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Interview with Rainn Pryor, Richard Pryor's Daughter; Beams Fall From WTC Site; Knox Gets $4 Million Book Deal; Rush on Toxicology Testing; Toomey's Tax Plan; Birth Control Battle; Geithner vs. GOP

Aired February 17, 2012 - 08:00   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

Our STARTING POINT this morning focuses on Whitney Houston and some new details about her funeral. We know who's going to sing, who's going to speak, and who will be invited. It's invitation-only.

Richard Pryor's daughter Rain has some advice for Bobbi Kristina. We'll talk to her a little bit later this morning.

The growing threat from Iran is what we're talking about. Intel officials are saying Iran could fire missiles at U.S. targets around the world.

And then this, Adele on the cover of "Vogue." She looks so beautiful. Some people say, no, she is PhotoShopped. I think she looks great no matter what.

STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Me again. Me again. It's an all Soledad Friday, which is what I like. That's Trey Songz. My special friend, Trey.

Hey, Trey. I hope you're watching this morning.

Welcome back, everybody. Let's re-introduce you to our panel.

We've got Tom Davis back for more. Back for more. He's a former Virginia congressman.

Martin Frost is a former Texas congressman.

And Connie Rice is a civil rights attorney, joining us as well.

A sizeable celebrity lineup will be at Whitney Houston's funeral. Her family, close friends of course. The funeral is tomorrow. It's going to be private, invitation only.

Here are some of the names of people we know who will be attending, Tyler Perry, Kevin Costner, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys.

We're also learning more about Whitney Houston's final hours. Some people are saying that she was drinking pretty heavily, that she had some erratic behavior. Houston had well-known battles with addiction. And, of course, that had to be a real burden for some of her friends and family members, and her daughter, too, who has been talking about it for the past couple of days.

Rain Pryor is Richard Pryor's daughter. And she joins us in the studio.

It's nice to have you. Thanks.

RAIN PRYOR, RICHARD PRYOR'S DAUGHTER: Thank you for having me.

O'BRIEN: You know, it must be so hard to have a parent who has struggled with an addiction, and then on top of it, struggled so publicly with an addiction like your father.

What was that? Was that chaos for you?

PRYOR: It's not that it's chaos. I mean, it's in the open. I mean, you kind of can learn from it, at least we have. I think us as children have. And we decided we'll go a different route, a different path.

O'BRIEN: So you wanted to learn from what your dad was dealing with.

PRYOR: I think -- it's not that I wanted to learn, I think I just happened to learn. I mean, that's the way it was. It was right in front of us. We saw what it was.

And you have a choice to make -- you either follow that path and choose that direction, or you say, you know what, I want a life.

O'BRIEN: I heard that you reached out to Bobbi Kristina.

PRYOR: I did actually through Twitter because I didn't know any other way because I wanted to say to her, one, I would be a big sister to her and help her walk through this and give her time to grieve and sort of say, there's someone around you that sort of removed herself from Hollywood that gets it because my dad was so huge, and to say, you have the comfort of someone there. If you -- if she chooses I'm there.

O'BRIEN: Did someone do that for you when your dad died?

PRYOR: Yes, Kelly Carlin did it actually.

O'BRIEN: George Carlin's daughter?

PRYOR: Yes, George Carlin's daughter.

O'BRIEN: Really? What did she say to you? I know she didn't tweet you.

PRYOR: No, she Facebooked me.

After her father died and she said, will you be my little sister, because I think you'll get it? And we just automatically became instant friends.

O'BRIEN: What kind of conversation -- if you don't mind revealing them. Like what kind of things did you talk about that were helpful?

PRYOR: The fact that we have lives and how hard it is to explain to people that we don't -- you know, it's like I'm a mother. I'm married to a cop first off. That's the oddest thing anyway.

But I have a life outside of Hollywood and how we just sort of removed ourselves. If we choose to be a part of Hollywood, we do it on our terms, not their terms.

O'BRIEN: You know, when I interviewed Bernice King years ago, I think it was for the 40th anniversary of her father's death. And she said something I thought was still interesting. She said, you know, as a kid I was so jealous that other people got to share like at the funeral that all these other strangers were like -- they loved my dad, too. She was mad about it.

Did you feel that way, too? That all these strangers wanted to grieve as much as you wanted to grieve?

PRYOR: I think the hardest part was learning how to have my solid grief to myself and process that and realize that I'm also having to process other people's grief, like you go to the airport. I went immediately after I heard my father passed, I was in Baltimore at the time, went to the airport and people were like grabbing me and -- you know, you kind of have that moment of like, but it's my dad, not yours. And then --

O'BRIEN: So what did you do about that?

PRYOR: I kind of just sat with it and just realized there's going to be -- there's going to be that. There's going to be the people who want to throw their grief on you because you're attached to him or in her case, you know, to her mother. And -- but she has to know how to step away from that. And for me I moved 3,000 miles away out of Hollywood.

O'BRIEN: And you were older too.

PRYOR: I was older, right.

O'BRIEN: You were not 18. What advice do you give -- she's -- I know she probably thinks she's big, but she's a girl.

PRYOR: She is a little girl. To me, she is a little girl. I would say to her, I mean, right now, she's around family and really strong family to sort of keep her base with them. I mean, if I was really in her pocket I would say, stay in New Jersey. Be around where your truth is at the moment so that you have a chance to grieve and make this change for yourself.

And don't worry about the rest of the world. Don't worry about the people who want to glom on. There's going to be a lot of sycophants. Stay away from them.

That it's OK to make that choice and say, I need to process. I'm a little kid. I need my family. And just be there.

O'BRIEN: Do you think that today with everybody, with a camera phone, every -- you know, that's going to be a much tougher struggle for her, right? Because the stuff that you went through, everybody wasn't recording it on their own little personal device, uploading it to YouTube and then having a discussion about it.

PRYOR: Right.

O'BRIEN: It may have come to you in an airport but it wouldn't necessarily go further than that.

PRYOR: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: That's going to be a challenge.

PRYOR: It is going to be a challenge. But, again, if she surrounds herself, if she allows her grandmother and that family because they seem so spiritually sound and strong to embrace her and she allows that, she has to allow that, then I think she has a real big shot at being able to go through this process on her own without everybody around.

I mean, of course there's going to be people outside and people want to take pictures, but it's not going to be so much as if she went back to Los Angeles or someplace like that. She needs to kind of remove herself for a while so she can breathe.

O'BRIEN: You were very honest about what your dad was doing. He had multi-sclerosis and he was still doing drugs, still smoking.


O'BRIEN: It had to be incredibly painful.

PRYOR: It was, because you can't save your parent. I mean, that's something you learn as well.

I mean, I was an addictions counselor. That's how I thought I could help, to become an addictions counselor.

And then I realized I can't even help those people, so I stopped doing that. I realize it's a choice one makes. You can't control the people that are around them and you can't control them at that time. And so, you have to say do I want to be carried down with them or do I want to still go upward?

And for me, I chose to go upward and kind of remove myself at times.

O'BRIEN: Was that a tough choice? Did you have to struggle with the --

PRYOR: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: Really, was it hard?

PRYOR: Yes, you feel guilt. I could have saved, could have, should have, would have. You know, and then you realize, no, really, you can't. You're powerless over them.

MARTIN FROST, FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: He had a lot of fans. I was a big fan. He was a wonderful comedian.

PRYOR: Thank you.

That's what you want to remember, too, that he was great and wonderful and the good times. You know, yes, there's always -- every family has some drama. I mean, name one family that doesn't.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but not everybody's drama shows up in the newscasts.

PRYOR: No, it doesn't. And that's what makes the difference is that ours is so public. But the other thing is: how are we going to handle it? Do we use that as an excuse or do we grow from that. And I think we have an opportunity and she has an opportunity to really grow from that, and so I hope that's what she does. If she chooses, I'm here.

O'BRIEN: Well, good. I hope that she reaches out to you.

PRYOR: I hope so.

O'BRIEN: I know some of her family members, and they are -- I think you're right, the faith thing is going to be really --

PRYOR: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: It must be so hard. I cannot imagine dealing with that in the -- under the glare of the lights and people screaming questions at you.

PRYOR: And let her grieve. Realize she's a child.

O'BRIEN: And grow up.

PRYOR: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Rain. Appreciate you joining us.

Other stories to get to. Christine has those headlines.

Hey, Christine.


Under the threat of more sanctions, Iran now says it's ready to resume talks on the country's nuclear program.

Still, U.S. intelligence officials are concerned about Iran possibly launching a terror attack on American soil even though there's no specific or credible threat.

Pulitzer Prize honored and courageous "New York Times" reporter Anthony Shadid has died in Syria. He was just 43 years old. He reportedly suffered a fatal asthma attack. His photographer Tyler Hicks carried his body over the border to Turkey.

The two were both kidnapped in Libya last year. CNN's Anderson Cooper discussed that experience with Shadid in April.


ANTHONY SHADID, NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: I think there are some stories that are worth taking risks for. It is a little bit of a cliche, but there's some meaning to it, that unless you're there covering it, no one is going to know about it. Unless you're there trying to bring meaning to it, to bring a certain depth to it, it won't be done otherwise.


ROMANS: Shadid was reporting on the military resistance in Syria. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage in Iraq.

A workplace dispute between two Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, it erupted into a shootout that left one dead and other wounded. It happened last night at the federal building in Long Beach, California. Authorities say one agent opened fire on the other. But a third agent intervened and killed the shooter. Investigators are not saying what led to this confrontation but they are calling it an isolated incident.

We're following a developing story out of Laplace, Louisiana. A barge collided with a boat on the Mississippi River spilling oil, we're told.

According to a CNN producer, the National Response Center dispatch has been notified of the spill. Coast Guard teams are efforting cleanup operations. At this point, we're not sure how much oil is going into the river. Environmental safety and health officials are on the scene.

Watching your money this Friday morning with today's futures. Gains expected in the Dow and the S&P 500. NASDAQ, though, futures leaning a little bit lower. On Thursday, the NASDAQ hit a decade high. Stocks overall closing at more than 1 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average within shouting distance of 13,000.

Baseball has lost one of its greats. Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter died yesterday after a battle with brain cancer. Carter starred with the Montreal Expos before he helped the New York Mets win the 1986 World Series. Gary Carter was just 57 years old.

And a final farewell to "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius. Hundreds of people turned out for memorial in Los Angeles yesterday. In his eulogy, the Reverend Jesse Jackson said when "Soul Train" debuted in 1970s, it created a platform for black music and culture that had never existed before, Don Cornelius -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: That is so true. I remember watching "Soul Train" on Saturday mornings and my parents. That was just -- that was quite the thing back then.

ROMANS: I know. I had to use the vacuum cleaner. I had to clean the house, use the vacuum cleaner.

O'BRIEN: Watch, clean the house.

All right. Christine, thanks.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: they could have had it all, but did "Vogue" PhotoShop Adele to make her look skinnier.

Also, an autism breakthrough to talk about. Doctors say they might be able to derail it early for children. We'll tell you what parents need to know this morning.

And then, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner making Republicans a little bit mad with his, quote, "silly little smirk". It's come to that on Capitol Hill, hasn't it? Fireworks at the hearing. You'll show some of that ahead this morning on STARTING POINT.

Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Oh, we all love Adele. She's awesome. And you can blame some of this latest (INAUDIBLE), if you will, on the Designer, Karl Lagerfeld. Last month, he said that Adele was, quote, "a little too fat," I think is what he said.

So, now she's on the cover of the current issue of "Vogue." And if you take a look, there you go, she doesn't look chunky at all on that cover. And there are a lot of people who think that photo has been retouched to make her look thinner. Our next guest knows a thing or two about modeling. She's a world famous top plus size model. Nice to see you, Emme.

EMME, FOUNDER, EMMENATION.COM: So good to see you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We've been having these conversations for, literally, now a million years. We've known each other for a long time. So, you know, first of all, do you think that's been retouched?

EMME: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I'm not a trained professional, but that looks retouched to me.

EMME: Yes. It's definitely not the woman that we saw over 72 hours ago.

O'BRIEN: So big deal or no big deal?

EMME: It's a big deal if millions of young girls and women just saw her over 72 hours ago and looks at this cover and says, this is what I have to go for in my life. This is what I have to look like.

O'BRIEN: Isn't every single model retouched? Every photo that you took as a model, weren't you retouched?

EMME: Yes.

O'BRIEN: OK. So, then, what's the big deal?

EMME: Because there's a line. There's definitely a line that you cross, whether you're the talent -- Adele does not have any control over the cover -- this cover or this spread. But when you do your own photo shoot, you know a line, and the photo toucher knows the line, as well as the magazine knows the line. And there was a line that was crossed.

O'BRIEN: She said she doesn't want to be a mini --


O'BRIEN: When she did an interview with Anderson that aired on "60 Minutes." She was sort of like I like me the way I am. I don't want to be --

EMME: Which why we love her. We love Adele because she accepts herself.

CONNIE RICE, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: She dropped weight for the Grammys. I mean, you know, from a year and a half, 18 months ago until now, she's dropped quite a bit of weight. No, no. This is air touch. I would like his number so he can air touch me.


O'BRIEN: I agree with you. When I have pictures taken, I'm like, please, photoshop all you want.

RICE: Yes. Exactly.

O'BRIEN: I do. I do. I don't care.

EMME: You know, but you want to be able to take out like major stuff that if you had something in the morning, you want to take it out of your teeth or something like that. But, I do leave lines. I do leave some of life on my face when I do have images.

O'BRIEN: So, tell us how it works for these major magazine covers. I mean, is the reality like no one is going to buy that cover even if it's a woman who's just won an arm load of Grammys. By the way, which had the biggest Grammy audience in the history of forever. She can sell albums, for God's sake, just the way she is. So, are the conversations literally --

EMME: I think it's too limited. I think it's too limited in the magazine and not the mainstream -- mainstream consumer media has a very, very different view of what is acceptable. And I think men like women of a bouquet of beauty. I think women are a bouquet of beauty. We are very diversified. How would we like it if we were all tulips?

O'BRIEN: Wouldn't that be boring?

RICE: At this age --


RICE: But you want to know something, there is a cult of youth, though. I think the pressure on women has done nothing but quadrupled.


RICE: I mean, when we were growing up, there was no tyranny of sort of over sexualizing young girls, which is what that earlier segment was about with the runway.


RICE: But you want to know something, it's getting to a point now where in L.A., people give girls gift certificates for plastic surgery, and they're not even --


O'BRIEN: OK. I'm going to get a final word from the men on the panel because they've said --


MARTIN FROST, (D) FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: I'm all for photo touching. I agree with you. And politicians will often use younger photos of themselves in the literature they send out.

EMME: Do you agree with that?

FROST: I have no problem with that.

EMME: Oh, my gosh!

FROST: Running the campaign. I want my candidates to look as good as possible.

EMME: Oh, my goodness!

DAVIS: I agree with Martin. (LAUGHTER)

EMME: Well, we need to talk about it around the kitchen table.

O'BRIEN: It's come to that.

EMME: Help our girls.

O'BRIEN: I think that's true.

All right. Still ahead this morning -- thank you, Emme.

EMME: Nice to see you, too.

O'BRIEN: We're talking about Whitney Houston. The man who defended Michael Jackson, Mark Geragos is going to talk to us about the Whitney Houston death investigation. Now, there's a rush on those toxicology reports, which I think is a good idea. They can just lay to rest any of these conversations, I think. I think, it'll bring it to a close a little bit faster.

Also, the smarter the car, the dumber the driver it goes. New crackdown on distracted driving. Checking your Facebook on your dashboard? You have people who, literally, are checking in on Facebook while they're driving. That's ridiculous. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.




ROMANS (voice-over): The Senate is the next stop in the battle over the keystone pipeline. The House passed a bill that would strip President Obama's authority to decide on this $7 billion project and open Atlantic waters to offshore drilling.

Three 60 foot beams weighing several tons fell 40 stories at the World Trade Center construction site after a crane cable snapped. Luckily, no one was hurt there.

And Amanda Knox lands a $4 million book deal selling her memoir to Harper Collins. It scheduled to come out early 2013. Knox was accused of killing her roommate, Meredith Kercher. That conviction overturned by an Italian court -- Soledad.


O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much. One of the most sad things and tragic things about kids who have childhood leukemia, they suffer from a completely wrecked immune system, and that, of course, makes it very, very hard to just go ahead and be a kid. But today's "CNN Hero" is Nancy Zuch, mom who's working to change that.


NANCY ZUCH, GIVING A CHILDHOOD TO YOUNG CANCER PATIENTS: Morgan was a very happy child and had friends. And then, one day, when she was two years old, Morgan was diagnosed with leukemia. We were devastated. To make it worse, because of the chemotherapy, she had no immune system. She could not be around other children.

I was driving Morgan to the hospital, and all of her friends were going to the preschool, and I thought we need to start a program for children with cancer where they can socialize and have friends and learn and play.

My name is Nancy Zuch. I give children battling cancer a preschool experience.


Exposures to a simple childhood cold or illness will become life threatening to these children.

Clean hands, good girl.

We provide a safe and clean environment. They have individualized supply boxes, and they don't share.

Tell us about the special doll.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Leukemia doll. I have leukemia and I have no hair just like me.

ZUCH: Doll's just like you.

Everything that you hoped for your children, it's like you have to rebuild that. And it's a really difficult thing to do. It's wonderful to see my daughter to be like a normal kid.

They love school because they're around other kids which they're not used to. We live in isolation. We don't do anything. We can't go in.


ZUCH: Too many people in there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before we found the Morgan Center, the hospital was the only place that my kids would go.

ZUCH: Part of me lives (INAUDIBLE) every treatment every child that I need and every parents that's telling me their story. To see the smiles on their faces and they're reclaiming their childhood, that feeling is such a joy that it's indescribable.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, investigators are now rushing Whitney Houston's toxicology tests. We're going to talk this morning with criminal defense attorney, Mark Geragos, on what that could mean.

Also, Chris Christie under fire for flying flags at Half Mast. It can also be Half Staff, people, I've looked it up, at Houston's funeral. He is not backing down.

And also, Capitol Hill walkout as two female lawmakers leave a hearing on birth control or was it a hearing on religious liberty? They're saying, there are no women here. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: I really am liking the STARTING POINT playlist this morning. That's Martin Frost's playlist. Very, very nice.

FROST: The story on that.


FROST: Forty years ago was a very young man, I was on a public affairs program in Dallas, Texas, with Jim Lair before he went to PBS. And that was the lead-in music on the show.

O'BRIEN: And you know they could never do that now because you can't have the Beatles as your lead-in music, ASCAP and all those groups would go crazy. Could you imagine the price of that? That's interesting.

All right. Lots to get to this morning. Christine is going to start us off with headlines.

Hey, Christine.

ROMANS: Hi there, Soledad.

U.S. intelligence officials fear al Qaeda is slipping into Syria. Syria is already being torn apart by violence government forces shelling the city of Homs again this morning. Top U.S. officials are blaming some recent bombings in Syria on al Qaeda extremists from Iraq.

Meantime, the United Nations General Assembly, it has passed a non-binding resolution condemning President Bashar al-Assad's regime for human rights violations.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defending a decision to fly flags at half staff to honor hometown girl Whitney Houston. People slamming the decision on Twitter. One says, "She's not a fallen hero. I am not alone in taking offense to this. She's no role model, she's a dead junkie."

But Christie fired back on Twitter. He said, quote, "Every N.J. soldier who's been killed in action during my administration had the flag lowered in their memory. Learn your facts before accusing." Then he said this.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I understand there'll be some who disagree. But you know what? Luke, every decision I make someone disagrees with. I believe that drug addiction is a disease and I think that she struggled mightily with that disease and I don't believe that that diminishes the cultural contributions that she made to the state.


ROMANS: And those flags will be lowered.

A new study could provide a breakthrough in treating autism. The study looked at MRI images for 92 infants and it showed autism may be detectible in infants as young as 6 months old. Twenty of those MRIs revealed results of slower brain connections and those infants went on to be diagnosed with autism disorder. But some doctors say the results are not distinguishable enough to make a clear-cut diagnosis at that age.

The federal government proposing new guidelines to prevent distracted driving. Among the recommendations to automakers, disabling built in devices for text messaging and GPS images when the vehicle is moving. Carmakers have 60 days to review and comment on the proposed rules.

There you go. Send a text, the car just stops.

O'BRIEN: Yes. You think that whatever happened -- let me ask, you know, we've got a couple of elected officials on our panel here. Would that ever happen? No?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being serious, I think it could happen. My wife is on me all the time when we're driving and when I'm looking at my BlackBerry or when I'm talking on the phone. I think it could happen.

O'BRIEN: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's happening in states.

O'BRIEN: I would have thought people would push against that. But that's interesting.

All right. Let's talk about Whitney Houston and the new toxicology tests that they're hoping now to rush to try to figure out the cause of her death. Doctors who prescribed her medicine and then pharmacists who filled those prescriptions are now facing questions about the role of medication and whether it played a role in her death.

And while the chief coroner says nothing looks criminal, that's a quote, there are reports of drinking and some erratic behavior. And it's certainly kind of a troubled picture of Whitney Houston's final days. Mark Geragos is a criminal defense attorney. He's in Los Angeles. Of course we know him because he has defended some of Hollywood's biggest stars including Michael Jackson and many others.

It's nice to see you. Good morning. OK. Let's start at the very beginning.


O'BRIEN: First, the toxicology tests we were told were going to take eight weeks. Then they're going to rush the toxicology tests. So just how long does a regular old toxicology test take and what does rush mean?

GERAGOS: Well, normally it takes anywheres from six to eight weeks and that's standard operating procedure. In this case they can do it as quickly as 72 hours if they want to. Clearly because of all of the attention in this case they're going to rush it through. What they're looking for is they want to see what kind of levels and then I would assume from there they're going to kind of reverse engineer and see who was prescribing these medications and who was dispensing the medications.

I agree with the coroner. I don't think you're ever going to see anything criminal, but I would not be surprised if you see some kind of administrative action, either the medical board or the pharmacy board --

O'BRIEN: What's that mean?

GERAGOS: The medical board or the pharmacy board comes in and does some kind of an investigation to look and see who was dispensing or prescribing these drugs and then they may want to take some action against all -- at somebody's license.

O'BRIEN: But when you look at, at least so far, and a lot of this of course hasn't been confirmed because we don't know the results of the toxicology tests, but it sounds like there -- you know, Xanax, other anti-anxiety drugs, maybe some kind of antibiotic for the throat, stuff that people have in their cabinets. I mean what kind of follow-up or even -- you know, what could they do to doctors who prescribe things that a gazillion Americans take?

GERAGOS: Well, and I was going to say, here in Los Angeles on the west side of L.A. 80 percent of the people have those things not only in their medicine cabinets but in their systems. And most of the time --

O'BRIEN: Really? Is that a real statistic?

GERAGOS: That's not -- yes. It's -- well, it's my own statistic.

O'BRIEN: Oh, OK. I was going to say, wow.

GERAGOS: Based on anecdotal experience. O'BRIEN: OK. So a lot. A lot. All right. I gotcha.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From people you hang around with.

O'BRIEN: I gotcha.

GERAGOS: Right. If you get me up this early again I'm going to need to have some Xanax in me. But the -- what they're looking for and what they eventually will do, they found, at least it's been reported that they found prescription bottles there. They will then go backwards and see who was prescribing what kind of quantities. Normally that's not a problem. If you prescribe it, the doctor saw you, he kept a medical record.

None of that is going to be anything that raises any suspicion. However if you start seeing, and this is something that's also very common, I won't give you a statistic, but if you start seeing that there are all kinds of prescriptions that are issued and under various names, and that's my prediction, that then there's going to be an accusation of doctor shopping or things of that nature. And that's where the medical board's antenna get all kinds of attention.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let me ask you a question about a report that said that Whitney Houston's body had been taken, dragged out of the tub, and into the bedroom before the police arrived. On the one hand you think, well, of course, they were trying to save her. They were administering CPR. Others would say well, that really, you know, puts a lot of the evidence that you could be looking at and you know, makes it suspect because it's not a pure scene that investigators can look at. What do you think?

GERAGOS: I think if you remember back to Conrad Murray, one of the things that they -- the prosecution condemned him for was not adequately doing CPR, not doing it quick enough and being on the phone and things like that. You can't win for losing in this situation. If they had done nothing, somebody would have argued, why did you just leave her there? Why didn't you do something? If they did do it then somebody's going to argue, now the crime scene is not -- if there is a crime scene is not pristine. So I just think that there's no way, there's no way to win that argument.

O'BRIEN: All right. Mark Geragos, we do appreciate you getting up for us this morning, by the way.

GERAGOS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Go back to bed now, sir.


O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.

GERAGOS: I will. O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, you'll remember earlier in the week we were talking to Senator Pat Toomey and he said that what I had described as an analysis of his deficit plan was, quote, "wrong and ridiculous."

So the man who's behind that study is going to join us this morning to respond to what the senator said. That's straight ahead on STARTING POINT. We're back after this break.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Congress is once again taking sides over the president's latest budget proposal. On our show on Tuesday Senator Pat Toomey was our guest. He's from the state of Pennsylvania. And he challenged us on his show about what we were saying. Here's the exchange.


O'BRIEN: Here's what you proposed, tax cuts for the wealthy, for people who are making under $200,000 taxes would raise -- would rise. You would limit the child credit. You would limit --

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: OK. That's -- now wait a minute. I've got to stop that because that's factually ridiculous.

O'BRIEN: Really? OK.

TOOMEY: I've never -- yes. Factually wrong and ridiculous and not close.

O'BRIEN: What part of that? OK. Well, let's start --

TOOMEY: What raising -- raising taxes on people whose income is lower than $200,000.


O'BRIEN: So he said factually ridiculous and wrong. Now those numbers that we were citing were based on an analysis that was done by the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities.

And joining us now to explain their analysis is the president of the Center. His name is Robert Greenstein. Nice to see you. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate your time.

OK, so you heard what the senator had to say. You have said that there are sort of four basic parts to Senator Toomey's tax plan. Can you walk us through them please?

ROBERT GREENSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES: Sure. Senator Toomey outlined his plan back in November to the super committee and he said he would lower tax rates particularly at the top for high-income people. He would lower the top rate down from the Bush 35 percent all the way down to 28 percent. He said that he would limit credits, deductions, the mortgage interest deduction, the child credit, the tax break for employer health exclusion. There'd be a limit on how much you could get from those, but the biggest tax preference for high-income people, the very low rate, 15 percent, the low tax rate on profits from buying and selling stocks.

The capital gains tax rate, he would leave that down at 15 percent. And the fourth element. He said this would all pay for itself. It wouldn't increase the deficit at all.

O'BRIEN: OK. So you heard where he took great exception.


O'BRIEN: He said it is factually ridiculous and factually wrong.


O'BRIEN: That he wanted to raise taxes for people who are making under $200,000 a year. Is that correct?

GREENSTEIN: Oh, I think Senator Toomey is very sincere in not wanting to raise taxes for people below 200. I think he is, indeed, unaware that that is the effect that his plan would have and has to have.

The math is very simple, Soledad. Under his plan by lowering the top rate to 28 percent for people at the top, it is a huge tax cut at the top. The Urban Institute Brookings Tax Policy Center estimates somewhere in the vicinity of $140 billion a year. If you leave the capital gains rate at 15 percent, all of the studies of plans like Senator Toomey's show that you can't raise -- you don't raise enough money from limiting things like the mortgage interest deduction or the child credit on people at the top to make up for the big tax cut you're giving them by lowering the top rate to 28 percent.

And the math is irrefutable here. If you bring in the same amount of revenue overall and you cut taxes for people over 200, then you have to raise them for people under 200. And again, Congress's official score keeper, the Joint Committee on Taxation, analyzed a plan similar to Toomey's and found it would cut taxes for people over 200, it would raise taxes for people under 200.

O'BRIEN: Ok. Then and as our interview went on he said this about some more details about his plan. I'm going to play a little bit for you. Listen.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: What I've said is we should make the current tax rates permanent. In fact, what I'd prefer to do that set a minimum would be something like what I proposed in the super committee which was a process by which we would simplify the tax code, get rid of some of the deductions, and loopholes and credits, broaden the base on which we apply taxes but do it with lower rates for everybody. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So I asked him about that, get rid of the deductions, the loopholes, some of the credits and broaden the base. Is -- is that a viable solution to what he's proposing?

GREENSTEIN: Many people, including myself, like the idea of raising more revenue by limiting credits, deductions, and tax breaks than by raising rates. However, the problem is that virtually everyone else who's designed a careful plan to lower rates and broaden the base finds that as part of that you must raise the capital gains rate from its very low 15 percent.

High-income people get a big share of their income from capital gains and that if you don't do that, then you absolutely end up either cutting -- raising taxes on people below 200 because you cut them on people above 200 or your alternative is you increase the deficit because your plan brings in a lot less revenue.

I think the issue here is Senator Toomey has been talking about this plan since November. He has yet to make public even one page, a single piece of paper with the details of his plan. My proposal to Senator Toomey is put it on paper and send it to the Joint Tax Committee to have them look at it.

O'BRIEN: Are you -- are you a left-leaning organization, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities because when priorities excuse me because we introduced that to the Senator I said is that nonpartisan?

Are you nonpartisan or are you left-leaning?

GREENSTEIN: We are a nonpartisan organization. We tend to be fiscally conservative on deficit issues but favor programs that help low-income people and people who are struggling.

O'BRIEN: All right, well Robert Greenstein --


GREENSTEIN: Sometimes we've been called progressive fiscal conservatives.

O'BRIEN: Which makes no sense at all really. Robert Greenstein. Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us. We appreciate you clearing up some of that from Tuesday's interview with Senator Toomey.

We've got to take a short break. We're going to discuss this. I promise on our next block. We're going to talk also about this religious freedom-contraception issue. Two female lawmakers who got fed up during a congressional hearing about birth control and religious liberty walked out. Some said it was a sham.

We'll continue our debate about that straight ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN (voice-over): Butch Warren and his family achieved the American dream.

BUTCH WARREN, ASST. SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: It is amazing how far we've come from where I grew up to where I am now.

O'BRIEN: In 2008's "Black in America" we introduced you to Butch, an assistant school superintendent in Little Rock Arkansas. His wife Joyce a judge and their sons, one a district attorney, another a budding musician. But their climb to the top wasn't without cost.

WARREN: Next thing I know cops pull up, what are you doing in this neighborhood and I said, well, I said, it's because I'm te owner of this house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was the sell out kid, I was the white boy you know with the black skin.

WARREN: All right.

O'BRIEN: Since we last heard from him, Butch has retired and is now working on a novel about growing up in the south in the civil rights era. His wife still is on the bench.

WARREN: Thanks Judge.

O'BRIEN: Jonathan's moved up in the prosecuting ranks. Justin's gotten married and is now in grad school to be a film director all the while still making music. Though they're still one of the only black families in their upscale neighborhood, the Warrens have now befriended some of their neighbors who were initially standoffish when they first moved in.



O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. I want to give you some more details about that developing story we've been telling you about all morning. It's that barge collision that's taken place in Laplace, Louisiana. We have now learned that the Mississippi River is in fact closed over a five-mile stretch. This is after that collision between a barge -- a barge apparently that had a crane on and a boat happened on the Mississippi River roughly 30 miles west of New Orleans.

Now according to one of the CNN producers, the National Response Center dispatch has been notified of the spill. Coast Guard teams are en route or there already trying to effort clean up operations. It is unclear how much oil has been spilled, how much oil potentially could be spilled and how much is going into the river at that point. Environmental Safety and Health officials are on the scene. We're going to continue to update you obviously as we get some more information and some more numbers on the story.

To Capitol Hill now and more fireworks to tell you about: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner testifying at a House Budget hearing pressed by Republicans on a need for tax reform and on a lack of any proposal coming from President Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that's leadership. So wait for other people to do something and then we'll react?

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, SECRETARY OF TREASURY: Mr. Chairman, you know, you guys just spent about six months threatening to default on obligations you gave us, you bequeathed to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Mr. Secretary --

GEITHNER: Now if you call that leadership, that's fine with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So where is your tax reform plan? That's why we're here today is to learn where this administration --

GEITHNER: If you want to bludgeon me to admitting me to admitting we're not giving you an individual tax reform plan. I confess, that's not in the budget. We're not giving it to you.


O'BRIEN: I confess. It's not in the budget. Ok, guess what, that wasn't the only battle. We've got more but wait there's more. Wait for it. Two female senators walked out of a House oversight hearing on the contraception controversy and how it plays into the freedom of religion. They were angry because the first panel was all male, five men.

Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly was at the hearing. We spoke to him a little bit earlier this morning on STARTING POINT. Here's what he told us.


REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D) VIRGINIA: I just want to point out about religious freedom, Mike Huckabee when he was Governor of Arkansas signed into law exactly the compromise President Obama has approved. Mitt Romney, Republican Governor of Massachusetts, enshrined this in his Romney care exactly the same policy. It is nonsense to claim this is suddenly a religious freedom issue.

This is a policy that's been embraced by Republicans all over the country until now and -- and you have to say what's changed? What's changed is we're in an election year and they want to try desperately to find something they can hang around the President's neck.


O'BRIEN: Losing conversation for Republicans do you think?

MARTIN FROST (D), FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: Absolutely. The Republicans won this fight last week. They got the President to change his position. They made some points about problems with the President he's having with the Catholic Church. They should have stopped --

O'BRIEN: Huge problems, by the way.


FROST: -- they should have stopped right there, right there.

TOM DAVIS, (R), FORMER VIRGINIA CONGRESSMAN: Mark, if it's on birth control, they lose the argument. But when you make it about religious freedom, that's a winner. That's why the Administration backed off. There are still some lose ends to the Administration policy. The good news for everybody, Congress goes home today for the next week and nobody out.


FROST: The bad news for Republicans is that this is hurting them a lot among women. They won last week. They should have taken a victory lap and moved on.


O'BRIEN: How about the budget? Let's look at Geithner and that back and forth. He's like --

DAVIS: Well, there are no real -- I mean look, the President's budget last year came to a vote on the Senate floor and it lost 97-0. The Administration's come up. The numbers are political numbers. This is an election year. We just need to understand that and nobody's coming up with anything close to balance on either side.

FROST: There's not going to be tax reform in an election year. There may be tax reform started next year. The last time Congress did this was in 1986. It took four years to work a tax reform, a piece of legislation through the Congress.

This is tough. These are hard decisions. Nobody's going to put in --


DAVIS: You can argue with the '86 tax reform today.

O'BRIEN: You heard (INAUDIBLE) talking about Senator Toomey's tax plan. Very complex.

DAVIS: Toomey was technically correct. His plan doesn't raise taxes.

O'BRIEN: Technically is the key word.

DAVIS: Well, that's right. Greenstein assumes somebody will pay the difference. The problem is I think maybe the numbers don't add up. FROST: The problem also is that Toomey and the others assume dynamic scoring which is this crazy concept that if you cut taxes enough it will generate more revenue.

O'BRIEN: All right. We have to take a break. I'm never sitting the congress people next to each other. Remind me for next time. Bruce, next time.

"End Point" is up next everybody. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Time for "End Point". Congressman Davis, you're going to start us off.

DAVIS: Pat Toomey did not lie about his budget plan. The numbers may not add up at the end but he doesn't raise taxes on lower income people and the Administration doesn't have a balanced budget or tax plan.

O'BRIEN: Martin, what do you think?

FROST: Republicans are in the process of taking defeat from the jaws of victory by continuing to press the social issue on contraception. It's a loser for them.

O'BRIEN: Connie Rice, you get our final word.

CONNIE RICE, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: President Obama needs to be paying these folks because it's really helping the Democrats. Bottom line is authenticity works. Numbers you can't do in an election year because the trust isn't there.

O'BRIEN: Ok. My "End Point" is a tweet from Senator Toomey. He tweets this: "Robert Greenstein on CNN right now lying about my plan. Liberal media strikes again."

Senator Toomey, we would love to have you on in person as a guest. Come and join us. We'll talk more about your plan. We'll talk about taxes and budget and politics, which is what we like to do.

We head into the weekend. We'll see everybody back here Monday 7:00 a.m.

Now it's time for "CNN NEWSROOM" with Fredricka Whitfield. Hey Fred, good morning.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hey good morning. See you tomorrow as well. Thanks so much.