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House Tackles Immigration Reform; Protesters Gather In Tahrir Square; Waiting For Snowden To Surface; Report: NSA Bugged EU Offices; America's Issue With Race; President In Cape Town Today

Aired June 30, 2013 - 14:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. These stories topping the news this hour in the NEWSROOM.

A downed sightseeing helicopter in New York launches a rescue operation on the Hudson River. Details straight ahead.

The intense heat in the West is only getting worse and it's also getting really dangerous. A live report from one of the hottest places in the world next.

And President Barack Obama visited Robben Island today, the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years. We'll tell you what Obama said during this emotional tour.

All right. Now from New York City, five very lucky people are back on dry land after their sightseeing helicopter made an emergency landing on the Hudson River. It happened right at noon. Affiliate WCBS reports the tourists were two adults and two children from Sweden. Fire officials say the pilot put the chopper near 79th Street when it lost power shortly after takeoff. It remained upright and floated south with the current. Affiliate WABC reports everyone was safely rescued by Jet Ski. No one was hurt in that incident. The helicopter has since been towed back to shore.

An elderly man found dead in his home in Las Vegas could be the first victim of a brutal heat wave. Officials say he didn't have air conditioning, but they aren't quite sure if heat is to blame. And today, it could get even hotter. Tory Dunnan went to Death Valley to find out how people there are handling the heat.


TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's called Death Valley for a reason. The sun beats down on a barren landscape. Tourists from around the world come to see it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We come from Switzerland.

DUNNAN: And to feel it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very hot. And thirsty.

DUNNAN: With an extreme heat wave bringing soaring temps, the draw is irresistible for some. These two are hitting the pavement, literally. (on camera): Why do this?

JOHN L. WALKER, RUNNER: Because we're crazy. We love the heat.

MIKE WOOD, DEATH VALLEY RESIDENT: Well, it's a novelty thing, you know. To say we were out in the heat when it was 125 to 130, run two or three miles, then we're finished.

DUNNAN (voice-over): Death Valley local Mike Wood is used to the heat, but when his shoes start melting, it's time to pay attention.

(on camera): Tell me about these shoes.

WOOD: My nasty shoes? Well, the ground temperatures here can approach a couple hundred degrees, so you're talking about pretty much boiling the shoes. So, everything that kind of holds the shoes together kind of comes apart.

DUNNAN: This is the exact spot where nearly a century ago, the world record was taken for a temperature of 134 degrees. With this heat wave, they're expecting temperatures close to 130 degrees.

So, rangers come out to this spot, the official weather station. They take a look at these thermometers. And yes, this is for history, but it's also a little bit more important.

JAY SNOW, DEATH VALLEY PARK RANGER: Heat can hurt. And if I don't take the right temperature, then we may tell them, oh, it's cool enough to go out and hike the sand dunes or cool enough to go hike Golden Canyon. It is not.

DUNNAN (voice-over): Ranger Jay Snow's checks and balances.

SNOW: Let me check the water temperature.

DUNNAN: At this unassuming little post is a part of Death Valley.

SNOW: When we say that the temperature was recorded four foot off the ground back in, there it is.

DUNNAN (on camera): Was that the box from 1913?

SNOW: I have no idea, but it looks like it's from 1913.


WHITFIELD: All right. Tory Dunnan joining me live now. Hey, and folks are walking there at a pretty good, brisk pace behind you. How are you staying cool?

DUNNAN: Fredricka, I'm cool as a cucumber right now. No, totally kidding.

Basically, I wanted to tell you where we are, first of all. We're in the lowest elevation point in the U.S. This is called Bad Water Basin. As you can see, tourists have really started flocking to this area. They want to come here and feel the heat in hopes of getting up to 130 degrees or maybe even, Fredricka, reaching that record 134 degrees. This thermometer, obviously not an official one, but it shows you how much it's been baking out in the sun. It's reading over 130, although the exact temperature is probably closer to under 130. But Fredricka, it is brutally hot out here, but people still seem to want to be out here.

WHITFIELD: Gosh. And it seems like they're taking quite the risk just driving to that point. Anything can happen in heat like this with your vehicle.

DUNNAN: For sure. There are signs up basically telling people turn off your air-conditioning as you drive through this heat so your car doesn't overheat. But it's a little hot for that, so that's one thing the officials are worried about. But the big thing here is just to see excitement over this heat. People say they never felt anything like it. The last time it actually hit 130 degrees was also a century ago.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. All right, well, try to stay cool as best you can. If you don't feel cool, at least you look cool out there in Death Valley.

DUNNAN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, Tory Dunnan, thanks very much.

All right. Overseas now , President Barack Obama is in cape town, South Africa this afternoon. He visited Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner for 18 years. At the University of Capetown, Obama spoke out about Mandela's legacy. Nkepile Mabuse is live for us right now in Pretoria. So Nkepile, you are outside the hospital as well where Mr. Mandela is. What are people talking about? Are they more concerned about Mr. Mandela's condition or are they interested in the president of the United States visiting?

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think both, Fredricka. And here on the African continent, we sing when we're happy, we sing when we're sad. We've seen a lot of singing and heard a lot of singing the past three weeks that Nelson Mandela has been in this hospital behind me, critically ill, anxious South Africans coming here to Pretoria to deliver messages of solidarity, to deliver flowers, balloons. And as I said, a lot of singing as well. People just anxious to hear the latest on Nelson Mandela. Of course, we haven't really heard any updates from the presidency who control and communicate information regards his health, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And President Obama was very moved, apparently, during his visit to Robben Island, and he spoke out about how that visit impacted his daughters. What specifically did he say?

MABUSE: You know, President Obama has been to Robben Island before. He was here in 2006 and he went there as a senator. In the lead-up to his trip, he said it was going to be a privilege and honor to take Sasha and Malia there. He said he wanted to teach them about the anti-apartheid struggle, for them to see what Mr. Mandela and others went through so they can take those lessons back home in America and apply them in their daily lives. Let's take a listen to exactly what he said about that trip.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They now appreciated a little bit more the sacrifices that Madiba and others had made for freedom. But what I also know is because they had a chance to visit South Africa for a second time now, they also understand that Mandela's spirit could never be imprisoned because his legacy is here for all to see.


MABUSE: You know, Fredricka, throughout President Obama's trip to South Africa, there has been so much significant symbolism. He delivered that speech at the University of Capetown, where in 1966, Robert F. Kennedy delivered one of his most famous speeches, the "ripple of hope" speech. But I think the overarching theme throughout Mr. Obama's trip has been a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right. Nkepile, thank you so much from Pretoria. Keep us posted on the condition of Mr. Mandela as well.

All right. Now to the latest developments in this case of NSA leaker Edward Snowden. He is still believed to be staying somewhere in the Moscow airport. Today, a top Russian lawmaker spoke out and he said it would be, quote, "immoral" if Moscow hands Snowden to the U.S., calling it a matter of principle. In a few minutes, I'll also find out what new revelations there are about the NSA and what has the European politicians so annoyed.

Help may be on the way for some 24 million women who suffer from hot flashes. The FDA has approved the first non-hormonal drug to treat one of the main symptoms of menopause. The drug will be sold under the name Brisdel (ph). There is no word yet on how much it will cost, and it is due out in November, we understand.

All right, now to Egypt, where protesters are calling for Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi to resign, while his supporters are insisting he stay. Well, today marks one year since Morsi rose to power in a democratic election. CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman joins me live now from Cairo. So Ben, earlier on daylight, you could see an incredible crowd. But so far, it seems to be peaceful?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, not just in Tahrir Square because it is jam-packed. They're on the bridges going over the Nile and the roads leading to it. I don't think I saw this many people in Tahrir Square even on the 11th of February 2011 when president Hosni Mubarak stepped down. And it's not just here; there's another huge crowd, hundreds of thousands in front of the (INAUDIBLE) palace, which is Cairo's equivalent of the White House. In the meantime, there is another demonstration in support of Mohammed Morsi in another part of town, but in relative terms, it's really quite small compared to this. And what's interesting is the people who have come out are not the revolutionaries we saw so much of in the beginning of 2011. Lots of ordinary people. I saw one housewife pushing a female relative of hers in a wheelchair to go to one of these demonstrations. Some people just on the corner, waving Egyptian flags.

And also, everyone chanting the same thing in Arabic, (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). That means go, go, and it's a very clear message to Mohammed Morsi. The question all of these people are of course asking, Fredricka, is he listening?

WHITFIELD: Well, Ben, I understand the president took to the state media airwaves. Did he acknowledge or say anything about the protests today?

WEDEMAN: Well, he had a spokesman who came out and gave a statement who basically said we're in favor of dialogue and we're ready to speak with the opposition, but we may have gone beyond that. I think at least what we're seeing in Cairo and some of the Egyptian provinces so far is what appears to be open revolt. It's not just civilians who are in this revolt; there are also clearly members of the police and some of the security forces who themselves are opposed to President Mohammed Morsi. It may be beyond the point of dialogue at this moment. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Wow, incredible crowd that we're getting a look at now right behind you in Tahrir Square. Thanks so much. Ben Wedeman in Cairo.

All right, back in this country, a cold-blooded murder allegedly committed by an NFL star. Next up, we'll retrace the steps that police say Aaron Hernandez took before allegedly killing his old friend execution-style.

And Florida prosecutors get ready to use George Zimmerman's own words against him. That straight ahead next.


WHITFIELD: Another NFL player is in trouble with the law. Joe Lefeged of the Indianapolis Colts was in a D.C. court Saturday on firearms charges. Police say a .40 caliber automatic pistol was in plain view under Lefeged's passenger's seat during a traffic stop. He was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm. The Colts issued a statement saying the team was aware of his arrest but had no further comment.

His arrest comes just days after New England Patriots Aaron Hernandez was arrested for the murder of his friend, Odin Lloyd. Affiliate WCBB says hundreds of people turned out for Lloyd's funeral yesterday in suburban Boston. Lloyd was just 27, a semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits. His body was found in a gravel pit not far from Hernandez's home. Our Deborah Feyerick joins us from North Adelborough (ph), Massachusetts with the very latest on this. Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, one thing that Aaron Hernandez did not count on, and that was the number of surveillance cameras documenting his route the night of the murder from the time he got off highway, having picked up Odin Lloyd to the time he walked into his $1.3 million mansion, disabling the surveillance cameras inside.


FEYERICK: And stops just before the road ends.

FEYERICK (voice-over): The murder took place down this road, just off the busy street that many in the area use as a shortcut.

(on camera): If you draw a straight line in this direction, it's less than a quarter of a mile from where we are here. Just if you draw a straight line. Obviously, you'd have to circle around and use --

JAY: Without a doubt less than a quarter of a mile.

FEYERICK: Jay has lived in this area for 25 years. He knows a lot of people and asked we not use his last name. He showed us the surveillance cameras at this corner gas station, which prosecutors say spotted the NFL player's rented silver Nissan around 3:20 a.m. Monday morning, seconds after it turned off 95. Prosecutors say Hernandez and two friends had driven 64 miles round trip to Dorchester to pick up Odin Lloyd. They turned down this road through an industrial park and business monitored by surveillance cameras.

(on camera): So at this point, he knows -- this is where he's getting nervous?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd say right about here is where he got the text.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Right about here, he sends a final text to his sister at 3:23 a.m., telling her he is with "NFL," his nickname for Hernandez, "just so you know," he texts.

JAY: Right here is where --

FEYERICK (on camera): When he fell.

JAY: They shot two more times. Hit him in both sides of his chest.

FEYERICK: Jay says he saw the crime scene shortly after it had been processed and the yellow tape taken down.

JAY: Right here, the blue top was right here; the red top was over there. You can see -- it's hard to see now because of the rain.

FEYERICK: Well, you can see sort of an outline.

JAY: Correct. And it was rectangular in shape, leading one to believe the body was this way.

FEYERICK: Clearly, it would be the size of a human.

JAY: Correct.

FEYERICK (voice-over): The car drove into the pit at 3:23, according to prosecutors. Cameras show the car leaving about four minutes later at 3:27 a.m.

FEYERICK: So this is where Odin Lloyd had his final moments. According to prosecutors he was shot --

JAY: Execution style.

FEYERICK: The official timeline shows it took two minutes for Hernandez and his friends to get home. Odin Lloyd was not with them. Almost immediately, the surveillance cameras inside his home were disabled, the same cameras that caught Hernandez allegedly holding a .45 caliber Glock before he set out to meet Odin Lloyd. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer says the evidence is all circumstantial.


FEYERICK: And Fredricka, so far, police have not recovered the murder weapon, believed to be a .45 Glock that carries eight rounds and is easily concealable. Police did recover a shell casing from the rental car that the men were driving that evening. They've also got an image of Hernandez holding a .45 caliber Glock inside the home just before he met Odin Lloyd. Fredeicka?

WHITFIELD: Wow. Incredible timeline. Thanks so much, Deborah Feyerick, for bringing that to us.

All right, in Florida, the George Zimmerman murder trial is heating up. His statements to police are expected to be in the spotlight this week. Hear why his own words could come back to haunt him.


WHITFIELD: In Sanford, Florida, jurors will be back in the courtroom first thing tomorrow morning as week two begins in the George Zimmerman murder trial. CNN's Martin Savidge is in Sanford. So Martin, prosecutors say they will use Zimmerman's own words to prove that he murdered Trayvon Martin. Explain that for us.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that will be very interesting to watch. And of course, they have not told us everything as to how this case is going do move forward, the prosecution, I'm talking about. But what we take from that statement is there were a number of statements that George Zimmerman gave to authorities, and one of them includes that reenactment which was done the very next day. And that's on videotape. And then there were a number of interrogation sessions the Sanford police did with George Zimmerman over a series of days. And what they have found -- and this is already known -- there's some discrepancies. The way he tells the story one time is not necessarily exactly how he tells the story the next time. There are some problems with the timeline, there are some problems with where he actually was and some of the description he gives. That's why authorities say they hope they will be able to demonstrate, prove, that he has real problems with this self-defense argument he has put forward.

WHITFIELD: And how much longer is it expected the state will carry on with his side of the case?

SAVIDGE: That's a good question. Of course, we don't really know. Here's the speculation at this particular point. And it's an educated speculation, I guess you could say. They'll probably go all the way up through Wednesday and would likely want to stop there, finish, wrap up and -- because then you've got the Fourth of July day off. And then you would have the defense that would pick it up on Friday. So I think they want to leave that jury with at least one day, the holiday to go, wow, we just had everything right there.

WHITFIELD: All right. Could again be an explosive, powerful day tomorrow in court. Thanks so much, Martin Savidge.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: Immigration reform is a hot topic that's getting even hotter on Capitol Hill. Find out why lawmakers are not seeing eye-to- eye on an issue that affects so many people.


WHITFIELD: All right. Checking our top stories.

A record-setting heat wave could force temperatures even higher in the West today, pushing 130 in California's Death Valley. The heat appears to have taken a fatal turn, however, in Las Vegas. An elderly man was found dead in his home yesterday with no air-conditioning. Vegas' high temperature yesterday tied its record. And new records were set in Phoenix and parts of California.

Zoo animals beat the heat just like we do sometimes: with sprinklers. When it's this hot, the chimps at the Houston Zoo get a cool shower. And the zoo's elephant can't resist a dip in the pool. Zookeepers also give the chimpanzee special monkey popsicles made of fruit juice, water and seeds.

Gay Pride Week kicked off today with parades that were even more festive than usual. You're looking right now at live pictures of the parade taking place in Toronto. Participants had two landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions to celebrate in North America, in the U.S. One ruling granted federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. A second ruling allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California.

Massive demonstrations are underway right now overseas. That is a huge crowd right there in Cairo, Egypt. Protesters have gathered in Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace there. They're urging Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi to step down. Protestors are angry over country's economy, crime and fuel shortages. Today marks one year since Morsi rose to power during a democratic election.

A group of U.S. congressman is getting ready for a busy July Fourth week, hammering out an immigration reform proposal. You may remember the Senate just passed their own proposal on Thursday. But here's the problem: what the House is working on and what the Senate passed do not match up. Candy Crowley tackled this issue on STATE OF THE UNION this morning, and I asked her about the disconnect.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: Well, there's actually a couple of things going on in the House. There is kind of a Gang of 8 if you will. But -- the numbers seem to fluctuate, but some sort of gang that has Republicans and Democrats in it. They have been working almost as long as the Senate gang worked on coming up with a bipartisan bill. It is not going to look like the Senate bill. So, you have that.

You also have, on the other hand, the Judiciary Committee, which has been passing out pieces of legislation, sort of smaller pieces of legislation having to do with immigration. For instance, to make it a felony not to have documentation, et cetera, et cetera.

So what you have here are sort of floating plans, and not a lot of people believe this House will pass anything as comprehensive as the Senate did. So, it kind of broke down for us on the show this morning. I want you to listen to these two bites. The first one is Luis Gutierrez, who is working on that gang that is supposed to be coming up with a plan for the House. And the second is Bob Goodlatte who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a Republican and its through his committee, some kind of bill will be pass out. I think you'll hear the problem in their two sound bites here.


REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: We cannot put compromise to one side. We need an American solution. What the House Republicans are doing is giving a Republican solution. And a Republican solution isn't what we saw was successful in the Senate.

REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R), VIRGINIA: We want to work with Democrats. We want to work with Luis and others to do a bill, but not the Senate bill and the compromise is going to have to come both in getting a bill out of the House and then in going to conference with the Senate to work out the differences.

CROWLEY: So miles to go before they sleep.

WHITFIELD: Right. I mean, there are so many differences, particularly on border security. That apparently is a big sticking point as well.

CROWLEY: Well, it is within the House. I think what Republicans get stuck on is the, quote, pathway to citizenship. Goodlatte specifically said that he said a pathway to legalization is one thing and pathway to citizenship is something else. Remember in the Senate, they've always said we have to tie border security and a pathway to citizenship in the same bill. That's not how the House looked at it. There's like all these moving parts and we don't know where this is going to end up.

WHITFIELD: All right, well, hence, politics inside the beltway. Candy Crowley, thanks so much, host of the "STATE OF THE UNION." Thanks so much.

European officials are furious at the U.S. over a new revelation involving Edward Snowden. Hear the explosive information about U.S. spying operations Snowden allegedly leaked.


WHITFIELD: We're continuing to monitor Egypt. Right now, thousands of protesters are in Cairo's Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace. On one side, angry protesters are calling for the resignation of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi over a sour economy and a rise in crime. On the other, government supporters insist Morsi stay. Today marks the one year anniversary of Morsi's rise to power during a democratic election.

All right, now to the latest on Edward Snowden, it's believed the NSA leaker is still hold up at a Moscow airport. Today a top Russian lawmaker says it would be, quote, "immoral," end quote, if Moscow hands Snowden over to the U.S. And more revelations now about NSA spying apparently have many European officials furious at Washington.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is following all the developments. So Barbara, how are U.S. officials responding?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're responding in just the last few minutes a little bit. We'll get to that in a second, but listen to this, Fred. The German publication started reporting that the European Union offices were electronically bugged, spied upon by the U.S. and they say they have this information from documents from Edward Snowden, the self-confessed NSA leaker so European officials are just furious, as you say, about it.

The European president, the president of the European parliament, issuing a statement saying, quote, "I am deeply worried and shocked about the allegations of U.S. authorities spying on E.U. offices. If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter, which would have a severe impact on E.U.-U.S. relations. On behalf of the European parliament, I demand a full clarification and require further information speedily from U.S. authorities with regard to these allegations. Allegations the U.S. has been spying on the European Union and the European parliament."

A few moments ago, we got a statement from the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. I want to read some of that to you. This statement says, quote, while we are not going to comment publicly on specific alleged intelligence activities, as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations."

So what's the real bottom line here? The NSA spying on the European countries, the Europeans spying on us, I think a little dose of reality here in the game known as espionage. Lady and gentlemen spies, they all spy on each other. Everybody knows it. Perhaps the big issue here is the embarrassment that it's all being made public.

WHITFIELD: That made so public. That's right. All right, Barbara Starr, thanks so much from Washington. So speaking of spying, spying international intrigue and man driven by idealism. The Edward Snowden case is playing out like a classic spy novel. My next guest would probably agree with that. Alex Berenson is a former reporter for the "New York Times" and he is also the author of seven spy novels including the latest, "The Night Ranger." Edward Snowden may not have set out to be a spy for Russia, but is the stage set for him to be such?

ALEX BERENSON, SPY NOVELIST: Well, I think he's in a very difficult position. You know, he is now apparently he is stuck in the Moscow airport because he literally, you know, he doesn't have a passport. We've revoked his passport so he can't buy a plane ticket so he's in this very, very uncomfortable spot, where if he wants to leave the airport to try to get asylum in another country, which might or might not be possible for him such as Ecuador, he may have to show the Russians what's on the laptops he's carrying around. There's an intersection of international law of politics and raw power. He did not think through what going to Moscow would mean.

WHITFIELD: My goodness. So is this playing out like a real spy novel in your view? American declassifying classified information, perhaps even taking a job to actually get access, electing to leave the country, you know, Hongkong, Moscow, and now he's kind of waiting for the highest bidder to take him?

BERENSON: It's a great question. I think in some ways what Snowden is, is he's a mix of a cold war spy novel and post 9/11 spy novel. What the NSA is doing, I've written a lot about that in my books, where he is now a man without a country, a classic situation. The unhappy ending here is he gets shot at the border, right? I think -- I don't know what's going to happen to him.

I don't think that will happen but I do think that he probably -- he may well spend -- have the choice of spending the rest of his life in exile or prison. It's very uncomfortable. You hear the frustration and panic in the interviews that his family has given, where they, too, are appealing.

That's something very interesting about this. The role the media now plays in all these cases. This is espionage is a private matter, but this has become a very, very public story as well.

WHITFIELD: You mention in the novels, it's usually a very dramatic ending or perhaps the person ends up on an island paradise. But you think ultimately he will land himself in a jail, in a U.S. prison?

BERENSON: Well, or you know, or possibly spend the rest of his life in exile. I wrote this op-ed piece in the "Times" on Tuesday and what the point I was trying to make was perhaps it could have gone a different way, perhaps if the Obama administration had approached him quietly and said, you know, come on back to the United States and we will give you a chance to have a hearing before Congress. We'll call off the dogs and yes, you are going to be tried because you did leak some secrets, but we are going to treat you as a traitor. We are going to treat as the whistleblower that you thought you were.

WHITFIELD: He kind of packed his bag and abruptly left Hawaii for Hongkong. Maybe they didn't get a chance to find him.

BERENSON: That's true. They didn't do a good job with that either. They treated him as a traitor. So they sort of turned him into a traitor and possibly into a spy for Russia. I think that's an unfortunate outcome for everybody.

WHITFIELD: All right, Alex Berenson, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Fascinating stuff, the real life stuff and fictional stuff, all good. All right, thanks so much.

All right, the George Zimmerman trial and Paula Deen controversy both reigniting the debate over the "n" word. We have our own intense debate over why that word is still being used. That is next.

Later, the first family makes an emotional visit to the prison where Nelson Mandela spent nearly two decades of his life.


WHITFIELD: Conversations about race played a major role in the news this past week. Paula Deen was fired from her TV job for using the "n" word. Sparks flew in the courtroom during the George Zimmerman murder trial when a key witness took the stand and used the word. And the Supreme Court made major announcements on cases involving voting rights and affirmative action.

Well, much of this is at the core of a CNN special airing tomorrow night hosted tonight by Don Lemon. The special is called "The "n" Word." It's likely to ignite some passionate discussions similar to what happened last night when Don talked to a panel of guests. We warn you the language is raw and the "n" word is used in its entirety. Here's a portion of that conversation.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I've watched "The Jeffersons" and they would say, you know, you remember back -- what was the saying they used to say -- please, like they said that on television in the '70s, but we can't say it now.

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: But black say it because we moved into this post racial ideology, this color blind ideology. That says if we don't talk about race, if we don't name race and if don't speak certain rationalized terms and somehow the world will be racially better. It's simply not true. I don't have a problem with the sitcom or you as an esteemed journalist using the n-word in context because it has explanatory value. Do I think that white people should be using it, absolutely not? Do I think someone with a biracial son should be confused about this? Absolutely not. I always find it remarkable the white people find the "n" word such a complicated puzzle.

It's not that complicated. Just don't use it. All right, you just have to -- let me finish the thought. You just have to accept that there are some things in the world, at least one thing you can't do that black people can. That might just be OK.

WENDY WALSH, HUMAN BEHAVIOR EXPERT: I think about me -- wait, wait. I'm not talking about any particular, but what about the huge consumers, what about the huge consumers of hip-hop who have been exposed to a new reclaimed usage of the word through music. So when a teenage boy uses it with his teenage friends as a term of endearment, I mean, I'm not fighting the use of the word, but he is a consumer of hip-hop. He's a consumer of hip-hop -- no, white teens.

LEMON: I have to tell you, I was in Ohio, in October, coming up on the election and I was with a white kid in his late teens, early 20s in college. He was talking to another white friend and they both were calling each other that term and I was like, at first, he was on the phone with him. I thought he was talking to his black friend and then we went and met him and he was talking to his white friend. It's not just black people using that word as a term of endearment.

HILL: I would be happy if no one used the word as a term of endearment. All I'm saying is that white teenager or white 20 something should learn, yes, you can listen to the music and yes, hear those words, but it doesn't mean you have to repeat them because the truth is they can --

WALSH: You can't sing-along!

HILL: Why are white people fighting so fiercely for the right to use the "n" word? Just let it go.

LEMON: I know one white person who's fighting fiercely to have a say in this. That's Buck Davis. So Buck, go ahead.

BUCK DAVIS, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION EXPERT: I have trouble comparing those words, Don, because you can't compare the stories behind those words. Let's take cracker for instance. If anybody calls me a cracker, big deal, there's no power associated with it. Call me a honky, there's no privilege, no power associated with it.

Now, if generations of my people had been systemically, categorically discriminated against and some of them lynched while mobs of people screamed kill the honky, goodbye cracker, that would be different for me. The narrative around the "n" word carries so much evil attached to it that for many of us in the majority, we have a hard time connecting to the depth of the pain.

That word has been used to demoralize, dehumanize, to paralyze and sometimes kill groups of people. From what I know, from my friends and family who are people of color around the country, when they hear that word, it cuts to the bone.


WHITFIELD: Just a taste of the conversation you will likely see expanded tomorrow night, Monday night. Don't miss Don Lemon hosting -- excuse me. I'm having a little problem here. Don't miss this special, "The "n" Word." Again, Monday night, 7:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

All right, President Obama honors the heroic spirit of Nelson Mandela with a visit to the notorious prison where Mandela was held for nearly two decades, what the president left there in tribute.

Plus Mandela's impact on his country and the world, a former U.S. ambassador to South Africa who has met the anti-apartheid icon joins us live.


WHITFIELD: President Obama visited Robben Island this morning, the prison where Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner for 18 years. It was a very emotional visit for the president. He signed the visitors' book, saying this, "On behalf of our family we're deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage face down injustice and refuse to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island who remind us no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit."

Nelson Mandela remains in a Pretoria hospital suffering from a severe lung infection. Jendayi Frazer is with me today. She is a former U.S. assistant secretary for African Affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to South Africa. Jendayi, good to see you.

JENDAYI FRAZER, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR AFRICAN AFFAIRS: It's very good to be here. Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: So you first spoke to Mr. Mandela back in 1999 and then you had a chance to meet him again in 2001. What were your impressions of him?

FRAZER: Well, he is a commanding figure. He makes an immediate impression on you. I found him to be what I call an evolved human being, really, a person who, from a very young age, had a vision for his country, for his society and recognized it through tremendous personal difficulty and sacrifice. I think President Mandela represents what we all strive through, which is to, you know, realize the greatest aspirations of a human being, to realize one's dreams. So I think I found him to be an inspiration, certainly, but also guiding light for how to conduct one's life.

WHITFIELD: So I realize you're coming from Washington. Is there a way of you knowing what his current state of health is doing to the country of South Africa? Is it bringing people together? Is it helping the people refocus, given what he symbolizes or is something else, in your view, potentially happening?

FRAZER: I do think it helps people to refocus. It reminds them of the important role he played in the reconciliation of the South African society at a very difficult time for that country when not only black-and-whites were fighting in terms of the apartheid government, but also when there was ethnic tension between different communities across all of South Africa.

So I think that his health situation today helps to bring the entire nation together. So I'm not so concerned as others are that there would be an outbreak of violence. I think rather there would be a many coming together again of the different communities of South Africa.

WHITFIELD: Quickly, the president of the United States there in South Africa, there have been quite a few poignant moments during his visit and then he's off traveling to other parts of the continent. The president says his primary mission while in Africa is to really encourage trade, more trade between the U.S. and Africa. Do you think that's a promise that really can be fulfilled? Is that a realistic expectation?

FRAZER: It is. I'm happy to hear President Obama sort of turn a corner in his Africa policy to have a more comprehensive approach. In the past, he emphasized democracy. That's very important. Governance is even more important. Now for him to add trade and investment as well as peace and security to his overall agenda I think is the right direction for his policy.

He's going to announce certain initiatives in Tanzania. He focused again on agricultural in Senegal. I think it's very important. The problem is, of course, that some of this is repackaging of money that's already been spent or actually been allocated. But I do think that the packaging is correct.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jendayi Frazer, thanks so much for your time and your perspective and thoughts about Nelson Mandela as he remains hospitalized. Appreciate it.

FRAZER: Thank you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll be right back with much more of the NEWSROOM, after this.