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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Bill Clinton Hitting Campaign Trial for Grimes; Nugent Sort of Apologizes to Obama; Book Claims Monogamy is a Failed Experiment; Doctors Concerned About Polio-Like Virus.

Aired February 25, 2014 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hitting the campaign trail, Bill Clinton in the Kentucky Senate race.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: The former president is supporting Alison Lundergan Grimes. She is Kentucky's secretary of state. She is running to unseat Mitch McConnell.

Erin McPike joins from the campaign trail in Louisville and our political editor, Paul Steinhauser, is live from Washington.

Erin, since you are on the trail, let's start with you.

Give us an idea why Clinton chose Kentucky for this first 2014 campaign stop?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, this race is very close. Democrats are very excited about the prospect of unseating the Republican leader. He has been in the Senate almost 30 years. It will be very hard to do. As for why Bill Clinton chose this race. He goes way back with the candidate's family. Almost 30 years, in fact. Alison Grimes' father, Jerry Lundergan, was twice the chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party and also chaired Hillary Clinton's campaign in the state. On top of that, he has a catering company called Lundy's and catered some of the inaugural events in 1993. I believe we have a picture of Alison Grimes giving some flowers to Bill and Hillary Clinton from 1993. More recently, he catered Chelsea Clinton's wedding. There is a lot of loyalty here.

BERMAN: Paul Steinhauser, on the subject of going way back, Lundergan Grimes and Mitch McConnell, now the minority leader in the Senate. He's been in the Senate a long time. Long enough to be a big part of the impeachment trial and Bill Clinton may remember some choice words that the Senator had for him.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: You are going way back, 1998, after the House voted to impeach the president. Senator McConnell did speak out in favor of trying and convicting the president in that Senate trial. He, along with 45 other Republicans, did vote to convict. But 10 other Republicans went with the Democrats. The president was acquitted. That is history. That was then. This is now. Let's be honest. Bill Clinton lives for campaigning. He is extremely good at it. He is a rock star for the Democrats on the campaign trail, especially in these purple and red states like Kentucky.

The one difference here, this time, he has done a lot of this campaigning the last couple cycles. This time, we are just two years away from 2016. Everybody is wondering with Hillary Clinton thinking of running, is there an ulterior motive for President Clinton. He is helping these Democrats to help his wife in 2016. As Erin just said, the Lundergan Grimes family goes way back with the Clinton family. And he's campaigned for a lot of other Democrats who endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2008 over Barack Obama, guys.

PEREIRA: Erin, back to you. You have got Bill there. He carried Kentucky in both his presidential elections. He is a rock star in the south. Obviously a powerhouse when he is campaigning for somebody. What else is part of his campaign for trying to feed McConnell? He is a powerful Senator.

MCPIKE: He sure is. Two big things. Alison Lundergan Grimes is campaigning about how her proposals are specifically tailored to Michigan. How powerful Mitch McConnell is if he can't things passed. She has a funny comment she likes to say a lot on the campaign trail, even if Mitch McConnell had a kidney stone, he would refuse to pass it. I want to show you some of the literatures they are handing out today. "Kentucky families deserve better than gridlock politics." There's a huge comment here about gridlock politics. I am sure we are going to hear a lot about that over the course of this year.

BERMAN: One thing you will not hear about is President Obama. The Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky, seems to be running away from him. This speaks to a bit of a weakness for the Democrats, even while they have the strength of having Bill Clinton come in and campaign there.

Erin McPike in Kentucky for us.

Paul Steinhauser, always great to have you.

Thanks so much, guys

PEREIRA: Ahead @ THIS HOUR, did you miss it? The TV apology from Ted Nugent, sincere, bizarre? Should candidates be running to Nugent or running for cover?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Ted Nugent apologizing sort of for calling President Obama a "sub-human mongrel." He was "OutFront" with Erin Burnett last night.

PEREIRA: Nugent promised to stop the name-calling but he promptly came up with some more name calling. Still he agreed he needs to tone it down when he's representing politicians he supports.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TED NUGENT, SINGER & MUSICIAN: Ted Nugent, "Remember the Alamo," February 4th, 2013. I am not going to call people names anymore. Instead of using terms like "sub-human mongrel," I will get to the meat of the matter where our president is a liar. He lies about "you can keep your doctor, period," over and over again. He lies about Benghazi. He is lying about the IRS. I won't call names anymore. I am going to get down to the nitty-gritty and identify the criminal behavior by the people abusing power in the United States government.

I respect people like Governor Perry in the great Greg Abbott, and Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. And because I do represent a lot of the same people that they do, believe it or not, I think I owe it to those great Americans to be more civil when I represent them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: A lot to talk about here so let's bring in Lee Carter, a strategic communications expert here in New York.

PEREIRA: She is also a former Republican strategist and pollster.

Watching that, what do you think of damage control? How is he doing?

LEE CARTER, STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS EXPERT & FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER: I don't think he is doing well at all. He is an embarrassment to himself right now. When people apologize, what they need to do is take responsibility for his actions. He didn't do that. What he did is he said, look, I'm not going to call names anymore but I'm going to call names. He didn't address the problem. He has become a symbol for everything that's wrong with the Republican Party.

BERMAN: There is no ideological monopoly on idiotic statements.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, liberals can say dumb things --

CARTER: Everybody does it.

BERMAN: -- just like conservatives.

CARTER: Sure.

BERMAN: You give advice on damage control. What would you say to candidates? Ted Nugent is very popular in some circles. He is a rock star. He plays the guitar. He is very outspoken on gun rights, very popular.

CARTER: Absolutely. I think celebrities are important to the base. People want to see popular people associated with them. What the candidates need to do if they are going to have these people doing their dirty work is distance themselves and say, I don't approve of this rhetoric. What I want to talk about is this issue and this. They get a pivot point. They can't just say it is OK. They can't say I'm aligned with this person, because here is the problem. The problem is, they are associated now with that person and they become a symbol for why they should be dismissed. If you say, I don't want to like Ted Cruz, you are going to say, I don't like Ted Cruz, because he is associated with this awful statement. So if you don't distance yourself in some way, that's going to be who you are. It is going to give a reason for people to reject you and not to listen to what you have to say.

PEREIRA: Abbott was up by a pretty high margin in the poll before bringing on Nugent to campaign with him on the campaign trail. It makes you wonder what kind of risk assessment was done, if any was done. If somebody had come to you and said, I'm thinking of doing this, what would you have suggested?

CARTER: I would say if you're going to use this person, don't use them in an official capacity. I would say, I understand the importance of these relationships on these issues. But I would say, look, you can't have this kind of thing associated with you. You need to understand right now the symbols associated with your party and what you are trying to accomplish. Yes, I understand it is important to popularity. But, no, it is not going to do you any favors in the long run.

What we are seeing in the debate in this country is that we don't want negativity. We don't want mudslinging. We want positive plans for the future, optimism. We don't want mudslinging unless it is just appealing to yourself. We are trying to get more broad, popular appeal. We have to have a more broad, popular message.

PEREIRA: The question is, what exactly is mudslinging. There was a comment that some people saw as racist. "Sub-human mongrel" I think I agree is a racial comment, probably racist comment, it is safe to say.

CARTER: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Now, Ted Nugent is calling him a liar. Let's listen to him claim he is not a racist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUGENT: I have nothing against any race. My whole life is dedicated to my black heroes, my black musical heroes. And you know that. I have not a racist bone in my body.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So he is done with racist terms like "sub-human mongrel." He is on to "liar." Is that better?

CARTER: I don't think so. What we have here is an attack on a person. When you call somebody a liar, you are not attacking their politics. You are attacking them as a person. If you want to talk about him flip-flopping and misleading, talk about his actions, that's one thing. If you want to talk about him as a person, now you have done something and made this personal. You don't give somebody something to think about. You don't change somebody's truth or belief. You are just able too dismiss it, because it is so intensely personal that it becomes visceral. You have a visceral reaction if you are opposed to his message and going to dismiss him as something that's irrelevant to you.

BERMAN: Lie and liar, terms we hear so much about.

CARTER: Absolutely.

BERMAN: I'm not sure they're going away.

Lee Carter, thanks for being here.

CARTER: Great to be here.

PEREIRA: Thanks for being here.

CARTER: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Ahead @ THIS HOUR, the emperor of infidelity, the man who is making millions off of affairs. He says it is science. What do you think?

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BERMAN: You see how unbelievably calm I am right now.

PEREIRA: I don't know why.

BERMAN: A new study finds that marriage may be good for your blood pressure. Harvard researchers found there was a 10 percent nightly drop in blood pressure reading for married people.

PEREIRA: Maybe that's why my blood is boiling right now. So if being married is good for you, could a dating site called Ashley Madison, for married people who are looking to stray, be bad for your health? It has 25 million members. Its slogan is: Life is short, have an affair.

The site's founder, Noel Biderman, has claimed monogamy is a failed experiment and infidelity is the way of the future. He joins us now.

Good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.

A new book you have called "Adult Tropology" that talks about who cheats and why. You argue that infidelity is natural. You are married with two children and you say you never cheated. And heard your wife would be devastated if you did. How can you say it is natural then?

(LAUGHTER)

NOEL BIDERMAN, CEO, THE ASHLEY MADISON AGENCY & AUTHOR: It is all accurate. If you are a scientist, you are a researcher, a professor, you would love to get a hold of this Ashley Madison data that is out there. It is hard to study infidelity. People don't tend to put their hands up and say, I'm cheating, watch how I behave. University students are not a good cohort to look at. So we set up 25,000 people a day who self publish why they're coming to an affair and through millions of communications strings. That is really interesting. That is going to help us recalibrate the truth. Are we a monogamous society or do we really pay lip service to it?

BERMAN: The question is, you say it is good for people. Explain.

BIDERMAN: When people sign up for our service, they are not telling me, I'm trying to look for the next person to move on to. They are trying to stay married. They do love and cherish their family life, their children, their extended family, their economic situation, their home. What they are tired of is what does or doesn't take place in their bedroom. What they're trying to do is have their cake and eat it, too. Infidelity then becomes a life preserver. It helps them stay connected to their marriage while pursuing something outside of their bedroom.

PEREIRA: OK. So hold up. My concern is about AshleyMadison.com. If people want to stray, they don't really need assistance doing it. Aren't people quite able to --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Yeah, by your own argument, you're saying we're hard-wired for it, so why do we need you?

BIDERMAN: No. They need a ton of assistance, because the perfect affair is not just meeting someone. It's meeting someone and not getting discovered. So when you have an affair in the workplace, which is our biggest competitor, it's bound to be uncovered. When you have it on Facebook or with your sister's husband, it's bound to be discovered and you risk losing not just your relationship, but also a sibling one. Ultimately, people pursuing something with like-minded people on Ashley Madison, that's half the ticket home. And the technology we bring it is a totally different paradigm pursuing an affair through an online service than in the bricks-in-mortar world.

PEREIRA: A peer research surveyed Americans. 88 percent say having an affair is morally wrong. Only 3 percent say it's acceptable. That number breaks down the same for men and women. So if so many people feel it is morally wrong, why would you encourage them to go against their beliefs? I mean, we are speaking to the CEO of a company, you know -- business-making, a profit-making venture.

BIDERMAN: But your question is a fair one. But that is society- shaping, right? So part of what we're doing here is trying to recalibrate society's understanding of the topic. If you look at the society we live in right now, it is shaped by a ton of unfaithful people, people who, in the lives of politics, sports, entertainment, entrepreneurship, have all been unfaithful, but have shaped the society we live in to incredible effect. So it can be that unfaithful people are somehow sociopathic or bad people. That can't be right. That can't be the analysis we come to. So I think that reaction you get, that 88 percent, that is what we're taught. That is what we learn, because we believe that monogamy is right, that somehow there is a benefit to it. But if it leads to marriage breakdown, is it truly beneficial? That's the question we should ask ourselves. PEREIRA: Or promising not to hurt somebody you've made a vow to. There is that.

BERMAN: Noel Biderman, thank you for coming in. Really appreciate it.

I will say I'm a big fan of my marriage, at least. And I will say, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: Full disclosure, you're married, I'm not. I'm happily in a relationship, as you're happily in your relationship.

BERMAN: No one forces you to get married.

PEREIRA: I know.

BERMAN: At this point, there are a million things to do. If you're going to go through the trouble -- and these weddings aren't cheap, by the way -- maybe stay with it for the long haul.

PEREIRA: Stick with it.

Another topic we have been watching, there is growing concern @ THIS HOUR about a polio-like illness, not polio but similar to it. It's causing partial paralysis in children in California. Doctors don't know exactly what it is. And even worse, they don't know what's causing it.

BERMAN: Five cases have been confirmed so far, and state health officials say there could be more than 20 other cases.

You've got to take a look at this darling little girl, 4-year-old Sophia Jarvis, one of the children stricken with the mystery illness. Her left arm now paralyzed. Doctors say the damage appears permanent.

So let's bring in our Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, all the cases have been reported in California. All of them are in the past 18 months. And doctors say all the children received polio vaccines. So what do you make of that?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, the polio virus is a -- is part of a family of viruses. And the likely thing that's happening here is that another member of that family of viruses is causing these problems. Two of the five children were actually found to have a particular virus known as enterovirus 68. You don't need to remember the name. But the point is, it is very similar to the polio virus and possibly can cause similar symptoms.

Let me point out -- and, again, the public health officials have been very clear about this. They don't think this is going to be something that's going to become epidemic or contagious, even spread within families. That's the good news here. They also don't -- right now, they're looking for other potential clusters of cases around the country, and that's part of the reason they're talking about this now. In your own community, have you seen something like this, an unusual sort of symptom where a child suddenly becomes weak in one of their limbs? Trying to find out if it's in more places than just California.

But right now, as you point out, it sort of seems localized and doesn't seem to be spreading.

PEREIRA: So obviously, if parents watching this, they're very concerned about their own children, especially because it presented like very similar to cold symptoms. What would you advise parents in California or beyond who are concerned about this, potentially with their kids?

GUPTA: You know, it's one of these things that when I heard Sophia's mom -- just met Sophia -- there talking about this.

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: Yeah. Said she was reaching into her toy box, a treasure box, and she noticed she wasn't grasping with her left hand as well. And it just sort of persisted. I guess what I would say, and I think the doctors have echoed this, as well, as a parent, you don't want to -- you probably wouldn't blow that off anyway. But you want to pay particular attention to this now. Thinking is there -- is this some sort of persistent weakness in an arm or leg or something like that. And then report it. Here's why. Three of the five kids could not get a diagnosis because they came into the hospital too late. If you can get a diagnosis, figure out what the virus is, you have a better chance of trying to offer some sort of relief for that. It's -- there is no antidote, if you will. But you can -- the treatments may exist that could be much more beneficial early.

PEREIRA: Sanjay, we can't thank you enough. Parents are concerned. That little one calls her arm Lefty. She says it's her favorite arm. She has such a great attitude. We wish her parents well and all of the other parents, as well.

Thanks, Sanjay.

BERMAN: We'll take a hard turn here and end on this note. It's today's dose of cable outrage, the special schadenfreude edition.

PEREIRA: Oh, no.

BERMAN: What if I told you I stubbed my toe, lost $1,000 at the dog track and an incurable stomach rash? If I told you all those things were true, I would still be having a better day than the New York Knicks. This is what they managed in the last 24 hours. Number one, Junior Smith tries to pull off the hand band of Vince Carter from the Dallas Mavericks. That would seem playful if smith hadn't been fined $50,000 for untying two opponents' shoelaces. This guy seems obsessed with everyone else's clothes.

(LAUGHTER)

So hang on to your tank tops, everyone. That's not the worst thing that happens to the Knicks.

PEREIRA: No?

BERMAN: No. In the closing seconds of the game, all tied up until -- here it goes --

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: Oh, no!

BERMAN: -- Dirk Nowitzski with the ball, and he sinks an impossible shot with no time left. The Mavericks win. It's insane. It's heartbreaking. But that's not the worst thing that happened to the Knicks.

PEREIRA: You're kidding me.

BERMAN: No, because number three after the game, Knicks guard Raymond Felton was arrested on three felony counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

Ladies and gentlemen, your New York Knicks, not just losing but cheating. Not just cheating, but lawbreaking, allegedly. Hey, at least they don't stink. Oh, wait! They do!

(LAUGHTER)

They're 15 games under. 500. So it's enough to make you feel OK about your stomach rash. So everybody repeat after me. No matter how bad it seems for you, you're having a better day than the New York Knicks.

PEREIRA: As I say goodbye and thank you for joining this hour, I'm going to lean away, because I feel like some wrath is coming your way, my brother.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts after the break.

PEREIRA: @JohnBerman, if you want it.

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