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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Lance Armstrong Apologizes to Betsy Andreu; Newtown School Superintendent Testifies; Was "Vogue's" Sandy Photoshoot in Bad Taste?

Aired January 18, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, one big lie, Lance Armstrong admitting he cheated for years despite his very public and passionate denials. We'll break down his full confession and then really ask is he genuinely sorry.

Plus, we'll talk with Betsy Andreu. She is one of the people whose reputation he attacked after she testified that he doped.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wall Street rising, the S&P 500 closes at a five-year high. I'll tell you what's behind the big boost.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": And we have a new development of the hostage situation overseas. Americans are now being evacuated from Algeria, details in a moment.

O'BRIEN: It's Friday, January 18th, and STARTING POINT begins right now. Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our team this morning, Richard Socarides is a writer for newyorker.com, former senior adviser to President Clinton. Representative Nan Hayworth is a former Republican Congresswoman from New York.

Leigh Gallagher is the assistant managing editor, "Fortune" magazine. John Berman is sticking around. He is the "EARLY START" co-anchor. It's nice to have you all with us.

We'll talk about Lance Armstrong this morning. He's come clean after years and years and years of lying. He says he did, in fact, used performance-enhancing drugs to win each and every one of his seven Tour de France titles.

In last night's interview on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, the disgraced cycling legend admitted that he consistently lied about doping and relentlessly would attack his accusers.

Oprah wasted no time getting to the big questions. Here's how the interview began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: Let's start with the questions that people around the world have been waiting for you to answer, and for now, I'd just like a yes or a no.

LANCE ARMSTRONG, FORMER PROFESSIONAL CYCLIST: OK.

WINFREY: OK? This whole conversation, we have a lot of time, will be about the details.

Yes or no? Did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling performance?

ARMSTRONG: Yes.

WINFREY: Yes or no? Was one of those banned substances, EPO?

ARMSTRONG: Yes.

WINFREY: Did you ever blood dope or use blood transfusions to enhance your cycling performance?

ARMSTRONG: Yes.

WINFREY: Did you ever use any other banned substances, like testosterone, cortisone, or human growth hormone?

ARMSTRONG: Yes.

WINFREY: Yes or no? In all seven of your Tour de France victories, did you ever take banned substances or blood dope?

ARMSTRONG: Yes.

WINFREY: In your opinion, was it humanly possible to win the Tour de France without doping, seven times in a row?

ARMSTRONG: Not in my opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: George Howell's in Austin, Texas, for us this morning. That, of course, is a city that Armstrong calls home, it's where the interview took place.

What's been the reaction there in the wake of this interview?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, you talk to people, all they can say is, wow. You know, people are shocked to hear it finally coming in his own words.

This is something that many people in this community thought in the back of their minds after years of watching him win, after years of watching him viciously attack people who accused him of doping calling them liars, we learned in Lance Armstrong's own words that he was, in fact, living as he describes it one big lie.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL (voice-over): Lance Armstrong spent years trying to outrun allegations that he used performance-enhancing substances to fuel his successful cycling career. That race is now over.

WINFREY: Was it a big deal to you? Did it feel wrong?

ARMSTRONG: At the time?

WINFREY: Yes.

ARMSTRONG: No.

WINFREY: It did not even feel wrong?

ARMSTRONG: No. Scary.

WINFREY: Did you feel bad about it?

ARMSTRONG: No. Even scarier.

WINFREY: Did you feel in any way that you were cheating?

ARMSTRONG: No. The scariest.

HOWELL: After decades as of denials, the seven-time Tour de France winner came clean in part one of a wide-ranging interview with Oprah Winfrey.

ARMSTRONG: I am flawed, deeply flawed. I think we all have our flaws, but -- and if the magnifying glass is normally this big, I made it this big because of my actions and because of my words and because of my attitude and my defiance.

HOWELL: Armstrong kept his emotions in check as he described years of cheating, lying and attacking those who would dare doubt him. He denied forcing teammates to dope, but did admit that they may have felt pressure to follow his example.

ARMSTRONG: I was a bully in the sense that I tried to control the narrative. If I didn't like what somebody said, and for whatever reasons in my own head, whether I viewed that as somebody being disloyal or a friend turning on you, or whatever, I tried to control that and said that -- that's a lie, they're liars.

HOWELL: Armstrong now admits that he was the one telling, in his words, one big lie, that he repeated over and over again, including this 2005 deposition.

The hero to so many says that he realizes his confession is probably too late for many people.

ARMSTRONG: They have every right to feel betrayed, and it's my fault. And I have -- I will spend the rest of my life, you know -- some people are gone forever. But I'll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people for the rest of my life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: And, Soledad, the reactions are coming in, have been coming in all night. Just spoke with a gentleman, Michael Hall, who writes for "Texas Monthly" and he's interviewed Lance Armstrong before, he said cyclists are livid about what they heard last night.

And also a reaction, rather, from USADA -- I want to read this quote to you. It said, quote, "Tonight, Lance Armstrong finally acknowledged that his cycling career was built on a powerful combination of doping and deceit. His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction but if he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities."

So we expect to hear a lot more, more reaction as people hear from Lance Armstrong that he did indeed take part in doping, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. George Howell for us, thanks, George. Appreciate it.

We can have more reaction right now. One of the most striking moments, I thought, in t interview was what Lance Armstrong was not saying. It goes back to 1996 when he was recovering from surgery to remove tumors from his brain at an Indiana hospital. And his teammate at the time was Frankie Andreu. He was visiting, along with his, Betsy Andreu.

The couple would later testify that they heard Armstrong list off all the performance enhancing drugs that he'd taken to two doctors. Armstrong would deny that under oath and then repeatedly attack the Andreus and Oprah asked him about that last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WINFREY: Was Betsy telling the truth about the Indiana hospital overhearing you in 1996?

ARMSTRONG: I'm not going to take that on, and I'm laying down on that one.

WINFREY: Was Betsy lying?

ARMSTRONG: I'm just not -- I'm going to put that one down, she asked me, and I asked her not to talk about --

WINFREY: What you said.

ARMSTRONG: -- the details of the call or the confidential personal conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Betsy Andreu's with us this morning.

Nice to have you. So, let's talk first about that call, 40-minute call. How did it go? What did he say?

BETSY ANDREU, TESTIFIED THAT LANCE ARMSTRONG ADMITTED TO DOPING: It was very emotional. And it's more important that Lance apologize to me privately instead of apologizing on Oprah, because that would have been not as meaningful --

O'BRIEN: He apologized to you?

ANDREU: He apologized to me on the phone.

He was right. It was a private conversation and it was very emotional, and I want to keep it that way. But I think we saw a classic Lance moment which let's take a little bit of it and turn it around and say, well, she doesn't want me to talk about that. Because in the conversation I said, Lance, you have to say the hospital room happened.

And his response was, you know, I don't want to -- I don't want to go there, I'm not going to say the hospital room didn't happen. I said, why, it did? And he mumbled something and I think he's still protecting people because this thing is such a web of lies and deceit.

There are people who lied for him, who were involved in that hospital incident and if you lie before the grand jury, then the government will go after you, unless you come from (INAUDIBLE) office, where he seems to be protecting the celebrity. So, it was very frustrating to me yesterday.

O'BRIEN: You said that it was -- how did that interview make you feel while you're watching it? What's your reaction to it?

ANDREU: It was a -- it was a mixed bag of emotions, because I really -- I give him credit for admitting that he cheated on such a public level. I don't think he did it the right way. I really think he should have gone to USADA and told them everything from A to Z because there's no way he pulled off this massive fraud on his own. He just didn't do it on his own.

So, I was -- I respect that he came forward and he finally admitted to cheating. But personally it infuriated me that he wouldn't pick up the ball. He owed that to me for what he's put me through to say the hospital incident did happen.

O'BRIEN: Do you know what I find strange he kept talking about winning the seven titles when, of course, we now know he was doping through the winning. I mean, there's something that's interesting psychologically there, and there's this level playing field argument that everybody was doing it. I mean, earlier, you were talking about it, you fill up your water bottle, you put air in your tires, you do the drugs basically.

Is that the culture? I mean, your husband was a cyclist at a top level.

ANDREU: Yes, but, you know, Frankie, and I will never, ever justify it, when Frankie succumbed to using EPO, it was over a short period of time. He -- there was no United States Anti-Doping Agency, there was no WADA, but Frankie never, ever had a blood transfusion, never did growth hormone, testosterone, steroids, never did any of that stuff.

So, when there's the argument of a level playing field -- that's bull, because Frankie spent the vast majority of his career, 2011 was his second tour, the winning tour, and he was fired because he was clean. So --

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Is it true, though, that everyone is cheating on some level?

ANDREU: No, it's not true. 2011, and I can -- we can speak from personal experience, Frankie raced that tour clean.

SOCARIDES: Well, I'm not saying -- I'm not saying is everybody cheating all the time. But is everybody cheating some of the time?

ANDREU: No, I don't believe that. You have guys who are finishing 111th, 120th, 130th, maybe 100th, maybe 65th, they're not cheating.

SOCARIDES: Everybody that's above 50 is cheating?

ANDREU: Maybe the tour contenders, I would say, yes, that's a valid argument. I would say that's a valid argument.

SOCARIDES: I mean, that's not justifying it, but that's a pretty --

ANDREU: It's not justifying it --

SOCARIDES: -- revelation. I mean, it's a pretty important revelation.

ANDREU: But this whole level playing field thing is a bunch of bunk, because even if a people had a million dollars, maybe they don't want to put all that crap in their body that Lance is putting put in their body. Lance paid over a million dollars to a doctor.

O'BRIEN: He said in the interview that he did not tell people what to do, that he was not -- I think we have this clip, he was not, as much as he was a co-owner of the team, he told Oprah, listen, I was leader of the team, but everybody -- we're all grown-ups here, we're all grown men making the decisions.

ANDREU: Well, then, why was Frankie fired in 2011?

O'BRIEN: Let's play the chunk from the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARMSTRONG: Look, I was the leader of the team and the leader of any team leads by example and there was never a direct order or a directive to say, you have to do this if you want to do the tour, if you want to be on the team.

That never happened. It was a competitive time. We were all grown men. We all made our choices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: You said --

BERMAN: You said cherry-picking. Why?

O'BRIEN: Yes, what do you mean?

ANDREU: He was cherry picking last night. That's what I truly believe, he was cherry picking. When he says that, he chided Frankie.

The USADA report has the e-mails where Frankie was deemed not a team player, he was deemed selfish, he was deemed arrogant. Lance asked him one time, will you go see Ferrari, you have to get serious and get results, 2000, Frankie said no.

What were the consequences of that? Finishing 111th in the tour and not getting his tour bonus from Lance and getting fired. That's what the consequence was of riding clean on Lance's team.

I don't buy for a minute -- if you read Tyler Hamilton and Dan Quayle's book "The Secret Race," maybe at that level, where -- the level meaning Tyler was a mountain climber and, in 1999 and 2000, it was three guys who were on this sophisticated doping program, but even Frankie and I who saw the USADA report and read that book, it was new to us. It was completely new to us.

2000 was the turning point. 2001 on, if you wanted to be on Lance Armstrong's winning tour team, then I would say, yes, you had to do what it takes.

O'BRIEN: He was the co-owner.

ANDREU: He was the co-owner of the team, he made the decision who was fired -- who was fired and how much they got paid. For him to say that he wasn't, when I say he was cherry picking because last night he was truthful with some things, and with other things, he just wasn't truthful.

FMR. REP. NAN HAYWORTH (R), NEW YORK: But, Betsy, basically Lance Armstrong was setting conditions such that the only way you could compete successfully was to dope.

ANDREU: The only way to win. The only way to win was to dope. You could compete, but Lance didn't want you did --

HAYWORTH: You wouldn't win, right.

ANDREU: You wouldn't win. If you doped, then you were stronger. And that's what Frankie was chided for not being strong that tour.

O'BRIEN: We're going to keep the coverage going. I'm going to ask you to stick around with us, because I've found what you've said through the entire revelation has been absolutely riveting. So, if you'd stick around with us, we'd appreciate it. Thank you.

ANDREU: OK.

O'BRIEN: Our coverage, of course, is going to continue over weekend as well. Tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, we'll take a closer look at the constant doping chatter that was dogging Armstrong for years. "THE WORLD ACCORDING TO LANCE ARMSTRONG" is going air here tomorrow night.

Coming up next, some people are trying to make sure the shooting tragedy in Newtown never happens again, including many of the folks from Sandy Hook themselves. Janet Robinson is the Newtown superintendent of schools. She's our guest, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Some new details to get to this morning about that hostage crisis in Algeria. Defense officials are telling CNN's Barbara Starr that an air force aircraft is in the process of evacuating Americans and other foreign nationals who were involved in that standoff. We're told somewhere between 10 and 20 hostages will be on that flight, but there are some injuries.

It's unclear at this point just how severe those injuries are and that people onboard that flight will be flown to U.S. facilities somewhere in Europe. No details on that right now. It's unclear the number of hostages who are still being held. We'll talk with Barbara Starr live from the Pentagon a little bit later in this hour.

Sandy Hook Elementary School, of course, was thrust into the spotlight after the mass shooting there that happened on December 14th, and since that day, teachers and school administrators have been trying to make the kids now come back to school feel as safe as possible.

To make sure that this never happens again, Newtown school superintendent Janet Robinson took her message to Washington, D.C., testifying before a Congressional hearing on gun violence this week. Superintendent Robinson is with us this morning. It's nice to have you with us. We appreciate your time.

JANET ROBINSON, NEWTOWN SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS: Good morning, how are you?

O'BRIEN: I'm well, thank you. How are you? And how are the kids who've now gone back to school? How's that all going?

ROBINSON: Well, I think it's a good thing to have the kids back in school. They like the routine and the structure. The kids were very excited to see their teachers again. So, we're moving along. Plus, having the children back in school helps us give them their routine and see how they're doing.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I would imagine. It's helpful for the teachers as well. Have there been changes? I mean, are the same number of kids, you know, back in school following the tragedy? Have some people taken their kids out of school and enrolled them somewhere else? Are there district changes that you've made?

ROBINSON: To answer your first question, most of the students are back. I think, you know, we have a flu outbreak. So, we do have some students absent and teachers absent. But by and large, we are doing everything we can to supply some level of normalcy to their lives and they're responding. Part of your second question, I think that there's a heightened awareness of security and wanting to have something that clearly apparent like a police officer to let people know that their children are safe.

O'BRIEN: The elementary school building, itself, is no longer a crime scene, we're told. So, what happens now with that building?

ROBINSON: Well, right now, the building is fenced off, and there will be some community -- actually, they've already started community conversations to determine what the public and the community wants to do with Sandy Hook School. Sandy Hook School's been there for 50 years, and it's become part of the fabric of our community.

It's been a lovely school. We have people in town who their fathers went to that school or mother, and they went to the school, their children have gone to the school. So, it is just really part of the Newtown tradition.

O'BRIEN: In your --

ROBINSON: And these community conversations --

O'BRIEN: I'm sorry, go ahead.

ROBINSON: In the community conversations, people are having the opportunity to express their point of view, and then our government officials will come together and make some decisions as to what the best thing to do with the building.

O'BRIEN: In your congressional testimony, you asked a question, and you said, what do I say to parents who want to be reassured? How do you answer that very question?

ROBINSON: Well, that's really a challenge I put out there for our Congressional leaders. We want to be able to guarantee that children are safe when they get on that bus and come to school. Parents want to know when that child goes off to school that they're going to come home safe. And, in a community like Sandy Hook where we have had good security measures, we've done the kinds of things that are recommended.

We implement anti-bullying types of programs, things to work on, children's self-esteem. We feel that we've really worked hard to help raise really healthy kids, and we want support in terms of knowing that those -- that we aren't going to have intruders that are going to infringe upon their safety.

O'BRIEN: Janet Robinson is the Newtown superintendent of schools. Thank you for talking with us this morning. It's great to hear that those kids are -- even with the flu outbreak -- settling back into their classes and some kind of normalcy. We appreciate your time.

ROBINSON: Well, thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, Superstorm Sandy caused major damage in the east. In fact, lots of people are still trying to recover even now after they lost their homes. So, should the disaster be used in a "Vogue" spread? It's our "Tough Call" and it's up next.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our "Tough Call" this morning, natural disaster has turned out to be an inspiration for a high fashion photo spread, but does "Vogue's" Superstorm Sandy shoot cross the line? The photos show cops and firefighters and other first responders pictured with models in really quite fabulous clothing, actually.

It's all the work of the famed photographer, Annie Leibovitz, and appears in the February issue of "Vogue." The stormtroopers has had its share of critics who say it's in bad taste. But you guys have seen the pictures. You think it's in bad taste?

HAYWORTH: Yes.

O'BRIEN: You do? Why?

HAYWORTH: People are still suffering the aftereffects of this devastating storm. We just had, as we all know, a bit of a battle in Congress about how to help these people who are still trying to recover. And here, we have a fashion magazine shoot. It would be one thing if they took portraits of the first responders who deserve that wonderful credit, but they're only props for the models.

O'BRIEN: Well -- and I do think they're trying -- it's the first responders were put on this lovely red dress that they might do that, but I think they are, to some degree, props but they are props in a heroic fashion. There's a little blurb about them --

LEIGH GALLAGHER, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, FORTUNE: I'm going to disagree a little bit. Yes. I mean, I feel like, you know, these are some of the most people (ph) we know of and they're never shown. You never see them. And, you know, we glamorize celebrities so much. You know, I just feel like let's give them their moment in the sun. Let's let these, you know, great hunky firemen spend the day with these gorgeous models. I mean --

BERMAN: I think it's a piece of art you can interpret it as something flattering for the firefighters, because it's jarring when you first look at it and then you start to think for a second, well, who are the real celebrities and stars here. It's not these fabulously dressed people, it is the first responders.

O'BRIEN: I thought that was the point that they were trying to make. I thought it was that juxtaposition of it. John, I agree with you. I think that that's exactly what they were trying to say, that this is what it's all about.

SOCARIDES: It's very artistic, right? I mean, Annie Leibovitz, when she does anything, it's art.

O'BRIEN: They're beautiful photos, for sure.

SOCARIDES: They're beautiful photos and tasteful. And not like, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: of course, it's tasteful. That's what it's all about. Still ahead --

GALLAGHER: Did they get the names of the first responders?

O'BRIEN: They had little blurbs about the units, exactly. So, there's information about them as well.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Lance Armstrong said he cheated. So, what does his confession do for his efforts to rehabilitate his image? Is it a chance for redemption? Is it a nail in the coffin? We're going to bring Betsy Andreu back. As you remember, she was called a liar by Armstrong.

New developments in that hostage situation as well in Algeria. It's our other top stories this morning. Americans are now being airlifted out, we are told. We have to get some details, though, on how many hostages remain and how many are being removed. Live report with Barbara Starr next.

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