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Bullying: No Escape; Interview With Florida Congressman Alan Grayson; Interview With Ellen DeGeneres; Jury Reaches Verdict in Connecticut Home Invasion Murder Trial; Kids Speak about the Reality of Bullying; Ellen DeGeneres: Bullying Has to Be Addressed

Aired October 5, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching, everyone.

Tonight: truth in advertising. You deserve no less from people seeking your vote. For days, since Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson launched an attack ad that uses clever editing and an outrageous insult, we have heard from everyone about it but the congressman. Tonight, he's here. Find out if he's willing to stand by the ad. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight: conservative groups saying all this talk of anti- bullying programs in school is really just a way to spread what they call a gay agenda. But can you prevent kids from bullying other kids without talking about what a big chunk of the bullying is actually about? Two sides square off tonight.

I will have an eye-opening talk also with kids about just how bad bullying has become. And Ellen DeGeneres joins me. Find out what she's doing now to reach kids in need.

And later: a verdict in the Connecticut home invasion horror. Find out what one killer has now been convicted of. And, for the first time, you will hear from the sole survivor of the attack, the husband of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, murdered, along with her two daughters. You will also hear what it was like inside the courtroom when the verdict was read today.

We begin, though, tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with a politician who passionately believes he's right on the issues, but who played fast and loose with his opponent's words in a campaign ad to make his case.

Unlike a lot of politicians these days, he isn't running from his own ad. He isn't running from the national media. He's on the program tonight, a week after we first invited him. But, as you will see, he's got no problem speaking up for himself.

The politician we're talking about is Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson. The ad, which has been replaced now by something tamer, takes a brutal shot at his Republican opponent, Daniel Webster, or, as the ad calls him, Taliban Dan. Take a look.


REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: I'm Congressman Alan Grayson, and I approve this message.

NARRATOR: Religious fanatics try to take away our freedom in Afghanistan, in Iran, and right here in Central Florida.

DANIEL WEBSTER (R), FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Wives, submit yourself to your own husband.

NARRATOR: Daniel Webster wants to impose his radical fundamentalism on us.

WEBSTER: She should submit to me. That's in the Bible.

NARRATOR: Webster tried to deny battered women medical care and the right to divorce their abusers.

WEBSTER: Submit to me.

NARRATOR: He wants to force raped women to bear the child.

WEBSTER: Submit to me.

NARRATOR: Taliban Dan Webster, hands off our bodies and our laws.


COOPER: Now, pretty rough stuff, calling somebody, even metaphorically, even hyperbolically, a member of a fanatic group aimed at slaughtering Americans.

Not only that, but the speech of Mr. Webster's -- that Mr. Webster used in that ad was cherry-picked. It was taken completely, almost breathtakingly, out of context.

We should take a moment to say that it's not our job to stick up for everyone who happens to get hammered by a tough campaign ad or get caught up in which side's point of view is good or bad for the country. That's why we have elections. That's up to you to decide.

But because elections live or die on voters having accurate information, we think our job is to call people out, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, liberal, conservative, for polluting the waters of public knowledge, in other words, "Keeping Them Honest."

I spoke with Congressman Grayson earlier tonight.


COOPER: Congressman Grayson, I appreciate you being on -- on the program.

I know you disagree with your opponent. And -- and, certainly, you disagree with his views. But calling him the Taliban Dan, I mean, it's equivalent to somebody -- calling somebody a Nazi or a Maoist. I mean, why go down that road? GRAYSON: Well, in a way, you're right. We let that ad run and die a natural death. Now we're running an entirely different ad on the same point, because people need to know Dan Webster's record. For 30 years, his...

COOPER: But the damage has been done, though. I mean, it -- you know, you can say the ad's no longer on the air. It was on the air for quite a while. It got plenty of attention. How do you defend it?

GRAYSON: By pointing out the underlying truth. The underlying truth is that Webster has an appalling record, 30 years of treating women like second-class citizens.

And I don't think people in the end are going to vote for atmospherics. They not going to vote for form. They are going to vote for substance.


COOPER: But why not put that in the commercial? Why not put that in a commercial and actually say that, though?


GRAYSON: Well, that's exactly what we did.

These issues don't go away depending upon what particular label we put on them. And we have to remember that this is someone who will be able to take these crazy ideas and actually put them into law for all of us...

COOPER: But you're not -- again...

GRAYSON: ... and make your sister and your...



GRAYSON: ... And your mother second-class citizens.

COOPER: Well, I know you have got talking points, and I know those are points you want to make.

But, again, you're not going to the basic issue, which is calling your opponent, labeling him Taliban. they kill American forces. They kill gay people. They, you know, throw acid on women. They behead people.

I mean, that's just -- it's below the belt. It's -- you can't defend it.

GRAYSON: Actually, what I'm trying to do is to point out in a vivid way that this is somebody with an 18th century name and a 13th century conception of how women should live in America. And that's what I'm trying to do right now. COOPER: But you're also twisting his words. I mean, you have taken a speech that he gave. You -- you edited it incredibly selectively, so it makes it sound like he's saying, you know, women, submit to your men, submit to your husbands, when, in fact, that's not what he was saying in that speech.

GRAYSON: I don't agree with that.

I think, by the way, they have pulled down the entire tape, so you can no longer look at the entire 20-minute speech that he gave. But I have seen that speech. And I think that that reflects exactly what his conception of women actually are, as judged by 30 years of experience in public life.

COOPER: You must admit, though, that you selectively edited his statements to say something other than what he was talking about at that time. We wouldn't be allowed to do that in news. Why -- what gives you the right to do that when you're trying to get people's votes?

GRAYSON: Well, as I said before, we have moved away from the whole subject of whether he was quoted in context, quoted out of context. That's not what matters here.

COOPER: Well, he was quoted out of context. You can't argue that. I mean, he was quoted out of context. There's no doubt.

GRAYSON: I don't know why you keep saying I can't argue this, that or the other thing. I don't -- I don't agree with what your position is here, Anderson. And I think that people can reasonably disagree.

But what is the first thing that a career politician says when he's called to answer for his own words? These were his words, not mine. The first thing a career politician like Daniel Webster says is, I was quoted out of context.

COOPER: Let's play the SOT of what he said.


WEBSTER: Write a journal. Second, find a verse. I have a verse for my wife. I have verses for my wife. Don't pick the ones that say, "She should submit to me." That's in the Bible. But pick the ones that you're supposed to do, so, instead, that you would love your wife, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, and as opposed to, wives, submit yourself to your own husbands. She can pray that if she wants to. But don't you pray it.


COOPER: So, I mean, that -- that was his full statement. You're saying you didn't take him out of context at all?

GRAYSON: Well, actually, the term that you used last week is that we cleverly edited it. And I will let other people decide whether that was clever or not. But the point is, this is an ad that hasn't run for four days, and you seem to be anxious to drag it out for some reason that I really don't understand. Let's talk about the facts. Let's talk about the record here.

COOPER: Well, let me -- let me -- well, let me tell you -- let me tell you why. Because you are running for Congress. You throw this ad out on television, and then you don't answer questions about it for days.

Then you finally come on television in the last couple of days and you say, oh, well, look, that was last week. Why do we have to talk about it?

I mean, if you believe in this ad, you should stand up for it. And I appreciate you coming on, because, frankly, there's a lot of other candidates who don't have the guts to -- to come on and talk about it.

But I think it's a little disingenuous to say, well, look, this was a week ago; you know, let's move on.

GRAYSON: Anderson, it's a little disingenuous for you to say that I have avoided answering questions about this ad. You are not the only show on TV.

COOPER: I have looked at the transcripts.

GRAYSON: In fact, I answered all sorts of questions about this ad from the moment it started to run. You're trying to make it sound like I hid from this, when that's absolutely not true.

COOPER: What about the other ad that you guys put on TV basically questioning -- saying that -- that, you know, he didn't love this country? You stand by the idea that he doesn't love this country?

GRAYSON: I think you're quoting me out of context at this point.

COOPER: Well...


GRAYSON: Isn't that a fair statement?

COOPER: I don't know. Let's -- do we have the ad? Can we play the ad?


GRAYSON: I'm Congressman Alan Grayson, and I approve this message.

NARRATOR: Daniel Webster was called to serve our country six times during the Vietnam War. Each time, Daniel Webster refused the call to service. It breaks an old soldier's heart to think that Daniel Webster could ever be elected to Congress. He doesn't love this country the way I do. Daniel Webster doesn't care about us.


COOPER: OK. So, "He doesn't love this country the way I do."

Did you serve in the military? You're making it seem as you if served in the military, and he -- that your opponent somehow, you know...

GRAYSON: Does the ad say that, or are you making it seem that way?

COOPER: Well, I think for -- any observer would interpret that this guy is unpatriotic and doesn't care about the United States.

GRAYSON: OK. But that's not what you just said. You said you're making -- I'm making it seem like I served in the military. Why do you say things like that? There's nothing in the ad that would lead people to infer...

COOPER: If you're attacking -- if you're -- if you're attacking his record for not serving in the military, it makes it sound like you did serve in the military. Maybe that's not your implication. And that's fine, and that's fair.

GRAYSON: I think what's happening here is that you're reaching for ways to attack me, and I really don't see the point of that.

I'm simply trying to let people know about my opponent's 30-year record as a career politician, despite the fact that people like you try to misconstrue the things that we have said.

COOPER: Do you think he is unpatriotic?

GRAYSON: I think the ad speaks for itself.

COOPER: Congressman Grayson, I do appreciate you being on. I appreciate it. Thank you.

GRAYSON: OK. Thank you, too.


COOPER: Well, one other note. In the spirit of "Keeping Them Honest," we would love to talk with a whole string of Republican candidates, including Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Rand Paul, and others, but they have Kind of given us the cold shoulder.

As for Democrats, Congressman Sanford Bishop is also dodging us. We have asked him on to talk about his diversion of money from Congressional Black Caucus scholarships funds into -- well, he gave those scholarships to some of his relatives and friends of people on his staff.

The invitation remains open. He's running in a -- in a reelection. We're not sure why he's not willing to talk to us, but the invitation stands. We're going to keep asking.

Also a reminder that the live chat up and running at Coming up next tonight: a young gay man's suicide sparking a battle over how to prevent bullying between those who say it's vital to talk about sexuality in schools, because the bullies sure do, and those who call that kind of program recruitment for what they say is a gay agenda. Two sides square off ahead.

We will also talk to kids who experience bullying firsthand. If you think maybe this is not a really big problem, you will want to hear from these kids. It's really an eye-opening discussion.

And later: my conversation about bullying with Ellen DeGeneres.


ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW": You know, it's not a compliment. It doesn't sound like, you know, "That's so gay." It's not going up.


DEGENERES: It's -- it's, "That's so gay," like, so -- if we changed it, maybe that, "That's so gay!" like...


DEGENERES: ... maybe we change the inflection, and we can turn the whole thing around.




COOPER: All this week, we're exploring the problem of bullying in America and what appears to be a recent epidemic of kids killing themselves after being bullied.

I spoke about it tonight with Ellen DeGeneres, who is also making this a big part of her programming. And we're going to bring you what she had say later on in the program tonight.

And, in a moment, my conversation with kids who have seen this up close. What they say, well, frankly, it's going to stun you. It really opened my eyes. If you think it's not a big deal or not so bad, you need to hear what these kids have to say.

The conversation I had with these kids is one that some schools don't allow if the discussion veers into sexuality or perceptions of people's sexuality. A number of conservative groups right now are saying that anti-bully education is being used to spread what they call a gay agenda.

That's the argument being made right now in Minnesota.

I want to show you a teenager who recently took his life in Minnesota. His name is Justin Aaberg. He lived in Anoka outside Minneapolis. He was 15 years old when he hanged himself in July. His mom says he was bullied at school.

Justin was gay. He was also a talented cellist. We found this tribute to him online, set to music that he composed and performed himself.




COOPER: Since Justin's death, his mom, Tammy, has been fighting to change policy in the local school district, because it doesn't specifically address sexuality, even though it's at the root of so many bullying cases.

Here's what Tammy said about it last night on "LARRY KING."


TAMMY AABERG, MOTHER OF JUSTIN AABERG: They don't have gay or lesbian or gender identity language in their harassment policy at all. And the one that they have now to -- with the curriculum is a neutrality policy. And so teachers don't even know how to intervene in a lot of issues when kids are being bullied or called names.


COOPER: So, we wanted to look at this. Here's what the Anoka- Hennepin school policy word for word says -- quote -- "Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the district-adopted curriculum. Rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations."

It goes on, "Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation, including, but not limited to, student-led discussions."

So, this is exactly how some in the community want to keep it. A group called the Minnesota Family Council warns about gay activists using Justin's death to push what they call a gay agenda.

Minnesota Family Council president Tom Prichard told "The Minneapolis Star Tribune" -- and I quote -- "I don't think parents want their kids indoctrinated in homosexuality."

He also blogged about Justin's death, writing -- quote -- "Whatever the exact reason for Justin's suicide, it's an enormous tragedy that shouldn't be manipulated for ideological purposes, which is what's being done now."

He continues, "I will, of course, be accused of being unloving, hateful, et cetera, but is the loving thing to encourage and promote unhealthy and harmful behaviors and practices?" I spoke with Tom Prichard earlier today, along with anti-bullying expert Rosalind Wiseman, author of "Queen Bees and Wannabes."


COOPER: Tom, Justin Aaberg's mother says that the bullying that he experienced pushed him to kill himself. You say the bullying had nothing to do with it and that he and other gay teens who kill themselves die because they have adopted, in your words, an unhealthy lifestyle.

TOM PRICHARD, PRESIDENT, MINNESOTA FAMILY COUNCIL: What I said is, we oppose all forms of bullying, and we're concerned about the promotion of curriculums in the schools which promote acceptance of same-sex marriage and same-sex behavior.

But we never said -- you know, there's a number of factors involved in his death, and it's a tragedy. And, you know, we feel very badly about that and think this bullying issue needs to be addressed.

COOPER: But you did say -- quote -- "Youth who embrace homosexuality are at greater risk because they have embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle."

PRICHARD: Well, that -- that was the point the mother made. She said that. And I concur with her that...


COOPER: Well, no, no, she said...


PRICHARD: ... gay and lesbian students -- yes, she said in a "Star Tribune" interview.


COOPER: The -- the mother of -- of -- of this boy who killed himself is saying that bullying played a role. And -- and he was 13 years old when he -- when he came out. He was...


PRICHARD: It -- it certainly could have. We wouldn't deny that it couldn't have played a role, but we never said it played no role. We're saying, obviously, there are many factors.

COOPER: His mom now is -- is trying to get curriculum changes in the school to get other kids who are gay or identify as gay or lesbian in the schools to get them sort of more better accepted, to make them feel more comfortable.

You say that -- that homosexual activists, in your words, are -- quote -- "manipulating his death to push a gay agenda into schools."

I mean...

PRICHARD: Well, I think that's -- I think that -- I think that's clearly the situation here. The curriculum, the policy in the school...

COOPER: But, I mean, it's his mom -- it's his mom, though, trying to get the curriculum changed.


COOPER: Are you saying his mom is now a homosexual activist?

PRICHARD: No, you have got a lot of homosexual activists promoting this. And our concern is, there's a policy dealing with curriculum alone. It doesn't deal with issues of bullying or inappropriate behavior in the schools.

And it's a neutral policy saying, hey, you're going to present both sides in the curriculum.

COOPER: Rosalind, let me ask you about that. You work in a lot of schools. Is that what you're pushing?

ROSALIND WISEMAN, AUTHOR, "QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES: HELPING YOUR DAUGHTER SURVIVE CLIQUES, GOSSIP, BOYFRIENDS, AND THE NEW REALITIES OF GIRL WORLD": For 20 years, I have been trying to get into programs and working with schools to put content into these programs.

And if we make it so generalized and just talk about that kids should be nice to each other, our children are not only going to laugh at us. They're also going to think we're incompetent. And that's not acceptable when they're so desperate for our help.


WISEMAN: And these kinds of programs that are neutral don't do it.

COOPER: Well, let me ask you, because he's saying -- Tom is saying, look, address the problem, address the bullying; you don't need to necessarily talk about gays and lesbians in -- in specific.

WISEMAN: You cannot address bullying without addressing homophobia. You can't do it, because so many children are proving that they have to belong, that they are not gay, that they have to be silent in the face of cruelty, so they don't get this comment of, don't be gay, and it -- don't be a fag.

And, so, if we don't address this in more concrete ways and -- and ways that kids can relate to and visualize, and that they think we know what we're talking about, then we are not going to be able to give them the services and the -- the support and the programs that they need.

COOPER: Tom, to some degree, though, aren't -- aren't gay and lesbian kids who are 13, 14, 15 coming out at younger and younger ages in schools today? I mean, isn't it important to create a safe place for them, a place where they feel comfortable and good about themselves, rather than making them feel bad about themselves?

PRICHARD: Studies have shown in Minnesota that large numbers of kids are insecure with their sexual identity. And -- and when you begin promoting and encouraging and endorsing it, you're going to -- more kids are going to say, hey, I'm gay and lesbian. And there's all sorts of health problems...


COOPER: You're using those buzz words -- you're -- you're using the buzz words like promoting and endorsing and -- and encouraging, rather -- I mean, what about just, you know, talking about what is real?

I mean, you make it sound as if -- I mean, there are gay kids and they're going to be gay kids, whether you like it or not. Isn't the question, how do we make them feel OK about themselves, and how do we make them feel safe and want to be able to go to school and get an equal education, like everybody else, rather than -- we're -- we're not about forcing -- it's not about forcing it down somebody's throat. It's about making these kids not want to kill themselves.

PRICHARD: Well, I think you assume that there are just gay kids over here and others aren't gay over here, and they all know it.

But I -- I think you're injecting a lot of confusion, and you're raising a lot of advocacy issues that we have concerns about. And those are controversial topics. And I think one has to ask, is that really helping promote the mission of the school?

COOPER: Look, there are a lot of parents around the country who are uncomfortable with the notion of their child learning about gays and lesbians from a teacher or in the school in -- in the way that the parent doesn't want.

Now, whether you agree with that or not is -- is, you know, up for our viewers to decide. But -- but it is a fact there a lot of people around the country who don't want that for their kids. So, how do you -- how do you reconcile that with a -- with an anti-bullying program?


Look, I have done work in the most conservative parts of this country, and I have never received pushback from Christian parents, evangelical parents. I have only received support.

And the reason, I believe, I have received that support is because I say consistently, and believe it with all my heart, that this -- that all children, regardless of their sexual orientation, must be treated with dignity. And that is where we begin, and that is where we end.

COOPER: We have got to leave it there.

Tom Prichard, I appreciate your perspective, Rosalind Wiseman, you as well. Thank you.

WISEMAN: Thank you. PRICHARD: Good to be with you.


COOPER: A quick programming note about an exclusive interview coming up.

We have been reporting extensively, as you probably know, on the Michigan assistant attorney general's apparent focus and -- and targeting of a college student. The college student's name is Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan's first openly gay student body president.

You have heard from the -- the attorney general. You have heard from the assistant attorney general, but not from Chris Armstrong himself. Tomorrow, only on 360, he joins us, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right here. I hope you join us for that.

A lot of what happened to Chris Armstrong fits the textbook definition of cyber-bullying -- up next, my conversation with eight teenagers, what they told me about the kind of bullying they have seen in high schools and middle schools, the kind of bullying that follows them home from school and exists all across the Internet.

Also tonight: Ellen DeGeneres on the fatal humiliation of Tyler Clementi, a college musician with a promising life ahead of him, until a video of him with another man was streamed on to the Web by his roommate.


DEGENERES: He was in the privacy of his own room and -- and had asked for privacy. And these -- these other two people thought it would be funny to not only watch, but then to stream it live is the cruelest thing I can imagine.



COOPER: All this week -- all this week, we're partnering with "People" magazine, taking an in-depth look at bullying -- bullying.

We're calling our coverage "Bullying: No Escape," because what a lot of people forget is that, these days, for kids who are bullied, there's often no escape, in the sense that it's -- it's not just happening in our schools. It's online. It's on cell phones, on mobile devices. And kids are dying because of it.

I sat down with eight teens recently, middle and high school kids, to find out about their firsthand experiences with -- with bullying. Listen.


COOPER: So, who here has either been bullied or seen somebody else being bullied in your school? Raise your hands. All of you.


COOPER: How many of you have actually been bullied? So, nearly all of you.

How about for you? How did -- what kind of bullying did you get?

JOEY, BULLYING VICTIM: I came out of the closet as gay in eighth grade, and, ever since, I have been bullied. I was, for lack of a better word, and still am, the school faggot.

COOPER: People call you that?

JOEY: Every day.

COOPER: They will use the F-word...


JOEY: Every day.

COOPER: Every single day?

JOEY: Every probably about, give or take, 10, 12 times a day.

There was a point where a kid had a knife on school premises, and said: "I'm going to kill him. I want that faggot dead."

And I had to transfer schools.

COOPER: How about you? You -- you -- you have been bullied as well.

DESHIRA, BULLYING VICTIM: I have been verbally abused because of my religion. I'm a Muslim girl.

And it's really hard living in a small town where everyone seems to be an Italian Catholic or a Christian. And when you say Muslim, it's like you see their faces drop. It's like no one knows what that is, or they're scared of it. And it's been hard. Like, I will -- people won't talk to me anymore once they find out.

COOPER: Jason, how about you?

JASON, BULLYING VICTIM: I was bullied on a regular-day basis from like April of last year to like the end of this school year. One day, he just -- I didn't even see him coming. He just came out of nowhere and hit me. But he would probably just be calling me names and like hitting me, I guess.

COOPER: What kind of names?

JASON: Oh, like faggot, emo, gay, stuff like that, all because I would probably -- all because I was smarter than him or the music that I listened to. Just pretty much, if I was different from him, he would find a name to call me that was related to the difference, and just call me that name. So...

COOPER: It seems like that's pretty much what -- those are -- those names are kind of the most common names that bullies will call guys. I mean, they will use the F-word. Is that -- is that pretty much everyone's experience here?




COOPER: When you hear about kids who have committed suicide, who have killed themselves because of bullying, does it surprise you?





COOPER: It doesn't surprise you?


JONATHAN, BULLYING VICTIM: Because it makes you realize how really serious bullying is, because some people might think that bullying really isn't that big of a deal.

But it really is, because anything that causes kids to really kill themselves has to be a big problem. And it needs to be stopped. But...


COOPER: Because when an adult -- I mean, I think when a lot -- when I hear about it, when adults hear about kids, you know, an 11-year-old kid who kills himself, who hangs himself, it's -- it's shocking.

But it -- I mean, it's interesting that all of you say you're not surprised by it.

JOEY: I think that, bullying, when you experience it, you feel so helpless. And, day in and day out, you're being called something. And -- and they're telling you the same message: your life is worthless.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It takes a hold...

JOEY: You start...

COOPER: You start to believe it.

JOEY: You do. And I believed it for a long time. I believed that I did not deserve to live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Death is the only escape. Because if you kill yourself, it's done. You don't have to do it anymore.

COOPER: Do you think part of the reason some people bully is they're afraid that if they don't they're going to get targeted?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peer pressure has a lot to do with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They'd rather it happen to someone else than themselves.

COOPER: So you do it to someone else so it doesn't happen to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people do.

COOPER: Is there fear in, you know, talking to people at the school, talking to social workers or talking to teachers or talking to the principal? Is there fear in doing that, that it's just going to make the situation worse?




COOPER: How so?

KRYSTINA, BULLYING VICTIM: You could just get called a snitch, you know, and just, look at the stupid snitch, and then you'll just get teased more.

COOPER: It can actually make it worse?


COOPER: And you guys don't think adults these days really have a conception of how bad it is?


MATT, BROTHER OF BULLYING VICTIM: They don't take it seriously enough, because what could eventually happen is quite possibly suicide. And if an adult is one of those bystander that's just chose not to do anything on that particular day, and that kid goes home and commits suicide, essentially their blood is on your hands.

COOPER: Let me just play devil's advocate. I mean, this is -- bullying is something that's been around for generations, forever, probably. Is it something that can really be changed?

JOEY: I hear that argument a lot, and people say, bullying can't be changed, it's been around forever. But it really can. And how many people deep down inside have empathy, have that consideration that, if you can really get down into their soul and make them understand the way that the words affect people, then they can change?

COOPER: Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres has been speaking out, voicing her outrage about the cruelty that spiraled out of our schools and beyond. It's an issue, obviously, she's passionate about. She's launched a campaign that allows anyone to donate to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping suicidal gay and lesbian teens. Just text the word "kind" -- K-I-N-D -- to 85944, and you'll be charged a $5 donation to the Trevor Project.

Ellen DeGeneres joins me now.

Ellen, thanks very much for being with us.


COOPER: Why is this issue so important to you? What was it that really touched you recently?

DEGENERES: Well, first of all, I just don't understand bullying, period. I mean, I started out as a comedian and long before I was the target of any -- any jokes, any one-liners on television, I just never believed in making fun of other people. And a lot of comedy is that kind of mean-spirited and that is a form of bullying, of getting a laugh at somebody else's expense. And so I've never really liked it.

And -- and then when I came out, I was definitely the target of lots of jokes, and it hurt. They weren't -- it was -- they were just putting them out there, but it was me they were talking about. And it felt horrible, and so after I came out, Matthew Shepherd was killed and when he was killed, I was devastated because I thought, you know, I could be a face. I could be somebody that would represent Hope to these kids.

COOPER: I know the recent death of Tyler Clementi in particular prompted you to make your latest plea in this project -- for the Trevor Project. What do you think it was about -- about his story that, you know, so -- so drew you?

DEGENERES: I think it -- you know, Tyler was just kind of just another person, it's all of them. And it's all of them. It's every -- every single time I hear about a 13-year-old kid or a 15-year-old kid or this 18-year-old kid, Tyler, I just -- it's not one person. It just -- it seems like it just doesn't seem to stop.

And the fact that -- that he was in the privacy of his own room and had asked for privacy and these -- these other two people thought it would be funny to not only watch but then to stream it live is the cruelest thing I can imagine. How they didn't know that that would be devastating for Tyler when that got out there.

When these things happen, it feels like a direct assault on me, because I am that person that they are bullying. I am that person that -- that feels like committing suicide. They're talking about me. I'm gay, and I have been ostracized my whole life and in society. And I'm sent that message on a daily basis by the media, and -- and it hurts. And I want to say to those kids out there, I -- I have been through it. I came out. I am successful. I am happy. I am in love, and -- and there is Hope. It doesn't -- you don't -- you don't have to give up just because there's a short period in your life where it feels like there's no Hope. Because there's always Hope.

COOPER: Do you find it surprising that people still tell gay jokes? I mean, that people still use the "F" word, that people still use that term, you know, "Oh, that's so gay."

I think I mentioned this to you. I went to a movie theater this weekend, and a preview for a new movie, a new Vince Vaughn movie, in the preview, he uses the term. And it just shocked me that not only would they put this in the movie but that they would put this in the preview, that they didn't even think this might offend some people. And I think it should offend a lot of people.

DEGENERES: I think it's so like -- you know, it's -- that message has been going on for so long, and no one has stood up to it, that it just is subconscious. It's just subliminal. And I think that is what is dangerous. Because, you know, kids see this, and whether adults are saying something like that or kids are saying it in the school yard, when you hear it, you're just like, you know, that's acceptable to say.

And that's -- and it also means, you know, it's not a compliment. It doesn't sound like -- you know, "That's so gay!" It's not going up, it's -- so maybe if we changed it, "That's so gay!" Like, maybe if we change the inflection, and we can turn the whole thing around.

But I think that's the problem. Nobody is really celebrating the fact. They're making it, and I think that it's the parents' responsibility to talk to their kids and say, you know, you have -- you have to respect other kids for being different and it's -- you know, it's just -- it really is just ignorance.

COOPER: Someone said to me the other day that, you know, that enters a kid's internal dialogue. That what other -- as an adult, you can -- you kind of put on armor after a while, if you're lucky. But for a kid, they don't have that. And what other people say about them weighs on them. And it can crush them. It can kill them.

DEGENERES: Well, they don't -- they don't have the confidence yet. I mean, I don't think I really, fully, you know, started feeling comfortable in my own skin until the last really, you know, ten years or so. And I get more comfortable every year as I get older.

But it's movies. It's television. It's politicians. It's society saying, you know, you can't be openly gay and be in the military. You can't marry the person you love, because you're not equal to other people.

And when you send that message out there that -- that other people, that there are people in this world that are not the same as you, they're not equal to you, because it just is creating a bunch of people that are judging one another. And that's never going to -- that's never going to be a good thing.

COOPER: Ellen DeGeneres, I appreciate it. Ellen, thank you.

DEGENERES: Thank you so much, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, tomorrow on 360, we're going to have much more on bullying and how the Internet and cell phones are making a deadly problem even worse.

Thirteen-year-old Hope Witsell killed herself after texting her boyfriend a picture that no one else was supposed to see.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hope Witsell was a good student, but about a year ago, Hope did something so unexpected, so out of character it changed everything.

(on camera) Friends and family say this all started in the spring of 2009 at the end of the school year, when Hope sexted a picture of her breasts to her boyfriend. Another girl at school, they say, got her hands on that photo and sent it to students at six different schools in the area. Before Hope could do anything about it, that photo had gone viral.

DONNA WITSELL, HOPE'S MOTHER: Just loved everybody.

KAYE (voice-over): Hope's mother Donna says she warned her many times about the dark side of cell phones and computers.

(on camera) So after all those conversations, you -- you never imagined that she would sext a photo of herself to someone.

WITSELL: No. No. No. Absolutely not.

KAYE (voice-over): The photo made Hope a target. She was in middle school, 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds, and suddenly bullies everywhere.


COOPER: Well, she couldn't bear the humiliation that followed. She ended up hanging herself. We're going to have her story on 360 tomorrow. We'll also talk to Dr. Phil about it.

And again, we'll be bringing you in-depth reports on bullying all this week. And on Friday, our hour-long special, "Bullying: No Escape," done in partnership with "People" magazine and the Cartoon Network. I hope you join us for that.

Still ahead tonight, career criminal Steven Hayes convicted today of capital murder today. The crime horrific: a home invasion in Connecticut, triple murder, a mom and her two daughters tortured before they died. We're going to tell you what it was like today inside the courtroom when the verdict was read and the first time the sole survivor of the attack speaks out.

Also, a different kind of horror: tonight's "Shot." A day at the circus taking a terrifying turn when lions attack their trainers. We'll show you that ahead.


COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" tonight, the first measure of justice for Dr. William Petit, whose wife and two daughters were murdered during an invasion of their Connecticut home back in 2007.

Today a jury, after deliberating for about four hours over two days, convicted Steven Hayes of capital murder and kidnapping. Prosecutors are going to ask for the death penalty.

As you know, the attack on the Petit family was savage. Jennifer Hawke-Petit was sexually assaulted and strangled, her daughters tied to beds. One of them was assaulted, their rooms doused in gasoline and set ablaze. They died, apparently, of smoke inhalation.

Dr. Petit was severely wounded, beaten with a baseball bat. He survived, though he spoke outside court today.


DR. WILLIAM PETIT, HOME INVASION SURVIVOR: There is some relief, but my -- my family is still, still gone. It doesn't bring them back. It doesn't bring back the home that we had. But certainly, a guilty verdict is a much better sense of relief than a guilty -- a verdict of not guilty.


COOPER: Steven Hayes' alleged accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, will be tried separately at a later date.

Sunny Hostin has been covering the trial. She's a legal contributor for "In Session" on our sister network, TruTV. And Michael Christian is a senior field producer for "In Session." He was inside the courtroom today.

Michael, what was it like inside the courtroom when the verdict was read? What was the -- Steven Hayes' reaction?

MICHAEL CHRISTIAN, SENIOR FIELD PRODUCER, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": You know, verdicts are always tense, Anderson.

Steven Hayes really didn't have much reaction to this. He stood throughout the reading of the verdict, and there were 17 counts. He didn't actually look down, but he bowed his head just a little bit.

I thought possibly we'd see some reaction from him on the 16th count, because that was the one count that he wasn't convicted on, arson. But it didn't make any difference. Basically, there was just no reaction from him in the least.

COOPER: What about Dr. Petit and others in the court?

CHRISTIAN: They have been incredibly stoic through all of this. Clearly, this was a very stressful moment for them. I saw Dr. Petit's sister, Hannah Chapman (ph). She seemed to be having the most problem or the most stress dealing with this. She had her head down, and at one point someone sitting behind her reached around and put his arm around her shoulder.

Dr. Petit didn't really seem to have much reaction, but that is absolutely typical for him. When it was over, however, when the jury -- jurors had been released and court was recessed for the day, family members stood up. They hugged each other. They were clearly happy with this outcome.

COOPER: So the next step is the penalty phase for Steven Hayes. That's going to happen before this next guy is even tried.


COOPER: What is the defense at this point going to try to do to spare this guy's life?

HOSTIN: Well, the prosecution has to prove aggravating factors. And one of those factors is going to be whether or not he committed this crime in a heinous and cruel and a depraved manner. And after hearing all the evidence, I think we can all agree that the prosecution is going to be able to do that.

The defense is going to try to prove some mitigating factors. And I think they're going to continue the theme, Anderson, of "My guy was culpable, but Joshua Komisarjevsky was really the brains behind this. He is the more culpable."

I think we're going to hear a lot about Steven Hayes. We're going to hear a lot about his criminal history, a lot about the fact that he has a family, that he has children. He had a woman in his life. He lived with his mother.

COOPER: It's hard to imagine anyone with children would do this.

HOSTIN: Would do something like this.

COOPER: But the fact that he is video -- on video -- surveillance video buying gasoline before this crime actually even took place seems to indicate premeditation, to at least burnt house down.

HOSTIN: Exactly. And he was found guilty of 16 of the 17 counts, as Michael said, but not guilty of the arson. It seems counterintuitive. But when you look at the charge, and it was a 46-page charge, it basically said that he had to have lit the match.

And I think the jury probably really struggled with that. Even though he got the gasoline, did he really set the house on fire? Did he light that match? COOPER: Michael, obviously this is just one step in a long process for Dr. Petit and for the town of Cheshire, which is obviously unused to seeing this kind of thing. How have folks there been coping? How has Dr. Petit been dealing with all of this?

CHRISTIAN: You know, it's amazing how much the town of Cheshire has supported Dr. Petit and his family. They've been giving him great support over the years.

You know, the site where the house once stood, Anderson, is now a memorial garden. Friends and neighbors put this together. They've got a beautiful garden. You can walk through it. There's a bench. You can sit down. You can reflect on the lives of these women that are no longer with us.

And there's really no overt markers. I didn't remember seeing the name Petit anywhere. But I went a couple of weeks ago, and there's a stone marker that has the engraving of three roses, and it just says on it "three angels." Obviously, referring to Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Michaela Petit and Haley Petit.

So a lot of support from the town. Clearly, they'd love to get this completely behind them. It's been three years. They know they have at least another trial to go. It's not the end of the beginning, but it's getting there.

COOPER: Do we know, Sunny, when this next trial will take place, when Komisarjevsky goes on trial?

HOSTIN: They're saying sometime in 2011. And so as Michael said, unfortunately, this continues for this family, because Dr. Petit will have to testify again.

He was in the courtroom every single day for Steven Hayes' trial, I would imagine he's going to be in the courtroom for the penalty phase, which starts October 18. And he's going to be there, I'm sure, for the next trial.

COOPER: All right. Sunny Hostin, appreciate it.

And Michael Christian, as well, thank you very much.

Up next on 360, the woman who claims her husband was killed by Mexican pirates speaks out to express her shock. She can't understand why anybody would question that they were attacked while Jet Skiing on a lake along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Also unbelievable video, lions go wild attacking their trainers, members of the audience running for their lives. We'll tell you where it happened. We'll show you the rest of the tape. Tonight's "Shot."


COOPER: A couple minutes left in the program tonight. Let's get you updated on some of the other stories we're following. Randi Kaye has the "360 Bulletin" -- Randi. KAYE: Anderson, a sentence of life in prison today for the would-be Times Square bomber. Faisal Shahzad attempted to detonate a car bomb on May 1, but the plot failed. A defiant Shahzad warned the court that a war with Islam has begun and that the defeat of the U.S. is imminent.

And we have this 360 follow tonight. Mexico says the American woman who claims her husband was shot and killed by pirates last week while they were Jet Skiing on the lake bordering the U.S. and Mexico must officially now file a complaint. Tiffany Hartley is expected to do that tomorrow. And here's what she said about people who doubt the story of her husband's murder.


TIFFANY HARTLEY, HUSBAND MURDERED WHILE JET SKIING: It's awful to think that they would think that. I mean, I can't say that, you know I can imagine why they would, but he was my life. He did everything for me. He took care of me. He provided for me. He loved me unconditionally. He was my -- my rock.


KAYE: And Anderson, look at this horrific video out of Brazil. A woman walking in the street was struck from behind by a car and thrown into the air. Incredible, reports say she suffered only minor injuries.

And President Obama kept his cool when things didn't go so right for him in Washington today. Watch this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot sustain -- oops. Was that my -- oh, goodness. That's all right. All of you know who I am. But I'm sure there's somebody back there that's really nervous right now.


KAYE: The presidential seal was retrieved, of course, after the president finished his speech.

COOPER: I'm sure there were a lot of nervous people right then.

Randi, tonight's shot comes from an iReporter who was visiting the Ukraine. He took his kids to the circus, where a lion performance went horribly wrong. First one lion attacked the trainer. Then another lion joined in. It took other trainers to beat back the cats with a fire hose and steel rods.

A lot of the audience had fled the building. Apparently, the only thing between them and the lions was kind of a mesh fence. The injured trainer is reportedly in stable , which is incredibly...

KAYE: Yes. And then those trainers stayed in there and they had the lions actually go after them again right here. They had to get that water canon as they call it. There he goes right after him again. It's incredible.

COOPER: I know. I guess where else -- I guess they couldn't run out, because then maybe the lions would follow them or something, and maybe there was only that netting to stop them. I'm not sure why they kept staying in the ring.

KAYE: And then you hear the audience screaming. I would have been out of there so fast.

COOPER: Yes. Oy, unbelievable.

Randi, thanks so much, and look forward to your report tomorrow on -- on Hope Witsell and her mom and what happened to Hope when she -- when she was 13.

KAYE: Yes.

COOPER: Later.

Up next, Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson defending his attack ads comparing his opponent to the Taliban. "Keeping Them Honest," next.