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Armstrong Admits to Doping?; Oprah's Take on the Interview; Armstrong could repay Sponsors; Demos Begin on Sandy's Struck Homes; New Coca Cola Ad Tackling Obesity; New Coca Cola Ad Targets Obesity; Battle Brews Over Debt Ceiling

Aired January 15, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Backpedaling. Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong reportedly admits to Oprah he cheated and that may not be the most painful part of his confession.

Veterans wanted. Wal-Mart has a new plan that could give thousands of veterans a job.

Plus this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For over 125 years we've been bringing people together. Today we'd like people to come together on something that concerns all of us. Obesity. The long-term health of our families and the country is at stake.


COSTELLO: Coca Cola's push to reduce obesity. A new commercial aimed at ending the issue of this generation. Is it really damage control as some critics are charging?

Facebook is revealing a big secret today. The only clue is on the invitation to the media, come and see what we're building. What it might be, in a bit.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be like that, huh? Someone wants to play.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just trying to keep up with the old guy, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that your real hair?



COSTELLO: Plus a new Nike face to the stroke of $250 million.

NEWSROOM starts now.

And good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello. We begin with Lance Armstrong and one of the most remarkable stories in sports. He beat cancer, reinvented cycling, and rewrote the record books. And now based on various reports of his interview with Oprah Winfrey he was cheating the whole time and lying to all of us.

This is video of where the interview with Oprah happened. At the Four Seasons in Austin, Texas. Lots of questions this morning as to what exactly was said during that interview, namely how did Armstrong reportedly admit to doping, something he has flatly denied for years?


OPRAH WINFREY, "OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": I would say he did not come clean in the manner that I expected. It was surprising to me. I would say that for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers.

I had prepared, I had read the recent decision, I watched all of Scott Pelley's report, "60 Minutes" report, that -- Tyler Hamilton interview. I read "Seven Deadly Sins." I read "L.A. Confidential," David Walsh's books. I had prepared and prepared like it was a college exam, and walked into the room with 112 questions, and in a two and a half hour interview, I -- I asked most of those questions, or at least as many of those questions as I could, but I feel that he answered the questions in a way that he was ready.

I didn't get all the questions asked, but I think the most important questions and the answers that people around the world have been waiting to hear were answered and certainly answered -- I can only say I was satisfied by the answers.


COSTELLO: Wow. CNN's Ed Lavandera has followed Armstrong for years and joins us from Austin, the hometown of the disgraced superstar.

Ed, what more do you know about the Oprah interview?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, you know, I was listening to what Oprah said just a little while ago on the "CBS This Morning" show and the way she kind of answered some of these questions, she was asked at one point if Lance Armstrong was contrite and she simply just said that she would let people kind of make up their own minds on that. So I think it leaves a lot of questions open as to exactly to what extent Lance Armstrong will confess and what exactly is he going to be saying along the way.

You know, there have been reports leading up to this interview suggesting that Lance Armstrong is trying to get his punishment reduced and be able to compete in triathlons and running events which he has wanted to do but that is only done as far -- to the extent that he helps investigators in other doping investigations, so, you know, he's been accused of essentially running the most sophisticated doping operation in the history of sports, according to the U.S. anti-doping agency, so to what extent will he help them?

Those are some very tense relationships that have existed between that agency and Lance Armstrong's team for many years so -- and despite all that, what kind of credibility will he have for years and years he has denied the drug use, what kind of credibility will he have with investigators once he starts giving them the information they're asking about and will he get into that information with Oprah Winfrey?

Oprah didn't go that far so we still have many questions about just to what extent Lance Armstrong confessed and who is he also -- you know, accusing of helping him along the way.

COSTELLO: Well, she asked him 112 questions, we'll see. You know, the Oprah interview doesn't air until Thursday but the public condemnation has been swift and strong. What about in his hometown? How do people feel about Armstrong?

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, this -- it's been pretty mixed. I mean, this is also a place we're -- you know, we're actually in a place called Mellow Johnny's. This is a bike shop that Lance Armstrong has co-owned. You know, this has been a very friendly place to him over the years. This is in the heart of downtown Austin. This has been a place where he's done many rides and then helped people out along the way so this has been a friendly place for him.

But when you go around town here in Austin, there is a lot of exhaustion when it comes to Lance Armstrong and many people simply are tired of hearing about it. A lot of people felt that he's been let down, there's a prominent political figure here in Austin, Mark McKinnon, who was on CNN this morning who sits on the board of the Livestrong Foundation, says that Lance Armstrong has to crawl through a lot of grass to make amends -- crawl through a lot of glass, excuse me, not grass. Crawl through a lot of glass to make amends with people that he's hurt along the way.

COSTELLO: Ed Lavandera reporting live from Austin.

You heard mentioned the board member Mark McKinnon of Livestrong. He was on "EARLY START" this morning. Here's what he had to say specifically.


MARK MCKINNON, LIVESTRONG BOARD MEMBER: It's been devastating. I mean, the whole thing has been. And -- but I'm glad that Lance is coming forward. The thing that I'm most concerned about, of course, is the foundation and the work that we've done over the years for cancer survivors and people living with and through cancer.

But I'm encouraged by what we're seeing so far which is that people are sticking with the foundation.

Years ago, John, we decided to re-brand the Lance Armstrong Foundation Livestrong because we thought that someday we -- something could happen, that we wanted the foundation to live beyond one person. Whether it was Lance or anybody else who might take -- be running the foundation. We wanted to live on its own and have its own brand and not be contingent on any one person including Lance.


COSTELLO: Some of the strongest denials were under oath but he's apparently not at risk for perjury charges because too many years have passed so his greatest challenge could be financial. Not only are his endorsement deals now dead he reportedly is in talks to return some of the reported $31 million in sponsorship money given to the team by the U.S. Postal Service.

CNN's Alison Kosik is looking into that part of the story.

Good morning.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. So this involves this -- in the tens of billions of dollars. The Postal Service -- you know, it's been pretty quiet about how much money it was spending to sponsor the cycling team but documents that ESPN and "The Wall Street Journal" got a hold of, what they show is that the USPS spent about $32 million between 2001 and 2004.

Now the Post Office is not commenting but it does say it's following the situation closely. Now not all the money went right into Armstrong's pockets. It was used to finance the team's operations. Of course this comes at a time when the post office certainly could use the money, though. When you think about it, just a drop in the bucket for the post office. It reported a loss of almost $16 billion last year -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And just to make clear, this wasn't taxpayer money the postal service used to fund this team, is that right?

KOSIK: Right, that's exactly right. Yes.

COSTELLO: Just wanted to make that clear. Some -- some other companies like Nike and Anheuser-Busch have also come after Armstrong. What about those endorsement deals? Are they done and done?

KOSIK: And that's a good question. As of yet nobody's come after him. If he does return these payments, Carol, it would wind up being voluntary. You know, he could certainly be pressured to return money to other sponsors especially when you look at the peak of his run of seven straight Tour de France wins Armstrong was taking in more than $17 million a year in sponsorship money and he continued to be a valuable spokesperson for Nike and and for Anheuser-Busch until the latest chapter in this scandal.

Now since then Nike has terminated its contract. Anheuser-Busch let his contract run out at the end of last year -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik reporting live from New York this morning.

On New York's Staten island another grim milestone of the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. City crews have been tearing down the first of some 300 homes that are considered damaged beyond repair.

And in the shadows of that wreckage, the middle aged residents who watched part of their childhood disappear.


RAY WEILER, CHILDHOOD HOME, RAISED BY CITY: Devastating. I'm devastated. I'm heartbroken. I'm heartbroken for my sisters, for my mom who has got no place to come back to.

MICKEY MERRELL, CHILDHOOD HOME RACED BY CITY: I'm not good with this. I mean, this is my childhood. I moved in here at 4 years old. I grew up in this neighborhood.


COSTELLO: And today on Capitol Hill the House takes up the remaining $51 billion of Sandy relief aid but, as you might expect, the vote will not happen without a fight.

Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is in Washington with more.

Good morning, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. You're right. It will not happen without a fight but the headline is even according to those who are very much against passing this aid without offsetting it with other spending cuts is that they do believe that it will pass at the end of the day and end up at the president's desk in short order. But as you well said not without a fight and the fight is over offsetting it with spending cuts.

Mick Mulvaney is a conservative Republican. He actually has an amendment that will be allowed for a vote on the House floor that does cut some spending. Listen to what he told Soledad O'Brien this morning.


REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), MEMBER, JOINT ECONOMIC COMMITTEE: Well, as of right now it's not paid for. I'm not one of those folks in the Republican Party, and there are members of my party who think that this is not a proper function of the government. I happen to disagree with that. I've lived through hurricane prone area, I've lived through hurricanes and floods myself. I do think this is a proper and appropriate function of the government. My difficulty with it, it is simply not paid for, we're borrowing this additional money to do this and I just think that's wrong.


BASH: What his amendment would do would cut $17 billion in spending across the board in every sector of the government including defense, including vets. I was talking to somebody on Capitol Hill this morning who said that that amount of money is the entire operating budget, or akin to the entire operating budget of the Agriculture Department. That's how much money he wants to catch. Again, we do not think it will pass but it really does give a sense of why the speaker put -- got himself in so much trouble by pulling this before the night of New Year's Day, because of this very reason. He knew that there were a number of Republicans who were very upset about passing any new government spending without cutting it elsewhere and it's going to play out on the House floor today.

COSTELLO: Yes. OK. We're going to talk more about this later. Dana Bash reporting live from Capitol Hill today.

Coca-Cola is defending itself against charges it makes America fat. It's released in new commercials acknowledging obesity as the issue of this generation and vowing to come together to fight the fat.


COSTELLO: It's a far cry from the feel good '70s era of Coca Cola commercial. We like people to come together on something that concerns all of us. Obesity.

Critics say today the new and is not about love and harmony but about damage control. They update you nationwide on Cable TV Monday night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the nation's leading beverage company, we can play an important role.

COSTELLO: Critics say this is an obvious attempt to thwart efforts by politicians to limit the amount of sodas Americans drink. Sure you remember New York Mayor Michal Bloomberg's successful attempt to limit sugary drink sizes to 16 ounces.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: We've got to do something about it. Everybody is wringing their hands saying, we've got to do something. Well, here is a concrete thing. You can still buy large bottles in stores but in a restaurant, 16 ounces is the maximum that they would be able to serve in one cup.

COSTELLO: The new ad is not the first time we've seen fighting back. In 2010 part of Senate Finance Committee promised that President Obama's signature health care plan be paid for in part with money from a sugary drink excise tax.

The big soda industry lobbying arm, the American Beverage Association, promptly spent $7 billion in a nationwide ad campaign to prevent that from happening.

SUSAN NEELY, AMERICAN BEVERAGE ASSOCIATION: Most of that goes for paid media. We were counseled by smart people in Congress that this in some quarters might be a viable idea just, again, because the pressure for funding was so enormous, rightly so and you couldn't take anything for granted.

COSTELLO: Their lobbying effort paid off, there is no federal tax on sugary drinks. Fast forward to today, the centers for disease control says more and more Americans are drinking the stuff. The Center for Science and the Public Interest, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, says sugary drinks are the number one source of calories in the American diet.

They didn't put out their own version of the famous Coca-Cola polar bear called the Real Bear.

In the meantime, Coca Cola has responded saying, quote, "Obesity is complex and it requires partnership and collaboration to help solve it. We have an important role to play in the effort to find solutions that work for everybody."


COSTELLO: Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent now Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So I know it's a tough topic. So Coke says it can play an important role in America's fight against obesity. It says it's decreased the calories in its products.


COSTELLO: In middle schools it now sells juices instead of cans of Coke.

GUPTA: Right.

COSTELLO: It says it's doing its part.


COSTELLO: What's the big deal? Leave us alone.

GUPTA: Well, you know, I think that that's part of it. Obviously there's a fear of regulation, we've seen it, you've talked about it in your piece from what Mayor Bloomberg is doing, obviously the Center for Science and Public Interest has been, you know, very critical of what Coke and other soft drink companies have done.

It's not just Coke, by the way. Coke is kind of a big, you know, target I guess in many ways, but if you look at schools, for example, an area that a lot of folks, including the CSPI, the Clinton Foundation, they've been able they say to reduce calories from their products in schools by 90 percent, by using, you know, fewer of these sugary drinks and replacing them more with water, 180 of their 650 beverages are low calorie or now low calorie or no calorie.

You know, is this -- is this because they really are trying to do their part or they want to continue to run a successful company? I guess it depends on how cynical are you.

COSTELLO: That's right, but I see you have these teaspoons with sugar.

GUPTA: You know, one thing -- I want to point this out, because people don't always get this right. First of all, when you look at a can a lot of people can't guess how many calories are in a can, it's 140 calories. COSTELLO: You know, it's not bad.

GUPTA: Depends on your perspective, you're drinking them all day long it's a lot more calories but this much sugar. It's nine -- roughly a little bit of nine teaspoons of sugar, 15 calories per teaspoon. That seems like a lot of sugar when you put up like that.

But again, it's -- is this a once in a while sort of thing or is this something you're doing all the time, which is what Mayor Bloomberg has talked about, even the Center for Science and Public Interest is not saying get rid of sugary drinks all together. A lot of this is consumption.

COSTELLO: I think people don't realize how much sugar is in products like Coke. I was in the grocery store last weekend, staying behind this guy and he was buying skim milk and then heavy duty Coca-Cola. It's like there's like a conundrum here.


COSTELLO: Right. It's strange.

GUPTA: Yes. But, you know, one thing I think that comes out relative from a scientific perspective is getting your sugar in a drink, somehow worse than other forms, be it fruit, be it foods, and the evidence seems to be mounting the sugar and the calories from the served drink is worse because you absorb it quickly, it hit your liver. You know, with fruit, you got fiber in their, you slow down the absorption. And that's more just physiology, that seems to matter.

And because we get so many more of our calories in this fashion, that is some say part of the problem. But overall the amount of sugary drinks, the amount of sugar from our drinks has gone down while obesity has gone out. And that means that there's a lot of sugar that we eat every day we don't realize.

You put it out like this with a drink, sauces, other foods. People need to pay attention to that.

COSTELLO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much.

GUPTA: You got it.

COSTELLO: A British Airways worker sues when she says she was sent home for wearing a cross. Now, a top European court sides with her.


COSTELLO: To Washington now where yet another battle is brewing. This time, it's over the debt ceiling and from the White House to Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans are sparring over the best way to ensure the nation pays its bills. And now, they're taking the fight to you as both sides try to sell their point of view.

President Obama warning about what could happen if that debt limit is not raised.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America's bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops or honor our contracts with small business owners. Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is, in fact, a safe bet.


COSTELLO: The Republican House Speaker John Boehner responding immediately to the president's remarks, issuing a statement that read, quote, "The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time. The consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real. But so, too, are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved."

Joining us is Amy Kremer. She's the chairwoman of the Tea Party Express.

Thanks for coming in this morning.

AMY KREMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Thanks for having me.

COSTELLO: Safe bet you're against raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts.

KREMER: Right, absolutely.

The problem is the spending cuts never come. The Republicans find themselves in the situation all the time happened with Reagan and it happened with Bush 41, and then even with the sequester. The sequester has been put off for two months. The spending cuts never come.

And we cannot continue down this path with over $16 trillion in debt, and a deficit of $1.4 trillion to $1.6 trillion per year. That means we're spending $1.6 million more per year than we're actually bringing in.

COSTELLO: You've accused the president of using scare tactics. What do you mean by that? Do you think he's lying about what could happen?

KREMER: This is -- the thing is, you know what? First of all, it's not Congress that determines if we default. It's the Treasury. So I guess that would be Secretary Timothy Geithner if he's still there. It would be the Treasury that would decide.

But we have enough money to pay the interest on our debt, I believe it's $2.5 trillion comes into the Treasury every year. That's enough money to pay the interest on the debt.

We're not going to cut off payments to seniors on their Social Security and Medicare, and then the military --

COSTELLO: But, Amy, we saw what happened the last time when we argued about the debt ceiling. Our credit rating was downgraded. That is partisan gridlock.


KREMER: That is a massive amount of debt.

COSTELLO: It was because of partisan gridlock.

KREMER: I disagree on that.

COSTELLO: And Congress is not being able to get its act together. We've seen what could happen. It will have consequences on the economy.

KREMER: Congress needs to get their act together.

But this is the thing -- you know what? The president understood the debt that we had when he ran for office. He promised to pay down the deficit at least half in his first term. The first two years of his first term, he had a Democratic Congress House and Senate. He could have done anything he wanted.

Instead, he put through an $800 billion stimulus bill and a $1.7 trillion Obamacare.


KREMER: If he wasn't going to address it then, when is he going to address it? Because he doesn't -- he is essentially holding Congress hostage right now and the American people with these scare tactics.

COSTELLO: OK, Newt Gingrich addressed this whole issue on CBS this morning, and I'm just going to read you what he said.

KREMER: Right.

COSTELLO: He said it isn't a smart fight for congressional Republicans to pick, because, quote, "In the end, it's a threat they can't sustain. No one is going to default. No one is going to allow the United States to not pay its bills. No one is going to accept the economic costs. It rallies the entire business community to the president's side."

So even Newt Gingrich says this isn't a wise fight to pick. You may feel strongly about spending cuts but this isn't the right time to fight.

KREMER: When is the right time? When is the right time? Because the spending cuts never come.

You know what? It's not going to be easy, but both parties need to get their act together and go to the table and say we have to rein in this out of control spending. We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem and the American people are realizing that.

COSTELLO: Well, the American people reelected President Obama, which says to me the majority of Americans don't want smaller government, don't want huge spending cuts.

KREMER: The American people --

COSTELLO: They want Congress to work together to get its act together and get the economy moving.

KREMER: The American people also elected another House of Representatives, a Republican House of Representatives, and that is our most direct form of representation in the federal government, the House of Representatives, and they're the ones that control the purse strings. We have to do something.

We have -- this isn't -- the thing is this is not about party politics. This is about the solvency of this country. It is about this country being the greatest nation on earth that we always have been.

We cannot continue -- it's our greatest threat to our national security.

COSTELLO: Some people would say it is about party politics and some people, frankly, blame the Tea Party for this terrible gridlock in the House of Representatives. I mean, there's a Tea Party group in south Florida that's going to change its name to not include the Tea Party because the public reacts so negatively to that title now.

KREMER: Well, I think that's because we have been, I mean just given a bad rap. All we're about is fiscal responsibility. We're not about social issues. All we want is Washington to live within their means, just like families and businesses do across America every day. That's all we want, nothing else.

I mean, if they could get their act together and do that, things would get better. But right now, there's no confidence in Washington, no one is putting any money in their companies or hiring people because there's no confidence.

COSTELLO: Amy Kremer thank you for coming in.

KREMER: Thanks for having me.

COSTELLO: We appreciate it.

KREMER: Thank you.

COSTELLO: The one-time hero of cycling opens up to Oprah on performance-enhancing drugs. But can Lance Armstrong redeem himself? It's our talk back question today.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning: can Lance Armstrong redeem himself? How far have the mighty fallen?

Lance Armstrong has reportedly confessed to Oprah he took performance- enhancing drugs, even his world famous charity Livestrong is tainted, the one-time hero branded a liar. As the "New York Post" puts it, "Lies Strong". That's how Lance Armstrong will go down in history.

Let's take a moment to revisit Armstrong's years of prickly denials.


LANCE ARMSTRONG, PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE: How many times do I have to say it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to make sure your testimony is clear.

ARMSTRONG: If it can't be any clearer than I've never taken drugs than incidents like that could never happen.


ARMSTRONG: How clear is that.

I've said it for seven years, longer than seven years. I have never doped.


COSTELLO: And today, Armstrong's redemption tour starts Thursday when Oprah airs her interview with a tearful Lance, live streamed around the world, expect to hear lots of "I'm sorry."

Many are saying, yes, right. Armstrong's just coming clean because he wants to qualify for competitions in the few. The "L.A. Times" dubbed it the "Tour de Fraud" and a charade, accusing Armstrong of playing the celebrity card for sympathy instead of fessing up like a man.

But Oprah on CBS this morning defended her interview saying, quote -- well, actually let's listen.


OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: I feel that he answered the questions in a way that he was ready. I didn't get all the questions asked, but I think the most important questions and the answers that people around the world have been waiting to hear were answered and certainly answered, I can only say I was satisfied by the answer.


COSTELLO: Oprah said, in terms of exposure, it's the biggest interview she has ever done. For Lance Armstrong, it certainly is.

Talk back question today: Can Lance Armstrong redeem himself?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.

I'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)