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Strong Winds & Drought Stoke Tennessee Fires; Syria Seizes Parts of Aleppo From Rebels; Donald Trump Versus the Media. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 29, 2016 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We packed our valuables, ready to go if we need to.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METOROLOGIST (voice-over): Endangering homes and businesses in nearby Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. At one point, 30 buildings engulfed in the fires, including the 16-story Hilton Hotel.

This amateur video posted on social media shows the raging fires just outside the hotel's windows. Guests anxiously watching from inside. The fire now at edge of the Dollywood theme park. The park not yet damaged but portion of the resort evacuated.

DANA SOEHN, PARK SPOKESWOMAN, GATLINBURG FIRE DEPARTMENT: We have multiple trees now falling with embers starting additional fires throughout the area.

GRAY: Wind gusts topping 70 miles per hour, combined with the worst drought in the region in nearly a decade, fanning the flames.

GREG MILLER, GATLINBURG FIRE CHIEF: We're dealing with the worst possible conditions imaginable.


GRAY: And those pictures are just terrifying. The National Guard has been -- is out here now. There are also hundreds of first responders from this area and the surrounding areas that have come to help out. Top priority today will be once the sun comes up, trying to get some areas, assess the damage, Alisyn. But as of right now, no word on when people will be able to return to their homes.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Jennifer. Please keep updated from there. Thank you.

Well, the situation in Aleppo, Syria, is disastrous. The Syrian government's attacks triggering mass exodus of desperate civilians. We're live with the latest, next.


[06:35:28] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Aleppo, Syria, is an active war zone. Residents have little water, food, medical care, and they are facing intense bombing from the regime and its allies, including Russia. People are literally running for their lives.

Let's bring in our CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward and Nick Paton Walsh.

Clarissa, we seem to have difficulty communicating the urgency and hardship of the people trying to live in Aleppo. What do we know right now?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the situation now is truly at a breaking point, I would say, Chris. Essentially four years ago, the rebels took about half of Aleppo, the eastern part of the city. Once the Russians joined in on behalf of the Assad regime, we saw a real uptick in the amount of bombardment that was hitting those rebel areas. Eventually, the regime was able to fully encircle the rebel-held areas of eastern Aleppo.

And in the last few weeks, Chris, essentially what we've seen is the regime forces backed by Iran, backed by Russia, backed by Shia militias from Iraq, from Iraq and also Afghanistan, also the Lebanese militias which is branded a terrorist organization, Hezbollah, have taken roughly one-third of the rebels' parts of the city. What they appear to be doing now is cleave in half, if you will, the remaining rebel-held area.

We've seen roughly ten thousand civilians tried to evacuate and leave those rebel held areas where the bombardment has just been at an all- time high, thousands and thousands of air strikes, no food getting in, no water getting in, and for many people trapped in these areas, Chris, nowhere to run to because they're simply not willing to try to leave and go into a government-held area where they fear they could simply disappear forever, Chris.

CUOMO: Nick, some of the regime leaflets that they're dropping on people there, "If you do not leave these areas urgently, you will be annihilated. You know everyone has given up on you. They left you alone to face your doom and nobody will give you any help."

What is the impact of this message? How deep does it go with the people there, that they feel abandoned?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They've long felt abandoned by the Western community, who they see have singularly failed to act in stopping the bombardment of the Assad regime. But also to some degree, too, by other elements of Syria as well now.

This is an area that's been besieged for months. The bombardment is nothing new. It just simply intensified. We're seeing a nasty end game of this part of the city.

The major urban stronghold of the rebels, if they lose it, it's a huge setback, frankly, for the motion there could be some sort of moderate Syrian revolution here. The regime will use it as an enormous feather in their cap. It'll make it very hard for those who want to see a political solution to move forward with that because this is frankly the Assad regime saying they can impose a military victory here potentially if they do move forward in this area, complicated as it will be to take more ground.

But, Chris, also, too, this is a key test for President-elect Donald Trump. He has to sit now potentially and watch a humanitarian crisis unfold there. A lot of it backed by a country he'd like to see a better relationship with, Russia, with Iran also assisting them too. That's not a country he necessarily wants better relations with.

Are we going to hear, like from the U.N., France, and Germany today, from the president-elect strong condemnation of surge into a civilian area, where there could be 200,000 people potentially facing the wrath of these regime-loyal militia, or are we going to perhaps see a change maybe in Washington's view here? At least some sort of solution ghastly and bloody as it maybe is better than continuing chaos, Chris.

CUOMO: And, Clarissa, there's a strategic component here as well for the United States, to consider. Where there's a lack of opportunity, desperation and a feel of being forgotten, what takes root? Extremism. I mean, there's a Twitter account that really hits on this. Bana Alabad is a 7-year-old. She tweets about life in Aleppo with her mom.

Her mom left a series of distressing tweets in the last 48 hours. The last one says, "Last message under heavy bombardments now. Can't be alive anymore. When we die, keep talking for the 200,000 still inside. Bye. Putemah."

How many people are there in this situation there? And where can they go right now?

WARD: Well, I think this is something that people often forget or perhaps don't understand.

[06:40:01] When we look at ISIS, when we look at extremism, when we look at al Qaeda, we see it as a cause, when in fact, it's actually a symptom, Chris. The cause itself is the Syrian civil war and specifically, it is the oppression and slaughter of a Sunni majority by a minority.

And as long as you have the continuation of that oppression, of that slaughter of a Sunni-Muslim majority, you're going to see across the world, Sunni Muslims everywhere, growing sympathies for these extremist groups because basically these extremist groups revel in a situation like Aleppo, because the message that people take away is the international community doesn't care about you, international law can't help you, democracy is of no use, the West doesn't care about you. We are the only people who can help you. God is the only thing that can help you.

And it's a very powerful message, Chris, for the people who are literally on their knees. By the way, that is one of the mottos of the Assad regime, "Kneel or starve." It has been a very effective policy for them. It is a very effective recruitment policy as well for ISIS.

CUOMO: And, unfortunately, right now, there's a lot of truth to it. You have people who are forgotten, starving, and they are desperate for reason to believe that they can have a future.

Clarissa, Nick, thank you, my friends, for helping us understand this situation a little bit better.


CAMEROTA: OK. On a much lighter note, the Pack is back, for one night at least. Green Bay keeps hope alive for their season on Monday night football. We have details in this morning's "Bleacher Report". That's next.


[06:45:45] CAMEROTA: Severe storms are packing torrential rains and damaging winds. And they will soak the Eastern U.S. today, we're told.

Let's check that with CNN meteorologist Chad Myers who has our forecast.

Hi, Chad.


We'll take the rain over the fire areas around Gatlinburg and such. The rain will come into the Northeast, today, maybe slowing the airplanes just a little bit, but the rain is beneficial, because this rain is right where we need it, right over this tremendous drought over the southeast.

Now, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge didn't get the rain they wanted, maybe half inch to an inch, but more rain is on the way. But with that rain will be severe weather. We had tornadoes yesterday and there will be tornadoes today.

There's the future radar. Here's where the tornadoes will be today. Anywhere from southeast of Memphis all the way down to the Gulf Coast. We'll likely see another inch or two of rain in these areas that need the rain so much.

But let me just show you this map, Chris. This is a map of where the wildfires are and where the rain hit last night. We need much more. That wildfire had Gatlinburg is still going on in the mountains. Structures don't go out with rain. We can wet down the leaves a little bit, but we need more rain here for sure -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Chad, thank you very much. Keep us on top of it.

All right. So, Monday night football was worth it. You got to see the resurgence of Aaron Rodgers and his so-called mystery tint on the sidelines.

Hines Ward has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

I don't remember you going into any tent. I just remember you laying people out with post-badness. HINES WARD, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: No, we didn't have a tent back

in my day, Chris.

But it's been an off year for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Their playoff hopes have been fading, and Rodgers haven't been himself. Last night against the Eagles, Rodgers was in vintage form.

Second quarter, watch the Packers quarterback thread the needle to Adams for the touchdown. Big-time throw and catch.

Now, later in the game, Rodgers scrambling around. He goes down awkwardly and tweaks his hamstring. On the sideline, he goes into this mystery tent. Apparently, it's used for trainers to look at injuries in privacy and also for bathroom breaks or maybe even ice fishing.

You know, you learn something new every day. The Packers would go on to win 27-13.

And to the NBA. The Warriors hosting the Hawks. Steph Curry showing off his Harlem Globetrotter skills. Nothing but net. Draymond Green making his case for defensive player of the year. He blocked Dennis Schroder and screamed for good measure.

Warriors win their 12th straight, 105-100.

Now, Alisyn, that's tied for the third longest streak in franchise history. So, back to you guys.

CAMEROTA: I knew that.


CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

WARD: No problem.

CAMEROTA: So, back to politics. President-elect Donald Trump blaming voter fraud and illegal voting for losing the popular vote. But where's his proof? Well, there isn't any. So how dangerous is his claim? We debate all of this, next.


[06:52:21] CAMEROTA: President-elect Donald Trump continuing his false claims that millions of people voted illegally, costing him the popular vote. Mr. Trump fueling the fake news movement while attacking mainstream media outlets like CNN.

Let's discuss all of this. We want to bring this our panel. We have CNN media analyst, Bill Carter, director of the School Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, Frank Sesno, and joining us again, our new contributor, Salena Zito.

Great to have all of you. Frank, this is a debate that's under way in newsrooms around the

country, certainly here at CNN. How much time and energy and space should we be devoting to the demonstrably false claims that the president-elect makes about, let's say, about people voting illegally, or are we to sort of quickly dismiss those and move on to what people say they care about, his future policies and conflicts of interest?

FRANK SESNO, DIR., SCHOOL OF MEDIA & PUBLIC AFFAIRS AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: It's a balance and you've got to do both, obviously. You've got to pay attention to the fake claims and the fake news, to debunk them, to expose them, to show that the president- elect, soon to be the president, is speaking from an anti-fact perspective.

However, if CNN and talk radio and talk television become obsessed by this and become driven by this because it's easy to drive the panel discussions minute after minute, hour after hour, and don't pay attention to the things that do matter a lot, then real people, real issues get buried. And that is going to be the challenge because you, CNN, and others are playing on a completely different playing field now, where the rules have either been suspended or ripped up entirely in the way it's been done in the past anyway.

CUOMO: Frank wrote a good piece about this. It's online if you want to go on It's called the four things that he believes the media should be doing right now in covering Trump.

We're doing it with our own vernacular, Bill. Fake news. Now, that's called bull shit. That's what fake news --

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone.

CUOMO: We're talking around truth much too often. That's what fake news it. There's no fact free. There's only lies.


CUOMO: You know, we're creating a vocabulary here it accommodate really one new thrust.


CUOMO: Now, where does it go for you? Journalism? If you start calling something fact free and call racism alt-right, you're putting yourself in a box to start, aren't you?

CARTER: No, you are. I think you have to start to really be straight forward and say, this untrue, here's what's really going on. I don't think you can back off at all.

I think you have to be completely aggressive. You can't say, well, he's distracting from the news. This is really important.

[06:55:00] If this goes on -- and why will change it went on in the campaign. It's going to continue

CUOMO: It will only grow. You will see the left and the right doing the same thing because it works.

CARTER: Yes, it's extremely effective. When someone challenges this particular individual, his reaction is to try to bully them and go after someone like Jeff Zeleny personally and try to bully the whole CNN apparatus, challenging them. That's his M.O because it has worked, and it will continue to be that way unless he's continually challenged.

He's obviously disturbed by the fact he's a minority president. It's driving him batty. And he's saying kind of outrageous things because of that. That isn't going to change. He's always going to be a minority president, and his popularity is never going to get particularly high. So, he's going to always have this visceral reaction to things when he's challenged.

CAMEROTA: And to be clear, by minority president, you mean he got less of the popular vote. Double meaning.


CAMEROTA: Salena, you are the person, you're reporter who had her finger on the pulse of what Trump supporters believed and wanted from their president and why they were so enthusiastic about him.

What do they think? I mean, basically, they think that mainstream media is lying and that the fake -- well, you tell me. What do they think about claims he makes that are sometimes outrageous?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, there's two different things between fake news and his hyperbole. Fake news is an American tradition. We've always had these little fake news stories that have been dropped in throughout our history, going all the way back to John Adams.

CAMEROTA: But aren't they more ubiquitous now? Now that there's fake news websites, now they're taking seed, they're being picked up places where people don't know anymore how to distinguish fake news.

ZITO: Well, that's true. The information is obviously so much more at hand than it was in the 18th century. Still, we had them. We still had fake news outlets, newspapers, where there was all kinds of propaganda in them.

Having said that, when he does a tweeted that is patently false, I think our job is to obviously call him on it. But I also think if we focus too much on it, we're going to lose the people that -- the readers, the voters, the populists.

There has to be that trust between the populists and the media.

CAMEROTA: But that's not their priority. If we focus too much on it --

ZITO: We've lost them. We've absolutely lost them. And I think it's really important that the populist trusts its press. It does trust us to call things when B.S., when it is, but to focus on it and make -- blow it up, I think that's when we lose them.

CUOMO: Look, Frank, you've made this point to me as a mentor more than once. I'm not looking to curse on television, but at some point, you just call something what it is. You've said to me many time, you know, people mistake themselves on television that they're in the popularity business.

You're not. You're there to oppose power. You're there to check power. You're not going to be popular. People aren't going to like it. You got to get comfortable with that and just do your job.

SESNO: And so does Donald Trump need to get comfortable with that. In a column that I wrote yesterday that you mentioned, one of the four things that needs to happen is that the media needs to have the role and maintain the role of respectful adversary. Trump does too.

This is an adversarial relationship. It's built into the Constitution. It goes back to the first president. No president, no leader likes the media. They're there to harangue, to harass, and to hold them to account when they say something inaccurate, when they flip-flop, when they push out a policy.

What is the impact of the policy, whether it's immigration or tax cuts or anything? What is that going to haven people, on real lives? That's what really needs to not be lost in all of this.

My concern is that Donald Trump is positively brilliant, Orwellian brilliant in the way he uses this news. Call it what you want, fake news or whatever, because it distracts from so many other things.

And you have got to manage both. You've got to balance both. Hold him to account on what he says and how he says it, but also not lose sight of the other things that are then getting buried because of what he said.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we need to roll up our sleeves and do and work harder and do all of this and point out both simultaneously.

Here, I want to read this, because this is the epitome of the through the looking glass logic that we are now seeing on Twitter. This is something the president-elect retweeted from someone else about the illegal voting that he claims.

CUOMO: Look, we have an example real time right now.

CAMEROTA: Hold on, hold on. I need to read this first.

This is one that he retweeted. "@jeffzeleny, what proof do you have that Donald Trump did not suffer from millions of fraud votes? Journalist, do your job @CNN," he says.

CUOMO: Proves the nonexistence of fact. Which I think is a super power, by the way, to be able to prove a nonexistent fact.

CARTER: How do you know it wasn't Martians that came? You can't prove you haven't proved that. CUOMO: Frank just made an important point that's playing out in real time. I didn't mean to interrupt you. Trump just tweeted -- he knows he's wrong about millions, OK? He knows he's wrong.

CAMEROTA: How do you know?

CUOMO: Because he's a very intelligent guy. It's a great distraction.