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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Second Round of Deadly Tornadoes; Contraception Controversy; Iran Holds Parliamentary Elections; Tip of the Hat to Dr. Seuss

Aired March 02, 2012 - 20:00   ET



We begin with breaking news. The second deadly round of tornadoes this week, another massive weather system churning out monster storms, funnel clouds like this one from Indiana, where this video was taken, all the way to Alabama. Damage widespread, but especially bad in southern Indiana, parts of Kentucky. Total devastation parts of Clark county, Indiana. The town of Henryville especially hard hit. At least five reported dead at this hour. State of emergency in Kentucky. We've got reports from all across the area.

First, though, I want to check in with Chad Myers for the very latest for who is still in direct danger right now -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, believe it or not even at this late hour and typically storms die off by now, we still have 19 different cells, 19 different storms that are rotating enough or have tornadoes on the ground to have tornado warnings on them, 19 separate storms.

These storms go all the way from Louisiana to Florida to almost Atlanta, Georgia. One now crossing the border from Atlanta. A little farther to the north on up, the third storm of the day for Chattanooga right there, tornado warning on that, especially just off to the east.

And then farther on up we're seeing pretty big weather still in eastern Kentucky. That may be where the biggest tornado was all day in west Liberty, Kentucky. And that even move to -- it stayed on the ground almost 60 miles as a big tornado and then moved into West Virginia proper.

Farther up to the north as you'd expect, the rain back farther off to the west, though. This is what caused this weather. It is snowing. In fact blizzard-like conditions across parts of Wisconsin. That's the cold air. Down to the south, that's the warm air. Warm air. Cold air, don't like to mix. The cold air pushes the warm air up into the air. It causes bubbles, bubbles cause storms and storms can rotate. These are all by themselves. They're called meso cyclones, super cells. Well, super cells put down super big tornadoes sometimes.

COOPER: How long into the evening is this expected to continue?

MYERS: We don't expect this to be over until at least 11:00 when temperatures go down at least 10 degrees from where they are now. They have to understand, the more it rains, the better that is because the rain cools off the atmosphere too. But it was sunny all day across the south. Although from Tennessee to Alabama, Georgia, it was just sunny. Temperatures were almost 80 degrees in some spot and that's what it took. And that's what -- that's what made these storms so volatile.

COOPER: Chad Myers, appreciate it. We'll continue to check in with you as warranted.

On the phone is a storm chaser, Jeffrey Piotrowski, who rode out the worst of the weather in Henryville, Indiana. What was the scene like when you got to Henryville, Jeff?

JEFFREY PIOTROWSKI, CNN STORM CHASER (via telephone): Well, Anderson, shortly after the tornado hit the city of Henryville, there was very heavy damage. The first thing we come up on was an elementary junior high school. And most of the schools had let out during the day but there were about 71 children still at the school at 2:30 time frame. When that happened, the roof collapsed, the walls collapsed and they were trapped in a part of the building. It took the local fire department and some local people, medical people to help get the kids out of the school.

While we were trying to get the kids out of the school, tornado number two hit us again about 15 minutes after the first tornado and that produced baseball to softball-sized hail, 80-mile-an-hour winds and did massive damage. I mean, we had people running. We have people -- they got hit with baseball and softball-size hail and injured while they were trying to pull people from the rubble from the first tornado. That was in Henryville. It went on up to Marysville. I understand Marysville thought took a massive, heavy hit, Anderson. The town -- some accounts are the town is gone. I can't get up there, but, Anderson, there's massive damage at Marysville.

I cannot confirm any fatalities or injuries at Henryville.

COOPER: Right.

PIOTROWSKI: I'll say that there was massive storm in there this afternoon after about 3:00 at school and around the city. We were looking for a state sheriff that was missing and we found him and just basically digging people out of the rubble in the city of Henryville. It's pretty bad.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean. These type of storms at this level, it seems very early for early March, isn't it?

PIOTROWSKI: It is, Anderson. And here, there's a warning -- there's a warning to Americans all over the U.S. Mother nature is telling you right now when you have outbreaks in February as we saw last week and the week before, the first week in March we have another super outbreak under way tonight and this afternoon, this is a warning sign. What it's telling you is that the gulf of Mexico is warmer than normal. It's telling you we're going to have a lot more violent outbreaks in March and April. We're not even in peak season until May so this is just a precursor of what's coming and people need to be prepared. You need to have a plan, whether you're at school, at home, at the office, you need to have a plan. This is just the beginning of what's coming over the next 90 to 120 days across the southern Eastern in that state and it's going to be a very, very tough year.

COOPER: Jeff, you talked about the kids in the school. They are OK, yes?

PIOTROWSKI: Yes, the kids -- there was no kids injured or parents or teachers at the school that were injured. A lot of people are frightening. A lot of kids had water on them and insulation on them (INAUDIBLE). They climbed up were having to step over rubble. Different walls and sections and break doors down to get people, you know, through the doors and some people had mud and water on them and scared and the fire alarms were going off inside the school. So inside the school was a very bad situation. It picked up cars and buses and threw them into the school. It's a very bad scene there at Henryville.

COOPER: Yes, we're seeing the pictures of the school buses just tossed around like they were toys.

Jeff, appreciate you talking about what you saw today. This damaging storm system as we said and as Chad reported covers a major portion of the middle of the country. The storm now extending as far as the Atlanta area.

Let's go to Rob Marciano. He is just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee. Rob, what was it like there today?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: I tell you what, Anderson, it's been a rough eight hours here in eastern Tennessee. It all started with a tornadic thunderstorm that rolled through northern Alabama around lunchtime, made its way across the border and right across Chattanooga. By 1:00 it touched down just north and east of where we are here in Tennessee.

Some of the pictures coming out of there, multiple homes damaged, if not destroyed, 40 to 50 of them at least. We have nine or ten injuries of people that are at area hospitals and 15 or so people that were treated and released on the scene.

So far the good news is even with all this damage, there have been zero fatalities. Now, search and rescue crews continue, but we've had two other storms that have come through just in the last hour and a half. So those operations have been suspended. One of those storms dropped a tremendous amount of hail on us right here, up to an inch or so in diameter hail. The hail core blocked our vision of what was a tornado that was reported just to our south by a couple of miles. And now, just about 15 minutes ago, yet another cell came through that went tornadic just to our south and east.

And the main line, as Chad pointed out, has still yet to come through. So a frustrating, devastating day here for the folks who live just north and east of Chattanooga, Tennessee, with the damage that's already been done and the ongoing storms that they have had to deal with, one after another and another batch coming in about two hours from now.

COOPER: And have there been deaths or injuries reported in Tennessee?

MARCIANO: Not in this section. I can't speak for the rest of Tennessee. Just to the east of here in a place called Cleveland on the other side of the highway, homes destroyed and injuries over there as well.

So, you know, between what happened today and the storms that rescuers have had to deal, with not everybody is accounted for. So that operation is ongoing. And we're hoping that that number stays in the zero mark, but from what I've seen today, there's a lot of damage out there, Anderson. These were some potent storms that have come through.

COOPER: Yes. And Rob, you agree that for this time of the year, this is very early for these kinds of intense storms?

MARCIANO: Absolutely. And really the time of the year and where these storms happen is where you have to look for the red flags. We had a tornado reported in Nebraska two days ago. That's never happened in the month of February, so there's a red flag right there. And as Jeff pointed out, to have this sort of outbreak which is very much a mid to late April type of scenario is certainly alarming.

I should also say this, we have moved out of the area that's been devastated. We were evacuated because of the oncoming storms. That's why al you see behind me is some rescue vehicles. We are at the command post which is also acting as a shelter. Some areas, some churches that tried to open up to be shelters, they didn't have power as well, so it's been frustrating for residents, victims and rescuers alike here in eastern Tennessee.

COOPER: Yes. Chad Myers is also standing by. Chad, if you can put this in context for us, why are we seeing this so strong, so early in the year?

MYERS: Didn't really have a winter. We're already into spring even though it says March 1st, 2nd, 3rd, whatever. It's not even there. We're already past that Spring wise. The snowpack isn't there. We had a cold air mass come down. We had so warm of a winter here in Atlanta and moist too. There's been rain the past couple of weeks so the humidity is on the ground. And it was that snow. You know, I showed you that snow that's in Wisconsin now. You get the cold and the warm to clash. You get a trough in the jet stream. That jet stream is coming in from the southwest, pushing on up to the northeast. That's why the storms are going in that direction.

It all came together in a perfect line, and we knew this, days ago that this was going to be a big day. This is just one of the -- there will be four or five days like this across America this year. This is a big day. This is called a high risk day. There's slight, moderate, high. They don't put high risks out very often, maybe three to five times a year. Today was a high risk day. We knew all the ingredients came together. It's like making soup. You have all the stuff, you make great soup. We had all the stuff today.

COOPER: Does that automatically mean that it's going to get worse, you know, as the months progress?

MYERS: You know, not really. There's not a great correlation there. There's some type of correlation there because of the la nina, el nino pattern to the pacific and also we didn't have a winter. But you take a look at what Europe had. Europe had hundreds of fatalities because of the cold. We didn't even see cold really for the most part, and now, so as the whole situation changes from summer to winter, what could possibly happen is that we lose spring by May. We may not even have a severe weather season by May. The jet stream could be up in Calgary and that will be the severe weather will be. And so, the entire severe weather season may just be early. It may be a month early to come and a month early to go.

COOPER: Chad, I want to go to Lawrence Smith. He is with our affiliate WDRB. He is on the phone in Louisville, Kentucky.

Lawrence, what did you see today? I understand you came very close.

LAWRENCE SMITH, REPORTER, WDRB (via telephone): Yes, I was in Henryville, Indiana, Anderson. We were sent up there to cover the coming tornado. We pulled off at the Henryville exit off i-65 north and moments after we arrived, we saw the twister coming across the highway right at us. The video was incredible. The experience was incredible. But it came across. We ran inside a nearby convenience store with about a half dozen other people.

COOPER: We're showing your video right now.

SMITH: We waited for it. The building shook, the lights went off. The noise was incredible. And it passed right by in front of us. Fortunately where we were, we were not injured, but across the street from us, a few hundred yards away, total devastation.

A gas station across the state a few hundred yards from us leveled. An apartment complex beyond the gas station leveled. Trees torn down. It was an amazing sight to see. But there was some heroic people there immediately who began to go in and pull people out.

I don't think there were any injuries in this particular -- there were injuries, I don't think there were any particular deaths in this area, but it was an amazing sight to be in the middle of a twister as it bears down on you.

COOPER: Lawrence, I mean, we're looking at the images you and your crew took as you were trying to seek safety from this. What does it feel like to be so close? I mean the temperature change, what is it actually -- what's the experience like?

SMITH: There was no temperature change. It was very quiet, first of all, until it got close to you and then it became this terrific roar. Then you could see the debris begin to swirl. And we decided we better get inside a building and get away from this as fast as we can, so we went inside and continued to shoot from inside the building from the window. And you could see the debris flying everywhere. The noise was deafening. People were screaming inside the building. It passed by us within a few hundred feet and hit the town of Henryville to a horrific effect. It was just amazing to see the kind of damage that storm could cause.

COOPER: It's extraordinary to see the images. How fast did it go by you? Did it move past you?

SMITH: To tell you the truth, it seemed like forever but it was probably only about a minute or so that it took to pass by us. But as we looked to our east as it passed by us, we could see homes just being ripped apart.

COOPER: Lawrence, I'm glad you and your crew were safe and able to get these images for us. Appreciate it, Lawrence Smith, remarkable job today.

Our breaking news coverage is going to continue throughout this hour with late updates on this powerful and deadly storm system.

Let us know what you think on facebook and Google plus. Follow me on twitter @andersoncooper.

Up next, a powerful firsthand account of the Assad regime in Syria, about their bombardment of its own people, of the lies that just keep coming out about what's going on, telling more lies today.

And we have somebody who can directly contradict the lies that we are hearing from the Syrian regime today because they're telling lies about him and he is alive to tell us the truth, photographer Paul Conroy just got out of Syria, just got out of Homs. A lot of people died trying to help get him out. He calls it a medieval slaughter. That's happened, and a medieval slaughter that's about to continue. The only difference now is there's no one left in Homs who can videotape it and document it and tell the world about it. But tonight he will.

I urge you to listen to this. We'll be right back.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight begins with a terrible, terrible truth and the grotesque lies being told about it over and over again. The truth tonight is stark and simple. The people in Baba Amr, the neighborhood in the Syrian city of Homs that's been under attack now for weeks, those people are now entirely at the mercy of the regime that has been trying day after day and week after week to murder them, to kill them.

They have been targeted by the heaviest weapons of war, even though there's no war, only killing. In the words of a man who just escaped from the city who just saw all of it happening, what's going on Baba Amr is, quote, "the medieval siege and slaughter of civilians, the medieval siege and slaughter." The lies meantime from the Assad regime do not stop. The Syrian foreign ministry issued a statement that pretty much left us speechless. It was about the rocket attack that killed journalist, Marie Colvin, and a photographer, Remi Ochlik, and wounded another photographer, Paul Conroy, who you are going to hear from a little moment.

In the statement, the statement reads, quote, "The Syrian government immediately after hearing the sad news that Miss Colvin had been killed exerted immense efforts to find out the circumstances under which Miss Colvin was killed."

It's hard to say anything about that but Paul Conroy can say plenty about it. As we said, he was on the receiving end of that same attack that killed his colleague. We spoke to him just a short time ago.


COOPER: Paul, you were injured in the shelling that killed your friends and colleagues, Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. How are you doing, first of all?

PAUL CONROY, PHOTOJOURNALIST (via telephone): I am OK. I'm in London now. I've seen a lot of specialists. They have got the wounds under control in my left leg and removed some metal from my abdomen, so I'm stabilized now.

COOPER: You've covered wars all over the world for a long time. In terms of what you saw happening in Baba Amr, in Homs in Syria, how does it compare?

CONROY: I would say quite categorically, that's the most ferocious, vicious and unnecessary that I've seen. And there are actually no military targets within Baba Amr. All of the intense shelling is directed at the civilian population. So it's quite a unique situation in Baba Amr.

COOPER: Is it even a war? I mean, is it accurate to call it that?

CONROY: No, I think it would be wrong to call it a war. This is, I think, a medieval siege and slaughter. I would hesitate to use the word "war."

COOPER: Slaughter. You say it's a slaughter?

CONROY: Absolutely. It's a slaughterhouse in there. And the city of and people -- it's a very small neighborhood. I was in Misrata for the peak of the shelling there. At least people had space to disappear and run and change neighborhoods.

In Baba Amr there is nowhere to go. The area is ringed by snipers, so any attempt at leaving the neighborhood is met by sniper fire. And the buildings are low, single story buildings generally. They can't withstand the heavy artillery that's being fired into them. So it's a slaughterhouse.

COOPER: In terms of what's going to happen now, if Syrian army forces have left as they said they have and the military, the Syrian regime is able to just move in and take control of the area, as it seems they have, what do you think is going to happen?

CONROY: I mean this was everybody's, you know, biggest fear. I think most people in Baba Amr had unfortunately had to accept their fate and the world has once again stood by and watched as this assault continued. I think now people have accepted the fact that they will probably end up dead. They were preparing to die. When I was rushed out of the place, I think most people accepted that the west. Nobody was coming to their help and they were prepared to go to their death. It's unfortunate.

COOPER: And now Syrian forces are free to go house to house, apartment to apartment and seek whatever revenge they want. And there's really no one there anymore to document it. No international correspondents and even locals with access to you tube cameras and uploading things on you tube?

CONROY: Absolutely, Anderson. Unfortunately now -- that was a line of defense to a point, the fact that this could be documented and maybe hopefully the presence of photographers and journalists, both western and Syrian, held a modicum of security.

But now that's gone. This will continue in the dark undocumented. And I fear that the opportunity will be taken to exact revenge on these people which told an (INAUDIBLE) to stand off to a regime that would intense on flow. But now, the cameras are gone and we can only imagine the horrors that will unfold in Baba Amr. I fear to think of what's going to happen to the people now.

COOPER: In the last interview I did with Marie Colvin, before she was killed, she used the word lies, about the lies the Syrian regime has told. It's a word we use on this program a lot to describe the inaccurate statements they have made over the last 12 months.

Syrian state television now says that calm has been restored in Baba Amr and they have aired interviews of people who say armed terrorists were the ones responsible for shooting and chaos. And that's the line the regime has been pushing since the beginning of the conflict. When you hear what they have to say, what do you think based on what you saw?

CONROY: I feel sick, Anderson. I mean, this regime one day hopefully will answer at the Hague. But the level of lies and deception are beyond -- I hate to use the world human. I hope the outside world doesn't believe any of this nonsense.

They've executed, massacre slaughtered, butchered, women, children, men for the last ten months. And the last two weeks that this regime has committed crimes. They're not war crimes, they're just crimes. This is just outright murder. There's no war involved. I think the height in beyond the veil of lies, of their own Camorrism. It doesn't address, Anderson. This is pure outright murder of civilians in their homes by a heavily armed force with impunity have shelled and destroyed these people. We saw that. Marie Colvin died witnessing this. And she saw that, I saw that, we've seen it. This is absolute nonsense of the regime.

These are educated people. These are not people in the hills of Afghanistan. These people were educated at universities. There's a whole system in place, and for 40 years the Syrian people have lived under this system, themselves expert in the lies, deception and murder.

We once again stopped by and watched the whole regime commit murder. Not war crimes, there's no war. The war is a fallacy. This is murder of civilians. It is from a regime that is expert in lying and death. They hopefully we stand by and watch them die. Let's hopefully get these people on trial at the Hague, the crimes against humanity.

COOPER: The other statement the Syrian government made today was that they said that they were on the verge of approving a visa for Marie Colvin so that she could travel to the country legitimately. They have said that oftentimes. They promise visas to people and never delivered on that.

They also claim they're going to launch an investigation to find out how Marie was killed. Do you have any doubt in your mind how Marie was killed and who killed her?

CONROY: I was with Marie when she was killed and I know who killed her. There's no need for an investigation. They were professional artillery men, targeted, bracketed and murdered Marie Colvin. And after, they murdered Remi. This was murder, there's no need for investigation.

The Syrian regime -- I mean I -- you know, I'm sitting there mourning the loss of a friend and a colleague and I have to listen to this nonsense from the murders themselves. It's like the murders are investigating the murderers. It's laughable.

COOPER: And the final thing, I believe it's important to confront their lies constantly because otherwise they go unanswered. The Syrian government is also now saying that they were actually trying to help you and other wounded journalists leave Baba Amr but it was the insurgents who refused to let you leave.

CONROY: Once again, Anderson, we're looking at -- it's a pathetic attempt at lying. If that's the best -- I would go face to face on television with any of that Syrian regime and challenge their lies. That's an open offer to the Assad regime. If they had to face me on a one-to-one interview, I will refute their lies face to face. If they give me a visa, I will come to Damascus and refute their lies. That's an open challenge for the Assad regime. I have that confidence. I will travel back to Syria and we can have it out face to face.

COOPER: We would like to get a visa too and travel back with you. Paul Conroy --

CONROY: If you can arrange that, then I'll go with you and we'll confront this regime on their lies.

COOPER: They no longer come on my program. We've called them on their lies a few too many times but we keep asking.

So listen, Paul, I've never met you but I have such respect for what you've done and I'm so sorry for the loss of Marie and your friends and your colleagues. And I'm glad you're back and alive and speaking out, because you're one of the few people who has witnessed the murders and the slaughter. So thank you.

CONROY: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Paul Conroy.

Just ahead tonight, much more on the powerful storms that pummeled a wide stretch of the U.S. tornadoes left miles of damage in their wake. It's a day of sheer terror in a lot of small towns today.

Also ahead, in raw politics, Rush Limbaugh's comments about a female law student put him in the cross-hairs of being slammed by all sides.

Mitt Romney's finally made a comment about it after dodging some questions about it. We'll show you what he said and what some of the other GOP candidates have said as well.


COOPER: Welcome back. You're looking at a school bus embedded in a house in Henryville, Indiana, about 20 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.

As we have been reporting, the town has been hit hard, the damage extensive. More now on the breaking news coverage. CNN's Chris Welch is in Henryville. Chris, what's the latest there?

CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I just got to the scene myself and I've been fortunate enough to meet these two people who were fortunate enough to reunite with each other.

This is Rusty and Megan Irish, father and daughter. Megan goes to school just a couple of hours away from here, but because the phones have been down and because of this massive devastation, they haven't been able to get in touch with each other.

And guess what? Five minutes ago you reunited. Walk me through what your afternoon was like. You live here in Henryville. It's been a busy couple of damages with tornado damage.

But here in Henryville, tell me what happened. What you heard, what you saw when this tornado came through? RUSTY IRISH, LOST HOME IN STORM: When the tornado came through initially, a friend of mine called and told me that Henryville had been hit extremely hard. I was about 10 miles south of here. I rushed here immediately to total devastation.

WELCH: And did you find your home? I know you told me we're not far, right? How far is your home? And what does it look like?

RUSTY IRISH: Approximately, two blocks from here and the roof is off of it. It's pretty much a total loss.

WELCH: And, Megan, you grew up here, spent your life here. You went to the school that we've seen a lot of pictures of all evening. Tell me you said you got a chance to see the school that you went to. What's your impression after seeing some of this damage?

MEGAN IRISH, LOST HOME IN STORM: It was awful. Like the front of it was just tore off. I just saw buses through buildings. It kind of hurt to come back and see all this. I don't like seeing it like this.

WELCH: You've up got a smile on your face now, but we're standing in the midst of -- you've probably got a lot of friends and family who are walking around still trying to make contact with loved ones. That's exactly what you were doing this afternoon.


WELCH: You spent two hours on the road unable to get a hold of your family. Tell me what was going through your mind.

MEGAN IRISH: The worst, I guess. That's absolutely all I could think about is what if they're not there when I'm back. You know, what was the last thing I said to them or something? It was really scary.

WELCH: And your home is gone now, but you were telling me earlier these things can be replaced. But tell me, when you look around, you look at the home -- this city that you were born and raised in, what goes through your mind right now?

RUSTY IRISH: I'm still in shock really. I'm just -- you know, I'm worried about the -- it's a pretty tight-knit community, a small community, and just worried about the people that I grew up with and have been around all my life.

You know, hoping everything is OK. You know, a lot of outpouring here, people offering to take us in if we need anything, you know, so that's wonderful. That's just a good thing of a small town.

WELCH: And you said with your day job, Rusty, part of what you've been doing this afternoon is helping clear up debris from the road. You said some of that involved school buses from roadways. Can you give us a sense -- give us a picture of what you were doing this afternoon? RUSTY IRISH: Yes, I drive a heavy wrecker. I got up here initially driving through a hailstorm. I was on the tail end of the tornado. And I know quite a few of the state police, the police officials around here and stuff. I helped them get the road open, Highway 31, by removing school buses and cars.

WELCH: Do you know if any of those school buses had kids in them or was this late enough in the day, were they all dismissed because of the storms earlier?

RUSTY IRISH: They dismissed the school earlier, probably about half an hour before it hit. So we're very thankful for that.

WELCH: And you said you do still know some people who go to the high school, right, that's been hit hard. Have you talked to them this evening at all? Have you been able to see any of them yet since you been back here?

MEGAN IRISH: I've only talked to one, but that was earlier today. My brother and sister go there still.

WELCH: What is the next step now? Obviously, this happened hours ago. You probably still are trying to figure out what's happened here, but as you go through tonight and into tomorrow morning, what's on your mind? What do you do next?

RUSTY IRISH: I'm just going to see what daylight holds. You know, I'm just thankful that we're all -- we all survived this. Like I said, material things can be replaced, the house can be replaced.

We've got a place to stay, you know, warmth, food, you know, we don't have to worry about that. So like I said, we'll just see what tomorrow holds and go on from there.

WELCH: Thank you both very much for joining us. Anderson, I'll send it back to you.

COOPER: Please wish them the best for us and the thoughts and prayers of so many people are with those folks and others tonight. Chris, thanks very much.

Major Chuck Adams is with the Clark County Indiana Sheriff's Office. His county took perhaps the biggest hit in this storm. He's in Jeffersonville. We're trying to get a sense of how badly it's been hit. Thank you for joining us. How is Jeffersonville tonight?

MAJOR CHUCK ADAMS, CLARK COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE (via telephone): Anderson, of course you're watching what I am on the news. We've got a command post set up in Jeffersonville. We've just had a wonderful influx of police officers coming to the scene.

We've probably got 40 or 50 police officers in the Henryville area now. It's remarkable that we didn't have more fatalities. Right now, we've only got one reported fatality in the Henryville area. I don't really have an injury number for you, but we were very lucky.

ANDERSON: How much time did people have? How much warning, do you know, did people have?

ADAMS: Well, I know the alarms went off probably several times during the day, so at least three times and there was quite a bit of warning. The only problem that we really did have, school there in Henryville was still in session.

And as you can tell from the footage, the high school is just heavily damaged. We were just so fortunate that some of the children that were still left in the school today weren't injured. We only reported minor scratches and some abrasions from the students, so we were very fortunate there.

COOPER: Yes, thank goodness for that, especially when you see that school bus that's just been tossed through a house. Major Chuck Adams, I know you've got a long night and long days and weeks ahead of you. We wish you the best and to all those volunteers who come in from surrounding areas as well, wish them the best. Thank you very much.

ADAMS: OK, thank you very much too.

COOPER: Still ahead tonight, the ugly battle that may be driving independents, especially women from the Republican Party. What it means for the presidential candidates.

We're talking about comments made by Rush Limbaugh and some of the comments GOP candidates have been asked about the statements by Limbaugh. We'll talk about that tonight.

Plus, the images were overwhelming. This is what tornadoes left behind at Henryville. More on the damage ahead.


COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight, the ugly battle now under way that some Republicans say could be driving independents and some women away from the GOP even more so now that Rush Limbaugh has painted a bull's-eye on one woman, a Georgetown University law student named Sandra Fluke.

The fight is about whether religiously affiliated institutions like Catholic universities and medical centers should be required to provide health insurance that covers contraception. Democrats wanted Fluke to testify on that all-male House hearing on the issue several weeks back.

After Republican Chairman Darrell Issa said no, she testified to a separate panel of Democrats. This week during that bitter Senate fight over allowing employers to eliminate coverage for anything they morally object to, Rush Limbaugh took aim at law student Sandra Fluke.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her?

It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.


COOPER: He also said, quote, "If we're going to pay for you to have sex, you have to post the videos so we can all watch," unquote. Today, Fluke got a phone call from President Obama. Limbaugh reacted to that as well.


LIMBAUGH: Obama just called Sandra Fluke to make sure she was all right. That is so compassionate. What a great guy?


COOPER: Some Republican candidates who are already saying this is strictly about moral conscience, not women's health, are now being asked by Democrats to repudiate Limbaugh's comments and by reporters to at least respond to them.

Today, Rick Santorum, who speaks out frequently against contraception had this to say in THE SITUATION ROOM.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": I'd like you to respond to Rush Limbaugh.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, he's taking -- he's being absurd. That's an entertainer can be absurd. He's taken the absurd -- you know, the absurd sort of point of view here as to how far do you go. Look, he's in a very different business than I am.


COOPER: House Speaker John Boehner through a spokesman called what Limbaugh said, quote, "inappropriate, but so were attempts to exploit it." Mitt Romney, on the other hand, first refused to respond to questions about the comments.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Romney, do you have a comment on Rush Limbaugh's comments on contraception, sir?


COOPER: Perhaps he didn't hear it there. Hours later on he said, quote, "It's not the language I would have used," unquote.

More on the raw politics now and its impact on the GOP with Republican strategist, Ari Fleischer and Mary Matalin, and Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona.

Ari, is it appropriate to ask GOP candidates about Rush Limbaugh's comments? A lot of folks say, look, Rush Limbaugh is just an entertainer, but then others say, well, look, he has a role in the Republican Party.

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, you know, they are not -- they are not radio people themselves that are running for president. They're doing something more important. So yes, it's appropriate to ask them. I don't think it's the be all and end all of their campaigns.

But, look, what Rush said was reprehensible. It's insulting. He didn't need to say it, he shouldn't have said it. He should apologize for it, but you know, this has been a strange week, Anderson.

You have "The Huffington Post" had somebody published who wrote most virulent anti-Catholic things you've ever read, liken the Catholic mass to a barbaric ritual. That was Larry Doyle writing for Arianna Huffington in "The Huffington Post."

You know, there are all kinds of sideshows in politics. I don't remember the Democrats getting asked to apologize for Arianna Huffington. They should also.

COOPER: But the guy you quoted I think is a former writer for "The Simpsons." Is he on the same par with Rush Limbaugh? Because Rush Limbaugh addresses, you know, we're seeing video of him addressing CPAC and conservative groups.

FLEISCHER: "The Huffington Post" certainly is. "The Huffington Post" has millions of readers identified with the left wing of American politics and they made the conscious decision to publish this.

You know, Rush just speaks extemporaneously. He should not have said, I'm a fan of Rush, but he shouldn't have said it. "Huffington Post" made a conscious decision to publish so millions could read. That's terrible judgment. How come the mainstream media is not making a big deal of "The Huffington Post?"

COOPER: Mary Matalin, what do you think?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think that there would not be -- the Republicans would not have ascended to the majority in 1994 without Rush Limbaugh. There wouldn't be a moderate conservative movement without Rush Limbaugh.

There would not be a voice for the fly over country, mainstream America without Rush. There will be no victories in the fall without Rush. The problem is here there's nothing more effective than political humor, political satire, nobody does it better than Rush.

The problem is Republicans get all wobbly and respond to Democratic demagoguery and the distortion of Rush's clear meaning and they should pivot to the issue. Rick Santorum could have pivoted right to how atrocious it is for the overreach of the government to be running over encroaching on religious liberty or the government demanding that a private enterprise provide and pay for contraceptives or whatever, abortion-producing drugs.

So I think the Republican response to this is always wrong. After the dust settles and Rush is right, 99.7 percent of the times. Every one of these candidates right now has to go back and reassert the essential rationale for their candidacy. This is a very important Tuesday coming up. They shouldn't allow themselves to be distracted like this.

COOPER: Maria, was this just satire. Bill Maher on the left who said some pretty outrageous things.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The problem is what Rush did was very personal to somebody who was testifying about an issue that she felt was personal. It was an ugly, ugly personal attack and absolutely, he should apologize for it.

I'm glad that Ari thinks that he should. And I don't think that this is someone that we want our young kids listening to, our young men, our daughters listening to. And think that it's OK to use that kind of language, especially when you have the megaphone that he has.

And that's the problem here. He is not just somebody who wrote an article that was posted on the web. To Mary's point, he is a spokesperson for the Republican Party. Republican candidates listen to him. But Republican candidates should also have profiles and courage and know when something is absolutely crossed the line like it has in this instance.


MATALIN: Anderson, can I just ask you, what standing did that young law student have in this pseudo -- it wasn't even a real hearing. She's not a member of the clergy. She doesn't work for an insurance company. She's not really any kind of student leader. What's her point?

It's a tragic case when a young woman with such clear ambition devotes her life to going to a Jesuit university, paying $40,000 a year and takes on her cause, government sponsored, taxpayer funded contraception. There's no problem.

I lived right behind Georgetown when I was in Washington. You can walk to any pharmacy and get birth control anywhere. You can get an abortion anywhere up there. There is no problem.

It's a tragic case that our young people are not exposed to something good satire, but that they take on as their cause, particularly in a Jesuit university where they could be devoting themselves to the great mission and history of the Jesuit enterprise. Why she's doing this is a tragedy. It says more about the young people than the conversation. Yes, it does, Maria.

FLEISCHER: I want to ask Maria something here. CARDONA: I think a lot of women and a lot of mothers actually think that it's a good thing when young women stand up for what they believe should be equal rights for all women and that's what this is about, equal access to life-saving, preventative services.

That is the gist of the issue. Now, clearly what Rush has done was made it about sluts and prostitutes and that's where it's a problem for the Republican Party because they have not repudiated that.


FLEISCHER: Maria, I've been consistent on this and I said I thought it was inappropriate and should apologize. Would you call on Arianna Huffington to apologize for publishing anti-Catholics creed on wide read by millions web site?

CARDONA: Yes, I don't think that's appropriate either, Ari.

FLEISCHER: And do you think Nancy Pelosi should join you? Should Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, should they apologize -- ask for Arianna Huffington to apologize?

CARDONA: They don't speak for "The Huffington Post." They don't speak for Arianna Huffington

FLEISCHER: Well, but you're saying Republicans should ask Rush Limbaugh to apologize. So shouldn't Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama ask Arianna Huffington to apologize?

CARDONA: Apologize for what, for running that? For publishing that piece?

FLEISCHER: Absolutely. For publishing an anti-Catholic hate piece.

CARDONA: It's absolutely -- it's not the same issue because, again --

FLEISCHER: What a double standard. That's a double standard.

CARDONA: Rush Limbaugh made a personal attack of this woman calling her a slut, calling her a prostitute.

COOPER: I guess also the question is --

CARDONA: And that is something that should not be accepted by anybody.

COOPER: Ari, I guess also the question is does Rush Limbaugh have -- does Arianna Huffington have the same standing in the Democratic Party that Rush Limbaugh does in the Republican Party.

FLEISCHER: Anderson, the issue isn't how much is your reach. The issue is how wrong were you when you said something? I don't think the standard is how many people heard you. She has millions, Rush has millions.

It's not whether one has more millions that the other. The question is did you cross a line. I guess what Maria is saying it's wrong to insult one person, but it's right to insult billions of people, which is what "The Huffington Post" did in this piece.

CARDONA: No. What I'm saying is it's completely different.

FLEISCHER: It's totally anti-religious.

CARDONA: No. What I'm saying is it's completely different --

FLEISCHER: Why won't you say Barack Obama should call on Arianna Huffington to apologize?

CARDONA: Because it's not -- absolutely not the same thing.

COOPER: Maria, you can respond and we've got to go.

CARDONA: It is absolutely not the same thing. The "Huffington Post" is a publication. Rush Limbaugh is somebody who has his own words and should be responsible for his own words.

These are not Arianna Huffington's words. These are Rush Limbaugh's own words. And by the way, his advertisers are withdrawing their money from the show so clearly it's not something that people agree is OK.

COOPER: We're simply out of time. Maria --

MATALIN: Twenty years trying to take him out and they have not done it yet and are not now, Anderson.

CARDONA: And that's the problem with the Republican Party.

COOPER: Mary Matalin, appreciate it. Ari Fleischer, appreciate it as well.

Coming up, more on the tornado damage. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Let's get a quick check in with Chad Myers for the latest on these storms in Midwest and South -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the most menacing right now, Anderson, is a tornado on the ground confirmed north of the Atlanta metro area up in the northern suburbs, the suburbs of Dallas, Georgia, and also Kennasaw, Georgia.

The storm has been confirmed on the ground with damage and also some of the debris we're seeing in the air from the radar, actually seeing that. Significant rotation and also the potential for some pretty big damage as we look at the storm moving out of -- that's not the one. The one moving out of Dallas, Georgia, and into the Kennasaw mountain area and eventually possibly over toward Woodstock, this is a very strong storm -- Anderson.

COOPER: Chad Myers, thanks. Let's check in with Susan Hendricks with "360 Bulletin."

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, thank you. Iranians voted today to fill nearly 300 seats in their parliament. It was the first nationwide vote since the disputed re-election of President Ahmadinejad in 2009. T hat election sparked widespread protests, which were met by a bloody crackdown by the regime.

Classes resumed today at Chardon High School in Ohio. Grief counselors were on hand there. On Monday gunman opened fire on a table of students in the cafeteria. Three were killed, two others were hospitalized.

The 17-year-old TJ Lane, he is the gunman. He has been charged with aggravated murder. He is due back in court on Tuesday.

And today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss. The man who brought us loveable children's books such as "The Cat in the Hat" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." He would have turned 108 today. He died in 1991 at the age of 87. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Susan, thanks very much.

Coming up, good news for people who can't make even the most mundane decision without the help of Facebook. "The Ridiculist" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, we're adding something airlines are trying with airplane seating arrangements. Two airlines have decided to let passengers choose who they want to sit next to based on their Facebook profiles.

KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, calls it meet and seat. Apparently, you share your Facebook profile, look through other passengers' profiles and figure out who you want to sit next to.

Other airlines are considering it as well. Sure, why not? Let's not just mind your own business on planes, block each other out like normal people do. God forbid anyone gets some peace and quiet.

By all means let's turn every second of our lives into a social networking experiment. Why stop at Facebook? Let's get on board and turn every flight into multi-hour first dates going on with no escape whatsoever.

I think that sounds great. Look, I don't mean to sound like a curmudgeon, but what was so wrong with rolling the dice. Maybe you hit the jackpot and get the nice, quiet stranger and occasionally you get John Candy in "planes, trains and automobiles." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, I don't want to be rude, but I'm not much of a conversationalist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You catch me running off at the mouth. Just give me a poke in the chops. That feels good. I'm telling you. My dogs are barking today.


COOPER: Isn't a flight by definition supposed to be a transient part of our lives? We're talking about the relationship you have with someone you happen to be sitting next to from point A to point B. That's it.

Do we really need to know their relationship status, poking habits and affinity for a nickel back or whatever it is? The only possible upside I can see in this, I guess if someone has flying planes under interest in their Facebook profile, maybe you could identify them much more quickly in an airplane type situation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you fly this plane and land it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surely you can't be serious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am serious and don't call me Shirley.


COOPER: You know, some say this is an innovative way to network. But you know what, people don't tell the whole truth about themselves on their Facebook profiles. They're not going to write I talk incessantly or smell like bleu cheese on there.

In other words -- bleu cheese, in other words, it's not going to help you avoid the kind of situation described in the following clip in which a woman calls a deceased man trying to get help from then minority whip Newt Gingrich.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A couple of weeks ago, I had a situation where I was on a plane that had three seats on either side. I sat in the middle. I had a woman on one side that had Obsession perfume, Liz Taylor's obsession, and it was so overpowering. Besides that, the man on the other side must have had shrimp scampi or something for lunch because he smelled like garlic.


COOPER: There you go. I bet this idea is really going to take off. So have fun, everyone, making new Facebook friends on planes everywhere. I'll be the guy with the noise-canceling headphones, newspaper and Ambien dreaming about the good old days.

That does it for us. I'll see you again one hour from now. Another edition of 360 at 10:00 p.m. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN STARTS" right now.