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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Severe Storms Pound the South; Candidates Hit the Florida Trail; Hearing On Mississippi Pardons; Remembering Joe Paterno

Aired January 23, 2012 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And a very good morning to you, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z.

It is 5: 00 in the east. So, let's get started here.

Severe weather overnight in the South. There are reports of tornadoes. Thousands there without power. We'll find out where the storm is heading right now.

BANFIELD: And also, wow, two more contests within a fortnight. Are you kidding? The GOP hopefuls are heading to Florida, folks. Eight days until that context there.

And it's getting ugly. Romney is calling Gingrich a failed leader. But why?

SAMBOLIN: And the mayor of the island where the cruise ship capsized is warning of an ecological time bomb. There may have been more passengers onboard that ship also than originally thought, that they're not on the roster.

BANFIELD: And also, head's up football fans, Super Bowl sequel. The Giants and the Patriots are going to meet again at this year's Super Bowl.

We're going to begin, though, this hour with some powerful and very dangerous weather that is sweeping across the Southeast this morning. And if you didn't see pictures, here is what it looked like in Arkansas late last night. Listen closely.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

BANFIELD: That's the sound of really intense wind and rain in the dark, and someone had the forethought to get some pictures. But at the same time, a lot of people were sleeping as some of those came through. Multiple tornadoes in possibly in several states, from Illinois to Alabama.

SAMBOLIN: So, there are reports of widespread damage, but luckily no deaths. Thousands waking up without power this morning -- Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama all in harm's way right now. The storms are moving East.

So, let's head over to Rob Marciano. He is tracking this incredibly fast-moving system.

Good morning to you.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys.

Fast-moving because it's January. We got a powerful jet stream, and to get severe weather like this, this many reports in January, is certainly rare. And even at this hour of the morning, we're getting tornado warnings now across parts of central Alabama, Tuscaloosa, about an hour ago, had a tornado warning through there.

We're getting reports of tornadoes -- possible tornado in Tuscaloosa, trying to get confirmation of that. Just south of Tuscaloosa, we have another tornado warning that's out for southwest central Alabama. This one has had a report of a tornado by law enforcement. And now, a tornado warning just really to the east of Birmingham, that's the same cell that moved through Tuscaloosa earlier this morning. And that certainly gives us pause when you think about what happened last spring.

This is a all part of a complex that's moving east across the Tennessee and Ohio River Valleys to the north. We have severe thunderstorm watch posted and that include places like Lexington, getting into the Cincinnati, also severe thunderstorm watch just east of Nashville.

The tornado watch, a new one, has just been posted for much of Alabama and just sliver of Georgia until 10:00 Central Time. So, the next several hours will close, will certainly be dangerous here across parts of the south as this potent storm system -- this is the same storm that brought the torrential winds, snow and heavy rain across western Oregon last week, so a lot of moisture with this, a lot of tropical moisture as well, and that's what's giving us the severe weather, little bit of light to freezing rain across part of the Northeast. Atlanta, you'll see the delays because of those storms, rain and snow showers across Chicago. Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and Boston, and those cities, there's going to be some issues.

We'll keep track on these --

SAMBOLIN: What a mess.

MARCIANO: -- potentially tornadic storms that have moved across Alabama this morning.

BANFIELD: So scary that throughout the night when most people can't see what's coming.

MARCIANO: That's the most dangerous time. That's for sure.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Rob Marciano, thank you so much for tracking that.

All right. Well, it didn't take long for the Republican residential candidates to put South Carolina in their rear-view mirrors and hit the ground running in Florida. The Florida primary is eight days away. Romney already campaigning there, raising a lot of money and some votes in early voting. Gingrich arrives in Tampa today.

Two front-runners are ramping up the attacks on each other, labeling each other's failures.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He actually resigned after four years in disgrace. He was investigated under an ethics panel, and had to make a payment associated with that. And then his fellow Republicans, 88 percent of his Republicans, voted to reprimand Speaker Gingrich. He has not had a record of successful leadership.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You end up with a guy who's, I think, a very good salesman, very much wants to sell, but he has a really weak product. And so, I think he's been dancing on eggs trying to figure out how to find a version of Romney that will work. And I think the more he dances, the more people go, you know, give me -- you know, I have flaws, I have weaknesses, I had a long career. But the fact is what you see really is what you get.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about these ramped up attacks with our panel. In Washington, Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America. And in Washington, Shira Toeplitz, politics writer for "Roll Call."

Shira, let's begin with you.

If the gloves weren't off before, they are now. Romney is calling for Gingrich to release records related to his time at Freddie Mac and the money that he was paid there. Freddie Mac guaranteed all those bad mortgages, we know. We know that the seventh highest foreclosure rate in the nation is now in Florida. They have a 10 percent unemployment rate there as well.

Is this going to become like Romney's tax return for Gingrich?

SHIRA TOEPLITZ, ROLL CALL: It could very well become like Romney's tax returns. And I think it's worth noting after all the criticism over Romney not releasing tax returns, he's going to do so finally on Tuesday. Also, the same day as State of the Union. I wonder how much attention they will get then.

But, yes, I do think this could become like Romney's tax returns. And I do think it should be something that voters and journalists should be able to scrutinize. We should be able to look in detail what exactly Newt Gingrich did when he was on a retainer with Freddie Mac. I think it's important for voters to know, especially given the high foreclosure rate in Florida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Penny, let's talk about Romney in Florida. In 2008, he came in second in Florida. But the exit polls from that year put him at 61 percent of voters that were conservative actually voted for him. The majority of the voters went for Romney.

This time around, Romney is looked as a moderate. Floridians have been voting early, as well. He spent $4 million in that state. His aides are incredibly optimistic, telling "The New York Times" they have 125,000 votes in the bank already.

Have things changed or will Romney do well again there?

PENNY NANCE, CONCERNED WOMEN OF AMERICA: Oh, I don't think that he can by any stretch of the imagination count on this year being the same as four years ago. Clearly, after South Carolina, the veneer of electability and inevitability is gone for Romney. So, he's going to have to fight for every vote he gets. So, of course, there is a lot of military voters in Florida and they are often voted by absentee ballot.

I don't predict that Romney will do as well with those guys this time around. You know, people are choosing street fighters, they understand that we have a $15 trillion debt and want someone that will go after this economy, go after jobs, and fight hard. Republicans want someone to fight hard in the ring against Obama.

So, I don't think that Romney can predict what's going to happen or plan on the same kind of turnout this time around.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And let me introduce Ed Espinoza, Democratic political consultant.

I hear you were racing in and you made it. Are you there? Yay, nice to see you.

ED ESPINOZA, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: I am. It's really early here in Texas.

SAMBOLIN: Well, we appreciate having you this morning.

All right. So, Florida isn't like the other contests. They have a very diverse population, immigrant rich areas near Miami, retirees from all over the country, on top of a more conservative north.

How does this change the Republican primary race?

ESPINOZA: Well, you know, it's also -- no matter what state you go to, primary voters, whether they'd be Democratic voters or Republican voters, have more of ideological bend. They tend to skew more to the left in the Democratic primary and more to the right in the Republican primary.

But Romney is going to have to reconcile, and this has been his problem throughout the primaries here, is he's got to figure out how he can attract conservative voters, endear himself to them, and carry that momentum into the general election. So far, he hasn't been able to do it, especially with other multiple candidates in the race.

The question that needs to be answered now is, can conservatives settle with Romney, or will they move elsewhere and find anti-Romney, in this case starting to become Gingrich. We're about to find out. You saw in South Carolina what happened. So --

SAMBOLIN: You know, there is a big Latino population also in Florida. How do you think he's going to be fare with them versus Gingrich?

ESPINOZA: You know, it's largely a Cuban population as well.

SAMBOLIN: Well, and Puerto Rican, right?

ESPINOZA: And, actually, and Columbian. It's really diverse.

It's -- Gingrich has built a relationship with Latino community for years. And he is really started what is an honest conversation on immigration reform I think this is something that resonates largely with the community there, but we don't know just yet because this is really the first test of all the primaries, that any candidate is going to have to be subject to a large Latino bloc. We're going to see how it plays out.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ed Espinoza, Shira Toeplitz -- I keep on getting your name wrong, I apologize to that -- and Penny Nance, thanks for joining us. We'll see you again a little bit later.

And at 7:00 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien breaks down how Newt Gingrich won South Carolina and what it will take for Newt to pull off an upset next week in Florida, when she is joined by guest Rick Tyler of the Winning Our Future PAC, and Gingrich surrogate Bob McEwen.

BANFIELD: And every morning, we like to get you an EARLY START to your day by getting up to speed on what's happening actually later. So, it's the stories that are developing now that will be big tonight.

Congressman Gabrielle Giffords is going to finish what she started. That Congress on Your Corner event that was so horribly interrupted by that shooter, the accused shooter Jared Loughner last year. She's going to hold a private gathering with some of the people who were there that day. Congresswoman Giffords announced yesterday in a YouTube video that she plans to resign this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: I have more work to do on my recovery. So, to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: That was her announcement you were looking at. Also, today, a Mississippi judge could decide if the nearly 200 pardons issued by outgoing Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour are valid. The state attorney general requested today's hearing because he said it appears some of the pardons violated the state's constitution. Under Mississippi law, a public notice must run in a newspaper 30 days prior to a pardon.

BANFIELD: And this afternoon, 12:00 Eastern, thousands of people gathering at the National Mall. It is the annual rally to protest Roe versus Wade. Thirty-nine years ago today, the Supreme Court legalized abortions nationwide.

And this morning, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum wrote an editorial in "The Wall Street Journal," and said this: "My opponents whisper they are pro-life. But I fight the battle in the trenches, and will continue to do so until every innocent human life in this country is protected."

I think some of the candidates may take issue with that.

SAMBOLIN: I think so.

It's 11 minutes past the hour here -- minding your business now.

The U.S. markets rose 2 percent last week, closing mixed on Friday. The Dow up less than 1 percent, NASDAQ down just a bit, nearly flat, and the S&P 500 up a little, almost flat, too.

BANFIELD: Time to bring in Christine Romans.

I always like to say you're minding our business, have you got a deal for you?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I do have some deals. Well, it's not in the oil market. I'm watching oil this morning because the E.U. -- it looks like some of these E.U. ministers have decided that they are going to embark on an oil embargo against Iran over the next six months or so. So, we're watching to see what kind of reaction it will be in oil prices and it's been kind of mixed at the moment, because frankly, we're so worried about global economies being slow.

BANFIELD: No, I don't understand that.

ROMANS: We have less demand for oil. Oil prices don't go up. So, even as they talk about how to punish the Iranians, you're not seeing a big reaction in the oil markets. We'll continue to watch that.

BANFIELD: Even though Iran controls such a large portion of it?

ROMANS: It does. But if you have the U.S. and European and the big economies slowing down, you don't need as much oil, right? So --

BANFIELD: Wow.

ROAMNS: And also, you know, look, Saudi Arabia has said that they'll be able to make up for some of the excess capacity. So, at least for now, not a big reaction in the oil markets. And a lot of economic news this week, a lot of news about the housing markets in the U.S. and also earnings. So, things could get a little choppy. I will be here to kind of navigate us to go to sleep.

SAMBOLIN: OK. I like this. Five things that are cheaper in 2012.

ROMANS: I know. I'm always showing you what's going to cost more. You know, we got -- this is from CNN Money. It's fantastic. It's a list of five things that will be cheaper. And I want to just roll through them.

Houses, well, that's not fantastic for most people, but it depends on where you live. In San Francisco and Washington, D.C., houses have actually been stabilizing. But it looks like there could be lower home prices ahead for this year. So, hey, maybe this is your year with really cheap mortgage rate to pick up a home, right?

Car rentals, there's lots of cars, big discounts shop around you will be especially through the travel Web sites, like Expedia, you're going to be able to get some deals on car rentals.

Ultrabook computers. These are super thin ultrabook. It's disappointing this year. They got no hard drive, no DVD drive, but it looks like these could pick up this year and be more of a bridge the gap between PCs, smartphones and tablets. Maybe some deals on there.

Quickly as well, tablets. Maybe there's going to be an iPad 3 in March? I don't know. Perhaps.

Still, we'll be watching those and see if that drives prices down.

BANFIELD: I just got the iPad 2.

ROMANS: I have the iPad 1. It doesn't have a camera. So, I'm going to wait for the iPad 3.

Did you know that Mitsubishi has a 73-inch television for less than $1,500? Watch around the Super Bowl for very huge, huge, very cheap big TVs.

BANFIELD: Good thing houses are cheaper because you're going you'll need a bigger house.

ROMANS: I know.

So, these are some of the things that you can go to CNN Money to see all of them. But, you know, of course, it depends where you live, what kind of a shopper you are. But there are things that are going down in price.

SAMBOLIN: We love the list.

ROMANS: Technology is one of those.

SAMBOLIN: Keep it coming. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: We want to switch gears from Christine's news to other news overseas now.

The Syrian government, they are saying no way to the Arab League plan that's calling for President Bashar al-Assad to turn over power to his vice president. Also, the Arab League is calling for them to begin talks with the opposition which they are not pleased about.

SAMBOLIN: And they're also saying, form a new government within two months.

Arwa Damon on the phone. She is in Damascus, Syria.

What is the very latest there, Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Actually, we're not (ph) in Damascus, and now here in the city of Homs. The city has emerged as something of the epicenter of the clashes between Syrian army and the group that calls itself the Free Syrian Army, that is largely made up of defectors. And walking through the city is truly quite eerie. There are many shops that are closed. Not many people out in the streets. There are sandbags positioned on every street corner.

The military hospital, the officials there told us that on average, they are getting five dead bodies, five dead soldiers killed in clashes -- to give you an idea how intense the situation is right now.

When it comes to the Arab League's proposal, that has already been rejected by the government and this is the big issue here is that those who fight do not have a concrete solution to end this ongoing crisis and (INAUDIBLE) no matter what side they are, is that if this chaos continues along its current path, is that half the country could very easily slip (INAUDIBLE).

We just came across two residents here in Homs that were talking to us about (INAUDIBLE) unnerving and they said they didn't really know who to blame. All they knew they were living a nightmare.

BANFIELD: Arwa, be careful. It's hard to make out what you're saying, but it's clearly a critical situation and very dangerous not only for residents but for journalists, too.

SAMBOLIN: The pictures speak volumes, right?

BANFIELD: Remarkable stuff. And that's Arwa Damon, reporting live for us -- inside Syria, which is a very difficult thing to get access to. So, it's excellent reporting.

Still ahead, more from Italy, the cruise ship disaster. There are reports there were unregistered passengers on board. Does that mean the toll could go up?

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BANFIELD: We're live in Italy in a moment.

SAMBOLIN: And a legend that was Joe Paterno. He died over the weekend. We're going to take a look back at the former Penn State's coach's career.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Nineteen minutes past 5:00 on the East.

We've been talking a lot about some weather in the Southeast part of the country, just sort of bonding its way across several of the states. And now, we're getting some reports in CNN that in Tuscaloosa, there has been serious some damage, at least one roof torn off, and some power issues.

Our Rob Marciano is monitoring this. He joins us now.

What's the latest in Tuscaloosa? Are we talking about tornadoes or not?

MARCIANO: Yes, we think so. This extensive damage now across parts of Tuscaloosa, some roof damage there. But it's dark out so it's tough to say exactly what's gone down.

I can tell you, the storm spotters have tracked that same cell that has a confirmed tornado. It moved through Tuscaloosa, now moving just northeast of Birmingham. This is an eerily similar track to the deadly tornadoes that rolled through this area in the spring. This, though, nothing compared to that as far as the size and strength of the tornado, but strong radar signature and tornado confirmed on the ground now just north and east of Birmingham, Alabama.

There you see it right there, even as what we call debris ball, meaning that the radar is picking up debris flying through the air in that circulation, that's when we know there is a tornado on the ground there. And we're getting reports from storm spotters with power lines down and some structural damage with this cell.

So, if you live north and east of Birmingham, that's in Jefferson County, we're looking at Calhoun County, Blount County, and St. Clair County. Those counties now that are under the gun here for this tornado warning, as it moves rapidly to the east at 55 miles an hour. This time of year, strong jet stream, a lot of power behind it. So, they move quickly.

It's obviously still dark. So, if you live in this area, you certainly want to get in the center of your home and take cover until the storms pass. It's all part of a great, larger system that stretches all the way across the Tennessee Valley and the Ohio River Valley where severe thunderstorms are rolling through that area as well.

This is the same -- some of these areas are the same spots that saw snow a week ago. So, tremendous rebooting of the atmosphere and certainly beginning to feel a lot of like spring. We'll track these storms across central Alabama. This cell now north and east of Birmingham, but there's more cells behind it. So, it's going to be a rough morning for much of the state of Alabama.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Rob, we're going to check in with you. Thank you.

BANFIELD: I remember living in Texas, and always having that radio powered or battery powered radio.

SAMBOLIN: Very smart.

BANFIELD: TV's go out. You lose power. So, get batteries out if you're up this morning.

We also have some new questions this morning in another news story about whether there were more passengers on board.

SAMBOLIN: Kind of bizarre, right?

BANFIELD: It is very odd, but I guess if you think about it, it makes sense. Unregistered passengers on board the cruise ship off the coast of Italy, what would that do to the numbers of missing and possibly dead? The authorities think that the cruise liner may have just had some extra people now and they are looking into it.

And the pressure is really growing now to speed up the salvage and rescue operation because the island of Giglio's mayor is upset about the possible ecological time bomb. Authorities in the meantime are starting to continue that effort of blasting holes into the ship, to try to make it easier for the divers to get into -- to look cabin to cabin, 1,500 cabins to search, takes 45 minutes per cabin to do that. So, they are blasting to get in easier.

And all of this as the crews have found yet another woman in a life vest yesterday, and another person on Saturday. The death toll is rising, 19 missing, 13 dead.

Dan Rivers is live for us this morning in Giglio, Italy.

We talk about those numbers, that the toll, Dan, that with this new report that there may have been unregistered passengers -- these numbers could shift, right?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): They could. Yes, this is something that Franco Gabrielli, he's the guy in charge of the whole operation now, has mentioned in one of the briefings to us, that they have records of a phone call from a young Hungarian woman to her parents, claiming that she was on board the Costa Concordia just after the accident. They have no record of a female hundred Hungarian passenger.

And so, there is concern that if this account is true and there is no reason to disbelieve her parents, that she may have been on board as an unregistered passenger. And therefore, that begs the question, well, how many others unregistered passengers were on board? Either at invitation of the members of the crew or some other kind of way they got on board, but it does mean the total number of missing is now in question. And, of course, so therefore is the potential number of people that may have perished in this accident.

BANFIELD: Now, Dan, there's something else that I found a bit disturbing, and that is the claim by the captain that the company actually liked it when the ships went close to land because it's something that they call, quote, "tourist navigation," almost like showboating to sort of promote the cruise ship and show people on the island that we're giving you a salute. And the cruise ship company is responding to this.

What are they saying?

RIVERS: Yes. I mean, the Costa Company vehemently denying this. They're saying this was an established course that he should have gone on and this was his own decision to divert from it. But what he's saying in this 135 page statement to prosecutors that it's being leaked in the Italian press, with his initial kind of take on what happened, was exactly that, was that, you know, not only did the company know about it, but they sort of condoned it. Some even reporting that they ordered it, they do sort of publicity stunt, effectively, to sort of show off the boat to people on the island and potentially, you know, get more customers.

Now, that is being denied by Costa, that's just his word against theirs. But the more this goes on, Ashleigh, the more kind of little nuggets coming out of the story that make it, you know, far from clear what actually happened. We have conflicting accounts about what the captain did, you know, this woman claimed that he stayed on the boat until midnight. Well, that's completely at odds with the other testimony we had from the coast guard.

BANFIELD: There are so many complex layers that still need to be answered and sorted out, but not before they figure out where these people are.

And, Dan, I know you'll be watching that for us to keep us updated today. Dan Rivers live in Giglio, Italy, for us this morning.

SAMBOLIN: It is 26 minutes past the hour.

Still ahead, hearing on the Mississippi pardons schedule for today. Could some of the prisoners released be heading back to prison, including those four convicted murders?

And we're monitoring breaking news. Severe weather across the South right now. We are tracking the dangerous weather system, there has been a tornado confirmed on the ground north of Alabama. Our Rob Marciano is tracking that for you.

You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

SAMBOLIN: It is 5:30 in the east, and we begin with breaking news this morning. Heavy damage in areas north of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reports of a roof torn off of a home, trees down, lots of power outages in that area. Let's take look at the pictures of what this dangerous weather system did late last night in Arkansas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): As you can imagine, thousands are waking up without power. The storms are moving east. They're moving fast. And I know, Rob, earlier, you told us that there was a tornado confirmed on the ground north of Alabama. You are tracking this system for us, what can you tell us?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Circulation still showing it to be very, very strong near Springville, St. Clair, Calhoun Counties. This is north and east of Birmingham now. This thing moved just to the north of Birmingham about 30 minutes ago. We showed it to you then. About 30 minutes, 40 minutes before that, it was in the Tuscaloosa area. We're getting confirmed reports of some damage in Tuscaloosa, not sure as to the extent of that damage.

Also some damage just north and east of Birmingham, Alabama with this cell. Of course, it's dark out so it's tough to get confirmed reports of the actual funnel, itself, but we have trained spotters on the ground tracking this thing, and they have confirmed that this thing is a tornado and the current warning that's out now, again just the circulations near Springville and heading across Calhoun and St. Clair counties, and north of Aniston.

It looks like at this point, but the signature is still strong. Also, another tornado warning south of Birmingham, this will miss the big city but heading towards Clanton, and that will slightly less populated area, but nonetheless, a scary morning this morning. Obviously, still dark out here, and this is all with the storm system that brought damage overnight to parts of Southeast Arkansas.

Memphis had a scare as well with a lot of severe thunderstorms rolling through that area, and now, severe thunderstorm watches that are posted just north of here as well. And this tornado watch is going to be extended now into Northwestern Georgia until 10:00 central time.

So, the next several hours are going to be dicey to say the least, guys, as the storm continues to press on off to the east and the moving very, very quickly this time of year. Fifty-five miles an hour off towards the east along I-20 and I-55.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): All right. Thank you very much, Rob Marciano. We will continue tracking that for us, and we'll check in with you again. MARCIANO: All right.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And we're also watching some news that's going to develop a little later on today in Mississippi, and we've been talking a lot about Mississippi because of some pardons there. A hearing is scheduled in Mississippi over those controversial maneuvers by the outgoing governor, Haley Barbour.

Several of the people who are released in those pardons convicted killers. They worked as trustees in the governor's mansion as part of a special program for convicts and Haley Barbour on CBS "Face the Nation" yesterday justified the pardons this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR, (R) MISSISSIPPI: Direct 26 out of (INAUDIBLE). As you mentioned, half of them for health reasons. 189 people have been out, most of them out for years and years and years. They're no more threat to the people of Mississippi than they were the week before they got their pardon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: That's what the former governor says and there are a lot of people who disagree with him. Our criminal defense attorney guy is Paul Callan. He joins us now via Skype to talk me through this. Actually, you gone (ph) up talk me down. You don't have to talk me through it. You're going to have to talk me down, Paul, because I know you can't just call a legal hearing because you don't like a policy, but they are talking about a legal problem here.

A simple piece of small print in those pardons had said each of those prisoners that's getting pardoned is responsible for notifying the public in the paper, and in a lot of these cases, that may not have happened. Is that the case?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that is the claim of Mississippi's attorney general. And, he stands on strong ground here because the Mississippi constitution is very clear on this point.

As a matter of fact, the pardon provision is a very short provision, but the one thing is crystal clear on is that you have to put it in the newspaper at least 30 days before the pardon, in the county where the convict was convicted and, of course, the reason for that is so that the victims can come to the governor and plead their case against the pardon.

And the AG, the new AG, seems to think that that was not done in the case of many, many maybe over 100 prisoners.

BANFIELD: If it isn't done, does that give a judge the right to nullify that pardon and put those people back in jail?

CALLAN: That's a great question that's hopefully going to be answered later today at a hearing before Judge Green. Nobody knows the answer to this, because, frankly, I've never seen it litigated before, and it's a really, really tough question. One of the reasons it's very tough, of course, is that the prisoners say that they relied on guess who, the attorney general to put the notices in the newspaper.

They say an assistant attorney general was the person who told them he was placing the ads, and he didn't place the ads so it's the attorney general's fault, why blame the prisoner. This is what the Mississippi judge is going to be looking at later today.

BANFIELD: Which is weird, because that almost sounds like if the AG is supposed to be representing prisoners like the fox in charge of the hen house, or I should actually say, the hen house in charge of the foxes, if that makes any sense, but regardless, is -- look, everybody knows that Haley Barbour is a Republican and everybody knows the AG is a Democrat, and they are not too friendly, according to some whisper rumors.

Is this a political scrap or is there really an issue here that needs to be cued?

CALLAN: Well, you know, I think there are elements of both. I think if we didn't have a Democratic attorney general, maybe it would be a little different, but, the public has every right to be shocked and upset with the way Haley Barbour handled these pardons. I mean, we're talking about over 200 pardons being issued at the last minute, some of them murders and rapists.

And I'm talking about crimes that when you see them described, you know, they're just horrific crimes. And usually governors are very, very careful about using this pardon power. They exercise it with great discretion and care because, obviously, there's a public uproar, potentially, if you pardon murderers and rapists.

And that's exactly what Haley Barbour did and something that shocked, I think, most of Mississippi, Democrats and Republicans.

BANFIELD: And Paul, in our next hour, we're going to talk with one of the representatives from that state, not only about what you and I just talked about, but also, little tidbit here, two thirds of the pardons were White people, even though two-thirds of the prison population are Black people. So, we're going to talk whether race had anything to do with that as well. I know that's not a legal issue for you, my friend, but you did great this morning. Thanks so much.

CALLAN: Thanks very much. Always nice being with you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Thanks, Paul.

SAMBOLIN: 5:36 on the east here. A Colorado man accused of kidnapping a nine-year-old girl is now suspected of assaulting another child on that exact day. The first victim, the nine-year-old, is now speaking out. She is safe at home after outsmarting her alleged captor and calling 911. The latest on today's front page faces when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. The Penn State campus is in mourning over the death of Joe Paterno. Tributes are pouring in. Paterno died yesterday of lung cancer. He's 85 years old. The legendary coach spent six decades at Penn State. He was fired in that fall-out over Jerry Sandusky, the child sex abuse scandal.

We have a family statement here. It reads, "He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of blessed his life had been." And for many of the Penn State faithful, the Sandusky scandal hasn't tarnished Joe Pa's image.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People think of him more than just a coach. They think of him as a leader, and they think of him as someone who devoted his life to the community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that Joe stands for academically and everything off the football field and all the good things that he and Susan have done for this university and the library and everything else, it just means so much to me that I just felt compelled to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what anybody else said, it wasn't Joe's fault. We're still going to love Joe Paterno forever and ever, period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And on the phone we have Sara Ganim. She's a crime reporter for "The Patriot News" of Harrisburg. She has been covering the Penn State story from the very beginning. So, Sara, we know that Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer back in November. His family actually announced his diagnosis nine days after he was forced to resign.

Originally, they said it was treatable. Are they saying anything about whether it was the stress of the investigation that caused his demise?

SARA GANIM, CRIME REPORTER, PATRIOT NEWS (on the phone): The family is really not saying much. They're not expected to say much for awhile, but people that are close to Joe Paterno call him friend, those that really knew him as a person and more than just as a coach are saying, yes, they really believe it is possible he died of a broken heart. This is a man with such a strong work ethic.

He could fall asleep in his bed with pencils from writing plays in bed, and his wife would joke that he would get -- that she might get lead poisoning from it. I mean, that's the kind of work ethic he had. And so, to lose his job and to lose it in the manner that he had, a lot of people thought, maybe, you know, he may be losing his fight and his drive and his reason to keep going, especially the way that it happened. A lot of people, a lot of people at statue yesterday, a lot of his close friends were saying, you know, we believe that that played a role, although, it's a really hard thing for them to think about. A lot of people when we ask the question really immediately begin to tear up that he might have died of a broken heart.

SAMBOLIN: Well, I was reading reports that they were actually shoveling the path to his statue so that folks could actually touch the statue. A lot of people ended up going there overnight. What are the plans for his funeral or memorial?

GANIM: There are none set, you know, definite at this point. However, we do know that there is going to be a public memorial as well as a players-only memorial which I think will be very important for a lot of players. You know, there are sometime, two, three generations in families of players who have played for him. So, you can imagine the kind of people that might come back to say, you know, their last goodbye to Joe Paterno.

There are tons of players who talk about, you know, how big of a role he played in their lives. Last night, at the student vigil, student after student said, you know, I only met him once or twice, but I felt like he was my grandfather. You know, we felt like we knew him.

We felt like he was part of our family. And we're losing a part of our family. To them, that's a tribute to the kind of man he was and how inspiring he was on campus here.

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about that, Sara. The "Washington Post" conducted a final interview with Paterno. He defended his response to finding out about the Sandusky's -- or the allegations. He said he didn't feel adequate to responding, and he said, quote, "I never heard of of rape in a man so I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem that would be following up on it."

Behind the statue that everybody was going to on campus, it quoted him as saying "I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach." We see a lot of outpouring of emotion from students who have attended, folks who live in the community, but do you really think that the words that he wrote there will be his legacy?

GANIM: You know, it's very interesting, a colleague of mine wrote something yesterday I thought was very telling, you know, that he's got 61 years of good deeds, and will it all be overshadowed by one name, and that's Jerry Sandusky. You know, at the end of the day, right now, you know this only happened three months ago.

So, right now, it's on a lot of people's minds that at the end of the day when you look back over a life of goodness is that one thing going to be the only thing you think of and a lot of people said no. That you know, you can't forget about it, but it's not the only thing they'll remember. However, you know, nationally, yes, I think it's on a lot of peoples minds, and you know that it was on Joe Paterno's mind.

And his family said, you know, up until the end, he was saying, don't worry about me, I had a very good life. So, you know, that gives you any indication, but I think that yes, it's going to be a footnote. You know, it's obviously going to be something that's part of his legacy.

SAMBOLIN: All right Sara Ganim, crime reporter of the "Patriot News." Thanks for joining us this morning.

BANFIELD: Now, 45 minutes past the hour. Time to get you caught up on the top stories of the morning, and we begin with the breaking news reports of heavy storm damage in areas north of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (voice-over): We're hearing about severe lines of storms that have actually had an effect of tearing one roof off a home downing several trees, power lines, of course, in jeopardy, and there are power outages. Storm system is moving east, and there are a lot of states in play. So, keep your ear right here.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Search teams also in Italy have found another body on that partly sunken cruise ship, the Costa Concordia. The 13th victim was a woman, and she was wearing a life jacket. Nineteen people are still missing. Officials hope to begin pumping out a half million gallons of fuel from that ship, and at least one of the officials there have called this a serious environmental risk.

BANFIELD: Also today is the deadline if you want to bid for the bankrupt, Los Angeles Dodgers. Get out your wallet, though, because it's predicted the team can go for as high as $1.6 billion. List of potential bidders include Magic Johnson, Joe Torre, and are you ready for this, Zoraida, CNN's own Larry King.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (on-camera): And all I can say, does CNN actually pay that much? I would like to renegotiate.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): All right. Ashleigh, I got one for you.

BANFIELD: Go.

SAMBOLIN: Did you hear Steven Tyler try to sing the national anthem?

BANFIELD: I did not, but I heard everybody talking about.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, this is the AFC championship game. The critics panning the performance.

BANFIELD: But I love him. SAMBOLIN: The story really trending this morning. Wait until you hear this. We're going to let you hear it in about ten minutes from now.

BANFIELD: The Aerosmith version, is that it?

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness! You are watching EARLY START.

BANFIELD: I cannot wait.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: On EARLY START in the mornings, we like to get you behind the front pages. You always see your front pages, but there are people, folks, people who actually write these stories, and they've got great inside information. The latest one from Colorado is a real astounding story.

A nine-year-old girl, little girl saving herself. She's a kidnap victim. Calysta Cordova, take a quick look at that little girl, she's now home safe, but the story that she's gone through is remarkable. She outsmarted her own kidnapper.

She actually told ABC News that she got her strength from her dad who taught her to stand up for herself and look at her mom as she's overjoyed hearing news that her baby is safe. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANIE CORDOVA, MOTHER OF CALYSTA CORDOVA: Thank you for everybody who watched, who kept an eye out for my daughter and brought her home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Get goose bumps when I hear that and then I get goose bumps when I see this. This is the suspect. His name is Jose Garcia. He is accused of assaulting not only this child but another child, the very same day. This is very complex. So, let's get you to Jacob Rodgers. He is the face behind the print. He's reporter with the "Colorado Springs Gazette."

All right. Jacob, how did this happen? How did this little girl, Calysta, get away from her kidnapper and save herself?

JACOB RODGERS, COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE (on the phone): You don't hear about this really too often. What happened is she went missing on this past Thursday after leaving school. She was a missing person that night. The next morning, an amber alert was issued. Sometime that morning, police aren't really too sure when, at least, they haven't really talked about it too much.

But they believe that this little girl and this man got in a car crash. It appears that someone gave them a ride to a convenient store, and basically, she walked into the store first, followed by this man. She asked to use the phone to call her uncle. Instead, she called 911. This girl, she turns to this man, she said, quote, "no, I ain't going anywhere with you, I'm waiting for my mama."

BANFIELD: Holy cow! And this man that she's referring to is the suspect in this case, Jose Garcia. I want to show a picture not only of him, and this is his mug shot as he's accused in this case. I also want to show a picture of a witness who was at that convenience store, who is mimicking what he says he saw that suspect doing, pulling his hoodie down over his face.

The police are there. They're dusting for fingerprints, looking for clues, but they've arrested Jose Garcia. And Jacob, they're saying that he may have been responsible for an assault on another little girl from the same neighborhood the very same day. What happened?

RODGERS: Well, police basically say that, basically, they alleged that he took his ex-girlfriend's daughter out of school on Thursday and returned her later on that day. The girl's mother told a television station here in Colorado Springs that her daughter was touched inappropriately during that time.

BANFIELD: Just unbelievable. You know, Jacob, I did read that young Calysta was found with two black eyes, bruises on her cheek, a cut lip, and injuries to her jaw and face. Do you know, and just quickly, do you know if that is from an assault or that's from that car crash you were talking about?

RODGERS: You know, it's something we're supposed to find out. Supposed to be this week (ph), it will be interesting to actually look at the arrest warrant. Hopefully, that's not sealed and hopefully will contain more facts about just what actually happened here.

BANFIELD: We'll check in with you again. Jacob, thanks for that. Really appreciate your work.

SAMBOLIN: What a brave little girl.

BANFIELD: Can you imagine? I'm not going anywhere with you.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I love it. Nine years old.

SAMBOLIN: It is 5:52 in the east. Still ahead, new questions about whether there were unregistered passengers on board the doomed Costa Concordia. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

BANFIELD: Don't tell me anything about Steven Tyler that's bad.

SAMBOLIN: I'm going to. I'm going to.

BANFIELD: No. SAMBOLIN: And I apologize that it's very early in a morning, and you have to listen to this. Singing criticism for Aerosmith front man and "American Idol" judge, Steven Tyler, why? He sang the national anthem before the Patriots-Ravens game on Sunday. He's a Boston native.

Was it bad enough to get him booted from his own TV show, perhaps? Listen to this, screech, mangle, butcher, those are some of the words used to describe it. You'd be the judge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING) And the rockets red glare as bomb bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: People are looking incredulously, right? This is a guy on "American Idol." So, some of the reaction on Twitter, "Extremely disappointed. Tyler didn't call an audible and go with dude looks like O'Brady."

BANFIELD: Dude looks like O'Brady.

SAMBOLIN: All right. P, our anthem, Tyler held for questioning and it's death (ph).

BANFIELD: Oh!

SAMBOLIN: It was the first one, right, screeching through it. I wouldn't get up there and do it.

BANFIELD: I did. You know what, I'm going to go on a limb here, I think it's great. I'm sorry, I still think it was good. That's Aerosmith. That's how he sings. It was not a Rosie O'Donnell. It was not Rosean Barr.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: All right. It's about six o'clock here in the east. Ahead on EARLY START, Gabby Giffords is stepping down, did you hear, but she has one more thing to do before she leaves Congress.

BANFIELD: Also, couple more questions now about how many people were really on board this doomed cruise liner in Italy. Why might there have been unregistered passengers and also how long is it going to take to fix this mess? You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)