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Pentagon Reveals New Timeline In Deadly Niger Firefight; Xi Jingping Ideology Enshrined In Constitution; Trump's Tough Rhetoric Sparks War Worries; Megyn Kelly Speaks Out Against O'Reilly After Fox Renewed O'Reilly's Contract After $32M Settlement; Next Conflict Could Be Over Territory Militants Held; Action-Packed 100th Episode Kicks Off Season 8. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired October 24, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, way beyond he said/she said; the president calls out the grieving widow of a dead U.S. soldier on Twitter, disputing her version of his condolence call.

Plus, Xi Jinping enshrined in the Constitution of China's Communist Party and honor which elevates him to the highest political levels.

And a $32 million settlement to a sexual harassment, leads many asking what exactly did Fox News Anchor, Bill O'Reilly, really do pay out so much?

Hello, everybody! Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. We're not into the second hour of NEWSROOM L.A.

The first time the widow of one of the four American soldiers killed in an ISIS ambush in Niger is speaking out. Myeshia Johnson says President Donald Trump condolence call made her crying. The president couldn't let the grieving widow's comments stand without any reaction, but he did it. Here's Senior White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us what happened in Niger?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an uncharacteristically silent President Trump, avoiding questions all day long on the widow of La David Johnson -- the Army Sergeant killed along with three other service members in Niger earlier this month. But the questions are not going away, in part because of the sergeant's widow, Myeshia Johnson, shared with ABC that the president said her late husband knew what he was signing up for in a phone call.

MYESHIA JOHNSON, WIDOW OF SERGEANT LA DAVID JOHNSON: The president said that he knew what he signed up for but it hurts anyway. And I was -- it made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice. The only way he remembered my husband's name because he told me he had my husband report in front of him. And that's when he actually said, La David. I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband name. And that what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risks his life for our country, why can't you remember his name?

ACOSTA: Shortly after the interview, the president took the unusual step of correcting the widow, tweeting: "I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from the beginning without hesitation." The widow also backed her Congresswoman Frederica Wilson who was in the car with the Johnson when the president's call came in.

JOHNSON: Whatever Ms. Wilson said was not fabricated. What she said was a hundred percent correct. It was necessary to know, me, my aunt, my uncle, and the driver, and Ms. Wilson in the call. The phone was on speakerphone. Why would we fabricate something like that?

ACOSTA: The president and Congresswoman Wilson are still at it on Twitter. Mr. Trump trying to capitalize politically on the exchange, tweeting: "Wacky Congresswoman Wilson the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party. A disaster for Dems. You watched in action, and vote Republican." And Wilson firing back, "Niger is President Trump's Benghazi; he needs to own it."

Wilson is also hitting back at White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who erroneously stated the congresswoman took credit during a 2015 speech for funding an FBI facility in Florida. Something she didn't do, tweeting: "General Kelly owes the nation an apology because when he lied about me, he'd lied to the American public."

Now, the president's mere total silence on the controversy stands in stark contrast with the scene in the rose garden one week ago, when he suggested he was more compassionate than past commanders in chief when it came to fallen soldiers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You look at President Obama, and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls, a lot of them didn't make calls.

ACOSTA: Add to that roll calls reporting, the White House scrambled to obtain contact information for families of fallen service members after the president told Fox Radio he almost always makes those calls.

TRUMP: I have called, I believe, everybody. But certainly, I'll use the word virtually everybody.

[01:05:10] ACOSTA: It's another textbook example of the president throwing the White House off message. This week's agenda item overshadowed tax reform.

TRUMP: People want to see it, and I call it tax cuts. It is tax reform also, but I call it tax cuts.

ACOSTA: The White House confirmed the West Wing did expedite condolence letters to family members after the president's remarks in the rose garden last week. But this official said, during the process, a discovery was made that there were bureaucratic reasons for why some of the letters have not gone out to the family sooner, and most of those cases, this official said, letters in contacts were delayed because the service member killed in action had "involved multiple casualty incidences." This official said, the White House then directed that condolence letters he sent out. Jim Acosta, CNN, The White House.


VAUSE: Joining me now for more on this, Talk Radio Host Ethan Bearman; and Shawn Steele, a California Republican Committeeman and former Chairman of the California Republican Party; also with us, CNN Military Analyst, Retire Lt. Col. Rick Francona. Thanks for being with us. We also heard from General Dunford on Monday, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs, he took questions about 50 minutes, but clearly didn't have a lot of detail to add to how this deadly ambush in Niger actually happened.


GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEF OF STAFF: We don't know that definitively right now. I can't answer it definitively. I don't know how this attack unfold. I don't know why the (INAUDIBLE) drop -- didn't drop bombs during those initial passes. And I don't know if the, you know, on the ground, asked them to do that. I don't know how these soldiers that they were equipped if they were wearing body armor.


VAUSE: Col. Francona, General Dunford was, you know, trying to be transparent he said. Did he achieve that, given that he actually couldn't answer a lot the questions?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think so. I mean, the general has a lot of credibilities; he came across very well. But I think the problem is he just doesn't know the answers yet. Now, I think the problem is not with General Dunford, I think the problem with down the line. He's not getting the information he needs. AfriCom, you know, the African command needs to come up with these answers; they've to investigate a team out there and they need to push this information up to the Pentagon so he can answer these questions. So, I think the general is in a really, really tough position right now as he hasn't despite those answers.

VAUSE: Yes, and top position may have handled by a lot of lawmakers who have been pushing for more details over how these four Greens Berets were killed. This is what Senator John McCain had to say.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: American should know what's going on, we should what caused the deaths of four -- we should know what kind of operations were engaged in. And one of the fights I'm having right now with the ministration is that the Armed Services Committee is not getting enough information. And they deserve it because we represent their families too.


VAUSE: Ethan, at this point, is this soldier politics at the moment? (INAUDIBLE)

ETHAN BEARMAN, TALK RADIO HOST: Well, I think he has a valid point. Really, we're civilian-run military in this country. We'd have the military it isn't in charge of the military, the civil branch of government is in charge of the military. We have the right to know what's going on. It's absolutely the senator's job to understand what's happening here. And I think the colonel made a great point that what's happening in AfriCom that we don't have answers, essentially two weeks after this attack. You know, we're closing in two weeks. We should know what happened, American lives were lost, let's get to the bottom of what's going on, and understand why we're committing resources and American lives in that part of Africa.

VAUSE: And Shawn, you know, General Washington became George Washington, he said the most important rank of all the civilian.

SHAWN STEELE, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN COMMITTEEMAN AND FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY: And that's the beauty of our democracy. Obama started this very intense program throughout Africa. Hundreds and hundreds of African have been killed by Jihadist and by the extreme Muslim sects. And so, we have a number of American troops -- looks like 6,000 -- but Obama started them. It's one of the few good things that he actually did. But keep in mind, before McCain did not know this, that a program has been going on, so to speak, much more of him and his fellow senators.

And it shows that American just don't respect a lot of the members of Congress when they just can't get on -- and he's a chairman of the committee. So, it's a bipartisan problem. I mean, he's got his own anger issues with Donald Trump, he should take those anger and should set them aside, and do what's best for the American people instead of making cheap shots.

VAUSE: OK. Well, General Dunford did say to at least acknowledge that there is, you know, this climate, this controversy surrounding this ambush in Niger, or a lot of it being graded by President Trump, a lot of people, though, wanting to know exactly what happened. This is what he said.


DUNFORD: How many of you have asked a number of questions, and those are all, in many, are fair questions and we owe you more information. More importantly, we owe the families of fallen more information.


[01:10:00] VAUSE: Colonel Francona, how important is that commitment from General Dunford? And from what you've heard from that news conference, is this what you would expect an investigation into an incident like this to be at this point or is lagging behind?

FRANCONA: Yes. I think it's lagging behind. In all honesty, they should have more answers now. This was -- I mean, this was a tragedy: four American soldiers died out there. And we should know more about it right now. I know it's a long -- these are, you know, very difficult parts of the world. But I just want to pick up on something that, you know, your second guy said there, John McCain should've known, and I don't know why he doesn't know what's going on there.

I mean, I have no special access and I know what's going on in Niger. I mean, it's public knowledge. So, I think that the Pentagon has that real responsibility to answer not only to American people but to the Congress. But the Congress has a responsibility to know what's going on. They are really deficient in their oversight responsibility if the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee doesn't know what's going on.

VAUSE: On another note, Colonel, the investigation into what happened in Niger are taking place amid the scandal on the ongoing feud, if you like, between the president over his condolence call of the widow of one of the soldiers who was killed there. Regardless of who is right, how difficult is this to actually watch for you and for other service men and women.

FRANCONA: You know, it's a sad thing that this is happening. We've always regarded the relationship between the American people and their fallen soldiers, sailors, marines, coastguardsman, anybody that puts on a uniform and sacrifices for their country. We have regarded that as sacrosanct in the past. And I think General Kelly did a really good job of explaining that. So, for a member of Congress and the president to get into a tit for tat over who's being more compassionate or who said what, I think, does a great disservice to those four soldiers that died out there in Nigerian desert. I think we owe them a much, much better -- much better remembrance than that.

VAUSE: OK. We'll get to John Kelly in a moment, but, Shawn, I want to know how, how did -- how do you move beyond this now with the president who continues to tweet, maybe leaving the widow alone, but going after the congresswoman trying to make it a political issue. Isn't there a responsibility now for the commander in chief to be the bigger man?

STEELE: Actually, in this rare case, I agree with you completely. And notice that Trump said nothing today, and that's a start -- by not feeding into the fury. But notice the reporters are still trying to aid them on because they know he's very vulnerable, he likes to respond. But as president trying to make him look worse so is the self-fulfilling prophecy on both sides. Trump's doing the right -- we're talking about it, move on and --

BEARMAN: Hostile president. George Washington's first term as the first president of United States complained about the hostile press.

STEELE: He was right.

BEARMAN: The press's job is to ask questions to people in power, that includes the president. I agree this is the president's job to set the tone which he has failed to from day one as president. And today was maybe a good day, let's see what happens at 6:00 a.m.

VAUSE: And Congresswoman Wilson.

BEARMAN: Let's see what happens at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow.

VAUSE: OK. Colonel Francona mentioned the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, he did come to the president's defense last week. Whilst he did that, he especially harsh on Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, the one who is in the car with Myeshia Johnson, overheard the condolence call because it was on a speakerphone and then relayed that to the press. When Kelly was defending the president, he had some harsh words to say about Frederica Wilson; some of those words have been not true.

Here's part of the New York Times editorial: "This nation is in crying need of a demonstration of virtue and public life. And Mr. Kelly seemed, until now, like a man for the job. But he is not honoring Sergeant Johnson's sacrifice by insisting on falsehoods and stretching out this sordid spectacle." Ethan, whether Kelly had lied, also being handed information that was, you know, incorrect, or his recollection was wrong. How important is it to him right now to go out and correct the record?

BEARMAN: It's easy and it's very important. And I wish everybody would listen. All of our leaders, I don't care if you're talking about President Trump or if we're talking about Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi, I don't care about your political party. We are in a point with divisions in our country, and we need leaders to step forward, admit they made mistakes, ask for forgiveness, say, I made the mistake, I am truly sorry, please forgive me, let's move on from this. We need to start healing. And that is an easy way to do it.

STEELE: Unfortunately, that Frederica Wilson who wears a clown costume every time she goes to the public, she has a weird cowboy hat on. She has no credibility. She's a provocateur --

VAUSE: This is about John Kelly's --

STEELE: Well, I know but she's, she's, she's created this environment by attacking a four-star general when she has no business doing that.

BEARMAN: He's chief of staff and not general anymore.

STEELE: And if there's a technical mistake, big deal, let it go. But to try to amplify that to attack a four-star general, to actually make a controversy over making a compassionate call, demeans her and the people that support her.

[01:15:05] VAUSE: OK. John Kelly is a retired Marine Corps General. He is the marine corps values, in particular when it comes to honor, "to never lie, cheat, or steal; to abide by an uncompromising code of integrity; to respect human dignity, and to have respect and concern for each other." Shawn, is John Kelly living up to those ideals?

STEELE: Absolutely, in every detail of it. A person can make a mistake, but it's not a lie. And the lie is doing something intentionally. And I don't think anybody at this table believes that he was lying at all. I take General Kelly anytime to the 100 most nasty critics against Donald Trump -- that's not even a close call. And that's why Trump keeps winning. BEARMAN: Something factually untrue presented as truth is a form of a

lie. And he should just come out and say I was wrong about Representative Wilson, Congresswoman Wilson, that that woman, which is what he said, which was disrespectful to her and acknowledge it, admit it, and so we can move on.

STEEL: You're going to the wrong law school, you know that.

VAUSE: OK. We've also been told; the White House is claiming that bureaucratic bungle one made the president's condolence letters not being sent out on time. And you know, we did actually find out today that the 25,000 check which he promised to the father of a soldier who died in Afghanistan -- this was back in June. Well, it arrived and it was dated October 18, the same day reporters raise those petty report.

Shawn raised the question about why it had not been sent? The family, though, says that were all left speechless, "We are so moved and grateful, and we promise to use the money to honor Dylan's legacy," the name of the son who died. Ethan, does it matter how the timing they got the check at this point? Just they've got it or is there a bigger story?

BEARMAN: I think that it's better late than never. Although it is part of a pattern with President Trump, remember the expose about all of his donations to veterans' groups that didn't happen. I mean, this is a pattern that's going on here. I'm just glad the family got it. And I think for the sake of the family, we should say, at least the president sent it, they received it, and they're thankful for it.

VAUSE: Shawn, do you think that this check would've arrived if those pesky reporters did not ask the questions?

STEELE: In this case, I think it was a very good pesky report, I admit it. I've been in exactly the same situation: you go to the press, and they've raised the questions, and good things can happen. But it's like a broken clock -- it works twice a day.

VAUSE: Which I think. OK. I will leave it there. But Ethan and Shawn, thank you so much. Also, Colonel Rick Francona, we got a bit caught up in the politics at the end there, but you were -- we appreciate your contribution to the military side of all of this as well. OK. Thank you, sir. Well, take a quick break. When we come back, China's Communist Party gives the president another term, that's President Xi Jinping at an honor rarely granted, which could have big implications for the future. Also, land and resources are at stake; the next battle in the war against ISIS.


VAUSE: Well, the legacy of Xi Jinping now rivals that of China's most revered leaders. The president's ideology is now enshrined in the Communist Party Constitution, an honor bestowed upon him at the close of the party's Congress. Matt Rivers joins us now live from Beijing. So, Matt thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era. This is regarding principles of the party, the thoughts of Xi Jinping, what does this actually mean? [01:20:26] MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know,

the details I think, John, aren't as important as what that symbolizes. You know, Xi Jinping thought, that's officially the name of this term has been enshrined into Communist Party Constitution, and there's only been one other Chinese leader that has been bestowed with that honor and that would be that guy right there -- that's Chairman Mao Zedong; his picture on the front of the forbidden city here. We're (INAUDIBLE) Square at the moment. And only Mao Zedong thought, and Xi Jinping thought have been added into these Chinese Party Constitution.

That means a lot, and it gives you an idea, John, of the amount of power that Xi Jinping has been able to amass in his five years leading this country. We were expecting Xi Jinping's name to be added into the Constitution in some way. For instance, Dong Xiaoping, the successor to Mao Zedong also has his name in the Constitution but the fact that if Xi Jinping thought, and not say Xi Jinping theory means a lot. Thought trumps theory here in the political jargon of Chinese Communism. And the fact that it's Xi Jinping thought, means quite a bit.

VAUSE: Yes, and so we're now in the situation where everyone is waiting to see what, you know, what the leadership of the Communist Party would look like in the next five years, and from that, they'll try and work out who is the heir apparent. But does that even now matter that Xi Jinping has got so much authority, that he's out there with Mao Zedong, that he'll always be called the ultimate decider while he continues to be alive?

RIVERS: Yes, a lot of people here in China are wondering after this next five-year term, will Xi manage to stay on in some sort of political position to really be the ultimate decider, and we'll get some clue as to his ability to do that Wednesday morning. Even though the 19th party congress has officially come to a close. Wednesday morning, tomorrow morning here in China is when we see for the first time, when it's revealed to the public the seven-man standing committee. That really -- it's the committee within the pallet bureau that really makes the major decisions for China.

And what we're going to be looking for is Xi Jinping's ability to staff that committee with his allies. Those are the people that will help and execute his vision for China, and not only for the next five years but, potentially, for even longer after that if he manages to keep some sort of position of power. They'll be revealed on Wednesday morning. And given his success in getting Xi Jinping though, written into the Chinese Communist Party Constitution, I think, it's not going to be a surprise to see a lot of favorable faces for Xi Jinping to look at when that committee is revealed tomorrow morning, John.

VAUSE: And this is pretty much the outcome which, you know, some people had expected, but this is like, the high-end on the success scale, if you like, for Xi Jinping at this Communist Party Congress. Which is incredible to think that he was the compromise candidate five years ago and came into a party that was in turmoil, you know, dealing with corruption and infighting. RIVERS: It really is hard to understate his success over the last

five years, you said it. When he came in in 2012, this was a party that was, really, had a lot of infighting, corruption, it was absolutely rampant, and Xi has ruled with an iron fist. Now, his anti-corruption drive has been mentioned by critics to be really just a way to purge his political enemies, but the fact is it has had an impact here in China -- in the way the Communist Party operates.

And through that and through his ruling over things like state media, his increase in online censorship, he's been able to control the public narrative here in China, he has been able to control the political narrative here in China, and now he really sets himself up for the next five years. The first five years involve out amassing power, then the next five years is going to be about using it: what is he going to do? And he can really shape this country in his image because he has more power -- you can argue that any Chinese leader since the guy who is literally posted there right there behind me on the gateway to the forbidden city. Hard to overstate, really, how much success he's had over the last five years.

VAUSE: You know, they've got a bunch of those Mao portraits, and they just keep changing them out every few years, just in case you're wondering. Yes, ultimate power, what are you going to with it? Good question. Matt, good to see. Enjoy (INAUDIBLE) Square. Try not to get arrested.

OK. Two prominent democracy activists in Hong Kong is set to be released on bail: Joshua Wong and Nathan Law were sentenced for their role in the 2014 protest and the umbrella movement. The arrests fuel fears a Chinese government crackdown on this semi-autonomous city. Appealing their jail sentences and are pledging to keep fighting for greater political freedom for Hong Kong. One of the biggest issues facing Xi Jinping in China is the next -- in his next term is North Korea, and whether its war of words with the U.S. will actually turn into something which could be a lot worse. Brian Todd has the story.


[01:25:10] BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As tensions build with North Korea's volatile leader, new concerns about whether the Trump administration is talking itself into a possible conflict with Kim Jong-un. President Trump kept up the tough talk in an interview with the Fox Business Network.

TRUMP: We are prepared for anything. We are so prepared like you wouldn't believe. You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be. Would it be nice not to do that? The answer is: yes. Will that happen, who knows?

TODD: The president's comments follow other remarks from his National Security team in recent weeks, indicating a tougher tone on North Korea. CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, warning about Pyongyang's rapidly advancing threat of a nuclear-tipped missile that could hit the U.S.

MIKE POMPEO, DIRECTOR, CIA: It's now a matter of thinking about -- thinking about how do you stop the final step? TODD: And the latest warning from Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson

that diplomatic efforts to solve this crisis might fail.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.

TODD: The tough talk extends back at least to August when Trump spoke like president ever has when addressing North Korea's threats.

TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

SUE TERRY, FORMER NORTH KOREA ANALYST, CIA: I do think it's pretty stunning that the U.S. president speaks about openly going to war with North Korea, because, as you know, conflict is as unimaginable in the Korean Peninsula.

TODD: But some say Trump's been in a position no other American president ever has by the aggression of his young adversary. Some of this is also on Kim Jong-un, right?

DEAN CHENG, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Absolutely. We have seen multiple nuclear tests: a test of a hydrogen bomb, not just a fusion bomb but a fusion bomb of multiple hundreds of times the size of Hiroshima. ICBM test over Japan, nobody has done this before, certainly from North Korea.

TODD: Now, another key strategic question: will President Trump visit the heavily fortified DMZ as other American presidents have when he travels to Asia next month.

CHENG: It could also really stoke. The fires in Kim Jong-un is very unpredictable. If he doesn't go, on the other hand, it looks either like we're making a concession to North Korea or it is making -- look like President Trump is somehow not your typical president.

TODD: A senior White House official tells CNN that a Trump visit to the DMZ has not been ruled out. But that the timing for it may not be quite right because the president is scheduled to visit a U.S. military installation at about the same time. White House official said they're not concerned about any message the president might be sending if he doesn't visit the DMZ. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


[01:27:53] VAUSE: Well, next here on NEWSROOM L.A. He reportedly paid $32 million to make a sexual harassment claim go away. Now that it's public, Bill O'Reilly; he's playing the victim.


[01:30:30] VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour. Chinese President Xi Jinping's ideology is now enshrined in the communist party's constitution. He's only the third leader to have his thoughts and name added to the constitution, putting him on par with Chairman Mao Zedong. President Xi just oversaw the closing of the Communist Party Congress. The China's new leadership was also revealed.

Two for one democracy activists in Hong Kong are set to be released on bail. Joshua Wong and Nathan Law was sentenced for their role in the 2014 protest under the Umbrella Movement. They're appealing their jail sentences and also pledging to keep the fight up with the Chinese government for greater political freedom for Hongkong.

The widow of one of the four American soldiers killed in an ISIS ambush in Niger is speaking out. Myeshia Johnson says President Trump's condolence call made her cry. She says she grew distraught at the tone of his voice. And the fact that he appeared to stumble and not recall her husband's name. President Trump responded with a tweet claiming he had a respectful conversation with the widow and had no trouble remembering David Johnson's name.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal continues to grow. Just right now, the New York State Attorney General's office is looking into his namesake company, the Weinstein Company, for violating civil rights law. A source told CNN the office requested all documents related to sexual harassment or other discrimination complaints against any employee. Weinstein was fired from the company's board after New York Times released a bombshell report detailing decades of alleged predatory behavior by Weinstein.

Another Hollywood filmmaker is facing similar allegations. The Los Angeles Times reports 38 women say they were sexually harassed by James Toback. The allegations spent decades and most of the women took on meetings of an audition in which quickly turned sexual. The Bugsy screenwriter has denied the allegations which CNN has not been able to independently verify.

Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly is back in the headlines for another sexual harassment allegation. The New York Time reporting the former Fox News host paid $32 million to settle with an accuser just weeks before Fox News renewed his contract. And now, O'Reilly is firing back. Details from CNN's Brian Stelter.


MEGYN KELLY, FORMER HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: What on earth would justify that amount? What awfulness went on?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's what so many people are asking. Now, that the New York Times has revealed that Bill O'Reilly --

BILL O'REILLY, FORMER HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Just a bit. Starts right here.

STELTER: -- paid $32 million to stop former Fox News Legal Analyst Lis Wiehl from suing him. Of all the settlement payments involving Fox News, this is the largest by far.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This morning, the stunning new report. And what he is saying about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The new Bill O'Reilly bombshell reportedly paying $32 million --

STELTER: On Monday, O'Reilly told Glenn Beck that his enemies are behind this, plotting to keep him off T.V.

O'REILLY: The end game is let's link O'Reilly with Harvey Weinstein. Let's make him that. So, we take him out of the marketplace forever.

STELTER: His theory aside, there is new scrutiny on Fox News, which just can't seem to shake these sexual misconduct scandals, and there are new questions about O'Reilly's behavior.

O'REILLY: My conscience is clear.

STELTER: He says he has not mistreated anyone. Despite at least five other settlements with other women in the past. O'Reilly defended himself on NBC last month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're accused of sexual harassment.

O'REILLY: Uh-hmm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said at the time you did absolutely nothing wrong. Do you stand by that?

O'REILLY: Correct. I do.

STELTER: What we didn't know then is that O'Reilly struck a $32- million deal back in January. Wiehl, a regular guest on his show was threatening to sue.

EMILY STEEL, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: She made allegations of a nonconsensual sexual relationship, and that her allegation concluded that he sent her pornography material that included gay pornography.

STELTER: The money made it go away. In this affidavit, dated January 17th, Wiehl said she had no claims against O'Reilly. With the secret safely buried or so, they thought, Fox renewed O'Reilly's deal worth an estimated 25 million a year. You already know the rest, Fox booted O'Reilly in April after the initial New York Times investigation revealed other settlements. But he was welcomed back on the air last month.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: All right. Bill, well, come back. Will you come back?

O'REILLY: Maybe. You know, maybe.

HANNITY: Are you coming back.

O'REILLY: Yes, I'll come back. I got a hawk this book, man.


STELTER: Gretchen Carlson sued Fox News founder Roger Ailes last year and settled for 20 million. CARLSON: Nobody pays $32 million to anybody for false accusations. Nobody. I don't care how much money you have.

STELTER: Now, O'Reilly has tens of millions less. He's vowing to fight on saying the Times story is part of a plot to take him down. He told the Times reporters.

O'REILLY: We have physical proof that this is bull (BLEEP). Bull (BLEEP). OK? So, it's on you if you want to destroy my children further.

STELTER: Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: And Brian is with us now from New York. So, Brian, part of the pushback against that reporter for New York Times. A spokesman for O'Reilly issued a statement, it read in part, "In the more than 20 years Bill O'Reilly worked at Fox News, not one complaint was filed against him with the Human Resources Department or Legal Department by a coworker, even on the anonymous hotline." And that seems to have struck a raw nerve with O'Reilly's former colleague, Megyn Kelly, who is now with NBC. Listen to this.


KELLY: O'Reilly's suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior is false. I know because I complained. This must stop. The abuse of women, the shaming of them, the threatening, the retaliation, the silencing of them after the fact, it has to stop.


VAUSE: And Kelly later posted an e-mail which she sent to the bosses at Fox News, she writes about O'Reilly's history of harassment at -- or towards women, rather. So, we'll get to O'Reilly's response in a moment. But how serious for the Fox is this e-mail and these claims by Kelly that management there at Fox were aware of O'Reilly's behavior, they did that. And how serious could this be for the parent company, 21st Century Fox?

STELTER: It is certainly deeply embarrassing. And folks there at the company are embarrassed up and too and including the Murdochs, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan. You know, they made a business calculation to keep Bill O'Reilly, even when they knew about some of the settlements in his past. They made a calculation to try to keep Megyn Kelly as well. But she went over to NBC. You know, she was one of Fox's biggest stars, and for her to be so publicly criticized in the network now is incredibly unusual and again, embarrassing for the network. Does it have long-term consequences? Then that's harder to judge. Fox's audience is incredibly loyal. It produces a sort of conservative pro-Trump product especially on primetime that its viewers really appreciate and can't find anywhere else.

So, Fox has some built-in advantages but on a corporate level, on a reputational level, this is another big black eye. I got to tell you, John, it's like Fox cannot get past these sexual harassment scandals.

VAUSE: You know, it's been one scandal after another, and then the old ones come back.

STETLER: Yes. Right, exactly. That's right.

VAUSE: You know, O'Reilly's -- Yes, O'Reilly's response on Monday, it was kind of weird. He -- on his Web site, he published three handwritten notes who from Kelly and another one from Gretchen Carlson, she's the woman who started all of this when she sued the Fox News boss there, Roger Ailes, of sexual harassment and won. And the notes seemed kind of just nothing more than office pleasantry. So, how these notes meant to contradict any of the claims made by Kelly or the other women?

STELTER: The idea here is that because these women wrote really kind notes to Bill O'Reilly years ago, it means they must not be telling the truth, they must be trying to be selfish now by coming out and criticizing him. I'm having a hard time explaining it because it doesn't really add up. I mean, one of these notes from Megyn Kelly was from 2009. It was to Bill O'Reilly back when she was a rising star at the channel, trying to establish herself. It makes sense that she would send him a thank you note for showing up at an event. But it does not at all let him off the hook. O'Reilly seems to think that because someone once said something nice about you, it means everything else they may say is untrue, and that just doesn't make any sense.

But again, this is sort of the tactic, right, that we see from some powerful men who are accused of wrongdoing, whether it's sexual harassment or other kinds of wrongdoing. There's an attempt to recast the story, to make them the victim. They say, hey, these women didn't have any problem with me in the past. That, actually, they're the victim, and O'Reilly definitely claims he is the victim

VAUSE: OK. Oh, he does. He does. He plays it very loudly. He's been claiming it for months. He's also been promising for months that he would have all of this evidence to clear his name. Like I said, he's been talking about it a lot but he hasn't actually delivered anything more than a lot of talk, right?

STELTER: Yes, I've been asking. I actually e-mailed his spokesman again before this conversation. Do you have anything more to show, anything more to tell us? O'Reilly likes to say that he has proof of a conspiracy against him, that this is a plot to take him down or to keep him off T.V. in the future. I think that the evidence for that is not in -- not here, we've never seen it. Maybe he'll present it in the future, but so far he has not.

[01:40:08] VAUSE: Very quickly, if he continues to go after people like Megyn Kelly, is he only making matters worse for himself?

STELTER: Megyn is making it harder and harder for him to get a fulltime T.V. job in the future. You know, he's been looking a chance to go to some Fox rival, you know, some network that wants to challenge Fox. He hasn't been or cut a deal like that yet. I'm not sure he'll be able to. I mean, this $32 million figure, it is just -- it is just astonishing. I think everybody in the T.V. business is trying to wrap their heads around and figure out what could have possibly going on behind the scenes that could cause O'Reilly to pay someone $32 million to keep them quiet? It is -- it is breathtaking and it decreases the odds of him finding a new T.V. job.

VAUSE: It baffles the mind.

STELTER: It does, it really does.

VAUSE: Brian, as always, thanks so much. Good to see you.

STELTER: Thanks.

VAUSE: Well, a last stand for ISIS. The Syrian City Deir ez-Zor is under siege, ISIS militants are sending thousands of civilians fleeing every day, and a final battle could be looming.


VAUSE: Along the ground, ISIS may be in retreat but the battle is not over, at least not yet. Many militants who fled the Syrian City of Raqqa now holed up in Deir ez-Zor. As Nick Paton Walsh reports, maybe this is where the coalition forces find the leader of the terror group.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They lost most of Iraq then Raqqa in Syria, now they're down through a small pocket of the Eastern City of Deir ez-Zor. But really, the issue now as ISIS rapidly lost territory, what happens to the land and the resources they used to control? And literally, in the last few days, the SDF, the U.S.-backed force of the Kurds have kicked ISIS out of much of Northern Syria. They're taking control of a vital oil field of valuable resource that the regime in Syria also wants, too, creating a fascinating and geopolitically very fraught new frontline in this now 5-year-old war.

This may be where ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is hiding but probably wishes he wasn't Russian and Syrian regime airstrike pound ISIS' remnants in the City of Deir ez-Zor, but they aren't alone in the skies or on the ground here. Banking hard and keeping out of the Russian's way, are U.S. jets. Assisting these U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters to take the nearby countryside from ISIS just the day before. ISIS are collapsing, and leaving in their wake, an almost Cold War standoff. Well, ISIS may be holding out in a pocket of a town of Deir ez-Zor behind me, over there, surrounded by the Syrian regime. But they've been kicked out, too, of this area by American-backed Kurdish SDF forces.

[01:45:00] Now, they've advanced to this river here which puts them literally meters away from the Syrian regime who are backed by Russian air power. We're told, in fact, these Kurdish American-backed forced have held face-to-face meetings with Russian military officials to be sure they don't clash around here. Now, in the endgame against ISIS, Moscow and Washington's forces literally meters away from each other.

The Kurds are so relaxed with their new neighbors that fishing is this afternoon's task with hand grenades. Five years in, and Syria is ground to dust, and this is what they're still fighting over. It's unclear who is left inside Deir ez-Zor, but those who fled estimated recently at 10,000 a day dot the skyline. They try to filter them but last week, a suicide bomber struck, and yesterday, they found 30 ISIS fighters. They're followed around by the horror of what they fled but also by suspicion. A simple question, are the last to flee the most loyal to ISIS or just the least fortunate?

"We saw everything in my village," she says. "Airstrikes, children and elderly dying, my relative just last week. The children couldn't stop crying from fear. I could only stand there. What could I do? I don't know if our home is still standing or even who's bombing us." Yusuf is 10 and doesn't have any superhero powers here, just dust and bad dreams. "When I'd hear the shelling," he says, "I hide in the ground. The hardest part about living in the dessert is I'm not at home." This dream endless like the bombing, they flee and this way, which keeps finding new chapters and adversaries around them.

Now, there is a wider potential for conflict here but U.S. and Russia have a de-confliction hotline to keep their aircraft and air forces away from each other, but the Syrian regime and the SDF backed by the United States, doit appear have very differing agendas in terms of who controls what part of territory ISIS used to run. And the SDF soldiers we were with said that actually recently, a rocket had hit their forces, injuring four, killing one. They weren't sure who fired it, was it the Russians or the Syrian regime, was it an Iranian militia? Unclear, but it emphasizes, really, the capacity for misunderstanding, the capacity maybe for conflict as that sense of covetousness over who controls what valuable parts of infrastructure comes to a head.

Remember in the last few days, an important oil field in Syrian has been seized by those American-backed SDF. The regime clear they want to control as much of Syria as they can. And it's flashpoints like that that risk a new troubling potential moment in this ongoing five- year-war, one that could possibly have broader geopolitical political risk because as Moscow and Washington now backing opposite sides of this wall who are literally meters apart. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Northern Iraq.


VAUSE: And we're back after a short break. You're watching CNN.


[01:49:52] VAUSE: Well, all the fun of the post, apocalyptic zombie madness of the "Walking Dead" is back. The 100th episode premiered in the U.S. Sunday night kicking off season eight. The show is trying to bounce back after the ratings dropped a little last season. The premier previewed an all-out war against the main villain, Negan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEGAN: I hope you got your (AUDIO GAP) pants on.


NEGAN: Get the pants off. I hope you're wearing them right now. Because you are about to (AUDIO GAP) your pants.


VAUSE: OK. Film and entertainment journalist Sandro Monetti and U.S. citizen joins us now. OK. We're going to have no spoilers sort of (INAUDIBLE) because this is, I think, tonight in the U.K. or last night? Anyway, whoever hasn't seen it yet, no spoilers. So don't worry. OK. What I find is incredible, season eight, this was the 100th episode. You know, much like the flesh-eating zombie, so you threaten to end human civilization, this shows he's pretty hard to kill off as well, right? Why is that?

SANDRO MONETTI, FILM AND ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Relentlessly. They just keep coming back. And I don't --

VAUSE: Season after season.

MONETTI: I don't mean the zombies, I mean, the viewers of this show. They just can't get enough blood-spattered gore. It's the most violent, disturbing drama on television and it's the most drama on television.

VAUSE: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) the 18 to 45 demographic, five years number one or something.

MONETTI: Yes. I mean, it's the most watched cable show in history with the -- with the young audience. The audience most coveted by advertisers, and this is why this is a series, which is going to last until there's a real-life zombie apocalypse. Why would you ever take it off?

VAUSE: Which could be soon. We don't know too sure. OK. The criticism has been and there was a lot of good reviews for this premiere of season eight. But, you know, the criticism has been that the "Walking Dead" does pretty good season openers and then it's kind of all downhill after that, the show kind of falls off. You know, the lesson being, don't count your dead zombies until they're truly decomposed.

MONETTI: When the show really works is when they make it about the humanity behind the horror.

VAUSE: Right.

MONETTI: And if you look at the entire history of television, every successful show has had one unifying theme, and that is a family unit at the center of it. Whether it's the Waltons or Seinfelds. Now, it's the same in the "Walking Dead". Yes, I mean, you know, they're not sitting around in coffee show, they're survivors of a zombie apocalypse. But the same principle is in place. And so, if they can get back to the human stories amid all the horror, then the ratings always come back.

VAUSE: As always, there are some questions about, you know, plot lines and inconsistencies. One scene in particular, and we're about to show you, the two main rivals had their first face off. Here it is.


RICK GRIMES: You're going to make me count? OK. OK. I'm counting. 10, nine, eight, seven --


VAUSE: OK. These showrunners (INAUDIBLE) told the Hollywood reporter trying to explain that scene. What shouldn't be crossed over is Rick, the guy who is doing the shooting, is offering surrender to everyone else. He wants them to, more or less, be on his side after that. If he just shot Negan there, that would have been a shortcut to the war. He was making a play to not be in full violence with these people because you see what happens after that, the next step for everybody is pretty heavy and intense. If, in fact, Negan and all the lieutenants had given up, it would have just been all over. That (INAUDIBLE) my question is, who watches this anyway? And, you know, it just doesn't make any sense.

MONETTI: Well, those that love to be scared watch it. You only need to look at the success for decades of horror films, to see that anything that terrifies you, anything that disturbs you, anyone who plays a videogame, and it's the intensity. If you love intense and you love -- this isn't well, what, written?


MONETTI: Well, it has a great source of story behind it. These comic books have survived for years. And rather like "Game of Thrones" which also has quality sort of source material, they could always go back to those stories. But the difference is they don't follow the text as closely as "Game of Thrones" does. And so, it's a unique viewing experience. So, those who have enjoyed the comics, don't quite know what's going to happen next. And it is that human drama, rivalry, and intensity that we just saw that keeps people turning back.

VAUSE: OK. How do they end this? Where is the happy ending?

MONETTI: Well, there's a total absence of hope in this show. And I think the only way to end it is by killing off all the remaining characters. They're delaying the inevitable. When the last one dies, then it will be time to turn off the --

VAUSE: Turn off the lights.

MONETTI: There is no hope of a happy ending there.

VAUSE: We're all going to end up zombies.


VAUSE: Excellent. Sandro, good, thank you. Good to see you.


VAUSE: OK. Well, First Lady Melania Trump is getting a little bit of attention over her first trip for her anti-bullying campaign. The internet is now asking the question, why didn't she start it all just a little bit closer to home. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


[01:55:06] JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The First Lady's speech got a big round of applause. But you know what seventh and eighth graders really want? Selfies! Melania Mania manifested itself in selfies. One at time, two at a time, the First Lady's former life as a model makes selfies a snap. She stooped, put her arms around them, and Melania is no Prince Harry asking his fans to refrain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seriously, you need to get out of it. I know you're young but selfies are bad.

MOOS: Melania was anything but selfish about selfies. We counted almost 35 kids posing and one adult. But the trip was meant to be a photo op of a different sort. Launching the First Lady's anti- bullying campaign in this middle school cafeteria.

The name of the program, "No One Eats Alone." Anyone what to eat with me? What to eat with me?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I encourage you today to find a new friend and have lunch with that friend. You agree?


MOOS: Of course, anytime the First Lady talks about putting an end to bullying, critics say start with your emotionally child-like husband.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm being very, very nice. But, at some point, I fight back, and it won't be pretty.

MOOS: Always dishing out those demeaning nicknames from Little Bob Corker to Wacky Congresswoman Wilson.

D. TRUMP: Lying Ted. Lying Ted. Crooked Hillary. Crooked Hillary.

MOOS: So, does the first lady need to square her bullying campaign with her husband's behavior? Her spokesperson told CNN, "Mrs. Trump is independent and acts independently from her husband." But does she eat independently? Red One tweet, someone befriend this boy. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause. Please join us on Twitter @cnnnewsroomla. There, you'll find highlights and clips from the show. You notice that Isha is not here right now, she's eagerly waiting at home to answer all of your tweets. Isha Sesay CNN, send her a tweet. In the meantime, I will be back with more news right after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We owe the families as much information as we can find out about what happened. And we owe the American people an explanation of what the men and women were doing at this particular time.