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Iran Warns Over Military Threats; Romney: Misspoke About "Very Poor"; RPT: Iran Issues Warning To U.S.; House Dems Take On Keystone Pipeline

Aired February 3, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It is 5:00 on the East Coast. A very EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

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

Let's get started here.

BANFIELD: Breaking news from Iran overnight -- boy, the invectives and rhetoric coming at us. Warning to the United States, the supreme leader says from Friday prayers: watch what you say, watch what you do. All of this coming after our defense secretary warned that Israel could be ready to strike Iran's nuclear program by as early as this spring.

SAMBOLIN: And Mitt Romney holding the Trump card heading into Nevada. Does that endorsement matter? And he's backpedaling on his comments about the very poor, he's actually more than back-pedaling. He's saying he misspoke.

BANFIELD: And, boy, this one really blew up. The feud between the cancer charity and Planned Parenthood. A top charity, Susan G. Komen Charity, has executives starting to resign in protest because they pulled their funding from Planned Parenthood. Women who are in need, the critics say, are being caught in the middle of this.

SAMBOLIN: You know these names -- Brady, Manning, Madonna.

BANFIELD: Who is she?

SAMBOLIN: Who's feeling the pressure to perform big at the Super Bowl? I'm kind of worried about Madonna because she's nursing an injury. Countdown to the big game is on, folks.

BANFIELD: What kind of danger does Madonna have?

SAMBOLIN: You'll see. All right, girl. Hamstring injury. It may affect your performance.

BANFIELD: If you're wondering why we're wearing red, it's important to note it was not a mistake. It is go red for women today. Cancer is the number one killer of women. This is something you're going to see all around publicly, news channels, and a lot of women are wearing red to remind women this is a very important --

SAMBOLIN: And heart disease in general.

BANFIELD: All right. So, let's get you started with some breaking news out of Iran right up front. The country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has a big warning for the United States as well as Israel, saying that that country will back any nation, any group that wants to confront or fight Israel.

All of this coming, of course, the news had broken yesterday that Israel may actually strike the nuclear program in Iran as early as this spring, April, May or June.

SAMBOLIN: And so, this is coming amid speculation about that strike. Officials tell CNN Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is concluding now there is a growing likelihood that that attack, as Ashleigh said, could happen by the spring. It's causing a lot of chatter. It's growing louder and more urgent in Jerusalem, as well.

There's a new warning from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. And here's a quote, "Iran must be prevented from becoming nuclear and no option should be taken off the table."

BANFIELD: We have two reports for you live this morning. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. Reza Sayah is on the phone from Islamabad, to the east and south of Iran.

I want to start with you, Reza. Ehud Barak making this proclamation. I find it really odd because it was just last week, that Israeli official said the nuclear program in Iran was, quote, "very far off." Where's the disconnect?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, here's what we need to make clear. I think, beginning last night and now you're seeing it this morning, you'll see it throughout the next 24 hours, there's going to be a lot of headlines, a lot of media buzz about this statement made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about Iran. His ominous statement that maybe this spring is we're going to attack.

Here's what everybody needs to remember: at this point this is just talk. It's rhetoric. It's talk between three countries, the U.S., Israel and Iran, that have done a lot of talking aimed at one another for decades as you mentioned, sometimes contradictory. The talk is part of the gamesmanship and posturing going on for a long time.

At this point there is no concrete evidence beyond rhetoric that the leaders of Israel have decided to attack Iran. What we do know is that they're concerned about Iran's nuclear program and they want to stop it. Nobody knows what they've actually decided to do at this point.

A lot of people eager this morning to hear what Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has to say in response to all the fresh talk about the possibility of an Israeli attack.

When you look at the speech closely, he didn't make any threats against the U.S. or Israel, but he said there would be retaliation if here's an attack.

BANFIELD: Yes. Certainly, we hear that he was stopping short and I think that's critical for everybody who's watching all the saber-rattling that's going on back and port and to that point, Reza, we're getting information from Israeli security agency officials that say there's unconfirmed reports that Iranian agents now looking to maybe even attack targets in Israel in retaliation for their covert operations.

Remember, not that long ago there was that Iranian scientist who was killed by a bomb and there was also speculation it might have been our covert agents, but most people thinking it was the Israeli covert agents. So, what are we hearing about the possibility that they'll be these retaliatory attacks?

SAYAH: I think the key word there is unconfirmed. As long as Israeli officials, U.S. officials don't substantiate these reports, they will remain unconfirmed reports and in a lot of people's view especially in Iran, they will see themselves as a country that has never attacked another country. And from their standpoint, if you see all this talk from Jerusalem, from Washington about the possibilities of attack, to them, it's no surprise that they're saying, look, if there is an attack, there will be retaliation.

But it's so important to understand for our viewers that for more than a decade, there's been this type of rhetoric ratcheting up, ratcheting down, and when you talk to analysts, most say Israel would not attack Iran unless they knew they could destroy all their nuclear facilities, unless they knew they had Washington's backing. It's not clear at this point if they have -- if know both of these things are going to happen.


SAYAH: And, of course, there's the real possibility of retaliation from Iran. It's not clear if Israel and its people are prepared for that.

BANFIELD: Well, and we do have that precedent of them, of Israel doing it before. S, we'll have to watch that.

Reza, thanks very much for that report, out of Islamabad.

SAMBOLIN: All right. To the burning question, this morning, what happens if Israel does attack Iran?

Former CIA officer Robert Baer on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" says he has no doubt the U.S. could face retaliation.


ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I think there could be a significant blowback. The Iranians, you could count on them hitting us in Iraq, hitting our embassy there, probably in Bahrain where we've got the fleet, and I think undoubtedly inside the borders of this country.


SAMBOLIN: All right. Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon for us.

You just heard Reza say that it's a bunch of rhetoric. I'm going to read something that I read in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning. And this is from Israel.

"You stay to the side and let us do it." This was an Israeli official, supposedly said this to the United States. "A short war scenario assumes five days or so of limited Israeli strikes followed by a U.N.-brokered cease-fire. The Israelis are set to recognize the damage to the nuclear program might be modest."

But they're saying here, U.S., you stay aside -- so why is it that we're talking about an attack on the United States?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think Reza is right. You're beginning to see this rhetoric ratchet up on a three-way scale, the United States, Iran and Israel, and it's becoming, many people will tell you here, very dangerous -- the level of rhetoric.

One of the burning questions right now is: why did Leon Panetta actually say this?


STARR: There is no question that he let it become public these were his views right now that Israel might attack in the next couple of months. That ratchets up the rhetoric. That paints an awful lot of players into a potential corner and it makes this very question much more dangerous for Israel. If Iran believes Panetta and believes Israel is about to attack, what would Iran do in retaliation for -- to Israel.

You know, why did Panetta potentially put Israel in this very dangerous position? And you now see what you're mentioning which is Israeli officials beginning to react to it. All indications are that the Obama administration, Panetta, aside is doing everything it can to pursue the diplomatic, the sanctions option and try and convince Israel not to go forward with any kind of strike.

SAMBOLIN: So, you have to wonder are Panetta's comments a specific effort to amp up pressure?

STARR: Well, you know, there's a sense that Israel does the same thing. You see these cycles of aggressive statements by Israel and that is to pressure many people will tell you the United States and the West to ramp up those sanctions.

Panetta could have been making that effort. That could have been his motivation to ramp up the pressure on Iran to, you know, make them think they were becoming under -- they might be likely to come under attack soon.

But, again, once you start down that road many people will tell you, very difficult to predict what Iran could do and why would you do that? Why would you put this situation in such jeopardy?

SAMBOLIN: All right. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for us, thank you.

BANFIELD: It's the first Friday of the month. You know that means? Jobs report time. Set your calendar. It really happens this way.

The Labor Department releasing its monthly employment report at 8:30 this morning.

Christine Romans is here to tell us what we're expecting.

I feel like we get these reports a lot. But this one is particularly important?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, we're looking to see if there's a trend, you guys, a trend of jobs growth -- slow but steady jobs growth. And what the economists are expecting is about 130,000 jobs created in the month, and also 8 1/2 percent, probably 8 1/2 percent unemployment rate. We'll have to see.

I want to show you what the year looks like. This is 2001 to now. That red bar is the expectation. That shows you slow but steady jobs growth.

You can see, you know, where the green bars aren't very big. We worried about a double-dip recession. But it looks as though especially the last part of last year, the jobs growth was picking up.

I want to show you, it's political. Jobs growth is so political on the campaign trail all you hear is one side calling it the Obama jobless recovery. And the other side saying, hey, we inherited this thing.

This is what it looks from the end of the Bush administration to the present. Those red bars show you the worst job market in our lifetimes, and we have the highest unemployment rate since the 1980s. That was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs every single month.

And those green bars show you the economy is slowly, slowly growing and digging out of that hole. Not digging quickly enough, though. And I'll tell you why, (INAUDIBLE), the economists over there say if you bring in all the people who have left the job market over the past few years because they've been so disappointed they've been shut out, take the people who aren't even counted in the unemployment rate, the unemployment rate would really be 11.9 percent.

So, people feel terrible out there and this slow healing, when I say the economy is slowly healing, they go crazy because it's not healing quick enough.

BANFIELD: Not for me.

ROMANS: Long term unemployment is still a big problem. So, that's the glass half full of vinegar as opposed to the glass half full, which is the economy is growing.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I'm reading something a little bit earlier. It says Obama is going to unveil a new plan to help veterans get jobs.

ROMANS: And he mentioned this in his State of the Union, right? But this is a new initiative the White House wants to do. A job initiative, $5 billion toward veterans, getting veterans jobs as first responders. They're going to announce this later this morning at a firehouse.

But think of that. I mean you've got all these budget cuts that have been hurting state and local governments where they had to lay people off. So, how about get money to -- part of the economy that needs it, so get tax -- get money incentives to people to hire and then let veterans have a first shot at some of these jobs. So, we'll hear about that from the president later on today.

BANFIELD: Boy, there is a bill that just screams earmarks. Thank you, Christine.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BANFIELD: All right. I want to go to our Rob Marciano. He's got a look at the weather for us.

Hi, Rob.


I want to take you out to the Mile High City, Denver, Colorado, during a major snowstorm right now. Here's a live picture for you. There it is.

Winds are blowing there, where the old Rockies play and the snow is coming down in Denver proper and Boulder on the Front Range. Last report out of Denver International, snowing like you're seeing there, and visibilities as low as an eighth of a mile.

Not only snow warnings storm warnings are up. Blizzard warnings also for eastern Colorado. There's the snow, heavy at times throughout the morning and it's really not going to end I don't think until tomorrow morning and front half of the system, severe weather threat across parts of northern Texas and central Oklahoma, tornado watch in effect until 10:00 Central Time there.

How much snow do we expect to see in Boulder? Over 10 inches. In Denver, over a foot and that is unusual for February. They've never seen more than 10 inches of snow during a snowstorm for the month of February. So, if we get over a foot, that would be a record breaker.

And into Nebraska where winds are going to kick up. We could see these darker purples here over 20 or up to 20 inches of snow. So, blizzard warnings with winds --


ROMANS: -- gusting 40 to 50 miles an hour, guys, there. So, Groundhog was right, I guess, winter is still here to stay.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, that's true. Punxsutawney Phil was correct.

Thank you very much, Rob.

Still ahead here: Mitt Romney back-pedaling into Nevada. He's now clearing up what he said about very poor Americans. But guess what? The opponents are still hammering away at his words.

BANFIELD: And also, a billionaire's 42-year-old girlfriend is now officially his daughter. Creepy, freaky, strategic. You'll find out why some say this is just a maneuver to protect his money.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Good morning, Las Vegas. Appropriate song for you. "Waking Up in Vegas," a lot of the candidates are because Nevada is where the action is. Those caucuses are coming at you within days.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-nine degrees there now, sunny later and 60 degrees. So you've got some good weather headed your way.

It is 16 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories making news.

Breaking news from overnight: Iran's supreme leader warning an attack on Iran's nuclear program will harm the United States. It came after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Israel could strike Iran's nuclear installations as early as this spring.

Later this morning, President Obama will announce a new $5 billion jobs initiative. It's designed to put thousands of unemployed veterans back to work.

And a new wave of violence in Egypt triggered by a soccer riot that left 79 dead. Hundreds have been injured in clashes with police in Cairo.

BANFIELD: The FBI's no-fly list has more than doubled over the past year, according to counter-terror officials. It's now up to about 21,000 people with 500 Americans on it.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying he's going to donate up to $250,000 in matching money to Planned Parenthood after learning that the Susan G. Komen Foundation was cutting off funding to that organization, funding for breast cancer screenings.

And the Senate has passed an insider trading bill barring members of Congress and their staff from trading stocks and securities based on semi public information.

SAMBOLIN: Back to politics. Mitt Romney going into tomorrow night's Nevada caucuses with a very big lead. Money and his Mormon faith expected to be big factors there.

Also, he was boosted by Donald Trump. But he is still haunted by comments he made about the poor to our very own Soledad O'Brien.

So, joining us now to talk about all of this: Alice Stewart, former communications director for the Bachmann campaign for president and Democratic strategist Kiki McLean.

All right. Kiki, let's start with you. Actually, we're going to flip-flop back and forth and chat about this about it. Romney's comments to our Soledad O'Brien still making the rounds. We're going to listen to his apology to our affiliate KSNV and then we're going to talk about it.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a misstatement. I misspoke. I said something that is similar to that but quite acceptable for a long time. And, you know, when you do, I don't know how many thousands of interviews, now and then, you may get it wrong, and I misspoke. Very simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you mean to say?

ROMNEY: What I said was that my focus, my primary focus is on helping people get into the middle class and grow the middle class.


SAMBOLIN: OK. So, he has admitted he made a mistake. He said I misspoke.

Isn't that what we want to see typically? Is there somebody to admit they've made a mistake? Will this finally let it go?

Kiki, what do you think?

KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, you want to see somebody admit they made a mistake and want to see them not make the mistake again. This is what the problem is that Mitt Romney is facing within his own party. People are not convinced of his performance ability and he's continued as people now refer to them as we get ready for spring training as unforced errors, that baseball analogy that keep happening again and again.

Look, part of it is, you're at the end of a really tough compressed element around New Hampshire, Iowa, Florida, there's fatigue in these candidates. But these are errors that aren't just about fatigue for Mitt Romney. He keeps doing it.

And the reality is, when you're going to be president of the United States, words matter. And you can't make those errors again and again.

SAMBOLIN: Alice, do you agree with that, or do you think we'll stop seeing this particular bite being played over and over again?

ALICE STEWART, FMR. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MICHELE BACHMANN FOR PRESIDENT: I'm sure the Democrats will continue to play that sound bite over after over. But, clearly, with the Romney campaign, this was a teachable moment. You have to be very careful about everything that you say and he was right to say that he misspoke. That's what he meant to say and let's move on.

He spent unfortunately a full day talking about it, but he did the right thing by saying I misspoke. Clearly what he was trying to say that has gotten taken out of context and taken on a life of its own out there, he was trying to say that he has always said from the very beginning that he is focused on the middle class, he's focused on middle income Americans. But he is not doing that at the expense of the lower income and upper income Americans. He is focused on middle income Americans.

And the distinction between him and President Obama is that if Romney gets in there and institutes his plans to create jobs and turn the economy around, it will help Americans of all income levels. And that's the distinction that we have.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Well, let's talk about the substance of his words then when we talk about the poor, because he talked about safety nets in his budget proposal. And according to the nonpartisan group Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it requires massive cuts in nondefense programs, including the safety net programs like food stamps, Medicaid, low income housing assistance.

So, when he says fix safety nets, is that possible? How do you do that, Kiki?

MCLEAN: Well, it's interesting because you're seeing multiple instances of sort of counter-activity in what he says and what he supported. So, you have an instance where he's talked about the safety nets and the kind of budgets he supports in the Ryan budget.

You know, just before the Florida primary, you saw him say to an audience of seniors, "We're never going to touch your Medicare and Social Security. We're going to protect those entitlements" -- which was a clear pander. But when you look at the positions he's taken, you don't see that's the position he's taken.

So, these are the problem. Again, the problems you're seeing on one side for him within his own primary where people aren't sure exactly is he the moderate, is he the conservative? They're not willing to necessarily get behind that and big majority numbers are going to be the same challenges he has again in the general.

When you come up against a president who has a series of accomplishments, has a series of ideas and proposals to move us forward and that has to do with what we're going to do to create jobs in this country.

SAMBOLIN: OK, Alice --

MCLEAN: It has to do with the stabilization of things like the American auto industry.

SAMBOLIN: OK. I'm going to switch gears here, Alice. We're going to talk about Donald Trump endorsing Mitt Romney yesterday. But we all know that Trump represents that famous 1 percent -- lavish hotels, golf courses and, of course, the Democratic National Committee wasted no time jumping on this endorsement.

Let's listen to this and we'll talk about it.



DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: You're fired. You're fired.

ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people that provide services to me.


SAMBOLIN: Good, bad or indifferent, Alice?

STEWART: I think it's going to come out indifferent. I think the latest polls that have come out will say that roughly 8 percent of people will probably be influenced by a Trump endorsement and will vote for whoever he endorses, and actually 26 percent say that they would be less likely to vote.

But no one wants to be on the receiving end of the wrath of Donald Trump and everyone would welcome his endorsement.

So I think this was a good day for Donald Trump yesterday. Clearly as you see him walk out there, his name is all over the room. His name is on the podium. He was the one that talked to the press afterwards. So, it's a good day for Donald Trump.

I think it was good for Governor Romney to get the endorsement, but in the end, what's going to help Governor Romney is his plans for turning the economy around. Right now with Nevada, we just heard about Kiki referred to Obama's accomplishments. Well, Nevada right now is leading the nation, unemployment and housing foreclosures, and those people are standing behind Governor Romney who's 45 percent ahead in the poll --

SAMBOLIN: All right.

STEWART: -- over Gingrich and they're standing right behind him.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Kiki McLean, Alice Stewart -- thanks for joining us this morning. We'll see you again a little bit later.

And join "The Best Political Team on Television" tomorrow night. Live coverage of the Nevada caucuses start at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, with a special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM". Then complete coverage at 7:00.

BANFIELD: And it is now 24 minutes past 5:00 on the east. We're getting an early read on local news making national headlines.

We want to start with this one. The old "New York Times." We also have papers from Los Angeles, too.

So, let's start here, shall we? This is a strange one, folks. U.S. Army is investigating these two sports supplements, Jack3d and OxyElite Pro.

Here's the thing two soldiers died from heart attacks while exercising and they were using these two supplements. And apparently, you know, they're now looking into this as possibly the reason. But, of course, everybody who is behind these supplements saying they had nothing to do with it. They're regulated. They're safe.

But these are --

SAMBOLIN: But these are sold at GNC Stores. Everybody buys them.

BANFIELD: But guess where you can't buy them?


BANFIELD: You can't buy them on a military base anymore.


SAMBOLIN: But this kind of concerns me, right, because they're out there for the general public.

BANFIELD: It's called DMAA if you take this at home. If you want the long version, I practice this, folks, dimethylamylamine, is the way I got it.

But DMAA should be something that you look for. And note that the DOD is actually taking action at this point because they are little bit worried about it. They just don't want them on the bases while they investigate whether this is an issue.

SAMBLIN: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: For now they're still for sale.

SAMBOLIN: So, be careful. Be careful.

BANFIELD: Other countries, no way. They don't have the same regulations and they don't allow it the way we do.


All right. Let's move on to the "Los Angeles Times." I have a little copy here for you. Although it's not on the front page, I got to tell you -- this is a crazy story.

Take a look these pictures. Human smugglers cash this on racial profiling. A group is sneaking Hispanic immigrants into Los Angeles.

Here's what they did that's different. They hired black drivers who don't speak English because they thought perhaps those folks would not get stopped, so they believe they could attract less attention from the immigrating agents. Five people have been arrested and the group smuggled several dozen people a month.

And they actually say, yes, that those hidden compartments -- if you saw the picture there -- can we put it back up? It was in the front of the car. They were elaborately modified including compartments under the hood or under the backseats. And this --

BANFIELD: In the engine block?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I was so worried. Look at this. So, you think, oh, my gosh, they are going to burn.

But, no -- it's actually very elaborately modified and they have special shock absorbers to actually conceal the heavy load, as well and they hired homeless men to be the drivers, paying them about $100 and the folks that are trying to get into this country paid $4,000 to get in. Just a really bizarre story.

BANFIELD: Safety issues alone with regard to that is just nauseating.

All right. It is 26 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast. Just ahead on EARLY START: the Susan G. Komen Foundation has pulled its money from Planned Parenthood, the money that it gave for breast cancer screening. So, was this a sound policy or was this ugly politics?

We're getting into it with a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, coming up in a moment.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. So happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: Hi, everybody. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. 5:30 on the east. Let's get you caught up on the top stories making headlines this morning.


BANFIELD (voice-over): Breaking news overnight while you were sleeping, Iran's supreme leader warned of an attack on Iran's nuclear program saying it will harm the United States. He took to the podium during Friday prayers, all of this as Leon Panetta, our defense secretary, says Israel could strike Iran's nuclear installations as early as this coming spring. So, it's ramping up.

Also, jobs report. Have you been waiting for it? Wait a little longer. About three hours from now, 8:30 eastern this morning, analysts surveyed by CNNMoney are predicting that the economy added 130,000 jobs last month. Sharp slowdown in hiring when compared to December.

Also in the news, Mitt Romney now saying, OK, I misspoke. Says so when he told our Soledad O'Brien that he's not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net. He's now saying he does want to help people get out of poverty and that he does care about all Americans.

SAMBOLIN: House Democrats will take on the keystone pipeline in the Congressional hearing this morning. They've lined up several witnesses in hopes of undercutting GOP claims about economic benefits of the pipeline.

And blizzard conditions forcing Denver International Airport to cancel close to 300 flights overnight and into this morning. The area could see, listen to this, up to 20 inches of snow.

BANFIELD: That 's great for the skiers.

SAMBOLIN: And the world's largest breast cancer charity, the Susan G. Komen Foundation denying political pressure led to its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings.

BANFIELD: And that foundation is saying that the organization is not going to financially support any group that's under investigation by Congress. That's what they say it's all about that it's not political. And you'll know now that Congress is investigating whether Planned Parenthood used federal money to fund abortions.

Planned Parenthood does a whole lot of things, abortions may be one of them. The critics are saying that Komen, however, is playing politics with women's lives, but the founder of the biggest name in breast cancer sees it differently.

NANCY BRINKER, FOUNDER, SUSAN G. KOMEN, FOR THE CURE: We will never bow to political pressure. We will always stand firm in our goal to end breast cancer forever. We will never turn our backs on the women who need us the most.


BANFIELD (on-camera): Yes. And Nancy Brinker is the sister of Susan G. Komen who died of breast cancer. I want to bring you now to Laura Sessions Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and the consultant to the national campaign to prevent teen and unplanned pregnancy.

All right. Laura, I was so blown away by this story. And I don't know why the Susan G. Komen Foundation wasn't as blown away or did they know it was coming and not anticipate this much blowback?

LAURA SESSIONS STEPP, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: Obviously, they didn't anticipate the blowback. They had no idea of the kind of support that's out there in the country for breast screening, particularly, for poor and underserved areas. This is not a story about middle class women not being able to get breast cancer screenings. It's really a story about those women who need it most.

BANFIELD: All right. Well, help me out with the timing here because while everybody is screaming this is politics, that Nancy Brinker is a real, you know, pal of President Bush, and this was just an opportunity for her to get out of the partnership with Planned Parenthood, I went back to find out how long the Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen relationship has been.

It's only been five years. So, why on earth, if everyone thinks this is so , why on earth would Nancy Brinker's organization have gotten involved with Planned Parenthood if she's political and doesn't like it?

STEPP: That's a good question, and we don't really know that. I want to say that we know that Komen does terrific work. We also know that the political pressure is there. The Congressional inquiry you referred to, this really one Republican congressman's campaign. It is not a huge investigation by many members of Congress, it's one man.

BANFIELD: OK, good point. Since you brought it up, I'd like to actually let our audience hear from that man. It's Republican congressman Cliff Stearns from Florida. This is what he had to say with regard to launching the investigation into where the federal money is being spent within Planned Parenthood. Have a listen.


REP. CLIFF STEARNS, (R) FLORIDA: Well, I think any time you investigate, if you can get the truth out, I think the American taxpayers will benefit. So, this all we're doing is just trying to see what is Planned Parenthood doing with a half of billion dollars every year.


BANFIELD: So, Laura, on the heels of that comment, a lot of critics are saying that, look, if it's as easy as just launching any investigation, well, the minute someone doesn't like an organization, they can just launch an investigation and what Brinker and her organization are doing is going to set a really awful precedent for a lot of charities losing money.

STEPP: Well, the real issue here, another issue is do we just defund organizations that may do one thing we don't like, you know? This is a country that lives by compromise. And we have a number of very good organizations in this country including Komen, including Planned Parenthood that have people of different beliefs and different ideologies on their boards.

They still manage to work together. And what I hope doesn't happen with this is that it divides us and says, OK, because we don't like one thing you do, we're taking our money and running away.

BANFIELD: Ironically, Mayor Bloomberg has stepped in and promised $250,000 in matching funds. There's been 400,000 plus money in donations that have come in in the last 24 hours since the story broke. So, they're actually -- they made up the deficit, but I got to ask you this.

As top officials at Susan G. Komen jump ship in protest over this, isn't this just an exercise of everybody's free speech, Nancy Brinker and those officials who want to protest her right to do what she did and her organization did?

STEPP: Yes, I think it starred a debate, which is good. I mean, debates are always good as long as it's fair. And, so, I think we need to listen to both sides, but I also think we need to remember what an amazing job we've done in reducing breast cancer in this country partly -- much because of the organization of Planned Parenthood going out and going beyond the major metropolitan centers and serving the women who, otherwise, would be have much more breast cancer.

BANFIELD: All right. Laura Sessions Stepp, it's good of you to join us this morning and give us some clarity of the issue.

STEPP: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: It is 5:36. Still ahead, Mitt misspoke and he's doing some serious damage control this morning. Have you heard what he said? In case you haven't, we've got it for you. Is it over though? Is it over now?

BANFIELD: And billionaire accused in a deadly drunk driving crash makes his girlfriend his daughter. What on earth is that about? Let me give you a hint, hundreds of millions of dollars. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Hi, folks. It is 40 minutes past the hour, and that would be the 5:00 a.m. hour on the east coast. Nice and early for your top stories this morning.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Iran's supreme leader is warning any attack on Iran's nuclear program will result in harm to the United States. That after defense secretary, Leon Panetta, said there is a growing likelihood Israel could strike Iran's nuclear installations as early as this spring.

Later this morning, President Obama will announce a $5 billion jobs initiative. It is designed to put thousands of unemployed veterans back to work.

And House Republicans threatening attorney general, Eric Holder, with contempt of Congress for allegedly refusing to turn over key documents in the "Fast & Furious" gun tracking probe.

BANFIELD (voice-over) The Newt Gingrich campaign is asking the RNC in Florida to award all of that state's delegates to a proportional-based way of awarding. Does that make sense? It's a winner take all state, but Newt wants it back to proportional, so he might be able to get some of those votes.

Also, federal safety officials are linking Taco Bell to last October's salmonella outbreak. It sickened at least 68 people across Penn state.

And effective immediately, are you ready, Spirit Airlines is adding a new $2, quote, "unintended consequences fee on most of its tickets." Before you get all mad, it's actually not so bad. It allows passengers the option to change their minds within 24 hours of booking a trip without having to pay a penalty.

SAMBOLIN: Or maybe, if you make a little mistake and try to explain it, oops, I made a mistake when I book that.


BANFIELD (on-camera): I actually wouldn't mind paying the $2 to know I have that freedom. I don't know about other people, but $2 to me sounds like a great insurance.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Oh, my gosh! Yes. Better than the full ticket price.

BANFIELD: That's what I'm saying.

SAMBOLIN: All right. 5:41 on the east.

Here still to come, Attorney General Eric Holder in the hot seat. House Republicans say he is obstructing their investigation into the botched "Fast & Furious" gun tracking operation.

BANFIELD: And it's Madonna versus the media. This is the real super Bowl.

SAMBOLIN: Look at her.

BANFIELD: Anyway, man, she looks like she could play football.

(LAUGHTER) BANFIELD: Yes. She's the star of the Super Bowl halftime show, and she wanted to make one thing real, real clear, folks. We'll clear it up for you. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning, baltimore. It is 39 chilly degrees there. But it's going to be nice and sunny, 54. A little bit later. kind Of perfect weather for you there.

BANFIELD: And really, Baltimore, come on. We're expecting those temperatures around this time of year, right?

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-four may actually be a little warm, right?

BANFIELD: Yes, but the 39 part, I'll take it.

SAMBOLIN: Piece of cake.

All right. Billionaire Florida tycoon -- we talked about this yesterday -- he's just made his 42-year-old girlfriend his daughter.


BANFIELD (voice-over): Yes.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): This story is really trending online. John Goodman adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Hutchins, in October.

BANFIELD: OK. It's weird. It's not the John Goodman you're thinking. It's the one on the screen here. Here's why --

SAMBOLIN: Cute couple.

BANFIELD: Yes, they are, indeed. But they're not being particularly liked now, it seems. They're being sued by the parents of a man who died when he allegedly ran a stop sign back in 2010 and allegedly was drunk when he did so driving a $200,000 car, I might add, as well.


BANFIELD (on-camera): So, a lot of it doesn't bode well for him just in the court of public opinion. Some people are saying this is just a really slick legal ploy to protect a lot of his riches from a civil suit and some people are saying, no, it's not a ploy, it's all legal. Joining us via Skype is our CNN legal eagle contributor, Paul Callan. That's the question of the top. It is legal what he did, right?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's perfectly legal what he did. As a matter of fact, surprisingly, people adopt adults all of the time --

BANFIELD: They do? CALLAN: -- under U.S. laws in various states for very different reasons than the reason that we're seeing here.

BANFIELD: Like what, Paul?

CALLAN: Pardon me.

BANFIELD: Like what? Like what kind of a reason would an adult adopt another adult?

CALLAN: Here's one that I find to be very interesting. Because gay Americans have been denied inheritance rights under laws in many, many states, a work-around that was used by very, very clever lawyers was to allow one person in a gay relationship to adopt his spouse, and that would give them inheritance rights where, you know, states don't allow marriage.

BANFIELD: OK. Well, if that's legal and that's legitimate and that has been working in the past, why am I hearing that the judge, in this case, might say I may just reverse this adoption because I think it's fraudulent. How is it any different, technically speaking, how is it any different than a gay American adopting his or her gay American lover to have the inheritance rights?

CALLAN: Well, this thing is not what it looks like on the surface. I just want to begin by saying that. When I first start looking at that, I said, hey, this is the rich guy trying to prevent the poor victims of this accident, the guy who died in this drunken driving car accident that he's being prosecuted for from getting any money. So, he's giving some of it to the girlfriend illegally.

That's not really what's going on here, because that money is part of a trust for his children, and it wouldn't have been available to the lawsuit involving the car accident, anyway. What's really going on here is he's giving his girlfriend a third of the assets of this $100 million trust because he wants her to manage the trust and deal with the money while he's in prison if he gets convicted.

So, it's kind of a way for him to exert continuing control over this big trust even if he gets convicted in the criminal case. It really doesn't have anything to do, I think, with the criminal case and will a judge set it aside? He might. He might say, you know, this is a fraud. This is really taking the money away from this guy's natural kids and giving it to the 42-year-old girlfriend.

BANFIELD: To that point, let's get his lawyer's comment on the screen here. John Goodman's lawyer said this, "The adoption of Ms. Hutchins will have no effect on the civil proceedings as none of the assets in his children's trust belong to Mr. Goodman. All of the assets of the trust have been disclosed to all parties in the current civil proceedings. So, any allegation of hiding or secreting of assets is totally false," which is exactly what you just said.

So, I guess, the question is this, is this just an ugly thing that he's doing so that if he goes to jail and some people say he very well may, when he gets out, he may have some money left because it's likely that the civil case is going to take everything outside the trust?

CALLAN: Well, no, that's not the case either, because this guy is so rich he makes Mitt Romney look like a pauper. He's a billionaire. He's got planes, mansions, all kinds of things going on. There's only a piddling $100 million in this trust. So, there's plenty of money to compensate the victims of this horrible, horrible accident.

You know, this man, Mr. Wilson's parents who are suing. So, I think there'll be money available to compensate them in the end, but I smell a rat here, and I think a judge is going to smell a rat here also because his natural children who this really belongs to, they're the ones who are being hurt. The girlfriend, 42-year-old girlfriend, winds up with a third of the 100 million. At least in theory, if it's upheld by a judge and they lose a lot of their trust.

BANFIELD: Interesting point, Paul, because, you know, she is already automatically going to get the money because she's over 35 and those kids would have to grow up and into it. So, that's why I said he might able to access that money to his girlfriend right away once he gets out of jail.

But no matter what, Paul, a jury will hear all of it, and they might not like that, and that might not bode well for him in criminal or civil. So, Paul Callan, as always, love to hear from you and thank you. Appreciate it.

CALLAN: Nice being with you as always. Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: That just goes to show you that everything isn't always what it seems, because yesterday we thought it was totally different story.

BANFIELD: Dirty birdie. And it's not -- I mean, look, there are other ways to look at this, but it's dirty, and there are other ways to look at it like he may feel like he's going to get completely cleaned up and want to have something to live on, something for the children --

SAMBOLIN: I was worried that he didn't want to pay the people that he needed to pay in that wrongful death lawsuit. Exactly.

BANFIELD: That doesn't come in.

SAMBOLIN: It's bit (ph) a good news there.

5:50 in the east. Still ahead, the stage is set for a super- duper weekend, Brady Manning, Madonna, and those Super Bowl commercials. Can it get any better than this? We have a live report from Indy headed your way next. You are watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Oh, I thought lots of dancing. I didn't want to get back to dancing. I was going to talk about the Indianapolis (INAUDIBLE). SAMBOLIN: That's OK. Keep on dancing. It's OK.

BANFIELD: Thirty-seven degrees in Indianapolis, but it is hot where Madonna is at right now because she is getting geared up for her big performance, of course. So excited. Look at her. Look at those tights (ph).


BANFIELD: Unbelievable.

SAMBOLIN: It's an amazing body, right?


SAMBOLIN: Amazing talent. So, welcome back to EARLY START.

This chickadee, she's making a lot of noise, right? "The Material Girl" held court with the media yesterday says she is excited and nervous about playing the halftime show. She suffered a hamstring injury during a rehearsal, but she has her game face on.


MADONNA, ENTERTAINER: I'm OK. Lots of warm-ups and taping and ultrasound and, you know, I feel like I'm one of the football players right now, all the physical therapy I have to do, but I'm good. Mind over matter.


BANFIELD: And she looks like one of the football players right now, too. She is so incredible. A couple of hours working out a day will do it. The show is going to include three of her old songs, which I love, one of her new songs, which I haven't heard, and Madonna made one really big promise. Have a listen.


MADONNA: Great attention to detail has been paid to my wardrobe. There will be no wardrobe malfunctions. Promise.


BANFIELD: I don't believe her.

SAMBOLIN: But some people were looking forward to that, right?

BANFIELD: I just don't believe here. I just want to see if she comes out with the cones, going back to the 1980s.


BANFIELD: All righ. So, the waiting is almost over. Super Bowl XLVI a little more than 60 hours away by my Math and the New York Giants and England Patriots ready for kick off on Sunday in Indianapolis.

SAMBOLIN: So, Mark McKay is live in Indianapolis for us. This is like a rematch where everybody saying, this is a big rematch of two teams, but this is a very different team from 2008, right?

MARK MCKAY, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, very much so. We have been following, guys, great story lines here in Indianapolis. None of the controversial variety, you know, these teams are -- they have to real controversial characters. They have some inspiring folks, though, including New York Giants rookie linebacker, Mark Herzlich.

You know, three years ago after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, the goal to play football drove this young man. Chemo and surgery saved his leg and maybe even his life, and here he is in Indianapolis preparing to suit up for the Super Bowl on Sunday.


MARK HERZLICH, NEW YORK GIANTS: I was told that I could never play again, you know, probably would never even be able to run again. And, you know, you don't think Super Bowl at that point. You just think survival. I want to see someone say, wow, that's a big hit. That guy crushed that guy. Oh, he's the one that had cancer, right? There are such things as dreams coming true and miracles, and I believe this is one of them.


MCKAY: He may not want to be a feel-good story guy here at the Super Bowl, but Herzlich, certainly, is the combat to cancer survivors across the nation. He's one of the great tales we've been telling all week long here in Indy.

SAMBOLIN: Boy, I really love that you could have focused on anything that you chose at. That's a fantastic story. I got to tell you, a lot of people watch the Super Bowl also for the commercials. So, let's take a look at one from Volkswagen already getting a lot of buzz, and then, we'll talk about it.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better than ever.


SAMBOLIN: OK. That's an edited preview. That's a lot longer. It's a fantastic commercial. I was reading online that, in the past, the Super Bowl ads were big surprises, but this year, it's kind of different because everybody is seeing them on YouTube before they actually air.

BANFIELD: And it's even dragging them.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Do we have any more -- do we have any surprises this year?

MCKAY: Well, one thing that hasn't changed, guys, is the fact that they cost a lot of money. $3.5 million for 30 seconds just on the national broadcast here in the United States. And those numbers are going to increase as the year go on.

SAMBOLIN: Well, Mark McKay, we really appreciate having you there. Enjoy the game, so that you can tell us all about it afterwards.


BANFIELD: That's a great assignment. I never had one of those assignments.

SAMBOLIN: Me, either (ph). And it's domed this year, so you don't have to stand outside. It's fantastic.

BANFIELD: No, it's great.

Coming up, we've got some breaking news out of Iran overnight. As you were sleeping, the supreme leader of Iran warned the U.S. that better be careful what you do if you back Israel and, by the way, those sanctions on oil, we're not liking that either. You'll find out what his words really were when EARLY START continues.