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At Least 17 Killed in California Mudslides; Trump Dodges Questions on Special Counsel Interview; Women Criticized for Slamming #MeToo Campaign; H&M Sweatshirt Sparks Outrage. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 11, 2018 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:11] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour:

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Gut-wrenching news from right here in southern California where so many people lost their lives in mudslides and the death toll is rising.

VAUSE: From 100 percent certainty to we'll see, the U.S. President hedges on a promise to be interviewed by the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

SESAY: Plus journalists in Myanmar being prosecuted for trying to cover the Rohingya crisis as the military now admits that soldiers killed 10 Muslims found in a mass grave.

VAUSE: Hello. Welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us. And great to have you with us.

I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

Well, the death toll is climbing in southern California. At least 17 people were killed in Santa Barbara County in devastating mudslides; some of those victims children.

VAUSE: At least 17 others are missing and hundreds are waiting to be rescued. Crews are moving from house to house searching for survivors. Coast Guard choppers are rescuing stranded residents from rooftops.

SESAY: Well, heavy rains triggered the mudslides on Tuesday sending rivers of mud from the fire-ravaged hillsides into the neighborhoods below damaging hundreds of homes as you see there and anything else in its path.

Now we're hearing some of the harrowing stories of survivors including how a baby was pulled out of 120 centimeters of mud.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard a little baby. Got down and found the little baby from the (INAUDIBLE). We got it out; got the mud out of its mouth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks like a war zone. Like somebody just dropped a bomb and it actually felt that way in some ways.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just in shock. I am in disbelief and wondering if my friends are alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Within minutes there was cars washing down, power lines washing down; huge boulders coming down, huge trees coming down. There was an RV that passed our house with like the rushing of the mud and water and the power was amazing.


SESAY: Absolutely terrifying. Well, one official says there was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere.

VAUSE: And this ongoing rescue operation is enormous with more than 500 first responders.

Paul Vercammen is there and he has the latest -- Paul.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Isha -- hard work behind me. You can see the workers trying to clear another road in this flood zone in Montecito. The boulders that came cascading down from the Thomas fire burn zone and off in the distance -- let's give you a sense of what the search and rescue effort was like -- we saw the crews go into that white house over there and search that area.

You see a sort of orange-pink marking. That's to let other crews know we have gone through and searched it. We didn't see them take anybody out or any bodies out. In front of it a car that was also searched.

They know there are people still missing. People are crossing fingers and hoping that they won't turn up deceased and then over here more of the heavy lifting -- this is Southern California Edison trying to restore power to an area that doesn't have power.

And I want to give you more of a sense for just how devastating this was. Here's yet another house that in a sense was water-rocket blasted off its foundation and now is just a mangled mess.

And then you look around this area. The search and rescue crews also came through here. What's left of some house -- just a pile. Basically you've got your floor and your kitchen and everything tangled up with debris, trees and the rest and the search and rescue crews also had to go through some of this.

It is no easy task. It's going to be a long time before they get all of this back up. They got some heartening news that the Army Corps of Engineers and state emergency officials would jump in and help out beleaguered Santa Barbara County that first got hit with fire and then flood.

Back to you now -- John, Isha?

SESAY: Our thanks to Paul Vercammen there.

Well, Tom Fayram is Deputy Public Works Director of the Santa Barbara County. He joins us now by phone. Tom -- thanks so much for joining us.

The impact of these mudslides and flooding has been absolutely devastating. What's been the focus of your efforts over the last 24 hours?

[00:04:54] TOM FAYRAM, DEPUTY PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY: Well, I think since this tragic event has happened the first thing we need to try to do is restore our community so at least that we can allow more and more mobility within the area.

You know, our transportation system has been cut off in a number of areas. And the creeks and channels that run through there completely choked off with debris from the burned hillside. So just simply getting around is a difficult part and so getting the mobility access so that more equipment and more resources can get in is really our function right now.

SESAY: So given that reality and that difficulty are we to say that there are areas in Santa Barbara County that search and rescue have not been able to make it to as yet?

FAYRAM: Well, fortunately our first responders who have just been done -- who have been doing a miraculous job have other resources. The National Guard is here with vehicles that can traverse somewhere that even, you know, heavy construction equipment can't get.

And of course, we have a number of helicopters here from the Air National Guard and the County Sheriff's department able to, for either searching or rescue or medical. But however, to really get back in and restore, you know, access to these areas is going to take several weeks.

SESAY: Yes. I mean there had been these reports of residents in Montecito's Romero Canyon area being cut off due to debris. Are there any updates you can share on that front? I know they were talking about bringing helicopters in to evacuate them out. Do you know whether that's been done, whether that's been completed?

FAYRAM: My understanding that was in progress. I believe it's done. And that's just an example of, you know, we have entire -- I happened to fly the area earlier this evening with the California Air National Guard. And there are simply roads that no longer exist, bridges that no longer exist.

And so in the Romero Canyon that was a problem in order to get out. But I do know that our first responders were actively trying to assist those people. SESAY: You know, you saw it from the air. You saw the damage, the

devastation from the air. Can you just tell us -- I mean first of all what it looked like to you from being up at that height and just what it has been like for you to see your community devastated like that? I mean what stood out for you?

FAYRAM: I -- I can't describe it. It's something that you just have to see for yourself to understand the magnitude of it. And we flew across one of the canyons that was further up the mountain with most of the residential development area down below and was obviously prior to the fire and prior to the storm was kind of a normal creek corridor that you would see in southern California had sycamore trees.

And we happened to be at a higher elevation because there were some winds kicking up but I could visibly see the mud line on these huge sycamore trees that had to be ten to 20 feet up the trunk. You could see almost like it was painted that this massive debris flow and this wasn't a flood. This was a debris flow.

It was -- as some of the descriptions you heard earlier was this mass of heavy material that just would move everything. A debris flow can have a density that will float rocks. It actually will float a rock and that's how these large rocks that are the size of cars and trucks can actually make their way far downstream and be deposited on the roadway.

And that doesn't happen without an enormous amount of force behind it. And it's just -- it's something that you have to see to believe the force and the devastation that it causes.

SESAY: Yes. We are looking at some of the pictures right now. And Tom, it is really hard to take in.

Tom Fayram -- thank you for taking the time out to speak to us. I know it's an extremely busy, busy period for you but we appreciate it. We appreciate the insights and the updates.

FAYRAM: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well for the U.S. President the Russia investigation is a phony cloud over his administration and he continues to repeat ad nauseum there was no collusion, no collusion between his campaign and the Russians.

During a joint appearance with Norway's prime minister the President was asked if he would agree to an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. In just over a minute and a half he said there was no collusion eight times.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election that frankly the Democrats should have won because they have such a tremendous advantage in the Electoral College. So it was brought up for that reason. [00:10:06] But it has been determined that there is no collusion and by virtually everybody. So we'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be open to --

TRUMP: We'll see what happens. I mean certainly I'll see what happens but when they have no collusion and nobody's found any collusion at any level it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.


VAUSE: Joining us now Jessica Levinson a professor of law and governance at Loyola Law School and Michael Genovese is the president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. Good to see you both.

Ok. So somewhere in that answer, during that sort of, you know, two- minute long bobbing and weaving and ducking it seems we did get the President's real intention. This is the bit I think is relevant.


TRUMP: -- I'll see what happens but when they have no collusion and nobody's found any collusion at any level it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.


VAUSE: Michael -- is Donald Trump laying the groundwork here essentially to refuse to talk to Mueller?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he's doing two things. That's one of them. The other thing is he's trying to frame this for the audience. And if you think collusion -- collusion is not a crime -- instead of thinking obstruction then that plays into his hands and so he keeps on using the term "no collusion, no collusion".

There may be obstruction and that's the really serious thing. And so he's trying to have it both ways. But I think he's also trying to set himself up so that if the special counsel wants him to speak under oath, if they will, he wants to have an out.

VAUSE: Jessica -- legally though, is there a precedent -- I think there is -- for a president to be subpoenaed and to be forced to answer questions before a grand jury or questions by a special counsel, right.

JESSICA LEVINSON, PROFESSOR OF LAW AND GOVERNANCE, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Yes, there is. And so I would say a couple of things.

One, Donald Trump keeps saying there's no collusion. I've said this to you before, this makes me insane because --

VAUSE: Well, you must have a lot of problems right now. He's been saying it a lot. LEVINSON: -- well, collusion is an issue dealing with antitrust law.


LEVINSON: So indeed there will be no collusion. But what he's really saying is there's no conspiracy, or there's no grand agreement or there's no -- as he said there's no obstruction of justice.

So one, that's inaccurate.

Two, it's inaccurate to say virtually everyone who's looked at this has found that there's no quote-unquote "collusion". That's not true with respect to the House Committee, with respect to the Senate Committee and certainly with respect to the special counsel.

Now, to your question -- yes, I believe there have been five presidents in the past who have been called to testify under oath for a variety of issues. Bill Clinton, of course, famously I think his testimony led to his impeachment in the House. And so it certainly is not without any historic precedent.

VAUSE: Ok. The President is now saying we'll see about that possible interview. It is a marked change from what he has said in the past.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of these events.

TRUMP: 100 percent.


VAUSE: You know, Michael -- this is a president who thinks he can bend (ph) his way pretty much out of anything. So what has brought on this change? Do you think he's got some legal advice here that maybe he's facing some serious issues.

GENOVESE: No, I think his attorney is probably giving very good sound advice but I think Donald Trump supersedes that. He thinks he's above that.

And it's not his call to make. This is the special counsel. Mueller's going to decide what to do and if necessary, he can subpoena the president.

And so Donald Trump -- again he's trying to frame it so that it looks like it's his decision. It's not his decision. He's the one who's going to have to respond when the special prosecutor comes knocking on his door.

VAUSE: And what's interesting somehow, Hillary Clinton has something to do with all of this because the President spoke again about Hillary Clinton today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: When you talk about interview, Hillary Clinton had an interview where she wasn't sworn in. She wasn't given the oath. They didn't take notes. They didn't record. And it was done on the Fourth of July weekend.


VAUSE: Ok. For the record, FBI agents took (ph) pages of notes. It's irrelevant if someone is under oath because it's a crime to lie to the FBI anyway. Just ask Michael Flynn. They don't normally record interviews unless someone has been charged with a crime. Again, ask Michael Flynn about that.

But Jessica -- here's a question. Did the President just serve a scenario here when someone interviewed by the FBI should be sworn in? Notes have to be taken and it should be recorded because, in his own words, if that does not happen, it would be a very serious breach?

LEVINSON: Well, maybe. I mean I think a couple of things are happening. One is, it seems to me to be someone can say to the President, we're concerned about that you did xyz and he says Hillary Clinton.


LEVINSON: And someone says, what's your legislative achievement, and he says Hillary Clinton. So I think that one of -- the broad thing that I think he's doing is saying don't look over here, look at my favorite target over there.

But I think he's trying to set up -- or I have to say I'm really not sure what he's attempting to achieve but it's not, I don't think, serving him -- it's not doing what I believe he hopes for it to be doing.

[00:15:07] In addition to the fact that he's just lying, none of that actually happened.

VAUSE: Yes. I mean the (INAUDIBLE) is you know, to the extreme here.

We also have a situation that in the wake of "Fire and Fury", the tell-all book about the White House by Michael Wolff, Donald Trump once again, he wants to tighten up this country's libel laws.

This is what he said.


TRUMP: Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness. So we're going to take a strong look at that. We want fairness. You can't say things that are false, knowingly false and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: You know, Michael -- we'll get to the American values thing and the lying bit in a moment but the President has zero authority right, to change the libel laws in this country?

GENOVESE: That's correct. And I think in the case of the President, he can give but he can't take. Who has been more involved in libeling people than the President? The birther movement -- if libel is knowingly saying something that's not true with malicious intent, there's the birther movement right there.

And so Trump lives in his own world where he can do anything but anything done to him he's so fragile and sensitive that he explodes whenever someone, even you know, gives them any kind of mild criticism.

VAUSE: He's clearly frustrated by this book and the reaction to it -- right?

GENOVESE: Well, the book is pretty devastating. And while the book is met with some criticism, I mean there are some things that Don, Jr. and treason and the whole case that's being made and discussed very openly now that question the President's mental capacity and his cognitive skills. I'd be pretty upset too.

But you know, presidents have to have a tough skin and you have to just let it roll off your back. You can't respond to every criticism because that's all you do all day and that's what Trump is doing.

VAUSE: Exactly. Ok. It's surreal to hear a president calling out those who deliberately make false or misleading statements especially, what, since (INAUDIBLE) has recorded Donald Trump making more than 2,000 misleading claims in less than a year in office.

You know what -- should we quote Bull Durham here -- Jessica? The world is made for people who are cursed with self-awareness.

LEVINSON: Well, yes. And let's talk about libel laws for a second.

VAUSE: Right.

LEVINSON: These are state laws. The President of the United States, as a leader of the federal government, has no power over them.

Let's also talk about what the law is with respect to libel laws. What he's saying in terms of we need to make sure that you can't make a false statement about somebody that harms their reputation -- and he's basically quoting the actual malice standard. Meaning with respect to a public figure, you either knew or had reason to know it was false.

That is the law right now.

VAUSE: Right.

LEVINSON: And that's actually a constitutional guard. So he's almost quoting, I think by accident, the Supreme Court rule in this. So not only does he not have power over state but he also doesn't have power to change the constitution. You would either need the Supreme Court to change the law or a constitutional amendment.

And regardless of what Neil Gorsuch is doing on the Supreme Court, neither one of those things is going to happen.

VAUSE: Gorsuch is a big defender of the libel laws as they currently stand.

LEVINSON: He is but his response in his confirmation hearing on this issue and the case is called "New York Times" versus Sullivan" was actually in my mind, it was kind of surprisingly tempered. And I think that was in part because his appointer, his nominee had been talking for so long at the campaign trail about these libel laws which, you know, we quote-unquote, "need to look at".

He can't and he won't.

VAUSE: Ok. Jessica and Michael -- good to see you both. Thank you.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

SESAY: We're going to pause here for a very quick break.

Dozens of French women including renowned film star who denounced the "#MeToo" movement are now facing a backlash themselves.


VAUSE: Well, to France now where actor Catherine Deneuve and dozens of other well-known women writers, artists and academics have sparked a furious backlash after they denounced the #MeToo campaign as a witch hunt against men.

They all signed an open letter published in the newspaper "Le Monde" earlier this week warning of a new Puritanism and denouncing what they said was a hatred of men and sexuality.

The response from about 30 French feminists is scathing labeling Deneuve and the others apologists for rape and defenders of pedophiles.

Here's part of that response. "Many of them are often quick to criticize sexism when it comes from men from working class areas but a hand on the ass when done by a man from their milieu is all part of their right to hit on someone." Ouch.

So has the #MeToo movement really gone too far? Joining us now to discuss all of this Rebecca Sun, senior reporter with the "Hollywood Reporter" and CNN's legal analyst Areva Martin.

Ok. Good to see you guys.


VAUSE: Ok. So this is blowing up in France. It's been a big deal. It's been all over television, all over the newspapers. Here's one of the co-editors of that original Deneuve open letter explaining why the #MeToo campaign risks going too far.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are women who will denounce men who's only wrongdoing was one, five or ten years ago to try to steal a kiss during a party or send a text message a little too gritty (ph); by criminalizing this behavior, by putting it exactly on the same level as rape. Rape is a sexual crime; heavy flattery (ph) is certainly not one.


VAUSE: Ok. So Areva -- to you. Legally, there's obviously a huge difference between stealing a kiss and, you know, and rape.


VAUSE: But is she right when she says because -- I think what she's saying is because there's now this sort of zero tolerance for all forms of sexual harassment that all forms of sexual harassment are now being treated as the same.

MARTIN: She's absolutely wrong. All forms of sexual harassment are not being treated the same. And intelligent people understand the difference. And no one is equating rape with touching someone on the behind or kissing someone or making a crude comment.

Unwanted sexual, you know, advances in the work place are illegal. And it's a major problem. You know this isn't made-up. This isn't something we've just created from whole cloth. This is a real issue in the United States. Not sure about how impactful this is in France --


VAUSE: It has been, yes.

MARTIN: -- but this is a real issue.

VAUSE: Ok. Rebecca -- during an interview last year 92-year-old Angela Lansbury said this. "We have to own up to the fact that women since time immemorial have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive and unfortunately it has backfired on us. We must sometimes take blame."

Also Donna Karan, 69 years old, apologizing for saying "Some of the women assaulted by Harvey Weinstein are asking for it."

We also have Catherine Deneuve, she's 74. Not to put a finer point on it but is there a generational divide?

SUN: I think that for a long time, you know, this was so entrenched in the culture that sometimes you have seen women from that generation, you know, have this kind of views. Although it's not -- that's not always the case. Rosemarie, who was on the "Dick Van Dyke Show" and just passed away last week, you know, at the age of 80 or 90. She spoke out and said I had experienced this kind of treatment my entire career and it was absolutely not ok.

So you also have women realizing that, you know, just because they didn't have any outlet or any way to say that, you know -- any recourse. It doesn't mean that they all thought it was ok.

VAUSE: The other point being made is that the women who wrote the original letter are all wealthy. They're all white. They're all professionals. There are no bus drivers in there. There are no cooks or cleaners who wrote (ph) that letter as well.

MARTIN: Right. And we're seeing that even in the United States with respect to the #MeToo movement. You have high-profile celebrities who have been able to garner the attention of the media and raised this issue which is important.

But when you get to, you know, housekeepers and cashiers and clerks, their experiences are really different, mainly resource difference. So if you are a celebrity, you can choose to file a lawsuit. You can choose to hire lawyers.

That often isn't the case when you are a low-income worker or you are in one of these jobs so you just don't have access to those resources.

[00:25:02] So it's important to note that this issue doesn't just impact those high profile celebrities that you see but it impacts every day women.

VAUSE: Well one actor recently accused of sexual harassment on Twitter is James Franco. This all started brewing after the Golden Globes which (INAUDIBLE) red carpet wearing a time's up pin to show support for women who've dealt with harassment or assault.

There are a number of accusations that went out online including this one from actress Violet Paley who tweeted, "Cute #timesup pin James Franco. Remember the time you pushed my head down in the car towards your exposed penis? And the other time you told my friend to come to your hotel when she was 17. You've already been caught doing that to a different 17-year-old."

So Rebecca what's sort of the back story here?

SUN: I mean there is a lot of, you know, he has had some encounters online. That reference to the 17-year-old refers to some direct messages he had exchanged on Twitter with the girl who said she was 17 and he was --

VAUSE: He was living in New York. She was in Scotland.

SUN: Yes, yes. She's a fan, you know.

I mean I think that what you're seeing with this kind of reaction is women who have had experiences sort of feeling a little bit of anger or feeling frustration when they see men publicly espouse support for this movement. And kind of what they see as a bandwagon, without actually owning up to their own behavior. And so --

VAUSE: Well Franco appeared on "The Late Show" on Tuesday and he had a very carefully worded denial. Listen to this.


JAMES FRANCO, ACTOR: The things that I heard it went on Twitter are not accurate. But I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn't have a voice for so long. So I don't want to -- I don't want to, you know, shut them down in any way. It's I think a good thing and I support it.


VAUSE: You know, Areva -- we've seen this before. Allegations and denials all being played out in public. But do we believe accusations which come from Twitter or do we believe accusations which are well- sourced? Do we believe the "New York Times"? Do we believe some blog? I mean what's the -- where do you go with this?

MARTIN: Yes. This was in a court of law. So we should be clear about this. This isn't the situation where someone has to come in with, you know, verified information they have to submit to, you know -- take an oath and testify under the penalty of perjury.

How someone tells their story is their right to tell it the way they feel most comfortable to tell it. Now clearly, if the story isn't true, that's a problem. But there's such a small percentage of these stories that aren't true.

The reality is over 97 percent of the women that come forward to tell stories of sexual harassment, they are telling the truth.

VAUSE: If their stories aren't true, there's legal remedies.

MARTIN: Yes. There's something called defamation lawsuits and we know someone who threatened women all the time with such lawsuits.

VAUSE: And then doesn't follow through.

MARTIN: And doesn't follow through with them because there is a defense and that is the truth.

VAUSE: Right.

MARTIN: So there is no lawsuit when you're telling the truth.

VAUSE: Ok. Rebecca and Areva -- thank you so much.

SUN: Thank you.

MARTIN: Thank you -- John.

SESAY: We're going to take a very quick break.

Two Reuters' journalist criminally charged in Myanmar for doing their job.

VAUSE: Also more than 60,000 Rohingya children left behind in central Rakhine state -- the appalling conditions they're living in.

More on that in a moment.




MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- from the roof all the way down to the hood.

And this thing? What do you think this is?

I thought it was an SUV earlier this morning and then took a closer look. That's a pickup truck, sort of king-sized cab pickup truck that just got pummeled. People in the neighborhood said it took out garage doors all the way down the neighborhood as it was coming down. Just incredibly powerful water and debris as this rain keeps coming down in Southern California.

This is not the only place that is hit. But regardless where you are, it can be raining miles from where you are now. But way down in areas that may not even be evacuation zones, this is what can result -- John.

VAUSE: Miguel, thank you, Miguel Marquez there.

Let's go to Ben Heyer (ph) he's on the phone from Galinda (ph), California. He was evacuated from his home in Montecito with his wife and son because of these mudslides.

Ben, we're glad that you and the family are safe. But considering the fire that swept through the region just a few weeks ago, the heavy rain and mudslide seems like the worst-case scenario right now?

BEN HYER (PH), EVACUEE: Yes, we were evacuated for the fires. We spent 10 days in Santa Monica and we were in a mandatory evac zone. Yesterday, we were only in a voluntary evac zone. We didn't really expect what happened to happen. But it was pretty scary. Our entire neighborhood is under mud right now.

VAUSE: Yes. When you left your house, it was surrounded by mud but the mud had actually stayed outside. Looking at some of the photos you've taken of the neighborhood, it appears many who live close to you have not been so lucky. It's an incredible scene.

HYER (PH): Yes. There was waist-deep mud across the road in this little family neighborhood of Montecito. The house directly across the street from us, the mud came straight through her bedroom wall. She had left the house but somebody was staying in the room. She got thrown across to the other side of the room.

Our neighbor, Jim, who lives next door to her, actually went in and rescued that lady.

There was another house at the end of our street, which parallel to the mountains and the mud came right through, it's a single mom and her two boys. And that came right through one of the boy's rooms and, miraculously, he survived and they ended up on the roof. They were on the roof from 3:00 in the morning until 7:00 in the morning --


HYER (PH): -- until the rescue.

VAUSE: This all started in the early hours of the morning. You were awake when it all sort of began.

Can you describe what it sounded like?

What were you thinking when this mud and debris surged into your neighborhood?

HYER (PH): I didn't think anything at first. I just thought, well, that's a really powerful rainstorm, it was five minutes of powerful rain. The power went off. That's what woke me up. And powerful rain for five minutes. But I knew the rain was headed for the mountains and I knew that was going to be trouble.

So (INAUDIBLE) so I just made myself something to eat and didn't get two bites into it and all of a sudden I heard this rush and the house shook and, like instantly, there was three feet of mud all the way around the house.

You've seen the pictures of the backyard, that neighbors, fences, cars gone, it was incredible how fast it came and how powerful it was.

VAUSE: You say you -- obviously you can't go back right now because of the situation. Where are you staying?

Do you have a place to live right now?

HYER (PH): We haven't figured that out yet. But we've got a lot of really incredible friends. That's the thing about Montecito, that's why we live there. Just incredible friends and great people there, hence we've had so many offers of help.

We're up in (INAUDIBLE) beach now, which about an hour and a half up the coast. We just wanted to get out and away from it all. So -- and there are three other families with us here. So we're all in a hotel on the beach.

VAUSE: You know, it has been such an awful time for so many people in Southern California, the wildfires and now the mudslides, which have been made just so horrendously worse by the fires, destroying so much of the vegetation in that region.

We wish you all the very best, Ben. We hope all of this is over soon and you get back to some kind of normalcy with your life. So thanks for being with us. HYER (PH): Thank you, I appreciate it.

VAUSE: Take care. OK, well, one of the hottest places on Earth looked a little more like a winterscape for a few hours.

Snow blanketed sand dunes near a desert town in Algeria, this area is called the gateway to the Sahara for its blazing summer temperatures. But on Sunday, apparently it received snowfall --


VAUSE: -- for just the third time in 40 years, a few centimeters in places, a third of a meter elsewhere and apparently the snow stayed for a good part of the day before melting.

Up next, H&M apologizes profusely for the hoodie scandal with the little boy in the monkey hoodie. More on that in a moment.




VAUSE: Clothing retailer H&M has issued an extensive apology for a horribly insensitive ad, many calling blatantly racist. It shows a little black boy in a green hoodie with the phrase, "coolest monkey in the jungle."

After social media lit up, H&M pulled the image and also the hoodie from its stores, but the backlash continues. (INAUDIBLE) weekend tweeted that he would no longer be working with the retailer he had collaborated with the fashion line in 2017.

NBA player LeBron James and entertainer Sean Diddy Combs edited the photo on their Instagram accounts, turning the boy into a king.

For more on this, social commentator and entertainment journalist Segun Oduolowu joins us now.

Nice to see you. Happy New Year.

SEGUN ODUOLOWU, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Happy New Year. It's good to finally see you.

VAUSE: Yes. It's been a while. OK, so the racially offensive ads began early this year.


ODUOLOWU: You know, typically dumb waits --


VAUSE: -- so we're off to an EARLY START.

But what do you say to people who say nothing wrong with that hoodie. I call my kid monkey or cheeky monkey all the time.

ODUOLOWU: I would say please take your hood off because when it's a black kid, there is no amount of apology that is going to sit well. There is enough vitriol and enough anger to go around. I would say the H&M, it's not even about an apology anymore. It's honestly the time to boycott that store.

And I say that not as hyperbole, but there couldn't have been a person of color in the room of the advertising that thought that this would be OK. And that's the bigger issue. So either you were tone deaf, didn't know what was going on or you did it deliberately. Everybody needs to lose their job.

VAUSE: Well, let's go to number 3 here in the control room because offering a one-line apology, H&M went into full contrition, groveling apology mode. It was all on the website, basically, our position is simple and unequivocal. An unequivocal apology, there it is.

It goes on to say "Our position is simple and unequivocal. We got this wrong. We are deeply sorry. It is obvious our routines have not been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again."

OK. I think I have an idea of how this mistake happened.

ODUOLOWU: Really, how, John?

VAUSE: Let's look at the 11 members of the H&M board. Oh, there we are. H&M. #SoWhite.

ODUOLOWU: Right, right. You know what H&M stands for? Homogenized, OK. I haven't seen milk that white and I love cereal.


ODUOLOWU: So what are we doing?

VAUSE: I need to put my sunglasses on because I'm getting a reflection.

Seriously, this is the thing that -- (INAUDIBLE) -- to your point, this is a company which clearly if there is a person of color in that room, when that design was being put out there, they would have said, hang on.

ODUOLOWU: It's not so much, hang on. John, in the full picture, that black boy is standing next to a white child.

VAUSE: We have that, actually.

ODUOLOWU: So why is the black kid in the sweatshirt that says "monkey" and the white child isn't?

So please don't give me this really terrible apology. VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) because that white kid is actually in an orange hoodie. This is item 2 in the control room. And it says, "survival expert."

ODUOLOWU: What is he, Bear Grylls?

VAUSE: Exactly.

ODUOLOWU: What are we talking about here?

VAUSE: And this has caused even further outrage out there because --

Have we got it, guys?

Oh, we don't have it. That one. No, you didn't get the other one. Never mind.

But this is the thing.

How many times can they apologize to say, oops, we made a mistake?

ODUOLOWU: You can't because your "oops, I made a mistake," again, this is not a Britney Spears song, oops, I did it again. This is I can't give you an opportunity to do this again.

Everybody that was responsible for this needs to be called out. They either need to lose their jobs because they don't know what they're doing or they don't realize where society is right now.

Kudos to Diddy, to LeBron James, to a lot of different people that came out and doctored the photo and made this kid -- because this kid has to live with this. This kid who was just innocently thinking that he's doing a modeling job, now this picture goes viral for all the wrong reasons.

But as I said, there's enough vitriol to go around. I'd like to know the parents of this kid, how do you let this slide?

Because my kid, the kid I don't have, love you, honey, but not yet -- the kid that I don't or will have is not posing in a sweatshirt that has that written on it. So the parents, where were you?

There are so many people that could have caught this before it fell through the crack. That's why there's enough blame to go around. And H&M should be taken to task. Look, I would call on David Beckham, who has an underwear line. People need to start pulling their support from an institution that could put this out there.

It's not acceptable. And if the women that can wear black on the red carpet of the Golden Globes and show solidarity, can we -- you can take that black dress off. You know what that kid can't do? We don't take this skin off. That ad is fundamentally racist and it furthers a stereotype that is dehumanizing to black people. And that's why H&M is not going to be let off the hook, not by me.

VAUSE: OK. He's part of an op-ed from "The Independent." It kind of sums up what's going on here.

"The problem here doesn't lie in the supposed racism of H&M but instead their misguided (INAUDIBLE). Their intention was clearly not to cause offense. It just obviously didn't enter their minds to think seriously about their black customers."

It seems time and time again, big companies, be it H&M or Dove or whoever makes that laundry detergent --


VAUSE: -- well, maybe not them, but at least Dove and H&M and all the rest, they're oblivious to these issues. Forget about doing the right thing, what about the profit motive? Why aren't they interested in appealing to black customers, whose money is just as good as anybody else's?

ODUOLOWU: Thank you. If your fundamental bottom line, the only color should matter is green, so green is the only color that matters, why would you put this black kid in this sweatshirt unless you're trying to make a bigger statement?

And, again, I can't give you a pass because you showed me 12 white people on there. Somebody's got to know that this is wrong. Hire better. If you want to talk about diversity, with a black kid sitting next to a white kid, and they're both in sweatshirts, where is the diversity amongst your board?


We have more diversity right here, sitting right here than H&M. We should run H&M.

VAUSE: We'll do it.

ODUOLOWU: It'll be more human --


VAUSE: Good to see you.

ODUOLOWU: Good to see you.

VAUSE: And good to see you. But we got to go now. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. "WORLD SPORT" with Kate Riley is up next.