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Captured American Begs President Obama For Help; Shipping Giants Late With Holiday Deliveries; Man In Drag Breaches Airport Security; Did "Anchorman 2" Fall Short Of The Hype?; Feds: "Knockout" Attack Was A Hate Crime

Aired December 26, 2013 - 19:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Next, an American hostage begs the president for help.

WARREN WEINSTEIN, KIDNAPPED BY AL QAEDA MILITANTS: Mr. Obama, you're a family man, and so you understand the deep mental anxiety and anguish that I have been experiencing.

LEMON: His close friend joins us next, in an OUTFRONT exclusive.

Plus, UPS and FedEx under fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I waited around for hours and hours to show up and it never can.

LEMON: How many Christmas gifts are still MIA?

And another victim of the so-called knockout game. Why the federal government is now involved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His face was swollen on this side. You see three plates here. You know, he's sucking out of a straw.



LEMON: Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, in for Erin Burnett.

Tonight, American held hostage, Warren Weinstein, was abducted by al Qaeda in Pakistan two years ago and now in a new video says he feels abandoned and forgotten by his own country. In the video released Christmas day, Weinstein pleads with President Obama to negotiate for his release, which the U.S. says it will not do. CNN's Jill Dougherty at the State Department with the very latest now.


WARREN WEINSTEIN, AMERICAN KIDNAPPED BY AL QAEDA: Nine years ago, I came to Pakistan to help my government.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this 13-minute video released on Christmas day, 72-year-old Warren Weinstein urges President Barack Obama to negotiate with al Qaeda for his freedom.

WEINSTEIN: Now when I need my government, it seems I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.

DOUGHERTY: CNN cannot guarantee authenticity of the video which appears to have been made under duress. Last year, al Qaeda leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri boasted capturing Weinstein, a contractor for the U.S. agency for International Development. Weinstein was abducted in 2011 from his residence in Pakistan. Al Zawahiri called on Muslims to kidnap westerners in order to free Sheikh Omar Abdul Rakman, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. And there were other demands, releasing all prisoners in Guantanamo and stopping bombings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.

WEINSTEIN: My name is Warren Weinstein.

DOUGHERTY: Al Qaeda has released other videos with Weinstein in which he appeals to the Obama administration. But U.S. officials say their policy is not to negotiate with al Qaeda and al Qaeda's attempt to use Weinstein as a bargaining chip makes his situation difficult.

BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The demand of his captors is the release of Omar Abdul Rakman, the man responsible for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. It's just not going to happen.

DOUGHERTY: Weinstein says he thinks of his family every moment in captivity.

WEINSTEIN: I would like to ask my family not to give up hope. Unless you continue to try to get President Obama and his administration to actively pursue my release, we may never see each other again.


DOUGHERTY: Thursday, the State Department told CNN it is still trying to verify that video, but that Weinstein should be released and especially at this holiday season -- Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much, Jill. Appreciate that. I am joined now exclusively by Laurie Wiseberg, a close friend of Warren Weinstein. She is the only person outside his family that Weinstein mentions in a letter he recently sent to the media asking for help. Laurie, thank you for joining us. When you see your dear friend in that video, what goes through your mind?

LAURIE WISEBERG, FRIEND OF WARREN WEINSTEIN: I'm overwhelmed. I think it is a terrible thing that he has been in captivity almost two and a half years and I very much hope that the American government can do whatever is possible to get him released. Warren is a person --

LEMON: Continue on. I'm sorry.

WISEBERG: I'm sorry. Warren is a person who has devoted much of his life to human rights and to developments, to trying to change the world, to make it a little better for people all over the world. And to then be, to find himself in this kind of situation is a very sad thing.

LEMON: When you look at the video, it is a dramatic change from the prior videos we've seen of him in captivity. He is suffering from a heart condition and acute asthma and in the letter he wrote -- to the media he said this. Given my age and my health, I don't have time on my side. How concerned are you for him?

WISEBERG: I'm very concerned. He is 72 years old. Quite honestly, I didn't recognize him in the picture. He has changed so dramatically from the person he used to be in terms of appearance and I would hope something could be done so he has a chance to be reunited with his family, his wife, his children and grandchildren and not to have to die in a foreign country far away from those he loves.

LEMON: Speaking of his family, have you spoken with his family recently and if so, how are they doing?

WISEBERG: I have not spoken with his family recently. I talk with his wife some months ago and she was quite in despair, but hoping very much that he would in fact be released. That the American government would do whatever was possible to secure his release.

LEMON: What is your message to your dear friend?

WISEBERG: Hang on, warren. There are people out here who remember you, who think about you, who love you and really want you to come home. So if you can hang on until that happens, that would be fabulous.

LEMON: Why do you think he mentioned you in the letter?

WISEBERG: I don't know specifically. We go back a long way. In the early 1970s, when we were both young academics, we worked together on human rights. And warren was one of the people who hemmed me found an organization called Human Rights Internet, which I ran for more than 20 years. We wrote together. We did some editing, some writing together. I must say in the last few years we've lost touch with each other.

But he's always been one of my good friends and I still consider him a very dear friend and I would very much like to see him released and be able to come back and enjoy the rest of his life.

LEMON: Ms. Wiseberg, the State Department says they're doing all they can. Do you think that they're doing enough?

WISEBERG: I don't know what they're doing. I'm afraid I'm not privy to what they are or are not doing. But I would just hope that they would do their utmost to see that somebody who has worked for the American government, he worked with USAID. He worked in an agency that has been working on development in Pakistan that was very much trying to support the poor people of Pakistan, to try to get some development in that country.

I would hope what America also believes in, this he would do everything possible to get him out of this terrible situation he is in. I think they owe it to him and I think they owe it to all American citizens who put their lives on the line that they could count on the government when they are in a situation of this sort.

LEMON: Our thoughts are with you, with him and his family and friends. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

WISEBERG: Thank you.

LEMON: Still to come tonight on CNN, UPS and FedEx customers outraged that their packages didn't arrive in time for Christmas. What the companies plan to do to make it right.

Plus, a million-dollar, multimillion-dollar security system is supposed to keep Newark airports safe. Why did a man in drag make his way on to the runway?

And Justin Bieber tells the internet he is quitting showbizness. Is it too good to be true?


LEMON: Santa Claus came late this Christmas for UPS and FedEx customers across America with widespread complaints of packages arriving late, some including myself, still waiting. The companies say the late Thanksgiving combined with the fallout from an ice storm earlier this month could be to blame for holding up deliveries. CNN's Alina Machado has more now.



ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a delivery this Atlanta woman was hoping she would get before Christmas, not the day after.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's anti-climactic, I think, you know. I had to run out the day before Christmas. Get my daughter something else.

MACHADO: It is a story we've seen play out throughout the country after thousands of gifts that were supposed to be delivered before Christmas sat in UPS warehouses instead. This pretty much sums it all up.

JULIE STRACHAN, UPS CUSTOMER: I waited around for hours and hours to show up and it never did.

MACHADO: In a statement released Wednesday, UPS said in part, the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed. No deliveries or pick-ups were scheduled for Christmas Day. UPS resumed shipping on Thursday and said they hope the complete deliveries by Friday. Still some in San Francisco didn't feel like waiting anymore so they headed out to pick up the packages themselves.

Back on the east coast, Vincent Prator was still waiting for his wife's gift to arrive. He has no choice but to wait it out.

VINCENT PRATOR, UPS CUSTOMER: I think people had to be a little understanding. Sometimes you can't get everything you want the way you want it and I think you have to be a little patient. I'm sure they're trying as hard as they can.

MACHADO: UPS was not alone. Fed-Ex also says they had some late deliveries, but they called them quote, "isolated." Both companies said they were handling hundreds of millions of shipment in addition compressed holiday time frame since Thanksgiving was about a week later this year. And remember the ice storm from a couple weeks back? Well, they say that didn't help either. But some customers are still angry.


MACHADO (on camera): Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because the people that I ordered it from guaranteed it.


MACHADO: A Congressman from Connecticut is calling on UPS to issue shipping refunds to those customers affected, but at this point, it is unclear what if anything UPS will be doing for these customers. We do know that at least has offered to issue shipping refunds and also give gift cards to some of the customers affected by the backlog -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Alina, thank you very much.

A high-tech security system at Newark Airport apparently wasn't enough. Not enough to nab a cross dressing man who hopped a fence late last night and wandered right on to the runway. Newark is one of the busiest airports in the country and it is raising some troubling questions about its security. Alexandra Field has more.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A $100 million have been spent on securing the perimeters of all New York area airports, but it wasn't enough to stop one intruder from getting on to the runway at Newark Liberty International. Two officials say the suspect was coming from the New Jersey turnpike and jumped the airport's security fence. He made his way across two runways before reaching Gate 70 at Terminal C where an airline employee stopped him.

(on camera): Police arrested him and charged him with trespassing. They say the 24-year-old Jersey City man was wearing women's clothes and that he told them he had been in someone's car when he got spoofed and ran off. Official say planes were never in danger, but the whole episode raises questions about the airport's expensive security system.

JEFF PRICE AVIATION MANAGEMENT PROFESSOR, MSU: When the system is working and working effectively, it becomes a good layer of security, an additional layer and a layer that goes above the regulatory standards.

FIELD (voice-over): The multimillion-dollar question, how did the suspect get through a gate without getting stopped? The system includes radar, motion detecting cameras and other technology. It is meant to signal police when the perimeter is breached. The same system came under fire in 2012 at New York's JFK Airport when a jet skier who ran out of fuel was able to climb out of the water and on to the tarmac again undetected.

The New York-New Jersey Port Authority put out a statement saying, quote, "The preliminary investigation indicates the airport's perimeter intrusion detection system worked properly during the incident." The statement goes on to say, investigators are questioning employees, quote, "to determine why it took an unacceptably long time to locate the suspect."

GLENN WINN, FORMER SECURITY DIRECTOR, UNITED AIRLINES: It is very disturbing because you have this system that has been installed and tested over the last several years and there continue to be different breaches at the different airports in the port authority jurisdiction.


LEMON: Alexandra Field live tonight at Newark Airport. I saw what the port authority said earlier. Do they have anything else to say for themselves tonight?

FIELD: Well, Don, tonight they tell us that they have reviewed hours of surveillance video and they tell us they've located an image of the suspect jumping over that fence. So they are saying that in fact, this system worked and an alarm sounded when the suspect jumped over the fence. From here the investigation will focus the person who was monitoring the cameras and the alarms.

LEMON: Kind of strange with such an expensive system. No image and now they know. Thank you very much, Alexandra. Appreciate that.

Still to come tonight, "Anchorman 2" was one of the most hyped movies of the year. Did it live up to the hype?

And McDonald's tells its employees to stay away from fast food. No, really.


LEMON: Stiff competition at this year's Christmas Box Office with "The Hobbit" holding on to its number one spot for the third straight week. For many, the big surprise was "Anchorman 2," which came in third place yesterday. Unless you live in a cave, you too have been bombarded by the "Anchorman 2" marketing blitz leading up to this movie. So was it all worth the hype?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first one was so quotable. This was wacky from start to finish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were some moments in the movie that were absolutely hilarious but not Steve Correll.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to see "Anchorman?"


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a little over the top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like it maybe a little over hyped. I literally heard like three girls walking by no more "Anchorman" stuff.


LEMON: Scotch, scotch, scotch. Rob Shuter is here, the host of "The Gossip Table" on VH1, which is on my DVR. I'm going to call in one day. So this marketing blitz has been relentless. I want to show you before we talk a couple of the places that Will Ferrell a.k.a. Ron Burgundy popped up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is mo-vember for mustaches.

WILL FERRELL: Do you go with the fuller mustaches?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Do you see any Ron Burgundy here?

FERRELL: Pretty good sax back here. Everyone is watching. Stay classy Winnipeg.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which of course in Latin means?

FERRELL: Coming in. Thank you. Am I supposed to read that?


LEMON: Is that like -- we won't say that. I wonder if that helped sell any tickets and I asked because to me, listen. I'm an anchor man, right. I loved the "Anchorman" movie. I love Will Ferrell, but I felt I had already seen the movie. It feels anti-climactic.

ROB SHUTER, HOST, VH1'S "THE GOSSIP TABLE": A lot of industry people that I spoke to say they might have done too much press if that's at all believable. He did so many different shows that a lot of people say they felt hike they saw the movie even though they didn't actually buy a ticket.

LEMON: So there is such a thing as too much press?

SHUTER: They did a lot of press in character. I think this was a little off putting for some people that haven't seen the initial movie. They felt a little bit left out of the jokes and the end result is the movie came in number three. And I think they were hoping for number one. The numbers are still good. Christmas day is a massive day.

LEMON: Part of the reason for the segment, I was home with my family watching, all these movies are opening one after the other. I wonder how everything did. I want to compare it to "Anchorman 2" to the original back in 2004. The original made $36.5 million in its first five days. Adjusted for inflation it comes to $47 million. According to Box Office mojo, it only made about $40 million in its first five days. How did that happen?

SHUTER: That's the big question. We were saying that this movie did fine. It did do fine until you compare it like with the original. They were trying to build on this original movie. They thought they had a blockbuster on their hands. They were putting out numbers much, much higher. I think they'll be shocked at these numbers. People didn't turn up. New people didn't turn up to see it. Plus, people who love the original did not turn up or have not gone yet. We're just talking about one day.

LEMON: Not a failure.

SHUTER: On Christmas day. Not everybody goes to see movies.

LEMON: But there are a lot of movies open. To be fair here, there was very serious competition, "The Hobbit," hugely popular. "The Wolf of Wall Street," highly anticipated. Can we talk that up?

SHUTER: I think "The Wolf" was a fascinating in a movie. A lot of people wanting to see Leo. It's his fifth collaboration for director.

LEMON: What about these reviews? I'm hearing respected people were like, we don't like this.

SHUTER: A lot of people do not like this movie. I think a lot of people are very intrigued. They're very smart to put this out there. Leo is naked for a lot of the movie. You know what? Maybe not for you.

LEMON: Come on!

SHUTER: He has talked about it. He said there was no stunt double. That is all Leo.

LEMON: It wasn't like dirk. The reviews, what I read was, and some of the reviews, is that people, it is very highly anticipated. Once people get to see it they may not like it so much and it may go down. Other people said I love it.

SHUTER: It is 2:59. It is long. It just got short of getting that very, very x-rating. They had to cut a couple of sex scenes. Word of mouth has been good and Leo has an enormous fan base.

LEMON: And "The Hobbit," you cannot go wrong with it.

SHUTER: I saw it. Loved it. Happy holidays.

LEMON: Thank you. Happy holidays. Always a pleasure to see you. Thank you, Rob Shuter.

Still to come, another victim of the so-called knockout game, but was this attack a hate crime? Plus the biggest blunders of 2013. We're counting them down.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I am the first to acknowledge that the web site that was supposed to do this all in a seamless way has had way more glitches than I think are acceptable, and we've got people working around the clock to do that. And we've seen some significant progress, but until it's 100 percent, I'm not going to be satisfied.



LEMON: Welcome back, everyone to the second half of OUTFRONT. More than 200,000 people still without power in Michigan, New England and Canada, wintry weather slammed the area, knocking down trees and power lines and leaving families without electricity for the holidays. With below freezing temperatures, hundreds spent Christmas at Red Cross shelters. Power crews are working around the clock, but may not be able to restore lines until this weekend.

Now to a supersize PR blunder, McDonald's has taken down its employee web site resource line. Its latest internal tip, stay away from fast food? The site advised employees to avoid the chain's signature cheese burger and fries and opt for healthier options like a sandwich and salad. This isn't the first embarrassment.

It also encouraged McDonald's workers to get a second job and suggest that their monthly budgets should not include money for extravagances like heat. The company says the site is being re-evaluated.

A Texas man has been charged with a federal hate crime in connection with a racially motivated so-called knockout assault against an elderly black man. We've seen similar videos from across the country recently and you're looking at video of another such attack where people are trying to knock out unsuspecting victims with a single punch and often try to catch the attack on video. The victim in this case suffered two jaw fractures and was hospitalized for several days.

CNN's Poppy Harlow joins me now.

Poppy, what can you tell us more about this case?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Right. So, this was just unsealed today. Federal officials have charged a 27-year-old. His name is Conrad Alvin Barrett. He's from Katy, Texas.

They've charged him with a federal hate crime. They say he punched a 79-year-old African-American man back in late November right in the jaw. So hard, don, that it fractured his jaw. He had to have metal plates put in two places.

But the complaint goes on to say that Barrett allegedly laughed knockout and then fled to his vehicle, fled the scene them charged him with one count of violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The complaint also says that Barrett allegedly record himself committing this act but also some other videos.

I want to read you a quote from the complaint, from one of the videos. And it reads, on the video described by the off-duty investigator, Barrett states, quote, "The plan is to see if write to hit a black person, would this be nationally televised?"

So, the question is why? Where does race fit in here and why would he say something like that?

I've spoken throughout the day extensively with Barrett's lawyer. He wouldn't comment on the issue of race but he said, his client has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, that he is on medicine and he said, quote, "mental health issues definitely played a part in anything that occurred but he wouldn't say if his client did this or not. He hasn't pleaded yet.

LEMON: Yes. But that -- of course, he's -- whatever defense he can use for his client, he's going to say that. But, listen, the complaint, we're going to talk about race with the panel here. But the complaint mentions other video in which Barrett uses the "N" word and he says, quote, "states that African-Americans haven't fully experienced the blessing of evolution."

What's the FBI saying about that? And what is the penalty if he is convicted if it's hate crime?

HARLOW: So, if he is indicted, and if he is convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a quarter million-dollar fine. He had an appearance in court today. He'll have a public hearing tomorrow where the lawyer tells me we'll learn more. But I asked the lawyer about these clearly racist remarks in the affidavit.

And he said two things, well, two things. One, the affidavit doesn't mention the mental issues. So, that will come up in the hearing tomorrow. But he also said, this is very bizarre to me. We want to more about this. He said his client studied anthropology. And that he took an anthropology course by a professor who said something almost a direct quote to what you just read about the, quote/unquote, "blessings of evolution."

So how or does that college course play in here at all? That may be part of the defense.

LEMON: He's using that as an excuse?

HARLOW: We don't know.

LEMON: OK. HARLOW: I want to show you what the FBI is saying. They released this statement that read, "It is unimaginable in this day and age that one could be drawn to violently attack another based on the color of their skin. We remind all citizens that we are protected under the law from such racially motivated attacks and encourage everyone to report such crime to the FBI."

Clearly, here, he's being charged with the federal hate crime very, very serious. And we're going to hear a lot more from the attorney representing Barrett tomorrow.

LEMON: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: You're welcome.

LEMON: I appreciate you following this for us.

We want to turn now to CNN legal analyst Paul Callan and CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill. They both join me now.

Thank you, guys, for joining me.

My first question to you, Paul. You heard what Poppy said there. She told us the possible defense according to Barrett's lawyer will be mental health. How strong is the federal case here?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It looks very strong. I mean, the statement that was quoted by the prosecutor is that he said he wanted to attack a black person to get on national television. Well, he certainly succeeded in accomplishing that and he's probably going to be watching reruns for 10 years in federal prison, because it looks like a very, very strong case.

And, frankly, unless he is pleading the insanity defense, the fact that he is bipolar or he suffers from mental illness is not a defense from this crime. You would have to prove you were legally insane for this to be a defense to the crime.

LEMON: Mark, this case turns a stereotype on its head. It's an isolated incident. Or, I don't know, is there more going on here?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there's more going on here. I think what it speaks back to is this narrative that was developing a few months ago that there was this surge of black youth running around the country beating up innocent white people.

The truth is this knockout, quote/unquote, "game" as they called it, is a vicious thing. It's cowardly. It's unacceptable. But it's really happening across racial lines. Black kids are doing it. White kids are doing it.

There's no racial pattern. This is just irresponsible dangerous behavior.

LEMON: And as we have been reporting here, you've record on it with me several times, Marc. We're not even sure that there is such a thing called a knockout game because according to investigators, police departments, this has been happening since 1992 and other iterations, other names.

HILL: Exactly. When you look at crime reports, when you look at anecdotal evidence, and you look at the actual date, young people have been attacking people for at least 20 years now. There's no knockout game.

What the term knockout game allows the media to do, and certain people engaged in a moral panic to do, is to create a very neat term for a set of practices that are unpredictable, that are varied. They don't have a common thread across them. There's a lot of stuff happening here. And calling it a knockout game is simply too easy.

LEMON: Paul, this isn't the only so-called knockout incident being linked to a hate crime. How much more closely are prosecutors now going to be looking at this for any sign of racial motivation from here on out?

CALLAN: I know, Don, from my own experience as a prosecutor here in New York City, when you see a pattern developing with respect to crime and sometimes and I can't -- I have to agree with the professor. Sometimes the statistics just aren't there. But certainly, this is being reported in the press.

So, prosecutors are going to be far more alert to it, and I think you're going to see more prosecutions for these knockout crimes. On this fact, I've got stay fact that he was a 79-year-old elderly man I think is probably the most important factor. I mean, he was a helpless elderly person being brutally beaten for this motive of getting on national television.

LEMON: I was just going to say, the fact that he wanted to get on national television, it has been reported that people are doing it just for fun, or as, you know, some dare to their friend -- does it make a difference that he is doing this just to be on television? Does it make it any less of a hate crime?

CALLAN: Well, no. I think it makes it even more reprehensible. And I think this is sort of intersection of racism and social media, because it's a racist crime, but he is also motivated by the idea to make himself famous which is easy to do because he can film his crime and post it on the Internet.

So, we're entering a brave new world of reprehensible crimes that are being prosecuted in the United States.

LEMON: Marc, you know, in just this conversation and others you've been very critical of the media. Are we giving him what he wanted for this type of incident?

HILL: I'm afraid so. His primary goal was to get on TV and we're here talking about it. And I'm just getting guilty of it. You know, I don't know how to handle it.

On the hand, we have a moral responsibility to cover stuff like this, because it is happening in civic pockets all around the country. But on the other hand, we have to be careful not to over-glorify the person committing the crime. This is disgusting.

I think the most disturbing thing was he said it took him a week to work up the courage to do this. And what kind of courage does it take to attack a 79-year-old helpless man? We can't get him too much --

CALLAN: You know, Don, the flip side of it, too, is covering it provides a warning to other kids out there, that they're going to be prosecuted. They're going to wind up in federal prison.

So, I don't think it is such a bad thing that we're covering it. I think it's a good thing because it sends that message.

LEMON: And there have been people who are injured.

HILL: As long as we don't glorify him.

LEMON: Right. Alleged perpetrators injured and are spending time many jail because of it.

Thank you guys. Happy holidays. We appreciate you coming here the day after Christmas. Thank you.

Still to come, Anthony Weiner says 2013 didn't go the way he hoped. But was his the biggest blunder of the year? Our panel is going to weigh in, next.

And later in the show, Justin Bieber says he is ready to hang up his microphone. Is he telling the truth?


LEMON: Mr. Bill Weir, I see you've got the striped tie memo there on the day after Christmas. I haven't had a chance to officially welcome you on television to CNN. But welcome.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you. Did you get the same tie from my mom?

LEMON: I did. Your mom sent me a tie.

WEIR: It looks better on you. But thank you. It is great to be here filling in for A.C.

LEMON: What's coming up?

WEIR: Well, we're going to have the very latest on this ice storm. A deadly ice storm stretches from Maine to Michigan, leaving a half million homes without power.

Also, a stunning new study that suggests that hundreds of thousands of people maybe undergoing a very common knee surgery unnecessarily. It's a big money maker. It's like a $4 billion a year surgical method, but it turns out that a kiss from your mom on your knee may be just as effective. We'll talk to a doctor who thinks this study could change the way knee injuries are treated.

And, Anderson, through the miracle of videotape, looks back through the biggest scandals and lies in 2013, including Manti Te'o, Lance Armstrong, Paula Deen, Rob Ford, among the rogues gallery.

Those stories and the countdown continues of the viewer's choice for the top Ridiculist of 2013. Tonight, number three, the night Wolf Blitzer hijacked the Ridiculist.

I know if you were available to vote you would have picked that one.

LEMON: Thank you, Bill. I appreciate it. I would have. Thank you, sir. Have a good one.

WEIR: You too.

LEMON: We'll be watching.

All week long, we're taking a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the past year. And I'm getting the final word on the biggest blunder from 2013.

And there was no shortage of gaffes. But what was the worst one?

Here to make the case is our senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter. Brian, of course, is a smart one. Mediaite's Joe Concha is the dapper one. And then founder of, Mel Robbins, the gorgeous one.


LEMON: You don't mind being called gorgeous, that's not sexist, is it?

ROBBINS: No, please, every day when you're a mother of three, you never hear that.

LEMON: And then there is Dean Obeidallah, who is just a columnist for "The Daily Beast."

OK. We're going to talk about --


LEMON: I have to come up with something for you that is equally as insulting as I complimented the --

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, THE DAILY BEAST: You've already got it. Just in your tone. You've already done it.

LEMON: All right. Great, great, great.

All right. Since I'm insulting you, I'm going to start with you then. What's the biggest blunder of 2013?

OBEIDALLAH: It doesn't even need much to say it because we're all aware of it. I'll give my little spiel and you can rule in my fare right there, judge Lemon there. The Obamacare Web site rollout fiasco.

And let me say this. If I was president and there was a program known affectionately by my name, like Obeidallah-care or Dean-aid, I would make sure that Web site worked perfectly.

LEMON: People cannot pronounce it if it was Obeidallah -- they're like what?

OBEIDALLAH: It doesn't matter --

LEMON: Roll the clip, roll the clip.

OBEIDALLAH: Roll the clip, everyone knows about this, boo-ya! Play it. There we go.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am the first to acknowledged that was supposed to do this all in a seamless way has had way more glitches than I think are acceptable, and we've got people working around the clock to do that. And we've seen some significant progress. Until it is 100 percent, I'm not going to be satisfied.


LEMON: Did you say boo-ya before the clip? 2003 called and wants his word back. But go on.

OBEIDALLAH: I'm sorry. I rest my case. What more do you need? The program is three and a half years ago --

ROBBINS: You've got nothing else, that's why you're saying it.

OBEIDALLAH: Three and a half years ago, and the rollout comes out how that and the Web site was a night player. It was an AOL dial-up Web site at some point.

LEMON: All right.

OBEIDALLAH: It took two months to at least get working functionally. The biggest fiasco.

LEMON: Can anyone make the AOL dial-up sound, like that -- remember that?


Brian Stelter, do you remember that. So, why is he wrong?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Of all the ways to embarrass me, I won't embarrass myself that way.

LEMON: Why is he wrong? STELTER: Well, it's too predictable. You know, that blunder is too predictable. It's too obvious. We've spent the whole year talking about health care.

I for one am tired of it. The website seems to be working better now. So, do you want me to tell you my pick?

LEMON: No. Not yet. I'm got go Millie Mel to find out why Dean Obeidallah is wrong.

ROBBINS: That was my nickname in high school. Thank you for that, Don.

It's an IT problem. I mean, we've all experienced issues with technology. So, I think on some level, this is just a phone in kind of problem. And as Brian said, we've all forgotten about it. We're sick of talking about it.

So, no way was this the biggest one.

LEMON: All right. I see Mr. Concha shaking his head. He's in agreement.

Since you are chomping at the bit, Brian Stelter, what is your number one blunder of the year.

STELTER: My biggest blunder is right here in New York. It involved one of the candidates for mayor that never should have run. Let's roll the clip.


ANTHONY WEINER (D-NY), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Look, I made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down. I'm running for mayor because I've been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life. And I hope I get a second chance to work for you.

HUMA ABEDIN, WEINER'S WIFE: We love this city. And no one will work harder to make it better than Anthony.

ELIOT SPITZER (D), FORMER NY GOVERNOR: Look, I failed, big time. I hurt a lot of people. When you dig yourself a hole you can lie the rest of your life or do something positive. That's why I'm running.


LEMON: So much to say onto that.

STELTER: I could not pick just one. These two candidates for these two offices, you know, deciding to run for these jobs -- those were the two biggest blunders of the year.

ROBBINS: Those are gifts. If you're in the media business, are you kidding me? LEMON: I know everybody else is thinking this -- when I saw Anthony, I couldn't help but think about the underwear pictures. Then I saw, you know, is anybody else going, creepy!

JOE CONCHA, MEDIAITE: I definitely wasn't thinking of the underwear pictures.

LEMON: Don't get me wrong. That's not what I meant.

CONCHA: Right, here's why that cannot be the biggest blunder. At one point, two of these guys, these clowns, were actually leading in the polls. Weiner was and Spitzer was. So, the fact that it wasn't such a bad blunder, a decision to run for office when they actually could have would have won. They actually were leading at one point.

OBEIDALLAH: Yes. Quick thing, Don. Brian, I don't know what did you at "The New York Times". When you can't pick two things, it's one blunder. You picked two. And it's so ridiculously unfair. You double barreled against us.

LEMON: Dean, I'm judge Lemon.

OBEIDALLAH: I'm sorry, judge Lemon. I'm sorry.

LEMON: I make the rules and I said that Brian could pick two.

OBEIDALLAH: That's ridiculous, judge Lemon.

LEMON: OK. Mr. Concha, your turn.

CONCHA: Yes, yes. This was fairly recently. It happened on a network that competes with this one, MSNBC. Martin Bashir who used to have a show there at 4:00. He said the following. Let's see if we can roll that clip.


MARTIN BASHIR, TV HOST: When Mrs. Palin invoked slavery, she doesn't just prove her rank ignorance, she confirms that if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate.

Last Friday on this broadcast, I made some comments which were deeply offensive and directed at Governor Sarah Palin. I wanted to take this opportunity to say sorry to Mrs. Palin.


LEMON: Do you want to explain what those comments were so I can make real decision here?

CONCHA: OK. I'll try to make this. It is national television. He basically recommended someone should defecate in the former vice presidential candidate's mouth, a female for that matter. And this was scripted, this is where the problem comes in, that he actually thought about this and put night teleprompter and a segment producer, an executive producer and a copy editor all approved these comments.

So he could apologize all he wants. Once the toothpaste is out of tube on something like that, it costs a job. And in this case, Bashir resigned, probably in a forced manner, just a couple of weeks.

LEMON: Mel, I'm going to let you jump in, but I want to ask, as I was watching you guys, Stelter, did you wince when he said that? Am I right?

STELTER: I was wincing the whole time.

LEMON: Yes, you were? OK, I mean, it caused me to go, did he really -- that's what he insinuated from that speech, Mel.

ROBBINS: Well, you know, sticks and stones may break your bones but names -- calling me names will never hurt me. I mean, it is still just words he apologized. I don't think it's the biggest blunder because I've got that one coming next.

LEMON: All right. Since you're so excited about your blunder --

ROBBINS: I'm not excited. It's a terrible thing.

LEMON: Is sit really?

ROBBINS: Horrible.

LEMON: All right --

ROBBINS: The entire George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin travesty was the biggest blunder from the very evening and him getting out of the car, to the way the case was investigated to the six weeks between the night that Trayvon Martin was killed and it took Zimmerman, to the way the media reported it to the fact that this was then dragged out into a trial that became the most watched TV for a large part of 2013, only to end in a verdict that left the nation completely unresolved about what had happened?

I think everything about how this case was handled from the investigation, all the way to the verdict and, by the way, at the moment we're talking right now, George Zimmerman just got his guns back from when they were taken a couple months ago. So, this whole thing -- biggest blunder of 2013.

LEMON: OK. But you got the clip.


LEMON: This guy is so fired up --

ROBBINS: I got so fired up --

CONCHA: You blundered on the clip. Disqualified.

LEMON: This is the biggest blunder of this particular segment.

No, this is a serious story. Let's look at the clip and we'll talk more.


COURT CLERK: We the jury find George Zimmerman not guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a stutter, Nancy. Shock and awe, frankly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they put on a terrific case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was ridiculous. These prosecutors were so out of their league --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of the heat of the moment and the stand your ground. He had a right to defend himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This verdict will not define Trayvon. We will define Trayvon.


LEMON: So, I'm going to ask -- I mean, do you think -- I mean, this was pretty surprising to a lot of people, but for those of us that are watching the trial, the prosecution really didn't do as well of a job as most people thought they should have done.

Brian Stelter, you're with "The New York Times." What was the assessment then?

STELTER: Well, you know, this was a case that did get the whole country talking. I -- but many people, maybe even most people disagreed with the verdict, but we do have to, at the end of the day, believe in our justice system, you know, to say it's the biggest blunder of the year, across the country means we don't have faith in our justice system.

LEMON: OK. Anybody else want to weigh in before I make my decision?

CONCHA: Yes, I'm just slightly confused as to who Mel chose for the blunder. Brian got two. Did Mel just get nine blunders --


ROBBINS: I took an entire 18-month period. Well, everybody, everybody blundered that that was associated. So, the prosecution, the verdict wasn't surprising. I sat in the courtroom for six weeks and covered it for this network and for HLN and they didn't have the case. They overcharged it.

Everything how they handle that travesty was a blunder.

CONCHA: So everybody is the answer.




CONCHA: Just want to clarify before judge --

ROBBINS: We're arguing in an unfair -- all women do this, don't we? We do whatever we need to win in order to win the argument.

CONCHA: My wife watches this show. I'm not commenting on it.

OBEIDALLAH: Don, the Obamacare Web site, millions of people impacted. Millions - anybody with a cold has a problem because of it, OK?

ROBBINS: Grab for straws, go for it.

LEMON: All right. Here we go.

God, this is going to be a tough one. Are you guys ready?


LEMON: OK. So here is what I think. Hmmmm. This is a tough one. Can I have a tie producers? No? Yes? No? I guess not.

OK. Here is what I'm going to say. Think the biggest blunder of 2013, I think Mel is right. I think it was the George Zimmerman verdict, because it was a case that got the entire country and if you look at George Zimmerman's antics now. Listen, he was found not guilty. People, even the jurors were looking back going hey, what did we do? Do we make the right decision? Mel?

ROBBINS: Some of them are saying publicly after the verdict they tried every way that they could under the law to find him guilty of something, and the evidence just wasn't there. I'm sure it's heart breaking to now see the way this putz, putting it nicely, as nicely as I can on CNN, is going about life. I mean, it's sort of like the Casey Anthony trial. We all felt this chick is guilty, and you can't nail her for it.

LEMON: Yes. I think people want -- I think people thought that he would be found guilty of something and that didn't happen.

Dean, you seemed really upset by this, why?

OBEIDALLAH: Well, I do because I lost again. That's why, Don. It's really that simple.

LEMON: I thought you were upset about something serious about the case.

OBEIDALLAH: I was upset with the Trayvon -- the verdict, definitely. I'm also upset that you're biased because you haven't gone to the Obamacare Web site because you have insurance through your employer, so you don't need to. You don't realize the impact it's having on millions of people.

So, I know I lost but I'm just throwing a last pitch in there.

CONCHA: I'm impressed we were able to work defecate and putz into the same segment. So, for that, we all win.

LEMON: There is nothing about -- you're supposed to be a gracious loser, not a sore loser.

Thank you.



LEMON: Bitter much. Dean Obeidallah, thank you.


LEMON: There is more where that came from. Tomorrow night's edition of final word, the biggest implosion.

Still to come tonight, one of the world's most popular singers announces his retirement, but does he mean it?


LEMON: Justin Bieber said he was retiring on Christmas Eve. The Beebs tweeted this, "Beloved believers, I'm officially retiring." His fans panicked and begged hip to stay no show biz despite the fact that it was the second time in is many weeks that Justin announced that he was quitting.

On December 18th, he also announced he was leaving show biz. That's the day the movie "Believe" opened over seas. And in case, you're wondering, this case coincided with the domestic release of the movie.

Yes, he wanted attention while he promoted his film because an hour after the first tweet, he posted this. "The media talks a lot about me. They make up a lot of lies and want me to fail but I'm never leaving you. Being a believer is a lifestyle."

Stop laughing, guys. To be fair, it was him, not the media, who first reported he was retiring and, of course, Justin is not the first person to use a retirement for self-promotion. Jay-Z did it. Johnny Depp, Hugh Grant, Jack Nicholson, Amanda Bynes, Jackie Chan, Chris Brown and many, many others.

We can go on here. They announced or eluded to an impending retirement while promoting a project to call it off years, weeks, even hours later.

So did it work for Justin? Not so much. His movie "Believe" opened to just a million dollars over Christmas, 14th place at the box office.

"AC360" starts right now.

WEIR: And Anderson not retiring, just taking the night off. I'm Bill Weir, filling in. And tonight, how millions are handling a holiday on ice with power lines down from Michigan to Maine, roads too dangerous to drive.

I'll also tell you what's happening now, who's about to get hit again. Also, this wouldn't happen if Santa, UPS and FedEx scrambling to deliver what they could not deliver in time for Christmas. You'll see how they explain missing the big day for so many people.

And later, two groups of people in pain. One gets a very common kind of knee surgery, the other gets a phony operation. Which group do you think does better? Oh, the answer will surprise you.

But we begin with this dangerous holiday weather, deadly weather.