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Iran Warns Over Military Threats; Official: Panetta Believes Israel Could Attack Iran; Big January Jobs Report; Unemployment Rate Expected To Remain Unchanged, Romney with Big Lead on Nevada-Eve; Women "Go Red" to Save Children; Iran Warns Over Military Threats; The Underdog at the Oscars; Komen Pulls Planned Parenthood Funding; Homeless Artist To Make $200 Million On Facebook

Aired February 3, 2012 - 06:00   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It is one minute past 6:00 on the east coast. A quick disclaimer, we did not accidentally dress the same.

We are dressed in red today for the reason it is go red for women day because if you don't know it, heart disease is the number one killer of women. This is supposed to be a reminder to all of us to pay close attention.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, thanks for joining us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're bringing you the news from A to Z. It's 6 a.m. in the east so let's get started here.

We have breaking news out of Iran overnight. The supreme leader with the warning for the United States as he leads Friday prayers. It's coming after defense secretary warns Israel could strike by this spring.

BANFIELD: Also big anticipation on Wall Street as they wait for the high stakes January jobs report. Is it going to do a big old break slamming on our economic recovery?

SAMBOLIN: And it bears repeating, don't you think? Go red for women day. It's about saving babies' lives today as well. A group of moms is bringing attention to the hidden killer, congenital heart disease. Elizabeth Cohen is going to tell us why it is becoming quicker and easier to detect.

BANFIELD: And Mitt Romney certainly is holding the Trump card. Pardon the pun, but when in Vegas, you speak Vegas. He's also in Vegas back pedalling now on some of the comments that he made about the very poor. And admitting, come on, I misspoke. We all do it.

Up first, though, breaking news. Overnight, here's what happened. Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has delivered a warning to us, saying that if Tehran feels it needs to respond to any military attack on its soil or even sanctions against its oil exports.

Khamenei is saying that country, Iran plans to back any nation, any group, quote, "confronting or fighting Israel." Striking Iran, he says, over its nuclear program will only harm, our country, the United States.

SAMBOLIN: And this comes amidst speculation that Israel is preparing to strike Iran. An official tells CNN Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is concluding that there is a growing likelihood that attack could happen and it could happen by this spring, he says.

There's also chatter growing louder and more urgent in Jerusalem as well. There's a new warning from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Here's a quote, "Iran must be prevented from becoming nuclear and no option should be taken off the table."

BANFIELD: The two reports for you live this morning. Our Barbara Starr is hard at work at the Pentagon and also Reza Sayah is live in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Let me start with you Reza Sayah because, you know what? It's not the first time that we have heard the supreme leader in Iran sabre rattle. So what's different this time?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what's important right now, the best way to serve our viewers is to separate rhetoric and speculation from facts and verified information.

There's a lot of wild speculation going on, a lot of statements that are scary, but equally vague and murky that are making a lot of headlines. Obviously, the statement made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and it bears looking at this statement very closely.

He said the likelihood of an attack by Israel on Iran is probably growing and if you look at the statement closely, it brilliantly vague. Who knows what the likelihood was and is? Only the Israeli government knows.

And therefore, what does it mean when the defense secretary said the likelihood is probably growing? One thing our viewers need to remember is there's been rhetoric going on for decades between these three countries, the U.S., Israel, and Iran.

There's being a lot of back and forth, finger pointing, but neither country has attacked one another. But the fact is, Israel is concerned about Iran's nuclear program, but evidence shows that they have yet to decide what to do actually.

BANFIELD: All right, Reza Sayah for us in Islamabad. Thanks very much for that.

SAMBOLIN: So the burning question this morning, what happens if Israel does attack Iran? Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security adviser to President Bush telling Anderson Cooper, she has little doubt that the U.S. would face retaliation.


FRAN TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: We've seen them use proxies around the world in Buenos Aires against Israeli targets and Jewish targets. This is what they do. It's a very militarily capable organization, Hezbollah, they're financially supported and armed by Iran, so it's a capability they have for just this sort of a circumstance.


SAMBOLIN: So Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon for us. And, Barbara, "The Washington Post" writing this morning the administration, the United States administration, appears to favor staying out of the conflict unless Iran hits U.S. assets, which would trigger a strong U.S. response. But why are we getting the threats this morning when we clearly stated we're staying out of it?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the question perhaps on the table is what Reza was addressing. What is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's motivation for saying what he said for letting this information become public?

Because that is the question, what would Iran's response be? A lot of people even around here at the Pentagon very concerned, not really understanding what Panetta was up to. Was he trying to pressure the Iranians further on their nuclear program by suggesting Israel might attack?

Or, in fact, was he potentially putting Israel in a very dangerous position if, in fact, the Iranians believe an attack is coming as their leaders are saying they will respond. So it's a murky situation right now. A lot of rhetoric ramping up and very few facts about what the intentions really are on the part of all parties.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, in two different things being said here. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for us. Thank you very much.

BANFIELD: It is jobs day. Maybe not for some of you, but that's what it's all about. The January jobs report comes out at 8:30 this morning.

Our Christine Romans is here to breakdown what we're expecting in this report, what it means because sometimes these reports sound a little confusing to people who are not economically smart.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You guys thought super bowl was a big thing coming up. For me it's the Super Bowl of economic indicators.

BANFIELD: You are such a nerd.

ROMANS: It's a jobs report, I can't help it. It's the first Friday of every month. We find out how many jobs the American economy created, we'll know now, for January.

And as you know, for 2011, for the first time in several years, every month we created jobs in this country. It looked like in the summer there in the middle of that chart you could see we were worried about a double dip recession.

Jobs were barely being created. Now it looks like the end of that red bar there, that's the forecast of 130,000 jobs created and maybe an 8.5 percent unemployment rate. You can see that's -- by that chart you can see it's difficult to really sustain anything 200,000 or more for jobs creation.

We've had a very hard time in this economy doing that. One of those reasons is because a lot of big companies are sitting on their cash. They still are not really hiring enthusiastically. And what you're seeing the hiring it is in small and mid-size firms.

I want to take a look at the longer term, you guys, because that's what's so political, right? You hear about how this is the Obama jobs market. And you hear from the Obama administration how they inherited a jobs recession.

You can see there, very far left of that chart, that's when President Bush was in office. We started losing a lot of jobs. The month that President Obama took office we lost more than 700,000 jobs. And it went on for months where we lost a lot of jobs.

And then there was that burst of activity from the census and from stimulus and then since then it's been very difficult to really sustain robust momentum in the jobs market. I will tell you. You need 150,000 jobs every month just to keep up with people entering the workforce.

That's people graduating from college, that's people coming to this country, that's people suddenly becoming old enough to work. You need 100,000 to 150,000 jobs just to absorb those people. We still have millions of jobs in the whole. We're going in the right direction.

BANFIELD: And you said 300,000 jobs a month if we want to replace all the jobs lost in the recession by 2017, which I'm just going to wrap on that because I don't want to hear anything more about such a depressing statistic.

ROMANS: Going in the right direction, just more work to do.

BANFIELD: You are my favorite nerd.

ROMANS: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you. All right, every morning we give you an early start of your day by alerting the news that are happening later. Stories that are just developing now, but they will be the big story tonight.

Thousands of Iraq war vets getting used to being home again. President Obama is expected to announce a new push to put them back to work. That's expected to happen today. A $5 billion plan that was first announced during the "State of the Union" last week, if you remember.

BANFIELD: And it's the final full day of campaigning in Nevada before tomorrow night's caucuses. Mitt Romney going into the state with a massive lead, double digits. All of this with the backing endorsement of Donald Trump. Mitt also won that state, by the way, if you remember, back in 2008.

SAMBOLIN: The New York City Police commissioner taking a lot of heat for showing a documentary to officers called "The Third Jihad." The Council on American-Islamic Relations is holding a rally outside police headquarters today calling for Ray Kelly to quit.

The film talks about the dangers of Islamic extremism. Critics claim the film depicts the followers of Islam and the religion itself in a bad light.

BANFIELD: Still ahead on EARLY START, we just said it. Romney gets the Trump card, the endorsement. But here's what's coming up, does it matter? Is he better off or worse off without it? You might be surprised.

SAMBOLIN: And today is Go Red for Women Day, raising awareness for heart disease. Some women are wearing red not for themselves, but for their babies, fighting for heart disease screening that could potentially save lives of hundreds of children. We're going to tell you about this. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning, Seattle. It is 37 degrees now, a little sunny later, 53 degrees. It seems like it's sunny everywhere.

BANFIELD: Not at this hour. That's for sure.

SAMBOLIN: If that's true, it will be sunny everywhere eventually, right?

BANFIELD: It's 14 minutes past 6:00 on the east coast. Time to get you caught up on top stories this morning. Let's start with this while you were sleeping.

A warning overnight from Iran's supreme leader that any attack on his nation's nuclear program will bring harm to us in America. That after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that Israel could strike Iran's nuclear installations as early as this spring.

Wall Street will be watching as the critical January jobs report comes out at 8:30 this morning. A lot of analysts are predicting that the economy had 180,000 jobs last month and while that sounds like a lot of job it's actually a slowdown in hiring compared to December.

And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is going to donate $250,000 in matching funds to Planned Parenthood. All of this after learning that the Susan G. Komen Foundation was going to cut about, well, a lot more money than that to (INAUDIBLE) funding to that organization and that organization in part screens for breast cancer.

SAMBOLIN: And prospects for clean energy from wind turbines now a step closer to reality, after the government declares areas off the Mid-Atlantic Seaboard is safe for energy companies to build all of those wind farms.

And the Kodak Theatre being renamed after the company went bankrupt and the iconic theater in Hollywood and Highland may lose the Academy Awards Ceremony to another venue as well.

Last year, they had mini Darth Vader. This year, Volkswagen is doing it again with a dog named Bolt getting in to some serious fighting shape. It's already been seen on YouTube over a million times. I watched it this morning. Hysterical.

BANFIELD: It is adorable. Look at this. Exercising to get the extra excess weight so he can get out the dog door.

SAMBOLIN: And Bolt. I love that.

BANFIELD: That his name is Bolt.

SAMBOLIN: It's a lot of fun. Yes.

BANFIELD: My kids love that movie "Bolt" about a dog as well.

All right, Mitt Romney is heading into tomorrow night's - tomorrow's caucuses in Nevada with a commanding lead, double digits, folks. Take a look at the latest statistics.

The Las Vegas - or the - spit it out, Ashleigh. The Las Vegas Review Journal -

SAMBOLIN: It's early, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Not for me, though. This is the latest poll. The numbers show Mitt Romney at 45 percent and Gingrich trailing at 25 percent. There's Santorum and Paul, 11 and 9 apiece.

And a lot of people are saying, do you know something, you look back at 2008, you might remember that there are a lot of Mormons in that town, in that state, and they voted for him in big numbers. Not only that, he won that state with 51 percent of the vote.

But there's still that nagging little problem of the comments he made to Soledad O'Brien about not being that concerned about the very poor. He made them on CNN. He's back pedaling on it now. I want to bring in our panel to talk about this.

Alice Stewart is the former Communications Director for the Bachmann Campaign for President and Kiki McLean is a Democratic Strategist also joining us live this morning. All right, girls, here's the deal. I work in live television and I talk a lot, certainly according to the "New York Post," I talk too much. And I make tons of mistakes. I make mistakes constantly. I botched the intro to this. I couldn't even get the newspaper out that had the - that had the - and here I botch it again. (INAUDIBLE).

And the reason I am so hyperbolic about this at this point is because I feel like poor Mitt Romney, a guy I like, is really taking it on the chin for a mere mistake. Here is what he had to say, finally admitting in a sit-down interview with KSNV that he just misspoke already. Have a listen.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a misstatement. I misspoke. I've 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. That simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you say? What did you say?

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


BANFIELD: Amen, Governor. You had me at hello.

Kiki, here's a question for you. Are the Democrats still going to exploit this guy for this? Are you going to capitalize on this? I don't know -


BANFIELD: -- but a lot of people getting sick of it. But what's going to happen?

MCLEAN: Yes. Well, here's the deal. They are because these are repeated mistakes and missteps. And with all due respect I would certainly be willing to consider giving you the code to the nuclear (INAUDIBLE), but we are planning to have somebody be president who has major decisions to make and mistakes like that just don't go away -

BANFIELD: It's a slip of the tongue, not a slip of the finger on the football. I mean, that's a little - that's not fair.

MCLEAN: But my point is that that's what people expect from the president, that words matter. And when you make repeated mistakes over and over like anybody is human and these guys are tired.

BANFIELD: George Bush made tons of mistakes. Come on. He didn't push - he didn't pull the trigger.

MCLEAN: And he got - he got called on - he got called on it for making those kinds of mistakes. And the problem is there are a number of them. And so in politics it's just a tough game.

Now, what I would say for him is that these are tough days. He's tired. He's going in Nevada, I don't know, I'd rather see what President Obama has to say about getting veterans getting back to work versus the Trump endorsement, so he's got another challenges -

BANFIELD: OK. Well, I can talk about the Trump endorsement. Hold on a second. I'm coming right to you, but I want to set you up for this. It was not as splashy as I expected, Alice. I thought I would see a gilded lily out there in Vegas. But instead it was - it was quick. It wasn't dirty but it was quick.

And it brought me to an interview I did with Donald Trump on his plane as he was considering getting into the race last March. I did rapid fire with him and I said I'm going to name the candidate, you give me the line on him and here's what he said about Romney and Gingrich.


BANFIELD: Mitt Romney.

DONALD TRUMP, AMERICAN BUSINESS MAGNATE: Well, he doesn't seem to resonate.

BANFIELD: Newt Gingrich.

TRUMP: You know I like Gingrich, he just joined my club in Washington. I'm very happy.


BANFIELD: Oh, well that didn't sound like what the plan was yesterday.

I'm going to go further, Alice. On Wolf Blitzer yesterday when he was talking about this, here's what Trump had to say.


TRUMP: That was a long time prior to my getting to know him, but I have gotten to know him and he's a terrific guy. I don't know if he comes out really like he really is in person. I mean, he's a warm, smart, tough cookie, and that's what this country needs.


BANFIELD: All right. Alice, is this just all about people in politics eat crow all the time? Is this part of the game?

ALICE STEWART, FMR. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MICHELE BACHMANN FOR PRESIDENT: (INAUDIBLE) that he's done his homework. He's talked to all the candidates. I've been fortunate to go up to Trump Tower with Michele Bachmann and had a chance to - he sat down with Michele.

He's done his homework. He's talked to the candidates. He's listened to where they stood on the issues, and he knows that Mitt Romney is someone that has ideas that can help turn the economy around.

Both are businessmen. They know how to create jobs. And he's also been very outspoken on China and OPEC, and believes that Mitt Romney has the best ways to deal with that. And that's the good thing about this endorsement, is he's done his homework.

Now, in terms of how it will affect things in Nevada, who knows? And in terms of the - the misspeaking that Governor Romney did, you made a great point, Ashleigh, in your introduction. Just like you, you are human, I know Romney is human.

BANFIELD: I screw up - I screw up all the time.

STEWART: And everyone makes mistakes, and when you're doing round-robins of morning media shows -

BANFIELD: Constantly.

STEWART: -- you say a lot, and a lot of things get taken out of context, or you misspeak.

The only thing they may have done a little differently - this is a teachable moment for the Romney campaign - right off the bat say I misspoke, move on, let's talk about something else.

BANFIELD: You know, and he owned up to it. I like the guy. He owns up -


BANFIELD: By the way, everybody, just so we know, the whole Trump thing, there was a survey that said it actually makes people 20 percent less likely to support the candidate, and 64 percent said it doesn't make a difference. I'm always fascinated by, you know, the endorsement thing.

But guys, thanks very much. Appreciate your input there.

Join "The Best Political Team on TV" tomorrow night, because our live coverage of the Nevada caucuses starts at 6:00 P.M. Eastern, with a special edition of "SITUATION ROOM." And then, complete coverage at 7:00.

And we are back right after this quick break.


BANFIELD: Welcome back, everyone. Twenty-four minutes past 6:00.

If you noticed, we're wearing red, because today is Go Red for Women Day, raising awareness for heart disease. And I think at the beginning of last hour I said cancer. I misspoke. Go figure. I misspoke. SAMBOLIN: That's OK. I mean, cancer - breast cancer's a very serious problem for women as well, so -


BANFIELD: Yes. Some of the same women who have turned their efforts towards their own children, especially their babies, are also in the red fight as well for this increased awareness of the problem.

SAMBOLIN: They're fighting to institute a simple screening that could help save the lives of babies in the future.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us live from Atlanta. Elizabeth, can you explain exactly what it is that these women are fighting for?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, these women are fighting for a very simple, very inexpensive test that they want given to every newborn in this country, because coronary heart disease or coronary heart defects, I should say, are the most common birth defects in this country, and we don't screen for it in the way that we screen for other things.

And I'm going to introduce you to three children that sort of explain why screening is so important, because they weren't screened and terrible things happened.

I know this is a hard picture to look at.


COHEN: This is Mason Johnson (ph), and he looked fine when he was in the hospital and was discharged. And then, when he was three weeks old, he stopped breathing and they found that he had been born with only half a heart.

He needed two open heart surgeries, and he is alive today, but his treatment would have been a whole lot easier if they had caught it at the newborn stage rather than later on in life.

And then, the second baby I want to introduce you to is a little guy named Harrison Shauger (ph). And Harrison, when he was - again, fine in the hospital. Discharged, no problem. Three to four - when he was about four days old, they couldn't wake him up. His parents couldn't wake him up.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh.

COHEN: He was also diagnosed with a serious heart defect, and he's also, thank goodness, still alive.

And then, this last little girl just brings tears to your eyes. Her name is Cora McCormack (ph), and she also seemingly healthy, and then when she was a few days old she died when her mother was feeding her.

And she also, when the - in the autopsy showed that she had a congenital heart defect. And -

SAMBOLIN: I hate to interrupt you, Elizabeth, but they're saying that there is a downside of screening, that it can lead to a false positive result that are costly and stressful for the family.

Now, I was telling you right before we went on that this happened to me, and - and it was my experience when my daughter was born and we went through all sorts of screening. She was in the hospital for weeks. And, you know, you have the stress of being - you know, having your little baby and, you know, worry that your baby is going to die, and she ended up being fine. It ended up being this incredibly odd abnormality.

So a lot of folks are saying, you know, that is a downside. It's costly if you end up finding a false positive, for example.

COHEN: Right. So let's talk about the up and the downside.

So the upside is that the three children you just met would have been diagnosed earlier, and perhaps Cora's life could have been saved and the other children wouldn't have needed such extensive treatment.

The downside is what happened to your daughter, is that sometimes they do catch things that are false positives. Often, though, it's not all that expensive. They do an ultrasound and say, oh that first test was wrong. Your child is fine.

You know, it's interesting, when you talk to folks at the CDC, when you talk to leading pediatricians, they are advocating for this test. They say that it is worth the downside.

SAMBOLIN: No, I absolutely agree with you. You know, one out of six babies who die from this, one baby is way too many.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for sharing that with us today.

COHEN: Thanks.

BANFIELD: Still to come on EARLY START, the Secretary of Defense has said that Israel could attack Iran's nuclear installations as early as this spring. That's pretty specific information and, guess what? Iran has some specific information right back, the Supreme Leader saying if that happens, America, you may pay.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Hi, everybody. Welcome back.

It is 30 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories making news this morning.

This is what happened overnight. A warning from Iran's supreme leader that any attack on his nation's nuclear program will result in harm to us in the U.S. All of this after the defense secretary here, Leon Panetta, said Israel could actually strike Iran's nuclear facilities by as early as this spring.

Also making news: the Susan G. Komen foundation claiming a new policy and not political pressure was what led its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood -- funding that goes to breast cancer screenings.

SAMBOLIN: The all important January jobs report comes out at 8:30 Eastern this morning. Analysts surveyed by CNN Money predicting the economy added 130,000 jobs last month. It's sharp slowdown in hiring when compared to December.

And the Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill banning insider trading in Congress. It bars members and staff from financially profiting from non-public information.

And Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning has been cleared to play by the doctor who performed fusion surgery on him back in September. Manning still has to get the green light from the team doctors.

BANFIELD: I keep forgetting about that Manning with all the attention on Eli right now.


BANFIELD: But I don't always forget.

Listen, back to our top story here overnight. Iran's supreme leader saber-rattling all sorts of threats after our defense secretary here, Leon Panetta, said that Israel could strike Iran's nuclear facilities by as early as this spring, April, May, June, he said. That's pretty specific stuff.

Former SecDef Robert Gates weighed in on it. telling CNN's John King that a strike could get very dicey.


ROBERT GATES, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Those who say we shouldn't attack, I think underestimate the consequences of Iran having a nuclear weapon. And those who say we should underestimate the consequences of going to war. This is, I think, one of the toughest foreign policy problems I have ever seen since entering the government 45 years ago.


BANFIELD: And that might be an understatement as well.

Our Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon this morning.

Barbara, when I heard this yesterday my first thought was, what on earth is anyone doing articulating this stuff. A, is it going to really make Israel mad that we put them in that position? Or, B, is it possible that Israel could be in cahoots here?

What are your thoughts?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is the thing that people are talking about right now.

What was Leon Panetta up to when he let it be known to "The Washington Post" that he believes there was this growing possibility Iran could be struck by Israel this spring? Why would you say that? Are you Israel under the bus, putting them at risk of an Iranian counterattack of some sort? Or is this some statement such as the Israelis themselves often make, ratcheting up the rhetoric so that it puts more pressure on Iran to think that their program is at risk?

I think no one knows the answer right now. But this is the key question. And you know, when former Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks, people listen. This is a very sober-minded man. And when you hear what he just said that this is the biggest, toughest challenge perhaps he's seen in 45 years, that's a very sobering remark. That's the problem right now.

BANFIELD: It's sobering and it's also very confusing because, I got to be honest, Ehud Barak was just saying last week, the program is, oh, way far off. I think his words were "very far." And then this week, the complete opposite and even the Israelis are saying the complete opposite.

Where is this problem emanating from? Why are we hearing -- do they make a massive discovery in a week that we just don't know about?

STARR: I don't know about it. You don't know about it. You know, who knows?


STARR: But I don't think that's really what's going on here. I think what you're seeing is this cyclical ratcheting up of rhetoric, trying to pressure the Iranians and then sort of seeing where that all goes and backing down. But here is the problem: if you ratchet up the rhetoric, you get that kind of return rhetoric from Iran and you want to stop short of painting Iran into a corner, painting any of the players into a corner that they may not be able to get out of.

BANFIELD: Exactly what you just said. The Ayatollah Khamenei saying, attacking Iran over its nuclear program will harm the U.S. -- those his words, not mine.

Barbara Starr, you're on it I'm sure all day. It will be a long one for you. But thank you for getting up early with us.

STARR: Sure.

SAMBOLIN: You know, when you wake up reading this stuff in the newspaper, you wonder, why do I know this?

BANFIELD: Isn't this supposed to be covert stuff, right? Loose lips sink ships?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. You wonder. You wonder.

Six-thirty-five here in the East.

Still ahead: a documentary so inspiring it made the director cry while he was making it. It's about an underdog, inner city football team, and their coach who turned around the program and perhaps their futures as well.

Both directors of the documentary "Undefeated" are going to join us live. You may be crying, too, after this.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Guys are saying this is appropriate. Underdog film about an underdog team getting a lot of Oscar buzz.

Inner city high school football players no longer the door mat for the rich schools, as we understand it. Volunteer coach trying to turn around the team and their lives in the process.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's see here. Starting right guard shot, no longer in school. Linebacker shot, no longer in school. Two players fighting right in front of the coach, starting center arrested.

Most coaches, that would be pretty much a career's worth of crap to deal with. I think that sums up the last two weeks for me.



The two directors of the film join us now, Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin.

Love the trailer, guys. Thank you for being here today. I watched this and my mouth fell open.

Oscar nomination, hmm? Congratulations on that. I hear that you guys actually met during a documentary on beer pong.

Explain that to me, T.J. Really? Seriously?

T.J. MARTIN, CO-DIRECTOR, "UNDEFEATED": Actually, Dan was hired to direct it and I was hired to edit it. It was one of those things that was so ridiculous and I think the producers really wanted to make it a straight to market thing. But both Dan and I fell in love with the characters. And it's really -- we work from themes and the theme of that was really about a Peter Pan syndrome, the idea of not being able to move on and not being able to we grow up and move to life 2.0.

And that's kind of where we, we fell in love with like our collaborative process and we had similar sensibilities. And so, we started to start directing together from then.

SAMBOLIN: And so, how did you arrive at "Undefeated"?

DAN LINDSAY, CO-DIRECTOR, "UNDEFEATED": A friend of mine who I met when I moved out to Los Angeles with sent us an article about one of the players on the team. And it was about his kind of unique living situation where he was living with one of his coaches during the week and then living with his grandmother in North Memphis on the weekends.

And it was interesting enough for us to go look at the story. And then it kind of revealed the greater story revealed itself to us when we met Bill Courtney, the main subject of the volunteer coach of our film. And that is when we decided we were going to move for Memphis for nine months and make this film.

So, we up rooted ourselves, 500 hours of footage, and kind of whittled it down into the movie that people will see.

SAMBOLIN: T.J., I got to tell you, what struck me is this is real life. This is -- this is not pretend. And this is at an impoverished area. And this is what really happens to these young boys.

Tell us a little bit about the story.

MARTIN: Actually when we got to --

SAMBOLIN: And I should say young black men, right?

MARTIN: Black men, yes.

It was when we got to North Memphis, that was the first time when we realized we kind of felt the need to actually tell this story, because in this case specifically, more times than none, we don't get the opportunity to celebrate kind of what happens in communities like this. And often, like when there's a media presence in communities like this they want a sensationalized piece on the violence in the neighborhood.

We saw this as an opportunity to talk about not just the bad but also talk about the good. And talk about -- because the coach is a volunteer.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

MARTIN: Completely turned a program around. It's not really -- again, like we work from themes and the theme of this film is much more universal. It's about resilience. It's about opportunity or lack thereof.

LINDSAY: Fatherhood.

MARTIN: Yes. You could really replace football -- fatherhood.

SAMBOLIN: Fatherhood -- you said fatherhood.


SAMBOLIN: And it's interesting to see that a white man really represents that for these young black men.

LINDSAY: Well, you know, without giving too much away about the film, Bill's own father left him when he was 4 years old. And so there's a connection for him with these guys in a way that I think, you know, if he was just a normal football coach, maybe he wouldn't have. But there is a deep connection from his own personal experience.

And as he says in the film, you know, this isn't your fault. You know, the fact that you grew up in this situation is not your fault. And for him he says, you know, I can never be these guys' dads but at least I can tell them it's not your fault. You know, you were born into this but you need to make the most of it.

For us, that was always the most powerful thing.

SAMBOLIN: One of the quotes in this I think was remarkable, from the coach. He says football doesn't build character, it reveals character.

How often do you hear that as a young African-American man growing up in an impoverished area? What a message.

MARTIN: Yes. I wish I had Bill as a coach when I was growing up playing basketball. But unfortunately, he can't coach for everyone.

But he is a very charismatic and very unique individual in a way in which he -- we always talk about like he coaches more like a mother and less like a father. He's very emotive. He shows -- he kind of wears his emotions on his sleeves.

And I think he doesn't talk down to the kids. He kind of raises them to his level and treats them as young adults. I think that's very rare.

LINDSAY: I think it's important to note, too, that Bill is not -- you know, it's not -- there was no agenda. It wasn't like, oh, I'm a white guy and I'm going into an all African-American.


LINDSAY: He's a coach and he really wanted to coach high school football.

SAMBOLIN: I could talk to you for ever. This is fantastic. I hope you win an Oscar because this is really touching. I'm glad you did it.

Dan Lindsay, T.J. Martin, co-directors of "Undefeated" -- thank you very much for coming in today.

All right. Ashleigh, back to you.


And Soledad O'Brien is going to take over the helm for moment, to get us up to speed for what's coming up on "STARTING POINT."

Hello there. You're wearing red.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Ashleigh. Good morning. Yes, it is red day. You guys are wearing red. I'm wearing red. We'll talk about this morning on "STARTING POINT."

Also, we're waiting for two big jobs numbers coming to news an hour and a half. Jobless numbers for January and then overall monthly unemployment number. Lots of political implications for those numbers. We're going to back to you at 8:30 this morning.

Who is hiring? Chrysler, for one. Nearly 2,000 jobs in the state of Illinois. The governor of that state is going to join us live, talk about what they're doing, and if that strategy could work nationwide.

And then, remember the woman who took on the automaker Honda because she said she wasn't getting their advertised mile per gallon? Well, she won big. She's going to join us this morning to talk about details of her $10,000 victory in court. That's all ahead this morning on "STARTING POINT."

EARLY START joins you right after this short break.


BANFIELD: Forty-seven minutes past the hour. Good time to get you caught up on the top stories making news while you were sleeping.


BANFIELD (voice-over): Iran's supreme leader was talking. He was warning that any attack on his nation's nuclear program will bring harm to us here in America. That threat comes after our defense secretary, Leon Panetta, said that Israel could strike Iran's nuclear installations as early as this spring.

Also making news, the Susan G. Komen Foundation is coming under some serious scrutiny, a lot of fire, accused of bounding the political pressure when it yanked all of its funding to Planned Parenthood, money that that organization uses for breast cancer screenings.

And also, blizzard conditions forcing Denver International Airport to cancel close to 300 flights overnight and into the morning. Area is expected to see possibly up to about 20 inches of snow.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Homeless graffiti artist, David Cho, becomes an instant millionaire after receiving stock options in exchange for decorating Facebook's headquarters, but the company going public he stands to make, listen to this, $200 million.

And Roseanne Barr running for president, Ashleigh? The Canadian announced on Twitter that she has filed official paperwork to run for the Green Party nomination for president.

BANFIELD: I would vote for her to have a show on TV again, but other than that, no, thanks, anyway.


BANFIELD (on-camera): All right. So, the Nevada caucuses are tomorrow, Nevada, Nevada, depending on where you live. Mitt Romney is up by 20 points. He is virtually a kleptomaniac (ph) of the basis points in that sates, folks, but he's still trying to recover from that thing that he said right here in this studio with Soledad O'Brien when he mentioned those words "I'm not concerned about the very poor."

First, he said it was taken out of context, and then last night, he really cleared things up, really did a mea culpa (ph) with the reporter in Vegas and said, hey, look, I misspoke. Have a listen.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a misstatement. I misspoke. I've 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. I misspoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you mean to say?

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


BANFIELD: We turn now to the local insider who's on the ground there in Nevada. It's Steve Sebelius, who is a political columnist for the "Las Vegas Review Journal." All right. Steve, I was wondering if it was going to have any affect on this guy's numbers. I mean, he's so far ahead in the state, 45 percent to his next challenger, Newt Gingrich who's at 25 percent.

So, here's my question to you, is it going to matter, this little misspeaking, or will this be a repeat of 2008 where he walked away with 51 percent of the vote in your state?

STEVE SEBELIUS, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL: Well, actually, probably a little of both. I don't think he'll get to 51 percent, but I don't think that remark is going to really hurt him that much. It's one of those things that, yes, as he pointed out, candidates give interviews, talk all the time.

It's inevitable that they're going to misspeak, say something wrong. I'm trying not to do that right now myself, so --


BANFIELD: I hear you.

SEBELIUS: But I don't think he'll get to 51 percent. There's four candidates now. Three or four years ago, there were really only three, and so, John McCain basically bypassed our state. So, really, it was between Romney and Paul then. I still think, quite frankly, it's between Romney and Paul. I think Romney or Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are fighting it out for second place.

BANFIELD: For second place, yes. That's what a lot of people have been saying as well. So, I want to throw some statistics your way. I don't think that they're going to be unfamiliar to you, but they might be unfamiliar to everybody who's watching us right now. The economy is just a huge issue in your state. The unemployment rate is at 12.6 percent, and if you compare that to everywhere else in the country, that's 8.5 percent. That's a big gap.

And not only that, the foreclosure issue, we talked about it being bad in Florida. It's worse in your state where one in every 175 mortgages is, you know, -- every housing unit is in foreclosure compared to one in every 634 for the rest of the country. I'm wondering if that comment might come back to haunt Mitt Romney again that he made back in the fall like, hey, let the market play out.

Let those homes go into foreclosure. That's how to fix this crisis. Are you hearing a lot of that right now?

SEBELIUS: Well, frankly, I was there when he made that comment, by the way. It was a review journal editorial board. And curiously, none of his fellow Republicans criticized him for saying that. And I think the reason for that is that they all share that view, that they all share the view of the free market has got to work itself out.

And we have a government hands-off philosophy. That's what Ron Paul told me this week. Newt Gingrich --


BANFIELD: The republicans who are losing their home or unemployed might be another thing, no?

SEBELIUS: Well, you know, I think this is generally Republican philosophy. The approach to helping the economy is to cut taxes and reduce regulation. Unlike the president, you know, he announced in his "State of the Union" speech, the way to refinance a home mortgage save about $3,000 for an average family if you're current on your mortgage.

Republicans don't approach it from that perspective. Newt Gingrich, yesterday, said, perhaps, Fanny and Freddie should be forced to accept lower interest rates and refinance mortgages that way. That's about as far as they're willing to go. BANFIELD: Steve, I want to just ask you one last question -- five-second answer if you can, because I got to ask. Sheldon Adelson writing the $10 million check, and then, his wife, Miriam, writing another $10 million check to Newt Gingrich. Is that still happening? If you can make it quick.

SEBELIUS: Yes. It's actually -- you're right, it was $10 million that they both gave to the Super PAC, not to Newt Gingrich, but, yes, that has happened.

BANFIELD: And I'm just wondering if those numbers, you know, mean that that money might dry up, and I think that's probably remains to be seen. Steve Sebelius, great to talk to you, and look forward to seeing what happens in your state tomorrow.

And we will be right back after this.


BANFIELD: You know, it never gets old. I'm going to tell you. Yes. Look at you, girl.


BANFIELD: You are showing that you can do it.


SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: Whether it's 1980s, 1990s, you know, she's doing it all. Welcome back to EARLY START. We're counting down not only to only Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday where the -- I guess, it's the Giants and the Patriots doing battle. No. It's Madonna. She's got --


BANFIELD: -- face on.

SAMBOLIN: So, Madonna is the star of the halftime show. She says she's excited and nervous about playing that halftime show, but she suffered a hamstring injury during rehearsals. She says, still, the show must go on.


MADONNA, ENTERTAINER: I'm OK. Lots of warm ups and taping and ultrasound. 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: This the might be the best thing for her career. Look at her. She's got the whole front page of the "New York Post" today showing off those incredible arms. SAMBOLIN: You know what she said, that it's every Midwestern girl's dream to perform at the Super Bowl.


SAMBOLIN: I'm a Midwestern girl, not really.

BANFIELD: So am I. And I was just going to say, I don't think Christine Aguilera would think that. I don't know where she's from, but she had a real tough go performing at the Super Bowl last time around.

SAMBOLIN: So, Madonna assured the media there is one thing that absolutely will not happen.


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


SAMBOLIN: All right. This year's Super Bowl lineup features a return of Coca-Cola's polar bears. Take a look.




BANFIELD: I don't know if it's going to make me buy Coke, but I love this ad.

SAMBOLIN: All right. That is EARLY START, the news from A to Z. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Happy Friday. "STARTING POINT" -- can we do it again? Did we botch the name? " STARTING POINT " with Soledad O'Brien.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You know what, though, it's Friday. So, I'm in a very forgiving mood today. It's OK.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Work on it for Monday.