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U.S. Airliner Nearly Collides with Drone; Lewinsky's Article Good for Hillary?; Hillary Clinton's Foreign Policy in Question; Benhams Don't Blame HGTV for Cancellation; Three Missing As Hot Air Balloon Burns, Crashes; Sterling: "I'm Not Racist, I Was Jealous"

Aired May 10, 2014 - 08:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Next hour of NEW DAY starts now.

Top of the hour and we are awaiting the news conference of the fiery balloon crash in Virginia. We will take you there live as soon as it starts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will fight to the death any effort by the NBA to involuntarily sell her assets.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: As a new CEO takes over the Clippers, Shelly Sterling's lawyer insists she owns the team. What are her legal rights?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never said anything specifically about homosexuals as people, Muslims or anything like this.


BLACKWELL: And HGTV took away their show for comments they made against gays. Now the Benham twins are speaking out against the quote, "agenda" that they say wants to silence their beliefs. Your NEW DAY continues right now.

CABRERA: And good Saturday morning to you. We made it to the weekend. I'm Ana Cabrera in for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Now 8:00 here on the east coast. This is NEW DAY SATURDAY. We are following breaking news out of Virginia. At any moment, we have a live shot of the podium where we will hear comments about the people, three people still missing, after the fiery balloon crash. Hot air balloon crash that happened last night. As soon as that starts, we will bring it to you live.

CABRERA: But first, here is what we know right now. If you're just joining us this happened about 12 hours ago. A little after 8:00 last night, authorities say a hot air balloon was participating in the Mid- Atlantic balloon festival. This was actually a pre-event to the festival. This was near Richmond. It drifted into power lines and caused the basket to burst into flames.

BLACKWELL: And the balloon continue to fly. The basket as, we see, also caught on fire. One witness reported hearing two people scream and the person said she jumped from the burning basket. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could hear them screaming please, Dear God, we're going to die. Please help us. Please help us.


CABRERA: We are waiting on that press conference that is supposed to start at 8:00. We are watching that. Right now, Erin McPike is on the ground there. She is joining us from Caroline County in Virginia where the teams are searching for any sign of those three missing people. What are you hearing, Erin? What is the latest on the ground?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we have seen a little bit of activity in the last of couple of hours. We've seen some Virginia state troopers come back from the search area. About ten state troopers go down into the search area overnight as we were getting ready this morning. The press conference is taking place down that way in the search area. It should be starting any minute now. I want to play for you a bit of the dispatch call last night so you understand sort of what the scene was like last night when this happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Possible mass casualty incident. Reported multiple hot air balloons have crashed into power lines. The balloons are now on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Visual of the hot air balloon. It appears to be still smoking and still pretty high in the air.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That the basket has come off. We are trying to find that right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Advise all units. The airborne balloon is not the issue. We need to locate the basket.


MKPIKE: Now the hot air balloon festival for the rest of the day has been canceled. Again, this press conference should start any minute now -- Ana and Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Erin McPike there for us in Caroline County. Again, we are watching, as I'm looking here, you see look off. You now have it on your screen. I'm watching that podium to see when the spokesperson for Virginia State police steps in front of the mic to give us an update. CABRERA: We understand there supposed to be some new information. Hopefully, we'll learn more about those three missing people, the pilot and two passengers, who were on that flight, on the balloon when it crashed. But right now, let's bring in some of our aviation analysts, Jeff Wise and Miles O'Brien. We can talk a bit more about the regulations involving the hot air balloons. We don't hear about these types of crashes every day, but certainly a power line was within the landing area there and I imagine you might have something to say about what's the power line doing there?

BLACKWELL: To you first, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, first of all, the important thing to remember about hot air ballooning is it is very unpredictable. You are flying literally on the wind. You may say you want to land somewhere, but the wind and Mother Nature may have another idea. So it is very important to be pretty flexible in the world of ballooning. It is also important to be flying at just the right time.

Hot air balloonists like to launch very early in the morning before the sun has kicked up a lot of disturbance and thus wind. It is also very important that you have a clear idea of what's on the ground. Flying at dusk or near nightfall is not highly recommended because it can be very difficult to spot power lines.

So, you know, I don't want to second guess every aspect about this flight, but what you understand is you want to do it at the right time and be flexible enough to land in a place you don't anticipate.

BLACKWELL: We're talking about licensed pilots here, right? I mean, these are not amateurs.

O'BRIEN: That's correct. You know, you don't just get into a balloon and it is not like flying one of those model radio controlled small drones. Anybody can do it. There is training involved. There is FAA certifications. There are all kinds of things that go along with this.

Hot air balloonists do integrate themselves into the air traffic control system and carry transponders so that they are identifiable on radar. So that airplanes could stand on the way. The basic idea is that a balloon does have the right of way because it cannot steer itself very well.

And so balloons will notify air traffic control and let them know they are launching and steer aviation out of the way. If you are in an airplane, and you have visual flight rules, you can see a balloon a mile away and you will avoid it.

CABRERA: And Jeff, let's bring in you. I'm curious a little bit more about the protocol when it comes to a fire on the balloon. I mean, is it typical that a pilot should be able to put a fire out before it gets out of control of you train to kind of bail right away?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Unfortunately, these high voltage transmission lines are one of the major dangers that hot air balloonists face. I mean, your canopy is this enormous structure that's above the basket that you are in. There are low altitude. As Miles said, you have very little directional control over a hot air balloon.

If you hit the lines, the fires that results can be catastrophic. It's not something you're going to be able to put out with a hand held fire extinguishers. It's really catastrophic event and very often fatal.

There's very little you can do. I mean, the only thing really a hot air balloonist can do when they see high voltage line coming is go up and try to get on the ground before they get too close. It is a very dangerous situation.

CABRERA: We also heard David Soucie a little bit ago talk about how this balloon could have flown miles away after it went up because of how some of the winds and vents and all of that will function in the case of a fire and where that balloon is. Is it possible that somebody would have had time to leap from that basket and survive?

WISE: Well, typically what happens when the envelope gets caught in the transmission lines, it is kind of game over right there. You are talking about entanglement and fire at the same time. The gondola and people will fall out. It is like falling off a building. People do survive these things, depends on what you are falling on to, relatively soft ground. But, it's not like the balloon will catch fire and float away. It tends to go up in flames.

BLACKWELL: All right, Jeff Wise and Miles O'Brien, stay with us. You see in the bottom of the screen here. The podium in Caroline County, Virginia. We are expecting an update from the Virginia State police on this crash that happened last night. Three people missing. Both of you stay with us. You at home, stay with us. We will continue the conversation and hopefully get the news conference after the break.


BLACKWELL: We have an update now on the breaking news, a hot air balloon crash. This is Corinne Geller, Virginia State Police spokesperson.

CORINNE GELLER, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE SPOKESPERSON: We have not been able to make any contact with any of the three occupants that were in the hot air balloon. We are now transitioning from a rescue operation to a recovery operation at this time. I'll just start from the beginning and kind of walk through what we know at this point.

It was shortly before 8:00 Friday night when three hot air balloons setoff to the air from the Meadow Event Park in Caroline County and began heading north. They had a pre-designated landing zone, which is a field off of Luther Glen Road. Two hot air balloons landed safely in that field. As the third balloon made a descent, it made contact with a live utility wire. That in turn sparked the fire with the hot air balloon. The fire spread quickly. The pilot of the hot air balloon, based on witness accounts and other pilots on the ground, taking the necessary steps to open up the top of the balloon, which is the standard procedure because the added heat and intensity of the fire will actually make the balloon rise faster. He was taking every effort he could to manage the situation and extinguish the fire.

According to witnesses heard an explosion and after that, the basket and the balloon actually separated. We are still in the process and we spent all night searching for the wreckage of the basket, the balloon. It was just before midnight that we were able to locate one of the occupants.

One of the three occupants in the balloon. The remains have been transported to the office of the chief medical examiner in Richmond for identification. We know who was on, the two passengers and pilot. We have been in contact with their families overnight and this morning. At this time, we are not going to identify which one of the occupants has been recovered.

At this time, we are still searching for the two others that were in the balloon as well as the wreckage sites of the basket and the balloon itself. We also found a debris field. We found different items that would have been inside the hot air balloon. This is very helpful for us in the search efforts. We have an area of concentration. Since daybreak, we brought in a large contingent of troopers, part of the tactical force.

They are specially trained in doing grid searches. These guys walk a selected section by foot. It is a very meticulous process. They fan out in the area of the debris field and concentrate on the area to make sure nothing is overlooked and that our goal right now is to locate the other two occupants of the hot air balloon.

The search efforts continued overnight. We had a tremendous outpouring of support from the Caroline County Sheriff's Office, the Caroline County Fire and Rescue and Ryko County Police Department has been assisting us both of aviation support and ground support. We had several search and rescue k-9 teams and teams arriving from around the state.

We are coordinating them through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, which is standard for a search operation of this magnitude. Now we have daybreak, we hope this expedites the process. We will continue to keep searching until we find the other two occupants. The investigation into the incident is ongoing.

They had two inspectors from the FAA here overnight. We have been in contact with the NTSB. They will conduct their own investigations as well. We would also like to thank the public. Last night when we put the number out and asked people to contact us with information, those who may have seen the balloon in distress, we had a tremendous number of calls. They are still coming in. We appreciate all the phone calls.

They helped us in concentrating search efforts and focusing where exactly the wreckage sites may be for the basket and balloon as well. I'll turn it over now to Greg with the Meadow Event Park. He will provide you with details about the event of the festival.

GREG HICKS, VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMUNICATIONS, MEADOW EVENT PARK: I'm Greg Hicks with the Meadow Event Park. I'm VP of Communications. First offer our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families. The Meadow Event Park staff is devastated by this. A shocking situation for everyone. We certainly appreciate all the efforts by the law enforcement and emergency services and rescue operations. At this time, that is our statement. We are just monitoring the situation.

GELLER: We will open up the floor for a few questions. Larry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say whether the body recovered was the pilot?

CABRERA: We are going to break away from the news conference. A few important details. We want to bring our guests back in to talk more about what we learned. But first just to kind of wrap up what she had to say. One person on the hot air balloon has been found, unfortunately did not survive. The body has been recovered. They are still searching for the other two people on the hot air balloon. They call this a recovery effort. No longer a rescue mission. And they have located a debris field.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in Miles O'Brien and Jeff Wise. Miles, first to you, do you find it surprising that they have located a debris field as Corrine Geller explained with a few items that might have been inside the basket, but they have not found the balloon or the basket.

O'BRIEN: Well, that's actually not too surprising because what you had was, you know, essentially an aircraft that was on fire and as it was still flying and still in the air, it was disintegrating essentially because of the fires. Some pieces would be falling off as it was moving. So it is not the kind of thing where you'd, you know, an impact in one location because of the nature of this.

CABRERA: She also mentioned, Jeff, that the pilot had tried to open up the top of the balloon shortly after the fire started to let some of the hot air out and moments later, there was an explosion and the top of the balloon detached from the basket. Why wouldn't the pilot have tried to detach the top of the balloon from the basket sooner?

WISE: What he was trying to do wasn't to detach the balloon from the basket. He was trying to open -- if you can imagine the balloon is essentially a container of air that is warmer than the environment. That makes it buoyant. So unlike an airplane, which generates lift by moving through the air, a hot air balloon is floating like a boat floating in the water. The way it floats is by making the gas inside the envelope hot. That is why they have the propane burners.

In this case, the entire envelope catches fire. The air inside is very warm. If he is trying to land and the canopy is giving more lift and buoyancy. He is releasing it so it can come down. This is falling apart as the fire raged. The cables or ropes connecting the basket to the envelope separated, the basket drops. Less weight holding the canopy down and flies off in the air and travels some distance. You have a catastrophic chain of events.

BLACKWELL: All right, aviation analysts, Jeff Wise and Miles O'Brien, thank you both. We will take a quick break and continue more with NEW DAY SATURDAY.


BLACKWELL: Good morning, L.A. A live look at Los Angeles. High expected today of 72 degrees. Good to have you with us. Unfortunately, the Clippers last night, were not having a good time. They lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

CABRERA: That is why it is so quiet.

BLACKWELL: Typically not quiet. This morning, the L.A. Clippers have a new interim CEO. The NBA has appointed former Citigroup and Time Warner Chairman Dick Parsons to lead the team after banning owner, Donald Sterling, for life over the racist audio recording.

CABRERA: This all comes on the heels of another leaked audio recording of a man believed to be Sterling.

BLACKWELL: So in this latest recording, released by, the 80-year-old billionaire denies being a racist. He attempts to explain why he did not want V. Stiviano bringing black men to Clippers games. Listen.


DONALD STERLING: Who thinks 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 she is with other black guys. I want her. What the hell in private can I tell her? I don't want you to be with anybody else? Am I a person? Do I have any freedom of speech?


CABRERA: CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan is joining us now. OK, Paul, so we have no idea really who taped or released this new audio. We have not been able to independently verified that it is indeed Sterling who is talking there. Some have suggested that perhaps Sterling may have orchestrated this new tape. Does that make sense to you?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it makes about as much sense as the explanation that the way to get a young woman who is part African- American to go out with you is to use racially bigoted language. You know, there is not much logic to a lot that Mr. Sterling does.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I just never -- I don't get the explanation that could be a turn on for her.

CABRERA: Right. BLACKWELL: I don't get that. We have no proof that Sterling had anything to do with the phone call or being recorded on This morning, HLN legal analyst, Joey Jackson, said he thinks Sterling could somehow try to spin this as part of his legal defense.

CALLAN: Well, you know, I think he is trying to do that. I would have to agree with Joey Jackson on that. Bear in mind that the NBA constitution, which is going to be the document that governs how he gets judged by the other owners is pretty iron clad. I say that in the sense if the other owners want to throw him out because they think that this action is damaging to the league and it clearly is and damaging to the Clippers, in the end, they can throw him out.

I think this is a really tortured explanation as to what he said. You listen to the words he used and they are clear expressions of bigotry. He did not expect them to be made public, but it is his true thoughts of African-Americans, who are a majority of his employees who play basketball.

CABRERA: He said this is all in private and part of his plan to help get V. Stiviano into bed with him. He did not expect them to be recorded. Things that he said do not make sense to us. Why hasn't he come out to try to fix the mess that has unfolded?

CALLAN: I think his lawyers and his PR people and whoever he is consulting with are struggling with a very difficult situation. I mean, to subject himself to questioning by the press, he is in an indefensible position except to say this was done in a private setting and I should not be deprived of asset of a team worth millions of dollars, of something I said in private and never meant to be said in public.

I hate to throw something else on the table, but he could be driving up the price of the Clippers sale as well. Maybe more bidders are out there. You will see a quiet settlement and a new owner will come in offering a lot of money. This guy who spent $12 million to buy the team will walk away with $600 million more as a result of the statements he made.

CABRERA: All right, CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, thank you for the conversation.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Paul. So this near collision that actually could be the first of its kind. A drone comes so close to a plane that the pilot, he actually thought he hit the thing.


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was, you know, all these different person at once. He was an engineer. A great champion. He was a visionary man. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tennis turned out to be only the first chapter of a long lucrative life. Rene drew on experience as a tennis player to create the short-sleeved polo shirt. Staple of the Lacoste brand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had to find something new because it is not comfortable to play with this shirt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The innovator was far from finished. He soon added racket design to his repertoire. A statute has been built in his honor at Roland Garros. A tribute to the tennis star and innovator. He made his mark on the world one crocodile at a time.



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Bottom of the hour now on a very busy Saturday Morning. Welcome back. I'm Ana Cabrera filling in for Christi.


Let's start with five things you need to know for your NEW DAY. Up first the rescue effort in a hot air balloon crash in Virginia has now transitioned into a recovery operation. There were three occupants in the hot air balloon. One body has been recovered so far. The hot air balloon hit a power line and then burst into flames.

Look at these pictures. We're going to have much more of the pictures and more of the story in just a moment.

CABRERA: Number two, House Democrats remain divided about joining that new committee created by majority Republicans to once again investigate the deadly 2012 Benghazi terror attacks. Democrats are arguing this is a political ploy to keep the controversy in play during a midterm election year. Republicans say the committee really is a serious effort to get to the truth about that armed assault on a U.S. diplomatic compound.

BLACKWELL: Number three, in a first solo White House weekly address this morning, First Lady Michelle Obama called last month's kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian school girls an unconscionable act. And she said that the story hits very close to home.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: In these girls Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes and their dreams and we can only imagine the aguish their parents are feelings right now. Many of them may have been hesitant to send their daughters off to school fearing that harm might come their way. But hey took that risk because they believed in their promise and wanted to give them every opportunity to succeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: Well the U.S. now has advisers on the ground in Nigeria helping in the effort to find and rescue the girls. Meanwhile, Amnesty International claims the Nigeria government was warned in advance of the kidnapping and did nothing.

CABRERA: Number four this morning at least seven people are killed in clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Now 39 others have been injured in this clash.

Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin he took part in the victory day celebrations there in Crimea yesterday. It was his first visit to the region since Russia annexed it from Ukraine.

BLACKWELL: Number five another Veterans Affairs hospital is under fire for trying to cook the books this time in Shayang (ph), Wyoming. And employee there has been placed on leave after a leaked e-mail revealed schedulers were encouraged to cover up long appointment delays for sick veterans. V.A. Chief Eric Shinseki calls the allegations unacceptable and has ordered an investigation by the inspector general.

Now there's also this close call between a U.S. passenger plane and an unmanned drone it could have been catastrophic that's according to the FAA. Now this incident happened back in March, but details are just being made public now.

CABRERA: The plane's pilot said the drone looked like a phantom jet. And he said it was so close he actually thought that the two had hit midair.

CNN aviation and government regulations correspondent Rene Marsh has more.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Ana, this could have been deadly if that drone made contact with that passenger plane. The two came dangerously close to colliding midair. But this isn't a first. There have been other drone near-disasters in the air.

MARSH (voice over): A near nightmare in the sky. A passenger plane nearly crashes into a camouflage drone flying at 2,300 feet well above the typical altitude for a private drone. The incident in the Tallahassee skies involved the U.S. Airways express jet flying near the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A remote controlled aircraft 2,300.

MARSH: The first details of the March scare previously not revealed until an FAA official spoke about it Thursday in San Francisco.

JIM WILLIAMS, MANAGER, FAA'S UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS: The pilot said that it was so close to his jet, that he was sure he collided with it. Thankfully inspection to the airliner after landing found no damage. MARSH: Authorities do not know who flew the drone but say it could have brought down the plane. "The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority." U.S. Airways parent company tells CNN tonight in a new statement, "We're aware of the published report alleging an incident with one of our express jets and we are investigating."

There have been close calls before. The FBI is still investigating a drone that came within 200 feet of an Ali Italia flight in New York earlier this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a drone of one aircraft.

MARSH: The pilot in the incident can be heard telling air traffic control. And this Monday, a small drone was found after apparently hitting this building in St. Louis.


MARSH: In the next five years, the FAA estimates as many as 7,500 drones could be flying in the U.S. air space at any given time. Now the agency has been working on a plan to safely integrate drones into the air space so that you don't have accidents with passenger aircraft.

Now it is illegal for commercial use, although there are some exceptions. As for hobbyists, the FAA only allows recreational drones to fly up to 400 feet -- Victor, Ana.

BLACKWELL: All right. Rene Marsh for us in Washington, thank you so much.

Up next, the attack in Benghazi, the kidnappings in Nigeria and Monica Lewinsky -- former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's critics hit hard on all three fronts this week. So how will she handle it?

CABRERA: And another controversy: HGTV abandoning the show hosted by these twin brothers. Well, the Benham Brothers say the network was bullied into the decision of getting rid of their show because of a gay the agenda. We're talking to Brian Stelter about this backlash next.


BLACKWELL: A 15-year-old scandal resurfaced this week. Monica Lewinsky. She wrote a tell-all essay in "Vanity Fair" writing about her affair with President Bill Clinton and the fallout.

CABRERA: And while the affair has taken a toll on Monica's life for Hillary Clinton it hasn't been all bad. Her approval ratings jumped right after the affair. So could we see the same bounce again?

And we're joined by CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona as well as blogger editor at Crystal Wright.

Maria, could this article actually make people sympathetic toward Clinton again, do you think?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Hillary Clinton right now is very popular. Very well liked and so, I think that if anything comes out of this, if it is sympathy, then I think that will help her. I don't think this affects her negatively at all. It didn't when she ran for the senate in 2000, it did not come up in any of her confirmation hearings. It was not an issue in 2008. It will not be an issue in 2016 if Hillary decides to run.

This was a painful episode in her life of which she had absolutely nothing to do with. And so I talked to many Republicans who don't want to touch this with a ten-foot pole. Of course there are others who will do anything to bring Hillary down. And if they bring it up I think the -- the backlash among women will fierce and unequivocal and that's the voting block that Republicans really cannot afford to alienate.

BLACKWELL: Chrystal there are some Republicans who brought it up Rand Paul brought it up and was camp down by other members in the party. Who is this supposed to impact? We had a conversation with a millennial this morning who said a lot of his classmates don't remember '98 and this means nothing to them.

CHRYSTAL WRIGHT, EDITOR, CONSERVATIVEBLACKCHICK.COM: Well it's supposed to impact women voters and I find it pretty troubling that Maria Cardona, Maria you know, you and I are friends, but you are a mom. And I think it's troubling when I hear women so fiercely support Hillary Clinton when she has stood by Bill Clinton through numerous affairs.

And frankly, Monica Lewinsky was significantly younger than the President of the United States at the time. And the fact that she's the one who is being vilified brings a lot of questions around a woman when a woman is thinking about voting potentially for the first female presidential candidate.

So I think the timing is good. I think Monica Lewinsky is finally having her day and owning her narrative of this. and frankly, Monica Lewinsky is very much a victim. She always was. And I think it brings a lot of good, healthy debate for women who are contemplating whether or not they will vote for Hillary Clinton should she get the nomination in 2016.

But I will agree with my good friend Maria, that it's difficult when you have white male Republicans trying to come at Hillary Clinton. That is going to be bad for whoever the Republican nominee is. They need people like me, other women conservatives, who I said that you know we have -- we have a shortage of in our party.

And that's the problem. We don't have women talking about women's issues. Maria knows this. We talk about this many times but I think the debate will be a healthy one. I'm not so sure if it's a positive for former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

CARDONA: But let's see -- I just want to clarify something here. BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

CARDONA: If this is -- if this is brought up in 2016, the vilification won't be of Monica Lewinsky. It will be of Republicans who are trying to use it against Hillary Clinton who had absolutely nothing to do with this and so those Republicans need to be -- need to be careful. Hang on a second. Hang on Chrystal, let me finish.

What I will say about this article is I absolutely do not begrudge Monica Lewinsky for wanting to move on. In fact I applaud her. I will help her start the bonfire to burn the beret. I will help her dig the ditch to bury the black dress because she needs to move on. Everyone else has moved on. And I think it is something that is very healthy for her to do. We all want to move on.

BLACKWELL: We also need to move on. But let me just get one last word here from Crystal and then we want to talk about Benghazi.

WRIGHT: Ok so really quick though, Maria I think, for you to say that Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with this is an outright -- it is like you are trying to dismiss the fact that she has been married to this man for a very long time and he went before --

CARDONA: No Crystal, you cannot fault her for what Bill Clinton did.

WRIGHT: Maria let me finish. I let you finish. Maria, she stood by her man, her cheating husband over and over again. He told the American people he did not have sexual relations with her it brings a lot of questions. She is trying to present herself as a champion of women. And frankly I think she's anything but she would never want Chelsea Clinton to be married to a man like her husband.


CARDONA: Well, you know what -- that is private. And that is up to her. And it's her decision.

WRIGHT: No it's not. He was President of the United States.

CARDONA: She forgave him. Chelsea forgave him. That is not up to you and me. And I think women will agree.


CABRERA: All right ladies. All right ladies. We're going to play referee here.

CARDONA: -- anyone else's business.

CABRERA: Maria and Crystal -- let me jump in here and talk a little bit about another issue that could be affecting Hillary Clinton that we've also been talking a lot about in the news this week. The issue of Benghazi and that investigation and will there be another one. As well as Boko Haram and the position that Hillary Clinton was in back in 2011 when she could have designated Boko Haram as a terrorist group and the criticism against her for not doing so. So now her foreign policy has been called into question this week. Maria, will this hurt her come the election time?

CARDONA: Well again, what we are seeing now is the piling on of Hillary Clinton because clearly Republicans are really scared and very worried that she actually will run because she will be very formidable. Right now as you see in every poll -- and of course, it's early -- she is unbeatable by any Republican. And so what they are trying to do is to bring out everything, plus the kitchen sink to see what sticks.

And on Benghazi, what we saw is that she actually kicked their butt during the last hearing that she was testifying at with Benghazi. She took complete responsibility for what happened. She wanted to find out what happened and she took every single recommendation from the committee that was actually setting. So if Republicans want to continue to go down that road, I think the American people will sort of realize if this is the only thing that Republicans have going for them, if this is the only thing that they are offering the American people in 2016, then they are in much worse shape than I think anybody thought.

BLACKWELL: We've got to wrap it out but 20 seconds to you, Crystal.

WRIGHT: I think what the Republicans are doing is they are calling attention to lack of a really strong record of when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. She didn't kick anybody's butt in that hearing on Benghazi. And I think the final thing is what we know is why wasn't Hillary Clinton the face of Benghazi.


WRIGHT: She after all was secretary of state. We know secretary of state oversees all the embassies and consulates and staff abroad. We know why she wasn't the face of Benghazi because she was planning a 2016 run and wanted Susan Rice to go out there and mislead the American public.

So the day is not done. And the Boko Haram have basically butchered and sold nearly 300 young Nigerian girls into slavery and marriage to older men and she was in a position as secretary of state to do something about them and she did not.

So it is about a presidential election as Maria mentioned and her record deserves to be held up to the American people and she needs to be accountable if she is going to take a call at 3:00 a.m. in the morning after all.

BLACKWELL: All right. Crystal Wright and Maria Cardona -- thank you both. Always great to have both of you.

CARDONA: Thanks so much.

WRIGHT: Thanks.

CARDONA: Thank you. You too. BLACKWELL: So the twin brothers, who lost their HGTV show -- and we have been talking about this -- they say the network was bullied into pulling the plug because of their views about gays.


M1: It's only going to get worse because there is an agenda that wants to silence the beliefs that we have.


BLACKWELL: We are talking with Brian Stelter about the brothers and their beef with the so-called gay agenda.


CABRERA: So this week, two brothers lost their real estate show on HGTV. And this was after one of the brothers was recorded making comments that some have characterized as anti-gay and anti-choice.

BLACKWELL: The Benham Brothers say they are not against gays themselves, but rather the gay agenda that they claim wants to silence their Christian beliefs. And surprisingly the brothers are not upset with HGTV. Instead they say their hearts go out to the network they believe was bullied into their decision to pull the plug.


JASON BENHAM: HG had an opportunity to vet us. And when they, a year and a half ago, saw some of the footage where my brother was saying the things he was saying, they spoke with us. They got to know us a little better and then they made a judgment call recognizing that David and I had no hate in our heart for anyone.

And we have been running a successful real estate company for the last 11 years and we help all people. There is no discrimination and we love all people.


CABRERA: All right. Let's bring in CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. He's also the host of course of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES".

Brian, the network made this decision after those recordings went public. Did HGTV make the right decision, do you think, by getting rid of the show?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: You know, HGTV is in the business of finding the biggest audience it possibly can. That is getting harder and harder when you are a cable channel like HGTV because there's more competition than ever. So it is understandable when they sensed a scandal brewing that could have taken away some of their audience, that they moved away quickly from that possible scandal. It is not a surprising decision. Media companies are not just reflecting the country's evolving attitudes about gay rights. They are also leading the way in some cases. The programming that is on television is leading the way in some cases. This might be another example of that.

BLACKWELL: So this is not, of course, the first time we talked about this in the last year. We talked about "Duck Dynasty", we talked about Paula Deen and others.

STELTER: Right, right.

BLACKWELL: I wonder Brian if these networks face a backlash at some point in claiming that they are -- they stand for diversity and inclusion except when you say something that 60 percent of the people disagree with. Can you continue to push people away who have views that are not maybe mainstream and still say it's a big tent and everybody is welcome?

STELTER: I was just going through my Facebook page from the last time I was on CNN talking about this a couple of days ago. You know there were dozens of comments from people outraged by HGTV's decision to pull the show off the air before it even premiered. And some of them made very arguments I think about the fact that they are going to be less likely to watch HGTV because they feel their religious values are being infringed on here.

On the other hand, some of the comments steered into pure homophobia. It's ugly comments that you see around a story like. I personally don't think the HGTV lineup or schedule is going to take a ratings hit from something like this. Viewers love the shows that are there now. There is always talk about boycotts in these cases that rarely actually happen.

Maybe the "Duck Dynasty" case you mentioned is an example to share here. "Duck Dynasty" came back on A&E in January after that controversy with Phil Robertson. And the ratings did not come back as strongly as they had been before. That show had already been on the decline, it kept declining. Even though you might say it got a lot of free publicity from that controversy that sprung up in December.

And one other thing to mention here -- you mentioned Paula Deen. We should keep in mind the Food Network which had Paula Deen's shows and HGTV are owned by the same company. They're owned by Scripps. And when Paula Deen's comments came out in that deposition, they were published, Food Network was criticized for moving too slowly to respond.

Well, in this case, HGTV also owned by Scripps, moved very quickly to respond. I think they learned the lesson from the Paula Deen scandal.

CABRERA: And like you said, the whole idea that the bottom line, money might be talking here and what happened with "Duck Dynasty" kind of goes against that whole idea that sometimes controversy --

STELTER: It's a clash.

CABRERA: -- fewer viewers.

STELTER: It's a clash we see again and again -- corporate values versus religious values.


BLACKWELL: All right. Brian Stelter, thank you so much. Of course, everyone can watch Brian on "RELIABLE SOURCES" each Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.


BLACKWELL: All right. Pushing forward on our top story this morning -- the rescue effort for three people in that hot air balloon crash in Virginia has now transitioned into a recovery operation for two bodies.

CABRERA: This hour, officials announced they found the body of one of the three missing people who were on board that doomed balloon which burst into flames last night after striking power lines.

We'll continue to follow this balloon crash throughout the morning and the search for those other two who are missing.

BLACKWELL: Thank you for starting your day with us.

CABRERA: "Smerconish" starts right now.