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Anchor, television host and 60 MINUTES contributor Anderson Cooper discussed his temporary blindness, CNN and reporting in danger zones in an interview with co-hosts Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell that was broadcast live today, Dec. 6, 2012, on CBS THIS MORNING on the CBS Television Network (7:00 AM – 9:00 AM).

Below are excerpts from the interview:

KING: Your life is never dull. Anderson Cooper, I saw the picture that you tweeted. That was very scary stuff. What exactly happened to you?

COOPER: I was on an assignment for 60 MINUTES and I was in Portugal in a beautiful spot doing a story on the water, and it was a very windy day. I was only on the water for like two hours. It was an overcast day and I burned my eyeballs. I didn’t even know think was possible, but I woke up that night, like, eight hours later with excruciating pain and I couldn’t see, and—

KING: Is it because your eyes are blue? I’m not trying to be funny, I heard it happens—

COOPER: I read people with lighter eyes have a greater issue with this, but you can burn your eyes just like you can burn your skin.

ROSE: But what do you do to burn your eyeballs?

COOPER: I don’t know. I don’t think I did anything different. I was on a crew team in college, I was on the water every single day of my life. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older. The doctor said because it was windy that it might have had something to do with it. UV light bouncing off water, same thing that happens to people, like snow blindness. People on snow, sometimes this happens, and it burns your eyeballs, and it feels like, I mean, I didn’t know what it was for hours. It feels like you have sand in your eyes. That’s what I thought I had.

KING: Did you see your career flash before your eyes?

COOPER: I did. Literally it was in the middle of the night I woke up with this excruciating pain, and I couldn’t see and I’m thinking, Jeff Zucker has just taken over CNN. I haven’t even met with the guy. I’m going to be blind. How am I going to adapt? At like, 1:00 AM, you know—your mind starts to play tricks with you.

ROSE: It’s much tougher to dodge bullets when you’re blind.

COOPER: Yeah. And I literally could not see my hand in front of my face.

KING: Did you have on sunglasses?

COOPER: No. I don’t like wearing sunglasses. That’s the thing. So now I have to wear sunglasses all the time.

KING: Small price to pay.


ROSE: Before we leave this, tell me how you think, what changes might be coming at CNN? In other words, what’s the challenge for CNN?

COOPER: Look, I don’t know. I mean I think CNN has a great brand, and is a great place and has really dedicated journalists, and like CBS, there’s not a lot of places that have journalists working out in the field and CBS is one of them. And CNN is a place expanding with bureaus, and that’s important to us, and that’s in our DNA.

O’DONNELL: I worked for Jeff Zucker for many years. He says in taking over CNN he wants to have more passion. Do you think you can meet that bill?

COOPER: I think—I certainly hope so. Look, a lot of passion in people there and I think, you know, we’ve always done well when things are happening and it’s in the slower times that we’ve run into problems, and I hope we figure it all out.

KING: There’s a big story in New York with the photographer who didn’t help the man who ultimately was killed on the subway. And Anderson, you’ve been in predicaments where you can see something happening, you’re working on a story. You recently had something that happened to you with a little boy.

COOPER: Oh, in Haiti. Yeah. That was—yeah. That was an incident where somebody threw a concrete block on to a little boy in Haiti and opened up his skull, and he was bleeding from the head and everyone was running away from him. And it was interesting because I initially started running towards him to take the picture. I took like two steps and I continued running and thought, “this is ridiculous, I don’t need to take a picture.” I went and I just grabbed the kid and ran with him. I don’t want to make a big deal of it or anything, but it was an incident where I felt it was more important to get involved to help this person than to take a picture.

ROSE: Did you think what you were exposed to in Gaza was more precarious than other situations you’ve been involved in?

COOPER: No, I didn’t, honestly, because I think there were targeted strikes. You know, look. Missiles are blunt instruments, and innocent people get killed in them, but Israel, it’s not indiscriminate shelling. In Sarajevo, where I was, that was indiscriminate shelling. Mortars would land and you’d have no idea where the mortars would land. In Israel’s towns, you have no idea where Hamas rockets are going to land.

ROSE: Nor does Hamas.

COOPER: Yes. At least there is a general idea that there is targeting involved. Now, you may not know who else is in your building, and that’s the danger. We’re operating in a building, and who knows if Hamas has an office on the lower floor. But I watched Israel put three rockets into the second floor of a building, they didn’t destroy the entire building, they hit what they thought was their target on the second floor. So I was worried in that I didn’t know who else was around me and could there be a rocket launching site right next door to me or an office below me? Absolutely. But it was not the kind of fear of indiscriminate shelling which you get in Syria, where Bashar Al Assad is just shelling his own people.

Click here to watch the video.

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Chris Licht is the Vice President of Programming, CBS News, and Executive Producer of CBS THIS MORNING.

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Press Contact:   Lorie Anne Acio      212-975-5460