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Anderson cites Carter's suicide for sparking his interest in journalism.
Cooper left The Mole after its second season to return to broadcast news.
His maternal grandparents were millionaire equestrian Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and socialite Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, and his maternal great-great-great-grandfather was business magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, who founded the prominent Vanderbilt shipping and railroad fortune.
He is also a descendant, through his mother, of Civil War brevet Major General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, who was with General William T. Through his "Vanderbilt" line, he is a second cousin, once removed, of screenwriter James Vanderbilt. As a baby, he was photographed by Diane Arbus for Harper's Bazaar.
Cooper was educated at the Dalton School, a private co-educational university preparatory day school in New York City.
At age 17, after graduating from Dalton a semester early, Cooper traveled around Africa for several months on a "survival trip".
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Revealing macabre fascination, Cooper whipped out his disposable camera and took a closeup photograph for his personal album. Later that person showed Cooper the photo, saying, "You need to take a look at what you were doing." "And that's when I realized I've got to stop, [...] I've got to report on some state fairs or a beauty pageant or something, to just, like, remind myself of some perspective." In 1995, Cooper became a correspondent for ABC News, eventually rising to the position of co-anchor on its overnight World News Now program on September 21, 1999.