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Shooting at California University; Palin vs. Couric

Aired April 2, 2012 - 18:00   ET


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. John King is off tonight. I am Jessica Yellin.

And we begin with breaking news in Oakland, California, where at least seven people are dead in a mass shooting.

Also, a top official of the Obama administration resigns in a spending scandal. Wait until you hear how your tax dollars were spent.

And this might make you glad you didn't win the lottery. A McDonald's worker says she has one of the winning tickets, but her co- workers are saying, not so fast.

We begin with breaking news, today's mass shooting at a religious university in California. At least seven people died and three others were wounded after a gunman opened fire at a classroom at Oikos University. It is a religious vocational and technical school in Oakland, California.

Police say they picked up a suspect several miles from the scene.

CNN's Dan Simon is on the story for us there.

Dan, we know this is a breaking story. What's the very latest that you know?


Let me set the scene for you here. We are near the Oakland Airport. This is an industrial area. There is a car dealership right next to me and behind me about 150 yards or so is Oikos University. We know that at about 10:30 a.m. this gunman started firing indiscriminately, as you said, seven people dead, three more people wounded, and police at this time do not have a motive.

According to one person inside the building at the time, the shots seemed to be coming from either a classroom or near the office area. As you said, one suspect has been arrested. That person was picked up in a parking lot near a shopping mall in Alameda, California, just a short distance away from here. At this time the investigation is ongoing, but obviously a horrible, horrible scene in Oakland, California -- Jessica.

YELLIN: All right. We will check back in with you, Dan, as developments warrant. Thank you for the report. We're continuing on this story because at the scene of the shooting witnesses have described moments of sheer panic. "The Oakland Tribune" reports that a woman fled the school saying that a gunman in the classroom stood up and shot one student in the chest and then opened fire on the rest of the room.

"San Francisco Chronicle" reporter Henry Lee was at the university when he spoke with CNN on the phone.


HENRY LEE, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": It is very chaotic as you can imagine. Initially, police were saying the victims and witnesses were seen screaming coming out of the building and there is a heavy police presence now and the SWAT team is still clearing the building.

And the initial emergency situation is long past, but certainly the police are there at the building for a very long time as well as here in Alameda.


YELLIN: The shooting suspect was taken into custody about five miles from the university.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here to give us the lay of the land.

Hi, Tom. Set the scene for us, if you would.


Let many show you generally where this is. This is the Northern California area, San Francisco over here, Oakland over here, San Jose down here. Let's fly into Oikos University here and I will give you an idea what this is about. This is a school that basically is a Christian school. It caters to the Korean community there.

There is some teaching of nursing, some teaching of theology, some teaching of music, some teaching of more of homeopathic remedies, that sort of thing. Nonetheless, as you can see it is not a very big place. The general area here is offices. There are some other schools, a high school nearby, there is a jail not terribly far away and a superior court office, and there are also some places around here involved in environmental affairs and some that are involved in teaching avionics and aeronautics and that sort of thing.

So it's generally sort of a warehouse area and not very big and not a whole lot known about this. We do know that it is not far -- if you want a sense of where it is, not far at all from right here, which is the Oakland Coliseum where the Raiders play and the Athletics play as well. And if we go further out we can show you the hospital these folks were taken to, about four, 4.5 miles away. It's pretty heavy traffic, as you can know, the people that were wounded in all of this.

All we know is it is a little bit removed from any residential area in sort of a warehouse type area with a lot of other places around. If this were a random target, there were plenty of other places out there that could have likely been the target. We just don't know at this point.

YELLIN: We will go now to somebody who might know more about this.

Tom, thanks so much for this.

Joining me now is Oakland City Council President Larry Reed.

Mr. Reid, thank you so much for being with us. First of all, I am sorry for the tragedy that's happened there. You have been a city employee for 30 years. You're near the crime scene right now. Basically have you ever seen anything like this?

LARRY REID, OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: No, I haven't. When I was chief of staff for one of the former mayors, we lost seven individuals on one day, but it was individual homicides that took place, but not to the extent where seven individuals lost their lives at one time in one location.

YELLIN: What do you know if anything about how this happened, what happened inside that school if you can tell us?

REID: Well, the only thing that I know, I was on BART on my way to city hall when I got a call from the police chief indicating that this incident had took place. And then when I got here, I was briefed by the police chief that indicated to me the loss of life and those individuals who had been taken to one of our local hospitals for treatment, and that they were looking for the suspect.

So I have been here ever since 11:00, and the chief will brief the city council at 5:00 and then also have a press conference at 6:00 for the media.

YELLIN: What are witnesses saying? What have you heard from people who were there at the school?

REID: I think people are expressing the horror and the loss of life. There are seven family members right now that are having to deal with this horrendous act that took place at the university.

There are no words that one can say to help them to go through the ordeal that each of them are going to have to go through with the loss of life of their loved ones. So we will be reaching out to the families to see how we as a city can assist them in moving forward with their life and it is just a real sad day here in the city of Oakland.

YELLIN: As a city official, city council president, are you satisfied with the official police response to the incident?

REID: Yes.

I mean, we're fortunate to have a number of law enforcement agencies that help -- responded to this incident when it was understood that the suspect had left the scene, and they were out assists us in trying to locate the suspect and to bring him into custody.

And so, you know, the suspect is in custody, and our police department with other law enforcement agencies are out here doing the work that they need to do around the scene, this horrendous shooting that took place.

YELLIN: Mr. Reid, any indication as to the gunman's motive?


Our police department right now is doing their work and trying to understand what in fact was his motive to come in and take the lives of seven individuals and then also to leave three individuals wounded. So certainly that information will come out during the legal process that he now finds himself in.

YELLIN: As far as you know, was he a former student there? Was he a current student there?

REID: My understanding, that he was a former student at the university. Other than that, like everyone else, we will wait until the police chief briefs us, the council and myself, at 5:00 to understand a little bit more and be able to respond in a much more intelligent manner to the questions that are being asked by you and other reporters throughout Northern California.

YELLIN: All right, 5:00 Pacific time, that's two more hours from now. Thank you, Mr. Reid.

REID: Correct.

YELLIN: I am grateful for your time and incredibly sorry for the loss in your community and appreciate that you have taken this time out to speak with us.

And now turning to politics and a breaking scandal for the Obama administration. A top government official resigned today after revelations that nearly a million taxpayer dollars were spent on a training conference that included airfares to Las Vegas and according to The Washington Post a mind reader, a clown, and a comedian.

Let's go to White House correspondent Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, you have been thumbing through the government report outlining the extravagant expenditures. We don't often hear stories like this these days. What have you uncovered?


What we know, Jessica, is that we're talking about Martha Johnson, the head of the General Services Administration, which is basically in part the landlord to the federal government because the federal government owns thousands of buildings across the U.S. This was a training conference and it took place outside of Las Vegas at the M Resort -- 300 people attended it and there were also a number of sort of -- I guess you could say like preparation trips, sort of a dry run, as well as a number of trips to plan this event and that included trips to this resort.

Those planning costs alone, $136,000. Add that to the cost of the actual conference, and it is over $800,000. It is not just the overall price tag of this conference that is so eye-popping, according to this report from the independent inspector general for the GSA.

It is also what the money was spent on, $75,000 to hire a company to do a team building, actual team building exercises, plural, and that included one that was a bicycle building project, $6,000 spent on commemorative coins, $6,000 spent on canteens, key chains, T-shirts, what we might call swag, those giveaways that would commemorate this conference, and also, Jessica, the GSA also spent money on two-story suites that normally go for $1,200 -- or, pardon me, $2,200 per night, not the type of accommodation that you would expect these government agencies to be using for a conference, Jessica.

YELLIN: Wow. Do you think we can get assigned to a team building exercise that involves bicycle building? This is so surprising because the Obama administration has been pledging to cut waste and avoid excessive spending and it really flies in the face of that.

How is the White House responding to this?

KEILAR: Well, I think in one word, quickly, Jessica, because some of this obviously is damage control in an election year where the economy is to bad.

And as this report came out, the White House, the president's chief of staff, Jack Lew, putting out a statement saying the president found out before he went on that trip to Korea, so over a week ago, and that he was "outraged" and he instructed those responsible be held accountable. What we know now is that the head of the GSA has resigned, but there were also two other top officials who were more closely related to this who were fired.

YELLIN: Right. No mercy on this one. Brianna, thanks so much for that report.

And coming up next, a war hero tries his hand at politics and discovers the middle ground is not the safest place to be.

Later, some familiar faces return to morning television, but they're not where you might expect.


YELLIN: He was celebrated by the local and national media as a rising star of the Republican Party.

California Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher is an Iraq war veteran and now running for San Diego mayor. But there is a catch. He doesn't want to be a Republican anymore. The Iraq war veteran is now running as an independent.

Nathan Fletcher joins me now.

Hi, Nathan. Thanks for being with me.

Let me begin by saying you have gotten some national attention lately because you have a story to tell. I want to know why Republicans across the country should care about the San Diego mayoral race.

NATHAN FLETCHER (I), SAN DIEGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think everyone should care about the race.

I ran for office to solve problems, to try and get things done to make a difference. And I think our partisan environment in today's world has devolved to one where folks would rather preserve a problem to campaign on it rather than solve it. I think in a lot of ways it is a reflection of both parties.

And so I am running and sending a message to San Diegans to say we will have a mayor who will be willing to really reach out and work with anyone. If your idea is good and we can fix a problem and solve something, then let's work together and get it done.

YELLIN: You quit the Republican Party to become an independent because essentially I'm guessing your argument is there is no room for moderates in the party. But what's your response to those that say this is sour grapes because you can't win as a Republican in that race? It's just politics.

FLETCHER: Well, it is silly. I could have won the race as a Republican. I just don't believe I could govern as one.

And I think any time you see -- we have been attacked by the head of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party and I think any time both of those say you're wrong, you have to think that maybe you're right. And today's environment has just really devolved into one where I think there is a need and a yearning among so many to say can we have a leader that will just focus on the substance of the idea, not on whose it is?

In today's climate, Jessica, particularly out here in California, if you disagree with someone, you're supposed to treat them like the enemy. I fought in a war and I have seen the enemy. We don't have enemies here. We just have people we disagree with. I want to take the same frustration people feel at the extremes and channel it towards actually building a better city.

YELLIN: I am curious what this means for your future. This is what "L.A. Times" columnist George Skelton wrote about you -- quote -- "A legislator abandoning his party is not unprecedented. I can recall a handful over the decades. I just can't remember anyone jumping overboard with such potential to captain the ship."

Are you squandering your potential as a future Republican leader?

FLETCHER: Well, I think what I am saying is I care more about the future of my city. I care more about where we go in San Diego than I do my own political future.

And my only focus and goal is to be a really good mayor -- and we have had a rough decade out here -- to rebuild our city, our infrastructure, and our economy, and help out our schools and really do right by the people of San Diego. And I am not worried about what comes after that. I am worried about doing the right thing here and I think now is the time that really calls out for someone to say you're going to have a candidate on the far right. You're going to have one on the far left, and they're content to play partisan games.

You're also going to have a choice for someone who says I will take good ideas regardless of party, but always have a focus beyond, moving our city forward.

YELLIN: Well, maybe this is the start of a viable third-party alternative.

Nathan Fletcher, thanks so much for joining us, running for mayor of San Diego. Glad to have you.

FLETCHER: Thank you.

YELLIN: Next the airline whose pilot in flight had a meltdown and made national headlines, he went to court today. We will tell you what happened.

And later, who said hitting it big in the lottery brings a lot of headaches with it?



YELLIN: Coming up, an early-morning showdown between Sarah Palin and Katie Couric. We will have the details next.

Plus, we don't know who has the three winning lottery tickets yet, but we do know there is already a fight over the share of the Mega Millions.


YELLIN: I'm Jessica Yellin.

In this half-hour of "JOHN KING, USA," a multimillion-dollar headache. There's a dispute over just who has the rights to one of the winning tickets from the Mega Millions lottery.

Tune into morning TV tomorrow and you will see some familiar faces in some very unfamiliar places.

And here is a headline you don't hear too often. Great Britain's Prince Harry saves the day.

But first, this hour's breaking news. A suspect is in police custody after a mass shooting left at least seven people dead and two others wounded. It happened at Oikos University, which is a religious vocational and technical school in Oakland. Witnesses there described this chaos.


BRIAN SNOW, Eyewitness: When I went outside, the cops were talking like, don't move, don't move. It just started getting chaotic. And then I heard some shooting out there and I saw a pedestrian come out with a bullet hole. It was getting really crazy right now.


YELLIN: CNN of course will stay on the story. We expect Oakland's chief of police to brief reporters in a couple of hours, and we will follow all the developments and bring them to you as soon as we have them.

For now, we turn to the network morning news shows and a story there. They're known for their epic ratings battles and their ruthless tactics to nab the big get, but that's usually about the guests. Tomorrow, the morning show hardball will be all about the hosts.

Here is CNN's Dana Bash.



How does it feel?

KATIE COURIC, GUEST "GOOD MORNING AMERICA" CO-HOST: I'm happy to be here, George. Thank you for inviting me first of all. But it's a little strange, truth be told.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Truth be told it was a little strange for us viewers too.

COURIC: You know me. It's hard to keep surprises.

BASH: For 15 years, Katie Couric was the "Today" show. Her popularity there led the program to number one where it has remained for a decade and a half.

COURIC: Good Morning America.

BASH: Now "Good Morning America" is nipping at its heels, so over at NBC one-upmanship.

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": We have a special... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've moved on --

LAUER: ... guest host for tomorrow morning on "Today," former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

BASH: You betcha. Palin will go head to head with Couric, who conducted this infamous 2008 CBS interview when Palin was running for vice president.

COURIC: I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read...


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I have read most of them...


COURIC: Like, what ones specifically, I'm curious, that you...

PALIN: All of them.

BASH: Called into NBC on her way to New York City, and Matt Lauer went there.

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, NBC'S "TODAY SHOW": What are you doing to prepare? Are you reading some newspapers?


AL ROKER, NBC'S "TODAY SHOW": Whoa. And it begins!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can still turn that plane around, Governor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great. OK. That's a fine how do you do. That's a great start. Here we go.

BASH: Before politics, Palin was a local sports caster in Alaska.

PALIN: I'm going to show you highlights plus tell you all about that next. Stay right there.

BASH: But that was long ago. And by inviting Palin the politician to host the 8 a.m. hour of what's supposed to be a morning news program, NBC is treading on dangerous ground. So is Palin. Not only has she made a career out of slamming the mainstream media.

PALIN: Don't get sucked into the lame stream media's lies.

BASH: She is also playing into a dynamic she says she detests, what some see as sexism in media and politics. "The New York Daily News" dubbed it a cat fight. And she is reminding people of what appeared to be uninformed answers to Couric's basic questions, mocked to big ratings on "Saturday Night Live."

AMY POEHLER, FORMER CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": But again and not to belabor the point, one specific thing.

TINY FEY, FORMER CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Katie, I'd like to use one of my lifelines.

JULIANNE MOORE, ACTRESS: I am not your puppet.

BASH: Still, several GOP strategists tell us Palin can use some reputation rehab thanks to HBO's "Game Change."

MOORE: You have ruined my reputation.


BASH: And HBO says that movie, "Game Change," was the most watched original film in eight years.

As for Palin, an NBC spokeswoman says that she will not get paid for hosting, which she will only do in the 8 a.m. hour, Jessica. In the 7 a.m. hour she's actually going to be the newsmaker guest, so she'll be interviewed at 7. She'll be interviewing at 8.

YELLIN: OK. We'll watch and find out.

You've been talking to Republican operatives all day. What's their reaction to this news? What are the expectations?

BASH: It's really, really mixed. I talked to several who say that this is so risky for her, because this is a forum that she's not used to. It's so incredibly high profile. So she can flub very easily.

On the flip side, I talked to several Republican sources who are not fans of Palin. They say they're actually impressed that she can finally make fun of herself, particularly of that dicey interview that she had with Katie Couric. That is gutsy.

YELLIN: And the newspaper joke she took in stride today with Matt Lauer.

BASH: Exactly.

YELLIN: Dana, thanks so much.

Let's turn now from the morning show musical chairs to the Mega Million dollar reality for the networks. "New York Times" media columnist Brian Stelter.

Brian, thanks for being with us. I'm going to get to it right away. What is at stake this week for "Good Morning America" in terms of ratings and revenue here?

BRIAN STELZER, MEDIA COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, this war has been going on for decades. And for 16 years, "The Today Show" has been No. 1. ABC and "Good Morning America" has not won a week since 1995.

Now ABC is getting close. They're closer than they have been in years. And that's why we see these stunts happening: Katie Couric coming on ABC and now Sarah Palin coming on NBC. Every tenth of a ratings point can mean a big gain in profitability or a significant loss of money. So every rating point counts. Every viewer counts.

YELLIN: But beating them for one week matters that much?

STELTER: It matters psychologically, not so much financially. But there is a massive amount of reputation on the line here. There's a -- there's a halo effect that comes with being No. 1 in morning TV. And NBC had it for so long that, well, you can imagine how desperate ABC might feel to get it.

YELLIN: Sarah Palin was on the phone this morning on "The Today Show." Listen closely for a minute to what Meredith Vieira said, and we'll talk on the back end.


PALIN (via phone): I appreciate NBC's boldness and having me on and, you know, doesn't it kind of reflect some of the diversity of opinion...

LAUER: That's true.

PALIN: ... that I hear that you all espouse, so I appreciate that.



YELLIN: She said -- Meredith Vieira said desperation, this is desperation.

STELTER: Desperation.

YELLIN: Do you agree this is putting Palin on as a desperate move by NBC?

STELTER: That's the debate that's going on behind the scenes of these networks. You'll hear people say ABC is being desperate by booking Katie Couric. And then you'll hear people say that NBC is being desperate by bringing on Sarah Palin, that there's this one- upmanship going on.

These are pretty interesting stunt, but it is maybe distracting from what makes these show so great, which is the consistency. We turn on TV in the morning, because we to want see the same faces waking up with us. And this week, well, that's out the window.

YELLIN: I said when I woke up and turn on Katie Couric, boy, was that a familiar reminder of how great she is at that craft of television and what she does. And you know, even if Palin comes to play, she can't -- I wonder if she can do what Katie Couric did this morning. Let's look at this clip of her as she transitioned from Jay Papfer (ph) doing an impression of Bill Clinton to a very serious life-and-death story. Look at this.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Now, you had this amazing rescue.

COURIC: Nice impersonation, by the way.

And now to the hair-raising rescue of a California mom who plunged head first into a snow bank and found herself trapped upside down and struggling to breathe for almost 30 minutes.


YELLIN: Well, we didn't get to it all, but she's just gifted at that.

STELTER: Makes it look so easy.

YELLIN: Right. Can Palin compete with Couric in terms of communicating flawlessly with viewers?

STELTER: Of course, let's remember: people only watch one channel at a time. So we'll see how many are flipping back and forth, actually, to see both shows.

I would be surprised if Sarah Palin is able to lead the show the way that Katie Couric does, lead any show that she's on. Clearly, Sarah Palin is going to be surrounded by the other co-hosts of "The Today Show" and supported by them.

It makes me wonder: after all, Sarah Palin is a paid contributor to FOX News. She makes a lot of money every year from FOX News Channel. And you have to wonder why FOX is allowing her to go on NBC at all. Her deal is up at the end of this year, so it's creating speculation about whether FOX will keep her and, if they're going to keep her, whether they'll pay her as much.

YELLIN: And your guess, tomorrow, who wins the ratings war?

STELTER: It's going to be, I think, the closest we've seen in years. It's been up to about 100,000 viewers. ABC is about 100,000 behind. I call that about one suburb behind. I think ABC could be closer tomorrow.

YELLIN: OK. You won't -- you won't make the stab, but you're leaning ABC. Got it. Brian Stelter of "The New York Times," thanks so much for being with us.

STELTER: Thanks. YELLIN: And I don't know about you, but I wasn't one of the lucky few who hit the Mega Millions jackpot. A McDonald's worker in Baltimore says she has one of the three winning tickets, and she claims that ticket is hers alone. Her co-workers say she's cheating. We sent Brian Todd on the trail to track her down.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's out there, the tiny ticket stub everyone is looking for. We've been on the hunt in Maryland for the Mega Millions winner who will snag more than $100 million after taxes.

Could it be this woman? Mirlande Wilson told the "New York Post" she's the Maryland winner. We learned she also told people at a deli across the street from her house.

But co-workers at the McDonald's where Wilson works told the "Post" she was among a group of them who went in on the tickets together. Wilson says the ticket she bought was separate from that.

(on camera) The piece of evidence in solving this mystery is going to be found right at this spot, a Baltimore 7-Eleven where the winning Mega Millions ticket was sold right from this machine. Here's what they're going to be looking for.

Each Mega Millions ticket has a date and time stamp on it. They'll match it up, according to lottery officials, with surveillance video, hopefully that they got of this purchase taken on these two cameras here. You can see some of the return video over there.

Lottery officials tell us they do take surveillance of these purchases. Hopefully, they're going to match this up with the winning ticket and verify everything.

(voice-over) I asked lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett about the dispute.

(on camera) What do you make of her claim at this point?

CAROLE EVERETT, MARYLAND LOTTERY: There's nothing to make of it. Again, it doesn't sound like a typical jackpot winner to us. I don't put much stock in that story.

TODD: Why not? Why doesn't it sound right?

EVERETT: She claims she won. She can't produce a ticket. We really don't even spend that much time on it other than to field questions from the media. In our opinion, until they walk in that door and hold that ticket, produce valid identification, and our security people can process and validate it, doesn't matter.

TODD (voice-over): Co-workers did tell the "Post" Wilson later couldn't find her ticket. We looked all over Baltimore for Mirlande Wilson: at her home, on her street, where neighbors say she took off.

(on camera) She's a good neighbor?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she's a good neighbor. She's an honest person.

TODD (voice-over): And at that McDonald's. No one would talk to us on camera. The owner e-mailed us, saying nothing has been confirmed about anyone there being involved.

We asked Mark Schamel, a gaming attorney, how to avoid these disputes.

MARK SCHAMEL, GAMING ATTORNEY: Ideally, to avoid it, when you bring tickets back, put them some place where the entire group has oversight on them, and the person is free to do whatever they want on their own behalf.


TODD: Lottery officials also tell us that people who go in on these tickets as a group should get it all in writing: have one document with the names of everyone going in on it, explicit language that they're sharing the winnings so that there's no dispute after the drawing -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Brian, is there any indication that this group of people did get this in writing, that they were sharing the winnings?

TODD: Well, an official at the McDonald's, the representative there, told us they don't know if they have a document. They told the "New York Post: that there were two batches of tickets bought. The first batch they put in a safe at the McDonald's. The second batch they asked Mirlande Wilson to buy on her way home. She apparently did that, but that's where it is in dispute. She might have -- that's where she claims that was bought separately for her only.

And so we're not sure if they have it all in writing and whether they photocopied the tickets. That's where it's going to -- the rubber will hit the road with this ticket.

YELLIN: OK. We'll see if that ticket turns up. Brian, thanks so much. Buy a ticket while you're there for the next one.

TODD: Got it.

YELLIN: Good job. All right.

Mitt Romney, he has a big problem with women, lagging way behind the president with female voters in key swing states. But the GOP candidate has a secret weapon, and we're talking about it next.


YELLIN: Two big political stories we're watching tonight. First up as we close in on the general election, it's looking like the likely Republican nominee has a problem with women. Check out these new poll numbers. They show that Mitt Romney trails the president by double digits with women in a dozen key swing states.

If Mitt Romney has a problem with a gender gap, maybe President Obama has a problem with the Supreme Court. He spoke about it for the first time since the justices heard arguments against his health-care la.

And that's where we will start with our panel: Rick Tyler, a senior advisor for a pro-Gingrich super PAC; Maria Cardona, a CNN contributor and Democratic strategist; and Torie Clarke, a former Pentagon spokeswoman and senior advisor for the Comcast Corporation. Thanks to all of you for being with us. Let's get right to it.

The president for the first time commented on the Supreme Court oral arguments and on health care. And he really went at it on accusing -- well, suggesting the Supreme Court should not overturn the law and be an activist court. Listen to what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For years what we heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint. That an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.


YELLIN: Now, quickly after that, Senator Orrin Hatch, who is in a very tough re-election fight in his state, put out a statement saying, "It must be nice living in a fantasy world where every law you like is constitutional and every Supreme Court decision you don't is activist." He also said the memo appears to have gone out from the president's campaign that criticizing the Supreme Court will help his re-election.

Torie, fair of Orrin Hatch, Senator Hatch?

TORIE CLARKE, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: I think it's completely fair of Orrin Hatch. I was surprised that the president did this. Clearly, he's trying to influence the Supreme Court justices and saying to Justice Kennedy, for instance, "Please, don't over turn my law."

I think it's going to have the exact opposite effect. I think the Supreme Court justices are now going to stiffen their spines even more and say, "Do not get into our business here. We have a role to play and stay out of it. We'll do our jobs." I think he'll make them resist a little bit more.

YELLIN: Do you think it's a difficult balancing act, Maria? There's a danger that the justices could get -- stiffen their back and say, "No, I don't."

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the justices actually have to look at this from the standpoint of the law. And frankly, what the president said is right. The major criticism, especially from conservatives is that, when President Obama puts forth his nominees for judgeships, it is that they don't want activist judges; they don't want activism on the court. So he's right about that.

But the president said one other thing which is critically important. In all of the politics discussion what has been lost is the human element. This is a law that has already helped 180 million Americans. And that's something that we cannot lose sight of.

YELLIN: Rick, is this really about Orrin Hatch playing politics in Utah, because he's got two opponents that he doesn't want to lose to and he has to show he's got conservative strengths?

RICK TYLER, SENIOR ADVISOR, PRO-GINGRICH SUPER PAC: I think the intention took the correct opinion, in my opinion. I do think the president runs the danger of running straight -- because that would be part of the analysis. Whatever the court decides, they will discuss whether the president had influence or not.

I found it interesting that the president would choose to make this statement in front of President Calderon and Prime Minister Harper, both who have universal failed health-care systems. And he's trying to make this case about universal health care.

But fact is, the president knows better. This is -- when we refer to a judicial activism as conservatives, it is that we don't want the court to make laws. That is, assert the legislative branch. In this case, he's -- they're striking down a law, not making a law.

YELLIN: Well, OK. So everybody can debate this forever. Let's move to the gender gap story because there is this new -- there's a lot of polling showing that Mitt Romney has this gap with women.

Let's listen to --Romney acknowledges this, and he says his secret weapon is his wife, Ann. Listen to this, the two of them.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's going across the country and talking with women. And what they're talking about is the debt that we're leaving the next generation and the failure of this economy to put people back to work.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY (via phone): The reason I like to talk to women, in particular, is that I want them to think about their children and their grandchildren. That we do not want those kids to have the burdens of this budget deficit.


YELLIN: We don't have a lot of time unfortunately. But do you think that Ann's message is correct: focus on the big issues and Ann can sell it?

CLARKE: Absolutely. As a woman I am always insulted when they say women care about issues that are just important to women. Women care about jobs. Women care about taking care of their kids. I think she is speaking directly to their concerns. I think she will be a great help.

TYLER: Well, I think obviously his ratings have gone down, and I think that's part of the scorched earth strategy. Women obviously don't like the tone that he's taken. But I've never known a candidate's spouse to make up the gender gap.

CARDONA: I think that's right. And as articulate and charming as Ann Romney is, she's not on the ticket. And it's Mitt Romney who's actually going to be supporting the policies that a lot of independent women do see as anti-women. And that's why he is bleeding women and there is a Grand Canyon-esque chasm that is going to be very difficult for him to make up.

YELLIN: Interesting. Bottom line, he has to fix it himself.

CARDONA: Exactly.

YELLIN: OK. Thanks, all, for being here.

CLARKE: Thank you.

YELLIN: Nice to see you.

"ERIN BURNETT UP FRONT" is coming up at the top of the hour. Sorry, Erin. President Obama met with the leaders of -- you're up front and out front. He met with the leaders of Canada and Mexico today. I'm curious. What's your take on the significance of their meeting?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, I thought it was incredibly significant. And some of the things we saw that happened today, Jessica, are pretty frankly crucial for Americans to know about. We're going to take a close look. And there is a key reason for it.

Right now, we get 99 percent of something Canada makes that we need desperately. China is starting to take more and more of it. So there was some really disturbing things about that we're going to talk about that tonight.

Plus, of course, we have the latest on the breaking news, that horrible shooting in Oakland. Seven dead right now, three injured. We'll have a live report, breaking news on that.

And the man who listened to the audio and broke it down technically on his computer of that 911 call that was overheard, the calls for help from, well, was it George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin. He's going to tell us exactly what he heard and whose voice he thinks was crying for help. All that coming up "OUTFRONT."

YELLIN: Sounds good. I want to know what Canada makes. I'll tune in. Coming up -- thanks, Erin.

Coming up, lava gushes down the side of Italy's Mt. Etna. But these eruptions are nothing new for the folks who live nearby.

Plus Prince Harry to the rescue. How he saved the day for a polo player who blacked out in a brutal accident.


YELLIN: Prince Harry is being called a hero after rushing to the rescue of an injured polo player. Check out these pictures from a charity match in Brazil we just spotted.

Harry hopped off his horse and rushed to the side of Bash Kazi. Well, he's an American businessman who blacked out when two horses collided. Polo sounds like a dangerous business.

Richard Quest is in London. Richard, we couldn't tell the story without you, naturally. But first we have this quote from the "Washington Post" because Kazi told him, quote, "Prince Harry was the first one off his horse doing the right thing, turning me over to make sure I regained consciousness." And he calls the prince, quote, "a gentleman."

Now, we all know that the prince is a veteran of Afghanistan, so, Richard, do you think his military skills just kicked in at the polo match?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is no doubt, none whatsoever, that that's what happened. And if you look at the pictures, the way Harry jumps off the horse, immediately sees the man on the ground unconscious and rolls him over into the recovery position. He had fallen unconscious when he fell off the horse.

But where this really takes off, this story, is when some safety experts and medical experts say the prince may have saved this man's life, because he was unconscious and he rolled him over.

Now, firstly, there is no evidence that I've heard that the man's life was in danger. Secondly, yes, he had fallen off the horse, and that's a serious matter, but we really don't know just what the gravity was.

But nonetheless, Harry goes to the rescue, turns the chap over. He comes back to consciousness, and everybody is happily ever after.

YELLIN: Now, this isn't the first time we've seen a member of the royal family play the role of hero. I remember when Prince William, who was a member of Britain's Royal Air Force, co-piloted a rescue helicopter that helped save several Russian sailors. That was a real rescue. So do you think these royals are just natural-born heroes?

QUEST: Whether they're naturally born heroes or not, they all go into the military, and that puts them in the environment where they get the opportunity.

So take, for example, your case. Yes, William was there, he went out and he rescued some sailors (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He piloted the helicopter because he's part of air/sea rescue.

He then goes to the Falkland islands in the South Atlantic, highly controversial, and no great rescues took place there.

And now Harry dashingly off to rescue somebody who falls off a horse. Perhaps not quite as dramatic.

Are they heroes or are they just in the right place at the right time with the right bit of training? I don't know. Somehow, the hero bit sounds better.

YELLIN: It sounds good. They have quick instincts. Thank you, Richard, for adding all the right drama to this story. Always good to see you.

QUEST: Thank you.

YELLIN: Richard Quest for us.

And here's Kate Bolduan with the latest news you need to know right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jessica. I do love that story.

Hello again, everyone. Other headlines to catch you up on.

Osama bin Laden's three widows have been sentenced to six weeks in prison for living illegally in Pakistan. The government also fined them about 10,000 rupees each, which is about $110 if you didn't know the calculation, which I didn't, of course.

The wives of the former al Qaeda leader have been under house arrest since last May when U.S. Navy SEALs raided their compound in Pakistan. They will be sent back to their native countries of Yemen and Saudi Arabia following their jail time.

And check out this light show. That is -- you're looking at -- Mt. Etna in Sicily, spewing ash and lava during an eruption early Sunday morning. The volcano is the tallest and most active volcano in Europe. It's Etna's fifth eruption this year. Ash fell on villages at the foot of the volcano. But fortunately no damage is reported, but pretty amazing images to show you.

And good news if you're just itching to fill out your family tree. Results of the 1940 census have been unlocked after a mandatory 72-year waiting period. That means the personal details of more than 132 million Americans are now online. You can check them out at -- follow me on this one -- There you have it. But the site has had tens of millions of hits this morning alone, causing some technical hiccups. There you have it.

YELLIN: We'll get to it next. I haven't gone there yet.

Now the "Moment You Missed." "Mad Men" writers -- do you watch? -- they dug from the political drama -- it's set in the 1960s. And in an episode last night they made a jab at George Romney, Mitt Romney's father. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should have just gone into work.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want me to turn down the TV?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fine. Henry Francis. Well, tell Jim his honor is not going to Michigan. Because Romney is a clown, and I don't want him standing next to him.


YELLIN: Now, the AMC drama is set in 1966 when George Romney was Michigan governor, and the character Henry Francis works for then New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

Apparently Tabb Romney, Mitt's eldest son, was not pleased. He tweeted, "Seriously, lib media mocking my grandpa?"

OK, I don't know. It's kind of funny.

BOLDUAN: They're trying to be appropriate. I just don't want to see any more, because I haven't yet seen that episode.

YELLIN: I know. They're just trying to be appropriate to the era.

Anyway, that's all from us tonight. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.