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Remembering Fallen Green Beret Dustin Wright; Cowboys Owner: NFL "Suffering" From Protests; NYT: O'Reilly Paid $32M To Settle Sexual Harassment Case. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 23, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:33:50] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump responding just moments ago to the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson on Twitter. He writes, "I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson and spoke his name from the beginning without hesitation."

This comes as the family of 29-year-old army Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright who was killed in that ambush in Niger is also speaking out about their calls with the president and what Sergeant Wright was fighting for.

Dustin Wright's brother, William Wright, joins us now. William, thank you so much for being here.


CAMEROTA: We're so sorry about your loss. Before we get to the phone calls that you've had with President Trump, I just want to talk about something that everyone is talking about this morning, including leading senators. Do you know what your brother was doing in Niger? Did he explain his mission there?

WRIGHT: He did. This mission I'm familiar with having served in Afghanistan, and I know it's something that goes unsaid a lot, but it's part of our global strategy to combat terrorism. Places unseen and unknown to most people. That's where terrorism and their cells are growing, so.

[08:35:04] CAMEROTA: Was he comfortable with what he was doing in Niger? Did he feel as though the troops had enough security? Did he share any of those things with you?

WRIGHT: Well, I think as comfortable as you can be in combat, he was confident in his team and the men around him, and as we'd all love to have apache gunships and air support and my situation in Afghanistan was no different. We didn't have some of those resources.

It's just -- that's the nature of war today. You go to places far from home and a lot of unfriendly people and sometimes you do it with less than you'd like. CAMEROTA: Congresswoman Wilson has called what happened in Niger, this ambush, President Trump's Benghazi. And I'm wondering, do you think that this mission there and the ambush is a controversy?

WRIGHT: Well, I think anytime something like this happens and it gets so much attention, especially when many people didn't know we were there, it's going to be a controversy. I, for one, having experienced in these situations, I don't see it as a Benghazi situation, you know, that was very different. Where Americans were denied support by Americans and it was highly controversial, and that was not war. That was a diplomat and his staff.

This is a special operations detachment doing a mission that they were tasked to do and in a very hostile environment. It is a tragedy. It is.

You know, there are families that are grieving, mothers that buried sons and wives that have to carry on without husbands. But I think to make that step is a bit far in my opinion, but I know everyone is handling this process very differently.

CAMEROTA: Tell us about your phone call with President Trump. What did he say to your family?

WRIGHT: Well, I personally didn't talk to the president --

CAMEROTA: It was with your dad, yes.

WRIGHT: Yes, yes. That's OK. It was a lengthy call, it's about 20 minutes. My father, you know, said he did 17 minutes out of the 20 talking, and I jokingly said, that was probably a record for President Trump.

But my father got to express his concerns as far as, you know, not just for my brother, but our military as a whole and the support they need, both with resources abroad and at home. And then he spoke to the president about my brother. And his life and his family and just, you know, let him know who he was.

CAMEROTA: Boy, you and your brother look similar. We are showing pictures of him right now, and I know that you guys were very close. You're only 13 months apart. Tell us about your brother, Dustin.

WRIGHT: He's an incredible man. Honestly, you see pictures and he's a force to be reckoned with. He's a large man and, you know, the only thing that ever overshadows that is his heart.

He could lay down his life for you, but he'd sit down and talk to you and you would think he was the softest, most gentle person in the world. And you know, if you were around him more than five minutes and you weren't smiling, it was probably because he didn't like you. So -- and that didn't happen very often.

CAMEROTA: I know that you've said there was no other path for Dustin than to go into the military. What do you mean? WRIGHT: I think, you know, what is very liberating in life is when you find out your purpose. When you discover who you're meant to be and a lot of the chains that we put on ourselves are released. That's what happened for Dustin.

He knew who he was meant to be and he found this path. And I think it's the only path that was in his heart, and it fit him. It fit his personality. It fit the way he loved people and wanted to serve others. And -- I mean, he did that all the way to the end.

CAMEROTA: So, William, does your family have any lingering questions about what your brother was doing in Niger, and whether or not he was supported enough, and whether or not this was just a tragic episode or whether or not it could have ended differently?

WRIGHT: I think anytime you have a loss like this, even from a military family, there's always questions you're going to want answered. And we understand there is an investigation going on and, you know, again, pulling from the experience as the family we've had through the military, through my service, there are always going to be questions that you don't get the exact answers you want to.

We've been given information all along and we've been assured that when the time is appropriate and details are completely ironed out, we'll get those answers. But we also understand, in the fog of war, you know, the mind doesn't work like it does every other day. Certain details you're protected from and stories differ from every perspective.

[08:40:08] So, you know, at the end of the day, we're honored by my brother's sacrifice and his service and we know his brothers that served with him, you know, they'll give us the answers they can. And when the reports come out, we'll be excited to read them and have a little bit more closure.

CAMEROTA: Yes, understood. William Wright, thank you very much for being on with us and telling your brother's story and of course, for your family's sacrifice and service. Nice to talk to you.

WRIGHT: Yes ma'am. Thank you.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So, are the National Anthem protests hurting the NFL? One of the league's most well-known owners is speaking out. Jerry Jones from Cowboy Nation taking on the controversy in the Bleacher Report, next.


CUOMO: Cowboys' owner, Jerry Jones, says the National Anthem protests are hurting the NFL. Andy Scholes has more in the Bleacher Report. This is something that should make the President happy.

[08:45:02] ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, you know, this was the first time Jerry Jones had spoken since last week's owners' meetings. And he said yesterday after the Cowboys game that the league is suffering the negative effects from these protests.

Now, Jones also saying that the league sponsors are, quote, concerned about the anthem protests and the potential damage that's being done for the league. And he added that at all times, he wants to do the right thing by his sponsors and their customers.

All right. Check out the fog last night at the Super Bowl rematch between the Patriots and the Falcons. It got so bad in the second half of the game that NBC had to switch to lower angles so that you could see the field. Now as for the actual action in the game, no need for the Patriots to make a comeback in this one. Atlanta didn't even score a touchdown or any points for that matter until the fourth quarter. And New England won that game easily, 23-7.

Of course, all the conspiracy theorists were out during that game, Alisyn, saying that somehow the Patriots had created this fog to get a competitive advantage on the field. "FogGate", they were calling it, of course, no truth to that.

CAMEROTA: Tom Brady is that powerful. He controls the clouds.

SCHOLES: He can create a fog.

CAMEROTA: Yes, he does. All right, thanks so much, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

CAMEROTA: OK, so there's outrage after a New York Times report that former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly settled a sexual harassment claim for $32 million with one woman. Fox still renewed his contract after that. Are these settlements buying women's silence? We discuss that, next.


[08:50:28] CAMEROTA: the New York Times reports that former Fox News Anchor Bill O'Reilly paid $32 million in January to a Fox News analyst to settle a sexual harassment case. Despite that, Fox News renewed O'Reilly's contract, giving him a $100 million contract.

Joining us to discuss all of this is cultural critic and writer, Michaela Angela Davis, and Nancy Erica Smith, the attorney for Gretchen Carlson who received a $20 million settlement for her harassment claims against former Fox News head Roger Ailes. Ladies, great to have you back. Seems like it's the never ending conversation that we continue to have.

But, Nancy, $32 million is such a jaw-dropping number at least for the legal analyst who received that settlement according to the New York Times. What could possibly have happened? What, what act would warrant a $32 million settlement?

NANCY ERICA SMITH, REPRESENTS GRETCHEN CARLSON: Well, they said it was an unconsensual sexual relationship. A non-consensual sexual relationship.

CAMEROTA: What does that mean?

SMITH: That means sexual assault or rape under the law. When you have a sexual contact without consent, that's either an assault or a rape.

CUOMO: Quick legal point for people out there. You're allowed, to do by contract, a lot of things between two people. Are you allowed to settle a criminal claim?

SMITH: You're not really allowed to settle a criminal claim, but many law enforcement agencies, if you resolve your claim and don't want to go forward --

CUOMO: Because they don't have a willing victim and witness.

SMITH: Exactly. They will let it go. The other thing that's interesting about this settlement is that apparently, evidence has been destroyed as a part of the settlement.

CAMEROTA: Yes, they had to expunge all of the text messages and any sort of e-mails between them.

SMITH: Right. Now, I don't blame Ms. Wiehl at all, whatever happened to her, she deserves whatever she got, and I hope that she's peaceful. But it's unethical to destroy evidence. That might be evidence that other women could have used in claims against Bill O'Reilly, because it's dismissible how he treated other women. So destroying evidence may have been part of what that settlement was about.

CAMEROTA: And yet, Fox knew about this. I don't know if they knew the amount because he settled it, it sounds like privately, without having to disclose it to Fox. But they knew that there were some issue before they then offered him another contract for $100 million.

MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, CULTURAL CRITIC/WRITER: Certainly, it's six claims at least. So I think what it speaks to is that there's a culture that's being supported. And the agreement almost is like, don't get caught, right? And $32 million is not a settlement, it is a silencing.

You know, your opening statement, as a silencing of women, and now I think we're saying there's no price tag on that. Because what would $32 million merit is that, is to silence you. And you have these little men with big bank accounts that have been doing this to women ongoingly.

CUOMO: Are the victims supposed to not seek those deals then?

DAVIS: No, they should. But, what they're asking you to do is take this non-consensual relationship. That sounds like rape -- like, call a thing a thing, right? So here's $32 million for you to be raped and be quiet.


DAVIS: So that these other women can't find their voice. And that's -- this is the deluge that we're seeing now. The voices of women coming forward and coming together.

CAMEROTA: But this is where it gets confusing, Nancy, because women don't have to take those settlements. Gretchen didn't have to take $20 million, and even she yesterday, on Reliable Sources talked about how it has a silencing effect. Let me just play Gretchen's words for everyone from yesterday.


GRETCHEN CARLSON, FORMER FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I think it's horrifying and outrageous that any company, after dismissing somebody for allegations such as that would not only re-sign a contract, but allow that person to come a back on the air. We are on a movement to speak up and be heard. And there's no turning back for women in the workplace.

Why should women have the American dream taken away from them? We work just as hard as anyone else. And it's time that it stops.


CAMEROTA: OK, that's really powerful, but that's not the one that I was hoping for. I will read to you one unless we have it. The one that I was hoping for which is, "We're fooling society into thinking we don't have a problem with this issue anymore. Why? Because we don't hear about these cases. But why is because women are shut up into silence by accepting a settlement."

[08:55:06] And who would walk away from a $20 million settlement or a $32 million settlement? I get it. But you have to be silent after that. You don't have to take that settlement, right?

SMITH: Well, you don't but Gretchen wasn't silent. We publicly sued and she got a public apology as part of her settlement. So she wasn't silent, but I don't blame the women at all.

What are you supposed to do? Go to court and spend two years being viciously attacked? The attacks on these women, on Twitter and on social media, are scary and awful. She was followed and surveilled.

DAVIS: The emotional toll -- and these are rich, privileged women. This is happening in post offices, at fast food restaurants --

CUOMO: They don't get settlements.

DAVIS: They don't get settlements, they don't -- women have had to survive. And so this is another level of survival. And we have to separate the money from the morality. So just because there's a price tag on it doesn't mean that --

CAMEROTA: (INAUDIBLE) but what's the answer which is, taking a settlement but not agreeing to be silenced?

SMITH: The answer is --

CUOMO: You're not going to get a deal if you'll be silent.

SMITH: -- outlaw nondisclosure disagreements. Senator Loretta Weinberg in New Jersey --

CUOMO: You're not going to get a settlement then?

SMITH: No, you'll get a settlement because Bill O'Reilly still doesn't want a trial.

CUOMO: But you have to sue first. I'm saying, you're not going to get a private deal because the bargain for exchange is your silence. That's why the person is paying.

SMITH: But you still might get a settlement, but it will have to be disclosed. And you know what we might get ultimately, an end to this. Which is all of our goals, especially the victims' goals.

CAMEROTA: There you go, Nancy Erica Smith, Michaela Angela Davis, thank you so much for being on. It was great to talk to both of you.

CUOMO: All right, CNN NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow and John Berman is going to pick up right after this break. There's a lot of news. Please, stay with CNN.