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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

CBS's Lara Logan On Leave; Pope Outraged Over "Idolatry Of Money"; Pope Francis Unveils New Vision For Church; Prosecutors Want 30 Years For Knox; Gore Goes Vegan, Just Like Former Boss

Aired November 26, 2013 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Jim, let me ask you, is there any actual evidence that by opening on Thanksgiving, stores increase their overall holiday sales?

JIM TANKERSLEY, ECONOMIC POLICY CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: I don't think there's any evidence that they are generating more, you know, holiday shopping overall. Now, they are in, as Dean mentioned, a battle with online retailers. So, they are trying to capture some of what might have been spent from home on Thanksgiving money.

But I want to go back to one thing that Dean just said about workers. In this economy, they just don't have a lot of leverage to say no if they're being asked to come in. There are 11 million unemployed people in this country and there's enormous anxiety among the working poor or the people making minimum wage about possibly losing their job.

So, I mean, it's just a really hard situation for someone who's working minimum wage at a retailer to say, yes, no, I'm going to stay home and risk not coming back next time.

BERMAN: That's great point. People work when they can in this economy.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN.COM: You have no choice.

BERMAN: All right. Dean Obeidallah, Jim Tankersley, great talking to you. I appreciate it. Happy Thanksgiving to both of you. I hope neither of you set foot in a store.

Coming up for us on THE LEAD, she risked her life to cover some of the most dangerous war zones. Now, "60 Minutes" correspondent, Lara Logan, has been pulled off the air. The question many people are asking, is this suspension enough?

Plus, an Italian prosecutor makes his final appeal to put Amanda Knox back in prison. But will she be forced back to Italy if she's convicted again?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. In national news, there is a word to which most news people are almost pathologically averse. And I'm not talking about allegedly. News would grind to a halt without that one. The word is "sorry." Both Lara Logan of CBS and Alec Baldwin now formerly of MSNBC have recently used the word.

CBS announcing that Logan will be taking a leave of absence along with a producer from a now infamous "60 Minutes" story from October 27th. The story featured a security contractor whose account of the Benghazi attacks was later discredited, and then, there's the calm, cool and collected Alec Baldwin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay away from my wife and the baby with the camera! (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: MSNBC has announced that Baldwin's Friday night top show "Up Late" is canceled following the host's apology after he was accused of slinging an anti-gay slur at a paparazzi photographer.

I want to bring in CNN's newest all-star, Brian Stelter, for his inaugural appearance on "The Lead." So happy to share it with you. Brian is also CNN's senior media correspondent. Bryan, let's start with Lara Logan and CBS here. Why did CBS make the decision to suspend and why the delay? It feels like it's been a long time since the story first aired.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It's been 30 days since the story first aired and 29 days since questions were raised about the story. You know, she did come on and apologize a couple weeks ago, and then CBS did an internal investigation. This seems to be part of the results of that investigation. Jefff Fager, the head of the news division, asked her to take a leave.

She agreed. But there are questions about what that means. Is it really just a suspension in sheep's clothing, so to speak, and for how long will she be away? I think until Lara Logan actually personally addresses what happened and explains where she went wrong, people are still going to be skeptical of her and of "60 Minutes."

BERMAN: This seems like something short of a soul-baring explanation here.

STELTER: Exactly. They have acknowledged several mistakes, for example, "60 Minutes" which is actually in a different building than the rest of CBS News didn't really talk to the rest of CBS News before they aired this report. So, they didn't call people in D.C., for example, who could help them figure out was this guy they were interviewing credible or not.

If they had used their colleagues at CBS News, they might not have aired this report at all. They might have known better. They might have figured out there were lots of holes in his story but they didn't do that. And that was one of the faults that was identified in this report today.

BERMAN: You know, everyone makes mistakes, including journalists here, but part of the problem for CBS was their reaction, immediately, while this was all a hot topic --

STELTER: Very defensive, right away. That's right. They were very defensive. They fell into that defensive crouch. People understandably sometimes fall into, but that's not the right call for any journalist when they're confronted by potentially, you know, correctible information. It's impressive, I guess, now that they have released the results of their report.

But, they still haven't said what they're going to do differently next time. I think that's what media watch dogs are going to ask now. What is CBS going to do in the future to avoid this --

BERMAN: They've been around a long time, CBS has, and they've been through a lot before. Does this leave any lasting marks?

STELTER: I don't know if it leaves lasting marks on "60 Minutes," but it could on Lara Logan if she doesn't more fully explain what happened. Maybe that's why she's having this leave of absence. Maybe CBS thinks she should take a vacation for a while, either paid or unpaid, we don't know, and then come back in the new year when people may have forgotten about this.

BERMAN: Let's talk about Alec Baldwin now. And I think the first question that a lot of people are asking is, was he fired, did he quit, or was it a you can't fire me because I quit?

STELTER: I think it might have been one of those things where he was standing on the railing and he jumped before they could kick him off, you know, might have been one of those situations where he would have been fired if he didn't decide to quit first. We'll never really know, though, because these networks like to come out and say it was, you know, a mutual decision.

I think it probably was in some ways, but I think he knew what was coming. This was a bad fit to begin with. And I have a feeling some people over at MSNBC are wishing they had never started this at all.

BERMAN: Is there a lesson to be learned here? You know, look, we both work for news organizations. We both work for a few here. Should news organizations be more careful in their hiring, go after journalists, not actors?

STELTER: Well, listen, there are 24 hours to fill. On the other hand, there's a lot of news to cover and I'm not sure why MSNBC felt the need to reach out, you know, to Alec Baldwin in the first place. There are lots of other people that are actually being suggested as replacements already. If you look at Twitter today, people mentioning other talk show hosts that might be a better fit for MSNBC begin with.

You know, Alec Baldwin had a long, checkered history and it doesn't mean he should be, you know, not considered for a job like this, but it does mean that MSNBC should have seen this coming. BERMAN: Does this make him more difficult to hire for a TV show or for a movie in the future?

STELTER: You know, I don't think it does. I don't think it does. I think, you know, the next "30 Rock" comes along, people are going to be banging on Alec Baldwin's door to come on and star on that show. But, I don't think he'll get a job at another cable news channel.

BERMAN: All right. Brian Stelter, it is great having you here at CNN. Welcome aboard, my friend.

STELTER: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up for us, maybe you've noticed that while many Hollywood liberals decry gun violence, they have no problem whatsoever with putting it up on the screen. Today, nearly a year after the Newtown massacre and several months after Democrats failed in their new push for gun control laws, President Obama appeared at DreamWorks studios in California and told Hollywood it has to do better.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to issues like gun violence, we've got to make sure that we're not glorifying it because the stories you tell shape our children's outlook and their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: We'll see how that goes over during the president's next fundraiser at George Clooney's

When we come back, the pope takes on the status quo by offering up some pretty big changes to the Catholic Church. How is his new vision being received at the Vatican?

Plus, the Hollywood hot shot behind hit movies like "Pretty Woman" now admits to being an Israeli spy. So, how did he end up becoming a real life James Bond?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. In world news, the pope is declaring war on what he calls the idolatry of money. In the first major written work of his papacy, Pope Francis is attacking the disparities of capitalism as a quote, "new tyranny." He writes, "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. In World News, the pope is declaring war on what he calls the idolatry of money. In the first major written work of his papacy, Pope Francis is attacking the disparities of capitalism as a quote, "New Tyranny. He writes how can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?

The pope is further taking on everything from who should receive communion to how much power the Vatican should hold over the church. There's a lot in this document. I want to bring in the Barbie Nadeau, Rome bureau chief for the "Daily Beast."

Barbie, almost since the moment that Francis became pope, he's positioned himself as something of a maverick. Some of the words he used today in this document are startling, but how shocking are the ideas themselves?

BARBIE NADEAU, ROME BUREAU CHIEF, "NEWSWEEK" AND "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, you know, we have been seeing Pope Francis hint at a lot of different types of reform since last March when he was elected. Shocking is probably a bit of an overstatement, but these are harsh words. This is the first time we have seen these words in writing. It's the first time we really have something to study.

It's 224 pages long. This document is the most important thing he's put on paper yet. It's going to give a lot of people in the hierarchy of the church something to think about and it is going to give them a little bit of a guideline to go forward and to create the church that Pope Francis is trying to promise Catholics around the world.

BERMAN: One of the sentences that jumped out at me, he wrote this. He said I prefer a church, which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets rather than a church, which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. First of all, he's a wonderful writer. Let's say that right out. But what do you think this means for the future, for the direction of the church?

NADEAU: Well, I think these are words that many Catholics really want to hear right now. People that have left the church, people that are considering leaving the church, people that don't want to join the priesthood or join a vocation within the church, are really looking and searching for a greater meaning and Pope Francis seems to be working from the top down.

He's trying to clean up the House, as it were, and by sort of moving various people into different positions, by coming out with this very broad and important statement today, he's showing to the people, to the Catholics and believers that while he may not be changing any doctrine, he's certainly going to be changing the church, turning it into something that people want to believe in, a church people want to be part of.

You know, by starting at the top, it's going to trickle down to the many Catholics around the world who are disillusioned and have been for the last several years with the way the Catholic Church has been run.

BERMAN: One of the issues he takes on fairly directly is the issue of the so-called wafer wars in which Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are denied Holy Communion. Senator Ted Kennedy was often criticized for his stance on the issue as a Catholic. How big is this political statement in the document?

NADEAU: Well, I think he's saying no to hypocrisy. If you are going to be a Catholic, you need to be a Catholic, whether you are president of a country or have a high ranking position within in the politics of your own country. Of course, the pope is addressing the world with this statement, not just addressing certain countries.

He's definitely creating a church that he promised he would create. These are baby steps in a church with a huge number of problems that are going to take more than a couple documents to really change. He really has to get the people who are running the church for him to follow suit and to prove to the Catholics and to prove to him that they're following his lead.

BERMAN: There's an image that a lot of people are talking about this week, a striking image of Pope Francis embracing a man with a genetic skin condition. He is being called by a lot of people, the people's pope. I was talking to John Allen a little while ago. He said Pope Francis is putting the cool back in Catholic. I guess the question I'm wondering is if you're Pope Benedict who is still very much alive watching this, what do you think he's thinking?

NADEAU: Well, you know, there's no reason to think that Pope Benedict is completely pleased by this. This really is his doing. He felt that he was no longer in a position but with his health and his age to run the Catholic Church the way it needed to be run. He stepped aside of his own free going to and made way for the election of someone like Pope Francis.

So there's no reason to think that he's in any way saying wow, I wish I would have done a better job. In fact, he's probably taking a little credit right now for making the decision and allowing someone else to take his place. He said himself that he wasn't up to the job anymore. And you know, a lot of people think he did the right thing and did something that was probably difficult for him, but ultimately obviously very good for the Catholic Church -- John.

BERMAN: Barbie Nadeau in Rome, thank you so much. Love getting your perspective on this. Really appreciate it.

More world news now, she's afraid to return to Italy and for good reason. Amanda Knox still could be convicted of murder. Her retrial for the 2007 stabbing death of her British roommate is winding down in Florence. Italian prosecutors hoping the guilty verdict sticks this time.

They are demanding a 30-year prison sentence. Defense attorneys are going to give their closing arguments in December. A ruling not expected until January. Knox has been living in the United States since her original conviction was overturned in 2011 and said she would not return to Italy. A family attorney has said there's a chance the Italian government could request her extradition.

When we come back, maybe it was the food on the campaign trail. Another former White House regular becomes a vegan. What does President Clinton's White House chef think of Al Gore's new diet? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm John Berman in for Jake Tapper today. So Al Gore, a carnivore no more. The former vice president's eating habits are today's "Buried Lead." These are the stories we don't think are getting enough attention. If there is one thing that can never get enough attention, it's what Al Gore eats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (voice-over): Bill Clinton, Al Gore, the 1992 Democratic ticket. But 21 years later, you might say the Clinton/Gore theme song has gone from Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" to don't stop thinking about Tofurkey. They have gone from southern fried to southern fennel, from serving up political red meat to serving up no meat, no fish, no dairy. The news now, according to "Forbes" magazine, Al Gore has joined his running mate becoming a vegan a couple months ago.

WALTER SCHEIB, FORMER EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE WHITE HOUSE: It's like playing the piano and deciding one day I'm only going to use the white keys now. I'm not going to use the black and the white keys. It does take a little time to get used to it.

BERMAN: Walter Scheib served as White House chef for 11 years, cooking up meals for President Clinton back when he and his V.P. had broader dietary ranges.

SCHEIB: President Clinton, a little more diverse in his diet. Sort of a euphemism saying he ate pretty much everything, his diet probably not the best.

BERMAN: President Clinton described his updated diet to Dr. Sanjay Gupta in 2011.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I like the stuff I eat. I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now, I like.

BERMAN: But the vegan lifestyle isn't as new to the Clinton/Gore ticket as you might think.

SCHEIB: Chelsea Clinton became a vegan or very close, she going to tell you she didn't, but I was actually there with her and she was actually a vegan by the time she reached her senior year of high school. She came down and worked in our kitchens at the White House the summer of her senior year for a couple weeks.

BERMAN: It is a far cry from the fast food and short shorts that were such an indelible presence on her father's campaign in 1992. Actually, maybe it makes the short shorts thing a little better now. But we digress. In this week of gleeful national gluttony, it is important to note that our high level leadership has, for the most part, adopted high level nutrition.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' DINNER: They say diplomacy is matter of carrots and sticks and since Mrs. Obama got to the White House, so is dinner.

SCHEIB: Food at the White House didn't delineate along political lines but along gender lines.

BERMAN: Sure he might sneak into five guys for a burger every once in a while, but it does seem President Obama is mostly toeing the line. George W. Bush with all his working out always seemed fit. The only food that gave him trouble, the pretzel that he choked on.

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: When you're eating pretzels, chew before you swallow.

BERMAN: The menu in the White House has always been a bit fickle. George H.W. Bush hated broccoli. Ronald Reagan loved his jelly beans. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer.

SCHEIB: We try to keep them on the straight and narrow in terms of a healthy diet, but he is the president and eats what he chooses to eat.

BERMAN: As President Obama gets deeper into his second term with sagging approval ratings, maybe he should consider the Clinton vegan path. It might not help with human voters, but other constituencies going to love it.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You have my blessing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So the "Washington Post" says that Al Gore has been a vegan for the last two months or so. Not clear what motivated his diet change.

Some other news to tell you about, Hollywood hot shot, Aaron Milchin has produced a ton of awesome movies, "Pretty Woman, L.A. Confidential, Fight Club," among them, on and on the list goes. But there is other news he's involved in. He didn't produce any James Bond films. He didn't have to. He lived them.

He told a news program in Israel that he was a spy for the Jewish state before he got into films. He said his secret missions included negotiating arms deals and helping Israel build its nuclear program. "The Guardian" reports that Israeli's President Shimon Peres recruited him in the 1960s. At some point he left the spy business for showbiz. I'm sure "Pretty Woman" helped him become a spy or vice versa.

Make sure to follow the show on Twitter @theleadcnn. I'm John Berman. Check out our show page at CNN.com/thelead for video, blogs and extras. That's all for THE LEAD. I'm John Berman sitting in for Jake Tapper today. I turn you over to Jim Acosta in "THE SITUATION ROOM."