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President Obama Talks Gun Control; Americans Taken Hostage in Algeria

Aired January 16, 2013 - 22:00   ET


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

We got a lot going on tonight. We're following two breaking stories, Americans held hostage right now by armed Islamic extremists in a remote part of Algeria. The hostages were taken when reportedly around 20 extremists attacked this petroleum operation in eastern Algeria. Accounts differ as to how many are now being held. We will have full details coming up.

Also tonight, the to big story, Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o, his story of a tying girlfriend inspired his team to victory. We are now learning that she never existed. The question is, was he the victim of a hoax, as he is claiming, or was he in on? We will get late details on that from the person who broke the story.

But, first, we begin with President Obama going big and moving fast on gun control. We have got new polling that may help explain the political need for speed. Today, at the White House, President Obama laid out a number of proposals and actions he is taking.

In the room with him were a number of parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, including Lynn and Chris McDonnell, the parents of Grace McDonnell. President Obama spoke about Grace today.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I visited Newtown last month, I spent some private time with many of the families who lost their children that day. And one was the family of Grace McDonald. Grace's parents are here. Grace was seven years old when she was struck down -- just a gorgeous, caring, joyful little girl. I'm told she loved pink. She loved the beach. She dreamed of becoming a painter.

And so just before I left, Chris, her father, gave me one of her paintings, and I hung it in my private study just off the Oval Office. And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace. And I think about the life that she lived and the life that lay ahead of her, and most of all, I think about how, when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now.


COOPER: You may remember I interviewed Grace's parents days after the killing. They gave me a copy of that same drawing as well.

I spoke with them earlier this evening. They didn't want to come on camera tonight, but they were overwhelmed by the president's words, and said they drew strength from his determination. As for what President Obama plans to do, it comes in two forms, really, legislative and executive.

Now, the president took executive action on 23 items dealing with implementing background checks, tracking firearms, making sure existing gun laws are fully enforced. Executive actions mean he does not have to get congressional approval. On the legislative side, he called for criminal background checks on all gun sales, also limiting magazines to 10 rounds, and reinstating the 1990s ban on military- style assault weapons.

Now he acknowledged that some of the proposed legislation faces strong opposition in Congress.


OBAMA: This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty -- not because that's true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they'll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.


COOPER: Congressional Republicans so far have been cool to the proposals, though some are open to limiting high-capacity magazines and tightening background checks. House Speaker Boehner saying only that he will review the president's recommendations.

A few Republicans, though, are outright hostile, with one Texas congressman threatening articles of impeachment over executive orders dealing with guns. The National Rifle Association also denounced the proposals, but is still getting far more attention for this new ad that they produced.


NARRATOR: Are the president's kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools?

Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.

Protection for their kids and gun-free zones for ours.


COOPER: That ad launched yesterday. Today, the White House called it -- quote -- "repugnant and cowardly." That's for you to decide.

It's clear, though, that highlighting NRA intransigence is part of the political strategy. The new CNN/"TIME" magazine poll hints at why. Momentum for change may be starting to fade -- 56 percent now favor an assault weapons ban compared to 62 percent immediately after Newtown; 58 percent support a ban on extended magazines. Last month that was 62 percent.

However, expanded background checks remains very popular with 87 percent supporting checks on gun show purchases. We will have more on the politics shortly, but first the personal, two takes on what happened at the White House today.

Alexis Haller, the uncle over Noah Pozner, killed in Newtown, joins us, along with Colin Goddard. Colin was shot four times in a classroom at Virginia Tech.

Alexis, your nephew Noah was a victim at Newtown. You went to the White House today for the announcement. I was wondering what your reaction was to what you heard.

ALEXIS HALLER, UNCLE OF SHOOTING VICTIM: Based on what we heard before the announcement when the families met with the president and the vice president and during the announcement itself, I was satisfied and pleased to see that the administration is treating this so seriously.

And I think the strong sense I got was that they were determined to make a major change here and to enact significant reforms that would put a stop to this kind of violence.

COOPER: Are you optimistic, Alexis?

HALLER: I'm optimistic as to some of the proposals. I think there is still a lot of work to do. I think there is still work to do in terms of other proposals. But in general, I am optimistic. I think that this is an opportunity to make real change happen.

COOPER: Colin, the vice president mentioned you by name. What is your reaction again to what you heard today?

COLIN GODDARD, VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTING SURVIVOR: That was quite shocking to hear my name mentioned like that, but overall, just highly encouraged by the leadership from the White House on this issue coupled with the overwhelming support from grassroots people from across the country, including gun owners and NRA members themselves who have reached out to us and say what you're talking about makes sense.

So we really think that now coming from the top down and working from the bottom up is going to lead to some positive change in this country.

COOPER: You're part of the Brady Campaign. You fight for gun control measures. It's obviously become a very personal calling for you. Do you really think, though, that the president can -- legislatively can get through an assault weapons ban?

GODDARD: I think we need to look at all the proposals that he is putting out there. I think if we get success on any one of those, I think it's moving our country forward in a great deal.

Background checks on all gun sales is huge. And we see so much public support for that. The fact that 40 percent of gun sales every year don't have a background check with it, that's insane. I think we have a variety of issues we can make progress on. And I think all of the people who have reached out to us over the past month and still now is going to lead us to a long-term changes that we so badly need.

COOPER: Alexis, what is your message to lawmakers at this point?

HALLER: The message is that we have to act now. I don't think we can wait to enact these reforms. I think the time for action is now. And I think we're not going to be satisfied. We're not going to stop fighting until meaningful reforms take place.

COOPER: And, Colin, you still have -- you still have bullets in your body from the shooting. How -- how has this changed your life?

GODDARD: I mean, the shooting opened my eyes to a world I knew nothing about. I think I was like most Americans who thought that we did everything we could to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and was frankly shocked to learn that we don't even do background checks on everybody, you know.

So this is not a career choice. This is not a lifelong fight for me. This is until we get something done. This is a box to check. We can do this. I think we have ultimately really reframed the issue from whether or not if something can pass to really when it is. And I think that time is now.

COOPER: Alexis, I appreciate you being on tonight, and Colin as well. Thank you very much.

Now let's talk about the politics. So far they have included that NRA ad, a congressional threat of impeachment and the likelihood of a massive campaign-style push on guns from the White House as well as from the NRA.

Here to talk about it, CNN contributor and Republican consultant Margaret Hoover, "New York Times" op-ed columnist Charles Blow, and senior political analyst David Gergen.

David, when you look at these proposals on the legislative side, are some of them just nonstarters?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think first of all, we have to say, Anderson, many times in the past we have complained about a lack of leadership by President Obama. This time he has stepped up. He is taking the lead. This is what a president who really is committed...

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: He went big on this.

GERGEN: He went big.

I think you have to give him credit for that. His problem is that he is handicapped. He doesn't have enough power through the executive office to do this alone. Most of these are small-bore initiatives that he is going to do on his own. He needs the Congress to get this done.

And so far, we have to bring politics into this, because this is a political matter in this tragedy. And so far he just does not have the public support. He can get the background checks done. I think that is very doable this year. But, Anderson, he doesn't have the support in the Democratic Party much less the Republican Party that he needs to get this through the Senate.

COOPER: Right. There are a lot of pro-gun Democrats who...


GERGEN: Yes, who are up for reelection in 2014.

COOPER: Right.

How much does 2014 play you think into the president's calculus, Charles?

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think it plays a little bit, but not tremendously.

I disagree with you a little bit on this. I think some of the things that some of us think as small-bore are actually enormous. A lot of what the president did in his executive orders was about data. Right now, we live in an information vacuum. We have no idea how to track what is happening with guns in this country.

And if we -- and by executive order requiring no approval whatsoever he is able to move on that front, and that is significant.


COOPER: Like the Social Security Administration, which doesn't...


COOPER: ... give mental health data to the FBI.


BLOW: The CDC -- there's -- the University of Chicago crime lab issued a letter to the Biden commission earlier this month. And 100 researchers from major universities across this university signed on to that. One thing they point out is that from 1973 to 2012, there were four million-plus gun-related accidents or shootings or whatever. But there were only three research grants from NIH to look at why these things are happening. That information vacuum has to be stopped. And this is enormous.


GERGEN: I wish you were right. I wish you were right.


BLOW: That's right.

GERGEN: But I know on the health research, you can do a lot. But he does not have the power to figure out who owns these three hundred million guns in the country when they change hands, when they change property. Nobody knows where these things are.


COOPER: So you're still saying these are little things.


GERGEN: And the bureau that is supposed to keep track of this, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, ATF, has been paralyzed for the last few years. Doesn't have a leader. Republicans have been blocking...


BLOW: Right now, we're not collecting any data. We're flushing all of it. And what a lot of these executive orders say is that we now are pushing people to share that information, to collect it, share it.

COOPER: Margaret, what do you think? Is this small-bore stuff or the big things, you think he is going to make any headway on?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I agree with David that he has certainly gone long. He is throwing the long ball. He has put big plans down on the table.

I think that in order to pass anything through Congress, you have to strategically win over the reasonable edge of the opposition in both the Senate and in the House. And it just doesn't seem like it's pragmatic to do that with an assault gun weapons ban.


COOPER: And what about the high-capacity magazines?

HOOVER: That one -- I think that one is tough too. But why not start pragmatically where you know you can pull off some Republicans and some Democrats who have NRA, good NRA ratings with the universal background checks?

Look, a new poll today says 89 percent of Republicans are in favor of that.

COOPER: I don't like to be cynical on this, but let me just throw this out here, David. Is the president looking at 2014, and by going big and losing on things like an assault weapons ban or losing on the high-capacity, does he win in some way?

GERGEN: I think there is growing evidence that this White House is looking very closely at 2014 in a variety of ways. And what is interesting to me, Anderson, about this, I was there in the White House in 1994 when President Clinton got an assault weapons ban through. It was a very important breakthrough.

COOPER: He got that, but he lost the House.

GERGEN: But then he lost the House. He sort of won the battle, but lost the war. In President Obama's case, he may well be in a situation where he is going to lose the battle, but win the war. He is going to win the war of public opinion.


COOPER: You think this could actually turn the House?

GERGEN: I think this could be an element in shoring up his base and getting people to come out in 2014. His problem...


COOPER: So even if he loses and doesn't get the assault weapons ban..


GERGEN: He gets the issue.

HOOVER: But this is a play to the base strategy, not a pragmatic sort of legacy seeking. He may be trying to seek a legacy by spending political capital on getting an assault weapons ban.

But let me just tell you, we all know, second-term presidencies oftentimes are legacy seeking.


COOPER: Did the NRA go too far with this ad, do you think, Margaret?

HOOVER: Yes, absolutely. The NRA does absolutely no favors for themselves when they do that. First of all, they are playing to the president's strategy. The president's strategy is to alienate the NRA and try to make reasonable Republicans feel like they don't need to stand up for NRA.

The NRA just played specifically into that strategy.


GERGEN: I think we all agree on that.

BLOW: And they're wrong on the facts. Right? The president basically said not that he is opposed to having more armed guards in schools, he is just saying he is skeptical that that solves the problem in schools.

And in fact the White House kept proposing more money for the Safe Schools Program. And it was Congress in 2012 that killed that money in Congress. And if you look at the proposal they put forth today, they basically say, they explicitly say that if some schools want to have more armed guards, that's up to them. But we want to leave to it the local districts to decide on their own.

COOPER: Which is interesting, because you now have the NRA arguing...

BLOW: Larger government.

COOPER: ... for larger federal government, and putting armed people, like government troops into schools, as opposed to leaving...


GERGEN: The day the NRA came out with a proposal to put guards in schools, everybody from the president's party dumped on them. They went after them hammer and tongs.


BLOW: That ad is specific to the president. It is not about Democrats.


BLOW: ... that the president said it. And the president did not say it. It's just a lie.

COOPER: Let me just push back on that just to play devil's advocate here. If at elite schools they have private security and armed guards, what is wrong with at public schools having armed guards?

GERGEN: And why not pay for it?

BLOW: Right. So if you want -- if you're arguing for that massive expansion of government, what that would require, right, and we're in a budget...


GERGEN: It's not massive.

BLOW: It is massive.


HOOVER: We're just hypothetically...


BLOW: They wouldn't even pay for the couple million that was in the Safe School Program. They cut that down to zero.

And now they're basically saying we want to put armed guards in every school, and to override the local government and say if you don't want -- at your local district and say if the parents or the school districts don't want it in that school, we're still going to override it and put them there anyway? That is a massive expansion of government.


HOOVER: I think the problem we can sometimes get into is what kind of legislation is going to make us feel better, not which kind of legislation is going to make us safer.

Remember, Columbine had armed guards. It didn't help. They got there too late. I think we need to think about sort of what are the reasonable laws that we can pass, reasonable restriction...


COOPER: And you think the background checks?


COOPER: OK. We have to leave it there. David, Charles, Margaret, appreciate it.

Let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper.

Up next, breaking news: Americans held hostage, who is holding them, what it may take to free them. Former CIA officer Bob Baer joins us, and Jill Dougherty has the latest from the State Department.


COOPER: More on our breaking news now.

Americans and other Westerners among the hostages being held right now tonight by Islamic extremists in Algeria. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is calling it a terrorist attack. The hostages were taken when about 20 extremists attacked a gas field. This is a file picture of the field. It's in the southern part of Algeria. It's partly owned by the energy company BP.

Now, Algeria's interior minister said that two people were killed in the attack. It's believed to be retaliation for Algeria's support for the French offensive in Mali. Now, a U.S. State Department official said as many as 10 Americans were working at that oil field. The State Department hasn't said how many of them may now, right now be hostages. We are told a special operations team is standing by -- quote -- "on a very short string."

This is obviously a very fluid situation.

CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty and former CIA officer Bob Baer join me now.

Jill, you have been working your sources since earlier today. What are you hearing? What is the latest?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We believe obviously this happened at a gas field. If you look at the map, it's in eastern Algeria. That's 37 miles from the Libyan border. And that's important because they believe that the people who carried this out came in from the east, in from Libya.

They went to this gas field. It's owned by BP, the Algerians and the Norwegians. And they carried out this attack. Apparently, what happened is they had a previous attack. It didn't work, and then moved to another part of this complex. You can see it's quite large. And that's where they took these hostages.

They say that they have 41 people. That may or may not be true. Initially, the reports were there were seven Americans. There are probably about three. But there are also Japanese, British, Norwegian, and Irish at least, Anderson.

COOPER: And, Bob, the man claiming responsibility for this, his name is Mokhtar Belmokhtar. What do you know about him?

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He has broken away from al Qaeda. He broke away in December, but has longstanding relations.

He is a Salafi, very hostile to the West. He is particularly well-armed. Over the last year, he has been buying Libyan arms, surface-to-air missiles, other heavy weaponry. He is a particularly dangerous radical guy.

COOPER: Is he Libyan? Is he Algerian?

BAER: He is Algerian. These are Algerian-based groups. They go back to 1992. They have been around. The Algerians have sort of pushed them South. But what has happened is the Libyans, the Libyan revolution has opened up arms for them that they had never had access to before. And this has been brewing for some time.

COOPER: Because the extremists in Algeria back in the early '90s were really brutal, really vicious. It was a really dirty, terrible, terrible war. But it seemed like the government had been making strides against them.

BAER: Oh, they have. They forced them out of the major population areas in the north along the Mediterranean. And they are -- they pushed -- along the Atlantic -- they pushed them south. But they never quite exterminated them.

They are particularly well-armed. They have got combat experience. This is why -- precisely why the French have gone into Mali, because they spilled over the border into Mali and set up bases there. Combine that with Libyan weapons and they have become a particularly dangerous group.

COOPER: And, Jill, I know Defense Secretary Panetta has made a statement about it today. Is it possible the U.S. might take military action?

DOUGHERTY: Well, they might, obviously, if they want to try to save the people who are in there being held hostage. But, Anderson, you know, there are two reasons that this group apparently is giving for having carried out this act.

One is they say it's retaliation for Algeria giving France the ability to fly over Algerian territory, bringing as part of this military operation in Mali. But the other thing they say is that they want the release of their own prisoners who are being held.

A little unclear why they're being held, et cetera. But the U.S. officials that we have been speaking to believe that this was not just some type of opportunistic thing, that it was planned in advance, at least to some degree.

COOPER: Bob, right now, you had a failed French commando raid to release a French hostage in Somalia, which didn't get a lot of attention. But that happened several days ago. Two commandos I guess were killed, as well as apparently the hostage.

How difficult an operation would it be to actually send folks in there?

BAER: It would be extremely difficult. I mean, it would be a large land force. The French only have a couple thousand soldiers in Mali. They could fly across Algeria. The Algerians could participate. But how well-armed are these people? If in fact they do have surface-to-air missiles, it will not be a quick commando raid. This will be nothing like Somalia.

And I realize a lot of these reports coming out of sub-Saharan Africa are exaggerated a bit. But there is a good chance these people could hold this oil facility for a long time and continue this war. I don't think this is going to be taken care of quickly. We could talk about months, who knows how long.

COOPER: If they do have sophisticated weaponry, missiles, then obviously using helicopters in any kind of a raid would also be difficult.

BAER: Anderson, my security sources in sub-Saharan Africa say they have Igla-18s. That's a particularly sophisticated weapon that could bring down a helicopter, not a fast mover like a jet, a fighter. But it could bring a helicopter down. So a special forces raid would be particularly, you know, dicey. COOPER: Well, we will continue to follow it. Bob Baer, I appreciate you, Jill Dougherty as well. Thanks.

Well, tonight, a bizarre story. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o is claiming to be the victim of a cruel hoax. His girlfriend who supposedly died last September, the one he talked about at length in interviews, he even described talking to her on the phone while she was in a coma, it turns out she never existed.

Just ahead, the editor who broke the entire story joins us live.


BLITZER: A really bizarre, unbelievable story is unfolding right now tonight, a story that garnered a lot of sympathy and admiration for a Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o all season long.

It's apparently been exposed as a hoax by the Web site Now, Te'o almost won the Heisman Trophy this season. What he was supposedly dealing with off the field got a huge amount of attention. The way that story went, on September 11, in the span of just six hours, Te'o got word that both his grandmother and his girlfriend had died. But Te'o went out and led his team to a 20-3 upset of Michigan State. He made 12 tackles on that day.

His strength in the face of such loss took on a life of its own. Well, 10 days later, Te'o skipped his girlfriend's funeral because he said she made him promise not to miss a game. Notre Dame crushed Michigan that day, and the team's coach, Brian Kelly, gave Te'o the game ball in memory of his girlfriend. That's the moment right there captured by NBC Sports.

But now Deadspin has learned that Lennay Kekua, Te'o's supposed girlfriend, never existed. That's right. There was no woman by that name. Te'o contends he was the victim of a hoax.

In a statement, he said -- quote -- "This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an relationship with a woman I met online. I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was and is painful and humiliating."

Notre Dame also released a statement saying that, on December 26, they were "informed by Manti Te'o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious victim name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia."

Now, a lot of people are scratching their heads right now wondering how all of this could possibly add up.

Timothy Burke joins me now. He broke the story tonight on -- and David Haugh, sports columnist with "The Chicago Tribune."

Timothy, so I don't quite understand this. Te'o released a statement today in reaction to your investigation to say he was duped by someone online. From your reporting on this, and you broke this story, does that add up?

TIMOTHY BURKE, DEADSPIN.COM: Well, you know, I think that my colleague Jack Dickey, who wrote the story with me, and I really sort of went out to not focus on anybody really sort of being the victim or the perpetrator here. Te'o's story that he is completely innocent in this doesn't really shake through with us for a few reasons.

First, we have a lot of stories about how they met, that she was a student at Stanford and they met after the 2009 football game. And we know that didn't happen.


COOPER: Right. It was supposed to be a face-to-face meeting.

BURKE: Where did that story come from? You know, so there is some responsibility there for that.

When Te'o said "I know that I will see my girlfriend again some day," we know now that they never saw each other in the first place. So what is he referring to when he says "again some day"?

COOPER: ESPN did an interview with Te'o after what he said was the death of his girlfriend. I just want to play part of that.


MANTI TE'O, NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL PLAYER: I cried. I yelled. I never felt that way before.

This is six hours ago. I just found out my grandma passed away. And you take, you know, the love of my life. The last thing she said to me was, "I love you." And that was it.


COOPER: You actually wrote stories about Te'o for the "Tribune. What do you make about all this? I mean, does it add up?

DAVID HAUGH, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE" (via phone): Well, it doesn't add up, Anderson. I think that obviously, the explanation bears further explanation. I think you want to hear from Manti Te'o himself beyond the statement. I think his best bet in a situation like this would be to be totally transparent.

There's some very extensive, thorough and damning reporting done here that clearly shows the need for him to explain some of the inconsistencies with the meeting and the version of when they met at Stanford, and if there was a misunderstanding with his father explaining that to a South Bend "Tribune" reporter that may need to come clean and explain that. Because right now, a lot of the -- a lot of the things that Notre Dame clearly defending Te'o, and you want to learn why they're so convinced that he is just an innocent victim here.

COOPER: So is that where the original story of their face-to- face meeting, because there's an article back from 2009 about their face-to-face meeting, and it's kind of this tender moment, kind of an awkward moment. It came from his father, as you -- as far as you understand?

HAUGH: Well, the way I understand it was that there was a version that was about the initial meeting told to the "South Bend Tribune" and reported that way. And I think that there might have been some sort of misunderstanding that Jack Swarbaugh (ph) alluded to earlier at his press conference just minutes ago.

And the claims that, when Manti tells his story completely, that we will see a timeline that does make sense and an explanation that makes sense. I think everybody who heard him say that is justifiably skeptical and cynical and all those things, because we feel like we've been duped. And I think until we hear him, then I think we want to hear the other side of the story.

COOPER: Brian, I think he's going to give a press conference or make statements tomorrow.

But I mean, in all the times that he talked about her, you would think if he had never met her or was -- it was an online relationship, you would think that would be part of the story. That he would say, "You know, and what's so hard about this is I never actually even saw her face to face. That she was a voice on the other end of a phone," you know.

But that never came out. So it seems odd to me that he would tell the story about his girlfriend so often but never mention that he had never actually met her.

HAUGH: It does seem odd. And it is one of those facts of this or manufactured facts about this narrative that makes you very, very skeptical. And that's what I mean.

He needs to answer those types of tough questions and be as transparent as possible. Because if he is truly a victim of a cruel hoax, as Notre Dame put it, then he has nothing to hide. Very humiliating for him to come forward. Certainly, everybody respects and understands that. But I think that would be the smartest strategy if, indeed, he has nothing to hide.

COOPER: Timothy, can you -- can you say how you came on to this story?

TIMOTHY BURKE, EDITOR, DEADSPIN.COM: We did receive an e-mail last week that was an anonymous e-mail that said, you know, I think there's something wrong or weird with Lennay Kekua. And you should check her out. And my colleague, Jack Dickey and I started, you know -- what do you do when you first want to know something? You Google it, right? Google search. And Google searches for Lannay Kekua only showed up articles about her dying and inspiring Manti Te'o. There was no evidence of her existing in any way other than, you know, after she had allegedly died. And we thought that was a little weird.

We called into Stanford. Several articles insisted that she had either been a Stanford student or a Stanford alumni. And nothing checked out there.

We called all of the mortuaries and funerals homes in Carson, California, where several sources had reported that she had been buried. They had no information on it. And this sort of really told us that there's something really weird going on here.

And when we finally were able to track back to see all these pictures, these pictures that had represented Lennay Kekua, and we found the actual alive, doesn't have leukemia and has never met Manti Te'o person that it belongs to, that sort of opened everything up.

COOPER: And then did you -- were you able to reach out to him directly? I wonder what his initial response was, if you were.

BURKE: Who, Te'o?


BURKE: He -- we -- we called. He was not accepting phone calls on the number that we had, so we were not able -- I would loved to have talked to him and heard his side of the story.

Because again, like I say, I'm agnostic about this. I don't -- you know, whether he got scammed or whether, you know, he set this up from the beginning, I don't really have an opinion about it either way. I'm just trying to, you know, solve the mystery and sort of tell the end of story.

What's going to happen now is he is going to have his examples and he's going to his spin that helps the future of his career and the likelihood that we get the truth is pretty slim.

COOPER: We'll see. Again, I think he's supposed to make comments tomorrow. We'll be following that closely. A lot of people talking about this tonight. David Haugh, I really appreciate you calling in and Timothy Burke as well. Remarkable story. Thank you so much.

Troubling new questions about the hit-and-run killing of a black man. Three white teens were in the car that hit him. Local law officials say that race was not a factor. Court documents obtained exclusively by CNN's Drew Griffin have opened a new window in the case. We are keeping him honest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Welcome back. "Keeping Them Honest" now. Just over a year ago we told you about a horrific hate crime caught on tape, a group of white teens beating up an African-American man in a parking lot in Jackson, Mississippi.

Exclusive surveillance video was obtained by CNN that shows one of the teens backing up his pickup truck so he could actually drive over James Anderson's battered body. The 47-year-old auto worker died.

A federal investigation followed. The truck's driver, Deryl Dedmon, pleaded guilty to murder and admitted he was a part of white teens who entertained themselves by driving around looking for black victims to beat up.

The sixth member of the group pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes just this month.

And now 125 miles north of Jackson, another African-American man has been killed by a white teenager in a car. This time no hate crime charges have been filed, and outrage is growing. Our investigative reporter Drew Griffin tonight "Keeping Them Honest."


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was early on a hot July Sunday morning. And right on schedule, just about 6:30, 61- year-old Johnny Lee Butts left his rural Mississippi home, heading out for his morning ritual, a four-mile walk. His neighbor, Otis Brooks, says Butts, a Sunday school teacher, waved as he passed his front door, wearing a blue T-shirt.

(on camera): Let me ask you a dumb question. Could you tell he was black?

OTIS BROOKS, NEIGHBOR: Yes, you could tell he was black. You could see his arm.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Nearly 7 a.m., an hour after sunrise, three white teenagers were barreling down Panola County, Mississippi, Highway 310 in a white Monte Carlo. Two of the three teens admit they had had been drinking vodka and smoking marijuana all night. They were headed towards Johnny Butts.

The two passengers say they and the driver of that white Monte Carlo, 18-year-old Matthew Whitten Darby, spotted a man walking on the shoulder on the opposite side of the road.

In statements to police and grand jury testimony obtained exclusively by CNN, the two teenagers, who were with Whitten Darby, a then 15-year-old and an 18-year-old named Tony Hopper Jr. describe what happened next.

"We see a walker on the side of the road," the 15-year-old tells police. "The complete left side of the road while we are on the complete right side of the road. And I pointed out to say watch out, there's a walker there."

"As we get closer," the 15-year-old says, "Whit turns the steering wheel and I saw him. Watch out, don't do nothing stupid, and then he just kept turning the steering wheel. And eventually, before we knew it, he ran him straight over."

The 18-year-old, Tony Hopper, told a sheriff's deputy, "He didn't slow down."

The officer asks, "He never hit his brakes?"

"No, sir."

"Do you think he hit him on purpose?"

"Yes, sir, I do."

Johnny Lee Butts was hit from behind by a car, traveling somewhere between 55 and 70 miles an hour. He was violently tossed into the air, slammed into the windshield. One leg nearly severed off, his head bouncing off the back windshield. This diagram in the police report shows Butts' body was found lying in the road, 172 feet from where he was hit.

Matthew Whitten Darby stopped his badly damaged car. His two passengers told police they got out, looked at the body, then jumped back in the car while Darby sped away.

The next day, the two teenaged passengers turned themselves in. Whitten Darby was arrested, telling police exactly what the two other teens said he would say, that he hit a deer. Darby denied he was drinking or smoking marijuana.

He and his lawyer and the two passengers aren't talking to CNN. Darby hasn't entered a plea.

(on camera): So this was the route that your dad would walk every morning?

DONNY BUTTS, SON OF VICTIM: Yes, every morning.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Donny Butts, Johnny's only child, now walks this route to see the cross he laid at the spot where his father died. It's been seven months.

Matthew Whit Darby is in jail, charged with murder, but not with the added crime of hate.

In this racially-charged area of rural Mississippi, confederate flags fly in front of homes just down the road from where Johnny Butts was killed. His son Donny, his family, and many other blacks in this community say the police, the district attorney, the white law enforcement of Panola County, aren't investigating why Johnny Lee Butts was killed. They say the motive was hate.

BUTTS: They knew he was black. And that was the only reason why they ran him over, because he was black. Point-blank.

GRIFFIN (on camera): The D.A. so far has said flat-out this was not a crime of race.

BUTTS: Well, what was it? I want to know what was it, if it wasn't racism? It was just hate. I don't understand.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The district attorney in this case told CNN one reason a hate crime has been ruled out is that the boys in the car that morning could not see whether the walker, Johnny Butts, was black or white. But that is not true, according to the statements given by one of the teens in that car.

In grand jury testimony obtained by CNN, Tony Hopper, who was riding in the back seat, said he could see Johnny Butts was black before he was hit.

"Could you tell whether he was a black man or a white man before y'all hit him?" asks an investigator.

"Yes," Hopper says. "I could tell that he was black."

It's the same thing he said the day after the killing, when a sheriff's deputy asked, "Did you all know if he was black or white?"

The teen said, "I could tell he was a black man."

The 15-year-old passenger in the car, riding in the front seat, says he couldn't tell.

There is also this, an interview with Tony Hopper's mother shortly after the incident.

HOPE HOPPER, TONY HOPPER'S MOTHER: Was racist. Two of those kids freaked out.

GRIFFIN: Hope Hopper has since said nothing about the crime. Her son has not been charged. She did tell local media that after speaking out, she and her family received death threats. She's declined comment to CNN.

JOHN CHAMPION, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I understand what she said. And I don't know where she got that from.

GRIFFIN: John Champion is the local district attorney.

CHAMPION: Never presented us with any kind of reason to believe that it was race-related. I don't have a single piece of evidence in front of me to indicate that it was race-related, including the testimony of the two young men that were in the car.

GRIFFIN (on camera): You have three white teenagers running down a black guy on the side of the road. From anybody on the outside looking in, that looks like not only a hate crime, but a repeat crime from what we had in Jackson. CHAMPION: Well, I certainly don't disagree with you on its face that it does. And certainly, one of the things that we investigated when we began the initial part of it is was this in fact a hate crime.

And the investigators looked at not only the facts of the case as far as the actual crime is concerned, but we also looked at a motive. And during the course of the investigation, we uncovered absolutely nothing that indicated that this would be a hate crime.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): John Champion has no idea what the motive was. The sheriff's investigators, in interview transcripts obtained by CNN, don't even bother to ask.

Champion says the investigation has exhaustively looked at the background of Whit Darby and found no racism. It even says he called in the FBI in which he says race was not a factor.

But the FBI isn't so sure. A spokesperson telling CNN the FBI absolutely considers this investigation to be still open. Pastor Fred Butts is Johnny Butts' brother.

(on camera): Do you believe the sheriff and district attorney either don't want to or afraid to know the truth?

FRED BUTTS, VICTIM'S BROTHER: I think they don't want to. They don't want to push that issue.

GRIFFIN: They don't want to push race?

F. BUTTS: I actually believe that, that they don't want to push that issue.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): And there is this. Days after Johnny Lee Butts was killed, and literally just around the corner, these four boys were walking on the shoulder of this road when two white men, they say, in a white Jeep aimed straight for them, scaring them into the ditch.

(on camera): And they were laughing when they passed by?


GRIFFIN: And just kept going?


GRIFFIN: Scared you?


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Neighbors told CNN they watched the whole thing from their porch.

We tried to get hold of the police incident report. To our surprise, after repeatedly declining to be interviewed, Sheriff Dennis Darby himself called us back. He told us, "There's nothing in this report," and that he wouldn't give it to us. Then warned CNN not to, quote, stir up trouble in his county. Adding, "You do something with this and I'll be coming after you."

Matthew Whit Darby, no relation to the sheriff, goes on trial for murder, but not a hate crime, next month.


COOPER: This is a really stunning report, Drew. There are so many inconsistencies here on what the police are saying. The mother of one of the teens in the car who killed the man on the side of the road, she said it was racially motivated. Do we know if investigators even talked to her?

GRIFFIN: From the records we've obtained, Anderson, which include witnesses' list, she's not on any witness list. We have no transcript of any interview that was done with her.

So, despite that public assertion that she said, "Look, this was racist," and her son was involved, we don't believe that investigators ever went to find out what she was saying. She won't talk to us. Basically, she has been telling people she's scared to speak out.

COOPER: And that second incident, do the police, the sheriff, Darby investigators, do they try to do anything to find that jeep?

GRIFFIN: It doesn't appear they did anything at all. We're not even really sure if the police believed these kids.

Here's what happened. An officer came out, write up that one- page report. It's the report the sheriff will not even let us see. But as far as any investigation, there's no evidence that they went and tried to corroborate the story or even tried to find the driver of that jeep down that road. It's just let go.

COOPER: And the kids remain scared?

GRIFFIN: They do. And I'm going to tell you, Anderson, they're not the only ones. And people are beginning to ask about other cases. Three years ago, a black man was found dead on the side of a rural road in this county. The medical examiner determined he'd been run over by a car, but I can tell you there's no evidence of any sort of investigation there either. No arrest, no car, no explanation as to how this black man was just found hit by a car on the side of the road three years ago.

COOPER: Three years ago. Wow. Well, Drew, we'll see if this report changes anything. We'll continue to follow it. Appreciate it, Drew. Great investigation.

Some shocking images of a helicopter in central London today after it struck a crane, crashed onto the street below. Take a look at it. We'll have the latest developments of what happened ahead.


SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Hendricks with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

A helicopter crashed into a construction crane in thick fog. It happened in central London, killing the pilot and a person on the ground. The wreckage was on fire, and massive amounts of smoke rose into the air during the height of the morning commute there.

The FAA has ordered airlines to stop flying Boeing 787s until they can show they fixed a fire risk linked to battery problems. This move comes after Japan's two largest airlines grounded their Dreamliner fleet following an emergency landing in the country, and another incident in Boston.

In Portland, Oregon, rescue crews freed a woman trapped between two buildings for about four hours. She was stuck in an area about 10 inches wide. According to reports, she fell into that area after she was seen walking or smoking on a rooftop, but as you see, she is OK.

And Anderson will be right back with "The RidicuList." Stay with us.


COOPER: Time now for the "RidicuList." And tonight, we have a story of what may be the best weather forecast ever. It's courtesy of meteorologist Andrew Kosak (ph) at KTUL in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now, it seems that the computer that generates the graphics for his morning weather forecast went down, so he kind of went old school. Take a look.


ANDREW KOSAK (PH), METEOROLOGIST: Let's take a look at the current temperatures. This is what we can see out there. It can tell you right now, it's 15 in Foga (ph) City, 18 at Tulsa International.


COOPER: Desperate times call for desperate measures. The computer goes down, the show's got to go on. What's a weather forecast without a check on the radar?


KOSAK (ph): Here's a look at the radar.

It's not the best. Something happened to the state of Oklahoma overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like somebody rerouted the Red River.

KOSAK (ph): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need thicker paper. KOSAK (PH): For today, your day planner forecast, getting your day started. Those are not snowflakes, as Keith pointed out earlier. Those are stars.


COOPER: I sort of see that.

See, the problem with hand-drawn weather graphics is that you can't really get too elaborate. For instance, you can't do an eight- day forecast or headlines or anything.


KOSAK (ph): Let's take a look at your headlines this morning. And as we do, we're going to talk about a cold start to the week. This is exactly what we're looking at here. Eight-day planner. Monday, that's today, 34 degrees. Move my fingers out of the way here. Thirty-four degrees today, we'll be looking at mostly sunny skies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've even got the little Toyota sponsors sign.

KOSAK (ph): Yes, Valley Toyota is our sponsor this week; didn't want to leave you guys out.


COOPER: I stand corrected. Hey, who needs computers when you can just draw your own travel map?


KOSAK (PH): And we are going to take a look at your surface map. And that is right here. Lots of high pressure across the area. And that's why we'll have those light northeast winds with the high right to the northeast of us. If you have travel plans today, the East Coast, including Atlanta over towards D.C., maybe even New York, a few delays possible with some rain. Even some heavier rain at times, as well.


COOPER: I love how this guy did this.

This went on throughout the entire morning show as they scrambled to get computers back up and running. He even made graphics for the changing forecast of his mood.


KOSAK (ph): This is how I felt this morning. This is how I felt when I realized I could just draw everything, and when I realized that we're finally getting the computers back, this is how I feel right now. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like the hair color.

KOSAK (PH): Well, I had to utilize the blue highlighter.


COOPER: So finally, after about an hour and a half, the computer was supposedly fixed. But the question was would it work?


KOSAK (ph): See if it works. Ready? Go back to Weather One.


KOSAK (PH): We got it. Excellent. Thank you to everybody involved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like yours better.


COOPER: I've got to say, I kind of like the hand-drawn ones better myself. Kind of makes me want to set up a Pictionary game between that guy and Chad Myers.

I'm just thankful that I'll never have to draw my own graphics, because it's always sunny here on "The RidicuList."

Hey, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.