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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Three Muslim Students Killed in North Carolina; Sister of Murdered Muslim Student Speaks; Obama Seeks AUMF From Congress; What Kayla Mueller Endured in ISIS Captivity; Brian Williams Suspended, Faces Increased Scrutiny; Auto Insurance Scheme?
Aired February 11, 2015 - 20:00 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, thanks for joining us. There's a lot happening tonight.
From President Obama asking Congress to put a stamp of approval on the war against ISIS to a triple murder here at home that the Muslim community worried about becoming targets.
Also tonight, Brian Williams, Katrina and the truth. We're taking a closer look at the stories he told about disaster with the man who wrote the book on it. Douglas Brinkley joins us tonight.
And later Drew Griffin gets behind the wheel to expose an alleged car repair scheme that could making some insurance company's rich at the expense of your safety.
We begin with that murder of three students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. And the question, was it simply the brutal and senseless outcome of dispute between neighbors or was it motivated by anti- religious hatred, specifically, anti-Muslim hatred?
The victims, three university students, a dental student, his new wife and her sister were all Muslims. The suspect, a 46-year-old man, named Craig Hicks, who turned himself in, appears to have made strong anti-religious statements online. It was unclear whether they targeted Islam specifically or all religions. His wife says this has nothing to do with religion. The father of two of the victims calls it a hate crime and the case is now getting national as well as global attention.
In a moment, we'll talk to the sister, one of the victims. But first, some details from Jason Carroll.
MOHAMMAD ABU-SALHA, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIMS: I don't think there is a word to describe the pain. If it wasn't for honoring my children and wanting to tell the world their story, I would not be talking.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mohammed Abu- Salha says he is numb, still in shock over the loss of his two daughters, Razan and Yusor and Deah Shaddy, Yusor's husband. ABU-SALHA: And no matter how much I grieve, I cannot grieve like my
wife does. I don't think we can feel it well now until we see the bodies and have the burial. We're in shock. Two children of ours and our son-in-law.
CARROLL: All three shot execution style, a bullet to the head. A frantic 911 call, Tuesday night of shots fired at the victim's apartment complex near the University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill Campus where they lived.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just heard gunshots. I don't know what building it came from but I heard kids screaming.
UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: OK. How long did you hear it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long?
UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably 30 seconds ago.
UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: OK, how many shots did you hear?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Multiple. I mean, at least between five and ten I would say.
CARROLL: Later that night, the victim's neighbor 46-year-old Craig Hicks turned himself in to police, they charged him with three counts of first-degree murder. Now there are questions about the motive. All three victims were Muslim. The women's father called the attack a hate crime saying his daughters and his son-in-law were targeted because of their faith.
ABU-SALHA: My daughter, she is an honest to God, told us on more than two occasions that this man came knocking at their door and fighting about everything with a gun on his belt. More than twice. She told us, Daddy, I think he hates us for who we are. And how we look.
CARROLL: Investigators say the shooting was the result of a long standing dispute between neighbors.
RIPLEY RAND, U.S. ATTORNEY MIDDLE DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA: I didn't want to make sure that folks knew that based on all of the information that our office and that law enforcement has at this time that the events of yesterday are not part of a targeted campaign against Muslims in North Carolina or anything other than an individual event.
CARROLL: His wife expressed her condolences also saying her husband's motive for the murder had nothing to do with religion.
KAREN HICKS, CRAIG HICKS WIFE: I can say with my absolutely belief that this incident had nothing to do with religion or victim's faith. But in fact was related to the long standing parking disputes that that my husband had with the neighbors. CARROLL: Barakat was a second year dental student. His wife set to
begin her studies at the same UNC school of dentistry. Her sister was also a student at nearby NC State in Raleigh. Barakat was also raising money to provide dental care to Syrian refugees. Abu-Salha called them the kind of children parents wish for, now gone.
ABU-SALHA: They leave a scent of flowers and a breeze and a light in our lives. They will be missed. I don't think I can feel my sadness yet. It will come when I'm by myself, (INAUDIBLE) at night, it will come when I see their faces and the horrors and the blood and the stitches.
COOPER: Jason Carroll joins us now from Chapel Hill.
At this point, the father knows what police are that they're saying it's not a hate crime. What's his response to that?
CARROLL: Well, Anderson, he doesn't believe that. I mean, he says that he remembers his son-in-law living here for quite some time without any problems with Hicks. He says it was only when his daughters and their friends started showing up wearing head scarves back in December, he says that's when Hicks started to harass them. And he says it wasn't just over a parking space. He said it also had to do with noise and other issues as well. That's why it's so hard for him to believe the conclusion that investigators ultimately had come to.
COOPER: Jason, appreciate the reporting. All three victims are being remembered in their community as role models. Deah Barakat, who is just 23-years-old was known for his many acts of kindness. His sister Suzanne was a local physician joins us tonight.
Suzanne, thank you for being with us. I'm so incredibly sorry for your loss. First of all, how are you? How's your family holding up?
DR. SUZANNE BARAKAT, DEAH BARAKAT'S SISTER: Well, it's a pleasure to be here, Anderson, thank you for having me.
In terms of how we're holding up, I would say that the honest answer is we're still in shock and there's still a lot of denial. And I think the reason why I'm able to be here today is because I feel mostly numb. But it's been a really incomprehensible tragedy that we're trying to process.
COOPER: Tell me about your brother. What was he like?
BARAKAT: My brother, Deah, was a 6'3" young man who had the kindest heart. Who loved everyone he met. Greeted strangers with hugs and dedicated his life to service. He loved his family. He loved his wife, Yusor. He loved his in-laws. And it's a very sad day for both of our families.
COOPER: There are reports that the suspect and your brother, that they had interactions prior to this. Is that, to your knowledge, true? Were you aware of that?
BARAKAT: To my knowledge, yes. There had been issues of some disrespect and harassment from the neighbor's standpoint. It's basically incomprehensible to me that you can murder three people by shooting a bullet into their head and killing them over a parking spot. Let's leave it at that.
COOPER: You think there's more to it?
COOPER: I don't want to ask anything you don't want to talk about, so feel free to say I don't want to talk about it, but you said you known there had been some interactions. Do you think that they had anything to do with your brother's religion? With how he was perceived by this person?
BARAKAT: Having heard secondhand from one of very close friend of Yusor had said, that basically he had said because of the way you look and not comfortable with, a, the way you look and, I'm really sorry.
COOPER: It's OK.
BARAKAT: This is really hard.
COOPER: I know.
BARAKAT: I go from being in denial to being really numb to being really angry. I came here today in hopes of shining light on Deah's -- their legacy, and Yusor and Razan's. And for the three of them, that has been dedication to service. And I want to make sure that they are recognized for that and that the world realizes what we have lost and the loss of these three incredibly brilliant, bright, beautiful, accomplished, successful, respectful, loved three young people.
If you were within our community, Anderson, you would see just the outpouring of love and support we are receiving from everyone around us and it's been immensely touching. And I want the world to see that and I want them to see the true essence of what Deah, Yusor and Razan was. And it was optimism, it was hope, it was love. It was wanting to help anyone and everyone in their local communities and communities abroad. Just based on their actions with the work that they have done with homeless communities here, with work that they are doing in Turkey to aid Syrian refugees.
Deah was running a campaign with the dental school and with some NGOs to fund raise money for a mission trip later this summer. And yesterday, he was at, I believe, 16,000 and today, it's over 120,000 and that is amazing.
And we want to continue that and we want them to be remembered for that because one thing that I knew about Deah is that no matter, you know, he made dental school look easy. He made -- everything he did just --
COOPER: That's a hard thing to do.
BARAKAT: It is. But he did it because he loved it. He loved what he did. He loved playing with the children when he was working abroad. He was happy. In everything that he did. And he made it light. And people loved being around him for that. And selfishly, as the older sister who felt like a second mom to him, I will miss him adoring me and the way he loved me and the way he looked up to me and the many phone calls where we would talk and we would give each other advice and he's like, OK, I see your point. He was the best friend kind of brother. And --
COOPER: It's a tremendous loss, not just --
BARAKAT: It's not real, what I feel.
COOPER: Yes. It's a tremendous loss not just for your family and for your friends but sounds like for the community and for this country. It sounds like your brother was a young man who had already made tremendous contributions and would no doubt continue to do that for the rest of his life.
BARAKAT: They were all destined with very bright futures ahead of them. Deah being a second year dental student at UNC, Yusor having just got accepted to UNC dental school to be starting in the fall and Razan in a very competitive program studying architecture and he's very creative. They all had so much to offer and I just want to make sure that we continue that legacy for them in their name; in their honor and that all of us as Americans collectively -- not let their deaths go in vain.
COOPER: Suzanne, thank you for talking to us. Your strength is really incredible. I lost a brother many years ago under very different circumstances, but I certainly wouldn't have the strength to speak about him so soon as you have tonight. And I very much appreciate you letting us know your brother just a little bit. And continuing to carry on his legacy. Thank you so much.
BARAKAT: The three of them have given me the strength to be here today, to talk to you. Thank you so much for having me, Anderson.
COOPER: There is more to report tonight.
Coming up next, we have breaking news; President Obama wants Congress to OK his plan for fighting ISIS. We look at how some lawmakers are receiving a plan that's too tough for some and not tough enough for others.
Also, some new reporting that raises the horrible possibility that Kayla Mueller was forced into some kind of marriage to an ISIS fighter. Details ahead.
COOPER: Breaking news tonight, now President Obama is asking Congress for a stamp of approval on the campaign against ISIS. In remarks day in the Roosevelt Room in the White House, he said the terror group is on declined and that they're going to lose. Now to help make that happen he asked for commitment from Congress that's limited both in time, three years in scope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I've said before, I'm convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolong ground war in the Middle-East. That's not our National Security interest and is not necessary for us to defeat ISIL.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So no enduring offensive ground operations as how the proposed legislation reads. It does whoever leaves the door open for ground forces to the usually limited operations virtually anywhere, anytime to fight ISIS. The resolution walks in narrow line that President Obama saying Democrats and Republicans were consulted in the drafting of it. The question will allow lawmakers in both parties to support it now that it's in front of them.
Dana Bash is been taking the temperature in Capital Hill. She joins us.
So it's seems like Republicans and Democrats are unhappy with this proposal from the president from for different reasons.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very different reasons in there, and therein lies the problem and the big challenge in whether or not this can actually pass Congress or any version of it.
Democrats simply think, many of them simply think that the president has asked for authority that's too broad that it allows him and more importantly a future president because it would last for three years too much latitude to use the military against ISIS or maybe any other threat that could be related to that.
On the flip side, Republicans say that he has limited himself too much, that there should only be one commander in chief and the way it is written, it allows Congress to have too much input. And I got to tell you, Anderson, it just been really ironic to listen to Republicans argue that the president is -- wants Congress's input too much. This is the same Republicans who are on other issues says that he's the imperial president and he is acting alone too much. So it's certainly it has been a very odd day.
COOPER: So what happens now though? I mean, is there any kind of timeline for when this could actually come up for a vote?
BASH: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the sister committee in the House, we'll begin to hold hearings, we're going to hear from the Secretary of Defense, of states, military leaders. That's going to probably happen for at least a month while they're going to try to be figuring out whether or not they can change the language in here to have enough latitude for Republicans, not as much latitude for Democrats, whether they can thread that needle and get something past. But the thing to remember is this is to authorize a mission that's
already under way. The president does not believe he needs -- he needs legal authority from congress. He thinks he already has it. So this is something that he asked Congress for because Congress has been the one saying they wanted in print on this.
COOPER: Dana Bash, appreciate the update from Capitol Hill. Thanks.
President Obama's draft resolution names the four Americans captured and killed by ISIS. James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul Rahman and Peter Kassig and most recently, of course, Kayla Mueller. And last you'll remember we heard friends and family remembered what a remarkable inspiring young woman she was, we read from a letter that wrote in captivity that showed bravery, serenity and compassion the worst situation imaginable.
Today we're learning new details about one more thing that she may have been forced to endure. Justice correspondent Pamela Brown has that story.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Intelligence suggest, 26-year-old Kayla Mueller was given to a male ISIS fighter, possibly as bride after she was kidnapped in Syria in 2013 according to U.S. government officials. Officials say there are also indications that Mueller converted to Islam, a practice seen in the past by hostages in the Middle East.
AKI PERITZ, FORMER CIA ANALYST: These hostages under severe duress for very long time and they're threatened with death and so forth. For them to say that we're going to convert to the religion of our hostage takers suggest that maybe they can curry favor that way.
BROWN: CNN has learned that pictures sent privately to Mueller's family from ISIS help confirmed her death, according to U.S. official, pictures included Mueller wearing Muslim garb and a picture of her wrapped in a burial shroud, a stark contrast from the brutal beheading of other male hostages. Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss says it's clear ISIS treated Mueller differently.
CHRIS VOSS, FORMER FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: Because she was a remarkably decent human being and because she was a woman that it wouldn't be surprising for them to treat her with more respect in life and in death, if they covered her and wrapped her properly, those are respectful actions.
BROWN: How she died remains a mystery but U.S. military says there is no evidence backing up the ISIS claimed that Mueller was killed in a Jordanian air strike.
Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar says, there were several foiled rescue attempts to save Mueller and one attempt the man claimed to be Mueller's husband from her hometown at Prescott, Arizona and demanded her release at a Syrian terrorist camp. But was turned away after Mueller denied being anyone's wife. REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: She said she wasn't married and she did
lie to our captures that she was married and so it foiled that plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And Pamela Brown joins us now.
You've been speaking to family spokesperson. What are -- you have been learning about the lengths they went through to try free Kayla?
BROWN: That's right. I just speak to the spokesperson tonight, Anderson. And she made it clear that the family went to great lengths to try to rescue their daughter. In fact, at one point, the Mueller family reached out to the White House last summer when ISIS issued a deadline to execute Kayla and asked if the government would be willing to trade Dr. Sadiki. She's known as lady Al-Qaeda in exchange for Mueller.
ISIS had made repeated calls for the release of Sadiki and apparently the family had had heard about that in the media. And they're just trying to explore any option they could to release their daughter. Also we learned the spokesperson says contrary to many media reports the family never turned down a military rescue mission because it was too risky. Instead, apparently, the family reached out to the White House and asked for notification if there would be another rescue attempt after the failed attempt last July of Kayla and other American hostages. Anderson, it's clear they were trying to do anything they could to get Kayla home.
COOPER: Pamela, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.
Some perspective now on how the human spirit copes with and adapts to captivity as well as the adversity and indignity and frankly obscenity that comes with it.
CNN Global Affairs Analyst David Rohde joins us endured seven months at the mercy of the Taliban before managing to escape from his captivity.
The relationship between the captive and the captors, it's got to be incredibly complex.
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is. And you're trying to survive. So a lot of things that she mentioned in her letter really rang true to me in terms of, you know, she talked about praying a lot. You know, she talked about being treated well. She may have been treated well at times but also wants her family to realize that, you know, she's not suffering. She also talked about, you know, to her family, don't feel guilty, you know. I put myself, you know, through this.
COOPER: That's clearly things --
ROHDE: So I was really touched by what she wrote.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, that's one of the things that what's so impressive about this letter. That even in, you know, her darkest time, she is as concerned of him -- more concerned about how her family's feeling and what they're going through.
ROHDE: I mean, it's very common, you know, that I experienced that in many other captives and then she talks about prayer and there was a bit in the report about her maybe converting to Islam. I think it's, you know, it's impossible and sort of irrelevant. There's no way anybody can sort of freely convert to any faith while you're a prisoner. You're essentially under duress.
Jim Foley, who was reportedly converted to Islam as well. He talked about -- he was kidnapped twice, he was in Libya first and then grabbed in Syria. Between those two kidnappings, he talked about how he prayed as a Muslim in Libya to create camaraderie with guards and prisoners but he was actually at the same moment sort of praying as a Christian to Jesus. And he's like, he said in this great lecture he gave, I didn't know if, you know, I was violating something theologically but I was sincerely praying with these men, my fellow prisoners and I was sincerely praying to Jesus. So it's to me --
COOPER: Does it help to -- I mean, is there evidence that actually helps to convert to Islam when you're held by these?
ROHDE: It might in the short-term. I was given an English language Koran, I read it, I thought that would, you know, help but then start questioning it. You know, are you really reading it seriously? I didn't convert and they were asked, you know, why haven't you converted? But I did pray.
COOPER: So they would actually quiz people on what they've read.
ROHDE: Yes. And the question of, you know, the danger if you convert and I decided to false conversion, you're creating, you know, all kinds of problems for yourself. But you pray all the time. I mean, people say, oh, they pray five times a day. They're extreme. I pray 20 times a day. The night we escape, I lay there and I, you know, there's a Muslim tradition where you say forgive me God. I said before we try to escape, forgive me God a thousand times.
All these traditions come together. You're just trying, you know, to talk to God, and it doesn't matter sort of what faith you're doing that through and I totally, you know, just identify with what she wrote.
COOPER: And I want to read some of what she wrote for those who haven't -- and we put the whole letter on our website. But she said, "I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end, the only"-- let me start again. "I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I've come to a place and experienced where in every sense of the word I surrendered myself to our creator because literary there was no one else. And by God and by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in free fall." It's very moving.
ROHDE: It's just beautiful and, you know, who's God, you know, what God, it doesn't really matter. I mean, you know, she's facing her death. She's made this peace. She cares about the people who love her. And I just think it's she's an amazing, amazing young woman.
COOPER: Has anything changed to your knowledge in communication between authorities and families in these kind of circumstances? Because that was something obviously in the way Jim Foley's death, his family spoke -- spoke out about. I interviewed his mom about, you know, of a feeling of a lack of communication and from the government standpoint, they obviously don't want to give up operational details to family members. It's a difficult balance.
ROHDE: It is. There's been more talk. I think the Mueller's had more contact with the government but there is an ongoing review of hostage policy and the issue that has not changed is can family get security clearances? The family of Austin Tice, she's last sort of remaining American hostage in Syria, he's thought to be held by the government there and not ISIS. They want a security clearance and they can't get it and that's, you know, one thing that I think needs to change.
ROHDE: These clearances need to go to the families.
COOPER: David Rohde, appreciate you being with us. Thank you very much.
ROHDE: Thank you.
COOPER: As the head, breaking news, in the Brian Williams story. What NBC is doing to make nightly news without him. Also there's step of screw down as work after Hurricane Katrina. We'll take a closer look.
COOPER: Welcome back. Brian Williams name was taken off the "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" tonight. That comes in the wake of the news that he has been suspended without pay for six months for exaggerating his experience while reporting on the Iraq war, something the head of the NBC Universal calls inexcusable, while also saying he deserves a second chance. "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt called Williams' suspension an enormously difficult story to report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR: Brian is a member of our family, but so are you, our viewers and we will work every night to be worthy of your trust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: While many are wondering if Brian Williams will ever actually return to the anchor desk at NBC and in light of the revelations about his reporting from Iraq in 2003, there's now increased scrutiny obviously on his other work including reports he did from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Randi Kaye has that.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: As the roofing materials dangle behind us here at the Super Dome ...
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brian Williams reported in 2005 that he simply heard the story of a man taking his own life inside the Super Dome.
WILLIAMS: We've heard the story of a man killing himself falling from the upper deck.
KAYE: But he seemed to take it a step further last year when he shared the Super Dome story again.
WILLIAMS: We watched, all of us watched as one man committed suicide.
KAYE: NBC investigators will have to get to the bottom of that and more. In 2006, Williams said in an interview he'd actually seen a body float by him in the French Quarter after the storm.
WILLIAMS: When you look out of your hotel room window in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face down.
KAYE: But many have questioned if that were possible because the flood waters barely reached that part of New Orleans. Could the water have been deep enough for a body to float by? We asked the former general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel where Williams had been staying. In front of the hotel, she said, the water was a couple of feet, briefly and then quickly receded and behind the hotel facing the French Quarter?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The water might have been eight inches or so. It's my perception that it would be difficult for a body to float in eight inches of water. I did not witness any bodies floating in the water.
KAYE: We also checked with a hazard geographer who compiled data on where victims of the hurricane were found. He told us no bodies were found in the French Quarter. The closest, he says, was recovered 0.36 miles away. The odds of that body being the same one Williams says he saw is highly unlikely says our geographer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would have the Ritz-Carlton, it was - a few blocks down the street and we've had to make the turn, left turn and go a few more blocks down the street. In what has a - (INAUDIBLE) You know, it's just very hard to conceive of that happening.
KAYE: These pictures from a church newspaper do show water around the Ritz-Carlton after the storm, even a boat. But the man in charge on the ground, Lieutenant General Russel Honore, has his doubts about a body floating by.
GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE: By and large, that water, that was well below knee around the Ritz-Carlton.
KAYE: And what about those gangs Williams said stormed his hotel?
WILLIAMS: Our hotel was overrun with gangs.
KAYE: The news man had told his story in Douglas Brinkley that he was sick from drinking sewage water and slept on a mattress in a stairwell, that's where he said he'd heard armed gangs breaking into the hotel, brandishing guns and terrorizing guests, but Williams gave a different account to this associate professor at LSU for her book about Katrina telling her he'd slept in his room.
JUDITH SYLVESTER, ASSOC. PROF. MASS COMMUNICATION, LSU: He was worried about people gaining entry into his room and he told me at that point that he slept one night between the bed and the wall so that if anybody opened the door, they would think the room was unoccupied.
KAYE: The professor suggests perhaps Brian Williams was simply confused, confusion or exaggeration. The answers should come soon. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: And comes from NBC that they are investigating. Joining me now is Douglas Brinkley. Author of the "Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast," which is a remarkable book, if you haven't read it and Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the Tyndall Report, which monitors the weekday nightly newscast.
Doug, I mean I know you give Brian Williams, obviously, certain amount of doubt - or the benefit of the doubt when it comes to Katrina reporting. Do you also think he had an embellishment problem?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, AUTHOR "THE GREAT DELUGE": Yes. The clips that you just played are a bit troubling. That's embellishment. I don't think he saw somebody commit suicide at the Super Dome, but he broke the story there and saw the hole in the roof. I don't think a body was per se floating by the Ritz-Carlton, but there were plenty of people and I was there for Katrina. Plenty of bodies around the sea, somewhere even being chained to places, but it was more central city, maybe way up canal. The problem is, could you have seen it from the Ritz-Carlton? Hence people are asking questions. I do know Brian Williams was very sick with what he calls dysentery. It certainly was a dysentery-like condition, I interviewed Heather Allen and many others, Jean Harper from NBC who all testify that he was really very sick during these first days and it might be part of the reason he was a bit confused but I think his reporting overall was stellar.
COOPER: And the stories of the armed gangs overrunning the Ritz- Carlton, what do you make of that?
BRINKLEY: Gangs becomes a heavy word, but there were people, there was a great fear in the French Quarter, Ritz-Carlton was black, darked out. Nobody knew where anybody was. And there was a lot of fear in the air. We forget that it was a big unknown what was going to happen so I believe that fear of the gangs, when you hear boots chomping, you know, clumping down the hallway and somebody says they see people with guns but if we have a division of a huge gang it's probably less likely than a few people that were looting or maybe simply looking for a place to sleep or looking for food and water.
Nevertheless, Brian was in the eye of the storm. He was down there and everybody's confusion. It's a cliche fog of war, but people had it at that time. I think we've got to give Brian a little bit of the benefit of the doubt. Although, NBC owes it to us to inventory all these things and get us some answers.
COOPER: Andrew, whether it was - what he said about New Orleans, what he said about Iraq, do you see a path for Brian Williams to return to "NBC Nightly News"?
ANDREW TYNDALL, PUBLISHER, THE TYNDALL REPORT: No, I don't expect him ever to sit in that anchor chair again. You can't give this severe a punishment to somebody and then say at the end of six months, everything is back to status quo again.
COOPER: Because it would just bring it all back for NBC?
TYNDALL: Yes, and it's such a statement of doubt being made about him by his own management, it was in suspending him that I can't see what he could do to make people just forget that doubt.
COOPER: Do you see him having a job in news again?
TYNDALL: Well, he doesn't need a job in news. I mean, he's been paid well enough for over the past dozen years that he's not going to be on the dole. You know, there're many ways in which you can get a job in news nowadays. You can start your own site. You don't have to be employed anymore to be in the news.
COOPER: Right. Start a blog or something like that.
COOPER: Doug, I mean do you think he could come back?
BRINKLEY: I do. I think, look, he deserved the punishment he got. No pay and off the air for six months but he could possibly come back in July, in August for the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I think it's all going to depend on just how many examples of embellishment they discover, but I don't think Brian is done with being an investigative reporter. It's in his blood. He might end up getting a news magazine one hour at night on NBC, it may not be the trusted anchorman in the Walter Cronkite tradition, but Brian Williams is a talent and I think when you cherry pick all these bad moments and string them together, it looks - it's troubling but he's had a long career, a lot of life - mike time and a lot of really great work and I hate to see him just sidelined and destroyed over this.
Let's hope we can reform him, have - show a little bit of mercy. He's got to be going through a lot of misery this week. COOPER: No doubt about that. Andrew, I mean his - the range of his
talents is pretty extraordinary. I mean, his sense of humor, his story telling beyond him, as well. I mean but in many, but on late night talk shows. You know, there is a report he even wanted to replace Jay Leno on the tonight show.
COOPER: So you could see some sort of television career for him even if it's not necessarily on the "NBC Nightly News."
TYNDALL: OK, so this actually is the problem that's facing not Brian Williams, but the problem that's facing NBC News. The way in which they maintain their visibility as a brand, as a network in the face of fragmenting audiences and where everybody's getting smaller is to rely on celebrity to publicize their journalism. So they picked someone whose skills were not journalistic skills, they were celebrity skills. And they've really been hoist by their own petard here. They have decided that their tactic to sell their journalism, to market their journalism, is not to concentrate on their journalism but to concentrate on a whole lot of other skills that are non-journalistic skills. And their best course going forward is to concentrate on their journalism, and that's why I think it's a constructive step to go with Lester Holt rather than with Brian Williams, because here's someone whose reputation, skills are first and foremost as a journalist, not as a joke teller or an entertainer or a celebrity or someone who's good with an anecdote.
COOPER: We'll see. Andrew Tyndall, it's good to have you here. Doug Brinkley, always good to have you, Doug, thank you.
Just ahead, when you go get your car fixed, how do you know if they actually fixed it right? Now unless you're a mechanic, you probably don't, and now there are claims that some insurance companies are actually steering you toward body shops that skimp on repairs, use used parts. It's an alleged scheme that could be making those insurance companies rich and make you unsafe on the road. Drew Griffin tonight investigating.
COOPER: Well, if your car is ever damaged in an accident or repaired through a major insurance company in this country, there are major state and federal lawsuits underway that you should probably know about. Auto body shops across the United States, more than 500 of them, claim that some big insurance companies long deliberately skimped when it comes to repair damaged vehicles. Also, the insurance companies can pad their profits.
The lawsuits allege it's a scheme that can not only lead to rushed and minimal repairs but repairs that include using recycled, remanufactured - and as one lawyer puts it - "junked parts" to fix your car. Some attorneys general believes the alleged scheme may have another effect: you could be driving a very dangerous car. CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin reports tonight.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATION UNIT CORRESPONDENT: To see what's really going on, you've got to do something you probably can't do at home: lift what you think is your repaired car, get out something called a boroscope, and check inside the car, inside the frame to see if the auto body shop actually fixed it. The auto body shop your insurance company most likely recommended.
BILL BURN, AUTO REPAIR EXPERT: There's the riff in the rail right here.
GRIFFIN: Bill Burn, a national auto repair expert, testifies in court about bad repairs and this, he says, is one of them. The result of a system designed to save money for insurance companies.
BURN: What they did was they replaced the new end cap on there, and the end cap actually covers that, so the consumer would never see this. It is unsafe.
GRIFFIN: And yet they put it back on there.
GRIFFIN: Burn is now part of a major lawsuit involving more than 500 auto body shops in 36 states, all suing dozens of insurance companies across the country. The shops believe the insurance industry is involved in a deliberate system to send you and your car to shops that are pre-selected by insurers to do the absolute bare minimum to fix it, even telling body shops to use used or recycled parts because they're cheaper.
Matt Parker is an auto shop owner in Monroe, Louisiana who said he sees the same problem. He said State Farm told him to use a remanufactured headlight in a Toyota Tacoma. This is what he got.
MATT PARKER, AUTO SHOP OWNER, MONROE, LA: So, it's got a hole in it here, and then you can see where they screwed this bracket back on the vehicle. Now, you can see here where all these parts - where these were knocked off and glued back together.
You can also see here where the top corner and the lens is busted, and this part of the headlight is broken.
GRIFFIN: This came out of a box wrapped like it was supposed to be -
PARKER: Oh, absolutely. It's like - supposed to be like a new part. The insurance company wants us to put this stuff on their car. Now, if we refuse to put it on the car, then they label us as a shop not willing to go along with their program. And then try to steer our business away from us.
GRIFFIN: Which is why he and the other shops have retained John Arthur Eaves to sue.
JOHN ARTHUR EAVES, ATTORNEY: Every state in the union is experiencing the same sort of struggle here between the body shops trying to do the work the right way, and the insurance companies trying to cut corners and force them to use unsafe parts and unsafe methods on their cars.
GRIFFIN: Attorneys general Jim Hood of Mississippi and Buddy Caldwell of Louisiana, they believe it, too. Mississippi is preparing a lawsuit. Louisiana has filed, claiming State Farm's practice is putting drivers in danger.
(on camera): And what is the practice? What's being put in their cars?
BUDDY CALDWELL, LOUISIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, aftermarket parts, junkyard parts, and all of this without any communication with the consumer. And that's the main issue: the safety issues and the knowledge that their product is being devalued by the practices of the insurance company.
JIM HOOD, MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY GENERAL: I mean, Buddy has found numerous cases here in Louisiana. We found them in Mississippi, where they would force a body shop to put junk parts and weld and patch.
GRIFFIN: And when auto shops don't go along, Mississippi's attorney general said those auto shops business gets cut. It's called steering. Insurance companies steering business elsewhere.
HOOD: They're going to say, we'll blackball you. We won't put you on our select service list, and we're going to make you send us estimates to us five different times just to aggravate you. That's what they do. They use their economic power to grind down working people.
GRIFFIN: U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who used to be Connecticut's attorney general, says not only is there a potential for small business to be hurt. He too believe cars repaired through insurance companies' 'preferred service centers" pose a safety risk. And he's asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Salvaged parts, inferior or even counterfeit parts certainly raise safety concerns. And often, those kind of parts involved in this practice of steering. And that's why I have been concerned for years about it and why I think the Department of Justice should be investigating.
GRIFFIN: Louisiana's attorney general chose to sue State Farm Insurance because State Farm is the biggest insurer in his state. In legal filings, the company denies all the allegations, including the allegation that State Farm mandates using aftermarket parts.
State Farm would not grant and interview but sent a statement instead. It says, "Our customers choose where their vehicles are going to be repaired. We provide information about our Select Service Program while at the same time making it clear they can select which shop will do the work." State Farm told us to bring our specific questions to Neil Allredge with the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.
NEIL ALLREDGE, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANIES: It's not just in the economic interest of the insurer to have a car go in and out of an auto body shop three or four times to get it right. GRIFFIN: Why would insurance companies require or recommend used
parts, fixed parts off market?
ALLREDGE: Sure. Most companies don't require this. Most companies offer a choice to consumer. Most of the -- any sort of aftermarket part you might hear about are usually cosmetic parts. So they're nothing related to the safety, the mechanical parts of the operation of the vehicle. There are laws in almost every state that require consumers to be told that-- if aftermarket parts are used and then what those parts are.
GRIFFIN: We found that notice on page four of this estimate, on page six of this one.
ALLREDGE: In many cases, these parts are no different. They're made in the same factories. One just comes out with an auto manufacturer's name on it and others don't.
GRIFFIN: Well - you know, that's not true.
ALLREDGE: It is true.
GRIFFIN: It certainly isn't true in the case of this replacement hood for a Honda. It's made in Taiwan, but already coming apart. This aftermarket bumper straight out of the box not only doesn't fit, but the fasteners have been glued back together. And then there's the question about that broken and repaired Toyota Tacoma head lamp.
(on camera): It's obviously a repurposed part from a junkyard. And if you look closely, you'll see how it was glued together, snapped together and in some cases, even welded and screwed together. And this is what the insurer told the preferred body shop to put on a car. I mean, look at this. You wouldn't want that in your car. I wouldn't want that in my car.
ALLREDGE: I really don't know the circumstances of the picture, so I really can't comment on it.
GRIFFIN: So are the attorneys general wrong in saying that the insurance industry as a whole, State Farm in particular, is steering their customers to preferred body shops -- preferred because they save the insurance company money, not the consumer?
ALLREDGE: The insurance company may provide a list of auto body shops. And the customer can say no, I want to go to Joe's Body Shop around the corner. And that's their choice.
GRIFFIN: That is certainly what Progressive Insurance told us happened for this car. Remember, it's the car we told you about earlier with the rip tail frame that you could only spot with the boroscope. It was hit from behind, repaired at a "preferred" insurance company shop and sent back on the road with a ripped and hidden tail frame. Turns out the ripped tail frame isn't old; it wasn't repaired. Three of four tire rims are still damaged. The undercarriage of the car is pushed in, according to auto expert Bill Burn. And outside, the paint job is filled with pockmarks. Progressive Insurance says they didn't choose the body shop, the owner
did. Well, this is the owner. Eugenia Randle, a single car who needs the car to carry around her two-year-old son, Roman. And she remembers the conversation with Progressive much differently.
EUGENIA RANDLE, CAR OWNER: They didn't give me a choice as to where I wanted to take it. They just told me to take it to their preferred body shop.
GRIFFIN: Randle says she though because it was a preferred shop, it would actually be repaired to a higher standard. But when she picked it up, she immediately knew something wasn't right.
RANDLE: Well, cosmetically to me, it looked fine. But once I got in and got down the street, it just started driving really crazy. And I immediately took it back.
GRIFFIN: So how crazy was Randle's car driving? I decided to find out for myself by getting behind the wheel.
(on camera): Anything over 50 miles per hour, this thing just shakes. All right, this baby's really shaking now.
GRIFFIN: Not only the tail section ripped and unrepaired, three of four tire rims were damaged. And as I drove, the steering wheel was shaking so violently, I had to grip down from veering to the right. The front left tire was just wobbling.
I carefully drove this shaking car right back to the insurance company's preferred auto body shop, where the general manager promptly told us to leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't turn that on without Service King's permission if you don't mind.
GRIFFIN: As for Eugenia Randle's shaking car, the insurance company eventually declared it a total loss, giving her full replacement value. But only after she hired an attorney and after CNN began investigating this story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vehicle spun out.
COOPER: That's unbelievable. Drew Griffin joins us now. I mean, I had no idea about this whole plan they had. Did the repair company that supposedly fixed that shaking car, did they ever give an explanation?
GRIFFIN: The company, Service King, they told us they did what the insurance company approved and said all their repairs come with a written lifetime warranty. Anderson, Service King's corporate office told us it was unaware there were any problems or complaints and therefore, was not given the opportunity to fix them. That, of course, is completely at odds with what Mrs. Randle told us.
COOPER: And how widespread is this?
GRIFFIN: You know, these preferred auto body part stores that they steer you to -- I shouldn't say steer you to, that they prefer you go to -- that's quite common. The aftermarket parts, and more and more used parts, is almost universal now. In fact, if you've been in an accident in the last five years, you probably will be able to find a used or repaired part that was placed on your car.
COOPER: And I think a lot of people don't even realize that, as you said. It was on several pages in in the contract. What can you do? I mean, can you tell your insurance company you actually don't want these parts in your car?
GRIFFIN: You know, you have few options. You can try to demand new parts, but they generally will not budge on cheaper used parts, so you may have to find yourself paying the difference out of pocket.
The best thing to do is to take a look at your insurance policy now before you're in an accident, find that fine print that allows insurance companies the ability to give you used parts or repaired parts or even certificated non-manufacturer's parts. And if you don't like that clause, start asking questions. Again, before you need a repair.
COOPER: It's amazing. Drew Griffin, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.
Up next, the story of his life and death as told in the best-selling book and Oscar nominated movie. Now the family and friends of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle want justice. I'll talk to a friend and a former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell about defense claims the alleged killer now on trial is not guilty by reason of insanity.