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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

No End in Sight for Deep Freeze; Manti Te'o Speaks Out; Impact on Te'o's NFL Future?; North Korea Calls U.S. "Sworn Enemy"; Military To Lift Limits On Women

Aired January 24, 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 back, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, a deep freeze with no end in sight from the northeast to the Midwest, frigid temperatures remain in place and they're not going anywhere. We'll take you to the hardest hit areas.

Also the first look at a book that takes us inside the world of scientology, what a dozen members have to say about their encounters with the church's leader, a hard look at the church's obsession with celebrities.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Plus today's the day that Manti Te'o tells his story on camera, speaking out about the girlfriend hoax and we have the tape.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: New developments in a food supply scare, questions about horse meat found in burgers overseas that reportedly could taint the food supply with a cancer causing drug. Britain's standard agencies say the story is not true. What's the real story this morning?

O'BRIEN: L.Z. Granderson is a senior writer with ESPN. We're going to talk about Manti Te'o with him this morning. Retired General Spider Marks is with us.

From "Mob Wise," we're talking to Big Ang Raiola and Ramona Rizzo about their new season that's being launched.

It's Thursday, January 24, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning: Roland Martin is with us, CNN political analyst, host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin." Will Cain is back, CNN contributor and contributor for TheBlaze.com. John Berman sticks around with us for "EARLY START."

Our STARTING POINT this morning: so cold you might not believe some of these numbers. Bitter cold blast gripping much of the country is not expected to go away any time soon. Take a look at the White House. Take a look at the Capitol building covered in snow, here in New York, people kind of wrapped up like mummies.

The deep freeze is only adding to the misery for those folks who are victims of hurricane Sandy, tens of thousands of homes are still without heat. And despite the negative wind chill factors, people are still in some of those homes.

Turning out in northern Ohio, Interstate 90 shut down as temperatures plunged into the teens and single digits, lake-effect snow piled up, triggered several crashes.

However, Miami -- lovely Miami, a totally different story. A high of 76 degrees today.

If you're thinking of escaping the cold, Jennifer Delgado has a look at how it's been and how it's going to be.

Jennifer, good morning.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Soledad. An escape plan is right. You certainly need this from this cold air and it looks like as we go through the next couple days we're going to be dealing with this cold weather pattern and this is because what we're in right is what we call a negative arctic oscillation phase.

Now, when you're in this negative phase all the cold air in the polar region basically is allowed to move down towards southern parts of the U.S., including the Midwest, and the East Coast. And that means we could stay in this phase for the next couple weeks ahead. Now, that's not to say we're not going to warm up, but it's still going to be below average.

I want to show you some of the wind chill values out there right now: minus 33 degrees and wind chill in International Falls, minus 10 in Green Bay. As we move over to Boston, it feels like minus 14, even still. We are still going to see cooler conditions out there.

And some of these higher elevations like in New England, it could get down to minus 50 with the wind chill. Just yesterday we saw one register at minus 85, and a higher elevation and New Hampshire. Now the cold air in place, notice that high temperatures over the next couple days, they're going to be about 10 degrees below average.

For New York City, typically, you should be at 38 degrees. Today, we're only going to see a high of 24 and we're going to keep you cool all the way through the weekend.

Washington, D.C., 31 degrees, we just showed you snow setting up in Washington, D.C., and that is going to come to an end in the next hour but in some of the locations, we could see one to three inches of snowfall. And again, that advisory is going to expire at 9:00. But not the cold air, Soledad, it will be dangerously cold for the next several days.

O'BRIEN: Oh, that is such bad news.

All right. Jennifer Delgado for us -- thanks, Jennifer. Appreciate it.

DELGADO: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o has gone on camera for the very first time, speaking to ABC's Katie Couric about the controversy surrounding the Internet love affair that went on to be come national and international news. It turns out the whole thing was a hoax but there are still more questions and answers.

George Howell has been following the story for us. George, good morning.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning. You know, fair to say he's got his doubters. People want to know exactly, you know, what did he know about this Internet hoax? Now, Te'o says his feelings in this case were real, he claims he really believed that his online girlfriend who he'd never met died of cancer in September.

Now, fast forward to December, and just two days before he attended the Heisman trophy ceremony he got a call from someone saying the woman was dead -- was alive, rather, but faced with the media that day he kept talking about her as if she was dead. Sports blog Deadspin broke the deception there.

Here's what he told Katie Couric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE COURIC, ABC'S "KATIE": You stuck to the script and you knew something was amiss, Manti.

MANTI TE'O, NOTRE DAME LINEBACKER: Correct.

COURIC: Why?

TE'O: Well, if anybody puts themselves in my situation. Katie, put yourself in my situation. This girl who I committed to died on September 12th. Now, I get a phone call on December 6th saying that she's alive and I'm going to be put on national TV two days later and they asked me the same question. You know, what would you do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: It gets confusing, you know? And Te'o admits he did briefly lie. His father, Brian Te'o stuck up for the football player saying he's adamant his son is into the not a liar. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN TE'O, FATHER, MANTI TE'O: People can speculate about what they think he is. I've known him 21 years of his life. And he's not a liar. He's a kid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Then, of course, there's the real life girl whose pictures were used to create a fake online image of Lennay Kekua. Her real name is Diane O'Meara. She says she knew the alleged mastermind of the plot from high school, but she insists she was never part of this hoax.

O'Meara tells Anderson Cooper people need to be very careful online.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE O'MEARA, IDENTITY STOLEN IN MANTI TE'O HOAX: He reached out to me a day or two days before the story broke and relayed to me he, in fact, was stalking my profile for five years, taking my photos and he created this --

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Five years, he was doing this.

O'MEARA: He created this idea that was not me, it was this Lennay Kekua with my face on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So, Soledad, you know, there are so many players, so many characters in this story. It gets confusing. It will be interesting to hear what Te'o has to say when he talks to Katie Couric. You know, was he a victim of this Internet phenomenon called catfishing, where you basically create a fake online image and bring people in to believe that it's true. We'll hear more from Te'o about that later today.

O'BRIEN: I cannot wait for this interview. I am really --

HOWELL: Yes, it's going to be interesting.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. George Howell for us -- thanks, George. Appreciate it.

HOWELL: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Other stories making news this morning and John Berman has got a look at that for us.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. And tensions mounting in North Korea. That country's national defense commission is calling the U.S., quote, "the sworn enemy of the Korean people." This happening just after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning North Korea's rocket launch from last year.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Today's resolution makes clear that there will be an increasingly steep price to pay if North Korea again chooses confrontation with this council and the international community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: In a defiant response, North Korea says it's planning to carry out new nuclear testing and further long range rocket launches as part of what it calls the new phase of confrontation with the United States.

A historic announcement happening later today, women are being allowed on the front lines of war. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey said to make the announcement at 1:30. Many former service members support the move. They say some women in support missions have already been drawn into battle and patrolled in Iraq and Afghanistan, in places that don't have physical front lines.

In the last hour of STARTING POINT, Soledad talked to Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii about it. She said it's about time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: We're talking about highly trained professionals, people who build our strong military because they place the mission first and there to fight as a member of a team. All of the other things that differentiate us, make us unique, whether it be gender, or race or religion, all of these things fall aside when you're there putting the mission first and selflessly serving as that member of a team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. Just in to CNN, brand new pictures of a fire that had reignited at a warehouse in Chicago. We've been showing this fire in Chicago since yesterday. It broke out Tuesday night.

Firefighters were forced to fight it in freezing temperatures; it froze over, looked like an ice castle after it was doused with water. Well, now, the fire has started again and it really is extraordinary to see that picture there. The ice is now melting that's the one effect of the fire. The building so badly damaged in the Bridgeport section, it will have to be knocked down.

O'BRIEN: They said they had expected that it would rekindle, you know, that's why they had the crews around it. But still, when you look at that, they can only fight it from the outside. It's a big problem for them.

All right. Can we return to the Manti Te'o story, please?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

O'BRIEN: We have so many questions, so much that I still do not understand. After weeks and weeks of silence, we now know that he is speaking out to Katie Couric. We're going to get a chance to hear the interview today. This morning, we have a panel of experts to talk about it, too.

Doug Eldridge is a sports agent, founder of DLE Sports Management Group. Chris Draft played football with the Atlanta Falcons, among other teams. He's the CEO and president of the Chris Draft Family Foundation. Also, L.Z. Granderson is with us. He's a senior writer for ESPN, a CNN contributor.

So much to talk about. Let's see. Where do we begin?

Chris, let me start with you, because I want to understand what you think the impact of all of this will be.

CHRIS DRAFT, CHRIS DRAFT FAMILY FOUNDATION: I can't hear anything.

O'BRIEN: You can't hear. You what, let's see if I can fix your audio and I'll turn to Doug instead.

Doug, do you have -- you can hear me?

DOUG ELDRIDGE, SPORTS AGENT: I can, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: OK, good. While they're fixing Chris's audio, I'll ask you the question I was going to ask him.

What do you think the impact is as he goes into the combine, into the draft around -- you know, this is a national story, and a scandal and hugely embarrassing. So what does it mean to him, you know, on the ground there, as he goes through this with other players?

ELDRIDGE: Well, I think it's a two-fold question. First of all is, what is the impact on his draft? And second of all is, what is the overarching impact on his marketability? Meaning sponsorships and endorsements moving forward.

And when you dissect that question, it's a question of performance versus perception. On the NFL side, it's a question of how is Manti going to perform on the field. And this is no longer a scouting issue, it's a personnel issue, meaning, they need to look at behind of scenes of what went into this and each NFL team has in-depth investigation units that will get to the bottom of that. That's the performance component.

On the perception as it relates to his marketability and his endorsement capacity moving forward, it's a question of fan perception. How do they view him, what do they feel ultimately his role is in this, and how do they align themselves with him as far as likability?

O'BRIEN: Can I add another p? And I'll bring in Chris, whose audio I think has been fixed.

How about -- how about just the pressure? I mean, you know, you talk about performance and perception. How about just the pressure of going into this with sort of the eyes of the nation watching every single you're doing as a football player. Tell me about that.

DRAFT: It's a huge amount of pressure for Manti, but he dealt with a lot of pressure throughout the season. So you were able to see with all this going on that he was able to perform well on the field, I think the question still right now is, what's the truth? I think as an NFL team, that's what you have to find out is, what is the truth?

O'BRIEN: Not really the BCS game, right? I mean, that one which we know was --

BERMAN: With all due respect, Chris, when this story -- when he knew what the truth was of the story we his worst game of the season against Alabama. So there is some evidence that this scandal can affect his play.

DRAFT: Definitely, the scandal, it can affect his play. You were able to se that, but that doesn't mean it was all about the scandal. Alabama is a great team.

I think he has to deal with it. He has to deal with it right now. The NFL is going to make sure it's dealt with. They're going to have great investigators that look into it.

I mean, right now, we're talking about the draft status. The draft status is about his combine performance, you know, all those things on the field. But then they're going to have to find out exactly what's going on with the story. I think as the truth gets out, it's going to allow him to be able to be more confident.

O'BRIEN: One of the things we do know is that he lied. He told Katie Couric he lied after the fact about -- here, let's play a little bit of what he said to Katie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: You stuck to the script and you knew something was amiss, Manti.

TE'O: Correct.

COURIC: Why?

TE'O: Well, if anybody puts themselves in my situation. Katie, put yourself in my situation. This girl who I committed myself to died on September 12th. Now, I get a phone call on December 6th saying that she's alive and I'm going to be put on national TV two days later and they asked me the same question. You know, what would you do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Is that a reasonable point? Like you know honestly, given -- L.Z., given all that had happened, why not? I mean, does it make sense -- by the way, he's a young guy, about to play a really important game. L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. In December, that makes all the sense in the world to me. In January, that makes no sense in the world to me.

Why did you let a month go by before you, before the University of Notre Dame, before your father who is teary eyed saying you're not a liar, why did you let a month go by before Deadspin outed you with this story? Why not call a press conference? And then, without the pressure of the Heisman, without the pressure of just finishing a season, why not then say you know what, I was duped, I apologize, let's move forward and play in the championship game?

O'BRIEN: I'm dying to watch the interview.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Katie Couric's interview is going to help us know some of these things, whether or not we can believe Manti Te'o or not.

Let me turn to the concept of Manti's future for a moment. Doug, the agent, we're speaking with here, separated performance from perception. But I want to go back to that performance, L.Z., that's not limited to field, right? Manti Te'o has to go into locker rooms of the NFL. Whether or not he was the victim or part of the hoax, I can't imagine that's going to go over well in the locker room.

GRANDERSON: Every rookie, regardless of the league, goes through a period of hazing. This is going to be part of his period of hazing.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: Oh! Experience.

GRANDERSON: He's going to get the donuts. He's going to get, you know, the water for the veterans and all of that, and they're going to do a lot of Te'o'ing -- you know, tease him like that.

But if you are a lottery team, chances are your defense is suspect. If he performs well --

O'BRIEN: He can get over it.

GRANDERSON: He's going to get over it.

O'BRIEN: L.Z. and Chris and Doug -- thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

DRAFT: Thank you.

ELDRIDGE: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Completely disagree with you on the last answer. I think you're right, Will Cain.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT: women on the front lines of battle. We're going to talk with retired General James "Spider" Marks, and also Victoria Clarke, former Pentagon spokeswoman about what that means. And then, inside the world of Scientology. I sit down with a reporter who uncovered things never before known about the secretive group, including some details about its obsession with Hollywood.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. It's time now to talk about one of the other big stories playing out today. A major announcement expected this afternoon from the defense department, allowing women to serve in infantry and other frontline combat positions that currently have been off limits.

Joining us from Washington, D.C. is Victoria Clarke. She's a former Pentagon spokeswoman and military analyst and retired General James "Spider" Marks is with us as well. Nice to see both of you.

VICTORIA CLARKE, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: Good to see you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. So, how big of a deal is this, General Marks?

GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh, I don't think it's a big deal. Certainly, there are a lot of what I would call the old soldiers, the old guards that think this would never take place nor should it, but I think it's the absolute right decision. So, short answer is I don't think it's a big deal. It's going to work.

O'BRIEN: Would you agree with that, Victoria? You just think that this is, you know?

CLARKE: Absolutely. And I wouldn't say long overdue because change is hard in any organization, but, women have been serving essentially in combat roles for so long. This is just -- this just codifies it and allows them to be in line for the promotions that they deserve. It's absolutely wonderful. And I was happy to come out in the snow today to talk about it.

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's interesting. You raise a point that Gail Collins (ph) raises in her op-ed in "The New York Times." She writes this, "Today, women are on armed patrols and in fighter planes, but they cannot hold approximately 200,000 jobs officially termed combat which often bring more pay and can provide a stepping stone for promotions."

How much of this, do you think, has been about that? That it's been less about our women qualified and more about, as some have said, you know, not allowing women equal opportunities in the military?

CLARKE: Well, I'll tell you my experience with women in the military in uniform and I am -- I'm just in awe of the jobs they perform was they wanted to focus on the job they were doing. They wanted to focus on being a pilot. They wanted to focus on being a medic. They wanted to focus on whatever the job was at hand.

They weren't interested in the rules and regulations, if you will. However, there was always this ceiling above their heads that only allowed them to go so far. So, while they focused on the job at hand, this was something that was always being carried along with them, and finally, that's being lifted.

It's going to take some time for all of this to be carried out. But finally, that extra burden is being lifted off of them.

O'BRIEN: So, General Marks, there have been people and not that many voices that have been aggressively against this, but some, as Ryan Smith writes a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed this morning.

He says "It would be distracting, potentially traumatizing to be forced," for example -- this is an example -- "forced to be naked in front of the opposite sex particularly when your body has been ravaged by lack of hygiene. In reverse, it would be painful to witness a member of the opposite sex in an uncomfortable and awkward position."

Does he have a point? Although, I will say, that reminds me of what people said when they tried to integrate the military, you know, or when they, you know, -- I think I've heard that story before.

MARKS: Racial --

O'BRIEN: Yes. Racial integration of the military.

MARKS: Yes. My view of all this is it's all about leadership. You've got the right leaders at the right level, and it's all about those company commanders, (INAUDIBLE) is what I'm talking about. Those young 27, 29-year-old kids, kids who have been in combat now two or three times and they must focus in on making it right.

If the physical standards can be met, then the -- and the unit effectiveness is still there, then there's nothing wrong with this at all. You move forward and you make it happen, but there will be elements of resistance and that's where commanders at multiple levels need to get involved and make it right.

You know, the notion of promotions is not the motivation for this. We read a lot about that. And clearly, the senior leaders of all the militaries come from those combat arms, those direct line units. This gives them that opportunity, but let me tell you, in my personal experience, I've been so amazed at what female soldiers have been able to accomplish, it's not about that.

It's about unit effectiveness, and the units I've been a part of, they've been incredible contributors to the effectiveness of those mission accomplishments.

O'BRIEN: General James "Spider" Marks joining us this morning and Victoria Clarke, as well, a former Pentagon spokesperson. Thanks for being with me. Appreciate it.

CLARKE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

MARKS: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, an update, reports of horse meat found in burgers overseas. Could it taint the food supply with a cancer-causing drug? We'll take a look at that story straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Stocks pointed to a mixed open, but this is a day after the Dow and the S&P 500 hit five-year highs again. We'll be watching the NASDAQ, it could take a hit this morning because Apple shares are down nine percent.

Apple posted the second biggest quarterly profit in the U.S. history. But profit margins are getting squeezed because Apple's cheaper products are growing in popularity, so that stock is getting hit.

But look at Netflix shares. They're up 37 percent in premarket trading. I don't say that very often. They're up 37 percent in the premarket. They were -- Wall Street is shocked, frankly, with an $8 million fourth quarter profit. Wall Street is expected Netflix to lose customers. Instead, it signed up more than two million new streaming customers in the quarter. So, a big surprise there for Netflix shareholders.

And new developments this morning in a food supply scare that surfaced last week after horsemeat was found in frozen hamburger patties in supermarkets. Now, a British opposition politician claims that horsemeat contains a drug that causes cancer in humans in those hamburger patties. This drug, bute, is a horse anti-inflammatory.

Now, Britain's Food Standards Agency this morning telling us it's not true. The agency said it tested for the drug, it came back negative. I should point out the U.S. does not import beef from the UK, but a food supply scare right now across the pond.

CAIN: Just to be clear, they're saying the drug is not in the meat, but the horsemeat is.

ROMANS: Right --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: And also, I got to tell you, bute for horses, they use it all the time whenever a horse is -- like, so it would be very typical for a horse to get bute every single day. So, if there's horse meat -- no, and horses aren't slaughtered for meat and glue, they -- I wouldn't doubt that there's bute in there.

MARTIN: Let's deal with the horse meat. To me, that probably is significant.

BERMAN: You had me at the horse meat.

MARTIN: Not just the drug. Yes. Yes.

O'BRIEN: That's crazy, eww. Christine, thank you.

OK. We want to talk about what's trending on the web this morning.

MARTIN: Manti?

O'BRIEN: Singer -- Yes, (INAUDIBLE), but Adele is trending. New mom, she's going to be performing her Oscar nominated hit "Skyfall" at the Academy Awards next month in L.A. She said this, "It's an honor to be nominated," of course, she said that. She said it's also "terrifyingly wonderful to be singing in front of people who have captured my imagination over and over again."

BERMAN: Allegedly singing.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Also terrifically wonderful -- she also had significant stage fright so you say terrifyingly, I was going to, she's probably freaking out I'm singing to the whole world.

O'BRIEN: Which is awesome. I'm rooting for her.

And then, the artist -- the artist who painted the official portrait of Catherine the duchess of Cambridge now defending his work. You remember everybody was dissing it when it was unveiled. They said, oh my goodness, wow, she looks old, doesn't she?

The artist is Paul Emsley, and he says people need to go see the picture -- the painting with their own eyes. He says it does not photograph well. It turns out to be the hottest postcard. So, Paul Emsley is laughing all the way to the bank with his picture of the 64- year-old Catherine Duchess.

MARTIN: OK. If your paint doesn't photograph well, it's the painting.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Sorry.

ROMANS: He said it was hard to capture her beauty.

O'BRIEN: Yes --

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: She looks prettier every time you look at her. She's one of those kinds of beauties.

O'BRIEN: I think that's true.

CAIN: There you go. (LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: She's already taken, Will.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: New revelations about the world of scientology. Inside, its Hollywood obsession and what the author of a controversial new book says a dozen members told him about their encounters with the church's leader.

Plus, a new super bowl commercial with model, Kate Upton. Is it too sexy for the Super Bowl?

MARTIN: She gets prettier every time?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)