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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Tense Confrontation; Fight for Florida; Gingrich Got It Wrong?; East Haven, Connecticut Mayor Makes Racially Insensitive Remark; Tornadoes May Be Threatening Louisiana; Big Hits, Broken Dreams; The "English Only" Debate
Aired January 26, 2012 - 07:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT this morning.
Airport greeting -- true? -- kind of testy between President Obama and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. You can see behind the car they're kind of having it out right there. What triggered that tense confrontation in Phoenix?
It led to the governor saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: I thought that he was very thin- skinned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: She was shaking her finger in his face.
Well, Republicans will return to the stage tonight. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich running neck in neck in the state of Florida. The CNN debate tonight could help decide a couple of things about who could have the nomination.
And nearly 12 years after his death, JFK, Jr.'s former assistant has written a new book. It has details. We're going to talk to the author of "Fairy Tail Interrupted."
And it's kind of like the (INAUDIBLE) line of work. An airline flight delayed for hours because there was a cat in the cockpit.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Seriously?
O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes. Even more seriously, we're doing a story on it this morning.
STARTING POINT begins right now.
O'BRIEN: I love this album. And it is a wonderful album. So, we're going to go back to the rules.
O'BRIEN: John joins us. He is a comedian and actor, political commentator, joins our crazy panel.
The music --
MARTIN: I'm sorry.
O'BRIEN: We've got to back up a little.
JOHN FUGELSANG, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton, how can you reject?
O'BRIEN: No one loves win Marsalis more than me.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The bright of this, if John's music makes Roland Martin go to sleep, we might be better off.
O'BRIEN: One of the things we've done is we've asked our panelists to bring their music in.
FUGELSANG: I was happy to get that call.
O'BRIEN: And we're happy to have you get that call. But here's the rules, people. Wake up.
It's like, hey, good morning. STARTING POINT. We're happy to have you.
FUGELSANG: I didn't know that. I also gave the roots and John Legends.
MARTIN: A ballad or up tempo.
FUGELSANG: Up tempo.
MARTIN: Folks in the studio -- in the room there, just play my music. Trust me, my stuff is fast.
O'BRIEN: This is my show and I can't -- she says, your lyrics have some bad words on it. We can't play your stuff.
MARTIN: No, it doesn't.
O'BRIEN: How about my show? How about my music?
MARTIN: I got gospel music. "I Smile," Kirk Franklin.
O'BRIEN: OK, moving on.
STARTING POINT this morning. Wow.
FUGELSANG: Glad they didn't play the one I suggested.
O'BRIEN: It was not -- have you seen this picture of Governor Brewer and the president?
FUGELSANG: I have.
O'BRIEN: She's literally here, Roland and I will reenact it because we don't --
O'BRIEN: Take this shot. Here you go.
FUGELSANG: That's eerie.
O'BRIEN: That's what's happening. She's shaking her finger in the black guy, the president's face. So the question, of course, what exactly happened on the tarmac there? At one point as she's pointing her finger, people said, what was that confrontation about?
She said the president was upset by something that she wrote in her book which was called "Scorpions for Breakfast," in which she described a meeting at the White House that was less than friendly. And she said to reporters that she thought the president was thin skinned. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BREWER: He changed the subject to my book, "Scorpions for Breakfast," and was a little bit disenchanted, if you will, about how he was portrayed in the book. I believe that when we were in the conversation that I was in the middle of a sentence and he walked away.
I wasn't angry at all. I felt a little bit threatened, if you will, in the attitude that he had because I was there to welcome him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: "I wasn't angry at all. I felt threatened."
MARTIN: I was threatened. I bet the president said, just make one more move, Secret Service will take you out.
O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. Guess what the president and the White House said? They said this, after their last meeting a cordial discussion in the Oval Office, the governor inaccurately described the meeting in her book. The president looks forward to continuing"-- that was a turn there -- "The president looks forward to continuing taking steps to help Arizona's economy grow."
MARTIN: Parentheses, but you wave your finger in my face again.
O'BRIEN: That's kind of an interesting and strange thing. There is this whole -- well, I can already tell Will's disagreeing with me. There have been so many moments, maybe I'm wrong, sort of rudeness towards the position of the president.
CAIN: That's an interesting angle in this conversation, two interesting angles. One, Ron Brownstein mentioned it earlier. Is this a symbolic of a general tension between the states and their governors and Washington, D.C.? This intrusional federalism, we have lawsuits --
CAIN: And lawsuits over immigration. And I think the other interesting angle is what you're talking about, is there some lack of deference to authority. I'm not sure that's clear. I don't know --
O'BRIEN: You had the State of the Union where --
MARTIN: You lie, Will. You lie.
O'BRIEN: You lie. Good bye.
CAIN: I'm going to leave.
FUGELSANG: It's important to remember a couple of things. Number one, Jan Brewer is only working as governor on an out-patient basis. Let's keep that in mind. Number two, if you believe things Jan Brewer says, I have some headless bodies in the desert I want to sell you.
Her relationship with the truth has been sketchy for a while. And this follows a pattern. Even if Obama came out and said something rude to her about her book, if you don't have the game to realize that a picture of you doing this to the president.
O'BRIEN: I think that helps her base.
FUGELSANG: It helps both their bases. It helps her.
CAIN: She might just have the game, John.
FUGELSANG: He did a great job of maintaining his composure in the face of a rude lunatic. S, they're both helped by it.
O'BRIEN: Well, let's bring in Congressman Alan Grayson.
FUGELSANG: I'm just listening to Wynton Marsalis.
O'BRIEN: Alan Grayson, he is a former Florida congressman. He is in Orlando this morning.
Nice to see you, sir. What do you make of that? Before we move on to another topic, the finger-wagging in the face of the president.
ALAN GRAYSON, FMR. FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN: I agree with John. It's a sign that Brewer's elevator does not go to the top floor. It's a sign of disrespect for the 67 million of us who voted for President Obama.
He is President Obama and the other side can't seem to live with that. I think they should get over it.
GRAYSON: He's president because we wanted him to be president and that's it.
O'BRIEN: At the same time you say I think her elevator doesn't go to the top floor, kind of a disrespectful way to refer to the governor.
MARTIN: Just a wee bit.
O'BRIEN: Just a wee bit.
CAIN: There are millions of people that voted for her.
O'BRIEN: Who voted for her? I'm going point out a little bit --
FUGELSANG: She only has her job because Obama took Napolitano out of that position. So, she should be thanking him.
MARTIN: That's a good point.
So, Mr. Grayson, let me ask you a couple of questions about what's going to happen in Florida. Can we throw up one of these graphics which is all about the poll numbers?
I want you to analyze some of these poll numbers to me. When you break down over the last couple of days, this is the Sunday and then Monday, Tuesday, right? These are really close analysis of the last couple of days. You have Newt Gingrich at 38 percent.
But then if you look closer to Monday, Tuesday it goes down, what is that, down nine points from Monday to Tuesday. Then if you look at Mitt Romney at 32 percent, he has gone up 6 points. So, this is sort of a micro view of what's happening in this race.
How do you read this, sir?
GRAYSON: Well, I think the big number one is the one that you didn't mention. It's a quarter, about a quarter of the Florida vote is already in. And it was in before the South Carolina primary, when all the polls showed that Romney had a 15-point lead in Florida.
So because of absentee voting, voting by mail, Governor Romney is actually sitting on a 50,000 vote lead right now. It's not being counted in the polls.
O'BRIEN: When you look at Univision and ABC had this poll that has Florida -- Romney in Florida with Latinos with a 49 percent to 23 percent lead. How critical -- are you surprised by that number and how critical are Latinos going to be in this race?
GRAYSON: I'm not surprised at all. Newt Gingrich is somebody who's said publicly that he thinks that English should be the only official language of the United States, which means that if you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, nobody is going to be able to help you if you speak Spanish. All sorts of practical consequences to that that are very inconvenient to a population of 30 million now in this country.
He's also said that Spanish is a ghetto language. That's not going to go over well with the Cubans in South Florida.
MARTIN: But, Congressman, Latino Decisions poll, 61 percent of those polls say the economy and jobs is most important, only 27 percent say it's immigration as the top issue. And so, don't you also believe that Mitt Romney's focus on an economic message is playing stronger to those voters as opposed to comments by Gingrich, English as the primary language, those kind of topics?
GRAYSON: No. Honestly, I think it's a personality contest among the four remaining candidates. And frankly, all of them are losing.
MARTIN: No, no, no. But how can Mitt Romney be polling higher when it comes to Latinos. The Latinos are saying clearly the economy and jobs is number one. There has to be a direct correlation as opposed to Gingrich's comments.
GRAYSON: Well, I don't agree with that. I speak to people here about this sort of thing frequently. Believe me, if someone comes out and says that Spanish is a ghetto language, it doesn't matter what he puts on his Web site about his economic policy.
FUGELSANG: And let's not downplay the Catholic factor as well with this. There are quite a few Catholics who aren't really thrilled about Gingrich joining the club and his personal life may come back to haunt him with this particular demographic for that reason.
CAIN: As much as it pains me to agree with the former congressman on anything, I think he's right.
O'BRIEN: Here we go.
GRAYSON: Got you there. Right back at you.
CAIN: Personalities play an outside role in this election, specifically even --
O'BRIEN: More than the economy?
CAIN: I think even Roland's point to the economy carries substance. But that being said, Gingrich -- it's interesting the poll you should about Latino voters in Florida. Republican Latino voters in Florida, because Gingrich actually has a softer immigration stance than Mitt Romney. And yet the majority of Florida or the plurality of Florida Republican Latinos support Romney.
And the reason is, I have to agree with the Congressman Grayson, because of personality, because Gingrich comes off as antagonistic.
O'BRIEN: You know, what's interesting is that they both support an English only, right?
FUGELSANG: They do.
O'BRIEN: Yet I've been hearing ads from both candidates in Spanish. Isn't that a contradiction right there, Will Cain? I'm going to pose that question to you.
CAIN: I mean, I guess, Soledad.
MARTIN: Come on.
O'BRIEN: Come on.
O'BRIEN: I will answer that for Will Cain. Yes, Soledad, that is a complete contradiction. What a smart question. Go ahead, Will.
MARTIN: You were dancing on that answer.
O'BRIEN: You're saying we only want -- we want people to have conversations in English. We want to do the government's work in English. Yes, yes, the government's work in English.
O'BRIEN: And conversations in the workplace in English, right? English only. Yet if we want to get voters, we don't mind using the language that they are comfortable with.
CAIN: I think you can say that this is the language we should push. This should be the predominant language. And then also be a realist and say this is language that will actually reach --
O'BRIEN: When it serves me, I will do Spanish because I'd like to get people to vote.
CAIN: If you can be aspirational and realistic at the same time.
MARTIN: You can be delusional and also recognize reality.
O'BRIEN: All righty. With that we turn to headlines, other stories making news. Christine Romans has those stories.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is it the delusional or reality that is turning to Christine?
O'BRIEN: Reality. You're reality.
ROMANS: All right. Good. Thanks, Soledad.
Let's begin this morning with a tense situation developing between the U.S. and Egypt. Several U.S. citizens have been barred from leaving the country. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's son is among them. The group was monitoring recent parliamentary elections there.
An Ohio-born student detained by Syrian authorities three weeks ago has been released now. According to his family, 21-year-old Obada Mzaik was handed over to his father last night in Damascus. Mzaik is a dual American and Syrian citizen. He was studying engineering at a private university in Damascus.
All right. If you are waiting for a quick economic recovery, don't hold your breath. The Federal Reserve is announcing the economy will need help for years to come. Rock bottom interest rates will remain in effect for another 18 months to spur growth.
President Obama is on a whirlwind tour to five battleground states to sell his vision for the U.S. economy. Especially, he's called for a 30 percent tax on people who make $1 million a year. He'll be in Arizona and Colorado today and will spend a night in Detroit area.
A multi-billion lawsuit may be filed as early as today in Miami, in behalf of the passengers and crew of that Italian cruise ship, the Costa Concordia. According to information obtained by CNN, that lawsuit will ask the parent company, Carnival, for $160,000 per passenger.
Starting today, the price you see is the price you pay to fly. New rules are taking effect in the airline industry. For now on, advertised fairs will have to include the total cost of traveling, not including optional fees for things like baggage charges.
And an Air Canada flight from Halifax to Toronto has been delayed for four hours yesterday after a cat named Ripples escaped from a carry on crate. Ripples wound up hiding in a small panel in the plane's cockpit. Everyone had to get off the plane while the maintenance worker struggled to rescue Ripples.
No word on if that's easier or harder than firefighters getting a cat from up the tree.
O'BRIEN: That's so sad. Imagine though.
MARTIN: Sorry cat. Sort of like Will Cain's chest right now.
O'BRIEN: Will Cain --
CAIN: I know you're going to break. He closes right there.
O'BRIEN: Will Cain did come in with his shirt buttoned down to his navel.
MARTIN: He's getting ready for the Florida primary.
O'BRIEN: South Beach.
CAIN: The acceptable debate of one to two buttons. Roland Martin has gone a full four buttons, down to his navel.
O'BRIEN: Here's what I say, TMI for both of y'all.
FUGELSANG: Do you always flirt like this, Soledad?
O'BRIEN: Is this flirting? If this is flirting, that's tragic.
O'BRIEN: If this is flirting, I prefer chocolate and flowers, just for the note.
All right. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the East Haven, Connecticut mayor now apologizing for those taco comments that he made.
MARTIN: Taco? Will.
O'BRIEN: But is that enough is what we're talking about this morning.
Plus, the executive assistant to John F. Kennedy Jr., her name is RoseMarie Terenzio. And she's the author of a new book which is called "Fairy Tail Interrupted," a memoir of life, love and lost. We'll talk with her about what it was like to work for JFK, Jr.
And Gingrich got it wrong. He said he offered up witnesses to ABC news claimed that they would refute his ex-wife's story. But not really.
MARTIN: Gingrich lied?
O'BRIEN: And we're listening to Will Cain's iPod this morning and it's killing us. But this is the Rolling Stones, "Memory Motel."
STARTING POINT is back in a moment.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Our next guest was a close confidante to one of the most famous men in the world. She's an executive assistant to John F. Kennedy Jr. His gatekeeper in personal matters and business matters during the last five years of his life.
She's written a new book. The book is called "Fairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir of Love and Loss." Her name is Rosemarie Terenzio, and she joins our panel. It's nice to have you. I love this book.
ROSEMARIE TERENZIO, AUTHOR, "FAIRY TALE INTERRUPTED": Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Why now? I mean, you were his executive assistant from 1994 to 1999. And then, he died, of course, in 1999. Why all these years later do you write a book?
TERENZIO: I had done an interview in 2009 about John's charity reaching up, and there was sort of a renewed interest in, you know, what was it like? How did you get the job? And so, I was approached again, and I thought, you know, enough time had passed that people would be willing to hear my story and not their story, because i didn't really want to tell their story or write a biography of John.
O'BRIEN: A lot of your story --
TERENZIO: My experience. My fairy tale interrupted.
O'BRIEN: You often go back to how you come from very different worlds.
O'BRIEN: Here, you're this chick from the Bronx who drops the "F" bomb, by the way, all over this book.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: High five.
O'BRIEN: And he is John F. Kennedy Jr. who comes with all of this history and clout.
TERENZIO: He dropped a few "F" bombs here, trust me.
O'BRIEN: So, what was it like to work with him?
TERENZIO: It was amazing. It was exciting. It was nerve racking, sometimes. You have all of these people, you know, who want access to this most famous person. And then, you have to accommodate the people who have access to him.
O'BRIEN: it sounds like he had a good sense of humor.
TERENZIO: He had a great sense of humor, and he loved to tease. He actually put gum in my hair once.
O'BRIEN: Nice. It's nice.
JOHN FUGELSANG, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Seriously?
TERENZIO: I swear. I had to go to the bathroom and cut.
FUGELSANG: Did you punch (ph) him?
TERENZIO: I used to pinch him.
FUGELSANG: As somebody who really misses "George" magazine. And I really think that "George" magazine was way ahead of its time when you consider the era of Obama and at least talks of being post partisan. "George" was really ahead of its --
TERENZIO: Yes. I just wrote a piece on that for the "Huffington Post" about how Gingrich is still shaking it up. George Clooney was one of our cover people, and he's so politically active d and civic minded.
O'BRIEN: A lot of this book is about George and sort of the behind the scenes of how George came to be and how at times it seemed like it was very unlikely that George might come to be.
TERENZIO: Yes. Now, I mean, even going back to the Gore/Bush campaign and the hanging Chad, it would have been so relevant, I think, today.
MARTIN: You're also talking in the book about Caroline and the pressures of paparazzi and being in the public eye.
O'BRIEN: Let me run a clip, because I've got to run (INAUDIBLE) in page 179 you say this, JFK Jr. was dismissive of her complaints about being upset by the paparazzi and their attacking her saying, quote, "it's no big deal. Just don't pay attention to it."
O'BRIEN: Was this a source of contention?
TERENZIO: You know what it was, I think, a little bit of it was John not being able to protect her and feeling like -- you know, it was like kind of a guy thing where it's like, oh, like that's the worst thing that's ever going to happen to you. Don't worry about it.
FUGELSANG: He also grew up with it.
MARTIN: He grew up with it. It was new to her.
TERENZIO: Yes, it was. But I think his thing was just do what I do. You know, follow my lead and you'll be fine. MARTIN: Right.
TERENZIO: But for women, I think, it's different. You know, when you read in the paper, you know, she was starting to kind of get used to it and kind of joke about it. And she'd call me up and say, so am I fat, pregnant, or anorexic today, which one is it?
O'BRIEN: It's Monday, I must be having --
TERENZIO: I can't have children. I'm pregnant or I'm fat --
O'BRIEN: That would be the tabloids for you. Let me ask you a question --
TERENZIO: For women, that's a lot more.
O'BRIEN: It kind of cuts deep.
O'BRIEN: I can say that from a little bit of personal experience.
TERENZIO: And they don't say that about men. Like, they don't say, oh, he looks fat.
MARTIN: Oh, yes they do.
O'BRIEN: I've got to ask you one last question because you write about you're the -- in some ways, the reason that Caroline got on that plane.
O'BRIEN: -- because she was upset and you said, listen, the wedding, it's a family thing. You got to go. Fight about it later, but this is a wedding.
TERENZIO: Yes. And I'll always regret that I had that conversation with her. I don't feel responsible for what happened, but I do -- you know, I do regret that I and he tried to convince her to go.
O'BRIEN: Rosemarie Terenzio. The book is called "Fairy Tale Interrupted." I love this book.
TERENZIO: Thank you so much.
O'BRIEN: And as I was reading it, my daughter is like, can I read it later? Yes, if you ignore all the "F" words. Girl from the Bronx --
MARTIN: You make it sound like a man that's play --
MARTIN: Or Sam Jackson movie.
O'BRIEN: Straight ahead this morning. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.
TERENZIO: Thank you so much.
O'BRIEN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, Newt Gingrich, remember he was defiantly slamming ABC News and CNN, too, claiming to be the victim of an elite media. Well, he kind of got it wrong on the ABC News part. You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll tell you what happened coming up next.
O'BRIEN: OK, people, morning music. See? You want to wake up with this. This is Kirk Franklin.
MARTIN: When he's writing about this song, he's talking about tough economy, tough condition of the country.
O'BRIEN: And smile anyway. We love you, Kirk Franklin. We really do.
MARTIN: Take notes, Will Cain. Baby bear Will Cain.
O'BRIEN: I'm going to give this to you.
FUGELSANG: I have to defend Will Cain for bringing in Willie Nelson --
O'BRIEN: We love Willie Nelson. It's not bad.
MARTIN: You like high Willie Nelson.
I like high Willie? What other kind of Willie Nelson is there?
O'BRIEN: OK. I'm moving on. Let's talk about Newt Gingrich if we can. It looks like he got his facts wrong. He was slamming CNN's John King --
O'BRIEN: -- for starting the debate last week with a question about his ex-wife. Gingrich also criticized ABC News for airing that interview with Marianne, his ex-wife, right before the South Carolina primary. And he denied her claims that he asked for an open marriage. It is what she said in that interview right there.
Also insisted that ABC News refused to interview, quote, "several witnesses" who could back his story. Well, it turns out there were no witnesses. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, HOST, JOHN KING USA: Well, tonight, after persistent questioning by our staff, the Gingrich campaign concedes now Speaker Gingrich was wrong, both in his debate answer and in our interview yesterday. Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond says, the only people the campaign offered to ABC were the speaker's two daughters from his first marriage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So --
FUGELSANG: So, the two daughters from marriage number one were saying that wife number two was lying about mistress number two, wife number three?
MARTIN: Yes, that's it. That's a good timeline.
FUGELSANG: OK. Got it.
O'BRIEN: But I think the bigger issue is what Senator John McCain said yesterday on air, right, which is, when you 19th -- I think this is the 19th debate. At some point, it just feels like the conversation is all about these high drama moments and people can say what -- you know, it's about managing the impact of the moment of the debate versus let me actually -- you don't agree with me on that?
O'BRIEN: Why not?
MARTIN: Because I think what the debates have shown us, we have gotten to see these candidates consistently and in different lights. Think about it. If they're --
O'BRIEN: Responding to sometimes craziness.
MARTIN: -- if we didn't have 19 debates, trust me, Rick Perry would still be in this race.
MARTIN: Still be high in the polls, because it was all based on what was happening on paper. The debates have exposed candidates for actually who they are.
FUGELSANG: The Super PAC era, as well. You know, I'm used to watching these debates on C-Span 3 with 12 other people, but now, they're getting huge ratings.
O'BRIEN: When I talk to people in the audience of these debates, right, none of them say, well, I really felt like the economic policy was fleshed out. Or, now, I understand Mr. Romney's immigration proposal. It's always, woh, he looked like he won, and that guy looked like he lost. It wasn't that an embarrassing moment when that person stumbled. And to me, is that really what you want your -- the voters, the nation's voters voting on?
CAIN: I don't think anyone's argue that debates are perfect or the candidates --
O'BRIEN: Exactly the position, it's not a perfect system.
CAIN: But I agree with Roland. I mean, the more sunlight you shine on this process, the better. The more exposure you have to each one of these men. And yes, sometimes, the exposure is inaccurate or it's a bad light or it's a dumb question or dumb topic, but that being said, with 19 debates you're going to see some light in there as well.
MARTIN: I have to say, Soledad, it's on us. OK? It's on the people who are sponsoring these debates to ask the real questions. You should have questions tonight about foreclosures. You should have questions tonight about real foreign policy. It's on us. We can't play the game and say, it's really somebody else.
O'BRIEN: You know who I'd like to see in the debate is this East Haven mayor.
MARTIN: Oh, no.
O'BRIEN: We've been telling you this story ahead on STARTING POINT this morning. We're going to tell you --
MARTIN: You've been roasting him all morning.
O'BRIEN: I am. I know. I kind of like this story.
O'BRIEN: I wonder if he did. We should ask him. What did you have for dinner, because he's apologizing now for that taco remark that he made.
FUGELSANG: Well, in Florida, he'll have bagels.
O'BRIEN: Too little, too late. We'll talk about what's happening there.
Plus, the breast implant health scare. The founder of the company that makes those implants is now under arrest. We'll tell you why. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everybody. Lots of stories to get to. Let's go right to Christine Romans with an update. Good morning.
ROMANS: Good morning. Just in to CNN, the Labor Department announcing unemployment claims for the most recent week rose about 21,000 to 377,000. That's how many people lining up for the very first time last week for unemployment benefits. A little worse than last week but, still, anything under 400,000 is seen as a positive for the economy and the labor market.
Financial markets pointing to a positive opening this morning. The DOW, the NASDAQ, the S&P &p 500 all higher. About an hour until the opening bells.
Freed hostages have arrived at a U.S. naval station in Sicily, Italy. That's according to a naval official. Still no word whether Jessica Buchanan's father and husband have arrived for their long awaited reunion.
The founder of a French company at the center of a global breast implant health scare has been arrested. Jean Claude Mas founded Poly Implant Prosthesis whose products are not approved for use in the U.S. A British medical group says the bankrupt company, their implants were made from nonmedical grade silicone believed to be made for mattresses. The French government has said it would pay to remove the implants.
More drones, less troops -- the Pentagon expected to announce major changes today. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is proposing a 30 percent expansion of its global network of drones and special operations bases. Meantime the army and the marines are cutting troops, all part of the president's plan to trim the defense budget by half-a-trillion dollars in the decade.
Newt Gingrich running neck in neck with Mitt Romney in Florida. You're looking live at a tea party event the former speaker is holding in Mount Dora. Republican candidates take part in their final debate. That's tonight before that Florida primary, which is Tuesday. You can see it live on CNN at 8:00 eastern.
And former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will on "JOHN KING USA" to preview the debate. That's at 6:00 p.m. eastern. And of course we'll bot be there.
O'BRIEN: I'm going down there right after the show this morning.
ROMANS: See you there.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, Christine for that update. We brought you this story. Let's not talk about Charlie Crist. I want to talk about the mayor of East Haven.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That man's going to wake up, Soledad, Soledad, Soledad.
(CROSSTALK) O'BRIEN: He's in our "Get Real" segment yesterday. He's now apologizing for these remarks that he made them to a reporter. His name is Joseph Maturo, and he was discussing the arrest of four officers for alleged mistreatment of Latinos, and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing for the Latino community today?
JOSEPH MATURO, EAST HAVEN, CONNECTICUT, MAYOR: I might have tacos when I go home. I'm not quite sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has been a segment that has been impacted by the FBI arresting four officers over alleged discrimination, and you tell me --
MATURO: Alleged discrimination?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you tell me today that your priority tonight is I might go have tacos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: I really, really like that reporter. Can we get that reporter?
MARTIN: Give him a standing ovation.
JOHN FUGELSANG, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: I'm the whitest guy you're ever going to have on this show, Soledad. I get to call that guy "gringo." I'm saying that for La Raza right now.
O'BRIEN: He has apologized. Here is what he said in his presser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATURO: My sincerest apologies go out to the East Haven community and in particular the Latino community for the insensitive and off color comment that I made. Unfortunately, I let the stress of the situation get the best of me and inflamed what is already serious and an unfortunate situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Before he did this apology though he actually first defended it and said that it was the reporter's problem. He shouldn't have asked the question.
WILL CAIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: A gotcha question.
O'BRIEN: And then he actually said he was really, really tired and that that was the reason. FUGELSANG: He went the full Gingrich on that one. My stress is too much. That's the sincerest apology.
O'BRIEN: This is the sincere one which some of you, not me, I was very straight faced. You guys were laughing through. The mayor --
FUGELSANG: I'd like to say "Lo ciento" to all you offended hispanicals.
MARTIN: Stop. Wow. I was stressed.
O'BRIEN: You know it's really interesting is that the story has been the mayor, but the actual story is the arrest of the four police officers who are now under arrest for harassing members of the community, small businessmen. They arrested a priest who we had on the show in the last hour because he was videotaping some of the harassment that was going on of some people in the community. You were talking earlier about the difference between racial profiling and racial harassment which I know is a long conversation.
CAIN: It is a long conversation and a dangerous one to get into in short blocks of television. We had Mark Zaraski (ph), who was a reporter for the East Haven newspaper here earlier. There's no defense that I can imagine for the New Haven Police Department -- or the East Haven Police Department harassing Latinos. It seems clear from the video that that's what was going on, harassment.
But I think sometimes we use harassment and profiling interchangeably. And of course, profiling is not a clean concept in and of itself, but I think when we demonize racial profiling carte blanche, you require a certain amount of lack of commonsense. I think that's part of the conversation we have to have.
MARTIN: You've been racially profiled?
CAIN: No. Actually, I'm probably being racially profiled right now.
MARTIN: No. That's a serious question. I mean, when you've actually -- what do you mean by that?
CAIN: People making certain assumptions about me because what they see on TV, my race --
CAIN: Now let's talk about the government, whether or not the government should use racial profiling. I think it takes a huge amount of irrationality not to use statistics to say a vast amount of Americans shall Mexican Americans. Shouldn't we take that into account --
MARTIN: When you have been racially profiled walking through a store, even if you are dressed up, that's not government. That actually happens in private businesses as well. What I'm saying is when you've had that experience, you don't necessarily say, I can quite understand, because it is a fundamental problem when you've experienced it and you've done absolutely nothing wrong and somebody says, see a black guy driving --
CAIN: Absolutely. You're absolutely right. What I said, it's not a clean process. It does have detrimental effects to innocent people, just like the Arizona law. I said the Arizona law was wrong because it would have detrimental effects without the positive benefits.
CAIN: The point is you can have racial profiling that has positive benefits. Have you to ask yourself is it outweighed by the negative effects.
FUGELSANG: It's sort of the difference between racism and bigotry. If this mayor was to say "I hate Latinos," he's a bigot. Instead he makes this joke that he thinks is hilarious and his friends probably laugh A-team. He probably has no hatred in his heart. But it's institutionalized bigotry that lets him think a joke like that is acceptable, and that's what racism is now.
O'BRIEN: Look at that. You got that in.
FUGELSANG: I got time.
O'BRIEN: I gave you a little time. We love our friends on twitter. I'm glad to hear you think you're racially profiled on my show.
MARTIN: There you go.
O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, ahead this morning, ahead this morning, we're going to talk about a surprising statistic about girls and concussions in sports. That's straight ahead with Sanjay Gupta. He's back to join us right after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
O'BRIEN: It's 43 minutes in the hour. Want to get to some breaking news weather wise. Rob Marciano has that.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Soledad. A tornado warning for Plaquemine's Parish just southeast of New Orleans in the communities of Uros (ph) and Venice. Those are two towns you may know from the oil spill where there was a lot of activity as far as staging apparatus. There are some people down there, certainly a big port and fishing village there. A lot of heavy storms have been moving through the New Orleans area with flash flooding there as well. The tornado watch itself is in effect until noontime, central time, as this line of strong storms continues to move its way down I-10 towards Pensacola. It will be heading up towards the northeast. It will bring rain, snow. For the most part it's bringing with it warm air and across southeast Louisiana it's bringing the threat for tornadoes.
O'BRIEN: Hopefully we'll keep watching that and they'll get through that without much damage at all. All right, Rob, thank you.
All this week we've been talking to Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the dangers of concussions while playing football. But girls who play sports are just as much at risk as football players. Sanjay is in Atlanta for us this morning. Hey, Sanjay.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Morning. What sports are we talking about when we're talking about girls playing sports and getting concussions?
GUPTA: Soccer is the big one that comes to mind, basketball, volleyball. There's lots of sports that can cause concussions. The headline, I think, is surprising for a lot of people. It's that girls actually have a higher incidence rate of concussions as compared to boys as far as sports-related concussions go. It's pretty remarkable. I think so much attention on football, but I think in general, if you look at that headline again, girls have been playing sports more now over the last couple of years. The number of girls playing high school sports has gone up. We know they have a higher rate of concussion.
And they're probably more susceptible to concussions. The same sport, for example, boys and girls soccer, girls 68 percent more likely to develop concussions. Girls and boys basketball -- girls three times more likely to develop concussions.
O'BRIEN: Why? Why more likely?
GUPTA: Well - well, they may be more susceptible. Like I just said, the brains may be a little bit more -- the smaller heads. The brains may be moving more around in the head. They may be more of an anatomical and physiological thing than anything else.
We know football is still the sport that has the highest rate of concussions. But overall, you know, we're not exactly sure why, but girls simply -- people have not paid attention to girls and concussions. Their rates may actually in fact, be higher.
O'BRIEN: So what are they doing about that, Sanjay? Right, because I mean if you're talking about soccer, and it's not like you can't make a helmet better or you could put pads on or you can sort of make rules about that that would stop head butting. What do you do?
GUPTA: Well, the thing I found most interesting is that if you -- if you really parsed at it and looked at the number of hits that players take like, for example, in soccer, you're heading the ball over and over again. The ball and you're trying to head it into the net or head it to another player the average player will do that about 1,300 times a season. The vast majority of those hits to the head coming in practice, Soledad. The average hit is about 20 Gs, 20 Gs of force to the head.
So the question becomes, I mean as a parent, and I'm a father of three daughters, if you say if the vast majority of that is occurring in practice, at what point do you say look, they understand that concept now of how to head a ball, do they really need to be doing it hundreds and hundreds of times? You can reduce the number of hits in practice.
Games are obviously harder. And players going up for the ball, trying to head it. Sometimes their heads collide. But you know I think practices is one area of focus I think especially for games like soccer.
O'BRIEN: Well, yes, you've got to imagine.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Outlaw it. I mean --
O'BRIEN: Outlaw -- so Roland's suggesting you outlaw heading the ball in soccer.
MARTIN: You can. Just like in a college baseball for a long time they had aluminum bats, in the pros they had wood. You don't have aluminum bats and woods. I mean, you can say we're not going to do this as a practice.
O'BRIEN: That's going to be a challenge though for anybody who's going to go on to play soccer at a higher level. If they can't learn to head the ball they're never going to be a terrific soccer player.
JOHN FUGELSANG, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Exactly and you'll ban it for boys as well as girls? Or just girls?
MARTIN: Well, I think it will benefit both. Bottom line is you're trying to save somebody's life, you make some of these tough decisions.
O'BRIEN: Sanjay, thank you for that. Interesting and I should mention that you're going to have Randy Chastain on your show.
GUPTA: Yes, I'm looking forward to it.
O'BRIEN: Yes this weekend, right? "SANJAY GUPTA, MD", that's Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:30 a.m. Also his documentary that we've been talking about; I can't wait to see it it's called "BIG HITS BROKEN DREAMS". All about this concussions issues. It's Sunday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Thank you Sanjay.
MARTIN: That's why my nieces and nephews play golf all day.
O'BRIEN: Playing golf.
MARTIN: There are not going to have concussion problems. It isn't going to happen.
MARTIN: Look, I'm trying to keep them safe. I'm trying to keep them safe.
O'BRIEN: Wrap them in cotton balls Sanjay.
FUGELSANG: Drama club kids. Hamlet, all fake violence and the girls are cooler.
O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE) on STARTING POINT the English only debate. Should English be the official language of the United States? Our "Reveal" is up next. You're watching STARTING POINT.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was storming through the house that day --
O'BRIEN: You come to dancing in the studio only three weeks into the show.
MARTIN: We're doing La Bamba tomorrow.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody you're watching STARTING POINT. Yes, that was Roland Martin dancing to Will Cain's iPod.
MARTIN: I learned something at Texas A and M.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that's my finishing point.
O'BRIEN: "End Point." "End Point".
All right, this is just -- let's turn and talk about our "Reveal". This is something that -- that grabbed headlines this week. Should the official language in this country be English? There are two GOP candidates who think so. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is essential to have a central language that we expect people to learn and be able to communicate with each other.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: English is the language of this nation. People need to learn English to be able to be successful, to get great jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: Those things are true, but that is not the actual question, which was, "Should English be the official language of our nation?"
O'BRIEN: This is something that has been tried before. In fact, our second president, John Adams, proposed making English the unifying language as well. But his idea was rejected by the other founding fathers. The rest of the group believed that having a single language was undemocratic and even was a threat to individual liberty.
That theme has carried on; America has never had an official language to this day even though many people have attempt to have the United States have English as its official language.
FUGELSANG: And it never will. And this is a great campaign trick. Gingrich -- and I love Newt Gingrich, believe me. But frankly --
O'BRIEN: The disclaimer. Then comes the but --
MARTIN: No, every comedian loves Newt Gingrich.
FUGELSANG: Well, no, no. Wait a second, I'm a comedian, thank you.
FUGELSANG: And let me tell you I was rooting for Michele Bachmann. I was rooting for Herman Cain. I was praying for Rick Perry. The guy -- I love Gingrich. And I'm -- I'll campaign door-to- door for the guy. But he doesn't really mean it.
Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to undocumented citizens in this country. We don't hear that too much but that made him popular amongst Latinos.
Gingrich is saying this to get votes but yet at the same time he's going to be losing the Latino vote with the well-documented slurs he said in the past. And it's a great tactic.
No one's actually going to say in a free society you have to mandate a language. It goes against everything liberty stands for.
MARTIN: Try this one. We will be a majority-minority country in the next generation. Newt, how would you like it if the decision is, hey, let's make Spanish the official language of the United States?
FUGELSANG: Exactly. It's like, if you had a prayer in school that began there is only one God and there lies his messenger. Well, suddenly we don't want to pray in school anymore. It comes down to my side. And I don't think Newt really means it and I don't think Mitt really means it. O'BRIEN: Well I think they mean that -- is -- well, a lot of what they say is it's easier to get a job. And of course you would think it must be easier to --
FUGELSANG: Of course it is.
O'BRIEN: My -- when my grandmother came to this country she didn't speak -- never actually to her death never spoke English. In Cuba only spoke Spanish and lived in Union City, New Jersey. So she did not have to learn a word of English --
FUGELSANG: You're right that it's easier. You're right that it's easier but if we're talking about freedom, you can't mandate that.
O'BRIEN: Will Cain, you're being scarily silent on this.
CAIN: This is not one of my top issues, Soledad. English should be the official language of the United States. I do think we have all agreed at this table that if everyone was proficient in the predominant language of the country you'd have a country that got along better both efficiently --
CAIN: -- and on -- on several levels. But fighting for English as the official language of the United States is not near reforming entitlements or -- reducing the size of government.
O'BRIEN: You are such a spinner. You rarely do your spin. That's why we like you on this show.
CAIN: Oh please.
O'BRIEN: When you do what you have said, you have not answered the question.
CAIN: No I'm not a spinner, I'm not passionate about this issue.
O'BRIEN: This is not my -- this is not my issue, I have no comment. Which by the way you're welcome to say that. But don't give me the long wind up. I have no comment.
CAIN: I'm the conservative.
O'BRIEN: Our "End Point" is up next with our panel. We're back in a moment. Thank you for your honesty.
MARTIN: Is this the ending?
O'BRIEN: Yes, merciful God, it is.
O'BRIEN: U2, "Ultraviolet", that's John's iPod.
FUGELSANG: For the 20th anniversary edition of "Achtung Baby", that record's 20 years ago.
O'BRIEN: You make feel very old.
Notice I didn't get anything that I like played today from my iPod. Nothing. Zero.
MARTIN: Sam Cook tomorrow.
O'BRIEN: Calling my agent after the show.
MARTIN: Sam Cook.
O'BRIEN: All right. It is time for "End Point" where we wrap up our take on the day. Who wants to start? We're going to make you start, John.
FUGELSANG: Oh, because I'm the new guy?
O'BRIEN: Yes, you're new.
FUGELSANG: Ok. Now it's my first "End Point", Soledad. I'm a little bit nervous.
O'BRIEN: Well, the stakes are high. Don't mess it up.
FUGELSANG: Well, I just want to say to all my beloved conservative Republican friends in Arizona. I love Jan Brewer. To me, she's terrific. I like that we have a governor who thinks Rwanda was JJ's sister on "Good Times".
But here's the thing, last year, Arizona Republicans and I love you all, I went to a party with Barry Goldwater, nothing but love. But when you see bands like Pearl Jam, people having a boycott of your state, take a look at that picture of your governor with the President. Look at how she welcomes visitors to your beautiful state. I think that Jan Brewer is bad for tourism for the state. I know plenty of Republicans, I've had plenty write to me already to me this morning. I've embarrassed the governor.
O'BRIEN: And they're going to continue with that.
O'BRIEN: Stop right there. Will Cain?
CAIN: Criticize my political opinions, no problem. Criticize any of my opinions, no problem. But I learned this, this morning, and John Fugelsang can attest to it because I watched his face when you talked about his music. Criticize a man's music and it makes him oddly defensive.
FUGELSANG: That's right.
CAIN: Like you peered into his soul and judged him wanting.
O'BRIEN: That is so sad. He's so vulnerable today.
CAIN: I rest comfortably with the fact that Willie nelson, I have the majority of America on my side.
O'BRIEN: We love Willie Nelson.
MARTIN: And you have all the marijuana users too.
O'BRIEN: It's just slow, Will Cain. We love him. We love you.
CAIN: You love a guy -- his politics you hate.
MARTIN: Gentlemen, I'm sorry, you're taking up my end time. "End Point" very simply, I can't wait tonight for the opening question to Newt Gingrich to be, will you now apologize to the American people for lying? I don't want to hear his spokesman. He didn't tell the truth when it comes to saying that he offered (ph) a post to ABC.
So, I would love to see Newt, who I call Chucky when he gets upset, I want to see him apologize for not telling the truth.
O'BRIEN: So, you're making my "End Point" be not going to happen. And my other "End Point" to you is it's weird to see you strangely vulnerable. A little creepy.
MARTIN: It's a shared pain.
MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) -- like a super hero to her.
Now Willie Nelson's your kryptonite.
O'BRIEN: OK. We're moving on to Kyra Phillips.
MARTIN: I thought it's kryptonite.
O'BRIEN: Yes, I know.
We're going to be back here for STARTING POINT from Florida tomorrow morning.
Kyra, yes. That's how we went it today. Back to you.