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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

They're Innocent; Imus without a Show

Aired April 11, 2007 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE EVANS, FORMER DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER: ... 395 days since this nightmare began and finally today it's come to a closure.

COLLIN FINNERTY, FORMER LACROSSE PLAYER: Knowing I had the truth on my side was really the most comforting thing of all throughout the past year.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Collin Finnerty, Dave Evans and Reade Seligmann never wavered from their original statements to police that they had not raped an exotic dancer hired to perform at a team party last spring.

READE SELIGMANN, FORMER DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER: This entire experience has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice I never knew existed.

CARROLL: The rape charges had already been dropped, but in a dramatic news conference, Attorney General Roy Cooper said he was also dismissing the remaining kidnapping and assault charges.

ROY COOPER, N.C. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations.

CARROLL: Cooper called Michael Nifong, the Durham district attorney who originally brought the case, a rogue prosecutor who had overreached his authority.

R. COOPER: The Durham district attorney pushed forward unchecked. There were many points in this case where caution would have served justice better than bravado. And in the rush to condemn, a community and a state lost the ability to see clearly.

CARROLL: Defense attorneys also criticize how the media initially covered the case.

JIM COONEY, ATTORNEY FOR READE SELIGMANN: If they had done what journalists are supposed to do and spoken truth to power, they could have slowed this train down.

CARROLL: But the harshest criticism was leveled against Nifong, who had publicly criticized the players for months, but then when the allegations began unraveling, asked the attorney general to take over the case. Nifong now faces ethics charges on allegations he mishandled the case and kept exculpatory evidence from the defense. Nifong hasn't publicly responded to those allegations.

Reade Seligmann says Nifong didn't do enough to uphold the moral obligations of his office.

SELIGMANN: If police officers and a district attorney can systematically railroad us with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, I can't imagine what they'd do to people who do not have the resources to defend themselves.

CARROLL: Defense attorneys say the final act of justice should be to remove Nifong from office and have him disbarred.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Jason, has anyone seen this young woman? Anyone know where she is or is she going to make any kind of statement?

CARROLL (on camera): Well, the family relative that we have been dealing with, Anderson, does in fact, know where this young woman is. She has been in hiding, as you know, ever since this case came to light. She's going to continue to keep a low profile until she can decide what her next move will be.

COOPER: But they're -- there is not going to be any charges against her?

CARROLL: No. The attorney general has made it clear that they will not pursue criminal charges against her. Defense sources tell us -- have made it very clear that they will not pursue civil charges against her.

However, Anderson, those same defense sources tell us that they will likely try to proceed with civil -- a civil suit against the District Attorney Michael Nifong and possibly even Duke University -- Anderson.

A. COOPER: Jason Carroll, thanks.

You couldn't watch today's news conference and not be struck by the toll the last year has clearly taken on these three players and their families.

We heard it straight from the men themselves. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SELIGMANN: Today marks the end of a year-long nightmare that has been emotionally devastating for all of our families.

A. COOPER: For Reade Seligman and Collin Finnerty, the nightmare began last April, when they were arrested for rape. Weeks later, David Evans was also charged and said this before surrendering to police. DAVID EVANS, FORMER DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER: I am innocent. Reade Seligmann is innocent. Colin Finnerty is innocent. You have all been told some fantastic lies. And I look forward to watching them unravel in the weeks to come.

A. COOPER: The D.A.'s case did unravel, of course, but it became clear today that what was taken from these three young men cannot be returned.

FINNERTY: It's been a very long and emotional year for me, for all of us. At points it was tough to see the light and to even imagine a day without this weight on our shoulders.

A. COOPER: After their arrests, Finnerty and Seligmann, both Duke sophomores, were placed on administrative leave. Evans graduated from Duke the weekend before his arrest.

For the next 12 months, all three would close ranks with their families. Today they thanked them.

EVANS: They kept me close, and this could have separated us all, but we stayed close and we're a stronger family because of it.

SELIGMANN: My parents are the toughest, most loving parents anyone could ever ask for and I'm inspired by the courage and strength shown by my family.

FINNERTY: My family has always stood behind me and they're with me with support from the first minute this case broke.

A. COOPER: Duke invited Finnerty and Seligmann to return to campus, but neither has. Seligmann is now being recruited by Brown University's Lacrosse Team.

Both men are eager to leave their nightmare behind.

FINNERTY: I'm excited to return to being a college student. I hope to return to the field again to play LaCrosse. I can't wait to return to a normal life back in Long Island.

A. COOPER: But moving on is not the same as forgetting. And these three men want everyone to remember what happened to them.

EVANS: I hope that something good can come from this in this past year that was robbed from our lives -- all of them of the Duke University Men's Lacrosse Team have gone to hell and back, but I hope and all of us sincerely hope, that it was not in vain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

A. COOPER (on camera): The three young men also thanked their attorneys today, saying that they owed their lives to them. I talked with two of the lawyers earlier, Joe Cheshire -- actually, I didn't talk to Jim Cheshire. I talked to Jim Coony and Wade Smith.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) A. COOPER: Mr. Coony, how did this happen? The attorney general today didn't mince any words. He said that the way the investigation was carried out shows, and I quote, "that the eyewitness identification procedures were faulty and unreliable, no DNA confirms the accuser's story. No other witness confirms her story. Other evidence contradicts her story. She contradicts herself. How did it get this far?

JIM COONEY, ATTORNEY FORE READE SELIGMANN: Well, the problem is we had a prosecutor who simply wasn't interested in finding the facts. He had his theory of the case. He believed he new what the truth was and he really wasn't interested in either hearing evidence from us or in hearing what the actual facts were because it didn't serve his purposes; and frankly, once he took over the investigation, it got shut down.

A. COOPER: Mr. Smith, why do you think the accuser made these allegations?

WADE SMITH, ATTORNEY FOR COLLING FINNERTY: There is no way on earth to know why the accuser did what she did. But what we know is that the truth of the matter is that the way these accusers can be stopped from doing damage is prosecutors investigating and police departments investigating.

A. COOPER: Mr. Smith, how do you think race has played into this? Reverend Jesse Jackson was leading demonstrations, writing editorials about this. How big a factor was race?

SMITH: Well, race may have been a factor. There were many factors. We have athletes involved. We have a major university involved. Town and gown issues. and perhaps racial issues. It was a perfect storm. And race would have only been one of the issues. But I think it did play into it. And it certainly did stir the controversy very strongly.

A. COOPER: What -- was there a rush to judgment in terms of -- in the court of public opinion against your clients, do you believe?

SMITH: Indeed. There was a huge rush to judgment. And a very frightening rush to judgment where people just were uncommonly willing to believe that this happened and they just went with it.

A. COOPER: Mr. Cooney, should the accuser now be charged with something for making false accusations?

COONEY: I think the attorney general made the right decision for a number of reasons. First of all, filing a false police report is only a misdemeanor. We're not talking about a serious offense. It would have required these young men to have had to come back to North Carolina and testify in a trial that would have been an absolute circus with this accuser. And frankly, these young men don't need to have any more contact or connection with this woman again.

A. COOPER: It's not -- Mr. Cooney, it's not an easy thing going against prosecutors for penalties. COONY: Well, it's not. We have a little bit of a difference in this case. First of all, no prosecutor has immunity from obstruction of justice. In addition, when Mr. Nifong took over the police investigation before indictments were issued, and usurped the chain of command, he lost his ability to be absolutely immune. He became a law enforcement officer and not a district attorney at that point. So at best, he only has qualified immunity. And for what he did and said, and refused to do during that time period, he would certainly have the same kind of liability that a police officer who did the same things would have.

A. COOPER: Will they -- they won't go back to Duke. They've been offered to be re-admitted to Duke. That was a while ago, both have declined. Do you know where they're going to go?

COONEY: Well, at this point, certainly Reade hasn't made any final decisions. He hasn't ruled Duke out with 10 percent certainty. The main problem with going back to Duke I Mike ifong is still the elected district attorney in Durham County. And how could any parent send their child back into the county where the district attorney has already tried to railroad them into a 30-year jail sentence.

SMITH: And the truth is, Colin Finnerty loved Duke and he has not ruled Duke out.

A. COOPER: Are you disappointed in how Duke handled this? I know some of the families were.

SMITH: Well, we certainly are disappointed in the way Duke handed it. We haven't heard their side of it yet, but yes, we are -- we were and we are.

A. COOPER: Gentlemen, appreciate your time. Jim Cooney, Wade Smith.

Thank you very much.

Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

A. COOPER: Well, the Duke LaCrosse case had of course been unraveling for sometime. When it finally collapsed today, the way it collapsed could not have been more dramatic or more final.

Joining me now is CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

It does beg the question, how did it get to the point where it -- I mean that it dragged on for so long. And I guess the bottom line answer is this prosecutor.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it was the defense that stretched out. Nifong would have been happy to go to trial right away. The defense said, hey, wait a second. We want to do our own investigation here. We want to find out what the DNA said. We want -- I mean, so the defense, unlike the defendants in most circumstances, had the resources to do their own investigation. And they found the cab driver with the time-stamped receipt.

A. COOPER: It was the defense who found the cab driver?

TOOBIN: Right. The defense found the cab driver. The defense got the ATM receipt that also sustained one of the alibis. I mean, they did all the...

(CROSSTALK)

A. COOPER: So did the police just not do an investigation? I mean, that's what the defense attorneys were saying, is that the -- essentially, the police department there under Nifong didn't do their own investigation.

TOOBIN: They didn't do a competent investigation, that's for sure. And the heart of the problem with the police investigation was that they didn't really go after and examine the accuser and her testimony and her history.

I mean, look, every rape case is about ultimately the word of the accuser. And you know, yes it is true that women who were raped often change their stories, often are so traumatized that they're not perfect witnesses. But this is not an imperfect witness. This is a woman who had a completely different story.

A. COOPER: And who the police seemed to help in her deception. I mean, this lineup which then Nifong later on said, well, it wasn't really an official lineup. They basically showed pictures of LaCrosse players and then other people who couldn't possibly be LaCrosse players. And even then, she misidentified one of the people who she said raped her.

TOOBIN: And just the basic numbers of the issues like how many attackers there were. Her story changed on that. This was beyond the usual confusion of I don't remember whether he had black hair or brown hair. This was basic, basic confusion that she had from day one. And the fact that they didn't work with her and examine her story in detail before bringing the case is just...

(CROSSTALK)

A. COOPER: In one point she said, you know, well, this guy looks -- one of the accused -- this looks like him except he had a mustache and the guy never had a mustache.

TOOBIN: None of these defendants had a mustache.

A. COOPER: What happens to Nifong now?

TOOBIN: Well, his only concern -- and I think frankly, his only concern -- is the bar association investigation. But it's a very serious investigation. There are two parts of it in general. One is, you know, making improper statements to the media, you know, prejudging the case.

Frankly, I think that's less important. You know, especially, you know, those of us in the media, we put microphones in people's faces. We want them to talk. They talk. I have a hard time getting too outraged about that. However, the issue of what was done with the DNA evidence in the case withheld, presented in a misleading way, that is really serious stuff. That is a basic obligation of prosecutors.

A. COOPER: And there's already been sworn testimony by the guy from the DNA lab that he was told to withhold evidence.

TOOBIN: They really may at least censure him, if not disbar him -- Nifong over that, because that's really beyond the pale kind of activity -- behavior, if he did it.

A. COOPER: And the point that Seligmann made, I think, is an important one, which is that it's only because they had access -- these defendants had access to great attorneys that they were able to fight against this. And you think -- and it's the point that Seligmann made today -- how often this stuff happens, how often, you know, I mean no disrespect to police, but they're allowed to lie to people to get them to confess. All of this stuff goes on all the time.

TOOBIN: I found what Reade Seligmann said very moving. And it was somewhat naive, but you know, said, boy, you know, we have all of this money -- he said, you know, we had all of these resources to fight these charges. What happens to people who don't have lawyers like we have? Good question. You know what? A lot of them go to jail for years even though they're innocent.

You know, we have a situation now, where there's the Innocence Project. Barry Scheck (ph) and Peter Newfeldt (ph), who've used DNA evidence to show how many innocent people there are in prison.

But, you know, not everybody can be freed with DNA. Not everybody saved evidence. There's a lot -- there are a lot of cases that simply can't be, you know reinvestigated in that way. And, you know, I don't think there are a lot of innocent people in prison, but there sure are more than there should be. And you know, Reade Seligmann pointing this out, that you need good lawyers, you know, is a good reminder for all of us.

A. COOPER: It certainly is. Jeff Toobin, thanks. Appreciate it.

Up next, Don Imus now without a TV show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A. COOPER (voice-over): More outrage, more fallout. As Don Imus is canceled on TV, an advertiser jumps ship.

Millions are talking and so can you. We're taking your calls at 877-648-3639.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) A. COOPER (on camera): Oops, a little accident there.

His program suspended on Monday, abandoned by more advertisers today, canceled by MSNBC tonight. Broadcaster Don Imus, paying an ever higher price for his racial remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and some (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hos. That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm going to tell you that now.

A. COOPER: Exactly one week after Don Imus made those remarks, his TV job has faded to black.

In a statement issued late today, NBC News said, "effective immediately, MSNBC will no longer simulcast the "Imus in the Morning" radio program. What matters to us most is that the men and women of NBC universal have confidence in the values we have set for this company. This is the only decision that makes that possible. We apologize to the women of the Rutgers basketball team and to our viewers. We deeply regret the pain this incident has caused."

Steve Capus is the president of NBC News.

STEVE CAPUS, PRESIDENT, NBC NEWS: I ask you, what price do you put on your reputation? And the reputation of this news division means more to me than advertising dollars because if you lose your reputation, you lose everything.

A. COOPER: Those advertising dollars were evaporating after more than half a dozen sponsors pulled their spots from his show.

As for his future on the radio, CBS says Imus will be suspended for two weeks without pay beginning this Monday, but add, quote, "During that time, CBS radio will continue to speak with all concerned parties and monitor the situation closely."

Bruce Gordon sits on the board of directors of CBS. He says he'll leave it up to management to decide Imus's future, but on a personal level...

BRUCE GORDON, DIRECTOR, CBS CORP.: I believe that companies across America have to have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to race relations, when it comes to managing diversity.

A. COOPER: This all unfolded after a rally against Imus was held at the Rutgers University campus. Imus has apologized several times, but wants to apologize in person to the women's basketball team. That meeting will take place with Imus having one less outlet for his opinions.

CAPUS: This is about trust. It's about reputation. It's about doing what's right.

A. COOPER: Joining us once again tonight, Writer Amy Holmes, Radio Host and CNN Contributor Roland Martin, along with John Fund (ph) of the "Wall Street Journal." And we're going to be taking your calls in our next couple of blocks.

John, do you think the sponsors of his program would have pulled out with the incessant drum beat of protest and media coverage?

JOHN FUND (ph), "WALL STREET JOURNAL" COLUMNIST: Clearly, it took a whole week for them to suspend them for two weeks and then a day later to fire them. But, you know, this really is a time for us to have real clarity here.

We have to two incidents that occurred in the same day. We have the Duke rape hoax and we have Imus' firing. I think they should teach us something. One is we have two problems in this country. We have a real problem of racism and that has to be eradicated and two, we have a problem of, I think, counterproductive white guilt. It was white guilt, I think, that led us to this rush to judgment of the Duke rape case.

I think it's white guilt that is fuelling Imus's firing at the same time that NBC Universal owns Interscope Records.

Interscope records has a bunch of gangster rap artists who use language that's far worse than Imus. The hypocrisy here is unbelievable. We need to eradicate racism and we need to have to eradicate this double standard we have which means not everybody is treated the same for the same behavior.

A. COOPER: Roland, double standard?

ROLAND MARTIN: Well, what we have in America is a country that is sexist. And again, I made the point, Anderson, and I will keep making the point that Don Imus' comments started with Bernard McGirt (ph) saying hard headed hos, or something along those lines. And so he made the comment first, then Imus followed up. And so we have sexism to deal with. And so it's not just a matter of race. We do have to deal with that. And sure, we certainly should go after it. I've said it, we've spoken out against the lyrics in gangster rap.

FUND: Wait a second. Wait a second, now

(CROSSTALK)

A. COOPER: John, let Roland finish his point.

MARTIN: John, John, John, one second. You're talking to the wrong cat here. Stop using radio, television, newspaper, you name it, to speak out against it.

But Hip-hop is 30 years old. The kind of emphasis that we have, how we denigrate women, existed before hip-hop. I'm not letting them off the hook. What I'm saying is hold them accountable and hold the sexists in our society accountable as well.

A. COOPER: Amy? AMY HOLMES, CONSERVATIVE ANALYIST: Anderson, I actually make a different link between the Duke case and the Don Imus case. And that's one of personal hubris arrogance and categorizing, dehumanizing a group of people, allowing race to cloud your judgment.

So in the case of the Duke prosecutor, the attorney general said that he had lost his way, he lost -- that Nifong, I'm speaking of, had lost his ability to see clearly. And what he saw was three white males who he presumed to be guilty, and what you see then in the Don Imus case -- and again, I don't understand it as a human being, that when he looked at two women's basketball teams playing for a championship, he saw race. And it took that amazing press conference with the coach and her girls to show us that these are human beings. These are people. And in both instances that got completely lost.

A. COOPER: But Amy, at what point is it enough? I mean, we're getting tons of e-mails tonight from people who are saying, look, this has gone too far. You know what? This guy has apologized up and town the block. He's going to apologize again in person to these young ladies. At some point does he deserve another chance?

HOLMES: Well, the point actually, Anderson, where I think it would go too far is he -- if the FCC were to fine him. That, to me, is a government intrusion into free speech but in the marketplace, private companies, board members, CEos, they have the ability. A free market means a free choice to decide who you subsidize, who you finance, what you put on your air. And we discussed it bfore, being a radio show host, was a privilege and it's a privilege that I believe Don Imus abused. And CBS, by the way, used to be called the Tiffany Network.

A. COOPER: We're getting tons of calls on this and e-mails as well. And I want to get them. I want to get as many of them as possible.

When we come back, we'll take your calls and your e-mails on this. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

A. COOPER: Say, we're getting a lot of reaction with the Amish store. It would be like calling the ocean wet. We've done thousands of emails. Here's a sampling from the blog.

Karen in Virginia Beach, Viginia, writes, "could we blow anything up anymore? He made a comment, not in a hateful manner. Do we not have more important things going on.

And Susan in Sacrament, Con the Don Imus story would be like calling the ocean wet. Karen writes -- Susan in Sacramento, California. Do you not have more important things going on?

And Susan in Sacramento, California, "Enough already. People need to start letting things go sometimes instead of turning everything into a major ordeal or a lawsuit, it has reached the point of absurdity. As alays, you're welcome to join in. just go to CNN.com/360 blog, follow the links and state your case. We're also taking your calls and e-mails tonight. The lines are open. The toll-free number, 877-648-3639, 877-648-3639. E-mail us your question. Just go to CNN.com/360, click on the instant feedback link.

As the head coach of the Rutger's women's basketball team, made it clear the Imus controversy is not just a black and white issue. It is about money and a lot of it is at states.

CNN's Johe Johns takes a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started with a trickle and turned into a torrent. Marquis advertisers with long trusted brands, pulling out of Imus in the Morning or otherwise reacting to the controversy by suspending advertising. General Motors, Sprint Nextel, American Expres, Procter and Gamble and more. And in the end, the market was speaking to NBC and MSNBC and sending a loud and clear message that a valuable asset that cost little to produce and brought in high profits for the network had suddenly become a glaring liability.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES: I think some of the advertisers pulling out of "Imus in the Morning" really racheted up the pressure on NBC and MSNBC, and combined with the internal criticism, the criticism from columnists and commentators and minority groups. That made the price of keeping Don Imus very high.

JOHNS: Officially, and for the record, NBC news says the decision to drop the Imus program was not about money.

CAPUS: And the reputation of this news division means more to me than advertising dollars, because if you lose your reputation, you lose everything. And so, yesterday I found out after the fact that some of the advertisers had started to pull their money away. Those types of reports don't land on my desk immediately and honestly, that is not what is behind this.

JOHNS: But what the network did speaks for itself. And now, the question is whether CBS radio, with dozens of stations subscribed to "Imus in the Morning" might dare to follow suit. The network's stuck its statement that he is suspended for two weeks, but says it will monitor the situation closely.

BARBARA LIPPERT, ADWEEK: I can't see CBS keeping him on the air because no advertiser, after what happened with MSNBC, is going to want to support him at cbs.

KURTZZ: CBS radio faces a whole different situation. That's a very profitable show. It's been around a long time. I think it's much harder for CBS to cut Imus loose, but CBS has got to be facing some of the same pressures, including from CBS employees that caused MSNBC -- that caused MSNBC to decide to talk a walk, take a pass on Don Imus. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the pressure on the network includes not just the activist groups, not just the advertisers, but people on the inside. A member of the CBS Board of Directors, say this kind of stuff adds up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It certainly means that the revenue sources that drive the media and entertainment industry are expressing themselves in terms of what their value systems are. So does that support a recommendation that says there has to be a consequence up to and including firing Imus? I think that it does.

JOHNS (on camera): Even if Imus does end up getting booted from CBS as well, a lot of people believe he'll still land on his feet. There's little doubt that some other company looking for a big ratings boost and a big new thing that has really been around for a long time would scoop him up. Think XM Radio or Sirius.

MICHAEL HARRISON, TALKER MAGAZINE: If Imus is fired, he most likely will be hired by someone else. The only wild card to that prediction, the only disclaimer, I would say, is he runs the risk of being tarnished as a racist because this is a bigger issue than just Imus. And if that happens, I think his career will be severely injured.

JOHNS (voice-over): Tomorrow Reverend Jesse Jackson and a group of other black leaders say they plan to meet with CBS to demand Imus be fired. And if history is any lesson, their strategy will be that if CBS doesn't want to do the right thing, then they will pressure the all-important CBS advertisers to walk away from the Imus program.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, joining me once again, Amy Holmes, a speechwriter for former Republican Senator Bill Frist. Also radio host, CNN contributor Roland Martin, and John Fund, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. And I said, we're taking your calls, we are getting a lot of them.

Sharriess in New York is on the line. Sharriess, what is your comment or question?

CALLER: Yes. I have a comment. I'm a black male who listened to Imus for 17 years. I'm not defending what he said, but I think we have lost the element of forgiveness in this country. You know, it is interesting that Whoopi Goldberg can stand by Ted Danson and he appeared in black face, Jesse Jackson did not lose his position for his "hymietown" remarks.

If you listen to Imus, you know that he parodies everyone from Cardinal O'Connor to Kenny Rogers to Bill Clinton. Also you know that he has played snippets of hip-hop music and Malcolm X speeches.

Hell, Imus' show is the only place on New York radio that I hear B.B. King music. My point is no human being should be denied the chance to repent and atone, including Imus. And now that Imus is gone, does the word whole suddenly disappear?

Should we throw Imus to the dogs for failing to do what we as black men failed to do? Before anyone else can respect us we must first be self-respected.

COOPER: Sharriess makes a lot of great points. Roland, what is your take on that?

MARTIN: Sure, I think he makes excellent points. But the bottom line is Don Imus is no longer a shock jock and just because he plays B.B. King is not going to excuse the attacks that he makes on women, the attacks he makes on others. When you choose to sit with presidential contenders and sit with U.S. senators and sit with prominent journalists, you are operating on a different level. This guy competes with the "Today Show," GMA, CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But he's also in the line of a Bill Maher, a satirist and he's apparently an intelligent guy, because he hasn't -- you know, seems to from all accounts, intelligent conservatives with these high- powered people who come on his show. So can he be both? Can he be a comedian -- or attempt to be a comedian, I guess, which he claims he was trying to do in this and be a smart person?

MARTIN: But he's not.

HOLMES: Well, Anderson, I would jump in here and say that the caller, he may personally be forgiving of Don Imus, but Don Imus needs to face consequences, with free speech comes responsibility. Certainly speech that you broadcast over the airwaves, speech that is going on television, that's go on the radio and those who are supporting that speech, who are paying for that speech, I think it is up to them to look at their own values, the culture that they want to support and decide whether or not Don Imus is in keeping with that.

COOPER: You know, John Fund -- I want to bring John in. You know, I'm sensing, John, just reading -- literally we're getting thousands of e-mails, and I'm sort of flipping through, dozens and dozens at a time, I'm sensing now a kind of turn as often happens in these.

We're getting now tonight more e-mails than ever before in support of Don Imus. Saying, look, what he did was stupid, it was reprehensible, indefensible, but enough is enough.

FUND: Anderson, I don't support Don Imus. I'm one of few people that I know who declined on Imus' invitations to be on his show. I thought his show was stupid. However, we have to under something. Roland and others have been very good at going after gangsta rap artists.

My beef is with Al Sharpton who told Wolf Blitzer yesterday on CNN when he asked about why he didn't call for the gangsta rap artists who use far worse language and call often called for the murder of women in their lyrics, why he doesn't demand they be fired. And he said, well, it's the companies that are involved. They have all of the money and the power, not the gangsta rap artists.

(CROSSTALK)

FUND: What Al Sharpton is doing here is calling for the firing of Don Imus and at the same time not calling for the firing of the gangster rap artists. I don't think either of them should be fired.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Let me just for accuracy's sake, because I've asked him about this on and off camera, he would say that he has led demonstrations against violence in hip-hop.

FUND: He has never called -- I agree, but he has never called for them to be fired, ever.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Well, John, Al Sharpton...

FUND: He avoided the question yesterday, you know that.

HOLMES: ... is a much more problematic person with this issue...

FUND: But he's the leader of this mob.

HOLMES: John, I agree with that.

MARTIN: No, he's not.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Look, again, just on this show we don't like to yell. So let's just have a smart conversation. Amy?

MARTIN: John, one conservative to another, it has been very disappointing to me that within our ideological community that there hasn't been more denunciation of using racial slurs, of using language that should not, to me, be in the public discourse, talking about these lovely, accomplished young ladies.

And as a conservative we should be talking about Pat Moynihan's famous quote about "defining deviancy down" and saying, no, we want to put a stop to this.

COOPER: I want to jump in, because we're getting so many calls. We are going to take a short break. We'll be right back and we'll take your calls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So the Duke lacrosse case, Don Imus, two stories with racial overtones. Want to hear what you think about it . Our panel is taking calls. Reach us toll free 1-877-648-3639. Or send us an e- mail, cnn.com, click on "instant feedback" link. Joining me once again, Amy Holmes, speechwriter for former Republican Senator Bill Frist; also radio host and CNN contributor Roland Martin; John Fund, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. And let's see on the line, up is Marilyn in Georgia. Marilyn, what's your comment or question?

CALLER: My question is, why has this whole issue been wrapped around racism when Imus' comment was addressed towards the girls in general? When I saw their press conference, there were white girls as well on the team. So why haven't there been any women's rights groups speaking out against this guy on their behalf?

COOPER: Roland, I know you've been making that point.

MARTIN: Thank you. Now, finally now and the National Council of Women's Organizations, they came out. You know, and I just sent another e-mail to the Concerned Women for America, a conservative group, and I said, you know, I don't understand this, how can you be called the Concerned Women for America and you -- a conservative group, you are not taking a public stand on this?

I don't get that. This is a sexism issue first, a race issue second.

COOPER: Another question from Cle (ph) in Arkansas -- or comment. Cle, thanks for calling. Cle, are you there? Apparently we lost Cle (ph). Let's see, Pamina in New York is on the line. Pamina? Pamina, thanks for calling. Try one more time. Pamina, are you there?

CALLER: This is Rebecca of Texas.

COOPER: Rebecca, I'll take you. Rebecca in Texas, thanks for calling. What's your comment or question?

CALLER: Yes. I just wanted to make a comment about Imus. I'm glad he's gone.

COOPER: That's it?

CALLER: And I approve -- I applaud MSNBC and NBC for taking him off the air. He should have gone a long time ago.

COOPER: Appreciate your comment. John, do you think CBS is going follow suit?

FUND: Yes. I think the pressure will build up. I write for opinionjournal.com and one of the things that we have noticed in the comments that come in is the advertisers drive a lot of this. And if the advertisers fall, I think eventually the networks will fall.

And again, you know, I really go back to this -- this is a moment of clarity. We can strike out, as Amy said, we can finally say we should make sure that everyone, white, black, left, right, operates by the same standard.

They don't denigrate women, they don't denigrate people of different races. And I think for 30 years Imus has been doing this. You know, I'm amazed, both liberals and conservatives let Imus get way with this for far too long.

There are lots of examples of Imus making comments like this in the past. So finally we have this moment of clarity. Let's clear out the gangsta rap artists. If you want to fire people, I don't think they should be fired. I think the companies should exercise discipline and not let that kind of lyrics go on the air.

COOPER: Pamina in New York is on the line. Pamina, thanks for calling.

CALLER: Hi. Thank you. I have a question. And I agree that Don Imus should be held to accountability for his actions and what he said. But I also wonder at the same time, at what point does it stop? At what point do we say, OK, well, yes, what you said is a horrible thing and you're a bigot, I mean, let's call a spade a spade, but at the same time when do we draw the line and where do we stop?

COOPER: Does it...

MARTIN: I think we...

COOPER: Roland, go ahead. You try to take it.

MARTIN: Sure, Anderson, I think we draw the line when you don't make the comments. I think you draw the line when you accept some responsibility as a person who is on the public airwaves and you don't insult people to this point. It is called restraint. He is...

COOPER: But a lot of people would argue he has done that, he has apologized numerous times, he is going to apologize again.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Anderson, he apologized before. He apologized before.

HOLMES: We also know he's a repeat offender. And he gave a pledge to Clarence Page years ago that he would quit making these racial remarks, these slurs and epithets and here we go again. So, it doesn't seem...

COOPER: Amy, does the debate though have to move beyond Don Imus? At a certain point you can only criticize him so much and there's only so many repercussions he can accept. Does it then move on to others who, you know, in the rap music world or in other genres who use the same kind of language?

HOLMES: I absolutely do believe that the debate should be expanded to that. You know, after all, it was gangsta rap and the sort of their hijacking of hip-hop culture that made this kind of language mainstream, so mainstream that Don Imus thought that he could use it on CBS Radio and MSNBC.

I think we do need a larger conversation about the denigration of women in this culture, especially in the hip-hop community. And we're old enough to remember when hip-hop did not rely on this type of language to sell albums, be popular, Tribe Called Quest, Run DMC, Rob Base, I could go through the list from the music that I listened to. And it didn't -- it didn't involved these words.

You know, throughout this entire conversations, I never once have repeated the words that Don Imus used because, to me, it's so distasteful to even have that kind of language coming out of my mouth.

COOPER: We're going to take a short break.

MARTIN: Hey, Anderson...

COOPER: We've got to take a break, Roland. We've got more calls though on the other side, more e-mails as well. We'll be taking your calls in a moment, 877-648-3639. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, tonight, Don Imus' program got the boot from MSNBC and his -- for his comments about the basketball team. And three former Duke lacrosse players have been cleared of all charges. We're taking calls on both subjects. If you've got something to say, call us, 877-648-3639. With us, Amy Holmes, Roland Martin, and John Fund.

I believe Kathy in Maryland is on the line I think with a call about Duke, Kathy?

CALLER: Hi, I have a question. First of all, I understand that Imus should be certainly reprimanded and there should be some punishment for his statements. My question is, where are Al Sharpton and where are Jesse Jackson coming out now concerning the Duke lacrosse players who have been lambasted through the press and everywhere else and now have been found innocent? Why should they not come out and say, hey, this should be an issue as well? Thank you.

COOPER: Kathy, appreciate the call. I wish you had watched the last hour of our program because we did have Reverend Jackson on. I can tell you, he does not feel he needs to make any form of an apology for some of the comments that he made about the Duke players or about the entire incident at Duke.

Roland, do you want to comment?

MARTIN: No, I think you said it best. I mean, I saw the interview with Reverend Jackson. And again, you might as well go to the person who made the comments and say, where do you stand?

But, Anderson, in the last block I wanted to make a point here. Today there are 9,000 African-American elected officials in the country. We have a Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, all kinds of improvement. Do you realize that all of that stuff stems from a woman deciding not to get up on a bus in Montgomery?

And so when people day say that this cannot lead to a change in the discourse, this issue with Imus cannot lead to a changed America, I say that is not correct. It is always the major developments that are started by a very small issue.

COOPER: Amy, does an Al Sharpton, does a Jesse Jackson have anything to answer for in the Duke case?

HOLMES: I think they do. And if there are civil rights leaders, they're leaders of everyone's civil rights and these three young men went through a 395-day nightmare and this prosecutor, hopefully he will be disbarred. I would like to see him sued and pay terrible, terrible consequences for his treatment of these boys in trampling over their civil rights.

You know, we've been talking about where has Concerned Women for America been? Where have they been? And I think part of the problem is because of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in terms of the Don Imus case.

You know, I've said repeatedly, Al Sharpton was found guilty of defamation, of repeatedly calling a man a rapist in the Tawana Brawley case, a very racially charged case. And here he is hosting his own radio show. He's certainly not a moral compass when it comes to these issues. And he has refused, by the way, to apologize for having done that. And so I think that that has complicated the Don Imus issue.

MARTIN: Hey, Anderson...

COOPER: If you want to check our transcript of the interview with Reverend Jackson, you can, it was in the first hour of "360." Still getting a lot of calls. Tiffany in Florida. Tiffany, what's your comment or question?

CALLER: Hi, how are you tonight? I'm actually calling because I heard the woman talk about what point do we draw the line earlier? And I think that this is more -- it's really about accountability, first of all.

You know, we have to realize that whenever we're making these kinds of statements, that there are going to be some consequences and things are going to happen. And at that point, whenever that realization is made, perhaps someone will think twice before they open their mouths.

You know, you're free to say whatever you want to say in your home amongst your family and peers. And I live in Miami, Florida, and this just reminds me of recently, Tim Hardaway, he was blasted because he made some open comments about his feelings towards gays. His comment was, I hate gay people and I don't want to around them.

And the NBA immediately disassociated themselves with him. He was sent home from Los Angeles, whenever he was out there for the all- star basketball game events. And, you know, his businesses -- his local businesses were closed.

MARTIN: Very true.

CALLER: And you know, there were...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So you're saying there are ramifications for speech.

CALLER: I'm sorry, go ahead?

COOPER: You are saying there are ramifications for what you say.

CALLER: Exactly. Exactly.

COOPER: John Fund, is this a free speech issue, the Don Imus situation?

FUND: In part, yes. I think Imus should have been reprimanded but I think having fired him, I think you're setting up a lot of people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to call for a lot of other people fired perhaps for less incendiary comments in the future.

I wish cable television would do one thing, you know, people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have been wrong so often, the Duke case, the Tawana Brawley case in Mr. Sharpton's area, and I think at some point, people like Roland and others, a new generation of black leaders, should rise up and represent these issues on the television and not leave it to the Al Sharptons and the Jesse Jacksons and other demagogues of the world.

Cable television has all kinds of people on the rolodex, it's time to broaden the people who get on television.

MARTIN: Anderson, I have to make this point, first of all, it was the National Association of Black Journalists, Bryan Monroe who made the initial statement. There have been a number of people -- and you're absolutely right, what does happen is that we do go to the same voices. But this has been a broad group that has been calling for this.

And so I give NABJ credit. I'm a member -- I'm a former board member, they led the call, not Reverend Sharpton or Reverend Jackson.

COOPER: We're going to take a break. We'll be right back with more calls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We've got a lot of calls on the line. Unfortunately, we have simply not enough time. I want to give a final thought to each of our guests who have been sticking with us throughout these last two hours. Amy Holmes, Roland Martin, and John Fund.

Amy, let's start with you. As we end this day on -- this day in which we've had not only MSNBC drop Don Imus but also the case in Duke completely fall apart, the state attorney general declaring these three men, these three Duke lacrosse players innocent of all charges, your thoughts?

HOLMES: Well, you know, as I said, I think that these two cases are somewhat related in that the people when they were being looked at in terms of their racial category, they're being dehumanized and that people can lose sight. They are human beings here, human beings whose lives are impacted.

These three young men for the rest of their lives will be associated with this sordid, nasty case. There will be people who believe them to have been guilty of something. It's a total disgrace that this happened to them.

In terms of Don Imus, look, I understand, nobody wants to be the Savannah Rola (ph) of talk TV, and nobody wants to be burning down broadcasting stations because of words that they don't like. But again, free speech comes with responsibility and I think NBC did right thing today.

COOPER: Roland, your thoughts?

MARTIN: It was WEB DuBois who said that race was the problem of the 20th Century of America. It is clearly that case in the 21st Century. But also I do hope, Anderson, that we as a nation understand that sexism is also real. That when women are paid less than men, that is a problem. We do not have enough female and African-American, Hispanic, Asian, minority voices on the air, and that's also a problem.

Do not allow this opportunity to simply go by. We can change the course of America right now if we have the will to do so.

COOPER: John Fund, your thoughts?

FUND: Amy said earlier that this is a time for us to look at things afresh. I agree completely with her. I also think we need two media autopsies. One, how in the world could the media get away with not admitting that the evidence in the Duke rape case was so ridiculously nonexistent for so long?

And two, how could so many journalists have shown up on Imus all of these years when he was making comments like this all of this time, why not outrage now? We need to have some media self-examination here and that means all of us.

COOPER: An interesting discussion, and I appreciate no yelling. John Fund, appreciate it, Roland Martin and Amy Holmes as well. Thanks very much. We'll have more 360 in a moment, be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Shuffling the papers, that means we're out of time. See you tomorrow.

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