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American Morning

Deadly Distracted Driving; House Passes Payroll Tax Cut Extension; Email: Murdoch Knew About Hacking; Apple's Founding Papers Fetch $1.35 Million; American Troops Returning Home from Iraq; Some Evangelicals Question Newt Gingrich's Suitability for the Presidency; Mormonism of Mitt Romney Possible Issue for Some Evangelicals; Gingrich Pledges "Personal Fidelity"; House Passes GOP Payroll Tax Cut Extension; NTSB Urges Full Ban on Driver Cell Phone Use; Nick Nolte's Mugshot Surprise

Aired December 14, 2011 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The NTSB calling for a full nationwide ban on cell phones while behind the wheel. And it applies to hands free devices, too. But some lawmakers are already opposing this ban, saying the government shouldn't push too far into people's lives.

We spoke with NTSB chairman Debbie Hersman last hour. Here's what she said about it.


DEBBIE HERSMAN, NTSB CHAIRMAN: I know that this isn't the popular thing, but it is the safe thing and it's the right thing to do. We fully respect that everyone else has different views about this, but no call, no text, no post is worth a human life.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Quieting those annoying, loud commercials. The Federal Communications Commission will require broadcasters to maintain constant volume levels for programs and commercials. The new rule doesn't take effect until last December. That gives programmers ways to smooth difference in audio levels.

ROMANS: All right. Right now, millions of working Americans are facing a $1,000 tax increase in 17 days.

Congress is setting its wheels. The House just passed a Republican plan to extend this payroll tax holiday, but it's virtually dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate and the president won't sign it.

Why? Well, because it contains a measure that would speed up the process for government approval of the controversial Keystone oil pipeline. That's a pipeline that would connect Canada with the refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

Here's House Majority Leader Eric Cantor with the House perspective.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Harry Reid has a bill that would stave off tax increases for everyone who has a job in this country and will make sure that we get back on the path to job creation. It's time for the rhetoric that has come from Senate Democrats, as well as the White House, to start matching reality.


ROMANS: Here's reality. The Democrats aren't budging and the White House wants the payroll tax holiday extended and new spending passed fast without all these politics.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What the president is not willing to do is leave town or allow Congress to leave town without ensuring that 160 million Americans do not see their taxes go up next year.


ROMANS: Congress has until Friday to pass a new federal budget or we face possible government shutdown, Carol.

COSTELLO: We're used to that.

Good news and bad news this morning for the GOP frontrunner Newt Gingrich. A new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows Gingrich, he's blowing out Mitt Romney nationally, 40 percent to 23 percent.

But the polls also reveal some electability issues for the frontrunner. In a general election, President Obama has an 11-point lead over Gingrich. Mitt Romney trails by two points, that's within the poll's margin of error.

And with less than three weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, Newt Gingrich's political director is out, after calling Mormonism a cult. Two GOP candidates, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, are Mormons, as you know. Gingrich is already working with a lean staff in Iowa.

And earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell told me she's endorsing Mitt Romney in 2012. She talked about Romney's leadership ability and consistency, even though critics have accused him of flip-flopping on big issues. O'Donnell said it came down to Romney being the anti-Newt.


CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: Because so many Tea Partiers are flocking behind Newt Gingrich, I decided to come out and say, hey, between Newt and Romney, the Tea Party, I don't think, should be behind Newt at all. Newt Gingrich supported a federal mandate. Newt Gingrich has been inconsistent and unreliable all the way down from cozying up on a couch with Nancy Pelosi.


ROMANS: All right. Mitt Romney is in New York today to raise money for his campaign, but he may not want to gaze up at the skyscrapers because the DNC has hired a plane to fly over the Big Apple with a banner that reads, "I bet you 10k Romney's out of touch." Democrats needling Romney, of course, over that bet he tried to make with Rick Perry at last Saturday's debate. They also have a crisp $10 billion bill with Romney's face on it on their blog.

And a programming note: Ron Paul will be a guest on "THE SITUATION ROOM" today live from New Hampshire, starting at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. At 6:00 p.m. Eastern, Michele Bachmann is going to be a guest on "JOHN KING, USA."

COSTELLO: OK. Let's talk about "TIME" magazine, because it has just announced its person of the year for 2011. And the winner is -- this is my drum roll for you.

ROMANS: The protester. The magazine says even in a face of tear gas or hail of bullets, the protester prevailed by embodying the idea that individual action can bring collective colossal change.

Let's find out more about this winner, how it's decided.

Joining us is Bobby Ghosh, deputy international editor for "TIME" magazine.

Welcome to the program.

BOBBY GHOSH, TIME: Thanks for having me.

COSTELLO: I'm just relieved it wasn't Kim Kardashian.


ROMANS: She was right up there, I'm told.

Is this the Arab Spring protester or the protester in Lower Manhattan and Seattle? Which protester is this, or it's all of them?

GHOSH: All of them.

I think the average protester formed our choice quite substantially. But the year that began with the Arab Spring is ending with protests still in some parts of the Arab world, like in Syria, like protests in Russia, protests in downtown New York, and protests around the world.

And so, the Arab Spring protester inspired protests around the world and so we decided in the end that rather than pick on any one individual or even anyone small group, we would go for the larger.

ROMANS: Have those larger come in colossal change or the Arab Spring the only colossal change?

GHOSH: Well, a lot of these protests re still in progress. So, we could yet see colossal change, for instance, in Russia. There's mounting pressure on Vladimir Putin to make changes. And even where the changes have not been colossal, they've still been quite significant.

The protesters have changed the way we think of some of the big issues of our time. They've changed the national, international discussion around the economy, around dictatorship and around whether stability is more important than the people's right to choose. They've forced us to think of the world in profoundly new ways.

And for that reason, we decided that the protester had to be the first.

COSTELLO: Which is interesting because usually it's a person of the year and, you know, it's some huge name out there, but this is really a celebration of the common man.

GHOSH: Yes, it is. And it was the year in which, if you like the common man did remarkably uncommon things. They rose up in the Middle East and in Europe and in places like India. They rose up from years of accepting the realities as they were, accepting the certainties as they were and they changed it.

So, there are no certainties any more in our world and in a good way because people won't take it any more.

COSTELLO: Power of the people. I really like to hear.

ROMANS: Was it a tough decision or did you just clearly knowing the news flow of the year, it was clear that this was -- this was a person or people, I guess, this was their year, this was their time.

GHOSH: It's never an easy decision. There were plenty of other contenders?

ROMANS: Can you tell us who the other contenders?

COSTELLO: Who was number two?

GHOSH: Well, we have, actually, for the past several years, we have not only announced the person of the year, but we have a series of runners up. So, Admiral McRaven who is in charge of the Special Ops and who sort of led, if you like, the hunt for Bin Laden is one of them.

The Chinese painter Ai Weiwei who was arrested this year for standing up to the Chinese authorities.

Paul Ryan of the Republican Party, and the lady called Kate Middleton, I don't know --

ROMANS: Kate Middleton.

COSTELLO: Kate Middleton, really? At least it wasn't Pippa.

GHOSH: She's made -- she's become a style icon and millions of people around the world look to her for how they should look and behave.

ROMANS: She's modernized the stodgy monarchy.

GHOSH: She has, indeed.

COSTELLO: OK. I'm not buying it, but that's OK.

You had an interesting online poll --

ROMANS: But she didn't win, Carol.

COSTELLO: I'm just glad she didn't win and Kim Kardashian didn't win.

You had an online poll where you asked readers to register a vote who they who they think the person of the year should be and there was some surprisers because coming in first place was Turkey's prime minister and then second place was the 24-year-old Argentinean soccer player.

Did that surprise you?

GHOSH: Well, not really, because the poll is an expression of popularity and, by the way, we take it seriously and it informed our discussions.

Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey remarkably was the most popular and also the least popular. So, you got the maximum number of votes for him to be person of the year and the maximum number of votes against. That tells you that he is a polarizing but very interesting figure.

Lionel Messi, the soccer player that you talked about is just the greater player since Pele and some people would argue, maybe greater. I certainly would think that. I'm not surprised.

COSTELLO: I'm just surprised that, well, being an American, as you are. I was just surprised that an American didn't come in first or second.

GHOSH: It's an international poll and I think the American population being smaller than let's say the populations of China and India --

ROMANS: Oh, we are not. Stop.

I want to just look at some past winners: 1995, Newt Gingrich. 1969, middle Americans. Two people, two groups, two persons of the year that are right back in the middle of the fray today. So, interesting full circle.

GHOSH: They are and who knows what next year will bring.

ROMANS: All right, so nice to see you and thanks for bringing your person of the year to us: the protester. Yes, Bobby Ghosh.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much.

Coming up, former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's surprise move waiving his right to a preliminary hearing. Tom Kline, the attorney for one of Sandusky's alleged victims reacts. He'll join us live, next.

ROMANS: And we are live in Kuwait as the few final thousand troops arrive. What are they leaving behind and what are they headed for?

Ten minutes after the hour.


ROMANS: Beautiful morning in Chicago, 44 and rainy, high of 52 and more rain later today.

But, good morning, Chicago. Beautiful, wet morning.

COSTELLO: Such a lovely city.

A stunning move by the defense in the Penn State sex abuse scandal. Former football coach Jerry Sandusky waived his right to a preliminary hearing yesterday avoiding a dramatic confrontation with his accusers. Earlier, we spoke to Joe Amendola on why we were all blindsided by this decision.


JOE AMENDOLA, JERRY SANDUSKY'S LAWYER: We got a major concession on Monday night at which we didn't have prior to Monday night from the common wealth not to seek a bail increase pending trial. That was a major concession for us to keep Jerry Sandusky out on bail so that he could work with his defense team in preparing his defense. We did not have that until about 9:30 or 10:00 on Monday night. That's the reason we waited until the last minute to waive the hearing. We did not have that concession prior to late Monday evening.


COSTELLO: Sandusky, as you know, charged with more than 50 counts with the molestation of young boys.

And joining us now is Tom Kline. He is an attorney for one of Sandusky's alleged victims.



COSTELLO: How surprised were you when this hearing was suddenly called off yesterday?

KLINE: Well, I was in the first row behind the prosecutor's table and I saw a court reporter, a defense lawyer, a prosecutor all ahead with Mr. Sandusky into the back chambers. And I've been around courtrooms a long time, over 30 years, I thought something was up.

COSTELLO: Well, Amendola, Sandusky's defense attorney, he's given a couple of reasons of waiving the hearing. He told us he waived it in exchange for keeping Sandusky out of jail.

KLINE: Well, Mr. Amendola over the past day, has now shifted the emphasis of his story and shifted the reasons for why he did it. It's clear to me that what happened here was a premeditated and calculated press conference.

He wanted to try the case before the national and international press corps on the steps of the Bellefonte Pennsylvania courthouse yesterday. He had no intention, in my view, of ever having this preliminary hearing go forward.

COSTELLO: It's interesting you say that, because we talked to Mr. Amendola just a short time ago, and he makes no bones about it. He's prepared to try this case in public. He said that Jerry Sandusky would agree to more interviews, televised interviews. So, he could get his side of the story out there.

KLINE: I think what's going on here, Carol, is that along the way, they are testing just about every water that they can test. We have Mr. Amendola saying that Mr. Sandusky is going to give more interviews. We hear his co-counsel last night on this station on CNN say that Mr. Sandusky is more like a teenager than like an adult.

They're rolling out various defenses and seeing how they play and seeing what reaction they have. The fact of the matter is that yesterday was a net loss for them. The prosecution had all of its evidence ready to go. I was a first-hand witness to see a lot of this going forward, and they had eight young men who were prepared to come into a courtroom if needed and tell their stories.

These young men were some of them held together. They are reacquainted with each other. There's a commonality, a united purpose here. And I believe that as a net loss or a net gain as to what really happened yesterday, put aside the public face of it and the public relations aspect of it, it's clear to me that it was a net loss for the defense, no matter how they spin it or how they want to characterize it.

COSTELLO: These alleged victims, these eight alleged victims who came to the courthouse, they were all in one room. Was there conversation?

KLINE: Well, I wasn't in that room, and when they were being called yesterday, they were, to my understanding, split up into various groups. They were going to come down in various groups and be staged and then sequestered individually to come into the courtroom. So, there was, from what I understand, an opportunity for some of these young men, many of whom knew each other as youngsters, many of whom knew each other as second milers.

They were reunited. And I don't put anything in the fact that they were in the same room, because undoubtedly, I'm quite sure they were told, don't talk about the specifics of your case. And I'm sure that they abided by the prosecutors' advice to them and counsel to them. But, you have sex crime victims here and young victims here. And they were given an opportunity to see that they were not alone.

And that is a major advantage for the prosecution, to be able to get these young men together, to see they're not alone, to know that they're all going to come to court, if needed. As I've said many times, it's a necessity of citizenship to do these kinds of things. We had an interesting thing that happened here, which Mr. Amendola wants to lose in the shuffle.

These aren't young men who have sought this out. My word, they are young men who, to a one, don't want any part of the public light being shined so brightly on them and their lives with people knocking at their doors, but the fact of the matter is that they received, literally, phone calls and knocks on the door when the investigation of this sorted mess led to them and, then, of course, they told the truth.

And here, we do not have a situation where we have one or two witnesses, I should say, two witnesses or three witnesses saying whether the assailant had a gun or not. There's a credibility issue. Here we have ten now, ten, count them, individual stories which match up in similarity, in circumstance, in factual pattern, which are going to be told in a courtroom some day absent of plea bargain.

COSTELLO: Tom Kline, thanks to you for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

KLINE: My pleasure. Nice to be here.

ROMANS: All right. Rob Marciano is in the Extreme Weather Center for us this morning. Twenty minutes past the hour. Hey, Rob.

MARCIANO: Good morning, guys. We have some rain that's stretching into the lower Great Lakes. This is from that system that was across the southwest with the rain and snow. It's kind of elongating itself and reaching for the northeast, which it will get to, but not until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Chicago up through Milwaukee back through Detroit, Cleveland, light to moderate precip with this down to the south. An additional chunk of energy may bring some severe weather to parts of North Texas. Twenty-five-minute delays right now at O'Hare, that's good. About 20 minutes ago was about over an hour for delays. So, hopefully, that will hold true.

There's your severe threat. It does include Dallas back through Austin and a possibility of seeing a tornadoes and/or hail and damaging winds is there in the forecast. Storm prediction center issuing a slight chance of seeing this happen. Now, back to the west where all this came from. In Arizona, over two feet of snow in spots and Flagstaff seeing over a foot of snow.

Here's the video from Flagstaff just to the south of the Grand Canyon. And, boy, this is trouble getting around town, wasn't it? They get snow, but not this kind of snow, certainly not this early in the season, and this is the second round of intense winter weather that the southwest has seen and the snow totals go all the way down into Mexico.

Winter storm warnings posted now for parts of New Mexico and Southern Colorado with several inches of snow expected there. Again, Chicago and Dallas are going to be your spots if you are traveling today. For airport delays, Minneapolis, Cleveland, and St. Louis to a lesser extent.

The other big story is a remarkable bounce back in temperatures. Seventy degrees expected for the high temperature in Atlanta. It's going to be 47 in New York. That's mild as well. Enjoy today. Rain and colder weather coming in over the next couple. Guys --

COSTELLO: I'll take you up on that.

MARCIANO: All right. There you go.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: See you, guys.

COSTELLO: Just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, they're real and they are spectacular. We're talking about Elizabeth Taylor's collection of diamonds and pearls and other gems. They're up for auction, and they are breaking records at Christie's. It's 21 minutes past the hour.


ROMANS: It's 25 minutes after the hour. "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Investors on hold today. U.S. stock futures flat right now. A little apprehensive after the Federal Reserve refrained from taking further action to bolster the U.S. or global economy yesterday. Fear about the debt crisis in Europe and how they're going to implement this new intergovernmental treaty. All of that still overhanging the markets.

One stock to watch this morning, Avon. The cosmetic giant announcing late yesterday it's looking for a new CEO. The current chief executive, Andrea Joan, will continue to serve as the executive chairwoman for that company.

A new e-mail suggests News Corp executive, James Murdoch, was informed about the damaging hacking allegations against his "News of the World" newspaper back in 2008. This revelation coming just weeks after Murdoch testified he was unaware of the illegal eavesdropping. In a letter to British lawmakers, Murdoch now concedes that he replied to that e-mail, but he doesn't admit that he read it. $50 million, that's how much the government says it will save now that it stopped minting the special presidential $1 coins. The treasury says that it is about a decade worth of those extra coins because no one wants them. And of course, $50 million is, what, 0.004 percent of the deficit.

The pieces of paper that created Apple, one of the world's most valuable companies, hit the auction block. The founding documents sold for more than $1.3 million. They were sold to a firm in Miami. Those documents, by the way, were signed on April 1st, 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wosniak, and Ronald Wayne who backed out of the agreement less than two weeks later.

Up next, leaving Iraq, only a few thousand troops remain. We're live in Kuwait as a war comes to a close. AMERICAN MORNING back right after this break.


COSTELLO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's 30 minutes past the hour. Time for your top stories.

A young woman thrown in prison for adultery in Afghanistan after a relative raped her has now been freed. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh says the woman, known as Gulnaz, was taken to a woman's shelter somewhere in Kabul with her daughter. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison after reporting that her cousin's husband raped her two years ago.

ROMANS: Safety experts are calling for a nationwide ban on using cellphones to talk and text message while driving. And, now, the NTSB wants to take it further banning all electronic devices in the car, even hands-free devices. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, thousands of people die every year from distracted drivers and a good chunk of those are from people using cell phones.

COSTELLO: "TIME" magazine's person of the year from 2011 is the protester. The magazine says that even the face of a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets the protesters prevailed by embodying the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change.

ROMANS: President Obama traveling to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, today to thank the troops and mark the end of the Iraq war. As of this morning, 5,500 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. The president saying the remaining soldiers can leave with their heads held high.

CNN's Martin Savidge has been with the troops on the long and dangerous road out of the country. He joins us live from Camp Virginia, Kuwait. It's really something to see the end of the war, isn't it, martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. You know, there's something about, well, naturally you want to see the end of the war, not like you want to see the beginning of them and we've seen both in this particular story. Let's show you where we are. Camp Virginia, we were here a couple weeks ago and at that point this place was absolutely packed. It was almost to the point of overflowing. If you look in the background now you can see this place is extremely quiet. But that is a good thing because it means that the troops, which are continuing to come out of Iraq, are now transiting that much quicker to get back to the United States.

We got a bit of a game going on back here and just in case their moms are watching, I promised we'd name them. Eric Deplay (ph), Matt Duncan, Carl Zadzig (ph), Ken Tarpley, and Robert Allen (ph) all recently just a couple days ago, out of Iraq here now at Camp Virginia, and in a couple days they'll head back to the United States. The only other changes we've seen on the base, they put up a Christmas tree and a couple other decorations most of which these soldiers have not seen in this part of the world in that's just the way it is. They will soon be immersed in that as they get home.

For these soldiers it is a trifecta. Number one, the mission is ending for them. They thought they were going to be year in Iraq. Number two, they are headed home, and, three, they'll be home in time for the holidays. So it works out really well.

COSTELLO: Almost hate to ask you this next question, then. As U.S. troops are leaving the country, Iraq's deputy prime minister comes out and says the United States is leaving Iraq with a dictator prime minister in place and there are fears of a civil war. So, is there a chance that those troops in Kuwait could be called back to Iraq?

SAVIDGE: Well, first and foremost, you know, it depends on who you talk to in the streets of Baghdad and the streets of Iraq as to the kind of opinions, but just like in America, talk to 100 people, you'll get 100 different points of view. That is a bit extreme, although there are some that will support what was said.

As far as these soldiers here, once they come out, they know they leave behind a country that has a questionable future. They also say, look, it is time for U.S. forces to leave. They have done the best they can to prepare the Iraqi police and military and plant the seeds of democracy, but from now on the Iraqi people that need to be in charge of their own destiny, and that's the way it should be.

Will they go back if something goes wrong in Iraq? I really don't know what the U.S. military's plan is on that. I think right now, probably not, unless it really were to turn upside down.

COSTELLO: We hope so. Martin Savidge reporting live from Kuwait this morning.

ROMANS: All right, Newt Gingrich trying to make up for his past, admitting to his family mistakes, even pledging personal fidelity. But is this enough to win over evangelical Christians? We'll speak with leading evangelical voice and also a "Newsweek" reporter, religion reporter, next. It's 34 minutes after the hour.


COSTELLO: Good morning, Denver. It's 29 degrees with cloudy skies but later today, pretty darn nice day, 43 with partly cloudy skies.

ROMANS: It is beautiful, isn't it, Carol?

COSTELLO: All right, married three times and has admitted to adultery. Now GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich is stepping up efforts to overcome his past and appeal to evangelical Christians. Gingrich has even pledged personal fidelity. Here's what he had to say about it this past weekend.


NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have made mistakes at times. I've had to go to god for forgiveness. I've had to seek reconciliation. But I'm also a 68-year-old grandfather, and I think people have to measure who I am now and whether I'm a person they can trust.


ROMANS: That, of course, is his wife you see there as you hear Newt Gingrich on the stage. Let's bring in Dr. Richard Land live in Tennessee. He's the president of the ethics and religious liberty commission of the Southern Baptist Commission. Also McKay Coppins, a reporter from "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast."

Dr. Land, let me start with you and talk about this discussion that is being had about evangelical Christians, top evangelical leaders in the country, about whether Newt Gingrich is sorry enough, whether he should be, you know, forgiven, as is the evangelical tradition, or whether he needs to do more to appeal to women, in particular, who aren't quite so ready to forgive this in their political leader.

DR. RICHARD LAND, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTISTS ETHICS COMMISSION: Well, first of all, I think he's taking the right steps. I think the letter to the Iowa family group where he pledged personal fidelity and where he endorsed virtually everything in the pro-family platform helps him a lot.

The question of forgiveness, you know, forgiveness and redemption and second and third chances are in the genetic code of evangelicals spiritually. That is part of our theological DNA. So I think most evangelicals are ready to forgive Newt Gingrich. The question is whether they're willing to trust him with the presidency.

And there I think there is a gender gap. I think -- what I find is I talk to evangelicals around the country is that men are more willing to let bygones be bygones and give him the benefit of the doubt. Women want to hear more before they're willing to trust him with the presidency.

ROMANS: What do they want to hear from him? We hear Ronald Reagan, for example, he stood up and said that his marriage was a failure, and it wasn't of his choice. His wife left him. There have been other leaders who have had to come up and get through this and then have been able to appeal evangelical women.

LAND: Well, I think something along the lines of what John McCain said would help. You know, John McCain told Pastor Rick Warren, he said, the greatest regret of my life was the failure of my first marriage, and it was my fault.

ROMANS: And that was --

LAND: I know that impacted my 85-year-old mother who for the first time felt comfortable voting for McCain.

ROMANS: OK, so has Newt Gingrich done that well enough to suit your 85-year-old mother, for example?

LAND: Well, I think so. I think so. Look, I think that he has, he still has some ground to plow and some work to do with evangelical women. And I personally think if he's going to be president, he's going to need all their votes. And so I would encourage him to, you know, not do mea culpas all the time, but signing this statement and when asked making the kind of statements that McCain made and the kind of statements that he's been making will do a lot to help restore trust and make people comfortable trusting him with the presidency.

ROMANS: I want to bring in McKay Coppins, because what it sounds like for evangelical voters in Iowa, their choice, McKay, is between a Catholic, a well-known Catholic thrice married, has admitted adultery, so that's one choice, and a Mormon who has been married to his wife for 69 (ph) years and has never by any stretch of the imagination strayed in his marriage. Those are their two choices and this is what they're struggling with.

MCKAY COPPINS, REPORTER FOR "NEWSWEEK" AND "THE DAILY BEAST": It's really interesting because if you're looking for family values Mitt Romney is sort of a poster boy for evangelical family values. But at the same time his Mormonism is viewed with some suspicion because it is so unfamiliar to so many people.

ROMANS: You are a Mormon.

COPPINS: I am. I am a practicing Mormon myself, and we're used to having people kind of view us through kind of asking, what is this religion, because people don't know that much about it, so, whereas everyone kind of knows somebody who has had marital problems in the past, so, that's sort of a known quantity. Mormonism is not so much, right?

ROMANS: So, this e-mail, this e-mail chain that is going on around evangelical leaders where they want to feel he has repented enough, along those lines do you think he has repented enough for the evangelical voters?

COPPINS: I'm no minister, so I won't judge his heart, right. But I think politically speaker Dr. Land is right on. He has to, you know, prove to the voters that he is a changed man. And I think by all accounts his marriage is very good now and he's doing a good job of kind of putting forth this very wholesome, in-love image. It's just a matter of whether evangelical voters think he is enough of an embodiment of their values to deserve the presidency, right?

ROMANS: He swiftly dismissed a campaign staffer in Iowa for a comment he made apparently before he worked for him that Mormonism is a cult. That is something that still pops up and resonates -- I don't know if resonates, but it pops up in evangelical circles.

COPPINS: I think it resonates with a certain subset of evangelical Christians. To Mormons, it's just baffling. It's this worldwide religion of 14 million diverse Mormons. The label of "cult" is a very bizarre -- Mormons are a lot of things, we're not cultists, right?

ROMANS: Dr. Land, do you think that was the right approach for the Gingrich approach around that remark? Does it resonate among some evangelicals that this idea of Mormonism is a cult?

LAND: It does. But I don't think it's the right way to describe Mormonism. We need to use words to communicate. And when you say the word "cult," you think Branch Davidians and you think Jonestown. Mormons are your children's little league soccer coach, the president of the rotary club.

As an evangelical Christian I would describe Mormonism as another religion. I would describe it as the fourth Abrahamic religion with Joseph Smith playing the role of Mohammed and the book of Mormon playing the role of the Koran. Orthodox Christiania it's not, but it's an American religion.

ROMANS: Is it Christian? Would an evangelical say it takes the lord Jesus Christ as his savior as a Christian?

LAND: No. Evangelicals would say the Jesus Christ of Mormonism is not the Jesus Christ of orthodox Christianity. They would not accept the Mormon definition of god the father, god the son, or god the holy spirit.

ROMANS: So would they accept a Mormon to be their president?

LAND: Well, this evangelical thinks that being a Mormon should not disqualify a person from running for president, and actually the irony here is that one of the problems that Mitt Romney is having with evangelical voters is that perhaps he's not Mormon enough on the issues that matter most to them, because if he had consistently during his political career been as pro-life as Mormons are and as pro- traditional family and traditional marriage on the same-sex marriage issue as Mormons are, they would have less doubts about whether he's really the conservative.

ROMANS: Yes and that's sort of politics and religion all mixed up in one.

McKay Coppins, I want to give you the last word there because you are -- you were sort of nodding when he was talking about the fourth religion, not Christianity.

MCKAY COPPINS, "NEWSWEEK": Well, you know I understand the theological argument, although Mormons will fiercely defend their right -- their right to be called Christians. It's the name of the church, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and they believe that Jesus Christ is their savior and -- and yes we -- we want to hold on.

We're certainly have certain different beliefs than some Evangelicals but we want to hold on to that Christian title just as much as our Baptist friends and Methodist friends do.

ROMANS: These are conversations people are having in Iowa right now Evangelicals I'll tell you right now because they're looking -- they're looking at two candidates and trying to decide who they are going to support. More than two candidates actually; who they are going to support when they head to the caucus.

Dr. Richard Land, thank you so much for joining me, And McKay Coppins, really -- just a wonderful conversation.

COPPINS: You bet.

ROMANS: Thanks to both of you.

LAND: Thank you.

ROMANS: Still ahead, back in the day she was Hollywood's queen of bling. Now, Liz Taylor's stunning collection of jewels is hitting the auction blocks, smashing records.

Its 46 minutes after the hour.


COSTELLO: It's 47 minutes past the hour. Here are your "Morning Headlines". Markets open in 45 minutes and right now U.S. stock futures are down slightly lower after the Federal Reserve refrained from taking further action to bolster the U.S. economy yesterday.

Democrats say a House bill that extends the payroll tax cut will not pass the Senate because it includes provisions to speed up the approval process for the Keystone Oil Pipeline. Just 17 days to go before the 160 million Americans face a $1,000 payroll tax hike.

The NTSB calling for a full nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while driving. That includes hands- free devices, too. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,000 people died last year because of distracted driving.

"Time" magazine's person of the year for 2011 is the protester. The magazine says it honored the protester for capturing and highlighting a global sense of restless promise. For upending governments and conventional wisdom and for steering the planet on a more democratic though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century.

That's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING back after a break.

COSTELLO: Unless, of course, someone steals them. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Its 50 minutes past the hour.

Some of Elizabeth Taylor's best friends were on display last night at Christie's Auction House in New York. The late actress's collection of diamonds and pearls and other jewelry up for sale and the results, rock solid.

ROMANS: Oh yes. It turned out to be pretty good investment, right? CNN's Richard Roth is here to tell us more about all of her very expensive, very --

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean the -- yes, the "Diamonds Are Forever songs" there. Can we talk about Bond films? I mean, that's what I mean.

ROMANS: Yes I know, I know.

ROTH: Oh yes well, actually the Bond films --


ROMANS: No she didn't do any Bond films didn't she?

ROTH: No, but she should have. Her whole life was a sort of a Bond thriller --

ROMANS: She was too big for Bond, I think.

ROTH: I think now, these days, if she was alive and younger I think she would be in one. Really the --

ROMANS: We haven't even said her name yet. Elizabeth Taylor.

ROTH: Yes, well I think everyone knows her but she passed away earlier this year. Christie's Auction House was saying records were set last night for a private jewelry collection going under the gavel. Definitely as we discuss the glamour and history on display last night in New York City; one -- $115 million in pearls, diamonds, rubies, other bobbles brought in as the late actress, Elizabeth Taylor's collection auctioned off.

Now $11,800 la Peregrina (ph) -- the pearl jewel given her by actor Richard Burton.

COSTELLO: I think it's Peregrina --

ROTH: Peregrina did I said, I'm sorry it's a little early; that was a late auction. I mean, I was bedazzled by the jewels. So Richard Burton gave -- bought her that in 1969. It was once part of the crown jewels of Spain, a record setter for pearl jewelry at an auction. Original estimate for the sale, $2 million to $3 million. COSTELLO: Wow.

ROTH: Representative though the success of the entire auction.


MARC POTTER, CHAIRMAN AND PRESIDENT, CHRISTIE'S: We've seen records in various fields for pearls, for diamonds, for tiaras for all sorts of things.

FRANCOIS CURIEL, HEAD OF JEWELRY DIVISION, CHRISTIE'S: We valued every item for its intrinsic value. For the value it would bring in an auction, had it not been from Elizabeth Taylor. And we wanted to let the market decide what premium it would pay over the value of the stone or the value of the jewels.


ROTH: Diamond tiara given by Taylor by another one of her husbands, Mike Todd, brought in $4.2 million. And before the arch Christine's played a film clip to the audience where Taylor is sitting by a swimming pool bidding for jewelry by phone and someone off screen tells her it's $120,000 do you want to bid for it and holding a cigarette, Taylor says, yes. And then she says darling it sounds like desirable items are going for ten times what was expected. A male voice on the phone says, that's the way it works. And Taylor says, "Holy Cow".

But that's probably what bidders were muttering last night. Record shattering prices. There'll be three more days of the auction and clothing haute couture today and there was a road show around the world in various global cities showing off these jewels. Taylor wanted that to happen and then a lot of the proceeds will go to the Taylor estate or her AIDS foundation.

COSTELLO: So, who's buying?

ROTH: Well, a lot of these were anonymous bidders. They were about 400 bidders there. As one for -- one of the more expensive items, we believe, went to a Korean company and it's all very under hush, hush. Sometimes bidders come surface later. But it was quite an event. I think it recalls an era that sadly may not be around in some ways.

ROMANS: Yes you're right. All right there's some beautiful pieces and she really -- she really enjoyed her diamonds and jewels.

ROTH: Didn't I get you that last night.

ROMANS: Yes you did, thank you, thank you. It's pure plastic. Only the best you get me.

ROTH: Richard Burton, you know.

ROMANS: All right, Richard, thanks so much.

COSTELLO: That was the thing Elizabeth Taylor was bidding on but there's a --

ROTH: Yes that was not -- definitely not.

ROMANS: All right thanks, Richard Roth.

COSTELLO: Just ahead, he's had a long-acting career, but like it or not, this is Nick Nolte's --


COSTELLO: Still, we don't know the real story behind the mugshot until now, that is. Jeanne Moos is on the case. Six minutes until the top of the hour.


COSTELLO: Oh, good morning, Dallas. Little cloudy there. But it's 61 degrees and later today it will be 71, but there will be some thunderstorms.

ROMANS: Welcome back.

His mugshot will live in infamy.

COSTELLO: It certainly will. It's like the ugliest mugshot.

ROMANS: I know. It happened like what, ten years ago, too. And whenever you hear Nick Nolte.

COSTELLO: That's what you think about. I mean -- right, ten years and it resulted from a DUI arrest. And we're hearing as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story this morning from Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is the Mona Lisa of mugshots enshrined on T-shirt. So famous, all it takes to recognize it is the outline. Ridiculed in song. Imitated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hair like this, Nick.

MOOS: Worn as a Halloween costume, as seen here in "People". Someone even put it on his credit card. Almost a decade after its release, Letterman's still making jokes about Nick Nolte, like the one about how the U.S. didn't release a death photo of Osama bin Laden.

DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: Right. Didn't release any pictures. So the White House released this instead. Take a look at that.

MOOS: To mugshot connoisseurs at The Smoking Gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's probably the best celebrity mugshot ever taken. MOOS: But now Nolte is talking. He's saying a mugshot it was not. In an interview with "GQ" magazine Nolte explains he was high on a drug GHB, liquid ecstasy when he swerved off the Pacific Coast Highway. At the hospital where Nolte was taken for a blood test a young officer asked him if he could take a Polaroid. I said, "Come on, you don't really want to ask that, do you?" Nolte recalls. But he did.

Nolte made him agree that if he posed, the young officer would share any proceeds with his colleagues. And I let him shoot the Polaroid. The rest is history. It's the gold standard against which mothers compare their baby's hair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which reminds me a lot of Nick Nolte mugshot hair.

STEPHEN COLBERT, TALK SHOW HOST: He was 1992 sexiest man and look at him now, still sexy.

MOOS: One guy posted that on his local TV weather forecast, when we are expecting heavy wind, this picture of Nolte is what they use for a bad hair day. But police may be tearing out their hair because the California Highway Patrol spokesman who originally released this picture says it is a mugshot. One of several that they took, not a Polaroid taken at the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe that's how he perceived it on GHB, that maybe they were saying please stand there for this picture. And he thought here's another fan that wants a picture of me. Maybe that's one of the things that GHB does to you.

MOOS: Makes you think that everybody is a fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody's a fan. Who doesn't want my picture?

MOOS: Mel Gibson has reportedly said that he made sure his hair was groomed in his mugshot so he wouldn't end up like Nolte.

The moral of the mugshot or whatever it was, comb your hair. But even if this kid didn't, at least he wasn't wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nick Nolte mugshot hair, Hudson's hair.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: The moral of the story is don't drive on GHB, but that's --

COSTELLO: The shirt was worse, though.

Kyra Phillips, good morning.