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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Ceiling Collapses in Apollo Theater in London; House Republicans Demanding Clapper Investigation; Dennis Rodman Back in North Korea; Target: Up to 40 Million Cards Compromised; Civil Rights Vs. Gay Rights: What Gets More Attention?

Aired December 19, 2013 - 19:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR I'm Jake Tapper in for Erin Burnett.

News out of London, a ceiling collapses inside the historic Apollo Theater there. More than 700 people were inside watching a play when parts of the ceiling came crashing down. Dozens are injured and seven is seriously. The scene there, fear and panic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of them said watch out. We thought it was part of the play. You couldn't see anything. You didn't know what was going on. It was very dusty. Some people were bleeding coming out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A loud bang. I don't think it was an explosion. And the ceiling came down. A lot of dust, chandelier, wood, all that sort of stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thought it was sound effects of the theater. And then we just looked up and the whole ceiling was like in slow motion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is outside the Apollo Theater.

Nic, what is the latest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we've seen the fire service put a cherry picker up outside the Apollo Theater. We talk to one of their officials earlier. He told us that they were checking the structure of the building of trying to find out what had happened. He described an area of plaster that had come down. He described it as ten meters squared. About 30 foot by 30 foot squared. Part of t the ceiling inside that old auditorium, an ornate ceiling collapsed on the audience.

Seven people seriously injured. About 76, we're told, clashes, walking wounded, people with cuts, people with scratches. People treated in the theater next door to the Apollo Theater with where collapse still place. Some of the most badly injured treated for several hours before they were taken away in ambulances as the paramedics sought to stabilize their conditions. But the fire service says that everyone is out of the building. Everyone is accounted for. No fatalities and now they are checking the structural soundness of the whole building, Jake.

TAPPER: Nic Robertson, can you tell us how serious are the seven individuals who are said to be seriously injured? Are these potentially life threatening?

ROBERTSON: As far as we know, none of them are life-threatening. Throws details we've had so far. But we standing here have been able to see at least three people seriously injured, taken away on stretchers. One had bandages around the head. Another lying completely flat with a neck brace on, not moving at all. Four paramedics around that person. So very difficult to judge from where we were standing just a few feet away, how serious they are. But what we understand so far, none of them are in life-threatening conditions. Of course, this is still relatively early hours. So perhaps too soon to give everyone the all clear so far, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nic Robertson in London. Thank you so much.

A developing story tonight, more fallout from the national security agency's spying controversy. House Republicans are demanding an immediate investigation of the director of national intelligence, former general James Clapper for, in their view, lying to Congress, in this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Does NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: No, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, Clapper, of course, later issued a clarifying statement saying that it was the least dishonest statement he could have given at the time.

Now, I would like to turn to a man who fought to defend NSA surveillance tactics during the Bush administration, former U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales. He is now with Waller Financial Base law firm.

Mr. Attorney general, thank you so much for being here. You were attorney general when these programs were being developed and first implemented. Can you tell me one instance when any of this bulk collection of data actually helped stop a terrorist act or catch a terrorist?

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm going on leave that to the intelligence professionals, quite frankly. And I know there's been testimony, sworn testimony that in fact these authorities, these activities were very helpful in defending America. And let me just say that I believe that this debate we're having today about the appropriate way to defend our country, to protect American lives. But to do so in a way that is consistent with our constitution and consistent with our values is a very important debate. It is something that we talk about it and argued about it in the Bush administration.

And I think this is a report from this board put together by President Obama, I think, has initiated good dialogue about what is appropriate and necessary in our country today.

TAPPER: Why do you think we're having this debate? It seems to me we're having this debate because Edward Snowden leaked all these documents outlining all these programs in detail. I know there were some discussions during the Bush years of some of these programs, but not really to the extent we're having this debate today. What do you think of Edward Snowden?

GONZALES: Well, I think that the way that Edward Snowden revealed this information is a violation of the law. And I believe that anyone who violates the law should be subject to prosecution. But as to whether or not, what is the right thing to do going forward, I think I'm more concerned about that in terms of how do we continue to protect our country in how do we do so in a way that is effective and a way that is constitutional and a way that respects the privacy of individuals.

TAPPER: Well, let's go forward then.

An individual review board gave recommendations for the national security agency, President Obama. One of the recommendations has been apparently rejected, the idea of appointing a civilian director of the national security agency. Do you think the president is right to reject that?

GONZALES: I don't know that the president has, in fact, rejected that. I don't feel strongly about it one way or the other as to whether or not the head of the NSA should be in the military chain of command. I look at the other -- there are some other recommendations that I have more of a problem with. That's not something that I think that is going to make much of a difference, quite frankly with respect to the protection of privacy rights. I think there are other measures, other recommendations that would be much more effective in ensuring that we can continue to protect our country, but to do so in a way that does respect the privacy rights of all Americans.

TAPPER: Mr. Attorney general, which privacy recommendations you heard from the panel do you have more objection to?

GONZALES: I'm a little bit worried about the notion of the privacy advocate particularly with respect -- in dealings before the FISA court. Speed is very essential in terms of the collection of information to stop potential threats against the United States. I believe that having a privacy advocate may make sense with respect to the formulation of the FISA application. There is a lot of give and take that occurs with respect to the, putting together the FISA application. Perhaps even having the advocate be able to go talk to the attorney general who must approve every FISA application. That makes sense to me in order to ensure the protection of the privacy rights of individuals.

I'm a little bit worried about how introducing this privacy advocate might affect the ability of the United States to move forward and gather intelligence in the speed that is necessary to protect our interests.

TAPPER: You supported warrantless wiretaps when you were a White House counsel under Bush and there is a famous scene confrontation when John Ashcroft was in the hospital and his deputy James Corney, now the director of the FBI, decided that he was really, really had he had an objection and was prepared to resign over it.

Looking back at your ten-year vote as White House councilor and as attorney general, do you regret any of the steps you took when it came to acts in the name of providing national security to the United States but ones that many, including some judges later said, were not right, were not constitutional?

GONZALES: Well, let me tell you the record. The disagreement that you're referring to did not involve warrantless wiretaps. It involved about -- it involved something else. Some other classified activity that did not involve content collection. So, the dispute was not over that. It was about something else.

And obviously, what I can say in terms of our overall record, all the lawyers that work together during the Bush administration, we did the very best we could under very trying circumstances and I'm proud of our service. Did we always get everything right? Perhaps not. But again, we did what we thought was the right thing to do in order to protect our country.

TAPPER: All right, Alberto Gonzales. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

GONZALES: GONZALES: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: Still to come, a contentious decision by President Obama, will he commutes the sentences by eight federal inmates.

Plus, Dennis Rodman back in North Korea, a look at the controversial company backing Rodman's trip.

And Kate Middleton's cell phone was hacked. A personal message from Prince William was exposed. Who was behind the hacking?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: President Obama today used his power to do something he's rarely done during his presidency. He commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates. All convicted of crack cocaine offenses. Six of the eight were set to spend life in prison and now they'll walk out in just months. In a statement the president said, quote, "commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideas of justice and fairness. But it must not be the last."

Joining me to discuss this issue, CNN legal analyst and form he prosecutor, Sunny Hostin, and former NYPD officer and private investigator, Bill Stanton.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Sunny, what's the significance of this announcement do you think?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think it is certainly is another step to correct the wrong which we all know exists, which is this terrible sentencing disparity between those that were convicted of crack cocaine offenses as opposed to those convicted of powder cocaine offenses. I mean, we're talking about a 100-1 disparity. If you sold five grams of crack you got the same type of sentence as someone that sold 500 grams of powder cocaine. And it really disproportionately affected the African-American communal. And so, this is certainly yet another step.

There's still a lot of work to be done, Jake. I remember when I was a federal prosecutor. These mandatory sentencing guidelines were in fact mandatory in 2005. They were changed to not be mandatory, just advisory. But, we were also frustrated as prosecutors because it took our discretion away from us. It took discretion away from, you know, federal judges. And what you saw were cases like Stephanie George where at 27 she is sentenced to life in prison for stashing her boyfriend's crack cocaine in her house.

And so you know, that kind of sentence really just, I think, flies in the face of what our justice system about. It is supposed to be, yes, punishment but a just punishment. And there was nothing just that the punishments handed down.

TAPPER: Bill, what's your reaction to the president's announcement today?

BILL STANTON, FORMER NYPD OFFICER: Well, I find it interesting how many a president decides to selectively pick and choose the laws that are on the books that he is going to choose to enforce and not enforce and how it has a very political tenor and tone to it. And I personally disagree.

As we see with drugs, you warm to talk crack versus powdered cocaine. Crack cocaine is far more addictive and far more damaging and murderous to individuals, the victims themselves. So, when you have a judge pass down a sentence, it should be enforced. If you want to change mandatory sentencing, then attack the law. Don't attack the ideology of it.

HOSTIN: Well, you know, I mean, certainly the law has been attacked and we know that there are bills that are hopefully going to pass in 2014 that are going to address this. We know that the attorney general has now said listen, prosecutors, you are going to charge it a different way so as not to trigger these advisory mandatory minimums. And so there is, there have been steps taken.

But we all know, and I think you should agree that really, it was just so disparity in terms of sentencing. It was unjust. You can't have someone who is a nonviolent offender put in federal prison for the rest of her life when you have other people that aren't in prison for much higher level crimes.

We're talking about a huge, huge cost to taxpayers, $7.9 billion, the house federal inmates just this year. I mean, there is just no sense in it. And I really think this administration has again the opportunity to right a wrong. Every case needs to be treated differently. And in these cases, it is just were not treated appropriately. They were all mashed up together. And again, it disproportion at affected African-Americans and African-American young men. I mean, we have, you know, five percent of the population and 25 percent of the people that are in prison. And it is just absolutely ridiculous. And I think our administration at this point is on the right track.

TAPPER: Well Bill, let me ask you. I want to have you respond. The president did not say these people should not have been punished for their crimes. His take was that they were unfairly sentenced under old sentencing guidelines, no longer the case no, longer the law. Possession of one gram of crack cocaine could get a sentence to 100 gram of powder cocaine.

I understand your position. But given that the law is different now in many places, do you think it is OK to go back and say well, the harsher sentences for crack cocaine were not fair. Therefore we should try to right these wrongs. Or do you think, look, they were convicted with what the law was at the time. Let them stay in prison. They were committing crimes.

STANTON: Well, this goes to a much larger issue and we would have to have a lot more time. The president is of course, the president of the United States and he can do as he chooses as he obviously does. But to the council's point, how there is a disproportionate number of African-American males to the population being arrested. I would say if we're going to talk politics, let the president employ more African-American youth. Under this administration, there are far more African-American men and in general, unemployed. So, African- Americans are vastly more unemployed in ratio which pushes them to crime which pushes them to get arrested more.

It is a domino effect. And I would much rather see having people employed where they don't to have face crime them don't have to justify breaking the law, selling cocaine, crack, et cetera. That's the true heart of the issue.

TAPPER: All right, Bill Stanton and Sunny Hostin, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

We should also note that one of the men whose sentence was commuted today is the first cousin of Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, a close friend of President Obama. Both the White House and Governor Patrick's offices say that had nothing to do with it and Governor Patrick had nothing to do with requesting that the sentencing commuted. He was been sentenced to life in prison in '94 on crack cocaine charges.

Still to come, Dennis Rodman, back in North Korea, is the former NBA star's basketball diplomacy a distraction from real problems?

And the star of "Duck Dynasty" suspended indefinitely from the show, did A&E overreach with their decision?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Dennis Rodman is back in North Korea. The former NBA star arrived in Pyongyang early this morning for a third round of so-called basketball diplomacy. You may be the first westerner to meet with Kim Jong-Un since the dictator had his uncle executed for treason last week but that's not on Rodman's mind, he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA BASKETBALL PLAYER: It has nothing too with I had. Whatever is done is done. I have nothing, no control over that. I mean, these have been going on for years and years and years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Rodman says he'll spend four days training the North Korean basketball team and will return in two week with 12 former NBA players for an exhibition game. As for politics, Rodman said he is not interested. And despite a plea from Kenneth Bae's sister, he says he has no plans to discuss the detained American with Kim Jong-Un.

Dan Simon has more on Rodman's trip and the controversial company paying it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With his rocky image and bizarre behavior, Dennis Rodman might be the last person most advertisers want representing their brands.

RODMAN: This is ground breaking things and Paddy Power is the main source of doing this.

SIMON: But the former NBA player has a big backer in a company called Paddy Power, an Irish online betting company that has doing some betting of its own by sponsoring Rodman's trips to North Korea and an exhibition basketball game there next month.

PADDY POWER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: For Paddy Power, this is hugely exciting. This is, you know, this is going to be a great event. It is potentially an historic occasion.

SIMON: Also, an occasion for the company to face sharp criticism from human rights activists. They and others question why any company would want to be associate with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Un who just had his uncle executed and has refused to release American Kenneth Bae.

But we are talking about a gambling site, not a company like Coca-Cola or IBM. So, in this case there may be little pr risk.

BOB CUSACK, MANAGING EDITOR, THE HILL: I think it makes a lot of sense. It is good publicity for them. It is obviously a controversial trip. It is a headache for the United States government. But they want to get some attention to their gambling site. And every time he goes to North Korea, it gets a lot of publicity. So in many ways it is a good fit for the company to do it.

SIMON: The company refused to say how much it is spending on Rodman but Paddy Power seem to court controversy.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear --

SIMON: In 2008, it offered odds on whether President Obama would finish his first term which many interpreted the odds of an assassination. The bet eventually got pulled from the site. Paddy Powers also offered adds on the first to species to be driven to extinction by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And it is already taking bets on who will be the next Pope after Francis.

By its own admission, Paddy Power has had a difficult year financially. Whether Dennis Rodman can help its bottom line isn't known.

RODMAN: I'm just going over to do a basketball game.

SIMON: But combining a controversial athlete with a controversial company, they make perfect business sense. No matter what you think of Dennis Rodman's trip or annex.

For OUTFRONT, Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Our thanks to Dan Simon.

Still to come, target hit by hackers. The retailer confirms the credit card information of up to 40 million customers might have been its accessed and even the royal family isn't immune from hacking a very personal e-mail sent from Prince William to Kate Middleton lifted from her phone.

And a Chicago teenager brutally attack on the way to school. Questions are now being raised a better program design to keep school children safe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: If you did your Black Friday shopping in Target or Target, you better keep an eye on your credit card statements. The retailer confirmed hackers might have accessed up to 40 million customers' credit and debit card data. The data breach hit systems at Target's brick and mortar stores, not the Web site.

David Kennedy is CEO of TrustedSec so-called white hat hacker who looks for security flaws.

David, thanks for being here.

Could customers have done anything in this case to avoid being victims of this breach?

DAVID KENNEDY, CEO, TRUSTEDSEC: Unfortunately not if you go to a store and you actually use your credit card. You know, this is a much larger issue with retail in how we use our data. But, no, there is nothing you could have done aside from actually shopping at the stores which isn't feasible.

TAPPER: And what is your message to -- I'm sure there are a lot of our viewers who actually did some Black Friday holiday shopping at Target or any shopping at the last three weeks there. What should they do if they think their credit or debit cards might be at risk?

KENNEDY: My wife is one of those. She's a very good Target advocate and have been shopping during the Black Friday celebrations.

But, you know, what you can do, there are a few step you can take. The first is probably the most painful but it is the best course of action you can do. Call your bank. Contact your bank and have them cancel your credit card.

And I know that sounds drastic, but you literally have your credit card within a day or two and you won't have to worry about the other step out there.

TAPPER: Is this new -- is this the new norm, David? If a major retailer like Target can be hacked, how can we trust our data to be safe anywhere we use our credit cards or debit cards?

KENNEDY: Well, I think this is a new trend. I think if you look at history, I mean, T.J. Maxx was a historical breach of credit card data. Target has a pretty well known and defined security program that they try to protect their information. So it shows that no one is impervious to these attacks and that you're going to continue to see them. We just need to step up our game when it comes to try to protect the sensitive data.

TAPPER: Can you tell us in a way that we would understand how this hack occurred?

KENNEDY: Well, what the reports are saying is, if you look at how these systems are set up. They're called point of sales systems. And what they do is when you scan your debit card in. It encrypts that data and it puts it back to, you know, a payment merchant or processor that actually goes and checks to see if you have available credit in all those. For what it looks like, hackers broke in and they targeted the point of sale systems and actually loaded a new software onto those point of sale in. Up to 40 million credit cards were potentially compromised. That's a big payday. I mean, it doesn't matter if you're targeting all those systems all at once to feed it all back during some of the busiest times was really sophisticated and it was definitely plan and orchestrated and something we need to be concerned with later on.

TAPPER: Forgive me for my stupid question, is this something they did remotely or is this something that they did on location in some way?

KENNEDY: Well, I mean, there are two ways they could have done it. One was through targeting the corporate environment and going through like fishing and social engineering. But most likely, if I was doing this and I was a hacker, I'd develop a box that I would plug into an exposed plug you plug into the network. And from there, I would monitor and look at the communications and sit there and plan for a number week or months and actually plan my attack. And then from there, I wouldn't have to touch anything. It could be done remotely.

I wouldn't have to interact with the stores, a low chance of probability of being caught. I mean, basically their tracks are pretty much covered and you don't have to worry about being busted.

TAPPER: All right. David Kennedy, I'm glad you're a white hat hacker. Thanks for coming. I appreciate it.

KENNEDY: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: Now to a different kind of hacking. This one involving Kate Middleton. Prosecutors told the London court today that reporters from the defunct British tabloid "News of the World" hacked Middleton's phone while she was dating Prince William, according to the British Press Association, prosecutors read a transcript of voicemails William had left for Kate. In it, the prince calls his future wife, baby kins, also tells a story about how he was almost shot with blank rounds during a military training exercise. Details from the calls were published as exclusive stories in the "News of the World".

The rape and beating of a 15-year-old girl on her way to school has Chicago officials reexamining the city's safe passage system. Started in 2009, the program is meant to protect students on their way to school and back, with trained workers patrolling designated routes throughout the city. But Tuesday's incident which occurred 30 minutes before the start of safe passage patrol in northwest Chicago, well, that's raised serious doubts.

George Howell has more on the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A 15-year-old girl was just on her way to school when someone attacked her.

(voice-over): Police believe a man hit her on the head and dragged her between these two homes where she was sexually assaulted and left lying in the snow for hours, until the man who lives here found her.

MICHAEL KLOCKOWSKI, FOUND VICTIM: Just opening up the door to, you know, take maybe a morning sweep of the sidewalks and find something like that is just shocking.

HOWELL: Michael Klockwoski found the young victim bloodied and half naked on the sidewalk. The snow here still stained by what that Tuesday.

A chilly reminder of how dangerous these streets can be to parents like Ada Cambron.

ADA CAMBRON, CHICAGO MOTHER: Everybody is worried. Because, no. In the morning you never see police walking around and stuff like that.

HOWELL (on camera): Not today, you see them all over.

CAMBRON: Today, because something happened. But it should be that way.

HOWELL (voice-over): The attack happened not even half a block away from a so-called Safe Passage Route, a program established with much publicity by the Chicago Public Schools to put men and women on patrol. Helping children get to and from school safely.

The number of Safe Passage Routes double this year to accommodate more children.

But is it working?

SHARON RAFAEL, CHICAGO MOTHER: I think it works. It just needs a little more security on it.

HOWELL: What do you mean?

RAFAEL: Like OK. You can patrol it right now. But later on, like in a few weeks, they'll forget about it. And they won't be around anymore.

HOWELL: Police say the attack happened around 6:00 a.m. when it is still dark this time of year in Chicago and was 30 minutes before the safe passage route was patrolled. Still, alderman Ariel Reboyras says it has raised questions about safety.

ARIEL REBOYRAS, CHICAGO ALDERMAN: We can't say it was a result of a problem with safe passage. But we know that it's not supposed to happen.

HOWELL: Police are still searching for the suspect. The teenage girl he attacked is still in the hospital in critical condition. But the whole thing has parents thinking twice about whether these signs are enough or if more needs to be done.

George Howell, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: Our thanks to George Howell.

Still to come, one of the stars of "Duck Dynasty" suspended indefinitely from the show. Did A&E make the right call?

And a $60 million project underway at the Capitol. We have an inside look for you later in the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: A national debate is raging after the popular star of "Duck Dynasty" was suspended by A&E for controversial comments about homosexuality. Supporters of Phil Robertson have come out swinging. They claim the self-proclaimed red neck is being unfairly targeted for his religious beliefs after calling homosexuality a sin.

Tom Foreman has more of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL ROBERTSON, DUCK DYNASTY: Kids in America today are fat, lazy.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fans of the outspoken "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson are sending a clear message of their own to A&E: bring him back and fast. The channel is being savaged online where more than 100,000 people have signed petitions supporting him.

Sarah Palin posted, "Free speech is an endangered species."

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, "The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints except those they disagree with."

And on TV, debate rages.

(CROSSTALK)

FOREMAN: Consider "Duck Dynasty" draws 14 million weekly viewers, rights groups are thrilled their calls produce results so soon. GLAAD said, "By taking quick action, removing Robertson from future filming, A&E sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value."

Robertson is just the latest high profile person to run afoul of gay rights activists. Actor Alec Baldwin lost his MSNBC show last month after allegedly using a homophobic slur.

Indiana Pacers basketball star Roy Hibbert was fined $75,000 for an anti-gay comment.

Yunel Escobar was suspended last year for a similar infraction.

It all has some media commentators like Joe Concha saying witch hunt.

JOE CONCHA, MEDIAITE: I find it patently hilarious that A&E is shock, shock, that its hand picked bible-thumping star whom they've encouraged to be candid and controversial actually sounds like, get this, a bible thumper -- particularly when nearly half the country still doesn't support issues like gay marriage.

FOREMAN (on camera): So what happens now? A&E and the Robertsons could lose a lot of money if "Duck Dynasty" falls entirely apart. And yet, gay rights activists could be up in arms again if the suspension ends too soon or maybe if it ends at all.

ROBERTSON: The first prerequisite for a man and a woman, can she cook?

FOREMAN: In TV terms, it is a cliffhanger. For now, the man in the middle is uncharacteristically not saying much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Russell Moore. He's with the Southern Baptist Convention. Dean Obeidallah, a columnist for the Daily Beast. Of course, our senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, and our own Don Lemon. Quite a pack we've got here.

Russell, let's get your response to Tom Foreman's report. Do you think that criticizing gays, criticizing homosexuality is one of the last untouchable topics in America today? Russell? Do you hear me?

RUSSELL MOORE, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: Yes, I hear you now. I think that this is something that has become untouchable. And frankly, I don't agree with the way that Mr. Robertson said many of the things that he said.

But I think that the basic thrust of what he was saying is that in order to go to heaven, people have to repent of sin and believe in Christ and there is a whole range of sins out there. I think that's something we ought to be free to talk about and to disagree about.

There are all sorts of people on television I disagree with that I don't want to silence. I think we should have more conversation. Not less conversation.

TAPPER: Dean, you agree with the suspension, I believe? I think we're having problems with Russell's feed, but we'll try to fix that as soon as possible.

Dean, you agree with the suspension I believe. I want to get your reaction to something Governor Bobby Jindal said in a statement. He said, quote, "It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh and Phil Robertson gets suspended."

What's your take on what he says there?

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, THE DAILY BEAST: It's a more messed up situation when you're comparing someone twerking to someone making hateful comments about gays.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Right.

OBEIDALLAH: How can a governor of Louisiana actually say that? It's unbelievable to me. This is not about gay marriage. If he would have said from "Duck Dynasty," I'm opposed to gay marriage, the Republican Party is too. They're not demonized as a hate group. That goes one, that's life.

He went further. He called gay actions as if it is bestiality, which think about it, that's raping an animal. How deprived of a person you have to be, deprived of a person? Plus he went on to liken gays and terrorists. That makes it OK for people to discriminate against gay people. That's what's wrong.

So, suspending for a period of time. He is not fired. He's getting paid. He'll get his job back. He's a rich guy, a multimillionaire. He'll be fine. But it sends a clear message. That's what I like about it.

TAPPER: Don Lemon, Phil Robertson also said he thinks African- Americans were happy in Louisiana prior to the civil rights movement.

He said, quote, "Were they happy? They were godly. They were happy. No one was singing the blues."

Those comments haven't gotten as much attention as the ones about homosexuality. What's your take?

LEMON: That's because he's absolutely right about that.

Obviously, I'm joking. Come on.

Listen, I hear those comments and I read those comments and I couldn't help but laugh. I think it is very interesting that that the comment about African-Americans got far less play than the comments about gay people. Being both, I read his comments about gay people as a bible quote, which was not right. I don't agree with it.

But his comments about African-Americans, it is even more far afield than his comments about gay people. He has a lack of awareness about the way the world works and the way society is right now.

And maybe it is because he lives in the swamp. I don't know. He is a very wealthy man. But I think it is interesting, Jake, that those comments really did get short shrift today and last night.

TAPPER: Brian Stelter, as a media analyst, media reporter, when you look at the headlines. They're all about the comments he made about homosexuality.

BRIAN STELTER, MEDIA ANALYST: Right.

TAPPER: Why do you think it is the one about African-Americans are not in the headlines? Does civil rights story not generate as many clicks or viewers as a story about gays?

STELTER: It may be because those battles seem more over. Whereas gay rights battles seem to be continuing. Now, of course, there areal civil rights groups doing great work, continuing their efforts. But it does seem that if you look polling data, if you look at the news headlines, gay rights issues seem to be more top of mine.

I also think it was gay rights groups that started to bring these quotes up first a couple of days ago. They started to bring the magazine up and bring to it A&E's attention and say what are you going to do?

A&E was in an almost impossible situation. To ignore what he said was going to cause an outrage, was going to cause outcry, rightfully so. To suspend him as they did is also causing an outcry. I don't know if there is any good situation for them, any right choice them for them.

LEMON: I think what people are dancing around is how the gay lobby, the power of the gay lobby. It is a real powerful force. It is a real loud force. And it is a real concerted effort to make sure that the rights of gay people are not overlooked.

The gay lobby now, if I can say that term, I sound like a conservative, right? But the gay lobby now is a very powerful force in America.

And it's interesting considering we have an African-American in office that the comments about black people didn't really raise as many eyebrows as the comments about gay people says a lot about what is new, what's about the gay lobby. And about what people find important these days.

OBEIDALLAH: But don't you think it's because it's different.

TAPPER: Let me ask you the question, because obviously, we lost Russell's satellite. So, let me --

OBEIDALLAH: So, I'll pretend to be the right wing Christian. No?

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Until we get him back. Let me play devil's advocate and say, Russell would say, that look. Let me not speak for Russell actually because I don't know what he would say. Here is an argument I want to you respond to.

There should be tolerance of gay people. There should also be tolerance of religious people. And what Phil Robertson was talking about was, how many millions of evangelicals interpret the bible. Let's remove the African-American comments from this conversation. Why should there be an intolerance for the views on -- he was be decrying gays. He was decrying homosexuality, the behavior. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

OBEIDALLAH: I hear this all the time. I hear all the time, we don't hate Muslims, we hate Islam. That's the same thing. Look, they're demonizing gays, let's not beat around the bush. That's what this is about. He just represents n this case the same voice we heard from the American Family Association, from the Family Research Council, it's a campaign to demonize gay people so you can criminate against them. That's what this is about --

LEMON: Dean, I completely disagree with you. I completely disagree with you. I understand what you're saying, yes, we do have --

(CROSSTALK)

OBEIDALLAH: This is beyond --

LEMON: But this man is not doing -- he's not part of the organizations. Dean, let me finish. I don't agree with anything he said. He was asked a question. He quoted a bible verse. That's his belief --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: As reprehensible as you see it is, he is not doing what certain hosts on other shows calling people, you know, blank sucking fags. He is not doing that. He's simply stating his beliefs no matter how wrong they are. He's not part of a group of concerted efforts to demonize people.

(CROSSTALK)

OBEIDALLAH: He's got every right to say -- I will defend his right to say --

LEMON: You're wrong --

OBEIDALLAH: -- the most ridiculous thing but there are consequences. It's called personal responsibility.

LEMON: Absolutely there are consequences, but don't make him part of a concerted effort --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Gentlemen, let me run in here for one second because I do believe we got Russell back, and I would like to let him get one question, hopefully, his satellite won't go down again.

Russell, Robertson and we talked about this on my show, "THE LEAD" at 4:00 he lumped homosexuality in with infidelity and bestiality. Should he be able to say that and think that there won't be any consequences?

MOORE: Well, I don't think he equated homosexuality with bestiality. I think what he said was, there's an entire range of sins. Anytime that there's a lost of a moral compass, there are going to be any number of things that are going to be taking place --

LEMON: He insinuated --

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Well, I think he -- his words probably weren't very well- chosen. He is standing there talking to a "G.Q." reporter out on a field somewhere. The point is there is an entire range of sins and redemption for any number of sins, anything from sexual immorality, all the way over to a terrorist.

I think the basic point there is no one is so far gone that someone is too far gone from the redeeming power of God's grace.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: -- they have to realize that judging people, that's also a sin, as well. So I mean, he is not without sin, and people who judge Christians, so-called Christians who judge gay people or black people, or whatever, even sinners, they are not without sin, as well. Because the bible tells you and Jesus says you're not supposed to judge anybody.

MOORE: Well, we're the very ones saying that we're not without somebody. That Scripture says all of us are sinners. And we include all of ourselves in that category. I think that was part of Robertson's point.

I wouldn't have made it the way he made it, but I think that was his point.

All of us are sinners. We all fall short of God's mark and our only hope is through redemption through Jesus Christ --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Unfortunately, I have to end it there. Brian, I wanted to get you in but your new colleague Don Lemon wouldn't let me do that. So you can blame it on him in the cafeteria.

Russell Moore, Dean Obeidallah, Brian Stelter, Don Lemon, great conversation, thanks all of you.

Russell, I'm glad we were able to get you back.

Coming up next, major changes coming to the capital. We'll tell you about them, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: More than 1,000 cracks and rust spots cover the 150-year-old cast iron dome of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Now, a restoration project is being planned to help preserve the site for generations to come.

Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Capitol Dome, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

We got a rare tour inside the dome, more than 200 feet up in the air, where you can really see damage -- a long crack in a window, rust eroding the ornaments and underlying structure. Architects count more than 1,300 cracks in the Capitol Dome caused by wind, rain and sun threatening the historic frescos inside.

KEVIN HILDEBRAND, ARCHITECT AOC: When the rust develops between the plates, it binds the place from moving, and that creates enormous pressures within the artwork.

BASH: This spring, a massive two-year renovation will start. It's no easy task. The dome is made of 9 million pounds of iron.

HILDEBRAND: I'm going to lift this coffer.

BASH: With an incredibly thin exterior shell as demonstrated here.

When the Capitol was first built in the late 1700s, this dome didn't exist. It was added 150 years ago.

Taking us through narrow steep staircases behind its walls, the architect was eager to show off the dome's beauty, why it is so important to restore.

(on camera): To get up here we had to walk hundreds of stairs, very narrow, very treacherous staircase. But, boy, was it worth it?

Look at the view, up and all the way down.

(voice-over): From famous frescos, including Washington ascending to heaven, to dramatic acoustics high inside the rotunda.

HILDEBRAND: You have to be careful when what you're saying when you're up here because anyone on the opposite side can hear you. Be careful and duck as you go through the doorway.

BASH: Then, to the breathe-taking view outside.

(on camera): All the way up here, 260 feet in the air, this is what you see.

(voice-over): It's really clear from here the Capitol is the focal point of the city's design.

HILDEBRAND: The access of the Mall, Maryland Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, all radiating from the central point.

BASH: Starting this spring, the dome will be wrapped scaffolding and stay that way through the renovation. Congress already approved $59 million for the restoration. Still, these costs tend to explode.

(on camera): So can you guarantee you are not going to go over budget?

STEPHEN AYERS, ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL: Guarantee? That's a big word. Well, we're pretty confident, I'll give you that.

BASH (voice-over): It has been meticulously planned, in the works for years. HILDEBRAND: It's something that has to happen. There is no more recognizable symbol of the country than the capitol dome or our national flag.

BASH: Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Thanks so much for joining us. Join me tomorrow on "THE LEAD" at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 p.m. Pacific.

"AC360" starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, tonight, we'll go behind all the headlines in "Duck Dynasty" uproar, beyond the outrage, and outpouring of support. We'll look at what happens when reality stars actually get real and why people are shocked when it happens.

Also, a 360 exclusive, Dr. Sanjay Gupta with tough questions for this guy, an expert in treating chronic pain. Question one, why did his patients in his clinic O.D. and die, a lot of them?

And later, hackers take aim at Target shoppers. What you need to know if you hold one of the 40 million credit and debit cards that were apparently compromise in one of the biggest data rip off on records.

All that in the hour ahead. We begin with breaking news, theater collapse in the heart of London, hundreds inside when it happened, dozens hurt.

Nic Robertson is there, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Anderson, 76 people injured so far. We're told seven of them seriously injured, taken away by paramedics who were in the scene.