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Country Music Star Dies; Gun Tragedy; President's Golf Game with Tiger Woods Off Limits; Political Race or Reality Show?; A First for Women in NASCAR; Scientist Search for Fallen Meteor; Lakers Owner Remembered

Aired February 18, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: guns and blood on the streets and why a new killing hits the president even closer to home.

A troubled country star's disturbing end -- new details about Mindy McCready's apparent suicide.

The golfer in chief -- why the president doesn't want him to see him play with Tiger Woods.

Damage from a meteor blast. CNN takes you to a remote and icy point of impact.

The racing star Danica Patrick tells us about her unprecedented new success in a man's world, NASCAR.

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First this hour, another teenager shot dead near President Obama's hometown with a chilling connection to him and to the fight against gun violence. See that young girl standing behind the president is Chicago the to day? She's grieving now for her sister. Another innocent bystander whose life was cut short by a bullet.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Chicago with more on this truly heartbreaking story.

Ted, what happened?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's probably the last thing on little Destini Warren's mind when she is standing right behind the president and listening to him speak about gun violence and what we to do to help solve the problem of gun violence in Chicago around the country. Later that night, she would find out her older sister had been shot and killed by the same problem.



ROWLANDS (voice-over): When President Obama returned to Chicago last week to talk about gun violence, 14-year-old Destini Warren was one of the high school students standing behind him. A few hours later, Destini's 18-year-old sister, Janay, was shot and killed in this alley in north Chicago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All this gun violence that's going on out here, you never think it will be your child. This is the hardest thing for me in my life.

ROWLANDS: According to family members, Janay wasn't the intended target of the gunman. The same was apparently true in 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton's murder. Her parents also attended the president's Chicago speech, where he said this about the Hadiya's death.

OBAMA: What happened to Hadiya is not unique.

ROWLANDS: The Pendletons say they were heartbroken to find out that another Chicago family is now dealing with the loss of a child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just knowing how devastated this mother actually was just because I can relate now, my heart it just feels totally different. It's just -- I was devastated for her.

ROWLANDS: The Pendletons say they called the McFarlane family to offer their condolences. Janay McFarlane, according to her parents, had talked about Hadiya Pendleton's murder a few days before she herself was killed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was like, momma, that's sad. I feel so bad for that little girl. Every time she saw kids on TV, she was like, momma, that's so sad, I feel so bad for these people that got to leave their kids.

ROWLANDS: Janay had a three-month-son who will now grow up without a mother. Her parents say they will raise him and try their best to keep him safe.


ROWLANDS: Sadly, Wolf, Janay was not the only teenager to be killed Friday night after President Obama's speech; 18-year-old Frances Colon saw the president's helicopter flying over Chicago, according to her parents.

Shortly after that, she went to a convenience store and got caught up in some gang gunfire and was killed. She was a college- bound high school senior. Her parents said she wanted to be a lawyer some day.

BLITZER: They have to do something in Chicago. This killing, these gang killings in Chicago, it's unacceptable. I don't know what they're going to do, but they have to take some action to stop this. It's totally, totally unacceptable. Ted Rowlands, Thanks very much.

I will have a live interview by the way with the mother of Janay McFarlane, the young woman just gunned down in the Chicago area when I will fill in for Anderson Cooper on "A.C. 360" later tonight 8:00 P.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Kate Bolduan is here in THE SITUATION ROOM and you are watching the really sad death of a country music star as well.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: From one very sad story to another very sad story, another tragic death.

Mindy McCready apparently turned the gun on herself after years of struggling with addiction and mental illness. She was 37 years old. That was the title track from McCready's 1996 debut album, "10,000 Angels." While she rose on the Billboard charts over the years, her life really was falling apart.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Arkansas, where McCready's body was found yesterday on her front porch.

Ed, it seems so many people out there were out there rooting for her to recover and come back. What a tragic ending.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely a tragic ending. The first signs of trouble came yesterday afternoon when authorities here in Heber Springs, Arkansas, say they got a phone call from a friend of McCready's who had just gotten a message from one of her family members that something urgent that needed to be taken care of and something very frightening going on.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): On Sunday afternoon, two gunshots echoed through the piney woods surrounding Mindy McCready's modest lakefront home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. When authorities arrived, they found the singer's body on the same porch where her boyfriend David Wilson was found dead in January. Investigators said it appears before killing herself, McCready also shot and killed her dog, a pet she and Wilson got shortly after moving to this secluded area a year-and-a- half ago, a place far from the glaring lights of fame.

McCready broke into the country music scene in 1996 and would sell millions of records before her life started unraveling, rocky relationships, battles with prescription drug and alcohol abuse and struggles with mental illness. Eight years ago, she spoke with CNN's Larry King about fighting those demons.

MINDY MCCREADY, MUSICIAN: Things have been going bad. I think it's God's way of getting my attention and saying you better wake up, girl. I have important stuff for you to do in life. And I have definitely been preoccupied and sidetracked doing the wrong things.

LAVANDERA: But in recent weeks, there was still mystery swirling around the death of her boyfriend, David Wilson. It's been reported he committed suicide as well, but Arkansas investigators say it's still an open investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are currently still gathering information in regards to Mr. Wilson's case and the Ms. McCready case. When we are able to lay all of that out there, we will do so at that time.

LAVANDERA: Just a few weeks ago, McCready appeared on the NBC "Today Show" and denied she had anything to do with Wilson's death. MCCREADY: Oh, my God no. Oh, my God no. He was my life. We were each other's life.

QUESTION: Do you 100 percent believe that David killed himself?

MCCREADY: I -- I don't know.

QUESTION: Do you think he could have been murdered?

MCCREADY: I don't know.

LAVANDERA: After David Wilson's death, McCready took a turn for the worse. Her father pushed for her to be committed to a mental institution. The father of her oldest son, Billy McKnight, tried to regain custody of their son. Court papers say McKnight is concerned about McCready's psychological state and has grave concerns for the welfare and safety of their 6-year-old son.

She had tried to commit suicide twice before and even appeared on "Celebrity Rehab" with Dr. Drew.

DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: She became so fearful of the stigma and the way people were responding to her being hospitalized that she actually checked herself out prematurely and now we have what we have.

LAVANDERA: Outside the singer's Arkansas home, kids' bicycles and car seats are left sitting on the rain-soaked porch. The quiet stillness of this faraway place could not silence the personal turmoil Mindy McCready battled inside herself.


LAVANDERA: Wolf, a lot of questions this afternoon about McCready's two boys, 6 years old and 10 months old. We are told by a representative of Mindy McCready that those two boys are in the loving care of foster families and will be there for some time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

McCready's suicide could become part of the national debate over gun laws. Government records for 2010, that's the most recent year available, show three out of five gun deaths in the United States were suicides. That grim proportion has been roughly the same every year for the past decade.

BOLDUAN: Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius is heading back to court as the murder case is really heating up.

Investigators now are focusing on a blood-stained cricket bat and whether it was used to kill Pistorius' girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. She made an eerie TV appearance over the weekend taped before her death.

CNN's Robyn Curnow has more from South Africa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf and Kate, you might get a better understanding of the state's evidence against Oscar Pistorius when he appears before a magistrate on Tuesday.

He has been in jail since that Valentine's Day shooting. In a strange twist, his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot and killed in his home that morning, has been appearing on South Africans' television screens over the weekend.

(voice-over): A beautiful girl, a beach and a reality TV show, which showed contestant Reeva Steenkamp's romantic side.

REEVA STEENKAMP, MODEL: You fall in love with being in love with love.

CURNOW: She died just days before this aired. It will continue to run on South African television for the next nine weeks. Meanwhile, her boyfriend, the double amputee and Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, spent the past few days in this jail, charged with her murder.

The charge strongly denied by Pistorius and his family. This is his uncle, flanked by his sister, who struggles to keep herself together as they make a brief statement to the media.

ARNOLD PISTORIUS, UNCLE: As you can imagine, our entire family is devastated. We are in a state of total shock. They had plans together and Oscar was happy in his private life than I have seen him in a long time. We're all grieved about Reeva and our hearts go out to her family and friends. Oscar, as you can imagine, is also numb with shock and grief and total pain.

CURNOW: Investigators who have been combing through his home in this high-security complex are starting to piece together what they think happened early on Valentine's Day. It was in this bedroom that Steenkamp may have expected to spend the night. According to an official close to the investigation, her overnight bag and an iPad was found in here.

Pistorius invited CNN into his room in 2008 when these pictures were taken. And CNN is also being told that Steenkamp was shot four times through a bathroom door. And authorities say afterwards Pistorius carried her down these stairs while she was still alive.

As the legal process now begins against the man known as Blade Runner, all of Oscar's future races have been canceled. He was scheduled to run in Australia, Brazil, the U.S., the U.K. and Russia. And while Pistorius is in court on Tuesday for a bail hearing, Reeva's family says there will be a memorial service for her as producers of her reality show released this farewell message from her, meant to be to the cast, but which now becomes her last words, her last goodbye.

STEENKAMP: I take away with me so many amazing memories and things that are in here that are in here that I will treasure forever. I'm going to miss you all so much. I love you very, very much. CURNOW (on camera): So still no real sense of motive. Was it a crime of passion, was it jealously? Were there drugs or steroids involved or was it just a tragic misunderstanding and he thought there was an intruder in the bathroom? We just don't know yet -- Wolf, Kate, back to you.


BLITZER: What a story. It has gripped not only South Africa, but the whole world because all of us watched him in the Olympics and it's such a sad story.

BOLDUAN: It's such a sad story. And then it's almost horrible and must be so painful for her family now that this TV show is airing for the next nine weeks I think Robyn said. It's so painful to see and so eerie to see her speaking on TV after obviously she is dead.

BLITZER: Horrible death.


BLITZER: We now know the cause of the fire that crippled the Carnival Triumph and turned the cruise ship into a floating disaster area. Coast Guard officials say a leak developed in a foil oil return line for one of the ship's six engines.

And when the line came into contact with a hot surface, the fire broke out and the head of the investigation said there was no reason to suspect the fire was set intentionally. She says the crew did a very good job trying to contain the blaze.

BOLDUAN: We are now just 11 days away from massive automatic cuts in federal spending unless Congress steps in and we are getting a better sense of how quickly some Americans may feel the pinch. We're told many of the nation's 2.1 million federal workers could start being furloughed some time in April, as soon as April. The details will depend on the negotiations between government agencies and unions and the talks won't be finished until the budget cuts are due to go into effect on March 1.

Time is ticking.

BLITZER: Yes. Senator John McCain meanwhile is now accusing the Obama administration of a massive cover-up. We will tell you why.

Did you see the pictures of President Obama playing golf with Tiger Woods this weekend? Neither did we. That's because there were not any pictures released publicly. Only this CNN exclusive video of him playing today, and that was really hard to come by. CNN's Brian Todd looking into why there is so little information about the president's golf trip.


BLITZER: Massive-cover up. Those are fighting words right here in Washington. BOLDUAN: They sure are. Senator John McCain is now using those very words, taking his criticism of the Obama administration to a whole new level.

This is all about the deadly attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, from last year.

For more, let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr in on this.

Barbara, I'm almost afraid to ask. Where is all this heading now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly is stepping up once again. The debate over what really happened in Benghazi this past week already slowed down Senate confirmation for Chuck Hagel here at the Pentagon to be secretary of defense, John Brennan to take over at CIA and now Senator John McCain again and still wants answers from the administration about it all.


STARR (voice-over): A congressional hearing --

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Then you ought to have your facts straight.

STARR: -- after congressional hearing --

MCCAIN: Who responsible then?

STARR: -- Republican Senator John McCain challenges the White House on its response to Benghazi.

Now, he is going further on NBC's "Meet the Press."

MCCAIN: So there are many, many questions and we have had a massive cover-up.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: You said there's a cover-up. A cover- up of what? I'm just asking you, a cover-up of what?

MCCAIN: I will be glad to send you a list of questions that have not been answered.

STARR: The White House says it's given answers, conducted 20 briefings for Congress. Officials have testified at 10 hearings, answered how queries. It all adds up to 10,000 pages of documents.

Just last week, McCain himself told CNN recent responses on Benghazi were, quote, "adequate."

So, is this just politics?

When we asked McCain's office what other questions the senator still had, we were referred to this January press release, listing 14 questions. Like this one McCain repeated on "Meet the Press."

MCCAIN: What did the president do and who did he talk to the night of the attack on Benghazi?

STARR: But some answers are already out there. Regarding what Obama knew, Obama's chief of staff said the president was briefed throughout the night, and the secretary of defense told Congress Obama acted soon after the attack unfolded.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: After the initial reports about the attack in Benghazi we received, General Dempsey and I met with President Obama and he ordered all available DOD assets to respond to the attack.

STARR: McCain also wants to know, what actions did the president take?

In this letter to Congress, the White House said that Obama himself called the Libyan president the day after the attack.

McCain also asking, did the president and Secretary of State Clinton know about a cable from Ambassador Chris Stevens warning the consulate that, quote, "could not survive a sustained assault"?

Clinton testified that she did not.


STARR: McCain does have some points here. He still is waiting and he wants to see all the administration e-mails about the infamous talking points and he very strongly believes that the administration did not support that fragile new Libyan government in the early days. That led to some instability, of course, throughout Libya and he believes that contributed to the violence that broke out at that U.S. compound -- Wolf, Kate.

BLITZER: Barbara, until these questions are answered, McCain, Lindsey Graham, others are for all practical purpose holding up Chuck Hagel's confirmation to be the next secretary of defense. Leon Panetta is staying put for the time being.

STARR: That's right, at least until a week from Tuesday. They may try again on the Senate floor, expected to try and vote on him. But make no mistake. Panetta is still having to stay an 10 extra days or so, and he was packed up and on his way back home to his home in California. Now he will have to come back and go to a NATO summit later this week and then the question is, does he come back to Pentagon, does he go back home to California?

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Barbara.

Coming up, the son of a pioneering media mogul and the sister of a comedian and a disgraced former governor. They have all jumped into the race for a South Carolina congressional seat. The political race that sure looks like an interesting reality show.


BLITZER: Happening now: exclusive images of the president playing golf, but why you won't see Tiger Woods in the video. The race car driver Danica Patrick on the road ahead. She is in position to break another barrier for women in NASCAR on Sunday. Damage from a meteor explosion. We will take to you a remote area where the impact was powerful.

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama is on his way back to Washington right now. He spent the weekend in Florida playing golf and avoiding cameras.

BOLDUAN: That's for sure. CNN obtained these exclusive faraway pictures of the president out on the course today. And the video was pretty difficult for our photographer, Peter Morris (ph), to capture. But Peter did a great job, but we have seen nothing of the president's weekend round of golf with Tiger Woods.

Brian Todd has been looking into this and joining us now.

Brian, I guess we always ask this sometimes, but I think it's definitely appropriate this time. Why all the secrecy?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No clear answers on that, Kate.

Wolf, the White House said media access for his game with Tiger Woods was "consistent with other presidential golf outings." But the press corps has complained about that and the political optics don't look great for Mr. Obama.


TODD (voice-over): They're the two most high-profile people in their fields. Tiger Woods in golf and President Obama in, well, almost everything else. We know they played golf together this past weekend. But we have more visuals of the president's inner circle reaching a top secret mission the night Osama bin Laden was killed than we have of Mr. Obama and Tiger Woods together during that golf outing.

The media covering the president was shut out. The press corps complained. The White House responded by saying the White House was consistent with previous presidential golf outings.

It's not unusual for President Obama to go golfing away from the media glare. He's golfed here at the Army/Navy Country Club and at other places and the press hasn't been allowed to capture those moments, either. And Mr. Obama's not the only president whose golf outings were sensitive politically.

George W. Bush got slammed politically after this moment in 2002. GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive.

TODD: President Bush stopped playing golf when the U.S. went to war in Iraq. CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein says the get-together between President Obama and Tiger Woods could be a similar moment.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not the biggest deal in the world to go golfing with Tiger Woods, but I do find it hard to believe that his staff would have not kind of laid down in front the tracks to prevent this before the election.

TODD: Brownstein says the president golfing with Woods, who was embroiled in a scandal involving multiple counts of marital infidelity, wouldn't have played well with women voters.

But there are other optics as well. The so-called sequester is looming. The automatic spending cuts that could help a lot of people financially. While that deadline is less than two weeks away, the president is vacationing at a club called The Floridian, where according to "Golf Digest," it costs at least $25,000 to join by invitation only, and $12,000 in annual dues. Not exactly in reach for the middle-class voters Mr. Obama was trying to win over last year."Palm Beach Post" golf writer Brian Biggane was there recently.

BRIAN BIGGANE, "PALM BEACH POST": Pretty much everything is gated. Security at every turn. It's so private and quiet, I literally drove past it before I realized it was there.


TODD: Contacted by CNN, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said -- quote -- "I don't think the American people begrudge their president spending a rare weekend outside Washington with some friends on the golf course. That said, the military aides, White House staffers and Secret Service agents who with him are a reminder that he is never far from the responsibilities of his job," that a statement from White House spokesman Josh Earnest, Wolf.

BLITZER: It may be consistent with White House policy in avoiding pictures of the president playing golf with various people or whatever their excuse is, but playing golf with Tiger Woods, that's extraordinary.

That's something that they should let the White House press corps get in there. A pool camera should get a shot of that.

TODD: It is extraordinary.

BLITZER: I speak as a former correspondent and member of the White House press. That's something they should let us get access to. The American public would like to see that.

TODD: I think everybody would have wanted to see that. It's extraordinary.

There's no way to keep it a secret, obviously. Maybe after this all was booked -- the only thing I can think of is after this all was booked, they may have thought that the optics of it, that the visual of it would not be so great for the president politically. Maybe with the sequester coming up, a lot of criticism would come his way. You know, who knows what the machinations were inside the White House press room -- press room regarding this. But clearly there was some thought that they didn't want this out.

BLITZER: Whatever -- whatever the excuse is, transparency, everybody knows to let the American public see the picture. What's the big deal?

TODD: Probably not a big deal.

BLITZER: Clearly, they didn't want -- they didn't want us to see the president and Tiger Woods together.

TODD: Didn't want the picture, and it's not a national security issue.

BLITZER: He deserves a vacation.

TODD: He certainly does.

BLITZER: There's more coming up. Kate, what -- what else have you got?

BOLDUAN: Well, there's a wild political contest going on right now that sounds almost like a reality show and a pretty interesting one at that. Maybe the beginning of some strange joke.

The mogul's son, the comedian's sister and the disgraced politician all enter the same race. Regardless of the outcome, there's no doubt it's got to be interesting.


MARK SANFORD (R), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: I'm Mark Sanford and I approve this message.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Right out of the gate in his first television campaign ad, former South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford confronts the scandal that thrust him into the national spotlight.

SANFORD: More recently I've experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes.

BOLDUAN: Mistakes that included an extramarital affair that came to light in a now-infamous 2009 press conference.

SANFORD: The bottom line is this. I -- I've been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a -- what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It sparked into something more than that. I have seen her three times since then during that whole sparking thing.

BOLDUAN: Sanford is just one in a packed Republican field for the state's first congressional district to fill the House seat vacated by now-Senator Tim Scott. CNN's Peter Hamby broke the news in December that Sanford was planning to mount a political comeback and says Sanford appears to be the front runner.

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: The controversy about Mark Sanford's affair, you know, might not be that big of an issue in this district because, unlike other districts in South Carolina, you know, fiscal conservative issues sort of play a larger role than social issues.

BOLDUAN: And Sanford isn't the only big name running.

TEDDY TURNER (R), SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm Teddy Turner. I'm a husband, a father, a graduate of the Citadel and a high-school economics teacher.

BOLDUAN: Teddy Turner is also the son of media mogul and CNN founder Ted Turner. He's running for the Republican nomination, as well.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: On the Republican side, former governor Mark Sanford has to distance himself from himself, his own past and the infamous activities when he was governor. Teddy Turner, the son of Ted Turner, to some degree has to distinguish himself that his politics are conservative, even though his dad's pretending to be liberal.

BOLDUAN: And on the Democratic side...

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE COLBERT REPORT": Holy cow, my sister is running for Congress!

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's right. Elizabeth Colbert Busch, comedian Stephen Colbert's older sister, has jumped into the race, too. Even though this is a Republican-leaning district, you can't count her out. Name recognition matters, particularly in special elections, where turnout is expected to be low.

HAMBY: It's such a sprint to the election. So the candidates who are sort of a known commodity, even if they're not in a negative way, that's an advantage.


BOLDUAN: And we're talking about a very tight time frame here for these campaigns. The race started in mid-December when Tim Scott moved over to the Senate, and the primary is set for mid-March. So that's not a lot of time, Wolf, to introduce yourself to voters and, even especially more importantly, to win them over and before you ask, Elizabeth pronounces her last name differently than Stephen Colbert.

BLITZER: It's Stephen Colbert, that's for television. Cull-birt is the way it's supposed to be. Who knows? But for television sometimes you change it a little bit. Thanks very much.

Burger King's Twitter account hacked. Wait until you see what the hackers tweeted.


BLITZER: New details of the pope's health are now coming out. Kate's got that and more of the day's top stories.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Interesting details coming out about the pope today. Wolf, the "Los Angeles Times" reports a German reporter who saw Benedict XVI about 10 weeks ago said the pontiff appeared to be blind in his left eye and his hearing has gotten worse. The reporter told the German magazine the pope told him, quote, "I'm an old man, and the strength is ebbing. I think what I've done is enough."

This was a big scandal in my household; I'll tell you this already. Maker's Mark is reversing course on its watered-down bourbon. Short supplies prompted the company to announce plans to cut the alcohol volume from 45 percent to 42 percent to help meet demand. But drinkers revolted on social media, and Maker's Mark got the message, dropping its plans and issuing an apology today.

Other news: singer LeAnn Rimes is suing over what she claims is negligent dental work that significantly compromised, in her view, her ability to perform. The lawsuit says eight faulty crowns caused her severe tooth pain, gum inflammation and chronic gum bleeding that forced her to have nine root canals and bone grafting, and the suit says she still needs eight new crowns.

And the folks over at Burger King are looking for whoever hacked their Twitter account today -- a tough day for them -- putting a McDonald's logo on their profile picture and sending messages like this: "We just got sold to McDonald's. Look for McDonald's in a hood near you." It's not funny. I did not mean to laugh.

Twitter suspended Burger King's account after an hour of the nonsense. Later, the folks at Burger -- at McDonald's tweeted, "We empathize with our @BurgerKing counterparts. Rest assured we had nothing to do with the hacking."

My oh, my, some people have, as I like to say, way too much spare time on their hands.

BLITZER: Took an hour for them to fix that?

BOLDUAN: Maybe they didn't check it. Maybe they had to figure it out.

BLITZER: That's a long time.

BOLDUAN: I try to not -- pretend like I understand the social media sometimes.

BLITZER: You don't have to be a NASCAR fan to appreciate what a driver named Danica Patrick did this weekend. She's now speaking with CNN about her history-making achievement and the example it sets for parents and children everywhere.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fastest in practice yesterday. Danica Patrick, whose hometown is Roscoe, Illinois. She now calls the Chicago area home.


BLITZER: I love this next story. Take a look at this. A new breakthrough for women in sports. Clocked at just over 196 miles per hour. The driver, Danica Patrick, has won the right to start in the best position for what's essentially the Super Bowl of NASCAR races. The Daytona 500. Patrick is the first woman to qualify for the pole position at Daytona or at any top NASCAR race, for that matter.

CNN anchor Don Lemon had a chance to speak with Danica Patrick after her history-making tour on the track.

Don, this is amazing. What did she have to say?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It is amazing. Wolf, let's not forget. She beat out Jeff Gordon, and the last woman to come even close to Danica Patrick was in 1977, Janet Guthrie. In 1977, she placed 9th. So it's not even really that close to her.

I started out by asking her if she realized, Wolf, the historic implications of placing in this pole.


DANICA PATRICK, RACECAR DRIVER: In a simple word, yes, I understand that. I think that understanding the scope of what that means and what that will end up meaning is -- or if any -- is something that happens down the road. In the moment, it's about thinking about what I need to do for next Sunday and trying to make some more history.

LEMON: So listen, don't be modest. You won this time. You won the pole position. What are you doing this time that's different or better than you were doing before or better than the other driver?

PATRICK: I -- I don't know -- I don't know how to answer that. I mean, I -- you know, I -- all I can do as a driver when I go out there and qualify at a place like Daytona is be smooth and not let the car bind up too much. Let it take its head. Let it be -- let it go where it wants to go a little bit, yet keeping a minimum distance as little as possible.

So -- but other than that, I mean, it's very much about the crew. So I know you told me not to be modest, but it is very much about the crew and the engine of the car. Those elements have to be in place for you to go out there and be able to have a chance at pole. LEMON: Yes. You were also modest when you answered that history question. But you said you do understand that you made history today. It is groundbreaking, but do you understand there are young women and little girls at home watching you and, who all of a sudden, today will say, "You know what? I can do that. I can become a racecar driver. I can be a Danica Patrick."

And might be interesting, little boys, too. But little boys have had role models in racing from, you know -- from the beginning, but you were a role model for little girls. Do you get that?

PATRICK: You know, I'd love it go beyond racing in general. I mean, just to kind of break gender barriers. I feel that one of the coolest things is to be able to think that parents and their kids are having that conversation at home about it.

And, you know, I heard stories about a little kid, a boy or a girl, saying, "But Mommy, Daddy, that's a girl that's out there racing," and then they can have that conversation to say you can do anything you want to do. And gender doesn't matter. Your passion is what matters. And that's cool.


LEMON: Yes. Girl power, Wolf Blitzer, that's what she's saying. And she is an inspiration to everyone, but especially little girls around the country now who say, "Hey, guess what?" I can do that."

And you know what? Jeff Gordon's daughter, Wolf, asked her dad to step aside so that she could get into a picture with Danica Patrick yesterday. So that's how cool that is. That just goes to show you.

BLITZER: Good work.

BOLDUAN: A pretty great story.

BLITZER: You're proud of her, too. Right?

BOLDUAN: I'm very proud. It's an amazing accomplishment for her, and we can only hope that means good things to come. We'll all be watching next week.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Hey, Don, thanks very much. Don Lemon helping us out here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All right. More news coming up, including that shocking and very damaging meteor explosion sparking a treasure hunt in Russia. We're going there. We're on the scene.


BLITZER: There's more fallout from Friday's meteor explosion over Siberia. We now know it caused an estimated $33 million in damage. Out of the thousand or so people injured, only 19, though, remain in hospitals. That's good news. BOLDUAN: Now everyone is hunting for fragments from the explosion. One chunk punched a huge hole, as you can see, in a frozen lake.

CNN's Phil Black was there today.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was a point of impact. This is where locals say they saw a fragment of the meteor break off when it was still overhead and plummet down towards the earth, slamming into this frozen lake, Chebarkul.

The ice here is really thick. This lake is frozen for about six months of the year. But locals say that the impact created a huge explosion of ice and snow high up into the air and a big steam cloud, as well.

Up on the surface here, scientists have been combing this whole area, and they say they have found 53 individual pieces of the meteorite. So little fragments have been found on the surface. A bigger mystery remains: what lies beneath the ice? Scientists are pretty sure there are even bigger fragments now sitting beneath the ice, beneath ten meters of water on the bottom of lake.

Divers have been in to see what they can find, but they say it was very silty, visibility was poor. They found nothing. But they're going to try again in the spring when the snow and ice melts, and scientists believe that will be the best time to find any fragments that made it to the surface. Not just here at the lake, but across the vast snow-covered Siberian wilderness.

Phil Black, CNN, from Lake Cherbarkul, near Chelyabinsky, Russia.


BOLDUAN: We're also hearing reports of a meteorite gold rush, if you will, in the impact area. Reuters says thousands of people are coming through the icy woods, some believing tiny fragments could bring more than 40 times the current price of gold. And a good word of warning for you: Scientists said you should beware of ads on the Internet promising to sell meteorite fragments that may or, likely, may not be authentic.

BLITZER: An Olympic star charged with murdering his girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius is due in court tomorrow. CNN's Erin Burnett is going "OUTFRONT" on the story at the top of the hour.

Erin, what's the latest?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: He'll be in court tomorrow and there will be a funeral for Reeva. We're going to be talking with Vanessa Haywood. She's an actress who knew Oscar Pistorius extremely well and has known him, in fact, for about six and a half years. She has a very strong opinion of him. And you may have heard reports that there had been a call related to a domestic disturbance from Pistorius' home earlier, before this horrific event, and a lot of people have said, well, this is an indication that they had had a problem in their relationship. Well, Vanessa knows exactly what that domestic disturbance call was about. It's not what you expect, but a very new and surprising angle to this story. She's going to tell you about that, as well, when we talk to her at the top of the hour. Back to you.

BLITZER: All right. See you then. Thank you.

Just ahead, I'm going to take you behind the scenes over at the NBA all-star weekend in Houston this past weekend. The star power goes way beyond basketball.


BLITZER: Last night's NBA all-star game capped a star-studded weekend in Houston. So much of what we see in basketball these days, courtside celebrities -- dancers, a showbiz atmosphere -- is due in large part to one man who died today. The Los Angeles Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, was 80 years old. Here's CNN's Paul Vercammen.


JERRY BUSS, L.A. LAKERS OWNER: After two years of endless negotiations, I purchased the Los Angeles Lakers. What a dream come true.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back in 1979, Jerry Buss envisioned his newly-bought Lakers reflecting the glitz and glamour of L.A. Led by superstars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, the Lakers won the championship in the new owner's first season, and a Hollywood makeover was under way.

The fast paced 1980s Lakers brand of showtime lured new fans of the NBA, including celebrities like Jack Nicholson. The Lakers became revered worldwide. Buss himself would receive a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

MAGIC JOHNSON, FORMER NBA STAR: He was a man who was way ahead of his time. He understood entertainment value. He understood history.

VERCAMMEN: During the reign of Jerry Buss, the Lakers won ten championships, the most of any major American sports team of that era, and they did so with style and their poker-playing, smiling owner often courtside.

Even the Laker girls became wildly popular and emulated.

Buss influenced a generation of entrepreneurs, including his good friend Magic Johnson and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Dr. Buss earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at USC, but said he made a lot of money investing in real estate, and he was well-known for lavishly playing players such as Kobe Bryant.

BOB STEINER, BUSS FAMILY SPOKESMAN: He felt you could not win without superstars and could not capture L.A.'s imagination without giants.

VERCAMMEN: But perhaps none stood taller than Jerry Buss. The kid who grew up poor in Wyoming, passed away a rich man, a champion, a Los Angeles icon, and arguably the most influential owner in the NBA.


VERCAMMEN: And Jerry Buss will be honored on Wednesday when the Lakers play their rival, the Celtics, and Wolf, such a basketball fan, I bet you'll know approximately what Jerry Buss' team record was against the Celtics in the NBA final -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I do remember a lot of that. He will be missed.

BOLDUAN: He will be missed. And the NBA commissioner, David Stern, called him a visionary and that his influence on the game is really incalculable. So even if you don't know his name, you've definitely seen what he's brought to the game.

And it's actually almost fitting that it comes -- that the sad news, though, comes on the heel of kind of the glamorous of all glamour weekends, the NBA all-star weekend, and you were there.

BLITZER: I was. I had a great time. I go every year. Our sister network, TNT, televises it. They always invite me to come in, and it was a lot of fun.

BOLDUAN: Show us some of your pictures.

BLITZER: Well, you know, courtside seat celebrities. Doesn't get any bigger than this. Look at that. Beyonce was there with Jay- Z, and I was sitting a little bit behind them. Not necessarily first row, but I had good seats. Could see the back of her hair.

BOLDUAN: Well, she has beautiful hair, yes. What else? Oh, there you are.

BLITZER: There's Kobe Bryant.

BOLDUAN: That was taken by you.

BLITZER: Kobe Bryant was there. That's Paxton Baker, my good friend from BET. You know where we were Friday night?

BOLDUAN: Where were you?

BLITZER: Michael Jordan's 50th birthday party. How cool is that?

BOLDUAN: That's very, very cool.

BLITZER: Happy birthday, Michael Jordan. Arguably the greatest basketball player ever.

BOLDUAN: Yes. We do need to improve your ability to take your photos when you're at these very big events. We need to improve that. There's a good one.

BLITZER: This is...

BOLDUAN: I see -- I recognize a couple of these.

BLITZER: ... the standard version of the traveling Wolf pack. You see Shaquille O'Neal at the top.


BLITZER: Roger Mason Jr., the great basketball player. Wal-ee (ph), the rap artist, who's in front. He came over to say hi. Wall- ay, I should say.

BOLDUAN: You've got it right. And those are some of Wolf's friends, his traveling Wolf pack, and now he's gone.

BLITZER: I'll see you on "AC 360." I'm filling in for Anderson. Erin starts right now.