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CNN NEWSROOM

Gay Rights Show of Force; Obama Pledges to End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; White House Discusses Afghan Troop Increase

Aired October 11, 2009 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, thousands of gay Americans out and proud, converge on the nation's capital with a message to the country and the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: President Barack Obama hearing their call, speaks out on gay rights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will "end don't ask, don't tell." That's my commitment to you.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Did they buy it? The man who invited the president to speak answers that question live. Professor Henry Louis Gates and one of America's favorite talk show hosts, traveling back in time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM JOYNER, TALK SHOW HOST: Legal electrocution? Cause of death, legal electro -- they electrocuted him?

HENRY LOUIS GATES, PROFESSOR: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: An emotional history lesson for Tom Joyner. He'll join us live with his new fight for justice.

And, is Rush Limbaugh ready for some football? A better question maybe, is football ready for Rush? He could become an NFL team owner soon. What do you think? We are taking your comments this hour.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon.

It has been a weekend show of political force by gay rights activists and their supporters. Several thousand people marched from the White House to the Capitol today in the National Equality March, dramatizing their demands for legal protection and calling on the president to fulfill promises he made during last year's campaign. Among their top demands: to make good on his pledge to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The president has said it before and said it again last night during the speech to the nation's largest gay rights group.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We cannot afford -- we cannot afford to cut from our ranks people with the critical skills we need to fight anymore than we can afford for our military's integrity to force those willing to do so into careers encumbered and compromised by having to live a lie. So I'm working with the Pentagon, its leadership and members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. Legislation has been introduced in the House to make this happen. I will end "don't ask, don't tell." That's my commitment to you.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: There has already been a lot of reaction to the president's speech, as you might imagine. Some of the marchers took their message, their signs, their banners and their bullhorns to the White House today. That's them right out in front.

And "Politico's" Josh Gerstein was at today's march. I don't think he's at the White House, maybe he was. He joins us now from Washington.

Thank you so much. It's good to hear you. Josh writes for Politico.com.

You know, you wrote this piece for "Politico," talking about the president, really criticizing him, saying he's not done enough. I know that you did watch this show last night and watched the president's speech. What do you make of it? Do you still think he hasn't done enough after he -- what he said last night?

JOSH GERSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO.COM: Well, I wasn't -- just to be clear, I wasn't criticizing him and saying he wasn't doing enough. I was saying that there's a significant element of the gay community, of the gay and lesbian activists who believe that they've heard more sizzle than steak from the president, that they've heard a lot of rhetoric, that the speech last night was very strong, very emphatic and very sincere.

But in terms of concrete progress, they wonder: what has happened on "don't ask, don't tell"? Why are people still being discharged from the military who are gay? What is the president going to do about state ballot measures...

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Well, when you say that, you're asking all those things, but specifically more concrete. What would you have liked to hear from the president in specific terms?

GERSTEIN: Well, again, many of the gay and lesbian activists I talked to said they would like to have seen a deadline of some sort, that the president would say, "I'll get rid of 'don't ask, don't tell' by the end of next year." They would have liked to hear a more specific plan and maybe him come right out and say, "Let's defeat, say, the main ballot measure to revoke gay marriage" or have him defend some of his nominees who've come under fire in recent weeks, specifically come out, those people mention their names and say he supports them.

LEMON: All right. I want you to listen to this, a lawmaker from Georgia speaking this morning. Take a listen and we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: We've got a program that's working within the military. It's been very effective, very accommodating for about 15, 16 years now. And it's worked well and I think there's no reason to change it. I get calls for military personnel on a regular basis, every time this issue gets stirred up. And this is not a popular discussion within the military, I can assure you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Saxby Chambliss, and I would imagine that it's not a popular discussion in the military. So, many gay rights activists want a call to end "don't ask, don't tell," but many of them are not in the military, and I wonder if they are listening to people in the military who oppose it -- who oppose overturning it.

GERSTEIN: Well, Don, I think it's a little more complicated than that. There are certainly people in the military that oppose overturning it.

But I think sentiment and some polling has shown that there is increasing support for overturning this. Especially, you have a much younger cohort now of people coming into the military from a generation that is just not as worked up about homosexuality, is not as concerned about gays and lesbians being in their midst, and maybe more used to it. We see a lot more of it in pop culture, on prime- time TV shows.

So, I think society is moving in a certain direction on that. People of Saxby Chambliss' age and older maybe have certain feelings about it. But I think there's a change taking place and gay and lesbian leaders would like to see the president not just say he'll change the policy, but make speeches before other audiences, saying it's time to change attitudes on this.

LEMON: OK. Let's change topics just for a second, and I only have just a couple of seconds here, Josh. If you -- can you move it forward, since you are the White House reporter for Politico.com, what can we expect to hear from the president next week? What's coming up? We had, you know, the Nobel Peace Prize, we had Afghanistan, and then this. What's on the agenda?

GERSTEIN: Well, I think we're going to continue to hear a lot about Afghanistan. I mean, that is really the biggest issue on the president's plate. We had a couple of three-hour-long meetings last week on this issue, both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I'll tell you, Don, it's very unusual to have an hour-long meeting with the president on a certain issue, to have repeated three-hour- long meetings, this is just an enormous challenge that the White House is facing, and I think we're going to continue to hear a lot from folks in Washington about this issue of whether we're going to send more troops there. Do we send no more troops? Do we send 20,000? Forty thousand?

LEMON: Yes.

GERSTEIN: Sixty thousand? Or do we pull them out altogether? I think whatever the president does, he's going to face a firestorm of criticism. This is something that White House really is going to be wrestling with this week.

LEMON: All right. Josh Gerstein, White House reporter for Politico.com, thank you for your perspective.

And you heard Josh talking about Afghanistan. As we just said, Afghanistan is the other big story, drawing lots of talk in Washington. There is no shortage of advice for President Barack Obama, whose top general in the region wants at least 40,000 more U.S. troops.

Our Kate Bolduan is standing by now at the White House to talk to us about that.

Kate, does there seem to be a consensus around any one particular strategy here?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you, Don, there sure doesn't if you would listen to what was being talked about outside of the White House walls today.

The White House continues to say that all options are on the table, but the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain, spoke to CNN's John King on "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning, and he said that anything less than the recommendations of General Stanley McChrystal -- which you mentioned, he's called for reportedly 40,000 additional troops to the area -- John McCain says anything less than that would be, quote, "an error of historic proportions."

Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION")

JOHN KING, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Do you think the United States can win in Afghanistan with fewer than 40,000 more troops? SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I do not. And I think the great danger now is not in America to pull out. I think the great danger now is a half measure, sort of a -- you know, try to please all ends of the political spectrum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But in stark contrast to his colleague, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" this morning that the focus should be more on Afghan forces, not U.S. troops.

Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC'S MEET THE PRESS)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: At this time, don't send more combat troops, but I say, focus on the Afghan forces, the army, faster, larger, better equipped. Why are we shipping -- why don't we have a great plan to ship equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: As you can see, the White House getting pressure from all sides on this issue, Don. One thing that seems to be clear, at least at this point, is that the White House is not considering -- one option they're not considering is pulling out U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

LEMON: So, you know, I'm trying to get this answer from anywhere I can get, I asked Josh, I'm going to ask you the same thing. Any idea where the White House is in this process?

BOLDUAN: A very good question. As you can imagine, many of the details of what's going on in that room, most of the details, if not all, they're keeping very secretive. The White House continues to insist on that no decisions have yet been made on the path forward. The president, he huddled with his national security team twice this week.

The "Politico" reporter, he mentioned that there were three-hour-long meetings. Wednesday they say the focus was Pakistan. Friday, the focus was Afghanistan and the assessment from General Stanley McChrystal of the situation on the ground. Another meeting, a fifth in a series of planned meetings is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

You can see that conversation continues. But White House officials, the best advice that we've gotten, the best guidance right now, Don, is that White House officials say a decision could still be weeks away.

LEMON: All right. We are waiting.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

LEMON: Thank you very much, Kate Bolduan, at the White House for us. BOLDUAN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Blast after blast after blast. More than 20 people are dead and the Iraqi city of Ramadi is sealed off following a string of three deadly car bombings. Iraq's interior ministry says the explosions targeted police and government buildings. Two of the bombs exploded within 10 minutes of each other and just 15 yards apart. The third blast rocked the hospital where the dead and dozens of wounded were taken. Officials believe the attacks were carried out by al Qaeda in Iraq.

A celebrated high school marching band is singing the praises of a music teacher who died when the band's bus flipped over.

Listen to this story -- the American Fork High School, the band there, was heading home to Utah from a competition in Idaho last night when the bus driver suffered a medical emergency. That's when 33-year-old Heather Christiansen sprung into action, according to the band director. She grabbed the steering wheel, but fell out of the window and was killed when the bus rolled over her. Dozens of students were hurt, but none of the injuries are life-threatening.

New music from Michael Jackson? You heard me right. A much- anticipated new song from the pop star might have been leaked on the Internet. We'll give you a sneak preview of it.

And imagine finding out your relatives were wrongly executed. Well, it happened to none other than Tom Joyner and he'll be here live in the NEWSROOM to share this incredible story and his fight for justice now.

Join our conversation, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or iReport.com. We want to hear from you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A crowded carpool headed to a little girl's slumber party becomes a highway nightmare with an accused drunken mom at the wheel. The car flipped on Manhattan's Henry Hudson Parkway, killing an 11- year-old girl.

Police say 31-year-old Carmen Huertas lost control early this morning after driving her daughter and six other girls to the Bronx. She's charged with driving while intoxicated and vehicular manslaughter in the death of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado. The driver and the surviving girls are being treated for minor injuries.

How does Chicago stop the cycle of deadly attacks on kids by kids? Well, this weekend, churches are partnering with police to try to come up with an answer to that. Families, community leaders, and clergy are rallying in neighborhoods citywide, holding photos of the young victims of unsolved murders. And some carry -- some of them are carrying posters of a little boy with a caption begging, "Don't shoot, I want to grow up."

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley made his way through one of the crowds yesterday before pleading with parents to take responsibility for their children.

The head of the NFL player's union is trying to block Rush Limbaugh's attempt to buy the St. Louis Rams football team. Executive Director DeMaurice Smith sent the following to the union's executive committee on the potential bid from an ownership group that includes Limbaugh.

Here's what he says. He says, "Sports is at itself best when it unifies, gives us all reason to cheer and when it transcends, our sport does not exactly that when it overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred." Smith said he had been in touch with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The 32 NFL owners will have the final say on whether or not Rush becomes a new owner.

Deathly ill from sitting in a sweat lodge. Imagine that. Nineteen people were hospitalized and two people actually died during a spiritual cleansing in Arizona. They were 40-year-old James Shore and 38-year-old Kirby Brown. Brown's family says he was a hiker, a surfer, a picture of good health.

So what happened inside the sauna-like hut?

Here's more now from KNXV's Rudabeh Shahbazi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER: Two people aren't breathing with no pulse.

911 OPERATOR: No breathing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER: Yes.

911 OPERATOR: OK. Is this result of a shooting or something?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER: No, it's a sweat lodge.

911 OPERATOR: Are you there by yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER: No, there's a lot of people there.

911 OPERATOR: OK. All right, well, get them out of the sweat lodge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER: We are.

RUDABEH SHAHBAZI, KNXV REPORTER (voice-over): Twenty-one people rushed to area hospitals Thursday night after sitting for hours in what was supposed to be a spiritual cleanse.

ANNA LISA BROWN, LIVES NEAR SEDONA RESORT: I was surprised that people would put themselves in that situation, but not surprised, because, you know, people are really looking for things to fulfill themselves and make them -- give them purpose.

SHASBAZI: Sixty-four people were at the Angel Valley property at a retreat put on by the famous spiritual guide and author James Ray. You may have seen him on "Oprah" or "Larry king." He also helped write the book "The Secret." Investigators say some paid up to $9,000 to spend time with him.

MARIO BLACK WOLF, NATIVE AMERICAN: Everybody has the right to believe and practice the way they wish to, but when it endangers the life of others or when you have to pay for it, that's not a spiritual belief.

SHAHBAZI: Sweat lodges are a traditional Indian cleansing ritual. It's basically a sauna where water is poured over hot water and steam is encased inside a shelter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: That was Rudabeh Shahbazi from our affiliate there.

Near record heat in Florida and an early snowfall in the Upper Plains. There you see her.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

LEMON: Our meteorologist Bonnie Schneider has it all from the CNN severe weather center.

I guess it's severe when it's -- is this early or is it right on time?

SCHNEIDER: No, this is early to get (INAUDIBLE) cold weather and snow, even into the Northern Plains. I know, you know, it's Fargo, Rapid City, sure, it's supposed to be cold, but not this cold. How cold is it?

Well, take a look at some of the current temperatures, in the upper 30s. Some are even in the mid-30s in and around the areas where we have snow falling right now. But this is just the beginning. We're actually anticipating even more snow soon enough. There is winter storm advisory -- winter weather advisories, rather, across a good portion of the Upper Plains that will continue into the evening hours. And what this means is heavy snow for this area you see here and some of that will stretch as far to the east as Minnesota and Wisconsin.

So, it's going to be tough this morning, as we go towards into the early hours of Monday, heading into your commute, because you are going to have snow on the ground and it will be falling in the early hours as well. Now, some of our computer models are showing that we're expecting the heaviest snow in and around Wyoming and South Dakota, but you can see our computer model takes it all the way to up northern Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota.

So, at least three inches on the ground there. And then, if that's not enough, we're looking at some very cold temperatures for overnight tonight. Don, it will be down to 14 in Billings, Montana. But, if you want the hot weather, stick around in Miami. That's where the temperature is going to only drop to 81. That's the low temperature.

LEMON: I'm on my way to Miami right now.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it sounds good.

LEMON: Fourteen, when you said, we're going to be experiencing low temperatures. I thought you were going to say, it will be 14 degrees here down in Atlanta.

SCHNEIDER: No, no, no.

LEMON: All right.

SCHNEIDER: We'll be down to 62.

LEMON: OK. You know, this is new music from Michael Jackson. What do you think? It sounds a little odd, doesn't it?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it does.

LEMON: I want to tell you this because I want you to hear it, Bonnie. It's a song that appears to be music from the late Michael Jackson. And it made its way on to the Internet. The single is called, "This Is It." It was scheduled to be released at midnight tonight on MichaelJackson.com. But a song purported to be the one by the King of Pop was found on the Internet.

Take a listen to this, Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: OK.

(MUSIC)

LEMON: It certainly sounds like him, doesn't it?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it does sound like him. And that was the name of his tour that was supposed to take off this summer.

LEMON: Chances are, it's probably a hit, but it's supposed to be released at midnight. Anyway, it sounds like a good song ...

BONNIE: Yes, thanks for playing that.

LEMON: ... and I'm sure it will probably do very well on the charts. Thanks, Bonnie. I'll see you a little bit, OK? Appreciate you playing with me.

SCHNEIDER: Sure. Anytime.

LEMON: All right. Lots of applause to the president's speech to a gay rights group last night, but not everyone was happy with his message. I'll talk with the head of that group -- there he is right there -- the guy who hosted the event. I don't know -- was he satisfied? Do you invite the president there? Don't answer. After the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. President Barack Obama renews his vow to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy once and for all. But when is the question and that's the issue as well.

Meantime, gay rights activists are in the nation's capital for the National Equality March, many of whom don't think the president is acting quickly enough.

Here he is, Joe Solmonese. He's joining us tonight from New York.

In New York already, I thought you were...

JOE SOLMONESE, PRES., HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: I'm in D.C.

LEMON: Oh, you're in D.C. OK.

SOLMONESE: Yes.

LEMON: It says New York, you're in D.C. He's a president of the Human Rights Campaign and his organization invited the president to speak last night.

So, he's vowed to end "don't ask, don't tell," that policy. Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the armed service committee, Joe, says that he expects the ban to be lifted, but only with the support of military leaders. Would you have wanted the president to have offered a deadline to, I guess, to fill -- I don't know, that he's going to do it? Do something?

SOLMONESE: Well, people have asked what's new about the speech. And I think his statements that he vowed to overturn "don't ask, don't tell" or vowed to end "don't ask, don't tell" were things that he talked about on the campaign trail. What he said last night -- and what y'all showed earlier was the president's statement that he's working with the military leadership, that he's working with the House and he's working with the Senate, and that he will overturn "don't ask, don't tell."

LEMON: But, was it enough? Everything he said -- even about that and about -- you know, about discrimination in the workplace, all those things that he said last night, was it enough to damp down the seeming impatience among the gay community with this?

SOLMONESE: Well, there's an enormous amount of impatience. I'm impatient. The community is impatient. And I don't think we will -- we will continue to be impatient until all of these issues are dealt with and we have full equality, whether it's in the workplace, in our ability to serve this country, in terms of health care disparity, that's not going to change. But what was important was that the president said, he's working with the military leadership, he's working with the House and the Senate. I don't just believe that to be true, I know that to be true.

LEMON: You know, he talked about having, you know, gay -- same-sex couples having the same rights as married couples, but he didn't go as far as saying he supports gay marriage. So...

SOLMONESE: Right.

LEMON: ... what do you think of his comments? Were you satisfied by that?

SOLMONESE: Well, of course, I'm disappointed that the president doesn't support marriage equality, but I am happy that he has committed to do the work that needs to be done to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. As state after state moves towards marriage equality, we see that there continues to be a real disparity, even in a state that has marriage equality, whether it's Massachusetts or Iowa, because of the lack of federal benefits, because of the inability of couples in those states to move to different states.

So, he's committed to overturning that with us. The bill was introduced in the House just a few weeks ago. We look forward to introducing the bill in the Senate. And, you know, the conversation with this president inevitably comes down to -- you know, he calls us into the White House and we have conversations about how many senators do we need to move on "don't ask, don't tell"? How many senators do we need to move on hate crimes? And what's the work that needs to be done to get us there?

That's really the working relationship that we've had with this president. I think if you look back on the hate crimes fight, you'll see that it is illustrative of what the rest of these fights are going to be like. And he was there as our partner every step of the way. And the bill will go to his desk and it will be signed into law.

LEMON: Joe, I got to ask you this. We had a panel last night, Dan Savage, Michelangelo Signoreli, Dan Choi, Hilary Rosen on. And some of the folks who are on that panel said that the HRC doesn't represent the masses of gay people in the country, that it is, you know, one certain group.

Do you think that the group -- how do I put this -- that there is a lack of diversity within the HRC, and if it were more diverse, that that might help the cause?

SOLMONESE: Well, I think that -- you know, I know that -- I think it was Michelangelo who was making some sweeping comments about the number of people in the room and who was in the room, although he did start by saying he couldn't get into the room. So, you know, I sort of take that with a grain of salt. But we're the largest LBGT organization in the country with nearly a million members. Most of them are small donors and supporters all over the country. And so, I think we absolutely represent the LBGT community.

But I think that -- as Hilary mentioned last night on the show -- perhaps the crowd at the dinner last night was a little bit more politically aware and had a better sense of maybe, you know, what's at stake and what needs to be done. Because at the end of the day, what all these fights come down to -- and this is where we are in this movement...

LEMON: Right.

SOLMONESE: ... is a few more senators here or a few more House members there, and getting out into these districts and doing the work. LEMON: OK, I get you. So, listen, you know, even Congressman Barney Frank has been critical. You were at the march today, I would imagine, these types of marches.

SOLMONESE: Yes.

LEMON: And I'm not going to play it for you. I'll just sort of paraphrase what he said. He said that it doesn't really do anything, standing around the grass. The only thing that it does is just mashes the grass down. He says -- I think he believes that these types of marches don't have much of an effect. Do you agree with him?

SOLMONESE: The most important thing about the march today, though, was the narrative. If you listen to each of those people who came up on that stage, they all delivered the same message -- which is that it is not just about today, it is about your willingness to go back home and do the work that needs to be done in your congressional district. Make yourself aware of who it is that represents you in Washington and where they stand on our issues. That is the critically important part of what happened today.

LEMON: Joe Solmonese, HRC president, we'll be watching and following it here on CNN. Thank you, sir.

SOLMONESE: Thanks.

LEMON: I talked with a group of teenagers who say being gay and transgender is not a choice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE HILL, TRANSGENDER TEEN: People just don't understand exactly what we go through. They think that -- yes, we think that we choose to be this way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We choose to get harassed.

HILL: Yes, I don't see we would wake up one day and be, I choose to be hated by everyone at my school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: We're going to hear much, much more from two teens, one is a lesbian, the other is a transgender, is transgender, about their experiences. We're going to do that next hour in the CNN NEWSROOM. Very candid young people there.

And, you usually see him, or hear him, I should say, on the radio in the morning. If you could see him on the radio, that would be quite interesting. But you're going to see him right here on CNN in just a moment. Tom Joyner, he just traces genealogy and he made some incredible discoveries. We'll talk to him about that and a little politics, of course, and how he's try to get some justice. Tom is going to join us in a bit.

We'll see you, Tom. And later, a late-night parody of the president's policies. Big Bird gets political when the first lady visits "Sesame Street." In this case, the letter "S" is for satire.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: OK, this story you really want to pay attention. Professor Henry Louis Gates' program on PBS digs into the lives of African-Americans tracing their ancestry. It's called "African-American Lives." He did this project for a talk radio host, Tom Joyner. Pay close attention to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NARRATOR (voice-over): Ruth Griffin was born in South Carolina in 1897. Why she fled South Carolina has long been shrouded in mystery.

HENRY LOUIS GATES, HARVARD PROFESSOR: Now, Ruth Griffin, your grandmama, had been born and raised in Blackstock, South Carolina, and her family owned land there. Did you know that?

TOM JOYNER, TALK RADIO HOST: I didn't know anything about her background. All I know is she left home, like he did, and she ended up in Florida. and he didn't stay in touch with her people either.

GATES: Well, her family not only owned land, Tom, they owned 130 acres.

JOYNER: They had 130 acres right outside of Columbia?

GATES: 130 acres outside of Columbia, South Carolina. But do you know why your grandma moved away?

JOYNER: No.

GATES: From a place where they owned so much land and had such deep roots?

JOYNER: I have no idea.

NARRATOR: According to the 1930 census, the Griffins had disappeared from Blackstock, South Carolina. We know that Ruth moved to Florida, but what happened to the rest of the family? Two of her brothers were named Meeks and Tom Griffin.

GATE: I'm going to show you their death certificates.

JOYNER: County, Columbia, Meeks Griffin, male, colored, no date of birth, date of death, 1915, September 29th.

GATE: What's it say?

JOYNER: Legal electrocution? Cause of death, legal electro -- they electrocuted my...

GATES: Yep. We discovered that, in 1913, your great uncles along with three other men were charged with killing a Confederate Civil War veteran, a white man, named John Louis.

JOYNER: Pop said something about -- that he knew that her brother or her brothers had some problems and that she left.

GATES: The entire Griffin family, your mama's family, picked up and left South Carolina, and the life that they built. All that land, they just split.

JOYNER: And what happened to the land?

GATES: Well, they had to sell the land to pay for the lawyer, the lawyer to defend your great uncles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: There's Tom Joyner in Plantation, Florida. I imagine you've seen that a number of times. What do you think?

JOYNER: It's an amazing story. What the story doesn't -- what it doesn't say is that John Louis, the confederate soldier that was killed, was killed by a pimp. He was having an affair with a black prostitute. And the pimp was trying to rob John Stevens and he ended up murdering him. And to make sure that his legacy was in tact, they didn't want it known, they didn't want it to be in the record books that John Stevens was having an affair with a black prostitute and killed by her pimp, and so they framed my two uncles. The guy who did it confessed in jail that he pointed out my uncles because, quote, "They were the richest N-words in the town and they could afford legal representation." My uncles got -- my uncles had one day to prepare for a murder trial. And they were found guilty.

There were a lot of good people in that town, too. So much so that they petitioned the governor, saying that it was unjust. And some of those people that signed the petition included the former sheriff of the town, a mayor of the town. There were some good people there in that town that knew that this was wrong.

LEMON: I just let you speak, because it's such a fascinating story, and the more you learn about it, the more amazing it is. What does this do for you? I can see you -- I know you, and I know that you -- the body language is telling me that you know you're emotional or nervous. What does that do for you to hear that and to find that out, in that moment that you found that out right there in the taping?

JOYNER: I found that out, and when Skip does those things, you find out right then and there what your background is. When I found that out, I immediately wanted to make it right for my uncles, almost 100 years later. So I hired lawyers. I did my research. And we have petitioned the Pardons and Patrols Board of South Carolina. We go before the board on Wednesday morning to get my uncles posthumously pardoned.

LEMON: So to get them pardoned -- and this will make you feel better and I imagine your family members feel better. Talk to me about that. Why?

JOYNER: Well, you know, it's a chapter -- it's a chapter in our life that we can finally find closure to.

You see, what most of America doesn't understand is that most of black America, we can only go back so far, when we try to trace our genealogy. This was amazing that we actually found out about this. And old black people back in the day never talked about their struggles. They never talked about the negative past. They only look forward. They only look forward to the future. Because they didn't have much to look back on that was happy.

And so my father never knew the story about his uncles. He never knew why his mother just suddenly appeared in central Florida, in a migrant town called Plant City. And, of course, she married my grandfather, but he never knew the story. He knew that something had happened that made her run, but he had no idea until Skip, a year before my father passed, came to our house and gave us the results of our genealogy study.

LEMON: Because of the history of the country and the way many African-Americans, probably most African-Americans came into the country, many of us don't know our histories and our genealogy.

JOYNER: Yeah.

LEMON: How does this -- does it, I would imagine, help with personal dignity to find out about your past and where you came from?

JOYNER: You know, I have to admit, Don, that before the O.J. trial, I knew nothing of DNA. And since then, and since skip did my genealogy study, I have much respect for the science of DNA. You are where you are because of the people who came before you. And if you know where you have come from, you'll probably be better in the moment and better in the future. And I strongly urge anyone, African-Americans or any race, to go back, find your roots, find the stories of your ancestors and be inspired.

LEMON: Tom Joyner, will you let us know when there is some sort of movement or closure when it comes to the case in South Carolina?

JOYNER: Wednesday morning, 9:00. We're supposed to get a ruling then. Hopefully, it will be positive. If not, you really will hear from me.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: And I will be listening. And hopefully, you'll come on to talk about that as well, Tom.

Best of luck to you. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

JOYNCER: Thank you.

LEMON: We're going to take a rare look inside a battle that killed eight American soldiers in Afghanistan last week. Four of the survivors told their story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROSS LEWALLEN, APACHE PILOT, U.S. ARMY: My initial impressions were, unfortunately, as we came over the hill and first tried to call them and we got no response, is that everybody was gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON; President Barack Obama is under a ton of pressure to map out a new strategy in Afghanistan, but even Democrats are bickering over whether to send over 40,000 extra soldiers to the war zone. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Intelligence Committee, says the U.S. mission is in serious jeopardy and she wants to send the troops now. But the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Carl Levin, says hold off on a troop surge.

Two U.S. base camps in Afghanistan's rugged Nuristan (ph) region are shut down, following a brutal Taliban attack that left eight American soldiers dead. The surviving troops say they were surrounded on all sides, bombarded by hundreds of heavily armed insurgents. Now they are talking about how they held their ground.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASON SHRODE, 1ST LIEUTENANT, U.S. ARMY: Probably, 90 seconds into the fight, they ended up hitting one of our generators, so we lost all power. At that point, I made a call up to Faubaustic (ph) and basically said, you know, we're taking heavy, heavy contact. At this point, I knew that this was something bigger than normal.

JAYSON SOUTER, SERGEANT, U.S. ARMY: Immediately, we found out that our mortar systems were unable to fire at that time. So, me, I started working on fire assets with nearby OPs and cops to see exactly what kind of fire assets we could use.

SHRODE: I think the numbers were so more significant than 25 to 30 that we got -- they got 25 to 30 with that initial push, but because we were basically surrounded, 360 degrees, I think there was significant numbers that allowed them to continue to fight throughout the day.

LEWALLEN: My initial impressions were, unfortunately, as we came over the hill and first tried to call them and we got no response, is that everybody was gone. We could tell everything around them was going to hell. And we could hear it in their microphones. We could hear the guns going off. So we knew it was a pretty intense situation that they were facing.

SOUTER: After the aftermath, Cop Keating was completely changed. Like he said, all -- almost all of the buildings had burned down. There were trees that were cut down, trying to save other buildings from catching fire, and then just remnants of a mass attack afterwards.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Those are some very strong words about heroic deeds from the survivors, but eight U.S. troops didn't live to tell their stories.

And tonight, we're remembering the fallen: Sergeant Justin Gallegos, Specialist Christopher Griffin, Private First Class Kevin Thompson, Specialist Michael Skusa (ph), Staff Sergeant Vernon Martin, Specialist Stephen Mace, Sergeant Joshua Kirk, and Sergeant Joshua Heart.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're going to focus now on our "Latino in America" series. Radio personality, Bobbito Garcia, is one example of Latinos who maintain a delicate balance between enjoying African-American culture but still maintaining their Latino heritage.

Our Soledad O'Brien has more from Harlem.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don. He's a hip-hop D.J., a break dancer, and a street basketball legend, just to name a few of his talents, but though his skill set may borrow from African- American culture, Bob Garcia is a Puerto Rican, who has embraced his roots and been on a path of self-discovery. I caught up with this modern day Renaissance man in Harlem to get his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Bob Garcia is a Latino who has always mixed black and brown.

BOB GARCIA, LATIN AMERICAN: Growing up, my father was a Latin jazz musician.

O'BRIEN: As a young man, the message he received from his dad, you're American.

GARCIA: He didn't ever foresee us moving back. Your American, your name is not going to be Roberto. It's going to be Robert.

O'BRIEN: And on the streets of New York City, American meant mixing cultures.

GARCIA: Growing up, all of our skin tones differed. We all identified with African-American culture here in New York as well as Latino culture. It was like a true melting pot and I think I started to identify a lot with just street culture, not so much Latino culture.

O'BRIEN: That meant hip hop music and basketball.

GARCIA: Yes!

O'BRIEN: His street ball skills got him noticed and a spot playing basketball for Puerto Rico.

After basketball, he continued to mix African-American and Latino culture as a popular and radio and television host in New York City named Bobbito.

GARCIA: Peace everybody. Bobbito Garcia here.

O'BRIEN: Bringing his followers together with hip-hop and rap.

GARCIA: So then I'm getting letters from just regular kids. I'm Puerto Rican. I live in New Jersey.

O'BRIEN: He has become a role model to many of those kids. And part of his message is mixing cultures with fun.

GARCIA: In 2009, most Puerto Rican teenagers are not embracing salsa music. They're embracing raggaetone (ph) or they're embracing hip- hop. Every generation has sought out their own identity. Like what my parents did is cool, but that's not necessarily me.

O'BRIEN: It wasn't until he became famous as a mixer of cultures that he really began to embrace his own heritage.

GARCIA: (SPEAKING SPANISH).

O'BRIEN: His Spanish improved. And he is now learning the lessons he didn't get in childhood.

GARCIA: Then as I got older, and I realized this is my culture, this is my history and I need not push it away. I need to embrace it.

O'BRIEN: Today, Bobbito is better known than Bob and more Latino than ever, not despite mixing black and brown cultures, but because of it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: We were introduced to him through his brother, Bill Garcia, who was profiled in our upcoming Latino-American documentary. Bobbito's nephews are undergoing their own questions about cultural identify as young Latinos living in North Carolina. You can see their story when you tune in October 21st and 22nd on CNN.

LEMON: Great story.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you, Soledad.

We are just ten days away from "Latino in America," a comprehensive look at how Latinos are changing America, reshaping politics, business, schools, churches, and neighborhoods. "Latino in America," as Soledad just said, coming up October 21st and 22nd on CNN, the worldwide leader in news.

Born to blind Mexican-American parents, he worked odd jobs as a kid to help support the family, but he overcame the odds to become the first Hispanic to win college football's top honor, and that is the Heisman Trophy. His name is Jim Plunkette. He's going to join us live, next hour on CNN. So what happens when Michelle Obama, Big Bird, and Conan O'Brien all get together? It's pretty funny stuff. I think. We'll show it to you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: An army of women descend on low-income Florida communities every weekend in the spring and fall. Their goal is to educate women about breast cancer. And their leader is Andrea Ivory. And she is a breast cancer survivor, and now one of the 2009 top-ten "CNN Heroes." She joins us now live in Miami.

Congratulations to you.

ANDREA IVORY, CNN HERO: Thank you so very much.

LEMON: You're excited, I'm sure.

IVORY: I am overwhelmed. It's an amazing, amazing time.

LEMON: You know, you were a breast cancer survivor. And I wonder, you know, unfortunately, many, many women have breast cancer, so what is different about you that motivates you to become an activist to try to stamp this out? I think you just want to lower the mortality rates, right? That's your number-one concern?

IVORY: That is absolutely the number-one concern. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I learned early on that this breast cancer wasn't just for me. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of other women throughout my recovery. I thought about those women who were losing their fight against breast cancer because they lacked awareness or access to available treatment.

LEMON: Since you have become a "CNN Hero," has it helped you at all? Does it increase your platform? Are you able to help more people?

IVORY: It has absolutely increased my platform. I have heard from people all across the country and even other parts of the globe asking us to replicate our program and bring our program to their cities and to their countries. So this is this has become a wonderful platform for awareness and also to raise the question about providing early detection to all.

LEMON: Andrea, these are some pretty impressive numbers. I understand that when you become a "CNN Hero" that you knocked on 18,000 doors. You conducted 500 mammograms. And so what have you done since then? Have you been out doing even more? Have those numbers gone up?

IVORY: As a matter of fact, we were just out yesterday, and a wonderful team of volunteers and myself knocked on an additional 390 doors. By the end of the month, we will have visited more than 21,000 homes in south Florida and provided more than 600 mammograms to those women who would not have ordinarily gone out and got the screening that could save their lives. LEMON: OK. You know, I know you said it's an honor just to be nominated. I talked to you. I'm sure you want to win, but it is an honor. But I'll let you have the last word here. What's your message to people who are watching, because now is your time to get it out to the world?

IVORY: Well, first of all, this is October, which is our National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and any time I have an opportunity to share with women the importance of the early detection guidelines of breast cancer and then adhering to them, I would like to take that opportunity. So I would like to ask all women to join me in the fight against breast cancer by actually going out to get your mammograms, doing your clinical breast examinations, and your self-awareness examinations, because together we can truly beat this disease.

LEMON: Andrea Ivory, thank you very much, and congratulations. Let's see. Maybe you'll win, huh?

IVORY: Thank you. Thank you. Vote for me. Vote for me.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: There you go. She wants to win.

You can go to our CNN.com/heroes -- that's our web site there -- to vote for the "CNN Heroes" who inspires you the most. And we plan to talk with all ten of the top-ten heroes coming up in the few weeks right here on CNN before the voting closes for the hero of the year. They will all be honored at an all-star tribute hosted by our very own Anderson Cooper. That's going to happen on Thanksgiving night right here on CNN.

OK, Big Bird and the gang, heckling the first lady during her visit to "Sesame Street." Sounds like a satire, well, that's because it is. "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" spoofs the -- "The Tonight Show" now with Conan O'Brien, not -- take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Well, look who is here to push your husband's socialist health care agenda.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Big Bird...

CONAN O'BRIEN: Or maybe you're here to finally show us your husband's United States birth certificate.

MICHELLE OBAMA: No, Big Bird. I'm not.

CONAN O'BRIEN: That's because you can't. Are you absolutely sure he wasn't born in Kenya?

MICHELLE O'BRIEN: I am sure, Big Bird.

CONAN O'BRIEN: That's not what the basket fund says.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Yeah, your husband is a stinking liar.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: We're going to run him out of office.

(CHEERS).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, that has been a hit on the Internet and also on the comedy shows.