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Christie in Crisis; Pregnant Woman Kept On Life Support

Aired January 8, 2014 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everyone. Welcome to "AC360 Later."

Tonight: Will the shenanigans that tied up traffic on the George Washington Bridge also jam up Chris Christie's political ambitions? Talk about raw politics. Also, the bitterly contentious case of a brain-dead Texas woman being kept on life support under state law because she's pregnant, even though her family wants her taken off.

And in the fifth chair tonight, Wanda Sykes on comedy, women, her new project, and "SNL"'s newest cast member. A lot to talk about.

Also at the table, blogger Andrew Sullivan, founder of The Dish at, CNN commentator Michaela Angela Davis, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and senior political analyst David Gergen.

And I want to start out with Chris Christie, the Republican favorite for president, according to the early polling at least. E- mails and text messages, this is a fascinating story, linking his top aides to what is allegedly and apparently a bizarre case of political payback, closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge, which is the busiest bridge in the world.

That's a look at the bridge there at night. Back in September, though, they closed some lanes, plunging parts of Manhattan and nearly all of Fort Lee, New Jersey, there on the left of your screen into chaos. Traffic backed up, school buses ran late, ambulances, including one carrying a 91-year-old heart attack victim, were delayed, all allegedly because Fort Lee's mayor, a Democrat, refused to join other Democrats who were endorsing Chris Christie.

Today, we got evidence suggesting there was political payback, e- mails and text messages obtained by CNN implicating top Christie aides and appointees. About a month before the lane closings and after, to the mayor's refusal to endorse Christie, Bridget Anne Kelly, one of three deputies on Christie's senior staff, writes the following e-mail to Christie appointee David Wildstein at the Port Authority, which runs the bridge.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," she writes. The reply, "Got it."

Late today, Governor Christie issued a statement blaming others. It reads: "I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge."

The statement went on to stay, "This behavior is not representative of me or my administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions."

Plenty to talk about with the panel.

Andrew, does this surprise you? Do you believe Christie didn't know about this?

ANDREW SULLIVAN, ANDREWSULLIVAN.COM: Let me put it this way. I hope he's telling the truth, because if he isn't telling the truth and he was involved in this in some way, it's over.

My own feeling is that this is one of those rare moments when an Aaron Sorkin script actually reads like real life. These e-mails and these texts, so contemptuous of ordinary people. They're just playing this game of politics in the pettiest, most vindictive form.

And, look, keeping people in traffic is one of the worst things you can do to human beings. It drives you crazy. I think it's terrible for him. I think it's terrible because it makes him look petty and vindictive and we don't want a president like that.

COOPER: And even if he didn't know about it, from the tone of the e-mails, it does sound as if everybody around him believes this is something he would approve of and like. And if that's the case, that doesn't reflect well on him.


I hesitate to bring up Richard Nixon. The fact was, I worked for Richard Nixon, and we will never know whether he ordered Watergate burglary or not. But I can guarantee you the people who carried out thought they were doing what he wanted them to do it. I think that's the issue here in part.

Did he create an environment? People take their cues off the leader. And if certain things are permissible or encouraged and they do them, the leader does bear responsibility. That's the problem that Chris Christie has now.


SULLIVAN: I can't wait to tell the big guy that we did this. It's a kind of trivial and cynical and callous tone to it that suggests it's a culture there. It's a mentality in that office.


COOPER: And you believe that if somebody died, you believe it takes to a whole other level?

GERGEN: I think if somebody died or indeed had some serious injury as a result of not being able to get proper medical attention swiftly, I think it could be curtains for him.

This is a big political deal, big deal in politics. It was only a couple of weeks ago that Chris Christie went ahead for the first time of Hillary Clinton in a sweepstakes for 2016. We're a long, long way away, but that makes a difference in Republican politics. When somebody gets ahead like that, Republicans tend to turn to that person as the heir apparent. This, all bets are off tonight.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: One of the mistakes we make in politics and covering politics is we jump to conclusions and we say it's all over for Chris Christie.

It's all over for Chris Christie. This is it.


COOPER: Even if he didn't know about it?


TOOBIN: Done, over.

COOPER: Really?

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

You cannot -- this is not a complicated scandal. This is not something that it takes a law degree, it takes an accounting degree to understand. What is the explanation here? That my subordinates -- by the way, we haven't heard the end of the factual investigation here.

Let's hear Ms. Kelly under oath. He's obviously throwing her under the bus now. Let's hear what she has to say. Let's hear what Mr. Wildstein has to say. I mean, this is devastating. Forget about it.

GERGEN: Do you think there will be a criminal investigation on this?

TOOBIN: I don't see this as criminal really.

GERGEN: Well, then why would they be under oath? To whom?

TOOBIN: The legislature is going to call them in.

That's how these e-mails came out, that they're subpoenaing stuff. They have the right to get people under loath. If you lie under the oath, even to the legislation, that can be a crime. Yes. So we have only begun to learn what went on here.


COOPER: And you were saying these are high officials.

MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it's a top aide. Christie doesn't appear to me as someone that doesn't know what people are doing. He seems quite controlling. And the timing is off, and, as you said, it just doesn't seem presidential at all, to have your top aide -- kind of toss it off to them. Often, we see presidents go, this is my administration, I take full responsibility.


COOPER: I just want to play what the mayor of Fort Lee said to Wolf earlier today. This is the town that was affected by these closures. Let's listen.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Wouldn't you expect him to start making some phone calls to at least apologize, even if he had nothing to do with it, but his senior aides did?

MARK SOKOLICH (D), MAYOR OF FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY: Wolf, don't call me. Do me a favor. Don't call me, but call the families who were waiting three, four times longer for emergency service agencies when their loved ones were having heart palpitations or when their loved ones had extreme chest pains and were waiting for our ambulance car to arrive.

Do me a favor. Call and apologize to thousands of families whose kids were late for first day of school and the three or four days that ensued thereafter.


TOOBIN: There are e-mails about the kids who were late for school.

And one of the Christie aides says, well, they're just Buono voters -- their parents are just Buono voters any way. Buono was the Democrat who was running against him. In other words, we don't care about the kids whose parents are Democrats. Are you kidding me?

DAVIS: It's pretty bad.

TOOBIN: In the United States?


SULLIVAN: Not only that. He was cruising to a landslide. The pettiness of this, just because a Democrat, for God's sake, after so many others, no, in my own...


TOOBIN: This is where your Nixon parallel comes in.


TOOBIN: So was Richard Nixon in 1973. You think George McGovern was going to win that without Watergate?

GERGEN: Yes. I talked to a major politician and political figure tonight, and he was saying -- made a really interesting point.

With politicians, one of the things you have is a narrative that develops, the anti-narrative, the negative narrative. If something comes up which plays into that stereotype, that is extraordinarily damaging.


COOPER: The bullying.


GERGEN: The bully story, that he's vindictive, and this plays into right that stereotype.

If it had been about competence, for example, or whether he's tough enough, I don't think...


COOPER: You were quoting someone on your Web site tonight that, previously, if he was seen as a bully, it was for the people of New Jersey, that he was working on their behalf.

But the idea that he's bullying against the very people he's governing over, that's...

SULLIVAN: You can punch up as a politician and take on the powers that be. When you start punching down...

DAVIS: Kids.


DAVIS: And elderly.

SULLIVAN: Yes, I'm with you.


SULLIVAN: It's ugly. And I worry about a president that's going to be vindictive like that.


SULLIVAN: You don't want someone in position of authority...

COOPER: On the flip side of this is, there are plenty of people who have said, look, this is politics. All these people do this, probably.


TOOBIN: You know what? No, they don't.

COOPER: You don't buy that?

TOOBIN: No, they don't.

Look, I have covered politics. You have covered politics. I think I'm as cynical as the next person. Shutting down lanes on a bridge to punish a mayor who didn't endorse you? I have never heard of anything like that.


GERGEN: I thought it was bizarre. I just thought, what, person, what sane person would do this?

TOOBIN: And now we know that they did it. The question is who authorized it.

COOPER: In that e-mail, where she says, time to shut down some lanes, and he says, got it, it's as if this has been done -- like they know what they're talking about.

If somebody e-mailed me as the head of the transportation and said, time to shut down some lanes, I wouldn't be like, oh, got it, yes. I know exactly what you're talking about, unless...


SULLIVAN: It was an -- statement. Time for some traffic problems. Got it. It's all code for running a thugocracy, it feels like.


DAVIS: Yes, it's very thuggy.

GERGEN: Yes. I don't think it's out of question that it could force him out of office.

COOPER: Really?

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

GERGEN: I don't think it's out of the question. I don't think it's out of the question. I think it all depends on the facts. Until we know the facts, we don't know how serious it is.


TOOBIN: This is the plague or ruin of modern life. There are e- mails. There are text messages. If he is on some of these e-mails, if he's responded to any of this, he's gone.


SULLIVAN: ... little worryingly categorical about his denial. It sounds a little panicked, that statement today.

COOPER: Well, he's also been pooh-poohing this now for a while and mocking anybody who brings it up to him.

TOOBIN: Exactly. This is not a new story. Those of us in the Northeast has been following this story a little bit for the past several weeks because there were rumors about this. There were accusations about it.

And Christie and his administration said, this is absurd. Now we know it was clearly done. The only question is who authorized it.

GERGEN: There is also a question. When these things come up, if you're chief executive, your responsibility is to start investigating it then, not wait until something comes out, an e-mail comes out later. He should have known. He should have gotten to the bottom of this long before tonight.

DAVIS: I think that's the fishiest part, the timing, like now.


COOPER: We will probably learn even more tomorrow.

A quick reminder. You can join the conversation, tweeting us using #AC360Later. Or weigh in on We will show your comments at the bottom of the screen.

Up next tonight, breaking news involving the toddler in that video that has raised eyebrows, has gone viral. He's the one millions of people saw on tape cursing with adults in the room, adults who were egging him on. Just moments ago, we learned that authorities have acted. We will tell you what has happened to the toddler now.

Also the question, does the state have the right to keep a brain- dead woman on life support against her wishes, against her family's wishes just because she's pregnant? That story ahead.


COOPER: Hey. Welcome back.

We have just learned that a toddler we told you about last night is now in protective custody in Omaha, Nebraska. Last night, we showed you video showing him in a diaper, adults with him and a whole lot of obscene language, the adults basically egging him on to say horrific things.

Let's show it to you again. We warn you it is not easy to take. Here is just part of it.






COOPER: The video is posted on the Web site of the Omaha, Nebraska, Police Officers Association, which says it's got a tip that it was on the public Facebook page of a person it refers to as a local thug. Those were their words

The union said the video highlights the "cycle of violence and thuggery Omaha faces." According to a statement posted on the Facebook page for the Omaha Police, authorities were able to identify the child and the adults you heard in the background.

Tonight, they say the little boy and three other children have been removed from that home.

Joining the panel, former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin and criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos.

Is it right that CPS goes in and takes out kids based on this video?

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, it's right, but this may be one of the due times Sunny and I agree on anything.

The racial overtones are so unbelievable.

COOPER: For the police to...


GERAGOS: For the police to put that up there, the thug, the what hood you from, blood. All this is codeword and code and it's outrageous. And having defended several African-Americans in Nebraska, probable cause in Nebraska is being black while driving.


SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: ... several African-Americans in Nebraska?

GERAGOS: Yes, only driving through.


HOSTIN: And that's tissue that I have. The police union decides to post this, saying they're dealing with this issue of African- American thugs in Nebraska. Last I checked, they were like 4 percent of the population.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Well, it's 13.7 percent.

HOSTIN: Four percent in Nebraska.

COOPER: In Omaha.

HOSTIN: In Omaha?

COOPER: In Omaha.


HOSTIN: I can't imagine that the 13 percent are committing so much crime that they're facing this debacle.

And so I think it's really racist that they would do something like that. The racial overtones are incredible. I think our law enforcement officers are supposed to be investigating. Right? You see something like that, and the objective should be to get the child help, to take the child out of that home, because what we saw is child abuse.

I prosecuted many child abuse cases. I know child abuse when I see it. But that's not what they did.


GERAGOS: They post it the Web site. It's only the public outcry that causes them to run in there and grab the kid.

HOSTIN: Exactly. Exactly.

GERAGOS: Nobody -- it didn't click with anybody when they posted it.


DAVIS: That wasn't their intention. It was exploitative. It was shaming.

HOSTIN: I think it was racist.

DAVIS: They didn't go to some meth lab and show little white kids, like showing you the range of thug babies. This was very specific. And I think their intention was to shame, contain, and make...


COOPER: But can CPS move in? Just because you have bad parents who are not responsible, they can move in?

GERAGOS: CPS can go in for practically anything.


HOSTIN: But this is not anything. This is clear child abuse.

GERAGOS: He's asking a more general question, I think.


GERAGOS: CPS can go in for virtually anything.

They err on the side of being overdiligent. So, no, to me, that's what they should done immediately. It shouldn't have been waiting for somebody to post it.


DAVIS: Did we learn anything about the adults, like their ages, the people who were making the...

COOPER: The man was supposedly the uncle of the child. The parents of the child were actually apparently not on -- not actually recorded, the voices of the parents.


DAVIS: Did the parents know about it?

COOPER: That, I don't know.

David Because what he posted on Facebook sounded like an adolescent, too. Did you see his message? It was pretty bad.

COOPER: Well, it just sounded like...


DAVIS: Like a teen thug?


COOPER: Not a very well-thought-out statement.


HOSTIN: And how do you leave your child with someone like that?

DAVIS: Well, that's the issue, too. Is this a baby-sitting situation? Are the parents really...


COOPER: Do you think this is all that uncommon?


HOSTIN: Absolutely not.

GERAGOS: I don't think that it's necessarily all that uncommon.


HOSTIN: Uncommon that a child is doing that? I would say that it's uncommon.

GERAGOS: It's uncommon that a police agency would be so clueless to put something like this on.


GERAGOS: And to post it.


GERAGOS: Right. It's for the entertainment value.

HOSTIN: Exactly.

COOPER: I want to talk about another story which is really from the intersection of the law and also families.

There's a brain-dead woman in Texas right now. She's connected to a life support machine in a hospital, in spite of what she and her husband ever wanted.

Before we talk about it, Ed Lavandera explains why. Take a look.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was a 33-year- old mother of a young baby boy, a paramedic married to another paramedic, the couple expecting their second child when it happened.

Marlise Munoz collapsed in her home of an apparent blood clot in her lung. Her family got the devastating news shortly after. They say doctors told them she was brain-dead and would never recover.

Her body is now connected to a ventilator inside this Fort Worth, Texas, hospital, despite her family's wishes.

ERICK MUNOZ, HUSBAND: We have reached the point where, you know, you wish that your wife's body would stop.

LAVANDERA: The hospital refuses to unplug the ventilators because Munoz is pregnant, and Texas is about one of 30 states that restrict a woman's ability to be disconnected from life support if they are pregnant, regardless of the patient or the family's directive.

Erick Munoz and his wife are paramedics, and end of life issues is something they talked about often.

MUNOZ: We have seen things out in the field. We both knew that we didn't want to be on life support.


COOPER: We're back with our panelists.

Sunny, we talked about this in the 8:00 hour with you. You actually believe the hospital, the law is right to keep this woman on a ventilator.

HOSTIN: Yes, I do.

We know that this was a wanted pregnancy. She has another child with her husband. She was in a happy married relationship. And this was an unforeseen circumstance.


COOPER: But she had told her husband she never wanted to be on a ventilator.

HOSTIN: On a ventilator, but, Anderson, I can't imagine part of that conversation was, and if I'm pregnant, and my baby is 14 weeks...


COOPER: But doesn't her husband know more than you about whether his wife would want...

GERAGOS: No, because her husband doesn't have a uterus. That was Sunny's defense today.


HOSTIN: I did say that. And it is interesting to me. And I don't know if my good friend here is going to agree, but in the 8:00 hour, I'm speaking with a panel of men who are all saying, pull the plug, pull the plug.

And I challenge you because I think...


COOPER: One who, by the way, is a medical ethicist.


GERAGOS: But can we just set the stage here? This is not somebody in a vegetative state. This is not somebody in a vegetative in a coma. This is somebody who is brain-dead.

In every state in the United States, this person meets the definition for death. So, we're not talking about life support. We're talking somebody who is already clinically, legally dead.


SULLIVAN: The question I want to know is, does this child have a chance of being born and living?


SULLIVAN: If that is the case, then I'm with you.


HOSTIN: Finally. Thank you.

COOPER: But that's if the mother is kept on a ventilator. At this point, it's not a viable fetus.

TOOBIN: I think this is grotesque to keep this child, to keep this pour woman breathing. She's not alive -- to keep the woman breathing against the will of the person who loves her most in the world.

This just shows how abortion politics dominates American politics in so many ways. The only reason this law exists is because the people who don't believe in abortion want to expand the definition of life, at the end of life, at the beginning of life.


COOPER: One at a time.

Andrew, go ahead.

SULLIVAN: This is a human being at a stage of developing that might have a chance of living.

TOOBIN: Fourteen weeks, 20 weeks?


SULLIVAN: I'm not a medical doctor. I don't know.

But if there is any chance that this human child can live, then this human child should be given the chance to live. That's not abortion politics. That's called defending life.


HOSTIN: Do you really think the baby's mother would want the baby not to survive if there was a chance? Again, this was a wanted pregnancy. I don't believe for one minute that had she had the decision to make, Mark Geragos...


COOPER: OK. We haven't heard from Michaela.


DAVIS: This is really, really fascinating.

HOSTIN: And you have a uterus, too. DAVIS: Yes, and I love my uterus. But I don't think that you need a uterus to have an opinion on this.


DAVIS: But I do think this is abortion politics, but much more complicated than we have ever seen, because this is the father now choosing whether -- because he's going to be the caretaker if that child gets to live.

SULLIVAN: You do not get to choose...


DAVIS: Let me finish.

I do think that this is about a right to life with the parent. And we have never seen this before, where the mother is the one who is not able to say whether she wants an abortion or not. So, it's not cut and dry, this conversation.


GERAGOS: She was a paramedic. She faced on a daily basis life- and-death issues. She had discussed this at length with her husband.


SULLIVAN: So she could have had a power of attorney.


GERAGOS: And she did. And she did.


GERAGOS: No, because here, the way the law is written, the law -- the hospital is interpreting the law that they have to keep her alive, in spite of what this woman...


COOPER: She now has lawyers. You think this will...

GERAGOS: I will make a prediction. Jeff is notoriously bad at predictions. We will see what he does. I will make a prediction.

They now have lawyers. I believe these lawyers are going to go into federal court, they're going to get a federal judge to order that they honor the wishes.

COOPER: How quickly would that happen?


GERAGOS: They will give notice. They will give notice. They will be there the following day.

DAVIS: But they actually had a conversation, if she were pregnant?



COOPER: No, we don't know that.


DAVIS: That's what is so very important here that everyone is glossing over.

HOSTIN: The family is saying she wanted to be taken off life support. But I would suggest to everyone that that particular conversation wasn't had.


COOPER: One at a time.


GERAGOS: ... your father and your husband should have no decision-making powers and that it should be? Because here, she's got her father, her husband, and her have made this decision, and now we're going to from the outside...

HOSTIN: We don't know that she made that decision. We don't know that she made that decision, Mark Geragos.

GERAGOS: No, but we do.

HOSTIN: And on top of it, when I think there's a sort of murky situation and there's a gray area, the law does step in. And the law in Texas is that a pregnant woman cannot be taken off of life support.

GERAGOS: And that is where I will make another prediction. The law is being interpreted by that hospital. They're dead wrong. They're not going to survive in federal court. The law is somebody who is in a vegetative or comatose state, not somebody who...


SULLIVAN: Can someone speak up for the child?

HOSTIN: I'm trying to.


TOOBIN: But this not a child. This is a fetus.

HOSTIN: That is ridiculous, Jeff.


COOPER: One at a time. No one listens if you're all talking.

TOOBIN: I understand that. This is not a child. This is a fetus. And I think we need to honor the autonomy of a woman. And the only way we can honor that is to listen to the people who knew her best, and those people believe that she should be allowed to die. And that's who I think this story should be resolved.

SULLIVAN: The question is, do those believe the child should be made to die?

HOSTIN: That's right.

TOOBIN: The child is not made to die. If a pregnant woman dies at 14 or 20 weeks, the fetus necessarily dies. No fetus can survive at 20 weeks.

SULLIVAN: But if there's a chance, if there's a chance to save this child, a human being, why would you not try and do that?


COOPER: Would you keep an adult on a ventilator in the hopeful chance that maybe something would change?

SULLIVAN: No. This is different because, as I said, I don't know the medical details.


SULLIVAN: Just one second.

If this child can have a chance of being born and living a life, then I really think that person needs to be protected.


TOOBIN: Every pregnant woman has a life within them that has a chance to live. Some women choose to end that. That's their choice.

SULLIVAN: And she never made that choice.

HOSTIN: She didn't make that choice.


TOOBIN: But she made a choice to inform her husband that she didn't want to be kept alive.


HOSTIN: Not in this circumstance.

GERAGOS: You have got her husband, you have got her father, and the idea that we're sitting here in New York dictating to this family what should happen with this woman who is dead -- and as -- I agree with Jeff. It's ghoulish.

SULLIVAN: I'm dictating nothing. I'm just simply trying to defend the other human being involved in this particular tragic situation.

GERAGOS: But accepting what you're saying, your argument, then abortion should never exist, ever, because 14 weeks is...


HOSTIN: That's like comparing apples and elephants. That's so ridiculous.

COOPER: But do you make a distinction between being in a vegetative -- persistent vegetative state or being in a coma or being brain-dead?

I mean, to Mark's point, brain-dead is, she's dead.


SULLIVAN: ... unique situation in pregnancy. This is the only reason I'm talking about this, is that I don't believe in ridiculously extensive measures to keep people alive, especially if they don't want it. Absolutely not.

But when another human life is there, and it may just be a matter of months before that human being can have a chance to live, I don't think you should be dictating that child's life or death.

GERAGOS: I don't think I should. I don't think you should. I think that the father and the husband should.


SULLIVAN: The law should, surely.

GERAGOS: Well, the law, if you read the law, I think it's clear that the hospital is misinterpreting this.

COOPER: The guy who wrote the law who is quoted actually in Ed Lavandera's piece, or one of the guys who was involved in writing of the law...

GERAGOS: The guy some SMU.

COOPER: Right, said that they're actually misapplying the law, that it doesn't apply to somebody who is brain-dead.


GERAGOS: And he's absolutely correct. If you just read the text of the law, you will see that is -- the hospital is dead wrong.


DAVIS: What is the law? Make it plan. What is the law? How does it read?

GERAGOS: The law is if somebody is in a persistent vegetative state, in a coma, not when somebody is clinically dead. You can't say that we're talking about life support when every state in the union defines her as dead.

COOPER: Do you think this would be reversed in a court?

TOOBIN: I don't know. I don't know.

I don't -- I think, particularly in Texas, where there is this intense opposition to abortion and anything that would limit the life of a fetus, I wouldn't want to predict how this would come out.


SULLIVAN: How can a dead person -- how can a dead person bring a live baby to birth?


SULLIVAN: That's what I don't understand.

GERAGOS: Because the two categories of death in most states are brain death, number one, which she is, and then there is circulatory, whether you have got the vascular...


HOSTIN: But we're talking about semantics, aren't we?

GERAGOS: No, we're talking about brain death.

HOSTIN: The bottom line is, is that you have a child -- because I disagree with you, Jeff. You have a 20-week-old.


GERAGOS: Well, all they have said is, they don't know, because they feel or they can sense a heartbeat. They don't know -- remember, this is a woman who lost oxygen for a sustained period of time.

So, by all accounts, that's what caused her brain death. For all we know, we have got a fetus that is in the same situation.

HOSTIN: So, if the baby is less than perfect, the baby doesn't deserve to live?

GERAGOS: No, I don't think it's a baby, and it's not a baby because it is a fetus. I don't think that that fetus is -- there's any right to keep a dead body circulating in order to incubate a fetus. I mean, to me, that's ghoulish. It's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

COOPER: We've got to take a break. Let's continue this conversation on Twitter. Tweet us using #AC360. I'd like to know what you think. AC 360 LATER.

Coming up next, Brian Stelter joins us to talk about some bombshell revelations in a new book about FOX News founder Roger Ailes. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Hey, we're back, talking about politics and FOX News. That's because there's a new book, an unauthorized biography of the network founder, Roger Ailes, called "The Loudest Voice in the Room," about Ailes's appetite for being a -- being a political player in the Republican Party and a whole lot more.

Ailes says that author Gabriel Sherman refused to fact check it with him or with FOX News. Sherman says he made a dozen requests to speak with Roger Ailes, had a team of fact checkers working on it.

Back with the panel and senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, who joins us, the host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" here on CNN.

Have you -- what do you make of this book? I mean, I have not read this book. I don't know the details of it.

BRIAN STELTER, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Because I'm a liberal (ph) reporter, I like Gabriel Sherman. I've been waiting for three years to read this book. He's been working on it for a long, long time.

People like me have wondered, what has he learned? What's in this book that's going to be so interesting? And "The New York Times" leaks last night gave us the first answer. That lead quote saying, "I want to elect the next president," seems to speak about what Roger Ailes is in a nutshell, that he's always been a Republican operative. And yet he's also this hugely successful creator of...

COOPER: He's really good at what he's done, or what he's been able to create.

STELTER: What the book presents is these two sides. Yes, he's created this cable news channel. He turned it into a billion-dollar success story. But he's also running, at least according to the book, this political machine, running as the de facto head of the Republican Party. And people have believed that for a long time, but I think this book puts so much more evidence out there.

TOOBIN: One of the great questions of American politics, I think, is why is the Republican Party more conservative than it used to be? I mean, there used to be Howard Baker and Bob Dole, and there used to be a real moderate core in this party. It is now a much more conservative party. How much does FOX News have to do with that? I don't know.

SULLIVAN: I wouldn't put it like that. I think that what FOX News has done is put a premium on entertainment on the right. In other words, rather than shifting it philosophically to the far right, what it's done is put a premium on good talkers, good exhibitionists, good talk show hosts. Not governors. Not people interested in the nitty-gritty of politics. People whose careers are made by polarizing, because that works on television. And those careers are just unable to translate into governance.

STELTER: Actually, in some ways the point he made in an interview -- Roger Ailes did an interview with "The Hollywood Reporter," and it came out today. It felt like a pre-buttal to this whole book. And he said, "I have all these TV screens on in my office. I tell people turn off the volume, watch the screens. If your eyes go to FOX, that means it's working. If your eyes go to another channel, then we're losing."

And that speaks to entertainment, that he makes -- he captures viewers in a way that other television networks don't.

SULLIVAN: ... a culture in which no serious conversations are going on within the Republican Party.


SULLIVAN: ... presentation. It has to be the perfect ideology every day. And therefore, it kills off important debate.

And he's also, let's face it...

STELTER: ... version of FOX News? Could there be an intellectual, smart (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SULLIVAN: Could be a good, conservative channel that also aired conservative defense. But didn't act like it's Ailes's propaganda machine.

TOOBIN: I don't even think that's an accurate description of FOX News. I look at Bill O'Reilly on the air. There's nothing spectacular about the visuals of Bill O'Reilly. There he is, sitting there in the studio.

COOPER: He's a compelling broadcaster.

TOOBIN: He is. He's terrific. He's incredibly good at what he does. And that's what it is. It's not -- it's what he says; it's not how he looks. And I think that's what Ailes has captured.

COOPER: Bill O'Reilly, I do think he takes positions every now and then which are surprising, you know? They're not necessarily what you would expect. They could be contrarian to what you might expect he'd take.

STELTER: Sean Hannity sure doesn't.

TOOBIN: No, no.

DAVIS: But he brings a lot of passion to the table. Whether you agree with their opinions, they have an emotional connection with their audience that is very intense, and they -- they engage emotionally. SULLIVAN: It's great visual television. What creeps me out is the idea there is a single line of the day coming down from the very top, dictating like "Pravda" or like a totalitarian system what the truth is today. And you see all the stories lining up that way. We know that's how he operates. I don't think that's the way to have a real conversation. That's not about...

TOOBIN: Believe me, Roger Ailes began as a political consultant. He worked for Richard Nixon. What's remarkable is how he does have a political line. And it's not always the most extreme part of the party. He's decided that he's for immigration reform. And FOX is now for immigration reform, which most of the Republican Party is not. I just think that is remarkable, that there is this...

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. Brian, good luck with the program. Good to have you back.

Up next, comedian Wanda Sykes joins us. She's in the house with us. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back to the program. This month, comedian Wanda Sykes is back on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, with her comedy special, "Wanda Sykes Presents: Hilarious," a mix of stand-up and sketch comedy.

Wanda's joined us -- she's joined by lots of people. She joins us now, which we're very happy about. You can catch an episode this Saturday night. Here's a preview spoofing Oprah.


WANDA SYKES, COMEDIAN: Welcome aboard. You're right on time for another smooth ride or this Super "Soul Train" Sunday. So sit back, relax your mind and get ready to have a funky good time with the guru of funk himself, Mr. George Clinton. But first, let's get down to this.


SYKES: Oh, yes.

COOPER: Back with our panel and Wanda Sykes. It's great to have you here.

SYKES: Thank you. Thank you.

COOPER: You are imitating Oprah on Oprah's network?

SYKES: Well, OK. Not imitating Oprah.


SYKES: But it was, you know, she does this Super Soul Sunday.

COOPER: Right, right, right.

SYKES: And so I said, well, let's do Super "Soul Train" Sunday.

COOPER: All right.

SYKES: So that was my homage to Don Cornelius.

COOPER: Did you have to clear that in advance?

SYKES: She loved it. She loved it. Because the first two we did, it was pretty much all making fun of HARPO and her OWN bits. And this time she said, "Let's get away from OWN and HARPO and just do whatever you want to do."

And I said, "Well, there's one I have to do."

And she said, "What's that?"

I said, "Super 'Soul Train' Sunday."

And she fell out laughing. And she said, "Yes, do it."

DAVIS: Do you do the "Soul Train" line? Like, you do that...

SYKES: Yes. We do the "Soul Train" -- we do the "Soul Train" line, and I'm coming down the "Soul Train" line but I'm walking on hot coals. Because it's the show. You've got to lift (ph) your souls. Yes.

COOPER: When you were talking about this during the break, you did the Washington Correspondents Dinner. Which to me, I find it to be the worst night imaginable. I've been alongside (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But you enjoyed it?

SYKES: I loved it.

COOPER: You killed in the house.

SYKES: Yes. It was a great show. But I was saying, it's such an odd room, because you look out and go, "Oh, there's Madeleine Albright. And Kim Kardashian. Who let Kim Kardashian in here?" You know?

TOOBIN: What about sitting right next to the president of the United States and doing standup, is that intimidating?

SYKES: You know what? The idea of it, very intimidating. But he went on first, and he killed. He's really funny. Really good.

DAVIS: Very funny.

SYKES: And so I was like -- so it was like following another comic. I was like dang, man! You're going to play like that? Let's do this. Let's do this.

COOPER: How long do you have to prepare for something like that? SYKES: You know, it worked out where I didn't get stressed too much over it...


SYKES: ... because my wife was, like, nine months pregnant, and so I was like waiting for her to, you know, get her -- I had more important things to do before I could go out and practice. So I think I had maybe, like, three weeks to pull it together.

COOPER: Fascinating.

SULLIVAN: When did you get married?

SYKES: When? Did she ask you to ask me that? Is this a trick question?

SULLIVAN: I just meant years.

SYKES: 2008.

SULLIVAN: It's just wonderful to hear that expression come out of your mouth, "my wife."


SULLIVAN: It's such a simple thing, as it's just a moving thing to me to hear that. I'm happy.

TOOBIN: Can I tell you something?

COOPER: You love married -- you love being married?

SULLIVAN: I do. This is going to sound like I'm sucking up to my husband...

SYKES: Hey, this is a family show. Everybody (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right? Hey, hey, hey, come on. Clean it up people, clean it up.

TOOBIN: When you said it, it sort of went right by me. You know, it just sort of -- like, you know, they're married people. Some people are straight married, some people are gay married. I mean, I happen to not react -- I mean, I happen to know -- we've acted together.

SYKES: Yes, yes. He came in...


SULLIVAN: To get to that nonevent, that's what's so great.

TOOBIN: And it's not. We're not quite there yet for the whole country or the whole world. But -- but I just thought as you said that, that was just...

COOPER: It actually brings us to the story we should talk about, which is a female drama coach at a Catholic high school near Seattle publicly came out this week and announced that she's engaged to be married to her girlfriend of five years.

King (ph) News in Seattle reports that the school's president, Sister Mary Tracy, says that Stephanie Merrow is still welcome at the school. She's a freelance employee, so that makes -- may make her situation different than that of a situation Andrew talked about last night on the program.

A vice principal, Mark Zmuda, was forced out of his job last month after he married his male partner in violation of Catholic teaching. And you were saying that the school actually told him that if...

SULLIVAN: If he got divorced they might be able to rehire them. Now that's the Catholic church so twisted up in itself, and it's so wonderful to have Sister Mary Tracy. Yes, I'm glad a woman was involved, that someone came in and said, "Can we please be sane about this?" The idea that we're punishing someone, not because they're gay but because they're committed to another person in marriage? It's an insane...

DAVIS: Isn't divorce very difficult in the Catholic Church? Like, don't you to get the pope to, you know...


DAVIS: My parents got divorced and my father was Catholic, and it was very complicated for them to be recognized as divorced.

SULLIVAN: I don't -- I don't think the Catholic Church should go around firing teachers who might have been divorced. I don't think that happens. It's a double standard.

TOOBIN: What was interesting about this story, as I understand it, is that the students were unanimously behind the gay folks, man, woman who wanted to get married. And I think that just reflects the generational changes that are going on in the country. That people under 18 can't even understand what the fuss is about. And they just want people to be happy and live together and love each other as best they can. And I just think generationally, that's the big change.

SULLIVAN: And I think, I hope the pope actually does understand that cultural shift. Interestingly, this week, he talked about not treating gay Catholics or divorced Catholics in such a way -- and he was delicate about this -- in such a way that we don't create what he called a vaccine against the faith.

In other words, when you as a church start treating people that way, you've lost your way. You are vaccinating people against Christianity, rather than encouraging them to come towards it.

DAVIS: You hope that we are meant to evolve. And that also means that we evolve with our consciousness. Not just physically evolve, but to some -- you know, some other practices or people that believe in, you know, family values, this just seems so contrary to say family values, that we don't want all people to create families and get married. It just seems like, you know, Neanderthals morally. Like, they're not evolving morally.

SULLIVAN: Well, Sister Mary Tracy is not a Neanderthal. She definitely did the right thing. And I think that's going to happen more and more.

SYKES: I think so, too. You know, I'm very pro-teacher. And so firing a teacher, it's just like do you realize how bad your kids are? You know? It's like we actually -- we're sending people -- we send these people to these -- these lovely people who want to educate our kids. We just basically send them a lump of clay. You know? And they...

DAVIS: Bad clay.

SYKES: Right, bad clay. Do you realize how bad your child is?

TOOBIN: Loud clay.

SYKES: Art teachers. Loud, bad, bad clay. Snotty noses and stuff. And right, you have a great teacher, and the kids love them and they're learning something. Leave them alone. Let them do their job.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We'll come back, stories you might have missed. We'll ask the panel, "What's Your Story?" We'll be right back.


COOPER: All right. Time now for "What's Your Story?" We ask people on the panel for a story that people might have missed. Andrew, what's your story?

SULLIVAN: "The New York Times," they became a little more like Buzzfeed. It's actually hiring Dell employees to write its stories.

COOPER: To write its stories?

SULLIVAN: It's going to be -- well, they're going to be presented as stories in the same font and typeface of "The New York Times," sponsored by, written by Dell. And they're all going to have a disclaimer at the top saying, "paid for by Dell."

COOPER: So they're ads for Dell?

SULLIVAN: They're ads designed to deceive you into thinking they're articles. And for "The New York Times" to do that is an extraordinary step in the surrender of journalism.

COOPER: Michaela, what's your story.

DAVIS: It was going to be the Velveeta shortage. But I thought maybe there was some connection with the pot shortage. I think that could be the shortage. But -- but more interestingly, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Redskin Hog Rinds as the name of pork rinds, like, pork rinds, because they said "Redskins" was derogatory; it was a slur.

So it's interesting to see how this is going to play out with the NFL, because this was, you know, the official patent office. But, you know, Redskin Hog Rinds...

COOPER: It's not going to happen.

DAVIS: It's not going to -- no more pork rinds.

COOPER: Wanda, what's your story?

SYKES: Well, unfortunately, I spoke to my publicist today, and she has informed me that, apparently, I am not going to be voted "People's" Sexiest Woman of the Year again. So yes, that's not happening this year. So just put that out there.

COOPER: But I'll make my story -- my story is your comedy special, which is this Saturday.

SYKES: Thank you. Yes. "Hilarious," "Hilarious."

COOPER: This Saturday. What time?

SYKES: It's on OWN, 10 p.m.

COOPER: Ten p.m.

SYKES: Eastern.

TOOBIN: You're opposite yourself in "Alpha House"?

SYKES: How can that be?

TOOBIN: I think it could be.

SYKES: No. Hell no.

TOOBIN: I think what we need is an all-Wanda station.

DAVIS: Oh, my God.

SYKES: That's Crazy Eyes. Yes. That's Crazy Eyes.

COOPER: Well, what do you think about -- we talked about this a little bit over the break at "Saturday Night Live" finally hiring an African-American female?

SYKES: I hope she has a great season. There's a lot of pressure out there on her. But my advice to her would to be only play white characters for the first season. Only do white characters. Don't let them make you do a black character. All white face. All white face. Ask for a Dame Judy Dench sketch or something. All white everything. TOOBIN: I have to follow on Ms. Sykes? It's a little bit of a different story.

You know, the Utah marriages that took place, the state of Utah has said they will not honor all of them. They will not honor any of them. And I think it just indicates that, you know, we often talk about same-sex marriage. I sometimes talk about it as if it's only heading in one direction, but it's not only heading in one direction. There are two steps forward, one step back. This was a step back.

COOPER: All right. Wanda, it's great to have you on the program. Thank you so much. Love to have you back. And thanks to everybody on the panel.

That does it for "AC 360 LATER." Thanks for watching. We'll see you tomorrow night.