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California on Fire; Sterling: Wife Should Keep Her Stake in Team; Interview with Senator Bernie Sanders

Aired May 15, 2014 - 08:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Overnight, hundreds of new mandatory evacuation orders were issued in San Marcos as firefighters try and, of course, just look at that video. They're trying to save homes from this fast-moving blaze.

That's where Akiko Fujita right now.

Akiko, what is the very latest from where you are?

AKIKO FUJITA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I can tell you a lot of residents waking up this morning counting their blessings because here in Carlsbad, much of this street was spared. But I want you to look behind me because you can see still smoldering, one of two homes damaged on this street alone. Residents here say they have seen their share of wildfires before, but they have never seen so many pop up so quickly so early in the fire season.


FUJITA (voice-over): Breaking overnight: at least nine fires now spreading rapidly, erupting one right after another, already destroying dozens of homes.

You can hear the roar of massive flames engulfing close to 10,000 acres across San Diego County, the governor declaring a state of emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doing mandatory evacuations.

FUJITA: Tens of thousands now fleeing their homes in jeopardy. Even Legoland, one of the county's popular amusement parks, forced to close along with the university campus, a nuclear power plant in Camp Pendleton, one of the largest military training bases, partially evacuated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have erratic winds, we have low humidity down into the single digits.

FUJITA: Attacking the blazes from the air and on the ground, thousands of firefighters working around the clock, stunted by 100- degree heat and wind gusts close to 30 miles an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The wind can change and all of a sudden it just seems like we're going to be safe and we're not so we just packed everything and we're out of there.

FUJITA: The unpredictable winds producing terrifying fire tornadoes like this one. Just watch the spinning vortex caused by intersecting wind patterns, scattering fire debris, further complicating efforts to douse the flames.

The blazes so out of control, the military now intervening, battling the infernos with seven tankers and over 20 aircrafts including a DC- 10 plane mounted with tanks that can hold up to 50 tons of water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're getting help. But the fight is far from over.


FUJITA: And while residents out here and crews try to gain the upper hand on the blaze, there's a lot of speculation about just how these fires were sparked. Seven fires started on Wednesday alone. And officials out here say they are not ruling out arson -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The urgency right now, though, is how to get the fire stopped.

Akiko, thank you for the reporting. Please stay safe this morning.

Also this morning we are hearing more from Donald Sterling in the exclusive CNN interview. Sterling expressing remorse for what he's done to his estranged wife, Shelly. He's also not buying reports of a possible player boycott and sounding strangely confident that he'll somehow retain ownership of the Clippers.

Take a listen.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Do you believe you will be able to keep the team, though?


COOPER: Because the advertisers certainly, you know --

STERLING: The advertisers are all coming back. Let's not be crazy. The fans will all come if you have a good team. If you don't have a good team, people won't come.

COOPER: Even if you're an owner?

STERLING: What am I, a Frankenstein? What am I, some kind of an ogre? I'm a good person. I'm a warm person. I say hello to everybody who comes to the team.

COOPER: There's some players, though, who have talked about a boycott of the season.

STERLING: Let's talk. The media pushes that. Why would they do that? If they get their salaries, they're going to play.

I mean, one day they all love you, and the next day you make a mistake and say something and they hate you? Is that the way it is?

What if a player said I don't like working for that Jew? What would we do? I wouldn't do anything. I would ask him why? Why? I want to make you happy. If you want more money, you know, more attention, more love?

COOPER: Do you think your wife, Shelly, should also be -- should also be removed as an owner?

STERLING: Do I think she should what?

COOPER: Should she be able to remain -- maintain her stake, her ownership stake? The team is owned by a trust.

STERLING: My wife, Shelly, and I are in the process of a divorce. You know, she's worked with me for 58 years, my wife. One wife, 58 years. And she loved the team and always helped me with everything.

If for some reason I can't have the team, I think that she should have her interest -- I mean, she didn't do anything. I brought all this on her, the poor girl. I don't know how she can live and deal with this.

I guess I was bad committing all those terrible -- I don't even want to say it -- but you know, people say how do you commit adultery? You justify things. You say, well, every man in Paris or France has a mistress.

It may make you smile, but when you're so old, you don't think it's wrong anymore. If you have a little bit of fun. You don't have much time. If you have a little bit of fun, you can't do what you did before.

And nobody expect -- but you want to be cared for. Everybody wants to be cared for. I made such a mistake. I thought that woman really cared for me.

COOPER: If your wife maintained her stake in the team, would you be able to influence events through her?

STERLING: Probably not. If they want to negotiate, they would probably deal with me separately.


BOLDUAN: For more on this and what's next for Donald Sterling, Robin Abcarian, columnist for "The L.A. Times" and Sean Gregory, senior writer at "TIME."

Great to see you both once again, of course.

So, Sean, we were kind of talking about this as we're watching the interview. He does not believe that advertisers are leaving. He says very specifically, the advertisers are all coming back. Let's not be crazy.

Any suggestion that the advertisers are on their way back?

SEAN GREGORY, SENIOR WRITER, TIME: No, no suggestion at all. And that's the key. If advertisers don't come back, that's why the league has justification to kick him out. It's about adverse effects on the brand.

And when the money's going away, that's an adverse effect on the brand. That's written right in the NBA constitution. And that's what the league is justifying this move on.

BOLDUAN: Robin, follow me on this one. If -- big if -- if sponsors would come back and they have not yet kicked him out of the league, does that change anything?

ROBIN ABCARIAN, COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES: You know, it changes something financially, I suppose, for the team and for the league, but it doesn't change very much for the players and the fans. And those are people who have to be placated as well. I don't think we can underestimate how upset people in Los Angeles are about this and also the players who have been rumbling maybe, you know, it's hollow words at this point about a boycott.

But the minute you even hear that word being bandied about, I think you have to take it seriously and understand just how upset the players are.

BOLDUAN: Well, and let's talk about even the suggestion of a boycott. There's a little back-and-forth on this, but I want to get your general take on what kind of message you think that sends. You have LeBron James who was asked about pre-game five last night. He was asked about the suggestion from the vice president of the players association that he had said he'd boycott if Donald Sterling was not gone by next season. And then that had to be walked back a little bit. LeBron James denied it.

Roger Mason, who we're talking about, Roger Mason Jr., he tweeted this afterward. "My bad if I was not clear. LeBron James never said anything about boycotting. He's a friend and I would never want to imply something that he didn't say."

But, but, but the suggestion that they're even talking about it, Robin, what kind of message does that send, do you think?

ABCARIAN: I think it sends a big, loud warning to the Sterlings, to the NBA and to everybody that these -- this may have been locker room talk, but I don't think it was idle locker room talk. I mean, nobody -- these guys stand to make so much money. The league stands to make so much money. Each team is worth so much. And they generate scads of money every season.

So when you're talking about a boycott, you're talking about some pretty serious economic damage. I don't think anybody wants to see the league go there. But it does just raise the issue of how upset the players are. Three-quarters to 80 percent of this league are African-American players. And they're not going to sit idly by while the Sterling futz (ph) around trying to figure out how they can really keep control of the team.

BOLDUAN: Look, Donald Sterling doesn't believe it, doesn't believe that suggestion at all when Anderson brought it up.

That's all talk. The media is pushing that. Why would they do that? If they get their salaries, they're going to play.

Sean, do you think that the players would boycott?

GREGORY: It's --

BOLDUAN: It's a big step.

GREGORY: It's a big step, and I think at the end of the day, Donald Sterling is not going to be the controlling owner of the Clippers.

BOLDUAN: Right. We don't even need to talk about that.

GREGORY: Yes, it's interesting discussion. And I know LeBron's walking back probably because they're playing, you know, a playoff series and he's going for a championship. So whether he said exactly that to Roger Mason or not, I agree the grumblings are what's important.

But at the end of the day, I don't think there's going to be a need for a boycott.

BOLDUAN: What do you think about the discussion of Shelly Sterling and kind of where things go for her? Legal minds that we've been talking to seem to be a bit of a split decision if she has a case here. I want to get both of your takes.

What do you think, Sean?

GREGORY: I think -- I can see the case if they get divorced and she has a claim on 50 percent. I think under California community property laws, if they're still together and he gets -- and the team is forced to be sold, she can lose her share as well. But either way, even if she has 50 percent, she's not going to be the controlling owner. The NBA has to approve controlling ownership.

So, if she has a 50 percent stake in the asset, I don't think she's going to have much say over the decision-making of the team.

BOLDUAN: But if we're talking about messages, Robin, what kind of message does that send, you think? What do you think? She didn't say these things.

ABCARIAN: Well, I think -- but here's what I think. I think Shelly Sterling is a lot smarter than her husband who failed to surround himself with lawyers or PR crisis experts.

She has hired a lawyer. She has hired a crisis firm. She at least is watching what she says and trying to be careful.

But that being said, I think the name is tainted in some ways. And I think what you're going to be seeing next are a lot of stories about these civil rights housing discrimination lawsuits that the Sterlings were involved in.

BOLDUAN: You've written a very compelling piece on that.

ABCARIAN: -- 2003, 2006.

Yes. I mean, she was a codefendant in these cases. Let's not forget. And while yes, there was no jury finding of guilt, there were multi, multimillion-dollar settlement in these cases and scads of testimony and depositions about the terrible racially tinged things that the Sterlings did as landlords of apartment houses in Los Angeles.

And I don't think she's going to be able to escape the stigma of having been part of those federal civil rights discrimination cases.

BOLDUAN: Real quick.

GREGORY: It will be interesting.

If the sponsors stay out, if Shelly still has 50 percent, then the NBA perhaps has grounds to force her out as well.

BOLDUAN: Unfortunately money does talk still in this league. But they are making a strong point that it has nothing to do with money and the players may have a say in that as well.

Robin, great to see you. Sean, great to see you as well.

I'm very interested to see what the league's next move is and when they make it.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Kate, thanks so much.

Let's look at more of your headlines at this hour, 11 past the hour.

Hope is fading in the desperate search for survivors from this week's mine explosion in Turkey. Nearly 300 people are already confirmed dead. Another 100 more are still trapped.

Now, if any are still alive, they're dealing with wretched conditions including smoke and the presence of carbon monoxide. Devastated families are venting their anger at government officials who insist the mine passed safety inspections.

Same-sex couples in Arkansas are in a kind of legal limbo this morning after the state Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling invalidating a voter-approved ban on gay marriage. Some 450 licenses have already been put out, but no new licenses will be issued. The justices said a law barring county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, that remains in effect. Remember this video? Appearing to show Jay-Z in a fight with Beyonce's sister, Solange? The Standard Hotel says it's fired the people who leaked that video and it will turn over all available information to criminal authorities. The person who leaked that tape has not been made public. The Web site TMZ says the fight happened after the metropolitan museum of art gala earlier this month.

BOLDUAN: They move pretty quick.

PEREIRA: And so have the spoofs of said --


PEREIRA: -- battle in the elevator. In particularly I like Jeanne Moos' rendition.

BOLDUAN: I have yet to see that one. I'll have to look it up.

CUOMO: It is ripe for the teasing.

PEREIRA: "Saturday Night Live" this weekend could be interesting.

CUOMO: Yes, it's going to happen. No question about it.

Coming up on NEW DAY: Capitol Hill finally taking notice of our CNN investigation. Dozens of veterans may have died waiting for medical attention at V.A. hospitals. Now veterans secretary is testifying.

Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, Senator Bernie Sanders, joins us next.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY this morning.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki is on the hot seat, testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee about shocking allegations first reported to you by CNN. Among them, that at least 40 veterans may have died while waiting for medical attention from a V.A. hospital. President Obama has now put his deputy chief of staff on the V.A.'s review.

But our next guest is backing the secretary and giving some different perspective here. It may surprise you. He is independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. He's also the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, joining us from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

The first question is an obvious one. Do you believe the V.A. is doing what it needs to do by our veterans?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: That is -- that is the key question. And let me just say this. If you talk to veterans all over this country, if you look at patient satisfaction surveys, what you end up finding is that the V.A. holds up as good or better than private hospitals. By and large, veterans throughout America believe that they're getting pretty good health care.

But here's the main point, Chris: the V.A. serves 6.5 million veterans, 200,000 of them every single day. What is clear is that in a system that large, there are problems. And there are some serious problems. So I think that in a pretty good system, there are problems. We have got to get at those problems.

Because at the end of the day, the people who put their lives on the line to defend us deserve the best quality care in America, and we are going to get at those problems, and we're going to root them out.

CUOMO: But, you know, Senator, that a big thing driving the concern is that this is not new. Not just what we uncovered in the CNN investigation, but the reason -- the mandate for Shinseki when he was put in, Senator, was that we knew there were big lapses at the V.A. that had to be addressed, and you could argue they have not been.

Isn't it time for accountability?

SANDERS: The answer is you make a very good point, and that is exactly one of the questions that I'll be asking Secretary Shinseki today.

But in terms of these accusations, one of the things, I think, Chris, that we don't want to do is get out in front of ourselves. The truth of the matter is that the V.A. is now -- that the inspector general of the V.A., an independent entity, is now investigating what took place in Phoenix.

And we do not know what took place in Phoenix. The allegations may be correct. They may not be correct. And that's what we're looking at right now.

CUOMO: Why do you not trust the CNN reporting that Drew Griffin and his team did on this? When they talk about the 40 people, the deadly delays, how -- the way the process is run and the waiting game is played, wound up costing lives?

SANDERS: OK. Can I read you a quote?

CUOMO: Please.

SANDERS: All right. This is what CNN said on April 30th.

"At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix veterans affairs health care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list," end of quote.

A few days later, this is what CNN said. "Now with Dr. Foote" -- and Dr. Foote is the doctor who made the allegations -- "what Dr. Foote and others have told us is that of the many, many people on that list, all veterans, 40 of them have since passed away.

The allegation is not that the delay in care caused that, only that that is what is now being investigated. Did the delay in care of these people on the secret waiting list actually cause these deaths? We don't know. But that is what the office of inspector general is, in fact, investigating.

CUOMO: Is it unfair criticism, Senator, to see -- you sound like a lawyer defending the hospital as opposed to a senator trying to make sure the right thing is done.

SANDERS: That is exactly what I want, Chris. I want the right thing to do. The second statement is exactly correct. We don't know.

And that's why we have -- why the V.A. has asked an inspector general to investigate that. The first statement is not correct.

CUOMO: Hold on a second. Senator, with all due respect, we don't know that the first statement is not correct. You're saying you don't have the proof of it being correct to your satisfaction.

This doctor felt that it was correct. And you don't know that it isn't correct.

SANDERS: No. What the second statement said is we don't know.

CUOMO: No, the second statement says we know that they're dead. You're saying you want to connect the dots better. That's fair pushback, but it's not that we know it's incorrect.

SANDERS: We know that people die every day. We don't know why they die. Anyhow, Chris, I don't want to argue that point until the cows come home.

Here's what you've got. You've got a system that by and large, I think, works reasonably well for veterans. I think you've got 300,000 employees out there, many of whom who are veterans themselves who are trying to do their best. You've got cutting-edge stuff in terms of telehealth, complimentary and alternative medicine.

There are problems, and we have got to get at those problems. But we need the facts to lead us to where we want to go.

CUOMO: I hear you, Senator. And you know that it's not my motivation just to kind of cherry-pick and to try to do yellow journalism on this. There is heightened sensitivity because these are the men and women that we've promised the best to.

SANDERS: Absolutely.

CUOMO: And we have to ensure that. Of course there are always endemic problems with health care. We know that story all too well. But it gets a little bit of a bad feeling here about what the motivation is for these hearings, whether it's to defend the V.A. or to do the hard truth of accountability and make change.

SANDERS: OK. Good question. This hearing is to look at V.A. health care. What I have said, Chris -- and I'll say it again -- the day after the inspector general completes its investigation -- I don't know if it's the day after -- but as soon as possible, we will do hearings. What today's hearing is about is to look at the quality of V.A. health care. What are the problems? And as you have indicated, there are problems. And the major problem I think is what you just touched on. There have been reports year after year about waiting lists.

Has the V.A. effectively dealt with that? I don't think so.

There is another issue. When you have waiting lists, may it simply be that the V.A. doesn't have enough doctors and nurses and staff. Are we putting enough money into the V.A.? Is the V.A. appropriating its resources appropriately? Are there some places in the country where, in fact, you may have too much staff and other places where the V.A. population is growing where we don't have enough staff? Those are some of the questions that I think we need to explore.

CUOMO: You have not mentioned the secretary, Senator. Do you believe that the secretary has done his job to date?

SANDERS: I think by and large under very difficult circumstances, Secretary Shinseki has done a good job. I think where he is very, very weak is in terms of communication. I think he does not a good job in communicating with the congress or certainly with the American people and the media.

I think if areas -- you know, when he came into office, Chris, just one example. If you can imagine this, do you know how claims were done before Shinseki came into office? They were done by paper. In the year 2009, we were still doing claims by paper.

He has transformed that system into an electronic system. You and I know that one of the scandals in America is the level of homelessness among veterans. We are making some significant progress in reducing that.

So I think -- you know, I'm not here to -- I think the secretary has made mistakes, but ultimately, I think he is doing a decent job.

CUOMO: Look, we wanted you on NEW DAY, Senator, because you deserve the respect that you get when it comes to veterans and taking care of their interests. That's why there's so many eyeballs on this and on the secretary's testimony and the pushback today.

Thank you for coming on with us. Appreciate it. And look forward to what happens.

SANDERS: Good. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Take care, Senator.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, would LeBron James lead an NBA boycott if Donald Sterling isn't forced to sell the clippers? Rachel Nichols found out in an exclusive interview.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PEREIRA: All right. Time for the five things you need to know for your new day.

At number one, record heat, drought and Santa Ana wind conditions expected to keep fueling those wildfires in southern California. Nine fast-moving wildfires have already burned 9,200 acres so far.

Crews are racing to find people trapped after a mine explosion in Turkey. Nearly 300 people are dead. The hope is fading quickly to find survivors underground. Conditions there include smoke and the presence of carbon monoxide.

The captain and three officers from a South Korea ferry that capsized and sank have now been charged with murder. Nearly 300 people died in that disaster, mostly high school students. Prosecutors say the crew didn't do enough to save those on board.

The World Health Organization is calling now the threat for Middle East respiratory syndrome, MERS, serious and urgent, but not yet a global health emergency. There are now two confirmed cases right here in the United States.

And at number five, he says he's not giver, not a hater -- he's a giver, not a hater. In an exclusive CNN interview, L.A. Clippers' owner Donald Sterling says he hopes people will forgive the racist comments he made and he beliefs he can still keep the team.

We always update those five things to know. So, be sure to visit for the very latest -- Chris.