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HGTV Sacks Show Over Hosts' Beliefs; Will Democrats Join House Select Committee on Benghazi; Flight 370 Families Demand Reanalysis; Photo Helps Boy Get Adopted.

Aired May 9, 2014 - 11:30   ET



DAVID BENHAM, REALITY STAR: They can say we don't want your show anymore. And as a result, I feel like they got bullied. There's an agenda 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. And those of us, we're not forcing that on culture. Now this agenda is forcing itself on us.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're joined by communications consultant, Fraser Seitel; and a CNN correspondent, Jean Casarez.

Jean, this does not feel like the first time we've heard it. Not one bit. Obviously we went through this a few months ago with "Duck Dynasty."

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are similarities and differences. The state of mind of those that have spoken out. Phil Robertson and David Benham -- only one brother supposedly spoke out. It is that they are -- they believe homosexuality is a sin and they publicly said this. Let's look at the differences because there are a lot. "Duck Dynasty" had a huge following at the time. Huge backing for that show. Marketing across the country that was successful. Successful for A&E. There is no backing at this point for the brothers, and Phil Robertson was suspended for the show. The show wasn't canceled. Here the show isn't even getting off. It won't air the first episode and half of it has been shot.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Fraser, to that end, what Jean is saying is, are they doing CYA? Is this them getting in front of a problem before it becomes a situation like a Phil Robertson?

FRASER SEITEL, COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT: This is exactly what it is. HGTV is doing the right thing, cutting their losses immediately. They vetted these guys but they didn't do what they should in terms of social media and due diligence. One of them presided at an anti- abortion rally. It went viral. HGTV said we don't want controversy. Last thing a network needs is controversy. "Duck Dynasty" had ratings as Jean said.

(CROSSTALK) SEITEL: But they don't want controversy. They cut their losses which was right thing to do.

BERMAN: A statement by HGTV saying a network can't have people who have views like this now? Is there no place for HGTV -- clearly not on HGTV but what about other network?

SEITEL: What it is, John, is homophobia and racism are third rails of the entertainment industry. Nobody wants to get close to it. This thing was in pilot. They were filming the pilots. They said, you know what, we don't need it. We'll cut our losses and get out. It's the right thing to do.

CASAREZ: The brothers are saying that HGTV knew about this. They sat down with them about a year and a half ago and they talked about it. And they allowed the show to go forward from there.

PEREIRA: The notion that it got put on this website and that there was a fuss made about it is what got this new attention is likely what they're trying to find out.

CASAREZ: HGTV is not giving a reason for the cancellation.

BERMAN: The brothers say, by the way, that they're not homophobic. They are against what they call homosexual agenda.

We will talk about that a little more in a bit.

Stick around, guys. A lot more to discuss here about the issue of speech, the issue of prejudice and the issue of business.

PEREIRA: The issue of business.

BERMAN: That's ahead at this hour.




BENHAM: So there's bullying and there's fear tactics and they demand a silence from those that profess Jesus and want to live to his standards. And so what's happening is HGTV probably was not prepared for that battle, but unfortunately it came to their doorsteps. And Jason and I, we have never changed who we are.


PEREIRA: That was David Benham talking about his show with his twin brother that HGTV canceled after a website branded him as an anti-gay extremist.

We want to keep the conversation going with Jean Casarez and Fraser Seitel. BERMAN: There's a discussion to have about free speech and what people can say and can't say and where they can and can't say it. But, Fraser, is this an issue of pure business? HGTV calculating who watches, who will watch, and they just made the decision based on that?

SEITEL: It's an issue of both. It was purely a business decision. They didn't want the aggravation. They cut and run. On the other hand as the Benham brothers said, it's unfair. These groups on the right and on the left are zealous. They have one objective. If you disagree with them, they're going to try to get you off the air. It's both free -- he made a very good point and classy about it. It's free speech on one hand but absolutely business on the other.

PEREIRA: And the interesting conversation to be had about the expectations we put on people that are on reality television. We could have a separate panel about that.

I wonder if you think, Jean, that we'll see an about-face with HGTV. We saw how they did that -- a different network did it with "Duck Dynasty."

CASAREZ: You're right. Faith-driven consumer. They got involved with "Duck Dynasty." They are getting involved in this. #flipthisdecision, which is much like the show, "Flip It Forward." We'll see how much power they have.

BERMAN: Fraser, we were talking about the brothers themselves. It's interesting what they say. Let's listen.


BENHAM: We would love to work with HGTV. We absolutely love the executives there.

UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: You don't feel wronged at all in this? Is that what you're telling me?

JASON BENHAM, REALITY STAR: No. We don't feel wronged at all. We just as David said this isn't hg versus us or us against the gay community. This is an agenda. We're getting to witness it right now. Check it out. We believe in Jesus Christ and David specifically said some things and an agenda says you believe this and I believe this. Now you can't say your belief. That's not right.


BERMAN: You saw two things there that are interesting. One is you saw them handle this in a P.R. way, very positive, we don't blame HGTV at all. No harm, no foul. Just business. On the other hand, they started to attack that agenda. Nothing against gays. We have something against the gay agenda. I'm not clear the separation there.


Is that where their problem lies? SEITEL: They're grown-ups and they are hoping -- they make money. They are real estate moguls in Charlotte. They make a living. They hope they can become stars with somebody's network. I suspect it's not going to be HGTV.

PEREIRA: Fraser Seitel, Jean Casarez, really a delight to have you here.

One thing that all needs to be said, not all God-fearing Christians believe what these guys say and they don't believe it's what their faith tells them.

Ahead, has the flight for search 370 hit a dead end? How some are questioning the data used in the hunt for the missing plane.


BERMAN: This just into CNN. A big day in Washington. Democrats on Capitol Hill must decide if they're going to take part in the Select Committee, this new Select House Committee investigating Benghazi. Just a few moments ago, house minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, had some scathing words about this entire process. Let's listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: A stunt. The fact that -- it's damaged goods. They had to move from him to another venue with other chairman. That's what this is. We've been there and done this over and over again. And so the question is, is there at least a level of decency in terms of respect, even in the regular order of the standing committee where the minority has a right to call witnesses, the majority said we don't have to call your witness when we're having this discussion on this subject with our witnesses. We can call yours any time we want if we ever do.


BERMAN: She called it a stunt. Nancy Pelosi did.

PEREIRA: Clearly, frustrated.

BERMAN: She's clearly not happy. The one thing she did not say, which is key today --

PEREIRA: Is the decision.

BERMAN: -- the decision. Will Democrats join that committee? Stay tuned for that. We'll tell you when we hear whether they have made up their minds.

Meanwhile, more than two months after Malaysian Airlines 370 disappeared, the families sent an open letter demanding that searchers reanalyze the information they have. They questioned how authorities can be so certain that the Boeing 777 crashed into the Indian Ocean since there's no physical evidence.

PEREIRA: The letter says the data do not support a definitive conclusion that no other flight path was possible.

Our CNN aviation analyst, Mary Schiavo; and CNN safety analyst, David Soucie, are here.

Always good to have you at this hour.

I had a chance to speak with Sara Bajc earlier, one of the passenger family members. They are not just waiting on Malaysia for raw data but bringing in their own experts. They want an independent review, Mary, and check out other possible flight paths. Do you think this is the right direction to go? Do you support all of this what the families want?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. I think they have to check out other possible flight paths and other data in light of this "The Atlantic" article. It's interesting. I don't know if Malaysian investigation at this point is the entity with the credibility to do it unless they set up a challenge team and in other words bring in another group, different from the people already working, and on a challenge team their job is to challenge your thought and to have the skills and abilities to pose other avenues and other theories, et cetera. They need to do that because I think the investigation is truly in trouble.

BERMAN: Mary just brought up this article in "The Atlantic." A new article out today. David, it's very interesting. The author of this article spoke to some scientists. He believes they believe that the data could be wrong.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: I just read this article and I've been communicating with one of the engineers here asking to release the data. What numbers do we have? What he discovered is after getting some of this data released -- I want to make a note about voice 370. They are speaking for the families and this wouldn't have come out. This data wouldn't have come out had that group not had the desire and drive to go forward and push and push and push and they have this released and now because it's released, this group has been able to discover there may be serious errors in that calculation.

PEREIRA: It's interesting. Many of our voices, Mary and David, you among them, we have to rely on what we know. We can't come to the conclusion and work backwards.

Mary, you said that specifically. If that Inmarsat data is flat wrong, that puts us back to the very beginning.

SCHIAVO: Exactly. That's why this investigation has not just serious credibility issues but serious issues on where they go from here. They ask the world to contribute resources. Malaysia announced they won't put anymore money in Malaysia Airlines. They are asking the world to commit resources to a search but not opening up the data as to where we're going to search. And I think the nations of the world are going to have to question that, and they will, before they send their money and their resources.

BERMAN: Mary, David, thank you so much for being with us. This article in "The Atlantic" raises new questions. If you believe the Inmarsat data for what it says, the plane would have been moving when it was still on the ground standing still. That's just one of the confusing pieces of new information. CNN staying with this story. Wolf Blitzer will interview the author of the article at 1:00 p.m. You will not want to miss that.

PEREIRA: All right, ahead at this hour, a special story to share with you today. This new family -- there they are. Hi family, how are you doing? They share their incredible adoption story. The photographer on the other side of your screen might have made all the difference in that young man's life. We'll tell you how.

BERMAN: But first, here's a look at this week's "CNN Hero."


UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I love the crispy feeling of the air, the sound of my skate punching on the ice. Skating relieves me from everything. I just want to fly, I don't want to stop.

SHARON COHEN, CNN HERO: I heard there were some girls who wanted to figure skate in Harlem. I knew skating wasn't a diverse sport. There wasn't access for this community. I began teaching them. It was really inspiring for me.

Now, we serve over 300 girls a year.


COHEN: You did it.

The best part about skating, gives you qualities that you can use the rest of your life, discipline, perseverance.

Step, cross. Step, cross. Excellent, girls.

They fall down, they get back up and they learn they can do that on anything. It's a building block.

Skating's the hook, but education comes first.

Before they even get on the ice, they have to get their homework done. Minimum of three afternoons a week.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Algebra was not my best subject. And I feel, hey, you have to get back up. Now I'm doing way better in school. Like, yeah.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Harlem Ice.

COHEN: We want girls to believe and know they can be anything they put their hearts and minds to.


UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: It's not all about skating. Miss Sharon is teaching us to be the best we can be in life.


BERMAN: I used to live up near where this project takes place. To see both the determination on the faces of those girls on the ice, but also the joy, it is a sight to behold.

PEREIRA: Powerful.

BERMAN: Every week, we honor a "CNN Hero." Nominate someone you think should be recognized at


BERMAN: So, what if a single photograph could change your entire life? For one 16-year-old boy, man, it did. This is Deon.

PEREIRA: Look at how handsome.

BERMAN: He'd been in foster care since age 5. He was loosing hope of being adopted before he turned 18.

PEREIRA: Essentially aging out of foster care.

Photographer Jennifer Loomis saw some of these pictures, blurry pictures, dozens of others, and thought, man, these pictures could actually be better and maybe they'll help get these kids adopted. The adoption agency thought it was a great idea. So Loomis and another photographer took these pictures. Guess what? Shortly after that, Deon was adopted.

The lady who brought this fantastic story of family to us is our digital correspondent, Kelly Wallace, who wrote this story.

Photographer Jennifer Loomis, why don't you wave at the camera, Jennifer? There you are.

But most of all, the stars of this segment, Joanna and Sean Valencourt, and their MVP, their son. And it gives me chills to be able to say that. Their son, Deon.

Welcome, everybody.

Deon, I understand, it just became official. Your adoption became official this week. How does it feel, my love?

DEON VALENCOURT, ADOPTED: It feels really awesome. Like, I actually have a family now.

PEREIRA: It's been a long time coming, hasn't it, honey?


BERMAN: Joanna, he obviously -- Deon just bursts off the camera frame right here. Most photogenic man I've ever seen.


Tell us about the moment you first saw him and what you thought.

JOANNA VALENCOURT, ADOPTIVE PARENT: Sure. Well, I actually had seen Deon on a website and had passed right by. We were actually looking for preteens originally. And after some new photographs were put on the Northwest Adoption Exchange, out here, just something in his photograph just really jumped off, the happiness in his eyes in spite of everything. And it was enough to get me to click in that profile of a kid who was a little bit older than we originally were thinking of. And it was just great. It was exciting to read about him. And we knew pretty quickly we wanted to call and inquire about him.

BERMAN: Now, that's a picture. Tell me what's inside now. Now that you know him.

PEREIRA: Yeah, tell us about Deon.

JOANNA VALENCOURT: To be honest, we're still getting to know Deon. But I can say for one thing, that we have found just in everybody who's met him just what a great kid he is. Everybody's so happy to meet him. He's really outgoing. We can take him into any social setting and he just --


He just does it. He works it. I don't know how he does it. He's way more social than I am.

SEAN VALENCOURT, ADOPTIVE PARENT: That was the one thing we noticed about him right away, was, you know, like being a teenager, I remember being always fearful about meeting people.

PEREIRA: Right, quiet, withdrawn.

SEAN VALENCOURT: I guess growing up like that, he would just go out and pursue friends and be so outgoing. So that was one thing that right away we knew that, I mean, he's very outgoing. Like very resilient, ready to bounce back.

PEREIRA: The bouncing, the picture shows it best of all, leaping into the air. He's very athletic at all.

We'll talk like you're not there, Deon.


Jennifer, this is a beautiful thing you've been able to do. These kids are not statistics. They're not forgotten. Showing them in a way that people can maybe see them for who they are, not just a name on a piece of paper.

JENNIFER LOOMIS, PHOTOGRAPHER: Yeah, that was my idea. I didn't know if it would work. I just wanted to try it. Because I was thinking of adapting. I couldn't get a sense or an essence of the children. I thought maybe I can try this and bring them into my studio like I do for my clients and try to capture who they are and maybe then somebody could connect with them. It just makes me so happy actually.

PEREIRA: It makes us all happy. There's kind of like this collective big hug going on.

Kelly Wallace brought this story to us. I insisted on doing it being an adopted kid myself. We know there's 400,000 kids in foster care in America. That's a startling and heartbreaking number, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. Also, I think in the media often when we hear stories about adoptions, it's often infants, babies. We don't often talk about older kids.

PEREIRA: Kids like Deon.

WALLACE: Kids like Deon. And how when they age out of the system, you know this, it's pretty much all bets are off. They're on their own. So it was just pure joy, pure labor of love to bring this story, and hopefully raise awareness about kids like Deon.

PEREIRA: Deon, that was a concern for you. You saw the time, getting closer to your 18th birthday. You were concerned you weren't going to find a forever home.


PEREIRA: A man of few words. I like it. I like it.


BERMAN: He's got the blue steel stare though, that's all that matters.

PEREIRA: Jennifer, please keep up the great work. Hopefully, you'll be able to take more pictures of kids looking for a home.

The Valencourts, all three of you, please keep in teach with us. Best of luck. Much luck to all of you.

Kelly Wallace, thank you.


PEREIRA: That's it for us at this hour. I'm Michaela Pereira.

What a great way to go into the weekend.

BERMAN: A great way.

Have a great weekend, a great Mother's Day.

"LEGALVIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.