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Tea Party Activists Outraged; Newspaper Hires Armed Guards; Anger Over Gun Permit Map; Ford Sales Up Two Percent in December; Ray Lewis: "This will be my Last Ride"

Aired January 3, 2013 - 09:30   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Victor Blackwell, in for Carol Costello. Bottom of the hour now.

And stories we're watching in THE NEWSROOM:

For the first time since that tragic shooting in Connecticut, school will be back in session for Sandy Hook Elementary students. Classes are being held in a school in nearby Monroe, Connecticut. The students' desks have been moved to make their new environment settle seem as normal as possible and new security systems have also been put in place.

It's the first day at the office for 90 new lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The 113th Congress begins at noon Eastern and sets records for the number of new Democratic women, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Now, that the fiscal cliff debate is over, lawmakers will have to quickly tackle issues including the sequester, the debt ceiling and aid to superstorm Sandy victims.

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is throwing down the gauntlet for a showdown with President Obama over spending and the debt. In a Yahoo! News op-ed, McConnell says this, "The president may not want to have a fight about government spending over the next few months, but it's the fight he is going to have because it's a debate the country needs."

Lots of Tea Party activists are outraged that Congress approved the fiscal cliff deal, some even say they're extremely disgusted, like Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer who said this.


AMY KREMER, CHAIRWOMAN, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: I think there are going to be consequences, because you know, we -- people have been understanding and tolerant but at the end of the day, how long can we continue down this path of spend and spend and spend some more?


BLACKWELL: Well, the fiscal cliff deal raises taxes on Americans making more than $400,000 a year and puts off some spending cuts for another two months -- both big issues for the Tea Party movement, the same movement that helped push a new breed of conservatives to power in 2010, like Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania who voted to pass the deal and Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin who also backed the Tea Party movement in 2010, and Congressman Paul Ryan who also voted for the deal. The former vice presidential candidate was really popular among Tea Party activists.

Well, joining me now to talk about the consequences is Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer.

Amy, it is good to see you again.

KREMER: Hey, good to see you. Thanks for having me on.

BLACKWELL: So, on Twitter, you were disgusted by this vote and there will be consequences. What consequences are you talking about?

KREMER: Well, I'm sure that some of these members, you know, representatives and senators are going to be primaried over this. I can't tell you specifically who, but you know, we're tired of this. We elected these people to Congress not to spend more money but to rein in the out of control spending and the House controls the purse strings. And to continue down this path is not acceptable, and people are outraged over it.

BLACKWELL: So you're saying some of these representatives, these senators will be primaried. Are you going to push to get some of the people you tried to push in, in 2010 out to get out of Toomey, to get out of Johnson? You loved Paul Ryan, do you want him out now? Are you going to push for the primaries?

KREMER: Well, you know what? Honestly, I think that every person has to look -- I mean, Tea Party Express we haven't decided anything at this point. But I can't tell you, I live in the state of Georgia and Saxby Chambliss is going to be primaried, our own senator. It's unacceptable to have somebody that votes with the Democrats more than they do with the conservatives, and he has proven time and time again, he's all about the spending and we're a red state, we deserve a conservative senator, a conservative senator that would stand with Marco Rubio and Rand Paul and Mike Lee, who all voted no for this bill.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about that, because you brought up Marco Rubio who voted against it and there's Paul Ryan, who voted for it. This is becoming kind of a 2016 story line, right? And I want to know if this vote will be to Republicans what the war vote was to the Obama and Clinton race for 2008.

Do you think that line will be as bright and sharp as the war vote was?

KREMER: Well, you know, I don't know, Victor. We are still far away from 2016. We have 2014 to worry about, where there are a number of Senate races that are happening. And so, that's what we're going to be focused on. But at the end of the day we have to rein in the spending and it's not -- this is the thing. It's not about being Republican or Democrat. I mean, party politics always come into it. But this is about America. We have always been the shining city on the hill, and we need to get back on the path to prosperity.

And when we have $16 trillion in debt and these people are voting to spend more, that's not acceptable, and we should want to give to our children and grandchildren and all future generations a country better than what we've received. And right now, we're headed the way of Greece.

BLACKWELL: I want to ask you one of the questions that was sent to me on Twitter, because we've asked our viewers if they have a question pass it on. This is from Butch. He says, ask Kremer which concessions if any were OK for the GOP to consider if she's pleased with the gridlock in Congress and its effect."

Anything, should the GOP have dealt on anything that they indeed dealt on at the end?

KREMER: This is the thing. I'm not happy with the gridlock in Congress. I mean, who wants to be dealing with this? I'm happy to be here and talk to you, but this is the last thing I want to be talking about. I want to be talking about a great Senator Ted Cruz being sworn in today.

But at the end of the day, this is an issue that we all need to be focused on. We need to look at everything, everything should be on the table and there's going to be a fight in two months with the debt ceiling. I mean, look, the cuts never come. They never came with Reagan, they never came with Bush 41, and now, the sequester that was supposed to be automatic spending cuts, it has been pushed back two months.

The cuts never come and when is somebody going to man up and do the right thing and start looking at what is it going to take to get this country back on track.

BLACKWELL: Let me get back in here, Amy, because you said you didn't like the gridlock, but you didn't tell me one thing the GOP should compromise on. So the opposite of gridlock is compromise. So give me something that you are willing to compromise on as we move forward and have the discussion about cuts.

KREMER: Well, like I just said, I think everything should be on the table.

BLACKWELL: Name one.

KREMER: All departments. I mean, all departments should be on the table, you know?


KREMER: All departments should be on the table. I mean, the Department of Education is one of the biggest departments in our federal government. I mean, let's look at where these departments are bloated.

And I know that the Democrats say the Department of Defense, Department of Defense. I mean, I'm saying to you, let's put them all out there and look at it, because at the end of the day, you cannot raise enough money from taxes to cover all this spending.

We do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.

BLACKWELL: But was that not part of the verdict of the 2012 election is that Americans indeed agreed and polls showed it that taxes should be increased on the wealthiest Americans, that indeed happened, and was there any room for compromise on that? Would you have supported Plan B to increase taxes on people who make more than $1 million?

KREMER: This is the thing, is that, you know, we elected the House of Representatives, we have the majority. The Republicans have the majority there. We still control part of the government, and the House controls the purse strings. I mean, at some point we're going to have to come together and do what's right for America.

But do the Democrats have a mandate to go and just do whatever and spend into oblivion? No, and that's evident because we -- the Republicans still control the House.

So, at some point, we've got to figure this out, but the answer is not to spend more. You cannot spend your way into prosperity or spend your way out of debt. It's pretty simple.

BLACKWELL: Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the Tea Party Express -- thank you.

KREMER: Thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: And Butch, thank you for your question. Everyone, thank you for sending those in.

KREMER: Thank you, Butch.

BLACKWELL: All right. There's been a new threat against the newspaper that posted online names and addresses of local gun permit holders. We'll tell you why that paper has now hired armed guards.


BLACKWELL: The Upstate New York paper that posted a map of area gun permit holders has received another threat. "The Journal News" says it called police after getting an envelope containing white powder. Now, the substance was deemed not to be a threat by authorities.

Earlier, "The Journal News" said it hired armed guards because of the response to its posting. This map online showing gun permit holders in two local counties.

And now, a blogger and gun owner has published the names and addresses of newspaper's employees.

Joining me now on the phone is Tom King. He's president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.

Tom, it's good to see you.


BLACKWELL: So, you've said that this map creates a dangerous situation. This is public information. You've also called this an attack. How is this a danger? Explain how you believe this is an attack.

KING: Well, it's actually a danger to gun owners and non-gun owners. You know, it's a shopping list for criminals who would like to burglarize a house and maybe pick up an illegal gun because now, gee, they have a Google map with directions and the numbers of how to get -- and the street numbers of how to get to people who have guns in their homes.

And, conversely, it's also a threat to non-gun owners because it's well-known that people who have guns in their homes, where people may know they have guns in their homes, they're safer -- they're safer houses, they don't get broken into as often. And what it's saying is that there are no guns in these homes, so come and take whatever you want.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about this blogger, who published information online for "The Journal News" -- the employees, their names, their addresses, you told our producer at a pre-interview that you think that's fine.

That's public information as well. How is it a shopping list for people who want to hurt gun owners or hurt people who don't have guns when you publish the name of the gun owners but it's not a shopping list for people who want to get revenge on the newspaper when you post their names and addresses online?

KING: That's not what I said. I said I don't agree with either but what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and if our information is public knowledge, well, then their information is public knowledge. That's all I said and that's what I meant.

BLACKWELL: Well, if you're calling for these names to be taken down, can you not at least agree the names and addresses should be taken down of the people who work at the newspaper?

KING: Well, I think that's understood. I mean, if they take our names down -- we'll take, you know -- first of all, I want you to know, I don't have anything to do with that list. But I'm sure that the blogger will take down the list as soon as the gun names come down.

BLACKWELL: Are you concerned about these threats now against the paper? They've hired armed guards. They're getting this powder in the mail, some questionable e-mails.

As a gun owner, are you concerned about the image that this creates for your group, for people in that community who own guns?

KING: First of all, you're assuming that the powder and the threats came from us. I don't believe that they did. That is not like our people. Our people are legal and lawful gun owners. You know, that we are --

BLACKWELL: And if I infer that -- I did not mean to infer that your group had anything to do with that. What I'm saying there is a trend of things happening to the people at this newspaper. Are you concerned for their safety as well?

KING: Of course I'm concerned for their safety. I'm concerned for the safety of all of the citizens of the United States, you know? And I think whoever perpetrated that should be found and should be prosecuted.

But what I'm saying is I don't think that you'll find it's anybody from the gun community that did it.

BLACKWELL: All right. Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Gun Association -- thank you very much.

KING: You're welcome.

BLACKWELL: Let's look at the legal side of this story now because there are a lot of legal questions. The paper says it wants to get more names and addresses of gun permit holders, but it has been denied a Freedom of Information Act request in Putnam County.

So with us to talk about this is our CNN legal contributor Paul Callan.

Paul, this is what County Clerk Dennis Sant told Reuters this is from Putnam County, "There is a rule of law and there is right and wrong and the "Journal News" is clearly wrong. I could not live with myself if one Putnam pistol permit holder was put in harm's way for the sole purpose of selling newspapers."

There may be people who agree with that or do not. But is it up to the clerk to determine whether he can deny a foyer request on that basis alone?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, it's not really up to the clerk. New York law clearly says by the way that these are public records and the legislature could have exempted them but they didn't, so permits or these -- these actually are publication of people who have the right to purchase firearms, not necessarily people who are actually carrying them but the statute doesn't exempt that.

It does have one clause in it though, that says "If publication of the information would endanger somebody's life, the government can opt not to disclose." Now that's a section that might be invoked at some point down the line, maybe by the attorney general or some high ranking official, but I don't think there's precedent for a county clerk not to disclose this information in New York.

BLACKWELL: So for the people on this list, on this map, do they have any legal recourse against the newspaper?

CALLAN: No, they don't. By applying to purchase a weapon in New York, they subjected themselves really to publication of the list.

I thought Mr. King's analysis was kind of interesting, actually. I mean he said basically all the gun owners are in danger because people are going to break into their houses trying to get the guns and all the non-gun owners are in danger because people are going to know they don't have guns which means everybody's in the same level of danger that they were if there were no law at all.

So I think Mr. King's got to pick his theory there as to who is in danger, because that analysis really doesn't -- doesn't add danger to any particular group.

And I do think this is a journalistic ethics question, though, Victor. I mean, was the newspaper, they might have acted legally, but did they act sensibly? Is this the right thing to do under the circumstances? I think it's more of a question of journalistic ethics than whether the law has been violated.

BLACKWELL: Yes that's the question a lot of people are asking. Just because you can, should you?

CALLAN: Exactly.

BLACKWELL: And that debate is continuing.

One more thing, the concern, major concern as you heard from Tom King was that the gun owners could be in danger, the non-gun owners could be in danger, if something happens to one of the people who indeed is listed on this map, is the paper liable at all?

CALLAN: No, the paper would not be liable, because under the Freedom of Information Law, this is public information. The paper has a First Amendment right to publish it. One of the core beliefs in this country is that even the speech we hate we allow, and even though the majority of people may think this is a ridiculous thing for the paper to do, they have First Amendment Rights of publication. So I don't think the paper could be held liable.

Paul Callan in New York thank you very much.

CALLAN: Nice seeing you.

BLACKWELL: It's good to see you.

Fantasia Barrino is raising eyebrows again, why the singer is trying to distant herself from a recent online posting.


BLACKWELL: Just in to CNN, we have new auto numbers about what happened in December for one of the major U.S. auto companies. Felicia Taylor is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. More good news?

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Victor, there is more good news. It's not as strong as what Chrysler did but Ford sales rose about two percent last month. It had gains pretty much across the line there. F-series of trucks continue to be very popular and one executive of Ford said Ford's fuel-efficient cars and hybrid vehicles showed the most dramatic growth for the year. And the company achieve its best year for commercial vehicle sales since 2008.

So, again, you know, Chrysler also having strong numbers earlier this morning. That saw sales rise 10 percent last month. And one analyst that we have talked about earlier said you know recently there has just been very strong underlying demand. Car buyers have been returning to showrooms not just because of that pent up demand but also because of easier access to financing. And that is a very good thing to know -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right we'll see if these strong sales translate into hiring when we get the unemployment numbers tomorrow.

TAYLOR: Oh yes.

BLACKWELL: Yes we will see that Felicia Taylor, thank you very much.

A quick break and we're back.


BLACKWELL: Ray Lewis's teammates thought he could play forever. Well nobody plays forever. And the opponents who took punishing blows Lewis's announcement has not come soon enough. The middle line backer who's played his entire 17 year career with the Baltimore Ravens says he will retire when the Ravens postseason run ends.


RAY LEWIS, BALTIMORE RAVENS: God is calling in so many other areas of life. And -- and my children, I can -- my children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father -- the ultimate you know for 17 years. And whether it's jumping on a plane, jump right back to go to school and -- and I don't want to see them do that no more.


BLACKWELL: "Baltimore Sun's" sports columnist Mike Preston has covered Lewis' entire career as a Raven. He joins us on the phone. Mike, man, I'm a born and reared Baltimorean and -- and he is an icon in Baltimore. Were you surprised by the timing of this announcement?

MIKE PRESTON, SPORTS COLUMNIST, BALTIMORE SUN (via telephone): I was surprised. I thought we would have to go the entire off-season before he decided whether he would come back or not -- but it's a good and a bad day in Baltimore. It's a bad day because like you said, you thought he would play forever he is an icon but the good thing is that he retires as a Raven. You didn't want to see what happened with Johnny Unitas, go to San Diego and retire there and wear another uniform.

He'll come out of the tunnel the last time on Sunday in the appropriate uniform, and that's the -- probably the best thing that came out of the news yesterday.

BLACKWELL: Yes that jersey that number deserves to hang right in downtown Baltimore. There have been some great middle linebackers who have played the game. Dick Butkus, Dan Huff you say that Lewis is the best ever why?

PRESTON: You look at the longevity. Seventeen years, that's an amazing run. Few linebackers have lasted 10 to 11 years. What he could do was run sideline to sideline. Butkus couldn't do that, Nitschke couldn't do that, Huff couldn't do that. This guy could run up and down the field, cover running backs, tight ends down the field one on one. Those guys in today's game would not be on the field in third down situations. Ray Lewis was an every down player.

Look at the numbers: 13 pro bowls, two defensive players of the year awards, which only one other linebacker has ever done before, middle linebackers so he set a standard that I don't think anyone will ever reach again.

BLACKWELL: Yes team leader from the -- from the very first game. Now in your column today in "The Sun" you refer to a game in '97, you call that a turning point in his career. Tell us about that.

PRESTON: Well, what happens, he's in the second year, he goes pass into the left flat to Eric Metcalfe who darts back across the middle of the field while Ray's coming over, because he's on the other side. He has to turn around in a circle and chase Metcalfe down.

Well, you see Metcalfe starting to pull away. Because this is -- it turned out to be a 62-yard run. After about 40 yards, you see Ray hit another gear. And then he leaps, he grabs him, and pulls him down with one hand at the 12 yard line and you can see Metcalfe sitting on the turf and he's raising his hands up in there saying, what just happened? How did I get run down by a middle linebacker?

Now Metcalfe supposedly ran a 4.3 40. And here is a guy Ray Lewis 6'1"-6'2", 255, 260, and he just got run down by a middle linebacker.

In the next play Ray made the next tackle. Unbelievable. I think that's when people said he is really, really special.

BLACKWELL: All right, Mike Preston, of the "Baltimore Suns". It's going to be tough to see him go. Thank you very much.

PRESTON: All right. Take care, thank you.

BLACKWELL: The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM begins in two minutes.