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Erin Burnett Outfront

The Rise of Hate in America; Political Attacks Get Nasty; U.S. Sanctions Defied?

Aired August 07, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next new details emerging tonight about the gunman responsible for killing six people at a Wisconsin temple and a clue to the man's connection to hate groups.

Plus, a new attack ad by an Obama Super PAC linking Mitt Romney to someone's death, does this attack finally go too far?

And an OUTFRONT investigation into the safety of American soldiers. Why is an inferior tool to detect IEDs still being used right now? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the rise of hate in America. The massacre at A Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin has raised so many questions and tonight we have some new details about the shooter, Wade Michael Page. Page was living in Wisconsin for about a year, and as our Ted Rowlands found out, in the months and weeks before he killed six people, Page was a recluse and making arrangements to carry out his attack.

Ted is live in Oak Creek tonight. And Ted, what have you been learning today about Page's past?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, clearly, this was somebody who was shutting down, taking himself out of the day-to-day of society, taking himself away from friends and family. We're also learning about his past, going back almost 10 years where he was gravitating towards white supremacy.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): In the days and weeks before the temple shooting, Wade Page began to withdraw from the world, starting, according to neighbors, by moving out of the upstairs apartment behind this house he shared with his girlfriend and her son. Neighbors say he left with a few boxes, but didn't seem upset.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never did see a big break-up or anything. I rarely saw him around.

ROWLANDS: Two weeks before the shooting, Page stopped showing up for his job as a machine operator at this manufacturing facility. Then on July 28th, a week before the shooting, he walked into this gun store and bought a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun like this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The purchase was done legally. He filled out the state and federal paperwork, he passed the background check.

ROWLANDS: Six days later, authorities say he used that gun to shoot nine people, six of whom died. What still isn't clear to investigators is why. Page's girlfriend was questioned the day of the shootings, but investigators say she offered no insight on Page's motive. Neighbors say she told them that she hadn't talked to Page since he moved out and he had even shut down his e-mail account. There were people inside, but no answer when we went to Page's girlfriend's apartment.


ROWLANDS: We're learning more about Page's past and his apparent association with white supremacists. The owner of this Harley Davidson shop in Fayetteville, North Carolina says he found an application belonging to Page to join the Ku Klux Klan after he fired Page in 2004 for yelling at female employees. He also says Page became angry when he came back later to get the application and was told it was destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We escorted him to the car on his final day, and I guess there was some paperwork that he thought he had had left on his desk and he did. It was an application for the KKK. And I got that application and destroyed it.

ROWLANDS: Page grew up and went to high school in Littleton, Colorado. His grandmother and stepmother still live in Denver.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What has changed him, I have no idea. And obviously, we're never going to know.


BURNETT: Ted, pretty tragic there, but also that shocking revelation about his application for the Ku Klux Klan. Have investigators found more information from Page, notes he may have left or anything like that?

ROWLANDS: Well, no big aha discovery. According to investigators, there was no note left, no -- nothing on a computer. And that's really what is perplexing here. In fact, the police chief here this evening told me that this is one of those situations where they may never know his true motive.

BURNETT: One thing I know you found a lot more about, though, Ted, is his military record and a lot of people are talking about that having been a crucial part of his life, perhaps, where he may have found out about some of these groups that he then joined. What have you found out about his military record?

ROWLANDS: Well, he was discharged for misconduct, basically, over an incident where he was drunk on active duty, and he went AWOL and when he came to his discharge, he was told that he would not be eligible to reenlist in the Army. They told him they'd had enough of him and sent him on his way.

BURNETT: All right. Ted Rowlands, thank you very much, reporting there Oak Creek tonight.

Well there are hard numbers on the rise of hate in America and we want to share them with you. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate groups have increased 69 percent since the year 2000. Now when we use the word hate this is what we mean. It does have a formal definition. It means a group or a movement that practices hate or hostility or violence, explicitly, towards another race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Take a look at this map.

As you can see, there are hate groups in almost every state in this country, 84 of them in California alone, 65 in Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, and Texas rounds out the top five states with hate groups. Those numbers are pretty stunning when you look at it; I mean just looking at it this particular way. The question is what is fueling this hate?

J.M. Berger has been tracking these groups, is a contributor to "Foreign Policy" magazine. Heidi Beirich is back with us, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. All right, good to see both of you and I appreciate your taking the time.

J.M., I wanted to start with you. Wade Page, one of things that we know about him and as Ted has been reporting, he was a leader of a hard core white supremacist rock band called "End Apathy". He was linked to a white power group called the "Hammerskins", and I just wanted to read something for our viewers.

The mantra that that group lives by, according to its website, so this is available for all of us to see, is, quote, "we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." How well- known was Wade Page among the white power movement?

J.M. BERGER, INTELWIRE.COM: Well, the band was pretty well traveled. They did gigs in Baltimore, North Carolina and in Florida. The Florida engagement was a particularly interesting one, because they performed at an event that was -- "Hammerskin" event that was connected to the American Front organization. That was a racial paramilitary group that was planning to start a race war. There were a number of arrests in May. And at the event, there was at least one informant law enforcement source who was attending the event and there may have been undercover FBI agents and local law enforcement, as well.

BURNETT: So what are you saying? So you're saying at an event as recently as this May where Wade Page was, there could have been an informant to local law enforcement, to the FBI, to whom, someone who would have seen him there?

BERGER: The event was in 2011.


BERGER: The arrests of the American Front people were in May of 2012. And an informant reported seeing the band there in a redacted report. I wasn't able to read everything that was in the report. But he was definitely in a room with a law enforcement source and there may have been other records that came out of that. Hammerskins were involved with this American Front group. So you know while we're talking about this guy, you know, as somebody who may have acted alone, he was also connected to a pretty wide variety of groups that are considered to be very dangerous.

BURNETT: Yes and Heidi, I guess this shows either the difficulty of connecting a person to a potential act or it could have been a failure. Obviously, the FBI has said to CNN today that they didn't start a formal investigation, whether they had seen Wade Page at any of these events or not, and I know Heidi that you told me yesterday when we were in Oak Creek that you had been tracking Wade Page for more than a decade. I'm just curious how many people in general are you tracking. How many people do you track for these extended periods of time?

HEIDI BEIRICH, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, there's a shocking number, actually, of individuals with connections to the hate movement that we have captured information on, more than 20,000 by now and Wade Page wasn't so rare. There's probably hundreds, several hundred "skinheads" that look like him or are tattooed up like him and have connections to groups like this. It may even actually be in the thousands. So although he looks very, very scary you know to the average American, within this world, he's just one of many.

BURNETT: Wow. So you're saying there are thousands of people who are sending the sort of red flags that Wade Page has been sending to you. I know for -- about a dozen years you tracked him.

BEIRICH: Yes, we have been following him since 2000, which is when he started hanging out with neo-Nazis and ended up on the music scene. He attended a thing called "Hammer Fest" put on by this "Hammerskin Nation" in 2000 and then of course he went on to you know form his own band, play in other bands and make connections with a whole host of groups. The "Hammerskins", the American Front, as your other guest just said. So he was very, very active in the skinhead movement for a long time.

BURNETT: J.M., you know we used to hear -- I guess maybe this is anecdotal, but it feels like we used to hear more about these white supremacist groups, about big rallies where they would all get together and it doesn't feel like we hear that anymore. But I know the statistics show that the number of groups has been rising. So why does it appear there's so much more under the radar now?

BERGER: Well the movement has become very splintered. You know in the '90s when this was really a very big deal, there was not only more larger organizations, some of which have been put out of business by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were bigger organizations. They had larger meetings. And what we see now are a host of smaller organizations when they get together, it's usually in groups of 30 or 40. It's much more splintered movement and they have also disconnected from some other anti-government extremists that they used to be more closely aligned with.

For instance, the Patriot Movement has really taken steps toward renouncing racism. It's not a totally clean break, but a lot of Patriot groups which are anti-government oriented used to be friendly with these organized racist groups and they are not so much anymore.

BURNETT: Have moved apart, all right, well Heidi and J.M. thank you very much.

Well still OUTFRONT there is a new Super PAC attack ad and this is an attack ad like we have never seen before. It links Mitt Romney to a woman's death. Is this a new low? Plus, a British bank tells the U.S. to go "blank" itself over Iran. And the man accused of shooting Gabby Giffords makes a plea deal. Are all the victims satisfied?


BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT nasty, the political attack ads keep coming and coming and they are nasty, this time an ad from a Super PAC supporting President Obama blaming Mitt Romney for a woman dying of cancer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plan I lost my health care. And my family lost their health care and a short time after that my wife became ill.


BURNETT: And she passed away in 2006 five years after the plant closed, 13 years after Bain acquired the plant, and as CNN has learned during a time when her primary insurer was her employer, not her husband's. So does this ad cross the line? Michael Waldman is a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton. David Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and John Avlon is here.

All right, great to have all of you, so first of all, the facts don't even seem to indicate that this is true. It is -- and at the same time, a horrific allegation. Obviously, we left the -- let's lay out for people here the time line. I'll throw it out.

Bain Capital buys this company, GST Steel in 1993. It goes bankrupt in 2001. In 2006, she passes away from cancer, again, when her employer was her health care provider, not her husband's. What's your reaction to this ad?

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is horrible. It would be -- and it would be horrible even if it were not so factually wrong because in a capitalist economy, companies, plants close all of the time. Some bad -- some people go on to discover new meaning in their lives and acquire tremendous success and the people who laid them off don't deserve the credit for the fact that they discovered new meaning in their lives.

And you're not responsible for every unforeseeable consequence of every business decision you make. And it is just -- it is so brutal. It makes you wonder what the Obama people will be doing in October if this is what they're doing in August. Let me add one more thought, and this is in no way to excuse what the Priorities USA people did, which is really outrageous.

BURNETT: They're the ones of course everyone who did the ad, just so you know it's the name of the Super PAC.

FRUM: Let's not forget, Mitt Romney is the first governor in America to introduce a universal health coverage program. That is what -- that is his best answer to this, which is he actually was the person to put in place conditions where this wouldn't happen anymore when people lose their jobs. Why won't he talk about it?

BURNETT: All right, I see that point, but to get there, you have to get through a really, really nasty ad that is --


BURNETT: -- impossible to justify, right?

AVLON: I mean look, I mean you know I think it's important to point out this ad doesn't accuse Mitt Romney of giving the woman cancer, obviously. But there is -- they're trying to make a linkage. Is it way outside the line? Absolutely. Is it ugly? Absolutely. And this is what Super PACs do. This is what is important. You know a long time ago, we talked about how there was going to be a tsunami of sleaze on the airwaves, because of these Super PACs. Super PAC ads are overwhelmingly negative --

BURNETT: This Super PAC though -- this Super PAC I just want to make clear is run by Bill Burton, who was the deputy press secretary under Barack Obama --

AVLON: Absolutely.

BURNETT: -- and I know they're -- they don't talk about things now that would be illegal, but Bill Burton knows Barack Obama really well and I don't know that he would do this if he thought that Barack Obama would find this to be vile.

AVLON: And this is part of the legal fiction (ph) in the Super PAC structures that we've seen. You know they've got to be separate but it is always with a wink and a nod. Look one thing -- you talk to people at Priorities they'll say we can go further than the campaign can. We can be more aggressive. But that aggressiveness is always code for ugly and this is the overwhelming ugliness of Super PAC ads. They're never positive. They're always negative. And this ad, in addition to being incredibly ugly, as you just put it, doesn't add up, the facts.

BURNETT: No, it does not. Michael Waldman, is there any way to defend this? I mean Bill Burton, again, who is the senior strategist at the super PAC that bought this, the man who used to be the deputy press secretary for the president said in response quote, "We're illustrating how long it took for communities and individuals to recovery from the closing of these businesses. Mitt Romney has had an enduring impact on the lives of thousands of men and women and for many of them that impact has been devastating." Well a lot of people have lost their jobs while Barack Obama has been president, people that work in government. I mean I guess you could blame him for their problems.

MICHAEL WALDMAN, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR BILL CLINTON: Well, I think, look, the facts that you just said raise important questions. And this was a very tough ad, a ratcheting up or down, as you want to look at it. And John is exactly right. If you don't like this, get used to it. This is the world of campaign finance that the Supreme Court has given us with the Citizens United decision and other cases.

This is the world where Super PACs run these ads and 86 percent of the ads run in this campaign by Super PACs supposedly independent, are negative. It is the most visible manifestation of a very dispiriting and depressing campaign where neither side has really told the country what it wants to do in the next four years with policy --

BURNETT: And Michael, just because you put that stat out there, I just want to follow up, 86 percent of Super PAC ads, but if you look at the past week, 94 percent of the ads that have run sponsored by anybody have been negative, five percent positive. I mean is that the worst it's perhaps ever been?

WALDMAN: Without a doubt and part of it is that you know we think of the campaign as starting -- after Labor Day as some people have said, the campaign started a long time ago. We're near the home stretch. But this is a race where people use the negative ads, the public say they don't like it, but they actually work. But it's very unfortunate. It can't help public confidence in government and you've got to do some of it, but I would like to hear in a positive way from both candidates what they want to do.

BURNETT: Quick final word to John, I mean they do work. Negative -- highly negative ratings for both candidates go up. I mean so --

AVLON: This is a race to the bottom above campaigns. They want --


AVLON: -- especially the Obama camp wants to make Mitt Romney an unacceptable alternative, so it's an all in negative campaign. The thing is it does alienate some independent voters. You do see some independents just totally disgusted. The problem is what's your positive alternative? And the answer is there isn't one in this campaign.

BURNETT: Time for a third party. All right, well thanks to all three. You can always have hope.

All right next this quote -- "You 'bleeping' Americans, who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, what to do?" Who said it and why is next. And be careful what you like on Facebook. Someone just got fired for that.


BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT "you 'bleeping' Americans, who are you to tell us the rest of the world that we're not going to deal with Iranians?" Those are the words of an executive from British Bank Standard Chartered quoted in a report by the New York State Department of Financial Services. The state accuses the bank of using its New York branch to hide transactions from regulators, saying that it schemed with Iran to funnel at least $250 billion over a decade to the Iranian government.

The bank denies the allegations, but these are serious, serious charges. The FBI and the Treasury Department are investigating. OUTFRONT tonight, foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott. And Elise, I mean this is a pretty amazing, just a quote to sort of get out there that this happened. Obviously we're in the midst right now of the toughest sanctions the U.S. has ever put on Iran, but it needs the rest of the world to get on board. How does this development undermine the sanctions effort?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well Erin, it really undermines them. As you said, I mean this is really one of the most effective sanctions campaign in years. The U.S. has really squeezed Iran's access to financial transactions, really bringing it to its knees, almost shutting down the Iranian Central Bank. It's -- in recent months it's instituted having Iran -- countries that are using Iran's oil to reduce their exports or they would face U.N. sanctions.

They have been working with the EU on an oil embargo and so there are already these natural loopholes in sanctions for legitimate transactions like food and medicine. But what the U.S. really wants to do is close up these illegal loopholes. Just last week, the U.S. slapped sanctions on a Chinese bank for doing these types of transactions. So it's a real problem for U.S. officials.

BURNETT: It's pretty incredible. Elise, thank you very much. Elise has done a lot of reporting on this. And we also have reporting on U.S. sanctions on Iran that can be found in my column in this month's "Fortune" magazine. There are other loopholes and you know the U.S. has the option to say Standard Chartered go ahead and do business with Iran but you can't do business with the U.S. We have that option but we don't use it. Check it out in our blog,

OUTFRONT next how an inferior IED detection system could be putting the lives of American soldiers at risk. There is an option that's better, an OUTFRONT investigation.

Plus a plea deal spares the life of the gunman who killed six people and injured then Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Does it add up for the victims and their families?


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

We start with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting from the front lines.

First, the prosecution is asking for a three-year sentence in the trial of a Russian punk band that has been charged with hooliganism. As we've been reporting, three members of the all-girl band Pussy Riot were arrested after performing an anti-Putin song in a Moscow cathedral. Angus Roxburgh, author of "The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia," tells OUTFRONT that Putin is using the case as a warning to other protesters and dissenters.

Well, the Government Accountability Office has a new report that says the U.S. government should reassess the standards it uses to determine radiation exposure for mobile phones. This is a topic everyone is curious about. It says the standards which were set by the FCC back in 1996 don't reflect the latest research.

In a statement to OUTFRONT, the FCC says that the U.S. has among the most conservative standards in the world. The agency added that as part of their most recent review of the standards that began just this summer, they're going to be looking at federal health agency reports to try to guide their final assessment.

Well, NASA has released the first color photos taken by its rover Curiosity, which successfully landed on Mars surface Monday. So the photo -- here's the surface of Mars. It shows a dusty desert in the northern rim of the Gale Crater. Sort of looks like southern Tunisia.

It was caught by camera on Curiosity's robotic arm, which is still. The senior scientist working on the camera says the crater's rim is 12 1/2 half miles away from the rover. There was a transparent dust shield covering the lens which is why the picture was a little bit murky. Again, we spent about $5 billion for that rover.

Oil prices rose $1.47 today. So, now, they're just shy of $94 a barrel, $93.67. We haven't been there since May. Analysts say that there are a few things that are causing prices to go up. Hope that there's an economic stimulus and people feel better and fill up their cars more. There is also a storm in the Gulf of Mexico that could hurt supply. And, of course, there is always the problems going on with Iran in the Middle East.

Today, the Energy Information Administration says there's no relief in sight. Oil prices aren't going to go down for the rest of the year, they are going to stay where they are and that's been hurting gas prices. The average price for a gallon of gas is up 30 cents in the past five weeks.

Well, it has been 369 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, the S&P, by the way, is standing by that downgrade and gave another warning today to Greece, cutting its outlook to negative which means they could get downgraded again soon. Greece, of course, is already rated at the bottom of the barrel at a CCC. No, we stopped paying attention to Greece but it still could cause another global crisis. And our fourth story tonight, an OUTFRONT investigation. Is the Army withholding information that could protect American soldiers in Afghanistan from deadly roadside bombs?

Congress and the Army tonight are investigating whether data was manipulated in a report about roadside bomb detectors. Data that made one detection system look favorable, despite what turned out to be a relative lack of reliability.

Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has the story.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): IEDs have killed more Americans in Afghanistan than any single weapon. So you'd think the Army would buy the very best software to predict where roadside bombs are buried. But Congress is investigating whether the Army manipulated information to buy an inferior detection system over one the troops wanted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to find out that pentagon civilian bureaucrats have stopped the ground combat commanders from getting Palantir or other software that they've asked for. That's what I think is going to happen.

LAWRENCE: CNN obtained documents that showed troops praising a privately developed system called Palantir, shown in this video. But before that report was passed up the chain of command, the Army's testing command ordered it destroyed, replaced by a report that removed favorable references to Palantir. The Army has spent well over $2 billion on its own system. The distributed common ground system, or DCGS.

GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You don't want to put good money after bad.

LAWRENCE: Retired General Spider Marks says if report A says Palantir does a great job and report B says we're sticking with DCGS, there's a problem.

MARKS: You've got to try to figure out why is there this great disparity. And clearly, I mean, I'd look at the program office that's responsible for desigs (ph) and say, OK, what gives, guys? Are you changing data or are you trying to cook the books?

LAWRENCE: CNN has confirmed there's a recent memo from the Army's own chief tester who evaluated DGCS. His investigation found the software not effective or suitable.

In its defense, the Army compares the system to our smartphones, in the way that we constantly update apps to meet the latest needs. In a statement to CNN, a spokesman says, quote, many of these limitations were already identified by the Army, and software updates have been implemented to address the concerns.

The version identified in this test is undergoing improvement. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right, Chris joins me now from the Pentagon.

And, Chris, obviously the allegations here are a huge deal. I mean, this is the lives of American soldiers that were put at risk and perhaps lost if this is true. How does the Army explain it?

LAWRENCE: Yes, that's right, Erin. Basically, even though -- yes, even though -- even though you're talking about some of these IED deaths going down at times, you're still talking well over 250 troops killed last year, well over 350 killed the year before.

So as for why the army may have scrapped this first report, an army official claims that they were just trying to make it, (a), easier to read and correct some of the mistakes in it, not try to shortchange Palantir.

BURNETT: One thing I'm curious, though, Chris -- and I know they sort of try to give their side of the story, but it still seems a bit unclear. Why would they favor the system even though it is more expensive and less reliable?

BURNETT: Yes, basically, the -- what the Army is saying is that it would take a lot to switch systems. It's very, very expensive, and the fact that these systems do more than just detect IEDs. They claim that their original system, this DCGS, has more of a broader capability than the Palantir does at this time. But, they've got to answer to Congress by next week. So, we should be getting more answers very, very soon.

BURNETT: All right. Well, certainly troubling allegations. Thanks very much to Chris Lawrence, as you'll keep covering that story for OUTFRONT.

Well, the man who killed six people and injured 13 outside an Arizona supermarket last year, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords now admits he's guilty.

Kyung Lah was in the courtroom for the hearing and she is OUTFRONT tonight.

Kyung, what happened today? I know you had a chance to see Jared Loughner and you see his face, his reaction, his walking, what did he do?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you that when he walked into the courtroom, he certainly looked mentally unwell. But this is an improvement from the last public appearances he had had. The first time he had a hearing, he looked down and smiled as the charges were read against him. In another appearance in court, he actually had to be subdued by his guards, because he had an outburst.

This time he appeared -- even though he didn't look quite together in his expressions, he certainly looked like he understands everything that was happening. He was able to respond to the questions from his judges.

His mother was seated right behind me as this was going on. And she cried as he repeated 19 times "I plead guilty." It was a very full courtroom. In there were also victims,

And what today's plea deal does is prevents them from having to go through a long and painful trial. Here's what one woman told us.


SUZI HILEMANN, SHOOTING VICTIM: This is the system doing its best. It's not a perfect solution. The perfect solution is one that we can't have. What we want is not available to us.


LAH: The woman who you just heard there, she is the one who brought Christina Taylor Green to the "Congress on Your Corner" event 18 months ago. Christina Green, just 9 years old, the youngest of the six victims who died, Erin.

BURNETT: And, Kyung, I know, obviously, in exchange for his guilty plea, he gets life in prison and doesn't get the death penalty. I know that a lot of people may have mixed feelings about that, among the victims. And I know that some of them right now, as you have been reporting, may be going through a city council meeting.

Can you tell us more about what that is?

LAH: What they're doing right now as we speak, they're gathering and they're getting together to go to the Tucson City council meeting. What the Tucson city council is it going to do is pass a resolution which supports something called the Fix Gun Checks Act. It actually beefs up background checks for every single gun sale and also improves the reporting of mental health records.

Here's what one of the Tucson shooting victims also told us about that.


PAM SIMON, SHOOTING VICTIM: One of those ways, I believe, that we can make some good come out of this is to begin some common sense discussion about who should bear arms. What hands should firearms go into? And we can all agree that the seriously mentally ill and those with criminal records should not be holding a gun.


LAH: And she's very calm as she is speaking there. But I can tell you, from having spoken to some of these victims, there is a frustration on their part that they feel that the federal government, specifically the two presidential candidates, as well as members of Congress, are simply letting people down by not having adequate gun laws -- Erin. BURNETT: And, Kyung, just a final question. I know Attorney General Holder decided to not go for the death penalty in exchange for this plea. Are there -- I know you spent a lot of time with victims and their families. Are there people who wish that he had, that they could have ended up getting that outcome, even though obviously that would expose them to maybe it not happening at all, just because it would go through the whole court and jury system?

LAH: Overwhelmingly, what everyone has been saying who we have spoken to is that this was the best outcome for everyone involved, because there were just risks that it could have gone the other way. And what they're happy with is simply not having to put this community through something so painful.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank you very much.

And still OUTFRONT: the Facebook "like" that got one man fired, and the split among Mormons over Mitt.


BURNETT: So there's a lot of things to like on Facebook, if you're on that site. You can like a product, someone says something, you can say you like the comment. You can like a picture.

But does clicking the "like" button constitute free speech?

That's what a former police officer in Virginia is arguing. Daniel Ray Carter was a deputy sheriff in Hampton, Virginia, and he says he was fired for liking a post, Jim Adams for Hampton sheriff. The problem, he was liking the campaign for the guy that was running against his boss.

So shortly after his boss, B.J. Roberts, was reelected, Carter got fired. Carter sued in federal court but lost. The judge said that, look, you click the "like" button, that is not enough to qualify for free speech under the First Amendment. It doesn't involve a statement of how you feel.

Carter is appealing the ruling and now with some help from Facebook which in a brief supporting Carter in the appeal, says a "like" in this case is the 21st century equivalent of a front yard campaign sign.

The ACLU compared it to wearing an "I like Ike" button -- which brings me to the number tonight: 53. That's how many years ago DF Pickert (ph) was fired from his part time job as ranch caretaker for liking Ike. It was a headline December 15th, 1958 edition of the Tri- City Herald. Pickert worked for Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, who was a Democrat. He claimed he was fired for being a Republican and wearing a pin and saying he liked Dwight Eisenhower. Morse said he filed Pickert for not being loyal.

The direct quote to "The Tri-City Herald" was he had not been loyal to my friendship. And you know what? There's something to that. Here's to show that loyalty still counts. And now to tonight's "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world.

We begin in Syria where the U.N. pulled its monitors from the city of Aleppo because of ramped up violence, a battle of control for the city has been raging for days. Life is increasingly difficult for people who are left behind.

Mohamed Jamjoom is following the story in Abu Dhabi and I asked him about the deteriorating condition.


MOHAMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, according to the activists who we've been speaking with there, the situation is terrible. It is dire, and it is only getting worse. We're hearing about a constant pounding by shelling going on in several neighborhoods Aleppo. The regime, they're saying, is using warplanes to shell a lot of neighborhoods in Aleppo, to try to drive out the Syrian rebels.

We're also hearing about a humanitarian crisis in Aleppo that has been worsening. We've heard for days now that there are food shortages, that there are bread shortages, that there are fuel shortages. Now, we're hearing today in certain neighborhoods, that there aren't enough medical supplies or doctors to adequately treat the wounded. They're saying it's just getting worse.

Also today, we had news that the 24 U.N. observers that were in Aleppo have been pulled out because the situation there has worsened so much -- Erin.


BURNETT: Thanks to Mohamed.

And now to Grenada, which is relishing, relishing, its first-ever Olympic medal after 19-year-old Kirani James won gold in the 100 meters on Monday. It was amazing what happened.

Becky Anderson is covering the games in London and I asked her how this very small country you may not have heard of is celebrating this big deal.


BECKY: Erin, it will be a long time before Grenada has another moment to savor like this. Local boy Kirani James sprinting to victory in the men's 400 meters Olympic final here in London. And the celebrations were, understandably, ecstatic.

It was the first Olympic medal ever for the small Caribbean island of just 100,000 people and the prime minister marking it (INAUDIBLE), declaring a half-day holiday and giving the entire island the afternoon off. One of those Olympic moments to remember -- Erin.


BURNETT: I just love those pictures. Thanks to Becky.

And now let's check in with Anderson with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360". He's still in Oak Creek.

And, Anderson, what do you have?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Yes, the community trying to come to grips with the shooting on Sunday and the aftermath of it at the Sikh temple. There have been vigils and ceremonies remembering the lives of the victims.

We're going to do the same in the hour ahead tonight. I'll speak with the son of the president of the temple, Amardeep Kaleka. His father was fatally wounded when he tried to take down the shooter using a butter knife.

I'm also joined by the ex-stepmother of the man who pulled the trigger, Wade Page, what she remembers. The very different boy growing up and she said that she thinks his racist views may have been formed while serving in the military. Drew Griffin is investigating that angle.

Also ahead, hours after the shooting at the Sikh temple here in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the mosque in Joplin, Missouri, burned to the ground. Gary Tuchman is in Joplin where the community is scared but vows to rebuild there.

Those stories and report from on the ground near Aleppo, Syria. We talk to our Ben Wedeman who has been witnessing the fighting there. That's all at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes, Anderson. Really looking forward to it and see you in a few moments.

Now our fifth story OUTFRONT: Reid versus Romney. Sort of has a ring to it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, just in case you haven't been paying attention lately, has said that Mitt Romney won't release his tax returns because he didn't pay taxes for 10 years. How did he know that? That he says he does not know but he's got a good source.

The two men have been going at each other's throats with Mitt Romney responding, "Put up or shut up, Harry". But they have one important thing in common, these two men, the Mormon Church.

"BuzzFeed" reporter McKay Coppins has reported extensively on the church. He was raised Mormon himself.

Thanks, McKay, for coming in.

You know, there was something about, hey, they both were Mormon. I'm curious, you know, every religious group has people on both sides of the aisle. But why is Mormon playing a role in this fight? MCKAY COPPINS, BUZZFEED REPORTER: Well, it's interesting because they really come from different circles of Mormonism. Mitt Romney is born in the church. Harry Reid is a convert. Mitt Romney is from the east. Harry is from the west.

But they share this community of wealthy, powerful, kind of well- appointed Mormons, that kind of make the connection interesting as they kind of duke it out over the finances of Mitt Romney's --

BURNETT: There's a perception with people saying, you know, within the Mormon Church, there's very many successful businessmen and power players in this country who are of the Mormon faith, and it's still a relatively smaller religion than other religions. So they do know each other.

COPPINS: Yes, I don't know if they've ever met face-to-face but the finance world that Mitt Romney comes from in Boston is heavily infused with Mormons. Harvard Business School famously has plenty of Mormons on the faculty and Bain Capital, which Mitt Romney founded, he started with a lot of hot-shot, young Mormon financiers, some of whom are Democrats.

So, when Reid says he has a source, you know, we don't know if that's true or who it is, but if he does, it's possible they're a Mormon Democrat from the Bain era.

BURNETT: Right, because as you said, there are a lot of Mormons at Bain.

Let's get to this Democrat Republican because that would make sense. If Harry Reid does have a source, it would be a Democrat from Bain.

Mormons, though, according to the Pew Survey are much more conservative than the regular population, increasingly so, 74 percent of Mormons in America lean Republican, 17 percent lean Democrat. I mean, I guess that would mean Romney is more powerful than Reid, what does this mean?

COPPINS: He's certainly better liked and has much higher favorable ratings. Although, when he ran -- when Mitt Romney ran in 1994, his kind of foray into politics, there was a small but very vocal group called Mormons Against Romney, that would show up at his events and heckle him, would leak information to "The Boston Globe". So --

BURNETT: They would show up and heckle?

COOPINS: They would heckle him, yes. They would ask him questions about, you know, his record and about his position on abortion. So there's been always kind of this group of liberal Mormons that's dogged him throughout his political career.

BURNETT: So, Romney, obviously, is very powerful in the Mormon business community, in the Mormon Church. Does he have enemies in the church, in the business community, that people that -- you know, have heard of, that would have this kind of bone to pick?

COPPINS: Yes. Well, like said, the Massachusetts Mormon community is probably one of the most liberal in the country. And it's still, you know, fairly conservative.

BURNETT: It is for Massachusetts.

COPPINS: Right, right. And so it's certainly not hard to believe there would be people who would be in Reid's rolodex and would say, you know, Reid, I've got an interesting bit of gossip for you.

BURNETT: Really?

COPPINS: So, you know, we have no idea, obviously, Reid won't release his sources. But if there is something like this, it stands to reason that it comes from the Mormon.

BURNETT: All right. As a reporter, who also happens to be a Mormon, should Reid put out his sources?

COPPINS: Absolutely. Of course.

BURNETT: Why not, right?

COPPINS: He wants Romney to be transparent. Reid should be transparent.

But this is all a parlor game. I mean, he -- no one expects anyone to really say anything, but it's just a matter of trying to control the conversation.

BURNETT: So we did our -- we asked our political strike team. These are independents, you're on it, to weigh in on who's winning now, Mitt or Harry. Sixty-three percent said Harry Reid, which sort of surprised me only because Reid came out and said, I have a source that's telling me, you know, something -- pretty incredible accusation.

What did you think? Have you voted and why?

COPPINS: I said Harry Reid was winning as well. It's almost one of these sad situations in politics where the truth is kind of beside the point. When you're talking about who's winning and losing, Harry Reid has kept this stuff in the headlines and that's what he's wanted to do. Every day that we talk about this stuff is a day Mitt Romney is losing.

BURNETT: And here we are talking about it.

COPPINS: And here we are talking about, right.

BURNETT: All right. McKay, always good to see you, appreciate it.

And next, a happy birthday to a true original.


BURNETT: We'd like to wish a very happy birthday to a true original. Today is Garrison Keillor's 70th birthday. The author, radio host and humorous has entertained a loyal following with unique style of wholesome Americana storytelling for 43 years.


GARRISON KEILLOR, AUTHOR/HUMORIST: Breakfast in that cold, cold house in the morning. My father believed if you couldn't see your breath, you were wasting fuel.



BURNETT: Now, I grew up listening to Garrison Keillor's weekly radio show called "The Prairie Home Companion." My ad would put it on on Saturday night. And I love it, blazing fire, Garrison Keillor, you heard the voice. It makes for a cozy winter night.

The show takes place in the supposedly fictional town which goes by Lake Wobegon. It's rooted in Minnesota's background and pokes a lot of fun at Lutherans. Garrison Keillor's tales can also be rather poignant, though, like in some of his stories about love between the no longer young.

And he finds some really great music acts. Rosanne Cash was on recently. She was great. That's my favorite part of the show.

One reason I decided I liked Garrison him as a kid was how he said good-bye every night.


KEILLOR: And that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.



BURNETT: Ever see those t-shirts for little boys and girls that used to say, "I got my dad's brains and my mom's looks"? I used to see them in airports and knickknack stores and places like Florida -- I remember one there. I hope they don't make them anymore. I'd like to think that Garrison's line sort of throwing all stereotypes on their heads played a role in ending that sort of thing.

Keillor once said he'd retire at age 70, but thank God he rescinded that threat saying the show is going well, why quit? Well, here's one person saying I hope he never does. From a big fan, happy birthday, Garrison.

Thanks for watching. "A.C. 360" starts now.