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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Chicago Teachers Strike; Congress Returns to Work Today; Interview with David Vitale of Chicago Board of Education; Author Discusses "The Good Girls Revolt"; NFL Player Favors Gay Marriage; Navy SEAL Publishes Book on Bin Laden Killing; "Covert Affairs" Actor Reveals All

Aired September 10, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Welcome to STARTING POINT. Soledad O'Brien is off this week. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: A week. She's off only for today.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sorry. You're absolutely right. I just gave her a full week of vacation. Soledad, if you're watching, you don't have to come in.

VELSHI: I've got late night plans the rest of the week. Come on back.

Our starting -- I'm Ali Velshi, by the way. I'm the other guy.

On STARTING POINT this morning, breaking news: teachers are on strike. Tens of thousands in Chicago hit the picket line instead of the classroom, 400,000 students out of school this morning.

Where do the intense negotiations stand if they stand anywhere at all? We are going to talk to the school board president coming up.

SAMBOLIN: Back in session. Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill 57 days until the election, and a massive fiscal cliff looming. But will they actually tackle the issues or will they punt?

VELSHI: I wonder.

Plus, firsthand account of the Navy SEAL who helped kill Osama bin Laden, revealing new details of the raid. The guy who wrote the book in his first TV interview.

SAMBOLIN: Lots to talk about this morning. We are joined by Chicago school board president David Vitale, former "Newsweek" revolutionary Lynn Povich, NFL linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo, and former player Wade Davis. Plus, covert affairs fan favorite actor Chris Gorham.

VELSHI: It is Monday, September the 10th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

VELSHI: All right. Let me introduce today's team to you. Charles Blow is here. He is a "New York Times" columnist. Richard Socarides, he's former Clinton White House special assistant and senior adviser. And Will Cain, conservative columnist with TheBlaze.com and us.

Welcome to all of you, gentlemen.

WILL CAIN, COLUMNIST, "THEBLAZE.COM": Good morning to you.

CHARLES BLOW, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: Good morning.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ASSISTANT AND SENIOR ADVISER: Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you.

All right. So, we're going to start with developing story in Chicago, where nearly 30,000 teachers and aides are on strike this morning.

VELSHI: This is the first time in 25 years teachers in the nation's third largest public school system have walked off the job. Labor talks broke off late last night, having an impact on 400,000 students in nearly 700 schools.

Casey Wian is live from Chicago.

Casey, school officials say they made a very competitive offer. Clearly not enough.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Clearly not enough for the teachers you se behind me. Normally, these teachers would be reporting to their school, getting ready for the school day on a normal Monday morning. But this is by far from any normal Monday morning.

They started showing up about a-hour ago to man these picket lines after talks broke down last night. It certainly appeared all weekend that they were progressing -- both sides were progressing towards an agreement. These negotiations have been going on for eight months. The talks were described as intense over the weekend. But as you mentioned, late last night, the talks did break down.

Now, the teachers union says they are not that far apart in terms of the salary that has been negotiated between the two sides. But there are other issues that they are concerned about. The school board says they've gone about as far as they can go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID VITALE, CHICAGO SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT: I would point out that this financial package over the next four years will cost the system somewhere in the vicinity of $400 million over the four years. I would also point out that the average teacher would get another 16 percent raise over that four-year period. I mean, this is -- this is not a small commitment we're making at a time when our fiscal responsibility -- our fiscal situation is really challenged. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: So as the teachers say, if it's not the financial offer that the school board president there just mentioned, what is it? Well, they say a couple of things. Job security is a big issue. They say that under some new teacher evaluation programs that are going to be implemented, but up to 6,000 teachers could lose their job over the next year or two.

They're also very concerned about health benefits. Teachers say they want to maintain their existing health benefits.

What'll be interesting to see is when in the next hour and a half or so, this is one of the schools that the school district has set up as a place where parents can drop off their kids, working parents who have no other child care arrangements. For four hours this morning, these schools will be open. Also there'll be some parks open and churches open throughout the city.

What will be interesting to see is if parents are actually willing to drop off their kids and have them cross the picket line -- Ali, Zoraida.

VELSHI: For four hours -- these places open for kids are open for four hours, not the full day?

WIAN: Well, there's some churches that are actually open for the full day. The 144 schools and the parks that are being made available, only open for four hours, 8:30 to 12:30. Obviously, that's not a full school day.

VELSHI: Right.

WIAN: Very difficult situation for many parents.

VELSHI: Sure. Absolutely.

All right. Casey, we'll stay on top of it with you. Thanks very much. Casey Wian in Chicago.

What a thing.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, it's terrible. And they just found out last night. So, they're trying to make the arrangements at the 11th hour.

VELSHI: Right.

SAMBOLIN: Although it was looming for a while. So, coming up in a few minutes we'll talk to Chicago School Board President David Vitale.

VELSHI: Let's go to Washington now where Congress will be back at work today for an abbreviated pre-election session. You're looking at a live picture of a beautiful Capitol Hill, beautiful Washington, D.C., where lawmakers are expected to take a pass on the big issues of spending cuts and taxes. In fact, it's expected they'll focus on the absolute bare minimum they can do. And that is preventing a full-on government shutdown later this month.

Athena Jones is following all the developments from Capitol Hill. There was a day, Athena, when we used to think about these impending shutdowns as a big deal. Now, the threat of them is so common place we assume they're going to go in and avert a shutdown.

But this is what government has come to. We avert shutdowns. We don't actually deal with big issues these days.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, you know, as you mentioned, this Congress is not really known for getting a whole lot done. That really is the only must pass bit of legislation, a short- term measure to keep the government running through the end of the month. It has to get to President Obama's desk by the end of the month.

The house is expected to vote on that bill on Thursday. We're told the Senate should get to it next week.

But, really, Ali, beyond that, there's a whole long list of bills that are in the works. Some of them could get passed. We don't really know what's going to happen.

The farm bill is one of those bills that could get passed. There's still differing versions in the House and Senate. If they can reconcile those, it can go forward. If they can't, we could see some of the assistance for the people struck by the drought and hit by hurricane Isaac, that could go into the spending measure.

But all of this kind of points to these latest numbers we've seen in terms of Congress' approval rating, or I could say disapproval rating. Twelve percent approve of the job that Congress is doing and 82 percent disapprove. That certainly has to do with the fact they really have not been getting that much done -- Ali.

VELSHI: All right. Athena, we will follow with interest whether Congress can manage to get itself together and keep the government running for a while.

Athena Jones in Washington, thanks very much.

All right. A look at some of the other top stories this morning.

New details on a tense situation unfolding right now in Detroit, near Detroit. It's an armed standoff with an accused cop killer. The West Bloomfield Police Department confirms to CNN one of its officers shot late last night has died. They're not naming the officer, but we know he's a 12-year veteran of the force, responding to reports of gunfire in a home when the suspect turned his gun on the police. The armed suspect now barricaded inside that home.

SAMBOLIN: The White House says President Obama's thoughts and prayers are with the family of a Florida police officer who died in a crash during a presidential motorcade. Jupiter police officer Bruce St. Laurent was killed when a pickup truck hit his motorcycle. This was on I-95 in West Palm Beach. Officer St. Laurent was a 20-year veteran who spent 18 of those years on the motorcycle patrol. That accident is being investigated as vehicular homicide.

Tulane football player Devon Walker is in stable condition this morning, but it's too early to tell if he's permanently paralyze. Walker is in intensive care in an Oklahoma hospital after doctors stabilized his fractured spine during a three-hour operation yesterday. He was injured on Saturday night during the last play of the first half in a game against Tulsa. Doctors say it could take up to 72 hours to determine the full extent of his injury.

SAMBOLIN: And back to our top story now. Tens of thousands of teachers are striking in Chicago, the nation's third largest public school system.

I want to bring in David Vitale. He is the president of the Chicago Board of Education and was present during yesterday's negotiations.

Thank you so much. I know the negotiations went very late last night, so we appreciate your time this morning.

What is the impasse at this hour?

VITALE: Well, as best as we can tell, it revolves around two issues, one with respect to recall and job security for teachers. And the implementation of a new evaluation system which is, in fact, mandated by a new state law in Illinois.

SAMBOLIN: And what is the situation this morning with the children and with the parents that are trying to figure out what to do with their kids?

VITALE: Well, in anticipation, we had set up a plan where we would open 144 schools to help take care of and feed our kids to the extent that their parents were unable to take care of them.

I would also point out that the faith-based community here in Chicago, our sister agencies, public libraries, park district, police department, as well as a variety of not for profits are also providing a variety of activities for our kids while this goes on.

SAMBOLIN: I want to put this in perspective for folks. This is the first time in 25 years that this has happened. It was back in 1987, Ronald Reagan was president. Harold Washington was the mayor of the city of Chicago.

I want to talk about the specifics here on the offer so the folks can really wrap their brain around this, rather. So, the offer here, the Chicago public schools' officer is a 16 percent salary increase. This is to happen over four years. Laid-off teachers are eligible in the event of job openings to apply for them. Student performance, as you said, plays a role in the evaluations.

I believe that you said this deal would cost about $400 million.

What the union had demanded was 30 percent increase over two years. And initially I understand you offered 2 percent per year for four years. But I believe now what you have determined, it is a 16 percent raise over four years, plus benefit proposals.

So, my question becomes, if you cannot meet the demands of the union at this stage of the game, and we just had Senator Dick Durbin on just a little while ago. He says he does not know how you can fiscally raise that kind of money in order to pay the teachers, what do you do?

VITALE: Well, Senator Durbin is correct. We are fiscally challenged here in the Chicago Public School System. We have pointed that out. I believe that the union recognizes that.

We have no more flexibility when it comes to finance. And I think they have said, you know, we have come close on the financial package. They're claiming that it's these other issues that I raised previously.

SAMBOLIN: Karen Lewis, who is the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, had this to say. I want to listen to this. Then we can talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN LEWIS, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION: Right now what we have is work that is extremely difficult. And what we see as a lack of support throughout and a demonizing of a population of people that all of a sudden teachers are bad guys everywhere you look.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Karen Lewis also called Rahm Emanuel a liar and a bully at a rally in Chicago's Daley Plaza. This was on Monday.

What is Mayor Emanuel's reaction to all of this?

VITALE: The mayor said last night that this was a strike of choice -- choice by the teachers, teachers' union. That it was avoidable. And it was.

For the last several days, we have been negotiating intensely. We've made over 20 proposals to improve this offer. And apparently, we were making proposals at the time they were out walking out on strike.

So the mayor believes that this was totally unavoidable, that this can, in fact, be concluded, because we are very close. And he has been intimately involved in our negotiations through me.

SAMBOLIN: Do you have any scheduled meeting on the table?

VITALE: We will meet this morning.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Oh, one last point that I -- Senator Durbin had pointed out. All of the charter schools are in session. Is that correct?

VITALE: That is correct. Approximately 50,000 of our 405,000 students will be in school today in charter schools.

SAMBOLIN: All right. David Vitale, president of the Chicago Board of Education, thank you for spending time with us this morning.

VITALE: Thank you for having me.

CAIN: These concepts of debt, deficit, what the school board president referred to as fiscally challenged often are abstract. They're hard for us to identify with. This morning, several hundred thousand Chicago parents will wake up and realize the practical implications of not dealing with your problems.

VELSHI: Let me ask you this, Richard. We just showed on there $62,000, roughly, for a primary schoolteacher, $69,000. Look, I think teachers in the country should get paid much more money. They do work nine months a year. There is an increase that is way out of sync with anything, anybody else in America except bank CEOs are getting.

State average is probably around the countries, state average under $50,000 a year median income. It does seem a little out of sync, does it not?

SOCARIDES: It's hard to know what's actually going on here, right? I mean, the offer seems very generous, but yet, they haven't been able to come to an agreement. I mean, Rahm Emanuel, who's the mayor of Chicago, has generally speaking a big supporter of teachers.

I saw that the teachers' union called him a bully. I'm sure that's not the first time he's been called a bully.

SAMBOLIN: No. Repeatedly throughout this negotiation.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: They don't -- they want job protections, and they want healthcare benefits, and they want a pullback on the evaluations. This does for everybody in this country who loves teachers. If you don't love teachers, you probably don't like children and puppy dogs either. It just seems weird. We all get job evaluations.

BLOW: Well, I don't know if it seems weird, and I don't think they're rebelling against the idea of job evaluations in general. And it's the idea that you said they only work nine months (INAUDIBLE). My mother was a teacher for 30-plus years.

This idea is they only work those nine months. It's absolutely ridiculous. That's kind of a misnomer. Your kids may only go to school for nine months out of the year. That doesn't mean the teachers only work nine months out of the year. That's number one. Number two is --

VELSHI: If they work a 12-month year, they still earn a lot more than the median salary.

BLOW: Let me point this out as well. This idea that -- that -- kind of like the firing line here with teachers is to what degree do you judge their performance by students' performance? And what -- what comes -- you know, the kids come into those classrooms in all kinds of different levels of preparation. And in places like Chicago, which you're getting increasingly violent, we have, you know, a staggering level of childhood poverty in this country now. You have to incorporate some of these kind of things that the kids are bringing into the classroom into classroom performance.

And so, what I think the teachers say, not just in this case but in most cases, is when you look at what we're doing, please take into account that it is not simply our doing. That whatever comes out on a test score --

SOCARIDES: All these societal things --

BLOW: All these societal issues. And what we're doing is pumping millions -- hundreds of millions of dollars into this testing apparatus that could be going into more services.

SOCARIDES: It's often that a small increase in testing results represents a heroic performance by a teacher given the circumstances that the teacher finds the child. But I will say to you, it is hard to know what is going on here in Chicago, because these guys are trying to get an agreement, and hopefully, they're going to get an agreement soon.

SAMBOLIN: -- holistic approach, also, where they deal with all of the violence and all the issues as well. Thank you so much for weighing in.

VELSHI: All right. Coming up ahead on STARTING POINT, the Pentagon doesn't like it, but his book is a best-seller. Hear from the former Navy SEAL about the exact moment when Osama bin Laden was shot in his first television interview. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT.

Nineteen Fortune 500 companies currently have female CEOs, a mere 3.8 percent of the list, but it's still a big leap from just a few decades ago where women faced much tougher challenges in the corporate world.

VELSHI: In fact, it's a subject front and center in a new book called "The Good Girls' Revolt" by Lynn Povich. She is the first ever female editor of "Newsweek" magazine in which she tells the remarkable story behind the magazine's iconic March 1970 cover. Look at that. It says "Women In Revolt."

It sparked a complaint with the equal employment opportunity commission from 46 women on the "Newsweek" staff who demanded equal hiring rights for women.

SAMBOLIN: And Lynn Povich is with us this morning. Thank you so much for joining us. So, it was 45 women that announced the suit, and it was the day after "Newsweek" actually published a cover story on feminism that was called "Women In Revolt." Tell us about the timing and how you were able to organize those women, while you work inside, by the way.

LYNN POVICH, AUTHOR, "THE GOOD GIRLS REVOLT": We started organizing in the fall, and when "Newsweek" decided to write this cover story, they had no women on staff to write the story. I was a junior writer, but really not experienced to write a cover story. So, they went outside for the first time in their history and hired a freelance woman to write the story.

So, we decided the day "Newsweek" appeared on the stands, we would announce our suit, because we knew that the publicity would get the editors more, in fact, than the discrimination. We were all researchers. We couldn't get promoted out of the research category. And all the men were writers and reporters.

SAMBOLIN: And how were you able to organize all these women while you all worked there?

POVICH: We would actually go into the ladies room, the famous organizing place for women. So, look under the stalls, see who was there, and if no one else was there, we'd approach someone at the sink and say, you know, I have to check a story by this guy, and you know, it's terrible or I could do it better.

And if they responded, we'd say, we're thinking of doing something to change this, and then, we would start reeling people in one by one.

SAMBOLIN: So, you've come full circle here. What do you think has changed and what do you think hasn't changed?

POVICH: I think there's been enormous progress. I mean, women, as you can see, are everywhere, and certainly, in the media as well. They're covering wars, they're covering the White House. They're certainly editors all over the place. But if you look at the very top, there's still very few women at the top, in media companies and also in corporations in general.

VELSHI: Forty-three -- so in 1970, 25 percent of "Newsweek's" masthead was female. In 2010, 39 percent. Closer to the balance in society. But in 2009, 43 of the 49 covers for the whole year were written by men. Does that tell you that there's an imbalance or does it just tell you that that was luck of the draw?

POVICH: No. I think if you look at by lines across the industry, you'll find that in thought magazines, that women are still about 30- some percent of the bylines in editorial pages and things like that. So, I do think that there's still an imbalance even within the media.

CAIN: It seems obvious both the numbers -- there is an imbalance, but the question is why, right? Why is there an imbalance? Is it because of sexual discrimination?

POVICH: Well, I think that corporate culture comes from the top. So, if you have a man who's comfortable with women and enjoys women and respects them, he promotes them. If you find a man who's comfortable and knows mostly guys, that's what happens. I think also that women probably need to push themselves forward more. There's a lot of training now for women to learn to write op-eds and get on television and get on radio and become commentators. So, I do think that there is a question about how much is discrimination and how much do women still need to have the confidence to go forward, because they certainly have the skills and they certainly have the talents.

SAMBOLIN: And ambition is something you talk about a lot in your book as well. I think it's a great read for young girls everywhere. I think you identify quite a bit with everything that happened to you and currently happens as well. So, the book is "The Good Girls Revolt." Lynn Povich, we appreciate your time --

CAIN: There's a lovely picture of Lynn.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: In that picture, you were secretary?

POVICH: I was a secretary in the "Newsweek" bureau in Paris.

SAMBOLIN: Actually, that's one of the best things in the book. You have a lot of pictures that you share with everybody who's reading. Thank you.

VELSHI: Good to see you, Lynn. Thank you.

POVICH: Thank you.

VELSHI: All right. Coming ahead on STARTING POINT, the Navy SEAL who helped kill Osama bin Laden described what happened that night in detail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: What do you want to do now?

SAMBOLIN: Read the tease.

VELSHI: All right. Well, coming up, much more ahead on STARTING POINT.

When football, same-sex marriage, and politics collide. Brendon Ayanbadejo speaks, a linebacker for the Baltimore Raven speaks out in favor of gay marriage and was stunned when a politician tried to silence him. The story doesn't end there. He's going to join us live.

SAMBOLIN: And from the deliciously intense spy series, "Covert Affairs," star, Christopher Gorham, sits down with us. STARTING POINT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Football, same-sex marriage, and politics colliding in one. A Maryland politician getting national attention for attempting to silence Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Aybandadejo for speaking out in support of same-sex marriage.

SAMBOLIN: Now Maryland state delegate Emmett Burns Jr. has dialed back his position, telling "The Baltimore Sun," quote, "Upon reflection he has his First Amendment rights and I have my First Amendment rights. Each of us has the right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have a right to speak our minds."

Brendon joins us now along with former professional football player Wade Davis who came out after retiring from the NFL and now works with LGBT youth. Thank you, gentlemen, both for joining us. And, Wade, I wanted to start with you. Why are you supporting this? You are a straight man.

WADE DAVIS, FORMER NFL PLAYER: You mean Brendon?

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: I'm sorry, Brendon. I'm sorry. I have Wade sitting right next to me.

BRENDON AYBANDADEJO, BALTIMORE RAVENS LINEBACKER: I was like, whoa.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Brendon, I'm going to begin with you.

AYBANDADEJO: I merely see it as an equality issue. There was a time where women didn't have equal rights. African-Americans didn't have equal rights. Now it's the LGBT community that doesn't have equal rights as the rest of the 90 percent of America. I see it as an equality issue. And we have to treat everybody equal. And if two people love each other, we shouldn't be able to tell them who they're allowed to marry and who they're not allowed to marry. So I just see it purely from an equality standpoint.

SAMBOLIN: What do you think about Emmett Burns getting up in your grill about this? That's just an unusual development.

AYBANDADEJO: Well, more than anything I'd have to thank him for bringing national recognition to the cause and the effects worldwide. I've received e-mails from all over the world. More than anything he's brought attention to the cause. It's something we need to take care of. Luckily it's starting here in Maryland. There's four other states voting on this in November for marriage equality. He really just made it a national issue. Now it's on the front pages of all the papers and all the media. If he wouldn't have wrote his letter I don't think we would have received this type of attention.

CAIN: Wade, you're not straight.

DAVIS: No, I'm not.

(LAUGHTER)

CAIN: Did you come out during your playing days?

DAVIS: No. I came out about four or five months ago.

CAIN: OK, so there's plenty of questions to ask about why it didn't happen during your playing days. I think we can guess some of the answers. Tell me what you expect from Brendon. I can only imagine the locker room is a hard place to have these kind of conversations.

DAVIS: I'm impressed by Brendon. I think the work that Brendon's doing is even more important than the work I did. I think when you have a straight ally who comes out and saying they're for same-sex marriage and equality, it's much bigger than anything a gay athlete can do.

SOCARIDES: I just want to say, I want to thank both of you so much for all the work you've done and to say to Brendon that it's so amazing the response you've gotten. What has the response been from other players in the locker room and other NFL players that you work with?

AYBANDADEJO: It's been amazing. Back in 2009 I wrote an article for "The Huffington Post." If you talk to people about this issue, people made fun of me. "Brendon's coming out." I'd hear snickering in the background. Now I talk to my teammates, and whereas 95 percent of the people were against it, now it seems like 95 percent of the people are for it.

There's still some issues that people don't understand, some fundamental issues when it comes to marriage equality. I think the most problem that players have is the tie between religion and equal rights. You have to make it, you know, not a religious issue. It's really just an equal rights issue. And we're just trying to get approval from every state for each person to marry and not in a church. We're not going to change anything religiously. And people have their rights religiously and religious freedom as well. We're trying to get letters from every state that people can have a marriage document and that's recognized in every state.

So once you get over that barrier, guys say, hey, love is love and you should be able to marry who you love. It's really a changing of the guard in the football community because this even 12 months ago when I was doing op-eds for marriage equality, I would still hear certain snickering in the background. I think we've changed the tide and come a long way in a short period of time. And I'm really excited that my cohorts and my teammates and my team, the Baltimore Ravens, and the city and everybody is really supporting and gathering behind me in the cause to treat people fairly all in the name of love.

BLOW: First of all, I love that "upon further reflection." What is that? Anyway, the idea that people are opposed, I've never quite gotten this. If you don't want, you know, to be -- like gay marriage, don't get married to a gay person. Other than that, what is your problem? If you believe that even religiously that it violates your religious tenets, do not get married to a gay person. Nobody else is saying it's going to get you to heaven or send you to hell.

So this idea we have to meddle in other people's business, whatever that business may be, as long as they are doing something that they personally agree with and that doesn't bother anyone else, it doesn't infringe upon my rights whatever someone else does.

CAIN: Let me answer a quick question before we lose this. Do you think -- no active player has come out yet.

BLOW: That's what I was going to ask.

CAIN: Do you think the locker room is getting ready for that moment?

DAVIS: I think we're definitely ready. The NFL as a whole has made so many great steps and strides. We have players like Brendon coming out and the e-mail Chris sent as well. I think the tide is changing. I think we're making such great strides. The NFL brings in players now to do, like, town hall meetings, to talk to other players. The tide is definitely changing.

CAIN: Are there gay players now that you know?

DAVIS: I can't answer that question. Sorry.

CAIN: I'd say that's a yes.

BLOW: I can answer that. I'd say that's a yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not to name the person. It's interesting people feel like they have to be in the closet.

SAMBOLIN: Brendon, we want to wish you luck. You have a game tonight?

AYBANDADEJO: Tonight.

VELSHI: Don't tell Brendon's boss he was on CNN. Good to see you guys. Thanks so much.

AYBANDADEJO: Thanks so much for having me.

VELSHI: Coming up next on STARTING POINT, hear the former Navy SEAL who helped kill Osama bin Laden in his first television interview. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. The former Navy SEAL who wrote the best-selling book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden is speaking out in his first television interview. Matt Bissonnette, who used the pen name Mark Owen to write "No Easy Day," tells CBS the book is not political. He insists the Pentagon is wrong about its accusations that he compromised national security by writing it.

SAMBOLIN: Listen to him describe the chopper flight he and his fellow SEALs took. Take note, CBS disguised his appearance and voice during this interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT BISSONNETTE, AUTHOR, "NO EASY DAY": Roughly an hour and a half. I remember we took off. Shut the doors. And the radio call I heard was, you know, hey, we're over the border. We're crossing the border into Pakistan. I remember thinking, wow, OK, this is happening. I swear I glanced around the helicopter and half the guys were sitting there asleep on the ride in. it's an hour-and-a-half ride. Guys got to catch a few z's on the way in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. Your team is flying into Osama bin Laden's compound, and they're asleep.

BISSONNETTE: Yes, no. It's your time to just kind of shut your eyes, relax. You know, mentally walk through whatever you need to walk through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Wow.

CAIN: Where's the disguise?

VELSHI: He's totally made up.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: That's what it's like. I've got to tell you I was up all night preparing for this show. I would not have been able to get any sleep thinking I was going into Osama bin Laden's compound.

That's -- what do we think about the fact that -- that he did this? Pentagon says it shouldn't be allowed. He shouldn't be able to talk about the secret things that you do.

CAIN: You know we call this segment tough call. It truly is and we're paid to act like we know the answer to all these things. I don't know. I read a Web site called (inaudible); it's former special operations guys that write about this stuff and it's like so many things in the camp, this guy compromise operational security. He also had a need for money. He got paid a lot.

Indeed, he really divulged classified information. There are so many different factors that come in. I don't know. In the end I don't know what the right answer on this one is.

SOCARIDES: Well you know, well I mean, I just think that, you know, it -- in this -- in this day and age right? When everybody talks about anything, nothing is private. Everybody writes about their own personal experiences. It's hard to -- it's hard to say.

SAMBOLIN: But should they be allowed to? Should they be allowed to?

SOCARIDES: Well, should it be against the law? I mea, what's the punishment? Should this guy, I mean, it's probably not a good idea. But what are you going to do? Put this guy in jail? Fine him? What are you going to do to him?

BLOW: I think the law is right -- I think maybe a separate issue. Whether or not he violated the law, I don't know. It'll be interesting to see if there are any charges brought in this particular case. But did he violate kind of a code of conduct or even -- whether written or unwritten.

CAIN: That seems clear.

BLOW: That seems very clear. In the 50-plus year history of the SEALs there's not a lot of this sort of thing happening. And what you don't want to do is to create a culture -- kind of a braggadocious culture where people do things in -- in hopes of one day capitalizing on them.

CAIN: And one thing as they say that he has created is a threat not only to himself but a chain of threat to all of the people that might know him or be connected to him in some way.

SAMBOLIN: To himself.

VELSHI: Because they know who he is.

SOCARIDES: Right, right.

VELSHI: Even though that wasn't what he looked like.

CAIN: Right and there has been a fatwa issued against him.

BLOW: This is not what I look like, by the way.

CAIN: That's four hours of makeup?

BLOW: This is four hours of makeup. I look like Will Cain.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: Everybody is -- everybody is changing identity on this show this morning.

SOCARIDES: If you missed -- if you missed the previous segment, you would not understand that Will did not mean that the way it sounded.

VELSHI: All right I'll just --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: I am never going to live that down. That's all I have to say.

VELSHI: Like the guy who wrote that book, we, too have to get paid --

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

VELSHI: We think about it in this commercial right now. But coming up next, the intense action packed spy series "Covert Affairs" known for its unexpected twists and turns. What can we expect this season?

SABOLIN: Everyone's favorite spy guy star, Christopher Gorham is here. You are watching STARTING POINT. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Welcome back to STARTING POINT.

TV audiences love a good spy story. And USA's hit show -- USA TV's hit show "Covert Affairs" delivers in spades.

SAMBOLIN: It's in its third season and stars Christopher Gorham as blind tech ops expert Auggie Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER GORHAM, ACTOR, "COVERT AFFAIRS": Now listen to me, if you don't get eyes on him in the first 15 minutes you pull the plug.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're good to go.

GORHAM: Barbara is going to relay the audio feedback to the DPD.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.

GORHAM: Don't ever do that again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And Christopher Gorham is here. Thank you so much for being with us.

GORHAM: It's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

SAMBOLIN: So a lot of realism here. And I know that Valerie Plame actually consults on this.

GORHAM: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: So how is that?

GORHAM: It's fantastic. We-- we're able to sit down with her for hours when we were starting to rehearse the pilot and had a lot of conversations. You know Annie Walker is the main character of the show played by Piper Perabo. And that role is really based on the inspiration from Valerie Plame because Doug Liman is our producer is from the "Bourne" movies. And he was doing a movie about Valerie and her husband. And so he had access into Langley.

Piper was able to go into Langley and meet with real CIA agents. Our writers go there every year. It's like a field trip to kind of brush up and get a tour around the building and talk to the officers.

So you know this show is fictional, but we try to at least base some of the reality of the interoffice dynamics on the stories that they hear from the real CIA officers.

VELSHI: Do you think it's as much fun to be a real CIA officer?

GORHAM: Oh, God, no. No, no, no. It's much more fun to be on the show.

VELSHI: There's a lot more paperwork involved.

GORHAM: Yes our offices are much nicer than the real CIA.

BROWNSTEIN: Probably not -- probably not as dangerous either, right?

GORHAM: Yes, no definitely safer to be on the show as well, yes.

CAIN: So you play a blind character, right?

GORHAM: Yes.

CAIN: And I read something that you talked about the difference between how sighted people look each other in the face versus how you might look someone who is blind. Literally, how you stare in their eyes. Tell me -- tell me about that.

GORHAM: Yes well it's a for guy like Auggie because he -- he was a Special Forces guy, right? He had his sight up until he was injured when he was serving in Iraq. For guys like him, they're actually very good at making eye contact even after they've lost their sight. There's a muscle memory there where you just -- they're really good at it. We have to make him worse at it on the show so that it's not confusing for the audience.

Where it became really interesting for me is -- are you all right? Put the coffee down, man. In the first season, we had an episode where Auggie was reunited with a girlfriend that he had before he lost his sight. I found it unexpectedly really frustrating in the scenes to not be able to make eye contact.

VELSHI: Right.

GORHAM: To have someone who your whole relationship is based on being able to see each other, having that unspoken communication, and suddenly when that's gone it can be really, really frustrating.

SAMBOLIN: I think we're seeing you there directing. Is that right?

GORHAN: There you go. Yes, yes, yes. I'm in the middle of directing an episode right now. We're four days into a seven-day episode. We usually take eight days to shoot an episode but since this is my first episode they decided to give me one less day to shoot it.

SOCARIDES: Does the government ever tell you that you can't use something because it's secret? Did they ever say to you can't portray that because it's secret?

GORHAM: Not as far as I know. I mean, you know, our storylines are -- are pretty fictional. The stuff -- the kind of danger that we deal with on the show is very real. And some of the topics that we deal with on the show are very real. But how we do it is always fictional so we don't run into any problems.

SAMBOLIN: Christopher Gorham, you say this is a good week to watch. GORHAM: This is a great episode this week.

VELSHI: Would you say that if it wasn't?

GORHAM: Exactly. Right? You know, what I would say, this is a solid episode.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thanks for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.

The "End Point" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ali Velshi had to go to another show. Yes, he left me. It's empty here. But it's time for our "End Point", gentlemen. I'm going to begin with Will.

CAIN: You want to start with me?

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

CAIN: I want to go back to the conversation with Christopher Gorham, an actor from "Covert Affairs". We're talking about how people look at each, people that are sighted versus how you look at someone who's blind. He talked about also instructing other actors. Two sighted people make limited eye contact when you're making a point, you look up in the sky. But when you're talking to a blind person, he said, many people just stare. They feel liberated to just stare.

SOCARIDES: They're more focused. They're almost more focused.

CAIN: Right. Fascinating.

SOCARIDES: I thought the most interesting thing. I mean I think what's happening in the NFL with the changes -- the changing way the NFL players are viewing gay people and gays in sports is really remarkable. And I think it's another example of a real turning point we're seeing in this country. The way gay people are viewed.

BLOW: I'll go back to teachers.

SOCARIDES: Teachers.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: If you look at the highest performing systems across the world, they tend to draw from the top performers in high school. And they pay them incredibly well. And they don't overwork them. I think that if we paid our teachers better, we didn't overwork them and we valued them more, the marketplace would work out the other issues.

SAMBOLIN: That is the son of a teacher.

And tomorrow on "STARTING POINT" as we mark the 11th anniversary of September 11, we'll be joined by former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani; current mayor Michael Bloomberg and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins now.