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Guns, Kids & Politics; Interview With Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen; Heated Rhetoric Over Health Care Reform; Notorious Cold Cases; Positive Signs for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

Aired January 19, 2011 - 22:00   ET



Tonight: After all this talk about toning down the rhetoric, why is a Democratic congressman comparing Republicans to Nazis? And why is he refusing to back down? He joins us in a minute. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also, last night on this program, did a Florida Republican lawmaker lie, or did he just not know what was in a bill he's co- sponsoring? He wants to throw pediatricians in jail for asking their patients a simple question: Do you have a gun in your house? Pediatricians said they want to give advice on gun safety for kids, just like they give advice on child car seats and pool safety.

Last night, he denied he was trying to jail doctors for asking the question. Is he still sticking by that story? We're keeping him honest as well.

And later: a possible new development in a 26-year-old missing child case. An 8-year-old girl who vanished, grabbed off the street, her mom still agonizing every day over the details of that last day she saw her, now there could actually be a break in the case after all these years. We will talk about it with John Walsh.

We begin, though, as we always do, "Keeping Them Honest," with a Democratic congressman comparing Republicans to Nazis. Now, remember all the talk of toning down the rhetoric, trying not to demonize one's political opponents? Well, apparently, that was last week.

The congressman is going to be here in a moment to explain himself, but here's what happened. This is Congressman Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee. Now, last night, on the eve of today's vote in the House to repeal President Obama's health care reform, Congressman Cohen went on the House floor and blasted what he called Republican lies about the health care law.

He did that, though, by comparing Republican statements about health care to lies about Jews told by this man, the notorious Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. And he didn't stop there. Listen.


REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie, just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and, eventually, people believe it, like blood libel. That's the same kind of thing.

The Germans said enough about the Jews, and the people believed it, and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. And we have heard it on this floor: government takeover of health care.

PolitiFact, nonpartisan, Pulitzer Prize-winning 2009, "Saint Petersburg Times," said the biggest lie of 2010 was government takeover of health care, because there is no government takeover. It's insurance.


COOPER: Well, what's amazing about this is that congressman, Cohen, just last week called on his fellow lawmakers to tone down their rhetoric in the wake of the Tucson shooting. As I said, that was last week.

I spoke to Congressman Cohen a short time ago.


COOPER: Representative Cohen, how -- how can you think that it's appropriate for a member of Congress on the floor of the House to compare the statements made by Republicans about health care to lies about Jews told by Joseph Goebbels and other Nazis? How is it appropriate?

COHEN: Well, appreciate because it was the same process. Obviously, I don't think Republicans are Nazis, but they use the same means that Goebbels used, which was to have a short, concise idea, and repeat it over and over and over again.

COOPER: But you're essentially comparing them to Nazis.

COHEN: No, I don't think I was. And I certainly didn't intend to.

And when you do a -- an open session like that on the floor, you speak off the cuff. But, no, Goebbels was the master of political propaganda. And, as evil a man as he was, he was the master of this. And when people use it and use lies over and over and over again, whether it's killing grandma, whether it's government health -- takeover of health care or -- or any of those things, somebody has to stand up and say, hey, wait a minute.

COOPER: But if..

COHEN: It's a lie.

COOPER: ... if you weren't trying to compare them to Nazis, you wouldn't have mentioned Nazis. I mean, you said their statements on health care are the same kind of lies that Nazis told. COHEN: I didn't say -- I didn't say Nazis. I said...


COOPER: You said Goebbels.


COHEN: I said Goebbels.

COOPER: He's the -- the chief propagandist for the Nazi Party.

And you said that...

COHEN: He -- he was. He was.

COOPER: And you said the Germans told lies about the Jews, and that led to the Holocaust.


COOPER: You are saying they're doing the same kind of thing that the Nazis did. That's comparing them.

COHEN: Well, I didn't intend to do that. I didn't think I did.

He's the master political propagandist. And if -- he -- he wrote treatises on it. He had rules. He's the major person. And if you want to talk about political propaganda, the person you talk about who mastered it, in terms of the big lie, was Goebbels.

COOPER: So, you're standing by this? You don't think it's inappropriate in any way?

COHEN: Well, I -- I think, as -- as far as a lie goes -- and I have been writing about lies in the political spectrum for the last two months. There was a -- a show that said that the government was creating concentration camps and planned to have a pandemic against its citizens. This was something on truTV...

COOPER: Yes, that's Jesse Ventura's...

COHEN: ... ironically enough.

COOPER: ... ridiculous conspiracy show, which...

COHEN: Right. And I...

COOPER: ... is just a joke. But -- but, I mean...

COHEN: And I wrote an -- it's not a joke. I wrote an op-ed about it. That's the kind of stuff that produces Oklahoma Cities, produced two deputy sheriffs being killed in West Memphis.

COOPER: But -- but Democrats have been very critical when people on the right to use Nazi imagery to describe President Obama or Democrats. I just don't understand why you think it's OK to bring in Nazis when you're talking about Republicans.

COHEN: I -- I think that, when it's an appropriate analogy, and if you wanted to talk about some monster scientist, and you mentioned Mengele, it would be appropriate, because he was the monster scientist of -- of the last 100 years or maybe of all time, just as Goebbels was the master political propagandist.

I don't -- and I want to make it clear here, I don't think any of my colleagues are Nazis. I didn't intend to suggest they were. But they're using the lie over and over, is the same type of thing that Goebbels used.

COOPER: But...


COHEN: The fact that he was a Nazi and the fact he was a political propagandist can look -- be viewed at in different ways.

COOPER: But the fact -- the fact of the matter is, you -- you are comparing them to Nazis. I mean, you're saying their tactics are the same tactic as Nazis.

And, I mean, the National Jewish Democratic Council has come out and says, your comments are abusive Holocaust rhetoric. They say that invoking the Holocaust to make a political point is never acceptable.

COHEN: What if I compared a boxer to Max Schmeling? He was a Nazi. Would that have been terrible?


COOPER: Max Schmeling was not a leader of the Nazi Party. Yes, he was used by the Nazis, and, yes, he certainly, you know, spoke out on -- on behalf of -- of the German government. But -- but he was a bit player.

Joseph Goebbels was the major propagandist spreading lies about Jews, and you're comparing what he did to what Republicans are doing.

COHEN: Well, what if you compared -- what if you compared a submarine commander to Doenitz, or if you compared Rommel and -- and the ability to -- to wage war in the desert with tanks? Those were -- those were major Nazis. Rommel, he did turn against Hitler, and Doenitz, but they were masters at submarine warfare and masters at -- at...

COOPER: I just don't understand why you have to bring the Nazis into a discussion about health care and your opponents? I mean, your comments seem especially hypocritical, given that you just wrote an editorial in "Roll Call" about the dangers of hateful rhetoric and reckless speech.

You wrote -- and I quote -- "Reckless and hateful speech often has a terrible human cost. If the horrific events in Arizona are not enough to modulate our public discourse, it is likely there will be more violence and more deaths."

Do you really think your comments advance civility in the public discourse?

COHEN: I don't -- I guess they don't advance civility, per se, but I think telling lies is uncivil, and I think somebody needs to stand up to the lies that are being told.

And the fact is, they were similar to what Goebbels said: Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it over and over, and people will believe it. And that's what they have done.

COOPER: But -- but this is not actually the first time that you used this kind of rhetoric. In April of last year, during a radio interview, you kind of likened the Tea Party to the KKK. And I just want to play what you said.


COHEN: The Tea Party people are -- are -- are kind of like without robes and hoods. They have really shown a -- a -- a very hard-core, angry side of America that is against any type of diversity.

And we saw opposition to African-Americans, hostility toward gays, hostility to anybody who wasn't just, you know, a clone of -- of George Wallace's fan club. And I'm afraid they have taken over the Republican Party.


COOPER: I mean, isn't that another example of kind of reckless speech?

COHEN: Well, Anderson, that was a statement I made on radio in Los Angeles. I forget the name of the show right now.

But -- but, regardless, the Tea Party did arise kind of like the Klan did after the Civil War. There were people out of power. They wanted their power back. The Klan, after the Civil War, was upset that African-Americans had been given the right to vote, and many of them were in office, and they didn't like it, and they wanted to form -- get back their old government. They wanted to take back their government.

And the Tea Party feels like they're out of power with President Obama. That's where they started, and they want to take back their government.

Now, they -- without robes and hoods, they're not out doing things like the Klan did, but they got formed the same kind of way. They were people who had been dispossessed from being the power group...

COOPER: But you could say they're like any...

COHEN: ... and they wanted to take it back.

COOPER: You could say any pop -- you could compare them to any populist movement. Comparing them to the KKK seems incendiary. I mean, it seems deeply offensive to hundreds of thousands of people who are in the Tea Party.

COHEN: The KKK is reprehensible. But, when they started, they were not out lynching as their primary purpose. Their primary purpose was to try to get back political power.

They did reprehensible things, but they tried to get back political power they felt was taken away from them. They wanted to go back to the way that things used to be.

The fact is, those -- those -- I was among the Tea Party people up here on the health care debate. I walked among them. I saw them. I saw a very angry crowd. I saw pictures of President Obama as Hitler, and I found that reprehensible.

COOPER: But -- OK, but, again, why -- that's reprehensible, and, yet, you use Nazi imagery to describe...

COHEN: But, Anderson, the difference is...

COOPER: ... your Republican opponents.

COHEN: ... President Obama has done nothing like Hitler. He hasn't emulated Goebbels in using...


COOPER: And you're saying the Republican Party is emulating Goebbels.

COHEN: They have emulated his tactics of repeating a lie over and over and not letting the truth...

COOPER: You -- you think they have been studying the tactics of Goebbels and -- and using them?

COHEN: No, I'm saying -- I don't know -- I don't know that they have studied him. I don't know that -- who studied them.

But the fact is, that's what they have done. And the fact is, it's been effective. And the fact is, they continue to do it to this day. And it was PolitiFact, 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism organization, that said it was the biggest lie of 2010.

COOPER: But...

COHEN: It wasn't me that held them up as the biggest liars of the year. It was PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist crowd.

COOPER: Again, you could say your opponents are, you know, salesman and are using sales tactics to sell something. You don't have to say that they're Nazis and Goebbels. I -- it just -- I don't -- I -- I don't...

COHEN: Well, Anderson, I will -- let me say.

COOPER: ... get where you're coming from.

COHEN: I won't say it again, but I was right.

COOPER: Representative Steve Cohen, appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

COHEN: Take care, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, with Congressman Cohen's Nazi comment on the minds of many on Capitol Hill, the House vote to overturn President Obama's health care law came today. The bill passed. The vote was essentially along party lines, only three Democrats siding with the new Republican majority in favor of repeal.

Obviously, the move is largely symbolic. Democrats still control the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid has already said he won't consider the bill.

Let's talk to senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash and Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, joining me now to talk about what Congressman Cohen did.

Cornell, I mean, what do you make of this? I mean, he -- he's parsing his words. He compared them to Nazis. He brought in Nazis completely tangential to an actual discussion.

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: Yes. And I think -- I think Representative Cohen is -- is going to pull back from that, because it -- it really gets in the way of the point...


COOPER: He's certainly not pulling back now.


COOPER: I mean, now, finally, at the end of all this torturous dialogue, he said he was right, but he won't say it again.

BELCHER: But he did say that -- you know, he did admit that what he said does not advance the cause of civility, so he did admit that. And he did admit that, you know, he didn't intend to compare his Republican colleagues to -- to Nazis, per se.

But I -- I understand the point he was trying to make. It's unfortunate how he made it. I mean, the -- we can make the argument that -- that Republicans summarily do try to dismiss the facts. We can make that argument. Heck, I have made that argument a lot here on your -- on your show. But when you invoke Nazis, it takes it -- it takes it to another level that gets in the way of -- of the conversation. I think he -- in retrospect, he's going to look back and say, like he said, you know, he's not going to use it again, and it -- and it -- and it was a mistake.

COOPER: Dana, had -- Dana, had a -- had a Republican said this about the Democrats, I -- I think this would have been a huge uproar on liberal blogs. I haven't seen much on liberal blogs condemning what this guy said.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, what you just heard from Cornell is the most I have heard from anybody on the Democratic side. In fact, I haven't heard anything at all.


COOPER: And, to me, this is just such the hypocrisy of -- of -- of, you know, coverage of these things, is that you have a conservative network who will go nuts about this, and a liberal network or blogs won't touch it. But, if it's the opposite side, then you have the liberals upset.

And I -- I just feel like, if we're going to have an honest...

BASH: Well -- well -- well...


COOPER: ... debate, people have to be able to criticize their own party.

BASH: Well, let me just -- let me just tell you -- let me just tell you, the sound of silence from Democratic leaders in Congress is deafening on this.

It's not that we haven't tried. We have tried to reach out to some of the Democratic leaders who were initially and immediately calling for a new civility and a new tone and -- and different rhetoric after the shooting of their colleague Gabrielle Giffords, and we haven't heard anything at all yet, not from Democratic leaders at all.

And -- and, by the way, we haven't heard anything from Republicans either. Republicans privately are telling me, look, the comments speak for them -- them -- for themselves, and they say it's up to the Democratic leaders to sort of condemn -- condemn one of their own. We haven't heard it yet.

BELCHER: In fairness, though, Anderson, I mean, this -- and, Dana, you correct me if I'm wrong on this -- but he was speaking to an empty -- to an empty floor.

BASH: He was.

BELCHER: I mean, most of the members had -- had left for the day, and I have got a feeling that tomorrow, when it gets back in -- I mean, I just found out it before, quite frankly, coming on the show.


BELCHER: I think, when -- when most members, Democratic leadership comes in tomorrow, I think they're -- they're going to say that what he had to say was unfortunate...

BASH: The...

BELCHER: ... and it was not the right way to go about -- go about it.

I wouldn't be -- put too much credence on -- on not hearing about it tonight...


BELCHER: ... because it is late, and most of them had in fact gone home.

BASH: Cornell, you're right about that, but it was last night. And we reported on it today. Others reported on it today.

I am told that, privately -- privately -- that Democratic leaders, at least one, has -- have gone to him and said, you have got to clean this up.

But what he said to you, Anderson, what he said to me earlier on the phone and -- and others, it -- it does not sound like Congressman Cohen is interested in doing that.

So, if he does go and clean this up, it's going to be pretty much an about-face, because he's standing by what he said.


It's interesting, Cornell, because I have actually got -- when -- when I tweeted about this, that we were going to have this interview, I got a -- a couple of tweets from -- from viewers who I assume are -- are liberals sort of critical of -- you know, basically kind of justifying what -- what he said because it was against Republicans.

It does seem like each side kind of justifies the actions -- you know, ideologues on both sides will justify just about anything if it's from their party.


Well, you -- well, you have -- you have extremes on -- sort of both sides. And -- and that's why you try to find the -- the common middle ground where you can have dialogue.

You know -- you know, after reading everything that -- the -- that the congressman, Cohen, said, you know, I don't have a lot that I disagree with what he's -- what he's staying. I do disagree with him comparing Republicans to Nazis. I mean, when you invoke that, you take it to a level and you -- and you miss the -- and you miss the conversation. When he's talking about how Republicans dismiss, you know, the facts all the time, you know what? Me taking my partisan hat off, you know, part of the campaign tactic of whether you're Republican -- although I would say the Republicans do it better, and they take it to a art -- but the ideal of sort of muddying up the waters and sort of, you know, muddying up the -- muddying up the facts in a way so that it blurs both sides for voters is an old-time campaign tactic, that it happens on both sides.

Now, can we be critical of that? Yes, and we should be critical of it. I think you run into problems when you start saying that's the same sort of -- sort of thing that Goebbels did.

COOPER: Yes. It's a pretty big jump.

We are going to leave it there. We will see if anyone speaks out about it tomorrow.

Dana will let you know. Dana will let us know.

Dana Bash, thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

COOPER: Cornell Belcher as well.


COOPER: Let us know what you think. Is this appropriate? What's going on? The live chat is up and running at

Up next: another bizarre political story. Should pediatricians get thrown in jail if they ask parents of their child patients if there's a gun in the house? Doctors say they want to help parents learn about gun safety. But some Republican Florida lawmakers say it should be illegal to ask and that doctors should get like a $5 million fine.

Last night, one of those lawmakers insisted that's not what the bill he's co-sponsoring says. Today, though, he admits to us that that's exactly what it says.

So, was he lying last night on this program, or was he simply unaware of what he was co-sponsoring? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And later: Gabrielle Giffords' husband speaking out. He says the congresswoman had concerns about her safety, but had to set them aside to do her job.


MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF CONGRESSWOMAN GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: You know, she was afraid that that could happen. At the same time, you know, she was doing what she loved, just representing the people of Southern Arizona.

And she felt it was very important for them to have the opportunity to walk up to her and tell her what they think. So, that wasn't going to stop her.



COOPER: So, we focused on a Democratic lawmaker in the last segment. Now a Republican lawmaker in Florida, another "Keeping Them Honest" report.

This one is about Florida legislators who are trying to throw pediatricians in jail if they ask their -- the parents of their patients one simple question,. And the question is, is there a gun in your house?

Now, the reason that some pediatricians want to ask this question is to teach parents about gun safety to reduce accidental deaths of kids, just as they talk to parents about pool safety and car safety and other preventative measures for kids.

But some Florida lawmakers have proposed a bill that would actually make it a felony for doctors to ask about guns in the home. The proposed penalty is up to five years in jail or up to a $5 million fine.

Let me repeat: five years in jail or a $5 million fine for asking that question.

Now, last night, we invited one of the bill's co-sponsors, state Representative Frank Artiles, on the program to talk about the bill he's co-sponsoring. And that's when things got, frankly, kind of bizarre.

You see, the representative denied that the bill would outlaw doctors from asking parents if they owned a gun. Take a look.


COOPER: What you're suggesting is passing a law that would outlaw them from being able to even ask that question, being able to talk about gun safety.

FRANK ARTILES (R), FLORIDA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I'm not preventing them from discussing firearm safety and/or pool safety and/or car child restraint safety.

I'm simply, as a co-sponsor of this bill, clearly saying that you cannot predicate your treatment on whether or not they answer a question on whether they own a gun or not.


COOPER: So, the representative was saying that the bill, a bill he himself co-sponsored, would just make it illegal for doctors to refuse treatment if a patient didn't answer the question about whether or not they had a gun in the house.

The state representative was claiming that, under his bill, asking the question, "Do you have a gun in your home?" would be legal. In fact, he kind of avoided saying that. He just said they could provide a pamphlet or something, but he never addressed asking that question.

Take a look at the actual bill. This is the -- the top of it: "Provides that inquiries by physicians or other medical personnel concerning ownership of firearm by patient or family of patient, or presence of firearm in private home or other domicile of patient or family of patient violates privacy of patient or patient's family members."

That seems pretty clear. So, why was the co-sponsor of the bill denying it last night on this program?

There are either two reasons. Either he did not understand the bill that he's co-sponsoring -- in other words, he was mistaken -- or he was intentionally trying to be misleading.

Now, today, we called this man, Representative Jason Brodeur. He's the Florida lawmaker who actually is -- is introducing the legislation. And he confirmed the bill would make it illegal for a pediatrician to ask parents with a child if they have a gun in the house.

We tried to get him on the show tonight. He declined.

He did send us a statement, however, which says, in part -- and I quote -- "The bill only states that medical personnel can't ask about firearm ownership directly, record the answer, or condition treatment upon the response."

OK. So, medical personnel under this bill cannot ask about firearm ownership directly, which brings us back to the co-sponsor of the bill, Frank Artiles, who was on this program, who clearly said that wasn't what was in the bill.

We talked to him at length today on the phone. And he says he was unable to come on tonight, but he finally admitted on the phone to us that the bill would do exactly what he said it wouldn't do last night.

As for why he was so adamantly inaccurate last night, we will let you be the judge of that.

Joining me now, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.


COOPER: You heard the guest we had on last night. And I actually, in talking to him, started to believe maybe I had it wrong, that that's not what the bill says. But, clearly, that is what the bill says.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, the -- the bill is not that complicated. It -- it's very clear that it says, inquiries about guns violate the privacy of the family.

It's not -- so, it's very straightforward. As you say, he either intentionally misrepresented what's in the bill, or he didn't know what was in the bill.

COOPER: Right. And how could someone who is co-sponsoring a bill not know what is in the bill?

TOOBIN: Well, I -- I -- I mean, unfortunately, our -- our legislatures being what they are, that's not a totally impossible possibility.

COOPER: It -- it's also interesting that the -- the two men who we have reached out to this, the representative who is actually -- you know, wrote the legislation, is introducing it, and the one who is co- sponsoring it, now are back -- I mean, no one -- they don't want to publicly be the face of this thing. They don't want to come on and -- and try to correct either the mistake that was made last night. They're -- suddenly disappeared.

TOOBIN: Because they're embarrassed.

I mean, it's -- it's a ridiculous idea. I mean, the -- the doctors ask, as that wonderful doctor who you had on last -- last night pointed out, doctors ask about pools. It's legal to have a swimming pool, but you want to make sure the kids are safe around the pool. It's legal to have an automobile, but you want to make sure there are car seats.

It's legal to have a gun in Florida, in most places, but you want to check on whether the gun is being kept in a safe place. It's -- it's entirely appropriate for pediatricians. And that's what pediatricians do.

COOPER: It's -- it's certainly constitutional for them to have this law. I mean, there's nothing in the Constitution about...

TOOBIN: No -- no, this has nothing to do with the Second Amendment, no.

COOPER: I -- just to -- to play devil's advocate, though, I mean, I -- I can understand their point, from a gun owner's standpoint, of -- of being fearful that the state would somehow keep some sort of a registry -- that the doctors would record who has a gun and send that to the state, and the state would keep some sort of a registry, you know, of who in the state of Florida has a gun and what kind of gun they have.

But I don't understand banning -- the government interfering with what a doctor can or cannot ask a patient.

TOOBIN: Well, as -- as far as we can tell, there is -- I mean, we know there is no registry like that. The -- the doctors are -- have no interest in creating a registry.


COOPER: And under, actually, the new Obama health care law, because the NRA lobbied for it, insurance companies cannot raise rates if they learn that a person has a gun in the home.

TOOBIN: Correct. So -- so that is a -- it's -- it's a fake issue.

And -- and the other point is, you know, doctors are concerned about safety. More kids die from accidents than from illnesses. And the idea that you would cut off this whole subject of discussion between doctors and their patients and the parents of their patients, you know, no wonder they're embarrassed.

COOPER: It -- it does seem, you could argue, that it is government intervention in how doctors treat their patients.

I mean, for people who are concerned about overreaching government and -- and government getting involved in medical issues and health decisions, this is government getting involved in literally what a doctor -- what words a doctor can use.

TOOBIN: You could argue that. And I think you would be right.


COOPER: Yes. Well, there you go.


COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin, fascinating.


COOPER: Hopefully, one of the -- those two representative will come on. Our invitation still stands.

Up next: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords may head to a rehab center as early as Friday, remarkable -- her husband speaking out for the first time, encouraged about her progress.


KELLY: I am certain that she will be -- she will be back stronger than ever. And I don't know if that's in two weeks or two months, but it's coming.


COOPER: Also ahead: An 8-year-old girl vanished 26 years ago. Incredibly, there may now be a break in her case. We will speak to John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: In Tucson today, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Jared Loughner, charging him with attempting to kill Congresswoman Giffords and two of her aides, Ron Barber and Pamela Simon.

As the legal process unfolds, Congresswoman Giffords continues to amaze her doctors and family. Today, they said she's expected to be moved to a rehab center in Houston on Friday, less than two weeks after a bullet tore through her brain.

Now, in interviews today, Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, shared new details about his wife's progress and what she knows about her injuries.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does Gabby know what happened?

KELLY: I'm not sure. Well, certainly, she doesn't, because it hasn't been explained to her.


KELLY: You know, at some point, she will start asking those questions, and we'll give her that information. I mean, she suffered a tremendous injury, and she needs some time to recover.

She knows -- I told her where she is. The nurses have told her. I think she understands that. She understands how long she's been here. You know, at least I think -- I think she does. We haven't gotten into details. She needs time to rest.

She gets a little better each day. Every day I see her, she's improving. And as long as she stays on that slope, I'm confident she's going to make a full recovery. I don't know how long that's going to take. She's certainly going to go from here to some -- at some point, some kind of rehab facility.

She enjoys messing around with my wedding ring. She does that normally. You know, we might be sitting in a restaurant, and she'll take it off and flip it from one finger to another. She'll do that now. She knows I'm there. I mean, she'll look at me, put her hand on my face, and she does this. She taps it, which is what she normally would do. So she's improving a little bit.

But she had a very traumatic injury, and when folks have a concussion, they sometimes take weeks to recover. And she had a gunshot wound to the head. So it's going -- it's going to be a slow process.

But each day, the doctors keep telling me that she's going to take a step backwards. Be prepared. She hasn't done that yet. She is tough.

She -- they've seen -- they've seen how tough she is, from the time she showed up here in the emergency room, and how tough she is today. And I am certain that she'll be -- she'll be back stronger than ever. I don't know if that's in two weeks or two months. But it's coming.


COOPER: Well, doctors treating the Congresswoman say she now has the strength to stand with help. I talked about it earlier with Dr. Sanjay Gupta about what all of it means.


COOPER: Sanjay, I want to read an e-mail that Representative Giffords' mom sent out. It says, quote, "Yesterday when Mark came back from speaking at her aide's memorial service, she reached up and untied his tie and undid the top button to his shirt. Last night she took his iPod and scrolled through all the pictures. Early this morning, she began to read cards made for her by some fourth graders! Her unbandaged eye tracked the lines. She opened the cards and turned them over, reading the back. Marks' gotten pages of large print of Harry Potter's first book for her to hold and read."

The e-mail also says that Representative Giffords gave her husband a 20-minute neck and back rub. Seems pretty incredible that she's able to do all those things. As a neurosurgeon, what do you make of it?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think a couple things. First of all, I think she's having significant cognitive improvements. I mean, we talked about simply following commands. Then we talked about her cognition, her ability to be aware of things around her, improving, recognizing people, all of that. Obviously, that is significantly different just a week later.

We heard from her husband that she was asked to touch her own forehead. She did that. She took her husband's ring off and put it back on. But I think the expressive part of this, her ability to speak, her ability to actually facilitate communication toward someone else, that still remains to be seen. It could be perfectly intact. We just still don't know yet, Anderson.

COOPER: When she moves to the rehab hospital, I mean, how does that work? What's a typical day like? What kind of therapy does she undergo?

GUPTA: Well, when someone who's had a brain injury like this, you know, there are a lot of focus on the brain sort of rehab to start with, so cognitive rehab, which can be everything from flash cards, looking on flash cards, and then being able to say or communicate that you understand what that flash card is.

There's behavioral therapy. So there's also just the emotional therapy, you know. This can sometimes lead to depression for example. There can be an element of post traumatic stress.

But as you might imagine, Anderson, a big component will be physical therapy, doing a lot more of what you're talking about. Her right leg, her right arm and the rest of her body, as well, because he's been bedridden.

Swallowing therapy and speech therapy. She has a tracheostomy in her throat now. That can make it difficult for her to swallow when she gets that tube out. So she'll have to sort of relearn how to swallow again.

Speech, for obvious reasons. She hasn't spoken for some time. Coordinating the vocal cords and coordinating all of those muscles in the throat, that's complicated. And someone has to go to rehab for that.

Learning to walk, learning to use their hands in a coordinated fashion. And also, ultimately, activities of daily living: combing your hair, being able to tend to yourself, feed yourself. Those are the types of things that go on in rehab. But again, in sequential fashion and in slow baby steps.

COOPER: Well, she's got a lot of -- a lot of support around her, a lot of loved ones wishing her the best. People all around the world, frankly. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks.

GUPTA: You got it, Anderson.

COOPER: Still ahead tonight, a cold case of a missing child. Disappeared 26 years ago. But there may finally be a break in the case after all these years. We're going to look back at what happened. We'll talk to John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted."

But first, Isha Sesay has a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it now appears the Haitian government could recover some of the money that Jean-Claude Duvalier allegedly looted from Haiti when he was dictator. Five point seven million dollars sitting in a Swiss bank may be returned, although that's a fraction of what Duvalier allegedly stole. It's still unclear if he will face any charges now that he's back in Haiti.

Los Angeles police have arrested two more students in connection with a shooting yesterday at a high school. They allegedly helped the student accused of bringing the gun to school in a backpack where it discharged. Two other students were wounded.

An explosive device in a backpack that was found along a parade route in Spokane, Washington, on Martin Luther King Day could have been quite lethal. That word from the FBI, which says it's investigating the incident as an act of domestic terrorism.

And Anderson, there's word from London that the World Shakespeare Theater Company will stage a production of a controversial lost Shakespeare play called "Double Falsehood." Some insist that Shakespeare wrote the play. Others maintain that it is a fake, written long after the Bard was dead.

Anderson, if you're planning a trip to merry old England to see this play, please take a Shakespeare translator. Because this play has words you won't see anywhere else. COOPER: Is that right?

SESAY: Such as...


SESAY: I happen to have an example. Would you like to take a guess at what...

COOPER: Schedule?

SESAY: No, not schedule.

COOPER: Aluminium?

SESAY: Absinent.


SESAY: Absinent.

COOPER: Absinent?

SESAY: Absinent. Would you like to guess what that means?

COOPER: It's like a combination of abstinence and -- what does it mean?


COOPER: Absent? No.

SESAY: No, it just appears in this play, and it means ill- sounding, not pleasant to the ear.

COOPER: What is the word?

SESAY: Absinent. Would you like me to spell it?

COOPER: I'm going to try to use it in a sentence...


COOPER: ... sometime in the next 20 minutes.

SESAY: OK. I'm going to -- that's a dare. I'm waiting.

COOPER: All right. Tonight's "Shot," the hazards of snow removal. I don't know if you've seen this video. We found it on the A snowplow loaded with gravel clearing snow from a parking deck in Georgia.

The structure gives way. The back of the truck falls through the deck.

SESAY: Wow. COOPER: Yikes! Got stuck. Fortunately, the driver was not injured, but man, it could have been really much worse than that.

All right. Up next, I'll talk to John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" about an 8-year-old girl who disappeared 26 years ago. We've learned there may be -- may be a break in the case.

Also, Ricky Gervais talks to Piers Morgan about his controversial performance at the Golden Globe Awards, which I thought was hilarious. He has some interesting things to say to his critics.


COOPER: Well, imagine not knowing for 26 long years what happened to your child, who simply vanished. The mother of Cherrie Mahan (ph) knows that feeling. She was just 8 years old when she was snatched off a Pennsylvania street near her home in February of 1985. She's never been found.

Incredibly, after so many years, there may finally be a break in this case. In a few moments, I'm going to talk to John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted." But first, Randi Kaye on what happened.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly 26 years after her daughter disappeared, Janice McKinney still remembers it like it was yesterday.

JANICE MCKINNEY, MOTHER: Four o'clock, the bus came, and we heard it, and she just never came up the driveway.

KAYE: We first met Mrs. McKinney back in 2005, more than two decades after her daughter mysteriously disappeared. She's still holding onto the grief and the guilt.

MCKINNEY: I should have been there when Cherrie got off the school bus, and I wasn't.

KAYE: It was one of the few days she didn't meet her daughter at the bus stop, February 22, 1985.

(on camera) What is that moment of panic like, that first moment when you realize your child has disappeared?

MCKINNEY: It's the most scariest thing. And I think my guilt started at that point, because up until that day, I was there. And if I would have been there, she wouldn't -- I wouldn't be going through this.

KAYE: It was a day just like this one: snow on the ground, the sun shining. Cherrie got off her school bus right here. She had to go about 200 feet, around that bend, to get to her driveway. Then another 300 feet to her front door. Investigators never found any footprints, which means Cherrie never got very far. (voice-over) Kids on Cherrie's bus described a blue van right behind the bus with a snowcapped mountain and a skier painted on its side. Investigators checked out hundreds of leads. No van. No Cherrie.

MCKINNEY: I think that the last words that I probably told her was, you know, "Have a good day," and "I do love you." And that was probably, as I took her down to the bus stop, and she got on the bus.

KAYE: Did she tell you she loved you back?

MCKINNEY: Yes, she -- she always told me that.

KAYE (voice-over): Cherrie was just eight when she first disappeared. She helped put a face on missing children nationwide. The first child ever on a "Have you seen me?" mailer, still delivered to homes across the country.

But today, for the first time in decades, Janice McKinney has hope, thanks to this man, Pennsylvania State Trooper Robert McGraw.

TROOPER ROBERT MCGRAW, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: I believe Cherrie was abducted by somebody she knows very well, and I believe that this person had the ability to basically lure Cherrie to their vehicle without her giving it a second thought prior to her disappearance.

KAYE: McGraw took the lead on the case last summer, and after poring through the 3,600-page case file, he's closer than ever to cracking it.

MCGRAW: We are highly optimistic that this lead is -- has the potential to bring closure to -- to Cherrie's family.

KAYE: McGraw says he gets tips about once a week, but most don't pan out. This one, he feels especially good about, although he will not give us specifics.

MCGRAW: We will pursue this lead until we find out if it's viable or if it's a dead end. So we try not to get too excited. I mean, it's difficult, but you have to stay grounded, because this lead could -- this lead could -- it could take us nowhere.

KAYE: Working the case of a missing child is difficult, even for the most hardened law enforcers.

MCGRAW: It is. It's -- I can't imagine if that was my child. I can't imagine the pain that her mother and stepfather must wake up with every day. I couldn't imagine that.

MCKINNEY: That was her dog, and that was her cat.

KAYE: Today, Cherrie would be 34. If she's alive, this is what investigators think she might look like.

MCKINNEY: By now, Cherrie could be married and have children and have graduated, and I could be a grandmother.

KAYE: After all these years, Janice McKinney still isn't ready to say goodbye to her daughter. At the cemetery, no gravestone, just an angel.

MCKINNEY: Until I see something or hold something or know something, I can't put it to rest yet.

KAYE: Janice McKinney still hopes her daughter is alive. But alive or dead, she says, she just needs to know what happened and why someone would have snatched her little 8-year-old girl.

Randi Kaye, CNN.


COOPER: What's your message to parents after a case like this?

JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": That anybody can be a crime victim of any time -- at any time. There are people who surf buses, who follow children, look for that child who's by the bus stop by themselves.

It's a horrible case that hasn't been solved, but some good has come out of that. A man -- a man named Vince Juliano, he works for a company called Advo. You get them in the mail. Those little postcards that say, "You want your carpets cleaned?" et cetera. And she was the first child on those cards, and they found 200 kids because of those cards.

But Cherrie was the first kid that Advo put on the card that they mailed billions of them. And so some good came out of that.

Vince Juliano saw the movie "Adam" that NBC portrayed about the murder of our son and, as a private businessman, he decided to do something about it, got his company to do that, and spread pictures of missing kids -- kids in the mail all over this country.

It's a horrible, tough case. She was one of the first kids who were -- whose picture was publicized nationwide. And the heart still goes out to her mother, because her mother has some guilt about not being on time to pick up her daughter. She should never, never consider that.

The real bad person here, the guilt should be put on the person who got Cherrie and hasn't been caught and hasn't been found.

COOPER: Trying to make it easy. Thank you, John.

WALSH: My pleasure.


COOPER: Well, we have more news ahead. In his first TV interview since Sunday's Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais tells Piers Morgan what happened behind the scenes at the awards ceremony. We have details of that next.

And a group of teens allegedly break into a woman's home in Florida. That's bad enough, but it's what police say they stole and what they did with it that landed them on tonight's "RidicuList."


COOPER: Coming up in just a moment, the "RidicuList." The fools who police say broke into a Florida home and, well, what they snorted in that home winds them on the "RidicuList." We'll tell you what it was.

But first, Isha Sesay has a "360 News & Business Bulletin." She's got an update on Ricky Gervais and what some thought were the absinent words he used at the Golden Globes.


COOPER: Thank you very much. Thanks very much.

SESAY: Nicely done. Nicely done, Mr. Cooper.

COOPER: Yes. Thank you.

SESAY: I'll read your headlines, and I'll come back for that.


SESAY: OK. Now, Swiss police arrested the former banker who on Monday said he gave secretive banking records to WikiLeaks. Rudolf Elmer is suspected of violating a Swiss banking law. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he could release the banking records in a matter of weeks.

President Obama and the first lady are hosting Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House for a state dinner. Among the 225 guests are film star Jackie Chan, U.S. figure-skating champ Michelle Kwan and clothing designer Vera Wang.

The European no-frills airliner Ryanair got blasted by a Spanish judge for its $54 fee if passengers don't arrive at the airport with their boarding passes in hand and need it to be printed. The judge called it abuse and illegal. Ryanair, known for its expensive fees, is appealing the ruling and calls the ruling bizarre and unlawful.

And Anderson, comedian Ricky Gervais is, as you say, responding to critics who say he was too harsh, using those absinent words while hosting the Golden Globes. Here's what he told Piers Morgan.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Is anything like that ever off-limits? Do you care about what they may be going through in their private lives?

RICKY GERVAIS, COMEDIAN: I don't know if they have an addiction. I don't know...

MORGAN: If you did, would it make a difference?

GERVAIS: I'm not judging them. I'm not judging them for what they did.

MORGAN: You're mocking them.

GERVAIS: No, I'm not. I'm -- I'm confronting the elephant in the room. They hired me, and like I'm going to go out there and not talk about the issues in -- in their industry.

I've got to be an outsider there. I mustn't come out there as everyone's mate and schmooze. That's nauseating. I've got to come out there and I've got to roast them.


SESAY: Really?

COOPER: I like how he says nauseating. I didn't think it was that absinent. Thank you very much. That's two.


SESAY: Really, you've got a bell? Really? It's just going to go off every time you say it? I thought it was quite absinent. Can I have a bell?

COOPER: No bell. Absinent?


COOPER: Thank you.

SESAY: How is this. This is not quite level playing field. But I think he was quite defensive, given the fact that he was so absinent in his language -- no bell?

COOPER: No. All right. Give her one bell.


COOPER: All right, you got it.

SESAY: But still, I'm really looking forward to seeing the interview because, quite frankly, I thought that people turn up for an awards show, and they got a roasting.

COOPER: But I just saw it. He was saying stuff that's on everybody's mind at home.

SESAY: Really?

COOPER: Yes. When you see Robert Downey Jr., don't you think -- don't you kind of think, like, "Oh, yes, he used to have all these problems, and now he's made this remarkable recovery and he's an incredible actor."

SESAY: No. Neither do I see Bruce Willis and think that he's Ashton Kutcher's dad.

COOPER: All right. That was maybe -- that was -- maybe hurt (ph).

SESAY: Ouch.

COOPER: Anyway, I also just saw Ricky Gervais on this HBO special. And I mean, it's very funny but it's completely inappropriate. So they should have known what they were getting into.

SESAY: Yes. Well, I think they did know, but I think it crossed a few red lines. You know, you can go too far with absinent language. OK, I give up.

COOPER: It will only work once.

All right. Don't miss the full interview with Ricky Gervais tomorrow on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" at 9 p.m. Eastern, part of Piers' premiere week right here on CNN.

All right. Time for the "RidicuList." And tonight, we're adding a group of teenagers in Florida to the list, a group I like to call the ash grabbers. I know, you have to kind of say it carefully. The ash grabbers.

We learned about the ash grabbers from police in Merion County, Florida. They say at least five teenagers broke into a house, found urns containing the cremated remains of a man and two dogs, and thinking they'd found a large amount of cocaine or heroin, they decided, heck, yes, let's snort that bad boy. Kids do the darndest things.

Now, I love a good dumb criminal story as much of the next guy, but this is actually very sad. This poor women, it was her house the teenagers allegedly broke into. She told the local TV station, WESH-2 News, that the ashes belonged to her dad and her two Great Danes. I cannot even imagine what she is going through.

What's weird about this is that snorting random things seems to be kind of in these days. You can find tons of videos on YouTube of people, mostly teenagers, snorting all sorts of substances. Some illegal, some not. We frankly don't even know what they're snorting. Salt, pepper, dental floss, Gold Bond powder, Pixie Stix, coffee, Alka Seltzer, wasabi powder, garlic powder, sugar, Tabasco, Sweet Tarts, even the flavor packet from Raman noodles. I know. Gives slurping noodles a whole new meaning.

Where are the kids today getting these ideas? When in doubt, blame "South Park."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, hello. TREY PARKER, VOICE OF ERIC CARTMAN: Colonel, how are you doing?


PARKER: We had some problems, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eric, what happened?

PARKER: We had a little problem.



COOPER: Then again, could be the influence of another titled show called "Jackass" that dared to ask the question, "Dare I snort this wasabi?" Sadly, the answer was yes.


STEVE-O, ACTOR: This is stupid. That looks like a pretty good line, huh?


COOPER: Stop, stop, stop. I'm not sure -- does anyone really want to see this?


COOPER: Yes? The crew has spoken. All right.




COOPER: Whoa! All right, that's enough. That's enough.

All right. So now parents, when you talk to kids about the dangers of drugs, seems like you now have another type of snorting to warn them about. I don't know the health impact of snorting ashes, but one danger worth noting: it will definitely get you a spot on the "RidicuList."

Coming up, there have been all sorts of calls to tone down the rhetoric in Congress, right? So why is one Democratic congressman now comparing Republican tactics to the Nazis? We're "Keeping Them Honest."


COOPER: Good evening, everyone. Tonight, after all this talk about toning down the rhetoric, why is a Democratic Congressman comparing Republicans to Nazis? And why is he refusing to back down? He joins us in a minute. We're "Keeping Them Honest."