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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Interview With Ellen DeGeneres; School Official Posts Hate Online; Jury Reaches Verdict in Ninja Murder Trial
Aired October 28, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for watching, everyone.
What he did shocked the nation., Tonight, The Arkansas school district vice president who said he likes it when gay people die and called dead gay kids fags and queers breaks his silence only on 360. Is he sorry? Will he resign from the school board? You're going to find out tonight.
We speak to him, along with the suicide prevention counselor whose own tragic loss drove him to reach out to the official today.
Also, we will have reaction from two parents who lost a son to bullying, and also from Ellen DeGeneres. All of it, you will see only here.
We also have big breaking news from the campaign trail tonight, a bombshell out of Florida, where news of an incredible political deal is now breaking. An alleged deal to get the Democrat to drop out of the Senate race, so the independent can defeat the Republican, apparently unraveled, reportedly known to the White House and brokered by none other than former President Bill Clinton. The shockwaves right now can be measured on the Richter scale, and we have got the late inside details.
And more breaking news: the jury deciding in that ninja murder trial, a husband and wife murdered by killers in disguise in Florida, nine of their kids at the time. We will take you inside the courtroom as the verdict is read for one of the suspects.
We begin, though, tonight, as we always do, "Keeping Them Honest" with the Arkansas school board official who shocked the nation.
His name is Clint McCance. He's the school board vice president for Midland School District in Eastern Arkansas. That's the picture we had of him from his Facebook page. He set off a national uproar when some of his Facebook postings about bullied gay kids and suicide were made public.
Now, before hearing from Mr. McCance, I want to you hear what he wrote. He was apparently ticked off about a nationwide call by activists last Wednesday to wear the color purple in support of gay kids.
The words, as you might imagine are, pretty rough to take. "Seriously," he wrote, "they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way I'm wearing for them is if they all commit suicide. I can't believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid."
He went on to say -- and what you see is his spelling, not ours -- "We're honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. Really, people."
Some who read his posting challenged him on the Facebook page, and he responded to them with this: "It pisses me off, though, that we make special purple fag day for them. I like that fags can't procreate. I also enjoy that they often give each other AIDS and die."
Then he wrote: "I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course, my kids will know better. My kids will have solid Christian beliefs. See, it infects everyone."
So, those were the words that set off a storm among parents of kids who have been bullied, among parents who have lost children, gay and lesbian groups, and everywhere from Facebook to Arkansas. The school board condemned what Clint McCance said, but refused to call on him to quit.
He's an elected official, and, under local laws, can be removed for absenteeism, but apparently not for this. State officials in Arkansas also issued a condemnation, but they, too, did not ask him to resign.
Then, today, this from federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: I can't tell you how shocked and, frankly, how angry I am by those statements. And we looked into it. This is an elected position. It's not an appointed position, but the question for Mr. McCance and the question for the community is, is he suitable to be in a position of educational leadership?
And we have to question...
COOPER: Do you think he is?
DUNCAN: ... have to question his suitability to -- well, if -- if these statements are true that he said -- and, from everything I'm hearing, they are true -- he has no business being an education leader in that school district.
We're -- we're doing everything we can to stop bullying, to stop harassment, to make sure that all of our children can grow up free of fear. And to have an elected educational official spouting off that kind of -- of hatred is absolutely unimaginable to me, Anderson, and -- and I don't think he's suitable for that position. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was earlier today.
Late today, we heard from a man named Steven Blackwood. He's a suicide prevention counselor in Little Rock. His son Alex took his life. He wasn't gay, but -- he wasn't bullied, but the loss, of course, was no different. Alex was just 19 years old.
Moved by his own tragedy, wounded by what Mr. McCance said, and concerned about the effects of his words on other at-risk kids, Steven got in his car to go see Clint McCance. This all took place today.
Mr. McCance reached out to us a short time ago and said he wanted to talk. I interviewed him and Steven Blackwood just moments ago.
COOPER: So, Clint, you have written some really terrible things. You called kids who killed themselves because of bullying fags and queers. You wrote that you like to see gay people die.
Do you -- I mean, do you really hate gay people that much, that you like to see them die?
CLINT MCCANCE, POSTED ANTI-GAY RANT ON FACEBOOK: Anderson, I made some very ignorant comments, did not realize just how ignorant they were. I have -- I have, you know, went back and looked over it.
I would never support suicide of any kids. I don't support bullying of any kids. I posted that on down further in -- in my post, that I hated it, you know, for those -- for those kids, that they felt so hopeless...
COOPER: But -- but you sound...
MCCANCE: ... that that was the only place they had to turn.
COOPER: But, as you know, I mean, in -- in the writing, you sound like a bully yourself, I mean, calling -- using...
MCCANCE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
COOPER: You know, calling...
COOPER: ... fags and queers, that's -- those are the words of a bully.
MCCANCE: I was -- you know, like I said, I used some -- I used some really strong language that -- you know, and it wasn't correct.
And -- and it was -- it was too emotional. I don't -- you know, I am a -- I have got two children myself, and I love them dearly. I have got a wife I love dearly. You know, I don't agree with bullying in any shape, form or fashion. I don't agree with it for any children.
And, you know, the words I used were -- were unfortunate. And -- and they're -- you know, I should have picked different ones, but it can't be taken back. And all I can do now is -- is extend my apologies for my poor my poor -- my poor speech.
COOPER: What do you -- what do you feel like you're apologizing for, exactly?
MCCANCE: It was over the top, Anderson. It was -- I -- I just went too far with it. I -- you know, I -- I don't really believe anyone should commit suicide. I -- I don't -- I don't feel that way.
COOPER: I want to ask you just some of the -- the specifics.
COOPER: I mean, you use -- those words like fag and queers, are those words you use a lot? And do you think it's acceptable to use those words? Or do you understand why those words might hurt a gay kid in your school district or a kid who's not gay, but is being called those words?
MCCANCE: Sure. Sure. I completely agree with that. I know they're hurtful words.
And, like I said, I -- you know, I picked the wrong words to use. I -- and used them poorly. I didn't -- I didn't bring honor to what I was -- to what I was about.
COOPER: Do you -- I mean, obviously, you have -- you've -- you've thought about, you know, the words. And you have clearly reread this now. But, I mean, do you have any idea of the pain that -- that you may have caused, not just to families and friends of kids who -- who have killed themselves, but the pain and fear you have caused to kids maybe even in your own district who are being bullied or who are gay or who don't feel safe telling anyone that they're gay?
MCCANCE: You know, Anderson, that's a what-if. I don't know.
I know it was a -- like I said before, I know my statements were too harsh. I don't -- I don't agree with -- with the language I used. It was out of control. And it does look like I was -- that I'm a hate-monger or I'm a horrible person. And that's -- that's not me at all.
COOPER: Because you did say you like it when gay people get AIDS and die.
MCCANCE: That was -- you know, Anderson, once again, that was in response to just some comments that were made. And, like I said, I -- you know, I -- I made -- I used the wrong language, completely.
COOPER: But I -- just for accuracy's sake, do you...
MCCANCE: I don't -- I don't wish -- I don't wish death on anyone.
COOPER: OK. That's what I was going to ask. Do you want gay people to die?
MCCANCE: No, I don't.
COOPER: There are some who are going to see this and say, OK, look, you're saying you're sorry, but are you just sorry you got caught? I mean, if no one had said anything about this Facebook post, you know, would you have reread it today and said, gosh, you know, this was horrible?
MCCANCE: Anderson, before this ever got to where it's at, I had looked at it, just because of some -- you know, some e-mails I had gotten, some posts on there.
I like to take a look at myself. And I'm -- you know, I'm a big enough man to admit when I say something wrong or, you know -- and I did this time. You know, I made some -- some pretty bad statements, and -- and they were too strong.
COOPER: One of the things -- we talked -- before we did this interview, we talked on the phone. And one of the things you said to me is, "This is not who I am."
What did you mean by that?
MCCANCE: Well, Anderson, I -- like I said, I'm a father myself. And I love my children with all that I have. They are my -- they're everything to me.
And I -- and I really -- you know, I give everyone a chance and -- and -- and try to love everyone. You know, I will -- as my...
COOPER: But you...
MCCANCE: ... beliefs go, I still love everyone.
COOPER: You know people listening to this are going to say, that's hard to believe, given the kind of stuff you said. I mean, why should someone believe you?
MCCANCE: Right. Right.
Well, I'm sure everyone at some point in their life has made a statement, hateful, that they would -- that they would take back if they could. You know, people make mistakes all the time with their speech. And -- and I'm sure lots -- lots of people have done that, if not everyone.
COOPER: I -- I understand, from a local reporter, said that -- a local reporter said he did talk to you briefly, and that -- I don't know if it was today or yesterday -- you told him that this had been blown out of proportion. Do -- do you still think that this has been blown out of proportion?
MCCANCE: I have not spoken with any reporters. You're the -- you are the first news media that I have used.
Do I think it's gotten out of proportion? To me, it has. When I'm getting, you know, thousands of phone calls, hate mail, people threatening to kill my family, me, having to send my wife and kids out of state for their safety, install security systems, yes, I think it's -- it's -- that end of it has gotten out of control.
COOPER: Some of the -- you know, clearly, you know the response to this isn't just because you said these words. It's because of who you are. You're the vice president on a school board. I mean, you oversee, you know...
COOPER: ... kids in your school district. And I -- I think that's...
COOPER: ... clearly what's at the core of the reaction to this.
Education officials in your state at all levels have condemned what you said. They said it doesn't reflect their values...
COOPER: ... and what they're trying to do in the schools. They said they can't fire you, but that you can resign.
Are you going to resign from the school board?
MCCANCE: I am going to resign from the school board.
It is to -- to help my community, to help my school. I don't want them to receive bad press or have a distraction because of some ignorant comments that have -- that I made.
If they decide later, you know, a year, five years, 10 years from now to vote me back in, if my constituents want that, then -- then I will run again.
COOPER: Clint, you -- it's interesting, what's happened to you, obviously, over the last 24, 48 hours. You have met a guy who came to -- to see you today who's actually with you tonight during this interview, who has -- who lost a son to suicide, wasn't bullied, not -- his son wasn't gay, but his son was 19.
And, Steven, why did you seek out Clint? Or how did you hear about this?
STEVEN BLACKWOOD, SUICIDE PREVENTION COUNSELOR: Well, how do I feel about his Facebook comments? Or how do I feel...
COOPER: No, no. How did -- how did you hear about it and how -- why did you seek Clint out?
BLACKWOOD: Oh, how -- I -- I'm a -- on the board with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention here in Arkansas, and a field advocate for the National Office of Suicide Prevention. And I do a lot of work to raise awareness of suicide.
And, when my attention was brought to the Facebook post, and I read it, I thought, this guy cannot what he's saying. Surely, he doesn't mean this.
And I -- I -- I had to find him. I thought either we have somebody who needs help, or he has said something that he needs to retract, because he has no idea the type of damage that he could be doing to people that may be contemplating suicide or struggling with emotions or depression that would suggest that it would be OK for them to go ahead and end their life.
COOPER: So, Clint -- so, Clint, when Steven showed up -- I mean, he basically just kind of drove, tracked you down -- when he showed up, what did you think? And -- and you clearly started talking to him. How did that -- how did that impact you?
MCCANCE: It's had a phenomenal impact on me.
I -- you know, all this has been done in ignorance to the fact of the suicides. I had no idea, as -- as I'm sure most people don't, how big an issue that suicide is in this country.
I commend Steven for being -- being such a big man to do that. I think that's -- that speaks volumes for his character, to come out and find me and offer, you know, to tell me about suicide and -- and the dangers of it, and -- and to sit here with me tonight, you know, after his son's passed away, with the comments I made.
I think Steven saw something there that everyone else has skipped over. I think he -- and, you know, maybe somehow could tell I wasn't -- wasn't the monster I have been made out to be.
COOPER: Clint, you also said in that Facebook posting about your own kids, and you said -- and I quote -- "I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome in my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course, my kids will know better. My kids will have solid Christian beliefs. See, it infects everyone."
Is that something you really believe, that if -- because that's something, also, that a lot of people have commented on, that if -- if -- you know, if one of your kids felt they were gay, that -- that you would run them off.
Is that true?
MCCANCE: You know, I don't know what I would do yet. I am a -- you know, time will tell.
COOPER: Do you have anything, Clint, that -- that you want to say specifically -- because, after we talk to you, I'm going to talk to -- to some parents of a child who recently committed suicide, the parents of a boy named Asher Brown, who was 13 and shot himself in the head after being bullied because he was gay and for other reasons.
Do you have anything specifically you want to say to parents of kids and friends of kids who have committed suicide after being bullied?
I -- you know, I would -- would like to extend an apology, especially to those to those -- to those families that have lost children, not just gay, heterosexual, all -- all children that feel like suicide's the only way out.
It's a -- it saddens me, and -- but especially for those five -- five families that have just recently lost children. You know, I have -- I have brought more hurt on them with these comments. And that was never my intention. And I apologize for that, because they don't -- they don't deserve that. And I do feel genuinely bad for that, for them.
COOPER: The only other thing I -- I guess I want to ask you, Clint, is, just, moving forward, you know, you don't have to -- in this country, we have free speech, thank goodness, and people can think and believe what they want in their heart and in their head.
And, you know, you -- people don't have to like gay people. They don't have to accept gay people. But then, also -- you know, also, obviously, gay people have a right to live their lives without being bullied or without being attacked or called, you know, fag and queer.
COOPER: ... are you going to use those words in the future?
MCCANCE: That's in the -- that's in the future.
I would hope not. You know, I have -- I have learned a very valuable lesson over the last week, and, number one, on the suicide issue. You know, my -- my core beliefs don't change as far as, you know, my -- what I read in the Bible and what I read to be true.
But this has opened my eyes to a lot of different things. I hope I'm -- I hope it makes me more sensitive to -- to other people's feelings and what they're going through. And, you know, I -- this was a -- it was a -- hateful, hurtful thing. And it's been -- it's been hurtful for my family as well and my community. So, I -- you know, I'm going to watch what I say.
COOPER: Well, Clint McCance, I appreciate you coming on. It's not an easy thing to do. And I -- I called you a bully last night on this program because you weren't stepping forward and at least acknowledging or talking about what you wrote. And I appreciate the fact that you did step forward today.
And it's not an easy thing to do. And, frankly, a lot of people, especially politicians these days, are running and ducking from reporters. So, I appreciate you coming on the program.
COOPER: I actually ended up having a few more questions for Mr. McCance. We're going to play those for you after a short break.
Join the live chat right now at AC360.com. Let us know what you think.
More of our exclusive interview after the break. I asked Clint McCance if he had anything to say to the parents of Asher Brown -- you just saw that part -- who took his own life after what they say was years of bullying. We are going to talk to the parents of Asher Brown also in just a moment.
Also tonight: my conversation with Ellen DeGeneres about what Clint McCance said on Facebook and the epidemic of bullying and child suicides.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: When you heard what this guy had said, what did you think?
ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW": The fact that he has not stepped down or has been forced to step down is amazing to me. And -- and I'm hoping there's going to be a lot of really smart, courageous people, not just in that area where he is, but everywhere, that will -- that will say, this is unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Before the break, you heard Clint McCance say he's going to be resigning as vice president of his local school board in Arkansas, after savagely mocking five bullied victims who took their own lives.
In a moment, you are going to hear from the parents of one of those children, a 13-year-old named Asher Brown.
First, though, the rest of the exclusive interview with Clint McCance. I wanted to make sure to give him every opportunity to explain himself. You can judge for yourself if you believe his apology is sincere.
COOPER: Clint, looking back on this now, I mean, what -- basically, what do you want to tell people? What do you want to say? What do you think about what happened?
MCCANCE: I think I was out of line.
I think if -- you know, I think we all make bad -- bad choices at times, choices with words, bad decisions. The main -- the main thing I want to get across tonight is, you know, that I -- I don't believe in bullying. I don't believe in it in any form to anyone, no matter what their race, sexual gender, or whatever.
I do want to raise awareness for the suicide epidemic that's going on, because, as I didn't know, I'm sure a lot of other people don't know either. And, you know, we're all out here to make this world a better place, hopefully, instead of a -- a worse place.
COOPER: And, just so I'm clear, you're saying you're sorry. What are you sorry about? What are you sorry for?
MCCANCE: I'm sorry that I have -- that I have hurt people with my comments. I'm sorry that I was -- you know, made those ignorant -- ignorant comments, and that it -- it hurt people on a broad, broad spectrum.
You know, I would never do that. I -- I promise you, if anyone knew me, as my community does, they know I'm not -- I'm not a bad guy and I'm not a monster. I hate that -- that -- I would hate to know if I had hurt anyone with my statements, as far as if they had physically harmed their self. That would -- that would really hurt me.
COOPER: But -- but you do know that you -- that you hurt a lot of people, whether they have harmed themselves or not? You know the words certainly are hurtful?
MCCANCE: Right. Right. Right. And I know I have.
And, you know, and I am -- I am reaping -- reaping what I have sown. I have had a lot of hate speech thrown at me the last few days and my family on every level.
And -- and -- and I'm truly sorry that -- that I was so hateful in my Facebook comments.
COOPER: Clint McCance, I appreciate it.
Steven, thanks as well. Thank you.
COOPER: Well, reaction now from parents of one of the kids whose memory Clint McCance now admits to slurring. The little boy's name was Asher Brown, 13 years old, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger after what his parents, David and Amy Truong, said was years of bullying. They found him in the bottom of a bedroom closet.
David and Amy join me now.
David, what do you make of Clint McCance's statement?
DAVID TRUONG, SON COMMITTED SUICIDE AFTER BEING BULLIED: What I want to say to Clint, if you can see me, Clint, I'm a man of God, and I want to pray for you. My family wants to pray for you. All my Christian friends want to pray for you.
To say such hateful and horrible things during this tragedy, our family -- lives are ruined. Our child is gone. And you would say such things? We're going to forgive you.
Do you see me, Clint? We're going to be bigger than that. What I really want to say to you, I'm not going to stoop to that -- those levels, Clint. That's all I can say to you right now.
COOPER: Amy, I want to -- I asked him specifically what he would say to you two and to other parents of kids who have killed themselves. And I just want to play for our viewers what he had said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCANCE: You know, I would -- would like to extend an apology, especially to those to those -- to those families that have lost children, not just gay, heterosexual, all -- all children that feel like suicide's the only way out.
It's a -- it saddens me, and -- but especially for those five -- five families that have just recently lost children. You know, I have -- I have brought more hurt on them with these comments. And that was never my intention. And I apologize for that, because they don't -- they don't deserve that. And I do feel genuinely bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Amy, what do -- what do you think? Do you believe him?
AMY TRUONG, SON COMMITTED SUICIDE AFTER BEING BULLIED: I -- I think that he first is sorry that he was caught in this predicament.
He may feel bad for many different reasons. I know that this -- and he said himself -- that, you know, this has affected his family, and he's seeing from the other side of the coin what it's like when these awful things are -- are said. And he's kind of given himself a taste of his own medicine.
COOPER: It's interesting.
A. TRUONG: I don't know that I necessarily forgive him right now, but I will have to pray about that.
D. TRUONG: We will pray for him. COOPER: You know, I asked him about, moving forward, would he use those words he used? Because that's one of the things about his post that really struck me -- and I talked about it last night on the program -- is that...
A. TRUONG: Mm-hmm.
COOPER: ... he didn't -- he didn't use your son's name. He didn't -- he didn't have the decency to -- to name the five kids who he was talking about. He just called them fags and queers on his Facebook post.
A. TRUONG: Right.
COOPER: And, you know, words have power, and those words are used, not only against gay kids, but they're used against just about all kids today in school. It's -- it's the first form of some sort of derogatory speech.
When you heard him using those words in reference to your son, David, on that Facebook page, I can't even imagine what that -- what went through your heart and your head.
D. TRUONG: I'm trying to remain calm right now, Anderson.
Anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, it all -- it was all going through my head. But there's one thing I want to say to Clint, also, that's very important. I want to ask him a question.
God offers something unconditionally to everyone, believers and nonbelievers. Do you know what that is, Clint? It's unconditional love. And, by that definition, you're not a good Christian. Do not dare bring Christianity and call yourself a good Christian into this.
Once again, I will pray for you.
A. TRUONG: One of the things that I would like the -- to mention in regard to the feeling that came from those words, he dehumanized our children.
He made a point of disparaging them in death in the same way that they were hurt in life, and added insult to injury. This has been one of the most horrific things anyone could ever possibly imagine, losing a child to this bullying and -- and in this manner, them taking their own life.
And, for someone who has no idea of the facts or anything related to these children's individual stories, to slander them further and especially a school-board member, this proves the culture that we, David and I and the other families are trying to change within the public school system, that this does not continue.
D. TRUONG: There's one thing I want to say regarding that, to stop this violence and attitude, you can't add more violence and more horrible attitudes to it. Please stop. Don't threaten his family. Don't threaten him. It does nothing. Show him compassion. That's the only thing we can really offer him and his family right now.
COOPER: One of the things that -- that he had said that I think resonated with a lot of people and upset a lot of people. Frankly, he said if his own kids, his two -- two little kids, that if they, if one of them was gay, that he would basically toss them out, turn them away.
The day Asher died, David, he actually told you he was gay. He came out to you at 13, and you guys accepted him. What...
D. TRUONG: Absolutely.
COOPER: What would you say to parents who -- to Mr. McCance, who clearly has an issue, probably based on what his religious beliefs are, an issue with gay and lesbians. And clearly, you know, doesn't want his child to be. But what would you say to him about the importance of accepting?
A. TRUONG: We brought these children into this world, and -- and we loved them the second they were here. Most parents do. And that love should always remain unconditional.
The world can be an ugly place all by itself. And sometimes the only refuge we have is within our home and our family and that unconditional love that a parent should provide their child.
And I would hope that his children don't have to go through that, and I would hope in time he comes to understand that it's not necessary to throw people away, because you may not agree with their personal preference.
D. TRUONG: I hope his children forgive him for his beliefs and his horrible comments.
COOPER: David and Amy, I appreciate you being on. I know it's not easy, and I think about you and I think about Asher every single day since -- since Asher took his life, and I heard his story.
D. TRUONG: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: I continue to pray for all of you. So thanks for being with us.
A. TRUONG: Thank you very much.
COOPER: Coming up next, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, what she has to say about Clint McCance's comments on Facebook. We interviewed her before Mr. McCance was on this program. We'll talk to her.
Also she gave a call out to the straight community in the United States to get involved. We'll explain that ahead.
Plus breaking political news. Did former president Bill Clinton try to broker a deal in Florida to keep Republicans from winning a Senate seat? The "Raw Politics" coming up.
COOPER: Earlier today, before Clint McCance agreed to talk with us, before he announced tonight he's resigning, I spoke with Ellen DeGeneres, who's made, obviously, the fight against bullying a big part of her life, on and off the air. Now as I said, when we taped this interview, neither of us knew, Mr. McCance, would announce just now he's resigned.
COOPER: Ellen, you and I have talked a lot about bullying, but one doesn't expect the bullying to actually come from the vice president of the school board. When you heard what this guy had said, what did you think?
ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: I heard -- watching you last night, it's the first I heard of it. And I couldn't believe it. I mean, I -- you know, there are going to be people that don't understand different lifestyles, whether it be homosexual or anything else, that there are going to be people who don't understand it, and there are going to be people who are hateful.
But the fact he has not stepped down or has been forced to step down is amazing to me, and I'm hoping there's going to be a lot of really smart, courageous people, not just in that area where he is, but everywhere that will -- that will say this is unacceptable.
If we allowed this to happen from someone like him, then we -- what message does that send to a kid? What message does that send to a child in school that says, "Well, you know, he's saying it, why can't we say it? And we want them to die, too." I mean, it sends a horrible message.
COOPER: When I hear statements like this, I sometimes wonder if the reaction would be stronger if he'd been attacking another group. I mean, if he had said, "I like it when black kids died" and he used the "N" word, you know, could the calls for him to resign be louder right now?
Because there are a lot of school-board officials throughout the state of Arkansas who are good, hard-working people who have come out very quickly and said, "Look, what he said is abhorrent. It doesn't reflect our values. It doesn't affect what we're all about and all the hard work we're doing to stop bullying."
And yet they've kind of stopped -- they've actually stopped short of actually calling on him to resign. Does that surprise you?
DEGENERES: Well, yes. Like I said, if that -- that would be the message is loud and clear, like it is not so bad. It should be an immediate firing, or I don't know if you can fire someone who is elected public official and he's...
COOPER: They say you can't, that you can fire him if he doesn't show up for work, if he's absent from work, but you can't fire him for something like this. He can only resign. DEGENERES: Yes, you know, I think that -- and what you just said, too, it would not be acceptable if someone used the "N" word. And I think when -- when the civil rights movement happened, it took not just the community of blacks to make a change, but white people needed to step in and say, "This is unacceptable. We cannot tolerate this and treat any citizen and -- with lesser value."
And I think as a gay person, I would like to personally ask every -- every heterosexual person out there that is appalled by this to -- we need your help now. This is -- this is -- this is absurd.
And I hope that there are enough people in that area that will stand up and say, "Resign." And I hope that the parents of all the children in that school sit their kids down and tell them that that is not acceptable, because there is bound to be someone in that town -- I know it's a small town, but someone is gay, I guarantee you. And -- and they need to know that there's help.
And whether they're gay or perceived gay, that's -- the same kind of anger is going to be aimed towards them, whether they're gay or not. So these kids need to be protected, and they need to know that there are places to go. And he should not be in a position where he has any say over any children at all with that attitude.
COOPER: Ellen DeGeneres, appreciate your time. Thanks.
DEGENERES: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, and that is the breaking news tonight, that Mr. McCance says he is going to resign from the Arkansas school board.
Up next, more breaking news from the campaign trail. Did Bill Clinton try to arrange a deal in Florida to keep Republicans from winning a Senate seat? We have late information.
Also, breaking news: a verdict in the trial of the man accused of killing Byrd and Melanie Billings execution style in their Florida home. They took in a lot of special-needs kids. The man was also accused of leading a Band of assailants, all dressed in ninja-style outfits, who stormed the Billings home. That's them on the surveillance camera. We'll tell you what the jury decided.
COOPER: Breaking political news tonight, conflicting reports about former president Bill Clinton, whether he tried to persuade Kendrick Meek, the Democratic candidate in Florida's three-way Senate race, to drop out and endorse Charlie Crist, the independent who would then caucus with Democrats.
A spokesman for former President Clinton confirmed the story. A senior Democratic official told CNN the White House was aware that Clinton was trying to broker the deal. Democrats reportedly hoped the strategy would defeat Marco Rubio, the Republican who leads the race. But later Mr. Clinton talked to Susan Candiotti, denied asking Meek to drop out of the race. Whatever was said or not said between Clinton and Meek, this much is clear. Meek is not dropping out. He spoke a short time ago at a news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: Any rumor or any statement by anyone that says that I made a decision to get out of the race is inaccurate, at best. At best it's inaccurate. And I think it's very, very important that everyone understands that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All this is happening just five days after an election day. Political analyst Roland Martin joins me now, along with senior White House correspondent Ed Henry and Susan Candiotti by phone.
Susan, you spoke with former President Clinton tonight, actually a few times tonight. What did he tell you?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, he said that he -- he acknowledged that he had a conversation with Kendrick Meek about this. You know, they go way, way back, their friendship does. And he said, "He wanted to talk to me about it because he was concerned about" -- that Meek and Governor Crist would split the progressive votes.
And so that's why he said that Meek wanted to discuss it with him. Here's part of what he said, Anderson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's trying to decide what to do, and I talked to him. And I told him that -- we went through everything. We talked about it a couple times. And I said in the end, you know, you have to do what he thought was right. He'd have to do what he felt best about, felt right about.
And I think in terms of what I said to him and what he said to me, since he's my friend and he's the candidate, and he wanted us to talk, as we always have, I have to let him say whatever he wants to say about our conversation. It would be wrong for me to discuss it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: Now, I also asked the former president whose idea was it? And he said, you know, a lot of people had been discussing it. He sidestepped the answer. But he said, "He," Meek, "wanted to discuss it with me, and so we did."
And you heard him say, "I don't want to betray my friendship with him, and I think he's great, and therefore he should say about it what he wants to."
Anderson, I went on to ask President Clinton what he thought about criticism from GOP Chair Steele about no one should get involved in asking people to drop out of the race, especially an African- American candidate.
And his response was, well, he would say that. He wants Marco Rubio to win. And he's just doing his job and that's a bunch of politics.
I asked him whether he, President Clinton, had discussed it with the White House. He denied it.
COOPER: OK. Ed Henry, what did the White House, what are we hearing from the White House? What did they know? Did we know -- where did this come from?
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I've spoken to a senior Democratic Party official, who said the White House was aware of this. They did not initiate these talks. They let Bill Clinton do it, as well as one of his advisers, Doug Band, and that they were involved in the conversation.
But I'm told the White House very much aware of this, was hopeful that this was going to come through. And in fact, they thought just a few days ago, I'm told, that there was a deal, that Kendrick Meek was going to get out.
And there was a feeling inside the White House that, as Susan was suggesting, with Marco Rubio, the Republican, far ahead, Charlie Crist coming in second, and Kendrick Meek a distant third, if Meek got out that maybe many of his supporters would go to the independent, Crist. And that would throw this race to him.
And even though he's elected as an independent, he's likely to caucus with the Democrats next year, support Harry Reid for majority leader, et cetera, and that would essentially give the White House a Democratic seat. Then all of a sudden, Kendrick Meek backed out. All of this fell apart.
COOPER: So are you hearing, though, that this was an idea -- I mean, who came up with this idea to begin with? The DNC? President -- former President Clinton? The White House? Someone on Clinton's staff? Do we know?
HENRY: My sense is, as Susan was saying, that former President Clinton suggested, it really has been out there for weeks as a possibility, because Kendrick Meek has been so far behind. So there wasn't one person sort of driving this, per se. It was just sort of obvious that this could happen. It was finally Bill Clinton and his advisers who sort of tried to bring it all together.
I think that also the Michael Steele statement is important to note, because he kind of injected race here.
HENRY: And said, look, if a Republican leader had tried to push out an African-American candidate, Democrats would be howling about this.
This is very touchy for this White House, with an African- American president. You remember last year they tried to push out the African-American governor in New York, David Paterson. It got very messy.
You also remember back in 2008, Bill Clinton is still steaming about what happened when you had some Obama advisers suggesting that there were racist statements by Bill Clinton. All of this is a very combustible mix.
COOPER: No doubt.
Roland Martin, I want to play that -- that Michael Steele comment that both Ed and Susan have mentioned. It's in a graphic.
Michael Steele said, "President Clinton's actions to have Kendrick Meek withdraw from the campaign sends a chilling signal to all voters but especially African-Americans. One can only imagine the response if Republican leadership tried to force out of the race in the 11th hour a qualified black candidate like Kendrick Meek."
What do you make of this? Clearly, one of the biggest question marks from Democrats this year has been African-American voters, whether they're going to show up in the kind of numbers the party needs. What do you make of this?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, it's not surprising that Chairman Michael Steele would jump into this, because clearly they want to keep the attention on Rubio, and also want to make it clear that there's a schism within the Democratic Party.
"The Wall Street Journal" actually came out with a report two or three weeks ago stating that a deal was in the works for Meek to drop out. I talked to Congressman Meek earlier tonight. I just got off the phone with him five minutes ago. He is steaming tonight as a result of this report.
He said that, when President Clinton came down to Orlando and St. Petersburg to campaign with him, that they did have a conversation. They talk politics all the time.
And he said Clinton that told him, "Hey, what's the deal going on in terms of all this talk about you dropping out? Meek told me that he told the former president, Bill Clinton, that I'm not the one who should drop out, Charlie Crist should be the one who dropped out. And so you have this back and forth.
I also talked to a senior administration official who made it clear that President Barack Obama was not involved in any conversations, not aware of any conversations, did not give any blessings whatsoever or any discussions with anyone about Meek dropping out.
So what you have here, obviously different folks there. So you have Meek characterizing a conversation with Bill Clinton, that is far different than what Susan just reported that Bill Clinton is characterizing.
COOPER: No doubt about that. Roland Martin, Ed Henry, Susan Candiotti, thanks for continuing to follow this.
A quick piece of housekeeping. On last night's program. We did a segment on allegations of fake Tea Party candidates across the country. Critics of the candidates and some of the parties supporting them allege they're essentially plants for the Democratic Party designed so siphon votes from Republicans.
Now, one of our guests, conservative radio host Michael Reagan, called in to question the very formation of the Florida Tea Party, which is a registered entity. Reagan said that Doug Getslow, who tells us he's a consultant for the Florida Tea Party, was found guilty of campaign fraud. As Getslow points out, that's not exactly accurate, but he was just handed a 60-day sentence for a misdemeanor campaign violation. Mr. Getslow is filing an appeal.
In addition, Michael Reagan said Getslow was given money by Democratic congressman Alan Grayson for the Florida Tea Party. Untrue, says Getslow. Instead, he says Grayson paid to advertise on his conservative radio talk show.
Also, I should point out that along with Michael Reagan, we had a congressional candidate running for the Florida Tea Party, Randy Wilkinson, on the show to answer Reagan's allegations about his party.
Up next, breaking news, a verdict in the case against one of the men accused of dressing as a ninja, killing a husband and wife while nine of their kids, special-needs kids, were home.
Plus, Anna Nicole Smith's lawyer boyfriend and one of her doctors, they could go to jail for help for getting drugs.
And incredible video of a photographer's close encounter with a shark off the coast of Maine.
COOPER: Got a number of other stories we're following tonight. Let's check in with Joe Johns for the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, breaking news. A guilty verdict in Florida's so-called ninja murder trial. Jurors took only four hours to convict Leonard Gonzalez of two counts of first-degree murder in the killings of Byrd and Melanie Billings inside their home in 2009. Gonzalez could get the death penalty.
A jury found Howard K. Stern, Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend and lawyer, and one of her doctors guilty of conspiring to get drugs for her using false names. Both men [SIC] could face up to three years in prison when they're sentenced in January. Smith died of a drug overdose in 2007.
BP and contractor Halliburton knew of potential problems with cement used to re-enforce the Gulf oil well two months before the Deepwater Horizon well blew up in April, and still used it. That's according to the lead investigator looking into the Gulf disaster.
And a close encounter with a shark of Eastport, Maine. A diver was filming 28 feet down when he spotted the shark. The diver estimates it was about eight feet long and 300 pounds. The shark jabbed his camera and would not leave him alone. He had to fend it off. It's believed the shark probably thought the shiny camera case was a fish.
Sounds a lot like "Jaws" to me.
COOPER: Yes. Actually, sharks don't like the feel of metal, I learned when diving with Great Whites in South Africa. And so you're supposed to hold up, like, a camera, and they actually don't like the feel of it, apparently. So they say.
JOHNS: Yes. I just stay inside the case.
COOPER: A lot more ahead at the top of the hour. Starting with our exclusive interview with the school-board vice president who posted an anti-gay hate speech on his Facebook page. He now says he's sorry. What exactly he's sorry for, hear for yourself and decide for yourself whether you believe his apology.
We'll also talk to Ellen DeGeneres and the parents of a child who died because of anti-gay bashing.