Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Keeping Them Honest: The Racial Minefield

Aired January 17, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
He's the mayor of New Orleans. She's a senator with an eye on the White House. Tonight, they are both taking heat over words and politics and race.


ANNOUNCER: Was Hurricane Katrina payback from God for the war in Iraq? That's what New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin suggested, along with this.

RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: This city will be chocolate at the end of the day.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, what Mayor Nagin said and the shockwaves tonight.

Senator Hillary Clinton ignites a firestorm when she stirs up memories of slavery.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: It has been run like a plantation. And you know what I'm talking about.

ANNOUNCER: No, not really. What is she talking about? Hint: It's a potshot at the Republican majority in Congress.

And what do you think? Hear the arguments and tell Anderson and our panel what's on your mind. Tonight, we take your calls.


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of Anderson Cooper 360, "Keeping Them Honest: The Racial Minefield."

Live from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And good evening again.

We begin with two sets of remarks that remind us of two simple facts. Just about any issue can have a racial dimension, and talking about race in America can be like walking into a minefield.

Tonight, what Mayor Nagin said and what rebuilding New Orleans as a chocolate city and what Senator Clinton said about Republican leadership in Congress, comparing it to a plantation. Were both speakers pandering to a particular audience? Perhaps. Are people legitimately upset about the comments? You bet. So, we're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, starting with Mayor Nagin.


NAGIN: As we think about rebuilding New Orleans, surely, God is mad at America. He's sending hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroying and putting stress on this country. Surely, he's not approval of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But, surely, he is upset at black America, also.


COOPER: Well, and that's not all the mayor said yesterday or apologized for today, sort of.

Here's CNN's Sean Callebs.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mayor Ray Nagin started a meeting on the Commission to Bring Back New Orleans by trying to take something back

NAGIN: And I said some things that were totally inappropriate.

CALLEBS: Monday, during a speech honoring Martin Luther King Jr., this was how Nagin characterized his belief that New Orleans will once again be predominantly African-American.

NAGIN: It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. And I don't care what people are saying uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day.


CALLEBS: Nagin now says he was caught up in the moment.

NAGIN: And I need to be more sensitive and more aware of what I'm saying. And I want everybody to be welcome in New Orleans, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, everyone.

CALLEBS: His controversial remarks fuel talk radio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nagin's a nice guy, but how did he fit that whole big foot in his mouth?

CALLEBS: Nagin is trying to undo damage, like the disconnect expressed by this former city resident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After hearing Mayor Nagin's comments, I would never come back, because I'm Caucasian. I'm white, and I'm not chocolate, so I guess we're not welcome back.

CALLEBS: Off the air and on the street, Nagin's comments were the talk of the town. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I feel like what he said was very self- serving. I think it serves his own purposes. But it -- you know, it doesn't anything to help us.

CALLEBS: Others appreciated the candor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I think that that was his way, not -- not -- I don't know if it was the best way, but that was -- I think that was his way of letting everyone know that the city is not going to abandon the black population.

NAGIN: Pollster Silas Lee says there's a lot more to it than that. He says Nagin was a local maverick who needs to realize he's now on a national stage.

SILAS LEE, POLLSTER: It's almost the equivalent of someone walking up to you and slapping you. Then they apologize. Yes, you may accept the apology, but you certainly will remember that -- the fact that they slapped you.


CALLEBS: The mayor says his remarks are really meant as a call for African-Americans to return to New Orleans, saying they played a crucial role in this city's history and its culture, and plans on being an important role in the future.

Now, Nagin's apology also came quickly today as well. And the last thing this city needs right now, many say, is divisive dialogue -- Anderson.

COOPER: Sean, thanks for that.

It was here on the program that we expected to speak with Mayor Nagin, even though getting the mayor to come on the program is only a little easier than herding cats. When we -- when he last appeared on 360, which was about four months ago, shortly before Hurricane Rita, he promised he would be back.

Since then, we have put in dozens of requests for interviews. He's always declined them. Twice, he has agreed to appear, then canceled shortly before airtime, as he did tonight.

This morning, he agreed to appear. And, then, around 6:00 p.m., he confirmed he would appear. Then, shortly after, his office told us the mayor had an emergency to deal with. They said he would not be showing up.

Now, they didn't say what the emergency was. And we're not here to judge a person's emergencies. But, last we checked, the mayor was eating dinner at a restaurant called Bourbon House on the corner of Bourbon Street.

And Sean Callebs is actually standing outside the restaurant right now.

Sean, is the mayor still inside having dinner?

CALLEBS: Well, as best we can tell, Anderson, he is, indeed.

I can you how this evening played out. After we got the call that the mayor was going to cancel the interview, we had a crew out here. Somebody went upstairs to the second floor in a private dining area. They saw the mayor greeting members of the Commission to Bring Back New Orleans.

Now, we had people out here the entire time. There are still a number of city vehicles out here. We went up a short while ago to check once again to see if Mayor Nagin was upstairs on the second floor. This time, those doors were shut, and the mayor's press officer is standing out in front -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, tell her I -- I left her a message as well. I would love to talk to her, when she gets a chance.

To your knowledge, are there any emergencies happening in Bourbon House right now?


And, to our knowledge, there was not an emergency Stafford meeting. And it was the kind of thing -- we asked the press officer, look, is this the kind of thing that we should be at to cover, to talk to the mayor, to see what came up at this 11th hour, to see what could be so critical about getting possible funding for this area, some kind of congressional action?

We got no real answer from that. So, we're waiting out here. There are a number of cars out here as well. And if the mayor is indeed still upstairs and comes down, Anderson, we hope we can bring it to you live and explain exactly what happened.

COOPER: Well, that would be great. We would love to talk to him, as we always would love to talk to the mayor. And if he's watching, maybe up there in Bourbon House, feel free to come out any time. Sean Callebs will be there. We are on for the next two hours.

A number of distinguished guests did show up tonight. And we're very pleased to have the Reverend Jesse Jackson in Chicago with us; elsewhere in New Orleans, Julia Reed, a contributing editor too "Newsweek"; and, from Philadelphia, Republican strategist and Minister Joe Watkins.

Everyone, appreciate your guys joining us. I'm glad you guys ate dinner beforehand, so you didn't cancel on us.


COOPER: Reverend Jackson, let me start off with you.

Your reaction to Nagin's remarks, that -- I mean, should New Orleans be a chocolate city?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: It really should be a mosaic, a multicultural mosaic.

It's -- it's black; it's white; it's Jewish; it's Hispanic. It is a mosaic. It is a port city. Some think it should be a chocolate city. Some think it should be whipped cream with cherries and condos. But the fact is, it should be a multicultural haven for -- to maintain its own heritage.

COOPER: Is it racist -- is it racist for a politician, for a mayor of a city, to say that it should be predominantly African- American? My question is, I guess, if a white mayor said a city should be a vanilla city, would that mayor be allowed to stay in office?

JACKSON: Well, I think the context of his was not that.

I think that's why he apologized so quickly. What he really is saying is that people are in exile in 41 states. There is no plan for their right to return, their right to reconstruction or their place to stay. So, there is this great anxiety in the street.

You remember, two weeks ago, they were stopping bulldozers from wiping out the Ninth? Well, there is a great fear. And maybe he was playing to the audience on that occasion. He said he overplayed that. I think he did overplay it. But, clearly, New Orleans must remain a -- a multicultural city.

And, of course, that will not happen, unless, in fact, those who have been displaced have the right to return and the right to reconstruction. And, right now, there is no plan for that to happen.

COOPER: Joe, you're also an ordained minister. Is it OK for Mayor Nagin to be speaking for God?


COOPER: I mean, he said that God basically wants it to be an African-American city, or a chocolate city, and God sent the hurricanes to punish America.

WATKINS: Well, most people who are in the ministry -- and that's the ministry -- it is not mayors or cities -- take very -- are very careful about invoking God's name and speaking on God's behalf.

Mayor Nagin hasn't been so careful. He is -- he's telling and interpreting for the rest of us what God -- why God has done what he has done. And -- and I find it rather interesting.

I -- I think he would be better served to try to do what it is that mayors are elected to do, which is to bring the people together in their city, and to talk to all the people in the city, that is to say, all the members of the city of all races, of all backgrounds, of all religions, and to try to bring them together, and to speak to them in a way that is -- that is -- that is helpful and that moves a city forward.

To take potshots at the president, especially at a time like this in presidential policy, really isn't helpful at all to the process. The mayor has been very successful over the course of several months now of pointing the finger at everybody else for whatever has been -- for the troubles that New Orleans has had. And I think he would do well not the point the finger at others, but to -- to say honestly what his role is and how he hopes to move his city forward.

COOPER: Julia, you spend an awful lot of time in New Orleans. You write about it as well very well. The reporting you have done has been amazing.

Does -- does this kind of statement by the mayor, does it surprise anybody in New Orleans?

JULIA REED, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK": Well, unfortunately, it's becoming less and less surprising.

But, even more unfortunate than that, is, it obscures the real progress that's happening here. Last night, Wynton Marsalis gave an amazing speech of his own, which didn't even make the newspaper. Look, if you want to read it, you have got to go on Tulane's Web site. And he invoked Dr. King's legacy, though not professing to have had a personal conversation with him, as Nagin did, and said, you know, that what that legacy was is that we should be able to speak truthfully to each other, to rely on each other, that we should work together and rebuild this city, that is was -- what we had to do is less daunting than what King did, which was to -- toiling in the shadow of slavery and discrimination.

We are simply toiling in the shadow of a natural disaster. And we need to rely on each other, hold people accountable, such as Ray Nagin, and get on with it. And it was so rousing. It was so beautifully, beautifully, done. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when he finished.

The night before that, Sunday night, I had co-hosted an event with -- with -- with Wynton and with Walter Isaacson, the head of the Aspen Institute. We raised $200,000 for housing charities, some other stuff. Local people, people from out of town, had come together.

You don't -- nobody in the country hears about this good news. They don't realize, you know, the progress we have made just getting a special session called to -- to -- you know, to coordinate our levee districts and that kind of thing.


REED: We -- all of those obscured every single time Ray Nagin opens his mouth.

If he -- it would really, honestly, be better if he would just shut up between now and the end of time of -- I mean, you know, the end of time, at this point. I keep trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. He disappointed me so early on, right after the hurricane, you know, when he invoked God's name in a slightly different way. He was taking the lord's name in vain quite a bit on national TV. And now he's -- now he's professing to speak for him. I just -- you know, it goes from embarrassment to embarrassment. And he is just not a leader in that way. I mean, he has made some good decisions. He was ahead of Blanco on a lot of things that, you know, he should -- she should have been with.

COOPER: I want to...

REED: But this is just so destructive, and it's such a bad image for -- for -- you know, for people all around the globe...


COOPER: And, all around the globe, people are watching this right now.

I want you guys to stick around. We are also going to be taking phone calls from viewers, hear their opinions and your thoughts for our panel, your questions.

If you have got a question or a brief comment, the toll-free number is 877-648-3639. That's 877-648-3639. It's fair to say that -- we're also going to be talking about Senator Clinton's comments coming up. And you can ask questions about that as well to our panel.

Fair to say that Ray Nagin has never been the kind of politician who carefully measures every word before speaking his mind. And, arguably, until Katrina, that didn't really matter. But Katrina changed everything, making Mr. Nagin and his words a major part of a national story.


NAGIN: Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a test. This is the real deal. And I don't want to panic you, but I want to make sure that you understand that there is a major hurricane.

COOPER (voice-over): That was Mayor Ray Nagin two days before Katrina struck. President Bush had already declared the state of disaster area, but, for some reason, the mayor didn't make his call for evacuation mandatory.

NAGIN: I think we probably have evacuated 75 to 80 percent of the citizens out of this city. And, normally, people would say, well, if you can get 60 percent of the people out, you're doing a great job.

COOPER: Few credited Nagin with doing a great job. He didn't issue a mandatory evacuation until Sunday, one day before Katrina struck.

And he failed to find a way to organize buses to evacuate the tens of thousands of New Orleans residents who had no access to private transportation. Weeks later, on "Meet the Press," Nagin blamed others for the failed response, saying his biggest mistake was assuming -- quote -- "that the cavalry would be coming within two to three days, and they didn't come." The Thursday after the storm, with thousands still stuck at the Convention Center and the Superdome, Nagin lashed out in a radio interview.


NAGIN: You mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man.


COOPER: Nagin's public statements are often unpredictable. Some two weeks after Katrina, he announced, more than 182,000 residents could come home.

NAGIN: The city of New Orleans, starting on Monday, starting this weekend, will start to breathe again. We will have life. We will have commerce.

COOPER: Days later, however, with Hurricane Rita threatening the Gulf, and under pressure from the federal relief overseer, Thad Allen, the mayor backed down.

NAGIN: We are suspending all reentry into the city of New Orleans as of this moment.

COOPER: Repopulation is still an issue for Nagin. He's held numerous town hall meetings across the South and often tries to strike an optimistic note.

NAGIN: New Orleans will come back.

COOPER: Many evacuees are frustrated, however, and want answers, not slogans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go home. I want to help the people of New Orleans. But I can't do it if you're going to give us all of these false pretense. We want everything legit can come to the table.


COOPER: We want to try back up Mayor Ray Nagin's latest comments with facts.

He says New Orleans will once again be a majority African- American city. Tonight, we give you the hard numbers and the racial reality of New Orleans before and after Katrina.

And Nagin's not the only politician under fire. So, is Hillary Rodham Clinton. The senator compared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to a plantation. Her remarks are drawing both condemnation and praise. And, again, we will ask our panel of experts to weigh in. Don't forget, we are taking your phone calls. You can dial 877- 648-3639. That's 877-6483639. Your questions and comments are welcome on 360.


COOPER: Well, tonight, we're taking a close look at Mayor Ray Nagin's controversial remarks about race, religion and the changing face of New Orleans.

Yesterday, Nagin said New Orleans would be a -- quote -- "chocolate city once again." He apologized for his comments today, calling them inappropriate. We know what -- what he said. Tonight, we think it's important to try to put them to the facts. What really is the racial makeup of New Orleans? What was it before Hurricane Katrina and what is it now?

CNN's Rick Sanchez has some surprising answers.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is the New Orleans that was and the New Orleans that is.

New Orleans was a city that was 67 percent African-American. In fact, according to the 2004 census of the city's 445,000 residents, 304,000 of them were black. In some parts, like the now devastated Lower Ninth Ward, the numbers were even higher. Blacks in the Lower Ninth made up 98 percent of the area's population in 2004. Sixty percent of them own their own homes, and they made up a significant portion of the area's work force.

The New Orleans that was, again, looking back at the 2004 census, did not have a large representation of Hispanics. In fact, while most major American cities have had burgeoning Hispanic enclaves, in New Orleans, only 3 percent of the population considered itself Hispanic or Latino. That's just 14,000 out of a total population of 445,000.

Now we move ahead to the New Orleans that is, and we find that so many Hispanics, both legal and illegal, have moved into the work force. The city is now, by some estimates, up to 20 percent Hispanic. Imagine, from 3 percent to 20 percent in just four months.

And while the number of Hispanics is way up, the number of African-Americans is way down. The city that used to be 67 percent black is now, according to pollsters, as low as 40 percent black.

Reasons for the decline vary, but one explanation is unquestionable. The areas with the largest concentration of blacks, areas like the Lower Ninth Ward, were hit the hardest by Katrina. After all, they can't live there if they have no place to live.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Coming up, fallout from Senator Hillary Clinton's comments that House Republicans are practicing plantation politics.

First, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the other stories we are following tonight.

Hey, Erica.


We begin tonight in Florida, where, today, a third man was charged with murder in connection with those beatings last week in Fort Lauderdale that left one homeless man dead and two wounded. The fatal assault was allegedly part of a night of random violence that included the bludgeoning you see in this video.

Two women rowers are safe tonight, after they clung to their capsized boat for some 16 hours in the Atlantic Ocean. Now, they were part of a race attempting to row the nearly 3,000 nautical miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua. An emergency beacon alerted the Coast Guard.

And a twist in Oklahoma City, where police were searching for an illegal immigrant -- they chased the suspect into a drought-stricken field. But then heat from the police car apparently started a grass fire. And, just to make matters worse, it turns out, the guy they were chasing wasn't the guy.

In Utah, you might call this one the big swap. That state has too many moose, Colorado, too many bighorn sheep. So, a few dozen moose were airlifted today. Of course, the moose not consulted on this one, so, we're really not sure which state is getting the better deal and, you know, where the moose are happiest.

COOPER: I -- I prefer the meeses.

HILL: The meeses?


HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Erica, thanks.

So, is Hillary Rodham Clinton using the race card? The senators says Republicans have run Congress like a plantation. So, was her comment racist or not? We're going to take that issue up with our roundtable of experts, who will tell us if they think Clinton was right or wrong in what she said.

And we want to hear from you. What are your thoughts on Clinton's comments and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin? Call us at 877- 648-3639.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Senator Hillary Clinton compares the Republican- controlled House of Representatives to a plantation. Was she out of bounds or, as some think, right on the money?

360 next.


COOPER: If you want to sound off about racial politics in America, jot down this number. It's toll free, 1-877-648-3639. Want to know what you think about the topics we're covering tonight. We will be taking your calls soon.

As we said earlier tonight, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was not the only public official yesterday talking about race as a means to get to a point. As Nagin spoke of a chocolate New Orleans, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton hearkened back to the evils of slavery when she compared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to a plantation.

CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reports on the controversy.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dateline: Harlem, Martin Luther King Day.

CLINTON: When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation. And you know what I'm talking about.

CROWLEY: Oh, my goodness. Plantation, the suggestion that Republicans are running the place like slave owners? Just the thing that keeps talking heads talking.

From the right of center:


RON CHRISTIE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I think Senator Clinton should do one of two things. Either she should apologize to the American people for her outrageous remarks or she should resign from the United States Senate.

CROWLEY: From the left of center:

ROLAND MARTIN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: So, I think she was correct to criticize the House and their actions, but she should simply not have used the plantation remark to do so.

CHRISTIE: No. Kyra...


CROWLEY: Friends and interested parties in the liberal side of the blogosphere point out that, just three weeks before he led Republicans to control of the House, Congressman Newt Gingrich said, of Democrats: "They think it is their job to run the plantation. It shocks them that I am actually willing to lead the slave rebellion."

And it is true that the senator's comments are not new, even for her.


CLINTON: They're running the -- the House of Representatives like a fiefdom, with Tom DeLay as the -- you know, in charge of the plantation.


CROWLEY: Still, politicians often say things that are overlooked, until time and place change.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: When you're talking to an African-American audience on Martin Luther King Day, and you accuse the opposition of running a plantation, that definitely is using the race card. She knew the audience knew what she was trying to say. And it was wrong. And she really -- you know, she should be ashamed.

CROWLEY: And there is a way to add this up and find a different kind of race.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It sounds like that the political season may be starting early.

CROWLEY: The most prominent presidential possibility in '08, Clinton has run afoul of the Democratic base, liberals who think she has been too moderate on the war, to go along/get along in the Senate, too soft on the president. Nothing is more central to Democratic success than the African-American voting bloc. Where better to show her alpha female side?

CLINTON: I predict to you that this administration will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country.


CROWLEY: When Americans are focused on the legacy of Martin Luther King, said a Republican Party spokeswoman, Hillary Clinton is focused on the legacy of Hillary Clinton.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Certainly a lot to talk about here. We will be talking your calls shortly.

But, first, joining me once again from Chicago, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, in Philadelphia, Republican strategist Joe Watkins, and, in New Orleans, "Newsweek" contributing editor Julia Reed. Joe, let me start off with you.

Was this pandering to a crowd? I mean, I noticed both Mayor Nagin and -- and Senator Clinton were talking to very specific audiences. Does she speak differently to -- to an African-American audience than -- than she would to a white audience?

WATKINS: Well, I -- I think so. You could even tell by her cadence that she was trying to pander to that audience.

And what she said was clearly pandering. I mean, Hillary Clinton is a very, very smart woman and a very skillful politician. There are lots of different ways that she could have picked a fight with the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. But she chose to, in front of a black audience, which I think she was trying to play, as they say. She chose to use imagery that was powerful, that would evoke that kind of a response.

It's very, very difficult to draw any parallel between the Congress of the United States and a plantation. Every member of Congress is there because they want to be. They work very hard to raise money and to run for office willfully and to keep their seats once they win them.

So, I don't see how anybody could, in any honest way, draw a parallel between the way in which Congress is run and a plantation.


WATKINS: At the same time, the members of Congress have to answer to their constituencies. They're the ones that elect them and reelect them.

COOPER: Julia, you say you aren't surprise by the -- the plantation comment. Why?

REED: Well, because I think -- I think that he has a point. I mean, the last speaker just had a point that -- that she obviously was -- was specifically pandering.

I mean, the difference between Hillary and Ray is that I honestly don't believe that Ray Nagin thinks about what he's saying until he opens his mouth. I think that she made a very calculated attempt to pander to the audience.

And what I object to the most is just the cynical misuse of language. I mean, if you mean that the House leadership is iron- fisted and not inclusive, then say that. You don't have to use a charged word like plantation, just like, if Ray Nagin means that he would like African-Americans to come back for -- to his city, ask them to. Don't say that the lord mandated it, you know, a chocolate city.

I just...

COOPER: Reverend -- Reverend...

REED: It's just the -- the -- the misuse of language is so cynical in both cases.


COOPER: Reverend Jackson, let me ask you about that.

Does it -- does it -- is it insulting to use that term, plantation, to -- to sort of equate the evils of slavery with what's going on in Congress?


JACKSON: Unfortunately, it really is a diversion.

I mean, Dr. King's last birthday -- and I was with him -- focused on a new traverse expanding poverty. And, today, we look at the crisis in New Orleans having to do with those who are poor and left behind, on the wake of a disaster where in fact there was not enforcement of safety laws.

He focused on the need for racial reconciliation, the end to unnecessary wars. That should have been the agenda. Now, we see the card played all the time, when Mr. Bush lays a wreath at Dr. King's grave site one day and sends a lawyer to kill affirmative action the next day. One day, he gives deference to Dr. King. The next day, he sends Pickering, who sought to reduce the sentence of a cross-burner, the next day.

So, we see the card being played. My pain tonight is, we're off message. The message here must be poverty, racial reconciliation, and an end to unnecessary wars. That's the Dr. King message.

COOPER: But -- but that is -- but Hillary Clinton was speaking -- I mean, particularly about -- about the plantation remark, does it seem inappropriate to you? I mean, I know that...

JACKSON: Well...

COOPER: ... obviously, there's substance there, but -- but -- but why -- why use that term?

JACKSON: Well, she was trying to evoke emotions.

But I think that the -- the term that she used diverted from the substance of the agenda. What we are -- you know, two weeks ago, this Senate voted to -- when Mr. Cheney came back, to cut Medicare, Medicaid, access to college, and -- and more tax breaks for the wealthy.

I mean, that's message. And these -- this -- these language -- these language blips are diverting attention from the substance.


JACKSON: I'm concerned about expanding poor people and...

COOPER: Joe... JACKSON: ... the need for racial reconciliation and the end of this war.

COOPER: Joe, let me bring you...

JACKSON: And that's the King message.

COOPER: Let me -- let me bring you in here. The White House is saying, basically, this is the start of the -- the political season.

WATKINS: Well, clearly, it is. This is political talk, because I don't think Senator Clinton has a lot of substance to really argue with.

I mean, for people who want to talk about poverty and the war against poverty, look at a president who has helped build an economy where you have less than 5 percent unemployment. That's the best number that we have had in decades. That's something to be very, very proud of.

And Dr. King would be happy to see a lower rate of unemployment.

COOPER: Reverend Jackson...


JACKSON: But it's twice that rate -- but it's twice that rate for blacks, which is the point.

You look at the number, the high level of black unemployment, the level, the fewer number of black judges appointed. There clearly is insensitivity to the matter of civil rights and social justice.

I just think that this language that we're off on tonight is taking attention away from the need to address what is really hurting. Fifty million Americans have no health insurance. That's the King agenda.

COOPER: Julia Reed.

JACKSON: The need for racial reconciliation is the King agenda.

COOPER: Julia, did it surprise you that -- that Senator Clinton today did not use this plantation term, that she -- she basically talked about sort of a top-down administration?

REED: No, of course, not because she's not standing in a church in Harlem today. I mean, that's the point.

It's like, when she says you know what I'm talking about, she's trying to put herself in the skin of the people in that church. I mean, I just think that's kind of an abomination. But -- but, you know, like you said, the political season has started.

But, back to Reverend Jackson's point, and to what I was saying earlier, the language is screwing us all up. I mean, in -- I mean, in Ray Nagin's comments, for example, yesterday, he made one good point, which is that, you know, there are a lot of issues in the black community that need to -- need to be addressed here, that, you know, we had horrible black-on-black violence before the storm.

It was routine in the July before the hurricane to have six to eight people dead every weekend. It was all black-on-black shootings. He mentions that, but then he says, and that's why we have a hurricane, that and the fact that we're at war in Iraq.

COOPER: Well...

REED: So, you know, everybody is using these hot-button kind of -- kind of words, but nothing -- and, so, the substance is completely lost when you talk like that.

COOPER: We're getting a lot of calls.


JACKSON: But my fear...


COOPER: Wait. Hold on.

I'm sorry. Reverend Jackson, I -- let me -- let -- we are getting a lot of calls.


COOPER: And I got to just take a quick break. We will -- we will bring you all back in on -- on the other side of this break.

We have heard what you -- we have heard what you have to say. You have been giving us a lot of calls, 877-648-3639. Our panel will stay on board for the discussion.

Also ahead tonight, they're living in their own strict world, no TV or movies. And they're smack right in the middle of New York City. What happens when some of the flock try to break tradition? A fascinating story about a religious order -- when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, you have heard us talk at length tonight about the comments made by New Orleans (AUDIO GAP) Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now it's your turn to tell us what you think and ask questions to our panel. We're taking your phone calls, toll-free number, 877-648- 3639.

Back for the discussion, in Chicago, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, in Philadelphia, Republican strategist Joe Watkins, and, in New Orleans, "Newsweek" contributing editor Julia Reed.

Our first caller is Lawanda in Alabama.

Lawanda, what is your question?

CALLER: I think Mr. Nagin's remark was grossly inappropriate, as well as insensitive, especially if his goal is rebuilding a stronger and more diversified New Orleans.

To say a chocolate city is an insult, when so many black Americans were abandoned. And I think, if a white city official had made a statement such as rebuilding a vanilla city, it would certainly be regarded as blatant racism and not just words taken out of context.

COOPER: Julia...


COOPER: Julia, let me put Lawanda's question -- or her thoughts to you. Does it hurt the rebuilding of New Orleans, the comments?

REED: Sure. Absolutely, it does, for the same reasons I said earlier in the show, is that -- is that the good stuff that happens gets completely obscured, so that, on a national stage, people like Lawanda in Alabama, but, unfortunately, people all over the country and all over the world, see this guy.

And, most of the time, he just looks like a raving lunatic. Now, I mean, the mayor is an intelligent guy with usually -- I mean, with good instincts about -- about the decision-making processes on a lot of levels. He -- you know, he pointed a good Bring Back New Orleans Commission. We finally got a plan last week. I mean, those are all positive steps, but no nobody can remember them overnight after he says this kind of stuff. Absolutely, it hurts us.

COOPER: We have got another caller, Reginald in -- Reginald in Mississippi.

JACKSON: Anderson...

COOPER: Yes...

JACKSON: Anderson...

COOPER: ... Reverend.

JACKSON: The Katrina is not just New Orleans. It is -- the Katrina is -- it's New Orleans, hurricane and flood. It's Alabama and Mississippi.

The issue of -- of the survivors' right to return and right to reconstruction is the real focus. Now, I think even to glorify the misstatements by Nagin takes us off the need for a plan for reconstruction. And there is not, apparently, one there yet. And that's the real issue.

COOPER: Reginald in Mississippi has a question.



My question is this, as far as with the statement that the mayor made. He -- some of the things were said out of context, because, of course, like the lady from Alabama said, if this had been made from an all-white city, yes, it would be considered as racist, you know, to that aspect.

And the mayor should have worded his words a little bit more carefully to the general public, where it wouldn't seem as he was just trying to say this is an all black thing. New Orleans is a city of multicultural. And people of all races need to come together...


COOPER: Do you have a question, Reginald? I think we lost Reginald.

We have another caller, Yawandi (ph) in Texas.

Yawandi (ph), what's your question?

Start again. Yawandi (ph), are you there in Texas?

CALLER: No. This is Scott (ph).

COOPER: OK. Scott (ph), what's your question?

CALLER: Sir, I have a question.

I have been doing some reading. And I would like to know why it is that it's supposedly against the Constitution of the United States to have our bank sold to a private party.

COOPER: It's not a question on this topic. Appreciate you calling in.

Do we have another caller there?

Karen in Georgia.

Karen, what's your question?

CALLER: Hi. Yes. Anderson, thanks for taking my call.

I have one question for the total panel. I have been actually watching the Katrina event happening, even before Katrina hit. I'm African-American. And I have one question.

Why do African-Americans not make a black mayor responsible for activities that he failed to do for New Orleans, for Mississippi, or whatever? It seems, as if when someone is of color, oh, they have made a mistake in what they said.

COOPER: Let me put that to Joe Watkins. Joe?

WATKINS: She raises a very, very good point.

Mayor Ray Nagin has pointed the finger of blame at everybody. He pointed it, I think, certainly at the president, at some of the national agencies. He's looked at everybody and blamed almost everybody, except himself. He hasn't looked at himself to say -- nor has he ever made the statement, to my knowledge, that he could have done better, that he could have done more, or that he tried his best, but came up short.

At the end of the day, I think she's right. I think that the mayor needs to be held to the same level of accountability that any mayor of any major city in this country would be held to.

COOPER: We have got more calls and more questions.

JACKSON: Anderson...

COOPER: You can ask the panel right after the break -- keep dialing in -- ahead on 360.

Also ahead, more stories -- a man confesses to murder in Salt Lake City. And police are certain that he did it, so, why is the law letting him go free?

Plus, a development tonight in the recovery of the lone Sago Mine survivor -- we will tell you how he is doing when 360 continues.


COOPER: So, we're taking calls to our panel of -- of guests, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Republican strategist Joe Watkins, and Julia Reed, contributing editor to "Newsweek."

The call -- the toll-free number, 877-648-3639.

We have Lorenzo from Virginia with a question.

Lorenzo, what's your question?

CALLER: Yes. My question is to the whole panel, Jesse Jackson and everyone else on the panel.

Ray Nagin, being a black person there from New Orleans, first of all, and then being under the scrutiny after Katrina has come through, do you feel that he is being a puppet for, like, the government and Bush and them to be an excuse, to say, you know, more strongly, the remarks and things that he says comes under more scrutiny in which the way how things have been handled?

COOPER: Reverend Jackson, the mayor is certainly under a lot of scrutiny.

JACKSON: I don't think that's the case. I think that the mayor, the governor and the president bear responsibility at each level. I mean, FEMA is about the White House level. I mean, why are people in 41 states, Anderson, when there are unused military bases, England Air Force Base in Alexandria, or Belle Chasse Air Force Base. Thousands could be living closer to home.

I mean, that's the mayor, but it's more than just the mayor. There is an anxiety, as you look at these changing demographics, that those in exile cannot get back home. So, some plan for the right to return and the right to reconstruction should be put in place. And that should be the substance and not get further diverted by something that Ray Nagin may so.

COOPER: Well, I also find it fascinating that -- I also find it that, four-plus months after Katrina, still, we have no politicians standing up, admitting what they personally did wrong, and really no independent investigation into exactly what happened, so this thing doesn't happen again.

As far as I can tell, no one has really reviewed this thing. And...

WATKINS: Well, Anderson...

COOPER: And that boggles my mind.

JACKSON: And there should be.

For example, you have -- you have that -- where that levee was -- was breached by that barge in the Ninth Ward. It's still there in the neighborhood. There's a lot of investigation that must go on.


COOPER: Joe -- Joe, a final thought from you?

WATKINS: Well -- well, here -- here's the point, Anderson.

When New York City had crisis on September 11, the lead person was the mayor. The mayor worked closely with the governor. And, of course, the president came to visit New York. But, under the strong leadership of the city's mayor, things got done.

The same thing should have happened in New Orleans. I have yet to see Ray Nagin take responsibility for what has not happened in New Orleans.

COOPER: Julia, very briefly, a final thought?

JACKSON: But -- but -- but the president did not come to New Orleans, nor the Red Cross, nor a member of his Cabinet. They stood back a week and watched people marinate in that...


REED: But that's not where we are now. JACKSON: It's not true.

COOPER: Julia, go. Final thought.

REED: That is not where we are now.


JACKSON: ... got to put all that in context.

COOPER: Julia, go ahead.

REED: So, what we need...


COOPER: Please, let Julia finish.


REED: ... to do is focus on what Wynton Marsalis said last night and focus on the rebuilding now. And we need the leadership from the mayor to do that.

COOPER: Appreciate the panel joining us.

Thank you very much, Julia Reed, Joe Watkins, Reverend Jackson as well. Thank you.


COOPER: They did what their religion forbids. Coming up next, they embraced the modern world and left their families behind -- what the decision cost these people and what their lives are like today.

Also ahead, he died before the Supreme Court ruled on an issue that meant so much to him, one man's choice to take control of his own death -- coming up on 360.


COOPER: Well, imagine living in a city of eight million people, eight million, yet being cut off from almost all of them, not by a wall or a fence or any other physical barrier, cut off by something even harder to penetrate, a belief system and way of life that virtually no one around you questions.

Imagine that, and then imagine realizing that you don't fit in. What would you do then? In an isolated pocket of New York, it's not a hypothetical question.

Here's CNN's faith and values correspondent, Delia Gallagher.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a close-knit community. You're either in it, or you are out. This is the story of those lost in between. Heshy Schnitzler grew up in this kind of community.

HESHY SCHNITZLER, LEFT HASIDIC COMMUNITY: It's like time stood still, like it stopped like 150 years ago. So, there's no TV, no media. I mean...


GALLAGHER (on camera): Movies? Get to go out?

SCHNITZLER: No movies, of course not, you know? I mean, the community is like a self-contained unit. You're not even aware, growing up, that there is another part of the world. And it's amazing how you do that. You grow up in New York. You see other people. You never wonder. I mean, just like, you accept it.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): He's talking about the Satmars, the largest of the Hasidic Jewish community. For these 200,000 ultra- Orthodox Jews, strict adherence to ritual and fiery devotion to the tenets of Judaism mean the Satmars live among, but cut off from everyone else.

It's a choice they make. For them, isolation equals protection.

RABBI NAFTALI CITRON, CARLEBACH SYNAGOGUE: The Hasidim have that mentality, both because of their physical enemies, the Nazis, the communists, who together killed and jailed 10 million Jews. So, they had to put up the fences. They had to preserve whoever they had.

GALLAGHER: This is where they live, Williamsburg, a section of New York City. It looks like any other neighborhood, but, here, the men wear modest black suits, hats, and long, curled side burns. The children go to school, but they're not taught math and science.

Everything they learn comes from their holy text, the Torah. The men become rabbis or join family businesses, but work is secondary. The daily study of ancient Jewish texts comes first. As for the women, they wear long skirts and long sleeves. They're expected to marry young and raise devout children.

Stephanie Levine wrote about those who leave, the rebels, as she calls them in her book.

STEPHANIE LEVINE, TUFTS UNIVERSITY: There are very, very entrenched roles for men and very, very entrenched roles for women. And if you do not fit in on a basic core level, you are going to have a horrible, horrible time.

GALLAGHER: And that's when they get lost. It happened to Heshy. He was 21 and married with two kids when he started questioning the Satmar way of life.

SCHNITZLER: And I had many questions that people didn't have answers to.

GALLAGHER: Heshy left his wife, his children, and the Satmar community.

(on camera): And then you were depressed?

SCHNITZLER: Very, because I got divorced. All the problems are gone. And I was happy for a day or two. But then I was, like, hit with life. I mean, like, still, there are no answers. I'm dealing -- you know, the yarmulke is off. All right, I'm eating everything already, no -- non-culture, (INAUDIBLE) culture, you know?

All right, you know, I'm going out. I'm like, but there is no meaning. It's like emptiness. And, also, at that point, like, I had lost my faith.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): In his divorce agreement, Heshy promised never to contact his kids, who are being raised Hasidic.

(on camera): How long has it been since you have seen your children?

SCHNITZLER: Five, six years.

GALLAGHER: You don't go and see them when you go back?

SCHNITZLER: No, because that was kind of the agreement. You know, like, I'm going to get out. We're not going to confuse them.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Chana Ravitz also grew up in the Satmar community. She was 18 and married to a man she had met only one time before their wedding. It was an arranged marriage, which is not uncommon.

CHANA RAVITZ, LEFT HASIDIC COMMUNITY: My wedding day was not like who I'm marrying, wow, this is the person I'm marrying, and, you know, looking forward to marrying this person, because I had no idea who he was.

GALLAGHER: Feeling unhappy, Chana left her husband and the community, a decision that devastated her family.

RAVITZ: In a way, I'm dead to them. They just keep telling me, I'm going to go to hell, and why keep behaving in this way, not being Satmar, and that I'm worse than a non-Jew.

GALLAGHER: It seems extreme, even harsh. But Satmars believe rejecting their traditions is rejecting the only true form of Judaism.

LEVINE: There's really a notion that the true Jews are only the Hasidim.

GALLAGHER: There are no statistics on how many Jews leave the Hasidic world, but a spokesman for the Satmar community in New York says it's a tiny percentage.

And he stresses that anyone who leaves is welcome to come back. He said -- quote -- "I would say to them that we are all children of God and everyone makes mistakes, but there is forgiveness, and it is never too late to come back."

Today, Heshy is back in the fold, although he is living a more moderate Orthodox life. He has found his calling helping others like him. He rents this small apartment, a sort of halfway house for Hasidic kids who are still trying to figure out where they belong.

(on camera): And how many kids would you have here in the apartment?

SCHNITZLER: We can fit, like, 15 people into this room.

GALLAGHER: And I don't see anybody here right now.


SCHNITZLER: Right. Right. Right. They were -- they didn't want to be on TV, so everybody cleared out.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): When the cameras aren't there, this apartment is a home away from home for those who want to contemplate a world beyond the Hasidim, a world they may or may not choose to enter.


COOPER: It -- it's fascinating to think that this exists, you know, in New York, amidst all the -- the hustle and bustle. They -- they don't watch television. They don't go to movies. Why?

GALLAGHER: Well, like so many of their rules, it's based on their scriptures, based on the Torah, on Jewish scripture which says, you know, you shall not be tempted with the eye or with the heart.

And temptation with the eye is the visual medium, so, no television, no movies. They do have a newspaper in Yiddish, but you will not see pictures of women in the newspaper, pictures of men only, because they consider pictures temptation with the eye. And temptation, of course, leads to sin.

COOPER: It's fascinating. Delia Gallagher, thanks -- fascinating story.

We want to thank our international viewers for watching.

If you're just joining us, coming up on 360, a lot ahead -- three homeless men beaten with baseball bats -- one of the attacks caught on tape -- the latest twist in the case that has horrified South Florida.

Also, the youngest survivors of the Pakistan earthquake, many of them orphans, now facing dangers -- this piece is just stunning. You really have to see it for yourself, what one family is going through right now in the snows of Pakistan.

Stay with us.



© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines