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Feds Extend Benefits to All Same Sex-Sex Spouses; Huge Upset for Olympian Bode Miller

Aired February 9, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: This was on a radio station, and this guy donated a home to them. Yes, an entire home. He says it made him feel good, as it should. Boy, kudos to both of those men this morning.


PAUL: Inspire us.

Thank you so much for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: NEW DAY continues now.


PAUL: I hope that was just a good little bit of inspiration to get you going.

BLACKWELL: Something to perk you up this morning.

PAUL: Yes. So, I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Eight o'clock now here on the East Coast. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY and a groundbreaking decision we're hearing about.

PAUL: And that is not emphasizing it all. Maybe even not enough when we say ground breaking because this is affecting millions of same-sex couples in every state of the nation.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that starting tomorrow the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages as equal to traditional marriages in all federal legal matters.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: On Monday, I will issue a new policy memorandum that will for the first time in history formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition to the greatest extent possible under the law.


PAUL: So, in making the announcement, Holder called the fight for gay rights a, quote, "defining civil rights challenge of our time."

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in Erin McPike from Washington. Talk about, if you would, the significance of this, because, again, we're talking about federal legal matters, not specifically state and municipal matters.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, Holder is taking the federal government to its farthest point yet to recognize same-sex marriage in this whole country, and he previewed Monday's announcement before last night's annual gala of the human rights campaign. The president of that organization compared him and his place in history to Robert F. Kennedy, as he said, another attorney general who crusaded for human rights.

Now, this particular new policy development is an expansion of rights in federal legal matters, and it will allow married same-sex individuals in all states, even those that don't recognize gay marriage at this point, to decline to give testimony in federal cases that could incriminate a spouse, file for bankruptcy with that spouse as a couple, have full visitation rights to see a spouse in federal prison, and collect benefits from federal programs like the September 11th victim compensation fund and the public safety officers benefits program.

But this new policy already has ruffled the feathers of opponents of same-sex marriage. Brian Brown, who is the president of the National Organization for Marriage, said, quote, "The changes being proposed here serve as a potent reminder of why it is simply a lie to say that redefining marriage doesn't affect everyone in society.

However, Jonathan Turley, who's a constitutional law professor, suggested last hour on NEW DAY SUNDAY that the Obama administration is not crossing any lines here.


JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I don't think it is as much of an infringement as has been suggested. You know, the president has been legitimately in my view criticized for exceeding his authority, particularly with regard to Congress. I don't think this is such a case. Basically, he's using his authority as president to say that he is going to ensure, in this case through the Justice Department, that there's a recognition of these marriages that have been certified in these states.


MCPIKE: Now, I would point out that there are 16 states that have legalized gay marriage. There's actually 17 if you count Illinois, and that law will go into effect in June. So, when this is implemented, it will really affect the 33 states come June that don't recognize same-sex marriage at this point -- Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Erin McPike in Washington for us -- thank you.

Now, a lot of people are wondering about the timing of this and what triggered this announcement at this time by Holder.

PAUL: Joining us now from Washington, Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

Candy, good to see you.

I think a lot of the question with timing has to do with the Sochi Olympics because this is such a debate and it's been amplified because of the Olympics. Why do you think the administration is doing this and why now, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, it's fortuitous timing for this administration that wants to make a statement at the Olympics, has with both its delegation and now with this. But my guess is this has sort of minimal effect on Putin at this point or on the Olympics.

There's a lot of things I think that go into the timing of something.

First of all, as you mention, there are the Olympics but it's also obviously this was a dinner held for supporters and fund-raisers for the gay rights movement.

It is also Eric Holder's time to look at his legacy. He's now been with the Obama administration since the beginning, where he wants to stake his claim in history. I think he made it very clear that this is where he wants to do it.

And I think, thirdly, it's an election year, and certainly the gay community has been incredibly supportive of the president and of Democrats, their big money contributors, as well as voters, and this is the time obviously that folks want their base to come out.

Now, Eric Holder, the Justice Department, you know, independent of all of that, and he is following what the administration started, which was to extend federal benefits in any way they could to legal gay married couples.

So, I think a lot of things come to play, but in the end I think this is about Eric Holder, where he wants to take the Justice Department, how he wants his Justice Department seen, and it certainly will help if you look at the politics of 2014.

PAUL: Yes, interesting. Candy, thank you so much. Looking forward to your conversations this morning.

Keep it here for "STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY" starts next hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. Thanks, Candy. OK. So this morning major upset at the Winter Olympics for a U.S. star and want to give you the quick spoiler alert. So, we're back to give you some results that haven't been broadcast but we don't want to steal their thunder, just turn the sound down a bit.

BLACKWELL: Just for a second. Bode Miller disappointing eighth place in the men's downhill skiing competition. He's got five Olympic medals. People expected him to win this event.

PAUL: Yes, overall.

Also new, another gold medal for the U.S. Jamie Anderson won the women's slopestyle. The U.S. is in second place in overall standing with three Olympic medals.

Let's bring in CNN's Rachel Nichols. She's in Sochi with the latest.

Really on the Bode Miller upset, Rachel. I'm wondering how he reacted to this, knowing everybody thought he was going to walk away with the gold.


RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS: Yes, he was extremely disappointed because, you're right, he was the favorite in this event. He had near perfect runs during training. He was blowing the competition here away.

And he was trying to do something historic. He's 36 years old, which is old for an alpine skier, and he was trying to become the oldest alpine skier to stand on a medal stand at the Olympics. This was really going to be meaningful for him.

Unfortunately, while he got off to a pretty good start, had a great first split time, he had some trouble in the middle and the bottom of the mountain, ran into at least one gate, kind of bobbled on another one, seemed to have some trouble with the visibility out there today because it was a little cloudier this morning than during some of those training runs.

And I got to tell you, guys, right after he crossed the finish line, you could see how crushingly disappointed he was, just slumped over, hands on his knees, sat on his skis for a while, and just seemed stunned. He talked to us a few minutes later, talked to reporters, and he didn't seem to really have an explanation for what happened out there.

He's got other events, so he has later chances to medal, including a race where he is the defending Olympic champion, but still this one, you get the impression it's going to stick with him for a long time.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Everybody has been talking -- we've been talking about it and retweeting it, the photograph from the U.S. bobsledder Johnny Quinn, had to break through the bathroom door after he was locked inside. We've heard about the problem in the hotels there.

And you spoke with him. What did he say?

NICHOLS: Yes, more than 20,000 retweeted for that picture. It has been crazy, the topic of conversation at the athlete's village. Johnny Quinn, how he had to bust out of his bathroom. He said he went to take a shower, and his roommate wasn't even there in the room so he didn't even lock the door. It just got jammed somehow. Got out of the shower realized he didn't have a towel so he wanted to get out of that bathroom, but he couldn't. He told me what happened.


JOHNNY QUINN, U.S. BOBSLEDDER: My neighbors or my two other teammates on the bobsled, so I was banging on the wall trying to get their attention, and nothing.

NICHOLS: Did not happen.

QUINN: And nothing. And so --

NICHOLS: Did you have a panic moment?

QUINN: Not so much a panic because I had running water, but, you know, I had nothing, and I was sitting there banging on random parts of the wall, see if I could catch somebody's attention, and as I'm banging on random parts, going around the bathroom, I kind of hit the door and it cracks, and so, you know, I go a little harder and my fist goes through the door and so --

NICHOLS: Are you surprised at that?

QUINN: Well --

NICHOLS: Do you normally punch through doors?

QUINN: No, no, no, no. So I see light, and I was like, OK, it's time to get out of here now.


NICHOLS: The result, of course, was that photo that you saw, and he said he actually worried afterward that he would be in trouble, but he went down to the front desk and they told him, don't worry about it and they went and replaced that door for him, which is a good thing, guys, because I have to tell you, that was in the athletes village. He's a bobsledder. So, in a couple days he's moving up the mountain to some housing up there.

The people coming into his housing, that's going to be the U.S. hockey team. Those are NHL players. They're used to fancy accommodations. Fortunately, they will not have to go to the bathroom with a door with a hole in it. They've got a new door now.

BLACKWELL: Wow. And, you know, if they have to break through, it's cardboard. So the hockey players are strong enough to get through.


PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Rachel.

NICHOLS: Quinn said it was bobsled push skills.

PAUL: Yes, there you go.

NICHOLS: You know your athletic training comes in handy for something.

PAUL: And many other aspects possibly.

Thank you, Rachel.

So, still to come on NEW DAY -- how some Olympic sponsors are making a statement about gay rights at the Winter Olympics, in Sochi, of course, and Russia's antigay laws.

BLACKWELL: And it's one of the most popular apps out there. Flappy Bird. So why is the developer about to take it down?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are the ones we trust with our most secret secrets, who are always there when we need them. They are family, and while what it means to be a family hasn't changed, what a family looks like has. This is the new us.


BLACKWELL: So folks are talking about that Chevy ad. It aired during the open ceremony of the Winter Olympics and it shows a gay couple with two children.

PAUL: And Chevy says it wasn't meant to be political but it's using the #newfamily on YouTube.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And with other sponsors speaking out in support of gay rights, a lot of people are asking if NBC is under added pressure to cover not just the games but also to make a statement about Russia's anti-gay laws.

So, let's bring in senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES", Brian Stelter, joining us from New York.

Chevy says again --


BLACKWELL: Good morning, Brian -- that that ad was not meant to be political but tough question the timing.

What pressure do you think NBC is feeling now?

STELTER: It is kind of amazing to think about how far we've come in, say, 10 or 20 years that so many major American companies, these worldwide brands, want to align themselves in this way. They want to be on the right side of history, and they know they're going to get attention for it at a time when Russia is being criticized for being on the wrong side of history.

I think NBC is in a very interesting, maybe precarious, place because of these issues, and they have been very sensitive to it. For example, they hired David Remnick, the editor of "The New Yorker" to come over to Russia for a couple weeks to be one of their analysts who they can call on to talk about not just Russian history but also Russian politics and the anti-guy propaganda law.

And I think, so far, they've done a pretty good job of bringing up these issues and not trying to ignore them and just cover the games.

PAUL: OK. Well, here's another bit of controversy with NBC right now. They're really being taken to task by some people for editing out the IOC anti-discrimination statement from the opening ceremony.


PAUL: I mean, it was aired -- I mean, it was aired around the world but it got cut in the U.S.

What do you make of that?

STELTER: What NBC says is this, they say the IOC's president's message was edited for time, as was other speeches but the message got across very clearly. NBC should have known when they made this edit, when they took out some of the comments about diversity and tolerance and anti-discrimination that they were going to get flak for it. But they had to condense many, many hours of the opening ceremonies into a shorter version for prime time.

They do this all the time. This is what NBC does and people have criticized them in the past for it, but I don't think there were political motivations here. I just saw a banner on the bottom of the screen on another cable news channel that called this "Bowing to Russia", with a question mark. I don't think this was bowing to Russia. I think it was just a simple edit to time.

But it goes to show how seriously people are paying attention to how NBC broadcasts these games. And the fact that you could go online and watch the full statement at least is a good thing.

BLACKWELL: Yes, you know, there obviously has been this criticism. I want to read something from the Human Rights Campaign that their president put out leading up to the games. "NBC has a unique opportunity to report on Russia's inhumane assault on the rights of LGBT people to the millions of American television viewers tuning in to watch the Olympic Games over the next few weeks. They promise not to shy away from covering the issue, and we will hold them to their word."

The question here is the balance -- covering also the sport and the social elements in Russia. How do they find that balance and not let the social elements overshadow the games?

STELTER: That's right. NBC pays so many hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to these games. They are trying to broadcast sporting events, first and foremost. But they know that they have to show the context these games are in.

And I think that statement is a great example of media advocacy, we can all hold media outlets accountable for what they show and what they don't show, and I think we're seeing that very well so far at these Olympics.

PAUL: All righty. Brian Stelter, thank you so much. Good to see you this morning.

STELTER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thanks, Brian.

PAUL: And be sure to watch "RELIABLE SOURCES", 11:00 a.m. Eastern, right here with him on CNN.

BLACKWELL: So, Oklahoma state's star point guard lost control and shoved a fan last night. In the closing seconds of a surprising loss to Texas Tech, Marcus Smart fell into the crowd. Look right behind the goal here.

Once back on his feet, he shoved a rival fan who is known for yelling at opposing players. They call him a "Super Fan". There's conflicting accounts on what the fan said before he was pushed. Smart received a technical here but he was not ejected from the game. And just a few seconds left after that.

PAUL: And that guy was just laughing about it.

OK. Still to come, it's one of the most popular apps on the market. So, why is the man behind it saying, enough is enough? And he's taking it down.


PAUL: Well, score one up for the mutts, people. For the first time ever, the Westminster Dog Show broke with tradition and allowed mixed breed dogs to compete last night in New York. For more than 100 years, they have only allowed purebreds.

BLACKWELL: Yes. But Westminster doesn't call these mixed breeds mutts. They call them "All-American". PAUL: Classy (ph).

BLACKWELL: OK. About 225 dogs are competing, 16 are mixed.

Every once in a while, technology does not improve our lives. Instead, it ruins it.

PAUL: Yes. And you know what? There is this tiny little yellow dot with bug eyes and a beak that's driving people crazy. See it there?

Guess what? They are taking away your Flappy Bird, people.


PAUL: You're losing your Flappy Bird.


PAUL: It's a finger tapping game building anxiety, wasting hours of free time all over the world, and now at the height of its popularity, it's getting yanked.

BLACKWELL: Yes, here is the thing, though. The developer is not saying why. He's just saying he's taking it down because he can't take it anymore.

Now, a lot of people are baffled as to why he's doing it, again, they're obsessed. But some people think this is a publicity stunt.

PAUL: So get your Flappy Bird on for as long as you can. It's going away.

BLACKWELL: The descriptions from people who watch -- who play this game, they are just obsessed with this game, hours and hours tapping on the screen for this bird.

We'll be right back.


PAUL: Mortgage rates dipped last week. Take a look.


PAUL: We're talking about the good stuff. You know, we have been happy to tell you about these big tips in restaurants around the country.


PAUL: This takes the cake.

BLACKWELL: This is huge. Three young waitresses working the Saturday breakfast staff in snowy Illinois folding the napkins and organizing the silverware, and they're talking about what they call life stuff.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were talking about school and braces and loans and everything that we can't afford.


PAUL: So little did they know a customer was listening, and when she was done with her omelet she asked the waitresses their names, took those names and put them on three checks for -- get this -- $5,000 each.


PAUL: Fifteen grand for three young women who are just trying to get to the next stop. You know they were stunned.


AMY SABANI, WAITRESS: It means a lot. I work two jobs, I have a little boy at home, so maybe spend more time with him and do more things with him and get ahead of myself, and I hope that one day I have the amount to do the same thing to somebody else.


BLACKWELL: Paying it forward. Hopefully, one day, she will.

You know, the donor does not want anyone to know his or her name, even trying to pay for the $9 omelet on the way out. But, you know, they just got three huge checks, they refused.

PAUL: Good for her.

Hey, make some great memories today.