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Investigating Whitney Houston's Death

Aired February 15, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much.

Good evening, everyone.

Special coverage tonight in the death of Whitney Houston, starting with breaking news.

A source briefed on her behavior and activity in her final days now telling CNN that Whitney Houston was seen drinking by the pool at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday morning, the day she died. Her behavior according to this source did not appear erratic. However, that same source telling us though that she was seen drinking heavily last Wednesday and Thursday morning as early as 10:00 a.m. poolside and in the -- in the hotel bar. And her appearance suggested she was intoxicated.

The source saying other hotel guests on both those days overheard her accusing the bartender of watering down her drinks. This picture from TMZ shows her poolside Wednesday, a drink by her side. Now we don't know what that drink contained.

We should also underscore that the account of her drinking comes from a single source, one whom CNN believes to be reliable. We've also obtained a copy of the preliminary death certificate. You can see the immediate cause of death is listed as deferred. Deferred in this case because drug screening results will not be complete for as many as several weeks.

The funeral, as we've been reporting, is on Saturday. We're going to be joined tonight shortly by the Reverend Marvin Winans who's going to be giving the eulogy who also married Whitney Houston in Bobby -- to Bobby Brown.

Also Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Drew Pinsky are here to weigh in on the dangers of mixing booze and pills. Something which goes beyond or far beyond what may have happened to Whitney Houston. It was a conversation I urge you to listen to. It was eye-opening for me. We just did it right before the show began.

First, though, here's what investigators are looking into right now.


COOPER (voice-over): Prescription pills found inside Whitney Houston's Beverly Hills hotel room are now the focus of the investigation into her still unexplained death. Authorities tell CNN they've issued subpoenas to Houston's doctors in Los Angeles and on the East Coast seeking her medical records and are looking specifically into what type of prescriptions she was given.

Investigators also are contacting various pharmacies where her prescriptions were filled including this one, the Mickey Fine Pharmacy in Beverly Hills which was raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2009 after Michael Jackson died from an overdose of prescription drugs.

The DA is not involved in Houston's case but sources say issuing subpoenas is an unusual step for an investigation into a death that's not considered a homicide.

LT. MARK ROSEN, L.A. COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: As of right now it's not a criminal investigation.

COOPER: The prescription pill bottles found by police were all under Houston's name. Officials say it does not appear Houston was filling out multiple prescriptions from different doctors commonly known as doctor shopping but they've not ruled it out. It's too soon in the investigation to determine if Houston was prescribed any drugs she didn't need or if she used an alias to secure some of the pills.

The doctors and pharmacies contacted by investigators have been cooperating, according to the coroner's office and nothing out of the ordinary has been found so far. The "New York Daily News" reports some of the pill bottles were not labeled. A couple of the bottles were older prescriptions and at least one was filled recently.

CNN has confirmed Houston visited Dr. Shawn Nasseri shown here on "Extra" four days before she died. Nasseri has been treating the singer for throat and vocal problems for several years. A family friend told CNN Houston had recently been on prescription medication for a throat infection and also had been taking other anti-anxiety medicines.

Houston may have mixed some of these medicines with alcohol. According to friends, she was drinking champagne two nights before her death and another source tells CNN she was seen drinking that weekend in the hotel. A close family friend tells CNN Houston was known to have a drink if she went out.

The singer battled drug and alcohol problems for many years. She entered rehab last year and a family friend said she'd been clean of hard drugs for several years. Investigators said they'd be looking for the presence of illegal as well as prescription drugs in the results of the toxicology test which may be ready within weeks.

Houston's funeral is set for Saturday. A private service in her hometown, Newark, New Jersey. As for reports that the Houston family had banned the singer's ex-husband Bobby Brown from attending the funeral sources tell CNN that was never the case. And Brown may very well be at the service after all to pay tribute to Houston's life.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, the funeral as I said will be held at Whitney Houston's childhood church as her friends and family Aretha Franklin will sing. And the Reverend Marvin Winans of the gospel-singing The Winans and his family will give the eulogy. He's going to join us shortly.

Digging deeper now, though, into that new reporting on Houston's drinking, what light, if any, it sheds on her death. Just a short time ago I spoke with 360 MD Sanjay Gupta, host of "Sanjay Gupta MD". Also addiction specialist, Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of "Dr. Drew" on HLN.


COOPER: Dr. Drew, what do you make of this report now from a single source to CNN about Whitney Houston being seen drinking in the morning, though, last -- in the hotel over the weekend?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, HLN'S "DR. DREW": A couple of things, Anderson. One is -- first of all, I hate to think that we have to have this report of humiliating behavior to understand simply that if she is drinking, she is in harm's way. OK? So the fact that there were multiple reports of her toasting and partying a couple of nights before her death, it should have been enough for anyone near her to understand that she was in real serious trouble.

We don't have to necessarily bring in these other stories that sound rather humiliating but not surprising. And the fact, the level of consumption that's being reported begins to make sense in terms of the potential of causing respiratory suppression simply adding that level of alcohol that has been reported to one or two of those benzodiazepine medication would be sufficient to cause her to stop breathing.

COOPER: So it can be as simple as alcohol in combination with a drug like Xanax or one or two other drugs?


COOPER: Because I mean don't plenty of people --

PINSKY: Yes, that --

COOPER: -- take Xanax also drink and not end up dead?

PINSKY: And, Anderson, you know, I have been getting so -- people are accusing me of being -- getting excited about this story. And I'm getting angry. And I want people to listen. Because this is something I have been fighting most of my career as an addictionologist. People don't understand how problematic these medicines are, especially if somebody has a history of addiction.

It is potentially a life-threatening exposure when they're exposed to these medication. And add to that -- how many stories, Anderson, have we reported of people, celebrities dying pharmaceutical deaths and these are the medicines that have always been involved with that. COOPER: But are you saying that anybody who has had a past history of drug abuse can never drink?

PINSKY: Can never drink.

COOPER: Because I mean -- because people would say, well, look, OK, she was having some drinks. That doesn't necessarily mean she was relapsing, does it?

PINSKY: Anderson, I am trying not to get as excited as I've been the last couple of nights on this show. Categorically that's a severe relapse. She is not somebody who is in the early stages of addiction. She is somebody that had many years of severe addiction, had been treated three times, and believe me, Anderson, in each of those treatments, abstinence was the goal.

And that what they insisted upon in every one of those treatments -- and the fact that she could go to those treatments as recently as last May and come out and she and the people around her think that partying with alcohol is somehow OK, because her problem is other drugs, is it shows that the treatments were abject failures. Abject failures. And that she needed a lot more treatment.

She didn't need to be out in public. She didn't need to be paraded around a party. She didn't need even to work on a movie. Her life was in danger as we now know. But we should have known that four months ago.

COOPER: Sanjay, one of the things you've done a lot of reporting on is doctor shopping. You know somebody going to multiple doctors for different kinds of prescriptions and we've seen people do that in the past. There's no evidence Whitney Houston did that. The coroners said they want to rule that out that's why they're now subpoenaing and in contact with the pharmacies and doctors.

But you had actually done a report on just how easy it is to get multiple prescriptions. I want to show some of that.


UNIDENTIFIED PHARMACIST: Is there a contact number for you?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Patient Gupta, please return to the pharmacy.

GUPTA: So that took about 15 minutes. I was able to walk in with my prescription about $20 on my charge card. They asked for my address and I walked out with 40 pills of narcotics.


COOPER: So how does that happen?

GUPTA: Well, you know, one thing that's important to point out, you know, as you said, there's no evidence or at least suggestion of doctor shopping here. But what I was trying to prove and show in that report was that the regulation, the sort of keeping tabs on people filling these types of prescriptions is pretty woefully inadequate in just about every state.

So you have a prescription from one doctor, you go to one pharmacy literally 10 minutes later you can go to another pharmacy, fill another prescription that -- when you start aggregating all these medicines you're giving a lot of different pills. And it's very, very hard for someone who wants to get these pills. Maybe not the fault of the doctor, maybe not the fault of the pharmacy. It's just the system is not designed to be able to catch people like that. And you can see within 15 minutes what I was able to do.

COOPER: And Dr. Drew, there's going to be people now watching this who are taking multiple prescriptions for things who are suddenly going to get worried or wait a minute, do I know about the interaction of all these drugs. The point, though, that you make time and time again, besides that they should be, but for an addict, an addict is more likely to take extra, to take more than --

PINSKY: Right.

COOPER: -- the doctor has told them to take.

PINSKY: That's right. And it doesn't take much extra, by the way. In fact, in their mind, they're probably taking it as prescribed. And of course their perception is that it is safe.

But, Sanjay, I've got to ask you a question. She's alleged to have had Xanax and Valium and Lorezapam in her bathroom. Can you think of any condition where she should have all three of those medications? I mean any condition. And furthermore --


PINSKY: Go ahead.

GUPTA: No, I mean, I don't know. I heard that Xanax was in -- was in her bathroom. I hadn't heard about the other things. But the point that I think is important here, there's really two things. One is that, you know, you always hear from the doctor when you get these pills, don't take this with alcohol. And I think it's been this sort of perception that's not a great idea but I'll be fine if I do. And I think --

COOPER: Yes, I got to tell you, I've taken things that I wasn't supposed to take with alcohol with alcohol, and think, well, look, how bad can it really be? I mean not like -- I don't -- you know, like an Ambien.


GUPTA: One in --

PINSKY: You bet. COOPER: Or something like that.

GUPTA: One in 20 people do this over the age of 12. This is some alarming statistics.

And, Drew, one of the things I think that's important, a lot -- this 1 in 20 number, 1 in 20 people misuse these medications in some way. Take too much, take it the wrong way or they combine it with something else.

PINSKY: Yes. Yes.

GUPTA: A lot of them are not addicts. And Drew, let me ask you, you know, the addicts may have a higher tolerance so maybe --


GUPTA: Maybe it takes more than someone who doesn't do this and they have an accidental overdose. I think this is an important message for --

PINSKY: Right.

GUPTA: Like what Anderson is saying. The average person out there thinks look, it's not a great idea but it's not going to kill me.

PINSKY: And I believe this Whitney Houston circumstance is not going to be doctor shopping. It's not going to be. She doesn't have to shop. She is an addict. Was given benzodiazepines. She should not have had it. And now she -- she had three different kinds. And as I said, Sanjay, that if indeed those are what were in the bathroom, neither you or I can think of any circumstance where any patient should be -- have all those -- three of those medications.


COOPER: We're going to have more with both these guys in just a moment. The whole notion of the dangers of mixing something like a sleeping pill with even two glasses of wine, again, I find really eye- opening. We're going to talk more about that after break. We'll dig deeper.

Also into celebrity culture and how it may be a destructive force in the life of a recovering addict.

Stay with us. Also let us know what you think. Join us on Facebook, Google Plus, you can add us to your circles. Or follow me on Twitter tonight @andersoncooper. I'll be tweeting in the hour ahead.

Later video out of Syria. It makes your blood boil. A child fleeing apparently as a sniper takes aim at the child. Pretty unbelievable. It's not all that's happening. The Syrian regime denies almost all of it. We're "Keeping Them Honest." Our Arwa Damon is there on ground in Homs. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, the breaking news tonight, the details of the death of Whitney Houston including a report that she was seen drinking on the morning she died and seen drinking heavily on the Wednesday and Thursday mornings prior to her death.

Before the break, Dr. Drew and our 360 MD Sanjay Gupta are weighing in on that. More now of that conversation which turned to talk about celebrity culture and how it may enable addiction.


COOPER: And one of the -- you know, one of the reasons we're covering this story a lot beyond the tragedy of Whitney Houston, and you know, I mean, again, I was listening to her music just again last night and it is just -- it just hits you time and time again what a tragedy this is. What a waste this is, regardless of the cause of her death. But this is a larger story. And the story of prescription abuse and the dangers of prescription drugs is, I think, really an important story.

PINSKY: Yes. Absolutely.


COOPER: I want to shoe you --

PINSKY: I have been -- go ahead.

COOPER: Yes. I want to show you something that Celine Dion said on "Good Morning America."


CELINE DION, SINGER: When you -- when you, you know, you think about Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, I mean, to get into drugs like that for whatever reason is because of the stress and bad influence, what happens? What happens when you have everything? What happens when you have love, the support, the family, motherhood? You have -- you have responsibilities of a mother, and then something happens and it destroys everything. There's something that happened that I don't understand. And that's why I'm so scared. I'm scared of -- I'm scared show business, I'm scared of drugs.


COOPER: I mean is it -- does that miss the point? Is it just something about show business?


COOPER: Or is this is a --

PINSKY: No. COOPER: I mean this is a larger issue as well, no?

PINSKY: My patients today -- my addicted patients when they die they die a pharmaceutical death without exception. It's the third night in a row -- I'm saying this on your show, Anderson. And I would urge people to think back to the rock stars of the last 20 to 30 years who've used tons of illicit drugs. The exception being IV heroin, but all the illicit drug use, they're all still with us. They are all still alive.

But the ones that graduate to the prescription drug, which really has been the last five years that we've seen this title wave of this problem. And again, as Celine Dion said, by the way, she's not an addict, you can tell. An addict but she listed all the people that have died and there are many, many more. They are all pharmaceutical deaths. And what's happening in Hollywood and in the musical field is simply a reflection of what's going on in this country.

COOPER: Well, do you think it's -- I mean as somebody who -- and we heart about it so much when a celebrity -- as you say, this is happening every few seconds and minute in the United States. But is there something and I think you and I have talked about this, Dr. Drew. Is there something about, you know, what that drives people to be a celebrity, what drives people to be in the public eye that also then is more likely to drive them to seek a high?

PINSKY: Yes. They do have more trauma. They do tend -- I have explicit objective research on this that I have published. And yes, they do have more trauma, they do have more of the genetic heritage of addiction. They do have more narcissistic pathology, and celebrity is sort of a bid to solve that problem for them. But as you know, celebrity ends up with power, with sycophants surrounding them. And so when they do manifest their problems, they tend to progress more severely.

The rest of us would have an employer. Again these -- I mean these people are all independent contractors. They don't have an employer that can come in and pull them aside and say hey, you're going to lose your job if you don't get it together. And they -- similarly they have sycophants surrounding them that are afraid of losing their access to them. And they have power.

If you remember Deepak Chopra told us a story about how he confronted Michael Jackson about his drug use and was dismissed from the inner circle. They have the power to do that. They have the power for their disease to progress.

COOPER: It does seem, Sanjay, that some doctors -- not all certainly, but there are some doctors who like having celebrities in their lives and may be more willing to prescribe them something just -- you know, to kind of keep them in their lives.

GUPTA: Yes, and we just saw this obviously this trial with Conrad Murray. We've heard about this with other celebrities. There are these concierge doctors which we reported on. They just take a few patients, they're celebrities. And those celebrities expect that doctor to essentially, you know, take care of them and get them the things that they say they need.

But, Anderson, to your point earlier where you say there is a larger point here, we do talk about the celebrities because they're famous and perhaps because they have this access. But there are a lot of people out there that have these sorts of problems.

I mean -- and I can't express that enough. I mean, you know, we've talked about all these famous people but 1 in 20 people are misusing these medications right now. We may not hear about their deaths but every 19 minutes one of them will die. So again the warning about, you know, don't misuse these drugs isn't supposed to be a polite thing saying hey, if you think about it, don't misuse this. It literally should say this could kill you.

COOPER: So what's the advice, Sanjay --

GUPTA: And doctors don't like to say it but they -- I think they need to in this case.

COOPER: What's the advice, Sanjay, then for a family watching tonight who's taking multiple things. Maybe they have an Ambien prescription and a Xanax prescription, and you know, they're not sure of how it all -- is it -- just of course --

GUPTA: I would --

GUPTA: Question your doctor as much as possible?

GUPTA: Well, I think you need to be very transparent. And you know, I don't want to condemn anybody in particular, but a lot of these patients were getting these types of medications, to Drew's point earlier, is because they are getting -- you know, someone to get Xanax and to get another benzodiazepine or another anti-anxiety medication they're probably not being forthright.

Because any doctor would say look, why are you taking all these various medications? So be very, very transparent about. But also look, if you're just somebody who says look, I'm not an addict, I haven't had this problem, I'm watching all this stuff about Whitney Houston, that's not me. I don't have to worry about this.

Yes, you do. You have to think about this because the next time you think about it may be because you've had a catastrophic event as a result of combining, misusing or overdosing on these medications.

COOPER: I got to say, Dr. Drew, it really to me is an eye-opener because - I mean, I'm not a drinker but you know I'll have an occasional glass of wine. But the idea that -- I sort of -- if I'm, you know, if I'm going to take an Ambien one night, you know, I don't think -- I just kind of pooh-pooh the whole alcohol/drug combination thing but clearly --

PINSKY: Sanjay, this is the third time our patient has mentioned Ambien. I think we ought to pull him aside for a little talk here.

COOPER: I don't really take Ambien either. PINSKY: Maybe there's an opportunity to --

COOPER: But I mean I -- I do occasionally have if I'm traveling or whatever on a plane.

PINSKY: I got that the first time you said it. I heard it. But yes --

COOPER: Now you're saying I'm an addict.

PINSKY: No, I'm not. I'm not.

COOPER: OK. All right.

PINSKY: I'm making fun of you. But the fact is, you're a great example of how cautious someone must be. You're someone who is trying to use these things intelligently. You saw the caution on the label, and so you're trying to be careful. If I had a glass of wine, what's the big deal? I'm being careful. I'm not driving a vehicle. But the fact is, you have two glasses of wine and Ambien, you really could be in harm's way.

COOPER: Really?

GUPTA: And let me just say one thing more about that specific.


GUPTA: Because I think this illustrates a point. When you combine these things, we've mentioned that they're synergistic. It's not just adding it. It becomes exponentially worse.

PINSKY: Right.

GUPTA: But specifically it sort of tinkers with this part of your brain known as your hypothalamus. That's a part of the brain that's sort of, you know, tells you to breathe so you don't have to think about it. Regulates your heart rate. If your hypothalamus is tinkered with, and this is more science than maybe your audience wants to know, but if it tinkered with, when you go to sleep, your drive to breathe may go away.

You can see how potentially deadly that can be. So I mean this is -- this has been known for awhile but I --

COOPER: Your drive to breathe goes away.

GUPTA: Your drive to breathe --

PINSKY: Your drive to breathe and also your swallowing mechanism becomes suppressed. And you can aspirate which is the other thing I see all the time which is you either stop breathing or you come out with a bad -- overwhelming pneumonias.

COOPER: Wow. You know, we keep having this conversation but I got to tell you, I think this is an important conversation to have. Again, it's a much larger issue than just this one tragedy.

Dr. Drew, I appreciate it. And Sanjay, I appreciate it, thanks.

GUPTA: You got it, Anderson.


COOPER: So just to underscore, even legitimately prescribed medicine can kill especially in combination with as few as a couple of drinks. By the same token, it also bears repeating. We do not yet know what happened in the case of Whitney Houston. It's important not to get ahead of the facts.

But the fact is sadly, abundantly clear, as Dr. Drew mentioned. If prescription drugs played a role in the death of Whitney Houston, it would not be the first time.

More in that angle tonight from Miguel Marquez.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this video taken days before Michael Jackson's death, the king of pop rehearsing for an upcoming tour looks like the picture of physical health. But off stage, he was suffering from a crippling addiction to the powerful anesthetic Propofol or milk, as he liked to call it. It was an addiction enabled by his doctor, Conrad Murray.

CONRAD MURRAY, MICHAEL JACKSON'S DOCTOR: I then decided to go ahead and give him some of the milk so he could get a coupe of hours' sleep so that he could produce. Because I cared about him. I did not want him to fail. I had no intentions of hurting him.

MARQUEZ: Just six months later, Hollywood would be rocked by yet another death. Actress Brittany Murphy who played Eminem's love interest in "Eight Mile" and was an ugly duckling who became a swan with the help of Alicia Silverstone in the teen comedy, "Clueless."

BRITTANY MURPHY, ACTRESS: Why am I even listening to you to begin with? You're a virgin who can't drive.

ALICIA SILVERSTONE, ACTRESS: That was way harsh, Ty.

MARQUEZ: The coroner ruled that Murphy's death at age 32 was an accident due to combination of pneumonia, iron deficiency and, quote, "multiple drug intoxication." But Murphy's husband and mother disputed those findings to Larry King.

SIMON MONJACK, BRITTANY MURPHY'S HUSBAND: For the record, as a clarity statement, my wife had not taken any drugs that could harm her that morning. That is for -- I will --

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: No drug overdose?

MONJACK: Please. Brittany was --


MONJACK: Brittany was scared to take --

KING: So she never had a drug problem?


MONJACK: Not so much.

MARQUEZ: And there was Heath Ledger, the actor known for his groundbreaking performance in the movie "Brokeback Mountain" where he played a gay cowboy opposite Jake Gyllenhaal.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL, ACTOR: I wish I knew how to quit you.

HEATH LEDGER, ACTOR: Well, why don't you? Why don't you just let me be, huh?

MARQUEZ: But he died just months before the release of his biggest blockbuster, "The Dark Knight." Critics and audiences raved over his turn as the arch villain, the Joker.

LEDGER: No, no, you, you complete me.

MARQUEZ: Ledger died from an accidental overdose of painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills. He was only 28.

Singer Amy Winehouse's struggles with addiction were well known.

But in the end, the singer wasn't done in by drugs. In a ruling disputed by Winehouse's father, the coroner said she died from accidental alcohol poisoning.

(On camera): Celebrities dying from drug and alcohol abuse isn't new. Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Anna Nicole Smith, just to name a few. But recent deaths have focused attention on one of Hollywood's dirty little secret. Doctors who make prescription drugs readily available to the stars.

(Voice-over): Actress McKenzie Phillips told Kareen Wynter that despite her history as an addict, doctors willingly overprescribed her pills.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: There's some doctors out there, many doctors perhaps who may be enamored by a star. And they're just trying to please their client. But come on, you have to have stars on the other end who may be using their fame to get these drugs.

MCKENZIE PHILLIPS, ACTRESS: Well, I'm sure that that is definitely something that helps them to get the doctor to give them whatever they want. And I know I've been in that position myself.

MARQUEZ: Now, investigators also want to know, is that what happened to Whitney Houston?

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.


COOPER: Still ahead tonight, family and friends of Whitney Houston are going to pay tribute to the singer on Saturday. Pastor Marvin Winans will deliver the eulogy. He joins me next live.

And later what CNN's Arwa Damon is seeing right now in Homs, a one-sided war. Her words, the government using everything it has to crush its people. We're "Keeping Them Honest. "


COOPER: Breaking news tonight, a source telling CNN that Whitney Houston was seen drinking on the morning that she died and drinking heavily the prior Wednesday and Thursday. The official cause of death that will not be determined until toxicology results come back.

The funeral we know takes place on Saturday at Whitney Houston's childhood church. This is you'll recall where her mom run the music program. That's where a young Whitney Houston sang in the choir, then soloed and then grew into that voice.

Those who'll be there to pay tribute will indeed be members of popular and gospel music royalty, her mother, of course, Cissy, godmother Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, the Winans family, BBC, and Pastor Marvin Winans will deliver the eulogy.

The Houstons and the Winans have been close for decades. Here is Whitney performing with Didi and Cissy in 1989.

That was Whitney Houston and Didi Winans and Cissy Winans in 1989 NAACP Image Awards. Joining me now another member of the Winans family, gospel singer and pastor of the New Perfecting Church in Detroit, Marvin Winans.

Reverend, I appreciate you being with us, Pastor. You and your family obviously are so close to the Houston family. How is your family doing and how is Whitney's family doing?

PASTOR MARVIN WINANS, PERFECTING CHURCH, DETROIT: Well, my mother, after we heard it said she felt as if she had lost one of her children. I said mom, it's because you have.

Talking with Cissy, just, you know, when I called I said mom, it's going to be all right. Faith plays a great part in how we cope with uncertainties in life.

It is not something that we run from in difficulty. It's something that we run to. So, by the grace of God, everyone is holding up pretty well.

COOPER: You were there for her wedding and you are there for her coming home, a celebration of her life this weekend. How do you even go about writing the words that you are going to say? I mean, do you know what you are going to say? WINANS: Well, it's -- it's about praying and, you know, folk will talk about doing the eulogy. My job is not that of a eulogist. In technical term my job is homilist and my job is to speak on behalf of God as it relates to where we are and how we go further.

So we pray, we speak from our heart and we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us so we might begin to minister hope and healing to those who are there.

COOPER: And how do you give that? I mean, obviously you said faith is extraordinarily important. But, you know, in times like this, people question their faith and say, you know, why would a young woman be taken from us with such talent and such potential and such life ahead of her?

WINANS: Well, the wonderful thing about salvation is that it is a choice. As I was talking to some people the other day, I thought about an old gospel song that says we are our Heavenly Father's children and he loves us one and all.

Yet there are times when we will answer to another's beckon call. So, salvation is constantly a choice. It is a constant vigil of doing the right things. It's not a blame game on God that somehow God just took Whitney from us.

It is a fact that we have choices and the choices that we make may not be the best choices, but just as a son or daughter may disappoint their father doesn't mean that he doesn't love them.

COOPER: You and I were talking right before the show and I was asking what you want to get across. One of the things you said to me was really important, which is that the importance of praising people and telling them how much you care about them and love them in their life, not just after they passed.

WINANS: It is amazing. We take life and love for granted so often. As you play that video of Bibi and Cissy, Whitney was actually supposed to sing with the Winans first. But we ran into contractual problems and she ended up with Bibi and Cissy.

But just as a family, we lost our brother, Ronald and Whitney came and sat with us and rolled with us to the cemetery. That's what families do. We rally around each other when someone is hurting.

We lay aside what we do professionally and we find the time to be there. The power of presence is so great. So, people need to learn how to say I love you and I miss you. Last week, Whitney was alive.

I was here preaching. There were no cameras. No one was calling me. But since her death, you know, we are fighting off news agencies simply because they don't understand that we lost a sister.

This is not a break or an opportunity. We are really hurting and seriously grieving. It amazes me the insensitivity of the media when it comes to things like this. COOPER: I think, you know, often people see this as, you know, reporters see this as a news story and there's facts to get out for family in the epicenter of this, and family and friends, it's not a story. It is life and death. It's heart break.


COOPER: A heart break that never heals.

WINANS: It's someone that was there and now you can no longer speak to them. Maybe you didn't tell them that you loved them. Maybe if you had known, you would have did some things differently.

So, there's a lot of questions, a lot of things that go through minds, why wasn't I there? Why didn't I help? What if I picked up the phone? What if I went and got her?

You have to reconcile all of that within yourself and you miss that person so greatly.

COOPER: There had been some discussion, I understand or talk publicly about a public service. Obviously, this is going to be a private service now.

I think a lot of her fans, you know, wanted some sort of public service that they could take part in. For you, the importance of it being private and of it being family is clear?

WINANS: I don't think knowing Cissy and the Houston family, I don't think it was a matter of public or private as it was this is my daughter, this is my sister, this is my mother, this is my friend and we want to do this with dignity.

We don't want to have a parade. We loved her when she was nippy in New Jersey. The world loves her because of her voice, but if nippy could not sing, the Houston family would love her. I knew that momma Houston would do it the way she wanted it done.

We are going to church and we are not going to be worried about if the world can get in. We are going to lay our daughter to rest in the confines and the tradition of what we do.

COOPER: Well, there are so many people around the world listening to her music and sadly now who weren't listening to it last week, but I hope you know that -- and I hope the family knows there are countless people around the world sending their prayers. I wish you the best. It's going to be a difficult weekend for you.

WINANS: It will be difficult, but God answers prayer and prayer changes things, people and circumstances.

COOPER: Pastor Winans, I really appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you, sir.

WINANS: Thank you. COOPER: We are going to look at politics coming up next. We want you to be part of the conversation. Ask your question to our panel in our digital dashboard, on Facebook, Twitter, Google plus.

Still ahead, "Keeping Them Honest," what's really happening inside Syria? CNN's Arwa Damon has gotten inside Homs tonight. She's there seeing the slaughter of civilians firsthand. She joins me ahead.


COOPER: Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," on the campaign trail. Talking to reporters last night, Rick Santorum was asked about Washington State's recent vote to legalize same-sex marriage. Here's what he said.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said I think this is a national issue. We can't have two marriage laws. We have to have consistency in what marriage is. I think we need to have a national discussion about it and develop a national policy.


COOPER: It's not the first time Santorum's called for a national policy on a social issue important to Christian conservatives. Abortion is another example.

What interesting is that Santorum's called for a national policy does seem completely at odds with what he says is his strong support for states' rights.

Another issue that resonate with social conservatives like banning birth control, he's argued for states having the right to make their own laws. Here he is talking about why the Supreme Court was wrong to overturn a Connecticut law banning birth control.


SANTORUM: I never questioned whether the state had the right to do it. It's not a constitutional right. The state has a right to pass whatever statutes they have.


COOPER: He says the states have the right unless the issue on the table same-sex marriage. Tonight, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Santorum with a seven-point lead over Romney in Ohio. It's a key race on Super Tuesday. There's also this, a new CNN/ORC international poll shows Republican enthusiasm about the election is faltering.

Meantime, President Obama's approval rating has climbed to 50 percent for the first time in eight months. Let's talk about it now with Ari Fleischer, CNN political contributor and former White House press secretary for George W. Bush. Also Bill Burton, a former deputy White House press secretary for President Obama and senior strategist of "Priorities USA Action." So Ari, the Romney "Super PAC" came out last night with ads attacking Santorum in three states.

We e saw what happened when Gingrich was the focus of the ads. Do you think Santorum is any different? Do you think this is now really going to chip away at Santorum?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, if you do the advertising properly, it picks up on what people actually on their own or inclined to believe about a candidate for better or for worse.

There are some vulnerabilities with Rick Santorum. I think that's what Mitt Romney is going to seek to expose them. That is part of running for office. Rick Santorum needs to show he can take a shot, give a shot and return the ball.

COOPER: It's interesting. You know, listening to the alleged political experts over the last couple of months, on paper, there's no way Santorum should be in this position.

His campaign doesn't have an advance team, doesn't have a pollster, not even a campaign headquarters, really, but a lot of very passionate followers.

Doesn't the fact that he is in this position, does that tell you that maybe Republicans really are enthusiastic about the election after all whatever some of these polls show enthusiasm faltering?

BILL BURTON, SENIOR STRATEGIST, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: Well, I don't know if they are enthusiastic about the election. If you look state by state, the turnout has actually been lower than it was in 2008 when the primary was really competitive.

This time around, you know, Santorum benefits from the fact that Republicans are having a tough time coalescing around Mitt Romney for one reason or for another. I think that conservatives just don't trust him because his record just doesn't match up with everything that he's been saying on the campaign trail this time around.

But I will say, on the spending, you know, Romney and Romney "Super PAC" have a lot of money up in the air. And the one thing that has been determinative in this race is when Romney and the "Super PAC" and his allies spend a lot of money, Romney does well.

When they don't, he doesn't. He's problem is that this time, Santorum's "Super PAC" is matching them dollar for dollar in Michigan. So we'll see what kind of impact that has on the race there.

COOPER: Ari, do you buy that there's a lack of enthusiasm?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think there's a lack of conservative enthusiasm for Mitt Romney. A lot of the Rick Santorum vote is anti- Romney vote. And people are kind of hoping that Rick Santorum is who they want.

There's still a lot of question about everything with Rick Santorum's record that people don't know yet. He's largely unknown quantity in Republican circles. He's filling in the blanks. He's in a rush to fill in those blanks before Mitt Romney does it for him.

As for the overall enthusiasm issue, I think there has been a decline in Republican enthusiasm since last fall. I think there's some part of frustration of how Republicans are going after each other. I anticipate that that's going to build back up once Republicans have a nominee.

It's going to be exciting once they do. As for turnout, you know, it's hard to measure because you have Florida is a big quirk because of a 2008 ballot initiative, which brought out hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise, don't vote presidential.

Missouri, four years ago, had it been a real primary with real delegates that counted, this year was a beauty contest. So if you compare the two states, there's a huge drop off. Without that, you have record Republican turnout in Iowa, in New Hampshire and South Carolina so it's inconclusive, Anderson, is how I would put it so far.

COOPER: I want to ask this digital dashboard question we got from one of our viewers. If Santorum wins Michigan, will he take on the beloved frontrunner status or will it remain with Romney, Ari?

FLEISCHER: I think it still remains with Mitt Romney in large part because he still has, and when I talk about organization, so what does that mean. He's getting on the ballot everywhere.

The fact that nobody is contesting Mitt Romney seriously in Arizona is a huge issue. The press is going to focus on Michigan because it's where a fight takes place.

But if you are Mitt Romney, you are saying, I'm also chalking up delegates there. These people aren't taking me on in Arizona, which has a primary the same night as Michigan.

COOPER: But Bill, if Mitt Romney cannot win in Michigan where his father has a long history, where he was born, I mean, that could be crippling for him, no?

BURTON: I think it's going to be a big problem for Mitt Romney. I don't think the issue is going to be whether or not he wins the nomination. I think that as Ari pointed out, he's the only candidate in this race who actually has the infrastructure to bring this all the way to the end.

But if he loses Michigan, which is not looking great for him right now, a big problem could be that his fundraising dries up a little bit and he's not able to have the kind of impact in a campaign that he needs to have throughout the primary.

In 2008, President Obama and Hillary Clinton went through this long drawn out primary. But through that process, the president built support in almost every single state. It's not what's happening with Mitt Romney. If his money dries up, he's really not going to be able to do that.

COOPER: Bill, Ari, appreciate your time. Thank you, guys.

Just ahead, Iran stages a public showing of what it call advance in its nuclear program. We'll see how the Obama administration reacted.

And an expensive Rolex watch vanished in the Florida airport's security check. Sheriff's are looking for a suspect. They have a good idea of what he looks like. Also the latest from Syria, ahead.


COOPER: Tonight, Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad is calling for a national vote on a new draft constitution that he says contains major reforms. Critics frankly just say it's window dressing.

Activists say at least 32 more people were killed today. This little boy, take a look at this video, running from sniper fire in Daraa where all this began. You can hear the shots being fired. A man runs after him, carries the boy to safety.

Video from the Damascus suburb apparently shows civilians being forced to stand and lie down next to an army tank. Activists say it's to serve as human shields. We can't verify these reports firsthand because the Assad regime won't let us in. We weren't there.

Today, CNN's Arwa Damon, however is there in Homs. Here is what she said.


COOPER: I know you saw a patient who had a brain injury. Pieces of this man's brain came out of his head. They basically just sewed back his head up just to keep it inside and has some sort of a tube in there. But he desperately needed to get out and will die if he doesn't.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He will. He's not the only one in there in that kind of dire condition. There was another young volunteer at the clinic actually who has been injured in one of the strikes on the clinic itself.

He was in an incredibly difficult situation. We later on heard that he had died. He didn't make it and that is quite simply because he wasn't able to receive the medical care that he so desperately needed.

The nurse that was tending to him, she was 27 years old. She was also a volunteer and she was crying out, wanting to know how it was that the international community could watch human beings continuously die and do nothing.

She pointed to this young man pressing his head and was saying this is a human being. This is not something made of stone. Life has value. How is it in the 21st Century that the world can watch and let this type of massacre take place?

COOPER: Arwa, you have covered a lot of places where violence is happening and suffering is happening. How does this compare?

DAMON: It doesn't, Anderson. It really doesn't. I mean, on the one hand, yes, we are covering all the conflicts you come across. Death you come across. Sorrow, you come across. Atrocities, but what we have witnessed happening inside Syria does not compare to anything that's taken place in any other country.

Whether you compare it to the other revolutions that you saw happening across the Middle East or the other types of violence and various conflict zones, what's happening here, it's very difficult to put it into words, Anderson.

The level of despair, what's happening, how one-sided this war and it is now a war really is. You have a massive entity that's power that is the Syrian government using every single tool at its disposal to crush this opposition that really, as they put it is crying out for freedom.

We hear all the stories of children being mercilessly massacred at the hands of the regime, of no one being spared. You really just can't compare it to anything else.

COOPER: Arwa Damon, stay safe. Thank you.


COOPER: Arwa Damon inside Homs. Susan Hendricks joins us now with the "360 News and Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Iran showed off what it called advances in its nuclear program today. Iran's president to view what his country claim is a new generation of centrifuges to be used at a nuclear research center. The State Department dismissed it as a lot of hype.

House Speaker John Boehner today defended a payroll tax extension deal that will cost the Treasury $100 billion. President Obama said he will sign the bill if it passes Congress.

And the sheriff's office at Broward County, Florida would like to speak to this man who they believe took an expensive Rolex watch that didn't belong to him.

He was going through security at the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood airport last month when he spotted the watch in one of those bins and he took it.

Police say it was left in the bin accidentally by another passenger who was ahead of that guy. The man who took it boarded his plane before security could talk to him.

COOPER: Maybe somebody will recognize him. Susan, we'll be right back.


COOPER: We ran out of time for "The Ridiculist" because of the conversation with Dr. Drew and Sanjay went long about prescription drugs. We thought it was an important conversation to have though.

We'll have "The Ridiculist" again tomorrow night as we always do. We'll see you again one hour from now, another edition of "360" at 10:00. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.