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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Romney Defends Remarks; French Prosecutors Open Criminal Case; New Book in Amanda Knox Case

Aired September 18, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, you know, it's not elegantly stated. Let me put it that way. I'm speaking off the cuff in response to a question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Mitt Romney off message and on the defense after a hidden video of him is released.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A developing story we're watching this morning, a severe storm threat stretching from the Carolinas all the way to New England.

SAMBOLIN: And this just in: Prince William fighting the paparazzi to make sure what happened to his mother does not happen to his wife. And it looks like he has won round one.

Good morning to you and welcome to EARLY START. We're happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We begin with politics in what appears to be a major campaign moment.

While you were sleeping, Mitt Romney doing full-fledged damage control over controversial remarks that were secretly recorded at a private fund-raiser back in May. Romney is held telling wealthy donors that 47 percent of Americans will support the President no matter what and it's not his job to worry about them.

This tape has shaken the Romney campaign and CNN's Andrew Spencer has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREW SPENCER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In one clip, Mitt Romney jokes about wishing his father's parents had been Latino.

ROMNEY: Had I been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico and he had lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly but it would be helpful to be Latino.

SPENCER: And he goes off on Obama's supporters.

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility and care for them.

SPENCER: The Obama campaign issued a response, saying of a Romney presidency, quote, "It's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation."

In a news conference late Monday night, Romney said he could have spoken more clearly but said he was trying to point out the differences between the two campaigns.

ROMNEY: We have a very different approach, the President and I, between a government dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams. This is really a discussion about the political process of winning the election. And, of course, I want to help all Americans -- all Americans have a bright and prosperous future. I'm convinced that the President's approach has not done that and will not do that.

SPENCER: I'm Andrew Spencer reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: I want to bring in CNN political director Mark Preston in our Washington bureau.

And, Mark, you heard Mitt Romney talk about the 47 percent of people that he says don't pay federal income taxes. It's not the number, though, that might be the most controversial thing. It's what he says about these people. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take responsibility to care for their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: He can never convince them to take personal responsibility and care for their own lives. What's the potential damage with a comment like that?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, John, certainly in the 24-hour news cycle, it's devastating right now. We know how concerned the Romney campaign is by putting their candidate out last night to try to address it. And it was a tortured explanation. In addition to that, John, we're going to have Republicans now throughout the day today being asked, do you agree with what Mitt Romney said?

This is not something the Romney campaign wants to have to deal with, you know, with only 49 days before Election Day. But, John, we don't know if it's a fatal blow. There are 49 days still remaining. We'll have to see how this plays out.

BERMAN: You heard an interesting word formulation there where he said it's not his job to worry about these people. That sounds awfully familiar to us at CNN. Listen to what Mitt Romney told Soledad O'Brien some time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I said I'm not concerned about the very poor. They have a safety net. But if it has holes in net, I will repair. You can focus on the very poor. It's not my focus. My focus is on middle income Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, his comments to Soledad were back in February. So, from February to May, his choice of language doesn't really seem to have changed very much. Is this of concern to conservatives and Republicans who support Mitt Romney?

PRESTON: Well, what we're hearing there is we're hearing CEO speak, John, aren't we, at that time. We're hearing a businessman talk about how he is methodically or mechanically going to try to fix the country. If there are people who get pushed aside, so be it.

I've got to tell you, though, for Republicans who want to win the White House, this is not the language they want to hear, certainly at a time when there are questions about whether the Romney campaign is in a bit of a crisis mode and a bit of a leadership vacuum. So, it's not exactly what they want to hear right now.

BERMAN: No, not the CEO speak, especially when almost 37 percent of voters in recent polling say they believe Mitt Romney is in touch with the problems facing the middle class.

But, Mark, I heard Republicans overnight, everyone to Ari Fleischer to Reince Priebus, coming to Mitt Romney's defense. What exactly are they saying?

PRESTON: Well, they have to come to his defense, because the fact of the matter is, he is their candidate for president. In fact, Reince Priebus was on "THE SITUATION ROOM" last night. Let's hear what he had to say.

BERMAN: Mark, we --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Joe, I don't have the numbers in front of me. But clearly, what we do have, very clearly, is a government and a society here in this country that is becoming dependent. This is something advertised by Barack Obama himself on his own Web site when they came out with this life of Julia push over the summer. It is a choice election between what type of country you want to have and I can guarantee you the American dream was not built upon the life of Julia society advertised by Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESTON: Right there is the chairman of the Republican National Committee defending Mitt Romney and his language. Certainly trying to frame this election between somebody who can turn the country around, Mitt Romney, as opposed to what they say Barack Obama has failed in doing so -- John.

BERMAN: And, you know, the news from this video might not be over yet. We're expecting more excerpts to come out at 6:00 a.m. And, Mark, we know you'll be with us to discuss that.

Max Preston in our Washington bureau -- thanks very much.

At the bottom of the hour, we're going to talk to CNN contributor Margaret Hoover who worked in the Bush White House and Richard Socarides, a former adviser to President Clinton. We'll be talking about these controversial and potentially damaging remarks.

And at 7:00 a.m., Soledad is going to be talking with Governor Romney's senior campaign advisor Bay Buchanan to get her talk on all of this.

SAMBOLIN: This just in, French prosecutors deciding to open a preliminary criminal investigation into the publication of topless photos of the duchess of Cambridge. Lawyers for the royal couple are also trying to get the French courts to issue an injunction. forbidding further publication or resale of photos of the duchess on bathing topless in the south of France. A decision on that request is expected within the hour.

It is six minutes past the hour. A quick check of what else is going on around the world this morning.

At least nine people have been killed in a predawn car bombing in Afghanistan. That deadly attack taking place near the Kabul airport. A spokesman for an Afghan insurgent group with ties to the Taliban is taking responsibility here and says it is in response to an anti-Islam film that has angered Muslims around the world. That car bomber reportedly rammed a small sedan into a mini bus believed to be carrying foreign aviation workers to the airport.

BERMAN: In Chicago, 350,000 kids will get yet another day off from school. This, as striking teachers continue to look at a deal that's on the table to end their walkout. Meanwhile, parents are scrambling to juggle work and keeping their kids out of trouble for the seventh day in a row.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has gone to court to try to force the teachers to go back to work. But a judge won't look at that case until tomorrow.

SAMBOLIN: And right now in Mexico, more than 130 inmates are on the run. Police are blocking roads leading to the United States after a major prison break. They're offering a $15,000 reward as well for the fugitives who escaped from a prison about 150 miles from San Antonio. Police say they were able to burrow through a tunnel to the other side and cut through a fence.

BERMAN: And we are watching a storm threat across the South and along the entire East Coast this morning. Heavy downpour is forecast from Atlanta, Nashville, all the way to New York City and the possibility of tornadoes. We'll get right to meteorologist Rob Marciano in Atlanta.

Rob, how are things looking this morning?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wet to start and stormy to finish is the way you implied it as well. Tennessee yesterday over six inches of rainfall, Knoxville seeing almost 3 inches. That's a record. In places in Arkansas, although they need the rain. There were some areas in Alabama that saw swift water rescues taking place because of the flooding. Heavy rain this morning from Pittsburgh back through Charleston.

This is all shifting over towards the East. It will get towards the I-95 corridor from D.C. to Baltimore, starting to slide into Philadelphia right now in through New York City. Even some coastal flooding possible with some winds as we get later on into the day.

But here comes the heavy rain. The forecast the next 24 hours peppers this area with some brighter colors. When we get into the yellows and reds, that mean two to four inches of rainfall expected.

Thunderstorms that could be severe, some of which had dropped some damaging winds potentially and maybe an isolated tornado all the way from Boston back through Raleigh and Norfolk, and D.C., Baltimore and New York City. And timing with that will be later on today as this strong front, very strong fall front, comes through, squeezes that tropical moisture. We get a little bit of pop with thundershowers.

Behind it, though, will be cooler and much drier, maybe even a couple of flurries near the Canadian border. That's how it's really going to be behind.

John and Zoraida, back up to you.

BERMAN: All right. Rob, a big check of the country -- wet and a little bit nervous this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, no kidding.

Nine minutes past the hour. Anticipation at Buckingham Palace this morning. The royal family is waiting to hear if they won round one, they have in a legal over topless pictures of Kate Middleton. We're going to go live to the Solomon Islands where the prince and the duchess will hear the news, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is 13 minutes after the hour. Glad you're with us. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Happy to have you this morning. Thirteen minutes past the hour.

Well, French prosecutors have just announced they're opening a preliminary criminal investigation into the publication of topless photos of the duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. In less than an hour, a French court is expected to decide whether to issue an injunction forbidding further publication or the resale of those pictures.

Max Foster is traveling with the duke and duchess as they celebrate the queen's diamond jubilee. And he joins us now from the Solomon Islands.

So, Max, what can you tell us about this criminal investigation they are opening? It seems look a win for them.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, definitely first round, to the Duchess of Cambridge, I'd say. There is caution here. She made a complaint and William made a complaint, and the prosecutors are saying they are going to look into it. It's not a full investigation just yet.

What they are going to be investigating is a breach of privacy, a criminal act in France. And potentially the editor could face a fine or even jail time. The photographer could face the same. But they don't know who the photographer is.

Now, the debate about the photographer's identity is something the palace is pursuing, they want to know who it was. The magazine is the only place you can find out the name of the photographer. And they and the French lawyer have to approve this is in the public into reveal sources, journalistic sources.

So, that's another hurdle to come along. So, we don't know whether we'll get the identity of this photographer. But certainly the photographer and editor on that magazine up against it right now.

SAMBOLIN: Now, you have mentioned before that France has some of the strictest -- the world's strictest privacy laws. So how do you expect this ruling to go?

FOSTER: Well, the palace are confident. That's why they launched this action. There are very tough laws there. The French minister told CNN earlier on that actually he's on the duchess' side. He says there has to be some privacy in everyone's lives.

Actually, the prosecutor's office says this has nothing to do with them being in royal family. Everyone has the right to make these complaints and they'll investigate them.

So, it certainly seems as though it's starting to -- the ball is rolling. I'm not a legal expert. I can't say whether or not it will succeed. Duchess is doing well so far.

SAMBOLIN: Max Foster, I know that you are following the latest developments for us. We're going to continue to check in with you. Thank you very much. BERMAN: It's about a quarter after the hour right now. A lot of news overnight, Christine Romans is here with the headlines.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Let's start with politics, shall we? Thanks, John and Zoraida.

Mitt Romney has some explaining to do this morning after he was caught making some blunt comments to voters -- about voters in a secretly recorded tape at a fundraiser back in May. On the tape, Romney says nearly half of all American will vote for President Obama anyway because they rely on government support. It's not his job to worry about them. Romney tried to clarify the remarks later saying they were off the cuff and not elegantly stated. He says he wants to help all Americans.

U.S. troops ordered to halt joint field operations with Afghan security forces. The decision coming after four American troops were killed by Afghan police. There have been a series of insider attacks on NATO forces by Afghan police and insurgents disguised as security officers.

Fifty-one Western troops have died in those attacks so far this year.

Nearly 200 people were arrested during protests in New York City to mark the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Most of the arrests were for disorderly conduct. Hundreds of protesters gathered at Zuccotti Park, where that global movement was born a year ago, for a march on Wall Street. The demonstration failed to keep the market from operating, as usual.

Peyton Manning continuing his comeback on Monday night football. But it was not his night. Manning threw three interceptions in the first quarter, putting the Broncos in a 20-0 hole early. A late rally came up short and the Atlanta Falcons beat Denver 27-21 -- the final, guys.

BERMAN: Yikes, three picks in the first quarter. Thanks, Christine. Not nice.

SAMBOLIN: It is 17 minutes past the hour. And we're getting an early read on your local news that is making national headlines.

Olympic gold medalist Shaun White has a new photo this morning. The Tennessean provides us with a picture of it. It says the snowboarder was arrested and charged with public intoxication and vandalism after allegedly pulling a fire alarm and destroying a telephone. This was at a Tennessee hotel.

When police arrived, they say White tried to flee, kicking the man trying to restrain him, shortly before he fell into a fence and hit his head. He was treated at a hospital, eventually released from police custody. Police also say they smelled alcohol.

BERMAN: Not a flattering shot, most mug shots not too flattering.

SAMBOLIN: No, not at all.

BERMAN: All right. This --

SAMBOLIN: Black eye.

BERMAN: Yes, not pretty.

We have some news from "The Las Vegas Sun." You know, they say they can't take it with you. Here is proof. When they came to clean out Walter Samaszko's house in Carson City, they found a $7 million surprise -- gold bars, gold coins, stored in boxes in the house and garage, some dating as far back as 1872.

SAMBOLIN: Wow, imagine that.

BERMAN: Officials say Samaszko was a recluse. He had no will, no close relatives. They finally tracked down the luckiest first cousin in history in California. She says she was surprised by the --

SAMBOLIN: Surprised? Oh, my goodness. Can you imagine finding that?

BERMAN: That's a nice surprise. I'd take that surprise.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness. All right, 18 minutes past the hour.

For an expanded look at all of our top stories, just head to our blog, CNN.com/EarlyStart.

BERMAN: And coming up, Mitt Romney talking about the 47 percent who will vote for President Obama next month. People he says who rely on government handouts. We'll fact check Governor Romney's math, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We are minding your business this morning. And Christine Romans has been fact checking some of those statements Mitt Romney made in that video which caused such a storm overnight.

SAMBOLIN: Just how many people are dependent on the government.

ROMANS: Well, let's listen first to exactly what he said, because so many of you are talking about this, this morning. I'm going to tell you exactly what numbers we think Mitt Romney is talking about and I'll give you the true numbers for how many people are paying taxes and how many people are using government services in America.

So, listen to his comment first.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has responsibility to care for them, who believe they're entitled to health care, food, housing.

(END AUDIO CLIP) ROMANS: Now, I can't speak to how people feel or what they believe in that 47 percent. But I can tell you what the numbers are. It's 46 percent of people in this country pay no federal income tax, 46 percent. This is for the year 2011 according to the Tax Policy Center, 53 percent of people pay income tax.

So, this on its surface is a number that really fires up conservatives who say, look, half of America is not paying federal income tax. But when you figure in payroll taxes, that non-payor group goes down to 18 percent of households do not pay taxes. So 18 percent are paying no payroll tax and no federal income tax.

Okay. So who are these people who are not paying? They are mostly elderly, very poor, people with churn in the family. Elderly is the biggest group. And quite frankly, most of these people are paying payroll taxes anyway. Poor people who have less than $20,000 income and there's a little sliver there, 2 percent who have other tax reductions and like.

The tax code in this country is designed to help people who are elderly, people who are poor, people who have children. We have tax breaks for everything. You know, going to college, buying a home. And in the end, all of those tax breaks voted on by Congress, not a president but by Congress, mean that 46.4 percent of people don't pay federal income taxes.

BERMAN: There are two things to point out, that group, 46 percent or 47 percent, a number that is true, and certainly like absolutely includes voters that Mitt Romney needs to win this election.

ROMANS: And he says they feel they are victims. They believe government has the responsibility to care for them. And you will hear progressive say government does have a responsibility to take care of children who would die in poverty if it weren't for the government. Medicaid, Medicare -- people on Social Security, people who feel they are entitled to that benefit, because they pay for that benefit for years.

So, you're right. There are a lot of people in that 46 percent, Mr. Romney, not 47, who would say I don't feel like a victim at all.

BERMAN: Including white, elderly, middle class, working class voters. People he needs to win.

SAMBOLIN: Who are on Social Security.

ROMANS: It plays conservatives who have this sort of Ayn Rand view of the world, that we're becoming a dependent nation, a nation dependent on big government. It does play with that crowd.

BERMAN: All right. Christine, thanks very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-five minutes past the hour. Mitt Romney's running mate stepping up, reminding voters that President Obama's had his own off the cuff moment as well. Find out what the congressman said, coming up.

And if you're leaving the house right now, watch us anytime on your desktop, on your mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: No apologies from Mitt Romney for off the cuff comments caught on hidden video about people who rely on government handouts.

BERMAN: Mystery at sea. A cruise ship passenger falls from the deck and disappears.

SAMBOLIN: And it was a murder case that riveted the entire world, Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend convicted and they got free. Now, the man with Amanda that night is telling all. He has written a book.

Welcome back to EARLY START. We're happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's about 29 minutes after the hour. Glad you're with us this morning.

And this morning, voters are getting a rare glimpse at what Mitt Romney is sort of like when he doesn't know that the camera is rolling. The candidate was caught on tape at a fund-raiser providing a controversial description of Obama voters. The left wing "Mother Jones" got a hold of the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they're entitled to health care, food, housing, you name it.

It's an entitlement. That the government should give it to them, and they will vote for this president no matter what. These are people who pay no income tax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The Obama team jumped all over these comments. Mitt Romney, himself, held a late-night news conference to defend himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Among those that pay no tax, approximately 47 percent of Americans. I'm not likely to be highly successful with a message of lowering taxes. That's not as attracted to those who don't pay income taxes as it is those who do. And likewise, those who are reliant on government are not as attracted to my message of slimming down the size of government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: There is a lot to talk about with this this morning. We're joined by Margaret Hoover, a former appointee at the Bush White House and Richard Socarides, who worked in the Clinton administration. They are both CNN contributors. We are glad to have them this morning.

Margaret, as the Republican here, you heard these comments overnight. What feelings did they give you?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, Mitt Romney clearly misspoke here. I mean, the first thing I thought, 47 percent of Americans, I don't need to worry about, obviously, that's not true. If you're trying to run for president, you need those 47 percent. You want as many as possible.

You know, my sense is, and I've been in places where Mitt Romney has been briefed on something and then gone out and talked about it when he wasn't adverse on the subject matter right before he talked about it.

He's very actually good getting briefed and then talking about things. My sense here is what happened, that he got an economic briefing, part of his economic policy plan, of course, is to broaden the base, lower the rates, so that more people start paying taxes because it's true. You do have 46.7 percent of Americans who pay zero federal income taxes.

My sense is that he took that tidbit and then somehow conflated it with his campaign strategy which has turned into a play to the base strategy, where Republicans are going after Republicans and Democrats are going after Democrats and everybody else is fighting after this four, five percent in the middle. That's basically what he was -- those are all the details that he was talking about in that clip.

BERMAN: Two things --

HOOVER: And it sounds like he conflate it.

BERMAN: Two things. Hard to say he misspoke when he said basically the same thing to Soledad in February.

HOOVER: He said something different to Soledad.

BERMAN: The issue is him saying he's not going to worry about them. Richard, what do you make of it?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: Well, you know, you almost don't have to say anything, right? Just say let's hear more of the tape. You know, I've worked on a number of presidential campaigns, both winning and losing. And you know, the last thing you want to do is insult anybody. I mean, that's not the way to win an election.

You want to fight for every vote. I think the big problem for Governor Romney this morning is that this whole episode reinforces some beliefs that are starting to set in about him at a very crucial point in the campaign and that is that he's not ready to be president, that he kind of says this kind of inappropriate things like he did at the Olympics, that he lets people like Clint Eastwood get in there and give this kind of crazy speech at the moment where everybody's, you know, forming important opinions about him. He's not ready for prime time. That's the big problem.

SAMBOLIN: So, in light of that comment, let's play some more, because he made a comment about Mexicans that I'd like to play and then get your take on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My dad, you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico and had he been born of Mexican parents I'd have a better shot at winning this. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Okay, Margaret. So, he says he says it jokingly, right? But the perception that that leaves, how does that play out? Aren't you concerned about that?

HOOVER: I'm actually really concerned about the Latino vote, frankly. And, you know what would be great is not if he had been born a Mexican parents and if he spoke a little bit of Spanish and was going to the Latino communities and actually talking about how unemployment under President Obama is two points higher in the Hispanic community than it is for the national average. Also, that no president has deported more illegal aliens that President Obama.

SAMBOLIN: So, when he makes comments like that, he seems so out of touch. And you can't really relate that to that community, right, because it makes you seem like you're totally out of touch with them.

HOOVER: You know what, what he needs to do, I think, is go to the Hispanic community like he's going to Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and make the case that his policies --

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: If I were advising him this morning, what I would say is say you have to good out to Latino community and apologize, because this, of all the stuff he said, this to me is the most offensive, because first of all, here's a guy who's worth, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars complaining that because he's not of a racial or ethnic minority in this country that he's somehow been treated unfairly.

I mean, this reinforces the stereotype that a lot of people have that somehow, you know, we're giving an unfair advantage to people who are from communities of color. But here's a guy who's had all the advantages in the world.

(CROSSTALK) SOCARIDES: -- you know, hundreds of millions of dollars. I mean, what was he thinking to show such an incredible lack of judgment to do this in front of -- you know, I mean, there are over -- it looks like there are several dozen people in this room. I mean, what is this guy thinking? He's running for president of the United States.

BERMAN: The good news is it gives us a lot to talk about the next hour when you guys come back. It will be a rich discussion, no doubt, much like this. Margaret Hoover, thank you for joining us. Richard Socarides, always great to have you here in the morning.

And at 7:00 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien is going to talk more about this, more about these remarks and an attempt to sort of reboot the campaign. She'll be join by the candidate senior campaign adviser, Bay Buchanan.

SAMBOLIN: I think Margaret would like to speak on his behalf.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Can I just speak up? All right. Thirty-five minutes past the hour.

SOCARIDES: We'll be very nice to Margaret.

SAMBOLIN: All right. On a day when Mitt Romney's private comments went public, Paul Ryan was bringing up a private comment made four years ago by another controversial candidate that stirred up lots of controversy as well. That candidate was Barack Obama. Listen to Romney's running mate refreshed the voters' memories during a campaign stop yesterday in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And I remember that one time where he is talking to bunch of donors in San Francisco, and he said, people like us, people from the Midwest, they like to cling to their guns and their religion.

(CHEERING)

RYAN: I got to tell you, this Catholic deer hunter is guilty as charged and proud to say so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Ryan told the crowd in Des Moines the country will face an economic calamity if President Obama is re-elected.

BERMAN: Convicted child rapist and former Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, will know his fate on October 9th. He's set to come before Pennsylvania judge, John Cleland, the man who found him guilty of abusing 10 victims over 15 years. It will also determine whether Sandusky should be classified as a sexually violent predator.

SAMBOLIN: The Coast Guard is searching off the coast to Florida this morning after a 21-year-old woman went overboard during a cruise that was headed for the Bahamas. The captain immediately stopped the ship and turned around to search for her. Two other nearby cruise ships also joined in on the search before the coast guard crews took over.

BERMAN: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in Beijing this morning for his first visit to China as Pentagon chief. This follows a visit to Japan where he announced that the U.S. is setting up a second missile defense radar system in that country. Panetta stressing the decision is not aimed at China but to defend against missiles in the event of an attack from North Korea, but analysts say the announcement is bound to irk Beijing and could complicate this trip.

SAMBOLIN: Both President Obama and Mitt Romney agree on when will pull our troops out of Afghanistan, but they don't see eye to eye on how to do it. We go in depth in our issues 2012. That is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. All this week, CNN is going in depth on issues that are vital to you, the voter. And with seven weeks to go until Election Day, foreign policy is suddenly front and center in the race for the White House. This morning, the focus is on Afghanistan.

And as Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, tell us, Mitt Romney and President Obama may finally be seeing eye to eye on something.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventy- thousand American troops are still fighting in Afghanistan. But will Election Day affect them one way or the other? We see two candidates moving closer and closer to the point where there's not much space between them.

ROMNEY: Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Next year, Afghans will take the lead for their own security. In 2014, the transition will be complete.

LAWRENCE: There were real differences at the beginning of Governor Romney's campaign last summer when he seemed to criticize President Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

ROMNEY: It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can. I also think we've learned that our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation.

LAWRENCE: But the governor's position evolved. By November, he opposed any plan to bring most of the troops home before 2014.

ROMNEY: I stand with the commanders in this regard and have no information that suggest that pulling our troops out faster than that would do anything but put at great peril the extraordinary sacrifice has been made. This is not time for America to cut and run.

LAWRENCE (on-camera): Whomever sits in the oval office will have to decide how the U.S. hands over to the Afghans, and that's where we see the biggest difference when it comes to talking with the Taliban.

OBAMA: We're pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): While President Obama makes a distinction between Taliban and al Qaeda, Governor Romney says he won't haggle with a group that has killed American troops.

ROMNEY: We don't negotiate with terrorists. I do not negotiate with the Taliban. That's something for the Afghans to decide how they're going to pursue their course in the future.

LAWRENCE: So, there's negotiation versus no negotiation with the Taliban. President Obama announced an end date years in advance. Governor Romney opposed publicizing that date. The President ended the surge this month during the fighting season. The governor would have kept additional troops there through December.

Analysts say neither man has spent much time talking about the war, but Mark Jacobson says that's partly because the big strategic issues like the surge and handover have been pretty much decided.

MARK JACOBSON, GERMAN MARSHALL FUND: What we're looking at now is execution of this strategy, and that doesn't require the same sort of political capital and time from Washington, D.C. that was required two years ago.

LAWRENCE: The two men don't exactly agree on how the fighting affects the nation's finances.

OBAMA: Because after two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it's time to do some nation building right here at home.

ROMNEY: Of course the return of our troops cannot and must not be used as an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts.

LAWRENCE: So the biggest difference on Afghanistan -- maybe how to spend the money when the war is over.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Chris.

Forty-four minutes past the hour. New revelations about a sensational murder trial. Amanda Knox's boyfriend telling all in a brand-new book. Find out what he says, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

New revelations from the ex-boyfriend of Amanda Knox about the death of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. You'll recall that Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were convicted and then cleared of murder after four years in prison. Now, Sollecito has written a book. It is titled "Honor Bound: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox."

In it, he maintains their innocence but admits they gave Italian police good reason to suspect them. CNN's Matthew Chance is live in London with all of the details here. And Matthew, in the book, Sollecito says that he was pressured by prosecutors to implicate Knox. What can you tell us about that?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sorry, Zoraida. I don't hear you. Can you repeat that, please?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. In the book, he says that he was told by prosecutors to implicate Knox. What do you know about that?

CHANCE: I'm sorry. I don't have any contact with the studio.

SAMBOLIN: Okay. Let's see if we can fix that and then we'll get back to him.

BERMAN: In the meantime, it's about 48 minutes after the hour right now. We want to get to date on the other headlines. Christine Romans is here with all of our top stories.

ROMANS: Hi, guys. Thanks, John. Let's start with Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): He's on the defensive this morning after those controversial comments at a private fundraiser were revealed. Romney is heard saying nearly half of all Americans see themselves as victims and believe they're entitled to government support.

He was secretly reported back in May, and clips were posted online by the liberal magazine "Mother Jones." Romney now says these remarks were off the cuff and not elegantly stated.

Mitt Romney's been briefed. The GOP nominee receiving his first intelligence briefing yesterday. It took place at the FBI building in Los Angeles. It's customary for the White House to provide briefings to presidential challengers in the late stages of an election campaign.

A Houston area firefighter has died from heat related injuries suffered during a survival skills training class. Twenty-six-year-old Captain Neal Smith was taking a smoke diver's course. It's designed for experienced firefighters and they're wearing full gear. The fire chief says Smith's core body temperature reached 108 degrees during that survival skills class. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in China this morning, and he's warning Japan and China to peacefully resolve their territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Earlier this month, the Japanese government announced plans to purchase three of the uninhabited islands from private owners for $26 million and that triggered angry protests in china. Watching that dispute very, very carefully and closely.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS (on-camera): You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: A packed hour still ahead on EARLY START. We are just a few minutes away from a French court's ruling on those topless photos of the duchess of Cambridge. The war between the prince and the paparazzi is getting personal, and we are live at following the royal couple in the south pacific.

BERMAN: And yes, from flubbing the oath to flipping on health care, a new book with an insider account of the amazing relationship and ideological war between President Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts. Our own Jeffrey Toobin wrote this book, and he will join us. It's going to be great.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, fallout from Mitt Romney's remarks about the 47 percent. What could be a critical campaign moment, one we could look back on? He is standing by his comments and could that derail his campaign? Later on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien speaks to Romney's senior campaign adviser, Bay Buchanan.

But first, iPhone frenzy. Why you may be stuck with your old and suddenly uncool phone for little longer than you thought even if you pre-ordered the iPhone 5.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. New revelations from the ex- boyfriend of Amanda Knox about the death of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. So, we lost him a little but earlier, but CNN's Matthew Chance is live in London with all of the details. Can you hear me now?

CHANCE: Yes, I can. Sorry, Zoraida, about that. That's right. I can hear you now.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, no, no. It's not your fault. I know we had a little technical problem there. So, Matthew, in the book, Sollecito says that he was pressured by prosecutors to implicate Knox. What can you tell us about that?

CHANCE: Yes. Well, I mean, first of all, this is the first opportunity, really, Raffaele Sollecito has had to really put over his side of the story since his release on appeal last year. So, he's really taking full advantage of that. One of the big themes that comes out of this book, it's called "Honor Bound" is his sort of disparaging criticism, really, of the Italian justice system.

He does say that, at some point in the proceedings, the prosecutors in that trial attempted him to do a plea bargain. They basically said that if you implicate Amanda Knox in the killing of Meredith Kercher, this 21-year-old student from Britain who was killed in the Italian university town of Perugia, then you'll get a lighter sentence.

He basically refused to do that, of course, as we know. He, all along throughout this trial and again in this book, insisted that they were both innocent. He insisted again that he believed that Amanda Knox who was his girlfriend at the time was not capable of murder.

But he did, you know, reserve a lot of criticism for the Italian judicial system saying that basically they took advantage of these two young people's youth and inexperience in the place of a proper investigation, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Matthew, I have a question. Is it true that they had only been dating for a week when this happened?

CHANCE: Yes. It's absolutely true. Just a week. Amanda Knox, a very attractive, enigmatic young girl at university. They met in the town of Perugia and Sollecito studied Computer Science and was clearly very attracted to this quite strange foreigner. She's an American, of course. In this university (ph), they had apparently quite a passionate, you know, week together before these implications hit.

It's interesting, because in the book -- in the book, he makes the point that one of the reasons he was attracted to Amanda Knox is because of her sort of strange unusual behavior. The fact that she seems to be, you know, free as a normal constraint of people he knew. That's the kind of behavior he later said distanced him from Amanda Knox, because it sort of brought the eye of suspicion on them both.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Matthew Chance live in London for us. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: It's about 57 minutes after the hour right now. We're going to take a look at what is trending on the internet this morning. And up first, iPhone insanity. Apple is announcing that iPhone 5 pre- orders topped two million in just 24 hours. That is more than double the amount of pre-orders it had for the iPhone 4S.

The company said most phones will be delivered on Friday, although, some sad, poor people may have to wait two or thre weeks because of demand.

SAMBOLIN: And one day after "American Idol" announced its new judges, a shake-up on "The Voice." Headline by Usher and Shakira. They will be coaches for the upcoming spring edition of the series. They're going to replace Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera who are only expected to take a break. they're going to return to the show next show for all you fans, but I got to watch Shakira.

BERMAN: In a sign of how unhip I am, I know really nothing about any of these people, but I'm sure it's big news.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness! I will fill you in during the break.

BERMAN: We've been talking a lot about this royal ruckus about the topless pictures of Kate Middleton. Here's how it's playing with the late-night comedians.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": It's now reported there are 200 topless pictures of Kate Middleton. Two hundred. What? How long they been together? I don't think Prince William has seen her topless 200.

(LAUGHTER)

LENO: Two hundred, how did that happen? Whew! Two hundred naked pictures? You know, I think she married the wrong brother. I think her and Harry would have hit it of fantastic. Oh, fantastic!

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": I bet they really miss the old days right now where they can just have people randomly beheaded for doing things like this.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: The royal family is very upset. I hope this doesn't cost Kate her job of smiling and waving at polo matches, because that will be a tough thing, but it's a tough thing. You have no privacy when you're in that position to see -- to me, this is where Pippa needs to step up with a good sex tape right now.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: That's what good sisters do, they take the heat. That's what the Kardashians do, right?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. Without comment.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: EARLY START continues right now.