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George Michael Dead at 53; Netanyahu Lashes Out at Obama Over U.N. Vote; Trump Plans to Dissolve Foundation. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired December 26, 2016 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Friends don't take friends to the Security Council.
[05:58:37] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to lead the charge to suspend funding the United Nations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Matanaya Khalil (ph) has a two-state solution. We should be happy and celebrating.
NETANYAHU: I look forward to working with the new administration when it takes office.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Trump Foundation is a small foundation.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump is looking to calm concerns about conflicts of interest.
TRUMP: The money goes -- 100 percent goes to different charities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump has been accused of using his charitable foundation to settle private legal disputes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The entertainment world is mourning the sudden death of singer George Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely devastated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really upset, because I just love him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's somebody who made a very big impact and who was just a terrific singer.
(MUSIC: GEORGE MICHAEL, "FREEDOM")
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And you don't have to -- I do. You don't have to adjust your sets, because that's not Alisyn, and I'm not Chris.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, they're on a well-deserved vacation. We're rocking out to the legendary George Michael this morning.
LEMON: It is Monday, December 26, the day after Christmas; and I'm in with Poppy Harlow this week. And we're going to begin with the heartbreaking news that pop star George Michael has passed away. He died -- 53-year-old, the 53-year-old singer passed away at his home outside of London on Christmas day, Poppy.
HARLOW: All of us mourning, as well as celebrities and fans around the world mourning the star's sudden death. This morning, George Michael being remembered for his indelible voice and his chart-topping music. Our Ian Lee is live outside of his home in London.
Good morning. What's the reaction there?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy.
Yes, there are people here coming in, streaming in with their tributes. A lot of people remembering the late singer George Michael.
I'll show you some of the tributes down here that we have and what the people are saying. Here we have "Dear George, one of the world's sensitive souls. The world has yet to embrace those who feel deeply and hold the flame of love for all."
And over here, we have another one that says, "You have been loved. You were loved. You will be loved. We grew up with you, and you spoke for us."
The one thing that really stood out to me, talking to people here, is that the personal connection that he had with this community. This wasn't just a legendary singer. This was a man who was a part of it. He knew people here. He went into their businesses. And so, this community really right now feeling this loss.
But, of course, we all know him as the music icon. Take a look.
GEORGE MICHAEL, POP STAR (singing): Wake me up before you go-go. Don't leave me hanging on like a yo-yo.
LEE: Global super star George Michael launched into pop culture history in 1984 as half of the British band Wham!, singing the chart- topping ballad "Careless Whisper."
MICHAEL (singing): Time can never mend the careless whisper.
LEE: By 1986, Michael launched an incredible solo career, his No. 1 album "Faith" raising eyebrows with the first single.
MICHAEL (singing): I want your sex.
LEE: The risque lyrics and provocative video drawing sharp criticism of those wanting to bring awareness to the growing AIDS epidemic and the need for safe sex.
MICHAEL (singing): I gotta have faith.
LEE: "Faith" producing four No. 1 singles, including "Father Figure."
MICHAEL (singing): I will be your father figure. Put your tiny hand in mine.
LEE: "One More Try."
MICHAEL (singing): You...
LEE: And "Monkey."
MICHAEL (singing): Why can't you do it? Why can't you set your monkey free?
LEE: By the '90s, Michael became a more serious artist, celebrating his independence from the pop machine...
MICHAEL (singing): Freedom, freedom.
LEE: ... refusing to appear in the video "Freedom '90," which featured cameos from top models lip syncing his lyrics.
But the late '90s were rough for the pop icon. He was arrested by an undercover police officer and charged with engaging in a lewd act at a park in Beverly Hills, leading him to reveal in a CNN interview that he was gay in 1998.
MICHAEL: I don't feel any shame whatsoever, and neither do I think I should.
LEE: In later years, there were drug-related arrests and a nasty car accident in 2010. He served a month in jail for driving under the influence of marijuana.
But his career continued to flourish, thanks to his powerful vocals. At nearly 50, Michael once again found critical success with his sixth and final album, "Symphonica," a creative masterpiece backed by a full orchestra.
MICHAEL (singing): The first time ever I saw your face.
(speaking): I've been so lucky. I have an amazing, amazing life.
(singing): I will be the one who loves you 'til the end of time.
LEE: Poppy, George Michael was expected to get back in the studio to record another album. Sadly, that's not going to happen now.
But you know, he is really going to be known for more than his music, too. He was a strong advocate for the LGBT community as well as raising awareness about AIDS.
Elton John had this to say: "I'm in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend, the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his friends."
So, the world's really mourning today. Poppy, Don.
HARLOW: Absolutely. Ian, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
What a voice, what a man.
LEMON: I know. And he and Elton very similar in their fight for LGBT rights and also -- I mean, they were iconic and they were good friends. I saw -- I hadn't seen George Michael in a long, long time, because he hasn't been in public for a long time.
LEMON: But I saw George Michael last year during the -- I mean, John during the Oscars. But I mean, two iconic men.
LEMON: No doubt that he's mourning for him.
HARLOW: And his music lives on. And what he did, I mean, he came out later in life.
HARLOW: And he said in that CNN interview when he came out to the world. And then he became a huge advocate and did so much more than leaving us with his music.
LEMON: This was -- I was a senior in high school in 1984, when I -- well, I knew about George Michael in Wham! and Andrew Ridgely. But then in 1984, I was a senior in high school when he came out with, you know, the album "Faith." I loved that guy.
[06:05:10] HARLOW: Yes.
LEMON: I loved every stitch of music that he ever made. I related to it.
HARLOW: All right, joining us now to discuss the life, the career of George Michael, "Wall Street Journal" senior editorial director Christopher J. Farley and CNN contributor and host of "Entertainment Tonight," looking radiant as always, Nischelle Turner.
LEMON: Hi, Nischelle.
HARLOW: Good morning, you guys.
CHRISTOPHER J. FARLEY, SENIOR EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Good morning to you.
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning.
HARLOW: Nischelle, let me begin with you, because if you're in Los Angeles, it's about 3 a.m. in the morning. I'm not sure if you're in L.A.
TURNER: Five o'clock in the morning, but that's OK.
HARLOW: There you go, there you go. I mean, what is it that the world will be left with as we talk about his legacy?
TURNER: Oh, gosh. I mean, No. 1, there's a laundry list, but if we're just talking about the music, I mean, we will be left with some of the most heart-wrenching, beautiful (AUDIO GAP) playing his music there from Wham! which started and introduced us all to George Michael. But then I think his solo career was really where we started to see where the man was shaped.
It was interesting. We talk often about blue-eyed soul in the music industry. And you (AUDIO GAP). Well, there's something about these British-born fellows that have this soul that's just embedded in them and, for me and for a lot of, No. 1, the African-American community and the people who just love soul music, Elton John and George Michael were one and two. I mean, yesterday, TV One put out a tweet, and they said, you know, "Our soul brother from another mother," and that is so very true. Because you talked about his album "Faith." "Faith" was the first album by a white artist that went No. 1 on Billboard's R&B charts. I mean, he really reached so many genres with his music and spoke to so many different people. And, you know, everyone had this kind of personal connection to his music. Two-time Grammy winner, as well. I mean, just such a great artist.
Yesterday I was going back and forth with people on Twitter, and we were talking about our favorite songs and this and that. And I just said finally, every single one of his songs -- well, I used a different word, but vernacular -- joints is what I said, his music -- every single one of them was just a hit.
TURNER: I mean, all of them were so, so great when you think about it.
LEMON: And Christopher, he -- Christopher, he was very influenced by R&B and also rockabilly, as well, had a huge influence on his sound.
FARLEY: Yes, he was a guy who was very much influenced by the sounds coming from America, repackaged in his own way. At first he really was, you know, following in lock step with U.S. trends. I mean, the first -- one of the first songs that Wham! put out was a song that's kind of a parody of U.S. rap. I mean, "Wham Rap!" That's where they got their name from.
FARLEY: He took in it another direction and helped clear the way for a lot of British soul artists we all know today. I mean, people like Amy Winehouse and Adele and Sam Smith. I'm not certain they would have had the clear path to global pop stardom if George Michael hadn't inspired them and cleared the way for them beforehand. LEMON: But he was also one of the -- one of the first people, like,
sort of modern artists to take on fashion with the supermodels and were back in the '90s with Naomi Campbell, with Linda Evangelista in that '90s song -- was it "Freedom '90." People forget about "Too Funky." He followed it with "Too Funky," which was the same idea, supermodels, again. And went on to do a duet with Aretha Franklin and then Mary J. Blige. And that was his soul roots right there.
FARLEY: Well, interesting about that, he was someone who was a style leader with the earrings, with the way he dressed. And that was partly -- part of the reason why he was so portrait (ph) about his image. Because he knew he was a fashion icon, but he wanted to be known for something more than that.
And the funny thing is, people sort of forget, he kind of lived the boy band dream. I mean, people in boy bands always think that somehow they're deeper and smarter; and if people could just hear them for themselves and see what a deep artist they are -- well, he proved he was. I mean, he was in Wham! with a group that people didn't respect at the time. He went out to show that he had more to give. And finally when he came out in the late '90s, he became iconic; became known for something more than music. He actually had a social, cultural trend that he represented.
HARLOW: And Nischelle, I mean, pushing boundaries, right? I mean, "I Want Your Sex" perhaps not so controversial today, but in its time, I mean, banned from some radio stations, et cetera. He, himself, became this sex symbol. And...
LEMON: This is with the caveat of -- by saying on the video, saying, "This is not -- I'm not, you know, promoting casual sex in this video and in this song."
HARLOW: Absolutely. And then even got in a legal battle with Sony over how he was portrayed as this -- this sex symbol.
TURNER: Yes, he did. There's definitely a lot there. I got several side eyes when I was a young kid singing that song and my mother looking like "What are you saying?" But he was making a statement with that song.
And he did have a lot of legal battles when he released "Volume 1" with Sony and, subsequently, did not release "Volume 2" because of all the legal battles with the record label.
[06:10:10] And it's interesting, you guys. We're talking about freedom, you know, and how iconic that video was. The fact that "Vogue" just redid it with today's supermodels.
That was born out of the disagreement with the record label. It was born out of him not wanting to appear in the videos and taking a stand. So he brought all of these supermodels in to do, you know, that video. And now it just is embedded in our memory as one of the most beautiful and best-known videos of all time in music.
So he did so many things; and some of them were subtle and some of them weren't.
But he also had struggles. He didn't live an easy life. This wasn't an easy path for him because of a lot of the things, like, he had to hide through his life. And we did see him in the '90s and later on really struggle with drugs at times and with battling some of the things internally that he was doing. And it did seem like maybe he was going to come out on the other side and start making some music, again.
To hear now that he died in his sleep and, presumably, from heart failure. It breaks my heart. You know, it really does, because somebody that was so iconic, you know, to just pass away so -- so peacefully. You know, you wanted more.
TURNER: You're just left wanting more.
LEMON: I think we can say the '90s was the era of George Michael, Herb Ritts -- right? -- and Calvin Klein.
HARLOW: There you go.
FARLEY: I think what makes it so tough is knowing how many great iconic stars we lost this year.
FARLEY: Prince, David Bowie, now George Michael. These are some of the biggest stars of all time, people who had devoted followings. Lost them all within the span of a year.
FARLEY: Very, very tough for music lovers.
HARLOW: His music I'll teach my daughter about one day. I mean, he's a legend. Thank you. Nice to have you both.
LEMON: Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Nischelle and Christopher.
Want to turn now to politics and talking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, lashing out at the Obama administration for refusing to veto a U.N. security resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu meeting with the U.S. ambassador overnight.
So CNN's Oren Liebermann, he's live in Jerusalem with the very latest for us this morning. Hello, Oren.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don.
If you want an idea of just how angry Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is realize this. On Christmas day here in Jerusalem, here in the holy land, Netanyahu summoned the ambassadors of ten countries who voted for this resolution and the U.S. ambassador.
Those other ten countries met with the foreign ministry. It was specifically the U.S. ambassador that met privately with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so Netanyahu could express his anger once again over this resolution. We've heard it from him before, and I suspect we'll hear it from him again. Here is Netanyahu in the Israeli cabinet meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHU: Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements, but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue. As I told John Kerry on Thursday, friends don't take friends to the Security Council.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMANN: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear. Netanyahu has made it clear he's done working with Obama and is very much ready to work with President-elect Trump. He has said it. Many others in his government have said it.
But this story may not be over just yet. Israel is still concerned about what might be another resolution at the Security Council, trying to set parameters for peace negotiations. That is the concern now -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Oren, thank you so much, live for us in Israel this morning.
Meantime, President-elect Donald Trump announcing this week, really over the weekend, that he will dissolve his charitable foundation to avoid any conflicts of interest or even any perception of them. It's unclear, though, how he will do that before he takes office in just 25 days.
Our Ryan Nobles is live this morning in Washington with more.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, good morning to you.
Donald Trump himself has not donated to his foundation since 2008, and scrutiny over his charitable work led to an investigation by New York's attorney general, which is currently ongoing.
Now, in a statement, Trump said that he's instructed his attorneys to dissolve the foundation, which at this point has no employees and has not actively raised funds in some time.
He wrote, quote, "To avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as president, I've decided to continue to pursue my strong interest in philanthropy in other ways."
But just shutting the foundation down may not be enough. A spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was a Hillary Clinton supporter, said the foundation cannot legally dissolve until the investigation is complete.
Now, Trump has said he will also remove himself from his global business empire, but he's yet to explain how. This news comes at the same time as a staff shakeup for Trump's incoming administration. His presumed White House communications director, Jason Miller, has said that he's decided not to take that powerful job, because it would be too demanding for his young family -- Don.
LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Benjamin Netanyahu laying into President Barack Obama, and he says that he is ready to work with friends in the Trump administration. How unusual is this reaction from Israel? Our panel discusses. That's next.
[06:18:49] LEMON: Welcome back to NEW DAY everyone. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sending a strong message to the Obama administration after the U.N. [SIC] refused to veto a United Nations resolution condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank. Is a two-state solution possible, and how will things change under President-elect Donald Trump?
Let's discuss now with our political panel. Senior congressional correspondent, "The Washington Examiner" -- from "The Washington Examiner," David Drucker; and CNN political commentator and senior contributor for "The Daily Caller," Matt Lewis; and CNN contributor and "Washington Examiner" reporter Salena Zito.
Wow, up early for this panel, Salena and Matt. How are you guys doing this morning?
DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I'm doing good.
I want to talk to Matt. I'm going to start with you, because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned the U.S. ambassador, launched a scathing attack Sunday on the White House after it refused to veto a U.N. security resolution that condemned Israel's settlements in the West Bank. So let's talk about that. This is between President Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. Is this a long- standing fight? What does this mean now?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is a long-standing fight, and it's interesting that sort of on his way out the door, President Obama would break not just precedent with, you know, a hit with our history, but even with his own administration in the past. He has instructed his ambassador to the U.N. to veto such resolutions.
Now on the way out, he is the one who has broken precedent. And I do think it's an opportunity for Donald Trump, who has sort of lucked into so many things. This is, obviously, a very serious thing.
But if you're Donald Trump now coming into the White House; and you're immediately going to have this strengthened relationship with the leader of an ally, someone who has been -- you know, having a very difficult relationship with an American president for eight years. This is probably good news for Donald Trump coming in, inheriting this situation.
HARLOW: And Salena, to you, let me read you what Benjamin Netanyahu said just yesterday. Quote, "From the information we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed." He went on to say, "We will do whatever is necessary so that Israel will not be damaged by this shameful resolution." I mean, not mincing words there.
But here's the thing. This is the first time that the Obama administration, in nearly eight years, has allowed a U.N. Security Council resolution that is critical of Israel to pass the first time.
That same thing happened six times under President George W. Bush, nine times under George H.W. Bush, but this is the first for the Obama administration. And Netanyahu is basically saying there was collusion between the administration and the United Nations.
SALENA ZITO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the big difference is that the relationship that Obama and Netanyahu have had between each other. It has always been frosty to prickly, and they never sort of seen eye to eye on a number of things.
So I'm not surprised that Netanyahu took such a strong stance and, yes, I think it was really interesting that he then leapt over Obama and went right to the new administration and sort of talked about going forward. You know, he's looking forward to this great relationship with America. One that we've had since -- you know, since Israel was founded.
LEMON: So before we get into the one president at the time, David, what is the proof that -- you know, that the Obama administration coordinated this? What is the concrete proof of that?
DRUCKER: Well, I think whether or not we have concrete proof is beside the point, and clearly, this is unusual for the Obama administration. It's unusual, generally speaking, for the United States. So, the idea that we just decided, you know, "What the heck? Let's just throw in and let the resolution pass." But something -- something on...
HARLOW: It happened under these other Republican presidents.
DRUCKER: It's not relevant to this particular point, because the Obama administration, in particular, has been critical of settlements and no other U.S. government -- and in fact, the Palestinians never really made a decision of settlements until the Obama administration decided that they were standing in the way of a peace deal.
And I think what's interesting here, and you can understand -- look, you can understand the frustration that Obama has with Netanyahu. They haven't gotten along. That speech before Congress, Obama felt as if Netanyahu poked him in the eye and broke protocol. On the other hand, under Ariel Sharon, Israel vacated the Gaza Strip,
and they got nothing for it. So they forcibly removed settlers, dismantled settlements; and all they got were terrorists and missiles.
HARLOW: So in 2011, as you know, this same administration vetoed another settlement resolution at the United Nations; and the argument made by Ben Rhodes, the NSA director, is essentially, "You've seen an acceleration of settlement building, and we believe this is going to be a road block to a two-state solution," which Netanyahu still publicly supports.
DRUCKER: Right. Rhodes is wrong, though. Because a lot -- first of all, what they're dealing with, with this resolution is not distinguishing between settlements in the West Bank and settlements that we know are going to be part of an Israel if we ever get to a two-state solution. We're dealing with so-called settlements in East Jerusalem, so-called settlements behind the security barrier. Israel does not consider these settlements; they consider these things home building. The Palestinians obviously look at it differently. But they didn't even distinguish between that in this resolution.
Also, this is happening less than 30 days before Obama leaves office. So this is not as though the president gets now to effect a change in policy. It looks like a parting shot. And that is part of, I think, what really rubbed Israel the wrong way.
LEMON: But according to the Obama administration, they're saying it's not a parting shot. They say that -- basically what they're saying -- before I read what happened with, you know, the Oslo Accords, what have you -- and said this is a land grab by -- by Israel and that Israel is not abiding by the resolutions that have already been there.
DRUCKER: Right, I understand how the administration looks at it. I think, though, that if we...
LEMON: And also other members of the United Nations, as well.
DRUCKER: Right, look. I mean, look, you can find members of the Israeli left that are going to be critical of Netanyahu. But there are -- there's a reason why Netanyahu has been in power this long. You know, his first stint as prime minister didn't go so well, didn't last so long. He's been in power this long, because the Israeli left politically has not been as successful as they used to be, because Israel is concerned about their security. And that's why Netanyahu's policies have worked so well politically inside his own country.
[06:25:11] HARLOW: So, obviously, President-elect Trump, Matt, as you know, came out. He tweeted about this. He's talk about this and said, "Things will be different at the U.N. after I take over January 20." There's a lot of questions right now about whether the United States will pull funding from the U.N. I mean, the U.S. is one-fifth of U.N.'s total annual funding. Senator Lindsey Graham is now pushing legislation for that, he said, unless this resolution is overturned.
Is that a reality? Is that going to happen? LEWIS: Well, I don't know about that. But look, Donald Trump has
basically, you know, run on a premise that America needs to be, you know, making unilateral and bilateral deals. And not these multi- lateral organizations. So, this really just buttresses part of what Donald Trump has been saying about these sort of multi-governmental organizations.
But look, I also think David made a couple of really important points there. You know, there's a Jewish quarter in the old city that would be -- that according to this resolution, you know, is now -- is deemed illegal. And Israel won this land in a war, in the Six-Day War. It's -- it's...
So, granted, I realize the Obama administration believes that this is the key to world peace, or to at least peace in the Middle East. I think that's very naive anyway. But from Benjamin Netanyahu's standpoint, this is a provocation. It's a very serious thing. And this is President Obama thumbing his nose at one of our allies on his way out the door.
HARLOW: All right, guys. Stick with us. We're going to have you back in just a minute. Thank you, all, very much.
We have a lot ahead coming up on NEW DAY. We will speak with the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. That's in our 8 a.m. hour.
LEMON: Well, some people trying to get home from Christmas are up against a really big snowstorm, the system packing heavy snow and ice. Who will be impacted? The latest information, next.