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Chemical Attack in Syria; Hispanic Contractors Threatened; Advertisers Flee O'Reilly. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired April 5, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:32] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the breaking news this morning, Turkey now says it has evidence of a chemical attack inside Syria. This attack killed more than 70 people, including children.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The crisis in Syria is just one of the major foreign policy tests facing this president right now.

Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts is with us. He is a member of the House - the Foreign - or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

It's very nice to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Let's begin in Syria. It is - it's horrifying. It's beyond words what these families and these children are experiencing after this clearly chemical weapons attack, according to the Turkish government. Talk about the administration's role in all of this in terms of the language used, whether you believe the fact that Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson coming out in the past few days and basically saying, we're not going to focus on removing Assad from power, that's not our focus, that's up to the Syrian people, do you believe that this attack was a direct response to those words?

MARKEY: Well, look, for better or worse, the closest ally that Assad has right now is Russia. And what Tillerson and Nikki Haley were essentially saying is that it's time for the Trump administration to work through Russia to get a deal with Assad that would actually allow Assad to stay in power. Well, if that's the case, then Russia, as now someone that the Trump administration is talking to, should produce any evidence that it's not Assad because - that has used these chemical weapons because Russia gave a guarantee that they would ensure that all chemical weapons of Assad was removed from Syria.

[09:35:26] Right now Turkey, other independent groups are making it very clear that it was Assad who used these chemical weapons. So the first thing that Secretary Tillerson has to do is to say to Russia, bring to the United Nations today any evidence that it was anyone other than Assad who used these chemicals against the Syrian people.

BERMAN: That's the diplomatic blame game you're playing right there, you know, get Russia involved. Blame Russia. Prove it wasn't Assad.

Let's assume for, you know, for arguments sake that it was the Syrian regime right now, since we know they did it in the past. We know they're the ones with the capabilities in the region. Senator, what would you do about it? How would you respond to this provocation - not this provocation, this heinous war crime against humanity by, we think, the Assad regime? Do you think it's worth bombing Bashar al Assad now?

MARKEY: We have to bring Russia and Iran to accountability. They are the principal supporters of Assad. They have to prove that they are honoring their commitment to remove all chemical weapons from Syria.

BERMAN: They're not. But they're not. They - they - but they're not. So -

MARKEY: They have - they - they have to - they - they have to work immediately to bring Assad to the table to bring a peaceful end to this civil war. They have to ensure that humanitarian aid is reaching right now all of those who are adversely affected by this civil war. We have to make sure that we are not allowing Iran and Russia to cover this continuation of historic atrocity against the people of Syria being committed by Assad and now is the time. This is the action, which should trigger the aggressive, diplomatic intervention by the United States and the U.N. that forces Iran and Russia to make Assad accountable.

HARLOW: But, senator, those sounds like words back in 2013, after the red line was crossed then, right? And you have Russia. You have the Kremlin coming out today, this morning, and saying they stand behind the Assad regime. So for a moment, considering the very real possibility that the United States, in a diplomatic fashion, cannot bring Iran and Russia to do what you just described, then what? Where is your red line for military action?

MARKEY: Well, there is no other option because this is a civil war and the only way it's going to be ended is diplomatically. And that's why this whole cloud of the relationship between Russia and the Trump administration becomes so important. If the president wants to tilt towards Russia, if the president believes that Assad should stay in power, well, this is his moment then to bring the Iranians, the Russians and Assad to accountability, to have the whole world use this atrocity as the moment to have a diplomatic end, not an escalation of military intervention, but finally, God help us, an end to this war.

It is now seven years old. It is time for the United States to make Russia do what it promised, to have a cease fire, to have humanitarian aid be able to be dispersed without fear of being killed and to end all of these chemical weapons being in the ands hands of Assad. If we get that done as part of this, then we will have reached an historic inflection in the history of this war in Syria.

BERMAN: Has Russian done any one thing, said any one thing, a month ago, a week ago, an hour ago that makes you believe that they will do any of this? Because the statement they put out today basically absolve themselves completely of any responsibility. MARKEY: The prevarication (INAUDIBLE) by the Russians in this entire

Syria incident is at historic highs. That's why it's up to Secretary Tillerson, it's up to President Trump to make them accountable. Words have to be spoken by the president that says to the Russians, I am going to name your country, Mr. Putin, as the responsible party, as the party that the world is going to look to, to make sure that what happened yesterday never occurs again and that we are going to begin a process immediately to have a negotiated settlement. We cannot allow Assad to just continue to go through that country, village by village, city by city, destroying, killing, maiming on a daily basis. It's time for Russia to be accountable, to allow for others in that country to come to the table to find a negotiate, peaceful, diplomatic resolution. Otherwise, this civil war is going on for another decade.

[09:40:24] BERMAN: Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it, sir.

MARKEY: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right, President Trump, of course, wants to build a wall along the border. Well, who's going to do it? Who's going to build it? The bids are coming in and now some Hispanic business owners are facing a backlash for trying to get in on the money.


BERMAN: All right, happening now, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly on Capitol Hill testifying on border security. We're looking at live pictures right now. Obviously when you're talking about border security, on the top of the president's list is the border wall. Contractor bids, they are coming in, including some from Hispanic business owners who are now facing a pretty big backlash.

[09:45:07] HARLOW: They are. Critics have called them traders. They say this is just business. CNN's Boris Sanchez has this fascinating look.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would build a great wall and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.

CROWD: Build a wall. Build a wall.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since day one of his campaign, then candidate Donald Trump's promise of building a wall along the border with Mexico has been a lightning rod, drawing chants from his supporters and scorn from his opponents. And now that the federal government is accepting design bids for the wall, that ire is now focused on those who want to construct it.

MARIO BURGOS, OWNER, BURGOS GROUP: Every country in the world has borders. If you don't have borders, you don't have a country.

SANCHEZ: Mario Burgos is one of many contractors who've submitted bids to work on the wall. The son of Ecuadorian immigrants did not vote for Donald Trump and he rejects the president's rhetoric about Mexicans and other minorities.

BURGOS: It's absolutely mean spirited.

SANCHEZ (on camera): But thousands of miles away from the divisive language of the campaign trail, here, in the desert of New Mexico, on the border with Ciudad Juarez, reality trumps rhetoric.

BURGOS: The bottom line is, New Mexico has the highest unemployment rate in the nation right now, 6.7 percent. We have created these jobs. We have 120 employees now working for us. Our employees have families that they need to feed, just like we have families that we need to feed.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): The idea of Hispanics playing a role in the wall's construction has not been without controversy. This week the archdiocese of Mexico City launched an attack on Mexican companies willing to work on the border wall, calling them "immoral" and "traitors."

BURGOS: Traitor to what? I am an American. It goes back to, we have borders. Every country in the world has borders.

SANCHEZ: Burgos says online trolls are already targeting his business.

BURGOS: Just calling me a bunch of names because I'm going to go build a wall.

SANCHEZ: But Burgos insists, if a wall is going up in his backyard, he wants any economic windfall to stay in his backyard.

BURGOS: There is no changing the fact that New Mexico is a border state. And so if there's going to be a border built in New Mexico, I'd like to see New Mexico companies, both us as a general contractor, our subcontractors, the people that manufacture concrete, the folks that live here, work here, coach soccer here, they should be able to participate in building the wall. And the truth is, if you can't beat them, bill them.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Mario Burgos is not alone. Of the more than 600 contractors that have registered with the federal government to build the border wall, about 10 percent are Hispanic owned.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, along the U.S. border with Ciudad Juarez in New Mexico.


HARLOW: Boris Sanchez, thank you very much for that.

Now, still to come, not even the stellar ratings can keep advertisers from fleeing "The O'Reilly Factor." The fall-out continues over harassment claims.


[09:52:28] BERMAN: All right, this morning, Bill O'Reilly, one of the most popular hosts on Fox News - in fact, one of the most popular hosts in all of cable television -


BERMAN: He's in the middle of a firestorm. Twenty-one companies - unless that number's gone up in the last five minutes, and it keeps on going up every few minutes, 21 companies have now pulled their ads from his show. That's following news that Bill O'Reilly and Fox reached settlements with five different women over allegations of sexual harassment or verbal abuse. Now, Bill O'Reilly has not addressed this directly since a statement on Sunday. He said in part then, "just like other prominent and controversial people, I'm vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at the Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the human resources department, even on the anonymous hotline. But most importantly, I'm a father who cares deeply for my children and would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children."

HARLOW: With us now, CNN's senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

So I know that the official word is that these advertisers are not pulling away from Fox entirely. They're pulling away from his show and going elsewhere. But, I mean, you're so well sourced on this, how long can that last? When does it or is it already hurting Fox financially because, as we know, it's dollars that actually make things happen?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, money really matters. This is all about money, whether it's about the payments O'Reilly was making privately, or now this advertiser boycott. The number is 21 at the moment, but those are companies that have publicly said they're distancing themselves. There are other companies that have privately called up Fox and said, we don't want to be anywhere near O'Reilly's show right now. The question is whether that's going to be a short-term or is it going to be a long-term change? We have not seen an ad boycott like this involving cable news in many years. The last one I can think of involved the Glenn Beck show on Fox like six years ago. Beck eventually did lose his show on Fox, partly because of the ad boycott, partly for other reasons.

But here's what Fox is saying, and we can put the statement on screen. They say, "we are working with the advertisers to address their current concerns about 'The O'Reilly Factor.' At this time," they say, they are taking those ads, moving the ad buys of those clients, re- expressing them into other FNC programs. Re-expressing, what that means is moving the ads to other time slots. But it's not as if there's all these spaces on the schedule where it's just time to move the ad. It is a financial hit for Fox. There's no doubt about that. The question is whether Fox is going to weathering this or not.

BERMAN: I'm perplexed, Brian, about why these advertisers are taking this action now. "The New York Times" story, which highlighted these five claims, you know, it was a good story, but most of that was already known, or a lot of that was already known. So why are people now all of a sudden concerned about these allegations of sexual harassment against Bill O'Reilly?

[09:55:04] STELTER: I would say partly "The Times" story put a big, bright spotlight on it, and partly it's the domino effect from the Roger Ailes scandal last summer. He was the head of the network for 20 years. He resigned in disgrace last summer amid sexual harassment allegations against him. And we continue to see the fallout from that last summer. Ultimately this is all about the culture at the highest- rated cable news channel in the country about this workplace. Everybody knows Fox News. They know the brand. What they don't know is that there are women inside that network that feel deeply uncomfortable with the culture there. The toxic culture. And that continues to be true today. There's a federal investigation in the settlement payments. There was a new lawsuit from a Fox contributor this week. I guess what I'm saying is, we're nine months past Ailes' resignation, but we're still seeing this drip, drip, drip of stories and the O'Reilly example is one of those.

HARLOW: Why haven't we heard publicly from the Murdochs?

STELTER: I'm trying to find out the answer to that question. They're the owners of Fox News. They run the company. And they're disturbed by this, but they are keeping O'Reilly in his job. In fact, they've renewed his contract despite "The New York Times" story.

HARLOW: Because, as you know, it's incumbent on men to speak up as well, not just women, right, who are experiencing these kind of things?

STELTER: There's also a lot of Fox stars, men and women, who have also -


STELTER: Stayed quiet about this, avoiding the sensitivity.

HARLOW: OK. Brian Stelter, thank you for the reporting.

STELTER: Thanks.

HARLOW: We'll be right back.