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Cooper, Anderson (b. 1967)  
 
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There had been speculation among the public that Cooper was gay, and it was fueled in the wake of a contentious interview with the homophobic Christian fundamentalist minister Jerry Falwell in 2004 during which, some thought, Cooper said, in reference to gay men and lesbians, "We pay taxes." The transcript eventually posted on-line by CNN read "You pay taxes," which Cooper claimed was what he had said.

Cooper dodged the issue in his 2005 interview with Van Meter, stating, "I just don't talk about my personal life. . . . The whole thing about being a reporter is that you're supposed to be an observer and to be able to adapt with any group you're in, and I don't want to do anything that threatens that."

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At the end of 2004 Cooper was dispatched to Sri Lanka, the scene of a disastrous tsunami. Based in a devastated beachfront hotel the lobby of which was still festooned with Christmas decorations, Cooper went into the field with his crew, witnessing the carnage, talking with survivors, and trying, unsuccessfully, to find the remains of two children named Sunera and Jinandari.

Of the experience he wrote, "We end up working around the clock: shooting all day, writing and editing most of the night. Every report is the same: incalculable loss, unspeakable pain."

Within a week he was back in New York, covering the drop of the ball in Times Square at the start of 2005.

Cooper would go off to report from Iraq and then to Niger, where he witnessed the appalling toll of famine and the heroism of doctors and other dedicated volunteers fighting for others far from home.

In late August, Cooper was vacationing in Croatia when his executive producer called him back to the United States to cover a hurricane that was threatening the Gulf coast. When Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on August 29, Cooper had reached Baton Rouge, from which he proceeded to Mississippi, following the path of the storm.

The next morning found him in Philadelphia, Mississippi—and cut off from all forms of communication until an engineer managed to make a telephone connection from their truck. Cooper and his team made their way south through Mississippi, traveling through scenes of massive destruction as they headed for New Orleans, where the levees had failed and the city was flooding.

The following day, in Waveland, Mississippi, Cooper interviewed FEMA director Michael Brown, who, in answer to Cooper's observation of "not seeing much of a response" to the catastrophe, called the agency's actions "unacceptable" but declared that he was "working on it." A FEMA official called Cooper to invite him and his crew to follow Brown and cover his activities the next day, but, in a second call, the invitation was withdrawn.

Cooper proceeded to New Orleans. Moving around the city, often by boat, he observed the rescue of some desperate survivors trapped by the filthy floodwater, but he also saw corpses of people and animals who had perished because no help had arrived in time for them.

Cooper reacted viscerally to the horror that he was witnessing, sometimes moved to the point of weeping, which he tried—not always successfully—not to do on camera. His strong emotional response drew comment from the public, and he addressed the matter in an interview with Elizabeth Jensen of the New York Times, saying, "I have been tearing up on this story more than any story I've worked on. I can't really explain why that it is," but, he noted, "The fact that it is in the United States, for me, added a layer and dimension to the story."

A few days after the failure of the levees, Cooper interviewed Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, whose thanks to politicians doing too little too late were more than he could bear. After apologizing for interrupting her, Cooper told Landrieu that "for the last four days I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets. . . . And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other—you know, I've got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated."

With "silence in my ear" during a subsequent commercial break, Cooper wrote in his memoir, "I worry I've crossed the line" with a statement that might be considered rude or disrespectful.

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