Return to Transcripts main page


Rep. Peter King Discusses Sandy Aid Bill; Senator Mark Kirk's Return to the Senate; State Lawmaker Slams Kwanzaa.

Aired January 3, 2013 - 11:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know the statute as deeply as I should to even react to that, but --


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We certainly don't know a lot about the evidence --

BANFIELD: This is a juvenile system they've been in at this point.

CANDIOTTI: It's been decided to try this case in juvenile court. It will be an open proceeding. All the proceedings so far have been.

We're now following this very closely. It's important to point out that we are waiting to hear from the lawyers who represent the two young men in this case. We have left messages for them, and certainly we will bring you more when we hear their responses to this.

BANFIELD: But that's great you were able to get that last-minute comment for us.

Susan Candiotti, reporting for us live. Thank you.

CANDIOTTI: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: We'll be right back.


BANFIELD: So I don't know if you caught any of Congressman's Peter King's outrage on the failure to take up the vote for the $60 billion aid package for victims on Superstorm Sandy, but, man, was he mad. The speaker heard at least from him and a lot of other people and changed the tune of Congress. The vote is scheduled for tomorrow.

We wanted to get Peter King's reaction, actually, now that John Boehner has relented and the new Congress is going to move forward on this relief.

Take a listen to Congressman's King's response to that and some other thorny issues I asked about last night.


BANFIELD: You suggested that anybody who game money to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee would be, I think, in your words, something like nuts. Do you still feel that way?


REP. PETER KING, (R), NEW YORK: Well, sometimes you have to use shock treatment to get results. That's part of what I was doing.


BANFIELD: Do you still feel that way?

KING: Listen, if this goes forward the way it is, as far as I'm concerned, what's done is done, it's over and gone forever. Now we go forward.

BANFIELD: In the same vein, I want to talk about your colleague in Congress, Hal Rogers, who made some what some say were insensitive comments, that FEMA's not money to bridge the gap, what's the crisis? Those are my words. But you suggested that Hal Rogers better not come to New York. Have you had a chat?

KING: No, Hal Rogers and I have not spoken, but he was at the meeting. He'll be the one that brings the bill out on the floor. So, again, if Hal Rogers does his job, that's fine. We've been in this business a long time. I take issues very seriously. I try not to take personalities too seriously. Once it's over, I hope Hal Rogers feels the same. But if not, I did what I had to do. And right now, Hal Rogers' job is to get the bill to the floor. The speaker has directed him to do that. I'm sure he will.

BANFIELD: In his defense, he certainly did work hard, as you know, on this bill, putting the machinations together. Is he welcome back in New York?

KING: Sure. If this bill goes through, I'll buy him a drink when he's in New York.


BANFIELD: Was the president's support for your position helpful, and do you thank him for that?

KING: Sure. I can give him credit for that. I'm just saying, speaking realistically and politically, no matter what the president had said, John Boehner was going to make his own decision today. If there was pressure or if there was a dialogue or friction, it came within the Republican Party, and that's how it was resolved.

BANFIELD: You've heard the news about the secretary of state being released from the hospital.

KING: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: A lot of people are happy she's well. I know you're friends with her, personal friends as well.

KING: Yes. BANFIELD: I wonder if you think that the former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton's comments about the secretary, and in my words, faking an illness, in his words, having a diplomatic illness to beat the band, are deserving of an apology.

KING: I certainly wouldn't have said it, especially knowing Hillary Clinton and what a tough warrior she is. To me, there's never a basis for that. Even if I didn't agree with someone, you should always give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a health issue.

The only thing I'd say in Bolton's defense, and I'm being sarcastic when I say this -- it is hard for me to imagine Hillary Clinton every being sick. She's one of the strongest people I've ever met in my life. But obviously, she was ill. It could have been serious. It wasn't, thank god. And I would not have said what the Ambassador Bolton did. How he wants to handle it with her, that's up to him. But I'm just delighted --


BANFIELD: Do you think he should apologize, Congressman? That was pretty serious --

KING: Oh, I would.

BANFIELD: -- I mean, pretty serious, very, very strident comments.

KING: Again, all I would say is I would -- if I was the one who said it, I would.


BANFIELD: And, of course, you all know that Secretary of State Clinton has been ill. She's been treated with blood thinners. And doctors do expect her to make a full recovery. Here are the pictures of her leaving the New York hospital we she was in, she was staying in. A State Department spokesman says the secretary, quote, "Has been quite active on the phone, even making some phone calls this weekend to a couple of foreign officials." You know, I remember asking Jill Doherty, while she was in the hospital, do you think the secretary is working while in the hospital bed. And there's the answer, she was. Good luck to her. We wish her a speedy recovery.

Now to another recovery. This has been something we have been waiting for. You are looking at 53-year-old Senator Mark Kirk, Republican from Illinois, in his first return to Congress. He's being greeted by a number of members on Capitol Hill -- this is live -- as he, after suffering a stroke a year ago that paralyzed him on one half of his body, through an enormous amount of rehabilitation, has been able to climb the steps. There's the vice president, Joe Biden, hugging him and greeting him as he makes this awesome assent to the Senate.

I want to listen in for a bit.

(CROSSTALK) BANFIELD: So 45 steps. He took 45 steps. He said this was his inspiration as he went through his rehabilitation, that he wanted to ultimately be able to climb the steps of the capitol. That's what helped him to work hard and make this happen. I love it, the hugs. Congratulations, Senator. This is terrific. Not only has he been doing rehabilitation, but also some trial runs, not at the Senate, but in a couple others places. And listen to this. In July, he walked almost 15 miles, and he climbed 145 flights of stairs. This was experimental therapy. He also, in November, made a choice to do something that probably a lot of is watching right now wouldn't be able to do. He climbed 37 floors. He climbed the stairs inside Chicago's Willis Tower. This was part of a fundraiser. Here he is with his ultimate goal, climbing the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Congratulations Senator Mark Kirk, and welcome back to work.


BANFIELD: We went to break showing you the beginning of a dramatic return, and the climb continues with the vice president and Joe Manchin, the man on the right with the tie. They are accompanying Senator Mark Kirk, Republican from Illinois, a year after he suffered a stroke that paralyzed him after arduous -- I hope I said Mark Kirk. After a year of arduous rehabilitation, Senator Kirk is returning to work and has decided he wants to climb those stairs himself. He had to re-learn to walk. And he said his ultimate inspiration was this climb. Obviously a lot of photo ops along the way. So many of the staffers and others Senators have shown their support, as he makes this very dramatic assent on his first day back to work. Obviously, there, as well, to see some of the swearing in of his new Senators, the colleagues who will join him in the chamber. But this is a great moment, obviously, a nice moment of bipartisanship as well. It's great to see the vice president alongside him. Congratulations to Mark Kirk. There he goes.



BANFIELD: Lest you think that this is something he didn't think he could handle, he can handle it. These are 45 steps at the state capitol, but he already had some trial runs elsewhere. He climbed 37 floors, the staircases in the Chicago Willis Tower back in November, and he walked 15 miles in July as part of his therapy. The physicians, by the way, who helped him from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, they're there in that crowd. They're on hand as he makes this terrific return to Congress. They're also there to talk to some of the members about this experimental treatment that he underwent to learn how to walk again. Half of his body was paralyzed a year ago this month, January 2012, so obviously a terrific accomplishment and a great year to wrap up back at work. Senator Kirk.

We'll move on to something else. This is somewhat controversial. A Wisconsin State Senator with a very blunt attack on the holiday Kwanzaa. He sent out a press release and he titled the press release, quote, "Why must we still hear about Kwanzaa?" He is the Republican, Glenn Grothman, state senator there, slamming the holiday's creator, in particular, Maulana Karenga. And he said, quote, "Karenga was a racist and didn't like the idea that Christ died for all of our sins, so he felt blacks should have their own holiday, hence, Kwanzaa." Then he said, "Of course, almost no black people care about Kwanzaa, just white left-wingers, who try to shove this down black people's thoughts in an effort to divide Americans."

Seemed like a pretty clear message, and it did offend a lot of people, lawmakers and people alike.

I spoke with him last night. I started out by asking him whether or not he expected a backlash from the comments. Take a peek.


STATE REP. GLENN GROTHMAN, (R), WISCONSIN: No, because we sent out something like this 12 years ago and it really was no big deal.

I think the underlying problem here is not enough TV types, when they talk about Kwanzaa, talk about the horrible racist violent past of its founder. If they knew the past, I think Kwanzaa would die a quick death.


GROTHMAN: You've got to remember, Ron Karenga --

BANFIELD: Go ahead. Go ahead.

GROTHMAN: Ron Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, who just founded it in 1966, was a black separatist, who felt the Black Panthers didn't dislike white people enough. The group he founded wound up shooting a couple of Black Panthers. He himself, for committing physical violence against women, had to spend time in prison.

Now I think the idea that our country would celebrate a special holiday created by this guy, before he committed these acts of violence, and now we're going to say we must talk about this to the kindergarten children and how wonderful this holiday is, is ridiculous.


BANFIELD: You've got to admit the holidays itself doesn't celebrate the founder, but the holiday itself is kind of nice. If the look at its principles, and here they are -- unity, self determination, collective work, responsibilities, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and safe -- that sounds pretty nice.

GROTHMAN: I'm sure, if you go through ramblings of some of the worse tyrants in history, you can say they're for peace, for unity or hard work or that sort of thing. But when you have such a horrible person who founded this new holiday, solely to promote or in part to promote his goofy ideology, I think we all would have to agree that most Americans wouldn't choose to celebrate it.


BANFIELD: What proof do you have, though, sir, that he founded this holiday solely to promote his goofy ideas? These are ideas that I think most Americans hold very dear -- family, unity, faith, goodwill?

GROTHMAN: Why don't you Google him. You look at anything in the background, things he said at the time.

BANFIELD: I don't get my proof from Google. I'm asking you for your proof.


BANFIELD: You're a state Senator, you should be better than Google.

GROTHMAN: OK. The proof is the things he said at the time. He did not like Christianity because, of course, Christianity is a religion for all Americans and all people all around the world. He felt that blacks should not be part of Christianity, have a different holiday. He was a Marxist. And he did beat up and physically abuse the women who were his followers. His own followers shot two Black Panthers. Is this the type of guy we want to have as a founder of a holiday that we're promoting around America?

BANFIELD: You know --

GROTHMAN: Quite frankly, I think if most news anchor types, before they get a nice, feel-good story about Kwanzaa presented exactly what Ron Karenga was about, it would not get off the ground.

BANFIELD: Well, I'm a news anchor type, and I'll put this to you right now. I wanted straight answers from you, and I wanted you to get a challenge. And CNN approached you about this interview and asked you to appear with Roland Martin, a CNN commentator, who is very passionate about this issue. He wanted to challenge you, and you refused. You said you didn't want to appear with someone who would defend Kwanzaa. Why would you do that?

GROTHMAN: Oh, that's not true at all. I'd be happy to appear with someone who would defend Kwanzaa. But you're completely distorting the comments that we had earlier in the day. Earlier in the day, I said, if we were going to have a discussion as to how many black people cared about Kwanzaa --


BANFIELD: Before you even go --


BANFIELD: -- if we've made a mistake, I've got Roland Martin ready to go.


BANFIELD: Ready to go he was. We were going to hold those two segments, one before the other, so Roland was wiring up, getting ready for the State Senator to finish, but instead, Roland got his time with Senator Grothman. We show you what happened, the rest of that interview in just a moment.


BANFIELD: Back to that interview with the Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman, who is catching a lot of heat for his remarks slamming the holiday Kwanzaa and the man who created it. Originally, we have been told by the Senator that he did not want to appear with Roland Martin, who was going to be -- you know, obviously, the taking the antithesis role and then he corrected me on the air and said it wasn't true. So Roland was ready to go. He's very passionate about this. And he was challenging the state Senator about the assertions that almost "no black people care about Kwanzaa and it's just white left- wingers who try to shove it down black people's throats." Those are the Senators words.

Have a look at the rest of the interview.


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I would ask the Senator, you look at Easter, and it was derived from a pagan holiday. So do you defend that? You talk about a made-up holiday. Please tell me which of the holidays do we celebrate from America that have descended on high and were granted to us when we were born? Aren't all holidays actually created and made up by someone?

GROTHMAN: Well, the question, first of all, they are not created and made up by somebody. But even, say, a holiday like Thanksgiving, which is a holiday created by the U.S. Congress.

MARTIN: They aren't?

GROTHMAN: OK, Thanksgiving is something that I think we all can appreciate. It was not created by somebody out of a desire to separate Americans, white and black. It was not created out of somebody who had, soon after he created the holiday, beaten up his own followers and went to prison for it.


MARTIN: I asked about Easter. It's a pagan holiday.

It arises from a pagan holiday in Europe.


GROTHMAN: It's not a pagan holiday.


MARTIN: No, no, actually --

(CROSSTALK) GROTHMAN: If you feel --


GROTHMAN: If feel that Christianity is a pagan religion, I suppose you can tell you say that Christianity and Easter is a pagan holiday.

MARTIN: I'm sorry, Senator -- Senator, I'm a Christian. I'm a Christian author. My wife is an ordained minister. What I'm saying is, if you look at the origin of Easter, it actually was a combination of Christianity and also the pagan holiday where people walked around and painted themselves. Where do we get the painted eggs? I'm saying you're denouncing the holiday because you don't like the individual. All I'm asking is, if you don't like it, fine. If there are people across America who celebrate unity and celebrate purpose and celebrate faith, what's the big deal? If your attack is on him, knock yourself out. But if there are people who appreciate the principles, what's the problem with that? Are you saying no unity in America? Is that wrong? Is that bad?

GROTHMAN: No. Anybody can celebrate any holiday they want. The problem I have is when they talk about the holiday without giving its history, or given the limited amount of time we have in public schools, when they decide to use that time to promote Kwanzaa and present it as a holiday that millions of people ought to be following rather than the --


MARTIN: You don't want to talk about --


BANFIELD: Let me jump in here, gentlemen.

GROTHMAN: -- controversial thing --


BANFIELD: Senator, if you suggest the history is at issue, some of the historical ancient roots of Kwanzaa have to do with a fruit festival. And it happens that the fruit festival is at the end of the year around Christmas and New Year's or Christmas. If there's any allegation that Kwanzaa was an attempt to divide white and black people in Christianity, it would seem that timeline would nullify that argument. In the same vein, I want to ask you --


GROTHMAN: Maybe you need to do a little bit of research.

BANFIELD: I did. I did.

GROTHMAN: Do some research.

BANFIELD: I just gave it to you. That's research. (LAUGHTER)

GROTHMAN: It was designed specifically to be a holiday that was separate from Christmas because he wanted his own holiday.


BANFIELD: He, the person you refer to, says it has nothing to do with Christmas but has to do with culture.

Let me ask you this. This whole issue that you say almost no black people care about Kwanzaa.


BANFIELD: One second, sir, please. You said "almost no black people care about Kwanzaa, just white left-wingers." I'll read for you this statement and I'll quote it verbatim. "Kwanzaa strengthens the ties that bind communities across America and around the world and reflects the great promise and diversity of America." Do you remember who said that?

GROTHMAN: Absolutely, I remember it. It was one of the reasons why George Bush was kind of an irritating president for some of us.


BANFIELD: Right or left-wingers, this is borderline ridiculous.


BANFIELD: Was George W. Bush a white left-winger. with a comment like that?


MARTIN: Actually, he was a born-again Christian, Ashleigh.

GROTHMAN: I think there are some politicians who try to ingratiate themselves to everybody. That's the way some politicians are.


BANFIELD: Happy New Year. We'll be right back.


BANFIELD: So we had an amazing site we want to share with you. It's gone viral. So if you've seen it, trust me, you'll see it again anyway. It is a baby being born by C-section, literally reaching out of her mother's womb and grabbing onto the finger of a doctor. The baby's dad caught this on camera, and he tells us how it happened.


RANDY ATKINS, FATHER: The doctor called me over and said, hey, she's grabbing my finger. So I ran over there and grabbed the shot and I was just in awe looking at it. It was such an amazing picture.


BANFIELD: In awe, they were. There is the shot. Can you believe that? It's incredible. Even the hospital staff, and you just know they've seen it, they were impressed by this. They said there was something almost spiritual about that moment. Just remarkable. Wow.

So we'll all guilty of doing Monday-morning quarterbacking, but a 3- year-old was able to make the right call, and she can be a Monday- morning quarterback any day. During the Outlaw Bowl, the refs gave Michigan a questionable first down against the South Carolina Gamecocks. And with pencil in hand, the little pint-sized Gamecock fan calls out the refs. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: He's really touching it. It's really not, because it's closer to that. It's is a little bit (INAUDIBLE). The way that it's touching that pole, but it's really not.