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California Braces for Rain; Kerry Kennedy Found Not Guilty; Dems Run Away from Obama and His Low Approval Numbers; Millennial Jobseeker Receives Scathing Retort; Hollywood Gears Up for Oscar Weekend

Aired February 28, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Senator Robert Kennedy, found not guilty of driving while impaired, we'll look at why the jury made this decision in just a moment.

The e-mail rejection shaking up a generation, are millennials entitled, inappropriate, even tacky? We'll discuss.

And Paula Deen, making waves, what did she mean when she compared herself, in her words, to that black football player who recently came out? Is this the best path to image rehab?

Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman. It is 11:00 here in New York.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And I'm Michaela Pereira. It is 8:00 a.m. out here in L.A.

I'm here for the Oscars, but @ THIS HOUR, the area is bracing, bracing for torrential rain that could lead to dangerous mudslides. It has prompted an evacuation order for about a thousands homes in Southern California.

And if you can see the conditions on the road live from that camera, it is bad on the roads. You've got to take your time.

Now, we know the state desperately needs rain. They are in a drought. They are saying this is about the best -- the worst drought that this area has seen in modern history.

The ground is so dry, some areas getting hit so much, pounded by as much as six inches of rain, there could be flash floods. And, in fact, there is a flash flood warning here in Southern California that is good until Saturday night.

Now, the other issue is that some areas are really seeing this runoff. When you think about the land here, it doesn't absorb the way a lot of areas in the United States, that absorbent terrain.

Right here, Indra Petersons was telling us earlier this morning, it's more like cement, so all of that water has got to go somewhere.

Sandbags are being distributed. Barricades are being set up to try and redirect some of that water. Let's take you to Northern California now where it's not any better. We are told about a thousand people -- actually thousands of people are without power. Might be a little bit of good news, all that snow in the mountains, but down in the lowlands, it is not a good situation.

We're told there is some severe flooding in some areas of San Jose. We've even been hearing some reports some of swift water rescues in that area.

Back here live on the -- what you would think is the red carpet, it's the plastic carpet. They are doing what they can to protect this red carpet. They're tending it.

They've got red plastic all over this 600-foot red carpet so it'll keep dry, because we know the Oscars are Sunday. We only have a few hours that we can get this thing dried out.

John, we'll have more from here on the red carpet in Hollywood in a moment. Let's head back to you there in New York.

BERMAN: Yeah, back from the soggy carpet in Los Angeles to here in New York where it's just plain cold right now.

Also got some news, also happening this hour, just a few minutes ago, Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Senator Robert Kennedy, was found not guilty of driving while impaired.

Now, she had crashed her car into a tractor-trailer on a New York interstate in July of 2012. Kennedy said she had taken sleeping pills instead of her thyroid medication by mistake.

She was driving on her way to the gym in the morning. Again, found not guilty of driving while impaired.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos. Danny, what do you make of the verdict here?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: OK, this -- her entire defense was about who she was, and I don't mean a Kennedy. What I mean is she was a person on her way to work.

That context was critical, because the only shot she had here, her entire defense here, was involuntary intoxication.

Voluntary intoxication, as we know, not a defense to a crime, but her defense was that she accidentally took one of these Ambiens, or zolpidem, as it's also called.

So, that defense hinged on really the context. What kind of person was this? Because I promise you, if the facts were that she was at an Applebee's having a couple margaritas at night and she had an Ambien, I don't know that a jury would believe that was involuntary intoxication.

Instead, she was on the way to the gym and everyone in that jury had to ask themselves, Who in the world of drug addicts would even take an Ambien to go to the gym? That seems even beyond the pale.

BERMAN: It is a common-sense argument. No one would take an Ambien before going to workout. Why would you possibly do that?

You said it was all about who she is, not necessarily the Kennedy name, but the Kennedy name did come up, very prominently introduced by the defense.

They explained who she was, all about her family. Do you think it played any role in, first, being charged for this crime and also in the verdict?

CEVALLOS: No, whenever you have a defendant that you are putting on the stand, you will do anything to create some context, to show that -- to bring out facts that will show they are a legitimate person to that jury.

Whether they're a Kennedy, whether they're a dentist, whether they're a roofer, it really doesn't matter. You are going to bring out on direct all the facts that might help a jury just like the person better.

Does it go to the critical issue of the case? No. But every defense attorney does that, no matter who your client is, so there is nothing unusual or bizarre.

I know the media made a lot of that, but I think a defense attorney would be nuts not to put their client on the stand and develop some facts that are just -- that just helps the jury relate to them.

BERMAN: When the verdict was read in courtroom, apparently there was applause from Kerry Kennedy's side after the verdict was read. She went over and shook the hand of the prosecutors.

Danny Cevallos, great to see you here. Thank you so much.

CEVALLOS: Thank you.

BERMAN: Again, Kerry Kennedy found not guilty of driving while impaired

We do have other news happening @ THIS HOUR. In the Midwest today, another icy blast with wind chills dipping below zero.

Detroit public schools closed today because it is so closed. This is what happened after a water main break in that city last night. The water just froze completely solid there on the streets.

The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Russia warns that the crisis in Ukraine is dire. Right now, armed men are patrolling a main airport in the pro-Russian region of Crimea, Russian forces are conducting military drill near Ukraine's border and men in camouflage uniforms without military insignia are blocking one of the country's military air bases.

Ukraine's interior minister accuses Russia of staging an armed invasion, inflammatory words.

And adding to this escalation, the fugitive president of Ukraine, really ex-president at this point, just hours ago pledged to keep fighting, Viktor Yanukovych, speaking from Russia in his first public appearance since being ousted on Saturday.

At this hour, we're getting new details in the so-called "Bridgegate" investigation that has embroiled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, 911 calls from the days of the George Washington Bridge lane closures.

These 911 calls were released a short time ago. CNN is pouring over these tapes. There's 20 hours of audio, so this is a lot to listen here.

One thing we are listening for is whether any delayed emergency response due to the gridlock led to any harm.

All right, ahead for us @ THIS HOUR, the LinkedIn rejection that is exploding the Internet, someone out there expressing a low, low, low opinion of Millennials. The question is, does she have a point?

And also ahead a@ THIS HOUR, the White House work-out, no one -- no one -- will ever confuse these guys with Olivia Newton-John.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

In Washington in just a few hours, the president is scheduled to speak at the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee. The question is, do they want him there?

His approval rating are low. According to our new Poll of Polls, only 42 percent think he is doing a good job, right now, very, very low approval rating, down 10 points from this same time last year.

And while the president doesn't have to worry about re-election anymore, his fellow Democrats do. Democrats running in states where he's not popular are struggling to separate themselves from the president.

So what can he do now, if anything, to help? Let's bring in our CNN political commentators, Kevin Madden and Sally Kohn.

Sally, let me start with you. You have your ear to the ground among Democrats. How great do you think the fear is out there today among these candidates? And as they sit in the room, what do you think they want to hear from the president?

SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it is a mixed bag, and certainly this isn't unique to the president.

The Democrats have won at times in states where it's hard for Democrats to win, so those aren't going to be candidates who generally are embracing whoever the leader of the party who is who may be more liberal than their constituents. That's some context there. But that said, Democrats across the board are still looking for the president to do what he can as the leader of the country and as the party especially here, which is set the table.

Set the agenda. Draw that division between what Republicans stand for and what Democrats stand for. And tell all voters, look, if you want opportunity for all, if you want fairness for all, if you want your kids to be able to do better than you and get to college and make decent wages, then you're going to vote Democrat.

And if you want corporations to keep getting tax breaks and you want the inequality gap to keep growing, you're going to vote for the Republicans. That's what the president can outline for the country.

BERMAN: In fact, that is the word from the White House, the message the president will be talking to with the Democrats today that he wants to send to the American people.

The Democrats are talking about opportunity for all not opportunity for few. That is the White House message.

Kevin -


BERMAN: -- the new CBS/"New York Times" poll this week gave Republicans an edge heading into the midterms, 42 percent to 39 percent. That's pretty significant for Republicans.

You just picked up a huge Senate recruit in Colorado, Congressman Cory Gardner, who will be a tough candidate for the Democrat there, Mark Udall.

So, rather than gloat about these facts, which I know you might be inclined to do, what do you think the biggest risk is right now for Republicans heading into the midterms?

MADDEN: I think, increasingly, we have to make sure we are not defined as a party around what we are against, but instead that we are a party where we are defined by what it is for, what our alternative vision for health care is in this country, what we would do on spending, what we do differently to reform and knock down, quite frankly, the status quo in Washington as it relates to everything from jobs to the economy.

I think Sally made some good points. I think that increasingly Democrats are looking for the president to sort of frame a different narrative.

But I think mostly what Democrats are probably looking for with the president is raise us some money and then get out of the way.

So, yeah, and I think that's the one thing that we also have to remember, is that I think the Democrats will be well-funded and they do have a very good organizational infrastructure. But Republicans, Reince Priebus and the folks over at the RNC, have done a very good job of matching that, making sure that we have a good financial advantage and that our infrastructure can match the Democrats, as well.

BERMAN: Sally, one of the things that helped in 2012 for the Democratic Party was the grassroots organizations from the Obama team.

Is there any way to know whether that can be effective in a mid-term election? Because it didn't look like it helped very much in 2010.

KOHN: That actually is an interesting question. And we'll -- I think it will be one of the more fascinating points that people like me and Kevin pour over after the mid-time elections, because not to get too much into the weeds on this, but the way that the president turned over the role of grassroots leader in the last several elections to sort of be an autonomous kind of mobilizable force wasn't the same as it's going to be in play now, it's now much more active and engaged and sort of its own free thing to be able to go and engage in this midterm election.

So a lot of people are going to watch and say, Can those engaged people who are really inspired by the president in both 2008 and 2012, can they be engaged to be more active in their communities, active in politics?

And, hopefully, they can be, because that's good for the nation.

BERMAN: And Democrats certainly need that.

Kevin Madden, Sally Kohn, great to see you. Welcome to @ THIS HOUR. Come back again and again and again. Great having you.

KOHN: Congrats on the show.

MADDEN: Great to be with you, John, thanks.

BERMAN: Thanks so much. All right, coming up next, finding a job is never easy. It's even worse when you reach out and get shot down hard. That's what happened to a 26-year-old who tried to make a LinkedIn connection asking for some help from a woman who runs a job bank in Cleveland.

This is the response she got. "Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky. Wow. I cannot wait to let every 26-year-old jobseeker mine my top-tier marketing connections to help them land a job."

It went even further saying, "I love the sense of entitlement in your generation... Don't ever reach out to senior practitioners again and assume their carefully curated list of connections is available to you just because you want to build your network."

Again, the woman who wrote this smackdown runs a job bank. She has since apologized. We need to talk about this. There's a lot to talk about. Our digital correspondent Kelly Wallace joins me now. So, let's talk basic communications. Dos and don'ts here. This seems to go in the don't category.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDNET: This is like neon letters DON'T. I am so amazed, John, that in this day and age, people don't realize that what you say on ine stays online and can be used against you.

Eons ago when I started in my career, we didn't really have social media. We had e-mail. And we knew that anything you put in e-mail, someone else could read, someone else could access. So don't put something in there that you wouldn't want someone to see in a professional setting.

And the woman who sent this e-mail, John, she got an award as Communicator of the Year in Cleveland. I think there's some questions about her communication skills right now.

BERMAN: I think a few. Needless to say, she did have a line in there that I do think strikes a chord with a lot of people. She was talking about millennials. The woman who was applying for this job is 26 years old. She said, "I cannot believe the sense of entitlement in your generation." That's not the first time I have heard that about millennials.

WALLACE: No, and I think we probably all have some anecdotal experiences, right, with sort of a 20-something. I remember I was at CBS news and a 20-something was asked by our executive producer, who was fantastic, to get a cup of coffee. She was outraged, stormed out and resigned. And we thought, are you kidding me? This is an opportunity to network, et cetera. So we all have those experiences.

That said, I don't think what this 26-year-old did seemed to be a sense of entitlement. She wrote sort of a very nice, professional note, talking about her experiences, requesting a LinkedIn connection. John, the woman could have denied -- not accepted her request. I don't understand. She clearly was outraged about a lot of other things and she was projecting it.

BERMAN: She was doing the things you are supposed to do -- reach out, look for people to help you. Anyone who can help is good help to get if you're looking for a job. Kids these days, the nerve, looking for jobs.

WALLACE: Exactly.

BERMAN: Kelly Wallace, great to have you. Really appreciate it.

Let's go back to Michaela Pereira on the red carpet where she will win an Oscar on Sunday. Michaela.

PEREIRA: Well, I might not win but I felt like a contender, J.B. Ahead @ THIS HOUR, we're looking at Hollywood's big night, as you know. One person it could be a really huge night for, Matthew McConaughey. Our Nischelle Turner got a sit-down, one-on-one.

We'll have a closer look at that and of course more news from right now a very wet red carpet.


PEREIRA: Welcome back @ THIS HOUR. I'm Michaela Pereira as I am at every other. Today, I'm coming to you live from Hollywood on this Oscar weekend.

California also happens to be prepping for a major storm. We're really in the midst of it. We've already seen heavy rain overnight but they're saying up to six inches of rain is expected in some areas. Folks who live near the foothills of Los Angeles, the areas that burned last month in wildfires, those folks are being issued mandatory evacuation orders because of the concern of mudslides and flooding.

Here in Hollywood, though, the show will go on. However, they might want some gowns that have a little bit of waterproofing in them. I'm kidding. You do see a lot of raincoats and umbrellas right here where the preparations are going on around us and beside us.

Guess who's here with me? Nischelle Turner, our entertainment correspondent, she is here on the red carpet with me. We're calling it the plastic carpet. We also have our entertainment commentator, Krista Smith.

Great to have you both here with us to talk Oscars. Nischelle, we'll start with you. Can I just get a little dap (ph) from you? You got a one-on-one interview with a guy -- it's hard to believe for some people -- his first Oscar nomiation, Matthew McConaughey.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're calling it the McConaissance, which is like the Renaissance of Matthew McConaughey. This has really been a great year for him. He has been in the game for 22 years.

PEREIRA: Has it been that long?

TURNER: It's been that long.

PEREIRA: "Dazed and Confused".

TURNER: Exactly. That's where it all started for him. And he's definitely --as they're doing the work here on the red carpet -- he definitely is kind of the man to watch this award season. So we sat down to talk about kind of his life, his career, and just how he's embracing this whole moment.

Let's take a look, though, at one of the sounds bites where he was talking about the fact that he knew he just had to kind of get out of his own way and step out of the spotlight. Let's listen.


TURNER: We've known you always as the romantic comedy guy. Was it a conscious decision by you to say let me pull away from those and move towards?


TURNER: It was.

MCCONAUGHEY: I didn't know what exactly I was going to move towards but I had a pretty good sense I needed to pull back on what I had been doing. As I said, not to rebrand but to unbrand a little bit. And I didn't get offers. I didn't work for two years. Not because I didn't want to, but because I said, you know what, I don't want to do things that I've been doing. Those are fine. I enjoy those. I may do them again. But right now I want to do something different. Either I'm going to find it or it's going to find me.

What happened is they found me.


TURNER: And we saw him come back and do films like "Mudd", smaller, grittier roles. We saw "Dallas Buyers Club," "Wolf of Wall Strett" that he stole -

PEREIRA: He stole the show.

TURNER: You know, the beginning of that movie was so funny. And then "Dallas Buyers Club" that got him this Best Actor nomination. By the way, this Best Actor race, I think, is the most hotly contested of the night.

PEREIRA: I agree. Agreed. It's a (INAUDIBLE) field. We'll talk about that a little bit more later on in the show.

We also know that this year there could be some real big firsts. Let's bring in Krista Smith. These firsts that we're talking about. -- Krista, we could see the first black director, Best Director, rather; the first Hispanic Best Director, and, interestingly, the oldest Best Actor. Really some history could be made this weekend.

KRISTA SMITH, CNN ENTERTAINMENT COMMENTATOR: It is. I mean, it's incredible. I happen to be a huge fan of Steve McQueen. I think his -- this is only his third feature film and he is just proving how talented he is. And that would be very exciting if he would get the little gold man at the end of Sunday night.

But also Alfonso Cuaron, I mean, he is kind of the favorite to win at this point because he invented a whole new technology, a whole new way to make movies with "Gravity".

So it's exciting. I mean, I agree with Nischelle, the Best Actor is really tight but also so is the Best Director. I mean, I think that people - there's a lot of good directors that are up, also Scorsese. It's an exciting year.

PEREIRA: It is an exciting year. Add to that a crowded field in the Best Picture, there's a lot - they're saying that could be a three-way tie. Let's talk about the thing that some of us girls enjoy, the fashion. We know that that's such a huge, huge part and what drives a lot of eyes to the Oscars. What are you going to be looking for this year, Krista?

SMITH: Well, I have to say, the red carpet, let's hope for a little sunshine coming up by Sunday. I mean, we're all crossing our fingers.

It's so exciting. It is fashion's big night honestly. You get to see everything. I love so see each actress, their kind of individuality come out in what they choose. I'm sure we're going to see some color. There is always a little bit of black and white but I'm really hoping for a lot of pops of color.

TURNER: You know, it's funny because on the spring runways, we saw a lot of pastels and things got a lot prettier. But during the awards season, we've seen a lot of bold color and we've seen a lot of big name designers making a comeback.

I know we don't know exactly who will wear what until that day but I bet we'll see Dior on the red carpet because Jennifer Lawrence has a contract with them. So more than likely, she will be in Dior or Dior Coutour. So it'll be interesting. It's one of my favorite things.

PEREIRA: Wait, let me ask. Who will you be wearing?

TURNER: I'm wearing Kara Saun. She's a wonderful designer here in Los Angels and she made me a dress, honey, that fits like a glove.

PEREIRA: Like a glove. I cannot wait to see that on Sunday, and on Monday. We'll have more from the red carpet coming up here live in Los Angeles. It's not raining right this second. Wait a minute, it'll change, John Berman.

BERMAN: Yes, of course, you didn't ask me what I'll be wearing. I'll be wearing flannel and ripped jeans, circa 1992. Made by LL Bean and Levi, made specially for me.

All right, Michaela and Nischelle, we'll talk to you in just a second.

Ahead @ THIS HOUR, deeply personal reflexes from President Obama. "I got high," he said. So is that important for young people to hear or risky?

Also ahead, Paula Deen's image rehab after the N-word. She says it's just like that black football player who recently came out. Those were her words. What did she mean an why did she say that?