Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Obama in Africa; Michael Jackson Insider Speaks Out; Erin Brockovich's New Fight
Aired July 10, 2009 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, as you mentioned, is in Ghana tonight, where, as soon as Air Force One touched down in the capital city of Accra, President Obama made history.
He has been to Africa before, but not as president. And, unlike any president before, part of his heritage is on this continent, specifically in Kenya.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have family members who live in villages -- they -- they themselves are not going hungry, but live in villages where hunger is real.
And, so, this is something that I understand in very personal terms. And, if you talk to people on the ground in Africa, certainly in Kenya, they will say that part of the issue here is, the institutions aren't working for ordinary people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Mr. Obama speaking there in Rome ending his G8 Summit today with a papal audience at the Vatican, where the president giving Pope Benedict a letter from the ailing Senator Ted Kennedy, asking the pontiff to pray for him.
He is now, though, in Ghana, where he will sit down tomorrow with Anderson for an exclusive interview.
Anderson, you are in Elmina right now, where the president is -- is headed tomorrow, and, as I imagine, a lot of excitement there waiting for him as well.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, to say the least.
The people here are incredibly excited. I mean, the streets are lines with posters. You see people walking around with T-shirts with pictures of the president of Ghana and also President Obama, a lot of people. They all want to know where the president is going to be, are they going to get to be able to get to see him.
And there is a lot of joy that the -- that the president chose Ghana to come. As you know, he has family in Kenya. He could have chosen to go there, as he has three times in his life, before becoming president. But he chose this country because the administration believes that Ghana is a thriving democracy. They have had some successful elections. They have had some economic growth. And -- and they have been able to battle corruption in a way that many other African governments have not. And, so, this is -- they see this as a relatively successful model, and one that they -- they want to praise and -- and hold up as an example to the rest of Africa -- Erica.
HILL: For many Americans, though, Anderson, I know there are parts of Ghana which are actually a symbol of part of America's dark past, Cape Coast Castle specifically.
I know you are headed there tomorrow.
COOPER: Yes, I actually spent part of Friday there as well.
The president will be going to one of these castles with his wife and with his kids. And what is significant about these -- these fortresses, really, is that parts of them are just dungeons. And this is where hundreds of thousands, more than a million slaves, Africans who were enslaved, were held before being shipped to the New World, being shipped to America, being shipped to the West Indies and Europe.
And I went there today. And the president will be there tomorrow. And we will be speak to him on the site of one of these fortresses. But I -- it is -- it is a sobering visit for anybody who goes there.
And there are many -- many Americans, many African-Americans who have come back and make that return. And we spoke to one of them today. And we will have that a little bit later on in the program. But it is a chilling place to be, to stand in one of these dungeons where hundreds of Africans who were enslaved were held. Many suffocated to death, were killed, brutalized, truly a sobering, a sobering experience.
And we will have some of that, as I said, later on in the program -- Erica.
HILL: All right, we will be checking in with you for that a little bit later -- Anderson, thanks.
Want to turn now to some breaking news tonight. There is a new voice in the Michael Jackson story. It is 180 degrees different from those claiming Jackson was either physically fit enough or mentally ready for his grueling series of 50 comeback concerts -- one of several developments tonight, including this musical memorial happening in Jackson's birthplace of Gary, Indiana, father Joe Jackson attending, that and a custody hearing set for Monday now postponed for a second time.
But, first, we want to get to those fascinating new developments tonight which center on Michael Jackson's physical condition. Was he, as some say, fit, free of needle marks, happy?
Or was he, as Randi Kaye has been uncovering, first, all week, a mess? She has more for us tonight. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If Michael Jackson had lived to begin his upcoming London shows, this man says he likely would not have finished them.
LEONARD ROWE, FORMER FINANCIAL ADVISER FOR MICHAEL JACKSON: I knew he wasn't ready to handle them. And I knew it was something that he could not do. He also knew that.
KAYE: Leonard Rowe had known Michael Jackson for 30 years. He said Jackson hired him to handle the finances for his final tour. But one look at him, and Rowe had doubts.
ROWE: The reason I thought he couldn't handle it is easy. First of all, I saw the shape Michael was in physically. Michael weighed, it looked like to me, 110, 115 pounds. He was 5'10''.
KAYE: Rowe told me said Jackson didn't want to work that hard and did not want to go ahead with a grueling concert schedule. He said, the singer told him he agreed to do 10 shows, but that the promoter, AEG, sold out 50.
He said Jackson asked him to figure out a more doable schedule. Rowe says he asked AEG to cut back.
ROWE: I suggested to him that we do two shows a week. But I went -- when I went to AEG, Randy Phillips, and spoke to him on the phone first, he told me basically to shove off. He didn't want to talk about it.
KAYE: Phillips denies they ever talked. AEG told CNN Jackson passed a five-hour medical exam in preparation for his tour, and told 360 last week:
RANDY PHILLIPS, PRESIDENT & CEO, AEG LIVE: All I know is, the Michael Jackson that hugged me and said good night was a healthy, vibrant human being.
ROWE: When I people saying that Michael was in great shape and that he was raring to go, I know this is untrue. And they know it was untrue as well. Michael was not in good physical shape, and Michael was not raring to go.
KAYE: In response to allegations that AEG refused to make Jackson's schedule earlier, Randy Phillips told us Jackson had agreed to 50 shows, adding, he needed the money.
Rowe believes Jackson was weakened by what he calls the singer's addiction to prescription drugs.
ROWE: Well, it was common knowledge to everybody that Michael was addicted to prescription drugs. You wouldn't have to be an M.D. to look at Michael and knew that he was not in good physical shape. You could look at him. Physically, it wasn't there. And I knew when I looked at him, and I told him, he was underweight tremendously. And he said he just don't have an appetite.
KAYE: Rowe says he last saw Jackson three weeks before his death at a meeting at his home. He said Jackson was in his pajamas, looking frail and thin.
(on camera): Rowe told me, just one week before Michael Jackson died, he spoke with some of his family members about getting him help, including his father, Joe Jackson, and his brother Randy. He said they all agreed to get Jackson into rehabilitation. But they never had the chance. He died before they could even make a move.
(voice-over): Whenever Rowe saw Jackson, he said, the singer always wore long sleeves. Reports that his arms covered in track marks, suggesting heavy I.V. drug use, did not surprise Rowe.
What does surprise him is that those around Jackson on a daily basis didn't do more to save him.
KAYE: We reached out to the Jackson family for a comment regarding what Leonard Rowe told us tonight about Michael Jackson, but the family's representative told us there would be no comment tonight -- Erica.
HILL: Probably not a lot of surprise there, huh, Randi?
I know we got word late today that the custody hearing for Michael Jackson's children, which was scheduled for Monday, has been postponed a second time, at the request of both his mother, Katherine, and Debbie Rowe.
Any more insight tonight into whether or not Debbie Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife, is actually planning to seek custody of the couple's two children?
KAYE: We have a little bit of information. I spoke with a friend of Debbie Rowe's who also happens to be a former business of Michael Jackson's.
And he told me that he fully expects Debbie Rowe to go for custody. He said the fact that Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson's father, is talking about helping raise the children is really a problem for her, since Michael Jackson had a terrible relationship with his father.
This friend also told me that Debbie Rowe had said -- and I'm quoting here -- actually, he said this about her -- "She is not just going to lay down and roll over," he said. So, maybe they are trying to come to an agreement out of court, out of the public eye, and that is why this hearing has been delayed. But we will have to wait and see if -- if this gets ugly.
HILL: All right, Randi Kaye in -- live for us in L.A., we will be checking with you again in a little bit.
And, as always, you can weigh in. Just have to log on to AC360.com, be a part of the live chat. I promise I'm going to log on in the next block.
Up next, though, there is a court hearing, as we just mentioned, postponed. As Randi said, though, it doesn't lessen the chance for fireworks in this battle for Michael Jackson's children.
There are a lot of potential complications here. We're going to dissect those with "Inside Edition's Jim Moret, who will join us.
And, a little bit later, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Erin Brockovich teaming up for a story about an Neverland disaster that is mind- blowing, not only because of how little coverage it's getting, but also because of just how badly these victims are hurting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA HAMPTON, LIVES NEAR COAL ASH SPILL: Death? Cancer? Everyone here deserves a future, you know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: As you well know by now, there is little that is ordinary about the Michael Jackson story, including the custody hearing that was postponed late today for a second time.
Right now, Jackson's children are with his mother, Katherine. Named in the will as guardian, she has been granted temporary court- appointed guardianship of his three children, while the birth mother of his two eldest, Debbie Rowe, is specifically excluded in that will and thought to be out of the picture.
But, when the hearing does happen -- right now, we're told it's going to be Monday, July 20 -- will Rowe be there? And what about a system which normally places a premium on a biological parent when it comes to custody? How would that figure in, in this case?
We are digging deeper tonight on that drama, also digging into the ongoing investigation with Michael Jackson's death.
Jim Moret is chief correspondent for "Inside Edition." He is also an attorney.
Jim, great to have you back with us tonight.
JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": Good to be here.
HILL: As we mentioned, the custody hearing pushed back now a second time, at the request of both Katherine Jackson and Debbie Rowe. What do you think is happening behind the scenes? Could they actually be working something out? MORET: Well, I think it indicates that the two sides are talking. As a matter of fact, one of the attorneys for Katherine Jackson said as much. And that is a good thing, because I think the best interests of the children would be served if this could be worked out outside of the public eye, and without a -- a protracted battle.
HILL: Katherine Jackson, as we know, when she filed, filed for sole custody. Michael Jackson only named her, didn't name her husband, his father, Joe Jackson.
But he's actually speaking out about the custody issue. He was asked by ABC today who should raise Michael Jackson's three children. Take a listen to his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA")
JOE JACKSON, FATHER OF MICHAEL JACKSON: Their grandmother, Katherine, and I, yes. There's no one else to do what we can do for them, you know, which is keep them all together and make them happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Jim, it's -- it is not even clear that Katherine and Joe actually live together at this point. And, frankly, there are some questions about what Joe actually did for his own children, whether or not he made them happy. Is he hurting Katherine Jackson's case?
MORET: He is not helping it. That's for sure.
I often wonder why he is speaking out. Since Michael Jackson's death, he said such strange things at the BET Awards, and, then, the day following, he was hawking his own record label.
Look, it was very clear when Katherine Jackson filed, prior to a will being discovered, she filed for -- for guardianship alone, not with Joe Jackson, who lives in Las Vegas, and does not live with Katherine Jackson here in Encino.
And, even in the will, Michael Jackson made it very clear he wants Katherine Jackson alone. There have been many allegations and that Michael Jackson himself made about being physically and mentally abused. And Debbie Rowe herself said to a local reporter in -- in Los Angeles that she wanted to go for custody and seek a restraining order against Joe Jackson to keep him away from her children.
So, Joe Jackson saying he wants to be involved is not a good thing for Katherine Jackson.
HILL: You mentioned Debbie Rowe there and -- and her thoughts on -- on Joe Jackson. We also just heard Randi Kaye spoke with a friend of Debbie Rowe's, who said she is not just going to roll over and that she fully intends to seek custody.
What are her chances here, Jim?
MORET: Well, there is a presumption for the biological parent to receive custody.
HILL: Even if they may not have had any sort of relationship, as apparently she has not had with her two children for a number of years?
MORET: She has also tried to give away custody, give up her parental rights. But it was overturned by an appeals court. Yes, there is still a presumption.
However, the judge is going to look at a lot of things. Don't forget, she only has rights with respect to two kids. but there are three children here. You don't want to split up the family. That would be horrible for these kids. They have already lost a father. You don't want them to lose a sibling as well.
You want to look at what is in their best interest. They obviously have a relationship with Katherine. They have cousins. They have aunts. They have uncles. All of that will be taken into consideration, as will, most likely, listening to the kids themselves. What do they want?
But Debbie Rowe does have a legal interest in two children. So, it is not a very clear-cut case. It's not an easy case. It's one that's going to take time. And, hopefully, there will be a resolution outside of court.
HILL: Best for the children to have that happen outside of court, as you mentioned.
And, real quickly, it just want to ask you to go back for a second, though. How -- how would Debbie Rowe's comments from the past figure in? Because she has said things -- and I'm quoting here -- about having children: "I did it for him to become a father, not for me to become a mother."
And she even said when asked in I think it was 2001 what would happen with the kids if Michael should die. She said -- quote -- "I'm sure he has a wonderful person in mind to take care of them."
Can that come back to haunt her?
MORET: It can. But you don't want to look into her motivations then so much.
MORET: I mean, you could also say that she -- she basically sold them for $8.5 million. She is still the biological mother. She could have a change of heart. And she could try to position herself as saying look: Michael was a great father. He is gone. I want to step into their lives.
HILL: Well, we will certainly be following it closely.
Before we let you go, I do want to turn over to the investigation now into Michael Jackson's death. As we know, the LAPD hasn't ruled out homicide -- his father, though, saying today he suspects foul play.
Knowing what we know and what we have learned about possible doctor-shopping, all of these different prescription drugs which have been -- which have been mentioned, how hard could homicide or even foul play be to prove?
MORET: Well, look at the Anna Nicole case. It is a very -- it is a very clear parallel. You have got doctors who allegedly overprescribed or abused or used aliases. That's really what they're looking at here. And they are looking at a long period of time.
The LAPD police chief said that they are looking for the coroner's report to corroborate the cause of death, corroborate, which clearly implies that they have a strong belief that something was involved. And that something in this case is clearly drug abuse.
HILL: All right, Jim Moret, always good to have you with us. Thanks.
MORET: Thanks, Erica.
HILL: Straight ahead, we are going to return to Anderson in Ghana. He will take us for a look inside that sobering slave castle, as he put it, where President Obama will be visiting tomorrow. It is literally the point of no return for slaves on their way to the New World.
Also ahead tonight: a thriller of a memorial for Michael Jackson, away from all the sparkle, in his hometown, Gary, Indiana -- that and more, as 360 continues.
HILL: Coming up: 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta teaming up with activist Erin Brockovich to cover America's largest environment disaster. It happened just months ago. The victims are still suffering, and you may not know anybody about it. So, who is blame is? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.
But, first, Randi Kaye joins us again with a 360 bulletin.
KAYE: Hi there, Erica.
An Iranian-American has been arrested in Tehran. Sources close to the family of Kian Tajbakhsh say security forces took him into custody, ransacked his home, and took his computer. Tajbakhsh was briefly imprisoned in Iran two years ago on accusations he endangered Iranian national security. It is unclear why he was arrested this time.
One analyst tells CNN, this could be an effort by Tehran to drag Washington into Iran's post-election turmoil.
A 360 follow now on Michael Ware's exclusive report last night on how Pakistan's military is offering to help broker a cease-fire in Pakistan. Pakistan is suggesting the U.S. sit down for talks with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. In return, Pakistan wants America's help in reining in its number-one rival, India.
What is the U.S. response? Michael spoke today with the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, SPECIAL U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN: Let me be very clear. I'm neither going to rule out or rule in anything on such a hypothetical basis, and I'm not going to get drawn into speculation on an issue this complicated.
But I want to underscore existing policy that has been addressed by everybody in the U.S. government, from the president on down. There is room in Afghanistan for Taliban people who have fought with the Taliban, who are willing to participate in the political structure, who are willing to disassociate and renounce al Qaeda, and who are willing to lay down their arms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: In New York, part of Bernard Madoff's old office is now up for lease. But FBI agents investigating Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme are still looking through his records on one floor of the office. And they say they will be there at least until next summer. Madoff is serving 150 years in prison for the scam that wiped out thousands of investors -- Erica.
HILL: It will be interesting to see who takes on that office space eventually.
HILL: Whether or not...
KAYE: You think maybe they would get a deal on it.
HILL: You would think, especially given the -- the current real estate climate and the fact that there may have been some shady stuff going on there.
HILL: We will follow that. Randi, thanks.
Up next on 360: Erin Brockovich protecting families in fear -- Erin and Dr. Sanjay Gupta taking us to a community where the people say they are literally choking on ash. And now they are just trying to get some answers on what some consider a catastrophe in the making.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIN BROCKOVICH, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: The thing that just -- just blew my mind was, there was a lake there. It's gone. I kept saying, where's the lake?
It's gone. It is mud. It looks like a moonscape. It looks like Mars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: And, later, Joe Jackson, the new interview, speaking out about the custody case and why he and his wife, Katherine, should raise Michael Jackson's children.
HILL: Ever since Julia Roberts portrayed her on film, Erin Brockovich has become a star in her own right as an activist and a crusader for truth.
Tonight, what may be her most important mission yet -- Erin is teaming up with Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a story you need to know about and, frankly, may find very difficult to believe. It's a story about the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. And it is actually happening right now. But this is not off the shores of Alaska. It's in Tennessee.
And, as Erin and Sanjay show us, this massive toxic -- toxic threat could actually be spreading.
Here is Sanjay's report.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Desperation is mounting here -- ever since the disaster six months ago. Families are terrified about their health, and they fear, no one is listening.
PAMELA HAMPTON, LIVES NEAR COAL ASH SPILL: Death? Cancer? Everyone here deserves a future, you know?
GUPTA: Three days before Christmas, a barrier broke, and a torrent of toxic sludge spilled across 300 acres in eastern Tennessee.
I went to see it for myself -- but, before even arriving to the spill site, a hitch.
ERIN BROCKOVICH, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: We're a little stuck at the moment.
GUPTA (on camera): What has happened with all this coal ash, it's taken this -- this body of water, which used to be about 25 feet deep, and turned it into just inches deep. So, as -- as we're crossing along in a boat, the motor gets stuck, and we're trying to get a tow.
(voice-over): Here's what we do know. For the United States, this is the largest environmental disaster ever.
(on camera): Just to give a -- a scale of reference, Valdez was about 11 million gallons.
BROCKOVICH: That's right.
GUPTA (voice-over): Eleven million gallons of oil spilled with the Exxon Valdez.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And all toxic.
GUPTA: Here in Tennessee, 1.1 billion gallons spilled, almost 100 times larger. And, yet, families here believe, no one responsible for protecting them takes their fears seriously.
SARAH MCCOIN, LIVES NEAR COAL ASH SPILL: I know darn well that stuff is hazardous. And you know what? They know it, too. But I guarantee you, if any of those people lived here, they would be totally freaking out, just like the rest of us.
GUPTA: Community members blame the Tennessee Valley Authority, the TVA. And they brought in environmental activist Erin Brockovich to help. She successfully sued a big utility in California in the 1990s.
BROCKOVICH: The thing that just -- just blew my mind was, there was a lake there. It's gone. I kept saying, where's the lake? It's gone. It is mud. It looks like a moonscape. It looks like Mars.
GUPTA: To produce power, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the TVA, burns tons of coal every day. That produces ash. There's no safe way to dispose of it, so the TVA mixes it with water and stores it in vast retention ponds -- that are not supposed to break.
ANDA RAY, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF THE OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENT AND RESEARCH, TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY: TVA maintains that we did daily inspections and quarterly inspections and -- and -- and did constant monitoring. This was not expected at all.
GUPTA: But, "Keeping Them Honest," we found TVA inspection reports that detail -- quote -- "visible evidence" of water seeping out of TVA's coal dam and small blowouts for years before this spill.
Engineering and geology experts we spoke with say all the signs for imminent danger were there.
(on camera): So, we finally made our way here by boat. And what I'm about to show you is the largest industrial spill in U.S. history. Take a look over here. That is all coal ash. What is then remarkable to us, if you talk to the Tennessee Valley Authority and the EPA, they say they have tested the water, they have tested the air. They say it is safe.
But, as we investigated and talked to the citizens of community, we're hearing a different story. We're hearing stories of bloody noises, asthma, headaches. People here say they are choking on ash.
(voice-over): The Hamptons live less than a mile away from the spill. Here's what they see.
HAMPTON: A daughter who's constantly complaining of headaches that she didn't use to have before. Joshua, he was having the upper respiratory situations. Noah, you know, drainage out of the eyes, the nose, the chronic cough. He was having ear infections. And they were so bad, the doctor said they look like grapes in his ears. He's never had this before -- never.
GUPTA: After the spill, a Duke University study found high levels of toxic elements and radioactivity, toxins in the atmosphere, and contamination of surface waters.
ANNA GEORGE, DIRECTOR AND CHIEF RESEARCH SCIENTIST, TENNESSEE AQUARIUM RESEARCH INSTITUTE: ... that entered the river.
GUPTA: Anna George is a scientist with the Tennessee Aquarium Research Institute, which works to protect the environment.
GEORGE: We have seen some fish where the gills were completely coated in sediment. It makes it difficult to breathe. So it's like suffocating.
GUPTA: Coal ash, which contains potential cancer-causing agents like arsenic, lead, selenium but is not considered by the EPA to be hazardous.
(on camera) Why wouldn't that be considered hazardous?
LISA JACKSON, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Every time EPA's regulations have treated it as solid waste, the equivalent of garbage, household garbage but not as a hazardous waste. By the end of the year, we'll make that regulatory determination as to whether or not it's hazardous.
GUPTA (voice-over): At issue, what amount of chemicals and coal ash is safe?
ANDA RAY, TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY: All of the air samples meet national ambient air standards, all of the water, including the private wells in the area, all of the raw water intake and the treated water meet the state and federal standards for drinking water.
BROCKOVICH: We have to convince someone that inhaling cancer- causing chemicals is bad for you. It just doesn't make any sense to me at all. GUPTA: The TVA advises families to see their doctors about health problems and says that soon clinics will be set up to test blood for potential toxins.
Like many families here, the Hamptons can't afford to move.
P. HAMPTON: I have no confidence in what they're saying, that they're doing this and they're doing it right. Absolutely none. And I can't believe anything they say. Because to me it ' a lie.
GUPTA: Erin Brockovich echoes the fears of people here.
BROCKOVICH: Somebody has to protect these people because they're going to find out ten years too late. It will be the "oh, oops" moment. "I do have cancer. I am sick." And then there will be no recourse for them. That's not fair, and that's not right.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Kingston, Tennessee.
HILL: Last month a consultant found several reasons why the pond collapsed, including the height of the pile, the high water content of the ash and the construction of sloping dyke.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has accepted that report. Also last month, the federal government released a list of 44 coal ash dumps across the country now classified as high hazard.
Erin Brockovich has much more to tell you about her new fight. You can read all about it on our Web site, AC360.com.
And just ahead on 360, Anderson live in Ghana. We're going to have a preview of his day tomorrow with President Obama in the West African nation, as well as Anderson's visit to a slave trade landmark: dungeons that once held people bound to the west to become slaves.
Also tonight, a 360 follow on a deadly battle between members of a polygamist sect and the Mexican drug cartels. Gary Tuchman went to the town where two Americans were killed and spoke to the family that is fighting back.
HILL: If you're just joining us tonight, Anderson is in Ghana. We are going to bring you his exclusive interview with President Obama from Ghana on Monday.
Just two other U.S. presidents have visited the African nation while in office: Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Both were greeted warmly. The reception President Obama is getting is frankly in another league altogether.
Anderson back once again now with a 360 dispatch.
Anderson, and tomorrow the president will be at Cape Coast Castle. What more can you tell us about that site? I know you were there today.
COOPER: Yes. We spent a lot of time there today. And we'll be there tomorrow interviewing the president. It is a really -- it's a haunting visit. There's a number of castles, number of fortresses along the coast in Ghana that were used for hundreds of years as a holding place for slaves before they were sent to the New World, before they were sent to America, elsewhere in the New World and Europe.
And you go into these holding cells. And we followed one African-American lady who around here is called Missa Mathis (ph). She moves here. Who, whenever she visits the Cape Coast Castle, it is truly a very moving experience for her.
And we followed her, and we're going to tell her story also next week on CNN. This is where President Obama and his wife and kids are going to be going tomorrow. I'll be talking to them about the experience, what it's like for them.
Our own Donna Brazile went to Cape Coast a while ago and had a remarkable experience here that she told us about. Here's what Donna had to say.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Cape Coast is perhaps a trip I'll never forget.
The castle was built by the slave traders, the Dutch: the Portuguese, the British, depending on which facility you visited. And it was where they -- first it was a trading post that they used to trade commodities, horse trading and copper and wood, and then later it was used for the actual slave trade itself.
I remember it was just dark. It was like being in a dungeon. It was like being in a tunnel. And perhaps that was designed so that the victims could somehow or another forget that they were part of a village and part of a community, part of a country.
What struck me the moment I walked in was the smell. I smelled human flesh. And I kept thinking, I said, this can't be. Yes. It was flesh. Then you could -- it's almost as if the tears and the sweat would roll down from their bodies, and it just -- it languished right there in the dungeon. It's the smell that captured me more than anything else.
There's nothing to see. It's dark. But the smell, the smell of tears, the smell of human sweat, flesh, I'll never forget that as long as I live.
Then when you complete the tour and you think this is -- this emotional experience is over with, you go to the end, and they call it the door of no return. That's where you look out at the ocean. And there was -- at that point it was very hard to hold myself together because I began to think what if? What if one of my ancestors, my great, great grandparents emerged from this darkness, and all they saw was this vast ocean, not knowing exactly where they would be going and what would happen next?
And when I reached the door of no return, by then I -- my own tears were mixed in with the others that had been there perhaps for centuries.
You just wanted to cry out and say, why, God, why? Why? Why? That part of history we must remember. We must never forget.
HILL: It's just incredible to hear her tell that story. The power of her words.
The president, obviously, still has family in Africa, although in Kenya. I can't imagine what that visit is going to be like for him and his entire family tomorrow.
COOPER: Yes. It will be interesting. I want to ask him about how he's going to describe and explain it to his young daughters. And that door of no return is at the castle the president will be visiting at tomorrow. We walked through it today.
And it is, after being in these dungeons, these are dungeons not only used to hold but to punish, to literally suffocate to death those who were -- who were trying to rebel. And then to walk through that door of no return and see the ocean and know that there were ships our there waiting that would then take people across the seas to further bondage. It's -- it's truly sobering to visit, Erica.
HILL: Sobering and an important lesson for all of us, Anderson. We are looking forward to hearing more about it from you.
Your exclusive interview, again, with President Obama coming over two nights next week: both next Monday and Tuesday. As you heard there, they have a lot of talk about, and frankly, that's just the beginning. Again, that's Monday and Tuesday at 10 p.m. Eastern only, right here on AC 360.
Now, Anderson has been tweeting and will continue to do so while he's in Ghana. If you log on to AC360.com you can read his updates. He sent some pictures from the trip. Get a little bit more insight into how his days are actually going.
What would you like Anderson to ask President Obama about in tomorrow's exclusive interview? Well, want to get that question out there? Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com.
And just ahead, a 360 follow for you tonight. Americans were part of a polygamist sect in Mexico, kidnapped and killed by the drug cartels. Well, now those victim's family are sharing gruesome details on how it all happened.
Plus, there is breaking news about a shocking crime in Florida, a husband and wife murdered, and police believe eight of their children may have witnessed those killings.
COOPER: We have new details for you tonight on a story we first told you about last night, about a deadly battle between a polygamist sect in Mexico and a murderous drug cartel. The cartel killed two Americans from the polygamist compounds, and now the families of those slain members are speaking out.
Gary Tuchman traveled across the border today for this "360 Follow-up."
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What this mother has gone through in the last two months is difficult to comprehend. Her son was kidnapped by five members of a Mexican drug cartel. Eric Le Baron was released a week after his kidnapping, despite the family not paying a million-dollar ransom. Ramona Le Baron said it was a miracle.
RAMONA LE BARON, MOTHER: I got him back on Mother's Day. It was the most beautiful Mother's Day president I've ever had in my life.
TUCHMAN: Ramona, her husband and 12 children live in Colonia Le Baron, Mexico, a 200-mile drive south of El Paso, Texas, a town settled by their American ancestors more than 80 years ago after leaving the Mormon church when it banned polygamy. They came to Mexico so they could practice polygamy live in peace and quiet. For most of a century they did. Then came the kidnapping.
And this week something much worse: another one of Ramona's sons and another relative were shot to death after being kidnapped from this house by what are suspected to be cartel members. It's believed they were angry that her oldest son, Benjamin Le Baron, had helped the street protests against the drug cartel violence and intimidation.
(voice-over) This house was full of children when these unimaginable horrors happened. Neighbors say two trucks pulled up in front of the house. 25 commandos in camouflage clothing rushed up to the door, and can see where the windows are still broken.
They bashed in the door and said they wanted Benjamin Le Baron. One of the neighbors says the commando threatened to rape his wife in front of the children. The wife pleaded, "Leave me along. Leave my children alone."
At that point, from across the street, Benjamin Le Baron's brother-in-law came inside to help. The commandos took both of them out of the house, put them in a truck, and their lifeless bodies for found shortly after.
R. LE BARON: I cried. I felt a feeling in me that I can't even explain to you.
FOREMAN: Benjamin Le Baron and his brother in law, Luis Widmar, were laid to rest Thursday. Security was intense, and well-armed Mexican police are now all over town. Police have video of one of the getaway vehicles going through a toll booth, but no arrests have been made.
Eric says his brother praised him for his courage after he was released by the kidnappers. Now Eric says this about his brother.
ERIC LE BARON, BROTHER: I'm going to follow his example.
FOREMAN: The family did not want to talk to us about whether they practice polygamy. Another one of the brothers says it's a very sensitive topic.
JULIAN LE BARON, BROTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: It just annoys me that people -- that people talk so much about polygamy and talk so much about our town that we're, like, disgusting people. And yet we have politicians in the states that cheat on their wives and have other -- relationships with other women all the time.
FOREMAN: The family is open to talking about their heartache.
(on camera) This must be a painful question but do you now wish he didn't speak out against the drug cartels?
R. LE BARON: That is a tough question, but I am going to tell you my belief. We are not born for certain things in our life and if we're not born to stand up for righteous principles and the things that we know are true, what good is our life?
FOREMAN (voice-over): In Colonia Le Baron they believe Benjamin Le Baron lived a very good life.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Colonia Le Baron, Mexico.
HILL: Up next, breaking news in a brutal double murder. The parents of 12 adopted children gunned down in their Florida home. We have the latest for you on the investigation.
Plus, Levi Johnston, the father of Sarah Palin's grandson, speaking out again. Tonight we hear what he says is the real reason she's stepping down as governor of Alaska.
HILL: Want to follow now with some of the other stories we're following. Randi Kaye joining us with another 360 bulletin.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Erica.
Police in Florida are seeking two persons of interest in the shooting deaths of a mother and father during a home invasion near Pensacola. Eight of the couples' 16 children were asleep in the house at the time. Police say surveillance cameras recorded three young white men entering the house and driving away in a large red Dodge van. At a news conference, Levi Johnston, the 19-year-old father of Sarah Palin's grandson, said he believes the Alaska governor is stepping down to cash in on her fame. He told reporters while he was living with the Palins months ago, he heard the governor say how nice it would be to take advantage of the lucrative deals she was being offered.
Well, Palin's spokeswoman had this to say about Johnston, who was pursuing his own book and movie deals. She said, "It is interesting to learn Levi is working on a piece of fiction while honing his acting skills."
Michael Jackson's father, Joe Jackson, also speaking out tonight, saying he believes foul play may have been involved in his son's sudden death. Joe Jackson also said he and his wife Katherine should be granted permanent custody of Jackson's three children, Prince Michael, Paris, and Blanket.
All right. This one I love. Attention Fido and Fluffy, the first pet-only airlines. Pet Airways launches next week out of New York, Washington, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles.
Each flight will carry up to 50 paw-sengers. Yes, paw-sengers. I didn't write that.
The seats and the overhead bins have been removed, of course, to make room for all those pets. Now, of course, they have to stay in their carriers, but they will have a flight attendant to look after their in-flight needs.
Now I'm just wondering, Erica, what do you think they're going to serve on that plane?
HILL: I think there will be a lot of dog biscuits.
KAYE: Probably no peanuts.
HILL: No peanuts. Although my dog loves peanut butter, so maybe peanut butter.
KAYE: Definitely no drinks.
HILL: Probably not. You don't want them to go to the bathroom too often.
KAYE: Maybe some water.
HILL: They get unruly when the bar cart goes by.
KAYE: I wonder if they're they going to put the passengers underneath because the pets are up top on that one.
HILL: I bet some dogs would love, that, wouldn't they?
KAYE: The human passengers.
HILL: Working it all. While we wait for that picture, we check out today's "Beat 360." It's our daily challenge, of course, to viewers. A chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture that we post on our blog every day.
Tonight's picture, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama exchanging gifts with Pope Benedict in his library at the Vatican.
Our staff winner tonight is Kate: "Don't get me wrong, they are lovely, but this whole matchy-matchy thing isn't really our style, right Michelle?"
(SOUND EFFECT: GROANS)
HILL: Very cute. And our winning viewer caption comes from Brandi and Lauren in Atlanta. I feel like they just won again recently. Maybe it was even a tweet. I remember this tag team action.
"Are these from the Martha Stewart pope collection?"
(SOUND EFFECT: "Ooooh!")
HILL: Nice. Yes. Featured exclusively at Kmart. Is Martha Stewart still at Kmart? I don't know. I may be dating myself.
All right, Brandi and Lauren, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. This is good. Now they'll each have one, now that they've won twice.
Still ahead, Michael Jackson's hometown saying goodbye. The tribute in Gary, Indiana, included an impressive rendition of "Thriller" with even a Michael Jackson look-alike.
Plus, Anderson reporting from Ghana where President Obama is making a historic visit.
HILL: All right, Randi, tonight's "Shot" comes to us from Gary, Indiana, which is, of course, Michael Jackson's hometown. The city held its own memorial tonight for its favorite son, with of course, plenty of music and dancing, including a rousing performance of "Thriller." Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Pretty impressive, I have to say.
HILL: That is amazing. That is very well done.
KAYE: That's about the only song I've been hearing out here in Los Angeles.
HILL: Really, that's it?
I've been hearing of "Got to Be Startin' Something." That's kind of got an infectious beat, I've got to tell you. A lot of that. A lot of "Billie Jean," lot of "PYT." Dancing.
KAYE: Yes. Blaring out of the car radios here.
HILL: In the streets of New York, too. It's good. It's, you know, uniting a lot of people, which is interesting. It's kind of fun to see on the streets.
"Thriller" is the No. 1-selling album of all time. But we couldn't leave without showing you one of, frankly, the cooler global tributes we've seen. Check it out. It's the eternal moonwalk. Everybody does ten seconds they keep it going for each frame, even Pacman across the world.
And in face, in our newsroom here at "AC 360" there was even a little bit of an attempt here. I missed it.
KAYE: Did we get that on tape?
HILL: We don't have it on tape.
KAYE: Did we get our own people on tape?
HILL: We didn't. We did have to work on that for money. But I did hear that Diana Miller, who's our line producer on this show, does a fierce moonwalk. And if there were to be a battle she would win.
KAYE: She would win it, huh?
HILL: That does not surprise me.
KAYE: Me neither. Girls got moves.
HILL: All right, Randi, get some rest this weekend. Breaking stories left and right. I don't know what we'd do without you.
KAYE: Thank you.
HILL: Stay tuned. There is much more to come on 360. Coming up at the top of the hour, Anderson and President Obama in Africa.
Plus, a new voice in the Jackson tragedy now saying the singer, had he lived, might not have survived his planned concert comeback.
HILL: Anderson is in Ghana tonight, where as soon as Air Force One touches down in the capital city of Accra, President Obama made history. He'd been to Africa before, but not as president. And unlike any president before, part of his heritage is on this continent, specifically in Kenya.