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Michelle Knight Reacts to Abduction Case; Holiday Weekend Travel; Mark Cuban Stands by Race Comments; Firefighter and Rescued Baby Reunite

Aired May 23, 2014 - 08:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Being held by, but the emotional chains, that emotional abuse is what kept that woman tied to her captor. What does -- can you describe that because that is something that I think people from the outside looking in don't understand is that psychological threat that is so strong.

MICHELLE KNIGHT, CLEVELAND KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: There's a lot of people that go through tremendous pain. And just because you're not chained up and you're not locked in a basement doesn't mean you ain't trapped. I know exactly what it feels like to be trapped in your own mind, in your emotional mind, and told that you can't do anything about it. Nobody will care about what you say. I had that happen to me. And it's the most worstest feeling to feel like nobody cares, nobody understands.

BOLDUAN: What then - and I want you to speak to those people, the neighbors - some neighbors who say, she's -- that woman had to have had a chance to escape. They saw her out in public. She must have had a chance to escape. Why didn't she try to do that? What do you say to those people?

KNIGHT: For a girl like her, the emotional torture is so painful that she chose not to hurt other people because he may have threatened to hurt her, he may have threatened to hurt the people that she was talking to. And to have that, a person is not able to break the chain of cycle, not unless they were really, really strong and they really, really knew that nothing would happen bad, because that's what happened to me. I was threatened to be killed. I was threatened that nobody cared about me. I was told that nobody in the world would understand or care that, if I kill you today, nobody will look for you tomorrow.

And that's what you've got to think about, is how she felt. She was there. Nobody else in the world was there. They don't know exactly what she went through. And not unless you were walking in her shoes, you have no reason to talk.

BOLDUAN: So she -

KNIGHT: None at all.

BOLDUAN: She did get away. She is out now. Let's talk about -- let's look ahead. What are the next few weeks, what are those initial few weeks going to be like for her?

KNIGHT: She's going to go through a train of emotions. She's going to feel hopeless right now. Our chance is right now to build her up, don't break her down. That's not what she needs. She needs to know that somebody cares. She needs to know that she can relate to somebody. She needs somebody as a friend.

And I'm here for you. If you need anyone to talk to, I will talk to you. I will help you out because I know exactly what it feels like. And I'm proud to know that she is home. She's safe. She's alive. She's breathing. And I see the best for her. I see the beauty for her. She's going to see so much in this world and she's going to help so many other people through the way she went through and what she went through. And let her tell her story in her own way.

BOLDUAN: If you could speak directly to her, what would you like to tell her?

KNIGHT: I would like to tell her that I love her and I care for her, even though I don't know who she is. I never met her. I'm there 100 percent. And every judgment she makes, make it a beautiful judgment. Make your life beautiful now. Don't dwell in the past. Go for a future. Your life will be so much better.

BOLDUAN: You are the perfect example of that, Michelle. Michelle Knight, you are rebuilding your life, telling your own story in your own words. Thank you so much, Michelle. I know it is difficult. We can see it. But you are so strong. Thank you so much for speaking out.

KNIGHT: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: You just have to be struck by -- you can clearly see the pain. She's not just speaking the words, she'll feeling this as she is trying to get across this message. It shows -- it's difficult for her, but she wants to get that message out. And that is so strong.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I think it's important for a lot of people to hear because so many people with this California case are saying, something seems not right with it. And, look, we still have to learn a lot more.


BERMAN: And right now these are just allegations. However, one thing we know is not right is kidnapping, you know, is psychological imprisonment and torture. So we do know that these strange things can happen, that seem inexplicable to the rest of us. But unless you've walked in Michelle Knight's shoes -


BERMAN: You can't know.

BOLDUAN: And - and no matter how this case in California turns out, Michelle Knight's message, she speaks to a larger message of people jumping to conclusions, re-victimizing victims and then she says, unless you've been there, you don't know.

PEREIRA: You don't know.

BOLDUAN: You don't know what other people are dealing with.

PEREIRA: A 15-year-old, that's the thing to keep in mind. She went missing when she was 15. It's a very different story.

BOLDUAN: Uh-huh.

PEREIRA: A very different story.

BOLDUAN: Exactly right.

We thank you again, Michelle, for speaking to us. And a reminder, Michelle Knight's new book about her time in captivity, she's out there, she is telling her story and also how she learned to cope with it all. The book is called "Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed."

BERMAN: All right, ahead for us on NEW DAY, a surprised reunion 18 years in the making. A young woman, abandoned as a baby in a cemetery - that's amazing in itself -- finally gets to meet the man who saved her life. Look at that. We will speak to both of them live about this incredible moment when they meet.


PEREIRA: It is Friday. That means the unofficial kickoff to summer has arrived. This very weekend, a whopping 36 million people nationwide will be on the move, most of them traveling by car. This year it won't cost a whole lot to fill up. That's because for the third year in a row, the national average price of gas has remained steady. Miguel Marquez is live this morning. You think he'd be on his way to the Grand Canyon, but, no, he's driving around New York City ready to break it down for us.

What are you seeing, my dear?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, that's right, Michaela. I can't drive 55 in the famous words of Sammy Hagar. Well, actually, we're doing about 55 now. Not so many people on the road at the moment, but there will be a heck of a lot, 36.1 million drivers expected to take to the road over the holiday weekend. Just a tick above last year, which was about 35.5. Look, that is way below where it was pre- recession, 44 million people on the roads for this holiday weekend. At the lowest point, in '09, it was just 30.5 million.

Gas prices, as you mentioned, just a hair above where they were last year at $3.65 a gallon. Back in '09, at the depth of the recession, it was $2.42. So when times are tough, gas is cheap.

About 88 percent of people will be getting to their destinations by car. About 7 percent by air. About 5 percent other says AAA. I suppose that is like a magic carpet or a boat perhaps or maybe a train.

Here we are, stuck in traffic again, getting back into New York City. I will send it back to you guys for now while we enjoy the traffic here in New York.

Back to you guys.

BERMAN: The difficulty level of 11 right there, mentioning magic carpets and Sammy Hagar in the same -

BOLDUAN: I know. And I'm also wondering what AAA's stats are on the magic carpet traffic versus - you know, boat traffic as well. You know, (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: NHTSA's got a whole bunch of information on magic carpets.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Miguel. Thanks so much.

Safe travels for everyone if you're getting on the road as well.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has given his thoughts on bigotry. Well now his words sparking a controversy of their own. What he said coming up.


PEREIRA: Billionaire Mark Cuban is the latest NBA owner finding himself in some hot water over what some are calling racially charged comments. The Mavericks owner was speaking with "Inc." magazine this week about bigotry. Take a listen.


MARK CUBAN, MAVERICKS OWNER: I mean we're all prejudice in one way or the other. If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it's late at night, I'm walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street there's a guy that has tattoos all over his face, a white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere, I'm walking back to the other side of the street.


PEREIRA: Cuban has since apologized to the parents of Trayvon Martin for that hoodie reference, but he is standing by the context of his word. Is Cuban just being honest or flat-out racist?

Let's bring back our CNN political commentators Marc Lamont Hill and Ben Ferguson. Good to have you with us -- gentlemen.


I'll start with you, Marc since you're right here in front of us. You're with us onset. What do you think? Fair? Fair assessment? He's being honest or was he being prejudiced and racist?

HILL: They're not competing claims. On the one hand you could be honest. But just because you're honest doesn't mean you get absolved for what you said. I think that what he said was problematic.

Do I think Mark Cuban is racist? No. But I think the comment is very, very troublesome. First of all to compare a kid wearing a hoodie because it might be cold outside to somebody who has made a decision to shave the head and cover themselves with tattoos is a very different thing. And that's not just people with tattoos. I'm just saying they make a decision to embody a particular type of social narrative, whereas another kid is just wearing a hoodie.

The kids I teach on college campuses, they wear hoodies all the time. They're not criminalized. So that's very much a racially charged thing. Using the word "bigotry" I think was a poor choice of words. If he had said, you know, I'm afraid sometimes in like with kids with hoodies -- that --

BOLDUAN: Bigoted is a very strong charge, to talk about this in the context of a question on bigotry maybe was a misapplied conversation.

HILL: Exactly. To say we're all bigots. No, we're not all bigoted. We all have insecurities, we all have prejudices. But we're not all bigots. If he takes that on for himself, I think it was a poor choice of words and disrespectful to the Martin family.

PEREIRA: Ben, what do you think?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the hoodie reference was a poor choice, as a reference point. I do think Mark Cuban was trying to bring up a bigger issue and I applaud him for that. And that is it's real easy for all of us to condemn other people and say things that are inappropriate.

And I think what his point was all of us should be honest and look at ourselves that we probably do have preconceived misconceptions or things in our head that might not actually be accurate or true. When we have something like Donald Sterling come up, we should probably all internally look at ourselves because it's easy to jump on the bandwagon of, oh, he's a racist, we don't like him. We can't stand him.

But every one of us that probably have thoughts in our head that deals with maybe a little bit of bigotry or stereotypes or phobias of different people and we should check ourselves and maybe look at how we could improve ourselves. And I think for that point, he should be applauded. Because there are so many people who are afraid to bring up the issues because if you say the wrong thing, people say, oh, well, look at what you are. And I think that's unfair as well.

BERMAN: It is interesting. The context of what Cuban was talking about was the issue of prejudice and how we all need to talk about the feelings that everyone has here. And that was the larger, you know, two and a half minute discussion he had --

HILL: Right.

BERMAN: -- and then he had that one ten-second sound bite which Mark Cuban now says he regrets. And in fact the Mark Cuban of that two- and-a-half minutes might suggest that that ten-second sound bite Mark Cuban was saying something that was unfortunate, also.


BERMAN: But in a sense we're now having a discussion that Mark Cuban is asking for here.

HILL: Right. And if we were having that, if we're going to have that discussion with Mark Cuban, I'd say, Mark, let's think about social stereotypes, let's think about social ideas of who is the criminal and who is not. Mark, you probably wear a hoodie. Mark, your seven-foot players probably wear hoodies and you're not afraid of them. What is it about a black body wearing a hoodie that makes it a criminal act in our imagination versus what a white kid wears, versus what suburban kid wears?

Let's have that conversation and unpack. What is it that makes you compare a kid in a hoodie to a guy who makes a decision to completely change their body to embody -- let's just have that conversation.

FERGUSON: Listen, I have a totally different take on this. I have a totally different take on this. I was robbed at gunpoint by someone in a hoodie who actually shot at me. I'm afraid of anybody in a hoodie. Does that mean that I'm racist towards anyone? No. I'm afraid of anybody in a hoodie at night when it's dark. And that conversation should be OK for people to have and then look and see.

HILL: But Ben, Ben, Ben --

FERGUSON: Let me finish. Let me finish.


HILL: You were subjected to a trauma and you're afraid of everybody in a hoodie. He's afraid of black people in hoodies. That's a very different thing -- they're apples and oranges.

FERGUSON: But his point also was he is afraid of white guys that have shaved heads that are white and have tattoos because of the stereotype of the crimes that are committed by people that look like that as well. The issue was the stereotypes and should we be able to have a conversation about it without people pointing the finger at you for being open and honest. And I think that is a broader issue that should be brought up and people shouldn't be afraid of it.

HILL: Why do people think that saying their thoughts and biases out loud means that they don't have to be held accountable for it? I said it. Why are we always congratulating white men for talking about their racial biases, for being so brave for about it?

PEREIRA: Here's a question for both of you.

How is the NBA going to deal with this? Are they going to deal this? Will they address it? In light of what's going on with Donald Sterling and in light of the owners being sort of looked at in a different way, what do you think is going to happen? Let me start with Ben -- you just go. Go ahead Ben. FERGUSON: Yes. I don't think he should be punished for having this conversation. And I think the fact that he apologized to Trayvon Martin's family over the hoodie aspect of it was appropriate. But he shouldn't be punished for trying to move culture forward by having a conversation instead of taking the easy road out which is condemn the guy everybody wants to condemn in Sterling, and everyone else just don't say a word about anything else and be safe. That doesn't help anybody.

BOLDUAN: Remember part of this, what I'm hearing is there is nuance to the discussion of race that maybe was lost in his inartful way of discussing the issue. But does Ben also have a point -- Don Lemon made this point last night as well in talking about this. We keep saying -- society says we need to talk about race, we shouldn't be afraid of it, shouldn't hide about it. When people talk about it, everyone says stop, shut up.

HILL: I don't think -- and I thought Don was wrong last night. You're still wrong -- Don. I think the issue is not that we're saying stop, let's not talk about this. We're saying if you're brave enough to put this on the table, you also have to be brave enough to take criticism.

PEREIRA: OK. We can have that ongoing conversation.

HILL: An ongoing conversation. Not, oh my God, you're saying I'm racist. Oh my God.

PEREIRA: And also how you talk about it, right?

HILL: Exactly. But we have to create safe spaces for people to talk. We don't have to coddle people every time they say something that's inappropriate. But as far as the NBA goes, I think they should not punish Mark Cuban. I don't think he said anything that's punishable.

I think they will respond to it. They can't ignore it because of everything that's going on.

FERGUSON: I agree.

HILL: But I think it's fine. Let him talk.

PEREIRA: Ben Ferguson, Marc Lamont Hill -- we love it when you guys come to talk with us. Thanks so much for this.

HILL: Thanks.

PEREIRA: We're going to keep this conversation.

FERGUSON: Thanks for having us.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up for us a newborn baby abandoned in a cemetery, rescued by a volunteer firefighter. That was 18 years ago. Now, amazingly, the pair have come together again, this in an emotional surprise reunion. We will speak with them here.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY everybody.

An incredible reunion really -- we use the word "incredible" a lot. This is an incredible reunion 18 years in the making.

In 1995 a baby was abandoned hours after being born. A woman anonymously called 911 to say she left the child in a cemetery in freezing temperatures. Charlie Heflin was a volunteer firefighter who heard reports about the infant over the police scanner. He decided to search a different cemetery actually than where officials were searching. There he found the baby and rescued her.

That little girl, Skyler James is now all grown up and just graduated high school. In a very touching surprise she was reunited with her rescuer for the very first time at her graduation party this weekend.

We're lucky enough to be joined by both Skyler James and Charlie Heflin from Indianapolis. Good morning to both of you.



BOLDUAN: What a sight to see you sitting there together -- 18 years in the making. Skyler, not only are you dealing with a very exciting moment in your life, graduating high school, your whole future ahead of you. And then this is the surprise that you get at your graduation party. Can you even describe it?

JAMES: It's been an amazing week, just the thought that I graduated last Friday and now my life has changed so much this week.

BOLDUAN: Charlie, what was it like for you? I mean I can only imagine, and I know you do get choked up in telling the story of finding that baby girl in that cemetery, putting that shirt around her that you had that night. What was it like now after 18 years? You've wondered where she was, how she was doing and then meeting the beautiful girl.

HEFLIN: Oh, it was so exhilarating. Just a whirlwind of emotions. I handed her off to the paramedics 18 years ago and I haven't been able to see her since. Just to know that she was so close to me, local, has done so much with her life, it's just incredible.

PEREIRA: Charlie, what did you want to tell Skyler when you saw her for the first time?

HEFLIN: I just -- based on what her mother has told me over the phone, how she was an honor student and so involved with her church, I just wanted to tell her I'm so grateful that the good Lord gave me the opportunity to let her get to this point in life. She's going to touch so many more people in her future.

BERMAN: Charlie, bring me back 18 years for a moment. You're in that cemetery, holding a baby in your arms. Would you ever imagine that 18 years later, this would be the result, the amazing result of your work?

HEFLIN: No, no because at the time I was just doing what I was trained to do. I even went home and didn't even mention it when I went home to my family at the house. They didn't find out about it until the news trucks pulled up in the driveway several hours after the incident. To me it was just I was doing what I was trained to do and what I felt was right.

BOLDUAN: Skyler, we've seen video of Charlie taking off a sweatshirt when you two were reunited. Not to confuse any viewers of what was going on at that very moment. That was the shirt he wrapped you in and he gave to you.

JAMES: That was actually different shirt. Yes, I have it at home, the shirt he wore that morning and that he wrapped me in.

PEREIRA: Now, I have to tell you, as an adopted kid, I know a lot of us feel big questions marks about our story and how we came into the world. This must give you a little more sense about your story, Skyler.

JAMES: Yes. I mean my parents never kept anything from me. I've known my story my whole life, but just to have someone tell me firsthand what happened and to meet Charlie, I mean it's been an amazing experience.

BOLDUAN: I love seeing your smiles. What's your plan going forward from here right now? You guys are just beaming.

PEREIRA: They really are.

BOLDUAN: What's your plan going forward?

JAMES: We plan to keep communicating with each other and keep in touch. We don't want to lose connection again.

BERMAN: How can you ever lose that connection? You have a connection I don't think any of us will ever understand.

BOLDUAN: I know this message has become a bigger message for both of you, wanting to make sure that everyone knows about safe haven laws. That's become really kind of a cause for both of you. Right, Charlie?

HEFLIN: Yes. I think Skyler's story was the beginning of this safe haven movement. I don't know if all states have adopted a safe haven law. I know Illinois and Indiana both have safe haven laws. If you state doesn't have a safe haven law, it really needs to, because that provides an opportunity for a scared parent to deal with a situation in a much better, much more controlled environment than how Skyler was.

BOLDUAN: You're absolutely right. Well thank God for both of you. And we lose your signal at that moment. They are very selfishly a perfect example of what Indiana produce. That's coming to us from Indiana. What an amazing story to end on.


BOLDUAN: There's some more of it. Thank you -- this Memorial Day Friday, thank you guys. It's been a really great day. Thanks for staying with us.

But there is a lot of news happening right now so let's get you straight over to the "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello.