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THE SITUATION ROOM
More Romney Video Released; Chicago Teachers End Strike
Aired September 18, 2012 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Joe Johns, along with Kate Bolduan. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The 99 percent part of the national dialogue. Well, now Mitt Romney has added a new number to the national dialogue, the 47 percent.
JOHNS: But unlike the populist protest movement, Romney's figure is creating a huge backlash. His campaign is scrambling to defend his assessment of Obama supporters as dependent victims with an entitlement mind-set.
CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with the Republican presidential nominee and has the latest -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If Mitt Romney is sweating this news cycle, he's not showing is it. He was smiling on his campaign plane today, looking relaxed with his staff. Romney is doing of all things a couple of fund-raisers today, the same sort of setting where he fired off those controversial remarks that ended up being caught on tape.
(voice-over): For Mitt Romney, it's pressure cooker time. The hidden camera footage recorded at a fund-raiser at this Florida home of a wealthy financier last may has the Romney campaign back in a familiar position, on defense.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These are people who pay no income tax; 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax.
ACOSTA: Romney is offering no apologies for his comments in the video that dismissed President Obama's supporters as unreachable, because, he claims, they're hooked on federal assistance.
ROMNEY: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims.
ACOSTA: "Mother Jones" magazine, which obtained the footage, has released an extended version of its video, revealing Romney's surprisingly candid view on losing the Latino vote.
ROMNEY: We are having a much harder time with Hispanic voters. And if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African-American voting bloc has in the past, well, we're in trouble as a party and I think as a nation.
ACOSTA: Asked about his 47 percent comments at a hastily arranged late-night news conference, Romney would only concede he used a poor choice of words.
ROMNEY: It's not elegantly stated. Let me put it that way. I'm speaking off the cuff in response a question. And I'm sure I could state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that. And so I'm sure I will point that out as time goes on.
ACOSTA: But he stood by his analysis of the race.
ROMNEY: I recognize that 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.
ACOSTA: The secret recording has divided Republicans, with some pointing out there are also many GOP voters who also receive government benefits, while paying no income taxes. On one side, David Brooks in "The New York Times" complained, Romney is running a depressingly inept presidential campaign.
On the other, conservative blogger Erick Erickson tweeted that he wishes Romney would talk more about this issue on the trail. At a fund-raiser open to cameras for the first time, Romney appeared to seize on that item in The Drudge Report showing the president in 1998 talking about redistribution.
BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR: Because I actually believe in redistribution.
ROMNEY: We all believe that when people are in distress and when they need help, we give them temporary help, we pull them back up, but we don't believe in redistribution.
ACOSTA: One of Romney's top aides, Kevin Madden, said the GOP contender is determined to fight on.
QUESTION: Do you think this will blow over?
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think sometimes that's up to you guys.
ACOSTA (on camera): Romney's aides declined to say just how much of this video the GOP contender has seen, but they remain confident despite this controversy they're still looking at a close election come November.
BOLDUAN: And late today, Romney once again stood by his remarks, despite the uproar.
Listen to what he told Neil Cavuto on FOX News just this afternoon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Well, we were of course talking about a campaign and how he is going to get close to half the vote. I'm going to get half the vote, approximately, I hope. I want to get 50.1 percent or more.
And, frankly, we have two very different views about America. The president's view is one of a larger government. There is a tape that just came out today where the president is saying he likes redistribution. I disagree.
I think a society based upon a government-centered nation, where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that's the wrong course for America. That will not build a strong America or help people out of poverty.
I believe the right course for America is one where government steps in to help those that are in need. We're a compassionate people, but then we get -- let people build their own lives, create enterprises. We believe in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Let's get more on all of this with our panel, CNN chief national correspondent John King, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.
A lot to dissect here.
But, John, first to you. We have now heard that Governor Romney is not backing down. You heard what he said on FOX News. He said it was not elegant. He also said that he was offering some political analysis. What's your take on the impact of these remarks?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And there was also this shocking coincidence that just on a day when Governor Romney's on the defensive about a tape, somebody drops a tape that may...
BOLDUAN: Some operation research of President Obama. That's what he's talking about the redistribution comments.
KING: Whichever conservative had that tape, whether it's a Romney campaign or a friend of the Romney campaign, they wished they were going to hold that a little bit longer, but decided they needed it today.
He didn't exactly repeat himself on "Neil Cavuto." If you look at what he said at the fund-raiser, do Republicans want a debate about government assistance, government dependency, especially at a time of deficit spending? Of course they do. Would it be a good idea for the country to have maybe a healthy debate about all these things, a polite and civil debate about all these? Great.
But what he said in that speech was is that all of them don't pay taxes, all of them are victims, all of them want free health care and think their entitled to free housing. He essentially smeared everyone who voted for President Obama and presumably maybe some people who voted for him.
But when you get into these sweeping generalizations, for whatever reason, if you look at Governor Romney's history, his church history and his charitable history, you would think that he doesn't think like the guy who said that about people who feel entitled to government, but he said it.
JOHNS: Gloria, these comments certainly appeal to people on the right, but the question really at this point is whether appealing to the right, you end up sort of burning some voters in the middle.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and it doesn't appeal to everyone on the right, because it was so inartfully stated.
And I think that's a real problem for him. So, you know, will it help part of his base? Yes, sure, absolutely. But the point is, is it going to hurt, could it hurt with senior citizens? Because, of course, this is something the Obama campaign is not going to stop mentioning.
Could it hurt with veterans? Could it hurt with people who actually just pay payroll taxes, for example? Sure. And it also reinforces the anti-Romney narrative that he is out of touch, that he doesn't understand the problems of ordinary Americans. And that's not what the Romney campaign wants to do right now.
BOLDUAN: Well, David, I want to bring you into this conversation as well. The bottom line is, the big question is, was this a fatal mistake? Of course, none of us will know until maybe November, but what's your take on it?
How does this stack up to other campaign stories? A lot of people are talking about President Obama's comments back in 2008, citing, you know, clinging to their guns and religion comments. What's your take?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not just this comment.
It's a pattern. It's a series over time. And I think, historically, this goes too far. But the one candidate who I think took himself out of contention with comments was Barry Goldwater back in 1964. I mean, they seemed so extreme. I don't think that Romney's statements are as extreme, but I do think they bring up an old argument that Scotty Reston, James Reston used to make with "The New York Times" decades ago.
And that is Americans tend to create a circle in their mind of people inside that circle of people who are would make a credible, comfortable president, someone they could see in that office and they would feel comfortable with. I think this pattern of statements is increasingly placing him, Mitt Romney, outside that circle for a growing number of Americans.
JOHNS: Gloria, you made a very good point in your online column today, talking about the fact that Mitt Romney's a businessman. That's where he plays a crowd like this. That's a double-edged sword, though, isn't it?
His approach to politics, just observing him and reporting about him this year, his approach to politics is that of a businessman. What do I need to do to cut the deal? What do I need to do to get these people to vote for me to get the job done, so I can get the job and finally do what I want to do, which is fixing things?
JOHNS: But now he's saying different things with different people, right?
BORGER: Right. He's saying different things to different people, has done so over his career.
And the difference in running a presidential campaign, and John, you can speak to this, is that when you run for president, you have to be something more than a Mr. Fix-It businessman. People have to trust you. They have to believe in what you're telling them.
BOLDUAN: Does this put that trust into question?
BORGER: Well, it places -- will he say one thing at a fund- raiser and a different thing somewhere else?
And that doesn't add to the question of, who do you trust or what's his credibility on anything?
Well, stand by one second, because no surprise, the Obama campaign is jumping all over this and did so very quickly. They responded to the uproar with the tweet, putting it this way, "Stand with the candidate who is fighting for all Americans," a little swipe right there, not too oblique.
And the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, he added this. Listen here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Setting aside, you know, what Governor Romney thinks, I can tell you that the president certainly doesn't think that men and women on Social Security are irresponsible or victims.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And the campaign quickly put together a video showing people reacting to Romney's remarks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually felt sick to my stomach.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That isn't somebody who I'm thinking, oh, I want him as my president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: So, David Gergen, if you could, just sort of put this in context for us, will you? You have been adviser to a number of presidents, and you have already sort of answered the question whether this is a fatal mistake, but how does this stack up to some of the past campaign stories as we have gotten those comparisons with President Obama, then Senator Obama, talking about people clinging to their guns and religion in 2008?
GERGEN: Well, I think it goes to the point Gloria was making, and that is, it's not that he was necessarily trying to please this audience, but it is, in a closed fund-raiser, people often say things that reveal how they really feel.
They feel in a more intimate setting and they can say what's really on their minds, as opposed to what they say in public. And the disconnect between what he's saying in public and what he's saying in private, just like with Barack Obama, is very unsettling to voters.
I must tell you, I think this is one of those episodes which really could hurt down-ticket for Republicans. Already in Massachusetts, for example, you know, Elizabeth Warren jumped all over this. You know, he's calling half the country deadbeats, half the people in Massachusetts deadbeats. Scott Brown is reeling to get away from it.
There are going to be a lot of campaigns in which people who are trying to take the Senate for Republicans could well suffer over this. Look, I don't think it's over in that formal sense, but the pattern that we have seen now the last few weeks, the defensiveness, not being able to get on top of the story, the disarray in his campaign, all of that spells serious trouble for this candidacy, does open the possibility that President Obama could not only win this, but win it a lot bigger than anybody ever managed.
JOHNS: John King.
KING: That's some of the chatter in Washington.
To David's point, Elizabeth Warren who had been in a dead heat with Scott Brown in three consecutive polls now has pulled out. This is before all this started to play out. She is taking advantage of it. The polling is before this tape was released. In Michigan, Debbie Stabenow has pulled out a little bit in her Senate race there. Democrats are starting to look -- since their convention, they think the climate with Governor Romney's help has worked to their advantage.
So what do Republicans say? There's seven weeks left, that's a lot of time, but Republicans also say this. The first week of October is critical in this election now, the first debate, and then on that Friday the next unemployment report.
BOLDUAN: And, Gloria, is there any concern that the White House -- you see how quickly they reacted and kind of how fast they're pushing forward with what Governor Romney said.
Is there any concern that they could push too far and they kind of go over the cliff, that they go from being opposition to not looking presidential?
BORGER: Well, I think the White House is laying back and saying, OK, well, this is not -- you know, President Obama represents all of the people.
But they don't really -- you know, they don't really have to do anything more than they're doing. They can let Republicans debate this. They can put out their little video. They wanted in the conversation...
GERGEN: And they can let the press do it.
BOLDUAN: Right, David.
BOLDUAN: And why Vice President Biden said, I will let the comments stand for themselves.
BORGER: When Vice President Biden doesn't talk, OK?
KING: See that video? African-Americans and women, his base.
JOHNS: And it also raises questions, talk about this being off- the-cuff remarks, well, he's got, Romney does, a debate coming up, where he will have to be off the cuff with a crowd of people.
BORGER: Right. And he will. And this will -- and this will make that debate this much more stressful for Mitt Romney because so much is on the line right now, because he has not performed well as a candidate over the last couple of weeks.
KING: Is there anyone left in America who thinks you can go into a room and give a speech that's not being recorded in some way?
GERGEN: Exactly. Exactly.
Well, I just think, to go back to the debate point, he's given President Obama so much ammunition, so many things he can needle him with, so many different points he can bring up echoing what he said. That makes the debate environment much tougher for him.
JOHNS: All right. Thanks so much. Great. Gloria, and John King and David Gergen, good to talk to you.
So who are the 47 percent at the core of Mitt Romney's controversial remark? We're crunching the numbers in the latest campaign controversy.
JOHNS: There's breaking news now in Chicago, where public school teachers just voted on whether to accept a new contract and end their strike.
CNN's Ted Rowlands has the results -- Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, the strike is over. The 800 delegates that voted here today, just a few minutes ago, voted overwhelmingly to end this strike, so students who have been out for seven days now in the city of Chicago will be back in school starting tomorrow morning. The strike in Chicago is over.
JOHNS: Under threat, by the way, of a possibility of people going to court and forcing them back in. Do you think that was a factor?
ROWLANDS: Well, it was definitely on the table.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked a court for a special injunction. There was a hearing set for 10:30 tomorrow morning. If this group of teachers would have voted to continue the strike, then it could have been in a judge's hand.
There was a possibility that they could have been ordered back to work without the contract in hand. That may have played into this. We don't know. What we do know, talking to a couple of teachers coming out here, that it was an overwhelmingly positive vote.
They did a voice vote, and there was no need to follow up on that, because it was so overwhelming. Teachers wanted to go back to work. And more importantly, they were happy with the contract laid out by the school district here in Chicago.
BOLDUAN: And, Ted, I know, obviously, a lot of interest in what's in the contract and what changed that could get the teachers to sign on. But I think for parents, especially, the most important thing, are kids going back to school starting tomorrow?
ROWLANDS: Absolutely, yes.
And that was -- everybody in Chicago has been sort of waiting patiently for this vote, knowing it was coming today. The meeting started a few hours ago. Parents have been put on notice if they vote yes to end the strike, school starts tomorrow. That is the case. Tomorrow morning, all schools that have been on strike will be back in session and students will be back in the morning, so great news for parents.
BOLDUAN: Great news for parents. Probably debatable if the kids are just as happy.
JOHNS: Probably not.
BOLDUAN: Probably not.
JOHNS: This has probably wreaked havoc on baby-sitters and that kind of thing. What do you do about your kids if they're supposed to be in school?
BOLDUAN: Ted Rowlands, thanks so much. We will obviously be getting more details from you throughout the evening. Thank you.
Also, the grandson of a former president is tied to the leak that has the Romney campaign reeling. Anderson Cooper will be joining us with the details of the Carter connection coming up.
BOLDUAN: Figures come and go in the race for the White House, but Mitt Romney has put the 47 percent front and center today.
JOHNS: But there is something to his disparaging characterization of Obama voters.
CNN's Tom Foreman is checking the facts for us.
Tom, what are you finding?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's not just this number. It is a word, this one huge explosive word out there, just incendiary, victims, victims.
And who gets burned by the explosion of this will be determined by how much the Democrats and the Republicans can shake up the blast. Who is Mitt Romney calling victims? Who does he says sees him or herself this way, as a victim in all of this?
In the broad sense, it appears that he's talking about all these people over here, the 47 percent or so of Americans who don't pay income tax who in some cases or in some ways are depending on the government for part of their living here.
Now, these people maybe don't make enough money to qualify for income tax or maybe they have enough tax credits to offset their liability. Most of them, however, over 60 percent, are paying other taxes. And that's important to note in this. Most of them pay payroll taxes of some sort.
Maybe some pay property taxes or maybe they pay sales taxes, a lot of different taxes out there that are being paid beyond income tax. All these people who receive benefits from the government are also being talked about by Romney in all of this, this notion that there are people out there who are benefiting from the government, gathering around it.
Look at this -- 49 percent of the people in this country receive benefits from one or more programs in the country, Medicaid, 26 percent. Social Security, 16.2 percent. Food stamps, 15 percent, almost 16 percent, and more.
So there are these changes going on out there. This is a lot of people. Where Mr. Romney gets into trouble, however, is with this word victim, and suggesting that the 47 percent of voters who get some kind of assistance are necessarily the same 47 percent as he expects to vote for his opponent, Barack Obama, and that somehow they're all part and parcel of a group that wants government coddling because they are economic victims.
The problem here is that there are many people out there who are Republicans who are perhaps depending on Social Security in retirement or perhaps someone who's unemployed for a brief period of time who needs some unemployment checks to support his family in the meantime. Many of these people might vote Republican, might be inclined to vote Republican.
So the challenge for Mitt Romney and everybody else comes back to that word victim. He's going to have to convince people out there that he's not talking about them if they're inclined to vote for him, but he is talking about the other people whom they may not support. If he can't pull that off, I'm telling you, gang, he could wind up a victim of his own words.
JOHNS: Yes. Well, the challenge really, of course, is to do that when you're in an atmosphere where your opponents are ripping you to shreds on the issue.
The problem is, anybody who's a true blue Republican who follows his line in all this, they have no problem with this, because they're going to say, yes, we think there are people out there who are depending too much on the government, who see themselves as victims. They buy into it.
But he's already got those voters. The challenge here is what happens to the middle voters. Do they buy more of that argument that their enemy is other Americans who are depending too much on the government, or do they feel too much like he's saying maybe you're like them, and they don't feel believed and they don't feel trusted, they don't feel that this is somebody who associates well with them?
BOLDUAN: Tom Foreman, thanks so much.
JOHNS: Tom, thanks.
President Barack Obama makes his first public statement about the secret Romney tapes. You will hear that coming up next.
BOLDUAN: Those leaked recordings of Mitt Romney calling Obama supporters dependent victims of an entitlement government are pitting Republican against Republican, it seems.
JOHNS: While many are distancing themselves from their presidential nominee, others are standing firmly with him. Let's talk about it with CNN contributor, Erick Erickson, editor and chief of RedState.org.
Erick, President Obama did an interview with David Letterman. I want you to listen to his reaction to Governor Romney's comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know what he was referring to, but I can tell you this. When I won in 2008, 47 percent of the American people voted for John McCain. They didn't vote for me.
And what I said on election night was, even though you didn't vote for me, I hear your voices, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to be your president.
And one of the things I've learned as president is you represent the entire country. And when I meet Republicans, as I'm traveling around the country, they are hard-working, family people, who care deeply about this country, and my expectation is that if you want to be president, you've got to work for everybody. Not just for some. And the...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: So I think the implication here, if I get it right, is that Romney is alienating Republican voters. Do you think that's so?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don't think so. Look, I get there's some angst in Washington today from conservatives, and I'm not exactly someone the Romney camp adores, but I actually don't think this remark is as bad as a lot of people are saying. And I would disagree with Tom Foreman's analysis, somewhat, for this reason.
When the Gallup poll has been asking Americans about this for a while, basically, the -- is the government spending too much money on people not paying enough into the government? And 60 percent of Americans this past summer said yes. That's gone down to 55 percent now.
And where I would disagree with Tom, I do think this could potentially be bad for Romney if he doesn't handle it well, but it's not Romney who has to go out and try to make these people think he's not making them victims. It's the Obama campaign that's going to have to convince these people that they're victims Mitt Romney's talking about. Because the people out there who may be in that 47 percent who don't pay income taxes, they don't view themselves as that. They view themselves as successful. And when you drill down into even CNN's polling or Gallup's polling or FOX's polling or Rasmussen's polling, a lot of the independent voters in that bracket have consistently, by double digits, been with Mitt Romney, and I don't think a statement like this shakes them up. Because a lot of them, whether they're in that class or not, they don't view themselves as being there, and they agree with what Romney said.
BOLDUAN: And Erick, you called this an angst in Washington amongst conservatives. But these are also some pretty predominant voices that -- that are not happy with what Mitt Romney said. And it's not just Democrats, really, attacking him.
Just take a look at some of these conservative writers. Bill Kristol, "The Weekly Standard." He says, Romney's comments like those of Obama four years ago are stupid and arrogant. David Brooks of "The New York Times." He says he's running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. And Matt Welch, "It judges U.S. residents not as humans but as productive )or unproductive) units."
You don't think any of them have a point here?
ERICKSON: It's such an odd position for me to be defending Mitt Romney...
BOLDUAN: It sure is.
ERICKSON: I'm very confused here.
But, you know, look, they have a right to say what they say, but I disagree with them. And I think that's Beltway conservatives and heartland conservatives speak in different language these days. And I think Beltway conservatives, in particular, are the ones Romney's been listening to for a while or those guys and he's upset they're not listening to him.
The guys outside of Washington, who are closer to the river valleys, where I think a lot of people are looking at Mitt Romney saying, "Wow, so he actually is a conservative? We didn't think we could trust him on those issues." And here's he's saying what a lot of dinner-table conversations are in that part of the country.
BOLDUAN: Do you think that the Romney campaign then, from your view, more botched the kind of response that they had in that hastily- planned press conference, or where's the problem here? Because if he were to describe things as you would, we might not be talking about this so much today.
ERICKSON: Yes. Well, I'm trying to figure out where the problem is. I think this is so overplayed by a lot of people today and completely detached from how this video came about, which I think is the larger question.
But I think Romney's going to have to double down and own these remarks now. This was him off the cuff. He said he probably should have phrased it better. I agree with him. But if you're going to say it off the cuff, you not only need to say it on the campaign trail.
Romney has had a very muddled message for the last six months. He really had an opportunity in the summer to help close the deal. His speech at the RNC didn't do it. Now he's got a chance to close the deal if he packages this the right way. And a lot of people aren't sure he can do it. We'll see.
JOHNS: Erick, how can you package this the right way when you use the word "victims," and you're describing, apparently, millions of Americans?
ERICKSON: Oh, see, I think that's the point. Look, there are a lot of people who aren't going to vote for Mitt Romney regardless. And there are, as Barack Obama said, about 47 percent will vote for him and 47 percent will vote for Romney. That was the problem with Romney's misstep, is that he was talking about a poll number and then pivoted into the income tax issue. And it sounded like he was conflating the two and his press conference was suggesting he didn't really mean to, was just inartful.
But these people who he's saying victims, a lot of people, they don't hear Romney and not think they're thinking about them. They'll think he's thinking about the people who they also think are the problem.
JOHNS: But the income problem is something else, too. The Bush tax cuts have helped a lot of people pay a very little bit of tax. And it sounded like he was talking about them, too.
ERICKSON: Well, yes, maybe so. But, you know, this was an off- the-cuff remark at a closed-door meeting that was surreptitiously recorded.
You know, I don't think that this is going to be the thing that sinks Romney's campaign. We've got a month and a half, and he's only just starting to spend this money.
Frankly, I think one of the issue that the media is ignoring or not paying attention to is he raised $2.5 million from that meeting. He's got a month and a half to spend that money, and he's only starting to spend it. I just -- you know, with Libya and everything else, the media likes to fixate on these, what they call gaffes, which is basically saying something that people in the media tend to disagree with, which a lot of other people don't. But he's got a month and a half to spend money on advertising campaigns and try to focus on what he actually meant. This isn't going to hurt the campaign the way I think a lot of people think.
JOHNS: There are a lot of hands that have yet to be played. We have the debates to come up. We have all that money to be spent.
BOLDUAN: And Erick makes a -- you make absolutely one fabulous point, which is the money game here. I mean, the money in this election is a huge, huge story. JOHNS: Yes, so -- yes, you're right. There's a lot of stuff to be done here. Thanks so much for that, Erick Erickson, RedState.com.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Erick.
ERICKSON: Thank you.
JOHNS: A grandson of former president Jimmy Carter is now tied to the leaks that have Mitt Romney on the defensive. James Carter IV talked to Anderson Cooper, and Anderson is standing by and joins us live, next.
BOLDUAN: Bringing you up to speed on some of the other top stories we are watching today, including NATO troops in Afghanistan have been ordered to halt some joint operations with Afghan security forces, following a string of deadly attacks, carried out by those in Afghan uniforms, as well as fallout over that controversial film mocking the Muslim faith.
The White House stresses the move will not affect the broader strategy of handing security over to local forces or NATO's plan to withdraw by 2014.
Egyptian authorities have announced charges in the wake of that insulting anti-Muslim film we've talked so much about. Several Coptic Christians living in the U.S., the alleged filmmaker, as well as a Florida pastor, Terry Jones, are among those being named. Jones was allegedly contacted by the filmmaker to help promote the film. They're being accused of insulting Islam, spreading false information, and harming national unity.
And the French magazine that published topless photos of Prince Williams's wife, Catherine, have been fined the equivalent of $2,600. Not a big fine. A French judge also ordered "Closer," a -- the magazine, the name of the magazine, not to republish the photos or put them online and to hand over the originals within 24 hours.
The royals, who are on tour in the South Pacific, say they welcome the decision, to say the least.
A secret recording of Mitt Romney making disparaging remarks about Obama supporters behind closed doors, and now we're learning more about how it was leaked. It turns out a man with a very famous name played a key role. CNN's Anderson Cooper talked with him. James Carter IV, the son of former President Jimmy Carter.
Anderson, what'd he tell you?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: He's actually the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, we should point out.
It was really interesting. He says, basically, he's an opposition researcher. He's a Democrat; he admits he's a partisan Democrat. He wants to see President Barack Obama re-elected. He says he's not being paid by anybody currently. He's actually looking for a job and is hoping all the attention on this may actually get him a job.
But he basically says he was looking at YouTube, like he does every day, searching under Mitt Romney's name, searching under various different search engines, and came -- months ago came across a small clip that the person who took this video had actually posted on YouTube. It was a clip concerning a factory in China that a Bain affiliate may have invested in.
He then started to tweet out that link to the YouTube video. The person who posted the YouTube video, according to James Carter, started following him on his Twitter, and then he began making direct contact with this person.
He says he's never met the person who took this video. He did indicate the person is a man, but he didn't want to say anything more about the motivations of the person who took the video or how they got to be in that room of donors of Mitt Romney months ago, in order to take the video.
I also asked him whether there was a personal element to his desire to see this video get out there, given all the negative rhetoric that the Romney campaign has been directing toward his grandfather, Jimmy Carter. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Your grandfather is former president Jimmy Carter. Is part of your motivation personal, angered over how the Romney campaign has characterized your grandfather as president?
JAMES CARTER IV, OPPOSITION RESEARCHER: No, that wasn't part of my motivation. I was actually doing this before they started, before they started along that line of attack. But I do have to say that that definitely increases the satisfaction that I've gained from this story, being as big as it has turned out to be.
COOPER: How so?
CARTER: Well, it -- a lot of my Twitter followers have been saying that this is, it's poetic justice, that a Carter was the one that had helped to get out this video that's given the Romney campaign so much trouble. And I agree with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He says he didn't tell his grandfather in advance about the video, but once the story broke, he sent it to his grandfather, as he does to all his relatives, with all the work he does, and his grandfather e-mailed him back, basically saying, great job.
Back to you. BOLDUAN: One of the big questions is the legal ramifications of -- of this video getting out and how it was recorded and how it was released. Did you get anything on that?
COOPER: You know, he doesn't really -- I mean, he does not know -- he's never met this person. So he basically was kind of the middle man. He basically then passed it on to an editor over at "Mother Jones," who he had worked with previously.
So he didn't actually even see the full video until it was released publicly, he says. He had just seen that initial clip, and in his -- he's never even talked on the phone, he says, to the person who took the video.
BOLDUAN: Pretty amazing. And amazing how social media has just changed the political landscape.
Anderson Cooper, thank you so much. Much more on that interview and much more coming up on "AC 360" tonight. We will be sure to watch, for sure.
Also coming up, a plane under threat and a pilot demanding answers. Listen.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the captain of this airliner. And I need information pronto.
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BOLDUAN: We have details of the drastic action the pilot threatened to take, coming up.
BOLDUAN: A man who knows a thing or two about politicians and secret recordings just happens to be on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" tonight. Erin joining us now. Erin, tell us more.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Kate. We're going to be joined by Bob Woodward, obviously, a man who has covered every presidential election and all the intrigue that goes with it and in between those elections since President Nixon. He's going to be our special guest tonight, as we talk about whether this incident with Mitt Romney is going to end up being what ends his campaign or rejuvenates it.
An interesting poll out late today, saying that the president's rating on foreign policy among independents actually has plunged since the attacks on Egypt and Libya. And Mitt Romney, who was widely criticized for his criticism of the president during that incident, actually, right now on the poll of polls nationally, is back to a one- point spread with the president, one point behind. So is he done or is he about to rise? That's going to be our key story tonight. Plus, we're also going to talk about some new threats from al Qaeda tonight. Al Qaeda has said that there should be attacks on ambassadors and envoys across the Middle East. We're going to get to the bottom of that and why al Qaeda, far from being on the run, seems to be rising.
Back to you.
BOLDUAN: A lot to digest. Lots to talk about. Erin Burnett, sounds like a great show tonight. We'll see you at the top of the hour. Thank you.
JOHNS: We're now learning the pilot of an American Airlines jet was just seconds from ordering his plane evacuated at New York's Kennedy Airport during what turned out to be a fake threat.
CNN's Sandra Endo is here with details of some tense exchanges between the cockpit and control tower center.
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Joe, really dramatic stuff here. Because when you listen to the cockpit voice recordings, you can tell the pilot didn't like being left in the dark as to why his plane was being directed to wait as emergency personnel started surrounding his plane.
ENDO (voice-over): Confusion and frustration, moments after two passenger jets landed at JFK Airport.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're surrounded by emergency vehicles. There's a reason for this. Somebody has got to give us the reason or we're going to evacuate the aircraft. You've got 60 seconds.
ENDO: For about ten tense minutes, pilots demanded answers from the control tower after an American Airlines and a Finn Air flight were ordered to taxi to a remote area of the airport for inspection.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the captain of this airliner, and I need some information pronto.
ENDO: Transportation Security administration officials say an anonymous caller said there was a security threat on board these two jets coming into New York.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pilot came on, and told us, you know, we've got no information but he says, "We're being held for a possible phone-in threat."
ENDO: When situations like this happen, flight safety experts say ultimately the pilot can decide when to evacuate a plane but relies on information from the ground.
(ON CAMERA) What's the protocol of communication between the control tower and the pilot on board a plane in that situation where there could be a possible threat?
KEVIN HIATT, FLIGHT SAFETY FOUNDATION: Well, the protocol is that you want to keep the lines of communication open. You want to be talking openly to them, exchanging information back and forth as to what the situation is on the airplane, and what the situation is from the tower in terms of what information they can pass along to me, when I'm sitting in my airplane.
ENDO (voice-over): But sometimes the information flow may not be as fast as some pilots would like.
HIATT: The tower is actually acting as a go-between from the authorities, which in this particular case could have been someone from the TSA. It could have been someone from the New York Port Authority. Somewhere, they were getting information, even the FAA, and they were just becoming the vehicle of moving that information from one place to another.
ENDO: The FAA would not elaborate on security procedures or communication. And officials would not further characterize the threats. But in the end, after a 90-minute check of the planes, authorities said the threat turned out to be a hoax.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone kept calm, and it was good.
ENDO: Now, authorities routinely do security checks of planes when there's a possible threat, but here the issue is perhaps more about the communication between the pilot and controllers on the ground.
JOHNS: Lack of communication is the thing. And in a tense situation like that, when you have to make a split-second decision, sort of happens with us in this business, too.
ENDO: No, never.
JOHNS: But not to that degree.
BOLDUAN: Not with so many lives at stake. Exactly. Sandra, thank you so much.
Still coming up, a Pakistani protester dies after inhaling smoke from a burning American flag. What is going on with that? Jeanne Moos has it next.
BOLDUAN: Killer fumes from a burning American flag. CNN's Jeanne Moos casts a skeptical eye on a viral story.
(CHANTING) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It sounded as if someone was just blowing smoke. Anti-American protests in Pakistan over the weekend sparked a story that stunned even the "FOX and Friends" co-hosts into momentary silence.
BRIAN KILMEADE, CO-HOST, FNC'S "FOX & FRIENDS": Call me callous, but a Pakistani burned our flag and inhaled all the fumes from our flag and died.
GRETCHEN CARLSON, CO-HOST, FNC'S "FOX & FRIENDS": Really?
STEVE DOOCY, CO-HOST, FNC'S "FOX & FRIENDS": Whoa!
KILMEADE: I'm just saying that you get what's coming to you.
MOOS: Or, as the "New York Post" put it, "Old Glory Strikes Back, an apparent case of red, white and blue revenge."
On right-leaning Web sites, comments ranged from "ha ha" to "boo- hoo" to "no virgins for you." One blog called it "the feel-good story of the day." The word that kept coming up was "karma." One poster just transcribed the lyrics to Lennon's "Instant Karma."
JOHN LENNON, MUSICIAN (singing): Instant karma's gonna get you. Gonna knock you right on the head. You better get yourself together. Pretty soon you're gonna be dead.
MOOS: But something kept knocking us on the head.
(on camera) Wait a minute. This can't be true. You can't die from inhaling the smoke of an American flag burning outdoors.
(voice-over) Every story on the subject led back to just two lines in Pakistan's "Express Tribune": "One of the participants of the rally, Abdullah Ismail passed away after he was taken to Mayo Hospital." Witnesses said he had complained of feeling unwell from the smoke from U.S. flags burnt at the rally.
But when we got hold of the head of Mayo Hospital, Dr. Zawi Pervase (ph), told us he was at the hospital that day, and as far as he knows...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via phone): No such incident took place on Sunday.
MOOS (on camera): We couldn't find any officials who'd heard of anyone dying from inhaling burning flag smoke, not Lahore's police chief, not the city's rescue services.
(voice-over) Maybe someone with a medical condition did pass away after attending the protest, but you can't pin it on the stars and stripes, unless you want to be asked, "What are you smoking?"
DOOCY: Are you sure?
KILMEADE: Yes. CARLSON: I'm scared to ask where you read that.
MOOS: He got burned by the flag smoke story or, as "The National Online" put it...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): What so proudly we hailed...
MOOS: ... "What so proudly we inhaled."
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BOLDUAN: I do not know how to react to that story.
JOHNS: How do stories like that get started in the first place? You've got to wonder.
BOLDUAN: Welcome to the Internet. You can't believe everything you read. Shocker.
That's going to do it for us tonight. I'm Kate Bolduan, along with Joe Johns. Great to be with you, Joe.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.