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Romney's Bullying Controversy; Interview With Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank; Examining "Gay Therapy"

Aired May 11, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with a vague hypothetical apology from Mitt Romney about an incident almost 50 years ago that he says he doesn't even remember. Romney was in North Carolina today trying to shift focus back to the economy with a speech at a manufacturing plant. It's a speech in which he used the word future at least four times.

But it is Romney's past, his very distant past, actually, all the way back to his teenage years, that got the headlines. It is today's front page of "The Washington Post," "Romney's Pranks Could Go Too Far," an article that paints a young Mitt Romney as remembered by his classmates as frankly something of a bully.

Romney was asked about it in North Carolina today.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think I was one who did some stupid things in high school, and if anyone feels that they were offended by that, I certainly apologize for that.


COOPER: Well, the stupid thing in question, the one getting all the attention, concerns a student at the Michigan prep school Romney attended, a student named John Lauber who was reportedly relentlessly teased for his presumed homosexuality and for having long bleach blond hair.

Five of Romney's classmates told "The Washington Post" what they remembered about a day in 1965, a day that -- quote -- "They came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors."

Now, the story broke yesterday when "The Washington Post" posted it online ahead of today's print edition. We did not talk about it last night on this program, frankly, because we had questions about how valid it is to bring up something someone did nearly 50 years ago when they were in high school.

Those questions, though, have not gone away. So we will let you decide for yourself tonight whether this story itself is relevant to a presidential campaign or not.

What we want to focus on, though, is Romney's response to the story. We heard what he said in North Carolina today, apologizing -- quote -- "if anyone feels that they were offended."

But, on FOX News yesterday, Romney said even more, including a response to accusations that the incident amounted to gay bullying since the victim was thought to be gay. Take a look.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had no idea what that individual's sexual orientation might be.

Going back to the 1960s, that wasn't something that we all discussed or considered. So that's -- that's simply just not accurate. I don't recall the incident myself, but I have seen the reports, and not going to argue with that. There is no question but that I did some stupid things when I was in high school. And, obviously, if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I would be very sorry and apologize for it.


COOPER: So, Romney says he doesn't remember the incident. Five of Romney's classmates remembered it well enough to go into great detail to "The Washington Post" in separate accounts all these years later.

We can't ask John Lauber to corroborate the details. "The Post" reports his sister says he died in 2004.

Now, obviously, memories can fail. There's no disputing that or the fact that a lot of people do stupid things in high school. Romney's far from alone in that admission. What seems contradictory in Romney's statement, however, saying on the one hand he does not recall the incident and on the other hand recalling that he had no idea whether John Lauber's sexual orientation was -- what the sexual orientation was perceived to be back then.

As for Romney saying he's sorry if anyone is hurt or offended, can we retire that kind of apology? It's basically "I'm sorry if you were offended" apology, which we hear time and time again. It makes it a non-apology, a completely watered-down way to say you're sorry that makes it seem like you're not really sorry, even though you may be.

Most people see right through it because we have heard it before, a lot of times. Listen.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm sorry that there is at least one of my colleagues that can't take a joke. And so I apologize if I offended him.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: If anybody is offended, I deeply apologize.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I'm sorry if I offended a congressman.

HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I apologize if it offended anyone.

COOPER: And if I did really offend you, I am sorry.


COOPER: Yes. I have sort of been guilty of myself. And, for that, I apologize.

A lot to talk about, though.

I spoke with CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN contributor Erick Erickson, editor in chief of, and CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville.


COOPER: James, this is something that allegedly happened 50 years ago. Should there be a statute of limitations on things that happened to candidates when they were in high school or even college?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I guess so. Look, things happened in the '60s that certainly wouldn't be acceptable now, this being one of them.

But I don't find -- what I found kind of troubling was his response. All his responses are kind of predictable and political. And I probably would have a -- been able to give him a little bit better response.

But I don't think this is going to be a big issue between now and the end of the election. The thing I would -- only caveat is people are going to start looking for other stories like this. That's always the result of this.

COOPER: To you, his response, what, that -- that he doesn't remember it, but it wasn't anything about whether or not the guy was gay and he's sorry if somebody was offended?

CARVILLE: Right. And then he's sorry if it happened.

And if something like this happened -- I'm a little bit older than Romney -- I would have remembered something like this in high school. That's not -- you would -- that's something that you wouldn't forget. And the idea that the response is just so parsed and so political and so predictable, well, I don't remember it happening, but, boy, if it did happen, I feel bad about it, I'm sorry for it, that just doesn't seem like a very good response.

Now, it is not the end of days. It's just like his response when Rush Limbaugh called that woman a bad word. He says, well, I wouldn't have said that. Just everything that he does just oozes predictability and just politics. It would be kind of different if he had a different take on something, other than a predictable take. COOPER: Erick, A., is this in way a valid story, and, B., what do you think of his response? Do you believe that he didn't remember?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I think the story -- yes, I think the story is B.S. And I think his response is the response you give when you think a story is B.S. given by a bunch of people who "The Washington Post" danced around the fact they're all largely Democrats now and they're not going to vote for Romney.

And one of the guys told another magazine that "The Washington Post" failed to respond that he hadn't liked Mitt Romney since Mitt Romney refused to give him a car ride when they were 16 years old.

COOPER: But the Romney campaign, though, is not denying this story. You're saying it is B.S. They're not saying it is B.S. They're just saying, well, I don't remember.

ERICKSON: Oh, I think it is absolutely B.S.

Well, of course they don't want to say. He doesn't remember it, so they want to say it's -- that he doesn't remember it, because then, of course, "The Washington Post" begins the infamous reporter tactic of dribbling things out and trying to make it sound like there is something there, when I don't think there is something there.

COOPER: But, Erick, I mean, if it was something that happened, do you believe he wouldn't remember it? If somebody held somebody else down, cut their hair, do you think that is something that would be remembered?

ERICKSON: Oh, if it happened, he would absolutely remember that. Everybody remembers things like that from when they're in high school.

COOPER: Gloria, what do you make of this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think what is relevant here -- and we have no way of knowing, you know, did Mitt Romney really remember, didn't he remember -- what is really relevant here is how he talks -- to me, is how he talks about it now.

That's how people make decisions when they vote about a candidate's character. And the way he's been talking about it is just odd to me, because he could say, you know, I don't remember it. When I was a teenager, I was kind of a jerk sometimes, and what were regarded as pranks then are completely abhorrent now. And if this did occur, I'm horrified by it. I would never want a child of mine to behave that -- to behave that way.

And use it as a teachable moment to say, I'm against all forms of bullying, it is unacceptable to me, it should be unacceptable in this country.

COOPER: Erick, go ahead.

ERICKSON: Well, James would be familiar with this back in 1992, when the George H.W. Bush campaign decided they wanted to run on Bill Clinton being a draft dodger, a womanizer, not being a good governor of Arkansas, and all sorts of things.

And the Bill Clinton campaign kept the focus on the economy. And the question for me is, will Mitt Romney be able to keep the focus on the economy this time around?

CARVILLE: Well, you know what? I think -- because I remember that campaign fairly well.


CARVILLE: And when we had the draft dodger story, we had a press conference right there. We took out an ad in the paper. Bill Clinton went on "60 Minutes." We dealt with it.

And compare this to the Jeremiah Wright story, and President Obama goes right out -- or then Senator Obama -- and deals with it. Every time that something comes up -- look, if a Democrat did this, I would still vote for him. This is not like a voting issue.

BORGER: Well...

CARVILLE: But what it is, insight to Romney, is, I don't remember it, but, if it did, it didn't happen, and he could have done something along the lines that what Gloria talked about, or something that Joe talked about in his column.

Just everything -- it is -- everything is so weaselly and parsed and political. And that's all. It is not the kind of event itself, you know?


BORGER: Remember George W. Bush's response on the DUI story, right, which came in the 11th hour of the campaign. And if I recall, it was when I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.

CARVILLE: Young and irresponsible.

BORGER: I don't think -- I don't think that explanation would sit today. Do you?

CARVILLE: Well, it's better than the one that Romney gave.


COOPER: Well, there is a difference...

CARVILLE: It's not good.



COOPER: To some people, there is a difference between something, you know, somebody does to themselves...

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: ... and something, you know, a physical act somebody does to somebody else.

BORGER: Absolutely. Absolutely.


BORGER: Totally agree.

CARVILLE: Yes, I don't think -- yes, again, I go back, and my point is that the actual what he did is abhorrent and this is people's lives -- but people, when -- 50 years ago. It was in high school.

I just think in -- I just think the response is illustrative of something not very good. That's what I take away from it.

ERICKSON: Well, I think it is the response you give when you don't believe the story.

CARVILLE: Well, then say -- say it's not true.

BORGER: Or -- or when you want to end the story, one or the other.

ERICKSON: Yes, that, too.

COOPER: All right, Erick, James, Gloria, thank you.



COOPER: Also today, Mitt Romney talked more about his views on same- sex adoption. And for a candidate who gets dinged by his opponent for flip-flopping, this probably won't help.

Listen to what he said in an interview with WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he was asked how his opposition to same-sex marriage squares with his support for gay adoptions.


ROMNEY: Well, actually, I think all states but one allow gay adoption. So that's a position which has been decided by most of the state legislators and -- legislatures, rather, including the one in my state some time ago. So I simply acknowledge the fact that gay adoption is legal in all states but one.


COOPER: So he's not saying whether or not he supports it there. He's simply saying he's acknowledging where gay adoption is legal. Just yesterday, though, Romney seemed to go farther, suggesting that he does support. Here is what he said on FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: And if two people of the same gender want to live together, want to have a loving relationship, and even want to adopt a child -- in my state, individuals of the same sex were able to adopt children. In my view, that's something which people have the right to do. But to call that marriage, is, in my view, a departure from the real meaning of that word.


COOPER: Well, back in 2005, Romney seemed to oppose the idea of same- sex couples raising kids. At an event in South Carolina, he said -- quote -- "Today, same-sex couples are marrying under the law in Massachusetts. Some are actually having children born to them. We have been asked to change their birth certificates to remove the phrase mother and father and replace it with parent A. and parent B. It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child deserves to have a mother and a father."

Also new tonight, an indication of how President Obama's announcement supporting same-sex marriage is sitting with voters. The first national poll since the president's comments has just been released. In the Gallup poll, 13 percent said the president's support for same- sex marriage makes them more likely to vote for him; 26 percent said less likely; 60 percent said no difference.

California could soon be the first state to put serious restrictions on the controversial practice of trying to change someone's sexual orientation. A "360 Follow" on the impact this therapy had on some former patients coming up.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google+. Should this story about what Romney allegedly did 50 years ago in high school, should it matter to voters? Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. Let's tweet about this right now. Let me know what you think.

Up next: a shocking confession from J.P. Morgan Chase. The bank lost $2 billion in a risky bet. Didn't the banks learn anything from the financial meltdown five years ago? We will talk to Congressman Barney Frank next.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight: some very serious questions about whether this country's biggest banks learned anything from the fiasco that brought this country to its knees five years ago.

J.P. Morgan Chase, America's largest bank, has made a pretty shocking confession. It lost a whopping $2 billion over the past six weeks, $2 billion. The massive loss stems from the very risky bets, the same kind that cratered the economy in 2007.

So, have the banks learned anything? Investors seemed to ask the same question today, as shares of J.P. Morgan Chase fell 9 percent. The Dow also tanked when the markets opened, rebounded, but closed down nearly 35 points. The debacle by J.P. Morgan is so bad that CEO Jamie Dimon held an after-hours conference call Thursday with reporters and industry analysts. Listen.


JAMIE DIMON, CHAIRMAN, J.P. MORGAN CHASE: We have had teams from audit, legal, risk and various control functions, all from corporate, involved in an extensive review of what happened. We have more work to do, but it is obvious at this point that we -- there are many errors, sloppiness and bad judgment.


COOPER: CEO Jamie Dimon admitting errors, sloppiness and bad judgment, finally, a confession from him.

"Keeping Them Honest," though, Dimon downplayed concerns just last month, calling the buzz about potential losses a tempest in a teapot. It's quite a big teapot right there.

We wanted to talk about this with Congressman Barney Frank.

Dimon and executives at other banks have been furiously lobbying lawmakers and regulators to weaken a new rule scheduled to take effect this summer. It's called the Volcker rule. And it aims to end risky trading by banks for their own profit. The rule is part of the Dodd- Frank Act passed after the financial meltdown.

The bill was co-sponsored by Democratic Congressman Barney Frank.

I spoke to him earlier.


COOPER: Congressman Frank, is this a specter of the repeat of the financial crisis of 2008?

FRANK: No, because we have things in place that will prevent that from happening.

It is a reminder, however, that it was important that we adopt the rules we have adopted that mean 2008 can't happen again or very -- it's very unlikely to happen again. And it's a refutation of the argument of those who said, oh, you overreacted, we know what we're doing.

COOPER: The CEO of J.P. Morgan, Jamie Dimon, who is one of the fiercest critics of the law that you co-authored, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which essentially puts tighter regulations on Wall Street, actually argued the law likely cost his bank up to $600 million a year.

I just want to play something he said in the conference call last night about the company's losses.


DIMON: We operate in a risk business. And obviously it puts egg on our face and we deserve any criticism we get. So feel free to give it to us. And we will probably agree with you. But we think we run a good company, with pretty good controls and pretty good risk management. We're not in a business where we're not going to make mistakes. It is very unfortunate.

It plays right into all the hands of a bunch of pundits out there. But that's life.


COOPER: What is your take on his explanation?

FRANK: Well, first, I want to say, to a certain extent, he's right. He's a good CEO and it is a well-run bank. That's precisely why we need regulation. In other words, what he's telling us is, even in a very well-run institution, as his is, unlike a kind of a rogue operation like Countrywide, these kind of mistakes will happen.

That's why we have safety nets. That's why we say to him, you have to hold more capital than you would have on your own because these mistakes will happen. That's why we say when you're engaged in these derivative trades, we want the people you were trading with to post margins, so if somebody can't make it up, we don't have all these kinds of problems.

Secondly, I would say -- and you quoted the right figure -- "The Economist," the British magazine "The Economist" joining in this criticism of how we have over-regulated these guys, said, you know what, it's going to cost J.P. Morgan Chase $400 million to $600 million a year, as if that was an enormous sum. Well, they just lost $2 billion. They just lost about five times that -- or four times that -- through their own errors.

What it shows is that, in fact, if we have made them spend $400 million to $600 million a year in the first year, where it costs more to set these things up, to comply, and save billions of dollars in losses, that's a pretty good deal.

COOPER: For a lot of people that don't follow this as closely as you do, can you explain how a big bank like J.P. Morgan losing $2 billion, how it affects people out there, how it affects regular people who don't own stock in the company? What is the danger?

FRANK: It won't -- the danger would be not if this is $2 billion, but if they lost so much that they couldn't pay their debts.

That's why, as I said, we begin with a requirement that they keep more capital. As far as the average individual, you know, if you're not a shareholder in J.P. Morgan, it probably won't hurt you. On the other hand, if you're trying to get a loan from J.P. Morgan Chase, this may make it tougher, because the funds that they have got available for loans may shrink. But that's why we said we want you to have more capital. We want -- here is what we said in the bill, to a great extent. We want you to be better prepared in case you make mistakes. They were arguing, oh, no, don't worry about it. We know what we're doing.

We say, even the smartest of you, you're doing things that are so inherently risky, you have got to be better protected. And, as I said, we have said to the Republicans, the fact that an American institution is doing this overseas is no reason to say that they're not subject to regulation.

COOPER: Congressman Frank, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

FRANK: You're welcome.


COOPER: Well, two girls are safe tonight after a terrifying ordeal with the man who kidnapped them -- tonight, dramatic new details about their rescue in the woods of Mississippi next.


COOPER: California could soon be the first state to put serious restrictions on the controversial practice of trying to change someone's sexual orientation.

A "360 follow" on the impact this therapy had on some former patients.


COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment": new details tonight about what went down in the Mississippi woods where a nearly two-week manhunt for this man, Adam Mayes, ended just about 24 hours ago.

We reported the breaking news as it was unfolding last night. Now, Mayes had been on the FBI's 10 most wanted list for just a day when a tip led a SWAT team to Mayes and his captives, 12-year-old Alexandria Bain and her 8-year-old sister, Kyliyah. Mayes allegedly killed their mom and older sister, strangled them.

Both girls are safe now with relatives. What they have been through is hard to imagine. Here is how a police sergeant who took part in the rescue described the moment they were found.


MASTER SGT. STEVE CRAWFORD, MISSISSIPPI HIGHWAY PATROL: I began giving commands. The little girl picked her head up. The other little girl picked her head up after another command. Mr. Hayes (sic) began to raise his head. I could see a weapon in his hand. I hollered "gun" three times loud to let my team know that there was a weapon involved.

We ordered Mr. Hayes (sic) to drop the weapon numerous times. Mr. Hayes (sic) raised to his knees, never brandished the gun toward any of us or the children. At that time, he took his life.


COOPER: Martin Savidge has been covering the story from the beginning. Tonight, it retraces its final minutes.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The manhunt for Adam Mayes ended on a Mississippi dirt road.

(on camera): Despite a nationwide alert, authorities had always felt that Mayes really hadn't gone too far. And it turns out they were right, because where we are now is barely two miles away from where his victims' bodies were found, at his home.

(voice-over): Authorities say it was a tip Thursday that led them here. As it happened, there was a SWAT team nearby.

(on camera): Police patrols had been through this area at least once before, with no result. And it is easy to see why. Because of the thick underbrush, it is possible for them to walk within a few yards of somebody and not even know that they were there.

(voice-over): And other than some general directions, we don't know where in the woods the final drama played out. But there are signs we're getting close.

(on camera): I found this. It's a military-style red smoke grenade. And if you take a look on the ground here, you can see where it was set off. Now, according to the FBI, when Mayes was found, they set off red smoke to alert other authorities and search crews in the area. This means that we're close, but we're not there.

(voice-over): That's when I meet Ronald Roberts.

(on camera): You lived here all your life.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): He was having dinner when he realized something was up.

ROBERTS: Blue lights, sirens, gravel flying, spinning tires all turning in front of our house.

SAVIDGE: Roberts knows these woods like the back of his hand. And we pick up a trail.

ROBERTS: There is a boot print right there.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Yes. It also looks like there's dog prints.

ROBERTS: You got -- you got some.

SAVIDGE: According to authorities, the SWAT team divided in two and made their way through the woods. The trail we're on shows a lot of foot traffic.

ROBERTS: See that?

SAVIDGE: A lot of boot marks and...

ROBERTS: Yes, yes.

SAVIDGE: ... stepped-on branches and things.

The SWAT team knew they were on to something when they came across one of the kidnapped girls laying on the ground. That would have been Alexandria. And then they saw Mayes. They told him to put his hands where they could see them, but instead, he pulled out a gun and shot himself.

ROBERTS: Walk right down that trail right there just a little bit and see what you see. That's obviously -- obviously been somebody down through there.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): And, suddenly, there I was.

(on camera): I guess the tipoff would have been all the flies.

(voice-over): The exact place in the middle of the woods.

(on camera): So, judging by this blood on the ground that we found here, this would be the spot that, according to authorities, Adam Mayes shot himself.

(voice-over): Now, in keeping again with their account, the young girls would have been laying on their stomachs directly in front of it.

(on camera): You quickly realize two things. That phone call tip that came in from the public probably saved the lives of Kyliyah and Alexandria Bain, but not before the two girls, who had witnessed the deaths of their mother and older sister, had to watch one more person die.

ROBERTS: I wish the man could have been saved. I wish it hadn't happened. I wish those other two lives could be brought back. But you can't. They have met their maker. I hope they were ready.


COOPER: Martin Savidge joins me now.

Three additional arrests have been made now in connection with the case. What do we know about them?

SAVIDGE: Well, authorities have maintained that, even though their prime suspect of course killed himself, that there is still an active investigation under way.

So now we have these three arrests that have been announced. Apparently, one person was accused of giving false information, misleading information to authorities. The other two are thought to have in some way provided the weapon to Adam Mayes that he eventually used to take his own life.

COOPER: There is also -- there was like a $175,000 reward for whoever gave up information about Mayes' whereabouts. What do we know about that?

SAVIDGE: Well, of course, you know, the finding of these two girls alive and well is the answer to just about everybody's prayers here.

And that's the first thing they say. The next thing they talk about is, they wonder who is the person that gave that information that led to the finding of Mayes and who is going to get that $175,000? They are still waiting to hear the answer to that.

COOPER: All right, Martin, appreciate the reporting, a tragic story on so many levels.

Bobbi Booth is Adam Mayes' sister-in-law. We have talked to her a couple of times this week. She joins me again tonight for another exclusive interview.

Bobbi, what do you know about where Alexandria and her sister Kyliyah are tonight, how they're doing?

BOBBI BOOTH, SISTER-IN-LAW OF ADAM MAYES: I'm not -- I have no idea. I haven't got any reports on the girls more than you have.

COOPER: You spoke to the sheriff's office today about possibly visiting your sister Teresa in jail. What did they tell you?

BOOTH: That she has to be in jail for seven days before I'm able to visit with her. But that she was able to make phone calls.

COOPER: She's charged with --


COOPER: Sorry, she's charged with first degree murder. You're saying your sister doesn't remember what?

BOOTH: She doesn't remember numbers well, so I don't think she's remembering any of the phone numbers to contact anybody.

COOPER: If you're allowed to visit her, what do you want to say to her?

BOOTH: I want answers. I want to know if Adam forced her to do this, you know, if so how did Adam force you to do this. I'd like to know, you know, details as to what happened --

COOPER: What was their history like?

BOOTH: -- and understand more. He was abusive to her.

COOPER: Physically abusive? BOOTH: Physically abusive, mentally abusive, very controlling.

COOPER: And what is she like? You said she has trouble remembering numbers.

BOOTH: Right. She graduated from high school, but she graduated with a special ed diploma. She's mentally challenged. She's always been a slow learner. She's dependent.

And I think Adam has always kind of fed off that because, you know, if he beat the mess out of her and then say, "I love you, honey," she kind of accepted it and went on.

COOPER: Police say she was in the garage when Adam Mayes strangled the two women.

BOOTH: That's what I've heard.

COOPER: Does that seem possible to you?

BOOTH: No. I don't want to believe that.

COOPER: They also say she was in the car, even drove the car with the girls in it.


COOPER: If she --

BOOTH: Then again, I don't want to believe that. I want to -- I want to believe that she was forced to do that in some way.

COOPER: When you heard that Adam Mayes had shot himself, taken his own life, what did you think?

BOOTH: I didn't care. The kids were safe.

COOPER: Were you surprised that he would kill himself?

BOOTH: No. He's a coward. He didn't want to accept in face what he had done. So he took the easy way out.

COOPER: And now your sister and his mom and some others are facing the law. What do you think is going to happen to your sister?

BOOTH: My sister and his mother are going to carry the weight because people want justice and I understand it. If my sister took part in this, I want her to be punished, but I want her fairly punished. And I want people to understand the whole story and not just bits and pieces of it. Like the sheriff's department has been feeding us.

COOPER: Well, Bobbi Booth, sorry you've been going through this. Thank goodness those two girls are safe. Thank you for being with us tonight, Bobbi.

BOOTH: Thank you. COOPER: California lawmakers are taking on controversial therapy that claims to turn gay people straight. Despite evidence some people say it ruined their lives. We'll take a closer look.

Our 360 follows next.


COOPER: Lawmakers in California are moving forward with the bill that if it passes would make the state the first in the nation to put strict limits on so-called reparative therapy.

Those who practice this reparative therapy claim they can change people's sexual orientation, turning their gay patients straight. Some people who underwent reparative or conversion therapy said they feel they benefitted from it.

There are plenty who feel it caused them irreparable harm. The American Psychological Association into this and their report warns patients are at risk of worsening anxiety, depression even suicide.

It was certainly the case with one family we spoke with last year. Randi Kaye has our 360 Follow.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Ryan Kendall was 13, his mother read his diary and discovered he was gay. That was the beginning of the most painful years of his life.

RYAN KENDALL, RECEIVED REPARATIVE THERAPY: For years I thought that God hated me because I was gay.

KAYE: Ryan says his parents were determined to change him. They signed him up for what is called reparative therapy, with the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality otherwise known as NARTH.

Reparative therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation has been used for decades as a way to turn potentially gay children straight.

KENDALL: Every day I would hear this is a choice. This could be fixed.

KAYE (on camera): And did you believe that?

KENDALL: I never believed that. I know I'm gay just like I know I'm short and I'm half Hispanic. And I never thought those facts would change. It is part of my core fundamental identity. So the parallel would be sending me to tall camp and saying if you try really hard, one day you can be 6'1".

KAYE (voice-over): Ryan says he was treated by Joseph Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist who today is still associated with NARTH.

KENDALL: The constant refrain was the religious one this is something that makes God cry, that this is something your family doesn't want for you.

KAYE: At his office, outside Los Angeles, we asked if Nicolosi remembered treating Ryan Kendall about 14 years earlier.

JOSEPH NICOLOSI, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I'm not familiar with the name at all.

KAYE (on camera): His parents have provided bills from your office. There have been checks written to your office, but no record?


KAYE: He says that your therapy was quite harmful. He said you told him to "butch up," quote/unquote.

NICOLOSI: Never. That's not our language.

KAYE: When somebody says people like yourself others are trying to get the gay out of people.

NICOLOSI: That's a terrible way of phrasing it. I would rather say we're trying to bring out the heterosexuality in you.

KAYE (voice-over): Nicolosi says he's kept hundreds of children from growing up to be gay. He credits this man, George Rekers, a researcher and big believer that homosexuality can be prevented.

Rekers worked as a doctoral student at UCLA in the 1970s in a government-funded experimental program later called "Sissy Boy Syndrome."

Rekers treated a boy named Kirk Murphy. To turn around Kirk's so- called sissy behavior, Kirk was repeatedly asked to choose between traditionally masculine toys like plastic knives and guns or feminine ones like dolls and a play crib.

If he chose the feminine items, Kirk's mother would be told to ignore him.

Kirk's siblings told Anderson, his outgoing personality changed as a result of the therapy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had no idea how to relate to people. It is like somebody just walked up and turned his light switch off.

KAYE: George Rekers considered Kirk a success story writing his feminine behavior was gone, proof Rekers said that homosexuality can be prevented.

Kirk's family says he was gay, and never recovered from the attempts to turn him straight.

In 2003, Kirk took his own life. He hanged himself from a fan in his apartment, he was 38.

Our producers tracked George Rekers down in Florida. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to the family if they say that the therapy that you did with him as a child led to his suicide as an adult?

GEORGE REKERS, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I think scientifically that would be inaccurate to assume that it was the therapy. But I do grieve for the parents now that you told me that news. I think that's very sad.

KAYE (on camera): According to the American Psychiatric Association, the potential risk of reparative therapy is great including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.

The association says therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce the self-hatred already felt by patients.

(voice-over): Dr. Nicolosi says his therapy isn't harmful and he only treats people who want to change.

Not true, says Ryan Kendall.

KENDALL: It led me to periods of homelessness, to drug abuse, to spending a decade of my life wanting to kill myself. It led to so much pain and struggle and I want them to know that what they do hurts people, hurts children, has no basis in fact, and they need to stop.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Los Angeles.


COOPER: Digging deeper now, I'm joined by Dr. Jack Drescher, he is psychiatrist who has written and edited many books dealing with gender, sexuality and mental health in LGBT communities.

And Ryan Kendall who we just met in Randi's piece, he is now studying political science at Columbia University. He is hoping to be a lawyer one day to advocate on behalf of kids.

Ryan, you were in this therapy for years, correct?

KENDALL: No, I was in the therapy for a period of a year to a year and a half, from about the age of 14, 14 1/2 to 16.

COOPER: And the doctor, Dr. Nicolosi, he essentially -- what was he saying was the cause of you being gay?

KENDALL: I know that Nicolosi tends to blame the parents in his therapy saying that a distant mother or overbearing mother and distant father caused that.

I didn't really engage on the issues of homosexuality with him because I just didn't buy what he was telling me, which was once again that being gay is -- there is something wrong with it, that it can be fixed.

COOPER: This idea, Doctor, that he -- that this doctor knows the origins of homosexuality and that it lies in the parents of a distant father. I mean, that seems antiquated and without evidence.

DR. JACK DRESCHER, PSYCHIATRIST: There is no evidence the people who practice these therapies tell the families they're beliefs, nothing based on fact.

We don't know today what cause homosexuality. We don't know what causes heterosexuality. I think it is a shame, you know, for parents who love their children to take their -- to take those children to therapists who are going to blame the parents when it's not their fault.

COOPER: You know, hearing your story, it is so horrible to think about for years you considering suicide based after going through this therapy that what did it make you feel about yourself?

KENDALL: I mean, it's a terrible world when you think there is something fundamentally wrong with you, when you think God doesn't love you because of who you are, when you think you're perverted or dysfunctional.

So you grow to hate yourself eventually in a lot of ways. You internalize all of that messaging that you're not good enough, that you're unlovable -- and that plays out in very damaging emotional consequences and LGBT people's lives. It certainly didn't mine.

COOPER: Doctor, every -- I've interviewed a number of people who have been through this reparative therapy and some who still claim to -- that it worked, claimed they're no longer gay.

And the more you talk to them. They'll finally admit they still have same sex orientation. They're still attracted to people of the same sex. They're just forcing themselves, repressing themselves so they don't act out on it. That doesn't seem like a healthy way to live.

DRESCHER: Well, people who have been through the treatments don't call themselves heterosexual. They call themselves ex-gay because they're not really heterosexuals the way conventional heterosexuals --

COOPER: They don't have that, like, in the -- their heart is not attracted to somebody of the opposite sex.

DRESCHER: Usually not. I mean, some people -- some of these people may be bisexual by nature, they have attractions to both, but the truth of the matter is that their identity, who I think I am as a person doesn't necessarily have to match what their attractions are.

That's how people survive in this way. They say, you know, I used to be gay, I'm still attracted to men, but I'm not gay anymore. They're still attracted to men. So what does that mean?

COOPER: So if they're entering into marriages or they're forcing themselves not to have relationships with people they're attracted to, what does that do to a person?

DRESCHER: For some people, it can be very harmful. Some people have gone into marriages, had children, never lost their attractions then got divorced, sometimes religious people who get divorced.

COOPER: A number of the people who even have run these so-called ex- gay organizations have now come forward and said, actually, it doesn't work.

DRESCHER: Many of the leaders of the ex-gay movement are stepping away from their earlier claims that everybody can change. Most people believe that very few people can really change.

COOPER: For you, what was the hardest part, Ryan?

KENDALL: I mean, there is no way to tell you what was the hardest part, I mean, was it losing my family? Was it hating myself? Was it being suicidal or depressed for 12 years, not being able to go to school until now?

I mean, there is no worst part. It was a terrible decade in my life. And I'm one of the lucky ones who survived. So, you know, the therapy itself is a terrible thing to do.

It lets families believe there is this false hope that their kid can be straight and normal. And it's just incredibly damaging, it destroyed my family.

COOPER: You know, we've done this piece on the so-called "sissy boy" experiments and some of the allegedly scientific research that is used by this group NARTH, when you start to scratch away at it and look at the details of it. I mean, they were still using George Rekers experiments and he was claiming success with Kirk when in fact Kirk had committed suicide and his family didn't even know until the years later that Kirk was this alleged success story of George Rekers.

DRESCHER: There is a lot of misinformation transmitted by the people who offer these treatments. The American Psychological Association had a report that came out in 2009 no scientific basis that any of these treatments work.

COOPER: Is legislation, though, the right answer? I mean, do you believe it is in California?

KENDALL: I certainly believe that legislation is appropriate in this instance. I mean, what's at stake here are lives especially kids' lives. And I think it is irresponsible for organizations to offer this therapy when it is not supported by science, when there's anecdotal evidence of harm, when we know that changing someone's sexual orientation is not an appropriate goal.

You know, recently President Obama came out in support of marriage. That's because society increasingly realizes that LGBT people, people who are gay like myself, are just like anyone else and pretty soon we'll realize that means we treat them equally, we don't try to make them who they're not because it is not possible and we give them equal rights.

COOPER: Doctor, do you think there should be legislation? DRESCHER: I've been speaking with my colleagues in California, both psychologists and psychiatrists. There is concern about the wording of this particular legislation. Something has to be done. The legislation has done one good thing. It made it a national issue.

We're talking about it on the air tonight and in the newspapers. I think my personal opinion is that if you have the regulatory agencies, the people who watch people's medical licenses, psychology license. If those people are informed about the issues, then perhaps those people can take it up when the complaint is made against someone who does this kind of treatment.

COOPER: We'll continue to follow it. Dr. Drescher, appreciate it.

Ryan Kendall, thank you very much.

COOPER: American vets back from Iraq and Afghanistan, we take you inside the battle to find work here on the home front when we continue.


COOPER: This weekend the CNN documentary vets wanted looks at a devastating reality that vets face when they come home: they can't find jobs. The difficulties one national guard unit confronts are all too common, their stories narrated by a former Army soldier, J.R. Martinez.


J.R. MARTINEZ, FORMER U.S. ARMY SOLDIER: When I was asked to be part of the documentary, I absolutely said yes right off the bat.


MARTINEZ: Because it's important to raise awareness about guys coming home, and how difficult it is for them to be able to find employment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been watching you for the whole year. The whole time, you knocked it out of the park over there. And we're so proud of you. And glad to have you home. Let me hear one big Georgia whoo.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming home, finding work. That's on everybody's mind right now.

MARTINEZ (voice-over): A federal law called USERRA protects the jobs of National Guard soldiers. Those who had jobs before they left can go back to them. But half the soldiers at the 877th are coming home unemployed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you left your job, you were supposed to let them know that you were going for military service. Did you all do that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of our soldiers are going on multiple deployments because they don't have employment in the civilian sectors. Others where they work is going out of business so the protections that are in place aren't applicable. Sometimes they are getting terminated against the protections that are in place.


COOPER: Well, the documentary "Vets Wanted" airs this Sunday at 8:00 p.m., only on CNN. I hope you watch.

Today brought another reminder where kids and live TV can be a -- well, a messy combination. The "Ridiculist" is next.


COOPER: Time for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, we're adding shows that book kids on live TV.

Now, don't get me wrong. Kids are great. I love kids. I know they say the darnedest things, but they also have the darnedest bathroom emergencies.

Take for example, this morning's third hour, not confused for the fourth through tenth hours of the "Today" show. Natalie Morales, whom I enjoy, was attempting to interview the world's youngest member of Mensa, a 3-year-old named Emmy Lynn who has an IQ of 135, which is, no doubt, pretty impressive.

It turns out Emmy Lynn had more important things on her mind.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: My belly hurt. My belly hurts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, too many doughnuts in the green room. That's not good.


COOPER: Now right there, I would have bailed. You can already tell what's coming. Al Roker and I would have been halfway to the emergency exit by this time. But not Natalie Morales. She was not letting the world's smartest toddler dump out of that interview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does she like these other cards here. What is this one?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sweetie, obviously to raise a 3-year-old with such a high IQ, it takes a lot as a parent, right?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I have to go poop. I have to go poop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She has to go to the bathroom.


COOPER: That would have made a segment, uh-oh, where are Kathie Lee and Hoda when you need them? A tip for Emmy Lynn though, I'm not saying you should have pooped on the set, but they have plenty of money for a new sofa. But if you want a lesson on how to get out of an interview, look no further than the vomiting balloon boy, Falcon Heene.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told me it was for some TV show. That's what he was running to. That's what he was referring to when -- when he made that statement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I know I want to point out that the sheriff's office said last night.

Just a few moments ago, he got ill. Let's take a break so your family can gather itself.


COOPER: That's how it's done. When you're up against Meredith Vieira, you bring your A-game, you got to do it sometimes. I should be the last person to offer advice about how to handle kids on TV.

In fact, Natalie Morales, just be glad you do not have to fill in for Larry King the night Nancy Grace decided to bring her twins for a visit.


NANCY GRACE: Anderson, are you ready?


GRACE: Who should I try to let them -- here he goes.

COOPER: Would you want these kids to follow in your footsteps?

GRACE: I want to do whatever makes them happy. Here she goes.

COOPER: Want a piece of paper? Uh-oh. Uh-oh.


GRACE: Anderson, what did you do to him?

COOPER: I didn't do anything.

GRACE: Daddy.

But, you know, Anderson, trying to work with two children is not easy.

COOPER: Tell me about it. I'm sweating here like dripping in sweat.


COOPER: Yes, what do you want for me? You try hanging out with Nancy Grace and her kids. As for the "Today" show, they took a commercial break, so disaster averted for the time being, until the next time when the live television gods decide to again unload on the "Ridiculist".

That's it for us. Thanks for watching.