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Hoboken Mayor: Christie Withheld Sandy Aid; Agricultural Worries Intensify

Aired January 19, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: New trouble for Chris Christie. Explosive allegations that the governor threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy funds, if his building project wasn't approved. And now, the governor's office is fighting back big.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Rodman goes to rehab. Friends say the North Korea trip is what put him over the edge but does Rodman really have a problem or is he just hiding from the media?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dad, get out of here! You're embarrassing me.

Dad, I'm serious, you told you sit in the bathroom all night. Go away.


BLACKWELL: And it was a big debut on "Saturday Night Live." So did Sasheer Zamata deliver or did the pressure kill the punch line?

Your NEW DAY starts now.


PAUL: Good morning to you.

I have to tell you -- our viewers deliver. I asked them what was for breakfast. Oh, the menus that I'm seeing on Twitter and Facebook.

BLACKWELL: Some traditional and non-traditional choices.


PAUL: I'm loving it.


PAUL: I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Eight o'clock here on the East Coast. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY. And we're starting this hour in New Jersey. And Governor Chris Christie's camp, they are pushing back hard against new claims of political payback tied to Superstorm Sandy.

PAUL: Yes, the mayor of hard hit Hoboken is now saying officials in Christie's administration threatened to withhold Sandy aid money if she didn't support a redevelopment plan favored by the governor.

Now, Democratic Mayor Dawn Zimmer confirmed those claims to CNN.

BLACKWELL: She also provided MSNBC with journal entries, you see them here, that she says back up her claims.

Zimmer's spokesperson gave CNN this statement. I'm going to read it for you.

"The bottom line is that the lieutenant governor came to Hoboken, pulled me aside in a parking lot and made it clear that Sandy aid was contingent on moving ahead with the Rockefeller development. She knew that it was wrong and even said so."

However, just last week, Zimmer told CNN she did not think Sandy aid money was being withheld from Hoboken because she didn't endorse Christie's re-election. You hear the difference there.

Now, CNN has not yet had a chance to question Zimmer about the discrepancy in her statements.

PAUL: But we will.

Responding to the latest claims, a spokesman for Christie, considered a top 2016 Republican presidential contender, remember, blasted the report saying, and I'm quoting here, "Governor Christie and his entire administration have been helping Hoboken get the had help they need after Sandy, with the city already having been approved for nearly $70 million in federal aid and is targeted to get even more when the Obama administration approves the next rounds of funding."

So Christie's camp calls the claim partisan politics, what they say it comes down to.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that it's just partisan politics they're playing there.

The allegations come as evidence, as you know, mounts that aides to Christie arranged to tie up lanes to major bridges -- at least one major bridge, as political revenge.

PAUL: So, couple of different allegations and scandals that I think.

BLACKWELL: To sort it all out.

PAUL: So, we want to, yes, sort it out for you and dig a little deeper.

Candy Crowley and Steve Kastenbaum joining us right now.

Good morning to both of you and thanks for being here.

Steve, I know that you talked to Zimmer last night. What did she tell you?

STEVE KASTENBAUM: She's standing by her word. She says that she believes that this Sandy relief aid was tied to a big real estate development project, a proposal, on the north side of Hoboken. She says she was told by the lieutenant governor during an event in Hoboken, she was taken aside and she was told that essentially, the Sandy relief funds that she requested were contingent on her, on Mayor Zimmer, pushing through this development on the north side of the city.

BLACKWELL: OK. So, Zimmer says she talked to the New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, after an event last May, and then journaled about the conversation right after. We had the pictures of the journal. She even sent CNN pictures, as we said, of those journals.

I think we have them. I can read this one. The handwriting on the screen is tough to decipher but it says, "The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we're not going to be able to help you. I know it's not right. These things should not be connected, but they are," she says. "If you tell anyone I said it, I will deny it."

Of course that's the mayor of Hoboken, Ms. Zimmer, describing the conversation she had with the Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno.

So, Steve, that was seven months ago. Apparently, this happened May 13th. Did she say why she waited until now to come out with this?

KASTENBAUM: I didn't have the chance to ask her that. She had a very brief conversation with me very late last night, and so I didn't get to put that question to her. She did say in the interview on MSNBC that perhaps she should have come out sooner but that she's standing by this now and that she has to do what she feels is right for the people of Hoboken.

You know, this revolves around a very big real estate deal in the very small densely, tightly packed city of Hoboken. It is only one square mile. Real estate is a very touchy issue in that town and she was very concerned about this.

You know, on one hand, you know, if she went forward with this real estate development proposal, she said she might get a lot of flack, might even get sued by owners of other real estate within the city for a number of reasons. But if she didn't go through with it, she said she was convinced that she wouldn't get the Sandy funds.

PAUL: I think this is part of what's so confusing, too, because it is an about-face for her. Even in August she tweeted, quote, "Very glad Governor Christie has been our governor." And she didn't mention any of this or any of her concerns in the CNN interview that we had with her last week.

So, Candy, you're getting to talk to her in about an hour. What do you want answered?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the one question is why now, why didn't you wait, was anything legal -- illegal done here? I mean, there's just some unanswered questions about her side of the story.

As you all said, the Chris Christie office, the New Jersey governor's office, is pushing back very hard.

BLACKWELL: Candy, I wonder, right now the consistencies between these two scandals at least that we're talking about -- the G.W. Bridge, and this, if these claims are indeed true, no connection directly to Governor Christie. And even at the end of the investigations and the assembly in New Jersey and what could come out of this, the governor is vindicated. He had no involvement.

Looking ahead to 2016, is there more of the where there's smoke, there's fire concept here, that he could be damaged even though he did nothing wrong?

CROWLEY: Sure, history is filled with people who had accusations in the media that they were unable to get rid of even when found vindicated. Now with Google, for heaven's sakes, it pops up whenever. There are always going to be people, no matter what is found, that are going to blame the New Jersey governor.

But what's important is to Republicans is someone who can win and if -- or to Democrats, for that matter. But if it holds out that he did nothing wrong in either case, and Republicans see him as most likely to beat the Democratic candidate, then my guess is they'll nominate him.

PAUL: OK. So, we've been watching Florida real closely the last couple of days because in the midst of all of this he's down there fund-raising for the governor of Florida. But depending on what happens there over the next -- you know, yesterday and today and how successful or not successful that is, is that a good gauge of what we can see in the future in terms of his potential politically, or no?

CROWLEY: Well, it's a gauge of where we are right now. I don't think we can say it is "the" gauge until we hit the next step.

I will you that the danger for Democrats is that there is a genuine policy thing going on with government officials or aides to the governor, rather, shutting down a traffic jam, if they did, for political reasons -- putting out a traffic jam, if they did so for political reasons. Now, it's a genuine question that Republicans say this is troublesome, or did say when it happened. Democrats say, oh, my gosh, this is an abuse of power.

But if this starts to look like one more big political fight, if this begins to look like a political vendetta. I mean, you now have the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee who's basically shadowing the New Jersey governor around Florida as he attends these events, and giving news conferences, you have more and more Democratic mayors are coming out, you know, Democratic-led investigations, they have to be very careful that this stays on the facts and stays as far away from the politics as they can.

BLACKWELL: And, Steve, the timing can I guess lead to that or infer that possibly the reason she's coming out now and we don't know, Candy will have an opportunity to speak with her -- is that this is part of the conversation that's already started. And from your conversation with her, is there any indication that this was -- the catalyst was actually the conversation about the ad that's being investigated and the money that was maybe used inappropriately for the Sandy recovery package in advertising.

KASTENBAUM: You're talking about the ad that featured Governor Christie --


KASTENBAUM: -- and his wife, "stronger than the storm"?

We really didn't have an opportunity to talk about why she came forward now and didn't when she had a chance earlier, other than she just said she needs to do what's right for the people of Hoboken.

Sandy funds in New Jersey, it's a very, very touchy, emotional issue for the people of the state. Eighty percent of the city of Hoboken -- only one square mile, somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 people, 80 percent of Hoboken was under water.

So, she wants to protect her city, that's what she says, that this city is a very important place in New Jersey. It's tightly packed, very ways in and out of the city. She wants to protect the city and she's very concerned, clearly, of whether or not she's going to get what she needs to do that.

BLACKWELL: All right. Steve Kastenbaum, a brief conversation with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer last night. Candy Crowley, you'll have the expanded conversation at the top of the hour. Thank you both.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

KASTENBAUM: Thank you.

PAUL: Nine a.m. Eastern, you can see it right here on Candy Crowley's "STATE OF THE UNION."

Let's talk about the firefighters in California, man, I feel for those guys. They are -- and women -- they are battling this raging wildfire. They've been doing so all night. We have a report on their process and a live weather forecast for you.

BLACKWELL: And it's official. If you didn't watch last night, Sasheer Zamata made a debut on "Saturday Night Live". Was she funny enough? Live panel weighs in. That's coming up later.


PAUL: You know, the California drought is so bad that the governor has declared a state of emergency.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Jerry Brown is calling it perhaps the worst drought the state has seen in 100 years. Conditions, as we know, are right for wildfires and the effects on agriculture will likely be felt far beyond the state's borders.

Here's CNN's Kyung Lah.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What is this? All this stuff that we're looking at --

ALEX LARSON (ph), SURVIVOR: This is my -- this is my bedroom.

LAH (voice-over): What was his bedroom before the Colby wildfires swept through the foothills.

Firefighters continue to battle the blaze as Alex Larson returned home to what's gone, learning firsthand the fury of California's drought.

LARSON: It's a ticking time bomb and if something happens, all it would take would be one lightning bolt.

LAH: From these charred hills in Los Angeles, to the dried out lake beds of the central valley, to the hills of Albert Strauss' (ph) dairy farm, the state's drought is palpable and painful.

ALBERT STRAUSS, DAIRY FARM OWNER: This is the worst year I've ever seen.

LAH: Farmers pressured California's governor to act. He says while he can't make it rain, he can declare a state of emergency.

GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: It just takes everybody pitches in.

LAH: The message, everybody cut back on water by 20 percent. The state's reservoirs are at critical levels, setting record lows. Snow packs are 80 percent lower than normal and it's only getting worse. Areas of extreme drought expanded in just one week.

(on camera): The hills across California are brown. In January, this is usually all green. It's summer weather in winter here and that hurts everyone. About half the nation's fruits, nuts and vegetables come from California.

(voice-over): As the farms wilt, so does the country's food supply. And prices, they're on the climb.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're waiting for rain. We're praying. We're going to do a rain dance. LAH: And there may be no other option, as the forecast offers no immediate relief for the ever browning Golden State.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


BLACKWELL: Kyung Lah, thank you for that.

PAUL: So, Jennifer Gray, you can see the map behind her.

Jennifer, that does not look good for people who need rain.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No. Yes, we're needing rain in the worse way and it doesn't look like we're going to get it any time soon, that persistent ridge of high pressure still in place across the west, and that has been the dominant weather feature over the last couple of months. And it's just been keeping all the showers out of the way, that's what we're going to see again today.

We're going to get more of an onshore flow as we go through the middle part of the week. That will definitely increase humidity. Won't bring rain but at least it will bring some moisture to the atmosphere, which will help a little bit.

Look at these temperatures though, still 10 to 15 degrees, guys, above normal for the next couple of days.

PAUL: All righty, thank you, Jen, very much.

BLACKWELL: All right. Now, listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're embarrassing me! Dad, I'm serious. I told you sit in the bathroom all night! Go away!


BLACKWELL: Sasheer Zamata's big debut. Live report next on "SNL's" newest cast member.


BLACKWELL: Eighteen after the hour now.

For the first time in more than six years, and really on the heels of a lot of criticism about the show's lack of diversity, a black female cast member joined "SNL" last night.

PAUL: And with all eyes on Sasheer Zamata, the show's new star was featured in a number of skits. You saw her a lot in her debut. CNN's Alexandra Field has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from New York, it's "Saturday Night Live".

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Those words have been coming into America's living room for decades. But last night's show represented something more.

ANNOUNCER: Sasheer Zamata.

FIELD: Zamata is the first female African-American cast member to be hired by "SNL" since Maya Rudolph left the show in 2007.

And she didn't disappoint.


FIELD: Joining cast mates and guest host Drake skit after skit singing, dancing and acting and spoofing Rihanna as blossom.

SASHEER ZAMATA, COMEDIAN: Dad, get out of her. You're embarrassing me.

FIELD: "SNL" launched a nationwide search last fall for a black female cast member after a public outcry about the show's lack of diversity.

KERRY WASHINGTON, COMEDIAN: In that case, I will leave and in a few minutes, Oprah will be here.

FIELD: But in true "SNL" fashion, they turned the tables and poked fun at themselves.


FIELD: On the streets of New York this weekend, fans think the new addition was the right call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like if she qualified, if she's ready to be up there, that's great. Now, there have always been plenty of funny black comedians. I don't think that's ever been the problem. I just think now that they finally made the choice and it's a good thing.

KURT CYENNE, SNL FAN: The pressure is on. She is going to have a lot to prove. It could be a good thing. It could be a gate opener for her career, or it could go the other way.

FIELD: Movie stars like Tina Fey, Will Ferrell and Eddie Murphy all got their start on "SNL". And like them, this could be just the beginning for Sasheer Zamata.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sasheer for her first night on "SNL" --



BLACKWELL: So, let's bring in Alexandra Field with us now. A lot of tweets last night. How's the reaction been on social media so far?

FIELD: Yes, this was a highly anticipated debut and a lot of people were watching so some of the early feedback I found is this. One review that's retweeted a lot calls her performance low key but notable. That's a pretty fair start for a newcomer to "SNL", a lot of people were looking to see how she did.

And what we know is that the producers and writers there gave her a lot of opportunity to appear on stage and to really introduce her to the audience that's been hoping to see her.

PAUL: She looked perfectly comfortable.

BLACKWELL: Yes, she looks very relax, like she's been a part of the team.

All right. Alexandra Field, thank you. Keep watching NEW DAY. At the bottom of the hour, a panel of comedians from around the country -- New York, L.A., like here in Atlanta -- they're going to join us to give their takes on last night's show and the new "SNL" stars. Stay with us for that.

Also, celebrities gathered at the 20th annual Screen Actors Guild show last night.

PAUL: The only televised award show that exclusively honors performers. I was supposed to be in bed. I wasn't --

BLACKWELL: Stayed up watching.


PAUL: A.J., and, Nischelle.

Here are some of the big winners.

BLACKWELL: Yes, "American Hustle" won, of course, outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture.

PAUL: Matthew McConaughey was honored with that outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role for his part, of course, in "Dallas Buyers Club".

BLACKWELL: And Cate Blanchett got outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role for "Blue Jasmine."

PAUL: And, "Breaking Bad" took outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series.

BLACKWELL: And the Sundance Film Festival, that's in full swing in Park City, Utah. It is the place for independent film debuts.

PAUL: Yes, I know.

And Miguel Marquez won the golden ticket. He's there covering it.

This year, I know, it's really special for actor William H. Macy as well, Miguel. So, he's making his debut as a director. What's the word there?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, huge, huge deal. Not only is he making his debut as a director, but it is the final piece of the festival here so that's the coveted spot. His film "Rudderless" premiers at the end of the festival and he told us about it.


WILLIAM H. MACY, DIRECTOR: Billy Crudup is -- he loses his son to gun violence at the very beginning of the film and it destroys his life really and he's running from the grief. And through the machinations of the plot his ex-wife brings had him some music his son wrote. It sounds bad when done this way, he starts playing that music, yadda, yadda, yadda, hilarity ensues.

MARQUEZ: There is a lot of music in this thing?

MACY: Ton of music. He forms a band with Anton Yeltsin (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He gets this music from his ex and it was music his son worked on. Through whatever, catharsis, whatever --

MARQUEZ: Catharsis, that's how he sort of redeems himself through this music.

MACY: It's redemptive, yes.

MARQUEZ: This music will appear here in live form. Yes?

MACY: We are going to play, yes.

MARQUEZ: Crazy time for you this week.

MACY: Yes.

MARQUEZ: What is like out there? You just got here today. What's it like out there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Optimistic. There's a lot of really, really great films. I love the state of the independent film industry and the community and Sundance is a place that constantly points a camera at our business. I think there are some great films here.

MARQUEZ: And it is a place for some very, very serious films, I'm discovering. Is this going to live up to it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very serious films.

MACY: Hopefully, we're going to ride the line. It's very funny and it's a light touch. But I think, yes, it's about something. It's certainly about something. MARQUEZ: Gentlemen, have a great week. Very good luck. I want to see you sing. Take care.

MACY: All right.

MARQUEZ: Take care.


MARQUEZ: Thank you very much.


MARQUEZ: So the deal is, later this week the band from the film -- there are seven songs in that film -- they'll get together at Sundance. If Bill get the group and if Bill Macy gets just tipsy enough -- which is possible at Sundance -- he may join in this a few songs.

PAUL: What about you?

MARQUEZ: So, we're hopping --

BLACKWELL: Not tipsy enough.

You mean singing?

PAUL: I mean, singing, yes. Singing.

MARQUEZ: Oh. Singing, I'll sing for you any time but I'm not going to sing right now.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thank you, Miguel.

PAUL: All righty. Obviously, tomorrow, you know, we celebrate the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

I don't know if you know this. Long before there was a federal holiday, the FBI tries to thwart King's activism. We are talking to the burglars -- yes, the burglars -- who raided FBI files and stopped their efforts. Do not miss what they have to say.

BLACKWELL: Yes, plus, the first lady hold her 50th birthday bash at the White House. You are seeing some of the people now. But wait until you hear the full guest list.

Stay with us.


PAUL: Hey, it's already bottom of the hour on a Sunday. Welcome back. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

Five things you need to know for your new now. Up first --

PAUL: Three Americans were killed in a Taliban attack at a popular restaurant in Afghanistan's capital this weekend and the Obama administration now condemning that attack. It killed 21 people. Canadians, Britons and Afghans we know are among the dead and the Taliban claimed the attack was revenge for a U.S. air strike that killed Afghan civilians.

BLACKWELL: Number two -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's camp is pushing back hard against new claims of political paid back at the time of the Superstorm Sandy.

The mayor of hard-hit Hoboken says officials in Christie's administration threatened to withhold aid money if she didn't support a redevelopment plan favored by the governor. Christie spokesman says Hoboken has gotten the money it's due with more on the way.

PAUL: Number three, a quick look at the 17-year-old who was arrested and charged in a school shooting in Pennsylvania. Rashim Rockwell (ph) turned himself in and was charged as an adult. He's accused of shooting two students at a high school gym on Friday. Police suggested the shooting may have been accidental.

BLACKWELL: The SUV driver who was chased down and beaten by a swarm of bikers will file a lawsuit against the city of New York. The driver claims the city was negligent in hiring and training its police officers. Prosecutors say some off-duty police officers participated in this attack. The driver's wife and 2-year-old, they were also in that SUV. The family is seeking $75,000 each in damages.

PAUL: All right animal lovers look at your screen. People are lining up to see the new giant panda cub at Washington's National Zoo; 4-month-old Bao Bao was born in August. Her birth was broadcast live -- remember on the zoo's panda cam. And she's going to be on exhibit for a few hours every day. You only have a few years though to visit her because the zoo says when Bao Bao turns four, she'll move to the China Conservation and Research Center.

BLACKWELL: It was the perfect cover-up for a crime that the perpetrators believed was justified. It was March 8th, 1971. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier are duking it out in the fight of the century.

PAUL: That's why you might remember that date. But listen to this, as that battle unfolded on TV screens around the world, nine burglars were breaking into the FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania and making off with a cache of documents that would change history.

BLACKWELL: Yes and among the records was exactly what the thieves were hunting -- evidence of then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's obsession with snuffing out political dissent among anti-war activists, college students and African-Americans in general.

PAUL: But it also included a slip of paper that would become the first evidence of an operation called "Coin Tell Pro". It ultimately was revealed as the dirty tricks program that Hoover used to try to coerce Martin Luther King to commit suicide. It's also the program that helped bring Hoover down -- I just want to point out.

BLACKWELL: Now for more than 40 years the story of the burglary has been a tightly held secret until now. Joining us from Philadelphia are two of the admitted thieves, John and Bonnie Raines. And from New York, Betty Medsger, author of the new book "The Burglary: The Discover of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI". It's good to have all of you and I'm going to start with you John.

Of course we're interested in this element of the story because of the Martin Luther King holiday. Can you give us some insight into, you know, some of the things that haven't been widely discussed that targeted Dr. King and civil rights groups?

JOHN RAINES: Yes, I can do that because I was part of the Civil Rights Movement back in the early 1960s. I was arrested in Little Rock as a freedom rider and went on in '64 to the Mississippi Freedom summer and also the march in Selma in '65.

For those of us who were active in that civil rights movement it became very clear to us that J. Edgar Hoover wanted the return to quiet on the streets of the south. He was not interested in protest. He was not interested in the social justice questions for black Americans.

If he had won that struggle, segregation would have continued. Now we brought that information from the south to the north when my wife and I and others became active in the anti-Vietnam war movement. We expected Hoover to do the same thing and Hoover did the same thing.

PAUL: So Bonnie, as you break into this office and you take all this paperwork back and you're sifting through these documents for the first time, what immediately stood out to you? Did you have kind of an "a-ha moment" where you found something and what was it?

BONNIE RAINES: Well, first of all, we separated the documents. We separated out the criminal investigations and only concentrated on the documents that were political. And it didn't take long before we found one that was quite startling where the FBI called for agents to enhance the paranoia among members of the left and to create the impression that there was an FBI agent behind every mailbox.


B. RAINES: And that was very shocking.

PAUL: Wow.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in the author, Betty Medsger, now. So when this happened you were a reporter at "The Washington Post." Of course, a newsworthy event when the FBI office was broken into in Media, Pennsylvania but did you realize at that time how big of a deal this was? BETTY MEDSGER, AUTHOR: Well, when the burglary took place, there were very just very brief reporting on it. It wasn't until two weeks later when the burglars sent out their first files that they had stolen that we had any idea what had happened that night. And yes, it was immediately recognized that it was significant by the nature of the files, like the one that Bonnie referred to about enhanced paranoia.

Up until that moment there was -- there was no information about what the FBI was doing against various movements. People in those movements had suspicions but there was no knowledge until the burglars sent out those files.

PAUL: So that -- speaking of the burglars, let's get back to you, John and Bonnie. I mean this was an incredible risk you were taking in 1971. And I understand you even arranged for some relative to care for your three children if you went to prison.

So why were you so committed to this? Why was it worth the risk for you? John, why don't you go first?

J. RAINES: Ok. Well, it's hard for people today to realize how powerful J. Edgar Hoover was in Washington. He had almost five decades the head of that very powerful institution which he modeled as a kind of mirror image of himself. He thought himself an expert on what American and un-American activities looked like. An un-American activities were any activities that he disagreed with.

Well, he was untouchable by the folks we sent down to Washington, our politicians and he never faced hard questioning. We had grave suspicions that he was using informers, that the intention of his surveillance was, as he put it, intimidation. But we had no documented evidence. We had to try to get that documented evidence. It's just this clear -- if we did not do this, it would not have been done.


J. RAINES: That was the truth back then.

BLACKWELL: Bonnie, let me come to you with this question, you know it's been more than 40 years since this burglary, since all this came to light. Why now -- why now come forward and say we were a part of this?

B. RAINES: Well, I think that, first of all, it reminds all citizens that we continue to have to be vigilant and that we as individual citizens have a responsibility. And just because we were parents of young children didn't mean that we could duck our responsibilities as citizens seeking the truth.

And so I think -- I think that it's important to tell the story now because there are some parallels in our -- in our democracy now that -- and that discussion has to continue and I think our human rights have to be protected to this day. BLACKWELL: Well, we are grateful for the information we learned from what happened back on March 8th, 1971. I think a lot more people will remember it from what you did, not just the fight between Frazier and Ali. John and Bonnie Raines, thank you so much. Betty Medsger, author of the new book "The Burglary". Thank you all for joining us this morning.

J. RAINES: Thank you, thank you.

B. RAINES: You're welcome.

MEDSGER: Thank you.

PAUL: So speaking of Washington, let's give you a live look of the White House right now.

BLACKWELL: Let's do that.

PAUL: The President and First Lady may still be sleeping after a rocking night last night with that big party.

BLACKWELL: Sure they are. Yes the biggest bash in the nation to celebrate Michelle Obama's 50. Cameras were not allowed inside. However, we got a scoop on what went down. That's next.


BLACKWELL: The entrance to the White House may as well have included a red carpet because Michelle Obama's 50th birthday celebration was a star-studded bash. Apparently Beyonce performed, President Obama did the doggie. You know Wolf Blitzer does the doggie, I wonder who does a better doggie? Let's find out and the President even gave an emotional speech.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has more.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After the sun went down, the stars came out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm looking forward to having good you know old-school dance music.

MAGIC JOHNSON, FORMERNBA PLAYER: Going to have a good time. You know thank you, guys, I'm going to have a ball. This is great.

SERFATY: Beyonce performed.

BEYONCE, SINGER: Look at you.

SERFATY: John Legend and Stevie Wonder, of the many who sang happy birthday. That's the First Lady.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 50 and fabulous.

SERFATY: But the hottest ticket came with a blunt presidential directive. This would be a dance party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the first lady asks you to cut a rug, you cut a rug so.

SERFATY: No dinner, no formalities, loosen that tie, come with a full stomach and wear comfortable shoes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got your dancing shoes on?



SERFATY: The entire White House state floor transformed into a dance floor. The bar was set high. The First Lady is known to bust a move -- with Ellen at White House events and even doing the doggie. Last night it was President Obama though who stole the show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, Beyonce was pretty good, but seeing Barack Obama do doggie was even better.

SERFATY (on camera): And once the guests got through the gates, they were told no pictures, no cameras. The White House wanted privacy but they also wanted people to let their hair down on the dance floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's got a really fun loving streak. She loves to dance. She loves music. And why not -- you only turn 50 once.

SERFATY: That milestone toasted in front of hundreds of guests by the President.

JAMES TAYLOR, SINGER: Wonderful speech. Oh yes moving and inspiring. And he raised the bar for all of us. I don't know how we'll live up to it.


SERFATY: And while we are having a little bit of fun with this, there is a serious question to who is paying for such a lavish affair. Well, since this is a private event, Christi and Victor, the Obamas are footing the bill, not taxpayers.

BLACKWELL: All right I know a lot of people had that question. Sunlen Serfaty thank you very much -- Christi.

PAUL: You know it may not come as a surprise to a lot of people that NBA's bad boy Dennis Rodman is back in rehab -- waking up there this morning, in fact. Especially if you saw his interview here on CNN earlier this month. But is his trip to North Korea to blame for it?

Plus, if you caught "SNL" last night, you might have noticed a change. Right? Fresh new face that everybody's talking about today.


BLACKWELL: Dennis Rodman is in rehab this morning. The former NBA is seeking treatment for alcohol addiction and he's already (inaudible) through his stay.

PAUL: Now according to his agent, Rodman's drinking escalated during that controversial trip to North Korea.

Nick Valencia's following this story. And I know you've been digging into this. Why North Korea? Is that where it all just kind of blew up? Or --

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think so. That's according to his agent saying that this trip where he was a cultural ambassador -- he went over there with about ten other basketball players for the birthday of the dictator of North Korea. That's when the problems started.

His friend was on NEW DAY last hour and I talked about how he had a beer in his hand at all times.


MARK SUGARMAN, FRIEND OF DENNIS RODMAN: I think he probably had an awakening. I mean what happened in North Korea was -- it was a big deal. I mean it was a big deal and it doesn't look good and it backfired on Dennis. And I think he genuinely needs help.


VALENCIA: This is at least his fourth stint in rehab for Dennis Rodman if you count the celebrity rehab with Dr. Drew. His agent released a statement to the media that read, in part, "His drinking escalated to a level that none of us had seen before. When he came back I discussed with him on a personal life how concerned I was. He sat down and decided for him to go to rehab. He's going to be there for about a month."

BLACKWELL: Yes. When you saw the interview with Chris Cuomo on NEW DAY --


BLACKWELL: And he said he was drinking, you could understand how that could indeed be a problem for him. Four times now. But there are some people undoubtedly who ask about the timing. Is he just running from the media?

VALENCIA: Sure. And you mentioned it last hour -- Victor. You know, sometimes in Hollywood when the publicity gets a little too hot and things get a little too negative, it is too easy for celebrities to maybe retreat to rehab or blame their problems on substance abuse.

But we want to be very clear -- alcoholism is a disease. A lot of people see it as a disease.


VALENCIA: For Dennis Rodman it's been a long history for him. I spoke to somebody last night who used to work with him back in 2006. They said even back then he was going through a lot of problems, drinking -- just wanted to have people around him so that he wasn't drinking alone.

PAUL: That's interesting when you say he wanted people around him because that really screams of some fear or insecurity that maybe he's just lost.

VALENCIA: Sure. And you know a lot of people heard about Dennis Rodman, this NBA star, world champion with going to North Korea? They thought exactly that, that he's lost, he's misguided. And evidently from the corners of his supporters we are hearing that that pressure was just a little bit too much for him.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Of course, we wish him the best.

PAUL: We do. Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: And maybe look forward to a statement from Dennis himself soon.


BLACKWELL: All right. Nick Valencia, thanks.

PAUL: Thanks Nick.

VALENCIA: Thanks guys.

BLACKWELL: Well, she is the first black female cast member on "Saturday Night Live" in almost seven years.

PAUL: Only the fifth ever, we should point out too, on the show. And she had a big debut last night. No pressure. Come on, right? Sasheer Zamata, how did she do?

BLACKWELL: We'll find out.

Comedian Loni Love and Scott Blakeman's -- we're going to get their grades on her. Coming up -- stay with us.


BLACKWELL: Madonna is getting slammed over racist hashtags she posted on Instagram. It was a picture of her teenage son boxing with the #dis -- followed by the "n" word. Immediately the criticism came pouring in from her fans and Madonna issued a full apology via her representative saying she did not mean the hashtag as a slur and that she is not a racist.

PAUL: Speaking of apologies, the star of ABC's "The Bachelor" is apologizing for comments he made about gay men. During an interview at a party, Juan Pablo Galanos said there should not be a gay bachelor because it is not a good example for kids and called homosexuals, quote, "perverted". Juan Pablo apologized for the comments on Facebook. He only meant gay men were more affectionate apparently and that since English is only his second language, he can sometimes express himself incorrectly.

BLACKWELL: Ok. Live from New York, it's Sasheer Zamata.

PAUL: For the first time in more than six years and on the heels of an awful lot of criticism, let's face it, that the show lacked diversity, Sasheer Zamata, black female cast member joins the last of SNL last night in a big way.

BLACKWELL: Yes. The show's newest star was featured in a number of skits on her debut. That was good for the first showing. She also performed the hook of the song poking fun at all of our short-lived New Year's resolutions and giving her take on what pop star Rihanna must have been like before she made it big.

Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok now. Before Rihanna was an international superstar she starred in a Barbados television reboot of the early 90s classic (inaudible) here to open the credits.


PAUL: Joining us from Los Angeles, comedian Loni Love who's the author of "Love Him or Leave Him but Don't Get Stuck with the Tab"; and in New York, comedian Scott Blakeman.

All right, Everybody. She didn't play a huge role obviously but give us your thoughts. Loni, let's start with you.

LONI LOVE, COMEDIAN: I think last night became "Saturday Negro Live". It was great.

BLACKWELL: Oh my gosh.

LOVE: You know what? This puts to rest that there are no black female comedians that are ready for "Saturday Night Live". Of course all this happened because people were saying well, maybe they can't find anybody because there's no black females that are ready. This girl is ready, it was fun, it was funny. Her first words were "mazel tov". You love the diversity.

BLACKWELL: Well, you know, in the spirit of SNL, we've added our own black female cast member. Sheryl Underwood is here.

SHERYL UNDERWOOD: Ramp on the (inaudible) line. Hi Loni girl.

LOVE: Hey, Sheryl. I was wondering, I said where is Sheryl at -- ok?

BLACKWELL: So what did you think? UNDERWOOD: I thought it was great that on Dr. King weekend we can realize the dream of sisters being on TV, all forms. I thought it was a good platform. Now what we need to see is sisters being in Ice Cube movies like he always pick the male comics to do. Let's move it forward.

BLACKWELL: All right. All right.

PAUL: She's just not ok with what it is. She is going to push it forward.

UNDERWOOD: Oh, yes, oh, yes.

PAUL: Got to keep going.

BLACKWELL: How about it?

SCOTT BLAKEMAN, COMEDIAN: I just want to say how happy I am to provide diversity to this panel. And I love Sasheer was fantastic. There are two highlights for me last night. One, finding out that Drake is Jewish. I had no idea.

BLACKWELL: There you are.

BLAKEMAN: Sasheer was wonderful, you know. And as Loni said, I thought it was very ironic the first time we saw Sasheer was paired up with Keenan Thompson who famously and so wrongly said that there are no black female comedians who were ready and qualified. So that was great.

Every time she was on screen she gave the show a shot of adrenalin. She has an electric personality and I predict that next season she's going to go from supporting feature player to a regular member of the cast.

PAUL: What are you saying -- Sheryl?

UNDERWOOD: She didn't look like Rihanna but I think the sketches was a little too black for my taste. Let's make it a little bit more mainstream, you know, and put those characters in that happen to be black. The whole show went a little too black like they were just overdoing blackness.


UNDERWOOD: You know what I'm saying.

PAUL: Well, maybe that was just their way to introduce it. I don't know. Loni, you're laughing. What do you think?

LOVE: Because that's why I called this "Saturday Negro Live". I mean it's like, ok, just add the little diversity that you need to add but let's not overdo it. It was like it's not in living color. We still got to keep it mainstream to keep everybody. Let's involve everybody.

Now we need to find an Asian. That's what I want, some Asian people on "Saturday Night Live". That's what I want.

BLACKWELL: So Scott, do you think that SNL handled this the right way? Kerry Washington she hosted. She was Michelle Obama. Then she had to run off and become Oprah.

BLAKEMAN: That was funny.

BLACKWELL: Did they do it the right way?

BLAKEMAN: That was funny.

Well, it got them a lot of publicity. Look Lorne Michaels has a great eye for talent. I just wish he had done this seven years ago when Maya Rudolph left the show.

You know, it's great. I'm so glad Sasheer's on the show. She's amazing but only five black women in the 38-year history of "Saturday Night Live" is not right. And this on the weekend the day before Dr. King's birthday in 2014, as Loni said, we need tons of diversity. Not just because it is socially responsible or politically correct. It's funnier.

As comedians, the more diverse the writing staff, the cast is, the better the show is, the funnier and the more relevant it is.

PAUL: Now the writing cast is more diversified.

BLAKEMAN: Yes, yes.

PAUL: So what do you think -- how do think that's going to change what we see? Was yesterday just hey, here it is, it is a big debut or because -- she said she thought Loni said she went a little bit overboard or that was just their first time and it's going to be a little more gradual.

UNDERWOOD: I think they're going to smooth it out a little bit. I think it is great that they got these two writers. I know Leslie personally. She is a great comic. I think it is going to give it another flavor. It is like when Eddie Murphy, you know, was on. So you need somebody to write in that voice but then you need her to interact with the other cast members because this is what America is all about.

Let's see some jokes, you know, that really make you kind of cringe or make you laugh. I can't wait for the February "12 Years a Slave" sketch to come on out.

PAUL: Oh my gosh.

UNDERWOOD: People don't get mad. This is entertainment. Hey, Loni, congratulations on the real, girl. Do your think. You own us all. Let's get these (inaudible) baby.

LOVE: I love you, Sheryl.

BLACKWELL: Oh my gosh. Our panel -- Sheryl Underwood, Loni Love --

UNDERWOOD: Oh, is it time to go?

BLACKWELL: Yes. You've been running --


UNDERWOOD: I got to go speak at a church in Augusta.

BLACKWELL: Ok. Well --

PAUL: You're going to go speak in a church after this?

UNDERWOOD: Yes, I know. Just because I cuss for a living don't mean I don't know the Lord. (inaudible)

BLACKWELL: Didn't know it.

Loni Love, Scott Blakeman. Thank you so much.

PAUL: And thank you for starting your morning with us. Make some great memories today.

BLACKWELL: This has been fun.

"STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts at the top of the hour right now.