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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

President Obama Blames Chemical Attack on Assad Regime; Military Jury Recommends Death Penalty For Hasan; Tuff's Fund Raises More Than $104,000 For Kids

Aired August 28, 2013 - 20:00   ET


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

Tonight, breaking news, President Obama says there is no doubt chemical weapons were use in Syria or the Syria regime used them.

The question now, what is he going to do about it? We're going to take a hard look at the tough choices.

Also tonight, they have run from our cameras. The charity we've identified as America's worst, raising millions, tens of millions they say for dying children but spending next to nothing on them. Now, finally, they are talking their claim and how it adds up. We're keeping them honest.

And later, President Obama stands where Dr. King stood half a century ago and speaks the courage that carried martyrs to Washington and helped carry a nation forward. We're going to speak to Maya Angelou who was and is part of that struggle. She joins me tonight for an emotional and inspiring conversation.

We begin, though, with Syria and the breaking news. President Obama tonight not saying if or when but clearly making the case for a limited strike on Syria. Not however to take down the Assad regime. Only to punish it for using chemical weapons.

He spoke late today with PBS' Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff who asked him the key question right off the bat.


JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS: How close are you to authorizing a military strike? And can you assure the American people that by doing so, given Iraq and Afghanistan, that the United States will not get bogged down in yet another war half way around the world?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, I have not made a decision. I have gotten options from our military. I had extensive discussions with the National Security Team.

We do not believe that given the delivery system using rockets that the opposition could have carried out these attacks, we have concluded that the Syrian government, in fact, carried these out and if that's so, then there need to be international consequences.


COOPER: As for what those consequences might be, the president said he does not foresee an open ended conflict with Damascus. The aim, he said, would be to send a signal.


OBAMA: We want the Assad regime to understand that by using chemical weapons on a large scale against your own people, against women, against infants, against children, that you are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency, but you're also creating a situation where U.S. national interests are affected, and that needs to stop.


COOPER: In the meantime, the president is trying to get his diplomatic ducks in a row. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council met informally today. Member and ally Great Britain gearing up for a vote in parliament drafting a Security Council Resolution authorizing, quote, "necessary measures to protect civilians."

Syria's key ally, Russia, calling it premature, saying, there is no proof yet the Assad regime is behind last week's chemical attack.

On the ground in Syria, U.N. inspectors got back to work and got a warm welcome.

Survivors lining the streets, greeting the white Toyota SUVs with cries of "God is great." They'll be working for another several more days.

Fred Pleitgen, one of the few Western reporters still in Syria, is once again monitoring developments in Syrian capital. He joins us now.

What's the latest there tonight, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is actually a report that we're trying to confirm right now, Anderson. And that is, that apparently, some key military installations, the headquarters of the Air Force and possibly also the army seemed to have drastically cut down their staff and it also seems as though the Syrian military might be moving some hardware to different locations.

The U.N. ambassador for Syria was asked about that today. He said he wouldn't comment on it but one of the things that these media reports are saying is that apparently some of the artillery cannons that are on the hill around Damascus apparently were moved to some other places and what we're hearing tonight is that it's very, very quiet here in Damascus. There is a lot less shelling than before. That of course doesn't confirm or deny that report. However, there does seem to be an eerie calm right now in the Syrian capital -- Anderson.

COOPER: There's also kind of a new twist from the Syrian ambassador to the U.N. who announced that he submitted evidence or what he claims is evidence from three previous instances where the opposition had used chemical weapons. What more do you know about that?

PLEITGEN: Well, they say that those are three incidents that happened in the past couple of days here and around the Damascus area, and there was one incident that I found particularly interesting -- particularly because I was actually there when it allegedly happened. It's in the Jobar district and it apparently happened last Saturday, August 22nd.

We were around that area when the Syrian military said that its forces were moving into that district and then came under the influence of some sort of chemical. They say that some of their forces suffered suffocation signs and had to be brought to the hospital.

But I was later shown some soldiers who told me that they had actually been subject through these chemical, whatever it was, but they didn't show any outward signs of any sort of suffocation.

Nevertheless, the Syrian government is saying that it wants the United Nations to look at these incidents, as well, and possibly stay in the country longer, of course, delaying any sort of report that would come out -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, Fred, is it known how much longer this U.N. team plans to be on the ground?

PLEITGEN: Well, the word that we're getting is about another four days. There are still apparently some sites that they want to look at. Of course we have to keep in mind that on -- on Tuesday they weren't able to go out because of security concerns. They apparently did get a lot done today. They were in the northeastern part of Damascus in a place called Zamalka which is the place that apparently had the highest death toll in that alleged chemical attack last Wednesday.

There are some things they still want to work out. It's unclear whether or not they're actually going to stay (INAUDIBLE) time. But right now, Sunday appears to be the cutoff date when they plan to leave -- Anderson.

COOPER: Fred Pleitgen, stay safe in Damascus. Thank you.

Talking now about options, few of them good. None ideal. With us national security analyst, Fran Townsend, who currently sits in the Homeland Security and CIA External Advisory Boards, also chief international correspondent and host of "AMANPOUR," Christiane Amanpour, chief national correspondent John King, and Michael Hayden. General Hayden has run both the CIA and the NSA. He's currently a principal with the Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm, and serves on the boards of several defense firms.

Christiane, you have been reporting on this. You talked to a number of folks, of allies of the United States around the world. What is their reaction to this and in particular Britain, which is capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. Are they saying that they want the U.N. to actually publish a report before they're willing to make a decision about whether or not to have military action?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the very latest, in fact, from Great Britain is precisely that. They have said now that they will not join any action against Syria until there is a report from the U.N. inspectors. We don't know all the details about what the British actually mean about that, but it certainly does seem to be putting the brakes on what seem like a lot of momentum from Britain just today.

What with that draft U.N. Resolution which was under the Chapter 7, which means under the Use of Force mandate, and that got nowhere. There was no -- not even a U.N. Security Council meeting today. So that was batted away. And also, William Hague, the U.K. foreign minister, saying that chemical weapons were used. That this is a war crime and the world cannot stand by. And he this morning saying any reaction had to come sooner, rather than later, because if it was going to be a lesson, it's needed to be a lesson that was given right now.

France, where I am, the president has said they stand ready to, quote. "punish" anyone who made that, quote, "vile decision" to use chemical weapons against innocent civilians.

But ,you know, it's really not clear right now if they will go with the United States, particularly Britain if the U.S. decides to go it alone. Obviously, the U.S. does not want to wait for the U.N. approval and it seemed the consensus really it's been trying to achieve is amongst NATO forces and NATO countries.

COOPER: Yes. Fran, I mean, that would be -- there's a big distinction, the U.S. position, which seems to be kind of at least waiting for U.N. personnel to get out of this team to finish their investigation, but not actually come up with a published report.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you have to ask yourself, what is it you expect the U.N. to be able to say when they leave, right, on Sunday? So first, we know chemical weapons were used, the Syrians, the Russians, everyone seems to acknowledging that there were chemical weapons used. So we've got that first piece of the puzzle dealt with.

The second one is who used them. And I think the president quite rightly points to the delivery mechanisms to indicate that it's the Syrian regime. We know if the rebels had the sort of capability that it would have taken to launch this sort of devastation in addition to chemical weapons, they would have overthrown the Assad regime. So it's reasonable to say that given the delivery systems, it is the Assad regime. And we don't know what additional classified information. They are talking about de-classifying some information that they have -- that further indicates it's the regime.

So you sort of -- you know it's chemical weapons. You've got a reasonable basis to believe it's the Assad regime. But you don't know his motive. I mean, there were -- there's been all sorts of speculation, was it a command-and-control decision from Assad himself, was it an individual unit acting?

I mean, that's interesting but I don't think it's dispositive because the president is quite right, if you don't act on this proliferation issue, it signals weakness around the world to an accepted principle that these type of weapons should never be used.

COOPER: General Hayden, do you agree with this that the delivery systems for this makes it incredibly unlikely, if not impossible, for the opposition to have been the one to use these chemical weapons?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Very strongly, Anderson. I agree totally with what Fran laid out there. Just by instinct, I mean, this seems to fit the broader pattern and as Fran suggested I'm quite sure there's other information that doesn't contradict that which seems obvious and that which has already been made public.

I think the president was on very solid ground when he said what he said earlier this evening.

COOPER: It's interesting, John King, you know, obviously this is hugely unpopular, you look at polls. It doesn't seem like anybody obviously wants to be taking this kind of action if in fact action is going to be taken. The president tonight in this interview on PBS making the case that potential military action in Syria is in the national security interest of the United States.

I just want to replay that for people.


OBAMA: When you start talking about chemical weapons in a country that has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world where over time their control over chemical weapons may erode, where they're allied to known terrorist organizations that in the past have targeted the United States, then there is a prospect, a possibility in which chemical weapons that can have devastating effects could be directed at us.


OBAMA: Clearly, whether that is true or not, I mean, clearly he is trying to build support for some sort of a strike.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They would chafe at the Obama White House when I say this, but it sounds a bit like the Bush doctrine. I need to get them before they can get us there, from the president.

He said a few important things tonight, Anderson, in that interview and that was one of them, trying to explain his rationale for why. They have these weapons, they violated an international norm. If you left them go unsanctioned, what signal would that send to the rest of the world?

That was an important statement from the president. Also saying it's in our core national security interest not only because of that, the chemical weapons violation, but because of the proximity of key allies like Turkey and Jordan and Israel.

And the president also was very clear, I do not want a long-term, I won't have a long-term engagement. The American people need to hear all those things. But he didn't say a lot of things, too. And there are still more things to answer.

How does he define coalition, especially if the Brits want to hold on for several more days? Is he willing to go this alone? And what is the end goal? If the goal is not to topple Assad and you can't directly strike the chemical weapons because of how dangerous that is, what is the goal of a military strike?

So this was the beginning of a process by the president tonight, by no means the end in explaining this.

COOPER: General, does it make sense to you a strike like this in order just to punish that doesn't change the calculus on the ground? That doesn't actually -- or do you believe it could change the calculus on the ground?

HAYDEN: No, I don't believe it will change the calculus on the ground.

Anderson, this is kind of the modern equivalent of a 19th century punitive expedition. And I -- the president, I think, said that quite explicitly. This is designed to punish Bashar al-Assad for what he has done in order to convince him not to do it again, and yet, the president doesn't want to do anything so severe that changes the military situation in Syria or actually threatens the regime.

This is a very narrow space that American targeteers are going to have to navigate to pull this off.

COOPER: Yes. Everyone, stick around, because we've got to take a quick break. We're going to have more with our panel in just a moment.

You can follow me on Twitter. We can talk about it during the commercial break, @andersoncooper.

Later, what the charity we identified as the worst of the worst has to say for itself. We're "Keeping Them Honest."



OBAMA: What I've said is that we have not yet made a decision, but the international norm against the use of chemical weapons needs to be kept in place, and nobody disputes or hardly anybody disputes that chemical weapons were used on a large scale in Syria against civilian populations.


COOPER: President Obama tonight on the PBS "News Hour" making it clear there was a chemical attack last week in the opinion of the U.S. and that the Assad regime is to blame. Not revealing how he knows. The White House letting a small number of lawmakers in on the intelligence but not making it public.

Back with our panel, Fran Townsend, Christiane Amanpour, John King and General Michael Hayden.

Christiane, I mean, the idea of using this as a shot across the bow, has that worked in the past? I mean, is there a lot of skepticism among people you've been talking to overseas?

AMANPOUR: Well, the thing is this has been going on now for two and a half years, and actually there has, by the U.K. account at least, there's been some 10 uses of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in this conflict. And you remember in April it happened. You remember we had this precise discuss over the last several months but if you didn't enact your red line then it might happen again and in fact it did happen again last week to a much more catastrophic effect.

We were told that that would happen by the head of the Free Syrian Army if the red line wasn't met when it -- when these attacks first happened. I spoke to the Israeli -- a former head of military intelligence, General Amos Yadlin, today who said that they were absolutely sure about the intelligence.

As you know, a lot of the chatter has been about Israeli provided intelligence, intercepted conversations between Syrian Army commanders about moving around chemical weapons and the like over the last week in that particular area. And he said he was absolutely sure based on his past experience that that evidence was credible, that it was the Assad regime and that furthermore something really dramatic needed to happen to degrade Syria's military capability.

And that of course would be good for Israel and also to show Iran a lesson, as well, that actually when there is a red line over weapons of mass destruction, then the international community means that. So that's why this is incredibly important on that level, although, as I said, these attacks have happened and they haven't been met with military force so far.

But beyond that, you do have this grinding war which has now killed 100,000 people, and there is no attempt to widen any kind of military operation to end that.

COOPER: Yes. AMANPOUR: And that's causing a lot of concern around the world.

COOPER: General Hayden, I mean, A, do you buy that this is in the national security interest of the United States, there's a really national security threat in this conflict to the United States, and also that a shot across the bow, to use your term, will actually work?

HAYDEN: Well, I think the president made it very coherent case about the use of chemical weapons and call that -- cannot go unnoticed, unresponded to by the international community.

But, really, Anderson, I mean, we're trying to use physical destruction to create a mental effect. A mental effect in the minds of Bashar al-Assad and I think indirectly in the minds of the Iranians as well. And if you look at the character of the impending attack, if this is a short duration assault, conducted entirely by standoff weapons, air or sea launched cruise missiles, look, I'm a 39-year Air Force veteran. The last thing I want to do is to suggest we put American airmen in harm's way.

But if our message here is to show resolve and our response is to use only standoff weapons for a short period of time and not put Americans at risk, I think we're sending a decidedly mixed message.

COOPER: Fran, do you agree with that?

TOWNSEND: Yes, I do agree. I've said from the beginning, look, I understand the idea of using standoff weapon in an initial way --

COOPER: Not having U.S. personnel or flying jets over Syrian air space that could get shot down and captured.

TOWNSEND: Right. And I understand that as a -- one step in a larger strategy, but I think we're missing is the larger strategy. I don't think it's enough to say that you're going to deter them with a single short-day -- short-term multi-day strike. I just -- I don't think we have any reason to believe that and when we've used these standoff assaults before like East -- after the East Africa bombing, it has a short-term effect but not a long-term strategic effect. And that's what you really want to do. You don't want to just deter the Syrians, you want to deter Hezbollah, al Qaeda, Iran from using these kinds of weapons, as well.

COOPER: Yes. It was interesting, John, you know, before President Obama became president of the United States, he kept talking about the importance of any military action that the U.S. engages in being preapproved by the legislative branch, by Congress. That is certainly not something, it seems, that's going to happen in this case.

KING: He's not the first person to get into the executive branch and suddenly have different views about executive powers. He sounds, forgive me, more like Dick Cheney today than Senator Barack Obama back in 2007 and 2008.

But look, he has the perspective of commander-in-chief now. That's not said as a political shot. The commander-in-chief has to make these very weighty decisions and there are a number of complications here. Number one, they believe, and most of the -- executive departments lawyers would tell you under the War Powers Act they can do this in a limited way, he would have to go back to Congress.

If he called Congress back, Anderson, and wanted a vote, there are some who question now is whether he could win. Those who have seen the intelligence tend to be supportive of the administration. So I believe in time they could win any vote in Congress if they wanted a vote in Congress. But what would that do to the timeline the president wants? What would it do for president for the executive branch here?

So there is no indication the consultations have ramped up considerably in the last 24 to 48 hours, a long list of questions from Speaker John Boehner tonight, from the Republican speaker of the House, it is an important part of this debate now. But there's every indication the administration is going to try to do more to brief Congress and bring them in the loop but no indication at all that they want a vote and would request one.

COOPER: Just very quickly, we got a "Digital Dashboard" question from a viewer tonight. And General Hayden, I'll toss it to you. The question is, "Does this strike pose a retaliation threat to American citizens worldwide? If so, why are they willing to take that risk?"

HAYDEN: Yes, it does, Anderson, and we've got to look down the chessboard here second, third and fourth moves. We are doing this to show our resolve. It's not illogical -- not so much the Syrians but the Iranians and Hezbollah. Then respond to that, assuring their resolve as well. And if air power is our strategic reach of weapon, then the Iranian's strategic reach weapon is Hezbollah.

COOPER: We'll leave it there. Fran Townsend, appreciate. Christiane Amanpour and John King, General Michael Hayden, thank you very much.

Up next, a charity that we've been reporting on for the last two nights that collect tens of millions of dollars claiming to grant wishes for dying children. They spend next to nothing on those wishes. But they're bashing our reporting saying, that we're being unfair, unbalanced. The Kids Wish Network. That's the name of it. The Kids Wish Network. Now they're saying that we have twisted the facts.

Well, we're standing by our reporting and by our math. We're "Keeping Them Honest" ahead.

Also paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His extraordinary speech 50 years ago today that helped changed history. I'll talk to Dr. Maya Angelou ahead.


COOPER: Hey, welcome back. "Keeping Them Honest" tonight. For the past two night, we've been reporting on a charity called the Kids Wish Network, a charity that we, along with the "Tampa Bay Times" and the Center for Investigative Reporting, have identified as the absolute worst charity, the rock bottom when it comes to how little out of each dollar raised it actually spends helping the sick children it claims to be raising money for.

Now while they were reporting the story, correspondent Drew Griffin and producer David Fitzpatrick tried repeatedly to get an interview with the folks who run Kids Wish Network. But they didn't want to talk to us. In fact, they hid in their offices, they lied about being there.

Now that the report has aired, however, they suddenly have a lot to say about us. They posted a letter on their Web site bashing our reporting and specifically one of our sources. Now we stand by our investigation. Drew is going to join me in just a moment. But first, here is a quick recap of what we found.




GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin with CNN.

LANZATELLA: Hey, Drew. Nice to see you.

GRIFFIN: Nice to see you. Can we just ask you some questions about all the ratings that have come out?

LANZATELLA: No, I'm sorry, there's been so many misleading reports that have been made that we've asked our attorneys to take a look into everything and I'm not going to be doing any interviews.

GRIFFIN: Well, we --

LANZATELLA: But thank you.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): It is perhaps with good reason Lanzatella and the Kids Wish Network don't wish to answer any of our questions because they all involve how this tiny charity with a sympathetic name has taken in $127 million of your donations over the last 10 years. Yet according to the charity's own tax filings, it has used less than 3 percent of that money to fulfill the wishes of sick children.

You heard right. Less than 3 percent.

LANZATELLA: That's not true. We're very --

GRIFFIN (on camera): Well, what is the truth?


LANZATELLA: We're very proud -- GRIFFIN: Because that's what it's on the tax returns.

LANZATELLA: We're very proud of the good work that Kids Wish Network has done over the last 15 years. We've helped hundreds of thousands of children and that's what we're going to continue to do.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Year after year, Kids Wish Network continues to collect millions of dollars in donations, $22.8 million in one year, according to its most recent tax filing.

Meanda Dubay spent six months as a wish coordinator with Kids Wish Network.

(On camera): And how did you do that? You just dipped into the funds that everybody --


GRIFFIN: -- had donated to Kids Wish Network and made it happen, right?

DUBAY: Nope. I would call and I would get people to grant me parts of the wish.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): She says she would call hotels, airlines, amusement parks, get freebies, even rental cars and meals, all donated while at the same time at another desk in this same building, someone else was also making calls to get money to pay for the wish.

DUBAY: We would have one person call to get the actual services donated while another person is calling to get money donated for things that I was already getting for free.

GRIFFIN (on camera): So if you have this entire wish, let's say, a trip to Disneyland or Disney World, donated, where was this money going?

DUBAY: That I don't know. I have no idea where that money would go.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): It turns out now we do. Records reviewed by CNN and the "Tampa Bay Times" and the Center for Investigative Reporting show of the $127 million raised in the past 10 years, $109 million was paid right back to professional fundraisers.

An attorney for the charity told CNN there was nothing illegal, unethical or immoral about the charity's fundraising methods.


COOPER: So Drew Griffin joins me now.

Now I tweeted the Kids Wish Network last night, asking why they refused to do an on-camera interview because Drew has tried, we would love to do an on-camera interview. We'll do it live so it's unedited whatever. And they always decline. In response on Twitter, they accuse us of doing an unfair and misleading story. They sent out a tweet saying, quote, "We trusted at Anderson Cooper commitment to fair and balanced reporting, unfortunately that wasn't the case," and then they attached a link to a six-page response on their web site and much of it was devoted to trying to discredit the woman in Drew's story, she was fired from the charity, right, Drew?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Right. She says 45 minutes after she complained to the Board of Directors of this charity about irregularities on their tax returns, Anderson, she was fired. Now the charity says they were planning on firing her anyway because they say she stole confidential documents. She denies that. They actually convinced the FBI to investigate her.

COOPER: By the way, why a charity has confidential, you know, proprietary documents that the world can't see, I don't quite understand. But anyway, the FBI investigated after showing up at this woman's house, they didn't find anything, right?

GRIFFIN: No, the case was closed by the FBI. The computers that the FBI took in a raid, Anderson, were given back to Dubay. The sheriff's office in Florida investigated and found there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and it's important to note that none of the financial information we use in our reporting came from Dubay. CNN, the "Tampa Bay Times," Center for Investigative Reporting, we all used one thing the charity's own tax returns to determine less than 3 percent of the Kids Wish Network's cash goes to kids.

COOPER: Also, I saw them say well, you know, there was a confidentiality agreement with the employee. Why does the charity have confidentiality agreements with employees? What are they, the CIA? I never signed a confidentiality agreement with CNN. I mean, it's ridiculous. Speaking of the 3 percent number, that was another thing in the response they talked about that they said was unfair, they called it the big lie saying our reporting is flawed and skewed when it comes to the numbers to that 3 percent. Explain that.

GRIFFIN: Yes, they are basically saying we got the math wrong and that they really spent or spend 56 percent of their total revenue on program services. Let me tell you how that works. Program services they include gifts in kind, the gifts donated to them that they in essence are re-gifting. They also include donations that are really hard to trace like gift in kind medicines sent to Africa. They even include as part of program services telemarketers telling you about the programs during the sales pitch.

Telemarketer explaining to you how good Kids Wish Network is, that is a program service. That's not how we look at it or charity ratings services and watchdog groups look at it. It's very simple. How much cash does this group take in, in actual donations, and how much cash does this group actually use to fulfill the wishes of six sick children? Our math is correct.

In the last ten years, it's about 2.5 percent of every dollar actually donated to fulfill a wish, and last year, Anderson, in the last reporting year, it was even worse, 1.29 cents of every dollar. That is the math. COOPER: That's -- I mean, it's just unbelievable that is what they define as program services. Telemarketers, if someone called you up and said we would like you to donate money and the vast majority of the money we'll spend on telemarketers so we can get more money and get the name of our organization better known, you wouldn't donate money. They are not saying that.

I mean, I want to show a picture. This is Anna Lanzatella, the woman you were trying to get the interview with, she was hiding in the office. Someone said she wasn't there and you waited some two hours and got her as she was coming out to her car, running away to her car and we would love to have her, if you're watching, Anna, we would love to have an interview with you, no shouting, no yelling, jus some questions.

You have a lot of questions that really, you know, a lot of people donated money to you, more than $100 million over the years as Drew said. You got a lot of nerve. We would like to ask you questions live on TV, no editing. You can see the numbers for yourselves. All the tax returns are online.

We're putting them online. Go to 360 and if you got a tip for Drew or the CNN investigative team go to Drew, again, appreciate the great reporting and David, as well. We'll continue to follow the charity.

Coming up next, an inspiring discussion with the wonderful Maya Angelou on the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington.


COOPER: An extraordinary moment in history today. President Obama stood where 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. gave the famous "I Have A Dream" speech, the nation's first African-American president celebrating his legacy and all who fought and even gave their lives for civil rights.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Because they marched America became more free and fair not just for African- Americans but for women, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans, for Catholics, Jews, and Muslims, for gays, for Americans with disabilities. America changed for you and for me.


COOPER: For so many who knew Dr. King and fought so long to make his dream a reality, today was very emotional, obviously. It was for Maya Angelou, an author, poet, civil rights activist. I spoke to her earlier.


COOPER: For you on this day, what does Dr. King's dream mean today? What do you think is the march's significance today? MAYA ANGELOU, POET: I think that at once I'm delighted that he had the dream. I'm delighted that if he awakened right now, he could also say, some of my dream has come to pass and see that their African-American family in the White House, a man and -- a man and a woman and their children and a grandmother, a black grandmother in the White House, my goodness. At the same time, I think he would be disappointed to hear we have not come any further. So my hope is that the dream, we can awaken from the dream and find that some of the elements of the dream have come to pass.

COOPER: One of the main messages of the organizers of the march 50 years ago was economic equality. That often gets lost in the retelling of this and A. Phillip Randolph essentially said that freedom to use public accommodations will mean little to those who can't afford to use them.

ANGELOU: That's right.

COOPER: I just read the economic disparities between African- Americans and whites particularly household income have either stayed the same or even widened. What do you make of that economic disparity?

ANGELOU: I think that the economic disparity comes from a disparity larger and deeper and older than the economic disparity. We are all suffering from the -- the ashes of slavery. We all still think or there are people that think black people are not full citizens and do not deserve full salaries, equal to the salaries given -- given to white workers, and as long as we believe that, we're never going to have parity -- when are we going to have fairness?

We'll never have an equal distribution of labor and respect and courtesy. We'll never have it. But I do believe that we have to do something about what we believe about each other, and what we really believe about ourselves is imperative that we do so, if we -- if you as a white man and I as a black woman, if you really think that we're different then there is something terribly wrong.

COOPER: It was very interesting to me in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case and the case of George Zimmerman, there was a poll done about the discussions of race that were taking place in the wake of the case and among many white Americans, the poll numbers said a lot of white Americans felt too much was being made about race, whereas among African-Americans, the majority felt this was a discussion that need to continue and need to be had and not too much was being made about it. It's interesting to me how still to this day, often white America and black America sees things through different lenses.

ANGELOU: Absolutely, because we have not come to the decision, which is so important. You can only come to this decision if you have courage. The decision is, I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me. Until we come to that, whites will really think I'm better than -- well, they are not so bad, but that color doesn't come off and that hair doesn't straighten out. Until blacks and whites see each other as brother and sister, we will not have parity. It's very clear. COOPER: You do not think that occurred? You don't think there is true equality yet?

ANGELOU: I know there isn't and you know there isn't and everybody that hear you knows there isn't. The only thing is, Mr. Cooper, people have to develop courage it most important because without courage you can't practice any other thing consistently. You can be anything erratically and in front of the microphone, in front of the camera, but to be that thing in your heart, you have to have courage and so I'm afraid that we are lacking in courage. We think we are afraid and fear I'm sorry to say, motivates most of the cruelties in our world.

COOPER: President Obama in his address today talks about one that pulls in the struggle for equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans and women in this country and the rights of other minorities like immigrants, do you see that move the for equality as part of the civil rights movement?

ANGELOU: Yes, sir. Mr. Cooper, if you think that I can have freedom, but you can't because you're short or you're tall or you're gay or fat or thin or pretty or plain, but I can have it because not by anything I've earned, I was just born white. I was born pretty. Then you're just stupid. The truth is no one of us can be free until everybody is free, and every one of us needs to say to our children, children this is your world. Come out, stand out, earn it.

COOPER: What was Dr. King like? I mean, you were a friend of his. You spent --

ANGELOU: Thank you for that.

COOPER: What was he like?

ANGELOU: Thank you for that. A friend of mine just asked me have you ever been asked a question no one asked and you have just asked me. Dr. King, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were brothers. They had incredible senses of humor. They could make you laugh in the worst of times, and they did so, and you know, I never trust people who don't laugh who say I'm serious and act as if they put airplane glue on the back of their hands and are serious. I think if you're serious you're boring as hell. Understand it's important you're not as much as possible and admit you're the funniest person you've ever met. You have to laugh, admit you're funny, otherwise you die in solemnity.

COOPER: You asked questions in a "Time" article recently that you authored and questions that I want to ask you. You wrote can you imagine if we did not have this undergirded hate and racism prejudices and sexism and ageism if we were not crippled by these idiocies, can you imagine what our country would be like? How can you answer those questions? Can you imagine?

ANGELOU: I'm -- yes, I'm -- I'm brought to weep when I think what my country can be and will be when we develop enough courage to act courageously and with courtesy and respect for each other. Just imagine what on earth -- we wouldn't have to say we're the most powerful country in the world. We will be the most powerful country in the world, not because we have might but because we have right.

COOPER: Dr. Angelou, thank you so much for talking to me. Appreciate it.

ANGELOU: It's my delight, Mr. Cooper. You have increased my being because of your own courage. You're intellect, your intelligence, two different things and your own courage. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thank you.


COOPER: She made my day, I don't know about you, a great conversation. You can see more of it. We had to edit some but we'll put the whole thing online at She's remarkable. Honor to talk to her.

Coming up, a lifetime in prison or death penalty, Fort Hood shooter, Major Nadal Hassan, learns his faith. What a jury recommended next.


COOPER: There is a lot more happening tonight, Isha is here with the 360 Bulletin -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the military jury has unanimously recommended the death penalty for Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hasan. An Army general will review the case and make a final decision on the verdict and sentence.

The woman charge of sending ricin-tainted letters to President Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been found competent to stand trial in Texas. She initially told the FBI that her husband sent the letters.

Anderson, a 360 follow, Antoinette Tuff, the bookkeeper who calmly got a gunman to surrender at a Georgia elementary school last week just can't stop doing great things. After the incident she started a fund for children setting a goal of $1,500, while the fund already raised more than $104,000. You can donate at gofound She's quite the lady.

COOPER: She is another great lady. Isha, thanks. "The Ridiculist" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight we bring you a man who we usually avoid mentioning because he's like the elderly relative who you only see at thanksgiving. He doesn't get out of bed much and sitting around the table and blurts out nonsensical sentences. I'm talking about televangelist Pat Robertson. On his show the 700 Club yesterday he blurted out a warning about gay people in San Francisco because, of course, that's where all gay people live. Listen closely and know when Robertson refers to the stuff, he's talking about AIDS.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what they do in San Francisco, some of the gay community, they want to get people so if they have got the stuff, they will have a ring, you shake hands and the ring has a thing you cut your finger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really. Is that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder.


COOPER: Really? A ring that somehow gives you AIDS. I've never seen that particular section of Zales, have you? He wants to give gay men a reason not to wear rings. He's backpedaled, kind of, saying he was misunderstood and said it was something he was told in a meeting about San Francisco. Robertson's thoughts on gay issues are very well thought out and very well articulated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's out having multiple affairs with men. He's picking them up on the streets. So he's obsessed. He has a compulsion. You have a couple same-sex guys kissing, you like that? That makes me want to throw up. You punch -- to me I would punch vomit, not like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure that option is there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't give you that option on Facebook.


COOPER: They don't. Don't worry. Robertson also has plenty of thoughts for you straight couples as well. He gave advice to cheating husbands and what men should do when wives don't obey them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could become a Muslim and beat her. Stop talking about the cheating. He cheated on you. Well, he's a man, OK. Males have a tendency to wonder a little bit, and what you want to do is make the home so wonderful he doesn't want to wonder.


COOPER: Listen, I don't want you single people to feel left out, either, so here is a grab bag on a wide range of top picks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, it looks like 30 percent of women are involved in pornography.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those who are involved in martial arts before they started are actually inhaling some demon spirit. Some of them do that by the way. Yoga in some of these manicures definitely have Buddhist and sometimes demonic origins. Get a good decorator to make your house pretty.


COOPER: Thank you, Pat Robertson. You're a true crusader and we definitely didn't consider just permanently changing the name of this segment to the Pat Robertson list although it does have a certain ring to it.

That does it for us. We'll see you again in one hour from now at 10 p.m. Eastern. Thanks for watching.