CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Interview with Senator Bob Corker; Congress on Vacation; Military War Games; Interview with John Sununu

Aired September 20, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next, who knew what and when? New details emerging tonight about the attack that killed the American ambassador to Libya and an interview with the Libyan prime minister. And it's a controversial ad that's being called hateful, but the group behind it says it's just speaking the truth. Does it add up?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight, we have breaking news. We've got new details coming in, in the investigation into the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The Libyan prime minister tells CNN's Arwa Damon that the evidence suggests the attack last Tuesday on the American Consulate in Benghazi was preplanned. That is crucial.

The Libyan prime minister also tells CNN that eight people detained were involved in carrying out the attack. That some are far extreme members of Libya's largest Islamic brigade -- it's called Ansar al-Sharia -- and that no members having known affiliations specifically to al-Qaeda. Now, they also say to Arwa that 30 to 50 people were -- attacked the consulate. They were clearly organized, but didn't belong to one specific group.

Now, the Libyan government has said this was preplanned, but interesting. That has not been the message out of Washington. This was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, on September 17th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Not preplanned or premeditated. White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated that position yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Based on the information that we had at the time and have to this day, we do not have evidence that it was premeditated. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: But today, Carney for the first time called it a terrorist attack and changed his wording, saying and I quote him, "we have no information at this point to suggest that this is a significantly preplanned attack." And a U.S. official who did not want to be named tells CNN today, "We certainly acknowledge contradictory information about whether there was a protest prior to the attack." And there are questions about whether the U.S. missed very important warning signs.

Arwa Damon on the ground. You have heard her on this show, has reported that according to Libyan military officials, three days before the attacks took place, the Libyan military officials had a meeting with senior employees from the American Embassy in Tripoli and at that meeting they warned them about a rising threat against Western interests in Benghazi. Libyan military officials say they specifically said the Libyan government could not control the militias and they advised the Americans decrease their presence in Benghazi.

They said they told the senior embassy officials that the situation is frightening. It scares us and at that meeting, the United States senior embassy officials declined to ask for additional security at the Benghazi Consulate. Now, State Department officials tell CNN's Elise Labott that a recommendation to close that post was actually never passed up the chain of command at the State Department.

OUTFRONT tonight, Senator Bob Corker, he's a Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. He was briefed on the attacks by administration officials today, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the director of intelligence, James Clapper. I spoke with him just a couple of moments before the show began and I asked him about that briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I will just tell you the briefing today was an absolute non event. It was almost a one-hour filibuster. There was no new information. As a matter of fact, what you just carried on CNN regarding the interview with the prime minister there is information that certainly was not shared during this briefing and I can tell you it was really people on both sides of the aisle I think left there feeling like they had not learned one thing additionally about what happened. So I think all of us just want to get to the bottom of this. You know we're all concerned and again, today, was basically a one-hour filibuster and I do hope that sometime soon we'll have a real detailed report about what has happened there, but today none has come forth.

BURNETT: Why were they, to use your word, filibustering? I mean were they -- is it that they didn't know the answer? They didn't want to tell the answer? I mean I'm a little confused, right? I mean it seems like we've gotten at least here at CNN for a week now a pretty clear answer that the Libyans said that they gave warnings at least to U.S. Embassy officials on the ground about a very, very dangerous security situation and they have been saying consistently that this was premeditated.

CORKER: Yes, so I have no idea. I mean, I guess on one hand the administration felt like they needed to come forth today because they had been asked to. On the other hand, I can assure you there was not one new piece of information gleaned from this. It was just continually stated that these things are under review and until we are able to get to the bottom of this, we really don't have additional information to share. So it was very disappointing and I think again, all Americans want to understand, was there actionable intelligence? Did we know in advance? I think that people now probably realize this was not something in Benghazi that just spontaneously happened.

BURNETT: I'm curious about what you think the reporting that we have that there was this meeting and that at the meeting Americans were explicitly told, according to the Libyan sources that quote "the situation is frightening, it scares us" and the Americans were advised to decrease their presence in Benghazi. Americans didn't ask for more security and now according to the State Department, at least what we've been told is that whole meeting never went up the chain of command.

CORKER: Yes.

BURNETT: I mean that's pretty frightening there's that lack of coordination or information sharing going on, isn't it? I mean is that something that you fear happened there and is happening elsewhere?

CORKER: Well you know certainly I can't verify what you've just relayed, but if in fact that happened, certainly, that's very concerning.

BURNETT: And Senator, let me ask you a question on this issue of premeditation and get your sense of it. I mean I know you're frustrated by that briefing that you received today, but why is it that the Libyan government says this was premeditated and we hear Susan Rice, we hear Jay Carney saying that --

CORKER: Yes.

BURNETT: -- from their information it was not.

CORKER: Yes.

BURNETT: What do you think would explain that or why what the U.S. government is saying is so different?

CORKER: Well I saw the Susan Rice interview and I've listened to her very strongly talk about the fact that it wasn't premeditated. I have a hard time believing that. And I would hope this would not be the case, but it leads you to believe that they really want to make sure that no one finds them culpable in this, in other words, not really doing the things that they need to do to protect our personnel on the ground.

BURNETT: And when you talk about safety and the culpability for when it doesn't exist, I just wanted to play something that Secretary Clinton said as she was getting ready to brief you today about American safety overseas. Here she is.

CORKER: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are concerned first and foremost with our own people and facilities, but we are concerned about the internal security in these countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Now, when she said that, Senator, I was thinking about a conversation I had with Jon Huntsman, former Republican candidate for president, ambassador to China. He said he thinks that U.S. Consulates, there are many around the world who do not have the level of security that Americans think that they do and that they're not as safe as they should be. What are you going to do about it?

CORKER: Well, I think that's where this investigation and just them coming forth with everything that happened in real time would be very helpful to us, but look, I think there are things, I will say there was a portion of our briefing where there was discussion about what we are doing around the world to try to beef up our security. And while obviously I don't want to go in the details of that, I do think that what's occurred is you've seen a tremendous upping of security and the ability to respond quickly to --

BURNETT: So, you felt that that had been addressed immediately, strongly, by the United States?

CORKER: Well, I know -- I don't know all the details and I don't think any of us do at this point as to what that actually is. We had a very general summary in about six minutes and certainly don't want to lay out what that summary was, but obviously they were trying to project forth that they are addressing many of the concerns that exist regarding what you just said and certainly, all of us hope that's the case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. Well ahead, after returning to work for just eight days Congress is back on vacation. Good work if you can get it. Does it mean that we are all destined as citizens to crash over the fiscal cliff? Plus, it's an ad that critics say is hateful towards Muslim; the woman behind that ad OUTFRONT. And Apple on the verge of making a record profit with that new iPhone 5, maybe you're one of those people waiting in line for it, but you know what, will Apple start paying taxes in the United States?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, Congress skips town again after a five-week recess and then just eight days back on the job -- we like to use this little calendar here -- it makes the point -- lawmakers are again high-tailing it out of Washington until after the election and this time they have left a pile of unfinished behind. Most pressing of which of course is that little thing called the fiscal cliff that includes the expiration of those tax cuts, the $1.2 trillion spending cuts that are going to take effect in just 104 days, the payroll tax extension, the unemployment benefits extension, the debt ceiling -- you get the point. Congress though doesn't seem to be too worried because apparently there's some back-door wheeling and dealing going on in those hallowed halls and maybe it will save us all. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is OUTFRONT. So Dana, what is going on? What are these closed door meetings?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well there are really two kinds of meetings that have been going on. First, we have had behind closed door meetings with the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, the treasury secretary and other officials have been coming up to brief key committee members on just what the scenarios would be if in fact the U.S. economy fell off that fiscal cliff, but it really is to do in the words of one source, make sure everybody is operating from the same set of facts. What the consequences would be, not so much negotiating possible scenarios on how to get out of it.

The other kind of meeting that has been going on has been that kind of negotiating or at least gaming out possible scenarios, contingency plans is probably the best way to put it, on how to deal with the tax cuts that are going to expire, how to deal with the $100 billion or so in cuts that are going to come around the corner if in fact either party does well in the election because that really is the main reason they're leaving without dealing with this because everybody says they can't figure it out until they know who has the most political leverage after the election -- Erin.

BURNETT: Which seems to be the crucial question -- I want to ask, Dana, what those exact scenarios are, but first let me just add John Avlon into the conversation. Dana is talking about these closed door negotiations that are going on, John. Congress doesn't have a great track record, 173 laws passed since January of 2011.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

BURNETT: The least productive Congress since World War I is what you're saying or at least it's on track to be.

AVLON: Yes.

BURNETT: So, are you skeptical that there will be a deal?

AVLON: There are rational reasons to be skeptical. We have seen over and over, from Bowles-Simpson to the superfail committee, they kick and kick the can, but here's the thing. After the election, there will be a sense of consequence. There will be a sense of urgency brought on by this fiscal cliff and there does seem to be good faith efforts behind the scenes. This Congress is less productive and less popular than Paris Hilton, so (INAUDIBLE) hold their breath, but nonetheless I think there is an urgency that may make them work together --

BURNETT: I haven't heard that name in so long --

AVLON: That's how unpopular --

BURNETT: (INAUDIBLE) All right, so Dana, let me ask you what are the key scenarios that you're hearing being negotiated?

BASH: Well what we're told is that particularly in important committees like the Finance Committee, they are building on the work of the Super Committee and Simpson-Bowles. They obviously didn't go anywhere, but they did a lot of work on what the potential scenarios are if for example Republicans do well, they know that -- even Democrats know that they're probably going to have to give in on tax cuts and agree to more spending cuts and vice versa for Republicans. If Democrats do well in the elections, they're going to have to give in and listen to what Senator Chuck Schumer of course is a lead Democrat here said about that particular dynamic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: If Democrats, if the president wins and we keep the Senate, those mainstream conservatives are going to be strengthened and they are going to want to reach out and work with us because the embrace of the Tea Party that Mitt Romney has done that is in my view dragging down all of their candidates will have failed and it will strengthen those in the Republican Party who would like to work with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That obviously is Chuck Schumer's wishful thinking about the election, but there's also an important point to be made about the timing here. We are talking about a very small window when Congress comes back for the lame duck session, about a week after the election, the middle of November, they have between then and the end of the year to deal with these big issues. Very smart people up here look at the political tealeaves and say you know what, if one party does remarkably well, like if Mitt Romney wins the White House, if Republicans take over the Senate, there's actually going to probably be less impetus to do anything during that lame duck session because they know that they're going to have more power once January comes along and probably the most likely scenario for getting real stuff done during that small window of time is if the status quo is in effect. That the balance of power really doesn't shift much.

BURNETT: Yes.

AVLON: Yes. Look, I mean big picture something like tax reform is not going to get done in seven weeks of a lame duck session, but they can take constructive action.

BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: And here's the point that I think is underneath all this reporting Dana has been doing. If the polarizers create these problems, they perpetuate these problems. They made the Super Committee fail -- BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: -- but it's the centrist senators who really seem to be working to solve problems and that's a hopeful sign when they're getting serious.

BURNETT: Sounds like what both of you are saying though is that whoever loses, you know doesn't do as well as they hope in November, is going to wish they did a deal a long time ago. Going to lose leverage. If you're a Republican, right, if Chuck Schumer is right --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: -- you're going to get more tax increases than you wanted.

AVLON: Absolutely.

BASH: As somebody said to me today, Erin, this is maybe stating the obvious, but is important to state, elections matter and that is going to be very clear in this lame duck session dealing with this very important economic issue.

BURNETT: All right, thanks so much to both of you. I'm glad we can still smile when talking about this incredibly gruesome thing.

All right ahead Republican -- a Republican blames Mitt Romney for his dip in the polls. Yes, he really did do that, but is it really Mitt's fault? And we take you OUTFRONT to the coast of Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I'm Chris Lawrence on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise in the Arabian Sea and tonight we're going to take you OUTFRONT to see what's being done to counter Iran's threats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, America's rising tension with Iran. It's one of the biggest issues of this election and this week, the U.S. military has been executing war games near the critical Strait of Hormuz. This is a major show of force intended to show Iran what the United States will do if Iran follows through on its threat to blow up the Strait if anyone attacks its nuclear facilities. OUTFRONT tonight, Chris Lawrence, who is in the region onboard the largest aircraft carrier ever built, the USS Enterprise.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The USS Enterprise has sailed through the Strait of Hormuz eight times during this deployment --

(SOUNDS) LAWRENCE: -- and the rising tension between the U.S. and Iran means even the smallest incident can spiral out of control.

VICE ADM. TED CARTER, U.S. NAVY: So, any action can instantly trigger a disproportionate reaction.

LAWRENCE: Iran has threatened to lay mines in the Strait of Hormuz. A single sea lane where 20 percent of the world's oil passes.

(on camera): Navy commanders say they take a lot of precaution to make sure that a misunderstanding with Iran doesn't boil over.

(voice-over): So the Enterprise avoids getting too close to Iranian ships.

CAPT. WILLIAM HAMILTON, U.S. NAVY: If we're going to get too close enough to be of concern, we communicate with them before that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

LAWRENCE: When the ship sails near certain ports in the Persian Gulf, Enterprise installs small cameras on all of its guns, so if there's a confrontation with a foreign ship, they don't want to be accused of firing without cause.

CARTER: We want to have video evidence of it, as much we can, so that when we say this is what happens, the video shows that we mean what we say.

LAWRENCE: Nearly three dozen nations have converged on the Gulf for a mine sweeping exercise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not here to escalate anything.

LAWRENCE: But with Iran's threats to mine the shipping lanes, the show of strength is obvious.

(on camera): The exercise will involve not only ships, but helicopters as well. Explosive ordinance disposal divers will be in the water and they'll even be coordinating with robotic under water drones.

(SOUNDS)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): President Obama and Governor Romney have both talked tough on the issue, raising the stakes for U.S. and Iranian ships.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our experience after going through the Strait of Hormuz many times is the Iranians certainly want to make sure that they let us know that they know where we are and vice versa.

LAWRENCE (on camera): The U.S. military has been promoting the fact that this exercise involves more than 30 nations including the U.K. and Japan, but we've discovered that only about six countries are actually sending ships. It suggests that in a real confrontation with Iran, it would be the American troops who would bear the brunt of the fight -- Erin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right and thanks to our Chris Lawrence there, pretty amazing being able to see that largest aircraft carrier in the world.

Well next, a Republican Senate candidate has lost his lead and he says it is Mitt Romney's fault. Does it add up? And it's an ad that New York City tried to block. Critics call it hateful towards Muslims. The person behind that ad is OUTFRONT next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about where we focus on our own reporting from the front lines and first, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant unexpectedly shut down earlier today. Both the spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the plant's owner, Exelon, say there's no danger to the public and according to the NRC, one of the reactor's coolant pumps appeared to stop working. Even though three other pumps were working, the system shuts down when an anomaly is detected. Exelon says nearby residents heard a loud noise during the shutdown caused by steam being released into the atmosphere.

Well the leader of an Amish splinter group and 15 of his followers have been convicted for federal hate crimes in Ohio. Samuel Mullet, Sr. and his entourage were found guilty of conspiracy tied to a series of attacks on fellow Amish people. They forcibly cut men's beards and women's hair, which prosecutors say was meant to humiliate their religious identity.

We spoke to Joseph Dubyak, an attorney for one of the defendants, and he said not all of the evidence was considered. He wants to -- has plans on filing an appeal to challenge the hate crimes law.

And a French foreign ministry said it is determined to secure the release of four hostages being held by an al Qaeda offshoot group in northern Mali. The group known as al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb has been quoted by Sahara media, the same French intervention in Mali could lead to the death of the hostages. The French defense minister said France would provide logistical support for possible intervention in northern Mali.

Earlier this week, we spoke to Rudy Atallah, former Africa counterterrorism director for the Defense Department and he said that groups, like the AQIM, are getting stronger, have a large presence even outside of North Africa and the Sahel, noting that up to 10 percent of the French population was of Northern African descent.

It has been 413 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage today hit another low, match that of July. At 3.49 percent. And now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: It's Romney's fault. So says Republican Senate candidate Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin. Thompson is down in the polls by a lot. In just one month, his Democratic challenger Tammy Baldwin turned a nine-point deficit into a nine-point lead. Wow, that is an 18-point spread.

And according to Thompson, Romney could be to blame.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMMY THOMPSON (R), FORMER WISCONSIN GOVERNOR: The presidential thing is bound to have an impact on every election, you know, whether you're a Democrat or Republican. If you're a standard bearer for the presidency is not doing well, it's going to reflect on the down ballot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, is Thompson right to be concerned?

Former New Hampshire governor and Romney campaign surrogate, John Sununu, is OUTFRONT.

Good to see you, sir. We appreciate it.

So, does Governor Romney deserve some of the blame? Or is it strictly Thompson's fault and he's trying to find someone to blame it on?

JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW HAMPSHIRE: My good friend sounds like Barack Obama, trying to blame it on somebody else.

Look, campaigns go up, campaigns go down. I'm sure Tommy will be fine in the long run. I think Mitt Romney's doing just fine. He's gotten rid of Obama's post-convention bounce, he's dead even with him in the two major tracking polls that are out there. And he's pounding the president for failing to deal with the unemployment problem, 20 million Americans still unemployed. Unemployment over 8 percent.

And now, the president's having to defend his silly redistribution position, and I think America is beginning to understands it's time for a change.

BURNETT: I would love to talk redistribution with you because top and bottom tax rates between the two of them are pretty close. I mean, the president and Mitt Romney.

But I want to ask you about this Tommy Thompson thing a little bit more, first. Democrats gained eight Senate seats in 2008, riding on President Obama's coattails. House and Senate are so close, as we all, so close this time around that seems every seat counts.

So, let me show you the presidential poll numbers for the state of Wisconsin. This is the part --

SUNUNU: I can't see them. BURNETT: I'm going to show them to everyone else and I'm going to read them to you.

All right. Obama leading by 54 percent in Wisconsin, Mitt Romney at 40 percent. So, when you lock at those numbers, don't you think there could be some down ballot effect? Meaning affecting Tommy Thompson race?

SUNUNU: Look, every state is different. I can tell you that in New Hampshire, the governor's race is being boosted by a strong Romney race, which is now ahead of Obama. So every state's got to look at and deal with their issues, separately. I'm not going to get into individual senate races around the country.

I'm here to talk about what's wrong with America with the president that's failed his people and with a president who is now scrambling to try and define some kind of a policy that makes some sense with the horrible economic situation that we have.

BURNETT: OK. I know you keep trying to make this a go on the economy. I understand the frustration on the Republican side that you want to talk about that.

SUNUNU: You don't think it is? Erin, how can you tell me it's not the economy?

BURNETT: I'm not saying it's not.

SUNUNU: It's the most important issue in America.

BURNETT: I'm not disagreeing with you on that, I'm saying that hasn't been the issue that has gotten all of the discussion. So, on this, the 47 percent remark, let's go there, right?

GOP criticism about this remark -- when he said there are 47 percent of Americans, right, who are going to be with Obama, who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims. That's a quote from Mitt Romney.

Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Dean Heller of Nevada, Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico, former Senate candidate Linda McMahon of Connecticut, former senator and current senate candidate, George Allen of Virginia -- all of them have come out and said this isn't my life, I don't agree with Mitt Romney. That's pretty hard to take, isn't it?

SUNUNU: What we have is a campaign based on class warfare, started by President Obama, who has been attacking the rich and wanting to tax the rich so he can redistribute. It's the same President Obama who makes class warfare again a part of his campaign when he tells the job creators they can't build it.

BURNETT: But these people are running for office and distances themselves from Governor Romney. They're not talking about what Barack Obama's saying. SUNUNU: Well, they ought to be talking about what's going on in America and the situation that this country has. And with all due respect to those folks, they can do what they want. I can't tell them what to do.

But I can tell you that what most Americans care about is the fact that this president is running a campaign that fails to address the jobs issue. This president's running a class warfare campaign. This president is reiterating what he started to say in 2008 when he told Joe the plumber he wants to redistribute the wealth in America. And this is the president that has grown government from 18 percent or 19 percent to over 25 percent.

BURNETT: So --

SUNUNU: And when you add Obamacare to it, he's grown government to 42 percent. So we have government now --

BURNETT: But yet -- but yet, Governor --

SUNUNU: Yes?

BURNETT: But yet, Governor, here we are, the Gallup poll taken of the 47 percent with Mitt Romney, more or less likely to vote for Mitt Romney. Here, you're trying to talk about the economy. This is what people are being asked about.

SUNUNU: Yes.

BURNETT: Twenty percent said that comment from Romney would make them more likely to vote for him. Thirty-six percent said less likely.

SUNUNU: And 60 -- and under, if you look at the Rasmussen poll, 64 percent of America think too many people are getting compensation from the federal government. So Mitt Romney was right on target when he says too many people have reached a point of dependency.

And what we need is to create jobs so they are no longer have -- so we no longer have that many people on dependency.

BURNETT: All right.

SUNUNU: The real issue, no matter how you look at it, is we need jobs in America, we need incentives for investment, and we have a president who has no idea how to create those jobs.

BURNETT: Governor, thank you very much. Always good to --

SUNUNU: Good to be here.

BURNETT: -- have a little spar-fest with you.

All right. Our fifth story OUTFRONT now is a controversial ad that many say is hateful to Muslims. It will be showing up at New York City subway stations next week. And here's what it reads, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad."

New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority tried to reject this ad, but a federal judge ruled it free speech and forced them to put it up.

OUTFRONT tonight, the woman behind the ad, Pamela Geller. I asked her why she's doing it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA GELLER, AMERICAN FREEDOM DEFENSE INITIATIVE: Well, there had been a series of anti-Israel ads that have been running for years in the New York City subway system and the New York City metro transit, and across the country as well. I submitted my ads when anti-Semitic ads were running in the subway last year, September, and my ads were rejected.

And, you know, First Amendment protects all speech. Not just ideas that we like, ideas that we don't like. Because then who would decide what's good and what's forbidden? The government? Violent rioters?

So, we sued. My organization sued. My law firm, American Freedom Law Center. We triumphed.

And it was a triumph of the First Amendment because it wasn't just the fact that my ads had to go up, it was that the judge ruled their regulations and standards were unconstitutional. So Monday was the day, next Monday is the day they're scheduled to go up. I'm running them because I can.

BURNETT: All right. So, you can. But does that mean that you should?

GELLER: Well, why should we allow only one narrative out there? I think we need to talk about this. The fact that there's been such a visceral reaction to these ads, particularly in the media, to me, speaks to a much larger problem. The problem is this increasing Sharia. The blasphemy laws under the Sharia say you cannot offend Islam, you cannot criticize Islam.

BURNETT: But when you say one narrative, I see your ad and I see the same narrative that an anti-Israelite would have. It's a narrative of hate.

GELLER: Really?

I have to tell you, I think any war against innocent civilians is savagery. I think the tens of thousands of rockets coming in to Israel from Gaza targeting homes and schools is savagery. I think the murder of the Fogel family was savagery. I think the blowing up of a bus in Bulgaria, Jewish women and children on holiday is savagery. I think David Pearl's beheading is savagery. I think that there is --

BURNETT: Why call the whole religion savages?

GELLER: How am I doing that? There's no Islam in the ad. No Muslim in the ad.

BURNETT: OK. But the word jihad actually means struggle and technically to improve yourself, to make yourself a better person. It doesn't mean just going out and suicide bombing people. But that is what the word means. It means struggle.

GELLER: Actually in the Koran, nothing speaks to a spiritual struggle. It's all holy war.

And the jihadists that are committing jihad are citing Koran chapter and verse as a holy war.

BURNETT: And they may be and I don't think there's anybody in that religion, right, people who would say, OK, I'm all right with that. The vast majority of Muslims would say that our religion is a religion of peace and tolerance and love just like Jews would say, or Christians would say.

GELLER: But Christians are not beheading people and slaughtering people in the name of Christ, and Jews are not doing it in the name of HaShem.

There is a faction, there is a very significant fashion of devout Muslims, jihadists, that believe in this.

Now, clearly, all Muslims do not sanction jihad and do not sanction what's going on in these violent protests. But I will not abridge my speech, I will not sacrifice my speech as to not to offend savages.

And we do need to talk about this, Erin. There have been --

BURNETT: Let's talk about the word savage, all right? The word savage, dictionary word, uncivilized and barbarous. Obviously, over history, this has been a word that is being used in very, very racially negative terms about African-Americans. It's the word that is, I think fair to say, people implied -- feel is very negative and derogatory.

So why did you choose to call them savages?

GELLER: Because any war on innocent civilians is savagery, and you're accusing me of thought crimes. You're implying, you're twisting the message as a misinterpretation here. Any war on innocent civilians is savagery. It is a word. It is a dictionary-defined word. I frankly cannot cotton to this twisting of the word that it means something else and not what I said. And I stand behind it.

There have been over -- BURNETT: What you've said, though, was you're doing this because you have free speech. Just because I can come out and say all kinds of things about somebody because I can say it doesn't mean that I say it. That's what I'm saying.

GELLER: But I don't think my message is controversial. There have been close to 20,000 Islamic attacks since 9/11, each one with the imprimatur of a Muslim clerk. We need to be able to discuss these things.

This doesn't mean that all Muslims subscribe to this. But there is a problem and part of the problem is you can't talk about it.

Look what's happening. If it's not my ad, it's a Danish cartoon. If it's a Danish carton, it's a Swedish cartoon. And now, it's a French cartoon. And if it's not a French cartoon, it's a YouTube clip.

And if it's not a YouTube clip --

BURNETT: What did you think of the movie (INAUDIBLE)? Did you see it?

GELLER: No.

BURNETT: You didn't see it?

GELLER: No. Why would I see it?

BURNETT: I don't know. I mean, you're someone who in the past has obviously taken on the issue. Obviously, you are -- did not support the mosque near Ground Zero.

GELLER: No, because it's --

BURNETT: Along with actually Steve Klein, a man who was a consultant on "The Innocence of Muslims", along with Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

GELLER: I don't know Steve Klein. I don't care. It doesn't matter. This is freedom of expression. This is freedom of speech. It protects all speech.

You don't like it, that's fine. You don't have to like it. But to try to abridge my speech is imposing the Sharia. You're imposing the blasphemy laws on a free society.

BURNETT: Or whether I like it or anyone likes it isn't necessarily the point. The point is if your goal so to try to create tolerance and deal with some of the hate and horrible acts that have happened, is your ad the way to do it?

GELLER: Yes, we have to increase awareness on imposing the blasphemy laws in the West. And my way -- there's no tolerance on my side. I don't want to kill anybody. I mean, there are things I see that get very angry, but I'm not going to go out and burn embassies and kill people. I'm not going to do it.

BURNETT: What if someone was hurt because of your ad?

GELLER: I'm not responsible for other people's actions. It doesn't make any sense. It's like a man going into his bedroom and finding his wife with a man and he kills him. He was very angry. He was very offended. Oh, he was? OK, then he could kill him.

I'm not responsible for anyone's actions. And worse, I think your position is emboldening Islamic terrorism and emboldening extremism because you're sanctioning it. You're sanctioning it. You're sanctioning a motive.

BURNETT: I don't believe that I'm sanctioning it at all.

GELLER: You are because I'm the problem. You're blaming victim. I'm not a problem.

BURNETT: How are you the victim?

GELLER: Because I just -- you're killing the messenger?

BURNETT: Messenger of what?

GELLER: The messenger that we need to increase awareness of these attacks that have been inspired by jihad.

BURNETT: I think the world is acutely aware of those attacks.

GELLER: I don't think so. The media refuses to talk about it and when I do talk about it, we're marginalize --

BURNETT: You must not be a CNN watcher, been wall to wall for the past week.

GELLER: The perception in the media in terms of jihad clearly is one that's couched in silencing the voices of freedom. You know, look at this ad. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of anti-Israel ads across America. Nobody said boo.

How come you didn't have the people on? Not one, but two in New York --

BURNETT: Actually, I am not familiar with those ads, but I want to ask something important --

GELLER: You're not familiar with those ads, which tells you that there is a systemic institutionalized: (a), anti-Israel bias in the media, and (b) --

BURNETT: Well, I have to say, I love visiting Israel and I love visiting across the Middle East. I mean, I would certainly not --

GELLER: I'm not accusing you of anti-Semitism. I'm pointing something at you -- nobody talked about the ads. It wasn't just you, Erin. Nobody talks about the anti-Israel ads that were up on New York City Metro and they were up in New York City subways. One in New York City subway was urging the end of U.S. aid to Israel, implying that U.S. aid to Israel was an impediment to peace, when in fact, U.S. aid to Israel to an impediment to the annihilation of Israel.

But nobody said anything about those. They were --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Well, that is an important political conversation on aid to Israel and what it is and what it accomplishes, and a topic for a separate thing, but I want to ask you something about, we called both the Anti-Defamation League, obviously, the highest profile organization that tries to fight for -- against anti-Semitism.

GELLER: No, they don't.

BURNETT: And also the Council of American Islamic Relations. They are known for that. That they track hate crimes against Jews. That is something that they do.

Here's what they said. We believe -- referring to your ads, Pamela. "We believe the ads are highly offensive and inflammatory. Pro-Israel does not mean anti-Muslim. It's possible to support Israel without engaging in bigoted anti-Muslim and anti-Arab stereotypes. The basic premise of the ad is illegitimate and continuing to run it is irresponsible."

These are people who make it their cause in life to fight against anti-Semitism.

GELLER: No, the ADL actually makes it their cause to fight fellow Jews. I mean, the ADL was denouncing Joan Rivers last week. Really no one in the Jewish community that loves Israel takes them seriously.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. Next, Apple-mania is about to take over with the iPhone 5 launch. But some say Apple will not pay enough taxes on it. All this talk about tax. We're going to talk about Apple.

And turning waste into a bold idea. Meet the woman who's using unwanted car parts to keep people warm this winter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: America's top tech companies have saved billions of dollars by exploiting U.S. tax loopholes, which is according to the Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations. According to the panel's report dozens of companies used loopholes to shift profits offshore to avoid paying taxes.

Two of the biggest companies cited, Hewlett-Packard who used loans, some going over more than two years, that shifted billions of dollars between two offshore subsidiaries. And Microsoft, which transferred nearly half of its American revenues toward a Puerto Rican subsidiary between 2009 and 2011.

Over the past two years, the 71 technology companies in the S&P 500 which include Apple, Google, Yahoo! and Dell reported paying worldwide cash rates of taxes at a rate that on average was a third less than other S&P companies. Ooh, those tech companies.

Which brings us to tonight's number: 70. That is the percentage of Apple's profits which are held overseas. That's right, even though apple stands to make a record profit on that new iPhone 5 which is on sale right now in Japan, not much of it is going to be taxable by Uncle Sam. In the past decade, Apple has opened subsidiaries in low tax countries like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, that is the traditional tax haven, and the British Virgin Islands. That combined with some creative but legal accounting saved Apple more than $2 billion in American taxes last year alone.

Tonight, a chance encounter between a General Motors employee and a young college student has led to an innovative idea which is putting one of motor city's oldest car companies back on the map.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

BURNETT: All right. Obviously that was a mistake. We're sorry we made it. We're going to get it back. We're going to take a break. We have the story.

This is a pretty amazing story. We'll be back and we'll also honor our heroes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: And here's our "I.D.E.A."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERONIKA SCOTT, FOUNDER, THE EMPOWERMENT PLAN: It's like what can I build that would be a solution to a problem.

BURNETT (voice-over): That was the motivation behind 23-year-old Veronika Scott's big idea -- a waterproof self-heating coat that could also serve as a sleeping bag for the homeless.

SCOTT: The coat came out of well, maybe it's something I can make that will offer a little bit of pride, that won't look like the standard I'm wearing somebody else's clothes, I'm wearing rags, I'm wearing things that don't fit me. Hopefully all for a little bit more and also at the same time, be able to ease the pain of not being able to get into a shelter at night.

BURNETT: Scott initially designed the coats to fulfill a classroom requirement while she was still a junior at Detroit's College for Creative Studies. Her first attempt was a heavy 20 pound coat that took 80 hours to make and according to Scott, an epic failure.

SCOTT: I was like the kid with the noodle picture that came up to them like, mom, don't you love what I made? And they're looking at me like oh, you did such a good job, but it looks like a body bag -- was their general sentiment after. I'm like, OK, well, back to the drawing board.

BURNETT: Scott kept at it and soon she found a supporter in an unlikely place, General Motors.

John Bradburn manages G.M.'s waste reduction. He heard about Scott's idea and realized that a special sound absorbent insulating material called Sonozorb used in door cavities and other parts of G.M.'s Chevrolet Malibu and Buick Verano, would be perfect for her coats.

JOHN BRADBURN, GM'S MANAGER OF WASTE REDUCTION: I said what do you think of this material. I don't even think I introduced myself. But she looked at it, said this is neat, this is good.

BURNETT: Now G.M.'s leftover auto scraps are helping Scott keep hundreds of homeless men and women warm this winter. Not only that, Scott has hired eight homeless women to make the coats, a move many questioned.

SCOTT: Most told me when I started this, especially when I heard like, you know, Alicia, and I was going to hire more, they're like, you're never going to get any homeless individuals do more than just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

BURNETT: Scott says her critics couldn't have been more wrong. The women now make 150 coats a month and distribute them to homeless shelters and support organizations across the country.

SCOTT: If you look at it just as like what I can do with my life by doing this, you know, for the next five years, I'll be like 28, 29, and this could be like 100 women strong and who knows what I could do from here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Pretty inspiring story, which brings me to CNN Heroes. Today, we revealed our top 10 heroes of 2012 and we need your help to decide who wins Hero of the Year.

Here's Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now that we have announced the top 10 CNN heroes of 2012, I want to show you how you can vote for the CNN Hero of the Year. It's very easy. This is the main page of CNNheroes.com.

Now, down here, you'll see all top 10 CNN heroes. Each one will receive $50,000 plus a shot at becoming CNN Hero of the Year. And that's where you come in.

Here's how you can vote for your favorite CNN Hero. As an example, I'm going to randomly click on Razia Jan over here. You can read a story about her work, providing free education to girls in rural Afghanistan. Now, the same kind of information will come up if you pick any of the top 10 CNN heroes.

Now, once you are ready to pick the person who inspires you the most, click vote in red right over here. A new page then comes up that shows you all top 10 CNN heroes. You choose the person you want to vote for.

I'm going to say here, this is an example, Leo McCarthy. His photo will show up down here under your selection. Then just enter your e-mail over here in step two, enter the security code and click on the red box right down here that says "vote". You can vote up to 10 times every day with your e-mail address and through Facebook, and rally your friends by sharing your choice on Facebook over here or on Twitter.

Remember, you can vote from your computer, your phone, your tablet, pretty much any mobile device with a browser. Just go to CNNHeroes.com.

We'll reveal your 2012 Hero of the Year during CNN Hero: An All Star Tribute," which is a CNN tradition that promises to inspire.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: "360" starts right now.