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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Obama Releases Birth Certificate; Royal Wedding Nears
Aired April 27, 2011 - 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: We're going to have more on the royal wedding here and obviously what President Obama did today. But we begin with the breaking news.
Take a look, a tornado bearing down on Tuscaloosa, Alabama, part of a massive and deadly storm system ripping its way from Texas. East Tuscaloosa's mayor says it obliterated blocks and blocks of that city. You can see the damage.
Well, it is just incredible. At least 31 people have been killed across the region, that number expected to rise. Dozens more hurt, have been hurt.
This isn't over yet. More storms now are brewing.
COOPER: As we said, the death toll likely expected to rise. We are going to follow this throughout the hour. We will have another report with some folks on the ground a little bit later on, as we get more information.
The other big story of the day, of course, is President Obama's attempt to once and for all end the allegations made by birthers for years now. Well, today, the president released his original long form birth certificate showing he was in fact born in America, just as the short form birth certificate he released years ago showed, just as the birth announcement in the local paper back in 1961 showed, and just as friends of his family have said for years, just as experts and officials have been saying on this program night after night.
If you have been watching, you have seen plenty of people, not just Donald Trump, but legitimate elected officials expressing doubts over the years and even basing legislation on those unsubstantiated doubts and claims.
Here are just some of the birthers that we have interviewed on this program over the last few years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Representative Wagner, do you believe that President Obama is a citizen of the United States? BOB WAGNER (R), MONTANA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I don't really -- I'm not really qualified to say whether I believe he is or not. It's irrelevant to me.
COOPER: What do you mean you're not qualified to say whether he is or not?
WAGNER: Well, there's been no proof offered, and as far as belief, it really doesn't matter what I believe.
COOPER: But how can you say there's no proof offered? There's a certificate of live birth which was shown by his campaign in 2008 which has the seal of the -- the raised seal of the state, is signed off on. You know, there's plenty of evidence that he is. How can you say that there's not?
WAGNER: Well, a certificate of live birth is different than a long-form birth certificate. And I think that's what is intended by the documentation process.
CECIL ASH, ARIZONA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: For better or worse, many people don't believe he's a U.S. citizen. They believe he has loyalties, divided loyalties, I suppose you could say.
COOPER: Right. But those people are wrong. He is a U.S. citizen.
ASH: Well, you're telling me that he's wrong. I never investigated that. If he is, then he has nothing to fear.
COOPER: But I mean, the information is out there. It has been released. It has been shown. There are some people who don't believe it, but there are also people who believe that the moon is made out of cheese. And you can say you never investigated it, but I think you would probably say the moon is not made out of cheese.
ASH: Well, I certainly would.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, today, the president did what the doubters wanted him two to do all along. He released the long form birth certificate. Yet some of these very same birthers, those people you have seen on this program, well, they still don't buy it.
And America's leading birther, Donald Trump, who said on our program Monday that he believes the birth certificate could be missing. That's what he said his source had told him, that it was missing or just wasn't there. He isn't persuaded quite yet, even as Trump takes credit for getting the document released, even as he continues to peddle unfounded insinuations about President Obama's education.
We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight. First, take another look. A copy of the original long form document, what Hawaii calls the certificate of live birth. That's what they call their birth certificate, the certificate of live birth. This is a copy of the original document. On it, you can see the name of the hospital in Honolulu, his parents' names, his mother's signature and signature of the hospital attendant.
It took a special effort to get it. Last Friday, we learned as Donald Trump's birther drumbeat was getting louder, President Obama wrote his lawyer and she wrote the Hawaii Health Department asking the agency for a special exemption to its policy of only sending out a computer generated copy of that document, which is called the certification of live birth.
As we constantly have been reporting, this computerized birth certificate, the certification of live birth is the only, repeat, the only document Hawaii now recognizes and that's the document the Obama campaign released two-and-a-half years ago. Mr. Obama said he was releasing this one today to end the circus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not gonna be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We're not gonna be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.
Now, I know that there's gonna be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest. But I'm speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press.
We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We got better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We got big problems to solve, and I'm confident we can solve them, but we're gonna have to focus on them, not on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A short time later, the president and first lady sat down with Oprah Winfrey for a program that airs May 2.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW")
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": And before you came today you had a press conference.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did.
OPRAH: By the time this airs, it will be all over the world that you outed the birth certificate. You let us see the birth certificate.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: He was born here.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OPRAH: Yes. And that -- we -- it's confirmed again that you are born...
B. OBAMA: Once again.
OPRAH: ... once again in the United States.
Why did -- why did you wait so long, though?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
B. OBAMA: You know, keep in mind what had happened. This -- this came up about two...
OPRAH: Two and a half years ago.
B. OBAMA: Two and a half years ago. And so we called up the folks in Hawaii in the Department of Health.
OPRAH: Yes. When it first came up, were you thinking, I hope I was born here?
B. OBAMA: Can I just say I was there, so I knew...
B. OBAMA: ... that -- I knew I had been born there. I remembered it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Donald Trump meantime on what appeared to be a campaign swing through New Hampshire, he refused to even look when a reporter tried to show him the birth certificate or again later when our own John King tried to do the same. He also refused to concede that he was wrong about doubting the existence of it or stoking birther fever at all. Remember, just a few days ago, he told me his sources were telling him or a source told him the original long form birth certificate, which the president released today, didn't exist or was missing. No admission of error by Trump, in fact, just the opposite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: Today, I am very proud of myself, because I have accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish. I was just informed while on the helicopter that our president has finally released a birth certificate.
I want to look at it, but I hope it's true -- so that we can get on to much more important matters, so the press can stop asking me questions.
I'm taking great credit. And you have to ask the president why didn't he do this a long time ago? Why didn't he do it a long time ago? When Hillary Clinton was asking, when everybody was asking, why didn't he do it? It's shocking. It's shocking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That last little comment about Hillary Clinton just for accuracy's sake is simply not true. Hillary Clinton never asked to see President Obama's birth certificate, long or short. The demand during the campaign originated from a fringe group of Clinton supporters and was later forwarded by some more prominent ones.
So he put another insinuation out there without proof. As you can see, it is kind of a habit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: People have birth certificates. He doesn't have a birth certificate. Now, he may have one, but there's something on that birth certificate, maybe religion, maybe it says he's a Muslim, I don't know. Maybe he doesn't want that. Or he may not have one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was him on March 20 saying maybe the long form birth certificate shows that he's a Muslim or maybe didn't exist. In fact, the whole Muslim thing, that's not true either. You can see there isn't even a space on the original birth certificate for religion.
A lot of birthers thought there might be. But releasing the document, doing just what the birthers have been demanding of course is not satisfying nearly any of them. We haven't heard any prominent birthers simply admit they got anything wrong in the last few years. In fact now some are even raising questions about the legitimacy of this original long form birth certificate.
Orly Taitz, the so-called queen of the birthers, she is objecting to box number nine, which is race of father. It says African. She says back then, in 1961, the terms used were Negro or colored or black, except Barack Obama Sr. wasn't a black American or African-American. He actually was African.
Another, Kay Dean Boyer (ph), is claiming the K. in Kansas in box 15 was produced by a typewriter not produced until 1963, proving the document is a fake. Texas State Representative Leo Berman, who we have had on this show, who repeatedly, repeatedly gave out inaccurate information or information based on rumors that were printed on the Internet, you saw him a few moments ago. He told our producer David Puente tonight: "The copy is not certified, and I say that because it appears to be brand-new for a document that's supposed to be 50 years old." He goes on to say: "I wish it was a valid birth certificate so we can put this matter to rest."
Just because Hawaii doesn't call it a birth certificate, they call it a certificate of live birth, some people apparently still don't believe it's a birth certificate.
Tonight on MSNBC, State Senator Steve Smith, who sponsored Arizona's birther bill, he still believed there was a 10 percent to 20 percent chance President Obama was not born here.
The other refrain from foes and friends of the president alike is why did he wait so long.
Joining us now, Ed Henry at the White House with some insight on that and how the decision to release this document today played out. Also, John King, who sat down with Donald Trump today in New Hampshire. And senior political analyst Gloria Borger.
So, Ed, you asked those questions yesterday about the birther controversy. The White House hadn't yet received the president's birth certificate, had they?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They had not. They got the birth certificate, it's actually copies, certified copies of the birth certificate. Two of them, arrived a couple of hours after I asked Jay Carney those questions yesterday. He was trying to keep a poker face, obviously.
He knew the secret that they had these copies on the way to the White House. He didn't want to reveal it yesterday when I asked it on camera. But the bottom line is, they want now, inside the White House, to try and show that the birthers are a laughing stock in their estimation.
You saw the president there on "Oprah," basically saying I was there when I was born. I know I was born in Hawaii. Tonight he's doing a series of fund-raisers in New York. Opening line at each fund-raiser, I'm Barack Obama, I was born in Hawaii. They didn't ask me for any I.D. on the way in.
They believe this settles it once and for all. There are going to be a bunch of fringe folks as you just mentioned who will still come up with box nine, box 15, whatever you may like. But at the end of the day, a majority of Americans are going to say, case closed.
COOPER: Gloria, you have been getting the rundown from administration officials. Why did they decide to deal with this issue now and not, you know, two-and-a-half years ago when they released what was a completely valid document, the certification of live birth?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there was just a sense from the White House aides I have been talking to that this had reached critical mass.
The words you hear when you talk to White House advisers is the president was frustrated. This had become a corrosive issue, this has infected our politics. And I think the final straw, if there was a final straw, was that the president gave a very important speech on how he would attack the deficit. He sat down with a network to give an interview. He was asked a question about the birthers, and the birther story was the story that led the news.
Now, one senior adviser said to me also, look, do not underestimate the personal element in all of this. There is a real sense inside the White House, and I believe that is presumably the president of the United States himself, who believes that this birther issue has been used to delegitimize his presidency and he was just sick of it, Anderson.
COOPER: John, you sat down with Donald Trump today. Was there any at all, any admission, even for a split second of, I was wrong?
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": No. In a word, no.
COOPER: I knew the answer to that. I think I knew the answer to that.
KING: I think you knew the answer to that. I asked him about what he said on your program the other night, that it was missing, that his investigators were coming up with great stuff and it wasn't there and it was missing.
I said, aren't you embarrassed? Do you owe the president an apology? He said, no, absolutely not, that he had done the American people a great public and he had done the president a great public service by having the president finally release this. Unapologetic.
He said he doesn't make things up, Anderson, but we know just from checking the fact a lot of what he has said about this controversy simply does not hold up to the fact checking. So if he's not making stuff up, people have been giving him bogus information.
And he just -- no apologies at all. He says he wants to move on to other issues. He's insisting that he's not the one who brings this up, that we in the media bring it up. But he called a news conference last week in Florida. He has scheduled himself and is very eager to come on all these programs.
And it is what it is, I guess is the best way to say it. But if you're expecting an apology from Donald Trump, you're not going to get it.
COOPER: And, Ed, Donald Trump is taking credit for pushing the president to put this thing out there now. Does the White House admit Donald Trump was behind this?
HENRY: You know, they insist they had no idea Donald Trump was even going to be in New Hampshire today. So that's not why they came out this morning.
But I think a more honest answer may be in the fact in the president's own words tonight at one of those fund-raisers in New York, he basically laid out, here's one of the reasons why I put the birth certificate out there today. He said I wanted to show that tackling these big issues like the deficit, creating jobs, et cetera, this is real, this is tough. It ain't a reality show.
If that wasn't a broadside at Donald Trump, I don't know what is.
COOPER: Gloria, do you think it was a mistake for the White House to wait this long? Again, they put out the birth certificate two-and-a-half years ago. The certification of live birth is what the state of Hawaii puts out. But putting out the original long form document, which takes special permission, or if you can do it under Freedom of Information Act requests if you're a regular citizen, they could have done that two-and-a-half years ago.
COOPER: Do you think it was a mistake politically?
BORGER: They could have. And I think they -- they could have put it to rest a while ago. I think this is a president who has just gotten increasingly frustrated and thought that it was getting in the way of the business of the country that needs to be conducted.
And, by the way, Anderson, in a way, you can argue that the president actually did Republicans a favor here by doing this, because Republicans, establishment Republicans have been torturing themselves about how to handle this issue. They have been saying we take the president at his word or they have been backing away and they haven't been attacking Donald Trump.
Well, now a bunch of Republicans, including the House speaker, came out today and said, OK, this is a done deal. Settled business. And now the Republicans can get back to the business of talking about jobs, the economy, gas prices, the things they ought to be talking about.
COOPER: John King, do you think it took an issue away that was working for the Democrats of making some Republicans look fringe?
KING: I think certainly that has been an argument the White House has made. It's an argument that many Democrats make, that Mr. Trump in particular they say does not look like a serious candidate for president when this is what he wants to talk, Anderson.
But obviously the White House felt the need to deal with this. It felt the need to deal with it, whether it was just because the president thought it was a distraction or whether they see something in the polling data that suggest they needed to get out ahead of this and try to snuff it out. We know that happens.
The question now is what happens going forward from here. I sat down in a diner today in New Hampshire and a woman says she still has doubts about it. Trump wouldn't take the copy of the birth certificate. He said, I will check this out myself . I'm not going to take your copy.
The question is, look, some of this are people who have heard it so much on talk radio or some other places. They just believe it and there are good people who just have heard it too many times. But a small slice of this pie are people who can't come to terms with the fact that we have an African-American president. They won't say that publicly because they know how shameful it would be to say that. So this is what they're hiding behind.
And that's -- when people like Donald Trump and other people in responsibility stoke it, that small slice of the pie is the scary slice of the pie. And those people should be not -- we should pay no attention to them. And so that's one of the things the White House is trying to do today is just say to those people, get a life.
COOPER: John King, Gloria Borger, Ed Henry, thanks.
Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper.
Coming up, more birth certificate brouhaha from Donald Trump, his almost surreal suggestion that he's tired of talking about it, at the same time congratulating himself for bringing it up. We will talk with Andy Card, former chief of staff under President George W. Bush, and Democratic strategist Paul Begala. I don't think they agree on this one.
And later, we're continuing to follow the breaking news, the tornadoes. We will talk with the mayor of hard-hit Birmingham, Alabama as well as the photographer who took this incredible video of this killer storm.
Also tonight, we will have updates on the royal wedding, soon to be princess getting behind the wheel herself to drive to London. A lot of royal details ahead.
COOPER: We're live in London. We're continuing to follow the breaking tornado, though, back home. We're going to be talking soon to the mayor in Birmingham, Alabama, about the damage to that town and that they have seen in many places all across Alabama.
We want to finish up the conversation about President Obama's move today after many years of calls by many in the fringe of the birther movement for him to release his long form birth certificate. The president did that today in part at the instigation of Donald Trump, who keeps saying he's tired of talking about the issue, even as he keeps talking about the issue.
Tonight, John King called him on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But you raised this, saying the president should release --
TRUMP: No, no, you raised this --
TRUMP: Excuse me --
KING: No, I did not raise this --
TRUMP: You raised this, John.
KING: I didn't call a press conference in Palm Beach earlier this week --
TRUMP: Excuse me, you raised this --
KING: I haven't been on --
TRUMP: And every time I sit down with the press, all they want to talk about is the birth certificate. And I got him to do something that nobody else could get him to do.
KING: And you --
TRUMP: And I have been given great credit for that.
KING: And you raised this issue of his credibility, that if he has it he should release it.
KING: There are some people who question yours in the middle of all this. The other night you went on ANDERSON COOPER and you said your investigators told you it was missing or it wasn't there.
TRUMP: Excuse me.
KING: What was that based on?
TRUMP: Excuse me, very simple, I had people looking into it. Now I don't have to have the people -- I can call them back. I hope, I mean, I haven't seen this. And I'm sure that a lot of experts will analyze it.
KING: But would you ever pay them -- if serious people told you it was missing or not there, here it is.
TRUMP: Would I pay them? I don't know. Maybe I will let you negotiate it for me, OK?
(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: I can say this, John. Let me just tell you, I don't make up anything. Let me tell you something. I have done a great service to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Let's bring in Andy Card, former chief of staff under President George W. Bush, and Democratic strategist Paul Begala.
Mr. Card, has Donald Trump done a great service to this country?
ANDY CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Look, I'm not a birther. I thought the president should have done this an awful long time ago. He would have helped to create a climate where you could have an honest debate about the real policies that make a difference.
Today, we should be talking about what Ben Bernanke said in an unprecedented press conference from the Federal Reserve chairman about our economy and the world's economy. And instead we're talking about a birth certificate that the president could have released a long time ago? Just like Oprah said, what took you so long? Why didn't you do this a long time ago? Like the folks said, like Ed Henry said...
COOPER: But he did release a birth -- he did release his birth certificate two-and-a-half years ago.
CARD: He could have released the long system two-and-a-half years ago, the long form. He could have done it. There were cynics. There are cynics in every campaign. Where were the skeptics?
CARD: No, Anderson, let me finish, because you're driving a story because you want to drive a story. The real story is about let's get the economy moving -- let's get the economy -- it's not the birther story. You're playing into a fringe.
COOPER: Wait. I'm driving the story?
CARD: You're playing to a fringe.
COOPER: OK. I'm driving the story? I'm playing to a fringe?
CARD: Well, you're playing into a fringe.
One of your -- in the Republican Party, this has been discussed ad infinitum.
COOPER: We have been debunking this now...
COOPER: ... every night for the last two nights.
CARD: It's not a Trump-Card ticket. It's not a Trump-Card ticket, all right? I'm not a birther. I happen to believe President Obama is my president, too. And he's a credible president. He got elected. But I don't think he's leading the country in the right direction.
COOPER: Paul, was this a mistake for the president to wait two- and-a-half years?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, no. It was a mistake to release it today.
He didn't wait. He released what is legally recognized by Hawaii and the federal government as his certificate of live birth, as his birth certificate. There was no need to stoke or feed this paranoid conspiracy, and I don't think this will put it to rest, because there always is a lunatic fringe in -- in -- frankly, in Andy's party.
COOPER: But you don't think Donald Trump was catching on -- you don't think Donald Trump was catching on, though, had sort of caught on to something by raising this?
BEGALA: Oh, sure, among the haters. But it was only helping President Obama, I have got to tell you.
If you believe that President Obama wasn't born in America, you're not really likely to vote for him anyway. And what this did do was I think delegitimize the Republicans. It put Republicans on the spot.
Then they would have to answer, do you believe the kooks? And, frankly, many responsible Republicans did disavow the birther movement, but many didn't. Newt Gingrich, for goodness sake, said that the president has a Kenyan anti-colonial world view. Mike Huckabee, a pretty serious guy, said that the president grew up in Kenya, which of course is nonsense. He never even visited Kenya until he was 20 years old.
So there were serious mainstream Republicans who were feeding this. Why? Because they want to delegitimize this president. They don't want to fight him on ideas and issues. They want to pretend that somehow he's not legitimate. And I find that really troubling and frankly it was hurting the Republicans, though. It wasn't hurting President Obama.
I think the only reason he put it out is I think what Ed's reporting has been, Ed Henry's reporting from the White House, that he just kind of personally probably wants to see this over, because politically this is a good issue for him. It elevates Donald Trump, who is a great foil for Barack Obama. And Obama would carry 40 states against Donald Trump, if the Republicans had the poor sense to nominate him.
So I don't think there's a good political reason to release this now. I think he's just honestly doing it for the reasons he states. He cares about the country. He wants to put him behind him.
COOPER: Andy Card...
CARD: Then he should have put it behind us a long time ago.
COOPER: John King mentioned race as being behind this -- John King mentioned race as being behind this among some segment of the people who have continued to champion this. Do you think race played an issue in all this?
CARD: I don't. I don't believe that it did.
I believe that there were crazy skeptics out there who became cynics, and then the lack of action by the president to release this document that he should have released -- it's a very benign document. He should have released it a long time ago. By not releasing it, he fed a desire to have more skeptics in the debate and more cynics.
And the cynics got stronger and stronger. And I think it was just bad. I think he squandered an opportunity to put the country in a position where we could be talking about real issues, and he did it for a long time. He was leading from behind, just like some of his advisers said he likes to do.
And I want to have the debate centered around let's get the economy -- let's talk about the Paul Ryan budget plan to bring some discipline to the country. Let's get our deficit under control. Let's talk about what it means to have a deficit that is under control so that the dollar is stronger around the word. That's what Ben Bernanke was talking about today and you didn't even cover it.
BEGALA: Look, Andy is blaming the victim here.
The notion that somehow Barack Obama could put this all behind him, let's watch. Let's see if this puts it behind him. Already, P.T. Trump is out there trying to talk maybe the president didn't legitimately deserve to go to college.
Oh, please. Come on. He's one of the smartest guys in the world. He didn't deserve to go to Columbia and Harvard? My goodness.
George W. Bush, Andy, who you served, he went to Harvard and Yale, and my German shepherd is smarter than he is. Come on.
CARD: Why do you give -- why do you give credibility to those arguments? They're not credible arguments. Let's talk about real policies. President Obama is not leading the country the right way.
BEGALA: Well, we can have that debate, Andy.
COOPER: Andy, you're saying Donald Trump is not credible basically.
CARD: I'm -- I'm saying Donald Trump is not likely to be the Republican nominee, and I don't think he's likely to be president of the United States.
COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Sorry. Andy Card, appreciate it, Paul Begala, I'm sorry. We're just -- want to make sure we get a lot in on this tornado. Guys, I appreciate your time tonight.
I want to bring you more from Alabama, where tornadoes have done extensive damage. Now there's new video coming in from the scene, and we'll talk to the cameraman who captured this video, as well as the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama.
Also ahead, details on the royal wedding. Echoes of Charles and Diana's royal wedding in the day on Friday. We'll be right back.
COOPER: We're here in London for the royal wedding, coverage of that, but we want to talk about the more important story, the breaking news back home in the United States. Massive storms hitting the south right now, Alabama getting walloped. Tornadoes, homes and businesses destroyed, power knocked out. At least 25 dead. But, again, that number is likely to rise.
Here's some remarkable video of a tornado in Tuscaloosa, shot by Christopher England, a producer at Crimson Tide Productions, part of the University of Alabama's athletic department. He's going to be with us shortly. You just get a sense of the power of that storm, though.
We talked to Chad Myers earlier tonight. I want to bring in the mayor of Birmingham, Mayor William A. Bell. He joins us on the phone from Pratt City, one of the hardest hit areas.
Mr. Mayor, I'm so sorry for what is happening right now in your great state. Please tell us the latest. What are you seeing around you?
WILLIAM BELL, MAYOR OF BIRMINGHAM (via phone): Well, it's total devastation in the Pratt City community, as well as the Smithfield Estates areas, which is in the northwest corner of our city. We have hundreds of people who have been injured. So far, praise God, we only have one fatality, known fatality, but there are many people who are missing and unaccounted for at this particular time.
I spoke with the governor. He is assigning about 500 National Guardsmen to come up and help with the area, and we've mobilized all of our emergency services to the Pratt City as well as Smithfield Estates area.
COOPER: What time did -- did this storm hit?
BELL: It came through right around -- between 5:30 and 6, somewhere along in there.
COOPER: And how long did it last? Where were you during it? Did you see it?
BELL: Oh, yes, oh, yes. You can look up at the sky and see it coming. It was just to the northwest of where I was located at the time. And shortly after it came through -- it's that same tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, and it rolled through Birmingham. And it was a massive storm. It looked like it was probably a mile wide, the tornado. And it wiped out -- whole industries (ph).
COOPER: At this point, are emergency service workers able to go out into the communities, or do you have to wait until daylight?
BELL: Well, we have to wait until the gas and power companies make sure that all the lines are cut and the gas is turned off. Some areas are filled with heavy gas. And we've got to make sure that it's safe and secure. Then we'll send in the emergency workers.
I mean, they're in the area now, but we can't get vehicles up in there because of the power lines, as well as the trees. So we mobilized all of our people, and they're taking care of that. And we're not going to wait until daylight. But most of the help will come at daylight, but we're out there doing some things now.
COOPER: Do you have a sense of the damage at this point?
BELL: In terms of dollars, no. But I can only imagine that it's up in the millions of dollars because of the number of homes that I have just visually seen, and there are other areas I have not seen that are blocked off from us right now. But I would say it's in the millions of dollars. It's my understanding that the president tomorrow will issue some type of emergency order.
COOPER: And do you have people in emergency shelters at this point?
BELL: Yes. We're using other municipal auditorium as the main emergency shelter, and we're calling on churches to assist us with people that don't have other shelters. But we've opened up the municipal auditorium for that purpose, and we're requesting volunteers. We have a lot of volunteers but we need more.
And anyone who needs help, please make your way to that location. We have buses out in the area that we are shuttling people to the shelter area.
COOPER: Mayor Bell, I know you're busy. I want to let you go. I want to thank you for talking to us. Our thoughts and certainly our prayers are with -- are with you and all the people who have been affected by this storm and may still be affected in the hours ahead as this storm continues to move. Mayor Bell, thank you. We'll talk to you tomorrow, as well. Thank you.
BELL: Thank you, Anderson, for your concern. Thank you.
COOPER: We're going to have more on this breaking story. We're going to talk to a man who just shot some of the most remarkable video we kept seeing so far in the last several hours of the storm hitting in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Just the terrible story we're following out of America's south right now. New information just coming in on the fatalities. We know there have been 25 people killed in the state of Alabama. Fifteen, we've learned, were killed in Tuscaloosa. That's where photographer Christopher England shot the video that we're about to show you. He joins us now on the phone.
Christopher, where were you when this video was shot?
CHRISTOPHER ENGLAND, SHOT TORNADO VIDEO (via phone): Anderson, I work at the University of Alabama, and I was in our basketball coliseum, Coleman Coliseum on the third floor. We have, like, a club level, and we had windows up there and I could see -- you could see out.
But my boss and I, we wanted to go up to the third level just to see what we could see because we really didn't know what was going on. And as soon as we walked up the steps and looked out the windows, I mean, you -- you see what we were seeing. And we were just in amazement that it was so close to us.
COOPER: And how long did you stay up there for?
ENGLAND: I think I was up there for about a minute and a half. I think the video clip that you have is about a minute. And you know, he left and I walked away, but then I was like, well, you know, no one may be able to see the tornado. So I just turned around, and I had a camera with me. And I just started shooting.
And I could kind of feel the, you know, pressure on the glass a little bit, and it kind of started worrying me a little bit, so I stayed as long as I could. And then, you know, I just -- I didn't want to risk it any further. I was just afraid, you know, the windows may -- you know, may break or something.
COOPER: This is probably a dumb question, but -- but how does it feel to be that close? What does it actually feel like? You said you feel a pressure change?
ENGLAND: I could. I could feel the pressure change. And of course, you know, my heart was racing, because you see, you know, things like that in movies and everything, but you never see anything like that, you know, in real life. And to be able to see something like that so close.
And we didn't know, you know, it turned away from us, but we really didn't know what was going to happen. And just to be that close to something, and you could see that the tornado was sucking stuff up from the ground. I couldn't tell what it was, but I could see all kinds of things floating around it.
But then you could see just different colors being sucked up into the tornado, and you knew that it was just ripping stuff up. And you just didn't know -- you know, you didn't know what.
But it was just -- it was just, you know, unreal to see something that violent and something that massive, because it was just huge. I've never, even watching television, I've never seen, to me, a tornado that big.
COOPER: We know 15 confirmed fatalities in Tuscaloosa. Have you been outside? I mean, how is the town? How is the city doing?
ENGLAND: Well, I just walked outside a second ago, and it's just -- it's pitch dark right now. You can't see. There are no lights on. And there's always -- you know, everything is lit up around here, and there's no lights on.
But I tried to earlier, not too long after the tornado, I wanted to go check on -- you know, on my place, and I couldn't even get to it. I couldn't get very far off campus until they would turn us around.
But I was able to see where the tornado went, you know, from the video. I could see down 82, which is McFarland Boulevard, and kind of 16th right there. You could see that it was just leveled. I know there's...
COOPER: You don't know if your house is OK or not?
ENGLAND: I don't, I don't. I hope it is, but -- and I've been told by some people that they think it's OK, but we don't really know for sure because it was right down 15th, just you know, not too far away from where -- the intersection where it hit. So I'm still not sure.
But I -- but I know there's several businesses, you know, that are just leveled here. It's just something that's really terrible.
COOPER: Yes. It is. It is absolutely horrible. Christopher England, I really appreciate you having the presence of mind to take these pictures and to share them with us and to talk to us. And I wish -- I hope your home is OK and your neighbors are OK.
And again, our thoughts are with everyone in Tuscaloosa and throughout Alabama right now as we continue to learn more about this. Christopher, thank you very much.
Our Tom Foreman is also following other stories for us. He joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson.
The U.N. Security Council failed today to agree on a response to the crisis in Syria. This as a human rights group in Syria raised the death toll to 447. Witnesses and international aid groups have described escalating military attacks on protesters. CNN cannot independently verify these reports because Syria won't let us in.
In a major reshaping of his national security team, President Obama will name Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta as his nominee to succeed Robert Gates as defense secretary. General David Petraeus will be nominated to take over as CIA director. He'll be succeeded by Lieutenant General John Allen as head of the U.S.-led international military force in Afghanistan.
Stocks rallied after the Federal Reserve's first-ever press conference today. The Dow, the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ closed at multiyear highs. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank will keep interest rates low and end its $60 billion bond buying program in June.
And we saw Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in public for the first time since she was shot in January today, boarding a NASA jet in Houston. You can just barely see her there, making her way carefully up the steps. She landed in Florida, where she will watch Friday's space shuttle launch commanded by her husband, Mark Kelly -- Anderson.
COOPER: Wow. That's great that she's able to at least walk a little bit. Tom, thanks very much.
Still ahead, we'll have details on the royal wedding with all our correspondents here in London. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Well, I'm not sure if you've heard, but in less than 36 hours, Kate Middleton will become Princess Kate, and her life will change pretty dramatically. Although she won't actually be called -- anyway.
Today, she drove herself to London from her parents' home in Bucklebury, a thoroughly modern princess to be. That's her protection officer riding beside her. A short time later it was a much different scene. The motorcade that carried Kate, Prince William and several family members to Westminster Abbey for a wedding rehearsal.
Kate will spend her last night as a single woman at the Goring Hotel near Buckingham Palace just behind me.
Joining me now here in London is CNN royal wedding contributor and "So You Think You Can Dance" host, Cat Healey; also, CNN's Richard Quest and our own Isha Sesay.
Welcome. Thanks very much. You have -- you have tomorrow's papers, Richard.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, these are Thursday's papers. And Prince William is on the front page. Because he was on his motor bike after playing soccer yesterday. You've got to be very careful when handling some newspapers.
COOPER: Because there's usually naked photos in there.
QUEST: I don't think this, in the "Daily Mirror," "Try Do." Which is a very odd...
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What happened to the rehearsal?
QUEST: When we finish tonight, you'll want to take it home.
COOPER: When I flew in today, the woman at immigration said to me, "Oh, I hear the wedding is a big deal in United States," because it's not really a big deal here in England.
SESAY: I think that's rubbish. I really do think it's...
COOPER: It's not a big deal in the United -- I think it's a relatively big deal, but it's not a huge -- but is it massive here?
CAT DEALEY, HOST, "SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE?": I think people are getting behind it now. Every single day it's growing a little bit more, a little bit more. But I think there's a general great feeling. It's been -- and it's to do with lots of things. Everybody has got time off work, so they're having a great time. It's been warmer here than it has been since it has since 1949. It's like the most glorious...
COOPER: People aren't working this week?
COOPER: The entire week?
DEALEY: Lots of people have taken off the days in between, as well. Because obviously, there's a bank holiday.
COOPER: But this is Europe. Sure.
SESAY: You know, the other point to me is that Britain itself is going through the dire economic times that a lot of places have seen and this is a moment to put that aside for a moment and just genuinely be happy, just generally lose yourself in a moment that, you know, is one of joy.
QUEST: OK, stand by for a bit of name dropping. I was talking to the prime minister today.
COOPER: What's that, Piers Morgan?
QUEST: The prime minister. I'm very civilized. David Cameron was telling me that in Britain today, there is a feeling of excitement. There is an enthusiasm. And this will translate ultimately to economic benefit.
COOPER: Well, because people are coming...
COOPER: So what happens? Friday on the big day, how does this play out?
COOPER: I think it starts 4 a.m. East Coast Time.
QUEST: Your -- your coverage starts. Your coverage.
SESAY: I will be on before that, just to let everyone know.
COOPER: So you guys will be all over this. We will be broadcasting live. But the heavy hitters come in.
SESAY: Really? Really?
DEALEY: Well, we're going to be here, aren't we?
COOPER: What time is the wedding? What time is the actual ceremony here?
QUEST: The ceremony is 11 a.m. London time. That is 6 a.m. Eastern.
QUEST: And the proceedings, the guests start arriving at around 3:15 Eastern. They go right into -- the real big guests arrive from 4:15 to 5 a.m. Eastern. And then she arrives at 6 a.m.
COOPER: Kate Middleton is coming in a Rolls Royce, not in a carriage.
DEALEY: That's right.
QUEST: A Phantom Rolls Royce, given to the queen in 1978 as part of the Silver Jubilee celebration.
COOPER: Is this the same one that Prince Charles was attacked in? SESAY: Yes. That's right.
DEALEY: It's been touched up. They've repaired the windows.
COOPER: What are you most excited about, Cat?
DEALEY: The frock.
COOPER: The frock?
SESAY: ... go very well, Anderson.
COOPER: Isha and I had a problems over -- what to call the queen. By the way, on second reference, "ma'am." Like you're saying man.
QUEST: Not "ma'am" as in "mom." "Ma'am" as in "ma'am."
COOPER: I say "ma'am," and it sounds like you're saying "man." Is that right, "ma'am"?
SESAY: You know what? Just let it go. Yes. Because you're not going to get this. Let's just let it go.
But we should say for our viewers that they may find it interesting that the guests come in two different doors, which I think is very interesting.
DEALEY: Like the tradesmen's entrance.
QUEST: When we arrive, we would be going into the north end.
DEALEY: You wouldn't get in through security.
QUEST: You would be different. The great west door is where the royals will go in, where foreign royals, they will all go in the great west door, down the nave, up to the front.
DEALEY: He's been studying. Anyway, back do the dress.
COOPER: OK. That's what you're most excited about.
DEALEY: I've got to see the dress.
QUEST: She might wear the queen's tiara. And here's the reason, I think. She's going to wear...
DEALEY: Really? The Russian tiara?
SESAY: Well, you know the problem with the tiara. She has -- the queen has to be so disposed to the conversation before she gets one. She doesn't just walk up in a tiara.
COOPER: But the -- this is an incredibly closely-guarded secret, and the dress is actually being made behind us in Buckingham Palace.
DEALEY: Absolutely. And then we heard it got transferred from one wing to another. And we have no idea why. Very bizarre.
But we think it might be Sarah Burton, who is the queen's right- hand woman.
COOPER: Alexander McQueen, a British designer.
DEALEY: Exactly. He's creative director of McQueen now, which would be, I think, a really, really lovely thing. It would be a great kind of tip of her hat to this fashion genius that he was, and also it's really classical and chic but kind of dramatic and youthful at the same time. His designs are very like that. So it will be amazing.
SESAY: And it would be -- I think it would be her going out on a limb. Because I don't think we've seen that side of Kate, fashion- wise. We've just seen a very conservative, very straight down the line. I think that, Sarah Burton, would be a little bit out of the ordinary.
QUEST: Would it be popularly (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
DEALEY: Yes. Yes.
QUEST: ... pinstripes? Make sure your socks match.
COOPER: I'm so glad I'm a guy.
SESAY: What are you wearing?
COOPER: I have no idea. Some suit. I don't know.
SESAY: Didn't we talk about this?
COOPER: I'm wearing American. I'm wearing Ralph Lauren.
COOPER: Not one of those morning -- is Piers going to wear a morning suit?
QUEST: No. We're all wearing lounge suits.
COOPER: Oh, really?
QUEST: A lounge suit.
DEALEY: We're lounging in...
QUEST: You can wear...
SESAY: This is not going to go well.
QUEST: You can dress him up, but you really can't take him to a wedding.
COOPER: Isha, Cat Dealey, Richard Quest, thank you.
Much more -- much more head at the top of the hour, including President Obama releasing his long-form birth certificate and an update on the storms in Alabama. We'll be right back.