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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Ann Coulter Under Fire; Legalizing Incest

Aired March 5, 2007 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us tonight.
Out in the open: pushing the limits of political commentary. How nasty will the 2008 campaign get?

Plus, you're not going to believe who was teaching some toddlers to smoke marijuana. And it is all caught on tape.

And this brother and sister are sleeping together, and their love could rewrite the laws on incest. They also already have parented a number of children together.

The first thing we're bringing out in the open tonight: politics and hate. We are still 10 months away from the first presidential primaries, but it is ugly and mean already. We have two glaring examples tonight.

Let's get started with one of the most controversial conservative commentators, Ann Coulter, and what she said late Friday to an influential conservative group in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM": I was going to have a -- a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word "faggot." So...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTER: ... I'm...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COULTER: So, I'm kind of at an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards. So, I think I will just conclude here and take your questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Now, the audience might have laughed, but three Republican presidential candidates, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney, have denounced Coulter for that.

And Coulter didn't cool anything off with an e-mail she sent to "The New York Times": "Come on. It was a joke. I would never insult gays by suggesting that they are like John Edwards. That would be mean."

We invited her to be on our show tonight. She accepted at first, and then canceled on us.

We're going to get started now with our "Out in the Open" panel: Amy Holmes, a Republican political strategist, constitutional lawyer Michael Gross, and John Aravosis, founder of AmericaBlog.com.

Welcome on. Welcome, all. Glad to have you back.

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thanks for having us.

ZAHN: John, you're gay. You're very comfortable telling the audience that.

Is this a joke? Is there in -- any way you could have found humor in what she had to say?

JOHN ARAVOSIS, FOUNDER, AMERICABLOG.COM: No, it's not a joke, obviously. But I don't think any of us think it was a joke.

Ann Coulter has made this her profession. She's a "New York Times" bestseller. She's been on the cover of "TIME" magazine. She is not an unimportant woman in America at all. She likes to shock people. She's used the word "faggot" to describe John Edwards. She used the word "fag" to describe Al Gore.

She, last year, called Muslim-Americans "rag heads" at the same conference. What disturbs me, it's not just that she's one crazy person. That's fine. But she keeps getting invited to the top conservative conference every year, and speaking. And she is a voice that at least represents one part of the party. And that scares me.

ZAHN: Well, she has alienated some of those folks, because you saw, in blog after blog today, conservatives distancing themselves, saying that she's maligning their cause, that they already feel isolated, and this doesn't help.

HOLMES: Indeed. It doesn't help. And she only does speaks, I hope, for a very, very small fraction of the party.

ZAHN: But she's a friend of yours, isn't she?

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Yes, Paula, I was going to say, I -- I know Ann. I have known Ann for years.

When I first heard these remarks...

ZAHN: As have I.

HOLMES: When I first heard these remarks, I was baffled. I -- I didn't understand it. I didn't understand. Where was the humor in it? It was offensive to me. I think that, by making these remarks, what we have seen is, anything else out of CPAC, it got completely drowned by this slur that Ann used against John Edwards. So, the positive message about conservatism that was making these people excited about the upcoming election, that's all been completely drowned out by this controversy.

ARAVOSIS: But she's done it before. That's what bothers me is, this isn't the first time. It's not the 50th time. Why does she keep getting invited back?

ZAHN: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

MICHAEL GROSS, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: ... audience is growing. And that's what frightens me, that, when a rat comes out of a dirty kitchen, you don't blame the rat. You have got to clean the kitchen.

She's the embodiment of a cultural disease. She feeds on people's fear. She's spokesperson for people who want to say rotten things about people that are different from them, but don't know how to articulate it as well as she does.

Unfortunately, she's smart enough to make up these cute phrases. She's an ugly person. But what really frightens me is, just like if you were a drug seller, I'm not so much frightened of the seller as I am of the market that's using it.

ARAVOSIS: Right.

GROSS: More and more conservatives are divided by her kind of language, and they feed into it, and they love it. How many people are supporting her in this?

HOLMES: Listen, I don't think that's fair at all.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: We have had the presidential -- these presidential candidates disavow what Ann had to say.

ARAVOSIS: Well, half of them have. Half haven't.

HOLMES: You have a conservative -- you have had conservative bloggers disavow what she has had to say.

ZAHN: Before you go any further -- I will let you finish that thought -- let's put up on the screen what Rudy Giuliani said.

Let's start with -- with a McCain spokesperson.

GROSS: Try Romney. I'm sure...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: "The comments are wildly inappropriate." The Romney campaign: "It was an offensive remark."

Giuliani: "There should be no place for such name-calling in political debate."

HOLMES: And you were telling me earlier, before the show, that you were very surprised by the...

ARAVOSIS: Oh, yes.

HOLMES: ... outcry on conservative blogs, and...

ARAVOSIS: The conservative blogs have been great on this.

HOLMES: ... that this is an area where you agree.

ARAVOSIS: And I was -- and, as a liberal blogger, I have been ecstatic at the response. Captain Ed on Captain's Quarters, great response.

GROSS: She's a bestseller.

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: She's a big...

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: But that's the problem.

GROSS: She gets invited to this...

ARAVOSIS: Right.

GROSS: ... for one reason.

ARAVOSIS: It's...

GROSS: Because she can insult worse -- better than anybody else.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: She's a bestseller.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: And Andrew Dice Clay was popular in his time.

ARAVOSIS: It's not the first...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: I don't think putting this at the feet of conservatives...

ARAVOSIS: Andrew Dice Clay does...

HOLMES: ... is at all fair.

ARAVOSIS: ... not get invited to the...

HOLMES: And there have been many conservatives...

ARAVOSIS: ... top Democratic conventions.

HOLMES: ... who have come forward to say they don't like this.

GROSS: She's a personification of an ugly, racist, divisiveness within the party and among the people.

ARAVOSIS: Is she going to get...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: You're not going to suggest, in any form tonight, she was invited because someone knew she was going to slam John Edwards...

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: Anybody that didn't know has got space between their ears.

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: Come on.

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: That's what she sells.

ARAVOSIS: Last year, at this same conference, Ann Coulter called Muslim-Americans "rag heads."

ZAHN: Yes. In fact, we have the whole list...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: ... February 2006.

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: But there's no way to say...

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: ... that you didn't expect she was going to do this.

This is what she has done. She called the wives of September 11, the widows, that they enjoyed their husband's death. I talked to one of these women tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: She was not real pleased about Ann Coulter.

HOLMES: There is no doubt that Ann Coulter can be a...

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: It's not the first time.

HOLMES: ... can be a rhetorical arsonist.

ARAVOSIS: She always is.

HOLMES: But I see Jesse Jackson getting invited after using a phrase like "Hymietown."

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: Twenty years ago, Jesse Jackson insulted Jews. And it was horrible. You have to go back 20 years of the Democratic Party...

HOLMES: That's not...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: We have a sitting United States senator who called poor white people the N-word only years ago.

ARAVOSIS: ... to find Republicans who are bad today.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: You're cross-talking.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Let's come back to the issue of Ann Coulter.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Which is what we're talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Whether you think she's out there shilling a book because of paper -- it's gone to paperback or whatever, is it over for her with conservatives?

HOLMES: I don't know that it's over for her...

ZAHN: Has she blown it with this latest comment?

HOLMES: ... as a best-seller, but I can tell you...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Not the bestseller.

HOLMES: ... that conservatives...

ZAHN: With the conservatives who invite her to forums such as the one she went to over the weekend.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Conservative should not be inviting her to CPAC next year...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: ... on principle, but also on a practical matter, that we're going to be in an election year, and we can't afford to be having people spouting off in this way.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: So, you're worried she's going to blow it again? Is that what you're saying?

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Not that she's going to blow it, but that conservatives should not necessarily be giving her a platform in this environment. It's just...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: It's irresponsible.

ARAVOSIS: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: ... shouldn't be giving her a platform, period, even for not an election year.

GROSS: The piece in "The Times" -- her response in "The Times" was just adding more fuel. She simply repeated it.

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: I love what Amy said. I'm afraid the Republicans aren't going to listen to it, and they're still going to embrace Ann Coulter. But I hope you're right. And I hope they embrace what...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: And we have got to...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: ... also have...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: ... leader who is going to weigh in on this as well at that time.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: And you also got someone who has to move on here to another subject.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: John Edwards is getting set to address a campaign rally just moments from now in California. We are going to keep on eye on it and go there if he has anything to say about this controversy, because he certainly has weighed in on it.

The other case of politics over the top may seem especially callous tonight, because it deals with Vice President Dick Cheney. Just today, the vice president went to the hospital with a pain in his leg. It turned out to be a blood clot. And he will be treated with blood thinners for a few months.

Now, just three days before this health scare, comedian Bill Maher on HBO said something that has outraged conservatives. The subject was the failed assassination attempt against Mr. Cheney in Afghanistan last week.

Some readers of TheHuffingtonPost.com wrote in and said they were disappointed that Cheney survived. The Web site later took down those comments.

But, on his show on Friday night, Maher defended the readers' write to express themselves. And then he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I have zero doubt that, if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn't be dying needlessly tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, but...

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, "SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY": Let's talk about your show for a second very quickly. If somebody on this panel said they wished that Dick Cheney had been blown up, and you didn't say any...

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think he did.

SCARBOROUGH: OK. Did you say that?

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: No. No. I quoted that.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: No, I'm just saying that, if he did die, other people -- more people would live.

SCARBOROUGH: OK. OK. Then let...

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: That's a fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Now back to our panel.

Welcome back.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: All right.

You heard what Bill Maher had to say. He's talking about the vice president.

GROSS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Has this gone too far, free speech run amuck?

GROSS: No.

What's gone too far is the arrogance of power, when the administration -- and particularly the vice president -- ignores his generals, ignores the public, ignores the Congress, ignores the vote -- the -- the report of the Iraq commission, and says, "I don't care what you do," told Wolf Blitzer on CNN, "We will ignore it if they pass this resolution," when you're provoking people by telling them: "We don't care. We know better than you do. We can lie to you."

ZAHN: All right.

GROSS: "We can leak stories when you dissent against us."

And it drives people crazy.

ZAHN: All right.

GROSS: And what Bill said was...

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: ... over the top, but it's not nearly as much as how many people feel that way. He's driving people crazy.

ZAHN: Is it OK for people to publicly express they wish Vice President Dick Cheney were dead?

GROSS: Well, look, it -- it's not a matter...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: And they are, in blog after blog after blog.

GROSS: It's lots of people.

I don't know who you talk to, but lots of people found it easy to say, it's too bad. I mean, it's a slur and it's -- and it's wrong. And, of course, it's stupid. Nobody wants him dead.

What people want is for him to realize: Wake up.

ZAHN: But...

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: You are being outrageous with this policy, and ignoring everybody in the country...

HOLMES: Right.

GROSS: ... the elections, the Iraq commission, the Congress. How long are you going to do this?

HOLMES: Right. But this -- this is all part and parcel of the whole fallacy that Dick Cheney is our commander in chief.

He is not. It is George Bush. Dick Cheney was duly elected, as was our president.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: A lot of people consider him the chief architect of the war.

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: As an adviser to the president. But Bob Woodward, in his book, also found that George Bush was very much in charge, and he was not, himself, a yes man to his vice president.

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: He's the one who said...

HOLMES: So, this idea...

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: ... we have had enormous successes in Iraq...

HOLMES: Where this comes from...

GROSS: ... just two weeks ago, on this program, on -- at least on CNN.

HOLMES: Where this comes from is the -- is Dick Cheney being an easy target to be vilified.

And to wish someone to be dead is an ugly, hateful thing to be expressed..

ZAHN: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But hang on.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: That's not exactly what Maher said.

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: No.

ARAVOSIS: I mean, that's not what he said.

ZAHN: But let -- let's review what he had to say in the aftermath of this.

He said: "The vice president has presided over a bungled execution of a war, in which thousands of our bravest continue to die. And I believe that, if he were not in power, our troops would likely come home sooner. But I do not wish him dead."

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: But, again, it's the presumption that, somehow, Dick Cheney is running George Bush, and not the other way around.

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: If I could respond, I mean, I think...

GROSS: Yes.

ARAVOSIS: ... Dick Cheney is in charge. And -- and a lot of us...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Would it be OK for Bill Maher, then, to say these same comments about the president?

HOLMES: No.

ZAHN: Is that what you're saying?

HOLMES: But that's what he's saying about vice president. And this is a left-wing trope and a fantasy, that George Bush is, you know, somehow, like, sitting in the clouds, and doesn't know what is going on with his own administration.

GROSS: It's Dick Cheney who said: "I don't care what the Congress says. I don't care how they express themselves in a resolution that's against the so-called surge. I don't care."

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: "We're going ahead and do it anyway."

ZAHN: Before you jump in.

GROSS: He didn't say it's up to the president. He didn't say, "I will ask the president."

ZAHN: I -- I want to read to you what a blogger did write on the Huffington Post Web site. And we mentioned that it was on her Web site and then it was pulled off.

ARAVOSIS: It was a comment by a reader, yes.

ZAHN: Right.

And he says: "What a different world we would be living in today if they had succeeded. They missed. Damn it. I hope they try again before he leaves. Who would have thought that Afghanistan would make such a valiant attempt to save the United States of America?"

What does is say that Americans are publicly voicing that kind of sentiment?

ARAVOSIS: Oh, you know, I don't think it says anything, only because I have been writing online for years now, and...

ZAHN: So, is this OK?

ARAVOSIS: And you're -- oh, it's not OK at all. It's horrible. And -- Arianna Huffington took it down immediately, which was great, and -- and has been praised by the left and right for doing that.

The thing that I think is interesting about this issue is, first of all, OK, online, all kinds of crazies are online. The same kind of people who used to send you crazy letters all in capital letters now send them to us by e-mail. Or they post them on our blogs in the comments.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Right.

ARAVOSIS: Everybody weighs in, good, bad, left, right, crazy, not crazy.

It -- it doesn't really say anything. I think how we respond to it says a lot.

ZAHN: But -- but you're saying this is so particularly vile...

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: Oh, it's horrible.

ZAHN: ... that you should not -- you should not...

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: No, no, no. You delete it.

ZAHN: ... include this on your blog; you delete it? You...

ARAVOSIS: Oh, of course you do. And Arianna did.

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: ... you poke the dog with a stick, and poke the dog with a stick, and poke the dog with a stick, and then it bites you...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: ... want to kill him?

GROSS: Absolutely. Precisely. Get the point.

Lots of people don't just disagree. Lots of people think we're being ignored. The majority is being ignored. The good-sense people are being ignored. And it's arrogant. And we are being provoked to say outrageous things.

ZAHN: And I have been provoked.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Oh, you're so lucky you stopped right there.

(LAUGHTER) ZAHN: Please stay right there. We have got plenty more to talk about with all of you here tonight.

And you can join in our conversation by sending us an e-mail at NOW@CNN.com. Our panelists will check them out and read some of them on the air a little bit later on, providing they're not in all caps, right?

ARAVOSIS: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: We will read those.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Out in the open next: a pair of Yankees with Southern accents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't tell me I'm not coming home when I come to Selma, Alabama.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I don't feel no ways tired.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: I come too far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Not only does running for president seem to change the voice we have become accustomed to. It might even change your clothes -- coming up, even more proof it is a crazy campaign out there already.

Then, a little bit later on: What kind of dopes would give marijuana to a 2-year-old?

Oh, this is the wrong picture, folks. That was Rudy Giuliani in drag at an event...

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: ... many, many years ago.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: That's something else we're going to touch on.

GROSS: Not many, many -- just many.

ZAHN: But, believe it or not, you are going to see videotape of a teenager giving a joint to a 2-year-old and 4-year-old. They actually inhale. And we're going to talk about that shocking story when we come back.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: If you feel like things are just a little bit strange in American politics lately, you're on to something. And we're bringing it out in the open tonight.

There is the leading Republican candidate, who has a history of dressing up in female clothing for special occasions, and who is not on speaking terms with his own son.

Just this afternoon, Rudy Giuliani was asked about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: The responsibility is mine. And I believe that these problems with blended families, you know, are -- are challenges. Sometimes, they are. And the challenges are best worked on privately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And then there's this: the Democratic presidential candidate who just acknowledged that his ancestors owned slaves. That candidate just happens to be black.

And have you noticed what happens to some candidates from the North when they go down South? Where do they get that sudden Southern drawl?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: So, don't tell me I don't have a claim on Selma, Alabama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Don't tell me I'm not coming home when I come to Selma, Alabama. I am here because somebody marched.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: President Steele, I could have listened all afternoon.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: That pulse that you found so faint, you have brought back to life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And joining me now, the best political team in TV, senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, chief national correspondent John King, and senior national correspondent John Roberts.

Welcome, all.

Candy, I'm going to start with you tonight.

How much is this situation with Giuliani's son going to affect his campaign?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think all that much. And here's why.

Ronald Reagan pretty much broke the sound barrier on that one. He had a blended family that also had problems. You remember Patti Davis, who was his daughter. There was a lot of time in there when he wasn't speaking to her, a lot of time in there where he wasn't speaking to Michael Reagan, his son.

So, this is pretty much -- I thought Rudy Giuliani, by the way, handled it really well, by acknowledging responsibility , and then saying, really, this ought to be done in private.

I think there a lot of people out there with blended families who will relate to this.

ZAHN: John King, I see you nodding in agreement?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, for the most part, Candy is exactly right.

Look, Rudy Giuliani has a problem, or an issue, with family- values voters, social conservatives, because of his position on abortion, because of his position on gay rights. Will his relationship with his son be a huge issue? Most likely not.

Will it factor in the blogosphere, the e-mails late in the campaign, the whisper campaign? Sure, it will. Family-values voters will say, well, he doesn't get along with his son; he doesn't get along with his ex-wives, and he's wrong on these issues.

But it is the issues that will drive the campaign.

ZAHN: John Roberts, we are already seeing his critics circulate all these pictures of him in drag. And, to put them -- some of these in context, at one event, he did that because the mayor was being roasted by the press corps. Is that going to hurt him at all?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, not -- not at all.

A mayor has got to do what a mayor has got to do. And, if it means dressing up in drag for a particular performance, that's something he's got to do. But I don't -- I don't think anybody can question the fact that Rudy Giuliani is an extremely serious person.

His response in the city of New York after 9/11 has made him golden on the seriousness front and on the issue of national security. So, I think he is going to get a pass for anything that he did as mayor.

And -- and, on the subject of children, Paula, if you remember back to Rudy Giuliani's inaugural speech, when he was first voted in as -- as mayor, and the performance that his son, Andrew, put on behind him, like this all the time...

ZAHN: Oh, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERTS: ... he might be better if Andrew is not out there on the campaign trail.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Well, I don't know that Andrew would be sticking his tongue out at his father, like he did at that event.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: At least I hope not.

Candy, do you think he's really going to get a pass when it comes to these drag pictures?

CROWLEY: I -- I do.

I think -- I think he has bigger problems, frankly, than...

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: ... than the -- the drag pictures. I don't think anybody believes that he dresses up in drag in private.

So, I mean, these were clearly spoofs that he did. I think there are larger problems for Rudy Giuliani. For some reason, he seems to have at least captured the attention of conservatives at this point.

But, as John mentioned, there are a number of issues where he is at odds with pretty much Republican standard -- the standard template for Republicans. So, that's a -- that's a much larger issue than his dressing in drag.

ZAHN: John King, let's move along to the issue now of Barack Obama finding out that his ancestors, a great-great-great-grandfather, once owned slaves. How is that going to affect his campaign?

KING: Well, I -- if you talk to Democrats, they say it adds another interesting wrinkle to his -- the best part of his campaign, which is his life story, the interesting character, this person who is very different from anybody else running for president right now.

Barack Obama's biggest test as a presidential candidate is, can a 45-year-old guy who has been in Washington for two years be president of the United States at a time there will be troops in Afghanistan, tens of thousands of troops in Iraq? So, if he can keep the campaign focused on his personal story, most people believe, that benefits him. And, sure, it's interesting. But, if you are somebody who is a descendant of white Americans, as he has a -- interracial parents, if you're a descendant of white Americans who have been in this country for a long time, eventually, you're going to get back -- you're going to get back to the slave days.

ZAHN: Now to the issue of Southern accents -- both of these candidates effecting them when they headed to Selma, Alabama.

John Roberts, the blogs are all atwitter...

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: ... perhaps angrier at Hillary than they are at Barack for simulating the Southern accent.

ROBERTS: Well, I...

ZAHN: Does it mean anything, at the end of the day?

ROBERTS: I do declare, Ms. Paula, that it's easy to lapse into when you go down into the South.

I think the reason why it is hitting Hillary so hard, much harder than Barack, because, you know, Barack, you know, could -- could claim some semi-Southern roots. His mother was from Kansas.

But -- but, you see, Hillary, the knock on her is that she's so scripted, that -- that she's pandering to her constituency. And, when she goes to a place like Selma, Alabama, and she effects a Southern accent, even if it was unintentional -- maybe she just got caught up in the moment -- it -- it adds more fuel to this idea that everything that she does is plotted, and a lot that she does is pandering to a particular audience.

So, that's -- that's why she gets dinged more -- more on that than Barack does, and why she gets dinged on in the first place.

ZAHN: And, Candy, I see you're nodding in agreement, as well. I mean, that is the rap that we have heard on her campaign from day one, especially when Barack Obama was sort of featured as the new fresh, authentic voice in this race.

CROWLEY: And that's -- that's the problem with any of these campaigns. Once there is a template out there for a candidate, anything that feeds into it is going to get larger than life.

You know, Hillary did spend a -- a good amount of time in Arkansas. She certainly knows the Southern accent. There were times here when it was pretty dang heavy...

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: ... as you noted. But, you know, I don't know that this, per se, hurts her. But, as John mentions, it's the -- the piling on of incidents where she looks to be not genuine.

ZAHN: Thank y'all, team.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: And I'm not pandering to any of you, because I have such great respect for you.

John King, John Roberts, Candy Crowley, appreciate it.

And, if you want to weigh in on these issues or anything else we're bringing out into the open, please send us an e-mail, NOW@CNN.com. And we will read it on the air a bit later on.

And out in the open next: brotherly love that's over the line. A brother and sister who already have children fight to be left alone.

Plus: What kind of dopes would bring toddlers to a pot party, and then laugh as the 2-year-old and 4-year-old became increasingly debilitated?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: One of the world's last and strongest taboos is out in the open tonight.

It's something few of us ever talk about. It is incest. And, tonight, the couple you're going to meet is now asking the highest court in Germany to make it legal.

Frederik Pleitgen has their shocking love story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Patrick and Susan are in love. Their love has produced four children. Their love is also illegal in Germany, because Patrick and Susan are brother and sister.

"People harass us all the time, call us the incest couple. They have no idea who we really are or how it all happened," Patrick says.

"I love you," the writing on this pillow says. And that love has resulted in big legal problems. Patrick spent more than two years in jail for sleeping with his sister.

To try to prevent a return to jail, Patrick and Susan are currently embroiled in a court struggle that has captivated Germany. The couple is trying to get their relationship legalized.

(on camera): This is the German criminal law code. Now, paragraph 173 of this code forbids siblings from having sexual intercourse, punishable by up to two years in prison. But lawyers for the couple say that the law in this code is discriminatory and, therefore, unconstitutional.

(voice-over): Many other European countries long ago lifted bans on incestuous sex.

And Dr. Endrick Wilhelm wants to take Patrick and Susan's case to Germany's highest court.

DR. ENDRICK WILHELM, ATTORNEY FOR PATRICK AND SUSAN: Incest is not socially harmful. And only socially harmful behavior may be punished. And no government is allowed to punish behavior that is not harmful to society.

PLEITGEN: But experts like Juergen Kunze, a professor for human genetics, say children from incestuous relationships are often born with disabilities.

"Only 50 percent of children are healthy. Twenty percent have brain damage, and the rest are born with massive physical disabilities. And many die," he says.

The first two of Patrick and Susan's children were born with disabilities, legal documents say, though it is not known whether these disabilities are related to incest.

Youth welfare services have taken all but one of their four children away from them.

"The first child just kind of happened. Then they took the second one away from us, so we wanted to have another one, because we had already lost so much," Patrick says.

Patrick and Susan didn't know of each other's existence until they were teens. Patrick was raised by foster parents. Later, he found his real mother and his sister. After their mother died, the two continued to live together and ended up falling in love.

Now, they say, all they want is to live like a normal family.

"We really love each other a lot and we never want to be without each other again. We're already living like a small, happy family," Patrick says.

Either way, the couple says they hope German society will one day accept that their love is just as real and just as good as any other.

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, Leipzig, Germany.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And there's another thing to add. It could be two months before Germany's highest court makes that ruling on incest.

"Out in the Open" next, caught on camera giving marijuana to little children, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. Coming up, what happened when the cops found this tape. Also, a woman who lost her husband in a sudden accident and kept a secret about her feelings for 20 years now. Well, tonight they're "Out in the Open."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: You're not going to believe the pictures in our next story. In fact, we have -- were never meant to see them on tape. According to police, they were taken by some teenagers who gave marijuana to a pair of little boys, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. Not only are some of those kids in jail tonight, they're outrageous behavior is "Out in the Open" because police found the tapes and have just made them public.

Here's Deborah Feyerick with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This little boy is just 2 years old. And yes, he is smoking a cigar. Not just any cigar. Police say it's pot, marijuana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your turn, baby. Your turn, baby.

FEYERICK: It's passed also to the boy's 4-year-old brother as one of the teenagers in the room cracks jokes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Look at him.

FEYERICK: At one point, the 2-year-old says no more and runs off to the kitchen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No more.

They're laughing. The children are stumbling. They're falling down. They're significantly impaired. It was -- it's just a horrible video.

FEYERICK: Police say they found the tape while searching the home of a 17-year-old burglary suspect, Demetris McCoy. That's him in the chair. He's the little boy's uncle.

DEMETRIS MCCOY, GAVE POT TO NEPHEWS: You want that candy? You got the munchies? You all want us to take you out to the store and give you all five dollars a piece?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

FEYERICK: McCoy and 18-year-old friend, Vanswan Polty, who is also on the tape, were both arrested. Both have been charged with injury to a child. Ironically, since they're under 21, they can't be charged with anything more serious.

Police have not arrested the little boy's mother, who says she was sleeping in a back bedroom and didn't know or smell anything. SHATTORIA RUSSELL, MOTHER: I was hurt. I didn't believe that my brother had did that. It was wrong. He shouldn't have gave them the -- whatever he gave them.

FEYERICK: Both little boys are now in foster care. Police say it looked as if it wasn't the first time the 2 and 4-year-old had smoked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's holding like he's done it before. He's inhaling. And this isn't the first time.

RUSSELL: It wasn't my fault. And I think my kids should be here with me.

FEYERICK: The children's great grandparents agree. The smoking incident happened at their home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll do anything that I can to provide for those kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just hope that they give them back. That's all I want them, is to come back.

FEYERICK: They also say they hope this teaches the 17-year-old uncle a lesson.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So far, police haven't arrested a third teenager, the one who took those pictures. They want to do drug tests now on the little boys some time this week.

There are a lot of health concerns out there in the open tonight.

Dr. Melvin Oatis is a professor of child and adolescent psychology at New York University's Child Study Center.

Good to see you.

Thank you.

ZAHN: Your face was like mine as I looked at that video. And I think by now I've seen it 16 times tonight.

It is absolutely disgusting to watch. And what is so frightening for me, besides seeing these kids giggle and stumble and, you know, you heard the child safety officer describe them as being debilitated, they seemed like they had done this before. What did it look like to you?

DR. MELVIN OATIS, NYU CHILD STUDY CENTER: Well, it was very surprising to actually see a young child at that age have that type of coordination, because just developmentally it's very difficult for someone to smoke a cigarette and grasp in that way. So you have very young children that look like they're adept at doing this is problematic, but it's still, you know, very shocking to me to see this.

ZAHN: What kind of impact might this have on them psychologically and physically?

OATIS: Well, from a perspective -- a psychological perspective of what happens with children with marijuana, it's hard to say. But we do know that it's a CNS depressant and a child can look very lethargic, quiet, kind of decreased in terms of their energy level. And you're also -- you have to keep in mind that you're also -- this is a developing brain that's going on right now, too, so it's very difficult to actually know all of the effects that are going to happen a young child at this age.

ZAHN: It could permanently kill off brain cells. I mean, that's something we try to teach teenagers about staying away from drugs. I mean, could you be seriously -- whether these kids have done this once or twice, could it permanently stunt some sort of developmental growth?

OATIS: You're definitely altering their brain development. And unfortunately, there are some studies that may even say that their learning -- they have learning disabilities that could result because of this. But they're not conclusive because all the things that we're drawing from, we're looking at literature, prenatal exposure to marijuana and looking at the reporters of mothers that used it and had been around their children.

So these are the data in those who are looking at this. So this definitely has an impact upon their development.

ZAHN: What would compel these teenagers to do this?

OATIS: You know...

ZAHN: And laugh at it as they're watching these kids get stoned?

OATIS: That is a question that everyone is going to have on their minds. But in thinking about this, these children are impaired. These adolescents are impaired by the substance themselves.

So are they just thinking about this as something -- these little ones are going to have the same effect that it's having on me and I don't think so much about using the marijuana, so therefore it's not really affecting them? It's a total lapse of judgment, but they're also not appreciating the real consequences and all the (INAUDIBLE) and things can happen from having these young children use this. Especially if there's like a family history or something regarding substance use in that family.

That's also a trouble. And here you're exposing them at a much younger age and not -- and not willingly. These aren't -- you're giving these children this. They're not asking for this. So that's also a problem.

ZAHN: It's disgusting all the way around, when you can see the smallest one said, "I don't want anymore" and walks away.

Oh, Dr. Melvin Oatis, thank you for your time tonight.

OATIS: Thank you.

ZAHN: "Out in the Open" next, a woman who kept a secret for 20 years. Coming up, what it was and what she discovered when she finally told the truth.

And this is candidate John Edwards speaking at a rally in Los Angeles tonight. He mentioned all of the controversy surrounding Ann Coulter's remarks. For those of you watching earlier, commentator Ann Coulter used an anti-gay slur to refer to Edwards on Friday.

Coming up, we'll tell you what John Edwards the candidate had to say as well.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Just a few minutes ago we were talking about one taboo, incest. Well, now we're bringing another out into the open tonight. We all know it's true but almost never admit it. The shocking truth is that sometimes the death off a relative or a friend brings a deep sense of relief instead of the grief everyone expects.

Ted Rowlands talked with one woman who has finally decided to bring that all "Out in the Open."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Jennifer Elison and her husband seemed like a picture-perfect couple. He was a small- town doctor and she was a nurse.

JENNIFER ELISON, CO-AUTHOR, "LIBERATING LOSSES": Oh, my. You know, we looked like the Camelot couple.

ROWLANDS: Then suddenly four years into the marriage, Jennifer's husband was dead. The local paper carried the news that the doctor had been killed in an auto accident.

ELISON: The community mourned deeply when he died. There was just an outpouring of -- of grief, an outpouring of kindness.

ROWLANDS: But Jennifer says she felt on overwhelming sense of relief.

ELISON: I had the sense of my spirit, I guess, coming back. I had been pretty oppressed and I had this sensation of my spine straightening and thinking I'm not ever going to be in that kind of relationship again, and a weight off of my shoulders.

ROWLANDS: Jennifer says despite what people thought, her marriage had been miserable. And before her husband died, they had talked about divorce. So she says while she was shocked and sad after the accident, she was also relieved.

ELISON: I knew from the minute I heard that he had died that I was not going to be able to publicly express that relief.

ROWLANDS: But 20 years later, she did express it, co-authoring this book and writing an article in "Newsweek" magazine. Jennifer, who is a college counselor in Helena, Montana, says her story has struck a chord with others who have felt similar relief. But she's also struck a nerve with people who are offended by the idea that relief is a valid response to someone's death.

ELISON: You're cold, you're ruthless, you're not a nice person if you have this sort of response. Those are difficult things to hear.

ROWLANDS: But Jennifer says while researching her book, she came across many others who felt relief after a death, sometimes after a long illness, but she also heard stories like this...

ELISON: "I sat through my wife's funeral humming the tune 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,' and I have nightmares that she is still living, but nobody else knows this."

ROWLANDS: Jennifer remarried years ago. She says that despite the controversy, she's happy she wrote about her experience.

ELISON: You know what? I think that if I were the one that had died in that car accident, I would imagine my first husband would have felt a sense of relief.

ROWLANDS: She hopes her example will help people accept that sometimes relief can be a part of the grieving process.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Helena, Montana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we are moving up on just about 15 minutes before the hour.

"LARRY KING LIVE" coming up that top of the hour.

Hi, Larry. How are you tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Hey, Paula. I'm fine.

Coming up, the sister of that murdered Michigan woman whose dismembered torso was found in her garage. Authorities say her husband has confessed to this grisly crime.

Plus, Ann Coulter is at it again. This time, even conservatives are angry. Has she gone too far this time? A passionate debate from the left and the right.

It's all at the top of the hour, following the lovely Paula Zahn.

ZAHN: Well, thank you, Larry.

We touched on it at the top of our hour, and, boy, the Republican presidential candidates haven't wasted any time to blast her as well. They all lined up pretty quickly.

KING: The woman is unbelievable. She's unbelievable.

ZAHN: Well, we will look forward to your debate as well.

KING: Thank you.

ZAHN: She always inspires debate. That is for darn sure.

Thanks, Larry. See you at the top of the hour.

KING: Bye.

ZAHN: And now we're going to move on to our "BizBreak" with Kiran Chetry.

(BUSINESS REPORT)

ZAHN: In just a minute, some of your feelings will be "Out in the Open."

Coming up, your e-mails about politics and Ann Coulter and a whole lot more. Stay tuned. Our panel is buzzing through them right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Right now we take you to Los Angeles, UCLA, where a rally for presidential candidate John Edwards is under way. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter used an anti-guy slur to refer to Edwards on Friday. Here's what he had to say about her just now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, we should not give attention to selfish, childish, hateful behavior. Second -- second, it is in these hateful, destructive words that the seeds of hate are planted. It is the place in which hatred can actually get a toehold.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Edwards says we can't stand silent when words of hatred are spoken because it causes intolerance to grow and become acceptable.

Back to our "Out in the Open" panel right now, Republican strategist Amy Holmes; constitutional attorney Michael Gross; and John Aravosis, founder of AMERICAblog.

Straight to the e-mails right now. This one from Mark Lopez. He writes about Ann Coulter, and he says, "What bothers me the most about Ann Coulter's event was not what she said, which is poisonous, but the fact that the audience laughed and applauded her. These are the people who are the conservative string? Their colors are shown now. These people are racist and biased."

Were you bothered by the laughter that came after her remarks?

HOLMES: Certainly. Certainly I was bothered by it. I think it's juvenile, and I think those people who laughed can't be defended. But again, to put this at the feet of conservatives I think is painting another bigoted brush having to do with politics.

Listen, Senator Byrd is a sitting senator and he used the N-word to describe poor white people in defending his use of the N-word when he was in the Ku Klux Klan. And we didn't hear about that around the clock. So to say that this is one...

ZAHN: That's because you didn't have 24/7 news back then.

HOLMES: No, he said this -- made this remark about three or four years ago.

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: We are defining our candidates in public office in an illegal way. We define them by their color, by their gender, by their creed, and now by their sexuality. All of which are illegal in the job market.

We don't care what their program is. We identify...

ARAVOSIS: It's really not illegal in the job market. That's part of the problem.

ZAHN: All right.

GROSS: We identify them as, this is the black candidate, this is the woman candidate, this is the Mormon candidate, and now, as if you could say that that made any difference, whatever a candidate's sexuality is. That's crazy.

ZAHN: I hear what you're saying. But could you also argue that it's opportunistic on John Edwards part to immediately set up a $100,000 (ph) fund-raising event? And do you see anything in any of his statements tonight where he refers to the issue of a gay slur?

ARAVOSIS: If I can say something. As someone who has worked on a lot of gay issues in the past, I was glad Edwards responded. I was not ecstatic that the first thing he did was a fund-raiser in response to Ann Coulter. What would have been nice was to see Mr. Edwards come out and make a strong statement on behalf of gay and lesbian Americans and all minorities and all equality, but...

ZAHN: Why don't you think he did that? ARAVOSIS: I don't know. But I would like to see...

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: I would like to see it. I would like to see it.

Well, actually, you know what? I don't think any of the candidates did. I'm not sure any of the candidates mentioned, you know, this is anti-gay prejudice, it's not right. I don't think the Democratic -- the Democratic candidates haven't said boo about this.

ZAHN: All right. Let's...

ARAVOSIS: It's an interesting question, frankly.

GROSS: Because we do assume that if a person is gay, they're disqualified for public office. And we also hold it against them...

HOLMES: So are you saying that John Edwards was fearful then of addressing this more directly?

GROSS: I do think so.

ARAVOSIS: I think so. I think he addressed it than some of the other Republican -- some of the Republican candidates didn't, some did. None of the Democratic -- none of the Democratic candidates jumped on it, which is interesting.

GROSS: We're all guilty of looking for scapegoats instead of looking at the issues and the qualities of the candidates.

ZAHN: Let's move on to the issue of Bill Maher, what he had to say on his show on Friday night, because we've gotten a lot of e-mails where people thought that far too much time on television coverage -- not on our show, because we evenly split it tonight -- but more attention has been focused on Ann Coulter than what Bill Maher had to say.

Now, this one comes from a Dr. Cheryl Shimente (ph). "Hooray for Bill Maher! There are a whole lot of people in this country who are so fed up with an executive branch that overrides laws, the will of U.S. citizens and Congress. End the war, bring our troops home alive. Many probably are agreeing with what Maher said."

Let's remind folks of what he said. He did not say personally that he wished Dick Cheney were dead, the vice president. But he did say if he wasn't around today...

HOLMES: It was in response to postings as well on HuffingtonPost.

ZAHN: Right. More people would be alive because not as many would have been killed in Iraq.

HOLMES: And we know now, Michael, that you feel that somehow the vice president is driving you to murderous rage, but... GROSS: Ann Coulter's remarks were gratuitous, they were exploitative, they were seeking to benefit herself, they were totally unprovoked. Bill Maher was provoked. And by the way, his issue was...

(CROSSTALK)

GROSS: What he was concerned about was the removal of the remarks from the blog. That's what the issue was raised for on Bill Maher's show. It was a matter of free speech.

ARAVOSIS: There's a more important issue here, really quick, which is Bill Maher is a comedian and I think he's frankly wrong and kind of an idiot for the comments he made. I'm sorry. I like the guy. I think it was stupid as hell.

Having said that, Bill Maher is not a top Democratic strategist, so to speak. He's not a top Democratic bestseller. He's not a Democrat who is the one who comes and speaks at every Democratic convention.

Ann Coulter has gone repeatedly to these conventions. She always says the same things. She said "rag heads" last year, she said "fags" this year. She is a problem. She represents a problem in the Republican Party.

ZAHN: Amy Holmes, Michael Gross, John Aravosis, come back and you can share more with us.

In just a few minutes, coming up that top of the hour, "LARRY KING LIVE" looks at the case of the Michigan woman whose body was cut in pieces, allegedly by her husband.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: That wraps it up for all of us tonight.

Tomorrow night, jail wars. "Out in the Open," we go behind bars where California's prisons are being rocked by a bloody gang war between blacks and Hispanics.

It's all "Out in the Open" tomorrow night.

We'll be back same time, same place. Hope you join us then.

Thanks again for joining us tonight.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.

Good night.

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