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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Arizona Governor Urged to Veto Religious Freedom Bill; Same-Sex Couple in Michigan Fights Ban on Adoption; Don King Talks Muhammad Ali, Was His Win a Setup?

Aired February 26, 2014 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All eyes are on Arizona governor, Jan Brewer. She's weighing a decision on a bill that has many people in an uproar. The Religious Freedom Bill allows businesses to turn away customers on religious grounds. Critics say it is specifically designed to deny service to gay and lesbians while supporters say it protects people's religious beliefs.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Not only have dozens of national corporations have urged the governor to veto the bill but former supporters have changed their minds saying they want the governor to veto the bill now.

Steve Pierce originally voted for it but now he too is calling for the veto. He spoke with Anderson Cooper last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, A.C. 360: So you actually believe, looking at it now, that it would discriminate against some people in Arizona?

STATE SEN. STEVE PIERCE, (R), ARIZONA: It has that ability, yes. It could be. I have talked with a lot of people about it. They are going, well, what about going in the restaurant? What about doing this? Well, the way it was described originally was, it is like, no shirt, no shoes, no service in a restaurant. Well, it could be interpreted differently. It is too vague. Who is it going to affect? I can see now where people are concerned about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: So Governor Brewer has until Saturday to sign the bill or to veto it. If she does nothing, it becomes law. Several lawmakers have told CNN that Brewer will likely veto it.

BERMAN: The question is when. The silence is causing anxiety to increase.

While the Arizona governor is making up her mind about whether to sign the bill or not, in Michigan, this morning, a same-sex couple is fighting a very different battle in court. April DeBoer and Jane Rowse are challenging the state's same-sex marriage ban hoping to overturn a law that prevents them from adopting each other's children. PEREIRA: It boils down to whether same-sex couples make good parents. Psychologists testified, yes, they do.

BERMAN: There will be other evidence in court where you are going to hear testimony that they don't.

Let's bring in CNN commentator, ESPN senior writer, L.Z. Granderson; and also CNN legal analyst, Danny Cevallos.

PEREIRA: L.Z., let's start with you. We know you have a teenage son. Why do you think this couple should or shouldn't be allowed to adopt?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that the criteria that people need to be focused in on is whether or not there is love and stability in the Household. From everything that I've seen about the case, there is nothing to suggest that those children are not being loved and that they don't have security. I understand this desire of wanting to live like what people consider the traditional family. I would like to tell those people that there is nothing traditional about a heterosexual family that kicks out their child because they are gay. That has happened. 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT. You are telling me just because there is a man and woman in a household guarantees love in a house, just as it is not true that if you have a same-sex couple, the child is in danger. Each case is individual.

PEREIRA: Danny, what's making this case so interesting to so many people, you have a lot of people watching on both sides of the issue, is the so-called science of it? In this case, there will be scientific testimony where you have both sides playing and there are studies that support their claims. If will be a study from the University of Texas from a sociologist that says he has evidence that having gay parents can affect you in an adverse way when you grow up. How does a judge decide this? What does a judge take into consideration when you have testimony from scientists on both sides?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Here is why this case is problematic. Like it or not, it will result in a court, a judge, someone appointed by the president for life deciding on this evidence and what happens if he decides that, in fact, there is some biological difference and that men and women are somehow scientifically superior relationships. That's the problem with dealing with this constitutional issue in federal court, because historically, this has been left to the states to define. When I say the states, I mean the voters, you and me. So while I probably wouldn't agree with a lot of the position of the state of Michigan -- and I do not. I have read their Amicus Brief. The problem is procedurally. We are dealing with this case in federal court. Are we prepared to take on the risk of a single judge and not the voters of a state making the determination about whether what if he says scientifically there is some superiority with man, women, parental relationships. Now, you have case law when this issue should have remained with the voters of state of Michigan.

PEREIRA: I work a lot with at-risk youth. I have said that a lot before. I have heard adoptive parents say the fact that they chose their kids. This was a child that was really wanted. I know there are going to be voices, L.Z., that say, this is a couple that wants these children, this child. They want them. The love and the dedication is there. There are so many families that are just having kids that don't want them. They are not being taken care of. That's a real frustration for a lot of people.

GRANDERSON: Absolutely. I used to live in Michigan. I moved away. I was born and raised a Michigander. I was a youth pastor of not one but two churches. I volunteer in my son's school. No one dotes over youth more than I do. To be told in Michigan I couldn't adopt because somehow my sexual orientation would dictate my parenting skills was a complete slap in my face. My son, a 4.0 students, going to one of the hardest schools in the state of Michigan. I was told I wasn't a good parent based on my sexual orientation. This law, when it was enacted, was at a time when the country was moving toward anti-gay laws. President Bush was the president trying to get an amendment into the Constitution. That's where we were when this vote was taken back then. The state of Michigan and the country is in a different perspective, because we have evidence and we have a different attitude about LGBT families. So would hope this appointee of President Reagan will look at where the country is now, and the law and the science, and see where the attitudes were back then when the ban was enacted is no longer relative today.

BERMAN: All right, L.Z. Granderson, Danny Cevallos, thank you. This case will be going on all week. We'll keep our eye on it.

PEREIRA: It is interesting to see what comes out of it, how it will affect the things going on in other states. This is going to set some precedent.

BERMAN: As Danny said, it will be case law, which is interesting.

The Chicago police force is trying a new measure to fight crime, according to the "Chicago Sun-Times." It all started when a 14-year- old boy was shot to death earlier this month. Instead of arresting warring gang members, police commanders went door to do to members of the group and they offered them a contact for job training and social services.

PEREIRA: What's really amazing here is that they are doing that personal contact. They are going door to door in these neighborhoods. And we should point out, there hasn't been an arrest in the murder case yet. Critics are labeling this thing a "hug a thug" policy. Police are reporting unreal degrees in violence. Of 50 people with long rap sheets visited so far, none have been suspected in a shooting since the program began.

We have all seen the headlines on what is going on in Chicago and some argue this isn't doing enough. This is a starting point, something they are doing. We are hoping to get a voice to talk about this and other efforts going on in Chicago.

BERMAN: I would like to get a first-hand account on what it is like to go door to door --

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: Yeah. Absolutely.

Ahead @ THIS HOUR, our "Hot Flash." It feels like one.

BERMAN: I feel it. I feel it.

PEREIRA: Joe Biden makes a joke. Did he just make a big problem for himself? We'll discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. It is time for our "Hot Flash." Can you see it right there? These are three stories guaranteed to get you talking.

Starting with someone who always gets you talking. I'm talking about Vice President Joe Biden. He was at an event with the current mayor of Sacramento, who happens to be a former NBA star, Kevin Johnson. The vice president was talking about his basketball skills. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told the president, next game I would have him.

(LAUGHTER)

Just remember, I may be a white boy but I can jump.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: He says he is a white boy who can jump. There was a famous movie, "White Men Can't Jump." Offensive, not offensive? You make the call.

PEREIRA: For me, I wasn't offensive at all. It is Joe being Joe. He is calling it as he sees it. He can jump. As a person of color, it didn't bother me at all.

BERMAN: I don't want to be a spoiled sport, but isn't it a stereotype? At a certain level, that's a racial stereotype. Not about white people but it ends up being about African-Americans. It is one of these things. Everyone laughed. I don't think anyone was uncomfortable by it.

PEREIRA: No, no.

BERMAN: But I said this before. Everyone thinks that I'm crazy.

PEREIRA: No, it's not that you're crazy.

BERMAN: How would you explain this joke to my kids?

PEREIRA: You tell them about the movie.

No, I understand what you're saying. A girlfriend of mine, my best friend, who is white, says, I don't understand why we can't see people beyond color. I don't get it. I had to have a conversation with you. It is part of who I am. It is kind of like saying, I don't see you as a redhead. We have to recognize the fact that we are who we are.

BERMAN: I can jump and dance. Go ahead.

PEREIRA: I want to see both.

On to Brazil. Is it too hot for Brazil? Take a look at a T-shirt. Wait. Should you look at this?

BERMAN: Look away.

PEREIRA: Or avert your eyes as a married man?

You are going to understand when you see this t-shirt, why Brazil's tourism official wanted Adidas to stop selling it. Brazil for the first time hosting --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Look at that.

PEREIRA: -- the first time since 1950. Big deal for that country where soccer is god. But the government is concerned. It is a very real concern, about the country's reputation for sex tourism. They took issue with this shirt. Adidas agreed and they pulled the T- shirt.

BERMAN: So, this is a single entendre. Those T-shirts say, if you go to Brazil, you will get sex. Brazil equals sex. I can see why they might have issues with that. While I have never been to Brazil, I presume there is a lot more that Brazil has to offer.

PEREIRA: A lot more. I lived in Brazil for a year. This did not surprise me. This is completely in the vein of what Brazil does. But I will point out. It is very interesting now. Brazil has its first female president.

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: In the first time in the country's history. It is making me wonder if there is a bit of a shift going on in that nation for a little more sensitivity, if you will.

BERMAN: She is taking this very seriously. She says she wants people to come to Brazil but don't expect sex tourism. It is not something she wants to focus on.

PEREIRA: On to our next topic. BERMAN: Jason Collins, the first openly gay pro athlete in the United States in any of the four big team sports. That was a week ago. He signed this ten-day contract. He only has a 10-day contract. Guess whose Jersey is top seller now on the NBA's website? Jason Collins, wearing number 98. Selling off the shelves. The top selling Jersey. This guy has a 10-day contract. I have never heard of anyone with a 10-day contract having their Jersey up for sale. So the NBA is sort of cashing in.

PEREIRA: You think it is the NBA cashing in or do you think there are a lot of kids out there that are saying, wow, I admire this guy for what he did? I'll actually take a stand on that. He actually is pretty heroic that he stood up for his own truth. And he is very brave. What I think kids should idolize.

BERMAN: I agree 100 percent. If the NBA is making money off of it, fine. The number 98 is a great number to wear.

PEREIRA: Are you still hot?

BERMAN: I'm still hot. That was our "Hot Flash."

(LAUGHTER)

Ahead @ THIS HOUR, one of the most storied upsets in the history of all sports, the fight that launched Muhammad Ali into the stratosphere. Did he win it or did the mob rig it? We have a special guest to talk about this.

PEREIRA: Who is that special guest?

BERMAN: That's Don King here to talk about this next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: It was one of the biggest upsets in sports history. We're talking about a young boxer from Louisville named Cassius Clay beating the champ 50 years ago this week. Clay went on to change his name to Muhammad Ali. And he's one of the most iconic figures on our planet.

BERMAN: The question is, looking at this fight, was America sucker punched here? There are startling allegations this event was a set- up, rigged by a mobster who had allegedly had ties to Liston. And for the first time we're hearing the FBI launched an investigation. It all ended a couple of years later, citing a lack of information. We got no comment from the Ali camp. And Sunny Liston died in '71. We may never know the truth.

But we've got something pretty special anyway. We want to talk about this a man who knows boxing as well as anyone.

PEREIRA: Look who is here.

BERMAN: Promoter Don King, international man, with flags in just about every country.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Don King, great to have you here.

DON KING, FIGHT PROMOTER: John, just a pleasure to be here. And I got a message from Ali. He said bring that title back to America and that's what we're going to try to do. In fact, that's what I'm here for, to see which network will get it. Will it be Time Warner or Espinoza or CBS?

PEREIRA: That's what you're in town for?

KING: Yes. And they got me --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: So I want to make certain we've got the heavyweight title fight with Chris Arreola and (INAUDIBLE). And that's going to bring the boxing --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Let's talk about the fight 50 years ago.

KING: Yes, 50 years ago.

BERMAN: These allegations now being --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Absolutely nothing.

BERMAN: You don't think it was rigged?

KING: Absolutely nothing. Let me tell you something. Muhammad Ali is so great that no one would ever know how great he really is. Because after he won the title, they took four years of his life of standing up for people, for his rights, for his being a conscientious objector. And then they brought him into the ring and he started again four years later. Those four years' absence at the height of his career, no one could judge what would have happened then, because he continued on as winning without those four years. So I coined the phrase of "Every head must bow every knee must bend, every tongue must confess thou are the greatest of all-time is Muhammad Ali."

PEREIRA: Look, there are many people who agree he is the greatest. We're not going to argue that point. But do you -- you say there is just no chance. There is no chance that this -- could there have been a chance it was rigged and he didn't know about it?

KING: No. Because he was beating Sunny Liston. And you knew his talent -- you could say -- if you could be objective, impartial and fair, you can say, well, indications, the evidence wasn't there. But evidence was there. The empirical evidence was that he was beating this man, and he continued to beat everyone, even including George Foreman.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Which you happened to be a part.

KING: Yes, I happened to be part of that. But that was a strong man. George Foreman was a phenomenal fighter. Punching hard. So Liston was a hard puncher. What would make Liston be in (INAUDIBLE). You know what I mean. So you've got to understand. And at that time, all due respect, people of color were always going to be investigated. You didn't have to worry about that. Civil rights movement --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: There is all kinds of evidence that J. Edgar Hoover investigated all kinds of --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Anything. That's why -- he had a book. He had a book, John.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Let me talk to you about the second fight, though. Because this idea that fights can be rigged, even fights with Ali and Liston, that's nothing new. The second fight, the rematch a year later, there was the phantom punch in the first round. Liston went down. Ali didn't seem to touch him. A lot of people said that fight was rigged. So you do know there are these allegations swirling.

KING: You've got to understand how fast Ali was.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Faster than the camera?

KING: This is what you -- this is what you keep missing. Because it's so phenomenal. I can understand that a normal person and even a super normal, like yourself, you know what I mean? You would miss some of these things.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Ali was, you know, your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see.

PEREIRA: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

KING: Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see.

PEREIRA: Don King -- KING: People turn the light on and get back into bed before the doctors came in. You've got to see that, John.

BERMAN: I do.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Yeah, you are man. You know, what's so fabulous to make this happen -- that's why I want to bring the renewed and dedicated -- this is the 40th anniversary year of Muhammad Ali.

PEREIRA: We know that.

KING: So we are working on that and we want to bring the heavyweight title back --

BERMAN: Happy anniversary.

KING: We want to bring this heavyweight title back to America. We keep talking the talk but I don't know what they'll do at HBO or what Espinoza is going to do or CBS.

BERMAN: I know what I'm going to do.

Don King --

KING: We better get it. Old Glory, may she ever wave.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Old Glory, may she ever wave.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Peace in the Middle East is what we're talking about. Peace in the Middle East. We're going to do that, too.

John and Michaela, I'm so happy to be on your show.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: This is one of the greatest shows on CNN. I told that to Ted Turner when he first started.

BERMAN: Don King --

KING: But you know what, John? America is the greatest nation in the world. We want that heavyweight title back in America.

BERMAN: I hear you.

KING: And we've got a chance to do it. And one of the networks better step up to the plate.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Let me tell you to sit tight for a second, because we're going to end our show with the final thought.

PEREIRA: OK.

KING: Give me a final though.

BERMAN: The final thought is today's cable outrage. It will make your hair hurt, even Don King's hair.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- really specifically, real hard.

BERMAN: It's about facial hair.

KING: John, you've got everything --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: This is a story on the Internet.

KING: The greatest in the world.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: They are doing a program. And listen to what he has to say because he --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: This story claims there is a surge in designer facial hair transplants -- Don King?

KING: That's wonderful. It's wonderful.

BERMAN: Let's call them beard jobs, if you will.

PEREIRA: What?

BERMAN: Let's call them beard jobs. The story says they take hair from your head and put it on your face and it grows and you have to shave it, just like everyday hair. Allegedly, guys are paying up to $7,000 --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- just for the right of a beard or mustache, like John King's here.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Apparently, one of the most common requests are for Brad Pitt --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: They're not giving you -- you need a raise. You guys are startling. You are taking the people by storm.

PEREIRA: We are trying to take the people by storm.

BERMAN: And I'm stopping right there because --

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: I think that's probably smart.

BERMAN: Let me say on this subject of beards, the official motto of CNN, only one beard.

PEREIRA: What's that?

BERMAN: There's only one beard.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: And it belongs to Wolf Blitzer.

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: Something we can all agree on.

KING: Yes, this is great. CNN --

BERMAN: One head of hair on Don King and one beard.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: That is it for us today.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: What a fabulous show.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I think we'll be back tomorrow. But I can't guarantee it.

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts after this.

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: Don King is now --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Thank you.

KING: CNN today! CNN today!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)