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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Ambien Stays Longer with Women; Lance Armstrong to Interview with Oprah; Speculation That Armstrong May Confess to Doping; Lack of Diversity on Presidential Cabinet Criticized; Totally T-Boz

Aired January 11, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley with a teary good-bye to their husband. She and her two kids won't see him for another year. Michael Haley and other members of his national guard unit are shipping out to Afghanistan. He'll be helping Afghan farmers with their crops.

In a statement on her Facebook page, the governor wrote, "We are a proud military family who understands the sacrifices any family goes through when a loved one is serving his or her country. We will miss him while he's away."

We certainly wish him all of the best.

A warning for women who take Ambien and similar sleeping pills, the sleep aid stays in women's bloodstreams longer than men, potentially making them too drowsy to drive in the morning or perform other activities that require full alertness. The FDA is now requiring doctors prescribe half doses.

A really damning report, shocking, actually, released in London concerning long time BBC host Jimmy Savile. It includes that he was a prolific sexual abuser of children.

CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance has the details in London. Good morning, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you as well. That's right, an absolutely terrible report has come out after 14 weeks of investigation by British police in conjunction with social services. Just the figures are quite astonishing in themselves when they're related to Jimmy Savile and his career of abuse that took place over a period of more than half a century from 1955 to 2009.

There's been 450 complaints issued against Jimmy Savile, that famous children's TV presenter here in Britain, who is now of course dead. He died in 2011. And 214 of them have been recorded as abuse, including 34 rapes. The abuse took place over a long period as I said, also across a wide range of ages, people between the ages of 47 on the upper limit and eight years old on the lower limits. So very serious abuses being recorded finally by the British police.

BERMAN: The scope of the allegations simply shocking this morning. We have a dire warning from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the Pentagon's budget saying the military is being prepared to deal with the worst due to the threat of severe budget cuts set to kick in on March 1. This of course is a result of the fiscal cliff negotiations which failed to end the process known as sequestration or deep across the board spending cuts. Panetta said it is threatening the Pentagon's ability to defend the nation.

We've all been talking about this, the loopy signature from Treasury nominee Jack Lew. It could soon be on all our dollar bills. It's providing some good fodder for late night comedians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": President Obama nominated current White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to be the new Secretary of the Treasury. The Secretary of the Treasury is a person whose signature goes on the right side of the bill and this is Jack Lew's signature. Before he worked at the White House he worked at Hostess as a cupcake icer.

(LAUGHTER)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Is that your signature, or are you testing to see if the pen works?

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: The only way that you're allowed to have that as your signature is if your name is boing-boing-boing-boing-boing.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Perhaps our future Treasury Secretary, ladies and gentlemen.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: That is so funny. Thanks, John, appreciate it.

Lance Armstrong, is he going to admit to doping? The former cycling superstar is sitting down with Oprah next week, his first interview since he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life. The rumor is he's going to use that interview to admit he took performance enhancing drugs for years.

Let's get right to Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" and Lauren Ashburn, editor-in-chief of "The Daily Download." Nice to talk to both of you. Do you think he has to confess if he's going to sit down with Oprah?

LAUREN ASHBURN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE DAILY DOWNLOAD": What else is he going to do? Is he going to talk about his family? He has to do something, right? But the problem is I don't think Oprah is Oprah anymore. Do you know when her show is on? Do you know? Do you watch? O'BRIEN: It doesn't matter.

ASHBURN: 7:00 p.m. --

O'BRIEN: It doesn't matter.

ASHBURN: -- at 4:00. That's exactly the problem. If just a YouTube clip makes it you've got 30 seconds at the most. Are you going to sit down and watch an hour and a half of Lance Armstrong?

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": She is still Oprah Winfrey and Lance Armstrong who by the way lied to me in two interviews as well as the rest of the world sees he has to go to the church of Oprah and seek absolution.

O'BRIEN: It will be boiled down to the moment where he says whatever it is he says.

KURTZ: He has to cry.

ASHBURN: I want to see him and this was the great thing about the last interviews with Oprah, I want to see him sit there for an hour and a half, I want to see his body language, I want to see what his eyes look like.

O'BRIEN: You'll find the channel and the time and Oprah, isn't she banking on that? That's the whole point.

ASHBURN: That's what she needs to do now. I think she's sort of faded from the limelight and she's been trying to run her channel. It gets very small ratings. And she needs to be interviewing these people. That's what we knew her as, the absolution queen.

KURTZ: This interview could be as important for Oprah Winfrey trying to get back on the cultural map as it will be for Lance Armstrong. But I don't think no matter what Lance Armstrong does and he tears up, this guy is on tape in a million different places saying no, never, no evidence, I never did it. Is America going to forgive him?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Why do we love athletes, this he can do something we can't do, run faster, jump higher. And he had a fairytale story of overcoming cancer. The question is, where would he have been he had not used performance- enhancing drugs?

O'BRIEN: You wait a little time, you go work in a soup kitchen.

ASHBURN: I don't think it's going to happen this time. I do not think it's going to happen this time.

KURTZ: You start with Oprah.

CHRIS FRATES, REPORTER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Where do you go from there and knowing Lance Armstrong I'm not sure he actually admits to it. I think there's probably a shading. It's not an "I doped."

ASHBURN: There's a lot of money on the table for him, a lot of businesses.

KURTZ: Business, charity, Live Strong, a lot of litigation he needs to unravel. There was an orchestrated role. It began with a leak from "The New York Times" saying he's considering.

O'BRIEN: His lawyer said it wasn't true.

KURTZ: His lawyer said let Lance speak for himself. He'll go to Oprah and speak for himself and I think that you say America is willing to forgive but he not only said that he was innocent. He attacked the anti-doping officials as conducting a vendetta, he attacked the media.

ASHBURN: It's not going to work.

O'BRIEN: It might take longer than your average person, Marion Jones, you cry, admit it, and over time people forget and the only way that he can do other things is to draw a line of well that was then, here was my story then and now I turned to the now.

FRATES: What's he going to do? He was known for being the greatest cyclist of all-time. Who is Lance Armstrong without the seven medals.

BILL BURTON, SENIOR STRATEGIST, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: Still has a voice and his own celebrity or now notoriety and I think he just needs this --

BERMAN: Not with Sheryl Crow.

BURTON: And did she know? So that he can turn the page and it can be before Oprah and then after Oprah and just in communications it's what happens.

ASHBURN: He lied to you back in the day. What could he say to change your mind?

KURTZ: He lied six months ago and attacked "60 Minutes" and did it with great passion and fervor in his voice.

O'BRIEN: He wants him to come back to "Reliable Sources" and he's sorry, will you book him as will we and we will al be part of the reinvention of Lance Armstrong.

(LAUGHTER)

ASHBURN: Soledad is the new Oprah.

ROMANS: I think crying helps, a little teary-eyed.

KURTZ: Can you tear up a little bit?

O'BRIEN: Not from you, from him.

KURTZ: Sorry. Lance Armstrong doesn't need me to forgive him. Look what happened with Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, because of the accusation of steroids. This guy cheated. ASHBURN: They are not going to forgive. This is ten years of cheating and lying, all these kids.

O'BRIEN: Would you like to put money on this? Ten years from now, they will let it go, I'm guaranteeing you that.

We've got to take a break. Thanks for talking with us this morning. We appreciate it.

Still ahead, go back to our conversation about this photo, black and white version, Bill Burton was talking about the number of women in the White House, we've crunched some of the numbers --

ABBY HUNTSMAN, HOST, HUFFPOST LIVE: Or lack thereof.

O'BRIEN: -- or lack thereof and talk about that.

Also, she shot to fame back in the 90s with group TLC. Now after battling a brain tumor singer T-Boz has a new reality show. We'll talk about it in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, watching your money. The S&P 500 hit a five-year high yesterday closing at the highest level since December, 2007. That's the best indicator for stocks in your 410(k). This morning U.S. stock futures are flat.

American Express the latest company to announce layoffs, cutting 5,400 jobs. Morgan Stanley sources saying it will cut 1,600 jobs. Brand new this morning, Ford hiring 2,200 salaried workers in the U.S. That's the most for Ford in ten years.

And new evidence college graduates will be paid more this year. Starting salaries rose 3.4 percent for new college grads in 2012, according to brand new numbers from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Here's the range for salaries, for humanities and social science jobs $37,000 a year, up to nearly $62,000 for engineering, and there's huge demand for those engineering jobs.

O'BRIEN: STEM, clearly.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Earlier this morning we were talking about the president's Cabinet, talking about this photo which got a lot of flak for, the binders of women because only Valerie Jarrett's leg is visible in the photo. Many of his positions he has pointed the four most recent ones all white men, and Bill Burton said there are plenty of women in the president's Cabinet.

We said we'd look at the top 50 positions, feedback is no president listens to 50. It's an unreasonable number. So if we look at --

BURTON: Sounds like you're welching on the bet. O'BRIEN: Careful. Careful. You're still my show for 16 more minutes.

So if you look at the top 20, the top 19 positions. I'm happy to let you fill in some of the other blanks. You have Chief of Staff -- male, Deputy Chief of Staff -- two women, Secretary of Defense -- male, Secretary of State -- male, Treasury -- male, CIA Director -- male, National Security Adviser -- male, Ambassador to the U.N. -- female, Press Secretary -- male, Communications Director -- male, Deputy Communications Director -- female, General Counsel -- male, counsel to the president -- male, senior adviser -- one male, one female, Council of Economic Advisers -- one male, one female, OMB -- male.

That's 19 positions, of which 13 are men, 6 are women.

So even if I were to give you six more slots to 25, which someone told me is a reasonable advisory position number, that the math speaks for itself, Mr. Burton.

BURTON: Is Hillary Clinton on there? She does still serve in the administration.

FRATES: What -- John Kerry will be taking her place.

BURTON: Two Supreme Court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor. In the secretary -- in the cabinet you've got three agencies where there's actually more women than men in the agencies overall, and you've got heads of those agencies between Solis, Sebelius.

O'BRIEN: Who is leaving -- who is leaving, and Sebelius is staying, but Solis is leaving.

BURTON: We're talking about the cabinet as it is not as it might go.

O'BRIEN: Latina leaving, go ahead.

BURTON: In the -- in the White House, Cecelia Munoz, the head of the DPC. Janet Napolitano.

O'BRIEN: I didn't know -- what the DPC? What is the --

BURTON: Domestic Policy Council.

O'BRIEN: Oh, got it.

BURTON: The head of Homeland Security obviously that's an important advisor to the President, Janet Napolitano.

O'BRIEN: Yes I also want to talk about -- I'm going to take that one.

BURTON: You want to take the Supreme Court?

O'BRIEN: I'll take the Supreme Court, OK, I'll give you three -- I'll give you two female appointments to the Supreme Court and I will give you Homeland Security, that's three women that brings us up to 9 women to 13 men.

BURTON: And that doesn't even -- that doesn't even count the strong women who have left, Carol Browner who was very important --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Who've left will be the operative word there. We're off the boards there.

BURTON: Well, Susan Rice also Cabinet level and a key --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Unclear what she's going to do.

BURTON: -- key advisor to the President already.

So I think that you know you can -- there's different ways that you can crunch these numbers.

O'BRIEN: I know, I'm trying.

BURTON: But the bottom is that there are -- there are critically important women in the President's life who advise him every single day.

HUNTSMAN: You didn't even mention Michelle, Sasha or Malia. They're the most influential, if you think about it.

O'BRIEN: And also not in the photo.

BURTON: Photo. They were in Hawaii, in fairness to them.

O'BRIEN: Yes, because the whole point of this photo was to show that the President was hard at work on this issue and probably even the bigger question is who let this photo go through? Right that's a -- that's --

BURTON: I just feel bad for Dan Pfeiffer, who was caught eating an apple.

O'BRIEN: Have been eating -- Dan don't eat in the picture next time.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT -- we're going to split it 50/50.

You know her from the popular group TLC, one of my favorite songs "No Scrubs" come on, Abby.

HUNTSMAN: I'm -- I'm keeping silent.

O'BRIEN: "Waterfall".

Singer T-Boz has a new reality show which captures her struggle to recover from the brain tumor she had and also revitalized her career. She's going to join us, up next. We're back in just a minute. Hey T-Boz, how are you?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: You know our next guest from her multiple chart-topping songs with TLC including this one, "Waterfall". Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins is a songwriter, has won four Grammies, an actor, and she now has a new reality a show called "Totally T-Boz", where she talks about recovering from her brain tumor, raising her daughter, and also sustaining her musical career.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIONNE "T-BOZ" WATKINS, SONGWRITER/ACTRESS: I never wanted to be, whoa I creep, yes. No that's not what they want, OK. People are asking me as a writer to come in now. You know, you have to get it while it's there or if you snooze in our business you lose.

I had to do this, it was going to be a problem for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: T-Boz is with us this morning. I'm already riveted. You can see it. There's drama, there's conflict, talking about your career, juggling it all, not having mentioned the recovery from your surgery; the fact that you have sickle cell anemia. You do a lot, you -- you said you're a very private person though so usually you think the last person who is going to do a reality show.

WATKINS: That's what I was thinking. And I was like, I can't believe I'm doing this, but I did it because it kind of fell on my lap. I turned down a lot of other reality shows and, for me, I was like this is where I'm at in my life and TLC was interested in following me, not leading me. And there's now ten years of technology to tell you about a the brain tumor, so that maybe I can speak up and help somebody and then you'll learn, you know, more about me, TLC, and how I became who I am today.

O'BRIEN: You said the show is more serious than your real life in a way.

WATKINS: Yes, because I'm feeling like -- I never talked about being sick and I don't really like that to be like the -- the focus, like can we laugh, too, like laughter is the best medication. I love to laugh but I'm like, OK, I'll share but can we get some jokey jokes? Because there was some funny stuff that was edited out, it was so funny.

O'BRIEN: Yes and you're hilarious and at the same time you've had -- I mean a brain tumor.

WATKINS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Many people don't live to tell the tale of their brain tumor surgery and you have recovered amazingly well. How are you feeling? How is your health?

WATKINS: I feel great. I'm done with physical therapy, I'm back on my feet. Of course, I have sickle cell, there's no cure, so I deal with that but I'm -- I'm doing great, honestly. I just have to take care of myself, eat better, you know, but there's no cure. It just means I won't get sick as long or as much.

O'BRIEN: Is there conflict about writing for others and writing for yourselves that you can get the group back and perform and, I mean, how does that go?

WATKINS: Well, this is our 20th anniversary.

BURTON: Wow.

WATKINS: Which makes me 28 this year.

O'BRIEN: OK.

WATKINS: Lordy and VH-1 is doing a biopic about our life.

O'BRIEN: Great.

WATKINS: So we are going to new song for a soundtrack in a movie -- for the movie excuse me. But -- and remix of some of the old hits and stuff like that or whatever, but at the end of the day I think if you strategically plan it out right, I can do both, because I have to. I'm at a point in my life, I'm 42, this can't last forever, forever, and I think you should use this avenue to move and merge on to other things.

So it's not just like a music industry anymore. It's you're in the business of entertainment and it goes to movies and other things that I do and writing for other artists. So --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: What do you like to do the most? What's your favorite thing, it's the money, if it wasn't about ever making money what's the thing you do?

WATKINS: I help people in my personal time, honestly. That's what I do because I was that kid in the hospital, I was told I couldn't live past 30 or ever have kids, they said I would be disabled and I superseded that.

So meshing music with charity and I found that -- that niche here to bring both of my passions together. So why not do it if I have the ground here to do it with press and everything else? And then I still get to do music and help people at the same time. It makes it better and that's what its' about 20 years later, doing things that I feel good about in my heart.

HUNTSMAN: Honestly your music got me and so many others through the awkward teenage years, so I thank you for that. But you guys are going to go on tour, I'd very much like to fill the third position. (CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: What can you sing?

HUNTSMAN: Yes, I -- I won't embarrass myself now. But if you're going on tour. You're not going to -- how do you incorporate Left-Eye into it, so people feel like all three of you guys are there again?

WATKINS: It's like a bittersweet situation because they're crying and smiling all at the same time. They're happy to hear the hits and stuff like that. But she's on big screens like in here and we're rocking together, and it's fun. She's not there, but she is there.

O'BRIEN: She died in Mexico ten years ago now.

WATKINS: Ten years, but we built this together so no other person will really ever fill that void.

BURTON: Are you incorporating her into any of the new music you're doing?

WATKINS: Well, she's on -- we're remixing the old hits so she'll be on there, yes as well. I don't know about the new songs, we're talking working with drake and other people so we'll see.

BERMAN: We started the week we were playing one of your hit songs. There were so many. The "Waterfall" song.

O'BRIEN: And singing along with it, by the way.

BERMAN: What's it like to hear that? Do you enjoy it at this point or is it, oh, not again.

WATKINS: It's kinda, oh, not again.

O'BRIEN: No, no.

WATKINS: Reflecting on things I if sing it all the time so it's like ooh, again. I appreciate even having a song like a group in London just redid "Waterfall" and I'm here 20 years later, wow, somebody redid our song so it's a blessing.

O'BRIEN: So we shouldn't serenade with you "No Scrubs" off the air. T-Boz, great to have you and it's great to see you. It's so wonderful to see you healthy.

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Thank you.

HUNTSMAN: I'll send you my demo.

WATKINS: OK.

O'BRIEN: "End Point" is up next.

WATKINS: Like, I'll be waiting forever for that.

O'BRIEN: Great to have you, appreciate it.

WATKINS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: "End Point" Abby, want to start us off?

HUNTSMAN: We talked a lot about the flu epidemic and we've all been drinking each other's drinks.

O'BRIEN: Not me.

HUNTSMAN: But I would just recommend everyone, if you're not feeling well, just stay home because that will really help with the spreading of the flu if you can.

O'BRIEN: Who wants to go next? Bill, I'm going to pick you.

BURTON: I could talk about diversity, but just on guns, the conversation is a little depressing because you sort of wish that there were some Republicans who were willing to step up and do some big things on guns, because if ever there were a moment to do something, now is that moment.

O'BRIEN: I wish there were a middle ground that you felt people are finding at some point.

What have you got for us?

FRATES: Lance Armstrong -- I really want to see why he goes next week. Is he going to confess, and to your point, can he start a comeback with this interview? Or will it be more of the old Lance and he won't get the sympathy that he thought --

O'BRIEN: Depends what he says, right? At the end of the day, the quality of said confession, if there is one, is going to be important. Thanks guys, appreciate it.

BURTON: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Have a great weekend, everybody. Be back here next week.

Carol, back to you.