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AC 360 LATER

Interview With Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds; President Obama Prepares for State of the Union; Virginia Senator Recalls Son's Attack, Mental Illness; What Will State of the Union Contain?; Olympics Too Dangerous for Americans?; Cruise Ship Returns Early Due to Illness

Aired January 27, 2014 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

Tonight: my interview with state Senator Creigh Deeds of Virginia, whose son stabbed him multiple times and how he says the tragedy could have been avoided.

Also tonight, from here in Washington, what more can you say? With three years left in his second term, will tomorrow's State of the Union address be President Obama's last chance to try to shape his agenda? We will look ahead to the big event.

And, later, what is it like aboard the nightmare cruise ship where only the germs appear to be going first class?

This afternoon, I was about two hours south of here in Richmond, Virginia, speaking with a father whose face and body bear the marks of a nearly fatal attack that occurred just two months ago in November. The pain for this father is still raw.

Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds was slashed and stabbed and almost killed by his mentally ill son Gus who then took his own life. He talked about it a little last night on "60 Minutes" but tonight we go in-depth in a way he's never spoken about before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CREIGH DEEDS (D), VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR: People have been so kind to me. They reach out. And they don't understand sometimes that I just -- I have got to be left alone, because I have got to focus on the good things.

You know, but these pictures and the Facebook page that was set up for Gus, there are so many good pictures. There are so many good memories. And that's what I have to focus on. I'm determined that Gus not be remembered just for his illness or what ended his life. I mean, that's nothing. He was such a good boy, a good man. He had a good heart. He loved people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Gus was Senator Deeds' only son. He was loved deeply by a father who did everything he could to try to get him the help that he so desperately needed.

But this man, a senator no less, could not get that help. The system, he says, failed his son, and he's speaking out tonight because he wants you to know about the boy he loved, about the young man with a bright future, a future that was taken away by mental illness.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Early in the morning on November 19, police received a 911 call with news of a violent attack in Bath County, Virginia, the victim, Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds. Deeds was stabbed repeatedly around his head and torso, with multiple slashes across his face.

The attack happened on Deeds' property just outside his home. The assault alone was shocking enough, but the identity of the attacker was beyond comprehension. It was Deeds' son, Gus, who turned a gun on himself after the attack.

CORINNE GELLER, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: Senator Deeds' son, Gus Deeds, age 24, also of Milborough, was found inside the residence suffering from life-threatening injuries associated with a gunshot wound. Despite efforts by troopers and first-responders there at the residence, he died at the scene.

COOPER: Senator Deeds was found by a cousin on the highway in front of his home, critically injured, deep in shock, and unaware that his son was dead.

DEEDS: We have got to keep working, so keep fighting.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Deeds is a well-known Democratic politician in Virginia. In 2009, he launched a campaign for governor with his son, Gus, on the campaign trail with him.

The two were close, Gus the only boy in the family. They lived a seemingly normal, happy life. But at some point in his early 20s, Gus began to change. His parents feared he was bipolar, maybe even schizophrenic. A month before the attack, Gus dropped out of college.

On November 18 of last year, Creigh Deeds took his son to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. A magistrate had issued an emergency custody order, which meant they found Gus unable to homicidal, suicidal, or unable to care for himself. But the hospital had no psychiatric beds available for Gus, and released him.

Under Virginia state law, six hours is the maximum time a person can be held in emergency custody without a bed. The next morning, Gus attacked his father.

Since the attack, three area hospitals confirmed they had beds available, but said no one called them to check. Creigh Deeds still lives at the same house where the attack happened just over two months ago. He's mostly recovered from his injuries, though he is visibly scarred, and he's returned to his seat in the state Senate with a new purpose, mental health reform in Virginia, to help fix the system he says failed him and failed his son.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, that's the motivation for the state senator.

And as we saw at Sandy Hook, the need for reform extends far beyond Virginia. There's still so much stigma surrounding mental illness in this country. People speak about it in hushed tones, if they speak about it at all.

Tonight, we want you to hear Creigh Deeds. We want you to hear about the son that he loved, the son he lost, and the pain that too many families in this country face, often all alone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: What do you want people to know about Gus?

DEEDS: With Gus, Gus was a sensitive kid.

He was sometimes overly sensitive and very -- he was the kind of kid that sometimes kept count of rights and wrongs and who got what. And he was very conscious of that growing up. But he blossomed as a teenager.

And then, when he was 20, after the campaign didn't work out, Gus was kind of just astray. He decided, I will sit out another semester of school. His mother called me one morning and said, I woke up this morning and I had nothing but a note on the table from Gus that said, I'm taking a ride. And a couple of days later, she got a text of a road sign in Wyoming. He had taken a cross-country trip.

He came back. He said that -- he came back a little bit changed, significantly changed. But he came back with a renewed commitment to faith. It wouldn't be too much to say that he was probably over the top with it in many respects.

COOPER: Was that the first indication to you that there was something wrong?

DEEDS: Well, I didn't really know that anything was wrong. It's easy to react to something like that and say, something's wrong with him, but my children have been raised in church. They have been raised in faith.

COOPER: Sure.

DEEDS: He came back with a renewed religious interest.

And I thought it was a little bit strange considering past conversations with Gus that he was almost that fanatical. He was distant. He started making knives out of scrap metal. I think his mother had him -- in October of 2010, late September, had him in a halfway house near Charlottesville that was run by the Community Service Board.

And he was there for a week or two, and he came back and he basically -- we got him a job at the homestead washing dishes. This kid, with unlimited intellectual capacity, was really just kind of doing menial work.

COOPER: He was adrift?

DEEDS: He was adrift.

And he came to live with me twice in the summer of 2011. He said things that made me -- he said -- he said -- he admitted that he was considering killing himself. And so I didn't take that lightly.

COOPER: For a parent, that's a horrific thing to hear.

DEEDS: It's devastating. You can just imagine. Gus was just kind of -- he had unlimited ability. And it was just every day for the last few years, it's just been very tough.

COOPER: It's also -- I mean, it's terrifying for a parent to suddenly start to see things in their child at that age, especially in a child who's so accomplished and has had...

DEEDS: Well, and the thing is, once they're 18, you lose a lot of control as a parent.

COOPER: So, you didn't even really know anything he had been diagnosed with because of privacy laws?

DEEDS: No, no. I never had access to any of that.

After he came to live with me, when he admitted suicidal thoughts twice, I went to a magistrate. Twice, I had him committed, so I was the bad guy, but I kept him alive.

COOPER: Did you suspect he was perhaps schizophrenic?

DEEDS: In the reading I have done, I'm convinced that he was schizophrenic.

I'm not a professional in the health care field. I don't know. But it certainly -- what I have read about schizophrenia, I think he was schizophrenic.

COOPER: And it's certainly the age that people start to exhibit signs of schizophrenia.

DEEDS: Yes, absolutely.

He went back to school in the fall of 2012. And he was dean's list again fall of 2012, spring of 2013. When he came home, I was a little bit worried that perhaps he wasn't taking his medicine. I confronted him about it. He said...

COOPER: His thoughts were kind of racing. What, he was kind of...

DEEDS: Well, he's just a little more -- he was a little more distant, a little less open.

And then, in early October, he started posting things on Facebook about the teachers or the professors combining forces against him or consolidating, that they were...

COOPER: Plotting against him.

DEEDS: Plotting against him, yes, yes.

And I just sent him a message on Facebook. I said, Gus, what's going on? Is there anything I can do to help? And he said, this will pass. Don't worry. The next day, he called me and he wanted to come home.

COOPER: It's really interesting. My brother did the exact same thing. He one day, all of a sudden, called my mom, was like, I want to come home, and came home.

And when I heard that, I was terrified.

DEEDS: I got on the phone with a friend of my who is a psychologist and arranged -- I told Gus, I said, buddy, you and I need to work on our communication skills. We need to develop, work on our relationship, and we need to sit down with this lady.

COOPER: You were hoping by involving yourself in it, that that would get him to at least be able to talk to a psychologist?

DEEDS: Absolutely.

And we went and talked, spent an hour with her. And later on -- that was like a Saturday morning. Later on, she called me and said, Gus is delusional. I'm really worried now.

And on the 1st of November, I went to Ireland. While I was in Ireland for two weeks, he never responded to an e-mail, he never picked up the phone when I called him. Gus' whole attitude, his delusions had taken over, and his whole attitude had just changed toward anything.

COOPER: Would he express the delusions? Or...

DEEDS: Well, he was just, you know, delusions of grandeur almost, that he was a demigod almost. I was a slave.

COOPER: So, there was a religious cast to his...

(CROSSTALK)

DEEDS: Right.

COOPER: People have delusions in different ways. His had a religious... DEEDS: It did.

So, I looked in his book, and I saw things in there that concerned me, that made me understand that he was looking around for -- that maybe to be concerned about guns and I...

COOPER: A journal he had been keeping?

DEEDS: Yes, about the journal.

And so, the next morning, on Monday, the 18th, when I got to work, I called. After they were open, I called the CSB, and I talked to a fellow there who said -- and I explained to him the problem. He said, well, you need to get to a magistrate and see if you can get an ECO issued.

And I said, well, my frustration with that...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: An ECO is?

DEEDS: Emergency custody order.

My concern about is that he's only held for 48 or 72 hours, and then he comes home and I have got the same problem again.

COOPER: Sure.

DEEDS: And this guy said, don't worry. We will try to work with you to get a long-term placement in Western State. And that cuts to the core when you hear that your son, your pride and joy, might need to be hospitalized long-term, but at least he would be alive.

At least where there's life, there's hope. And I went to the magistrate. i got the C.S. -- I got the thing issued, ECO. I went to the house, and I sat with Gus. He was sitting in the living room playing the banjo. And I sat with Gus while he was playing the banjo. He was surprised. Deputy sheriffs came about 20 minutes after I got there. They picked Gus up.

COOPER: Was he angry about that?

DEEDS: He was surprised and he was very -- he was frustrated.

As I could -- as the day wore on, I knew that he was upset. The CSB worker was to -- you know, he didn't think Gus was suicidal. He's trained in those things. I'm not. His plan, he said they had space for Gus at this Crossroads halfway house, crisis intervention in Charlottesville, but they were a little concerned about his behavior. He needed to be a little more stable. And they thought he would perhaps be more stable in the morning.

So, the plan was to take him to the CSB the next morning and then get him over to Charlottesville to the halfway house.

COOPER: And he was very agitated?

DEEDS: He didn't sit down all afternoon. He would pace the floor, he would stop and hold his chin -- hold in his hand in -- his chin in his hand and look at me and smile, just this little closed-up smile.

And then he would pace some more, and pace a little while and then he would look at me again. And as the time slipped away, I knew there would be a confrontation. I had no idea that it would be violent. I had no reason -- I mean, Gus and I -- I just had no reason to think there would be violence.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, CSB, where he took his son, is the Community Services Board.

When we come back, Senator Deeds talks about the attack that nearly killed him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEEDS: When I turned around, I could see that he had something in his hand that was coming at me, but I didn't really -- I had no idea what was coming. It was in his left hand, nothing coming -- I couldn't tell. You know, I thought it was a screwdriver. I had no idea what it was.

And he just kept coming at me with stuff. I said, what's going on? When told -- I said, Gus, I love you so much. Don't make this any worse than it is. He just kept stabbing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before the break, we were talking to Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds about the son he loved and when things started getting bad for him. He spoke of the help that he tried to get for his son Gus.

Now, in part two of our conversation, he describes what happened next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, when you came home with you that night...

DEEDS: Well, that night, I stopped. I needed gas to get home, and I stopped for gas. And I said, buddy, I'm going to get something to drink, a bottle of pop and a candy bar. Can I get you anything? And he just said -- he liked Coke and he liked -- he wanted a Snickers bar.

And then down the road, I thought about -- I thought again, said, well, we don't really have anything to eat at the house. Why don't I stop and get a sandwich? He said, well, just get a sandwich. I thought if I could get him in the restaurant, that would at least defuse the situation a little bit, allow us some time to talk.

But he didn't want to come in the restaurant. I got a sandwich and he ate it, a lot of it on the way home. When we got home, I sat at one end of the dining room table. He sat at the other end.

I ate my sandwich. He was writing furiously in his journal. And when I -- after I ate my sandwich, I said night, night, Gus, night, bud. He said good night. And he was still writing away.

And the next morning -- Gus was stronger than me. He's better looking, he's stronger, he's smarter. He's everything that you would want in a son. And if Gus were rested, if Gus were rested and had his heart 100 percent into something, he could -- I would have been toast.

COOPER: He could have killed you?

DEEDS: Oh, he could have killed me. He could have killed me, yes, no question.

COOPER: If that is what he really wants.

DEEDS: He had that gun. And he could have -- he could have shot me across the yard if he wanted to.

So, the next morning, I got up. And as I said, I was a little nervous, because I knew the job of taking him to Lexington was going to be tough and I knew there would be some confrontation. I didn't think there would be any violence. I knew there would be discussion.

I got ready, went ahead and got ready. I went out to the barn to take care of feeding the equine. And I was feeding him. I had some of them in the barn. I had another big feed tray in my hand for this old-line thoroughbred that belongs to my oldest girl.

And he was coming across the yard. I said, hey, bud, how did you sleep? I didn't wave my hand, because I had feed in my hands. And he said fine. And I turned my back, and I took it twice in the back.

COOPER: He stabbed you twice in the back?

DEEDS: Yes. Yes.

COOPER: Did you know instantly what was happening?

DEEDS: No, I had no idea, no idea.

When I turned around, I could see that he had something in his hand that was coming at me, but I didn't really -- I had no idea what was coming. It was in left hand, nothing coming -- I couldn't tell -- I thought it was a screwdriver.

I had no idea what it was. And he just kept coming at me with stuff. And I said, what's going on? And that's when I told him, I said, Gus, I love you so much. Don't make this any worse than it is. He just kept stabbing. And I think he either knew that I was disabled enough that I couldn't interfere with whatever else he wanted to do.

He decided at some point, maybe I said after I loved him, he decided that I didn't need to die after all, or he thought from the amount of blood that he had already done some damage. The first blow to my back was pretty close to a spot where he could have drawn a lot of blood. And the second one punctured a lung.

It's possible that -- but I don't -- there was a good bit of blood. But I like to think that Gus -- at some point in that attack, the old Gus came back. I like to think that. I want to believe that.

COOPER: Because he certainly wasn't himself when he started.

DEEDS: No, no, he wasn't himself about, no.

COOPER: That's not your son?

DEEDS: No.

Whatever took my son -- well, the bipolar disorder, the schizophrenia, whatever mental illness there was took my son and worsened in the last few months, because he was on medication and he wasn't keeping appointments. And there was very little I could do to turn that around.

And I had done everything I could the day before. I had taken him to the -- it's not like, you know, he's my son, so I could automatically enroll him in a hospital somewhere. He's an adult. Everything I had done the day before, we tried and we had been rejected. My son was allowed to suffer.

COOPER: And he was suffering for a long time.

DEEDS: He was suffering for a long, long time. I mean, that's -- at least he's at peace now, but it's a price to pay.

COOPER: So I think -- I always feel like, if somebody has cancer, they're suffering from cancer, somebody's suffering from leukemia...

DEEDS: That's it.

COOPER: ... people -- you get help.

DEEDS: There's a real disparity in this country between mental illness and what we consider as physical illness.

And physical illness, we treat. Mental illness, we hide behind, because we sweep it under the rug.

COOPER: There's still such a stigma about it. People don't talk about it. DEEDS: They don't talk about it. They're embarrassed about it.

People that are mentally ill don't -- they don't want to be considered -- they don't want to be considered ill. People that have mental illness, and their family oftentimes want to look the other way and pretend it will go away.

A lot of people in my own situation would say, well, Gus will grow out of it. It will work out just fine. Gus will be all right, because he had so much ability. But the problem is, there's -- you know, he wouldn't -- he needed treatment, he needed medication.

COOPER: It's also, in this society, it seems like, seen as like a defect, as opposed to something that has taken your son. I mean, it's not -- people don't view cancer as, oh, that person is guilty or they have done something wrong or they're weak, whereas mental illness, there is still that belief.

DEEDS: Yes, there is, and that -- that's just -- it's too bad. Gus had...

COOPER: Because, to me, the strength of somebody who's fighting mental illness, the strength of Gus to just get through a day is extraordinary.

DEEDS: And, yes, he had such a talent and good -- such love inside that this illness was nothing voluntary. It wasn't like he did something to deserve this sort of condition.

And, as a society, we need to genuinely look at the way we treat the mental illness as -- because it's, in my view, one of the great problems of our age, the inequity between the way we treat physical illnesses and the way we treat mental illnesses.

I have read somewhere that mental illness is another physical illness. It's just a chemical imbalance in the brain. And that's another way to look at it, that mental illness is a physical illness.

COOPER: Yes, it is.

After the attack, how did you -- how did you hear about what finally happened to Gus?

DEEDS: Well, see, Gus was just slashing away.

And I -- and, then, suddenly, he just turned around, and I think he thought that I was bleeding enough. I don't know. And so I staggered through the barn along the top of -- along a ridge, climbed a gate, because I just -- I didn't have much. And I still don't have much strength in my right side. But my arm was pretty much disabled.

And so I didn't open the gate. I climbed it, and I staggered out to this road. And my cousin was taking some hunters back to the national forest. And he saw me coming through the field bloody, and he got his hunters out of the truck, put me in, took me back up to his house. His wife is a nurse at the University of Virginia Hospital. They got a rescue squad and a helicopter and with instructions for me to go to the UVA Hospital. Either in the rescue squad or the helicopter, I heard a scanner report that there was a second victim with a gunshot wound to the head.

Well, at that point, I was worried about Gus. When I got -- when my cousin took me up to his house, there was a trooper up there. And I said -- he was going down to the house, because I told him I thought that's where Gus had gone back to.

And I said, please don't hurt him, because I had no -- honestly, I didn't know even at that time that Gus was trying to kill me. I just couldn't -- I didn't want to think that. And I certainly didn't think he was going to hurt himself.

And I said, please don't hurt him. And then when I heard that on the scanner, I worried about -- I was worried about Gus, but I knew there weren't any bullets in the house. So there was no ammunition for that .22 rifle in the house that I was aware of. And so I didn't think it was possible for it to be Gus.

So , when I woke up -- they got, the UVA -- and surgery and stuff, the next day or something, the next afternoon some time, when I woke up, and I got that thing out of my mouth, I asked -- I said, Gus, because I couldn't -- I didn't have any voice. And Siobhan told me then what happened.

COOPER: One of the things that I think that is so horrible about suicide is that, at least for me, I often get stuck thinking about how in my case my brother ended his life, as opposed to how he lived his life.

And I'm wondering if you -- do you think about that?

DEEDS: Yes, I do.

And, you know, people have been so kind to me. They reach out. And they don't understand sometimes that I just -- I have got to be left alone, because I have got to focus on the good things.

You know, but these pictures and the Facebook page that was set up for Gus, there are so many good pictures. There are so many good memories. And that's what I have to focus on. I'm determined that Gus not be remembered just for his illness or what ended his life. I mean, that's nothing. He was such a good boy, a good man. He had a good heart. He loved people.

Gus -- I ran for statewide office twice, and neither time I won, but Gus was kind of a constant on both those campaigns. He nicknamed all the kids that worked for me. He loved those kids. They loved him. He would entertain them with the banjo or the harmonica. And he named all the cats.

We have a barn. So, there are lots of cats that will come in there. And I have been known to not turn them away, and Gus loved the cats too and loved -- and dogs. And we had just about every kind of animal, and Gus, he always named the animals. He nicknamed people.

He was just so full of love. And I just -- I'm determined that he not be remembered by the end of his life...

COOPER: That way.

DEEDS: ... but just that he be remembered by all the goodness.

He was just this unbelievable guy. He could sing. He could dance. He could shake his booty like nobody else.

(LAUGHTER)

DEEDS: And he would entertain people with just his dancing as a young man. And as a -- when he was in high school, he got the spirit award a couple of times, and he got a senior award.

COOPER: He was valedictorian of his class?

DEEDS: He was valedictorian of his high school class. Gus was something special. All my children are.

COOPER: The fact -- I mean, for me, it was a long time that I was even able to talk about my brother. The fact that you're able to talk about him is so nice.

DEEDS: Got no choice. Life goes on.

Now there's a little bit of focus on mental illness. And if I can make a difference, if I -- if we can make a change that's going to save lives, we have to do it. You know, we have to -- I have got no choice. And, besides that, I have got to work. I have got to keep going. Life is short.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, the only way to break the stigma of mental illness in this country is to break the silence that too often surrounds it.

As painful as it for Senator Creigh Deeds to talk about what happened to his son, we want to thank him. And we hope that it effects needed change and that others facing the horror of mental illness get the help they so desperately need.

Among the things the state senator is trying to do for the commonwealth of Virginia is to extend the period of time that families could keep somebody under observation. Right now, it's 4 to 6 hours. He'd like to extend it to 24 hours. And perhaps most importantly, what he's trying to do is get a database so that, if somebody is taken to a hospital and is in need of hospitalization, health workers can look online and find out what beds are available. Right now, it's an antiquated system: the health workers actually have to call around to different facilities. As the state senator says, it's like something out of the 1950s. If it was on an online database, they could see instantly where there was a bed available. The state senator was told that there wasn't a bed available for his son. But later learned, it seems, that there were at least three beds available in the commonwealth of Virginia that day.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We, of course, are going to be here tomorrow in Washington tomorrow night for President Obama's State of the Union address. Here are some behind-the-scenes pictures that the official White House photographer posted online. The president meeting with advisers, getting ready for the speech.

Joining me with the true politics, senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

So the president may have some tough words for Congress, I understand, tomorrow night. What have your sources been telling you?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. They are still working on the speech, but he will have some tough words for Congress. He's basically going to issue a challenge to lawmakers that says, listen, if you don't work with me, I'm willing to work around you.

So you're going to hear the president tomorrow night, officials say, announce a whole series of executive actions that he plans to take over the coming year.

Officials here at the White House do caution, Anderson, that the president will still call on Congress to pass a few items, legislative items that are on his priority list, namely immigration reform and boosting the minimum wage.

But there are two basic reasons for all this. One is, look at what happened last year. Congress did not move much on his legislative agenda. Remember gun control.

The other part of this is essentially political, Anderson. Keep in mind, you have Democrats and Republicans, a lot of them running scared this year, because they're running for re-election and they don't want to cast votes that may come back to haunt them. That is why officials say more than you've heard the president ever before in previous State of the Unions, he's going to be talking about executive actions tomorrow night.

COOPER: Is there a theme for the speech tomorrow?

ACOSTA: Well, they're talking about expanding opportunity. They're talking about jobs. They're talking about the economy. This is going to be a lot more focused on domestic items than on foreign affairs, officials say.

And in recent weeks, Anderson, you've heard the president talk about how he wants to combat income inequality. He mentioned some of this in a Vine video today, a quick six-second Vine video. The words are changing a little bit here at the White House. They're really talking more now about expanding opportunity for all Americans. But you're going to hear, officials say, the president outlining some solutions tomorrow night aimed at this issue of income inequality. Some of those executive actions will be on job training and retirement security.

But there is a political danger, a political risk in all of this. I was talking to presidential historian Douglas Brinkley about this earlier today. Anderson, there is a risk, if you call for a year of action and there's not much action, at least in the minds of the American people, by midway this year, people may start tuning out. They may start looking at 2016. And so there is a lot at stake for the president tomorrow night.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

COOPER: A reminder: The coverage for the State of the Union address starts at 7 p.m. Eastern on CNN. I hope you join us for that.

Up next, is it now too dangerous for Americans at the Winter Olympics. Hear what some athletes are saying about keeping their families home.

Also the latest on that cruise ship with hundreds of sick passengers on board.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. New threats and deep concern tonight for U.S. Olympic athletes in Sochi, Russia. The latest terror threat posted on Islamic militant Web site coming as the Olympic flame arrived in the capital of Russia's Dagestan under very tight security. Today's threat coming on top of a string of prior warnings promising more bloodshed and more attacks like those two recent bombings in the nearby Volgograd which took 34 lives.

In addition, a number of so-called suspected black widow bombers remain at large, despite a massive search by Russian authorities for them.

And American athletes have been warned against wearing their uniforms outside Olympic venues. As for their families, many will go and some will not, depending largely on how they see the security situation. The wife of an American cross-country skier said she was planning to attend the games and bring her 6-year-old daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE CARCELEN, WIFE OF U.S. OLYMPICS CROSS-COUNTRY SKIER: We were on board, and -- but then we continued to talk about what our plans were, where we were going to stay. And I could just tell by the look on his face and just his reaction, and I finally just asked him, "Look, is it going to stress you out for us being there?" And he just immediately said, "Yes."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, joining us now with more on the new threat and other late developments, Nick Paton Walsh.

So the latest terror threat, as I said, the group that posted it made reference to the Volgograd attacks. What more do we know about it?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The video out of Dagestan were behind this online warning, and it's also the reason people are taking it so seriously, is it's the same group, which posted the video of responsibility for those two suicide bombings in Volgograd late last year; in fact, showing the men who probably, most likely carried out the suicide attack themselves.

This particular warning is lengthy. It's in many ways rambling. It's not specific in mentioning the Olympics at all. Its title is "Russia Has Been Warned." It mentions the Volgograd warnings. It says that, in fact, one of the reasons it targeted that town is because some of the riot police who operate here in Dagestan hail from them. So it's their response, perhaps, to what militants see here as police brutal tactics in Dagestan itself.

It provides, even, justification, it says, from inside the Koran for some of the violence they've used, particularly against women and children, and goes on, of course, to say that they will punish Russia. Nothing specific about the games but really, it comes in the frame of that broader threat, broader warning from the same group that did Volgograd. So I think that's what got people on edge, even though this is simply online. The concern is these people have a track record of bringing those threats into reality because of Volgograd, Anderson.

COOPER: The Olympic torch did make it safely through where you are known in Dagestan -- the area known for Islamic insurgency threats. What's the security situation like there?

WALSH: Well, it was a bizarre event this morning in many ways. You know, the torch relay is supposed to be festive, streets lined with people their waving flags. This was under lockdown. I mean, the torch wasn't even seen until it arrived at a maximum security stadium. Flown into the airport. No one saw it there. And whisked out under convoy armed guard into the stadium itself.

The spectators allowed to see the event, well, they were bussed in separately on roads that had been shut down, lined with police. Police checkpoints across the city.

Normal people inside Makhachkala, the capital of where I am, the province, not involved at all. The torch didn't go through the town. It went straight into the stadium. There was a very loud and kind of festive display there where people stood in the rain. Some said thousands attending that event. But the key signal, really, from it was the Kremlin's defiance of what they see as a terror threat down here. They know there's an issue with the insurgency here. And despite knowing there's a risk, they still wanted that event to go ahead, to show their ability, I think, to secure this area but also the defiance of the threats they've been hearing -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Nick, I appreciate the update. Thanks.

Joining me now is New York Republican Congressman Peter King.

I appreciate you being with us. I know you've said in the past that you can't guarantee 100 percent safety for U.S. athletes. Beyond that, though, I mean, you're on the intelligence committee. How concerned are you about the threats? How real do you think they are?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I have real concerns. This is a very deadly area. And my main reason for concern is that the Russians have not been cooperating as far as sharing intelligence. and going back to previous Olympics. the Greeks did in 2004; the Chinese did in 2008. The...

COOPER: Is that because they're afraid of sort of revealing sources or methods, or are they afraid of sort of losing face?

KING: I really think it's two things. One is they're afraid of losing sources and methods. They think it weakens them to trace themselves as they give us back and find out what their methods are. That's No. 1.

No. 2 there is that pride that Putin has of not wanting to admit that he needs help from the outside.

COOPER: Mike McCall from the homeland security committee, your colleague, had said that if the threats continued to increase, perhaps there should be talks of canceling the games. Do you agree with that?

KING: I don't think we're at that stage yet. I think that we should do the best we can, monitor it very carefully, do all that we can as far as our intelligence gathering in advance.

But again, there's a lot of factors. There's a lot of immigrant workers in the area, primarily Muslims, who have come from countries like Serbia, Azerbaijan, who have been treated very badly by the Russians. So they are also people who are fertile ground to be used as terrorists in the attack.

And then you have these very well-organized terrorist groups over there. And despite the 40 or 50,000 troops or police that Putin says are going to be there, there are still going to be venues within the Olympic site which cannot be fully protected. We have to assume that the terrorists know that, and they may try to take advantage of that.

Having said it, though, I would not say we should consider canceling the games yet.

COOPER: Would you, if you were a civilian, or even an athlete, would you go to the games?

KING: If I were an athlete I would go, I'm almost certain. But as a spectator, no, I would not.

COOPER: So really, you would -- and would you recommend that to other spectators?

KING: Well, let's say tomorrow, if my family and I were given free tickets to go to the Olympics, I would not go.

COOPER: Because you believe the threat is that real?

KING: It's too much of a risk. I mean, odds are there may not be an attack, but the odds are higher than they'd be for any other Olympics that there will be an attack. Probably less than 50-50, but that's pretty high when you're talking about a terrorist attack.

COOPER: Is your concern an attack in Sochi itself or somewhere else in Russia? We saw twin attacks in Volgograd, you know, somewhere in the pipeline of tourists getting to -- to Sochi?

KING: There's certainly a real chance of an attack outside the Olympic venue but also within the area of Sochi. For instance, there are locations where there are going to be Olympic events which I've been told could be vulnerable to terrorist attack. It's just too difficult to give them the type of protection that Putin is implying that he's giving.

COOPER: If there was an attack and Americans were killed or anyone was killed, would you put part of the blame on Russian authorities, because they haven't shared intelligence, in your opinion?

KING: Right now, I would say you'd have to, considering the fact from all my understanding until the last several days, is we are not getting any intelligence from the Russians. It is not being shared, and they are refusing to do it. So yes.

COOPER: Congressman Peter King, appreciate your time.

KING: Thank you.

COOPER: Good to have you on the program.

Up next, a nasty sickness strikes a cruise. More than 600 people fall ill. It's happened again. The suspected culprit, ahead.

And a deep freeze sets in across much of the United States, from Minnesota and New Orleans and points farther east. An update ahead.

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COOPER: Welcome back. A Royal Caribbean cruise is being cut short, because more than 600 people on board have gotten sick with a gastrointestinal illness. The cruiseline says that after consulting with the CDC, they made the decision to bring the Explorer of the Seas back to port two days early and thoroughly sanitize the ship.

The cause of the illness has not been pinpointed for sure. The company, however, says the symptoms are consistent with norovirus.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now live.

So the fact that this spread so quickly, I mean, more than 600 sick in a matter of days, is that part of what's making medical experts think that it's this norovirus? Exactly what is a norovirus?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Anderson. That is one of the things that's making them think this.

So norovirus is a really common gastrointestinal infection. And you know, many of us have probably had it, although you didn't know what to call it, but you knew that it was unpleasant. So the symptoms look like norovirus. The fact that it spread quickly looks like norovirus.

And, you know, Anderson, I was just on the phone with an expert, and he says he wouldn't be surprised if this is a relatively new strain called the Sydney strain, because a lot of people don't have immunity to it. So he's thinking that might be one of the reasons why it spread so quickly.

COOPER: I've read also that this norovirus, it can actually live on the surfaces of things for days. And that things like alcohol sanitizers don't even work that well. Is that true?

COHEN: Yes, this is kind of a weird bug in that way. Usually, sanitizers work just fine, but for this one, you really want to wash your hands. Sanitizer does not work all that well, and it does live for a very long time on surfaces.

COOPER: And ships, I mean, are inspected. Their scores, I understand, are kept on the Centers for Disease Control Web site. And this ship, I understand, scored pretty well. So it could pretty much happen on any ship, then, right?

COHEN: They did. Anderson, they scored great. They got a 98 on their most recent test. And you know, here's the thing. You can have a perfectly ship-shape ship, but if someone sick walks onto it, you could have an outbreak like this. In some ways it doesn't really matter all that much how clean this ship was to start with.

COOPER: So someone, one person with a norovirus, that's -- it can just -- that's how it can be spread? I mean, then it just stays on the surface or something like that?

COHEN: Right. It can be. I mean, it could just be one person. I'm not saying that's what happened here.

COOPER: Right.

COHEN: But sure, one person can -- can really start getting things going, especially if that person is a crew member and is preparing food. Again, I'm not saying that's what happened here. But if you have a crew member who's preparing food and didn't wash their hands properly, that's a problem.

COOPER: So what's the ship line? What's Royal Caribbean saying about what they're doing to get people medical attention and eventually back home?

COHEN: Right. So Royal Caribbean says they're doing several things. One is that they're bringing in additional equipment. They're bringing in additional personnel.

And actually, Anderson, we just talked to a passenger. And she said that they've made another interesting change. No more buffets. Said you can't -- you know, buffets where everyone is sort of handling the same serving utensil. No more of those. Everything is table service. And she said, plus, if you're sick in your room they will come and bring you ginger ale or the beverage of your choice to make you feel better and get you hydrated.

COOPER: Well, we wish the people the best. Elizabeth Cohen, appreciate the update. Thanks.

COHEN: Thanks.

COOPER: Let's get you caught up on some of the other stories we're following. Susan Hendricks is here with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, a big chill has set in across much of the south. New Orleans' mayor has declared a state of emergency, with freezing rain expected on Tuesday. Much of the Midwest and Northeast is also shivering. It will feel like negative 30 in Chicago tomorrow, when you factor in the wind chill.

A "360 Follow" now. A Texas hospital has followed a judge's order and ended life support for a brain-dead pregnant woman. The family of Marlise Munoz says she may now rest in peace. The hospital said state law required them to keep Munoz on life support since he was pregnant.

Well, the mother of a 19-year-old man accused in this weekend's Maryland mall shooting says she doesn't think her son knew the victims and that he was sweet and gentle. Police say the young man killed two people with a shotgun before shooting himself. The motive right now is unknown.

The FAA is ordering inspections of Boeing 767 commercial jets. The FAA says there are potential rivet problems that could cause a loss of control of the planes that has not been cited in any 767 crash, but the FAA and Boeing have been looking into the problem since 2000. The airlines have six years to comply with this.

And avalanches have cut off the only road in and out of Valdez, Alaska. Officials say the highway will probably stay closed for about a week. The town's Web site says food and fuel can be brought in by barge if it is necessary. COOPER: Wow. That's incredible.

All right. Susan, thanks.

HENDRICKS: It really is.

COOPER: Yes, we'll be right back.

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COOPER: That does it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.