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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Republicans Urge Todd Akin to Leave Senate Race; Augusta National Inducts First Women Members; ESPN Host Makes Racially Insensitive Comment; Tropical Storm Warnings!; Rest Stop Encounter; Chavis Carter Death Ruled a Suicide; GOP's Tough Anti-Abortion Platform; Diana Nyad Out Of The Water; Olympic Homecoming

Aired August 21, 2012 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, will he or won't he?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TODD AKIN, (R) MISSOURI: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That would be Missouri congressman, Todd Akin, now calls on him to end his Senate bid after those controversial rape comments. This morning, though, we're learning he's got a new ad. So, does that mean he's staying in the fight?

An enemy fire. The airplane belonging to one of the top generals hit by rocket shrapnel in Afghanistan.

Plus, women now welcome. Augusta National Golf Club adds its first two female members. This morning we'll tell you why Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore have been chosen to break new ground?

We got a packed show for you this morning. The former LPGA star, Hollis Stacy, is our guest. Olympic hurdler, Lolo Jones will join us. Amy Kremer is the chairwoman of the Tea Party Express. Former Republican candidate for president, Steve Forbes, is going to be our guest. And actor and director, Curt Cameron, joins us.

It's Tuesday, August 21st, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome, everybody, our "Starting Point," Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin says he will not go down without a fight. Akin is facing tremendous pressure from Republican leaders to quit his Senate race against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. He says he's staying in. Akin's support has all but disappeared as a result of these comments about rape and abortion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TODD AKIN, (R) MISSOURI: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try that shut that whole thing down. Let's assume that maybe that didn't work or somebody. I think there should be some punishment but it ought to be in the rapist and not attacking the child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Congressman Akin is now fighting to salvage his Senate campaign. The website "Politico" obtained this new ad this morning from the Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AKIN: The fact is rape could lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Well, Congressman Akin has under 11 hours to get his name off the ballot if he decides to change his mind. CNN's Dana Bash has more with this. Lots of Republicans have come out strongly saying, Get out of the race.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's true, if you listen closely you can hear Republicans having panic attacks because he is not getting out of the race and because that ad that you just ran.

Republicans looked at the map and looked at the math and believe that Akin at this point will not only cost the Republicans the Senate seat in Missouri but likely rob them the ability to take the majority back in the Senate. That is why I'm told by GOP sources that privately Republican leaders have all but begged him to step aside and telling him for his own political future.

And publicly it's been a coalition of Republicans, Tea Party leaders, conservative radio hosts and columnists. Akin got the biggest shove on CNN from the RNC chair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: If it was me, and I wouldn't say anything that dumb, as he has, but if it was me, and I had an opportunity to let someone else run to actually give ourselves a better chance of winning, I would step aside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: He actually said don't come to the convention next week when, Soledad, Republican sources tell me to expect more pressure like that, perhaps from Republicans closer to home.

O'BRIEN: Because the deadline is 5:00 p.m., the whole point to get him off to put somebody else's name on the ballot. Not do it so late. He is pretty well funded by himself, right? He has a $2.2 million war chest. Is it possible he could say I got money, don't need your money or invitation to the RNC?

BASH: Absolutely it's possible. That's what Republicans are so worried about. You're right, he does have a war chest, but in a state like Missouri, where especially if he stays in the race, Democrats will pour ungodly amounts of money in there. He's already been told by the Republican Party they are not going to spend $5 million they were planning. He's already been told by one of the biggest advocacy groups, Karl Rove's group, they are not going to spend their $5 million.

Republican sources I talked to say they knew full well that Akin would be a potential problem and preferred less divisive candidates. They went to him and warned him, your words will be scrutinized like never before and learned from two years ago when they lost seats in Nevada, in Colorado, in Delaware, remember Christine O'Donnell, "I'm not a witch." Remember?

O'BRIEN: How can we forget?

BASH: They knew that they probably lost those because of lightning rod comments.

O'BRIEN: The Democrats knew that too. They put a ton of money into the race very specifically to have Akin as the person who would be challenging Claire McCaskill. Even though he's been leading in the polling we've seen over the last few months?

BASH: That's exactly right. They played -- you would argue good politics and Claire McCaskill ran an ad during the Republican primary that Akin is the best conservative. People watching it didn't necessarily know it was a Democrat putting it up because she was the one who wanted to run against Akin. But the question is whether or not this is all going to end today. You mentioned that there is a 5:00 deadline for Akin to voluntarily withdraw from the race to allow Republicans to get another name on the ballot. I'm told that Republicans believe that even if he doesn't do that, they have until September 25th to actually remove his name from the ballot. It just would be a lot tougher. They are going to have to go through legal hoops, procedural hoops to do that. They are crossing their fingers, maybe kicking as hard as they can to get him out by 5:00.

O'BRIEN: Kicking on TV out loud, rescinding invitations for example. Dana, thanks.

In just a few moment we'll talk with Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the Tea Party express. She pushed for one of those less divisive candidates. We'll talk to her straight ahead. First John Berman has a look at the day's top stories for us. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. We'll begin with developments in Afghanistan, rockets fired at the main NATO air field there damaging the C-17 used by the Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, the shrapnel hitting the plane at a time when the general was not on board. We're hearing two other people were hurt. The rockets also damaged a NATO chopper. Dempsey later left on another aircraft.

President Obama speaking to the White House press corps yesterday issuing a stern warning to Syria, if Bashar al Asaad uses chemical weapons or moves them, it may revoke a response from the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A red line for us, we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons being moved around or utilized. That would change my equation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Military experts say the Syrian regime probably has the most advanced chemical warfare program in the Arab world.

Water levels stalling traffic along the Mississippi River, an 11-mile stretch has been shut down for most vessels. Commerce there considered vital to the economy. It left 97 ships and barges stranded on Monday.

Another storm is slowing down 62-year-old endurance swimmer Diana Nyad. She's trying to become the first to swim from cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Her team says Nyad has completed 48 miles of her 103 mile journey. According to her team's blog, all hell broke loose when a storm closed in on Nyad forcing her to change course to escape 14 knot winds. At 8:15 eastern, we'll get a live update from a boat alongside of hers. Mark Sollinger will join us then. Hopefully that storm passes soon.

O'BRIEN: I had a chance to talk to her before she went on her first effort to try to swim from Cuba to Florida. And you know, she really said she wanted to show that people at any age can do anything they set their mind to. It is all about for her inspiring people.

BERMAN: Getting stung by jellyfish in the face but it's OK. So obviously she has a high pain tolerance.

O'BRIEN: John, thank you.

As we told you, Congressman Todd Akin has until 6:00 eastern tonight to make his withdrawal bid from the Senate after the comments about rape and abortion as Dana Bash was telling us a few moments ago. If he waits until after 6:00 tonight, it becomes more complicated legally and with Republican convention just around the corner, the pressure to get him to withdraw has been intense. Joining us this morning is Amy Kremer, the chair of the Tea Party Express. Thanks for talking with us.

AMY KREMER, CHAIR, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Good to see you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I got your e-mail from your organization last night which was clearly pushing him to drop out. Why do you think he needs to go?

KREMER: Because I think what he said is completely indefensible and changes the narrative of what's going on here. The fact Claire McCaskill wants him to stay in the race speaks volumes. We need a good strong candidate. If he looks at the bigger picture, he will do what's best and step aside.

O'BRIEN: It's unclear what he's doing because we've seen an ad he just put out a few moments ago -- let me put it this -- he is certainly not saying, I'm out, I'm quitting. He's also apologized and he has said in reviewing my off the cuff remarks, it's clear I misspoke in the interview, doesn't reflect the deep empathy I hold for thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. He said this on Governor Mike Huckabee's radio program yesterday. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AKIN: I care deeply, you know for the victims of people who have been raped. And they're equally vulnerable and a rape is equally tragic. I made that statement in error. Let me be clear, rape is never legitimate. It's an evil act. It is committed by violent predators. I used the wrong words in the wrong way. What I said was ill- conceived and it was wrong. And for that I apologize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Clearly what it does to the Missouri race leaves it in some kind of chaos/limbo. But what does it do for the presidential race do you think?

KREMER: I think that every -- on a state level as far as presidential politics, the whole thing is, this is a distraction, we don't want to talk about this. We want to talk about the $16 trillion debt and how to get rid of it. Soledad, quite frankly, had he said this three weeks ago we wouldn't be sitting here discussing this because he would have lost in a landslide.

We need to get back to what every American is concerned about right now, and that is the economy and jobs. And focusing on this, the longer he stays in the race, this is going to be the narrative that everybody is going to focus on and get us off message, and we can't afford that. I hope that congressman Akin will do what's best for the party and for the people across this country and step aside.

O'BRIEN: Here's what President Obama said yesterday, let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about, doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What the president is talking about there, that sort of slicing and dicing of force-able rape versus statutory rape versus rape when you've been drugged, maybe it doesn't considered to be force-able rape. That brings us right to the Republican platform or at least the draft that we have gotten here at CNN so far with the official platform will look like. As you read it, it doesn't make explicit exemptions for rape for abortion under rape or incest. How much of this is a problem much bigger than Congressman Todd Akin that it actually has repercussions for Republicans when you look at the polling on abortion and rape, it doesn't necessarily support that platform. KREMER: Well, Soledad, quite honestly, I am -- I represent the Tea Party movement and we're not focused on party politics. We're focused on the issues. And one of the reasons we have been so strong and changed the political landscape in Washington, D.C. is because we're focused only on the fiscal issues on the economy. We're never going to agree on the social issues and that's why we don't go there. We don't focus on that. That's why I want more than anything to turn this back around and let's focus on what is important to all Americans right now.

I disagree with what Congressman Akin said. It was totally wrong. And we have to be -- we have to call out our own as we would call out the left. It was wrong. Let's step aside and do what's best for the party and for the American people so that we can move forward and focus on issues that are important to all of us.

O'BRIEN: Amy Kremer is the chairwoman of the Tea Party express. Nice to see you.

KREMER: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Coming up in 20 minutes we're going to talk to former Alabama congressman Artur Davis, he seconded president Obama's nomination four years ago. This year he's speaking at the Republican convention. He's changed sides. We'll get his thoughts on this straight ahead.

Coming up next, the most valuable company ever, no surprise, it's Apple, reaching new heights and that's before the iPhone 5 comes out. Sean green jackets this time for the ladies, Hollis Stacy, former LPGA player reacts to the Augusta National's first female members.

I heard from this ESPN analyst.

KREMER: Unbelievable.

O'BRIEN: He says no shock the white people should support the white athletes. Really? You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Christine Romans minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures are higher, European markets are up too on hopes for Greece as the prime minister meets with Eurozone officials it's. And Apple now the world's most valuable company ever in terms of market cap. The company is worth $623 billion as of yesterday's market close. New iPhone expected in about three weeks.

One tech stock is having trouble though, Facebook. One of the first big investors sold off a huge chunk of his shares worth about a billion dollars in cash. Facebook stock is down almost 50 percent since IPO. Stock sale was preplanned announce the day of the IPO according to filings with the SEC. This is why individual investors should be careful with IPOs. O'BRIEN: He sold for $1 billion in cash means he spent a lot of money on it. A billion in cash spends so good unless you start with $2 billion.

ROMANS: He walked away with a very big profit.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.

Today is a new day at Augusta National, two women are members of the storied golf club after 80 years of become excluded. Former secretary of state Condoleezza rice and Carla Moore. These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected. It will be a proud moment when we present them the green jackets when the club opens this fall.

The club has been facing controversy for at least a decade, so why now? Hollis Stacy is a former LPGA player who was just inducted this year in the World Golf Hall of Fame. He said in that statement, a proud day. What do you think is the significance of two women now being members?

HOLLIS STACY, LPGA HALL OF FAMER: Well, it's a great day. And they are two wonderful women that you now members. It's taken a long time coming but finally it's happened.

O'BRIEN: Last time, he think -- last time you and I spoke we were discussing this same issue. It was when IBM was sponsoring the masters if you remember and the question was a CEO is a woman and will she be given a membership. Darla Moore used to be the chair and Condoleezza rice obviously. What do you think of them as firsts, as the two first female picks?

STACY: Well, I always thought that Condi will be the first and nobody wants to go in by themselves so it's a wonderful -- it's wonderful for women. Darla Moore, it's a small world but my nephew is supervising the building with her name on it at the University of South Carolina. Supervising the construction of it. She's very generous and it's great to have two women of their stat tour tore the first members.

O'BRIEN: Why did you say Condoleezza Rice first as your pick? We always talk about football and NFL commissioner, you can't not talk about those two things. I didn't realize she was a golfer.

STACY: Well, I'd known she was a golfer. She is a member of the golf club and became a member of cypress, she loves the game. She's always at -- I hear she's at PGA events a lot. And she's from Stanford where Tiger played so it's a national. It's a good fit.

O'BRIEN: Martha Burke, who protested for years to get women in. This is not about golf, the club is not about the game of golf, it's about the game of networking and having women rise to an equal level as men. Do you think she's right?

STACY: I do. You know, I am very happy, but I'm not at the top of the mountain. There's a lot of work to be done. Women comprise 51 percent of the population, yes, we are represented by 6 percent in congress. So there's still a lot of work to do. And I'm really happy that the day has finally happened but there still is a lot of heavy lifting of boxes we have to do.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for being with us. We certainly appreciate your time this morning.

STACY: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, an ESPN analyst getting in trouble talking about the Washington Redskins quarterback competition and he says this, it's, quote, ""human nature for white fans to root for white players." We'll talk about that with our STARTING POINT team hearing in, Margaret Hoover, Ron Brownstein, and Celeste Headlee. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody, our team this morning, Margaret Hoover is back. She's a former White House appointee under the Bush administration. Ron Brownstein is back, too. Nice to see you both. Celeste Headlee is back. Our get real yesterday was Congressman Akin and that has become --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Everybody is watching how that will work out. We have moved up and that cannot be a good thing. The Washington Redskins are hoping RG3 can turn the fortunes of the franchise around. Only one ESPN analyst is suggesting that white red skin fans will like to vote for the white backup. The redskins picked another quarterback later on, fellow rookie, Curt Cousins. So Skip Bayless, cohost of ESPN's "First Take," said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BAYLESS: You also have the black/white dynamic and majority of the red skin fans are white and it's hum nan nature to vote for the white guy. I'm for the black guy, but I'm just saying I don't like the dynamic for RG3. It could stunt his growth in the NFL.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So rarely is there so much to go through in one sound bite. Let's start from the beginning, you have the black/white dynamic, the majority of Redskins fan base is white. True or False?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Larger point as my friend likes to say, as sports fans, we right for laundry. We cheered for Johnny Damon in Boston until the day he put on pinstripes and hated a-rod until they put on pinstripes and they'll hate him again when he goes.

O'BRIEN: Human nature if you're white to root for the white guy.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Every Chinese-American in New York City loves Jeremy Lin and nobody else did?

O'BRIEN: For people like us who are by racial, mixed --

CELESTE HEADLEE: I'm so confused, and Latina. Mark Sanchez, what should I do?

BROWNSTEIN: A lot of fans are white people by the way and all in D.C. I've never seen them so excited universally.

HEADLEE: It's a comment that was designed to offend pretty much all of the races which I'm a member.

O'BRIEN: My daughter, who is 12 would say, that's just stupid. Stupid.

HOOVER: She's right.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, new developments to tell you about in the tropics. Tropical storm warnings going up. We'll get the latest from CNN hurricane headquarters up next.

Go ahead, have another glass of red wine. It's 7:28 in the morning, go ahead, wait until after dinner. But we're told it could help your mobility later on in life. Might affect your mobility right now but could help you later in life. We're going to explain that straight ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everybody.

In just a few moments, we're going to be talking to Olympic hurdler, Lolo Jones. You might recall that she missed out on a medal in London and then got caught up in this really I thought an attack by the media on her personally.

She's going to stop by to talk about her critics and the cheers she got when she went to Des Moines. That is straight ahead this morning.

Also we're going to talk with former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, the onetime Democrat is now a Republican. He's going to weigh in on the Congressman Akin controversy.

First though, I want to get right to John Berman for a look at the day's top stories. Good morning again.

BERMAN: Hi, Soledad. We have some tropical storm warnings after new depression forms in the Atlantic overnight, a lot of Republicans watching this wondering if it will affect the convention. Let's get right to meteorologist, Rob Marciano for the latest.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John. Yes, that is a possibility, but it's a long way off. First order of business is tropical depression number 9. We also have another system just off the coast of Africa that will likely develop into a depression if not a tropical storm before the next couple of days are done.

Tropical depression number 9, if it does strengthen, we think it will, Isaac will be its name. Right now, it's moving to the west at 20 miles an hour.

So as you mentioned tropical storm watches and warnings have been posted for parts of the Leeward Islands in anticipation of arriving sometime during the day on Wednesday and then strengthening potentially into Category 1 or 2 storm.

The column brings it towards Puerto Rico and Hispaniola and potentially towards Jamaica and Cuba, and of course, the Gulf of Mexico or even the east coast in play as we get towards next week.

This system in the Gulf of Mexico, we're watching it, but it is not moving very much and it's near the Mexican Coast as opposed to the U.S. coast at this time, mostly heavy rain. Rain across parts of this southeast with this front everywhere north of there, it looks to be a nice day with comfortable temperatures from Chicago to Detroit to Pittsburgh to New York City. John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right, Rob Marciano in Atlanta, thank you very much.

A state representative from Minnesota is facing calls to step down after he admits to a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old boy at a rest stop.

Democrat Kerry Gauthier won't face charges in the July incident because the boy was older than the legal age of consent and no money was exchanged.

According to the "Duluth News Tribune," police say the teenager responded to Gauthier's ad on Craigslist seeking sex with no strings attached.

Still more questions about the apparent suicide of 21-year-old Chavis Carter in Arkansas. The autopsy found Carter shot himself in the head while handcuffed in the back of a police car.

Marijuana and meth and depressants were also found in his system. Carter's family believes their son was shot by police. The case is still being reviewed by prosecutors and the police.

An "A.M. House Call" now, doctors are more likely to get burnt out by their jobs than the rest of us. A survey found some 7,000 doctors they said four out of 10 were emotionally exhausted by their work.

That feeling could lead to depersonalization where physicians treat their patients like objects than human beings. The burnout rate was even higher among emergency room physicians and family practitioners.

Doctors say a so-called miracle molecule found in red wine, blueberries and nuts could help improve mobility among older adults. The chemical called resveratrol has been found to improve motor coordination as we age.

But scientists recommend the fruit over the booze. It takes a whole bottle of the wine to get the same amount of resveratrol from a handful of cranberries. Now along that same subject matter. What's the ultimate party school? The Princeton Review is out with a list and we have the top five. At five, the University of Georgia. In fourth, the University of Illinois. In third, the Ohio State University. Iowa is runner up and number one party school in America, West Virginia, ladies and gentlemen.

O'BRIEN: Just to get the resveratrol. See? Thinking about their future health.

BERMAN: Just healthy, West Virginia, they care about this stuff.

O'BRIEN: Well, they are confused.

All right, thanks, John. Appreciate it. Today, there is a critical deadline to see whether GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin is going to step down from the race. He's the man who used the word legitimate rape in an interview.

He was all set to defend himself last night on Piers Morgan and canceled at the very last minute there. According to two people in his campaign, they said he was working on a new ad.

And we have a chance to see a little bit of that. I'll play that in just a moment. Congressman Akin has until 6:00 Eastern tonight to drop out of the race before it gets complicated.

And in fact, we've heard many Republicans calls suggesting that he does that, including Reince Priebus. He is the chairman of the party.

And the National Republican Senatorial Campaign, they pulled $5 million in ad funding from the congressman. Mitt Romney told Akin to take some time to think about what's best for him and the party.

But as of yesterday, Akin was declaring he is not a quitter and said, by the grace of God, we are going to win this race. That is the $64,000 question, isn't it?

Artur Davis is a former Alabama congressman. He is going to be speaking at the Republican convention after he left the Democratic Party earlier this year. He is joining us this morning in the studio. It's nice to see you, sir.

ARTUR DAVIS, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Soledad, good to see you and good to see your panel as well.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much for being with us. So let's talk first with Congressman Akin. He, obviously, is a colleague of yours in the Congress. He says he's not a quitter, lots of pressure to drop out and very blunt pressure from the GOP leadership. Do you think he should drop out? Do you think he will drop out?

DAVIS: Well, what a remarkably thoughtless offensive set of comments, first of all. He's wrong on the substance. He was incredibly wrong and foolish in the way he talked about the issue. And look, I'm a former politician, doesn't have the standing to tell anybody to drop out of anything. But he's not going to win this race and it's very possible that he could cost Mitt Romney the state.

So all of us feel sympathy for someone who said something dumb, we've all done that. These comments are beyond the pale and incredible offensive to women all over the country.

O'BRIEN: So two things. The first is a lot of people who are not elected officials have been saying drop out. So I don't think your calls are out of any sort of range of the spectrum.

DAVIS: -- is about the Washington model I fully understand that.

O'BRIEN: That is very true, but you just said you think that what -- him staying in the race could cost Mitt Romney the state. Explain that to me.

DAVIS: Well, he's such an incredible distraction at this point. That Republicans have a wonderful chance to win Missouri. President Obama I believe won Missouri narrowly four years ago. The Missouri economy is not in good shape.

Senator McCaskill has voted in lock step with President Obama and that will hurt her. Well, if the next four months are spent talking about the remarkably dumb comments that Akin made a few days ago, that certainly is going to hurt the prospects for Republicans.

O'BRIEN: So hold on one second for me while I check in with both John Berman and Ron Brownstein. John Berman is saying, no, no that he thinks Missouri is actually not in a position --

BERMAN: John McCain won it narrowly last time, narrowly --

DAVIS: See, people make mistakes.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Is it a question of misspeaking, or do you think the substance of his comment?

DAVIS: I think the substance is wrong and the misspeaking, very clear about this. I don't think there is any state capital in America or any set of politicians in America smart enough to tell a young woman what to do if she's been brutalized and raped.

Now that's my opinion. Some people may disagree with that. I think there are many pro-life Americans like the guest you had on earlier --

O'BRIEN: Miss Kramer for the Tea Party.

DAVIS: There are many prolife Americans who firmly disagree with what Todd Akin said. His position is not reflective of the pro-life community.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What he explained yesterday, when he said legitimate, he was reaching for the word forcible, the word forcible is relevant because it was in legislation co-sponsored by a majority of the House.

Including Paul Ryan who sought to distinguish between forcible rapes and presumably something else in terms of Medicaid so is that not the party doing exactly what you said Americans should not do?

DAVIS: Well, I think it's Todd Akin doing what his spin doctors told him to do to find a pathway. If you're in a situation like his, your crisis management doctors are going to try to tell you how to talk your way out of it.

I give Romney a lot of credit for the statement that he made yesterday disowning Akin's comments. And frankly, I don't know of a prominent Republican official in this country who has come to the defense of Akin on the substance or on the way he talked about it.

O'BRIEN: I'm sorry, forgive me for interrupting there. But later as you pointed out, he did say when I said legitimate, I meant forcible.

Right, that brings that conversation to a conversation around legislation. When I first heard him say legitimate, I was like what does that even mean? We talked about this yesterday morning.

DAVIS: It's incredibly dumb comment.

O'BRIEN: What I meant by legitimate was I meant forcible rape, which is then distinguishing forcible rape from statutory rape or rape where may have been drugged. So do you see delineations between those different kinds of rape?

DAVIS: I don't see any delineations at all because this is what Congressman Akin appeared to be doing to a lot of listeners. He appeared to be saying that there is some scenario in which women can somehow stop this process as he put it --

O'BRIEN: The medical part.

DAVIS: Seemed to be blaming women, that what made it so offensive.

O'BRIEN: That was the second half of the statement.

DAVIS: I don't think he speaks for any class of people here. I go back to what the Romney/Ryan campaign has said and what every single Republican senator or leader who has weighed into this has said.

His comments don't reflect the pro-life movement. They don't reflect the Republican Party and they don't reflect the Romney/Ryan ticket.

O'BRIEN: So you could argue that some of the comments do though. And here's how and you can correct me if you think I'm wrong. I think the back end of that comment about the medical and women's body almost spontaneously abort if they are raped --

DAVIS: It's a dumb comment.

O'BRIEN: Right. So we'll just move off from that. But the beginning part where he talked about legitimate, there are people would say, well, by legitimate, he himself said by legitimate, I meant forcible.

So that brings us into a conversation about the nuance between forcible rape between statutory rape and between some kind of rape where maybe the woman is drugged so it's not considered to be an attack, all these different things.

So my question would be when you look at the platform of the GOP now, doesn't make a distinguishment between -- I can read you in fact I think we have it up there.

Victims of statutory -- the federal law prevents Medicaid funds and similar programs from paying for abortions and the law also contains an exception for women who are raped.

The bill would now the exception for forcible rape, right. So this is part of that conversation. Let me let him answer.

DAVIS: I think the rape incest exception in the platform for a very simple set of reasons. If you're a conservative, you can't want government intruding into a decision that a young girl makes when she's been raped.

That is a decision for her, her God, her conscience and her doctor and her parents -- parental consent. Absolutely. And given that, if you're a conservative who believes in limited government, I don't think -- even if you're the most ardent pro-life conservative.

You ought to want to see government extend its footprint in that way. I don't think that Akin speaks for the pro-life community and I don't think he speaks for the Republican Party.

BERMAN: Is the party platform, which CNN has obtained a copy of -- the draft.

DAVIS: Should have an exception --

BERMAN: You then are in disagreement with the draft for the party platform that CNN has seen, which does not have any exceptions --

HOOVER: John Berman, 67 percent of Republicans are in disagreement with the Republican Party platform on this issue.

DAVIS: That's a very important point.

O'BRIEN: I want you ask you're going to be speaking, you're the guy who really did the introduction of President Obama four years ago.

DAVIS: I think more people have seen that speech in the last week or so --

O'BRIEN: We have all been looking at it. And now you're going to be speaking at the Republican National Convention. What are you going to say? What's your message?

DAVIS: I'm still working on the speech --

O'BRIEN: Everyone always tells me that, come on.

DAVIS: That's accurate for most of us, but it's going to be two points. President Obama is a wonderful admirable American, wonderful family.

But even if you're the most ardent Obama supporter, I don't think you can make the case he has given us the two things he promised four years ago.

He promised to bring a new sense of unity and renewal to our country and that was the big selling point for the Obama candidacy in '07 an '08 --

O'BRIEN: Hope and change.

DAVIS: And promised to turn an economy around. We just finished our 43rd consecutive month of 8 percent unemployment. You're reporting this morning the jobless claims continued to go up.

We're almost certainly going to see month 44. We're likely to hit 47 consecutive months by November above 8 percent unemployment and 25 million Americans are out of work or have stopped looking for work.

GDP growth was 1.2 percent in the last quarter. We used to know how to create a million jobs a month in this economy, what the Reagan recovery did. Now we have an anemic recovery and for three consecutive years, Washington policies have mismanaged the recovery.

Now, some people say you can't blame the president for that. And that's an argument that I get, but when you run on one thing, you're going to be able to turn the country around. You're holding yourself to a pretty high standard.

O'BRIEN: It's going to be interesting to hear the speech. We're out of time, Ron Brownstein.

BROWNSTEIN: Never created a million jobs a month -- check the stats.

DAVIS: No. Seven months in a row we did a million jobs each month, check stats on it.

O'BRIEN: We will check the stats and we'll be able to tell everybody on the next commercial break or so.

Artur Davis, it's nice to have with you. Thanks for coming. We certainly appreciate it. We have got lots to get to this morning.

New developments on Diana Nyad, going to join us on STARTING POINT. We're rooting for her. Her effort to swim from Cuba to Florida is now over.

We're just getting word that she is out of the water. We have planned to check in with her team. But it looks like she has ended her -- what she had called her final bid. Her fourth try to swim from Cuba to Florida. We're going to talk about that and what happened and what went wrong right after the short break. Stay with us, everybody, with this breaking news, Diana Nyad.

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O'BRIEN: Breaking news this morning on the Cuba to Florida swim attempt by Diana Nyad. She's now been pulled out of the water. The swim is over. We've been following the 62-year-old's fourth attempt for a few days now.

But she's faced jelly fish stings, and this morning the big problem was storms overnight. She ran into two in the last 24 hours, and that put her way back off course. She hoped to be finished by last night.

We're going to talk to her team at 8:15 a.m. Eastern Time to see how they are doing in the wake of this sad news that she is out of the water. She had said this was going to be her final attempt. So it sounds like this will be her last try.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, rough go for Olympic hurdler, Lolo Jones, criticized in the media, dissed by some of her teammates. Missed out in the medal in London, but she is moving on. She is strong and tough. She with us next. You're watching STARTING POINT. Back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Take a look at this. It was an emotional homecoming in Des Moines, Iowa, for Olympic athlete Lolo Jones. She finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdle, a 10th of a second short of a medal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOLO JONES, 2012 U.S. OLYMPIAN: Thank you, thank you. This is honestly what I need right now. It's been really quite difficult, so just to have this, honestly, I just feel the warmth and I definitely need this. Because after the Olympics, I was feeling my heart get kind of cold and bitter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Yes. It was a tough few weeks for Jones. She faced a lot of scrutiny from the media, her teammates. She is with us this morning to talk about that and her plans, which includes starting a charity for kids.

It's nice to have you with us this morning. It's been a tough road for you. First, let's talk about the Olympics. So close, and then you miss. That must have been heartbreaking.

JONES: I think it was heartbreaking just because I experienced in '08, and I was like really, I'm doing this again? This is tough.

O'BRIEN: It's got to be really hard. I don't know how athletes bounce -- you train for four years, and how long is the race? Like 12 seconds or something?

JONES: It's 12 seconds. Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, one thing as a fan, one thing that's incredible about Olympic athletes is success and failure is measured in like hundredths of a seconds in increments, which seems almost in human to kind of imagine like you go back. How do you deal with that kind of increment?

JONES: I think this year I learned a lot of people measured my success based on if I have a medal or not. And I know tons of athletes who end their Olympic careers and don't have one so --

O'BRIEN: You hold some records.

JONES: I do hold some records. I try to look at my success of where I started from. So coming from Iowa, then getting a scholarship, and just working my way through the ranks, and you know, obviously being a two-time Olympian.

O'BRIEN: How tough was it when "The New York Times" wrote, I'm going to read a little bit it, I don't know if you read the whole article, don't read it. It's very harsh.

Women have struggled for decades to be appreciated as athletes. For the first time at these games, every competing nation has sent a female participant. But Jones is not assured enough with her hurdling or compelling story of perseverance.

So she has played into the persistence, demeaning notion that women are worthy as athletes only if they have sex appeal. And it get worst from there. It was very harsh. It came out two days before you were supposed to compete. Did you see the article? Did you read it?

JONES: I didn't read the whole article. People were telling me there was this crazy piece about me, and little lines of it.

O'BRIEN: It had to be hurtful.

JONES: It was. I read it afterwards and I don't know. You know, it's my job to focus the negative and positive energy and just use it as momentum down the track.

And I guess it's his job to just write articles to stir the pot. I mean, it's freedom of speech. He can do what he likes. But my freedom was to say I didn't appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: You have the freedom to think he was a jerk. I thought it was a really harsh article. And I thought partly because it focused specifically on female athletes and their looks and sort of the -- he was blaming you for leveraging.

You know, your incredible sex appeal and sort of blaming the people for not covering the other athletes that he mentioned. He mentioned Dawn Harper, Kelly Wells as well. And he sort of says no one is focused on them because she's so beautiful. JONES: Well, I mean, I think they are good looking. I guess, he is saying that they are ugly, but I like Kelly and Dawn. But I don't know. I think that the main thing that hurt the most is he said I made the Olympic team off of my looks.

And if he knew the fight I had to go through to get that last spot for the U.S. team, I mean, I made it by less than a tenth. Every round, I was fighting frustrations and fear.

And one moment, I actually got just breaking down with my coach. I don't know if I'll make it. To make it looks alone then I could have just handed them a photograph.

O'BRIEN: A lot less training that way, but we don't have time to talk about your charity. But we're going to write about your charity on our blog because it's really fascinating.

And I'd love to have you back when you really launch it and bring some of the kids with us. It's to focus on kids whose parents are incarcerated. Mrs. America was telling us about that as well. You should get together with her to really leverage that. That's a wonderful mission. Thank you for being with us this morning.

JONES: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Got to take a break. Still ahead this morning, we're going to talk about Diana Nyad. She's called it quits. Breaking news there, 62 years old, her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida and she's out. We're going to get a live update from her team straight ahead.

And Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin says he is staying in the race. Do his financial backers want him out following his controversial remarks about rape? We're going to talk to Erick Erickson, the editor in chief of redstate.com. That's live and up next. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

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