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CNN NEWSROOM

Patriots Football Scandal Continues; Sundance Film Festival Kicks Off in Utah; One of Top Prosecutors in Argentina Found Dead

Aired January 23, 2015 - 10:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Bill Belichick doesn't know how it happened. Tom Brady says he didn't do. So how did nearly a dozen footballs get underinflated for the New England Patriots AFC championship game? One thing is for sure, there are lots of fingers being pointed at Belichick and Brady.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BILL BELICHICK, HEAD COACH, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I have no explanation for what happened. Tom's personal preferences on his footballs are something that he can talk about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a weasel move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Total rat move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just put it all on number 12.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did.

TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I didn't alter the ball in any way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you answer right now? Is Tom Brady a cheater?

BRADY: I don't believe so. I feel like I've always played within the rules.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The league has not talked with you, contacted you to get your side of the story on this?

BRADY: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to talk to the refs and you have to talk to the equipment managers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to find the ball boys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to find the ball boys. You've got to talk to Tom Brady. You've got to talk to Bill Belichick and maybe check some tapes or videotapes at the sideline. Why does it take five days to do that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are dragging it out so they can have it happen after the Super Bowl.

BRADY: This isn't ISIS. This isn't -- you know, no one is dying. We'll get through this. Hopefully we can really start preparing for Seattle and get our mind focused there.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COSTELLO: Right. And even more people will watch the Super Bowl this year. It's not just the NFL cheating. Unfortunately cheating can be found in every sport.

Remember the Black Sox scandal in 1919 -- well, you probably don't really remember it but it happened. The Sox intentionally threw the World Series. How about Ben Johnson being stripped of his gold medal in the 100 meter dash in the 1988 summer Olympics after failing a drug test? 1994, the husband of figure skater Tonya Harding tries to take out rival Nancy Kerrigan with an attack on her knee just before their Olympics. And in 2012 after years of fighting allegations of doping, cyclist Lance Armstrong finally came clean, admitting to using performance enhancing drugs along with his teammates.

Sports ethicist Shawn Klein joins us now to talk more about this. Good morning.

SHAWN KLEIN, SPORTS ETHICIST: Good morning. Thanks for having me on.

COSTELLO: Thanks for being here. So can you compare what's going on right now, you know, within the New England Patriots organization to these other cheating scandals?

KLEIN: In some ways, yes. I mean they are all part of a broader problem. But I think as your intro showed, those scandals are much worse than this scandal which I think is relatively minor. More comparable probably to something like a traffic violation rather than throwing the World Series or cheating using performance enhancing drugs.

COSTELLO: Mr. Sports Ethicist, you're saying this is like a traffic ticket, a minor traffic offense?

KLEIN: I think it's more in that vein, yes. I think it had no impact on the game.

COSTELLO: We don't know that.

KLEIN: They have played in the second half with regulation balls and the Patriots had a better offense in the second half than in the first half. I think that's some evidence for why it didn't really have any impact on the game. But also, I think it's a rule violation and if they tampered with the balls they should be punished accordingly.

So I'm not trying to excuse them. I'm just trying to put it into the proper context. I don't think this is on the scale of some of the other scandals that you mentioned. That's all I'm trying to say.

COSTELLO: Well, let me run this by you because we have kind of become a nation of cheaters where it's kind of ok. Because everybody cheats -- kids cheat on their SATs. They cheat in school. There's a big cheating problem in high schools. Everybody cheats. It's become ok.

KLEIN: I don't know if it's become ok. And I don't know if that's something new. I think we know about it more. But I mean if you go back to ancient Greece, there's evidence of performance enhancing drugs in the ancient Olympics.

So it's not something that I think is new. That doesn't excuse it. The fact that most -- a lot of quarterbacks have come out and said they do similar things like this to the footballs before games. That doesn't excuse it either although I think again it does mitigate it a little bit if the NFL has been giving essentially tacit approval to this for several years now, I think that does mitigate some of it.

COSTELLO: But isn't that what we said about the baseball steroid scandal? Like everybody is doing it. So if you really wanted to compete, you had to take steroids because everybody was doing it so in the end it wasn't really cheating, it was just how you played the game.

KLEIN: I think I'm saying something a little different. It's not just that everybody is doing it that is excusing. I think it's the fact that if the NFL knew that this was going on and looked the other way and then players like Brady and others who may have tampered with balls, that that may mitigate it a little bit. I don't think it excuses it. I don't think it justifies it, but I think it does I think temper back some of the ridiculous claims that he should be -- either one of these should be suspended or thrown out of the league or anything like that.

COSTELLO: Here's the thing. Here's the thing. And I heard this from more than one analyst, unless there's video evidence of someone with a needle deflating a ball, we'll probably never know what exactly happened.

KLEIN: That's probably true. I don't know if we need precisely video evidence of someone doing it to the footballs but I think we need more than we have now which is really just the fact that some of these balls were underinflated. I think we need to know more about how this happened and who was involved.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: But doesn't that mean that the New England Patriots, if they did indeed -- if someone on the team is responsible for this, doesn't that mean they just get away with it and they win the Super Bowl and all is great?

KLEIN: Well, there's as lot of ifs there. But I think there is something that we need to pay attention to which is there's a difference I think between really going out to skirt the rules versus playing on the edge.

I think the Patriots have shown they like to play on the edge. They go right up to the line and sometimes that means you cross over the line versus really intending to skirt the rules directly. And that I think we need more evidence for that before we can really accuse them or suspend them or take away their Super Bowl berth or anything like that. We don't have the evidence yet so we can't punish them without the evidence.

COSTELLO: That is very true. Shawn Klein, thanks for sparring with me this morning. I enjoyed it.

KLEIN: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: You're welcome. Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the Sundance Film Festival is in full swing. Up next, we'll take you there live and give you a sneak peek at what movies are getting the biggest buzz.

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(MUSIC)

COSTELLO: That's a clip from the movie "Cronies" one of the many films being unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival this week. As always the event is expected to showcase some of the hottest new movies. For some it's a chance to unveil new talent and get picked up by distributors. For others, it's all about the awards.

This year more than 4,000 films were submitted for screening, only 123 made the cut. Some of the movies that premiered last year like "Whiplash" and "Boyhood" are now up for Oscars. So what can we expect this year? Let's ask CNN's Stephanie Elam; she's in Park City, Utah. I so envy you.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm sure it feels about the same temperature degree there in New York, Carol. It's exactly the same.

COSTELLO: It's different though somehow.

ELAM: A little different. We are here in the CNN Films lounge as you can see right here on Main Street in Park City, Utah, where you're right. It's all about the films. It's all about what people can come and see -- maybe films that you wouldn't necessarily see in other locations.

You're right. Some people are trying to find distributions for their films. Some are just trying to show different aspects of their ability to act in some of these films. So a lot of people coming here, a lot of buzz about some of the movies that are going to be here as well -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I'm really intrigued by this movie that HBO has about Scientology. What can you tell us about that?

ELAM: Not a lot. And you probably are not surprised to hear that. Because this movie called "Going Clear" is one of the movies that everyone is talking about because of the fact that it looks at Scientology and we know that in the past people from the Church of Scientology have not been very open to people looking inside of what's going on inside their organization. So this is one that everyone is hoping to see more of.

And what's interesting about some of these movies here, too Carol, is in the opening day ceremony, if you will, Robert Redford was asked about this freedom of expression in these days post "Charlie Hebdo" and the ability to talk about things that perhaps are upsetting to people. This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR/CREATOR, SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: We believe in diversity and freedom of expression is very much fundamental to us and that's evident in the film. You see a lot of films here that are going to upset other people and -- but that's ok. It's diversity. It is showing what there is out there.

So I think freedom of expression seems to be in danger in a lot of areas but as far as we're concerned, we will do everything in our power to keep it alive here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELAM: And one thing else that Redford mentioned was that he sees documentaries as a very important form of expression and that also he sees it as long form journalism and he really wanted that to be a highlight at the Sundance Film Festival when he created this many years ago. So he sees that as an important way to express something that maybe needs a highlight and that can be discussed and get people talking about it even more -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Happy birthday, Stephanie Elam.

ELAM: It's not a bad place to be for your birthday, is it? Thanks -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I know. I was going to sing but I don't want to torture like that. So I won't. But I'll sing one line -- happy birthday to you. Happy birthday -- Stephanie.

ELAM: I love it. I'm feeling the love. I'm feeling the love -- Carol. Thank you.

COSTELLO: Good. I mean that. Thanks Stephanie.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, he's known as the ski god and now he's taking you along on the slopes. Jeanne Moos will have the story.

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COSTELLO: One of Argentina's top prosecutors found dead in a hotel room. Initially officials said he killed himself but now it appears to be something more sinister.

Brian Todd has more for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment with a bullet in his brain. A gun and shell casing on the floor despite having the protection of a ten-man security detail. That was hours before he was due to testify on explosive allegations he'd made in a notorious terrorism case.

Now the mysterious death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman is gathering intrigue and enveloping the leaders of two powerful governments.

MATTHEW LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR-EAST POLICY: Hollywood would not accept a script like this. This is completely out of the pages of a spy thriller.

TODD: Just after Nisman's death last Sunday, Argentina's president called it a suicide but now says she doubts it. Investigators say there was no gun residue found on his hands as there likely would have been if he had pulled the trigger.

Mark Dubowitz is a friend of the prosecutor.

MARK DUBOWITZ, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Alberto had been threatened many times and actually in February 2013, he received photos and threats, and photos and images that were deeply disturbing showing Alberto and his daughters.

TODD: Nisman was investigating the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. He was about to testify about his report saying Iran was behind the attack. Tehran denies that.

But Nisman was also about to testify that Argentine Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner's government was trying to cover up Iran's involvement in exchange for better trade with Iran. Her aides vehemently deny a cover up but were they involved in Nisman's death.

DUBOWITZ: The Argentine government certainly could have been involved in this. And they had a reason for that.

TODD: I spoke by phone with Argentina's foreign minister. Was the Argentine government involved in this prosecutor's death?

HECTOR TIMERMAN, ARGENTINA'S FOREIGN MINISTER: No, absolutely not. The government of Argentina was not involved. Second, nobody I mean wanted more Mr. Nisman to leave and to answer the question than the president of Argentina and myself.

TODD: Analysts say Iran also had a strong motive to kill Nisman for his relentless pursuit of Iranian officials in connection with the 1994 terrorist bombing.

LEVITT: Iran has a long, long history as Nisman noted in detail in his report including with evidence collected from countries where these other assassinations happened of carrying out assassinations around the world. TODD: The Iranian regime has been accused of assassination plots here

in the U.S. -- the killing of a former Iranian diplomat in a Washington suburb and the failed plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. here at this Washington restaurant. The Iranians denied involvement in that.

We tried to get Iranian officials to respond to the comments that they could have been involved in the Argentine prosecutor's death. They have not responded.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Checking some other top stories for you at 53 minutes past, Marco Rubio may be in it to win it for 2016. CNN confirming the Republican senator is moving closer to a presidential bid after hiring a new finance director and planning a fund-raising trip to California next week. Rubio is also scheduled to visit some of the early primary states next month.

The nation's airlines are cashing in on the recent plunge in oil prices. Southwest airlines says it will save about half a billion dollars just in the first three months of this year. Other airlines are boasting similar gains. Customers are not seeing cheaper tickets because demand is up though.

Check out this happy dad losing it at a youth game. He's screaming as he approaches the glass and drives home his point by hammering it with one hand without missing a beat and he's shrieking. Believe it or not, he did have one supporter in the crowd who yelled out, "Way to go, Paul."

This next video may make you ski sick if you ever wondered what it's like to be one of the world's best freestyle skiers zooming down the mountain and soaring over jumps. CNN's Jeanne Moos has the next best thing to being there.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You say you don't ski? No problem. You might as well be in this guy's skis doing 360s while hurtling down a mountain in the French Alps, going not just airborne, but underground. Not just light at the end of this tunnel, there's something called a flat spin. For this Frenchman Candide Thovex, it's no biggie.

CANDIDE THOVEX, PROFESSIONAL SKIER: It's ok. It was pretty easy.

MOOS: But for mere mortals it takes your breath away. After all this is a guy the ski magazine "Powder" refers to as "CANDIDE" in all caps since he's the closest thing to a ski god. And now he's released five-minute video he calls "One of Those Days 2".

Without leaving your computer, you feel like you strapped on the goggles and wind is whipping through your hair. Candide does a jump over the ski patrol carrying a stretcher. He

flies off the ski lift and even when he runs out of snow he keeps going.

The video was shot over a couple of days at Candide's hometown resort. Check out his grand finale -- a rotation up onto the deck amid diners. He slides on the rail, launches onto the gondola cutting the line and leaving those waiting on the other side of the closing door.

Is this real or fake -- people ask? The jumps are definitely real, Candide says. Someone notes that twice in the video we see birds that do not exist in France. Check out the eagle. Candide says the birds were added to make the video more entertaining; same for the two people in the chair lift. But those are real diners on the deck who enjoyed watching retakes.

And no diners were killed in the making of this scene.

THOVEX: At one point actually my skis went pretty close from someone but no one got hurt.

MOOS: And there were no hurt feelings about Candide cutting the line to the gondola. They were all in on it happy to be props for a skier who deserves props.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Man, I wish I had popped (ph) a dramamine before that story. I'm a little nauseated.

Thanks for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

NEWSROOM with John Berman after a break.

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