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Children Held at Shelters; NYC Organization Helps Children Battling Cancer; Lewandowski Mocks Child; Celebrities Criticize Fox. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired June 20, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, FORMER SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: And get to the border. Let's start there. These are not -- you know, they didn't hop out of a car at a movie theater. These are kids who have been traveling, some of them for days or weeks in very terrifying situations, and then, as they reach the border, our greeting to them is to wrench them from their parents and stick them with strangers somewhere unknown. That is the most terrifying. And as the Nurses Association and the Pediatric Association said yesterday, this causes toxic stress in children that will be a lifetime result.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And to be clear, we just got a statement from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights saying, we've received reports and are very concerned that children arriving here are much younger than those who have been transported here in the past. Some of these children are infants, as young as three months of age, and are completely unable to advocate for themselves.

Is the solution, then, as some Republican senators are now putting forward, hold children with their parents, increase the number of immigration judges and then get beyond this Flores ruling, this Flores court ruling, pass legislation to get beyond that so that children can be kept in detention centers possibly with their parents?

SEBELIUS: Well, I think the solution, John, is, first of all, stop this cruel policy. Just stop it. It is a total policy made up by this administration. It could stop tomorrow.

BERMAN: No question. No, they chose this. They chose this. They created this immediate crisis. However --

SEBELIUS: No -- you bet.

BERMAN: Well, all I'm saying is that then one way to get beyond this then after the president, if he did, say, hey, I'm stopping this right now, is to create a situation where children could be held with their parents. Would you be supportive of that?

SEBELIUS: Well, in the past, that is what the case was, that families who were seeking asylum were transported, they were trying to be expedited in an asylum court. The judge would look at the situation and they -- the families were kept together and -- but I've heard the president, as recently as yesterday, say he wants no more judges. He doesn't think we need courts, we need -- he clearly is in favor of cages, not courts.

This is a policy that I have never seen. We -- I've been to the centers where we used to house children who came unaccompanied. We were talking about as young as nine or 10 and often teenagers who, again, had been through horrific situations, and we were trying to expedite them as fast as possible out of a holding situation into a safe home.


SEBELIUS: This is -- this is just unbelievably inhumane --

BERMAN: This is something --

SEBELIUS: The treatment of children right now.

BERMAN: This is something --

SEBELIUS: And it should stop right now.

BERMAN: Just to be fair, it is something the Obama administration considered but then did not do, said that separating parents from their children, they decided against that. However, because of these various court rulings and also the Wilberforce (ph) Act of 2008, it was felt that parents and children could not be held together. And, by and large, and I don't like to use this term, but there was the policy of catch and release, where the families were allowed to go if they promised to appear in court. Eight percent or plus did, but they were let go. They were not held in detention centers.

And now there is legislation, Marco Rubio supports it, Ted Cruz supports it and others, who say, OK, we're not going to separate them anymore, but these parents who cross the border illegally, they say, need to be held, so keep their children with them.

SEBELIUS: Well, the assumption that everyone who crosses into the United States is a criminal is, first of all, again, a product of this administration and the Republican Congress. That is not the view that any previous administration has ever had. So we start there.

These are not criminals. These are people, like my relatives, who are seeking a better life for themselves and their families. And they are separated from criminals. We want to -- we did, in the Obama administration, want to, as quickly as possible, first of all, get them out of DHS custody, which is the initial place they are held, and then into safe homes as quickly as possible with relatives or families and then rely on them to show up in court.

That policy has worked extremely well. We do not assume that they are criminals from the outset. We do not separate them from their children. We certainly don't put children in cages. And, as I say, every professional says, this is the worst kind of child abuse you could ever be committing to put a child in a situation with total strangers who often don't speak the language.

And I can tell you that HHS could not possibly be staffed to support babies being kept away from parents. I mean we don't -- we don't have facilities that are capable of doing that. So I have no idea what kind of scramble is underway to even make sure that these children are safe.

BERMAN: It is true that asylum seekers are not criminals, though this administration has decided to interpret the law being that people who do not cross the border as checkpoints, at designed checkpoints, even if they are asylum seekers until they are processed, will be treated as criminals.

[08:35:04] Secretary Sebelius, thanks so much for being with us. I do appreciate it.

SEBELIUS: Good to be with you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, if we need a moment of humanity, I have one for everyone. CNN's special series "Champions for Change" has been running all week and today Ana Cabrera is going to show us a woman who helps children fight cancer. So, please, stick around for this wonderful story.


BERMAN: The music is inspiring. It doesn't even come close to the series here. All week we're going to highlight "Champions for Change," extraordinary people and organizations that are making a difference.

[08:40:03] CAMEROTA: So, today, CNN anchor Ana Cabrera introduces us to an organization close to her heart that helps children all over the world who are battling cancer.

Ana joins us now.

Oh, boy, where are the tissues?

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Get them ready. I have to say, this is something that is such a personal issue for me, childhood cancer, pediatric cancer, and it has touched my family deeply and it is really what led me to this organization here in New York that is tirelessly bringing light, comfort and joy to other families facing the same fight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel sad because I feel sometimes like his childhood was robbed.

A. CABRERA: Mikey, how old are you?


A. CABRERA: So you're a teenager already.

RICHERT: Yeah! A. CABRERA (voice over): Mikey Richert has spent nearly a quarter of

his childhood fighting brain cancer.

RICHERT: This side won't grow because radiation.

A. CABRERA (on camera): I like your mohawk. That looks good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Mikey was almost finished his second fight against medulloblastoma, my husband was diagnosed with stage four lung and bone cancer. To have that person get sick in front of you and watch them deteriorate as your son starts to get better, it was really, really tough.

A. CABRERA (voice over): Nine months after his diagnosis, Michael Sr. died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that point you feel like you can't breathe, but you still try your best to take care of everyone and keep your little kids going.

A. CABRERA (on camera): Seeing Mikey immediately took me back to Colorado and made me think of John, my brother. He was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was just 10-year-old. Medulloblastoma, the same kind of cancer as Mikey.

JOHN CABRERA, ANA'S BROTHER: This doctor said that they didn't have a cure for brain cancer at that time, so I was taken back by that and I was like, oh, my, it looks kind of bleak for me.

A. CABRERA: I remember feeling as a sibling very helpless.

What were you thinking about in this picture?

J. CABRERA: I don't know. I was just happy that you were here.

A. CABRERA: I wanted to be able to do something for him as he was struggling and suffering, and yet there was very little I could do. And I think that's what really led me to Candlelighters.

BARBARA ZOBIAN, FOUNDER, CANDLELIGHTERS NYC: The day that they found out that their child had cancer is the darkest day of their life. Candlelighters helps brings them into the light.

You look so pretty. Hi. Where's the other one? Get over here, I need double hugs.

We needed that personal touch that we are their best friends and they are ours too. We become family.

A. CABRERA: Candlelighters is really a unique organization. It meets the family where they need it most. It may be a simple comfort or it might be a big wish.

ZOBIAN: If we can just make a tiny bit of difference, it's enough.

A. CABRERA: What did you see that Candlelighters could offer that wasn't there already.

ZOBIAN: There still is nothing like Candlelighters New York City. We're a family.

(singing): You have a diaper. A poopy diaper.

These families come from all over. They sit on my couch. They play with my dog. They lie down on the bed if they're tired.

A. CABRERA: Do you want to open it yourself or can I help open this one for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can open that one.



A. CABRERA: Put your head up for one second so we can get the collar working. Oh, yeah.

ZOBIAN: I'm very, very happy.

A. CABRERA: What does it feel like to be able to help families in that way?

ZOBIAN: It feels like a fairy garden (INAUDIBLE).

Isn't that better? Yes, it has to be proper. You know, when you're a cop, you've got to be proper.

We're able to make little wishes come true every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're officially making them police officers at Central Park Precinct. Please welcome Beckham Peterson (ph).

ZOBIAN: New York City is so rich, we share with them and we want all of New York City to feel the good feelings that we feel.

A. CABRERA: That's a very cool picture. Was that you at the Knicks game?


A. CABRERA: For Mikey and his siblings, it was an unforgettable night courtside at a Knicks basketball game.

RICHERT: Everybody was smiling.

A. CABRERA: For his mom, simply an hour of pampering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was such a nice treat to have a glass of champagne and get my hair washed and get it done for me. What Barbara did for me that day, that was just so nice to breathe again.

A. CABRERA: Barbara is a championing for these kids with cancer. Barbara is a champion for their families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you more than anything in the whole wide world.

[08:45:02] ZOBAIN: Oh.

I could spend all of my life just crying, but I'd be under a blanket and not helping anyone.

A. CABRERA: So instead you're making something with that.

ZOBAIN: I'm turning crappy into happy.


CAMEROTA: Oh, God, you weren't kidding. That is so effecting and so touching. I mean these are angels among us.

BERMAN: She's a fairy god champion.

A. CABRERA: That's a great way to put it.

BERMAN: Yes, a fairy god champion.

A. CABRERA: And, you know, she doesn't look at it that way, Barbara, and she has this whole army of volunteers. The entire organization is full of people who just want to love on these children, love on these families. And while they're not always doing something giant like going to the New York Knicks game, it's like, what do you need? Can I come and bring you a glass of wine? Can I provide a shoulder to cry on? Can I help take your mind off what's going on right now?

I mean Mikey's battle -- his battle continues. He had pre-leukemia this year. And then he needed a bone marrow transplant. And now he is just coming through that, recovering from that bone marrow transplant. And these kids are coming from Utah, from San Diego, from Kentucky, from New Jersey, all over the place. And imagine going through this -- this is what really struck me -- without having that family close by, without being in the comfort of your own home in the familiar surroundings. And so that's why Candlelighters NYC is here.

CAMEROTA: And I didn't know about your own family's struggle either. That's really -- thanks for sharing that with everybody.

How's your brother?

A. CABRERA: He's all right. He's a survivor. So we consider ourselves lucky. But his life is forever impacted. He's a championing of mine personally.

BERMAN: I'm sure every minute you spend with him brings you joy.

A. CABRERA: Oh, absolutely. Life has a whole different meaning when you go through something like that, you know.

BERMAN: Thank so much. Thanks so much for sharing this us. A. CABRERA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We'll be right back.


[08:50:57] CAMEROTA: President Trump's former campaign manager is under fire for mocking a story about a child with downs syndrome who was separated from her mother.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read today about a 10-year-old girl with downs syndrome who was taken from her mother and put in a cage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read about a -- a -- did you say wha, wha to a 10-year-old with downs syndrome being taken from her mother?

LEWANDOWSKI: What I said is you can pick anything you want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How dare you. How dare you.

LEWANDOWSKI: But the bottom line is very clear, when you cross the border illegally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How absolutely dare you, sir.


CAMEROTA: OK, joining us now is CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.

So, Brian, as I have said, truly, if I heard that from a fifth grader, I would tell my son to run away from that child because that child was too mean spirited and toxic to play with. But that's Corey Lewandowski --


CAMEROTA: Who's heart is, for whatever reason, so hardened. Is there getting -- what's the media reaction? And I don't just mean, you know, the mainstream media. It seems like the reaction to what's being said on Fox, what's being said by Corey Lewandowski --

STELTER: Right. Right.

CAMEROTA: Is having more of a ground swell in all pockets of this?

STELTER: It is. It is more than usual. I think what Lewandowski might have been trying to do was condemn argument by anecdote. That would be the most generous possible explanation. He didn't want to hear some random anecdote.

But for Christ sakes, it sounds heartless. It sounds cowardly. And I think there are two things about his behavior there that are telling. One is, the depth of the anti-immigrant sentiment. Just how deep and hateful it goes. And then, number two, the lack of a coherent argument, the lack of a coherent, positive argument. We have seen --

CAMEROTA: When you have to resort to wha, wha, that's not a a coherent argument.

STELTER: Right. We've seen the pro-Trump media struggling the past few days to defend and explain and support this policy. There's a lot of attempts, a lot of incoherent answers, a lot of half-hearted explanations. But we're not seeing a strong defense.

And, look, the fact that the White House didn't even hold a press briefing yesterday, another example that they're having a hard time to defend this.

BERMAN: It's dehumanizing.


BERMAN: It's other-izing here.


BERMAN: And you heard it with Corey Lewandowski. You also heard it with Laura Ingraham, who claimed that these people that we're seeing, these children being kept in cages, are somehow performers.

Listen to this.


LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS: Since more illegal immigrants are rushing the border, more kids are being separated from their parents and temporarily housed in what are essentially summer camps.


BERMAN: It was Ann Coulter who called them (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: It was Ann Coulter who called them (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Laura Ingraham was saying that these are summer camps. Both are pretty extraordinary comments.

STELTER: And there's been an incredible amount of backlash. And I -- I think that is just as notable as these original gross comments. People are not taking this and just rolling their eyes and moving on. We've seen out in Hollywood a couple of prominent Fox stars. A couple of the creators of big Fox shows say, I don't want to be associated with Fox News anymore. I'm going to take my work in the entertainment realm and take it to a competing studio as a way of holding (INAUDIBLE).


CAMEROTA: And are they really doing that? Are they threatening it or are they just -- are they really doing it or just threatening it?

STELTER: We've got to check again in six months or a year, but I think Steve Levitan's comments, that created "Modern Family," which is produced by Fox, were very strong yesterday. And there's been a groundswell among some of his colleagues.

He says here in the tweet, Levitan says, look, a lot of my colleagues feel the same way and they can't speak up, but I can, so I'm going to.

Look, I think actions are a lot more important than words, but these words are striking and at least in that case he says he's going to take action.

BERMAN: Does it have any impact? I mean, remember, there is a separation between --

STELTER: There is.

BERMAN: The corporate studios and these other things --


BERMAN: And Fox News. And ultimately, actually, when they get split up, they'll be a little division, right?

STELTER: Well, it's certainly a corporate problem. This is creating a lot of corporate headaches. That was acknowledged to me by sources at Fox last night. So whether this is a business impact a year or two down the line remains to be seen. But I think it is remarkable how pretty much the entire American media, except for Fox, is standing up for basic American values and of human values in this situation.

You all had a banner two days ago that said, will President Trump fix this today? Will he end this today? Well, here we are. We haven't seen any action yet. But the press is holding him accountable.

At the same time, I think we need to recognize, a lot of Trump supporters hear this and they think the real scandal is that these folks enter the country illegally.


STELTER: And it's causing further divisions every day.

CAMEROTA: Well, listen, just on a human note, I'm always conflicted because, obviously, I worked with Laura Ingraham, I worked with Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, and so, Laura Ingraham, she's a mom of three, OK? So I feel when she says it's a summer camp, she must not know or have spoken to the people that we had on our show today that said that they're in cages, the kids are in cages, it's overcrowded. There is constant crying. There's no toys. There's no bedding. They sleep with the bright lights on all the time and they don't know where their parents are. They're taken from their parents and the parents aren't told where the kids are going and the kids aren't told where the parents are going to be. That's not summer camp.

[08:55:27] STELTER: That's terror camp.

BERMAN: When you're at camp, you know where your parents are.

CAMEROTA: You know where your parents are.

STELTER: That's terror camp. That is causing terror in these children's lives. What Laura Ingraham needs to do is go and see these camps.

CAMEROTA: For sure.

STELTER: Needs to go and visit. We need more reporting. We need to see inside these facilities.

CAMEROTA: Yes, with our own eyes. That is -- we need to -- and we need to be able to bring it to the American public, if they'll let our cameras in.


BERMAN: Brian Stelter, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

STELTER: Thanks.

BERMAN: CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow picks up after a quick break.


[09:00:04] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

And this morning I wish we could tell you that there is a clear path forward to fixing the humanitarian crisis at our southern border.