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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Interview With Jeff Gannon

Aired February 18, 2005 - 19:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening from New York. I'm Anderson Cooper.
He was a White House reporter, now he's the center of a political firestorm.

360 starts now.

New questions about the man who questioned the president. How did this guy, with no experience and a fake name, get into the White House? And did he receive confidential information? Tonight, a 360 exclusive. We go one on one with the man who calls himself Jeff Gannon.

Donald Rumsfeld says zero tolerance for rape, but new charges say there are 10 serial rapists currently serving in the military, and dozens of soldiers have been sexually assaulted.

A car loses control and plunges off an embankment. Rescuers on the scene scramble to save a man's life, all caught on tape.

Cybersuicide, how a man using, persuasion and sexual innuendo, nearly convinced nine people to kill themselves. Tonight, we take you beyond the headlines, the never-before-heard details of this bizarre crime.

And what is this? It's not a lion, it's not a tiger. It's a liger. We're live with the 900-pound feline hybrid that's only getting bigger.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

COOPER: Good evening.

Jeff Gannon is his pseudonym. His real name is James Guckert. But by whatever name, he's in the center of a firestorm over whether he was a legitimate White House reporter or an administration plant in the press room. We'll get his side of the story later on 360.

We begin, however, with a very different kind of cyberstory, a death wish that almost came true, an Oregon man accused of a bizarre crime. His screen name said it all, suicideparty2005. Police say the man, the name belonged to a man who wanted to stage a mass suicide over the Internet. Fortunately, the plot failed, that may have been due, in large part, to some incredible police work. Tonight, we take you beyond the headlines. Our cameras were rolling as the police mapped out their strategy to stop dozens of suicides.

CNN's Kimberly Osias takes up the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): February 10, the sheriff's office in Klamath Falls, Oregon, gets a call about a Valentine's Day suicide plot, all laid out on the Internet.

It didn't take long for the sheriff's department to find the man it says masterminded the gruesome plot, 26-year-old Gerald Krien, a man without a record, but, authorities say, a penchant for the macabre.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have anything to say?

OSIAS: On chatroom transcripts, the plan, painted in black and white, 30 women to kill themselves, some in Klamath Falls, some in Canada, Virginia, Missouri, and Georgia.

DET. MONTY HOLLOWAY, KLAMATH COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: He had set up an address book. He would either accept you into this address book, or he wouldn't.

OSIAS: It was Saturday before Valentine's Day. While we were outside reporting...

(on camera): Well, obviously there are still concerns on Monday...

(voice-over): ... inside, the sheriff's major crime team was mapping out a plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The second individual that I talked to...

OSIAS: Trying to understand Gerald Krien's plot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'd say, I know how we're going to do it. It's going to be by hanging. He described (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

OSIAS: But what the sheriff's team didn't know was whether anyone would actually follow through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... back door by his mother...

OSIAS: The question, how to get the word out to people the sheriff's department said had been lured by Krien. Among them, Jamie Shockman, who had instant-messaged Krien for hours from her home in Portland.

JAMIE SHOCKMAN, CHATROOM PARTICIPANT: Well, he said, Hello, and, Have you ever thought about suicide? I was, like, OK, sure, who hasn't? He asked me if I wanted to be blindfolded while I was hanging, if I wanted to hold hands with other people while I was hanging, if I wanted to do it in the nude. And then I told him no. And he said, Well, some people want that.

OSIAS: Shockman became suspicious. It was her call to authorities four days before Valentine's Day that triggered Sheriff Tim Evinger's all-out effort.

SHERIFF TIM EVINGER, KLAMATH COUNTY, WASHINGTON: Now we've got two people that indicate they've been invited to go to a suicide party. And the message has been similar to both of them. Come to the house, partake in some sex acts, and then kill ourselves.

OSIAS: Detectives scrambled for Krien's cybertrail.

EVINGER: Mike was able to pull up a vast amount of information that was still there.

OSIAS: Computer forensic expert Mike Anderson traced chatter dating back to 2000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We find another posting in 2003 that he is saying he's in Citrus Heights, California, in the Sacramento area. And he's inviting people to do the same thing then.

OSIAS: Anderson finds a picture he says Krien sent to women. It's a picture Jamie Shockman had seen before.

SHOCKMAN: He sent me a picture of him from a Web site that was called Hot or Not. I asked him, in the beginning, when he said that he was going to kill himself as well, you know, Why do you want to die? And he said, Hate everything. He's, like, Hate life. Well, why do you hate life? Women think I'm a dog.

OSIAS: On Valentine's Day, the day the suicide pact was to be carried out, a grand jury indicted Krien.

ED CALEB, KLAMATH COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This is bizarre, the whole situation is bizarre.

OSIAS: Even while the district attorney was making that announcement, the sheriff's department was seizing more evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) computer (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

OSIAS: Including another computer, more hard drives, these from the home of Krien's cousin.

And on Valentine's Day, the sheriff's department watched the house where Krien lives with his parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-one 39.

OSIAS: Every arriving car checked out, license tags recorded, the idea of anyone going to the door examined.

At the end of the day, the sheriff finally took a deep breath, the mass suicide plot apparently averted. Krien pleaded not guilty at Thursday's arraignment. His attorney declined to comment to CNN.

Sheriff Tim Evinger worries this won't be the last of the suicide plots driven by those who exploit the Web's seamy underside.

EVINGER: He doesn't even have to be good at what he does. He can be out there lurking online, he can pop in and catch somebody vulnerable at any time, and he gets up to bat so many times that eventually he's going to get a hit.

OSIAS: An event that this time was thwarted, the sheriff says, with a little luck and a lot of hard work.

Kimberly Osias, CNN, Klamath Falls, Oregon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, luck and hard work paid off this time. But the so-called suicide parties are actually finding a home on the Internet. Shocking as it sounds, cybersuicide pacts have become a problem in Japan, where the lure of death is finding company through the computer.

CNN's Atika Shubert reports from Tokyo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a cold winter's day outside of Tokyo, nine strangers met for the first time, and killed themselves. They sealed their car windows with tape and left charcoal burning at their feet, death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

This is the work of Japan's suicide clubs, Internet chat sites devoted to death. It is a new phenomenon, started several years ago. Now there are hundreds of sites.

(on camera): We've been on this one for less than five minutes, and already an invitation to join a suicide club. Anonymity and efficiency is part of the appeal in a nation struggling to deal with depression.

In 2003, Japan logged a record number of suicides, more than 34,000, one of the highest in the world.

(voice-over): Tetsi Yashibui (ph) man runs an online suicide support group. He says Japan doesn't know how to handle depression. Counseling is rare, and most suicide club members, he says, have attempted to kill themselves before, and been ignored.

"The people who end up in suicide clubs are determined not to fail again," he says. "But if someone had been there to rescue them when they cried for help the first time, they would not be this desperate."

Yuma Higuchi is one such case. She swallowed hundreds of painkillers in a previous suicide attempt. She turned to an online chatroom, ironically, she says, to deal with her depression.

YUMA HIGUCHI, SUICIDE CLUB MEMBER: I didn't want to commit suicide at that time, but sooner or later, it was the conversation, I started to thinking that, oh, death is such an easy thing.

OSIAS: By chance, she could not access the Internet or her mobile phone when the other club members decided to carry out their morbid plan. Now, all four other members are dead. Yuma says she can't decide if she is lucky or not.

HIGUCHI: I'm talking, like, normally now, that half of mind still thinking about suicide. What I'm talking for, what I'm living for, half of me filled with hope, half of me filled with death.

OSIAS: For Yuma, the Internet is a double-edged sword. Her friends online may understand her, but they also make death look easy.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Let's hope she seeks out help.

Rewriting the rules for a big-money lawsuit tops our look at news right now cross-country.

We take you to Washington. President Bush has signed a bill designed to limit big damage awards in class-action lawsuits. It was one of the president's priorities, and will send a lot of the big class-action suits to federal court, where money awards are often lower.

Take you to Philadelphia now, Pennsylvania. Bill Cosby will not face criminal charges for allegations of sexual misconduct. The prosecutor says there is not enough evidence to support a woman's claim that Cosby had drugged and then fondled her at his home last year. Cosby denies the allegations. Could still face a civil suit by his accuser.

Denver, Colorado, now, more fall-out from that basketbrawl a few months ago, a new ban on alcohol in the final quarter of all NBA games, and new limits on the size of drinks. Policy takes effect at this Sunday's all-star game.

Back in Washington, scientists have published some intriguing research about how to build a better roach trap. Ugh, yikes. Apparently researchers have figured out how to make an artificial version of the sexy scent of the female cockroach, which is very effective at luring the males into traps. Now, if only they could figure out something for the female roaches as well.

That's a quick look at stories cross-country tonight.

Coming up next on 360, my exclusive interview with Jeff Gannon, the man at the center of a Washington firestorm. Did he receive special treatment from the White House? Put the tough questions to him ahead.

Also tonight, a man plunges more than 150 feet down a cliff, then uses his cell phone to save his life. Find out how rescue workers pulled him from the edge of death.

And a little later, something to make you smile into the weekend, lions and tigers and, yikes, this thing. They're called ligers. They're the largest cats in the world. We have one joining us live.

All that ahead. First, let's take a look at your picks, the most popular stories on CNN.com right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A man loses control of his car on a winding road in Ventura, California, plunges off the side. He says it was worse than a Hollywood movie. But tonight, he is safe, thanks to a dramatic rescue in the dead of night.

CNN's Ted Rowlands has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is 23-year- old Juan Cordero being airlifted to safety after plunging more than 150 feet down a cliff. This, the latest in a series of dramatic winter rescues, started with firefighters trying to find Cordero, who was trapped in his car.

AARON ARLEDGE, VENTURA COUNTY FIREFIGHTER: When we got down there, we walked along the riverbed, or the creek, actually, and we found the vehicle laying on its side.

ROWLANDS: Aaron Arledge says Cordero was not only alive, but talking.

ARLEDGE: For being in the situation he was in, he was pretty calm. He said he had actually had the radio on a little bit to calm himself down before we got there.

ROWLANDS: After plunging down the hillside, Cordero was able to use his cell phone. Instead of calling 911, he called his family, who lives nearby.

DANIEL CORDERO, VICTIM'S BROTHER: My brother called my father at 10:00 this night, and he explained to him that it was worse than a Hollywood movie. And then my dad asked, Well, what happened? And he said he fell off the cliff.

ARLEDGE: This right here is where we actually accessed the creek to get to the patient.

ROWLANDS: A look at the cliffside in daylight shows how far the car actually dropped. It took more than an hour to get Cordero out and to a hospital. Miraculously, he ended up with minor injuries.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Simi Valley, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, fierce fighting between insurgents and U.S. troops in Iraq tops our look at global stories right now in the uplink.

We take you to Talifar (ph), near Mosul. Masked gunmen seen there firing their weapons as U.S. troops launch a house-to-house search for insurgents. Witnesses say at least seven people were killed.

Further south in Baghdad, more deaths. At least 20 people were killed in four suicide bombings, three of them at Shi'ite mosques, causing my tension between Iraqis, Sunni and Shi'a Arabs.

In parts of Lebanon, for a second day, thousands of protesters filling the streets. They want Syrian forces out of their country. They called on Lebanon's pro-Syrian government to resign. The anger, of course, is fueled by the assassination of the former prime minister earlier this week. Syrian and Lebanese officials have denied their governments were involved in the attack.

In Samoa, American Samoa and the Cook Islands, destruction from a one-two punch. Cyclone Nancy and Cyclone Olaf have been hit -- have hit the region, both of them. Rain and at least 160-mile-per-hour winds, damaging homes, downing trees and power lines. No reports of deaths or injuries on land. At sea, six fishermen were rescued today two days after their ship was crippled by Cyclone Olaf. Two other men are still missing after their boat sank.

Quick look at stories in the uplink.

Coming up next on 360, an exclusive interview with Jeff Gannon. Was he a fake reporter who received special treatment from the White House? I'll ask him for his side of the story.

Also tonight, allegations of serial rapists serving in the U.S. military. Is the government turning a blind eye, or is the problem being exaggerated? Going to cover all the angles.

And a little later, regulating pain. An FDA panel is weighing the risks and benefits of the drugs making headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES," CBS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we first met Lieutenant Jennifer Dyer, the Army was treating her like a criminal, threatening to arrest her for desertion. The eight-year veteran of the New Jersey National Guard had been AWOL for two months after refusing to return to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where she says she was sexually assaulted by another lieutenant after a night of drinking with friends at the officer's club.

(on camera): He raped you? LT. JENNIFER DYER, NEW JERSEY NATIONAL GUARD: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any way he could have misinterpreted your intentions?

DYER: I don't feel it is possible to misinterpret, No, don't do this, or, Stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, there may be a ugly secret in the American armed forces. That clip from "60 Minutes" alleges some women in uniform, like the one you saw there, say they are in danger, not from foreign enemies, but from their fellow soldiers. Just last month, the Pentagon announced a new policy to stop sexual abuse in the ranks.

But as CNN's Kathleen Koch reports, in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, the problem may be persistent.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The accusations are troubling. The watchdog group The Miles Foundation charges 10 serial rapists are serving in the U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Bahrain. It says that overall, it's gotten 307 reports of sexual assaults from U.S. service members in those countries.

The foundation insists military authorities have been alerted about the alleged serial rapists, but the Pentagon, in a statement, said, it's, quote, "not aware of any reports showing evidence of 10 sexual predators serving in the U.S. military. We reject the characterization brought forth by The Miles Foundation."

There are also claims of sexual assault from service members in the U.S. One officer tells CBS's "60 Minutes" she was raped while on duty at a military base in Mississippi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES," CBS)

DYER: I don't feel it's possible to misinterpret, No, don't do this, or, Stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: Lieutenant Dyer's alleged attacker, who denies her claim, is facing court-martial on rape charges.

DYER: The aftermath of reporting it has been terrifying.

KOCH: After other servicewomen told similar stories to Congress last year, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered a review, and a zero tolerance policy. The Pentagon last month unveiled new ground rules to prevent and respond to sexual abuse in the ranks. It established a sexual assault response coordinator for every military base, mandatory prevention training, and sensitive and timely treatment of victims. DR. DAVID CHU, UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR PERSONNEL AND READINESS: The well-being of victims is priority for us, and we are doing whatever it will take to ensure they get the best possible care.

BRIG. GEN. MCCLAIN, COMMANDER, JOINT TASK FORCE FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT RESPONSE AND PREVENTION: This is not a silver bullet. There is no overnight solution. And to do this right, it is going to take time.

KOCH (on camera): Even with all these changes, a key to tracking the magnitude of the problem remains unresolved. The military still hasn't found a way to guarantee sexual assault victims confidentiality.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: New questions about the man who questioned the president. How did this guy, with no experience and a fake name, get into the White House? And did he receive confidential information? Tonight, a 360 exclusive, we go one on one with the man who calls himself Jeff Gannon.

And what is this? It's not a lion, it's not a tiger, it's a liger. We're live with a 900-pound feline hybrid that's only getting bigger.

360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Here's a question. When it comes to prescription drugs, ones that can significantly improve the quality of your everyday life, what degree of risk is worth the benefits? When do the negatives outweigh the positives?

That's exactly what a federal advisory panel has been grappling with this week in three days of extraordinary hearings on the popular pain relievers Vioxx, Bextra, and Celebrex.

Well, now the panel has decided those drugs should remain on the market, even though they may hurt the heart.

CNN senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more on the panel's controversial conclusions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took three days of hardcore science and gut-wrenching emotion for the FDA advisory committee to decide, after extremely close votes, that the popular painkillers should remain for sale in the U.S., despite known heart risks.

But that decision won't change the minds of some patients, who will always believe these medications are too risky and too deadly.

Like Nancy Corran. She says her husband, Jack, lived an active life. His minor back pain was controlled with Vioxx, until, at age 64, he died suddenly of a heart attack.

NANCY CORRAN, HUSBAND DIED ON VIOXX: My husband could be alive right now if it wasn't for Merck. And I feel that he was murdered.

GUPTA: We can never know for sure that Vioxx actually caused his heart attack. Although studies had previously shown the increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, Merck didn't take it off the market until September.

CORRAN: This man's life was taken away for something they knew about. He won't see his grandchildren, his grandchildren won't see him. I won't see him. And I have to live with this, because I didn't even get to say goodbye to the man, and he died.

GUPTA: The research was similar on all three painkillers.

DR. ALASTAIR WOOD, CHAIR FOR ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We've got data on Vioxx, on Bextra and on Celebrex, from randomized, controlled trials that show an increased cardiovascular risk.

GUPTA: But still, to some, like Betsy Stuart-Chaney, sidelined with pain after years of sports, the risks are worth taking.

BETSY STUART-CHANEY, TAKES CELEBREX: I'm here to say, would you all pick up your elbow and whack your funny bone and feel that pain that stops you in your tracks from doing what you're doing? All you want to do is say a bad word. Well, I have cracked vertebraes in my neck. And without Celebrex, I start to lose the feeling in my hands. And I can't grasp a paper. I can't hold onto something. I can't do things around my house.

I'm willing, for my quality of life, to take those risks.

GUPTA: The committee says, in allowing these drugs to stay on the market, the warnings to doctors and patients must be made very clear. They're recommending the strictest warning a drug can have, a black box on the label, and advertising will be limited as well. So look for fewer commercials.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: 360 next. Jeff Gannon speaks out. Was he a media plant by the White House, or has he been unfairly targeted? I'll ask him the tough questions.

Also, something to make you smile this weekend. It's a liger, part lion, part tiger. It is huge. Meet the King Kong of cats.

And a little bit later, look what they did to the rabbit. That's right, Bugs Bunny and friends get an extreme makeover. We take that to "The Nth Degree."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: For the past two years, a man known as Jeff Gannon regularly showed up at the White House. He got a daily press pass and worked as a reporter. No one paid much attention to him, until a few weeks ago when he asked the president a question during a White House press conference. Since then, his past has been laid bare, he's resigned from his job, and more questions continue to be raised about how and why he got into the White House in the first place. Details now from Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES (voice-over): In a White House press corps filled with well known faces, no one paid much attention to this man. Jeff Gannon worked for two Web sites, Talon News and GOPUSA, owned by a Texas Republican activist. He was a self- described conservative reporter who generally asked friendly questions of spokesman Scott McClellan.

And when President Bush called on him last month, Gannon asked an inaccurate question with this unflattering description of Senate Democrats.

JEFF GANNON, FORMER TALON NEWS REPORTER: How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

KURTZ: How did he get White House press credentials? Gannon says he didn't have a permanent pass, which requires a full FBI background check, but was admitted day by day, by giving the Secret Service his real name.

Was he a Bush administration plant? He says his questions were his own.

Was his writing anti-gay? He denies that. But the questions keep mounting. Did White House officials know of his salacious activities? Did they give him special access to information? How could he call himself a journalist?

Gannon has become a symbol for the president's critics, and for the bloggers who have shown once again they can take people down with warp speed.

Howard Kurtz, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I spoke with Jeff Gannon earlier this evening. I started by asking him why he doesn't use his real name?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GANNON: I use a pseudonym, because my real name is very difficult to pronounce, to remember and to spell. And many people who have been talking about me on television have yet to pronounce it correctly.

COOPER: But I mean, your real name is James and you used the pseudonym Jeff.

GANNON: Yes.

COOPER: How is James so much harder than Jeff?

GANNON: No, no, I meant my last name.

COOPER: Well, your real last name is Guckert, and the pseudonym you used is Gannon.

GANNON: Yes. It's easier to pronounce, to remember and to spell.

COOPER: But when you would go into the White House to get a pass for a briefing, you would use the name James Guckert.

GANNON: Yes, because that's the name on my driver's license.

COOPER: And then -- but then you would switch to Jeff Gannon to ask questions?

GANNON: Because that is the name that I do my reporting under. It's not uncommon for journalists, authors, actors, to have pseudonyms.

COOPER: There are those who have said that the reason perhaps you are using a different name is that there is stuff from your past that you did not want people to know about or find out about.

GANNON: How I'll address that is that I have made mistakes in my past. And these are all of a very personal and private nature that have been -- that have been all brought to the surface by people who disagreed with the question I asked at the presidential press conference several weeks ago. And is -- the effect of this has been that we seem to have established a new standard for journalists in this country, where if someone disagrees with you, then your personal life, your private life, and anything you have ever done in the past is going to be brought up for public inspection.

COOPER: What your critics say, though, is that while a lot of this may be politically motivated, that liberal bloggers who didn't like the question you ask or don't like you in general are targeting you and revealing things about your personal life, that there are legitimate questions to ask. And in fact, they say that things in your personal life in fact just point to, A, a certain level of hypocrisy on your own part, but also serious questions about the White House vetting process.

GANNON: Well, I can't speak to the White House vetting process. All I can say is that they received all of the information that was asked for, that they ask every journalist for who applies for a daily pass into the White House. I suppose that they don't -- they aren't interested in reporters' sexual history either. COOPER: Let me give you a chance just to respond to what you want to respond to. You had previously stated that you had registered a number of pornographic Web sites for a private client. That's what you had said publicly. You said the sites were never activated. A man now has talked to "The Washington Post," who said that you had essentially paid him to create some Web sites for an escort service, and you are yourself offering yourself as an escort.

GANNON: Well, like I said, there's a lot of things being said about me out there. A lot of things that have nothing to do with the reporting I have done for the last two years.

COOPER: Your critics bring up your past, that whether or not you did work as an escort as going to your credibility, that you know, should somebody who perhaps was working as an escort was getting access to the White House and being passed along through the Secret Service. Was your employer aware of your past activities?

GANNON: My employer was never at any time aware of anything in my past beyond the writings I did, because, frankly, it isn't relevant to the job I was asked to do, which was to be a reporter.

COOPER: Was anyone at the White House aware of your private activities?

GANNON: I would say that -- I would say no, absolutely, categorically no.

COOPER: There are many questions that have been raised about whether or not -- people raising the specter that you are somehow a White House plant. Are you a White House plant? Were you (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

GANNON: Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, how I came to be at the White House is I asked to attend a briefing. I asked the White House press office. They gave me a daily pass to get in.

COOPER: When was that?

GANNON: I don't recall, but it was -- I think somewhere in the neighborhood of two years ago.

COOPER: Because in -- was that for Talon News?

GANNON: At the time, it was called something else, but it -- the name was changed to Talon News shortly thereafter.

COOPER: What was it called at the time?

GANNON: It was called GOPUSA.

COOPER: So -- and that's owned by a Republican activist, Bobby Eberle?

GANNON: It's owned by Bobby Eberle. COOPER: The first record we have now of you actually being at a White House press briefing was on February 28th, 2003, as you said, before Talon News even existed. So why were you given a White House pass?

GANNON: I was given a White House -- well, you will have to ask the White House that. But I asked to attend the White House briefing because I was -- you know, because I wanted to report on the activities there.

COOPER: But GOPUSA is not a news organization.

GANNON: Well, we were -- we were -- we had established a news division, and it was later renamed Talon News.

COOPER: Because this is news to just about everybody. You know, Talon News wasn't registered I think until, well, March 29th of 2003. I think the first articles didn't appear until April 1st. So I guess the questions that are being raised why were you at -- allowed to go to a White House briefing if you are working for GOPUSA, which is a clearly partisan organization?

GANNON: There are many, many organizations, many people that are allowed to attend the White House briefings. I don't know the criteria they use.

COOPER: But you weren't even publishing anything. You weren't reporting anything.

GANNON: Well, actually, I was at the time.

COOPER: When was the first article you ever published?

GANNON: Well, you're -- I don't know that, because I'm here in your studio here. And I don't know the answer to specific dates. All I can tell you is that -- and frankly, all these questions about Talon News and GOPUSA, you need to ask them about that, because I don't represent them any longer.

COOPER: Yeah, we've asked them. They refuse to talk about it.

GANNON: Well, I mean, they would be the ultimate authority on that.

COOPER: This liberal group, Media Matters, which I'm sure you know well about. They have been very critical about you, really looked into this probably closer than just about anybody. They say that essentially, you are not a real reporter. And it's not even a question of being an advocate, that you have directly lifted large segments of your reports directly from White House press releases.

GANNON: All my stories were usually titled "White House Says," "President Bush Wants," and I relied on transcripts from the briefings, I relied on press releases that were sent to the press for the purpose of accurately portraying what the White House believed or wanted. COOPER: But using the term "reporting" implies some sort of vetting, some sort of research, some sort of -- I mean, that's called faxing or Xeroxing, if you are just lifting transcripts and putting them into an article.

GANNON: If I am communicating to my readers exactly what the White House believes on any certain issue, that's reporting to them an unvarnished, unfiltered version of what they believe.

COOPER: Did you receive information from the White House that others didn't get?

GANNON: Absolutely not.

COOPER: So there was an article in which you interviewed Ambassador Joe Wilson, and you implied that you had seen a CIA classified document in which Valerie Plame...

GANNON: I didn't do that at all. I didn't do that at all. If you read the question, and I provided -- my article was actually a transcript of my conversation with Ambassador Wilson -- I made reference to a memo. And this...

COOPER: How did you know about that memo?

GANNON: Well, this memo was referred to in a "Wall Street Journal" article a week earlier.

COOPER: So that wasn't based on any information that you had been given by the White House?

GANNON: I was given no special information by the White House or by anybody else, for that matter.

COOPER: You have been very clear that you believe this is politically motivated. And I think just about everyone probably agrees with that, that you asked that question, it was a softball, and liberal bloggers went after you to find out what they could in the public domain about you. But isn't that -- and you say that's unfair. Isn't that -- aren't those the same techniques that you yourself used as a reporter that sort of -- to publish innuendo, to publish advocacy-driven, politically motivated reports?

GANNON: Well, I don't see it that way. But what was -- what's been done to me is far in excess of what has ever been done to any other journalist that I could remember. My life has been turned inside out and upside down. And, again, it makes us all wonder that if someone disagrees with you, that is now your personal life fair game? And I'm hoping that fair-minded people will stand up and say that what's been done to me is wrong, and that -- that people's personal lives have no impact on their ability to be a journalist, you know. Why should my past prevent me from having a future?

COOPER: Appreciate you being with us. Jeff Gannon, thanks very much.

GANNON: Thanks so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That was Jeff Gannon, about an hour and a half ago.

Coming up next on 360, far lighter stories. We want to make you smile going into the weekend. Check out this big cat. It's not a tiger, it's not a lion, it's called a liger. That's right, it's not just (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We'll have one ahead.

Also, Bugs Bunny and friends turning into thugs? What's that about? We take that to "The Nth Degree."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you drawing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A liger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's a liger?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like a lion and a tiger mixed. Known for its skills in magic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That clip was from the funny movie "Napoleon Dynamite." Pretty much lets the cat out of the bag where our next story is concerned -- not that you could get a cat this size into a bag, per se. Anyway.

No wonder crowds have gathered to gawk down at Miami's Parrot Jungle (ph) Island. Take a look at what they are gawking at.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BHAGOVAN ANTLE: Who is that? Who is that guy, huh?

COOPER (voice-over): Meet Hercules the liger, and his trainer, Dr. Bhagovan Antle.

So what exactly is a liger? Well, for starters...

ANTLE: Hercules is a liger because his mother is a tiger and his father is a lion.

COOPER: That coupling produces the world's largest cat.

ANTLE: This big guy is about 900 pounds and he's almost 12 feet tall.

COOPER: But what if the mother was a lion, the father a tiger?

ANTLE: He would be a tigon, and he'd be a dwarf. COOPER: A dwarf like this cub, who won't grow bigger than 350 pounds.

For Hercules, the opposite happened, and in this mixed breed everything is super sized.

ANTLE: Ligers like this have incredible teeth. He seems to have the teeth of both his mother and father combined.

COOPER: Which he can use to eat up to a hundred pounds of meat in a single sitting. That is, when he isn't drinking a bottle.

Because after all, his trainer says he's really just a big baby. He's expected to keep growing until he reaches a thousand pounds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And joining us live in Miami to talk about the magnificent creature of his is Dr. Bhagavan Antle, director of the Institute of Greatly Endangers and Rare Species. Dr. thanks for being with us. Is that Hercules there?

ANTLE: This is Hercules, my little Liger boy about 900 pounds of kitty cat.

COOPER: How did this happen? How did Hercules come about. I mean, this doesn't happen in the wild, obviously, lions and tigers live in separate places and don't normally hook up.

ANTLE: Well, for us, you know, we have a lot of big cats that we use for different wildlife educational performances like what we do here at Parrot Jungle Island. And we have these big free roaming areas that they are able to exercise and play around in. Out there, there was this one lion boy that decided he liked a tiger girl far better than we really planned on. And we reproduced some ligers. This is how Hercules popped up.

COOPER: Hercules certainly like -- seems to like milk an awful lot there. I hope you don't run out of that milk soon. What -- they get different things from -- obviously lions and tigers are very different. What traits does Hercules have from the lion side and what traits from the tiger side?

ANTLE: You know, we're very fortunate with him in a lot of his attributes like that. He's got a lot of the social things that lions do. Lions are more social and they want to touch more and they are able to be a lot more communicative than a lot of tigers are. So, Hercules here is able to have that ability to be petted and come up and say hi to you.

But then he's not so ferocious. Lions as they mature become so ferocious, tigers are a little more mild mannered. So, you kind of get the best of both worlds in him psychologically that you do in this incredible look, as well. Got his mom's stripes, but the tawny color of his dad.

COOPER: He's such a beautiful animal.

You know, there are those who say that tigers shouldn't be tamed and domesticated. You know, there's concern about a black market of exotic animals. Something that we're going to be looking at next week. How would you respond to those who say you shouldn't own a tiger? This shouldn't be done?

ANTLE: I mean I absolutely don't think that anyone should have a pet tiger. I don't think that's really a good thing, that you you need one in your local neighborhood. I think this is America you should be able to do anything you want within bounds and with permits and stuff like that.

But Hercules isn't my pet, he's an educational tool that is used for wildlife conservation. The shows at Parrot Jungle Island that we work on have a whole system of talking to the public and creating the opportunity for them to see animals up close and uncaged.

I think that the bond that people get by seeing animals not sleeping, or pacing in cages, creates a different idea for them. And that they are much more interested in what you have to say. He's an ambassador to teach people about ideas of conservation, reduce, reuse, renew, reducing your consumption and reusing what you've got.

COOPER: Let me ask you, how big is that tongue?

ANTLE: That's a long tongue. I bet it comes out about 10 inches if he wants to. He loves this baby bottle. He had a bottle since he was a baby and we just kept him on it. So this is his treat.

COOPER: And he eats up to like 100 pounds of meat a day, is that possible?

ANTLE: He can eat 100 pounds in a single sitting, but it will make him gain extra weight. So, we keep him at around 20 to 25 pounds, beef or chicken, with a special vitamin and mineral mix on it. And that keeps him in open minimal health.

If you gave him a hundred pounds he would weigh 1500 pounds, but he wouldn't be able to walk around too well.

COOPER: Hey, Dr. Antle, appreciate you joining with Hercules. Just unbelievable beautiful animal there, a liger. Thanks very much, doctor.

Truth be told, you know, we can't get enough of animals. And since we're going to the weekend, quick other little animal story to tell you about. A big gobbler thinks he rules the roost in Hancock County, Ohio. He doesn't take kindly to state troops treading on his territory.

Look at this. Last week during a routine traffic stop, the bird came out of a roadside field. Two days later, motorists who pulled off the same road called the state patrol to say the turkey trapped him in his SUV. Then another trooper showed up, there you see it, not kidding, the feathered friend wasn't so friendly. And here you see, just gone crazy. This is like turkey gone wild. For 20 minutes the turkey stalked the cruiser with the trooper trapped inside. A wildlife officer finally showed up and trapped the bird. The officer then transferred it to some territory less traveled.

That's tough. Let's find out what is coming up in a few minutes on PAULA ZAHN NOW -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: So, have you ever been stalked by a turkey?

COOPER: I have been stalked, not by a turkey yet.

ZAHN: I have been running way out in the middle of nowhere and had turkeys come after me. It's not very pleasant. They're very aggressive.

COOPER: Are they really? I didn't know that.

ZAHN: Thanks, Anderson.

Imagine doing what you thought was a good deed, winding up suspected of helping terrorists. Well that is exactly what happened to one American businessman. The feds ended up raiding his home. He's constantly stopped in airports. He was even detained overseas all because did he something so many of us have done. We'll explain why at the top of the hour.

COOPER: All right. Paula, it's about 5 minutes from now. Thanks very much.

Coming up next on 360. You know text expression "What's up Doc? Well, it's more like what sup with Bugs Bunny. We're going to take his new look to the Nth Degree.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight taking a stand to the Nth Degree. We say no. And we're prepared to beg our corporate sibling Warner Brothers not to do this terrible thing. We mean this terrible thing. A new TV version of Looney Tunes set in the far future featuring descendants of the originals of whom we all grew up, much changed descendants I might ad.

Bugs Bunny.

BUGS BUNNY: What's up doc?

COOPER: In the future, he has no pupils, uses hair gel for that punk rocker look, has ears like scimitars and paws like blades. He's a wabbit you wouldn't want to cross, or even meet in a dark alley.

Ninja Bugs on meth with a chip on both his dangerously sharp shoulders. And Daffy Duck, Daffy God help us, the quintessential miss- behaving cut-up becomes less Daffy than deadly.

DAFFY DUCK: You just got to give me a dramatic part.

COOPER: Deadly Duck with weapon's grade feathers implanted in his head, steamlined talons that could open Elmore Fudd from chin to groin in a single slice and a beak like the things fitted on the wheels of war chariots in the bad old days. And one kick from the feet would open a hole in you through which daylight could be seen.

And the others, Wile Coyote, Road Runner, both tempered and darkened and forged and honed, characters made of Japanese swords.

Man, we say no. I hate to see what they did to Porky Pig. I'm Anderson Cooper have a great weekend. Thanks for watching 360. Primetime coverage continues now with Paula Zahn -- Paula.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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