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Interview With New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Interview With Stephen Colbert; Stocks Hold Steady; Cruising for a Bruising; Baseball Stalker's Quite Death

Aired March 18, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Man, it's still got that new-set smell.

I'm Jake Tapper, and this is "THE LEAD."

The national lead: health crusader or meddling nanny? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced another controversial proposal, and he will join me as our very first guest.

The world lead: The Vatican opens its arm to the president of Zimbabwe. Never mind the fact that he's accused of massacring his own people.

And the pop culture lead: I will do my best to get Stephen Colbert to come out of his ironic bubble.


TAPPER: You can be honest.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": No, I can't. I think that's a bad idea on camera. Turn that off.


TAPPER: My exclusive interview with the leader of the Colbert nation.

The national lead: He's the most powerful mayor in the nation and if New York's Michael Bloomberg is starting to feel the limits of his reach, he's sure not showing it. Today, he's going after one of his favorite target, big tobacco.

He's announcing a new initiative to force stores to hide cigarettes, keeping them out of sight, and, he hopes, out of mind for New Yorkers. Mayor Bloomberg of course also led the charge to keep his citizens from becoming those headless fat people in random news B- roll, but his recent attempt to ban the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces had people crying nanny state long before it hit a snag in court, and it made the Big Gulp the breakout star of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, with some help from Sarah Palin.


TAPPER (voice-over): At a time when conservatives were looking for something to cheer about, this brought down the House at CPAC.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Oh, Bloomberg's not around. Our Big Gulp's safe.

TAPPER (voice-over): Forget for a moment that 7/Eleven Big Gulps are not actually included in New York City's ban on big sugary drinks, a ban that a judge overturned before it was going into effect next week. This message to Mayor Bloomberg is clear. You can have my soda when you pry it from my cold, dead, and possibly pudgy hands.

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I am for overturning this ban.

TAPPER: And it's not just conservatives. Bloomberg has managed to do the impossible, to get Sarah Palin and Bill Maher to agree on something.

MAHER: There is something wrong about the seventh richest person in the world lying in bed at night saying, you know what people shouldn't do? Drink too much Sprite.

TAPPER: But Mayor Bloomberg seems unfazed by the backlash, promising the fight is not over.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: We will appeal the judge's decision. We are confident that we will win that.

TAPPER: He's had success in legislating healthier lifestyles, pushing through bans on smoking in public places, and trans fats, and he's made chain restaurants start posting their calorie counts. But this time, the mayor may have overreached.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have the right to tell me what I can and cannot drink.

TAPPER: That woman is from Mississippi, which is a long way from Manhattan, but the state, which is the fattest in the nation -- congratulations -- just passed legislation which would forbid local authorities to require that restaurants post calorie counts on menus or limit portion sizes.

And in Mississippi, they call it the anti-Bloomberg bill.


TAPPER: We're now joined by our inaugural guest for "THE LEAD," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Well, Jake, thank you for having me. I'm flattered to be your very first. You probably did it because you think it can only get better from here, but that's OK.


TAPPER: Let's start with your newest project, keeping tobacco products out of the sight of consumers at retail stores. You plan on introducing this to the city council.

Tobacco, of course, is very deadly. But it is perfectly legal. Tell me about your goals for this.

BLOOMBERG: Well, smoking is going to kill a billion people this century around the world. And the tobacco companies target kids, and they target people in the less-developed countries and people who aren't as lucky as you and I who may be just starting out at the bottom of the economic ladder.

What we're trying to do is to continue the record reduction in smoking. In New York City, we have brought smoking among teenagers down from 18 percent to 8 percent, but the bad news is for the last three years, it sort of stagnated at that level. And smoking is going to kill these kids. It's going to leave them with not the great career prospects that you would like, not the education that you like.

As adults, they're very likely to smoke if they smoke as kids. And that is going to shorten their lives and reduce the quality of their life. So smoking is a very big deal. After New York City banned smoking, which we got a lot of grief about, I will say -- I got a lot of one-fingered waves, as I would describe them, when I marched by bars on St. Patrick's Day, for example.

Today, you march by a bar in St. Patrick's Day, and everybody seems to love you. And because of what New York did, I think it's fair to say most cities in America, all of Western Europe, virtually all of Latin America have now gone smoke-free.

TAPPER: Well, sir, I know you reject the nanny label. You consider yourself a health advocate. But you heard in the piece that introduced you, there is something of a backlash to the oversized soda ban, or restriction.

Do you think that it's possible that your actions when it comes to oversized sodas, sugary drinks, have created a backlash that could end up ultimately hurting your cause? You see what's going on in Mississippi, for example.

BLOOMBERG: Oh, no, anything but -- Jake, anything but the beverage companies can see that there's a train coming at them down the tunnel. It's not the light at the end of the tunnel.

Obesity is going to kill more people than smoking this year in New York City. Obesity, for the first time in the history of humanity, is -- the effects of overeating are going to kill more people than starvation. And something like 60 percent of adults in some of our boroughs and 40 percent of the kids are overweight or obese across this country, across the world.

Obesity, unfortunately, partly because of American eating habits that have been exploited overseas, is really getting to be as bad as smoking. It isn't quite there yet, but it's heading in that direction.

TAPPER: Let's turn to gun control. You met with Senator John McCain recently, and he after the meeting said that you seemed to be focused more on pushing a nationwide background check system and not be so focused on a ban on certain kinds of semiautomatic rifles. Is that true? Is that where you're going to focus your attention and your efforts?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I don't know. Is this going to get me another nanny-gate, another me with -- dressed as Mary Poppins?

I was asked this morning about that, and I said I sort of take that as -- with a measure of pride. I mean, don't we have a responsibility to try to do what's right for each other? And we're certainly doing that in New York City.

But let me take a look at guns for you. This year in America, 12,000 people will be killed with handguns; 400 people will be killed with assault weapons or high-capacity magazines. So it is the vast bulk of the murders are done with handguns.

TAPPER: The numbers you were saying, sir, it seems -- I thought you were going in a different direction. I thought you were suggesting that a ban on assault weapons, semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines would not actually do that much to reduce gun violence. I thought that's where you were going with the statistics you were listing.

BLOOMBERG: Well, it would reduce -- let's say if you could get rid of all of them, which you can't, it would save 400 lives. But if you could keep guns out of the hands of minors, criminals, substance abuse, and psychiatric problem people, you would make an enormous difference in terms of saving lives, both in the number of murders and the number of suicides, because the vast bulk of both of those are done with handguns, not with assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.

It's a good thing to get rid of them. They really don't belong on the streets. But your original statement that our focus is on background checks is true.

TAPPER: Lastly, sir, your super PAC recently spent more than $2 million on a House race in Chicago. You were successful. I guess two questions on that.

One is, how is that spending any different from what conservatives, who are maligned for such activities, like the Koch brothers, how is it any different from what they do? And is this the future of Mike Bloomberg after your mayoralty ends at the end of the year? Is this where you are going to be channeling your efforts, your energy, and your money?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I don't know what I'm going to do in 288 days. I guess go out and look for a job. I work cheap. I get paid a dollar a year now. So salary's not going to be the problem. In terms of what we're doing vs. the Koch brothers, David Koch, I know very well. He's very conservative, much more than I am. But David Koch really believes, and he's trying to help to get the policies that he thinks would be better for society through. He's using his own money. I have no problems with what he's doing, and I'm sure he wouldn't have any problems with what I have done.

TAPPER: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, thank you for your time and for your views.

BLOOMBERG: Jake, good luck on your show.

TAPPER: In other national news, the verdict is in, but the sick online trolling continues in the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case. Investigators are looking into death threats to the teenage victim over Twitter.

Over the weekend, the judge found 16-year-old Malik Richmond and 17-year-old Trent Mays guilty in the case. Both could be held in a juvenile jail until they are 21 years old.

It's not as if we needed further proof of the cold, calculating nature of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, and yet here it is. "The New York Daily News" is reporting that Lanza kept a spreadsheet with names, body counts and weapons used in previous mass shootings with the efficiency of an accountant going over inventory.

The paper says the spreadsheet was seven feet long and four feet wide, so big that investigators need a special printer. Disturbing.

If you're the type of person routing for Cam and Mitchell to get married on "Modern Family," then you will like this. In a brand-new CNN poll that we're releasing just this minute on "THE LEAD," CNN asked whether gay and lesbian marriages should be recognized, and most Americans think they should, 53 percent to 44 percent.

This poll comes just hours after a longtime holdout on this issue made her views known, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaiming her support for same-sex marriage in a video released by a leading gay and lesbian rights group.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones. And they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage.


TAPPER: Mrs. Clinton's husband was the one who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law in 1996. That defined marriage as between one man and one woman. But just last week, former President Bill Clinton called for that law to be struck down. We will have much more from our new CNN poll later in the show. They're potentially lifesaving ordeals, mammograms and prostate exams. I will let you argue which one is worse and most uncomfortable amongst yourselves. But if you said a mammograms, you're probably a woman. And we may have some good news for you. A new study out this afternoon claims that getting a screening every two years is just as effective as getting one every year, at least for women ages 50 to 74. But women 40 to 49 should probably still schedule a mammogram annually.

Up next, the money lead. Never been on a cruise? That does not mean you have never paid for one. Millions are spent rescuing broken- down ships, and U.S. taxpayers are picking up the tab.

And later, a famous film about an infamous killer, but what fate befell Baseball Annie? Stick around. That's our buried lead.


TAPPER: It's time for "The Money Lead."

From the way the market opened, it seems anyone with a 401(k) wouldn't survive the day without reaching for a bottle of Tums or bourbon. But stocks held steady, shaking off global reaction to some financial turmoil unfolding on the other side of the world, and I'm talking, of course, about Cyprus, a tiny island of just over 1 million people, best known perhaps of the birthplace of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

But what exactly does this little-known island of mystery and myth have to do with your 401(k)?

Well, over the weekend, European policymakers agreed to bail out Cyprus from a financial free fall, by imposing a tax on the savings accounts of people who live there. That's right. They're actually taking the bailout money directly from people's bank accounts. Of course, that sent folks running to their ATMs to withdraw their money, sparking a panic. Now there's concern the same thing will happen in other parts of Europe.

And even though Wall Street is hanging tough, could the Cyprus crisis impact us down the line?

Tom Foreman has a fancy show-and-tell to help break it all down for us.

Tom, thanks for joining us.

I understand why Cypriots are worried.


TAPPER: But why should Americans be?

FOREMAN: Because this could rattle your wallet.

TAPPER: Really? FOREMAN: Take a look at this over here. I start with the rhetorical question. What do Shreveport, Louisiana, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Wichita, Kansas, have in common? They all have bigger economies than the country of Cyprus.

It's just off the coast of Greece, as you pointed out. It's just over a million people. GDP of about $24 billion.

But this place is in big trouble right now, because of the issue of debt. What they have is a massive debt. They're spending more than they have, so they're getting a bailout from the E.U. of about $13 billion. We're going to do this all in dollars, not euro, just to keep it all clean here.

So, of course, with the bailout comes, as we've seen with other nations, austerity measures. But here comes that big one, the thing you just mentioned a minute ago -- a savings tax. This is what is creating the big stir over there. Essentially, it's a 6.75 percent tax on $131,000 and below.

So, you get the picture. If you have $131,000 in the bank right now, and this thing gets approved tomorrow, if that happens, they would come in and take about $9,000 out of your account, even more if you have more.

Now, the plan is if you do this, you get shares of the bank, and then, Jake, when everything gets fixed, theoretically, you get your money back and maybe some more.

TAPPER: Tom, you said Cypriots. I said Cyprus.

FOREMAN: Well, we'll settle that later.


TAPPER: Thank you so much.

Also leading money news, how bad are things for the ironically named Carnival cruise lines? Pretty bad. The company's latest troubled ship made it back to port without the toilets acting up, and that was the good news.

The Carnival Legend arrived in Tampa yesterday so the crews could fix a glitch with the shapes sailing speed. But passengers had a skip a stop in Grand Cayman and got a $100 refund. Not a big deal, but it is the latest in the series of P.R. icebergs for this company.

But here's the real doozy. When the cruise line gets in trouble, it's you who ends up getting soaked.

"THE LEAD's" Erin McPike is here with more.

Erin, how is it that taxpayers end up footing the bill?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Come on, Jake. What else? Loopholes. Now, I learned today that there's only one major cruise ship that flies an American flag. But so many of these others still need the U.S. Coast Guard to come help them out.


MCPIKE (voice-over): The Carnival Triumph.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just been a horrible experience for us.

MCPIKE: The Elation. The Dream. The Legend.

Recently, the names of Carnival ships haven't exactly matched the experiences on board.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think about a good three-day cruise we had, and it was a bad four-day camping trip.

MCPIKE: But who pays the bill when cruise ships need help, help that comes directly from the U.S. government? Here's a hint. It's not the cruise line.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Most all of these cruise ships fly foreign flags, so you can't regular late them except the few hours they're here at U.S. shores. They pick up the small amount of the responsibility, but not very much. The taxpayer ends up picking up most of it. They don't own up to their responsibilities.

MCPIKE: The Coast Guard spent $780,000 to help the Triumph when it was stranded in the Gulf of Mexico a month ago. But that was minor compared to 2010 when the Carnival Splendor was stuck in the Pacific.

More than 3.4 million in taxpayer dollars went toward sending a U.S. aircraft carrier to help, but it turns out not only is Carnival not paying the bill for those rescues, they're barely paying taxes.

Senator John Rockefeller started probing the issue last year after the Costa Concordia incident.

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Their ships are registered in other countries where they can, you know, get cheaper labor and they pay no taxes in this country, or virtually no taxes in this country.

MCPIKE: By registering in Panama and the U.K., Carnival paid an effective tax rate in the United States of 1.1 percent between 2004 and 2011.

ROCKEFELLER: When you're in a world of your own, you can do what you want, and that's exactly what they do. So they don't reimburse Coast Guard. They don't pay taxes, which would help, you know, for these 20 federal agencies, which are watching over them in various ways, or whose services they use, or might use. They just decline to be moved by that. MCPIKE: But Rockefeller is trying to make them move, sending a letter last week to Carnival's CEO asking, "Do you think the federal taxes Carnival pays each year covers the cost of the federal services on which it relies?"

Carnival told us it's still reviewing the letter.


MCPIKE: Now, Carnival's broader defense is that most of its income comes from a number of places outside the United States and that it's almost impossible to let (ph) the fair income taxes from every country. The Coast Guard simply said that protecting U.S. citizens is its mission and it doesn't ask for reimbursements to do a job it could do anyway.

Now, as for Senator Rockefeller, his office told me today they're exploring ways to force cruise lines to follow international safety standards to avoid costly disasters like these in the first place.

TAPPER: Erin McPike, thank you so much.

Still ahead, in the pop culture lead, I'm sure you haven't noticed, but I'm new to this whole anchoring-my-own-show thing. So I went to a pro for a little advice.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: I want you to lead.

TAPPER: It's called THE LEAD.


TAPPER: The show is called THE LEAD.

COLBERT: I wasn't sure (ph).


COLBER: I thought it might be called "The Led", because you got so much gravitas, and, also, like you're the anchor, you got to be the heavy one anchoring it. And if it doesn't work out, it's, like, wahh, sink to the bottom.

TAPPER: Right.



TAPPER: Now to "The Buried Lead." This is where we put stories that we think have not gotten the attention they deserve. Now, don't get thrown by the word buried in the title. These stories will not always be about death. But our first one is. The story involves a woman named Ruth Ann Steinhagen, a groupie gone mad, who in the 1940s shot a promising baseball player. Well, if that story sounds familiar, queue the music.


TAPPER (voice-over): This iconic moment in movie history would not have been possible without the woman the papers called "Baseball Annie" -- one of the first noteworthy sports stalkers, one of the first to put the fan in fanatic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you come watch me play some time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Roy, you are priceless.

TAPPER: She was played by Barbara Hershey in 1984 film "The Natural", starring Robert Redford as the object of her fixation. Her story was once splashed across the tabloids, but her recent death was a mere blip on the news radar. Still, her unsettling tale lives on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll be talking about today for years to come.

TAPPER: In 1949, the 19-year-old Chicago cubs fan lured a ballplayer into a hotel room with a fateful note. And then --


TAPPER: She shot him in the chest, nearly killing him, as the movie depicts.

That ballplayer in real life was Phillies' first baseman Eddie Waitkus, a former cubby. Steinhagen's bedroom was a shrine to Waitkus, even set for him at the dinner table every night, an obsession that started at age 16.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give them the real stuff actually.

TAPPER: As for portrayed in the movie, loosely based on the real story, Waitkus endured several surgeries and would return to the bigs the next year. But Steinhagen was ruled insane, and she was never tried for the shooting. She was ultimately forgotten, and news just broke now that she died nearly three months ago -- her identity, even reportedly a shock to morgue workers, who knew her story from the iconic film decades ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could have broke every record in the books.


TAPPER: Ruth Ann Steinhagen was 83 years old, and, of course, she never lived to see her beloved Cubs to win a World Series, or even make another World Series. The last time the lovable losers won the pennant was back in 1945.

And speaking of stalking, let's get a sneak peek at our all- Republican political panel waiting in the green room. We're watching you. I'm going to ask them if it's possible for the Republican Party to change its party without selling its soul. Stick around for the "Politics Lead."