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Food Network Dropping Paula Deen; NSA Leaker Offered Flight To Iceland; Frightening Near-Collision over NYC; What ZIP Codes Can Reveal; 2-Year-Old Survives 5-Story Fall

Aired June 21, 2013 - 17:00   ET


JIM ACOSTA, HOST: A jet is ready to fly NSA leaker Edward Snowden from Hong Kong to possible sanctuary in Iceland. I'll ask a wealthy businessman why he's helping to arrange that risky rescue effort.

A frightening near collision in the skies over New York City.

Why did two airliners have such a close call?

And breaking news -- the Food Network is dropping TV chef Paula Deen -- that's right, Paula Deen, despite her videos apologizing for her use of racial slurs.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Jim Acosta.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news

And the breaking news, renowned celebrity chef Paula Deen is being dropped by the Food Network in the wake of a media firestorm that erupted over her admission of having used the "N" word in the past.

Our Brian Todd is joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM with the details -- and, Brian, obviously, up until this controversy emerged, she was beloved...


ACOSTA: -- by millions of people all over the country. And so to have something like this happen...

TODD: Right.

ACOSTA: -- is really a major development in the cable TV news industry.

TODD: It really is. It's a huge shake up, Jim. Millions of fans of hers, from her cookbooks to the Food Network show and all of that, a devastating blow for her, for the network, for everyone involved.

This all started after Deen acknowledged using the "N" word during a deposition in a lawsuit. A former manager at Deen's restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, is suing both Deen and her brother for sexual and racial harassment.

Earlier in the day, the celebrity chef said she would release a video. And later, this video was published on YouTube.


PAULA DEEN, CELEBRITY CHEF: I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I've done. I want to learn and grow from this inappropriate, hurtful language. It is totally, totally unacceptable. I've made plenty of mistakes along the way, but I beg you, my children, my team, my fans, my partners, I beg for your forgiveness. Please forgive me for the mistakes that I've made.


TODD: That video was later replaced by a new one, this time acknowledging a missed appearance on "The Today Show" this morning.


DEEN: The pain has been tremendous that I have caused to myself and to others. And so I'm taking this opportunity, now that I've pulled myself together and am able to speak, to offer an apology to those that I have hurt.

I want people to understand that my family and I are not the kind of people that the press is wanting to say we are. I've spent the best of 24 years to help myself and others.

Your color of your skin, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter to me, but it's what in the heart -- what's in the heart. And my family and I try to live by that.

And I am here to say I am so sorry. I was wrong. Yes, I've worked hard and I've made mistakes, but that is no excuse.


TODD: So Paula Deen today and yesterday doing a lot of damage control.

But, Jim, not enough at this point. Can't sustain it. The Food Network drops her again, as we talked about, a huge development in the cable news and the cable -- the TV genre, for especially those food networks.

ACOSTA: Right.

TODD: Her two sons got their own shows because of her success. Millions of followers of hers.

ACOSTA: The Food Network owes a lot to Paula Deen...

TODD: That's right. ACOSTA: -- I would imagine...

TODD: Absolutely.

ACOSTA: -- because of her success. And it seems that the channel has just decided, because of this controversy, she is just too hot to handle at this point. And, you know, this is not the first time that Paula Deen has been in the same sentence as controversy.

TODD: Right.

ACOSTA: There was this whole issue of her health, which apparently she had kept hidden for many years...

TODD: That's right.

ACOSTA: -- and it called into question what goes into her cooking, that, you know, her cooking can be very unhealthy. And, you know, it -- and then all of a sudden, it turns out that she's suffered from health problems of her own.

TODD: That's right. But that, in and of itself, didn't necessarily take away from the popularity.

ACOSTA: Right.

TODD: Everybody knew that her -- the food that she cooked was really thick, it was Southern in nature...

ACOSTA: Right.

TODD: -- and, of course, everything that comes with that. That didn't really hurt her.

But, of course, when you cross over into this other thing, it was just too much for the Food Network to sustain at that point.

And, again, when you think of just the marquee star that they have now lost -- I mean they have other big stars. They've got, you know, some of these other people, Bobby Flay...

ACOSTA: Right.

TODD: -- and some of the others.


TODD: But, you know, she is a huge loss for them.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

And let's bring in our CNN contributor, Donna Brazile -- Donna, we were having you here to talk about politics today, but this is such huge news. And because of the nature of what Paula Deen has been accused of doing -- and I guess she's admitted to it in its apology.

Did the Food Network, do you think, have any other choice?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think so. Look, she's a culinary giant. Everybody knows Paula Deen, if you're from the South. We know about, you know, not just her recipes, but we know a little bit more about her family. She's very famous down there. And the food is quite famous.

But her comments, the alleged comments, the comments in the deposition, unacceptable. The things that -- that I guess we heard that -- that was said about her using the "N" word. She admitted to using the "N" word.

ACOSTA: Right.

BRAZILE: She admitted to often hearing racist jokes and never condemning those jokes. So this was bad. This was not just bad for Paula Deen, but it was terrible for the Food Network. And I think they had -- they made the right decision to let her go.

ACOSTA: Right. You can't imagine the Food Network, having, you know, listened to all of this, then deciding to keep her around.


ACOSTA: You know, one of the things that we heard from Paula Deen in this deposition and in this video is the sense that, well, you know, these are things that I said in the past and I wish I hadn't said these things -- and, you know, I wonder, Donna, is there -- is there a cultural lesson to be learned from all of this, do you think?

BRAZILE: Oh, no question. Look, as a native born Southerner...


BRAZILE: -- we've heard those words. I mean people sometimes use them in jest, sometimes in jokes. But they are unacceptable. I mean the "N" word should be banned from the dictionary. It belongs in the past. It doesn't belong in the present.

And I think Paula Deen understood that. It's unfortunate that, you know, she didn't step out ahead of this story and waited until the full deposition came out public. She knew it would be made public, but, rather, she waited. And I think in waiting, she only added fuel to the fire. And I'm sure she knows what adding fuel to the fire means.

ACOSTA: And it looked bad, "The Today Show" said this morning that she had bailed on an appearance that she was supposed to have on that program.


ACOSTA: And then she comes out with a series of YouTube messages, you know, the -- one went up and then all of a sudden, it was off. You couldn't get it online anymore. And then there were a couple of others.

And it just seemed sort of a ham-handed way of dealing with all of this. TODD: It was clearly the sloppiness of it that led to some of this, Jim, and some of the fallout, absolutely.

ACOSTA: All right. Very good.

Let's move on to Nancy Assuncao. She is on the phone with us right now. She is Paula Deen's former publicist.

Nancy, we know you just joined us in the last few moments, so we appreciate your time.

What is your reaction to this news?

This is very, very big news.

NANCY ASSUNCAO SANCHEZ, FORMER PAULA DEEN PUBLICIST: Well, I just got out of meetings myself and I just learned of it a few minutes ago. And naturally, I'm just incredibly saddened by all this. I mean it's -- I've had the pleasure of working with Paula and her team of people for close to six years. I admired her incredibly because she's a self-made woman. This is not someone who, you know, inherited her success. She started late in life, which I found incredibly attractive. And, you know, she just she works hard. I mean she works hard. And it's sad. It's sad.

ACOSTA: Nancy, but let me ask you this, because I suppose this is, you know, an appropriate question to ask.

Did you ever hear Paula Deen use that language around you?

SANCHEZ: No. It -- no. But, you know, it -- you know if there's one thing I learned, you know, in working, I think that there is a cultural difference. That's one education that I've had. And...

ACOSTA: What do you mean by that, if you don't mind my asking?

SANCHEZ: Well, I just -- I think that the way people speak -- and I never heard her speak like that, but she, you know, I think that -- I know her heart and her heart is a good heart. She...

ACOSTA: But she may have, at times, said things...

SANCHEZ: I know -- ACOSTA: -- that maybe people down in...

SANCHEZ: I know -- I think that she -- I think that -- I know her heart, and her heart is a good one. And I know that she is very giving. I know that she loves -- you know, I mean, she's surrounded by a very diverse group of people who work with her. We traveled all over together for six years. And it's a very diverse group of people, you know.

ACOSTA: Right.

SANCHEZ: So, you know...

ACOSTA: And what you mean...

SANCHEZ: -- it's...

ACOSTA: -- by that, as having a diverse group of people around is she worked...

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, she has people who are...

ACOSTA: -- she worked with people of all shapes and sizes.

SANCHEZ: Not on shapes and sights -- sizes and colors and...

SANCHEZ: She -- and not only shapes and ages and ethnicities. I mean, you know, it was fascinating, if anything. I mean, you know, her manager is Asian and she's has just every kind of -- every background is on her team.

So, you know, I don't think that she's judgmental that way, at least I never saw that. And I just -- I think this, you know, really -- it's sad. It's just very -- it's a disappointing turn of events, especially knowing how hard that she has worked. And it's, you know, not the ending that one would hope, but one that, you know, I'm not surprised by the Food Network. But it's not an ending that one would imagine that she had hoped for herself.

ACOSTA: All right, well, Nancy, thank you very much for your time.

We appreciate it.

Let's show that third video that Paula Deen released earlier this afternoon, where she apologized for not appearing on "The Today Show." I suppose this is sort of when things started to unravel for Paula Deen earlier today.


DEEN: I'm Paula Deen. And I'm here to issue an apology to Matt Lauer. I was invited to do an interview with him this morning. And, Matt, I am so sorry, I was physically in no shape to come in and talk with you.

The last 48 hours have been very, very hard. And, you know, I'm a strong woman, but today I wasn't. This morning, I was not. And so I do apologize.


ACOSTA: And, Donna, let me ask you, I mean when you hear these apol -- I mean they appear to be heartfelt...

BRAZILE: Yes, heartfelt.

ACOSTA: -- apologies from Paula Deen. BRAZILE: Right.

ACOSTA: Can she make this right again? BRAZILE: Look, I think so. I think, on a personal level, I'm sure that there are so many people that know her personally that will come to her defense, that will say the good things that she has done. I know some of those. I've heard about some of her good work.

But at this moment, you know, the apology is appropriate. People will have to express their disappointment. The Food Network has made their decision.

But, you know, people like Paula Deen -- by that I mean, you know, just like a politician, Mark Sanford, whoever -- they come back.

ACOSTA: Right.

BRAZILE: She will make a comeback. She made a comeback after admitting that she had Type 2 Diabetes.

But this is a huge blow to her brand, to her image and, of course, to her many fans and followers, many of whom are black, who loved Paula Deen, because Paula Deen knows how to stir up the pot.

ACOSTA: She does.


ACOSTA: For anybody who sits at the table.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. And I can tell you, as somebody who's tried a little bit of her food...


BRAZILE: -- it's as good as your mother's recipes.

ACOSTA: I've tried it, too. It is good.

And -- but maybe she needs a time out.

BRAZILE: She will.

ACOSTA: And that's, perhaps, what's about to happen here.

BRAZILE: She will.

ACOSTA: Let's go now to Howard Bragman.

He's on the phone right now.

He specializes in public relations.

And I guess, Howard, It's a good segue to you.

Do you think she's doing the right thing at this point, by apologizing? And is the Food Network doing a good thing, at this point, by, perhaps, letting her sort of go away for a while?


Can you hear me?

ACOSTA: Howard, I'm here. Yes.

Can you hear me?

It's Jim Acosta with CNN.


ACOSTA: Yes. We want to ask you...


ACOSTA: -- about what's happening with Paula Deen and her apology.

What do you make of her

Apology and the Food Network's decision to drop her?

BRAGMAN: I think this is really, really damaging, if not a fatal blow, for her. Paula Deen is a $15 million to $20 million a year business right now, Jim. And the Food Network, while it may not pay the most money, it's the engine that drives awareness. It's the engine that drives everything else.

And from a crisis P.R. point of view, all I've seen is horrific mistakes.

How do you put a $20 million a year business at stake by not resolving a million dollar lawsuit?

That's the first question.

The second question is, how do you not prepare a client for a deposition better than she was prepared?

It's easy to say...

ACOSTA: Right.

BRAGMAN: -- "I don't recall" when you're...

ACOSTA: Well, she was...

BRAGMAN: -- when you're asked a question.

ACOSTA: -- she was fairly honest in that deposition, which, you know...

BRAGMAN: Well, yes, but there's a way to be honest and there's a way, you know, as my first boss in P.R. used to call it, telling the truth appropriately.

The third thing was that when she made the appointment with Matt Lauer today and then she cancelled it, that was a really bad error in judgment.

And then she was...

ACOSTA: You mean she should have just gone on no matter the consequences?

BRAGMAN: Well, no, I don't think she should have done it in the first place.


BRAGMAN: I think she has to understand that this is the kind of situation that's going to go to trial. It's going to be a very big thing and that you have time to do it. This should not be a rush to get it. You should take your time and be prepared because the lack of strategy and preparation is what put her in this situation.

I don't think you're going to resolve it in three or four minutes on a morning show or even ten minutes. I think you need a longer interview. I think you need longer preparation and clearly not when she's stressed. Then she put out that 45-second apology tape, overly edited, overly pink, a very bizarre looking Paula Deen.

And then, finally, she comes out with a separate apology. Think about it strategically, Jim. You want the story to go away. Every one of your actions is making this a bigger story. I don't think she left the Food Network with a lot of options. And, I think other people are going to follow suit.

ACOSTA: No doubt about it. A PR train wreck for Paula Deen. Howard Bragman who specializes in public relations and damage control. Thanks for your times. We appreciate it.

And we will have on the sudden turn of events for Paul Deen ahead.

Also, a jet is ready to fly NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, from Hong Kong to possible sanctuary in Iceland. I'll ask a wealthy businessman why he's helping to arrange that risky rescue effort.

And coming up, why did two airliners have such a close call in the skies over New York City? We'll look to the latest frightening near collision. That's coming up.


ACOSTA: If NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, wants to flee to China, it appears there is a jet on standby ready to go. A businessman with close ties to the international group, WikiLeaks, says he has an aircraft available to fly Snowden from his hideout in Hong Kong to Iceland, but if he's facing U.S. charges, that might not be so easy. CNN crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, can explain why -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, it's the latest twice and real life story of international intrigue. A wealthy businessman from Iceland has now entered the picture, offering to lend assistance to Edward Snowden, but it's more risky business for the man suspected of taking top-secret information from the U.S. national security agency.


JOHNS (voice-over): Olafur Sigurvinsson is with the software company, Data Cell, and has connections to WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. He says he's just doing logistics by offering to pay for a plane in Hong Kong to fly suspected national security leaker, Edward Snowden, to Iceland in case he wants to go. But he's told CNN it's an expensive proposition.

OLAFUR SIGURVINSSON, ICELANDIC BUSINESSMAN: I believe the total number will be, you know, somewhere around $400,000to U.S. dollars. It's not the cheapest ticket you buy.

JOHNS: Could it really happen? The answer is maybe. For example, we know the FBI is looking into Snowden.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: He is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.

JOHNS: So far, the government still hasn't said whether Snowden has already been charged, much less where he is. Though, many legal analysts believe an indictment has already been handed up, but it's under seal so the government doesn't have to show its hand.

PROF. STEPHEN VLADECK, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Somewhere is a seal's indictment from a U.S. federal court, charging Snowden with converting (ph) government property, maybe with espionage.

JOHNS: Which is why trying to leave Hong Kong could be risky for Snowden. And the event of an indictment, the U.S. typically would ask Interpol, the International Police Organization, for something called a red notice, which calls for foreign governments to intercept and detain suspects when they try to cross the border. Snowden recently had an intermediary, also with connections to WikiLeaks, ask the Icelandic government for help.

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON, WIKILEAKS SPOKESMAN: In the early morning (ph), I was asked to relay to the Iceland (ph) government a formal request by Mr. Snowden for a political asylum and political support by the Iceland government.

JOHNS: The Iceland interior ministry told CNN in an e-mail "in order to apply for asylum in Iceland, the individual in question must be present in Iceland and make the application in his or her own name." And even if he gets there, it's still a roll of the dice whether Snowden gets what he wants.

VLADECK: In Iceland, there's more of an established tradition of being very reluctant to extradite individuals who are accused of offenses like the ones that we think Snowden committed. Hong Kong, you have the complicated factor of our diplomatic relations with China. And so, I think, you know, it's six in one, half dozen in the other from both Snowden and from U.S. prospective. (END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (on-camera): The U.S. does have an extradition treaty with Iceland, but it could come down to whether any charges against Snowden could be seen as political in nature. However, the first step would be just getting there and that's a little tricky, Jim.

ACOSTA: And we have not heard the end of this.

JOHNS: Absolutely not.

ACOSTA: Thank you, Joe Johns. We appreciate it.

And joining us now is Icelandic businessman, Olafur Sigurvinsson. Mr. Sigurvinsson. We appreciate your time very much. Thank you for joining us.


ACOSTA: And, Olafur, tell us about your plan to get Edward Snowden out of China. Is this serious?

SIGURVINSSON: Yes, it's serious. You know, he just figured out that he might be scared of, you know, international airports, et cetera. So, we have arranged a private jet waiting for commitments (ph) from Iceland for authorities to grant him asylum in Iceland, and then, we will just transport him as a passenger --

ACOSTA: And are you sympathetic to Mr. Snowden's cause? Is that why you're doing this? I know that you're affiliated in some way with the WikiLeaks organization, the organization that seeks to publish classified and secret information. Are you sympathetic to Mr. Snowden's cause?

SIGURVINSSON: Yes, of course, I am. And I think what he did is a great thing.

ACOSTA: Why is that?

SIGURVINSSON: Because I want to know who is observing my date time (ph) and entering my private information. The U.S. government has no right to do so at all. And I think the world needs to know it. And, I think Mr. Snowden, he, in my mind and in a lot of other people's, he's a hero.

ACOSTA: And so, how will this work? Are you in communication with people who are communicating with Mr. Snowden at this point?

SIGURVINSSON: Yes, yes. It's not like I pick up the phone and I call him. So, we have our way to communicate. A lot of it is over the internet and using modern technology to communicate from point to point.

ACOSTA: And you have not been in touch with Mr. Snowden, is that right?

SIGURVINSSON: Not personally, no.

ACOSTA: And Olafur, I'm sure you're aware that if you try to go forward with this plan, there are going to be people in the United States who are going to be very upset about this, perhaps, people in the law enforcement, national security agencies of the United States. Are you planning to do this whether they like it or not?

SIGURVINSSON: I have had no indications about anybody being against this plan. As it looks now, it's just a logistic management, which involves moving a person from A to B. And we have to the extent, we have the full right to travel between countries with proper paperwork in place.

ACOSTA: Even though the United States or officials in the United States would like to see Mr. Snowden brought to justice, you are going to be interfering with that. You do know that.

SIGURVINSSON: Like I said, you know, I can't see why. And there are probably as many politicians in the U.S. who are against this spying secretly on private individuals. I believe so, you know. The U.S. is a great country and --

ACOSTA: And what about what's going into this operation? How much money is it costing you? Where are you keeping the plane? How -- you know, tell us a little bit about that.

SIGURVINSSON: Actually, what we have done last week is we have activated several different plans for transportation. All of them involve an airplane at some point, but I can't give that out in detail but the cost is ranging from three to 500,000 Euros.

ACOSTA: three to 500,000 Euros, that's how much this operation is going to cost. And are you footing that bill? Who's paying for this?

SIGURVINSSON: I'm not paying for this, but there is a lot of people who believe in this cause of personal privacy and that the U.S. government is the party who did wrong in this case and Snowden is just, like I said, you know, we look at him as a hero to bring the message to the world.

ACOSTA: But you know, I have to ask you a logistical question -- I have to ask you a logistical question, Olafur. I mean, a plane from Hong Kong to Iceland, i can't imagine that's direct non-stop. You're going to have to stop somewhere, which means you're going to have to find a country somewhere along the way that is willing to cooperate with this. Isn't that right?

SIGURVINSSON: That's one way of doing it. You can also -- there are planes who can take this in one leg. And, so, we have looked at all the options and, like I said, we just wait for 100 percent commitment from the Icelandic government to protect Snowden. And if they come up with that, then we just execute the plan of transportation.

ACOSTA: And are you personally investing your own money into this operation?

SIGURVINSSON: No, only time. Only time.

ACOSTA: Only time. So, there are other resources coming in from around the world that are going to be paying for this operation?


ACOSTA: All right. Well, it's -- we're going to be keeping an eye on this, Mr. Sigurvinsson. We appreciate your time very much. It's Olafur Sigurvinsson, an Icelandic businessman, who has offered to arrange transportation for Edward Snowden to Iceland if he gets the clearance from his government there. And, we appreciate your time. Thank you for talking to us.


ACOSTA: All right. Coming up, a frightening near collision in the skies over New York City. That's just ahead.

Plus, much more on the breaking news, the Food Network dropping celebrity chef, Paula Deen, after she admits to having used a racial slur. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


ACOSTA: Autopsy results are back in the death of James Gandolfini.

Our Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Mary, what do you have?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, a family friend tells reporters it was a heart attack and thus natural causes that killed the star actor best known for his role as Tony Soprano.

Gandolfini's son apparently alerted hotel staff Wednesday after his father failed to respond to repeated knocks on the bathroom door. The staff then broke down the door and called an ambulance but it was too late. Funeral services are being planned for next week.

Police in Massachusetts are searching for clues that could help determine what happened to a 27-year-old man found dead less than a mile from the home of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. The NFL player has remained silent amid reports he's being questioned by police.

Three search warrants have reportedly been issued in the case. The victim, who is said to have been friends with Hernandez, apparently died of a gunshot wound. We'll have much more on the story in our next hour.

And on a completely different note, call it a new direction in celebrity baby names. North West. That's what reality star Kim Kardashian and rapper Kanye West are calling their new baby girl. The name was first revealed in entertainment reports, was later confirmed in a birth certificate filed today. It's now fueling plenty of buzz online and beyond -- Jim.

ACOSTA: I guess it does go with West.

All right, Mary Snow, thank you. I appreciate it.

Coming up next, a frightening near-collision in the skies over New York City. Why did two airliners have such a close call.

And coming up, much more on the breaking news on celebrity chef Paula Deen. She's being dropped by the Food Network after admitting she had used racial slurs in the past.


ACOSTA: Happening now, breaking news, the Food Network announcing that it's dropping celebrity chef Paula Deen after she admits to having used the N word.

Plus a terrifying near-collision in the skies over New York City. How did these two commercial planes manage to get so close to each other?

And an amazing rescue caught on tape. How a 2-year-old managed to survive a five-story fall from a building window. Amazing.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A frightening near-collision in the skies above New York City. Authorities now are trying to determine how a Delta 747 and a Shuttle America flight got within just about a half mile of each other at one point. It's just the latest in a string of close calls.

CNN's Rene Marsh is working the story and joins us now with the details.

This is scary stuff, Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Jim. You know, it's not what you want to hear when you're a passenger on a plane and tonight we know exactly how it happened.


MARSH (voice-over): Two thousand feet above Queens, New York, a dangerously close call in one of the country's busiest airspaces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 172 heavy, turn left now.

MARSH: A Delta jumbo jet nearly collides with a Delta regional aircraft. The planes a half a mile apart horizontally. They're required to be at least three miles apart. Windy conditions set off the chain reaction of problems last Thursday when an American Airlines 737 and Delta 747 were coming in for landing at JFK on parallel runways. The wind forced both planes to abort landing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tower, American 1786 going around. MARSH: American went right, Delta left. But the traffic controller's order to turn left put Delta straight in the path of a different plane taking off from nearby LaGuardia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 172, are you turning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. We're almost there 040 now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 172 heavy, traffic, 12:00, 1400 feet, Embraer, 1600 feet.

MARSH (on camera): So it seems like they were so focused on the event happening in front of them that they didn't foresee what was going to happen as a result of diverting this Delta plane to the left.

CAPT. MARK WEIS, THE SPECTRUM GROUP: Stress causes tunnel vision.

MARSH (voice-over): Mark Weis, a former airline pilot of more than 20 years, says the instruction the pilot received which put them in the path of another plane shows an FAA system breakdown. But in the end the system corrected itself.

WEIS: The training kicked in. The safety net was there. And that's what prevented the accident from happening.


MARSH: Well, the FAA tells us that this was a rare event, where you have two planes simultaneously aborting landing. The FAA also says that they are investigating it. They're looking into what can be done to prevent another close call like this from happening again. They are calling this a teachable moment -- Jim.

ACOSTA: That is an understatement. Rene Marsh, thank you.

Just ahead, Tom Foreman is here with the magic wall to break down just how close these two planes came to colliding.

And if a sales clerk asks for your ZIP code after swiping your card, do you need to comply? What you might want to think twice about in a report coming up in just a few moments.


ACOSTA: Welcome back. Now how close were those two planes that almost collided over New York City?

CNN's Tom Foreman is over at the magic wall breaking down the distance.

Tom, you know, it doesn't sound like a big space that was dividing these two planes, but in aviation terms this was close.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this was close. And initially when I heard about it, I thought the guidelines are pretty liberal there, maybe it's not that close from what we hear. But look at the math on this because this is interesting.

We actually came much closer than you might think from having a plane like this which can have in some configurations 350 to 400 people in it. And one like this which can hold about 90 people in its configuration. Over one of the most populated areas in the country coming down. They were about 2,000 feet in the air.

How close were they vertically? Vertically they were only about 200 feet apart. That is a very small gap there. That's two-thirds of a football field. Right? So that's how far apart they were vertically. They weren't right on top of each other like this. But if they were in this kind of configuration, the FAA says they then have to have a separation of at least a thousand feet. Much, much, more.

So they were too close to be this way vertically if they were in the same space but then beyond that, if you look at the side-to-side frame, we see they're a half mile apart here. Well, if they're going to be that close together vertically, then this distance has to be much bigger. This is an either/or. You can be close to each other vertically, or you can be close to each other horizontally but you can't do both.

And in this case we were talking about both because this distance should have been more like three miles apart.

The simple matter, Jim, is if you take these two planes at the kind of speed they're capable of over that area, they truly could have been less than five seconds apart from each other if they both started heading in the same direction. That's why this is considered such a close call.

Yes, it's a half mile but aircraft like this, they can cover a half mile in the blink of an eye -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes. They should have never been that close. Tom Foreman, thank you.

Now over to the White House, President Obama nominated a former federal prosecutor to be the next director of the FBI. James Comey also served as a deputy attorney general in the Bush administration. He once famously butted heads with the Bush White House over the use of warrantless wiretaps at that time. A battle Comey won.

In announcing his pick, the president alluded to the current controversy over government surveillance of e-mails and phone records.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jim understands that in time of crisis, we aren't judged solely by how many plots we disrupt or how many criminals we bring to justice, we're also judged by our commitment to the Constitution that we've sworn to defend and to the values of civil liberties that we've pledged to protect.

And as we've seen in recent days, this work of striking a balance between our security but also making sure we are maintaining fidelity to those values that we cherish is a constant mission.


ACOSTA: Now, if he's confirmed, Comey will replace Robert Mueller, who is leaving in September after heading the FBI for 12 years. And we have heard from the White House in the last few minutes that the president called the Miami Heat today to congratulate that team on its second NBA championship.

Coming up, Paula Deen scramble to save her reputation.


PAULA DEEN, CELEBRITY CHEF: Please forgive me for the mistake that I've made.


ACOSTA: But that video and two more like it that she put out there may not have been enough.

And you may want to think twice before giving merchants your zip code. We'll tell you why coming up.


ACOSTA: You may want to think twice if a sales clerk asks for your ZIP code after swiping your credit card.

CNN's Brian Todd is back here to explain why.

You know, Brian, this almost sounds like another kind of surveillance, not that we want to hear another one of these.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, you don't, and it almost is like that, Jim. It may seem very innocuous when you're at the counter making a purchase, but giving that ZIP code could lead the retailer and maybe some others who could be more menacing, to get other information about you that you don't want out.


TODD (voice-over): Jo Anna Davis says the situation was so absurd she laughed out loud in her car afterward. She had tried to return an item at an Ulta Beauty store near Sacramento. They asked for her ZIP code, which she didn't want to give them.

(On camera): What happened when you refused to give them your ZIP code?

JO ANNA DAVIS, WOULDN'T PROVIDE ZIP CODE: When I refused to give them my ZIP code, they called the manager. She wanted it and then said that she couldn't go forward with providing me with a refund or a store credit or whatever.

TODD (voice-over): Davis says it led to an ugly confrontation in the store.

For many of us, it doesn't get that far. We're often asked for our ZIP codes when we make a purchase and think nothing of giving it, but if a sales clerk sees your name while swiping your card, then gets your ZIP code --

CHRIS HOOFNAGLE, UC-BERKELEY LAW SCHOOL: Stores can take this information to a data broker and ask them to match up the name with the ZIP code in order to get the person's home address, and they can get other information, too. They might able to get e-mail address or phone number as well.

TODD: Chris Hoofnagle, who teaches privacy law at the University of California-Berkeley, says retailers can take that information and target you for marketing campaigns, even share it with other retailers. He says they can gain information about your income, whether you've gone through bankruptcy.

(On camera): Experts say the practice is not unlike what political targeting groups use to find independent voters in certain ZIP codes, but those political groups usually don't match names to addresses. Retailers, experts say, often do.

(Voice-over): There are now lawsuits in some states over whether the practice is legal or should be. Hoofnagle says retailers are usually playing within the rules when they go to data brokers to get added information about you. A worst-case scenario, he says, is the possibility that some employees might move outside the lines.

HOOFNAGLE: Employees of a store might decide to stalk you or might simply decide you're good looking and to show up at your house or call you.

TODD: It's Jo Anna Davis's own sense of those possibilities that raises her guard when a clerk asks for a ZIP code.

DAVIS: I am a domestic violence survivor, and so I highly regard my privacy. And whenever there are those rewards programs, I do give a fake birthday. And you know, in this case I could have given them a fake ZIP code, but why should I have to do that?


TODD: Jo Anna Davis' story first appeared on Now as for that beauty products chain, Ulta, where Davis had that experience, an official there told us it is disappointing to know that they've lost a valuable customer and that the service in one of their stores was less than great. The company did offer to make it up to Davis, but they did not comment on the practice of asking for ZIP codes.

And we do have to say that many retailers ask for ZIP codes simply to understand where their visitors are coming from so they can make decisions about how to use advertising resources, Jim, but many of them do not. They really want to kind of get their claws into you marketing wise.

ACOSTA: It's not always that benign.

TODD: Right. That's right.

ACOSTA: And when these data brokers and retailers and all the other people who are involved in this industry, which I assume is doing quite well these days, have that information, they're pretty efficient about it, right?

TODD: They are, and they are the middle men in all this. Some of them boost -- boast 100 percent accuracy in finding more specific information about you once they have that name and a ZIP code. Some of them boast that they can boost a marketer's -- a retailer's marketing by over 100 percent. So they're very efficient and they can easily get this information about you and get more specific information about you -- your address, your phone number -- and then that's just, sometimes you don't want that out there.

ACOSTA: Privacy is just not what it used to be, Brian --

TODD: That's right.

ACOSTA: Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Just ahead, much more on the breaking news. The Food Network dropping celebrity chef Paula Deen.

Plus, an amazing rescue caught on tape.


ACOSTA: An unbelievable rescue caught on tape. A 2-year-old falls from a building window directly into the hands of some men who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Here's CNN's David McKenzie.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An incredible rescue in Zhejiang, China. Taking a break from work, a group of couriers hear crying. They look up, to their horror, they see a 2-year-old girl on the ledge outside her window five floors up.

The whole sequence caught on a security camera of the company. They tried to calm the young girl, nicknamed Chichi. Then the nightmare scenario. Chichi loses her footing, the men rush forward and she falls. And just in time, they catch her and she gets a hug.

Their actions have set Chinese social media alight. "Good job, Mr. Mail Carriers," said this user. "This is the best marketing," said another, about the courier company.

The (INAUDIBLE) Courier Company says they will reward their workers who saved Chichi. Two were likely injured. And the young girl whose parents say she got through the window when they were out buying medicine, was left shaken but with just a scratch and quite a story. David McKenzie, CNN, Beijing.


ACOSTA: Just incredible.

Now THE SITUATION ROOM continues with my colleague, Jake Tapper -- Jake.