Return to Transcripts main page


Fired Up, Punching Away; Tainted Drug Linked To Meningitis; 47 Percent Remark; Ransomware; Debate Moderator; Face of Politics Changing

Aired October 5, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Obama 2.0 smiling, laughing, energized -- the president's dramatic turnaround from his lackluster debate performance.

Mitt Romney is now admitting his controversial remark about those 47 percent. He now says that was 100 percent wrong.

And the latest computer scam, hackers holding your vital data for ransom.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: The Obama supporters who turned out to see the president in Cleveland today may have wondered where was this guy on Wednesday night. Today, the president was all fired up. He was punching away at his rival, Mitt Romney. And that was a stark contrast to his rather tepid showing in the first presidential debate.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is in Cleveland traveling with the president. Saw a very different president once again today as opposed to the debate, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We really did. And not only here in Ohio where the president spoke during a heavy downpour, but on an earlier stop as well in Virginia. The campaign says that this is a deliberate attempt to counter some of what they believe were false claims made during the debate.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): This is the president that most people agree didn't show up on debate night, animated, forceful, and taking shots at his GOP opponent.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Romney said he'd get rid of Planned Parenthood funding. Apparently, this along with Big Bird who's driving the deficits.

LOTHIAN: Campaign rallies and presidential debates are two completely different events, but the contrast in body language and policy sales pitch is hard to overlook. Zingers are back.

OBAMA: Now, my opponent, you know, has been trying to do a two-step and reposition and got an extreme makeover. Governor Romney was fact checked by his own campaign.

LOTHIAN: And so is talk about Governor Romney's 47 percent fundraiser which never came up at the debate.

OBAMA: We've always said that real change takes time. It certainly can happen if you're willing to write off half the nation before you even take office.

LOTHIAN: Democrats and other supporters argue that while the president may have lost the debate on performance --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No question about it. I think he was listless.

LOTHIAN: He won on substance, but his GOP opponent campaigning in Virginia begs to differ.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I got a chance to ask the president some questions I think people across the country wanted to ask the president. I got the chance to ask him why does the middle class is so buried in this country. Incomes have gone down. Prices of gasoline have doubled.

LOTHIAN: Either way, the post debate president appears to have emerged with new intensity and the campaign admits they'll be using a different playbook for the next face-to-face encounter with Governor Romney.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: What could the president have done differently? You know, we'll of course recalibrate and recalculate based on the Mitt Romney that showed up.


LOTHIAN (on-camera): Now, back to that 47 percent fundraising comment, Mitt Romney now says that that was completely wrong. But the president, as he was wrapping up his comments here in Ohio today, took one more shot saying that he wants to be president of all Americans, and he singled out independents, Republicans and the tea party -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is he going to be doing more practicing leading up to the next debate? Have we got any inside word on that yet, Dan?

LOTHIAN: He will, and there will be more of those boot camps that we saw leading up to the first debate. But, as you know, Wolf, they did not give us a lot of details how that all worked, what was going on behind the scenes. But I think it's safe to say that their approach going into the next debate will be much more aggressive. BLITZER: It should be. All right. Thanks very much, Dan, for that.

And an unemployment surprise that could impact the race for the White House. The labor department reporting today that the jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent last month. That's the lowest level since President Obama took office and hiring was stronger than originally reported throughout the summer.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is joining us now. John, take us inside these new numbers.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, no question that the headline, the lower rate, some job growth last month encouraging for the president as we get close to the election. There's a lot of data that makes you suggest this is still a tough recovery, but look at this. This is the United States unemployment rate during the Obama presidency, and you see now when you track it all out, up above 10 percent at one point.

We are now at exactly at the same point we were when the president took office. So, that's encouraging for the White House. Of course, they wish it were lower, but it's below eight percent. That is something the president has talked about. It's something Governor Romney has talked about for some time. (INAUDIBLE).

So, that's the national situation. One more report just before the election, but the rate now has dipped just below eight percent. Now, that's nationally. Of course, we pick presidents state by state. So, let's come over here and look at what we want to watch for next is new data from the states, especially the battleground states, because in some of the key battleground states, the rate has gone down and that has helped the president.

Still high, this above the national average in Florida, 5.5 percent in Iowa, 7.2 percent in Ohio. You see Virginia and Wisconsin, but in all of these states, the rate has dropped during the Obama presidency. Not a coincidence, Wolf, that in all of these states the president has had, we'll see the new post debate polls, but before the debate, the president was leading at least by little in each of those states.

But there are other battleground states as well. And in those states we'll want to see the state numbers two. Again, the Obama campaign will celebrate this new national number, but here's the key question heading into the battleground states, to people in Colorado where the race has gone up, in Nevada where the race has gone up, essentially flat in New Hampshire and North Carolina, how does this new national number? No question, good for the president play out in those key states?

BLITZER: Good point, John. Both candidates obviously reacting to the jobs report today. Governor Romney saying this isn't a real recovery, quote, "Not a real recovery. We need more job growth." That's what he says. The president says it's a reminder that the country has come very far so far and he's not going to be turning back. So, who's right? KING: Again, it depends on your perspective. The job growth is not as robust as either candidate would like. You need essentially 150,000, some economists say close to 200,000 jobs a month, to keep a flat line and begin to turn the rate down more. But let's take a look at some of the other data on this.

If you look at this, here's job creation. Remember, this is the end of the Bush administration, early Obama administration, the economy was bleeding jobs, 800,000 jobs a month at one point. Then, you had a little spurt of growth, back down again. But, this is what the president says, no, it's not as robust as I would like, but look at this.

Look at this. Look at this. Look at this. Look at this. Since 2010, the economy has been adding jobs including 114,000 in September. That's what the president would say. Governor Romney says that's not enough and that with less regulation, lower taxes, other pro-business incentives, you could create more.

Here's what happened last month, health care jobs up, transportation jobs up. This one, Wolf, in a report that's largely encouraging for the president, this one is a bit discouraging, manufacturing jobs are down. And if you look at the history of manufacturing in the Obama presidency, again, you have the huge drop early on and a bit of a recovery since.

But manufacturing jobs are still down from the beginning of the Obama presidency, and just let me walk back over to this map for just a second, because that does matter in places like, you know, the battleground states as well as anyone. Ohio's a big battleground, Iowa's a battleground, Wisconsin's a battleground.

In this Midwestern industrial states where manufacturing has taken a hit, again, the good national number may not be received quite as well there when they see manufacturing is again bleeding jobs.

BLITZER: We're going to be getting one more jobs report before the election. It happens to be the Friday before November 6th. What do you think? Do you think this last unemployment rate could have a significant impact on voters?

KING: If there's a big swing one way or the other. Most top strategists, top pollsters will tell you voters about by now if not even a couple of weeks ago have made their psychological decision about their own personal take on the economy. Is it getting better? Is the president responsible for anything good? Responsible for anything bad?

If the rate were to drop significantly or the job growth were to drop dramatically, then of course, if (INAUDIBLE) could have a last-minute impact on that small group of undecided. Most smart polls will tell you people are starting to settle in on what they think about the economy and about these candidates by now.

BLITZER: And a lot more people are voting early now than ever before. So, their decisions will be made up before that final report comes out. John, thanks very much.

There's more to the jobs numbers than actually meets the eye. Some of the president's critics now saying much, much more. They are alleging that the figures were potentially manipulated for political gain to help the president.

Lisa Sylvester's been looking into these charges for us. Tell our viewers how this works and what's going on.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know the first Friday of every month, everyone waits for the jobs report to come out. And there are actually two things that people will focus on, the jobs number. That is how many jobs were added in the last month and the unemployment rate number. But here's what you may not know. Those two are actually based on two separate surveys and there are often disparities between the two.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): The labor department has a bureau that every month asks 400,000 businesses and all kinds of fields from retail to manufacturing to hotel services. From all around the country, how many people are on your payroll? That number is reported as the payroll survey on the first Friday of every month.

That's what we usually call the jobs number. In September, 114,000 payroll jobs were added. But there is another survey also done, this one, from the census bureau. About 60,000 households are phoned every month and asked among other things, are you working. In September, a whopping 873,000 more people reported working than the month before.

That's a big number. And that household report pushed the unemployment rate down from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent. That's a strong jobs showing. Good news for the White House. But some nay sayers are wondering if it's too good to be true.

Jack Welch, General Electric's former CEO tweeting this, quote, "Unbelievable jobs numbers. These Chicago guys will do anything. Can't debate, so change numbers." And the group, Americans for Limited Government, has suggested maybe someone tinkered with the numbers.

RICK MANNING, AMERICANS FOR LIMITED GOVERNMENT: Very convenient timing for the president. If he mapped it out to be able to have it, this would be when you'd want to have it. You know, he's facing 43 straight months of eight percent plus unemployment, the longest time in the history since the great depression. And now, to be able to break that streak with this report is convenient.

SYLVESTER: But that's simply not the case. First, the labor department and the Bureau of Labor Statistics scoff at any notion that someone manipulated the jobs report.

TOM NARDONE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS: It's collected by about 2,000 interviewers who are all, federal employees career federal employees. And so, you'd have to imagine that the people who participate in the survey, and they do this voluntarily, are for some reason trying to manipulate things where somehow you've gotten 2,000 federal employees to go along with something.

SYLVESTER: And it's not unusual for the two surveys, one based on asking companies and the other based on asking individuals to have wide disparities. Why? The household number that shows a gain of 873,000 new workers includes all kinds of workers, including self- employed and certain agriculture workers.

And it's based on a much smaller sample than the survey of businesses. Keith hall is a former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He says the numbers can vary widely.

KEITH HALL, FORMER COMMISSIONER, BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS: I understand people's frustrations and suspicion when the unemployment rate goes downright before an election. But in reality, all the federal statistical agencies, including the Bureau of Labor statistics, they're independent agencies. They have a long tradition of being very professional and very nonpolitical.

SYLVESTER: To change the report, well, that would be a crime and also very difficult to do. The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, calls the whole notion outrageous.

LAWRENCE MISHEL, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: The notion that BLS is manipulating these numbers for political reasons is outrageous and totally implausible.


SYLVESTER: One thing we did see was the big jump in employed workers. Well, a number of them are actually part-time workers. Now, you can debate based on that, is the economy really turning around? But you certainly can't dispute the raw number that shows the unemployment rate came down to 7.8 percent, Wolf.

BLITZER: OK. Don't blame the messenger. The bureau of Labor Statistics, these are career statisticians. They know what they're doing. They are really, really above way beyond politics.

SYLVESTER: Yes. And Wolf, I got to tell you. I actually have been in those lockouts, you know, when they come out -- when they put those numbers out, and it is -- it's very hard to even imagine a scenario where some information could have been leaked out.

They would have had to have gotten the numbers first and then changed the numbers. It's just so hard to even imagine that because they take those lockups very, very seriously.

BLITZER: These are career civil servants. They're not political appointees.

SYLVESTER: That's right.

BLITZER: So, it's a pretty outrageous terms. Thanks very much. A major increase in the number of cases of people who've come down with meningitis from a tainted batch of steroids. We're going to go to one clinic that gave out hundreds of injections. Our own Brian Todd is on the scene.

And Jim Lehrer answering his critics of his performance as the moderator of the first presidential debate. What he told CNN's Howard Kurtz. Standby.


BLITZER: There's a big jump in the number of meningitis cases from tainted medication. Five people already have died. Now, 47 people in seven states have come down with the disease after being injected with contaminated steroids. But 17,000 vials of that steroid have been shipped to doctors offices in half the country, including Maryland.

That's where CNN's Brian Todd is right now. Brian, what's going on where you are?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here in Maryland, there have been two confirmed cases of fungal meningitis related to a contaminated steroid, a steroid contaminated with fungus that was injected into patients for back pain. One person in this state has died, but this is an outbreak that is growing across the country.


TODD (voice-over): Just a week after getting a steroid injection she thought would help her, Janet Russell is in intensive care at a Tennessee hospital. That tainted injection might well have given her meningitis. Her family is more than just concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, we're just worried sick is the main thing.

TRACY BARREIRO, JANET RUSSELL'S DAUGHTER: This doesn't happen in America. I mean, this doesn't -- I mean, I hope that doesn't sound -- but you're just thinking, this is something that it's not even real.

TODD: Their mom's one of more than two dozen people in Tennessee and dozens more in at least seven states believed to be victims of an outbreak of fungal meningitis from bad steroids. Some have died. Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.

Health officials believe the victims in this case got it from a tainted batch of this steroid injected, methylprednisolone acetate, injected into the spinal column to treat back pain. In Maryland, a state where hundreds of people could have been exposed, we went to clinics known to have received shipments of the steroid. At the surge center in Bel Air, at least six people got injections.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ones we've talked to have all been fine. Hopefully, they'll continue to be fine. They say the symptoms could take a while to show up. TODD: But other clinics here could have a bigger problem.

(on-camera) An administrator at the Green Spring Surgery Center in this building in Baltimore did not want to go on camera with us but did tell us that they had 300 patients who got injections of that drug. The administrators said that they are working with federal and local officials to investigate the case.

They have contacted all 300 of those patients, the ones who have had mild symptoms, he says, they have urged to get checked. The administrator says they have no confirmed cases of meningitis for people from this facility who got the drug. He did say that they are disappointed in the drug manufacturer and that that manufacturer put patients at risk.

(voice-over) The manufacturer is the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts. In a statement to CNN, the company says it has recalled that steroid, is working with health officials in the investigation, and has shut down temporarily.

Quote, "The thoughts and prayers of everyone employed by the NECC are with those who have been affected." As for this form of meningitis --

(on-camera) How dangerous is this? Is this very contagious?

DR. LUCY WILSON, MARYLAND DEPT. OF HEALTH & MENTAL HYGIENE: So, this type of meningitis is not believed to be transmissible from person to person. So, we're really reaching out to people who have been exposed to the contaminated product and those of the people who should be looking for symptoms and signs of meningitis.


TODD: And those symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, stiff necks and unlike patients who have other forms of meningitis, they can even get small strokes. Officials here and elsewhere trying to get the word out to as many people who could have taken this steroid. They are very concerned that this outbreak could grow very significantly in the days ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do they know, Brian, how these doses got tainted?

TODD: You know, Wolf, they really do not know at this point. And one of the key reasons that they don't know is that they can't even identify the fungus right now. That's going to be one of the first things that they'll try to identify. And then, they'll try to get at the causes. But right now, they're just trying to identify what that fungus is.

BLITZER: Brian Todd in Baltimore for us. Thanks very much.

American Airlines has an explanation for seats suddenly coming loose. And it may have something to do with you, the passenger. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Protests breaking out in Jordan. Lisa Sylvester is back. She's monitoring that and some of the other stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's happening?

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf. Well, thousands of demonstrators gathered in downtown peacefully (ph) demanding political change. This comes less than a day after King Abdullah II dissolved the country's parliament and called for early elections near the end of the year.

Many people believe the country's economy is hurting, and unemployment is too high. Protesters say the king has made some changes but hasn't done enough.

And American Airlines now says the reason some of its seats have been coming loose may be because of its travelers. According to a company spokeswoman, passengers spilling soda and coffee have, quote, "gunked up the seat locking mechanism over time." Initially, the airline said it appeared a clamp had been improperly installed. This on at least three American Airlines flight have come loose in recent days.

And a major peanut butter recall announced a couple of weeks ago is now expanding. According to the FDA, it now includes products manufactured by Sunland Incorporated dating as far back as 2010. Health officials have established a firm link to a salmonella outbreak. The CDC reports the number of people sickened has jumped from 30 to 35 in the last week.

And we all know this, you know, golf is tough enough as it is. But when you take away the ball, there's not much you can do. And that's what happened to Paul Casey whose tournament was interrupted when a dog ran on to the green then raced off with his ball. Hate it when that happens. Luckily, a spectator was able to retrieve it and the game went on. Give that ball back.

BLITZER: Can't they just replace the ball?

SYLVESTER: You know what, you would think so, but maybe it's a lucky ball or something. But they got it back. And the game continued on probably a little slobbery, but --

BLITZER: Do you play golf?

SYLVESTER: I don't. I'm not a golfer. What about you?

BLITZER: No. Too young.



BLITZER: Some day. Maybe, one of these days.

SYLVESTER: That's right. One of these days, right?

BLITZER: Mitt Romney walking back his infamous 47 percent remarks now calling them 100 percent wrong. But is it a gamble on the heels of such a big debate win? We'll discuss.


BLITZER: For weeks, Mitt Romney has been getting a lot of slack for those now infamous 47 percent remarks. But it's not until now that he's actually saying they were flat out wrong. Listen to the original comments he made at a closed door fundraising dinner in May in Boca Raton, Florida, and how his response has evolved in the days and weeks since they first surfaced.


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 on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, food, housing, you name it.

You know what, it's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I'm speaking off the cuff in response to a question. The president's approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes because, frankly, my discussion about lowering taxes isn't as attractive to them.

I recognize that those people who are not paying income tax are going to say, gosh, this provision that Mitt keeps talking about lowering income taxes, that's not going to be real attractive to them. And those that are dependent upon government and those that think government's job is to redistribute, I'm not going to get them.

The question in this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class. I do. He does. The question is, who can help the poor and the middle class? I can. He can't. He's proven it in four years.

In this case, I've said something that's just completely wrong. And, I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent. And that's been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent.


BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss what we just heard in our "Strategy Session"; joining us our CNN political contributor Roland Martin and Republican strategist Mary Matalin. Mary, I remember the day after you came on strongly defended Mitt Romney when those remarks were released by "Mother Jones" magazine. How do you feel now that you see he's backed away from them completely?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He's backed away from the complete and utter and despicable distortion of his clear meaning. It does not -- the distortion is that he doesn't care about people which does not comport with his personal life. He gives 20 to 30 percent of his -- annually to charity. And in Massachusetts he balanced the budget, provided a surplus, which it resulted in an explosion of jobs. So to say he doesn't care or he doesn't want to get this economy growing, it's a tentative conservatism. It's a tenant, the main tenant of his -- of his policies that these 23 million people are still out of work. And one out of every six Americans is in poverty, it is not kind, it is not compassionate to keep those people in poverty, to keep this economy growing at 1.3 percent. That's what he was saying. That's what he meant. And it's been distorted to say he doesn't care. And I'm still -- defend him to the end about what he really meant.

BLITZER: It may be what he meant, but he does say -- and I'll bring Roland in, in a moment, but what he actually said last night to Sean Hannity was the way the words came out of his mouth, not the way they were interpreted, but the words that actually came out of his mouth he said were completely wrong. He basically apologized for what he said. He said he had given a thousand speeches, thousands of interviews. In this particular case what he said was completely wrong. He wasn't blaming the interpretation.

MATALIN: Roland, may I? What he did --

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No actually the question was for you. It wasn't for me.

MATALIN: Oh, OK. You would have to be a distortionist or ignoramus to not understand what he was saying. He was conflating the political fact that Obama consistently gets 47 percent in the polls. And he conflated that with the philosophical fact about is it better for people to be taxpayers or to be -- have government depending on -- to depend on government. It would have to be distorted. If he conflated those two things and you didn't understand what he was saying and that was a room full of people who clearly understood what he was saying, the reason the president has to keep talking about this is because he cannot run on his record where 23 million people cannot get jobs, where one out of six people live in poverty, where the cost of everything is going up from health care premiums that he promised would go down to energy. And the value of life savings has been depleted. The Obama recovery is worse than the Bush recession. Median incomes have declined at twice the rate in the --


BLITZER: All right go ahead Roland --

MATALIN: -- in the Obama recovery.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, the reason you hear Mary having to struggle to explain what we know exactly what Mitt Romney said is because she's trying to get away from what he actually said. The fact that he had to sit there and say I was wrong is an admission that he has been hurt by those particular comments. Now, we can sit here and try to, oh, let me explain or interpret what he said. I heard him very clearly. I think Mitt Romney is very smart. He's very clear. He mixed nothing up. And the reason he had to apologize is because he knew it has been hurting him.

He knew it hurt his campaign. And the bottom line is there are many people who are supporters of his who are in that 47 percent. So I say, Mary, no need to have to explain Mitt Romney away. There's (INAUDIBLE) call the wobble and that's what you're doing right now. Just say, Mitt, you screwed up.

MATALIN: No, Roland. I'm not going to say that.

MARTIN: He did. OK --

MATALIN: I'm going to say that you would have to be either hate Romney or be an ignoramus --

MARTIN: I don't hate him.

MATALIN: -- to think that he was including Social Security recipients or Medicare recipients or veterans in there. Those are insurance -- forced insurance programs by the government. It's our money that they're supposed to be returning to us for our retirement securities --

MARTIN: So this smart guy --

MATALIN: That he was not including that.

MARTIN: So this smart guy --

MATALIN: How about your guy is so smart you didn't build it --


MARTIN: Hold on one second, one second --


MATALIN: The private economy is doing fine.

MARTIN: Mary, Mary, Mary, here's the deal. I don't jump these boxes back and forth. The president is also your president. He is all of our president. The bottom line is here, if I'm listening to a guy who ran Bain Capital who is extremely smart and who can run the numbers, who is very articulate, who can break these issues down, I take him at his word. When I watched that video it was all clarity. The bottom line is he was wrong. Here's the deal, Mary. He said it himself. So you don't have to no longer explain it because he gave you an out. He admitted he was wrong. So no need to go back to trying to oh, let me fix it all up. No need. He messed up. He screwed up.

BLITZER: All right. I think we've exhausted this part of the conversation, but a quick question, Roland, to you. Why didn't the president of the United States in the debate bring up the 47 percent comment? Because if he would have, I suspect Mitt Romney would have said that night what he said to Sean Hannity last night, that it was a screw-up, he shouldn't have said it. He was completely wrong and if he would have said that in the debate, that would have changed so much of the coverage, so much of the analysis, the fallout from that --

MARTIN: Got me. Look, I don't know why the president didn't ask Mitt Romney why the Republicans in the Senate blocked the veteran's bill providing jobs for veterans when they have extremely high unemployment rate as well. There's a whole bunch of stuff the president frankly didn't bring up and so I don't know why he didn't bring that up. I guess they chose not to do so. I think it was a mistake. I also think it was a mistake that neither candidate had a substantive conversation about poverty in this country and about what has happened to people who are in -- who are middle class who don't want to be in poverty but who recognize that with the tough economy when losing those 3.47 million jobs between July of 2008 and the inauguration it still has had an impact on our economy. So we can say a whole bunch of stuff should have been brought up. So I don't know why, but it sure had been brought up --


MARTIN: He didn't. Mitt has apologized, so we'll see what's next.

BLITZER: Mary, one quick response from you. What if Mitt Romney would have said during the debate what he said to Sean Hannity last night? What would have been the fallout for him saying he was completely wrong in talking about the 47 percent the way he did?

MATALIN: The articulation of conflating a political number with the policy prescription to get people off of the dependence on the government into the job market is completely -- it completely comports with his philosophy, with the growth economy. It is this president who doesn't care about people --

MARTIN: Oh, yes, he does. Mary, stop.

MATALIN: -- or he would have focused on jobs instead of health care for two years --

MARTIN: Oh, Mary, he does. He cares about the people who don't have health care. He cares about the people --

MATALIN: Really?

MARTIN: -- who have pre-existing conditions. He cares about the people, Mary, who are sitting there having to go to the emergency rooms because they don't have health care, so please stop with he doesn't care. The fact of the matter he does. You simply disagree with him on some policies, but he does care.

MATALIN: No, on all policies.

BLITZER: All right.


MATALIN: This is the worst recovery in the history of this country.

MARTIN: On all of them -- on all of them?

BLITZER: All right --


MATALIN: On the economic policies, yes --

MARTIN: But Mary, I'm sorry -- I'm sorry your former boss left it that way and he's a fellow Texan, but unfortunately he did.

BLITZER: Mary --

MARTIN: It was screwed up when he walked in.

BLITZER: -- and Roland, unfortunately we're up against the clock. We've got to leave it right there --

MARTIN: Appreciate it, Wolf.

BLITZER: But both of you will be back. We'll continue this conversation down the road.

MARTIN: Any time.

BLITZER: Thank you. Valuable data held hostage by hackers. Details of the latest computer scam, ransomware (ph).


BLITZER: It's like a digital form of kidnapping. Your computer data held for ransom by hackers using a sophisticated new scam known as ransomware (ph). CNN Silicon Valley correspondent Dan Simon is looking into it for us.



DAN SIMON, CNN SILICON VALLEY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Steve Merrifield (ph) owns a high-end sporting goods shop. After 27 years in business, he'd been preparing to sell it.


SIMON: All the records for potential buyers stored on his computer server. So Merrifield (ph) was more than concerned when he realized all his data had been frozen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last words I remember is, this is not good. This is not good.

SIMON: It turned out hackers had taken control of his machine and flashed a message. For $3,000 Merrifield (ph) could have his data back. But it didn't stop there. He'd have to fork over an additional $1,000 for each week he didn't comply. He'd become a victim of what's being called ransomware (ph).

(on camera): Had you ever heard the term ransomware (ph) before?

STEVE MERRIFIELD, DEMO SPORT: No, no, and I can say that it's, you know, appropriately named. You feel victimized. You feel helpless.

SIMON (voice-over): Ransomware (ph) is becoming so pervasive that it prompted the FBI to put out a warning. The bureau says it's getting dozens of complaints each day.

BRUCE SNELL, MCAFEE SECURITY: It's one of the more destructive pieces of malware because you know they'll encrypt those files and if you don't pay, they can just delete them.

SIMON: Bruce Snell of the computer security firm McAfee says the hackers use such sophisticated methods that it's virtually impossible to recover your data. It is believed most are operating overseas, so tracking them down has become futile as well. One reason some apparently fall for the scam is the messages look like they're from the government accusing users of things like child pornography.

SNELL: It frightens people and kind of preys on their fear.

MERRIFIELD: In retrospect, the amount of grief that this will cause us would have been well worth the ransom, but that wasn't the approach we took.


SIMON: Steve Merrifield never did pay the ransom. Nor did he get his data back even after taking his computer to some of the best experts in the industry.

MERRIFIELD: After 10 days of diligence, they regret to inform me that this they cannot recover the data. This has been unique --


SIMON: Well, it's believed that some of these hackers are making 50 to $60,000 a day by targeting certain countries. Wolf, the FBI says under no circumstances should you give these hackers any money even if you're in a desperate situation. It's always a good reminder of course to back up your data and be careful what you click on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's excellent advice, Dan. Thanks very, very much. The debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, is speaking out about the negative reviews of his performance Wednesday night. Up next, what he's now telling our own Howard Kurtz.


BLITZER: President Obama wasn't the only one to get some bad reviews for this week's debate performance. There were also some questions about the moderator, Jim Lehrer. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Romney, do you have a question that you would like to ask the president directly about something he just said --

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jim, the president began this segment, so I think I get the last word, so --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to get the first word in the next segment.

ROMNEY: But he gets the first word of that segment, I get the last word of --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's a specific --



ROMNEY: -- mention the other one, let's talk --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, let's not.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two minutes is up, sir.

OBAMA: No, I think I had five seconds before you interrupted me was --

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN DEPUTY MANAGER: I sometimes wondered if we even needed a moderator because we had Mitt Romney. We should rethink that for the next debate.


BLITZER: All right, joining us now two journalists from the Web site Lauren Ashburn is the site's founder. She's the editor and chief, also former managing editor "USA Today". Howie Kurtz is host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES", also the Washington bureau chief for "Newsweek" magazine. He said this in defending himself, Lauren, let me start with you.

He said -- this is Jim Lehrer -- "part of my moderator mission was to stay out of the way of the flow and I had no problems with doing so. My only real personal frustration was discovering that 90 minutes was not enough time in that more open format to cover every issue that deserved attention." Now, what do you think of all the criticism he's been getting?

LAUREN ASHBURN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, DAILY-DOWNLOAD.COM: Well, let's just talk about what was on Twitter, that let's not comment that he made was the most tweeted comment of the entire night through the entire 90 minutes. And I think that people were really looking to him to stop the Romney bulldozing. And he might not have done that as much as some people would have like.

BLITZER: Howie, what did you think?

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES": Well I talked to Jim Lehrer, and he told me that yes, he was frustrated at times that the candidates kept running through the stop signs and perhaps he could have done a tighter job of reigning in both the president and the former governor, but Jim Lehrer wanted this to be about the candidates and not about him. He said this was a new format in which the candidates weren't you know tightly restricted to 90-second responses to a 60-second answer, he wanted to let them go out and he wanted to let them make the case. He wanted them to challenge each other. There were times when I thought he could have jumped in with a follow- up and said, yes you said this six months ago. But he said he would do that on his PBS show as an interviewer, not as a moderator in a presidential debate.

ASHBURN: But I think he should have set that up if that was in --

KURTZ: Because the audience didn't know.

ASHBURN: Nobody knew that that's what he was doing. If that was the way he decided to change the debate, maybe at the top he could have said we're going to do something different and here's what it is. And I think that might have tempered some of the criticism.

BLITZER: I think what would have worked better if they were all sitting around a small roundtable all three of them instead of Jim Lehrer is so far below and these guys at podiums or whatever, it's hard to control a debate like that. At least when three people are sitting around a table, you can have a discussion. You can have an interchange and the moderator can use some body language. He can stop things. He can move along, but that's just my assessment. I want you to listen to what Candy Crowley -- she's going to be moderating the second presidential debate, our own Candy Crowley, what she said about some of this. Listen to this.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm not sure of the minutes. I mean in the end, this debate is, you know, brought to you by these candidates. And to me, it's better to hear from the candidates than to hear from the moderator. I think Jim is one of those that always is very intent on trying to get the two of them to talk to one another to kind of try explore those differences.


BLITZER: And that's his history. He goes way back I think to the '80s moderating these presidential debates. He didn't want to be -- this is -- I know Jim Lehrer -- this is the last thing he wanted to be part of this conversation. He didn't want to be obviously criticized, but it doesn't go in his nature. He wanted to let them debate, Lauren.

ASHBURN: Right and I think that maybe some of the criticism was misplaced. I also believe that (INAUDIBLE) the roll of social media now it's such that those one liners and zingers are what really drive the conversation now, so the let's not moment, I get five more seconds moment, "Big Bird" moment that happened are what people on Twitter and Facebook are talking about, and I think that because of that that's what the media cover and then that's what becomes the reality of what has happened. KURTZ: And that's where I'm disappointed in the media's performance, Wolf. You know it's political theater and of course the zingers and the body language and the president looking down is all part of the story, but it's our responsibility, and with some exceptions, I haven't seen enough of this, to deal with was Romney walking away or moving partially away from his tax plan or his -- saying he would repeal the Dodd-Frank banking law. Did the president exaggerate the number of jobs that he created? There have been some fact checks on CNN and elsewhere, but it seems to me the focus has been so much on the clash and the styles, and much less on what was to Lehrer's credit a very substantive debate.

BLITZER: You know the social media role is fascinating. I remember watching these debates before there was all the social media and especially the Twitter and you'd sit in a room -- there would be four or five people and you'd talk about it. You're hear what they think as the 90 minutes is going on. Now you're listening to the 90 minutes, but in the process you're reading all of these tweets coming in from other pundits out there, people that you're following or whatever, and you're hearing Bill Maher (ph) say this or somebody else say that and that obviously is going to have an impact on what the final result, Lauren, of what the pundits are going to be saying on television 90 minutes later. What you hear during the course of those 90 minutes, not just from a very small group of people in a room with you but now for maybe 1,000 people you're following.

ASHBURN: It becomes group think at that point. You used to talk about pack journalism, well this is sort of the equivalent, the mass market equivalent of that. And you know there were 10.3 million tweets in that 90 minutes. That was more, Wolf, than the entire Democratic National Convention, so not only is social media beginning to drive, but it is really taking off from this point.

KURTZ: And not only is it happening in real time, you don't have to wait for the networks now, polls after, but I think the comments that (INAUDIBLE) asking who won and who lost, there were a lot of tweets about Medicare, for example, when the candidates clashed on that, so you really get a real-time snapshot and people don't have to have a television station or a printing press. They have the megaphone of social media and I think that's a healthy thing.

ASHBURN: And the Google search terms. This was interesting -- the top Google search terms, Simpson-Bowles was one of them. I think people were using Google to get information. Everybody is now two- screening it or three-screening it --


ASHBURN: As you said, you're not just watching the debate.

BLITZER: That's the nature of the world right now. All right, guys, thanks very much. Howie is going to have a lot more on this coming up Sunday morning on "RELIABLE SOURCES", only here on CNN, 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Howie, we'll be watching. Thanks very much.

KURTZ: Thanks, Wolf. BLITZER: He is a viral sensation, but you may not know what this hip South Korean rapper has to do with U.S. politics. Guess what -- you're about to find out.


BLITZER: The face of politics is changing with a historic number of Asian-American candidates ready to come here to Washington, D.C. if, if they win in the November election. Here's CNN's Kyung Lah.





KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the 2012 race for U.S. Congress, there is something different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: I am Upendra Chivukula (ph).

LAH: The names and faces --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Takano (ph).

LAH: -- are like 41st Congressional District Democratic candidate Mark Takano (ph), Asian. This election year an historic number of Asian candidates are running for national office, 23 people in races across America.

MARK TAKANO (D), CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Maybe it was time that someone like me ran for Congress and that the times are right for someone like me to succeed.

LAH: A time when Asians are now America's fastest growing ethnic group, mirrored by growing public identity from basketball star Jeremy Lin --


LAH: -- to the stylings of Korean viral sensation Psy.


LAH: Experts say the growing profile of Asians in the U.S. naturally extends to political office.

GLORIA CHAN, ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN INST. FOR CONGRESSIONAL STUDIES: It's because of our population growth, our political maturity, the fact that we're running for office, and the fact that our voters will be a key swing vote this November.

LAH (on camera): Perhaps most revealing while the majority of the 23 candidates are Democrats, three are Republicans and a recent study out of California says a full one-third of Asian American voters are undecided, especially in the key swing states of Nevada and Virginia, an ethnic group that's still very much up for grabs.

CHAN: You ignore this community at your own peril if you're a candidate or a political party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm calling in support of Mark Takano (ph) for Congress.

LAH (voice-over): The National Democratic Party has brought in support to help Takano, a win here would mean a formally red district turns blue, a significant shift for this once conservative district that has this Asian and also openly gay candidate leading in at least one poll.

(on camera): Do you feel like you've really busted down some barriers this election, I mean two of them, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do. I do. I think that it will say a lot to the world about what kind of country America is.

LAH (voice-over): And a political system that moves closer to representing a changing America.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Riverside, California.