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George Zimmerman Gives Interview to Sean Hannity; Droughts Affect Parts of U.S.; No Sign Of Syria's Assad; U.N. To Vote On New Syria Resolution; Syria Under Siege; Obama Back On Campaign Trail; Rating Romney; Voter Registration On Facebook; State Of AIDS In America; Poll: Obesity A More Serious Concern Than Cigarettes; Scalia "Not Feuding" With Roberts; Batman's Big Screen Beginnings; Attempted Abduction Caught On Tape; New Report From Nation's Mayors

Aired July 19, 2012 - 07:00   ET



Hi, everybody. Welcome. Out STARTING POINT this morning is George Zimmerman in his own words. This morning the man that shot and killed Trayvon Martin sat down for his first television interview. It happened last night on FOX News. Zimmerman said what happened was all god's plan.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Do you regret getting out of the car to follow Trayvon that night?


HANNITY: Do you regret you had a gun that night?


HANNITY: Do you feel you wouldn't be here for this interview if you didn't have that gun?


HANNITY: you feel you would not be here?

ZIMMERMAN: I feel that it was all god's plan and for me to second guess it or judge it --

HANNITY: Is there anything you might do differently in retrospect now that time has passed a little bit?



O'BRIEN: Joining us this morning criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor Anne Bremner is with us. Thanks for being with us.

ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Nice to see you. O'BRIEN: Thank you. Clearly it was a friendly interview. How would you measure and gauge how he did?

BREMNER: It was a friendly interview. I always think a closed mouth gathers no foot. I rarely regretted my silence, only my speech. He did a few things that will haunt him in a trial. Number one, he apologized and then Al Sharpton apologize and had so should spike lee because they did something wrong, well, doesn't it follow that he apologized because he did something wrong? That's number one. Number two, he said he didn't follow Trayvon Martin but he told the dispatcher he did and saying it was god's plan and he wouldn't do anything differently, that could be a problem. He is not cross- examined here. It is his chance in public opinion to make a good impression, but it could haunt him later on.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about one of those things which was the issue of the pursuit. I will play a chunk that interview with Sean Hannity.


ZIMMERMAN: Maybe I said running more.

HANNITY: Running?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes. It was like skipping and going away quickly and that he wasn't running out of fear.

HANNITY: You can tell the difference?

ZIMMERMAN: He wasn't running.

HANNITY: He wasn't actually running?


HANNITY: That's what you said to the dispatcher is you thought he was running. Let me ask you this. At that point we can hear the unbuckling of the seat belt and hear you opening a car door and does dispatch ask you at that point and this became a very key moment everyone in the immediate focused on and the dispatcher asked you are you following him? You said yes. Explain that.

ZIMMERMAN: I meant that I was going in the same direction as him to keep an eye on him so that I could tell the police where he was going. I didn't mean that I was actually pursuing him.


O'BRIEN: All right, So, Anne, what do you make of that chunk? To me it seems like he is admitting he said running to the dispatcher but he wasn't running. Is that problematic in a court?

BREMNER: Absolutely. I said I was running but I really wasn't running. I was just kind of next to him. He needs to say this now because of the stand your grand law because you can't run after somebody and stand your ground and use deadly force. It is also an issue before the jury trial. A judge can decide this issue in Florida. So it is huge. Obviously he talked to his lawyer and he has to be careful about what he says about whether he followed Trayvon Martin because it is the pivotal issue pretrial and if he gets to trial.

O'BRIEN: His attorney says they may not use stand your ground. They may just use a basic self-defense. Here is another chunk with Sean Hannity, and he has before you hear this chunk he has described in great detail about the fight and the wrestle for the gun.


HANNITY: Do you remember when you yourself reached for your weapon? Do you remember that moment?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, sir.

HANNITY: Tell us about that?

ZIMMERMAN: At that point I realized that it wasn't my gun, it wasn't his gun, it was the gun.


O'BRIEN: I feel like there was some point that he was trying to make, I wasn't sure that I fully understood it. What message was that supposed to be about not my gun but the gun?

BREMNER: Well, exactly. Keep in mind in the first court appearance he said he didn't know whether or not Trayvon was armed. That was a statement he should never have made. That aside I think he is trying to talk about there could have been a gun there and now he is saying that and it is difficult for him to make inconsistent statements on the air and in court and then he will have to face them at trial again like I said. I think he is trying to say I had to use deadly force, the gun, basically kind of detaching from himself and maybe attach it to Trayvon Martin, but also to talk about how he feared for his life and he had to use deadly force and, I guess, it was god's plan.

O'BRIEN: Right, which is his words. He sort of walked that back a little bit later on in the interview.


O'BRIEN: You said stand your ground and then they talked a little about self-defense or his attorney in that interview as well. What's the difference in terms of how difficult it would be to convict him of manslaughter let's say?

BREMNER: Well, self-defense basically, you have a right to self- defense in this country and it basically means if you're threatened with deadly force or what you perceive as deadly force you can use deadly force and stand your ground is part of that. I would definitely use it if the fact it is warrant because have you no duty to retreat. If someone is attacking you, you don't have to run away. You can use the amount of force you need whether in your home, on the street, anywhere else to defend yourself. He basically has to use both. We have it all over this country. It is by statute in Florida. It is a strong law that I would use as his lawyer and self-defense only two people know what happened there and one of them didn't live to tell the tale.

O'BRIEN: Anne Bremner is a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. Thank you for talking with us.

Still ahead this morning I will talk to Trayvon Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. Their attorney Ben Crump will join them as well a little bit later this morning.

First I want to get to the top stories making news. Christine Romans has that for us. Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. One day after a bomber killed his top general, his defense minister, and his brother-in-law, we still haven't seen or heard from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Rebel forces continuing their assault on Damascus overnight vowing to liberate the capital.

The U.N. Security Council votes on a new Syria resolution that threatens non-military sanctions against Assad's regime if he doesn't withdraw troops and heavy weapon from populated areas within 10 days. Russia is once again expected to block the measure.

An eighth victim has died in the aftermath of that deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria. More than 30 others were injured on a bus carrying Israeli tourists. A short time ago an Israeli air force plane picked up injured civilians, taking them to hospitals across Israel. Bulgarian officials now releasing security footage of the suspected suicide bomber an hour before the attack. They have the bomber's fingerprints and recovered what the FBI is calling a fake I.D. from the state of Michigan.

Police in Philadelphia searching for a predator this morning. Take a look at this video of a 10-year-old girl narrowly escaping an attempted abduction. The surveillance video from Tuesday afternoon shows a man in a white car following a young girl as she walks down the street with her two-year-old brother. The suspect sneaks up on the child and attempts to snatch her, but her brother's screams may have scared the attacker off because he suddenly leaves the scene in a car. Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter is offering a $10,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. He joins Soledad live in the next half hour.

An FBI dive team joining the investigation into the disappearance of two young girls in Iowa. Eight-year-old Elizabeth Collins and her cousin 10-year-old Lyric Cook were last seen at their grandmother's house in Evansdale last Friday. Authorities are draining a nearby lake where the bicycles were found and where search dogs picked up their scent. One of the girl's mothers thinks they may have been abducted. A federal judge siding with Muslims in Murfreesboro Tennessee who have been trying for months to get a permit to use a new mosque. The judge issued a temporary restraining order reversing a county court decision and allowing the congregation to worship at the mosque in time for Ramadan. Ramadan begins tomorrow at sun down. Construction of the mosque has been a hot button issue for the past two years now, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I know the story well, did a documentary on that not too long ago called "Unwelcome, The Muslims Next Door" about that particular mosque. It's interesting to follow how that story has ebb and had flowed over the last couple of months. Thank you, Christine, appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead, crops wilting on the ground, farmers praying for rain. How food prices including even pizza could be sky rocketing with most of the nation now suffering through a drought. The agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack will be our guest up next.

And they're already in the hall of fame, the get real hall of fame. Remember those viral video from that Las Vegas conference? Guess what? There is more news on what the GSA spent your taxpayer money on. We'll share it with you straight ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.


ROMANS: Welcome back. I'm Christine Romans. Millions of Capital One credit card holders may be getting refunds. The government is hitting them with a $210 million fine for deceptive marketing tactics, and $150 million of that directly to customers. The government says capital one pressured some customers into signing up for extra financial protections like credit monitoring, and when people tried to cancel them they pressured them again into keeping them even if they didn't need them.

The United States postal service is again warning that the money problems are getting worse. The agency says unless Congress acts it will default on a $5 billion retiree health benefit payment. That bill is due on August 1st.

Money troubles in California, too. The city of Compton is reportedly considering filing for bankruptcy. City officials say they only have enough money to pay the bills through September 1st. Compton has a $43 million deficit. San Bernardino, California, voted yesterday to file for bankruptcy. Soledad, we're seeing this in municipalities across the country that cannot make ends meet.

O'BRIEN: That is not a surprise. Sad news, isn't it? Thank you.

Plus, there is no end in sight for the drought cripple be farmers across the country pushing grain prices to near or past records this week. As we told you yesterday, more than half of the country is in bone dry conditions. The USDA adding 39 counties to those designated as drought disasters, so that brings the total to nearly 1,300 counties across 29 states.

The secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, joins us this morning. Nice to see you, sir, thanks for being with us. You met with president Obama yesterday. What was the conversation about and what is your biggest concern where things stand right now?

TOM VILSACK, SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: Soledad, the president is obviously very concerned as we all are for the farm families and ranch families impacted by this drought, and we want to make sure we're doing everything we can from an administration standpoint to help folks, lower interest rates, grazing opportunities. But our tools are quite limited. We had a conversation about how we could work with Congress to provide additional help and assistance either in the form of a passage of a food, farm, and jobs bill by the House or in a special piece of legislation that we create disaster assistance.

O'BRIEN: Does that seem to be the kind of thing that would have bipartisan support? I certainly don't have to tell you that it feels like a lot of gridlock in Congress, especially in an election year.

VILSACK: We've got thousands and thousands of families across the country suffering today in 29 states. This is not a Republican or democratic issue. This is an American issue. We obviously need to help these folks. This is why we have a safety net. This is why we need passage of a food, farm and jobs bill quickly. It is why we need to help the livestock producers in particular. It would impact and affect obviously over the long haul food prices, not as dramatically as some people would expect because farmers only get 14 cents of every food dollar, but it is still going to impact consumers as well.

O'BRIEN: The USDA puts out a weekly report and this week's is dire, 38 percent of corn crops rated poor or very poor, 30 percent of the soybean crop is rated poor or very poor. That's the week ending July 15th. A moment ago we were talking about legislation which even if it is done quickly, you well know, would be sort of a long-term solution. What's the short-term plan for people looking at numbers like that?

VILSACK: The short-term plan is to make sure they do everything they possibly can to notify their insurance agent if they have crop insurance to begin the process, the claim process. If they have had damaged crops they need to make sure they notify their agent so they can do an assessment of the crops.

The short-term also is making available emergency loans in those counties designated as secretarial disaster areas, and also making sure those livestock operators know they can use opportunities on conservation reserve program land and not be penalized as much as they would otherwise.

So it is making sure they're aware of those steps we have taken. We'll continue to look for ways to provide help and assistance. But again the key level of assistance is really based on congressional action.

O'BRIEN: What does the forecast look like? When will you get rain across the states?

VILSACK: Well, there is some indication that at least in the upper Midwest there may be rain later this week, early next week. That would certainly be welcome. Depending upon when crops are planted, that may or may not have an impact on yields. Fortunately we had a record amount of acres planted, which is going to make it a little easier for us to get through this. We're just going to keep our fingers crossed. But we won't know the depth of this drought in terms of its impact on crops until actually the crops are harvested.

O'BRIEN: All right, Secretary Tom Vilsack joining us this morning. Thank you. Appreciate your time this morning.

VILSACK: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, I will talk to Trayvon Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin joined by their attorney Ben Crump. They'll talk about their reaction to George Zimmerman first on camera interview. He said he thought it was all god's plan. STARTING POINT is back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. George Zimmerman telling his side of the story this morning for the cameras for the first time since the night that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. He was on FOX News last night, and Zimmerman said that there was nothing that he would do differently that night. Listen.


HANNITY: Do you regret getting out of the car to follow Trayvon that night?


HANNITY: Do you regret that you had a gun that night?


HANNITY: Do you feel you wouldn't be here for this interview if you didn't have that gun?


HANNITY: You feel you would not be here?

ZIMMERMAN: I feel that it was all god's plan and for me to second guess it or judge it --

HANNITY: Is there anything you might do differently in retrospect now that time has passed a little bit?


(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: Trayvon Martin's parents are Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin and joined by their attorney Ben Crump. Nice to see all of you. Sybrina, I will start with you if I can. I know you had a chance to watch this interview. What did you think of what George Zimmerman was saying?

SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: My first thought was that I wish that Trayvon was here to tell his side of the story. We're just hearing one side of what actually happened.

O'BRIEN: Tracy, what do you think, he walked through numerous descriptions. He walked through obviously his side of the story of the pursuit which he said he was not running after him. He walked through the struggle with the gun. If you could have asked him a question, what do you want to know? What would you have liked him to describe in more detail?

TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: I just would like to know why did he even get out of the car? Why was my son so suspicious? What made him rush to judge my son and thinking that he was a criminal or pursuing some burglary?

O'BRIEN: The pursuit I think is going to be and correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Crump, a big focus in this court case because, and Sean Hannity asked him a detailed question about the pursuing and was he running after Trayvon. Listen.


ZIMMERMAN: Maybe I said running but it was more --

HANNITY: You said running.

ZIMMERMAN: Yes. Like skipping and going away quickly, but he wasn't running out of fear.

HANNITY: You can tell the difference?

ZIMMERMAN: He wasn't running.

HANNITY: He wasn't actually running.


HANNITY: That's what you said to the dispatcher, you thought he was running. Let me ask you this. At that point we can hear the unbuckling of the seat belt and hear you opening the car door and the dispatch asks you at that point and this became a very key moment that everyone in the media focused on and the dispatcher asked you are you following him and you said yes. Explain that.

ZIMMERMAN: I meant that I was going in the same direction as him to keep an eye on him so I could tell the police where he was going. I didn't mean that I was actually pursuing him.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: He said he was running, but says in this interview he wasn't running. He said yes to the dispatcher when he asked about following him and now says he wasn't really following him. When you look at a strategy when this comes to the courtroom and the courthouse, how do you plan on using this chunk of the interview?

BEN CRUMP, ATTORNEY: Soledad, the state attorney is going to see this interview as a gift when they get ready to cross-examine George Zimmerman. We have a saying the evidence speaks for itself. Use your own ears. America can listen to the 911 tapes on their own and they hear him pursuing Trayvon and hear the wind whistling and hear them saying he is following Trayvon Martin. Pursuit is so crucial in this case because it kills his stand your ground defense. He profiled, confronted and shot Trayvon Martin in the heart, and says he doesn't regret anything.

O'BRIEN: And yet you heard from Mark O'Mara, the attorney, I think saying a similar thing that you're saying, which is, you know, the stand your ground defense mate be something he is not focusing on and it will actually probably be self-defense. How do you think that changes this case?

CRUMP: Remember, we believe interviewed George Zimmerman one hour and he was looking for street signs because he can't say he pursued Trayvon and then say stand your ground.

Remember, Soledad, this is so important for America to remember, we heard that 911 tape. I don't think he realized that we were going to hear that tape or he wouldn't have put that only reason he got out of the car was to check the street sign, because we heard him say, oh, he said explicit word, he is getting away. And then you hear the wind whistling and that's when he says he has fallen. It speaks for itself.

O'BRIEN: The lawyer stepped in, as I imagine any would, when the questions turned to money and the accounts that George Zimmerman had access to. Is this going to be a side issue in relatively irrelevant in the trial?

CRUMP: I think George Zimmerman's credibility is at issue and everybody in America like the judge has said his credibility is completely in question and with regards to what Mr. Martin has said all along, he did not have to get out of that car. If he would have stood down, he wouldn't have the claim stand your ground at all.

O'BRIEN: And the clip coming in, I played you a little bit of what George Zimmerman said to Sean Hannity when he was asked did he regret anything, and part of what he said is was god's will. I am curious, Sybrina, what that is like to hear?

FULTON: I think it is absolutely ridiculous. God did not have a plan for Trayvon to die and for George Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon for no reason.

O'BRIEN: There is a question that -- that was a question I guess he took another stab at, if you will, at the end of the interview, and he told Sean Hannity he wanted to readdress that question. I want to play a little chunk of that.


ZIMMERMAN: I would like to readdress your question when you asked if I would have done anything differently. When you asked that, I thought you were referring to if I would not have talked to the police, if I would have maybe got an attorney, if I wouldn't have taken the CVSA, and that I stand by. I would not have done anything differently. But I do wish that there was something, anything I could have done that wouldn't have put me in the position where I had to take his life.


O'BRIEN: So two things I note there. One is and you can read through the transcripts and see they never were talking about talking to the police or getting an attorney so that was not part of the conversation where he says he sort of misunderstood the question. He says anything I could have done that wouldn't have put me in the position where I had to take his life, this to me, Ben, sounds like posturing for the trial, yes?

CRUMP: It does. This, as Mr. Martin has said over and over again, he made a rush to judgment to Trayvon as criminal and suspicious and he got out of that car. He put Trayvon in the position. Trayvon went to his grave not know who this strange man was who confronted him. And so he cannot pursue and pick a fight and then say, oh, he put me in this position, and it is going to be very critical. There are so many inconsistencies, Soledad, that George Zimmerman has told, we don't even have enough time in your show to go through all the inconsistencies.

Tracy, I will ask you the last question if I can. He says that he would be willing to talk to you and to Sybrina as well. Would you have any interest in that at all?

MARTIN: Absolutely not, not at this time. We're talking about a man who regrets the fact that he took our child's life. My conversation for him would be very limited.

O'BRIEN: Ben Crump joining us and Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon Martin and their attorney. I appreciate you joining us this morning.

CRUMP: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, assassinations now shaking Syria. Rebels are closes in on the capital. The U.S. watching it all closely. We'll take you live to the Pentagon on that. And then a rare interview with Justice Antonin Scalia talks about whether there's bad blood over the health care decision. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Taking the long way. "It Ain't Easy Being Me," that's Will Cain's playlist. I like that Will Cain.

Will Cain is with us. Marc Lamont Hill as well and Margaret Hoover is with us. Lots to talk about this morning. First though, we want to get right to Christine Romans. She's got a look at the day's top stories -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Twenty four hours after a bomber killed his top general and his defense minister and there is still no sign of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Rebel forces continuing their assault on Damascus overnight. Hundreds of civilians are said to be fleeing the city right now.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council votes this morning on a new resolution that threatens non-military sanctions against the Assad regime if he doesn't withdraw troops and heavy weapons from populated areas within 10 days.

Russia is expected to once again block that measure. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon. Barbara, is the end near for Assad?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, the Pentagon, the Obama administration is making the case that the Assad regime is at a decision point. They're calling it fight or flight.

That he either stays and fight or gets out of town. But whether Assad sees it that way is of course quite a different situation.

We asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta his view on the rising violence and what is happening inside Syria. Not the answer we exactly expected. Have a listen.


STARR: Can you tell the world what you're doing so the world feels more reassured that you have an ability to do something about this, the fighting in Damascus?

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control. For that reason it is extremely important that the international community working with other countries that have concerns in that area have to bring maximum pressure on Assad to do what's right to step down and to allow for that peaceful transition.


STARR: Rapidly spinning out of control, Christine. When a U.S. defense secretary uses those words certainly the world listens and of course later today the United Nations in New York expected to take up yet another resolution on the Syrian situation. The Russians are expected to veto it -- Christine.

ROMANS: Barbara, King Abdullah of Jordan told Wolf Blitzer he is concerned about Syria's chemical weapons stockpile during the time of upheaval. What can you tell us about that?

STARR: King Abdullah has been speaking out about this. The U.S. is quite worried behind the scenes. This is one of the major concerns. If the regime basically implodes, if you have mass chaos, mass confusion, what happens to the chemical weapons?

Already Assad has moved some of them behind the scenes. The U.S. intelligence community now really 24/7 looking at that and trying to assess Assad's intentions, would he actually use them?

King Abdullah says he certainly hopes not and everybody hopes not, but right now, there is really no predictability to this situation and everyone is growing increasingly concerned about that very question -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Barbara Starr. Thanks, Barbara.

In the meantime, President Obama back on the campaign trail today. He will be in Jacksonville and West Palm Beach, Florida, kicking off a two-day swing through four cities.

Mitt Romney is in Boston for a fundraiser and the latest CBS News/"New York Times" poll shows the race for the White House couldn't be tighter.

Romney with 47 percent of the vote, the president 1 point back, a statistical dead heat with one of five voters saying they could change their mind.

Romney's money and his days at Bain Capital not a problem for majority of voters, 73 percent say his wealth is not a factor and 60 percent say his days at Bain will not impact their choice.

Facebook and the state of Washington teaming up. State official there announcing the launch of a Facebook app that will allow state residents to register to vote. The application is expected to go live sometime next week making Washington the first state to allow voter registration via the social networking site.

In our "House Call," black gay males in America, the group hardest hit by HIV and AIDS that according to a report from the Black Aids Institute, which says in some U.S. cities half of the gay black men are HIV positive. Overall, the report says they account for one in four new AIDS infections in the U.S.

A new Gallup poll finds Americans are now more concerned about obesity than smoking. Eighty one percent describe obesity as an extremely serious or very serious problem in the U.S. That's up from 69 percent in 2005. The poll suggests obesity concerns far outweigh those about cigarettes and alcohol.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia sitting down with CNN's Piers Morgan for the first interview since that controversial health care ruling. Piers asked him about reports he's had a falling out with Chief Justice Roberts because Roberts voted in favor of the president's plan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT: You should not believe what you read about the court in the newspapers because the information has either been made up or given to the newspapers by somebody who is violating a confidence, which means that person is not reliable.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": So you have had no falling out with Justice Roberts.

SCALIA: Talk about -- no, I haven't had a falling out with Justice Roberts.

MORGAN: Loud words exchanged, slamming of doors.


MORGAN: Nothing like that?

SCALIA: Nothing like that.


ROMANS: The Supreme Court is a very civilized place apparently -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You know, he went on to say that it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg is his best buddy on the Supreme Court even though they don't agree practically on anything. I thought that was very interesting, yes. All right, Christine, thanks. Appreciate that.

Our STARTING POINT team this morning, Margaret Hoover is with us, former White House appointee in the Bush administration. Nice to have you with us this morning.

Marc Lamont Hill is professor at Columbia University. Will Cain is a columnist for the Good morning. Are you going to go see "The Dark Knight Rises?"



O'BRIEN: It's $25 million in presales.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But not this weekend. I don't think I am going this weekend.

O'BRIEN: Tonight is the midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises." It's the latest instalment of the big screen Batman franchise.

It is expected that it will shatter Box Office records. There was a time before the very first Batman movie, remember that was Michael Keaton. What year was that?

HILL: 1989. O'BRIEN: 1989.


O'BRIEN: I didn't know we had a Batman expert on the set. You know, the idea of a serious big screen adaption of the caped crusader was somewhat laughable to lots of Hollywood executives and Michael Uslan was laughed out of some of these meetings, I said, when you said and Batman, big screen.

MICHAEL USLAN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES": Dark and serious and I was shown the door.

O'BRIEN: Really?

USLAN: They said you're out of your mind. You can't do serious comic book films. You can't do dark super heroes. You can't make a movie based on some old television series. That's never been done. So every studio turned us down and we were shown the door.

O'BRIEN: What did you do?

CAIN: It has to be liked kind of like the previous Superman franchise of the '80s, that's the suggestion to you was?

USLAN: Yes, it had to be taken light heartedly because when you poke fun at something like that, they all look down their noses back then at comic books, about the characters and even about the creators. Nobody had any real respect for the comic book industry back then.

O'BRIEN: Why do you think it does end up translating so well? I know you spent 10 years trying to get it to the big screen and this particular one.

But looking back people say, well, have you a built-in audience and great story telling. What else makes a comic book story that's told well a blockbuster almost every time?

USLAN: It is our modern day mythology. It is the ancient gods of Greece, Rome and Egypt still exist except today they wear spandex and capes. It is the brave heroes and heroines against the dragons and wizards and demons and ogres. But it's all in modern day dress. It is primal and crosses borders and it even crosses cultures.

HOOVER: So how did the vision change between Tim Burton's production or your production, but Tim Burton's vision versus Christopher Nolan's vision?

HILL: It got darker.

USLAN: Well, it didn't get darker, but you got to remember in the context of the times what Tim did was revolutionary. Nothing like that had ever been done before.

He had to convince audiences to believe in Gotham City and then believe Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne could be a guy so driven, so obsessed to the point of being psychotic that he would get into a bat out if it and go out and fight a guy like the Joker.

If he didn't do that, audiences would laugh at it. So that was absolutely critical with the genius Christopher Nolan who deserves all the credit for this Batman trilogy, he is approaching it very real.

He wants you to believe that Bruce Wayne could be a real person today who has been traumatized on a lost horizon type journey. He wants you to believe Gotham City could be real in this crazy world we live in of order versus chaos.

He even wants you to believe that the Joker could possibly be a modern day terrorist. And if you can believe that and identify with Batman, the only super hero without any super powers, but his humanity then you're ready --

HILL: People connect to Batman in a way they don't connect to Superman at least in this generation. Without all the super powers, without all the fancy stuff, why do people feel so connected to him?

USLAN: Well, it is the fact that he has no super powers. So he represents the best of what we could all be. He represents one kid who in a moment of crisis and trauma in the belief that one person can make a difference in this world sacrificed this childhood, made a vow to get the guy that did this and get the bad guys even if he had to walk through held for the rest of his life to honor that commitment.

CAIN: That's all true, but he also looks cooler than Superman.

O'BRIEN: There always is a Superman versus Batman.

CAIN: I made a joke I am not going to go this weekend, Soledad, it's because the tickets are sold out and they're scalping the tickets for up to 120 bucks.

O'BRIEN: I fully understood what you meant. Before we let you go, Michael, I have to ask you who is your favorite Batman? You cannot say I love them all equally like there's been Kilmer, Keaton, Clooney, and Bail.

USLAN: Wrong question. The right question is who is your favorite Bruce Wayne? The Batmans are not utterly different, but the Bruce Waynes --


USLAN: Christian Bale nails it for every generation of Batman fan no matter what material you grew up reading or seeing, on TV or in the movies.

O'BRIEN: Michael Uslan is the film producer of "The Dark Knight Rises." It's nice to have you with us. Thanks for being with us. Looking forward to seeing that movie.

HILL: Can you get us some free tickets?

O'BRIEN: Hook a girl up, come on. Still ahead this morning, going to be talking to the mayor of Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter is going to join us live. First look at a new economic report on the state of cities across the country. He says there is some good news in that. We'll talk about that straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. We're getting the first look at a new economic report from the nation's mayors this morning and there may be some positive signs.

Philadelphia's Mayor Michael Nutter joins us to share some of the results. It is nice to see you, sir. Before we get to that report though, I want to start with this videotape that we have been taking a look at.

It shows a little girl, 10 years old, who is walking down the street with her brother who is a toddler right there and then you see a man come up behind her and literally grab her and try to abduct her.

Can you tell me where this happened and what do we know about -- this is just utterly shocking? They wrestle for a minute. Her little brother screams and I guess that makes him run off and leave the girl. Tell me about this videotape we're looking at, sir.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, D-PHILADELPHIA: Thanks, Soledad. We released that tape yesterday. That was taken from both a residential and business properties and we were able to put that together, great work by the Philadelphia Police Department.

It is chilling. It shows an individual really, Soledad, just a total creep who has grabbed this young lady, her little brother, she credits with screaming so loud as to scare this individual off.

I offered yesterday a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of this person. We need to get this guy off the streets of Philadelphia as quickly as possible and we're just fortunate that nothing worse happened to this young lady or her little brother.

We're working this case. We're going to get this individual, this real scum off the streets of Philadelphia.

O'BRIEN: I know you were able to post this to YouTube immediately and hopefully you will get leads from that. All right, let's talk a little bit about your report.

It looks that the economic output of cities and you point out some things, gas is going to fall to $3.11 in the fourth quarter of 2012. They'll be 1.4 percent job growth and 2 percent GDP real growth by 2013.

Unemployment will fall to 8 percent by 2013. It is described in this report as steady progress. Do you think that this -- does this read to you as a positive report? NUTTER: Overall, I think the outlook over the course of the next year or so is relatively positive. When you think about the 28 straight months of job growth in the United States of America, 4.4 million jobs having been created, the future does certainly look a little better than the past has been looking for many of our cities and metro areas all across the United States of America.

I think the big issue with the report is what many of us as mayors have been saying and certainly on behalf of the U.S. conference of mayors is that cities in metro areas are the economy of the United States of America. And whether it's 90 percent of the gross domestic product, nearly 90 percent of the jobs, 85 percent of the population, cities are where the talent is. It's where innovation is taking place.

Our cities and metro areas are incubators of innovation and that all leads to the need for greater investment by the federal government and certainly our states in cities and metro areas. We need to emphasize transportation and infrastructure investments.

We have a special section on the chemical industry and its impact on the United States of America. So if we continue to invest, we could get rid of some of the gridlock that's taking place in Washington, especially unfortunately I have to say with many of our Republicans in the Congress.

We can actually get Philadelphians, for me, and Pennsylvanians, Americans, back to work. And that really is the job of the federal government, to make those investments, make those tough decisions, and let's move on.

O'BRIEN: If cities are the nation, if that's the metaphor then what do we have, the fourth American city that's declared bankruptcy now? Doesn't that metaphor sort of follow that the economy is doing badly and then we'll go out from there and say that bodes very poorly for the man you support for the presidency, which is President Obama?

NUTTER: Soledad, I would suggest that -- I mean, there are certainly some very unique situations that have led to, you know, a couple of those instances. But, again, when you look at the report and great work by IHS, it tells you that the future of many of our cities and metro areas is more optimistic than it has been in the past.

But we need investment. We need support and that's why the gridlock in Washington is really not helping many of those cities and metro areas. Unfortunately, we do have some anomalies in a couple of places.

But if you look at this report, it's very solid, very well researched, and it is telling us that the future is certainly better than it has been over the past couple of years. We're on our way back, as cities and metro areas.

And we are the economy of the United States of America. We need to continue those investments and do even more.

O'BRIEN: Michael Nutter is the mayor of Philadelphia. Thanks for joining us this morning, sir. We appreciate it.

NUTTER: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We got to take a short break. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, George Zimmerman in his first TV interview talks about the night he shot and killed Trayvon Martin and why he says it was all God's plan. Reaction from Trayvon Martin's parents as well.

Plus, a two-year fight over a mosque in Murphysboro, Tennessee, comes to a head in federal court just in time for the start of Ramadan.

And New York Jet head coach Rex Ryan joins us. Will Tebow take a back seat to Mark Sanchez? You're watching STARTING POINT. Back in a moment.