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Kansas City Wins Emotional Game after Killings; Bob Costas Calls for Gun Control; Dolphin Bites Girl at SeaWorld; CNN Names Hero of the Year; Political Battle Rages on "Fiscal Cliff"

Aired December 3, 2012 - 09:00   ET



Happening now in the Newsroom, we are learning more about the NFL player and his girlfriend, victims of a murder/suicide.

Plus, the Twitter firestorm surrounding Bob Costas's gun control comments following the tragedy.

A dream encounter at SeaWorld turns terrifying for an eight-year-old girl. She said she felt the dolphin she was feeding would bite her hand off and haul her into the water.

Plus this


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I was just flabbergasted. I looked at him and said, you can't be serious. I've just never seen anything like it.


COSTELLO: Twenty-nine days and counting until the U.S. could plunge off the fiscal cliff. This morning at least one Republican is saying it's looking more like that's going to happen. After the plan laid out by the White House.

And she'd helped care for more than 140 children whose parents are behind bars in Nepal. Now she's got a new title. CNN Hero of the Year.

NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Carol Costello.

Concern this morning that a young woman's death will be overshadowed by fame. By now, even if you're not a football fan, you know the name Jovan Belcher. You know he killed the mother of his child and then committed suicide. But what do we know about his girlfriend? His partner? The mother of his child, Kasandra Perkins?

According to the "Kansas City Star" Perkins and Belcher were madly in love but argued of late. The star added, "Many people knew that Belcher owned guns and enjoyed shooting but they'd never known him to be violent. Not even close."

NBC's Bob Costas on "Sunday Night Football" took on the gun issue and started a Twitter firestorm.


BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock with whom I do not always agree but who today said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article. Our current gun culture, Whitlock wrote, ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy.


COSTELLO: We'll talk about guns and crimes and domestic violence in just a minute. But first, Casey Wian is in Kansas City this morning with the Chiefs.

Good morning, Casey.


Police here are continuing to investigate why a successful National Football League player and new father killed the mother of his child and then himself.


WIAN (VOICE-OVER): The latest fatal tragedy involving an NFL player began Saturday morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shooting 5401(k) Crysler, incident, 22-year-old female.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe our suspect is a Chiefs player.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I've got two coaches, one other employee here. Who's trying to beg with this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got shots fired. One in the head. Get in here.

WIAN: It's clear what happened. Police say Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, the mother of their 3- month-old daughter, multiple times. Then drove to the team's training facility and shot himself in front of his coach and general manager.

But why remains unanswered. Within hours the team and the league decided their Sunday game against the Carolina Panthers would go on.

MARK MENDENHAL, CHIEFS FAN: I think they made the right decision to play the game because you've got to continue on. Life goes on.

WIAN: Fans who've been harshly critical of the team's performance on the field suddenly found compassion through an off-the-field tragedy. DON JOHNSON, CHIEFS FAN: All we can do is rally around the little girl that -- you know, their little girl. And pray for both their families.

JO BROWN, CHIEFS FAN: We haven't, of course, had the best of year. And now, all of a sudden with this. For the longest time we have had that battle between the fans and the team this year. And maybe this will bring the both of them together.

WIAN: The Chiefs played their best game of the season and won.

ROMEO CRENNEL, KANSAS CITY HEAD COACH: It's tough when circumstance happen. You can't undo them. And so you have to rely on each other, rely on your family, your friends, and rely on your faith.

WIAN: The locker room was subdued and surreal.

DEXTER MCCLUSTER, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS WIDE RECEIVER: It was very emotional. But you saw brothers stick together. Coaches stick together. And everybody stayed strong.

SHAUN SMITH, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: Sometimes you got to go out there, let your emotion and your frustration out on the field, I think that's what we did as a team today. Still, once again, we lost a teammate and we lost a friend.

WIAN: Also lost, a young mother and for a 3-month-old girl, the love of her parents lost forever.


WIAN: Now we've spoken with Jovan Belcher's teammates, with his agent, with his neighbors. All of them say that this type of violent behavior was totally out of character for the Jovan Belcher they knew -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Unbelievable. Casey Wian reporting live from Kansas City this morning.

Now back to Bob Costas and his halftime segment on "Sunday Night Football" where he talked about gun control.

HLN Sports reporter Joe Carter has been following the social media backlash. That side of the story.

Morning, Joe.

JOE CARTER, HLN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT : Hi, good morning, Carol. Yes. Last night during the Eagles-Cowboys Sunday night football game, Bob Costas used his halftime segment to praise an article written by columnist Jason Whitlock. Now this was an article that related to the Jovan Belcher situation that happened in Kansas City and gun control. And at the beginning of that segment, Bob Costas did say that he typically doesn't agree with Jason Whitlock a lot.

Now Jason Whitlock is a former Kansas City star columnist, currently a FOX Sports columnist. He said he doesn't usually like Jason Whitlock's opinions. But in this case, in this gun control situation, he not only agreed with him, he felt like it was so spot on that he quoted from this article and paraphrased it extensively.

So here's a little portion of Bob Costas's 90-second segment last night. Let's take a listen to that.


COSTAS: Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.

In the coming days, Jovan Belcher's actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows. But here, wrote Jason Whitlock, is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.


CARTER: You know, we live in a social media world. So as you can imagine, the Twitter-sphere was all abuzz last night. Reaction was very swift. Some agreeing with Bob Costas. Others very frustrated.

Here's a tweet from a very frustrated listener -- excuse me, viewer, saying that guns don't kill people, people kill people. Keep that liberal crap off the NFL airwaves. And he also have people agree to what Bob Costas said last night. A second tweet coming in from Chris, saying, "Bob Costas just spoke some truth and real profound stuff on the 'Sunday Night Football' halftime show."

Now to be fair, Carol, Bob Costas for years has always given his opinion. It's typically on sports. He's made a lot of money doing that. He's had a really successful career doing that. Last night, though, he definitely crossed over into a very politically charged topic that a lot of people have an opinion on - Carol.

COSTELLO: You've got that right. Joe Carter, reporting live for us this morning.

On to other news now, a scary moment at SeaWorld. A dolphin lunges out of a pool, chomps down on a young girl's hand and nearly drags her into the water. Her parents videotaped the whole thing.

Here's Evan Lambert of affiliate WKMG.


EVAN LAMBERT, WKMG REPORTER: Eight-year-old Jillian Thomas was living her dream, getting up close and personal with dolphins, her favorite animal, the day before Thanksgiving at SeaWorld. Mom and dad had their camera rolling as Jillian and her brother were feeding dolphins at the popular dolphin cove attraction. But Jillian ran out of fish. In a split second her treat to feed the dolphins became a terror.

One more time. The dolphin lunges out of the pool and goes straight for the tray of fish taking with it Jillian's arm and dragging her toward the pool.

JAMIE THOMAS, GIRL'S FATHER: We think that that attraction at SeaWorld is dangerous. And it was traumatic for us to go through that event.

LAMBERT: The Thomases say the dolphin's bite punctured Jillian's skin in three places and caused minor bleeding. But now she's doing OK.

We asked SeaWorld about the incident and they told us in a statement, "Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our guests, employees and animals. Educators and animal care staff are always on site at this area monitoring all interactions and are committed to guest safety."

And the Thomases say they were told repeatedly not to pick up the trays. But the 8-year-old just made a mistake.

AMY THOMAS, GIRL'S MOTHER: She said she just forgot. And as you see in the video, moved the plate to say she was done.

LAMBERT: Of course, we know the dolphin wasn't. The Thomases say they won't be back at SeaWorld and they hope others will heed their warning.

A. THOMAS: We're not banking on SeaWorld changing that attraction. I'm -- you know, I'm sure that's not going to happen. But perhaps we can change the minds of another parent or even an adult.


COSTELLO: After the Thomas family returned home to Atlanta, the young girl spoke with our affiliate WSV.


JILLIAN THOMAS, BIT BY DOLPHIN AT SEAWORLD: I was thinking, he's going to haul me into the water. This is a little crazy but I thought he was kind of going to eat my hand off.


COSTELLO: She's OK this morning. This is not the first time SeaWorld has had problems at the dolphin cove. Two other children reportedly were bitten at the exhibit in 2006.

On to politics now. Time is quickly winding down. Just 29 days to go when the White House and congressional Republicans are nowhere close to a deal to avert that fiscal cliff. The Obama administration has laid out its plan calling for $1.6 trillion in new taxes. That includes letting the Bush era tax cuts expire for those earning more than $250,000 a year. It's also pushing for a new $50 billion stimulus package and offering $400 billion in new cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs.

But Republican House Speaker John Boehner flatly rejected the plan that's on the table and what he calls as the White House's unwillingness to compromise.


BOEHNER: I was just flabbergasted. I looked at him, I said, you can't be serious. I've just never seen anything like it. You know, we've got seven weeks between election day and the end of the year. And three of those weeks have been wasted with this nonsense.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: You know, I think right now the best thing to do is for them to come to us and say, look, here's what we think makes sense. We've told them what we think makes sense. What we can't do is try to figure out what's going to be good for them. They have to come tell us.


COSTELLO: House minority leader and Democrat -- House minority leader and Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, also jumping into the fray. She's renewed threats to bring a middle income tax cut bill to the House floor if Boehner refuses to schedule a vote on the cuts this week. We'll keep you posted.

For the past six years, you have helped CNN honor the men and women whose efforts in their communities are changing the lives of others. This year you selected a woman from Nepal as your "2012 CNN Hero of the Year."

Pushpa Basnet supports children when their parents are behind bars.

Kareen Wynter has more on the all-star tribute.


KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The red carpet outside L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium buzzed with excitement. But this time the bright lights shined on some special stars. Everyday people changing the world.


WYNTER: Out of thousands of nominations submitted by CNN's global audience 10 amazing men and women were singled out for their remarkable, heroic efforts to make the world a better place. People like Razia Jan who's providing a free education to hundreds of girls in rural Afghanistan.

RAZIA JAN, "HEROES" HONOREE: I think education is the only thing in the world that can go forward and make life better.

WYNTER: And Leo McCarthy who gives scholarships to kids who pledge not to drink after his daughter was killed by a young driver.

LEO MCCARTHY, "HEROES" HONOREES: Let's change the culture and keep these promising, vibrant kids alive. WYNTER: Olympic swimmer Colin Jones helped celebrate Wanda Butts' golden moment motivated by her son's tragic drowning. She created a nonprofit that's helped more than 1200 children learn how to swim.

WANDA BUTTS, "HEROES' HONOREE: It is unbelievable to me that I have come this far from such a tragedy with my son.

WYNTER: It was an unforgettable night capped off with the unveiling of the "CNN Hero of the Year." Pushpa Basnet, founder of a children's home in Nepal that helps kids whose parents are in prison.

PUSHPA BASNET, CNN HERO OF THE YEAR: Thank you so much for everyone who voted for me and who believed in my dream.

WYNTER: The hope is that their heroic example will inspire countless others.

Kareen Wynter, CNN, Los Angeles.


COSTELLO: OK. A little bit more about the winner. Pushpa Basnet. She started a home in Nepal to take care of children whose parents are in prison. Many children in Nepal are often forced to live in prison with their incarcerated parents because there's no one else to take care of them.

Basnet's nonprofit also provides children an education, food and medical care. So far 140 children have been helped and for being named "CNN Hero of the Year," Basnet received $50,000. And her nonprofit will receive a grant of $250,000.


If you missed "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE" or you just want to watch it again, CNN will re-air it this Saturday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

We're less than a month away from our trip over the fiscal cliff. The average American family could get hit hard. So what's the fairest plan of all?


COSTELLO: It is 16 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

Nine bodies have been removed from vehicles inside a collapsed tunnel near Tokyo, Japan. Huge chunks of concrete fell Sunday, smashing the vehicles below. Investigators say some anchor bolts on the fallen concrete slabs are missing.

The tunnel remains closed. The government now ordering an inspection of the 49 other tunnels with similar ceiling structures.

Residents of the small Louisiana town of Doyline will be out of their homes for at least one more day. Six million pounds of gun powder were found improperly stored at a nearby Army base. The gun powder was found in a follow-up inspection after an explosion in October.

Right now, the town's 820 residents are not allowed inside their homes.

In sports, two familiar rivals will meet again with the national championship on the line. Notre Dame will face off against Alabama in college football's biggest game on January 7th. The two historic programs have met just six times. Notre Dame has won five of those games, including in the 1973 Sugar Bowl which was for the national championship.

All right. We're just 29 days away from the fiscal cliff and the possible start of tax hikes for you and your family. Bush era tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year, hitting middle-class families with an average $3,500 tax hike and a 7 percent increase for the top 1 percent. That's according to the Tax Policy Center.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner set out his terms for an agreement that include more than a billion dollars in new taxes and tells CNN there will be no deal without tax rates going up on the wealthiest Americans.

But so far, neither side of the political aisle is budging.

So what happens if a deal is not reached? And taxes go up? And spending cuts happen?

Let's ask "Wall Street Journal's" senior economics writer Stephen Moore and author of "Who's the Fairest of Them All?"

Hi, Stephen.


COSTELLO: OK. So what happens? Because I think Lindsey Graham came out and said, hey, I'm sure of it. We're going off the fiscal cliff.

MOORE: You know, if you'd asked me a week or two ago, I would have said there's no way this isn't going to get resolved. I've been watching for 25 years. But these two sides are further apart today than they were a few weeks ago. So, I'm not sure they're closing the gap.

I suppose that a few days before Christmas they'll probably come to their senses and reach an agreement. But there is a still a big divide and it really is over that issue about whether we should be raising tax rates on wealthy people or anyone. And that really is going to be, I think, the final negotiating item is how much taxes should go up if at all.

COSTELLO: See, I don't think that is a negotiating item. I think the president has been clear that tax rates are going to go up on the wealthiest Americans, period. That's kind of off the table. MOORE: Well, look, I think where Republicans are is saying, look, there's no doubt about it in my mind and I think a lot of Republicans if you raise those taxes on businesses and investors, it's going to hurt the economy and this isn't the best time to do any injury to businesses and investors when we don't have enough jobs in this country.

But you may be right that the president will insist on those tax rates going up and Republicans have said, look, instead of raising the tax rates why don't we close loopholes in the tax system, make the tax system more efficient and stop picking winners and losers. I think that's kind of the latest offer the Republicans have put on the table.

They're not opposed to a tax increase. They're basically saying let's do it the right way in a way that doesn't hurt the economy.

COSTELLO: Yes, but, Stephen, you could close every loophole that's out there and that wouldn't make up for our deficit.

MOORE: No, but the president's plan of raising taxes on the rich, let's assume even he has his way. Let's say that Republicans go along with his plan. That at best raises about $70 billion a year. So, that leaves us with a trillion dollar deficit.

So, this puts the president I think in a little bit of a hole. You know, if the Republicans give his way, what's plan B? What do we do next to deal with the deficit?

The president and Tim Geithner this weekend basically said we've got plans to cut entitlements by $400 billion or $500 billion. That's over 10 years. That's only 4 percent, 5 percent of the problem.

So, we have a much bigger hole than I think anybody in Washington is willing to, you know, agree is such a problem.

COSTELLO: OK. Let me ask you this -- Republicans are angry that the president laid out this plan that they say he knew would just inflame things because there's not real specifics there --

MOORE: That's true.

COSTELLO: -- about cutting entitlements in a meaningful way.

So, why don't Republicans act like big boys and girls and present their own plan about how they specifically want to cut entitlements? Why don't they just -- isn't that how you negotiate?

MOORE: Yes, but, of course, they've done that. That's the most curious thing to me, is when Tim Geithner said the Republicans should come forward with a plan.

You know this -- over the last two or three years in the House of Representatives controlled by Republicans, they have passed what's called the Ryan Budget for three years in a row. It has very substantial entitlement cuts. You've reported on this on CNN. In fact, all the left wing groups had all these ads saying the Republicans want to throw granny over the cliff.

So it's pretty clear. Republicans have been very specific about how they want to reform entitlements. The problem is there's no plan by the president. He's been in office for four years and we haven't seen a spending reduction.

COSTELLO: But it is the dawn of a new day. I hear you about the Ryan thing. I do. I hear you.

MOORE: Right.

COSTELLO: But it is the dawn of a new day. Negotiations have started anew. Isn't it time to lay out new, fresh plans instead of saying, oh, yes, check back before the election like our plan then, we're still for that? That's not a way to negotiate, is it?

MOORE: Well, look, I mean, I'm not exactly sure what you want the Republicans to do. They've said here's our plan for something like $3 trillion or $4 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. The president could do is say, OK, I'll take this one and this one and this one, but I can't live with these other ones.

But so far the president hasn't come up with any reduction in entitlements.

Look, we could disagree -- you and I may disagree about whether taxes have to be raised. But I think the thing that you and I would agree is we've got to be adults and grown-ups -- to borrow your phrase -- about how we're going to deal with these entitlement programs.

The biggest factor in driving this debt over the next 20 years, as you know, guess what, there's 75 million baby boomers that are now paying taxes and contributing that are going to be retiring and collecting these benefits. The math just doesn't add up without cuts to some of these programs, Social Security and Medicare.

COSTELLO: I think you're right. There needs to be this balanced approach and everything should be on the table. I do agree with you there.

Stephen Moore --

MOORE: But not tax increases that hurt the economy. That's my only point. You thought we had an agreement there, didn't you?

COSTELLO: I did. We were close.

Stephen Moore, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

MOORE: My pleasure. Take care.

COSTELLO: Of the many unanswered questions about the Jovan Belcher murder/suicide tragedy, our talk back question today: should the Perkins/Belcher tragedy cause us to rethink gun control? Is Bob Costas right? I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, should the Perkins/Belcher tragedy cause us to rethink gun control?

There's been a lot of speculation about why Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and then himself. Did he just snap? Was he suffering undiagnosed head injuries?

Many also wonder, could the tragedy have been prevented?

NBC sports analyst Bob Costas thinks so. On Sunday night football, Costas quoted sportswriter Jason Whitlock, saying America's gun culture ensures that more domestic disputes will end in death.


BOB COSTAS, SPORTSCASTER: In the coming days, Jovan Belcher's actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows? But here, wrote Jason Whitlock, is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.


COSTELLO: Costas' comments ignited a firestorm on Twitter. Here's a sample. This from Irish Spy, "I wonder if it occurred to Bob Costas that if Belcher's girlfriend had had a gun with her, she might be alive today. Nah."

This from Right Wing B, "A woman killed her husband with a shovel yesterday. Should we have stricter regulations at Home Depot?"

Yet this is no laughing matter. Women are six times more likely than men to be killed in a domestic dispute. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime and the FBI, nearly 38 percent of female murder victims in 2010 were killed by a husband or boyfriend. The Justice Department says guns are used in more than half the cases of intimate homicide. How's that for a macabre description of murder?

Talk back today: Should the Perkins/Belcher tragedy cause us to rethink gun control?, Your comments later this hour.

This murder/suicide has puzzled so many people, including Belcher's agent. Hear what he has to say, next.