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Gingrich Defends Himself Against Charges of Flip-Flopping; Eugenics in America

Aired December 27, 2011 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Ali, thanks very much. Good evening, everyone.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest." On the campaign trail where 5-year-old newsletter is tonight raising new charges of flip- flopping by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Now since entering the race back in May, Gingrich has become one of the harshest critics of the health care reforms his opponent Mitt Romney signed into law five years ago as governor of Massachusetts. Take a look.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Your plan essentially is one more big government, bureaucratic, high cost system, which candidly could not have been done by any other state because no other state had a Medicaid program as lavish as yours and no other state got as much money from the federal government under the Bush administration for this experiment. So there's a lot of big government behind Romney-care, not as much as Obama-care but a heck of a lot more than your campaign has admitted.


COOPER: Big government, high cost, two Gingrich's favorite slams on the Romney reforms. He also likes to hammer the centerpiece of the Massachusetts law, which was the individual mandate that requires all residents above a certain income level to buy health insurance or pay a fine.

Now the idea is controversial, but not so long ago many conservatives including Gingrich supported the idea. Here's what he wrote in April of 2006 in a newsletter called "Newt Notes." This was just after Massachusetts enacted its health care law. Quote, "The most exciting development of the past few weeks," Gingrich wrote, "is what has been happening up in Massachusetts. The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system."

He went on to say, "We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans."

What's more, Gingrich applauded the individual mandate in the law, quote, "We also believe strongly," he wrote, "that personal responsibility is vital to creating a 21st century intelligent health system. Individuals who can afford to purchase health insurance and simply choose not to place an unnecessary burden on a system that's on the verge of collapse. These free-riders undermine the entire health system by placing the onus of responsibility on taxpayers."

Now Gingrich did include some caveats about the Massachusetts law and suggested some tweaks to the nuts and bolts, but still he gave its basic principles a glowing thumbs up. This wasn't a new position for him either. Here's what he said on "Meet the Press" back in 1993.


GINGRICH: I am for people, individuals, exactly like automobile insurance, individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance. And I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals on a sliding scale a government subsidy so to ensure that everyone as individuals have health insurance.


COOPER: That was in 1993. Here he is in 2008 still supporting in the bluntest of language individual mandates.


GINGRICH: I think you've got to require everybody to either have insurance or to post a bond. But the fastest growing section of the uninsured is people over $75,000 income who are making a calculated gamble that if they get sick, you'll take care of them. And I think that's just immoral.


COOPER: Immoral, he said. Now the Gingrich newsletter that surfaced from 2006 is giving his opponents new ammunition with the Iowa caucuses just a few weeks away. In a statement today a Gingrich spokesperson said, and I quote, "This is old news that has been covered already. Newt previously supported a mandate for health insurance and changed his mind after seeing its effects. The real question is why Mitt, the Massachusetts moderate, won't admit that health insurance mandates don't work."

"Keeping Them Honest", though, as recently as this past May just after entering the Republican race, Gingrich was still backing the idea of an individual mandate. Here's what he said on "Meet the Press."


GINGRICH: I do. All of us have a responsibility to help pay for health care. And I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy. I've said consistently we ought to have some requirement -- you either have health insurance or you post a bond or in some way you indicate you're going to be held accountable. DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS": But that is the individual mandate, is it not?

GINGRICH: It's a variation.


COOPER: That was in May. Now apparently whatever made him change his mind on the issue, well, wasn't on his radar yet. But by October Gingrich was singing a much different tune, scrambling to distance himself from the very idea he talked about.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Actually, Newt, we got the idea of an individual mandate from you.

GINGRICH: That's not true. You got it from the Heritage Foundation.

ROMNEY: Yes, we got it from you. And --

GINGRICH: No, well you --


ROMNEY: We got it from the Heritage Foundation and from you. But let me say --

GINGRICH: What you just said is not true. You did not get that from me. You got it from the Heritage Foundation.

ROMNEY: And you've never supported --

GINGRICH: I agree with them. But -- I'm just saying -- what you said to this audience right now plain wasn't true. How you got it from.

ROMNEY: Have you supported in the past an individual mandate?

GINGRICH: I absolutely did with the Heritage Foundation against Hillary-care.

ROMNEY: You did support an individual mandate.

GINGRICH: Yes, sir.

ROMNEY: OK. That's what I'm saying. We got the idea from you and the Heritage Foundation.

GINGRICH: OK. A little broader.


(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So how does Gingrich explain for supporting individual mandates then doing a 180? In today's statement, his spokesman said Gingrich changed his mind. Earlier this month on "THE SITUATION ROOM" Gingrich called it a mistake.


GINGRICH: In retrospect we were wrong because what happens, once you go to a mandate, you have turned so much power over to the government that the politicians rather than the doctors end up defining health care. And so it was a mistake.


COOPER: Well, we invited Gingrich to be on the program tonight, he declined, said he didn't have time. In Iowa tonight, this is certainly crunch time for the Republican presidential contenders. Wolf Blitzer is there. He talked to Newt Gingrich earlier today in "THE SITUATION ROOM." He joins me now.

So Gingrich spent today playing a bit of defense on this, didn't he, Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: He did. He realizes that there seems to be a contradiction. He acknowledges it. He says his position has changed. And when I pointed out to him that even this year he seemed to be expressing some support for a health care mandate, if you will, he offered this exchange with me. Listen to this.


BLITZER: I think it was in May you seemed to still at that time be supporting some form of mandate.

GINGRICH: Well, notice the phrase here. I think it would be great to find a way to get every American covered. I think that'd be great for the country. Can you do that without a mandate? And part of what John Goodman does is he creates a pool so if you don't want to buy insurance, you're not compelled to. Your share of the tax break would go into a charity pool. If something happens to you, the charity pool takes care of you. And there are ways to do it that you don't infringe on constitutional freedom.


BLITZER: Still, Anderson, there's no doubt that this is a very, very sensitive issue for Newt Gingrich right now because he sees his position over the years going back, as you point out, into the early '90s when he was opposed to Hillary Clinton's health care plan and at the time he supported mandates just as the conservative Heritage Foundation did at that time.

There's no doubt his position has changed over these years most recently. So it's a sensitive subject, especially out here on the campaign trail in Iowa where President Obama's health care law is not very popular --

COOPER: Right.

BLITZER: -- with these conservative Republican caucus goers.

COOPER: Yes, not actually what he wants to be spending the day talking about so close to the caucuses. He also had some interesting comments today in your interview about another one of his Republican rivals. I want to show our viewers what he -- what he had to say. Take a look.


GINGRICH: You look at Ron Paul's total record of systemic avoidance of reality and you look at his newsletters and then you look at his ads, his ads are about as accurate as his newsletters.

BLITZER: Now if he were to get the Republican nomination --

GINGRICH: He won't.

BLITZER: Let's say he were. Could you vote for him?

GINGRICH: No. I think Ron Paul's views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American.


COOPER: Pretty tough stuff saying he would not under any circumstances vote for Ron Paul if he did in fact get the nomination. Is he still -- is Gingrich still saying that he is running a positive campaign taking the high road, as he's saying, that these are just, you know, understandable responses to attacks by Ron Paul in this case?

BLITZER: He was very tough on Ron Paul today, Anderson. I was surprised as tough as he was. I think he's the first Republican candidate to flatly say he would not be able to vote for Ron Paul if Ron Paul were to get the Republican nomination. Ron Paul is doing very well here in Iowa. He might win the Iowa caucus a week from today. So I was surprised by that.

He'll say he's just reporting the facts, he's just learning more about Ron Paul, and he's not going to negative, he's just being honest about it. That he's being above board. But he's getting tougher. He's being hammered. If you're here in Iowa even for a day or two, you see the commercials on television, the negative attacks on Newt Gingrich never stop from these other campaigns. And now he's beginning to feel it and he's responding. He was pretty tough on Mitt Romney today as well, although not by any means as he was on Ron Paul.

COOPER: Yes. Just one week left until the caucuses. Wolf, appreciate it. Thanks very much. Great interview today.

Let's bring in our panel, political contributor and Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen and Republican strategist and former Gingrich spokesman Rich Galen.

Rich, Rich, how big an issue are these memos where Newt Gingrich complimented Mitt Romney's health care plan back in Massachusetts?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think they're very big. Much bigger than the court filings on his divorce and that kind of business. Because it's very difficult for a candidate on the road, one of his opponents, to talk about that. This is right in everybody's wheelhouse on the end of the pond, the conservative end of the pond that Newt is swimming in along with Perry and Bachmann and Santorum and, to some extent, Paul.

So they -- I expect that they will hammer him -- forget about the ads. They will -- they'll take this to every pizza place in Iowa for the next seven days.

COOPER: But Rich, what's wrong with -- let me just push back on that. What's wrong with him saying, well, look, you know what, yes, I thought maybe it was a good idea. We saw how it actually got implemented, and I don't -- I don't believe in it any more. I changed my minded. I mean isn't that kind of refreshing as opposed to kind of doing what a lot of candidates seem to do, which is say that it's not actually changing their mind and sort of go through laborious explanations why it's not?

GALEN: It would -- it would be refreshing if it weren't also being carried by -- or parried by his campaign doing the equivalent of nanny-nanny, boo-boo by calling Mitt Romney names. I mean it's just -- it's just -- that's just childish. But I mean on the one hand his campaign is trying to hammer Romney for saying essentially what you just said, that he tried it and he found it didn't work. And on the other side saying, well, because I'm Newt Gingrich, when I change my mind it's for -- you know, it's because I'm smart and I figure it out.

COOPER: Hilary, do you agree it's a big deal for Gingrich?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think -- I think it is a big deal for Gingrich for some of the reasons that Rich said, but also because he is trying to convince people that Mitt Romney is not trustworthy. And every time he tries to do that, something else comes out where he himself has switched his position to the point where you really never know what's going to come out of his mouth.

And you cannot be sort of the slow, steady conservative alternative to Mitt Romney if you have all of the same faults that Mitt Romney has only you just have them from the -- a more conservative perspective.

And so you know, I think Gingrich's only shot here is to really wound Romney in a fundamental way, but the more that this stuff comes out about him, the tougher it is. But I just have -- it is so important that people understand that what's happening in this Republican primary is that these guys are freaking out about the fact that, oh, my god, we might get caught actually wanting to help Americans have health insurance. That's a -- you know, hello? Most people actually want health insurance. How dare they could go out acting like this is the worst thing that could ever possibly happen. And I think that when it comes to a general election, President Obama, it doesn't matter if it's Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney, he's going to wipe the floor with them because actually people want health care.

COOPER: But as you know, I mean --


GALEN: I want to watch that floor wiping when we get there, but let me just say quickly, Anderson, I just had -- I just turned 65 so I'm on Medicare, so I'm out of this conversation.

COOPER: But I mean --

ROSEN: Yes, you are. You are. You're protected.

COOPER: But it's not just -- as you know, you know, Hilary, it's not just -- they're not saying look, people shouldn't have health insurance or health care, it's a question of what the government role in it should be.

ROSEN: Well, it is. And Newt Gingrich stepped right in it because he used to -- you know, he's -- the Republican conservative line is that any, you know, these are all free marketeers, but he unveiled today the real reason that it's important to have more universal coverage because he actually called them free riders, people who don't -- aren't willing to pay into a system for health care or aren't willing to live with some mandates.

They're free riders because, as we all know, the system ends up paying for everybody and those who don't participate, you know, get the biggest benefit.

COOPER: Rich, I want to ask you just before our show tonight, moments before our show tonight, Rick Perry, he's always said he's pro life except in cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother. But he just told an Iowa crowd this evening he now opposes abortion in all those cases as well. What do you make of that?

GALEN: But he didn't say life of the mother. He said the first two.

COOPER: In the first two. What do you make of that?

GALEN: Well, you know, Romney -- I'm sorry -- Perry. It is -- it was Rick Perry, right? Yes. He's -- you know he's been running ads proclaiming himself to be the purest of the evangelical conservatives in the race, and maybe he is. And this is just another step along that way. The conservative side of the -- of the equation in Iowa is being split and split and split. And I think Romney may be making a little headway. I think Santorum is making a lot of headway. I don't think Bachmann is going to do much. But every one of those votes that -- every time somebody decides they want to go to a Perry or a Santorum, that comes right out of Newt's hide. And I think that's one of the reasons that we're seeing this drop.

Perry is not going to be the nominee either. So the fact that -- you know, that this is probably playing better in Texas than it is in, you know, southeastern --


COOPER: Hilary, how does Gingrich --

ROSEN: But this is Perry's last stand.

COOPER: How does -- yes, how does Gingrich have to do in Iowa, Hilary?

ROSEN: Well, you know, he has to do well. He doesn't have to win, but he has to at least come in I think second to stay in this. But you know, we're going to go into New Hampshire in a week after Iowa, and then South Carolina a week later, Florida a week after that. Gingrich is doing very well in South Carolina and Florida right now.

But you know the primaries tend to have a sort of -- a momentum factor. And people had a lot of expectations for Gingrich essentially as the viable anti-Romney candidate. If Ron Paul ends up winning Iowa, I frankly think that Iowa gets dismissed and it all just moves to the next three caucuses to really --


GALEN: We'll be there again in four years, I think, because it's just what we do. But you know this -- it reminds me very much of the Thompson campaign four years ago, Hilary, of which I was a member, where we came in third just barely beating out John McCain. It wasn't quite bad enough to drop out then, which --


GALEN: Which I think might have made life a little bit easier. We skipped New Hampshire and went right to South Carolina. We didn't do as well there as we wanted. So that was --


ROSEN: You know, Gingrich is --


GALEN: And I suspect that's the route that Gingrich might take as well.

ROSEN: Gingrich is raising a lot of money right now and he has money. Obviously Mitt Romney has money. I think coming out of Iowa, Anderson, the real question is the -- you know, what happens to Rick Perry, what happens to Rick Santorum?

COOPER: Right.

ROSEN: Those are candidates who might have still some extra support, still some extra resources and a base to deliver to either Gingrich or Romney.

COOPER: Hilary --

GALEN: Yes, Iowa doesn't pick out winners, but it does identify losers.



COOPER: Rich Galen, appreciate it. Thanks for being on.

As we've said the Iowa caucus is one week from today. We're going to have the results, analysis, our coverage on that night begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's Tuesday night, January 3rd on CNN.

Let us know what you think of Facebook, Google Plus. Add us to your circles. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I'll be tweeting tonight.

Just in, you may know that the tens of thousands of Americans were sterilized against their will or without their consent right here in the United States back in the 20th century. It's a certainly a shameful chapter in our history but tonight we look into something you may not know. The refusal by states to compensate those victims.

Our Elizabeth Cohen interviews victims of this unimaginable horror.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So the state of South Carolina has said they're sorry. Is that enough?



COOPER: More on his story tonight.

Also ahead a deadly blaze that left experienced firefighters shaken. It could not save three little girls or their grandparents from the flame. The latest on the investigation and what caused that fire.

Let's check in also with Isha -- Isha, what are you following?

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thousands of anti-government protesters just took to the streets again today in the volatile Syrian city of Homs. Eyewitnesses said security forces fired into the crowd. Opposition groups said more than three dozen people were killed across the country. This despite the arrival of Arab League monitors. That and much more when 360 continues.


COOPER: Tonight a report on a really disturbing chapter in our history, one that's a lot more recent than you might think. Did you know that at one point in the United States, more than half the states had four sterilization laws. We're talking about eugenics, a word which is obviously typically associated with Nazi Germany. But there was a large eugenics movement in America before and after World War II. And sterilization continued in some states well into the 1970s.

Tens of thousands of Americans who were deemed unfit to reproduce were operated on against their will or without their consent. And some of those victims are still alive today and many want justice. So far all they've gotten is a handful of official apologies.

One state, North Carolina, promised nearly a decade ago to compensate the victims. But years later we discovered those victims are still waiting.

Elizabeth Cohen has more.


HOLT: At the time I couldn't do nothing about it.

COHEN (voice-over): October 22nd, 1968. Charles Holt was 19 at the time, living in an institution for boys in Butner, North Carolina, when his life was drastically changed. Without his consent.

HOLT: They sent me to the hospital and then they just put me in a room and she gave me gas and I just went off to sleep. Then when I woke up finally, I noticed something was wrong. And they told me what they done. And I was -- I wasn't unhappy.

COHEN: What they had done was surgery, a vasectomy to make him sterile. But why? It turns out the order came from the state, which said he was feeble minded and unworthy of having children.

HOLT: I wanted to be out to be just like any other young man, to try to have a family, have some kids that I could call my own. It's sad that it happened that way.

COHEN: Charles Holt wasn't alone. In fact, his story is only one representing a shameful chapter in American history. From 1907 through the 1970s more than 60,000 Americans were sterilized because they had, quote, "unfit human traits." It was called eugenics. The goal, breed out those considered to be a burden on the rest of society and make, quote, "better human beings tomorrow."

Thirty-three states had eugenics programs at one time or another supported by some of the nation's most respected doctors and social workers. Even the Supreme Court approved it. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in one 1927 case, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." In North Carolina, anyone, a parent, a teacher, a neighbor, could ask the state eugenics board to have someone sterilized. Some victims were developmentally disabled living in institutions. Records show others were living at home, forced to go under the surgeon's knife because they were paupers or because they were blind or deaf or had syphilis.

(On camera): To be sterilized if you were sexually promiscuous.

CHARMAINE FULLER COOPER, N.C. JUSTICE FOR STERILIZATION VICTIMS FOUNDATION: Or if you were paralyzed or not physically attractive. They have a skin disorder, this person is not fit to reproduce.

COHEN (voice-over): The state of North Carolina has tasked Charmaine Fuller Cooper to uncover this frightening past.

C. COOPER: The first time last year that I actually had to read an actual eugenics board record of an individual patient case file, I literally sat at my desk and cried for about 15 minutes.

COHEN: Her research shows about 7600 people in North Carolina were sterilized. Procedures here continued into the 1970s. Well after many states had stopped so it's estimated about 2,000 victims are still alive.

In later years the focused targeted women on welfare, many of whom were African-American. North Carolina has become the only state to take steps to compensate victims. For nearly 10 years the state legislature has written reports, submitted bills, even heard testimony from victims.

LELA DUNSTON, STERILIZATION VICTIM: I wouldn't have minded having me a daughter, maybe two, maybe three. The state needs to award us because we've got to carry on.

COHEN: But so far these victims have received nothing more than apologies from Governor Bev Perdue.

GOV. BEVERLY PERDUE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I just came here as a woman, as a mama, and as a grandma and as a governor of the state, to tell you it was wrong.

COHEN: Compensating victims could cost tens of millions during a time of budget cuts. State legislators like Representative Ruth Samuelson are worried about money.

REP. RUTH SAMUELSON, NORTH CAROLINA STATE ASSEMBLY: We had to set priorities, things like, do we compensate eugenics victims or do we put classroom teacher in place? We had to make choices.

COHEN (on camera): Is it possible these victims will in the end walk away with nothing?

C. COOPER: That is a possibility if we don't have legislators who are willing to stand up for the victims.

COHEN (voice-over): Charles Holt knows he may never see a dime.

(On camera): So the state of North Carolina has said they're sorry. Is that enough?


COHEN: What more do they need to do?

HOLT: I think they should give us some compensation off of it.

COHEN (voice-over): 2012 could be the year the legislature acts. Charles Holt holds out hope for an award he says will fit the crime done to him more than four decades ago.

(On camera): What's just horrible is that they did this to person after person after person.

HOLT: Yes, ma'am. Yes. It's just disgusting.

COHEN (voice-over): Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Linwood, North Carolina.


COOPER: That's hard to believe Americans were forcibly sterilized within the last 40 years.

Joining me now to discuss it is Paul Lombardo, author of "Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court and Buff vs. Bell." Also Areva Martin is a disability rights attorney and children's advocate.

I appreciate both of you being with us.

Paul, it's stunning that this happened and that in some places, I mean, anyone could suggest someone else should be sterilized.

PAUL LOMBARDO, GEORGE STATE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW: Well, North Carolina was unusual in this sense. Most states required people to be in institutions to be civilly committed before they could be operated on. But North Carolina was wide open. A social worker, a doctor, the sheriff, the truancy officer or a teacher, anyone could make this recommendation to the eugenics board.

COOPER: And it could be just because someone was promiscuous?

LOMBARDO: Certainly sexual misbehavior was high on the list of things that people were sterilized for, not only in North Carolina but in other states as well.

COOPER: Areva, what's the likelihood that anyone will actually get compensated? And how do you -- I mean how do you even put a dollar figure on something like this?

AREVA MARTIN, DISABILITY RIGHTS ATTORNEY: You know, Anderson, when I hear this story, it just makes my blood boil. And to hear that the legislators are saying we're sorry, as if that's enough. That's just half the role here. We're talking about a matter of distributive justice. This is a matter of justice, plain and simple.

The state took an aggressive step. Intentional acts of violating these people. I mean your most inalienable right, your right to be a parent, you're right to reproduce was, you know, taken away from these individuals simply because some board determined that they weren't fit, they weren't, you know, capable of producing the kind of children that the state deemed, you know, desirable.

So I hope that the legislature in this case steps up and compensates, makes whole these individuals who have suffered such an atrocity.

COOPER: And Areva, who was disproportionately targeted? I mean I'm guessing African-Americans and women.

MARTIN: African-American and women. You know there was this whole gender thing happening, you know it was thought that women in particular were incapable of making, you know, good decisions about their reproductive rights or that they were more promiscuous than men.

So women were targeted and as we heard in the piece African- Americans disproportionately impacted in a negative way by the -- you know, this state action. And that's what's so galling about this. This isn't, you know, private individuals. This is every branch of government, state legislature, the executive branch and the judicial branch determining that certain individuals and those, you know, without a voice in our society were not -- you know, were not worthy of having children.

COOPER: And Paul, this was happening in 33 states including Puerto Rico. North Carolina, are they the only ones even talking about compensation?

LOMBARDO: Well, as you showed in your graphic, there were more than 30 states that actually had these laws but only seven of them have actually recommended an apology, taken a position at all. There are still 20-some-odd states that haven't even gone that far. So the idea that the states will face this with compensation skips over the fact that many of them haven't even admitted that it happened.

COOPER: There's also, I guess, Paul, some who kind of view this as a left-right argument. To you do you -- I mean do you see it in those terms?

LOMBARDO: I don't see it that way either today or historically. Historically there were people from all branches of not only government but all parts of the political spectrum that supported eugenics. Every president from Teddy Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover and those in the middle, including people like Woodrow Wilson, Democrats, Republicans and independents supported some kind of eugenics in the first third of the century.

Today we've got almost everyone condemning it, but I see very few people coming forward and saying it's time to address this with some kind of compensation.

COOPER: Areva, do -- is there any accurate number of how many people are still alive who were directly affected by this? I mean we -- in the piece Elizabeth was reporting some 2,000 may be alive in North Carolina.

MARTIN: You know, that number is startling enough for North Carolina, Anderson. But also what we do know is that, you know, reparations occurred with respect to Japanese interment camps, you know Reagan, and then President Bush, you know, provided resource, $20,000 for individuals who were in those interment camps. And I would say that's the floor for these individuals because that was displacement, that was a loss of property. We're talking about violation of people's bodies. You know being forced into surgery, being coerced, being told that if you don't sign for this surgery, you're going to be placed in an orphanage or in the case of parents on welfare that they were going to lose their benefits if they did not submit to this surgery. So the numbers are staggering.

There's a case, Anderson, in Alberta, Canada, where a woman sued the government for wrongful sterilization and actually recovered over $700,000. That caused that government to step up and make available close to $140 million to individuals, over 1,000, who had been sterilized by a similar government program.

So there's a little hope out there that North Carolina and other states -- and I recognize what Paul is saying that some states haven't even said they're sorry.

But I think North Carolina has an opportunity to do something unique, and that's to say that these individuals matter, that you know, even though they were voiceless in society, that they are human beings and they matter.

COOPER: It's again just stunning. We'll continue to follow it. Areva Martin, appreciate it and Paul Lombardo as well. Thank you.

Just ahead tonight, Arab League monitors arrive in the heart of Syria's uprising, but are they going to make any difference? Tens of thousands of protesters flood the streets of Homs to greet them. We'll see how Syrian forces responded.

And the deadly Christmas fire in Stamford, Connecticut. What fire inspectors are now saying about the likely cause and why it spread just so fast?


COOPER: And Isha is here with a "360 News and Business Bulletin." Isha, how are you doing?

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good. It's good to have you back. The arrival of monitors from the Arab League badly is not stopping the government from launching assault on protesters.

Opposition groups say 39 people were killed today. Tens of thousands of Syrians flooded the streets of Homs, the city at the heart of this nine-month uprising. Witnesses report security forces fired bullets and teargas.

Mixed signals coming from the Obama administration about allowing Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh to come to New York for medical treatment. A White House official says the mission has been granted, but the State Department says no final decision has been made.

President Obama plans to ask Congress this week to raise the debt ceiling by more than $1 trillion to cover most of next year. The government is said to come within $100 billion of the current ceiling next week.

A drop in holiday sales at Sears and K-Mart means some locations will be closing their doors for good. The company that owns both chains says it will close more than 100 stores.

An unfinished string of fights caused chaos at the Mall of America in Minnesota. Shoppers posted video of the brawls on YouTube.

At one point police reported 10 separate fights. Witnesses say -- wait for it -- that the violence began after rumors spread that Rappers Lil Wayne and Drake were visiting the mall. Police arrested nine people. I give up on people.

COOPER: You give up on people?

SESAY: I do, completely.

COOPER: Don't give up on people.

SESAY: I won't give up on you.

COOPER: We'll check back with you in a couple minutes. Serious stuff tonight, word tonight of a possible cause in that tragic home fire in Connecticut that killed three young girls and their grandparents on Christmas morning. We've got the latest on what caused that fire.

And new information on a different Christmas tragedy, this one in Texas. Police are releasing the identities of the victims and gunman in an apparent murder/suicide. Both stories coming up.


COOPER: Other new details tonight about the tragic Christmas morning fire in Stamford, Connecticut, wiped out five members of one family, three young sisters and their two grandparents.

The city's fire chief says the cause appears to be accidental, was likely the result of someone in the house improperly discarding embers from the fireplace.

The three-story house was undergoing renovations. It is unclear whether working smoke detectors had been installed yet. Dozens of fire fighters tried to put out the flames. The loss of life was too much for even the most senior member of the department. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTONIO CONTE, INTERIM CHIEF, STAMFORD FIRE AND RESCUE: After 37 and a half years, 38 years on the job, you're never prepared for anything like this. It's heartbreaking. I had to recall 70 fire fighters today for debriefing and most of them broke down.


COOPER: Our Deb Feyerick has more.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As fire raced through the Victorian Home just before dawn Christmas morning, neighbors frantically called 911.

UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: Stamford, 911. What's the address?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: There's a huge fire right next to us. The whole house is on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: What is the address, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: We're at 22-41 Shippan Avenue. It's the house next door. There's a fire and three kids and a woman.

FEYERICK: Trapped inside the Stamford, Connecticut home, grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson and their three granddaughters 10-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins, Grace and Sarah.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I was calling about a major, major fire with people in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: We have the fire department on the way, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Please, come quickly.

FEYERICK: The house was under renovation. It appears fireplace embers placed in an outdoor trash enclosure near the home ignited the blaze.

Mom, Madonna Badger, managed to climb out on to scaffolding. Frantically directing fire fighters to the third floor where she said her children were sleeping.

CONTE: The crew who pushed through two rooms unable to find the children. They were pushed back by the intense heat and flames.

FEYERICK: Grabbing two of the frightened girls, family friend Michael Borcina, seen here on his Facebook page, reached the second floor.

CONTE: The heat drove them to get separated. It looks like one went back upstairs and another one was found with the grandmother.

FEYERICK: Grandfather Lomer Johnson had spent Christmas Eve playing Santa at Manhattan's Saks Fifth Avenue. He managed to lead one of the granddaughters to the back of the house, and climb on to the roof, and then died before he could pull her to safety.

CONTE: Just inside the window that he came out of, we found one of the young children. I guess there were a pile of books. It looks like she was placed on the books.

FEYERICK: The mother, a successful marketing executive, is said to be in shock. She was taken from the scene sobbing, "my whole life is in that house."

CONTE: When you don't make that rescue that you failed, and I don't think anybody wants to fail.


COOPER: This was such a horrific story. It affects a lot of people that heard it. The house had to be torn down immediately with someone stable after the fire. The fact that it was a construction site have anything to do with it, do we know?

FEYERICK: That's what investigators are looking into. Right now, they know that there were no apparent smoke detectors, no fire alarm system. They're looking to see what role the construction may have played.

But it was really placing the embers where they were placed and the wind picked up and it hit the house. You have to keep in mind that from the time the mom went to bed at about 3:30, it was an hour until the house was consumed.

Ironically, it may have been the scaffolding that actually saved her life because she was able to climb out on that scaffolding.

COOPER: So someone moved embers or they got blown?

FEYERICK: They had a yuletide fire. That they were doing wrapping Christmas presents because it was, you know, the night before Christmas. It seems when they sort of emptied it out, put it in a bin thinking it was safer outside the house when in fact it wasn't.

COOPER: Really, they had taken the embers out to a bin.

FEYERICK: Correct. They thought it was safer, yes.

COOPER: Because fireplaces are always so tricky like that. The grandfather he was actually able to get out, but couldn't bring the little girl out?

FEYERICK: And this is what's so tragic because there was so much chaos in that house. You have to remember, they were running through fire. They were in their pajamas. This fire was so intense that it was actually pushing the fire fighters out.

They tried the third floor. They tried the second floor, but the heat was so intense. He was able to get out of a window, thinking he was stepping on to a roof, but instead whether it was weakened by the flames, he stepped through the rafters.

The child who was expecting him to reach into the home to pull her out, he simply -- it appears right now that he perished the moment he sort of stepped through the rafters. But they were found at the window on opposite sides.

COOPER: That's just so horrible. Deb Feyerick, appreciate the report.

Coming up next, we're learning more about the Christmas Day massacre in Texas and the gunman dressed as Santa behind an apparent murder/suicide. The wife died and the entire family.

Plus, what killed "Heavy D"? Doctors uncover the cause of the hip hop legend staff. We'll have that when we return.


COOPER: Isha is back with another "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, police have identified the victims of that brutal Christmas Day shooting in a Dallas suburb. Aziz Yazdanpanah dressed as Santa Claus, allegedly killed his estranged wife, their two children and three other family members before turning the gun on himself.

The couple was separated. Court records show the suspect had filed for bankruptcy and was still living in the family's foreclosed home.

The Los Angeles coroner's office says rapper "Heavy D" died of a blood clot in his lung caused by deep leg vein thrombosis. The 44- year-old Dwight Arington Myers also suffered from heart disease. Heavy D died on November 8th after collapsing at his Beverly Hills' home.

If you saw a "People" magazine cover of Twilight star Taylor Lautner and the headline "Out and Proud" blame Twitter and some really bad photo shopping. The magazine says it's a fake.

Staying with movies but moving on from "Twilight," Anderson, I see you saw "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" yesterday. Was it good?

COOPER: Yes, I loved it. I thought it was terrific, yes.

SESAY: What was the thing with the steal popcorn?

COOPER: Yes, bad popcorn. But, no, it was great. The acting was great and they had a really cool motorcycle in it.

SESAY: You now want a motorcycle?

COOPER: I used to have a motorcycle, but I'm tempted to get it again because this motorcycle was really, really cool.

SESAY: Let's stay away from the motorcycle. COOPER: Step away from the motorcycle. It was a really cool looking motorcycle.


COOPER: I went on Twitter and I asked people if they know where the motorcycle was from, and like people responded. I found out like it's where from. It was specially made and everything. It was really cool.

SESAY: Wow, you really geeked out on this motorcycle.

COOPER: All right, I'll stop now. I'll stop embarrassing myself. Thank you for pointing that out.

SESAY: That's OK.

COOPER: So as we count down the days to the end of 2011, we're looking at the major stories that have had a big impact on all of us no matter how big or small the impact maybe.

This Saturday New Year's Eve at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. Eastern, we're going to bring you the special "All the Best, All the Worst of 2011" as before Kathy Gifford -- did I say Kathy Gifford -- Kathy Griffin tries to get me fired on New Years Eve. Tom Foreman has a preview.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Worst surprise anywhere, the terrible earthquake that pounded Japan and the devastating tsunami that followed.

COOPER: And you couldn't even tell where the ground was. Things were just piled up because the water had been carried and everything was bunched up in strange areas.

FOREMAN: As if that were not bad enough. The nuclear plant crisis that emerged in the disaster's wake kept the world holding its breath fearing a complete meltdown.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, ESPN, SENIOR WRITER: It was absolutely horrific you know, what happened to the people of Japan. What was encouraging was seeing how the world responded to it.

DUFF GOLDMAN, CHEF AND OWNER, CHARM CITY CAKES: One of the things that I'm really impressed with is I'm still hearing people talk about the Japanese earthquake. I'm still seeing people doing fundraisers for the Japanese earthquake.

DANA LOESCH, TALK RADIO HOST AND BLOGGER: And it is unbelievably inspiring. I think it's a huge testament to what people can do when they work together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a violent tornado.

FOREMAN: The resilience of people was tested a lot closer to home, too, worst weather.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, there went the tree.

FOREMAN: The huge tornadoes that hit Mississippi and Alabama.

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN'S "OUTFRONT": Those were monster storms. It was amazing to see that happen in the United States, but it was also amazing to see how those communities pulled together.

FOREMAN: Speaking of pulling together, "Time" got it right. Worldwide, this was the year of the protester. Whether you like it or not, in the U.S., the movement of the year has to go to the occupy crowd.

Sure the name is not the best and we're still not certain what they want, but give them credit for sticking it out through thick and thin by filling up parks, street corners, you name it.

CARSON KRESSLEY, TV PERSONALITY AND STYLE EXPERT: A lot of occupy icky parks you wouldn't normally occupy. Great use of space. No one was hanging out there, now it's like a party and I'm thinking this is a great opportunity for businesses to spring up, but that would kind of be very anti-occupy.

GOLDMAN: I think that it's really important for people to take very extreme measures to get people to wake up.


COOPER: That's a quick preview. Up next, tonight's installment in our "Ridiculist" countdown. I'm a little flummoxed. My mom just e- mailed me saying please don't get a motorcycle. All right, "The Ridiculist" coming up. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Well, we've been counting down the top ten "Ridiculists" of the year. We asked you to vote for the top ten. You did. We appreciate you taking the time to do that.

Tonight, at number four, it's our favorite couple. Back in July, Doug Hutchinson and Courtney Studdan made "The Ridiculist" for the second time. I don't know how many times it's been already, but take a look.


COOPER: We told you about them before. You remember Doug is a 51- year-old character actor. Perhaps you've seen him in "The Green Mile" or "Lost" or the "X-Files." I have no memory of him.

His bride is 16-year-old Courtney. For a moment I thought it was Courtney, but it's not. It's Courtney. You might have seen her relaxing on the beach wearing the American flag or perhaps sitting in a boat with a dog that matches her bikini. Yes, she's 16, kids today. So yes, there is a 35-year age difference and, no, Courtney hasn't graduated from high school yet. And yes, many have criticized their union. But the happy couple were on "Good Morning America" today explaining their relationship and effectively putting all skepticism to rest.

It's a classic love story, really, 51-year-old boy meets 16-year- old girl online thus setting into motion a four-month online courtship. Sure, it sounds like the beginning of every episode of "To Catch a Predator," but that's where you're wrong people. This online rare romance different, this was one beautiful and it was unique.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a really beautiful and unique way to get to know someone because we didn't have the distraction of --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- the physicality.

COOPER: The physicality. I know what you're thinking where were this girl's parents, right? Well, they were all for it. Doug being an outstanding guy made sure that. Here's what he told Courtney's parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are uncomfortable with it, I will respect you and Courtney will respect you, and we will step back.

COOPER: Did you see that? No, Courtney did not get grounded and her father who is four years younger than Doug did not file a restraining order.

Instead the parents gave their blessing. Her dad even walked her down the aisle. Let's hear it for the cool parents. Luckily, Courtney didn't have to miss any chemistry tests or anything when she jetted off to Vegas to marry Doug -- Vegas? Romantic because as it turns out. Courtney's home schooled via an online Christian Academy. See, she's a very religious girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a virgin when I married him. I knew if I kept that I would be blessed with a beautiful gift. God blessed me with my soulmate.

COOPER: And in the presence of God and with her virginity that she somehow managed to hold on to for 16 whole years, Courtney married her 51-year-old soulmate. You know, Courtney has talked about morality before, perhaps you remember on your YouTube channel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never done pornography, I never will. About myself, I am a Christian girl. I hold my faith very tightly and I'm a virgin. And I plan to stay that way until I am married.

COOPER: And now she's married. She was married five months after she posted that video. Way to make a plan and stick to it. I bet she learned that in 4-h.

OK, sure, some people are calling her husband a cradle robber, perverted, dirty old man, whatever. Those are just words. We know the truth. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are welcome to their opinions. That's what the world is about. If they need to feel this way, that's theirs to hold. Not ours.

COOPER: Did you see that? Can we roll that again? Can someone please explain to me what is going on with Courtney in this clip?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are welcome to their opinions. That's what the world is about. If they need to feel this way, that's theirs to hold.

COOPER: What? Are we frozen on this video? I know we're transfixed, but what was she doing with her face? It was like -- I almost think she just got roofied or maybe that's a side effect from Botox. Please, stop, take that out. If I didn't know better from Courtney herself --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My breasts are real. Everything about me is real. My hair is real. My teeth are real. My eyelashes are real. My breasts are totally real.

COOPER: It's all real. Did she mention her breasts? I think she mentioned her breasts twice. As real as the reality show that Courtney and Doug are considering. Please, or to put it another way, real head to toe.

DOUG HUTCHISON, ACTOR: Courtney's plastic surgeon was god.

COOPER: God. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to tend to Courtney's plastic surgery. And homeschooling and sent her a pink dog and a soul mate all before she even turns 17. And romance haters, Annie, I'm talking to you. I beseech you once again, get on board, get romantic, and get real.


COOPER: We'll have number three on our countdown tomorrow night. That's it for us. We'll see you again at 10:00 tonight. Another edition of 360. Piers Morgan starts now.