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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Women and the Election; Nation Headed for Fiscal Crisis?; Escalating Violence in Syria

Aired October 18, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much. Good evening, everyone.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest." And the most important issue to perhaps the most important voting group in the most important states on the electoral map. Now we're talking about women in swing states and abortion.

New polling from Gallup shows that abortion, by more than 2-1, is their number one issue in this election followed by jobs, health care and the economy. This is getting a lot of attention because it's counter to what earlier polls have shown, not binders full of women but where each candidate stands on something involving real substance and real differences between the two candidates.

So President Obama is hitting this issue hard in recent days, in one case taking his opponent's words out of context. Mitt Romney, for his part, seems to be trying to downplay his differences with the president in some cases.

"Keeping Them Honest," some of what Governor Romney has been saying about abortion and contraception is contradicted by statements he's made in the very recent past which contradicts statements and promises made before that.

Take a look at this exchange, though, at Tuesday's debate.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I just note that I don't believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not and I don't believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest", Governor Romney's record says otherwise. In fact he strongly supported federal legislations specifically tailored to restrict access to birth control and restated that support when it briefly came into question.


HOWIE CARR, RADIO HOST: Jim Heath, a reporter for a TV station in Ohio, just tweeted a remarkable piece of news. Mitt Romney told him, he does not support the Blunt Amendment which would empower employers and insurers to deny health coverage they find morally objectionable. Is -- what happened here?


ROMNEY: I didn't understand his question. Of course I support the Blunt Amendment.


COOPER: That was back in February when he was battling for the Republican nomination. Now the Blunt Amendment failed but as late as August, the governor was still pushing the idea behind it, that is, allowing companies to restrict insurance coverage for birth control for certain reasons.

Then Tuesday night, he apparently did a 180. Yet when asked yesterday whether in fact he did flip-flop, a campaign surrogate said, quote, "not in any way." She went on to call the issue, quote, "not really the point to most women out there."

As we showed you, though, the polling suggests that it is, again if you believe this poll, which maybe why both campaigns now have attack ads running on abortion and contraception.

Here's a portion of the Obama campaign's commercial, which uses a clip from a 2007 primary that I actually moderated. Primary debate.


COOPER: Roe V. Wade was overturned, Congress passed a federal ban on all abortions and it came to your desk, would you sign it? Yes or not?

ROMNEY: Let me say. I'd be delighted to sign that bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Banning all abortions?

ROMNEY: I'd be delighted to sign that bill.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest," there is a big problem with the way the Obama campaign actually uses that clip and we'll show you that shortly.

First, though, I want to quickly show a portion of the Romney campaign's reply.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It turns out Romney doesn't oppose contraception at all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest or to save a mother's life.


COOPER: OK. Both ads, "Keeping Them Honest," here it goes. The Obama ad suggesting Mr. Romney would immediately sign a bill to end abortion. It ignores the context in which he calls such a possibility unlikely.


ROMNEY: Let me say it. I'd be delighted to sign that bill. But that's not where we are. That's not where America is today. Where America is, is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the -- if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.


COOPER: So the Obama ad clearly messes with the context. The Romney ad, on the other hand, repeats the governor's reassurances on contraception from Tuesday night which contradicts his past position. Also the ad makes Mr. Romney sound maybe more tolerant on abortion rights than he actually is. It mentions all the instances in which Mr. Romney does support the right to an abortion. But it fails to mention that he outspokenly support overturning the Supreme Court that affirms the constitutional right to an abortion in the first place.

From his Web site, quote, "Mitt believes that life begins at conception and wishes that the laws of our nation reflected that view. But while the nation remains so divided, he believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade."

"Keeping Them Honest," though, Governor Romney has taken different positions on Roe v Wade and abortion rights over the years. Here he is running for the Senate against Ted Kennedy in 1994.


ROMNEY: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she rain in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it. And I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice.


COOPER: In 1994 in his losing race against Ted Kennedy. 2002, while running for governor, he also ran strongly -- ran as strongly pro-choice. And then years later, he talked about his pro-life record while in office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I have consistently been pro-life. Every piece of legislation that dealt with life.

JOHN ROBERTS, REPORTER: Even though you were effectively pro- choice?

ROMNEY: You know --


ROMNEY: As governor -- all the decisions I've made as governor and all the bills that came to my desk were -- I came down on the side of life.


COOPER: That was during the Republican primary back in 2007. This time around during the primaries, Mr. Romney boasted that he was a severely conservative governor and continued to tout his anti- abortion credentials. But then when he's nominated he began sounding a little more moderate. Here he is less than two weeks ago.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you intend to pursue any legislation specifically regarding abortion?

ROMNEY: I don't -- there is no legislation with regarding -- regards to abortion that I am familiar with that would become part of my agenda.


COOPER: His spokesperson immediately contradicted that. And a day later, here's what he said.


ROMNEY: I think I said that time and again that I am a prolife candidate. I'll be a prolife president. The actions I'll take immediately are to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. Will not be part of my budget.


COOPER: So was he just misspeaking the day before? You can decide for yourself.

A lot of ground to cover. Let's talk with senior Romney campaign adviser, Bay Buchanan, and Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, Democratic strategist, and a former Obama administration official.

Bay, first of all, do you buy this Gallup poll that says abortion is the number issue for women right now? BAY BUCHANAN, SENIOR ADVISER TO MITT ROMNEY: No, not at all. In fact I saw polls again recently and have a look at them throughout the primary and the general election. The number one issue for women has always been jobs, the economy, and their concern for this future with respect to the economy. I have never seen anything that suggests anything else.

COOPER: So what do you make of this Gallup Poll? It's just --

BUCHANAN: Well, you know, I - I think it's very interesting because just look at the facts out there right now. The gender gap has just collapsed. Mitt Romney in all the polls, certainly Gallup, shows that it's a dead heat with women out there. Mitt Romney has done a remarkable job bringing them over to his side just in the last two, three weeks. And so why would that be, Anderson?

It's clear that they were looking for another option. Because in a 90-minute debate, they took a look and they've been watching the -- the president for four years. And his policies have failed and have hurt women, have hurt children. And so they've said, look, is there another option? They tuned in, they saw the governor and they said, my gosh, here is not only a good and decent man, somebody that offers us a brighter future for our family and our children. And they went with it.

COOPER: OK. But on this poll you're just saying it's flat-out wrong?

BUCHANAN: Well, I just think it's -- I just think it cannot be accurate. But let it --


BUCHANAN: Let them say what they want. But it's clear that we've moved women into the column under Mitt Romney. And that's the important thing.

COOPER: Got it.

BUCHANAN: And I believe it's because he offers a good and positive future for Americans.

COOPER: Neera, do you buy this poll? Do you believe this poll, this Gallup poll?

NEERA TANDEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, I don't know exactly how much abortion is playing in this election. I do think it has a higher importance to voters. I think it has a higher importance to women voters. Specifically, because the issue of contraception became such a flash point, became such a flash point to voters in the public dialogue and Republican primary.

I think a lot of women were shocked that issues like contraception were up for public debate. And so I think women are looking for these positions. And that's why I think Mitt Romney is hiding his positions on abortion and on contraception. He is simply wrong on Tuesday night when he told the American people he's for contraception coverage by employers.

That is -- that is false. That is not where he's been. And that's not where he will be. He's just saying that a few weeks before an election to try to -- try to do well by women voters. But I think they're going to see through that. And I think issues around choice are important. Both campaigns are spending money on. I think it is a problem for Mitt Romney that he's so far -- he has adopted such an extreme position on it.

COOPER: So, Bay, what was Mitt Romney saying at that debate? I mean, if he's saying he has no problems with contraception?

BUCHANAN: No, he's always taken the same position. All of what you've recorded out there makes -- looks as if it's confusing. But since he's been governor, and I am a very strong activist in the prolife movement. And the prolife movement is extremely happy with his position because it has been consistent since the day he converted when he was governor. He has -- his actions as governor were pro- life. Everything he said since then has been a strong prolife.

COOPER: But on -- but on contraception --

BUCHANAN: On contraception, he has never opposed. It's never even been an issue for anyone in politics for as long as I've been involved until George Stephanopoulos --

COOPER: What about the Blunt Amendment?

BUCHANAN: Well, the key here is he's not against contraception. It should be out there. And women should have access to it, but should the government fund it? That's the question. Should employers be forced to fund it for their employees? And if it's against their religious beliefs, obviously, they shouldn't be, because that would be a violation of the First Amendment.

So, of course, he's not for that. But should they have access to it, absolutely. And there's no effort by anyone I know to take that access away from them. It's the funding part that is a concern for us.

COOPER: Neera, what about that?

TANDEN: I mean, I think that this answer really demonstrates how all over the place they have been on this. Obviously, he is not going to ban contraception in America but what he will do is say that employers, they will take away the right today that women have today to get coverage from their employers. That is a right that's been established. It's one that women believe they should have.

And as Bay is saying, Mitt Romney thinks that's wrong. And he will take that away. And he -- when he looked into the camera on Tuesday night, he didn't want to tell the American women that he would do that. So he said, I support contraception. But on this issue of policy, he supports the Blunt Amendment. He supports taking away this protection that President Obama has provided and I think that's one of the distinctions in this election. BUCHANAN: You know what's interesting, is that the liberals would actually think that as women across this country are facing such incredibly challenging times, nearly a half a million women losing jobs in the last four years under this president, watching their children graduate from college and not be able to find jobs, and to see loved ones suffering enormously under these economic policies of his, that they would suddenly think that the key issue was whether they can get government to fund their contraception.

That's more important than getting America back to work. I think American women have shown that is not the most important thing to them. They are bigger and stronger. They are more worried about making certain America gets back to work and can start taking care of themselves and their families.

COOPER: OK. I want Neera --


COOPER: I think Neera wants to be able to respond then we got to go.

TANDEN: With all due respect, Bay, there is a poll out, it's the Gallup poll. Anderson started with it. It says 38 percent of women care about this issue. You may say that they don't have a right to care about that but I think that I'm not going to patronize women that way. I'm going to say that what their issues -- what their concerns are ones that we should respect. And they are concerned about this because Republicans have made it an issue.

BUCHANAN: And that same poll --

TANDEN: Republicans have said in the primary -- with all due respect, Republicans said in the primary, Mitt Romney told people that he was going to overturn Roe v. Wade with his appointments to the Supreme Court. He made that pledge. He has made issues. He has said he is severely conservative president. He will be a severely conservative president. He's been a severely conservative governor. He has said on issue after issue that he is going to vote in line with the prolife movement. You've just said, he's prolife, you're prolife.

BUCHANAN: He is prolife, absolutely.

TANDEN: And he's -- and he -- and he has an agenda that will take away women's rights on contraceptions as well as reproductive health.

BUCHANAN: No. That has just never been an issue at all. And he has never said that. He will be prolife. He's taken that position. He'll be a prolife president.

COOPER: But you're saying it's not -- you're saying it's the funding --

BUCHANAN: It's the funding issue. You can't -- you can't --

COOPER: What Neera is saying that is taking away access for some women.

TANDEN: It's not even -- it's not even --

BUCHANAN: Which is ridiculous. He wouldn't even think about doing that. It's never happened. It's been out there since 1950s. And nobody is suggesting that anyone take a woman's right to access to contraception away.

COOPER: OK, we --

BUCHANAN: That's completely false. What we're talking about. Who funds it, and should we require --

COOPER: We got to go.

BUCHANAN: -- employers to do so or should they do it whether they would like to or not? It's their choice.

TANDEN: He would overturn -- he would overturn Roe v. Wade. He would take away access --

BUCHANAN: He doesn't have authority to do so.


BUCHANAN: The Supreme Court is the only one that can do that.

COOPER: I appreciate -- all right. Bay Buchanan, thank you. Neera Tanden, thank you very much.

Let us know what you think right now on Twitter, @Andersoncooper. What do you think about this poll, this new Gallup poll? It is that the number one issue for women right now. Let us know what you think.

Up next, "Raw Politics," tough talk from President Obama on the coming showdown with Republicans over taxes and the budget, big deadlines coming up, the so-called fiscal cliff, and the president has now threatened to give the Republicans a shove. The question, though, will that drag the economy down as well? Details ahead.


COOPER: "Raw Politics" now. Just a couple of months, a whole bunch of deadlines and the Bush tax expire, all of them, and a host of automatic spending cuts kick in. People are referring to it as the fiscal cliff the country will go over if Washington can't make a deal. Today administration officials said they are willing to play some cliff-side hardball saying the president will veto a deal that doesn't contain tax hikes on high earners.

House Speaker John Boehner is calling it the president's "Thelma & Louise" strategy. This is a scene from the movie, you remember the two went over the cliff. Of course they end up in a freeze frame hanging in mid-air, as the credits rolled. The real economy might not do that. Let's talk about the possibilities with CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash, chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, and chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

So, Dana, you say when it comes to this fiscal cliff, there's virtually nothing going on behind the scenes, not from the president, not from the speaker of the House, not from either of their staffs right now?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They're not talking to each other at all. I'm told from a GOP leadership source that the House speaker hasn't talked to the president about the fiscal cliff issue since July, Anderson. That's three months ago. And you would think, OK, they are not communicating at the highest levels. They are both kind of busy, especially the president. Maybe they're talking at a staff level. Nope. That's not happening either.

There have been some White House internal meetings, contingency plans, by Democratic staff in the Senate Finance Committee especially some discussions among Republicans, but not across the aisle. Sources in both parties have been saying for months there is no point. No one thinks it's worth it before the election because the dynamic of the discussions will be determined by who wins, who has the most leverage. And so that's the big reason why nobody --

COOPER: Right.

BASH: -- is talking right now.

COOPER: So, Ali, what does this mean, a fiscal cliff? What does it mean for average Americans?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's very serious. It means two things for most people. Number one, the payroll tax credit gets eliminated and the Bush tax credits get eliminated. Now everybody agrees that the Bush tax credits and the payroll tax credit should be extended for middle class Americans, for working Americans.

The issue is whether or not it should be extended for the top earners in America. So President Obama is drawing a line in the sand here saying we all agree that it should be there for 98 percent of Americans but Republicans are holding 98 percent of Americans hostage for the 2 percent that they want tax credits for. So he's drawing a very philosophical line in the sand.

COOPER: Right.

VELSHI: This is very, very serious, though, because the tax burden on average Americans will increase by a few thousand dollars a year.


VELSHI: We know what a few hundred dollars a year makes.

COOPER: Right.

VELSHI: The difference it makes. This is very serious.

COOPER: So could that lead back to recession?

VELSHI: Absolutely, absolutely could. That's the danger. We are growing at a rate of 1.3 percent in this economy. This is exactly the type of thing that will tell American families, hold on, guys, I'm going to pull back, we're not going to spend -- we're not going to buy a washing machine, we're not going to go on a trip. And that could actually set us back into a recession at a time when Europe is in recession and that China is pulling back.

So very, very dangerous political game to be in right now.

COOPER: And Gloria, there's a lot of finger-pointing going on over this crisis. You say there's plenty of blame to go around.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: There is. I mean, don't forget, we were sitting here last July when a majority of Congress tried to figure out how to raise that debt ceiling. And what they did was a majority signed on to this scenario which created this super committee which was supposed to be able to solve all the problems that Congress has not been able to solve.

And at that time, people said, it wasn't going to work but they signed on to it anyway. And what was contained in that was, OK, if the super committee cannot come up with a deal, then you head over this fiscal cliff or fiscal Armageddon, as they were calling it, so nobody is really surprised we're in this situation right now.

I mean my guess would be that at some point they might end up with some kind of a patch, you know, never underestimate Congress' ability to do a patch, when a real long-term solution is required. And --


BORGER: Right now, it doesn't look like it.

COOPER: Well, Dana, I mean, is this just bluster from both sides? What's the chance that -- you know, that some kind of grand bargain would be reached by the end of the year?

BASH: A grand bargain? I don't think the chances are very high. John Boehner has said in several ways that he doesn't want that. Instead people think that at least the Republicans are going to push for replacing that $110 billion that Gloria was just talking about for spending cuts with other cuts that may be more palatable.

The Republicans want to extend the Bush era tax cuts. As Ali was just saying, the president is saying this time he means it, he definitely won't do that. I'll tell you, privately, what Republicans are saying is that if Mitt Romney loses the White House, they will probably have to give on their no tax increases stance.

VELSHI: Right.

BASH: And negotiations. On the Democratic side, sources say they think if Romney wins, there is a chance that they actually could go off the cliff. Why? Because Republicans will want to wait until Romney is in office in January to fix things his way.

You know, I got to tell you, Anderson, it used to be that I would stand outside rooms where there were big negotiations going on. You knew at the end of the day, there would really be a deal. It's just a question of how it gets down.


COOPER: Right.

BASH: Now there's no -- there isn't that certainty.

COOPER: Right.

BASH: It's pretty scary.

COOPER: Well, it's interesting, Ali, we heard from business leaders today, I think it was 15 business leaders from the country's biggest banks.

VELSHI: Right.

COOPER: And insurance companies sent a letter to the White House calling -- and Congress calling for a bipartisan deal.

VELSHI: Right.

COOPER: They are not hiring right now because of this uncertainty. Is that right?

VELSHI: Right. Look, the banks don't carry a lot of sway with a lot of people in this country, because of everything they've gone through. But there is a reality that business leaders understand that if you take a few thousand dollars out of everybody's pocket next year, and you send us into a recession, that pulse demand back. Everything depends on demand. Why would I hire new staff or buy -- or build a new factory if I think Americans are going to pull back again in 2013?

That's the issue. So things that could be -- decisions that could be happening now to hire people to expand in 2013 with all these companies that have all this cash may not be happening. So while there is probably a likelihood some deal will be made at some point at the last minute --

COOPER: Right.

VELSHI: -- it's really affecting spending decisions right now on the part of individuals and businesses.

COOPER: Right. VELSHI: This is very dangerous.

COOPER: Ali, appreciate you explaining it. Dana Bash, Gloria Borger, thanks as well.

Coming up, hundreds killed in Syria today. I mean new reports that the opposition now has shoulder-fired missiles that were smuggled into the country. I'll speak with former CIA officer, Bob Baer, and an activist inside Syria when we continue.


COOPER: Well, he wanted to destroy America. That's what federal authorities are now saying about the man suspected of plotting to blow up a key building in New York City. The latest on the investigation when we continue.


COOPER: "Digging Deeper" tonight on the continuing slaughter of Syrian citizens. The daily death toll a shocking 230 killed by regime forces today according to opposition activists. Obviously we cannot independently confirm that. Fifty-three dead in one northern province alone. They say most of them in a strategic area along the north/south highway where there are reports that Syrian air force mid- fighters are bombing a town held by the opposition.

Again, CNN can't independently verify the reports or the videos posted on YouTube as access to journalists, to international journalist, is restricted.

Also today, reports that some opposition fighters have gotten their hands on heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles from Libya smuggled into the country through the Turkish border. That could change the battle for Syria dramatically and present new concerns for the United States.

I'm joined by CNN contributor and former CIA officer, Robert Baer, and Syrian activist Zaidoun. We're only referring to him by his first name, obviously, for his safety.

Bob, let me start with you, these shoulder-fired missiles, they represent a big escalation in the battle, don't they?

ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. They can take down helicopters. They can take down slower jets. They can take down civilian airliners. It's a huge step in the wrong direction.

COOPER: You say in the wrong direction because why?

BAER: Well, in the wrong direction, I mean in escalation. You know, I think we're all hoping there'd be a truce. But, you know, you introduced these advanced weapons. It looks more like a war than just a low-level civil war. It's -- we're just going the wrong direction.

COOPER: You also then have planes flying at higher altitudes which if they're bombing, that results in less accurate bombing on their part.

BAER: Well, it's already inaccurate. The bombing.

COOPER: Right. Of course.

BAER: You can't bomb civilian neighborhoods and not expect to get civilian casualties at any of these towns. But in fact if the helicopters and airplanes stand off at a much higher altitude, there's going to be more civilian casualties.

COOPER: Zaidoun, I know you're hearing of Missiles being used in the north of Syria, not in the south at this point. How important are they to the opposition in terms of gaining ground against the regime?

ZAIDOUN, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: Well, it makes a hell of huge difference if they have these missiles, simply because the regime is using a whole bunch of weapons, especially with the jet (INAUDIBLE) fighter on helicopters, especially with barrels, I mean TNT barrels.

Now these (INAUDIBLE) barrels are used against civilians now. Just imagine what a barrel can do for civilian -- I mean for a building. It's just -- I mean this was the entire building. So you expect the FSA to use these missiles just to protect these buildings.

That's why the FSA is making progress in the north. And it is really doing something, I mean, to the regime's army. However, in the south, the regime's army is still having the upper hand because most of the -- I mean, FSA troops have just very basic weapons such as, I mean, AK-47 and the like. That's why you can see the people on the left are doing -- I mean the FSA, I mean, doing great on the contrary to what happens in Homs, for example, or Daraa or Damascus countryside.

COOPER: How concerned are you? How big a deal do you think it is? There have been increasing reports in the U.S. about weapons going toward more extremist groups inside Syria, weapons from Saudi Arabia, from Qatar. How big a concern is that to you? How big of a deal do you think that is right now?

ZAIDOUN: Yes, there are concerns. We have some Jihadi groups here in Syria, which makes me very much concern. This violence from the regime and the abandonment from the national community makes the road for extremism to go inside Syria.

That's why you can see that some troops are moving into Syria. The more shall the longer that crisis stays, the more prone we will be to be subject to such violence from these groups. We are concerned that these weapons can get to these people.

Not only us. It has to be understood if these troops get stronger and this, of course, has a revolution stays longer, then the entire world will be hit by this or will be touched by this fire.

COOPER: So what do you do, Bob? What do you do?

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think you have to go in and take the regime out. I really don't like intervention in the Middle East. Any intervention is going to be very dangerous, but to let this soar and spread like this, like I said, we are going to pay for it.

COOPER: When you say take the regime out, you are talking assassination, you're talking troops on the ground, bombing?

BAER: I'm talking assassination. I'm talking about J-dams, the big missiles, anything to take the Syrian Air Force out, if things weren't getting better. If they were, I would say stay away. If they are getting worse, we should do something.

COOPER: Bob Baer, I appreciate it. Zaidoun, please be careful. Stay safe. Thank you.

Well, there's a lot more we're following tonight. Isha is here with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, more than 20,000 previously confidential Boy Scout documents about alleged child molestation have been released. The documents identify more than 1200 Boy Scout leaders and volunteers who were banned from the group after being accused of inappropriate contact with boys from 1965 to 1985.

The president of the Boy Scouts of America said the group is committed to protecting kids, but acknowledged that in some cases, the response to allegations was insufficient.

Federal authorities say the man arrested in a sting operation for allegedly trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York wanted to, quote, "destroy America."

They say the 21-year-old suspect sat in a hotel near the bank and used a cell phone as a trigger to try to detonate what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb. The suspect came to the United States on a student visa from Bangladesh.

Anderson, passengers on an Air Canada flight were asked to look out the window to help find an Australian sailor whose yacht was out fuel with a broken mast and adrift for nine days.

Australian Maritime officials asked the pilot to investigate an emergency beacon that has just gone off. People on the plane quickly spotted the yacht and help arrived in the nick of time and he was saved.

COOPER: That's great. Isha, coming up, a 360 exclusive, the man who for years hit behind the screen named "Violent Acres" while moderating the online forum called "Jailbait" goes on camera for the first time since his identity was revealed.

Is he sorry for all the creepy and wild things he did? Drew Griffin's exclusive interview ahead.


COOPER: Denver police say a bar was set on fire to cover a horrific crime. Several suspects are in custody. Details ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back. I'm just finishing up some writing. A 360 exclusive now, if you spent time online and read comment sections and web sites, you have seen some pretty vile, offensive comments written by anonymous people, saying things they would never say if their names were posted.

That's free speech of course, and people have a right to say whatever they want. Often these people referred to as trolls. We aren't editorializing when we use the trolls. It's an internet slang for troublemaker.

Well, tonight, you are about to meet one of the biggest trolls on the internet, vile for his pornographic posts. He is speaking out tonight in his first television interview.

If there are kids in the room right now, you might want to have them leave. What you are going to hear is a conversation geared towards adults.

This particular troll created several controversials, many would say creepy and twisted forums on the web site, "Reddit," one called "Jail Bait," which featured sexually suggestive photos of teenagers, images that bordered on child pornography.

We reported on it last year. A couple of weeks later, "Reddit" shut down the "Jail Bait" forum. Well, there were others that rivaled its creepiness, one featured pictures of dead children and other was called "Rape Jokes."

For years, the guy who created and moderated these forums hid behind the online screen name "Violent Acres." But last week, the web site "Gawker" revealed who he actually is, his name is Michael Brutsch.

This is what he looks like, that is who he is. He is a 49-year- old software programmer who lives in Texas. He is married with kids. Now, he is out of a job. Bruch agreed to talk exclusively to CNN's Drew Griffin at a hotel room in Fort Worth.

He told Drew that his employer fired him after the article. But he also had another life unknown to his employer. After a long day at work, he would unwind online trolling under his alias "Violent Acres."

He was in the big league of trolls. Now keep in mind that "Redit" is a powerful online player, reported more than 3 billion page views in August alone.

A really good troll helps drive traffic on a web site, "Violent Acres," a.k.a. Michael Brooch, was so good at what he did he says that "Redit" awarded him prizes including one for the "Jail Bait" forum.

That's how popular that was. How many teens were exploited by it? That is anyone's guess. Here is Drew's exclusive interview. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: The problem is the kids, the teenagers, the pictures, weren't yours.


GRIFFIN: You didn't know who those kids were.

BRUTSCH: And neither did anyone else. We did our best to maintain the anonymity of these people without thinking, you know, about the wider repercussions. If people were to tell us, I know that person or this was me, we would remove them. I say we would remove them. I mentioned, you can't delete anything from "Reddit."

GRIFFIN: If a teenage girl is out there and for some reason or another, a picture of her in her underwear gets posted on a site called "Jailbait," you would expect her to contact some guy named "Violent Acres" and ask for that picture to be removed from this web site because it is very embarrassing to me?

BRUTSCH: This whole thing sounds -- I have to tell you, it sounds crazy. I'm a father of a daughter. I would be very mad at you. I understand that. All I can say is that, you know, I'm sorry. I have made mistakes.

I understand that, you know, "Reddit" encouraged and enabled this sort of behavior and I shouldn't have been a part of it. Nobody on "Reddit" really had anything to say about it at all. Since then, I have come to understand that there are, you know, situations where things are inappropriate.

I started off posting lots of porn, mostly soft core porn, you know, pictures of naked girls, that sort of thing. As I would find porn of different types like if it was a picture of an African- American woman, I created a "Reddit" called women of color.

If it was a woman with large breasts, I created a "Reddit" called boobies. I saw it as creating folders to file things in. I created probably 600 "Reddits" or sub forums in the time I was on "Reddit."

I just put things, you know, as I came across images, I put them in these categories. There are hot button topics that you can make a comment about and just enrage people.

Sadly for me, I enjoyed doing that. I liked going in and making people really mad over what amounted to meaningless things.

GRIFFIN: Sadly, you say?

BRUTSCH: Well, yes. Obviously, it has affected me. It has affected my family. It has --

GRIFFIN: Some would say it caught up with you?

BRUTSCH: Well, it did. It actually did catch up with me. I treated "Reddit" like a game. You know, apparently, I have a gift for pushing buttons.

GRIFFIN: But did you ever think -- I mean, "Jailbait, Rapebait, Incests, pics of dead kids, joke of bitch." These aren't normal buttons I am pushing here.

BRUTSCH: Well, because -- and this goes back to how "Violent Acres" character first started. This was my first thought. You know, I see those pictures on my incoming image stream all the time.

I could easily create a "Reddit" for that and fill it up with some pictures. So I did. Two outraged people. No idea where the pictures came from. I created back in the day I created a "Reddit" called "R" rape for rape jokes. I created one called "R" pregnant for pictures of pregnant women.

GRIFFIN: Are you apologizing for what you did or are you trying to make an excuse for what you did?

BRUTSCH: I am to some degree apologizing for what I did. Again, I was playing to an audience of college kids and, you know, when two years ago, when I was -- when all of this was at its height, the audience was appreciative and supportive of the sort of gallows humor that I put out there.

GRIFFIN: Did you get a thrill out of that?

BRUTSCH: Honestly, the biggest thrill I got was those meaningless internet points.


COOPER: It is pretty amazing to hear. You see trolls on the internet all the time who hide behind anonymity to see one unmask and see what kind of a little person he is. "Reddit" actually gave him an award for creating this "Jailbait" site.

GRIFFIN: This surprised us. He was so proud of that award "Bobblehead." He brought it to the interview with him to show us. Take a look.


BRUTSCH: This is the "Reddit," the little "Reddit" alien. This is actually a gold-plated. They gave them out to people who had made significant contributions to the site, plated in gold.

GRIFFIN: You are kidding. Wait a minute. This is an award you got from "Reddit" for creating "Jailbait?"


GRIFFIN: Anderson, as you can imagine, "Reddit" told us in a statement it now regrets sending that trophy. They said the award was based on what it called a community vote.

COOPER: It is interesting to me, because in that interview, he seems to be blaming "Reddit" as if they were encouraging him. He has a mind, a free will. He can do what he wants. He clearly enjoys the attention that he got on it.

He said at one point in your interview, he said, he has a gift for pushing buttons. It is not too hard to push buttons anonymously on the internet. It is a pretty easy thing to do. What about all the posts he made on the "Jailbait" site?

GRIFFIN: We asked "Reddit" about that. They sent us a statement. "Reddit" follows all the legal requirements regarding illegal content including reporting to the proper authorities.

By its nature, the company says, the moderators at "Reddit" have complete control over the subsections they start unless they violate site rules or the law. So he was in charge of it, according to "Reddit," is how I interpret that -- Anderson.

COOPER: I'm fascinated though by this high opinion he seems to have for himself, saying he has a gift for pushing buttons. I mean, he is a guy sitting in his lonely little room typing on a keyboard and interacting with people he doesn't know who they are.

You have more, specifically whether Brutsch regrets what he has done or regrets that he got caught. I got to say. It sounds to me like he regrets getting caught.

When he talked about the impact this has had, he wasn't talking about the impact of some young girl's pictures and the impact it might have had, but the impact on his family, his job. He got fired.

Anyway, we are going to talk to Drew coming up. We are going to have part two in just a second. The man once known as "Violent Acres" will answer more questions from Drew ahead.


COOPER: A 360 exclusive tonight. Michael Brutsch, whose identity was revealed last week by the web site "Gawker" agreed to sit down with CNN's Drew Griffin in his first television interview.

For years, Brutsch hid behind his online screen name, "Violent Acres," while creating and moderating a series of controversial, many would call them twisted and sick forums on the website "Reddit."

They've all been shutdown. Now, we know who is behind them. Here is part two of Drew's exclusive interview.


GRIFFIN: Michael, I don't understand really why you did this at all? Why you kept pushing the envelope?

BRUTSCH: It had a reward. I'm like the monkey that pushes the button and gets the food pellet. It is addictive. Why do people spend money playing wow? Why do people play games like that to build up their meaningless stats? What does 300 million mite mean in Kingdoms of Camelot, exactly the same as 800,000 karma means on "Reddit." It is just -- I don't know.

GRIFFIN: You were outed.


GRIFFIN: So far, it has not been good.

BRUTSCH: And I anticipate it will get much worse. I can't see it getting any better.

GRIFFIN: Was this a huge mistake?

BRUTSCH: If I look back on it, yes, it probably was.

GRIFFIN: What happens now? You have lost your job.

BRUTSCH: I have lost my job. I am going to lose my home. My health insurance is gone. My wife is disabled. I really don't know at this point. I suspect I am going to probably move back up to Arkansas with her family and I really don't see myself being able to get a job.

GRIFFIN: Anderson outed you without saying your name a year ago, right?


GRIFFIN: You could have stopped then.


GRIFFIN: Is the only reason you are stopping is because we now know who you are?

BRUTSCH: Yes. There is really no point anymore. No one is going to buy into the "Violent Acres" mystique anymore because it is gone that and the fact that I have, as with the rape and pregnant "Reddits." I have come around over the last few months to understand that some of these things can be harmful to other people.


COOPER: Wow. He has come around over the last few months to understand some things can be harmful to other people. I got to ask you, why do you think he agreed to talk to you?

GRIFFIN: You know, his life is ruined, Anderson. I think personally his life is ruined more than we even know. I know he has lost his job. He has lost his little "Violent Acres" identity.

But his personal life is really falling apart. I think he wanted to come on the air and truly apologize and try to explain maybe to his extended family and even his followers why he did this, why he created this character.

And somehow wiggle out of this to blame it on "Violent Acres," this character, who he says made up all this stuff, trying to distance himself personally from this character. He was very nervous.

We thought, David Fitzpatrick, the producer and I, thought up until the last minute, he is not going to come. Not only did he come, he came to that interview. He came an hour early. He was eager to get on the TV.

COOPER: You know, there are -- people out there would say, look, we have free speech for a reason. People are allowed to say what they want. He has supporters out there as well in the online community.

GRIFFIN: That's exactly right. I think, you know, free speech is free speech as long as you are saying it out loud with your name under it. I mean, this guy was basically hidden away from anybody to see, anonymously posting stuff that he was just trying to tick people off.

He sure did it. He got exposed. He has the right to free speech. He can say whatever he wants. We gave him that opportunity. He now realizes what he said was probably a big mistake.

COOPER: Interesting stuff. Drew, appreciate it. Thanks very much. The "Ridiculist" is next.


COOPER: Time for the "Ridiculist." Tonight, we have a warning. If you should ever find yourself hanging around someone's pool when it is cold outside and your friends happen to be filming as you are about to do a cannon ball into the frigid water, think back to what we are about to show you and reconsider.

A German man found out the hard way that the cold cannon ball may not be the greatest idea anyone has ever had.

Let's take another look at the precise moment when cannon ball became coccyx slam, shall we?

Wow, my God. Enough. Let's see if we can try to figure out exactly what went wrong here. His form looks OK. He got a running start. The arm position was good. The knees were tucked were tucked into the chest.

What possibly could have been the problem? I'm stumped? It was shaping up to be one humdinger of a cannon ball. Maybe we will have to look at it in slow motion. Goodness, that still hurts every time I see it.

I am no scientist. I am starting to think something may have been wrong with that pool. Let's watch in slow motion and in reverse and see if we can pick up any clues that way. Still don't quite get it. I don't know. It is a mystery why he didn't splash perfectly into the water and amaze his friends with his top-notch cannon ball skills. It is just one of those things we may never know what went wrong.

We will see you again one hour from now with President Obama and Governor Romney are going to be appearing tonight at an event. We are going to check in what they had to say this evening. We'll bring that to you at 10:00. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.