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Interview With Outed Gay Arizona Sheriff; Burger From the Lab; Iran in Secret Spy War with U.S., Israel?; Santorum Surges to Front of GOP Pack; Oil Prices Jump On Iranian Export Cuts; Santorum's Controversial Comments

Aired February 20, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the growing threat of a nuclear Iran. New concerns Israel may be ready to strike. But President Obama's top military adviser is warning, not so fast.

Plus, a rising star on the Republican national stage outed by a former boyfriend and forced to resign a powerful row inside the Romney campaign. Just ahead, my exclusive interview with the Arizona sheriff, Paul Babeu.

And from the grill to a petri dish, get ready for a whole new kind of burger with the potential to transform the future of food as we know it.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Mesa, Arizona.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The outward tensions between Israel and Iran aren't all that have the United States worried right now. There are also growing signs a secret spy war may be underway.

Our own Brian Todd is joining us now with this part of the story -- Brian, dramatic developments underway right now, with a lot, a lot at stake.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a lot at stake, Wolf. And right now, no Israeli, Iranian or American official will admit that they're engaging in a spy war here. But in the wake of the plots to kill Israeli diplomats, following the killing of the Iranian nuclear scientists, experts say there is a clear pattern in play. We have to warn viewers, this story contains images that some might find disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Thai police say they're looking for at least two additional people, both Iranian, in connection with last week's plot in Bangkok to bomb Israel diplomats. Three suspects are being held, all of them holding Iranian passports. Among them, this man, whose legs were blown off by his own bomb. Thai officials have drawn a tentative link between the bombs in Bangkok and those in India and Georgia. All of them targeted Israelis.

(on camera): And

There were other similarities. The components and tactics indicated the plotters wanted to stick magnetized bombs, maybe about this size, to their target's vehicles, similar to the tactics used to kill Iranian nuclear scientists.

I'm here with Philip Mudd, former CIA and FBI counterterrorism official. Phillip, can we look for this kind of thing to be seen in other cities, like Jason Bourne style, almost?

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA/FBI COUNTER-TERRORISM OFFICIAL: I think we can. We have a couple of factors to look at here. First, there's a history of the aggressiveness by the Iranian services, assassinations of oppositionists in Europe in the 1980s and '90s and also operations even in the case of attacks against American soldiers in Iraq.

Then unlike at what's happened recently. An explosion at one of the nuclear facilities, a cyber attack on their nuclear program, an assassination of their own scientists. I think we should expect to see retaliation.

TODD: (voice-over): Iran has denied Israel's claim that it's behind the plots in Thailand, India and Georgia. But when asked if there's a covert conflict going on between Israel and Iran, America's top intelligence official said this about the activities of Iran's feared Revolutionary Guard Corps, known as the IRGC.

GEN. JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Through their proxies, the IRGC, particularly, decided and made a conscious judgment to reach out against primarily Israeli, and then secondarily, against U.S. interests.

TODD: Experts believe the Iranians might try to stage some sort of attack on U.S. soil, as much for the psychological as for the tactical effect.

But as evidenced by one recent alleged plot, they don't always hit the mark.

REUEL MARC GERECHT, FORMER CIA OFFICER:

As we know from the attempted bombing of the Washington, DC restaurant, the assassination of the Saudi ambassador, I mean that was a fairly sloppy performance.

(END VIDEO TAPE) TODD: Former CIA officer, Reuel Gerecht, says that alleged plot against the Saudi ambassador shows that Iranian agents might have more difficulty deploying inside the US. He says it takes them time to get their people trained for an operation and by the time they are trained, they could be exposed to FBI surveillance.

So look for them to keep trying to strike U.S. or Israeli interests abroad -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's presumably easier there than here.

There's some indication the alleged conspirators, Brian, might have been sloppy in that Thailand plot, as well, isn't there?

TODD: That's right. "The Bangkok Post" newspaper reports some of the alleged plotters were with women, who worked as escorts in the resort town of Pattaya, Thailand. The paper ran a photo it says is of three of the suspects with two women in the days before the operation was taken down.

Thai police, according to "The Bangkok Post," tracked down the women, questioned them and got important information from them. So it appears as if the suspects might have left a trail that worked against them later on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Spy wars continuing.

Brian, thank you.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is openly trying to talk Israel down from the brink of a potential attack against Iran.

Here's our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama's top military adviser is telling Israel not to attack Iran.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We think that it's not prudent at this point, to -- to decide to attack Iran. I mean that's -- that's been our counsel to our allies, the Israelis. It's well known, well documented.

STARR: General Dempsey warns an Israeli bombing campaign could only delay Iran's nuclear ambitions temporarily.

DEMPSEY: Israel has the capability to strike Iran and to delay the production or the -- the -- the capability of -- of Iran to achieve a nuclear weapon status probably for a couple of years. But some of the targets are probably beyond their reach.

STARR: The enrichment facility near Qom may now be buried so deep underground, Israel would have to engage in days of air strikes, putting manned aircraft repeatedly over enemy territory. That means knocking out Iranian air defenses.

There are military risks for Israeli F-15s and F-16s once inside Iran. Pilots will want to carry extra fuel, but extra fuel makes a fighter jet heavier and potentially slower and more of a target. Weapons' analyst John Pike says Israel can easily dominate.

JOHN PIKE, FOUNDER, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: The Israelis have been working on this problem for 20 years now. I think they have a very clear idea how they could do it successfully. And I have no doubt that they could get well over 100 airplanes into Iranian airspace and fly back after they bombed without refueling, not a problem.

STARR: The biggest problem -- getting there. One route over the Red Sea is the longest. The most direct route is over Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just met with U.S. national security adviser, Tom Donilon. Many believe Israeli planning is underway.

EDWARD WALKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: The Israelis will bomb if they have to They're not going to allow Iran to become a nuclear power in the region. Neither can we afford to allow it to become one.

Now, how do you go about coordinating your activities so that you have the greatest impact and hold off as long as possible, that's -- that's -- that's what Donilon is over there talking about.

STARR: But will Israel wait?

DEMPSEY: I don't -- I wouldn't suggest, sitting here today, that we've persuaded them that our view is the correct view and that they are acting in an ill-advised fashion.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: Now the U.S. insists that sanctions are working. The question on the table, Wolf, may be whether Israel believes it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Lots at stake, as I say, Barbara.

Thank you.

Here in Mesa, Arizona, all eyes on a Republican presidential race turned completely on its head. Just two ahead of CNN's Republican presidential debate, Rick Santorum is surging to the front of the pack, replacing Newt Gingrich as Mitt Romney's toughest threat. And it's all raising serious questions inside the party about Romney's electability and whether it's time, potentially, for even a new candidate to jump into the race.

Let's get some analysis from CNN's political director, Mark Preston.

He's here in Mesa getting ready for Wednesday night's debate -- there's been a lot of buzz out there, Mark.

But is it at all plausible that even at this late date, another candidate could seriously get into this contest?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, take the word seriously out of the sentence and -- and just look at the numbers. Let's just look at the filing deadlines for upcoming states. And, numerically, it is plausible for something like this to happen.

So let's just take a quick look at these right here.

On March 12th, in Montana, you would have to -- you would have to be on the ballot by March 12th; New Mexico, March 16th; California, March 23; South Dakota, March 27th; New Jersey, April 2nd. What's not on that list right there is Texas, which is still embroiled in a whole redistricting issue down in that state. They don't know when they're going to hold their primary. Probably at the end of May.

But realistically, no, it's not plausible, because, Wolf, it would be a succeed mission for anyone to try to get into the race after Super Tuesday, to try to be the alternative to the four men who are running.

BLITZER: There is another scenario, though, that some have discussed, what's called a contested convention, waiting until all the primaries are over with and then going to Tampa, the Republican Convention, and trying to generate some buzz there, shall we say?

PRESTON: Yes. And that would be more plausible for somebody to then come into the race. For that to happen, though, you would have to see the Republican Party, Wolf, totally implode. You would have to see the base out in the -- out across the country at a fight with the establishment in Washington, DC about who actually should be the nominee.

Here's the issue, though. If anybody were to get into the race at that point, or say they would get into the race, they would need money and they would need organization. And could you imagine 60 plus days to campaign against the Barack Obama fundraising machine?

That would be really hard for anybody.

BLITZER: It would be very hard. But the fact that we're even talking about these scenarios right now, what does that say about the four finalists?

PRESTON: It shows that no one is coalescing behind the candidate. They all thought it was going to be Mitt Romney, that he would eventually become the nominee. But out of nowhere, we saw the likes of Michelle Bachmann come up, Herman Cain come up, Newt Gingrich come up, come down, come back up, and now Rick Santorum, who nobody thought had a shot at the nomination, is now leading in national polls. It shows that Mitt Romney hadn't been able to get conservatives behind his candidacy.

BLITZER: And just a little bit more than 48 hours from new -- from now, the debate right here in Mesa, Arizona. All right, Mark.

Thanks very much.

Rick Santorum says prenatal testing leads to more abortions. Some doctors say the tests, though, save lives. We're checking the facts.

And Santorum is on the defensive over some of his rather conservative views. We'll talk about that and much more. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is standing by.

Plus, entire families wiped out, others struggling to stay alive -- CNN's Arwa Damon shows us firsthand the really desperate situation in Syria.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We just told you about Rick Santorum's dramatic surge to frontrunner status in the Republican battle for the White House.

But look at these latest national Gallup Daily Tracking Poll numbers. He now has 36 percent support among registered Republicans. That's 10 points -- 10 points ahead of Mitt Romney.

But the dramatic turn isn't without controversy. The former Pennsylvania senator igniting outrage on the campaign trail over a number of critical social issues, among them, his position on prenatal testing for women, which he argues, could lead to more abortions.

Let's bring in our own Lisa Sylvester.

She's taking a closer look -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, there are studies that show pregnancies with abnormalities like Down syndrome have a higher likelihood of being terminated. One National Institute of Health Study from the late 1990s saying as high as 90 percent, well, it's now become a campaign issue with Rick Santorum criticizing the increase in prenatal screenings.

But doctors will tell you that those prenatal tests actually save lives. And we spoke to one couple, and as we see, this issue is not always black and white.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Twenty-three-month-old Calum Gray (ph) is a quick learner, a joy to his parents. Calum had an identical twin, Thomas, who died just five days after birth. His health issue was discovered through a prenatal test. SARAH GRAY, MOTHER: The doctor said that one of the babies was healthy and that other one had a lethal birth defect called encephale (ph) which means that part of his brain was missing.

SYLVESTER: The couple faced tough choices. A selective abortion of the unhealthy twin or carrying the unhealthy twin to term. Both options carried significant health risks including the possibility the healthy twin could develop cerebral palsy or even die.

Sarah and Ross grappled with the weighty issue. In the end, she carried both babies to term. The couple says detecting the issue early on helped doctors monitor the health of both twins.

ROSS GRAY, FATHER: Well, if we hadn't known this condition, then Calum might die, and then, you know, get lose both of them.

SYLVESTER: Prenatal testing, which includes an amniocentesis or CVS test, can screen for chromosome abnormalities and health issues like Down syndrome. But GOP candidate, Rick Santorum, has blamed prenatal tests for an increase in the number of abortions.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. Prenatal testing, amniocentesis, does in fact result, more often than not, in this country an abortion. That is a fact.

SYLVESTER: It's an argument conservatives have been making. One reason they say prenatal testing should not be expanded.

JEANNE MONAHAN, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: If tests aren't necessarily inherently evil or good or bad, but the fact that they lead to so many abortions is absolutely troublesome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Noninvasive --

SYLVESTER: But. Dr. Melissa Fries of the Washington Hospital Center argues prenatal testing is used to save lives. If a medical issue is known in advance, doctors can sometimes treat the baby in utero. In other cases, pediatric specialist can be standing by. That's the case of one baby she will deliver this week who has known for a condition.

DR. MELISSA FRIES, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: By knowing that prenatally, that baby, which could have died at birth, if we weren't aware of that, we can then make the appropriate intervention and salvage that baby and give that baby a very good chance for a healthy life.

SYLVESTER: For the Gray Family, knowing what they were up against helped them prepare emotionally, financially, and spiritually for what lay ahead. If given the choice again, Sarah says she would have the prenatal test again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (on-camera): Now, the White House referred CNN to Obama's re-election campaign for comment, and campaign spokeswoman called Santorum's remarks quote, "the latest in a long string of unfortunate comments in the race to the bottom that the Republican presidential primary has become. Prenatal screenings are essential to promote the health of both the mother and baby and to ensure safe deliveries."

And in the case of the Gray Family, because they knew in advance one twin was not going to survive, they were able to make arrangements to have his organs donated, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much. Good, thorough report.

But let's talk a little bit more right now about Rick Santorum. I'll bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. He also raised a lot of eyebrows over the weekend when he said this, Gloria. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the bible. A different theology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, that sounded to some as an attack on the president's religion.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And, of course, Santorum said it wasn't an attack on his religion. What he was really saying was he was questioning his commitment to the environment over his commitment to the American people. But, Wolf, that's another story.

Look, Rick Santorum has now really been put on the defense and that is what happens when you get the increased scrutiny of being somebody who could become the Republican nominee. But, Wolf, when you talk to Republicans and you ask them about this, and all of these messages, we've been hearing from him over the weekend, whether it's about theology or prenatal care, it's what pollsters call a "hot message."

That means that voters respond it to viscerally. So, while it could intensify conservative support for Rick Santorum, it narrows his support among other segments of the electorate, and you could raise the case that it raises the question of Rick Santorum's electability if he were to get the nomination, because he has become so polarizing on these cultural issues.

BLITZER: It may not be a big issue in a Republican contest, but in a general election, it could be huge. So, how worried are Republicans based on the conversations you're having?

BORGER: Well, they're really worried about it, particularly, because of the electability issue. And I've spoken with a bunch of Republicans today who say, look, Rick Santorum has gone off-topic for the last four or five days. One Republican strategist described it to me as going down a rabbit hole. They don't want to be talking about the cultural issues right now.

They want to be talking about the economy. And so, as Mark Preston mentioned earlier, there are lots of whispered conversations now about could somebody sign up in half a dozen early primaries in March, for example. Could that person take their support to the convention? Could there be a contested convention?

I think all of this will probably not occur, because if you're a conservative, for example, or an evangelical and you have supported Rick Santorum and this happens to you? Are you going to support the new Republican nominee? No. It would split the party wide opened. So, I think it's not likely, but the fact that they're talking about it shows you how worried they are.

BLITZER: Yes. I know the Democrats are looking closely as well, Gloria.

BORGER: Oh, yes, they are.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Oil prices, they are surging after Iran announces that it's cutting exports. We're going to tell you what it might mean for American drivers.

And the Arizona sheriff at the center of the controversy that's reaching all the way to the presidential campaign. He's standing by to join us for an exclusive interview. He'll respond to the allegations from a former lover.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Police in the Caribbean Island of Nevis have arrested a suspect in the recent armed robbery of the Supreme Court justice, Stephen Breyer. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what do you have?

SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf. Well, police in Nevis say the suspect turned himself in after officials declared him a person of interest and released his photo to the media. Breyer and his wife and two guests were in a vacation home this month when an intruder armed with a machete broke in and made off with about $1,000. No one was reported to be hurt in the incident.

Cuts in Iranian oil exports are raising fears that $4 for a gallon gas may be on the horizon. Iran says it will stop exporting oil from French and British oil companies. U.S. crude features jump almost two percent on the news. And AAA says the national average for a gallon of gas is up for the 13th day in a row to $3.56. Some experts are predicting the price will easily hit $4 by summertime.

A former writer for ESPN is apologizing for an offensive headline about New York Knicks basketball sensation, Jeremy Lin. Lin is Asian- American. And the headline included a word that's an ethnic slur against people of Asian descent. ESPN fired the writer yesterday, but in an interview with the "New York Daily News" he says, it was, quote, "an honest mistake."

And we are getting some great pictures. These are coming in from Brazil where revelers are descending on real for carnival. Take a look at these pictures here. The annual festival of colorful parades and all-night block parties, parties that began Friday, and it will run through tomorrow, but you had a very, very festive mood. Look at those costumes, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very, very fun in Rio, as usual. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

He was Mitt Romney's front man here in Arizona. Now, he's embroiled in a scandal involving allegations of sex and deportation. Sheriff Paul Babeu's accuser has gone public. Now, the sheriff, he will respond in an CNN exclusive right here in the SITUATION ROOM. He's standing by.

Also, researchers say they've come up with a cowless hamburger. How did they do it? What could it mean for the future of food?

And desperation reaches a new level in the Syrian city of Homs. Our Arwa Damon takes a closer look at the life and death struggle right now in the shadow of fear.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: An Arizona sheriff, Paul Babeu, is pledging to continue his run for the United States Congress. This weekend he resigned a leadership position in Mitt Romney's campaign over an alleged threat to deport a former boyfriend if the man revealed their relationship.

That former boyfriend spoke with CNN's Miguel Marquez. Here's his report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHERIFF PAUL BABEU, PINAL COUNTY, ARIZONA: All these allegations that were in on of these newspapers are absolutely, completely false.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a Grand-Canyon- size political shocker.

BABEU : We're out-manned. With all the illegals in America, more than half come through Arizona.

MARQUEZ: The tough on illegal immigration Arizona sheriff outed by his migrant ex-boyfriend.

BABEU: This is my personal, my private life, but now it's not so private any longer. And it's an awful position for me to be in.

MARQUEZ: He's in that position because of this man, Jose, a 34-year- old Mexican national afraid to be identified, but speaking out because he says he was threatened by his powerful ex-lover.

(on camera): And then at some point you felt -- "JOSE," SHERIFF PAUL BABEU'S EX-BOYFRIEND: Used.

MARQUEZ: -- used and then threatened?

JOSE: Yes.

MARQUEZ: Why threatened?

JOSE: I got a text from him, directly to my phone, saying that I will never have business, that my family will be contacted.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The alleged threat to have Jose deported if he went public with the affair.

BABEU: At no time did I or anyone who represents me ever threaten deportation. Ever.

MARQUEZ: Babeu stepped down as co-chair of Mitt Romney's campaign in Arizona, but the tough-as-nails sheriff he's not ending his run for Congress.

Jose says he's here legally and wants to get on with his life, but with the story playing a role in presidential politics, that won't be happening anytime soon.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Florence, Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's stay on the story.

I'm joined now exclusively by the sheriff of Arizona's county here, Paul Babeu.

Sheriff, thanks very much for coming in.

BABEU Thanks for having me.

You've got it.

BLITZER: So, first of all, what was the nature of your relationship with this individual?

BABEU: We had seen each other privately and for some time, close to three years, simply in dating. And he had volunteered separately on my campaign, in an unpaid status, actually was in control of our Web site, which is a volunteer Web site for sheriff from my political campaign and also started a Twitter account and did the social media.

And how this all started, Wolf -- and I showed you some documents ahead of time -- is back in April and May of last year, that we turned it over, as we were growing our campaign, to a paid professional. And he turned that -- all that over. And then six, eight months later, he then -- because he still had the passwords -- took control of that information, started to Tweet. People talk about somebody who Tweeted and they lied about it later. This is the truth, that he Tweeted. He also took property not only of all my photographs of our financial donation site, Pirex (ph), all of that, and started to post very negative things about me posing it was me.

The only communication that my attorney had -- because everybody is saying, oh, this deportation. One, he's legal. He has said that. I have said that. And -- and then, in addition, this whole thing about deportation, we all know I don't have deportation authority. I have the authority to arrest. There were several crimes committed here against me and my campaign...

BLITZER: Alleged crimes.

BABEU: Absolutely. Well...

BLITZER: He wasn't convicted of anything?

BABEU: No. It -- the fact that he has a business and he stole my property and the images purported to be, so, also, identity theft, in addition to that. All I wanted done is for this to stop. Give me back my property. My lawyer sent one letter to him and he replied the very next day, on September 7th of last year, and turned over all the passwords...

BLITZER: So he was (INAUDIBLE)...

BABEU: -- which should have been done.

BLITZER: And he said he would comply with the cease and desist letter.

BABEU: Yes.

BLITZER: And I saw his -- his reply.

BABEU: Yes.

BLITZER: So what happened?

Was this a -- a love affair that went wrong or something, that he got angry at you?

Is that...

BABEU: You know...

BLITZER: -- is that what you're saying?

BABEU: This -- this is the most embarrassing I've -- I've never defined myself by other than my service and my duty and what we should all be judged on in life. And we've all had relationships, as -- as is clear as day now. Now, this is national news, that I have had one, where he wanted to harm me.

And -- and now this has rolled out. And the timing of this is -- is more than coincidence, that nationally, that all of this stuff -- for years, all the media here in Arizona, all five TV stations, enemies of mine. People have gone to my chain of command in the military to report that I'm -- I'm gay, stuff that is my personal, private business.

And I'm not ashamed of who I am, because I've served my country. I've answered thousands of emergency calls as a police officer, life saving medals. I -- I served as an army officer in Iraq, commanded 700 soldiers in Yuma. This question -- and it didn't matter if I was gay. And this is where now, they used this allegation, which I showed you proof. There is no proof not only of any of this...

BLITZER: And he's...

BABEU: -- it didn't happen.

BLITZER: -- he says there were phone calls, there were text messages in which you were supposedly threatening him.

BABEU: The -- and this is documented, as well. I said you -- I said how can you think you're going to do business?

Has had a business with Web sites. He just stole my Web sites and put slanderous information on my Web sites.

And how can -- how can anybody expect to do business?

All I want of this -- because I have lawful authority for arrest, there was no arrest. There was no lawful authority. I did what you and most other citizens would have done, went to an attorney. The attorney handled the matter. I thought it was done. And now, as I'm approaching five months into this election, I'm 10 points ahead in the -- the poll over an incumbent member of Congress and all this stuff comes out.

BLITZER: You -- you're running for the Republican nomination...

BABEU: Yes.

BLITZER: -- for this Congressional seat.

BABEU: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Explain why you decided to step down as co-chairman of the Romney campaign here in Arizona.

If -- if you've done nothing wrong, why are you -- why did you step down?

BABEU: I haven't. One, I didn't want this to splash over on Mitt or any other candidates. I like...

BLITZER: But what -- what part, the allegations or the fact that you're -- you're gay?

BABEU: This controversy. Certainly not that I'm gay. The Romney campaign -- and I don't think anybody should have a problem with -- with my personal life and who I am. It doesn't take away from my patriotism or my service. And -- and if you asked any of the candidates that, I don't think that they would disagree with that.

And -- and here, I've called them and said, look, at this time, I've got a lot to deal with, I'd like to step away from the campaign. They said, you know, sheriff, that we understand, if that's your choice. We appreciate your value and your service. Please don't take this as anything, you know, from our end.

And I said, look, I've got enough to deal with. And I do.

And to answer this, as this has been trying to get rolled out by numerous political opponents. And now it has, under this slanderous, baseless attack. And then all of a sudden everybody reports it as if it was true, from this tabloid. And nobody has verified any of the facts.

I showed you evidence. This is the business I'm in.

If somebody -- if your next door neighbor called the police on you and said go and arrest Wolf, do you think I'm just going to come and arrest you?

No. I have to find out all the fact. I've got to ask questions.

You know, this is outrageous that this has been brought out because I'm a conservative Republican. And -- and now they think that somewhere there's hypocrisy because I'm gay. I've never worn it on my sleeve, like this is who I am. I don't define myself. I don't think we, in America, we're different in America. And we celebrate our differences. And we see it as a strength, the beauty of our country.

Our religion, our freedom of speech, our political views and even our diversity in orientation. And that's the same liberties, the same freedoms, Wolf, that I put my own personal safety and life on the line to defend for our country have here at home as -- as a police officer and as a sheriff.

BLITZER: You've seen some of these comparisons people are making between you and Congressman Weiner...

BABEU: Yes.

BLITZER: -- you know, who was Tweeting pictures of himself.

BABEU: Right.

BLITZER: There are pictures of you out there...

BABEU: Right.

BLITZER: -- as well.

What do you say about that?

BABEU: One, I've never denied it. These were personal pictures that I sent to an individual and for personal consumption...

BLITZER: To this individual...

BABEU: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Dubbed Jose.

BABEU: And -- and in a -- in addition, that I'm a single man. I've never been married. I don't have a fake girlfriend. It's like I was honest. I came -- I came out publicly and told the truth completely.

And I want to be judged on my record of service, my love of my country and the fact that my whole life is service. I'm the same sheriff, the same Paul Babeu today, as I was last week.

BLITZER: How will your consti -- the constituents in this Congressional district, do you believe, how will they respond to all of this?

BABEU: Well, we're going to put that in their hands. And this is where I -- I was the first Republican ever elected in my county, county-wide, since 1875. And I defeated an incumbent in a landslide election. And this was a whisper campaign before. People would put out stuff. Even my political opponents, sending packages to the news media.

And all the media has been hands off of this stuff, because it shouldn't matter. This is 2012. I should be judged on merit, on my performance and results.

We have one of the best sheriff's office in all of America. We have brought the heaviest hand of enforcement against the drug cartels. Just three months ago, we had the largest bust, a narcotics bust, against the cartels in the history of our state, $2 billion to $3 billion.

When I was in Yuma, I commanded 700 active duty soldiers and airmen. It didn't matter there, Wolf. It mattered on results. Of the nine sectors of the border, from California to Texas, we had more than double the results.

I share that success with all the fine leaders that I serve with. But in the end, I was the executive. I had all this responsibility.

I've never run from a fight and I'm not about to now. I'm going to stand up for -- for my own reputation, my whole life of service. And for this to be thrown out there, not only with no proof, the timing of this should be clues to everybody who's listening.

BLITZER: The timing in the sense that it's coming out now to hurt you politic...

BABEU: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- politically, embarrass you, if you will. BABEU: Absolutely.

BLITZER: The men and women who serve with you in the sheriff's department, how have they responded?

BABEU: You know, I -- I've seen a lot of tough things in my life and I usually don't get too emotional. It was very difficult for me to have my entire command staff, men and women that I serve with, that swore oaths with me, that have -- one of my chiefs had -- has served with five sheriffs and he said this is the best sheriff I've ever served with.

And to have one person after another, elected officials, mayors, state representatives, business leaders in my community, say they're standing with their sheriff because of what he's done, that I'm the same person today that I was a week ago.

And that's how not only I should be judged, that's how they see me and -- and see my heart of service.

BLITZER: And so that now you're op -- you've been open about your (INAUDIBLE)...

BABEU: Yes.

BLITZER: -- you know, you didn't want to necessarily become openly gay, but you are.

So how do you think that's going to play out in the coming weeks and months?

BABEU: Well, I went up that evening, up to Prescott. And I saw a number of people up there at the Lincoln Day luncheon. Our party is the big tent, as Ronald Reagan talked about, the party of Lincoln, of equality.

This is -- this is not something that I -- I believe, in this day and age, should, by itself, defeat or elect any candidate, even in this Republican Party.

And this is where I believe that standing up in 2012 -- and I've got a record of service and people know me. I want to be judged, as every American should, this way -- by -- by the results. And that no American should have to go through this personal -- deeply personal political attack, as I have.

But I'm not running away. I'm not lying about anything. I've embraced it. I've claimed every portion of this. And I'm going to stand on my record.

BLITZER: A lot of gay men have said to me over the years that when they finally did go public and come out, as they say, they were relieved and it's made their life easier.

How -- how has it been for you...

BABEU: It has been.

BLITZER: -- in the past couple of days.

BABEU: And, Wolf, I can tell you that throughout my adult life, I've -- I've been threatened...

BLITZER: You've been hiding this all your life?

BABEU: Well, I haven't (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Did anybody know...

BABEU: The people close to me -- absolutely, close friends and -- and my family. And this is where who I am has never affected anything. And this is why it's -- it's been so awful to -- to have my family and my friends and my agency go through this.

And I define myself by my service. And I've had countless people in my life that have gone even to the military, my chain of command, to report that I am gay.

And this is outrageous that any American should have to suffer this...

BLITZER: While you were serving in Iraq?

BABEU: While I was serving even right here. And I -- I served, I started as a private and worked my way up to be a major. A commissioned officer, a field grade officer. And this is where I've even had other officers -- and as we progress in society and evolve, that, of course, any man, any woman, if they love their country and want to put the uniform of our country and risk their own personal safety to defend our freedoms, absolutely, they should be allowed to serve.

And I have and I've commanded soldiers that -- that are gay. And they were exemplary in their performance.

BLITZER: You know, you -- you want to be a member of the House of Representatives, right?

BABEU: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, so people are going to ask you political questions about gays...

BABEU: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- gay marriage, for example.

Should gay men and women have the right to get married?

BABEU: And this is where I go Ron Paul on people, that in terms of the libertarian. I believe in less government at the federal level. They should get out of people's lives. Unless it's an enumerated power in the Constitution, it falls to the states. This is where it falls to the states. And we have -- we had Washington, we have had a number of other states, Massachusetts and now we have...

BLITZER: Maryland.

BABEU: -- Maryland. And they have all made decisions. Arizona has made a decision. That's the law of the land. I enforce the law.

I can tell you my -- my personal beliefs and my political beliefs is I believe in freedom of religion. And there are faiths and religions that our government shouldn't get involved in that absolutely do not condone gay marriage.

The government shouldn't tell those faiths and those religions that they have to. At the same time, I don't believe they should tell other faiths that they can't. And this is where our government needs to get the heck out of the way.

And if it's not harming somebody else, then what does it matter?

And you can't legislate love.

BLITZER: So if two men want to get married and go to Massachusetts or Iowa or Maryland, which is about to pass...

BABEU: Well, I can tell you, not only -- not only that position that I said, that states run that, I believe that we're evolving as a country and as a nation. Certainly, there must be, at the base line, for every American, hospital visitations, that the right of inheritance, the rights -- if you're going to enter into any type of relationship or long-term and you make that commitment, that should be honored all across America.

BLITZER: Are you seriously involved with someone right now?

BABEU: No. I -- I think after this, I -- I -- one, I work seven days a week. And people in my county and throughout our state know that. And it's not that I'm -- I'm scorned or I have a great compassion and love for -- for people. That's why I love this job. I love service for 20 plus years. I've served my country. I swore an oath. And I've had personal friends that have been badly injured protecting our country. I've had personal friends killed in the line of duty as local police officers.

And when I swear an oath, it means far more to me than some of these politicians.

That's what's driving me, my -- my commitment, my -- my duty. I believe in the Constitution treats and should treat us all equally.

BLITZER: If -- if he's watching right now, this former lover...

BABEU: Yes?

BLITZER: -- who went public and made these allegations against you, what would you say to him?

BABEU: One, I don't wish anyone ill will. It is for everybody to go on their way and live their life. And I -- I wish him, I wish everybody happiness and peace. It's -- I'm living my life. I'm pursuing my dreams. I'm not motivated by negativity. I knew and political consultants told me, you know, Paul, this could come out.

And I said, you know what, people have threatened me my whole life. I'm not motivated by -- by negativity and threats. I'm motivated by the positive and what value I can add not only for my community, but for my country.

BLITZER: It sounds to me like you're going to be active in the Log Cabin Republicans.

Are you?

BABEU: I -- I'm sure. You know, not only that, but I -- I believe it -- it's very appealing, my message, not only of service, but of fiscal responsibility, not voting to -- for the expansion of the -- the debt and the stimulus. These are -- these are what the issues are really about.

So in an effort to go on with you, Wolf, you're wildly popular across the country, I want people to understand this, so I can get on to the true issues that affect all of us as Americans.

BLITZER: And the primary election is when?

BABEU: August 28th.

BLITZER: So you've got between now and August 28th to prove to the people...

BABEU: Yes.

BLITZER: -- in this Congressional district that you would be an excellent representative...

BABEU: Yes.

BLITZER: -- in the House.

BABEU: Well, everything that we've done, we've performed at the highest levels, exceeded any expectations of service, both in the sheriff's office, reducing emergency response time in the military. And that's what I'd offer people to do, that I'm going to stand up for the people, not only from my state, but for our country.

People all across America can support me if they choose to and write a message. I've been overwhelmed by the messages on our Facebook and our SheriffPaul.com Web site.

I'm going to need help. This is not going be an easy battle.

BLITZER: It's going to be hard. It will be very hard. Hey, Sheriff...

BABEU: Thank you.

BLITZER: -- thanks very much for coming over.

BABEU: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of...

BABEU: It means a lot to me.

BLITZER: -- a lot of people were watching.

BABEU: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

Researchers say they've come up with a cowless hamburger. How did they do it? What could it mean for the future of food?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a question. Could your hamburger one day be grown in a Petri dish instead of on a farm?

Let's bring in CNN's Mary Snow. She's got news to report -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but at a conference this weekend, a scientist from the Netherlands said he's moving closer to serving up a burger made in a lab.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): It's a long way to go from a hamburger like this to one looking like this. This is actually beef being created in a Petri dish.

A Dutch scientist is using stem cells from cattle muscle tissue to create a burger in a lab. And he told a conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science he aims to unveil the first one by October.

MARK POST, UNIVERSITY OF MAASTRICHT: It's still very small pieces, and too small to actually cook it right now. So we are now gearing up to produce, let's say, a golf ball size of this stuff and then cook it.

SNOW: Post estimates that first burger will cost $330,000 to make. Behind it all is the search for a more environmentally friendly way to produce meat as the world's population grows. With land at a premium for the animals needed, one scientist at the conference says global meat consumption could rise 60 percent in the next 40 years.

This isn't the first lab food to make headlines. Here in the U.S., an effort to produce genetically engineered salmon has hit snags as the Food & Drug Administration considers its safety.

Even if it looks the same, tastes the same, and is just as safe, would people really eat beef made in a lab? It's a hard sell for some at New York's Katz's Deli, where fifth generation owner Jake Dell brings in thousands of pounds of beef every week.

JAKE DELL, KATZ'S DELI: Call me traditional, call me old fashioned, I think meat should come from a cow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It might not be a bad idea.

SNOW (on camera): Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, because it would save the Earth. That's one way, you know.

GERRI DANIELS: I could not see my meat coming from a Petri dish. I need to know that it had a face.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Well, there's some good news for the skittish. Post says even if he had unlimited resources, it would still take 10 to 20 years to make these stem cell burgers more efficient than the regular ones. But for now, he says his research is being funded by a financial backer who wants to remain anonymous -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A British boxer becomes a sensation for his antics outside the ring.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What a fight for Heavyweight Champion of the World. No, not the fight in the ring. We mean the fights before and after the fight.

Slap. Spit. Brawl.

It started at the weigh-in. First on the scale, British challenger and bad boy Dereck Chisora versus long-time Ukrainian heavyweight champ of the world Vitali Klitschko. But in the middle of the stare- down, Chisora slapped the champ.

The champ kept his cool, later saying, "I'm really looking forward to teaching this young gentleman a lesson." It reminded us of the time Mike Tyson made a beeline for Lennox Lewis. After a little scuffling, Tyson graduated to making obscene gestures.

MIKE TYSON, BOXER: Stare (ph) at a real man. I'll (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you until you love me.

MOOS: But Dereck Chisora went from slapping the champ to spitting water in the face of the champ's brother right before the fight. The brother kept his cool and the champ went on to win the fight by a unanimous decision.

So you figure Chisora's probably had enough, right? Wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take him away, I say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you not fight me now?

MOOS: At the post-fight press conference, a former British fighter named David Haye got mad about comments Chisora made.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, come there and tell me to my face.

MOOS: The next thing you know, Chisora charged into the crowd and Haye punched him. Someone used a broken bottle as a weapon. Haye's manager got cut.

At one point, Haye picked up a tripod and Chisora started yelling threats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I swear to God, David, I'm going to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) shoot you!

MOOS: But the real shooting was done by photographers and the video went viral. Police in Munich, Germany, questioned Chisora for hours before releasing him. He's been fined $50,000 for the slap and called to appear before the British Boxing Board of Control.

He later wholeheartedly apologized. "I have let my family, my team and, worst of all, the sport I love down. I am deeply embarrassed."

And while all that brawling was going on --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He (EXPLETIVE DELETED) glassed me. He glassed me!

MOOS: -- we raise a glass to the champ. Slap, spit, brawl, grin.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.