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GOP Leader Warns CNN, NBC Over Shows; Amazon CEO Buying "Washington Post"; Live Every Week Like It's "Shark Week"

Aired August 5, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Now, of course, time for the sports lead. It is going to be an -- well, awkward night in Chicago. A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez, was just suspended from Major League Baseball until the 2015 season for his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. Bizarrely he'll be playing third base for the white sox before the penalty kicks in Thursday.

Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, joins me now to talk about this 12 players, in addition to Rodriguez just got 50 games suspensions.

But A-Rod, who still denies these charges, we should say, will not play for 211 games.

Here's the statement from Major League Baseball. Quote, "Rodriguez's discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone over the course of multiple years."

Travis, that's pretty damning. Do you think the suspension goes far enough?

TRAVIS TYGART, U.S. ANTI-DOPING AGENCY CEO: I think it's a pretty powerful suspension. And you multiply that with the number of athletes that were involved, and you see a pretty wide conspiracy of players in the Miami area that all had connections that were using these dangerous performance-enhancing drugs to defraud the fans, to defraud the spectators and all of us who love baseball. So, I think it's a powerful statement.

TAPPER: We just got a statement from Rodriguez. I'll read that. Quote, "I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this through the process. I am eager to get back on the field and be with my teammates in Chicago tonight. I want to thank my family, friends, and fans who have stood by my side through all of this."

Travis, he's in his late 30s. He's fresh off the injured list. This really could be career ending. Do you think the 211 game suspension is fair if all these guys were allegedly doping?

TYGART: You know, I think you have to give the commissioner credit for taking a strong stand and doing the right thing to send a powerful message, to not only today's players that hey, we're going to protect your right to compete and that the integrity of baseball is important, but more importantly to the players of the next generation and our kids, the millions out there who one day hope to be an MVP player in the sport of baseball. And now they'll know that you can't cheat, you can't defraud the sport and sports fans and also rob your competitors, the people that you're competing against day in and day out on the field from their athletic accomplishments. So, I think it is a fair and just suspension based on the rules that apply to Major League Baseball.

TAPPER: Now, one of the reasons -- I think probably a lot of people are thinking what are they thinking, didn't they know they were going to be caught? But there is a way that a lot of players have -- they're told they can get away with it, that there are ways to evade the drug tests. Explain.

TYGART: Well, I think players go through that cost-benefit analysis. And given the pressures and the money that are on athletes to win, quite frankly, that are on athletes at every level, that sort of pressure -- they go through the cost-benefit analysis and if they think they can get away with it. And they're going to take that risk.

And I think that's another reason why this effort by Major League Baseball, it's a total of 18 players. Remember three of them last year who were associated with this Biogenesis Laboratory down in Miami, Florida also received suspensions. So, some did test positive, but others through the nonanalytical, with reliable evidence in the absence of a positive test have also been disciplined. And I think that's a powerful message that has to be sent.

TAPPER: A-Rod is denying the charges. He can still appeal. But even the New York Yankees are in support of this ruling. They say, quote, "The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez."

Do you think, Travis, that the teams should be held responsible for the actions of the players when situations like this happen?

TYGART: I mean, certainly if the teams knew and were complicit, like we saw in our cycling investigation. We attempted to hold the teams and the doctors and the trainers who were involved accountable, and we suspended them from sport as well. But if the teams didn't know, it's totally unfair I think to hold the teams accountable for it.

What will be interesting, while the statement you read from David Cornwell, who's a fierce advocate and do the job he's hired to do for his client, question the suspension - what will be interesting if A- Rod decides to challenge whether or not he used and possessed these performance-enhancing drugs, as Major League Baseball alleges, or if he's just going to attempt to get a reduction in his suspension. And quite frankly, I think we will all as sports fans be a lot more inclined to forgive if he does what the other 17 in this case have done, which is acknowledge their use and possession and then not fight. So, we'll see what happens.

TAPPER: You wouldn't have any experience with athletes who have been accused of this type of thing who are in denial about it, though, right?

Travis Tygert, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

TYGERT: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: He may already have a Heisman, but has Johnny Manziel putting his entire college career in jeopardy? The Texas A&M quarterback is reportedly under investigation by the NCAA for allegedly - allegedly -- selling autographs for five figures in January. And you can argue about whether it's fair for him to get in trouble for that, but it is against NCAA rules. ESPN has two sources who say they saw Johnny football sign the stuff, though neither actually saw the money exchanged. He's not exactly hurting for money. He comes from a wealthy Texas oil family.

And Stoudemire wants to be an official Israeli. His agent claims he has applied for citizenship. The Knicks' power forward has embraced Judaism, owns part of an Israeli basketball team in Jerusalem, and claims his mother has Jewish roots. He's even gotten an invitation from President Shimon Peres to be on the Israeli National Team. So, Stoudemire's desire to be a full-fledged Israeli citizen may be should not come as a surprise.

Coming up on THE LEAD, the RNC threatens a 2016 debate boycott with CNN. We'll give you the whole story next.

And if it was an adorable contest, well, he'd win hands down. But did this four-year-old win his mayoral reelection campaign? We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the Politics Lead.

Virginia is for lovers, and lately also for potential scandals. Just a week after the state's current governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, announced he's giving back $120,000 in gifts, including a Rolex that he got from a prominent campaign donor, we're now learning that one of the guys who wants McConnell's job, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe - the Macker, he's called -- is being tied to a potential scandal of his own.

Erin McPike is here with more. Erin?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, of course, as you know, Terry McAuliffe is better known as one of the Clinton family's best friends. And his campaign is being viewed in some circles as a sort of test run for another Clinton presidential campaign.

Well, now the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the electric car company McAuliffe co-founded a few years ago over whether it mismanaged the distribution of visas to wealthy foreign investors. That company, Green Tech, acknowledged on Friday it's cooperating with the probe. But Republicans jumped at the chance to attack McAuliffe with a couple of hard-hitting campaign ads like this one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An investigation into possible shady dealings -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terry Mcauliffe's former company may have taken shady money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Visa for a Chinese executive in exchange for a large investment.


MCPIKE: Part of the irony is McAuliffe says he co-founded the company as a way to bring jobs to Virginia.




MCPIKE: Now, in a statement this weekend, McAuliffe said, "I left Green Tech in early December of 2012 to focus full-time on running for governor. The first I learned of this investigation was earlier this week when 'The Washington Post' reached out to my campaign. I have no knowledge of the investigation other than what I have read in the papers."

McAuliffe says he never asked the government for preferential treatment when he was working with Green Tech, but here's the kicker: Hillary Clinton's brother, Anthony Rodham, was McAuliffe's partner on this deal. And that is an association his Republican rivals are trumpeting.

So, there are two issues at play here. One is that both the Republican nominee, Ken Cuccinelli, and of course the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, are embroiled in controversy. And that may make this already very competitive race a nail biter down to the end. But nationally, the bigger issue is both the Clintons, both of who are working harder for McAuliffe than any other candidate right now, and we'll likely see both of them on the campaign trail later this fall.

TAPPER: So, it's turned out to be quite an exciting election in Virginia.

MCPIKE: It is.

TAPPER: All right, Erin McPike, thank you so much.

Also in politics, the chairman of the Republican National Committee is furious that CNN and NBC are releasing films - in CNN's case, a documentary, for NBC, a mini-series, both about the life of Hillary Rodham Clinton in anticipation of a much-rumored run for the White House in 2016. RNC chairman Reince Priebus tweeted today, quote, "Production of Hillary programming must be stopped, or the RNC will not partner with CNN or NBC for any 2016 primary debates." The GOP also has a new Web site up to rally supporters on the issue with the headline "The Liberal Media Loves Hillary."

CNN executives respond with this statement, which says in part, "Instead of making premature decisions about a project that's in the very early stages of development and months from completion, we would encourage the members of the Republican National Committee to reserve judgment until they know more. Should they decide not to participate in debates on CNN, we would find it curious as limiting their debate participation seems to be the ultimate disservice to voters." Unquote.

Let's bring in our panel to discuss this and other issues. Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, CNN political contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro, and CNN senior political analyst and editorial director of "The National Journal," Ron Brownstein.

Ana, I want to get your reaction. Now, you work for CNN, but you're also a Republican. I want you to be honest, be honest. We're going to renew your contract no matter what -


TAPPER: I promise you. What's your take on this? Do Republicans have legitimate reason to be upset that CNN - and it's not the news division, it's the documentary division. But they're doing -- they've ordered a film about Hillary Clinton.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I can tell you that when the announcement came out, I lifted an eyebrow. It's not something that I like. I think there is concern by Republicans that the media will be as enamored with Hillary Clinton as they were with President Obama when he was a candidate, and that there will be puff pieces about Hillary Clinton in order to help her. That's a legitimate concern. We have seen before. We've seen it with Barack Obama. We've seen people like Chris Matthews saying he get chills up his legs when he sees Barack Obama --

TAPPER: I think it was thrill.

NAVARRO: Thrill, not chill? OK, fairly close.

But also, on the other hand, we saw a number debates during the 2012 primary. We had debates in the double digits, over 20 debates that were frankly cringe-inducing and in many Republicans' minds, including my own, very hurtful to the party. I think it's important for the RNC to somehow get control of this debate process so we're not having one every other week and they end up being hurtful to the candidate in a difficult process. And this still has the added bonus of having the support of the base. The idea of eliminating debates was not something that the base was accepting because they love them. But there was this tension going on, it was part of the RNC post-mortem -

TAPPER: This is two birds with one stone, in a way.

NAVARRO: So - and I do think it's important for the RNC -- and I'm going to urge my friends there -- to -- let's see the product. I also think it's important for CNN to put down a very fair product. A documentary should show the good, the bad and the ugly.

TAPPER: And the bad, of course.

Jamal, how much do you think this is Republican trying to work the refs (ph).

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST Oh, this absolutely Republicans trying to work the refs (ph). Let's keep in mind, we're talking about Hillary Clinton here. We're not talking about an unknown woman who hasn't had to face the public before. And if you ask anybody who works for Hillary Clinton whether or not the liberal media has gone easy on her over the last 20 years, I think the argument from their side would be no. So, the Republicans have every right to work the refs; the Democrats do it when our primaries get started. But I think in fairness, let's wait and see what the product is.

TAPPER: Ron, is there a strategy here by Priebus?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I mean, I agree with Ana. I think there's something larger here also. First of all, having watched politics since the 1980s, this is just an extension of the way in which everyone is now a combatant. I mean, there are no noncombatants in the political world. Every point of leverage, the base of each party demands that you exercise it. If it is the idea that you can influence the outcome of a documentary or a feature about Hillary Clinton by threatening the news division that you all participate in their debates. I mean, that's just kind of extraordinary.

But I think the other point that Ana said maybe even the largest here, which is that, after the 2012 election there was a sense among some Republican activists that the party was hurt by too many debates, but too many debates with moderators they deemed as unfriendly, who forced them to Republicans to answers questions, which they thought would hurt them in the general election.

In fact there were questions they were going to have to answer sooner or later in the general, but I think this reflects a desire in the party to not only reduce the number of debates, but get more of a hold of them in terms of who is asking the questions and what kind of issues the candidates will be presented with.

TAPPER: All right, fascinating stuff. Thank you one and all for your unvarnished opinions I'm sure. Jamal Simons, Ron Brownstein, Ana Navarro, thank you.

Coming up on THE LEAD, shark week is back. Get excited. If social media is any indication, you probably are excited. What's with America's obsession with sharks? We'll tell you.

And one of the most important news publications has a new owner. We'll tell you who next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Some breaking money news now, he was part of the online revolution that put the printed news up in the air. Can he help save it? Within the last few minutes, CNN has learned that Jeff Bezos, the founder of is buying "The Washington Post," price tag $250 million.

I want to bring in CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Gloria, this isn't Amazon buying "The Post." It's Bezos himself, right?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, buying "The Post." It's kind of hard to absorb because "The Washington Post" represents a glorious era in American print journalism and we all know it going back to Watergate days, Woodbert and Burstein and the Graham family has been such a part of that.

Now to sell this newspaper is kind of like if the Salzburgers were to sell the "New York Times" specific so it's kind of hard to absorb for those of who have been around Washington for some time and have seen "The Washington Post" as kind of the last behemoth of the grand old family who own newspapers. We saw that happen, of course, when the "Wall Street Journal" got sold as well.

TAPPER: And "The Wall Street Journal" did change.

BORGER: It did change.

TAPPER: There were certainly changes in editorial policy. There were things inserted in articles and then there were all sorts of other changes. What, if anything, do you think obviously this is pure speculation, but do you anticipate changes?

BORGER: It's hard to know. I mean, in their press release, Mr. Bezos has asked Katherine Weymouth who is a Graham family to stay on as CEO and publisher, and he's kept Marty Baron, who is now the executive editor of the paper on. But again, you don't know. It's just kind of the end of an era when families -- these families owned these newspapers and they were they were the protectors, if you will, of these journalists and the newspapers.

They were family businesses and "The Post," more than many had been affiliated with this family because, of course, of Kaye Graham's huge role in Watergate. I'm sure people in the newsroom over there, I haven't spoken to any yet, it's too new, but I'm sure they're kind of reeling from this.

TAPPER: It's a momentous change in Washington and journalism. Very quickly, do you anticipate any political implications for Bezos taking over "The Post?"

BORGER: That's -- I don't know -- I don't know the answer to that. This is again not Amazon. This is Bezos and you know, we've seen people who have been in business like Barry Delar with "Newsweek" and they've just sold it. Barry Delar said it was a mistake to buy "Newsweek" if you recall and of course, "The Post" own "Newsweek" at one point. So it's very hard to see how he would be the steward of this. We don't know.

TAPPER: Thank you, Gloria. Coming up on THE LEAD, shark week has been around for over a quarter of a century and it keeps breaking rating records. We'll preview it next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So here's some advice I wish I would have got when I was your age. Live every week like a shark week.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now time for the "Pop Culture Lead." How could you possibly go wrong by adopting Tracy Jordan's life philosophy? "Shark Week," it's back on the Discovery Channel for the 26th year in a row. Sharks are the stuff of nightmares, of course, the fins sticking out of the water, the sharp teeth, the black eyes like a doll's eyes. But Discovery Channel knows we just can't stop our fascination with them.


TAPPER (voice-over): Sleek and agile, a beast that has evolved overtime to reach maximum effectiveness. It focuses on its target and at least once every summer it strikes millions of us with force. It's Discovery Channel's "Shark Week." For the 26th year, the channel proves there is big business behind the bite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely unbelievable.

TAPPER: Shark week over the years has man meant hundreds of millions in ad revenue for Discovery. It allows the channel to draw a different demographic for the week, a younger, more affluent, and gender balanced crowd. This year, Discovery ads are banking on Snuffy, a cute, fictional seal being returned to his home, only to be swallowed whole by a great white.

When we visited Discovery's headquarters in Maryland, a prop Snuffy was hanging proudly near Mike Sorensen, Discovery's senior director of development who spoke to us from his "Shark Week" couch.

MIKE SORENSEN, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT AND PRODUCTION, DISCOVERY CHANNEL: Snuffy has become this kind of icon out there with over five million hits online. So, you know, I think for us it's really continuing to grow this outside of just a week of TV and really embrace the audience's desire to watch sharks.

TAPPER: This year, Discovery is diving even deeper into social media, chumming the waters of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with links and promos for shark week programming and that doesn't even include the cross promotions, like Tom Shoe selling this limited edition pair giving $5 from each to Oceana, a conservation organization.

SORENSEN: People are out there having "Shark Week" parties. You know, last time you heard about a "Shark Week" drinking game. You know, people actually plan their vacations around "Shark Week." I think this year more than any other year, we've kind of took everything into perspective and launched them much more robust campaign.

TAPPER: But what's all the fuzz over fins. Sure, we know even their very presence can make even the most ridiculous movie a hit. Thanks "Sharknado" but what is it about shark week that causes the elusive viewing public to sink its teeth into year after year into Discovery's bait? Is it this year's new shark cam that tracks and follows them through the depths or is it "Shark After Dark," the live late night show making its debut this year?

SORENSEN: There's so much about sharks we just don't know, so many mysteries still left to be solved. I think that curiosity is what really fuels our shows that we make. I mean, that's really the driver for us.

TAPPER: Despite grabbing viewers with the blood and guts footage that many say demonizes their cash cows. Discovery says conserving sharks is truly at the heart of the annual event. That and ratings of course.


TAPPER: A former executive producer of "Shark Week" tells me that she thinks the series is such a smash because sharks are truly blast, wild animal that can be almost anywhere when and if you meet one of them off the beaches of Miami or Santa Monica or the Bahamas, they are the alpha predator, and somehow that's comforting he says. That the natural world still has something that can kick our butts, the notion feels us what we're expecting on and that's why it's so successful.

That's it for me. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much.