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Repealing Gun Makers' Liability Shield; Sandy Hook Tragedy; Oprah Interviews Lance Armstrong; The Politics of Hollywood; Obama to Hold News Conference Today

Aired January 14, 2013 - 09:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Folks here in Newtown, Connecticut, cannot quite see yet. But they're being embraced by people around the country today.

You want to stay with CNN for complete coverage of the one month anniversary of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Tonight Anderson is going to be live from here with "AC 360." That'll happen at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Up next, Carol Costello.

Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM. Taking aim at the gun industry in a sweetheart deal that may shock you. One outraged lawmaker explains in an exclusive interview.

He says he's still a Republican, but Colin Powell had some sharp words about the current state of his political party.


COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: A dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party.


COSTELLO: So what did Powell mean by that, and what does -- what does he think the GOP needs to do to be relevant in the future? We'll tell you.

Riding toward redemption, or hitting a lawsuit pothole. Lance Armstrong reportedly considers confessing before talking to Oprah Winfrey.

Plus this.


TINA FEY, HOST, GOLDEN GLOBES: "The Hunger Games" was one of the biggest films of the year and also what I call the six weeks it took me to get in this dress. AMY POEHLER, HOST, GOLDEN GLOBES: Ang Lee has been nominated for best director for "The Life of Pi," which is what I'm going to call the six weeks after I take this dress off.


COSTELLO: Golden girls, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, taking the reins on one of Hollywood's biggest nights and earning rave reviews, but they weren't the only ones making headlines. Jodie Foster anyone?

NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you for being with us. I'm Carol Costello.

At this very moment a California lawmaker is unveiling legislation that could chip away at the power of the nation's gun industry. He'll explain in just a moment. But first, here's a look at what's in the cross-hairs. It's a 2005 law that grants wide legal immunity to gun makers and dealers. Critics say no other industry in the country enjoys this kind of special protection. It shields the industry from lawsuits filed by shooting victims, everything from faulty designs to negligent sales practices that put guns in the wrong hands.

The NRA says it merely guards against frivolous lawsuits intended to bankrupt gun makers.

Congressman Adam Shift is introducing the effort to roll back that immunity. He joins us now live in this exclusive interview.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you. Good to be with you.

COSTELLO: Nice to have you here. Ted Kennedy said this law was bought and paid for by the NRA. In your mind, what was the intent behind this law?

SCHIFF: Well, the time it was passed, there were a number of suits, predominantly by municipalities against the gun industry to attack the sale of Saturday night specials. And at least the proponents of the law claimed it was just designed to protect them from liability simply for making an inherently dangerous product. But of course it was written much more broadly than that. And the effect has been that when gun sellers or gun manufacturers act negligently, they're immune from any kind of liability.

So you can have gun dealers turning a blind eye to the sale of hundreds of weapons to straw purchasers, and when those guns are resold or conveyed to people, criminals that use them to kill people, then they can't be held liable.

And that makes no sense. It's a protection not needed by the good actors and not deserved by the bad actors.

COSTELLO: And just to be more clear about this, no other industry enjoys such protection. If this law applied to car manufacturers, let's say, it would mean, if my brakes failed due to a design flaw, I could not sue the manufacturer. Am I getting this right?

SCHIFF: That's exactly right. And to look at the analogy for the sellers of automobiles, they could be selling automobiles to 12-year- olds, to 13-year-olds, and they would have no responsibility to make sure they're selling them to actually people who are legally eligible to drive them.

It doesn't make any sense. And one of the most important things that we're going to be working on is universal background checks. Well, those background checks are only going to be as good as the people -- as our ability to make sure that the people buying the guns are, in fact, the people who are going to own and use the guns.

If we allow dealers to sell to these straw purchasers hundreds and hundreds, thousands of weapons that will be turned over and conveyed to others that will never get background checks, it will completely eviscerate that important safeguard.

COSTELLO: The president of the NRA, I mean, quite frankly, he's not afraid of you or any other lawmakers. He told Candy Crowley over the weekend Congress won't back down a bit to ban -- on the proposed ban on assault weapons. Let's listen.


DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NRA: When a president takes all the power of his office, if he's willing to expend political capital, you don't want to make predictions -- you don't want to bet your house on the outcome, but I would say that the likelihood is that they are -- they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress.


COSTELLO: As long as lawmakers need money to get re-elected, how can any lawmaker really take a stand and make it stick?

SCHIFF: Well, we simply have to take a stand, and I -- and the NRA leadership has never shown any shortage of arrogance, and they're not displaying any humility now, but this is a real tipping point. The country has reached an awful fatigue with these repeated gun tragedies. And I think that that will be reflected in what Congress does. I think it will develop the spine and the backbone necessary to pass an assault weapons ban, a ban on ammunition clips, to pass universal background checks,

And I hope to remove this immunity that only one industry in America enjoys and that, in fact, protects a lot of unscrupulous gun sellers and dealers.

COSTELLO: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

COSTELLO: It's been one month to the day since the killing rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. And as the heart broken town searches for some semblance of normalcy, it must also wrestle with the haunting question. Should the school, the site of that horrifying attack, be left standing?

About 200 people from the town gathered in a nearby high school to debate the future of Sandy Hook Elementary. Some want the school torn down. Some want it converted into a memorial. And others want it to eventually welcome back children as part of the healing process.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remodel it. Make it better, make it bigger, make it more beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My best memories were at Sandy Hook School, and I think that children in the future deserve to experience the same beautiful memories that I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether or not the school stays there or -- and I'm not sure, but somewhere to have a memorial garden for all those angels.


COSTELLO: CNN's Soledad O'Brien has returned to Newtown for today's remembrances. In just a couple of hours, we'll hear from one group that's demanding action against gun violence. Can you tell us about that?

O'BRIEN: Yes, you know, it's interesting. A lot of these conversations, like the ones you were just showing last night, are very emotional. And yesterday's conversation about what should be done with the elementary school, that was pretty much split right down the middle. Fifty percent have roughly said that they wanted the school to remain. Another 50 percent said tear it down, destroy it.

Very emotional because for the first time there was an official meeting. They're going to have another meeting about the same thing come Friday. Today in just a couple of hours we're going to be hearing from Sandy Hook Promise, and that's a grassroots initiative that's committed to making sure what happened here in Newtown, Connecticut, doesn't happen anywhere else. They're trying to figure out ways to stop gun violence.

And they say they're going to try to encourage some kind of commonsense solutions to make sure that the community -- their community, and the community of the nation as a whole, is safer from gun violence. Some of the details, of course, we're still waiting to hear. But they're going to hold their press conference here at 11:00 this morning, and it's kind of a gloomy dig. I think it matches, actually, Carol, very well the feeling that we've sensed so far in this town just one month in. Still a very rough road here for many of the folks.

This group, Sandy Hook Promise, has brought in folks who survived past mass shootings, survived past mass tragedies. And I think those people, who we spent a lot of time talking to this morning say their job is to help show the people here that there is a path. That maybe one month out they can't -- they can't quite see a path to recovery but that -- that's what they're here to do is to show them that they have been able to move forward in some way and get some perspective, I guess, to this tragedy -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Soledad O'Brien, reporting live from Newtown this morning.

Lance Armstrong has a chance to come clean when he sits down with Oprah Winfrey for an interview today. But will the disgraced cyclist actually confess to doping and blood transfusions? Could be a step on his road to redemption or an opening to potential lawsuits.

Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a script that would make a Hollywood writer jealous. Cycling athlete gets cancer, nearly dies, but heroically comes back to win the world's most famous race, not once, not twice, but a record-breaking seven straight times.

Oh and by the way, he also starts a cancer foundation which has raised $470 million and has provided inspiration to millions around the world.

But a dark cloud hovering over this story never blew past. Suspicions that grew into allegations that Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs to accomplish his incredible feats. The suspicions were confirmed in October when the United States Anti-Doping Agency released thousands of pages of evidence of what it said was a sophisticated doping program.

Armstrong was stripped of his tour de France titles and banned from all Olympic sports for life. One by one, his sponsors have left him, too. Late last year, Armstrong was forced out from Live Strong, the cancer charity he founded.

Armstrong has kept a low profile at his Austin home since the report was released, but Armstrong's denials over the years to protect his name have angered many.

LANCE ARMSTRONG, PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE: I've said it for seven years. I've said it for longer than seven years. I have never doped. I can say it again. But I've said it for seven years. It doesn't help.

LAVANDERA: Former teammates found guilty of doping themselves went on record.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you see Lance Armstrong using other performance enhancing drugs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At times yes, at different training camps.

TYLER HAMILTON, FORMER TEAMMATE: He took. We all took. Really no difference between Lance Armstrong and -- the majority of the Pelleton, you know?

LAVANDERA: Repercussions. So why is he doing this now? One reason could be hoped that a confession might give him a shot at resuming his competitive triathlon career, from which he is banned for life. At age 41, he doesn't have much time left to make a clean start in another sport.


COSTELLO: Ed Lavandera is here.

So, Ed, after the USADA report came out, Armstrong tweeted this photo. He's at home in Austin, he has his yellow tour jerseys still hanging up as if to say, you want them, come and get him. So could his attitude have changed so much since October?

LAVANDERA: I think, for a lot of people, that picture just -- you know, speaks volumes. When you look at that, this is just a few weeks after that report had come out. Eleven former teammates had basically come out against him. And he was still being defiant. And I think what has rubbed a lot of people wrong over the 15 years in the cycling community, not only he has denied what he reportedly is about to confess today to Oprah Winfrey, is that he also went after so many people who questioned him or who said that he had doped over the years.

So the extent to which Lance Armstrong will confess, if that's indeed what's going to happen today with Oprah Winfrey, will be watched by millions and millions of people around the world, and especially the ones -- the cyclists and teammates that were closest to him who he has attacked so vehemently over the years will be watching this closely as well -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So Oprah is going to interview him today, but -- but you know, the public can't see it until, what, Thursday? Is that right?

LAVANDERA: Yes, Thursday is my understanding, is when the interview will air. So we'll have to wait a couple of days, or maybe -- you know he'll come out and say something in the meantime. The brunt of the interview won't air until Thursday.

COSTELLO: All right. Ed Lavandera reporting for us live this morning.

Still ahead, girl power. Golden girls Amy Poehler and Tina Fey taking the reins on one of Hollywood's biggest night, and they're earning rave reviews. But they weren't the only ones making headlines.


COSTELLO: Fifteen minutes past the hour.

Checking our top stories now:

A digital activist and someone who helped shape the Internet, that's how Aaron Swartz is being remembered by some, after the co-developer of Reddit and RSS was found dead of an apparent suicide in his apartment. Swartz was just 26.

A lot of frustration and anger on Detroit's south side. Thousands lined up for hours outside a center giving away Section 8 public housing vouchers. But there were people than vouchers. Police say several people rushed the door of the center trying to snag a voucher. They were arrested, and the giveaway was canceled.

Several roads and schools in southwest Tennessee were closed today because of flooding. The rushing water has left many roads damaged and others too dangerous to cross. Water levels are starting to go down, and the area could begin drying out by Thursday.

In money news, the Corvette gets a brand new look with an old name for its 60th birthday. Yes, its 60th birthday. General Motors revamped and revealed the new Stingray as the most powerful and fuel efficient base model ever made.

The last time the Stingray name was used was in 1976. My sister had one. It was awesome.

The Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots have advanced to the NFL's championship round. The Falcons blew a 20-point lead to Seattle. Then they came roaring back to win the game 30-28.

The Patriots behind Tom Brady's three touchdown passes handled Houston quite easily, 40-28. Pats take on Baltimore in the AFC title game on Sunday after Atlanta and San Francisco battle it out for the NFC crown.

To Hollywood now. By this time, you probably heard about all the winners and the losers from last night's Golden Globes. But there were a few moments that stood out above the rest, starting with Jodie Foster, who received the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement.


JODIE FOSTER, ACTRESS: I can't help but get moony, you know? This feels like the end of one era and the beginning of something else. Scary and exciting, and now what? Well, I may never be up on this stage again, on any stage for that matter.

Change, got to love it. I will continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved, the greatest job in the world. It's just that from now on, I may be holding a different talking stick.


COSTELLO: Joining me now from New York is "Village Voice" entertainment writer Michael Musto.

Welcome, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, VILLAGE VOICE: Hi, Carol. I'm inebriated from watching that telecast. That was a really fun party. Really fun part, I got a contact high. (CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: But that was the theme for the awards ceremony. I want to talk about --

MUSTO: Jodie's speech was sobering.

COSTELLO: It was sobering. I'm going to say it. Why didn't she come out, come out? Why didn't she stand up there and say, "I'm gay"?

MUSTO: I'm so glad she said that. I actually thought she should have said that like 20 years ago. It was a weirdly, self-justifying, kind of defiant, almost coming out speech last night. It was like, I'm out but I'm not out. I've always been out to the people around me, but I never felt I had to come out.

Exactly. Why didn't she say, "Yes, I'm gay"? There's nothing wrong with being gay, for a celebrity to be scrutinized. It's weird to draw sexuality as the last line of privacy. And she kept emphasizing the importance of privacy.

Whatever, she's out now. Let's just throw her a party, I guess.

COSTELLO: Some people are saying this just illustrates how difficult it still is to come totally out publicly like Jodie Foster. I mean, she's 50. She's been gay a long time obviously. Even 10 years ago, that was difficult and could be a career killer.

MUSTO: Well, she didn't say that. If she had been honest and said, well, I did it for my career or maybe because I have shame issues, I might have respected the honesty a little bit more. The reality is now is a landscape where so many people are out, you're kind of being left out if you're still in the closet. And so, it wasn't all that brave for her to say, "Oh, yes, I'm like with Matt Boemer and, you know, Jim Parsons, and all the other people, Rachel Maddow, I don't know, all the other gays."

But, still, I'm one of the few who have mixed feelings about the whole speech. I thought it was a weirdly convoluted kind of approach to what could have been an out and proud moment, which could have inspired young people I think more.

OK, let's move on now --

MUSTO: By the way, Carol --


MUSTO: -- did you notice Mel Gibson's face while she was saying that. He looked stymied, like she's a lesbian? He was looking for that beaver puppet. She's a lesbian? What's going on here? I hope she's not Jewish.

COSTELLO: I actually thought it was strange that he was sitting beside her. I know they're good friends and she's a really good friend for allowing Mel Gibson to appear with her, frankly. MUSTO: Yes, she's been a big apologist not only for the celebrity closet but for Mel Gibson. She sees the good in him. So, maybe she's better than the rest of us, because I don't think see much good there.

COSTELLO: I don't think Jodie is going to like your comment.

Moving now to politically themed movies and TV shows, because they stole the show, "Argo," best drama, and director for Ben Affleck, who some was snubbed by the Oscars. "Zero Dark Thirty" winning best actress for Jessica Chastain. "Game Change" based on the best selling book about the 2008 election earning best TV mini series, best actress in a mini series for Julianne Moore, and best supporting actor for Ed Harris.

And "Lincoln," which won best actor, rather. And it was actually introduced by none other than former President Bill Clinton, who just kind of a weird time in our movie culture right now.

MUSTO: Well, the Golden Globes are done by the Hollywood foreign press, and they love movies about international politics. Now, maybe "Lincoln" was too American for them. The only award they gave was to the British actor who played Abe Lincoln.

You know, even movies like "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," which I actually saw, were nominated. That has to do with foreign and international politics. Even "Les Mis" had to do with French politics. Yes, they're obsessed with that.

Bill Clinton was a terrific get, Carol. That was even more of a get than getting Jennifer Lopez. They didn't want to spring for Obama, but they got a pretty good guy. Let's face it, he has a lot of perks that he requires in the dressing room, I can only imagine.

COSTELLO: Oh, Michel, Michael, Michael.

MUSTO: But, you know, he was a total professional. He was barely looking at the prompter. He knew his lines.

He was much better than some of those inebriated people, like the guy pretending to be high and said Lisa Dunham instead of Lena Dunham.

Bill Clinton knew all the names --

COSTELLO: The worst was Salma Hayek, her prompter went down. She and I can't remember the actor with her, Paul Rudd, they totally forgot what they were going to do. I mean, really?

MUSTO: I think there may have been a technical glitch. Maybe she's trying out to be the new Charo or something. I have no idea.

COSTELLO: Michael --

MUSTO: I loved Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I thought they were hilarious. I wanted to take them home with me. They punctured through all the solemnity and all the speeches about my wonderful journey, picking out the four losers and saying, oh, aren't they terrific? They punctured through all of that solemnity and patronizing attitude with just hilarity and mockery.

And if Seth MacFarlane is even half as funny at the Oscars, they've got a hit on his hands.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. Although I don't think they'll be going home with you, though, they're going home with Jodie Foster, they said so.

Michael Musto, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

MUSTO: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Oh, this just in to CNN. President Obama will be holding a news conference this morning in the East Room. It's billed as one of his -- it's billed as his last one in his first term. (INAUDIBLE) had to say that.

It's expected to get underway at 11:15 a.m. That's Eastern Time. And we hope to bring it to you live. That's just in about two hours.

Residents in Newtown are looking for ways to heal from the shooting massacre. What's the best way to honor Newtown victims? The talk back question today, hear that?


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning: what's the best way to honor the Newtown victims? Today, Newtown is trying to decide what to do with what was once a safe place for children.

Sandy Hook Elementary has been cleaned of the carnage, but memories cannot be cleansed. They live on. Just ask the families of the victims in Aurora. The movie theater reopens on Friday. Its owner invited the relatives of the people killed there to watch a film in the very theater where their loved ones died. Many were deeply offended.


SANDY PHILLIPS, JESSICA GHAWI'S MOTHER: As a family member of somebody who has been butchered in that theater, it has been extremely insensitive, and the other family members feel exactly the same way.


COSTELLO: Newtown is more complicated. Some suggest the school should be torn down or made into a memorial or even kept open as a way to help everyone move on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My best memories were at Sandy Hook school, and I think that children in the future deserve to experience the same beautiful memories that I did. If we were to knock the school down, we'd be preventing future children from experiencing the same memories. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Maybe it's not about teddy bears or letters of condolence or college scholarship funds, but maybe it's about something more lasting. Those close to the Sandy Hook tragedy say it's about preventing the need for such memorials.


POLICE CHIEF MICHAEL KEHOE, NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT: Ban assault weapons, restrict those magazines that have so many bullets in them.


COSTELLO: "The Hartford Courant" reports that the family of Noah Pozner, a 6-year-old killed at Sandy Hook, wants the White House to support new federal laws that would hold gun owners accountable. They include requiring anyone aware of a possible attack to notify police within 24 hours and penalize gun owners whose weapons fall into the hands of a dangerous person.

Talk back question today: what's the best way to honor the Newtown victims?, Or you can tweet me @carolCNN.

I'll be right back.


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

Stories we're watching right now in THE NEWSROOM at 30 minutes past the hour:

U.S. stock futures mostly flat ahead of the opening bell. Trading could be on the slow side as investors wait for another round of corporate earnings. Ringing the opening bell today is Michael Lesler. He's the president and vice president of the Bancorp of New Jersey.

According to "The Financial Times," Goldman Sachs is considering paying its employees bonuses in the U.K. after April 6. That would allow the company to take advantage of the top income tax dropping from 50 percent to 45 percent.