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Obamacare Faces First Test; Second Spacewalk Delayed; Defrocked Methodist Pastor Offered Job; Duck Dynasty Back On Sale; Erasing Memories With Shock Treatment; PR Executive Fired Over Tweet; Teachers Save Bus Full Of Students

Aired December 23, 2013 - 07:30   ET


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- the president can only hope here that it just starts to get better for people, stop the bleeding, it starts to get better. Politically by next September, October, next Election Day in November, people feel a lot better about it. If you go through these numbers, both the enrolment numbers, which are beyond schedule, they are growing. These poll numbers, I hope the president is enjoying the beach because he's got a tough job for the New Year.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Sure does, great to see you, John.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The irony is health care was such a mess already. People need so much help already.

BOLDUAN: How can you make it more of a mess?

CUOMO: Just when you think it can't be any worse, well, here's the good news. Two days to Christmas, Michaela's early gift was a little time off so another gift for you is having Miguel Marquez here with the headlines.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: I think that's sweet, all wrapped up. Making news today, the weather toying with holiday plans across the country, people in the south saw drenching rains and some tornadoes while the Midwest was covered in ice. More rain, cool and snow expected in the regions today. New York City saw an outbreak of nice weather temperatures hitting 70 degrees during the first official weekend of winter, but they're expecting it up to near freezing tonight.

It will be Christmas Eve spacewalk for astronauts on the International Space Station. They were supposed to be working outside today to fix a problem with the station's cooling systems. But issues with a space suit on Saturday caused them to delay the walk. A space spare suit will be used for Tuesday's spacewalk, which is scheduled to be in just after 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

And a Methodist pastor who was defrocked after officiating at his son's gay wedding has a new job offer. A bishop in California invited Reverend Frank Schaffer to serve in her region. Methodist Bishop Minerva Cardcano does not have authority to restore his credentials, but says he would have the same right. Schaffer had led a church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and has yet to decide if he will accept the decision. On Friday, he appealed the church's decision to defrock him.

"Duck Dynasty" products are back on the shelves at Cracker Barrel stores. The chain had removed the merchandise after the show's star, Phil Robertson, made harsh anti-gay comments and racially insensitive ones in a magazine article. But Cracker Barrel says the decision ended up offending customers. It reversed course after two days. The items included t-shirts, a talking key chain and camouflage jelly beans.

Remember the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Well, it may be real. Scientists said yes, it maybe. It may be possible to erase painful memories using shock therapy. I could use some myself. Research published in the journal detailed an experiment where patients were shown a disturbing story in words and pictures. A week later, they were remained about it and given electroshock. They had no recall of the distressing story. The study could lead to new treatments for depression post-traumatic stress disorder and even addictions.

CUOMO: I want to joke, it's ripe for a joke, but there is so much people have in this society today with mental illness and emotionally driven mental illness, anything they could do to alleviate it would be amazing.

MARQUEZ: Well, and having spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, we both know just the devastating memories for both Americans and for people there, just the horrors that happen.

CUOMO: Absolutely. So that would be amazing research at best. Miguel, thank you for being here as always.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, more evidence, we all need to think before tweeting, a PR executive created a fire storm with a single shocking tweet. Later on, comedian, Steve Martin, sent his on tasteless jokes. What about all the insensitivity on the internet? We will talk about it.

CUOMO: And meet two heroes, teachers taking the wheel when a bus driver loses control. We will talk to them and hear their amazing story all caught on the video you are watching right now.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is being called the tweet heard around the world. Sixty four characters, many are calling offensive and racist from a woman named Justine Sacco. She is now the former head of corporate communications force IAS. Sacco sent a controversial tweet just before boarding a flight to South Africa and was unavailable as her message kicked up a storm of criticism online.

This is the latest in a string of controversies right over insensitive comments including a tweet from Steve Martin and insensitive words from "Duck Dynasty" patriarch, Phil Robertson. Let's figure out what's going on with this. How real a trend? Is it media driven? A lot of interesting questions here. So let's bring in from Washington CNN senior media correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Mr. Brian Stelter. It's great to have you with us, Brian. Thank you for joining us.


CUOMO: You look very Wolf Blitzer like with the capitol over your shoulder like that.

STELTER: It's a foggy morning. It's kind of eerie.

CUOMO: Well, you know what? And yet it is appropriate because these are foggy times we are living in, Brian. What do we see here? You work with Sacco a little bit so you know her a little bit that way. But why do you think this got to where it got?

STELTER: I think partly because there was some sort of irony here. She was a PR person, a public relations professional. If anyone should know better than the post a message like that, it should have been her. I mentioned on "RELIABLE SOURCES" yesterday, I would be one of the reporters calling her up, asking her questions about her company from time to time.

I never knew her Twitter account even existed. She was over on Twitter in relative obscurity until this one Twitter message was posted. But she should have known better since she works in this industry.

CUOMO: You know, just for those who are getting up to speed on this story, the tweet was that she was going to South Africa. She hopes she didn't get AIDS. She says, I'm just kicked, I'm white. Adding to it on her side, her father from South Africa, she is going to visit family. She was born in South Africa, kind of plays into her defense. We are not aware. We are not aware. Well, she's from there.

You'd think she would be aware you don't have to live in South Africa to understand the AIDS epidemic and the sensitivities involved, but the reaction, Brian, the hostility, the anger, the vitriol, directed at her such that even the company that fired her had to ask people to go easy on her. What about that part?

STELTER: Well, I honestly thought that by Friday night as her plane was about to land in South Africa after 12 hours of criticism online that the reactions to her, some of the reactions to her were as bad as her post. You know, I would have rather seen people take the higher ground and criticize her, you know, without resorting to the personal, without resorting to the vitriol.

You know, there were death threats seen on Twitter toward her. She hadn't had a chance to tell her side of the story yet. At that point, remember, before her plane landed, we didn't know she had been hacked yet. This is a very 21st Century problem, by the way, I mean, the fact that she's on a plane.

She didn't have internet on the plane. She couldn't see what was going on. She couldn't explain herself, I kind of thought that the trial by social media was just as bad as her initial post.

CUOMO: Yes, you talk about your kangaroo courts. You have a great head on this, help me with this. You have Sacco. You then have Steve Martin. Someone asks him how he is doing, like grammar things with his Twitter followers. He makes a joke on how to spell lesonia or something like that. He says, are you in an African-American or Italian restaurant. He deletes it, says this was insensitive.

I'm an Italian-American. I didn't think he was insensitive. He did, people did, but again, the reaction is very harsh. We have the father with a 4-year-old running next to him. He is chiding his child, run faster. You are going to be a football player. In each of these instances especially on Twitter, the reactions are so vicious. It makes me wonder what's going on because that's new to me, Brian, your take.

STELTER: Maybe it's that we have higher standards for these people, you know, Steve Martin is a celebrity. We expect some humor from him. We are also very sensitive to people that seem to be getting themselves in hot water. I think he was very careful to delete that tweet quickly and apologize. He followed with a playbook so to speak about how to handle these situations.

Justine Sacco couldn't because she was on a plane. She finally apologized yesterday after a day-and-a-half had passed by. The truth about the Twitter and Facebook and internet in general, there were hateful swamps wherever you go. I for one try to avoid those swamps. I think viewers at home probably should, too.

Once in a while, you see racist sensitive messages, it shocks us. It's understandable why we react. Why we want to know why people post these things. I think people have to make sure they keep on the higher ground and not resort to being as insensitive or as mean as the original comments.

CUOMO: The hypocrisy there that is stark, but I also feel like it's pushing the tone in general. I mean, you are now in the pond with the rest of us, Brian. You will see now, will you start feeling those little teeth on your ankles about what happens online here in cable, especially. I feel like the stone shifting in a bad way. It's no longer, Stelter, you are a good looking guy and you are a smart guys, but I disagree with your reporting.

It's now you are a dummy. You are lucky if that's all it is and it gets worse from there and I feel like it is bleeding into what is allowable on many levels. That's the concern, isn't it?

STELTER: Well, that may actually be the positive when we have a Justine Sacco case. When there is a conversation that gets going about the fever swamps of the internet. I think it probably prods people to think twice or think three times before they post something and to think twice before they criticize someone else. That might be one of the silver linings. You know, another silver lining is that there have been more donations to AIDS groups in Africa in the last couple days. I at least find that to be a positive part of this whole crazy story. CUOMO: For you, it is, indeed, a silver lining. It would be nice if in situations that are ugly, we can find ways to do better, which is one of my favorite hashtags on Twitter. Brian Stelter, great to have you with us. You are doing great here so far. Enjoy yourself. Stay off Twitter. You are good on Twitter. Defend me on Twitter instead. How about that?

STELTER: I'll chime in. Good to see you.

CUOMO: Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, an American sentenced to a year in prison just this morning in the United Arab Emirates, his crime, posting a parody video online. It's a story we've been following closely. We are going to be talking to his brother about the sentence coming up.

Also, it could have been a very tragic story. Instead, it was a close call caught on camera. We are talking with two teachers, two heroes who helped save a bus filled with children.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. Let's get a look at the weather after a very crazy weekend -- Indra Petersons.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's a good word to describe it. I'm going to give yu that. There is a lot going on and there continues to be as we have all of these extremes out there. First, let's take a look at New England into the northeast. We are still dealing with a little bit of leftover of icing out there, possibly another quarter of an inch is still in the forecast here.

Then let's go to the south, heavy rain with flooding concerns with the warmer weather still kind of kicking through the area. We are going to be watching as that front kind of making its way offshore, taking its time off the Carolinas, still, even overnight tonight, we are going to be talking about some rain in that area.

Let's continue the trend, we did the ice, we did the rain, let's go to the snow, off to the Great Lakes, still another 1 to 3 inches of snow possible in that region when will these changes take place? Really the big difference will be through Christmas Eve, Christmas day, you will be talking temperatures 30 to 40 degrees that's the question everyone has been asking, where are we going to see a White Christmas.

Right now, it doesn't look that impressive, maybe around Great Lake, a dusting of snow. That's kind of my question, White Christmas for me means snowing as it's coming down. Not everyone thinks that. What do you think, on the ground or actually snowing?

BOLDUAN: I haven't thought of it that way.

PETERSONS: For me, it has to come down.

CUOMO: Indra has a tendency to parse things like this.

MARQUEZ: Shopping mall, Los Angeles, fake snow, that's what I think.

PETERSONS: I want to see it. It does me no good to walk through it without the beautiful part, right?

CUOMO: I think you're 100 percent right. I'm just a little ashamed that I've never thought of it.

That's it. I've had it. I have to go to the couch. In fact, we all do because for this next story we need to gather around in is great. You've seen the video a little bit. We're going to tell you the story now about these amazing teachers. Please, to the couch.


CUOMO: Let's go to the couch. Walk. Couch activities.

MARQUEZ: I'm getting into it.

CUOMO: To the couch, I'm ready. Two teachers from South Carolina are being called heroes because they are. Why? They saved a bus full of children. They lept into action after the driver became disoriented. They have to take the wheel, stopped the bus from rolling over after veering into a ditch. We're happy to welcome fourth grade teacher, Amy Ryan and sign language expert and interpreter, Lee Morris. Thank you for being here with us on NEW DAY.

All right, so first, help us understand what happened here. You're in the bus as you saw it, how did you get into this situation?

LEE MORRIS, SIGN LANGUAGE EXPERT: Well, it was kind of surprising. You can see from the video I was about to sit back and get a little shut eye. That's when I heard the screaming, the stop -- stop sign being yelled. I looked up and noticed we were about to roll through that intersection without stopping. And the bus driver, he did make a little bit of a turn p. That put us through the intersection to the ditch and as we came back out that's when I was able to jump up and grab the wheel to help out.

CUOMO: So what's your best sense about why you blew through the stop sign and wound up in this situation? You know, we use the word disoriented? Is that what you were able to figure out, Amy, from the driver or he's just blow through the stop sign? What do you think happened?

AMY RYAN, FOURTH GRADE TEACHER: We're not sure exactly even at this moment what happened to the bus driver. I do remember we were all yelling stop, stop, stop! And it didn't appear that he even put the brakes on at all. So I can't even speculate what happened. But it didn't appear that he -- he didn't say anything, so disoriented, I guess, is the best word to describe what happened.

BOLDUAN: So Lee grabs the steering wheel and then you jump into action. What's going through your mind because you basically it looks like jump over him to then hit the brakes in order to help the bus stop? What do you remember thinking when this is all happening?

RYAN: Honestly, I remember thinking I have seen this on the news. I cannot believe this is -- I'm in this situation, this is happening to me. At that moment I don't think I was fearful. I was very scared when we went through the stop sign. I was very scared when we -- when it felt like we were going to tip. At that moment, when I actually went over the bus driver to get to the brakes, I don't think I was scared at that moment. I just knew the bus had to stop.

MORRIS: It's one of those situations where you -- they always say you don't think about what you're doing, and we didn't. Once the bus came out of the dip we just jumped up and started acting.

MARQUEZ: Your reactions were so quick. Hearing the kids' voices on that video is the most disturbing, the screams. When this bus finally came to a stop, what happened in that bus?

RYAN: We both -- what I think is truly amazing is that there were two other teachers on the bus, Mr. Morris and myself and nobody said anything. We all just did something. Lee made calls to 911 and the police. I called the school. The other two teachers were consoling the children. So -- and once the bus came to a stop, the screams ended, the children were crying, some of them, but they were very, very calm.

So it didn't -- it wasn't a chaotic situation, which we're so thankful for. It could have been, very scary. But I think the children trusts us, which I think is a big deal. That's sort of what I keep thinking about is how much trust they put in us.

CUOMO: They certainly do now. We're dealing with a tender age, fourth graders, 9-year-old kids basically. You know, so fragile still, Amy, you've got some serious rise, the way you catapulted up over that driver, do you think that was adrenaline or do you think you have track star background or something like that that allowed you to do that?

RYAN: I run a little bit but I don't think that had anything to do with it. I think I just wanted it stopped.

CUOMO: I mean, that was amazing. So many thankful families for you guys now, amazing presents, those families, coming this Christmas and your own as well because you're going to make it home.

BOLDUAN: A parent even riding behind the bus who said, the way she described it, is she felt so powerless seeing it teetering on the point where it could tip over. I can only imagine how thankful they are for you guys this year.

CUOMO: Lee, Amy, thank you for stepping up and being heroes. I don't care if you don't like the word, that's what it is.

RYAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All the best of the holidays to you and your families.

RYAN: You, as well.

BOLDUAN: Amazing when you see that video.

CUOMO: Most do nothing --

BOLDUAN: I know.

CUOMO: -- in a situation like that - shocked.

MARQUEZ: Scared.

CUOMO: Shocked.

MARQUEZ: Scared. Sure, you're scared and not sure what's going on. For them to jump on that driver, he even got out of the seat.

CUOMO: Extraordinary to do anything, moving the driver, getting around, and her with that Carl Lewis move there. Amazing.

BOLDUAN: Good to highlight them, too.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, we now know his fate. The American held in prison in the United Arab Emirates for posting a joke video online. He gets a one-year sentence. His brother will be joining us live to tell us what is next in their fight to bring their brother back.

CUOMO: And a dad blasted online after this. It's him and his 4-year- old. He's having him run alongside his car, being tough and faster for football. It's getting called parent abuse. People are all over them, death threats, controversy, nontroversy. We'll talk about it coming up.


CUOMO: Travel trouble, bizarre weather sweeping the country, deadly twisters, dangerous ice storms, and elsewhere, record warmth. What's going on? We're going to give you your Christmas predictions coming up.

BOLDUAN: Breaking overnight, the American imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates sentenced to a year in jail, all for posting what he. His family joins us live to react to the news.

CUOMO: Tough love or going too far? This kid forced to run while his dad drives alongside him yelling trying to get him in shape for football. Parents are blasting him and the dad is speaking out. Your NEW DAY continues right now.