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Interview with Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; NFL Quarterback Benching Concussions; Magic Johnson Launches New TV Channel for African-American Viewers; Interview with Magic Johnson

Aired June 27, 2012 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's Wednesday, June 27th and STARTING POINT begins right now. You know, I like this song. It's just been played and played.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's three chords, three notes, over and over and over.

O'BRIEN: And they tend to play it on the radio constantly.

HOOVER: That's exactly why it's my karaoke song because I can only hit three notes.

JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: Yes, it's more like shallow wait nothing. In fact, the irony of this song is it's not about breakfast at Tiffany's. It's about the movie "Roman Holiday." Did you know that?

O'BRIEN: Details, details. Come on.

FUGELSANG: I was a deejay. I know this crap.

O'BRIEN: I know you do.

Our team this morning, that was Margaret Hoover's play list.

Margaret Hoover is with us. She is the author of "American Individualism."

John Fugelsang is with us as well. He's a political comedian. You've been busy. You've been traveling a lot.

FUGELSANG: Just a bit, yes. It's nice to see you again.

O'BRIEN: Nice to see you again.

FUGELSANG: I've been stalking you on airplanes.

O'BRIEN: Please don't say that.

Will Cain is with us as well of

On STARTING POINT this morning, the heated political climate, easy for me to say. Tomorrow, the Supreme Court is going to rule on the president's health care law. The house is planning on holding a contempt of Congress vote against Attorney General Eric Holder. All these issues simmering around the country.

President Obama and Mitt Romney are in this tight race, trying really to focus on the swing states. And there's a new BC/"Wall Street Journal" poll that shows that 50 percent of people living in those 11 battle ground states prefer President Obama, 42 percent back Mitt Romney. It's all within the margin of error.

People who are living in the state of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin were polled.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson is a Romney campaign surrogate. He's also from the swing state of Wisconsin.

It's nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us this morning. Appreciate your time.

Not only that poll is new. There's also a poll that takes a look at -- it breaks down sort of the voters, and if you look at African- Americans, no surprise, President Obama is leading significantly, 92 percent to 1 percent for Mitt Romney.

If you look at women, President Obama is leading 52 percent to 39 percent for Mitt Romney. Voters who are relatively young, 18 to 29, 52 percent to 35 percent for Mitt Romney.

Independents, a little bit more of a squeaker there, 40 percent to 36 percent. Really technically neck and neck because there's a sampling error of plus or minus 6 percent.

When you look at these polls in total, tell me what the strategy is to try to get, you know, a little more play on the map there.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I think any American that's concerned about having a job or any American that's concerned about the mountain of debt that we heaped on the backs of our children and grandchildren, and really mortgaging the future, I think those people look at Governor Romney and say, here's somebody who will be a leader and actually start addressing the problem. You know, actually propose solutions to save Social Security and Medicare.

And I think that's what basically the message and the campaign that Governor Romney I think will be running.

O'BRIEN: Do you think that the about immigration, even though we have been having a lot of conversations this week, certainly -- do you think they are irrelevant (AUDIO BREAK) Carlos Gutierrez, who is a spokesperson for the campaign yesterday, and we kind of went at it. I couldn't get a straight answer from him.

I'm going to play a little chunk and I'm going to ask you a question on the other side.


O'BRIEN: Does Mitt Romney support SB-1070, yes or no?

CARLOS GUTIERREZ, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Soledad, it's a little bit more complicated. Let me just say this.

O'BRIEN: It's not. It's not.

GUTIERREZ: No. What the governor has said, and he made a statement yesterday, he supports the rights of border states to do what they have to do according to the law to protect their borders.

O'BRIEN: And does that -- and does that include stopping and detaining anyone and checking the immigration status of that person if they have reasonable suspicion if the person is in the country illegally? I'm not just sparring with you, sir. As you know, this is the critical, central, most controversial portion of this bill. And Governor Romney has not said if he supports it or not.

GUTIERREZ: But this is not about Governor Romney.

O'BRIEN: It is if he wants to be president.


O'BRIEN: Why is it so hard to articulate his position on immigration?

JOHNSON: First of all, Soledad, this is a very difficult issue. And what Arizona is trying to do is it's basically trying to address a problem that President Obama and the federal government has basically abdicated their responsibility on. These are very serious issues. They are difficult issues.

And President Obama said during his campaign that this was such an important issue that he was going to handle the immigration problem in his first year. He has done nothing on it. He certainly has done nothing to secure our borders, which is the first step. And that's a real problem. Because we're not going to solve our immigration issue until we secure our borders.

And this is much more than just immigration issue. It's a national security issue as well, as people can come into this country, people that threaten this country, because we've refused to secure our borders.

HOOVER: You know, Soledad, I wonder if Senator Johnson and the Romney campaign actually look at the numbers, seeing how close they are, and knowing we are not even to July yet, Mitt Romney hasn't garnered the Republican nomination yet. The majority of Americans who are going to be voting in November haven't gotten to know Mitt Romney yet, and whether they take a little bit of hope from the numbers that -- thinking that maybe when they get to know Mitt Romney then they'll have a more informed opinion that maybe the disparity, since it is so close, is just because they don't know the candidate yet.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You asked what is the strategy? I'd offer to you, "The Wall Street Journal" wrote yesterday that Senator Johnson's existence is in fact a strategy. That the Republicans can go into what have been reliably Democratic states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota and hope to make up ground.

Now, I don't know if that's true or not. But Senator Johnson's office, that he exists and holds it, might be evidence of that.

FUGELSANG: I'd like to ask Senator Johnson. Good morning, sir. John Fugelsang here.

When you consider that the president has sent National Guard troops to the border, has a record number of deportations, and last April we found out that America has had a net zero increase of illegal immigrants, whereas the governor hasn't yet taken a stance on this controversial topic, how does the governor claim he is taking leadership more than the president on this issue?

JOHNSON: First of all, we have seen reports that border agents aren't able or have been discouraged from actually reporting the true extent of the problem on the borders in terms of not actually enforcing the borders.

FUGELSANG: Net zero increase in illegal immigration as of April.

JOHNSON: That's because our economy is in such dire straits that there aren't the jobs here to attract the illegal immigrants.

FUGELSANG: So Bush gets credit.

JOHNSON: These are serious issues, but it has to start first with border enforcement. And this administration really has been terrible in terms of actually trying to secure our borders. And that's where it first starts.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the Supreme Court expected to rule on health care. We are expecting that at 10:00 tomorrow morning.

Give me the hypotheticals on this. Let's say in fact that it's shot down. What happens next?

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, that's obviously what I'm hoping. The cleanest decision --

O'BRIEN: We know.

JOHNSON: The cleanest decision would be to totally, you know, rule the entire law unconstitutional, and then we can start over with an open debate and a step-by-step approach. Republicans are not going to be putting forward a 2,700 page bill, another 12,000 pages of rules and regulations. We're going to take a look at the individual issues. And debate openly.

And let's face it. The greatest impediment to access to health care is the cost. And this president promised if we enacted his health care law, the average cost for a family plan would decrease by $2,500 per year. It's actually up by over $2,000 per year. That's making it more difficult for families to access care.

And so, you need to reintroduce the free market disciplines into health care, and you start with some common sense tort reforms so that we can get rid of the huge costs of malpractice and defense of medicine.

O'BRIEN: There are lots of people I think who think that the individual mandate is not such a great idea. But there are people who are very beholden to the idea of covering people with pre-existing conditions, with the cost of keeping the premiums for elderly people.

How much of a political hit will you take if it looks like Republicans are responsible, that's a big if, for killing this bill? I think that people who want their pre-existing conditions covered, that could be some kind of leverage in an election year, don't you think?

JOHNSON: The way you handle pre-existing conditions is how you do it in Wisconsin with the high risk pool. In Wisconsin, in the state of Wisconsin, 95 percent of the population either has coverage or has access to coverage, whether they decide to alas access it or not.

Wisconsin did not need a federal solution. We didn't need 2,700 pages. And I think this is far better left to the states on the individual basis to figure out what is the best way of handling people with pre-existing conditions.

You can't just force insurance companies to take all comers or you will bankrupt those insurance companies. And, by the way, individuals would never buy health care. I mean, why would you, if you can wait until you're basically on the way to the hospital?

So that's a system that doesn't work. And Democrats that passed the health care law even admitted that covering everybody with pre- existing conditions with no penalties does not work without the individual mandate, which I believe is unconstitutional, and I hope that's the way the Supreme Court rules.

O'BRIEN: We will see how the Supreme Court is going to rule and maybe we'll get a chance to talk about it tomorrow again, sir. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican from the state of Wisconsin. Nice to have you with us. Appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Have a good day.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, likewise.

Let's get right to Christine. She's got an update on our top stories. Hey, Christine.


It has exploded. New video in to CNN showing overnight homes entirely up in flames in Colorado Springs. Thirty-two thousand people have been chased from their homes. This fire now raging unchecked, spreading to 6,200 acres. It is only 5 percent contained.

The largest of the fires in the state, the High Park Fire, has been burning since June 9th. That one has destroyed 257 homes.

To Florida, where Debby has now been downgraded to a tropical depression. The storm has dumped a dangerous amount of rain over Florida, more than 25 inches in some parts. People just beginning to return home by boat and finding total loss.


JO GRADDY, MADEIRA BEACH RESIDENT: The water was up this high on the doors. Everything inside the garage was floating. There was a walkway in the center, and everything was stacked up on the sides. The water started floating everything, and it collapsed down in on itself.


ROMANS: In Washington, the art of survival. Seventy-eight- year-old Senator Orrin Hatch beating back a Tea Party challenge in the Utah Senate primary. Hatch easily defeated former state Senator Dan Liljenquist. He says he did it by outworking his younger opponent. Hatch is trying for a seventh term in the Senate.

Long time New York Congressman Charlie Rangel also survived a primary challenge in his Harlem district. The 82-year-old Democrat was facing voters for the first time since being censured by fellow House members for ethics violation.

Rangel is running for a 22nd term in Congress.

She touched millions with her words. Writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron is being remembered this morning after losing her battle with leukemia. Ephron was known for romantic comedies, including "When Harry Met Sally" and this classic scene.


MEG RYAN: Yes, yes, yes! Oh, oh, oh, oh, God. Oh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll have what she's having.


ROMANS: Billy Crystal said in a statement, "I'm very sad to learn of Nora's passing. She was a brilliant writer and humorist. Being her Harry to Meg's Sally will always have a special place in my heart. I was very lucky to get to say her words."

Ephron was 71 years old -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I loved the movie, but I really love "Heartburn." too.

FUGELSANG: You know, I'm glad you mentioned that because that was Meryl Streep playing Nora Ephron in a film about her divorce from Carl Bernstein.

O'BRIEN: Right.

FUGELSANG: That was her first really big script.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that was a great, great movie.

FUGELSANG: Also a good director too.

O'BRIEN: Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, he has taken some big hits. Now the Saints' Super Bowl winning quarterback Drew Brees talks about his mission to try to educate folks about concussions.

And today's "Tough Call," no air conditioning in Texas prisons. Is that cruel and inhumane?

Here's Tom Petty, "I Won't Back Down." That's Will Cain's play list. It wasn't Carly Rae.


O'BRIEN: You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Sports related concussions are in the national spotlight more than ever. There are as many as 3.8 million concussions that occur every year in professional, college, and youth sports. Approximately 85 percent of them will go undiagnosed, and that, of course, could lead to even more serious injuries.

Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints quarterback and Super Bowl champion, wants to make a difference. He's teaming up with Dick's Sporting Goods to provide free testing to try to determine whether a kid has suffered a concussion.

He joins us this morning for a program called PACE. It stands for Protecting Athletes through Concussion Education. Why did you feel this is important to get involved with?

DREW BREES, NFL QUARTERBACK, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: This is an important issue right now, especially here over the last few years. The more that we discover about concussions and the likelihood of concussions in various sports, and especially as it affects children. Also, maybe creating a paradigm shift too in just the way that we approach sports and athletics.

And I think so much of the way we were brought up was a toughness, and you're going to fight through it.

O'BRIEN: Shake it off.

BREES: And even if you get your bell rung, shake it off, and you're going to go back out. Well, the more studies that we see, you know, when you get your bell rung, you know, that's potentially a mild concussion or a concussion.

O'BRIEN: How many concussions have you had?

BREES: You know, I've had one back in 2005 when I played for the San Diego Chargers. That was the first time I had really had one to that degree. And this was in early third quarter of a game. And it wasn't until mid fourth quarter that people started to recognize that I just wasn't all there.

O'BRIEN: What were you doing?

BREES: Just, you know, dazed, lack of awareness, having to concentrate so much just to be able to call a play. And, you know, I went back in and I played for a while. And then, finally, one of my coaches pulled me aside and said, be honest with me. How are you feeling right now? And I said I'm a little shaky. And he said, all right. You're out. And I said, but -- and he's like, no, you're out. So, it was good that he was able to detect that for me.

O'BRIEN: The baseline is critical, and that's really what you're offering, right, through this PACE test.

BREES: Yes. And you know what, the baseline testing is a great first step to identify whether somebody is a little off kilter. You know, if they're coming out of a game and, you know, they've had their bell rung or they were knocked out, certainly, they suffered a mild traumatic brain injury or traumatic brain injury that needs to be diagnosed and then treated.

And you know what, they might not go back on the field for a week or two weeks or maybe even longer. But it's better to be safe and keep it that longer to make sure that they are 100 percent healthy before they go back out there again.

O'BRIEN: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about the bounty scandal and the very harsh penalties that follow. What do you think of those penalties? When Tiki Barber comes in, because he hangs out with us a little bit, he says it happens all the time, that there's a sort of, you know, throw a couple of bucks that way. If you hit somebody hard, it's not that unusual. Is it done? Is it over, do you think?

BREES: Well, here's a thing. There's a big difference between pay for performance and then, you know, pay to injure. Pay for performance would be like if, you know, a punt returner tells everybody who's blocking for him, hey, if I return this for a touchdown, you get me in the end zone, you know, I'll kick you guys 100 bucks or I'll take you out to eat. That's really is just incentivizing.

O'BRIEN: Right.

BREES: You know, your co-workers.

O'BRIEN: And we're talking injuries.

BREES: Yes, we're talking about, you know, hey, you go out and break a guy's leg, and I'll kick you some money. I mean, I think that if that has happened in the past, I mean, certainly, there's no place for that in our game. I think we're being accused of that.

As the New Orleans Saints organization, a lot of our players and coaches in participating something like that. Other than just, you know, tough talk and hearsay and hypothetical, I haven't seen any proof. I mean, there really hasn't been any proof shown that that, indeed, was taking place.

O'BRIEN: So then, do you think the penalties have been very harsh if you haven't seen any evidence (ph)?

BREES: Well, if it's true, then I think the penalties are appropriate. But, have they really proven that it's true? I think that, unfortunately, it seems like the NFL in their investigation had a predetermined conclusion that they wanted to arrive at, that this was indeed taking place for whatever reason, as opposed to just taking the facts of the matter and evaluating it off of that.

And I think that a lot of things, a lot of those things are starting to come to light now within the past couple of weeks. I know, you know, a week ago, players had their appeals. I'm sure that that appeal ruling will come out soon from the commissioner. Hopefully, you know, he'll see if it is the case that these guys were not involved.

And we can move on to more positive things, because I know the country is tired of hearing about it.

O'BRIEN: I know. I'm tired of hearing about it.

BREES: And I really just want the truth. So, I'm tired of hearing about it, too. I just want the truth.

O'BRIEN: All right. Drew Brees, nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

BREES: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Nice to meet you.

BREES: Nice to meet you, too.

O'BRIEN: Brees says the Saints bounty scandal has been a distraction during his ongoing contract negotiations. Football training camp is less than a month away. He is still not signed. He says he's confident that he's going to reach an agreement with the Saints. Or people will go crazy if they don't.

You can tune in next week when we re-air Dr. Sanjay Gupta's "Big Hits, Broken Dreams." That documentary explores concussions and high school football. You can see it on July 4th at 7:00 p.m. eastern time.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, he is more than just a basketball legend. Earvin "Magic" Johnson is ready to duke it out on a new court. He's getting into the TV game with a new network. There he is. We'll see him in a minute. Also, Texas prisoners are demanding air conditioning. Is it cruel and inhumane punishment to deny them AC? It's our "Tough Call" segment this morning.

Don't forget, you can watch us on your computer or your smart computer. Go to to see us live.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And welcome back to STARTING POINT. It's 25 minutes past the hour. A few quick headlines this morning.


ROMANS (voice-over): House GOP leaders will discuss today whether to let student loan rates go up or to extend the current rate cut. The Senate says it already has an agreement. Congress has until Sunday to act. If there's no deal, rates will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, but someone's got to pay to keep them low. It's about $6 billion they have to find to keep them lower.

U.S. stock futures trading flat right now. Everyone is waiting for news from the European Union summit meeting in Brussels. Looking for reports later today in the U.S. on the housing market here. Also, durable goods orders. Both of those (ph) with a fresh look at the health of the American economy.

Rocking the unibrow and cashing in on it. Anthony Davis, a guest on STARTING POINT a couple of days ago, is expected to be the number one pick in tomorrow night's NBA draft. Ahead of that, he's already trademarked his unibrow, now owning the rights to the phrases "fear the brow" and "raise the brow." and i love to see a budding businessman.


O'BRIEN: He was so sweet, wasn't he, when he came to join us? Oh, my gosh. He was lovely. All right. Thanks, Christine. Appreciate it.

ROMANS (on-camera): You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Our "Tough Call" segment this morning, should prisons in Texas be air conditioned? Twenty-one out of 111 prisons that are run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are fully air conditioned. So, that leaves a whole bunch that are not. Inmates say overheated conditions violate the Eighth Amendment, which would prevent cruel and unusual punishment.

Several inmates died in prisons from heat related causes last summer. A lawsuit that was filed yesterday in one of those deaths, and in the Garza East Prison in South Texas, they measured the indoor heat index. It was -- excuse me -- 126 degrees for 10 days, the lawsuit filed in that prison in 2008.

A former inmate described it like being in death valley. So, our "Tough Call," should, in fact, you give air conditioning to prisoners?

HOOVER: I think you -- the question at the heart of this tough issue is whether -- what is our obligation to our prisoners? What is the obligation civil society has to prisoners when they're in prison supposedly or hopefully becoming rehabilitated? I think, clearly we have an obligation to have them in safe and humane conditions --


HOOVER: -- luxurious conditions. So, I think, look, if you're in an oven that's 126 degrees of heat index, certainly not safe or humane, especially if you have four people dying. However, does that mean you should go about and air condition a good 80 --

O'BRIEN: What's the alternative?

HOOVER: Well, what you have in Texas, you've given certain prisoners have gotten more showers in the day, fans. They've been able to buy fans. They have a program that would allow prisoners who can't afford fans in order to get fans. They allow them to wear shorts under certain conditions.

So, are there other ways of creating humane conditions that don't incur the cost of air conditioning an entire system of prisons?

FUGELSANG: Yes, They should have air conditioning. Period.

CAIN: Why?

FUGELSANG: Well, I'll go to say Jesus in Matthew 25 when he talks about the importance of being good to prisoners. So, if you don't care about prisoner suffering, don't claim you want a government based on Christian values.

HOOVER: Do you only care about prisoners with air conditioning?

FUGELSANG: No. But I'm not asking to give them pedicures and caviar and pink berry. I'm just saying, 126 degrees with four dead men. Yes, I think we've crossed the line.

O'BRIEN: And it's unclear if fans and all that will help on the temperatures that -- I can see that working in the northeast probably pretty easily in a toasty summer, because our temperatures don't get that high. But a Texas summer, anybody who's spent any time --

CAIN: A lot of people in Texas who aren't in prison don't have air conditioning.


CAIN: I'm not aware that they have a claim to air-conditioning. And I don't know. I don't know that you have a claim -- I don't know that being in prison gives you a claim to have in higher --

(CROSSTALK) O'BRIEN: They can drive to a mall where there is air- conditioning, which of course, is something that a prisoner could not possibly do. But the state senator -- oh, yes, and they have cooling centers as well.

There's a state senator. His name is John Whitmyer and he said he's not sympathetic to the complaints about a lack of air conditioning partly because of the concerns of the cost but also he says this. "These people are sex offenders, rapists, and murderers. We're not going to pay for their air conditioning when I can't go down to street to provide air-conditioning to hardworking taxpaying citizens."

FUGELSANG: They're all murderers and rapists and sex offenders --

O'BRIEN: That's his quote. That's what he says.

HOOVER: Look, the guy who says the colorful comment always gets the quote in the newspaper. The issue is, is there a way to humanely treat prisoners without incurring the cost of air conditioning an entire system. Can you create cooling centers in prison? Is there some intermediary step?

FUGELSANG: Redo submissions.


FUGELSANG: Redo submissions and global warming.

O'BRIEN: You always throw that right at the very end.


O'BRIEN: All right. It's not decided then, I guess.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a revealing new look at Amy Winehouse. Nearly a year after her death, it comes at a new book written by her dad. We're going to talk to Mitch Winehouse straight ahead this morning.

Plus, we talk to the one and only Magic Johnson. He's here to talk about his new venture. He's launching a television network. My playlist will play us out. It's Kanye West, "Amazing." You're watching STARTING POINT.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. We're talking to Irvin "Magic" Johnson, and also we're talking to Amy Winehouse's father. That's ahead this morning.

First, though, I want to get to Christine Romans for a look at the day's top stories. Good morning, Christine. ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad. One official says it's like a military invasion. New video into CNN overnight, homes up in flames in Colorado Springs. And 32,000 people are now on the run, and the Air Force Academy has moved residents out of housing areas. The fire has spread to 6,200 acres. It's only 5 percent contained. And 65 mile per hour winds blew it right past one containment line, no stopping.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton off on a three-nation tour of Finland, Latvia, and Russia. And the crisis in Syria will surely be on the agenda. Clinton wants support for a political transition, something that Russia, opposes. Meanwhile, Assad's regime blames terrorists for killing three people at a pro government TV network.

Stockton, California, expected to file bankruptcy at any moment, becoming the largest city in U.S. history to file chapter 9. The city is $700 million in debt. Mediation with its creditors failed late last night.

New this morning, new this morning, Queen Elizabeth shakes the hand of former IRA commander Martin McGinnis. The gesture's is symbolic and personal. The queen's cousin was killed in an Irish Republican Army attack. The IRA finally ended its war with Great Britain in 1998. That handshake is the latest step to the road to peace. That handshake is history.

The summer Olympics now only a month away. Earlier this morning, the Olympic rings were lowed from the tower bridge in London to commemorate the 30-day countdown until the games begin. They are 82 feet tall, 62 feet wide. Each ring the size of a double decker bus.

It could be a hip-hop dream team on the field. Sean Diddy Combs and Snoop Dogg's son could play football together at UCLA. Snoop dogg's son was offered a scholarship to the Bruins. Diddy's son committed to the Bruins last year. We'll have to wait until 2015 to see if they take the field together.

O'BRIEN: That's funny. Christine, thank you.

Irvin "Magic" Johnson isn't just a hall of fame basketball legend. He is also a successful businessman who has developed an empire of movie theaters, fitness centers, and has a stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers. And now he's going to become a media mogul. He is launching a new television network today called Aspire, and it highlights the positive achievements of the African-American community. The family friendly programming will feature movies, music, comedy. Here is a look at one of the artists that will be showcased.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I aspire to debunk the awful stereotype that classical music is stuffy and it's for an elite group of people. I think good music is good music. And I think that when exposed to it and when it's played well, everybody will love it when they hear it. My name is Jade Simmons. I'm a concert pianist. But I aspire to take classical to the mainstream.


O'BRIEN: Magic Johnson is the chairman and CEO of Aspire. Nice to have you with us.

IRVIN "MAGIC" JOHNSON, FOUNDER OF ASPIRE: Thank you for having me. I know we have been trying to hook this up for a little bit.

O'BRIEN: Finally it's happened. Why would you want to run a TV network?

JOHNSON: I tell you, I've been tossing and turning on that same question, you know.


O'BRIEN: Yes. Tell me about that. Did Oprah call you?

JOHNSON: Exactly. And we don't have $400 million to spend either. But what happened was I took it slow. Comcast, there were four up for grabs, two African-Americans, two Latino channels. And the only reason I did this, Soledad, because I have a great partner in GMC. And without them coming as my partner, understanding how to build a network, how to also make sure we have the right content, make sure that now I don't have to build a back of the house because they have that, and so now to keep the numbers down in terms of me investing my money.

And then I think that when we did our research, and our focus groups, they told us that the family programming, African-Americans want more family programming. And when I saw that we really had an opportunity to win, that's when I jumped on the opportunity. Because the creative community of African-American brothers, actors, writers, producers, directors, they are all so excited.

O'BRIEN: It's a platform.

JOHNSON: Yes, a platform for them. So that made me excited. And we're going to be successful, you know. We don't have to spend the money that -- we have to spend some money, but not quite the $400 million --

O'BRIEN: It's going to cost some money.

JOHNSON: -- that Oprah was spending.

CAIN: It sounds like the opportunity was right. But it comes at an odd time. This business root night now is changing, Oprah, not necessarily a model of success yet. Did you consider content and how it's changing now with distribution, streaming and internet access, might affect the long-term future of this business?

JOHNSON: No question about it.

O'BRIEN: No, he didn't think of it at all. (LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: We thought about it. But one thing good about this opportunity is there's not enough channels or platforms for African- Americans. And then when you think about there's BET, there's TV One, and then there's going to be us. And so we know that there's a way that we can go to those devices and make sure we market Aspire and get it out to the people.

But at the same time, because we don't have many outlets right now, a lot of us want our own channel. They want -- and then when you think about the 30 and over, they don't have anything that they can watch on TV that reflects them, that looks like them, that speaks to them.

FUGELSANG: So are you concerned about being able to stay true to the kind of programming you want to have? If ratings are tough, we're not going to see "hell date" on aspire?

JOHNSON: No. African-Americans know I'm best in class, and they know I'm going to bring best in class to them.

CAIN: Any athletics? Any sports programming?

JOHNSON: Well, we'll weave it in and out. I think that we'll definitely speak to entertainment, sports, comedy, music, faith-based on Sunday. So you won't be seeing magic, though. It's not about me.

O'BRIEN: I was going to ask you, because you had a talk show. You wouldn't want to be in front of the camera?

JOHNSON: Don't bring that up, please.


JOHNSON: No, no. I won't do that, because I think that I have a business show maybe and do some interviews. I love that.

O'BRIEN: So you will be involved?

JOHNSON: Yes, yes. But it won't be -- that will probably be all of two percent, three percent.

O'BRIEN: Will you be very hands-on in the programming?

JOHNSON: Oh, yes.

O'BRIEN: So you're the guy to give my resume to?


JOHNSON: You can be on anytime. You know me.

O'BRIEN: Call me. We'll talk later. But can I ask you a basketball question? I want to ask you about Anthony Davis. We had him on the other day. And he is the same age that you were when you were drafted.


O'BRIEN: I look at him and I was wondering, like what advice would you give him? How much has the game changed since you were doing it?

JOHNSON: Well, really, the game hasn't changed all that much.

O'BRIEN: The environment?

JOHNSON: The environment has changed. And I think what's changed is the players are younger coming in. But at the same time, the advice I would give Anthony Davis is just stay in the gym. Work hard to improve. Come with the same attitude. And then enjoy, enjoy yourself, because -- and then get good people around you, because what happens, now every person that was your uncle, every friend now wants to latch onto you and come along for the ride. So if I'm him, keep your parents involved, get you a good money manager and accountant and get you a good agent.

O'BRIEN: Because then one day he could be a TV mogul as well. We're looking forward to seeing you flip the switch on your new network. Congratulations.

JOHNSON: It's going to be a lot of fun, and I'm so excited about it. But I look through every situation, trust me. I don't get into a business venture unless I check it frontwards, backwards, and then if we have sustainability and if we have growth. So if we don't have those things, I don't jump into it. So I've been checking this out.


O'BRIEN: Thank you, magic. Great to see you as always.

JOHNSON: Oh, you too. Anytime.

O'BRIEN: Call me.

JOHNSON: Any show. I know I can't have you, but bring me some shows.

O'BRIEN: Well, my people will call you later.

JOHNSON: You got it. You got it.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a revealing look at the life of singer Amy Winehouse. You know, it's been almost a year since her death. We'll talk to her dad who was so close to her. Mitch Winehouse will join us. He has a new book called "Amy, My Daughter." You're watching STARTING POINT. Back in just a moment.



O'BRIEN: It's been almost a year since Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27 in her London apartment after weeks of staying sober and trying to get back on the right track. The talented performer died from accidental alcohol poisoning last July.

Amy's father, Mitch Winehouse, decided to write a memoir about his daughter's short and turbulent life, and the book documents his relationship with Amy, her battle with drugs and alcohol, and the rollercoaster of her final years. It's called "Amy, my daughter." Mitch Winehouse joins us. It's a great book, such a great read. And yet it's hard to read knowing how close you were. How painful was it to go through and tell these stories? You're incredibly, brutally, blunt and straightforward in this book. How hard was that?

MITCH WINEHOUSE, AMY WINEHOUSE'S FATHER: Writing the book, believe it or not, wasn't that difficult. I was kind of in the zone. When I had to read the book back that was just unbelievable. You know, it really -- I had a little bit of a breakdown actually. But as I say, writing it wasn't that difficult.

O'BRIEN: In October of 2006, "Back to Black" was a hit.


O'BRIEN: And within a year, it would be I think a six-time certified platinum album. And you wrote that you were both really proud and also horrified because you wrote this. "I was blown away, beyond proud. But deep down I never wanted Amy to write another album like it. The songs are amazing but she went through hell to write them. All the songs on 'Back to Black', apart from 'Rehab', are about Blake. It occurred to me recently that one of the biggest-selling UK albums of the 21st century so far is about the biggest low-life expletive that God ever put breath into."

Tell me about Blake. That was her husband. And she loved him. She clearly --

WINEHOUSE: That's true. And, you know, I regret writing that. I mean although in his own words, he introduced Amy to Class A drugs. He said that she took to it like a duck to water -- great thing to say about your wife. And he then said he ruined something beautiful. These are his words, not mine.

You know, but I'm spending so much energy focusing on the negative, and we can't do that. You know, we need to move on. You know, we're doing some terrific work with the foundation. And you know, I don't want to be thinking about him.

O'BRIEN: She was a very fragile person. I mean, you write a lot about the degree to which and you know, I think often performers are already fragile people. But she was really, she didn't even know how great she was.

WINEHOUSE: I wouldn't say she was fragile, Soledad.


WINEHOUSE: You know I think she was a strong young lady that had a weakness.


WINEHOUSE: And it was just unfortunate circumstances more than unfortunate. My mother passed away in May 2006. And Blake re-emerged at the same time. So you had this -- you had this vulnerable young woman who was heartbroken over the death of my mother and then Blake reappears. And that is not a good recipe.

CAIN: One of the things you wrote about is the fact that Amy had this one album, "Back to Black", it was so much about Blake you said. And because she had to go back and sing those songs.


CAIN: Over and over that it took her back, over and over again back to Blake. Tell us about that.

WINEHOUSE: Well, I -- you know I said, I talk a bit about Amy's stage fright. But on reflection, I spoke to her about it she said, "Dad, I can't sing these songs anymore." She had moved on. This is three or four years on from "Back to Black" and Blake.

And now and she was with Reg, her new boyfriend, who's a great guy. And I think you've met Reg. And they were talking about getting married, they were talking about having kids. And now she's having that -- I mean to sing the song properly, I mean, I'm a singer, when I go onstage and sing a love song, I like to think about my beautiful wife.

Now she's having to go onstage, she's having to sing the song "Back to Black". It's about when Blake's not there, she gets depressed. You know how are you going to sing a song like that?


WINEHOUSE: If that was written four years ago -- about somebody who she -- apart from everything else -- she hadn't seen him for three or four years.

FUGELSANG: Sir, I've got to say when your daughter died, one of the most unkind things I heard people say in the American media was what a waste of talent, which I found to be completely wrong. I think not using your gift is a waste of talent, Amy was a loss of talent and she accomplished more when -- in two albums than most artists do creatively their entire career.

WINEHOUSE: Thank you. That's true.

FUGELSANG: The other night on YouTube but I see a clip of her singing with the Rolling Stones doing (inaudible) that I've never even seen before. And after hearing "Lioness" the album that just came out of the unreleased tracks, can we at least hope that there will be more music coming out so people can remember her for her creativity rather than the sad stuff?

WINEHOUSE: I would be very disappointed if there wasn't a "Lioness" hidden treasure side album part 2. I would be very surprised and disappointed.

O'BRIEN: Tell me about the foundation before we let you go. She had a passion for a number of things that people don't know about. What's the -- what's the foundation's work?

WINEHOUSE: Ok. Well, in the UK we're helping lots of disadvantaged young people suffering from life-threatening illnesses, that's children's hospices, a drug rehabilitation facilities, homeless charities. In the U.S., we are much more focused.

In fact through Soledad, we met the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and they've got two wonderful youth projects, as you know, working with disadvantaged young people down there in New Orleans, music education and music therapy. What they are doing is they have a weekend -- weekend classes and a summer school class. We want to somehow try and implement or supplement that by creating after school music clubhouses down there in New Orleans.

Amy didn't -- didn't know she was going to die. There wasn't a detailed list of instructions that she left me. But the one thing she said to me was when Katrina struck in 2005, "What can we do, dad? This is terrible."

So we feel that our first venture, and it's our only first venture in the USA, this is what we're going to be doing down there in New Orleans with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

O'BRIEN: Well, that's amazing work and I'm sure she'd be incredibly proud to see that today. Mitch Winehouse nice to have you.

WINEHOUSE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: This book is a page turner. I mean it's really riveting and so brutally honest.

Anybody who wants more information, you can go to If you want more information about the Amy Winehouse Foundation, there's a link right there.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, mysterious posters are popping up all around the country declaring that certain people deserve to die.

We're going tell you what it's about ahead on STARTING POINT.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

There are these mysterious posters popping up, kind of offending people, in major cities across the U.S., including the city of New York where we are, in Chicago and Seattle. They say hipsters deserve to die. Or cat lovers deserve to die. Or crazy old aunts deserve to die.

Part of this, of course, is to be shocking because this is linked to lung cancer. And what they are trying to do is to send a message. But have you seen these?

CAIN: Do we know that? Because it's been a mystery, right?


O'BRIEN: Well they're kind of logo, it's unclear it hasn't been released. But you can see the logo says --

MARGARET HOOVER, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN INVIDUALISM": And it says to other if you go to the Web site, they'll say 160,000 people die of this per year. And if you go to the CDC, it says 160,000 people die of lung cancer every year so you can do the math. But this is Gorilla Marketing 101. Say something controversial, get people like us talking about it and will it raise actual awareness.

O'BRIEN: Do you think it works? Or do you think -- I always wonder, do you -- when you offend people like that, do you ultimately -- right, advertising ultimately is about trying to get done what you want to get accomplished, which is to raise awareness about lung cancer.

So does it work? Or do you -- do you shoot yourself in the foot, metaphorically?

FUGELSANG: They need to explain what the deserve part means. While I agree with them completely on hipsters, they need to explain what is behind the conceit of this whole "deserve to die" bit. Because, you know, if it is something positive, raising awareness is great but they have to justify the language. They haven't done that yet.

HOOVER: Well, Thursday, I think there's a ticking clock, as to when they'll reveal what it all means. We'll see tomorrow.

CAIN: This (inaudible) has been doing -- the anti-smoking campaigns here in New York are just completely in your face. That's not a subjective judgment.

O'BRIEN: I love them.

CAIN: I'm not passing judgement one way or another. They will get in your face and show you the ugliness of the repercussions of smoking.

O'BRIEN: The reality. I mean I think that that's the brutal -- and maybe that's true. And the fact that we are just talking about it is an indication that that kind of advertising does work. It really scares you. My kids watch that, and it's terrifying to see some of those. Especially people who have lost body parts.

FUGELSANG: For too many, lung cancer and emphysema are just words, you know. And so any way you can shake people up and make them more aware of the reality of it, I completely agree with them.


HOOVER: I guess we'll (inaudible) offending them.

O'BRIEN: Oh people are offended all the time.

FUGELSANG: (inaudible) are much more offensive.


CAIN: -- by nothing.

O'BRIEN: By nothing. You're not offended by anything?

CAIN: No, people are offended by nothing.

O'BRIEN: Oh, by nothing, yes.

FUGELSANG: I feel that you would say that.

O'BRIEN: That's true. So this is just another to pile on.

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


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Time for "End Point". Margaret, do you want to go first? I'm not sure your colleagues are prepared yet.

HOOVER: You know, one of the things that was mentioned, Christine mentioned this in the news, Congress is going to vote on the student loan deal. And one of the things that I think has escaped a lot of people in this debate is that by continuing to raise -- to augment student loans, the federal government policies have dwarfed the market in student loans and they've also continued to help and facilitate a lot of kids like us, people like us, getting into massive amounts of debt.

Mark Cuban calls this the next bubble in the lending market. It's like house flippers. You're going to have all these students, former students, in massive, massive debt. Not being able to start careers which you have now but the federal government is complicit in this policy.

O'BRIEN: So they shouldn't give loans to any students?

HOOVER: Not that they shouldn't. That's not what I said. I said we need to talk about the federal government's role in this market, in this bubble.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Interesting.

All right. You want to go. FUGELSANG: 100 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt came out in favor of universal health care since then Nixon tried it, Clinton tried. If the Supreme Court throws it out tomorrow, the mandate being a Republican policy a Democrat tried to pass, I would encourage people to remember that there's a long game. It's much more important than President Obama's political future. And if government socialized health care is so bad, this would be a great week for Congress to give up theirs.

O'BRIEN: Will Cain, you get the final word. I can't believe I'm saying that.

CAIN: Can I chat here a little bit.

O'BRIEN: You get the final word.

CAIN: We have some time. What am I going to talk about?

O'BRIEN: No, you don't. You don't. Go ahead.

CAIN: This business that we're in right here is going through a fascinating transition. I think Magic's appearance here today and what Magic's doing is fascinating, but it's also at a time when content is being fractured and distributed through the Internet, through streaming devices. Through the easiest way for the content creator and the audience to reach it. It's fascinating.

I watch Netflix, "Mad Men" streaming on my Internet almost every night, episode after episode. It's going through a fascinating transition right now.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right guys, I appreciate that.

Coming up tomorrow, we're going to be gearing up, of course, for the Supreme Court ruling on health care. Utah Senator Mike Lee and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will be joining me.

Plus '70s sitcom icon, Jimmy Walker from "Good Times" will be my guest. Yes. Yes.

And we're going to be talking to activist Cyndi Lauper. She used to just be a singer, Cyndi Lauper, now she's an activist. That's all ahead.

The "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. Hey Carol, good morning.