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New Donald Sterling Audio Recording; Awaiting Democrat Decision on Benghazi Select Committee; Controversy Over Canceled HGTV Show

Aired May 9, 2014 - 11:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Jealousy is what may have fueled Donald Sterling's racist rant, new audio leaked once again posted on Radar Online, said to be Sterling explaining himself to an unknown man.


DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: I didn't want her to bring anybody to my game because I was jealous.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Controversial reality, a reality show canceled before it even airs.

So was the network afraid of a backlash over host comments that some see as anti-gay?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's only going to get worse because there is an agenda that wants to silence the beliefs that we have.


PEREIRA: Political games or a genuine search for the truth? Democrats threaten to boycott a Republican inquiry into the Benghazi attack.

BERMAN: It's Friday, everyone. Hello there. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: Just "it's Friday?" I thought you were going to like raise the roof or something for Friday.

BERMAN: That was my raise the roof.

PEREIRA: OK, I got it.

I'm Michaela Pereira. It's 11:00 a.m. in the East, 8:00 a.m. out West, those stories and much more, right now, @ THIS HOUR.

"I was jealous.: That's the excuse we're hearing in a brand-new audio recording that purports to catch L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling explaining that racist outburst that got him banned from the NBA.

BERMAN: The tape was just released a couple hours ago at CNN does believe the voice belongs to Donald Sterling talking on the phone to that unknown speaker, apparently about his intentions toward V. Stiviano.


STERLING: But I'm talking to a girl. I'm trying to have sex with her. I'm trying to play with her.

What can you -- you know, if you're ever trying to have sex with a girl and you're talking to her privately, you don't think anybody is there. You may say anything in the world. What difference does it make?

Then if the girl tapes it and releases it, my god, it's awful. Who thinks that anybody is going to tape something? What the hell? I'm talking to a girl. The girl is black. I like her. I'm jealous that she's with other black guys. I want her.

So what the hell can I, in private, tell her? You know, I don't want you to be with anybody. I mean, do I have -- can I -- am I a person? Do I have any freedom of speech? I wish Magic Johnson was talking to a girl, and you're trying to play with her.

I would have said I could fly over a high-rise buildings if I had to, and you're talking to her then you go away, and the next thing, three months later, what you said when you were hot trying to get her is released.

I have a girl here who has black kids, and is partly black, I think, myself. I love the girl. And so she's telling me you're wrong. I know I'm wrong, what I said was wrong.

But I never thought the private conversation would go anywhere out to the public. I didn't want her to bring anybody to my game because I was jealous. I mean, I'm being honest.

And it doesn't matter. No one is going to hear it but you and me, so --


BERMAN: "No one is going to hear it but you and me," we'll talk about that, because I think that's part of it.

Joining us, crisis management expert Fraser Seitel and CNN correspondents Jason Carroll and Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles.

Fraser, let me start with you. Let me paraphrase here. Donald Sterling on this tape seems to say, I'm not a racist. I'm a dirt bag. Does this help his case?

FRASER SEITEL, COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT: I don't think it does help his case that much.

My -- the public relations advice for Donald Sterling is five words, shut up and get out.

Every time he talks he digs himself deeper involved, and of course, this is a friend he's talking to who either taped the call and sold it or his phone is tapped.

The only advice for Donald Sterling is just leave.

PEREIRA: Or, Jason Carroll, a cynic might say it's been a busy couple days of recording for Donald Sterling.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, how convenient the recording was released in such a way.

But you know, I mean, he says that, look, this is all about jealousy, but you have to wonder. If jealousy leads you to a place of racism or darkness or anything that's negative, you have a problem.

And perhaps what he needs to do and Shelly Sterling for that matter instead of leaking audiotapes and speaking through attorneys, one of them needs to address the Clippers. One of them needs to address the people of Los Angeles.

BERMAN: And Stephanie, in this new recording, Donald Sterling talks more about V. Stiviano and how much he was infatuated with her, but also talks about the fact she recorded the conversation and released it.

How does this coincide with what she says?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She has said that, yes, she recorded it for safekeeping, that she wasn't going to release it. That was not her plan as his archivist, I think the term was that she used.

So that part, they are saying different things, but you know, what's interesting is they have still been seen together since the scandal broke.

This is the most bizarre threesome of people I have ever covered, just the fact that they are still interacting with each other some.

And also listening to this, he admits that was him, right? So now we know for sure, for sure. We've now heard him say, yes, that was him, but this was all a ploy to basically have sex with her, because nothing turns a woman on more than to tell her that half of who she is nasty. That's awesome. That's exactly what he said.

PEREIRA: That was perfect. That was absolutely perfect.

BERMAN: A good point, though.

PEREIRA: It's a fantastic point.

Fraser, I want to ask you, he said, I know what I said was wrong. I know I'm wrong.

Could some of this -- let's just go with the idea that maybe he's not so innocently being recorded. Maybe he's an active participant in this.

Could this all backfire on him by saying I know I'm wrong? Could it backfire with the NBA and the case they have?

SEITEL: It can't backfire any worse than he's been backfired on. This guy is toast. He's done.

The real challenge for the NBA is the wife, is the estranged wife. They -- if the NBA is smart, the NBA is saying to itself, we don't want any Sterling involved with the Clippers. That's the challenge.

PEREIRA: And that's something that we definitely want to talk about. We're going to have you guys stick around next hour, because there's the p.r. mess, but then there's also the actual ownership mess.

They're a team in the middle of playoffs right now that is trying to do day-to-day business, what it means for the future of the Clippers, et cetera, so we want you guys to stick around with us.

BERMAN: Yeah, of course, you heard it right here, Donald Sterling's estranged wife says she will not give up the Clippers without a fight. It just confuses this all the much more.

As a co-owner, does she hold all the cards now? We'll talk about this legal mess, next @ THIS HOUR.


BERMAN: A fresh-leaked audio recording may shed light on the racist rant that got L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling in so much trouble, banned from the NBA.

PEREIRA: What kind of light it's shedding we're not sure.

In a clip posted today by Radar Online, a man that CNN believes is Sterling talks on a phone to a person whose identity we don't know. In this recording, Sterling claims jealousy over the relationships his much younger assistant, V. Stiviano, had with other men, that was what drove his outburst.


STERLING: What the hell? I'm talking to a girl. The girl is black. I like her. I'm jealous that she's with other black guys. I want her.

So what the hell can I, in private, tell her? You know, I don't want you to be with anybody. I mean, do I have -- can I -- am I a person? Do I have any freedom of speech?


PEREIRA: Let's bring back our panel with the addition of sports law attorney Bradley Shear. He joins us along with our correspondents Jason Carroll and Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles.

BERMAN: Stephanie, there's a serious legal issue at stake here as this new recording comes up, and it has to do with the wife who to a certain extent is the other woman in this situation right now, the other, other woman.

The wife says that she is a co-owner of the basketball team. Shelly Sterling does. You have now spoken to her lawyer and you have a good sense of what she might be up to.

ELAM: Definitely, John, and I don't know why people didn't realize the people from the beginning the player in the story that Shelly Sterling is.

And now we know for sure she's looking to hold onto her 50-percent stake. We know in the family trust it's owned by Donald and Shelly, equally, in that trust.

But I talked to her lawyer, and this is how he characterized the current situation.


PIERCE O'DONNELL, SHELLY STERLING'S ATTORNEY: Mrs. Sterling has denounced in the strongest terms possible her husband's racist comments, totally disassociated, and Commissioner Silver was very clear that she's not accused of anything here. She didn't do anything wrong. It's Donald, OK?

Number two, they've been estranged and not living together for over a year, OK?

And while they share business properties, he's out of the team, has nothing to do with it. And she's the owner in charge.


ELAM: OK, so she's distancing herself from him. She's very much now involved in what's going on in the Clippers office, how that's being happened. That's how he's characterizing it.

But the issue still remains is whether or not in the court of public opinion, and as far as NBA is concerned, is whether or not Shelly Sterling is free and clear of any of these indictments against her husband.

And that's the question, because there have been questions about whether or not she's a racist as well as we've heard throughout this whole scandal.

Now that it's come up, she's been under the magnifying glass as well.

PEREIRA: Yeah, she certainly has. That looks at some of the legal aspects. And sometimes it feels a little bit like we're delving into the tabloid, right, when we're talking about the other woman and we're talking about these recordings?

But the fact all of this comes into play, and even that question of estranged, we were all sort of saying, estranged? Are they or not? I'm just curious, Jason, though, and Steph can even answer to this, even if there is some hold that she can have on the team, there's not going to be much acceptance of the Sterling name being anywhere associated with Doc Rivers.

CARROLL: And Doc Rivers has already made that clear, that if she were to be an active partner, a silent partner, regardless of that, all of the players would not be likely on board with that.

And even if she is clear legally, let's say, morally, I think there is a question mark whether or not she is clear.

I mean, Stephanie knows this as well as I do. She has distanced herself from what her husband said, but then we saw her that very same night, one night, you know, defending him and saying that he was not a racist. You can't have it both ways.

ELAM: You know what? We have to point that out. I just want to tell you what the lawyer says about that is that she misunderstood that question and thought it was about her. That's all what I wanted to clarify, just so you hear what he had to say.

BERMAN: Bradley, where do you see this legal case now going, especially for the NBA here? Do they hold the cards?

Can they just say this a done deal, no thanks, Mrs. Sterling, we don't want you involved?

BRADLEY SHEAR, SPORTS LAW ATTORNEY: We have to wait to see how the process plays out. We still have to see whether or not the owners are going to vote by the three-quarters majority to ensure that the entire family's ownership rights are terminated.

And I think we just have to see what their philosophy is, but just from a P.R. perspective, this is a big mess and this could literally takes months or even years to resolve. because if the Sterlings end up filing for divorce, this could end up getting kicked over to family court, and who knows how long that could take?

So this is just the beginning of the process --

PEREIRA: We do know that he tends to be litigious. We do know that about Donald Sterling. We've seen it before.

So it is interesting. As you said, we're going to have to see how it all plays out.

BERMAN: To be sure, you know, but you say let's wait and see what these owners decide. Let's assume that these owners decide they want to take the team away. Does Donald Sterling then -- what recourse does he have?

SHEAR: Well the constitution is pretty clear that once the ownership is decided to terminate the ownership rights of an owner, the owner has to go away. It is going to be a big fight. What he can end up doing next is file an injunction. If he takes it to court, my feeling is that it will be swatted down because a judge is going to say, look you agreed to this constitution and you're bound by the terms. However, he could try to drag this out especially going the family court route. I just think we're just at the beginning of the process and this is going to be a long, probably torturous situation for the NBA unless they have the ability to create an amicable settlement for all parties involved.

BERMAN: Torture. Who knows what other tapes may come out. Stephanie Elam, Jason Carroll, Bradley Shear, thank you so much for joining us to talk about this. Fascinating.

PEREIRA: It's early on. Absolutely.

BERMAN: Ahead for us @ THIS HOUR, to boycott or participate? That is the question house Democrats trying to answer right now. Trying to determine what their role should be in the Benghazi investigation. We'll tell you all about it next.


PEREIRA: A political game or a real attempt to get at the truth? More than a year and a half after the armed assault of the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Republicans have voted to form a committee to investigate the attack again. Four Americans lost their lives in that attack. Some Democrats have threatened to boycott the committee. They say it's all about politics.

BERMAN: Joining us to talk about this, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger and on Capitol Hill chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, you are in the room where Nancy Pelosi, house minority leader, will shortly hold her weekly presser. What do you expect to hear from her? Have Democrats made their decision what they will do about this committee?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't sound like they have made their decision. What they have been doing all morning is having internal discussions about the options and pros and cons. What's important to remember, and this was said to me by a house Democrat, is they don't have philosophical differences over this. They are tactical, political differences over, as you said, whether or not it makes more sense politically to participate, be in the room, to be able to be part of the process. To combat what they believe are overtly political questions to witnesses or be part of the questioning process itself. Or call it what they believe it is, a political circus and not be involved in it and call it that from the outside.

Those are the discussions going on. Just in talking to rank and file Democrats going in and out of the meetings, there really is a split about the tactical way they should approach this. Right now the reason why they haven't made a decision on what to do is because there are talks ongoing. I'm told this from a Republican source as well. On a staff level about whether or not there can be some reasonable accommodations, is what this Republican source said, to make clear to Democrats that they will have equity or at least some kind of parity with regard to things they think are important like who gets subpoenas and having access to witnesses. Those are the kinds of discussions that are ongoing.

PEREIRA: Gloria, you wrote an op-ed on, essentially saying that it would be the worst move for Democrats to boycott. Let me quote you, Gloria. They believe it's a witch-hunt, and they don't want to participate. Why legitimatize it? Why give it more credence? Why play into GOP hands? Here's why: if you don't participate you can't defend. And if you can't defend or explain, you lose. It's as simple as that. Why threaten to boycott at all?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I don't think they should. By threatening a boycott what they're trying to do is get more leverage here. To Dana's point, they need to be involved in witnesses and who you're going to subpoena. Don't forget, not only is there an election coming up in 2014, but there's one in 2016. And who is going to be a star witness if you have this committee? Obviously Hillary Clinton would be somebody they would want to call. I think it's better to be inside than outside. And they don't need to be surprised by documents. They need to be able to leak whatever they want to leak. They need to be able to make their case. Because the partisans are going to be watching this. Republicans will use this to get there voters out in 2014. They have already made up their minds on Benghazi. There's a way for Democrats to use this as well. And my feeling is that this committee is going to go on, with them or without them. They might as well be involved in the process.

BERMAN: Partisans will be watching, it's partisans who vote in mid terms. Dana Bash you have a news conference, which looks like it is about to start. Gloria Borger, great to have you both with us here @ THIS HOUR. Appreciate it.

PEREIRA: Still ahead could it be a version Duck Dynasty deja vu? Only this time a network killed an entire show. Was it because of the host's beliefs?


DAVID BENHAM, CO-HOST OF CANCELED HGTV SHOW: I never said anything about homosexuals about people, Muslims or anything like this. We love all people.



BERMAN: Reality shows are dramatic, they are controversial, they are buzzy. That's the whole idea, right? But once again the existence of a certain reality show is being debated for something that did not happen on camera, on the show. This is the latest case, it deals with flip it forward with twin brothers David and Jason Benham.

PEREIRA: Well HGTV, the network that was going to air this show flipped it into the scrap heap. Didn't say why. But it does come after David, one of the twins, was labeled as anti-gay, anti-choice extremist. Right wing watch wrote that David Benham led a prayer outside - a prayer rally outside of the Democratic national convention and told a radio -- conservative radio host quote, it was need to stop homosexuality and it's agenda that is attacking the nation and demonic ideologies taking our universities and public school systems.

The Benhams spoke to CNN this morning about that and HGTV's decision to pull the plug.


JASON BENHAM, CO-HOST OF CANCELED HGTV SHOW: When the firestorm came in, we had an opportunity to speak with HG and all the folks over there and explain to them who we were as people, that we sell to all people of all kinds and that we would be glad to take a homosexual couple onto our show. But I did explain to them -- But the firestorm will kick up as long as David and I are hosts on your network, it's only going to get worse because there is an agenda that wants to silence the beliefs that we have and so our hearts go out to HGTV. They sunk a lot of money into this. We really feel bad for them right now.

PEREIRA: Why do your hearts go out to them? They canceled your show?

JASON BENHAM: We feel they got -- well, we understand they actually took an investment into us and they believed in us. HG is a very smart network. They did all of the research and they knew who we were. We actually, over a year ago met with one of the executives in person and spoke about the very things that now, on Right Wing Watch and other blogs are talking about. And they saw behind our eyes that we love all people, that we have no ill intent toward anyone. They said we want to put a show out for you and your brother. So when all of a sudden the hype started, it was just difficult for them, and maybe they would lose advertisers. I'm not exactly sure.

They didn't give us the reason. But they're in business. We're in a free country. They can say, you know what, we don't want your show anymore. And as a result, I feel like they got bullied. There's an agenda that's out here, and that's the real issue here, is that there's an agenda that's out in America right now that demands silence. Especially from men and women who profess Jesus Christ and hold to his standards