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Grandmother Killed in TN Wildfires; Trump Supporters Weigh in on the President-Elect; Pesticides on Vegetables; Self-Help Guru in New CNN Film. Aired 8:30-9a ET
Aired December 1, 2016 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:30:00] RACHEL WOOD, DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF GATLINBURG WILDFIRE VICTIM: Fire was that close.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: While I know that your mom also had a brief conversation with your brother, James, where she also expressed her anxiety about this. Do you know what she told him?
LYLE WOOD, SON OF GATLINBURG WILDFIRE VICTIM: Yes. Within about two hours from 6:30 to 8:30, things went from, you know, the winds picking up to the last phone call she made to my brother was the fact that she was really scared and frantic because the house was actually on fire at that point. And during that conversation, my brother lost communication with her. We think cell towers went down, signal went bad, and that was the last -- that was the last we heard of her.
CAMEROTA: Gosh, I know that your family didn't know what happened after that. And we know that the waiting and the not knowing is excruciating. Did you hold out hope that she had made it to a shelter?
L. WOOD: We did. We held out a lot of hope. You know, in disasters like this, we're from Savannah, and so we just saw Hurricane Matthew come through and just devastate the area as well. And we know within the first 48 to 72 hours it's hard. Shelters are trying to get organized. People are trying to get where they can be safe and start communicating. Cell service is really bad. And so we knew that there was a possibility that maybe a neighbor had grabbed her, had taken her to a shelter. We knew she didn't get around. She wasn't as mobile as she used to be. There may have been some confusion. And so our hope was that, you know, maybe she'd be one of the ones that was found safe, in a safe place. And I think there's still hope for that now. You know, and our hope is that other people that are going through this have that hope, you know. They pulled three people off the mountain yesterday that were still alive, and that's an amazing thing. And so I think you have to have that kind of hope in a situation like this.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And then you -- of course, you got the devastating news that she had been killed. We're looking at pictures as you're speaking of Alice and with what I assume are grandchildren. Can you tell us about your mom?
L. WOOD: Yes. She's a great lady. She loved those kids very much. Those are our kids, Sam and Charlie. And those were her pride and joy. She was one of those ladies that just loved people. She never met a stranger. She never found anybody she couldn't talk to that wasn't -- she wasn't willing to talk to. And she had a lot of love in her heart. She loved those kids. She loved my brother very much. My brother lived with my mom in the house that's now gone. Everything my brother has is gone as well. And so, you know, to lose someone like that, who loved us, and loved our family very much, and then to have to go through something like this as well, you know, we ask for prayers for him. We ask for prayers for the people that are still trying to figure out how to put this thing all back together. It's a hard thing. It's a difficult thing. But, yes, she was an amazing woman who loved a lot.
CAMEROTA: Boy, those -- those kids of yours are awfully cute and they sure look like they love to be on her lap there. What can we do for your brother James? Where will he go?
L. WOOD: That's what we're trying to figure out right now. That will be the next steps. We got this news last night and so we're going to support him as best we can. You know, this community here is pretty amazing. The Red Cross has been fantastic. Firefighters, first responders, the sheriff's department, highway patrol, dispatch. I mean the dispatch workers, that get calls from people like us who say, hey, I'm missing my family, what do I do? They walked us through such a devastating time and they've taken care of us really well.
The faith community her in Gatlinburg, in Pigeon Forge, they're amazing. And so I know they're going to support. What we need to do right now is pray for the people that are working hard to try to take care of everyone. Stay positive and give them the encouragement and the space they need to do their jobs. And they continue just to find ways to know that there's a story behind every person that's been impacted by this and try to figure out what we can do to help.
R. WOOD: We just want to say thank you so much. The love that we have felt, even in this extremely dark time, has really blown us away. And just thank you to everyone who -- the media and our family and friends and everyone that's helped. It's really been -- it's been unreal. And we thank you for it.
CAMEROTA: Well, thank you both for sharing your pictures, and sharing your story of your mom with us. We really appreciate seeing her and we're praying for your family. Thanks for being with us.
R. WOOD: Thank you so much.
L. WOOD: Thank you. Thank you very much.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What a strong, strong family.
All right, they stood by Donald Trump through thick and thin during the campaign, now their candidate is the president-elect. So how do they feel about his decisions so far? We will hear from Trump supporters, that's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:38:42] CAMEROTA: So, during the course of the presidential campaign, we routinely checked in with some of Donald Trump's supporters to find out why they were so passionate about the businessman and whether that passion ever wavered during various controversies. Well, this week we circled back with several of them to see what they think of his plan as president-elect, where they get their news now, and whether they were surprised on election night.
CAMEROTA: OK, show of hands, who was surprised on election night? None of you were surprised? Though so many people in the country were surprised by Donald Trump's win.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had confidence in Trump's ability from the very beginning. So I never doubted him the entire time.
CAMEROTA: Paula, were you concerned when the polls suggested that he was not going to win?
PAULA JOHNSON, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I knew he was going to win, because when you believe in somebody, and Mr. Trump always makes things happen.
CAMEROTA: What signs have you seen that you think are good signs so far?
SUSAN DELEMUS, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think all the people that I'm looking at that Trump has appointed or nominated have all been top of the class, number one in their field, extremely talented, great leaders on their own.
CAMEROTA: Very funny to hear you say that. Do you remember who you really did not like last time around?
[08:40:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time to get rid of him?
CAMEROTA: Time to get rid of Reince Priebus?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. Time to get rid of him.
CAMEROTA: Reince Priebus.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.
CAMEROTA: He is now the chief of staff. So Reince Priebus, you all said, he's got to go. Time for him to go. How do you feel today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Smart move.
JOHNSON: I think it's a very smart move because now he keeps the Republicans in check. He knows how to work with them because he was the head of the GOP. And now if they want to get elected again, they need to tow the line.
CAMEROTA: So now you like Reince Priebus. JOHNSON: I don't like him, but I think it's a good pick that Mr. Trump
CAMEROTA: How do you all feel? Toni, how do you -- do you know much about Steve Bannon? How do you feel about Steve Bannon?
TONI DIBARTOLO, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I like him. I don't know too much about him. I'm more of a General Flynn fan, I would say.
CAMEROTA: What do you like about Flynn?
DIBARTOLO: I just -- I just feel that he will be an amazing leader. I love his military background. I think he's strong. I think he will give President Trump sound advice, you know, when to move, when not to be too aggressive, when to be aggressive. I think he'll do that. And I think he will be a strong asset.
CAMEROTA: You know he has said what are considered controversial things about Muslims. He has said that he doesn't -- basically that he considered it a political ideology, not a religion. He had called it a cancer.
GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN: Islam is a political ideology. It is a political ideology. It -- it definitely hides behind this -- this notion of it being a religion.
CAMEROTA: It's interesting to talk to you, Toni, about this because, remember, we talked --
DIBARTOLO: Yes, we did.
CAMEROTA: Last time around about your feeling about some of your Muslim coworkers, I believe.
DIBARTOLO: Yes. Yes.
CAMEROTA: And you had a close relationship. Are you concerned about General Flynn's comments?
DIBARTOLO: I'm not. I feel that people do say stuff that maybe they regret at times, and then they slept on it, and move forward. And I feel that maybe some of the stuff was taken out of context, or maybe he didn't exactly mean it. I'm in support of him, and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
CAMEROTA: But you find those comments regrettable? Meaning you hope that they were taken out of context?
CAMEROTA: On their own, they would bother you?
DIBARTOLO: Yes, they would. They would. To be honest, they would. I -- because I don't -- I don't want people lumped together in just one category based on their religion. CAMEROTA: How do you feel about the white nationalist movement? The
alt-right? The -- some neo-Nazi salutes that we've seen? What are we to make of the -- the -- what feels like a groundswell of that with the Steve Bannon Breitbart connection?
JOHNSON: You know what? I'll tell you something. That's been around forever. You know, if you -- if you keep reporting on it, it's going to grow like a cancer. If you forget about it, then it's probably going to go away. But the media has to hop on everything, and it's wrong.
CAMEROTA: There have been protests --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've been tipping cars over and burning them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't even know if they know what they're protesting.
JOHNSON: Protesting. And some of them didn't even vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are they -- what are they protesting?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
JOHNSON: They didn't even vote. Voting is a privilege in this country. And you need to be legal, not like California where 3 million illegals voted.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that.
JOHNSON: I'm glad I brought that up, Alisyn
CAMEROTA: Me, too, Paula. So where are you getting your information?
JOHNSON: From the media. Where else would we get it?
CAMEROTA: Which media?
JOHNSON: Some of it was CNN, I believe, and --
CAMEROTA: CNN said that 3 million illegal people voted in California?
JOHNSON: Well, it was coming all across the media. All across. If CNN didn't do it, then they were being smart this time.
CAMEROTA: Do you think that 3 million illegal people voted?
JOHNSON: I believe in California that there were illegals that voted.
CAMEROTA: How many?
JOHNSON: I don't -- to tell you the truth, nobody really knows that number.
CAMEROTA: But do you think three dozen or do you think 3 million? JOHNSON: I think there was a good amount because the president told
people that they could vote and it happened in Nashua we caught some people --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
JOHNSON: That they went into Nashua and they said, the president said I could vote. I'm here illegally.
CAMEROTA: Did you hear President Obama say that illegal people could vote?
JOHNSON: Yes, I did.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I did.
CAMEROTA: On what -- on what (INAUDIBLE) --
JOHNSON: I actually did hear it.
CAMEROTA: Tell me, where.
DIBARTOLO: On -- you can find it -- Google it. You can find it on FaceBook.
CAMEROTA: All right. Hold on. I don't want to waste any more time, but, anyway, I see where it came from and it's -- Fox Business Network deceptively edited a clip of Barack Obama to argue that the president encouraged illegal immigrants to vote when in fact he said nothing of the sort when you go back to the transcript.
You, as you sit here today, think that millions of illegal people voted in this country. You believe that there was widespread voting abuse?
JOHNSON: I think there was in some states.
CAMEROTA: In the millions of people?
JOHNSON: I -- California allows it. People --
CAMEROTA: They do not allow illegal -- you mean illegal -- you mean voter fraud, California allows?
JOHNSON: I believe there is voter fraud in this country.
CAMEROTA: A flag burning -- flag burning, people should go to jail?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
CAMEROTA: And lose their citizenship?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Community service.
JOHNSON: And you know what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
JOHNSON: And it's a sad thing --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they shouldn't, but they should get a ticket for starting a fire out in public in (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you need a permit for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need a permit for --
JOHNSON: But how many of these people --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they should go get a permit if they want to have a fire.
JOHNSON: How about illegals that are burning our flag and yet we're not arresting them and deporting them and they burn our flags. Do you want to be in our country, but you burn our flag because you don't like --
[08:45:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No allegiance.
JOHNSON: No allegiance, exactly. Send them home. I can't wait for the wall to be built.
CAMEROTA: What happens if the wall isn't built? If Mr. Trump doesn't build the wall, then how do you feel?
JOHNSON: I think -- I believe he will build the wall, but he will make sure that we have enough border patrol out there to take care of this country.
CAMEROTA: And there you have it. I mean, that is how they feel. They're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt right now and they believe that he is strong, but the specifics don't matter to some of his supporters as much as they matter to the media. We've always heard that we in the media took him literally, not seriously. They took him seriously, not literally. And you see that.
BERMAN: I think there's an incredibly wide berth that he has right now. People have been asking since the election, you know, will his supporters abandon him if he does "x," "y" and "z"? And I think the answer is, no, at least not now, not yet. So, for instance, if he wants to pick Mitt Romney to be secretary of state, despite what Mitt Romney, said I don't see a huge number of people running in the other direction.
CAMEROTA: No, no, I mean they trust Mr. Trump to make the right decision. They're giving him the benefit of the doubt right now. Obviously he's not even in office yet.
You heard the back and forth we had about where they get their news. They did say that they also watched CNN often to keep an eye on Chris, I think. So that would be tomorrow. You will hear more about their thoughts on CNN. They had many of them.
What's your take on all of this? You can tweet us at NEW DAY or post your comment on facebook.com/newday.
BERMAN: All right, a self-help guru hoping to change his own life after three of his followers died in a sweat lodge. James Arthur Ray, you have heard of him, he is the subject of a new CNN film and he joins us next.
CAMEROTA: But first, even for people trying to limit intake of pesticides, it's not always possible to buy organic food. So which vegetables should savvy shoppers avoid? Nutritionist Lisa Drayer has today's "Food as Fuel."
LISA DRAYER, NUTRITIONIST: Even after being washed, some vegetables contain high levels of pesticides. The Environmental Working Group puts out a list every year of the most contaminated produce. Celery was the highest ranking veggie on the 2016 dirty dozen list, followed by spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. Now, if you eat a lot of hot peppers, kale or collard greens, the EWG recommends that you buy organic versions of those because they were frequently found to be contaminated with pesticides that are toxic to humans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[08:51:38] BERMAN: James Arthur Ray was a self-help guru at the top of his game when tragedy struck back in 2009. Three of Ray's followers died in a sweat lodge exercise at one of his retreats, 18 others were hospitalized. This is an audio recording of what he told them shortly before they went into the sweat lodge. This is featured in a new CNN film "Enlighten Us."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES ARTHUR RAY: Symbolically, when you're going into a lodge, you're going back into the womb. And symbolically what you're going to do is to die. I approach the lodge with great respect. I've been anticipating it all day long because by about the second or third round, I'm normally thinking, why the hell am I me? It will be the most intense heat that you've ever experienced in your entire life. You will feel as if you're going to die. When you emerge, you will be a different person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Ray was sentenced to two years in prison. That happened five years ago after being found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide. Now he is turning his life around. James Arthur Ray, he joins us now.
Thanks so much for being with us.
JAMES ARTHUR RAY, SUBJECT OF CNN FILM "ENLIGHTEN US": Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure.
BERMAN: So since you were out of prison, you haven't really been in public all that much. Why did you agree to be part of this documentary? What part of your story do you want to tell?
RAY: Well, there's a couple things. First of all, I think there's a lot of people in this country, if you look at what's happened in the last election, you look at what's happening in our economy and our business, there's a lot of people who are having difficult times. All of us who were involved in that tragic accident are having -- have had difficult times. You know, certainly I have, as well as everybody else involved. And what my hope is, is that people who view this can say, hey, if he had the resilience to get through that, maybe I can do it as well.
CAMEROTA: The families of the three folks who died, Kirby Brown, James Shore, Liz Neuman, have said that they don't feel that you've taken adequate responsibility for those deaths. How -- where are you on that? How do you feel about what happened that day?
RAY: I have taken full and complete responsibility for what happened. I've done everything asked of me. I've paid restitution. I've done the time. And, you know, I think it's really important for me to communicate that James Shore, Liz Neuman and Kirby Brown were heroes. They're not victims. They really believed in something. And, to me, that's heroic and I hold that in high regard. I think it's disrespectful for them to be portrayed as victims because they really believed in what they were doing. And, in life, as an entrepreneur, you've got to be willing to give everything you have. And it's difficult. It's not easy.
BERMAN: You're saying they -- they died in the sweat lodge at your retreat and you're saying that was an act of sacrifice for them? That they gave everything they had?
RAY: Well, I -- I -- they obviously gave everything they had. I mean none of us could have foreseen. There's a much bigger story here than is what even told in the documentary. It was kind of glossed over in the coverage by the media. It was not wanted to be heard by the judge or the jury. And, you know, I'll kind of leave it at that, but there's a -- there's a --
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, but what is it? What are you referring to? I mean, in other words, they feel that you pushed them beyond the limits of what was humanly possible and human capacity, and that, you know, you've never sort of taken responsibility that you pushed them towards that.
[08:55:06] RAY: Well, I -- I'll repeat again, I have taken full and complete responsibility. I've done everything that's been asked of me. And, yes, I challenged them. Yes, I pushed them. I'm a tough coach. And yet they made a decision to do what they did. And certainly none of us could have foreseen what happened. I mean, I -- I conceived of the activity. I -- we all believed in it.
CAMEROTA: But why couldn't you have conceived of somebody dying if their temperature around them, the tent that they were in, was (INAUDIBLE) 200 degrees?
BERMAN: Two hundred degrees.
RAY: Well, there was no thermometer in the tent. So that's speculation. Nobody really knows how hot it was. Not even me. I mean that's just -- that was speculated in the courts. But, again, there's a lot bigger story. According to the doctor from Harvard University, who went through 4,000 pages of medical evidence, he said it was toxicity that caused the death. And that -- I'm not diminishing that at all. I mean it broke my heart. If you look at the documentary, or you look at -- you look at even, you know, CNN's Piers Morgan, I appeared on, I was -- I was broken and I was in anguish over this. And I've repented. And I've anguished. And at some point in time we as a country, we as a world, we as an individual, have to pick up and move on.
BERMAN: OK. Obviously we still have a lot of question. I think a lot of people have a lot of questions. Some of them will be addressed in this documentary. James Arthur Ray, thanks so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.
And be sure to watch this film "Enlighten Us: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray." It's Saturday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
CAMEROTA: You'll get a lot more information by watching that.
"NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello picks up after this very quick break. We'll see you tomorrow.