Return to Transcripts main page


Wildfires Devastating California Wine Country; Weinstein Scandal; Trump Threatens Media; Catalonia Crisis; Eminem Disses Trump. Aired 12mn-1a ET

Aired October 12, 2017 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour:

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Wildfires whipping through California's wine country. The death toll rising as families frantically search for the hundreds reported missing.

VAUSE (voice-over): Sexual harassment and silence. Why some of Hollywood's most famous men have gotten away with it for so long.

SESAY (voice-over): President Trump taking the media name calling a step further. Now he's actually threatening action.

VAUSE (voice-over): Hello and welcome to the viewers around the world. I'm John Vause.

SESAY (voice-over): I'm Isha Sesay. CNN NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.


SESAY: Well, the death toll is rising in the deadliest wildfires to hit California in 26 years. Hundreds of people are missing and 23 have been killed.

VAUSE: The fires have destroyed tens of thousands of hectares, at least 3,500 homes and businesses as well, many homes in lush, green neighborhoods now completely charred and reduced to ash. More than 20,000 people have been forced from their homes.

SESAY: Well, from the ground, this view. Just one example of the devastation. A home totally wiped out. As you see there, the only thing left, the only thing standing, the chimney.

VAUSE: For the thousands of firefighters staring down the flames the situation's growing more dangerous as wind speeds continued to increase.

SESAY: Well, the wildfires are also tearing through more of Northern California's world famous wine country, destroying the livelihoods of so many people who live and work in the region.

VAUSE: Our Miguel Marquez visited one winery trying to pick up the pieces.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An enormous swath of Northern California threatened by fire. Smoke-filled valleys and charred remains of entire neighborhoods in an area known for its natural beauty, good food and wine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been here 20 (ph) years so it's like mine, yes.

MARQUEZ: How tough is it to see this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to cry. I'm trying not to.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Pierre Birben (ph) has made wine in Napa Valley for 30 years. The last 20 at Signorello Winery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My desk was here. This is my file cabinet. The door was here. You can see the box still moving. But there's nothing left.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The winery, tasting room and public areas all gone. But the important stuff...


MARQUEZ (voice-over): The barrel room and vintages from this year and last, all spared. And the most important part: the vines, the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-eight-year-old vines here and as you can see, this is right on the edge and there's no damage, which is really nice to see. The building, I can replace. There's nobody hurt here, which, to me, is the most important thing.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The wine industry pours $57 billion a year into California's economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I go back to France and my friend from school, they know about Napa Valley 30 years ago. They were kind of making fun about California wine and now they don't make fun anymore. Say, oh, Napa, yes.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Today, no one laughing. Fires still burning. The death toll rising in communities for miles around, bracing for the worst. As those who have been through it start planning for the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just Napa. It's Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino. All of these areas, we're all in the same boat.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): With the fires burning from just north of San Francisco to nearly the Orion (ph) border, it's an enormous boat. Still on a collision course with fire.

And it's just these sorts of fires that officials are most concerned with, fires that have been burning up in the hills for days. The wind just changed directions and what they're afraid of now that they going to gusts up to about 45 miles per hour. If that happens, whole new communities could be wiped out -- Miguel Marquez, CNN, in Sonoma County, California.


SESAY: Well, California fire battalion chief Johnson Cox (ph) joins us now by phone.

Chief Cox, thank you for speaking to us.

Right now, as we have you on the line, where do things stand with the multiple fires burning in Northern California?

JOHNSON COX (PH), CALIFORNIA FIRE BATTALION CHIEF: Yes. We have over 22 fires burning roughly out Northern California that have scorched over 170,000 acres. We still have evacuations being -- coming online and occurring due to the conditions we're seeing and some wind gusts that are occurring.

The winds have been relatively calm over the last 24 hours and but again we are in the period right now where's anticipated north winds again and meaning we're under a red flag warning.

SESAY: All right.

How much of the fire is contained at the moment?

COX (PH): Yes, so, depending on the specific fire, we have containment anywhere from 0 percent to 30 percent on some of these fires. It really depends on the fire. Having so many in such a concentrated area, at the same time, it's fairly unprecedented but we have thousands of firefighters, over 8,000 firefighters from throughout the Western United States now on the fire line, including the Air National Guard, as well.

SESAY: Chief Cox, you mentioned the winds being relatively calm over the last 24 hours.

Have your men been able to take advantage of that to deal with hot spots and put out the embers?

Were you able to at least make some progress with the winds being a little bit calmer?

COX (PH): Yes. I've been out on the fire line most of the time and there's firefighters out there who have been out here since Sunday night, just working tirelessly to protect structures and work on containment lines.

Every firefighter who's out on the line is very conscious of the anticipated wind event that -- for the area. And they're not letting their guard down. And that's why additional reinforcements are in the area, a large contingent of aircraft and really just nonstop hard work around the clock at the moment.

SESAY: To that point, you mentioned 8,000 men being there on the ground, battling these blazes. This is hard work. It is dangerous work.

How are they doing with the stress and strain of it all?

COX (PH): Yes. You know, this is not an easy event for anybody. We have firefighters, first responders, who either lost their home or have family members who lost their home. So this is not an isolated incident. This is affecting people throughout the community.

But there's a big sense of mission here and purpose for the firefighters and getting out there and doing strong work to protect a lot of important cities, counties and areas that people are familiar with and very proud of.

SESAY: Yes, well, Chief Cox, I can't tell you enough that all the people we have spoken to who have been affected by the fires are praising your men no end. Saying they have been amazing. We wish you the very best as you continue the battle the blazes. Good luck and we'll check in on you.

VAUSE: Well, a growing number of women are accusing movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Actress Cara Delavine (ph) is one of the latest who says she was one of Weinstein's victims. She appears in the new film "Tulip Fever," which was produced by Weinstein.

SESAY: She said Weinstein made unwanted sexual advances toward her early in her career but she never spoke out because she felt guilty. At least 2 dozen women are accusing Weinstein of misconduct, ranging from sexual harassment to rape.

Journalist Ronan Farrow wrote about the allegations in "The New Yorker."


RONAN FARROW, "THE NEW YORKER": There were 16 former and current executives and assistants that spoke to me for the story, who corroborated the allegations and said they had either personally witnessed things that they were troubled by or participated in what they described as a pattern of meetings, that were just sort of thin cover for predatory advances on young women.

This was very enmeshed in company business and, again and again, they said everybody knew.


VAUSE: Joining us now is psychologist and author, Bethany Marshall, and former district attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez.

Thank you for being with us.

SESAY: Welcome.

VAUSE: OK. There was this relative silence that we had. But now many in Hollywood as well as many on the political side, the Democrat side, they're coming forward, condemning Weinstein. Hillary Clinton actually talked Fareed Zakaria. This is some of what she had to say.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I certainly didn't and I don't know who did but I can only speak for myself and, I think, speak for many others who knew him, primarily through politics.

But the courage of these women coming forward now is really important because it can't just end with one person's disgraceful behavior and the consequences that he is now facing. This has to be a wake-up call and shine a bright spotlight on anything like this behavior anywhere at any time.


VAUSE: And I think we just clipped the top of that question from Fareed, when he said everyone knew but no one knew and her answer was, well, I certainly didn't know what was happening. Meryl Streep adamant that she had no idea; Judi Dench, who famously has a tattoo of Harvey Weinstein on her buttocks, completely unaware and said -- this list goes on and on.

This seems to be the biggest open secret in Hollywood that no one knew about.

I mean, is that possible?

BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I kind of knew about it. I'm in clinical practice in Beverly Hills. My colleagues knew about it. It's not a surprising story. I think the reason Hillary Clinton is so shocked is that this is not just -- if the allegations are true, it's not just sexual acting out; this is sociopathic predatory behavior with young women.

It's a very specific type of offending pattern. If Harvey were a patient in my practice, he's not, but if someone came into my practice with this kind of a story of forced oral sex, forced vaginal sex, a grooming pattern that was extensive, asking women for massages, targeting younger women, I would guess that I would begin to think about my patient as what we would call a power rapist.

A power rapist is somebody who's very narcissistic, sociopathic, who relates to women on the basis of power rather than affection, enjoys belittling the victims and enjoys the power differential, actually gains satisfaction from it.

VAUSE: So the claims are horrendous and no one knew about it I think is essentially the point here, right? SESAY: Bethany, to pick up on what you're saying there, what is also interesting as we read the accounts from all these women, it's the sense and they all -- most of them are expressing the feeling of guilt. This feeling of guilt that they went up to his hotel room, this guilt that they didn't scratch at him or kick at him.

How common is that, that sense of responsibility, that women who go through this come out the other side with?

MARSHALL: Well, sexual abuse victims always feel guilty, whether it's a child, whether it's a member of the LGBT community, whether it's a woman. Everybody feels guilty because they go into this situation wanting something.

A child might want love, an actress may want a role. So they want something and they consent to something other than what they think they're consenting to, so it makes them feel guilty. Then they feel shame to tell other people and they repress the entire incident.

VAUSE: Keep that in mind. This is how a victim, Laura Cervantes (ph), described what actually happened to her at the hands of Weinstein.


LAURA CERVANTES (PH), WEINSTEIN VICTIM: I say the word "trapped." People ask me, couldn't you have kicked and screamed?

Yes, I think if my life was threatened I could have gotten away from him. But I'm 5'1". He's 6'2". He's much, much larger than me. He was blocking the only exit out. And at that time I was 28 years old. I'd never been in a situation like this before. I didn't know how it ended. I didn't know what to do.


VAUSE: So (INAUDIBLE), when we're listening to the accounts we are hearing from a lot of women now, what are the chance that there could be formal charges brought against Weinstein and not against him but about the company, as well, especially if they were aware of all the payments going to the women, essentially to keep them quiet?

AMBROSIO RODRIGUEZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. I was shocked about what happened in New York. Right. I mean, that's a big issue because in New York they had more than enough evidence to charge him.

And now the question is, why aren't they charging him now?

Statutes of limitations do not apply and now they have two alleged victims. Ms. Vance, I believe is her name, the one who was a student at Middlebury and the model that was at the hotel, that they had the -- basically a confession on tape.

And I also expect that there's going to be a full investigation by the Los Angeles district attorney's office and LAPD as to what happened in Los Angeles because now that this has come out and it's become such a huge story, I think no one in law enforcement and in politics likes to see rich and powerful people get away with it and they do all too often.

So now the investigation is really going to take -- going to take a full head of steam and go through what it can. All these women are coming forward.

VAUSE: All the headwinds become tailwinds.

RODRIGUEZ: Right. And I think the investigation is going to go, there's going to be a lot of witnesses because there been a lot of talk about those that helped him. Right?

And I want to talk about that because what we're really talking is about pimping. That's what they were doing. His associates, assistants, whatever, producers that were involved in this are looking at criminal liability.

It really depends, though, on the -- how aggressive and how bold the prosecution is going to be, because don't forget, rape is not just rape in terms of force or violence. Rape can also be done through duress. And if the women had sexual contact or intercourse or whatever with Harvey Weinstein because of duress, that's also rape in California and if these producers knew about it, assistants, whatever, they're also part of the conspiracy.

SESAY: And Bethany, to pick up on that and to make a distinction between those who helped set up meetings, who helped procure, if you will, and those who just knew about it, right, who were just in Merrimack's (ph) or The Weinstein Company and they knew, they'd heard the rumors, how does a culture take hold, where people are hearing this stuff, it's being reported, it's been swept under the rug and people, even people who are in positions of power that don't have that much to lose, still stay quiet?

MARSHALL: I think it happens in two ways. One is something that I call institutional sociopathy. It's when one person with a corruption of conscience hires another person with a corruption of conscience and then that person hires a friend with a corruption of conscience and it is like the cancer grows.

We saw this with Michael Jackson. That's an old story but he had security guards, all kinds of people on Neverland ranch and they all saw him with children and nobody really called the police. So that's one thing, institutional sociopathy.

I think the other that piggy-backs on something that I heard in my practice all day today, I'm not -- patients of mine came in, saying, well, I'm not surprised. This happens in Hollywood. He's a powerful figure.

SESAY: Normalizing it.

MARSHALL: Really minimizing it and normalizing it. Men who are sexual predators already minimize and normalize their behavior. When everybody else starts doing it, too, it becomes so toxic. VAUSE: We were talking about Cyrus Vance, who is the New York D.A., who is under fire now for not following up on the prosecution. I want to play what he said about why he did not follow up on the case in New York with the actress or the model, Ambra Gutierrez. This is what Cyrus Vance had to say.


CYRUS VANCE, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: If we had a case that we felt we could prosecute and my experts felt we could prosecute against Harvey Weinstein, we would have.

We take on many, many, many difficult sex crime prosecutions. With individuals, irrespective of their background or their money. So that's not an issue for us. We really are based on the facts, not what people think about it.


SESAY: How much of a problem is it that Cyrus Vance took tens of thousands of dollars of political donations from Weinstein's lawyers?

RODRIGUEZ: It's a huge problem. I don't believe him. If it was some bodega owner in Brooklyn or in Lower East Side, he would have been prosecuted with that tape. This is because Harvey Weinstein and the -- Cyrus Vance made a decision as to whether or not he wanted to take on Harvey Weinstein. He decided he didn't want to.

And this had nothing to do with whether or not there was enough evidence. I've prosecuted these cases. I've filed these cases. There's more than enough evidence to go. You have a confession on that tape.

SESAY: Yes, that's a wiretap case.

We're out of time. I want to thank you for being with us. But I just want to put up the list here of the number of big names that have been taken down this year because of sexual harassment.

Apart from Harvey Weinstein, there's the former chairman of FOX News, Roger Ailes; FOX News anchor Bill O'Reilly: FOX News anchor Eric Bolling; former New York congressman Anthony Weiner; comedian Bill Cosby. And that' just a few of the big names in the last 12 months and clearly there is change that thebe big names are actually being exposed and being brought to some kind of justice.

Thank you guys for being with us.


SESAY: We appreciate it. Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, coming up here on NEWSROOM L.A., going beyond insults and now making threats, Donald Trump lashing out at the media but this time it's different.

SESAY: When it comes to North Korea, whose opinion really matters to President Trump?




SESAY: Hello, everyone.

Donald Trump spent part of Wednesday attacking one of his favorite targets, the news media.

VAUSE: This time, though, the president's anger focused primarily on NBC News after a report that Donald Trump had called for a tenfold increase in America's nuclear arsenal which Mr. Trump quickly blasted as untrue.

SESAY: But Mr. Trump was not finished. Late Wednesday he tweeted this threat, "Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public."

Well Michael (INAUDIBLE) is a long-time (INAUDIBLE) with the "Los Angeles Times." He joins us now from Sill Beach, California.

Michael, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

MICHAEL, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Good to be on with you. You've heard the president's words throughout Wednesday. Give me your sense.

Is this talk of revoking or challenging NBC's license more President Trump's characteristic bluster or is this something more serious?

MICHAEL: Well, I think it's more serious in terms of his bluster. I think what we're witnessing is essentially an emotional meltdown of some sort that's fueled by an almost total ignorance of the way news organizations, broadcasters, cable operators are licensed and regulated in this country.

The prospect that -- first of all, NBC as a network isn't the licensed by the federal government or by anybody. It's the owner of something in the neighborhood of 28 individual stations around the country.

But challenging those licenses is an enormous job, almost never, ever successful and not likely to be successful if the basis of the challenge is nature of their news coverage.

SESAY: Well, Michael, as you well know, another president in the past, Richard Nixon, went down this road and basically told his advisers to make it difficult for "The Washington Post" to renew its FCC license for a Florida TV station that it owned and we know that a businessman (INAUDIBLE) Nixon, went ahead and filed the paperwork.

We also know that the Justice Department under Nixon also filed anti- trust charges against three major TV networks.

So let me ask you this, is President Trump in much a way like Nixon really just trying to push against democratic accountability?

MICHAEL: It's hard to say; he may actually think that he's got some grounds to challenge and then revoke licenses of NBC or NBC affiliates. If he looks at history, he will discover that Richard Nixon was utterly unsuccessful at doing it.

Although he did create a nuisance for "The Washington Post" company. It was an expensive nuisance. I think "The Washington Post" company spent something in the neighborhood of $1 million in legal fees to secure those licenses.

I think Trump is essentially mouthing off. I think he doesn't understand the way licensing works. He certainly doesn't understand that the licensing procedures happen once every eight years.

And I think the NBC affiliates that are owned and operated stations, they are not coming up for a few more years. So you know, I think essentially he's blustering. He's boasting. He's threatening.

And I think it's disturbing that we have a president who's challenging businesses based on their upholding the First Amendment.

SESAY: And --

MICHAEL: But in terms of whether he'll be successfully, it's extremely dubious.

SESAY: OK. Worth pointing out to our viewers that the president is not actually anti-all news media. His opposition is against what he called liberal mainstream media or more specifically any outlet that challenges or criticizes him.

There are those of our profession that he has no problem speaking to. So take a look at this graphic. This shows that the president has given four national television interviews since September 29th. And if you look closely, "FOX & Friends" got one of those interviews on September 29th.

FOX News' Geraldo Rivera in San Juan got the other. The father of press secretary Sarah Sanders, Mike Huckabee, they taped an interview together last week. Of course, Mike Huckabee a known conservative.

And FOX's Sean Hannity tonight also got an interview at the airport in Harrisburg, which does make the president's claim that news media is partisan, a little disingenuous, given how he spends his time.

MICHAEL: Fair enough. I think there's obviously one news organization that he thinks is just great and that's FOX. He's threatened CNN in the past. He's threatened MSNBC. He's threatening NBC.

And what they all have in common is that they run critical news reports about him and his policies and his cabinet and his campaign. That's what he doesn't like. It's understandable that he doesn't like it.

But generally presidents of the United States have the -- essentially the stability to understand that it comes with the job and they have got to work through it. No president in recent history has been more vilified by, you know, in public, than Barack Obama. He never called for taking people's licenses away. He never called for abrogating the First Amendment.

Trump, this is Trump's first resort when he's challenged or criticized.

SESAY: So, Michael, we are almost out of time. So just quickly, we know that Senator Ed Markey, the Democratic for Massachusetts, has written to the FCC chairman, Ajip Paiy (ph) and he's basically said that, you know, he needs to come out and basically say he stands for the First Amendment and that basically he won't, you know, he won't follow the president's lead in all of this.

How important is it for the FCC chairman to out, speak publicly and loudly, about, you know, the fact he stands for the First Amendment?

MICHAEL: Well, I think it would certainly help. I think what -- certainly should say and what he should tell his boss, Donald Trump is that he doesn't have the authority to do what Donald Trump is asking him to do.

And I think he should go further and say not only does he not have the authority but he wouldn't have the inclination to do so even if he could. It would be unconstitutional for the Federal Communications Commission to try to lift a news organization's license because of what it reported about President Trump.

SESAY: Michael, we appreciate your time this evening and for your insight. Thank you so much.

MICHAEL: You're welcome.

VAUSE: North Korea's foreign minister says the U.S. president has, quote, "Lit the wick of war." Comes after weeks of escalating threats and insults between the two countries.

SESAY: North Korea calls Trump's speech last month at the U.N. at the tipping point, when he threatened North Korea with total destruction if the U.S. were forced to defend itself or the allies.

At the White House Wednesday, the president said he listens to all kinds of advice on North Korea but one person's opinion matters most.


TRUMP: I think I have a little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people might have and I listen to everybody but ultimately my attitude is the one that matters, isn't it?

That's the way it works. That's the way the system is. I think I might have a somewhat different attitude and different way than other people. I think perhaps I feel stronger and tougher on that subject than other people. But I listen to everybody. And ultimately I will do what's right for the United States and really what's right for the world.


VAUSE: Live now to Seoul, South Korea, CNN's Ben Wedeman.

Ben, the North Korea foreign minister once called Donald Trump "president evil."

Is this all still part of the escalating war of words or should these latest comments coming out of Pyongyang be taken more seriously?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Unfortunately, John, I think this is the new abnormal. It used to be that the bellicose, fire-breathing rhetoric came mostly from Pyongyang and the official media up there.

But increasingly, we are seeing that, as we saw at the U.N. General Assembly with President Trump threatening to utterly destroy North Korea, that now it is a two-way thing.

And I think we are going to have to get accustomed, unfortunately, to the fact that this sort of rhetoric is going in both directions and, of course, the problem is that this really does ratchet up tensions, that perhaps somebody's going to misinterpret the other side's fire- breathing, bellicose rhetoric. And mistakes can happen.

Of course, it's been very closely watched in places like here, Seoul, where people are very much in the front line in this spat between Pyongyang and Washington -- John.

VAUSE: Ben, thank you, Ben Wedeman, there in Seoul for us, we appreciate it.

SESAY: Next on CNN, Spain's prime minister sets a deadline. What the Spanish government is threatening to do if leaders in Catalonia don't clarify the position on independence.




VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: Did they or didn't they?

Is Catalonia officially still part of Spain?

Has it broken away?

That's what the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy would like to know. He's giving the Catalan government until Monday to confirm whether it has or has not, if it did that, then the region will be given three extra days to think again.

SESAY: This comes after Catalonia's independence referendum on October 1st and then a week of protests on both sides. On Wednesday Rajoy took the first steps for constitutional powers to impose direct rule over Catalonia.

VAUSE: The confusion comes after the Catalan president's address to parliament.

He accepted a mandate for independence and then suspended it.

SESAY: He also signed a declaration that was part of all of that. Carles Puigdemont spoke to our own Nic Robertson about this and the possibility of Spain taking over. Here's that exclusive interview.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Are you concerned that the Spanish government could invoke Article 155, that you could be arrested?

Do you worry about that?

CARLES PUIGDEMONT, CATALONIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The Spanish government has no reason to invoke Article 155 and it would be a mistake. I'm worried that they may do it because it would not be walking towards a solution of the conflict and, obviously, my detention, what good would that be?

I'm not a criminal. I do what my parliament asked me to, what Catalans voted for. It would not only be unjustified, my detention, it would be a terrible mistake. It is not the time to send people to prison because of political discrepancies.

ROBERTSON: But what is your bottom line?

Is your bottom line that you would accept a referendum?

That the Spanish government accepts, a referendum about independence.

You said in your speech yesterday, about the Scotland scenario in Britain?

Would you accept that type of referendum, accept it by Madrid?

PUIGDEMONT (through translator): Of course. We are ready to accept a referendum like the one that took place in Scotland. We tried that in the past but the door is still open.

Of course it's a good scenario.


Because it is what the vast majority of people are willing to accept inside and outside of Catalonia. And it's a good solution. I'm willing to work on all conditions that would allow us a Scottish scenario.

ROBERTSON: Your critics here in Catalonia say you're dividing the people, that you're damaging business here.

Don't you worry about what you're doing to Catalonians?

PUIGDEMONT (through translator): My responsibility is obviously to pay attention to what happens and to be worried when things don't thrive. But look. Things started after use of violence by police forces deployed in Catalonia. We're facing a political problem which must be solved within politics, not with police.

ROBERTSON: So, aren't you, in a way -- isn't this your political suicide, as well?

Because you risk dividing the independence coalition, the governing coalition, and this would be to the advantage of prime minister Rajoy.

PUIGDEMONT (through translator): The governing coalition is solid and very united. A different thing, though, is different parliament majorities. The Catalan government is a united government and strong around that message. I also don't have a special interest in surviving politically. My interest is to assume utmost responsibility and utmost coherence and the utmost efficiency, given the goal we have.


SESAY: The clock is ticking for him.

VAUSE: Well, yes. What, Monday and then three days to think about it?

SESAY: Quick break here. Rappers have gone after U.S. president Donald Trump before but Eminem's anti-Trump freestyle is striking a unique chord. We'll discuss why, next.




SESAY: Well, rapper Eminem is getting both praise and backlash for a cutting freestyle blasting Donald Trump. In one line, he refers to the U.S. president as, quote, "a kamikaze that will probably cause a nuclear holocaust."

VAUSE: He slams the president accusing him of (INAUDIBLE) country's problems worse. Here's a listen.


EMINEM, RAPPER: It's like we take a step forwards then backwards. But this is his form of distraction. Plus he gets an enormous reaction when he attacks the NFL so we focus on that and instead of talking Puerto Rico, for gun reform for Nevada, all these horrible tragedies and he's bored and would rather cause a Twitter storm with the Packers.


SESAY: Near the end, Eminem tells his fans to choose between him or the president.

VAUSE: Music writer Bob Lester (ph) is with us now.

Bob, it's been a while. Good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

BOB LESTER (PH), MUSIC WRITER: Good to be here.

VAUSE: This is really great. OK. The storm has pretty much overshadowed all anti-Trump songs up to this point; more than 15 million views on YouTube making headlines. There's a lot of praise from liberals, they have embraced it.

How do you explain this?

What's so special about this rap version that it's got so much attention?

LESTER (PH): No one of this caliber has stood up to Trump. There are a lot of people -- don't forget, the barrier to entry in media today is nonexistent. Everyone go on YouTube, everyone can get a song on Spotify.

So many people with no traction are trying to get attention. And we don't care about them. Middleax (ph), Wilco wrote a song, had no traction. Eminem is at the pinnacle of stardom. No one else.

Taylor Swift hasn't weighed in, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean. None of these people have weighed in. In addition, hip-hop runs the world. If you go on Spotify, the Spotify top 50 is all hip-hop. So you have someone with superstardom in the genre that counts, speaking truth forcefully. That's why it resonates.

SESAY: Spencer Cornhaver (ph), who is a writer for "The Atlantic," he has taken issue of your praise for Eminem, writing a piece and he quoted a line from your e-mail, from your article you sent out after the freestyle was aired. This is what he said. It's on screen. And this is your line he's taking issue with.

You say, "This is everything today's musicians are against. They don't want to alienate a single potential audience member. The only person with a voice as big as Trump's is a rapper and tonight the king of rappers called him out."

Spencer says your statement is out of touch. And he took it a step further, saying Eminem is no more -- is saying no more than other rappers have already said, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, what do you say to that? LESTER (PH): A, I'm laughing because it's completely untrue. Point me to the Kendrick Lamar song where he specifically said this, it's all about this. Jay Z has taken --

SESAY: He does have that line where he calls Trump and then he says the day after --


LESTER (PH): -- we have Agent Orange that the rappers said on the Grammys last year, that is different and am awards show. The BET awards show, where the whole screen is about Trump and it's not metaphors. It's very specific.

So what you have is -- I hear from these people, too. I don't want to make this too personal but we have a hip-hop insider saying how dare you be an expert on my field?

There's another guy, Young Thug, who did a song like this. I'm hearing from all the -- Killer Mike from Run the Jewels. He did something. But they're not of the caliber of Eminem.

SESAY: He makes the other point, which I just want to get your views on. He says that, you know, the thrust of Eminem's freestyle is very much that there's a double standard in this country, where black people are treated differently and their grievances on technology makes the -- he says the line, you go and you fight abroad and then you come back -- this is Eminem -- and then they say go back to Africa.

Spencer makes the point -- and I want to hear your thoughts -- that by raising Eminem above all the other rappers and hip-hop stars, aren't you doing the same thing, i.e., elevating a white person --


LESTER (PH): -- because this person is so much cherry-picking history.

What did Kanye say?

"Bush hates black people," and we know all that. We can say that everywhere and Kanye is certainly African American and proud of his heritage. No one in the rap community says that Eminem is white. He has never been denigrated on that cause. The fact that he stood up. If Jay Z had done the same thing, would have been just as powerful. But he has not chosen to do.

This is typical of the Left. Someone stands up and you're not politically correct enough. It's like I was writing about Harvey Weinstein and what they said was, you have to immediately say how abominable he is. You can't investigate what's going on.

So in this case, when a rapper stands up on an awards show and excoriates Trump, they say, you didn't do it right. VAUSE: Very quickly, we're almost out of time. We've noticed that

this rap song is being embraced by the Left. But here's one of Eminem's previous raps about "Baywatch" star, Pamela Anderson. Here's a short clip.


VAUSE: OK, that's the clean version of the lyrics. (INAUDIBLE) lips, the R rated version says something else.

Can the Left now embrace this guy, rapping about stuffing dead hookers into the trunks of cars and still lecture the President of the United States about his locker room talk?

LESTER (PH): He exists in his own atmosphere. That's what's so great about this. You watch television, you watch CNN, you watch MSNBC, they have been beating this guy up for nine months and nothing has changed. Every week there's a different thing.

Now you have someone with -- beholden to nothing who speaks, and he has more impact on voters than the news. That's what's so interesting because people who are Trump fans are hip-hop fans.

VAUSE: There's hypocrisy here, this guys talking about stuffing hookers into cars and ripping Pamela Anderson (INAUDIBLE) can they embrace this guy while at the same time clutching their pearls and tanning the president about grabbing women and the locker room talk?

LESTER (PH): If we look at it, he is bigger -- if we go back to the '70s and the '60s and you have to be a student of history, Jimmy Carter was elected by the Allman Brothers. Eminem is out in front of all the pundits, OK?

If we look at Hillary Clinton, she lost because she was part of the system and triangulated. Bernie Sanders, if he started a year before, would have won speaking the truth. We have Eminem speaking the truth.

Once you become -- this is what the Right loves. The Right loves you to come into their vortex and speak to their issues. It's not about the foibles of the individuals, it is about the message.

SESAY: Bob, yes-no answer?

Are you surprised that the president didn't respond to Eminem?

LESTER (PH): I'm stunned and I love it. He's afraid.


SESAY: All right.


SESAY: There we must leave it. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. "WORLD SPORT" is next. You're watching CNN.