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Blizzard Strands Thousands in Denver; Interview With Minnesota Congressman-Elect Keith Ellison; Defense Secretary Robert Gates Meets With U.S. Troops in Iraq

Aired December 21, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump gets very personal in his war with Rosie O'Donnell. And a winter storm strands thousands, threatening to paralyze holiday travel.

ANNOUNCER: Winter's first blast -- digging out in Denver, holiday travelers still stranded -- tonight, where the storm is headed next.

A racist letter?

REP. VIRGIL GOODE JR. (R), VIRGINIA: I do not apologize. And I do not retract my letter.

ANNOUNCER: A congressman blasts a new colleague's plan to use the Koran, instead of the Bible, at his swearing-in. The man under fire for his faith responds on 360.

KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: We can't say that we are going to be intolerant, when that's what the terrorists say.

ANNOUNCER: Rosie vs. the Donald -- the war of words is far from over.


ANNOUNCER: And it gets even nastier.

TRUMP: She's unattractive in every sense of the word. She looks like hell.

ANNOUNCER: Plus: praying for a miracle -- those desperate to become parents get help from the Madonna of childbirth. Good faith or good luck?


ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Reporting tonight from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper. COOPER: Thanks for joining us. Want to welcome our American viewers and everyone around the world right now on CNN International.

One of the busiest travel days of the year was brought to a standstill today. Denver International Airport became a hotel for thousands of stranded passengers, who simply had nowhere to go. Many will be spending another night there. A massive blizzard forced the airport to close yesterday, may not reopen until tomorrow afternoon.

And, while the snow buried parts of the West, it caused complete chaos across the country, shutting down highways, canceling literally hundreds of flights, all of this, of course, on the first day of winter, and a reality check for us all.

CNN's Gerri Willis reports.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR (voice-over): Denver was frozen, no mail, no buses, no driving. It was the worst storm the area has seen since 2003. The snow fell nonstop for 24 hours.

It was a walloping storm, closing interstates, from Colorado, to New Mexico, to Kansas, to Nebraska, and dumping two feet of snow on Denver. I-70 near the city was still deserted today, even after the sun came out. For some in Denver, the fun is just beginning.

BARBARA MENDEL, RESIDENT OF DENVER, COLORADO: We're going to be trying to snowshoe over here.

WILLIS: Barbara Mendel and her husband didn't bother to dig out their car. They conquered the snow the old-fashioned way, on snowshoes.

Others got out their shovels and went to work, digging themselves and their neighbors out. A day off for some became a nightmare for others. The Denver Airport, once touted as impervious to extreme weather, saw 5,000 people stranded. The airport is providing cots and toiletries. And most travelers tried to make the best of being stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like the airport at Denver so well, I'm still here.

WILLIS: But with 1,600 flights canceled and the airport scheduled to remain closed until noon on Friday, some travelers were feeling desperate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been at the bar.


WILLIS: And though plows worked furiously to clear the runways, with so many flights canceled, it could be days before everybody gets out.

Some passengers have already been told they will be celebrating a white Christmas in the airport.


WILLIS: So, Anderson, obviously, people who were driving tonight had a whole lot more luck than people who were flying out.

We're starting to see the highways open up already. Obviously, the streets around here are already being cleared. And the good news here is that, with all the snow, even so, there have been no traffic fatalities here in Denver -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gerri, thanks very much.

Now, for the latest on the nasty weather, see where the storm is headed, let's go to meteorologist Reynolds Wolf at CNN Weather Center in Atlanta.

Reynolds, how does it look?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Anderson, let's give you the good news first.

The good news is that we have no blizzard watches or warnings anywhere in the country at this time. That's the good news. The bad news is, we're not exactly out of the wood just -- woods just yet. And the reason why is, this storm system is still brewing up all kinds of problems. Now it's moving into the Great Lakes, primarily though, in the form of rain.

If you look at the bottom of this system, this frontal boundary, as it sweeps along the Gulf Coast, has been bringing some very heavy rainfall to parts of Louisiana. In fact, near New Orleans, they have had anywhere from four to six inches of rainfall.

And with more shower activity forming farther back to the west, we could see some flooding potential in the New Orleans area, as well as other parts of the Gulf Coast, say, the Florida Panhandle, as well as Mobile, Alabama, tomorrow, as we make our way into tomorrow.

Now, in terms of travel, what is this going to mean for you, the consumer, going out there, trying to see your loved ones over the holidays? Well, for tomorrow, as well as Saturday, I would look for quite a few delays along the Eastern Seaboard. And heavy rainfall can be expected.

But, also, a surprise winter storm in parts of central and west Texas will be a possibility. That definitely is going to cause some delays. And wouldn't you know it? Back in the Pacific Northwest, it looks like we're going to see some scattered showers from Seattle southward to about Redding, California.

But, in the higher elevations, you better believe it. We're definitely going to see some snowfall there as well.

So, again, Anderson, in terms of the snow, we look like things are much better off, but, still, it's going to be a different flavor of weather to deal with for tomorrow.

COOPER: Yes, the bottom line is, if you are traveling, if you're taking a flight anywhere in the country, you better check before you leave, make sure that flight hasn't been canceled.

WOLF: Absolutely.

COOPER: Reynolds, thanks.


WOLF: And be patient.



COOPER: A lot of patience is going to be necessary.

The political weather is heating up, also, even though the new Congress won't be in Washington for another two weeks. That's because the first order of business will be swearing in the lawmakers, usually not a controversial thing.

The country's first-ever Muslim congressman, Democrat Keith Ellison of Minnesota, wants to use a Koran, instead of a Bible, during the ceremonial photo-op. But a Republican lawmaker from Virginia doesn't like that idea at all.

CNN's Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressman Virgil Goode is proud to have the Ten Commandments on his office wall. He's not about to take back what wrote about an incoming Muslim congressman, no matter who's offended.

REP. VIRGIL GOODE, (R) VIRGINIA: No, I do not apologize. And I do not retract my letter. The letter stands for itself.


KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: My name's Keith Ellison. I'm running for United States Congress.


TODD: The letter was about incoming Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, who plans to use the Koran at his unofficial swearing-in. There are no holy books from any religion used in official congressional oaths.

Responding to letters from constituents, Goode wrote back: "I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. If American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."

When we pressed Goode on whether against Ellison using the Koran at his swearing in:

GOODE: That's the call for the voters in that district in Minnesota on whom they elect.

TODD: That whoever had a measured response to Goode's comments when interviewed by Wolf Blitzer.


ELLISON: There might be a few things about Muslims that he might want to know. He might want to know that Muslims, there are about five million in the country, that they are here to support and strengthen America.


TODD: Goode made it clear he couldn't disagree more.

GOODE: I fear that, in the next century, we will have many more Muslims in the United States, if we do not adopt strict immigration policies.

TODD: Outrage is pouring in from other members of Congress. When she took the oath, Debbie Wasserman Schultz used a Jewish holy book for her swearing-in. What does she think of Virgil Goode's concerns about a Muslim congressman?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Bigotry is -- is what I think of it. And I think he not only owes an apology to his constituents, but he owes an apology to all Americans.

TODD (on camera): Some members of Congress outraged, others under pressure -- the Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on the House Republican leadership to repudiate Virgil Goode's comments. We tried repeatedly to reach the offices of outgoing House Speaker Dennis Hastert and outgoing House Majority Leader John Boehner. Their press secretaries did return our calls and e-mails.

Brian Todd, CNN, Rocky Mount, Virginia.


COOPER: Well, you heard a little bit from congressman-elect Keith Ellison there.

Earlier, I talked with him about his faith, his politics, and the whole controversy over his swearing-in.


COOPER: Congressman Ellison, when you first heard what Representative Goode said, were you surprised?

ELLISON: I can't claim that I was surprised.

But, you know, the fact is, is that people are going to express various points of view. You know, I just keep saying that we have got to come together as a country, and that diversity is a great strength of our nation, and that, no matter what book anybody may want to use at the swearing-in, that we're swearing in to support one Constitution.

COOPER: I want to read you something that Representative Goode said to his constituents in this letter he sent out.

He said: "The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district. And, if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."

Do you -- do you think this guy is a bigot?

ELLISON: Well, you know, I'm not going to call names.

What I will say is that, you know, I don't happen to be an immigrant. I mean, I support new Americans. And I'm glad to have them here strengthening our country. But I trace my ancestral roots very deep in American history. So, I don't see the connection between the immigration issue and -- and my election. But...

COOPER: So, is he just using -- is this politics on his part, or is it just ignorance? Or what do you think is going on?

ELLISON: Well, you know, I'm not going to guess about his particular motive. But I will say that, from a factual standpoint, he has a few problems there.

But I will say this. You know -- you know, it's -- diversity is a strength, you know? And we should say that, you know, when we have people who have all faiths, all colors, all cultures in our country, that makes our country more capable, more aware of -- of things around the world.

You know, we have people who have experiences that are diverse, and can really blend themselves to make our country better off. This is not something to be afraid of. It's not something to worry about. It's something that we all just need to look at and -- and take it as part of the great blessing of our country.

COOPER: Your supporters have pointed to the irony that, you know, the -- the Bush administration has sent out Karen Hughes around the world to try to tell people about how Muslims here are treated here, and how they're, you know, part of American society. And, yet, on the other hand, you have this congressman who is sending out this letter.

And I want to read something else that -- that he says in this letter: "I fear that, in the next century, we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped."

What do you think his message is?

ELLISON: Well, I think he's pretty clear about his message. I would like to meet him one day and sort of talk to him. But, you know, Anderson...

COOPER: What would you say?

ELLISON: Well, I would say, hey, look, you know, we need to -- to have some dialogue about what our various faith traditions of this world actually are about.

COOPER: Congressman Ellison, welcome to Washington.


ELLISON: Hey, thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, if Keith Ellison takes his oath of office on the Koran, he will not be the first to buck tradition. Here's the "Raw Data."

In 1825, John Quincy Adams took his presidential oath on a law volume, instead of Bible. In 1853, Franklin Pierce affirmed the oath, rather than swearing it. He passed on the Bible. In 1929, Herbert Hoover, a Quaker, also affirmed the oath, instead of swearing, but did use a Bible. Teddy Roosevelt took a pass on the Bible for his first oath of office in 1901. He used it, however, in 1905.

Well, instead of giving orders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates did some serious listening today -- next on 360, what rank-and-file troops in Baghdad have to say about a controversial plan to change U.S. strategy in Iraq.

We will also look back at this year's most memorable events, then reveal what you, the viewers, picked as the "Top Story" of 2006. What do you think it was?

And the Donald vs. Rosie, have you been following this stuff? It just keeps getting weirder and weirder. The battle continues. It isn't pretty, but I don't know. It's kind of un -- you can't stop watching it.

We will give you all the details when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, as you all know by now, the Bush administration is in the process of rethinking its Iraq strategy. One idea that is gaining momentum is called a surge, dramatically increasing the number of U.S. forces. In Baghdad today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Iraq's leaders, as well as some rank-and-file U.S. troops, what they think.

This report is from CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, who, by the way, is the only network TV reporter traveling with the defense secretary.


ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, why don't we get something to eat? And then we can sit down and have a conversation.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On his fourth day on the job, second in Iraq, America's new defense secretary invited a small group of 15 frontline troops to breakfast. While he didn't call it a surge, Gates asked a cross-section of soldiers what they thought about sending more troops into Baghdad.

To a man and a woman, they said, bring it on, just the opposite of what top commanders have advised, until now.

Specialist Jason Glenn's response was typical.

SPECIALIST JASON GLENN, DEPLOYED TO IRAQ: I really think we need more troops here. I really think we need more troops in Iraq. I'm just thinking that maybe, with more presence on the ground, more troops might be able to hold them off long enough to where we can actually get some of the Iraqis trained up strong, so that they can hold it themselves.

MCINTYRE: When Gates went around the room, there seemed to be general agreement: More would be better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we do need more troops over here. Having more troops here would help us.

MCINTYRE: To surge or not to surge is the main question Gates is trying to resolve on his whirlwind visit, so the views of the grunts could carry considerable weight.

How do you say no, when the troops you command say they need help?

GATES: They were not hesitant about giving it. I think, like -- like most people on the front lines in a battle, they would always like to have more forces.

MCINTYRE: General John Abizaid argued forcefully in recent months that pouring more U.S. troops into Baghdad would only slow Iraqi process.

Other commanders say, to surge for the sake of surging would do little but to run up the U.S. body count, while providing only temporary relief from the violence.

So, in meetings with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and other members of his government, Gates wanted to find out what Iraq would do if the U.S. buys it more time with an infusion of fresh combat forces.

GATES: One of the strong messages that I received today was the desire of the Iraqi government to take a leadership role in addressing some of the challenges.

MCINTYRE: Following the meetings, Gates said no specific troop numbers were discussed, only broad concepts.


COOPER: And Jamie joins us now live from Baghdad.

I -- I don't mean this flippantly, but will -- but has the secretary of defense ever even left the Green Zone?

MCINTYRE: Not yet, Anderson. But he will today. He plans to leave Baghdad on his way back to Washington and stop at another part of the country, which I'm not free to tell you yet, for security reasons. But the idea is to, again, meet with more commanders, get a little bit broader perspective.

But, you know, it's been a three-day trip. And, frankly, Gates admitted that a lot of this is very new to him. He's gotten a much different perspective in these three days, in the intense meetings he's had, than he did when he was here before in September as a member of the Iraq Study Group.

And he said that, you know, he's got a lot to take in. And he realizes that. And he's really in what he called a listening mode. But, of course, very quickly, he is going to have to decide what it is he wants to recommend to the president.

But he also cautioned, he doesn't think that his recommendation will be the swing vote -- Anderson.

COOPER: It was interesting to hear the -- the, you know, lower- ranking troops talking about that they think, you know, more troops are needed, and then to hear John -- General Abizaid and -- and some of the other, you know, commanders saying, it's probably not a good idea, because it is going to infantilize the Iraqi armed forces.

MCINTYRE: Yes, some people suggest that maybe these troops have been handpicked, because of the answers they were going to give. From all we can tell, that's not the case.

But, you know, it's -- it's natural. These guys are doing a difficult job. Obviously, they feel they need a little more help. The question is, do you send them more help, or do you pull them out? And that's really the -- the question. But it's really understandable. The frontline troops, doing the difficult jobs they're doing here, and meeting with this level of violence, are going to feel like they could use some reinforcements.

COOPER: Yes. It's hard to -- to understand just how difficult the job they're doing every day, and doing it just so remarkably well, until you actually go there and ride around with them, as you have, I know, Jamie.

It's -- it's unbelievable, what they are facing every day.

Jamie McIntyre, thanks for that report.

Hours after Gates talked to the troops in Iraq, four Marines were charged with murder at Camp Pendleton in California. They are accused of a massacre in the Iraqi town of Haditha. Twenty-four Iraqi civilians were shot to death, including women and children.

An attorney for one of the defendants said that the Marines did everything that they were supposed to do in protecting themselves.

CNN's John Roberts now takes us back to that day in Haditha.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 7:00 a.m., November 19: Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, was rolling through Haditha in four Humvees, Corporal James Crossan in the last vehicle.

CORPORAL JAMES CROSSAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: It just happened. Like, the last thing I knew, we were driving back. And we were -- me and T.J., we were just talking crap to one another. And, the next thing I knew, I was down on the ground, and then passing out again.

ROBERTS: T.J. was Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas, killed when a roadside bomb tore through the Humvee. Corporal James Crossan was badly injured, knocked unconscious.

ROBERTS: What happened next depends on who you hear it from. The Marines' initial version of events said, 15 Iraqi civilians were also killed in the bomb blast. Another eight, described as insurgents, were killed when they fired on the convoy.

But local witnesses tell a different story, of Marines on a murderous rampage after the blast -- among the victims, they allege, four unarmed students ordered out of a taxi and onto the ground. Witnesses say they tried to run and were cut down by Marine bullets. Witnesses and survivors say a group of Marines walked from their parked Humvees to the closest house.

KHALID SALMAN AN-SAYIF, HADITHA LOCAL COUNCIL MEMBER (through translator): The U.S. raided the house.

ROBERTS: Khalid Salman An-Sayif's sister and nephew were killed in the attacks. He claims they were murdered, along with the family patriarch. He says seven Iraqis died in that house. These pictures, taken by an Iraqi human rights group, show a trail of blood.

EMAN WALID, WITNESS (through translator): My name is Eman. I'm 9 years old. I'm in fourth grade. ROBERTS: Children were among the only survivors. Eman and her 8-year-old brother told their story to an Iraqi human rights group, at CNN's request.

E. WALID (through translator): First, they shot my father inside the room and set the room on fire. My father's name is Walid. And they killed my grandmother. She was sitting in the living room. Her name is Kamesa (ph) .

ROBERTS: Attorneys representing Marines have given other scenarios, possible sniper fire, fighting for three or more hours. Marines may have been ordered to clear the houses of insurgents.

There is little doubt, though, that the Marines went to a second house, one owned by a family names Yunis.

SAFFA YUNIS SALEM RASIF, WITNESS (through translator): My name is Saffa Yunis Salem Rasif. I am the only one who survived from the Yunis family.

ROBERTS: Iraqi witnesses claim eight people were shot to death here, including six women.

RASIF (through translator): We were inside the house when U.S. forces broke through the door. They killed my father in the kitchen, and the American forces entered the house, and they started shooting with their guns.

ROBERTS: Next, witnesses allege, the Marines moved to houses across the road, gathered several families, separated the women and children, and killed four men, all brothers, inside.

More than 15 hours after the Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb, the bodies of 24 Iraqis were taken to a local hospital and, according to workers there, dumped in front of them.

Corporal Crossan, wounded in that first explosion, doesn't remember what happened.

CROSSAN: It's a tricky situation over there, because the enemy could be anywhere. But, if someone does get hurt, you are going to get angry, and you are going to want to retaliate.

ROBERTS: John Roberts, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, never mind that Christmas is just days away. There is no peace, and not a shred the goodwill, between, oh, goodness, these two, Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell.

The Donald had even more to say tonight. The story just gets more ridiculous by the day. But I know a lot of people want to see it, so we got to tell you about it -- when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, so, this is it, the final stretch of 2006.

Next hour, in the 11:00 hour of 360, we are going to be looking back at some of the year's most unforgettable stories.

We also asked you to tell us what you think the "Top Story" of 2006 was. You have cast your votes. We have counted them. Next hour, we will reveal the winner. Which story do you think it's going to be?


COOPER (voice-over): The year began with hope that, after some 40 hours, 12 trapped miners had miraculously been saved.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... can you confirm for us at this hour? We're being told 12 miners alive.


COOPER: But that information was terribly wrong. We would all soon learn that the news relayed by the rescue team, some 260 feet deep in the ground, had been misunderstood. Twenty-six-year-old Randal McCloy Jr. was the sole survivor in the tragic accident at Sago Mine.

It was only January, the start of a year full of heart-wrenching stories, perhaps nowhere more so than in Darfur, where between 200,000 and 400,000 people have died as a result of a reign of terror led by the pro-government janjaweed militia.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: How many of you lost somebody during this conflict? Almost everybody.

COOPER: 2006 was also a year on the diplomatic edge. Communist North Korea set off an underground nuclear explosion in October.

Not to be upstaged, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also made waves with his nuclear ambitions.

Tensions erupted in the Middle East on a different front, with a bloody monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

(on camera): Each Israeli artillery (INAUDIBLE) knows exactly what (INAUDIBLE) firing at.

(voice-over): The fighting left more than 1,000 dead, and many more wounded.

And, of course, there was Iraq, where the American death toll has reached nearly 3,000 -- that war the key factor that led voters to reject GOP control of Congress in the midterm election.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Tonight is a great victory for the American people.


COOPER: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took the next hit...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After a series of thoughtful conversations, Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed that the timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon.

COOPER: ... the final chapter in a year full of drama, defeat and defiance.


COOPER: Well, so many stories, so many votes -- we heard a lot from you. In the next hour, we will tell you how you voted.

"Unforgettable Stories 2006" starts in about half-an-hour, 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

Of course, this year is ending with kind of a ridiculous, but sort of unforgettable story, the unforgettable feud between Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump. This thing started out ugly. It is only getting worse.

And wait until you hear what the Donald had to say tonight about Rosie, talking to Larry King on his private jet. We will get to that in a moment.

First, want to -- really got to start in the beginning. I remember it well. It was earlier this week when Trump gave Miss USA a second chance. The next day, Rosie went off.


ROSIE O'DONNELL, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": She went to New York, and she was hanging out at all the parties doing what Paris and Lindsay do, you know, dancing, whatever. And so he held a press conference to announce whether or not she was going to retain her crown. And then she started to cry: "I just want to thank Donald for giving me a second chance."


ROSIE O'DONNELL: And there his hair looping, going, "Everyone deserves a second chance, and I'm going to give her a second chance." This guy...

BEHAR: Your hair is perfect for that.

O'DONNELL: Listen -- he annoys me on a multitude of levels. He's the moral authority. Left the first wife, had an affair, left the second wife, had an affair, had kids both times, but he's the moral compass for 20-year-olds in America.

Donald, sit and spin, my friend. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Sit and spin? She lost me with "sit and spin".

Anyway, clearly, Rosie threw down the gauntlet. Trump, of course, being Trump, picked it up on one of those insider access, "E.T. phone home" kind of shows. Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: Rosie O'Donnell is disgusting, I mean, both inside and out. You take a look at it, she's a slob.


COOPER: he just called her a slob. But he's just getting warmed up. Go on.


TRUMP: So, probably I'll sue her, because it would be fun. I'd like to take some money out of her fat-ass pockets.


COOPER: What did he say? He keeps going. Keep playing.


TRUMP: I'll probably sue Rosie, because she doesn't tell the facts. As an example, I'm worth many billions of dollars. Now it's not to brag about, I'm worth many billions of dollars. It's very simple. She said I was bankrupt.


COOPER: She did say he was bankrupt. He's got that right. Let's keep going.


TRUMP: Rosie is somebody out of control who really just doesn't have it, and she ought to be careful, because I'll send one of my friends to pick up her girlfriend, and I think it would be very easy.


COOPER: Oh, no he didn't! Did he just say that? He did? All right. Here is what Rosie said today.


BEHAR: Do the hair. Come on. Do it.

O'DONNELL: I'm not doing it again.

Listen, it's a live show. You get me while I'm in the mood. Frankly, here's my comment to him.


COOPER: All right. Here's what Donald said about the face thing.


TRUMP: Well, Rosie's a loser. She's always been a loser. I've always understood it. She failed with her magazine. She failed with her show, as you know, at the end. It was doing very poorly in terms of the rating.

Rosie is really somebody that she's unattractive in every sense of the word. From a physical standpoint, she looks like hell. Inside, she's far worse than she is on the outside. And I understand Rosie. But Rosie inherently is a loser.


COOPER: This thing just keeps going on and on. Here's what he said to Larry King.


TRUMP: The best thing Rosie has going is her girlfriend, Kelli. Now, if Kelli ever leaves Rosie she'll never find another one, believe me. Because who's going to want Rosie? How would you like to have to kiss that good night, Larry? That would not be for you.


COOPER: Barbara Walters also chimed in today in a statement. She said, and I quote -- I got to read this thing -- "Donald Trump is a personal friend of mine and has been a good friend to 'The View' for many years. I'm sorry there's friction between Donald and Rosie. That said, I do not regret for one moment my choice to hire Rosie O'Donnell as the moderator of 'The View'. I certainly hope and expect that this tempest will pass quickly."

I hope so, too.

A quick ending, but I don't think that's actually going to happen. Rosie and the Donald, they've got a record of picking fights with famous people.

Up next, a look at their celebrity beefs. Are they for real or just publicity stunts? Gosh, what do you guys think, huh? Could this possibly just be a publicity stunt?

Plus, couples desperate to have kids flocking to a centuries old church, in search of a miracle. Why some many believe the sacred place can help where modern medicine cannot. That's later on 360.



O'DONNELL: Left the first wife, had an affair, left the second wife, had an affair.

TRUMP: Rosie is a loser. She's always been a loser. I've always understood it.


COOPER: I'm sorry. I've seen it like ten times and still, I love watching it. Rosie, come on, guys. What about the holiday spirit? Huh?

While Barbara Walters hopes they bury the hatchet, Trump and O'Donnell, I think they're just getting started. After all, we have seen them do this before, sparring with different partners and following the same pattern.

Here's a brief history. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): If picking fights is part of their P.R. ...

TRUMP: Rosie is a loser.

O'DONNELL: Here he is, hair looping...

COOPER: ... then Rosie and Donald seem to be the biggest bullies in the schoolyard. Both seem to follow a simple strategy: one, be mean.

O'DONNELL: Because this man is like sort of one of those, you know, snake oil salesmen.

COOPER: Two, have the target play along.

TRUMP: I'd like to take some money out of her fat-ass pockets.

COOPER: And three, watch the buzz explode. The more bitter the feud, the better the ratings. At least, that's what it looks like to us.

After all, we've seen it before with these two. Let's start with O'Donnell.

Back in 1999 on Rosie's talk show she invited Tom Selleck on as a guest. He thought he was going to promote a new project. Instead, Rosie attacked him for belonging to the NRA.

TOM SELLECK, ACTOR: I can't speak for the NRA...

O'DONNELL: But you're their spokesman, Tom. You have to be responsible for what they say.

SELLECK: I'm not responsible. O'DONNELL: But if you put your name out and say, "I, Tom Selleck"...

SELLECK: Wait a minute. Don't put words in my mouth. I'm not a spokesperson.

O'DONNELL: You're saying that you...

SELLECK: Remember how calm you said -- you would be -- now you're questioning my humanity.

COOPER: Trump's no stranger to feuds either. Remember his fight with Martha Stewart? Believing "The Apprentice" suffered because of her reality show, he went on the attack on "LARRY KING".

TRUMP: People thought it was horrible. Her perform was horrible, everything. The show failed, and she blamed me. She blamed me because her show failed.

COOPER: He also sent her an open letter calling Stewart's performance, quote, "terrible."

Stewart responded, saying Trump was mean-spirited and reckless. But on "LARRY KING", she downplayed their war of words.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Where is the feud?


KING: Why did he get so mad?

STEWART: I have no idea. And I think he's -- I think he is a very interesting character. And he's -- I don't think he liked two "Apprentices" on at the same time, as I didn't. But I have no ill feelings.

COOPER: Sometimes not everyone takes the bait. Like when Rosie tried to take on Kelly Ripa.

O'DONNELL: Clay Aiken was guest hosting for Regis, filling in with Kelly Ripa. And apparently, it didn't go well.


Don't know where that hand's been, honey.

O'DONNELL: Now, listen. To me, that's a homophobic remark.

COOPER: Kelly called in but never stooped to name-calling.

RIPA: I'm watching the show, Rosie. I love you dearly. I have to strongly, strongly disagree. I think what you said is downright outrageous. Let me explain why.

O'DONNELL: You know, I come from my perspective; you come from yours. I love you. You talk on your show; I talk on mine. Say it.

COOPER: The lesson is that, in celebrity feuds, it takes two to tangle. And that's why the Donald and Rosie are a perfect pair.


COOPER: So Rosie said Donald was bankrupt, he threatened to sue her. Does he actually have a case? After what he called her, does Rosie have a case?

Joining me now, CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Court TV -- who can't believe we called him for this. And Court TV anchor, Lisa Bloom.

First, Jeff, I know you were listening to Trump calling in from his private jet on to "LARRY KING".

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I was going to appear here from my private jet but I decided to come in.

COOPER: Yes. For those who happened to miss it, I just want to play what he said. And by the way, you can have some popcorn while listening to this.


TRUMP: Well, my lawyers want to sue. It's an easy lawsuit. She's obviously very concerned, because when she went on her show today, she looked like a mess.


COOPER: I -- non-sequitur. Is there an actual lawsuit here?

TOOBIN: No, no, no. It's actually an interesting legal question here.

COOPER: That's why we brought you here.

TOOBIN: Despite -- despite everything. The Supreme Court says any...

COOPER: That's what you tell yourself so you can sleep tonight.

TOOBIN: Any opinion cannot be a basis for a lawsuit. It has to be a false factual statement.

COOPER: But she said he has been bankrupt.

TOOBIN: Well, he has been bankrupt. His company...

COOPER: A company of his.

TOOBIN: ... of his in New Jersey has been bankrupt. So that's the only even arguable point. But she said he's immoral.

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: And that he's had affairs.

TOOBIN: He's had affairs.

BLOOM: That's arguably -- this man has had affairs and he's bankrupt. Those are the two factual statements, right?

TOOBIN: OK, fine. So if they're false...

BLOOM: The question is, does it hold him up to disrepute in his profession, right?

COOPER: His lawyers -- his lawyers want to sue.

BLOOM: Well, that's so obviously untrue. OK, lawyers want to sue if they're getting paid hourly. Then they probably want to sue. I doubt they would do it for a contingency. Because what is he suffering?


BLOOM: What is his loss? This is great for him.

TOOBIN: It's not just that it holds him up to disrepute. It has to be false. So you can't...

BLOOM: I'm asking now, he's a public figure.

TOOBIN: Yes, that's right. But something like immoral, that's a statement of opinion. I think Donald Trump is a horse's ass. That's an opinion. You can't prove that that's false.

COOPER: I just want Donald to know, Jeff Toobin said that.

TOOBIN: That's right. But that -- those are opinions. And you can never sue for those. And yes, the bankruptcy, but he has -- his company has been bankrupt. His affairs, well, I don't know if he wants to take depositions on that. I suppose -- I suppose -- I would like to cover those depositions.

BLOOM: You can't just sue someone because they say mean nasty things about you on TV, especially if you're a public figure.

And look what he does in return. Dozens of times he talks about how she's physically unattractive, because you know, she doesn't starve herself and have plastic surgery like most of the women on TV, especially on his shows.

TOOBIN: Don't mess with Rosie. Because you remember in the magazine, her former publisher, Gruner and Jahr, sued her. And Rosie had every opportunity to sue. It cost her a fortune.

COOPER: Opportunity to settle.

TOOBIN: Settle, I'm sorry. To settle. And she went to trial. She paid her lawyers a fortune, and there were no damages. Rosie won that case. So, you know, Rosie's a tough character. BLOOM: Yes, but it was a wash.

TOOBIN: No, Rosie was hauled into court.

BLOOM: What did she win?

TOOBIN: She won a dismissal of the charges against her. I mean, that's a huge thing.

COOPER: Obviously -- obviously, that was important to her.

BLOOM: That's how this would go. If there was a lawsuit and a countersuit, it would drag on forever. The lawyers would win. Ultimately, it would be a wash. It would be a wash.

TOOBIN: We would win because we would cover it and we would say there are important legal issues, and it would be great.

COOPER: I'm sorry. I hate to be so cynical, but everybody would win in this case, because the ratings for "The View" would go up, because Rosie O'Donnell would talk about this every day.

BLOOM: And they have been up.

COOPER: They have been up. They have been up. And she tried to go after Oprah Winfrey. She tried to go after Kelly Ripa.

BLOOM: Everybody except Donald seems to be aware of that.

COOPER: And so clearly, that's part of...

TOOBIN: What you're saying is that this would be really a public service for Donald to bring this case and I agree. And I think he should.

BLOOM: His main complaint seems to be that she has the gall to be a woman on television who looks like a regular person, who's opinionated, who doesn't try to make herself into something that she's not.

What is his No. 1 gripe? Listen to what he says.

COOPER: The ratings were terrible.

BLOOM: His No. 1 gripe is she's unattractive. She's not Miss USA looking. She doesn't look like one of Donald Trump's wives. She looks like herself. That's his No. 1gripe. He said it probably two dozen times in the last couple days.

COOPER: He also said he wanted to -- that it would be easy to get money out of her...

BLOOM: And steal her girlfriend. Very strange comments about stealing her girlfriend.

TOOBIN: Pristine logical argument I thought that Donald was making. You couldn't just graph what he was saying, exactly.

COOPER: Lawyers have to calibrate it a bit more.

TOOBIN: Yes, but I think there is potential there, at least for us.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Toobin.

BLOOM: You're having too much fun.

COOPER: We're done with this today. But it's been something.

BLOOM: It's a great story.

TOOBIN: We're done?

COOPER: Yes, we're done.

TOOBIN: We can't do the whole next hour?

BLOOM: Nobody is hurt. Nobody's dead. For our -- from our point of view, this is great.

COOPER: You guys will like this story, so just stick around. Rosie O'Donnell feud began, of course, with the Miss USA controversy -- controversy, whatever.

There's another one, that's right. It's tonight's "Shot". These photos appear on the web site Say hello to Katie Rees. Up until today, she was Miss USA Nevada, but after pictures turned up, she was stripped of her sash. They took the sash away.

BLOOM: Oh, no.

COOPER: Some of the photos are explicit, showing Rees doing things -- doing things with her body and other bodies that pageant officials deemed inappropriate and unsuitable for a contestant. I think she kissed someone else. I think that was the big deal.

TOOBIN: They put warning graphic content on there, because that means no one will look. Because you know, if it's graphic, people stay away from that.

BLOOM: Little tiny bikini, OK.

COOPER: The tale of Miss Nevada USA did not make our list of 2006 Most Unforgettable Stories you'll be surprised to know. Many did, like the manhunt for polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, his legal woes and some of the other big stories of the year are coming up in our next hour.

But first, though, more serious story. Thousands of couples desperate to be parents are flocking to an ancient church to pray for a miracle. Why so many people believe that this one church can make their dreams come true. We'll tell you about that when 360 continues.


COOPER: Infertility affects about six million people in the U.S. alone. The problem, of course, is heartbreaking for a lot of couples who are desperately trying to have a child.

Most people turn to modern medicine for help conceiving, but there are those who are willing to travel thousands of miles in search of what they hope will be a miracle.

Here's CNN's faith and values correspondent, Delia Gallagher.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds, even thousands of faithful come to this church in Rome each week. Many are women who have all but given up on having a child. And they are desperate for a miracle.

From the outside, the Church of Sant'Agostino looks like so many in Rome. Built in the 13th century, its facade is said to be made of stones from ruins of the Roman Coliseum.

Inside, there's the tomb of St. Monica, Mother Sant'Agostino, and this, the Madonna dei Pellegrini by Caravaggio, a once controversial painting depicting the Virgin Mary in a less than sacred setting.

But look at this. This is why these women come. It's Iacopo Sansovini's Madonna del Parto, the Madonna of childbirth.

Often accompanied by their husbands, they are drawn to the statue. They sometimes cry and always pray.

Father Bernardino Pinciarolli is the friar of Sant'Agostino. He says he has seen the sorrow and the hope in the eyes of couples who ask for something that appears to come so easily to others but for them is so elusive.

FATHER BERNARDINO PINCIAROLLI, FRIAR OF SANT'AGOSTINO (through translator): This is the most beautiful thing, to see these women and next to them their husbands with the same sadness, but at the same time seeing that there is joy in the request.

GALLAGHER: For 500 years believers have come here to ask for their tiny miracles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I have always prayed to this Madonna. I prayed to her every time I've been with child, and now I'm a mother of three. So I've become devoted to her.

GALLAGHER: So many of the women who came to pray wouldn't speak to us on camera. But Louisa, here to give thanks for her three healthy children, told us there are many stories of how the Madonna helped women whose only wish was to have a child.

There's no question that those who visit the Madonna believe in miracles, perhaps with good reason. Father Bernardino says the church doesn't keep count of how many babies have been born after parents came to pray at the statue, but he does know how many have returned through the years to show their gratitude.

From the thousands of photographs kept carefully in albums. Overjoyed parents with their newborns and baby booties, ribbons, toys pinned to the walls. Tokens of thanks from thousands of grateful mothers and fathers.

PINCIAROLLI (through translator): I've seen and heard extraordinary things. Sometimes they come here from baptisms and say, "Lord, this child was given us to by Mary." It's a beautiful thing.

GALLAGHER: The Madonna and her child, bringing hope to couples who seem to have so little. The miracle of childbirth has a special meaning here.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


COOPER: Well, coming up, the unforgettable stories of 2006. But first, Kathleen Kennedy from Headline News joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Kathleen.


Police in Suffolk County, England, say they charged a man in the murders of five prostitutes whose bodies were found earlier this month. Forty-eight-year-old Stephen Wright was arrested at his home Tuesday.

Investigators say Wright, a truck driver, lived near one of the victims in the red light district in Ipswich. A second suspect who was arrested Monday has been released on bail.

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed a civil union law for gay couples today. The legislation gives gay couple all the same rights as married couples but not the title. New Jersey is now the third state offering civil unions to gay couples.

Bad weather is making it tough for NASA to pick a landing site for the Space Shuttle Discovery. The space agency planned to bring Discovery home Friday after a 13-day mission. Now rain is in the forecast at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and crosswinds are expected at Edwards Air Force Base. NASA says it's even considering landing the shuttle in New Mexico. NASA says it will make a final decision tomorrow.

And big news for Harry Potter fans. Author J.K. Rowling has announced the name of the new Harry Potter book. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" will be the seventh and final installment of the popular series. No publication date has been set. A movie based on the fifth book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", hits theaters July 13.

Anderson, back to you. COOPER: Thanks very much.

In just a few minutes, "Top Stories of 2006". We asked you to vote, and tonight we reveal the winner. We're in the holiday spirit. So here's a hint. It's one of these five.

Iraq made an avalanche of headlines in 2006, of course, as it slid toward civil war. As the death toll rose, American support fell.

Also, the Republicans know that better than anyone. Iraq helped Democrats take back control of the Congress.

2006 was also a breakout year for immigration reform, the debate taking on new momentum in Congress and across the country.

Darfur sadly remained a measure of how brutal we humans can be. Hundreds of thousands dead and counting.

And we were there as the Middle East exploded, an all-out battle this summer between Hezbollah and Israel.

2006, an unforgettable year. The top story ahead on 360.


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