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Kids on the National Political Stage; Te'o Teammate: "He Lied"; Some Victims Will Boycott Memorial for Aurora Victims

Aired January 17, 2013 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, let's talk about it Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist and a CNN contributor and Will Cain is a CNN contributor and also writes for Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Maria, the President highlighted one little girl in particular. Her name is Julia Stokes. She's seven years old. She wrote this moving letter telling the President she was afraid to lose her brothers and sisters and then Rush Limbaugh promptly mocked her and the other children in attendance. Listen.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I've been watching the -- the -- the children as human shields show that is now going on at the -- at the White House. Boy, these guys are somber. Biden was very somber. You would have thought that eulogies -- I've worked with this guy 27 hours a day. President Barack Obama. Yay. The kids cheer. The President starts reading letters from the kids, got to do what the kids want, got to answer all of the letters from Santa Claus, whoever they may want. But it is -- it's stunning. You look at what's happening in the country.


LEMON: All right, so -- so Limbaugh is Limbaugh, all right. But should kids be put in a position --


COSTELLO: -- to be mocked in this bitterly partisan political world we're living in now, Maria?

CARDONA: Well certainly I agree that Limbaugh is Limbaugh and no matter what President Obama does, he is going to be against it. So let's put that out front. I do think we need to be very careful about using kids in politics and to seemingly advance a political agenda like Rush Limbaugh said.

But let's also keep in mind that this event that happened in Newtown happened to children. It's a very defining event in the collective souls and consciousness, not just of adults but of our children, Carol. What parent in this country did not have to sit down with their children -- and I think Will agrees with me on this point -- to explain to them what happened. He's got kids. I have kids. Everybody with kids has to sit down with them to explain to them what happened.

If my children then said to me, well, I would like to write President Obama, whoever the President might be at the time, to tell them what I think and -- and what I'm feeling, I would be absolutely OK with that. If the parents are OK with having their children be voices for, frankly, a -- a group of Americans who hardly ever do have voices, I am absolutely fine with that. If the parents are OK with that, I think it should be OK.


COSTELLO: Well of course -- of course this isn't the first time that President Obama has included children in a milestone moment. In 2010 for example the President signed his health care bill into law with an 11-year-old boy by his side. That boy's mother died without health insurance.

So Will, in this case was that appropriate?

CAIN: No. I cannot find an ounce of appropriateness in this. I find it despicable. I find it stomach turning and it's -- this is why. It's part of a larger narrative which President Obama actually explicitly stated yesterday and it's impugning the motives of anyone who disagrees with him. It's draping yourself in the emotionalism of the debate, avoiding an intellectual debate, avoiding the policy debate and impugning those who disagree with you. Yesterday he said there will be politicians, there will be pundits who suggests that what I'm doing today is wrong and they'll be doing it for ratings or they'll be doing it for money.

And so anyone that disagreed either doesn't care about these children, doesn't care about policy only is out here seeking to be a mouthpiece of the NRA or to seek some kind of ratings or seek come kind of money. It is showing, in the end -- Carol this is what it shows, the inherent intellectual weakness in the argument that is being put forward. The inherent policy ineffectiveness of what is being suggested.

Just deal with this on a rational intellectual level and let's see if the debate merits itself out.

COSTELLO: OK. So we're talking about dealing with this in an intellectual level, we have to bring up that NRA ad.


COSTELLO: Where the NRA used President Obama's children to make a point. Maria?

CARDONA: Well, that, to use Will's word, that is absolutely despicable, because nobody gave the NRA permission to use those children and we have all known from a bipartisan basis that the children of presidents, the spouses of presidents, president's families are off limits. And so I think the majority of Americans believe that ad was absolutely despicable.

But if you want to talk about having a real intellectual debate then I think bringing into this the effect that this -- that this event had on children is something that we have to think about. And frankly, majorities of Americans, including gun owners, believe that we do have to do more in terms of sensible regulations and making sure that we do anything and everything that we can for this not to happen again. And a lot of opponents, and I'm not going to say all Republicans or even all NRA members because that's not the case, a lot of the opponents for any measure here are going to be using that argument that it is a weak intellectual argument.

No. Let's talk about what can be done, if anything can be done. We should be doing it to keep this from happening again.

COSTELLO: And Will, you know, I've never objected to a little emotion and an argument. You kind of need emotion to get the argument going, to get people talking about it because not everybody wants to.

CAIN: No. You know, you and I had that debate I feel like recently, Carol. Look, I don't feel like emotion has place in a debate because emotion doesn't encourage debate. It shuts it down. It's a plant's rational debate with quick emotional reactions. I don't see any room in a debate for us to indulge our most based of emotions. And when the President is doing that, that's exactly what he's encouraging. He's encouraging you to feel your way through this debate, not think.

Because every one of these proposals, and I've talked about it with you, I've talked about it with others, well, now, you're talking about assault weapons ban even a ban on high capacity magazine. In fact, if you had a magic wand and you waved in everything that was proposed yesterday, you are not going to positively affect gun violence in the United States.

COSTELLO: Will Cain, Maria --


CARDONA: That's just absolutely not true. Because some of the proposals --


COSTELLO: I know this is a whole another debate so we're going to have this another day. Will Cain and Maria Cardona I've got to wrap it up. Thank you so much for the interesting conversation today.

A Notre Dame teammate of Manti Te'o, says players suspected something was wrong months before the hoax was revealed. We'll talk to the sports journalist who broke this angle of the story.


COSTELLO: Manti Te'o says he's the victim of an online hoax to dupe about a girlfriend he thought he was in love with but it turned out she never existed. Inside the Notre Dame locker room, there were whispers months before the hoax was reported on In fact, one teammate suggests Te'o perpetrated the myth of the girlfriend even when he knew she didn't actually exist.

That teammate spoke to our next guest sports journalist Jackie Pepper from Good morning.


COSTELLO: I'm good. So Jackie who is that teammate and what did he say?

PEPPER: Good luck on getting me to name the source there. Not going to happen. This is a teammate who was skeptical and said many people in that locker room were -- he said that after the Michigan State game which coincided with the death of both Manti's grandmother and the alleged girlfriend, that something seemed fishy.

He said once it came out in the media that both had died around the same time, he started to wonder, and I asked him, "Did you not know the girlfriend had died until you saw him discuss it in the press?" And he said that was correct, that his own teammates did not know that the star of their team had a dead girlfriend until they saw it on the news themselves and that was a turning point for them.

COSTELLO: But didn't they find it strange all along that they never saw this woman?

PEPPER: They said that they met -- they knew that he had met her one time which alludes to the time that Manti says he did in fact meet her after a Stanford game in Palo Alto. So they just took his word for it. I mean, this is the star of your team, he's your leader, he's a senior. Why wouldn't you believe someone who you spend all of that time with and are so close to?

But eventually their ears perked up, as it was just one coincidence after another after another and it did seem suspicious to them.

COSTELLO: OK, so the university conducts this big investigation. It claims that it knew about all of this on, what, December 26th? The Heisman Trophy was awarded on December 7th. And you know what people are saying, you know this guy came in second in the Heisman voting and that that -- that he supposedly let this story go on and on, even when he knew that this woman didn't exist to create sympathy for the Heisman voters. Do you think that's possible?

PEPPER: I mean I think to most rational people, no. That's -- that's not possible and it's not logical but there are all types of weird motivations for people out there and this player I spoke with did give Manti the benefit of the doubt and saying that he thinks originally his teammate was scammed by somebody pretending to be this woman online, pretending to die, et cetera, et cetera, but that he doesn't know when Manti knew, but he knows that he perpetuated the lie at some point during this whole ordeal. And it's sad to think that someone would do that for sympathy for a Heisman tTophy. But as bad as this is, the only person I think Manti hurt was him himself and his teammates. And it could have been a lot worst and good thing he didn't win the Heisman could you imagine.

COSTELLO: Oh, I know, I know and just in fairness to him, I might not come out publicly and say, oh I was in love with a woman who never existed. And she -- I mean, that would be embarrassing to me. So maybe it's as simple as that.


COSTELLO: Supposedly we're going to hear from him at some point.

PEPPER: A lot of people are embarrassed to say they met someone online and especially if you are living this lie and you feel deceived. Somebody asked me, "How could he have faked those emotions if this was a lie?" and the only plausible explanation I could think of was that if he did feel like he had been duped, then maybe he really did suffer a loss. Not the kind of loss he was leading the public to believe, but emotionally, if you lose someone who you thought you were in love with, you lose them, you lose them whether they're a dead, or whether they were a man, whether they never existed in the first place.


PEPPER: So I think that is a possibility.

COSTELLO: That is -- that is something to wrap your head around.


COSTELLO: Jackie Pepper from thank you so much. We're back after a break.

PEPPER: Thanks. Have a great one.

COSTELLO: You, too.


COSTELLO: Forty-five minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

The White House is meeting this morning to discuss that developing hostage situation in Algeria. Algeria state media says four hostages have been freed by the Algerian military following an Islamic militant attack on a natural gas field. Algerians (INAUDIBLE) from the United States there is an operation going on but details are so unclear. The fate of the American hostages are still unknown.

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is joining the python challenge today. That's the state-sponsored hunt for Burmese pythons in the everglades. Nelson has been outspoken on the issue of those gigantic reptiles. At one point he even brought a 16-foot python skin to a committee hearing. Experts recommend either shooting or decapitating the exotic snakes. There's no word on which method Nelson will use if he manages to find one.

Vice President Joe Biden is set to speak at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington in less than three hours. Gun control will be on the agenda. I spoke earlier with the group's president, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. He wasn't happy that the NRA criticized President Obama for not wanting to put armed guards in schools while his own daughters were getting Secret Service protection.


MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: For those of us in the political business, generally it's been pretty much an unwritten but understood rule that family and children are out of bounds, that you don't attack someone's family. If you want to attack the candidate or the elected official, certainly that is your prerogative. But generally family has been considered off limits and that ad doesn't add anything to legitimate dialogue.


COSTELLO: CNN will have live coverage of Biden's speech at the Mayor's Conference at 1:30 Eastern Time.

A theater in Aurora, Colorado, reopens tonight nearly six months after a shooting left 12 people dead and nearly 60 hurt. It will start with a night of remembrance. Colorado's governor and Aurora's mayor plan to speak. Officials say the event is a way to help the community move forward. But some victims and their relatives plan to boycott the event.

I talked with a victim earlier this week.


SCOTT LARIMER, FATHER OF JOHN LARIMER: They didn't contact us directly, they went through another organization to invite us. And the family -- we got together and chatted about it and decided that it wasn't appropriate for us to attend.

COSTELLO: And you also suggested that other families of victims and other victims boycott this special evening.

LARIMER: Yes. We talked a little bit to some of the other families and agreed with them that this was not really the best way to handle the situation.


COSTELLO: All right. I'm joined now on the phone by CNN's Jim Spellman. He's in Aurora today. So Jim what exactly is on tap?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yesterday and the day before, they allowed family members to come and tour the theater. They found some sort of renovations in there. They've been really hush-hush, they haven't let the press in so we don't know exactly what kind of changes they made. They renamed Theater 9 where the shooting occurred Theater H. But beyond that, we really don't know how much they changed it. The city of Aurora on their Facebook page had a poll in the fall asking people what they wanted done with the theater. Overwhelmingly, people said reopen it.

But for a lot of these family member, they feel like -- look, this is a commercial place. This is not something like a school where there is a community around it and they just say it's inappropriate to be reopening. They feel like they are just in it for the money.

So it will be interesting to see how many people actually show up for this and going forward what the interest level is.

Carol, I spoke with somebody who is -- they call themselves James Holmes' fans and some of them think he's not guilty or they just support him and they kind of a rally around him on Facebook. Some of them plan on going as soon as this is reopened to the public. And for some of the family members, this is really disturbing to have people in the theater for those kind of purposes where their loved ones dies.

COSTELLO: That's more than disturbing. That's actually kind of sick. What movies are they going to show in that? I mean going forward, they're going to have to show a movie for the first time. And it makes you wonder which they will choose.

SPELLMAN: Yes. They've been -- again, very closed mouth about that. They haven't told us what movie they are going to show. They haven't told us if that theater will just become a regular theater where they show comedy, an action movies and everything going forward. I mean it seems like that's what they're going to do with it.

But they haven't told us yet. They are definitely orchestrating this event tonight and going forward to the weekend. Very closely so it will be interesting to see what movie they show.

But that's really one of the key problems that these family members have. Is it appropriate for people to go in there and see perhaps action movies where there is on-screen violence or even is it appropriate for people to go in there and see comedy, see people who are laughing right there sitting in the seats and same place where this horror happened?

COSTELLO: It's a tough one. That's a really tough one. Jim Spellman reporting live for us from Aurora this morning.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reacts to President Obama's gun plan. You will see that tonight actually at 8:00 p.m. Eastern in an Anderson Cooper primetime exclusive.


COSTELLO: If you can make it at Sundance, chances are you probably have a good shot at making it at the box office and the academy awards. The popular Utah film festival kicks off today; only the special people are invited. "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT's" A.J. Hammer joins us from New York. Good morning.

A.J. HAMMER, HLN HOST, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": Good morning, Carol. You can go to the festival if you want. The nice thing about this festival, like most film festivals, you kind of find something for every film fan. Among the films that are already attracting attention this year, you have the film "Jobs". We've talked about it here, that of course is the Steve Jobs biopic which stars Ashton Kutcher.

There are also some comedies generating a lot of buzz already including "Don John's Addiction"; it's about pornography obsessed Lothario and it stars Joseph Gordon Leavitt and the terrific Scarlett Johansson.

Also a lot of interest in the potentially controversial "Two Mothers". It stars Naomi Watts and Robin Wright. Everybody seems to be wondering if the story lines about two mothers who starts sexual relationships with each other's sons is going to be creepy or if it's going to be an awards favorite next year. Of course it could be both.

COSTELLO: I thought it was going to be a heart-warming family movie.

HAMMER: Exactly. Send the whole family. Lovelace which we've talked about Carol -- also preferred (ph) at Sundance, A dark look at the history of the porn movie "Deep Throat". Its star Linda Lovelace is played by Amanda Seyfried. It also stars Peter Skarsgard, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, Sharon Stone, James Franco also in this.

And there are a couple of small films that are getting the kind of buzz that we saw with the Best Picture Oscar nominee "Beasts of the Southern Wild". So I want to put the names out there. Maybe you'll remember these films come award season next year. You have "Blue Caprice", it's a psychological drama based on the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks and another is "Ain't them Bodies Saints" It's about a Texas outlaw and his wife starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. And also, Carol, as always at these festivals, good documentaries, one including a film called "Manhunt". I have a feeling you'll be hearing a lot about that.

COSTELLO: I'm just like getting over like "The Beast of the Southern Wild was last year and this year it could be "Deep Throat".

HAMMER: Yes. Well, variety is the spice of life.

COSTELLO: Yes, yes. Oh, speaking of spice, please share -- Beyonce.

HAMMER: Oh, yes. Let's talk Beyonce. Listen she's got a pretty great award and apparently GQ doesn't seem to care that there are still 987 years left in this particular millennia because they have named her Miss Millennium. They are ready to call it right now for her because they like her so much. They put a title on it. And I'm thinking hey, if it gets them a little publicity, chance to put Beyonce on their cover. All the much better. And they also say this is one of the three sexiest millenia of all time. I think you can't argue with that.

COSTELLO: I don't think we can argue with that. She even looks sexy jumping. Of course, she's in her underwear.

A.J. Hammer, thanks so much for all of the latest entertainment news. Watch "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" at 11:00 Eastern, on HLN.


COSTELLO: In light of Lance Armstrong, our "Talk Back" question today: why do we cheat?

This from Fred: "By emphasizing sports over academics, we pay a very steep price as a civilization. Football players get greater scholarships than do those studying nursing or teaching. "

This from Sung: "In the end, you, me, us, we are the problem. We buy their stuff, we cheer them on, we idolize them. We are the problem. Not them."

This from John: "We idolize cheaters and imitate them. Oh, we will say they are wrong but we see they are rich and powerful despite their cheating and say, why not? If they can that, I want it too."

And this from Dale says: "People cheat because they are lazy; they don't want to do the hard work. Cheating is not allowed or tolerated in our home. Cheating sets you up for failure."

Please keep the conversation going.; or tweet me at @CarolCNN. And just a reminder, today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, a CNN NEWSROOM special report with Brooke Baldwin with more on the psychology and science behind cheating.

I'm Carol Costello, thank you so much for joining me today. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Ashleigh Banfield.