CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

The NRA Flip Flop; Senator Says Prostitution Allegations Are False; Alabama Hostage Standoff

Aired January 30, 2013 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the NRA's flip-flop on background checks. Why they say they're against them now.

Plus, Senator Bob Menendez faces allegations in an ongoing prostitution scandal. And the man who fooled Manti Te'O finally comes clean and he talks about his real romantic feelings. That's absolutely bizarre unveiling. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, major NRA flip-flop. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence today, Wayne Lapierre, the head of the gun group shared his thoughts on universal background checks and as you might guess, he is against them, but, he wasn't always. Jim Acosta has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Please, Mr. Lapierre, I'm not trying to play games here.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A key flashpoint at this hearing on gun control flared up early when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy grilled the NRA's Wayne Lapierre over universal background checks.

LEAHY: You do not support mandatory background checks in all instances at gun shows.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE V.P. AND CEO, NRA: We do not because the fact is the law right now is a failure the way it's working.

ACOSTA: As it turns out, Lapierre was for background checks at gun shows before he was against them and said so in 1999.

LAPIERRE: We think it's reasonable to provide mandatory, instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.

ACOSTA: When he was reminded of that no loophole line --

LEAHY: Now, you do not support background checks for all buyers of firearms.

LAPIERRE: I think the check system the way it's working now is a failure. ACOSTA: Lapierre's argument --

LAPIERRE: The problem with gun laws is criminals don't cooperate with them.

ACOSTA: But between 1994 and 2009, the Justice Department says out of 108 million background checks, nearly 2 million were denied. Most were felony convictions. Still, Lapierre was right on another front.

LAPIERRE: Twenty three states have not been putting the mental records of those adjudicated mentally incompetent of the system.

ACOSTA: That's backed up by a GAO report last year finding between 2004 and 2011, almost half of all-states increased the number mental health records they made available by fewer than 100. As for Lapierre's apparent flip-flop on background checks, he slipped out without taking questions. That's him right behind Senator Ted Cruz.

(on camera): And now he's saying something else?

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: You know, I understand the media likes to put everything in the context of politics, my focus is on what works. Strict gun control does not work.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The day's other star witness, former congresswoman and shooting victim, Gabby Giffords left with the aid of her husband, Mark Kelly, who hardly sounded confident.

(on camera): You think you get a bill passed?

(voice-over): Yet another sign the fate of gun control won't be settled at a hearing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Nancy Robinson is the executive director of Citizens for Safety. Matt Lewis is a columnist for the "Daily Caller." It's great to have both of you with us. Matt, let me start with you.

Pretty interesting about face there by the NRA and probably surprising a lot of people watching, but tell me why you don't think background checks, a universal background check is going to work?

MATT LEWIS, COLUMNIST, "DAILY CALLER": Well, first of all, has there ever been a worse spokesman than Wayne Lapierre, I mean, seriously. I like the 98 version of Wayne Lapierre a little bit better.

But look, I don't have a problem per se with background checks, but the idea it's a panacea, I just want to tell you if you look at the three most recent high profile examples, the roar area shooter purchased guns legally.

The only example where a background check might have changed things is in Tucson, but we don't even know. It's a counterfactual if you couldn't have bought a gun legally, he would have found it some other way.

BURNETT: All right, you have a point there. I want to ask Nancy about that in a moment. But first, even now, we've got limited checks, right. There are all these loopholes in the background checks. The Department of Justice says 1.9 million applications to buy guns were rejected.

People were convicted of felonies. People had been indicted for crimes and we're only checking 60 percent of people who buy guns. So how can you argue that better checks and blocking won't help? For blocking 1.9 million, we'd be blocking a whole lot more so a lot of people that won't die.

LEWIS: Well, number one, I don't know if those numbers are exactly right. I've heard different numbers, but either way, it's irrelevant. Look, again, if you want to look at the three most recent examples of the high profile cases, I think it's clear that at least two-thirds of the examples, it wouldn't have mattered.

OK, now, the real story here is that most gun violence. They really aren't these high profile cases. They're gang-related violence in places like Chicago. I'm not convinced this would matter at all.

But here's what I think the gun control proponents actually want. What they really want is gun registration because that's how you could actually solve the problem. It just so happens that I think it's completely unconstitutional and would certainly go against the second amendment.

BURNETT: Let me ask you about something Matt said. A lot of these horrific shootings, the ones which are causing this reform to gun policy in this country may not have been stop by background checks. The shooting in Newtown with Adam Lanza, he got the guns from his mother. Background checks probably wouldn't have changed anything in that situation. Is that relevant?

NANCY ROBINSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CITIZENS FOR SAFETY: Well, I just want to say thank you for having me on and I already agree with Matt. I also like the '98 version of Wayne Lapierre. No loopholes anywhere for anyone. I couldn't have said it better myself. Are we going to prevent every single shooting?

No, but we can certainly do a lot more to prevent the majority of shootings that are happening in places like Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, L.A., any big or midsized city in the country suffers from gun violence mostly committed by people who do not have a second amendment right to have guns.

BURNETT: All right, "Mayors Against Illegal Guns," Nancy, came out with a report, they call it fatal gap and they are talking about even when there are background checks, there's all this stuff that isn't in there. I mean, this is going to amaze a lot of people.

You know, Wayne Lapierre actually brought it up today so we'll give him credit for that. Twenty three states in the District of Columbia don't have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records to the federal database.

So if someone has a mental health issue or substance abuse issue, it's not even necessarily going to do a background check. Seventeen states haven't even submitted ten and four states haven't submitted any mental records at all.

Isn't there a fair point to say that before we focus on expanding or universal that we should enforce and execute the stuff we've got right?

ROBINSON: Well, I think we have to do both. I think you're absolutely right. Background checks work. What doesn't work are loopholes in the system and we have to do everything to close those loopholes and the loopholes include updating our mental health records.

And including them in the background check system and then also requiring background checks for all guns sold in this country. Right now, almost have the guns sold don't even require a background check.

So that means that you can go into a gun store and be denied and drive down the street to a gun show and stock up on as many guns as you want and never have to take a criminal background check.

BURNETT: That's the thing I don't understand. Why is there a loophole for gun shows? I don't get it. If you're supposed to have a background check everywhere else, this is one of those things, you know, like you're not partially pregnant.

LEWIS: Right. I think that this has been a little bit overblown. If you buy a gun at a gun show from someone who is a business, they have to do the background check, but I think the bigger issue is individuals. So like right now, an uncle could sell a shotgun to his nephew and there's no records of that and no background check of that.

I think a lot of Americans think that's perfectly fine and not a horrible thing. But that is really I think what they're aiming at closing here. But, look, I think -- let me just say I think this is a couple of things.

Number one, I think it's political. I think that the Obama administration wants to accomplish something. I think that they've --

BURNETT: OK, hold on. Let me interrupt you there. It isn't just political because the polls, we just did a poll here at CNN, Americans, 92 percent of them say there should be background checks in gun stores, 87 percent on gun shows. I mean, the first three words of the constitution are we the people. That comes before, the second, I don't understand.

LEWIS: So, because it comes chronologically before shall not infringe, it's more powerful.

O'BRIEN: The people want this so how is he being political --

LEWIS: Public opinion has been wrong before. By the way, I don't think that we should --

ROBINSON: Matt, even your own leaders I think disagree with your position. Even your own readers want --

LEWIS: My readers are to the right of Atila the Hun. My readers want -- my readers want guns -- mandatory. That's what my readers want. Let me just say Obama -- this is something he can try to push through and if Republicans don't vote for it, they'll look evil and horrible like Wayne Lapierre against Gabby Giffords.

BURNETT: They're going against the will of the majority of the people.

ROBINSON: Exactly. I published an op-ed in the "Philadelphia Inquirer" a week ago and in it, I outlined three things we could do to make our streets safer and dry up illegally trafficked guns and I was braced actually for a barrage of angry e-mails from the people from the right and I got nothing but praise.

LEWIS: Look, I'm not --

ROBINSON: People who describe themselves as -- excuse me.

LEWIS: I'm not on principle --

ROBINSON: Thank you, thank you. From people who described themselves as right wing or gun nuts and they said they agreed with everything outlined and basically, it was threefold. Background checks for all gun sales. Increased accountability for gun dealers who are criminals and doing something to reduce purchasing in this country and they agreed with all three.

LEWIS: So, first of all, the straw purchasing thing, this will lead to gun registration, that's the bottom line because how do you track the guns? They have to be registered. So that's really what this is about. The left wants to do that.

BURNETT: Register -- I mean, I don't understand. Not going to do anything wrong, why do you care if it's registered? Don't you think the government's going to try to steal it from you one day in a --

LEWIS: Let me just say, I think as I did point out at the top of the show. That background checks aren't going to solve the problem. They're not going to do anything. It's not going to solve the problem.

BURNETT: Thank you both for the feisty conversation. I appreciate it. It was fun talking to you. And please, everyone, let us know what you think.

And still to come, the FBI investigation of a campaign donor to Senator Bob Menendez widens. It involves accusations of underage prostitution.

Plus, a hostage standoff in Alabama, a man tonight holding a 6- year-old boy in an underground bunker. And after months of delays, this is a big moment. It's finally here, a preview of the Blackberry 10 later in the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, prostitution and politics. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is denying claims that a major campaign donor, who according to reports is now under investigation by the FBI, provided him with prostitutes, potentially underage, while he was in the Dominican Republic in April of last year.

Now, the senator's denial comes just hours after FBI agents were seen raiding the office of that donor in Miami. Susan Candiotti is OUTFRONT with this story. Susan, what are you learning about this investigation?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin. The allegations involve who paid for trips he took to a luxury resort in the Dominican Republic and who he may have met while there, prostitutes. Menendez denies anything improper about the trips in question and denies he was with prostitutes.

A Florida eye doctor and Menendez campaign contributor with whom the senator stayed is now under scrutiny by the FBI. Dr. Salmon's Melgan's West Palm Beach, Florida office has been swarming with FBI agents for the last two days. It's unclear why.

The FBI has been carrying out boxes. The FBI will only say it is conducting, quote, "law enforcement activities." It's unclear whether the FBI raids have anything to do with Senator Menendez. CNN has also learned in 2011, Melvin was slapped with an $11 million tax lien by the IRS.

Dr. Melgan has not returned repeated calls from CNN. Menendez who is line to become the next chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee acknowledges in a statement that he's flown on the Dr. Melgan's corporate jet.

The doctor has a vacation home at a lush seaside resort in the Dominican Republic. Now, it appears the Senate Ethics Committee may be involved. Last fall, it got this e-mail complaint from a New Jersey Republican state senator asking for an investigation into those Caribbean trips.

The e-mail complaint questions whether Menendez violated the ethics code by quote, "repeatedly flying on a private jet to the Dominican Republic and other locations and soliciting prostitution."

Last April, a Washington, D.C. watchdog group received an allegation Senator Menendez was partying with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. The group referred the allegation to the FBI.

More recently, a conservative blog, "The Daily Caller" published a link to videos of alleged prostitutes making claims against Senator Menendez. Neither the FBI nor the Ethics Committee will say whether they are investigating Senator Menendez -- Erin. BURNETT: All right, Susan, let me just ask you very quickly, Senator Menendez, has he said anything about it? Has he outright denied it? Has he been quiet? What's the headline?

CANDIOTTI: He's issued a statement calling Dr. Melgan, a friend and a political supporter. He also says, yes, he's been on Dr. Melgan's private jet three times, but he maintains that he paid his way for the trips.

As for the prostitution allegations, he says this, quote, "Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically motivated right wing blog and are false." But here's what we don't know, Erin.

When the senator disclosed his trips as required and what the trips were for, one of the three was official business according to his spokesman, who adds the senator is under no obligation to publicly disclose those reimbursements or details of his two personal trips. Erin, a lot of questions out there.

BURNETT: A lot of questions and -- thanks very much, Susan. I want to bring in John Avlon. He has been covering the story for weeks. I want to emphasize, you know, to our viewers, this did start in the blogosphere.

And I think a lot of people were unsure whether there was a story or now. Now, all of a sudden, FBI gets involved and people are covering it. Is that why it hasn't received much attention until today or is there more to it? You've talked a lot about it.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. Explosive allegations, they've been simmering for a long time. Not just this, but a separate one involving an intern in his office and possibly a delayed arrest.

Here's the point, when the "Daily Caller" first put forward these allegations, it was days before the election, in the wake of hurricane sandy and there needed to be corroborating evidence.

Now, e-mails to FBI agents have been released in this investigation that would appear to corroborate those claims. They are serious allegations for someone who is the incoming chair of the Foreign Relations Committee.

BURNETT: And there are a number of politicians who have been caught hiring prostitutes and then there are also things that start in the, quote/unquote, "blogosphere," Anthony Weiner, that end up being true. Why is this keep happening? Is it more prevalent that the headlines indicate?

AVLON: I think politicians seem to have a problem in this regard. Sadly, we see a recurring story here. It is the least original sin and it's pathetic to see politicians keep holding themselves to such low standards. These are just allegations, but the history of politicians and prostitutes, it's not a pretty picture.

BURNETT: I like that, the least original sin, very well said. Thanks to John Avlon.

To Alabama where a 6-year-old boy is being held hostage in an underground bunker. Plus, just over a week after performing with the marching band at the president's inauguration, a 15-year-old girl is gunned down in Chicago.

And a first look at this, this is, look at this. This is not snow. This is not fog. This is smog. We have the before and after of Beijing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, Alabama hostage standoff. A tense situation continues tonight in Midland City, a rural town that's about 100 miles south of Montgomery. That is where police say a 6- year-old boy is being held in an underground bunker by a man identified by neighbors as Jimmy Lee Dikes, 65 years old.

Now, this story started late yesterday. Police say Dikes took the child off of a school bus at gunpoint and killed the driver. George Howell is about a half a mile from where the boy is being held. It's hard to understand the bizarre and scary story, but George, we know police are now talking to the suspect. What are -- what's happening? Are they making progress? What are they talking about?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, you know, no headway at this point, but they say that the negotiations are still ongoing and the most important thing, you know, the welfare of this 6- year-old boy. They say that at this point, they don't believe he has been harmed in any way.

Now, we're talking about day two, going on into day three in this underground bunker, Erin, some believe in that bunker that Dikes has food, electricity and television, be watching television down there.

BURNETT: May be watching television, what do we know about the little boy in the bunker and have they been able to speak to him or only to Jimmy Lee Dikes?

HOWELL: Well, to our understanding, they are only talking with Mr. Dikes, but they did get some information. They were able to give the boy crayons and books and apparently, this is something he requested. Not sure how they were able to get it into that bunker, but that's pretty important.

More importantly, they were able to get this young boy the medications he needs. We spoke to State Representative Steve Klaus who has been in touch with his family, staying very close with them. And he says the young boy suffered from Aspergers and ADHD, so it's very important to get in those medications. So that's some good news, but we're still waiting to see what happens as this continues to drag on.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, George.

And still to come, an emotional hearing tonight in Newtown, Connecticut. The family and friends of the Sandy Hook shooting are speaking out. We're going there live.

Plus, the man who fooled Manti Te'O, he's finally come clean. Hear his admission of real romantic feelings for Te'O and later in the show, a sneak peek at this. Will it be enough to save the Blackberry?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start with stories we care about where we focus on our reporting from the front lines.

We start today with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. He visited Algeria today in the wake of a terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 37, including three Americans. He met with Algeria's prime minister to discuss the ongoing terror threat in the region. This will be a fifth time by our account that Cameron has spoken publicly about the attack.

Chris Chevis (ph) of the think tank Rand told us Cameron's trip was important because it's a show of support for the way the Algerian government handled the attack.

Well, the U.S. economy shrunk at an annual rate of a tenth of a percent during last three months of last year. It may not sound like very much, but it's a negative sign that matters. It's the first time the economy has contracted in more than three years. And economists, you know, were looking for the plus sign. So, it's always the expectation that matters.

The reason though was largely due to cuts in defense spending, which plunged from a year ago. All the economists we spoke to say the underlying numbers show the economy is still growing. And so, a huge segment of the economy.

And today, Defense Secretary Nominee Chuck Hagel indicated he is ready to act in Iran should diplomacy fail. In a written response to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hagel said the window is closing for diplomacy in Iran. He also said all options are on the table for U.S. strategies for dealing with the country.

The same committee holds a confirmation hearing for Hagel tomorrow. He's come under fire from critics who say he hasn't been tough enough on Iran, but what he said there mirrors what's been said by everyone else.

On CNN.com, our own John Avlon writes why those critics are outside the mainstream of foreign policy thinking. Not Chuck Hagel. CNN.com/opinion to check it out.

Well, it's been 545 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, the Federal Reserve says blame it on the rain. Its latest statement, the Fed says economic growth has paused in recent months and blames the weather. The committee also says it will continue its bond buying program, which is the big headline. And now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: the voices of Newtown.

Right now, family and friends of the victims of the town's devastating shooting are speaking before the final hearing of the Connecticut legislature's bipartisan task force. It's on gun violence and school safety. It is the first hearing of that task force to be held in Newtown.

On December 14th, Adam Lanza killed his mother, Nancy, in their home, and then shot and killed 26 children and adults at the nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Poppy Harlow is back in Newtown tonight.

And, Poppy, I know they're about an hour and a half in what's about a six-hour hearing go long into the night. What have you heard so far?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, the overall message has been very cohesive here. It has been a message of this can never happen again. We must unite, we must not forget.

We are at the high school, the Newtown high school. This is literally just a few miles, a few minutes away from where that tragic shooting happened. It opened up this evening with first responders, the police chief here talking about the problem being violence in our society, then moved on to the parents that lost their loved sons and daughters.

I want you to listen to one of the mothers, Scarlett Lewis. What she said really stood out to me, describing her beautiful 6-year-old son, Jesse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARLETT LEWIS, SON KILLED IN SANDY HOOK: I wanted to take just a few minutes to introduce you to Jesse. Jesse was 6 years old. He had really soft skin and I used to grab him and pinch him every chance I got. He's getting pretty heavy at 61 pounds, but I still carried him when he was tired. I think about kissing his sleeping cheek all the time, how soft it was and how glad I am that I took the opportunity when I could.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: I spoke with some other parents here, Erin. I spoke with Chris McDonell. He lost his daughter, Grace. He said he wasn't here to talk tonight publicly. He was here to listen. He said tonight is a valuable night to have this conversation.

I also took time to speak with Dave Wheeler. He's the father of Benjamin Wheeler. And he told me that tonight is very important because we're having this discussion.

And he stood up there and he talked to people and he said, "Any right that human beings have does not trump the right of my son to life." He got huge applause. A standing ovation from the entire audience and we've been seeing that all night.

One woman also said and this really stood out to me, speaking to this panel of bipartisan lawmakers, "Make your decisions as if your child did not walk out of that school." So, so far, people here have really been on the same page and they've been calling for basically what's in line with what President Obama has been calling for and that is basically a limit on what kind of assault rifles, what high capacity magazines, there can be.

So, it has been very cohesive here tonight. People really on the same page, but many more hours ahead in this discussion.

BURNETT: All right. Poppy Harlow, thank you very much, reporting there where that meeting, as we said, could go for another six hours.

And now to a tragedy in Chicago. A 15-year-old girl who performed with her school's marching band at President Obama's inauguration was shot and killed yesterday. It's a sad reminder of the violence that plagues the president's hometown.

Ted Rowlands is OUTFRONT in Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was one of those kids that always seemed to have a smile on her face. What you can see in this YouTube video. That's how friends are describing 15- year-old Hadiya Pendleton, the latest innocent victim of gun violence in the city of Chicago.

Hadiya had just returned from the inauguration in Washington where she performed with her high school majorette team.

Jada Akins is the girl next to Hadiya in this team photo.

JADA AKINS, FRIEND: It was a good trip, I got to say. And she was real happy on the trip. She's a nice person. She smiled all the time. She'd never frown. She was never mad. She was never sad.

ROWLANDS: On Tuesday afternoon, Hadiya had just finished a final exam and was with a group of friends avoiding a rain under this park shelter. Witnesses say a gunman came out from behind this fence and started shooting.

The park where she was killed is one mile from President Obama's home in Chicago.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president and first lady's thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hadiya Pendleton. All of our thoughts and prayers are with her family.

And as the president has said, we will never be able to eradicate every act of evil in this country, but we -- but if we can even save one child's life, we have on obligation to try when it comes to the scourge of gun violence. ROWLANDS: Illinois Senator Dick Durbin also brought up Hadiya's murder during a gun hearing on Capitol Hill, talking about her trip to Washington.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: The highlight of her young 15- year-old life. Yesterday in a rainstorm after school, she raced to a shelter. A gunman came in and shot her dead. Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she's gone.

ROWLANDS: It's been a deadly start to 2013 in Chicago. Hadiya is a 42nd murder victim already this year. Five hundred and six people were killed here in 2012.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: She is what is best in our city. A child going to school, who takes a final exam, who just been to the inaugural. We have a responsibility to see a stop to this and all of us are responsible.

ROWLANDS: At King College Pre High School students spent the day with their parents and grief counselors, talking about Hadiya and her wonderful smile.

GAIL AKINS, MOTHER OF JADA AKINS: It's too much. Every other day, you're hearing students and killings. And now, what's happening is more parents are burying their children in this society.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. Well, next, the mastermind of the Manti Te'o hoax finally comes clean and makes an admission of romantic feelings.

Then, take a look at this. This is an amazing picture. This is not fog, as I said, and nor is it snow. This is smog. Isn't that just make you feel absolutely disgusting?

We're going to go to China.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We are back with tonight's "Outer Circle", where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And, tonight, we go to Beijing where hazardous levels of pollution prompted the Chinese government to close factories and order cars off the road. Look at the difference between a clear day and a smoggy day.

I remember being in Beijing when Hillary Clinton was there. They did the cloud seeing technology. They clear it up, so it looks gorgeous. The day she left, I was still there, it looked more like the one on the right, but not that bad. They told everyone to avoid going outdoors. The fourth time this year this blanket has covered all of eastern China. In Beijing, they have said that 9,000, they tweeted, this month along for respiratory illnesses. Now, those children have been suffering from the smog. Steven Jiang is OUTFRONT in Beijing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN JIANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, you should be seeing downtown Beijing's stunning skyline, but instead, I'm like standing in front of a white wall. That's how bad the air has been for the past few weeks. Pollution index up went of the charts.

The problem is not just confined to Beijing but spreading to many other parts of China. The government has taken notice, blaming coal burning and car exhausts as two major contributors. But both are challenging issues to address.

The leaders have promised more government action, but people feel frustrated and also resigned. Many are rushing to stores to buy masks like this one. And with no quick solutions, they feel they have to hold their breath a bit longer -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: It's amazing. Just looks like you're standing there in front of a wall.

All right. Let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360".

Hey, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Incredible, that smog.

Yes, more on the hostage scene in Alabama, ahead on "360". A 6- year-old boy being held at gunpoint in an underground bunker surrounded by law enforcement. We'll spoke with a former FBI hostage negotiator, but just how do you deal with a guy who would put a gun to a child.

Also, tonight, hard to imagine, but there's a 1,000-mile long storm system pummeling the south. Look at some of these pictures from Georgia -- tornadoes there flipping cars, destroying homes. I'm going to tell you where the extreme weather could strike next.

And the dangers of extreme sports -- athletes taking big chances, sometimes, odds catch up. Take a look at this. We'll speak with a snowmobiler Jackson Strong about the safety of the games and some of the accident that he had, which is right there, and another one that was much worse for another rider.

Those stories and today's "Ridiculist" all at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes, that was amazing, that crash. And then he tweeted out later, I hope no one else was hurt. I mean, that looked like he could have died. Unbelievable.

COOPER: Yes. BURNETT: All right. See you in a few minutes, Anderson.

And then also OUTFRONT, the mastermind behind the Manti Te'o hoax.

For the first time, the man who tricked the football star into falling in love with a fictitious woman is speaking. He's coming clean. He spoke to Dr. Phil, who went to the "Today Show" and said his feelings were genuine during the hoax. You may say genuine, how the heck does that add up?

Well, let me just tell you what he said. Tuiasosopo said he struggled to break things off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONAIAH TUIASOSOPO, ALLEGED MASTERMIND OF TE'O HOAX: I wanted to end it because after everything I had gone through, I finally realized that I just had to move on with my life and get the, my real, me, Ronaiah, I had to just start just living and let this go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Dr. Phil then asked the question so many want to know. Why?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. PHIL MCGRAW, HOST, "DR. PHIL": We have a young man that fell deeply romantically in love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he say that? Does he say I fell in love?

MCGRAW: I asked him straight up -- was this a romantic relationship with you? And he says, yes. I said, are you then therefore gay? He said, well, when you put it that way, yes.

And then, he caught himself and said, I am confused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, psychotherapist, Robi Ludwig.

This is -- this is crazy.

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Hard to understand.

BURNETT: Can you explain it?

LUDWIG: Well, it's very possible the person who created this hoax actually did have a crush on Manti Te'o and was confused about his sexuality and the reason he impersonated this woman was to see what it would feel like to be intimate with Manti Te'o, to be loved by Manti Te'o.

Who would say this if it weren't true?

BURNETT: Right.

LUDWIG: I don't get the sense that he's a sociopath. I get the sense he's confused. And, listen, we know a lot of people lie about who they are on the internet. It's this perfect place to experiment.

BURNETT: Let me ask you about this then, because it's interesting what it sounds like. He's sort of transposing, you know, that he is the woman -- you know, he's the one having the relationship with Manti Te'o. He talked about the online relationship that essentially he was carrying on with Te'o.

LUDWIG: Yes.

BURNETT: Here's what he said to Dr. Phil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUIASOSOPO: There were many times where Manti and Lennay had broken up, but something would bring them back together, whether it was something going on in his life or in Lennay's life. In this case, in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Interesting, Lennay's life.

LUDWIG: Yes.

BURNETT: I mean, Lennay became a person to him.

LUDWIG: Almost like an alter ego. If he were a woman, he would be Lennay.

BURNETT: So, is he mentally stable? Is this the kind of things that happens sometimes when -- I mean, forget the horrific-ness of the hoax, but when your sexuality is confused and you feel afraid?

LUDWIG: Yes, and we see this sometimes with Internet dating. Sometimes people lie. They say that they're different sex. Some people lie about being a woman or being a man and it doesn't necessarily mean that they're confused about their sexual identity. It's just a place where they can experiment and se what it's like to impersonate the other sex.

BURNETT: So, Dr. Phil also said Tuiasosopo claimed to have had a number of life experiences that damaged him in some very serious ways. What do you think they could be?

LUDWIG: Well, I wonder if he was sexually abused by a man. And sometimes we see with people who are sexually abused, especially when they're boys, they sometimes get confused, if a man abused them and they got excited and even liked it, they question their sexuality. And it can be very confusing for them even if they're not gay. They wonder if they are. BURNETT: Young boys who have been abused, whether either (INAUDIBLE) by the priest scandal, or they're too young, their bodies are going to react regardless with sexual drive.

LUDWIG: I wonder, too, if this boy was retelling the story of the abuse that happened to him. He acted it out in this kind of way, tricking somebody into having a relationship. That's what people do when they're incest. There's a trick going on.

BURNETT: All right. I hear what you're saying. But I have to ask you then, what about Manti Te'o? Because I still don't understand how you can go this long having an online relationship with someone and not meet them in person.

LUDWIG: He's naive, he's naive.

BURNETT: Is he really?

LUDWIG: I think his parents said it all. He's a kid. He's probably a kid who's focused on football.

BURNETT: Right.

LUDWIG: He doesn't know about the world. He doesn't know about relationships.

(CROSSTALK)

LUDWIG: I think he just -- I think he was really duped and then probably embarrassed, and what a way to learn about the world in this humiliating way.

BURNETT: Right, right. Certainly. All right. Thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time, Ms. Ludwig.

LUDWIG: Thank you.

BURNETT: And now to a Super Bowl controversy. This just happened. Basically, the question we want to ask is the NFL ready for gay players because something just happened that's shocking. If you ask San Francisco 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver, the answer is no.

Culliver was interviewed by a rock shock jock Artie Lange and he was asked if there were any gay players on his team. Here is how he answered that question.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CHRIS CULLIVER, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that.

ARTIE LANGE, SHOCK JOCK: Are there any on the 49ers?

CULLIVER: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop the tape.

CULLIVER: We don't got no gay people on the team. They got to get up out of here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff.

LANGE: Really? Is that true?

CULLIVER: Yes, it's true.

LANGE: They might be able to play well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're missing one of the most fascinating interviews in the history of --

(LAUGHTER)

CULLIVER: Locker room, no.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BURNETT: The 49ers released a statement saying, "The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments made Tuesday and have addressed the matter with Chris. There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community."

Coy Wire played nine seasons in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons and he's OUTFRONT tonight.

Coy, let me ask you this, though, because the 49ers can say that, but the reason it's a shocking and offensive thing, is said by Chris Culliver, I don't do the gays man. What he just said there, is because nobody is openly gay. Nobody is OK with it. It doesn't seem to be OK.

COY WIRE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: You're right, Erin. And as shocking as that may seem and as antiquated as it maybe, I would say that those comments are a microcosm of the general overall thought when it comes to gay players in the NFL. I don't know if the NFL is ready for gay players.

BURNETT: How can somebody break this? When the Manti Te'o story came out, people started asking that? You know, if there were ever to be a gay football player. Would they be -- would they be banned? I mean, not -- obviously, no one would admit to doing it. But if you were openly gay.

WIRE: Right, I think the key is, be who you are and embrace who you are. They are in a difficult situation though. Homosexuality in the NFL would not be embraced by the men in that locker room. I don't want to say it's across the board. I think it depends on the leadership in each locker room of every team. I think some organizations and teams may be more open-minded and understanding.

And there a lot of players, current NFL players like Brendan Ayanbadejo of the Ravens who will play this Sunday in the Super Bowl who have been outspoken in favor of gay rights and has joined the No Hate campaign and that's good to see.

BURNETT: You know, Culliver said, not only are there no gay players on his team, he said players should wait 10 years to come out if they are gay. Obviously, I'm going to assume you don't agree with that.

But, I want to ask you this, you know, throughout history, male athletes and homosexuality sort of went together, right? I'm talking about Greece and Rome here. Now, it's the opposite. It's not allowed.

Did you play with people that you just knew or assumed were gay?

WIRE: Well, it's a great question, Erin. Here's the thing -- I played with Kwame Harris the player who just had an altercation with an ex-boyfriend who came out after his career was over. I played with him at Stanford.

One of the most kind, caring individuals I have ever met, a great man. So, it's surprising to hear that this has come out. It seems very uncharacteristic. But the comments that were made by the defensive back to the 49ers, they're just ignorant. I think we all know the situation that, Erin, it's such a machismo environment. I want to say that I understand why, but I don't. It's antiquated in its thinking.

BURNETT: All right. Would you tell someone, if someone came to you now who's a player and said, Coy, I'm gay, and I'm thinking about coming out. I'm thinking about being the first one, the one who goes out, would you tell him to do it or would you say, you know what, I don't like how Chris Culliver but it might be better to wait 10 years?

WIRE: I'm a firm believer of being who you are. I would be in full support -- as a former team captain on every team that I've ever been a part, I've always been there for my teammates of their homosexuality, it makes no difference on how you perform on the football field. And some of the toughest, strongest men I know are gay.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

All right. The BlackBerry Z10 does not hit stores until March. But we have one to show you tonight. Our sneak peek is OUTFRONT next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So my beloved has fallen on hard times, outages, delays and I don't really hate the browser, but most people described it as lousy, and a lack of decent apps, and I don't use apps. So I don't care about all that.

But I did notice that the BlackBerry has been in a downward spiral. We all know that. Last year, the press have all but written off the company. But now, it's trying to fight its way back.

At an event today, the Research in Motion team launched what they hope is a massive comeback. And there were some big announcements.

First, it's no longer Research in Motion. They are going by what you think they always should have been. They're called BlackBerry and that's appropriate since its fortunes are riding on a new BlackBerry device and operating system.

It's called the Z10. It has a 4.2 inch display with front and rear facing cameras. Now, it comes in black and white. I'm not saying the screen -- obviously, that's in color, in terms of the machine itself, and launches with 70,000 applications, including Skype and Amazon Kindle. Now, it's going to be available for about $200.

So, if you want it you might have to wait. It's the first problem. The Brits, they get it tomorrow but the Americans don't get it until March. You know, BlackBerry is a Canadian company, they must have loyalty to the crown -- unless you want to talk about it on a TV show. So, I did get one.

Yesterday morning, I got to take the Z10 for a test drive. I was very excited as you can see. There's my big present. BlackBerry has ditched the track pad and gone with an entirely touch base interface. So, you go from the home screen to what they call a hub and you can swipe around.

And you go a video chat now. You can share your screen with other people. You can do all kinds of fancy things. Again, things I don't need.

I care about one thing, the keyboard. And they have the device with the real keyboard coming out in April. But I'm testing this one out, right?

And I have to say, everybody, you iPhone lovers out there, there is one amazing thing about this -- when you are typing an e-mail and you make a mistake on the iPhone and you touch the wrong letter and you got to delete the whole word -- this gives you a little bubble and just goes boop on the letter and you're done. It's really, really a lot better on that front. And also, typos it fixes them.

But still, it takes longer for me. I adore my keyboard. I can whip along as fast as a bird, faster than an airplane on that. I'm still thinking I'm going to like that other one, but I'm giving it my absolute best shot. We'll see if I do this one or the new keyboard.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.

COOPER: Erin, thanks.

Good evening everyone.

Tonight on the program, as powerful moment as you can imagine, Gabby Giffords, whose life has changed forever by a deranged gunman, back on Capitol Hill today. She spoke with difficulty on a subject that's neither easy nor simple, preventing another massacre like Tucson or Newtown from happening. Keeping them honest tonight. We're going to look at why figuring out what the right thing to do is so very difficult.