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British Papers Blast Mitt Romney; Troop Surge For Olympics; Sandusky Voicemails To Victim Released; Ford Escape Recall; Synthetic Drug Crackdown; Willing To Talk; Cuba To U.S.: "The Table Is Set"; Olympic Opening Ceremonies; Legislating Gun Control; Let the Games Begin

Aired July 27, 2012 - 06:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: -- reaching out to the late king of pop's mother now. We're going to tell you why he's doing that also coming up.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Up first though, we are talking politics. Mitt Romney is taking a beating in the British papers this morning. Now this is all during a trip that was intended to charm the Brits to show off his statesmanship and raise some cash along the way.

Romney is facing tough, tough headlines across the pond. One called him Mitt the twit. In his two days in London, so far, Romney has been force to explain a raw comment by an adviser.

Then he questioned security and British enthusiasm for the 2012 games, which officially begin in a few hours. Mitt Romney and also first lady Michelle Obama will both be on hand when the Olympic torch is lit tonight.

The first lady is leading the presidential delegation to the games. We've sent CNN's Jim Acosta to London for the opening. He's excited to be there. He's on the Carnaby Street in downtown London.

Jim, the headlines are everywhere for Romney this morning. He doesn't look very good.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I think the Romney campaign would like to use the Olympic torch to burn the headlines this morning, John. They have not been pretty. I'll give you a sample.

I know you're a Beatles fan so we'll hold this one up. Nowhere man Romney loses his way with gaffe about the games, all of this going back to that interview that he gave to NBC when he talked about not knowing how the games would turn out here in London because some of problems that they've had.

The problems he called disconcerting. That sparked a huge outrage across London. David Cameron, the prime minister offered a sharp response to Romney, drawing a contrast between putting the games here on in London versus what he called the middle of nowhere.

Referring -- it appeared to be a reference to Salt Lake City where Mitt Romney was in charge of the Olympics back in 2002. Now we should mention that Mitt Romney came out after his meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron and praised the preparations here in London.

Then later on in an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN went further explaining that he thinks the games here would be a big success. Here's what he had to say.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": You've been lightly criticized for knocking the British enthusiasm, are you feeling it now?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm delighted to see the kind of support that has been around the torch for instance. I watched last night on BBC an entire program about the torch being run across Great Britain and the kind of crowds millions of people turned out to see the torch. That's what you hope to see.


ACOSTA: And I don't know if you noticed in the interview, he didn't really acknowledge the criticism that he's been receiving here in London.

I also asked him a question about this yesterday outside number 10 Downing Street after his meeting with the prime minister. He also did not really answer that criticism or respond to that criticism.

Only said that he thought the games would work out well and the damage control may not be working on the streets of London. Consider what happened yesterday at the big pre-Olympics rally featuring the mayor of the city, Boris Johnson who is (inaudible).

Listen to what he had to say to Mitt Romney at this rally to some 60,000 Londoners.


MAYOR BORIS JOHNSON, LONDON: There's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready and whether we're ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are.


ACOSTA: So not exactly the kind of rally that the Romney campaign would like to see, whether in the United States or in Great Britain. Now Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, are planning to attend the opening ceremonies tonight.

He is hoping to take in some events before leaving town. He mentioned the swimming competition yesterday. So we'll see if he makes it to one of those. And as you said, the first lady, Michelle Obama is here also.

So both sides of the aisle represented here in London, one side not doing quite as well as the other -- John and Zoraida.

BERMAN: You know, that criticism is extraordinary coming from the like-minded politicians in Britain, the conservatives. Jim Acosta in London. Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: It's is 3 minutes past the hour here. Security obviously top priority in London right now with thousands of work class athletes and 100 heads of states on hand for the games.

Prime Minister David Cameron saying he's confident that the games will be successful and they will be safe. The torch is making its final approach towards the Olympic stadium right now. It's under very heavy guard.

There are 18,200 troops participating in Olympic security. That is double the British presence in combat in Afghanistan and fighter jets are also on standby.

CNN's Dan Rivers is live in London as well. Dan, I know there was a lot of controversy over the security. So you have that security plus the additional 18,200 troops participating. Do you feel all that presence there?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Almost everywhere you go in Central London there is a heavy police presence. There are private security guards. There are checkpoints.

A lot of the main roads through Central London are closed to everything, but official Olympic traffic. We're outside one of hotels being used by Olympic officials and gives an idea of what's going on here.

This is the Intercontinental Hotel. You can see these are all the official BMWs lined up here to take athletes and dignitaries to the stadium over in east London and a pretty heavy security presence out front here as well.

In addition to the troops that you mentioned, there's also 9,500 extra police in London on top of the 30,000 that normally police the capital. So it gives you a sense of how many security officials are involved here.

As you mentioned, the number of troops is twice the number we have deployed in Afghanistan. Some of the troops here have been into the games formula very last minute. They've been mobilized within the last 48 hours.

Because these private security firms, G4S was unable to train and get the people contracted to here in time. The word is the army have stepped in and dealing with it and everyone is saying that they hope they will be a safe and secure Olympic Games.

SAMBOLIN: All right, we also understand there's a no fly zone over London as well. CNN's Dan Rivers live in London for us, thank you very much. BERMAN: It is 6 minutes past the hour right now. People from Ohio to Connecticut are cleaning up this morning after a round of strong and deadly storms knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers overnight.

A team from the National Weather Service will be on the ground in Elmira, New York, later today to try to determine if a tornado struck there.

Rob Marciano is live in Olympic Park fittingly in Atlanta this morning and Rob, these storms were pretty bad.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, it wasn't just Elmira, New York, at one point it was a line from Hartford Connecticut all back through Dallas so well over 1,000, 1,600 or 1,700 miles long of damaging storms.

Lightning show as well, if we have the video of New York, very impressive, if you live in Gotham, the skies turn dark at 6:00 p.m. and it broke loose after that. And lightning was ferocious across the Hudson and Central Park and downtown, midtown, you got it.

You saw it and felt it. Tri-state area of New York City, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, certainly got a piece of this action, over 300 reports of winds that were damaging.

Here's a look at them with the past radar to give you an idea of the extent of the weather system that moved through northeast yesterday. One report of a tornado in Elmira, we'll get that confirmed today and 300 reports of winds all the way from the western Great Lakes into the northeast.

Here's the current radar, west of D.C. is leftovers, that's diminishing, but we have some airport delays left over from last night and the storms we had this morning, a few delays at D.C., Dulles, and also Philadelphia.

An hour to 45-minute delays and those will be on the increase today. Here is your biggest threat for severe weather. I don't expect it to be as widespread as yesterday.

But certainly the mid-Atlantic and maybe the Ohio Valley will see some thunderstorms that may have producing damaging winds and large hail once again today.

That's the latest from here. We'll talk more about. By the way, this will help break some of the heat that's been building thankfully across much of the central U.S.

BERMAN: Thanks, Rob Marciano down in Atlanta. Rob, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: It's 8 minutes past the hour. Lawyers representing one of Jerry Sandusky's victims have released two voicemail recordings. They say the convicted predator left on their answering machine.

CNN has not independently verified the authenticity of the recording. However, the attorneys for victim number two claim the calls were made less than two months before the former Penn State assistant coach was arrested in 2011 on child sex abuse charges. Listen.


JERRY SANDUSKY: I was just calling to see, you know, whether you had any interest in going to the Penn State game this Saturday. If you could get back to me and let me know, I would appreciate it. And when you get this message, give me a call and I hope to talk later. Thanks, I love you.


SAMBOLIN: Attorneys for victim number two confirmed they intend to file a civil suit against Penn State. A spokesman for the university wouldn't comment on the voice mails, but did say the school is taking the case very seriously.

BERMAN: Ford says it is recalling 421,000 Escape Crossover SUVs in the U.S. It is part of a worldwide recall totaling 485,000 vehicles. The recall affects 2001-2004 model Escapes with V6 engines and cruise control.

They need to fix a problem with the cruise control cable. The cable can get stuck when the gas pedal is pressed almost all the way down causing unintended acceleration and this can happen even when the cruise control feature is not engaged.

SAMBOLIN: The federal government is cracking down on synthetic drugs, 90 suspects in 30 states arrested Thursday, just part of an effort dubbed operation log jam.

Take a look at those pictures on a 5 million packets of fake pot and nearly 157,000 packages of bath salts were seized along with $36 million in cash. DEA, FBI, ICE and IRS agents all took part in Thursday's raids.

BERMAN: The doctor in Michael Jackson's death has offered an invitation to the singer's mother, Katherine Jackson to visit him in jail. Through his lawyers, Conrad Murray has invited Mrs. Jackson to come see him to quote, "answer any questions she might have."

In a statement, Murray said he would be happy to meet with the mother of the man he calls a very dear departed friend. A representative for Katherine Jackson says he doubts she will take Murray up on this offer.

SAMBOLIN: Cuba reaching out to the U.S. to begin talks. President Castro declaring the table is set. He says if America wants to discuss democracy, freedom of speech or human rights on the island nation, the Cubans are now ready, even though he calls those issues, quote, invented, the United States maintains a five decades old trade embargo on Cuba.

BERMAN: This will be tough to pull off in an election season in the U.S. so I would surprise if you see any movement on that front. On the issue of politics, Piers Morgan had a really terrific interview overnight in a beautiful location.

Piers Morgan with Mitt Romney as Romney tours London and the candidate has a lot to say about critics blasting him for his role at Bain Capital.


SAMBOLIN: Don't you love the music.

BERMAN: I definitely do.

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. And I do, I do love the music. It's really, really good.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Fifteen minutes past the hour here. A man accused of infecting people with hepatitis C at a New Hampshire hospital was fired from his job at a hospital in Arizona two years ago, after testing positive for cocaine and marijuana.

Thirty-three-year-old David Kwiatkowski was arrested earlier this month. Prosecutors call them a serial infector. He's worked as a travelling hospital technician in New Hampshire, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania in the past five years. Health officials in those states are trying to locate thousands of patients who may have come in contact with him.

BERMAN: When it comes to diplomacy, Mitt Romney not exactly bringing home the gold. The former Massachusetts governor stepping on toes right out of the gate in London, publicly questioning the U.K.'s passion for the game and characterizing security for the Olympics as disconcerting.

Prime Minister David Cameron pushed back, insisting it's much easier to hold an Olympics, quote, "in the middle of nowhere," an apparent dig at Romney's role in the Salt Lake City Games.

Now, our Piers Morgan sat down with Romney, and on a different subject, Romney says he doesn't understand why so many people are attacking him for being successful, especially during his days at Bain Capital.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every investment was designed to try and help the business grow and become more successful. It killed us if something was not successful. We'd lost money -- investors money and we became investors ultimately in our career, lost our own money in some of these cases, but the key was we wanted all of them to be successful. That's the nature, by the way, of the free enterprise system. Not everything you invest in will be successful.


BERMAN: Romney will be checking in the start of the games in London today and tomorrow. And then he heads to Israel and Poland next week.

At 7:30 Eastern on "STARTING POINT", Piers Morgan will join Christine Romans, who's in for Soledad O'Brien live from London as the countdown to the Olympic games opening ceremonies continues.

BERMAN: It is now 17 minutes past the hour.

We'll get you up to date on the top stories and they mostly involve the Olympic ceremonies just hours away now. Thousands of top athletes, 100 heads of state, and 18,000 troops on hand for the start of the games. The queen is expected to kick things of and Sir Paul McCartney lined up to perform tonight.

SAMBOLIN: Police in M releasing a photo of a man who bound and kidnapped the mother of Hall of Fame Baltimore Oriole shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. They are now offering $2,000 for tips leading to his an arrest.

Police say the gunman showed up at Violet Ripken's Maryland home early Tuesday morning and forced her into the car and took off. The 74-year-old was found Wednesday morning in the back seat of her own car with her hands tied but she was not harmed.

BERMAN: It is 17 minutes past the hour. This is one of your favorite stories of the day.

SAMBOLIN: It is, it kind of reminds me of you because I think would you do this.

BERMAN: Because you wear costumes.

SAMBOLIN: Because of your relationship with your kids.

BERMAN: It has to do with spider dad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to be Spiderman like me?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cool. Give me five.


BERMAN: Now, this dad said h wanted to do something great with his 3-year-old son Oliver. This is just awesome. So he became spider dad. He surprised Oliver with a matching costume and he said if he was a good boy that he would take him to the trampoline. Father and son went to the trampoline dressed as Spiderman and got the idea from the movie "Big Daddy" where Adam Sandler dressed up as scuba Steve.

This is just so nice. This is just so nice.

SAMBOLIN: So, here's what I want to know. Would you do something like this with your kids?

BERMAN: You know, you do almost anything to make your kids smile.

SAMBOLIN: Look at that.

BERMAN: That is just awesome. And look at the video he recreated afterwards.

SAMBOLIN: How old was the child?

BERMAN: Three.

SAMBOLIN: Three years old. You're going to have to keep doing it, at 3 I don't know it's a lasting memory.

BERMAN: You're also setting the bar, really, really high. This is going to be hard to match.

I would do it except for the tight clothing --

SAMBOLIN: Come on. You have to be a super hero with him. You can't be doing that in your jeans.

BERMAN: Hats off to that dad.

SAMBOLIN: I love that story.

Nineteen minutes past the hour here.

Facebook did better than expected in its first earnings report in the public company but -- big but -- that does not necessarily mean good news if you own some of its stock. We'll explain that coming up.

And for an expanded look at our top stories head to our blog,


SAMBOLIN: It is 23 minutes past the hour. And we are minding your business this morning.

Let's check in on the markets first. After a solid rally yesterday, U.S. stock futures are up just a little bit this morning. At 8:30 a.m. Eastern, we'll find out GDP numbers for the second quarter. Economists suffered by CNN Money say the economy grew at the slow rate, 1.4 percent.

Lots of attention on this report because we're expecting revisions the GDP all the way back to President Obama's first months in office.

BERMAN: Facebook stock down to new lows overnight, even after the earnings beat analyst expectations but the numbers did not impression investors. Another concern, executives did not layout predictions for future quarters.

Facebook stock is down more than 9 percent in premarket trading right now. This is something we will be watching today.

SAMBOLIN: And JCPenney changing its pricing strategy again. Starting in August, you will see lower prices on a large amount of merchandise in the stores, instead of marking down prices by 20 percent to 29 percent one month at a time or just a few times. We'll see how it works for them there.

BERMAN: It is 24 minutes past the hour right now. And pretty much the only thing we've been talking about this morning off camera is the Olympics. We're very excited for the Olympics and we were talking about who our favorite Olympians of all time are.

So, I said my favorite Olympian of all time was Eric Heiden, with the thighs like 90 inches thick.


BERMAN: He's a big guy. I got to meet Eric Heiden when I was covering the games in 2006. He's a hilarious guy.

SAMBOLIN: Do we have the picture?

BERMAN: He actually joked to me. He had an awesome joke. He said, no, it's like great to meet you, I feel like a winner being near you. So, Eric Heiden says to me, he goes, you know, between us we have five gold medals, it's true, he won five all himself.

What is your favorite?

SAMBOLIN: I want to see a picture of you. He looks so different. You sent this picture yesterday. Do we have it for everybody?

It's cool you meet your favorite Olympian, right? There it is.

BERMAN: It's me talking to Eric Heiden. He's the tall athletic one, I'm the guy on the left.

SAMBOLIN: The things you keep throughout your career. That was really special to you.

You sent it out saying he was your boyfriend.

BERMAN: He's my boyfriend, Eric Heiden.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, he loves him.

All right. So, mine is Jackie Joyner Kersee. I have to say, I watched this woman and wanted to be here. She's a four-time gold medallist and superstar athlete. Very focused and determined and I thought she was a wonderful role model for women.

But I just wanted her arms and legs. I would watch her and think, my gosh, how do you look like that? She's a fierce woman.

I got to meet her as well here when I joined EARLY START. So I was very excited to that. And she's very committed to youth and making sure that they can become Olympians if they so desire.

So, I just love her and I have another one.

BERMAN: I bet you do.

SAMBOLIN: Michael Phelps.

BERMAN: What do you like about Michael Phelps?

SAMBOLIN: Do we have that -- I don't know what magazine it was in. It was his wing span. That was just an amazing shot of him, an amazing athlete, super gifted, super determined. And you know, that's what you want for your kids, that super determination to achieve their goals in life. That's what I love about him.

BERMAN: The guy is pretty good. Now we asked you yesterday --

SAMBOLIN: That guy is pretty good he says.

BERMAN: He's OK at swimming.

We want you to send us your favorites. Who are your favorite Olympians of all time?

You can write us on Twitter @ZoraidaCNN. I'm @JohnSBerman. You can write @EearlyStartCNN. Also, check us out on Facebook. Write us your favorites.

There was actually a big debate yesterday. So many people saying Jackie Joyner Kersee.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh, I absolutely love her. Some people think she's the best female athlete ever.

But here on my Facebook, Jerome Neil (ph) says, Jesse Owens, for showing up that guy in Berlin, and Christopher Wayne (ph) says, Katarina Vitt and Greg Louganis. Remember that Greg Louganis moments?

BERMAN: All good. All good.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour here.

Dangerous at any speed. Take a look, a driver caught on camera getting trigger happy with a tailgator. That story is coming up.

So, if you are leaving the house right now, can watch any time on your desktop or your mobile phone, just go to


BERMAN: Last leg for the Olympic torch, with the opening ceremony for the London Games just hours away now.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm delighted to see the kind of support that has been around the torch, for instance. I watched last night on BBC, an entire program about the torch being run across Great Britain and the kind of crowds, I guess millions of people turned out.


SAMBOLIN: Mitt Romney is sitting down with CNN's Piers Morgan and softening his earlier comments about the Olympics in London.

BERMAN: A police officer caught on camera in a compromising position. It has already cost him his job. Wait until you see this.

SAMBOLIN: Wait until you hear the details of that one.

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

We have made it to Friday. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're happy you're with us this morning. Thirty-one minutes past the hour.

It is games on. The stadium is ready, the athletes are ready, and in just a few hours, the 2012 summer games will officially begin. The Royals greeted the torch at Buckingham Palace yesterday, a billion people around the world expected to watch the $42 million spectacle. There will be British royalty and rock royalty, a Beatle, along with 007, but we do not know who will light the big flame. We're going to try to find out.

For that, we're going to go to Amanda Davies. She is live in London.

What can you tell us?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are asking everybody we meet. We are desperately trying to find out who is it going to be who lights that flame?

The latest person we heard from is the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee. Sadly, he couldn't tell us either. But what he did say is that he is very excited that the games is here and about to begin. He has said, "I can say with pleasure, London is ready and we are eagerly waiting for the opening ceremony." He is waiting, as are we all.

We've had a few little tidbits of information that have been fed out in the last few days. We've seen fantastic light displays and firework displays. But the secrets of what actually is going to take place in that stadium in a few hours time really do remain safe for the moment.

It's interesting here though today because everybody is so excited that the games is about to get under way. We're talking about this big party. For the athletes, this is just another day. The archery is going on and we know the swimmers have been practicing in the aquatic centre.

Team USA are going about their business as well. And they had a visit from the first lady, Michelle Obama, sporting a lovely red top and white jacket and sat down for breakfast with the team and seeing how they're getting on. She just kept saying, wow, wow, wow. She said I'm going to be saying that a lot over the days but said she was incredibly honored and beyond proud to be there involved with the team.

SAMBOLIN: Well the excitement is palpable. We can feel it over here. So, we can't wait for it all to begin. Amanda, thank you so much, live for us in London.

BERMAN: It is 34 minutes past the hour right now.

And from the Olympics to weather, let's get a look at what's going on today here in Atlanta Park. Here's Rob Marciano. Hey, Rob.


You know, last hour we talked about berets that they were wearing, John Morditroy (ph), who is my producer in the field, was a vee-jay, an entry level position here at CNN back in 1996 and he picked up -- dug this up. That was a hat from 1996.

All right? And just like you pointed out, John, it is not a beret, it is a good old fashioned American baseball cap which we all encourage them to try for the next uniform.

Let's talk London Olympics and the weather across the pond. The satellite photograph highlighting more typical England weather rolling into the U.K., some clouds and spring sprinkles and the forecast for today includes just that. We give it a slight chance of being wet tonight. I think it will be mostly dry for the evening opening ceremonies.

And then the forecast for the days to come highlights more typical London weather which would be temperatures in the 60s and clouds, intermittent clouds and maybe slight chance for a shower. Folks out there are going from their tank tops which they've been donning the past couple of days, to more typical attire.

Thunderstorms today but not nearly the rock and roll session we had last night mid-Atlantic and Ohio River Valley will be the threat today as cooler weather comes into play.

Happy Olympics, guys. Back to yo0u.

BERMAN: Rob Marciano in beret-free Atlanta, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It is 35 minutes past the hour.

Extreme road rage. Police in Ft. Lauderdale are releasing this video that shows a driver get out of his BMW and start shooting at the man driving the Ford truck behind him. This was in broad daylight, folks, in a residential neighborhood and it happened last month.

Police say he was apparently angry at being followed too closely. He then gets back into his car and takes off. One bullet did pierce the truck but no one was shot. Police are now looking for that shooter.

BERMAN: A police officer in Melbourne, Florida lost his job and facing seven misdemeanor charges after being caught on tape picking up prostitutes with his patrol car and he wasn't arresting them. Police used dash cam video from Officer Jose Artaro's (ph)is own patrol car along with surveillance cameras to make their case.

In this clip, police say a known prostitute is seen emerging from the passenger side of the car while he gets out of the driver's side without his shirt on. Not sure you can see it there but crazy stuff. He then proceeds to put his police uniform back on.

Not advisable police work we have to say.

SAMBOLIN: No, not at all.

All right. Mitt Romney has h had a tough visit to London. The candidate used his sit-down interview with Piers Morgan to try to unruffle some of the feathers that he ruffled. You're going to hear more about that after of the break.


SAMBOLIN: Forty minutes past the hour. Welcome back.

Mitt Romney not exactly bringing home the gold for political correctness. The former Massachusetts governor stepping on toes right out of the gate in London, questioning the U.K.'s passion for the game and characterizing security for the Olympic as, quote, "disconcerting."

Romney tried softening his tune in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan. It is obvious the damage had already been done if you listen to London's mayor.


BORIS JOHNSON, LONDON MAYOR: I hear there's a guy -- there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready. He wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are.



PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: You've been slightly criticized for knocking the British enthusiasm. As if you haven't picked up much enthusiasm. You feeling it now?


ROMNEY: Well, I'm delighted to see the kind of support that has been around the torch for instance. I watched last night on BBC an entire program about the torch being run across Great Britain. And the kind of crowds -- I guess millions of people that turned out to see the torch. That's what you hope to see.


SAMBOLIN: Slightly criticized? I think he was beat up over it. Piers also had a chance to talk politics with the presumptive GOP nominee. Romney says he is disturbed by what he sees as a growing tendency in America to resent success.


ROMNEY: There are people who are trying to attack success and are trying to attack our success. That's not going to be successful. When you attack success, you have less of it, and that's what we've seen in our economy over the last few years. Dividing America based on who has money and who hasn't, who is successful and who is less successful, that is not the American way.


SAMBOLIN: After taking in the start of the London games, Romney heads to Israel and then to Poland next week.

BERMAN: And before he leaves the U.K., Mitt Romney has another day in London and perhaps another chance. His first day did not result in the headlines he was hoping for. I'm not talking about over but over here. On "The New York Times" Web site, new Olympic event, Cameron versus Romney." "Time" magazine, "Romney stumbles in London." And "Wall Street Journal," "A Recap of Romney's Tough Day in London."

Joining me now, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

Ron, it's important to note. You know, the Brits can vote in this election. So, how does this hurt, Mitt Romney?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALSYT: Look, you know, I'm not George Kent (ph), but as I understand diplomacy, the point is not to go to new countries and insult people when you arrive there.

What Mitt Romney wanted to do on this trip was in a very kind of unforced, unpressured way, in countries that are sympathetic, certainly with a conservative government in England. It was demonstrate his fitness to represent America around the world, to be commander in chief, to lead our diplomacy and to kind of underscore his claim that Obama has been weak on those fronts.

Instead, in very much of an unforced error, he starts this trip with not only one with several comments, and the background comment from the aide about a shared Anglo-Saxon heritage that plunged the controversy right out of the bat. So, the headlines become questioning his fitness rather than underscoring his readiness.

BERMAN: And even if he doesn't lose votes, what he does lose is happy smiley headlines that he was virtually guaranteed.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, this is not the high stress point of the presidential campaign, when you go on your trip in the summer as a candidate. You know, Obama of course last summer had adoring crowds -- in 2008 which Republicans tried to turn against him.

It should get better for Romney when he goes to Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu historically much closer to Republicans than Democrats. It should be a welcoming arm there. But still, this is a cloud that has made the whole trip at best, you know, no way it's not going to be a negative.

SAMBOLIN: It looks like kind of depended on him whether it's welcoming or not, right?

BROWNSTEIN: David Cameron was not exactly an ideological and Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, who criticized him, one of the most prominent conservatives in the country.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Let's switch gear and talk about gun control. Because last night, he was on with Piers Morgan and they talked about the issue of gun control. So, let's listen in and then we'll talk about it.


ROMNEY: I think that the effort to continue to look for some law to somehow make violence go away is missing the point. The real point has to relate to individuals that are deranged and distressed and to find them, to help them and to keep them from carrying terrible acts.

Timothy McVeigh, how many people did he kill, with fertilizer, with products that can be purchased legally anywhere in the world? He was able to carry out vast mayhem. Somehow thinking that laws against the instruments will make violence go away I think is misguided.


BROWNSTEIN: If he only passed laws that would make problems completely go away, we wouldn't pass anything. I mean human nature is what it is. We've got the same problems in humanity, you know, forever. But the question really that the laws ought to be judged against is whether they emolliate a problem, or they move you in the right -- and the way they move you in the right direction.

And I think what Romney's comments show is just really how completely the gun control debate has been locked down. Even the president has only cracked open the door a notch in his speech on Wednesday in New Orleans. You know it really traces back to the Al Gore elections in 2000. Democrats joined Republicans in concluding that this was not a winning issue. But if you look at the polling today, there's no question polling has moved away from gun control since Bill Clinton left office. Nobody is making the case at the national level. The country is still divided pretty close to 50/50, and from the point of view of President Obama, the 50 percent that is open to gun control, is pretty much the 50 percent that's open to him at all. The 50 percent that isn't has so many other reasons to oppose him, that's what I've written about this week, that it's unlikely he's going to convert many of them simply by silencing himself on this one issue.

SAMBOLIN: I have the article here. It's called "Disarm Democrats." But at the end of the day, is this really going to weigh in the general election, do you think?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, no, I don't think either one is going to raise it. But you know, look, we've seen two thing happened on gun control since the '90s. One is that, as Mitt Romney who signed an assault weapon ban in Massachusetts, demonstrates Republicans have moved toward monolithic opposition. In the '90s there were -- 38 House Republicans voted the assault weapon ban. I think 60 voted for the Brady bill. The Republican Party, as on many other issues, has been moving to a solid conservative orthodoxy. And then you see the Democrats kind of, you know, back off on this issue but I think the evidence is clear that within the coalition, clearly the country has moved, the country is divided almost exactly in half.

But within the Democratic coalition this is still clearly a majority position and so it makes it kind of interesting on issues like gay marriage, immigration and the contraception fight in health care, Obama has been willing to further antagonize culturally conservative whites to reflect the views of his coalition. This one is a big exception. They are still gun shy?

BERMAN: Right. Ron Brownstein, a maybe untapped opportunity for Democrats. Thank you very much for being here. Senior political analyst on CNN, editorial director, "National Journal", always great to (INAUDIBLE).

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, guys.

SAMBOLIN: We could talk to him for hours, couldn't we? Appreciate it.

Forty-seven minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date.

The final countdown begins to the opening ceremonies in London. Thousands of top athletes, 100 heads of states, 18,000 troops on hand for the start of the Summer Olympics. The Queen is expected to kick things off and Paul McCartney is lined up to perform tonight as well.

BERMAN: The National Weather Service working to confirm reports of a tornado touching down in Elmira, New York, late yesterday. Emergency officials report significant damage in the city with trees and power lines down everywhere.

Severe weather raced across Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and New England yesterday, and tens of thousands of homes were without power late last night.

SAMBOLIN: And the battle for gun -- for control of Syria's largest city growing bloodier by the day. Look at that. Listen to it. Rebel forces in Aleppo taking heavy gunfire from government helicopter gun ships overnight.

Fighting is reportedly intense in Damascus as well. Opposition observers say more than 200 people were killed in clashes with government troops yesterday. More than 40,000 Syrians have now fled across the border to Turkey where they are living in refugee camps.

BERMAN: Soledad O'Brien is off today but we are lucky to have Christine Romans here to join us looking ahead on what's on "STARTING POINT."

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: There's a lot going on, you guys, this morning.

Ahead on "STARTING POINT," breaking news on the state of our economy, we're awaiting the new GDP numbers for the second quarter. This could be a big market mover. It's an important political number as well. We'll bring you those numbers as soon as we get them.

Also ahead, an international brouhaha. Mitt Romney hopes his visit to the Olympics would show him as a statesman ready for the world stage. Instead the Republican presidential candidate has offended the British public on the eve of their Olympics.

We're going to talk to team Romney live.

And another political fire, fast food chains Chick-Fil-A isn't welcomed in Chicago after the company's president spoke out against gay marriage. We've got Chicago alderman Joe Moore on live with us. He's trying to ban the restaurant. He is hopping at Chick-Fil-A. Did not want to admit (INAUDIBLE).

And he's off the hook. "Animal Planet" has added a new series to its line up on extreme fishing. Hosted by professional wrestler Showtime Erick Young. He is stopping live by live, all ahead.

BERMAN: It sounds like a great show.

ROMANS: It will be. Can't wait.

BERMAN: Fantastic.

SAMBOLIN: Extreme fishing.

ROMANS: I know.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is just seven minutes before the hour right now. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And Zoraida Sambolin. New developments in the child sex abuse cover-up that is rocking Penn State. Lawyers releasing two voice mails, Jerry Sandusky allegedly left on the answering machine of victim number two.

Jason Carroll is with us this morning. What can you tell us about this?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a real interesting character in all of this case. The person identified as victim number two was not part of the criminal trial. He did not testify so the jury never saw him. He was a bit of a mystery for a while and his story was one of the more powerful accounts of abuse.

Victim two alleges that in 2002 when he was about 10 years old, Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted him in a shower in Penn State. Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant at the time testified he saw the assault. And now victim two has come forward and has turned over voice mails Sandusky left less than two months before his arrest last year.


JERRY SANDUSKY, FORMER PENN STATE ASSISTANT COACH: Just calling to see, you know, whether you had any interest in going to the Penn State game this Saturday. If you can get back to me and let me know, I'd appreciate it. And when you get this message, give me a call and I hope to talk to you later. Thanks, I love you.


CARROLL: Well, the law firm representing victim two says Jerry Sandusky's abuse of victim two and other children is a direct result of a conspiracy to conceal Sandusky's conduct and the decisions by top Penn State officials that facilitated and enabled his access to victims. Sandusky's defense team saying the statements that the individual gave to an FBI trained investigator who works for the defense contradicted what he is now claiming.

Now I should also tell you that Penn State has come forward and they are saying that they are taking this very seriously. They're not commenting beyond that. But they're also saying that this is not over. And what we're probably going to be looking at in the future is some sort of a civil -- some sort of a civil case against Penn State. We're going to have to wait and see what happens with all of this.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Jason Carroll, thank you so much for that update. We appreciate it.

CARROLL: You bet.

BERMAN: And we have some breaking news out of New Orleans where there is a fire burning at a historic pie company. The Hubig's pie factory is on fire burning this morning. Firefighters responding to a four- alarm fire there. We're getting pictures right now, hard to make out the fire itself. We're trying to pan down right now. Looks like what you're seeing there is the water spraying on the fire. Again a four- alarm fire --


SAMBOLIN: You can also see there's a smoke there. There you go.

BERMAN: There it is.


BERMAN: That's the historic pie factory, this was opened in 1922 right in the heart of New Orleans right there. An historic building on fire there this morning. Those are live pictures of the scene.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we're trying to get more details for you. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


BERMAN: Just a few minutes to go here. "STARTING POINT" with Christine Romans is on next.

SAMBOLIN: So we're going to wrap it up as always with best advice. The Olympics begin official tonight with the opening ceremony. So today's "Best Advice" comes from former Olympian Kerri Strug. Take a look.


KERRI STRUG, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL WINNING GYMNAST: The best advice I ever got was to follow your dreams. At 6 years old, I watched Mary Lou Retton win her gold medal with the 1994 Summer Olympic game. And it took 12 long years, but in the '96 games in Atlanta. I choose between an Olympic gold medallist and you know, of course, they took a lot of perseverance, dedication and drive, always being true to -- following my dreams and I was able to succeed.


SAMBOLIN: That is great advice. Follow your dreams, that perseverance, endurance, all those athletes. Right?

BERMAN: And always stick to landing. Like --


BERMAN: That love advice for everyone right there. Always stick to landing. That's great.

All right, that's it for EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "STARTING PINT WITH CHRISTINE ROMANS" starts right now.

ROMANS: And good Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans in for Soledad today. Our STARTING POINT. Violence storms. Terror to the North East. Thousands without people after suspected tornadoes, high winds and heaving turned deadly overnight. And this morning, more is on the way.

Mitt Romney's diplomatic blunder. Hoping for a flawless debut on the world stage. But this morning it's damage control mode after offending the British on the eve of the Olympics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear there's a guy, there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready. He wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are.


ROMANS: Let the games begin. A packed show ahead, Piers Morgan will join us, part two of Soledad's day with basketball superstars Carmelo, Anthony Crist, Paul and Maya Moore. And professional wrestler Showtime Eric Young.

It's Friday just 27th, "STARTING POINT" begins right now.