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U.S. And Iraq Linked By Tragedy; Principal "Gangsta"; Banned After Nazi Salute; "Being White In Philly"; March Madness Kicks Off

Aired March 18, 2013 - 14:29   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: With us now from Baghdad, as promised, Arwa Damon.

Arwa, I read your incredible but gripping piece first thing this morning. You write about how Baghdad was your home for seven years. The man we just saw in that piece, Mohammed, he seemed to be on America's side. Lost 17 family members in a U.S. bombing. You have now returned to visit Mohammed. I'm just wondering, what are his thoughts now? Are they emblematic of other Iraqis? It's 10 years later now.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, he's really someone who stuck with me because he displayed such courage at that point in time and then paid really such a devastating price. And I've always wanted to ask him why it was that he took on the risk to say to the Americans, we want you to save us. And we went back to Husayba. It's completely changed right now. We found him. He was so friendly. He was so warm. It was absolutely humbling. And when we asked him that question, he said, look, back then, we had nothing left to lose. But he also said that he didn't expect that they would pay such a high price once the U.S. military went into Husayba, launched that operation to win it back from al Qaeda. He said that the U.S. wasn't differentiating between friend or foe and now he completely regrets the fact that the U.S. invasion even happened.

And when you speak generally to Iraqis about the last 10 years, their emotions about what happened are still so fresh, so raw and so conflicting because, yes, of course many people were oppressed under Saddam Hussein. He was a very brutal dictator.

But on the one hand, they treated one kind of fear for another. And many Iraqis look at their lives today and they say, OK, the violence has gone down from when it was at its worst 2005 to 2008, but it's still out there.

And that very basic thing that we're all looking for to live a dignified life will, Iraqis still don't have that -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: You wrote about Mohammed, I've thought of him often over the years, even felt connected to him in a strange way. At the same time, I felt as if I had no right to that connection. I was an observer to tragedy while this was his life. These were his relatives killed before his eyes. I just tweeted your article. Arwa Damon, my thanks to you so much.

DAMON: Thank you. BALDWIN: Coming up next, my hot topics panel squares off. We are talking about an elementary school principal under fire for appearing in a movie basically as a gangster. Could she be able to keep her day job?

Plus have you seen this about the great soccer player banned for life from international play after he did this Nazi salute. Said he didn't know what he was doing.

And being white in Philadelphia, the city's mayor livid over this cover article. Did the author go too far? My panelists are revealed next.


BALDWIN: "Hot Topics" time, for the next 20 minutes, we're going to open up the conversation on the stories you'll be buzzing about at dinner.

First, I want to talk about this. The head of New York City schools is a little more than disturbed by will 2009 movie called "Gang Girl." You see, one of the characters a gang leader by the name of Queen V curses, beats, rapes, murders. This is what her character does according to an article in the "New York Post."

But it's not what she does, but who Queen V is played by that has officials outraged. You see this actress is a real life elementary school principal in the Bronx. Here is what a spokesman from New York City's public schools told CNN about what the school's leader makes of this film role.

Quote, "Chancellor Walcot is aghast at the images in and the content of the film, which are totally inappropriate." Now the school also acknowledged that Chalmers is under investigation for something not even related to the movie.

CNN has not been able to reach her for comment, but we will hear a lot from our panel today. Let me bring you all in, Peter Shankman, a branding and social media consultant, blogger and veteran Washington journalist, Craig Crawford, and comedian, Loni Love who also host, "Cafe Mocha."

So welcome to all of you today. And peter, let me begin with you. Again, the character, gang member, kills people, curses, sexual violence, should she lose her job as principal?

PETER SHANKMAN, BRANDING AND SOCIAL MEDIA CONSULTANT: Well, I think the bigger question isn't the fact that she was a character in a movie. Understand she has a failing school. Her school is currently getting D and F ratings.

I went to a public school -- I am a public school kid out of New York City all my life. High school and performing arts where every single one of our teachers, this was the "Fame" school. We all had teachers that were in every kind of movie known to man, but we were also an A-plus school. So it's not an issue if she -- believe me -- BALDWIN: Should that even matter? Let's say it's a great school.

SHANKMAN: If it was a great school, if it's her off time, she could get away with it. Maybe in her off time she would be better spent bringing her up from an F to a D or C as a school in general.

BALDWIN: I got you. Loni, do you agree?

LONI LOVE, HOST, "CAFE MOCHA": I completely agree with this one, Brooke, because there's two things I don't want my principal to be, actually three, a stripper, a porn star, a B-list actress and a prop comic. That's four things, I'm sorry. Become a drama teacher if that's what you want for the YMCA, but don't do this. The schools are failing. She needs to work on that first.

BALDWIN: It's interesting you bring that up actually because I'm reminded of, I mean, listen, I've done this long enough to remember talking about teachers who have been at schools, who have been strippers, who have been in more than movies, been caught swinging and they're kicked out of that school. But this is a make believe, this is fiction, this is a film. You're saying it's the same thing?

LOVE: This is the thing. Because you're dealing with children, I can understand if she was in like Fortune 500 company or something, but because she's dealing with children, I think it's something different. And kids are so impressionable and they get on the computer and they find this horrible movie. I'm mad because it's more a horrible movie. So the kids may be scarred for life with seeing this movie.

BALDWIN: Craig, I want to get to you. Let me actually read a quote from a parent who defended this principal, says, quote, "She's a great principal. Ronald Reagan waved a gun in western movies and he became president of the United States."

CRAIG CRAWFORD, BLOGGER, CRAIGCRAWFORD.COM: Ronald Reagan acted with a monkey and then became a president. I mean, at least this principal didn't join the gang. It's not like she joined the gang. It is just a movie. Even though it's violent and I don't know what the school can do about it.

Because according to the reporting I saw, they gave her a waiver to be in this movie. So I don't really see how they can do much about it other than complain. And as the other guest said, what really should be investigated is what's going on at the school. You got 8- year-olds going after each other with razors.

BALDWIN: That's the priority.

SHANKMAN: I've talked about this before about teachers being strippers and teachers being porn stars. I want to say yet again I never had a teacher who was a stripper and porn star and I kind of feel cheated.

BALDWIN: You feel cheated. I am so sorry. SHANKMAN: How do you really know?

BALDWIN: I'm not even touching that. I'm moving on because I want to get to the other story because it's real the visual that tells this Nazi salute. Look at this, a Nazi salute? This is how one soccer player in Greece decided to celebrate his game winning goal over the weekend. His excuse and what the league is doing about this after the break.


BALDWIN: They say ignorance is bliss, but if you believe this story here, ignorance has led to the misery for one Greek soccer player. Take a look at what he did. Said he didn't even know this was an offensive gesture, raising his arm after scoring a winning goal for his team AEK Athens over the weekend.

The 20-year-old said he was not aware this was a Nazi salute. Thousands of Greek Jews were killed in the holocaust and now officials from the football federation have banned him for life from representing Greece in international play.

On Wednesday, the player will meet with the nation's league to see if he should even be kept from playing within Greece. He's apologized for the gesture. Let me bring all you back in.

Craig, I'll let you have the first bite of this one. Let's just take him at his word for now. Should he be banned for life, is that too harsh, not harsh enough?

CRAWFORD: I think he ought to be banned for bad body art, but not necessarily what he did here. If he didn't know, I don't know how he doesn't know. I guess they don't have History Channel in Greece where you see Hitler all day every day.

But not knowing what that meant is strange to me saying he was point to go someone in the crowd. I think you usually point with your finger. But still, it gets back to I was taught absolutism on freedom of speech in law school and I stick to that.

I think if it happened here, I'd say as long as you're not inciting anyone to violence, he has every right to do this.

BALDWIN: Has every right to do this. Ms. Love, what do you think?

LOVE: You know I don't like this. I mean, I don't like this and I agree with you, Craig, that they should make him watch a month of History Channel Hitler week. Do that and he will never ever do that salute again. He's an international player. He knows what he's doing. International, he is well versed in what is right and what is wrong. If he wanted to do it, step up to be a man and say I wanted to salute.

CRAWFORD: From the public relations aspect of it, it never pays to make Nazi reference. It always backfires, it just stupid. BALDWIN: But it got all of us kind of thinking, how does one not know? It's absolutely ignorant not to know about the barbarity that was Adolf Hitler, but it got us talking this morning. The guy is 20. I mean, does he maybe not know the history, Peter Shankman? Is that a possibility?

SHANKMAN: First of all, I find that incredibly illogical that he doesn't know the history especially in Europe.

BALDWIN: Illogical or logical?

SHANKMAN: Illogical.

BALDWIN: You're not buying it.

SHANKMAN: I'm not buying it. In Europe of all places, anti- Semitism is on the rise. We're seeing Nazi groups running for office in Europe. We're seeing hatred toward Jews grow, crimes against Jews grow. So this is not something that he's just unaware of or something that happened 10,000 years ago. This is still a very active part in some cultures in Europe. So you can't tell me for a second he didn't know what he was doing.

CRAWFORD: The fascist party in Greece has 18 seats in the parliament. It is growing and this is a country with a very direct history with the holocaust.

BALDWIN: It is clear how you all feel and I have a lot of -- I have a feeling a lot of people agree with you. Let me end at least on this player's quote to get his side. I would like to confess that I'm totally unacceptable and I feel terrible for those I upset with the stupidity of my act.

Unfortunately, I cannot take the clock back, but I want to clarify that I'm not a fascist or Neo Nazi or racist. These are words from the player. We'll see if he's even allowed to play soccer in his home country this coming Wednesday.

Coming up next, this is an article definitely caught our attention, caught the attention of a lot of people including the panel here. It is titled, cover story here, "Philadelphia" magazine, "Being white in Philly." It is causing quite a stir among readers including the mayor. Did the author go too far?


BALDWIN: I want to begin this just by showing the cover of this month's issue of "Philadelphia" magazine, big huge print here, "Being white in Philly," huge backlash against this cover story.

The main issue most people have with this piece is that it is a middle class white guy talking exclusively to middle class white people about race. The writer ends the whole article by saying, quote, "We need to bridge the conversational divide so that there are no longer two private dialogues in Philadelphia, white people talking to other whites, and black people talking to black, but a city in which it is OK to speak openly about race."

He goes on -- "Meanwhile when I drive through North Philly to visit my son at Temple University, I continue to feel sad and a blind desire to escape. Though I wonder am I allowed to say even that?"

This writer as we mentioned facing serious backlash. Philly Mayor Michael Nutter considering asking a city panel to formally rebuke the magazine, we'll get to all of that in a moment.

Panel, I want to bring you back in. Peter Shankman, you know, this is a country of free speech, but are we limited to what we can talk about, what we can write about?

SHANKMAN: Well, it's a country of free speech. I think that the article presented very good points. The writer came back and the publisher came back and said if the mayor starts a conversation about this and opens up a dialogue, we've done what we wanted to do.

I guess my question is what if the situation were flipped? Didn't CNN do a piece for "Black in America" just a few months ago? You know, where -- it's a question that is one to another versus the opposite. Is that the problem people are having with the conversation? I don't know.

I haven't read the article. But from what I can tell, the publisher was definitely saying that if it opens a dialogue, that's fine. As far as a rebuke goes, you're right. We do live in a country of free speech.

BALDWIN: I think part of the criticism, yes, we did it multiple "Black in America," we talked to an array of groups, diversities, minorities, et cetera. The criticism here is he's a white guy talking to a bunch of white people and he didn't broaden it out.

Loni Love, what do you think though of Mayor Nutter? He said it was like shouting fire in a movie theatre, called parts of this article disgusting questioning the magazine's right to even publish the article in the first place. Here we are in Philadelphia seat of liberty, is he taking it too far?

LOVE: Well, he's doing his job as a mayor. He's defending his city. If you want to see being white in Philly, just look at Rocky movie. That's all you have to do. Instead of all of this talk about race, why don't we do articles that can affect everybody? Being broke in Philly, being uneducated in Philly, that's what I want to see.

BALDWIN: This is something that he writes in the article, everyone might have a race story, but few whites risk the third rail danger of speaking publicly about race. Given the long troubled history of race relations in this country and even more so in the city, race is only talked about in a sanitized forum when talked about at all with actual thoughts and feelings vary which only ups the ante. Do you think he's right about that, Craig?

CRAWFORD: Well, my problem with the article and if I were editor, I wouldn't have run it as it was. It needed to be expanded to include the other dialogues that the author takes about to make it something more of a bridge than just anonymously talking to a bunch of white racist people.

When I read the letter that the mayor wrote for the Human Rights Commission, two to three pages, I was with him all along, the shoddy journalism, until the last paragraph, which I wish he had lost when he talks about wanting a rebuke of the magazine, an official action.

BALDWIN: So you disagree with that.

CRAWFORD: He was suggesting that somehow that was an exception to the first amendment rights for this publication. There I don't like that at all. But I think this magazine needs to get back to what most city magazines do, just doing best brunt speeches.

SHANKMAN: If we were going to rebuke every magazine and newspaper that had shoddy journalism, there wouldn't be enough rebukes to go out.

BALDWIN: Isn't that the point of an article, such as this one, and other documentaries, et cetera, is that you write from a perspective and you want it to be talked about. I'm sure he has irked many, many people including the only African-American at this particular newspaper.

She is an event planner for the magazine. She penned a scathing op-ed against her own colleague. What is the take away, that we'll always offend someone whenever we bring up the topic of race, is the issue that we should be talking about this across the country?

SHANKMAN: The dialogue should be open more. I mean, there should be a better dialogue. This was not the way to deal with it, but from a magazine standpoint, I bet they have their highest pick up rates in years.

CRAWFORD: What I'm concerned about going forward as demographics change and why people are a minority, there will be more of this provocation of playing to that sense of fear and distrust. We saw it in the campaign, take back America. That is growing and that is something to be conscious of and careful about.

BALDWIN: Loni Love.

LOVE: That's why we have to be careful of this type of dialogue and these types of publications. I say give us one more Rocky movie, that will make all the middle class white people happy.

BALDWIN: Peter Shankman, Craig Crawford and Loni Love, thanks to all of you and for making us giggle along the way on very serious topics, but thanks nonetheless.

Coming up next, a little tour of our CNN Center here in the mother ship, CNN Headquarters. Why because there is something very big going on here starting today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: This is the CNN World Headquarters, but this looks a little different because take a look behind me, this is the big bracket. Welcome to March Madness. As UNC-Chapel Hill grad, this is an awesome time of year. They're an eight seed. I don't want to talk about it.

I do want to talk to Ernie Johnson. So this is my friend, TNT, TBS, Turner Sports. It's nice to see you.

ERNIE JOHNSON, JR., TURNER SPORTS: It's great to see you too.

BALDWIN: Why is this such an awesome time of year?

JOHNSON: I think it's because this is an event that captures the imagination of everybody in the country. Not just sports fans. You know, the diehard college hoop fans can't wait to get their brackets and fill it out. But there a lot of folks don't know one team from another, but I like that mascot name and I know everybody else in the office --

BALDWIN: I really like their uniforms.

JOHNSON: Exactly. And so I think that's what gets so many fringe fans to the TV set and suddenly people who had no idea where Gonzaga was become fans. To me, and not to sound too syrupy, but it brings people together.

BALDWIN: And who are you looking at, who are you liking? Please don't say Duke.

JOHNSON: Knowing where you come from, you know, my buddy, Kenny Smith always says it's that school in Durham. He doesn't even say the name. It's very difficult because college basketball has been upside down this year. If you're number one, you stay there for a couple of weeks and you get beat. So I kind of like Louisville. I haven't filled mine out yet.

BALDWIN: I haven't either, not yet.

JOHNSON: So don't hold me to that, but I kind of like Louisville. I think they play their defense is great. They get all over opponents. Rick Pitino is an outstanding coach and they went to the final four last year. I think that experience helps.

Miami is very cool. They have Barry Larkins' kid, you know, a baseball hall of famer and freshman point guard down there. So there are many talented teams and nobody has really set themselves this far above to say we're the team to beat. Anybody out there can get beat.

BALDWIN: Always love the good Cinderella story each and every march. Final question, obviously we're here at CNN, where can they watch the games?

JOHNSON: Well, I just happen to have that answer. You can watch every game of the tournament on CBS, TBS, TNT or TruTV. Of course on TruTV, they may be pre-empting the word's most painful dental procedures to bring you basketball.

BALDWIN: I like it.

JOHNSON: But those are the four places every game can be seen.

BALDWIN: Ernie, thank you so much.

JOHNSON: It's my pleasure.

BALDWIN: I appreciate it, my new friend. Thank you very much.

And please, all of us anchors, we will be filling out the different brackets. Let's see how you do versus myself maybe Wolf Blitzer. We'll see. Fill it out, make sure you go to

Getting some news on Lindsay Lohan, I don't know if we have a lot of pictures, but here she is in court. Apparently by the way late to court because she took a private plane to get there.

OK, so she accepts the terms of a plea agreement that includes 90 days in a locked rehab facility in lieu of 90 days in jail, 30 days of community labor and a period of psychotherapy. This is what the judge just announced from Lindsay Lohan.