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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Versus The NFL; Trump Keeps Up Attacks On NFL Players As His Agenda Stalls; Sources Say Kelly's Not Pleased With Trump's Culture War; Trump: "Tremendous Backlash Against The NFL and Its Players. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired September 25, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:02] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. They need help and they need it desperately. Bill Weir in Puerto Rico for us. Thanks for that important report.
Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, the White House can't even defend the president calling NFL players son of a bitch.
Plus, North Korea threatens to shoot on U.S. bombers after they said the United States has declared war on North Korea.
And breaking news, a key Republican senator coming out against the GOP health care bill. Is it dead tonight?
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, no defense. Even the president's loyal press secretary today could not come up with a coherent defense for the president of the United States calling American citizens sons of bitches. The president ad-libbing, calling NFL players who kneel in protest during the playing of a national anthem, quote, a son of a bitch.
And today, when was ask about what's become a dominant national story, Press Secretary Sanders became visibly angry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president regret at all describing these players who take a knee for the national anthem as SOBs who should be fired?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, this isn't about the president being against anyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the president go too far in referring to these players as SOBs who should be fired?
SANDERS: I think that it's always appropriate for the president of the United States to defend our flag.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What message does it send for the president to stand behind the presidential seal in a rally in Alabama and call American citizen who's expressing his First Amendment rights a son of a bitch.
SANDERS: Again, I think it's always appropriate for the president to defend our flag, to defend the national anthem -- hold on, I'm not finish yet. It's always appropriate for the president of this country to promote our flag, to promote our national anthem and ask people to respect it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about to promote the First Amendment, Sarah?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Maybe she wouldn't answer the questions because whatever your view is of the national anthem at football games, there is no defense for a sitting president to call American citizens who are peacefully protesting a son of a bitch. Of course Sanders said that this, quote, isn't about the president being against anyone except of course it is when you call somebody that.
Remember Charlottesville when a white supremacist murdered someone and the president said there were good people on both sides? Well, it turns out when it comes to players protesting racism by kneeling during the national anthem, for President Trump, there's only one good side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out, he's fired? He's fired!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sarah Sanders did not have an answer when asked what at least appears to be presidential hypocrisy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colin Kaepernick says that his protest is about fighting police brutality, fighting racial disparity, racial injustice, you're not taking him at his word, you're saying the focus has long since moved on. But when white supremacists say that their protest is about heritage not hate, the president does take them at their word. So why is there this disparity about who gets to decide what the protest is about?
SANDERS: I think that this is -- the debate is really for them about police brutality, they should probably protest the officers on the field that are protecting them instead of the American flag.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, the president's words were actually not in his prepared marks at that rally. But true to form, he hasn't apologized. Instead, he's devoted his time to tweeting about the issue, doubling down, tripling down. In fact, there has been 20 tweets from the president of the United States about professional sports since Saturday morning including three in just the past hour.
The president tweeting moments ago, "Tremendous backlash against the NFL and its players for disrespect of our country." Stand for our anthem, the hashtag. So that makes 20 tweets about sports and not one during that time about Puerto Rico where 3 million Americans are facing humanitarian crisis and don't even have power.
The president has instead focused on denying his comments were about race even though the players who kneel during the anthem have said, it was always about that.
Sara Murray is OutFront tonight at the White House. And Sarah, what's going on now inside the White House in response to what is a growing national story because of course we now have Monday night football starting?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin in one sense, the White House is on the same page, they do believe that the flag is not getting a respect it deserves. And my colleague, Jeff Zeleny just spoke with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly who said he was appalled by this treatment toward the flag.
I want to read you a quote from this brief interview between Zeleny and John Kelly in which Kelly says, "I believe every American, when the national anthem is played, should cover their hearts and think about all the men and women who have been maimed and killed. Every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes."
[19:05:06] Now remember, John Kelly is a retired four star general. His son gave his life for this country and that's his perspective he brings when he talks about standing for the national anthem, when he talks about standing up for the flag.
The president also took to Twitter to dispute some earlier CNN reporting saying it's a total lie that John Kelly was ever opposed to the president's decision to bring this up at a rally. But the reality is somewhere in between. Look, John Kelly is straddling a number of rules here. He is a retired four star general. He lost his son to war and so of course he believes that people should be standing for the national anthem.
He's also the chief of staff to the president of the United States. And sources tell us, that he doesn't necessarily believe that this is a war that Trump should have waded into. There are so many other issues on the table right now, whether it is North Korea, whether it is the crisis in Puerto Rico, whether it's tax reform, whether it's healthcare. All issues that if it's what the president were talking about, he could potentially be winning the argument.
This is an area that the chief of staff views as a distraction, sources say although other officials in the White House still believe this is something that is going to blow over, ultimately the president will refocus on the issues. But maybe not a winning argument for him to be picking at this moment, Erin.
All right, Sara, thank you very much. OutFront now, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, and David Urban, former Trump campaign strategist.
So David, let me just start with you. Sarah Sanders was not able to defend the president of the United States calling this NFL players son of a bitch. Can you defend it?
DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: No, and look, I don't think anyone can defend it. It was (INAUDIBLE) statement, the president feels extremely strongly. You heard General Kelly, look, I associate myself with General Kelly's words and his emotions. I served in the military, I graduated from United States Military Academy at West Point where Alejandro Villanueva graduated yesterday who stood with his hand over his heart and sang the national anthem during the pre-game ceremony in Oakland, who today's jersey is the number one seller in the NFL.
I think a great deal of Americans feel the same way as the president. And General Kelly did, that those three minutes that they're playing the national anthem, you can stand out of respect. I don't disagree with Colin Kaepernick or anyone's right to express their opinions, whether they're something I agree with or not. I just think the national anthem is something that should be observed, with some sort of -- with some dignity.
And if Colin Kaepernick chooses that, he can do it, but I think that it's getting lost on the great deal of American people. And I think people are becoming wary of politics entering into every day things. People turn to sports to be entertained.
BURNETT: Right, which of course, let's just be honest, the person who injected politics into it is the president of the United States. No one has been talking about this for about a year.
URBAN: I don't know. I mean, look, Colin Kaepernick obviously injected it and started it last year.
BURNETT: Yes, a long time ago.
URBAN: And I think people have grown wary about that, and the president I think got visibly upset and reasonably so, that people continue to disrespect the national anthem and our flag. I mean, here's so many gold star mothers on your network and across this great nation talking about, look, that's the same flag that my son's coffin or husband's coffin was draped in. Please just stand for those few minutes and pay respect.
Unnecessary to what our country but the ideas of what our country can be.
BURNETT: So, OK. There's two issues here, one of course is when you should be able to protest or not, Marc, the other of course is how they expressed themselves. So the issue calling people SOBs. MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Is reprehensible, unacceptable, can't be condoned. And using the term SOB and meant suggesting to a business owner, which is what an NFL owner is, that they should fire their employee for, quote, standing up for their own constitutional rights, for freedom of expression. What's getting lost in this is that this should never -- we should not lose what the protest is all about.
The protest by Colin Kaepernick was all about police brutality, police misconduct, and racial injustice. Now, here's an important point. After his initial protest where he sat, after consultations with Nate Boyer who is a military gentleman, they decided -- he decided and others decided that they would kneel in a gesture of, quote, respect for the military because they didn't want these protests to be interpreted as being disrespectful of the military.
So what the president did is he united the National Football League owners and players, and what the president did is take a protest by a field and now it's 200 players all across the NFL.
BURNETT: And David, that is part of what happened because one of the issues is whether it's about race.
URBAN: Marc's making my point for me. Marc, I agree with you, Colin Kaepernick has every right to protest. And there are bad police officers across America. But his protest has been lost now, people mistake it for being unpatriotic or somehow against the flag.
I think --
[19:10:08] BURNETT: Well, president mistakes it for that. That's the person who stood up and said it. Let's be clear here, David.
URBAN: Lots of people, Erin. I think lots of people. Obviously, listen, why is Alejandro Villanueva's jersey number one in sales today. Because people obviously looked at him standing with his hand over his heart, viewed it as patriotic, and something they wanted to be associated with. So I'm just saying that these ideas are being conflated.
MORIAL: Here's the point, the reason why it's being conflated because people didn't want to hear Colin Kaepernick. They wanted to attack the tactic he used rather than the issue he raised. And so I think that making this a discussion about the flag and whether you respect the country -- I respect the country. I might decide I want to stand for the flag but I'm going to defend the right of these players to express themselves in the fashion that they so desire.
URBAN: Marc, I agree with you.
MORIAL: Hold on for a second. This is a peaceful protest.
MORIAL: And these players have basically expressed themselves. And I think what the president has done is widen the protests and it means that now you have little league teams and high school teams and college players debating whether they should join in this effort. So, he's taken this protest and he's made it much larger, much bigger, and much stronger.
BURNETT: And the issue is David, there are -- to many, many people this is about race, right. You're talking about the NFL. The majority of the --
URBAN: It's unfortunate because I think --
BURNETT: Hold on, let me just make the point. Colin Kaepernick, when he was asked to explain why it is that he kneeled he said, quote, I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way."
So, you may disagree with what he says about the flag, David, but, he is saying his protest is about race. Why can't the president take him at his word?
URBAN: Listen, I take him at his word, I can't explain -- you have to ask, you know, Sarah or the president about that. What I'm saying is, and Marc agrees that it gets conflated, right? The reason that Colin Kaepernick took a knee now has been long lost. People have long forgotten it and they see it as a slight on the flag, they see at a slight on America.
I think Colin Kaepernick would be much better served if he took his protest to the national mall. To the streets of San Francisco, to conferences at universities, and speak about it, as opposed to taking a knee and people don't even understand it any more. It's been lost.
I don't disagree that he should speak his mind. But, do it in a forum where people aren't wary and will pay attention.
MORIAL: Well, I think he can determine where he wants to protest as any American determined whether he wants to exercise their First Amendment rights certainly within reason and within balance. And at the very instance that he did it, you're right, Erin, he stated the reason for his protest. Now, because people don't want to hear him, they want to change the conversation to something else.
URBAN: I don't agree. I don't think people want to hear him. I think people want to go to the football game to be entertained. They buy ticket to a football game to watch football not to enter a political discourse.
BURNETT: David, would you agree that the flag also stands for different things to different people?
BURNETT: And we should respect that there's so many different ways to be patriotic?
URBAN: I agree with Marc, if Colin Kaepernick --
BURNETT: But the president doesn't agree with you. He's saying there's only one way to be patriotic. He said it very clear there's one way to.
URBAN: I'm not -- you know, the president has his opinion, I have my opinion. I think that most people in America see that and they find it offensive. And they don't understand the underlying the reason. They think he's being disrespectful that's why you have the reaction you have and you see the people growing very wary. You see the (INAUDIBLE) yesterday.
Why is that? Why do people -- why is the number one selling shirt for offensive line in America --
MORIAL: I don't think who buys a football jersey is not a reflection of what the American people think. And it's been a long history of sports being a platform for social justice. Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, (INAUDIBLE). I could name many, and what we need to remember as Americans, going all the way back to the Boston Tea Party is that protests, the right to protest, protest as a tradition has been part of the founding of this country. It's part of the tradition of this country. And this is nothing but consistent with American history.
BURNETT: All right, THANK you both very much. I'm going to leave it there.
URBAN: I don't agree with him, but I'm for it.
BURNETT: All right, thank you both.
And next, for Trump supporters who are football fans, did the president go too far? We went to ask them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRACEY BACZEK, STEELERS FAN: As soon as he opens his mouth, you know, it just kind of blows up in his face and things go haywire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So I'm going to speak with one player who had never taken a knee until yesterday. What made him change his mind?
And Trump ramps up the rhetoric calling Kim Jong-un "little rocket man" as North Korea threatens to shoot down U.S. bombers.
[19:18:05] BURNETT: Breaking news, new details about the backlash over President Trump's attack on the NFL. We are learning the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is not pleased with the fight. He agrees with the president's point of view but does not think that this is a fight that should be had.
Telling our Jeff Zeleny, quote, every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes. So, as I said, agrees with the point of view but does not agree with the fact that the president brought it up and choose to pick this fight.
So how is this playing out in football towns across this country? Jason Carroll is OutFront.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Pittsburgh Steelers, no show for the national anthem on Sunday except for one player across the NFL defiance against the president who called on owners to fire players who protest racial inequality by not standing for the national anthem.
BEN ROETHLISBERGER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS QUARTERBACK: We had some people that wanted to kneel, some that wanted to stand, some that wanted to sit. But we said that what we can do to stay together and we feel that the best thing that everyone was on board was standing (INAUDIBLE).
CARROLL (voice-over): Roethlisberger says he lose sleep over the decision. The Steelers' actions left some fans feeling betrayed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going to disrespect our country, you're not going to disrespect our flag.
CARROLL (voice-over): Some posted videos burning the team's flag or uniforms. Others protested by replacing the Steelers' colors of black and gold with something patriotic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had Steelers clothes on, Steelers earrings, I took (INAUDIBLE) and I kind of dressed in red, white and blue.
CARROLL (voice-over): As expected, the debate over the Steelers, the topic of lunch time discussion at the sports grill in Cranberry, Pennsylvania just outside Pittsburgh.
RACHEL CRAIG, STEELERS FAN: Little disappointed but I'm for everyone's right to protest. I think it's the wrong time and place.
SEAN PREGIBON, STEELERS FAN: If they really want to make a statement, don't play the game, and see how far that goes.
[19:20:04] CARROLL (voice-over): Politics and sports are family matter with this mother and daughter. Tracey Baczek voted for Trump, her daughter did not. Baczek now says she's having second thoughts about a president she thought would do more to bring the country together.
BACZEK: Sometimes lately, it's as soon as he opens his mouth, you know, it just kind of blows up in his face and things go haywire.
I don't know.
CARROLL (voice-over): When you say you don't know, you men you don't know if you made the right decision or?
BACZEK: Yes, probably. Yes.
CARROLL (voice-over): In voting for him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's my mom, so I'll still love her no matter what, but it was a rough couple months before --
CARROLL (on camera): Between the two of you because you didn't support the president that she did. But now your mother seems like she's having second thoughts? I mean, is that accurate?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CARROLL (voice-over): All those we talked to say the country is more divided under this president. And while the White House says this latest issue is not about race, Steeler fans like David Skultety say otherwise.
DAVID SKULTETY, STEELERS FAN: I don't buy it. I think it is about race.
CARROLL (voice-over): One man, a number of Steelers fans are rallying behind, lineman and Army veteran Al Villanueva who was pictured standing at the mouth of the tunnel, Sunday for the national anthem. His name, top on talk radio.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe that the reason why he did what he did, is because he's a serviceman and his commitment to his country.
CARROLL (voice-over): Villanueva's jersey now a bestseller, but Villanueva says he was unintentionally separated from the rest of the team in the tunnel leading to the field that day. And was not individually trying to make a statement.
CARROLL: And Erin, Villanueva spoke out about this issue this evening. He basically said because of that mixed-up in the tunnel, he felt as though he ended up throwing his team under the bus. He also said going-forward, he would have no objection to any player on his team or throughout the NFL for that matter taking the knee.
As for the Steelers going forward during their next game with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, we are told that the entire team plans to stand for the national anthem. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. And, of course, it's important when they make a decision together one way or the other.
OutFront now, Sally Jenkins, Washington Post sports columnist who just wrote, "What President Trump Doesn't Get About the NFL". David Gergen, former presidential advisor to four presidents, and Abby Phillip, the national political reporter for the Washington Post. Sally, you know, obviously, at the beginning of Jason's speech, you heard a lot of fans who were really mad at the players for not coming out, and they were pro-flag, very clearly. Then you heard that mother and daughter. The mother is saying, this may have been the final straw, she has second thoughts about having voted for the president. Was this the wrong fight for him to pick?
SALLY JENKINS, SPORTS COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, you know, you have two groups of people talking past each other. You know, to the fans, it's an anthem protest and to the players, it's a racial protest. You know, I -- look, the owners, the bottom line is it's a private business. The owners decided they found it appropriate for their players to do this on this day yesterday.
And really what you saw was the league telling Donald Trump, don't tell us how to run our business. And you had the players telling him, look, don't stand here and tell us, you know, shut up and sing. So, you know, I think that the bottom line is that the league is getting to a place where it's having a tough racial conversation, it had been trying to have but failing to have.
And so it depends on your point of view. If you think the NFL is moving ahead with a racial conversation it really needed to have, then it was a good thing. And the protest was the right moment and the right thing. If you feel it's disrespecting the flag, then obviously your feelings are completely different.
BURNETT: So David, you know, you heard the mother and daughter there. The mother saying she wants the president to stick to politics. You know, it's ironic here because -- and you know, give it to Trump, he doesn't try to delete his tweets, he doesn't try to delete his complete 180 that he continually makes on things.
But that is exactly what he said to President Obama in 2013 on Twitter. Trump said, "Presidents should not be telling the Washington Redskins to change their name. Our country has far bigger problems, focus on them, not nonsense."
Yet, with the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, North Korea the boiling point, healthcare bill that's failing, President Trump decided to do exactly that. Did he do it on purpose, do you think, David? Or was it truly just -- he just ad-libbed and didn't think?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if he had only done it once on Friday night and then moved away from it, I think we may have said it was accidental. But the fact that he sent out repeated tweets and he's been on this issue now since Friday night, he makes it very clear it was deliberate.
I think for a lot of Americans, yes, there's a question of respecting the national anthem and the flag. But there's also a question of showing respect for the presidency. And the president -- he got it right the first time, this is no place for a president to be in the middle of this fight especially when issues that should be front and center for the president are going unaddressed. [19:25:01] You know, his healthcare reform bill is going down tonight after Susan Collins came out against it today. You got the situation of Puerto Rico where the government has been seems so quiet when there's an urgent issue. And many Americans are scared to death about all the -- the rhetorical increases on North Korea, and whether wonder whether we're going to get hit or we're going to get into a conflict.
You would think he'd be spending his time on what's presidential and stay in his lane and let the NFL handle it on his own as a private business.
And of course Abby, the other thing is, even if he had a point of view on this and decided he wanted to wade into it. Even if he decided to do that for whatever reason, he did it in an indefensible way because he called these people son of a bitch. All right, that's where, you just -- there's no defending that. And Abby, it's not just NFL players, right that he has come out and said things about like this. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists.
Negotiating with Japan, negotiating with China. They say, we want a deal.
I think Islam hates us.
The pope said something to the effect that maybe Donald Trump isn't Christian. For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now Abby, you know, now all those are the same to everybody but they are divisive.
ABBY PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, the counter punter-in-chief. I mean, that's what Donald Trump has been doing from the very beginning. You know, I do think the language here that he uses really one of the main reasons why this has become so explosive. Trump has talked about this issue before he's called out Colin Kaepernick specifically before. Blamed him for low NFL ratings in the campaign.
But the use of that language is what kind of hit people really hard and it's something that I think, you know, you heard earlier today, you know, Lebron James talking about, just kind of hearing that from the commander-in-chief, and Trump not being in his mind a kind of role model that we typically expect presidents to be. That's one of the main reasons why this has become so controversial.
I would argue that it's very different. When Trump did things like this in the campaign, it was, yes, shocking, it was -- a lot of people were upset about it, it was disappointing to some people. But now as president, when he does this kind of thing, it takes on a whole new meaning.
I think that's one of the main reasons it's provoked an almost universal -- a kind of solidarity among people within the NFL, that it's not acceptable in their view that the president behave this way, that he say things like this. I think he probably might have been able to get away with criticizing kneeling for the national anthem in that rally, if he had not done it this way. He's done it before, he's talked about this issue before, the way that he did it is one of the main reasons it's become such a lightning rod.
BURNETT: David, what about the point though that David Urban was just racing, right. Alejandro Villanueva who says he didn't mean to walk out, he wasn't trying to make a statement. He got separated from his teammates. He's upset about how this has all played out.
However, here's how it's played out. He's the number one selling jersey, right. There are clearly people who really, really, really agree with the president. And the David, the question is, is that going to end up being how this story ends, that he is right in reading the national mood?
GERGEN: I don't think so. It may well be that some of the clubs will decide they've made the point. Some of the players (INAUDIBLE) we've made the point, we don't need to be in a continuing controversy with the president of the Unites States. But I don't think the public is coming down and agreeing with the president. Especially when he says, this is not about race, it is so clearly about race.
When he uses the language he did about the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville and said there are fine people among them. And when it turns out that to be black players who are bending a knee leading this protest and he starts calling them SOBs, if you can't draw a racial means out of that, and interpretations out of that, I don't know what else you can.
It's heavily suggestive of a kind of racism, and sort of like dismissing the black players. Over their protest when, you know, he has been so respectful, he was been (INAUDIBLE) and the neo-Nazis were the protesters, you know, that's racial. It inflames the racial tensions in this country, it put's the president on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of what's a basically, a moral issue.
BURNETT: All right, thank you all very much.
And next, an NFL player who kneeled during the national anthem for the first time yesterday. His message to the president.
And the breaking news, a key Republican senator coming out against the health care bill. Is it the end? Is it over? Repeal and replace?
[19:33:24] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news, as President Trump continues to defend his attacks of NFL players refusing to stand for the national anthem, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is saying the players should protest at the police officers. They should actually be protesting them at the games instead. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think if this is -- the debate is really for them about police brutality, they should probably protest the officers on the field that are protecting them, instead of the American flag.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, they've said it's much bigger than that, about race in American society. Sanders later clarified that she didn't mean people should protest the police, but protesting the flag over police brutality concerns is hypocritical in her view.
OUTFRONT now, the Miami Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas.
And, Julius, look, I appreciate it. Thanks so much for talking to me.
I know that before yesterday you always stood for the national anthem. This obviously has been a controversy now since last year. I know you had chosen to stand. Yesterday, though, that changed. You're, of course, number 89. There you are kneeling during the national anthem, along with several of your teammates, at the Dolphins.
What made you decide to kneel yesterday?
JULIUS THOMAS, NFL'S MIAMI DOLPHINS TIGHT END: You know, I think the thing for me was, you know, I was never compelled to kneel before, before I always felt I had a different role. I had something else I should do to really advance my cause, and after I heard the president's comments -- and just the difference in characterization he had for my fellow peers taking a silent protest, in comparison to the way that, you know, he characterized people that were preaching hate, it really struck me.
[19:35:06] And then to hear all the people, and all the cheering and all the people that agreed with the president after using that type of language, it really helped me understand that there's big issues going on in our country. And one of it is the voices of the people that don't have equality aren't being heard. It almost seemed to me as they're almost being intimidated not to speak, and not to stand up for what they believe in.
BURNETT: When you first heard and I'm curious how you did, whether you read it or you heard a sound bite, what he first heard what he said, son of a bitch, let me just play it again, the exact quote, and as he said it at the rally on Friday, Julius. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What went through your head the first time you heard that?
THOMAS: You know, I think it was in the morning -- actually, I'm not sure I remember when I heard it. I think I heard it the next day, and, you know, somebody brought it to my attention, and when I watched it, I was just truly hurt. I don't think a lot of people truly understand what it feels like to wake up in this country and not feel equal, to truly, truly feel that your voice won't be heard as much as somebody else's.
And to hear the president, the leader of our country, call somebody a son of a bitch, that I have a lot of respect for, call a group of men that I have a lot of respect for and talk about them in that language, it was tough. It was very emotional for me. And in that moment, I knew that I could no longer continue to stand by and not take a stance.
I decided I had to take a stance that says, regardless of what you're peacefully protesting for, you have a right and you deserve to be able to do that. And please, at some point, can we address the fact that so many people in our country don't feel equal.
BURNETT: He says -- the president says, Julius, that this has nothing to do with race, he says it repeatedly. Nothing to do with race, nothing to do with race. He says it has everything to do with respecting the flag.
What -- how do you see it now? Is this about race? Is what the president said racist?
THOMAS: You know, I don't want to attach meaning to what the president has said or what message he's trying to get across. But I do think that there's an overall feeling that our president isn't highly concerned with the people and the rights of the people that do feel like they have less privilege in this country.
I don't think that's something that we can ignore. I don't think that's something that's even arguable at this point. It truly seems to me and to those in my life, that the president is not concerned with the people who feel less privilege in this country.
BURNETT: At your game yesterday, Julius, some of your teammates stood and others kneeled and literally. And the picture we have, you're kneeling, someone next to you is standing, the next man is kneeling.
Did you all talk about this beforehand? I mean, because -- you know, when you think about it, you're making different decisions, did you do so as a team? And do you still feel the same bond with them? Or is this something that actually is causing division within the team?
THOMAS: You know, I still -- I still have the same bond with all of my teammates.
You know, one thing that we really wanted to express as a team is, you know, there is no wrong decision. We want to respect our teammate's decision, just like we want to respect, you know, the opposing players or anybody else in the league that chooses to do whatever they feel is right. And that's what it's about is, you know, whatever stance you decided to make or if you want to stand for the anthem and you want to put your hand over your heart and go along, that's fine, that's OK.
But what we're saying is, in no way is it right for the president of the United States to try and intimidate people from expressing themselves peacefully. And myself, and I'm sure others who took a knee felt the same way.
BURNETT: And what are you going to do at the next game, have you decided?
THOMAS: Yes, I've decided that I'm going to continue to take a knee. This is an issue going on in this country that I feel like needs to be heard. And, right, wrong or indifferent, I feel that doing that before the game is the way to have the greatest impact.
And a lot of people have made a lot and a lot of people have expressed their opinions, but, you know, when you take that knee, it tells people and it empowers people. There are people watching the game that, you know, we're not going to get a comment from, just saw that and said, you know what, that makes me feel more comfortable, that gives me the energy, that gives me the focus that I need to go out and really do the things I can to create change in this country, to create an environment where we can all be heard and feel equal.
[19:40:10] And that's what I think America is about.
BURNETT: So, Julius, when you had conversations with others on your team or other teams, you got friends I'm sure around the league, what was the conversation like today?
THOMAS: You know, it's still something that is going to be talked about in the locker rooms, you know? And I hope it's talked about not just in our locker rooms, but in the homes across America, because there were a lot of people hurt by the president's comments. A lot of people that truly felt they weren't getting the respect they deserve in this country because of so many different reasons.
And, you know, as we have those conversations, and we stay together as a team in this league, that's what we do. That's what we have always done and that's what we'll continue to do. I think that everybody on most teams probably has enough respect for the man next to them to allow them to make whichever decision they feel is most important to them.
BURNETT: All right. Julius, thank you so much. I appreciate your time. As I said, Julius Thomas, the tight end for the Miami Dolphins. Thank you again.
THOMAS: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, a crucial senator announcing no. No way on health care. Is the Republican bill dead on arrival thanks against to a Republican? And new images showing the near devastation, total devastation in
Puerto Rico. Amid cries for help, people are asking, where is President Trump? We're going to live to Puerto Rico.
[19:45:20] BURNETT: Breaking news, Senator Susan Collins says she's voting no on the Republican Obamacare repeal bill. That means there are now three no votes from Republican senators. The GOP could only afford to lose two and still pass the bill. So, if it stays like this, done.
And there is more bad news for those in favor of the bill tonight. The Congressional Budget Office has released a partial score. They didn't have time to do a full one.
So, they're saying the bill would reduce the budget deficit by at least $133 billion, and, of course, in exchange for that, millions of people would lose comprehensive health insurance. When it comes to the bottom line, it doesn't appear Americans are on board either. A new poll out today shows 20 percent of Americans approve of the bill. By the way, that's a lot fewer than the number of Republicans. So, clearly within the GOP, a lot of voters not into this bill.
Dana Bash is OUTFRONT.
And, Dana, the GOP has lost three votes. So, at this point, is there anyway for this to pass?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly seems to be a very uphill task, close to impossible. But the question at this point is going to be whether or not the Republican leader, the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is going to roll the dice and take the vote later this week. And I was just told by senior Republican aide that he is not likely to decide the answer to that question until after he meets with his fellow Republicans, after they have discussion, they have their weekly policy lunch tomorrow and they're probably going to figure it out then.
I was told that there are a good number of Republican senators who want to take this vote, they want to have people on the record to show their constituents that they're trying to keep a campaign promise to try to repeal Obamacare, and there are others who are saying, you know what, if we think it's going to lose, why try to take it?
But, you know, certainly, there's no question that this final no vote, the public statement from Susan Collins was bad news, but some people think until they take the votes, you never know somebody could be swayed.
BURNETT: Somebody could just decide, wait, I want to come down to my --
BURNETT: -- going to my voters and I promised for years I was going to do this, am I actually going to do it?
I mean -- so, I that that's part of the reason why this is so important what you're doing tonight, the exclusive town hall. And you're going to have Republican cosponsors of the bill, Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, and Bernie Sanders will be with you, and Amy Klobuchar obviously on the other side. So, the stakes obviously have changed a bit, but still incredibly high for them tonight in this town hall.
BASH: Incredibly high, because at the end of the day, whether it is this particular bill, the nuts and bolts of this bill that is before Republicans right now or something different, the question of what to do about Obamacare, whether or not to try to fix it, whether or not to repeal and replace it as Republicans have promised for seven years is a very, very hot topic and it's going to continue to be, especially as we go into the fall. People are going to be signing up enrolling for their health care policies.
And there are likely to be some good news for patients outer and some bad news as the market still has a lot of stretching and has some problems, and that is certainly what we're going to hear tonight. There's going to be continued debate within each party on how to address this -- particularly, Erin, the Democratic Party, because you see a lot of pull to the left led by the person we're going to see tonight, Bernie Sanders for this Medicare-for-all, single-payer.
BURNETT: All right. Dana, thank you very much.
I want to go now to a Democratic senator, this, of course, Joe Manchin from West Virginia.
Senator, I want to start with your reaction to this. Obviously, you know we got that partial score, it said people would lose health insurance, but the budget would go down, that's not a surprise. In your state, though, an AARP report said a 60-year-old could see an $18,000 a year increase in premiums by 2020 with this bill.
So, are you happy this plan failed or did you think it was workable?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: No, I didn't think it was workable at all. It would hit every demographic of my state of West Virginia, whether you were older, poorer, sicker, opiate addiction, you name it, they got hit. And I said, there's a pathway forward.
And, you know, it was funny, after the last skinny bail failed and John made his vote at 3:00 in the morning, I thought that we would move immediately towards working in a bipartisan way, which we did. You had Patty Murray and you had Lamar Alexander, they had meetings, experts coming in, I went to every meeting. It was very, very enlightening, and basically informative on how we could move forward and what we needed to do. CSRs, we need to stabilize the CSRs, establishes the market.
The market is going to increase, if we don't stabilize this market, and we can do that, it's going to increase 15 to 20 percent just that increase would be alone based on the instabilization of the market. [19:50:05] So, also, we can do more flexibility, giving states the ability to be more creative if you will, to look for a pathway to make -- helping their citizens and their patients, that's what we should be voting on tomorrow. That's what we really should be voting on and not deciding, are they going to have a vote or not if they know have them, the votes to pass it, and just make it a political statement?
BURNETT: All right.
MANCHIN: Let's fix something.
BURNETT: I also want to ask you about North Korea. We have some developments there at this hour, sir.
BURNETT: South Korea asking the United States to dial it back, pull back the rhetoric. The foreign minister from North Korea says President Trump has declared war on his country by saying that Kim Jong-un's days were numbered. North Korea is now threatening to shoot down American bombers and I want to make a point, even when they are well outside the North Korean borders.
MANCHIN: Well, first -- first of all, the president has not declared war and the Congress has not voted on the declaration of war.
Next of all, I would recommend --
BURNETT: Do you worry his rhetoric, though, can -- could walk us into a war?
MANCHIN: I plead also to cut down the rhetoric, I think we all do.
But, Erin, he's been our president for nine months. I think he's not going to change. He is what he is. And that's what we're going to have, and you have to work around any way you possibly can.
North Korea make a great mistake if they start shooting in international airspace and shooting at any of our planes. We're not going to tolerate North Korea to have a ballistic missile that's able to deliver warhead in the United States of America, and the rest of the world should join us in doing that. The thing that's been most effective right now is doubling down on the sanctions.
The financial sanctions can basically say, OK, you want to go ahead and sneak stuff into North Korea, you're going to pay a price for it. We have proof of it, you're going to be a price. That's what can be effective and you have to use diplomacy.
BURNETT: Senator, before you go, I want to ask you about the other top story of the day. President Trump's criticism for the NFL players who don't stand for the national anthem, he call them a son of a bitch. Do you stand with the president in what he said and how we said? MANCHIN: Well, we shouldn't be put in this position. It's a shame to
put -- I come through the sporting world, and I was fortunate enough to play sports and I understand the team's spirit. You know, I'm going to do everything I can to take your positions, to try to beat you out in practice, but I've gone through two a days with all through the hot summers, I've sacrificed the same as you sacrificed and we jelled as a team.
Now, once we get on that field, you attack one of my teammates, we're all together. That's what he's done and that -- I don't think it had the affect that maybe he was desiring from that. On the other hand, I was taught to stand and respect the flag that represents the country that give the freedoms and opportunity to be anything I want to be.
So, this is in owner. The owners will have to make this decision. And the people who watch the game, if you don't want to watch your team, if you don't want to buy the memorabilia, don't do it. They'll make that decision because they are getting paid, they have a contract and agreement what they can and can't do.
But this thing has gotten blown out of proportion. You just mentioned North Korea. We've got healthcare, I got 200, 000 West Virginians. If they make this vote, Erin, we'll lose -- 200,000 people lose healthcare.
BURNETT: But you're saying -- you're saying you would stand?
MANCHIN: Oh, I would stand. I would always stand and I --
BURNETT: OK. But -- so you agree with him on that, but in terms of son of a bitch.
MANCHIN: That doesn't, that's bad rhetoric. That doesn't help anything. It really doesn't.
BURNETT: All right. Senator, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much as always, I appreciate it, Senator Manchin.
MANCHIN: Thanks, Erin. Bye-bye.
BURNETT: And next, days after Hurricane Maria, millions of Americans in Puerto Rico, no food, no water, no fuel, no power. We're going to go to some remote areas that have gotten virtually no help. This is what happened when our reporter were seen by people there.
[19:55:44] BURNETT: Breaking news on the fight for survival from millions of Americans tonight. Puerto Rico's governor is begging the Pentagon for help at this hour after Hurricane Maria left 3.4 million with not enough food, no fuel, no power, no water.
In this video, you see the category -- what these winds did. I mean, this was a forest. It is unbelievable to see this footage. There are many still trapped.
Our Leyla Santiago travelled to some of the hardest hit areas and he's OUTFRONT.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This woman doesn't even know who I am, but I'm the first person she's seen land here since Hurricane Maria battled the islands, the flood, the debris, the lack of power, already making hard to get to areas even tougher to reach. Even FEMA hasn't set foot in some parts of Puerto Rico.
We took a chopper from San Juan to remote areas largely unseen, like a small town next to Guajataca dam on the northwest point of the island. The dam has been breached and the government ordered 70,000 nearby residents to evacuate. It is here and nearby Carradias (ph) where I was met with such emotion, the people starving for assistance.
(on camera): She says if something happens to that dam, that could be just as bad as the hurricane itself.
(voice-over): Communications are so poor, many are asking us to send messages to their families.
From the air, you can see why more than 3 million U.S. citizens could remain in the dark for months.
(on camera): This is a problem, this is why 100 percent of the island doesn't have power right now. Granted, the infrastructure was vulnerable before Maria passed by, but you can see with these power lines down what the challenge is. They've completely collapsed.
(voice-over): Heading further inland, toward Utualo, the death toll is among the highest here. This is where we met 56 years old Rosario Heredia (ph). She is diabetic, just had surgery and is unemployed. Now, she doesn't have a home neither.
This is what Maria did to her home, water streaming from every corner. By now, she thought help would have arrived, it hasn't.
(on camera): She's hopeful someone will help them to be able to rebuild this.
(voice-over): Flying south to even more remote, Yauco. The roads are blocked, forcing to find another way to get to this home. Coffee grower Gaspar Hordias (ph) and Doris Velez (ph) tell us the problem here is food. Most of what they have left has gone bad.
(on camera): He says you work and work and work, and it's for nothing because he's lost everything.
(voice-over): A common theme on an island of 1.4 million U.S. citizens now waiting and hoping that help is on the way.
SANTIAGO: And Erin, I am very happy to report this evening that we were able to contact some of the family members that we promised we would contact given that our job is communication of information. We've reached people in New Jersey to let them know that they're family (INAUDIBLE) are OK. They say they haven't slept in nights waiting for that type of information.
BURNETT: Leyla, that is incredible what you are able to show and as you point out, this is the United States. I know the story for you is deeply personal. You're from Puerto Rico. You actually were able to fly over your hometown in that helicopter, right?
SANTIAGO: Right. So, as we were coming back heading towards San Juan, the pilot said is there anywhere you want to go? And I asked that we fly back over Corozal, which is my hometown, this is where my family's from. This is where I go on the holidays. This is where I was married.
And to see that with your very own eyes, to understand that type of pain, and to see that destruction is something I've never lived through before and certainly makes me understand why so much help is needed right now in this gorgeous island, despite what it looks like right now. Destruction is something I've never lived through before and certainly makes me understand why so much help is needed right now in this gorgeous island, despite what it looks like right now.
BURNETT: You're going so much for so many to do that and to raise that awareness. Thank you so much, Leyla.
And thanks to all of you for joining us.
"AC360" is next.