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Zimmerman Wants Legal Fees Repaid; Is Chris Christie a Bully?; Former Montana Teacher Sentenced To A Month For Rape; Stocks Dive On Syria Fears; Hagel: U.S. Forces "Ready To Go"; Massive Wildfire Threatens Yosemite; Measles Outbreak Tied To Texas Megachurch

Aired August 27, 2013 - 19:00   ET


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN GUEST HOST: "OUTFRONT" next, gearing up for a military strike against Syria. As the White House is ratcheting up pressure, the stock market takes a dive.

Also a massive outbreak of measles in America. Well, some people are blaming some Christian teachings.

And a Montana teacher is convicted of raping a 14-year-old student. Why did the teacher only get 30 days in jail? Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Jessica Yellin in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, stocks dive as the drum beat to war with Syria gets louder. Wall Street suffered its worst day since June as the Obama administration clearly laid the groundwork for a possible military strike on Syria.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There's no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Syrian regime. The president believes and I believe that those who use chemical weapons against defenseless men, women and children should and must be held accountable.


YELLIN: Market analyst Todd Schoenberger is OUTFRONT with us tonight. Todd, thanks for being here. How much of this market drop do you think has to do with what you heard from Vice President Biden and the administration tonight and with oil in the region?

TODD SCHOENBERGER, MARKET ANALYST: Quite a bit right now because it's a grave concern for everybody on Wall Street. It was top of mind when we heard about it from Biden, but now when we're hearing about the war drums that are beating today and we can only anticipate that President Obama will be making a decision, probably by tomorrow and even by Thursday, clearly there's a lot of uncertainty tonight on Wall Street.

YELLIN: Looking ahead how high do you think oil can get?

SCHOENBERGER: Well, it can go quite higher, 2008 was higher at $147 a barrel. Right now, we saw a big rally in oil today, however, once the missiles start flying there's not a single trader on Wall Street doesn't think it's going to happen, once that happens, we'll probably see oil clip $120. The question remains, Jessica, what will be the ancillary impact because now we hear from Russia and China and clearly Iran has some vested interest on all of this, we hear anything from those countries that can actually cause oil to spike even higher.

YELLIN: Anybody who thinks the strike on Syria doesn't have an impact at home, just look at Wall Street and you see it really does.

SCHOENBERGER: That's right.

YELLIN: Thanks so much for being here.

Fred Pleitgen joins us on the phone from Damascus. He is the only western reporter in Syria. Fred, last night we saw you on camera. We know that you've been broadcasting from Damascus live today as well, but tonight you're on the phone. What happened?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, it's basically issues with the Syrian internet company that's not working at this point in time. The Syrian regime you have to know is quite paranoid about us bringing broadcast equipment into this country. They don't let us do that and because they don't let us do that the only way we can go live from here is over the country's internet and right now that isn't working very well. The internet isn't working. They hope it will be back tomorrow. For now it's just the phone for us unfortunately.

YELLIN: We're happy to get you any way we can. It's a tenuous situation we know. The Obama administration again today said they are sure the Assad regime used chemical weapons on their own people. It sure sounds like a strike could be on the horizon. What is the reaction there on the ground? What are you seeing and hearing?

PLEITGEN: Well, you know, the reaction's really quite interesting because it's changed quite a bit over the past couple of days. When you talk to Syrian officials only two days ago, they were much more confident than they are now. I talked to the country's information minister today and he was a lot more muted than government officials were before. He still said if the Americans want to attack us, then we will defend ourselves, but it certainly didn't sound the way it would have a couple of days ago.

One of the things they keep saying is they want to give the weapons inspectors more time to do their job here, they were in Damascus, but they weren't able to go to any sites they wanted to visit because of security concerns of their own. So, the Syrians seem to know if there is any sort of strike by the west there really isn't very much they would be able to do about it.

And so right now had it seems to me as though they are buying time to see whether or not they might -- that way prevent the west from actually conducting any strikes after this chemical attack. It seems as though they realize what's going on and they realize how serious the situation is and that they've possibly gone too far.

YELLIN: Thank you for your fantastic reporting, please stay safe. Again, CNN's Fred Pleitgen, the only western reporter in Damascus right now.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal sits on the Armed Services Committee. Senator, thanks for being with us. Let's start with a basic question, how far should a U.S.-backed attack go?

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: A United States attack apparently is necessary really to send a message to Assad and others in the region who may be tempted also to use these weapons of mass destruction, this abhorrent absolutely horrific attack should prompt an international coalition, which should determine the extent of the response and if there is a military use of Tomahawk cruise missiles, it ought to be targeted to military assets, high- value military units or equipment, and it should be very limited duration and scope. Proportionate to what Assad has done here.

And also very precise in the way it's directed. I'm concerned about the potential unintended consequences, but I am more concerned about the repercussions of failing to respond to this violation of morality and international law.

YELLIN: Senator, given that we already know that there are al Qaeda elements in the rebel forces in Syria and given that the White House is not looking to topple Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad with the military strike, are you concerned that if Assad were to fall, that al Qaeda extremists would take control essentially as they did when Saddam Hussein fell in Iraq?

BLUMENTHAL: There's no question there should be a concern about those elements. And we should avoid and I want to just really stress this point, any troops on the ground, whatever our fears about al Qaeda, we should avoid any involvement on the ground and, again, these surgical strikes, the military action to address the violations of international law that have occurred here and the abhorrent use of chemical weapons should be very limited in scope and avoid no commitment to more involvement. And also seek to avoid the consequences in wider conflict that could result from a broader use of military force.

YELLIN: Tricky situation. Senator Blumenthal of the Armed Services Committee, thank you.

And still to come, wildfires blaze out of control threatening Yosemite National Park, 3,600 firefighters on the scene. We'll bring you there live.

Plus, a major measles outbreak in America. Why is it being linked to a Texas Megachurch?

Then a historic building that played a huge role in Richard Nixon's downfall is about to be destroyed. We'll tell you which one and why.

And before the scenes photos of the night Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested, we'll show you them later in the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) YELLIN: Our second story, OUTFRONT, firefight. The massive wildfire threatening Yosemite National Park continues to burn out of control tonight. It's now the largest wildfire in the history of the Nevada range. As many as 20 helicopters and air tankers are on hand aiding the efforts of 3,800 firefighters. But the blaze is now only 20 percent contained.

Casey Wian is on the ground as close as he can safely get to the flames.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Walking into the burning timber on the edge of Yosemite National Park, the loud crackling of burning trees and the crash of trees falling is unmistakable.

(on camera): Although firefighters are gaining more control over the rim fire, you can see that there are places like this where it is still largely burning out of control. Just in the last couple of minutes those trees have started to burn very, very quickly, and it is moving now toward the main highway through this part of Yosemite, so we need to get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the biggest concerns is obviously you see these large trees out here, so we have a lot of those trees that are dropping, they're falling in isolated areas, so our firefighters really have to be heads up while they're out there putting water on the fire.

WIAN (voice-over): Here in one of several hot spots, there's no water in sight.

(on camera): It's hard to describe how hot and smoky it is this close to the fire. These are the kind of conditions that firefighters have had to deal with for a couple of weeks, and given what we're seeing here, this is going to be burning for a long time.

(voice-over): It's not just fire. The smoke is so thick in areas surrounding Yosemite that visibility is reduced to less than 100 yards. The good news, most of Yosemite National Park famous for breathtaking scenery that attracted nearly 4 million visitors last year remains untouched by the fire.

JOHNNY MILLER, CAL-FIRE: The park is safe. The park is a large park. It's 800,000 acres so we're about in 24,000 acres of it burned, so a large area of the park that is still accessible.

WIAN: What's not accessible by vehicle or on foot, much of the main portion of the fire, which has spread to 180,000 acres and is now the seventh largest wildfire in California history, in those areas firefighters are relying on aircraft dropping water and retardant to slow its spread.


WIAN: Now, officials here are going to close another road in the Yosemite area to aid the firefighting effort, but they stress that two roads into Yosemite Valley remain open and that the park remains a safe place for people to come and visit -- Jessica.

YELLIN: All right, Casey Wian, reporting from California, thank you.

Our third story, OUTFRONT, a Texas Megachurch is tied to a major measles outbreak and doctors warn it is spreading. At least 21 people in 2 Texas counties have been infected, many belong to the Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas. A church spokesperson is denying anti-vaccination teachings but listen to what Church Leader Kenneth Copeland said --


KENNETH COPELAND, FOUNDER, KENNETH COPELAND MINISTRIES: As parents we need to be a whole lot more serious about this, and being aware of what is good and what isn't. And you don't take the word of the guy that is trying to give the shot about what good and what isn't.


YELLIN: CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT with us. Hi, Sanjay.


YELLIN: That's a little unusual to hear. We rarely hear about measles outbreaks in this country ever since the vaccination has come out. How bad is this?

GUPTA: Measles can be very, very serious and it's very contagious as well as we're hearing about, if there's a child that's unvaccinated and they come in contact with someone that has measles, they ever a very high chance, almost 100 percent of getting measles. So every 1,000 kids that get measles, one to two will die.

YELLIN: Right. The science is pretty clear on this. The church offered free vaccinations and the pastor stood up in church and was very clear to her congregation, saying here's where you can get them. But Terri Pearsons, who is Kenneth Copeland's daughter, also said this while she was speaking to her congregation. Listen.


TERRI PEARSONS, SENIOR PASTOR, EAGLE MOUNTAIN INTERNATIONAL CHURCH: Now, if you're somebody and you know that you know that you know that you've got this covered in your household by faith and it crosses your heart of faith, well, then, don't go do it. But I'm just telling you that we're having this available.


YELLIN: So, on the one hand, get vaccinated. But if you have faith, maybe you don't need to. Is that a dangerous statement to make?

GUPTA: Look, I think it is dangerous. I know this is a provocative topic, but I do think the medical community included, lacked a little bit of conviction on this issue, And I think you're seeing the manifestations of that.

Kids need to get vaccinated. They need to get vaccinated on schedule. There's no concern about that with regard to autism which is what a lot of people have raised fears about. And I just think that people need to be saying when you hear things like this, that is a real concern. If kids don't get vaccinated against measles, they are 35 times more likely to get measles.

Look, if we had an answer as to why, you know, children develop autism, we could put this issue to rest. We don't have a great answer to that question yet. But what we do know is there's not a link between vaccines and autism.


YELLIN: Sanjay, thank you.

And in "Money and Power" tonight, it's a bold move. Starbucks is opening stores in Colombia. Yes, the country, that's been home to the Starbucks coffee bean for 42 years. That's a latte. They'll open the first shop in Bogota, the nation's capital next year, and more stores over the next five years. Starbucks is also teaming up with the U.S. government to expand a program to work with the country's coffee growers, which sounds grande. The news comes as Colombian farmers, including coffee growers, enter a second week of strikes. Among the thing they are protesting, the Colombia government's free trade agreement with the U.S.

And still to come, a 14-year-old girl raped by her teacher. Why that teacher only got 30 days in jail.

Plus, Chris Christie's war of words with a reporter. Is the New Jersey governor too much of a bully to be president?

And a race car crashes, starts leaking fuel, and what happens next is shocking.


YELLIN: And our fourth story OUTFRONT, a month for rape. A former Montana teacher will serve just 30 days in prison for raping his 14- year-old student who later committed suicide. Forty-nine-year-old Stacey Dean Rambold was looking at 15 years in jail back in 2008, but a judge suspended almost his entire sentence because he claimed the 14-year-old girl -- listen to this -- was, quote, "as much in control of the situation as he was." And he added the girl was, quote, "older than here chronological age."


OUTFRONT, Dr. Drew Pinsky host of HLN'S "Dr. Drew On Call."

I mean, this one is a shocker. Have you ever heard of a sentence like this?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: No. We've all reported on many stories, but this is the one I don't even know what to do with it, it's so outrageous. I'm so angry about it. I'm beside myself.

We have known for decades now that there's a reason we have laws protecting young people. They're not in a position, their brain development isn't such they can render consent for something like sex. And for a judge to say 14-year-old is able to consent to this is the most -- I don't have strong enough language. Well, I do have, but I would not use it in mixed company --


PINSKY: It is outlandish in the way that I cannot describe, and this girl died as a result of the perpetration of this. Let call him what it is -- maybe I shouldn't. But we all know what I'm thinking. It's the most outlandish thing I've ever heard of.

YELLI: I was stunned by the language he used. He said she was, quote, "older than her chronological age." Is this a condition? Is that legit?

PINSKY: No. Your chronological age, Jessica, was 14! That's her chronological age. That's her brain development. There's no such thing as someone who can magically have a brain that's a 21-year-old brain when they're 14. They may have behaved in ways that were inappropriate, and guess what. That's sign of mental illness in a 14- year-old. Those are the person we need to protect the most. If a 14 year old is acting out sexually, that's depression. That's a history of trauma. That's the person that needs more protection, not this kind of outlandishness.

YELLIN: And an older teacher obviously has the ability to influence and manipulate a much younger girl. We know that.

PINSKY: Of course. Of course. This is why doctors don't take advantage of patients and bosses don't take advantage of people that they have responsibility over and teachers don't take advantage of students. There's a power imbalance, and there's a sacred right to protect that.

YELLIN: And the judge obviously here is missing -- well, we'll see. We have to figure this out.

The girl's mother spoke to CNN, and when asked if her daughter's sexual relationship had an impact on her suicide, this is what she said. "Well, it definitely had something to do with it. Teenagers' whole life is about school and their friends. And he turned everyone against her."

It's heartbreaking. She was just about to turn 17 when she took her own life. What kind of impact do you think this has on a child's experience? PINSKY: Listen, you don't have to use your imagination. Anyone out there who has any sensibility at all understands the impact. Anyone who has been a teenager, who has raised a teenager understands this.

But let's be clear, suicide is the most severe symptom of mental illness, right? It's how people with mental illness die. And this girl, as I said, clearly had something going on that put her in a circumstance where she needed to be protected, not exploited. And because she was exploited, whatever was going on with her, whatever care she needed was sent reeling off in the wrong direction, and she died of that condition at the hands of this guy.

And that is -- well, and the judge. Let's be fair. The two of them colluded in this one.


YELLIN: Such an upsetting story. Dr. Drew, thanks.

And still to come, George Zimmerman wants hundreds of thousands of dollars from taxpayers. And he'll likely get it.

Plus, Miley Cyrus doubles down. The singer responds to her critics with new photos.

And behind the scenes photos of the night suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested have been now released. We'll show them to you next.

The "Shout Out" tonight, a terrifying, fiery crash. The driver of this dirt-modified racing car crashed at a track in Lehigh, Pennsylvania. His car tipped over on its side, which caused a fuel leak that ignited as workers tried to right the car. Miraculously, the driver, Michael Stoflelt, not only survived, he finished the race. He placed fifth.

So, our "Shout Out" goes to the crew for getting Mike out of the car and back on the track. Amazing.


YELLIN: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start the second half of our show with stories where we focus on our own reporting from the front lines.

"The New York Times," the biggest newspaper website in the country, has been down now for more than three hours. A spokeswoman for the paper tells us the issue is most likely the result of a malicious external attack. But one security expert suspects the attack is the work of the Syrian Electronic Army. That's a group of hackers aligned with Syrian president Bashar al Assad. The same group has previously hacked into the Twitter feeds of the Associated Press and "The Washington Post."

Kenneth Bae, the American citizen serving a 15-year sentence in North Korea, is now one step closer to being set free. The State Department said its special envoy on North Korean human rights has been invited to visit the country on a humanitarian mission and the request that Bae be pardoned. Bae was found guilty earlier this year of hostile acts to bring down the North Korean government and was sentenced to hard labor. But that has taken a toll on his health and he is in need of medical treatment.

Well, new photos published of suspected Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev show him in the boat moments before his arrest and you can see multiple lasers targeting him.

Now, those images published in "Boston" magazine were taken by a photographer with the Massachusetts State Police. The photographer published them to protest the "Rolling Stone" cover that made Tsarnaev appear like a rock star. The officer was briefly suspended but a police spokesman tells us he's been transferred to another division working the midnight shift pending an investigation.

OUTFRONT has now learned that programs the most famous parking garage in the United States in history will be torn down. During the Watergate story in the Nixon years, it was the place that "Washington Post" reporter Bob Woodward secretly met with his source Deep Throat, aka, FBI official Mark Felt.

The real estate firm that owns the garage said they are demolishing it to build office buildings, but they say they'll incorporate the garage's historical marker, which is basically a plaque. They tell us it will likely take up to 18 months or even more before they even break ground. Kind of sad to see that go.

Our fifth story OUTFRONT, George Zimmerman, he's asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.

Well, today, Zimmerman's legal team said they plan to ask the state of Florida for a reimbursement of between $200,000 and $300,000 in legal fees that would cover the cost of his defense team's expert witnesses, transcripts and other expenses which he rang up before he was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin last month.

David Mattingly is OUTFRONT with the story.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is nothing free when it comes to George Zimmerman's freedom. His defense team estimates Zimmerman's acquittal cost millions and now, Florida taxpayers could be paying part of the bill.

MARK O'MARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I just think it's absurd that he had to spend it, we had to spend it, the donors had to spend it, and that somebody shouldn't pay that back.

MATTINGLY: Florida law 939.06 makes it clear, a criminal defendant who is acquitted doesn't have to pay court costs or fees. Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, says that includes fees for transcripts and experts who testify.

So how much? Two hundred thousand dollars, maybe $300,000.

O'Mara says blame the prosecutors.

O'MARA: I wish somebody would say why is no one calling up the state attorney's office and saying, how dare you prosecute somebody for a charge there's no way you could ever convict?

MATTINGLY: We did contact state attorney Angela Corey's office for comment. We were told, "The state attorney's office will respond to the request in the proper arena, the courtroom."

Zimmerman has to make a case for his reimbursement and he may not get everything he's asking for. But whatever taxpayers pay, add it to the bill they're already picking up for jury costs, court security costs and the costs to the city of Sanford, a list of expenses "The Orlando Sentinel" recently estimated at $902,000.


MATTINGLY: And all of the numbers that are being thrown around right now, they do not include the big number which is what George Zimmerman actually owes his attorney, Mark O'Mara believes that just based on his billable hours, George Zimmerman owes him about $1 million that hasn't been paid and that goes also for other attorneys working on this case -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Ooh, that is a lot of money. David, what kind of reaction have you heard from Trayvon Martin's family?

MATTINGLY: We reached out to them for a comment through their attorney, but we did not hear back from them today. I did have a very interesting conversation, though, with the state agency that is actually in charge of writing these checks to defendants who are acquitted, and it was quite an eye opener here.

Not only are the attorneys' fees not covered under the state law here, so George Zimmerman has to deal with his own attorneys on that, but since 2009 -- 2004, rather, when this law went into effect, there have been very few payouts at all to defendants in the state of Florida -- at a rate of only about five or six cases a year were they actually provide any money to any acquitted defendant. In fact, since this law's been into effect, they've only paid out about $55,000, that's since 2004.

So, now you have a case where they're asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can bet there's going to be a fight here.

YELLIN: Ooh, it will be an interesting test of the law.

OK, thank you, David. Interesting report.

Janet Johnson is a criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor based in Florida who can tell us a little bit more about how this one's likely to play out.

Hey, Janet, we haven't heard from Trayvon Martin's family, but there's already plenty of upset over this. How common are these requests for reimbursement?

JANET JOHNSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, David just said that they don't get paid out very often, but most defense lawyers don't know it exists and they don't ask for it. But the Justice Administration Commission, which is the committee that they just talked about, they are required to do it, and the law says that a defendant is not liable if he is not guilty.

And I think Mark made a great point, my clients after I get a "not guilty" say why don't I get more money back? Why am I not getting your fees? Why I am not getting my pain and suffering, I'm not guilty? And quite frankly, a defendant is entitled to it.

YELLIN: So, I'm reminded of another high-profile Florida case, in the Casey Anthony case. She was acquitted of the murder of her daughter, Caylee, but she was convicted on four lesser counts of giving false information to investigators. Now, David said there were no payouts of more than $55,000, but she at least one point the state said she should at least partially be reimbursed. So, my question is -- she should be partially reimbursed for her defense costs.


YELLIN: So, my question, what does that tell us about what is likely to happen in the Zimmerman case?

JOHNSON: Well, she actually utilized another provision. There's a way to be declared insolvent. Meaning, you're saying, look, I can afford to pay a lawyer, in that case, Jose Baez, but I can't afford to pay for depositions, travel, transcripts. And if you don't bond out, she didn't, she was in jail, most people get that, I have clients that get that all the time.

And the same commission that we just talked about, they are the ones responsible for paying it out as well and she got $120,000 of her costs paid and that was before if we knew she was guilty or not guilty. So even if she had been convicted of murder she would not have to pay that money back and the state of Florida paid for her lawyers to take depositions, to order transcripts and they were only denied about $12,000. So, the JAC objects, but most judges, they grant it.

YELLIN: Do you think Florida taxpayers could be on the hook for a million dollars in George Zimmerman's legal bills?

JOHNSON: Well, when you say Florida taxpayers, that would be me, and, yes, I think I'm going to have to pay quite a bit of money. Not $1 million because we're not going to pay Mark O'Mara's attorney fees. Florida does not allow that. Some states do. In Washington, if you are found not guilty and it's self-defense, they pay for everything, so it's a big bill.

YELLIN: We'll see how this one plays out. I have a feeling there will be a lot of interest in it. Thanks so much for your time.

Our sixth story OUTFRONT: is Chris Christie a bully? The New Jersey governor taking down another reporter calling him, quote, "a complete idiot" on a sports radio show -- yes, it happened. Today, "The New York Daily News" fired back with this cover, "Who you calling an idiot, fatso!" That's a quote, I'm not saying it.

Of course, this isn't the first time that Christie has found himself in the middle of a high-profile feud. He's taken on members of his own party, including Senator Rand Paul and House Speaker John Boehner. So does Chris Christie like to fight just a little too much?

OUTFRONT tonight, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, and Republican strategist Kevin Madden, two of my favorite men from Washington. Good men in Washington, and CNN contributors.

Hi, guys.


YELLIN: We know that Christie loves going after the media. Let's play some of his most memorable moments and then we'll talk.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Did I stay on topic? Are you stupid? Thank you all very much and I'm sorry for the idiot over there.

It's ridiculous, silly. I mean, I don't mean to demean what you all do, but this is silly.

You must be the thinnest-skinned guy in America. Because you think that's a confrontational tone, then you should really see me when I'm pissed.


YELLIN: It's entertaining, but, Kevin, is the governor the one with the thin skin?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, look, this is part of the appeal of Chris Christie, that many New Jersey folks -- many New Jersey voters have responded to, the fact that he's blunt, the fact that he has his regular guy appeal and he says it -- he says what he means. So, I think that is the part that many voters find appealing.

But I do think that there -- at a certain point, always being combative with the media, you're right, Jessica, always being combative with the media, that only gets you so far because many voters also know that scrutiny from the media, that's something that comes with the job.

YELLIN: Yes, it's always popular, though, to pick on the media, but it only goes so far.

Cornell, let me ask you, the combative style it does work in New Jersey. But is it a little bit of a trick, like, it's his shtick he has that might not play in middle America if he runs for president?

BLECHER: I think that's the strategic pickle that I think the folks around the governor is going to have to deal with. Look, I think which makes him unique and refreshing and a larger-than-life figure in New Jersey when those little old ladies in middle America who are really likely voters who go to church every Sunday and don't watch football or don't know anything about sports reporters, when they start paying attention, I think it becomes problematic.

And particularly -- I mean, Americans are -- you know, Americans will forgive a lot in political leaders as we've seen over the years. I mean, they'll let a lot of flaws go, but what they consistently seem to punish is anger and meanness. We tend not to elect mean or angry people at national levels.

Look, say what you will about Carter, you know, Reagan, you know, Bush and Obama, no one sees them as mean-spirited, angry people. It's quite often the opposite. So I think it becomes problematic in Middle America.

YELLIN: But interestingly, he is still seen as warm. There's a Quinnipiac poll from the beginning of the month and it shows that Christie and Hillary Clinton are the two hottest politicians, meaning people have the most favorable or warm feelings about them.

And, yet, Kevin, I'll put this one to you, Republican voters among them Christie falls behind. So, why is he lagging in his own party?

MADDEN: Well, look, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he has gotten a certain level of really good press because he has been -- he's had a willingness to criticize folks like Rand Paul and criticize folks like John Boehner, and that hasn't got him the certain degree of goodwill within the party. Many people see him as either scornful of the party or lecturing the party rather than being a bit of a team player.

And I think this goes to a point that I think that Cornell was making, which is that this may play in New Jersey, but when you go beyond New Jersey and you start to go to places like Sioux City, Iowa, or Manchester, New Hampshire, it's not only the reporters that are asking tough questions or in the minds of Chris Christie asking silly questions. Many of those voters demand to have the same level of scrutiny. They want to -- they want to scrutinize the candidates.

So that becomes a very big challenge for him if he's locking at a 2016 race which is it may play well on YouTube, it may play well within the New Jersey media, but when you're doing it every single day, sometimes three, four times a day on a campaign trail, on a presidential race, it's not going to play as well with those audiences.

BELCHER: The moment he calls a little old lady in Iowa in the dead of winter an idiot for asking a tough question, his campaign's over.

YELLIN: It will be a lot of fun for us to cover, though, gentlemen. Good to see you both.

MADDEN: Great to be with you.

YELLIN: Thanks for being on.

And still to come, Miley Cyrus responds to her critics with a new set of photos. Why the singer felt she needed to double down on the controversy.

Plus, America losing the battle of the burger with Canada, Japan, and others. What the U.S. needs to do to win this food fight.


YELLIN: Now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's ahead on "AC360."

Hey, Anderson.


With the United States lining up allies for possible -- some say imminent -- strike against Syria, the leadership there remains defiant that they will defend themselves. We're going to go live to Damascus. And also, our panel weighs on the political and military possibilities what a strike would actually look like.

Also tonight, more tonight on a charity that pulls on heartstrings and opens wallets, raising big money from donors, but spending nearly nothing on the children it claims to care about, children who are sick. Many of them died. Last night, we told you about a former employee who blew the whistle on the Kids Wish Network. That's what the charity is called, and she paid a steep price. Tonight, two more whistle-blowers are speaking out.

Also, live report on the wildfires raging in and around Yosemite National Park. Gary Tuchman witnessed first hand the battle to save a town, where the flames are just across the canyon. Those stories and tonight's "RidicuList", a lot more at the top of the hour -- Jessica.

YELLIN: It sounds like a packed show. Thank you, Anderson. We'll tune in.

In our seventh story OUTFRONT: no regrets from Miley Cyrus. Just hours ago, the 20-year-old tweeted this picture from what appears to be a boys' locker room, clearly not backing away, uh-huh, from her new barely clad style when she unveiled during Sunday's video music awards. The performance by the former Disney star won her thousands of headlines, many called it raunchy, racy -- those were the nice ones.

And that leaves us asking, what about her dance partner, Robin Thicke? I mean, there were two in that tango, right? But the barbs aimed at him were pretty tame, including, "Robin Thicke channels Bettlejuice during 'Blurred Lines' performance with Miley Cyrus."

There was this one, "Experst: Miley's dance won't damage Robin Thicke." So, we're asking, is there a double standard here?

OUTFRONT, Stephanie Miller, Dean Obeidallah, and Michael Medved.

Stephanie, tonight, we're starting with you.

Robin Thicke's mother spoke to "OMG Insider" about her son's performance. I want you to listen to this what she had to say.


GLORIA LORING, ROBIN THICKE'S MOTHER: I was not expecting her to be putting her butt that close to my son. The problem is now I can never unsee it.


YELLIN: I mean, yes, she's channeling what a lot of us are thinking, but she's even going after Miley Cyrus. Should she be scolding her own son instead?

STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO SHOW HOST: Well, yes, they probably did rehearse it like 40 times, Jessica. So I don't thick that was the surprise for him.

And yes, there is a double standard. It recalls the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction like her boob just fell out by itself.

YELLIN: Right.

MILLER: And Justin Timberlake didn't pull the thing off.

And you're right, she's the one that took all the heat in that incident, right?

YELLIN: And no one ever mentions --


MILLER: Literally and figuratively.

YELLIN: Right.

MILLER: That's right.

YELLIN: Dean, I mean, Thicke did grind up against Miley Cyrus and no one seems to be mentioning that part of it. She's getting the blame. So, do you see a little bit of a double standard?

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, COMEDIAN: There is definitely a double standard when it comes to gender issues in America. However, in this case, I don't see it regardless of what Stephanie happened to say, who actually offered me a lap dance yesterday, inspired by Miley Cyrus, which Michael Medved --

YELLIN: Is she in California? How would that work anyway? OBEIDALLAH: I'm still waiting for that, Stephanie, when I get to L.A.

Anyway, the point -- look at the conduct of the two. It was identical conduct and the media treated it differently, I think it's wrong.

Miley Cyrus comes out and her tongue is out like an animal in heat or like a victim of a rattlesnake bit. I'm not sure what's going on. Strips herself, grinds herself against and actually rubs his crotch.

Here would be the double standard -- Robin Thicke comes out, strips off his pants into a Speedo, rubs the crotch of Miley Cyrus and grinds against her. The backlash -- you can never un-think (ph) of -- the backlash would be unbelievable against it. It would be far worse than this and he would have to apologize, he'd be called sexist, a 36-year- old man rubbing against a 20-year-old. It would be a complete difference. So, meaning, the double standard is actually looking it from the other way, not from this point of view with a woman.

YELLIN: I don't know, Michael, Robin Thicke made headlines for his video for "Blurred Lines", and a lot of people thought that was degrading to women.

So, I'm wondering, if he somehow gets a pass on a performance that happened on Sunday night because he's already seen as a womanizer, people expect this from him.

MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO HOST: It's not that he's seen as a womanizer. I mean, he kept his clothes on and, by the way, so did Justin Timberlake. I think Dean Obeidallah, even though he didn't get the lap dance, is exactly right, as far as this is concern.

Look, there is a core double standard based upon Miley Cyrus' background. I mean, Robin Thicke, to the best of my knowledge, was never a mouseketeer. I mean, I know Miley Cyrus wasn't either, but she was Hannah Montana and she comes out of a teddy bear? She's trying to make the point childhood is over?

And there is also a difference. There is a legit the double standard between someone who's 36 and married and a father, and somebody who's 20 and pretending, at least -- I hope she's pretending -- that she's the town pump. It's not -- it's not flattering role model to put forward before America's young people.

YELLIN: Stephanie?

MILLER: Jessica, listen, I will give Dean this. I will not give him a lap dance. I will see her performance was a little over the line before Robin Thicke got out there. If you're going to pleasure yourself with a giant Styrofoam finger, then I think you can't sort of go, oh my God, what's he doing to me? We didn't rehearse this. I mean, I think that -- you know, there is something to be said for both sides here.

YELLIN: Right, we get that. But she was a participant in all this. But the question is -- MEDVED: Sure, I think there is nothing to be said for either side. Both sides are completely -- I mean, again, if you look at Robin Thicke's -- his music video, he keeps his clothes on again. It's the women who take their clothes off and this --

OBEIDALLAH: But the video --


MEDVED: That most men appreciate.

OBEIDALLAH: But the video is his music video. That's different. He probably had help get choreographed and wanted the women. The VMAs looked like the adult video awards, not the VMAs, and with the dance that was going on. But she's using sex to sell.

YELLIN: But do you think she had no role in deciding what his participation would be in the VMAs?

OBEIDALLAH: No, I don't think he was a hostage. I think he was a willing prop for her to have this fun. He probably knew it would be used and controversial. I don't think anyone thought this would happen. Even Lady Gaga who wore a bathing suit, nobody talks about that. That's overshadowed --


MILLER: That's the tragedy -- somewhere Lady Gaga is going, what do you have to do?

YELLIN: Go ahead, Stephanie, yes?

MILLER: Somewhere Lady Gaga going, what do you have to do to get attention at these awards anymore? What do I have to do? Do I have to take the meat dress off?

MEDVED: What Miley Cyrus has done has been to expand the American vocabulary. Before this, most people didn't know the word twerking.

YELLIN: All right. We can thank her for that.

Thanks to all of your for a lively conversation.

Still to come, the most outrageous hamburgers in the world and why can't America compete?


YELLIN: A big announcement in the world of hamburgers. Burger King is launching a new one. The French Fry Burger is a 360-calorie hamburger topped with fries. Burger King hopes the new concoction available for a dollar will up their game.

And that brings us to tonight's number: Four. They are putting only four French fries on the new French Fry Burger, and that is just sad. But apparently, it's part of a trend, because in recent years while American restaurants have experimented with other food items, the hamburger has gone largely ignored. Hamburgers in America remain pretty uniform, but is it a case of "ain't broke, don't fix it"? Or have been a little lazy when it comes to our nation's hamburger building?

I mean, the hamburger was invented here. It's as American as apple pie. Everyone likes them, Democrats and Republicans, the rich and the poor, but lately, it appears like the U.S. has melted under the pressure. As other countries have taken over burger innovation, the U.S. has fallen behind. Now, we should admit some foreign invasions don't work out perfectly. This month, a woman did dislocate her jaw eating a three-patty burger in Britain and 150 people got sick from Canada's cronut burger but at least they are trying new things and taking chances, granted at the risk of their cholesterol.

And Burger King should know better than anyone -- if you want to make an omelet, you got to break some eggs -- which means good for you for experimenting but maybe do more than add fries to a burger.

But we want to know what you think. Is America still the burger king? And who makes your favorite burger? Let us know what you think on out on Twitter.

And "AC360" is up next.

COOPER: Jessica, thanks. Good evening everyone.