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Trump Calls for More Guns in Schools; Trump Children Travel to Asia; YouTube Apologizes for Trending Conspiracy Video; Broke and Hungry in Venezuela. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 00:00   ET



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

Ahead this hour: as the U.S. President calls for more guns in schools, police say an armed guard outside of Stoneman Douglas High stood by and did nothing.

Where in the world are the President's children: Ivanka Trump dining with South Korea's president; while Donald Trump Jr. rubbing shoulders with India's elite and charging almost $40,000 for dinner and conversation.

Plus soaring prices and shrinking waistlines -- an economic crisis causes an average weight loss of 11 kilos for Venezuelans over the past year.

Hello -- everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.

The first hour of NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

We begin with disturbing new details about the police response to the massacre at a Florida high school last week. The Broward County sheriff says an armed deputy never went inside the building, but waited outside. The deputy has since resigned.

Sheriff Scott Israel described his reaction to seeing the incident on security video.


SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF: Devastated, sick to my stomach -- there are no words. I mean these families lost their children. We lost coaches. I've been to the funerals. I've been to the homes where they sit and shiver. I've been to the vigils. It's just -- there are no words.


VAUSE: That news comes as President Trump doubles down on arming teachers as one way to prevent school shootings. He also supports tougher background checks and raising the legal age for buying a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think a concealed permit for having teachers, and letting people know that there are people in the building with a gun.

You won't have, in my opinion you won't have these shootings because these people are cowards. They're not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns. It may be 10 percent or maybe 40 percent.

And what I'd recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus. So practically for free you have now made the school into a hardened target.


VAUSE: Well, joining me here now in Los Angeles, CNN political commentator Joe Trippi and KABC talk radio host John Phillips. Good to have you both here. Welcome.


VAUSE: You're welcome.

Ok. So reading and writing and rifles, I guess is where it's going. But John -- seriously, in a public school system where teachers don't have enough textbooks, they don't have enough pens or pencils or basic supplies. The federal government will suddenly find what -- close to a billion dollars I think they want to spend to arm a million or so teachers and they don't even want it for the most part?

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well the fact of the matter is it's unfortunate, but the reality of the situation is that a lot of soft targets in today's day and age are going to have to become hard targets. We saw this happen at airports where you have pilots who can now go through very extensive training and carry a gun on planes. They can also carry it with them through the airplane terminal. I think that's something that we certainly should look at for schools and other soft targets.

We had a situation here, I think it was yesterday or two days ago at a high school in Whittier, where there was a threat made against a school and you had the guard there who was unarmed who leapt into duty and did everything that he was supposed to do. And fortunately that was thwarted.

As we saw in Florida, sometimes things don't work like a Swiss clock. You had the FBI missed the obvious signs. You had local police missing obvious signs. You had the school security guard who was there who didn't do what he was supposed to do. Sometimes it can be your last line of defense in an unfortunate situation such as this.

VAUSE: Joe -- before you respond, the President obviously likes this idea. The NRA really loves this idea. But that seems that's it. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMUEL ZEIF, STUDENT, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: To arm -- to arm any teacher. They're there to teach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't need to put guns in the hands of teachers.

ISRAEL: I don't believe teachers should be armed. I believe teachers should teach.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something that, quite frankly, I'm comfortable with.


VAUSE: And Joe -- there could be evidence that some teachers want it, but for the most part --

TRIPPI: Yes. No, no. Teachers don't want it. Senator Rubio, the senator of Florida, you know, "Little Rubio", I guess --

VAUSE: Little Marco.


TRIPPI: -- apparently the President, yes Little Marco. Excuse me -- you know, doesn't want them. I mean it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense, the billion dollars that it would take.

And, again the teachers don't want them. And they are there to teach. So I think this is just a non-starter. I don't think this is going to go anywhere.

[00:04:58] VAUSE: And John -- you know, at the same time, the President wants to arm the teachers or some of the teachers, and he's opposed to active shooter drills because he doesn't want to give, you know, the children the negative news that there could be shooters that, you know, one day will be in the school.

PHILLIPS: Well, we're going to have to rethink the way we handle security not just at schools, but at shopping malls, at we certainly have at baseball stadiums, sporting stadiums. I mean you can't go to a baseball game now -- major league baseball without going through a metal detector.

It's a sad reality but in a free society where you have people who are able to do these sorts of things you have to take every precaution you can to make sure the tragedy that we saw doesn't happen again.


TRIPPI: I actually think the most significant thing was the President's willingness to move the age to 21. I mean that is some movement, at least, in the right direction, I think, from him. VAUSE: And with that -- that move is not supported by the NRA.

TRIPPI: Right.

VAUSE: But, you know, you said this is progress, and Donald Trump believes that he could probably win over the NRA on this measure. This is what he said.


TRUMP: I don't think I'll be going up against them. I really think the NRA wants to do what's right. I mean they're very close to me. I'm very close to them. They're very, very great people. They love this country. They're patriots. The NRA wants to do the right thing.


VAUSE: Joe -- in recent memory, can you recall the NRA ever supporting a measure which would restrict the access to guns in this country as opposed to making it easier?

TRIPPI: No, they never have. But I do think this is something the President -- I agree with him. I think he can do this.

He has a real ability now to lead, I mean to actually take some of the people that have supported him, that will do -- you know, follow him even sort of against ideas that they didn't like before. He can move. He's moved the party. He's moved them in the wrong direction.

VAUSE: He can have a Nixon to China moment.

TRIPPI: Yes. And I think this is when he could actually make significant progress on just moving that age would be, you know, look, I don't think it's enough, but for the President to move that way is something --

VAUSE: It would break the deadlock that we've seen for the last 20 years.


VAUSE: Ok. The NRA came out, all guns blazing -- forgive the, you know, me for saying that. This is on Thursday, the first public response to the school shooting in Florida.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: As we've learned in recent months even the FBI is not free of its own corruption and its own unethical agents. Look, and I know you probably all share this sentiment, and I get people telling me from coast-to-coast, and they kind of shake their heads when they say it to me.

I can understand a few bad apples in their organization as large as the FBI. But what's hard to understand is why no one at the FBI stood up and called BS on its rogue leadership. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: John, this is an organization which the FBI is reportedly investigating for receiving millions of dollars of money from Russia which was then funneled to the Trump campaign you know. And what Wayne LaPierre was saying there, it sounded like it was out of the first chapter of Donald Trump's play book.

PHILLIPS: Well, I mean in this particular case, in the Florida shooting the FBI certainly dropped the ball. I mean we've heard that admitted by the FBI itself and by a lot of people who used to work in that organization who consider themselves to be big supporters of them.

But to go back to what the President's suggestion in gun control, I think that the NRA is going to have to get on board with that because the President will be able to cobble together the votes.

Not only is that good for a lot of Republicans who are running in purple states or blue states, it's good for a lot of Democrats who are representing red states who are up for election this time, including ten of them in states that Trump won.

If the Democrats take a strident position on gun control, and force people like Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin to sign on to that, it's political suicide for them. What the president could do (AUDIO GAP) olive branch to them and get some sort of consensus to put a majority together.

VAUSE: Joe -- I just want to ask you what Wayne LaPierre was saying. I mean, this attack on the FBI -- I mean, it sounded dangerous in a way.

TRIPPI: Yes. No, this is something that I think is dangerous. Again, it's out of the Trump playbook. It's trying to distract from others to answer the push off the FBI. And destroy the credibility of the FBI and of the Mueller investigation.

And this is a group that may very well be under investigation, like many people around Trump. So, again, is out of that playbook. It's not a big surprise that he would say this. But in the end I think it's very, very dangerous to where the country's headed right now.

VAUSE: I was surprised that he actually took it that far.

Ok, we're almost out of time. So do you remember when Paul Manafort actually, you know, proudly told everyone that he wasn't getting paid to be Donald Trump's campaign manager -- or chairman, rather? Not so because there's this new indictment from Robert Mueller the special counsel in the Russia investigation. And it shows that along with his business partner Rick Gates, Manafort was being paid before, during and after the election.

[00:10:06] But here's the real substance of the new indictment. Prosecutors described a scheme in which the two long-time business partners allegedly laundered $30 million failed to pay taxes for almost ten years, and used real estate they own to fraudulently secure more than $20 million in loans.

John -- Paul Manafort's lawyer says he's innocent, but this is now all being seen as Mueller upping the pressure on Gates (INAUDIBLE) to then turn on Manafort and then ultimately Manafort to turn on Trump.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Still nothing to do with Russian collusion, more of the same -- similar charges to what they charged Manafort with the first time. I don't think a lot of people are surprised that Manafort didn't fill out the right forms or pay his taxes and has vulnerabilities there. But it doesn't go to the heart of what he's supposed to be investigating.

VAUSE: But Joe -- if you look at this -- so many charges -- I mean Manafort is what -- 70 years old.

TRIPPI: Yes. He's going to spend the rest of his life in prison if he's --

VAUSE: If he's guilty of those.

TRIPPI: Yes. There's a guilty verdict there.

Look, I think this is like -- it is a bunch of stuff about Russia right now. And Manafort and Gates may have deep insights into that that may implicate the President or people around him -- certainly his relatives.

And so I don't think -- I think to, again, I think this sort of repetition that there's no collusion, there's no evidence of collusion, you know, I'm prepared to sit back with what's coming out.

VAUSE: See what happens.

TRIPPI: And still wait and see what happens there before I want to proclaim that.

VAUSE: And obviously, if nothing else, Mueller is playing hardball.

Joe and John -- good to see you both. Thank you.

TRIPPI: Good to be with you.

VAUSE: Well, now for the segment that we call "Where in the world are the President's children?" Donald Trump Jr. will be speaking in just a few hours from now at a business summit in India. Organizers are calling this speech a fireside chat, very FDR. He's also dining with prospective business partners who reportedly shelled out nearly $40,000 in a booking fee that would secured them dinner and a conversation, and maybe a $1.6 million luxury Trump-branded apartment. All of this raising ethical concerns.

Meantime, first daughter, Ivanka will soon touch down in South Korea where she will represent the U.S. at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. And she will meet with the South Korean preside Moon Jae-In. CNN's Paula Hancocks is following Ivanka's trip. She is live at this hour in Pyeongchang. So Paula, cast your mind back to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. He gave the North Koreans the cold shoulder at the opening ceremony.

Are there any plans maybe for these two delegations to meet this time around at the closing ceremony?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John -- what we're hearing at this point from the South Korean side is that they're not going to try and facilitate a meeting between Ivanka Trump and the North Korean delegation.

Now, one man I should mention in that North Korean delegation was the former head of the reconnaissance bureau. He is widely believed to be behind a couple of attacks that North Korea has been blamed for against the South Koreans, the Yeonpyeong Island shelling which killed four people, the sinking of the Cheonan warship which killed 46 sailors.

So what we are expecting is that when Kim Yong-chol arrives here we are expecting some protests potentially as early as Saturday outside the Blue House. Not everybody is going to be welcoming him.

And certainly it's not necessarily the charm offensive that was touted just a couple of weeks ago at the opening ceremony with Kim Jong-un's sister when you bring a man that is heavily-sanctioned by the United States and South Korea, and many South Koreans blame for attacks on their country -- John.

VAUSE: Yes, it does seem to be a very different vibe in many ways. But there will be comparisons made though, between Ivanka Trump's visit to South Korea and also the visit by Kim Jong-un's sister, which, you know, she got that rock star welcome and, you know headlines all around the world.

HANCOCKS: Well, absolutely. They're both women who are related to the man in power in their respective countries. And certainly there's going to be some similarities that South Korean media, for one, is going to be focusing on.

But the thing is it's very unlikely according to some experts that there would be any kind of similarities beyond that. Whether or not there's going to be a similarity between Ivanka Trump and the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is something they'll be looking out for. Will Ivanka Trump stand for the joint North/South Korean team as they walk in to the closing ceremony? Mr. Pence did not at the opening ceremony and did draw some criticism here in South Korea.

But he has defended that in the past day or so, also saying that the U.S.A. doesn't stand with murderous dictatorships, we stand up to murderous dictatorships suggesting Ivanka will stay seated as well -- John.

[00:15:00] VAUSE: Well, the intrigue continues; a lot to look for. Paula -- thank you. We appreciate it. Still to come here -- he is a survivor of the Florida high school shooting. He is not a paid actor, but yet that conspiracy theory went viral in a video which managed to slip through the net of the social networks. How did it happen? And what are the implications?


VAUSE: Australia's deputy prime minister is stepping down from his job after acknowledging an affair with a former staffer. Barnaby Joyce also announced he will resign as leader of the national party.

Earlier this month Joyce admitted he had an affair with a former staffer. They'd been living together, expecting a child. The resignation comes as the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in the United States. Joyce says he will continue to serve as a member of parliament.

YouTube has apologized after it was used as a platform to spread conspiracy theories about the Florida school shooting. But there's one video in particular which seems to have taken the tech giant by surprise. It claims David Hogg, an outspoken student leader of the Never Again Movement, was in fact, a paid actor. This is just simply not true.

Even so, it quickly rose tot he top trending spot before being removed for violating YouTube's policy on harassment and bullying. This effort to smear the students and survivors of the Stoneman Douglas School shooting began on Monday with far right Web sites posting a vile mix of rumor, innuendo and outright lies.

But the YouTube video about Hogg raises new concerns about social networks and their ability to stop the spread of fake news.

For more, CNN's Hadas Gold is with us from Washington. Hadas -- good to see you.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi -- John. Great to be with you.

VAUSE: Ok. Let's start with the statement to CNN from YouTube. "This video should never have appeared in trending because the video contained footage from an authoritative new source, our system misclassified it." That new source it's talking about, it came from the CBS station here in Los Angeles. It was an older interview with David. And in some ways this seems to highlight the need to humanize the human judgment as opposed to, you know, a computer's algorithms to sort out what is fake is what is not.

GOLD: That is the exact issue that we have here in that they're using computerized algorithms to do the work that maybe humans should be doing. YouTube doesn't have a group of people who are sitting around and checking the trending bars and checking the search results for any sort of possible conspiracy theories that are arising.

They are more reactive if things give flak to them, if it starts become part of the news. Then they take it down. But this incident is raising a lot of questions now for how they should react to this in the future and maybe there should be a sort of SWAT team of humans who, when there's a big news event, such as this horrific shooting, they're just keeping an eye on it because for a while, and I was testing this out, if you typed in David Hogg's name into YouTube's search bar, let's say you were looking for an interview he did, the first few results were these conspiracy videos.

[00:20:12] And that's something that these social media and Internet platforms are coming ahead to right now because they're starting to also get the eyes of government regulators looking at them and saying, maybe we should start getting more involved in this process.

VAUSE: Yes. That's sort of been the constant sort of threat I guess hanging over all of these big tech companies.

The "New York Times" actually looked closely at how all of this happened. Here's part of their reporting. "Unlike the other unhinged clips that have garnered significant attention on YouTube in the recent past, the video of the Parkland survivor originated with neither a conspiracy, orientated media organization like Info Wars, nor one of the popular YouTubers that catered to far right subcultures and fringe political factions. Instead it was posted to the infrequently updated account run by Mike M."

I guess which meant it did no raise any red flags and was, I guess, almost like a back door into the YouTube system.

GOLD: Exactly. I mean people are so used to hearing that these sites like an Info Wars or Gateway Pundits are the source of some of these videos and these conspiracy theories. But as we've known now for years, anybody's video -- anybody can sort of become famous or trending on any of these platforms.

And that's clearly what happened here. And so it might not have raised some red flags in the traditional sense but, you know, if one person makes a video after a big news event and kind of captures really quickly what's going on, as this person clearly did with a student who became very well-known, then you reach this sort of interesting balance that these platforms need to strike between people who are expressing themselves on these platforms, which is obviously a big part of these platform's successes, how it's open to everybody.

But then also making sure that the truth is still going out there and maybe as people are discussing this, people are discussing there should be these human teams that maybe don't have to delete the entire video, but just make sure that it's not the top of trending, that it's not the top result in a search result so that people, when they're searching just for legitimate information, they're actually finding it.

VAUSE: And the thing about this video, it wasn't designed to game the system, and have worked those algorithms on YouTube because that has often been the case in the past. This one video it has this meteoric rise because it was being driven by outside influence. They really had no control over this. This was a real viral video. GOLD: It was a real viral video and this is the problem, there's just

so many videos on these sites. And it is understandable that for these platforms, you know, how to really control this. And this is what they say, that they're working on it, that they know that there's more work to do and that they simply can't -- they don't have the manpower right now to control or to keep an eye on any sort of news event that happens all over the world.

But this continues to be a PR problem because this isn't the first time we've seen this happen on these platforms.

VAUSE: Yes. We saw this back in Sandy Hook. There is this great big conspiracy theory put out that, you know, it was basically -- it was all staged so the government could crack down on, you know, people who owned guns and that kind of stuff.

And the big social networks, they have promised to try and stop, you know, the spread of these conspiracy theories. But at the end of the day there remains a tension between cracking down on fake news content and it's also a business at the same time which has a business model of making money from getting people to watch. And people watch this kind of stuff.

GOLD: That's exactly right. And I mean, if you look at the viewership numbers on some of these videos, there are hundreds of thousands of viewers. And if you put an ad onto that, that's how these platforms make their money.

But this is something that people are clearly asking for. And at some point I think tech platforms have said themselves that their whole business model is really based off of the trust of the users, that users trust them to get them good information. And if they start losing that trust then they start losing their business.

VAUSE: Yes. Yes, exactly because this has been -- this has been going on, not just this, we saw it, you know, in the 2016 election, it continues to go on. And, you know, some would say we really need to get a handle on it relatively soon because the clock is ticking on all of this.

But Hadas -- good to see you. Thanks so much.

GOLD: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: Well the U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a 30-day ceasefire for Syria's brutal civil war. It's set to meet at 11:00 a.m., New York time. Syria's main ally Russia opposes that measure, but the Swedish ambassador said a vote will happen if the language is worked out.

All this comes amid the intense bombardment of the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta near Damascus. The Syrian military briefly stopped dropping bombs this week and instead dropped leaflets warning residents to leave, warning the Syrian army surrounds the area.

Images of the leaflets were posted on social media. The leaflets blame insurgents for the deaths of thousands of women and children. But activists and human rights groups say Russian and Syrian warplanes are killing civilians almost at will it seems.

[00:25:00] And in this video, one activist documents the destruction.


NOUR ADAM, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: Since 24 hours until this moment there are like more than 100 people killed by the Assad government and the Russia warplanes. But they hit every building in every town and every village in eastern Ghouta.

Right now the warplanes in the sky in Ghouta, you can hear the sound of the warplanes hit the building and village in a single shot.

Today, like they are like more than 24 people here, more than 20 people killed the Russian warplanes in Duma City (ph). And worst of that, the war planes target the hospitals and make many hospitals out of service, completely out of service.


VAUSE: That was Syrian activist Nour Adam and the nightmare he was describing is life in eastern Ghouta.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Senators and House members that are staying in Jerusalem. He thanked them for American support. But it's what he did not talk about that's getting a lot of attention.

Mr. Netanyahu's administration is facing five graft investigations and a long-time top confidant agreed earlier this week to turn state's witness.

On Facebook, Netanyahu is trying to portray a business as usual demeanor. He posted on Thursday "I continue and will continue to lead the state of Israel with responsibility, with judiciousness, and with dedication.

Well, up next here, Venezuelans desperate for food, standing in line for handouts and going to bed and waking up hungry, anyway. Is there a way out of this poverty crisis?



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: In Venezuela, they call it the Maduro diet, eating less and skipping meals and with that Venezuelans are losing a lot of weight. On average, 11 kilos per person last year, according to a survey by three universities.

It seems most just can't afford to buy enough food. The poverty rate is now close to 90 percent. Among those living in poverty, more than 61 percent are living in extreme poverty. Almost half the country receives government assistance, mostly for food. Marianella Herrera-Cuenca is one of the authors of that study and she

joins us now from Caracas.

Thank you for being with us. If you look at this study, in every category, these numbers are worse than the previous year.

Were you expecting that result from this survey, did you think it would be as bad as it is?

MARIANELLA HERRERA-CUENCA, CENTRAL UNIVERSITY OF VENEZUELA: Yes. We expected (INAUDIBLE) because there has been no intervention in the right direction. So we've known public policies that will address the situation. It is expected that this would only be worsening every day unfortunately.

VAUSE: Because the last time there are any official government data on this, it was what, back in 2015 and then the poverty rate was around 30 percent, 33 percent. Since then the government has published nothing on the poverty rate and it has actually done nothing about the situation with malnutrition in the country?

HERRERA-CUENCA: Yes, the only thing the government has provided is a program called CLAB (ph). But (INAUDIBLE) it doesn't address nutrition necessities for the population.

So what you get is a box with some goods that are insufficient for feeding a family. And they receive this like every three or four weeks, a month, every two months. So we don't know whether they will receive the box or not. So that is not a solution.

VAUSE: It seems the biggest factor driving, you know, this problem, is essentially the inflation rate, which it's hyperinflation running out of control.

HERRERA-CUENCA: Yes, absolutely. People have been losing the power for acquiring the goods. And we have seen skyrocketing levels of food insecurity; 80 percent of households in Venezuela are categorized as food insecure. That means that they cannot buy the foods they need to feed their families.

VAUSE: And it just seems that all the of the policies which have been put in place by Maduro, refusing to import goods into the country, putting price controls on goods as well, that has just exacerbated what was already a pretty bad circumstance.

HERRERA-CUENCA: Absolutely, controls have been doing worse for this situation because it doesn't allow free market to grow. And then you have to go into our very, very tedious process for acquiring the foreign money, the U.S. dollars, for buying international markets, things such as seeds for (INAUDIBLE) production.

Producers, they are not having the seeds or other things they need to increase their productions of food. So that's also a limitation at the moment.

VAUSE: You know what is remarkable and really tragic and sad, too, is that this is a country which once had the most prosperous economy in South America.

It has, you know, incredible reserves of oil as well. It should be a wealthy country. But people are being what forced to forage through garbage just to get enough to eat?

HERRERA-CUENCA: Yes, absolutely. I, myself, grew up in a very different country. My country used to be a producer of wine, a very successful wine with everything on it. And now people are very limited. You can see people looking into the garbage on the streets for food. And that's a drama.

VAUSE: OK. Marianella, we'll leave it there. But what you've done is important work. It's three universities. It's a very wide-ranging survey, it's probably the most comprehensive a survey of the actual situation inside Venezuelan when it comes to poverty and malnutrition that you have.

And it's important to continue this work. So thank you.

HERRERA-CUENCA: Thank you very much.

VAUSE: OK, short break here. When we come back, they say they're just being who they are but they're making a global impression. Up next, meet --


VAUSE: -- two Olympians pushing the culture of sport in the right direction.




VAUSE: In Egypt, an amazing and heartwarming end to what was a terrifying ordeal at times. A police officer looked up just in time to see a little boy dangling from the third floor.

The boy was at a party, accidentally fell through a window and he was there just long enough for the officer and a colleague to grab a piece of fabric to try and catch him, to break his fall.

Instead, the 5-year-old boy landed in the officer's arms and, amazingly, he was not hurt. The little boy is now back with his mom, seems pretty happy and doing well.


VAUSE: Two members of Team USA are making history at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, not just for their athletic accomplishments but for opening up about their personal lives. Will Ripley explains how these out and proud athletes are changing the culture of sport.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the only two openly gay athletes on Team USA, PyeongChang 2018 will be defined not by medals but milestones.

GUS KENWORTHY, OLYMPIAN: Hopefully it opens people's eyes, opens people's hearts and changes people's minds.

RIPLEY (voice-over): For freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, a public display of affection for his boyfriend, he was too scared to make after winning silver four years ago.

KENWORTHY: There are so many people in different parts of the world that face jail time, death. And the fact that this kiss was beamed into their television is incredible to me.

ADAM RIPPON, OLYMPIAN: I think that me using my voice has given my skating a greater purpose.

RIPLEY (voice-over): For figure skater Adam Rippon, a political stand against U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, declining to meet with Pence at the games, the vice president a longtime opponent of gay rights.

RIPPON: I could even get emotional thinking about it but I've gotten so many messages from young kids all over the country that my story has resonated with them. And it's incredibly powerful.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Veteran sports journalist Christine Brennan has covered 18 Olympics. She says the games give athletes an unparalled platform with a rich history of cultural milestones.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: In 1968 you had the Black Power salute and now we have Adam and Gus, openly gay athletes, talking about their lives; 50 years from now, people will be looking back and talking about Adam and Gus.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Brennan remembers a time not too long ago when gay Olympians had little choice but to live secret lives.

BRENNAN: Several decades ago, athletes just could never have risked coming out. They would have lost everything, sponsorship, what have you. Think of Brian Boitano and the skating shows, all that he had that came out of those Olympic Games --


BRENNAN: -- all gone if he had come out.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Brian Boitano won figure skating gold in 1988. He waited 26 years to come out in 2014. Boitano was a member of former President Obama's delegation at the Winter Games in Sochi.

BRIAN BOITANO, OLYMPIAN: I felt great about supporting the president's message, because it was -- is such a powerful statement as a powerful way to go into Sochi and it was a powerful time.

The focus on sexuality now, it's happening because it needs to happen to promote open-mindedness from, you know, the public and more people. And once that happens, then hopefully people won't have to talk about sexuality as much anymore.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Today's out and proud Olympians are amplifying their voices on social media.

KENWORTHY: Adam and I may be the first U.S. openly gay Winter Olympians but we're definitely not going to be the last.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Kenworthy says many athletes are still hiding in the closet. He hopes to convince others there's no reason to hide anymore -- Will Ripley, CNN, PyeongChang, South Korea.


VAUSE: And CNN is partnering with young people around the world for a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery. The second annual MyFreedomDay will be March 14th and you can join. We'll be asking people what freedom means to them, including some Olympic stars.


JOHANNES, NORWEGIAN SKIER: Freedom means lot. I think every, should have this freedom to do what motivate them and to do what you like and that's the most important thing in my life.

I like to follow my dreams and do my things. Yes, to just try to do things I like. I think that's the most important thing in life, to follow your dreams and don't look back.

NATHAN CHEN, U.S. FIGURE SKATER: Freedom means being able to be who you are whenever, wherever, say whatever you would like and just truly be yourself.


VAUSE: So we want to hear what freedom means to you, post a photo or a video to social media using the #MyFreedomDay.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. "WORLD SPORT" live from PyeongChang is up next. You're watching CNN.