Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

San Diego Mayor Has New Accuser Of Sexual Harassment; Stop Hillary PAC Releases New Ad; "The Reality Is, We Can't Wait"; Train Derails In Northwestern Spain; Trayvon Martin's Father On Capitol Hill; Family Zimmerman Helped Cancels; Caroline Kennedy Nominated For Ambassador; The King Of Late Night Is Back

Aired July 24, 2013 - 16:30   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right. Back to "The Politics Lead." Another day, another sexual harassment claim against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. This time, a former campaign staffer has come forward and said Filner touched her on the rear and made sexually suggestive remarks when he was a congressman back in 2005. Now, this comes just days after Filner's former spokeswoman, Irene McCormack Jackson, went into detail about behavior that she describes as simply disgusting. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRENE MCCORMACK JACKSON, FORMER SPOKESWOMAN FOR MAYOR FILNER: The past six months turned out to be the worst time of my entire working life. I had to work and do my job in an atmosphere where women were viewed my Mayor Filner as sexual objects or stupid idiots. He asked me to work without my underwear on. I was placed in the "Filner headlock" and moved around as a rag doll while he whispered sexual comments in my ear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. That was the first. Now Mayor Filner's latest accuser, the second public one, says that Jackson's decision to come forward gave her the courage to tell her own story. Laura Fink says there's only one thing left for the mayor to do, and that is resign. And Laura joins us now live from San Diego. Laura, thank you so much for being with us. I really appreciate it.

LAURA FINK, ACCUSES SAN DIEGO MAYOR OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: For our viewers who have not yet heard your story, tell us your experience with then-Congressman Filner back in 2005.

FINK: In 2005, I was Congressman Filner's deputy campaign manager, and I was also responsible for spearheading his fundraising efforts. My first fundraising event was a formal dinner. It was a three-court meal with three tables. And my job was to move the congressman between courses from table to table. When I came after the second course, I stood behind him as he sat, waiting for a pause in the conversation so I could then escort him to the next table. He then told me to turn around, which I did, which I know sounds ridiculous, but when you're a staffer, sometimes you don't think, you just do. So I turned around, and this was following a comment from one of the guests that had mentioned that I had worked my tukus off for the congressman and I should really be appreciated for that. So the congressman then told me to turn around and patted me on the bum and said, nope, it's still there and laughed.

BERMAN: At the time you did not go public with this incident but you did write the then-congressman an email about the incident. I want to read part of it to you. You wrote to the then-congressman. You said, "I was totally humiliated by this event. The fact that I have worked so diligently on your behalf makes your actions even more disappointing. This behavior is totally unacceptable."

I have two questions about this, tell me how he responded to this e- mail you sent him. And second, why did you write it? Were you trying to leave with a paper trail at that time?

FINK: Well, if you talk to just about anyone, documenting claims, particularly when they're fresh in your mind, is an important aspect of making a claim in general. Documentation is important because it does leave a record, and I think that I wanted to make sure that this didn't happen again, and it didn't happen to me and it doesn't happen to anyone else.

So yes, I documented it, and I put it down not only so I would remember it accurately, but also so that there would be a record. And I sent it to him directly, and I CC'ed his chief of staff at the time.

BERMAN: How did he respond? How did the congressman respond then?

FINK: The congressman did not respond. His chief of staff called me and asked me what I want to do. I simply said that I wanted an apology, and I repeated my request that this not happen to any other women on staff or otherwise. And he then -- the congressman within the week came to me, and he mumbled an apology and then preceded to tell me but I just didn't understand.

BERMAN: So a mumbled apology but not understanding. That's back in 2005. Now it's 2013. We should say we have reached out to now-Mayor Filner's office repeatedly for comment regarding your accusations. We have not heard back.

But the mayor did release a statement in response to earlier claims made against him. Let me read it in part. It says, "As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people, I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them." He also said in a statement released this week, I believe, in response to the charges from Ms. Jackson, "I do not believe these claims are valid. That's why due process is so important. I intend to defend myself vigorously, and I know that justice will prevail."

What's your reaction to his statements? And will anything less than a resignation from the mayor's office at this point satisfy you? FINK: Well, you know, I think that there are many reasons why the mayor should resign. He's clearly had an admission of not fully respecting women. For that reason alone, I think he should resign. That's clear. He's abdicated responsibility for running the city to an unelected administrator, and so he is not serving in the capacity of mayor at all.

So, for the city of San Diego, it's clear to me there's only one reason -- many, many reasons he should resign, and only one reason why he's choosing to say and that is his own self-interest.

BERMAN: Laura, thank you for coming here and telling us your story. Really appreciate it.

FINK: Thank you so much, John.

BERMAN: Coming up next here on our Politics Lead, they want to stop her from running even before she's decided to run - we think. We'll take a look at the new ad from the Stop Hillary PAC.

And this is some weird, wild stuff. Johnny Carson coming to iTunes. And we've got some of the super-ware clips of guests who went on to become some of the biggest starts. That's our Pop Lead, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So they want to stop her in her tracks before she even starts, officially, at least. The Stop Hillary PAC is already out with its first ad, attempting to take down the former secretary of state's rumored run for the White House. And yes, there's still 1,203 days until the next election, just in case you're counting.

Erin McPike joins me now with more. And Erin, this isn't just a preemptive strike. In Boston, we would called this a wicked preemptive strike.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes. But John, so much of America already knows all about Hillary Clinton and all of her ups and downs. And as one person very close to the Clintons told me, this may be a new ad, but it's an old trick. But whatever side you're on, get ready, because it's getting ugly early.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCPIKE (voice-over): Republicans and Democrats alike expect Hillary Clinton to dominate in the 2016 presidential election, even though it's three years away and she hasn't given many hints about what she'll do.

But in recent weeks, the anti-Clinton forces have been gathering steam. A brand-new group called Stop Hillary is releasing this provocative video today to stoke fears about a second Clinton presidency. It drudges up old photos and controversies from her husband's administration in the 90s, including Whitewater. And ends with last year's attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, which happened on her watch as secretary of state.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If you keep enough pressure on, if you keep raising questions about Benghazi, if you keep putting pressure on the relationship between her and her husband, if you keep trying to pick at her, you might exhaust her. You might get her to not run.

MCPIKE: But there's no money behind this Internet-only video that this grassroots group is pushing to go viral. The organization is entirely separate from Stop Hillary 2016, a group with deeper pockets staffed by veterans of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

LISA CAMOOSO MILLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that to start early and start now, number one, raising money, but number two, reminding voters why she's not the right candidate -- I think that's a really smart plan. I think these efforts are going to make a difference.

MCPIKE: Democrats also expect her to be dominant, and they want to influence her decision, too. The Ready for Hillary draft movement announced this morning that her effort has more than half a million supporters signed up through Facebook, including prominent alumnae from President Obama's history-making campaign.

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: People keep talking about her as being tired. I don't think she's tired. I think that she's determined to make a difference the best way she can. And so, you know, to the extent that all of these attack Hillary movements are burgeoning -- if anything, that will energize her more.

MCPIKE: Hilary Rosen is a prominent supporter of the former secretary of state.

ROSEN: This woman, if she decide to run, is the most battle-tested candidate we will have ever seen. so, you know, I just don't think those attacks are going to mean much.

MCPIKE: But unlike 2008, the Democratic fields for 2016 appears to be frozen, as vice president Joe Biden and Governors Martin O'Malley and Andrew Cuomo wait to see what Hillary Clinton decides to do.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCPIKE: Now, one of my Republican sources point out to me today that both of these Stop Hillary organizations are run and staffed almost entirely by men, and they might need to be careful what they're do, because they're attacking a woman who hasn't announced what they're up to yet.

But to that end, I have a little carrot for you, Berman. Take a gander at what she tweeted Friday evening. "Seneca Falls 165 years ago today began a movement that remains the unfinished business of 21st century." Now, of course, Seneca Falls refers to a very influential women's rights conference in New York in 1848 and of course the beginning of the push for the women's right to vote. Now, as you may know, women do have the right to vote. So, what do you think that unfinished business is that she's referring to?

BERMAN: She's leaving these crumbs all along the way that make you do more than speculate. Erin McPike, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

I want to bring now our political panel to talk more about this. Tracey Sefl, who served as an advisor to Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2008. And Jonathan Collegio, Republican strategist and director of communications for American Crossroads.

Tracy, let me start with you. Say she does run -- hypothetically, of course, Hillary Clinton running, hypothetically. She's got a lot of experience, she's been in the public sphere for a long, long time. But there are a lot of things, these scandals, so-called scandals that go back a long, long time. All the way from Whitewater to Benghazi. Will she have to address this?

TRACY SEFL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Hypothetically, she would be undeterred by any of the things that are being tossed around. Crumbs, as I think you said a moment ago. So the notion of a hypothetical candidacy and a hypothetically scared Hillary Clinton is really inconceivable to me.

BERMAN: Scandals at this point don't scare her at all.

SEFL: I think it's that scandals with air quotes that nobody is afraid of.

BERMAN: Jonathan, let me ask you this. A spokeman for the Stop Hillary campaign, Garrett Marquis, recently told Politico.com, he said, "The reality is we can't wait until later," he says. "We're announcing now because we intend to be active in stopping everything Hillary does." They're obviously putting out this video ad now because they want to get out there early. Is there a point to getting out there this early with something like this ad?

JONATHAN COLLEGIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, everything is getting earlier every cycle. Remember that Hillary Clinton when she ran for president in 2008 made her announcement nine months earlier than her husband did in 1991. So everything in campaigns is getting earlier.

The other thing here is that it's pretty much in the Democratic field Hillary Clinton and the seven dwarfs, right? There's nobody else in that field. It's almost a forgone conclusion that if she is to run, she's going to be the nominee. Now if you're in that position from the Republican side, why not get started now? At least with the research that you're going to end up deploying against her in 2016.

BERMAN: Is it enough, though? They not going to be able to just run against Whitewater, are they?

COLLEGIO: I mean, I think there's more than enough to talk about Hillary Clinton without bringing up the stuff from the '90s. I think her ownership of the Obama economy is going to be a big issue in 2016 if she runs as well as all of the unanswered questions that she still has with regard to Benghazi. She has been radio silent on that since that story broke last night.

BERMAN: One of things that this ad does by bringing up the things that happened in the '90s is, of course, to remind us that Hillary Clinton was a very visible politician in the '90s. There have been these articles in various places not necessarily about her age, but the fact she's part of an older political generation. You think that's one thing this ad points out that she's part of a different generation, the past as opposed to the future, Tracy?

SEFL: I don't know what they're attempting to do except to perhaps show their hands that they recognize the power that her potential candidacy would have, and the position of weakness that the Republicans are really starting out with.

BERMAN: Will this get these Hillary supporters including the people at this "Ready For Hillary PAC," will that get them jazzed up?

SEFL: Well, if you do the math with the "Ready For Hillary PAC," something like every 9 seconds, another person is offering their support for that organization. I think that speaks for itself.

BERMAN: Tracy Sefl, thank you very much. Jonathan Collegio, thanks for coming in. Really appreciate it. We'll have to wait and see hypothetically.

Coming up, President Bush, George H.W. Bush shaves his head. You'll want to see this, in solidarity with a boy fighting for his life. We're going to show you the photo next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Breaking news, dramatic pictures to show you. A train derailment in North West Spain at this hour. Spanish media reporting a number of casualties, but CNN has not confirmed them. No word on what may have caused the wreck at this time. The hide-speed train had more than 200 passengers on board. It was traveling from Madrid. We will bring you more developments as they come in here to the newsroom.

Meanwhile, to the "National Lead," he watched the man he believes murdered his son, walk free a week and a half ago, and right now as we speak, Travyon Martin's father, Tracy is on the Capitol Hill attending the first meeting of the new Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys. Martin gave the opening remarks at the meeting, which is focused on struggles that young African-Americans face while growing up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: We won't let this verdict sum up who Trayvon was. I vow to do everything in my power not to give up the fight for him, not only the fight for Trayvon, but the fight for so many other young black and brown boys in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, back in Florida, attorneys for George Zimmerman had a press conference all set to go with the family whom Zimmerman helped after they flipped their SUV on the road last week, but at the last minute they canceled, as Defense Attorney Mark O'Mara explains.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: I think what happened with them today was they were very worried, and I think were advised by some family and friends that they really should not get involved with anything having to do with George Zimmerman. That's really sad. They can't even say that George did something good for them because people out there believe that he is still so toxic, even though he's been acquitted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So O'Mara also vehemently denied that the accident was staged in order to get Zimmerman on positive press. This as the Justice Department waits civil rights charges against him.

So former President George H.W. Bush as you have never seen him before, I guarantee you. See it right there. The 89-year-old went for the full Mr. Clean look, full Kojak, he shaved his head, and he did it to show support for the 2-year-old son of one of his secret service agents who lost his hair because he's undergoing treatment for leukemia. That's the little guy right there. His name is Patrick and he's on the former president's lap. This is a matter that's close to the former president's heart. He lost his daughter Robin at 3-year- old to leukemia more than half a century ago.

So rumors have been imploded, but now it's official. A source tells CNN that President Obama is going to bring some Camelot into the administration by nominating former first daughter, Caroline Kennedy, as ambassador to Japan. She has been a huge Obama backer since his first presidential campaign back in 2009. Kennedy ended her own short-lived bid for the Senate. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to serve as ambassador to Japan.

Coming up, here's Johnny, a treasure trove of "Tonight Show" classics just re-released for a whole new generation. We'll get a look at classic clips of everybody from Jerry Seinfeld to Jay Leno and their very first appearances on the iconic TV show. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: I mean no one got a better introduction on television and now late night legend Johnny Carson is being reintroduced to a whole new audience online. ITunes has posted 15 hours of footage from the "Tonight Show" as well as dozens of alert tones, because who wouldn't appreciate being woken up by Ed McMahon screaming hi-ho through your smartphone. The clips were pulled together by the Carson Entertainment Group and earlier I spoke with their president, Jeff Sotzing. He is also the nephew of Johnny Carson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Jeff, thanks so much for joining us. You gave our staff a peak of the 15 hours of "The Tonight Show" that's now on iTunes. What made you decide to do this and how do you pick just 15 hours from the thousands of hours from "The Tonight Show."

JEFF SOTZING, PRESIDENT, CARSON ENTERTAINMENT GROUP: Forty five hundred hours of material that's available and it is hard to pick, but you know, originally when we put out a product on VHS years ago, Johnny and I sat around a large coffee table with little 3 by 5 cards and picked the best moments that we felt were representative of "The Tonight Show." We basically added them all together. So this is some compilation videos and this is some individual shows that are kind of condensed the 30 minutes of each show.

BERMAN: One of the truly marvelous things to see in "The Tonight Show" as you look back is the people who are so big now who were really just getting a start back then when they cut their teeth on "The Tonight Show." So many comics got their start there. Let's take a look at this clip of Jerry Seinfeld's debut performance.

JOHNNY CARSON: If you would welcome in, please, Jerry Seinfeld -- Jerry.

JERRY SEINFELD: They're the same wherever you go. They have the guy that shows you the highs, lows, then the satellite photos. This is real helpful, a photograph of the earth from 10,000 miles away. Can you tell if you should take a sweater or not from that shot?

BERMAN: Jerry Seinfeld, 14 years old there apparently. We also saw a young Ellen Degenerous in her first network appearance. Is there anything like Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" in terms of launching these comedians?

SOTZING: You know, I don't think there's any more. It's amazing a successful shot landed these guys a gig in Las Vegas the next night. They became big stars. It's amazing.

BERMAN: You know, we missed that today in this day and age. There's really no platform like that now. You know, Jay Leno, who went on, of course, the host of "The Tonight Show" and still is after a brief break. He is in this highlight. Let's take a look at some of his early stand-ups.

JAY LENO: Weather back east, what's happening in buffalo and Pittsburgh? All right, This man will back me up, look out, Kojack, thanks, viewer.

BERMAN: Nothing beat the Leno afro and a Kojack reference at the same time. Talk about what you think Jay Leno learned in terms of comedy during his appearances on Johnny Carson?

SOTZING: Well, I think he gets a lot of his monologue skills from watching Johnny do the monologue. They delivered it in the same manner. His interaction with the guests is very similar. It all stems from Johnny who started this all.

BERMAN: I mean, it really all stems from Johnny when you talk about it like that. Of course, we have Leno and famously fought over the heirs to that show. You're the president of the Carson Entertainment Group, you're the producer of "The Tonight Show," but you're also the nephew of Johnny Carson. Do you think making these hours, putting out these hours of "The Tonight Show" will bring your uncle to closer to a younger audience, one that really may never have seen his show live?

SOTZING: Yes, very much so. The fact that the material is accessible from any place anywhere on a tablet, on a smartphone is just fantastic. He loved technology. He would be amazed that this is happening.

BERMAN: Do you think he would be funny in 2013?

SOTZING: Well, I'm surprised it holds up but it does. It's great stuff.

BERMAN: It's fantastic. It's so much fun to look at and now available to all of us in this format.

SOTZING: You bet.

BERMAN: Jeff Sotzing, thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

SOTZING: Thank you, appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: That is all for "THE LEAD." Here's Wolf!

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: John, thanks very much.