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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Aurora Theater To Reopen Thursday; Justice Thomas Speaks!; Coca-Cola Joins The Obesity Fight; Wal-Mart To Give Vets A Job; Obama To Act On Biden's Gun Proposals; Carmelo On the Mic; Revving Consumers' Engines

Aired January 15, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": -- the storm bill is full of pork. In the next hour, Soledad is going to talk to South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney, a Republican who says he is not going to vote for this bill.

Six months after the midnight massacre at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater where a gunman killed 12 and wounded 58 others, that theater is set to reopen on Thursday. But today and tomorrow, victims and their families will be allowed to tour the renovated complex.

The grand reopening is being billed as a night of remembrance and city officials plan to distribute some 2,000 tickets to victims, first responders and hospital workers. It is controversial there.

So it's enough to make Supreme Court watchers giddy. This is huge. Justice Clarence Thomas spoke during oral arguments for the first time in almost seven years. He speaks. The trouble is no one really has any idea what he said except that he was cracking a joke about Ivy League lawyers specifically lawyers from Yale where the Justice went.

Justice Thomas has a strained relationship with alma mater. He said he regrets going there, but he hasn't mentioned it in years. So it's a big, big deal if only we knew what he said.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: He made a joke -- this is fun.

BERMAN: Couldn't have been that funny. So it's 31 minutes after the hour here. And Coca-Cola has been an American staple for more than a century, but many experts say sugary beverage like Coke contributes to our growing obesity problem.

But now there's a new ad from the Coca-Cola Company that claims its new no and low sugar drinks can be part of the obesity solution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For over 125 years, we have been bringing people together. Today, we would like people to come together on something that concern all of us, obesity, the long-term health of our families and the countries at stake. And as the nation's leading beverage company, we can play an important role.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. And Elizabeth, there was consensus at this table that this is a really interesting new measure by Coca-Cola. So what was the goal of the new campaign?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting just that they have done it at all. I mean, you were saying Justice Thomas speaks. Some people are saying Coca-Cola speaks that they really haven't said much about obesity considering how large a company they are.

So the goal of this the company says is to say, we are doing our part to fight the obesity epidemic. They say we offer lots of low and no calorie options. They say we're coming out with smaller sizes of our products, 7.5 ounces rather than 12 ounces.

And they are also saying we're going to put the calories or we are putting the calories right here on the front. If you can see on this silver band it says right there 140 calories so people see it right there and can make choices.

So they say you put all of this together and they say the company is clearly showing that they have helped people lose weight and that they continue to help people lose weight.

BERMAN: We have been talking about obesity epidemic for years and soda consumption is actually going down. So how responsible is something like soda really?

COHEN: You know, I think we have to look at it on an individual basis. So I mentioned the 140 calories. Let's say you have two Cokes a day, 280 calories. That's a lot of calories. That's more than 10 percent of what you are supposed to get in an entire day and you are getting it in two sodas.

But also take a look at what I have here. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, sodas have nine teaspoons of sugar per soda. So we were talking with Zoraida in the last hour, would you eat nine teaspoons of sugar.

So nine teaspoons of sugar in a soda that is obviously quite a bit of sugar and a lot of doctors say that when you drink your sugar, it gets into your blood stream faster. Let's say you ate it in an apple, the fiber would help slow down the absorption.

BERMAN: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, that really is a stunning picture there, the nine spoons of sugar.

O'BRIEN: It makes a lot of sense. They are getting ahead of, you know, this is where the country is thinking about obesity and these are the consumers, right?

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": You said that soda consumption is going down. Childhood obesity is also going down as soda consumption goes down. There is a relationship between this product and obesity and you just happened to acknowledge that. They are doing something to help, great. Everybody does something to help. But you are also part of the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bravo. This is a cultural phenomenon. This is an example about how public attention and public pressure can change our culture. Coca-Cola is responding to that. We do have a looming crisis.

We talk about the budget. Health care cost has to do with obesity and hypertension and diabetes. Bravo for the first lady who has brought attention to public policy. This company is responding to what consumers have asked.

O'BRIEN: We will talk more about this when we do our tough call a little bit later this morning.

BERMAN: You know, there's another big company making news right now and that's Wal-Mart. So if you served the country and you need a job, Wal-Mart is hiring. Today the nation's largest retailer will announce an ambitious new five-year plan to hire 100,000 veterans. Any service member who has received an honorable discharge within the past year is eligible for the program. It begins Memorial Day, which is May 27th. It's just fantastic.

O'BRIEN: That's just good to do. I love that.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So big, everything they do, positive and negative.

O'BRIEN: And wouldn't it be great if others saw that?

BERMAN: Well, the first lady is going to ask other companies to join in.

BLOW: These are not like replacing existing employees.

BERMAN: Hopefully people are going to --

O'BRIEN: Interesting. The president is currently reviewing Vice President Joe Biden's gun control proposals. We haven't really heard the specific details yet because they are not been made public. But the president gave a preview of how he is likely to act on them. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You can count on is that the things that I've said in the past. The belief that we have to have stronger background checks and can do a much better job in terms of keeping these magazine clips with high capacity out of the hands of folk who is shouldn't have them. An assault weapons ban that is meaningful and those are things I continue to believe make sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Congressman Mike Thompson is a California Democrat. He chairs the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. It's nice to have you with this morning, sir. Thank you.

REP. MIKE THOMPSON, (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Soledad. Good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: I appreciate that. You have spoken to the vice president and as I mentioned, no one really knows the exact details because they haven't been made public yet. But walk me through -- give us some insight into what is in the package that the vice president has now presented to the president.

THOMPSON: Well, we met with the vice president yesterday and the vice president agrees that we need a comprehensive package in order to put an end or help put an end to gun violence and Congress is very important in this.

It's just going to be a cooperative effort between the two branches of government although there are some administrative actions that the president can take. That's only part of the equation.

We need to focus on things that save lives like the comprehensive background check before anybody buys a firearm and put an end to these assault magazines that give killers so much more firepower than they would otherwise have.

O'BRIEN: There are some other details that some have to find gun trafficking as a federal crime. Improve federal and state data collection in the background check system. Ban the sale of certain rapid fire weapons and encourage more gun violence research and strengthen mental health checks. As far as you know, are those provisions also in what the vice president has presented to the president?

THOMPSON: Well, there are certain things that the president can do as I said, administratively. He can appoint a director of ATF. He can demand that his agencies provide the data that sometimes lack to make sure that the background checks are as comprehensive and complete as possible.

He can certainly make sure that they enforce the existing laws, which are important. Gun trafficking as you mentioned, straw purchases and when criminals try to buy guns, they need to be prosecuted. All those are incredibly important, but again, we need a comprehensive package that is going to take both the Congress and the president working together to put an end to gun violence.

BROWNSTEIN: Congressman, good morning. Ron Brownstein from the "National Journal," in your first answer to Soledad when talking about Congress, you mentioned actions on universal background check and assault magazines.

You did not mention assault weapons, which the president also cited as a priority again yesterday. Do you think you have a better shot at passing those first two than getting back into a ban on actual assault weapons themselves?

THOMPSON: Well, I do. I think we have to concentrate on what is most important in saving lives and if you take the magazine out of the rifle, the rifle has less capacity than it would otherwise.

So I think that is absolutely important. We need to prioritize on this. I'm not an assault weapon fan. I carried one in Vietnam and I know the purpose of those. I am a gun owner. I am a hunter. I don't own an assault weapon and quite honestly, I think it gives hunters and gun owners a bad name. We need to concentrate on what will save lives.

BROWNSTEIN: When the gun control measures were passed in the 1990s, the Brady bill and the assault weapon ban, there was substantial number of Republicans, nearly 60 on the Brady bill and nearly 40 on the assault ban who voted for it. Do you see any interest among House Republicans on even those two issues, the background checks and the magazines even if you separate out the weapons themselves?

THOMPSON: Well, in my capacity as chair of this task force, I have been meeting with every community of interest imaginable including my Republican colleagues. There is interest on the part of many of my Republican colleagues to come to do something that will make our communities safer and save lives. So I'm hopeful that we will be able to put together a package that will get votes from both sides of the aisle.

O'BRIEN: But does the task force that you chair include any Republicans?

THOMPSON: No, it's a Democratic task force.

O'BRIEN: Is that importantly problematic?

THOMPSON: I don't think so. I'm more than anxious to have Republicans participate in any way they like. As I said, we have been meeting with them. We're working with them and when all is said and done, I'm hopeful that we will have a bipartisan package.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Mike Thompson is a Democrat from California joining us this morning. It's nice to see you, sir. Thank you for being with us.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We're going to get Republican reaction from Oregon Congressman Greg Walt and he'll be our guest ahead this morning.

Up next, Big Brother is listening to Carmelo Anthony. We'll tell you why they are apparently keeping a close ear on the star conversations on the court. It's fascinating. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: So if you recall back to that post-game altercation that involved the New York Knicks player Carmelo Anthony, who I love, and the Celtics player, Kevin Garnet, who you love, it was apparently -- he just loves a lot about --

It apparently was sparked by some kind of nasty comment that Garnet made to Carmelo Anthony during the game. So now everything Carmelo said and hears will be caught on tape.

The "New York Post" is reporting that Knicks owner James Dolan has ordered two technicians with these sensitive parabolic microphones to record all of Carmelo's or I guess, anybody's in-game conversations at Madison Square Garden. The mics were up and running during the last two Knicks games there.

The dispute was -- they keep saying is to protect him. I don't understand. No one thinks that they were not trash talking during the game, right. He got suspended, right, because he was waiting outside --

BERMAN: The locker room.

O'BRIEN: The locker room --

BLOW: Carmelo can never go back to the barber shop. He is wearing wire.

BROWNSTEIN: I guess the concern is whether the whole thing, when you have the mics there, are you also listening into the other team?

O'BRIEN: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: I can't believe that is going to be OK.

BLOW: I might want to say something that I don't want caught -- every now and then while I'm playing basketball.

O'BRIEN: Here's a look at the fight that was out of control. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kevin Garnet and Carmelo Anthony last night. All night long, pushing and shoving in the Celtics win over the Knicks. Carmelo even waited outside -- the Celtics buy their team to have further words with Kevin Garnet after the game. Why was he so upset? Reportedly Garnett told Carmelo Anthony his wife tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Come on.

(CROSSTALK)

NAN HAYWORTH, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: That's it. Try some other brand. These are extremely well paid men who are doing presumably what they love. They are role models for children. Shouldn't they be -- these are people whom a lot of kids look up to? Can't they behave themselves? Do they have to be recorded?

BROWNSTEIN: The recording is coming here, how many stories we do that are basically about the ability of technology to destroy privacy in this new era. You know, at one level it's unreasonable and another it's kind of crazy.

O'BRIEN: By the way, everything recorded eventually. That's that.

Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, we're showing some of the top car commercials from the past 25 years including this favorite from Volkswagen. You are watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: The North American Auto Show is under way in Detroit. So far we've seen the car of the year, which is a Cadillac ATS. This morning, we are taking a look at the best car ads from the last quarter century.

Mary Warlick is the CEO of "The One Club," which organized the competition. The "One Club" is a non-profit that celebrates achievements in advertising. It's nice to have you with us this morning.

MARY WARLICK, CEO, "THE ONE CLUB": Good morning.

O'BRIEN: There have been so many great ads and really when they get it right, they nail it and when it's wrong it's so painfully wrong. What makes a great ad?

WARLICK: A great ad I think builds an emotional connection between the consumer and the product. I mean, these ads that you'll see this morning are really just trying to get people interested in the car and to make them want to find out more information and to actually, you know, look up information and to build that emotional connection.

O'BRIEN: Sometimes it's not even about the car like the first -- the number three of the top ads, number three is the one called "The Force," which is from -- everybody knows this add from Volkswagen. Let's play it first.

I've watched that 100 times, that is so cute. It's about the kid, not really about the Passat, but that's what they're selling.

WARLICK: The father really is the hero of this spot. You know, when he makes the car come on, starts it and you know, it builds a story that everybody wants to follow.

BROWNSTEIN: It strikes to make car ads. I'm fascinated by car ads. They never seem to be about the attributes of the car. They're about kind of the point in your life. They are so age targeted and it's about this car is part of this life.

O'BRIEN: And if you're a good dad who loves his kid, comes in and wants to hug him first and knows how to really play with him, the Passat is the car you want. Here is the second one. It's called "Cog" and it's pitching the Honda and it's from 2003. Let's play it first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't it nice when things just work?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: You know what's weird about that ad? I'd never seen that. It never aired in the United States. It aired in the U.K., but it was a huge hit online.

WARLICK: It became viral immediately when it was in the award shows and this ad is just really interesting because you can say things work. But when it shows things work and the voiceover is Garrison Keilar in this, he wraps it up for you at the end.

O'BRIEN: The number one was also a Honda ad I think it is called "Grrr" and it's from 2004. Let's play that ad. I so didn't get that ad. That's the number one ad and I was like?

WARLICK: Well, we've just seen a short outtake of that ad, but that ad really was one of the first examples of green advertising and simply says if you hate something change it, this is a better solution and it --

O'BRIEN: There's no car in it, but they're not real.

WARLICK: I mean, you see the diesel engine cruising along, making happiness in the landscape and everything, uses this wonderful animation.

O'BRIEN: How come they don't rerun great car ads? You know, I've never seen this and that's partly because it's from years and years ago. But how come they don't take something that was successful and rerun them.

WARLICK: Well, because everybody has, I mean, this was done for Honda U.K. and Honda in the North America has a different agency and different -- but this was really again this went viral and was seen pretty much all over the world.

O'BRIEN: What do you think carmakers have learned about advertising, what resonates that didn't necessarily work. I'm not sure that ad would work today maybe because the green revolution is not a new revolution today, but what have they learned what hits today? Is it celebrities, great music, what?

WARLICK: Well, one of the best use of celebrities that we have this year was the Chrysler ad, the renaissance of Detroit, where they used Eminem to sing and talk about we're coming back and that was a successful ad for Chrysler because it was all about the renaissance of Detroit and the renaissance of the car industry.

BROWNSTEIN: The Clint Eastwood/Obama ad, preparing for Mitt Romney did not make the list because that would be one of the most memorable in from the Super Bowl. That was the America is back, the powerful America is back ad that Clint Eastwood did for Chrysler.

HAYWORTH: Very curious, Mary, now have those -- you've judged those ads on the basis of I guess, the professional audience gauging them or also on the basis of their documented effectiveness in terms of what Soledad was referring to. Did they lead to increased sales?

WARLICK: Many times, I mean, I always say good creative is good for business, but many times, I mean, of course the one show does judge on creative excellence and that's our barb. We judge every year the new clump of ads that come out, it takes years for that emotional bond to really be seen in the marketplace.

O'BRIEN: They should just keep running that Passat ad. I'd go out and buy a Passat at the end of that.

WARLICK: I think we'll see new ads from Volkswagen this year in the Super Bowl, too.

O'BRIEN: I can't for it. OK, nice to have with you us, Mary.

WARLICK: Thank you so much. It was great.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, after years and years and years of lying, Lance Armstrong looks like he's confessing to doping. We'll talk about why he's talking now and what's at stake.

Plus, she is the first Miss America from New York to win in three decades. We'll speak live with Malory Hagan about her big victory and her stance on gun control. That's ahead. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Our STARTING POINT this morning a powerful admission, Lance Armstrong reportedly telling Oprah that he's doped for years after denying it over and over again and tarnishing his reputation, will his admission work and what about the timing of all this? Why is he coming clean now?

Plus the White House considers new gun proposals. We'll take a look at what could be on the table and how the president could toughen up laws that already exist.

And as Washington gears up to duke it out over the debt ceiling, should we scrap it all together? It's what Fed Chief Ben Bernanke is saying, something to consider.

BERMAN: She is the newest Miss America, New York's Mallory Hagan is here live. We're going to talk to her about her surprising views about guns in school.

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

Welcome, everybody. Our team this morning, Charles Blow is an op-ed columnist from "The New York Times," Ron Brownstein is the editorial director from "National Journal," former U.S. Representative Nan Hayworth is with us. I can't speak this morning, and "Early Start's" co-anchor John Berman sticks around with us. We're talking this morning about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong who's confessing apparently to Oprah Winfrey. There are reports that say that Armstrong is admitting to using performance enhancing drugs after years and years of vehement denials. So just how far does his admission go --