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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Phil Robertson on Hiatus Indefinitely from Duck Dynasty; President Obama Holds Press Conference; Wife of American Killed in Benghazi Forgives His Killers; Teacher Gets Her Job Back After Being Fired for Giving Crayons Doused in Hot Sauce to Autistic Boy; Family Fights for Brain Dead Girl
Aired December 20, 2013 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks.
Tonight, the latest on what could be a holiday weather nightmare.
Also tonight, some people were shocked by Phil Robertson's views on homosexuality, but maybe they shouldn't have been surprised, nor should the network that suspended him. This newly discovered video shows him expressing those same views three years ago. The question now is, did A&E know about that when they created "Duck Dynasty"?
And later, a story of incredible forgiveness in the wake of terrible tragedy. Her husband was murdered in Libya. Her remarkable message to the Libyan people, even the killers.
But we're going to begin with holiday weather that could run the gamut from deadly to simply surreal. Depending where you live and where you're traveling, you could see a foot of snow, or be iced over, or in the cellar with tornados or in parts of the east you can put on a tank top and walk outside barefoot as temperatures rise into the 70s and because one of the high-risk areas is Memphis, Tennessee, it could get rough not just for people but Christmas packages, too.
Following this for us, Chad Myers. Chad, we just presented a menu of serious whoa, so what's the latest?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I have the tomatoes, potatoes, the rest of the menu right up my math here. High pressure on one side, colder on the one side and nastier in the middle. Heavy rain, flooding rainfall across Ohio, Illinois, Indiana. Cutting the country in half. If you try to go from east to west and west to east, you're going to run into something.
Heavy snow in Chicago, even an ice storm very close to Chicago. It is starting right now in Oklahoma city. The sleet is already coming down. We'll get this into Tulsa, in to Colombia, into Jefferson city, almost to St. Louis and then snow on the north side, ice on the one side and rain on the other side. There's not really anyway to get away from this.
We don't expect many planes at all to be in or out of Oklahoma city tomorrow because of that ice. And then the heavy snow, Milwaukee right on back up even into the up of Michigan but through Des Moines, Kansas city, down to Wichita, some of those spots will have a foot of new show as you mentioned and the potential for tornados.
We even had a tornado on the ground today in Mississippi and not that far from Jackson, Mississippi, about 20 miles west of there. Didn't hit anything except trees. But, that's the threat. That's the warm, moist air, the cold air, it never likes to mix. It is like oil and vinegar, they never like to go together. They are always going to separate at some point in time.
And look at the city. You know, I know all these retailers are going to complain about how cold it is. Well, you have to get out there and shop on Sunday, 67, D.C. 73. It was very pleasant in Atlanta when I arrived today except the airport was (INAUDIBLE) full. I think people tried to get out early and got caught in the rest of the rush that started today.
BERMAN: Chad, let's talk about the airports because with the forecast, I get the sense it may not be a happy time at the airports.
MYERS: Yes, I have that. Kansas City, one to two hours. Oklahoma city, I don't think planes will get in and out. You may have to try to get to Dallas or something south and drive north if you have to get into Oklahoma city in the next maybe day or two. Oklahoma city, I believe Tulsa, too, could pick up an inch of ice on everything, trees, power lines, branches and all that coming down is going to be a mess there. Chicago one to two hours tomorrow, Dallas, probably about the same story.
All right, Chad, appreciate it, although, not that much. Thank you, my friend.
BERMAN: A new videotape surfaced today showing "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson expressing the same views about gay people that got him expel off the air this week. This is video is made three years ago. And in that A&E is not saying whether they knew about it when they signed him and his family up for what we become America's most watch reality show. No comment from A&E. You may recall A&E suspended Robertson after he equated homosexuality with bestiality in a "GQ" interview and suggested that African-Americans were happy in the old gym crow south.
His suspension really is amping (ph) up the culture wars, also amping (ph) the weirdness. A Republican candidate for Illinois' 11th congressional district today compared Robertson to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
Last night in a statement the family said they are talking with A&E now about "Duck Dynasty's" future saying we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. Phil, the family said, would never insight or encourage hate.
Now look at those words when you look at this video from 2010. Phil Robertson citing a bible page sage and railing against modern secular society.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL ROBERTSON, DUCK DYNASTY STAR: First they say there is no God, get him out of your mind. Then they bow down to birds, animals and reptiles and each other and the first thing you see coming out of them is gross sexual immorality. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They are doing evil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Phil Robertson expressing firmly held views that many people do share, but many others find deeply offensive and the network finds, at least for the moment, problematic. And again, no comment whether that network knew about this video years ago.
There is plenty to talk about with CNN commentator Michaela Angela Davis and Ralph Reed, the president of Central Strategies and founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom coalition.
Ralph, you say Robertson's suspension is a brazen act of anti- Christian bigotry. How so?
RALPH REED, FOUNDER, FAITH & FREEDOM COALITION: Well, I think because the reason why he was placed on suspension was because he expressed his Christian faith and his belief in the bible. I mean, the allegedly offensive passage for which he was placed on suspension was simply a virtual direct quote from the book of first Corinthians and the New Testament. And I think if you read the totality of the interview in "GQ," which I have done. I think this is unfair. I think it is a distortion of his true views. He makes it abundantly clear that we are called as believers to love everyone, that we are not to judge anyone, that ultimately God is the one whose all of our judge and we're all sinners saved by grace.
I thought it was a very uplifting statement. And while he is certainly would have expressed himself in some words that I would not have used, that's why A&E has a reality show built around this family, because of the home-spun folks way in which this family expresses views.
BERMAN: You said there was an uplifting statement. There was another video that came out today of Robertson's from a couple years ago, where it again, he is quoting the bible but at a different verse and he suggests that gays, again, quoting the bible are insolent, arrogant, God haters, they are heartless, faithless, senseless and ruthless. You know, is that expressing the same sentiment you were just mentioning before?
REED: Well, I would have to see the full context of the statement in which he said it. You know, this is a snippet of a fuller presentation. But based on my understanding of the views of Mr. Robertson and the Robertson family, these are people who love God, who believe that they shouldn't be judging anybody, that they are called to love everyone and show stability and respect for everyone, even those that they disagree with. But I think what the broader culture has to do and this is why many people have risen up in the last 48 hours to defend the Robertson family is what the larger and broader culture has to do is to respect the authenticity and the genuineness of the faith testimony of evangelical Christians and faithfully Catholics. And when they say they believe the bible and they quote it, just sanction them, to punish them, to fire them, to mistreat them because all they have done is express that faith, I think has no place in America.
BERMAN: Well, they didn't fire them yet. We'll get to that in a second.
Bt what about what Ralph is saying, Michaela? They are saying they believe what they believe, this is an authentic feeling they hold. You suggested that this is part of a bigger ideological civil war.
MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think and I agree with him to a certain extend. This is very authentic. This is very true and core to their beliefs but a very, very narrow sequestered fundamental belief system, right? And so when you are part of the popular culture, you have to now negotiate that. So that's what we're seeing happening. And I feel like this great divide is finding itself in a lot of popular culture conversations, and this is just another one of them, and I find very little upliftment in saying that someone's lifestyle would morph into bestiality or that they insight evil.
These are very, very hurtful words. They are not just doctrine and there is a lot of things in the bible, right? Snakes talk in the bible. People live in whales in the people. People have 300 wives in the bible. So, there are a lot of things in this great book that can be used to substantiate slavery. The bible was used to keep people in slave.
So, when we only use that as the foundation of making an argument, there are a lot of holes in that, and this is probably the first time that this family has ever really had to know gay people or be in touch with black people or other -- they have been very removed, and now that they are part of the larger conversation, we have to both be in conversation with each other, right?
They have to hear what the larger population has to say in response to these very, very specific religious believes, and if this were fundamental Muslims, if this was the shows is of Hollywood, you know, really protesting their religious believes, would the right be so in defense of them? If we heard them, you know, quote the Koran. This equality freedom thing works in a lot of ways.
BERMAN: You know, Sarah Palin Ralph, said that a lot of the critics of the Robertsons, she called them intolerant haters. Does it have to that harsh? Do people who have concerns with Robertsons are saying? Do they have to be intolerant haters, or as you say, you know, anti- Christian bigotry? Is there really that big of a divide here?
REED: Well, I think that it's interesting and perplexing the profits of toll rants who say we have been to be tolerant don't show the same level of tolerance for those who believe in orthodox, Christian or faith for example.
And I would say that this is a teachable and clarifying moment for American society. Are we going to say, are we really saying that those who believe that the bible is the word of God and who believe that it is the pattern on which they ought to order their lives, not in judging anybody else but how they order their lives, are we going to say that is if so facto, intolerant and shouldn't be included in the broader discourse? I don't think we are.
Look. There is a reason why 14 million people are watching this show every week. There is a reason why they get higher ratings every week than the "Breaking Bad" season finally had. There is a reason A&E wanted this show, because people are hungering for a sense of meaning and purpose.
And I would just say with all due respect about all the things that are in the bible, we're not talking about dietary laws out of the old testament. We're not talking about old testament law. We're talking about the new testament statement about how one ought to order their lives. And we should be clear that Phil Robertson answered a direct question. He was asked, what do you believe sin is, and he simply quoted scripture. If that's viewed as hateful, then God all mighty is hateful.
BERMAN: Then Michaela, what if he does come back?
DAVIS: But you know, I don't think people watch that show to hear his views on scripture. They are unique authentic American characters but when you bring in believes that can hurt others, that's not why we're tuning into "Duck Dynasty." So, I think we have to be clear about what is happening in reality television and what is happening at home or in his church which is his business.
But when it comes out in a way in public form in media, we have, you know, now he has to negotiate how that makes other people feel. So, I think we need to be clear what that show is about. It's not about his Christian views, and that's not why we watch. They are very entertaining.
But now, this -- I really agree with him. This is a teachable moment on both sides. Can we not draw such hard lines and listen to each other and understand there are all kinds of people with all kinds of views coming from all different kinds of backgrounds that have to work together. This family hasn't really had to be in a Cosmopolitan multi thinking world and now they are and they need to be cultch through it.
BERMAN: Michaela Angela Davis and Ralph Reed, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
REED: Thank you very much.
DAVIS: Thank you.
BERMAN: There is more happening tonight.
Next, what some see as President Obama's terrible, horrible, no bad very bad year, he doesn't see it that way and now he is looking ahead. John King, David Gergen and Candy Crowley join me for a reality check.
Also, a child grows up fatherless, a mother loses the love of her life and somehow learns to forgives the people responsible for her heartache. Anderson's conversation with the remarkable Anita Smith ahead on "360."
BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.
In raw politics tonight, President Obama says that 2014 will be a breakthrough year. Listening to some questions today at what's expected to be the final news conference of 2013, you can understand why he prefers to look ahead instead of looking back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Has this been the worst year of your presidency? When you look at (INAUDIBLE) to Americans say, seem to have lost confidence in you, trust of you, your credibility has taken a hitch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: So, my question is do you have any personal regrets?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: It's been a tough year, maybe not call it the worst year, the polls have gone up and down, they are low right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: You talk about the issues with health care and Web site, there are other issues, how do you expect Americans to have confidence and certainty in this law?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What do you thick has been your biggest mistake?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With respect to health care specifically or general?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The whole thing, back at this tough year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Looks like fun, right?
However the year does include a 14 point slide in the president's job approval numbers down to 41 percent, which is an all-time low for the president. On the other hand, markets are at an all-time high. We learned today the economy is now growing much faster than expect the. Unemployment is falling. The president highlighted that, rising health care enrollment numbers and cited the recent budget deal as evidence that political gridlock does not have to be a permanent condition.
Here to talk about this year and next year, senior political analyst David Gergen and chief national correspondent John King and chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.
So John, the major focus of this press conference was what went wrong this year? And then our new CNN/ORC poll, the president's approval rating is at an all-time low. The first question at the press conference was, was 2013 the worst year of your presidency?
So John King, the president didn't want to answer that question. Do you want to take a stab at it?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He was. If you look at what did he accomplished and what did he said out to do and what did he get, if you go back to the state of the union, John, at the beginning of the year, he was essentially all for 2013.
Look what he proposed in that speech and look what he got? Nothing. Added he wanted gun controls after Newtown, didn't get them. Not all the president's fault. Any Democrat listening to me is now blaming all the Republicans. And you can blame, you know, Washington. But he came away with nothing. And historians normally tell you on the second term that the first legislative year is the most important.
So, as the president heads off on vacation on, he really has to think about what lessons did he learn and what does he want to try to get done next year? It will be harder to get anything done next year because he is low in the approval rating. Democrats have a serious case of the jitters and Republicans are looking at 2014 in the midterm elections. So, it was a tough 2013 and even though it is a little bit of (INAUDIBLE) town at the moment, I wouldn't get optimistic about , you know, optimistic 2014.
BERMAN: Well, let's talk about that a little bit more.
The president said the new years' resolution is to be nicer to the press core. Can't get it. The bigger issue is how nice does he intent to be with Republicans? He did praise the bipartisan Ryan- Murray budge deal but he also said he will not negotiate on the debt ceiling.
So, any clues as to whether we'll see a defiant president, an accommodating president? Does the White House think will work?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think certainly in the second term they are going to go with what works. And so, you are going -- look, the president has a choice. He can be the bipartisan, this is about my legacy and what I want to try to accomplish in some fashion, or it's an election year, I need as many Democrats in Congress as I can possibly get, so I'm going to slam Republicans.
I mean, what we've had right after that bipartisan budget deal, which is minimal, what we had was Paul Ryan saying, well actually, you know, I don't expect we'll cave on the debt ceiling and we are going to want something for that. The president going, by the way, I'm not going to negotiate. So, I think we pretty much know how at least it's going to start.
BERMAN: Happy new year, right?
BERMAN: So David Gergen, there are really wasn't tons of new news out of today. But we did get a little bit of a sense of where, I think, the president wants to focus. He called 2014 a breakthrough year. In fact, the economic numbers we got today were really pretty good. You know, GDP at 4.1 percent. If we were running for reelection, they would be helpful but he's not. So, how does the improving economy affect the agenda now?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well John, I do think in fairness to the president, he did have some good news today, not only on the economy but, you know, the numbers signing up for the health care plan have been picking up here in December. They are way short of what they were. They wanted to be as the year ends, there seemed to be a little over a million. They wanted 3.5 million signed up. So, he has got it.
But I do think he has a little wind on the back going in to 2014. I also agree with John King's analysis, but the second year is a lot tougher than the first one in terms of the second-term president because you head into those ends of the year elections and there is going to be a lot of partisanship heading into that. He's going to be out on the campaign trail inevitably. He is going to irritate the hell out of Republicans with his campaigning. And I just think it gets a lot harder to govern and he still desperately needs to win back the House and he got to keep the Senate, if he really wants to govern the last two years, otherwise, you know, he is even though he has a big wind in the back, there is a lame duckish quality but also about this.
BERMAN: So, with that lame duckish quality that David is saying, John King, you said the president was 0 for 2013. What big ticket item does he have the best chance of getting done in the coming year?
KING; Well, that's the question he has to ponder on vacation. He says he wants immigration. You know, Speaker Boehner wants immigration but can Speaker Boehner get a path of citizenship from the House of representatives? I don't know. So, is the president willing to accept a path to legal status, just short of the path of citizenship? That's the question.
Harry Reid wants to pass the immigration bill. He happens to be from Nevada. What about the eight or ten vulnerable Senate Democrats, he has to ask all of them. How far are you willing to go? How far the Democrats willing to go on that?
So, Immigration is one where things the president can get done or things that are also in the Republican self-interest. And most Republicans want to pass an immigration bill but John Boehner, you know, we stood up to his caucus on this last budget compromise. He would have to do it again if he wants to go into the quick sand of immigration politics.
BERMAN: Candy, he suggested more changes may be coming to the staff, to his inner circle in the coming months. Is he tipping his hand that heads could roll over everything that went on with health care?
CROWLEY: Well, it will -- there certainly will be changes, and I think there will be what is said and how it's interpreted. I think there will be heads that roll, but I doubt they will be described that way.
The president has never liked doing something anti a person who has been working for him while the opposition is pushing for it. So there needs to be some breathing space between, say, Kathleen Sebelius and the rollout before the president might look and say, hey, you know, it's time for you to go spend more time with your family or other big names. But it's clear that he needs some fresh blood which is not unusual for a president going into a midterm that he, as David points out, desperately would love to see gains on Capitol Hill.
BERMAN: David, quickly, there was a lot of talk about the NSA. The president did seem to offer hope to Edward Snowden that he would be granted amnesty. But said he would make a definitive statement on the NSA next month. How do you think he wants to position himself there?
GERGEN: I think he wants to go back to the President Obama, as candidate Obama. My bet is he does accept curves that have been recommended by the panel. And, you know, I think the second term we're hearing more and more about the real Obama is coming forward and tends to be on the progressive side and wants to address income and equality, that's very central to him and I bet he does have curves. I think there will be big questions whether he'll be seen as tough enough, especially with Iran.
BERMAN: David Gergen, Candy Crowley, John King, thanks so much for being with us and happy holidays to all.
GERGEN: Thank you.
BERMAN: Up next, a powerful story of forgiveness, an American teacher living in Libya shot and killed. His widow's message is one of love for the Libyan people, including for the attackers themselves.
Anderson speaks with extraordinary Anita Smith. That is coming up next.
And later, a special ED teacher in Florida was fired for giving a student with autism crayons doused in hot sauce. But now, she has her job back. We will hear what the student's parents think about that, coming up.
BERMAN: Tonight, we have a story of incredible forgiveness in the wake of terrible tragedy.
Ronnie Smith was an American chemistry teacher who live in Benghazi with his wife and young son. Two weeks ago he was jogging near his home when an unidentified gunman drove by and shot and killed him. His wife, Anita Smith, says they knew the risk they were taking in moving to Libya, but they got to know the neighbors, made friends, built a normal life there. She also says amazingly, that she loves and forgives his attackers and has nothing against them.
In an open letter to the Libyan people she writes her husband loved them and was Libya's best friend. She goes on to write quote "I want all of you, all of the people of Libya to know I am praying for the peace and prosperity of Libya. May Ronnie's bloodshed on Libya's soil encourage peace and reconciliation between the Libyan people and God." Anita Smith buried her husband just yesterday and told her story to Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Anita, as I said before we met on the air, I'm so sorry for your loss. I read some --
ANITA SMITH, HUSBAND KILLED IN BENGHAZI: Thank you.
COOPER: -- some of the amazing things about your husband and some of the things his students were saying about him, he was a light, a silver lining in a city, what do you want people to know about your husband?
SMITH: What I want people to know about him, what he wants to know about him is really it's not about what Ronnie did, it's what Ronnie wanted to show to the Libyan people, and that's he wanted to shine the light and the love of Jesus to the Libyan people that he knew. He really did. He didn't want attention on himself about being a good guy or a good teacher or the fun teacher. It was just about the love and the forgiveness that we know from God.
COOPER: And I've heard --
SMITH: That's what he wants to leave behind.
COOPER: And I've heard you say that, I mean, you wrote a letter in part to the people who killed him saying that you love them and that you forgive them. That's an extraordinary thing.
SMITH: I do. I honestly do not have any anger towards them, and I want them to know this. I don't have -- I don't want any revenge. I just really want them to know I do love them, and I forgive them and Ronnie would want this. I pray and hope that our son, Jose will believe this, and I pray with all my heart that the attackers that made this incident will call them to know the love and forgiveness found in Jesus. I really do.
COOPER: Is that something you were able to feel right away? I mean, it's only been a few weeks, sometimes, you know, people may get to that stage months or years later, but to feel that so soon, I think is going to surprise a lot of people.
SMITH: The first day of the incident, I wasn't even thinking in regards -- any emotions in regards to the attackers, but it came really soon. It came within that evening or the second day. It's got to be God's spirit pouring into me, replacing that anger with his love. Yes, they took away my husband, and I love my husband, but it's got to be God's spirit that's pushing me to show them -- this is what God wants them to see. He wants them to see love and forgiveness is real, even if they have done this to my husband and I want them to see this and to know this.
COOPER: You really feel that in your heart? You don't feel anger? You don't feel hatred toward them? Sorry, I keep bringing this up, but I think it's an extraordinary thing to be able to feel that.
SMITH: I just envision the black jeep driving up to him, and I don't know their faces. I just want them to know that God loves them and can forgive them for this, and I don't know them, but I just -- yes, that's how I honestly feel. It may sound crazy, but -- it's God's spirit putting it inside me.
COOPER: It doesn't sound crazy. It sounds like you're a remarkable person to feel this. What will you tell your child when your child grows up about what your husband was doing there, about what their father was doing there?
SMITH: We want Jose our son to know that we love him so much, and Ronnie loved him so much, and what Ronnie and I would want as parents for Jose is that God loves him more, and God wants him to know just as Ronnie and I want him to know that there is no greater thing to live your life for than to live for Jesus, and Ronnie didn't waste his life, and so that's what Ronnie and I want Jose to see.
COOPER: I appreciate you being on and your strength and courage, and I wish you peace in the days ahead. Thank you.
SMITH: Thank you.
BERMAN: Such incredible strength.
There is a lot more happening tonight. Susan Hendricks has the 360 News and Business Bulletin -- Susan.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is out of the hospital tonight. The 74-year-old wasn't feeling well and was diagnosed with exhaustion.
A 360 follow, the family of a retired FBI agent that went missing during an undercover mission for the CIA in Iran met with the head of the FBI today. Bob Levenson disappeared in March of 2007. Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. is doing everything to locate him and has not abandoned him.
Two former assistants of Nigella Lawson and her ex-husband were acquitted of fraud in a London court today. The jury rejected claims the sisters charged more than $1 million in personal charges on credit cards. The celebrity chef says she was disappointed, but unsurprised by the verdict. She also fired back saying false claims of habitual drug use were made against her at the trial.
SeaWorld launches a counter attack tied to the documentary "Blackfish," which CNN aired that says the park mistreats whales. SeaWorld is responding in newspaper ads nationwide calling its employees true animal advocates and denies accusations it captures killer whales in the wild, it said it did so the last time 35 years ago. Several celebrities backed out of performing at SeaWorld because of that documentary.
BERMAN: All right, Susan Hendricks, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Coming up, a Florida special ed teacher gets her job back even though she admitted to dousing crayons in hot sauce. The parents of an autistic boy who used to be in her class are outraged. We'll hear from them next.
Also ahead, after announcing that 40 million customers had their debit and credit card info compromised, Target tries to make amends. Is it enough? The latest coming up.
BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. In Florida, a special education teacher is back in the classroom after being fired over allegations that she put hot sauce on crayons and gave them to an autistic child. Several courts found that the teacher in question should be reinstated, but for the parents of the autistic boy, it's unimaginable that she has her job back. Gary Tuchman reports.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jason Holguin is 7 years old. His parents prefer we not show his face, but they want us to tell his story.
(on camera): I'm going to play with you, Jason. Sorry.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Jason is autistic. This is his public school in Florida where to put it mildly, his special ed teacher had some very unorthodox methods including dousing Jason's crayons in hot sauce to try and break his habit of putting them in his mouth. Because of Jason's autism, his ability to speak is very limited. His parents say he would later get panicked when given crayons.
(on camera): Has he ever uttered a sentence, had a full conversation with you?
JOSE HOLGUIN, JASON'S FATHER: No.
TUCHMAN: Would he be able to tell you if someone stuck a crayon with hot sauce in his mouth?
JOSE HOLGUIN: He won't be able to tell me that.
TUCHMAN: Would he be able to say I'm in pain, please take that out of my mouth?
JOSE HOLDGUIN: No, he cannot do that.
ESCARLY HOLGUIN, JASON'S MOTHER: At that moment, I just wanted to have that teacher in front of my face when that happened because I just want to ask her why.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is the teacher, Lillian Gomez. The school district found out the hot sauce didn't stop at the crayons. She also put it in play dough and the teacher assistant claims that Gomez made Jason put the crayons in his mouth. When they heard about the accusations, officials at the school district ended up suspending her and then ten months later fired her following an investigation.
Jason's parents were satisfied with the decision, but would be surprised to learn what happened next. Gomez complained about being fired and went to an administrative court. She admitted putting hot sauce on the crayons, but denied the force feeding. In the findings, the court declared Ms. Gomez peeled the paper off several jumbo sized crayons and placed them in a disposable cup.
She then poured Louisiana hot sauce over the crayons and at the same time, Ms. Gomez also massaged hot sauce into some black play dough, but the court did not believe the assistant teacher who said Gomez force fed the boy. There is no evidence that Ms. Gomez insisted on the child actually licking or eating the hot sauce crayons or play dough.
The court declared she should be reinstated as a teacher. Jason's parents couldn't believe that a special education teacher that put hot sauce on the crayons and play dough is coming back to the classroom.
ESCARLY HOGUIN: I got angry because he cannot communicate. He cannot say it hurts my mouth.
TUCHMAN: An attorney for the school district appealed the decision. It went to a Florida appellate court and that court agreed with the lower court saying Gomez' conduct was not so egregious. Gomez had her job back. It's a different school in the county, but this week, she has returned to the classroom. The superintendent said they cannot talk to us on camera about this personnel issue.
(on camera): But school officials did tell us they would talk to us off camera, and it's clear they are not happy that Gomez is back in the classroom. They say they had no choice but to comply with the court order and say they spend about $125,000 in taxpayer money on legal fees, and also, have to give her 16 months of back pay.
(voice-over): We, of course, wanted to get Lillian Gomez' version of events, but when we showed up at her house, she told us she would call the police. One deputy said he would go to the door and ask her if she wanted to talk to us. He came back and said that Lillian Gomez would prefer not to make any comment.
Jason's parents are happy with their son's new teacher, but say they now worry every day about who could take advantage of him.
ESCARLY HOLGUIN: I just don't trust my kid with anybody.
BERMAN: So Gary Tuchman joins me now. Gary, the teacher is back in the classroom. What about the students with her now? Did their parents know about this history?
TUCHMAN: That's really interesting. It's a new school she's at but the school district, even though they don't want her in the classroom has not told the parents that this is the woman you've heard about on the news. They have to find out for themselves. The school district says they don't know what to do because it would set maybe a dangerous precedent if they made an announcement that the hot sauce teacher was in the school so they said nothing.
We should tell you about that even though she retains her rank as teacher in the same salary, she's not by herself with kids. She's a floating teacher, so she goes from classroom to classroom with teachers in those classrooms to help out.
BERMAN: So she's back. This is it. It's a done deal. Any plans for the school board or anyone else to try to appeal the matter?
TUCHMAN: Right, the school board could go to the Florida Supreme Court, but they feel based on the previous two rulings, they have a low chance of winning and they don't want to spend another $125,000 doing it.
BERMAN: All right, Gary Tuchman, crazy story, thank you, appreciate it my friend.
Attention Target shoppers, the retailer is offering a special discount for everyone after millions of customers had their credit and debit card information compromised. The new developments coming up.
BERMAN: So you've been voting online for the best "Ridiculist of the year" and tonight, we begin counting down your favorites. Your choice for number five when 360 continues.
BERMAN: In tonight's "American Journey," we're taking you to a barbecue joint in Washington, D.C. that's about a whole lot more than the ribs. It's called "Inspire" and that's exactly what it does for at risk young people. Tom Foreman reports.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Where there is smoke in D.C., there is "Inspire Barbecue," a small restaurant that is making a big impact by teaching struggling young people the basics of working life, how to show up on time, balance a checkbook, take and give fair criticism. Chef Bernard Tate who grew up here cooked upped the idea.
CHEF TATE, OWNER, INSPIRE BBQ: How do you get out of poverty? You get out of poverty doing a good day's work every day and looking at the goodness of what you produced rather than what you don't have.
FOREMAN: Over the past three years, Inspire has taken in hundreds of young folks ages 16 to 23 to work and learn for a period of time. Some have trouble with the law, some with drug abuse. Some like Daniel Gaskins with education. He graduated high school, but quickly failed out of college, and by the time he found Inspire.
DANIEL GASKINS, EMPLOYEE, INSPIRE BBQ: All out of money I've earned. It was kind of a waste. It was just like where do I go from now? Where do I go next? Do I find a job? Do I go back in school?
FOREMAN (on camera): This place had to be like a God send.
GASKINS: It was.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Today he talks confidently about his future and ideas.
TATE: We learn how to do everything so that you can transition into a permanent one.
FOREMAN: These are life skills.
TATE: These are life skills.
FOREMAN (voice-over): So in the end this food is not just fantastic, it truly is inspirational. Tom Foreman, CNN -- I'm going to try another taste, Washington.
BERMAN: Looks like an amazing place and delicious.
All right, Susan Hendricks is back with more headlines now -- Susan.
HENDRICKS: John, we start in California where a judge has granted a temporary restraining order to keep a 13-year-old girl on life support. The family of Jahi McMath requested the order against an Oakland hospital. The teen was declared brain-dead three days after complications with a surgery to have her tonsils removed.
And attention Target shoppers, the retailer is offering a 10 percent discount for this weekend for everyone at all of its stores. This move comes after Target revealed 40 million of its shoppers had credit and debit card information compromised by hackers.
And a famous boy wizard is headed to the British stage. J.K. Rolling is developing a play based on her Harry Potter story. She says the story will focus though on Harry Potter's early years as an orphan. No word yet on who will play the young Harry.
BERMAN: Harry Potter meets Annie right there, right?
HENDRICKS: I like it, yes.
BERMAN: Not bad. The sun will come out at Hogwarts.
HENDRICKS: You thought about that.
BERMAN: Good one, right? HENDRICKS: Yes.
BERMAN: All right, coming up, your votes are in. You voted online for your favorite "Ridiculist" of 2013. The top five count down begins, your pick for number five is next.
BERMAN: So tonight, the countdown begins. You've been voting online for your favorite "Ridiculist" of 2013. The results are in and we're counting down the top five as the year draws to a close. Tonight, your choice for number five, this comes from back in January.
COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight we are adding goats, that's what I said, goats, all of them, in general and the one that stole the show from a reporter in Florida who is just trying to do her job and report on a county fair. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The judging is complete, so come on out and meet the winners. The goats will be here through Saturday and they are very friendly. From the Manatee County Fair, Linda Carson, ABC 7 -- would you not eat my pants. I'm fine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you OK, dear?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Not again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't get enough.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you get it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it.
COOPER: Thankfully, WWSV reporter, Linda Carson was not hurt and she's a great sport about it. She took the whole thing in stride and she laughed about it. I hope she doesn't mind when I say let's roll that one again, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you not eat my pants?
COOPER: I've watched it like 30 times already. This is not the only goat centered full raid on the news. In Australia, Gary, the goat was recently exonerated in court. Her owner was charged with vandalism after Gary grazed in a flower bed outside the city museum and who can forget this goat? We told you about him when he knocked a paper boy off his bike and chased him up a tree and we think he might be possessed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made a weird noise, kind of like a grunting noise.
COOPER: Let's think about this, though. We got goats knocking paper boys off bikes, knocking reporters off their feet and vandalizing public property. I'm wondering if the goats are trying to take over. I know for a fact this one has taken over YouTube.
Now I don't know which I like better, when the goat screams or that reporter screams. If only we could see them side by side. We can, let's.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you not eat my pants?
COOPER: Nothing like ending a long week by repeatedly watching someone get knocked over by a goat and watching a goat scream, have a great weekend, everybody, and watch your backs.
BERMAN: All right, so tune in Monday for number four on the top five. "Ridiculist" countdown, hard to beat the goats. That does it for this edition of 360. Thank you for watching. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts right now.