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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Terror Attacks in Russia; New Report, New Answers in Benghazi Attack; Ship Trapped in Ice; Robin Roberts Acknowledges That She's Gay In Post On Her Facebook Page; Doctor: F1 Legend Michael Schumacker "Fighting For His Life" After Skiing Accident; Judge: Teen Can't Be Taken Off Life Support; Sheriff: High School Door Should Have Been Locked; Frigid New Year's Eve
Aired December 30, 2013 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Don, thanks.
Good evening, everyone.
Tonight, bombings rock Russia as the world prepares to head there for the Olympics.
Also on this ship, surrounded by all that ice, stuck after two rescue failed attempts, you will find probably three of perhaps the happiest sounding castaways you could ever imagine. We're going to talk to them directly from the ship tonight.
And later, Michael Schumacher, perhaps the greatest driver of Formula 1 racing has ever seen, we'll update you on efforts to save his life after the terrible accident off the track.
We begin tonight with the terror attacks that have shaken Russia and sent chills throughout the world just six weeks before the Winter Olympics begin in Sochi. They happened in city that's seen epic bloodshed before, upwards of a million people killed in just a few months, during the Second World War.
Today, Stalingrad, now known as Volgograd is on the front lines of another war. And Sunday, people there got hit, first at the central train station. That's surveillance camera footage capturing the second it happened and even at a distance it is horrific.
There's also video from inside. It shows the security checkpoint, where the bomb went off seconds before and split seconds after. Now the equivalent, say authorities, of about 20 pounds of TNT. A suspected female suicide bomber setting a device, killing 17 people including a police officer and a 9-year-old girl.
Then earlier today, another bombing also in the same city, apparently also a suicide attack. This time aboard a trolley bus. At least 14 people killed in that one. No one claiming responsibility for either bombing. However, back in July, a terrorist group, (INAUDIBLE), a Chechnya separatist group, vowed to unleash maximum force to disrupt the Winter Olympics in Sochi just 400 miles and six weeks away, as I said.
The latest now from Diana Magnay in Moscow.
What is the latest, Diana?
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson, well, authorities are trying to piece together the body fragments that they've collected from both sites to see if they can identify the bombers and match them perhaps with any militant databases that they have. They do say that they believe the two attacks were linked because the explosives both contained identical shrapnel. And they believe they could have been pelted and conceived in the same place.
And the assumption here is that those two bombers originated from somewhere in the North Caucasus region and that is a fair assumption, really, because of all the terror attacks that have taken place on Russian soil over the last decade. They have all come from that troubled region, especially now recently Dagestan and (INAUDIBLE) where a fully-fledged Islamist insurgency is being waged -- Anderson.
COOPER: Can you explain the significance of Volgograd as a target? I mean, it's 400 miles away from Sochi. Why there?
MAGNAY: Volgograd does seem to be a strange target but one thing about it is very unique and that is that it is a very major rail hub for this area. So if you're traveling from southern Russia, and if you're traveling from Sochi, for example, which is to the southwest or from the North Caucasus, which is to the southeast, you would have to go through Volgograd to get to Moscow.
And of course any tourists coming to Sochi would have to travel the other way. And so any terrorists probably know that security around Sochi itself is going to be very, very tight as the games approach. And targeting other regional cities, transportation hubs where people may be coming through especially at peak holiday season, that is the way to create maximum fear and maximum panic ahead of these games.
COOPER: And what about security? I mean, what are Russian officials saying about security in advance of and during the Olympics?
MAGNAY: Well, they're saying that they're not going to change the security measures that they have in place in Sochi, that they're tough enough. Irrespective of these bombings that they have, and they continue to promise the maximum security at these games. But that is a very big call given the proximity of the Northern Caucasus Region.
I mean, it's 200 miles away, Anderson. It's spitting distance if you consider the size of Russia, particular measures that they're putting in place, they're very cagey about for obvious reasons. But there will be a massive security parameter, fans or tourists will have to come in with passports and there will be rigorous checks.
But still, it is really further away and around the region, but softer targets like transportation hubs, which people have to be careful about because that is where athletes and visitors will have to travel through to get to Sochi -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Softer target, indeed. Diana, appreciate the reporting.
Let's dig deeper now with two people who've been on the front lines in a constant effort to stay one step ahead of terrorists. Former CIA officer Robert Baer and national security analyst Fran Townsend who during the -- her time with the George Bush administration worked for the Greek government on security for the 2004 Summer Games. She currently sits on the CIA and Homeland Security Department External Advisory Boards.
Fran, back-to-back attacks. Now what do you make of this?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, you know, Umarov, the leader of this Northern Caucasus Islamist group, has demonstrated his capability. Both in the past and now.
He was -- he called for these attacks in 2010 and 2011, bombings in the Moscow airport and also on buses. Then there was a moratorium during the protests against Vladimir Putin. And then in July he calls for resumption of the attacks and directly trying to disrupt the Olympic Games.
The biggest sort of important factor, I think, about the two attacks is the second one. The fact that within 24 hours in Volgograd, where the city is teeming with police, investigators, security officials that they're able to actually pull it off, is very telling. And it is a poke in the eye. It ought to undermine people's confidence in Russian security services.
COOPER: And Bob, if it does turn out to be the work of Chechen rebel from the Caucasus, you were assigned to that region when you were in the CIA, you've called it a black hole that Putin is never going to subdue. Explain what you mean by that.
ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Anderson, the Russians never got a grip intelligence wise on the Northern Caucasus. It's a very complicated area. They took back Grozny by sheer force. They flattened the city. They made these people run for it.
But there was no sense that they had really truly dominated the North Caucasus in terms of knowing what's going on. And there are still large military sized groups that are moving around. And Fran is absolutely right the fact they could hit two targets in two days suggest a capable military organization which will strike almost assuredly during the Olympics.
COOPER: And we saw -- I mean, they took over that theater, I can't even remember what year that was back in several years ago from now.
TOWNSEND: That's right.
COOPER: And I mean, that was an incredible -- incredibly audacious effort.
You were involved in the planning for the Athens Olympics when the Bush family went over there. TOWNSEND: That's right.
COOPER: Explain what goes into security around something like that the Sochi games?
TOWNSEND: Right. So the bilateral discussions between the United States and the host country begin a year, a year and a half before. American officials, I've spoken to sources in the counterterrorism community, they've been to Sochi. They've walked the venues. They've talked to Russian officials.
And there is a standard list of things that you offer them in terms of assistance if they want it. You know you can't force it on them. It is a sovereign country, but you offer them things, intelligence operation. In Athens we had a joint threat center where we passed information back and forth and we helped the Greeks resolve threats.
After these sort of attacks you'd go back and you'd say we have this capability. Are you sure we can't help you?
But here's the problem, a lot of these discussions go bilaterally, so it's between the host country, Russia, and their various partners. It goes on behind the scenes. Much of it they won't accept. And Bob knows as well as anybody, the intelligence relationship here where you'd really like there to be a fulsome sharing of information has been scratchy in the best of times.
COOPER: Bob, I mean, if the idea of terrorism is to make a political statement or to make some sort of a dramatic statement, obviously targeting something like the Sochi games would have a big impact. But even if the target is somewhere else, in Russia, in this day and age where there is video -- I mean, it can have almost the same impact.
BAER: Anderson, you're absolutely right. This is a guerilla organization. They know to go where it is soft. Hit the soft targets. It could be amidst in any -- you know, in eastern Europe and western Europe, even the United States, to demonstrate that Putin does not have control of the situation.
This is an attack against him. He has based his reputation on building up the security services and caucuses, and they want to demonstrate that he has failed. And so that's why people don't know where to start on this. I think, frankly, that Sochi will be fairly safe during the Olympics. They're going to have a cordon of security around and the military is going to be there. No one is going to get in there that they don't know. But it's the rest of Russia that I think we should really worry about.
COOPER: Fran, I appreciate it. Thanks very much, Fran Townsend.
Bob Baer as well, thanks.
Well, now the fight over a new report on one especially grim moment for this country. September 11th, last year, the anniversary of 9/11, of course fighters attacked the American diplomatic mission in the CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya. The assault killed four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Now coming as a dead in the heat of a presidential campaign, things quickly became political with many Republicans claiming the White House is downplaying terrorist connections to the attack, including the possibility of al Qaeda involvement. Some calling it a cover-up to protect President Obama's election chances.
Now the House held months of hearing which only deepened the partisan divide and turned up the temperature.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The fact is, we had four dead Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand.
CLINTON: Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, flash forward to now. Reporting from "The New York Times" is David Kilpatrick. Months in the making that seems to explain what happens, citing what he calls extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack.
Kilpatrick reports that he, quote, "Turned up no evidence that al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault, but was instead carried out by local fighters, including followers of a Benghazi militia leader who had no love for the U.S. But also no known affiliations," Kilpatrick writes with terrorist groups now additionally is reporting assigns essential role in the tragedy to that American-made video denigrating Islam. "Anger at the video," he writes, "motivated the initial attack."
Now the "Times" story came out on Saturday, was topic A on the Sunday talk shows. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: We have gone through some 4,000 different classified cables leading up to the event, talked to people on the ground during the event, done the postmortem on the event through the committee investigations sometimes --
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: What do they got wrong?
ROGERS: That al Qaeda was not involved in this. There was aspiration to conduct an attack by al Qaeda and their affiliates in Libya, we know that. The individuals on the ground talked a planned tactical movement on the compound, even -- this was the compound before they went to the annex. All of that would directly contradict what the "New York Times" definitely says was an exhaustive investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Congressman Mike Rogers who chairs the House Intelligence, and by the way, what I said was an American made video. I should point out obviously not the American government but private individuals in the United States.
And Democrat Adam Schiff who serves on the committee agrees with him, with Rogers on al Qaeda but says plenty of others were also involved.
Well, today a State Department spokeswoman said there's no indication that the core al Qaeda directed or planned the attack.
Plenty to talk about then with David Kilpatrick who did the reporting for "The New York Times."
So, David, you found no evidence of al Qaeda involvement and that the anti-Islam move did in fact have something to do with the initial attack. How can you be so sure that al Qaeda was not involved?
DAVID KILPATRICK, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, first thing to keep in mind is, I'm not out on a limb here. The U.S. intelligence agencies I believe also don't think al Qaeda was involved here. That's the first thing. The second thing is, it's pretty to find out who was involved. This is not like somebody secretly planted a car bomb under a car. This is an event that happened a mob attack.
It could happen in broad daylight with a large crowd of people watching. So it's not that difficult to find out that Ahmed Abu Khattalah was a significant and central player, or to find out that the local Ansar al-Sharia was a significant and central player. And they're well known. They're local people with friends and neighbors in histories. We know when Abu Khattalah was in jail, we know who he's in jail with.
We know all of these things, and he's really not al Qaeda. I mean, he's an anti-western, anti-democratic Islamic militant. And if you want to stretch the term, OK, hey, you can call anybody like that al Qaeda. But he is not al Qaeda in the sense that the organization founded by Osama bin Laden.
COOPER: Some people are saying that your report vindicates those in the administration like Ambassador Susan Rice who had said in the days just after the attack that it was a spontaneous street protest in reaction to the video. That is not actually what you found though, correct?
KILPATRICK: No, that's not what I had found at all. I'm certainly not trying to vindicate anybody. In that report, her initial statements were clearly misleading. And I think a lot of the confusion and misinformation that is proliferated and followed her initial misstatements. It was not a street protest. It was clearly an attack that began very deliberately and very suddenly. And there was probably some -- almost certainly some planning when you have a sudden attack like that. There was evidence there was surveillance video that morning. The problem is that her initial misstatements suggesting a street protest set up this kind of a false dichotomy. Either it was a spontaneous street protest or it was a planned al Qaeda attack. And in fact it was an attack in response to this movie by local militants.
COOPER: It's also you're saying basically militia groups in Benghazi, of which there were many, large and small, and that even the ones who were supposedly pro-Western or thankful for the U.S. efforts to oust Gadhafi, even they, who didn't want to fight against other Libyan militia groups.
KILPATRICK: Yes, that's right. You know, there is a deep, deep and dangerous ambivalence among a lot of these people. You know people who were actively covering up from Ahmed Abu Khattalah, had tried to disassemble about the attack, still call Ambassador Stevens Chris by his first name. You know, they would gush about their gratitude to the U.S., and then in the next breath, they tell you, you know what, I think honestly it was the CIA that killed Ambassador Stevens. And -- I mean, that's ridiculous. It's absurd. And here they are protecting the culprit, and in the next breath thanking the U.S.
It turns out that I think the U.S. government really did not understand the militia world as clearly as it should. And probably was a little bit over-optimistic, over-hopeful in its assessment of how quickly it could turn enemies into friends in eastern Libya.
COOPER: And Eli Lake from the "Daily Beast," he's now making the point that there is an al Qaeda link to the Benghazi attacks. He says the Jamal Network, which he says both your paper and the "Wall Street Journal" have previously tied to the attacks. Is that true? That was not mentioned in -- that group wasn't mentioned in your article, and if that group was involved would that point to an al Qaeda link?
KILPATRICK: I don't believe that group was involved. I think that the reporting in our paper was citing some congressional officials saying they thought this jamal group might have been involved. And congressional officials in turn were setting the report in the "Wall Street Journal," and that report seems to me to the best of my knowledge to come from Egyptian intelligence.
And at the end of the day, one of the (INAUDIBLE) is Justine, this character at Jamal may have run a training camp some place and people who had been in that training camp may have been involved in the attack so it's a -- to my mind a bogus connection and also a tenuous connection. It certainly not a connection that the -- "New York Times" has ever put his weight behind.
COOPER: I want you to give you a chance to respond to critics, because you know there are some people, including some members of Congress, who are saying that this piece, your piece and the New York Times as an attempt by the "Times" to exonerate the former Secretary, ahead of a possible presidential run.
KILPATRICK: Well, I don't think I've tried to exonerate anybody. I went to Benghazi to try to figure out what happened in Benghazi. And if somebody thinks that I'm going to put myself through that kind of hassle and discomfort and quite frankly risk, in order to exonerate any political candidate, that is crazy.
As a second point, if you read my piece, it does not reflect very well on the Obama administration. This is not a pro-State Department or a pro-Obama administration article. You know, again, I'm not trying to be for them, I'm not trying to be against them. But to come out and say this is some kind of a partisan whitewash is preposterous.
COOPER: I encourage folks to read the article.
David Kilpatrick, thanks for being with us.
KILPATRICK: It's a pleasure.
COOPER: Well, let us know what you think. Let's talk about it on Twitter @Andersoncooper. Tweet us using hash tag ac360.
Coming up next, though, after the commercial break with two failed rescue attempts behind them, that iced-in ship. How are the people on it holding up? We'll talk to three of them.
Later, reaction to Robin Roberts' quiet revelation about her sexual orientation including reaction from the White House.
COOPER: Well, in a moment you're going to meet some remarkably high spirited people, considering that they are on a ship trapped in the ice off Antarctica, and two icebreakers so far have failed to break them free.
Take a look. It's just remarkable. That is a ship, some of the passengers there, the ice thick enough to wander around on it. They can walk around. Penguins even have been wandering up to the ship -- ships, sniffing around, checking out their new neighbors.
Seventy-four people on a voyage retracing the steps of a long forgotten explorer frozen in place since Christmas eve. Now you're going to hear from three people on board shortly, but first, Sunlen Serfaty on the rescue effort itself.
Reporter: Trapped at sea, nearly five dozen people on this research ship must now be rescued by air. This helicopter will be launched from the desk of the Snow Dragon, the Chinese icebreaker just 10 miles away, as soon as the weather improves.
The conditions now? Gusty winds and poor visibility.
CHRIS TURNEY, EXPEDITION LEADER: The wind is quite intense, not ideal for helicopter operations, unfortunately.
SERFATY: It's been nearly a week since the Russian ship was stranded, locked in ice between Antarctica and New Zealand. Three separate icebreakers attempted to rescue them. The closest got within six nautical miles, but all three missions failed. The ice is simply too thick.
TURNEY: Unfortunately, they couldn't get through. It's deeply frustrating.
SERFATY: In the meantime, the passengers have tried to make the best of life aboard the stranded ship.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to have some singing on the ice.
SERFATY: They have celebrated birthdays.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's my birthday today.
SERFATY: But now there's very little celebrating going on. Experts know the region say the sustained bad weather now a nuance could become deadly.
CHRISTINE DELL'AMORE, NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC.COM: The thing about Antarctica is it's extremely unpredictable. So you the ideal thing would be to get them out as quickly as possible. It's the most extreme place on earth so it's the coldest place on earth, it's the windiest place on earth, and it's the driest place on earth.
So if you put all of these elements together you have very dangerous condition that could easily kill you in a matter of minutes.
SERFATY: And it's not just the temperature that has those on board worried.
TURNEY: We have got about here 10 days' worth of food. We just did a stock take of fresh food. We've got several weeks of delicious dehydrated foods in packets afterwards.
COOPER: Now That was Sunlen Serfaty reporting.
Joining us tonight is Alok Jha, Chris Turney, who you just saw in the report, and Laurence Topham.
Alec and Lawrence work for Britain's British "Guardian" paper, Chris, is the expedition leader.
COOPER: So, Chris, stuck for a week, And counting -- how is everybody holding up?
TURNEY: I think pretty well, guys. Don't you?
ALOK JHA, SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIANS: We're having a good time, well, I mean, relatively speaking, I suppose. I'm sure we'd all rather not be here, but given that we are the group on this ship is incredibly collegiate. And there's a lot of scales and things people are sharing with each other. It's New Year's Eve, so we're practicing songs for the evening. I mean --
TURNEY: There was a yoga class happening yesterday. I mean, you know -- and a Spanish language class just a moment ago. So everyone is keeping busy, we're doing weekly briefings, it changes every hour. People are getting quite philosophical now.
JHA: And we've got this tent, now we were just sort of exposed the deck of the ship. And we now have this tent to shelter us from the elements.
COOPER: So is the tent on the deck of the ship?
TURNEY: We're on the top deck here, so overlooking the ice but just a bit more shelter. It is actually raining outside right now. It is quite warm outside.
COOPER: I've been watching you guys on television, I've been reading your tweet. You're unbelievably chipper. I don't think I'm ever that chipper and I'm not trapped on a boat surrounded by miles and miles of ice.
JHA: It is a beautiful scene, I mean, you kind of have to take it in as far as -- even outside, it is raining and cold. It is actually a beautiful scene, we're surrounded on the horizon with to the horizon with blocks of ice. It's a very -- it's a place that at least for me and Lawrence, we -- people don't come to very often. Chris is in charge of the searches. He's used to this thing a little bit. But we're trying to get every drop out of this.
LAURENCE TOPHAM, VIDEO AND INTERACTIVE PRODUCER, THE GUARDIAN: And every time you look out your window there's flocks of penguins, and there's not many times in your life that you get to see that.
COOPER: And now what's the latest rescue attempt? Because twice now it hasn't worked out. I understand a helicopter is going to be airlifting people off the boat. Do you have an idea when that's going to happen?
TURNEY: That is a good one. Look, at the moment we're not quite sure, the key issue is visibility at the moment, the helicopters like a bit of wind, but the visibility is deteriorating again. And in the forecast for the next 24 hours it is pretty much more of the same. So at the moment we just don't know.
The icebreakers just could not get through, at least the Chinese and the Australian ones. There's an outside chance actually being American icebreaker, beautiful vessel called Coppolla Star might be engaged. But we don't know that for sure. So at the moment if it was the weather winds that opens up the chances are we'll be helicopter out there leave for Russian crew to break out sometime later.
But at the moment, we're just preparing for the helipad on one of the ice close and yes, we're getting there. We're getting there. I think people are sort of seeing the end in sight and just keeping the morale up. And as I have mentioned before, it's New Year's Eve tonight. But all sorts of plants.
COOPER: Can you describe the moment when you realized you were stuck? I mean, did the ship just suddenly stopped? Did it -- was it slow? What did it feel like?
TURNEY: Well, we rushed back to the vessel at the end in the end, among the late afternoon of the 23rd. Now Weber is closing in badly and once we got back on board we could tell. I was up on the bridge at the time. And you just looked ahead. We had been in ice before, and that normally it is very, very flat. It is rather lovely. Almost like shattered glass.
But when you went up on the bridge this time, these was big chunks of ice, really thick, lots of year's worth of growth. And you just (INAUDIBLE), for all women chapel here. It's not going to be easy to get to her. And the captain was persevering and tried trying to get vaccine.
And you could just tell it wasn't going to happen. And for the next morning, hoping for the best. It might have opened up. But no. And since we found out there was a big break out, this really old ice on the other side of the bay where we were working, and we were just so unlucky. It has not really happened for years. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
COOPER: You guys have mentioned New Year's Eve several times. What do you actually going to do on New Year's Eve? How do you celebrate that on a stranded ship?
JHA: You celebrate by dancing, I think, and --
TURNEY: In a couple of hours, one of the researcher on board who happens to be quite good at salsa dancing. He's going to give everybody a lesson, one of the other passenger on board has written a song as I mentioned earlier. And that's going to be sung, it's all about the ship. And we're going to get the premiere of that.
And then you just find whatever spirits you can, and I mean, emotionally and alcoholic. Well, you just enjoy, I suppose. And there is plenty of ice to go around so we won't want all of that stuff.
And actually, we're going to be "Hang Outs" on air. We're going to be broadcasting, we're hoping to do this song that the guys have written about expedition, and predicament and sending love to all our family and friends. So people can watch that in real time for -- and New Zealand time for midnight. We will be singing in the new year.
JHA: I mean, to be honest with you, in New Year's eve there always a bit (INAUDIBLE), they're a bit boring sometimes so this is going to be one we definitely will remember.
COOPER: So only you're worrying about what party should I go to -- this is all sorted for us.
COOPER: Well, it's actually very similar to New Year's Eve in New York because In New York, everybody is worried about, can they catch a ride? Will their ride get there in time? How will they get to one place or the other? It is a bit like being stuck in ice.
CARNEY: Right. Exactly being stuck in rain.
COOPER: In rain. And you don't have to find a taxi either. It's brilliant.
COOPER: Well, listen, by the way, if you guys get bored on New Year's Eve, Kathy Griffin and I are going to be on broadcasting live from Times Square. You're more than welcome to tune in via satellite if you're able to.
COOPER: And by the way, if she offends you, I am sorry. I apologize to all of our viewers in advance, because she is prone to offend people.
Listen, on a serious note, I wish you the best and your spirits are really just inspiring. And I'm glad, it looks, like relief is in sight and the end is near, so I appreciate you talking to us. Wish you the best, guys.
And if you do imbibe, do not try to drive the ship.
They have been isolated. They think anything is funny. They're actually going to join us on New Year's Eve, on our broadcast tomorrow night. So hopefully they won't be too drunk, but hopefully they're going to join us. We wish them the best.
For more on the story you can go to CNN.com, of course.
Coming up, for the first time, "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts publicly acknowledges that she has a longtime girlfriend, that she's gay. How she let the world know next.
And later, racing superstar Michael Schumacher is in critical condition after skiing accident. What happened and the latest on the prognosis, when we continue. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Hi, welcome back. Like many people do, "Good Morning America" Anchor Robin Roberts posted an end of the year message online. What Roberts posted on Facebook yesterday was a message of gratitude for how far she has come in her battles with medical issues and how much she is looking forward to a new year.
Now as part of that message, Roberts thanked her girlfriend, marking the first time that she is publicly acknowledging that she is a lesbian. Randi Kaye has the story.
RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She broke the news on Facebook Sunday afternoon, buried in a message of thanks, reflecting on her recovery from a bone marrow transplant. Robin Roberts posted in part, "I am grateful for my entire family, my long- time girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious New Year together."
And with that, the popular host of ABC's "Good Morning America" came out. The Amber who Roberts was referring to is this woman, Amber Lane. These are photos of the two of them vacationing in Hawaii. Amber who is 39 is from the San Francisco Bay Area and works as licensed massage therapist. She apparently specializes in patients recovering from injuries.
"People" magazine reports Robin and Amber were introduced by mutual friends and have been together for ten years. That may be so. But until now, Robin Roberts never revealed publicly she had a girlfriend. The "Daily Mail" newspaper quoted Amber Lane's mother telling the paper, "We are very, very happy for them. Her dad and I and the whole family are very happy and totally supportive."
For Robin Roberts, this is a remarkable moment, even though sharing with her viewers and television family is nothing new. Over the years they have watched her struggle against two life-threatening illnesses, first, breast cancer, then more recently a serious blood and bone marrow disorder known as MDS. Yet through it all, she has kept her partner out of the spotlight. Even on the day she returned to work on "Good Morning America."
ROBIN ROBERTS, ANCHOR, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": Hi. It is Robin and I have been waiting 174 days to say this, good morning, America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is official now, welcome back, Robin.
ROBERTS: Faith, family and friends have both me to this moment and I am so full of gratitude.
KAYE: As recently as July of this year as the Espy Awards, where Robins received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, she did not publicly acknowledged her girlfriend who was sitting between Robin's sisters. When Robin's name was announced she hugged her sister, Sally Ann, before heading to the podium. And remember this history-making interview from May, 2012, when President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think that same-sex marriage couples should be able to get married.
KAYE: It was Robin Roberts who scored the interview, but during it never let on she was in a lesbian relationship. Still, First Lady Michelle Obama was one of the first to take to Twitter in support of Robin coming out, tweeting, "I am so happy for you and Amber, you continue to make us all proud."
Talk show host, Ellen Degeneres, who was openly gay tweeted, "Good morning America, congratulations, Robin Roberts." K-Pop designer Russell Simmons tweeted, "Sending good thoughts to Robin Roberts #loveislove and Rosy O'Donnell tweeted this, "Only love to Robin Roberts with hash tag, #courage.
As Robin Roberts told fans on Facebook, "I encourage you to reflect what you're grateful for. Sometimes that means putting a face and name to those you love most. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Well, up next, retired Formula One racing legend Michael Schumacher is fighting for his life tonight after a skiing accident in the French Alps. We'll have the latest from his doctors ahead.
Also a deep freeze for New Year's Eve and parts of the country in a snow storm on the way for early in the New Year, we'll get the latest from the CNN Weather Center on the New Year's Eve weather when we continue.
COOPER: Legendary Formula One driver, Michael Schumacher remains hospitalized in critical condition tonight after a skiing accident in the French Alps. And doctors say they are fighting hour by hour to try to save his life. His wife and two children are at his bedside. Schumacher turns 45 on Friday, defied death dozens of times on the race track during a career that spanned more than two remarkable decades. He was known as a ruthless, fearless driver. After retiring, he took his need for speed to the slopes. Amanda Davis has the latest.
AMANDA DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After so many battles on the race track, seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher is now fighting for his life in a hospital having suffered severe brain injuries.
DR. JEAN FRANCOIS PAYEN, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL CENTER OF GRENOBLE (through translator): The situation is critical. It is judged as critical, yes.
DAVIS: The 44-year-old fell and hit his head on a rock while skiing on unmarked slopes in the French Alps Resorts of Maribel on Sunday morning. He was air lifted to the hospital and after an operation doctors are working to relieve pressure on his brain, keeping him in a medically induced coma and lowering his body temperature.
PAYEN (through translator): He is in a coma. He is suffering from hypothermia to reduce brain damage with increasing brain pressure. We need to reduce the rise in the brain pressure.
DAVIS: The German was a regular on the annual Ferrari ski trip during his time with the team. He owns a house in the Alps and is a keen and accomplished skier. Doctors say the fact he was wearing a helmet went a long way.
PAYEN (through translator): I think given the violence of the shock, his helmet did partly protect him. This kind of accident without a helmet would not have reached this stage.
DAVIS: Schumacher reached heights that others had not reached during his career as a Formula One driver, winning more titles, more races and more pole positions than any before him. He returned from a serious back and neck injuries suffered in a motorbike accident to race for Mercedes in 2010. Others paid tribute saying we all know the depth of Michael's fighting spirit and send him all our strength and support in this latest battle. We sincerely hope he will make a full recovery and will be with us again soon.
Schumacher's family is at his bedside at the hospital and have released a statement thanking the medical team and those around the world for their messages of support. Doctors say it is too early to give a prognosis and right now they're working on an hour by hour basis. Amanda Davis, CNN, London.
COOPER: Just horrible, let's get caught up on some of the other stories, Randi Kaye is back with the 360 Bulletin -- Randi.
KAYE: Anderson, a California judge has extended the temporary restraining order in the case of Jahi McMath. The decision means the hospital can't remove the 13-year-old from life support until January 7th. You may recall she suffered complications after tonsils surgery earlier this month. Late this afternoon, McMath's uncle revealed the family has found a facility in New York that will take her and a doctor who will travel with her.
A 360 Follow, the Colorado teen who shot and killed a classmate at his high school earlier this month before killing himself, got into the high school through a door that should have been locked. That's according to the Arapahoe County sheriff who says the gunman legally bought a shotgun after passing a background check and spent a week stocking up on ammunition.
The Dow Jones Industrial average posted its 51st record closing high of the year soaring 25 points to close at 16,504. The Nasdaq and S&P both edged lower. And a shark expert says the creature that photo-bombed this photo right here is a dolphin, not a shark. The woman that took the photo on Friday that is her son and three friends playing in the surf, Anderson. This woman apparently thought it was a shark, but this expert says no go.
COOPER: Yes, I've talked to shark experts and they say most of us that swam in the ocean have had an encounter with the sharks. We don't realize it. The sharks have seen us and they move on.
KAYE: I hope they always do.
COOPER: All right, up next, could feel like 50 degrees below zero in some places. Tonight we have the freezing New Year's forecast. It doesn't matter how cold it is in Times Square, tomorrow night, I'm going to be sweating, no doubt about it that's because I never know what Kathy Griffin is going to do or say. We'll preview what is going to be another -- well, hopefully not too crazy night ahead.
COOPER: All right, if you're going to be outside for New Year's Eve like I am, get ready to bundle up. The end of 2013 is bringing a deep freeze to parts of the United States, and it looks like it won't take long for the first snowstorm of 2014 to hit. Meteorologist Samantha Mohr joins me live now from CNN Weather Center in Atlanta with the latest. All right, so New Year's Eve tomorrow night a lot of people will go out and celebrate, what will it look like?
SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It will be mighty chilly indeed and I know you're prepared for it, Anderson, as the cold air spills in across much of the country. And specifically in Times Square, we're talking temperatures right around freezing throughout much of the evening. But when the winds blow out of the west at 15, we'll have that wind chill factor down around 22 degrees.
So you know, very chilly, especially when you're outside for extended periods of time. Atlanta will be great here at CNN Center, we are going to be dropping the peach in Centennial Park and we're talking temperatures in the low 40s, upper 30s and no rain for a change. This is the first time in a long time there was a dry stretch here in Atlanta ending the year 2013 so 16 and a half inches ahead of normal.
Chicago is seeing the snow coming down throughout the evening and that wind chill factor getting down as low as 5 measly degrees. Denver, not by Denver standards, we should be in the mid-30s for much of the night with the wind chill factor, upper 20s, when you're out in it, you need to layer up and dress warmly.
One spot you don't need to worry about being too chilly here is in Los Angeles, where we are seeing those temperatures in the 50s by the time they are celebrating the New Year and getting ready to ring in 2014. So very cold air is settling in out of Canada, a lot of arctic air, some of the coldest air we have seen in a long time so high temperatures only in the 30s here, Anderson, so incredibly cold. COOPER: We're going to be out for three and a half hours tomorrow night, Kathy Griffin and I so I actually realized I don't have a winter coat. So I am going to buy one tomorrow.
COOPER: Yes, I know, it is ridiculous. The northeast, though, is going to get hit with some big snow storm?
MOHR: Yes, that is one of the things we are really concerned about, Anderson, and we have a couple of different scenarios to talk about, this is the European, which has performed really well so far this year. Strengthening very quickly, parallels the coast, hugging the coast and that means we are going to end up seeing the snow moving far inland. And we could be talking a lot of snow, with folks having to get out and really shovel things.
And then the other scenario is the GFS and keeps it off the coast here, which means we're going to end up seeing less snow and less wind and less impact on the airport. So Anderson, this could have a tremendous impact on many travellers heading home after a long holiday.
COOPER: All right, Samantha, appreciate the update as the year draws to a close. Feeling a sense of excitement, mixed with fear and pending disaster and perhaps career-ending disaster. Tomorrow night, for the seventh year in a row, I'll be braving the cold in Times Square as I mentioned and taking the heat from Kathy Griffin. We are once again co-hosting CNN's New Year's Eve coverage. Here is a little preview of the scintillating banter that you might expect.
KATHY GRIFFIN: I have a lot to talk to you about.
GRIFFIN: Yes, I think you know what I'm referring to. You have hurt somebody's feelings.
COOPER: I don't know what you're referring to.
GRIFFIN: I think you do. I think you know that Ryan Seacrest and I have been trying to face time you and I never thought I would say this. I am now Team Seacrest instead of Team Cooper, what is going on? Why the hate? What's going on?
COOPER: How have you possibly teamed up with Ryan Seacrest? He has been your nemesis for years.
GRIFFIN: That is right, Cooper, you mess with me, I bring out the big guns. I actually have an e-mail exchange between Ryan Seacrest, myself, and Anderson Cooper. It is as follows, Ryan Seacrest, "Good to see you, Kathy, let's figure out dinner with Coop, how should we loop everyone in?" Kathy says, "It is awful to see you, here's Anderson's e-mail," and then of course, I give it out, firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't have Carson Daily's, I wish I did. He is the most solid of the bunch. Sorry, I didn't think you would see that, and then dinner, are you guys up for dinner before the shows?
Then Anderson Cooper says, and I hope that all of CNN can see this. "I'm not sure I'm going to be able to do dinner, I get back on the 30th, but I have to be on air that night until 11:00. Looking forward to seeing you," that is a blow off.
Ryan Seacrest is sobbing. He is in Times Square right now, spiking his hair, getting a mani-pedi, reaching out, just wants a hug, I don't even know if you can count on me this year, I may just march over to Ryan this year and spoon.
COOPER: I'm looking forward to being teamed with you again/dreading it a little bit.
GRIFFIN: OK, the slash was really not necessary, because they're very different things, usually a slash means things that are grouped together. So of course you're looking forward to being with me, I mean, of course, I'm looking forward to being with you.
COOPER: Kathy Griffin, we start at 9:00 tomorrow night, for some reason we'll be out there three and a half hours. Brace yourself. Coming up, again, I just apologize in advance, whatever happens I just apologize in advance, a blanket apology. Coming up, number one, the countdown, number one "Ridiculist" of the year. Can you guess what it will be? Find out next.
COOPER: All right, we have been counting down the top "Ridiculist" of 2013 based on your votes online, tonight, your choice for number one.
COOPER: Time now for the "Ridiculist," and tonight I want to introduce you to the stylings of a band called "Man-Man," they just released a new album. There is one song on the particular record that caught our attention. It is called "End Boss," take a listen and I'll be with you in a minute.
So you're getting the lyrics here, a wolf is sneaking up on a sleeping baby at night. But you may think this is just typical Indy Rock imagery, but it is not. It is inspired by none other than Wolf Blitzer, yes, let's hear some more, can we?
Hang on, did Wolf Blitzer just drink vodka and eat the baby? We're trained journalistic professionals, so we don't assume. We asked the front man for the real story. He said the basic story was about a wolf that eats a baby. But that seems a bit passe, "So I thought it would be more interesting I thought if Wolf Blitzer snuck through the windows, shooting pool in a barrio bar, while dreaming and drinking lemon flavored vodka still gets to me.
I don't know if you noticed, in that picture there, the lead singer of "Man-Man" is wearing a custom-made tunic made of Wolf Blitzer heads. How do I get that? Wolf looks very handsome and devilish, and might I say hungry? Ladies and gentlemen, if I was in Charlotte, North Carolina tonight, I would go to the chop shop to see "Man-Man" on tour, two, I would steal that tunic during commercial, and three, we have an answer to the question as he waited for the interview with Wolf Blitzer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say hi to Wolf.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Hi.
WOLF BLITZER: Hi, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Who the hell is Wolf?
COOPER: I'll tell you who he is, an enigma, a muse, and as a vodka swilling baby eater, amazing.
COOPER: That does it for us. I'll see you tomorrow night. I hope starting at 9:00 Eastern for a live New Year's Eve coverage. Up next, Robin Meade and I introduce you to some extraordinary people.