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Women in Combat; New Gun Control Proposal

Aired January 24, 2013 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

A truly remarkable story tonight. It could have been another Newtown, Connecticut, a confessed teenage killer bent, investigators say, on causing a massacre. Instead, he stopped short, which is where our story begins tonight. We will explain ahead.

And later, how Manti Te'o explains the girlfriend who never was and his statements about her after he knew she was fictitious. You might have seen the interview today. We will speak to a pair of reporters, Jeremy Schaap, who also talked to Manti Te'o, and Timothy Burke, who first broke the story.

We begin, though, as we do every night, "Keeping Them Honest," looking for facts, not trying to offer opinions or playing favorites, not supporting Democrats or Republicans. You can find that elsewhere. Just looking at reporting, real reporting and looking for the truth, calling out hypocrisy.

So, tonight, how politicians who oppose women serving in combat reconcile their position with the facts about women serving in combat. You can hear for yourself and you can decide for yourself.

Today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the military will let women serve in front-line combat units, including infantry, armor, artillery, even potentially special forces.


LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Our nation was built on the premise of the citizen soldier. In our democracy, I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to protect the nation.


COOPER: The policy came together after more than a year's effort by Secretary Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey with the heads of each service signing off. The branches will have until May to submit plans for integrating women and they will also be able to make the case that certain specialties should not be held by women, special forces, for instance,.

Early reaction was mixed. Ryan Smith, a retired Marine infantryman, said that men and women side by side in combat would be distracting, harmful, and awkward to unit cohesion.


RYAN SMITH, FORMER U.S. MARINE: Combat is a very hard game. I think people are being awfully cavalier about this restriction being lifted. Combat is a life or death game. If we get this wrong, the loser dies.


COOPER: Republican Senator James Inhofe sounded alarm bells as well warning that Congress may have to put the brakes on the deal, and social conservative groups school as the Family Research Council also weighed in against the idea, the FRC asking on its home page tonight: "How much national security is our president willing to forego to promote this kind of progressive feminism?"

"Keeping Them Honest" though not every conservative feels this way. House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon for one said he welcomed today's announcement, and in addition people on both sides of the aisle acknowledge the idea of women in combat is totally normal if you speak German or Hebrew, Dutch, French, Finnish, or Polish. The armed forces in all those countries, plus Canada, Australia, Romania, Norway and Sweden allow women in combat units.

In addition, there's the inescapable fact that in modern warfare, the front line can be blurry, meaning troops in nominally non-combat roles can wind up in combat.


GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: In fact, in 2003, when I got to Baghdad as the commander of 1st Armored Division, my first foray out of the forward operating base, I hopped into the up-armored Humvee and I asked the driver who he was, where he was from? I slapped the turret gunner on the leg and I said, who are you? She leaned down and said, I'm Amanda. I said, OK.


COOPER: Tammy, Lieutenant Colonel Tammy Duckworth lost her legs from RPG fire piloting a Black Hawk chopper in Iraq. Now Congresswoman Duckworth looks at today's decision and sees it as a part of long tradition of reform and resistance.


REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: There was study after stud after study during World War II before we allowed African-Americans to fly airplanes because people thought African-Americans did not have the mental capacity to fly aircraft, yet look at the heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen, who never lost a bomber aircraft that they were escorting.


COOPER: Plenty of African-Americans died in the Second World War. Certainly, women have paid the ultimate price in Iraq and Afghanistan as well, 100 killed, hundreds more wounded.

To some, that's a reason to bring women officially into combat roles and allow them the opportunity for command promotions that only combat experience in some cases can deliver. For others, the idea of women dying in battle is a big reason for keeping them off the battlefield in the first place.

I'm joined now by former Congressman Allen West. He's an Iraq war combat veteran. Also retired Canadian army General Rick Hillier joins me. Canadian women have been serving in combat roles since 1989, and the general is the author of a book called "A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War."

Congressman West, you completely disagree with this decision. I want to play you something that Senator John McCain, obviously a respected military veteran, had to say when asked about this decision. Let's listen.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think it's the right thing to do. I support it. I just want us all to make sure that the standards, particularly the physical standards, are met so that the combat efficiency of the units are not degraded, but it's time to do that. Women have proven their enormous contributions they have made in Iraq and Afghanistan.


COOPER: Congressman West, do you believe he's wrong?

ALLEN WEST (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I disagree with him. I think my recent experiences in Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan, I think first and foremost, you need to get the standards correct and make sure we don't have the loss in the quality of our combat units on the front lines.

I have been the first to admit you have women that are serving in combat zones and therefore when you leave an operating base, everyone is in combat, but I think when you're talking about going into some of these units, now you're talking about something different. We have to make sure we have all of the right policies and procedures that are in place, and I think we just put the cart before the horse instead of allowing this to matriculate in the right, correct fashion, I guess.

COOPER: But this isn't happening overnight. In fact, it's going to take years and each of the units, a specialized unit like the SEALs, for instance, can make the case why women should not serve in that unit. Is that not enough?

WEST: Well, let's be very honest. When you have done this public announcement, it's going to be very hard for someone to come back and objectively say that we stand against this.

You put the pressure on people in the opposite direction. I wish we had gone through these specialized units, we had done the right type of study with the infantry units. And as a matter of fact, I believe just recently, we had two females who were involved in Marine Corps infantry basic training, officer basic training, and they did not meet the standard, they did not pass.

I'm not trying to say there aren't exceptions to the rule, but I think before we make a major policy shift and change like this, we should really get down to the grassroots in some of these units and see how well that's going to work and what would be the problems with implementation.

General Hillier, Canada opened front-line combat unit roles to women back in 1989. You were involved in the process. In your experience, was it the right move, not only in terms of equality, but in also terms of military readiness?

GEN. RICK HILLIER (RET.), CANADIAN MILITARY: Anderson, it was. It was absolutely the right move.

First of all, we increased our recruiting pool by 50 percent, 100 percent because now women could join all roles in the Canadian armed forces and secondly, it just made them equal in our society completely. They now could serve the country in the toughest of roles that they had.

What we found was this. All we said was we are going to make sure our standards, our physical standards, our mental standards, and our ethical standards remain high. In fact, we actually increased them. If you can meet those standards, you can do any job in the Canadian forces, and that's where we have gone over the last 20 years.


COOPER: But did women have a different standard? Sorry, did women have a different standard than men in terms of doing the same number of pushups or pull-ups?

HILLIER: Absolutely not, Anderson.

One of the first things we had to realize is we wanted to ensure that we had fit soldiers who could carry heavy loads because they are a beast of burden on a battlefield who could get in position, bring fire on an enemy and fight win against that enemy.

And so what we started to say was, here are our standards. We want them very high. Now, how are we measuring those standards? One of the things we looked was that our physical fitness measurements were often prejudiced towards men, pushups being a perfect case in point. I used to say, I never met a Taliban commander who was frightened of someone doing pushups.

What they were frightened of were fit soldiers, professional, well-equipped who could take the fight to them and win it. And women don't do pushups well. We started measuring our fitness in a different way. We found our standards, Anderson, actually increased. COOPER: Congressman West, does that concern you when you hear Canada kind of changed their standards or just measured them in a different way?

WEST: It does concern me. Having been in the military myself for 22 years, when you look at the Army physical fitness training standards, there is a difference between the requirements for a male and female soldier at whatever different age group, and then you have just got to equal that out.

We can't adjust standards or say that the pushup is really not going to be a fair measurement so we're going to change the measurement. That's the concern that I think we have to have as we move down the road. Look, Anderson, the big concern we should have right now, we kicked the can on sequestration. Sequestration is going to hit in March. That means 200,000 Army soldiers and Marines are going to be put out. You're going to have a lessening of naval vessels.

You're going to have nine less fighter and tactical squadrons in the Air Force. We just saw in Algeria a horrific attack by radical Islamists who were being trained by special forces in Mali, some of them, and they defected over, but we had three Americans we lost. I think that's where our focus should be right now, the declining situation in the Middle East and sequestration and not so much this, I guess, foray into an inequality trip.

And I would have to tell you, if this be the case, then why do we have separate hockey leagues? Women should be out there playing ice hockey with the guys in the NHL. We should not have a WNBA. I can't shoot a three-pointer, but there are ladies out there that could certainly take me to the hoop. Maybe they should be competing with Kobe Bryant.


COOPER: General, let me ask you, was there ever cases where having women in a combat roles you felt improved the conditions? I think about going to a village say in Afghanistan where men may have a problem talking to women. Is there a plus in your mind, General?

HILLIER: I think there are many pluses, Anderson, but let me just come back to the question I answered earlier.

We didn't change our standards. We just went back and made sure we were measuring the standards that we wanted, as opposed to doing something that we were doing simply because we had done it for centuries, like pushups, for example.


COOPER: It was carrying a pack or something?

HILLIER: Well, soldiers carry an average of 100 pounds on operations in Afghanistan. We made sure they could carry that weight for a long period of time, they could carry their weapons, and when they finished that long period of time, they could carry a buddy on their back, man or woman of their rough size because they might be injured or wounded, and they could dig a trench, and they could scale a wall, and they could bring the fight to the enemy after all of that in a high-temperature, harsh climate.

That's the kind of fitness we wanted and that's what we got from all of our soldiers, male or female. In actual combat operations, we found many pluses. Just simply out in villages amongst the population of Afghanistan, our male soldiers simply could not speak to the females that were in the area. You simply cannot do that.

Our female soldiers could talk to them, could obtain all kinds of information, sometimes very actionable intelligence, actually disseminate our own messages themselves, start to build a rapport with people that we were there to help, and they could do things that male soldiers simply couldn't do simply because they were female.

And at the same time, they could do everything else that we asked them. There were many pluses.

COOPER: Congressman West, even though this came after a yearlong study by the Joint Chiefs and each head of the Joint Chiefs, each member of the Joint Chiefs signed off on this, you believe this is about politics?

WEST: Let's be very honest, when you're at that level of three- or four-star general, that's a political appointee.

But one of the things I want to bring in as a battalion commander in Iraq in 2003, I had two females that were detailed to my unit as interrogators. I will also tell you it was very difficult for them to talk to males in that scenario, but, yes, we took them on raids and they were very helpful when we had to deal with females who may have been in the compound.

So you have female soldiers that are attached to infantry or armor or artillery units, but what we're talking about now is from boot camp all the way through, inculcating them into these combat type of units, and I don't know if we had thought through the second, third, maybe fourth order effects.

Let's consider back in 2001 when the special forces A-team went in and was working with the Northern Alliance and they were on horseback. Are we ready to see those females who would go in, even if they met the qualities and the standards, would they be accepted in that kind of cultural scenario? Those are the type of things we have to think through.

COOPER: General Hillier, but looking back from 1989, you have no doubt this should be done?

HILLIER: Anderson, no doubt whatsoever. We had all of those same concerns, but the reality is, and I saw this myself, and I got it firsthand from men and women involved in combat operations -- when they were fully involved from boot camp onwards, as the congressman said, there really was no difference. We produced cohesive combat units that could do the missions that we wanted successfully and they could mostly do them better because there were men and women involved who simply wanted to serve our country and do great things as Canadians. For us, it was one of the most incredible things that we could have ever done, absolutely right, absolutely positive.

COOPER: Interesting.

I appreciate both of your perspectives. General Hillier, Congressman West, thank you very much. Good discussion.

Follow me on Twitter. Let me know what you think on Twitter. Let's talk about it right now @AndersonCooper.

Coming up next: how another Newtown massacre might have been but wasn't, and how investigators say an alleged teenage killer stopped short of something even worse. You will meet the man who confronted him.

And later: how doctors made sure a little baby's heart -- this is extraordinary. A little baby, she was born with her heart beating outside her body. The heart is now back in and place and she is home in a miraculous story. We will explain ahead.


COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight, a voice in the gun debate with a motivation you might not know about. You might assume that California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein favors strict gun control measures because she's a California Democrat representing a fairly liberal constituency.

But Senator Feinstein, who today introduced legislation banning more than 150 types of assault weapons, is also the former mayor of San Francisco. She came to office as the direct result of a notorious shooting, an assassination.

The story now from chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Dianne Feinstein, it's personal.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I became mayor as a product of assassination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed.

BASH: The death of her colleagues, including Harvey Milk, the first openly gay public official in America, was so traumatic, she rarely discusses it.

(on camera): You are somebody who very close to a shooting. (voice-over): But here at the launch of her push to renew the assault weapons ban, she answered in graphic detail.

FEINSTEIN: I was the one that found Supervisor Milk's body and I was that put a finger in a bullet hole trying to get a pulse. Once you have been through one of these episodes, one you see what the crime scene is like, it isn't like the movies. It changes your view of weapons.

BASH: She put on an elaborate event, even getting special permission from D.C. and Capitol Police to display 10 different types of assault weapons, including an AR-15, the kind of rifle the shooter used to murder children in Newtown.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Assault weapons were designed for and should be used on our battlefields, not on our streets.

BASH: The proposed legislation would prohibit the sale, manufacture, transfer and importation of more than 150 assault-style weapons and ban large-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition. But to appeal to gun owners, it excludes or keeps legal most handguns and 2,200 hunting and sporting rifles.

CHARLES RAMSEY, PHILADELPHIA POLICE CHIEF: How are you going to go hunting with something like that? You like something, there's nothing left to eat.

BASH: Also here, family members and victims of gun massacres across the country. Lily Habtu was shot in German class at Virginia Tech.

LILY HABTU, SHOOTING VICTIM: I had a bullet still in my head. I was shot in the jaw. It's one inch -- it's one millimeter away from my brain stem.

BASH: Still, Feinstein is realistic about the slim chance this assault weapons ban has of passing.

FEINSTEIN: If anyone asks today, can you win this, the answer is, we don't know. It's so uphill.

BASH: But pushing gun control is now a White House campaign- style effort and Vice President Joe Biden held a social media town hall, a Google hangout to rally support.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make your voices heard. This outfit, this town listens when people rise up and speak.

BASH: The White House and Feinstein know their biggest hurdle is convincing skeptical fellow Democrats from gun right states to support gun control.

FEINSTEIN: The message to Democrats is, see what your silence does? There will be more of these. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Dana Bash joins me now.

Dana, you have been talking to red state Democrats, including some who have gotten NRA support in the past. Have any of them told you they will support this legislation?

BASH: Not one, Anderson.

The dynamic is there are more than half a dozen Democrats from the red states up for reelection next year, and they really feel that this is something they don't want to touch with a 10-foot pole.

Then more broadly, there are about a dozen conservative Democrats or at least Democrats from conservative states who also just are highly skeptical of the idea of supporting this. And if you look at what the NRA said today, it gives you an example of why. I will read you part of their statement.

They said: "The American people know gun bans do not work and we are confident Congress will reject Senator Feinstein's wrong-headed approach."

Now, Anderson, of all of the proposals the president announced earlier this month, it seems that background checks, at least some form of strengthening them, have the best chance of passing. But, privately, even Democrats I talk to who support gun control says that's an uphill climb.

The way one senior Democratic source put it I think it really explains the political dynamite here. He said Democrats simply don't do well in gunfights -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Dana, thanks very much.

This next story is no less remarkable. To be sure, it's about a terrible tragedy, a family murdered in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You may remember hearing about this, but it's also about how the killings may have been the prelude to a killing rampage, they might have, but they weren't.

Now, looking back on it, you have to wonder whether all of the talk in Washington, all of the politicking could have prevented any of it. What did stop this alleged killer?

Kyung Lah tells us what happened in that crucial space between something bad and something so much worse.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you feel that this place, this church that you love, came pretty darn close to becoming Newtown?

VINCE HARRISON, RETIRED POLICE OFFICER: Absolutely, 101 percent. Absolutely. LAH (voice-over): Vince Harrison was staring at the gunman, a 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego, who early Saturday morning, according to detectives, had just massacred his entire family and planned to continue killing until the police killed him.

Oddly enough, the former Albuquerque police officer was actually leading a drill on what to do when a shooter is loose in a church when he came face-to-face with the reality.

HARRISON: Thinking about it, yes, it sent chills up my spine. I'm not sure if he came here for help. This is what he knew. This was his life away from his home.

LAH: A home life that was hard, according to neighbors, who said the shooter's father, Greg Griego, practiced tough love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he was a tyrant. And the kids under that type of pressure -- I didn't see any sign of love among those people.

LAH: The heartbreaking details of what happened in the Griego home start with young Nehemiah arguing with his mother, according to detectives, who say when she went to sleep, the 15-year-old took his father's .22-caliber rifle and shot her in the head. That woke up his brother. Investigators say Griego lifted his dead mother's head and showed it to 9-year-old Zephania before killing him as well.

Investigators say his 5-year-old sister, Jael, and the youngest member of the family, 2-year-old Angelina, were next. At this point, the investigators say Griego changed weapons and waited hours until his father, Greg, came home. Detectives say the one-time gang member and now pastor was shot in the back and killed with his own AR-15.

(on camera): Investigators believe the boy wasn't done yet, saying he reloaded the AR-15 and the .22-caliber rifle and put them with more ammo into the family minivan. Investigators say he wanted to come to this Wal-Mart. Why?

According to the criminal complaint, to murder more people in a populated area, and then die in a gunfight with police.

(voice-over): But for some reason, the teen changed his mind and instead drove to his family's church. Griego left the guns in the van and went inside, where he spent the day like an average teenager, hanging out with his girlfriend at the church's skate park, the basketball court, and the bookstore.

The first sign of trouble at the mega-church was when Pastor Justin Marbury was told by a parishioner that something was wrong with Griego's family, so he asked the 15-year-old if he knew anything.

PASTOR JUSTIN MARBURY, CALVARY CHURCH: What he was saying was, my family is dead.

LAH: Griego told the pastor and Vince Harrison that he had actually been home and discovered his dead family, but for some reason did not call police.

HARRISON: Just his behavior was real quiet and cold and matter of fact, and the red flags started going up.

LAH: Harrison and the pastor decided to take Griego to his house to see if the story was true, but a mile from the house, Harrison felt something he hadn't since his days as a homicide cop.

HARRISON: Something evil was not right. Felt like a darkness.

LAH: He pulled over and got out of the car so Griego couldn't hear him call 911. Sheriff's deputies met them at the house. They used Griego's key, and found the bodies. Deputies arrested the teen quietly. Authorities say he eventually confessed and told officers he started his killing spree because he was angry with his mother. Griego seemed disconnected, say officers, only getting excited when he talked about his love of violent video games -- a stunning turn for his church community who saw the youngster grow up as a normal child until the day of the murders.

MARBURY: Part of what I do as a pastor is I'm watching out for the church, for the people here. And part of that is paying attention.

LAH (on camera): Do you think paying attention made a difference here?

MARBURY: I think taking it seriously and following through did, yes.

LAH (voice-over): The difference between a family tragedy and what could have been another Newtown.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Albuquerque, New Mexico.


COOPER: Such an extraordinary story.

The uncle of the alleged shooter is going to be on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." That should be a remarkable interview. Stick around for that.

We also have a really amazing story next, an example of some of the extraordinary things that doctors can do today. A beautiful baby girl is home with her family tonight at this hour after beating tremendous odds. She was born with her heart outside her body. It's an incredible rare birth defect. It's usually fatal. Doctors were able to save this little girl's life. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me ahead to explain. It's just incredible.

Also, later, Manti Te'o's first on-camera interview about his fake girlfriend. Katie Couric asked some questions, but did his answers actually pass the smell test? We will explain ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Really incredible medical story tonight about an adorable 3-month-old baby who beat the odds and is home from the hospital right now. Her name is Audrina Cardenes.

She went home wearing what looks like a baby-sized body armor, which is basically is. It's to protect her tiny heart. It's going to make sense to you when you see this next video. It's kind of shocking, but it shows just why the story is so incredible. Take a look. This is what Audrina's heart looked like before she had surgery to fix it. It was partially outside of her body. She was born with this very rare birth defect where the heart or part of it forms outside of her body.

Now, most babies with this defect do not survive. But doctors at Texas Children's Hospital were able to put Audrina's heart back into her chest. We wish her all the best of luck.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now.

This story is incredible, this little girl. Have you ever seen a case like this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, I have once back when I was in residency. It's a pretty rare thing, but there was a baby who was flown to the hospital where I was training, and had this exact same sort of condition, and got an operation.

COOPER: I read this is like eight out of one million babies have this problem. Is that true? It's that rare?

GUPTA: Yes. It is that rare, and there's a couple important points about that.

Besides being rare, there's not a lot of data. People always say, what caused it exactly? What is the exact right treatment? When you have numbers that small, Anderson, it's hard to come up with data that supports anything in particular.

Also, of the babies that do have this, 90 percent of them actually don't survive more than three days after birth, so it is rare, and it's in most cases fatal.

COOPER: To see that image where you basically see the heart beating, I understand they learned about the baby's condition when her mom was like 16 weeks pregnant. Could they do anything to help her while she was in utero?

GUPTA: No, there's not an in utero operation. They do some do operations while the babies is still in the uterus, but not this one.

The mother is essentially given a choice. And you can imagine how difficult this must be. At 16 weeks, she's told, look, either you could terminate the pregnancy. You could do nothing and just provide comfort care after the baby is born, or you could plan this very extensive operation involving several different types of surgical specialties and everything.

So she opted for the third option. The odds were definitely stacked against her, but again, so far, it looks like things are going well.

COOPER: So she had open-heart surgery the day after she was born. What does that entail? I mean, that's got to be so difficult.

GUPTA: Yes. So with her particular case, and when you talk about ectopia cordis, again, this rare thing, the heart -- it's outside the body. It can be outside the body, higher up closer to the neck, closer to the chest here in the sternum area or even lower down. What they essentially have to do is -- what this is, it's not a problem with the heart, per se, but a problem with the outside of the body. The body wall, if you will, just didn't develop properly. In this case, about a third of the heart got stuck outside the body.

So they essentially have to open up that area. They have to create room inside the chest cavity, because the chest cavity may have become full, you know, with the lungs and the rest of the heart. There may not be enough room in there, and they have to essentially push the heart back in.

And after that, they've got to sort of close the skin over the heart, making sure it's not being compressed. It's a really remarkable operation. Cardiothoracic surgeons are involved, neonatologists, doctors who take care of newborn babies, and also pediatric surgeons are involved. So it's -- they say up to 80 different, you know, medical personnel were involved in the care of Audrina.

COOPER: She's gone home. Is her heart now back in her body and they have just put skin over it and this protective plate?

GUPTA: Yes, her heart is back inside of her body. It's not, you know, protected by the bone, again, the sternum that we're used to feeling here. It just has the skin, which is why the protective armor is there. But in the long run, you know, there will be something that will be more permanent placed there to protect her heart, to protect her lungs, all of those internal organs.

COOPER: But she'll always have that vulnerability? Unless she's wearing some sort of armor? They can't grow, like, a bone or something or place a bone over it?

GUPTA: Yes, no, similar. You know, it's sort of a bone composite. Sometimes, they'll use a combination of bone and something known as methyl methacrylate, which is almost a ceramic type thing.

Right now, she's growing, so if they were to do something more permanent, she would essentially grow out of it. So at some point, they're going to put something in that's going to, you know, hopefully last her for the rest of her life, and she shouldn't have any other problems.

A lot of these types of conditions, Anderson, are associated with other problems, liver problems, or some other problems going on in the body. This particular issue, usually if you solve this problem that we're talking about, and she survives the operation, which she has, three and a half months later now, she should do pretty well.

COOPER: It's just incredible what doctors can do now. Sanjay, thanks so much. We wish her the best, as I said.

Just ahead, Manti Te'o tries to explain why he missed all the red flags that screamed "your dead girlfriend isn't real." Did talking with Katie Couric help or hurt his case? Two reporters, ESPN's Schapp, who talked with him last week, and Tim Burke, who broke the story, weigh in ahead.


COOPER: The bizarre details of the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend hoax are seeping out bit by bit. As we hear them, the story really only gets weirder.

Diane O'Meara, the woman whose image was stolen to create an identity for the fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, only learned that she was the face of the hoax, which lasted for years, last week when she got a call from a California man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Here's what she told me.


DIANE O'MEARA, PICTURES USED IN HOAX: He reached out to me a day or two days before the story broke and relayed to me that he, in fact, was stalking my profile for five years, taking my photos, and he created...

COOPER: Five years?

O'MEARA: He created this identity that was not me.


COOPER: Tuiasosopo -- that's him in this picture -- has not admitted publicly he was the mastermind of the hoax. O'Meara says he's apologized to her. As for Te'o, O'Meara has never met him, though their names will probably be linked for a long time to come.

Today in his first on-camera interview, Te'o told his version of the story to Katie Couric.


COOPER (voice-over): According to Manti Te'o, he first met the person he thought was Lennay Kekua over Facebook when he was a freshman in college. This is what he told Katie Couric.

MANTI TE'O, NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL PLAYER: I knew of her. We would speak as friends ever since my freshman year, but it didn't start to pick up until my junior year. And it was just -- I didn't meet her and I didn't see her in person, and she just seemed nice. From the pictures, she seemed very beautiful.

COOPER: A week ago, Te'o told ESPN their casual friendship over Facebook escalated after the fictional Kekua told him her father died, and they would talk on the phone for hours, according to Te'o, who provided Katie Couric with a voice mail from the girl he thought was Lennay Kekua.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, babe, I'm just calling to say good night. I love you.

COOPER: Te'o says they tried multiple times to meet in person, but something always stopped them, but still, he says, he never suspected anything was wrong.

TE'O: This Lennay person, there's so many similarities. She was Polynesian, supposedly. She's Samoan and I'm Samoan. She loved her faith.

COOPER: In April of 2012, Te'o says he received a call, supposedly from Kekua's brother, telling him she was in a coma after a bad car accident. But still, he didn't visit her. They had supposedly been in a serious relationship now for about a year.

KATIE COURIC, TALK SHOW HOST: Why in the world wouldn't you go visit this girl in the hospital?

TE'O: I am up in San Diego, which is too far for me to go to the hospital. Then I fly to L.A., and the layover time was too short.

COOPER: The fictional Kekua said she recovered and Te'o says he jumped for joy when he heard the news. But in June, according to ESPN, Lennay Kekua told him she had leukemia.

COURIC: Well, either you're the most naive person on the planet or this is the saddest story, I think, ever written. I mean, at this point, did you think to yourself, Manti, are you kidding? Now she has leukemia? I mean, it goes on and on and on.

TE'O: Yes, and I thought how could all this happen to one person?

COOPER: Three months later, on September 12, Te'o was told his grandmother had died, and a few hours later he got a phone call from someone who said he was Lennay Kekua's brother.

TE'O: He was crying and kept screaming. And he just said she's gone.

COOPER: Te'o then dedicated the rest of his football season to his grandmother and to Lennay Kekua. His coaches shared his story with the media, which along with his stellar performance on the field, made him a star.

But then on December 6, Te'o received a phone call. The voice on the other end of the phone said it was Lennay Kekua.

TE'O: There was a long silent pause. And -- I was angry. Just to say the least.

COURIC: But you knew something was up at that point.

TE'O: Yes.

COURIC: Finally, you knew something was up.

TE'O: Yes.

COOPER: And then even though the person he thought was Lennay Kekua was alive, he still spoke publicly about her death two days later.

TE'O: I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer.

COOPER: Those comments led many to believe Te'o was in on the hoax. If he knew the person he thought was Kekua was alive, why did he say publicly she had died? Today, Te'o told Couric he was simply overwhelmed.

TE'O: The girl I committed myself to died on September 12. Now I get a phone call on December 6, saying that she's alive. And then I'm going to be put on national TV two days later and they ask me about the same questions. What would you do?


COOPER: ESPN's Jeremy Schapp did an off-camera interview with Te'o last week not long after the story broke. They talked for two and a half hours. Many, many questions were asked. The only condition was no cameras. The audio was recorded, though.

Jeremy Schapp joins me now. What did you think of his interview today? Did it pretty much jibe with what he told you last week?

JEREMY SCHAPP, ESPN: Yes, I mean, I didn't see any separation between the story he was telling Katie and what he said today. When I use the term story, I don't mean to suggest that he's being untruthful.

COOPER: You believe him? That he wasn't...

SCHAPP: It's an uncomfortable position to be in as a reporter, Anderson, when you're asked to vouch for somebody's believability. I don't know whether he's telling the truth. I do know that I found him believable, and I think Katie has said the same.

COOPER: Do you buy that, now that Tuiasosopo's lawyer has come forward and said that it was Ronaiah's voice all along, pretending to be a girl, pretending to be the girlfriend talking on the phone. Do you buy that?

SCHAPP: Well, when I spoke to Manti Te'o a few days ago, he said he believed that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was one of three people who was the voice of Lennay Kekua. So...

COOPER: He thinks three different people...

SCHAPP: He thought it was three different people, two men and one woman. So Tuiasosopo's lawyer is saying it was just Tuiasosopo. That means either he's telling the truth or perhaps he's covering for two other people.

COOPER: That he wants to take the fall for everybody. Protect them

SCHAPP: Perhaps. And again, everything here is...

COOPER: We don't know. Katie Couric pressed him on leading people to believe that he had met Lennay in person. Let's listen to what he told her.


TE'O: I wasn't as forthcoming about it. But I didn't lie. I never was asked, did you see her in person? And so through the embarrassment and the fear of what people may think, that I was committed to this person who I didn't have the chance to meet and she all of a sudden died, that scared me. And so to avoid any further conversation, I kind of wasn't as forthcoming as I should have been.


COOPER: To say he didn't lie. It's sort of semantics. He told you that it never occurred to him to go visit his dying girlfriend in the hospital when they were both in the same city. I found that really hard to believe.

SCHAPP: Well, he said it was more complicated than that. There were arrangements made. There had been previous contact and suggestions of meetings. She hadn't shown up.

You know, it's also not the easiest thing in the world for a kid who's living in Hawaii over the summer, back in Indiana, necessarily to get to southern California where he thought she was.

But I think the big picture here really, Anderson, it comes down to this. Either you believe that he was one of the perpetrators of this hoax, that he was behind it, and then the little lies don't matter. Or you believe that he wasn't, and then the little lies, again, don't really matter because he would be the victim, and he's simply saving face.

COOPER: Although you could also argue that he did kind of realize this is helping him in his career, and so even if he thought, OK, maybe there's something weird here, he used this to, and he used the media to kind of propel this and perpetuate this idea that he loved this girl, even though now what he's saying is, well, you know, they never met and they weren't that close.

SCHAPP: But if you believe that, then. And I'm saying you could believe whatever you want and people out there are certainly skeptical about this. If you believe that he perpetrated this hoax, then you necessarily believe that, on September 12, he finds out, which is a fact, that his grandmother died, someone very close to him. Family is very tight-knit in the Samoan community. Somebody he grew up with, and in the next few hours, he decides to create, orchestrate a scene in the Notre Dame locker room, where he kicks cans, he has to be consoled by teammates, by coaches.

And you have to say to yourself, at that moment in time, he did this to further -- what? His candidacy for a Heisman trophy? It's possible. I'm just saying if you believe that he was behind this hoax, you have to believe that, in the hours after he found out his grandmother died...

COOPER: Right.

SCHAPP: ... he also decided to stage a fake scene in the locker room.

COOPER: Do you think this hurts him long term?

SCHAPP: I don't think it hurts him long term unless somehow it's proved that he's been lying. Because I think people will eventually step back, take a look at him, and say he was a victim of a very cruel hoax here. What was perpetrated on him is almost unimaginably evil. And if he does -- and if people believe that, that he's the victim, the little lies, the little, you know, dissembling that he did to save face because he was embarrassed, whatever the case may be, doesn't matter.

COOPER: Interesting. Jeremy Schapp, appreciate it. Thank you very much for being with us. Appreciate it.

It's been just over a week since exposed the hoax. Tim Burke broke the story. He joins me now.

Tim, what's your reaction to what you heard today in that interview with Katie Couric? Anything surprising?

TIM BURKE, DEADSPIN.COM: Well, honestly, knowing that Katie Couric and Manti Te'o share the same publicist, we mostly didn't expect her to ask any really tough questions, and as a matter of fact, she did. When she came out and asked him point blank, "When you were in Los Angeles, why didn't you go visit her in the hospital," we got a very revealing answer. And that was probably the most surprising part of the interview for me.

COOPER: Do you still have questions in your mind? I mean, are there still questions that you think need to be answered?

BURKE: Anderson, I think that, given -- and I would echo what Jeremy said about that, as a reporter, it's difficult for us to be put in a position of believing or not. All that we can do is look for facts.

And we've already sort of seen some discrepancies here in regard to the phone records. The phone records that were presented to Jeremy after their ESPN interview are not characterized the same way as Katie Couric has suggested the ones that were provided to her were.

But for the most part, I think that we are talking about a hoax, and who's responsible, but in reality, there are three hoaxes. There's the hoax that Lennay Kekua ever existed. There's the hoax that she faked her death to hide from drug dealers, both of which, you know, were bought at some point by Manti Te'o.

But the third hoax is really about the degree of the relationship and how serious and how much he loved her.

COOPER: That's something you think he played up or it seems like he played up in the media?

BURKE: When he essentially tells Katie Couric that he didn't go visit his sick, dying girlfriend in the hospital because he didn't want to miss a flight, that tells me that it's not really as serious as he allowed the media to promulgate that message in the days after she died and in the way that he characterized it himself in interviews and in the press throughout this college football season.

COOPER: I want to play one of the hoax voice mails that the fictitious girlfriend left for Te'o. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just letting you know we just got here, and I'm getting ready for my first session. And I just wanted to call you to keep you posted. I miss you. I love you. Bye.


COOPER: Now, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo's lawyer says it was his client, Ronaiah, this guy, pretending to be a woman on these voice mails and on all the phone conversations, that he was the only one. Do you believe that?

BURKE: Frankly, Anderson, we find that kind of ridiculous. We have plenty recordings of Tuiasosopo's voice. They don't match up what -- from what we have in the voice mails.

Furthermore, we, too, have had multiple sources tell us that there were confederates that were involved along with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo in executing this hoax. So we really sort of have to ask the question, why is he trying to take credit for all of it now? Is he taking the fall for somebody who has more to lose than he does at this point?

It's been -- it's been more than a week now since we published our story at Has somebody gotten to him and gotten -- you know, and tried to tidy things up? It's really tough to say. But it's really sort of ludicrous to think he was behind the voice this entire time.

COOPER: And Tim, as far as you're concerned, do you think this -- kind of the story is over or do you think there's another shoe to drop? BURKE: Wow, I mean, given that I don't really believe we're ever going to have the whole truth about this, there may be plenty of shoes to drop, but I think for the most part, if Manti can sort of ever, I guess, acknowledge that the state of his relationship wasn't what he allowed the press to sort of maintain that it was, and that he knowingly didn't correct the media when they presented their relationship as something more than it was, I think that would probably put to bed all of the sort of questions that we have about the situation.

COOPER: Fascinating stuff. Tim, appreciate you being with us. Thanks very much.

Just ahead, our "American Journey" report. What a small company that sells eels has to do with a debate in Washington.


COOPER: The U.S. Chamber of Congress often at odds with the White House called today for the president to have more power in negotiating trade deals. Now the move could affect a lot of firms here in the U.S. with a global focus, including one small company in a very unique business, where Tom Foreman takes us on this week's "American Journey."


FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just outside Philadelphia, at the Delaware Valley Fish Company in Norristown, a new shipment has arrived. Wriggling, slithering, sliming its way into the world market.

BARRY CROCKMAN, EELER: We do about a million pounds a year.

COOPER: And Barry Crockman could not be happier.

CROCKMAN: I'm a third generation eeler, or sniggler.


CROCKMAN: A sniggler. That's -- you can actually find that on a crossword puzzle, if you want to know what an eeler is.

COOPER: Never popular with many Americans, eels are enjoyed on tables throughout Asia and Europe, considered delicacies, whether served raw, baked, boiled or fried.

FOREMAN: I love. It tastes like chicken.

(on camera): Well, what you're looking at here, is the eel holding system.

(voice-over): And that has created a kind of appreciation all along the East Coast of the United States, where the eel trade helps support hundreds of fishing families and 30 employees in this company alone. For most of the year, eels caught wild poor in waters from Florida to Newfoundland, pour into the site to be sorted, graded, packed, and sent live overseas.

Scientists are concerned about what appears to be declining numbers of eels along the coast. And so are people in the business of making them.

BURKE: There's habitat structure. They've built dams over the years. So as we harvest these eels, everybody wants to make sure that it's sustainable.

FOREMAN: After all, Crockman says, he's been up to his elbows in eels his whole life.

CROCKMAN: In fact, you know, when I sort a lot of eels and you go to sleep, you start to see eels in your sleep. That vision of eels just penetrates your brain and stays there.

FOREMAN: That's creepy, that's creepy.

FOREMAN (voice-over): It's also the business that, even in these tough times, is sustaining his family and many others on their American Journey.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Norristown, Pennsylvania.


COOPER: Coming up, multiple lawsuits over an inch of a sandwich? The "RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: Ah, yes, it's time for "The RidicuList," and tonight, we are tackling the obsessive sandwich messaging that is sweeping the world.

Now, it all started when an Australian teenager posted a picture on Facebook of his Subway foot-long that was only 11 inches. The picture went viral. Subway Australia responded like this, and I quote, "With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a foot- long, Subway foot-long is a registered trademark, as a descriptive name for the subs sold in Subway restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length."

Well, that certainly clears it up. Doesn't it?

Also, the black forest ham doesn't actually come from a black forest, and the buffalo chicken contains no actual buffalo. Little- known fact.

Anyway, people the world over have started measuring their foot- longs and posting pictures online. And wouldn't you know it? There are already two lawsuits in the works: one in New Jersey and one in Illinois, seeking more than $5 million in damages. Five million dollar foot-long just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Five million seems like a lot when we're talking about one bite of a sandwich. Here's a lawyer for the New Jersey plaintiffs on "Good Morning America."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People may say this case is only about one inch and that it may be frivolous. But the companies should deliver what they promise.


COOPER: I don't even think Subway delivers. I don't know what he's talking about.

Here is Subway's head baker.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they're following the baking procedures, they should get 12 inches out of the oven every single time.


COOPER: So "GMA" did its own investigation, buying six Subway foot-longs at a different location. Here's how that went.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All six foot longs were, in fact, 12 inches long, one of them, the meatball sub, was actually a tad longer than 12 inches.


COOPER: I love investigative journalism.

So Subway hasn't commented on the lawsuit. They didn't release a statement today, promising that it really does want to give you all 12 inches. And I -- and I quote -- "We have redoubled our efforts to ensure consistency and correct length in every sandwich we serve. Our commitment remains steadfast to ensure that every Subway foot-long sandwich is 12 inches at each location worldwide."

That's good enough for me. Now, can we just cool it with measuring our foot-longs and posting pictures online? I mean, what's an inch here and there? You heard the man: the meatball was even longer than 12 inches.

Although, without perfect consistency, some unforeseen trouble can arise. Just ask ABC's Bill Weir (ph).


BILL WEIR (PH), ABC: When I'm doing carpentry, I use a sub sandwich as my ruler, and this explains why nothing in my house is square.


COOPER: Sometimes you get 13 inches, sometimes you get 11. That, after all, is life on "The RidicuList."

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.