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Gabby Douglas Wins Gold Medal; Interview with Dominique Dawes; Coal Mine Operator Blames President For Failure of Business; Stock Act Loophole Closed; Closing Coal Mine Operation Blames Obama; Politics Of The Coal Industry; Kiss In At Chick-Fil-A; The New Teen Sensation

Aired August 3, 2012 - 06:59   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Our "Starting Point" this morning, a look at the new jobs numbers. We'll tell you what they can mean for your family, your financial outlook, and the race for the White House this morning.

Cal Ripken Jr. is speaking out about his mother's kidnapping as we get our first look at the suspect on surveillance video. The baseball legend will join me a little bit later in the show.

America's newest sweetheart and living legend, a magical night for Gabby Douglas and Michael Phelps at the Olympics.

Plus a political blame game. A coal mine company closing and leaders are blaming President Obama. But is there really a war on coal? We'll talk to the founder of the coal company to see if he can back up that claim.

We have a packed show ahead this morning, baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr., RNC chaird Reince Priebus, gymnast Dominique Dawes will be our guest, teen singing sensation Ryan Beatty, and the director of the "Borne Legacy" movies. It is Friday, August 3, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, America's new golden girl is gymnast Gabby Douglas making and then repeating history last night. She's 16 years old and became the first African-American to women the all-around gold medal. Amanda Davies is live in London. It was so exciting to watch her. Just perfection, out did herself each and every time. How was the feeling while everyone was watching her?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was incredible. It was probably written in the stars, did you know if you rearrange the letters of gabby Douglas's sir name, what does it spell, but "USA gold." And this really is where the next chapter of her life begins. She is now up in the a-list of superstars as the morning after, night before, media commitments have started. She's been re-tweeting the incredible tweets these had from people like Oprah, Nicki Minaj, and Michael Phelps. She finished with that fantastic floor performance with that techno music. It became like club gabby. We can still get on the bandwagon and still team gabby, London 2012 T-shirts for sale on the Web site.

O'BRIEN: Of course, because that's only just begun. This should be the opportunity to rake in lots of money after all of those years of training. Let's talk about Michael Phelps, he was able to avenge an earlier loss to his fellow American, Ryan Lochte, made history again I guess, won the 200 meter individual medley yesterday. Tell me how that was.

DAVIES: Michael Phelps has said he made a few promises to himself ahead of the games. He hasn't revealed them but hasn't necessarily met his expectations in the first week, but one of them he certainly achieved last night, that was becoming the first man to win the gold medal in the same event at three Olympic games, the 300 meters individual medley and beat his teammate, Ryan Lochte, to do so.

Just to put into context what Michael Phelps achieved in his career. This is his final Olympic games, if you look at the list of countries and where Michael Phelps would stand if he were a country, he has more medals than 84 percent of them. That is quite incredible. More medals than 170 of 204 countries. If this was being ranked on just swimming achievements, he would be the seventh best country in history, which is quite some achievement for one individual. And of course, he can win another medal tonight. He's going in the 100 meters butterfly as well.

O'BRIEN: All right, so he's being compared to countries now, a good sign. Amanda Davies, thanks, appreciate it.

In just a few minutes I'll talk once again to Dominique Dawes, about her thoughts about Gabby Douglas capturing the gold. Gabby Douglas said that Dominique and '96 team are her role models.

First though I want to get to Christine Roman who has a look at the top story this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. The U.N. general assembly will vote later today to denounce the Syrian government for attacking and killing its own citizens in Aleppo and Damascus. That vote coming as the peace-keeping chief warns the main battle is about to begin in Aleppo. The assembly will warn the Assad regime to keep strict control over its chemical and biological weapons. The resolution coming one day after former U.N. secretary Kofi Annan resigned his position and saying he's frustrating by finger pointing at the unite the nations while Syrians are being slaughtered.

Tropical storm Ernesto could head into the Gulf of Mexico. Meteorologist Rob Marciano has the latest on the storm's track. Hi, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine. Just past Barbados and lashing St. Luca this is cruising. It has dry air and head winds to encounter as well. We don't expect it to explode, but it has a lot of warm water to work with over the next several days. The official forecast shoots it through the Caribbean over the weekend develop and potentially into a category one storm or even greater, getting towards the Yucatan and maybe into the Gulf of Mexico by the middle and end of next week. The direction is fairly confident. The question is the intensity and how long it lasts. Speaking of intensity, the peak of hurricane season, Christine, ramping up, getting into September 10th at the month of August certainly will be more active than the last month. We're already seeing that for sure with Ernesto.

ROMANS: Thanks, Rob.

Legendary major leaguer Cal Ripken Jr. speaking out about his mother's kidnapper. As the FBI receives new leads in the case, a new surveillance video and sketch of Violet Ripken's kidnapper has been released by local authorities in Maryland. And tips are pouring in. Violet Ripken, the 74-year-old mother was abducted at her home at gun point and found then the next morning, unharmed but tied up in her car close to home. Cal Ripken Jr. will join us in the next hour of STARTING POINT. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Christine. When we come back -- I guess we're going to keep going and talk to the latest on the golden girl, Gabby Douglas, first African-American, fourth American female to win the competition in the all-around. Dominique Dawes was a member of the magnificent seven, '96 gold medal team. Nice to see you, Dominique, great to talk to you. What's your take on this? It was amazing to watch her, just be phenomenal. But as someone who has been there, what did you think?

DOMINIQUE DAWES, FORMER OLYMPIC COMPETITOR: It was a very difficult night for me. I'm here in London reporting for FOX I'm sitting in the media section and not supposed to show my response but I was on the edge of my seat the whole competition. It was so difficult not having control. Though Gabby Douglas made everyone proud and made history. I have bags from crying so hard. My response is on FOX and I was genuinely touched by what this young girl has done and impact she's going to make.

O'BRIEN: You and everyone else too.

Does this mean her life completely changes, she's on Wheaties box and endorsements roll in and her life will be different?

DAWES: Her life will completely change but hopefully her personality will not. She comes from a good family. Natalie has been supportive of her. Her mom really is proud, to see this young girl succeed. I know she's going to do amazing things, she has great opportunities coming up and wants to make a positive impact on young kids. I envision she's going to go down that road.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask about pressure on her or things she will do now. Is it hard to be a first, you know, you were the first as I said African-American who was winning an individual Olympic bronze medal in your case on the floor routine in '96. What's the pressure like? Or is it an amazing experience?

DAWES: With me being the first African-American to win a gold medal in the team competition, being part of that team, that was again a first. You don't think about that when you're preparing for the competition. It would have been too overwhelming to think about representing my race at that time. But when I got back home, I felt all of the love and prayers from people who supported me and knew the impact I could make. I'm sure it's the same for gabby. She wasn't thinking about the impact she could make before she went up for her floor routine. When she gets back to the states, she's going to feel it. And hopefully she'll pursue things that are positive and that she's passionate about and that will truly leave a lasting impact in other people's lives.

O'BRIEN: I've got to ask you about hair as a black female gymnast and you saw -- it was trending on twitter, the conversations about Gabby's hair which made me so mad for celebrating this great winner people are tweeting about her pulled back pony tail. What did you do about that? The girl is doing routines, sweating all the time. She's an athlete.

DAWES: Soledad, if you remember my career, I had a permanent bun. My hair was always sweated out, relaxed hair. It was really dry. I've finally gone natural, which is what I'm encouraging African-American women to do, to stop relaxing your kids' hair, you can sweat it out and it won't get dry and brittle.

Trust me, Gabby was not concerned about her hair and I was not when I was training for my three Olympics. If I was more concerned about my appearance, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you today having made history and made it to the three Olympics. So she is not concerned and will have an amazing hair stylist soon enough. Someone will run to her and put on this new look. Her hair looked perfectly fine and at the end of the day, it's not someone's hair but their heart and character and work ethic that truly makes a difference.

O'BRIEN: Have your hair in a bun and win the gold versus have a perfectly --

DAWES: Or last place or not even be there.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. Dominique Dawes there's a big giant poster of you with your hair pulled back in a bun and giant scrunchy. We love it.

DAWES: I love it, and I love the work he's done with Chelsea Piers, a great facility.

O'BRIEN: Take care.

We're going to be talking about the whole hair thing when we do our "Get Real" straight ahead this morning. Plus, we're talking politics. Mitt Romney hanging out with Republican governors. Has he asked any of them to be his VP? We'll check in with RNC chairman Reince Priebus. He join us up next.

We have to take a break. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Christine Romans minding your business this morning. The big July jobs report comes out at 8:30 a.m. eastern. Economists surveyed by CNN Money forecast 95,000 jobs added last month. The unemployment rate is expected to stay unchanged at 8.2 percent.

U.S. stock futures and European markets are higher ahead of the jobs report. Dow futures up 100 points.

They know your pets can't type. Facebook says 83 million profile pages out of a billion are fakes or dups, including pages for your pets or your mysterious alter egos. Using a fake name on the social media site violates the terms of service. Facebook made that disclosure in an updated filing yesterday. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you very much. Ahead on "starting point," a mine closes in Ohio and the company blames president Obama. We'll talk to the CEO to find out what he's saying.

Also, she made history, Gabby Douglas wins another gold medal, yet on twitter, people are talking about her hair. Oh, get real. Plus, our starting point team heading in to talk about that, Abby Huntsman, Ryan Lizza, and Richard Socarides. We're not taking your requests any more. "Brick House" by the Commodores. This is the way to start the morning, Ryan.



ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans with your top stories this morning. Wild surveillance video shows armed robbers storming a jewelry store in Garden Grove, California. Shots are fired but not from their guns. The 65-year-old woman behind the counter, she open fire and those guys booked it out of there. The suspects were picked up about a mile away. Block away, rather.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has been driven out of the governor's mansion in Des Moines by black mold. His wife complained she wasn't feeling with and air tests confirmed the problem. The Branstads are now staying at their personal residents.

The teacher-nater, Arnold Schwarzenegger is becoming a UCS professor and the cofounder of a new think tank, the UCS Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy. It doesn't work.

O'BRIEN: Wasn't there a movie he was a kindergarten teacher?

RICHARD SOCARIDES: "Kindergarten Cop." One of the greatest Schwarzenegger movies.

O'BRIEN: Was it really?

SOCARIDES: That was one of his best.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Christine. Appreciate it. Our team, Ryan Lizza, you should have heard my picks pore the music this morning. It is viewer appreciation Friday, which means we don't get to weigh in with our picks. He's also a Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." Abby Huntsman is back, and Richard Socarides is with us, a former senior adviser at the Clinton White House. Great to have you all.

Let's talk about Gabby Douglas, obviously hugely talented, sleeping with her gold medal now. Won the individual all-around and helped the team win the gold overall. First time, in 16 years made history, powered through her eventless almost flawless -- that's my long island coming out.


O'BRIEN: Take the girl out of Smithtown, but can't lose the accent completely. You can see what she was doing, the flips and her floor routine was amazing and vault was incredible, one after the other. Was trending on twitter yesterday about her was her hair.

ABBY HUNTSMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Of course it is. It's ridiculous.

O'BRIEN: I was so mad. I love twitter and hate twitter because this is what twitter does.

RYAN LIZZA, "NEW YORKER": Gets too personal I think.

O'BRIEN: It does.

HUNTSMAN: Negative energy sometimes.

O'BRIEN: She's got slicked back pony tail and obviously she's sweating because hello, she's an elite caliber athlete in the middle of the Olympics and --

HUNTSMAN: She looks so beautiful.

SOCARIDES: This is a great get real because what you want to say is get real, you know.

O'BRIEN: Why do you think we call it get real? Not just an accident we call it this.


SOCARIDES: The amazing thing about twitter, people will say things on twitter you won't see to anybody's face or on e-mail or. She looks so beautiful.

SOCARIDES: It captures what people are really thinking because they don't think twice.

LIZZA: Her hair aside, I love her story, there's been biographical pieces and this was someone not considered at the top of her game.

O'BRIEN: Even Karolyis thought, well, she's good. LIZZA: Went from zero to 100 no time at all, totally underestimate and killed it.

O'BRIEN: Such a great model. Everybody's hair looks like that. If we could do flips and vaults --

HUNTSMAN: I was looking at her body. She has the best figure I've ever seen. She's amazing. Forget the hair.

O'BRIEN: She would stick it and bounce again. Like she knew she was winning. She's amazing, we're so proud of her. That's great.

We want to know what you think about this story or any of our stories, you can send us videotape, 20 seconds total. We'll call it our end point, to submit your video.

Still ahead, an Ohio coal mine operation is laying off workers and shutting down. The operators say it's President Obama's fault. We'll tell you why.

Amtrak is hemorrhaging millions of dollars in taxpayer money. We'll let you know how much it cost them to give passengers a $2 soft drink. You might think $2. You would be wrong.

Here is from our Facebook friend, Shake Senora from pit bull. Go girl, you can do it.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Just ahead this morning, the owners of an Ohio coal mine closing it down, blaming president Obama for the closure. We'll tell you why. We'll look into whether the president rally is to blame. In a few minutes we'll talk to the founder of the mining operation Robert Murray.

First, though, we want to get to Christine Romans for today's top stories. Hey, Christine, good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning, again, Soledad. The FBI is now investigating the death of a 21-year-old Mississippi man. This man was shot in the head and killed while he was handcuffed in the back of a police car in Jonesboro, Arkansas, police insist he committed suicide last Saturday night and officers who searched him originally failed to detect he had a gun. Carter's family thinks cops killed him and they are covering it up. Carter was detained after police found marijuana in his car.

We're learning more about the person who died in a horrific bus crash in southern Illinois. Police identified her as 25-year-old Aditi Avhad of Indian. The bus was traveling and a tire blew out sending the bus crashing. Injuries ranged from minor to very serious.

The worst drought to hit the U.S. in decades, forcing officials to close the Mississippi River to commercial boat traffic in two areas. Barge tows running aground in Greenville, Arkansas, and Wisconsin because of low water levels. No word when those portions of the Mississippi will be reopened. Several other vessels have run aground in recent days, snarling freight lanes.

Waste and employee theft at Amtrak, taking a toll on taxpayers, according to government auditors, Amtrak loses more than $80 million a year on its food and beverage service alone. Get this, Congress passed a law back in 1981 requiring the railroad's food and beverage business must break even every year, and that has never happened once. Amtrak charges passengers $2.00 for a soft drink but it cost the railroad $3.40 to serve each better average when you ad in the labor cost. A hamburger goes for $9.50 but cost Amtrak $16 for each one it sells, and throw in $7 million in employee theft and Amtrak squandered $834 million of taxpayer money over the past decade, according to government auditors.

House Republicans have been forced to close a loophole in the new Stock Act Law. That's a loophole that was uncovered by CNN. This crackdown on congressional insider trading was signed by the president in April.

It requires lawmakers to report all stock trades of $1,000 or more within 45 days. But members of the House had a rather unique interpretation. They didn't think the law applied to their spouses or dependents. The bill's sponsor, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, not too pleased about that.


SENATOR SCOTT BROWN (R), STOCK LEGISLATION SPONSOR: Let's say that I find out some information and tell my wife, and she goes and trades on it, what's the difference?

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: The whole point of this legislation is that we should play by the exact same rules as every other American citizen. When all of America looks at Washington, they know it's broken.


ROMANS: Because of CNN's reporting, Dana Bash's reporting there, the Senate and House passed new legislation that closes the loophole that could have allowed family members of some lawmakers to profit from the inside stock information that comes across the desks of the people we pay to represent us -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I'm stunned, Christine.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Dana Bash did a great job on that. Congress exempted itself from the law.

O'BRIEN: Yes, created a law then exempted spouses at least. Good going, Dana. Good work. All right, thanks, Christine.

This morning we're taking a closer look at coal, an Ohio mining company now shutting down its operations. That will happen in the fall laying off all its workers. They say it's the president's fault.

An Ohio American Energy statement says this, regulatory actions by President Barack Obama and his appointees and followers were cited as the entire reason of the closure. The mine is located near Brilliant, Ohio. At its peak, 239 people work there. Right now, they have 56 employees, 32 of them have been told they will be transferred within the company.

Overall the coal industry has been suffering lately. In 2011, the United States used 124 million fewer tons of coal than four years earlier and its competition, natural gas, has become lots cheaper to use.

Ohio American Energy is a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corporation and Mr. Murray, Robert Murray, is the founder, its chairman, its president and CEO. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.

When we read your press release yesterday you blamed regulatory actions by President Barack Obama. What specific regulatory actions are you referring to that you specifically say are being blamed for the closure of this company?

ROBERT E. MURRAY, FOUNDER & CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORPORATION: Good morning, ma'am. Yes, ma'am, President Obama is responsible entirely for the closure of that mine and the loss of those jobs.

So far according to his own energy information agency, he has closed 175 power plants, coal fired power plants, in the United States of America.

O'BRIEN: So I was asking though about --

MURRAY: -- are being eliminated.

O'BRIEN: I was asking though about the specific because you talk about regulations. I wanted to know which were the regulations you felt specifically were to blame for the fact this mining operation was going to have to shut down?

MURRAY: Those are some of the specific regulations. The many regulations that he and his radical appointees and the U.S. EPA have put on the use of coal, there are dozens of them and collectively by his own energy administration have closed 175 power plants.

In addition, we cannot get permits for these mines. They are delaying the issuance of permits. If you can't get the permit, you can't have the mine. Ma'am, I'm very distraught this morning because this is a human issue to me.

I created those jobs and I put the investment in that mine. And when it came time to lay the people off, I went up personally and talked to everyone of them myself to lay them off. It's a human issue. Obama --

O'BRIEN: Forgive me for interrupting. People who are environmentalists, often clashing with the coal companies would also say it's a human issue.

Your attorney who was cited in some articles mentioned three specific rules so I'll name them, the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which is known as CARE, which put in place back in 2005, before President Obama.

The Cross State Air Pollution rule, which actually there is a stay on that law, it hasn't been implemented yet. And there's the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which would basically make sure that air quality for certain things like carbon monoxide and lead and nitrogen dioxide and particle pollution and sulphur dioxide.

That all those things are not only monitored, but they are also limited so they can't drift from one coal production into another state. So I think environmentalists would say that these are rules that are actually very valuable.

Talk about caring for people, to -- in terms of people's health as well. Some of them started not under President Obama, but started way before President Obama came into office.

MURRAY: You are correct and incorrect both. Though the CARE Act enacted in 2005 did protect the health of people and it did allow the coal industry to exist.

It is what the Obama administration has done with those rules over the years and implemented since he took office. He said when he took office if you build a coal powered plant in America we're going to bankrupt you.

Joe Biden said no coal in America. They are making good on that promise. But to me as I started to say it's a human issue, Ma'am, because he's destroying the lives and livelihoods of many people I know by name. These jobs will never come back.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, some of those jobs if we're talking about Appalachian coal, that's correct. But it's under the same regulations if you look at western coal that they've had tremendous growth.

Western coal production is up, same exact EPA regulations. If you look western coal makes up 47 percent of coal production. That's going up. That's going to go up to 56 percent in the next several years.

In Ohio though, that coal production, which is at 39 percent, that's going to drop to 29 percent. When you talk about bankrupting, I would assume if there are violations of air quality standards and they are enforced.

Yes, that's going to be expensive to pay for some of those violations, which I know some of your subsidiaries have had to do, right?

MURRAY: You're incorrect to say that western coal production is up. It too is down. Let me say one thing, Ma'am. The PJM Interconnection is a group of 13 Ohio electric utilities east of the Mississippi.

They just had their quarterly auction, electric power prices are up 800 times, 8 percent, the utilities themselves bid that incremental power up eight times, 800 percent because they in their press release said there's going to be brown-outs and blackouts.

As Barack Obama eliminates the four cent kilowatt hour electricity in America made from coal and tries to substitute his 22 cent a kilowatt hour.

Wind and solar power that gets $24 a kilowatt a dollar from the taxpayer on top of that it's artificial. It shouldn't exist. Ma'am, this is a national crisis -- goes well beyond the coal industry.

O'BRIEN: You're clearly infuriated by it. You know, I want to ask you about the politics of this. Because when people look into who you support politically this year alone, right, and we're only in August.

I believe you've given $150,000 to the GOP. You know, so I think there are people who could say, your position is more about politics than anything else.

MURRAY: That is absolutely incorrect again. You're insinuation was incorrect. I told you this was a human issue. These are my employees. I care for them deeply. Barack Obama and his Democrat followers are destroying the entire -- of America.

The whole country had better wake up to what's going to happen to electric power costs. Ma'am, it has nothing to do with politics. In the Eastern Ohio where these jobs are limited, it doesn't make any difference whether you're a Democrat or Republican. Everybody there wants jobs and he's destroying them.

O'BRIEN: Let me read a quote from you. You said, "God was shining on America when Bush got elected." That's a quote. All I can say, God was shining on America when George W. Bush got elected and there are many people who would look to the reputation that the Bush administration had.

Courts found and this is a quote, in court rulings, that "The administration contradicted and disregarded language of the Clean Air Act" and the courts overturned 15 rulings of the administration's own Environmental Protection Agency.

So I think that there are people who would say it's not, not about politics. That actually, clearly, if you run a coal company and you're trying to get a break on certain policies.

And that actually it does matter who's in office and you might be more willing and supportive of someone you think will give you a break.

Especially when it comes to violations and things that have cost your companies and your subsidiaries literally, I think the number is $7 million for one that was announced just in mid July, right?

MURRAY: Ma'am, I'm an American first.

O'BRIEN: Me too.

MURRAY: Coal miner second. I'm an American and China is building a new 500 mega watt coal fired plant every week and have for years as he shut down 175 plants. Ma'am, that's 83,000 mega watts, I'm not a politician. I'm an engineer.

America had better wake up to what this man is doing. People on fixed incomes will not be able to pay their electric bills. Every job on America that depends on low cost electricity is going to be exported to China.

This is a national issue and this -- I know exactly what this man is doing and it has nothing to do with politics. He is bad for America.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about natural gas for a moment because that's an area where we have seen tremendous growth. Natural gas is very, very cheap and I think that there are analysts who are bipartisan, who would say a lot of falloff in coal is directly correlated to how cheap natural gas is and that it's cyclical that they come and go and ebbs and flows and that's where these problems are.

MURRAY: You're absolutely correct, Ma'am. When natural gas gets below $3.50 per thousand cubic feet, it can compete with coal and it is. Part of the elimination of the coal jobs is the more increased use of natural gas, which is OK because it's good for America.

We need the lowest cost electricity we can get. But it's the regulations of the Obama administration that long term has determined that 175 plants will be closed. It has nothing to do with natural gas, Ma'am and they will stay closed.

And this is what bothers me, the children, our children, grandchildren, even in the next few years I don't know how people on fixed incomes -- I grew up poor.

I don't know how they will pay the electric bills about what I see happening here as he eliminates the low cost electricity from the power grid and for no environmental benefit -- for no environmental benefit whatsoever, none.

O'BRIEN: I think environmentalists would disagree with you heartily on that, certainly if you look at the incidents of asthma, et cetera, small particle coming across the different states and obviously sulphur dioxide, et cetera.

Those are very correlated to severe asthma problems as you know. I just want to reiterate when I gave those western states coal production numbers those came from the Energy Information Administration so those aren't numbers I pulled out of a hat.

Those show that in fact western coal production is going up and Ohio coal production is dropping and projected to drop even more. But sir, we're out of time. I want to thank you, Mr. Murray --

MURRAY: Ma'am, I operate in Utah and that is not correct. All of the industry is being destroyed.

O'BRIEN: Well, we thank you for your time this morning, sir. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, gay and lesbian couples take a stand. We're talking about this yesterday. It's a kiss-in. The other day it was a Chick-Fil-A --

SOCARIDES: From coal to kissing, that was a good transition. My God, do you think Mr. Murray sees things in very stark colors?

O'BRIEN: I did a documentary on coal in West Virginia and it's very interesting, the similar conversations, obviously regulations are a big sticking point for those in coal production.

But there are a lot of other things that work too, some of that is even out west. You know, the coal is closer to the surface, easier to access and that correlates --

ROMANS: Bought a big railroad because he was so bullish on coal, you know.

O'BRIEN: Of course, it's the low sulphur and high sulphur they're trying to figure out, you know, which is the one that is sort of better to the mining all those things --

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They specialize in high sulphur coal.

O'BRIEN: Those are big issues, not as clear cut as regulations, although regulations play a role in it. As we pointed out to him, one of their subsidiaries had to play they are estimating $7 million in fines or fixes because of violating some of the regulations so --

ROMANS: Jobs create natural gas and he's talking about a couple of dozen jobs. He's worried about there. Thousands have been created in natural gas, but he's not going to credit --

O'BRIEN: Everybody is protective of their own industry. So he might be happy about that, but those aren't coal jobs so in his mind they don't really count and not in his state.

ABBY HUNTSMAN, HOST, "HUFFPOST LIVE": It's also very political. I don't think he knows the president's right name.

LIZZA: I have someone firing a bunch of people and coming on and blame the president of the United States. It seems like he's taking advantage of an obviously terrible situation for his employees and turning it into a hand grenade in the campaign.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's true. We can keep talking about this. You could talk about it for years because that is how complicated --

SOCARIDES: It's a serious and complicated issue.

O'BRIEN: Like all of issues we talk about here.

SOCARIDES: Unlike Chick-Fil-A.

O'BRIEN: Unlike our next issue which is going to be Ryan Beatty. Have you seen this guy? He's 16 years old and he is a sensation on YouTube. He is cute and talented and going to be a superstar. I want everybody to know I discovered him. Not really.

SOCARIDES: It's all -- you get all the credit for everything he's done.

O'BRIEN: Yes, Richard, but he's nodding his head yes. We haven't met yet, but he's nodding yes. That's straight ahead after this short break.


O'BRIEN: This is Kerri's play list. Can somebody read that? I can't read that far. I need my glasses.

Our viewers have so much better taste than you guys did on the panel the last couple of days, it's true.

SOCARIDES: I've been listening to Frank Ocean. It's fantastic.

O'BRIEN: Frank Ocean, that would be good.

SOCARIDES: Your producers won't play him.

O'BRIEN: Do you think I go through myself and pick the songs?

SOCARIDES: You don't.

LIZZA: On Friday you should replace it with friends from Twitters.

O'BRIEN: Or enemies on Twitter that I make.

All right, welcome back, everybody. Chick-Fil-A this morning saying, they are set to set a sales record during that Chick- Fil-A Appreciation Day event that happened on Wednesday.

Today, although I don't think there were specific numbers given, it was a record but no specifics.

SOCARIDES: A general record.

O'BRIEN: A record generally. Today gay rights supporters are going to take on Chick-Fil-A's stance against same sex marriage with a kiss-in. They're encouraging supporters to share a kiss in protest once they arrive at a Chick-Fil-A. And then post their videos or photos of it on social media. And that isn't the only campaign that's happening. Marcy Alt of Atlanta started a petition on inviting the Chick-Fil-A President, Dan Cathy, to join her family including her wife and their two kids for dinner. So far he has not responded.

HUNTSMAN: This will be a weekly thing.

SOCARIDES: A little sit-down with them.

LIZZA: Do you think there's going to be Chick-Fil-A fatigue at some point?


SOCARIDES: I think we've reached that point.

LIZZA: It's passed through a line where now Chick-Fil-A is a polarizing American institution, right? Before this week, anyone could go to Chick-Fil-A. We weren't making a political statement. Now for a good long while it'll be a political act. It's like watching Fox News versus MSNBC. That's what Chick-Fil-A has become.

SOCARIDES: What I really wish we could do was make the discussion not about Chick-Fil-A or not about any individual company, but about treating employees fairly and about having corporate policies that are fair to everybody.

O'BRIEN: And the allegations against Chick-Fil-A aren't there's some kind of discrimination against specific employees in their employ, right?

SOCARIDES: No antidiscrimination protection. You can fire somebody because you don't like their private personal behavior.

HUNTSMAN: This is all about freedom of speech here. And that's what's bringing out these crowds. I don't think it has anything to do with the freedom of speech. We're seeing so far it has done well. They are --

SOCARIDES: Actually, I don't think it's about freedom of speech, because I think that, you know, I kind of agree with you. But I think anybody can say what they want and Mr. Cathy can have his own beliefs too.

O'BRIEN: Which would be freedom of speech?

SOCARIDES: Right. But companies what it should be -- what this issue should be about is companies treating everybody the same, everybody fairly and companies judging employees based upon their ability to show up and do the work and not about their behavior in off hours.

O'BRIEN: But this all started because of the support of marriage equality, right, ultimately. SOCARIDES: It all started because the company gave a lot of money to these anti-gay groups and the groups that were promoting conversion therapy.

O'BRIEN: Dan Cathy's most recent remarks kicked all of this off when he said they don't support gay marriage and that's what started all of this. And many people point to that as a first amendment issue, but we have got to take a break.

HUNTSMAN: We're going to go to Chick-Fil-A after this?

O'BRIEN: No, I want to go to the kiss-in.

LIZZA: I think we know what the end point is.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT," do you know this young man? Listen.

OK, that's not Adele, but it's a kid doing Adele really, really well. He's name is Ryan Beatty. He's singing a song "Rolling in the Deep," and he's the newest singing sensation because of his YouTube videos.

He's in our green room. He's going to be joining us. Here he is right now. Nice to have you, Ryan. We're going to bring out a chair. He's going to join us in the next segment. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: So this young man might be the next Justin Bieber, his name is Ryan Beatty, and if you haven't heard of him yet, you will. He's 16 years old. He just released his EP. It was the number one pop album on iTunes.

Music videos getting 30 million views on YouTube. More than 240,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel. This is one of his videos, "Every Little Thing."

And he's handsome, which all of that adds up to, and he has good hair. I'm talking about the realities of the business. When did you start singing?

RYAN BEATTY, TEEN SINGER: I've been singing my entire life. But I really started taking it more seriously about a year ago and it's probably one of the best decisions I've ever made in my entire life.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I'd say yes to that.

BEATTY: I've had the best past year.

O'BRIEN: When we look at you on YouTube. Let's run one of those. You are singing into a microphone and you've got your bunk bed behind you. When did you start doing this and how did people start finding you at first?

BEATTY: Well, I put up a video last February of 2011, and I -- you know, I've always wanted to sing, but I never really had faith in myself that I could do it. And I didn't know what would come of it, so one day decided to give it a try and put the video up.

And within a week it got 10,000 views and I just couldn't believe the number that I saw. You know, the video count got 10,000 views in a week, I never thought it would happen.

Put up another video from there just to see if it would get the same, but actually doubled in a week, so like 20,000 views in a week, and another one up and another one up.

O'BRIEN: You're famous, basically.

BEATTY: I don't consider myself famous.

SOCARIDES: You're the most famous person on the show all week, by the way.

O'BRIEN: Are you talking to producers now? I mean, obviously if you're getting 30 million hits for the things you're posting on YouTube, I've got to imagine people are calling you up.

BEATTY: Yes, I've been working with a lot of different producers. On my E.P., I worked with John Fields. I love his work and I'm so grateful I got to work with him.

And I worked with Shelly Peeke and she wrote a lot of Christina Aguilera stuff. They are really great to work with. As well as THX, he's also a great producer.

O'BRIEN: I love when you thank your producers. That's very smart.

HUNTSMAN: I've got to talk about Justin Bieber. Is he someone you look up to? Do you want to be the next Justin Bieber?

BEATTY: I definitely think he's so talented. I loved his last album and he had this song in there I really like. He's definitely, you know -- I -- he's worked so hard. And his movie was really cool and I loved seeing that movie because it showed how he just started from nothing and he became huge.

HUNTSMAN: YouTube sensation.

BEATTY: Off his work so, you know, there's -- I think compare us because I started on YouTube, I'm young and, you know, but we have different styles and different stories.

And so I think that once people actually hear my music that they'll forget those comparisons because we're on totally different paths. But I definitely respect him a ton and think he's incredibly talented.

O'BRIEN: So Ryan, when you're wildly famous, will you come back or am I going to have to go through a dozen people to get you back on the set? SOCARIDES: This is your last interview.

BEATTY: I'll definitely come back. No doubt.

O'BRIEN: You heard it there, right? That's a promise. Sure. Sure.

SOCARIDES: You guys can go Chick-Fil-A kiss day.

O'BRIEN: It's nice to see you, Ryan. Thanks for talking with us. Best of luck to you.

BEATTY: Thank you so much.

SOCARIDES: It's nice to meet you.

O'BRIEN: I discovered you if anybody asks. Just teasing.

All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the hall of famer Cal Ripken, Jr. talks about the abduction of his mother. We're going to talk to him straight ahead, get you updated on a search for a suspect.

Plus, at Sea World, they're trying to upgrade safety procedures two years after a killer whale killed a trainer. The author of a new book said safety is only part of the problem.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We've got to take a short break. We're back in just a moment.