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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Tensions Escalate Between U.S., North Korea; Sandusky Speaks From Behind Bars; Bachmann Under Investigation

Aired March 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, America's new war. After months of threats from dictator, Kim Jong-Un, the U.S. develops a military response.

Plus Jerry Sandusky is talking again and again it's ugly. The convicted sex offender gives an interview from behind bars explaining the shower.

And Michelle Bachmann under investigation. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, America's new path to war. So the United States is lowering the threshold for American military involvement in a possible war with North Korea.

In the face of mounting threats from the young untested dictator of the country, Kim Jong-Un, the U.S. is getting ready to fight back. Now while the nearly 30,000 American troops in South Korea are already obligated to defend that country in the event of an all out war.

Under the new plan, these troops could fight in direct response just to provocations from North Korea. It could be a significant difference from the way things are right now.

Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is OUTFRONT tonight. Chris, let me start off by asking that question. What is this new agreement actually mean for American troops and the threshold where they would be in conflict?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Erin, it basically puts it down on paper in formalizes the agreement that the U.S. is going to be a part of this defense right from the get go. Not just all out war but even the small scale attacks. So what are we talking about?

Well, North Korea was accused of sinking, torpedoing a South Korean ship so one of the provocations could be North Korean ships going into these disputed waters, which they have in the past.

Also air. North Korean jets flying into South Korean airspace. They came close to violating the DMZ just last year. South Korea had to scramble four fighter jets in response.

And finally, shelling these border islands like they did a couple years ago, that also would very likely invite a response. Some of the other reasons are to step up the cooperation between U.S. and South Korean troops as well as act as a deterrent.

For example, just recently, he threatened to wipe out entire South Korean military units on some of the other border islands -- Erin.

BURNETT: Now Chris, a lot of people watching will say OK, so does this open America up to more serious conflict, to war?

LAWRENCE: It actually opens the U.S. up to smaller conflicts, but those smaller conflicts are more likely to happen and they happen more frequently. So it's opening the range of - things that the U.S. might be involved in right from the get go.

And even though South Korea may still respond first to a North Korean provocation, if North Korea then retaliates, you start to get this escalation that the U.S. could be very much involved in.

BURNETT: That's right. Small things can become big things pretty quickly. Chris Lawrence, thank you.

I want to bring in Colonel Cedric Leighton now and Gordon Chang, author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On The World." Gordon, let me start with you. So this agreement, you just heard Chris Lawrence reporting what it would mean.

So the things that North Korea does regularly could now mean American troops are fighting over. You say this is dangerous.

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Well, it's dangerous in one sense. You know, we can always get involved even in small provocations.

I'm concerned though that we have just spent 2-1/2 years negotiating with the South Koreans. We don't look resolute. We look legalistic and that's the problem. Because I can see General Thurman saying to President Barth, well, we're not going to get involved in this incident because it doesn't fall under paragraph one of Roman Numeral III.

I think it would have been much better for President Obama to stare into a camera and say the United States will respond to attacks on South Korea with the immediate use of force. We talk like that during the cold war and we kept the peace.

We don't talk like that anymore and because of that, deterrence is breaking down in Asia. That's why we have all of these problems with North Korea recently.

BURNETT: So do you think deterrence is failing?

CHANG: It is certainly failing because the Chinese and the North Koreans think that they can push us out of Asia and the Chinese have been engaging in some very provocative tactics recently because they think that they can push us around. BURNETT: So Colonel Leighton, North Korea is an army of 1.2 million people, 120,000 special operations forces, which is kind of a stunning number. We don't know exactly how many nukes and of course, up to 800 medium and short range ballistic missiles.

Just to give everyone a sense of the military power there, and, of course, over the past six months, there have been a lot of tests and provocations. So is this deal a sign that the United States sees war as serious possibility?

COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RETIRED), NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think so, Erin. I think it's one of those moments where the United States is looking at burden sharing with its allies. So it's -- although it may be legalistic as Gordon mentioned, these are the kinds of agreements that the Obama administration really wants to bring to the forefront with its allies.

So in the case of the Korean situation, war is an extreme likely possibility because -- extremely likely possibility because what you have here is this hair trigger response that is being created not only by the fact that we have troops there but also by the fact that we have this agreement in place now.

BURNETT: What, Colonel, does that war look like? Because a lot of Americans are saying, all right, I'm worried about North Korea. North Korea is an issue, but I've been hearing a lot about it over the years? I don't know that I'm quite aware, quite prepared for what you just said, that war is a real possibility?

LEIGHTON: Well, the war may not be a full blown war in the sense of a nuclear confrontation or even a major theatre war with massive armies fighting each other across the Korean Peninsula as was the case in 1950s. But what will happen probably is you'll have responses to some very specific actions.

So if an island is shelled, South Korean island is shelled, there will be a response that will be commensurate with that action. There is also an action probably to get rid of the North Korean command and control elements that are controlling military actions against the south.

BURNETT: Right.

LEIGHTON: And the South Koreans will probably lean on us to do that for them.

BURNETT: But, Gordon, what I don't understand though -- who knows this is a gamemanship of war, right? There is a provocation. The United States responds. North Korea wants to prove it's tough. Why in that situation why wouldn't they use a short range nuclear missile on South Korea?

CHANG: Well, because they know that -- because we can trace it.

BURNETT: But they believe that the United States would respond? CHANG: No. They may think they can get away with it because if they think the United States won't respond. This was the whole issue during the cold war in Western Europe whether the U.S. would use nukes to protect countries that were not the United States.

Actually China thinks that they can push us around because we reneged on our treaty obligations to the Philippines last year and we allowed the Chinese to take Scarborough Shoal. Then the Chinese ramp up the pressure on the Japanese and then you can see the North Koreans ramp up the pressure on South Korea. That's how this can get out of control.

BURNETT: And of course, China has been supporting North Korea and providing them a lot of help. There was a third anti-American propaganda video that came out of the North Korean government today.

It threatens an attack on American forces using, quote, "powerful weapons of mass destruction." It depicts an invasion of Seoul in which 150,000 Americans are killed. Now there aren't that many Americans in Seoul, but obviously this video is designed to motivate the North Korean people.

And this comes on top of the other recent videos, right? The one where the White House is in cross hairs and the capitol blew up and New York City went up in flames. OK, these videos are stuff of imagination, but are they serious?

CHANG: Well, they're serious and they're trying to intimidate us and that really is something that is important because the South Koreans don't think that we're going to defend them. There was that survey which said that the United States wasn't going to use nukes to help South Korea.

And the South Koreans wanted their own nuclear arsenal. That is a stunning vote of no confidence in the U.S. and if the South Koreans don't trust us, probably the Chinese and the North Koreans also think that they can push us around.

And that's when it gets really dangerous because then someone tries to start something really very, very provocative.

BURNETT: Of course, makes you think about what all this means for Iran, too. Well, thanks so much to both of you.

Still to come, Jerry Sandusky in his own words. You're going to hear him explain the shower incident.

Plus, the Supreme Court considers a California law that bans same sex marriage. Is America one step closer to marriage for anyone?

And Anderson Cooper face-to-face with crocodiles. You know, I was watching this last night and thinking I just don't think I would have done it, but Anderson did and he comes OUTFRONT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, Sandusky tells his side of the story. He did it from behind bars. So the former Penn State assistant football coach, as you know, was convicted last June of 45 counts of child sex abuse.

And now he says he doesn't know why a key witness in the case thought something inappropriate was going on when he was showering with a boy. You may remember that was the center of a lot of this, was what Assistant Coach Mike McQueary said he saw and heard in the shower.

Here's a portion of Sandusky's interview with filmmaker, John Ziegler, which aired on NBC today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY SANDUSKY: I don't understand how I would have walked into that locker room where he was and heard sounds associated that was sex going on. I mean, you know, like you said, I mean there was -- that would have been the last thing I would have thought. I would have thought maybe fooling around or something like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT, former Prosecutor Wendy Murphy and Criminal Defense Attorney Ann Bremner. Hearing him laugh there when he was talking about sex with a boy, I mean, that was just disturbing even to just listen to that.

When it gets to this question, why in the world is Sandusky speaking out now? If he were your client trying to have an appeal, he hasn't spoken to this point? Would you tell him to keep his mouth shut?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Yes. What a piece of work this guy is. I think what's going on here is this is a kind of a test of lying event for him. In a sense that he took the fifth in connection with the criminal case, he didn't take the stand. He asserted his right to remain silent.

And now there is civil litigation pending, involving especially victim number two, who you heard talked about in that clip. In a sense by testifying in this way, communicating through the media, he gets to participate, dump evidence into the court of public opinion, which will have some effect on the civil proceedings, possibly even influence the appellate court though I doubt it.

But the bottom line is he gets to give his statement without subjecting himself to a deposition or testimony under oath in a court of law. What a creep. That guy has no guts. This is the coward's way, coward's way to seek justice. I don't think it's going to help at all.

BURNETT: So Ann, let me ask you about this victim at the center, victim number two. So the person who did the three-hour interview with Sandusky because it was a long interview, John Ziegler. He claims that there were events in 2011 that shed new light on the case altogether especially when it comes to victim two this was the boy in the shower with Sandusky. So here's what Ziegler claims victim two has said. This is going to shock you, everyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ZIEGLER, FILMMAKER WORKING ON PATERNO DOCUMENTARY: He very publicly, I have the documentation to prove this, in his own name said the accusers of Jerry Sandusky are not to be believed and that Jerry Sandusky was the greatest thing that ever happened to him.

He gave a police interview in September of that year saying Jerry Sandusky never molested me and the investigators tried to get him to lie. And then on the day Joe Paterno was fired, I have it in my hands.

This is an interview he gave to an FBI trained investigator, a former police officer saying that nothing happened in the shower that night. That McQueary is lying and that the investigators are trying to get him to lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I mean, these are pretty startling allegations. Now victim two never testified, Anne, as you know. If he was saying what Ziegler said he was saying, that Jerry Sandusky was the greatest thing that ever happened to him, that there was no molestation, why didn't they put him on the stand?

ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, absolutely. I mean, and the thing is it really that comes down to this, just like in the Michael Jackson trial, 40-year-old men don't have sleepovers, just think about it. You know, Jerry Sandusky, grown men don't shower with little boys.

And so, the fact is they have to try this case which is a really difficult case in a defense. And the fact is should they put the evidence on, yes. But remember, they said at the end. They said we didn't have time. We should get a new trial. We weren't really ready. We weren't really prepared. So, we want to have a do-over. And maybe this is the kind of thing, I think, that they might just try to throw out there an appeal that didn't work on a new trial motion or in a civil case. But the bottom line is, one kid said it didn't happen. Doesn't mean it didn't happen to everyone else.

WENDY MURPHY, LAW PROFESSOR, NEW ENGLAND LAW, BOSTON: But, he was acquitted. Let's remember, he was acquitted of this charge with victim number two, the so-called shower incident. He was acquitted in the criminal case which means the victim now has to prove it. In the civil case, it is a much lower burden of proof. But this could be his way of saying I'm still not testifying in the civil case but here's what I would say if I did. Cheap.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you about what Ziegler asked Sandusky about J. Paterno which was interesting because Ziegler is obviously defending J. Paterno. And I'll get to J. Paterno's family on this in a moment.

But, he said with Paterno allowed him to keep coaching if he knew Sandusky was guilty of assaulting young boys? That's the crucial question, right, as to whether Paterno did something wrong. Here is Ziegler's response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ZIEGLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: If he absolutely thought I was, I'd say no. If he had a suspicion, I don't know the answer to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And now the Paterno family responded which is interesting. You would think if they were given a window of something that would support Paterno, they would take it. They didn't. They said that it's important to make it clear that they have no role in obtaining or releasing this recording, moreover, they believe any attempt to use it in defense of Joe Paterno is misguided and inappropriate.

Wouldn't you think, Wendy, they would have, if they thought there was anything real here that they would have supported it since it supports Joe Paterno?

MURPHY: Yes, I guess so. I mean they're very odd bed fellows in this situation. And I know that they feel very protective of the name Joe Paterno. And you know, they are entitled to that. They don't necessarily benefit by aligning themselves with this guy even if he says things that help them.

BURNETT: Yes.

MURPHY: You know, I do think Paterno on some level was overly vilified. I'm not saying he has clean hands. But, I do think he took a harder hit than he deserved. He had a lot of power at that university. But as a matter of law, it was the university president, that was the person who was responsible. And he, I think, I got a pass. And that's a shameful thing.

BURNETT: Thanks very much to both of you.

And John Ziegler, the person behind the new Sandusky interview will be on CNN tonight on 'PIERS MORGAN LIVE at 9:00 eastern.

And still to come, a major American university under investigation. Students say rapes are being ignored and demanding a government investigation. We have a special OUTFRONT investigation.

Plus, is Amanda Knox going back to jail? Italy Supreme Court tonight considering whether she should go to trial again.

And the echoes of a tsunami. What washed ashore from the other side of the planet from a tsunami years ago today?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, the major university in the United States under investigation. The federal government is investigating the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after students complained that sexual assault and harassment complaints weren't handled right.

Now, in the complaint, the women describe an atmosphere of sexual violence at the school. And they allege that campus officials allow a hostile environment with one even comparing rape to a game of football.

CNN's David Mattingly is OUTFRONT with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After being sexually assaulted while enrolled at the University of North Carolina, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino say they approached administrators for help. But the response only added to their pain.

ANNIE CLARK, SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM: She told me a rape is like football. And if you look back on the game, what would you have done differently in that situation?

MATTINGLY: Did you feel like you were being blamed for this?

CLARK: Absolutely.

MATTINGLY: Clark says she was raped off campus in 2007. She did not go to the police thinking an investigation was pointless because her attacker was unknown to her.

Pino says it was a similar situation to her five years later with another insensitive response from a university adviser.

ANDREA PINO, SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM: And then when I said I had been through a trauma and that I was having a difficulty adjusting, you know, they said everyone is having a different time adjusting, you're just being lazy. Maybe you can't handle Carolina.

MATTINGLY: Clark and Pino along with two other students who say they were rape victims and a former UNC administrator filed the civil rights complaint that led to a federal investigation by the department of education into how the university handles and reports rape cases.

What do you think the investigation is going to find here?

CLARK: They're going to find there is a pervasive culture of sexual assault where the university is acted with deliberate indifference.

MATTINGLY: If an administrator tells a student rape is like football, what does that tell you about the culture here?

HOLDEN THORP, UNC CHANCELLOR: Well, I'm not going to comment on any specific case but I think that it absolutely needs to be the case that our administrators respond in a way that is supportive and fair to all the parties involved in these incidents.

MATTINGLY: Holden Thorp is the chancellor of UNC. The federal probe comes amid new outrage on the Chapel Hill campus over a case before the student run honor court. A young woman unsuccessfully sought punishment for an ex-boyfriend she claims sexually abused her. Instead, she ended up facing honor court charges of intimidation.

What do you say to these women who say that the system here filed them?

THORP: Well, we are supportive of our students and we need to be as supportive as we can possibly be. And I say to them thank you for sharing your concerns with us so that we can address them for you and also make sure that what we do better in the future.

MATTINGLY: The university recently defended how it handles sexual assault cases and its pledging full cooperation with federal investigators. There is also been a recent wave of changes on campus.

The student run honor court is no longer allowed to hear sexual assault complaints. A former prosecutor has been hired to help formulate changes in university policies. The women behind the federal complaint say the problem is national and not limited to UNC.

CLARK: So I think universities are failing when they're more concerned about, you know, either not getting sued or their reputation or compliance than actually helping students.

MATTINGLY: The department of education says it's decision to investigate is not based on any determination that wrongdoing has, in fact, occurred. There is no word on when the inquiry will be complete.

For OUTFRONT, David Mattingly, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: We will keep following that one for you.

And still to come, Michelle Bachmann under investigation, an ethics panel tonight taking a closer look. The man who broke the story is OUTFRONT.

Plus, same sex marriage in the balance. Is the Supreme Court about to declare marriage for all, one family has been torn apart.

And a giant accomplishment for Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 20-year dream finally comes through and it is a big Panda U to the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

We start with stories we care about where we focus on reporting from the front lines.

And we begin with Amanda Knox who is going to have to wait one more day to find out whether Italian judges will make her stand trial for a second time. Now, a ruling was actually expected this hour. We hope to have it for you. But the Italian Supreme Court said they put a decision off until tomorrow. Prosecutors there still believe Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, are responsible for the 2007 death of her former roommate.

Now, even if the judge rules for another trial, Ann Bremner, who you saw on our show tonight and attorney for Friends of Amanda Knox, says the odds of Knox of being extradited are extremely small because of the double jeopardy law in this country which, of course, means you are not allowed to stand trial for the same crime twice. She also says prosecutors lacked evidence.

Well, as Colorado prison chief, Tom Clements, was laid to rest today, there are new developments in the investigation. You may recall on Friday, we told you that shell casings found at Colorado prison chief Tom Clements home were the same brand and caliber used in the shootout with Texas police. Well, today a ballistic test confirms that the gun found with ex-con Evan Ebel was used in both shootings.

Officials are still investigating a motive including Ebel's ties to the white supremacist prison gang 211 Crew that we told you about.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center says gangs like 211 have a record of incredible violence. But he says if it turns out this gang ordered the murder of Clements, it may have gone further than any other hate group in this country.

Well, the rise of al Qaeda is a story we continue to follow closely on this program. And tonight, a change in leadership. An Algerian by the name Djamel Okacha has been named as a new commander for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, replacing Abdul Hamid Abu Zeid, who was killed in northern Mali. Now, that's according to Algeria's Al Ahar Television.

Rudy Atallah tell us Okacha, also known as Abu Hamam is smart, smarter than Zeid in his view and a better relationship with the al Qaeda commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar. We told you a lot about him. Atallah says that despite reports, Belmokhtar is not dead but is actually in hiding which is significant. The French, of course, have not yet identified whether they killed him or not.

Well, more than two years after the tsunami that devastated Japan, debris is still washing up along the West Coast. We just got this video and we've got to show it to you. These are pictures of a piece of a Japanese shrine that washed up to day in Oceanside, Oregon. The parks department there describes it as a 16-foot-long ornamental structure used to mark the entrance of a sacred site.

Rangers are restoring the wreckage in they hear from Japan's counselor office about what to do with it. But it's just pretty incredible when you think about it. After all this time, it just came to shore. Speaking of a lot of time, it's been 599 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, today, stocks fell and deal in Cyprus not enough to prop up the worried market.

And now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: Michele Bachmann under investigation. According to a law firm representing the congresswoman, an ethics panel is looking into Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign. The issue is whether or not campaign funds were misused.

John Avlon first broke the story for "The Daily Beast" and he is OUTFRONT.

And you spent all weekend working on this. So, tell me the bottom line. What did you find?

JOHN AVLON, THE DAILY BEAST: Here's what's going on, Erin, the Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign. Right now, they're sending investigators across the country to interview former staffers, trying to figure out whether allegations of intentional campaign finance violations are accurate.

And really at issue are two allegations. One, allegations of improper transfer of funds and, two, under the table payments. And right now, my sources tell me that the questions are really focusing on two senior members of her staff, Guy Short, her national political director and her former campaign co-chair, a guy named Ken Sorenson, an Iowa state senator.

The questions regarding Bachmann at this point are allegedly limited to what did she know and when did she know it? But there is a paper trail. And this face plant of a presidential campaign just keeps bubbling up.

BURNETT: When you talk about improper transfer of funds under the table things for what? I mean, what is the stuff for?

AVLON: Sure.

BURNETT: Clothes?

AVLON: No. This is not a clothing allowance.

BURNETT: OK.

AVLON: One, it's an allegation that there is money being given under the table to secure support on the part of elected officials in Iowa, to help give that --

BURNETT: Buying votes.

AVLON: Exactly right, in effect. The second thing is actually, towards the end of the campaign, they were short on money. Staffers weren't getting paid. And the national political director said he was acting as a volunteer. But records show that he paid himself $20,000 in two lump sum payments, including on the day of the caucuses from one -- the Michele PAC, which is for congressional purposes, into his own private company.

So that paper trail alone is raising a lot of questions and a lot of former staffers are pretty angry about this whole campaign.

BURNETT: All right. This though adds to what's been a really difficult time for the congresswoman.

AVLON: Yes.

BURNETT: Our Dana Bash chased her down to ask her a question about claims she had made about excess spending by President Obama. I want to play that for you followed by what Bill O'Reilly had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to ask you about is the fact you said he had -- you talked about the excesses that's he's engaged in, the fact that he has a dog walker which is not true.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: The big point of my speech is about Benghazi. This was an absolute disaster.

BASH: But you also made specific accusations about the president's spending money that other presidents also made.

BACHMANN: Dana, the real issue is there are four Americans that are dead.

BASH: But if you want to focus on that, then --

BACHMANN: That's it, Dana. That's what's important.

BASH: -- why did you bring up the other thing?

BACHMANN: You want to talk about dog handlers and there's four Americans killed?

BASH: But you're the one who brought it up.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Michelle Bachmann is playing small ball with the president. Can't back up her criticism and actually trivializes a huge problem, irresponsible spending by the federal government. Two words: not good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: You got to give it to him. He summarized that one up pretty well. All right. But this is a woman that won the Iowa straw poll.

AVLON: That's right.

BURNETT: She was the front-runner in the presidential campaign. Shocking many, but she still did it. Is this the end?

AVLON: I don't know if it's the end, but clearly people are starting to call bull. And here's the things -- I mean, Michele Bachmann is a well-documented truth-telling problem. She's got more pants on fire ratings from PolitiFact than any other member of Congress.

And when you throw a lot of bombs, sometimes you get blowback. And what's really significant is her own staffers, many of her own staffers are turning on her and really saying, look, if you really pull -- look behind the curtain, this is not the most tightly wrapped individual in Congress.

And there is going to be a lot of questions focused on what did she know and when did she know it? The fact that the Office of Congressional Ethics is taking a close look at Michele Bachmann, that is big news.

BURNETT: All right. Let's see what they do.

AVLON: Yes.

BURNETT: And some under investigation, not much happened, Rangel. We'll see what happens.

hanks very much to John Avlon.

Well, now, same sex marriage has been dividing America. And, tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear the case against Proposition 8. That is the California law that banned same sex marriage. And on Wednesday, the high court takes on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Now, this is all happening as a new CNN poll shows that a majority of Americans, 57 percent, have a family member or close friend who is gay. And in 2007, only 45 percent of them said that. Obviously, the percentage of people they knew as gay has not changed. It's their awareness of those people in their lives that has risen.

And as our Kyung Lah has found out, this polarizing and personal issue of same-sex marriage is bringing families together and in this story, also tearing them apart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In California's conservative Antelope Valley, a fight inside the Barros home mirrors the debate in the U.S. Supreme Court. Just far more personal.

(on camera): Do you regret how you were before? NARDA BARROS, VOTED FOR PROP 8, SON IS GAY: Yes. You don't realize, you know, how far you can go in your own son, you know? I didn't know.

LAH (voice-over): Narda Barros cheered the passage of California's Proposition 8 five years ago, the state measure that eliminated same sex marriage. What she didn't know, her shy and withdrawn 13-year-old son was gay, being eaten alive by a sense of shame over his secret.

N. BARROS: The most scary part for me was he trying to kill himself, you know? He was suicidal. I remember nights I had to be with my eyes open.

LAH: Shortly after California banned same sex marriage, Anthony came out to his family, changing everything for the self described conservative and religious mother.

N. BARROS: I think it's very important for a lot of people that are gay now, why they have to wait so many years to realize if they're in love, they deserve a marriage like the same rules that we have. And I support my son.

LAH: Her husband disagrees.

JOHN BARROS, VOTED FOR PROP. 8, SON IS GAY: It's about family. It's about procreation. It's about, you know, values. He's not going to be a second citizen in any way.

LAH (on camera): Except he can't get married according to your beliefs.

J. BARROS: According to what I believe, yes. I mean, I'm against it, yes. I am. I have my reasons, you know? I believe strongly in those reasons.

LAH: What is it like for you to hear your father speak?

ANTHONY BARROS, CAME OUT TO FAMILY AFTER 8 PASSED: It's just really hard to hear him say stuff like that. But I know it's a process for everyone. I don't think he realizes how much it hurts me individually that he does not support gay marriage, because I would like to get married one day. And I would want him to be there.

LAH: This is quite the list of achievements here.

(voice-over): Anthony, now a high school senior, is a young activist with the Gay Straight Alliance. But he is also senior class president, on the homecoming court, and finds out this week about his acceptance into Harvard.

On the eve of his graduation, this high achiever wants it all, including equality in the home. Why he pushed to paint this mural in his conservative hometown.

A. BARROS: How much longer is it going to take if they get ruled unconstitutional now? How much longer am I going to have to wait to have a marriage?

LAH: Are you talking to the Supreme Court or is your father?

A. BARROS: I'm talking to both of them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Kyung, it's a pretty amazing story. I mean, just to find that fault line in one family and I guess that's what it comes down to from what you found, right? It's really, just an age divide.

LAH: Absolutely right. It is a generational divide. If you look at some of the latest polls, Erin, the polls are the millennials. Seventy percent of millennials, these are people between the ages 18 and 32, 70 percent support same sex marriage.

So, if you talk to younger people like Anthony, they say the attitudes for same sex marriage, they already arrived. It's just a matter of the laws and Washington, D.C, catching up.

BURNETT: It's pretty amazing watching Anthony and just all of his achievements. You know, you think about the tragedy of his father and his relationship. So his father doesn't support gay marriage. But, at the end of the day, does Anthony's dad think Prop 8 will be struck down or not?

LAH: He actually believes that same sex marriage will become the law of the land, that gays, lesbians, transgender, they will be able to marry because if you look at the ages and the ages of the people who will one day lead this country, they really believe that they should have the right to marry. So this father who doesn't believe his son should allowed to marry does believe his son probably will.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank you very much. Inspiring son he is, a class president and homecoming and all of those things.

Still to come, China's Michelle Obama, the country is abuzz about its new first lady. And Anderson Cooper's one-on-one with a really hideous, scary, nasty beast. He is here to tell us about crocs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT: Swimming with crocodiles.

So, it sounds crazy, but that is exactly what two wildlife filmmakers in Botswana are doing to try to help the world learn more about these -- the prompter says amazing -- I think they're gross but, you know what? We need them. They live on this planet.

Anderson Cooper decided to join them for one of their dives and his story aired last night on CBS' "60 Minutes." Here's a little peek.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): At first, I can't see anything, but then out of the darkness, on the floor of the cave, just as Brad warned, I see that gleaming row of white teeth.

(on camera): I finally see one. It's amazing, the beauty to it. But it's also incredibly intimidating. You really have the sense on your so close to it how strong it is. It looks right at you. You know and it knows it can attack you at any moment. And there is nothing you could do about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Now, who's crazy? Anderson Cooper with me now.

All right. So what was it like? I mean, what is amazing to me is how you can really see the teeth. That was it. The body just like merges in with the background.

COOPER: Yes.

BURNETT: What was it like when you look on the eye of a crocodile?

COOPER: You know, it's strange because in you're in the underwater caves. So, there is no natural light except some light filtering down. And, you know, I didn't see it until you really do see that row of white teeth gleaming in the darkness. And that's kind of intimidating. But there is so much sentiment floating around, the visibility is really bad.

The thing about them is they have a film that goes over their eyes. So when they're underwater, their visibility is not so good. So that's actually working in your favor. And you want to try to get as close to them as possible and right in front of them, because that's where their vision is the worst.

BURNETT: Which you did. You got right up there and had a stare off. You won that battle.

But one of the things that amazed me is when you're on the boat and got why your scuba gear and jumping off, you had to go off really fast, because, you know, you're hovering around the surface being scared. That's where can you get killed.

COOPER: Well, the surface where -- right, that's where they attack. They kill hundreds of people every year. In Africa, people who are fishing, people are bathing in the rivers or washing their clothes. And so, when your boat gets to an area where there are crocodiles, the crocs come in the water off the shore and they disappear.

BURNETT: You had great video of that. You guys are filming -- first of all, when I watching you, all these crocs are diving in the water.

COOPER: Right.

BURNETT: You're whispering really quietly because they can hear you. COOPER: Right. And noise attracts them, actually. So, they kind of come toward the boat and lurk under the surface of the water and are ready to attack. So that's when you dive in. So you want to get to the bottom as quickly as possible.

So you try to come, your boat stops, you get in the water as quickly as can you.

BURNETT: All right. So, you know, look, you inspire me yet, I don't know if you're crazy. The filmmakers, they're trying to make a real contribution to the world.

COOPER: Right.

BURNETT: But you said, so how do you know I'm going to be safe? And they said well, I think the crocs don't recognize you under the water. You said, you think the crocs don't recognize me?

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it's Brad Bestelink and Andy Crawford, who are these two extraordinary filmmakers, they really perfected it. They've done hundreds of dives. They seem to know what they're talking about. So, I kind of just put my faith in them.

BURNETT: That was enough for you?

COOPER: That was enough, yes. Yes. Seemed like a good idea.

BURNETT: Go diving down.

So why do they do this?

COOPER: Well, their idea was -- I mean, this all happened accidentally a couple years ago for them. They sort of -- this has become their thing. They do it because they're filmmakers and get great footage. But, also, they want to try to help people study crocodiles underwater. They haven't been studied underwater. No one really knew you can do that before. They help scientist go down and collect DNA samples, snipping pieces of the crocodile off their tail while they're underwater rather than wrestling them in the boat, which can hurt the crocodile and hurt the scientists.

BURNETT: That picture we were seeing you pushing the crocodile --

COOPER: You see them in a different way that you've seen in that footage. Yes, there is a grace and elegance to them underwater which you don't see when they're attacking on the shore.

BURNETT: Because they're not lumbering. They're in -- that's amazing.

All right. So how did you train for this? Did you have to train? Did you already know how to scuba?

COOPER: Yes, I learned how to scuba in order to dive with great white sharks originally for CNN and for "60 Minutes." And so, I only scuba really for dives for stories. So, I have done a couple things for "60" and for CNN.

So, I took a refresher sort of higher level underwater course of doing tricks underwater, going through hoops underwater just to be able to dive in very confined conditions.

BURNETT: You've done great whites. You've done crocodiles. Are you doing black mamba snakes next?

COOPER: Funny you say that actually. I have. The same Brad Bestelink is diving with anacondas underwater. So, I don't know. I'm not sure I'm going to do it. They're huge.

They're not dangerous but they're really, really huge. Just scary looking.

BURNETT: They can be dangerous.

COOPER: They kill you by squeezing you to death. They don't move that fast.

BURNETT: Wow. OK. All right.

Anyway, I love the piece. Thank you for telling us about it. What else is coming up on "A.C. 360"?

COOPER: Tonight, we got a lot of stuff on the program. We're obviously going to be focusing on the Supreme Court battle over Proposition 8. We're going to talk to Jeff Toobin about that and also the attorney general from California, Kamala Harris. A lot of focus on that.

We're also going to look, yes, bunch of other stuff.

BURNETT: All right. Well, looking forward to seeing you then. Thanks again. Pretty neat. I can't wait to see the snakes.

All right. And now to our outer circle where we reach out to sources around the world. Tonight, we go to China, where citizens are abuzz about the country's new first lady. The chatter has been really lively on China's version of Twitter, which is called Weibo. Users are saying things like our first lady finally shines again and her shoes are really classic and who designed her bag?

I asked our Errol Barnett why the Chinese are such fans of their version of Michelle Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERROL BARNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the president of the second largest economy in the world is shoring up deals during an international blitz of state visits and yet some can only talk about his wife.

Peng Liyuan is married to China's new president, Xi Jinping. Now, the first lady visited a Russian boarding school this past weekend and it seemed to be helping to present a softer image of China, as her husband finalizes trade deals with Russia and African countries as well.

But she's a star in her own right. She has a master's degree in music and even recorded a music video during the 1980s. In China, she's well known as a soprano singer but more recently has been attached to various humanitarian initiatives related to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

You know, it is rare to see the wife of a Chinese leader. So you could say China is changing its tune as it deals with international relations.

Erin, back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. Thanks to Errol.

The essay is next and tonight, panda-monium.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: It was panda-monium in Canada today. There were two giant pandas that arrived in Toronto. Five-year-old Er Shun and four- year-old Da Mao touched down. Look at that. They've got a pretty nice ride at Pearson International Airport to begin a 10-year visit to Canada zoos.

Now, the panda exchange was personally arranged by the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He's a well-known animal lover. He loves cats and pandas are cats. He was on hand to officially welcome the pandas from every possible angle, and he even made a speech.

I loved watching those pandas looking. They were so curious about what was going on.

Well, the panda deal is considered a win/win for both countries. Canada gets a pretty awesome attraction for its zoos, especially if baby pandas come out of this. China gets $1 million a year from Canada, sort of their registration fee or something like that.

But the real winner is FedEx. Today's event was a giant FedEx commercial with the company's logo splashed all over the place next to a panda face. It gets better than that. Stephen Harper even had to, yes, this is Canada, folks. Yes. See that? He signed (ph) for the baggage. Can you just imagine Barack Obama having to do that?

Anyway, it's only fair he had to do it considering FedEx actually paid for the pandas' transportation complete with an in-flight meal, tons of bamboo and 20 apple each. In fact, if it weren't for FedEx, Canada would be totally bamboozled. Ninety percent of a panda's diet is bamboo and it won't grow up in Canada's climate so the Canadians have been forced to hire FedEx to ship 700 pounds of bamboo from the Memphis zoo two to three times a week for the next 10 years. Who knew Memphis made so much bamboo?

But this is really what America has become here, people. We're just a bamboo supplier. And that's actually the real reason that we're telling you this story tonight, because not too long ago, it was the United States getting pandas from China and there are pandas in zoos around the country. Some of them have even had babies to great fanfare. We haven't gotten a new panda in 10 years. That's a big panda (INAUDIBLE) to America, because China's cuddly bears even though they're not so nice, we don't think they're cuddly.

Usually when you get a panda it means a cuddly relationship with the big C, China. That's exactly what China and Canada now have. When the U.S. balked at the Keystone Pipeline, Canada said don't worry, we'll build a pipeline to the West Coast instead, that way all our oil will come straight to the West Coast, and then it will get on a ship and come to you.

And last month, the Chinese purchased a company called Nexen, a Canadian oil company. It was a big price tag, $15 billion, big enough to be the biggest Chinese foreign acquisition in history. If they try to do a deal like that in the United States we tell them to take a hike.

So while all the headlines are about pandas today, the real black and white takeaway is this: China and Canada are BFFs, leaving the United States out in the cold.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.