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Lightning Storm Rocks Nashville; Ukraine Close to A Deal; Judge Calls Defendants "Cowards"; NFL Battling Bad Boy Image; U.S. Women Skaters Fail to Medal; Professor Gets Apology From President

Aired February 21, 2014 - 07:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. There are some big stories we're tracking this morning. Let's get to Don Lemon. He is in for Michaela and he is watching the news.

DON LEMON, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Absolutely. We're going to start with the weather first. So dangerous storms and lightning strikes knocking out power to 9,000 people in Nashville last night. Most in Central Tennessee under a tornado watch into the early morning hours. Right now, severe weather threatens 30 million people from the Gulf of Mexico to parts of New England, snow, rain, damaging winds and possible tornadoes, all in the forecast.

Some breaking news out of Ukraine now, the opposition says no deal has been reached yet and negotiations continue. This after the president announced on his web site that he plans to fulfill three opposition demands, new presidential elections, a return to the 2004 constitution and the formation of a national unity government. Still, violence persists. Security forces in Kiev reportedly opened fire on protesters today after they shot at an unarmed police.

An angry judge lashing out at two defendants after sentencing them for beating a San Francisco Giants fan nearly to death outside Dodgers Stadium back in 2011. Louie Sanchez received an 8-year prison sentence. Marvin Norwood got four years. The victim, Bryan Stow, is permanently disabled with severe brain damage. The judge called the defendants cowards and said they're the biggest nightmares for fans going to the game.

A new report due today on why an elderly Washington, D.C. man was apparently allowed to die right across the street from a fire house. The 77-year-old Cecil Mills, a long time city worker collapsed last month. His daughter says firefighters refused to help. Two including a lieutenant were put on paid leave and today, authorities releasing the results of their investigation.

And here's one mom you don't want to mess with. New video showing her opening fire at three intruders. The mother who was home with two kids tells a CNN affiliate that she warned the trio she had a gun and started shooting when they got inside. The intruders were quickly arrested. Police said the woman did the right thing when she gave a warning shot before opening fire. CUOMO: Yes. An important just to take a beat here because why, what does this show? All right, she had every legal advantage that is provided for self defense. She was in her home, there were kids there. She was under assault by these people. What did she do? She thought, what can I do in this situation? Not what's the most excessive thing I can do, but what's the best thing I can do. I have a gun, she shoots a warning shot and it works and they leave.

LEMON: I just wrote a commentary yesterday for the radio program that I do we're circumstance venting common sense by just shooting. She thought first. She used her common sense then did the appropriate thing.

BOLDUAN: She did the opposite of what we see over and over again. She just didn't want people breaking into her home with her kids there.

LEMON: And that's what the castle doctrine is all about.

CUOMO: Absolutely. You've always got great protection in your own home. It was interesting. A lot of people spun the story and said you see she is exercising her second amendment right. The right to bear arms is not the right to use them any way you want. We cannot divorce reason from the responsibility of when you use a firearm.

That's been the problem raised in the Dunn trial and Zimmerman trial is that people are firing and using excessive force. It seems it's not necessary in the situation. This is a great story of a woman doing what she needed to do to protect her kids, but doing it in the most reasonable way she could. It should be highlighted for that alone.

LEMON: The bottom line is, she showed them, didn't she, right?

CUOMO: By the way, one of them had a gun. She did the right thing in the right situation. Thank God it turned out the right way.

All right, next story, despite unprecedented popularity and revenues, the NFL is in crisis mode this morning. Their image under fire once again, this time, star running back accused of beating his fiance unconscious and then dragging her body out of an elevator in a New Jersey casino.

And then you have this guy, a former old pro-safety Darren Sharper suspected of raping at least eight women in five states. Andy Scholes is with us this morning. Andy, you toss in the bullying scandal and the concussion controversy (inaudible), but the NFL has quite a mess on its hands in showing are they the worst of us or the best of us.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS: Yes, you know, you're right, Chris. Many thought last off season PR wise was the worst ever for the NFL. Thirty one players from 19 different were arrested for a variety of offensive. The most notable of course was Aaron Hernandez being arrested for murder. Now the NFL, they continue to try to clean up their image, but this off season is already off to a rough start.


SCHOLES (voice-over): The video is jarring. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice caught on tape dragging his seemingly unconscious fiance out of an elevator. TMZ say the shocking footage showed the aftermath of a fight between the couple last week inside an Atlantic City Casino.

According to police, Rice and his fiance both strike each other, Rice's blow knocking her out cold. Both have pleaded not guilty to simple assault charges. The Baltimore Ravens are reviewing their disciplinary options and released a statement to CNN that reads in part, "We have seen the video, this is a serious matter and we are currently gathering more information."

And a former NFL player also finding himself in legal trouble, yesterday, NFL Network analyst, Darren Sharper, pleaded not guilty to charges of rape in a Los Angeles court. According to an affidavit, Sharper allegedly drugged two women before raping them. Sharper is now under investigation is five states in connection with a total of eight rape cases according to authorities in both Los Angeles and Miami.

This is the latest in a seemingly endless stream of high-profile arrests this year of both current and retired NFL players. Arrest numbers for active players skyrocketed in the 2013 off season, up 75 percent from the year before.

LZ GRANDERSON, ESPN SENIOR WRITER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: When you think about the fact that you have these recent incidents of domestic violence or accusations, we do have high-profile crimes that have occurred, when we have this history in terms of medical history that's questionable and some of the other things that impact the game like possible addiction to painkillers and things like that, then, yes, absolutely, the NFL does have a bit of an image problem.

SCHOLES: Those arrests include Aaron Hernandez who was charged with the murder in the shooting death of a friend. He's also under investigation for a separate case of double murder. Yesterday, at the NFL Combine, Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin faced a barrage of questions stemming from the NFL's most recent investigation in the bullying allegations.

JOE PHILBIN, HEAD COACH, MIAMI DOLPHINS: Some of the facts, the behavior, the language outlined in the report is inappropriate and it's unacceptable.

SCHOLES: The report released last week concluded that Jonathan Martin was taunted and ridiculed almost daily by fellow player, Richie Incognito. Martin claimed Incognito who was suspended by the team, racial slurs and physically threatened him. The team has since fired its offensive line coach and head trainer.


SCHOLES: And even though we continue to hear about NFL players getting in trouble all the time. It should be noted guys that NFL players according to a recent study are actually arrested 75 percent less than men age 22 to 34 in the general population.

CUOMO: Important to point out, Andy. Thank you very much. Also important to point out that they are paid a lot. They've handles and a lot of people trying to help them be their best so it's not exactly an even playing field. What do you think? Tweet us with #newday.

BOLDUAN: Sticking with sports but very differently. Next up on NEW DAY, U.S. women figure skaters make history at Sochi, but not in the way they would hope and not in the way you would hope. Now one skater is questioning the judges. We'll have that ahead.

CUOMO: And how about this one? An art history professor gets a written apology from President Obama after he suggested degrees in her field aren't very valuable. We'll take up the debate with the professor when we come back.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back once again. Historic American shutout yesterday, Russia, South Korea and Italy all taking the podium in Olympic free skating. It's the first time since the 1930s that the U.S. team failed to medal in either the men's or women's singles skating. Folks are questioning some of the scoring including American Ashleigh Wagner who finished seventh. She said the sport needs to change its anonymous judging.

A lot to discuss. Joining us live from Sochi is Sally Jenkins, sports columnist for the "Washington Post." Sally, I have to tell you. I've really enjoyed reading your columns while you've been in Sochi. You really put an interest twist on it all.

I've got to get your take on what happened in figure skating. The first time that we haven't been on the podium since the '30s, you were there for it all. The surprise win by the 17-year-old Russian, what happened?

SALLY JENKINS, SPORTS COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, the judges preferred her for whatever reason and not just by a little, by a lot, which is I think why some people are really questioning the scoring. The difficulty is the judges are anonymous. You don't know who did what to who. So there are organizations in skating calling for more transparency. I think the general consensus is it would be useful.

BOLDUAN: Do you think the people who made the podium that it was the right people to make the podium from your estimation?

JENKINS: I -- I do. I think the three skaters who made the podium were clearly a cut above and again you know, the Americans got shutout, but what I saw that the American skaters while terrific, they kind of go one, two, three jump. And the greatest skaters in the world right now are flowing through their routines.

There's a faultlessness to their skating and also an artistic expression that the American kids don't just quite have yet. Gracie Gold came closer than anyone. She is clearly, you know, a comer. She is coach by the great Frank Carol, who has dramatically improved her performance. They still have a little way to go compared to the women on the podium.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And I also want to get your take on what happened in hockey. I was watching the women's hockey match yesterday. I guess for many it's less about the medal and it's really all about bragging rights when it's U.S. versus Canada. Do you think the U.S. women's team lost the game or did Canada outplay them?

JENKINS: I think they clearly lost the game. When you have a two- nothing lead with 3 minutes to go, you've lost the game, you gave it up. It's deeply personal between the Americans and the Canadian women, deeply personal. Two of their pre-Olympic competitions ended with brawls on the ice. You can tell from the expressions on the American women's faces in the handshake line. It was a very cursory handshake. They are just no love lost between those two teams.

BALDWIN: So what are you looking at for today trying --

JENKINS: One of most epic rivalries in all of sports. Well, you know, the Americans have been so surprised that everybody really thought the Russian team was the team to beat her and it turns out to be Team USA.

BOLDUAN: I can't wait to see it. It's going to be fun, and of course, a lot of the teammates in the NHL that are playing against each other when it comes to U.S. and Canada. So that's great fun to watch as well. Got to get your take because you have been critical on kind of how the games have gone off.

Closing ceremonies are Sunday. You had this great line that I've been reading over and over again. This was the wrong place for the Winter Olympics, for all kinds of human rights reasons. It may also have been a dangerously idiotic one for the competitors based on the quality of the snow. At the end of the day in what you've seen since you've been there. Would you call this Sochi Olympics a success?

JENKINS: Well, you know, it depends on which factor you look at in terms of success. It was a success for Vladimir Putin in terms of keeping everyone safe because of all the pre-Olympic terrorism threats. That's a success. In terms of their readiness and preparation, they get an F, because I mean, there -- there's raw mud and gravel at so many of the venues and hotels around Sochi.

On the other hand, it's a very unusual, you know, beautiful spot to have an Olympics. But then again, it's 60 degrees. When you see downhill skiers, Alpine skiers kicking up plumes that look like water skiing, that's not the picture of the Winter Olympics that you'd necessarily want.

It depends on which specific area you're grading Sochi on as an Olympics. The main thing is that so far, everybody stayed safe. And that of course was the most important thing of all.

BOLDUAN: I think you're right. I did get a kick out of it when you said the local for the Olympics ought to be a stretcher because there have been so many injuries on that slushy mashed potato-like snow. JENKINS: It wasn't the number of injuries, but the severity of them. We have a Russian young woman who is in the hospital with a broken spine. We had people who had bad concussions, bash their faces, cracked helmets. You know, the wet conditions created the situations where skiers came to these abrupt halts and go flying in the air, and took some pretty bad spills.

BOLDUAN: Sally Jenkins, it's been great to read your work while you were over there. Thanks so much for giving us the time this morning.

JENKINS: Thank you.


CUOMO: All right, coming up on NEW DAY, a personal apology from Barack Obama to an art history professor from Austin, Texas. What did the president do wrong? The professor he offended joins us live and we'll have a debate about what degrees really matter these days.


CUOMO: Welcome back. A handwritten letter from President Obama apologizing for suggesting art history degrees are not as valuable as others. Was it really wrong? I guess that's a conversation for another time, but he made the comment during a speech about manufacturing jobs. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: A lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career, but I promise you folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.


CUOMO: A lot of people would agree with the president, but one art history professor surely did not, took serious exception to the statement. She actually sent an e-mail to the president, but of course, never expected she would get any reply but she did. She got a great reply.

The professor is here with us this morning. Ann Johns is a professor of Art History at the University of Texas at Austin Great School. Great to have you, Professor. So when the response came from the president, one, did you immediately believe it was from him and two, what was the take back?

PROFESSOR ANN JOHNS, ART HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN: Well, I got an e-mail from the White House office and they sent it as a PDF first. I will admit I stared at my computer screen for about 5 minutes, what in the world happened. And I received the actual letter yesterday in the mail. So no, I was completely stunned.

I try to do my civic duty and send e-mails to lawmakers maybe a couple times a year, but I never, ever had the expectation. And the impact has been particularly wonderful with my students. It has been a wonderful teaching moment and a wonderful discussion point.

BOLDUAN: Professor, a lot of people write letters and e-mails to the president on a daily basis. What do you think it was about yours that grabbed his attention and deserved such a response, an apology?

JOHNS: Well, a couple things. One is I think it was probably a relatively savvy decision on his part to send a letter to someone at a large state university in a large southern state. He's a smart man and his people are smart. Second, though, I tried very hard in my letter not to be negative, and not to complain, but rather than say why did you say that about our field, I thought I would instead inform him about what we do best, what is it that we teach our students, what sets of skills do we teach our students that are useful to them in future careers.

And perhaps how the discipline has changed, I didn't want us to be perceived as an elitist field. So that was I spent my time talking. I suspect it was a combination of geography, demographics, and the fact that my letter was positive.

LEMON: You kind of talked about what you did, you gave an overview of what you wrote, but what did you say specifically? What do you think impacted him the most to sit down and write out a handwritten apology to you?

JOHNS: Well, wouldn't it be nice if I did know exactly what I said. When you go to the house site, you type in an e-mail and it goes into wherever, and I didn't say that because I didn't for one minute think it would turn into something like this, so the specific words, you know, it was just one of those heat of the moment, let me do this before my next class.

As I said, I am pretty sure what I talked about were the specific skills we teach our students that we think are wonderful skills not only for our majors, but for any college student, critical thinking, critical reading, critical writing, and about how we have a global approach to world art in our history in the field today.

BOLDUAN: I guess we assume you accepted the apology real quick?

JOHNS: Yes, I have accepted. I thought his apology was very gracious. You would like to see the -- all right, tell me if you can see it.

BOLDUAN: Hold it up a little higher.

CUOMO: There it is. Put it in a frame, professor. What are you thinking? You're an art history professor. Frame it.

JOHNS: There's his signature.

BOLDUAN: Something to remember.

JOHNS: I'm sorry, what was your question? CUOMO: It was a comment, I was saying you're an art history professor, put it in a frame.

LEMON: Stop touching it.

JOHNS: Of course, I will put it in a frame and as one of my cousins said my kids will probably sell it on antiques road show in 20 years.

BOLDUAN: There you go. You have 20 years to enjoy it, Professor.

JOHNS: It will be up in my office awhile.

BOLDUAN: Great to meet you. Thanks so much.

JOHNS: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Let's take another break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, we have new information about a shoe bomb threat that has U.S. airlines on alert. Going to tell you about a master bomb builder in the Middle East who is the one behind causing all of this concern.

CUOMO: And he has more Olympic medals than any male skier in U.S. history. The great Bode Miller back from Sochi right here with us straight ahead. Look at him holding the medal.