Return to Transcripts main page


Obama in Florida; Romney in Virginia; Lynyrd Skynyrd Touring

Aired September 8, 2012 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We're monitoring severe weather in the northeast section of the country particularly. Can you believe it? This is Queens, New York and a tornado proving to be just how severe the weather is. It touched down just a few hours ago. The threat of more tornadoes is still out there.

Meteorologist Alexandra Steele is tracking this storm. So, very treacherous, very dangerous, and that's why the U.S. open women's finals has been postponed until tomorrow.

STEELE: That's right. You know the video you just showed of the funnel cloud, that was Queens, New York. This is Washington, D.C. Come and take a look.

What we have here and you can see of course that's what we were talking about earlier. But this is the radar from Washington. So, we do have tornado warnings posted for Washington. Just want to show you. Right here to the north-northeast this is Prince Georges and Montgomery County in Maryland. We had one just in Virginia around Falls Church toward Alexandria. That just expiring but this one right now is where we are going to look this as switching east of this tornado and about 30 to 35 miles per hour. This tornado spotted on Doppler radar.

So what we've seen with this big picture is just incredible, robust atmosphere. Atmospherically everyone and everything coming together at the low levels and the upper levels.

Here's where our tornado watches are. New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, all implicated in this. A very strong cold front pushing into this warm, moist, very unstable atmosphere. So here's where these tornado watches are posted. Watch meaning that tornadoes are a potential. Atmospherically conditions are right until about 9:00 and 10:00 tonight.

Here's where the severe thunderstorm warnings are. Look at this line from Albany north. So all the way from the green and white mountains to the Adirondacks here all the way down toward the Hudson Valley of New York through the Catskill Mountains. So all these storms pushing eastward. South of that and just west of Kingston, New York we have and do have a tornado warning posted just for a few more moments as well. Here's that Washington, D.C. area. Thunderstorm warning here. Some incredibly strong storms. You could see a few inches of rain with this. These are the same storms that moved through the mid west yesterday, 60, 70 mile per hour winds. Hail, an inch in diameter. There are isolated tornadoes already one at 11:00 a.m. this morning around Queens, New York.

Here's Washington again, honing in on that. Even earlier a GW Bridge and heading toward Arlington and Alexandria, this huge, this red is all just a very strong storm, pushing east very fast, 45 to 55 miles per hour. Farther south, Charlotte, Raleigh, North Carolina, in this muggy air as well. So big picture, Boston, New York Washington. Today into tonight, Fredricka, then it moves through and it is a done deal tomorrow. Dry skies. A whole different atmosphere. Even temperatures in the 60s.


STEELE: For tomorrow and into Monday and Tuesday. So a little taste of fall coming in. That's how strong that cold front is.

WHITFIELD: Wow. That'll feel refreshing but we got to get through today. And you know, you talked about Washington being in that red zone, parts of Washington. Look at these live pictures right now of the rain. You can barely see the White House. There were images of the Capitol Building as well. I mean it's just really coming down.

And this is the kind of rain, especially if it takes - if it carries on for a period of time a big concern for the people in the Washington area these big oak trees. You know, those roots get wet. It is a very kind of shallow, rooted tree and often times in big storms like this if it goes on for hours and hours those trees come down. That's when you lead to the power outages, all that. It's a mess.

STEELE: And Fred, you know, we have had that in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, in New York. Trees and power lines down. So we've seen that because, you know, this is really a wind storm as well. So the gusts with this are very strong.


STEELE: The trees and power lines down four inches in diameter. We've had a lot of reports. Fifty, at least 50 thus far storm reports.


STEELE: So a lot of that is the wind and it's all because of again this front pushing eastward. This is just the beginning of it. Still have a few more hours really left until 8:00 or 9:00 tonight.

WHITFIELD: Very busy. Almost all across the entire eastern seaboard. All right. Thanks so much from the mid-Atlantic all the way up north. Thanks so much, Alexandra.

All right. On the campaign trail President Obama hitting the ground today running in Florida. This hour he'll be speaking in Kissimmee just south of Orlando. Earlier today the president held a rally at a college in St. Petersburg right near Tampa there. He repeated the message he gave at the democratic national convention that he needs more time to make his plan work.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or that it's going to be easy. I never have. Sometimes I ask people to go back to 2008 and look at what I said. I said this was going to take some time because these problems had been building up for a long time. Bill Clinton reminded us on Wednesday night it's going to take more than a few years to solve challenges that have been built up for decades.


WHITFIELD: Meantime his challenger Mitt Romney making his first campaign stop in another battleground state, Virginia. He held a rally at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. First stop in Virginia today, that is, Romney taking aim at the controversy over the reference to god in the Democrats' platform.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That pledge says under god. I will not take god on to the name of our platform. I will not take god off our coins and I will not take god out of my heart. We're a nation bestowed by god.


WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, tonight at 10:00 Eastern time Don Lemon holding the Democrats accountable. He'll be talking to Democratic National Committee chair Debby Wassermann Schultz. She has come under fire recently for that comment on god, Mitt Romney's abortion stance and even Israel. She'll be joining Don to set the record straight. That's tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And you can get an up close, personal look at the two men vying for that White House position. Find out what Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are really like tomorrow night beginning 8:00 p.m. when we profile the Republican presidential nominee in "Romney Revealed, Family, Faith, and the Road to Power" and that's followed at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time. "Obama Revealed. The man, the president" right here on CNN.

All right. It's a murder mystery that has police from Paris to London trying to figure out. The parents are dead but two children narrowly survived.


WHITFIELD: All right. Here's a look at some of the stories making news around the world now. It's a murder mystery that has police from Paris to London trying to solve. Today police said four people killed in the French Alps were shot to death. Two British parents were among the dead but their two young children managed to survive, one was severely injured from a gunshot wound.

And in Afghanistan, the Taliban says they're responsible for a suicide bombing that killed six civilians including some children. The bombing was near the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force.

And the 14-year-old girl accused of blasphemy in Pakistan is now out on $10,000 bail. Authorities charged the girl, seen here under a veil, after burnt pages containing verses from the Koran were allegedly found in her bag. Her defense, her arguing that a neighborhood cleric planted evidence against her.

All right. Lynyrd Skynyrd has been cranking out classic country rock for decades now. Face to face with some band members, you'll hear how they still find passion, inspiration for their music.

And tomorrow, Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at an offshore fish farm on the show "The Next List." "On the Next List" Dr. Sanjay Gupta profiles Brian O'Hanlon, founder and president of Ocean Blue.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Can you tell us where we are right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're flying pretty much over some -



WHITFIELD: A big legal win for four NFL players making them eligible to play this weekend. So what does it all mean?

Earlier I spoke to our legal guys about the decision.


WHITFIELD: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the players in an alleged scheme that paid players for big hits against key opponents. Those suspensions were overturned by an NFL arbitration panel but the coaches and a GM who were suspended remain out of the game so because this was a collective bargaining process it puts the players' lawsuits up against the commissioner on hold. OK. Richard, this is very complicated. How did this come to be that the suspensions were overturned by this arbitration or appeals panel?

RICHARD HERMAN: Because the players were allowed pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement to take this level of appeal and the arbitrators ruled that the commissioner exceeded his authority. He did not have the power to be judge, jury, and executioner, which is what he was in this case. He got spanked and he got sacked, clearly, Fred, and these players are - he'll be on the field this weekend if he is physically healthy enough.

WHITFIELD: If he's well because apparently he's injured, he may not. But Will Smith, the defensive end, apparently might. Right?

HERMAN: And the coaches should - in the spirit of this decision and in good faith, the coaches should be reinstated as well right now.

WHITFIELD: And you know, that's what I was wondering.


WHITFIELD: If some are reinstated or the suspensions are overturned meaning those players why wouldn't the coaches and that GM be allowed to continue on with the game or be involved?

FRIEDMAN: Because it's a different standard, Fredricka.


FRIEDMAN: With the players it's a collective bargaining agreement and it was pretty obvious that Commissioner Goodell is not the king. He's merely the commissioner. And the three-person panel, two retired federal judges and a Georgetown professor said, "You know what? You can make a recommendation. That's about it." But I got to tell you, Fredricka. This case isn't over. Because if the special master recommends to the commissioner that there is to be punishment, we don't know what's going to happen here. Yes, they're reinstated but we don't know what's going to happen ultimately. It's going to go back to the commissioner. So this case is really far from over. It's great for Sunday. You got some of those players back on the field. But this case has got a long way to go before we're done with it.

WHITFIELD: All right. Not long after this decision, you know, player Jonathan Vilma did express his emotion on Twitter saying "You know, victory is mine." And then here's a Roman Harper, for now, then here's Roman Harper and what he had to say to television cameras rolling.


JONATHAN VILMA, NFL PLAYER: You know, after this season nothing surprises me. There is no crazy. It is just what it is. We can continue to just go on about our days and continue to work as we always do and, you know, whatever happens, happens.


WHITFIELD: OK. So anything could happen, still. But what does this say about the whole plot of, you know, bounty?

HERMAN: What it says, Fred, is there was insufficient evidence, or insufficient or specious evidence and flimsy.

FRIEDMAN: That's not the ruling.

HERMAN: Not good enough evidence for the commissioner to make this determination. He had nothing and he made it based on nothing. That's what the (INAUDIBLE). FRIEDMAN: There is nothing - I don't agree, Fredricka. There is nothing in this opinion that talks about the evidence. They merely said, this three-person panel, that procedurally the commissioner has no authority. It goes back to the special master. That's why I say it's not over because ultimately I do agree that they're going to have to look at what standard of evidence, which had nothing to do with this ruling, and that's what's on the horizon. That's why I say this case is far from over.


WHITFIELD: All right. You can catch our legal guys every Saturday beginning at noon Eastern time.

All right. Lynyrd Skynyrd best known for hits like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird" and "What's Your Name" face to face with some of the band members who tell us why they stopped using the confederate flag as an iconic part of the band's image.

If you have to go out today, just a reminder, continue to watch CNN from your mobile phone. You can also watch CNN live from your desk top. Just go to


WHITFIELD: "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird" are among the signature tunes for Lynyrd Skynyrd now touring with a new album "Last of a Dying Breed." They remain steeped in tradition but they are proud to boast they have evolved a lot in their lyrics, their style, and image.

I talked to them face to face. With vocalist Johnny VanZant and guitarist Gary Rossington and Ricky Medlocke.


WHITFIELD: How do you kind of come up with this compilation? You know, "Last of a Dying Breed," you know, something to live for, kind of mellow. You got chorus in there but then you take a turn and you got "Life's Twisted."


GARY ROSSINGTON, GUITARIST, LYNYRD SKYNYRD: Well, we all write together, John and Ricky and I. We get - sometimes we get cowriters that we know throughout our careers and get with them and write. But we just kind of talk about the stories that we lived through or happened to people we know or us and there's a lot of news out there if you watch the news.


ROSSINGTON: Here in the business, you know. But we just kind of write about what's going on and the new stuff here, the dying breed part is because all southern rock 'n roll and musicians there's only a few bands left nowadays that from all that. There used to be a really whole lot of them and it's kind of a dying breed because it's more pop stars.

WHITFIELD: How do you all keep it pure, keep it I guess rooted in its original intent of what you have been known to be as the father of the southern rock?


RICKY MEDLOCKE, GUITARIST, LYNYRD SKYNYRD: I think that Gary, Johnny, and myself when we write, I think we try to write honest, you know, about what we feel in our heart. And what maybe we believe in and life's experiences. You know, that we get next to that's really close to us and with this new CD, I think we wrote about stuff that's really important to us, you know, "Ready to Fly" is a song about losing a loved one, losing your mother and, you know, she was ready to go on and wanted to see her son one last time. And things that really touch us because we've lost our moms and, you know, real life things. You know?


WHITFIELD: It must be exciting and feel good to be on tour. You talk to so many - I talked to so many artists who say they feel most comfortable when onstage. You know, they really come alive. Is that what it feels like to you?

JOHNNY VAN ZANT, SINGER, LYNYRD SKYNYRD: That's the easy part I think for us, yes. You know what I mean? Doing everything else is the hard part. Traveling.

WHITFIELD: Just looking at the thousands of people who always turn out. It's not nerve-racking.

VAN ZANT: You know, that's a gift. It's a gift that we've been given. I think the reason this band has been around so many years is that we speak for our fans. We speak for ourselves.

WHITFIELD: You all very much underscore tradition. You know, there are real main stays in your music, you know, in your look, in your sound. Something that was associated with your band for a very long time, the confederate flag whether it was on your album covers or the back drop, we don't see that anymore. At what point did you make a decision to lose that or what was the evolution of that?

ROSSINGTON: Well, it became such an issue, you know, about race and stuff where we just had it, in the beginning, because we were southern. And that was our image back in the 70s and late 60s because they kind of branded us from being from the south so we showed that. But I think through the years, you know, people like the KKK and Skinheads and people have kind of kidnapped the dixie rebel flag from the southern tradition and the heritage of the soldiers. That's what it was about. And they kind of made it look bad in certain ways. So we didn't want that to go to our fans or show the image like we agree with any of the race stuff or any of the bad things.

VAN ZANT: If nothing else we grew up loving old blues artists and Ray Charles, you know. So, you know, we just didn't want to be associated with that particular thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love our country. We love people. I mean, we love music. We love all different kinds of music. And I have a 10- year-old. She turns me on to a lot of different things

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're proud to be American. That's what we wanted to show our American flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, definitely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Made in America, you know.


WHITFIELD: Gary Rossington, the band's guitarist, when he gets inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame next month. Then Lynyrd Skynyrd, they're heading to the UK to continue their tour.

All right. A brutal storm has postponed part of the U.S. Open finals and it's knocked out power to homes already. We're following the storms and the threat of more tornadoes in the northeast.


WHITFIELD: All right. The northeast is getting slammed by severe weather right now. This tornado touched down in New York a short time ago in Queens and the threat of more tornadoes is still out there until 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. We're told 275 homes are without power as a result of the brutal storm.

The U.S. Open tennis, women's finals, it was supposed to happen tonight but that has been rescheduled until tomorrow because of the weather.

On to politics. On the campaign trail President Barack Obama hitting the ground running in Florida today. He is expected to start speaking in Kissimmee just south of Orlando any minute now.

Earlier today the president held a rally at a college in St. Petersburg near Tampa. He repeated the message that he gave at the Democratic National Convention that he needs more time to take his plan work.

And Mitt Romney making campaign stops today in another battleground state of Virginia. He held a rally this afternoon at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. Romney took aim at the controversy over the reference to god in the democrats' platform.

On to California now. A father accused of abducting his two young children and running away with them on a stolen sail boat is now in custody. Authorities say 43-year-old Christopher Amafe abducted his children from their mother's San Francisco home. He allegedly sailed away with them on a stolen boat Tuesday night with no navigation lights. The boat was spotted off the coast of Monterey on Friday. Amafe was taken into custody and the children returned home. All right. That's going to do it for me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Don Lemon up next in about 30 minutes from now with more from the NEWSROOM.