didn't say exactly why. I imagine it's probably because I was asking questions.

TUCHMAN: Ever since Wyler got kicked out of the FLDS, he says he's been the victim of gruesome vandalism and the police have done little or nothing.

WYLER: They will kill cats. Throw them in the window wells in the back my truck where I'll find them when I step out of my porch in the morning. A lot of times it's pigeons with their heads popped off.

TUCHMAN (on camera): How many times have they done that over the years?

WYLER: I wouldn't even begin to count.

TUCHMAN: I mean, dozens?

WYLER: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Last month, something exceptionally disturbing happened on Wyler's property. Another former FLDS member, Andrew Chatwin was constructing a shelter in Isaac Wyler's backyard.

WYLER: The cat was locked up to its head in concrete.

TUCHMAN: Someone put a live kitten in the wet concrete inside that pipe. This upsetting video was shot by Andrew Chatwin as he unsuccessfully worked to save the cat's life.

Over the years, six of the local marshals in the small office have been fired by the state for ethical or criminal infractions related to their loyalty to the church.

During our visits, we've tried to talk to the local police, but have been told this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The officers don't give media release, media statements.

TUCHMAN: We've also been threatened with arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to talk to you.

TUCHMAN (on camera): How come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Load up. Leave the property.

TUCHMAN: I'm saying, why --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Despite all the complaints, a recent effort by Arizona legislators to shut down the department failed. The Arizona attorney general provided about half a million dollars to fund patrols by the County Sheriff's Department.

(on camera): What it comes to is this, for the thousands of Warren Jeffs followers who live here it's a new day because the sheriff is in town.

(voice-over): Many FLDS followers unlawfully tint their windows so they can't be recognized. Making their windows too dark is now being ticketed by the new law men on the beat.

Also a common infraction, children in the large polygamous families being jammed in vehicles, unrestrained, often in the backs of pickups and drivers often roll through stop signs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to give you a warning through a stop sign violation.

TUCHMAN: The sheriff deputies hope FLDS members who need help will now come to them. But FLDS member, Leroy Johnson, who got the warning for running the stop sign says he doesn't want or need any help.

(on camera): Do you still consider Warren Jeffs your prophet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, he is. There's no other man that could be.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But the sheriff's deputies building up trust in this, the largest polygamous community in America will undoubtedly be challenging. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Colorado City, Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Gary also reports that the Arizona legislature is expected to try once again next year to disband the Colorado City Police Department and if that move is successful, the sheriff's department would remain in town to provide residents with police protection.

Also on our radar tonight, a dangerous journey inside the fight for Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's saying here there's a sniper that's shooting. Get down. Get down. Get down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's CNN's Ben Wedeman. He and his crew risking their lives to tell the real story from the front lines. His report from inside the city of Aleppo is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the United States has no plans for imposing a no-fly zone over Syria. Top U.N. official met today with Syria's prime minister.

She is seeking access to civilians who are suffering terribly under fierce shelling by the regime. This video claims to show fighting in Aleppo today. The city's become a major battleground.

CNN's Ben Wedeman shows us how dangerous it is getting in and out of Aleppo to try to cover the story there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are literally just a few meters from our destination. The car's run out of gas. We're pushing it up the hill. I don't know where we're going to get any petrol.

All right, we made it. We left our safe house. At 11:00 in the morning. It's 10 minutes past 10:00 at night. We finally made it to Aleppo. All right, we're now going in the direction of Salahadin where, of course, all the fighting has taken place.

OK, saying here there's a sniper that's shooting. Get down. Get down. Get down. OK. We made it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That was Ben Wedeman reporting from inside of Syria. Let's check back now with Susan Hendricks. She's got a "360 Bulletin" for us. Hi, Susan.

HENDRICKS: Soledad, that deadly shooting spree near Texas A&M University was captured on cell phone video. A former Army medic recorded yesterday's violence that left two people and the gunman dead. He says the gunman apologized for shooting a law enforcement officer who died from his wounds.

We now have the "360" follow on the death of 21-year-old Chavez Carter. He died last month while in the custody of Jonesboro, Arkansas police. Carter was in the back of the squad car with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Police claim he pulled out a gun and committed suicide. He was searched twice, but no gun was found. Carter's family believes he was killed by police. Now the Jonesboro police have now released a video showing a re- enactment of the incident. They say while the investigation is ongoing, they maintain that Carter committed suicide.

Some popular luxury cars flunked a new crash test administrated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The test simulated a driver side frontal crash. Among the cars that received a poor rating, the Mercedes-Benz C-class, the Lexus IS and ES and the Audi A- 4.

How about this? The largest Burmese python ever found in the Florida everglades weighs in at a whopping 164.5 pounds. It measured 17.5 feet in length. It is massive.

Scientists discovered the female snake was carrying 87 eggs as well. They're trying to understand the python's reproductive capacity in order to halt the spread of this dangerous predator.

O'BRIEN: That thing is giant, isn't it? Susan, thank you.

Our top five "Ridiculist" crimes countdown continues tonight. The thief who couldn't resist a cardboard cut out of David Hasselhoff gets another shot in the spotlight of shame. That story's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Some criminals land in jail. Others land on the "Ridiculist." All this week, we're counting down the top five "Ridiculist" videos that feature people behaving badly.

You folks decide which lawbreakers make the list. Tonight, by popular demand, the David Hasselhoff iced coffee ad thieves are back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Time for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, we begin with very important question. When you think of David Hasselhoff, what immediately springs to mind?

Perhaps you think of one of his television shows "Knight Rider," "Baywatch" or "America's Got Talent." Maybe you think of his legendary popularity in Germany or if you're like us he's forever and foremost, a singer.

Fabulous '80 song styling aside, in think we can all agree that when it gets right down to the name David Hasselhoff is synonymous with one thing and one thing only, ice coffee.

That's right in convenient stores throughout New England with very life like cut outs, David Hasselhoff now dares you to resist the lure of the store brand iced coffee.

Why they missed an opportunity to call I had iced hoffee is beyond me, but still brilliant marketing. But there's just one problem, the ads are such a hot item, they're disappearing faster than a "Bay Watch" hotline dissolves into slow motion running montage. Proving my theory, people love them some David Hasselhoff cut outs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's crazy. They keep offering, like -- we get customers every night asking to buy the Hasselhoff poster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: People are not only asking to buy the Hasselhoff poster, some are brazenly stealing them. Apparently such a rate of frequency the convenient store clerks have seemingly come to expect it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It ain't going to last by the night, but it's still there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The company even gave a statement about this to our affiliate, WHDH.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cumberland Farms says although we're flattered the customers have become attached to our iced coffee ads, we do not encourage theft. The Hoff is there for all to enjoy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's right, people. Hands off the Hoff. He's there for all to enjoy like the sun, the stars, and the gentle spring breeze. The point is, would you steal a rainbow? No, you wouldn't. Well, maybe if you were in college and your roommate was named Rainbow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of my friends who's nickname at school is Hasselhoff so he took one for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: OK, not to condone theft, but you have to kind of admit, a life-sized cut out of David Hasselhoff holding an iced coffee that is one sweet decoration for a dorm room or for the "Ridiculist."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: And we'll be counting down the top five "Ridiculist" crimes all week. No. 3 airs tomorrow night. You can still vote for your favorite at ac360.com.

And that does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.