Return to Transcripts main page


President Obama in Israel; Chicago to Close 50 Schools; Late- Night TV Wars

Aired March 21, 2013 - 15:00   ET



NIKKI TAYLOR, SUPERMODEL: I was the passenger in an extremely devastating one-car accident.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Supermodel Nikki Taylor thanks the people who saved her life.


LEMON: It is a top of the hour, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Don Lemon, in today for Brooke.

And within the past half-hour, President Barack Obama received one of Israel's highest honors, the Jewish state's Medal of Distinction. You saw it right here live on CNN. Here's the president toasting the man who gave him that award, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres -- I should say Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The president trotted out a little Hebrew. And we're told he said something along the lines of a toast of life.

With us now, our chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper joins us.

Jake, we talked before the president's big speech a little earlier today, pretty frank. Here we go.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.


LEMON: What struck you about the speech, Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, interesting at a different moment in the speech he quoted the former prime minister, very conservative Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who's been in a coma now for several years, saying something similar to the remark he just made, which is something a professor of mine told me in college back in the '80s, which is you have three things that Israel can be, Jewish, democratic, the size it is now. It cannot be all three of these things. It can be two out of the three, but it cannot be all three. The idea is, in order to remain a Jewish democratic state, Israel does have to give up some land, and that's what President Obama was saying.

That struck me, especially his use of Ariel Sharon's quote. Then the other thing that was interesting was he mentioned Passover, the Jewish holiday of Passover that's coming up next week, and he talked about the story of Passover and what was important about that is he was talking about the ancient centuries-old claim of Jews to the Holy Land.

A lot of Arabs do not believe that Israel has any right to be there, so it's very important to Israelis and to Jews who support Israel that there be some sort of context of a historical claim to the land. Those were very interesting moments, I thought.

LEMON: Yes. Jake, I want to switch gears here. A little bit awkward, but you just sat down with Jimmy Kimmel, who's apparently about to get a new late-night rival. Anything -- what's going on here?

TAPPER: Well, it's interesting. We went to L.A. and we sat down with Jimmy Kimmel. There are now reports -- they have been brewing for several weeks that Jimmy Fallon will replace Jay Leno when his contract is up in 2014. I asked him about it, if we have that clip.


TAPPER: Already there's talk about Mr. Leno's departure, although I have read those stories before.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": I know. You read those stories.

TAPPER: Do you it's a direct -- it has to be a direct response to you coming and...

KIMMEL: God, I hope so. I really hope -- I don't know. I mean, I have no idea. Obviously, NBC's looking to move on, because they did it once already. This would be the second time that this has happened. I mean, it makes perfect sense. And Jimmy Fallon is doing a great job and he's very popular. I mean, eventually it's going to happen one way or the other.


TAPPER: Now, Don, there's tens of millions of dollars at stake here in the late-night wars, and, obviously, one of the things going on is first with ABC and now NBC playing a little bit of catchup, there's an effort to go after the younger demographic.

Both Jay Leno and David Letterman are in their 60s, Jimmy Kimmel in his 40s, Jimmy Fallon, a young man, 38 years old.

LEMON: We like the young guys. We like the old guys too, but they give us some promise and some hope, the young guys.

TAPPER: It's a long game they are playing over at ABC and NBC.

LEMON: Jake Tapper, thank you very much. We will be watching you at the top of the hour. Make sure you watch that full interview on "THE LEAD," top of the hour, right here on CNN, 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

And happening right now, at any moment, a New York judge may correct what many are calling an injustice made when the first George Bush was president. A man convicted of murder of a rabbi in 1991 could go free. The Brooklyn DA will ask a judge to throw out the case of David Ranta. He was convicted of killing Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger, who was 58 years old, a reported survivor of Auschwitz and a champion for Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn.

The rabbi was at the wrong place at the wrong time and a robber gunned him down and got away in his car. Detectives say they had Ranta's confession, eyewitnesses, and more. But later, witnesses say they lied, one even saying a detective told him to I.D. Ranta. The detective defended his investigation to CNN's Mary Snow.


LOUIS SCARCELLA, RETIRED NEW YORK POLICE DETECTIVE: Ma'am, I didn't do anything wrong. I stand by my investigation, and I don't know what else to tell you.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What is your reaction to the fact that this conviction is being -- likely being overturned?

SCARCELLA: Well, I really can't talk about that. All I have to say is if they let Mr. Ranta out today, if they are going to let him out, it's not a personal thing. I did what I had to do, and I wish him health.


LEMON: Let's get some legal advice now, to CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin.

Sunny, the prosecutor here, not the defense, asking for David Ranta to be set free. That shows just how strong the case is that Ranta is innocent.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly shows that the government no longer believes it could prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and the government has real problems with the case.

What's special, I think, also about the Brooklyn DA's office is it has this conviction integrity unit, and that unit looks at cases like this where the integrity of the conviction has been questioned. And in this case, it has been questioned in a big way.

You mentioned, Don, there was a witness that said that he was coached to pick this defendant out of a lineup, but more people came forward. There was a woman who came forward that said her dead husband was actually the killer. There was also someone who said, listen, I testified because I thought I was going to get a better deal myself, someone that was already in prison, a cooperating witness.

So, you have witness after witness after witness coming forward and saying, you know, this was a real problem. This is what you want from the government, right? You want your government, if a mistake has been made, to correct that mistake.

LEMON: Yes. This is another instance, Sunny, that shows how eyewitness testimony can be unreliable.

HOSTIN: Yes, that's right. I know I'm one that always was a bit uncomfortable with only relying upon eyewitness testimony in a case.

That's why with the "CSI" effect, most prosecutors and most jurors, quite frankly, want something more than someone saying I saw it. They want the DNA evidence, they want the fingerprints, but this case did have, not one, not two, but several eyewitnesses who said this was the guy. But it turns out, perhaps, that this wasn't the right person.

LEMON: Sunny, if he is set free, does he have a case to sue? Several courts upheld his guilt over the years.

HOSTIN: Yes. It's something that we see often. We see folks that have been wrongfully convicted and they do bring suit.

And there are funds that have been set aside for these kinds of cases, so I suspect what's first on his mind is being freed, but I also suspect that down the line that is a lawsuit that we may see.

LEMON: All right, Sunny Hostin, thank you very much. Appreciate that, Sunny Hostin "On the Case."

The city of Chicago says it has no choice. Its schools are running a deficit of a billion dollars. That's a billion with a B. And that's just the schools. So, it plans to close 50, the largest single school closure in recent memory anywhere.

George Howell is with me now.

Needless to say, a lot of folks in Chicago aren't happy about this, right?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know this story, Don. You grew up in Chicago. You covered school issues. It's a big deal, very divisive story in the sense that there are a lot of people who are worried this is going to hit mostly African-American communities, the city's South Side.

We haven't seen the list yet. The list is supposed to come out today at 5:30. But, look, a lot of people are anticipating this list, they think it's going to hit the South Side hard.

LEMON: They were saying it's -- possibly in the beginning of the school year they were saying they were going to close 80 to 100 schools and they may have gotten off easy this time because it's only 50 schools, but this is the single largest school closure in one year ever recorded.


HOWELL: And we're talking about again the third largest public school system in the country.

LEMON: In the country.

You said -- you talked about the South Side, South and West sides, mostly African-American. That's where African-Americans live in Chicago. The aldermen in Chicago run the city.

HOWELL: Got a lot of power.

LEMON: The aldermen, many of the aldermen, especially the African- American aldermen, are not happy about this. They are saying we helped elect you, Mayor Emanuel, and you didn't consult with us. Now you're going against the very people who helped you.

HOWELL: What we're finding now, several of the aldermen are starting to speak up.

Apparently, the aldermen, according to reports, they were contacted, they were given the heads up that certain schools would close. A lot of the affiliates there in Chicago have been trying to reach the aldermen. They haven't had a lot of success, but we are starting to get some indication that, yes, this is going to hit the South Side.

LEMON: What are the parents saying?

HOWELL: Parents are upset. A lot of parents outraged the fact that you're, according to one person, taking investment out of certain neighborhoods that need investment. I think we have some sound bites of people so you can get a sense of what they're talking about. We can talk about it on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a bit ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any part of Chicago that's trying to rebuild, the neighborhood is important. If you take them out of where they live, what does that say to the child?


HOWELL: That's it. What does it say to the child? That's what parents are concerned about.

LEMON: The mayor has to do something, though, a billion dollar deficit just with the schools.

HOWELL: Right. The plan, usually, you find school closures every year, 10 schools, 12 schools. In this case, it's a large number of schools and from what we can understand, the mayor is saying for the next five years, there -- yes, there will be no school closures. (CROSSTALK)

HOWELL: But, look, it's got a lot of people concerned. A lot is still unclear. People want to know, look, if I have to take my kid to another school, will there be a school bus, do I have to drive my child to the school, do I have the means to do it, or do I have to put my child on a city bus?

LEMON: How do they know where to go? How do you keep them safe? And on top of keeping them safe, everyday safety, Chicago has a huge gun and violence problem that has been plaguing the public schools there.

On top of that, how do you do it if you already have a billion dollar budget deficit?


HOWELL: Right. It's a big issue. A side story that I have been covering is the death of this 6-month-old girl on Chicago's South Side.

So, yes, security, safety is a big issue and parents are concerned if they have to put their child on a city bus to go across town to school.

LEMON: I don't know what neighborhood my child is going to. I don't know about that neighborhood. I know about my neighborhood.


HOWELL: But, again, what we know at 5:30 Eastern time we should see a press conference there in Chicago. We are anticipating, expecting to see that list.

LEMON: This is a done deal, 50 schools, right?

HOWELL: Well, this is the recommendation by the school CEO. They will vote on it in the next few weeks, but this is the first recommendation and a lot of people are hot and angry about it.

LEMON: It's really 70 schools affected when you look at the staff from other schools are going to be moved around as well -- so it's going to be 70 schools total possible affected by this. George Howell, thank you very much. Appreciate that.

HOWELL: Don, thanks.

LEMON: Put your iPod down for just one second and focus on the time when you listened to your favorite music on records. Remember that? Some of you don't. The Library of Congress is adding 25 recordings to its registry, including some of the biggest names in music over the past 70 years. Next, we will tell you some of the all-time hits that made that list.


LEMON: A hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay is getting so bad that some detainees are being force-fed through feeding tubes. Last week, 14 suspected terrorists were starving themselves. Today, that number has grown to 24.


GEN. JOHN KELLY, COMMANDER, U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND: You hear this form force-feeding. We have eight of the detainees that present themselves daily, calmly, and totally in a cooperative way to be fed through a tube. We also know they are eating when they are in their cells. And I think that's just -- in their case, it's just their attempt at some level of resistance.


LEMON: Resistance for what some say is a broken promise made more than four years ago.


OBAMA: In order to affect the appropriate effect of individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo and promptly to close the detention facility at Guantanamo consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and interests of justice, I hereby order.


LEMON: Barbara Starr, Pentagon correspondent, is at the Pentagon and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin is in New York.

Barbara, to you first. What more do we know about their protests, and how is it being handled?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a couple of things happening here, Don. Some of them have regularly protested now for years, and the medical protocol is if there is a doctor's decision, yes, they are fed through a tube.

Some of them have joined this hunger on and off again, hunger strike, recently, we're told, because of protests over searches in their living area for Korans, the holy book of Islam. Military officials tell us that only Islamic personnel, translators, if you will, actually touch the Korans during the searches of their cells. U.S. military personnel do not touch the Koran. But this has led to some of the protests and is one of the reasons behind the growing hunger strike.

LEMON: Sunny, to you now. If a prisoner wants to refuse food, is that not their legal right and how are the rules any different in Guantanamo?

HOSTIN: Well, this is a really complicated issue, because, you know, these detainees are not American citizens, they are not prisoners of war in the traditional sense, they are not criminals in the usual sense.

So, their controversial status, I think, makes the analysis a bit difficult. Really, they fall under the Department of Defense policy, and the Department of Defense says that it's their obligation to sustain the life and the health of those that are under their custody, but the Department of Defense also says really that they are complying with the Geneva Convention Article 3, that they are also complying with U.S. law.

And I will tell you, if these prisoners were, let's say, in a federal prison guided under U.S. law, most of the courts, the few courts that have dealt with this issue have found force-feeding constitutional. And so, again, I think it's their controversial status that makes this such a very difficult issue, because just because you're a prisoner does not mean that you give up all of your constitutional rights.

But, again, the Department of Defense says, yes, that they are complying with U.S. law as well as their own policy.

LEMON: All right, Barbara Starr, Sunny Hostin, thanks to both of you.


LEMON: We have breaking news to tell you about on CNN. I'm getting word that the man convicted of killing Rabbi Werzberger more than two decades ago has just been released. We're told the family erupted with joy in the courtroom. We're getting the tape, more details. That's next.


LEMON: Ah, they don't make them like that anymore. Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," one of the most commercially successful albums of all time.

It's also one of the 25 recordings that were just added to the Library of Congress as part of the National Recording Registry -- 40 years, my goodness. Getting old. Each year, the Library of Congress chooses 25 recordings it says has cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance in the U.S.

Also making the cut this year, The Bee Gees' soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever," which captured the disco fever at its peak and turned John Travolta into a star. And music from Rodgers and Hammerstein's long-running Broadway musical "South Pacific."

Juli Weiner is a blogger for "Vanity Fair" magazine.

Juli, my gosh, you weren't even around when they did "Dark Side of the Moon." And now it's going into this registry. Let's turn through some of this year's highlights, a lot of popular music represented but also some historic non-musical recordings too, such as live radio broadcasts announcing the D-Day invasion. What stands out to you?

JULI WEINER, "VANITY FAIR": What stands out to me? I was glad, even though I was not around when it was released, that Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence" was included. It's a classic album I love. There was The Ramones, which was interesting, Janis Joplin. It was sort of a baby boomer mix tape. And that's actually the music that I prefer. So, I was very happy with this year's choices.

LEMON: Oh, cool.

OK. And "The Twist," which, I think, was around before both of us added to the registry as well. Let's play a clip from Chubby Checker on the Dick Clark "American Bandstand." It was back in the 1960s. Those are all great. And kudos to The Bee Gees for "Saturday Night Fever" as well, a clip from the movie that made Travolta an icon. So, Juli, when you're looking at all of those and listening to them, you understand why that they were added to the registry.

WEINER: Because they are of cultural, historic, and aesthetic significance, and they are added to preserve them for future generations, so people like me can listen and understand why they were a big deal at the time that they were released and why they reflected something about America's cultural history.

LEMON: And not only about America's history, but all three are completely different. It reflects the culture at the time they were released.

WEINER: Exactly.

So, you have to wonder what will be included 10 years from now when the things this year are eligible to be included, maybe Justin Bieber. I don't know.


LEMON: We shall see. Juli Weiner of "Vanity Fair," thank you very much.

WEINER: Thank you.

LEMON: All right.

Up next, news on everyone and everything, including Harrison Ford's candid comments about his role in the next "Star Wars" movie.

And a historic achievement for NASA, a NASA spacecraft.

Good news for home sales, and the fastest-growing city for tech jobs. I want you to think Midwest.


LEMON: All right. Welcome back, everyone.

It is the bottom of the hour now. We're going to talk some technology, some sports, some business, health, science, and showbiz news. We're hitting it all right now.

If you like Princess Leia's cinnamon bun hair or if you Han Solo, if you're a fan of that, listen up. For years, "Star Wars" fans have been hungry for a sequel trilogy to the original three films. Now Harrison Ford is hinting at an all-star comeback for Episode VII.


HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: I think it's almost true. I think I'm looking forward to it. It's not in the bag yet, but I think it's happening.


LEMON: Disney and Lucasfilm, well, are reportedly in contract talks and are aiming for a 2015 release, a release in 2015.

The Autobots and Decepticons are coming back and they are headed to the Motor City. The Michigan Film Office says "Transformers 4" will be filmed this spring in the Detroit area. The state is doling out $20 million in incentives to the sci-fi movie project, which is expected to hire more than 300 local workers. Stay tuned for that.

A milestone for sales of previously owned homes. New information released today shows homes are selling at the strongest pace in more than three years, up 10 percent from one year ago. Experts say it's the latest sign of a housing recovery that's become a positive force in the economy.