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CNN NEWSROOM

The Grammys Winners and Losers; New York Hosts Fashion Week; President Obama Presents Clint Romesha the Medal of Honor

Aired February 11, 2013 - 13:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Did you stay up last night to watch the Grammys? I did. It was a lot of fun. LL Cool J was the host. The 55th year, you had great performances. We're talking about old schoolers like Elton John to new bands like Mumford & Sons. Even Justin Timberlake back in action after a four-year break.

Nischelle Turner is taking a look at breaking it down, the winners as well as the losers and the highlights.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No single performer dominated the 55th Annual Grammys. The night's top prize, album of the year, went to the English folk rock band, Mumford & Sons, for Babel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Grammys opened their arms to us. We are grateful.

TURNER: The Grammys were in a Fun mood, literally. The New York pop band won best new artist and song of the year for "We Are Young".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what I was thinking writing the chorus. But if this is in H.D. everybody can see our faces, and we are not very young.

TURNER: Gotye and Kimbra took home record of the year award for their hit "Somebody I Used to Know".

GOTYE, MUSICIAN: They are all musicians and people that listen to music, cheers.

TURNER: for the most part everyone observed CBS's request to tone down of risque outfits. But Presenter Jennifer Lopez did show a lot of leg.

JENNIFER LOPEZ, SINGER: You can see I read the memo.

(LAUGHTER)

(SINGING)

TURNER: The Grammys have always been more about performances than awards. And this proved to be a vintage year. Backed by a big band, Justin Timberlake turned back the clock for his duet with Jay-Z. County solo winner, Carrie Underwood, dazzled in a dress that changed colors.

(SINGING)

TURNER: While Sting, Rihanna and Bruno Mars fronted an all-star tribute to Bob Marlee.

(SINGING)

TURNER: Fun weathered an indoor rainstorm. Elton John and Mavis Staples led a salute to Levon Helm.

(SINGING)

TURNER: And LL Cool J, who kicked things off as the show's host, ended the night leading an all star rap session.

(SINGING)

TURNER: Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: That was pretty hot. Performers at the Grammys dressed to impress in L.A.

We will take you to the other side of the country for New York's Fashion Week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: What's hot? What's not? In fashion, turn your eyes to New York. Alina Cho takes us behind the scenes of Fashion Week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People think it's all glitz and glamour. The reality is you could go to fashion shows from 9:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night.

(MUSIC)

CHO: What designers do during Fashion Week is they show clothes for the next season. It takes six months really for clothes to come down the runway and make their way into the stores.

(MUSIC)

CHO: Once those clothes leave the runway, they go right back to the designer's show room. And then buyers come in. Those buyers come from stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales. Once they place their orders, the clothes have to be made.

There is a trickle down effect, whether it's a belt or a color or a shoe. Something similar you will be able to buy.

Also, magazine editors see looks that they like from the runway that they want to shoot for their magazines. A lot of the editors often joke that, by the time, they see the clothes in the store, they are sick of them, because they saw them six months ago. But for the average consumer, they are new. And that's why they sell.

(MUSIC)

CHO: Ah, the politics of the front row at a fashion show. There are three major categories, top editors, buyers and, of course, celebrities. So editors of top magazines, these are people who will be making decisions about what kinds of clothes appear in the magazines. So of course, it's in the designer's best interest to have those people in the front row, where you can see not just the clothes but how the clothes move on the model.

People might say, why would celebrities attend? We are talking about exposure. And it's a win-win for the celebrity and the designer.

(MUSIC)

CHO: Fashion Week is invitation only. You have to be invited by the designer. You can't bring a guest unless you are a top editor, like from "Vogue." Anyone who is buying the clothes or writing about the clothes will be there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: I want a pass. I want an invite.

(LAUGHTER)

You can watch Alina's special, "Fashion, Backstage Pass," Saturday at 2:30 p.m. eastern. The specials include an interview with super model, Naomi Campbell.

And he's only the fourth living person to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. We will go live to a ceremony at the White House in just a few moments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: It was 2009, about 50 U.S. troops were attacked by as many as 400 Taliban fighters in a remote outpost in Afghanistan. Minutes from now, one former soldier involved in that grueling fire fight is going to be honored at the White House. You are seeing live pictures there. The president will award the Medal of Honor to Clint Romesha for his heroic actions that day.

I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper, in Washington, to help us set the stage for what is about to occur, because this is such a rare, rare honor.

And, Jake, I know you have interviewed this soldier as part of a CNN special. Tell us about him. JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Clint Romesha is from northeastern California. He is Mormon. He enrolled in the Army right after high school graduation. And he served in Kosovo. He served two tours in Iraq. It was not until he was in Afghanistan, in 2009, that he earned this medal that he will be awarded today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

(GUNFIRE)

CLINT ROMESHA, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: There is movement everywhere, flashes everywhere. You couldn't pick them out fast enough.

(GUNFIRE)

TAPPER (voice-over): October 2009, up to 400 Taliban fighters unleashed a torrent of withering fire upon a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan.

(GUNFIRE)

TAPPER: The attack so fierce, in the end, more than half of the 53 U.S. troops at the outpost were killed or wounded. But as buildings burned and the enemy ran freely from the outpost, soldiers became heroes, one in particular.

ROMESHA: I know that there's so many great soldiers out there that would have stepped into my shoes and done the same thing.

TAPPER: Former Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha is a reluctant hero. That day, he helped plan the recapture of Keating and led troops in repelling the onslaught of Taliban fighters during a grueling day-long battle.

(GUNFIRE)

TAPPER: Romesha will receive the Medal of Honor, the highest award for combat bravery, becoming just the fourth living recipient among those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Chris Jones was a young private under Romesha's command when the Taliban struck.

CHRIS JONES, PRIVATE, U.S. ARMY: He is, in my opinion, the only reason we came back that day.

TAPPER (on camera): You led them right into places where your fellow soldiers had already been killed. That's why you are getting this medal. Others had died in a place that you ran into. You weren't worried?

ROMESHA: It wasn't time to set there and worry about stuff out of our control. We had the tools, we had the training, we had the spirit. And we had the support of each other. It was the time.

TAPPER (voice-over): By the end of the day, eight soldiers were dead, 23 wounded.

Clint Romesha now has a place in history, one that he shares with his comrades.

ROMESHA: It's a greater honor for me to know I couldn't have done what I did without those guys, that team. It was everybody that day. That's what excites me about this. It's those guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: It's those guys. That's what you hear when you talk to Clint Romesha, Wolf, is him saying that it's the men who served under him, it's the eight men who did not make it back alive. That's who this is all about.

And there we see live coverage from the East Room, some of the children who are survivors -- children of the survivors of that horrible attack on October 3, 2009, at Combat Outpost Keating for whom Clint Romesha, former staff sergeant, will be awarded the Medal of Honor momentarily -- Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's been my experience that these guys who are so courageous and so brave and do incredible feats under duress, they feel awkward about receiving the nation's highest military honor.

TAPPER: They do feel uncomfortable with that.

That is Tammy Romesha, Clint's wife. They were high school sweethearts. With their son, who was on the podium there.

There is White House chief of staff, Dennis McDonahoe (ph). We had a get together for some of the men of Black Night Troop over the weekend, Wolf, and Dennis McDonahoe (ph) and Senator John McCain were in attendance to thank Clint and Tammy Romesha.

BLITZER: The ceremony will begin, so let's listen.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I think they are waiting to introduce the president.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: And here it is.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States and Mrs. Michelle Obama, accompanied by Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us pray.

Eternal God, from whom we come, to whom we belong, and in whose service we find peace, hear our prayer.

Centuries ago, written to be called in a spur to the faithful servants of truths and justice. Arm yourself, be men of valor, be in readiness for the conflict. It is better for us to perish in battle, look upon the outrage of our nation. Lord God, recognize men of valor, who in readiness for the conflict, the battle of Kamdish (ph) came upon them. Their sacred story is one of life and of death. The service faithfully rendered at the moment of truth belongs to that small band of black knights. As a nation grateful for the spirit of the men who follow, and the man who leads, we offer our gratitude for the actions of those men that day, and for the actions of, as the author wrote, an intense guy, short and wiry. Thank you, oh, God, for the honor of claiming their story and writing it into our nation's history. We bestow our nation's highest honor on Staff Sergeant Romesha and recognize his actions that day at COP Keating. Grant unto us your holy presence. We pray your abiding grace and eternal mercies upon the families and the friends who gave the last full measure of devotion that day -- Staff Sergeant Vernon Martin, Staff Sergeant Justin Gallegos, Staff Sergeant Joshua Hart, Sergeant Joshua Kirk, Sergeant Michael Scuza, Sergeant Christopher Griffin, Specialist Stephan Mace and PFC Kevin Thompson. Now we ask your blessing upon all of our servicemen and women at home and abroad as they support and defend our Constitution. Grant wisdom and guidance to those who need our nation as Sergeant Romesha's example. Guide our service and inspire our devotion. We ask this and pray in your holy name, Amen.

(CROSSTALK)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Please be seated, everybody.

Good afternoon. And on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.

Every day at the White House, we receive thousands of letters from folks all across America and, at night, upstairs in my study, I read a few.

About three years ago, I received a letter from a mom in West Virginia. Her son, Stephan, a specialist in the Army, just 21 years old, had given his life in Afghanistan. She had received the condolence letter that I sent to her family, as I send to every family of the fallen. And she wrote me back. "Mr. President," she said, "You wrote me a letter telling me that my son was a hero. I just wanted you to know what kind of hero he was. My son was a great soldier," she wrote. "As far back as I can remember, Stephan wanted to serve his country." She spoke of how he loved his brothers in B Troop, how he would do anything for them, and of the brave actions that would cost Stephan his life. She wrote, "His sacrifice was driven by pure love." Today, we are honored to be joined by Stephan's mother, Vanessa, and his father, Larry.

Please stand, Vanessa and Larry. (APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We're joined by the families of the seven other patriots who also gave their lives that day. Can we please have them stand so we can acknowledge them as well?

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We're joined by members of Bravo Troop, whose courage that day was driven by pure love.

And we gather to present the Medal of Honor to one of these soldiers, Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha.

Clint, this is our nation's highest military decoration. It reflects the gratitude of our entire country. So we're joined by members of Congress, leaders from across our armed forces, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marty Dempsey; Army secretary, John McCue; and Army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno.

We are especially honored to be joined by Clint's 4th Infantry Division, Iron Horse soldiers, and members of the Medal of Honor Society, who today welcome you into their ranks.

Now, despite all this attention, you may already have a sense that Clint is a pretty humble guy. We just spent some time together in the Oval Office. He grew up in Lake City, California, population less than 100. We welcome his family, including mom and dad, Tisch and Gary. Clint -- I hope he doesn't mind -- he shares that Clint was actually born at home. These days, Clint works in the oil fields of North Dakota. He is a man of faith. And after more than a decade in uniform, he says the thing he looks forward to the most is just being a husband and a father. In fact, this is not even the biggest event for Clint this week, because tomorrow he and his wife, Tammy, will celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary.

Clint and Tammy, this is probably not the kind of intimate anniversary you planned.

(LAUGHTER)

But we're so glad that you're here, along with your three beautiful children, Desi, Gwenn and Colin. Colin is not as shy as Clint.

(LAUGHTER)

He was in the Oval Office and he was racing around pretty good.

(LAUGHTER)

And sampled a number of the apples before he found the one that was just right.

(LAUGHTER) Now, to truly understand the extraordinary actions for which Clint is being honored, you need to understand the almost unbelievable conditions under which he and B Troop served. This was a time in 2009 when many of our troops still served in small rugged outposts, even as our commanders were shifting their focus to larger towns and cities. So Combat Outpost Keating was a collection of buildings of concrete and plywood, with trenches and sandbags. Of all the outposts in Afghanistan, Keating was among the most remote. It sat at the bottom of a steep valley, surrounded by mountains, terrain that later an investigation said gave ideal cover for insurgents to attack. COP Keating, the investigation found, was tactically indefensible. That's what these soldiers were asked to do, defend the indefensible.

The attack came in the morning, just as the sun rose. Some of our guys were standing guard. Most, like Clint, were still sleeping. The explosions shook them out of their beds and sent them rushing for their weapons, and soon the awful odds became clear. These 53 Americans were surrounded by more than 300 Taliban fighters.

What happened next has been described as one of the most intense battles of the entire war in Afghanistan. The attackers had the advantage, the high ground, the mountains of above. And they were unleashing everything they had, rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, mortars, snipers taking aim. To those Americans down below, the fire was coming in from every single direction. They had never seen anything like it.

With gunfire impacting all around him, Clint raced to one of the barracks and grabbed a machine gun. He took aim at one of the enemy machine teams and took it out. A rocket-propelled grenade exploded, sending shrapnel into his hip, his arm and his neck. But he kept fighting, disregarding his own wounds, and tending to an injured comrade instead.

Then, over the radio came words no soldier ever wants to hear, "Enemy in the wire." The Taliban had penetrated the camp. They were taking over buildings. The combat was close, at times as close as 10 feet. When Clint took aim at three of them, they never took another step. But still, the enemy advanced. So the Americans pulled back to buildings that were easier to defend to make one last stand. One of them was later compared to the Alamo -- one of them later compared it to the Alamo.

Keating, it seemed, was going to be overrun, and that's when Clint Romesha decided to retake that camp. Clint gathered up his guys and they began to fight their way back, storming one building, then another, pushing the enemy back, having to actually shoot up at the enemy in the mountains above. By now, most of the camp was on fire. Amid the flames, the smoke, Clint stood in the doorway calling in air strikes that shook the earth all around them.

Over the radio, they heard comrades who were pinned down in a Humvee. So Clint and his team unloaded everything they had into the enemy positions, and with that cover, three wounded Americans made their escape, including a grievously injured Stephan Mace. But more Americans, their bodies were still out there. And Clint Romesha lives the soldier's creed, "I will never leave a fallen comrade." So he and his team started charging as enemy fire poured down. And they kept charging, 50 meters, 80 meters, ultimately a 100- meter run through a hail of bullets. They reached their fallen friends and they brought them home.