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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

RadarOnline Purports New Donald Sterling Audio; Panel Discusses Donald and Shelly Sterling

Aired May 8, 2014 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: And I'm Michaela Pereira.

We are going to begin with brand new audio we want to play for you that purports to be the voice of banished L.A. Clippers owner, Donald Sterling talking on a phone to an unknown speaker. This all comes from radaronline.com.

BERMAN: So we hear a male voice. It's said to be Sterling. To us it sounds like the voice from the previous recording that we heard.

On this new recording, he denies he's a racist. Also importantly, he vows not to sell his team. We want you to listen to it. Here it is in its entirety.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: You think I'm a racist? You think I have anything in the world but love for everybody? You don't think that. You know I'm not a racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know I got the -- I mean, when I heard the --

STERLING: I can't hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about when I hear that tape, though? That tape I heard.

STERLING: I grew up in East L.A. East L.A., you'd die to get out of there. I got out of East L.A. I was the president of the high school there.

I mean, if you -- and I'm a Jew. And 50 percent of the people there were black, and 40 percent were Hispanic. You ever been to Boyle Heights?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Yeah, I've been to Boyle Heights.

STERLING: I mean, people must have a good feeling for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you talk to Griffin or anybody yet? Did you talk to anybody?

STERLING: I didn't talk to anybody. I'm in my house in Beverly hills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

STERLING: I mean, how could you think I'm a racist, knowing me all these years?

How can you be in this business and be a racist? Do you think I tell the coach to get white players or to get the best player he can get?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best player he can get.

STERLING: I mean, you -- I don't expect anything from anybody, but I do from you. I mean -- it breaks my heart that Magic Johnson, you know, my -- a guy I -- a guy I respect so much wouldn't stand up and say, well, let's get the facts. Let's get him and talk to him.

Nobody tried. Nobody. I'm here on Beverly Drive and Sunset across from the Beverly Hills Hotel, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I think they're trying to -- they're probably trying to force you to sell. That's the thing.

STERLING: They don't -- you can't force someone to sell property in America. Well, I'm a lawyer. That's my opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm just saying, I think they've got Sean Combs, Diddy, is -- he's the one that's really seeking to buy, him and Oprah.

STERLING: Who?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Diddy, Sean Combs, and Oprah are the ones trying to --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: Well, we certainly have a lot to chew over here. We want to talk about this new recording.

Our legal analyst Danny Cevallos is here, our own Jason Carroll, and in Los Angeles, Stephanie Elam is with us at this hour.

Jason, I think we've got to start with you. First of all, what do we know about the recording? RadarOnline has it. Where'd they get it? Who's speaking? What do we know?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, there are a lot of unknowns.

But clearly what we do know from the person who purports to be Donald Sterling on the tape, he's saying that he's not a racist, that he has a love for everybody.

It's hard to understand that when you hear that in comparison to the other tapes that we've heard where he says don't bring black people to my games, specifically Magic Johnson. You hear him referring to Magic Johnson there.

Also what I find is interesting is where he says I have a love for everybody. He says, how do you think -- what do you think? I could only hire white players, or did I go for the best players?

But remember when Elgin Baylor, the former general manager of the Clippers, when he filed that lawsuit against the Clippers in 2009? I pulled up the complaint here.

He says he made it very clear that Sterling's approach was to try to put out negative and quote, "even false information about the African- American players."

So clearly there is a big gap between what we're hearing on this tape here today and from his alleged behavior in the past.

BERMAN: Is there a definition of not being a racist that allows for not wanting someone to bring black people to a basketball game?

CARROLL: I can answer that question even without you -- no.

BERMAN: I don't think we need a legal expert for that, Danny Cevallos, but there is some other things in here which does require your expertise, namely, he says he doesn't want to sell the team.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, this ownership issue is going to be a whole other "mishegas," because it's going to combine issues of trust law. It's going to combine issues of divorce law.

It's going to combine -- we're going to have to determine whether or not under the NBA's constitution, this is even something that the NBA can do.

But even beyond that, that's only the beginning, because if the property is held in trust -- now, a trust is just when you have one person holding property for another or other beneficiaries.

And the reason you create it is that you want to shield that property in case, for example, the millionaire trust fund kid, who you don't trust to actually take care of the property. Well, he can get an income from it.

We do the same thing in business all the time. These trusts are literally created just to protect assets, to protect property.

And the question is going to come up, who is entitled -- who has ownership of this trust? Who gets to run it? Who gets to dissolve it>

And it's not as simple as we don't like Donald Sterling's thoughts. Therefore, we're taking a team away from him, although it would appear that way in the NBA constitution.

PEREIRA: Let's bring in Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles. And, Stephanie, you've been doing a great job covering this story for us from the jump.

And it's interesting, too. We know how people in Los Angeles feel about Donald Sterling. Do they share the same sentiments for his wife?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what we've been trying to find out. You take a look at what you've seen of the playoffs. We heard after this whole scandal broke -- you saw that she put out -- actually, I should say that it came from Doc Rivers. I'm hearing myself, so I'm going to take my earpiece out.

It came from Doc Rivers where he was saying that she asked if she could come to the game. She said it was OK. He said that he felt sorry for her in this situation. She's been playing this role of saying, hey, let me play the part that I need to so that I can then take over the team.

We have spoken to her lawyers. We're working to get a statement out. But they are indicating that, yes, she wants to take over the team.

The other thing that's interesting about these new tapes that we're hearing from RadarOnline is the issue that he talks about how he grew up in East L.A. and Boyle Heights, and so there has to be a good feeling out there about him.

There's a huge disconnect between the tape we heard before and this tape, and somehow he seems to believe, because he grew up around people of different colors, that somehow means that there's no way he could be a racist, which obviously we know is not the case.

BERMAN: He talks about being elected high school class president, essentially saying, I did well with the black vote, which for a guy in his 80s, it seems very, very odd to me.

But -- and you all bring up excellent points here. This is all happening at the same time, and it may not be a coincidence, of course the NBA trying to take his team away from him, Shelly Sterling trying to get it.

In this recording where he defends himself very publicly with what he thinks is his best argument --

PEREIRA: You've got to question the timing of it.

BERMAN: Exactly.

PEREIRA: You've got to question the timing of this tape being released.

CARROLL: And not just question the timing, but once again, I think what a lot of people are going to come away with in looking at this, questioning, is this man delusional?

I mean, I said it during the last hour, but it does remind me of those people who say, look, some of my best friends are black. How could I possibly be a racist?

PEREIRA: In looking at the history --

ELAM: But you're talking about timing. PEREIRA: Go ahead, Steph.

ELAM: You're talking about timing here. This has been going on now for a couple of weeks, and we have not heard from him except for in this reported recording that we're hearing from that's coming out from RadarOnline.

We haven't heard him say anything. And he's saying that he's upset that Magic Johnson hasn't come to him.

What about the fact that he hasn't gone to somebody else and said, listen, is this me on the tape? Yes, I said this, but this is the context, not that there could ever be the right kind of context, but we haven't heard anything from him except for this surreptitious recording.

PEREIRA: Right and the surreptitious you've got to almost put in quotations.

Danny, doesn't the timing of it -- I have to keep going back to the timing of it. Doesn't it seem like an awfully convenient way?

Because the fact is, the man could give an interview with -- he could grant an interview to anybody. He could talk to anybody.

CEVALLOS: And clear the air.

PEREIRA: And clear the air if there's air to be cleared, if he feels.

CEVALLOS: I think one way of looking at it, it's really sort of a sad effort. If it is some sort of p.r. release or some calculated decision, it is sort of a sad glimpse into the way he's trying to fix the problem.

I mean, there's so many other better ways from a public-relations standpoint to address this problem. But just a rambling sort of tape about, "oh, no, no, I love people of all races" isn't really taking steps. And I don't think it really goes far in helping him retain ownership of his precious team.

BERMAN: We want to talk more about the legal angles here. Can he keep this team? We want to talk more about the timing, the p.r. angle of this miraculous release of this audio today.

We're going to talk all about this, right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: The voice of Donald Sterling, allegedly, so we have brand-new audio to play for you that purports to be the voice of the banished L.A. Clippers' owner, Donald Sterling, talking to an unknown speaker, apparently on the phone. It comes from RadarOnline.com.

PEREIRA: We're going to play some of it to you. You hear a male voice, as you said, said to be Donald Sterling, vowing and saying and denying that he is not -- that he's a racist, rather, and vowing not to sell his team.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STERLING: You think I'm a racist? You think I have anything in the world but love for everybody? You don't think that. You know I'm not a racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know I got the -- I mean, when I heard the --

STERLING: I can't hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about when I hear --

STERLING: You know --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- when I hear that tape, though? That tape I heard?

STERLING: I grew up in East L.A. East L.A., you'd die to get out of there. I got out of East L.A. I was the president of the high school there.

I mean, if you -- and I'm a Jew. And 50 percent of the people there were black, and 40 percent were Hispanic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. Donald Sterling, once again talking about his campaign for class president high school, apparently with the help of the black and Hispanic vote.

PEREIRA: 65 years ago.

BERMAN: A long, long time ago.

Says he's not a racist. Also says on this tape that he does not plan to sell the team.

And that's why I want to talk about Danny Cevallos, our legal analyst, right now. Shelly Sterling, the wife of Donald Sterling, according to "The Los Angeles Times," according to some other sources, now says she would like to be considered the owner of the team. She doesn't want the family trust to get rid of the L.A. Clippers.

What legal right does she have? I know it's in a family trust, but you know, has she really been active in owning and managing this team?

CEVALLOS: Yeah, we are on new ground here, because first, a court will probably have to determine who, in fact, owns the Clippers.

And I think what's going to be critical is a statement that Commissioner Silver made early on, which is these actions we are taking are against Donald Sterling. We're not taking them against any other family members. Look for those words to come back. And someone has gotten in Shelly Sterling's ear, and wisely, she is now asserting herself as a good, viable candidate for ownership of the Clippers.

And because we're on new ground, because the NBA has sought to use a part of its constitution to oust an owner, when it really wasn't designed for this purpose, for throwing out an owner because of his private thoughts, they're going to run into some legal problems.

I don't think it's going to be as easy as the NBA believes it's going to be.

PEREIRA: But now, Danny, that brings up an interesting issue, because if you look back at some of the reporting about Shelly Sterling, she was involved in the brouhaha about the tenancy issues they were having many years ago, and so she would be in the same category, would she not?

CEVALLOS: Exactly. But now look at the business the NBA has gotten itself into.

Now instead of using a constitutional provision to oust an owner when they're not making the payroll or they're not doing correct business transactions, now the NBA is inserting itself into the business of finding out all the bad things you may or may not have said over the last decades.

And is that really, from a public relations standpoint and a legal standpoint, the kind of business the NBA wants to be?

BERMAN: But Jason, you're reporting on this and other CNN reporting indicates the NBA seems fairly committed to going down this road.

CARROLL: The NBA seems very confident about this. And I think it's likely that they have some support also from the players as well. You remember the players were asked about this last week. In fact, they were asked about what if Shelly Sterling were to be owner. And the players sort of dodged the question, basically saying they wouldn't want to be in the position of making that type of decision.

But I have to tell you, you know, after hearing from people within, you know, from the NBA, people who are familiar with the Clippers, I think they want a clean slate.

PEREIRA: Oh, they'd love a clean slate.

CARROLL: They don't want the Sterling name associated --

(CROSSTALK)

ELAM: And to add to further -- there is one thing here. There is one thing here to point out and it's something people keep forgetting. The NBA is a business. And so, ultimately, what they can't have are sponsors dropping out as they were when this first reported, before there was reaction. That's money. They can't afford to not have the players on the court across the NBA because then there's no games. There's no sponsorships. There's no fans.

And if the fans drop out as well, who also bring a huge amount of revenue, that's another issue. And I think for a lot of fans here in Los Angeles and in other cities, if there is any Sterling who is behind the ownership of this team, that is going to be a problem. I think the NBA sees that, and I think they did this because it was perhaps the right thing to do after a racist rant, but also because, at the end of the day, this is about dollars. And if they don't have people coming into those courts for those games, then there's no point. It's all about that bottom line.

PEREIRA: We do know it is about the bottom line to be sure. This is the part of the conversation we want to continue -- Steph, Danny, Jason, please stick around. We're going to take a short break. We'll continue our conversation in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: I've got to tell you, it is something to behold, the brand- new audio purportedly from Donald Sterling, the banished L.A. Clippers' owner. We hear him talking on the phone to an unknown speaker. This new audio comes from Radaronline.com.

PEREIRA: We want you to listen to it because we want you to hear the voice with your own ears. But what's interesting in this clip is that Sterling insists that he can't be forced to sell his team. Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

VOICE OF DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: Do you think I tell the coach to get white players? Or to get the best player he can get?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best player he can get.

STERLING: I mean, you -- I don't expect anything from anybody, but I do from you. I mean, it breaks my heart that Magic Johnson, you know, a guy I -- a guy that I respect so much, wouldn't stand up and say, well, let's get the facts. Let's get him and talk to him.

Nobody tried. Nobody. I'm here on Beverly Drive and Sunset across from the Beverly Hills Hotel. You know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I think they're trying to -- they're going to probably trying to force you to sell it. That's the thing.

STERLING: You can't force somebody to sell property in America. Well, I'm a lawyer. That's my opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no, I'm just saying, I think they've got Sean Combs, Diddy, he's the one that's really seeking about it, him and Oprah.

STERLING: Who?

(END AUDIO CLIP) BERMAN: There are three things that jump out to me here.

PEREIRA: Only three.

BERMAN: The idea of selling the team -- there's more than three, an infinite thing. The idea of selling the team, we'll get to that in a second. Also the source of this tape because, to me, if there's one human being in America right now who knows a little bit about recording conversations is Donald Sterling.

PEREIRA: Maybe.

BERMAN: So the idea this could happen, by accident --

PEREIRA: The time is curious.

BERMAN: -- seems a little strange. Stephanie Elam, the first question I want to ask you, Donald Sterling seems baffled by the fact that no one is standing up to defend him. Is he right, first of all? I don't think I've missed anyone standing up and saying Donald Sterling's a great guy, he's not a racist.

ELAM: Yes, what's interesting about this is even his own wife seems to not be going behind him. There was that one clip that we saw when they came out of a restaurant and she seemed to defend him and say that he wasn't a racist. Since then, she's been sort of setting herself up to take over as owner.

I would also like to point out that the Sterlings seem to have an interesting marriage. They've been married for decades now. But it does seem to be very confusing how they interact because they're still seen with each other. He's still been seen with V. Stiviano. They still have these business dealings. And it almost seems that money is more important than marriage.

And so it would almost make one wonder that while Shelly is making all of this play to be the owner of the Clippers, would that really mean that Donald wouldn't be a part of it? Because they do have a lot of business dealings together. She's been reporting herself as a co- owner, putting out statements and so forth. So what's interesting here about how they are dealing with this whole thing is are they really behind the scenes planning how they're going to attack this? And that's why she's been out there making statements and why he's been quiet.

PEREIRA: OK. So we'll get to the V. Stiviano part in a second, Steph, because that's a whole part we need to investigate and talk about as well.

But there's another point I could not help but talk about is the fact that, you know, they've both insisted that since the '80s, they've been dedicated to bringing this city a championship. How's that going? Second, this is a Clipper fan speaking.

Danny, I've got to talk to you about something. This idea -- and you hear it on the tape -- you can't force someone to sell property in America. The NBA, we know, has asked him to sign morality clauses over the past 20 or 30 years, so he's not in the right there at all, is he?

CEVALLOS: Well, as with many legal answers, sort of. Let's start with the NBA. He's right that generally you can't force people to sell property, but there are so many exceptions. And one of them is if you contract your rights. And that's what NBA owners do. Hey, we'd like to be part of this league. Well, no problem.

PEREIRA: But --

CEVALLOS: But the conditions are set forth in this document. And you give up certain rights, including the right to have a court look over decisions of Commissioner Silver. He is the final say, the final arbiter.

So for a court to take interest in Donald Sterling's theory of the case, they're going to have to overcome the provisions of that constitution. And the NBA is going to fall back on that constitution and say Donald Sterling contractually agreed to give up, to waive those rights.

CARROLL: Absolutely.

CEVALLOS: And have everything arbitrated within. It's a family affair.

BERMAN; You know, Stephanie Elam used the phrase "interesting marriage" to describe the Sterlings. I now hope that no one in the history ever describes my marriage as interesting.

PEREIRA: Interesting. Complex.

BERMAN: I'm deeply that that could take place. Jason, though --

ELAM: Well, it's conspicuously odd coupling, that's all.

BERMAN; That, too. Another one.

CARROLL: It's a business relationship. It's a business relationship.

BERMAN: Is that what people are saying?

CARROLL: I think people -- look, a couple things. When it comes to their relationship, I think a lot of people -- and who are we to judge people who have been together for many, many years.

PEREIRA: Between two people.

CARROLL: How they want to live their lives? Aside from that, Shelly Sterling cannot play both sides of it. She cannot play like she's on the side of --

PEREIRA: But she is.

CARROLL: -- the Clippers, showing up at the games, and then, at the same time, show up outside of a restaurant and defend her husband, Donald Sterling, and say that he's not a racist. Which is it?

PEREIRA: OK. And then there's what one of our analysts --

ELAM: But that's what she's been doing.

PEREIRA: -- earlier today said there's the V. Factor. We haven't even said V. Stiviano's name since Stephanie brought her name up in a segment ago. Extortion charges.

CARROLL: Right. Well, according to the Los Angeles district attorney's office, they say they're not commenting on these allegations that V. Stiviano tried to extort money from Sterling in exchange for keeping quiet about these tapes.

PEREIRA: Could this be a behind-the-scenes effort to -- all of this? Could this all be --

CARROLL: Her people say what this is -- what's going on is this is another effort to move attention away from Donald Sterling and move attention to V. Stiviano. They say the person who everyone should be focusing on is him, not her.

BERMAN: You know, one group who doesn't want to hear this tape, among others? The L.A. Clippers who just dropped a game last night. I think they would just like to move on and play basketball.

PEREIRA: And they have to focus on that to be sure. Are we saying goodbye to our panel? Can we say thank you to you all? Jason Carroll. Go ahead.

BERMAN: Jason Carroll, Danny Cevallos, Stephanie Elam.

PEREIRA: My girl, Stephanie Elam.

BERMAN: Wow, thank you all so much. Such a discussion.

PEREIRA: Really a great discussion.

Ahead, another thing a lot of people are talking about, Monica Lewinsky. That name you haven't thought about or maybe you have because, guess what, "Vanity Fair" is putting her back in the spotlight. She had a big influence on politics in the past, despite the fact that she wasn't a politician. Could her new essay in "Vanity Fair" influence politics in the future, like Hillary Clinton's presidential prospects?

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