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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Shady Super PACs; Interview with General Mark Kimmitt; Cruise Ship Lawsuit; Romney Ahead in Florida Polls

Aired January 27, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Thanks, John.

Well Super PACs are spending millions and millions and millions of dollars on candidates, but we don't know who the donors are. We may be about to find out.

And good news today regarding the U.S. economy, is it just what President Obama needs to seal it up?

And a lawsuit filed today seeking millions of dollars, actually, hundreds of millions of dollars for the passengers onboard the cruise ship that crashed into rocks into Italy. Matter of fact, we're looking at more than $450 million. The lawyer joins us tonight.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. Happy Friday, I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight the billion dollar presidential election. So far, $35 million have been spent in only four states on the Republican side and 85 percent of the money that Gingrich and Romney's Super PACs have spent has been on negative ads.

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BURNETT: All right. The 35 million Super PAC damage so far is just a scratch compared to the gash this money will inflict on candidates before November. American Crossroads and Priorities USA Action are two names we all need to know. They are the two big Super PACs for the Republicans and the Democrats and they say they will raise hundreds of millions of dollars to support their candidate.

Who is bankrolling all this? Well, you may find out on Tuesday a little bit because that's when Super PACs are required to reveal their donors. First time in six months we're going to see that for the likes of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich Super PACs, but guess what, there's a loophole and both American Crossroads and Priorities USA Action are exploiting it.

This is a bipartisan loophole as frankly, most of the polls are. Here's how it works. Super PACs are allowed to have a non-profit ARM (ph). So, for example, the non-profit for the conservative pack, Super PAC, American Crossroads is called Crossroads GPS. So, if a donor writes a check to Crossroads GPS, then the donor's name never has to be disclosed.

So, a Super PAC expert tells OUTFRONT to expect these anonymous donations to add up to big, big, big money and we wanted to ask whether we can close this loophole, so at least we know who is bankrolling the candidates. Will it happen? Not likely. I asked Bill Burton. He is the head of the Democratic Super PAC that we're talking about, Priorities USA Action, whether he'd be open to disclosing his donors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BURTON, CO-FOUNDER, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: No, what we're going to do is we're not going to give Karl Rove, the Coke brothers (ph), the private equity guys who are supporting Mitt Romney any more advantages. They've already got hundreds of millions of dollars. We're not in the position of saying we're going to step aside and let you play (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right, this is a situation where what you're seeing is each side not wanting to disclose and saying well the other side isn't going to disclose so I'm not going to disclose, instead of everyone shaking hands and saying we should all disclose. It's good for America. Like we said Democratic and Republican bipartisan loophole action, at least something is bipartisan these days.

David Levinthal is Politico influence reporter. Reihan Salam is co-author of "Grand New Party" (ph). Chief political analyst Gloria Borger joins us as well. All right, it's great to have all of you with us. And I know I sort of say it with a little bit of a smile here, Dave that this is bipartisan, but it truly is here. What I failed to understand, and maybe you can explain why this loophole exists. DAVE LEVINTHAL, POLITICO INFLUENCE REPORTER: Well, of course, the Democrats want to blame the Republicans and the Republicans want to blame the Democrats, but you're right. This is not exclusive to any one party and is this going to change? Well, Congress tried to change it back in 2010. They tried to pass a piece of legislation called the Disclose Act. Well it went nowhere.

And right now, the Federal Election Commission, Congress again, the IRS, pretty much everyone is thinking about maybe weighing in, but really not going anywhere with it. You've got to wonder if the Supreme Court is going to actually get involved again. Of course back in 2010 there were a major court decision called Citizens United --

BURNETT: Right.

LEVINTHAL: -- versus the Federal Election Commission that really set all of this into motion as we know it now.

BURNETT: All right, Reihan, I know that you see a use for Super PACs and obviously, they're demonized and they run negative ads and that doesn't help them. And I want to ask you why you think that there is a role for them in American politics, but first, this issue of a loophole. If you give massive amounts of money as a company or a wealthy individual to a Super PAC and you write a little check to its charity, it really seems ridiculous that you should not be able to disclose who you are. How does a lack of transparency here make sense? Can it?

REIHAN SALAM, COLUMNIST, "THE DAILY": I absolutely understand where folks are coming from, but the thing is that those charitable ARMs do fundamentally different stuff. They're working on larger ideological projects, not necessarily on campaign advertising as such and the thing is that anonymous political speech has been part of American life for a really long time. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton didn't use their real names when they were writing the federalist papers and there was a reason for that. It sounds slippery, but I do think that there is a space for protecting anonymous political speech.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know Erin, the bottom line here is that a lot of people wouldn't give a lot of money if they were going to have to disclose because a lot of wealthy people don't want that kind of attention and so the fact that there is a way to give an awful lot of money without disclosure actually encourages contributions --

BURNETT: Right.

BORGER: -- to these Super PACs, so that's one of the reasons why politicians like that.

BURNETT: But shouldn't we need to know, Dave? That's exactly my point, right? A wealthy individual or a big company gives a lot of money in the hopes that well they're going to get something. I mean not saying they're trading for a specific something, but yes, they want influence and shouldn't we have the right to know? LEVINTHAL: Well these nonprofit groups in some cases are spending seven, even eight figures on political advertisements, advertisements that are if not overtly going for or against a particular political candidate, getting pretty darn close to that line and really what the Internal Revenue Service says is that if you're a non-profit group, you can be politically engaged, but you can't have it as your primary purpose. And a lot of people right now are arguing that many of these groups are being set up --

BURNETT: Right.

LEVINTHAL: -- to exploit that loophole to basically occlude their donors but (INAUDIBLE) really do when it comes down to it, have a primary purpose of playing politics.

BURNETT: And Gloria, I guess this kind of comes back to Congress and the frustration that so many Americans feel with Congress that of course when this comes in front of them, they're going to say keep the loophole because they benefit from the Super PAC money.

BORGER: Right. You know I mean to be fair, a lot of Democrats including the president didn't like the Citizens United decision that allowed these Super PACs to exist in the first place and to flourish, so you do have that, but now that they've got them, nobody and you know, you interviewed Bill Burton there. Nobody's going to unilaterally disarm and say OK I'm going to disclose, but then again you don't have to disclose, right? You know and either way these Super PACs, as you know, Erin, you've been out there on the trail, they serve the candidates' purposes so well because they can --

BURNETT: Yes.

BORGER: -- they have deniability. They say OK, they can do the negative ads. We really hate them, but we can't really talk to them, so it's not us. It's them.

BURNETT: Maybe we need another -- a summit in Reykjavik (ph) like you know the last disarming summit on nuclear things, right Reihan? Let me put this question to you though. I use the word nuclear to talk about Super PACs because that's how a lot of people feel.

SALAM: Yes.

BURNETT: You were in (INAUDIBLE) important position tonight of trying to tell people why Super PACs actually have a relevant and important role to play in American politics and are not just negative vehicles with big influence and big money.

SALAM: Super PACs have become a huge vehicle precisely because we've made it so hard for the political parties to be accountable and to be effective. There was a time when it was relative easy to write a big check to a political party and then that political party could find an impecunious young candidate, military veteran or someone else who didn't -- wasn't able to raise a huge amount of money and then was able to put money in that candidate's -- you know to that candidate's advantage.

We don't have that ability anymore. Candidates have to be able to raise huge amounts of money and we need to have other organizations that can have a voice and allow people to influence the larger political environment. And that's what Super PACs are doing. They're not doing it as well as the parties would, but that's what was caused by this desire to regulate the system into the shape that people wanted to be in.

BURNETT: It makes you want to go back to the old days, although of course, that would decimate our industry (INAUDIBLE). Final word to you, Dave, what are we going to find out next week when for the first time in several months -- six months, right, we're going to get disclosures from the Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney Super PACs and they don't have this nonprofit loophole, so we really should get a full list, right?

LEVINTHAL: Sort of. It's only going to be through December 31st, so all the spending that has taken place in January, which OF COURSE has been millions upon millions of dollars, we won't get a chance to see yet. But you know really this is -- strikes a very interesting situation that we have here in that we have all of the things that have been spent, all the ads that we know are out there. We know how much these Super PACs are spending, but yet we don't know who's been fuelling the ads that are going up on television as you said in many cases, very, very negative. So there's a big disconnect with the law right here and we're finally going to be able to close that down just a little bit.

BURNETT: Well look, hey if you're afraid of people knowing what you're doing, maybe you're doing something you shouldn't be, right? That's what kids learn. All right, thanks to all three of you, appreciate it.

All right, well does a growing economy even though it was -- today helped guarantee President Obama's re-election? He's gotten a lot of good data points recently. And now Somali pirates threatening to kill another American that they're holding, a guy who went to write a book on pirates right after the Navy SEAL rescue of another American.

And passengers onboard the cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Italy are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in a lawsuit filed today by six passengers. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Days after American commandos rescued an American hostage in Somalia pirates there are threatening to kill another U.S. citizen. Michael Scott Moore (ph) was kidnapped along the coast on Saturday. He was actually in Somalia for a book -- writing a book about pirates. Now tonight his captors say they will execute him if they don't get their ransom.

On Tuesday, nine pirates died when Special Forces, U.S. SEAL Team 6 freed Jessica Buchanan, a fellow aid worker that had been held as hostage in -- since October in Somalia. OUTFRONT tonight General Mark Kimmitt who led the counter pirate operations for the State Department -- great to see you, General.

We appreciate your taking the time. Let me just start by asking you this. Obviously, a lot of these pirates are young kids. They're desperate. They don't have a lot to lose. Do you think though that the raid from the SEALs earlier this week actually put Michael Moore's life at greater damage?

GEN. MARK KIMMITT, (RET.) U.S. ARMY: Oh I really don't and first of all just -- it's a semantic (ph) difference, but these really aren't pirates. These are kidnappers.

BURNETT: Yes.

KIMMITT: They're hanging on in this case in a hostage situation. I have no doubt that if there is another assault that they would use any means necessary. But I think we see that in every situation in Somalia whether it's pirates or kidnappers they're willing to use force. They're willing to kill their hostages as a method to get the ransom they demand.

BURNETT: How seriously do you take the threat that they could execute Michael Moore (ph), the man writing the book on the pirates or do you think that this is just an empty threat trying to get more money?

KIMMITT: Well remember, this is a business and that may just be part of the marketing campaign. They have no intention of killing as long as they can get the money that they're looking for.

BURNETT: Right.

KIMMITT: But they will use, as I said earlier, extraordinary means. We had a situation where recently a Taiwan captain had his hand cut off because the company would not pay the ransom that was being demanded.

BURNETT: So U.S. policy is that the United States of America does not negotiate with pirates, does not negotiate with terrorists. Behind the scenes, obviously sometimes the United States of America does just that. Should it in this case or does that then just open the door for these things to start escalating and happen more and more frequently? Should the United States back off and I guess try to call these guys bluff with someone's life hanging in the balance?

KIMMITT: Well first of all, we'd never leave an American in the hands of kidnappers either here in America or abroad. It remains a policy of the United States that we don't negotiate with terrorists, but that doesn't stop the government from relying on the commercial sector to get their people out to get their ships out. Those captains have a duty to care and it is part of this commercial exchange, this commercial transaction and that's really what we have at route here is a simple commercial transaction, the pirates and the kidnappers want money. The money is paid and the people are released.

BURNETT: All right. Well thank you very much, General Kimmitt. Appreciate your taking the time tonight.

KIMMITT: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right, well just a few hours ago, the first major lawsuit was filed against the cruise ship company involved in the deadly accident off the coast of Italy two weeks ago. The suit comes on the same day that the cruise line offered $14,000 in compensation to each passenger. The cruise line of course is Carnival. There have been a lot of -- lots of legal troubles still ahead for the company.

The captain is now under house arrest facing possible charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship. Sixteen bodies have been recovered from the wreckage, 16 still missing. My next guest represents the six passengers who just sued the cruise line company. Lawyer Marc Bern OUTFRONT now -- good to see you, sir. We appreciate it.

MARC BERN, ATTORNEY: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: Let me just begin by asking you the cruise ship line, Carnival, have come out, I've read the ticket contract. They limit damages to about $60,000 a person. They are offering as we said, about $14,000 as well as psychological counseling for passengers. Why was that enough?

BERN: Why was that not enough did you ask?

BURNETT: Right.

BERN: It is an insult and this was not an incident that could possibly be covered by the ticket -- by the ticket limitations. Erin, this is an act of horrendous negligence. It was careless disregard for human life and property. This was not covered by any limitations.

BURNETT: How did you find the six clients that you have?

BERN: Well, the clients have found -- they found us in a number of different ways. We have a lawyer in Italy, a consumer group called Code Cons (ph) who sent us a number of Italian plaintiffs, and the Americans, we have two from Miami and two from New York in this particular suit where they know us by reputation. We just handled the World Trade Center litigation. Another litigation where people said you could never recover.

BURNETT: All right. Here's my only thing about this that I think some people, they struggle to understand it in lawsuits, economic and compensatory damages for your six clients in excess of $10 million, punitive damages of $450 million that sounds obscene and frankly well beyond the damage of people who got off the ship perfectly healthy and sound. Is this just a number that you throw out there for dramatic effect or you know some people might say you're the example of why we need tort reform in America?

BERN: Absolutely not, Erin. The damages -- first of all, nobody got off of that ship perfectly OK. That is a fallacy. Nobody that was on that ship that faced that terror that faced death and ultimately got off of that ship will remember that for the rest of their lives whether or not they have a scratch. A psychological aspect is with them for the rest of their lives. It is impossible to understand the terror, the emotional suffering that a person is going to have to undergo for the rest of their lives as a result of this absolutely reckless and careless conduct by the ship and the captain and Carnival itself.

BURNETT: But how do you get a number of more than a million dollars a person?

BERN: You know what? These are numbers that are put into lawsuits. It gets the attention --

BURNETT: OK.

BERN: -- of the defendants here.

BURNETT: So it is -- OK, so I understand. So you are doing it to get attention. You're not doing it because you think that's the number you're going to get or that you --

BERN: We may. We do not know the nature and the full extent of the damages that these people have suffered. That may not be known for years, so we have to make sure that they are covered adequately.

BURNETT: All right. Well thank you very much, sir. We appreciate it. Thank you for coming on and obviously people did go through a great deal of pain and we're going to be hearing a lot more about what people are doing about it and we're going to keep covering exactly how these lawsuits go forward.

BERN: Thank you.

BURNETT: Well a tragic accident or horrific honor murders. That is the decision right now that is in the hands of jurors' right here in North America.

And what's your favorite airport? Think that's an oxy moron, well maybe not. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So, last night we were in Florida for the CNN GOP Debate and today we had some massive airport delays and barely got back in time for the show. I mean trust me. It was pretty tight this time. Usually, airport delays as you well know are totally hell, but not today. Because today, we spent time in what I think might be America's best airport. The Jacksonville International Airport, code letters JAX, which is cool to start with.

The Jacksonville Airport does pretty much everything right. The terminals are full of open spaces and clean, bright stores -- these are pictures I took -- sunny food court with live music from the man you see there, the fabulous moods of Roger Glover (ph), massages, an art gallery -- an art gallery in an airport. And everywhere you turn real live people offering help and smiling and actually inviting you to talk to them. Proof that talk of America's infrastructure demise is not all right. It wasn't our only great experience in Jacksonville either. While we were there, we stayed at a place called Tapestry Park (ph). It's a make-believe little village -- see OK -- where shopkeepers literally now live over their stores and they've got church bells that make it sound like medieval Europe, it puts you in a good mood. And we broadcast last night's show from the University of North Florida, which was a beautiful campus and has an increasingly popular global logistics training program, which brings us to tonight's number, 44,000.

That is the number of people employed by the distribution industry in northeast Florida. Logistics, that's logistics, is one of the region's fastest growing industry sectors. Mercedes Benz, CSX, Publix, all have distribution centers in northeast Florida. And this is amazing. Women out there and men who buy them gifts, did you know that 90 percent of all coach bags (ph) are shipped through Jacksonville? That's right.

That's all good news for Jacksonville and the University of North Florida's logistics graduates because every year 11,000 new distribution jobs are needed in Florida. That is pretty darn amazing and Jacksonville, a pretty neat city to discover check out JAX. What's your favorite airport? Again, not always an oxy moron -- did you see -- it even had a spa there. Let us know your vote.

All right, well President Obama was campaigning at the University of Michigan today. Miles away, the president's Republican opponents are fighting for Florida's 50 delegates and then are American children putting their lives on the line in the name of sports, young children. Dr. Sanjay Gupta here tonight with an in-depth look at concussions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, what we focus in our own r reporting, do the work and find the OUTFRONT five.

Number one tonight, the shady super PACs -- $35 million have been spent by super PACs so far in just four states on campaign ads. The powerful political groups are required to disclose donors next Tuesday. So, we're going to find out who's giving the big bucks, right?

Not exactly. There's a loophole and the biggest super PACs for both the Democrats and the Republicans are exploiting it. Here's the gist -- a lot of super PACs have non-profit arms. If you donate to the non-profit arm, your identity doesn't have to be disclosed. So, therefore, we may never know who is bankrolling the biggest super PACs.

An expert tells OUTFRONT to expect these anonymous donations to add up to big money. We could be looking at a billion on this campaign.

Number two, a Connecticut judge sentenced Joshua Komisarjevsky to death for his role in a deadly home invasion. Our producer in court told us that the 31-year-old said, quote, "I did not rape, pour that gas or light that fire." Komisarjevsky was convicted of killing William Petit's wife and two daughters before setting their house on fire. Dr. Petit was the sole survivor of the attack.

Number three: Procter and Gamble, which makes everything from Tide to Pringles, announced its quarterly profit fell 49 percent from last year. And that sounds terrible, but the numbers are a little bit misleading. There were some one-time charges that always hurts company and makes things a little, frankly, not transparent. If you take those out, the company did a little bit better than Wall Street was looking for.

And we looked through the report, P&G actually cut its outlook for the quarter because of a higher tax rate.

All right. Number four, the U.S. economy grew by 2.8 percent in the last three months of last year. Now, that was weaker than expected. They were looking for 3 percent.

Now, there was a pick-up in consumer spending, but it wasn't as much as people were looking for and the cut in defense spending which may help our budget, hurt GDP in the quarter.

Chief economist of IHS, Nigel Gault, tells us the data does not show the recovery taking off. It is consistent with continued but gradual improvement, which may be enough to cause employment to go up and get the president re-elected.

It's been 175 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, the deteriorating economic conditions in Europe caused Fitch to downgrade five countries' credit there. Cyprus, which is a really interesting, you know, money laundering center, Slovenia, Spain, Italy and Belgium.

All right. The president out in the important swing state of Michigan today selling his State of the Union message and fighting back against Republican attacks that he's trying to redistribute wealth and engage in the, quote, "politics of envy".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody envies rich people. Everybody wants to be rich. Everybody aspires to be rich, and everybody understands you've got to work hard if you're going to be financially successful. That's the American way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Thousand miles away, the president's Republican opponents fighting for 50 delegates in Florida because every delegate counts in this race. And the latest polls, Romney is ahead of Newt Gingrich by nine points and I want to make sure that we let you know that this poll was taken before the debate last night, which by most accounts, Romney seemed to have a strong performance.

OUTFRONT now are: CNN contributor John Avlon, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons and Republican strategist Rick Wilson.

OK, great to have all of you with us. Appreciate it.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Happy Friday.

BURNETT: Yes, right. Whoo! We finally got here. We got here with a few minutes to spare.

But, John, let's talk about this politics of envy charge. Obviously, it's something the Republicans have been talking about. It's become a little bit of a phrase. It's going to be something people talk about on the campaign trail this year.

Is the president's push back on that convincing?

AVLON: Well, the president needs to push back. You know, Republicans are going to label anything they can class warfare and the president is trying a populist appeal right now to fire up his base. The line he's walking is that he needs to convince the middle class that he's looking out for them. That's his key edge, pitting Mitt Romney or whoever the Republican nominee is, Mr. 1 percent.

The problem is that the Democratic base, particularly, the liberal base, is limited. Only 20 percent of Americans say they're liberal. So, he's walking a very fine line against a massive narrative on the Republican side that he is talking about wealth redistribution.

BURNETT: Jamal, let me ask you about what the president's plan is here. Obviously, the economic numbers today were disappointing. But, frankly, they may be enough to keep getting the kind of job growth we've been getting, which may be enough to get the president re-elected just on that key economic point that matters so much.

But do you get the feeling that they are concerned in the White House, that the economy is not cooperating?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think they're much more concerned about what may occur. I think if the president can make an argument that we've turned the corner, the trajectory is going in the right direction, let's not get off this, you know, trajectory now, getting a new president, it's going to take a long time for him to get up to speed and get moving, there's no point in doing that, that he can make the argument that we're on the right trajectory, then he's OK.

The problem is, though, you've got Europe dangling out there. You've got Iran dangling out there. There are all kinds of things that could put a shock to the system that they can't really control. And I think that may make them a little bit more nervous.

BURNETT: All right. Let me talk about what went on today in Florida, Rick. Obviously, it was interesting to watch the debate last night. Mitt Romney -- I mean, how many times did we hear the word despicable in debates? Well, two times in two debates, it got to be a record. One by Newt and one by Mitt.

But it seems like Newt needed the big moment last night. But by most accounts, Romney came on strong, fought hard and seemed to win.

So, what do you see in terms of momentum? Is it affecting Newt Gingrich or not?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think people had come to expect that Newt is always going to perform this miraculous parlor trick at every debate and shame the moderators and get the audience on his side, and it just didn't happen for him last night. He had a situation where Wolf Blitzer, you know, was ready for him and just cold cocked him when he went at him. And the fact of the matter was, that the audience was not with Newt Gingrich last night and they're complaining that the audience was stacked, whatever.

But the fact of the matter is he didn't connect with a audience like he did in South Carolina, and when voters predicate their support of Gingrich on this spectacular debate ability and he doesn't deliver, then he's going to obviously have a night where he just can't sustain the mojo.

BURNETT: Right. He can't be amazing every night. I like that, that Wolf Blitzer cold cocked one. That's funny.

WILSON: (INAUDIBLE) for the day.

BURNETT: John, you've been following Mitt Romney all day. Does he seem to feel more confident? I mean, it was actually part of the reason he probably performed so well last night is he was feeling the heat, and he was afraid. So, he lashed out.

AVLON: That's right. I mean, today, we're just at an event with him, an hour ago on the space coast, speaking at Cape Canaveral. Relatively small turnout for the event and a very brief speech by Mitt Romney. But here's the thing, he's not trading his fire on Newt on the other candidates. He's back focusing his fire on President Obama.

That's a sign of someone who feels pretty confident. Now, there are still a couple of days. Sarah Palin did an all but endorsement of Newt online, you know, but I think Newt's folks are hoping will change the momentum here, but when you turn on the radio in Florida, what you get is a lot of anti-Newt ads by Mitt Romney affiliated super PACs. That is a real -- that's the money versus momentum thing and it's really a factor in the race here in Florida.

BURNETT: Jamal, what's your feeling of what the White House is doing? Still assuming it's going to be Mitt Romney that they're running against, as Bill Burton of the president's super PAC, has very openly admitted or not?

SIMMONS: Yes, I think most Democrats believe that Mitt Romney will ultimately be the nominee. The hope is that Gingrich continues to stay in there and Santorum maybe has another win left in him so that they can -- this fight will last a little bit longer. But it does look like Romney's got what it takes to finish the nomination fight.

Last night when you watched him, he was clearly more confidence. The rumors, I guess he had a new debate coach.

BURNETT: Yes.

SIMMONS: But he clearly was more confident. He was on Gingrich. He never got off of him. And I think Wolf Blitzer, with his feet planted in stone last night, continuing that line of questioning, really threw Gingrich off of his fire.

BURNETT: Wolf Blitzer was immovable. Don't mess with Wolf Blitzer.

All right. Rick --

SIMMONS: His name is Wolf. I mean, what are you going to do?

BURNETT: Your name is Wolf Blitzer. That's right. Don't mess with him.

Rick, before we go, I want to play a moment from the debate that sort of stuck with me. And I want to ask you, once you hear -- whether it's possible Mitt Romney didn't know about this ad, considering you have run campaigns, produced ads, here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven't seen the ad, so I'm so sorry, I don't get to see all the TV ads. I don't know what -- did he say that? I doubt that's my ad, but we'll take a look and find out. There are a bunch of ads that are being organized by people, but I think our position on English, in our schools, in our nation, is the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. Wolf Blitzer did a quick check, that ad was from -- "I Mitt Romney approve this ad". Is it possible he didn't know about it?

WILSON: It's absolutely possible. They would have cut that disclaimer very early in the process. Campaigns are large, complex moving pieces. And it's very possible I imagine is the case, that he didn't know about the ads specifically that had been produced by the campaign, and the campaign's media team and that was that.

SIMMONS: Erin, I got to jump in here because -- Erin, I got to jump in here because I've been on campaigns. I've been a press secretary to candidates. I've been in the limo or in the van when you pull out your, back then, your phone or whatever it is, your computer, and you play the ad for the candidate before it goes up because his name's going to be on it. I just don't believe he didn't know about that ad. BURNETT: All right. We'll see.

WILSON: Hundreds of pieces moving at one time.

BURNETT: You know -- all right. Well, thanks very much to all of you. We appreciate it.

All right. Let's check in with Anderson.

Anderson, what's coming up on "A.C. 360"?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": We're keeping them honest tonight in the program. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich vying for the GOP nomination, battling for votes and sometimes, stretching the truth to win them. Keeping them honest tonight.

The problem with Romney's blind trust claims that he made last night and why Gingrich is griping about a stacked debate audience doesn't hold up.

Also, in crime and punishment tonight, a murderer on the loose in Mississippi. A murderer pardoned by the former governor, Haley Barbour. We're going the take you to the scene of the crime and tell you where authorities think he might be, where he might be hiding and who maybe helping him hide.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, see you there.

Tragic accident or brutal honor murder? That is a question before a jury in North America tonight. The lawyer defending the man accused of killing his three sisters and stepmother comes OUTFRONT.

And increasing danger of high school sports. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us with an in-depth look at concussions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Was it a horrific murder or tragic accident? That is the decision before a jury in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, tonight.

Three family members are charged with committing four honor murders. Mohammad Shafia, an Afghan man that lives in Canada, his wife Toba and one of his sons Hamed are accused of killing his three teenage daughters, his other wife, their mother. The three girls and -- their stepmother -- and their stepmother were found dead in their car in a canal in Kingston, Ontario, in June 30th, 2009.

Now, it appeared to be an accidental drowning, but police were suspicion and it led prosecutors to charge the three with first degree murder. During the almost 10-week trial, the jurors heard from 58 witnesses and examined more than 160 pieces of evidence -- evidence that Patrick McCann, the lawyer for 21-year-old Hamed calls weak and circumstantial. He is OUTFRONT tonight. And, Patrick, it's good to talk to you. Thank you very much.

So, why is -- why are you convinced your client's innocent?

PATRICK MCCANN, ATTORNEY FOR HAMED SHAFIA: Well, I -- I think the real issue here comes down to as you said, a tragic accident or was it something horrific. And the horrific part of it sort of depends on a lot of other sort of incidental evidence, we can put that way. But the real issue comes down to what actually happened.

And for it to be an honor killing, which is the prosecution position, there has to be a murder and, you know, the scenario that they're presenting just sort of doesn't stand up. It doesn't make sense. Involves --

BURNETT: The scenario they're presenting, I'll give everyone a summary and correct me if I'm wrong -- that they were found with some bruises. Obviously, drowned in their car in the canal. It seemed to be an accident at first.

But then they found a headlight from the car that Hamed and his father and mother were driving and that they think they actually literally in that car, pushed the other car into the canal, leaving that headlight behind was part of the proof in evidence that this was a murder.

MCCANN: Yes, that's right. The problem, though, with that scenario, there's no question there was an accident between them and there's no question of that, the Lexus which my client was driving and he's given an account of this, that he was an accident on the road and then the car that the girls were in turned right into the area where the canal is and went into the canal. So, you know, there's no question there was an accident there.

The problem was he never called anybody, never told anybody about it. So, as soon as the police found this out, realized there's been some lies told --

BURNETT: Yes.

MCCANN: -- went on a murder investigation. The problem --

BURNETT: Is it possible the father could have done it, not the son? Is that your -- the father -- I mean, some of the quotes when the police wiretapped the father's car when he was talking to his wife were horrific, obviously, right? He said if I could do it again, I'd do it again. They were whores -- talking about his daughters.

MCCANN: I think you've got to put that into context and you've got to understand the way people talk. We've called expert evidence on the idiomatic usage of Farsi in Afghanistan and the way men talk in Afghanistan, and swear words that are used there versus swear words that were use here. I mean, some of the stuff, once it's translated into English, it sounds pretty horrific, but it's common usage.

I mean, some of the things in there, the devil made them do stuff on their grave and stuff like that, is equivalent roughly to somebody an English somebody saying to hell with them or something like that. It's pretty innocuous. So, you've got to understand that.

But, you know, getting back to the scenario that the crown is trying to sell, it involves somehow or other the car gets hung up on the edge of canal. Whoever was driving it, getting out and putting it in gear, moving in there and then getting in the car --

BURNETT: OK.

MCCANN: -- and pushing it into canal. All the time, the four women are sitting there not doing anything. So, the crown realizes that they have to come up with some sort of theory at that.

BURNETT: OK.

MCCANN: That they were drowned ahead of time. But that's phenomenal when you think of taking four women, one at a time.

BURNETT: Patrick, thank you very much for coming OUTFRONT and giving your angle on the story. As we said, this went to jury today in Canada.

More than 100 million people are going to be watching the Super Bowl and people have a lot of fun. But for the players, the next big hit could be catastrophic. A lot of these men really end up with real hits to their lives, literally, for the rest of their lives because of playing football. And today, we're taking a closer look at these collisions on the field, how they're affecting not just the pros but kids.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta's documentary "Big Hits, Broken Dreams" looks at the danger and it premieres on CNN, 8:00 on Sunday. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember getting hit hard. That actually rang my bell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the first three weeks, there was just a constant headache.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The trainer was asking me questions, I was answering them all wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a few impacts that simulate a car crash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He does have symptoms of a concussion.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: A parent came to you and said, coach, my kid really wants to play football. But I need you to tell me that he's going to be safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't guarantee that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. Sanjay is OUTFRONT tonight.

And, Sanjay, you've done so much reporting on this, 3.5 million athletes around the country get sports related concussions every year. I mean, I found that shocking and how much of a long-term effect do these things really have?

GUPTA: Well, we know more than ever, the answer to that question, Erin. I think for a long time, people have sort of anecdotally thought, look, I mean, those hits look hard, they look like they're bad, but we didn't have the evidence of what it was doing to the brain.

Keep this in mind -- 650 hits to the brain is the average a high school player takes every season. And we know over time that that can cause something known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

You don't need to remember that name, Erin, but what you need to know is that these changes in brain are similar to what you'd see in a patient with Alzheimer's disease, except you're seeing this in sometimes people as young as 17 years old, or as well as retired football players who are still in their 30s and 40s.

So, that's pretty significant, Erin.

BURNETT: Awful.

You know, I played sports growing up, Sanjay, through college, and always seems like when people hear concussions, they don't really think about their daughters. They think about sons and football in particular, not necessarily other sports. But that's not the case, is it?

GUPTA: No. Great form, by the way.

BURNETT: Great. By the way, yes, there I am. OK, gosh, yes, that's not a picture that needs to be -- yes, yes.

GUPTA: You know, it's funny, I have three daughters so I think about this quite a bit. But, you know, it's actually surprising to a lot of people, and I found this a bit surprising as well. Girls are in fact more susceptible to concussions than boys. Think about that for a second. It could be because of the anatomy of the head, the amount of fluid around the brain, the strength of the neck muscles, lots of different reasons.

But, you know, take a similar sports, soccer for example. A girl playing soccer, boy playing soccer -- girls 68 percent more likely to get a concussion. Basketball, girls three times more likely to get a concussion. So -- in fact, girls get more concussion in this country than boys -- for a long time, it just wasn't -- they didn't pay any attention to girls getting concussions. So, it's a very valid question, Erin, and a very valid point.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Sanjay, a whole lot more, obviously, Sanjay's special tonight, 8:00 on CNN.

And OUTFRONT next, the way you watch television changing forever, and one of the man behind it, our guest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So in the next few years, half of all American homes are going to have web-enabled televisions. And tonight's IDEA guest, Shane Smith, CEO of VICE, and Tom Freston who launched MTV are out to make it the way you watch OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT (voice-over): Just five years ago, VICE was a free magazine about tattoos and models. Now, it's one of the largest youth-driven media brands in the world, spanning 34 countries, projected worth, $1 billion.

Vice Media has graduated from racy centerfolds to offbeat stories about the world's most infamous danger zones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, let's go, let's go.

BURNETT: Labor camps in Siberia, the heavy metal music scene in Baghdad, and African warlords like this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that why you were called General Butt Naked?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, because I was naked. Because I fought naked.

BURNETT: But how does this add up to $1 billion? How are a bunch of hipsters from Brooklyn giving TV a run for its money?

It's pretty simple. VICE is streamed over the Internet. Advertisers know exactly who their audience is, and they know exactly where to find them.

And it doesn't hurt that VICE has captured the most highly prized demographic in the industry.

And VICE has one more trick up its sleeve, Tom Freston, the same formula Freston used to launch MTV, is now the formula for VICE.

Giving young viewers what they want, when they want it.

(on camera): So there was the cover of the "New Yorker" talking about YouTube and that YouTube is going to be television, that we're no longer going to be using our televisions. Having bought a new television, being sold on some kind of LED, something. I'm wondering if you believe that, that TVs are going away.

TOM FRESTON, MTV FOUNDER & FORMER VIACOM CEO: Nothing ever goes away in the media business, expect like the eight rap. Plenty of people are going to continue to watch TV. But I do think that the YouTube's new introduction of 100 channels is going to be sort of a tipping point for web video.

More people are going to be able to use web video on web-enabled sets and we'll see more and more viewing, I think, moving toward the web as more and more content producers get a chance to come to the foreground.

BURNETT: So this is less about in the sense of content, in terms of which channel wins. But it would seem like the cable provider loses which a lot of people would like.

SHANE SMITH, VICE CO-FOUNDER: Well, I think it could be a smart TV, it could be a phone, it could be a computer. It could be a hologram. You know, everyone's spending money on the platform. But no one's spending money on what goes into the platform.

So content that's made for mobile, content that's made for online, content that's made for smart TVs, that's the key. And that's what it's been forgotten. We have 2,500 contributors and 34 different countries who are just, you know, sending in information all day. They're shooting, they're writing. You know, we're cutting. So, it's a lot of premium web video on music, on fashion, on culture, and of course on news.

BURNETT: What's your best (ph) time spending a career in media, to be the primary screen?

FRESTON: I don't think there's any losers. I mean, I also think the primary screen for people that consumed is going to be when they can lean back and watching television, I mean, from watching things for any length of time.

And with web-enabled TVs and web producers beginning to create longer and longer content, I mean, I still think that television will be the paramount place, but mobile, if you think about it worldwide, there's, you know -- I mean, China alone, has 800 million mobile users. So there's going to be an increase in technology and lots of people walking around the street looking in their telephones.

SMITH: It also depends on where you're talking. We just got back from India, and India doesn't have a huge penetration for television or broadband or online. But they just got the 4G. Yet they have the $50 smartphones coming in from China.

BURNETT: Right.

SMITH: So, now they're going to sort of skip going from sort of newspapers --

BURNETT: They have so many newspapers in India. Gosh, it's unbelievable.

SMITH: It's the biggest newspaper in the world -- the biggest newspaper consumers. And they're going to go straight from like 1,800 newspapers, boom, to, you know, 4G broadband consumption. So I think mobile in Asia and India is going to be primary.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much, appreciate both of you taking the time.

SMITH: Thanks for having us.

FRESTON: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. Everyone, thanks for coming OUTFRONT with us this week. And, hey, you know, however you're watching this, OUTFRONT on an iPad, the same old normal way on TV -- thanks anyway, as always. Have a great weekend.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.