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NRA Breaks Silence on Newtown; Fiscal Cliff is 10 Days Away

Aired December 22, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Don Lemon. You're in THE CNN NEWSROOM.

The last of the victims of the Connecticut mass shooting are being laid to rest. Funerals for three little girls were held today.

But as families say their final goodbyes, the debate over gun control just heating up. On Friday, the National Rifle Association weighed in, making it clear that the organization would not budge an inch on gun control. More on that conversation in just a moment.

The fiscal cliff, just 10 days away, with no deal in sight. In fact, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are literally thousands of miles away from each other, both men left Washington for the holidays.

President Obama and family are in his native Hawaii for a short Christmas break. We'll have live report from Hawaii and the latest on the fiscal cliff talks in just a few minutes as well.

It's official. BP oil company will have to pay up to $7.8 billion. That is the class action settlement amount they agreed to pay to about 100,000 businesses and individual hurt by the biggest oil spill in American history. A federal judge formalized a settlement yesterday, a lot of Gulf Coast residents opted out for the class action suit and are pursuing lawsuits of their own.

In Egypt, more affects of a brand new government's growing pains. The vice president is stepping down. This man, Mahmoud Mekki, announced that political life does not agree with him and he will go back to being a judge. It's the same day the Egyptian people are voting for a change to the new Islamist backed Constitution. Protests erupted last month when Egypt's new president gave himself near absolute power.

A former U.S. Marine who spent more than four months in a Mexican prison is free today and heading home to Florida. Jon Hammar was locked up in August on weapons charges. His family says he was physically abused in custody, threatened, chained to a bed, and never saw a judge. The U.S. lawmakers and diplomats got involved in Hammar's behalf and convinced Mexican authorities to release him.

(MUSIC)

LEMON: The last of the tiny victims of the Newtown school shooting were lay to rest today. Three little girls -- Josephine Grace Gay had just celebrated her 7th birthday. A photo of the happy child wear ago green hat and with glasses on the end of her nose has been published widely.

Services were also held for 6-year-old Anna Marquez-Greene, who was remembered for a singing voice bigger than her size. A representative for her father, jazz musician Jimmy Greene, described the girl as beautiful and vibrant.

Last but certainly not least was 6-year-old Emily Parker. The LDS Rock Cliff Safe Center Church in Ogden, Utah, was filled with glitter and pink flowers, Emily's favorite flower, fancy and effervescent like the little girl herself.

And America paused Friday to remember all of the Newtown shooting victims. Church bells rang out exactly one week after the tragedy. Flags remained at half staff.

And many Web sites even went dark as people all over the country observed a moment of silence for the 20 children and six educators.

The National Rifle Association is finally speaking out in the massacre in Newtown, saying the answer is to deploy armed guards at schools.

Our national correspondent Susan Candiotti has more on the proposal and the backlash it's receiving -- Susan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don, the NRA leadership made no mention of a proposed assault weapon ban, tougher background checks, or even restricting the size of high capacity magazines, instead saying the best way to protect children is to put armed police officers at every school.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NRA: The only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile way or from a minute way?

CANDIOTTI: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut where the school massacre occurred rejected the NRA's proposal.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The NRA statement today is sadly and shamefully inadequate, calling for more guns and rejecting real action against gun violence. At a defining, historic moment for our nation, demanding courageous leadership, the NRA has declined to step forward as a credible and constructive partner.

CANDIOTTI: In Newtown, where that 20-year-old gunman blasted his way into Sandy Hook Elementary, ignoring locked doors, a community tries to make sense of the senseless. Many hoping what happened will be the country's tipping point, a call to action. Here is what some people said in Newtown, not impressed with the NRA's proposed solution.

GERI TRAVIS, CONNECTICUT RESIDENT: I'm very torn at this point. I'm not happy with the NRA, I'm not happy with the NRA, and I am a gun owner myself. There's just no reason for automatic weapons out there in the public and clips that discharge so many rounds of ammunition.

ROWLAND TRAVIS, CONNECTICUT RESIDENT: I have many guns, but I do not have a 30 round clip and a semiautomatic weapon. We have a tragedy here and we have to address it. They're not addressing it. That's what I tell them. You're not addressing the situation here.

CANDIOTTI: At a shooting range in California, others supported the NRA.

ED KNUTSON, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT. (RET.): The only way to fight fire is with fire. So, if you've got somebody that's armed and you're not, you're part of the problem, you're not part of the solution.

RAY DEL RIO, L.A. RIFLE AND REVOLVER CLUB: I think it's a good idea. But you are going to have to train these people on how to use weapons, because once you start shooting inside of a classroom, someone is going to get hurt. But the thing is not to let the intruder go into the classroom.

CANDIOTTI: But how many armed guards to you need? Every room, every door? The NRA did not take questions after making its statement -- Don.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Susan, thank you very much.

Much more on the gun control topic tonight at 10:00. I'm going to talk to a gun range owner. And also, this provocative question for you, we know it's provocative -- should white men be profiled? This conversation you won't want to miss her on CNN.

So, how far are we from a fiscal cliff deal? How far?

President Obama said he and House Speaker John Boehner talked yesterday. It was their first conversation since Monday, when the two sides offered up concessions on tax hikes for the wealthy. Boehner president offered lower tax rates for people earning up $1 million a year. The president offered lower tax rates for people earning $400,000 a year, plus tweaks for computing entitled benefits.

In his weekly address, Boehner stood firm. His message for the president: the ball is in your court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president and Senate Democrats have vowed to reject and veto all of our proposals while failing to offer responsible solutions of their own. What the president has offered so far will not do anything to solve our spending problem and begin to address our nation's crippling debt. And he refuses to challenge the members of his party to deal honestly with the entitlement reform and the big issues that are facing our nation. That's why we find ourselves here today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: President Obama did not mention fiscal cliff talks in his weekly address.

The president's Christmas break in Hawaii may be quick. He is planning to return to Washington right after Christmas.

CNN's Brianna Keilar, live in Honolulu.

Brianna, I'm wondering, we are talking about the fiscal cliff talks. The president did not talk about it. The president is spending his vacation far away. Boehner went home.

Do you think this is part of the negotiation as well, the president sending a message to Boehner and Republicans saying, "Hey, listen, I'm done, this is my final offer"?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, part of it, I think, I don't think that is it. I think there's really under way a sort of last ditch effort for the White House to work out a smaller measure with Senate Democrats who would also need to buy in. The Senate minority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, to just avoid the tax hikes on middle class Americans. So, that's very much underway.

I think that, you know, part of this is the president saying to House Republicans, you have to come around and in way when Boehner said, Don, that the ball is in the court of the Democrats, it's true. House Republicans have somewhat abdicated their role as one of the primary negotiators in this.

But to that point, they are trying work out a smaller bill, and President Obama, as you can tell from what he said last night at the White House, is holding out hope that it can work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want. And this is not simply a contest between parties in terms of who looks good and who doesn't. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: And I also think, Don, that with Congress going home, the president's other option was to stay in Washington while no one was there for the holiday, and we knew that his family, his wife and his daughters, were going to be in Hawaii no matter what. And we saw some of their vacation last year disrupted for the president's late departure. So I think there was that desire to come out here. But I also think that some at the White House think that allowing Congress to go home may also allow them to get somewhat of an earful from their constituents that they need to get something done in what really has become this last-ditch effort to deal, at least with the tax hikes part of this, because they're not able at this point, and they are kicking the can down the road on dealing with the bigger issues like entitlement reform and spending cuts and tax reform.

LEMON: All right. Brianna Keilar, in a very lovely Honolulu on Waikiki Beach. Everyone in the studio is really mad at you right now -- just so you know.

KEILAR: It's no so great, it's not so great, Don, really.

LEMON: Yes, right. I was feeling bad for you, because I was like Brianna has to be away from her family and traveling for the holidays, and then when I saw you were in Hawaii, I was like, I don't feel sorry for her at all.

KEILAR: It's the carrot.

LEMON: You know I'm kidding.

All right. Brianna Keilar in Hawaii, appreciate it.

One fiscal cliff aftershock you may not have heard of -- $7 for a gallon of milk. That's what you might be paying in the New Year. The reason: Congress is spending most of its time trying to avert the fiscal cliff, but leaving other things unattended for, like an agriculture bill, a dairy subsidy expires January 1st. And milk prices could double if Congress does not pass a bill and renew the subsidy by before then.

An economic crisis that could change history, we're not talking about the U.S. How Italy's hard times could shut down some of the country's most famous tourist destinations.

And do you see this woman? Look at her? Do you think she is pretty? Yes, of course, she is.

Do I find her irresistible? Her boss did. So, he fired her, and the court ruled in his favor. We're going to talk to her in just a few minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: It's a new weekend of violence, explosions and death in Syria.

This is Damascus. At least five people were killed today when a powerful car bomb blew up in this residential neighborhood. It tore apart apartment buildings and filled the streets with debris. Government blames rebel fighters for setting off the bomb. At least 30 people died in attacks across Syria today, half of them in Damascus. This is India, New Delhi to be specific. People being blasted with high pressure water hoses, trying to break up a massive angry rally against the government. People are furious after a woman was reportedly gang raped and beaten on a moving city bus last weekend. Protesters are demanding changes to India's laws regarding rape and say women are not safe in New Delhi and other cities in India.

The man convicted of stealing the Pope's private papers has been pardoned. Pope Benedict himself set the man free and cleared him of all charges today during a visit to the prison. The Pope's former butler was arrested for leaking some of his boss's secret papers to an author who included them in the book. The Pope can pardon anyone he chooses. He is the head of state in Vatican City.

Not far from the Vatican City, archaeologists have found a tomb of a famous Roman general. It's a place they want to preserve, but there's a problem. There's no money. And nobody knows if this important piece of history will survive Italy's financial problems.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has more now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Rome, dig and you are likely to find something very old. For the past six years, archaeologists have been working on this site north of the city. It was here that Marcus Nonius Macrinus, a Roman general, was buried. He was the inspiration in part for the character played by Russell Crowe in the movie "Gladiator".

Crowe's character fought to keep the barbarians at bay, on empire's frontiers and in the arena. But more than 1,500 years ago, Rome fell to the barbarians. And today, in this age of euro zone austerity, the stunning remains of that great entire and the artifacts at this site known as the Gladiator's Tomb are under threat from what some may say are barbarians of another kind, cost cutting accountants and budget slashing bureaucrats.

(on camera): In the last two years, the budget to maintain Italy's archaeological sites has been cut by at least 20 percent. As a result, some sites have been closed and projects canceled. Now, don't worry, the Colosseum will remain open, but some ancient treasures may literally be buried.

(voice-over): Daniela Rossi worked several years at the Gladiator's Tomb and says if funds aren't soon found to maintain the site, it will be recovered with dirt.

DANIELA ROSSI, ARCHAEOLOGIST: The most logical thing to do is to bury it again, she says. It will be up to our grandchildren to decide whether that will be temporary or permanent.

Russell Crowe has joined the fight to keep the site open, telling an Italian newspaper Italy must be a leader in preserving ancient heritage. An online petition called "Save the Gladiator's Tomb" has been started by American archaeologist Darius Arya, to raise funds and put pressure on authorities to keep the site open.

DARIUS ARYA, AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR ROMAN CULTURE: This is part of the bigger picture, which is Italy is a great country. Italy is a leader in cultural heritage, preservation. They do great work in Italy and their experts go around the world. Here is a chance to say with this site, we're going to take a stand and we're going to defend this cultural heritage.

WEDEMAN: If not, the barbarians will see to it that it's covered up again once again.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: So I want to you listen to this, OK? Think about it. A woman fired because her boss found her too attractive and irresistible, and the highest court in that state says it was not discrimination. What do you think?

We're going to talk to her live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Can a boss fire an employee he finds attractive because he and his wife see her as a threat to their marriage?

Yes, according to the Iowa Supreme Court. The case is around Melissa Nelson and her employment as a dental assistant.

So, listen closely. Nelson worked for Dr. James Knight for more than 10 years. But near the end of her employment, she was told her clothing was tight, and distracting.

Melissa Nelson and her attorney Paige Fiedler are joining me by phone.

So, Ms. Nelson, thank you for coming on.

MELISSA NELSON: (via telephone): You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

LEMON: OK. You said it's been an interesting couple of years, a tough couple of years. But you worked there for 10 years. So, what changed?

NELSON: I have no idea. I thought everything was still the same. I went to the work the same as I did every day, worked hard, enjoyed my job. And one day it just came to a screeching halt.

LEMON: OK. So what was your relationship? Did you have a relationship with your boss other than a professional one?

NELSON: I would say probably we had more of a relationship. But I also had a relationship with the rest of his family. And so did he with me over the -- LEMON: I mean, you were not having an affair with your boss?

NELSON: Absolutely not. I'm happily married.

LEMON: OK. So the court said in its decision, that it may be unfair but it's not unlawful. How do you feel about that?

NELSON: It's tough. I really struggle with it yet, you know? I don't think it's fair. I don't think it's right.

LEMON: What does your husband say about it?

NELSON: He doesn't like it. He had an appointment with him -- and Dr. Knight, and agreed that it's not fair. He believed it was the best interest for everybody. Our side of it, we disagree. You know, I enjoyed my job.

LEMON: It sounds to me like you are crying right now, are you?

NELSON: I'm OK right now. The last couple of days have been an emotional roller coaster. I'm trying to stay strong. It's tough.

LEMON: You were a dental assistant, you know, a good job. You had it for 10 years. And now to make ends meet, I understand you had to take a restaurant job and you're taking a break from that job just to do an interview with us?

NELSON: I am, I am working. I currently work six nights a week, also helping out in the school, for my kids' school as needed there as with well.

LEMON: Yes. Do you think -- he said, you know, your clothing was too tight and all of that stuff. What -- did you wear tight clothing or short skirts or tight sweaters or anything, low cut blouses?

NELSON: I wore scrubs. I worked in scrubs. I wore a long sleeve or short sleeve t-shirt and I wore scrubs.

LEMON: I want to talk to the attorney here.

Do you -- are you going appeal this ruling?

PAIGE FIEDLER, ATTORNEY FOR MELISSA NELSON (via telephone): One problem that we have is we filed this case under Iowa law only, and the Iowa Supreme Court is the final authority on what Iowa law says and they have carved out an exception. Normally, if a worker's sex plays a part in the decision to fire her, then it's illegal sex discrimination.

But the court carved out an exception, saying, as long as the dentist was motivated by some sexual desire for Melissa in particular, then it does not have anything to do with her sex, and it's not illegal in Iowa.

LEMON: You know, it's interesting, because I have been telling the story, I've had people -- and I thought the same thing, people reaching out to me on social media saying that a man would not be fired for being too attractive for a job. So, you don't see any discrimination in that? I mean, do you think that's true?

FIEDLER: Of course, it's true. Maybe not never, but I can't imagine a situation. Yet women every day in the workplace go through situations where they are either too attractive or not attractive enough for a particular man. And we understand that that is sex discrimination.

Part of what worrisome to me or disturbing to me is that the Iowa Supreme Court is made up of seven men and perhaps they just simply don't understand that this is the kind of discrimination that occurs in today's workplace.

LEMON: Here is a thing. And I want to ask this question quickly and I have another question for you. The court was the one who called you irresistible, called you an irresistible attraction. Do you think that you're irresistible?

NELSON: No. I do not. I am -- consider myself to be just an ordinary girl, having an ordinary life, ordinary kids, actually they are pretty special. But I'm just an every day girl, I'm just a normal working mom.

LEMON: OK, let me, if I can offer a piece of advice to you, your attorney said you are not going to sue and all this. There's always way to turn it around in a situation like this, there's always a way to turn it around and to use it for your own good. You have the power of the media now, lots of people are writing about it, you can write a book, you can be an advocate for women and discrimination and all of that.

Have you thought about that, turning this negative -- perceived negative -- into a positive? Which I think would be the best reaction to it.

NELSON: You know, it has been awfully negative and I do hope that if something positive doesn't come out of this for me, that it will for somebody else.

LEMON: Yes.

NELSON: I hope that nobody else has to experience or go through and live what I have had to live with.

LEMON: That's the power you just said, whether or not the courts agree with you, you still have -- your own fate is in your hands and you can turn it into a positive. I hope you do for your sake and your family. Thank you so much for coming on.

NELSON: Thank you so much.

LEMON: All right. Other news now, the men and women we elect to serve us in Washington can't seem to agree on anything. And now, another divisive issue is headed to Capitol Hill. A story from Washington, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: More guns or less? We have been talking a lot on about gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. And while the NRA wants to fight fire with fire if schools a lot of lawmakers in Washington are calling for hitter gun laws.

Emily Smith reports on whether all this talk will turn into action.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a few moments after the Newtown shooting words were not need.

(BELLS TOLLING)

SCHMIDT: Earlier in the week, President Obama warned words weren't enough.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This time, the words need to lead to action.

SCHMIDT: He puts vice president Joe Biden in charge of a task force to look at issues repeatedly connected with mass shooting. The White House supports re-instating the fell assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, limiting high capacity magazines and implementing universal background checks.

SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: There's no more uphill fight than this. The question is, do we fight or do we knuckle under? We are not knuckle unders, we are just not going to knuckle under.

SCHMIDT: Senator Dianne Feinstein said in January, she was push for that assault weapons ban, even a senator who has earned the highest rating from the NRA said it's time to re-examine gun control laws.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I was proud defender of the second amendment as a proud member of the NRA, you know, we should question and look and see if there's a better way to do this.

SCHMIDT: Add that political shift to new polls showing more public support for gun control and it sounds like an equation for change, right?

LARRY SABATO, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: That is not how laws are passed in the United States. We have a bicameral system that slows down the process. That's the way it was designed and it does a good job of it.

SCHMIDT: And political observer, Larry Sabato, said that when it comes to understanding the process, the National Rifle Association with its 4.3 million members does it well. SABATO: They are active in all 50 states, that is what make as difference in the end that is why it is going to be difficult to get anything through.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NRA: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

SCHMIDT: The NRA ended a week of virtual silence Friday by announcing that it's creating program to get more armed guards in schools and calling on Congress to provide funding for that program in every school.

LAPIERRE: Why is the idea of a gun good when it is used to protect the president of the country or our police, but bad when it's used to protect our children in our schools?

SCHMIDT: The NRA did not talk about gun control which sparked more debate.

People on both sides say their differences could not be greater. Any new you law would be bridging that divide which no mass shooting up to this point has been able to do.

Emily Schmidt CNN Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All right, Emily. Thank you.

Tomorrow, senator Joe Lieberman join our Candy Crowley us to talk about the culture of violence in America. He will also be joined by former congresswoman Hutchison, the head of the NRA's national school shield program at "STATE OF THE UNION," Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and then noon eastern.

On the field and off. We are looking at the biggest sports stories of 2012, counting them down from 10 to one, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: From a giant finish in the Super bowl to the golden performances in the Olympics, it is time now to take a look at the top 10 sports stories of 2012.

Our guide is Vince Cellini.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VINCE CELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The 2012 year in sports began with Eli Manning and the New York Giants proving it's not how you start but rather how you finish.

A tiger won baseball's triple crown for the first time since 1967, but it was a panda that helped to lead the giants to a world series championship. Serena Williams reasserted her dominance in the sport of tennis while David Beckham said goodbye to the MLS. These were just some of the stories that grabbed our attention this past year.

Here is a look at our top ten, starting with number ten.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today is a new day in Augusta National.

CELLINI: Augusta National, perhaps the most prestigious golf club in America and home of the masters had excluded women from the membership roles since opening in 1932. But that changed in August with a highly show cased admission of former secretary is of state Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, South Carolina businesswoman.

PEYTON MANNING, FORMER INDIANAPOLIS COLT PLAYER: I have not thought about where I will play but I have thought about where I've been.

SCHMIDT: When Peyton Manning, an Indianapolis Colts decided to part ways after 14 seasons, the coverage of where Manning would land was intense. After Broncos fans learned he would play in Denver, they must have felt like they won the lottery, which made the trade of Tim Tebow to the New York Jets easier to accept.

The emergence of golf's newest stars took center stage in 2012, Bubba Watson introduced himself by winning the masters. But, is was a humble demeanor and some viral videos that quickly endeared him to millions.

Meanwhile, a 23-year-old from Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy, ended the year as the world's top ranked player and let the comparisons to Tiring Woods begin.

Ever since he appeared on the cover of on "Sports Illustrated" as a 17-year-old, it was not a question of when Lebron James would achieve greatness. That came this year when he soared to his first championship with the Miami Heat, was voted the NBA's MVP and won Olympic gold with the team USA.

2012 also had a chair of controversy starting with an NFL battle over money with its referees. The league tried to use replacements from college and high school, but after a blown deciding call on national TV, the criticism became unsanible (ph) and the two sides came to an agreement two days later.

The downfall of Lance Armstrong made headlines across the world. A hero to millions after surviving cancer and winning cycling's most sought after event, that changed with the U.S. anti-doping agency released a report that accused him of leading the biggest team doping scheme. Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles and resigned from the cancer foundation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two words, Jeremy Lin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Linsanity. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe it's happening to you?

JEREMY LIN, NBA PLAYER: No.

SCHMIDT: At the start of the year, Jeremy Lin was a Harvard graduate trying to make it in the NBA. But, over the course of ten days in February, the Asian-American became a global sensation as he led the New York Knicks to a seven game winning streak and single handedly re-in figurate that has fallen on talk time.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST, PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: We are a few hours away from the big opening ceremonies --.

CELLINI: For two weeks this summer, the London Olympics took center stage with very abrasions performance. Michael Phelps who became the most decorated Olympian of all time. American Gabby Douglas, first black woman to win the gymnastics individual all around titles, South Africa's Oscar Pistorius, the first double amputee who peaked in the Olympics and female athletes from Saudi Arabia, (INAUDIBLE), who were allowed to compete in the MINI Olympics for the first time.

The New Orleans Saints made news for all the wrong reasons after they were found guilty by the NFL of instituting a bounty program that awarded player with cash payment for injuring opponents. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended or the season. And although the suspension against for current and former players were eventually vacated, the damage to the season has already been done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jerry Sandusky is charged with molesting eight boys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where were the authorities in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a case about football.

CELLINI: But the biggest story of the year occurred at Penn State which was consumed in a child abuse scandal. The year started with the death of coaching icon, Joe Paterno. Five months later, former assistance coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of child sex abuse and sentenced to at least 30 years in prison while the NCAA hit the program with unprecedented penalties.

Vince Cellini. CNN, Atlanta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Be sure to watch CNN, as we revisit the stories that capture the country's attention this year. Crime, politics, money, even the most scandalous stories of the year. It's the top 10 of 2012. Catch it Tuesday night, Christmas night, 7:00 eastern, right here on CNN you will love it because I'm anchoring.

CNN ireporters, got the mic interviewing the stars of the movie "Django." Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson answering your questions next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A remake of the 60s movie, "Django" hits the theater this week. Quentin Tarantino rituals, spaghetti Western into a story about a bounty hunter teaming up with Jamie Fox's character, a slave trying to find his missing wife.

And tonight, I report interview co-star Samuel Jackson says, it all started with a simple phone call.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: That's exactly how it had happened. My phone rings. I figured out I didn't hear. Hey, man. He said, Quentin, what's up? Got a script and we go from there.

Hi. I'm Samuel L. Jackson.

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: Hi. I'm Denzel Washington.

QUENTIN TARANTINO, DIRECTOR: This is Quentin Tarantino and I'm answering your ireport question.

ANDY CLINTON, IREPORTER: It's widely known that "Django" is a western and being remade in the American south slavery. What I want to know is, what were your particular challenges in bringing such an established (INAUDIBLE) in to such uncharted territory?

TARANTINO: That's a good question, actually. I did not think about it in terms of challenges, but I did think of it as terms of kind of excitement for the viewer to watch. I use a western format to tell the story. But then we with gradually move to the south. And then, but we are still kind of telling our western story. But now it has a different backdrop going on and now these are difference imagines and different iconic images that you have never seen in a western before, even though I'm still trying to revoke them at the same time. And I just thought it would be exciting. It would offer you a difference visual. It would offer you just something like you haven't seen before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is amazing. Are you ready?

FOXX: I'm ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We have Tibor.

TIBOR KOMOROGY (ph), IREPORT: How could you identify yourself with the characters? And what kind of instruction did Quentin Tarantino give you?

FOXX: I know, we just felt the love between my character, "Django" and Broomhilda was what necessary be sort of the spine of the movie so that when all the chaos and craziness, our journey was to get pa back to each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is all about character. He really, really wants you to focus on making the character real. Because, you have to feel like there's nothing more important for "Django" than to be with his wife and that's what inspires him to go into the depth of held to find her. So Quentin was really supportive of us kind of nurturing that love story.

JACKSON: I my character's name is Steven, he is in charge of running the candy cotton candy household and the plantation and Quentin just told me to be black.

STEPHANIE BALLARD, IREPORT: In what special ways do you prepare for a role that has historical context.

JACKSON: I did not have to learn a lot about slavery. I spent a lot of time, you know, when I was a kid reading about it. I grew up in the south, I know a lot about it. I just wanted to be honest to the times and find a way to have my character relate to the other characters in the film in a verbally and ideological way of not being as educated as I am now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: CNN i-report interviews are each Saturday at this time, submit questions for our next celebrity, go to cnn.com/interview. It is also where you can watch previous i-report interviews too. Did you guys catch Quentin's whoo-wear, pretty cool.

Still ahead, incredible story. A police leaps into frigid water to try to save a woman from drowning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: OK. We talked to earlier this hour with Melissa Nelson who was fired from her job for being an irresistible attraction. That was ruled yesterday at the Iowa Supreme Court. And we just received a statement from the attorney for her former boss. OK? Listen very closely. Here it is.

Without dispute, Mrs. Nelson was not fired because she is a woman. Our civil rights laws and all other laws are not intended to create a remedy for every slight or perceived injustice. Dr. Knight fired her to preserve not only his marriage but also out of respect for the Nelson's marriage. I understand the pin on this will be that she was fired solely because Dr. Knight found here attractive. But, the reality is that he repeatedly directed her to dress and behave in an appropriate way and she chose not to. He responded in the way that his ministers and wife felt was necessary to protect the sanctity of his marriage and hers.

Bottom line, is she was not fired because she is a woman. He has never employed anyone other than women in his practice. Dr. Knight chose to favor the wishes of his weave and to end Mrs. Nelson's employment. His decision was both the legal and morally just thing to do.

So, it's cold out there, really. And this time of year, the one place you definitely don't want to be is in Boston harbor. So, watch this.

That man you see there is a police officer, Edward Norton, captured on a cell phone jumping into a freezing fort point channel in a (INAUDIBLE) downpour to rescue a woman who had fallen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARD NORTON, BOSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT OFFICE: One of the other officers had been given life preservers prosecute someone else. I think it came from the tea party museum. So, that actually helped a lot. I was able to hold on to that while she was holding on to the life preserver while holding myself up with the raft that was out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: No one was seriously hurt. Officer Norton says it was all in a day's work.

A 16-year-old got a personal invitation for a dazzling White House Christmas holiday. The invite was a reward from President Obama. This kid started volunteering for Obama when he was just 11 years old. The kid, that is. You will hear her story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Obama invited a 16-year-old to the White House party. He's never met the kid but they share a bond that's lasted for years. He's one of the youngest campaign volunteers.

Here's CNN's Dan Lothian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It takes a lot of people to take a president. Big-time advisers, big donors and a very big rolodex bulging with volunteers. One of the youngest might well be 16-year-old Alex Berdy.

ALEX BERDY, OBAMA CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: I do think politics is going to be my route.

LOTHIAN: He's not your typical teenager. Politics is in his blood. Passion is in his heart.

BERDY: One day we were driving along, listening to the political radio. I was like all right, we have to go in now.

LOTHIAN: So this 11th grader from Warren, Michigan, went all in. Juggling high school classes and part-time courses at a local community college while canvassing for President Obama.

BERDY: We are just a middle class family. When we go out talking to other middle class families, we're really trainable. And she has got a son in high school.

LOTHIAN: And training campaign volunteers old enough to be his parents.

BERDY: First, I can see a lot of faces that I have to start screaming I got, training over here. From a kid? That wouldn't be useful, would it?

LOTHIAN: One campaign official urged him to brag about his experience so the adults would trust him. After all, 2012 wasn't his first rodeo. Berdy campaigned for Obama in 2008, working the phones as an 11-year-old, hardly the voice of authority on the other end of the line.

BERDY: How old are you? You're not 11. This is a prank call.

LOTHIAN: But he soldiered on with his mom, also a volunteer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not fired up now.

LOTHIAN: Fired up for Obama, but respectful, said Berdy, of opposing views.

BERDY: I still like to have a good conversation with Republicans. That's no difference. I mean, it's nice to see and hair their viewpoints. .

LOTHIAN: The prices for his work, the president won, and he received an invitation for a White House holiday party.

When that invitation came and you opened it, what did crow think?

BERDY: I did not think it was real at all.

LOTHIAN: But it was. So, Berdy traveled with his family to the White House to visit the president he worked for during two campaigns but never met.

And what will you say to him?

BERDY: I will probably say, it was an honor working for you and I'm very glad you got re-elected.

LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN. The White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: I'M Don Lemon at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. See you back here at 10:00 eastern.