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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

How News Networks Handle Dissension; Zimmerman Signing Autographs for Money; Train Derailment in New Jersey; Simmons: President Should Give Back to Community

Aired November 30, 2012 - 08:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back everyone. Some top stories we're following this morning. The Supreme Court may decide as early as today it will tackle same sex marriage. The justices will consider a request to review cases that challenge DOMA, that's the Defense of Marriage Act, as a violation of the constitution's equal protection. DOMA only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Former president George H.W. Bush is in a Houston hospital this morning, being treated for bronchitis. He was admitted a week ago and is said to be stable. His office says the former president is expected to be released in the next couple of days. Mr. Bush is 88-years-old. He is the oldest living former president.

BERMAN: So turkey, chili, grilled chicken salad but no job offer. The White House releasing this sanitized photo of Mitt Romney and President Obama shaking hands during the luncheon meeting, former rivals promising to stay in touch after discussing ideas on how to keep America competitive.

BALDWIN: The United Nations General Assembly voting overwhelmingly to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority to nonmember state. Palestinians in the West Bank celebrated, but the U.S., Israel strongly disagree with this. They say Israelis and Palestinians need direct negotiations for a two-state solution.

BERMAN: Surveillance video may answer the $294 million question, who bought the winning ticket in Arizona?

BALDWIN: Watch this part.

BERMAN: The man you see in yellow right there, see? They think he's dancing because he won. He checked his ticket number, started freaking out. They say he told them he bought the ticket in Arizona.

BALDWIN: We kind of decided that the dance would be bigger if you were winning that much money, right?

BERMAN: Yes, a $290 million dance is more than that.

BALDWIN: More of a shuffle at a convenience store. Earlier this week Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tom Ricks appeared on FOX News to promote his new book called "The General," but he ended up making headlines for something entirely different when the interview was cut short of something like 90 seconds after he criticized the network's coverage of the Benghazi consulate attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON SCOTT, FOX NEWS HOST: Four people dead, including the first U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years, how do you call that hype?

TOM RICKS, AUTHOR: How many security contractors died in Iraq, do you know?

SCOTT: I don't.

RICKS: No. Nobody does, because nobody cared. I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political partly because FOX was operating as a wing of the Republican Party.

SCOTT: All right, Tom Ricks, thanks very much for join in joining us today.

RICKS: You're welcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So that was the end. The interview lasted less than 90 seconds, and it really started this dialogue on whether it's acceptable for news guests to criticize the network they're appearing on and how the host should respond. We have some very well-behaved guests, so far at least.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: We got our eyes on you.

BERMAN: Howard Kurtz, the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" and Washington bureau chief for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast", and Lauren Ashburn, "Daily Beast" contributor and editor-in-chief of "Daily Download." So what do you make of that?

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Apparently if you go on FOX News and have the temerity to criticize FOX News you get the hook, goodbye, thank you very much, adios amigo. The message that's been sent, has been a PR debacle for FOX, is that you get silenced because the criticism can't be tolerated.

LAUREN ASHBURN, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": But it's FOX's right to be able to do that. It's their air, Howie.

KURTZ: Nobody is disputing the right of a network to kick off anybody that they want.

ASHBURN: MSNBC did the exact same thing when Tamron Hall was attacked. KURTZ: She wasn't attacked. It was a question of a guest raising -- challenging the coverage.

BALDWIN: We have that clip.

KURTZ: Oh, we have that clip.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: Every time I go on, I don't believe a thing anyone says and they're all friends, but they let me criticize them all day.

BALDWIN: Let's watch MSNBC.

BERMAN: Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM CARNEY, REPORTER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": What you're doing here is a typical media trick. You hype up the story and then you justify the second day coverage of the story by saying, oh, well, people are talking about it. Here is how Romney responded to it.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC HOST: You don't have to answer a single question I ask you. Just the handling of questions beyond the economy, if you're not comfortable talking about that, I am A-OK, but you're not going to come on and insult me and insult the network when you knew what you were going to talk about. Done. But let me talk to Jimmy. I'm done. Yes, I am. Jimmy, let me go to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: She's on to Jimmy here.

BALDWIN: She's done. Next.

KURTZ: He didn't insult her. He challenged the network's coverage.

ASHBURN: She took it personally.

KURTZ: News organizations love to point fingers at everybody else. The guest comes on and challenges the premise, the setup, the way they're selling the story, and it's OK to get the boot.

RUSSELL SIMMONS, AUTHOR, "SUPER RICH": Two individuals, I don't believe that's the stance of either network. MSNBC has people on criticizing them all the time and FOX. That's my opinion.

ABBY HUNTSMAN, HOST, "HUFFPOST LIVE": Shouldn't that mean something? Shouldn't that mean that their guests can come on and disagree and point out facts that --

ASHBURN: Actually, they shouldn't be doing it because it is better for them. As Howie said, this is a PR debacle for them right now. If they had allowed it to happen it wouldn't be this big of a deal. On the other side of that, they're certainly getting a lot of publicity. BALDWIN: You talked to Tom Ricks, right? He is trying to sell a book. It worked. We're talking about it, right? Isn't this great shock value for him?

KURTZ: I'm not saying that Tom Ricks wasn't trying to be provocative. Obviously attention is good when you're an author peddling a book. What did he do? Questioned whether FOX News Channel is relentlessly hyping and framing as a scandal the administration's handling of Benghazi. Jon Scott, the anchor, FOX told me it's not his style to have that kind of back and forth, could have had a great debate and said, wait a second, the rest of the media are under-covering it.

(CROSSTALK)

ASHBURN: They don't know how to speak up and respond to criticism. I think if they're right wing journalists and that's their job and people know them for that and that's what the network has a reputation for, then when someone comes on and argues their points, they should be happy to do it. O'Reilly, I get in fights with him all the time and we don't even yell.

BERMAN: Let me read the FOX News response here. He writes, "When Mr. Ricks ignored the anchor's question, it became clear that the goal was to bring attention to himself and his book. He apologized in our office acid but doesn't have the strength of character to do that publicly."

KURTZ: By the way, Tom Ricks said he never apologized. There's a dispute over that. Why should FOX be able to just dismiss them?

ASHBURN: Why shouldn't they? Don't you think this is good for their ratings, too? A spirited debate might have been good for the ratings and for actually understanding an issue, but it's all theatrics at some point.

HUNTSMAN: Don't we give too much power to the networks to control this?

BERMAN: We have enormous power.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNTSMAN: Let's all bow down.

BERMAN: There is a different way of going about doing this. We at CNN -- I sit here with Soledad during the show every day and other great anchors here. They face criticism all the time and handle it vastly differently.

BALDWIN: You want to keep the conversation going, right? Even if someone starts getting frustrated with you.

BERMAN: Let's play this clip.

BALDWIN: We all know the clip.

BERMAN: With John Sununu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. JOHN SUNUNU, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: You should put an Obama sticker on your forehead when you do this.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, let me tell you something. There is independent analysis that details what this is about.

SUNUNU: No, there isn't.

O'BRIEN: Yes, there is. Yes, there is.

SUNUNU: No, there's Democratic analysis.

O'BRIEN: Let me finish.

SUNUNU: There's Democratic analysis.

O'BRIEN: There's independent analysis. Name calling to me and somehow acting as if by repeating a number of $716 billion that you can make that stick when that figure is being stolen from Medicare, that is not true. You can't just --

SUNUNU: It's a reduction in spending.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The point here is, believe it or not, the interview went on for a long time after this and Sununu has come back on our air.

SIMMONS: What's great is holding politicians and people accountable. I think that's what the American people want to see.

KURTZ: In fairness, Tom Ricks is one of the best journalists out there. That clip is a little bit different. That's a dispute between Soledad and Sununu over the facts surrounding Medicare.

ASHBURN: Wait a minute.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: He said you should have an Obama sticker on your forehead. She could have said, I'm so insulted.

SIMMONS: Was the anchor worried about the powers of be at FOX --

ASHBURN: The anchor makes the call. Nobody is in their ear saying cut, cut, get away. Did you see how fast it happened? OK. Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: He reads a lot of monitors and he couldn't respond to the man. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I mean he didn't have a response. So he got rid of the guy. BERMAN: The truly amazing thing to me is we can't cut any of you off if we try.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Thanks Howard and Lauren, fascinating discussion.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, awaiting trial for murder. So why is George Zimmerman signing autographs? Why?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. We do have some more details on that freight train derailment in Paulsboro, New Jersey. The U.S. Coast Guard tells us that a bridge collapsed sending possibly four train cars into a creek and forcing residents to evacuate. The Coast Guard now working with hazmat crews to clean up the area, the chemical is believed to be leaking into the Delaware River now.

No one is hurt that we know of. And we're going to bring you more developments as they come in this morning.

BALDWIN: Also George Zimmerman the man accused of killing teenager Trayvon Martin doing some online fundraising. You heard about this? He's offering a handsome -- I'm quoting -- "handsome autographed card" for anyone who sends him cash. All proceeds go towards Zimmerman's living expenses, defense costs and lawyers.

And we have Russell Simmons here and we wanted to chat with you not just about your foundation and about arts, we wanted to talk to you about this, the open letter to the President that you wrote recently.

SIMMONS: Oh I waited two years to write that.

BALDWIN: Why did you wait two years and why did you write it?

SIMMONS: Well, I -- during the election cycle I didn't want to create any rifts. I really wanted the President to be re-elected. I figure there's many legacy issues for him that I wanted to get to, that he could be more upfront about it.

And so all -- like the circle of protection that we're asking for now regarding the budget is one thing. But there are specific things the black community, or communities of color fall behind. Some poverty initiatives really matter and -- and make a big difference we have to continue them and create new programs. But something like the prison industrial complex where ten out of 11 kids who go to jail for drugs are people of color and whites and blacks use drugs at the same rate or ten times more likely to go to jail for the same crime when it comes to drugs and you know and you could have rehabilitation.

But then you have this corporate investment that keeps these laws, these unjust laws on the books. The President has to address -- it's ruined the fabric of the black community specifically the black. BALDWIN: You want the President, you say --

SIMMONS: So there are a few issues, although I'm an integrationist and I think are specific to our communities of color that he could address.

BALDWIN: What do you mean by this, though? You want the President to use his loud voice that only a President like you can have in this critical conversation with our community.

SIMMONS: Well, I kind of misspoke. Because it's -- any President who can see this kind of unjust thing can address it. And the President should. He sees it clearly. He knows if 54 kids were shot in a weekend in -- in Beverly Hills, you know, almost the size of the Chicago area where 54 kids were shot in one weekend or 86 kids shot in a four-day weekend in Chicago and it's not newsworthy. It would be newsworthy somewhere else.

It will be a national emergency so, if it's happening in a black community it should be treated the same way. There's so much violence in the community it has to do with gun control but it also has to do with what are we going to do in this emergency -- this is an emergency case. And he needs to step in and the attorney general needs to step in. And that's something that he could -- you know he could make a difference on.

BALDWIN: Let us know -- let us know if and when he responds. So you mentioned violence -- totally switching gears.

"Killing Them Softly". You were at the premiere with Brad Pitt and a couple hub -- hobnobbing with --

HUNTSMAN: Thanks for the insight.

BALDWIN: No but apparently this movie is like what they are saying as violent as "Pulp Fiction"?

SIMMONS: It's fun. I mean, violence --

BALDWIN: Fun.

SIMMONS: No see violence to me, I mean, I watch movies where you feel the violence and there were some moments that were violent. But I wouldn't say it, you know there's a lot of gangster stuff and you know and exciting and fun to watch. And I did, I had a date and she thought it was violent. She was kind of uncomfortable.

But I don't think it's -- it's an exciting movie. Brad Pitt's performance is fantastic. James Gandolfini his performance, the two of them together were brilliant.

BERMAN: Can I ask you know --

SIMMONS: Yes.

BERMAN: Because most of us -- most of us don't get invited to the Brad Pitt all-star premieres. You know you've probably been getting invited for a while right now but what's it like -- what's it like being at these star-studded things?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think he means is what is Brad like.

SIMMONS: I mean, I do go to a lot of premieres sometimes two or three times a week. There's a lot of screenings or premieres that go on and you get to see the movies early. That's all you came two days early. I mean --

BALDWIN: You know huge on a Monday.

BERMAN: So there you go for all you aspiring media moguls out there, what you get for it is you get to see movies early.

Russell Simmons --

SIMMONS: And free popcorn.

BERMAN: -- and free popcorn, thanks so much.

We'll be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So we're just a couple of days away now from our annual salute to our "TOP TEN CNN HEROES OF THE YEAR". The nice thing is the recognition often helps our honorees do even more to help others. Grandmother Diane Latiker, one of last year's top ten is just one example of this.

Anderson Cooper shows how she committed -- how committed she is to her community.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "AC 360" (voice-over): In Chicago, homicides are up this year. On the south side and in a neighborhood called Roseland, Grandmother Diane Latiker needs to buy 80 new tombstones.

DIANE LATIKER, 2011 TOP TEN CNN HEROES: There are 376 stones inside this memorial. We are over 80 behind and we're going to have to rebuild it for the tenth time.

COOPER: Diane is fighting youth violence. She's been giving kids an alternative to the streets for a decade by opening up her own home and heart. For her dedication and courage she was honored as a top ten CNN Hero last year.

LATIKER: I was honored but I felt more honored to be from this community because of the people who never thought that they would see someone from Roseland at that level.

COOPER: Diane's organization has helped an estimated 2,000 young people. And since being named top CNN Hero, Diane has received crucial donations, including a basketball court, computers and a van. She was even featured on an episode of ABC's "Secret Millionaire".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All our different passions and pushed us to do different things. So she's the savior of the hood in my opinion.

LATIKER: You're welcome to come. We're right there. You know where we're at?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

COOPER: With the death toll in Chicago higher than it's been in years, Diane is still committed to breathing life into her struggling community. And where others see despair this CNN Hero is proving that dreams are possible.

LATIKER: The hope for years to come is to change this whole block. That's my goal, that's my vision. A grandmother from Roseland can make it to CNN -- anything is possible. That's what I tell these young people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Just in to us as you take a look here at the wreckage. New information on this freight train derailment. These are live pictures. This is Paulsboro, New Jersey, where it's now believed that the chemicals leaking into the Delaware River are highly toxic.

Coast Guard working to clean it up as quickly as possible. Bridge collapse sent those train cars into the creek below. People there have evacuated. No reports of injuries. Stay with CNN for updates.

BERMAN: It is time for one 20-second "End Point". Abby Huntsman, all yours.

HUNTSMAN: You know I think the only thing more awkward to bringing your dad to work is bringing him on TV with you. It's pretty scary for me to do. But it was great having Jon Huntsman, my dad on this morning. What I love about him is he might have lost the presidential race but he's so honest. He talks about the issues that so many people want to hear about. And it was an honor having him on the show today.

BERMAN: It was great having him. It was great having all three of you guys, Russell Simmons, Abby Huntsman, Ryan Lizza.

BALDWIN: Thank you guys so much.

And thanks for having us. We will send things to now Deb Feyerick. She is in for Carol Costello in the "CNN NEWSROOM". Deb, good morning.