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Interview with Sean Spicer; Obama's Approval Rating Hits All- Time Low; Florida Woman's Second Chance to Prove; Boston Red Sox Wins the World Series; Boy Steals the Pope's Show

Aired October 31, 2013 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: This morning the Obamacare Web site is back up and running after crashing on Tuesday night, although, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified the Web site did not crash. She did apologize, however, something a lot of people were waiting to hear. And we're getting clearer look at the mounting problems with the site.

First, the Web site rollout was a virtual disaster and CNN obtained a memo showing the administration knew of problems before the rollout. Still the government cannot tell us how many people have signed up for new insurance and President Obama's promise that you can keep your plan, not true for potentially millions of Americans.

So we know all of that is wrong. Now people are wondering how to fix it, how to fix things. With us now is Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee. Good morning, Sean.

SEAN SPICER, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Good morning, Carol. Great to be with you.

COSTELLO: Nice to have you here. We appreciate it.

Ok so taxpayers have spent more than $170 million already on this Web site. If we don't get it together and fix this thing, won't we just end up spending more money?

SPICER: Well, I think the answer is yes. And I think we've got a bigger problem of accountability and we saw that on full display yesterday when the Secretary testified. When she clearly didn't know her own program and said it would have been illegal for her to sign up for it, which is patently not true, according to

So you've got to wonder if they don't understand the nature of their own programs not only how are they going to implement a Web site but then how are they going to implement a health care system.

Second she sort of was dismissive when asked who was accountable by saying you know, whatever. And then third, the other big point is that when she tried to redefine, well, it actually didn't crash, it was just slow.

COSTELLO: Right. SPICER: That takes the Clinton definition of -- it depends on what the definition of "is" is to a whole new level when you're saying "It didn't crash, it was just really, really slow and no one can log on."

COSTELLO: There were a lot of disturbing things that came out of that hearing. I guess the question now is you keep saying "they".

But how about Republicans? Are Republican interested in making these -- these exchanges work? Or do they want to fix the problems? I mean what's the next step? What is our solution?

SPICER: Well I think since day one Republicans have talked about putting plans in place and doing this in a way that deals with cost containment, which is what initially Obamacare was supposed to do and provides greater coverage. And you saw Congressman Tim Griffin talk about the bill that he's a cosponsor and others during the Ways and Means hearing the other day.

The thing is that there is another way to do this, a way that brings more coverage to people, gives them greater choices and drives down costs. But what we've got now is people saying we warned you over and over again that this was a bad idea. The Web site is just a first step in how bad it's going to get. It is going to be horrible --


COSTELLO: But Sean the Web site is up and running and Obamacare is here to stay as long as we have a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate.

SPICER: No, it's not.

COSTELLO: My question to you is.

SPICER: But -- but let me --


COSTELLO: -- can't Republicans -- I mean -- they like to govern, right? They like to find solutions, right? So can they find a solution to this?

SPICER: But -- but when you -- this is -- this goes back to the -- Carol this goes back to the old saying when you're in a hole, you stop. And you don't keep digging. Just because they implement it, it doesn't mean that we all go sing Kumbaya and say hey let's keep going down this rabbit hole. There is a point at which we can we say, "Hey, we told you were wrong, you are wrong, let's go the other way. Because it's a better way, it's better for healthcare, it's better for the American people and it's better for cost as well in terms of people have to fund."

So I don't think that you keep putting -- pouring money good money after bad. You can say at some point admit defeat, say, we are wrong, let's look at a different model. But clearly that would be the worst thing that could happen. We're talking about one-sixth of our entire economy and frankly beyond the financial aspect of it, you and everyone listening knows how important good health care is, and being able to go see a doctor when you're sick, whether it's for yourself or your spouse or a family member.

COSTELLO: That's right. That's right and if this goes away, there will still be 40 million people without insurance. I want to read you a quote from Daryl Hanson who wrote an op-ed in the "The Detroit News".

Quote, "The problem is that as much as Republicans dislike the Affordable Care Act, it can't be fixed, improved, or changed without Republican support. Even if every Democrat coalesced around a set of solutions, nothing will happen if Republicans' only participation is "I told you so."

Americans you're in for a party that can actually govern. Is Hansen right? I mean will the Republicans just say, "I told you so?" They should go away?

SPICER: No. This is not "I told you so." It's "Hey we told you so, and we have a better solution." And this is interesting because whenever Democrats have a problem with the Republican policy.

COSTELLO: What's your solution? But what's your solution?

SPICER: I just talked about it. We've got -- what's our solution? Using private based health care system to like exchanges that allow people to buy across state lines so that they can drive down costs.

I mean there's a million of them that are out there that Republicans passed in the House frankly that that could drive down costs, create greater coverage, which is what we all want at the end of the day. So I don't think that you have to say its Obamacare or nothing. Frankly all Republicans are onboard on something like keeping kids under 26 it's a false choice to say if you don't believe in Obamacare there is no other solution. That's absolutely ridiculous. There are plenty of solutions out there --


COSTELLO: Yes but we've been down this road and the President is not -- I mean it's just not going to happen. So -- ok let me just -- let me just put out an example. The health care exchanges -- what should happen to the Web site? In a Republican view, what should happen to the Web site?

SPICER: Well first of all, I think you've got to bring in a real team that's accountable and can answer real questions. I mean in terms of how many people have signed up, what's going on and what's the plan to fix it. I mean to be talking about -- you and I talked about before --


COSTELLO: Should we keep it?

SPICER: After the fact.

COSTELLO: Should we -- should we continue with the exchanges?

SPICER: Hold on of course we should fix it. Of course, well you've got to get it right but first you have to understand the problem but again yes so I think we have to fix it, we have to understand the problem and we have to figure out so that we don't do this again. I mean the problem right now that I see more and more is that we've got everyone going, yes, it's not a big deal, it's a glitch, it's just a temporary problem.

COSTELLO: Well I don't think anyone is saying that right at this moment.

SPICER: Hey absolutely the Secretary said yesterday the site didn't go down, it was just moving slowly. If people aren't going to --

COSTELLO: I meant outside of the administration.

SPICER: But -- but who's going to fix it if not for them. I mean you're basically saying the Republicans should get involved and quote, "govern" when it's the administration that won't even acknowledge that they have a problem. That's a big, big issue.

So instead of putting the burden on Republicans, we might want to start putting on the burden and the accountability frankly on the people that said it was good to go, day one, we're all set, this is nothing is going -- this is going to be beautiful oh, and then by the way the first few days, we're just talking about it, it's so popular, that that's the big problem right now. Demand is killing it. They knew that that was not the case.

COSTELLO: Ok so my final question -- my final question is do you foresee a time when Republicans will sit down with Democrats and both parties will try to come up with a way to fix what's wrong with Obamacare?

SPICER: Not if it means throwing good money after bad. If it means Republicans sitting down with Democrats to say, ok, let's actually implement real healthcare solutions that allow for greater coverage that drive down costs, that could probably happen today. But I don't think that we're going to sit there and say, "Ok let's just roll over and keep throwing American tax payers money down the hole because you guys -- you guys passed this you know a few years ago. That's just stupid.

COSTELLO: All right. Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee. Thank you so much.

NEWSROOM will be right back.

SPICER: Thanks Carol.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: A Florida woman could learn next week if she'll get out on bail. Melissa Alexander was convicted of aggravated assault this past March for firing a warning shot and what she says was self-defense from her abusive husband. The jury felt quite differently and sentenced her to 20 years in prison.

An appellate court granted her a retrial of the case. And there was a court hearing on that matter this morning.

John Zarrella is live in Jacksonville, Florida to tell us more. Good morning.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Well today's proceeding was really about housekeeping. Now Marissa Alexander was in court. The hearing lasted about 20 minutes. Throughout the proceedings she stood at her attorney's side.

And as I said, it was housekeeping. What they got accomplished today was that they set that hearing for bond for next Friday at about 2:00 p.m. And the trial date, jury selection will begin on March 31st. Now this case has drawn national attention because of the intersection of domestic violence, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law and self- defense.


ZARRELLA (voice over): Marissa Alexander has maintained she was just trying to scare off her abusive husband when she fired a single shot into the wall.

MARISSA ALEXANDER: I believed when he threatened to kill me, that's what he was going to do.

ZARRELLA: Now she's getting a second chance to prove it. Alexander has maintained she was in her bathtub back in 2010 when her husband Rico Gray came after her.

ALEXANDER: He managed to get the door open. And that's when he strangled me. He put his hands around my neck.

ZARRELLA: She managed to get away, made it into the garage grabbed her gun, and fired. Before her first trial, Alexander's attorneys tried to using the Florida "Stand Your Ground" law arguing she was immune from prosecution because she feared for her life.

ALEXANDER: Had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here.

ZARRELLA: But the court denied her claim. It then took a Florida jury just 12 minutes to convict her of aggravated assault. She was sentenced to 22 years in prison. The verdict and sentence drew outrage and calls for a new trial. "Free Marissa" campaigns sprung up. Esther Armah said Alexander is an example of how domestic violence is often viewed.

ESTHER ARMAH, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So much of the time when it comes to domestic violence, it has been left to women that are considered responsible for the violence inflicted upon them. And they are the ones who were tasked to resolve it.

ZARRELLA: Last month an appeals court granted Alexander a new trial but it had nothing to do with "Stand Your Ground." The error came, the appeals court said, at the trial. In the jury instructions which wrongly put the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt on Marissa. Quote, "Because the jury instructions on self-defense were fundamental error, we reverse."

Now Alexander waits for her second chance at freedom while she's still waiting behind bars.


ZARRELLA: Now her attorney Bruce Zimet said that Alexander is in good spirits. She understands the judicial process will take time. Now the state attorney's office issued a statement just a short time ago saying it has no intention of dropping the case. and it said in the statement they will continue to pursue justice for the two child victims and their father who were endangered by the shot the defendant fired -- Carol.

COSTELLO: John Zarrella reporting live from Jacksonville this morning.

Checking other top stories at 45 minutes past the hour, a woman who was on the North Carolina State Fair ride that malfunctioned last week is now talking about her frightening experience.


CHARDONNAY PATTERSON, VORTEX RIDER: I tried not to scream because I felt like screaming would have made it worse. My eyes were closed whole time, the next thing I know people were laying down, you know, unconscious and all that.


COSTELLO: Chardonnay Patterson went on to say that her harness was not on and she had no choice but to hold on for dear life until the ride came to a stop. The ride operator is accused of tampering with the ride, faces three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

If you plan on smoking in New York City, you better be 21. The New York City council has approved an anti-tobacco law that raises the age to purchase cigarettes from 18 to 21. The bill also includes e- cigarettes and a second bill prohibits discounts on all tobacco products. The bill takes effect 180 days after it's signed by Mayor Bloomberg.

Software developer Cecilia Abadie is helping test Google Glass. She wears the high-tech devices regularly just like eyeglasses but, boy, did that get her in trouble with the law. After an officer stopped her for speeding he wound up giving her a ticket for something quite different. She was cited for a California law saying it's illegal to drive a vehicle while a TV screen or a video monitor that produces entertainment or business applications is running.


CECILIA ABADIE, ISSUED TICKET FOR WEARING GOOGLE GLASS: He started to ask about "Why are you wearing Google Glass while you're driving?" He was very like why -- like it was a super crime. I got very shocked. I never heard that it was illegal in California before.


COSTELLO: She knows now. You can hear more about Abadie's story when she appears on CNN SATURDAY MORNING at 10:15 Eastern.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM -- Red Sox nation cheers their team's championship. We'll show you how fans both young and old are celebrating today.


COSTELLO: For a team that went 86 between World Series titles, the Boston Red Sox are making up for lost time. The Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals last night to win their third championship in the last decade. Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was named World Series MVP.

Boston newspapers hailed the hometown heroes. The "Herald's" headline, you see that, "One for All"; and the "Globe", "Tested and Triumphant".

CNN's Poppy Harlow talked to fans, both young and old in Boston. She joins us now. Good morning -- Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi good morning Carol. Well, the way the Boston Globe put it this morning, "A city's rise from its darkest hours. What a year it has been for Boston and Red Sox. It's hard to describe what it was like being here last night.

It was just improbable last season to first this season victory. Unbelievable. I can tell you the first win here at home in Fenway since 1918. Cheers erupting -- jubilation from ans. We were in the middle of all of it. Listen to what they told us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just means everything. We just won at home. We just won in Boston.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boston Sox has really been like -- (inaudible) -- such a team this year and like everybody's really just been coming together, whether it's for victims, everybody's out and exciting and united.


HARLOW: And Carol, this for a city that has gone through absolute hell this year. You're looking at a picture of people after this victory at the Boston Marathon finish line kissing the ground, just showing everyone what the city has been through, how it has risen again, and how this team has really helped heal this city.

COSTELLO: Oh, definitely so. And I also understand you talked to a fan who's been around a long time and she had some interesting things to say.

HARLOW: This was such a moment. Her name, Helen McGonagall -- she is 97 years old. The last time the Sox won here at home, she was two years old -- Carol. She's been waiting a long time for this. We went to visit her in her nursing home. She's been rooting for the Sox her entire life. Listen to what she said.


HELEN MCGONAGALL, RED SOX FAN: I would go down and see the Red Sox a lot.

HARLOW: How much were the hot dogs at Fenway Park when you were there?

MCGONAGALL: Oh, Christ. I think it was 15 cents.

HARLOW: What's your favorite part of the Red Sox?

MCGONAGALL: Oh watching Ted Williams play.


MCGONAGALL: Yes. (inaudible).

HARLOW: Who's your favorite player now?

MCGONAGALL: David -- what's his name. Papi.

HARLOW: Big Papi?

MCGONAGALL: Yes, Big Papi. He is -- he's the only one I really look at.

HARLOW: Why does everyone in Boston love the Red Sox so much?

MCGONAGALL: They're doing such a good job. They're a great team. I don't think as good as they were in Ted Williams' time, but I think they're doing a great job and I'm rooting for them all the time. I never thought I'd live to see this.


HARLOW: But she did live to see it, Carol. What a moment for her -- cheering in bed. Of course, she stayed up for the end of the game. You know what I asked her? What would you say to Big Papi if you got to meet him? She said, I don't know. I'd just be so excited I don't know what I would say to him.

But I'm so glad for her --

COSTELLO: I think I would just bow. I'm not worthy, Big Papi. I'm not worthy. What are they doing there? Are they leaf blowing, mowing the grass? What's that sound?

HARLOW: Yes. They're trying to clean up here. Those are the leaf blowers in the stadium. Here and I said I don't think we can tell them to stop because frankly they've got a lot of work to do to clean up after last night.

COSTELLO: I guess so. Poppy Harlow, thanks. That was a lot of fun.

HARLOW: You got it.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the newsroom, the little boy who did the unthinkable before a huge crowd at the Vatican. He stole the Pope's show.


COSTELLO: It's not easy to steal the Pope's spotlight. Jeanne Moos shows us one little guy who did.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Pope was a kid magnet, getting hugs, poking noses, giving kisses with kids perched on the steps for family day in St. Peter's Square. But one boy in particular caught not just the Pope's eye but the world's. He left his seat and came to inspect the Pope. Even kissed his cross before wandering off to explore the stage, but this six-year-old kept coming back to play peek-a-boo with the Pope.

Standing alongside, like a papal guard, when the Pope stood to speak, a cardinal tried to move the boy along, but he wasn't moving. When Pope Francis started shaking hands, he tried to break it up then switched tactics, and began to usher others up to meet the Pope.

(on camera): The Pope sure does do a lot of head petting.

(voice-over): But this kid's hair tussling was followed by soulful eye contact and later attempted bribery. A security officer even used candies to try to lure the boy to leave. The kid took the candy and stayed -- hugging the Pope's legs.

It turns out the boy was an orphan from Colombia -- South American like the Pope. He was adopted a little over year ago by an Italian couple. Mom and dad were out in the audience separated from the adoption agency kids granted front-row seats.

After doing a few neck exercises, the boy made his boldest move yet, taking a seat in the Pope's empty chair. This photo was Instagramed out by the Vatican with the caption, "a special guest, with #PopeFrancis.

(on camera): At some point after he vacated the throne, the Pope's shadow finally disappeared from the stage.

(voice-over): When the Pope himself left later in his Popemobile, we half expected to see the kid at the wheel. He may not yet be a man, but on this day, he sure was the man.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


COSTELLO: That's awesome.

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

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: A high school athlete found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat. We just got a hold of new surveillance video and it could offer some brand new clues in the Kendrick Johnson case.

Also this hour, an assisted living facility shut down by the state. The owners banned from the property. Most of the caregivers fled -- left behind, helpless men and women to fend for themselves. How on earth could this happen?

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Thursday, October 31st. Welcome to "LEGAL VIEW". It's good to have you with us.