Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Polls: Romney Beats Obama In Debate; Fact Check: Tax Cuts; What Their Body Language Reveals; CDC Expects More Meningitis Cases; FBI Offers $50K For "Wanted Terrorist"; Syria Violence Spills Into Turkey. Obama-Romney Campaign after Debate; PBS in Debate Spotlight; Generic Version of Wellbutrin XL Pulled; Republicans Celebrating Romney

Aired October 4, 2012 - 10:00   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: This is from Jacob. Lehrer was weak. What was the point of having a moderator? I was sick of seeing Mitt forcing his last two cents or even interrupting the president.

And this from Lisa. Not fair at all, not Jim's fault there was a weak candidate on stage. Obama isn't much of a leader if he can't handle a debate.

Keep the conversation going. Facebook.com/carolcnn. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

And happening now, the first debate and the last word, which presidential candidate is enjoying a big bounce on the campaign trail today?

And bizarre debate moments, the blinking, the bro hug and big bird, but will it change your vote?

Plus, urban farming reaches a new "high." Police in Chicago find two football fields worth of marijuana plants the size of Christmas trees.

A generic version of a strong anti-depressant off the market, users said it didn't work. We are looking at generic drug risks. NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining us.

It's the morning after the presidential debate. A lot of you are still talking about the commanding performance by Mitt Romney. Right after the debate, we conducted a CNN/ORC international poll of people who watched it.

Two out of 3 said Romney won. Just 1 in 4 picked Obama. In fact, just 1 in 5 thought the president did better than expected, 61 percent said Obama failed to live up to expectations.

Romney scored here as well, 82 percent of debate watchers said the Republican did better than expected, only 10 percent said worse. Today, both men are campaigning in battleground states, but make no mistake it's Romney will be seizing on a big performance.

We begin our coverage this morning with Dana Bash. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Right out of the gate, it was clear. Mitt Romney came to play.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PREIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago. That a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more, if you will, trickle-down government, would work.

BASH: President Obama sounded a familiar alarm, warning of Romney's "been there, done that" economics.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The approach that Governor Romney is talking about is the same sales pitch that was made in 2001 and 2003. And we ended up with the slowest job growth in 50 years.

BASH: But whether it was health care, jobs, or Medicare, it was Romney who stood out for his aggressive style.

ROMNEY: I just don't know how the president could have come into office, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare.

BASH: The president made his points in a slower. More laid back manner, often looking down, sometimes appearing disengaged. It's not that he didn't try to rip apart Romney's economic plan.

OBAMA: That kind of top-down economics, where folks at the top are doing well, so the average person making 3 million bucks is getting a $250,000 tax break, while middle class families are burdened further.

BASH: Romney was determined to go toe to toe.

ROMNEY: Well, but -- but virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate. So if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I'd say, absolutely not.

BASH: The president did get digs in.

OBAMA: For 18 months he's been running on this tax plan. And now five weeks before the election, he's saying that his big, bold idea is never mind.

BASH: But he also showed is flashes of the kind of testiness sources in both camps feared from their candidates, except Obama's was directed at the moderator, not Romney.

OBAMA: The last point I'd make, before --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two minutes is up, sir.

OBAMA: I think I had 5 seconds, before you interrupted me --

BASH: Romney did have his own awkward moderator moment.

ROMNEY: I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS. I love Big Bird, I actually like you too.

BASH: One of the most surprising parts of the president's performance was what he did not say. No mention of Romney's infamous 47 percent remark, no talk of Bain Capital, nothing about Romney's own taxes. He did play the Romney is a hypocrite card when it comes to health care.

OBAMA: The irony is that we've seen this model work really well, in Massachusetts. Because Governor Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model and as a consequence, people are covered there. It hasn't destroyed jobs.

BASH: Romney, who ran from his Massachusetts health care plan during the GOP primaries, now used it to tack to the middle for the general election.

ROMNEY: I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like the fact that in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together. What you did, instead, was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote.

BASH: And Romney's countless hours of rehearsals clearly produced lines like this.

ROMNEY: Mr. President, you're entitled as a president to your own airplane and your own house, but not to your own facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Dana Bash joins us now from New York. So, Dana, even Obama's campaign senior adviser, David Axelrod, said he expects the Republicans to get a bounce from Romney's performance. So you've been around a long time. Will last night's debate be a game-changer?

BASH: Well, when it comes to the actual polls, we, obviously, have our instant poll, which shows that people overwhelmingly thought that Mitt Romney did better generally and also on the important issues.

But when it comes to the actual campaign, unclear if it's going to change people's minds, but there is no question it has changed the narrative. At this point in an election, that is really, really critical.

Because let's just look at it from Mitt Romney's camp. Just a couple of days ago, he had conservative columnists saying let's cut our losses and put our money in our resources towards getting the Senate saying, you know, forget it, it's game over.

Now, they are not saying that at all. So that is going to help Romney with energy when it comes to grassroots campaigning and energy when it comes to fund-raising and donors so that all cannot be discounted.

Is it going to win him the presidency? Not by a long shot, but it certainly -- it makes the narrative as I said and the discussion about this campaign completely different than it was yesterday.

COSTELLO: Dana Bash is reporting live for us thanks so much.

All the talk about the economy last night, it's hard to know who is telling the truth. President Obama would say one thing and Governor Romney would contradict it, especially on tax cuts.

So who has the answers? I know. Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi is here. It's nice to see you in person. I've missed you!

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we spent very early mornings together so it's nice we both get to sleep a little more.

COSTELLO: Exactly. So we have heard a lot of numbers thrown around last night. So kind of tell us what they mean.

VELSHI: All right, so there are a lot of things to do with how you are going to deal with this deficit that is a major concern of Americans vis-a-vis taxes, who is going to do what?

President Obama made an allegation about Mitt Romney's tax plan and how it will increase the deficit. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Governor Romney's central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cuts on top of the Bush tax cuts another trillion dollars and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn't asked for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: OK, so there -- a number of things there, but the $5 trillion tax cut is what Mitt Romney kept coming back to I will not impose -- I will not add $5 trillion to the deficit. Now let's see how president got to the 5 trillion.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which is a liberal think tank said that if you do what Mitt Romney said cut tax rates by 20 percent in every category. Everybody gets a 20 percent cut. That would reduce income to the government by $4.9 trillion over 10 years.

So very close to what President Obama said. Here is what Mitt Romney said. By the way, you can't do it. If Mitt Romney says I'm not going to increase the deficit, people's taxes would have to go up to cover the difference.

Here is why Mitt Romney says that will not work. He cuts taxes by 20 percent across the board and that stimulates business. His arguments and many conservatives argue that if you cut taxes people use the money that they were otherwise paying the government to invest in businesses and hire people.

More people are employed and more people pay a lower tax rate and the government gets more money. So is that a lie or is it true? Who knows? It's how you calculate the numbers.

COSTELLO: We always forget that taxes are already low, especially on the wealthiest Americans. That is not happening now.

VELSHI: Well, that is the biggest argument against it that we have had these low tax rates. We know that wealthy people pay a lower tax rate than middle class working people and they haven't taken that money that they're not paying the government and done something else with it.

But President Obama proposes raising those income tax rates to where they were as he said when President Clinton was president and that has a conservative spearing if you raise taxes then they really won't be investing it in the economy.

COSTELLO: So basically what Mitt Romney is saying that once he becomes president and people know their taxes are going to be cut people will become so excited that they will start hiring, willy- nilly?

VELSHI: That is kind of the argument. That is kind of the argument and a lot of people really believe that. I mean, in Canada where I'm from, they have done that.

They lowered corporate taxes and they did seem to be a business bump as a result, but it's psychological. It's hard to know. Are companies saying lower my taxes and I'll hire people or I'll give it out as dividends and keep more cash? We just don't know.

COSTELLO: Ali Velshi, thanks so much.

Lots of numbers, plenty of details and tons of complicated math. It's no wonder many newspapers are describing last night's showdown as wonkish. Here is how it was described by the "Denver Post" in the host city, quote, "TV viewers needed research teams on the couch.

Over 90 minutes, Barack Obama may have won the gravitas battle. Remaining presidential throughout, but he lost the TV war. Obama was restrained to the point of flailing.

Romney, the challenger, more than held his own wonkinish triumph. If you remember, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie raised eyebrows this weekend when he predicted a bold, Romney victory, this morning, a victory lap.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: He came out and said here is where I want to take America. I don't think the president was ready to answer that. Fact of the matter is, you know, you can't beat the champ on points. Mitt Romney hit a knockout last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Whether by knockout or merely by points, Democrats concede that Democrats are shrugging off Romney's big win. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: I didn't say he was out debated. I think he treated the American people like adults and he told them the truth, which was a fundamental distinction between him and Governor Romney last night on a whole host of issues.

I joke that Governor Romney had put more preparation into it than they did into the invasion of Normandy. You saw last night. I expected a strong performance and got that and that is what it was, a performance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: If you weren't listening closely to every word the candidates said you may have noticed everything they did. Like Mitt Romney blinking almost as much as a strobe of light, more than a blink per second at times or President Obama's giant grin even smiling when the discussion wasn't funny or even pleasant.

What about the handshake? It almost looks like a halfway bro hug, doesn't it? Talk about all of this body language is debate director from Emory University, Ed Lee. Thank you so much for being here.

ED LEE, EMORY UNIVERSITY DEBATE DIRECTOR: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: OK, first of all, I mean, this is like some people will say, my gosh, this is such a shallow conversation, but how much does body language matter when it comes to performance, in debates?

LEE: It's extremely important. One of the things we want to keep in mind is every mass media event, every form of communication is an attempt to create a persona.

And, ultimately, both candidates are trying to sell us who they are and who they think they can be and whether or not they have a particular person you want to lead the country on so both are creating a persona.

For me, I thought that as a communications and debate coach this was far more interesting and thinking about it through that prism than a lot of the ways in which we have thought about it.

COSTELLO: OK, so Mitt Romney charged the stage. He was energetic from the get-go. What sort of distracting to me when he was not answering the questions, he blinked a lot, but he did look at President Obama. So kind of parse that out for me.

LEE: Well, I think that both of them in a way in which they engaged each other in the nonverbal cues they gave offset a lot. With Mitt Romney and the blinking and the way he looked at the president and sparred with the moderator seemed indicated a level of aggression and at times combative role that he was trying to play. That was his persona --

COSTELLO: Do you blink because you're nervous? LEE: Some of it is nervousness. At times I also thought it was a desire to enter into the debate and trying to reserve himself from being rude.

COSTELLO: Sort of like another way of going --

LEE: Yes. I have on to speak. I have something to say.

COSTELLO: OK, so as far as President Obama, he smiled a lot. He didn't look at Mitt Romney a lot, mistake?

LEE: I don't think that it was necessarily a mistake because the role that he was trying to play was less a fighter and more the compromiser. Where he was looking was to pay attention to the audience.

One of the things we want to keep in mind is who are we trying to communicate to? For Obama, I thought he did a very good job of trying to communicate to the audience and looking more at the camera than at Mitt Romney.

I thought Romney's role of playing the fighter, the aggressor was to look at Obama. So both of them in their own ways I thought were successful at playing the role, the persona that they wanted.

COSTELLO: OK, during the debate, I was on my Facebook page.

LEE: Sure

COSTELLO: And a lot of my friends, they were really bothered because President Obama said, uh, a lot. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me talk specifically about what I think we need to do. First, for not adding to the deficit -- individuals can -- are currently taking advantage of. You take those all away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: OK, so I just did it! But the better way to do that is just pause and to not say anything so how do you eliminate the uhs? Obviously, the president was thinking about what he was saying.

LEE: Exactly what those are, those are verbal pauses that he is engaging in that clearly he is a deliberative speaker. He likes to think about everything he says before he actually says it.

And you're absolutely right. In many of my communication classes, I teach students to just pause. Take your time. Have an adequate pace and don't worry about going back on what you have to say.

COSTELLO: Because you think it's going to be a long pause, but it's really not. It's like a half a second.

LEE: Clearly not. It's not something that actually the audience pays that much attention to. One of the things that I thought with both candidates probably wanted to keep in mind at times is that the audience's capacity to understand and process information is at a much slower rate and the capacity is much smaller than they were actually willing to deliver the information.

COSTELLO: Dr. Lee, thank you so much. It was fascinating.

LEE: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: Grab a pencil and take a close look. The FBI is offering $50,000 for this Massachusetts man.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It's 18 minutes past the hour. Checking our top stories now. The CDC expects to see more cases of a deadly meningitis outbreak. Twenty six people have become sick in five states and four have died. The culprit believed to have a steroid injection given to the spine to treat pain and inflammation. The company that makes the drug is now conducting a voluntary recall.

A Philadelphia police officer was caught punching a woman in the face at a parade will be fired. The commissioner says the officer will be suspended with intent to dismiss. The woman who was hit wants a public apology.

Her attorney says she sprayed silly string towards police, but missed and says a man behind her sprayed (inaudible) provoking the officer who apparently did not see the man who actually sprayed him with beer.

The FBI launching a new search for a man they are calling a wanted terrorist and offering $50,000 reward. They say the man is a U.S. citizen who grew up near Boston and may be live in Syria. The FBI says he sought training to kill U.S. troops overseas.

On the subject of Syria, the country is apparently apologizing for shelling that crossed the border and hit a town in turkey. Take a look at the damage to this home. Five people died in the artillery fire.

Turkey still shooting back at Syrian troops morning and turkey government passed a resolution for troops to go into Syria if necessary. With me now is senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.

You are recently at the Turkey/Syria border, how worried should we be that this will turn into something bigger?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is escalating. There's no doubt about that. I don't think we should expect Turkey really to go to war, not their intention and not the support for the prime minister to do that. But he's put Syria on notice, do it again and there will be serious repercussions that will come back to you.

COSTELLO: So who in Syria is responsible for, you know, for what is happening in Turkey? ROBERTSON: I think the best analysis and we don't know the details, we really don't. I think it's very unlikely that the Syrian government would have authorized their troops to fire over the border.

The last thing they want is draw international intervention. They are escalating and the conversation from shelling to shooting and dropping bombs from aircraft but they don't want to draw the international communication in.

They have it on their terms right now. You got to figure it is very probably, you know, a soldier on the ground and then officer is in the heat of battle and his -- they are not firing with accuracy. Maybe taking fire and popping out the mortar rounds and not caring, but we don't know.

COSTELLO: So the United States has a pretty good relationship with Turkey. I mean, how likely is that Turkey will put pressure on the United States to do something more about Syria?

ROBERTSON: They already want to. I mean, we have already heard from the Turkish foreign minister saying we need a buffer zone over Syria to be protected and you can't put it over that protection. I don't think we're going to see, based on this instance, you know, a military support.

But Turkey does want to know if it gets into something deeper with Syria that it does this international NATO support, U.S. support behind it, so that is entirely possible, but Turkey has a strong professional army. They are not lacking in capability. They just want to know they are going to have real depth.

COSTELLO: So this violence within Syria has been going on a long time now. Are you surprised that Assad is still in power?

ROBERTSON: No. I was just in Damascus. It's very clearly that he is not having any major significant defections. The center of the capital and quite a number of the suburbs around it are untouched by war and still a large percent of the population that don't support him, they are very concerned of the alternative. So, no, I think he is pretty solid right now.

COSTELLO: Nic Robertson, thanks. It's nice to see you here at home, at least home for us and you too sometimes.

ROBERTSON: It is.

COSTELLO: Where do you live, anyway?

ROBERTSON: I live in London, but my wife and daughters are all U.S. citizens.

COSTELLO: Welcome, Nic. Have a good time here.

Mitt Romney stole the spotlight last night, but will a strong debate performance be enough to win the White House? Our political panel weighs in next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning is criticism of the debate moderator fair? The reviews are in. They are not pretty.

Weak, useless, road kill. I'm not talking about President Obama or Mitt Romney, but about the moderator, Jim Lehrer. Despite having moderated 11 previous debates, Lehrer seemed ineffectual at times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM LEHRER, MODERATOR: Stay on track for a moment. What is the difference?

ROMNEY: Virtually, everything you just said about my tax plan is inaccurate.

LEHRER: Just -- just for the record -- excuse me. Just so everybody understands.

ROMNEY: Yes.

LEHRER: We are way over our first 15 minutes.

ROMNEY: It's fun, isn't it?

LEHRER: It's OK. It's great. No problem.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The last point I'd make before --

LEHRER: Two minutes. Two minutes is up, sir.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think I had five seconds before you interrupted me, was --

LEHRER: Here is a specific. No, let's not. Let him respond. Let's let him respond to this specific on Dodd-Frank.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Viewers also wondered why Lehrer didn't challenge Romney's attack on his own station, PBS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I love PBS and I love Big Bird and I like you too but not spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The web went big for Big Bird. Shame, shame! Thank goodness for Twitter and Facebook and mentions of big bird went up 800,000 percent. Seriously, though. "Tampa Bay Times" criticized Lehrer for not explaining Dodd-Frank and that turned the debate into a walk fest. One suggested that Lehrer allowed Romney to steamroll the debate, but Lehrer just reports the story and not easy in these times. Some called him a safe and predictable choice and one told "The New York Times" it's a rough, rough world.

Those who decide to play in that world have to play by those rules. I'm susceptible to the same smears as anyone else. Talk back question for you today, is criticism of the debate moderator fair? Facebook.com/carolcnn. Your comments later this hour.

A massive marijuana farm as big as two football fields and it was hiding, of all places, right smack in the middle of Chicago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It is 30 minutes past the hour. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

The Obama/Romney duel in Denver is officially in the history books but the impact on the race for the White House, well, that's only just beginning.

Joining me now are CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona she's in Washington; and that's also where we find Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro, welcome.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning Carol.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Ok so Ana let's start with you, Mitt Romney's performance last night it not only changed the perception maybe of some independents, but it changed the perception of many Republicans too.

NAVARRO: I think that was the most important thing that Mitt Romney achieved last night. You know, he was on shaky ground. We've seen a series of bad polls and all of a sudden, he pulled himself out of ICU, woke up from being unconscious and was there alive and kicking and gave people hope again. Gave people hope and we saw the Mitt Romney that I saw back in Florida in January who won those two Florida primary debates and came out swinging after that.

He got his Mojo back after winning those two debates. We've got to see if that happens as a result of this one, but this was a very good thing for last -- last night from Mitt Romney. Had he not won last night the only thing we would be debating today was his political obituary but we're not.

COSTELLO: So Maria, was this like an October surprise?

CARDONA: I don't think it was so much of an October surprise. Look the Obama campaign and everybody made fun of them. We're actually and downplaying the expectations for President Obama. Look. Mitt Romney had the luxury of preparing endlessly for this debate. This is his full-time job as running for president. The President, you know, actually has a full-time job and that's running the country. He was rusty and it showed. Mitt Romney had had 20 debates this year, was very well-prepared. And that showed too. But I do think President Obama was able to do the contrast.

I loved when he looked directly to the camera and talked to the American people about his plan in protecting the middle class versus Mitt Romney's. But he certainly missed some opportunities.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: But -- but here is the thing, Maria. But here is the thing when it comes to issues, a lot of people are talking about what wasn't mentioned in the debate like Romney's 47 percent comment, Romney's taxes, Bain Capital. Why wasn't the -- why didn't the President mention these things?

CARDONA: That's exactly right, Carol and -- and what I was about to say is that he absolutely missed some opportunities. I don't understand why he didn't bring up the 47 percent. I don't understand why he didn't focus on Bain. And I don't understand why he did not really go back very hard on Mitt Romney, frankly on some of the blatant untruth that he told. The $716 billion on Medicare, the $5 trillion tax cut.

He did try to go back to that but he should have just pounded him. So I suspect that the next debate, we will see a very different President Obama and the challenge here for Mitt Romney is to see if he can change this moment into momentum.

COSTELLO: Ok Ana so that's the next question for you. How does Romney capitalize on this performance?

NAVARRO: I saw him do it back in Florida. He comes back with, you know, just a lot of energy. It shows in all of his events. He's got to, you know, how does he capitalize on it? By building up and winning the second one.

Hopefully, Paul Ryan outperforming Joe Biden, if that happens, look. One debate each of these things, Carol, is a battle. But winning several battles wins the war. And right now, we can say that he won a very important battle last night. It doesn't mean he is going to win the war but if he wins a second battle, that really does, I think, set a tone.

If President Obama does not come back strong in the second one and Mitt Romney outperforms him as he clearly as he did last night it truly will build on his momentum and I think at that point becomes a game-changer.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: Ok so -- so off of what you said about changing minds specifically for Romney, the consensus is of course he won but that doesn't necessarily translate into actual votes. An editorial of "The Denver Post" surveyed a group of undecided voters who were still undecided once the debate ended.

CARDONA: Yes.

COSTELLO: So Maria?

CARDONA: Yes absolutely. And I think that is the critical question Carol. You know what was so interesting to me is I was doing all of the debate commentary on CNN Espanol. And right after the consensus was among all of the Latinos was that Obama had won hands down by more than 2-1. And so -- and the other thing that you saw throughout the debate is in the -- in the little lines that women were absolutely in favor of everything that Obama was saying.

So the Latino -- the Latino gap hasn't gone away. The gender gap hasn't gone away. So again, that's the question. Will this translate to a change of trajectory? I don't think it will, but that all depends on President Obama now.

COSTELLO: Ana Navarro and Maria Cardona, thank you so much for the conversation.

NAVARRO: Thank you Carol.

COSTELLO: We appreciate it.

CARDONA: Thank you so much.

COSTELLO: Taxes, unemployment, and Big Bird? One of these things is definitely not like the other. And it made for one of the most memorable moments from last night's debate. I'll discuss that with the CEO of PBS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: A lot of issues went unmentioned in last night's debate but it was a six-foot tall yellow bird that got everyone talking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I actually like you too but I'm not going to -- I'm not going to keep on spending on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: As soon as Mitt Romney mentioned Big Bird, fake Big Bird accounts blew up on twitter. Fired Big Bird has about 26,000 followers right now with tweets like "If Mitt Romney wins, this is what I will be forced to do" with a picture that has Big Bird with a, "I will work for food" sign and even one where "Big Bird claims allegiance with the 47 percent. Poor Big Bird.

Joining us now by phone is Paula Kerger the CEO of PBS. Welcome, Paula.

PAULA KERGER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PBS (via telephone): Thank you for having me on Carol. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you.

COSTELLO: Oh we're excited to talk to you. I mean -- I mean, the Big Bird moment was funny but there's a serious issue here and that is funding for PBS. Were you surprised that Mitt Romney brought up Big Bird?

KERGER: I was. I mean with the enormous problems facing our country, the fact that we are the focus is just unbelievable to me, particularly given the fact that you know at another part of the debate, both candidates talked about the importance of education. We are America's biggest classroom. We touch children across the country in every home, whether -- whether you have books in your home or computer or not, almost everyone has a television set.

And so we're able to bring kids across the country, not just enjoyable programs but programs that really help them prepare and get ready for school with core curriculum and math and science and literacy. So the fact that we're in this debate, this is not about the budget. It has to be about politics.

COSTELLO: So -- so tell us how much money does Big Bird get from the government?

KERGER: Well, actually, Big Bird doesn't get money from the government. In fact, the money that comes from the government into the corporation for Public Broadcasting actually doesn't even come to PBS. It goes to our member stations.

And so that is actually what's at risk if, in fact, we are defunded because the money is going to stations across the country. In aggregate our money is 15 percent of our budget. But you know when you look at it station by station, there are some stations, particularly in rural parts of the country, that they are a part of the federal budget is 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent. Those stations will go off the air. And so for people sitting in communities across the country, that is at risk. That is the consequence if, in fact, our money is zeroed out.

We have been for the 40 years of our history a great public/private partnership and we take the federal money and we leverage that with resources that we -- that we raise.

COSTELLO: I want to talk a little bit about Jim Lehrer. Because there are critics this morning just annihilating his performance last night. What did you think of Jim Lehrer's performance?

KERGER: Well I think you know that it was a very complicated debate structure and so you know and I think that in -- and you saw that I think in the debate last night.

COSTELLO: Well, there was criticism even when Jim Lehrer was initially named to be a moderator. People said oh another old white guy. He's too old to be doing this we live in a new world, we don't need an old-fashioned journalist doing these things any longer.

KERGER: Again, I think it was -- it was a complicated structure for the debate. And -- but, I -- you know again, the fact that we were, you know, singled out early in the debate, to me was just -- it was -- it was stunning. It was just a stunning moment.

And I just know, because I travel around the country a lot, I visit with people in communities. I just came back from Tacoma, Washington, where a station there is partnering with an elementary school where on work where half of the kids in the school are from homeless families.

I mean I think the reach of our work is so extensive and so -- and so deeply rooted in education. That's why we're created for education television. The fact that we're in this debate at all, to me, is just incomprehensible.

COSTELLO: Well you know when you heard that Mitt Romney was practicing zingers before the debate. This seemed to be one of those lines that was rehearsed and that he used very effectively.

KERGER: The thing that's ironic though is that there has been a lot of research done over the last couple of years about public media. In fact, last year, Hart Research and American Viewpoint did some surveying and they found that 70 percent of Americans oppose proposals to cut funding of public broadcasting. So it may have been a well- rehearsed remark but it doesn't tie into any research that I have seen about the role that public broadcasting plays in this country or in the hearts and minds of Americans.

COSTELLO: Paula Kerger CEO and president of PBS, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy morning to talk with us.

KERGER: Thank you so much for having me on, Carol.

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: A popular generic version of the antidepressant Wellbutrin XL has been pulled off the shelves. And FDA investigation found the generic drug just wasn't as effective. It wasn't working. Now consumers are left wondering if generics are safe to use.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now.

First of all, lets' start with this generic brand of Wellbutrin. It's just that patient were taking Wellbutrin rather -- patients were taking it and it simply wasn't having any effect?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. They were calling the FDA and saying, "Gee, I switched from the brand to this generic and I'm depressed again. My symptoms have come back. They even filed lawsuits.

So they started investigating. This has been going on for a couple of years now. And so they did a test and when they looked at the drug and it wasn't getting into the bloodstream the same rate as the brand name. They can actually see the difference when they measure people's blood and table pharmaceuticals which makes this generic has said, we're taking of it off the market.

But I want to be clear. There are various forms of Wellbutrin. You can take the brand, you can take another generic. It's not as if Wellbutrin is going away. Patients still have access to it.

COSTELLO: Yes, but still it's kind of disturbing because the FDA still has to approve this generic brand of this drug and if it hasn't been working for years, why was it still on the market today?

COHEN: Well, they said that to test it and to make sure and all of that. But there was -- it's been pretty well known for a couple of years that this might be problematic. But it certainly brings up the question well, how does this happen?

COSTELLO: Exactly. How did it get on the market in the first place?

COHEN: Exactly. How did it get on the market and stay on the market? And you know, the FDA is these drugs by the FDA rules are supposed to be tested so that they are the same off equivalent to the brand name. But something got goofed up here and the FDA says that they are changing their rules for how to make this particular generic. They said something was wrong with the sort of the Rubric that they gave and they are changing it.

COSTELLO: Ok. Well, that makes me concerned about all generic drugs frankly.

COHEN: Right. But of course, when you hear these, You think (inaudible) is any generic ok? You know every so often you do hear stories about generics being not as good as brand names but I have to say it is relatively unusual. Generics for the most part really are the same and really are equivalent but if you're taking a generic and it's not working. It's not doing what it's supposed to, talk to your doctor and say, gee maybe, you know, could you please prescribe the brand name for me? Because this generic may not be the same. It's supposed to be but there's a chance it might not be.

COSTELLO: Yes. And hopefully, your insurance will covers it.

COHEN: Yes. Or try another generic form. That's another thing. There's often -- for one drug, there are several generics.

COSTELLO: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

COSTELLO: Hash tag fail, KitchenAid taking some heat over an offensive tweet sent during the debates. The message they wish they could take back and why does a refrigerator have a Twitter account?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Unless you've been completely out of loop, you know that last night was a pretty big one for Mitt Romney. Joining me now is Republican representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida. He is a surrogate for the Romney campaign. Good morning. REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R), FLORIDA: Good morning.

COSTELLO: So did you do any celebrating last night? Kind of like the wave? Did everyone get together and do the wave for Mitt Romney?

DIAZ-BALART: No, no spiking of the football but we are very pleased. Look, I thought last night was rarely at this level do you see such a dramatic victory by one side or the other. I thought you saw basically substance versus rhetoric versus style. I think you saw in Mitt Romney, a person who has specific ideas, concrete proposals and how to fix the economy and get this country working again.

And unfortunately, for President Obama, you saw, frankly, somebody I think is out of ideas and doesn't have any new thoughts as to how to get this economy going.

COSTELLO: Congressman, the moment that resonate probably the most with viewers was Mitt Romney's comments on Big Bird and taking money away from the program, PBS. Some people say why are you picking on Big Bird, of all things?

DIAZ-BALART: Big Bird is a multi, multi, multimillion dollar venture and Big Bird will be fine, trust me. The question is does Big Bird still need to be on welfare? Does the taxpayer need to be funding a multimillion dollar venture?

Big Bird is always going to be on TV but the question is should we be sending hard-earned taxpayer money to, you know, an entity that is a multi-million dollar entity that's going to be there with or without taxpayer subsidy?

And again having to borrow money from China --

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: Well, I just -- I actually just talked to the CEO -- I just talked to the CEO and president of PBS. She says that money from the government doesn't go directly to "Sesame Street". It goes to member stations and then they decide what to do with the money and this has been a great public-private partnership. Sesame Street, she says, is America's like -- poor kids get their education from "Sesame Street". This is a show that is beloved by millions of Americans.

DIAZ-BALART: Two things. First, "Sesame Street" is always going to be there with or without taxpayer subsidy. So that is a red herring and you know, that was I think a pretty light moment.

Now, to talk about --

COSTELLO: Well, I'm not sure that it is a red herring, because the amount of money given by the government to PBS station is a drop in the bucket in comparison with what other things the government pays for.

DIAZ-BALART: With all due respect, with the situation that we are facing in our country, with, you know, millions of people unemployed, with people -- you know, you look at the economic numbers and we are going to have the new numbers coming out this week.

To be focusing on a presidential debate, on a light moment where -- where Governor Romney mentioned that we shouldn't be subsidizing -- borrowing money from China to be subsidizing things, that frankly don't have to be subsidized, that is the take-away that you found from the debate? I mean frankly that is the best you can come up with from this debate? You think that was the highlight moment from this debate?

You don't think the highlight moment when we were talking about how to create jobs?

COSTELLO: No. It's not what I think. It's not what I think. It's been the public reaction to the comment. It's not me saying it. I think there's a Facebook page with 26,000 people on board.

And the CEO and president of PBS is concerned, frankly. So should we just ignore that?

DIAZ-BALART: Yes, but -- no. But I think we should -- look. The polls in your own network show that it was a decisive victory for Mitt Romney because he has real specific solutions for the issues that the people care about.

And let me tell you what the people care about. They can't find jobs out there. The United States of America is bankrupt. Medicare is insolvent in a decade and this President cut $16 billion out of Medicare. That is what the people of America care about.

And Big Bird is going to be around as long as Big Bird wants to be long. "Sesame Street" is going to be around as long as they want to be around because they are a multimillion dollar venture.

Look, you go to any store, you can buy Big Bird for your children. I have some for my kid. They don't have to be subsidized by money borrowed from China.

And again, what people are concerned about is where are the jobs? How do we create jobs? How do we lower the price of gasoline? And how do we stop borrowing money from Communist China and how do we stop spending money that we don't have?

Again, I think focusing on a light moment, which was clearly what it was, is doing a disservice to the people of America who are struggling who want to find jobs and get America working again. Mitt Romney knows how to do that.

COSTELLO: Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. I do appreciate it.

DIAZ-BALART: Always a pleasure.

COSTELLO: Always a pleasure. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Thanks for your "Talk Back" responses. No time for them this morning but I will read each and every one.

I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

"CNN NEWSROOM" continues right now with Ashleigh Banfield.