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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

The Mali Terror Connection; NRA Ad "Ill Advised"; The Most Powerful Mom In Tech

Aired January 25, 2013 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, U.S. officials say today they're zeroing in on the main suspects behind the hostage crisis in Algeria, but we told you about them last week.

Plus if the NRA has such unlimited influence, why is one of its most senior lobbyists criticizing it?

Later in the show, the CEO of Yahoo!, she is an instant rock star. She is so big that she has crashed servers around the planet today. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT" tonight, the Mali terror connection. U.S. officials now telling CNN they are zeroing in on the al Qaeda operatives' based out of Northern Mali as the prime suspects behind last week's terror attack and hostage crisis at a gas plant in Algeria.

Three Americans were killed in that attack, seven more survived. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. She broke this news today. Barbara, U.S. officials now say this is the case. Why aren't they entirely sure who is behind an attack, which frankly was this big, this ambitious, this significant?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Erin. The big problem right now, of course, is Algerian intelligence still not sharing full information with the U.S., so the U.S. doesn't have the full picture.

The CIA turning to other ways to try and find out what has happened here, planes, drones, telephone intercepts, agents on the ground, all of that at their disposal should they be choosing to use it.

All of this now leading to the preliminary assessment, preliminary, based on what they have been able to gather themselves, that they believe al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, al Qaeda in North Africa, you've reported on it and a militant in the area, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, another guy your show has taken a look at.

The two of them joined forces to carry out this attack. If this is proven to be true, a very dangerous emerging connection in North Africa -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Barbara Starr, thank you very much. So Barbara now reporting this connection that the U.S. government sees. As Barbara said, we did talk about this last week hours after the siege began.

I spoke on the phone with Omar Hamaha, a military leader in the Islamist group Ansar Dine, which has taken over and terrorized parts of Northern Mali. He told me then that Americans were being held hostage and that the attackers demanded the end to French and American involvement in Mali in exchange for their release.

He knew these things because, he told me, he's working with one of al Qaeda's most senior leaders in Africa, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who is the person claiming responsibility for the January 16th attack.

Omar Hamaha also made claims about how widespread the terror network is in North Africa when I asked him how many fighters he had.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OMAR HAMAHA, MILITARY LEADER, ANSAR DINE (through translator): Listen. The number of fighters is not important for us be it 10,000 or only 10 people. We're going to hit in the heart all the countries of West Africa.

It's no longer only in Northern Mali. Yes, it's not only in Bamoko. It will be the entire Western Africa. It's not only in Western Africa, but the big battle against France and the United States and all the other countries that want to intervene.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Retired General Wesley Clark is the former NATO commander and Retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton is a former intelligence officer. Great to see both of you. General Clark, let me start with you. Barbara Starr just reported the Algerian government has not been cooperating. The CIA has tried to piece this together themselves. Obviously, this makes it very complicated and much more difficult.

But only now, more than a week later, the U.S. government is connecting the dots, which at least from, you know, when we talked to Omar on the day of the attack seemed to be perhaps visible very early on. What is causing the delay?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO COMMANDER: Well, I would suspect the Algerian government is quite embarrassed by the poor results. They've been criticized roundly by other western countries for not running a very effective operation, had a lot of people killed in the operation. It's not the way it's done.

Now they pushed it up, they accelerated it, they simply don't have the sophisticated special ops capabilities for hostage rescue capabilities that western countries have. But eventually, I'm convinced, they will share information.

We're going to find out a lot more about the Mali connection, the Libyan connection, and a whole network moving throughout North Africa as we focus more and more sensors on this area. BURNETT: Colonel Layton, you know, when I spoke to Omar, you just heard -- you heard what he had to say about the fact that their ambition is not just for Mali, it's to control all the countries in West Africa.

And they also want to take the battle outside of that, to France and the United States. Now, of course, that is what we have become familiar to hearing from al Qaeda-linked groups.

But you know, he also said, look, this is going to be a long war, he equated when it we spoke to Iraq and Afghanistan, saying it would be as dangerous if not more so than those worse. Do you dismiss all of this as bravado or should it be taken seriously?

COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE (RETIRED): Well, I'm afraid, Erin, it's going to have to be taken seriously because just like he said, even with only ten people, they can wreak a lot of havoc and that becomes the huge intelligence challenge that we have.

We need to make sure that as a nation we have the right intelligence capabilities in place to make sure that we find these kinds of terrorist groups before they attack us, whether it's in our home country or in the home countries of our allies.

BURNETT: General Clark, I'm curious what the United States is going to do about it. So far, at least militarily, the answer has been, not much. No one's been held -- put in jail for what happened in Benghazi.

Now, of course, we're trying to figure out what happened in Algeria. Never mind what sort of revenge would be exacted upon those who perpetrated it. Here's what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told me last month in Afghanistan about what he would do against al Qaeda in Mali.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We've got to go after al Qaeda wherever the hell they're at and make sure they find no place to hide because let's not forget the main goal of al Qaeda is to attack the United States. We've got to go after them in Yemen, in Somalia, and yes, in Mali if necessarily.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: He says, go after wherever the hell they're at, whether that be Yemen, Somalia, or Mali. Jay Carney though from the White House, really much more tentative. Here's what he said just this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are working with France and support their effort in Mali, and believe that the goal of preventing terrorists' safe haven is an important one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I mean, General Clark, going after al Qaeda wherever the hell they're at is very different than we are working with France.

CLARK: Well, not necessarily, Erin. First of all, we have the Africa command there. They're working very closely with French counterparts and British counterparts who are part of this. Obviously, the intelligence community is working together with its allied nations.

Perhaps not as closely yet with Algeria as we'd like, but I believe that will come. We'll put a noose around them. We'll bring in the right assets. What we don't want to do is excite a lot of war fever on this that culminates in sort of, put the Marines in, get in there with a lot of ground troops.

This is a huge area. This is an area that's ideal for the kind of sensors the United States has if we can tie it together with some ground assets, put in by the Malians, by the French, by the Nigerians, and other people who are in the region.

And what we have to do is we have to net the intelligence together and then use precision strike, probably with unmanned air vehicles, it may be with special ops.

BURNETT: Right. Let me ask you, Colonel Leighton about that. You know, the hope from the Obama administration, of course, is that France can achieve the goal of at the least containing, which is the words that they've used, al Qaeda and the radicals.

Obviously, at one point, Francois Hollande went further than that and said, completely getting rid of them. But even if France claims clear victory, I have to be honest that all the sources I've spoken to, U.S. government and elsewhere, are not confident in France's ability to fully do this. Will the United States be able to avoid more significant involvement or not?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think we have to plan as if we won't be able to avoid this kind of significant involvement, Erin. Basically what that means is just as General Clark mentioned, we are going to have to make sure that we have the right kind of sensors in place.

That we have the right kind of logistics in place and also do the planning that puts the right kinds of troops in place should we need to go in and do something preferably with a surgical variety.

But this is going to be a major issue for us because the French will be able to achieve certain tactical successes. But from the broad strategic standpoint, it's going to be more difficult for them to root out this al Qaeda element.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it.

Still to come, a major lobbyist for the NRA admits the NRA was wrong. And some of the most powerful people in the world flock to a speech by the CEO of Yahoo! and then something truly bizarre happened. We'll tell you about.

Plus a Catholic hospital sued for two children's deaths. Some are calling the defense utter hypocrisy.

And later in the show what made a hedge fund manager say this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm telling you, he's like the cry baby in the schoolyard. You know, I went to a tough school in Queens. They used to beat up the little Jewish boys. He was like one of these little Jewish boys crying that the world was taking advantage of him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, ill advised. Well, that's what Jim Baker, a senior lobbyist with the NRA, calls this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the president's kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The NRA ad you may recall prompted an outraged response from the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney called it repugnant and cowardly. Baker went on to say to Reuters and I'll quote him, "I think the ad could have made a good point if it talked about the need for increased school security without making the point using the president's children."

In a statement, the NRA tells OUTFRONT, differences of opinion are common to organizations throughout the country where there is no disagreement, however, is with NRA's belief that every child in America should be safe.

That sort of sounds like a smackdown of their lobbyist, I don't know. What do you think? Was Baker speaking out of turn or not? OUTFRONT tonight, John Avlon and Republican strategist, Hogan Gidley.

Hogan, obviously there's a disagreement in the NRA. I don't know if you view it as a smackdown, it appeared to be to me. What do you make of this public divide within the NRA?

HOGAN GIDLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, BRABENDER COX: It's very, very interesting. Of course, the NRA has been thrust into the news because of the tragedy at Newtown. They have a chance to actually grow their brand or hurt their brand and I think it remains to be seen exactly what the long-term effects of this are. But, look, I saw that ad using the president's children. I think the spirit and the intent, the message behind the ad, look, his children are protected by people with heavy artillery and guns, wouldn't you want your kids to be protected the same way? That makes sense.

The problem is, personally, my opinion is, I don't like using children in political ads of any kind. I think consistently speaking, I also don't like the president when he uses children to sign a bill, Obamacare uses children as props, he used them when he did the executive orders about gun control.

So those types of things on both sides to me I just have a problem with. Children are innocent people in this world and they don't need to be political pawns. This is about a much bigger issue and I think we need to leave the children out of it.

BURNETT: All right, John Avlon, even if you agree with Hogan, the only thing to me that then seems problematic about that ad with the NRA is, look, the president's children do have protection. They're the children of the president of the United States.

And I think it is fair to assume that in many ways those children are at higher risk than other children in this country. They are targets of kidnapping and other things. There's a reason they have that security.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I mean, that's why the ad doesn't pass the common sense test. There's a fundamental difference that everybody understands. If a Democratic activist group had mentioned President Bush's daughters in that context and questioned their getting security contributors thought of been outraged rightly.

BURNETT: All right, so we see both sides though of the gun debate coming out on that because you just talked about if the tables were turned. Let me turn them. All right, it's not children in this ad. Hogan, I don't know if you've seen it. We played it last night on this show.

GIDLEY: I have.

BURNETT: It's a pretty shocking ad. This is a liberal pro-Obama coalition to stop gun violence. It's an ad they ran against a Democratic congressman who supports guns. His name is John Barrow. He's from Georgia. Here's the ad attacking him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm John Barrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breaking news now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been a shooting at a school --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And long before I was born -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty children, children, children targeted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My grandfather used this little Smith and Wesson here --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And for as long as I can remember, my father always had this rifle real handy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone's shooting in the building.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And they are interspersing their coverage of Newtown with one of John Barrow's election ads. That ad was also repugnant.

AVLON: Absolutely. It absolutely is. I mean, look, extremes are always their own side's worst enemy. I don't think there's any comparison, the NRA to this organization, but I mean, just reality check here.

Barrow is one of the few remaining blue dog Democrats left in the south. He's an endangered species. So the fact that he's being targeted by a liberal group for running an ad trying to say he's strong second amendment doesn't make sense.

It reminds me an old line Lyndon Johnson used to use. He used to say what's the difference between liberals and the cannibals? Cannibals only eat their friends and family members. So I don't think this ad is particularly helpful.

BURNETT: It's very funny. Perhaps true because it hits close to the mark. All right, Hogan, what about this, why can't the head of the NRA just apologize and just, you know -- why is he standing by that ad? It makes him look bad.

GIDLEY: It does. Look, I said this, I've said this many times, if the NRA had come out and used this type of language and said something like, look, we are about responsible gun ownership in this country. We're for the second amendment, but we don't want anyone to have a gun who commits mass murder or do something stupid with it.

And we want to help protect our citizenry. This is what we do. We want responsible gun ownership. That doesn't mean you have to push for assault weapon bans, they wouldn't do that. They still stand up for the second amendment. But the point is couching it that way, you win more friends that way.

But I do want to make a point to the previous ad about Barrow. I talked to people in Georgia this afternoon, some high-ranking political officials, some consultants in the state. And they said, look, that ad is absolutely going to backfire and that will propel Barrow in that ad. And the most repugnant part of it to me, other than using children as I just mentioned was he held up that little gun and said, my grandfather used this gun -- then it cut to pictures and Obama talking about dead children.

But they didn't use the rest of the sentence which was, "to stop a lynching." He used the gun for something good. They perverted it on the back end of the quote, just really repugnant.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. I should say the extremes of both wings are their worst enemies. I think there's lots of cannibals on the far right too.

AVLON: There are.

BURNETT: Yes, there are. OK, the world's movers and shakers packing the room to hear Yahoo!'s new CEO speak and then the video feed goes down.

Plus some top Republicans refer to their own party as the party of stupid. So, will anything change?

Later in the show, why is it so cold here?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, idolizing a tech titan mom. Today the world's movers and shakers clamored to watch Yahoo!'s CEO Marissa Mayer at the World Economic Forum. It's in Davos, Switzerland. So many people wanting to hear from Myer, it was standing room only.

There were people waiting in line, snaking around outside the door. There was so much demand for event's live stream for people watching around the world that it crashed, you couldn't even see it.

Mayer was a Google executive when she was tapped to run Yahoo! last July. She was well respected, but certainly not as rock star like this. Then all of a sudden she rocketed, at 37, she was the youngest chief executive of a Fortune 500 company.

She was also six months pregnant. In September she gave birth to a baby boy. Two weeks later, she returned to her CEO job. Richard Quest is OUTFRONT. Richard, why the sudden and amazing and overwhelming interest in Marissa Mayer?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CORRESPONDETN: It doesn't matter which way you cut it, this woman is seen as a rock star, a superstar, in the CEO suites of the world. Young, has a young family, and has taken over a company some would see as obsolete or at least an albatross and is now having the job of turning it around.

When she came to Davos and gave that speech she was very much setting out the parameters of how Yahoo! is now going to move forward. As she admitted in the speech, it has no mobile hardware, it has no mobile software. It has no OS. But what she talked about was Yahoo!'s ability to partner with all these other people and that is the way she sees it going forward.

BURNETT: Yes, you know, it's amazing, Richard. I remember, you know, meeting her once at a magazine shoot. I always thought she was incredible because she's so successful at her job, at the time she was at Google. She was so successful there.

Yet she was also very comfortable saying, I'm a woman, and I enjoy things that is people think are female. Clothes, things like that. I'm not going to be some sort of a woman executive who has to act like a man and maybe that is part of the fascination.

QUEST: No, the fascination here, the fascination here is what she's taken on. I mean, all right, super woman, has a child, back in the office within a couple of weeks . But the real fascination is what she's taken on and her youth.

Can she take Yahoo!, turn it around, and make it into a success? Particularly after all the other people who have not had any success in that regard. That is why people are fascinated by her. That is why they were so interested to hear.

BURNETT: She is fascinating. Now Davos, she may have been one of the stars, but obviously you have movers and shakers from around the world. Derek Jeter is there. Celebrities are there. Prime ministers and presidents are there. Just how wealthy are the folks there with you tonight, Richard?

QUEST: Look, you know, when you come here, you know that there will be a moment and it happened to me yesterday and it happened to me today when you just become overwhelmed by the sheer number of I'd say important people, the presidents, the prime ministers whether it's the governor over here, whether it's the bank executive over here, the chief executive over here, the minister over there.

Time and again, you're literally going like this. And there comes this point, Erin, when you just feel like you've been mind- whipped, you don't know which way to turn. I'm not going to say which CEO, but there were a couple of them here that you saw several times and you really ended up going around the corner to avoid them because you had nothing else to say to them.

You've done all your small talk. You've asked all the questions. You didn't know what else you wanted to say. Davos works. Davos works. It is elite. It is sometimes pretentious. It is frequently obnoxious, and it is regularly irrelevant.

But it works because it brings everybody together at the beginning of the year to set an agenda and let everybody else know what each other is thinking.

BURNETT: All right, well, a man sues a Catholic hospital for the death of his children, and you may not believe what defense the catholic hospital is using.

Plus some Republicans are calling their own party stupid. Are we about to see a major, major overhaul?

And later in the show, talk about cannibals eating their own.

And then later in the show, thousands of crocodiles are on the loose tonight, thousands like more than 10,000.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start with stories we care about, where we focus with reporting from the front lines.

Well, today on the two-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power, the country's streets were filled not with peace but with violence. Protesters for and against President Mohamed Morsy clashed with each other and police, at least seven died. Morsy did not address the country formally but only condemned it on Twitter. He tweeted out several statements, calling on citizen to uphold the noble principles of the Egyptian revolution.

Well, Apple is no longer the world's biggest company. The title once again belongs to Exxon-Mobil. Apple shares plummeted on the heels of disappointing earnings resulted and plunged more than 12 percent. Apple's market cap first past ExxonMobil on August 9th, 2011. It's been sitting pretty as the world's most valuable company for about 18 months, seemingly untouchable. Tonight, though, it is $5 billion behind Exxon.

Ben Reitzes of Barclays tells us that when information about Apple's new products, though, starts to leak out this spring, the stock may once again go up and up.

Wall Street is notoriously cutthroat, often brutally and disgustingly so, which is why when two competitors have a beef with one another, usually, they talk in real nasty terms, but, you know, behind each other's back. Wall Street defines backstabbing or at least they're a little more subtle than what we saw from billionaire hedge fund titans Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn today. Got to give them credit. They battled on live television for half an hour about a stock that's been surrounded by controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

CARL ICAHN, ICAHN ENTEPRISES (via telephone): He's a quintessential example that on Wall Street, if you want a friend, get a dog.

BILL ACKMAN, HEDGE FUND MANAGER (via telephone): Why does he threaten to sue me? He's a bully.

ICAHN: Ackman is a liar.

ACKMAN: This is not an honest guy. This is not a guy who keeps his word. This is a guy who takes advantage of little people.

(END VIDEO CLIPS) BURNETT: So how did you really feel, guys? Have you ever felt like you'd want to just, you know, say that to somebody you hated at work?

Well, hey, they did it. The battle is not new to those two. They have been feuding for nearly a decade. Maybe that's why it was finally time to air it publicly.

Well, it has been so cold in New York, icy roads are making for hazardous driving around the country. Kentucky and Tennessee hard hit. New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania warming centers have opened up, crucial to those trying to recover from superstorm Sandy.

And our weather desk says this arctic blast is going to hang on in the Midwest and Northeast just through the weekend. But an ice storm could create havoc in Iowa, Illinois, and northern Missouri on Sunday.

BURNETT: It's been 540 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. So, what are we doing to get it back?

Well, the Pentagon is starting to make cutbacks. It was announced today they have begun laying off 46,000 contracts and temporary civilian employees to cut costs. That's what happens. You cut costs, but you can see how much pain that will cause.

Our fourth story OUTFRONT: the party of stupid.

All right. It's not my word but it is the word that at least one Republican used to describe his own party at the GOP's winter meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here's Louisiana governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Bobby Jindal speaking what he sees as the brutal truth last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We've got to stop being the stupid party. And I'm serious. It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. It's time for us to articulate our plans and our visions for America in real terms.

It's no secret we had a number of Republicans that damaged the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I'm here to say we've had enough of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Mark Preston is our political director. He's standing by at that meeting in Charlotte where Reince Priebus was reelected today to a second term as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

And, Mark, those are some pretty harsh words from Jindal about his own party, to his own party. I heard a little laughter, maybe nervous, though. How were his comments received? MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I got to tell you, in some ways that speech last night by Bobby Jindal was a call to arms for conservatism. At the same time, Erin, I think it might have been a campaign speech. But, overall the theme of it was well-received. I think Republicans are very frustrated about what happened in the November election. They were not very happy with Mitt Romney as a candidate at the very end.

And, of course, some of those ridiculous comments that we heard such as legitimate rape from some Senate candidates were very damaging to the party.

So, right now, Republicans here in charlotte spent the last couple of days talking about how to recalibrate their message and this is their big goal right now -- try to reach out to minority voters and young voters. The new chairman, Reince Priebus, Erin, says that he's going to put a plan together. We'll see if it works.

BURNETT: Interesting. It's going to take them a few months to do it and the new chairman is the old chairman. So, I guess you've not to wonder how much change there is at the top of this party. You know, Bobby Jindal obviously wants to be a standard-bearer and be part of the change. But, obviously, the previous standard-bearer Mitt Romney wasn't even there.

What -- what are they saying about Mitt Romney? Was he a topic of discussion at all?

PRESTON: You know, out of sight, out of mind. In fact, any discussion of Mitt Romney was just kind of in hushed tones here in the hallways because he's gone. He's the past. They're talking about the future.

Although Bobby Jindal last night did take, you know, a little bit of a jab at Mitt Romney, made fun of his political operation, kind of an insider joke during his speech. But he was also very critical of Mitt Romney when Mitt Romney had mentioned the whole 47 percent, the divided nation. Bobby Jindal said for the Republican Party to succeed, that they have to go for every vote.

Now, as we say this, Mitt Romney was in Washington, D.C. today. He was at a luncheon with some friends. We saw John McCain was at the luncheon. We know his vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan also attended the luncheon. You know, he's certainly kept a low profile since the election.

But I tell you, I spoke to a top aide, Erin, and the top aide told me that Mitt Romney might not be very public right now, but expect him to certainly come out in the future. They don't know exactly when.

Mitt Romney is going to be -- remain political. He will try to remain relevant in the Republican Party. But he also knows that he's no longer the titular head of the Republican Party. There's a new generation for that.

So, Mitt Romney, out of sight, out of mind right now, but I think we'll see him come back.

BURNETT: A new generation that's very diverse. And we'll see if they can possibly succeed at getting their voting electorate to become as diverse as some of their leadership seems to be. Thanks very much, Mark Preston.

An anti-abortion activists flocked to Washington today for the annual March for Life, calling for new laws to outlaw abortion. One of the most powerful anti-abortion voices is the Catholic Church, which firmly believes life begins at conception.

Now, one Catholic hospital in Colorado finds itself on the opposite side of this debate. It's an amazing story.

And Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT with this investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEREMY STODGHILL, FATHER: There wasn't one person that went into that E.R., there were three.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jeremy Stodghill's wife Lori, seven months pregnant with his twin boys. It was New Year's Day 2006. Lori was vomiting and couldn't breathe. Jeremy rushed her to St. Thomas More Hospital in Canyon City, Colorado.

STODGHILL: Lori looked and up her head went down on her chest.

LAH: In the lobby of the emergency room, she went into full cardiac arrest from a pulmonary embolism. Laurie Stodghill, just 31 years old, died and so her 28-week along unborn twins.

STODGHILL: I didn't even get to hold them. I have an autopsy picture. That's all I've got.

LAH (on camera): Stodghill sued the hospital and its owner, Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates nearly 80 hospitals in 14 states. He filed the wrongful death suit on behalf of his wife and his unborn twin sons.

In court, he was stunned to learn the hospital's defense.

How many people does the hospital say you lost that day?

STODGHILL: One. Since they weren't born, they weren't people. They weren't -- they did not qualify as a person.

LAH (voice-over): That's right. Catholic Health Initiatives has argued that under Colorado law, to be a person, one must at some point have been born alive. A glaring contradiction to Catholic Church teachings which says life begins at conception.

Catholic Health Initiatives would not speak to CNN on camera but said in a statement, "In this case, as Catholic organizations, we are in union with the moral teachings of the church." That doesn't appear to add up in this case. As a Catholic organization the hospital is supposed to follow the church's teachings laid out in the ethical and religious directives from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. No abortions. No contraceptives. No direct sterilization, like vasectomies.

And it clearly states, "Catholic health ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life from the moment of conception until death."

While the moral debate continues, so does Jeremy Stodghill's legal battle. After he lost in the lower courts, the defense lawyers for the doctors and the hospital owned by Catholic Health Initiatives went after him for $118,000 in legal fees, garnishing his wages.

He's now bankrupt and struggling to care for his daughter, 9- year-old Libby (ph), on his own.

STODGHILL: Tears, pain, the heartache. Still. Seven years later.

LAH: That pain is why he won't give up. He's now appealing to Colorado Supreme Court, asking them to decide if his sons were people under the state's laws.

(on camera): Will it make you feel better to get some sort of answer from the Catholic Church?

STODGHILL: I don't know. Perhaps it will be closure.

LAH: A permanent reminder next to his heart.

STODGHILL: That's the footprints of the boys.

LAH: A tattoo. Two sets of footprints and the words "our sons."

Children, in his eyes, fighting to get a state and church institution to see them that way as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Kyung, it's just a heartbreaking story, looking at Jeremy there.

What does he say the hospital could have done to save his twins' lives?

LAH: What he's saying is that the hospital could have tried. What Jeremy Stodghill is arguing is that his wife was already in the E.R. when she went into cardiac arrest. And that the hospital could have tried to do an emergency C-section. Medical experts will tell you that you have five minutes before the children suffer some sort of brain damage, before the fetuses before brain damage. And he wants that answer.

But he believes that the only way he'll get that answer is by going to court. And, Erin, he says he simply cannot seem to get there. Judges keep wanting to dismiss this case.

BURNETT: And I know the bishops of Colorado have now weighed in. What are they saying to you?

LAH: This is a very important development, because it does appear, Erin, that the bishops are beginning to rethink all of this. Look at the statement that they released late last night. In the statement, and these are the Colorado bishops, they're saying, "We will undertake a full review of this litigation and of the policies and practices of Catholic Health Initiatives to ensure fidelity and faithful witness to the teachings of the Catholic Church."

So it certainly looks like they are at least going to reconsider all of this legal action.

BURNETT: Kyung Lah, thank you very much. Powerful piece.

And still OUTFRONT, Republicans working to change the rules of the Electoral College. And would that change last fall have meant the president's name right now would be Mitt Romney?

And later in the show, 15,000 crocodiles escape. What are we doing to get them back?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We are back with tonight's "Outer Circle", where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And we go now to South Africa where the search is on for thousands of crocodiles near the Botswana border. Rising floodwaters were threatening about 15,000 crocs on a breeding farm. So, the owners opened the farm's gates to relieve pressure. Now, more than half the crocs or the loose.

You know what? Maybe that's good because they're not going to be turned into handbags.

Robyn Curnow is following the story from Johannesburg and I ask her what's being done to find the renegade crocs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: While it's fair to say that the people who are trying to round up these escaped crocodiles are doing it very carefully, we understand the recapturing the mostly taking place at nighttime because crocodiles eyes grow red when lights reflected into them. Now, in this largely farming rural area, residents are being warned not to try and capture the crocodiles by grabbing hold of their tails or trying to feed them. Instead, they're told to barricade them and keep them in the shade.

Now, the farm from which these 15,000 crocodiles escaped breeds them for their skins. For the crocodiles, this is no doubt a welcome amnesty because they would have ended up as a pair of shoes or a handbag -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And that is why I'm rooting for those crocodiles. I hope they understand, that farm is not your friend.

All right. Let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360".

Hi, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Erin.

Yes, we're keeping them honest tonight in the programs.

Billions of your tax dollars used and not much to show for it. This is really outrageous. It was money wasted under the pretense of transforming a rail system. We're keeping them honest.

They weren't such good pals. Hillary Clinton, President Obama cap off a run as secretary of state on a sit-down interview on "60 Minutes." Could this be a sign of big things for Hillary in 2016? We'll take a look at that.

And he was an inspiration to photojournalists around the world. Tim Heatherton died doing what he did best, bringing the world an intimate look of what happens in the midst of world. His last assignment, Misrata, Libya. He was just 40 years old. He was a friend to this program. I'll speak to his close friend and colleague Sebastian Younger who put together an amazing documentary celebrating the life of Tim Heatherton.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist," a lot more at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Anderson. We'll see you in just a few minutes.

And now, our fifth story OUTFRONT: changing the rules of the game.

Republicans in a number of states that President Obama won in November want to change the way electoral votes in their states are distributed. So, let me explain. Currently, all states except for Nebraska and Maine, award all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular votes. If you win 51 percent of the votes, you get 100 percent of the electoral votes.

But states like Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are looking to award electoral votes by congressional district. And that would give the GOP a huge advantage in some crucial swing states.

John King is OUTFRONT with all these changes could have affected this past election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If every state, if all 50 states, allocated Electoral College votes based on congressional district -- guess what? -- Mitt Romney would be the president right now. He would have won 273-262.

Now, in '08, Obama still would have beat John McCain but by a smaller margin.

I want to show you a little bit of about what they're talking about. If you look at the state of Ohio, again, the president carries it with 51 percent. But Mitt Romney carried 12 of the 16 congressional districts in the state of Ohio. So this state is considering passing a bill that says, not winner-take-all statewide, do it by congressional district.

And another state considering this, the state of Virginia. The governor now says he doesn't support this law. Not enough state Senate Republicans support this law. But in the state of Virginia, again, President Obama narrowly carries it.

But if you look at it here, it's seven of 11. Mitt Romney carried seven of the 11 congressional districts here. So he would have won the majority of the Electoral College votes.

If you pull out to the country, if you did it by congressional district, in all 50 states, Mitt Romney would be the president today.

What about this appears now to be dying but what makes it fascinating to me is if you did have a change like this, just look at it. If you did it that way what would change? Well, Democrats would be down campaigning in places like Alabama. Places like Georgia. Any of these voting rights states that have African-American congressional districts.

And guess what? We'd have a presidential campaign in which Republicans would be out campaigning in California. We haven't seen that since that Bush campaign really in 1988. And even in the states of Pennsylvania and especially New York.

So if you did this in all 50 states, it would make for a very, very different presidential election.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: It's pretty amazing.

I want to bring in Reihan Salam and Roland Martin to talk about this -- because, Reihan, I mean, I find this amazing. You know, what John is talking about, you'd have to have -- Republicans would get to be campaigning in the state of California. You'd have Democrats having to campaign in states they take for granted right now. New York and New Jersey, right?

That's pretty amazing. That seems to be good. There's so many people in this country who are disenfranchised, because your vote does not count in a state that always goes R, always goes deep. You're on the other side.

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, one of the big reasons Democrats are upset about this idea is that the congressional districts are drawn in such a way that really benefits Republicans. The thing is, that come the next census, that could flip around and Democrats could be drawing those boundaries in ways that benefits them.

So, I think that there's not an intrinsic problem with doing it this way.

BURNETT: Right.

SALAM: The problem is when you do it in kind of a half-baked kind of way, in which some states move in this direction but other states do not. That's when you get into trouble. That's when you actually start getting a backlash to the proposal.

BURNETT: Right.

Roland, so if these changes were to take place. I mean, you know, take Ohio, as John was just referring to, and Virginia where Republicans dominated, Mitt Romney winning Ohio and winning the presidential election.

Are Democrats prepared to dramatically alter their ground game? Reihan's point aside whoever draws the districts, it will change. But are they ready?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Driving over here, I talked to a senior Obama official, and they are extremely worried about this. They've already established a task force internally to look at these Electoral College proposals.

And so, look, they see what's going on. They say, sure, the thing is petering out. McDonnell comes out against it. But they understand it.

But, Erin, we've got to broaden this as well. Keep in mind, 2008, then-Senator Obama actually won one of those Electoral College votes in Nebraska, in that campaign.

But, also, this is a problem for Democrats. That is, in 1988, after Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. lost to Dukakis, Ron Brown, Harold Ickes and the late Ron Walters, led the effort to move Democrats from winner-take-all in a Democratic primary to proportional delegation. One of the reasons Senator Obama won the nomination was because of proportional delegation.

BURNETT: Right.

MARTIN: When he lost Nevada to Senator Clinton, he won more delegates because he won the congressional districts.

So, Democrats may complain about it, but they also have proportional delegation in their own party. BURNETT: Which is interesting.

And, Reihan, to me, if there was a way to just do it, forget congressional districts, because everybody cheats. When the other guy is drawing the line, you say he's cheating. OK, everybody cheats.

But if you just did popular vote percent and just did proportional allocations, as Roland is talking about, that would -- wouldn't that be more fair? I mean, I don't think it's fair right now, 51 percent of the vote in the state goes to one guy, he gets 100 percent of the Electoral College votes. It doesn't add up.

SALAM: That's a very interesting idea, because to the point you raised before, so when you're talking about -- you know, in California, California is a Democratic state.

BURNETT: Yes.

SALAM: But there are a lot of Republicans in that Democratic state. And you don't have Republican presidential candidates trying to win their votes.

So if you said that if Republicans are -- have 40 percent of the vote, allocate 40 percent of those delegates --

BURNETT: That's right.

SALAM: -- of those electorates, that's not a crazy idea. The problem is, that in Virginia, the state that set off this controversy, the state senator, Bill Carrico, his idea was not only do you distribute these by congressional districts, you also give the two additional electors to the candidate who wins the most districts, rather than the most votes in that state.

MARTIN: Unlike Maine and Nebraska.

SALAM: That set people off. Exactly, unlike Maine and Nebraska. That's an idea that really set people off, because it says, what? Even if someone loses the state overall, they're not going to get those two extra electorates.

BURNETT: Yes. Roland?

MARTIN: Erin, this is what this whole thing exposes. It exposes the weakness of the Democratic Party by focusing on national elections and not state elections. One of the reasons we're seeing these take place, just like voter suppression laws, just like when it comes to abortion, just like when it comes to the president's health care plan, is that Republicans flipped 60 legislators in 2010.

Democrats have got to understand, if you do not have statewide parties, if you're not running statewide, this is how you lose.

Howard Dean talked about a 50-state strategy. If Democrats don't begin to understand that, and keep letting Republicans take over the House and the Senate and the governors' mansions in states, we're going to see more of this happening. And so, this really is exposing the weakness of the Democratic Party statewide as opposed to winning nationally.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks to both of you. Roland and Reihan, have a wonderful weekend.

And still to come, the French government has declared war. And I'm not talking about in Mali, I'm talking about on us. I will explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: France and America. It's truly a love/hate relationship. Of course, though France would never say that, not because they don't believe it, but because it's in English.

France is one of the few countries in the world that has a police department for words. The Commission generale de terminologie comes up with French versions of foreign words.

In the past, they have forced French government workers to stop using terms like weekend, and hamburger, and e-mail, and use French equivalents instead. They encourage teachers to introduce the new terms in schools. And now, the commission has a new target: hashtag.

Now, a hashtag is a word or a phrase prefixed with a pound sign. OK? Just like that. Hashtag.

It's used to mark key words or topics often on Twitter. The American dialect society even voted it the word of the year. But the La Commission hates that word because it is in English.

So, they have invented a new term for the French to use: mot- dieses, mot-dieses. This term translates to sharp word, because the number sign looks like the sharp symbol used in music. Now, just look at that for a second. Of course, the sharp symbol leans a little more to the left. But, you know, it's appropriate, so does France.

Mot-dieses is a little clunker than the hashtag, too. But according to La Commission, that is the one the French will use.

Listen, France, we understand why you're doing this. France was the most important language for almost 300 years. You maybe upset English has taken that place. You know what? We're probably going to feel same way about Mandarin one day.

But, you know, we don't ban your words. We are grateful to you for them. Ala carte, au contraire, bon appetit, voulez-vous coucher -- we use them, we adore them. It's really too bad you're so gosh that you have to ban ours.

Have a great weekend. Weekend.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.