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Hillary Clinton Playing Dirty?; Mitt Romney Battles Gender Gap in Iowa

Aired December 20, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: Is Hillary Clinton playing dirty in her race for the Democratic nomination? New allegations tonight that the Clinton campaign set up Web sites to attack Barack Obama. We will bring you the facts, though, on that and take a closer look at charges her campaign is making a habit of sneak attacks and hasty retreats -- some very "Raw Politics" tonight.
Also, remarkable pictures of the family rescued after days in the snowy wilderness, pictures they took as they struggled to find shelter, stay warm, and survive.

And later, Interstate 35, was it actually preordained in the Bible? And what does that make Route 66?

We begin with signs that the Clinton campaign is digging deep and some say dark into the campaign playbook, playing rough, some even saying dirty. In fairness, this always happens when the voting gets closer and the rice tightens. And it's happening all around.

Today, we learned that the Clinton campaign has registered a pair of Web sites. Their names suggest they would be used to highlight Barack Obama's record as a state senator in Illinois of voting "present" on controversial legislation, instead of voting a "yes" or "no."

Now, the facts are what they are, but what about the tactics being used to bring those facts to light? Is it a pattern with the Clinton machine or simply something all candidates are doing?

Tonight, we begin with the "Raw Politics" of rough politics.

Here's CNN's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hit- and-run politics, attack and retreat, throw the rock and hide your hand, it's practiced 365 days a year in this country.

But, when it gets this close to actually casting votes, people really start paying attention.

Example: Clinton supporter Bob Kerrey apologizing after using Senator Obama's full name, Barack Hussein Obama, to make a point. Kerrey he did not mean to insult him or contribute to misinformation about Obama's heritage. Another example: a Clinton campaign official in New Hampshire who raised questions about how Republicans exploit Obama's drug use when he was young. Hit and run -- Clinton apologized. The official resigned.

But, when it comes to Obama's voting record as a state senator in Illinois, no apologies from the Clinton camp. Clinton supporters didn't hesitate to talk out how often Obama voted present, instead of taking a stand on things by voting yes or no.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: And you believe it's OK to look at what they're for. You believe it's OK to look at what they're against. Why can't you look at votes they ducked?

JOHNS: That's not hit-and-run politics. It's a full-frontal, above-the-board attack. The Clinton team registered two domain names on the Internet to highlight the issue, but decided not to put anything on a Web site.

(on camera): What's significant about this is that it suggests the Clinton campaign is so worried about Obama, it's resorting to these kinds of tactics.

(voice-over): Not lost here is that Barack Obama was the first campaign to go on the offensive, sharpening his rhetoric, what they call contrasting himself with Senator Clinton, before she started fighting back.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think Barack Obama, you know, started to do a sharp contrast on Hillary Clinton about six weeks ago. And he didn't pay a price for that. I think Hillary Clinton started to do a sharp contrast against Barack Obama just about four weeks ago. And, in the media, at least, she has paid a price for that. And, you know, is that fair? I guess it's the front-runner mantle that you're carrying there, but, in the end, voters -- voters want a choice.


JOHNS: So, what we're really talking about here are opening salvos, but, if this race stays very close for very long, you really could see a barrage -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Joe Johns, thanks tonight.

With us also tonight, CNN's John King in Des Moines, in Manchester, Jennifer Donahue of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. And, in Boston, we would like to welcome the newest member of CNN, our new senior political analyst, David Gergen, who, of course, has advised presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton.


David, let's start with you. Here we are, two weeks until Iowa, a virtual tie between Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. Does it surprise you that the tacks are getting sharper and sharper with the race this close?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not at all, because, in both parties now, we have very, very close races. And, naturally, you're going to go in this direction.

And I think, with regard to Hillary Clinton, you know, the -- the complaints from the Clinton campaign are fair. First of all, Barack did start that -- you know, he fired first. And, secondly, I think they have been articling that the media has given Barack more flattering portraits than they have of Hillary Clinton. That's also fair.

What's surprising, Anderson, is the way they -- the way they have gone about counterattacking. First of all, it's been clumsy, as we just heard, these various apologies for things that have gone over the line. Secondly, today, we just had two days a likability campaign. We thought we were going down that track with Hillary Clinton. We have been talking about that.

And now, suddenly, you have got this reversal and she -- you have got these attacks coming out from her campaign. That's very, very surprising. And I think, finally, where this may really rebound against her is, it reminds people of the old politics. And that's exactly what Barack Obama has been campaigning against, the old-style politics, the odious attack -- attack ads, the negative attacks and all the rest.

And I think that's not where she wants to be at this point.

COOPER: John King, let me ask you, is this stuff just accidental, I mean, that high-level aides say something, and then have to apologize, or, in one case, even resign, or is there a pattern here?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, critics would say there's a pattern, Anderson. And this is one of the great mysteries of politics.

The Clinton campaign -- and I just checked back in with them again tonight -- insist that what Billy Shaheen said in New Hampshire about Barack Obama, possible drug use during his youth, they say that was unauthorized.

What Bob Kerrey said, they said that was just Bob Kerrey speaking. And Bob Kerrey, I interviewed him the other day. He said he actually insists he meant it as a compliment.

Of course, look on the blogosphere. It's not taken that way. They say these are isolated incidents, they were not authorized, they were accidents, if you will. Critics look at it and say, come on, these people have been in politics too long. They're way too smart. Some of them have been in dirty campaigns in the past. They say there's no way it can be a coincidence. That's where we are in the campaign.

COOPER: Jennifer, in New Hampshire is there the perception that Hillary Clinton is being singled out unfairly?

I want to read you something that "TIME" magazine's editor at large mentioned to "The Washington Post," Mark Halperin. He said: "She's just held to a different standard in every respect. The press rooted for Obama to go negative. When he did, he was applauded. When she does it, it's treated as this huge violation of propriety. It's not a level playing field."


When Barack Obama went negative on Hillary Clinton, he did it after Edwards did, first of all,. He grilled it and got it ready. And then Obama flipped it, and he basically did it in a way that was policy-based, issue-based.

What Kerry did the other day and what happened last week on the drug issue with Shaheen, and, moreover, with Mark Penn, who then kept repeating it over and over and over, they're playing the race card. This is not some small thing where they're saying, like Gore did about Bradley in 2000, he wanted to raise the retirement age, when, in fact, he didn't.

This is the race card. They're attacking his race. And I think it's really above the pale. Voters here don't like it.

COOPER: David Gergen, do you agree with that?

GERGEN: No, I don't, I don't think they're playing the race card at all. He happens to be black. He also happens to be a very major, dramatic candidate.


DONAHUE: You don't think that saying that -- that -- that selling drugs, and that, did he buy it, did he use them, did he sell them, has anything to do with race?

GERGEN: Wait a minute. We went through a whole campaign back in 2000 in New Hampshire about George Bush and drugs, and he happened to be white.

We have had various other candidates who happened to have been white, there have been questions raised about their drug usage. I do think, when you start using the word cocaine, as Mark Penn did, it does suggest it, and I think it can have some reverberations.

But I think it is unfair to say that they're playing the race card. I do think they have been clumsy, but I think they're -- playing the race card suggests it's racially motivated and, in effect, it's racist. I think that's unfair to them.

COOPER: John King?

DONAHUE: Well, I guess -- if I could just really quickly...

KING: Anderson, I'm getting e-mails -- as we're having this discussion, Anderson -- as we're having this discussion, I'm getting e-mails from Democrats. One of them suggests, go to the Web site They say that is an Obama Web site. I can't tell you if that is true or not.

But this is the kind of thing that happens at this point in a campaign. The Clinton campaign would also point out, very early in the campaign, an Obama press release said, "Hillary Clinton D-Punjab," making fun of the money she was raising from Indian sources that the Obama campaign was questioning. Senator Obama had to apologize for that.

So, there's a lot of this from all camps in the campaign, some of it authorized, some of it not, some of it done by kids who go overboard in their first campaign, especially their first presidential campaign.

But does it matter in electing a president? I don't really know. It's not much about the economy. It's not much about what you do in Iraq.


KING: But it does set the tone of the campaign.

COOPER: Jennifer?

DONAHUE: Anderson, can I just jump in? Because I want to hear David's perspective.

I mean, would you also say, then, that Huckabee is not playing the religion card against Romney?

GERGEN: No, I think he is playing the religion card.

But that's -- that's said in a positive way. But I think, when you say somebody is playing a race card, you suggest that they have racist motives and they have a racist quality to them.

DONAHUE: I don't -- well, I guess I don't...

GERGEN: I think that's unfair to the people involved.

DONAHUE: They're trying to -- but don't you think -- I don't mean that Hillary Clinton is trying to play a race card, but I think that they're bringing up the issue of fear of African-Americans in a way that is either intentional or not, but is real.


COOPER: I want David to respond, and then we got to go.

GERGEN: I just don't happen to agree. I think that's unfair.

Look, I think they have been clumsy. I think -- I think this is going to rebound against them. But I think it goes too far to say they're playing a race card.

COOPER: John King, David Gergen, Jennifer Donahue, appreciate your comments. Thank you.

John King, stick around. We're going to get back to the campaign story you have been working on after the break.

First, while the candidates are on the attack or digging for dirt, whatever you want to call it, they're also spending a ton of money. Here's the "Raw Data."

"Editor and Publisher" says, $3 billion to $5 billion will likely be spent on campaign -- campaign ads in national and local races for '08. Roughly 75 percent of the cash will go to spots on TV. The rest is being used for print advertisements, radio commercials and new media.

One other campaign note: Republican Tom Tancredo dropped out of the race today. He faced long odds from the start, never really caught on. In bowing out, the Colorado congressman has thrown his support to Mitt Romney.

In a moment, we will talk about Mitt Romney's hazy memory. He says he watched his dad, Michigan Governor George Romney, march with Martin Luther King. But did he? Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight, why Mitt Romney's having trouble attracting Iowa women -- we will have that and more, plus these stories:


COOPER (voice-over): Pretty as a picture, that's how it began.

FREDERICK DOMINGUEZ, SURVIVED THREE DAYS IN CALIFORNIA WOODS: All in good spirits, still playing, joking, acting like I was going to cut down this little tree.

COOPER: That's when the pictures turned grim. A family lost in the wild, caught in the snow, struggling to survive, see how they did it -- only on 360.

Also, a racially charged confrontation, a deadly shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw the shot, the hole in his cheek. I got to tell him that I loved him. I saw his eyes blank, straight open, staring at the ceiling.

COOPER: That's how it ended, but it all started with a hoax, a hoax created online, a new Internet danger you and your kids should know about -- "Crime and Punishment" tonight.



COOPER: Well, sooner or later, every candidate faces it. Something they have said comes back to bite them. It can be telling, or trivial, or just plain silly. That's really for you to decide.

Here's what Mitt Romney said in his speech on faith and politics earlier this month.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.


ROMNEY: He's talking about Michigan Governor George Romney, a strong voice for civil rights.

He said it again this weekend on "Meet the Press." There is just one problem, however. It never happened. George Romney supported Dr. King, but he did not march with him. So, Mr. Romney could -- could not have actually seen it, because it didn't happen.

So, here's what Mitt Romney said today.


ROMNEY: I am trying to be as accurate as I can be. And the -- if you look at the literature, or look at the dictionary, the term saw includes being aware of, in the sense I have described. It's a figure of speech and very familiar. And it's very common. And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort.


COOPER: It kind of reminds you of someone, doesn't it?


BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It depends upon what the meaning of the word is is. If the -- if you -- if is means is and never has been, that is not -- that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.


COOPER: Now, we're not saying. We're just saying.

Governor Romney is having a tough time in Iowa for reasons beyond his Mormon faith. Up close tonight, his problem winning support from women. Here's John King again with who's benefiting from Mitt Romney's gender gap.


KING (voice-over): The new look of the Republican race was born here, in places like Martinsdale, Iowa, because unhappy Christian conservatives, people like Richard and Doris (ph) Nation, finally found a home.

RICHARD NATION, IOWA REPUBLICAN: He comes from a biblical perspective regarding marriage and abortion, the things that are important to us.

KING: He is Mike Huckabee, and his growing support among conservatives is changing the race in Iowa and across the country.

BRENDA CARNAHAN, HUCKABEE SUPPORTER: He supports, I guess, with the homeschoolers, being able to educate my own children and our values as Christians.

KING: Huckabee is an evangelical favorite.

CARNAHAN: The abortion issue and I think, just as a whole, all of his issues put together.

KING: And, at the moment, the beneficiary of a giant gender gap, favored by a 2-1 margin over Mitt Romney among Iowa women who intend to vote in the Republican caucuses.

ANITA NEEHOUSE, HUCKABEE SUPPORTER: It goes back to Christian values with us. We're a Christian family, and we do (INAUDIBLE) as far as our children and our grandchildren.

KING: The question for Huckabee, is that enough? Why? Abortion ranks not first, but third, when Iowa Republicans are asked to rank the issues.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Any income on savings should be taxed at a new rate. And the new rate should be zero.

KING: The economy ranks first. And, so, more and more, Governor Romney stresses his business record.

ROMNEY: I know how the economy works. I know why jobs come. I know why they go away.

KING: In New Hampshire, pocketbook issues are responsible for Romney's double-digit lead. There, Huckabee runs a distant fourth.

ANDREW SMITH, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE: So, trying to run as a social conservative in a state with very few social conservatives is a difficult thing to do. This is largely a pro-choice Republican state, moderate to liberal Republican state.

KING: But pollster Andrew Smith says a Romney loss in Iowa would cause a major ripple in New Hampshire.

SMITH: He will probably lose 10 to 15 points in New Hampshire right away.

KING: And that's why Romney is looking to close the gender gap and narrow Huckabee's lead in Iowa by highlighting other issues with proven power among women: education...

ROMNEY: Our state's now ranked number one of all 50 states in education.

KING: ... and crime.


NARRATOR: And Mike Huckabee, he granted 1,033 pardons and commutations, including 12 convicted murderers.


KING: Romney denied all pardon applications. Huckabee calls that a play-it-safe political calculation.

HUCKABEE: That could be your kid, could be you. Would you give him a second chance?

KING (on camera): His position was that you don't have a heart, that, of course, some people must have deserved one. So, he says it's a judgment issue.

ROMNEY: So, he thinks 1,033 pardon shows a heart? He thinks giving 12 murderers pardon shows a heart? He thinks giving a repeat drunk driver a pardon to get him out of jail shows heart?

I think it shows a softness.

KING (voice-over): On the surface, a dustup over crime and punishment, but it has just as much to do with the gender gap.


COOPER: So, how important is the gender gap? I mean, if -- can Romney win Iowa if he doesn't close this gap?

KING: He needs to close it some, Anderson. He doesn't need to close it all the way.

If you look back at 2000 and 2004, about 54, 55 percent oft Republicans voting in the Iowa caucuses were men. So, if Romney can have a big lead among men, he can offset some of his deficit among women. If you go into it with the 2-1 deficit he has right now, unlikely he could win.

But, if he could narrow it some -- and they think they can with these -- questioning the crime record, focusing on Romney's education record -- if they can narrow it some, it might be enough. COOPER: Interesting.

John King, thanks for the reporting.

Anger and arrests in New Orleans today.

Erica Hill has that and more in a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a protest at New Orleans City Hall gets rough, police using stun guns and pepper spray on residents protesting a plan to demolish more than 4,000 public housing units. Fifteen people ended up being arrested. Despite the outrage, though, the demolition plan was approved by the city council.

There is an alleged confession in the murder of our people on a Florida charter boat. A prison inmate claims one of the suspects in that case told them he didn't pull the trigger, but did clean up the crime scene aboard the Joe Cool. The boat's captain, his wife and two crew members are still missing. They are presumed dead. The suspects say they are innocent and claim Cuban pirates attacked the boat.

Aruba's top prosecutor says one of the suspects in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway wrote in an Internet chat room that she was dead. Investigators, though, won't say who wrote that. They will say the message was a reason why those three suspects were re- arrested last month. Those three young men, by the way, are now free once again.

And Nickelodeon thinking about airing a special on sex and love. That move comes after Jamie Lynn Spears revealed she is pregnant. The star of the network's "Zoey 101" show is 16 years old.

She's also, of course, Anderson, the younger sister of Britney Spears.

COOPER: Yes, I have nothing -- I have nothing to say.

HILL: It's better we don't.

COOPER: Yes, I think so.

Erica, coming up: He dressed as Santa and took a nasty beating. Take a look at this guy's black eyes. We want to know who did that and what were they thinking?

Plus, the family of four who survived three days in the California woods, last night, they shared their story of survival, only on 360 -- tonight, more from them and the amazing photos from their ordeal -- when 360 continues.


COOPER: Erica, now our segment "What Were They Thinking?"

We're a bit upset. You know, a lot of cable pundits have noted there's a war on Christmas. Well, tonight, we dare to say what others are too scared to say. There's not just a war on Christmas, Erica Hill. There's a war on Santa.

HILL: No, Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: A war on Santa, we have uncovered.

Exhibit number one, Kevin Smith. A grinch broke his nose, causing two black eyes. He's a Washington -- Spokane, Washington, firefighter. He was dressed as Santa, trying to spread holiday cheer on a float. Someone threw something at him, hitting him at the top of his nose, knocking him unconscious.

HILL: That's awful.

COOPER: I know. Two other fire...

HILL: He's Santa.

COOPER: Two other firefighters on the float realized Santa was assaulted. They looked in the rear-view mirror. They saw him bleeding and slumped over. He was taken to the hospital. Doctors discovered Santa also had a concussion.

HILL: Wow. Did they catch the grinches?

COOPER: No. The attacker is still out there, investigators asking for anyone with information to contact police or the fire department.

HILL: They're on the naughty list.

COOPER: Any -- especially green-looking Grinch-like people.

Now, there's more.

The war on Santa continues. Earlier this week, we had the other disturbing attack, a Santa at a Danbury, Connecticut, mall allegedly molested. He was apparently groped by an adult woman while she sat on his lap.

HILL: This is one I would like to forget, personally.

COOPER: Yes, I know. The 65-year-old Santa, as you can imagine, was shocked. He's not talking on camera. We're blurring that image of Santa, because that is not the actual Santa who was attacked.

And check out this naughty T-shirt, exhibit number three in the war on Santa, sold by urban outfitters. Now, it's -- I like the store, but it says, "Santa Claus Hates You."

HILL: Oh, no, not true.


COOPER: I know. It's not true. And it shows him being naughty, not nice at all, with a hand gesture that I'm not even going to deign to discuss.

HILL: A hand gesture that I think Santa would never use.

COOPER: Doesn't even know it exists.

HILL: Santa is too kind for that. And you know what? Santa...

COOPER: Mrs. Claus clearly does not approve.


COOPER: I have heard there's -- some of the elves are speaking out. And they say they're talking about legal action, but I don't know what they can do.

HILL: Really?


HILL: Maybe they should call Jeffrey Toobin. He could help them out.

COOPER: The war on Santa must stop.

HILL: And it's going to stop right here on A.C. 360.

COOPER: Thank you, Erica Hill. I appreciate it.

HILL: Mm-hmm. I'm with you.

COOPER: Up next on the program: The family trapped for three days in the California wilderness, last night, you heard their story in an exclusive interview. Tonight, see what they went through. We have the photos they took of an ordeal they will never forget. They also ended up back at the hospital today. We will tell you why.

And ahead: It started as a sick online joke. It led to racial tensions and death -- another lesson in the dangers that can await your kids online -- coming up on 360.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And live from CNN's Time Warner center in New York....

COOPER: We begin tonight with the world of politics.


COOPER: There's a lot to talk about tonight in the political realm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... for Thursday, December 20, 2007.

Here he is, the silver fox of cable news...

COOPER: Kevin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Kevin, we -- we went through this a couple nights ago. I know that, since NBC News hired Michael Douglas, we're all a little upset. And I know you wanted to audition to be the announcer, but, as I told you a couple days ago, it's just not going to work out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I thought -- you told me, if I changed my voice, kind of something like our own Michael Ware, you would give me another shot.



COOPER: No, because you sound like a chimney sweep. I don't think it's really the right kind of voice for -- I appreciate the effort. And you're a great stage manager, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, with that being said, then back to you, gun metal gray.

COOPER: All right. Please stop talking like that. Just -- just stop.

We're all here hurting since Brian Williams got all the attention for hiring a big celebrity announcer like Michael Douglas. For months, we have been secretly discussing hiring a big-name announcer. I blogged about it. And a lot of you continue to send in some great suggestions.

Here are three new candidates from you, the American people, to be the voice of 360: Bart Simpson, a very good suggestion, smart- alecky, but with a heart of gold. I like it.

Oscar the Grouch came -- was another suggestion. Could be a conflict of interests, though. Some of you know I have spent time in Oscar's can. So that may be a little too close to home.

Finally, my new favorite suggestion to be our celebrity announcer, Celine Dion. Who could be better? And, if not her, then I would like to try to get her husband, Rene.

We will let you know when we make a decision. You can check out more about our search at

Well, this time last night, we were bringing you the first live interviews with the Dominguez family just hours after their dramatic rescue. They survived three terrifying days in California's wilderness in a snowstorm after getting lost. That was them on the couch last night, all bundled up.

Tonight, 15-year-old Alexis is back in the hospital because of pain from minor frostbite. But her brothers and their father are doing well. Their survivor is really -- survival is amazing. And now we have the pictures to show it.

Here's CNN's Dan Simon.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three smiling children, the youngest, middle and oldest, looking for a Christmas tree and spending some quality time with dad.

FREDERICK DOMINGUEZ, SURVIVED THREE DAYS IN CALIFORNIA WOODS: All in good spirits, still playing, joking, acting like I was going to cut down this little tree.

SIMON: Not before long, they settle on this tall spruce.

F. DOMINGUEZ: We're happy. We found the tree. We all agreed upon it.

SIMON: Each wants their picture with the prize. The time stamp on these photos show it is just after 4:00 on Sunday afternoon. From here, they plan on hauling the tree back to their truck. But darkness approaches. The family gets lost, and the snowstorm moves in.

F. DOMINGUEZ: This is the first picture I took, when it just starts snowing, and that was directly ahead of us. And you couldn't see your face in front -- your hand in front of your face.

SIMON: It's clear they're not going to make it out tonight, so they find some shelter under a rock and some branches. The next morning, they look surprisingly content, perhaps because the fresh snowfall has made for breathtaking scenery. But reality sets in.

F. DOMINGUEZ: If you look out there, that is just what we were walking through, forward.

SIMON: They're not going to make it out on their own, so they look for some new shelter, and find this tunnel underneath a bridge.

F. DOMINGUEZ: You know what? That tunnel saved our lives, completely. That tunnel completely saved our lives, because it was the shelter from the storm.

SIMON: But the kids' feet are frozen. They would later say it was these makeshift socks cut from their father's T-shirt that made things a bit tolerable.

CHRISTOPHER DOMINGUEZ, SURVIVED THREE DAYS IN CALIFORNIA WOODS: We just all huddled up together and tried to stay as warm and out of the snow as we possibly could.

F. DOMINGUEZ: This is when my daughter had frostbite, and we noticed it. And I told my son, rub her feet, rub her feet, rub her feet.

SIMON: From here, there's a long gap in the photos, until this, what they say is the greatest picture of all, the helicopter that brings them home.

C. DOMINGUEZ: We were all just happy, happy to be rescued.


SIMON (on camera): The family was found about two or three miles away from here. This gives you some idea in terms of the elements they were facing. Within a few hours, they were buried in several feet of snow. And that's why they had to be rescued.

Dan Simon, CNN, Inskip, California.


COOPER: Well, let's hope they all get better soon.

Straight ahead tonight, it started as an online joke. Before it all ended, someone was dead.


COOPER (voice-over): A racially charged confrontation, a deadly shooting.

JOANNE CICCIARO, MOTHER: I saw the shot, the hole in his cheek. And I got to tell him that I loved him, and I saw him eyes blank straight open, staring at the ceiling.

COOPER: That's how it ended, but it all started with a hoax. A hoax created online. A new Internet danger you and your kids should know about. "Crime and Punishment" tonight.

Later they're calling it the Holy Highway.

CINDY JACOBS, MINISTER/LIGHT THE HIGHWAY ORGANIZER: We were reading Isaiah 35. And we have this highway that's behind us that's called I-35.

COOPER: Meet the people who calls a strip of concrete sacred and see the lengths they're going to, to make it pure. 360 tonight.



COOPER: Jury deliberations resume tomorrow here in New York, in another case where a hoax on MySpace led to death.

You may remember the tragedy of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old girl from Missouri who committed suicide after becoming the target of an online attack. Police say it was done by an adult and neighbor, pretending to be a teenage boy.

That neighbor's lawyer says his client is innocent and rejects any responsibility. Well, out on the north shore of Long Island, New York, the deception also unfolded on MySpace. The victim was shot dead by a man who's now on trial for manslaughter.

Before the jury reaches a verdict, we'll let you decide who is telling the truth.

CNN's Jason Carroll has the exclusive report in tonight's "Crime and Punishment."


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started with a sick joke. It came from Aaron White's MySpace account, a threat, sent to a teenage girl at his high school. White testified he didn't write it. Another friend did, using his screen name.

J. CICCIARO: All of those kids believed that this was real.

CARROLL: Even White's friend, Daniel Cicciaro, believed it was real.

J. CICCIARO: The thing is, that night Daniel believed that Aaron threatened to rape a girl who was like his little sister.

CARROLL: Cicciaro's parents say Daniel just wanted to protect the girl when she spotted Aaron at a party last year. The defense says racial slurs were used after White was kicked out. White testified a group of teenaged boys called him on his cell, saying, "Get back to this party, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED)."

FRED BREWINGTON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We had this group of young White men who felt that they were going to defend this young White woman from the black man who said these things about her and that they felt justified to do so because of his race.

CARROLL: Cicciaro rallied a group of his friends and headed to White's home in Long Island, New York. Aaron White said they called him again, saying they were coming to his house to kill him.

That's when Aaron's father, John White, got involved. Known as a quiet, dedicated man, he grabbed his handgun, a .32 caliber Beretta and waited for the teens.

DANIEL CICCIARO SR., FATHER: He had 20 minutes to gather his thoughts, to call the police, to defuse the situation, to find out why they were coming over. And he didn't take any of those precautionary steps.

CARROLL: The defense says White was thinking of his family's past in the south, where the Ku Klux Klan attacked them at his home one night.

Once Cicciaro and the teens arrived in his driveway, there was an argument. White says his gun accidentally went off, and Cicciaro was shot in the face. "I didn't mean to shoot this young man," White told the court. "This young man was another child of God."

Cicciaro's parents don't believe him.

J. CICCIARO: They never called, the Whites, none of them, never called 911, even after they shot Daniel, but they did call their attorney.

CARROLL: White's attorney pointed to a 911 call Daniel's friend made moments after the shooting.


CARROLL: Daniel died that night.

J. CICCIARO: I saw the shot, the hole in his cheek. I got to tell him that I loved him and saw his eyes blank, straight open, staring at the ceiling.

CARROLL (on camera): White is charged with manslaughter. A jury is deciding whether he will lose his freedom.

The Cicciaro family says, regardless of the verdict, they've already lost what was most important to them.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Riverhead, New York.


COOPER: It's a tragic story all around. Should the father be convicted for manslaughter? With us now, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

I mean, both sides, frankly could have called police. You know, these white young men who were heading over there could have called police if they really thought a girl was in danger. Same with the father.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, there are so many steps in this story where, if it had gone another way, this just would have been a silly, ugly, but meaningless dispute. Instead, everything conspired for tragedy here. I mean, mistaken identity. It really is like Shakespeare, this story.

COOPER: So he's being -- manslaughter is what he's being considered for. The judge, though, has also said that the jury could -- could suggest reckless endangerment?

TOOBIN: Right. This is a big victory for the defense in this case. They -- jury has a lesser option than reckless manslaughter. They can -- they can find him guilty of this reckless endangerment, which is a misdemeanor. And juries in a difficult case like this, and this is certainly a difficult case, often look for a compromise. And a misdemeanor would certainly be... COOPER: And what sort of penalty is there for that?

TOOBIN: It's -- a misdemeanor is almost never prison time. I mean, theoretically, you can go to prison for a misdemeanor. The key issue in this case is recklessness. Was his behavior reckless?

COOPER: The father?

TOOBIN: The father, the defendant. And boy, it's -- I'm glad I don't have to decide this, because on the one hand, you can see how scared he was with these people converging on his house. But on the other, 20 minutes to call 911, get the cops there, you know...

COOPER: Obviously, race is an issue. It's been brought up on all sides of this. How is it playing out in the courtroom?

TOOBIN: It's a big issue in the case. Because it is not just a, you know, a bunch of kids fighting. This has a racial dimension, and I think the White family, the African-American family, has this history, apparently, of Ku Klux Klan violence against them in the South.

And you know, this is such a deep, ugly part of American history, a group of whites going to a black guy's house to protect the honor of a white woman. I mean, that has resonance in American history that I don't think the jury can, nor should they, ignore it.

COOPER: Interesting. We'll be watching. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks.

TOOBIN: A tough one.

COOPER: Yes, very tough.

Up next, is an American highway prophesied in the Bible? We'll show you the interstate some believers say is literally a highway to heaven and why they're staging so-called purity sieges against local businesses along the road, when 360 continues after the break.


COOPER: It's impossible to know exactly how conservative Christians will shape the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. What is absolutely certain is that all the candidates would love to get their votes.

That's one reason this story grabbed our attention. It's not about politics, but it's about a group of evangelicals and their latest crusade. Spurred on by Pat Robertson, the crusade focuses on an American interstate highway, a highway they believe is spoken of in the Bible.

Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Interstate 35, which runs through six states from Texas to Minnesota, has existed for about a half century. But did God know about I-35 many, many centuries before that?

This Texas minister says she had a revelation about it.

JACOBS: We were reading Isaiah 35, which is a passage in the Bible, and we live in Dallas. And we have this highway that's behind us called I-35.

TUCHMAN: Part of Isaiah 35 verse 8 declares, "A highway shall be there and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it."

So Isaiah 35 has become a biblical partner of Interstate 35 for some Christians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move the power, God.

PASTOR STEVE HILL, HEARTLAND SCHOOL OF MINISTRY: Millions live up and down this highway, Lamb of God. Touch Oklahoma, Lord Jesus. Touch Texas, Lamb of God. Oh, Lord, touch Minnesota, sweet Jesus.

TUCHMAN: To fulfill the prophecy of I-35 being a Holy Highway, many of the faithful think it will take intensive prayer first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move in the hearts of our generation, Jesus. Move in their hearts, God!

TUCHMAN: Churches in all six states have organized prayer vigils on the side of the interstate. They pray for safer neighborhoods, more godliness and want the, quote, "unclean" to take note.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lord, I pray for purity within the business, God. We pray for holiness within the businesses, Father God.

TUCHMAN: The businesses are the kind you often see driving up and down America's interstates. Some of them have been visited by the prayerful participants in so-called Purity Sieges.

HILL: It would absolutely please us yes, if some of these businesses would go out of business.

TUCHMAN: No thank you, says the owner of Dallas's Diamond Cabaret.

RODNEY WILLIAMS, DIAMOND'S CABARET OWNER: For them to want to impose their views on others, it makes me angry. You have to do to that a lot. In some cases more than other church groups, fund- raisers, food drives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open their eyes to see God! Show them, Father God. TUCHMAN: Not everyone here literally thinks I-35 is the Highway of Holiness. But it is pointed out that tragedies, ranging from the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, to the recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis, have happened on or near Interstate 35.

JACOBS: And we just want to say wow, why would this happen on one highway? Let's pray that there be safety for everybody on these highways.

TUCHMAN: On YouTube you can see Pat Robertson publicizing the campaign on his Christian Broadcasting Network.

REV. PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: An amazing story. Wouldn't that be wonderful? I mean, for the -- cut a line right down the middle of America and let it spread to both coasts.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Isaiah 35:8 is not the only part of the Bible that mentions a highway. In Isaiah 40:3 it is said, "Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God." But there have been no national prayer vigils on Interstate 40 -- yet.


COOPER: Gary, there are a lot of passages in the Bible which some believe speak of modern-day events.

TUCHMAN: Well, the faithful cite many different examples, Anderson. For example, they talk about science. Let's go back to Isaiah, Chapter 40:22, which says it is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth. Some believers say that refers to the earth being round, centuries before that was known.

Then there was Revelation 16 verse 2, which states, "It became a loathsome, malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast." That, some say, refers to controversial implantable microchip identification.

And then there's Jeremiah 50: "I am going to arose and bring up against Babylon a hoard of great nations from the land of the north." Could that be a reference to the coalition invasion of Iraq?

Well, we need to point out, Anderson, that Iraq has been invaded many times before in history, which brings us to the point skeptics make, that a lot of Bible verses are vague and ambiguous and, therefore, can be interpreted very widely -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gary, interesting story. Thanks.

On the 360 blog, Gary shares what it was like covering the prayers along Interstate 35. For the behind-the-scenes report, go to and link to the blog. That's

Up next, is a videogame on many kids' Christmas lists to blame for the death of a 7-year-old girl? And his murder conviction was overturned, but he is still being held in a Nicaraguan prison. New demands for the release of American Eric Volz, next.


COOPER: Just ahead, a little holiday gift from us to you. It's also sort of a gift to ourselves if we're being totally honest. That's right. Coming up, our favorite shots of 2007. Can you guess which ones made the cut? There may be some bears.

First, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.


ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Anderson, Nicaraguan authorities still have not released Eric Volz. He's the 28-year-old American whose murder conviction was overturned by an appeals court three days ago.

Well, today prosecutors said they are now appealing that decision.

This is what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had to say about the delay.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Whenever there's an American citizen involved, we are very much involved in following the case and in advocating on behalf of American citizens. And so we have had those conversations with the Nicaraguan government, and the court has spoken. We expect he'll be released.


HILL: Volz new trial last year triggered a riot. He received a 30-year sentence for murdering his former girlfriend, even though no physical evidence linked him to the crime scene and ten witnesses swore he was two hours away when that murder happened.

Colorado authorities have charged two teenagers as adults in the death of a 7-year-old girl they were babysitting. The child died after the suspects allegedly beat, kicked and body-slammed her.

They say they were imitating moves from the Mortal Combat videogames. The little girl was the half-sister of one of the teens.

If they are convicted, both could face 48 years in prison.

Stocks inching higher today, fuelled by strength in the technology sector. The Dow rose more than 38 points to 13,245. The NASDAQ tacked on nearly 40, while the S&P edged up seven points.

And two more late-night hosts say they will return to the air, despite the Hollywood writers' strike -- strike, that is. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" will resume production on January 7 without their striking writers, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Erica. Stick around. Up next, we're going to countdown our favorite shots of the year. Of course, our "best of" list wouldn't be complete without our favorite dancing prisoners. See what else made the cut after this short break.




COOPER: Erica, time for "The Shot" tonight. It's kind of a trip down "Shot" memory lane, if you will. We're taking a look back at the moments we'll never forget of '07. The smiles, the tears, the bears on the trampoline.

We call it the "360 First Annual Shot Highlight Reel." I think it just rolls off the tongue like that.

HILL: It does.

COOPER: Let's start with a treasured national icon, Britney Spears.

HILL: Ah, yes.

COOPER: Ding-dang, y'all. What a year it's been for her and the chasing path. We've spent many a night devoting our "Shot" to Britney. Her partying, her head-shaving -- who could forget that?

HILL: Right there.

COOPER: The no-underwearing shenanigans. You name it. She's also had a fan, a big fan who famously came to her defense on the Internet.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Get out your hankies, folks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All you people want is more, more, more, more, more! Leave her alone! You're lucky she even performed for you bastards! Leave Britney alone!


HILL: That moves me to tears, too, but for a different reason.

COOPER: It's an oldie but a goodie. Doesn't get tired.

Something tells me her little sister, Jamie Lynne, will have a big year of her own in '08.

HILL: Yes, indeed.

COOPER: Yes. Out next "Shot" moment, who would forget the world according to Miss South Carolina. The Miss Teen USA contestant mesmerized us with her knowledge of geography and intelligence when she was asked why Americans can't locate the U.S. on a map.


LAUREN CAITLIN UPTON, MISS SOUTH CAROLINA TEEN USA: I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps. And I believe that our education, like such as in South Africa and Iraq, everywhere, like such as -- and I believe that they should -- our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. -- or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future.



HILL: You think she should enter the race for president? I mean, I know she's a few years shy of the 35-year cutoff.

COOPER: Wow. Mario Lopez kept it together during all that.

HILL: How is the question.

COOPER: Yes. As a "Jeopardy" champion, I know for a fact that, like such as, that most U.S. Americans in Iraq and the nation of America, such as like do have maps, including one of our beloved countries such as, like, U.S. America.

HILL: Right.


HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Another famous "Shot" from this year, inmates dancing in unison...

HILL: Love it!

COOPER: ... to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." I love it, I love it, I love it.

Fifteen-hundred jailed rockers went through the routine at a Philippines detention center. We hear they may be touring with "Riverdance" soon, as soon as the sentence is...

HILL: Oh, Michael Flatley could be so lucky.

COOPER: One of the most downloaded clips on the Web, nine million hits. You know what they never show? They never show the guy dressed as a woman who was running around in the beginning of that video.

HILL: Which is one of the best parts of it. Maybe we should bring it back in our next 360 highlight clip reel.

COOPER: Maybe so.

HILL: I bet we'll have one next week.

COOPER: Yes. And finally, what would the "Shot" -- what would the "Shots" this year have been without bears?

HILL: Oh, got to have bears.

COOPER: We have three bears looking for some rest on a hammock in New Jersey.

HILL: Aww!

COOPER: Never gets old.

Our favorite bear antic, though, in '07 was the bear on the trampoline and then off it. Boom and...

HILL: And kaboom.


HILL: No bears were harmed in the making of this video.

COOPER: So we -- so we keep saying. That's what we keep saying.

The video has been around for a long time. I think it was originally shot back in 1973.

HILL: Was it '73 or '74? I can never remember.

COOPER: Might have been '74. Right before the big bicentennial. We want you to -- that was two years before the bicentennial.

HILL: Indeed. Is now when we do the promo?

COOPER: Sure. Let's go the promo. Why not?

HILL: Let's do the promo.


HILL: We've got more stuff coming to you.

COOPER: New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve, we're going to be creating our own new memories on New Year's Eve. We're going to be at Times Square. We're hoping to share the moment with the folks at home, with you. Like Chris and Kenny (ph), who watched us last year from Japan, just one of more than 200 countries that get to watch the Times Square party with us and CNN.

We need more photos. See they were watching. They made that little note for us there.

HILL: Like it.

COOPER: We need more photos like that, or videos, too. Go to and start uploading.

HILL: And it's not just the photos that you can send in.

COOPER: Oh, au contraire, mon frere.

HILL: No, no, no. We will not stop there. Another cool thing we have this year, you can text. So when you go to, we'll show you how to send a message that will actually scroll on the bottom of the screen during said special.

COOPER: That's cool.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: It's like voting for "American Idol," only not.

HILL: Kind of, yes.


HILL: There's only one number, I think, instead of, you know, ten.

COOPER: In the U.S. country of American.

HILL: For U.S. Americans. There's a different one for those in South Africa and in the Iraq.

COOPER: The Iraq. Good.

Up next on 360, it is getting down to the wire. It's getting nasty. We'll take a look at some of the political dirty tricks being played on all sides of the aisle right now.

Also ahead tonight, a father and three kids lost in the wilderness for days. Tonight, for the first time, we see how they survived. New photos when 360 continues.


COOPER: Tonight, is Hillary Clinton playing dirty in her race for the Democratic nomination? New allegations tonight that the Clinton campaign set up Web sites to attack Barack Obama. We'll bring you the facts, though, on that and take a closer look at charges her campaign is making a habit of sneak attacks and hasty retreats. Some very "Raw Politics" tonight.

Also, remarkable pictures of the family rescued after days in the snowy wilderness. Pictures they took as they struggled to find shelter, stay warm and survive.

And later, Interstate 35, was it actually preordained in the Bible? What does that make Route 66?