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Bride-to-Be Vanishes; Pres. Obama Takes Message to Minnesota

Aired September 12, 2009 - 22:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A member of Congress calling the president a liar; town hallers yelling at lawmakers; carrying guns to rallies; refusing to let kids hear the commander-in-chief.

What's behind all of this?

Is it race?

We'll talk to Tim Wise for some wise words.

And more hate speeches.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate Barack Obama. Now, I'm going to prove this --


LEMON: The pastor who prays for the president to die tells someone else he hopes he gets brain cancer and dies, just like Ted Kennedy. The subject of his new death wish joins us live to talk about it.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. She was supposed to get married tomorrow. Instead, the Yale University student has vanished without a clue. School officials say 24-year-old Annie Lee was last seen Tuesday, and there's no reason to believe she was a runaway -- she has run away, I should say. She was last seen outside the Yale school medicine building. School officials and the FBI held a news conference just this evening.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can ask your questions, but you have to understand, we don't know where she is. We don't know what happened to her. We don't know if a crime was committed or not. And that's why the investigation is continuing, and you probably have a lot of questions and maybe a few of them can be answered, but there's not going to be any speculation.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I think the most important thing there's a report out there that a body was found and that's alarmed people on campus.

Can you categorically say anything about that? KIM MERTZ, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: I will categorically say a body has not been found.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you say if a bloody clothing has been removed from the building?

MERTZ: All I will say is that items that could potentially be evidence have been seized. Not have yet been associated with Annie Lee.


LEMON: A $10,000 reward has been offered by the university to anyone with any information on this case. And more on this developing story in just a little bit.

A local reporter with our affiliate there in New Haven will join us in just a few minutes to talk about how the Yale community is coping with this mystery. And also the family of Annie Lee.

Let's go to Washington now where tens of thousands of people marched in protest today. They say the government is too big, it spends too much, and they've had it up to here with the Democratic Congress and the president's health care reform plans.

The march to the capital featured several conservative groups, including the coast-to-coast tea party express that we've been telling you about for the past two weeks. Organizers included former Congressman Dick Armey, who told the crowd that government solutions are never the right solution.


DICK ARMEY (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: When the federal government just decided to go wrong over a year ago and tried to bail out Wall Street, we tried to tell them it won't work, and it didn't work.

When the first round of stimulus didn't work, what did they do? What the government always does with a bad idea, if it doesn't work, do more. And we told them that wouldn't work. Then we had the election. And President Obama came in and said we're going to give you change you can believe in. And what did he give us? More of the same.


LEMON: One marcher told CNN's Kate Bolduan that he's worried the federal government has accumulated far too much power.


Well, I felt that, you know, the government has grown too big. It's gotten too out of control with the spending and the taxes are just way too high. And I'm just sick and tired of government growing and spending and taxing everybody into oblivion. And I just believe that true freedom comes from the Lord. And we are blessed by it to be living in this country, and I just really want to celebrate freedom today. That's really what I'm here to do.


LEMON: Well, conservatives aren't the only ones out in force today. President Barack Obama staged a campaign-style event to promote his health care reform efforts inside a packed arena in Minnesota.

An estimated 15,000 people showed up for what became a raucous rally, and the president tried to harness that enthusiasm in his battle for reform.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are closer to reform than we've ever been before. But this is the hard part. This is when the special interests and the insurance companies and the folks who think, you know, this is a good way to bring Obama down. This is when they're going to fight with everything they've got. This is when they'll spread all kinds of wild rumors designed to scare and intimidate people. That's why I need your help.


OBAMA: President Obama said again that he is still hoping to create a government-run insurance option. He said he's open to ideas on, quote, "How to set this up."

While the president was in the Midwest, his supporters rallied in Florida as part of the health insurance reform now tour. Supporters gathered in Orlando to promote the president's reform plans voicing their concerns about lack of access and growing costs in the nation's current health care system.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My concern is that everybody should be able to get health care. Maybe not everything, but at least basic health care. That's my concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I only have health insurance because I work for somebody. If I were to get laid off or I lost my job or wanted to transfer and had a pre-existing condition, I might not have health care. That's a problem.


LEMON: The reform now tour includes many of the same groups that rallied behind President Obama's election campaign. It has made stops in 11 cities across the country.

So perhaps no two words in the history of the U.S., of U.S. politics, have been so lucrative since Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina yelled out "you lie" to President Obama. His re-election campaign has raised $1 million. That means Wilson has pretty much caught up with his Democratic challenger, Rob Miller, who also raised $1 million in the wake of that outburst.

Earlier tonight, I spoke with Florida's GOP Chairman Jim Greer about Wilson's outburst, and why the Republican leadership hasn't been more forceful in denouncing the congressman's blatant disrespect of a president.


LEMON: Why hasn't there been a call by all of the members, all of the GOP saying, you know what, this is -- why haven't you denounced? Some people are defending him.

How do you defend that?

JIM GREER, FLORIDA GOP CHAIRMAN: Well, you know, I don't think you do defend that, but there's a discussion taking place throughout America about health care, and we need to not lose sight of what we need to be looking at, what we need to be considering. The congressman apologized. He should not have done it. But let's move on. Let's get back to business of government.

LEMON: Well, we are going to move on. I agree that we should move on. But, we, you know, we're smart enough and big enough to talk about more than one thing at a time.

GREER: Or America needs to move on.

LEMON: We can talk about health care, we can talk about that.


LEMON: You can hear more from Jim Greer in just a few minutes reacting to today's massive protest in Washington and much, much more from him.

Up to 3,000 additional U.S. troops could be headed to Afghanistan in the near future. We're going to go to deal with the rising threat of roadside bombs. A Pentagon spokesman said Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been analyzing the deadly threat for the past couple of weeks, and decided more troops are needed right away. The White House earlier approved sending 21,000 additional troops by the end of the year, boosting the U.S. forces there to 68,000.

Five U.S. soldiers were killed today in two separate attacks in Afghanistan. A roadside bomb killed two U.S. troops in the eastern part of the country. Three others were killed in a roadside bombing followed by a gun battle with Taliban fighters in western Afghanistan.

We have some incredible video out of north-western Turkey to show you. It's some of the worst flooding in that country's history. Buses were overturned with rivers of muddy, fast-moving water. At least 32 people are confirmed dead since last Monday and nine others are missing. Some 300 are trapped. The flash flooding is the result of torrential rains said to be the heaviest in 80 years.

The search for the Yale grad student Annie Lee, missing since Tuesday. The police and FBI have few leads. We're live from New Haven in a minute.

Plus this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can have my country when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think their agenda is to slowly but surely take away everything that we've worked for and everything the constitution stands for.


LEMON: Socialism, fascism, comparing the president to Hitler.

How did we get to this point? And what does it say about us as a nation?

And later --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You pray that I'll die tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're a homosexual, I hope you get brain cancer.


LEMON: We'll tell you who blasted gay rights activist and author Michael Signorile on his radio show.

Join the conversation. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or


LEMON: All right. More now on our lead story. We're going to go back to New Haven, Connecticut, where graduate student Annie Lee vanished just days before her wedding.

Usually police can quickly figure out what has happen at least in a general way. But here after four days nothing from the FBI on down. Not a shred of information.

Our Mark Robins is with our affiliate WTNH in New Haven, Connecticut.

Thanks for joining us.

Mark, this has to be enormously frustrating for everyone involved. We heard police officials come out today saying, you know, there is no body, they don't have a person of interest. All they have is a videotape that doesn't show her coming out of the building, just going in.

MARC ROBBINS, WTNH REPORTER: That's right. And they continue, Don, to go over cameras, about 75 cameras, security cameras that surveyed this area. The Yale medical school, they continue to survey that and they're hoping to get a lead of possibly seeing her leave the building or someone with her.

LEMON: Yes. It's got to be a shock not only for the family, but also for the community there.

What's happening in the community?

ROBBINS: Yes, I did go out amongst the student population, so to speak, tonight. A Saturday night, and a nice night in college town here in New Haven. And the kids are out, life is going on, but much more guard. And the women in particular say they're going out in greater numbers together. They're trying to stay in well-lit, heavily-populated areas. And they're really taking this very seriously. They're just concerned with what might be happening because they don't get much information.

LEMON: Does similar incidents of women going missing in the area of New Haven, is there anything like this?

ROBBINS: Well, this is something that a lot of people are just dealing with, and they're so frustrated with the fact that information just isn't coming out. It's happened in the past. There have been some younger kids that have been reported missing. But right now, they're just waiting for answers here in a college town.

LEMON: All right. Marc Robins from our affiliate WTNH.

Marc, we've heard from police. Police said they don't believe that she did not want to get married and went missing for that. So they still have a lot to look into.

Thank you, Marc.

ROBBINS: Thank you.

LEMON: More now on this protest today in Washington. CNN all platform journalist Jim Spellman. He traveled with the anti big government caravan known as the Tea Party Express, and he's been traveling for the past two weeks.

It was a colorful trip all across the country, full of passionate opinions, to say the least.

We want to show you some of the highlights.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyday tea partier is an American citizen that is frustrated with the direction the country is going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are truly concerned about the heartbeat of our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're taking our liberties away. It's tyranny. It's a Gestapo-type tactic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's too much involvement in the government, we can take care of ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't vote for him but I didn't necessarily have anything against what he was saying. He gets into office, and it's like all of the things that I was kind of afraid of really happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can have my country when they pry it from my cold, dead hands!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think their agenda is to slowly but surely take away everything that we've worked for and everything --


LEMON: All right. So there's some very strong opinions being voiced out there. So, earlier, I talked about some of this tough talk with Jim Greer, who's chairman of the Florida Republican Party, and syndicated columnist David Sirota.

Take a listen to this.


LEMON: David, what's happening here?

DAVID SIROTA, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, again, I think that there's a segment of the population that does not want to accept President Obama as a legitimate president. And I think that you can tell that this is really a partisan lynch mob by understanding that these people were not out making the exact same criticism of President Bush. Where were the people who were worried about the constitution when President Bush trampled the constitution with the Patriot Act? Where were these people talking about government spending when President Bush inflated the deficit to record proportions?

LEMON: Jim, that's a good question.

SIROTA: Where were they?

GREER: Well, I think you saw where they were when the polls showed that unfortunately from a Republican standpoint, President Bush was down in the 20s. I mean, the American public -

SIROTA: Where were the protests?

GREER: Well, you know, there were people protesting President Bush because I saw them quite often as I traveled the country. SIROTA: Do you think conservative tea partiers are protesting --

LEMON: I do have to say no that people did protest the Iraq war. I saw a lot of that. I covered a lot of it.

GREER: A lot of that.

LEMON: People said they had pictures of President Bush. They hung things of him in effigy. They put it in on fire, lit them on fire. So there were things, but they were protesting a war, and that they were looking for evidence that never turned up. So it's kind of a different thing, but he was protested.

SIROTA: Those are different protesters.

GREER: Where we are today --

Well, they may be different protesters, but you asked me, where were they? And there were people protesting President Bush. Where we are today, Don, David, is that this administration has tried to radically change the role of government in our daily lives and the role of government in major industries that have made this country great. And that is why Americans, not just Republicans, but Americans are frustrated. They can't get answers to their questions. They're concerned about President Obama's views of what America should look like today and what it will look like in the future. And they just reject that. And they're angry. They're frustrated because it's not the America that they brought up to have great respect for, and they're concerned.

SIROTA: Can I - can I respond to that? Let me just respond and say -

LEMON: Quickly, David.

SIROTA: I understand the frustration about the bailouts. I was opposed to the bailouts. My point here is that there's a double standard. We did not see the tea party protests against President Bush. And that leads all of us - it should lead all of us to conclude that this is a partisan lynch mob. This is a segment of the population that does not want to accept President Obama. Some of that - part of that population does not want to accept them as our president because he's an African-American.

LEMON: What are you saying here?

Are you saying is it -- do you think racism is a factor?

SIROTA: I think there's -- I think there's partisanship. I think there's ideology. I think there's racism. I think these people are, again, a political lynch mob. They do not want to accept the legitimacy of President Obama. And I think that's a real tragedy. I mean, you want to talk about the role of government, and you want to talk about socialism. Let's just talk about that for a second.

LEMON: When you talk about socialism, really, I talk to people, and I don't think that they know what socialism really means. Because we don't live in a socialist society. I'm sure there can be socialist aspects to our - hang on - to our side of it. Really, it's contrary to popular belief. Socialism is not a political system. It is not an economic system. It is distinct from capitalism.

SIROTA: Yes, but we don't live in a pure capitalism, Don. I mean, I drove on a road to get here. That road was built with a socialist enterprise. The schools, the public schools, they're a socialist enterprise. Medicare is a "socialist enterprise." So let's have a fair debate, an honest debate about what's we're really talking about.

LEMON: And Jim, you don't really like bringing race up for this as well. Talk about that.

GREER: Because I think when you bring race up when it's not legitimate part of the conversation, it doesn't provide the opportunity that when race is a problem for it to be addressed like it should be.

You know, most Americans, if not all Americans, watched on January 20th when President Obama took the oath of office, he is president. He is a legitimate president. It is about his approach to governing. And when we have 38 czars, senior policy czars that are setting policy for cabinet secretaries without going through the process of Senate confirmation --

LEMON: I do have to tell you, though --

GREER: There's a lot of concerns about this.

LEMON: I do have to tell you, Jim, it is the elephant in the room. And, again, everywhere, I was at a big event in Chicago, and the same thing. People in the room saying hey, Don, nobody's talking about this. And these weren't African-Americans who were saying this. And these weren't necessarily liberals who were saying it as well.

Some of my conservative friends, some of the conservative people said it's the elephant in the room, no one really wants to talk about it. It's not the whole thing but it is a factor and you can't deny that. And maybe this is good for the country in a way because at least we get it out in the open, talk about it, maybe come to some understanding about it.


SIROTA: But, Don, that's the problem, it's not out in the open. You hear Jim denying that this is an impulse. Look, you've got the same tea party people questioning whether President Obama is an American citizen, demanding his birth certificate. It's already been shown, already been put out there. You have these people saying he was trained in a madrassa saying that he is not Christian. This all adds up to an effort to try to drag race into the conversation.

And then you have people like Jim who say, well, that's not really going on. You know what we call that? That's called dog- whistle politics. That's the right wing trying to signal to its base to try to play to a --

LEMON: Jim, I'm going to let you respond and I'm going to give you the last word because, you know, I talked to you a lot. I kind of beat up on you before. I'll give you the last word.

GREER: No, that's all right.

LEMON: What I want to ask you though is --

GREER: Sure.

LEMON: What's the solution? How do we - if you deny it, right, and the people are telling you hey, it's part of it, especially African- Americans or minorities. If they're telling you it's part of it and you deny it then you deny their truth. Maybe it's not a part of it once you come to some sort of, you know, agreement if you have a conversation. So then what is the solution? How do we work together, Jim? How do Republicans, Democrats, libertarians, everyone, how do you work together to get something - to get this resolved?

GREER: Well, if it deal is with the race issue, you make sure that anyone who is a decision-maker in the process or a leader of any political party or organization who's participating in this national discussion does not in any way tolerate the race issue and brings everyone back to what they need to be talking about, and that is the discussion of how America should be governed.

There's no place for this race issue. If it is present - and I'm not saying it's not - racism does exist in America. But it cannot always be the fallback position when we disagree with public policy issues. And I also think, Don, when race is talked so much by certain people about President Obama, it is disrespectful to the president, and it somehow goes back to, well, do you consider him legitimate?

And when I and others say, well, of course, we do, why are you even asking the question, I think it's disrespectful to the president.

LEMON: Right.

GREER: He is the president. America should celebrate the election of the first African-American president. But let's move on and talk about governing and the philosophy of governing.


LEMON: My conversation with Jim Greer and David Sirota.

We're going to continue to look at what's really behind the red- hot rhetoric being heard and rallies all across the country.

Anti-racist activist and writer Tim Wise will help us break it down.

Also this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, here's the thing. If somebody would have killed the president, it wouldn't do any good. He would just be a martyr and then we'd have another holiday, you know.


LEMON: The pastor who prays for the president to die tells someone else he hopes they get brain cancer and dies just like Ted Kennedy. That person will join us here.

And inspired by the 9/11 tragedy, a world famous fashion photographer shifts his focus and explores his faith.


LEMON: Time now to talk about "What Matters," and we're going to continue our conversation about all of the vitriol going on in the country.

I spoke with anti-racist activist Tim Wise about the tone of the tea parties being held around the country and in the nation's capital today. Not everybody at those tea parties -- let me make this clear.

Not everybody is a radical. Not everybody is protesting. Not everybody has crazy thoughts. But some of the people who are there, and many of them who are there do.

The author of "Between Barack and a Hard Place," his name is Tim Wise. He told me there are some racist undertones to these rallies.


LEMON: You heard the chairman from Florida say no, it is not race.


LEMON: It does a disservice. You heard David Sirota say, of course, it is. It's a factor. It's the elephant in the room.

WISE: Right. Well like I said in the show before, it is the background noise of a lot of the opposition, not all of it, but a lot of it. You know, when you have someone like Glen Beck saying as he did about a month ago that the health care debate isn't really about that. It is just reparations for black people, where you have Rush Limbaugh yesterday on the air saying first that community service is the first step towards fascism, which is bizarre even for him.

And then almost immediately after that saying one of the problems with America is too much multi culturalism. You wouldn't say that unless you are trying to stoke white racial resentment. And so when you say those things, I want to know when are Republican leaders going to condemn that kind of rhetoric because that is where race is being interjected. It is interjected by us, it's interested by the leading talk show hosts in this country.

LEMON: I mean, but is it knowingly or is it maybe unwittingly they're doing it and maybe they don't realize they are doing it.

WISE: Well, two things, it may be either or but it doesn't matter. I mean, racism needs to be evaluated based on outcome. If you do something which has a predictable consequence, you have to be accountable for that consequence. So for example, when Glen Beck lied and said that Van Jones was involved in the Los Angeles riots which was not true. That is a very clear, as David said, dog whistle politic moment.

You're saying that because you know that the L.A. riots are viewed as this racialized rebellion and it scares white folks to death. So you say that about this man. It isn't true. Glenn Beck had to know that wasn't true. And that is a way to scare white folks. Where race comes in, it's not old fashion, but it's white racial resentment that they are trying to whip up.

LEMON: But you know, it's very - it's smart if you want to get your message out. So listen, as we've been saying, it's the elephant in the room. Let's talk about this Congressman Wilson thing.

WISE: Yes.

LEMON: One person wrote me on Twitter and said, I think (INAUDIBLE) and says, "if it is not racism then I don't know what it is, self-indulgence, selfishness, egotism or all the traits pure lack of thought." And then one person says I'm with Ron Reagan and Bill Maher. "If Obama's skin color was closer to his mom's, talking about Joe Wilson, he would not have shouted out."

And I have to tell you --

WISE: I believe that.

LEMON: I have to tell you, for the first time - last night I was watching "Real Time" with Bill Maher, and I was like finally someone is talking about this. Finally someone is talking about this.

WISE: Right.

LEMON: Do you think that Joe Wilson would have done that to a president who was of another color? Or --

WISE: No, I don't.

LEMON: Would he have done it? He may have done the same thing if it was a woman president.

WISE: I don't know, but I know here is a guy who is an avowed neo confederate who says Strom Thurmond an arch segregationist was his hero. So there is some racial stuff going on, I hate to say it, with this congress person, and it makes me wonder with that kind of background. It makes me wonder.

LEMON: But isn't it - what is behind - I think that the thing that we are not getting to is what allows him to be - to feel that is OK to say it. WISE: Right.

LEMON: Isn't that what it is?

WISE: Well, I think it's what David said.

I think it's what David was talking about. There is a large segment of the American population, particularly a sizable amount of white folks, frankly, and in the Republican Party who do not view him as legitimate, the Birther Phenomenon. Let's be honest.

If this man's name was O'Shaughnessy or O'Malley, and I made a birth certificate that said he was born in County Court Ireland in 1961, nobody would care or believe it. But if you say he is from Africa, oh, he has an African daddy. He is from Kenya. People will believe that.

They want to point him as a foreign outsider out to destroy America. And that kind of over the top rhetoric isn't just about political disagreement, it is about an attack on his identity and his American-ness.

LEMON: OK, I do have to say, though --

WISE: Because some people simply cannot accept that we are not the only folks in this country, we are not the standard anymore for what an American is. It is a multi-cultural nation.

LEMON: I hear African-Americans all the time are used to when talking about President Bush and they would say not my president. That's not right, either.

WISE: Oh, it is not right. It's not right. You know, I was at rallies where occasionally people had signs that would compare President Bush to Hitler. But you know, what, it wasn't the leading spokespeople on the left doing that. It wasn't our talk show hosts, it wasn't our authors and our columnists and our commentators, it was folks on the streets. It's not right. But it is not equivalent. That is coming from the very top of the conservative mouthpiece community.

LEMON: OK, hey, listen, I got to go.

Do you think this is good for us so because now we can examine and talk about it? It's out there.

WISE: Oh, I think so. It is bringing some things out of the woodwork. If we address it honestly, we can move forward, but if we continue to stay in denial I don't think we will.

LEMON: Denial, it's not just a river, right?

All right. Thank you.

Tim Wise, it's always good to have you on. Appreciate it.


LEMON: All right, now, the Arizona minister who hates the president turns his sight on another target.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You pray that I'll die tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're a homosexual, I hope you get brain cancer.


LEMON: We'll hear from the prominent gay talk show host, the minister who also wants to see him dead. We're going to talk to him.


LEMON: And a man out with his girlfriend is viciously attacked. At first glance, the story seems like another senseless, random crime, except the man is white and his girlfriend is black. The victim and his family believe it was a racially motivated hate crime.

And CNN's Mary Snow has the story.


BRIAN MILLIGAN JR., BEATING VICTIM: I didn't do anything for this.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Eighteen-year-old Brian Milligan struggles to talk three weeks after he was beaten on a Buffalo, New York, street. His jaw is broken. He had seven staples in his head and had brain swelling. And he believes his attack was racially motivated.

MILLIGAN JR.: Because of this, me and her, like, you know, like I'm white, she's black.

NICOLA FLETCHER, VICTIM'S GIRLFRIEND: People would call him cracker or honky when we walk down the street once in a while.

SNOW: And the couple says there were comments in the past about their interracial dating. Nicola Fletcher wasn't with her boyfriend at the time of the attack and Brian can't remember anything about it.

A witness told the family she saw a group of more than 10 black teens attacking Milligan and the police are investigating. But Brian's father is frustrated because he says there should be more outrage.

BRIAN MILLIGAN SR., VICTIM'S FATHER: This is a hate crime. I mean, there's just no other way around it.

SNOW: And the family calls it a double standard, saying, if a black teen had been attacked, the reaction would have been very different.

MILLIGAN SR.: This is what me and my wife don't understand. They're like pushing it to the back burners and we're not getting answers from anybody.

SNOW: He wants Buffalo's mayor to declare it a hate crime, but so far the mayor has not.

MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YORK: I believe that the young man was threatened coming to visit his girlfriend, who is of a different race. And I think this should be looked into thoroughly, like I want to see every single crime looked into thoroughly.

SNOW: Pastor Darius Pridgen stepped in, admitting he was slow to initially react but did so after hearing Brian's father speak out.

REV. DARIUS PRIDGEN, BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH: He spoke to me and it didn't just have a ring of truth, it was totally true.

SNOW: Pridgen called on his congregation to speak up if they know anything but so far nothing.

PRIDGEN: I think that people do care but I don't think people are willing to put black youth in the firing line of the justice system.


SNOW: Buffalo police say some progress is being made but that more evidence is needed to determine whether this is a hate crime. If it's designated one, the FBI could get involved.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

LEMON: All right, Mary.

God hates Barack Obama. That's the sort of hostile rhetoric aimed at the president of the United States these days from other Americans. Steven Anderson, pastor of a small fundamentalist Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, uttered these harsh words just a couple of weeks ago.


PASTOR STEVEN ANDERSON, FAITHFUL WORD BAPTIST CHURCH: I hate Barack Obama. Now, I'm going to prove this from the Bible tonight why I should hate Barack Obama, why God wants me to hate Barack Obama, why God hates Barack Obama.


LEMON: That sermon hit the internet and it really caused a major uproar.

Was the pastor really advocating that someone should kill the president? Well, talk show host Michelangelo Signorile called him on it. Listen to this.


PASTOR STEVEN ANDERSON (via telephone): Well, here's the thing, if somebody were to kill the president, it wouldn't do any good. He would just be a martyr and then we got another holiday, you know, and so...

MICHELANGELO SIGNORILE, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST: But would you -- would you condemn the killing?

ANDERSON: Would I condemn the person? No, I would not judge that person or condemn that person.

SIGNORILE: You wouldn't -- you wouldn't judge that person? You wouldn't judge that person as a murderer?

ANDERSON: They would not be a murderer. I'm not saying that they should do it. They would be a vigilante. They (INAUDIBLE) the law, but that wouldn't make them a murderer. Well, for example...

SIGNORILE: Well, wait, they wouldn't be a murderer if they took up a gun and shot the president?

ANDERSON: Excuse me, I didn't hear that.

SIGNORILE: They wouldn't be a murderer if they took up a gun and shot the president?

ANDERSON: I do not believe that they would be, no.


LEMON: OK. Michelangelo Signorile joins us from Montreal tonight where he has been attending the convention of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association.

Hey, thank you. I know we're having problems hearing you.

So he's on the phone -- Michel. Full transparency, complete transparency.

OK. So why even interview this guy and give him a platform?

SIGNORILE (via telephone): Well, you know, a lot of people say if you give him attention, it only obviously elevates his message and allows him to spew more of this hatred out there.

But I think at this point in time, and you've been talking about it certainly a lot this hour, we have to focus on these individuals. We cannot take our eyes off of them. When they are actually preaching this kind of hatred against the president and one of their congregants -- Steven Anderson had a congregant who took an automatic weapon to an event where the president was as his pastor is praying for the president to die.

I think we actually need to keep a watchful eye on these people, focus on them, get it all out there, expose what they're about, expose all of it and expose how this hatred filters down from the top of the opposition to this president in the Republican Party.

LEMON: OK, Michel, he didn't hold back when it comes to you. He had -- he has a wish for you and I think it's a death wish. I want people to listen to it, Michel, and then we'll talk about it.


SIGNORILE: I'm gay and I don't molest any children. What do you think?

ANDERSON: I say you're lying.

SIGNORILE: Yes, you think I must be molesting children, right?

ANDERSON: Exactly.

SIGNORILE: Do you pray -- do you pray that I'll die tonight?

ANDERSON: If you're a homosexual, I hope you get brain cancer.


LEMON: I think he went on to say -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- I hope you get brain cancer and die like Ted Kennedy.

SIGNORILE: Like Ted Kennedy, yes. I hope you get brain cancer, die like Ted Kennedy. And then he hung up the phone, not even to wait hear any response.

LEMON: So, he knows about you. He knows that you're gay. He knows what you do. Why would then would he accept to do an interview with you, Michel?

SIGNORILE: You know, I think this man really just jumped into all of this thinking that, wow, I'm getting attention, people are going to focus on me. He had certainly gotten the attention of some media organizations, and I think he just thought, you know, this will bring me some more attention.

I think, though, when I finally said to him that I was gay, it just kind of -- you know, from the bottom of all of his hatred of gay people, he just had to lash out and attack me like that. And he probably felt cornered in a way because I was exposing a lot of his hypocrisy and a lot of his ugly agenda.

LEMON: Michel, you've been doing this for a long time. You've been on the radio. You've been writing. You're an author. You're an activist. What do you think is going on here?

SIGNORILE: I think that this is the example of the kind of hatred we're seeing whipped up against this president. And you have been talking a lot about how it is about race. I don't think there's any question that there would not be this kind of disrespect if we were talking about a president who was not black, whether it is calling him a liar in the House by a member of Congress or comparing him to Adolf Hitler on a sign or a pastor actually calling for him to be dead, praying that he would die.

I think we're seeing this disrespect that is visceral and we're seeing people just even say to their children, you don't have to listen to the president, we're going to take you out of school so you don't listen to him.

I don't think we would see that kind of disrespect if this president were white.

LEMON: All right. Michelangelo Signorile, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

SIGNORILE: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: It is a shocking image. A photograph of Jesus Christ walking with a Nazi. But that's a point of a new exhibit -- that is a point, by a famous fashion photographer and you're going to see his pictures. He is going to join us live in just minutes.


LEMON: A second now with CNN's Jacqui Jeras. There she is over there in the CNN severe weather center.

Jacqui, you are in focus now.


LEMON: Thank you, Jacqui. Appreciate it.

Inspired by the 9/11 tragedy, a world famous fashion photographer shifts his focus and explores his faith in some provocative new photos. And some Andy Warhol photo prints are getting their second 15 minutes of fame after they disappear without a trace.


Police in California are looking for art thieves who made off with a rare collection of Andy Warhol paintings. The stolen pieces included large pop art portraits of champion boxer Muhammad Ali, tennis pro Chris Evert and basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Los Angeles police say the multimillion dollar collection was taken from the dining room of businessman Richard Weisman. A million dollar reward has been offered for information leading to the recovery of the art.

From high-fashion photography to high-concept art. We'll introduce you to the man behind "Journeys with the Messiah." Very interesting photographs. You're going to see them. Also, one of a kind property up for sale in an upscale Chicago neighborhood. And the neighbors? Just wait until you hear who they are.


LEMON: The nation paused to remember 9/11 eight years after the tragedy. No question that day changed many of us, including photographer Michael Belk. His images, well, they have appeared in publications including "Vogue", "Elle", "Vanity Fair" and "GQ."

But after the Twin Towers came down, he began to see things just a little bit differently. Belk is releasing "Journeys with the Messiah." It is a compelling and controversial collection of photographs depicting 1st century Jesus in 20th and 21th century dilemmas and scenarios.

Michael joins us now.

Thank you.

How did 9/11 impact you and how it did make you want to refocus your talent from fashion photography to doing something like this?

MICHAEL BELK, PHOTOGRAPHER, "JOURNEYS WITH THE MESSIAH": You know, the connection between 9/11 and 2001 and 9/11 now is that, you know, our country was attacked by terrorists. They physically attacked buildings. But, you know, in 2008, we became -- we got in this financial attack, you know, it kind of calls by ourselves.

But back at 2001, you know, I just -- I watched people in New York searching for something different, something outside of ourselves and now in this economic crisis, I see the same thing all over again.

LEMON: You know, when you see someone who, you know, appears to be Jesus in the photographs, and you see them in, you know, with the cars and hanging with modern-day people, are you worried at all about any sort of criticism because you can't depict Jesus this way?

BELK: I'm not worried about it. I don't believe for a second that I'm being sacrilegious. We thought about that a lot, and actually we prayed over that and said let's not do anything sacrilegious.

But what we're trying to do is show that Jesus' messages from 2,000 years ago are very relevant today. And we wanted to put him in scenarios that most people could relate to.

LEMON: And all of your 30 years plus -- I mean, it's a personal question and you don't have to answer it. Were you close to God? Did you have -- were you a Christian? Did you believe in God? Or was this something new that just happened for you after 9/11?

BELK: Well, I grew up in the church, but it didn't mean anything. I didn't learn anything. I didn't know anything. I was really in my early 40s when I just burned out from traveling in the fashion industry and so forth that I started looking, you know, for something deeper and that's when my Christian faith came back.

But this time, you know, I really learned about Jesus Christ, and I studied him deeply and found that -- found him to be absolutely fascinating.

LEMON: So you were saved, as they say -- people who -- Christians say you were saved.

BELK: Yes.

LEMON: How do you -- how do people in the fashion industry, how have they reacted to these photographs? Or have you gotten positive feedback as well?

BELK: Well, you know, we just launched the project this week. So I really haven't been around those people, you know, in the last year while I've been working on the project. I'll be very interested to see how they react to it.

I know the people that I've worked with for many years who know me and knew that I was going to go do this project eventually, I think they'll react very positively to it.

LEMON: They're really, really unique and just very -- just -- I think they're beautiful pictures. So would you go back? Would you take a fashion job if someone offered it to you?

BELK: Yes, absolutely, if it's a good one. I love to shoot fashion.

LEMON: Thank you, Mr. Belk.

BELK: Thank you.

LEMON: All the best success for you -- the best for you and much success, OK?

BELK: I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on.

LEMON: You're welcome.

He is 16 and working on becoming an Eagle Scout. He's also a CNN hero and we're going to show you why.


LEMON: So each year, more than 52,000 Boy Scouts perform service projects in the U.S. as they pursue the group's highest rank, Eagle Scout, right?

Well, so this year, a teenager from Maryland took his community service project just a little bit further than that, to his birthplace in Siberia, Russia. Meet Alex Griffin.

ANNOUNCER: This is "CNN Heroes."


ALEX GRIFFITH, YOUNG WONDER: I was abandoned at Hospital Number 20 at birth. I was adopted at 11 1/2 months old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first time we saw Alex, he had rickets and was malnourished. We fell in love with him immediately. I said, "There's my son, let's go home, son."

GRIFFITH: Hospital Number 20 gave me a chance to survive and I wanted to give something back.

I'm Alex Griffith and I'm building a playground at the hospital where I was adopted from.

I've been a Boy Scout for five years. I wanted to build a playground for my Eagle project.

The old playground at Hospital Number 20 had a rusty old swing with a wooden seat and a sandbox which was actually a mud pit because of all of the rain. We had to design the playground.

These are the double-glide slides. (INAUDIBLE) the playground and followed over to build it.

Volunteers from all over the world helped build this playground. All of us adopted from Russia have not and probably will never forget our birth land.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL (through translator): I like this playground because when you slide on it, all of the sadness go away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Makes me very proud. He is becoming an example to others that anything is possible if you don't give up.

GRIFFITH: Just made me really happy just being here. That's all I can say.


LEMON: Right. So you can find out more about Alex's work. Just go to our website at

And I want to tell you this. On October 1st, we'll be announcing the top 10 CNN heroes of 2009. October 1st.

How much would you pay to call the president neighbor? Well, for the right price, you could.


LEMON: You know, how would you like to live next door to the president of the United States?

Well, you can if you meet the price. This turn-of-the-century home sits on an oversized lot directly next to President Obama's Chicago's residence. But if you have to ask how much, you probably cannot afford it. The listing agent is not naming a price but homes in the area usually go for $1 or $2.5 million.

All right. Thanks everybody for joining us. I'll see you back here tomorrow night at 6:00, 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. I'm Don Lemon.

By the way, we're checking our social networking sites. We're happy that you sent us, we just ran out of time. So, we'll get to some of your comments tomorrow, OK?