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Obama's Distant Cousin Challenges Senator; Media Coverage; Front Porch Killer Testifies

Aired August 5, 2014 - 08:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Did you know that it is primary day in four states, including Kansas? Well, it is. And that's where a distant cousin of President Obama is trying to upset the establishment and kick a long time senator out of Washington. Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us live.

Dana, tell us more about Milton Wolf versus Pat Roberts. Such a nasty race that the nastiness is actually eclipsing the whole Obama's cousin thing.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. Look, this is one of those races that isn't so much about the issues at all, and that's why it's become so nasty. You know, usually when we see a Republican incumbent challenged from the right, it is because they're too moderate, not conservative enough.

Pat Roberts is incredibly conservative. Very few people will say otherwise. He has had a few votes that have made the right angry. He voted to increase the debt ceiling. He voted to approve Kathleen Sebelius for HHS secretary, Sebelius is, of course, from his home state of Kansas. But, you know, most of this is really about something different that the right doesn't like, which is entrenched power, career politicians. He's been there for almost half a century, Chris, and, you know, that's longer than his opponent, Milton Wolf, has actually been alive. So there really is a very stark contrast there.

And, of course, Wolf is a radiologist. He is sort of a first time politician. So you have that. And then, of course, you have some unforced errors by Pat Roberts. The fact that he hasn't really lived in Kansas. He's had residency issues. And then he had a huge gaffe on that, where somebody asked him about it and his answer was, "every time I get an opponent -- I mean every time I get a chance, I go home." Oops.

CUOMO: Oops is right. Sometimes a slip of the tongue can be very truthful. So on one side, you have a long time veteran who will argue you need seasoning to get it right. On the other side you've got the radiologist with the Obama baggage -

BASH: Yes.

CUOMO: Who I guess he says can see through the system in Washington. So how close is it going to be? BASH: You know, it's going to be a lot closer than Republicans in

Washington who want Pat Roberts to win would like it to be. I'm told by sources that their internal polling shows that he is likely to win, but maybe by single digits. And, in fact, one Republican source who's working on this race told me that they'll be able to drag Pat Roberts across the finish line.

They're pretty upset about the fact that he's had these unforced errors and they're thankful that they believe that Milton Wolf has not been the greatest candidate in the world. He calls himself the next Ted Cruz. He says all the things that those who are really on the right of the party want to hear, but he hasn't been able to catch fire the way other opponents have been. So they think that Pat Roberts is going to be able to survive. But you know what, we've stop predicting here because everything could possibly change once those poll numbers come in.

CUOMO: That's the fun part, Dana.

BASH: Of course.

CUOMO: If you don't game (ph) it out, I mean what's the whole fun? We had Milton Wolf here on the show. He was very determined, to say the least.

Thank you very much.

BASH: And the fact that he's the president's second cousin, you just can't make it up, right?

CUOMO: Can't make it up. And I think even he wishes it weren't true. Thanks, Dana, appreciate it.

Mich, over to you.

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

Here we go with the five things you need to know for your new day.

At number one, it would appear a cease-fire is holding in the Middle East. It's hoped the 72-hour cessation will last until Friday morning. Israel pulled all ground troops from Gaza after dismantling the 32 Hamas terror tunnels it uncovered.

The second American patient infected with Ebola has now arrived in the United States. Nancy Writebol is currently in Maine. He's on board a plane that will refuel and then fly to Atlanta, where she will receive treatment. In the meantime, a man has been quarantined at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. He is being tested now for Ebola.

Government forces are advancing on pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk. The Ukrainian military has sent a warning to civilians to leave the city. Meanwhile, the international team of investigators has been able to resume work at the Malaysian Airlines flight crash site.

Theodore Wafer will continue his testimony today in the shooting trial of Renisha McBride. She was shot on his front porch. Wafer was tearful Monday as he explained that he feared for his life when McBride came to his door early in the morning last November.

And at number five, a major general will meet with Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl tomorrow. That general is investigating how Bergdahl ended up in Taliban activity for five years. Many of Bergdahl's fellow soldiers claim he deserted his post in Afghanistan before he was captured.

We do update those five things to know, so be sure to visit for the very latest.

Kate, over to you.


Coming up next on NEW DAY, is the media biased in its coverage of the fighting going on in Gaza? Critics say it's either too pro-Israel or too pro-Palestinian. The debate about the media's role in the conflict ahead.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

So, to some there is a third party in the war between Israel and Gaza, and that third party would be the American media. They think the media is being played by both a media savvy Israel and a Hamas that knows the impact of pictures of dead civilians, especially children. And yesterday we had a guest on who thought that the media is not tough enough on Hamas. The media's role, as you know, is always to give a fair account. But what does that mean in the current story?

Joining us now is Rula Jebreal, foreign policy analyst, journalist and author.

It's good to have you here.


CUOMO: I've read what you have to say about it. And you come from a very eclectic background. You're born in Haifa. You're Palestinian. You're married to a Jewish man. You've covered this situation and you feel very definitely that things are being left out. What is being left out?

JEBREAL: Look, if you read Israeli newspaper, and I think in America we are by far much more constrained in challenging policy, the Israeli policy and talking point than the Israeli press itself, which is really strange. If you read Harits (ph), for example, the Israeli main newspaper, they challenge Bebe Netanyahu on, what is the end game in Gaza? The challenge actually this administration and this government on the connection between cyclical (ph) violence, occupation and blockades, and they seek a relation but we never see these question asked. And --

CUOMO: Peter Beinart (ph), who writes for Harits (ph), is on the show regularly.

JEBREAL: And he's one of the voices that I love and actually very critical, but you really don't see these questions asked to Israeli officials. I've seen Israeli officials interviewed everywhere during these four weeks of conflict. I've never seen them asked about blockade, occupation. And we - when we ever we know civilian casualties, and there are a lot of them, 80 percent of 2,000 people that have been killed in Gaza are children and women. Whenever we show (ph), we are criticized in the media by being - by showing only one side of the story.

But this is our role. Our role is actually to give both sides, coverage and give voices. Having critical media is important. And not only that, diverse media is very important. I think reporters like Amamoh Hadin (ph) -

CUOMO: But if you're showing the pictures - sure.

JEBREAL: On the ground who showed four kids being killed -

CUOMO: Sure.

JEBREAL: In front of him and then asked officials, Israeli officials, what happened there?


JEBREAL: What's the problem? How can you kill civilians? I think these are -- this is our duty

CUOMO: But isn't it happening? I mean you just said it yourself, there was an example.

JEBREAL: It's happening more.

CUOMO: We are very careful about what we show of the dead. That's certainly true more in American media than it is abroad. But we are covering the pictures of what's happening to civilians so much that we get constant attacked that we are anti-Israel. So how can both be true?

JEBREAL: I don't think anybody can attack CNN or any -- except conservative groups, who would like you to be propagandistic organ for their talking points and other things. But then this is not a democracy. This is Egypt. This is elsewhere, where the regime -- I worked in Egypt. I was kicked out of the country because I interviewed some officials on the relationship between torture and extremism. But in a state, in the United States, in a country like this, conservative elements can go on Fox News and say whatever they want -

CUOMO: Right.

JEBREAL: And insult even the president, and then - but they cannot pretend that we don't show the other side and they cannot pretend that we don't show civilian casualties because it's part of what we do as reporting. CUOMO: Sure.

JEBREAL: And this is important. You did this in the Ukraine. That was important. You challenged Russian officials and local officials on what is the end game there, why this plane was shot. Isn't the -- aren't these fair questions to ask the Israelis?

CUOMO: I think so. I think they definitely are. I just think we happen to be asking them. I wonder how much of your frustration with the coverage is a function of your own feelings.

JEBREAL: Look, no doubt, I am Palestinian, I am Israeli, but my criticism comes from the fact that I think sometimes, especially in previous conflicts, we really failed our audiences. Look at the Iraqi War, for example. Let me bring you back in history. During the Iraqi War, I think American media has failed their -- to cover in an objective way the leading to the war and they didn't challenge enough the administration.

CUOMO: We challenged the administration so much. I covered it.

JEBREAL: I - WMD (ph). I said -

CUOMO: We covered it so much that the American people started turning against us because they believed the administration's spin.

JEBREAL: I think we didn't do that enough. I think with "The New York Times" --

CUOMO: That we were jeopardizing the troops. We went after them so much that that's what happened.

JEBREAL: I think during the war -

CUOMO: I must have said "yellow cake" a thousand times.

JEBREAL: I think maybe during the war, but leading to the Iraqi War, I think we didn't challenge them enough. And here where I think we're failing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we're not showing not the Hamas story, we're failing to tell the Palestinian story, which is not the Hamas story. The Palestinian story is --

CUOMO: It's very tough to separate the two. When Hamas was elected, put in power and its main principle, as you know, is that Israel should not exist. That is a tough thing to separate.

JEBREAL: Listen, the Palestinian story starts many years earlier. You cannot take the context of the conflict today and separate this from 45 years of military occupation of the West Bank, where you have leadership that renounced violence, recognized the state of Israel and gets nothing. In return, Hamas used violence and Israel negotiated with them. Negotiated with them in 2011, when they released 1,000 Hamas prisoners for one Israeli soldier.

CUOMO: But you can't justify that as ends/means analysis. Sounds like it is. JEBREAL: It's not a justification, Chris and I hope you can follow

what I'm saying. What I'm saying is what was sent was a perverse message to the public opinion. If you use violence sooner or later we negotiate with you and we concede. If you believe in peace, we don't concede, like the leader Sheikh in the West Bank. I think we don't challenge them on the settlement. We don't challenge them on many other issues where Israeli oppress itself challenges Benjamin Netanyahu on his government.

Look, it's for us and for me as an Arab, as an Israeli. I am used to criticizing a government. I am used to being on Italian television and ask Berlusconi tough questions about his connection with mafia, about his corruption, about his sex scandals. I'm used to this. We should not shy away from our responsibility on challenging officials, especially Israeli narrative, and talking points. So when they tell us there's Hamas shooting missiles near schools, and U.N. officials are telling you, we told them that we have thousands of civilians, we told them there's nobody there, we told them that we found weapons in another empty school and they're still shooting? We don't challenge them on this? We don't challenge them on one point. What do you want to do with the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza?

CUOMO: I would end this on this. First of all, this is not the end of the conversation. This is a conversation that has to be had going forward. You and I will have it. People need to have it in general, but you have to be careful with the word "we." Because just as, you know, you can generalize on how things are done wrong on the government side, you have to be specific about who you're talking about in the media. We --

JEBREAL: I think we are doing a better job.

CUOMO: I don't know who "we" is. I think some people may be suffering from what you said.


CUOMO: Every organization is different.

JEBREAL: No doubt.

CUOMO: We do it differently here than they do at MSNBC than they do at Fox, than they do at ABC and NBC.

JEBREAL: We're doing a better job, Chris, but I think we can do better. When I say we it's what I believe is the umbrella of media, what I believe of protection of freedom of speech, what I believe is our role and our responsibility of being objective.

CUOMO: Fairness is always the goal. Rula Jebreal thank you very much for starting the conversation.

JEBREAL: Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: Its going on all over so we might as well have it.

JEBREAL: I hope I touched a nerve and the conversation will continue.

CUOMO: All right, let's talk a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, a sobbing Theodore Wafer takes the stand at his own murder trial, describing shooting Renisha McBride on his front porch. Emotional testimony. You're going to see it for yourself and you can judge if it's proof that he acted in self-defense.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back. The man accused of shooting and killing a young woman on his front porch is back on the stand today.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): Theodore Wafer wept openly Monday as he described the night Renisha McBride banged on his door, saying he feared for his life. Alexandra Field has more on his emotional day of testimony.

THEODORE WAFER, ACCUSED OF MURDER: This poor girl, she had her whole life in front of her. I took that from her.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And when you shot that shot gun, Ted, were you afraid for your life?


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And did you think that danger was just about to get you?


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Accused of murder, Theodore Wafer takes the stand, speaking softly, describing the moment he killed Renisha McBride.

WAFER: This person came up from the side of my house so fast. So I raised the gun and shot.

FIELD: Wafer fired through a locked screen door, an unarmed 19-year- old was lying there, dead on the porch by the time Wafer says he got his first look at the person he had killed.

WAFER: I've seen boots that maybe a woman would wear or female would wear.

FIELD: Video played in the courtroom shows what Wafer told police that night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, how many rounds were in it tonight?

WAFER: I don't know. I didn't, I didn't think any rounds were in it.

FIELD: In the same video, the suspect says someone had been persistently banging on his house. He tells police he thought the person was trying to get in. WAFER: And now I'm mad. I'm going to find out what is going on

FIELD: Wafer testified he never went to look out his window because he didn't want to be seen. He looked through the peephole, but couldn't see who was out there. At one point when the banging continues he grabs his bat, then he says he decides to get his .12 gauge shotgun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you pulled that trigger, why did you pull it?

WAFER: I was -- total, total reflex reaction, defending myself.

FIELD: : The defense argues Wafer acted in self-defense. Prosecutors say he could have called 911. Wafer does call police after he shoots McBride.

WAFER: I just shot somebody on my front porch.

FIELD: : He says he couldn't find his cell phone before that.

WAFER: The floor was vibrating from the banging on the doors.

FIELD: : Wafer and McBride had never met. Earlier in the night, she had crashed her car into a parked car. By the time of her death, an autopsy report reveals her blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there days you think about Renisha and her family?

WAFER: Every day. So devastating.

FIELD: Alexandra Field, CNN, New York.


BOLDUAN: He's back on the stand today.

Coming up on NEW DAY, the fragile cease-fire still holding between Israel and Hamas. We're going to go back live to the Middle East for the very latest.


CUOMO: Will the cease-fire hold? What's going to happen with this guy getting tested for Ebola in New York City. Will they help the people who are now down at Emery, who have Ebola? Other news as well, so right to the "NEWSROOM" with Ms. Carol Costello.