Return to Transcripts main page


50th Anniversary of Kennedy Assassination; White Students Charged in Hate Crimes; Women Held for Decades in "Invisible Handcuffs"

Aired November 22, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Today, we pause to remember the moment that forever changed our nation, honoring President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his tragic assassination.

Hello everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, it's Friday November22nd. His administration lasted only a thousand days, cut short by a bullet in Dallas on this very day, 50 years ago.

John F. Kennedy, here with first lady Jackie Kennedy by his side in an open car, smiling to the cheering crowds, and then those terrible shots ringing out, echoing through the city and right across the nation, if not around the world.

This morning members of the Kennedy family laid a wreath at the president's grave in Arlington National Cemetery, its flame always burning.

Across the Potomac, President Obama ordered that flags be lowered to half staff at the White House and government buildings to mark this solemn day.

Just after 12:00 noon, bells will toll in the city of Dallas, the start of a special ceremony on this 50th anniversary.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more on today's events.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At 12:30, the moment that gunshots echoed through Dealey Plaza 50 years ago, bells will toll across the city of Dallas, a poignant moment honoring John F. Kennedy's life.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (Inaudible) the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free.

LAVANDERA: Historian David McCullough will read passages from some of President Kennedy's speeches.

KENNEDY: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

LAVANDERA: Five thousand people were invited to attend the Dealey Plaza ceremony, but no one from the Kennedy family will be here.

The president's daughter, Caroline Kennedy, just started working as the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

For the organizers of the event, like former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, this anniversary is a chance for Dallas to come to terms with the tragedy.

RON KIRK, THE 50TH COMMITTEE: What we were looking for is an opportunity to mark an occasion that is a moment that's important in American history and world history, but do it in a way in which we can reflect on President Kennedy's legacy.

LAVANDERA: There will be no mention of Lee Harvey Oswald who was buried in Fort Worth. Fresh flowers have been left on his gravesite this week.

And you won't see the conspiracy theorists who still preach on the grassy knoll, like eyewitness James Tague, who watching the motorcade that day.

One of the shots fired struck the curb at his feet. Debris flew up and cut his face.

Do you feel a little slighted, not being invited to the service?

JAMES TAGUE, EYEWITNESS: No. I don't. I was the guest speaker at exactly -- at the exact time on the 40th anniversary.

But none of us witnesses are even invited to the 50th. They don't want us. They've made that clear.

LAVANDERA: Another victim often forgotten from the tragic days is Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. His family will hold a candlelight vigil Friday night at the exact spot where Oswald shot the officer as he escaped downtown Dallas.

Today's ceremony will end with the unveiling of a new monument to the president, inscribed with a passage from the speech Kennedy was supposed to give in Dallas that afternoon.

It reads, in part, "We in this country, in this generation, are the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility."

Words left unspoken 50 years ago, but resurrected for a new generation.


BANFIELD: And our Ed Lavandera joins us live now from the city of Dallas.

So, Ed, you're just down the street from where I used to live, and I used to drive by Dealey Plaza, daily.

But it's so different now, and it is solemn. What exactly are they doing right now, and how is this going to play out today?

LAVANDERA: Well, this is anything unlike this city has seen before in the 50 years since the assassination took place here on Elm Street.

We're in Dealey Plaza. It's been cordoned off. There are 5,000 people who were invited to attend this ceremony.

We'll hear briefly from the mayor, and we'll also hear historian David McCullough read excerpts from the speeches that President Kennedy gave.

But this has never been done before here in the city of Dallas, and I think this really speaks to how much this city has struggled over the last five decades, coming to terms with the fact that the assassination happened here and how difficult that has been for so many people.

Many people talk about how -- what a joyous day it was. It was a beautiful blue-skied day. Thousands and tens of thousands of people had lined the streets of Dallas to watch this motorcade.

This was the tail end, here on Elm Street, just a few feet from where we're standing is where President Kennedy was assassinated. And the fact that this entire area has been cordoned off is unlike anything this city has ever seen.

BANFIELD: So, Ed, they used to call that -- back in the day, they used to call that weather a Kennedy day, because it seemed whenever the president traveled, it would be sunny.

And as I recall, it started out as a rainy, miserable day, and it turned into that beautiful day.

But everyone just remembers Dallas because of that shooting, it seems. And that's something, as you said, that city has been dealing with.

So are they looking forward in the commemoration today? Are they looking back? Are they doing a mixture of both?

LAVANDERA: Well, what you're not going to hear talk about is all of the, you know, controversy, the conspiracy theories and that sort of thing.

What this city really wants to do, and what it has taken them a long time to come to terms with was how do they honor this city?

You know, there was a lot of talk about how vilified Kennedy was in this city back in 1963 at this time. But a lot of people will point out, you know, if he was so vilified by so many people, then why did tens of thousands of people turn out to greet him that day?

The images of him coming off of Air Force One and being cheered and hugged, and the number of people who turned out to watch him was staggering in many people's opinions.

So this was a city that was labeled the "City of Hate," the "City That Killed Kennedy."

In fact, President Kennedy had said there was an announcement in the paper welcoming him to town in very ugly terms, if you will, and he said he was going to nut country.

So this was a very difficult time for this city and they hope that this will help put all of that behind them.

BANFIELD: And for anyone who goes to Dallas and sees the Sixth Floor Museum, it is an experience that you just -- you never forget, one of the more remarkable museums in this country, I'll say.

Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.

And you don't want to miss CNN's very special coverage of the memorial in Dallas. You can tune in at 1:00 Eastern. We've got wall-to-wall coverage for you.

It will all be live. We'll bring that to you.

And, of course, 50 years after the assassination, the 35th president of the United States looms large.

And historians are divided over whether Kennedy would have steered this country to a successful administration, had he lived, or whether he wouldn't have.

But today, he is the most popular president of the last half century, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. Just look at those numbers. I mean, really look at those numbers. He's got an approval rating of 90 percent.

Second place goes to Ronald Reagan, followed by Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Richard Nixon rounding out the numbers as well. And you can see the comparison.

Compare that to President Obama whose numbers have plummeted recently, with an approval rating now of 41 percent, with 56 percent disproving of how he is handling his job.

Apples and oranges, you may say. Probably. Because everything changes when you're no longer president. And that president, JFK, was something completely different.

Joining us now with his insights to JFK and President Obama, as well, and everything in between, Professor Larry Sabato.

He is the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. He is also the author of the book, "The Kennedy Half-Century -- The Presidency, Assassination and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy." And he is live with us in Dallas.

Professor, thank you so much for being here today. Could you just wax a little bit on this notion of a 90-percent approval rating.

How much of that is the fond memory of what could have been as opposed to what really was?

PROFESSOR LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: I think you're exactly right. Look, the assassination, which occurred after just 1,036 days in office for JFK, in essence elevated him to a status of a secular saint. His low points and personal problems were washed away by the blood of his assassination.

Your poll is exactly reflective of another survey that I had in "The Kennedy Half-Century" that also showed Kennedy to be the most popular post-World War II president.

And what was striking is that Democrats and Republicans alike have a very high opinion of Kennedy because he had liberal and conservative sides.

This is a very polarized era we live in today, and I think people pine for the kind of bipartisanship that really did exist at least in key moments in the 1960s.

BANFIELD: We often look back at things that were terrific.

But, Professor, there were things going on in the White House that would have him kicked out in a, you know, a quick second. I mean, all sorts of things that the press looked the other way.

Why was that? Why did so many presidents, and particularly JFK, get such a pass on those things back then?

SABATO: The rules were very different. It's hard for us to believe today, but there was really an unspoken and sometimes spoken agreement between politicians and the press that what went on in their private lives was not to be reported on in public.

It stuns us, given the fact that we cover candidates not just microscopically, but proctoscopically, in terms of their private lives.

But in the 1960s, that wasn't true at all. And it wasn't just Kennedy. Politicians in both parties, to put it bluntly, got away with a great deal.

There were, for example, U.S. senators who fell down, dead drunk, in front of the press gallery --

BANFIELD: And never got a notice.

SABATO: -- in the Senate --

BANFIELD: You're right.

SABATO: -- never mentioned.

BANFIELD: Never got a notice.

Larry, let me just ask you one thing. And I have to make this a quick question and a quick answer.

But why is it my era and my mother's era and even kids in their 20s are almost equally fascinated by the Kennedy lure and the legend?

SABATO: Because he translates so well into the 21st century.

Look, he's Hollywood handsome. He had a perfect family, at least on the surface. He was inspirational.

And as a rhetorician, I don't think he's matched by any other presidents. You can argue for Reagan, you can argue for Obama, but Kennedy had a self-deprecating wit that set him apart.

BANFIELD: Or Lincoln, as well.

Larry Sabato, good to talk to you on this occasion. I couldn't have picked a better guest, someone more savvy about the topic and the subject matter. Larry Sabato, joining us live, thank you.

SABATO: Thank you.

BANFIELD: I want to turn our attention to another story that we're following right now.

A college campus outraged, sickened, in fact, after three students are charged with hate crimes allegedly after putting a bicycle lock around their black roommate's neck.


BANFIELD: In California, three white students have been temporarily taken out, sent away, from their university, San Jose State, for allegedly harassing an African American roommate. Details of what they allegedly did were bad enough to be labeled a hate crime and also landed one of the students, who was suspended, in the county jail. A school administrator says he's absolutely stumped as to why no one spoke up sooner.


WILLIAM NANCE, V.P. STUDENT AFFAIRS, SAN JOSE STATE UNIV.: Stunning to me that it would be able to continue for a period of time without somebody saying this just isn't right. It just doesn't make sense. Whether that's a student in the room, whether it's a student down the hall.


BANFIELD: I want to get straight out to CNN's Dan Simon in San Jose who has been following this. When I heard of the details of this, I thought it couldn't be true. I mean swastikas, pictures of Hitler, the N-word scrawled on something on the wall, confederate flags. How are they characterizing this and how much farther did this go, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It can only be described as an extreme form of taunting and racism. And we should point out that the alleged victim didn't go to the authorities. It was actually his parents who came to see him in his dorm room and saw some of this ugly stuff up on the walls and they alerted housing officials who then alerted police. But this allegedly went on for two to three months. You mentioned some of it. All of this stuff on the walls, confederate symbols, Nazi symbols, pictures of Adolf Hitler. And there was also verbal taunting. According to the police complaint, which is 24 pages. I mean it's unbelievable, but when you go through some of this stuff. He was referred to as 3/5, which is a reference to the Constitution's original formula counting slaves as 3/5 of a person. And when he objected, they started calling him fraction. Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: It's just unbelievable. There's no other way to put it. Dan Simon live for us. Thank you for that.

I want to bring in our legal panel on this to find out just exactly what these young men might face. CNN's legal analyst and defense attorney Mark O'Mara joins us live, as well as HLN legal analyst and defense lawyer, Joey Jackson.

Mark, let me start with you. Misdemeanor hate crime and battery. How serious is that, given what Dan Simon just told us.

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is serious. A hate crime in California can enhance the sentence by one, two, or three years. It's up to the judge, so the judge can say you're getting more of a sentence because it's a hate crime. And quite honestly, if this is happening the way it's happening there and anyplace else, it has to be prosecutes a lot. As a criminal defense attorney, I'm not asking for more prosecution generally, but a crime like this, with the way they did this, it has to send a signal that this is not going to be accepted.

BANFIELD: So, Joey, pne of the things that I was looking for in all of these details was other than the insults -- look, I think that's a light way of referring to these things. There was an incident where they put a lock around his neck and he tried to fight them off and actually was injured. Does that change the game?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It does in this respect. Also there's battery charges and the battery charges relate to the offensive touching. As a result of subduing him, what they did, apparently, what the allegations is that they held him down to put this bike lock around his neck and say, hey, we lost the key. So certainly that we have a physical touching and that physical touching is offensive, you get the hate crime in addition to the battery.

BANFIELD: Well, for one of their party, they're downplaying all of this saying that it wasn't harassment. But I think they'll have to do that in court. And we'll revisit this to find out that side of the story. Thank you to you both. Don't go anywhere if you would, Mark O'Mara and Joey Jackson. Thank you.

Scotland Yard. We brought this to you yesterday as it was breaking. We're trying to figure out what exactly happened with three women who were allegedly held captive for up to three decades, maybe longer. One investigator says that these women were held in invisible handcuffs. We'll take you live to London for more details, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: We are learning more details this morning in a shocking case of alleged slavery in London. Police in London say that they rescued three women who were living in, quote, invisible handcuffs and endured decades of horrifying physical and psychological abuse. The couple arrested for allegedly keeping them captive for approximately 30 years have now been released on bail. Which may be surprising in itself.

We're live now in London. I think a lot of people have a lot of questions about what the circumstances were in that home, Diana. What are the charges that we're looking at for this couple? And by God, why are the police not releasing their names and yet releasing them, at least the court system is releasing them back in the public?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, I think it all boils down to fact that the police aren't really sure at this stage what to charge them with. They were arrested with -- with suspicion of being involved in human trafficking and enforced servitude. But the police are now saying that in fact this doesn't fit under the category of slavery as we understand it, of forced labor, and doesn't have anything to do with human trafficking.

That said, they put the entire human trafficking department here at Scotland Yard on the case. That's all 37 officers. So, it is very peculiar. They say that what we're looking at here, and what they're trying to unravel is three decade's worth of very disturbing emotional and psychological abuse that these women went through.

And they're saying it doesn't fit any kind of case that we've ever seen before. What we're also trying to ascertain is what the relationship was between the three women who were held captive. One was a Malaysian woman age 69, one was an Irish lady age 57, and one was a British woman age 30 years old, and we're hearing from the Freedom Charity, who orchestrated their release alongside the police, that that woman may have been born into captivity. Which begs the question was she born of the couple who are the suspects and now released on bail? Let's take a listen to what the police have to say.


KEVIN HYLAND, DETECTIVE INSPECTOR, METROPOLITAN POLICE: That really is what I'm investigating at the moment, what the relationships between these people are. When I say relationships, I'm both looking at the relationships as in biological, and I'm also looking at relationships how they interacted. Clearly, the allegations are that people were being controlled subject of coercion, violence. And as you're aware, this goes back at least three decades. So there's a lot for us to untangle.


MAGNAY: And a lot that we don't understand. A lot that police clearly don't understand either at this stage.

BANFIELD: That's absolutely perplexing that they can't at least get an assault charges given the fact there's allegations of regular beatings that went on in that house. Diana, keep on it for us. And let us know how it shakes out. Remarkable story in London. Diana Magnay for us, live.

George Zimmerman just can't seem to stay out of a courtroom it seems. And now his wife is speaking out. Yes, she is estranged, yes, she is seeking a divorce. And his former lawyer, Mark O'Mara, has some thoughts live right beside me, on his former client, next.