tv NBC Nightly News NBC May 31, 2012 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
on the broadcast tonight, the verdict for john edwards. not guilty on one count, a mistrial on all the others. and dramatic words from a contrite but resilient edwards himself on the courthouse steps. war on sugar. a drastic new measure to fight obesity. an attack on supersized beverages that has some people saying get your hands off my drink. road hazard. teenagers with attention deficit disorder getting behind the wheel. a risk for others on the road, but tonight, a solution to make the ride a bit safer. and unveiling. a portrait of civility during the mean season of politics. a tradition that leads to some big laughs at the white house. "nightly news" begins now.
and good evening, everyone. i'm matt lauer. in for brian tonight. after a day of courtroom confusion and drama, there's a verdict and a mistrial in the john edwards case. a trial about campaign finance corruption that included weeks of sensational testimony about his private life and his very public fall from grace. late this afternoon, following the verdict, we heard from edwards himself for the first time right outside the courthouse. >> i want to make sure that everyone hears from me and from my voice that while i do not believe i did anything illegal or ever thought i was doing anything illegal, i did an awful, awful lot that was wrong. and there is no one else responsible for my sins. i also want to say a word about my own children. cate who most all of you have seen, has been here every single day.
she has been here no matter what. no matter how awful and painful the lot of the evidence was for her. evidence about her dad, evidence about her mom, who she loved so, so dearly. but she never once flinched. she said, dad, i love you. i'll be there for you no matter what. and i'm so proud to have had her with me. this is the last thing i'm going to say. i don't think god's through with me. i really believe he thinks there's still some good things i can do. and i want to dedicate my life to being the best dad i can be and to helping those kids who i think deserve help and who i hope i can help. >> that was john edwards just a couple hours ago. nbc's lisa myers has been covering this trial in greensboro, north carolina, since the beginning. she's also at the courthouse tonight. lisa, good evening to you. >> good evening, matt.
it was a day of high drama, tension, and fast changing emotions. but at the end of the day, john edwards was hugging everyone inside. his mother, bobby, summed it up this way. we prayed for this and got answered our prayers. for edwards and his family, the day was an emotional roller coaster. first, anxiety as the jury announced it had reached a verdict. then surprise when the jury said it had only been able to reach a unanimous verdict on one of six counts. the judge then asked the jury to go back and try harder. after another hour of deliberating, the jury came back again, saying it was unable to agree on any other charges. edwards was found not guilty of receiving illegal campaign contributions from heiress rachel "bunny" mellon in 2008. the judge declared a mistrial on the five other accounts. >> it's a clear victory for john edwards. it's a tremendous setback for the federal government. prosecutors got almost every major ruling in their favor.
they got a lot of unfavorable evidence in front of the jury about john edwards the person, the husband, and not a conviction, not a single count. >> the government alleged almost $1 million provided by fred baron and bunny mellon to hide edwards' pregnant mistress rielle hunter while he ran for president amounted to illegal campaign contributions. the defense argued the money was given to hide the affair and later a child from edwards' late wife, elizabeth, and were not campaign contributions. edwards thanked the jury but took responsibility for his behavior. >> if i want to find the person who should be held accountable for my sins, i don't have to go any further than the mirror. >> edwards thanked his parents, his daughter cate, and his two younger children for standing with him and had special words for the child he once denied was his, his 4-year-old daughter with rielle hunter. >> finally, my precious quinn.
who i love more than any of you could ever imagine. >> now, there was a great deal of emotion in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. edwards saved the biggest hug for his daughter cate, hugged his parents, his lawyer, everyone hugged everyone else. the government was highly criticized for bringing this case and must decide on whether to retry edwards on the five counts the jury couldn't agree on. matt. >> lisa myers there from the very start of this trial. lisa, thank you very much. joining me here in the studio is nbc's chief legal correspondent, savannah guthrie. savannah, good evening to you. before i get to the question of whether the federal prosecutors will go forward with this, this afternoon, the jurors went to the judge and said, your honor, we have reached a unanimous decision on one of the counts, count three. we haven't on the others. she sent them back to work and then a short time later, declared a mistrial. why not keep them working? >> because you really only get one bite at the apple. when the jury comes back and
tells the judge we're deadlocked, there's well established precedence for giving them what is known as an allen charge. get back in there and deliberate, it's your duty. no future jury will have any easier time with the questions. but when they come back that second time and say, we still can't agree, the defendant is entitled to that deadlocked jury. >> and because this was such a complicated and controversial case, so much disagreement over whether it should have been brought in the first place, what is your take on what federal prosecutors might do next? >> they certainly have the right to retry john edwards on the five counts. the question is, will they? look, nearly every legal ruling in this case went for the prosecutors. i think the prosecutors will want to know from the jury if they can find out what the breakdown was in the jury room. if it was 11 to 1 for conviction, it was one hold out, as unlikely as that seems, that might change the calculus a little bit. >> a big risk reward if they were to decide to go forward. >> yeah, and they are to look at the interest of justice. is there a federal interest that needs to be vindicated here.
take a minute to think about how much the campaign finance law terrain has changed since this case was tried. >> that brings the question, how will this case impact future cases involving laws like that? >> you wonder if a case like this will ever be brought again. it already was a case of first impression. no one had ever tried to bring a criminal charge like this under the campaign finance laws, and now because of the supreme court decision in 2010, the landscape has changed entirely, and you wonder under these same facts, could there have just been a super pac and john edwards could have raised money that way and it all would have been perfectly legally. >> savannah guthrie in the studios. savannah as always, thank you very much. there's also a big court ruling on a hot button issue, gay marriage. a federal appeals court today said the law known as the defense of marriage act is unconstitutional. the law says the federal government can not recognize same sex marriage, even in states where it's legal. that denies same sex couples at least 1,000 federal benefits like social security when a spouse dies.
today's ruling in massachusetts tees this issue up for the supreme court. now to the campaign trail where things heated up with charges flying back and forth. here is nbc's political director and chief white house correspondent chuck todd. >> as president obama attempted a moment of political civility, hosting his republican predecessor's portrait unveiling -- >> it's a great privilege to have you here today. >> on opposite ends of the country, his chief political strategist and his current republican rival mitt romney were engaging in not so civil dueling political stunts. >> under governor romney, the state was 47th in job creation. >> the obama campaign traveled to massachusetts for a press conference on the state house steps to slam romney's record as a one-term governor. >> romney economics didn't work then and it won't work now. >> broken record. >> but given the close proximity
to romney's headquarters in boston, david axelrod was knocked off message by a vocal group of romney volunteers. a few hours later, the romney campaign had a political stunt of their own to unveil in california. at solyndra, innow bankrupt solar power company president obama visited two years ago after his administration awarded the company a half billion dollars in taxpayer loan guarantees as part of its green jobs initiative. to prevent their being upstaged the romney campaign kept the sulyndra visit top secret until the last minute, not allowing traveling press to report on it publicly until the candidate arrived outside the company's headquarters. >> you can see it's a symbol of something very different today. it's a symbol not of success but of failure. >> you know, matt, there's a reason that all of this is so personal and even petty right now in the campaign trail. the race is extremely close. we have these new nbc polls, you can find them on our website, nbcnightlynews.com. nevada, iowa, colorado, dead heats between the two of them.
>> on a nightly basis, we're going to see more of this at least for the next several weeks. >> until the conventions, stunt after stunt, desperate to get on television. >> chuck todd, chuck, thank you very much. still ahead as "nightly news" continues, more on that special joint appearance today at the white house. politics put aside and portraits unveiled. first, should there be a legal limit on the size of sugary drinks? the supersized controversy over the latest plan to fight one of america's biggest health concerns.
now to a simple question. should you be allowed to buy a soda that comes in a container larger than 16 ounces? with america's obesity epidemic getting worse, the mayor of new york city, michael bloomberg is determined to do something about it. what he wants to do is outlaw what he calls supersized sodas and other sugary drinks. a plan that a lot of people may disagree with. but if it catches on here, who knows, could you see it where you live? ron mott is in times square tonight. good evening to you. >> hey, matt. good evening to you. time was a seven-ounce drink was all you could get at a fast food restaurant. take a look at this. today, a small typically is 16 ounces and they only get bigger from there. 20, 30, or 40 ounces or bigger, and mayor michael bloomberg said that's a big problem. in an effort to win or at least compete in the battle of the bulge, mayor bloomberg is proposing a wide scale ban on
sugary and sweetened beverages over 16 ounces, principally sodas served at restaurants, movie theaters, food carts, even the ballpark. >> obesity is the only public health issue in the country that is getting worse, and everybody is wringing their hands, i have to do something about it. nobody is doing anything about it. >> it is sugar. the federal government says americans consume at least 22 teaspoons a day. that's 75 pounds a year. bloomberg led to the first restaurant ban on artificial trans fats in 2008. now the target is sugar. >> if you want to act irresponsibly, as long as you're doing it to yourself, that's up to you. i willsie in new york city, we estimate a $4 billion cost in dealing with obesity, and the public is picking up that tab. >> not all sweet or high calorie drinks will be downsized. off the chart, water, of course. diet sodas, coffee drinks, dairy based beverages like milk or milkshakes, 70% fruit and vegetable juices and alcoholic beverages.
across the country, reaction is split. >> it's probably better for health reasons. >> i'm mixed on it because there is an obesity crisis in the country and some people drink way too much. >> they're definitely overstepping their boundaries. >> i think they should just because health is, it is an issue. >> the american beverage association labeled the proposal zealous, saying soda is not driving the obesity rates. one civil libertarian called it a monstrous government overreach. >> a politician, whatever their intention, is telling us it's okay to eat this in this portion but not this in this portion. that's not what we elect politicians to do. >> there was a bit of an uproar a few years back when mayor michael bloomberg banned indoor smoking in public places. the soda ban, if adopted, could take effect as early as next march. >> thank you very much. chief medical editor dr. nancy
snyderman is in the studio. nancy, good evening to you. obesity is a huge problem. does it warrant a move like this and how do you think health care providers and officials will deal with this? >> the big question tonight is is sugar the new tobacco? because scientists said for a long time that sugar is addicting and should be regulated like that. although a lot of people in government said this is a big step into your personal and private life, a lot of other people are saying this is good public health. with the obesity epidemic and the fallout with cancer, stroke, and diabetes out of control, new york city is one municipality trying to stem the tide and there's a history of local government stepping in, state, also the federal government, seat belts, smoking bans in restaurants and even the safety ratings you see, all meant to improve the public health. i think, matt, the question will be not only is it the new tobacco, but will other municipalities look at new york, and say controversial but brave? and we're going to do the same thing. >> you say brave, but i was interested to hear the comments from the people in the street.
they're not so sure about that. >> they were also all thin. >> do you think mayor bloomberg may misunderstand the public appetite for something like this? >> i think this is tomorrow, going to turn into a political hot potato. it will be libertarians and perhaps people on both sides of the political aisle. but if you look at positions and public health officials in the center, they're going to say health is something else and politics shouldn't be in it. >> thank you very much. just a note, we'll have more questions on this subject as mayor michael bloomberg joins us on "today" tomorrow morning here on nbc. up next, new drivers with a challenge that could pose a danger for everyone else on the road.
deficit disorder are faced with a major challenge when it comes time for them to learn to drive. but there are things parents can do to keep everyone just a little bit safer. here's nbc's rehema ellis. >> it's images like these that make parents of every young driver cringe. >> mom, oh, my god. oh, my god! >> this girl was lucky and not seriously hurt. for most teenagers, staying focused is one of the toughest things about learning to drive. it's even harder for teens like 17-year-old annie who has adhd, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. >> i have know it a while now. we've been dealing with it. >> adhd teens are the largest and most studied group of young drivers with diagnosed attention problems. they're two to four times more likely to have an accident than other teenagers. >> this is our virtual reality driving simulator. >> researchers have spent years documenting how adhd teen drivers repeatedly get into trouble. >> they don't pay attention to
cars ahead of them, stop lights, cross traffic, and then all of a sudden, they'll detect an emergency and then they impulsively react in a dangerous way. >> she can overcome those things by very specific learning tools. >> with her mom, annie is taking action that studies show have been helpful to teenagers like her. >> next intersection, turn left. >> she's on medication. delayed getting her learner's permit to gain another year of maturity and enrolled in a driving school that puts adhd teenagers through a tougher course with driving simulators, online training, and extra practice. expert say even with extra training, adhd teenagers should be strict, to limit cell phones, passengers, music, even keep pets out of the car. >> you have the right of way. go ahead. >> don't think i'm 100% ready, but when i get there, i'm going to be like, oh, my god!
>> one determined teenager turning the corner with greater focus and a control behind the wheel. rehema ellis, nbc news, new york. >> there was a safe splashdown today in the pacific. spacex dragon, the first privately owned spacecraft to visit the international space station returned to earth this morning, splashing down about 560 miles twes of los angeles. after delivering a half ton of food and clothing to the crew aboard the space station and loading up with half a ton of cargo and experiments to bring back. the successful mission is good news for nasa which is relying on companies like spacex to do the heavy lifting now that the space shuttle program is over. up next, two families and a first reunion in the house they both called home. and also, lots to laugh about.
and finally tonight, as we saw a little earlier in the broadcast, there was quite a moment today at the white house. political controversy made way for tradition and political civility as president obama welcomed former president george w. bush and former first lady laura bush back to unveil their official portraits, giving them a permanent place in the white house.
guests included the president's parents, former president george herbert walker bush wearing some colorful socks, as you can see, and his wife barbara. as the current president paid tribute to his predecessor. >> all of us will always remember the image president bush standing on that pile of rubble, bull horn in hand, conveying extraordinary strength and resolve to the american people but also representing the strength and resolve of the american people. >> i am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the white house collection. it now starts and ends with a george w. when the british burned the white house, as fred mentioned, in 1814, dolly madison famously saved this portrait of the first george w.
now michelle, if anything happens, there's your man. and i'm also pleased, mr. president, that when you are wandering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you'll now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask, what would george do? it is my privilege to introduce the greatest first lady ever, sorry, mom. >> it was really gracious of you to invite us back to the white house to hang a few family pictures. and i'm sure you know nothing makes a house a home like having portraits of its former occupants staring down at you from the wall. >> the portraits, by the way, were done by the renowned artist john howard sanden. they'll hang in the entrance hall of the white house, president bush to the right of president clinton. that's our broadcast for this thursday night. thanks for being with us.
i'm matt lauer in for brian tonight, and i'll see you tomorrow morning on "today." good night. good evening, everyone. it's out for the world to see. the controversial video of eliana lopez and her bruised arm released publicly today. a powerful 45 seconds that many say gives new insight into lopez's relationship with her husband, the suspended san francisco sheriff. jodi hernandez joins us in san francisco this evening with more on that short clip of video that might say a lot.