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Balloon Boy Hoax Confirmed?; Did Texas Execute Innocent Man?

Aired October 23, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news: truth and consequences. Balloon boy's mom apparently fesses up. She's saying it was all a publicity stunt. She has her own attorney and charges have yet to be filed. Tonight, what happens now to her, her husband, Richard Heene, and their three kids?

Then, "Up Close": Were two pilots asleep on the flight deck? They missed the airport by more than 100 miles. One of them is speaking out tonight, which is more than either of them did as controllers tried to figure out what was going on inside that cockpit at 37,000 feet.

And "Keeping Them Honest": Did the state of Texas execute an innocent man, and is the governor now trying to cover it up? You are going to hear from his defense attorney, the man who was killed. The defense attorney's condemnation of his own client will leave you wondering, with a defense like that, who needs a prosecution?

First up tonight: the breaking news that seems to close the case on the balloon boy business. According to court documents, balloon boy's mom says it was a hoax. Mayumi, Mayumi, Mayumi.

By now, this is not surprising. Most people suspected it, after Falcon Heene blurted out he did it for the show. Mayumi Heene has a lawyer. So does her husband. But her confession was made to police before either of them had contact with attorneys.

Erica Hill is working the story.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, just two days after leading law enforcement and millions of concerned Americans to believe her 6-year-old son had climbed into that homemade balloon which came loose in their backyard and taken off with the boy inside, Mayumi Heene, in a sworn affidavit, said it was all a hoax.

Now, in this affidavit made public today, she says the release of the flying saucer was intentional as a hoax. This comes to us from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.

It reads: "She and Richard Heene knew all along that Falcon was hiding in the residence. The motive for the fabricated story was to make the Heene family more marketable for further media interests."

Anderson, we will have more on just how long the Heenes had allegedly been cooking up this plan, and what exactly they told their children to do when asked about it, just a little bit later in the broadcast. COOPER: Oh, Mayumi.

All right, Erica.


COOPER: Now the deepening mystery of Northwest Flight 188, which made it to Minneapolis, where it was supposed to land, then just kept flying for miles, with 144 passengers aboard.

Well, today, one of the pilots denied they were asleep on the flight deck, which is the working suspicion right now. Yet, the flight crew's explanation, that they were involved in a conversation and had not heard radio calls, is no less damning.

Today, we learned that the cockpit voice recorder may not be much use in determining what actually happened.

Tom Foreman takes us up close.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the time it passed over Denver, Flight 188 had air traffic controllers in the dark. For an hour and 18 minutes, there was not one radio call from the plane, not one response to calls from the ground.

Tonight, one of the pilots said they were not asleep, as some have speculated.

RICHARD COLE, NORTHWEST FLIGHT 188 PILOT: Nobody was asleep in the cockpit. And no arguments took place.

FOREMAN: But that leaves plenty of troubling questions.

(on camera): First, even with this plane traveling out of contact more than 500 miles an hour for more than an hour, military officials have now confirmed to CNN that they were not contacted by the FAA until the plane had passed over the city of Minneapolis.

At that time, the military scrambled to launch at least four fully armed F-16 fighters. But that was so late, they never even got off the ground before the airliner was finally recontacted.

(voice-over): Passengers like Anne Kroshus, who was in row 20, say, throughout the process, the cockpit and cabin crew gave them no hint of any trouble, another curious revelation.

ANNE KROSHUS, NORTHWEST FLIGHT 188 PASSENGER: If any of us had known that was going on, I'm sure the entire flight would have been in a complete state of panic. But I think it's better that we didn't know. But I'm glad that they were at least trying to look out for us, because I don't think the pilots were.

(LAUGHTER) FOREMAN (on camera): Indeed, she says, for 45 minutes, as they shot past their arrival time, passengers were told nothing at all. And when the captain finally spoke up again, he said they were just waiting to land.

KROSHUS: We were just, you know, completely under the impression that it was just air traffic and that Minneapolis Airport was not giving us clearance to land, and that basically we were just going to fly around until they allowed us to do so. And that's -- that's what we all believed.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Air traffic controllers were not sure what they believed. Authorities say when they had last recontacted the pilots, the pilots answers were so vague, they were ordered to take the plane through a series of unnecessary maneuvers to prove it was under their control, not hijacked.

Investigators have seized the cockpit voice recorder, even though they believe it holds conversation from only the last 30 minutes of flight.

(on camera): And they are questioning the pilots. Police say both voluntarily took and passed Breathalyzer tests.

But, for all of that, the central question remains: What happened on Flight 188? -- Anderson.


COOPER: Well, Tom, whether the crew was sleeping or simply distracted, this is the third such incident in recent years. The crew was tired, talking shop when that commuter plane went down in Buffalo earlier this year.

Back in February 2008, two sleeping pilots overshot their destination on a flight from Honolulu to Hilo, Hawaii, but then landed safely. It's a serious problem. The question is what to do about it, including a proposal that some call scary and others say is just common sense, letting pilots nap on duty.

Let's dig deeper now with retired pilot Captain Jim Tilmon.

Jim, the pilots say they were not asleep, but, instead, they were in a heated discussion. What do you make of this?

Does any of this sound plausible for overshooting their final destination by 150 miles?

JIM TILMON, FORMER AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: I really wish it did. It doesn't. I'm just going to be honest with you. I don't think it does.

The thing is, is that what kind of discretion would you be in that would cause you not to recognize anything? You know, Anderson, there are some sophisticated instruments on that airplane, probably one of the most sophisticated airplanes in the sky. One of the things they have on that airplane is a clock. What time was it, and where were they at that time?

COOPER: Were the passengers on this flight in any danger?

TILMON: No, I don't really think they were.

I mean, it was kind of an unnecessary little sightseeing trip. But, no, the -- it sounds like the airplane was on the autopilot. The autopilot was doing a very nice job of flying the airplane while these pilots were doing whatever they were doing, other than watching the store.

And then, of course, when they did take control of it, they were able to come back and fly. Nobody on the airplane was in danger.

COOPER: Is it normal for pilots to fall asleep in the cockpit?


TILMON: I don't want to say that it's normal. It does happen from time to time.

NASA did a study a few years back. I was the aviation reporter on that study. And it turns out that they were recommending at the end of their study that airlines allow and the FAA allow one of the pilots to take a nap, with the other pilot, of course, perhaps going on 100 percent oxygen and taking lots of precaution to make sure that that person stayed awake.

I don't know what the outcome of all that was. But I have got to tell you, there is good rationale for it.

COOPER: We learned today that cockpit voice recorder on the plane only records, I guess, the last 30 minutes of conversations. So, it probably recorded over the -- whatever the heated arguments the pilots were -- were supposedly having -- that's their story, at least -- before they realized they were way off course.

Do you think -- I mean, will we ever really know what happened in that cockpit?

TILMON: Well, we may not know exactly what happened in the cockpit. But we also have the flight data recorder, which records everything the airplane was doing and everything that happened with the airplane in terms of its controls and the autopilot and this and that and anything else.

I got to tell you, you know what? Everybody was trying to reach these guys. I mean, they -- they flew through several different air traffic control areas, where each one of them was trying desperately to reach them on the radio.

The company, I'm told, was trying to reach them on their private radio system and everything else and texting them and trying every other means to communicate with them. Nothing was working. What in the world were they discussing, if that's what you want to call it, that caused them to be completely out of the loop? It's just very difficult for me to understand.

COOPER: So, I mean, if -- if they're being -- someone is trying to contact them, is that -- are they hearing that through headphones that they're wearing, or should be wearing?

TILMON: They're -- they're hearing it through their head sets, for sure, and some things are audible out of the cockpit console. The -- the -- the thing that company tries to do to reach them makes a little ding sound and everything else.

Here's what I have -- I have been told from people who say they know something about this. They apparently were reacting to at least the call from the flight attendants on the flight attendant phone.

Of course, their intercom did ring in the cockpit, so they say. I have got to tell you that I'm told that that intercom is so loud, some pilots ask the flight attendants to just knock on the door, because it scares them. The thing is really loud. It's as loud as a fire warning.

So, that would certainly be loud enough to get their attention if they were either involved in a conversation or sound asleep.

COOPER: It's bizarre.

Jim, we will continue to follow. Jim Tilmon, appreciate your expertise. Thank you very much.


COOPER: Let us know what you think and what you will be thinking the next time you board a flight. I'm about to board one in a few hours, actually. Join the live chat now under way at

Up next: Cameron Todd Willingham's defense attorney. His appearance on his program last week and his vocal denunciation of his own executed client raised a lot of questions about the defense his client got, especially now that nine forensic experts say the fire that killed his client's kids was not arson. We're speaking with his defense attorney, "Keeping Them Honest," ahead.

Also, breaking news: The balloon boy hoax, that's what Mayumi Heene is calling it. What happens to the kids if mom and dad are convicted of serious crimes for a stunt that, well, included this?


RICHARD HEENE, FATHER OF FALCON HEENE: I think my 6-year-old boy...

911 OPERATOR: What's wrong?

R. HEENE: He got inside. And it took off, yes. 911 OPERATOR: OK. Where is he at?

R. HEENE: He's -- he's in the air.



COOPER: Tonight we have an interview with a major figure in one of the most controversial death penalty cases in decades.

Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for killing his three kids in a fire he was convicted of setting. But now nine forensic scientists believe the evidence shows it was not arson. So, did Texas execute an innocent man? And is the governor trying to cover it up?

"Keeping Them Honest" tonight, Randi Kaye is here with new developments -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we have some new information tonight about the timeline events at Governor Rick Perry's office as the execution of Todd Willingham inched closer.

I have a fax that I just got that alerted the governor to new discoveries by an arson expert and forensic scientist that there was no evidence of arson. This was the first time an expert had discovered this. And that fax, Anderson, is dated February 13, 2004, a full four days before the execution.

The fax was sent by the lawyer handling Willingham's appeal. He wrote -- quote -- "There is nothing more I would like than to be able to present to you with evidence of actual innocence. I think we are close. If there are any doubts, I think we have an obligation as a society to prevent the execution."

So, to be clear now, the governor's office was alerted there were serious questions about the evidence of arson by an acclaimed arson expert and would have had time to stay that execution. The governor's office confirmed for us that Mr. Perry was briefed on the request for a reprieve, but they say that wasn't until the 17th, the same day as the execution.

Why the governor wasn't told about this letter when it was received by his office four days earlier, Anderson, is still unclear.

COOPER: Right. I mean, that fax was from the lawyer handling his appeal. But it was a different lawyer who actually handled his defense at the trial, right?

KAYE: Right. His lawyer at the trial, one of them at least, was David Martin. We spoke this week at his office in Waco, Texas.

And he told me that he thought Todd Willingham was guilty from day one.


KAYE (voice-over): Cameron Todd Willingham, charged with arson homicide for a fire that took the lives of his three little girls, was facing a death sentence. He was counting on this man to save him.

(on camera): Did you think Todd Willingham was guilty?

DAVID MARTIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR CAMERON TODD WILLINGHAM: After I had seen all of the evidence, it was overwhelming that he was guilty.

KAYE (voice-over): David Martin was one of Willingham's court- appointed defense lawyers at his 1992 trial. So, "Keeping Them Honest": What exactly did Martin do to defend Willingham?

(on camera): The prosecution had two arson investigators on the stand to prove that Willingham was guilty. Did you have an expert testify?

MARTIN: We couldn't find one who said that it wasn't arson.

KAYE (voice-over): Couldn't find one, but since the trial, nine -- that's right -- nine different arson experts have concluded the fire was not arson.

(on camera): What evidence did you present to help defend Willingham?

MARTIN: What evidence would you have us present? The witnesses were dead, the kids. Every time you cross-examine a witness, you're presenting evidence.

KAYE (voice-over): Martin said he did the best, but admits he believed the prosecutor's experts who said they found patterns on the floor indicating an accelerant had been poured. But, again, nine leading forensic experts since have said those patterns were not the result of an accelerant.

And what about this? One of the jurors told us she had alerted both the prosecution and the defense that her family was friendly with Deputy Fire Marshal Doug Fogg, whose testimony helped send Willingham to death row.

(on camera): Today, would that be cause for a mistrial?


KAYE: Not a conflict of interests?

MARTIN: In a small town like Corsicana, lots of people knew Doug Fogg. Almost everybody knew Doug Fogg. And I don't remember the details about the jury selection. I don't know why she wasn't stricken. But so what? Let's say -- say, OK, she was friends with Doug Fogg.

KAYE: So what? MARTIN: So what? Look at the evidence that was presented at trial. Would any reasonable mind conclude, after the presentation of the evidence, that he was not guilty?

KAYE: She now has doubts and doesn't sleep at night. And she wonders if Todd Willingham really was guilty.

MARTIN: She need have no doubts, in my mind. He really was guilty. And it doesn't matter how many people talk about it. The evidence is irrefutable.

KAYE: You sound like the prosecutor, not the defense lawyer.

MARTIN: What is it that people expect the defense lawyer to do -- I have said this before -- just go in there and swallow the story? No.


COOPER: Randi, it sounds like this defense lawyer had no doubt in his mind Willingham got what he deserved.

KAYE: Certainly not.

I asked him if he ever thinks about Todd Willingham, Anderson, and he said, no, except, of course, these days, because he's back in the news. I asked him if he has ever given the verdict or the execution a second thought. He said, no.

And even when I told him that Willingham had written in one of his final appeals that his defense had been -- quote -- "inadequate and ineffective," David Martin looked me straight in the eye and told me he did all he could do, that Todd Willingham had made too many conflicting statements and was his own worst enemy.

COOPER: All right, Randi, thanks.

Ahead on the program: New Age mystic James Arthur Ray, this guy has made millions of dollars. Now he's at the center of a homicide investigation. But many of his loyal supporters are standing by him. You will meet one of them tonight. She says Ray changed her life.

And, later, more on the latest twists in the balloon boy story that we kind of knew was coming -- balloon boy's mom giving up the goods to police, apparently, admitting it was an act, even this 911 call.



RICHARD HEENE, FATHER: Oh, my God. OK. Mayumi (INAUDIBLE) tether. You didn't put the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) tether down.




COOPER: Coming up: What makes so many people willing to go to such extremes for self-help salesman James Arthur Ray? Fifty people followed him into a crammed sweat lodge in Arizona. Three died later. More than a dozen were sickened. So, who is this man with this power?

First, Erica Hill has a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.

HILL: And, Anderson, we begin with a 360 follow for you -- three Chicago teens arrested in the beating death of a 16-year-old honor student formally indicted today on first-degree murder charges.

It is a story we have been following closely, and we will continue to do so. Prosecutors say the teens killed Derrion Albert last month during a melee captured on a cell phone video.

Police in New Jersey warning, a killer is on the loose, after a Catholic priest was found slain in the rectory of his parish. The 61- year-old victim was last seen alive around 11:00 p.m. yesterday, just after a safety seminar held by police at his church in the town of Chatham.

Sales of existing homes surging last month by 9.4 percent -- that is the largest monthly spike in 26 years and nearly double the forecast. Fueling the surge? The tax credit for first-time owners.

And forget Park Place and Boardwalk. How about you pocket a cool 20,580 bucks in your next Monopoly game? A 19-year-old Norwegian pocketed the purse after winning the World Monopoly Championship in Las Vegas, of course. He beat rivals from 41 countries.

In case you're wondering, the winning amount may seem random, but it's not. It's the total amount in the bank of a standard Monopoly game. And he was not a thimble, not a race car guy.

Bjorn clinched the title, Anderson, with the iron.

COOPER: Isn't Monopoly for, like, little kids? Not to disparage his win, but isn't there sort of an age limit?

HILL: Bjorn has an iron, don't forget.


COOPER: He's got an iron. OK.


COOPER: Up next, more on the -- the breaking news, the hoax, that's what Mayumi Heene now on record calling it, including this moment with the 911 operator.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) M. HEENE: We can't find the -- 6-year-old Falcon. And my other son said Falcon was at the bottom of the flying saucer. He said he -- he was in there. But, anyway, I -- I -- I (INAUDIBLE)



COOPER: Oh, Mayumi, Mayumi, Mayumi.

After the break, we will talk about the serious consequences with Jeffrey Toobin and Lisa Bloom.

Coming up, later, President Obama taking on FOX, yet, some Democrats have doubts about the wisdom of it. Two top political strategists, Democrat and Republican, are joining us, Paul Begala Mark McKinnon, when we continue.


COOPER: Let's get back to the breaking news we brought you at the top of the hour, the balloon boy saga. According to court documents, the boy's mom, Mayumi, told police it was all a hoax, basically staging the whole balloon story, so they could make money.

And here is, of course, the gotcha moment that happened on CNN, when 6-year-old Falcon Heene exposed the truth. Watch.


FALCON HEENE, 6 YEARS OLD: Umm, you had said that we did this for a show.


COOPER: Erica Hill has the latest on the breaking news -- Erica.

HILL: Well, Anderson, according to that affidavit, which was made public today and CNN has obtained, the confession came within two days.

The drama, of course, began around 11:00 a.m., local time, on Thursday, October 15, when the Heene family's homemade helium balloon allegedly broke loose with their 6-year-old son, Falcon inside.

Richard Heene says his first call was to the FAA. Then, at 11:05, Denver news station KUSA tells the Poynter Institute Richard Heene called them, asking the station to launch its helicopter to help look for the balloon.

Fast-forward to 11:22. Mayumi Heene calls 911. An officer arrives at the home 20 minutes later. Richard Heene tells them, they have already searched the home, Falcon is not there. But the officer conducts a second search, along with the family, and still no Falcon, that is, until the first-grader strolls into the living room just after 4:00 p.m., saying he had been hiding, Anderson, in the attic of the garage.

COOPER: So, that isn't what happened. We know now that. Or, at least, according to Mayumi Heene, that's not what happened, according to the affidavit.

HILL: Right, not exactly.

According to that affidavit, Mayumi -- affidavit, Mayumi Heene said she and her husband, Richard, lied. And she said this on Saturday, two days later. That's when that affidavit was taken. The release of the balloon was intentional, as a hoax, according to that affidavit. It was a plan hatched two weeks earlier.

In fact, the balloon was even made specifically for the hoax. The parents knew all along Falcon was hiding in the house. And she appears to back up Falcon's comments to Wolf Blitzer, saying the motive here was to make the family more marketable, adding she and Richard Heene told their three sons to lie to authorities and to the media.

And, according to that affidavit, Mayumi Heene revealed all of this information, as I mentioned, on Saturday, the 17th. That next day, you may recall, the sheriff said investigators believe the entire saga was a publicity stunt by the family, in hopes of better marketing themselves for a reality show in the future.

Now, we have reached out to both Mayumi and Richard Heene's attorneys for comments. They have not yet responded to those requests. As for the sheriff's department, on reaction to the affidavit, it told CNN it had no comment.

COOPER: All right.

Court documents say that Mayumi Heene admitted to the hoax, so, as Erica just said, they could be more marketable. But what exactly happens now? What happens in the legal case? Should the parents face jail time? What's going to happen to the kids? Should the kids be taken away?

Legal analysts Jeffrey Toobin and Lisa Bloom join us now.

Jeff, I just want to -- just to remind our audience of your bona fides in this case, here was your immediate take on this whole saga.

Let's play that.


COOPER: Very briefly, balloon boy, hoax or not?


COOPER: Really? You don't think so?

TOOBIN: No hoax. I am -- I believe that this is...


COOPER: You believe in balloon boy?

TOOBIN: I believe in the Heene -- the -- Heene?

COOPER: Heene.

TOOBIN: Heene family. I think they're -- they're OK.

COOPER: OK. All right. You...


TOOBIN: Put me down.

COOPER: All right.



COOPER: All right. There you go, just to establish that.


TOOBIN: Look, Anderson...


TOOBIN: I just thought they were an ordinary American family with a flying saucer in the background -- backyard, OK?



COOPER: So, Jeff, what do you make...

TOOBIN: But, You know, you and Lisa -- Lisa "Hang 'Em High" Bloom, you were right.

COOPER: That's right. Cynical media, I know.

TOOBIN: And my trust was misplaced.


COOPER: I know.

So, what -- I mean, this affidavit, she pretty much covers all the bases. She doesn't really left -- leave anything unsaid.

TOOBIN: I think this case is what you might call closed at this point, assuming the affidavit is genuine.

(LAUGHTER) TOOBIN: It's hard to argue, when your spouse says, this whole thing was a hoax, to say, no, it was really legitimate.

I think we're all done here.


COOPER: So, Lisa, can -- she did not have an attorney present. Obviously, she has an attorney now. He has another attorney. They don't have the same attorney.

Can she say, well, look, you know, I -- I didn't have -- I didn't know my rights. I made this under, you know, a mistake?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure. Sure. She wasn't lawyered up at the time. And, keep in mind, this is not an affidavit signed by her. It's signed by a police officer, recounting what she supposedly said.

You know, court battles are made of much less than this. She could very well come in and say: "I didn't say any of that. Why isn't this on videotape or audiotape?"

But the reality is she probably did say it. And now her attorney is probably frantically trying to get a deal for her, at least some kind of immunity deal, where she testifies against her husband.

P.S., no charges have been filed. No arrest has been made. We're still waiting for that. Where is that?

COOPER: Yes, Jeff, why -- why have no charges been filed at this point?

TOOBIN: Why? Why not, Anderson? Why are these people still walking the streets? Why isn't this danger to the community -- I mean, can we just relax for a second?

BLOOM: The sheriff said they're going to be arrested.

TOOBIN: These people are not the world's most dangerous criminals.

COOPER: They could be building a balloon as we speak, Jeff Toobin.

TOOBIN: They could be building another balloon. They could...

COOPER: You have no credibility in this matter whatsoever.

TOOBIN: They could be trying to get on "Big Brother." You know? Look, I think...

BLOOM: But the sheriff came out weeks ago and said that they could be arrested. And you know, by the way, the timing of this affidavit is very interesting to me because the sheriff said, remember, that Mayumi had been offered the opportunity to go to a safe house to get away from Richard. He was concerned for her safety.

Well, now we know that was the same Saturday as she gave this affidavit. So that's why he was concerned for her safety, because she spilled all the beans against her husband, and she told the cops that this was a hoax. That's why they were concerned about her safety.

COOPER: I don't even know where to go from here.

BLOOM: Anderson actually is speechless.

COOPER: I am. I -- your knowledge of this case, Lisa, scares me a little bit.

BLOOM: This is my job, Anderson.

TOOBIN: A little bit.

COOPER: I appreciate it. I'm glad -- I'm glad you are. I'm glad you're here.

BLOOM: For better or worse.

COOPER: And I must say, though I was -- have been incredibly interested in this whole story, I think officially tonight, I've lost interest in this story. Just for the record.

BLOOM: Feel free to call me about another story.

COOPER: Mark the time, 7 -- 7:31 on the West Coast. I've officially lost -- but seriously, what kind of charges do you think they will face? Are they actually going to do jail time, Jeff?

TOOBIN: Well, I mean the sheriff did suggest the possibility of felony charges. I really do hope that cooler heads prevail. This really does seem like the misdemeanor of making a false police report.

I certainly think it's a bad thing to tell your children to lie to the authorities, to tell your children to lie to Meredith Vieira and Wolf Blitzer. That's very much to be discouraged.

BLOOM: Is that a crime?

TOOBIN: But I also think, you know, it's a very big deal in this culture -- country to take children away from their parents. And based on what I've seen, this does not rise to that level. I hope they get some therapy. I hope they, you know, learn -- learn a lesson here. But separating parents and children seems like an extreme step based on what we know.

BLOOM: Well, but that's a few steps away. There is an investigation being done into their parenting ability. I think that's appropriate. This father has been very volatile on the reality shows, ranting and raving, and clearly has an anger management problem.

You know, the child's story was, "I'm so afraid of my dad I hid for four hours and I was afraid of his anger." So I think it's appropriate for them to investigate, to look into it, maybe gave these folks some parenting classes and monitor the situation to make sure that these kids are in a safe environment.

COOPER: What I'm concerned about here is...

TOOBIN: ... on a reality show, that's grounds for loss of custody? I thought that's why you're supposed to be on a reality show.

COOPER: I'm just going to let that go, Jeff.


BLOOM: ... extreme outcome. There are a lot of less extreme outcomes when you investigate someone.

COOPER: We -- we've got to end it there. But I think Falcon Heene needs some real education. Because he doesn't know who Wolf Blitzer is. Do we have that tape? Play that.





FALCON HEENE, SON: Who the hell is Wolf?


COOPER: There you go.

BLOOM: ... is Falcon?

COOPER: We'll leave it there.

Join the live chat happening now at Let us know what you think.

Jeff Toobin, thank you. Lisa Bloom, as well.

Coming up, rattling his base. President Obama worries some Democrats. Why are they concerned, and what it could mean for upcoming elections? We'll talk with Paul Begala and Mark McKinnon next.

And spiritual salesman. Who is this guy, James Arthur Ray, and why do people follow him, even after three people have died? Tonight, a portrait of a man that may surprise you. And you'll hear from a woman who stands by him to this day. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: "Uncovering America" tonight. Repercussions from the White House, calling out FOX News as something other than a news organization.

First, a number of Democrats today calling efforts to marginalize FOX a mistake.

Second, Republicans are pushing back, accusing the president of keeping a Nixonian enemies list. We heard that from Lamar Alexander the other day. FOX News president Roger Ailes, by the way, made a name for himself, of course, as a Nixon adviser.

Third, after letting surrogates make the case for several days, the president himself got into the act. Here's what he said to NBC News.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What our advisors have simply said is that we are going to take media as it comes. And if media is operating basically as a talk radio format, that's one thing. And if it's operating as a news outlet, that's another. But it's not something I'm losing a lot of sleep over.


COOPER: He may not be losing sleep, but an awful lot of people on both parties inside the beltway now are paying attention.

Joining us now, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former John McCain advisor Mark McKinnon. Currently, he's with

Paul, clearly not all Democrats are on board with this White House strategy. In fact, one Democrat congressman, Jason Altmire, told Politico that, quote, "It's a mistake and I think it's beneath the White House to get in a tit for tat with news organizations."

You know political strategy as well as anyone. Is this a wise move by the White House?

PAUL BEGALA, FOX NEWS ANALYST: I don't think it's a very big deal either way, to tell you the truth.

I mean, there is something refreshingly honest about saying what it is. I mean, no serious person thinks FOX News all the time is a news network. They have some very good journalists, I have to say. But they also have some really out-of-control opinionators.

There's one guy. I don't think you've ever heard of him. His name's Glenn Beck. Yesterday, yesterday on his radio show, Mr. Beck said that Onstar, you know, the General Motors thing that goes off if your air bags blow, Onstar was a government plot to control, monitor where you are, to listen in with a microphone, to shut off your car, if need be.

So there's -- there's kind of a crazy right-wing agenda that FOX has.

My own preference, I got to say, would be to take it outside the building. You know, this is reminiscent of McKinnon's old boss, George W. Bush. His senior counselor, Ed Gillespie sent a letter to NBC News's president, really hot letter, probably one he regrets today, attacking the network, attacking MSNBC. Dane Perino, the press secretary said that they froze out MSNBC. It's the same thing that the Obama people are doing. Probably will have the same result, to tell you the truth. I mean, partisans like me will agree. But it's not going to make a huge difference.

COOPER: Well, Mark, I mean, is it hypocritical to say -- to single out FOX News and then say, "OK, well, I'm going to -- MSNBC is fine," because in their prime time programming it seems very opinion based, as well. And not only do they not freeze it out, I think they're, you know -- invited the MSNBC folks over for some sort of, you know, off-the-record or behind-the-scenes chat the other day.

MARK MCKINNON, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: Exactly. That's a big part of the problem, that if you're going to have a standard, you've got to apply the standard across the board. So it looks hypocritical and it looks partisan.

The president may not be losing sleep over it, as he shouldn't be, but apparently, a lot of his staff are losing sleep over it.

And there's a long history in politics of attacking the media. And it never works. They just -- they look defensive. And, you know, frankly, I thought the president on the tape that you showed looked uncomfortable talking about it. He doesn't look like he's even really buying into the strategy. And frankly, I think the administration has a lot of very capable, good communicators. And they'll do a lot better by just putting some people out on FOX and showing the FOX network that they're reasonable, common sense people.

COOPER: So Paul, why are they doing this?

BEGALA: They believe it. I think they believe it. But my criticism with this, it does -- it is partisan. They're not having a standard -- consistent standard, just like the Bush White House, I will again point out, which tried to do the same thing with the supposed liberal bias of MSNBC.

But here's what I didn't like. First off, I think it ought to be done by friends of theirs outside the building. This is why God created James Carville. We've all wondered for quite some time.

And then second, unlike -- it's very unlike the Obama people to telegraph their punch, right, to read the stage directions. Instead of saying, "We're going to freeze out FOX News," if you're going to do it, just do it.


BEGALA: Right? If you're going to seduce a girl, you don't say, "Now I'm going to blow in your ear, honey. Then I'm going to put my hand on your" -- you just blow in her ear.

COOPER: I love that you're giving advice on multiple topics at once. Can be interpreted in many different ways.

Mark, is that your advice for dating a girl, as well?

MCKINNON: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, you don't want to flatter them with attention. The best way to -- to really drive a network crazy is to ignore them. And then the best way to get ratings is to flatter them with attention, which is precisely what they're doing.

COOPER: All right. We're going to leave it there. Mark McKinnon, good to have you on. Want to have you on again and have more.

And Paul Begala, as well. Thank you very much.

Monday on the program, health care and the gender gap. Why many women see a double standard in medical coverage. Benefits and the battle of the sexes, Monday on 360.

Up next, is he a visionary or a manipulator? The man behind the sweat lodge ceremony that ended with three deaths. Who is he? James Arthur Ray, we're going to have a revealing portrait.

Also tonight, famed filmmaker and fugitive from justice. Today the case against Roman Polanski took a major step forward. Details ahead.


COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, James Arthur Ray. He is the New Age mystic at the center of the sweat lodge tragedy that left three people dead, more than a dozen others sickened. Now police say he's not cooperating in what they have deemed a homicide investigation. He claims he is.

So who is he? Well, tonight a profile of a powerful, polarizing man who's both loved and hated.

Gary Tuchman reports.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Arthur Ray describes himself as, quote, "an internationally-renowned personal success strategist and visionary." He says he's created a multimillion-dollar business teaching people how to have a better life.

JAMES ARTHUR RAY, SELF-HELP SPIRITUAL LEADER: Once you have the secret, the real secret, your life will never be the same.

TUCHMAN: He sells it here on his Web site, at seminars, on TV. These two women were Ray followers. On the left, Liz Newman. She was one of the three people who died after Ray's sweat lodge ceremony earlier this month. On the right, Danielle Kaprowski. Danielle and her husband, John, admired Ray very much. They attended a sweat lodge ceremony last year.

DANIELLE KAPROWSKI, FORMER JAMES ARTHUR RAY FOLLOWER: In a very good way of saying his message and giving these kind of phrases that just really stuck with you.

TUCHMAN: The Kaprowskis spent many thousands of dollars for seminars at six retreats and other Ray programs.

(on camera) Did he make you a better person?

JOHN KAPROWSKI, FORMER JAMES ARTHUR RAY FOLLOWER: I would --- I would think so. I'm in lot better shape physically, mentally. I've got more self-esteem. Our relationship that we have together is phenomenal compared to where it was at one point in our lives.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The couple says that, in James Arthur Ray, they found someone who is mystical, entertaining and very positive.

J. KAPROWSKI: I looked at him -- I looked up to him.

TUCHMAN: But that view changed dramatically two years ago in a Ray retreat in Hawaii. They say Ray challenged the group to break concrete blocks with their bare hands. The result, they say: at least a dozen people breaking bones.

D. KAPROWSKI: I was -- at first I was shocked that he led people into something that was unsafe.

TUCHMAN: They were especially shocked because they say Ray didn't even acknowledge people were hurt.

J. KAPROWSKI: It was almost like it never happened. You have to see all the people in the audience with these casts on their hand.

TUCHMAN: They were losing confidence in their leader.

J. KAPROWSKI: You find some flaws in your teacher at this point, you know, oh, maybe this guy isn't as wonderful and perfect as I put him up to be.

TUCHMAN: And yet the couple had prepaid thousands of dollars to attend more events. So with some apprehension, they say, last year they attended Ray's Spiritual Warrior event, the same event that left three people dead this year.

These pictures from 2007 show how Ray encouraged willing participants to shave their heads, go on fasts and enter steaming hot sweat lodges for long sessions. When the Kaprowskis went in the sweat lodge, John says he got sick.

(on camera) So you felt like you were going to throw up? J. KAPROWSKI: Yes. I felt nauseous. Like, halfway through the lodge.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): John did get out. But Danielle stayed in. And when it was all over, she says she observed at least 20 others who had fallen ill. One was unconscious.

(on camera) What was James Ray doing at this point?

D. KAPROWSKI: James Ray came out of the lodge. He smiled. And he hopped on his golf cart and rode back to his room.

TUCHMAN: While there was a woman unconscious?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): For the couple it caused a loss of faith. They saw hypocrisy, because they say Ray preaches personal responsibility.

J. KAPROWSKI: When you have great influence, you also -- it comes along with great responsibility.

TUCHMAN: This husband and wife, who had been so captivated by the man who calls himself a visionary, now say he's lost his way and must be held accountable.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Chicago.


COOPER: Ray has many critics, but he also has his supporters. Jill Borsos is one of them. She believes Ray changed her life in many remarkable ways. She calls herself a warrior on a wondrous journey paved by Ray. She also attended one of Ray's spiritual retreats. Jill Borsos joins us now.

Jill, thanks for being with us. You attended a retreat organized by Ray which included going to a sweat lodge. What was the experience like?

JILL BORSOS, JAMES ARTHUR RAY FOLLOWER: It was a phenomenal experience. There were many gifts that I got out of that experience.

COOPER: We talked to three other individuals who went through the sweat lodge experience, and they say in their sweat lodges people were fainting. They were urinating on themselves, losing consciousness, vomiting. Did you see any of that in yours?

BORSOS: Not exactly what you're describing. I did see some people that were very uncomfortable, maybe crying. Just -- just, you know, in -- in a distressed kind of sense where they -- obviously, it was testing them.

COOPER: And we've talked to people also, who describe Ray as telling them during the sweat lodge to stick through the pain, refrain from leaving the sweat lodge. Why would he do that?

BORSOS: I think like any teacher, you know, like my yoga instructor says keep up. Keep up. You know, his job is to stretch you. It isn't command. It isn't an order.

COOPER: Well, a lot of Ray followers say that he teaches self- responsibility. Yet, the sheriff investigating these deaths say that Ray is not cooperating and that the families of the victims told us they haven't heard from Ray at all. And that he's gone back on tour to continue making money selling his books and retreats. Do you think that's being responsible?

BORSOS: I don't know what he's done in regard to the families. I know that there were some e-mails sent out. There were some comments made on Facebook or other things. We actually had a call in support of them. And a friend of his did convey the message for James. "Thank you, I'm so grateful to you for holding this call. You know, thank you for the support to these families."

COOPER: Do you think it's right, though, for him to go back, continue to hold seminars and make money while, you know, these families are grieving and trying to figure out what's going on and not talking to police?

BORSOS: I don't -- I had heard he was cooperating with the police. So I'm not sure where that's coming from.

COOPER: He said -- he has said that he is. The sheriff has told us they haven't received cooperation.

BORSOS: OK. Because I know he's holding his own investigation. So maybe there's some conflict there. I don't know.

Yes, he's making money. That's a byproduct of what he does. But he -- his job is to continue to spread the message and to help those people grow. And he has a commitment to those people that slotted that time frame in their lives to make room for that week or those days.

COOPER: One of the -- the attorneys for one of the people who died said that the family didn't even -- wasn't even notified that she had been hospitalized, that she, in fact, was put into the hospital as Jane Doe. And it was only through media reports that they learned she had been hospitalized. I mean, if that's true, that doesn't sound like taking responsibility.

BORSOS: OK. I can't speak to that. All I can tell you is what my experience was. I was actually contacted to help find her family. And I don't know which of the two women you're talking about, because there were two that went into the hospital or were taken to the hospital. But I know that I was actually involved in trying to find her family, and we went to great lengths to contact other people and to do what we could to notify those families.

COOPER: All right. Jill Borsos, I appreciate you being on. Thank you, Jill. BORSOS: My pleasure. Thank you.

COOPER: One final note: we have made repeated attempts to interview James Arthur Ray but have been denied. I would add, we were kicked out of one of his seminars when we started asking him questions directly.

Coming up next, a tragedy almost too bizarre to be true. How bears on ice turned very bad.

And the official first family portrait is revealed. The story behind it ahead.


COOPER: A lot more happening tonight. Erica Hill joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, Americans cooling on the idea of global warming. A new poll by the Pew Research Center finds the number of people who believe there is solid evidence that the earth is warming is at its lowest point in three years. Just 57 percent say there's strong evidence, compared with 71 percent in April of last year.

The United States has formally asked Switzerland to extradite Roman Polanski. The 76-year-old film director was arrested in Zurich last month on an outstanding U.S. warrant which stems from a 1977 sex case involving a 13-year-old girl. Polanski pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with the girl but fled the country before his sentencing.

The White House has released the first family's first official portrait. And there's your look. The picture was taken in the Green Room on September 1 by famed photographer Annie Liebovitz. Now, as you can see, though, poor Bo didn't make the cut.

And one of Russia's famed ice skating bears goes berserk during a circus rehearsal. The 5-year-old animal attacked two people, killing one, seriously injuring the other. The bear was wearing skates. It was shot and killed at the scene. Someone says they can't understand why the bear would have done this.

I'm going to go on a limb here and say you made the bear wear skates.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, why wouldn't the bear do that? Are you kidding?

HILL: It's amazing.

COOPER: You shouldn't do that to a bear.

HILL: No. There's a long history of this, of teaching bears to ride bikes and skate and, frankly, you're asking for it.

COOPER: Yes. That's a history that needs to change. All right. Time for "The Shot." I think it's fair to say most of us are casual clappers. But not Kent French. Nope, he's the world's fastest clapper. He claims to have clinched the Guinness world record by clapping 721 times in 60 seconds. That's about 12 claps per second.

We saw him on this Japanese television show. Take a look.




HILL: Wow.

COOPER: There you go. I like how they have little boxes of people up in the corner, you know.

HILL: Really gives you a feel for what's happening there in the studio.

COOPER: Yes, there's the -- there it is slowed down. Yes, everyone -- I like the little box in the corner, people, like "Hee, hee, hee."

HILL: I like that laugh best.

COOPER: Yes. Kent, by the way, goes by the nickname Toast.

HILL: Really?

COOPER: I don't know why. Yes.

HILL: Why not?

COOPER: Sometimes claps to music, as well. Here he is clapping to the theme song of "Hawaii 5-0." Enjoy.





HILL: It's a good thing he doesn't have a Clapper in his house. He would have blown a fuse long ago.

COOPER: That sounded like nothing like "Hawaii 5-0." But...

HILL: But the music in the background did. So...

COOPER: To my untrained layman ears. Yes. Yes, I'm sure there's a joke -- never mind. I'm not even going to go there. So you can see all the most recent "Shots" on our Web site,

Erica, have a good weekend.

HILL: You, too.

COOPER: Next up, at the top of the hour, were two airline pilots sleeping on the flight deck? And what to do about the larger, system- wide problem of long shifts, short turnarounds and drowsy crews.


COOPER: Tonight, breaking news, truth and consequences. Balloon boy's mom apparently fesses up. She's saying it was all a publicity stunt. She has her own attorney, and charges have yet to be filed. Tonight, what happens now to her, her husband, Richard Heene, and their three kids.