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Adopted and Rejected; Nuclear Politics; Confederate History Controversy; $15 Million Mystery

Aired April 12, 2010 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest": should criminal charges be filed against a Tennessee mom and her mom for returning their adopted Russian son alone on a plane to Moscow? And what about the adoption agency; did they do the kind of checks they were supposed to? We are "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

Also, President Obama signed a treaty with Russia. Sarah Palin says it's unthinkable and unprecedented. It turns out Ronald Reagan wanted to do a lot more than that. Rhetoric is one thing, facts do matter and we'll check them tonight.

And later, the fight over celebrating the confederacy heats up. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour weighing in, saying why should Virginia's Governor have mentioned slavery in his proclamation? We'll talk with historian Douglas Brinkley about the real history of the war and why even now, many are trying to rewrite it.

First up though, "Keeping Them Honest." The Tennessee family who sent their newly adopted Russian child back, putting him on a plane alone and not even telling Russian officials he was coming. This is 7-year-old, Justin Hanson, that we're talking about, there he is. We blurred his image because of his age and the situation he's was involved in. He was adopted only about six months ago. But last week, he showed up, as you probably know, unannounced at Russia's Child Protection Ministry with a note from his adopted family saying he's violent and that -- that the mom was misled by adoption officials in Russia.

Now, Russian officials are furious, they are threatening to suspend all adoptions by Americans. Today, Tennessee law enforcement officials held a news conference, but the truth is, as you're going to see, they are having trouble investigating the case because Justin's adoptive mom and her mom are not talking.


SHERIFF RANDALL BOYCE, BEDFORD COUNTY, TENNESSEE: I guess we're kind of getting our hand forced here and that's the only thing I know do at this point. They keep insinuating that they're going to come in, but evidently not. And I think from what I understood this afternoon they're not going to come in at all any time unless we bring charges, then they will produce her.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So the two women at the center of the case, Justin's adoptive mom, Tori Hanson and Tori's mom, Nancy who had taken over parental rights from her daughter are not talking. And that's their right in this country but evidence against them continues to mount. There's also growing questions about the adoption agency in the United States. The name of the agency is Adoption Assistance, Inc.

Now, they are supposed to make sure that adoptive parents are fit to care for a child. They aren't talking publicly. They haven't released any records though they have released a statement. They say, that "All the background checks were done on the adoptive mom." And they say, and I quote, "Our agency also completed a post visit with this family in January 2010. At that time, the child appeared to be adjusting to his new home and family and his mother was enthusiastic about his accomplishments."

They claim they sent e-mails requesting another post visit, but in late March realized that the mom was no longer reachable. They also claimed the mother did not contact them about any problems and if she had, they would have quote, "Worked with her on the issues or arranged alternative placement," which they said they have done before in other cases.

His adoptive mom says he was violent and deeply troubled. His grandmother said he tried to light a fire in their house. If that's true, not only did they apparently not tell the adoption agency, they also never told the police. The sheriff today saying they had no record of the family reporting any problems.

So, let's "Dig Deeper" with Jane Aronson, a leading expert on adoption. She's a pediatrician and founder and CEO of Worldwide Orphans Foundation; also with us, legal analyst Lisa Bloom.

Dr. Aronson, have you ever heard of a case where an adoptive parent facing this kind of trouble basically put the child on plane with a note and just sent them back?

DR. JANE ARONSON, FOUNDER/CEO, WORLDWIDE ORPHANS FOUNDATION: Not exactly the same, but there have been a number of cases of children actually being abandoned in the country as they are leaving after the adoption.

COOPER: Abandoned in --

ARONSON: -- in the country. Like in China, there was a case that the child was adopted and then the family became very frightened, very agitated and ver suspicious that there was something wrong with the child and they left the child in a hotel room.

COOPER: So -- who do you blame in this situation?

ARONSON: You know, I'm not a blamer. What I do is I try to analyze all the facts --

COOPER: You're certainly not cut out for cable TV.

ARONSON: Not at all. But we'll try. We'll keep trying, ok?

So the deal for me is this, this is the mystery that people really try to unravel all the time. You know, you just told the story about the agency and post adoption visit. People can really look great and they can really convince everybody that everything is good because they want to really do this. They want to be a good parent; they want to do a good adoption.

But the truth is in the 20 years I have been doing adoption, I meet parents all the time who are hiding, who are in denial about their children's issues, who then finally get to a point, a breaking point. Their marriage is disintegrating, their personal life is disintegrating, they have lost their jobs, they are depressed and they finally, after a very long period of time, come clean about what's happening in their life.

COOPER: I don't doubt that this kid had troubles and this mom and then her mother both felt overwhelmed in dealing with her -- dealing with the child --


COOPER: -- but clearly, they did not go about this the right way.

ARONSON: They're not unusual. Many people take things into their own hands and figure out incredibly ingenious ways to get around the system because they are so embarrassed, humiliated and guilty.

Let me tell you something, this individual who adopted this child clearly did not access the resources to begin with. There is a magnificent adoption clinic at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. I was just there two weeks ago.

COOPER: In Nashville?

ARONSON: In Nashville. I was there. They have a parenting program there for people whose kids may have some issues with attachment. I actually witnessed an entire workshop around this and she could have gone. It's one hour from where she lives. She never went to that clinic. She never had the kid examined.

COOPER: Lisa, do you think the mom is going to be charged or the grandmother is going to be charged with a crime here?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This case reminds me of one of my law school classes, choice of laws, because they resided in Tennessee. She flew with the child to the Washington, D.C., area and then he was on the flight alone to Russia. The question is if there was child endangerment or abandonment, which most of us think that there was, where did it take place?

It doesn't seem to me that it took place in Tennessee. She was in charge of the child there. She took the kid to the Washington, D.C. airport and then he was then properly put on a United Airlines flight as an unaccompanied minor. I have had my kids fly that way, although not internationally at young ages.

Many parents do that. I don't think that's endangerment or neglect at that point.

Where it really may have happened was in Russia and then the question is, could Russia charge her? They are not going to extradite her from the U.S. to Russia to face what would probably be misdemeanor charges. So there may not be anywhere to charge her. That may be the legal problem that all of the local authorities are dealing with right now.

ARONSON: I think it's more of a moral issue. I think she's right. I mean, I think you spend a lot of time dealing with where we can angle to get her prosecuted is probably the wrong direction to go in.

The Russian government though needs to see that we're doing something to really help parents and to help this situation not happen again.

COOPER: Is it possible that -- the grandmother had claimed that the Russian orphanage basically lied to the adoptive mom?

ARONSON: No, that is a silly thing. People always do that. Whenever they are in denial, they always blame the other country. The Chinese, the Russians, the French, whatever it is they are always blaming the other people.

COOPER: So you don't believe that an orphanage would cover up the fact the child had troubles?

ARONSON: What they do is -- these are unskilled people, they're unprofessional, they're untrained, the kids are living in an environment where they're actually feral. It's a society of little animals living in these orphanages. You know that's why I --

BLOOM: And Anderson --

ARONSON: Yes, what I'm saying to you in a sense is that, when kids live like that the people who work there are really part of that society and they don't see that there's that much wrong and they see that the kids --

BLOOM: But maybe a criminal prosecution isn't the answer to everything.

ARONSON: Right, exactly.

BLOOM: And maybe what this case highlights is that people don't know about the resources that are out there. Or they feel that it's almost impossible to access those resource and maybe the solution is to make sure that when people adopt children or even have biological children and those children have serious mental issues, which everyone thinks probably did happen here, that they know how to access the resources so they don't get to the point of desperation. ARONSON: But they do. The problem is here I'm in the adoption community, these resources are well known, well published. Parents are required to have pre-adoption preparation classes. It's part of --

COOPER: You say it's just denial?

ARONSON: It's denial. We try in New York as professionals to get people to come to post adoption --

COOPER: Right.

ARONSON: -- workshops all the time and people disappear. They want to live happily ever after and have a normal life.

COOPER: Yew, we've got to leave it there. Lisa Bloom, I appreciate it. Dr. Aronson, always good to see you.

We've also been talking about how this should have been handled. When we come back, another little Russian boy adopted by a family who says they cannot control his violent threats. But they haven't send him back; they are seeking help. We're going to take you to the ranch in Montana that treats deeply troubled adopted kids.

Also tonight, Sarah Palin and other conservatives slamming Barack Obama for the arms treaty signed with Russia. Palin said no administration in America's history would have considered such a step, except, of course, for the administration of Ronald Reagan.

We're "Keeping Them Honest."


COOPER: So, just before the break, we updated you on the story of a little boy who was put on a plane back to Russia after the Tennessee family who adopted him said they could not take care of him anymore. Now, this evening, authorities in Tennessee said an attorney representing the woman who won't have anything to say unless charges will be filed against her. That's her legal right.

Officials said it appears no federal laws have been violated. The fate of the boy remains uncertain. We're going to continue to follow the story for you, but there are also many other boys and girls from the old Soviet Republics who have been adopted by families in the U.S.

Now, the great bulk of them are happy living with their new families, but some, some adoptive parents say the kids have been violent and dangerous. For help, some parents can bring their kids to a ranch that tries to rehabilitate them. We wanted to take you there.

So, "Up Close" tonight, Gary Tuchman reports on one family's efforts to reconnect with their adopted son.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Eleven- year-old Alec is a precocious, intelligent child, but he has said and done things that would terrify any parent.

Did you threaten to hurt them?


TUCHMAN: What did you say to them?

A. COLE: Other things like I'm going to kill you, I'm going to punch you.

TUCHMAN: Beth and Bill Cole, Alec's mom and dad.

BETH COLE, ALEC'S MOTHER: I adore him. I love him. And I just want him to have a good future, just as normal as can be.

TUCHMAN: But Alec's rage is not normal. This is from a videotape Alec's parents gave us. They took this video because psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers didn't necessarily believe or understand what Alec has done, and now his pained parents have taken drastic measures.

Alec is no longer living with them in Florida. He lives in Montana on a ranch for deeply troubled adopted children.

A. COLE: I think that I would like almost like every day.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Alec's parents adopted him from an orphanage in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus when he was a toddler. They also adopted their daughter, Lauren, from the same country, who is having a much easier time in this home. The ranch is run by a grandmother who has raised Russian orphans of her own, Joyce Sterkel.

JOYCE STERKEL, OWNER, RANCH FOR KIDS: The purpose is to assist parents and children in reuniting with each other if they've had difficulty because of attachment issues or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

TUCHMAN: Alec has now been at the Ranch for Kids for more than a year. His parents desperately want to bring him back home to Fort Myers, but don't know if his violence is under control yet.

(on camera): Do you want to go back to Florida?

A. COLE: It's tropical there.

TUCHMAN: Oh, I know, especially compared to Montana.

A. COLE: Oh, yes.

TUCHMAN: But do you think you are ready to go back?

A. COLE: One-fourth of the time. TUCHMAN (voice-over): So, Alec, it seems, isn't sure either. But he has gotten some big news. His mom, dad and sister are coming to visit and maybe, just maybe, he will be deemed ready to go home.

(on camera): Your parents are coming here. How do you feel about that?

A. COLE: Excited.

TUCHMAN: His parents and sister, Lauren, are excited, too, as they arrive for their reunion with Alec.

BILL COLE, ALEC'S FATHER: Hey, buddy, how are you doing? Good to see you.

TUCHMAN: The Ranch for Kids is a last resort for many parents.

(on camera): Do you think because Alec is so intelligent that gives him an advantage to somehow figure out how to keep things under wraps?

STERKEL: Yes, it does and it also makes him more dangerous.


STERKEL: Because he knows how to outsmart you.

A. COLE: Come here. Hugs and kisses, hugs. What is it called, smudges?

LAUREN COLE, ALEC'S SISTER: Group hug? A smudge?

A. COLE: Yes, group hug.

BILL COLE: Group hug.

BETH COLE: A smudge.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is the beginning of five days together. They have rented a cabin that is part of a nearby hotel. And although they talk to Alec on the phone, this is the first time together as a family in months.

BILL COLE: This is great. We just kind of feel whole when we are all together again.

TUCHMAN: We wish we could tell you that during Bill and Beth's visit, they saw a remarkable transformation, that Alec had become a vastly different boy, that it was good, right and safe to bring him back to Florida, to live a normal childhood with his loving family. We wish we could tell you that. But we can't.

This is what they heard from the woman who runs the ranch.

STERKEL: There are people that claim there are quick fixes for this. There aren't. TUCHMAN: Joyce Sterkel believes Alec is not yet ready to go home. There was a recent incident.

BILL COLE: He tried to -- or did attack one of the staff members just a couple weeks ago, threatened to kill her, tried to take a two by four to her. And, you know, fortunately, he didn't succeed in any of that, but I just can't allow that possibility to happen in my house.

TUCHMAN: So Alec now knows he is not going home. But he is ok with that.

(on camera): Can you teach her how to build a snowman?

A. COLE: Oh, my gosh. There's ice out there.

TUCHMAN: An iceman?

(voice-over): He is ok with that because he has been told if he continues improving, he might be able to come back home by this summer.

(on camera): What does this boy mean to you, Beth?

BETH COLE: He means everything to me. I love my kids. Yes. I just love them and want the best for both of them.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Eureka, Montana.


COOPER: Yes, it's clear they just want the best for him. Obviously, adopting a child is an enormous commitment.

You can go to our blog at for tips on getting information and support you need if you are planning to adopt.

Coming up next, the nuclear threat President Obama kicking off a nuclear summit at the White House, 47 nations participating. His effort is a lot like former president Ronald Reagan. So why are so many Republicans criticizing him? We're "Keeping Him Honest."

Plus, Senator John McCain tries a new tactic in his efforts to beat his conservative challenger, J.D. Hayworth, but is his new ad going to work or backfire?


J.D. HAYWORTH (R), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, ARIZONA: I'm J.D. Hayworth and I'm running for U.S. Senate to take on the most pressing challenges facing Arizona, America, and indeed, the entire human race.

First, I have committed to exposing the secret Kenyan birthplace of the President of the United States.


COOPER: President Obama is hosting a two-day Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. And hours before it kicked off today, Ukraine, which is one of 47 countries attending, announced it's going to give up all its weapons-grade uranium within the next two years. Now, this follows the Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty that President Obama signed with Russia's president just last week, which the White House is celebrating as a major accomplishment.

But I want to bring you over to the wall. Because it's interesting in this hyper partisan age, no one is willing to give anybody an inch on the other side.

A number of Republicans have blasted the President essentially saying he has done the unthinkable. Sarah Palin said, well, she called it unbelievable, and she said, "No administration in America's history, I think would ever have considered such a step" -- ever have considered such a step.

Lamar Alexander said and he's a senator, he said, "While the treaty with Russia may be in the right direction and the nuclear summit that is coming to town may be an impressive group of people, the nuclear posture statement that the president put out is troublesome to me."

But the truth is that since the 1960s, starting with President Kennedy, virtually every administration has supported the idea of nuclear arms reduction. In fact, no one had more success in making progress on the issue than Ronald Reagan, the very same President Sarah Palin said she reveres.

Now, Reagan didn't just talk about reducing nuclear weapons, he wanted to eliminate them all together. Let's play this.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. I don't know of anyone, in or out of government that is more determinedly seeking peace than I am. And my goal is the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

And the whole world would benefit if we could both abandon these weapons altogether and move to non-nuclear defensive systems that threaten no one.


COOPER: Well, in 1987, after lengthy negotiations, President Reagan and then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the historic Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty; it was the first major Soviet/U.S. disarmament agreement.

So the treaty that President Obama signed last week requires approval from two-thirds of the Senate to go into effect, and several Republicans, including Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, have indicated they are not ready to support the deal.

So joining me now, political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville and political contributor and Republican strategist, Ed Rollins, who worked for Ronald Reagan for years.


COOPER: So James, Sarah Palin says that no administration in history would have ever considered such a step on nuclear arms. Ronald Reagan though talked about it many times, a world without nuclear weapons.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well in Reykjavik -- and Ed, I'm sure can attest to this -- at Reykjavik, he wanted to get rid of all of them. His original, coming out to shoot was get rid of a third of them. Obama is really quite to the right of Reagan when it comes to nuclear weapon.

I don't know many people that like them, they are not the most popular things in the world. It may be necessary but they are not particularly popular, I'm not sure where she's coming from there.

COOPER: Ed, I mean, just factually, what she's saying is not correct, right?

ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not correct. I mean, what James is saying is not totally correct either. We -- we weren't throwing out all of our nuclear weapons. It was a very important meeting, and the first time the Soviets really sat down in a very serious way. And I think the equivalent would be if the India and Pakistan sat down today and said how do we get rid of the nuclear weapons? Because that is the hot spot.

I think this is an important meeting, I think it's the biggest meeting that a president ever had since Franklin Delano Roosevelt call in 1945, with these 47, 48 world leaders. I think it would be more important to be talking about the world economy and you don't get to call too many of these in the course of a term.

COOPER: A couple other topics I want to go over, Ed. Scott Brown, Senator from Massachusetts has turned down apparently an invitation to appear at a TEA Party rally in Massachusetts that Sarah Palin is going to headline. Do you make anything of that?

I mean, there are those who say look, he is trying to distance himself in some way from the TEA Party Movement that he's always had -- while he's embraced them in one sense, he's always sort of tried remain some distant, the same with Sarah Palin?

ROLLINS: Obviously, I'm not his political adviser, and if I was, I always believe -- you thank those that helped you get there and certainly the TEA Party was a very important part of it. He's now part of the Republican Party. Sarah Palin is part of the Republican Party. I don't think the gesture would have been for naught.

I think at this point in time, he can't start running too far to the left and he can expect the Democrats are going to come elect him again. I think he's got to remember where his base is and reinforce that base.

COOPER: James, do you think that's what he's trying to do here?

CARVILLE: You know, from a distance, and I had some TEA Party people, who are actually quite nice come down and speak to my class at Tulane. And so you never know who you are dealing with, with these people. So, before I judge what Senator Brown was doing, my sense of the whole kind of TEA Party Movement is not particularly unified and some of them are kind of well-motivated, decent people. Some of them are some of the most wretched people we have in the country.

And I would be curious to see what that outfit was running the thing in Massachusetts was.

COOPER: Also finally, I want to turn to this the saga of the Arizona senate race. You know, first you had John McCain saying he never considered himself a maverick, even though, obviously, you know, we've all seen multiple recordings of him calling himself a maverick and I think he even wrote a book with the title, the name "Maverick", in the title of the book.


COOPER: But I want to play you part of a Web video that John McCain's campaign just released. It's under the guise of being a message from his opponent, J.D. Hayworth.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, I am committed to exposing the secret Kenyan birthplace of the President of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president should come forward with the information. That's all. Why must we depend on the Governor of Hawaii?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Second, I have stood up against the grave threat of man/horse marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you really have affection for your horse, I guess you could marry your horse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: J.D. Hayworth says expanding state laws to allow gay marriage could lead people to marry a horse.


COOPER: What do you make of this, Ed? I mean, on the one hand, he seem to be attacking -- attacking right, and then in this, he is making fun of J.D. Hayworth on issues which some on the right, you know, take very seriously.

ROLLINS: John, after his long and very distinguished career, needs to talk about that. He was the nominee of this party, whether he wants to call himself a maverick or not. One of the admirable things about him is he's been an independent and he's stood for what he believes is right and that's what he ought to be talking about.

COOPER: James, do you agree, just ignore J.D. Hayworth?

CARVILLE: You know, I don't know. J.D. Hayworth is really one of the truly odious people that has ever served in American politics. And John McCain was, you know, some ways, one of the more admirable, but he looks like he is just so anxious to win and so much wants to win this race. He is out -- I don't want to say he is making a fool of himself, because I don't want to say that about Senator McCain, but he is doing things that are out of character and he looks ridiculous.

COOPER: Ed Rollins, James Carville, I appreciate your perspective.

ROLLINS: Thank you, thank you very much.


COOPER: Still ahead, confederate history month fallout. First, the Governor of Virginia comes under fire, and then you think the story is over, but now another state leader is being slammed for comments he made on slavery and the Civil War.

Text your questions on the topic to AC360 or 22360. Presidential historian -- historian Douglas Brinkley will join us ahead.

Also is Liz Taylor actually engaged again? Here's what she's saying about getting married for a ninth time.


COOPER: Coming up tonight, the mysterious death of an Indiana woman. Was it an accident or murder and why did the last person to see her alive, who was not a relative, have a $15 million insurance policy on her life payable to his company?

First some other important stories, Joe Johns joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a "360 Follow" on the New York subway bomb plot. Najibullah Zazi, one of the three men accused in the terrorist plot, has revealed his plans to the law enforcement officials.

A source says Zazi and two other men were plotting to explode homemade bombs on crowded subway cars at Times Square and Grand Central Terminal stations right around last year's 9/11 anniversary.

Tonight, recovery crews in West Virginia are removing the last bodies from the worst mine disaster in 40 years. Twenty-nine men died last week when an explosion ripped through the Upper Big Branch Mine.

Poland's president and first lady, who were killed in a plane crash over the weekend, will be buried Saturday. Their plane went down while trying to land in Russia. Investigators are analyzing the flight recorders to determine the cause of the crash.

And no ninth marriage for Elizabeth Taylor, at least for now; the actress posted a message on Twitter today denying rumors she is engaged to her manager, but she acknowledged loving 49-year-old Jason Winters with all her heart. Glad to clear that up -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I have been worried about it all weekend.

Time for our "Beat 360" winners, Joe; our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture we put on the blog every day.

Tonight's picture is Phil Mickelson reacting to a shot in the final round of the Masters on Sunday. He won the tournament, of course, for the third time. Staff winner tonight is Eli. His caption, Phil Mickelson auditions for the lead in the PGA's version of "My Fair Lady."

JOHNSON: Looks like he is about to do a moonwalk.

COOPER: Exactly. Our viewer winner is Todd from Houston. His caption, "Hey, Tiger, how do you like this victory dance?"

Tiger did not apparently like it very much. Todd, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. Congratulations.

Coming up next on 360: a new fight over celebrating the confederacy; another Republican governor says Virginia's decision not to mention slavery was not a mistake and he has strong words for anyone who thinks it was. We'll take a closer look at this heated debate and also taking your questions to historian Douglas Brinkley; text them to AC360 or 22360.

Also later, was it an accident or something else? A woman found dead. The person who will get millions from a life insurance policy is not a family member. Details on the story ahead.


COOPER: Tonight, the firestorm over Virginia's decision to name April Confederate History Month has been reignited. In effect, as we told you last week, Virginia's governor Bob McDonnell proclaimed this month Confederate History Month in his state and the proclamation made absolutely no mention of slavery.

He backtracked though after coming under intense criticism, called the omission a mistake and changed the proclamation, so it now includes references to slavery, which he called, quote, "evil and inhumane practice."

But this weekend when asked by Candy Crowley, Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour came to McDonnell's side, saying leaving slavery out of the proclamation wasn't a mistake at all.

Here is what he told Candy on "STATE OF THE UNION."


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Virginia governor, New Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell designated April as Confederate Month, something that his two Democratic predecessors had refrained from doing. This caused quite a stir, particularly because the governor did not even mention slavery in this proclamation. Was that a mistake?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: They should talk about Democratic legislature, which has -- does exactly the same thing in Mississippi for years. And as far as I know, the Democratic legislature -- we have a majority, both houses are Democrats -- I am unaware of them being criticized for it or them having their supporters feel uncomfortable with it.

CROWLEY: You know what I'm trying to get at. Here there is a sort of feeling that it is insensitive, but you clearly don't agree?

BARBOUR: To me, it is the sort of feeling that it is a nit, that it is not significant, that it's not -- it's trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn't amount to diddly.


COOPER: "Doesn't amount to diddly"; that's what the governor said.

Now, in a moment, we will talk with historian Douglas Brinkley.

But last week on 360, CNN analyst Roland Martin got into kind of a sparring match with Brag Bowling. He's the commander of the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the group that originally lobbied the state of Virginia to celebrate the confederacy for the month.

Here is some of that conversation.


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It was an idiotic mistake for him to sit here and proclaim this. The bottom line is the confederacy was based upon this issue of slavery. And so, it was hurtful, it was degrading, it was an oppressive system. And so I don't even see how he can even come up with this whole notion that it really wasn't significant enough to mention it and that it was really no big deal, let's celebrate the confederates. That makes no sense.

It's like someone sitting here saying let's celebrate Nazi soldiers for simply doing their job. Ridiculous.

COOPER: Brag, your group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, lobbied the governor to make this proclamation. Was it a mistake?

BRAG BOWLING, SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS: Not at all. I applaud the governor for his courage and his insight and I completely disagree with Mr. Martin. The -- there were a whole lot of issues other than slavery involved in that war. And actually, he has given a good reason why there should be Confederate History Month, because he knows only one reason, and that is slavery, but there is a whole lot more.

COOPER: But do you think it was a mistake for the governor not to mention slavery in his proclamation?

BOWLING: The governor -- it was an omission. And the Sons of Confederate Veterans has always wanted a true and accurate history of the war, and that includes slavery. So, we are not at all opposed to the insertion of that clause.

No sane person in the 21st century supports slavery. 150 years ago --

COOPER: On your Web site --

BOWLING: There are people that act like it is 1865 now.

COOPER: On your Web site though, on your homepage, you don't mention anything about slavery. You say that the civil war, which you call the Second American Revolution, was about the preservation of liberty and freedom, that that was the motivating factor.

BOWLING: It was. There's no doubt about it.

COOPER: But you make no mention of slavery here.

BOWLING: We are an organization of Confederate descendents and so we're naturally going to support the honor and good name of the Confederate soldier. He wasn't a politician. He was a soldier.

MARTIN: But wait -- but wait a minute. Here's the reality. The fact of the matter is, Virginia did not want the federal government telling them what to do. It was dealing with the issue of slavery.

Now, you sit here and talk about freedom? Well, guess what? People who looked like me, they were not free. They were oppressed.

BOWLING: I hate to give you a history lesson, sir --

COOPER: Let him finish, and then I'll let you answer.

MARTIN: Well, again, though, that is the reality. And so when you sit here and say, "We will celebrate the Confederate veterans," these folks committed treason by taking up arms against the United States. You celebrate that? They were domestic terrorists.

BOWLING: Can I speak?

COOPER: Yes. Go ahead.

BOWLING: OK. He's incorrect, especially when it comes to Virginia. Slavery had absolutely nothing to do with Virginia leaving the union. As of --

MARTIN: Oh, come on.

BOWLING: As of Fort Sumter, Virginia was firmly pro-union.

It was when Abraham Lincoln called up 75,000 troops to invade the lower south that Virginia seceded. And the governor of Virginia, John Letcher, said that no Virginian would be allowed to fight against fellow Americans and be coerced into staying in the Union. Virginia wouldn't do that.


COOPER: Now, let's dig deeper now with presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and our own Joe Johns.

Well, Doug, what do you make of this? I mean, you heard the Confederate -- Sons of Confederate Veterans think slavery had nothing to do with Virginia entering the Civil War.

DOUG BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it's idiocy. Everybody knows the story of slavery and the Civil War. What's happening here is politics.

The governor of Virginia had to have known that that was going to be controversial, to declare it right at the eve of the New Orleans GOP leadership conference, to declare April Confederate Month. Every time this kind of thing happens, it becomes a great flare up.

And now to have Governor Haley Barbour, who I respect a lot, but I disagree with completely, for him to kind of weigh in and say this isn't about much, this is about a southern strategy of the Republican Party. It's divisive.

And Roland Martin's attitude is one of African-Americans in the country. They're outraged. Richmond, Virginia, is 50 percent African-American. And to kind of pull this sort of stunt is deeply disappointing, and Governor McDonnell should be ashamed of himself.

COOPER: It's interesting, Doug. When you look at the Web site, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, it makes no mention of slavery. And it calls the Civil War the Second American Revolution. And it seems like they're kind of recasting it along very sort of narrow lines about what it was about. It was about fighting for freedom; it was about resisting invasion.

BRINKLEY: Well, Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery monitors these kind of neo-Confederate groups. Many of them trade in hate.

We do a good job in this country of interpreting Confederate history. The U.S. Interior Department does. You go to places like Atlanta, you can go to a state facility like Stone Mountain that have Civil War generals on it and learn about it.

But at Stone Mountain, you can either learn about the Civil War or you can hold a hate rally there. The Confederate flag has become a symbol of not just the Civil War battles, but of Jim Crow segregation in the Deep South, of racism.

And so there has to be some sensitivity to our public officials, like Governor Haley Barbour, Governor McDonnell, to -- when you just embrace the raw confederacy in this kind of fashion, it's going to anger a lot of people, and it doesn't do anybody in this country any good. It's not educational; it's about politics.

COOPER: Well, also, I mean, to have the governor of Virginia tell African-Americans in the state of Virginia that in this month, they should be celebrating -- you know, the original proclamation said the sacrifices of Confederate leaders, of Confederate soldiers and Confederate citizens, I mean, without making any mention of enslaved people is pretty stunning.

Joe, we got a text 360 question from Lilibeth in Edmonds, Washington. She asked, "Would Governor McDonnell's reinstatement of Confederate History Month in his state strengthen his position with his conservative base?"

JOHNS: Well, look, this was a political calculation, obviously. He's already walked it back. But what's done is done.

It does. It opens a whole can of worms, because the staff either left it out by accident, perhaps, or they did it on purpose.

And so what does it all mean? In the South there are going to be people who think it's totally ok to leave it out because, you know, they want to leave it out.

On the other hand, there are people who say the mere idea of Confederate History Month is just wrong in the first place. So -- but it just sort of depends on where you fall, and that's racial politics in the south.

You know, Anderson, there are a number of states that have these proclamations for Confederate History Month, and these things change from year to year. So Virginia had it for a while. Then they didn't. Now they have got it again. Alabama, for example, also has a proclamation, but they don't say -- they do say something about slavery in it.

In Mississippi, Haley Barbour's state, for example, they don't say anything in their proclamation about slavery. So it's a sort of a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

COOPER: And Doug, when you talk to Confederate veterans -- Sons of Confederate Veterans, they say, well, look Virginia entered because Virginia was invaded, and it was people in Virginia wanting to defend their homes and their property.

But you know, the thing they're glossing over is the fact that a lot of people in Virginia thought of their property, thought their slaves were their property.

BRINKLEY: Well, exactly. And you know, there's this Confederate flag movement. There were other regimental flags to honor family veterans. There was the Donnie Blue Flag, for example.

The Confederate flag has become a symbol of white supremacy. This over-embracing of the Confederacy, if you read a lot of these neo-Confederate sites, Abraham Lincoln is a Marxist.

And the reason it's playing out right now is because there's a large anti-federal government sentiment, a lot of states' sentiment going on right now. And so it gins up this old argument again.

And I think, because Barack Obama had won North Carolina and Virginia, the Republicans have no formula to regaining power in 2012 without those two states.

And clearly, the African-Americans are going to be backing Barack Obama in record numbers again for re-election. You're going to see them. They're trying to make a play for those two states.

COOPER: Doug Brinkley, we've got to leave it there, always good to have you on. Douglas Brinkley. And Joe Johns, as well, thanks.


COOPER: Coming up next -- well, actually, if you want to join the live chat right now at Let us know what you think about it; a lot of people talking about it on the blog.

Coming up, though: a story about a woman who drowned; her friend stands to collect $15 million, because he took out a life insurance policy on her. He says he did nothing wrong, but her family now suspects foul play.

And later, the wife of a Hollywood reality TV producer found dead in Mexico. Could the husband be arrested? I'll have the latest on the investigation.


COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" tonight, a mysterious death triggers a battle over life insurance. This is not your average policy; it was valued at $15 million. The beneficiary was a much younger friend. So did the man believe the woman was worth -- was worth more to him dead than alive?

Tonight, he talks to us in an exclusive TV interview. With that here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a good look at this photograph. The man is 36-year-old J.B. Carlson; the woman, 74- year-old Germaine Tomlinson. This was one of the last pictures taken of her. She died later that night.

The nature of their relationship is what this story is all about. An accident or murder?

Her daughter told CNN, "We found broken glass, and she was fully clothed, face down in her bathtub, drowned. It seemed this was a tragic accident. Then months later, we learn there was a $15 million insurance policy on her life, payable to someone other than a family member."

That someone is the man in the photograph. J.B. Carlson stands to benefit from the $15 million life insurance policy he had on Tomlinson. Why would Carlson, who wasn't a relative, buy a multimillion-dollar insurance policy on her? That's what her family wants to know. Her daughter wants the payment stopped.

Carlson is an entrepreneur and, according to "The Wall Street Journal," court documents say Germaine Tomlinson told others she was a board member of his company. Carlson is believed to be the last person to see her alive.

It was September 2008. They'd been out drinking and dancing at the Blue Martini bar.

(on camera): Carlson told me by phone he brought an intoxicated Tomlinson home about 1 a.m. and brought her inside. He says he placed her on the love seat and, quote, "walked toward the door", then clapped his hands to get her attention so she would lock the door. He says when he left the house Tomlinson was, quote, "alive."

(voice-over): The coroner ruled the death an accidental drowning, compounded by, quote, "acute ethanol intoxication", but her family believes something more sinister is going on.

Tomlinson's daughter says, "This insurance is supposedly based on my mother's position with a company we haven't really been able to learn much about. There were loans against the policy that were due within days of my mother's death."

(on camera): Carlson told me the insurance policy was a so- called legitimate key man policy, the kind used to protect a company if an executive dies. Carlson has not been charged with any crime.

(voice-over): CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin --

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is a story where there is certainly a very clear motive for murder, but proof of murder is a very different thing.

KAYE: American General, a division of AIG, which wrote the policy in January 2006, now wants it declared void. It's suing Carlson, alleging he submitted false and misleading information to dupe them into selling the policy.

Responding to charges by the insurer that Tomlinson's assets were inflated, listed at about $46 million, Mr. Carlson told me, "That is wildly inaccurate, simply not true."

"The Wall Street Journal" says documents show Tomlinson's yearly income was actually about $17,000.

(voice-over): Carlson says the loss of his friend has been, quote, "tremendously painful", and claims of foul play, he says, are, quote, "ridiculous." But the insurer says the $15 million policy is what's known as stranger-originated life insurance, where strangers pay the premiums on policies often taken out on the elderly then get a huge payout when the insured dies.

Randy Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Strange story.

Up next, new details in the case of a former "Survivor" producer suspected of killing his wife. Will he face charges?

And a surprising end to the late-night drama: Conan O'Brien announcing his return to TV. We'll have all the details ahead.


COOPER: Get caught up on some other important stories. Joe Johns has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOHNS: Anderson, a Hollywood television producer may still be arrested in the death of his wife. Monica Beresford-Redman was found dead in a sewer at a Mexican resort last week. Investigators say they're still waiting for forensic test results before deciding whether to charge her husband, Bruce.

He's a former "Survivor" producer and creator of "Pimp My Ride."

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger read a statement tonight saying he's happy to put sexual assault allegations behind him. Earlier, a Georgia district attorney decided not to charge the two-time Super Bowl champion with raping a woman at a night spot last month, saying the allegation cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stock market's on a roll. The Dow Jones closed above 11,000 today, reaching that milestone for the first time in 18 months.

And Conan O'Brien is heading back to late-night TV on TBS. After months of speculation that he would end up on the FOX network, news today that the brief "Tonight Show" host will be on our sister network in November. Looking forward to that.

COOPER: Yes, that's cool. Good for him.

For "The Shot," Tina Fey hosting "Saturday Night Live" over the weekend, or at least appearing on it and bringing back her Sarah Palin impersonation. In the sketch, Fey as the former governor now runs her own cable channel. Here's a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: "Man in a Helicopter with a Sniper Rifle Vs. Wild"; "So You Think You Can Make Me Fill out the Census"; "Dateline: To Catch a Levi Johnston"; "That's So Palin"; "Dancing with the Real Stars: America's Small Business Owners"; "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

So, there you have it. All Palin, all the time, until 2012, when I haven't decided what I'm going to do, but I'm probably going to run for president.

I'm Sarah Palin. Good night.


JOHNS: I thought she was going to say, "And I'll leave the lights on for you."

COOPER: Joe, thanks for -- for being on the program tonight.

And that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts now.

I'll see you tomorrow night.