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Tea Party Targets Harry Reid; Vatican Denies Cover-Up

Aired March 27, 2010 - 15:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And Harry Reid continues to be a focal point, this time for a Tea Party underway in his hometown. The Senate Democratic leader faces a tough re-election battle this year and Tea Party activists hope to make it even tougher. They are gathered in Reid's hometown of Searchlight, Nevada. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is actually scheduled to address them right there in Nevada shortly.

CNN national political correspondent Jessica Yellin is there. All right, it looks like a pretty huge crowd.

What's taking place?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you, the folks here are shouting "Vote Reid Out" and there is skywriting above us that says the same. We've heard more than an hour speakers calling for Senator Reid to be defeated in the ballot box. These are people who are natural opponents of Senator Reid and have disliked him his entire political career. But the fervor here, the intensity of the opposition is new. What they object to are what they see as his support for big government, as they call it, big spending. We've heard they use the word socialism used and a lot of people saying their freedom is being taken away by health care. Very angry about health care reform, Fredricka. I'll play you some of the interviews from here with folks who turned out for this rally. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're not listening to anything. Health care, the economy, the job situation, they're not listening to anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a chance here in Nevada to get Harry Reid out of the Senate, to get that embarrassment in Nevada out of the Senate. The guy who declared that the war was lost while our troops were getting shot at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of Americans here to voice our protest about what's going on with this government right now. They are not listening to the people. They talk down to us. They don't hear what we are saying. We don't want this health care bill. We can't afford this. It's bankrupting our generations.

(END VIDEO CLIP) YELLIN: Now we have seen folks here, Fredricka, who came far away from Illinois, plenty of license plates from California, Arizona, Utah. This is not only Nevadans, it's not only about Reid. But he has a big rally going here, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right and someone else is crisscrossing the country in order to be there in Searchlight, Nevada. Sarah Palin, former vice presidential candidate who was stumping for John McCain who is trying to make sure he keeps his seat, but in Arizona. And now she is going to be there where you are.

YELLIN: Yes. Palin is on her way here and the crowd chants and shakes their hands with excitement every time they say she is on her way. But she is headed here from Arizona where she returned the favor that John McCain extended when he picked her as his vice presidential candidate. She has sort of wrapped him in the mantle of her conservatism, tried to let her Tea Party credentials rub off on him with voters in his state. Many Republicans feel that he's become too moderate for the more conservative base.

Here was John McCain following Sarah Palin's rallying cry earlier today. OK it looks like we don't have that.

WHITFIELD: We'll try and pull it up a little bit later though.

YELLIN: That's right, no worries. Anyway, Sarah Palin should be here any moment now. The crowd very excited. I'll tell you, we are in the middle of a dirt field down a mile-long dirt road. We are really in rural Nevada in something of a windstorm. And nobody here cares. They are just excited to see Sarah Palin show up shortly, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK, just to paraphrase one of the things John McCain said, he says they say we are the party of no. We're not the party of no, but to borrow a phrase from my friend Sarah Palin here, we are the party of "hell no." He said that repeatedly over and over again.

YELLIN: That's right. That's the message he brought. That was her message that there is an energetic defiance, a willingness to stand up and take back what they think are rights that have been taken away. And that is a reflection of the Tea Party message. It's not only McCain's message. It's a reflection of the message here.

If I could add one thing, Fredricka, we got a statement from Senator Harry Reid who is also here in Nevada today. He actually thanks these Tea Party folks for coming to his hometown and spending money here because the battered economy needs their money. But he says, lots of these folks are from out of state and this election will be decided by Nevada voters, not from people, quote, "from other states who parachute in for one day to have a Tea Party."

WHITFIELD: All right, trying to turn it around there. Jessica Yellin, thanks so much, we'll check back with you momentarily especially as former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin makes her way there to Searchlight, Nevada. All right, health care reform and streamlining the student loan program, both are considered major victories of President Obama. And they're the focus of his weekly radio and Internet address today.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Education and health care, two of the most important pillars of a strong America grew stronger this week. These achievements don't represent the end of our challenges, nor do they signify the end of the work that faces our country. What they do represent is real and major reform. What they show is that we're a nation still capable of doing big things. What they prove is what's possible when we can come together to overcome the politics of the moment. Push back on the special interests, and look beyond the next election to do what's right for the next generation. That's the spirit in which we continue the work of tackling our greatest common tasks. An economy rebuilt, job creation revitalized, an American dream renewed for all people.


WHITFIELD: The Republicans have vowed to make health care a key part of their efforts to defeat Democrats this year's mid-term elections come this fall. In today's Republican radio and Internet address, the Senate minority leader says the legislation will sink the Democrats in November.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: In one of the most divisive legislative debates in modern history, Democrats decided to go the partisan route and blatantly ignore the will of the people. Americans opposed this legislation. And now they're clambering to see it repealed and replaced. Democratic leaders and White House officials may be celebrating their victory this week, but most of the rest of the country is not. Most people aren't interested in celebrating a bill that makes their lives more complicated, takes more out of their paychecks and puts decisions they're used to making themselves into the hands of federal bureaucrats.


WHITFIELD: McConnell says large companies will have to spend millions of dollars to comply with the new legislation.

Allegations of a massive cover-up, why the widening sexual abuse scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic Church is now landing on the pope's door step.


WHITFIELD: And now to election results in Iraq. The secular alliance of former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in the brown suit right here won a narrow victory taking 91 seats in the 325-member parliament. He edged ahead of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's party by just two seats. Two parties dominated by Shiites and Kurds took the rest. Allawi wants to start shaping a new government. He says that he is open to direct talks with the other groups, but al-Maliki is talking about appealing those results.

Amid the expanding sex abuse scandal against the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican is on the defensive. It's denying reports that when the pope was still a cardinal and the archbishop in Munich, Germany, he allowed a priest undergoing treatment for pedophilia back on to the job. Here now is CNN's Fred Pleitgen.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The various Catholic Church has issued a strong rebuttal and said that these reports contain no new information and also misquote some of the Bavarian Church officials. New allegations brought forward by "The New York Times" refer to a memo which was allegedly sent to then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was the archbishop of Munich. Now this memo apparently told Ratzinger that a priest whom he had approved to come to Munich had, in fact, been put back to work even though he was undergoing therapy for molesting minors. Now the Archdioceses of Munich and Freising says that in fact this was not a memo that was issued to Cardinal Ratzinger, but that in fact this was a regular directive which his deputy had put out and which Ratzinger would not have read at the time because he received about 700 to 1,000 such directives every year into his office, which usually were only filed away.

Now all of this comes as the Catholic Church here in Germany faces new allegations of child abuse almost every day. What the church however is doing now is that it's bringing all of these cases to trial and bringing them before criminal authorities, something that has not happened before. Another thing that the Catholic Church is doing now is that it's ordering ombudsmen into a lot of its parishes to talk to victims, help these victims come forward and try to get rid of the accusations that are still out there. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


WHITFIELD: It could be the smoking gun for Toyota. CNN investigates what the company knew about faulty acceleration pedals and when.


WHITFIELD: All right, live pictures right now of Searchlight, Nevada, the backyard for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Now the back drop for former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who's campaigning on behalf of the Tea Party movement. Let's listen in.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR: God bless the United States military. Well, it is so nice and warm and sunny here. My husband Todd is here, and wherever Todd is. There he is. I was going to ask Todd if I could borrow his sunglasses. I would have to take these off and it would make it really tough for me to see the teleprompter. And then I realized, no teleprompter, time to kick in old school. Good thing I remember how to use the poor man's version of the teleprompter.

It is so good to be here for the showdown in Searchlight. So proud to be with all of you who are so proud to be Americans. God bless you. Hey, there's no better place to kick off the Tea Party Express than Harry Reid's hometown. Harry Reid's hometown, we are glad that we are here. So let's get going.

You know, in the coming days and months, Harry's going to come home and he's going to explain what he's been up to in Washington. And Harry is going to hold campaign rallies and town halls and he's going to try to explain away the big government takeover of health care and student loans, and try to explain the bailouts for banks and insurance companies and automakers. And he's going to try to sell you on the leftist plans for a national energy tax, and for more spending and more bloat of our budgets and more steps towards insolvency.

So Searchlight, I hope that when he comes back home, I hope that he'll open up the floor to questions so that you can start asking him and shedding a little bit of light on Harry Reid. Ask him a thing or two about, like, when does early voting begin and who else is running for his seat. Because it's out here in our cities and our small towns of this great nation where we know we've got some big problems to solve.

We know that Harry Reid and his buddies in Washington, the Obama/Pelosi/Reid gang, you know, they've got the wrong way to solve these problems. They're going about it the wrong way. It's like common sense conservatives in D.C., it's becoming an endangered species to find the common sense. Now it's like that old bumper sticker that says, "government, if you think our problems are bad, wait until you see our solutions." Or that bumper sticker that maybe you'll see on the next Subaru driving by, an Obama bumper sticker. You should stop the driver and say, so how is that hopey, changey thing work out for you? And I shouldn't be disrespectful. I don't have anything against Subaru's. I don't.

Now, the Obama care vote last weekend, it certainly proved that we're on the wrong track. It's easy to understand why so many of us, so many Americans are shaking our heads and saying, what is going on in our country? What's going on in D.C.? Washington has broken faith with the people that they are to be serving. That's why here in Searchlight and across the country, we're sending a message to Washington. It's loud and it's clear.

And in these upcoming elections, we are saying that the big government, big debt, Obama/Pelosi/Reid spending spree is over. You're fired. You're fired. Well, we're doing folks, we're rolling up our sleeves, we're getting down to business and getting back to the common sense conservative principles that made this country the greatest country on Earth. And we're not going to sit down and shut up. And thank you for standing up. We're standing up and we're speaking out and we're fighting for solutions. We're taking our country back and we're starting right here today in Nevada. Thank you for being here.

CROWD: Sarah! PALIN: Now when we talk about fighting for our country, let's clear the air right now on what it is that we're talking about. We're not inciting violence. Don't get sucked into the lame stream media's lies about conservative America's standing up for freedom as inciting violence. Violence isn't the answer. It's a bunch of bunk what the media is trying to feed you. Don't let them divert attention from the debate.

Media, you guys ginning up an issue like that, making it sound like it's a crowd like this of patriotic Americans who are inciting violence, it's not true, it's a bunch of bunk and we ask for some fair and some balanced reporting coming from you, please.

When we talk about fighting for our country, we are talking about our vote. Our vote is our arms. By the way, it's within our own borders in the homeland where we should feel so safe and not condone any kind of violence. It's within the homeland that we should feel safe and that makes me want to say in these volatile times when we are a nation at war, now more than ever is when we need a commander-in- chief, not a constitutional law professor lecturing us from a lectern.

OK look, guys, job number one. Job number one is to get our economy roaring back to life. Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and their friends in Congress. They think that we can tax and borrow our way and spend our way out of the problems. They put us on track to quadruple our deficit. They proposed a $3.8 mind boggling, record busting -- $3.8 trillion federal budget, and they just passed that trillion dollar European-style health care scheme called Obama care.

Now something's not quite right when Fidel Castro comes out and says he likes Obama care, but we don't like Obama care. They keep borrowing and proposing big new programs with giant price tags and they dig us further into debt and stick our kids with the bill. And that makes us more beholden to other countries that. It makes us less secure. It makes us less free. And I don't know about you, but that does tick me off because I care about our children and our children's future.

Now, Harry Reid coming from these parts, you know he served on the state's gaming commission. And what he's doing now is gambling our future. And somebody needs to tell him, this isn't a crap shoot. Just a lot of this is being crap though. Somebody's got to tell Harry Reid, a lot of us have been telling Washington that we don't like their plans. We told them in polls, protests and special elections, but they just don't get it. They lecture us, and they apologize for us and they talk down to us. They keep telling us, especially the Tea Party Americans, they are saying, oh, we like their policies and programs if only we were smart enough to understand them.

Well, we've got news for them. We get it. We understand plenty, and we have a word for them. We still don't like it. Because, folks, we do not have to work for government. Government is to work for us. We don't need a bunch of elites in Washington making decisions for us. We are smart enough to make decision for ourselves, and that's why we believe in expanding freedom and opportunities and not the overreaching arm of government. But the left in Washington, they don't see it that way. What we have here is a difference of opinion, but that's OK because that's nothing that a good old fashioned election can't fix. So the liberals in Washington had better start listening to the American people instead of lecturing us. And I've had the privilege of traveling around this country in this last year and meeting the good men and women who actually run this country, the small business owners. Those who grow our food and those who fight our wars for us and teach our children and run our factories. You know, a whole lot of us. Those who still cling to their guns and religion.

And when I talk to these good Americans, when I talk to them, you know, I'm not worried. I'm not worried about our future. I'm optimistic. Because if you know where to look, there are signs of real hope across this country. Every day Americans working so hard to get us back on track. And patriots who are standing up and speaking out. And neighbors who are helping one another get through these tough times. And entrepreneurs and small businesses who are working hard to grow our economy one job, one paycheck, one American dream at a time, in spite of what government is doing to our small businesses, they are still trying to rebuild. And a lot of common sense conservative candidates are putting it all on the line in 2010 in order to get our country back on the right track.

And believe it or not, there are even some hopeful signs in Washington where there are still some common sense conservative leaders who know that we cannot spend our way out of these problems. Leaders who are not afraid to make tough choices because they believe in what Ronald Reagan said, that there are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We just need the courage to do what we know is morally right.

And in that spirit, I applaud those in Congress who stood firm against Obama care right up to the very end. They understand that to get our country back on the right track, our economy roaring again, we need to cut spending, not simply stall the spending spree that we've been on. What kind of quasi spending freeze led by Barack Obama, what kind of spending freeze do you think that's going to look like after they jacked up the budget to these record levels, and then, oh, we are going to freeze it right there for a couple of special programs. No. We need to cut spending, see real cuts. We need to cut taxes so our families can keep more of what they earn and our mom and pops can reinvest in our businesses.

If our small businesses could keep more of what we earn, what we produce, we can reinvest, we can hire more people and that's how our economy can get back to life. We need to cut the corporate federal tax and simplify the tax code. We need to get competition into health care and tackle our debt and our long-term deficit. And we need to jump-start energy projects. What a ridiculous position America is in today relying on foreign countries to produce energy for us when we have the resources right here under foot.

Let's pave the way for proven conventional resource development and nuclear power and clean coal technology and offshore drilling instead of paying hundreds and hundreds of billions of your U.S. dollars going to foreign regimes, some of these foreign regimes that do not like America and could cut off supply as al-Qaeda targeting Arab oil fields just recently. Just think what that would do to our economy as we become more beholden to these volatile, dangerous regimes because Congress and those in the White House choose to not allow us to develop our own god-begin resources in the United States of America.


There is an inherent link between energy and prosperity, between energy and security, and between energy and freedom. We do need to drill here and drill now.


Now, those are the kinds of common sense conservative solutions that Americans support. And if the liberals don't have the good sense to listen to the American people, then we're going to find some new leaders who will.


Because there is a growing movement sweeping this country and you're it. This is it. This is beautiful. This is a groundswell of Americans who don't like the cap and tax, socialized medicine, personality as foreign policy agenda of those who are running Washington today. Tea party Americans, some of the folks in this movement, some of you are registered Republicans. Some of you are what we call, used to call Reagan Democrats, and some of you are like so many of my friends and my family, including my own husband, just independent, not registered in any party. Just true blue-blooded Americans working hard, loving this country, standing up for what is right, concerns about the path that we are on.

We know that our country has some pretty big challenges in front of us. We have big challenges to overcome, but we're still hopeful about America's future. Because we know that this is the greatest country on earth and her best days are yet to come.

We believe that god has shed his grace on thee. This is a very blessed country. So, let's not kick god out of our country. We believe, as Lincoln did, that this nation is the last best hope of earth, and we still believe that America is exceptional. And we know that what makes her exceptional is not her politicians, it's her people. And it is the founding principles that they hold dear.

When I travel across the country, when I am here today, I see the patriotism and the decency and the dedication of everyday Americans like you, and I know that the dream of Washington and Lincoln and Reagan lives on. in you lies our potential for greatness. In you lies the promise of that more perfect union that we are destined to become. We have a lot of work to do before we get there. And the first task is to restore balance and common sense. And the first test will be at the ballot box in November.

We're going to get their, friends, thought, because, our vision for America is time-tested truths. The government that governs least governs best. That the constitution provides the path to a more perfect union. It's the constitution. And that only limited government can provide the opportunities for prosperity for all of us equally. And that freedom is a god-given right and freedom is worth fighting for.

And that America's finest, our men and women in uniform, they are a force for good throughout this world and that is nothing to apologize for. If we stick to our principles, we're going to be just fine. Now, when talk about it's not a time to retreat it's a time to reload, what I'm talking about...

Now, media, try to get this right, OK? That's not inciting violence. What that is doing is trying to inspire people to get involved in their local elections and these upcoming federal elections. It's telling people that their arms are their vote. It's not inciting violence. It's telling people, don't ever let anybody tell you to sit down and shut up, Americans. You stand up and you stand tall.

And we're just going to be fine. America is going to be just fine. Keep up the good work if we stick to our principles. So stand up and speak out. Let's get it together, Tea Party America. Let's take back our country. God bless you all. God bless America. And see you in Boston.

WHITFIELD: OK, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin there in Searchlight, Nevada, the backyard of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, today is the backdrop of this Tea Party Express, making a stop here. Hundreds of people, at least dozens of people. We haven't gotten a count of how many people turned out there. We heard Sarah Palin talk about everything about the campaign, to unseat Senator Reid to what she calls "Obama care," on the heels of that health care vote and even talking about her definition of her love of America. And also trying to kind of explain or structure the language that she has used about reloading America. Many people talked about some of the language that's been used by Republicans, including her as inciting violence as a result of the health care vote. She says she is not inciting violence. Instead, she says as she is inspiring people to stand up for their god-given rights, in her language.

Sarah Palin there as she takes the steps there and heads onto that crowd of folks. She said she is off to Massachusetts next. We've got with us right now Lenny McAllister, he's on the executive board of the North Carolina Republican Party, he's also columnist for

We invited you here to talk a little more about what this means. The Tea Party movement, Sarah Palin, symbolically what does it mean? Actionably what does it mean that she is in Searchlight, Nevada. You heard her, you were listing to her speech as was I. What stands out for you?

LENNY MCALLISTER, REPUBLICAN ANALYST: Well, the first thing that stood out for me was the fact that she's made the transition from being a former vice presidential candidate to be a Tea Party activist. Now, what does that mean? That means that some of the Republican credibility that she once had, she's basically given away. I mean, the attacks on the "lame stream media" as she continues to say or some of the rhetoric that she used is less from what you would see from a former governor and more from somebody that's actively involved in the Tea Party movement.

WHITFIELD: Why is she giving that away? She talked about Ronald Reagan a lot.


MCALLISTER: Well, that's definitely an icon within the Tea Party movement, though.

WHITFIELD: And an icon within the Republican Party.

MCALLISTER: Yes, but that's one of a few bridges. A lot of times the Tea Party movement is more upset with the structure of government. And if you listen to what she mentioned, she more went toward, listen, let your representative hear your voice, regardless of who it is. You have all these movements out there to throw out incumbents regardless of who they are. And I would say that former Governor Palin She spoke to those people more than she did to a Republican base within the Tea Party crowd that was there today.

WHITFIELD: She was defending her vernacular. She's been talking about reloading. We've heard others in the Republican Party talking about killing the bill, you know, getting rid of this, restoring America, taking back America. There have been many people said this kind of dialogue has incited the kind of violence and uproar that we've seen in the past week. She says, no. This is just about standing up. Who's right here?

MCALLISTER: I think that's a Sarah Palin brand, though. I think the Republican Party is actually trying to step away from the "kill the bill" type of rhetoric because of what happened over this past weekend. I was a little disappointed to hear Governor Palin still try to defend the reload statement at this day and time.

We have too many incidents of violence going on, right now. It's time for everybody to pull back, be passionate, but be smart about it. and I think she had a sense of responsibility. If we go back to 2008, she did the same things with some things that came out about, at the time, candidate Obama. She had the opportunity to do what John McCain did, which was say look, he's a good guy, just (INAUDIBLE) the policies. She didn't so it then, she didn't do it now. I am not that surprised, but I am a little disappointed.

WHITFIELD: Speaking of John McCain, she was campaigning for John McCain in Arizona today. It almost looked like revisiting the days of the run for the presidential campaign to see them both on stage. So, she's not really distancing herself from the Republican Party, but she is up, out in front with the Tea Party movement. So, do we look at the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party as one and the same?

MCALLISTER: Not yet. And I think actually, if you look at the Palin phenomenon with this, it's more along the lines of Governor Palin is out there with the Tea Party movement and there are Republican candidates trying to latch on to that momentum from that conservative activism to make sure they get through these primaries, in particular Senator McCain. He needs the same boost that he got from her in 2008 to get the conservative base he needs to get through this primary and keep his seat in November.

WHITFIELD: Why does John McCain find it very smart to be associated with her when there was upon the end of that campaign there was almost like a separation between the two? It almost looked like bad blood. And now there is this kumbaya movement. What is going on here?

MCALLISTER: Because Senator McCain has been seen as a moderate Republican. And if you look at the core constituency within the Tea Party, those are the folks that are getting out there, they're doing the volunteerism and they're doing the activism. They are stronger conservatives than he has a record of being. So, where is he going to get the natural tie to somebody that's going to bring in that conservative base? He's going back to his former running buddy and hope that he can get some of that momentum that she brings to the table that he can get over that hump with these primaries.

WHITFIELD: Is Sarah Palin becoming more powerful as a proponent of other candidates, a proponent of a movement than she might have been running for office or is she using this to set the stage for once day again running for office?

MCALLISTER: I don't know how effective she'll be if she runs for office. If you look at the speech, most of the speech was around the conservative rhetoric and not necessarily talking specifically to solutions. It plays very well with Tea Parties. It doesn't necessarily play very well in debates. And if you go back to the issue she had in 2008 it was her record in Alaska and then moving forward with the interviews and the debates where she had problems. As long as she's dictating the agenda, she'll be fine. But, if she ends up trying to be a candidate again, she has to run into the same exact issues she ran into in the fall of 2008, which are debates, and answering tough issues, and not talking in such vague terms, going after specific solutions.

WHITFIELD: Specificity, that's something we didn't necessarily see in this speech. She was all over the place. She talked about a lot of things. What's the strategy here? Why would she do that?

MCALLISTER: We are trying to rally the troops. I mean, again, we are starting this Tea Party movement there. And if you're taking this Sarah Palin approach, you're saying look, we're going to start here, we're at Harry Reid's hometown. How do we fire up the troops here in Nevada to get them to move forward so that he is no longer representing not only them in Nevada, but he's no longer the speaker for the majority leader, I should say, in the Senate moving forward. So, the best way of doing that is to get volunteers and people that will contribute one resource or another to these campaigns to be fired up and moving forward throughout the year. WHITFIELD: You listen to Sarah Palin, you listen to a lot of other Republican who feel like they gained a lot of support now, especially after the health care reform. However, the violence, threats of violence that followed that, might this mean that kind of vitreal, that kind of approach to defeating health care or trying to repeal it or defeating this presidency, might that ultimately backfire? Do you see that strategy ultimately backfiring come November?


MCALLISTER: If it stays like this. If it keeps this tone, then yes. Because America wants a sense of decorum. And I would say even those that are Republicans that are proud Republicans would not own this level of vitrical (ph), if you will. However, if they are able to take the passion, and what' you've been seeing for some leading congressman, and even the RNC, they can ratchet back the violent tendencies and tell the fringes, go away, we don't want the violence in it, we want the passion without the hatred.

If they are successful in making that message be the prominent message between conservatism and Republicanism moving forward, they'll be able to leverage all this energy, all this passion and really do some electoral, not physical damage, in November.

WHITFIELD: Six or seven months to go. Lenny McAllister, thanks so much, good to see you.

MCALLISTER: Good to see you, as well.

WHITFIELD: All right, all the best.

All right, well, when we come back, some folks thought the Salahis, remember them, kind of the party crashers at that White House dinner -- well, they're back and this time on a television screen near you.


WHITFIELD: In 2008, Ann Mahlum started a program to help the homeless get back on their feet. Well, that effort earned her a CNN Hero award. And Anderson Cooper tells us that was just the beginning.




ANNE MAHLUM, CNN HERO 2008: You can change the world through decent humanity, kindness and encouragement and giving people a second chance.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two years ago, Ann Mahlum was honored as a CNN hero for helping those who might otherwise be forgotten, the homeless. MAHLUM: So, we're going to fit you for shorts and we're going to fit you for shorts and we're going to fit you for your shirt.

COOPER: Her "Back on My Feet" program inspires homeless men and women to change their own lives sharing the benefits of running as well as providing job training skills.

What started off as a small running club of 300 has expanded to more than 1,500 members with 17 teams running three times a week. It spread throughout Philadelphia, Baltimore, just this week, Washington, D.C.

MAHLUM: You're doing great.

Since being a CNN Hero, it has been extraordinary. We've received so many requests for expansion and people wanting to bring this program to their city.


COOPER: Anne has done more than just help get them off the streets. Last year alone, more than 170 members found work, started job training or moved out of shelters. And Anne isn't stopping any time soon.

MAHLUM: All right. We're at the homestretch, guys. So pick it up.

COOPER: Along with First Lady, Michelle Obama, she's featured in this month's issue of "Fitness" magazine and has plans to expand to Boston and Chicago later this year.

MAHLUM: We just gave them the opportunity to do something great. They took advantage of it and they did it.


WHITFIELD: OK, to find out if Anne's program is coming to your city next or perhaps you want to nominate somebody that you think is changing the world go to


WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories, right now. It looks like the White House will have to go back to its candidate pool to find someone to head the TSA. Retired Army General Robert Harding has withdrawn his nomination. He's the president's second choice. Harding admits over-billing mistakes as a defense contractor and says that would be too big of a distraction.

And despite scenes like this in London, British Airways says most of its flights are operating normally. Thousands of cabin crew members are on strike, its second weekend in a row that they have walked off the job. British Airways says it's using planes, pilots and crews from other airlines, plus its own staff to keep the planes moving. And we've got new images of a humpback whale tangled up in a fishing line off the Florida coast. Take a look right there. Earlier reports questioned whether the 25-foot mammal was in trouble. But these images seem to confirm that there is a thick line knotted under its belly. A rescue team is on stand-by to help in case the whale is spotted again.

And a recall to tell you about. GM is recalling 5,000 heavy-duty vans because of an engine fire risk. The models are the 2500 and 3500 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna. The vans were made in February and March of this year. GM is urging customers to stop driving the vans immediately. The automaker also halted production until a fix is worked out.

And they did it for a spot on a reality television show, and now they get the prize.


WHITFIELD: All right, they took the fast track to celebrity status by crashing a White House state dinner. Well, now despite the criticisms leveled at the Salahis, their gamble appears to be paying off. Their couple's media rep says they've landed a new reality gig. And our Brian Todd explains they probably won't do any jail time, either.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. and Mrs. Salahi.

BRIAN TODD, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their adventure gave the Secret Service a huge black eye. And within a few months, the White House social secretary lost her job. They refused to testify to Congress about their actions. And a source close to the couple tells CNN, Michaele Salahis own mother got drawn into grand jury hearings.

But it now looks like Michaele and Tariq Salahi are getting rewarded for crashing President Obama's first state dinner back in November. The political news Web site, TheDailyBeast, reports the Salahis have landed roles on the Bravo Network's upcoming reality TV series, "The Real Housewives of DC."

Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post" and CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES says so much for accountability.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES: Undoubtedly, some people will not want to watch this Bravo series, because they don't think the Salahis should be rewarded for their behavior. But there probably will be enough other people who are just kind of interested or curious about these people who have become celebrities, thanks to us in the media, They will tune in. That will probably help the box office for Bravo.

TODD: A TV crew from Bravo was videotaping the couple as they pulled up to the White House that night. But contacted by CNN, a spokeswoman for the network said there'd be no comment on the show's cast until a schedule is announced. She offered no timetable for that, saying they're still in the middle of production. The Salahis' attorneys would not comment.

Our efforts to reach the couple through media representatives they'd hired were unsuccessful. The Salahis have denied crashing state dinner, but they've never produced a written invitation.

A grand jury has convened in the case, calling, among others, the owner of the Washington salon where Michaele Salahi spent hours before the White House event.

IRWIN GOMEZ, SALON OWNER: I value their privacy. And that is the most important thing for me.

TODD: Since those proceedings, there's been no indication that the Salahis face charges. CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom.

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think they will be prosecuted. Four months has passed. I would have expected an arrest to have been made by now, if it was going to happen. (TODD: Bloom says if the Salahis are charged it would probably be for trespassing, a low-level offense that she doesn't believe would bring them any jail time and, therefore, wouldn't interfere with their apparent reality show gig.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.