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Lance Armstrong Finishes Interview with Oprah Winfrey; New Gun Control Measures Considered by President; NRA Launches New Gun Target Practice App for Children

Aired January 15, 2013 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our STARTING POINT this morning: coming clean. Lance Armstrong reportedly confessing that he used performance-enhancing drugs after years of adamant denial. Why is he telling the truth now?

And President Obama is now reviewing recommendations to prevent gun violence. Will he use the executive order to tweak existing gun laws and make them stronger?

And as Washington prepares to duke it out over the debt ceiling, one powerful said we should get rid of the debt ceiling all together? Does Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke have a point?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": And one month after the Newton massacre, the NRA releases a new target practice app for kids as young as four.

O'BRIEN: We have a packed show for you this morning. California Congressman Mike Thompson joins us. Oregon Congressman Greg Walden is our guest. Mick Mulvaney from South Carolina, he's a Congressman, and newly crowned Miss America, Mallory Hagen, will be joining us.

It's Tuesday, January 15th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome, everybody. Our starting point this morning, after years and years of lying to the world, Lance Armstrong is finally coming clean. There are reports that say that Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance enhancing drugs to win his record seven Tour de France titles. Sources also say he is in talks to have some of the millions of dollars that he was paid by the U.S. postal service to sponsor the tour. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Austin, Texas. So Ed, let's talk about what he told Oprah and what the next steps are for Lance Armstrong.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The big question will be, Soledad, to what extent did he confess and how much detail is he going to offer? And just also from the standpoint of how did he offer it and what was the body language there? Lance Armstrong is an athlete who has been vehement in his denials of using performance enhancing drugs, going after the people who have criticized him over the years. He has been far from contrite. So will he be apologetic and contrite in this interview? We will have to wait and see how it plays out. But shortly after the interview, Soledad, Oprah Winfrey sent out a brief tweet saying she had just wrapped up her interview with Lance Armstrong, that it had gone over two and a half hours, and that, quote, "He came READY," in all caps.

O'BRIEN: That was such a great tweet. Ready for what? Ready to apologize and advice for his people and ready to do what, exactly? They are those who were watching the interview when it happened. There of course are stories about what he told the folks at Live Strong, the charity that he founded and had to step away from in the wake of the scandal. He did not apologize to them. But what did he say?

LAVANDERA: He apologized for the stress he put the staff, the Live Strong Foundation under for the last few years. It was a meeting that took place as Lance Armstrong was on his way to the interview with Oprah Winfrey. I'm told it lasted about 15 minutes and he was at times tearful, and the spokesperson for the Live Strong Foundation in the meeting said it was emotional and he choked up for a moment, but we were glad to see him. But at no point did he talk about performance enhancing drug use or anything like that. It was a meeting that he urged them to continue to do the work they are doing at that foundation.

O'BRIEN: The apology for doping. Ed Lavandera for us this morning, thank you, Ed, appreciate the update.

Turning now to Washington, D.C., where President Obama is looking over the vice president's recommendations on preventing gun violence. The ideas reportedly include these things -- proposing background checks on all gun sales, making certain rapid-fire weapons are off limits, and keeping guns away from the mentally ill. President Obama also taking on pro-gun groups, saying they are using fear to sell more firearms.

White House correspondent Dan Lothian is following those developments for us this morning. Let's begin by digging deeper into the vice president's recommendations, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The vice president was to have made those recommendations today, but as you pointed out, they are now reviewing these because he sat down with the president yesterday and went over the recommendations, and the president is pointing out that later in the week they will be spelling out the details. And as you noted, some of those things that are at the top of the list, universal background checks, banning those high capacity magazine clips, and the president and vice president still supporting a ban on assault weapons.

Now, some of these things will need congressional approval, but the president also noted he is willing to act alone.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm confident that there steps we take that don't require legislation and that are within my authority as president. And where you get a step that has the opportunity to reduce the possibility of gun violence, I want to go ahead and take it.


LOTHIAN: And one of the things that the president hinted at yesterday is tracking the weapons used by criminals. This is not something just happening on the federal level, state and local governments are trying to come up with ways to tackle gun violence. In fact there is a summit, in the second day now, in Baltimore, Maryland, area where mayors and governors and other officials come across in needing to come up with solutions. And you see states like Maryland and New York taking some of these steps or considering taking the steps as well. But strong push back from the NRA, saying they will fight any attempt to restrict their Second Amendment rights and raising doubts as to whether they can make their way through Congress.

O'BRIEN: Dan Lothian for us, thank you, Dan.

Let's turn now to John Berman. He has a look at some of the other stories that are making news this morning. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

You heard Dan talking about it there, and in a few hours New York may become the first state to enact tougher gun laws since the Newtown massacre. Last night the state senate passed broad changes proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo that expands the state's ban on assault weapons and puts new measures in place to keep guns away from the mentally ill.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: This is a surge on society. People had to live through these tragedies, tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. And people are saying at what point do we get it? At what point do you say enough, we understand? No one else has to die. No more innocent loss of life.


BERMAN: Governor Cuomo's bill also includes a Webster provision, a life without parole prison sentence for anyone murdering a first responder. The provision was included in response to the Christmas Eve fire and shooting in Webster, New York, that killed two firefighters.

The same day the grassroots organization Sandy Hook Promise caller for a national conversation about guns and school safety, the town council in Stratford, Connecticut, voted to name a new school building after slain teacher Victoria Soto. The 27-year-old died while trying to shield her students from the gunman and the Sandy Hook elementary school just one month ago.

Fresh off the fiscal cliff, President Obama digs in his heels on the next budget battle, raising the debt ceiling. He says he will not trade cuts in government spending which Republicans want in exchange for raising the borrowing limit. He says trimming the budget deficit can be a completely different discussion.


OBAMA: So even to entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying bills, is irresponsible.


BERMAN: House Speaker John Boehner not down with that at all. He responded "The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without lowering government spending at the same time."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi one week from tomorrow, January 23. She will be before the House foreign affairs committee. At some point she will appear before the Senate foreign affairs committee. That day has yet to be determined. Secretary Clinton was set to testify last month but she was sidelined by illness.

Anne Romney's dance card is full apparently. TMZ reports she was approached right after the presidential election to compete on the next season of "Dancing with the Stars" and say she was very interested, but the one-time first lady hopeful ultimately declared. She did appear on the show last season as a guest. Her son Matt tweeted overnight he would have loved to have seen it.

O'BRIEN: That would have been fun. The transformations that people do on the show --

BERMAN: I'm struck by how much work they go through.

O'BRIEN: Maybe you should do it.

BERMAN: Maybe not.

O'BRIEN: You have your afternoons free. You would be done by 10:00 in the morning.


O'BRIEN: Out STARTING POINT this morning, Lance Armstrong apparently admits to doping and gives a tearful apology to the staff of Live Strong. We will look at the interview with Oprah up next.

And they blame video games for the violent massacre. Why does the NRA have a new app that teaches children as young as four how to shoot?

Alison, business news today?

ALLISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: As Congress prepares for the fight over the raising of the debt ceiling, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is urging action. I'll have what all this means for you and your bottom line.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Today's team, Charles Blow is with us, an op-ed columnist for "The New York Times," Ron Brownstein is back, editorial director for "National Journal." Nan Hayworth is a former U.S. representative. Nice to have you all with us.

We are talking about Lance Armstrong following the reports about his interview with Oprah. It's not exactly clear what we said. That is what we call the deep tease.


O'BRIEN: Anyway, Lance Armstrong apparently admitted to doping, contradicting a decade of statements where he denied use of performance-enhancing drugs. So my question is, if he does the come clean with Oprah Winfrey, what does it mean? Does it work?

CHARLES BLOW, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": He has to apologize to all of the people who have been reporting this for a long time, people who have been saying this guy has been doing this, and he has been attacking them and saying they are lying and something is whereon with their character for saying that about them. It's bigger to adjust them saying they did it. We actually don't need to you say anything at this point. Your coming clean has to be about absolving other people that you accused and have done wrong.

O'BRIEN: It's the apology, but outside of all of that and on the other side of that is the legal jeopardy issues. That could mitigate a strong apology if you are worried about being sued.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm trying to think of another parallel where the unraveling has been as long as this. This feels like it has been going on year after year after year to finally get to this point. And I can't believe it's just conscience that reversed the decision.

O'BRIEN: Many people that he would like too to compete again, and he cannot until there is a step that removes his time ban. Here's what Jeff Toobin said about the legal jeopardy in terms of perjury. Let's play that.


JEFF TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Look at the date, 2005. That was pushing eight years ago. The statute of limitations for perjury in Texas is three years. So he is completely safe from perjury prosecution. The whole matter of civil litigation is very different. For a criminal case, I don't see how it could be the basis.


O'BRIEN: The good news is completely safe of the perjury front. The bad news is completely not safe because there is a list of people who could sue him civilly.

BERMAN: There is a list of people who want money from Lance Armstrong, everybody from Floyd Landis who Lance Armstrong accused of lying. There is a bike race in Australia that wants money. "The Daily Mail" and the U.S. postal service, there is a lot of people who want money from Lance Armstrong. He is worth about $100 million, so he has some money here.

O'BRIEN: Here's the cover of the "New York Post." It's never good when they photo shop and say "Lies Strong." We were talking earlier to Mark McKinnon, and he talked about the betrayal he felt in the charity that now Lance Armstrong has backed away from. Let's play that.


BERMAN: Do you feel somehow betrayed now?

MARK MCKINNON, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, you know, I think about -- yes, I do. I think he's got a lot of apologies and I think he's got to crawl over a lot of broken glass and drag the sack cloth. But I think the one thing that they can't take away is his cancer survivor.


O'BRIEN: That are is true. You can't take that away, but can he rehabilitate his image? I'm a big believer in the American way. If you apologize and you write the book and you move on to the next phase. You seem to say I don't think so.

NAN HAYWORTH, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: The fact that he did all of these virtuous things while still spewing such vile things against people who unfortunately were telling the truth about him.


HAYWORTH: That's the problem. Here he has been doing, and Live Strong has been an inspiration to millions of people. That's been a force for good. But presumably it will be up to the folks who worked with him now to make amends, if you will, and restore the image of that organization.

BROWNSTEIN: The most famous wrong thing ever said about America, Scott Fitzgerald said "There are no second acts in American lives." There always second acts in American lives. It feels like this is going on so long, this is already the second act. You wonder is there a third act that would be the redemption.

BLOW: The other thing about rehabilitation is it doesn't always get you back to zero. You can be rehabilitated and be forgiven and have and move on, but it doesn't get back to zero from before it happened and you can't expect that to be.

BERMAN: You will never be a seven-time Tour de France winner or pure or a hero to competitors out there. If you want to be a spokesman against lying and cheating, then maybe he can do that.

O'BRIEN: You need a strong apology with that and you think it's --


HAYWORTH: I wouldn't say he is rehabilitated.

O'BRIEN: Look at the baseball Hall of Fame -- no nominees. I don't think anyone can say Marion Jones is back where she was.

BERMAN: You can never get back to zero, but you can be a person talking about things, and what she talks about is performance- enhancing drugs.


O'BRIEN: Absolutely. It will be interesting to see, and it's a great tease for Oprah's interview with him. Everyone likes that interview a lot.

Ahead this morning, we'll have everyone weigh in on this story. Go to our Facebook page or tweet us your opinion on the Lance Armstrong apology.

Coming up next, a month after the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school at Newtown where we reported from yesterday, the NRA has released a new target practice app, and it is recommended for kids four plus. I thought they blamed video games for the shooting at Sandy Hook. That made the cover of "The Daily News." They use an AK47 to shoot targets shaped like coffins. We will talk about that story straight ahead.


KOSIK: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Alison Kosik in for Christine Romans. Minding your business, U.S. stock features are trading lower ahead of opening bell. Markets are in a holding pattern waiting for corporate earnings later in the week. We will get reports on retail sales and producer prices for December.

Investors are waiting for news on debt ceiling talks in Washington. Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke said yesterday the law should be scrapped altogether. And outgoing Secretary Tim Geithner sent a letter to Congress urging action. He warned again that the treasury would run out of extraordinary measures by mid-February to keep the government paying bills on time. The U.S. officially hit the debt ceiling set by Congress on December 31st.

And Facebook is inviting the media to an event to come see what they're building. There is speculation they will be unveiling their own smart phone. It could be a new search imagine that will tap into friend's suggestions and take on Google.

O'BRIEN: What the world needs, another smart phone. Thank god.


HAYWORTH: If it's good and it takes my friend's suggestions, buy it.

BLOW: I take my friend's suggestions. I want to take them.

O'BRIEN: This morning we have been talking about the cover of "The Daily News." They are talking about the new app from the National Rifle Association just a month after that --


O'BRIEN: Really, completely missing the one-month anniversary in Newtown, Connecticut. It's called "NRA practice range." It's a free app for ages four and over. It includes a 3d shooting game with targets that are in the shape of coffins. Would you want your 4-year- old doing that? Are you kidding me? Crazy.

The NRA's CEO singled out vicious violent video games, and that's a quote from him, after the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. I don't get it. I feel there is something behind it that don't understand.

BROWNSTEIN: The NRA is a big, powerful organization that thinks a lot about what it does. It seems it could have been an accident.

BLOW: This debate I think has been a boon for them. The memberships shot up, and sales of guns shot up.


O'BRIEN: The mayors against illegal gun sales.

BROWNSTEIN: This is a complex thing. On the one hand, I look at this as, the NRA sees this as a cultural war. And the more people that are inculcated in a culture where they are comfortable with the guns and the voices they have on their side. It's easy to see why people who are not on the team would be outraged by this.

On the other hand, we have talking about first person shooter violent video games since Columbine. After Columbine, there was a big part of Clinton's response. The way in which it infuses our culture is very difficult.

O'BRIEN: People argue about it and they don't keep their kids from playing the games.

BLOW: We don't have enough data because we are not allowed to keep data on guns and not able to look at how guns may overlap with violence and culture because we are just not allowed to do it. Partly because they have pushed hard to make sure we cannot keep data on guns. If this were another public issue -- let's take HIV, for instance. We are able to keep track of how transmission is without names, without people's names, without identifying. We are able to keep track of how many so we can target messing and intervention and things like that. We need it do the same with guns.

O'BRIEN: That is apparently in from the president now, with vice President Biden making his recommendations at handing them off to the president. We will talk more about that ahead as well.

In fact there is a lot of questions about the president and the use of executive order. He can't create new gun laws. He can strengthen the gun laws. We will talk more specifically about that in the wake of the former colleagues in Congress that were saying.

Also, California Congressman Mike Thompson got an early look at the recommendations on curbing gun violence.

Plus Coca-Cola is launching an anti-obesity ad. Here's a little bit of it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All calories count no matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories.


O'BRIEN: The question now, is it a real concern or damage control or thinking about your future product buyers? What are they doing here? We back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Good morning and welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. In just a couple of minutes, we will be talking with California Congressman Mike Thompson who has been briefed on the new recommendations to try to stop gun violence that the president is now looking over. We will talk to him about that straight ahead.

And also the best car ads of the last quarter century. The classic Volkswagen ads make the list. We will talk about the tops and see if your favorites are included in that.

First, though, John Berman has a look at the stories making news today. Good morning.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Soledad. The House is set to take up the second part of the super storm Sandy relief bill that would direct $51 billion in federal aid to storm-ravaged states. The vote comes later today, but not without a fight from conservative lawmakers, who say the storm bill is full of pork.