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Trump Says Attacks on NFL Have "Nothing to do with Race"; North Korea Accuses Trump of Declaring War; Spurs Coach, "Our Country is Embarrassment in World; Puerto Rico Begs U.S. for More Help Amid Catastrophe. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 25, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] KATIE HUBBARD, MILITARY WIDOW, DEFEND PLAYER PROTESTS: -- White supremacists in this country. We have a president who wants to ban individuals of color from this country. So, him saying it isn't a racial issue is flat-out incorrect. We have individuals every day that hope that they can come home to their families. We have individuals every day who are hoping that they can feel the equality that the flag is supposed to represent to them, and until we have that it is going to be a racial issue.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST Jason, do you see race in the president's remarks?

JASON BEARDSLEY, FORMER U.S. ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS: I'm going to look right past that again because this is about the national anthem which is sort of race irrespective. Remember, we had Tuskegee Airmen climbing into the cockpits of their fighter craft and flying over Europe and risking their lives every day because they believed in this country even though they faced a greater injustice than I do and then anyone does in 2017.

Our Harlem Hell Fighters of World War I went over the top and into the teeth of the enemy because they served and reported to that flag. So, duty and honor and piety come first. Yes, there are going to be racial injustices, social injustices, but the point here is the time to make that protest, particularly if it's a personal protest would be in a speech or in a conference, on your personal time with your personal salary, on your clock, not the clock of the NFL. However, if the NFL wants to go that way, they've got that right, but as an audience member, as a veteran and as a proud American, I've got the right to tune out the channel or to vote with my dollars elsewhere.

BROWN: What do you have to say to those who claim, look, they're not protesting the flag or the national anthem. This doesn't have to do with that. It's about taking a stand and calling attention in a very public way to an issue that they feel is very important to them.

BEARDSLEY: It's a shallow hypocrisy. I mean, number one, they're not allowed to take a stand in the end zone when they want to celebrate a football touchdown. They're not allowed to celebrate Dallas police officers who were slain on duty when they want to wear something on their helmet that uplifts them. They're not taking that protest out at a press conference when they can enunciate clearly what their big ideas are, maybe we agree with them. They're actually taking the time that is due the respect of this nation and that flag, which is a common courtesy I think many of us agree to. And again, they can do that if they want to, but a lot of us are standing with ranger Villanueva and just like the army motto says, sometimes rangers lead the way. I'm on his side.

BROWN: Go ahead.

HUBBARD: Oh, I was just going to say that you've also got to understand that when an individual feels that the anthem or the flag is not giving them the rights that they are supposed to be afforded in this country being an American --.


HUBBARD: -- It is one of the only jobs besides the military that people are going to have to stand in front of and in hearing the anthem or doing a pledge. So, no other job will make an individual do that. So, if a person finds that that is not representative of them, they can choose not to be in the military so they don't have to do that or they can choose in an area that they're not. But at the NFL they're choosing to play football. They're not there to put on a uniform to protect the country. They are there as an American citizen exercising their rights to play a sport --.

BEARDSLEY: Of course.

HUBBARD: -- To be an individual, so why should they have to stand up and support something that they feel that is not representative of themselves.

BROWN: OK. Thank you so much. Jason Beardsley, I'm very sorry. We have to go, but I hope like you both feel like you had your voices heard in this very important discussion. And Katie, thank you for your family's best service and sacrifice.

HUBBARD: Thank you. I appreciate it.

BROWN: Up next right here in the NEWSROOM on this Monday, the White House is firing back against North Korea's claim. The president Trump's latest tweet amounts to a declaration of war. What the regime is threatening to do in retaliation.


BROWN: And now to North Korea, accusing the U.S. of declaring war in response to this presidential tweet.

Just heard foreign minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man they won't be around much longer.

North Korea's foreign minister made the accusation a short time ago at the United Nations. Take a listen.


RI YONG-HO, NORTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): However, last weekend Trump claimed that our leadership wouldn't be around much longer and hints at last he declared a war on our country, given the fact that it comes from someone holding the seat of the United States presidency. This is clearly a declaration of war.


BROWN: And he also says his country reserves the right to shoot down U.S. bombers flying over the Korean Peninsula even if they are not in North Korean airspace.

The State Department responded almost immediately with this statement right here, reading, the United States has not declared war on North Korea. We continue to seek a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. No nation has the right to fire on other nation's aircraft or ships in international airspace or waters.

All right. Let's discuss this with CNN military analyst and retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Moments ago, the White House press secretary called the North Korean accusation absurd. Do you agree with that?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RETIRED, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I agree it was a nuanced threat on the part of President Trump toward North Korea and it was a huge jump in conclusion by Ri Young-ho, the North Korean foreign minister. So, yes, these ratcheting up of wars of words, Pamela, are not a very good thing. We have had this in the past with North Korea. They have threatened. They have blustered. For decades, they have done these kinds of things and usually they've just been ignored. The difference this time around is we're reacting to them and it is, in fact, intensifying the situation.

[15:40:11] BROWN: Right, it raises the question, at what point will these words, the ratcheting up of rhetoric, turned into action? It seems like in your point of view, this is different than what we've ever seen before.

HERTLING: Yes. It certainly is. We have seen this. Anyone that has either served or participated in exercises on the Korean Peninsula as I have known that this kind of war of words by the president of North Korea has occurred in the last several decades. It's constant. It usually is associated with an exercise or some type of uptick in terms of coordination between South Korea or the other allies of the United States. But this time again we're answering back. And it's causing these kinds of tensions in this part of the globe. Not a good thing, Pamela. Not a good thing at all.

BROWN: Let me read you a statement from the Pentagon. This statement reads, the military will take all options to make sure that we safeguard our allies, our partners and our homeland, so if North Korea does not stop their provocative actions, we'll make sure we provide options to the President to deal with North Korea.

Is that the right tone?

HERTLING: I think it is, and it is what we have been going all along, and there have been several contingency operations planned for the Korean Peninsula. This is nothing new. We are prepared along with our Republic of Korean allies to defend the nation of South Korea. There are many other allies in the area from Australia, and Canada and several others that are part of the combined forces command that will fight against any kind of North Korean aggression.

But again, this has happened in the past. There have been times when ships have been shot at. Where North Korean soldiers have come through tunnels to the south. Where aircraft have been escorted into bases. So again, these kinds of tensions and now with the foreign minister saying that even aircraft that are not in national airspace over North Korea, those in international waters or international air would be engaged and that's desperately wrong and it shouldn't be handled the way it's being handled. But yes, we are prepared to take any kind of military action. But hopefully we can get some diplomatic action further along before we have to take the military action due to threats.

BROWN: All right, General Hertling, thank you.

HERTLING: You're quite welcome, Pam.

BROWN: Up next right here in the NEWSROOM on this Monday. The real and complicated history between the national anthem and the NFL. A man who wrote the book on the star-spangled banner joins us to explain how it became so political.


BROWN: And more now on the firestorm involving the President's attacks on NFL players and the backlash against him. A slew of fans booed players who took a knee during the national anthem. But the flag and "Star-Spangled Banner" mean different things to different Americans. Here's what the Coach of the San Antonio Spurs just said about the controversy a moment ago.


GREGG POPOVICH, HEAD COACH, SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Our country is an embarrassment in the world. This is -- this is an individual who actually thought when people held arms during the games that they were doing it to honor the flag.


BROWN: Well, the custom of players standing for the anthem at games dates back to only 2009. And it came out of an advertising deal between the NFL and the military. Joining me now to discuss this and the history of all of this, Marc Ferris, author of "Star-Spangled Banner the Unlikely Story of America's National Anthem." So, the NFL does not require players to stand for the anthem, Marc, but sports prides itself on being apolitical. Except it seems, when it comes to the anthem. How did we get here and how did it become so politicized?

MARC FERRIS, AUTHOR, "STAR-SPANGLED BANNER THE UNLIKELY STORY OF AMERICA'S NATIONAL ANTHEM": That is true that the NFL does not require people to stand. The national anthem has always been politicized. In the civil war, it was wrestled over by the North and South. It was politicized in the Spanish-American war when we exported it to Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines and Cuba. And it was politicized in World War I. It was during World War II that the sports -- major sports leagues played the banner for all games and that was political, as well. And it was only in the 1960s that --

BROWN: Why was that, though. People might be surprised, if you can hear me, Marc -- not to interrupt you -- but I think people would be surprised that it wasn't until more recently that players came out for the national anthem, right?

FERRIS: I found in the book that it was during the Vietnam War that players protested, Pete Rossel, the commissioner of the NFL requested that players not protest the Vietnam War during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It spilled over into high schools during Vietnam as well., So the anthem since the 1960s has always been very political. Of course, we remember the Olympics, Tommy Smith and Juan Carlos in Mexico City in 1968. So, the song is the most controversial song in U.S. history as our President has proven to us and the players are proving to us.

[15:50:00] BROWN: Explain why that is, particularly when it comes to African-Americans and why some find it offensive when you look at the history of the song. Explain that.

FERRIS: We have always been trying to perfect the country and you know, no country is ever perfect. This is what we are about, improvement and fulfilling the goals that our country set out for itself and we're trying to get there. I think we have come very far. Farther than many other countries. But we still do have a way to go.

It's a very politically charged culture right now. You had that crazy 2016 election. You have President Trump throwing his verbal hand grenades. It's just Black Lives Matter. Certainly, there is turmoil. And it's just amazing, that this is really just a song. It's lyrics, and a melody. And people imbue so much emotion into it. Just proves what I said in the book, and that is it is the most controversy song in U.S. history. And NFL is proving that every week.

BROWN: Quickly, how did the role of anthem in sports change after 9/11?

FERRIS: Well, you certainly did have more people paying closer attention. I do remember being in baseball games, I don't want to date myself, but back a few decades ago and people were indifferent. After 9/11 people definitely took notice. You did have Yankees playing "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch. I believe the San Francisco Giants also did it on special occasions. And so, people started taking it a lot more seriously. I'm from New York so 9/11 did hit us very hard in New York.

BROWN: All right. Marc Ferris, thank you very much.

FERRIS: Thank you for having me.

BROWN: Well, what the president had plenty to say about the NFL on Twitter this weekend. He was silent on a humanitarian crisis playing out in Puerto Rico. Right now, millions of U.S. citizens still without power. A major dam on the verge of breaking. And the governor begging for help after hurricane Maria. We'll take you live to San Juan up next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Education is so important at every level. Whether it's this or whatever you are studying. And always remember this, do what you love, study what you love. Your parents may want you to do something --


BROWN: That was President Trump moments ago in White House directing education department to invest a minimum of $200 million in grant funding each year to expand science, technology, engineering, and math and schools. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, has been tapped to spearheaded that effort.

Meanwhile, a potential humanitarian crisis is unfolding for 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico. And the situation is growing more dire by the hour. The governor of Puerto Rico says the conditions there after hurricane Maria are, quote, apocalyptic. A week after the storm devastated the island, there was still no power, and the communication power is crippled adding to these anxieties, a crack dam is in danger of failing. 70,000 downstream are being urged to leave the area. Puerto Rico's governor pleading with U.S. lawmakers to send more help as soon as possible.


GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: We need to prevent a humanitarian crisis occurring in America. Puerto Rico is part of the United States. And we need to take swift action. So, I want to thank Congress and congressman and congresswoman and the administration for their solidarity and aid to this point, but we need to take action on an aid package for Puerto Rico.


BROWN: I want to get the latest from CNN's senior Latin American affairs editor, Rafael Romo. He is in San Juan for us. So, Rafael, the situation, needless to say, very dire where you are.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Yes, relatively speaking, San Juan, the capital, is doing well, considering that this island has been hit by two hurricanes in the space of two weeks. But we have visited some of the hardest hit communities, Pamela. I'm talking about the southeast of the island communities like Yabucoa, Fajardo. Something that really stands out. This is a very green island. Lush vegetation everywhere. And when you go to these places all you see now is brown. But even more worrisome is the fact that nobody really knows how much

longer people are going to be able to stay there without enough food and water. My impression, talking to some of the neighbors in those communities, was that they have enough for about a week. But what's going to happen next? I spoke with Governor Ricardo Rossello, and he assured me there is enough food. The challenge right now is being able to deliver the food, the water, the supplies to those communities. And that's because the roads, many roads around the island are impassable. Trees toppled because of the storm. Power lines are down. Roads and bridges in really bad shape. And that's complicated the situation. If you add to that the fact that there are very little communication antenna standing. There is very little of them. You can begin to understand how complicated the situation is.

Also, we had an opportunity to visit medical center where we saw people coming with injuries of all kinds as a result of the hurricane. An elderly woman whose kitchen exploded because the hurricane broke a gas line, which caused an explosion, and also a fire. Also, a young man whose arm was almost broken because the winds caused by the hurricane blew open the front door of his house. So, there are many needs. And nobody can really give us any certainty as to when authorities will be able to deliver the help that people need. Pamela.

BROWN: So many individual stories there. Rafael Romo, thank you so much.

And the "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.