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Escaped Convicts Nabbed in Florida; First Number on Obamacare; Mr. Booker Goes to Washington; Atheist Group: "Oprah's Got It All Wrong"; Controversy Over SNL's Diversity

Aired October 20, 2013 - 08:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I called my children. I told that they got -- they got them.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The nationwide manhunt is over and these two convicted killers are back behind bars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Took about a minute or two. Both of the fugitives came out and surrendered.

BLACKWELL: The question this morning, how did they manage to pull off their escape and could it happen again?

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): His critics call him a laughingstock. His supporters say he's a saint.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I don't work for party bosses in decision, I work for the people of Texas and fight for them.

CABRERA: Senator Ted Cruz sits down with CNN for an exclusive interview and talks about his fights and his future in Washington.

BLACKWELL: And atheists demand an apology after Oprah Winfrey opens up about non-believers.

OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: Well, I don't call you an atheist.

BLACKWELL: What the queen of talk said that got so many riled up.


CABRERA: Good morning, everyone. We're happy to have you with us. I'm Ana Cabrera.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's 8:00 on the East Coast, 5:00 in the West. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

Let's start in Florida where two escaped inmates are back in jail this morning.

The convicted killers were caught just 80 miles from the prison using a forged paperwork. Now, the capture is, of course, welcomed news. But this will not end the questions about how they got out in the first place.

CABRERA: CNN's Nick Valencia is outside the Bay County Jail in Panama City where the inmates are right now.

Nick, how did police catch up with these guys?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. Marshal Service, along with the Florida department of law enforcement were able to work in tandem. They received a tip that put both Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins in Panama City Beach as early as Friday.

They conducted surveillance. They also did some interviews. They felt confident that those two were in the motel together. They announced over the PA for them to surrender. And they were arrested without incident.

Now, it is worth pointing out they were on the run respectively since September 27th and October 8th. As far as what happens next, Ana, Victor, they have a court appearance this morning. And they'll eventually be turned over to the Florida Department of Corrections and eventually go in front of an administrative board. But that's all we know at this point as far as their future -- Ana, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Do authorities think they've got help from the outside? Their families say they knew nothing about this. But what do authorities believe?

VALENCIA: Yes, we heard from the families yesterday. They reiterated. They re-emphasize they did not go out of their way to hide their family members. The two of them turned themselves in.

But, of course, that is part of the investigation. Who helped them? How did they get their hands on these forged documents? Can this happen again? You know, has this happened before?

We know that at least another case of a man that tried to use similar type of scheme to dupe the system, he was caught. Jenkins and Walker, they were able to get out. It is very embarrassing for all the agencies involved, still a lot of finger pointing. As you mentioned, so many questions unanswered this morning -- Victor, Ana.

CABRERA: What about the victims' families in all of this? Have you heard from them?

VALENCIA: Absolutely, Ana. We talked to both victims' families and for a while there, for the last few days, they were terrified. Just the thought of their -- you know, the killers of their family members on the loose. They didn't know if they would face retaliation or retribution at all.

We spoke to the son of the victim of Joseph Jenkins yesterday. He was just very distraught, very emotional. He said he had to relive the nightmare that he witnessed when he was just 9 years old -- Ana, Victor. BLACKWELL: All right. CNN's Nick Valencia in Panama City, Florida, for us. Thank you.

The first numbers on Obamacare signups are in.

CABRERA: CNN's Chris Lawrence is in Washington this morning following this.

Chris, despite the Web site glitches we've been talking about for days now, hundreds of thousands of people have made it through the online application. So bring us up to speed on where things stand this morning.


I mean, this is really the most complete picture we have of Obamacare's rollout, these new numbers. Administration officials are now telling CNN that nearly a half a million people have filled out the applications for health care. And the information that they put in there will determine their eligibility.

In other words, they're talking about they're giving information about their salary, who in their family might need health care. That determines if they ultimately get it. So that does not mean half a million people have actually enrolled.

There are plenty of glitches. People have gone on there, couldn't create a log in, couldn't create a password. Once they get the pass word, they get an error message. Our own Elizabeth Cohen took two weeks on the site just to get to the part where you start putting in the personal information.

Even President Obama has called the rollout so far a disappointment.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am the first to acknowledge that Web site that was supposed to do this all in a seamless way has had way more glitches than I think are acceptable.


LAWRENCE: Now an administration official tells CNN they are improving the Web site. They say while these glitches are a problem, they said the underlying product, the actual insurance is productive and will be successful.

Critics on the other hand say these aren't glitches. These are fundamental problems in the software and if you're having this kind of problem with just getting people to get a password, imagine the problems once they start to move through the system and actually try to select which coverage they want -- Ana, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Chris, what kind of role could the numbers play in the house this week? LAWRENCE: I think the Obama administration will say, look, the interest is there. They're going to say, look, 19 million people have visited this site as of just a couple days ago. They're going to say a half million people have gone through the process even with the glitches. They're going to tout the fact that the glitches will disappear over time; that they may still be on track to hit that seven million enrolled by six months out.

The critics are going to say, you know, look, they're already calling for the Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step aside. They want -- they basically want her out. They're saying if she was the CEO and a company had a rollout as disastrous as this, that CEO would be fired.

There's going to be some hearings on Capitol Hill coming up in just a few days. Secretary Sebelius, due to a scheduling conflict, is not going to be at that hearing. And that has a lot of the critics really riled up at this point.

CABRERA: The battle over Obamacare continues.

LAWRENCE: Oh, yes.

CABRERA: Chris Lawrence in Washington, thanks.

You would never know he lost the fight to defund Obamacare. Senator Ted Cruz, he's back home in Texas for what looks and sounds like a victory lap of sorts. Just listen.


BLACKWELL: Sanding ovation there. Cruz spoke to a Republican women's group in San Antonio on Saturday. He lashed out at fellow Republican senators for failing to stand with him against Obamacare.

An unapologetic Cruz then sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm just wondering, even on a human level, they told me that you really didn't flinch. On a human level, that's got to bother you to be sitting in an institution like the Senate and not have not the Democrats, fellow Republicans so angry at you.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Dana, not remotely. The people I work for are the women and men you just saw. I work for 26 million Texans. That's my job to fight for them. I don't work for the party bosses in Washington. I work for the people of Texas and I fight for them.

The reason people are frustrated all over the country is that far too many people get elected and they think they're there to be part of the club. You know what was very interesting about some of those closed door discussions, what I said in those closed door discussions, I would have said the exact same thing if CNN's camera was sitting in the room.


BLACKWELL: Well, you'll see more of Dana's exclusive interview with Senator Ted Cruz at 9:00 Eastern on "STATE OF THE UNION" right here on CNN. It's right after this show. They'll be joined by Senator John McCain. And the topic, where does the GOP go from here?

CABRERA: Well, Halloween isn't even here yet and we're already talking about snow. October 19th --


CABRERA: It's 20th. Yes, man. Where does time go?

BLACKWELL: Flying by.

CABRERA: From the West up to the Northeast though, it is cold outside.


You know, trick or treating in snow boots, not fun.

Let's bring in our meteorologist Karen Maginnis in the CNN weather center.

Karen, how cold is it going to get?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's enough to bring out the earmuffs that you don't like.

BLACKWELL: I don't! I don't like them!

MAGINNIS: All right. Well we've got that dip in the jet stream. And these little clipper systems, that's how you know that you're in fall. We start seeing these little fast moving fronts that move across Midwest and they cause that cold air to dive towards the south.

Well, it certainly has in Minnesota, also in North Dakota where they could see between two and four inches of snowfall. But for Chicago, today you'll see temperatures in the 60s. That's just about normal for this time of year.

But coming up by Monday, you'll only be in the upper 40s. And then by Tuesday, you're only going to be in the low to mid 40s. So a big temperature drop.

And for Marquette, Michigan, temperatures go from the 40s into the 30s. Minneapolis, you'll pretty much stay in the 40s. You should be around 55, 56 degrees. So a big cool down and temperatures even now only in the 30s and 40s. So, chilly and it will stay that way over the next couple days anyway.

Back to you -- Ana, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Wow. I walk out to my car between shows, you can see the steam coming out of my mouth already.

CABRERA: That's when it's getting cold.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it is.

CABRERA: Well, two convicted killers are back in custody this morning. We'll analyze their disturbing escape with attorney Mark O'Mara.

BLACKWELL: Later, is there a lack of qualified women of color in comedy? A regular on "Saturday Night Live" is making that claim. Comedian Debra Wilson joins us live with her reaction coming up.

CABRERA: And a lovely look this morning. We want to say hearty good morning to Atlanta, beautiful shot, sunrise over the city, thanks for starting your NEW DAY with CNN.

We're back in a moment.


CABRERA: The manhunt for two convicted killers accidentally released from a Florida prison is over this morning.

BLACKWELL: Authorities arrested Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker Saturday night in a Florida motel.

CABRERA: Now, prison officials believe these men played the system by forging documents including a fake signature from a judge, a prosecutor -- that's how they got away. Not for long. Both men are expected in court this morning.

And joining us now is CNN's legal analyst and veteran Florida criminal defense attorney Mark O'Mara.

Thanks so much for being here, Mark.


CABRERA: So does it surprise you that both these men were still in Florida and that's where they were found?

O'MARA: Well, you and I talked yesterday. I said most are caught quickly after escape. I'm surprised they stayed in florid Florida. And I'm surprised they were together.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's a short drive in that part of the state to -- across the state line to Alabama. I was surprised when they were still in the state.

Now, we talked a little while ago with Danny Cevallos and he talked about the criminal charges as relating to the escape. But is there any additional punishment? They're already sentenced to life in prison.

O'MARA: Well, that's true. They're sort of immune from further punishment when you already spend the rest of your life.

In Florida, by the way, it's a life sentence. You never get out. You die in prison. But they will have state charges. There will be fraud charges and they can connect them with the people helping them on the outside.

CABRERA: Of course the big question all along in addition to where are these guys is who is to blame for letting these guys slip through the cracks and get away with something that seemed like such a simple plan? What do you think? Who should we be pointing the fingers at?

O'MARA: Well, it has to be somebody on the inside. It just has to be. Somebody at the clerk's office, somebody in the courthouse, maybe even somebody in a state attorney's office position, secretary maybe who can actually get that paperwork done. It could be a layer, lawyer, certainly, who got into the system.

When it got to DOC, Department of Corrections, they wouldn't know any better. They certainly better know now. We almost might want to thank these guys because they're going to cause a complete revamp of the release system in Florida. And I wish these things stop happening in Florida.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Another Florida story.

Listen, one big thing that really stood out to me about how cunning these guys were, they went back and registered as felons and then left again. They took that chance that someone would see them and capture them.

Talk about more. Expand this conversation about the vulnerability this exposes in the system.

O'MARA: Well, the system has been run on paper. It's been run on paper in a system where we know people can forge documents easily. They can counterfeit money easily literally on a home printer. I think what this outlined or opened up was the reality that we have a lot of tightening down to do in the system. If you can get one sheet of paper into the system and release somebody that should be there for life that, is a broken system.

Hopefully, DOC will learn from it, the clerk's office will learn from it and not just in Florida but throughout the country. We know this is not the first and only time this has happened.

CABRERA: All right. Mark O'Mara, thanks so much you for your time. Of course, this story continue to ask questions until we get the answers.

BLACKWELL: Thanks, Mark.

BLACKWELL: Newark Mayor Corey Booker seems to have that it factor. He won this week's special election in Washington to fill New Jersey's open senate seat. And now he's headed to Washington. Let's go to Alexandra Field in New York for a preview of what's next -- Alexandra. ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, he's a rising star in the Democratic Party. But we'll tell you who is saying he might want to keep some of that charisma in check as he heads to the Senate. In New York, I'm Alexandra Field. We'll have that story coming up on CNN NEW DAY SUNDAY.



HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We have seen examples of the wrong kind of leadership. When politicians choose scorched earth over common ground, when they operate in what I call the evidence-free zone --


CABRERA: Hillary Clinton steps back into the political spotlight with a blistering critique for Republicans. Now, Clinton endorsed her friend Terry McAuliffe for Virginia governor at a rally in Falls Church yesterday. The former secretary of state appeared energized. She looked rested after her eight months off the world stage.

BLACKWELL: He is traveling now from New Jersey to the nation's capital.

CABRERA: Cory Booker won that special election this week to fill New Jersey's open Senate seat. He is now the state's first black senator. He's also the first African-American elected to the Senate since Barack Obama.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Alexandra Field takes a look.


SENATOR-ELECT CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: You know, I am going to go down there and be the best me possible.

FIELD (voice-over): So far that has worked for Senator-elect Cory Booker. He has never had trouble drawing a crowd --

BOOKER: All rise!

FIELD: -- which is why the New Jersey Democrat may get a very warm welcome when he goes to Washington.

Rutgers University political science professor, Ross Baker.

ROSS BAKER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: I think he's a great asset to the Democrats. I think he will be a great fund-raiser.

FIELD: Booker, the mayor of Newark is so widely known he has a Twitter following of 1.4 million people. His campaign for the Senate boasted big celebrity endorsements. Marketing experts say he has a powerful and recognizable brand. ALLEN ADAMSON, LANDOR ASSOCIATES: In Washington, he'll have star power. I think he will be the biggest brand to hit Washington since Hillary.

FIELD: But if you ask senator-elect, he insists his time in Washington won't be about building a bigger name for himself.

BOOKER: There's a lot I have to learn. So, I'm going to go to work and put my head down and study, study, study, and learn, learn, learn, and be back in Jersey as much as possible to directly serve people I have been doing as mayor.

FIELD: Back at Rutgers, Bakers says if the mayor of New York wants to succeed as a senator, he can prove that he can work with others.

BAKER: He's going to be very visible. People will expect him to exude that incredible charisma that he has, but I think he will be well advised to keep it in check.

FIELD: Sound advice for any freshman in Washington, it could proof tough considering the background noise. Some pundits were already saying Booker is a potential pick for a vice presidential run in 2016.

For now, it's a question he is quick to deflect.

BOOKER: Yes. Look, I've I have always heard that I might be a choice for the Giants right now, and we're having a tough time this season, so maybe I might be called in.


BLACKWELL: Alexandra Field joins us now from New York.

And, Alexandra, it looks like Cory Booker, Senator-elect Booker will not be shying away from the spotlight. The state is appealing same sex marriages there in New Jersey. But he is on the other side of that argument.

FIELD: Right, Victor. He is always a strong supporter of gay rights, same-sex marriages can legally be performed in New Jersey in a matter of hours. The mayor says he plans to officiate some of the marriages even as the state's Republican governor Chris Christie appeals a judge's ruling that will allow those marriages to go forward -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. CNN's Sandra Field in New York for us -- thank you.

Atheists are demanding an apology from Oprah. Hear what she said that has so many people upset.

You're watching NEW DAY SUNDAY on CNN. We're back in a moment.


CABRERA: Bottom of the hour on this Sunday. Welcome back, everyone. I'm Ana Cabrera.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It is a pleasure to have you with us, and the cold spots across the country this morning. So, if you're in one of them, stay in a little while with us.

Here are five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

Up first, two inmates who escaped from a Florida prison were arrested last night. They're due in court this morning. Joseph Jenkins and Charles walker were found at a motel in Panama City, Florida. Family members deny helping them escape. Authorities released Jenkins and Walker based on forged documents.

CABRERA: Number two, a quick jail stint for the former mayor of San Diego. Bob Filner was booked yesterday morning and released a few hours later. It's really more of a formality related to his plea deal. Filner admitted to a felony and two misdemeanor charges in connection with his behavior with three different women. He also must serve three months of home confinement.

BLACKWELL: Three now, an eighth suspect is now charged in the clash between a swarm of motorcyclists and an SUV driver in New York. You've seen the video. The 7-year-old faces gang assault and other charges. He's not entered a plea. The SUV driver was chased down and beaten after he hit several bikers. And this conflict was caught on a biker's helmet cam.

CABRERA: Number four, two public transit workers are dead after they were hit by an out of service train. This is near San Francisco. The Bay Area Rapid Transit Union is on strike, of course, but officials say one of the men who was killed opted to work anyway. The other victim was a contractor. The train that killed them was being run by a computer at the time.

BLACKWELL: Number five, you know when I was a kid I played the flute. I think the flute was 200 bucks. But $1.7 million? That will buy you a violin. It's sold at a British auction. It's not just any violin. It's believed to be the same violin that the Titanic band leader, the Titanic band leader played to calm passengers as the ship sank.

William Hartley didn't survive. He was pulled from the Atlantic days later with his violin case strapped to his back.

CABRERA: $1.7 million.

For today's "Faces of Faith", we're talking about Oprah. Some atheists are demanding an apology from her after her interview with endurance swimmer Diana Nyad.

BLACKWELL: Now Nyad appeared on Oprah's program "Super Soul Sunday" to talk about, of course this, her historic swim from Cuba to Key West. Well, when Nyad described being an atheist, Oprah challenged that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DIANA NYAD, LONG DISTANCE SWIMMER: I can stand at the beach's edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity -- all the billions of people who lived before us who have loved and hurt.


NYAD: And suffered -- to me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity. And as we return to --

WINFREY: Well I don't call you an atheist then. I think if you believe in the awe --


WINFREY: -- and wonder and the mystery --


WINFREY: -- that that is what God is.


WINFREY: That is what God is. God is not the bearded guy in the sky.

NYAD: It's not bearded. But I guess there is an inference with God that there is a presence. There is either a creator or overseer.


CABRERA: So Oprah's response to Diana Nyad insulted some atheists. One group started a campaign against Oprah saying she's got it all wrong and now they want Oprah to invite an atheist onto her show to set the record straight.

BLACKWELL: Joining us to talk about it Chris Stedman he is assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University he's also the author of "Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground With The Religious." It's good to have you with us.

CHRIS STEDMAN, AUTHOR, "FAITHEIST": Thank you. It's great to be on the show.

CABRERA: So, Chris, explain what Oprah is getting wrong here.

STEDMAN: Well, to me this incident underscores the fact there is a lot of misunderstanding about who atheists are and what we believe. You know, what I took away from this conversation between Diana Nyad and Oprah Winfrey is that Oprah essentially erased Diana Nyad's atheist identity. She said I know you identify as an atheist but I don't see you that way because my understanding of what an atheist is this and you claim to be that. Therefore, I don't see you as an atheist.

So to me this really underscores the need for more dialogue and understanding about what our differences are. And what was beautiful about what Diana Nyad said, I think, is that she really emphasized the things that we have in common but also maintained her own position as an atheist and I just wish that Oprah had respected her identity and understood better where she and many other atheists are coming from.

BLACKWELL: Chris, I want to read for you and for our viewers a tweet from Diana Nyad. October 13th she tweeted to Oprah -- at Oprah rather, "The collective respect and awe of all living souls is my definition of God. So God is love in those terms."

My question to follow up with from that tweet is how do atheists with the belief that there is no overseer, there is no God reconcile that belief with all the beauty that Diana Nyad just talked about, the seas, the gems, the sunset?

STEDMAN: Sure. Well to me, there's no contradiction there. There's nothing to reconcile. As an atheist, I believe that there is no God. There is no overseer. But to me, that actually increases my awe and my wonder for the natural world. If it wasn't created but rather is here, I still find a lot of -- a lot of wonder in that. And I can look out at the natural world and be amazed by what exists. And I don't need to connect that to the idea of a God or deity or any sort of supernatural force to derive inspiration from that.

And what I really appreciated about what Diana Nyad had to say is that she really understood and articulated so well that we can get inspiration and awe from humanity, from the people around us and for me as an atheist and as a secular humanist, that is really where I derive my sense of awe and wonder from the most.

In addition to the natural world and everything that's so spectacular about that. I find that when I see people of all different religious and nonreligious backgrounds come together and try to understand one another better, work together and buck our instincts to separate ourselves to remain separate and apart from one another, I find that to be awe inducing. And I thought Diana Nyad just articulated that so beautifully.

CABRERA: And what I think I'm hearing you say is there is a difference between religion and spirituality. So are you saying an atheist can still be spiritual?

STEDMAN: Well, Diana Nyad said that, and other atheists have said that as well. I personally wouldn't identify myself as spiritual. But I think the important takeaway from this conversation is that people identify in many different ways and our understanding of the world spirituality and religion are so different. And I think it really reflects the need for much more conversation about this.

I mean we live today in the United States and perhaps the most religiously diverse society in the history of the planet.

But religious literacy rates are incredibly low. We know very little about religion. We know even less about people who believe different things than we do. And when we don't know or understand very much about our differences and we're not in conversation with one another, fear and misinformation proliferate the dialogue around religion.

And I think what this emphasizes for me is the real need for people to meet and to get to know people who are different from them.

As a queer person, I know this very well that in the last decade 14 percent of Americans have gone from opposing same sex-marriage to supporting it. And according to a study, the number one reason why they changed their minds is because they had a relationship with someone who is gay or lesbian. Relationships are transformative. And in fact only two percent of people who change their minds did so because they came to believe that gay and lesbian people are born that way. So education matters but really relationships are the key.

And so I think this, to me, underscores the real need for much more relationship building across lines of religious difference, particularly between those who do not believe in God and those who do so that we can come to better understand each other.

BLACKWELL: Chris Stedman from Harvard University the book is "Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious". We of course, like to have the conversation. We appreciate you for being part of it. Thank you.

STEDMAN: Thank you so much.

CABRERA: And for more stories on faith, if you'd like to read Chris' blog on this issue, be sure to check out our belief blog at

BLACKWELL: Ted Cruz goes home to the heart of Texas and gets a hero's welcome. He also sits down for an exclusive interview with CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION". We'll have a sneak peek just ahead.


BLACKWELL: We've got a busy week ahead. So let's get you up to date on what is happening this week.

We're going to start Monday of course in New Jersey. Same sex couples are allowed to legally wed. According to New Jersey Supreme Court the state is unlikely to succeed in an upcoming January appeal.

Up next -- I don't like this -- Tuesday, nearby in New York City the second mayoral debate between Republican Joe Lhota and his Democratic opponent De Blasio.

Also on Tuesday, there it is. If you need a new iPad, this might be your day. Rumors are running wild that Apple will unveil the latest version of their popular tablet.

Wednesday, President Obama will meet with Nawaz Sharif Pakistan's Prime Minister to the White House. Of course, they're talking about the stability in the region, economic interest. That's on Wednesday.

And then Thursday, the one year anniversary of super storm Sandy on October 24th, 2012. The storm which was then a hurricane made land fall in Jamaica.

Also on Thursday, set your DVR because "Blackfish" airs right here on CNN. It's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. It is a chilling documentary about captive Orcas. So that's Thursday night at 9:00.

And in Friday, good news for furloughed federal workers to start getting that back pay after going without paychecks for three weeks. We made it through the flip calendar thing. I did my best -- Ana.

CABRERA: "STATE OF THE UNION" comes your way at top of the hour 9:00 Eastern. Of course the question now is where do we go from here? What can we expect out of Washington? CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger sitting in today for Candy Crowley. Gloria, good morning. Who is on the program today?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we've got a really great program if you want to answer those questions. First of all, we've got Senator Ted Cruz who led the charge on Obamacare and the government shutdown.

And then, of course, we have Senator John McCain who was once the maverick in the Senate fighting the new maverick Ted Cruz. Our Dana Bash went to San Antonio, Texas, yesterday. Spent the entire day with Ted Cruz. She says he was welcomed like a hero back home. We'll have to see what Senator John McCain says about how Washington can extract itself from this terrible mess we've created.

CABRERA: Interesting. You have two guys, same side of the aisle, two different viewpoints and really representing kind of the infighting going on within the Republican Party.

BORGER: Right. And we're -- you know we want to ask them both about how the Republican Party gets out of all of this. It's never good for a party to have open warfare, civil war right there on the Senate floor and on the House floor.

And the question is also, of course, how can anybody get anything done? How does this affect the President's agenda going forward on immigration for example? And we also really want to talk about Obamacare. You know, this whole fight with the government shutdown kind of obscured the real problems with Obamacare and how many people are enrolled and whether they find it too difficult to get enrolled. And we're going to have to see what these two folks say about the future of Obamacare and whether they actually think it can work.

CABRERA: Yes, a lot to talk about for the future of our country.

BORGER: Yes we do.

CABRERA: Gloria Borger we'll be watching.

BORGER: Thanks.

CABRERA: So stay right here for CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." Again Gloria Borger in for Candy Crowley it starts at the top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Again, right here on CNN. BLACKWELL: Next on NEW DAY, new criticism about the lack of diversity on SNL. So are there enough women? And black women on the sketch show and in comedy and the field of comedy anyway. Comedian and former Mad TV star Debra Wilson joins us to discuss the controversy.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know it's true. I'm Reba (ph). And you should vote for me because I'm the real female vocalist of the year. I've toured nonstop. I've been selling records. I've been hauling that Melissa Peterson around nonstop. And you know I need an award for putting up with Reba. You know it's been 23 years since I won female vocalist of the year? 23 years -- I'll show you 23 years. I've just had my biggest number one ever with "Consider Me Girl" (ph). It was four weeks in number one -- Reba?


CABRERA: Of course that was "Saturday Night Live" cast member Keenan Thompson doing his impression of country singer Reba McEntire.

BLACKWELL: But don't expect to see Thompson doing anything like that again soon. The comedian says he's done playing female characters as a protest of the show's lack of diversity.

CABRERA: Of course, you know the famous names -- Sandler, Farley, Murray, Murphy --

BLACKWELL: Yes. SNL may be where comedy legends are born but not necessarily if you're a woman or a performer of color.

CABRERA: In fact, there's more than a dozen members -- in the current cast there are no black women and the trend is nothing new. There have only been four black women in the show's nearly four decades long run.

BLACKWELL: Joining us now is Debra Wilson. She is a comedian and a former Mad TV star. Good to have you with us. And you're in the West Coast so it is especially early out there.


BLACKWELL: Debra, for years you competed against SNL and the late night sketch comedy wars. What are your thoughts on this controversy? I want to read first Keenan Thompson said just so we have the quote right. He says "It's just a tough part of the business, like in auditions they just never find ones that are ready -- talking about black women.

First, are there too few? And is he right that it's too tough and black comedians aren't ready?

WILSON: There is no right and there is no wrong, especially when it comes to the industry. It depends on what people are looking for and what they want.

I'm going to play devil's advocate on this. And I think a lot of people will be surprised at what I have to say. First of all, with "Saturday Night Live", and a show like that which is iconic, it's been on for as long as it has for 38 years, Lorne Michaels pretty much is going to do whatever he wants to do.

Now, if he says he can't find them, that's a whole different story as opposed to the women that have been coming on to actually audition. So on a subjective level, if women have been coming on and they're not meeting the criteria or what he feels is the criteria in the show in the past 38 years, then he has a right to say that. He has a right to do that and the producers have a right to say that the women that are actually auditioning don't meet the criteria for what they're looking for, for the show. And that's fair and honest. I think we need to be fair and honest in this as well.

If you're talking about black women in general or women of color who aren't funny, that's a whole different issue. So we have to pick and choose what the real issue is that we're looking at and say let's address that. So if the issue is that women of color are not funny, then that's not the case. But if the issue is the women that they're looking at specifically who are auditioning for the show, then that's a whole other story and they have a right to that.

CABRERA: Would you consider auditioning for the show?

WILSON: No. I would not. I would consider coming on and doing a guest star appearance but not as a celebrity, obviously. But if they were ever looking for women of color to do things that have been done out there in the media that are well known, celebrities. I've done Oprah for a number of years. I've done Whitney Houston for a number of years. I've actually played white female characters. I've actually done black male characters. I've done Chris Tucker for a period of time. And I would gladly come on and have a great time doing that.

In fact, we have two Mad TV alumni that did the show. Jeff Richards who was on it for a couple of seasons and now Terrence Hillem (ph) who was one of the youngest cast members on Mad TV at the time.

Now the other issue is people are up in arms simply because they're saying there aren't enough women of color. Yes, there aren't enough women of color but that's their choice. Again, I think people are going to be surprised that I'm going to play devil's advocate on this. But that's their choice.

And I think there is enough talent out there if they're really saying if Lorne Michaels and his team over at SNL are saying that they really aren't interested, then seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened, ask and it shall be given. There are a number of very, very talented women of color out there who are rocking it.

One particular that I can think of is named Daniele Gaither. She followed me in with my predecessor on Mad TV. She's hilarious and she is a triple threat. She can sing. She can act. BLACKWELL: I'm going to get your response to a quote --

WILSON: She does sketch, she does improv and she's amazing.

BLACKWELL: We're running low on time but I want to get your response to something. You talked about your playing black male characters. Keenan Thompson says he's not going to play any more black women.

I want to read something that I read online on a blog Madame Noire by Charing Ball. And she writes, "Let's not ignore how black women have been completely censored, mischaracterized, eventually erased comically not just by the white decision makers who deny them platforms but also with assistance from our very own black brothers who seem more than willing to sell out our image for a check."

The question is -- I mean there are some people you just cannot ignore in sketch comedy. Oprah is one, Whitney Houston is one -- a lot of black female celebrities. If black men on these shows say we're not going to play them, wouldn't they have to find black women to play some of these roles?

WILSON: Absolutely. Absolutely. So that's why I say there are two subjects here. Whether or not "Saturday Night Live" is a blanket statement on that black women aren't funny enough or women of color aren't funny enough or they're just not really looking in places where these women are. They're there. They're out there. And they are ready and available.

It's just that I think that the women that have been auditioning or gone through that process may not be ready. May or may not be ready. And that is purely up to the producers to make that decision. But are there women of color out there who are stellar in what they do? Absolutely. And they deserve that opportunity.

It's just a matter of getting them opportunity and being seen. Because like I said before, when it comes to Lorne Michaels, my quote is this, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened, ask and it shall be given. They're out there. They're willing. They're ready. And they're extremely talented.

CABRERA: Debra, a quick yes or no question. Is "Saturday Night Live" discriminating?

WILSON: It's not a yes or no question. I'm sorry. It's too blanket for me to answer that. Bottom line is they're going to do what they want to do. This is a television show. This is not a democracy. So to be fair to both "Saturday Night Live" and to be fair to the truth -- the truth is that they're going to do what they want to do the way they want to do it and they have that right.

BLACKWELL: Debra Wilson, with us from Los Angeles -- thank you so much.

WILSON: Absolutely. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Finally on this NEW DAY, our "Must-See Moment".

BLACKWELL: This has got to be the worst greeter ever at Wal-Mart. Look. It's a 6 foot alligator just kicking it near the front door of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. This is in (inaudible) Florida -- they have these issues in Florida. It's northwest of Orlando.

CABRERA: Wal-Mart security blocked off the entrance to the store while authorities then helped lure the gator away.

BLACKWELL: Another surprising find in Florida, look, another alligator this time in a hot tub. Police near Vero Beach were serving a drug warrant when they found this thing outside. The owner says the alligator was there when he moved in. So he fed it chicken. It came with the house, apparently. The owner has now been arrested. It's not clear yet what will happen to the gator.

CABRERA: And so he just feeds it chicken --


BLACKWELL: Yes. He was here first.

CABRERA: -- ok.

Talk about the one that got away. A nine foot tiger shark gave a Florida fisherman a run for his money. Paul Colbert (ph) of St. Petersburg struggled for 20 minutes trying to reel in the big fish. He even managed to bring it to the surface but it didn't work. The shark dove deep, snapping his fishing pole in half. Afterwards Colbert said it felt like pulling a semi-truck -- so powerful.

BLACKWELL: But look at the size of that. He's got that pull. I know they're reinforced. But it seems like the fish is exactly where it should be.

CABRERA: I wish we had ended on the alligator story so we could say "see you later alligator".

BLACKWELL: You still can. This is your opportunity.

CABRERA: Because this is that time of the show. Thank you so much for watching today.

BLACKWELL: "STATE OF THE UNION" starts right now. Gloria Borger is in for Candy Crowley this week.