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Source: Christie Not Invited To CPAC; Stocks Plunge, Drop 216 Points; Four Days Left To Replace Spending Cuts; Was Michelle Obama's Oscar Appearance Appropriate?; Possible Precedent For Pistorius Defense; Gay Sex And Blackmail Allegations Against Vatican

Aired February 25, 2013 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, the Dow posts its worst drop of the year more than 200 points.

Plus, Michelle Obama with a surprise appearance at the Oscars. If you fell asleep, you missed it. Was it bigger than blockbuster or just a total bust?

And reports that health is not the reason Pope Benedict is stepping down, charges of sex, blackmail and abuse in Rome, do they add up? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And we begin tonight with new developments. CNN has just learned that Governor Chris Christie, a key 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, is not invited to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. next week.

That's according to a source close to CPAC and CPAC, if you haven't heard of it, is often considered a must-attend for anybody who wants to win the White House from the GOP. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rick Perry of Texas, they're all already on the list.

Is this a major snub for Chris Christie? Reihan Salam, writer for the "National Review" and a contributor is here with me. This news breaking late this afternoon. How big of a snub is it?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it makes a lot of sense for CPAC, because frankly, Chris Christie was not going to show up this year. So why bother asking him and then get snubbed by the governor himself?

Just do the snubbing yourself and say we don't want you here. It probably would have been a tough environment for him to be in, frankly, given he has really pivoted to the center, some would say to the left, to win in a heavily Democratic state.

BURNETT: OK, so I could see why it doesn't make sense. I get the logic that you're laying out, but the problem is CPAC is a crucial organization when it comes to the rank and file, to winning GOP primaries, to being loved by the conservative voter.

Chris Christie is not liked by that voter right now. Maybe he is, but he's been hurricane sandy, he was hugging the president, obviously. Mitt Romney has criticized him for that. He's got some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country. He's not a conservative.

SALAM: He recently said that Governor Cuomo is someone he has a lot in common, the Democratic governor of New York State. But here's the thing, there a lot of Republican governors who are very frustrated with Washington, D.C. and inside the beltway Republicans right now. So in a way, Chris Christie is giving voice to some of the frustration with the Republican Congress, coming from Republicans nationally, so I wouldn't count him out yet.

BURNETT: All right, and CPAC has been hedging. A spokeswoman told the "Washington Post," the schedule is still being finalized. So they're trying to be careful. Obviously, if they get more press reports like this one, they might change their mind. Shouldn't Chris Christie just throw in the towel, I'm going to be an independent?

SALAM: I don't think so, Erin. What I think would make a lot more sense is after he gets re-elected in 2013 with a lot of Democratic votes. They demonstrate that you can be an effective conservative governor and that's what I think he's going to do.

BURNETT: I didn't mean about all the liberal stuff. All right, thanks very much. Appreciate it, Reihan Salam.

Now I want to get to our top story tonight, stocks plunge late today, the Dow posting its worst loss of 2013, 216 points. That is a big drop and they plummeted on worries that Italy's election results could spark another European debt crisis.

Now another thing that has traders on edge, four days until the forced spending cuts take effect. All right, we all know the cuts are poorly designed. We also all know that on an absolute basis, they are very small.

Democrats and Republicans, though, did shake hands and do a deal that consisted of $1.2 trillion in forced cuts over a decade, cuts, not revenue. But now Democrats want to change the terms.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off anytime with just a little bit of compromise.


BURNETT: Republicans, though, say they have already done that.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The president says we have to have another tax increase in order to avoid "The Sequester." Well, Mr. President, you got your tax increase. It's time to cut spending here in Washington.


BURNETT: Is this fair? Gene Sperling is director of the National Economic Council and top adviser for the president. Gene, good to talk to you.

So this president wants to replace the forced cuts, which he and the Republicans had agreed to about that 19 months ago with a deal that includes tax revenue. I don't totally get it because if revenues were so important to the deal, why didn't he put them in there in the first place 19 months ago?

GENE SPERLING, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, Erin, I'm happy to explain that. I think everybody who was there remembered exactly how it happened, which was there was a long negotiation that included the president and Speaker Boehner. We had agreed to an amount of cuts on discretionary spending, both domestic and defense.

But as you remember, what kept us from coming to the big agreement was we couldn't quite reach an agreement on the amount of entitlements, things like Medicare savings, and the amount of revenue. There was significant amount of revenue, at least $800 billion that on the table from Republicans, but we didn't come to a deal.

So as we were working out how to avoid going into default, there was an agreement that we needed an enforcement mechanism that would be so painful for both sides. That would make both sides come back to the table, and each give a little bit.

I think the idea was it would bring us back to try to bring the type of grand bargain where we would get the revenues from tax reform we would need together with additional tax entitlement savings. So I'm not saying we had all agreement back then, but I don't think anybody should ever think that you're moving the goalposts or anything like that.

The whole DNA of the sequester, the whole DNA of the enforcement, was to make both sides come back and to be straight, to make Democrats be willing to compromise a little more on entitlements and Republicans compromise more on adding revenues. That was always the purpose of "The Sequester."

BURNETT: Which I understand -- OK, I get that, and I think all the viewers get that. You explain it well. Why not, then, did the Democrats and the president say, well, one thing that Republicans hate, right, is tax increases.

So if you put that in, now you have them sitting here looking at all spending cuts. You're doing a good job, saying, well, you're going to hurt the elderly. You're going to do things nobody wants to do, but the bottom line is you're telling them not to do cuts and they want cuts, so why didn't you put tax revenue in there? SPERLING: So let's be clear. When the president says balance, he's generally been for something that has more cuts in it than revenue increases. I think everyone agrees that we have cut the deficit over $2.5 trillion in the last two years. Of that $2.5 trillion, only $620 billion has been in revenue.

So you've had $2 to $3 of spending cuts for every dollar of revenue. The president then says recently he's willing to still keep on the table his offer to Speaker Boehner. Well, that has $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, including interest savings, $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, and just $580 billion in remaining revenues.

So the president has been very committed to doing very tough spending cuts, including entitlement reform, including getting Medicare savings, but you can't have bipartisan compromise right now if the Republicans say they're not willing to find one penny, not one penny in corporate loopholes or tax expenditures.

You can't ask the most well off from this point forward to put forward one penny, but you're going to ask for all the burden to be on education, on children getting health services, on national defense. That's not what the public sports.

BURNETT: I want to ask you two things on that. First of all, when you say he laid it out, this is the one-pager, right? I'm just trying to understand that this is one page, the entire offer.

Because when I was looking at this, there are a lot of things in here that are very general, including the fact that you want health savings of $400 billion. Didn't you just get Obamacare and get all that? Are you saying you didn't do all you could with Obamacare?

SPERLING: You know, the president has been willing to do entitlement savings, and he's there said he would do $400 billion more in Medicare savings. That's very difficult. In the "State of the Union," he said he would be willing to have the same out year savings in Medicare that the Simpson-Bowles Commission does.

So when Republicans say the president is not serious about entitlement savings or spending cuts, that's just patently false, and that offer that he gave to Speaker Boehner and still keeps on the table, the fact that he said that in the "State of the Union," all shows his commitment.

All we're asking for is to have that basic balance and compromise where you say, if you're going to put -- if you're going to put entitlement savings, put Medicare reforms on the table, let's at least insure that you're closing some loopholes and tax expenditures.

And you're not saying the entire burden of deficit reduction is going to go on education and older Americans and the middle class. That's just not right. It's not shared sacrifice.

BURNETT: All right, I understand what you're trying to say, but it sounds like from your side, you're saying that you can handle it all by increasing taxes on the wealthy. When you look at the math, it's just not true, right? I mean, you look at the numbers, and I thought Adam Davidson from NRP's Planet Money, has done a great job of this.

I've cited these numbers before. I'll do it again, increased taxes on the middle class by 8 percent, you raise money than if you tax millionaires in this country at 100 percent.

And again, the argument isn't that you need to raise taxes on the middle class, but the reality is if taxes are part of the solution, don't you need to be honest with the American people and say it's not just going to be on the wealthy, it's going to be on you?

SPERLING: Well, you know, let's just remember that only two months ago, Speaker Boehner, as you recall, said he thought we could find $800 billion in savings, increased revenues from closing loopholes, tax expenditures, through tax reform, that would fall mostly on the most well off Americans. The president is now calling for just $580 billion of that type of revenue increases through tax expenditures.

BURNETT: On top of the $5 billion at the top of the year.

SPERLING: Yes, that's right. A package that is about $4.3 trillion, and about over $3 trillion is going to be spending cuts and interest savings, and $1.2 trillion would be revenue. That's a very balanced package.

It's just what the president talked about in the campaign, $2.5 in spending cuts for $1 in revenue and you are asking the most well off to contribute through the higher rates, but at this point, he's not asking to raise rates anymore on the most well off.

He's saying that we can get the rest of the revenue, just the way Speaker Boehner has talked about it before, through tax reform that closes loopholes, reduces tax expenditures. This should be an area we can come together and agree on and avoid this harmful sequester from taking place.

BURNETT: Gene Sperling, thank you very much. Still to come, last night, hundreds of Hollywood stars were upstaged by, none other than the first lady. Did Michelle Obama make a mistake presenting at the Oscars?

Plus, tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death, and George Zimmerman, the man who shot him, has received hundreds and hundreds of letters from the public. We have an exclusive look at some of them tonight.

And later in the show, Yahoo's controversial new employment rule. Some say CEO Marissa Mayer is taking unfair aim at working moms, but is she?


BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, and the winner is -- Michelle Obama. Obviously, my audition for that job just failed. The first lady made a surprise appearance at the Oscars last night to present the biggest award of the evening. Here she is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Obama, do you have your envelope?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Not yet, Jack. I'm about to.


OBAMA: And now for the moment we have all been waiting for. And the Oscar goes to -- "Argo." Congratulations.


BURNETT: But was this appropriate? Donny Deutsch is chairman of Deutsch Inc., one of the largest advertisers in the country. And one- time member of the Clinton-Gore 1992 communications team. So you get this from all sides. So, last night, obviously, Michelle Obama presented the most coveted award of all. And then Friday, she was dancing on Jimmy Fallon which I'll show everybody because she was pretty darn good, right?


BURNETT: She's good. Good shoes she's got. All right. And her approval rating is 73 percent.


BURNETT: Dwafrs her husband's at 52 percent. So, is the Oscar smart? The ultimate move. A billion people are watching?

DEUTSCH: No, I tell you - first of all, I think there's a big difference between the Jimmy Fallon thing and the Oscars. The Jimmy Fallon thing, the consumer at home gets to vote, no pun intended, and say I want to tune you in. I want to introduce politics into my entertainment.

When you're sitting at home and watching the Oscars, OK, and you're watching entertainment, you're watching movie stars, I didn't invite you in. Forget whether you're a Democrat or a Republican. It is very assumptive and I don't think respectful of the viewers to say, no, here I come in there. Once again, I wanted to see more Jack Nicholson.

To me, I thought there was a tone deaf quality and I think almost an elitist quality, which we never kind of hear with the Obamas, to say I'm going to come into your entertainment space without being invited. Because there's a big difference once again.

Clinton changed the math when he went on Arsenio. And there's a clear blurring and a wonderful blurring between entertainment, between politics, between news and information. But the viewer always gets to choose when they want to blur. This would be akin to the president at the two-minute warning at the Super Bowl giving his speech versus earlier in the day where people can choose one way or another. I thought it was assumptive and very, very wrong, to be honest with you.

BURNETT: Back in February of 2008, everyone remembers when Michelle Obama said, I'll quote her, "Let me tell you something. For the first time in my adult life, I'm proud of my country because it feel like hope is making a comeback." Obviously, the Obama campaign said look, she was taken out of context, but it did spark a lot of flack and backlash. And people still remember it.

But she has made herself over, frankly, by becoming the opposite of all those things. She has become the ultimate soft female.

DEUTSCH: We have watched two females completely make themselves over, not necessarily by becoming soft, her and Hillary Clinton. If you go back to 2008, both men and women were very polarized toward Hillary. Now, not certainly by making herself soft, but by taking command, she did a brilliant job. People love her.

Michelle Obama I think just showed who she was. Look, she is incredibly likable, dynamic. She has a great cause as far as the health issues and obesity issues. But I think you've got to be careful. And I go back to the Oscars thing. To me, standing with the Marines behind her, there was almost monarch quality to it. Like, huh?

BURNETT: It did. It felt like the royal family.

DEUTSCH: And by the way, I want to see Nicholson. I can choose! Like, to me, we had the biggest movie star in the world --

BURNETT: This is saying something. You're saying beautiful woman woman/Jack Nicholson, I take Jack Nicholson.


DEUTSCH: That's for another show. That's for daytime.


DEUTSCH: No. My point is -- I think America, if you polled America, and once again, forget that 50 percent of the country did not vote for her husband. So politics aside -- politically also, I don't think it's a good move because we all have seen that, the kind of cliche view of the Democrats being in bed with Hollywood. So, this is one more step there.

But I think it put, instead of her making her one of the people, it put her above the people. We didn't choose. It was not literally the people's choice.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Donny Deutsch. Appreciate your time.

And still to come, Oscar Pistorius checks in with police. Why a 2004 murder could play a huge part in whether Oscar Pistorius ever serves time in jail.

Plus, Argo of course, the big winner at last night's Academy Awards. Iran is really angry about it.

And the film that won the award for best documentary last night tell this tale of a rock star who for 30 years didn't even know it, and he is OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, the Blade Runner pays police a visit. Today as part of his bail agreement, Oscar Pistorius had to check in with authorities. And at the same time, his defense team could be looking closely at a 2004 case that is bizarre, everybody. It's eerily similar. A professional South African rugby player was cleared after killing his 19-year-old daughter because he claims she thought she was a thief. Prosecutors in that case opted not to press charges, saying the defendant had suffered enough after the loss of his daughter. Nic Robertson is OUTFRONT.


FRIDA VISAGIE, MARLE'S MOTHER: That is the evening before my daughter was shot.


FRIDA VISAGIE: The last picture.

ROBERTSON: Marle was 19. Just out of high school. Her mother Frida, so proud.

FRIDA VISAGIE: She was pretty.

ROBERTSON: Beautiful.

FRIDA VISAGIE: She's my daughter, but she was pretty.

ROBERTSON: Frida and her husband, Rudy Visagie, a former international rugby star, remember every detail of that night in 2004.

FRIDA VISAGIE: Sunday morning, 23rd of May, about 5:00 in the morning, a sound, a noise woke me up.

ROBERTSON: Frida thought Molly's car was being stolen. Woke Rudy.

RUDI VISAGE, MARLE'S FATHER: I jumped up and I saw it. I took out my pistol.

ROBERTSON: Rudy was afraid. Two of their neighbors had been killed the week before. He broke the bedroom window and shot at the thief.

FRIDA VISAGIE: I heard Rudi growling. And I wondered, what is happening now? Then he told me, it's Marle in the car.

ROBERTSON: In that instant, their lives changed forever.

RUDI VISAGE: So that one shot out of a million, right through the door. It went right in my daughter, through the neck. And she was actually dead on the site.

ROBERTSON: Visage was not prosecuted. The court decided he had suffered enough, saying "We feel he has learned a hard lesson, and the courts cannot achieve more than that."

FRIDA VISAGIE: I wish she could be with me. I see daughters with their little children, you know, I wish I had little children.

ROBERTSON: And they feel the pain of Oscar Pistorius, the Blade Runner, who shot and killed his glamour model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He says fearing a thief was in his house.

RUDI VISAGE: I can tell him, I feel with you.

FRIDA VISAGIE: I couldn't forgive myself because I woke Rudy up. So I can sort of feel what he feels. Why did I do this? What if? You know, all those questions that go through your head.

ROBERTSON: Today, both say their faith in god saved them. That Marle's death was part of God's plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Women are being abused. Women are being raped. People are being oppressed.

ROBERTSON: At their evangelical church, they have become leaders, often sent all over the country to counsel trauma victims.

RUDI VISAGE: I just want to encourage him to say, listen, there's a lot of people praying for you, and know that they feel for you, for what you're going through now.

ROBERTSON: Both say if he calls, they're ready to help. Nic Robertson, CNN, (INAUDIBLE) South Africa.


BURNETT: Still to come, a story of sex, scandal, and intrigue. And it's all happening around the pope.

And new details in the Trayvon Martin case. We have an exclusive look at the hundreds of letters that have been sent to the man who killed him.


BURNETT, HOST: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting from the front lines. Do not travel was the stern warning issued from the National Weather Service today to people in the path of the historic blizzard in Amarillo, Texas. Conditions, I mean, this is just amazing. You're looking at Texas, everyone.

Conditions are so bad that snow plows were actually called off the road. The National Guard has been called in to try to help the drivers that are stranded in the storm. Amarillo has reported 19 inches of snow. That breaks a single day record for February that was last set, according to our records, back in 1893.

Now, in neighboring Oklahoma, storm chaser Reed Timmer (ph) sends us this video and says conditions are completely chaotic.

Officials in Oklahoma have declared a state of emergency in 56 counties. They have been closing down interstates.

Well, here's bargain that Ikea shoppers weren't counting on. Traces of horse meat in Swedish meatballs. Now, because of the traces, the furniture giant has pulled its meatballs from store shelves in many European countries where this has happened. Americans, though, apparently, can rest assured. In a press release, Ikea writes "U.S. meatball content is only pork and meat products." Meat products, it could be horse or camel beef. What could it be? No, they say in the press release, it means beef meat.

Besides, the USDA guarantees that the United States does not slaughter horses, does not import horse meat from other countries, and does not import beef from any of the companies cited in the E.U. horse meat scandal. We're going to have a lot more on this, though, and whether that really adds up later on this week.

An OUTFRONT update to a story we wrought you first, the gas explosion. You may remember, it happened during this hour at a restaurant. One person was killed in Kansas City, Missouri, in that accident last Tuesday.

We have learned that the company laying cable prior to the explosion at JJ's Restaurant didn't have a proper permit for excavation. According to the assistant city manager, the permit violation carries a $500 fine and maybe up to six months in jail. The employee laying the fiber optic cable hit a two-inch gas line. Authorities still don't know what actually caused the gas to ignite. The fire department is still investigating. And, yes, to say it again, somebody was killed.

It has been 571 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, as you are aware, by looking at Washington -- not very much. Four days until forced spending cuts going into effect, and the Dow posted its worst loss of the year, down 216 points.

And now, our fourth story OUTFRONT, accusations of sex, blackmail, and abuse. So, the Vatican is in total damage control. Two Italian papers claim that Pope Benedict's health is not the reason he's stepping down. Instead, they say a top secret reveals that the pope is stepping down because some priests are being blackmailed by male prostitutes. The Vatican denies it. But the allegations matter in the search to fill one of the most powerful jobs on Earth.

OUTFRONT tonight, Barbie Nadeau from "The Daily Beast". She's covering the story from Rome. And Raymond Arroyo, he is anchor of the Global Catholic TV network.

Really appreciate both of your taking the time.

And, Barbie, let me start with you. You're in Rome tonight. I'm assuming these leaks, obviously, are coming from inside the Vatican, but why? What are they hoping to get from this?

BARBIE NADEAU, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, you know, this really is about the next conclave. And all this bad news that comes out, it works very much against the insiders who are in charge of the Vatican right now. The hierarchy of the Vatican is really run by the Italians and Europeans. They were very much in place under Pope Benedict XVI when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

And, so, you know, the message is, maybe it's time for someone outside of Rome, someone who is not, you know, engrained in this culture, this culture of secrecy. Maybe it's time from someone from a developing nation, someone from somewhere else to come and clean house.

BURNETT: And, Raymond, a former Catholic friar in England who's openly now spoke to Christiane Amanpour about the allegations and the prevalent of homosexuality in the Catholic Church, and what he said, it really -- it really stuck with me. I wanted to play it for you.

His name is Mark Dowd and here he is.


MARK DOWD, FORMER DOMINICAN FRIAR: Homosexuality is the ticking time bomb in the Catholic Church. On the one hand, the church teaches that the condition of same-sex attraction is intrinsically disordered, those are Cardinal Ratzinger's own words from 1986, and yet we know about half if more of all the people attracted into the seminaries and priesthood are gay themselves.


BURNETT: Cardinal Ratzinger is Pope Benedict. Raymond, is this true?

RAYMOND ARROYO, GLOBAL CATHOLIC TV NETWORK NEWS DIRECTOR AND ANCHOR: I think you have to step back for a second, Erin. This is hardly a news flash. Father Donald Cousins (ph) wrote about this 20 years ago. Father Andrew Greely, he coined the phrase "lavender mafia", talking about a subculture within the Catholic Church.

But Barbie was quite right. This is focusing the electorate's attention on the mismanagement of the courier, the Roman bureaucracy in the Vatican. And no doubt, whether they're looking for a conservative or a liberal, I think that's beside the point. They're looking for a reformer, somebody who will come in and honestly appraise what's happened here. The many gaffes that were allowed under Benedict's reign, and hopefully clean some of that up.

BURNETT: Barbie, I want to ask you something about what's happening in Rome, though, on this front. Scotland's Roman Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has resigned over allegations he abused four men. And in a statement, he said, "I'm not going to join them for the conclave in person. I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me, but rather on Pope Benedict and his successor."

But, Barbie, the Vatican's own spokesman won't comment on whether he'll participate in the conclave or not. How can this be?

NADEAU: Well, you know, the Vatican is very good at spinning the story in the way they want to spin it. Today, we heard in a press briefing that Cardinal O'Brien, a resignation has been accepted, but they were clear to point out that this resignation was issued. Basically, he requested it March of last year. It doesn't seem likely that Cardinal O'Brien will be there, but, you know, one cardinal among many with a scandal. We've got, you know, Cardinal Mahony from Los Angeles, in the Rome right now, blogging away about being excited to being involved in the next conclave.

So, it's not just about one cardinal, it's about the body of cardinals and the scandals that have just really dogged this papacy.

BURNETT: That's right. And, of course, as Barbie mentioned, Cardinal Mahony from Los Angeles also has an alleged role in the church's sex abuse scandal.

Raymond, I just want to ask you something, though, that I think gets to the heart of this. I always disclose here, I was raised Catholic. And that's part of the reason I'm so fascinated by what is happening right now. But when you talk about protecting the doctrine, if time changes and the doctrine becomes something which is exclusionary, not just exclusionary of gays given the apparent hypocrisy that there are so many gay priests, but exclusionary of women. Why not change the doctrine?

ARROYO: Well, the doctrine of the Catholic Church is hardly exclusionary of gays or women. Look, the Catholic Church looks upon all people as children of God.

Now, there are set things like marriage. The doctrine is settled. It's a sacrament. It's been in existence for 2,000 years. It's really not within the pope's power to suddenly wave a wand and change that.

I'll tell you very quickly. An electorate today told me of the cardinal, this provides us with great meditation as we go into this general congregation, between when the pope resigns and the election, and he says hopefully this will get us, we cardinals, to reflect on how our leadership has failed, where we failed, and what we need going forward.

BURNETT: All right, a candlelight individual in Sanford, Florida, tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death. George Zimmerman who, as you know, has been charged with second degree murder in the case has acknowledged shooting the unarmed teen, but has insisted all the way along that it was in self defense.

Attorneys for the Martin family accused Zimmerman of racially profiling Martin and shooting him in cold blood.

The case has divided this entire country, and Zimmerman has received thousands of cards and letters from the public. Some of them in support and some in utter condemnation.

Our David Mattingly has been granted an exclusive and unrestricted look at the letters to George Zimmerman.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONALCORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Until now, they have been the silent opinions for and against expressed directly to George Zimmerman.

The hundreds of cards, letters, and e-mail that only now we are allowed to see.

As expected, we find words of encouragement to Zimmerman, and harsh condemnation.

(on camera): But in those hundreds of personal and often passionate notes, we were able to look a little deeper, to look for trends, and to possibly see what is driving so many deeply-held opinions. And immediately, there were some surprises.

(voice-over): The accusations of racism and profiling that dominated demonstrations a year ago are not so prevalent in notes written to Zimmerman. Of the e-mail condemning his actions, fewer than 10 percent call him a racist. Only 5 percent accuse him of profiling.

(on camera): The most common factor and opinions against George Zimmerman may have its roots right here, that mental image of Trayvon Martin buying a pack of Skittles and a can of iced tea at this convenience store before walking home to watch a basketball game.

The one thing Zimmerman critics mention most is Trayvon Martin's age.

(voice-over): Forty-one percent, in fact, condemning Zimmerman's actions explicitly mention Trayvon Martin's youth. Some calling him a 17-year-old, a teenager, a young man. But most may have formed opinions based on the younger photos of Martin, publicized early in the case, calling martin a boy, a kid, a child.

(on camera): And many of the people writing notes of support to George Zimmerman seemed to be reacting to what they saw playing out right here in the streets of Sanford, Florida. Nearly a quarter of the people supporting Zimmerman objected to race being an issue in this case.

(voice-over): Some blamed the media. Others blamed leaders of the protests. Some went even further, to suggest a conspiracy at work, or that Zimmerman was himself a victim of racism.

A few made comments offering a possible glimpse into a racial divide, and racially motivated resentment.


BURNETT: So, David, has Zimmerman read these letters?

MATTINGLY: He has seen some of them, but not very many. The people collecting them have shown him some of the more positive ones, some of the more uplifting and encouraging notes that were in there. He has not had a good look at the hate mail.

BURNETT: Now, talk to me about the hate mail. What surprised you the most in everything that you read? Was it about the hate mail?

MATTINGLY: Well, while there were a lack of comments about racism or profiling, when you look at all of the e-mail, and this is where people seem to be most free with their opinions, in those e- mail, of the people opposing George Zimmerman, 15 percent to 20 percent said they wished him bodily harm or death. So that was the surprising thing to me about how visceral this reaction was.

BURNETT: And given that so much of the coverage about this, David, has been about gun rights, the "stand your ground" law, whether he should have been carrying a gun to begin with as a basically part- time volunteer security person, were gun rights part of this -- part of the letters?

MATTINGLY: Well, that was one of the other surprises I got out of this. There were very few people mentioning gun rights or the right to carry a concealed weapon. That was very, very low in the number of issues that people were actually talking about.

Again, it had a lot to do with Trayvon Martin's age. It also had a lot to do with racial attitudes on the part of people who were supporting George Zimmerman.

BURNETT: All right, David Mattingly, thank you very much.

And right now on, you can see the five things that you need to know about the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case.

And still to come, last night, "Argo" took home the statute for best picture. We go to Iran, because there was a very big response there to that win.

Plus, a behind the scenes look at the film that won the best documentary. We're going to introduce you to a man who was a rock star for three decades and never knew it.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you not think that your story is exceptional beyond belief?

SIXTO RODRIGUEZ, MUSICIAN: Oh, it's pretty -- it's pretty wild, the story, you know. I'm a lucky man.



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

And tonight, we go to Iran where the government is protesting the choice of "Argo" as winner of the Oscar for best picture.

Reza Sayah is following the story, and I asked why the government is so upset about Ben Affleck's film on the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis?


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the Iranian government does not trust Hollywood. They think anything out of Hollywood about Iran distorts reality and paints Iran in a negative light, including the Oscar winner, "Argo." Right after "Argo" won the Oscar last night, state media said "Argo" was an anti-Iran film and the Oscar was a politically motivated decision designed to undermine Iran. State TV said the movie was an ad for the CIA.

One state Web site said Lincoln was clearly the winner, but the Oscars were about politics, not art.

And finally, what really fueled the conspiracy, Michelle Obama, the first lady, announcing "Argo" as the best movie.

For the Iranian government, that was proof positive that once again, Hollywood was out to get Iran -- Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Thanks to you, Reza.

And, you know, Reza just showed the picture there of Michelle Obama announcing the award. Well, the Iranian news agency Fars made some alterations to her Oscar night wardrobe. This is what she wore, right? This is what they actually showed in Iran. They added sleeves, as you can see there, and they raised the neckline on her gown. It actually still looks gorgeous on here.

But, anyway, they did this before they circulated it in Iran. Presumably, her gown (ph) was too revealing for them the way it was (INAUDIBLE). For announcing the best picture award, though, Mrs. Obama wore the dress for to a White House dinner for the nation's governors, who as far as we know, did not complain about the gown. But, wow.

Right now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper, who's back, with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360".

Hey, good to see you, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. Thanks. Good to be back.

Yes, Erin. We got scandal and allegations swirling in Vatican City as Pope Benedict is serving his final days. The conclave of cardinals that picks the new pope, many of them have played roles in the pedophile priests scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church. The allegations are equally shocking, but with an added twist of hypocrisy. We'll go to Rome for all the details with Christiane Amanpour and senior Vatican analyst John Allen.

Also on crime and punishment tonight, the usual questions of who did it and why are being asked of the murder trial of Jodi Arias. But it is the salacious sexual details of her relationship with her deceased ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, that have captivated court watchers. She's been on the stand for 10 days.

Our legal panel weighs in. Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos.

The stories with the breaking news in the Midwest blizzard that has rescuers in need of being rescued in Oklahoma.

And tonight's "Ridiculist". All that and more at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, see you in just a few minutes.

And now, our fifth story OUTFRONT. The search for a rock star ends with Oscar gold.


BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: And the Oscar goes to "Searching for Sugar Man."


BURNETT: The Academy Award winner for best documentary follows the incredible story of an average guy who for 30 years worked day in and day out to support his family. All the while, he had no idea he was a literal rock star. His music wildly popular halfway around the world

Poppy Harlow is OUTFRONT with his story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He thought he was like the inner city poet. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was just wandering spirit around the city.

HARLOW (voice-over): Sixto Rodriguez, a Dylan-esque Detroit native who tried his hands at rock history in the `70s.


MIKE THEODORE, CO-PRODUCER, COLD FACT: We all heard the songs he was singing and what he was writing. We had to record him. We had to make a deal for him. He was great. We said, this is it.

HARLOW: But it wasn't. Rodriguez's albums flopped in the U.S. Somehow, though, his first album, "Cold Fact" made it half way around the world and became a massive hit.

MALIK BENDJELLOUL, DIRECTOR, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN: In South Africa, he was in the pantheon of rock gods.

STEPHEN SEGERMAN, OWNER, MABU VINYL IN CAPE TOWN: To us, it was one of the most famous of all times.

HARLOW: The sound track of the anti-apartheid movement fuelling a revolution.


HARLOW: But at home in Detroit, Rodriguez had no idea. He had given up his music career. That was four decades ago.

(on camera): You used to play across the street here, right?

SIXTO RODRIGUEZ: I played a lot of places in Detroit.

HARLOW (voice-over): Unaware of his fame abroad and getting no royalties, Rodriguez lived on little, raising his daughters doing demolition work.

SIXTO RODRIGUEZ: I'm not a stranger to hard work.

HARLOW: He made failed bids for mayor, city council and state rep.

(on camera): You call yourself a musical political.

SIXTO RODRIGUEZ: Musical political. Yes. I don't see how anyone can't be and is not political.

HARLOW: Then at 57, he was rediscovered by a South African music journalist and record store owner who found clues in his lyrics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found him! We found him!

HARLOW: They brought Rodriguez to South Africa, and he played to thousands of adoring fans.

SIXTO RODRIGUEZ: Thanks for keeping me alive. SANDRA RODRIGUEZ, RODRIGUEZ` DAUGHTER: He's on stage and the crowd is just going wild, and they're singing. And they're crying.

HARLOW (on camera): It brings you to tears to see something like that happen to someone.


SIXTO RODRIGUEZ: Well, that was -- it was different.

HARLOW: Do you not thinking your story is exceptional beyond belief.

SIXTO RODRIGUEZ: It's pretty wild, the story, you know. I'm a lucky man to be so fortunate at this late day.

BENDJELLOUL: This is a true Cinderella story.

AFFLECK: And the Oscar goes to "Searching for Sugar Man."

HARLOW (voice-over): And it's now a story that has become even more legendary, after filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, "Searching for Sugar Man", won the Oscar for best documentary at this year's Academy Awards.

BENDJELLOUL: A man who lives his whole life in Detroit, working construction work, really hard manual labor, without knowing at the very same time, he's more famous than Elvis Presley in another part of the world. I thought it was the most beautiful story I ever heard in my life.

HARLOW: A beautiful story but also a mystery. Where were all the royalties?

BENDJELLOUL: I don't know. I don't know. I do think it's an important question because the reason Rodriguez didn't know that he was famous for 30 years was that he didn't get royalties.

HARLOW: Asked if he feels ripped off --

SIXTO RODRIGUEZ: Oh, well, not in that sense. And, hate is too strong an emotion to waste on someone you don't like, you know?

HARLOW (on camera): Do you want the fame and the fortune?

RODRIGUEZ: Fame is fleeting.

HARLOW (voice-over): Now 70, Rodriguez may finally get his due.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Rodriguez.


HARLOW (on camera): Do you ever pinch yourself and ask, is this real?

SIXTO RODRIGUEZ: Is it real? It's certainly a different life, you know. It's certainly not what it was.

HARLOW (voice-over): Poppy Harlow, CNN, Detroit.


BURNETT: And still to come, Yahoo's CEO sends out a memo that has angered a lot of women.


BURNETT: It has been almost eight months since Marissa Mayer took over as the CEO of Yahoo. And in that time, she has put her mark on the company. She's done a lot of things from big to small, including bringing in free food and giving employees brand new smartphones. That does a lot for morale, the company that suffered from a lack of it.

But her latest move took serious courage. A Yahoo corporate memo leaked to "All Things D" reads in part, "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side. That's why it is critical that we are all present in our offices."

That was the way of saying in the beginning of June, all employees working at home will be required to work in the Yahoo office or leave the company.

Now, there's two ways to look at this decision, one, Marissa Mayer needs to cut Yahoo staff and this is a way to clear out people who literally and figuratively don't want to be there. And two, Mayer genuinely believes her employees will be more productive at work and not at home.

And that is the point that has caused the most controversy. About 10 percent of American workers regularly work from home at least one day a week. And all day today, analysts and reporters and bloggers have been taking sides over Mayer's decision. It's a decision that if it spreads could affect programmers, operators, and most prominently, work-at-home moms and dads.

The truth of the matter is that despite what many surveys say, it's very difficult for many people to be productive away from the office, whether you have children distracting you or not.

Today, for example, I was chatting with Chris Maloney (ph), who writes on this show. He spent a lot of his career working from home. And even though he's learned to use his time effectively, yes, he admits little distractions do pop up from time to time. This particular distraction apparently can cause up to 20 minutes of play time and then of course the cleanup to Chris' manuscript caused by the hairy body relaxing on his keyboard.

Now, while many people make a serious contribution working at home, there's a lot to be said for being right there, working and networking with your colleagues. Nothing can truly replace the value of that sudden brain storm, the trust that comes from face-to-face interaction, the intensity that comes from putting in long hours together.

But we want to hear from you. How do you feel about the Yahoo decision? Take our poll at, and hey, try not to do it during work hours.

Anderson Cooper starts now.