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NEW DAY

Why Was Editor Really Fired?; Favorite Horse Might Not Race; TV Merger Potentially Expensive For Consumers; Hillary Clinton's "Inevitability" Problem; Embryo Battle Forges New Legal Ground

Aired May 19, 2014 - 06:30   ET

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


CHERI JACOBUS, GOP STRATEGIST: These are legitimate questions. And it's also up to the Hillary Clinton camp to try and control the agenda and talk about what she wants to talk about, but she doesn't have anything to talk about.

(CROSSTALK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Should they be surprised that this is coming at them? Maybe it's a problem of timing that it's coming so early, and so they can't be surprised later when she's actually running. But should they be surprised that the issue of health came up? It was part of a discussion when she didn't -- when she testified for Congress?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that this should surprise no one. And as Chris just said --

BOLDUAN: Yes.

SOCARIDES: -- this is what politics has come down to. Especially now in the preliminaries when there aren't substantive issues being discussed. It's all this negative stuff.

So, I think that Hillary Clinton will be surprised. I think they will throw -- try to make up a lot of stuff. Throw a lot at her. And I think if she decides to run, she'll be ready for it.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the Republican field just for a millisecond, if we can. Jeb Bush giving a commencement speech at the Christian Liberal Arts College. He said this in part of his speech. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: If you feel inspired to serve your fellow citizens, don't let the ugliness of politics keep you from pursuing public office.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: And he says there's always room for informed, engaged, passionate leaders at every level of government. Everyone says, hint, hint, hint.

SOCARIDES: He sounds like he was urging Hillary Clinton to run.

JACOBUS: His family has been through -- they've run for office successfully and unsuccessfully. And they know what it's like. But I will say when you contrast a Jeb Bush, who also the Bush name, obviously. It's very well-known just like Clinton.

And you talk about going out there and trying to control the agenda and saying what you want people to be talking about, he's controlling it. He went out and made a speech. And we're talking about it. We're not talking about his health or anything.

That is how you do it. He's taken advantage --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Cherie, he has also said that his decision to run will be based on can he do it joyfully? He very much understands the impact it has on a family. When you see where things are and how dirty things get, is there anyway to joyfully run?

JACOBUS: You know, in the past, when his children were younger, I think that made a difference as it does to a lot of candidates. Now, that his children are grown, I think he feels that the family can take it a little bit more. But that's what anybody running for public office has to keep in mind is their family. And, you know, little kids are a lot different than big kids --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Joyfully or not, he said something that is, you could argue, inconsistent where he's been add as moderate socially when he said to this -- he had to offer red meat to this Christian constituency, and him saying, hey, hold on to your faith, even though the federal government is trying to destroy religious-free expression. We all know where that's going. It's interesting to see if Jeb Bush can live up to that standard of politics, because I guess he can't, he won't make it through the primary.

SOCARIDES: Well, that was a real indication that he is very seriously considering running, because he does not usually use that line in his standard talking points. And it's really a -- you know, a bow to the right, so I think he's very seriously considering running.

I hope he does run because I think, you know, I think he's got a lot of good credentials. He's certainly qualified by, you know, what he's done previously, to be president.

But I think the Republican Party will not be able to nominate a Jeb Bush because I think they have moved so far to the right. And I think it will end up helping the Democrats.

If Jeb Bush runs in a Republican primary, he will not get the nomination. And the American people will see -- CUOMO: Give us a quick --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: We'll hold that tape, because half of these predictions are always wrong when this far ahead. We're going to keep this tape.

CUOMO: Well, I'll hope we keep the tape.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead

JACUBOS: Yes, I disagree. Republicans, they run to the right in the primaries, just like Democrats run to the left. And you come to the center. And Republicans obviously do nominate right of center but not far right candidates.

We've been doing it. We did it last time. We did it the time before that.

So, I think he's got a few problems but that's what primaries are for.

CUOMO: At least he wasn't asking to pray for Hillary because she's sick and old.

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: We'll hear that next.

CUOMO: Cheri, Richard, very good to have you both.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, guys. Good morning.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, a brand-new kind of custody battle. Two exes, boyfriend and girlfriend, they're battling over an embryo because she says she still wants to have his child against his wishes. We're going to speak to the ex-boyfriend.

BOLDUAN: And "The New York Times" says it was her management style, not her pay, that was behind the firing of Jill Abramson. So, what's the real story? And what might she say in a college commencement speech that's happening this morning?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: We have a landmark custody decision to tell you about. It involves frozen embryos and who has the right to use them to conceive a child, even after a relationship ends.

So, here's what happened: a state judge ruled a woman can use the embryos created with her ex-boyfriend four years ago, even though he says he was told they would both have to agree before anything could happen.

And he joins us here this morning, joined by Jacob Szafranski, the ex- boyfriend, and his attorney, Brian Schroeder.

First of all, Jacob, how do I say your last name?

JACOB SZAFRANSKI, FIGHTING GILRFRIEND TO PREVENT PREGNANCY: Szafranski.

COUMO: All right. Good. So, I got that right. That's always most important.

A little bit of background. Were you dating someone, she was about to have treatment for cancer. She was worried because of what doctors had said that she wouldn't be able to conceive after that treatment. So you agreed with her to make some embryos, correct?

SZAFRANSKI: The initial discussion between Ms. Dunston and I was to both make embryos and eggs. Kind of provide us the opportunity in the future to see where the relationship would go and give us the option of deciding how to go about her desires to potentially become a mother and my desire to potentially assist her in having a child if that were the case.

So, we did plan on making eggs and embryos.

CUOMO: OK. So you signed a document at that time, what did the document say as far as you knew?

SZAFRANSKI: Well, the document was fairly clear. When we went to the fertility clinic, our situation was very unique. Our time lines were very small. She immediately needed to undergo her treatment. Of course, we were not married and we're only dating a few short months.

The documents said the embryos were equally ours as far as genetic material and we weren't a married couple. It was very clear that they stated that at the time of use for the embryos, both parties must consent and give their consent for their use. And that is something that both Ms. Dunston and I did sign, in fact.

CUOMO: There's also a co-parent agreement that going forward, you two agreed to raise a child together. You did not sign that, why?

SZAFRANSKI: I did not sign that, that is correct. After meeting with the fertility specialist at the clinics, we were encouraged to develop any type of ancillary agreements or any further contractual language that would further guide us in how we were to use the embryos if they were to come to use. And we did make declaration of dispositions in the case of my untimely death or Karla's untimely death and what were to be done with the embryos if we were in fact to use them.

But they encouraged us to seek legal counsel and to draft a document that would be in support of or kind of supersede their consent forms in which we signed. There was a lot of discussions. We did meet with attorneys, but ultimately, no document was signed. And the discussion went back and forth between either co-parenting or being sperm donor in my case.

CUOMO: Obviously, there were some legitimate questions about what the long-term prospects were of this relationship. You say you were motivated by the exigent circumstances. This had to be done right then because she was going through treatment.

But if you agreed to make the embryo, didn't you do that as kind of an understanding that they may be used?

SZAFRANSKI: In part, I did. We had discussed, and Karla had attested to that we would both make embryos and eggs because even she had reservations. You know, whether or not she wanted me to be in involved in any future children that would come about as a result of this.

And she felt, and I agreed that both eggs and embryos would be a good decision, where if she did not want me to be involved, there were would be the eggs to use on her own without any consent or involvement of myself. This was something that would provide us that opportunity to make that decision down the road.

And, unfortunately, when the egg harvesting was completed, the number the eggs that the physicians expected to get was virtually half. And they made the recommendation to create all embryos.

In my understanding of my documents and as far as my rights, it was very clear to me that my consent would be needed for use of any embryos that I was genetically responsible for and I don't feel --

CUOMO: So the judge says.

SZAFRANSKI: Go right ahead.

CUOMO: I'm going to lead you into your next point. The judge then takes a look at it and says, OK. I get it, that you had some rights here and she had some rights. But I believe her rights outweigh yours because the right to have the child is bigger than your right to consent to that, because she doesn't want anything from you.

She says she want no support. She doesn't want your involvement.

That's not good enough for you, why?

SZAFRANSKI: Just to say that you don't want money or support of services and having a child I think is kind of dismissive to the grand ramifications of everything. Neither Karla nor I have ever been married nor did we have children up to that point. And this is something that we need to give consideration down the road.

To say just because somebody doesn't want money from you that they should be able to force my hand and bring children into this world against my will. You know, time has passed and I'm unfortunately had to deal with a lot of personal confliction on this matter.

I have, you know, had some deep implications as far as my relationship go with other people. And given the time to consider this, which is what creating the embryos allowed us to in thinking about this. I don't want to be forced to having a child, especially when I'm not ready for that in my life. It's something that transcends money. To reduce it to financial support is insulting to both Ms. Dunston and I. CUOMO: And that the idea for you is that this is going to be your child. It's half yours and it's going to come into the world and that wasn't a decision you were allowed to be a part of and it's fundamentally wrong. So what did the judge get wrong (ph)?

SZAFRANSKI: The judge, I believe, in my understanding, felt that there was a verbal agreement that was reached that superseded any type of written agreement in which we signed, which I think is not necessarily accurate. To say that I was asked to create embryos, absolutely. To say that we discussed issues of consent, we did not and Ms. Dunston attested to that also.

And secondly, we're planning on making both eggs and embryos, allowing us an out, an option to separate if need be, where she could make a decision about her reproductive autonomy without me. And when it came to the two of us, potentially making that decision together, I think we also have an equal say. I'm not asking anything from the courts that, you know, I wouldn't feel Karla should have in the equal decision. And that's really what this about. You know, we both have equal rights, and our consent is equal, so how can you forcibly make somebody do something against their will?

CUOMO: Well, that's the interesting question, especially when that person is the man. You're dealing with a culture where the rights have usually been construed in favor of the woman. We have the famous actor, Jason Patrick, had a similar situation, some different circumstances, but the same issue came up about the rights of the father in a situation where birth is found this way, through this type of embryo making.

So we're going to follow this case as it goes forward. Jacob Szafranski, thank you very much for being here. Brian Schroeder, you were quiet on this because we weren't arguing about the legalities. But as the case moves forward, please keep us in the loop on it. We want to see how this turns out. Big implications for you and for a lot of couples out there, so thank you.

BRIAN SCHROEDER, ATTORNEY: We certainly will. Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, ousted editor of the "New York Times" set to speak publicly for the first time since she was fired from the paper. Has this debacle now turned into a public shaming? The paper's new response next.

Also, California Chrome is one win away from taking the triple crown, but the most closely watched horse in the world might not even run at Belmont. And it's all about nose strips.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Especially, when it comes to the NBA playoffs.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

CUOMO: Home court advantage is big. And the Indiana Pacers used it to strike first in the Eastern conference finals.

Let's bring in Brian McFayden. He's got this morning's "Bleacher Report". Now, they're starting to look like the team they're supposed to be.

BRIAN MCFAYDEN, BLEACHER REPORT: Yeah, in the beginning, not so much. But this is what they do. The two-time defending champs Miami Heat were at Indy to face the Pacers. Indiana had not won a series opener yet in this year's playoffs, but they led wire to wire in this one.

Pacers finally get that monkey off their back by winning a game one. Their score, their highest point total of the post-season, Pacers win 107-96. Game two is Tuesday night. Tonight on TNT, game one of the Western conference finals, Spurs host the Thunder at 9 p.m. Eastern.

California Chrome won the Preakness Stakes this weekend setting him up with a chance to win the Triple Crown if he wins the Belmont Stakes on June 7th. He's the odds on favorite but may not get a chance to race. See, he wears nasal strips to keep -- keep his airwave from becoming smaller. But that's a no-no at the Belmont Stakes. California Chrome's owner will have to make a formal request. They can also decide to run without the strips if they don't receive the waiver to wear them.

Here's trending on bleacherreport.com, we're calling this young man our player of the weekend. Check him out as he gives the souvenir ball to the pretty girl behind him. But wait, he pulls the ol' switcheroo. He actually keeps the game ball, then he gives her the other ball that he already had in his hand. That guy's -- that guy's got game.

Cute kid. Back to you guys.

BOLDUAN: I'm not sure if we should be proud or we should be upset --

MCFAYDEN: Oh, be proud.

BOLDUAN: -- that he is so sneaky.

CUOMO: I think it was pretty slick. Very slick.

BOLDUAN: Only if the girl got the joke.

CUOMO: What joke?

BOLDUAN: That he wasn't being kind --

CUOMO: That blew up his spot. I mean, that was exactly --

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: I'll take the blame. It's my fault.

CUOMO: That was slick.

BOLDUAN: I know. Slick. Thanks, Brian. CUOMO: I liked that.

BOLDUAN: I know. I know.

PERERIA: Today, we're set to hear from Jill Abramson, the former editor of "The New York Times." She's actually delivering a commencement address at Wake Forest University in just a few hours time. This amid continued questions over what exactly led to her departure. There are claims that Abramson was paid less than her male predecessors, was fired because she dared to speak up.

But the newspaper insists that is not true, and in fact put out a formal statement, blaming her shortcomings as a manager, including quote, "Inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues."

We want to talk about it all with Mr. Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources".

Happy Monday, and it continues, Brian. So what do you make of this statement, the news statement from Sulzberger? I just read it. Talking all about her weaknesses.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Four hundred, seventy- five words about why she was fired. You can imagine if someone wrote that -- I mean, we've all been fired from something, but usually fired for the 475 word explanation about it.

PEREIRA: What do you make about it? What do you read between the lines?

STELTER: Well, when I read the words "public mistreatment of colleagues," isn't that a little bit like what the publisher is now doing, by putting out a statement out about her?

Now, on the other hand, when I read this description, it rang true to me. You know, I worked at "The Times" for six years.

PEREIRA: What was your experience?

STELTER: And about half that time, Jill was the editor and the chief of the newspaper. And she was not always a people person. She was a beloved editor; she's also a feared editor.

BOLDUAN: Well, she's in media, though.

STELTER: But -- that's exactly right.

BOLDUAN: We're not -- there are a lot of not people persons in this business.

STELTER: Editors have to be tough sometimes. They have to be aggressive.

CUOMO: But you know why they're doing this. I'm not in the business of defending "The Times". I think they should actually get more heat for things. But this is a clear case that's being made by the media that this was gender discrimination, and they've been --

STELTER: By the media, by Abramson's friends, as well.

CUOMO: Right. So, and they've been trying to rebut the presumption. She wasn't paid as much. Oh no, she was paid more than Keller at the end of it. You know, they've been rebutting it on the points, but they -- the perception is you did this because she's a woman. Is that true?

STELTER: I don't think it's that simple. I don't it's that -- I don't think that is true. But I do think there's a gender context for these things. It's possible for her to be a poor manager. It's also possible for people to be more critical of her or to challenge her in ways because she's a woman that they wouldn't have if she was a man. It's possible that there was unfair treatment of her and sexist language used about her. It's also possible she was bad at her job, you know? Both those things can be true.

BOLDUAN: I find it so -- what is very surprising about this, is on face value, many people are saying, why do you care about this? It's one person, one editor being fired, one -- one media company that's dealing with this. Why is this such a big deal? Why does this speak to something larger?

But it may. David Carr wrote a really interesting piece about this in "The Times" -- in "The Times". And I -- in part of it, he said, he's lived through the Jayson Blair debacle, the plagiarism debacle, and so much more. None of that was as surreal as what happened last week. The lack of decorum was stunning. He described it -- the actual firing as an episode of "Game of Thrones."

STELTER: Right, right, and "The Times" does not behave that way. Not that any media company does, but it's very unlike "The Times" to have about abrupt firing. And the reason why it matters, you know, in the broader construct, is because "The Times" still sets the news agenda for much of the country. And the editor and chief sets these for "The Times". So Jill Abramson was one of the most powerful people in media until last week.

BODLUAN: Did "The Times" suffer under Jill Abramson?

STELTER: No, I think got better. When I was there, it got better. But you could say, if you're critical of her, that was in spite of her, not because of her. It's always complicated. I would say she brought a lot of great things to the table; she also had some-- some sour qualities. And I think that's what's come out in the statement.

PEREIRA: So here's the question that I'm -- there's a couple of questions that I'm curious about. Because of this perceived notion of gender inequality, et cetera, what is going to be the reality for women that are working there now, the rising stars?

And also the new guy who has been well respected, Dean Baquet, is kind of taking away the shine of the fact he's going to be the first African-American editor of a major publishing company. STELTER: It sure has. Which is an historic moment, because we have very few women at the tops of major news organizations. We also have very few African-Americans at the tops of major news organizations.

PEREIRA: Decision makers.

STELTER: So it's a very big deal for him to get promoted. I feel terrible for him that it's happened under this -- this circumstances.

But your point about women at "The Times" and in other news rooms, I've heard a lot of concern from my former friends and colleagues of "The New York Times" about whether this will -- whether this will, you know, create concerns in the news room. People feel tense about it. Because Jill Abramson was very smart about promoting women, grooming women and retaining them. And people do wonder if this is going to be a setback.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, what do you think we're gonna hear from her when she speaks at Wake Forest? The commencement's this morning, and she's going to --

STELTER: One of the crazy things about this story is that Abramson hasn't spoken, but her daughter keeps speaking via Instagram, of all things.

So let's put up her latest Instagram. I can't believe I'm saying this. But here it is last night. This is a picture of her -- of her mom from 2007 when Jill was hit by a car and had to learn how to walk again. It say, "Tomorrow, she's going to show them what she's made of again." And hashtag? High road.

I have a feeling she'll take a couple little jabs at "The Times" but be very respectful and try to stay above the fray. That's my guess.

PEREIRA: That would be wise.

All right, Brian, thanks so much. Good to have you with us.

CUOMO: All right, this is one of several big stories that will start your NEW DAY. There's a media mega merger between AT&T and DirecTV. Is it good for the bottom line? Probably. Is it good for you? Maybe not.

Then, the MERS virus. It's now spreading in the U.S., and you're never going to believe how.

And the story of a Vietnam vet who's been a loyal federal employee for decades. And he just got the shock of his life: how could he not be a citizen? We're going to speak to him right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: AT&T is buying DirecTV in a deal worth nearly $50 billion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With that consolidation and that reduction of competition, we see prices mostly going up for consumers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An Illinois man who had a business meeting with the Indiana patient has also tested positive for MERS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This whole area was nothing but fire and smoke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you need to do to prepare for the season that still lies ahead?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're expecting extreme conditions, more fires this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: California Chrome has won the Preakness!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to have a very good horse to win these three days races, and I'm hoping I've got one right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: New this morning, a corporate shake-up that could affect millions of TV watchers. AT&T has reached a deal to buy satellite TV company DirecTV for almost $50 billion with a b. And after the Comcast/Time Warner merger, that could leave just two players in the games. What does that mean for you, your choices, and, of course, your bill?

Let's bring in chief business correspondent Christine Romans, joining us with the nuts and bolts. What do you see here?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I see a very big deal, and I see a merger that tells us that the landscape is changing so quickly for these companies. They want scale. They want to be big to do it.

And what they want, of course, is to get more revenue per customer. That means more money out of your pocket for more items they bundle to sell to you.

Let's talk about the nuts and bolts of the deal; $49 billion. AT&T, DirecTV. DirecTV customers will see no changes for about three years, same pricing, same service. But after that, you're gonna see AT&T try to bundle pay TV, wireless, even home security, broadband over your landline. All of these things being bundled together.

AT&T is making it sound, Chris, like it's a good deal for you because you're going to have more choices under one roof. But consumer groups are saying wait a minute, when you've already seen your bill going up so much more than inflation over the past few years, and you have fewer players, how can that be good for you?

And in terms of that bill, let me show you, Chris, we've run the numbers. This is what it looks like, and this is what it's projected to look like in terms of your TV -- premium TV monthly rates. They have been running much faster than inflation. No question here that those bills, as we use more stuff and bundle more stuff from these big new companies, those bills will keep rising, Chris. CUOMO: It's good for you as long as you want to pay more, more choice, but with less choices. Doesn't make any sense. Let's get some reaction to this.