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Prison Employee Charged as Accomplice in Prison Escape of Two Killers; Former NAACP Leader Says She Identifies as Black; Rachel Dolezal's Parents Speak; Conversation About Cultural Appropriation. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 16, 2015 - 22:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The breaking news is the hunt for two escaped killers in upstate New York. This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Here's what sources are telling CNN. That Joyce Mitchell, the prison employee, charged as an accomplice in their escape warned her husband that the convicts planned to kill him. We're going to have the very latest on that.

Also, Rachel Dolezal, a former NAACP leader who was born white says she identifies as a black woman. We're going to her parents who say their daughter is disconnected from reality. A whole lot to get in this next hour.

We're going to begin with the breaking news in a hunt where the escaped killers who broke out of a prison 11 days ago.

CNN's Randi Kaye is live for us in West Plattsburgh, New York with new information. Randi, I understand about the allege plot to kill Joyce Mitchell's husband. What can you tell us about that?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we spoke with a source with direct knowledge of this investigation and he told me today that Joyce Mitchell did warn her husband, Lioele Mitchell, that the two escapees were coming to kill him, that at least was the plan.

As you know she knew very well what the escape was. She also knew about the plot to kill her husband, Lioele Mitchell according to the source. And she --there's a motorcycle there, sorry about that. But hopefully you can still hear me.

She actually told her husband about the escape plan and then went on to tell him about the plot to harm him and possibly to kill hill and that's how Lioele Mitchell fits in to this whole puzzle because the investigators were initially looking at him to see if maybe, he was part of the escape plan. Maybe he was working with his wife to help these men get out of the prison.

Now they're looking at it as more as maybe his wife just alerted him to the escape plan so he did have knowledge of it but didn't actually participated in it. But either way, Don, neither Joyce Mitchell nor Lioele Mitchell told authorities about the plan.

LEMON: It was a very loud motorcycle, Randi, but you were fine, we could hear every word. In terms of Joyce's relationship with Richard Matt, which last night we learn was a sexual one. Have you learned anymore about that Randi?

KAYE: I've learned from the source that their relationship goes back to 2013 when Richard Matt, David Sweat, the other escapee, and Joyce Mitchell and her husband who works maintenance at the prison all worked in the tailor shop. David Sweat was moved out of the tailor shop in 2013 and that when Richard Matt apparently started this relationship with Joyce Mitchell.

According to the source, it was a sexual relationship. I am told that they had sexual encounter inside the tailor shop at the prison because, Don, that is the only place that the two of them were able to be alone but -- but together there in that tailor shop.

LEMON: What about the others, others who may have been involved in this elaborate plot? Are they looking at anyone else right now?

KAYE: They are. I mean, certainly, it doesn't stop with Joyce Mitchell. I'm told that because it was so elaborate they believe that others were likely involved. They're even looking at some of the prisoners. They think that maybe they created some type of diversion and that was either happening during the escape or before or after, but some of diversion at the prisoners may have been involved and they are certainly looking at that.

And they are looking at other employees of the prison. They don't think that Joyce Mitchell was the only one. They are talking to others, examining others and investigating this thoroughly going through the employees there at the prison.

LEMON: Randi Kaye, I appreciate your reporting. Thank you very much. Joining me now is Chris Swecker, former assistant director of the FBI who led the team that captured Eric Rudolph, the man who bombed the Atlanta Olympics back in 1996.

Excuse me. Also Bernard Kerik, former New York City police commissioner and CEO of the Kerik Group. I'm happy to have both of you here gentlemen here this evening. Bernard, to you, what's your reaction to Randi's latest report?

BERNARD KERIK, NEW YORK CITY FORMER POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, I think, you know, the investigation is ongoing. I don't think Joyce Mitchell is the big end all answer here.

LEMON: Why not.

KERIK: I think the security in the institution was extreme relax, to say the least. The inmate created diversion, no kidding. You know, and also some staff should have heard that. The night he left -- those inmates left, they were lasted to 10.30, no dismissal at 5.30 in the morning, there should have been between 7 to 14 checks of that cell, those cells where they saw a living breathing body and there was not. LEMON: So, what went wrong then?

KERIK: There were staff that wasn't doing their job. You know, the reality is, I don't care what Joyce Mitchell gave them or did for them. If security in the institution was working they would have discovered the plan, they would have discovered the cell damage, and they would discover -- they would have stopped this from happening.

LEMON: Yes. So, I have to ask you this, do you have seen from both sides, right?


LEMON: You have seen this from both sides. So, how do you feel about what happened, yourself as former inmate?

KERIK: In this circumstance?


KERIK: You know what, it's insane. You know, the whole Joyce Mitchell thing going back to 2013, what she still doing working there?

[22:05:04] LEMON: OK. That was my next question to you. Because I was going to ask you, is this gross negligence as what else is trying to get that part.

KERIK. I think it is.


KERIK: As somebody that run Rikers for six years...

LEMON: Right.

KERIK: ... and had a 133,000 inmate admissions a year.

LEMON: Right.

KERIK: I want to know the genius that put together the honor dorm that had these guys civilian clothes had them unescorted, you know, movement throughout the facility.


LEMON: That's why I asked from both sides. That's why I ask the question. Now you've answered it. But also shouldn't they have known? Shouldn't something have been up with this Joyce Mitchell person? Shouldn't someone at the facility said, wait a minute?


KERIK: Well, there' a whole gross of flags where somebody should have known and somebody should have looked at it and they didn't.

LEMON: Yes. So, Chris, to you now, when you -- when we last spoke to you, you thought that Vermont lead that it was a red hearing, do you think that tonight?

CHRIS SWECKER, FBI FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Yes. It didn't seem like it was a lot of substance around it. I mean, it was only -- it seem like it was an off handed comment that was related to somebody. And it just looked to me like a great opportunity for the Vermont governor to get in the act here and get in front of the cameras. I don't -- I haven't heard anything about it since.

LEMON: Yes. Do you think the escapees could be holding hostages?

SWECKER: I think that's a distinct possibility. You know, you look at Christopher Dorner, the fugitive out of California, the former L.A. police officer, he was watching the manhunt from a cabin nearby and the law enforcement, the researchers had come to the door at least once or twice.

You know, it's only logical that these guys are not good outdoors, they're not Eric Robert Rudolph or Eric Frein, they were surprised by the plan going array and they were on foot. So, it would be logical to get inside as quickly as possible.

LEMON: How long could they hold up with -- before they are found potentially do you think?

SWECKER: Well I think if they're indoors that they have shelter they can wait it out. The stakes are high for them, they're in it for the long haul, they're not going to get taken alive, I don't think.


SWECKER: So, I think they are going to -- if they have shelter they're going to stay there.

LEMON: Yes. Do you agree?

KERIK: I pretty much agree. You know, Joanne Chesimard who went to Cuba.


KERIK: She was -- she escaped out of a New Jersey State Prison and wound up sitting in the basement of a place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for two years before they were ever got out of the country.

LEMON: Really?

KERIK: So, you know, if these guys are bogged down somewhere they could be there for a long time.

LEMON: But you say, aren't they caught? I guess it's not that elaborate. They're caught within 3 to 4 days, did you say that?

KERIK: Well, usually about 72 hours.

LEMON: Yes. KERIK: That's when they get caught. Which is why I believe they had one shot at this. They -- I think, they had a plan on where they were going how they were going to get there and it really didn't involve Joyce Mitchell.

LEMON: You keep saying that. So, do you think they had another accomplice like who? Who is...

KERIK: Who knows? It could be somebody that helped them from the inside. It could be somebody in the outside. If these guys had the equipment they say they had where they were given by staff by Joyce Mitchell...


KERIK: I'm confident they had cell phones.


LEMON: Well, Chris, do you agree with that? Pardon me for interrupting you, do you agree with that? And do you think that possibly they may have been feeding Joyce Mitchell false information?

SWECKER: Well, I think particularly Matt is pretty cunning and pretty intelligent. But I don't see that. I really don't see that happening. I think they had a rare opportunity; they have a rare access, as Bernie points out.

I don't know how it happened but they were managed to socially engineered this person, that manipulate this person. And I just don't think they threw out. There's a read hearing. She was too good an opportunity to get out.

LEMON: Chris, did you say that you think Governor Cuomo made a key mistake from the start? Chris? OK. He can't hear us. He -- do you add -- I don't know if that's true that socially that the governor made a key mistake from the...


KERIK: I do. Personally I do. You know, pretty much stomped all over the crime. It's a crime scene. It's a crime scene and I think he shouldn't have been there in the first place. You know, I understand what he was trying to do bring attention to it. Lead, you know, from the front, but it was a crime scene and I think it was the wrong time.

LEMON: Why in this plot would Joyce Mitchell, and you can just asking here this hypothetical. Why would he want her husband dead? Why would she be involved in this plot?

KERIK: You know, this is a -- this a woman that was looking for attention. I don't know much about her rather than what I've read, who knows? You know, we're only speculating and I think and I have to agree with some of the staff Chris said so.

LEMON: Because they'll be holding out of head do you think? KERIK: The government?

LEMON: No. That the, the prisoners holding to her, we're going to kill your husband.

KERIK: They could -- you know what, you don't know. This -- the one thing Chris said it's very true. These guys were convicts, you know, they could have, you know, manipulated her into doing almost anything, which they did.

LEMON: Yes. Chris, I understand that you can hear us now. Chris, you have said that you believe that the governor made a key mistake from the start. What is that?

SWECKER: Well, I just don't think you show your cards the way he in the very beginning where he stumble around talking about...


LEMON: You're talking about Governor Cuomo, by the way.

SWECKER: ... inside suspects. Yes.


[22:10:00] SWECKER: Exactly. I mean, I just don't think you throw your cards on the table like that so openly and talk about having an inside suspect inside the prison. Because there are confederates outside, you've just tipped them off immediately.

And if in fact, they were surprised that she wasn't there, then they might have tried to get in touch with her. And they could have used her as sort of a way to bring them in.

LEMON: When a case...

SWECKER: There were lots of possibilities there.

LEMON: ... when a case has gone cold, Chris, what can investigators do to try to generate more leads now. Because we've been, look, we've been watching, Randi, has been reporting there. She says the check points were going away.

They put these cameras in the woods with the rain as preventing them from really doing it and motion detectors from really doing anything. So, what can they do now to generate some leads and interest in this?

SWECKER: You know, we ran across this in the Rudolph manhunt. It's first the manhunt with the fugitive investigation running in the background. At some point, resources just don't permit you to use that kind of manpower on a continuous basis to become more of a fugitive investigation.

And you try to generate leads from associates from everywhere they've ever been, their phone calls, their phone traffic inside the prison, their social, if you will, just trying to set up traps and tripwires everywhere you can.

LEMON: All right. Thank you. I appreciate both of you joining us this evening. Good information.

Up next, Rachel Dolezal's statement that she identifies as a black woman. I'm going to get reaction from her parents who feel their daughter needs a reality check.

And is Rachel Dolezal appropriating black culture? And if so, is that necessarily wrong?


LEMON: Rachel Dolezal says, she identifies as a black woman, the former head of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, insist that she's identified with African-Americans since childhood.

And joining me now are Rachel Dolezal's parents, Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal. Thank you for joining us again. So, Ruthanne your daughter, Rachel, has been making the rounds today. Here she is on MSNBC with Melissa Harris-Perry. Watch this.



RACHEL DOLEZAL, FORMER NAACP HEAD: Yes. I mean I was socially conditioned to not own that and to be limited to whatever biological identity was thrust upon me and narrated to me. And so, I kind of felt pretty awkward all the times with that lot. And I remember when Larry and Ruthanne chose to adopt my younger siblings. And I knowing some of the resistance to this my independence bear it and creative ways that I was to express myself. I was -- I felt like who is going to be the link for the kids. Kids incoming to the family.


LEMON: Ruthanne, do you know this person who's speaking?

RUTHANNE DOLEZAL, MOTHER OF RACHEL DOLEZAL: This is Rachel, our daughter. Yes.

LEMON: But does she -- do you know her? Is this someone -- have you had that sort of interaction with her before? This now black woman? Do you recognize her?

R. DOLEZAL: This new Rachel, this new identity that she's put on we do not recognize. It's not the Rachel we used to know.

LEMON: Do you understand what she means by being the link between your adoptive kids and you?

R. DOLEZAL: She imposed herself into that position feeling that we would not do a good job of giving them an ethnic sense of well-being. That was the judgment that she placed on us, but I'm but sure that judgment was based in reality. LEMON: Did she express that at the time? Did she express that before?


R. DOLEZAL: Never to ask it in our presence.

LEMON: This is all new to you?


R. DOLEZAL: Yes. This is the first time we've heard this sort of statement.

LEMON: So, Larry, she a story more than once about drawing herself with a brown crayon. You know, I spoke about this with you last night. Do you remember any instances from her childhood where Rachel expressed that she was black?


LEMON: Where do you think she's getting this from?

L. DOLEZAL: She's reinventing reality I guess.

LEMON: Do you worry about her?

L. DOLEZAL: We're concerned about her.

LEMON: How so?

R. DOLEZAL: Well, we're concerned that she's not being rational and she's not being honest with herself or with others. And in her attempt to establish a new identity she has become very malicious toward her biological family and very accusatory with false accusations. And so that is very concerning for her and for the rest of the family.

LEMON: She seems really unhappy with her upbringing. Can you talk to me about her childhood, what was it like?

R. DOLEZAL: Rachel was a happy child. She was always enjoying the many people that we had come to our home. We had a lot of people come for dinner come to stay and have enjoyed our circles of involvement in the community.

She was part of the local softball teams and school teams in since then. She just seems very happy. She was always creative expressing herself with her art work and variety of things. And she was always very proud of her family even in her college days. She wanted to introduce us as her parents when we would come to visit her.

L. DOLEZAL: And she always very kind, compassionate, caring, and generous with her fellow students and others around the community.

LEMON: So, speaking of her college days, Ruthanne, when Rachel decided to attend Howard University, did you think anything of it? R. DOLEZAL: Well, I guess I was excited for her because she was so

excited to have the opportunity to be fully emerge in a place where there is black culture that predominated everything. So, it was exciting to us that she was accepted there and given a scholarship.

[22:20:01] LEMON: Because she was interested in African-American studies or black studies, correct?

R. DOLEZAL: Exactly, yes.

L. DOLEZAL: And particularly art.

LEMON: OK. So, Larry, Rachel also talked about the African-American man that she calls her dad. And here's what she told Matt Lauer this morning.


MATT LAUER, THE TODAY SHOW HOST: But at one time in particular you looked at a friend of yours, a guy named Albert Wilkinson, and you told friends of yours that he was your father. He is an African- American man who is clearly not your father. Was that done to enhance your resume as an African-American woman or was there another reason for that?

RACHEL DOLEZAL: There's another reason. Yes. He actually approached me in North Idaho and, you know, we just kind of be connected on a -- again, a very intimate level as family and...

LAUER: But why point out an African-American man and say that is my father when you know that your father is a Caucasian man?

RACHEL DOLEZAL: Well, Wilkinson is my dad. And any man can be a father not every man could be a dad.


LEMON: You know, as a father, Larry, that must be pretty insulting. That must be a slap in the face. Do you know this man, do you why she would claim that this man is her dad?

L. DOLEZAL: That's tough. It hurts deeply. I don't know him. I've never met him. Ironically my middle name is Albert. So, I'm the only Albert that's her father. But for more than 20 years Rachel referred to me fondly as papa. That makes it even hurt more.

LEMON: Rachel hasn't apologized. A lot of people are saying that she did some great work on behalf of black people, the black community and it's too bad...


LEMON: ... that she had to lie about it. Do you think she owes anyone an apology even you?

L. DOLEZAL: Certainly. She is, first of all, she will need to acknowledge the lies and the deception the misrepresentation and face that, apologize and then moved on.

LEMON: What's next for you guys?

L. DOLEZAL: Hopefully we can forgive her, hopefully others will be able to as well and she can find some sense of healing. And as my brother said, land on her feet and see what is in her future.

LEMON: Thank you, Larry. Thank you, Ruthanne.

L. DOLEZAL: Thank you, Don.

R. DOLEZAL: Thank you.

LEMON: Up next, Rachel Dolezal, is she transracial or simply a liar. Montel Williams joins me next.


LEMON: Many credit Rachel Dolezal for the work she has done in the African-American community. Other says, she has nothing more than a con artist. Case in point, Montel Williams, TV host and activist. Is that what you think?

MONTEL WILLIAMS, TV HOST: That's it, Don. I mean, I just got to call it what it is. I think we in a society really have to stop making excuses and coming up with all kinds of discussions for one thing only. It's called a liar.

Look at this woman's past. For the last 10 years she has been lying for whatever suits her win. I have four biracial children. My children are mixed race. They are African-American, they are Caucasian of mixed races, they could check the block black. They could check the block white.

They could check the block biracial depending on what state they're in. Because you have to remember, certain states if their father is white, they could say, they are white no matter what color they're in. But they could tell the truth. My children will always tell the truth. They are of mixed race descent.


LEMON: So, what bothers you the most about this then?

WILLIAMS: She has lied since day one. It's a lie. I don't believe this term of transracial. That we can wake up one day and think that there some genetic code deep within us that makes us feel if we're really black, the person trap in a white body. I'm not buying that at all.

I'm buying a woman who is a con artist and, I'm sorry, we have given her a lot of time, Don, I'm not, -- you know, it's the job of the media to infotain. You know, so, we're giving us some entertainment along with the news that were giving us. But the truth to the matter is, this is not even worth most of the topic that we're having all day.

LEMON: But here's the thing.


LEMON: A lot of people are asking about, you know, why so much time, move on. But here's the thing. If this is because there's a psychology you can believe it or not it, you know, whatever you want, who say, that there is -- some people can be transracial.

So, here's the thing. If that is indeed true and that race is a social construct, if that is indeed true that turns his whole idea of race identity and all of that and civil rights that turns it head.

WILLIAMS: Guess what.

LEMON: It also turns transgender on its head as well.

WILLIAMS: I'll shut that.


WILLIAMS: You know, I will shut that down. I would shut that. Let's say that I buy that...


LEMON: But she might not be the right representative. She might not be the right example.

WILLIAMS: Right. Correct. So, let's stop using her to spring board to a bigger conversation of race in America. There are so many people offended by everything that's coming out of her mouth.

If I was an African-American, well, my mom who was a biracial African- American woman, you know, right now, would be offended by the things that she has the nerve in your desk you need to say. Because anytime she wants to take off that them and straighten that hair she can stop identifying.

And believe me, the pain of all the years it took to earn the right to wear that hair she hasn't earned that. And so, truthfully, if she wants to support, she wants to be supportive, she wants to embrace ethnicity and say that I appreciate them, I applaud them, I even, you know, I am honored by them


WILLIAMS: But don't lie and say, like she said in the news earlier that she even question her genetic, what she say, the DNA test...

LEMON: Well, let's listen.

WILLIAMS: ... from her parents.

LEMON: I want to play that.

WILLIAMS: Sure. LEMON: But before we play that can we put that picture back of the hair show, I mean, she had, she went from corn rolls to curly to, I mean, she have the hair thing now.

[22:30:03] WILLIAMS: But, you know, but, Don, but look at this right now. Spend three weeks in Ireland or Scotland to straighten that hair. That complexion goes back here 100 percent white and she can walk like could deny that she ever pretended to be this. That's the problem that everybody is looking at.


WILLIAMS: Stop lying. If she had said originally I'm a Caucasian woman, I really have identified so much with the African-American community, I would like to embrace that look but I'm Caucasian...


LEMON: Nobody will have problem with that.

WILLIAMS: I don't think anybody would complain. They wouldn't complain.

LEMON: OK. Here she is talking about...

WILLIAMS: But she is like liar.

LEMON: Here she is talking about being a, even as a young girl in kindergarten. Listen.


R. DOLEZAL: This goes back to at a very early age with myself identification with the black experience, as a very young child.


R. DOLEZAL: I would say about five years old.

LAUER: You began identifying yourself as African-American?

R. DOLEZAL: I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon. And the black, you know, the black colored hair. You know, yes, that was how I was portraying myself.


LEMON: I spoke to her parents last night. Her parents said that this never happened.

WILLIAMS: Now, look, when I was a child at elementary school second or third grade I used to draw pictures of myself as the President of the United States. Now, at 50, I can't lie and say I was the congressman and the senator both for me. Stop laughing.

LEMON: I'm sorry. Really good. WILLIAMS: Do you know what I mean?

LEMON: Everybody in the studio is laughing. I'm sorry, I don't mean to laugh, but that really good.

WILLIAMS: I'm Sorry, but I'm...

LEMON: I'm sorry. Last night, I spoke to her brother. Her brother compared this to black face. Listen.


R. DOLEZAL: I have a huge issue with black face. This is not some freak birth of a nation mockery black face performance. This is on a very real connected level. I've actually had to go there with the experience not just a visible representation but with the experience.

And a point at which that really solidify was when I got full custody of my -- of Isaiah. He said you're my real mom. And he's in high school. And for that to be something that is plausible. I can, you know, certainly can be seen as whites and be Isaiah's mom.


LEMON: She's got black kids. She has black brothers. She's married to black man.

WILLIAMS: My goodness, Don. Please. Really? I mean, honestly, it's very clear that there is something here that needs to be diagnosed by professionals for greater than myself who would understand that she's dealing with some sort of issues all base on her upbringing and everything. But that does not allow you to lie. I'm so sorry.

I dressed up as Dracula on Halloween. I walked around stare to whole bunch of people had fangs coming of my mouth. I'm not going to tell you that I was literally born in a coffin. Stop the silly.

Let's stop even discussing it and using that to discuss something bigger. It's a costume. I think she's a con artist. And I think we're adding to her con because. Listen, I'm so sorry to say and I feel really bad about this.

In the next year, you have now -- people are going to pay woman $10 to $20,000 to kind of speak and talk about how I got over. I'm sorry. That can't put us together, Don. I'm sorry.

LEMON: I'm sorry. So.

WILLIAMS: You like Dracula right?

LEMON: You weren't born in a coffin. That's cold. That is cold-blooded right there.

So, do you think -- why do you think this has touched on a nerve? It is so hard understand that a white person might identify as black? Again, she said black than she is to her children. She said that she has gone through this struggle as much as any white woman can and maybe as much as any black woman has.

WILLIAMS: No, Don. She can't say that. I mean, that part you can't say. You just cannot make a lie of. You know, you weren't born this way. You didn't walk the street every single day for 10 to -- she had 20 years of being able to play the other color.

She's saying that now, she truly this color when she was even acting like she was this color. She even tried to sue saying she was the other color. Again, I'm adding to it. I am. Because I'm part of the discussion now giving her grounds to literally act as if this is a valid discussion about whether or not she's the spring board to race. She is not.


WILLIAMS: She should be a springboard about why we should be covering liars at this extent and giving them an opportunity that even make some false attempt at legitimacy.

LEMON: This goes to the point of your argument. Her speaking to MSNBC Today. Listen.



[22:35:01] R. DOLEZAL: I don't think so, you know. I don't think anything that I have done with regards to the movement, my work, my life, my identity. I mean, it's all been very thoughtful and careful. Sometimes decisions have been made for survival reasons or to protect people that I love.

And all things have been included. When it boils down the entire world could say, stand down. But when it comes to being there for my kids and my sister, I will never stand down on that.


LEMON: Can you at least give her some sort of credit for the work she's done with the NAACP?

WILLIAMS: No. Again, I started this conversation by saying, look, I applaud anybody who's willing to work on behalf of anybody else. Don, you know, I'm working on behalf of Iranian-American marines stuck in prison in Iran. I'm not walking around telling people that I have Iranian ethnicity somewhere buried in my blood.

I'm being honest in saying, as a fellow marine, I support him. She can be honest to us and say as Caucasian whose had relationships with African-Americans and then exercise for that. I understand a certain level of how people can feel for being discriminated against.

But when you, well, to slice in that, put on a costume and think that that by itself afford you the right to say you truly understand this experience that is a lie.


WILLIAMS: And I think we should stop supporting her lie. She's had plenty of time. I'm going to shut up.


WILLIAMS: ... about her because, you know, you know what I mean?

LEMON: Thank you. That's it.

WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.

LEMON: And you made me laugh. I didn't mean to laugh at the woman or at the situation. But those -- that was, you should be a comedian Montel. Thank you, sir.

WILLIAMS: Thank you so much. Always a pleasure talking to you, Don.

LEMON: Coming up, its Rachel Dolezal is going to be using black culture for her personal advantage. She might not be the first. Is stealing black culture a theme in white culture? That's next.


LEMON: Rachel Dolezal has started a national conversation. It's not just about racial identity but what some believe is racial thievery.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux has more.


R. DOLEZAL: I identify as black.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In today's society, some believe racial identity is no longer black or white.

CAMILLE GEAR RICH, USC GOULD SCHOOL OF LAW PROFESSOR: In the old days people's physical bodies tended to match how they saw themselves in terms of which racial group they belong to. That era has ended.

MALVEAUX: The controversy over Rachel's Dolezal claim to blackness is sparkling renewed interest in what it means to be black. Throughout U.S. history, whites have adopted some aspects of various forms of black culture as their own known as cultural appropriation.

BAZ DREISINGER, AUTHOR: The legacy of American music is that black artists were literally ripped off. Not it wasn't as if it was some hazy idea of their culture was stolen. They created music that was then covered by white artists who made all of the money out of them. So, there's this literal history of theft.

RICH: Great Elvis is the perfect example of cultural appropriation. He right took elements of emerging rock and roll music in African- American communities and then styled that as though he had discovered this thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We worked in the same way only in different areas.

RICH: His dance movements. His particular ways of singing.

MALVEAUX: Today, many see the music, clothing, language, dance, hair styles and expressions of African-Americans becoming more mainstream as more whites embrace hip-hop culture and rap.

Rapper Eminem, a new comer, Iggy Azalea, come to mind. The question is, who stands the benefit now?

DREISINGER: We kind of can't lump them all into one category. Iggy Azalea is such an overblown absurd caricature that really isn't an instance of black race. And I'm not sure we can compare her with Eminem.

When Eminem first came out he referenced his own whiteness quite a it. He had lines in his songs about, you know, if I were black I would have solved half. There was recognition of where I am in the context of this long legacy of racial appropriation and racial mimicry that I think we can respect.

MALVEAUX: And does this racial remixing benefit whites more than blacks? Cultural critics say, it's all about giving credit where credit is due.

DREISINGER: When you site something in article or in the sculptor work you have footnotes. So, there is such a thing as cultural foot noting. And not all forms of appropriation are the same.

MALVEAUX: Now the country is debating whether Rachel Dolezal appropriated, stole, or borrowed a black identity.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Washington.


LEMON: This is going to be good. Let's talk about it. Marc Lamont Hill, CNN political commentator. Mr. Perez Hilton is here as well, entertainment blogger and founder of

Perez, you physically gasped when that commentator talked about Iggy Azalea and it sort being, you know, racial appropriation. She's a black face, right?

PEREZ HILTON, PEREZHILTON.COM FOUNDER: She did. I mean, listen. Iggy Azalea may be a lot of things but she's not passing herself as being black. And I don't even think she's passing herself off as being a hip-hop artist.

LEMON: But she is appropriating black culture.

HILTON: She is making music that historically has been made by a black artist. I think she's smart. She can't sing so she figured out a way to make music and profit off of it without having to.

LEMON: But a lot of people can't really sing that well. I mean, you look at, I mean, I might go. If you look at Britney Spears. If you look at a lot of the pop stars. If you look at -- I love Madonna, not a great singer.

HILTON: Pay now.

LEMON: I love Janet Jackson, not a great singer.


[22:45:02] MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Nobody talks about Madonna. I plug you all the line.

LEMON: But to me, I have to say, there are great entertainers. To me, the people who are great singers are like Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, those are great singers.

HILTON: And in many ways, this Rachel woman, I don't want to mispronounce her last name, Dolezal.

LEMON: Dolezal.

HILTON: She's a great entertainer as well. I mean, she's gotten us all talking and I want to applauded her for doing a really great job with her hair. She's been criticized so much. She does her own hair and I think it looks great.

HILL: Oh, great.

LEMON: Marc, is this an appropriation of black culture? Speaking about Suzanne's piece and she's talking about Iggy, she's talking about Eminem, and on and on and on.

I listen to young artist now on the radio and I'm like, wait a minute, are they white or are they black? What's going on here?

HILL: Well, I mean, they're taking part of what happens in culture is that culture bleed into other cultures and because black popular culture is essentially mainstream. Now America is singing the hip-hop.

Mainstream news ads, investment banks...


LEMON: You say the hip-hop or two hip-hops?

HILL: You'll see white kids -- listening two hip-hop and they're drawing one hip-hop and they're taking one black language, black aesthetics, black culture, black clothing. And the problem is that oftentimes this taken from black people not credited to black people and then somehow it so back to black people.

And sometimes it's appropriation sometimes it's love. Eminem, I wouldn't say is appropriating black culture. Eminem is engaging black culture. He also makes it very clear that I am white. Well, it makes people uneasy but Iggy sometimes, Iggy Azalea is that she's taking up space. First of all, for black girl rappers like Azealia Banks, for example, as a scholar of hip-hop.

One of the things that have them, Eminem as they said, Eminem is a genius. He used Greg Taberner (ph). He's drawn from the best of English literature. It's like Eminem isn't doing anything that Pharoahe Monch was doing. He's not doing anything that Kool Keith wasn't doing. He's not doing that Black Thought wasn't doing.

So, sometimes white people do some that black people invented. We act like they should get extra credit for that.

LEMON: So, where is the line then? Where's the line?

HILL: You know the line is done? The line is when you don't just act black but you actually tan yourself, you actually throw on a weave, you actually tell people that your adopted brother is your son. You have a random black, hey, Willy, come over here and you make him your father in your Instagram pic. And you try to live a life of blackness without having to deal with the penalties, the consequences, the trauma, and the pain of being black. That's where I draw the line with her.

LEMON: But is imitation the best of flattering? And I'm not necessarily talking about specifically Rachel Dolezal. I'm talking about in culture. Because we have been saying on the show and in our meetings that black is the new black now. It seems like everybody wants to be a black.

HILTON: Well, I don't think this is anything new. It's something that's been going on for a very long time. I mean, a lot of people made that claim against Elvis Presley. Madonna borrowed heavily from the black community with her whole vogue era and the film Paris is Burning.

LEMON: And the ballroom scene.

HILTON: Yes, exactly. You know, I as a white Latino, I would appreciate somebody not criticizing or speaking ill of black Americans. So, I think that's a positive. Better to imitate, better to borrow from than to be a racist who hates.

LEMON: Yes. But what about the argument for race that white people...

HILL: But here's the problem.

LEMON: ... go ahead, go ahead, Marc.

HILL: But it place into vicious and sometimes racist stereotypes. If Iggy is performance of black woman who would come down to being "ragid," "hypersexual," "emasculating" all of these things, then what happens we don't get the full breath in depths of black women who would all we get is the "ignorance" stuff.

If white people performed black male as being a thug and they want to be Kool Keith but they don't want to be Sydney Courtier (ph) or they don't to be Richard Wright or -- do you know what I'm saying. (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Marc Lamont Hill or John Lennon. Go ahead.

HILL: Yes. I mean, that Don Lemon. But the others absolutely.

LEMON: Marc and Perez, stay with me. We'll be right back.

HILL: You can't resist me. You love [00:03:50].

LEMON: We'll be right back.


LEMON: Back now Perez Hilton and Marc Lamont Hill. Marc, you know, people think that you are serious now. They think that like Marc and I are friends. Don't like, get over it.

HILL: Exactly.

LEMON: OK. So, Marc, look, isn't it a good thing though that you have people who don't think it's that big a deal. And they may find certain aspects of black culture fascinating and they want to embrace it all except for the part, the discrimination part. Well, do you think that helps race relations that many young people it doesn't really matter to them?

HILL: On some level. But, if you're constantly fetishizing someone then you don't...


LEMON: Explain -- that's a huge issue in the black community about people being fetishize in the black community. Explain that to our viewers.

HILL: Absolutely. It's a sort of -- sometimes erratic but sometimes but certainly a kind of exotic connection to people. You see them as different; you see them as the other -- this thing that you have obsessed about. And you don't see them as normal human beings. That's why you end up walking around wanting to have that black friend sometimes.

Or that friend that who's air you just can't stop touching. Or that Asian friend who you bring to the party who everybody finds so interesting, right? There is this way in which we don't see them as full normal human beings. But we see them as unusual and extraordinary.

And there's nothing wrong with making feel special, we're all special. But if you only see people to the lengths of how special they are, you don't -- again, you don't see them as full people. And that becomes a problem here.

And so, oftentimes people who live lily-white suburbs sometimes black and white people eroticize and fetishize the hood. They want to know what is like to live in the hood. They want to try on the hood identity until the police show up.


HILL: Then all of the sudden they throw in their Standard English they take on a different identity and they want to live that reality.


LEMON: Coat switching.

HILL: So, that's part of the challenge here when you have people -- yes, they coat switch, they do all sorts of things. And in the case of this woman, just to bring it to her for one second...


LEMON: (Inaudible).

HILL: She is still like, look, I don't want out of blackness.

LEMON: Right.

HILL: I want to be black all day. But the problem is, she doesn't have to deal with the traumas the body image of identity of edges of all the stuff that black girls have to grow up with their entire life. She didn't have to deal with that part.

LEMON: All right. Perez, you're camping at the bit. Go ahead.

HILTON: I mean, I have found myself in the middle of this debate a couple years ago when I sent out a tweet, which I thought was harmless saying, inside every gay black -- inside every gay man is a fierce black woman, a fabulous strong black woman.