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Violence in Syria; Republican Presidential Candidates Prepare to Debate; Calls from Democrats Continue for Congressman Anthony Weiner to Resign; Writer of a Blog Supposedly by a Lesbian in Syria Turns Out to be Authored by a Man in Scotland

Aired June 13, 2011 - 15:00   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Randi, thank you so much. And hello to all of you.

You know, I want to begin this hour with a story. It's clearly emerging. In fact, since we last met, there has been this ominous turn of events that's really shaken the Middle East. You heard about this.

Over this past weekend, the Syrian government raised the anti the opposition. You have the president, Bashar al-Assad. He unleashed his armed forces. We're talking tanks, warplanes, and mortars came down hard on a town at the Turkish border.

Now, the Syrian armed forces, they emptied that town. Now it's really considered a ghost town today. That's according to human rights activists. The thousands of people who live there have now fled across the border. They're filling up these tents, these refugee camps just about as fast as the Turkish government can get them set up.

Now, keep in mind, since the crisis in Syria began in mid-March, we have had to rely on YouTube, on cell phones, on blog posts, some reliable, some not, because the Syrian government is barring journalists from entering the country. We have tried. We're denied again and again.

Well, now these refugees, the ones who have reached Turkey, they are telling their stories.

And CNN's Arwa Damon is there for us on the Turkish side of the border.

And, Arwa, what is it that these Syrians are saying about the Assad government's onslaught of this town, Jisr Al-Shugur?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (AUDIO GAP) ask that them question. That is naturally the first question that one does pose.

Most people's initial response is, we can't quote what we saw, we have been through, the horror of it all, into accurate words. We have heard numerous stories of people who have had -- or claim that security forces burnt their farmland, killed their livestock, destroyed their homes. Amnesty International is now calling it a scorched-earth policy that Syria's implementing, trying to drive these refugees to Turkey. Others have told us horrific stories of how they were out at peaceful demonstrations or at funerals when they claim Syrian security forces opened fire.

And they talk about people just falling to the ground around them, many of them fleeing with just the clothes on their backs, coming to Turkey, but none of them have any idea, Brooke, of when they're going to be able to go back home.

BALDWIN: It's the unknown. It's simply just getting away and getting into Turkey.

And that's only one side of the story, because the other side of the story, as you well know, Arwa, that's emerging today is we're hearing these reports, these Syrian soldiers either leaving that battlefield or they're just simply defecting to the opposition.

And from talking, Arwa, to some of these witnesses, some of these Syrians, can you gauge the -- the disaffection within the Syrian armed forces? They must be frustrated.

DAMON: Well, Brooke, one does hear more and more stories about members of the Syrian military defecting. But there are nowhere near the numbers that the opposition would need or would like to see in terms of this ongoing campaign to bring down the president. He still does have the support, whether it's because people are afraid to defect or because they are, in fact, loyal.

But he, regardless, has enough support to for the time being be able to hold on to power. In fact, one activist I was speaking to earlier today was saying that they really do need to try to win over the Syrian military. What some of them have been doing during these demonstrations, we were hearing, is that they were directly on loudspeakers reaching out to the military, saying, don't shoot at us. We're Syrians. We're not terrorist, like the government is saying we are. We're not carrying weapons. We are your brother and we are your countrymen.

But, at the same time, we do hear stories of these defections. I was watching a video that was a clip of a soldier who was holding up his I.D. card. And he was explaining how he was given orders to go out and he was told that he had to save his country from what his commanders were telling him were terrorists that were coming into Syria from North Africa, from the Gulf.

But then he says he went out on to the streets and realized that they were just civilians who were there. He refused to shoot. He was given orders to shoot. And at that point he realized, he had no choice but to get away. And he now is camped out in this makeshift camp on the Syrian side of the Syrian/Turkish border.

BALDWIN: But let's say, soldiers aside, you hear -- and the best we can is hear these reports from people on the streets of Syria -- and they hear that this -- they hear these promises, right, from the Assad government. It's been weeks and weeks and weeks we have been hearing these promises.

Has that -- has that message reached the streets? And now that they unleashed this full onslaught, as you have been reporting, on their own people, do you at all see some sort of tipping point or turning point here in the story in Syria?

DAMON: At this stage, it's very hard to say that there is any sort of a turning point, be it in the favor of the regime or against it, because it seems like both sides are so hardened in their stance.

Yes, the president came out and promised all these reforms. Yes, he looked at the emergency law. He abolished the special court that was intended to prosecute individuals who had threatened the regime. But at the same time, his security apparatus continued using the same policies that people wanted to see abolished.

So, in that sense, there has been no change whatsoever. The opposition does not want regime -- does not want for the regime to promise reforms and implement reforms anymore. They want the regime to go. And they're saying that's the only option right now and that there's no room for compromise, because they believe that this is a regime that's going to do whatever it's going to take to crush these voices of dissent. And as we have been seeing, it would seem as if this is a regime that doesn't differentiate between a child or an adult.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: It is a story you have reported on in other countries, Arwa, this sense of a hardened stance on both sides, a stalemate thus far.

Arwa, thank you.

And speaking of, all these events over the weekend in Syria, they're raising pressure on the White House to get in, to do something. But exactly what that something is, is really unclear at this point.

But a Republican senator appears to be saying it is time to consider a military option. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It made sense to protect the Libyan people against Gadhafi, and it did because they were going to get slaughtered if we hadn't sent NATO in when he was on the outskirts of Benghazi.

The question for the world, have we gotten to that point in Syria? And I think we may not be there yet, but we're getting very close. So, if you really care about protecting the Syrian people from slaughter, now is the time to let Assad know that all options are on the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I was watching that Sunday morning. My ears perked. Jill Dougherty, there she is standing by at the State Department.

And what's the word on that end, Jill? I know you asked today in the briefing about maybe some of the allies taking some type of physical military action. I mean, what word on that in, what word are you getting? And then how far can the carnage in Syria go before Washington finally steps in and says, enough is enough?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, boy, you know, we really went over that a lot here at the State Department in the briefing.

And the words are strong. Just listen to what Mark Toner, the spokesman, was saying, drumbeat of abuses, abhorrent violence, alarming, et cetera. But when you come down to military action, they say that they are not there yet. They say they're taking economic action. And that means sanctions. And they're also taking diplomatic action.

Let's listen first to what Mark Toner said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: Is the U.S. pushing its allies to take some type of physical military action to stop what you're talking about, a drumbeat of abuses over weeks?

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: What we have been clear about is that our effort remains diplomatic and economic. We have brought pressure to bear on Assad through these sanctions, both the E.U. and here in the United States.

And the other aspect of this is that we are working through the U.N. Human Rights Commission, so that he and his government will be held accountable for their actions. But, you know, speculating about military action is -- we're just not there yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, Jill, we hear him say, we're not there yet. But then we also heard from Senator Graham over the weekend saying, look, what we did in Libya is potentially what we need to do in Syria.

Others have stepped in, said that as well. But isn't Syria -- when you compare the two countries here, Syria and Libya, very different ball games.

DOUGHERTY: You know, they're very different countries. And that's what you hear.

When you say, it sounds logical, you know, a country repressing its people, it's a very serious, imminent situation, why not take military action, well, they are two enormously different countries. Libya really is small and insignificant when you compare it to Syria, big country, major country in the region, big economy, pretty strong military. And then also you have to pull together a coalition. The U.S. -- there's no way that the U.S. is going to do this independently. And at this point, even the countries in the region are kind of fearful of taking action because, if you touch this hornet's nest, what will happen next?

Let's say, if Assad goes, a lot of fear that the next thing that could happen in Syria could be another Iran. And, so, they're -- you know, everybody's holding back and they say it's a terrible situation. But what you're going to see -- you know, are you going to see some type of military action? It could take a while.

BALDWIN: It's one thing to hear these harsh words, the drumbeat of abuse, and quite another to actually take action.

Jill Dougherty following the situation out of Syria for us at the State Department -- Jill, thank you.

And then there's this whole other story. I'm sure you have about it, this blog. It was the Gay Girl in Damascus blog. So the trials and the tribulations of this lesbian writer turned out to be total fantasy, the words of a 40-year-old married American man who claims he just wanted a Western audience to care about the story in Syria.

There is a reporter who had a hunch this whole thing was a hoax, didn't give up, cracked this story. That is NPR's Andy Carvin. He's going to join me a little bit later to talk me through about why this seemed fishy to him and what's next.

Plus, did you hear -- I think you have -- about this little event we're hosting in New Hampshire tonight? Take a look at this video. This is kind of cool. This is our time-lapse video. This is inside this hall where tonight's GOP presidential debate will be happening.

Jessica Yellin will be here momentarily to talk to me about who these seven people are who we will be seeing on stage this evening and why most of them are already ganging up on one Mitt Romney.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: As of today, it's really starting to feel like a presidential race. Tonight is the big night in New Hampshire, seven Republicans squaring off in the first major debate of the presidential primary season.

Jessica Yellin is there for us. You know her. She's our national political correspondent.

And, Jessica, is it time? Is this ready, set, go for real now, 2012?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I just was over at the debate site. And I have to tell you, Brooke, it looked like it's election season all over again. It looked like the big time. I took a picture on my BlackBerry and I thought of tweeting it, but I'm really scared of Twitpics these days, so I'm not sending it.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: Very funny.

YELLIN: But, yes, this is the beginning.

BALDWIN: Well, obviously, there's a lot of people who will be watching tonight. We're going to have to see if Tim Pawlenty goes after Mitt Romney, and also Romney considered really, seeing the polls, a front-runner. In fact, he is aiming his attacks -- we heard him when he announced back in New Hampshire, right? He's aiming his attacks directly to President Obama.

Also, Pawlenty seems to want to position himself as Romney's top rival. So is that -- Jessica, is that what you will be watching for, whether we see Pawlenty going after Romney?

YELLIN: I think that will be one of the key storylines that we will watch for tonight. All of the candidates, no doubt, will be taking some aim at Mitt Romney because he is the nominal front-runner at this point.

What Tim Pawlenty has said is, he's pointed out that Mitt Romney passed this Romneycare -- what they're terming Romneycare, now Obamneycare, a health care measure that was so similar to the one President Obama passed.

I think we have that sound bite. If you want to play it for a minute, we can talk about it.

BALDWIN: Yes. Let's roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM PAWLENTY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you don't have to take my word for it. You can take President Obama's word for it. President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare. And so we now have...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So -- OK, so why is this relevant? Two big things, Brooke. One is, Tim Pawlenty is sort of considered by thought leaders, Washington Republican operatives the likely sort of favorite establishment Republican if Mitt Romney should stumble and lose the front-runner status.

So, he would theoretically have the most to gain. And this is an opportunity to show that Mitt Romney endorsed, in the Pawlenty people's view, a plan that embraces big-government values that in their view is very similar to the kind of big-government values that President Obama embraced that are so unpopular with the Republican voters.

So they're trying to point out that contrast without seeming like they're too critical of a fellow Republican, which is a danger in itself.

BALDWIN: OK. So that is Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney. We're going to have five ore participants up there in New Hampshire with you tonight.

And I'm going give you 15 seconds, Jessica Yellin.

YELLIN: Yes.

BALDWIN: I want you to run through them, tell me who they are, what they need to do.

YELLIN: Oh. Is there a clock?

BALDWIN: We're going to do a little free association. So, here we go.

Newt Gingrich, 15 seconds. Go.

YELLIN: Gingrich just lost his whole staff, has to go up there, remind voters why they like him, which is that he's got a lot of passion, he's got a lot of ideas, but also have to point out that he can get things done. He can hire people and implement. That's the big challenge.

BALDWIN: Ron Paul. Go.

YELLIN: Ron Paul, favorite son. He -- the entire Republican universe has moved to embrace his views on debt, on spending. His big challenge will be, is he still the main guy now that there are so many others who are espousing his views? Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann will also be sharing his sort of positions. So, he will have a little competition in that corridor.

BALDWIN: OK. You mentioned Herman Cain. Herman Cain. Go.

YELLIN: Herman Cain. He is entertaining. He will come out of tonight with a lot of people who didn't know him talking about him.

The rap on him is that he's a guy that voters overwhelmingly think communicates effectively, says a message that makes sense. People tend to like him. I think that he will probably, unless there's a big stumble, have a lot of new fans tomorrow.

BALDWIN: Two more. I have got former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum from the state of P.A. Who is he?

YELLIN: Santorum, he was a former U.S. senator. And his main message is about social issues. He also talks about the fiscal issues. But his area of comfort and what makes him unique is his focus on issues like abortion, issues like gay marriage. And to the extent he can draw the conversation to his comfort zone, he will stand out.

BALDWIN: And, finally, the sole woman, not declared, as you well know, Michele Bachmann.

YELLIN: Right.

BALDWIN: What does she have to do?

YELLIN: For her, the challenge will be to show that she can hold her own up there by staying off -- she's going to be off-script and has to be on-message and talk about issues that aren't always her Tea Party message, but mix it up on the economy, mix it up on some non-social issues.

She's known for her social issues as well. But she has a very ardent following within a small, narrow sector of conservative voters. So she has to try to broaden her appeal.

BALDWIN: Whew. Bravo, Jessica Yellin.

YELLIN: Did I get it in, in time?

BALDWIN: I smell a new segment, free association with Jessica Yellin. You are good, girl. You're good.

YELLIN: Do I get a prize?

BALDWIN: I will think of something. I will think of something. I will tweet it to you.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: OK.

BALDWIN: Jessica Yellin, thank you so much.

Let's remind everyone, don't forget to watch the debate. Jessica ran down all these folks you will be seeing from 8:00 Eastern tonight only here on CNN.

Coming up next, heart-wrenching testimony today in this Casey Anthony trial -- a forensic examiner describing what is believed to be a heart-shaped sticker found on the remains of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony.

Plus, some good news about gas prices -- top stories next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: An outline in the shape of a heart found on the duct tape that covered 2-year-old Caylee Anthony's mouth, an FBI expert testified about this today as the prosecution is preparing to wrap up its murder case against Caylee Anthony's mother, Casey Anthony.

We are waiting to see who prosecutors will call as their final witness. That, keep in mind, happens tomorrow. The defense could start its presentation this coming Thursday. And the judge says the jury could get the case in less than two weeks.

Our favorite legal contributor, Sunny Hostin, she's going to join me next with some of her insights. That'll be coming up next hour.

Forty years to the day after Daniel Ellsberg leaked them to "The New York Times" the Pentagon Papers are fully declassified, now open to you, to the public. The papers were a secret 7,000-page study of the Vietnam War. They revealed that the government lied to Congress and the American people about how the war was going. And, until today, only edited and redacted versions of the Pentagon Papers have been published. At the time -- the entire report is online. Go to the National Archives' Web site.

And you can buy an extra souvenir on your summer vacation. Gas prices, yes, they are down. And they are expected to continue to fall. The Lundberg Survey finds the average price of a gallon of self-served regular has dropped 17 cents in the last three weeks. It is now sitting at $3.74 a gallon. And survey publisher Trilby Lundberg says three things to keep -- three things that will keep pushing gas prices down, I should say, number one, an oversupply of gasoline, two, weak demand, and, three, an expected production increase by Saudi Arabia.

Coming up next: the roller coaster ride that is this huge Arizona wildfire. Look at that smoke. It still continues to burn, just 10 percent contained. They got a break for just a little while this weekend. Homeowners were able to go back, check in on their houses. But now the situation has taken a turn again. We're going to fill you in.

And then, why Anthony Weiner's sexting habits cannot be compared to those of a bored housewife. I didn't say that. Wendy Walsh did. And she is ahead with her insight on human behavior and narcissism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: All right, crews there still out there, they're still battling those wildfires that are raging in Arizona. It's called the Wallow fire. It is considered now the second biggest wildfire ever recorded in Arizona state history.

And as I said a moment ago, it's only 10 percent contained.

Jacqui Jeras is with me today. She's tracking these fires, the weather conditions.

I guess one bit of silver lining, it was once zero percent contained for a number of days.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right.

BALDWIN: At least we have the 10 now, but still red-flagged.

JERAS: Yes, still concerns out there for today. The 10 percent is huge. This is huge progress compared to what we were dealing with last week.

BALDWIN: Yes. JERAS: But today those winds have kicked up a little bit and they're gusting around 30 miles per hour, along with that low humidity. So, conditions are still critical.

And the biggest concern about today is that more of that spotting could occur, so new fires as embers get blown by those winds. But they have been finding and have been building these fire containment lines. There you can see the firefighters have been out there. They have been cutting down some of this brush. They're doing a lot of mop-up now, which means they get those hot spots that are still kind of burning and still kind of very hot in those areas.

The good news is that some people have been allowed to return home now in Springerville, as well as into Eagar. However, they're warning people, if you go home, it's still really dangerous because the air quality is so poor. They're also a little bit concerned about the quality of the water.

So, you might want to be boiling that if you are going home. They're saying only do it if you absolutely have to.

Want to mention this is the second largest wildfire, like you said, Brooke. But it's very close now to becoming the third. One another thing I want to point out is, I just want to show how successful the firefighters have been in saving some of these towns. We have had 29 homes that have been damaged, four businesses and about 35 buildings, so like that's outbuildings and sheds and farms and things like that.

But look at this red area. That's the outline of the 700 square miles which have burned now. That's the equivalent of like Los Angeles and Chicago combined, completely burned down.

But look at this. There, you can see Alpine is doing OK, Nutrioso doing OK. So, they really have done a great job protecting some of these cities. And hopefully they will continue to make progress, wind conditions improving by tomorrow.

BALDWIN: Thank goodness. At least we have the 10 percent, and it will gradually, gradually go up and up and up.

JERAS: Yes.

BALDWIN: Jacqui Jeras, keep us posted on that.

And now to a story -- I tell you what. I was in D.C. over the weekend. And everyone was talking about this. Even President Obama joining in today has something to say about Anthony Weiner and this whole sexting scandal. We heard from the White House spokesperson today, who says the president thinks this whole thing is a distraction and that Weiner's behavior was inappropriate.

In fact, many top Democrats in Congress are now flat-out saying he's got to go. And they said that, by the way, before these latest pictures surfaced publicly. Have you seen these? These are from TMZ.com. They appear to show Weiner in the House gym. So, is this just, you know, quintessential narcissism? I'm going to speak with a psychologist, human behavior expert Wendy Walsh, in just a moment.

But I do want to get the latest reporting here, the news out of this today.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, been running all over Capitol Hill.

Dana, I know, as you and I have been corresponding via e-mail, you're getting some new information on these calls to resign from both parties and also some interesting details, some color about Weiner's emotional state.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

Well, obviously, the big news over the weekend were -- was the fact that Democratic leaders, in a coordinated hit effectively, said publicly that Anthony Weiner should resign. I spoke to somebody, Democratic source who spoke to Anthony Weiner after that broke, who said that he is still -- was still at that point on the fence -- quote -- "on the fence" about whether he was going to step down, even though the hammer had been dropped on him big-time, because he's saying privately he had still believed that he didn't do anything to break House rules.

And on his emotional state, very interesting and obviously very sad...

BALDWIN: Yes.

BASH: ... because I am told by sources that -- who've talked to him, they describe him as in a state of -- quote -- "despair," emotional despair, and also turbulent.

I have spoken to several people who have been in touch with him, at least until before -- until he went to this treatment center, who said that they really couldn't get through a conversation with him without him breaking down several times. He is in a very, very bad place as you can imagine.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So that is where he is emotionally. But we've got to get back to politics here. We know as you mentioned some top Democrats were already saying, you mentioned through the weekend, in fact yesterday morning, he has to go. Is there really more they can do? Let's listen here. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic Party. This is what she said yesterday morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: At the end of the day a member of Congress makes their own decision. That's certainly going to be up to Anthony Weiner. But we have made it clear that he needs to resign. He needs to focus on getting his own personal issues in order. Focus on his family and do the right thing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So now what, Dana?

BASH: Now what, they're still waiting in the democratic leadership. The number two Democrat, Steny Hoyer, told us today they're waiting to see what he decides. There are two options. One is to strip him of his committee assignments. Another is to kick him out of the democratic caucus. Neither of these, we're told, are actively being discussed yet because they're kind of still waiting a couple of days.

But the question is, what is he going to decide? You know, Brooke, we had talked about last week about the fact that I'd heard that he was telling his colleagues that he wanted to wait until his wife, Huma, returned to make the final decision. The source I talked to who spoke to Weiner told me that specifically he said that he wants to be able to, quote, look her in the eye and discuss whether or not this is the right thing to do because he has hurt her so much. He was telling his colleagues that she was saying that she wanted him to stay. Whether that is a delaying tactic or whether that is real really remains to be seen.

BALDWIN: That would be a very, very difficult conversation. Dana Bash, do me a favor and stay right there. We also want to continue this conversation. Got to get a break in.

Also standing by is psychologist Wendy Walsh. We're bringing her back, wanting to ask her two things. Is Weiner a helpless narcissist and why don't we ever hear about the ladies, the female lawmakers involved in these kind of scandals. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: A lot of us keep asking the same question about this story. What is it that drives someone so successful in his professional life to make such bad choices in his personal life? I have Wendy Walsh standing by to help us figure this one out. She's a Psychologist, human behavior expert. Wendy, thank you for coming back. Also Dana Bash is standing by on Capitol Hill to join the conversation here as well.

Wendy, let me start with you. I want to begin with the fact that congressman Anthony Weiner is going to rehab. We don't have a lot of details about what specifically that is. Let me ask you this. Is it a real effort, he's going, taking this leave, going to rehab? Is this a real effort to deal with this problem or is it just sort of a quick Band-Aid solution, saving face?

WENDY WALSH, HUMAN BEHAVIOR EXPERT: I'm a big believer, of course, that all therapy is good therapy. It can be helpful. We all need some time of personal growth. So if this is the impetus that gets him there, great. Let's see if he can do some work there. It's also a way to save face. Let's face it. This guy wants to change his image.

But the problem is, and the reason why he's sticking to his guns about not resigning is that sexting or sending frisky e-mails is just so common and so popular. And he knows that enough people are going to support him because he didn't break any laws.

BALDWIN: What we're hearing as Dana Bash has been reporting, people from his own party and now we're hearing even from the White House today saying, look, this is a distraction, the fact that he is not yet resigning. Let's talk about the "n" word which is narcissism. Is this just the perfect case of quintessential narcissism here?

WALSH: You're asking me or Dana?

BALDWIN: You, Wendy Walsh.

WALSH: OK. Well, I think to some degree it is but I think the internet provides people this illusion of privacy. It provides them with a lot of opportunity to have these text relationships with people. And this weird illusion that it's just a private relationship. People forget that it is set in stone forever. And while of course you have to have a good degree of narcissism just to get the job he's in, maybe that's a piece of it.

BALDWIN: Dana Bash, I want you to respond first. We hear of all this high profile men in political scandals, hardly any female lawmaker. There was a recent article "New York times" in the. They talk about how women have different reasons for running, quote, "Women run for office to do something. Men run for office to be somebody." Dana Bash, what has the reaction been among female -- among congresswoman with regard to this scandal that's erupted?

BASH: Well, it's very interesting. First of all, I will tell you that somebody asked me over the weekend, Brooke, about the fact that two leading women, Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the fact that they came down and said Anthony Weiner should resign, should we take anything from that, I said we should take from that that women are in the highest positions possible at least in the Democratic Party and that's interesting.

What are they saying? As you can imagine, Brooke, nobody would say this even close to on the record or at all, but private conversations with some female lawmakers, some eye rolling, some shrugging of the shoulders saying what is it with these guys? Why is it that guy after guy after guy gets in situations like this? You know, women are certainly walking around here with a lot of powerful positions and it's not happening to them.

BALDWIN: Look, Wendy, I'll give you the last word. I don't want to take men to task here. Women are guilty as well, perhaps not necessarily in the same capacity on Capitol Hill, but we flirt with breaking the rules and we break the rules as well. Why is it that we keep seeing man after man after man publicly?

WALSH: Two reasons. Of course, we're all e-mails and sending frisky e-mails to each other. There's a world of difference between a public figure and a bored housewife who's sending pervy e-mails to her high school sweetheart. That is that he's a public figure and he's voted in. So there is a gender divide for sure in this. Men believe sexting is not cheating because they have an ability to compartmentalize and keep sex as a separate thing. Women, of course, know that that's a relationship, that there's another person at the other end of that keyboard. And I would bet my bottom dollar on the fact that a bunch of those women pictured themselves the future first lady of New York City. Trust me, women go into this to find relationships. Men go into it to find sex.

BALDWIN: Ladies, I wish we could keep going, but we can't. Wendy Walsh and Dana Bash, I appreciate you both. Fascinating conversation.

Moving on, it turns out it was all a hoax. Turns out there is no gay girl in Damascus after all. Did you read the blog? In fact, there's no girl at all. You know the blogger who got so much attention when she reportedly disappeared in Syria last week. It turns out she is actually a he, an American man studying in Scotland. I'm going to talk to the reporter who cracked this case. Join me, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: It is a real lesson for the digital age. Online people can be anyone they pretend to be. I want you to listen to this. An American writer Thomas McMasters, here he is in this broadband interview, he made up a whole identity. He purported to be a gay Syrian woman.

The world was enraptured by this blog. He called it "A Gay Girl in Damascus." His fake identity, he called himself, or I should say herself, Amina inspired readers who followed along as she joined these protests against Syria's leaders and took personal risks like having romances with women.

It all turned out to be a big lie or if you check the -- if you check the blog today it is a big hoax. People are furious now, all kinds of fallout today. Some in the gay community say Tom McMasters risked their own safety and harmed their own cause.

And the journalist who really helped uncover this whole thing is this guy, Andy Carbon. He is a senior strategist over at NPR. Andy, it is a pleasure to have you on. We've been following your twitter. We've got to get this guy on. So many journalists chased this story down the rabbit hole. Not you, Andy. When did you start smelling something fishy?

ANDY CARVIN, SENIOR STRATEGIST, NPR: It was a crazy week. I was never really a full-time reader of the blog, though I certainly knew of it. There aren't many high-profile bloggers coming out of Syria let alone doing it in English. She drew a lot of attention. Just the name alone, "A Gay Girl in Damascus" is going to be a compelling read. As it turns out she was a good writer as well.

But not too long after word got out on Monday that supposedly she had been kidnapped, I began hearing from sources of mine in the Syrian community including some gay Syrians. And not only were they skeptical of her stories, they weren't totally convinced she existed either. So I just started asking questions on twitter and Facebook. Have any of you met her in person? Do you know her at all? The more I asked, the less I learned, because no one had met her, not even the reporters who had supposedly interviewed her in person. They hadn't done that either. It was all done through text relationships only.

BALDWIN: Alas, she is a he, Tom McMaster, a 40-year-old American posting under this Amina since 2006. Seems to me reading his apology today, you know, he's a fiction writer, a wannabe fiction writer perhaps with a pension for Middle Eastern issue. What have you learned about him? By the way, what have you also learned about the photo? Who is this woman? Who is she?

CARVIN: Well, let's start with that. As the story began to unravel early last week, the "Wall Street Journal" and other news organizations started reporting that there was this woman in London, a Croatian woman whose ex-husband saw the photo on a Web site after Amina had been quote, unquote, "kidnapped." He alerted Amina and she started contacting news organizations saying take my face off of websites. That's me.

BALDWIN: Zero connection to this whole story.

CARVIN: Zero connection. Possibly -- from what we can tell, Tom McMaster is originally from the Atlanta area. He's currently studying at the University of Edinburgh. Over the last five years he was interested in doing this online experiment, trying to push the boundaries between truth and fiction. And it just grew and grew and grew. Now we have Amina essentially fooling everyone who had followed her up to this point.

BALDWIN: I know you have dissected this guy sort of inside out. His execution was poor and his intentions were good. I listened to the interview. I also read part of the mea culpa on the blog. He said" My intentions were good. I got carried away. I owe apologies to those I hurt and will do all in my power to make things right. I only wanted to set forth real information through the use of artfully crafted fiction. I was too successful and too caught up in what I was doing. I ignored the consequences of my actions."

Here's my question to you. His intentions really were to illuminate the story of the Syrians for a western audience. Do you think at all he makes the point given the fact that Syria, let's be honest, not always above the fold?

CARVIN: I think that is an important point. News organizations around the world are struggling to get quality information out of Syria. This seemed to have started as an experiment. In some ways he just ended up in a very lucky situation, from his point of view, at least, that Syria suddenly found itself in the middle of a rebellion. And so he upped the ante and created a blog around this character.

It certainly brought attention to Syria. But it also brought a lot of people at risk. Because there are protesters all over the country, especially members of the local gay community, who spent the last week very, very scared that this was some form of intelligence op or something else that could have gotten them killed. BALDWIN: Andy Carvin, fascinating article on your Web site, NPR. You can follow Andy at @acarvin to read through the deconstruction of this blog. Thank you so much.

CARVIN: Thanks for having me, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, they're calling them the dirty dozen, the 12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides. Can you guess which one tops the list? I had one of these just yesterday. Here are a couple of choices. You have spinach, grapes, apples, and celery. We'll have the answer for you after the break.

Plus, we have a music Monday treat for you.

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BALDWIN: Do you remember early this month the government replaced the old food pyramid with a dinner plate. It also said you're supposed to fill half of that plate with servings of fruits and vegetables. But here's the thing. A new report by the Environmental Working Group says many of those fruits and veggies are loaded with pesticides. The group said the biggest offender they found this year was apples. It replaced celery, which topped last year's list. The study found that 92 percent of apples contain two pesticides.

So coming up next our, we're going to talk Senior Medical Correspondent with Elizabeth Cohen. She'll walk me through which fruits and vegetables are the cleanest and what you can do to minimize your exposure. That's coming up in half an hour from now.

So what happens when you bring together 100,000 people for four days in the scorching heat in Tennessee to watch more than 120 bands rock out. One word -- Bonnaroo. It has become one of the country's top music festivals, and it just celebrated its tenth anniversary. The folks you see there is just as eclectic as the music. It is trending on this music Monday.

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BILL BAILEY, COMEDIAN: Hi. I'm Bill Bailey. I'm a comedian from London. This is my first Bonnaroo. It's awesome. It's a freakazoid bonanza of love and good vibes.

GRACE POTTER, GRACE POTTER AND THE NOCTURNALS: Bonnaroo to me is a city on wheels. It's a place where everybody can, you know, pull in and al of a sudden becomes a part of something. It's Disneyland for music fans you have to really devote yourself. We're having fun on the bayou

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MAVIS STAPLES, MUSICIAN: I just feel so good when I come to Bonnaroo. It's a festival about love and music.

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BALDWIN: How fun is that? Quick special shout-out and my sincerest thanks to producer Jason Morris and photojournalist Jerry Appleton who spent the weekend -- tough gig, guys -- in Manchester, Tennessee, to bring us that piece. I just interviewed Mumford and Sons last night. We'll bring that to you on another music Monday.

Coming up next, Wolf Blitzer. He is in New Hampshire getting ready for tonight's GOP debate. I'll ask him what topics does he think will cause the most fireworks tonight. And then testimony at the Casey Anthony murder trial focuses on the shape of a heart found underneath duct tape on little Caylee's mouth. Be right back.

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BALDWIN: Let's go to Wolf Blitzer live in New Hampshire getting ready for the big GOP debate tonight on CNN. Wolf, we know it's six men, one woman. What should we be looking for?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": One of the things I'm going to be looking for. I know all of them are going to be pouncing, going after President Obama. That goes without saying. I'm going to see how tough they are on the front-runner here in New Hampshire. That would clearly be the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney who's basically a native son now in New Hampshire. He lives here now. He's very popular here. I want to see how tough they are in going after him.

Another thing I'm going to be looking for is Newt Gingrich, how does he come out of the disaster, almost all of his senior staff quitting on him after coming back from that cruise to the Mediterranean. Those two points right there, how tough everyone is on Mitt Romney and how Newt Gingrich gets out of this political mess he's in. Can he make a comeback? I'll be watching those two points with keen interest.

BALDWIN: As these Republican hopefuls square off, do we know where president Obama will be tonight? Will he still be in Florida?

BLITZER: Yes, he's raising a ton of money right now. Even though he has no democratic opposition right now, unlike four years ago when he was challenged not only by Hillary Clinton, but a lot of other Democrats and he had almost 50 primaries and caucus states contests that he had to fight through. He raised about $700 million last time around.

This time he wants to raise $1 billion -- that according to his campaign advisers -- even though he doesn't have any primary challenges, any caucus challengers. So he's very busy going to all these fundraisers, raising money from rich men and women, not so much from not so rich. And then of course he's working on the web to generate as much money as he can. But his campaign thinks he'll need $1 billion. And let's see how he does.