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Interview with Eliot Spitzer; Obamacare's PR Fight; Netflix Gets 14 Emmy Nominations

Aired July 18, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: He's known as the sheriff of Wall Street and then we knew him as client number nine. Now, Eliot Spitzer wants to be the comeback kid and he's not the only one looking for redemption in Gotham.


ELIOT SPITZER (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: OK, you got to -- you put down there.

TAPPER (voice-over): Eliot Spitzer wants you to think of his as a redemption story.

SPITZER: I'm saying to the public, I would like to serve again. And if you wish me to be there, I would be honored to have your vote.

TAPPER: The disgraced former governor stunned New Yorkers last week by announcing his run for city comptroller. Now, he's shocking many skeptics by rocketing to the lead in that race.

SPITZER: To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.

TAPPER: That's quite a turnaround for a man who took an incredibly public and embarrassing walk of shame five years ago.

SPITZER: I've disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself.

TAPPER: In 2008, it was revealed that Spitzer had frequented prostitutes. His name had surfaced in court documents as "Client Number 9" in a high-priced prostitution service. In one incident, the governor had hired a 22-year-old call girl named Ashley Dupree, for a meet-up at Washington's exclusive, Mayflower Hotel. Spitzer's response was textbook, apology with mute wife by his side.

SPITZER: I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.

TAPPER: Resignation and a pledge to focus on his family, and then quickly a move toward rehabilitation via the cable airwaves, here on CNN and then on Current. His path back to the limelight draws comparisons with other politicians felled by scandal, such as Appalachian Trail enthusiast and South Carolina governor, now Congressman Mark Sanford.

And the New York mayoral hopeful and fellow fire brand, Anthony Weiner. Like Weiner, Spitzer has been deluged by media attention and he's using that spotlight to highlight his record having battled Wall Street interests as governor. Before his fall from grace as governor, he was known as an aggressive attorney general.

Local polls show that approach may be working. The latest survey out earlier this week shows Spitzer leading Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer by 15 points. The primary is in September.


TAPPER: And the candidate for New York City comptroller, the author of the new book, "Protecting Capitalism Case by Case," Eliot Spitzer himself joins me now.

Mr. Spitzer, thanks for being here.

I want to start back in 2008. What you did was incredibly reckless and perhaps more importantly, it was very illegal, as you know, a class E felony, paying for sex, a law you signed, bumping it up to class E.

When was the last time you broke that law? 2008?

FMR GOV. ELIOT SPITZER, D-NEW YORK: That is correct. And, you know, Jake I have -- as your appropriate introduction made clear, I have spent five years doing many different things, not just hosting here on CNN, which I enjoyed during the period I was here, I was teaching at CCNY; I have also participated in other activities, run our family business.

And so it has been a five-year stretch during which time I have thought, reflected and tried to think through not only what happened but assess my desire for public service and hence it has taken me to where I am today, as I pointed out, running for office.

TAPPER: And but to be precise, you have not broken that law since 2008?

SPITZER: That's correct.

TAPPER: OK. You once called -- you were, when you were an aggressive attorney general and governor, you once called human trafficking, including prostitution, modern day slavery. But one of the things that a lot of people take offense to is you never faced charges. Under your own law, Kristen Davis, the New York Madam, she's also running for comptroller. She tells "The Daily News," quote, "I spent four months in Riker's Island, from which I returned penniless, homeless and forced to take sex offender classes for five months with pedophiles and perverts, while he" -- meaning you, sir --"return to his wife and his 5th Avenue high-rise without ever being fingerprinted, mug shot, remanded or charged with a crime under the very law he signed."

What do you say to her?

SPITZER: Well, the decision was made based upon the standards that were set by the Department of Justice and made by the U.S. Attorney's office. They looked at the evidence and they dealt with me the way they dealt with everybody else who was in my situation.

TAPPER: You really think that?

SPITZER: Oh, absolutely.

TAPPER: Because you -- I mean, when you went after Wall Street titans, you painted yourself as fighting for the little guy. But I think a lot of people might look at you and think, look, you're somebody with money, you're somebody with power and this is a perfect example of how people like you don't end up doing the time the way that the average person does.

SPITZER: Well, look, I'm not going to sort of -- and I've made it my -- over the five years been very careful that I'm not going to either quibble or debate what the appropriateness was. I did the one thing that I knew that was appropriate, which was to resign at the moment. And it's been now five years during which time I've done many other things. And that was I looked into the public's eye and I said I believe in accountability. And I resigned. Those who looked at it, this case, made the determination; they obviously did not bring charges, nor did they with anybody else with similarly situated.

And so that was their judgment, not mine.

The one judgment I had the opportunity to make was to say to the public I should not have done this as I was governor; obviously I resigned. And let me tell you, even though it may seem quixotic and hard to make sense out of, I'm proud that we did sign that human trafficking law, that was the right thing to do, it is important. It is something I believed in then, and believe in now and --

TAPPER: Even though you violated it?

SPITZER: That's correct. And, Jake, there's no question that law deserves to be there and I'm -- it was the right thing to push and we did that.

TAPPER: So as comptroller, you would be the chief financial officer of New York City. You told Chris Hayes that your business partners would be compromised if you released your full tax returns. I know you've released some partial tax returns. But don't voters deserve to know about any potential conflicts of interest?

SPITZER: They know about all the conflicts. And in fact, I filed a complete document with the conflict of interest board. It tells exactly what I own in every instance as per required. I filed and made public my tax returns.

Not all the schedules that would reveal what is deemed to be private data about the individual partnerships but unlike others who have not revealed their tax returns, I revealed not only what I earned, how much I paid, I paid 49 percent of my income in taxes last year, let me repeat that, 49 percent. So as opposed to others who had offshore accounts and other situations, but I said, you know what, they raise questions; I paid 49 percent last year, 39.5 percent the year before. My income and my -- the 1040s have been released.

TAPPER: But I think the question is about -- the question is about who you do business with that you told Chris Hayes you'd be embarrassed about them coming forward.

SPITZER: Jake, I hate to say, then somebody didn't give you accurate information. The conflict of interest board has all of that information.

But the public -- then the public has access to the conflict of interest board?

SPITZER: In fact, I've -- we e-mailed it out to every journalist who was interested in the city of New York. At the very moment it was filed. So yes, of course, they know exactly what I own, what I earned, the source of every penny. And as I said, I paid 49 percent. Frankly, Jake, I got to tell you, the question people were asking me yesterday was not why didn't you reveal more, it was who is your accountant? You should fire him, 49 percent --

TAPPER: It's a lot of money.


TAPPER: New York City taxes, though, I mean --

SPITZER: Well, it was federal, a lot of federal. But let me be clear, I never hesitate to pay my taxes and we don't play games to reduce them. I've never done it, I never will because my view is that funding the education, the infrastructure, the pension obligations which as the comptroller, I'd have an opportunity to participate in overseeing. That is what taxes -- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said taxes are the price of a civilized society. Doesn't mean they should be going up but let me tell you, it does mean that if you -- if they're used for appropriate purposes, which is what the comptroller's office is all about, what I want to do, I'm happy to pay them.

TAPPER: "The New York Times" reports that you and your wife still live in separate apartments. No you have slapped down any rumors of divorce and you say she's supportive of your run. If you win -- and you're ahead in the polls -- can we expect to see Silda (ph) by your side on election night?

SPITZER: You know, I haven't been thinking about election night. I've been thinking about tomorrow, I've been thinking about a long road between here and there, but let me answer your question so you don't think I'm trying to avoid it.

My family is supportive. I expect, yes, she will be -- the family will be out there; she signed a petition, gathered petitions. My daughters -- and not the one who's overseas right now -- gathered petitions for me. And I'm proud of that, but I also have said our private lives are our private lives. And I think I've answered all the questions, your questions, appropriately asked, and I will do my best to be fulsome in those answers but at a certain point, I do think that -- as to -- certain things, our private lives are our private lives.

TAPPER: Why do you think that you're ahead in the polls? Do you think it's name recognition? Do you think people are willing to forgive this tremendous scandal or do you think there's something more to it than that?

SPITZER: Well, I'll give you two answers.

First, I'm not going to try to play political pundit and figure out why. But I will say that --

TAPPER: You were a pundit here on CNN for a long time.

SPITZER: That's true. All right, I'll put on my anchor hat. And I'll try to give you my best answer.

Here's what I think. I think that the public is looking at -- first, in terms of redemption and forgiveness, yes, the public is forgiving. That is a remarkably affirmative quality in the American public. Now whether that forgiveness will extend to me is an open question. And I will not know the answer to that until September 10, which is the date of the primary.

Now I think the public does also recall that the entirety and totality of my public record as attorney general, as governor, as a prosecutor of organized crime cases back when I was in the Manhattan D.A.'s office and your prior story about the witness disappearing brings back memories of crisis moments in the courtroom when you worry about those things.

The totality of my record is one of service and independence and I think that the comptroller's office, where you have oversight of the pensions, you can use the ownership of the stock in an important way in terms of corporate governance issues, understanding of the capital markets, which I think I demonstrated when I was attorney general, the fact that I've run our rather substantial family business, gives the public comfort that the independence and the knowledge of capital markets is, in fact, what they might want in somebody who wants to be the comptroller.

So I hope that's the case; I will continue to make my case and hope that the public extends its votes.

And the last point on that, I would say, whether I was a prosecutor in front of a jury or a politician seeking votes, I have always respected the public's verdict. It is amazing. Juries, the electorate, we tend basically to get it right.

TAPPER: Well, Eliot Spitzer, I do want to say thank you for coming here and answering the questions. I said to Congressman Mark Sanford, now Congressman Mark Sanford -- he wasn't at the time -- but you came here and you answered the questions, so thank you so much. SPITZER: Thank you, sir, for inviting me.

TAPPER: Coming up, would you rather have a full-time job or health insurance? One small business owner said the only way her company can stay afloat is to cut the hours of some of her employees. Will the promise of health care for all mean less work for some?

And later, it's Emmy time, and while some of the biggest television shows got their usual nominations, there were some surprising snubs. Which ones missed out?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's time for the "Money Lead." Tonight at the White House, President Obama heralded part of his signature health care law, known as Obamacare. More than three years after he signed that legislation into law, President Obama is still struggling a bit to sell it to consumers and to convince lawmakers primarily Republicans to stop trying to block its implementation.

Just yesterday, the House of Representative voted to delay the provision requiring individual who can afford it to purchase insurance. The president said he would veto that bill, but the White House's struggles go way beyond bad messaging and Republican obstructionism.

The administration recently announced it was taking the action itself of delaying by a full year until 2015 a key part of the bill requiring larger employers to provide full-time employees without insurance. Some businesses say whether it's delayed or not, that requirement will cause them to fire employees or reduce their hours. To many Americans that's a terrifying thought in a fragile economy.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Market forces are pushing costs down.

TAPPER (voice-over): Soap box under foot, President Obama today touted the benefits of Obamacare yet again.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Affordable health care is not some privilege just for the few. It's a basic right that everybody should be able to enjoy.

TAPPER: He surrounded himself with those he said would benefit from the bill, specifically from a provision requiring insurance companies that spent less than 80 percent of their premiums on health care to send back rebates to consumers and companies.

The White House says $500 million in rebates are being sent out this year. One recipient, small business owner Rick Shewell of Arlington, Virginia, Shewell recently started his own company with a friend. He says Obamacare helped him get health care at an affordable cost and now he pays his lower premiums with help from rebate checks. RICK SHEWELL, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: I knew about the provisions in the law, but I never expected that we'd actually see the money.

TAPPER: The one person decidedly not in the audience today is Mary Miller, the CEO of Jancoa, a 41-year-old family-owned janitorial business in Cincinnati, Ohio. Miller shared her grievances with Congress last July.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This will destroy the foundation of which my company was built and the quality of life we are trying to help our employees to achieve.

TAPPER: Miller has 340 full time employees. So the law will soon require her to provide all of them with health insurance. Miller says she faces this choice, $1.4 million for employee health care, more than half a million dollars in fines for not buying them health care, or cutting hours for employees so that they're no longer full time and thus not required to be insured.

MARY MILLER, CEO, JANCOA: I'm going to be out of business and that's not OK with me. I have 340 employees and their families depend on that.

TAPPER: A recent small business survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which fought against Obamacare suggests the employer mandate will reduce hiring. A full 50 percent of small businesses say they will cut back on employee hours or replace staff with part-time employees. The 24 percent say they will reduce hiring all together.

MILLER: When employees work part time, they only show up part time, you never know when to depend on them and their quality of life is diminished because people are having to work two to three jobs to make ends meet.

TAPPER: Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced it was delaying until 2015 the requirement that larger employers buy insurance for their full time employees.

MILLER: The foot has been taken off of my throat for the moment.

TAPPER: The White House says the delay is due to the complexities that companies were facing and implementing the new law, but despite the setbacks, Obama's promises have resonated with Americans like Shewell.

SHEWELL: I think that over time we will find that it cost a lot less than people are expecting.

TAPPER: For others, however, like Miller, who will be bearing some of the cost of the law, the threat remains the cost will trickle down to her employees.

MILLER: I can't even say out loud what the worst case scenario can be for businesses like mine.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: Today, President Obama heralded other provisions on October 1st, consumers will be able to go online and compare private health care insurance plans on new online market places. Then there's this.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Just yesterday, state officials in New York announced that average premiums for consumers that buy insurance in their new marketplace will be at least 50 percent lower next year than they are today. Think about that, 50 percent lower.


TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD, from the networks to Netflix, history was just made at the Emmys, but can you win a television award if you're not even a television network?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's time for our Pop Culture Lead. We've made it fairly obvious my staff and I are addicted to television. Our eyes were dreamed to the television morning while the dreamy combo "Breaking Bad's" Aaron Paul and "How I Met Your Mother's" Neil Patrick Eris announced the Emmy nominations.

The headlines -- Netflix is now in the awards business. Their original program "House Of Cards" picked up nine, including best drama. Netflix picked up a total of 14 nominations. Is this a big deal? It's a big deal for me.

Let's ask Christy Grosz, however. She has been covering the entertainment industry for more than 15 years and she is the editor of "Awards Line" for She joins me now from Los Angeles. Thanks for being here. We appreciate it.


TAPPER: When you heard Netflix got 14 nominations, what was your take? Is this a big deal or my staff and I are we just TV nerds who are overreacting?

GROSZ: I think it's a big deal because this is Netflix's first foray at the Emmy with their original content. It is a big deal for them. I think they have a great show and that it's something that people connected with and it's worthy of Emmy consideration and voters showed that by giving it these nominations.

TAPPER: And I think it's fairly remarkable that none of the best drama nominations went to network programs.

GROSZ: This is actually the second year in a row that happened. They're still in the comedy game, but, yes, they're not in the drama game right now.

TAPPER: Interesting. Do you think that we will see in the coming years as other companies try to get in the original content business, we've covered a lot of this on our show, including Amazon, coming up with sitcoms, one directed and written by Garry Trudeau and others, do you think we'll see YouTube, Amazon, Hulu and others in the coming years?

GROSZ: Yes, you could see that depending on the quality of their content. It's absolutely a possibility. I think the TV academy voters have shown they're platform agnostic and they're not just considering the programming that comes from the major networks.

TAPPER: Moving off Netflix, what were the big snubs and surprises for you as somebody who watches this so closely?

GROSZ: Well, I happen to be a big "Americans" fan. I was pretty upset that Kerrey Russell didn't get an acting nomination. But I think that there are other big snubs too. I mean, John Crier won the comedy actor Emmy last year and didn't even get a nomination this time around.

TAPPER: And then I believe "Mad Men" usually get some writers, at least nominations and nothing this year, even though I thought -- of course, I'm biased but I thought it was a pretty -- they didn't get any writing nominations.

GROSZ: No, and they've gotten multiple nominations, kind of like the days of the "Sopranos" when they dominated the writing series. But nothing for writing or costuming, which outraged a lot of people as well.

TAPPER: Including me, I'm outraged. Thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

Do you ever see that flash go off at a red late and say, "Ticket, I wish I was invisible!" Well, guess what? Thousands of cars are invisible in the eyes of the government according to a new report. So who's above the law? Well, put on your outrage hats, we'll tell you who is above the law next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now back to another Buried Lead, stories we -- if there's one thing that seems to bring us all together, it's our mutual hatred of traffic cameras. But in one state, Iowa, for one exclusive group of people, the cameras aren't so bad.

According to an Associated Press report, 3,200 government workers have plates that are not listed in the traffic data base. Some of these exempt government workers have unfiled plates because they work in sensitive departments where they would not want to be tracked.

The sports lead now. If you're going to flee Cuba, this beats the raft on the water method, I guess. A Cuban baseball player defected to the U.S. while he was already here in the states according to the "Des Moines Register." The paper says this pitcher slipped away from his Iowa hotel Tuesday night. The official newspaper of Cuba's communist party quotes, the team's manager said, "It's crap that Severio pulled, abandoning his teammates." He reportedly plans to pursue a career in the MLB. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you now over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM."