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Florida Governor Nominee Comments; Journalist's View of Reporting on Trump Administration; Tribute to Aretha Franklin; New Sex Abuse Rules. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 30, 2018 - 08:30   ET



[08:33:54] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The general election race for governor in Florida off to a controversial start. Listen to what the new Republican nominee, Ron DeSantis, said about his opponent, who's Florida's first African-American nominee for governor.


REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: And let's build off the success we've had on Governor Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.


BERMAN: Joining me now is April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, a CNN political analyst and her new book "Under Fire: Reporting From The Front Lines Of The Trump White House."

I want to talk about the book in just a second, April, because it is fascinating.

First, to this very first day of the general election campaign in Florida, Congressman Ron DeSantis, who is an acolyte of President Trump, said what he said. He used that word, monkey. He didn't want the Democratic nominee to monkey it up. And a lot of people said they see racism in that. Did you?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, most definitely. It was not by mistake or happenstance or coincidence. This was a strategically placed word. You know, back decades ago, you know, people used to refer to African-Americans in so many derogatory terms. And DeSantis is trying to harken upon his president's code words and dog whistles to get those people who don't like the fact that you have an African- American who could become the governor of this red state, you know, he wants them to come out. And he gave a dog whistle to them. And his apology could be, you know, tongue in cheek, turn your eye -- I mean turn your head, close an eye and say, oh, I'm sorry but, you know, I said this. So it's definitely racial.

[08:35:40] BERMAN: He didn't apologize. To be clear, he didn't apologize at all. The campaign came out and said that it would be absurd to suggesting that it had anything to do with race. DeSantis later told Fox News it had to do with whether Andrew Gillum, the nominee, would be a socialist -- would govern like a socialist or not. He is not a Democratic socialist, by the way.

RYAN: Right.

BERMAN: I do think one indicator is that Fox News had to come on later in the day and said they didn't condone that use of language.

But what's interesting, April, and you've covered the Trump White House --

RYAN: Yes.

BERMAN: Is DeSantis did not apologize. And that's out of the Trump playbook. He has had a tremendous amount of success in some ways for never apologizing for all of the controversial things that he's done.

RYAN: Well, and, see, that's the piece, you know, the campaign or DeSantis can say it, you know, in their way said, well, this is not what I meant and to change it from saying that I said it but this is the way -- you know, the man speak, the mansplaining, well, I said this but this is what I meant. And that's -- in terms -- in the sense -- in a sense their kind of apology. But you're right, it's not.

But the bottom line, he said it. It was the wrong -- in 2018 we have been through all sorts of issues. We know what's on the table and what to say and what not to say. We are in a time where there is -- political correctness is thrown out the window. And this is wrong. This is wrong.

Two people -- what if -- what if -- what if the Democratic nominee for governor of Florida said something that was very racial to him? You would see a total different outcry against Gillum versus DeSantis.

So there is hypocrisy here. I'm glad that Fox News -- I'm so glad that Fox News even came out --


RYAN: And said something about it because, you know, they -- for them to say it, that's huge. And I give them credit. I give Fox News credit for saying that that was wrong.

BERMAN: So, April, tell me about your book, this book, under fire, which is just out now. Why did you decide to write it?

RYAN: Oh, yes.

Why did it write it? Because I've gone through a lot in the last two years. But it's not necessarily about me. It's about giving you a glimpse of what's happening to the press in this lofty place, the White House, from the leader of the free world and the principles around him who have decided to turn on the press. We are number one when it comes to amendments, the First Amendment, and that is not by coincidence, number one before all of the others to include freedom to bear arms, you know, number two.

Freedom of the press, and it's been challenged. And I detail in this book what I've been going through for the last two and a half years. And it's real. They've tried to discredit me. They've tried -- they've lied on me. And, you know, it's been a journey. And it's been a journey to attack the free press that stands for the American public, whether people believe it or not.

If we don't ask the questions, you don't find out what's going on. If we are not there, you don't know. The public doesn't know what's happening. So it's very important to detail what's happening because this president took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution and when it comes to freedom of the press, he's not doing it.

BERMAN: April, you say it isn't meant to be just about you, but, you know, you've had a unique position in there from the very beginning.

RYAN: Yes.

BERMAN: And I go back to one of the early press conference and I want to play an exchange that the president of the United States had with you and you write about this in your book.

RYAN: First one.

BERMAN: Let's listen.


RYAN: Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as well as --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?

RYAN: No, no, no, I'm not --

TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?

RYAN: I'm just a reporter.

TRUMP: No, get -- set up the meeting.

RYAN: I know some of them, but I'm sure they'll (INAUDIBLE) --

TRUMP: Let's go. Set up a meeting.


BERMAN: You know, I was looking at you watching that again and I was curious what your thought bubble was now. But I'm curious what your thought bubble was then.

RYAN: OK, now it makes me cringe. That will always be a lead in to me on a segment. And it makes me cringe because that's history. That's an American president saying that to me, to an African-American. And that's my thought bubble now.

But let me tell you what happened then, and I write about it in the book. And that, you know, when people were asking me, what did I think, I didn't look at it as racial as much as sinister. And the reason why -- yes, there's a racial tinge to it, but it was more sinister.

A week prior to that, there was a huge fight outside of Sean Spicer's office between -- it was back and forth between Sean Spicer's office and the Oval Office and the president I'm sure heard it. His door was closed. And the person I was fighting with was his friend, once his friend who's now fired. And that person was saying that I was taking money from Hillary Clinton, which was a lie, to discredit me, to have me out of the press so that she could put my head on a platter to serve it to President Trump to say, here, I am loyal, see, I'm loyal, I'm in your camp. You know, trust me, trust me.

[08:40:33] But it didn't happen that way. So this person is in the president's ear. And so then the next week, after that fight happened, he calls on me. He -- before he even -- you didn't play that piece, but before he said that, he said, I like watching you on TV. I was -- I'm good. I said, that's great. But then it went downhill after I questioned about the CBC, which is the Congressional Black Caucus, and even the CHC, which I didn't get a chance to talk about that, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

BERMAN: Right.

RYAN: And he said that and it made me feel like he was listening to his friends in his ear that I'm in the camp of the Democrats.

But what I will tell you is, you know, when I've covered Republican presidents, to include George W. Bush, people thought I was a Democrat. When I've covered Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, they thought that I was a Republican. So I must be doing my job. But this administration seems to find something wrong with me.

BERMAN: April Ryan, thanks for coming on. The book, "Under Fire." Check it out. Keep asking the questions, April, we appreciate it.

RYAN: Thank you. Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, final good-byes will be said today for Aretha Franklin in a place that holds so much history for her family. We're live in Detroit, next.


[08:45:39] BERMAN: Crowds of fans lining up to pay their final respects to the queen of soul at the church where her father was once a pastor.

CNN's Ryan Young live in Detroit with more.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this is such a special church. This is a place where she had her first solo. She went up there and started singing. Everybody knew they had something special here. So the queen of soul today, the third day in this memorial that's been amazing in the city has been quite amazing. There's already a line forming.

And, again, people have been so excited about this. People have been singing it line. They've been getting ready because they loved Aretha so much. So you think about this. This is kind of happening in line as people have been having a good time thinking about Aretha Franklin.

And then you know there's a concert tonight where you're going to have Gladys Knight, the Four Tops, Johnny Gill, more than 20 artists will be there. And you're talking about the fact that, on top of that, you have that funeral tomorrow where you'll have Bill Clinton, of course, there. You'll have Tyler Perry speaking as well. So you can feel the energy from this city. It's been quite amazing to see these people come together. So we'll see what happens on the next few hours, but you can feel the love for Aretha Franklin.


CAMEROTA: It's always nice to hear music at these moments. Thanks so much, Ryan.

All right, so Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is about to roll out some new rules for dealing with sexual misconduct on campus. Why some people are very unhappy about this, next.


[08:51:03] CAMEROTA: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans to introduce new policies regarding how universities handle sexual assault and harassment cases. These rules have been first reported by "The New York Times" which says that the new rules would increase protections for the students accused of sexual misconduct. They would reduce liability for the colleges and universities.

So joining us now to discuss all of this, we have the executive director for End Rape on Campus, a survivor of campus sexual assault, Jess Davidson.

Jess, thanks so much for being here.

Here's what we know from "The New York Times." They say that the rules that they've seen -- this is according to two government officials who have seen the rules or have been briefed -- they would narrow the definition of sexual harassment. It would hold schools accountable only for the formal complaints filed through proper authorities and the conduct would have to have occurred on their campuses. It would also establish a higher legal standard to determine whether schools were properly addressing the complaints.

What is your problem with these new rules? JESS DAVIDSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, END RAPE ON CAMPUS: Thank you so

much for having me on, Alisyn.

That's exactly correct, it really does a lot of things to make it easier for students to get away with committing sexual assault on campus and ultimately makes it harder for survivors, like myself, and like the survivors that I work with every day at End Rape on Campus to report sexual assault. Determining that sexual assaults that only happen on campus are worthy of the school investigating and giving the survivor full access to their rights under Title IX, dependent on where it happened based on geography, is cruel and will reduce reporting, leaving thousands of survivors at the gates, requiring survivors to be cross-examined by someone who has sexually assaulted them is just downright cruel.

CAMEROTA: So, wait, that's one of the new rules is that in any sort of hearing, the accused would cross-examine the accuser?

DAVIDSON: The school can determine whether or not they want to do that. If they decide that they would like to, then the accused can cross-examine the accuser, yes.

CAMEROTA: There's also, according to "The New York" -- I think this is from "The New York Times," but maybe it's from "The Washington Post." But, anyway, we have it, too, definition of sexual harassment on campus would also change. So it would go from, let me read this, unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature to a much higher standard. The new draft says, quote, unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies access to an educational program. That's quite a standard.

DAVIDSON: It is an extremely high standard. And it's one that's extremely difficult to prove, saying that harassment is based on gender instead of harassment being harassment, that's an easy out for lawyers to make when they're defending students who have been accused. And, more importantly, it tells survivors that what happened to them may not be important enough or severe enough that they should move forward with getting the accommodations and fairness under Title IX that they deserve.

If I were a student on campus and I was hearing that limited definition of harassment, it would certainly make me question whether or not what happened to me is considered good enough by my institution. And we know that that's already a problem because sexual assault, and particularly sexual assault on campus, is severely underreported. Only 20 percent of campus survivors report and very, very few survivors of campus sexual assault report to the police. And that's because most often what they're looking for is an educational remedy.

When I was a student on campus, I decided to move forward with a Title IX complaint because seeing my rapist in the library was causing me to have to leave while I was working on my senior thesis to go vomit in the bushes outside. It was extremely disruptive to my education. But the way that I read these rules, if Secretary DeVos has her way when these come out, I would have had to go possibly through the police and certainly through an unfair process that I wouldn't have wanted to do. If I can't see my assailant in the library without having to leave to vomit, what makes me think that I can handle being crossed examined by him? It forces survivors to put their education second and it really isn't centering the needs of all students is to have equal access to education.

[08:55:11] CAMEROTA: And, Jess, on the flipside, as you know, the secretary of education and the department have talked about their concerns for the accused. And, look, I've done an hour long CNN special about all of this and I know that there's numbers from a compendium of research studies that show that somewhere between 2 percent and 10 percent of accusations are false reports. In other words roughly 95 percent are proven true.

But for the people who are falsely accused, obviously one claim can ruin your life and they seem to be focused on trying to make sure that no one is falsely accused. Do you understand that motivation?

DAVIDSON: What we really have here is a false equivalence. More than 3 million students will be sexually assaulted on campus this fall. And, as you said, between two and 10 of all reports are proven to be false. And that statistic has proven to consistently lean towards 2 percent, which is the exact same rate of false reporting as any other violent crime according to the FBI.

So what we're not saying is that we shouldn't focus on fairness for all students, but what we are saying is that the people who most often experience an unfair process are survivors. And this does nothing to protect them. It reduces their protections and disproportionately focuses on a very small group of people who deserve fairness but we're not focusing on the bigger picture here. Three million students will be sexually assaulted this fall.

CAMEROTA: Jess, thank you for sharing your personal story and for those statistics.

I should very quickly just read for everyone the Department of Education's statement that they have given us. They say, we are in the midst of a deliberative process. Any information "The New York Times" claims to have is premature and speculative and therefore we have no comment.

We will wait to see what those changes are.

Jess Davidson, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.

DAVIDSON: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: CNN "NEWSROOM" with Erica Hill will pick up after this break. See you tomorrow.