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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  January 19, 2012 5:30pm-6:00pm PST

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on our broadcast tonight, a wild day on the campaign trail. another candidate quits. a great day for newt gingrich until his ex-wife's interview airs on television. it turns out a different guy won in iowa. the search in italy for victims of that cruise ship tragedy. tonight, we are learning more about some of the victims, you including a 5-year-old girl. inside syria. on the ground tonight where the uprising started. what the regime wanted us to see and what we found instead. the tragic loss of a young athlete who inspired a lot of young women headed to the olympics and tonight the gift she leaves behind. also a developing story tonight on autism that could affect a lot of children and
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their families. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. in case you looked away for just a moment today, here's what happened today in politics. rick perry got out of the race. he endorsed newt gingrich and it was a mostly good day for gingrich until tonight when an interview with his ex-wife will air. in it, she says he once asked her for an open marriage so he could keep his mistress. as for mitt romney, not only did he not get the perry endorsement, it turns out he didn't win the iowa caucuses thanks to a miscount. rick santorum won in iowa, according to the state party. to top it all off, president obama gave a speech today at disney world where he met mickey mouse. something for everyone tonight after one of the wildest days in politics in recent memory. we've got it all covered
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starting with ron mott covering newt gingrich. the man at the center of so much of this. good evening. >> reporter: good evening to you. this may well be the most pivotal day of this gop race so far, especially as it relates to newt gingrich. he is clearly on a roll here in south carolina, but his personal past might slam on the brakes. newt gingrich stepped off the bus today with a big endorsement, surging poll numbers and right into questions about his personal life. >> help me better wrestle with that topic. >> i've been very open about my life. i've been very open about the mistakes i made. i've been very open about needing to go to god for forgiveness and to seek reconciliation. >> reporter: on a day when the gingrich campaign seems to have new traction with the striking distance of mitt romney in late polling, backing of rick perry, the marital record could put
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that momentum on the skids. gingrich's second wife marianne who has been sharply critical of her ex-husband in the past, claims in an interview on "night line" that he asked her to share him with another woman, gingrich's third wife callista. >> he was asking to have an open marriage and i refused. >> he wanted an open marriage? >> yeah. that i accept the fact he has someone else in his life. >> it comes a point when there is a genuine public persona and a private persona, and if they don't mesh that well, i'm i not sure which one is the real one. >> reporter: this morning gingrich said this of his ex-wife whom he divorced in 1999. >> i'm not going to say anything negative about marianne. my two daughters, kathy and jackie have sent a letter to the president of abc news saying from a family perspective they think this is totally wrong. >> reporter: later on the campaign trail, he was more direct. >> yes, that's my answer. >> reporter: this couple says
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gingrich won their support no matter. >> i would prefer to have a president that has made and acknowledged mistakes and learned from mistakes. >> we all have a past. to me, it's not that important. >> reporter: meantime, mitt romney found himself asking prickly questions, as well, about being a member of the nation's richest 1%. >> what would you do to support the 99% when you're part of the 1%? >> let me tell you something, america is a great nation because we are a united nation. those trying to divide our nation as you're trying to do here and our president is doing are hurting this country seriously. >> reporter: perhaps more pressure on mitt romney tonight. speaker gingrich says he will release his tax records this evening hoping governor romney will do the same, not in april but before south carolina votes on saturday. >> ron mott starting us off tonight. thanks. to help us further get our arms around all the things that happened today, as you see, andrea mitchell, david gregory
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and chuck todd. andrea, we'll start with you specifically on newt gingrich. two sets of judgments going on. the individual voters in places like south carolina and the party structure, as well. >> exactly. that's the difference. newt gingrich has all the momentum in south carolina, assuming a good debate performance going into the final day. party leaders tell me tonight that even if he were to win south carolina, that mitt romney is more than a 90% lock to win florida and has the organizational strength and money going forward. they also say there are concerns among national party leaders, not necessarily in romney's camp, but people who feel newt gingrich does not have executive skills or discipline to be the nominee because he has too much baggage going down the road. today mike huckabee issued a statement saying that he does not agree with a web ad, a newt gingrich web ad which cites huckabee endorsing him from 2008. he says he has not endorsed,
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does not intend to endorse, and haley barbour who has been controversial this week and last week because of the mississippi pardons, but is a major leader in the republican party, said a gingrich victory could cost them the republican house. >> david gregory, on the subject of mitt romney, what a classic pattern this has fallen into. the media using words like front-runner and presumed future nominee, and yet these stumbles along the way, not all of them his doing. >> and that air of inevitability may be cracking this week. uneven answers about taxes, income, facing questions as ron reported of him being in the top 1%. that will only intensify if he is the nominee. i talked to romney advisors. they are taking the long view. they insist style points don't matter. what could happen at the end of this week, mitt romney, as it turns out, did not win iowa. he could lose south carolina, only having new hampshire in his column. it means he is not inevitable. there is still a fight on our
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hands, on his hands and the rest of the field here as we move forward. >> this iowa result does change the one-loss category. chuck todd, let's talk about the president who seems to be traveling a stop on ahead of the gop primary schedule. >> he's got a bunch of stops next week, too. he was right here in florida in orlando. it was an "official" visit to promote tourism, but his campaign, this is what makes this day amazing, another big story today was his campaign went up with their first ad. it was not a "morning in america" ad, that things are great, it was a defensive ad, a response ad to an outside group hitting the president on those solyndra bankruptcy. it shows the message they're sending, this will be a long, rough, tough campaign. >> chuck todd, david gregory, andrea mitchell, all part of our team covering our lead story tonight. thanks to all.
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now to italy where divers are back at work searching that giant wreck of the cruise ship costa concordia, for the 21 souls still missing. we are learning more about some of them. nbc's michelle kosinski has the latest from the scene. >> reporter: crews approach the concordia from above lowering searchers and equipment on to what it is now, a vast waterlog maid still holding its victims and thousands of tons of fuel. all at risk as the ship continues to slide. divers with explosives to break through the hull, were able to return today, feeling their way to areas where they expect to find more victims, where passengers had gathered for rescue. >> very difficult scuba diving. today it is 25 meter under the starboard. >> reporter: each day more families arrive.
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suzy whose 5-year-old daughter diana is missing along with the child's father, both last seen slipping into the sea. family of american retirees also in italy. last night back home in minnesota, a prayer service was held, attended by their son. >> i want to thank the workers who are risking their lives for to find the missing passengers. >> reporter: among the victims recovered, hungarian violinist who helped others get out and went to retrieve his violin. new video posted from that night. passengers struggling through tilted hallways and more terror. also more audio has emerged. a concordia crew member on the phone with authorities telling them the problem was merely a blackout. no help, he says, needed. within hours, the magnitude of how wrong he was became tragically clear. brian, the world has been looking at this for six days now.
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tonight parent company carnival announced a systemwide review of all its safety and emergency procedures, so this kind of accident doesn't happen gun. >> a review to be headed notably by retired u.s. navy captain. michelle kosinksi, thanks for that from italy. we are inside syria after the regime's bloody crackdown on the rise there. ayman mohyeldin, one of the few western journalists allowed to report there, goes inside the city daraa where the protest began. you're about to see the story the regime wants us to tell here tonight is very different from the story ayman found. >> reporter: ten months into the uprising, the syrian government is taking foreign journalists back to where it all began, under armed escort for our own safety, we wind through side streets and military check points to the governor's office. he tells us, syria is being
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attacked by extremists, criminals and foreign fighters armed with smuggled weapons. at stop after stop, they show us government buildings attacked and burned during the uprising. now they claim life is back to normal here. back in march when syria's protests against the assad government began here, they showed the mosque being used as a field hospital by protestors during the crackdown. today that mosque and its surrounding areas feel more like a war zone. daraa is a city on security lockdown. things here are far from normal. this has been the center of the unrest here in daraa outside the mosque. it's difficult to gauge public sentiment here because of the heavy presence of the security forces inside the city. even on this busy street, people wouldn't speak us to saying it's too dangerous. others offcamera told us what life is really like. this man leads us away from government minders into a narrow
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alley. we promise not to show his face. he shows us gun shot wounds suffered during the protest and tells us a different story than what government officials have been saying. he says the only armed gangs are the security forces and hired thugs who attack citizens at night. the situation is dire, and he says we will continue to demand the fall of the regime. brian, everywhere you go in the country where the government still has a presence, people here are reluctant to speak out publically. everywhere you get a strong determination they have to continue those protests. >> ayman mohyeldin, thank you for your reporting from damascus today. there is big news developing on the health front tonight likely to be talked about tomorrow. a possible change in the definition of autism and one top expert says the change could, quote, make these autism epidemic go away. the new definition under consideration by american
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psychiatrists first reported by "the new york times" will not change how many children are born with the problems now labeled collectively as autism, but it will vastly narrow the set of problems now called autism. many experts are predicting that the changes, if they go into effect, will lead to big battles over which children are entitled to special education and other benefits. still ahead as "nightly news" continues, main street usa, tom brokaw in south carolina just days from a big primary. what matters most to the voters there? spectacular new images of the damage to a national icon and the wealthy american who has stepped up and written a check.
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we are back with more on the presidential race. tom brokaw spent time this week talking with south carolina voters and political leaders about what matters to them these days and who they think is best
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equipped to deal with the challenges and opportunities in front of all of us. his report from main street usa here tonight, which happens to run right through south carolina. >> what's up with these sorry politicians? >> how will santorum beat obama? >> reporter: south carolina is under siege. and loves it. it's the first republican test in the south and this state has a tradition of picking the eventual republican nominee. >> we want someone as close to our ideology as possible. >> reporter: south carolina's senior senator whitney graham on the showdown. >> we are not going to vote on who is most conservative, we are going to vote on who is most conservative that can win. >> reporter: romney is not a natural in south carolina. tea party country, with a powerful evangelical presence. but the state also has an unemployment rate of almost 10%. in south carolina, typical of
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many of the communities in the central part of the state. at one time there were more than 20 textile mills here, a mason jar factory and a ball bearing plant. there is only one textile mill left, the ball bearing plant and the glass factory have been closed down. governor nikki haley, south carolina's rookie governor here at the bmw plant believes economic recovery is the issue. >> jobs spending and the economy. everybody in south carolina knows someone without a job. >> reporter: lisa, a college professor and leading conservative had concerns about romney until she met him. >> he and i shared how we had both come from pro-choice positions to a pro-life position. i have no doubt governor romney had sincere changes in positions. >> reporter: south carolina's most popular senator jim demint, a tea party hero, has not endorsed anyone, but tea party regulars have mixed feelings.
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>> mitt romney was in south carolina, i would look to florida to stop him or nevada or one of the states down the road. i hope he doesn't skate into it. >> reporter: martin says she would support romney if he gets the nomination. >> there is no viable path forward for me. >> reporter: with perry out of the way -- >> citizenship is a mission and you live that out in many ways. >> reporter: gingrich has to divide the anti-romney vote with santorum and ron paul. a ron paul rally on debate night. working class persuaded he can go all the way. brian frank, a forklift driver was only into football until he became aware of congressman paul. >> he has my heart. >> reporter: if he does not win south carolina, should he go on? >> absolutely. he has the money, he has people like me that will send him hundreds of dollars, even though i get a little tiny paycheck. >> reporter: 36 hours to go. romney, gingrich, santorum and
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paul, it's game on, to use the sports metaphor. >> we keep saying most wild day ever and today was another one of those. thanks for your reporting. a young athlete, a trailblazer gone after a terrible crash. [ male announcer ] get ready for some deli-style delic-ious-ity:
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a fast-moving brushfire has broken out near reno, nevada. high winds gusts of 50 miles and hour and bone-dry weather. it's consuming homes. evacuations are under way tonight. officials fear if these winds don't die down substantially, the damage could be substantial. red flag conditions are posted there tonight. sarah burke who was seen as an early favorite for a possible gold medal in the next winter olympics died tonight nine days after a training accident. she was beautiful and she was beloved, especially in her native canada. burke leaves a legacy of inspiration and left a gift
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behind in her own way. her story tonight from nbc's anne thompson. >> reporter: whether on the red carpet or the halfpipe, 29-year-old sarah burke was breathtaking. >> so happy. it's been a year since the injury. it's good to be back. >> reporter: she was a pioneer in a sport dominated by dare devil tricks and men. burke's still made her a champion. four times at the winter x games and early favorite to win the gold medal at the 2014 winter olympics. there her speciality of freestyle halfpipe will make its olympic debut, pushed for by the canadian skier. those dreams ended last week when burke crashed during a training run in utah, on the same halfpipe where snowboarder kevin pearce suffered a near-fatal fall in 2009. despite surgery to repair an artery that carries blood to the brain, burke suffered severe brain damage. at burke's request her organs and tissues will be donated. a real-life action figure
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blazing a trail for women athletes. anne thompson, nbc news. we are back in a moment with a story about rescuing a national treasure.
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if you were out east this
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summer for the earthquake, you remember where you were and you did not want to be inside the washington monument. the shaking did a lot of damage. just today we learned it will likely be closed until next year. the repairs could not have been paid for if it wasn't for the generosity of one wealthy american. call this a gift to the public from a member of the top 1% of the 1%. the story from nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: the new video of the damage assessment on the washington monument is truly breathtaking. >> this is the large crack on the west elevation. >> reporter: cracks and chipped corners running across the monument, both outside and inside, where they used ground-penetrating radar to follow the fracture lines. repairing it will mean closing the obelisk for a year and cost a fortune, $15 million. congress agreed to pay for half, but today a history buff and son of a postal worker said he will pay the rest.
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>> i am very pleased as a citizen of this country i have had the good fortune to be able to help in this way. >> reporter: since his first visit as an 8-year-old boy, david rubenstein loved the nation's monument to its first president. he co-founded the carlyle group a private equity firm where he became one of the country's richest men. when the wake hit last august he called the parks service. >> i would suggest perhaps it hadn't even stopped shaking before david rubenstein came to me and asked if he could help. >> reporter: his philanthropy is well known. he spent tens of millions of dollars buying the magna carta the emancipation proclamation, and decoration of independence for the government to display and donated $4.5 million to the national zoo's panda program. visitors to the monument today were thankful. >> it stands for so much more than just the monument. he's spreading it across the country in a very, very relevant time.
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>> reporter: more than 100 years ago private donations of $1 each built the monument. it's only fitting, says rubenstein, that the tradition continues. tom costello, nbc news, washington. that's our broadcast on a thursday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- good evening, and thanks for joining us on this stormy thirs. >> it has all the makings of a soap opera, and it's unfolding right before our eyes. a politician, his tv star wife and a neighbor holding all the evidence. tonight he answered charges that he abused


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