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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Obama Pushes Assault Weapons Ban; President Unveil Gun Control Agenda; Aurora Movie Theater Reopens; Navy Ship Runs Aground Near Philippines; FAA Grounds 787 Dreamliner; Mark Sanford Will Run; "Different Strokes" Dad Dies; GQ's Miss Millennium List; Notre Dame Player: "I Was The Victim" Of Hoax

Aired January 17, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: -- ten bullets and stronger penalties for drug trafficking. Senator Tim Kaine is a Democrat from the state of Virginia. He is also Virginia's governor back when the massacre at Virginia Tech happened back in 2007. It's nice to have you with us, sir. We appreciate your time this morning.

SEN. TIM KAINE, (D) VIRGINIA: Thanks, Soledad. Good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: I appreciate that. Ban on assault weapons, ban on high capacity weapons, are these going to be do you think the two biggest sticking points on what president has proposed that requires congressional action?

KAINE: They are going to get a lot of discussion here, Soledad, but I think the president laid out very reasonable, you know, ideas for ways to reduce gun violence, and while some of them are about guns, and we'll talk about those, he also focused on the need for more mental health services and better school security, those are important, but on the guns, I do think the background record checks component has enormous public support.

And we ought to be able to do that. I think we should do it in a very easy way. I do think the ban on combat weapons and the ban on supersized magazines will be tougher, but again, they are very reasonable. They are supported by the American public. They are consistent with the second amendment. There's no reason not to do this.

O'BRIEN: Well, there are a couple reasons, one, not really combat weapons, haven't heard that before, right? I mean, they're literally not combat -- not exactly the same as a combat weapon.

KAINE: Not exactly the same, but they are, you know, they are so close as to be in my mind indistinguishable. You don't need these kinds of weapons for hunting or you don't need them for self-defense.

O'BRIEN: The Democratic leader of the Senate, Senator Harry Reid, had said he thinks it's doomed to try to pitch that. So I would think that there is going to some resistance and maybe it's not going to work. I mean, a Democrat who is leading the Senate says it's not going to happen. That sounds pretty dire for that particular measure isn't it? KAINE: Well, you know, it's not going to be easy. I mean, look, there are a lot of lobbyists and a lot of money are readied against any change and we've seen that happen in my own state in the aftermath of the shooting at Virginia check.

I acted by executive order to broaden the background check systems so that people who are adjudicated mental ill and dangerous, those records would be entered into a database so that they would be prohibited from buying guns. That made our state safer.

But I also tried to get my legislature to more broadly close the gun show loophole, and they wouldn't do it, and so I know that these battles can be tough, but my hope is that sadly, since Virginia Tech, we have had Aurora.

We have had the shooting in the Sikh temple in the suburbs of Milwaukee. We've had Tucson. We've had Newtown. I hope we've learned something and maybe there will be, you know, more motive now to make these reasonable fixes.

O'BRIEN: The president also has 23 executive actions. When you read through the list of 23, they include publish a letter from the ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks, launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost guns and launch a national dialogue led by Secretary Sebelius and Duncan on mental health. I read those and I think they don't sound particularly strong. What do you make of these 23 executive actions?

KAINE: They are very broad. I mean, here's one in that list of executive actions that we learned was really important. Give mental health professionals and community leaders clear information about what to do if they are dealing with someone that they think is mentally ill and potentially dangerous.

What we've found in the aftermath of Virginia Tech was a lot of people were aware that this young student who was mentally ill and potentially dangerous, but they thought, well, privacy laws probably prohibit me from sharing this information. There were a lot of misunderstandings of what you can do if you are working with somebody and you think they might be dangerous.

And so that was one of the executive orders the president signed. Some of them are very modest, but put together, the executive orders, the potential legislation on guns and the request for better mental health standards, more funding, better school security, this is a big comprehensive package and that's what it needs to be. If we want to reduce gun violence, we have to go big and we have to do it in a comprehensive way.

O'BRIEN: Senator Rand Paul said this about the president looking specifically at these 23 executive actions. He said he might have a king complex. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We have a bill that we are going to introduce early next week. In this bill, we will nullify anything the president does that smacks of legislation and there are several of the executive orders that appear as if he's writing new law. That cannot happen. We struck down once -- the court struck down Clinton for trying this, and I'm afraid that President Obama may have this king complex.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What do you make of what he's saying? Of these 23 executive actions, are there some that you think would be targets for being struck down by a court?

KAINE: There's the completely anti-government wing that will make that argument. I guess they made it against President Bush 41 when he by executive action banned the importation of certain kinds of assault weapons. They made it with respect to an executive order signed by President Clinton.

Presidents have the power to do executive orders. That's a power that's conferred on the president by Congress and by the constitution. So there are those -- as Rand Paul says, he wants to nullify. Nullification is a code word.

O'BRIEN: For what?

KAINE: -- nullification, look when it's been used. It's kind of a state's rights argument that gets used, you know, in times of great controversy. But the president is acting by executive power that is legally conferred on him. And as you pointed out, you went over these executive orders. They are basically common-sense things, mostly geared around information. Sharing information with communities so that we can take the steps we need to, to reduce gun violence.

O'BRIEN: Right, but when you say nullify is a code word usually there are some endgame to the code. So what's --

KAINE: We'll see what it is, but the notion that we're going to nullify presidential action when the president is acting pursuant to law, you know, that's kind of this anti government rhetoric that I'm surprised to hear somebody in government use it.

O'BRIEN: Senator Tim Kaine joining us. He is a Democrat from Virginia. It's nice to see you, sir. Thank you for your time. We appreciate it.

KAINE: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: John Berman has got a look at some of the other stories making news.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Thanks so much, Soledad. The Aurora movie theatre where a gunman killed 12 people reopens today six months after the carnage there. City and state officials distributed 2,000 tickets for victims and their families to attend. Some though are boycotting the event. Last hour on "EARLY START," we asked one family member why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA WATTS, COUSIN OF AURORA SHOOTING VICTIM: The fact that we were being used as pawns, that they were using us as momentum for their public ticket sales by telling the public, well, look, the family members of this massacre came back. And it's OK for them to come back. It's going to be OK for you guys too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The theater reopening is being billed as a night of remembrance.

Trouble for U.S. military mine sweeper in the Pacific. The Navy says the "USS Guardian" has run aground on a reef near the Philippines. The ship was headed to the next port of call when it got stuck in the Sulu Sea. No word of injuries on board. Crew members are trying to figure out how to set the ship free of the reef.

The bad news for Boeing stretching across the globe, their most advanced plane yet, the Dreamliner 787 has been grounded in Europe, Japan, and now here in the U.S. The FAA ordering United, which is only U.S. carrier flying the Dreamliner right now to stop flying the Dreamliner right now. The problem is the risk of fire from on board batteries.

Sandra Endo is live in Washington. Good morning, Sandra.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. The lithium ion batteries used on Boeing's the Dreamliner are in question here. Citing a potential fire risk, the Federal Aviation Administration is temporarily grounding all U.S. operated Dreamliners.

This comes after a second battery incident on a Boeing 787 in less than two weeks. In a statement, the FAA says before further flight, operators of U.S. registered 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the FAA that the batteries are safe and in compliance.

United Airlines is the only U.S. airline with six Dreamliners in service and it says it will immediately comply with the directive and nearly all other international operators with the Dreamliners are also following suit.

Now Boeing for its part, it's defending their advance plane, which debuted in 2011. Saying in a statement, we are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity. We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the traveling public of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service -- John.

BERMAN: All right, thanks, Sandra Endo in Washington on this Boeing story, which goes on and on and on. All right, disgraced South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, the former governor of that state, has made it official. He will run for that state's open congressional seat. This comes two days after his ex- wife, Jenny, announced she would not run for it.

You may remember that Mark Sanford's political career and marriage began to crumble after he admitted to an affair with a TV reporter from Argentina in 2009. Sanford says, a state senator and an old college friend convinced him, Congress is where he should go next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SANFORD (R), FORMER GOVERNOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: He called me and said, Mark, you know, you got to do this. He said you were talking about debt, deficit, government spending, 15, 20 years ago when no one was much focused on it. They are now and here is a chance for you to take what you learned on the way up, what you learned on the way down. What you learned in Congress before, the governorship and apply it to the debate of our time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, you can all watch "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." He will have an exclusive interview with Mark Sanford that's 10:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

So it was a quintessential show from the 1980s, Conrad Bain, who played Mr. Drummond on "Different Strokes" had passed away of natural causes. Bain's death leave just one surviving member of the TV family, Todd Bridges, who, of course, played Willis. Bain was 89.

O'BRIEN: It's such a great show. Even just hearing the music brings you right back to your childhood, right? And you think of all of the drama that all those cast members had over the years.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: I don't remember. I don't think I was born then.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That show was a long time ago.

O'BRIEN: Amazing. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, hottest pregnant Sri Lankan, hottest Indian chick, those are just two of the categories in "GQ's New 100 Sexiest Women of the Millennium" issue.

But isn't it kind of weird that the women are divided into these ethnic categories? We'll talk about that straight ahead.

And when the girlfriend of Notre Dame's linebacker Manti Te'O died, millions came to his side for that. It turns out it was all a hoax. It wasn't caught and why not? ESPN Mike Greenberg and Mark Schlerath will join me to talk about that straight ahead. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: We had 987 years still to go, "GQ" magazine has just released its list of the "100 Sexiest Women of the Millennium." It's kind of early, right, in the millennium to the list personally but --

CAIN: Never too early.

O'BRIEN: To do the sexiest women, right? So Beyonce is the cover girl. Many critics are calling out the magazine though because --

SOCARIDES: And she looks great on the cover.

O'BRIEN: She does having knocked out a kid, yes, amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what three hours of a personal trainer does, a day.

O'BRIEN: But anyway, I digress. Let's go to the point. Some people very offended. Say the magazine has split women into these kinds of odd categories like this one, hottest Indian chick. Well, Frieda Pinto won that category.

Hottest pregnant Sri Lankan, M.I.A. won that category, hottest Italian chick, Monica Belushi won that and hottest Chinese chick, Chang Ziyi won that. So how are you feeling that? First the whole chick thing I think is -- 1970s are calling to get that word back.

SOCARIDES: Will Cain and I were talking about this before and I'm not offended because I think this is "GQ." I think it's a magazine about all of these things and I think it's kind of funny.

CAIN: Well, I mean, I think I need it explained to me what is offensive about it. It's not offensive.

O'BRIEN: Says the white man at the end of the table.

CAIN: Any reference to race and ethnicity is in of itself offensive?

O'BRIEN: No, you know, I'm not sure. I kind of figure that out. I do think the categories are odd, hottest pregnant Sri Lankan?

BERMAN: How many were there?

O'BRIEN: A bunch. I don't know who else was vying for the title.

SOCARIDES: I think women -- not women, but I think people expect there to be some objectification in a magazine like "GQ."

RANA FOROOHAR, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Right, you'd be surprised if there wasn't. I mean, I was offended, but I was expecting to be offended.

CAIN: But what were you offended by, the objectification or the distinguishing categories based up ethnicity?

FOROOHAR: I'm offended by the lack of creativity of the titles. I think as a magazine person, I was expecting a little better from the copy editor.

SOCARIDES: Very high brow offense.

O'BRIEN: It's kind of --

BERMAN: A lot of things are other people involved offended. Beyonce presumably agreed to be part of the shoot, so she may not have been offended, right?

CAIN: I don't know. Honestly, it escapes me how someone could be offended on this. I just don't understand.

O'BRIEN: Yes, and she also wasn't named. She didn't win an award or category.

BERMAN: She's just hottest of the millennium.

O'BRIEN: I don't know. I have to agree with you. I think it's lame, more than anything else.

SOCARIDES: I say it's lame, but not offensive.

O'BRIEN: Hottest biracial chick. Maybe one day I would win a category and I'll feel differently about it --

CAIN: Would you be offended if you are awarded that title?

O'BRIEN: I don't know. Does it come with money?

So ahead this morning, we're going to talk about this bizarre story. Notre Dame is calling it a sick joke. You remember the dramatic story about how she died of leukemia. Well, it turns she's not real. So is he the victim of a cruel hoax or was he in on the hoax? ESPN's Mike Greenberg and Mark Schlereth are going to join me next to talk about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: We're even talking about it in the commercial breaks. The story that has defined the college football team season, the Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te'O losing his grandmother and then his girlfriend within 24 hours of each other, the grandmother died, the girlfriend had leukemia, she succumbed as well.

Manti led the team to victory, an undefeated regular season. New report though shows that the whole story is a fabrication. That the girlfriend apparently never even existed.

Earlier this morning, I spoke with Mike Greenberg, he is the co-host of "Mike & Mike in the Morning" and Mark Schlereth, a former pro- football player who is sitting in for the other Mike this morning. Here's what we talked about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Good morning, guys, nice to talk to you. Your show is riveting this morning. There are so many questions, for me the biggest question I guess is, is Manti Te'O part of this hoax or a victim of this hoax? What's your gut on that?

MIKE GREENBERG, HOST, ESPN2'S "MIKE & MIKE IN THE MORNING": Well, that is the $64 million question, Soledad, and here is the only reason that I'm inclined to believe that Te'O was not involved.

And that is that the Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick from Notre Dame last night came out and put all his eggs in Te'O's basket. He unequivocally backed Te'O and put the entire university and the entire football program behind him. This is for a kid who has finished his football career.

They will never play there again. I believe that after the lengthy investigation that you know the university has done, if they had any question that Te'O was involved, he would have at least left himself an out, which he would not do. Otherwise, Mark, I would be completely disinclined to believe that Te'O was not involved. That gives me pause.

O'BRIEN: I want to play what the athletic director said in the press conference, which was riveting in and of itself last night. Here it is.

JACK SWARBRICK, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR, NOTRE DAME: This was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax perpetrated for reasons we can't fully understand, but had a certain cruelty at its core based on the exchanges that we were able to see between some of the people who perpetrated it.

O'BRIEN: So he clearly is putting all his eggs in the basket of what Te'O is saying is true, but when you go through the media reports over the last year plus, there are things that Te'O is somehow involved in storytelling that cannot be true.

The story of how he and this young woman met, Stanford graduate, they gazed into each other eyes. He's never quoted, but certainly the "South Bend Tribune" tells that story, that it cannot have happened if she doesn't exist, right?

MARK SCHLERETH, HOST, ESPN2'S "MIKE & MIKE IN THE MORNING": There are inconsistencies and I think there are embellishments at the very least that make you look at this and give you some pause. Because at some point you're saying wait a minute, if these stories were reported and you didn't say, wait, I never really actually met her face to face.

We had met on the internet, over the web, we talked, but never gazed into each other's eyes, why would you not correct that if you're not part of what's going on? So those are the question marks right now that people are looking at saying wait a minute now, there's a few inconsistencies here, and at the very least he embellished and let that happen during the course of this whole relationship.

O'BRIEN: Bizarre.

GREENBERG: To use the word soulfully. O'BRIEN: Let me ask about the time line. The school found out December 26, looks like Manti found out weeks before that, before the national championship, obviously that, we were all talking about. No one was informed. How odd is that? That stinks to me.

GREENBERG: Well, it is unprecedented. We are a sports talk show and I thought up until everything I've seen it all and I've never seen anything like this. He was the runner up for the Heisman and best defensive player in the country this year. If you were not watching that game he was a non-factor in the game and now obviously you put two and two together and figure his mind was in a lot of other places because he had to know this was about to come crashing around all sides of him.

O'BRIEN: What's the why? Like why, if he's involved, why? If he's not involved, why, what's the point of the hoax?

SCHLERETH: I think that people that would ask that question why and you would see that the potential of winning a Heisman and what that does for you on the national stage and also going on in your football career, just what that would do for you going forward. I think there are --

GREENBERG: He may have done it, what we're saying it he may have done it in order to get the sympathy vote for the Heisman, but you and I as adults realize the risk greatly outweighs even that reward.

O'BRIEN: You have to assume that the story --

GREENBERG: And I don't know the answer to that either.

O'BRIEN: -- the journalists would love the story. They'd run with the story. That no one would check it out. I mean, there are a lot of assumptions in that. You're right. The risk is just huge. This story is incredible. I can't wait to hear what he says when he's asked just beyond his statement where he says he's the victim of a cruel hoax. It's a shocker.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Look, it's beyond shocking. I've never seen anything like this. It's beyond sports, and the question is, was he in on it or was he the victim?

O'BRIEN: What is your gut on that?

BERMAN: My gut is there's something fishy. To believe him completely he has to have been the victim of an incredibly complicated and successful hoax. There has to be incredibly incomplete journalism, you have to be willing to accept that he was OK with allowing the incomplete journalism to exist out there for months and months.

You have to be willing to believe that he lied to his father about meeting this girl several times in Hawaii. You just have to be willing to believe, none of these things are impossible in and of themselves, but when you string them all together -- CAIN: The quantity. The best feather in his cap is what Mike Greenberg said, after a lengthy investigation with the university they've gone all in he was duped, he was not part of the hoax. If they are wrong where does this go from Manti Te'O? Who at Notre Dame is responsible?

O'BRIEN: If they are wrong they will say we were duped, too. We'll continue to talk about this incredible story. We'll speak with the editor who broke the story, Timothy Burke will join us in a bit.

Also our other top story this morning, Americans apparently among the hostages taken by militants in Algeria. There are some reports now that some of those hostages have escaped, but who are they that have escaped and how many? The U.S. is calling this a terrorist attack, so what happens now? We have developing details and insight from Congressman Peter King, straight ahead.

Then a story that riveted New York and the nation, this little girl was kidnapped in a crime that was front page news, for 16 days she was discovered hidden in a bunker underneath her kidnaper's garage. Twenty years later, Katie Beers talks about her ordeal and how she not only survived, she said it was one of the best things that happened to her, in some way. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our Starting Point this morning, held hostage, Americans among those held hostage in Algeria. We've learned now that some of those hostages have escaped, but were Americans among that group and how many? The latest on this developing story is straight ahead this morning.

And then was Notre Dame's star linebacker Manti Te'O the victim of a sick prank? It turns out his girlfriend has a long story about she died tragically of leukemia --