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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Boy Found Chained in Basement by Parents; Controversy Erupts Between Governor Christie and Former White House Physician

Aired February 7, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning: bracing for a blizzard. The East Coast could be walloped with close to three feet of snow. We'll tell you what you need to know about this major storm that's approaching.

And new this morning, U.S. secrets possibly exposed. Iran releasing data that it claims it hacked from a drone. We'll have a live report ahead.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Governor Chris Christie has some harsh words for a doctor who said she was afraid he would die in office. He says come see him or zip it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Until that time, she should shut up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Ahead, new details this morning about Lance Armstrong's efforts to get back into the game.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And it's confirmed. The Federal Reserve was hacked. Is our banking system secure enough?

O'BRIEN: Among our guests this morning, Janet Robinson, she's a superintendent of the Newtown public schools. Anna Deavere Smith, the actress from "Nurse Jackie", is now working with Mayors Against Illegal Guns. She'll join us to talk about this project. And also author Saru Jayaraman is exposing the secrets of restaurants around the country. Plus, fitness guru Richard Simmons joins us to talk about his new project, too.

It's Thursday, February 7th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome, everybody. Our starting point this morning is bracing for the big one. Right now there's a blizzard watch in effect for parts of New England. There's a winter storm heading to the northeast. It could be historic because it is expected to leave behind more than two feet of snow in some places with the first flakes falling tomorrow. We want to get right to Indra Petersons. She's tracking the weather for us out of Atlanta. Good morning. INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Back on February 17th and 18th of 2003, Boston got 27.5 inches of snow. We're looking to see whether or not we break that record with this nor'easter. Let's talk about how it's expected to form. We're currently watching some severe weather potentially pushing through. We even had a tornado warning in southeast Louisiana this morning.

This now is forming into a low. It's pulling up towards the Carolinas and with that we'll see heavy rain and wind. Then it merges with the second system. That's where we form this large nor'easter. Everything is based on the positioning of this low.

Tons of models are bringing in different amounts of snow and wind. We'll be talking about if the low is closer to the coastline. You're going to see heavier amounts of moisture and heavier amounts of snow. If it's farther away, smaller amounts. The other thing we're watching is where that freezing line is. If the colder air sinks farther to the south, in New York, for example, you'll start off with snow rather than sleet and transition to snow. So this is what we're watching.

A huge portion of New England here looking for this winter storm watch. A blizzard watch goes into effect Friday afternoon in through Saturday afternoon. As far as the totals, we've already been talking about this, they vary but anywhere from one to two feet of snow. And keep in mind, even Michigan has a winter storm warning as we are expecting that first little wave to push energy through that area before it makes its way through New England. So all of this again Friday afternoon through Saturday morning we'll continue to monitor here at CNN.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

Also new this morning, U.S. secrets possibly exposed. Iran claiming it's decoded now released some footage from a downed U.S. drone. The man identified as a member of Iran's military narrated the black and white aerial footage as it was broadcast on Iranian state media. He claims that it's a drone that Iran downed back in 2011.

Also this morning, President Obama giving into congressional demands. He will release classified documents that explain the legal justification for drone strikes that kill U.S. terror suspects overseas.

And adding to the drama, John Brennan, the president's pick to head the CIA and the architect of the American's drone policy, he'll appear before the Senate intelligence committee today. Lots to talk about with Barbara Starr, who's following all these developments for us this morning from the Pentagon. Hey, Barbara, good morning.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. It's all about spice and drones this morning, isn't it? Well, this video has not yet been confirmed as the genuine article by the administration, the Pentagon or the CIA, but it's getting a lot of attention. If you look at it, it's perhaps not so compelling itself, but there's plenty to try and figure out. Let's get to that in a minute. But I want you first to listen to -- we translated some of the voice on the tape describing what you're looking at. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This aircraft has had many flights in countries around Iran. In operations that have taken place in Pakistan, this aircraft has provided guidance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: So a claim there of U.S. spying on Iran, and that's really what this is all about. If this is the genuine article, the key question for U.S. intelligence agencies will be what technology now is actually in Iranian hands, what do they know and what are they planning to do with it, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, then let's talk about the drone program under scrutiny here at home. There's pressure now from Congress and the president will release this classified information about this particular program. What can you tell us about that?

STARR: Possibly very savvy move by the White House, releasing a classified memo on the legality the killing Americans overseas involved with Al Qaeda. This is something the Senate intelligence committee had been pressing for, for months. They have the clearances to see it. The White House had held on to it hours before John Brennan this afternoon will go before that committee for confirmation as CIA director. They're giving the committee what they want, possibly trying to take some steam out of the hearing. But I think you can count on plenty of fireworks there as they question Brennan about drone policy, what he knew about torture and interrogations, what he knows about leaks to the news media.

O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Thanks, Barbara.

Meantime, there is a report this morning that the U.S. is turning up the economic heat on Iran. "The New York Times" is saying a new set of restrictions is going into effect to force Iran into what amounts to a kind of barter trade for oil because the cash for crude is being blocked from being sent to Iranian accounts. The latest punitive step is part of the ongoing effort to convince Iran to give up its nuclear program.

Other stories making news this morning, John has that, including this terrible story about this teenager chained by his parents.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is a shocking, shocking discovery out of Kansas City, Missouri. A teenager found chained to a pipe in the basement by his own parents. Local police found the 17-year-old after responding to a tip from a neighbor who suspected he was being abused. The special needs teen told police he had been locked up down there since September. Casey Wian is live for us in Kansas City, Missouri. Casey, what do we know about this?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know this is a very horrific incident, according to the police report. It's hard to imagine that a 17-year-old young man, apparently a mentally challenged young man would be locked in a basement and handcuffed for much of the time to a steel pole since September.

Now, let me show you where this took place. You can see the house behind me. Down at ground level you can see that sliver of light. That is the basement where the police report says they found this 17- year-old teen handcuffed to a steel support pole. They say when they found him, he was on the ground in a fetal position, and they said that the first words he spoke to them were "I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything."

They also said that he looked very malnourished and it appeared that his cheeks were sunken in. He appeared very, very thin. According to the police report, the teenager told them that he was locked and chained in that basement. He was let out, if you will, let up three times a day to use the bathroom and to eat, and he was fed basically Ramen noodles and bologna sandwiches. This all came to light after neighbors reported their concerns about this young man, who they had not seen in quite some time. Here's what one neighbor had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASHLEY REPPY, FRIEND OF VICTIM: I know there was a couple times I came over here after school and he was sleeping on her front porch because they wouldn't let him in the house. It was sad, very sad. We cried a lot yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: Now, that neighbor also saying that perhaps one of the motivations for this is because the teen had allegedly hit his mother. They thought he was not controllable and that was their solution, locking him up in this basement. The investigation, police say, is still underway. Police -- prosecutors will not say whether there are any charges that will be forthcoming against the parents. The boy was taken to the hospital, and of course he is under protective custody right now, John.

BERMAN: We certainly hope he's doing well. What an awful story. Casey Wian in Kansas City, thanks very much this morning.

A warning that this next video may be disturbing to some of our viewers. A New York nanny caught on a hidden camera hitting a five- month-old baby repeatedly in the face. This is our first look at the video which happened January 28th. The 52-year-old nanny was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and resisting arrest.

So he confessed to doping during his incredible Tour de France run. Now Lance Armstrong could name names. Brand new this morning, "The New York Times" reporting that Armstrong is in talks with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to possibly disclose who helped him dope. This report came out only a few hours after the anti-doping agency gave him more time to talk. ABC News is also reporting that the disgraced cyclist is under federal investigation for obstruction, witness tampering, and intimidation. They call it an active criminal investigation.

Also new details this morning on the tense hostage standoff in that underground bunker in Alabama and the raid to rescue a child. Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson spoke to our Martin Savage. He said the bunker where five-year-old Ethan was held captive will be destroyed as everyone there tries to heal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF WALLY OLSON, DALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: It was very emotional time for me because I had a lot of relief to know that he was OK, you know. I have children of my own and I know how important it is to take care of them. That's what we want to do for Ethan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Authorities say inside the bunker, bunk beds lined one wall. Space was very narrow. We also know Jimmy lee dykes, the kidnapper, was telling neighbors that bunker that was rigged to blow, he said it was a storm shelter.

So in about an hour President Obama is expected to open up on faith as religious and community leaders gather for the 61st annual national prayer breakfast. This will be the president's first remarks to the faith community since announcing his support for same-sex marriage. The group has traditionally been conservative on that issue. He is scheduled to speak in the next hour, and we will take you there as soon as that happens.

So this may be the most talked-about ad from the Super Bowl. That guy getting a very, very deep and meaningful kiss with supermodel Bar Refaeli for GoDaddy.com. Well, it turns out Jay Leno was hoping to get in on the action, but it did not quite turn out like he planned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Any chance we could recreate the ad here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure. Pucker up.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Dude gets around, that's all I can say.

O'BRIEN: He's such a nice young man.

BERMAN: Totally nice guy.

O'BRIEN: Hoping to parlay that into other roles. What a great gig.

OK, this morning Chris Christie firing back at the White House doctor, former White House doctor, who said she was worried that he would die in office. This morning she's responding after a -- after she went on TV and voiced concern that the governor's weight might cause him to die in office. He said, basically, shut up. National Political correspondent Jim Acosta is in Washington D.C. this morning. It's kind of turned into a little bit of an ugly fight, hasn't it?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think it's safe to say that Chris Christie would like a second opinion. He responded to former White House physician Connie Mariano's warnings about the New Jersey governor's health by calling the doctor a hack and, as you just said, telling her to shut up.

The back and forth started earlier this week when the potential presidential contender appeared on "The Late Show" with David Letterman. During the interview as he was joking about his size, Christie, as we all saw, took a bite from a doughnut. That concerned former White House doctor Connie Mariano who has treated three different presidents, and she told me Christie could die in office if elected president. She called his weight issue a ticking time bomb. At a news conference yesterday, he took issue with the doctor's diagnosis. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: She must be a genius. She should probably be the surgeon general of the United States, I suspect, because she must be a genius. I think this is -- listen, this is just another hack who wants five minutes on TV. And it's -- and it's completely irresponsible, completely irresponsible. My children saw that last night. If she wants to get on a plane and come here to New Jersey and ask me if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I'll have a conversation with her about that. Until that time, she should shut up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: So there you go. Christie was so upset. In addition to that, Dr. Mariano says the governor called her yesterday to complain about her comments.

O'BRIEN: When they had that phone conversation, was it friendly and they buried the hatchet?

ACOSTA: I don't think so. Dr. Mariano said the governor was clearly venting his frustration. She tried to explain to him she was just trying to speak to him in a constructive way, but she says she has no regrets. Here's what she told Anderson Cooper last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. CONNIE MARIANO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: Well, it was rather shocking to hear those things. I was in clinic, so I did not hear his broadcast, but he used some pretty strong words there. Out of deference to him, I'm not going to comment on that, but I can only share with you that that phone conversation, when I think of it, the words "gracious" and "appreciative" do not come to mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: And Dr. Mariano has offered to give the governor a full physical. You heard Christie say she could come out to New Jersey. She offered him basically the same deal, except come out to Arizona and talk to her at her practice there. But based on their conversation, she says it's unlikely the governor is going to make that appointment.

O'BRIEN: It's interesting how what started as a joke has really become this big issue. All right, thanks. Appreciate that.

Richard Simmons, who we spoke to yesterday, he says he also would like to sit down with Governor Chris Christie. I talked to him yesterday. He said that he believes that he could say some words to the governor to help him with his weight problem. Here's what he told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD SIMMONS, FITNESS EXPERT: All I would love to do is without a camera around sitting with him for just 15 minutes.

O'BRIEN: And you'd say what?

SIMMONS: I would turn it around for him. I would turn his life around. That's the gift god gave me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Again, I'm going to say -- I'm going to go on a limb and say probably Governor Christie not interested, but I might be wrong. My entire interview with Richard Simmons and the new project that he's working on, that's coming up in the next hour of STARTING POINT.

Up next, are Newtown and its children being exploited? We'll tell you why the school superintendent is outraged about a group of kids that are going to perform at a pre-Grammy party, not the same kids who performed at the Super Bowl.

Also business news today.

ROMANS: There's a new development in those major online open courses. Could it be a solution for the tuition bubble? Tiny first steps to those online courses actually becoming traditional college credits.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: This year's super bowl was preceded by a really wonderful moment when the Sandy Hook elementary school chorus performed "America the Beautiful." The performance was very emotional and brought emotional responses from the fans and the players and especially when Jennifer Hudson got up and sang with them and she also connected to gun violence.

So people were very moved. Now there's another children's choir that's been grabbing its own headlines. They had this performance on "Good Morning America" last month and they have another performance at a Grammies pre-show during the weekend. All that has made some in the Newtown community angry. The superintendent of the Newtown public schools, Janet Robinson, is back with us this morning. It's nice to have you with us. I appreciate your time.

So I'm a little confused. Are these two choirs connected?

JANET ROBINSON, SUPERINTENDENT, NEWTOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Good morning. No, they are not. The group that sang, the chorus that sang from Sandy Hook at the super bowl is a chorus of Sandy Hook students led by their music teacher. I do not know for sure who the other group is.

O'BRIEN: So the group that's going to be performing at the pre-Grammy celebration is not this same group of Sandy Hook elementary school students or students who are necessarily from Sandy Hook or Newtown schools?

ROBINSON: That's correct. The Sandy Hook chorus, a group of students that were randomly selected to go to the super bowl, were our students. I do not know who the students are in this other group.

O'BRIEN: Okay. So the other group is run by a woman named Sabrina Post and the name of the group is "A Newtown Music Project."

(BEEPING NOISE)

Wow that sounds like I just lost you there. Do you still hear me? Oh. Seems like have lost. Let's see if we can re-dial her in and I'll walk through the story with you because weirdly enough, this is more complicated that it should be.

A woman named Sabrina Post is now organizing this second chorus, and she has done this GMA thing and is basically creating this fund, she says, that would go back into the community, but it's angered a lot of members from the community.

BERMAN: Are they from Newtown, these kids?

O'BRIEN: I take a long breath because it's complicated of the of the 21 students in this second chorus, I believe some of them are affiliated with Sandy Hook elementary school. Either were students or currently are, maybe as many as 12. So "kind of" is the answer to that.

ROMANS: To the public, though, we see the pre-Grammy stuff, we think these are kids from Newtown, this is supporting the Newtown kids.

O'BRIEN: Does it matter then, I guess is the question. This teacher, Sabrina Post, used to be the choir instructor at Newtown in the Newtown public schools and had some legal challenges that forced her ouster back in 2005, which adds another wrinkle to this very complicated and tricky story. Here's what she said, Sabrina Post, about really why she's doing this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SABRINA POST, OWNER, SABRINA'S ENCORE PRODUCTIONS: Anything that we are doing here is for the sole purpose of raising money so that it will go back to the town and to the children, especially, of the town.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So the dilemma, of course, becomes when money is involved, these things become obviously both big targets for people trying to exploit, you know, the students and their story and figure out how they can make money personally, which is unclear at this point if in fact Sabrina Post is doing that or what exactly her aim is. Nothing that she has done so far or said so far. I mean she said she's not taking any payment, she's a volunteer. But you can se the challenges raised.

ROMANS: Right and Janet Robinson, If she doesn't want the Newtown kids, the Newtown tragedy used for the purposes of other choirs, then she's perfectly within her rights to say, look, this is not fair. Is she coming back?

O'BRIEN: You know it's interesting, we're having obviously audio problems and can't get her back up. We'll try to get her a little later while we fix those problems. But we have raised all the questions, certainly.

BERMAN: They both sound nice, both choirs sound nice and they're kids singing for a good cause.

O'BRIEN: Right, and they're kids.

BERMAN: They're kids singing for a good cause.

O'BRIEN: -- The issues behind that, right? That ultimately make some people in the community mad. We've got to take a break. Still ahead this morning on STARTING PONT does the NBA accept toddlers? look at this kid. He's awesome. Still in diapers. We'll tell you more about him straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our team this morning, Ryan Lizza at the far end. What happened to you to get banished down to the far end? CNN contributor, and Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker." Abby Huntsman is back, she's the host of "HuffPost Live," daughter of the former presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman. Richard Socarides is with us, former senior advisor to Bill Clinton, writer for "Newyorker.com". Nice to have you all with us. Appreciate it.

This morning, Christine will start us off with business news.

ROMANS: Yes. Biz news (ph) of the morning, "Minding your Business." U.S. stock futures are up slightly ahead of another very busy day of corporate earnings. We'll get reports or first-time jobless claims, also consumer credit later today. The Dow, as you know, about 200 points away from its all-time high. Will it hit it again? The main reason it's up so high, corporate profits, investor confidence, and the fed stimulus - $85 billion a month the fed has been putting into the economy. Speaking of the fed, it has been hacked. The fed downplayed the attack saying, quote, this incident did not affect critical operations at the federal reserve system. According to Reuters, the feds said hackers compromised a contact database for communication between banks during a natural disaster.

A huge milestone in music technology. Apple said Wednesday the 25 billionth download from iTunes, that's equivalent to selling more than three songs for every person on earth. The jam, take a listen.

(MUSIC)

ROMANS: It's "Monkey Drum" by Chase. How do you say that? The British DJ that's big on the house music scene.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: The guy who downloaded it is from Germany. He got an iTunes card worth more than $13,000 for being the 25 billionth download. Apple says users download an average of 15,000 songs every minute.

BERMAN: I didn't even know they sold iTunes gift cards that went up to $13,000.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: That's what he got.

(CROSSTALK)

ABBY HUNSTMAN, HOST, "HUFFPOST LIVE": I'm surprised it wasn't Justin Bieber.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, she stars in the hit series "Nurse Jackie," but actress Anna Deavere Smith is getting a little political. She'll tell us why she wants to strengthen gun control laws straight ahead.

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