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Was Vaccine-Autism Study a Fraud?; Investigation Into Former Pentagon Official's Death Continues

Aired January 5, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Evening, everyone. Thanks for watching.

Tonight: breaking news and a 360 exclusive. You have heard the scare stories about vaccines and autism. Now evidence the study that started it all wasn't just mistaken; it was out-and-out fraud, a stinging rebuke to the medical study that terrified millions of parents about vaccines and autism.

We're going to bring you the breaking news on the study and confront the one-time doctor who's behind it.

Also tonight, you will see the last-known pictures of a former Pentagon official taken not long before his body was found in a landfill. Will they deepen the mystery of his final hours or provide vital clues to how he died?

And later tonight: stinging courtroom testimony today in the death of Michael Jackson -- what a paramedic said about the story Jackson's doctor told him and his claim the doctor told him nothing about the powerful drug that ended Jackson's life.

We begin , though, as always, "Keeping Them Honest."

Breaking news tonight: Just hours ago, "The British Medical Journal," "BMJ," did something extremely rare for a scientific journal. It accused a researcher, Andrew Wakefield, of outright fraud.

Now, Wakefield is not just any researcher. His 1998 study on autism and childhood vaccines literally changed the way many parents think about vaccines. The study was based on just 12 children. That's right, 12 children. But many parents desperate for answers around the world embraced Wakefield's claim that he had found a link between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

Celebrity Jenny McCarthy, for instance, a vocal autism activist whose son was diagnosed with the disorder, has helped spread the message, using Wakefield's research as ammunition.


JENNY MCCARTHY, ACTRESS/MOTHER OF AUTISTIC CHILD: Without a doubt in my mind, I believe vaccinations -- vaccinations triggered Evan's autism.



MCCARTHY: You know, environmental toxins play a role. Viruses play a role. Those are all triggers. But vaccines play the largest role right now. And -- and something needs to be done.


MCCARTHY: We're in a very intelligent group of people that understand that vaccines save lives. But we're also saying that vaccines are sometimes harmful to some kids.


COOPER: Well, lawmakers also latched on to the research. Here's Congressman Dan Burton, who believes his grandson's autism was caused by vaccines.


REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: We have had leading scientists from the around world come and testify before my committee who are certain that one of the major causes of autism is the mercury in the vaccination.


COOPER: For the record, the mercury-based preservative he's talking about was removed from most childhood vaccines in 2001, yet autism rates have continued to climb.

Representative Burton made those remarks in 2008. And, by then, Wakefield's study, which was first published in "The Lancet" in 1998, had come under heavy fire in the scientific community. In 2004, 10 of Wakefield's 12 co-authors removed their names from the paper.

Last year, "The Lancet" retracted the study, citing numerous problems with its methods, as well as ethical missteps and financial conflicts of interest. A few months later, Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in the U.K. It was taken away from him.

And now tonight, the medical journal "BMJ" is calling his study more than just bad science. Its editors say it is -- quote -- "an elaborate fraud that has done long-lasting damage to the public's health."

They're talking about the fact that a lot of parents stopped vaccinating their kids after Wakefield's study came out, both in England and in the United States. In recent years, there have been measles outbreaks in California, Illinois, New York, Wisconsin. Last year in California, there were more cases of whooping cough than in any year since 1947. Ten children died, 10 infants. But Andrew Wakefield hasn't lost his loyal following, even though his study has been debunked, even after he's lost his medical license. On the contrary, his supporters see him as a victim.

In a statement last February, Jenny McCarthy and actor Jim Carrey said -- and I quote -- "It is our most sincere belief that Dr. Wakefield and parents of children with autism around the world are being subjected to a remarkable media campaign engineered by vaccine manufacturers. Dr. Wakefield is being vilified through a well- orchestrated smear campaign."

And here's what Congressman Burton said in 2002 at a hearing on autism: "Dr. Wakefield, like many scientists who blaze new trails, has been attacked by his own profession. He's been forced out of his position in the Royal Free Hospital in England. He and his colleagues have fought an uphill battle to continue the research that has been a lone ray of hope for parents whose children have autistic enterocolitis."

But, tonight, the message from the "BMJ" could not be clearer or more shocking. Wakefield's research, they contend, has been a fraud. Starting tonight, the journal is publishing a series of articles by an investigative journalist, Brian Deer, who spent seven years uncovering the bogus data behind Wakefield's claims.

I confronted Dr. Wakefield earlier by Skype.


COOPER: Sir, according to this new report, not only did you do a study that was scientifically and ethically flawed; it was -- quote -- "an elaborate fraud."

An award-winning investigative journalist, Brian Deer, has published evidence that you -- and I quote -- "altered numerous facts about patients' medical histories" to support your claims of identifying a new syndrome and that you also -- quote -- "sought to exploit the scare among parents for financial gain."

How do you respond?

ANDREW WAKEFIELD, AUTHORED RETRACTED AUTISM STUDY: Well, you know, I have had to put up with this man's false allegations for many, many years. I have written a book. And in that book...


COOPER: But this is not just one man. This is -- this is published in "The British Medical Journal."


WAKEFIELD: No. And -- and I have not as yet had a chance to read that, but I have read his multiple allegations on many occasions.

He is a hit man. He's been brought in to take me down because they are very, very concerned about the adverse reactions to vaccines that are occurring in children.

COOPER: Wait a minute, sir. Let me just stop you right there.


COOPER: You say he's a hit man and he's been brought in by "they." Who is "they"? Who is he a hit man for?


COOPER: This is an independent journalist who's won many awards.


WAKEFIELD: Yes, he's...


WAKEFIELD: And he's -- you know, who brought this man in? Who is paying this man? I don't know. But I do know for sure that he's not a journalist like you are. And...


COOPER: Well, he -- he's actually signed a document guaranteeing that he has no financial interest in any of this, or no financial connections to anyone who has an interest in this.


WAKEFIELD: Well, that's interesting you should say that, because he was supported in his investigation by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries, which is funded directly and exclusively by the pharmaceutical industry. So...


COOPER: According to him, he's received no funding from -- from any parties that have interests in this over the last three years.

But let's just -- let's talk about some of the specifics that he is claiming. You're basically saying this is a -- some sort of conspiracy against you. Is that -- is that your argument?

WAKEFIELD: Conspiracy is your word.

What this is, is a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any investigation into valid vaccine safety concerns, not just my concerns. I'm here at a meeting of experts on vaccines from around the world who are very -- extremely concerned about the safety of vaccines and the damage that they believe and I believe is being done to children.

COOPER: But, sir, there's -- there's no proof of that. And your study is a fraud, according to this latest investigation, which has taken quite some time. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And, sir, let me just continue. It's not just this one journalist who's saying this who you believe is some sort of a hit man. It's not just pharmaceutical companies or the AMA, and it's not just public health officials from around the world, and it's not just doctors from around the world.

It's also other journalists who have looked into your research and found it simply incorrect. Are you saying that they -- they're all in conspiracy against you?

WAKEFIELD: No, they haven't. In fact, they have taken his story and treated it as verbatim, treating it as true.

And if you read my book, you will be able to read the truth. And has the "BMJ" read my book? Have the doctors who apparently looked at all the records read my book? No.

COOPER: Well...

WAKEFIELD: Because the truth is in that book.


COOPER: However, I have read Brian Deer's report, which is incredibly extensive. Sir, I'm not here to let you pitch your book. I'm here to have you answer questions.


COOPER: Brian Deer has talked to the patients -- has talked to the parents -- has talked to the parents of the patients who were in your original study. And he discovered that not one of the 12 cases you claim to have studied was free of -- quote -- "misrepresentation or alteration."

In no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses or histories published in the journal. Some of the parents in your original study say what you claimed about their kids' medical histories was not true.

Are those parents now lying?

WAKEFIELD: That is false. He has not interviewed the parents. That is absolutely not true.


COOPER: So, you're saying the parents -- no parents say that what -- that what you have said about their children's medical histories is false?

WAKEFIELD: No, they don't. What I have said and what has been reported in that paper by me and my colleagues is exactly what we saw.


COOPER: I want to read you some of the other specifics from the report.

Three of nine children reported with regressive autism, according to -- to -- to Mr. Deer, did not have autism diagnosed at all. Only one child clearly had regressive autism. Is that true?

WAKEFIELD: No, it's not.

The diagnoses are as they were in the children. I did not make the diagnosis of autism. I did not make up the diagnoses. The diagnoses were taken from the clinical records and reviewed by experts at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine.


COOPER: According to Mr. Deer, some kids were reported to have experienced first behavioral symptoms within days of MMR, the vaccine, but the records documented these as starting some months after the vaccine.

WAKEFIELD: If you read the record that I have set out in the book, you will see the truth. You will see a detailed...


COOPER: But, sir, if you're lying, then your book is also a lie. If your study is a lie, your book is a lie.

WAKEFIELD: The book is not a lie. The study is not a lie. The findings that we made have been replicated in five countries around the world.

COOPER: Sir, that's not true.


COOPER: You have -- you have been offered the chance to replicate your study, and you have never taken -- taken anybody up on that. You have had plenty of opportunity to replicate your study.


WAKEFIELD: ... just accused me of giving you a falsehood. I'm telling you that this work has been replicated in five countries around the world.


COOPER: Then why has it been completely discredited by public health officials around the world?

WAKEFIELD: I suggest you do your investigation properly before making such allegations.


COOPER: We're going to have more with Andrew Wakefield in just a moment. He makes a lot of claims in his defense.

Up next: how those claims and Wakefield stand up to more questions. We will also -- and not just questions from me, but, also, Dr. Sanjay Gupta weighs in. We will also talk with the author of an exhaustive new book on the controversy.

And later: the death of former Pentagon official John Wheeler, his body discovered in a Delaware landfill. What you're looking at are surveillance videos that have surfaced from shortly before he died. We will see what investigators are making of them.

And let us know what you think. Join the live chat right now,

We will be right back.


COOPER: We're covering breaking news tonight about autism and accusations of flat-out fraud.

A short time ago, "The British Medical Journal," "BMJ," lobbed a bombshell into one of the most emotional medical debates on the planet. The editors of "The British Medical Journal" say a controversial 1998 study linking autism to the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine given to kids is fraudulent -- not just mistaken, but fraudulent, a fraud deliberately perpetrated by the study's lead author, Andrew Wakefield.

After years of controversy, the study was officially debunked last year when the journal that first published it, "The Lancet," retracted the study. Months later, Wakefield lost his medical license in England.

But his followers, including many parents of kids with autism, have stood by him.

In my exclusive interview tonight with Wakefield, which I -- we -- I taped just hours ago, he defends his research. In part two of the interview, you will also hear from 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta and journalist Seth Mnookin, whose book, "The Panic Virus," is an exhaustive look at the controversy.

First, here's more of Andrew Wakefield.


WAKEFIELD: If you read the record that I have set out in the book, you will see the truth. You will see a detailed...


COOPER: But, sir, if you're lying, then your book is also a lie. If your study is a lie, your book is a lie.

WAKEFIELD: The book is not a lie. The study is not a lie. The findings that we made have been replicated in five countries around the world.

COOPER: Sir, that's not true.


COOPER: You have -- you have been offered the chance to replicate your study, and you have never taken -- taken anybody up on that. You have had plenty of opportunity to replicate your study.


WAKEFIELD: ... just accused me of giving you a falsehood. I'm telling you that this work has been replicated in five countries around the world.


COOPER: Then why has it been completely discredited by public health officials around the world?

WAKEFIELD: I suggest you do your investigation properly before making such allegations.

OK, if you look up the name Gonzalez, if you look up the name Balzola and Krigsman, you will see that the work has been replicated independently by other doctors around the world. They fail to mention that in these allegations. And Deer has failed to mention that at any time. Is that honest?

COOPER: Deer also says that patients were recruited through anti-MMR campaigners and that your study was commissioned and funded for planned litigation. You did have a lawsuit against manufacturers of the MMR vaccine, didn't you? I mean, didn't you have a financial conflict of interest?


WAKEFIELD: If I could just answer, Anderson, the paper that was published in "The Lancet" received not one cent of funding from lawyers or litigants.

COOPER: Sir, did you or not -- did you not have a financial interest, though? Did you disclose that you were being paid by a law firm?

WAKEFIELD: I disclosed in the relevant paper that I was an expert in MMR vaccine litigation, yes.


COOPER: You didn't disclose you were being paid, though, for -- for a -- for a possible lawsuit against the vaccine-makers, that you had -- were developing a patent for an alternate vaccine.


WAKEFIELD: The purpose of this paper was nothing to do with the litigation. These children were seen on the basis of their clinical symptoms for their clinical need. And they were seen by expert clinicians, and their disease diagnosed by them, not by me.

COOPER: Sir, though, you're -- sir, you're attacking the motives of a journalist, though, and -- and others who -- who oppose you. And yet you're -- you yourself have a financial stake in -- in the research that you were doing.

WAKEFIELD: No, I didn't. The grant that was given was not given to me. It was given to the medical school to conduct a research program, not to me personally.


COOPER: If your research was not a fraud, if your research was valid, why have 10 of your co-authors all retracted the paper's interpretations back in 2004?

WAKEFIELD: Because I'm afraid that the pressure has been put on them to do so.

And people get very, very frightened. We're dealing with some very powerful interests here. And I'm afraid the reason that they are concerned -- and let me just put this to you very clearly -- the reason they are concerned is because a whistle-blower came to me and gave me evidence that the British government had indemnified the vaccine manufacturers for the introduction of an MMR vaccine that they knew to be unsafe and which had been withdrawn in Canada at the time.

It was withdrawn four years later in the U.K., and many children were damaged.


COOPER: Sir, you have been stripped of your Clinton and academic credentials. You're no longer a doctor. Your medical license has been taken away, correct?

WAKEFIELD: That is incorrect, Anderson. I am still a doctor. You cannot take away my degree. They have taken away my license to practice in the U.K. That is irrelevant.

This is part of a systematic process to prevent valid vaccine safety research. I'm not going to go away. These children are real. The experts that are here at this meeting know these children are real. They're growing in number. The experts are growing in number.

COOPER: But, sir...

WAKEFIELD: And I'm afraid the manufacturers and the government are very, very frightened about what is happening. And they... (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Sir, what's also growing in number is the number of children who have died because they haven't been vaccinated. Do you feel any sense of responsibility for that?

WAKEFIELD: I have never said not vaccinate. I have offered, I have suggested that children have the option of single vaccines.

And, six months after I made that recommendation, the option of single vaccines was withdrawn by the British government in the U.K. They are wholly reprehensible in that act. They took away the option from parents of single vaccines.

COOPER: I want to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta, because I know he has just a few questions for you as well.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When you're trying to draw this link, Dr. Wakefield, between vaccines and autism, one of the things that seems to be in question here is the timeline.

And I think I have a sense of what you were writing in the "Lancet" paper, but two of the patients at least that we looked at ourselves extensively, the -- the -- from this journal said that one of the children had symptoms that you called autism actually before the vaccine was ever given.

And another child did not develop any symptoms until six months after the vaccine was given. Why were they included in your study? Do they support your -- your theory?


WAKEFIELD: Please understand that the reports of the vaccine association came from parents.

We were there to study these children and to examine their symptoms. My colleagues investigated them according to clinical need. The purpose of the study was not to look at MMR vaccination. That was irrelevant. Whether the parents cited vaccination as the cause or not, in their opinion, they had bowel disease. They had bowel symptoms.

No one had taken those seriously. And that is why they were there. They were not there for litigation, and they were not there because they had made an association or not with MMR vaccine.

GUPTA: There...


WAKEFIELD: It just so happened that they had made an association in many cases, and those were faithfully reported. And those have been grossly distorted by Brian Deer.

GUPTA: Well, I mean, he clearly states, again, based on interviews with parents, which you -- you say he did not have, but he -- based on what he said, he had these interviews with parents, these children had symptoms ahead of time.

But with regard to the -- the bowel disease, there were also tests done of these children's bowels. In certain cases, you said that they had obvious evidence of inflammatory bowel disease, but none of the hospital records on several of those patients, those 12 patients, actually confirm that. How does that work for you?

WAKEFIELD: Dr. Gupta, you will understand this, so let me make it absolutely clear.

What we did was to reevaluate the biopsies, because there was disagreement between various people. So, an expert pathologist was brought in to review the biopsies blinded. And this is in his statement to the GMC. He made the diagnoses, not me.

And he, the professor of pathology, reviewed the biopsies without knowing whom they came from. And he was the one who made the final diagnosis. That is described in the paper. And that is the final analysis that was put into the paper about the children's bowel disease. It was not made by me and it was not made upon -- based upon routine reporting because of those disagreements between those making the reports.

And that is clearly stated. It was clearly stated at the GMC. And if Dr. -- if Brian Deer has not told you that, then, again, he is guilty of leaving out salient facts, which have distorted the truth.

GUPTA: Dr. Wakefield, I mean, I just want to ask one more -- one more thing. Since 1998, you have obviously been dealing with this.

But these charges that are a big deal in the world of science, that you paid patients, that you did not randomize them, meaning you selected patients that you thought would be better for your study, and now the most -- the most -- the most damning evidence of all, that perhaps these numbers, the dates were all fabricated to sort of make a case, did you have some sort of preconceived notion of a link between the vaccine MMR and autism before you conducted this study?

WAKEFIELD: Absolutely not. Dr. Gupta, please, I urge you, go and read my book. I'll send you a copy. I'm not trying to promote my book. I'm not trying to make money. Take the book and read it and understand the truth.

You will understand it. Many people don't. The parents understand it. They get it, because they have lived it, OK? And the -- the claims to whether the vaccine caused their children harm or not came from the parents, not me. I didn't have a preconceived notion about this at all. I hadn't heard of autism since medical school.

And this was a clinical examination of children on the merits of their clinical problems by the best people in the world, the best clinical experts in pediatric gastroenterology in the world. And they came to the diagnosis, not me.

COOPER: Well...

WAKEFIELD: And if Brian Deer thinks that he can pit his own expertise against some of the best people in the world, well, good luck to him. But, please, I urge you and I urge your readers and your viewers to read the book, because then you will understand the truth and how it has been distorted in this way.

COOPER: Andrew Wakefield, I appreciate you being on the program. Thank you very much.


COOPER: Also joining us right now is Seth Mnookin, author of "Panic Virus."

Andrew Wakefield would not go on the program with you.


COOPER: He would only go on if Sanjay and I were -- were asking the questions.

What do you make of what he said?

MNOOKIN: I find it -- I find it upsetting and -- and disturbing.

He has framed this consistently as this one renegade journalist who's out to get him. In fact, there was a British -- the Medical Research Council, which licenses doctors in the U.K., spent two-and-a- half years looking into his work. It was the longest investigation they had ever done.

And that was the group that stripped him of his right to practice medicine and -- and said that he had displayed a callous disregard for children.

There have been dozens of studies.

COOPER: They said a callous disregard for children?

MNOOKIN: Callous disregard for children.

COOPER: That's why -- and that's -- in stripping him of his -- of his license?

MNOOKIN: Well, the -- the -- there were several reasons they listed. The callous disregard had to do with performing unnecessary tests on children who had been brought to him to support this point, including spinal taps, invasive examinations, colonoscopies on very, very young children.

They also found that there was -- his evidence couldn't be backed up. His -- his data couldn't be backed up. So, for it to be portrayed by -- by -- by Andy Wakefield as this being one person out to get him, you know, I think what he's banking on is that people won't actually look and see -- look and see what the reality of the situation is.


COOPER: When you read this report by -- by Deer...


COOPER: And I don't know this guy Deer at all, but, I mean, I have read his entire report. It's -- it's -- it's pretty exhaustive.

MNOOKIN: Not only is it exhaustive, but, if you took out everything that Brian Deer had ever written, there would be exhaustive evidence that -- that this was not trustworthy.

Dozens of researchers in dozens of countries have studied literally millions of children around the world. And this notion that there's some sort of conspiracy between public health officials, doctors, journalists, drug companies, researchers around the world, you know, it -- it would be the most brilliant conspiracy that had ever been hatched.

And -- and -- and Andrew Wakefield's setting himself up as this one renegade or this band of renegades, you know, sort of fighting against this is -- is, I think, laughable.

COOPER: Sanjay, does he have any credibility?

GUPTA: No, I think that -- I think this is a pretty big deal, what's happened today.

But, you know, he didn't -- he hasn't had really credibility within the scientific world for some time. I mean, as you pointed out, he's been stripped of his medical license. The paper has been retracted. His co-authors all essentially left the paper.

COOPER: But, you know, let me just say one thing. Because there -- there is so much distrust of big pharmaceutical companies, there are going to be a lot of people watching this who say...

GUPTA: Well, that...

COOPER: ... you know, we're all in the pockets of big pharma, or, you know, that -- that there is this conspiracy.

GUPTA: That's what I was going to say. I don't know that it's going to change people who are still going to be very concerned about vaccines.

And the reality is that, if we had a great answer as to what causes autism, I think that would -- that would change this debate altogether. But we don't. So, you -- it's trying to prove a negative, obviously, an impossible thing to do.

But, in his case, I -- I don't think that it -- while as big a deal as this is in science today, I don't know how much this changes the debate overall, because his -- his -- his science has been discredited in the scientific community for some time.

COOPER: But -- but, I mean, it's understandable. Look, parents -- look, we don't know about -- a lot about autism, and -- and the numbers are growing. And that is -- is of concern. And it's understandable parents would latch on to anything.

But -- but in terms of just facts, and we do -- you know, I believe in facts a lot on this program -- I mean, Seth, are there peer-reviewed scientific reports that -- that indicate a link between...


COOPER: ... between vaccines and -- and autism?

MNOOKIN: No. And not only is there not peer-reviewed work, this is probably the most studied public health issue involving children over the last 20 years.

COOPER: Would public health officials have an interest in -- in hiding a link, if there was?

MNOOKIN: Public health officials, I think, would have an interest in keeping children safe.

Even if there -- if there was a link and it was discovered, I think public health officials would -- would have an interest in doing whatever they could to protect children. This notion that everyone's trying to -- to -- to cover their butts and -- because they have already been -- been perpetrating this scam, is -- to distrust the motives of that many people around the world, you know, you would need to assume that -- that everything going on is in some ways out to get you.

I think Sanjay's point about our not knowing what causes autism is really in some ways the crucial one, because it's so frightening to parents. The numbers are rising. And here's something that you can point to. And because it occurs at the same time, you always get vaccinated when you're a child, and autism is diagnosed when you're a child, so it's easy to understand why patients would latch on to that as a connection.

But it has no more validity than -- than if I said microwave popcorn causes autism. The numbers have gone up since we have started eating microwave popcorn. There's just -- there's absolutely no evidence supporting a link.

COOPER: Do -- do you agree with that?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, and I think...


COOPER: And, as a parent, what do you tell other parents?

GUPTA: Well, I -- I have three children. I got my kids vaccinated on schedule, on time. So, you know, I mean, that's -- I think the proof's in the pudding in my case, because I had to make that decision.

But I think, also, you know, that I -- you could get a sense of where the debate goes from here. Wakefield's paper may be discredited, but we still don't know. We give more vaccines now. We give them in different schedules. Could there be something new that's possibly causing this uptick in autism?

And -- and -- and I think the question is going to remain out there, despite what's happened today. You know, the smallpox vaccine, when it was given, it causes an immune response to the body. It was a -- a really profound immune response, more powerful than all the vaccines that we give today, and yet the autism rates are higher now.

So, if it's the vaccine itself, why wasn't it happening when we gave these really, really powerful vaccines so many years ago?

COOPER: And, Seth, the report that is out today by this journalist Deer, it indicates that he had a financial -- that Wakefield had a financial motive.


COOPER: What was the financial motive?


MNOOKIN: Well, there were a couple of things.

One, he had filed a patent application for an alternate measles vaccine several months before the paper came out, which he did not disclose at the time. It was precisely the vaccine that you would have wanted if you stopped using the three-in-one MMR vaccine. It was just for measles.

So, that's one very obvious thing. He also was -- his work was being funded by a law firm that was involved in potential vaccine litigation. And a number of the children in this study were also involved with that law firm.

So, the -- for -- for him to say, you know, "I had no financial connection, and, to prove it, you should read my book," you know, it -- it's -- it's sort of like saying, no, no, I swear I'm a good guy, and, to prove it, listen to me.

It -- you know, it just doesn't hold up.

COOPER: I read -- I read in "Newsweek" this week in an article you wrote about kids who have died because they haven't been vaccinated...


COOPER: ... died -- died from things that they shouldn't have died of. MNOOKIN: Yes.

COOPER: Whooping cough.

MNOOKIN: In 2010 alone, 10 infants died of whooping cough in California, which is astounding that that is happening today.

There are children that have died of Hib, diseases that I have always assumed were definitely in the past in this country. There was a measles epidemic several years ago in California, in San Diego, that cost $10 million to contain, and resulted in a quarantine of dozens of children.

That meant that those parents then had to find some way to take care of those kids, either not go to work or pay for day care. So, even when you have a case like with that measles epidemic, where it's true that children didn't die, you had one infant that was hospitalized for a serious amount of time, and dozens of families that had to pay an enormous amount of money because of this.

COOPER: This is maybe an unfair and an impossible question to answer, is, do you believe Wakefield believes what he's saying?

MNOOKIN: I talked to him several times over the past several years. Mostly in the context of these conferences that he was referring to where he's surrounded by people who adulate him.

I think that it's certainly possible that, at this point, he's been living in this for so long that he thinks it's true. I have talked to other people involved in that community who have told me candidly that they wish the conversation could move on from that, because they understood that the science is not...

COOPER: Has the media played a role in perpetuating this? Because you see in a lot of TV shows, you know, on this subject, several sides represented. You have the people who believe the vaccines cause autism and the people who don't. And it seems to give equal credence, you know.

Or you have a famous person, you know, like Jenny McCarthy, and nothing against her personally, but you know, who is going to get a lot of attention. Has that made the problem worse? Has that given the -- this side more credence?

MNOOKIN: I think absolutely. And an example I use is there are people who believe the earth is flat. Most people obviously do not, but if you had one person who believed the earth is flat and one person who said, "No, it's actually round," and they were discussing the issue together, it would seem that the consensus was split 50/50.

So here you have a situation in which you have millions of doctors, public health officials, all coming down on one side, and then Andrew Wakefield and a very small number of people who are associated with him, a miniscule number of people, saying, "No, this is what's actually going on." But because we can't present millions of points of view or millions of people, it ends up sounding -- there's this false equivalency. It ends up sounding on the one hand, on the other hand, when there really is only one hand in this case.

COOPER: Do you agree with that, there is only one hand in this?

GUPTA: Yes, and I mean, the one thing I would say with the earth, flat earth, round thing, is we know the answer to that now.

One of the things that again has made this discussion so difficult is that, at the end of the discussion, no matter how much you disagree with the other person, if they come back to you and say, "So what does cause it?" We still don't have that great answer. It could be some environmental unknown with a genetic predisposition. Who knows? But that, in part, has made this difficult.

Also, you know, just as a parent, I can tell you, it's so deeply personal. And that also, despite what's happened today, I think many parents who are dealing with this right now are still believing this, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

COOPER: It's a fascinating topic. I appreciate both you guys being here with your expertise. Thank you. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Seth Mnookin.


COOPER: We'll continue to follow the story.

Coming up, a shooting at a mall in Arizona followed by a hostage standoff in a restaurant. The gunman is now in custody. We have details ahead.

And the mysterious death of a former Pentagon official found in a Delaware landfill. This is surveillance tape that we started seeing today. A new piece of the puzzle, this new surveillance tape, just him a few days before his body was found, acting very strange at a parking garage. We have all the latest on that ahead.


COOPER: Tonight, new details in the shocking and mysterious death of a former Pentagon official. John Wheeler is his name. His body was found in a landfill in Delaware. Investigators have a new piece of the puzzle, as they try to find out what happened to him.

Surveillance video shows Wheeler at a Wilmington parking garage shortly before he turned up dead. A parking attendant says his behavior was downright bizarre.

Susan Candiotti tonight investigates.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This surveillance video backtracking John Wheeler's movements, makes his death even more mysterious.

First, where he was two days before his body was found. About 6 p.m. last Wednesday...

(on camera) ... Wheeler made what could be described as a head- scratching visit to this pharmacy about a half mile away from where he lives. Now, the pharmacist here confirms to CNN that he has filled prescriptions for Wheeler before, but inexplicably this time he says Wheeler asked him for a ride to Wilmington, about ten miles down the street. But when he offered to call a cab for Wheeler, he says he left.

And that day he describes Wheeler as looking a bit different.

(voice-over) That same day, about 40 minutes later, Wheeler shows up at a parking garage in Wilmington. An attendant says Wheeler didn't have a coat on, was only wearing one shoe, and insisted he was not drunk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It struck me as being odd because he had one shoe in his hand, and he didn't have a coat on. It was like really cold that night. There was snow on the ground.

CANDIOTTI: She says Wheeler kept saying his parking ticket was in his briefcase and that his briefcase was stolen but wouldn't explain more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was smiling. He seemed like he's a nice guy. The only thing that didn't seem right to me was just like he was like -- just looked like he was kind of lost. And he was looking around like he was in an unfamiliar place.

CANDIOTTI: Apparently, Wheeler was lost, searching the wrong garage. Wheeler's car was later found at a train station's lot a mile away.

The next day Wheeler is at this downtown Wilmington office residential building, but police won't release those pictures. They say he appears confused. People try to help. He's last seen there at 8:30 at night.

At 4:30 Friday morning, eight hours later, police say sanitation workers unknowingly picked up Wheeler's body from a Dumpster and brought it to a landfill. It wasn't until nearly six hours later that workers called police after noticing the body jutting out from the garbage truck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to find the crime scene. We're still attempting to locate the crime scene.

CANDIOTTI: Wheeler was involved in a dispute over a neighbor's plans to develop property in an historic district, but his attorney says it was strictly a legal matter.

In New York, Wheeler's widow allowed police to search their condo there, but today she declined to comment and asked for privacy. Her husband's troubles and timeline remain under a magnifying glass.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Wilmington, Delaware.


COOPER: Bizarre story.

A lot more we're following tonight. Joe Johns is here with the "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a gunman is in custody after a hostage standoff at a restaurant in Chandler, Arizona. Police arrested Adam Hernandez at the restaurant after he opened fire at a mall. He's not the federal fugitive U.S. marshals thought they saw at the mall.

Experts say a loud noise might be the reason as many as 5,000 birds died in Arkansas on New Year's Eve. Researchers say some kind of bang probably startled the birds, and they flew into buildings.

And "Lost" fans are a little freaked out after the $355 million Mega Millions drawing. On the show, Hurley won the lottery with the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42, and those numbers were a recurring theme throughout the series. Last night's numbers? Four, 8, 15, 25, 47 and 42. That's four out of the six matching numbers.

One of "Lost" creators tweeted more than 9,000 people...


JOHNS: ... played Hurley's numbers, and each won $150. I mean, that's just plain weird.

COOPER: That is weird. That's kind of cool.

All right. Our "Shot" tonight, where's a cop when you need one? In Lynwood, Washington, doesn't matter. They've got their own super hero. To the book cave we go.


COOPER: Meet the man who calls himself Phoenix Jones. Almost every night he goes into a bookstore, comes out a superhero and patrols the mean streets of Lynwood. According to Seattle station KIRO, he foiled a car theft the other day when the victim says he saw a guy trying to Jimmy his car door when the spandexed crime fighter jumped in and chased the crook away.

Phoenix wears a bulletproof chest plate, carries mace and a taser stick. May not be a -- faster than a speeding bullet or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he's got the volunteer spirit.

Although in the movie "Kick Ass" that didn't really work out so well for the guys. So I don't know how much I'd recommend that.

All right. Up next... JOHNS: My son would love him.

COOPER: All right. Up next, what happened as Michael Jackson lay dying? Testimony today in court from a paramedic who says the story that Jackson's doctor told him just doesn't add up. Details and insight from Sunny Hostin and Jim Moret.

And later, why the man who speaks for President Obama says two years of talking is enough.


COOPER: Some pretty stunning new details in the death of Michael Jackson emerging from day two of a preliminary hearing for his doctor, Conrad Murray.

Tonight, a paramedic testified that he had, quote, "a gut feeling" Murray wasn't telling him the truth as emergency workers tried to revive Jackson.

The paramedic, who's a 25-year veteran, said that when he arrived at Jackson's rented home, Dr. Murray told him that Jackson's condition had, quote, "just happened." But based on the singer's dilated pupils, and dry eyes and cold skin, the paramedic concluded that Jackson had been dead for more than 20 minutes.

He went on to say that other things Murray told him didn't seem to add up, namely that Jackson had no underlying condition, was just being treated for dehydration and the only medication he'd been given was the anxiety drug Ativan.

When the prosecutor asked whether Dr. Murray had ever told them he'd given Jackson the powerful hospital anesthetic Diprivan or Propofol, the paramedic replied, "No, sir."

He also said that when he first encountered Jackson, he thought he was looking at a hospice patient.

Also testifying today, Jackson security guard Alberto Alvarez, who said two of Jackson's kids, Prince and Paris, watched with -- obviously, Paris in tears as Dr. Murray tried to revive their father before Murray told Alvarez to take the kids somewhere else.

As many as 30 witnesses may testify. The hearing could last for weeks.

We're joined now by attorney and "Inside Edition" correspondent Jim Moret and Sunny Hostin, legal contributor for "In Session" on our sister network, TruTV.

Jim, there was testimony today about Michael Jackson's kids crying watching Murray performing CPR. Was it -- the Jackson family was there. How did they react?

JIM MORET, CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": Well, the Jackson family, they're seated in the front, so you can't really see their reactions. They've been very stoic as they go both in and out of the courtroom.

You know, what they're really happy about, if you can even use that word, is that this is finally before a judge. Because they really believe in their hearts that Michael Jackson didn't have to die and that that doctor, Conrad Murray, is the man responsible. So they are relieved that this is finally getting to a place where he may stand trial.

COOPER: What surprised you, Sunny, in today's testimony?

SUNNY HOSTIN, LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": I think what surprised me was the evidence that Conrad Murray told some people to remove bottles, remove vials, remove the I.V. that contained a milky substance from the room prior to calling 911. I think that's a really bad fact.

COOPER: So there's testimony that before -- telling -- that he told them before calling 911 to take out prescription bottles?

HOSTIN: That's right. And put it in a bag. And I think that's a very troubling fact for this defendant.

I think it's also very troubling that he didn't call 911 for some time. Any juror that listens to evidence like that, I think will smell a cover-up, and that's trouble for him.

COOPER: Jim, how successful do you think the prosecution has been in trying to prove some sort of cover-up by Murray?

MORET: Well, I think it's been very effective. He had two witnesses. One, the bodyguard who came in and said that he was instructed by Conrad Murray to start gathering up some of the medications, putting them in a bag.

And then you have the paramedic who said he saw Conrad Murray with a white plastic bag, presumably with some of those medications in it. And I think you're right, this is -- it does sound like consciousness of guilt. A cover-up.

And remember, you don't have to prove this case, Anderson. This is just a preliminary hearing. This is just to determine whether there's enough evidence for Conrad Murray to stand trial. It's a very low threshold.

COOPER: Right. And Sunny, usually the burden of proof, as Jim said, is pretty low, but the prosecution is kind of going all out on this.

HOSTIN: They're going all out, and I think they're going all out because they want to show this defense team, "This is what I've got, this is where I'm going, and I'm saving some for the trial." That usually, Anderson, forces a plea.

They don't want to take this to trial. They don't want to spend taxpayer dollars. I think that is why they're just pulling out all the stops. COOPER: You think they're hoping for a plea? Jim, do you think that's true?

MORET: I think there's a good chance that they are, because I think that there's no question that this will go to trial if there isn't a plea.

COOPER: Jim Moret, appreciate it very much. Sunny Hostin, as well, thanks a lot.

Coming up, how a spilled cup of coffee diverted an international flight. Details of that ahead. And what this "Real Housewife" has done to land herself -- well, she's not landed on the RidicuList tonight. Rumors about her leaving the "Beverly Hills Housewives," that are just -- those rumors are just -- it's ridiculous. I can't imagine "Beverly Hills Housewives" without Camille Grammer. My pledge to keep her on the show, coming up.


COOPER: Let's get caught up on some of tonight's other stories. Joe Johns again has the "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOHNS: Anderson, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is stepping down. Gibbs will leave the post after President Obama's upcoming State of the Union address. But you'll still see him on TV. He says he'll stay in the Washington area as a pundit, supporting the Obama administration.

The Canadian equivalent of the FAA says spilled coffee in the cockpit caused Monday's diverted flight to Toronto. They say the communications system got fried and sent out a false distress call.

And remember Gwyneth Paltrow's recent performance on "Glee" when she sang a G-rated version of Cee Lo's song "'F' You?" Well, Paltrow has teamed up now with Cee Lo to record another version of that popular song. Cee Lo tells "People" magazine Paltrow sings like a natural.

I didn't know we could say "'F' You" on TV. But I guess it's OK.

COOPER: I guess so. I like her singing. I've been hearing it. I saw that episode of "Glee." I didn't -- who knew she could sing?

JOHNS: I know. Yes. It's amazing.

COOPER: All right. Well, I don't know about amazing, but it would be amazing if I could sing or if you could sing, but you know, she's multitalented. So you know.

Time now to add a name to the RidicuList. And tonight it's not really a name, but it's a person from one of the most brilliant television shows to ever grace the airwaves. I'm speaking, of course, about "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," featuring Ms. Camille Grammer. Now, she's not on the list tonight. Not her individually, because I'm not saying she's ridiculous. Au contraire, mon frere. Here's what's ridiculous.

There are all kind of rumors out there floating around tonight that she might not be coming back to the show next season. Camille, say it ain't so.

Now, look, I admit it. I love me some "Real Housewives." I love them from New Jersey, from New York, from Atlanta, but the "Beverly Hills Housewives" have taken it to a whole new level, and I love them all.

I cheer on Taylor as her perpetually grumpy husband rains on her carefully-choreographed parade. I love me the Maloofs, who seem to have the best and most real relationship in Beverly Hills.

But Camille has a special place in my heart. Sure, she often seems frozen in a perpetual look of astonishment, but who isn't astonished in Beverly Hills? And what self-respecting Rodeo-loving Beverly Hills housewife doesn't have a similar permagaze?

And besides, Camille doesn't need facial expressions. No one can say so much with her shoulders as Camille. She doesn't even need words.

When she chooses to use her vocabulary, however, nobody does it like Camille. Yes, I noticed when she plucked out the word "pernicious." My favorite, though, was her description of someone as Machiavellic [SIC]. I believe the word is Machiavellian. But that only makes me love her more.

I mean, really, how can you not adore this woman. Let's watch some of her finest moments.


CAMILLE GRAMMER, REALITY TV STAR: I'm an individual, and I'm not just in the shadow of Kelsey Grammer. I am my own person.

This is my little station. It's very messy right now, but I've got a lot going on in my life.

I've been called a trophy wife, and I'm a lot more than that. I'm the powerhouse behind Kelsey Grammer.

I feel more comfortable hanging out with men than women, because I think women can be very catty and I don't like cattiness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what happened?

GRAMMER: Well, she just has a thing for me, I guess.

I honestly think it's jealousy. I think there's some kind of jealousy there.


GRAMMER: The more I stood up for myself, she just kept getting madder and madder. I knew I was winning. I just know. Come on.


COOPER: It's the thing with the shoulders. I rest my case. How can you not love her? She's a giver. If you don't believe me, just ask her.


GRAMMER: I have a Jesus complex, I think.


GRAMMER: I have this need that I want to help people.

For me to give back, that's what feeds my soul. That's what makes me feel good as a person. I mean, I just -- I live for that. That completes me.


COOPER: You complete me, Camille. You can't leave. You just can't. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. The "Real Housewives" without Camille? It's like -- it's like the Mouseketeers without Cubby. You know? It's like the Three Musketeers without Porthos. It's like the Algonquin Round Table without Edna Ferber, for crying out loud.

I mean, Camille's PR guy now says that she has a lot going on, and she's told us that. And we certainly know that. But she hasn't officially made a decision about next season. So there is still hope.

Now it's my hope, by putting the very idea of Camille leaving on the RidicuList that Camille will, in fact, stay on the program. Let's see what happens.

That's our report tonight. Thanks for watching. "PARKER SPITZER" is next. See you tomorrow night at 9 p.m. Eastern and at 10.