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Insurance Fixes; Toronto Mayor's Rant; Florida Sinkhole Threatens Homes; Interview with Sen. Mark Begich

Aired November 14, 2013 - 14:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman alongside Zoraida Sambolin. We're live from New York this afternoon and we begin with breaking news. The Milwaukee Children's Hospital currently on lockdown after reports coming from there of a shooting. A tweet from the hospital confirms the lockdown.

Let's listen in to the press conference and learn what we can.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: While protecting the investigation, I still believe that the community has a need to know, early on, some of the things that transpired here this afternoon. We have primary jurisdiction here, police jurisdiction here at the medical complex. This is a joint investigation with the Milwaukee Police Department right now.

About 11:59 a.m., a call came into our dispatch of an active shooter at Children's Hospital. Squads arrived. And what we learned was that Milwaukee police officers were here conducting a warrant pick-up, a guy who -- they got information the guy was wanted on a warrant for felony possession of a firearm and he was here at the hospital.

They proceed to the neonatal progressive care unit on the seventh floor of Children's Hospital. It's where children who are sick and infants that need extreme care are taken care of.

The officers identified the individual, who was holding his baby -- or holding a baby at the time. A baby at the time. They informed him, after identifying, that he was under arrest. He put the baby down and appeared to want to cooperate and being taken into custody. He then fled down a hallway. And while fleeing, produced a handgun. And the officers were in pursuit.

He turned around several times with that handgun in his hand, and the officers fired several shots, striking the suspect. The suspect is being treated at Freighter (ph) right now as we speak. The baby's fine. The mother, who was here as well, is fine. No hospital personnel have been injured in this incident. And later on we'll -- as we learn more and the Milwaukee Police Department will probably do the follow- up interviews (INAUDIBLE) but then they'll release what they want to release about, you know, the officers and maybe more about the suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any thoughts on the appropriateness of trying to get a guy wanted on a warrant in a neonatal unit? I mean the potential here was -- could have been much, much worse. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's too early now to be, you know, second guessing that sort of thing. These are dynamic situations. You know, we just talked this morning about our warrant operation, operation manhunt, the same type of thing, so I'm not going to get into second guessing until I know more, and I just don't know that at this time. I'll tell you --

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening there to what seems to be a sergeant with the Milwaukee Police Department talking about a shooting at the Children's Hospital there. Apparently, police got a phone call at 11:59 of an active shootout that was happening there. Police were going there to serve a warrant. There was a man that was holding his baby in the neonatal intensive care unit. He stepped out. He had a gun. Shots were fired by the police officers to the man who was carrying the gun. There were no injuries to report except for the shooter. He is being treated, we understand. The mother is fine. The baby is fine. And we're going to gather more information and bring that to you as soon as we have it available.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The important thing to know, as we said, is that the mother is fine, the baby is fine.

SAMBOLIN: The baby is fine.

BERMAN: The only injuries to the man with the gun. The only shots fired, we believe, were by police.


BERMAN: And we will keep you up to date on this.

Meantime, other big news today, and we hope you heard it right here on CNN, the president offering up a plan to try to resolve his broken promise that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it, period.

SAMBOLIN: With his poll numbers sliding, he said he has heard the message loud and clear. He conceded that he fumbled the Obamacare rollout with both the failure to keep his promise and the deeply flawed health care website.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law.

You know, I am very frustrated, but I'm also somebody who, if I fumble the ball, you know, I'm going to wait until I get the next play and then I'm going to try to run as hard as I can and do right by the team. So, you know, ultimately, I'm the head of this team. We did fumble the ball on it. And what I'm going to do is make sure that we get it fixed.


BERMAN: He said fumbled repeatedly in the first fix he offered for these repeated fumbles, potential relief for some of the millions of Americans who have lost their insurance because either their plans expired or their new policies did not meet Obamacare's minimum standards. He said he would allow insurers to extend those noncompliant policies for one year, but they'd have to alert their customers to potentially better options under Obamacare, under the exchanges. That this would apply to people who have those policies now or who had them before. State insurance commissioners would have to -- have the right to override the administrative changes, however, so it's not guarantee that they'd go into place.

The political context here is this, some of the president's fellow Democrats, Democrats, members of his own party, have been threatening to vote tomorrow for a Republican plan they say they don't even like because it would restore those canceled insurance policies.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill is Senator Mark Begich of Alaska. He is a Democrat. He is up for re-election and it could be a tough fight.

Senator Begich, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it. You have been supportive of a Democratic plan, or at least a plan being offed by Democrats in the Senate, to put in place legislative fixes to this problem of people losing their insurance. Will you support tabling that now? Is the president's administrative list of changes enough for you?

SEN. MARK BEGICH (D), ALASKA: Well, let me first say, you know, since the plan passed, I've always said this plan wasn't perfect and we need to continue to work to make fixes, as I've done already in the last few years. But I will say the plan that Senator Udall and Shaheen, I'm a sponsor on it. I think we need to go forward with the legislative fix. I understand basic parts of the administrative fix. I want to see more of the details. But I think at the end of the day, we've got to do a legislative fix. This insures that people who had a plan before October 1st can keep the plan they had, as well as insure those benefits that we made sure passed, for example, women treated equally like men with their insurance premiums, children get pre-existing conditions that they had are covered, making sure seniors get the, you know, the doughnut hole filled, as well as kids who want to stay on the plan their parents have until age 26.

So, I think we still have to move forward on the legislative plan. That's my intention. I recognize the president is trying to fix a piece of it, but that's only administratively and we want to make sure it's clear to the American people and to Alaskans, the 4,000 Alaskans that have had cancellation notices, that they can keep the plan.

BERMAN: To be clear, you're saying what the president is suggesting is not enough. You want more than that. Let me ask you another question, because the president talked about -

BEGICH: Well, if I can -

BERMAN: Go ahead.

BEGICH: I was going to say, his plan, as you know, is only as far as I can see, only a year long. And I think, again, I think it's not enough, but it's a step.

BERMAN: You want it forever.

Let's talk about the website now,, because there's been a lot of problems there. The president acknowledged it's been a rough rollout to say the least.


BERMAN: That was one of the fumbles that he talked about. And he was asked directly whether he had been informed in advance that there would be problems with the site. Let's listen to what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as -- the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn't be going out saying, boy, this is going to be great.


BERMAN: This seems like a pretty big failure of communication for a White House. So is just saying sorry, I didn't know, enough now or do you think there have to be consequences? In other words, do heads have to roll?

BEGICH: You know, it's interesting, it's like that movie with Paul Newman, "it's a failure to communicate." You know, it's an amazing problem they had on this rollout. I went on October 1st because I knew - I felt it, that it was not going to roll out properly. I had been on that site twice a day trying to get information and being an applicant, going through the process. But I will say, the last week, as you may know, that I got on the site. I've applied. I've enrolled in Alaska. I don't take a government subsidy for my enrollment. But, you know, people need to be held accountable. It was disappointing and poorly rolled out. I went on it every couple days, sending notices to the White House of what I considered significant problems with the website. I was kind of like the beta tester senator. So I hear what you're saying.

BERMAN: Well, sir, were they listening?

BEGICH: I do think so.

BERMAN: You say people need to be accountable.

BEGICH: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Do heads need to roll?

BEGICH: I think at the -- as we get through this, I think the president has to look at his team of folks and determine, you know, how and what he's going to do to hold folks accountable for what I don't think was a very good rollout. But I'll leave that to the administration to make that decision because my goal right now is to make sure Alaskans can access the website as efficiently as possible. I got on it on Monday. Yesterday, one of our big - not providers, but people out there selling plans on the marketplace have now re-entered because many of the glitches have been solved for their ability to get people onto the marketplace.

And keep in mind, the only reason you go to the marketplace for folks that want to get a subsidy, you can still buy insurance from your broker, from anyone else. That's not a problem. So - but, you know, someone should be held accountable, but I'll leave that to the president to make that decision. But I got on, enrolled. I'm paying 100 percent of my premium. I'm with Alaskans, but frustrated like the rest of them.

BERMAN: Sir, there is the policy impact here and a lot of people deal with health insurance every day and this affects millions and millions of Americans very, very directly. But there are also political implications. You are running for re-election in Alaska. May not be an very easy race up there. The president discussed the political implications for members of Congress like you and acknowledged that he has made things more difficult. Let's listen to what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no doubt that our failure to roll out the ACA smoothly has put a burden on Democrats, whether they're running or not, because they stood up and supported this -- this effort through thick and thin.


BERMAN: How big a burden has he put on you, sir? And are you willing to say right now, apology accepted?

BEGICH: Well, I wouldn't say, you know, everything I work on here, Alaskans, at the end of the day, as every race I've ever run in, will judge me on the broader picture. They'll look at health care. They'll look at me saving the Air Force base, Eielson Air Force Base, and F- 16s. They are looking at what I did to open up the Arctic for oil and gas development. They'll judge the whole picture.

But my goal right now is, I've got a lot of Alaskans that want to get health care. Let me give you one statistic. Before this policy came into place, individual market insurers, 34 percent of the Alaskans who applied to the individual market were denied health care. Today that number is zero. But we need to make it smooth, get them through the process, make sure they have affordable and competitive insurance pool they can draw from. That's my goal. And the public will judge that a year from now in the election and I will stand on the record of many issues that I've worked on for Alaskans.

BERMAN: If the president offered to come to Alaska to campaign for you, would you accept the offer?

BEGICH: He's been to Alaska a couple times as he passed through on the way to Asia. So, you know, I - people, at the end of the day, they'll elect me based on what I'm doing, what I've been representing Alaska. I was born and raised in Alaska. People know me. No matter where I go, they want to know what Mark Begich is doing to help Alaska move forward on the tough issue we have. That's what I'll be campaigning on. That's what my focus will be.

BERMAN: Is he helpful, though, to your re-election and would his presence be helpful to you?

BEGICH: I think anyone who banks on any politician coming to the state is not working on what they need to do. I focus on what people want me to campaign on. They're looking at what I'm doing back here. If the president wants to come up there, that's his decision. But you know what, if he comes up there, I'm going to take him up to the Arctic. I'm going to show him ANWR (ph). I'm going to tell him why we need to drill in ANWR. Change his mind on that, if I can. Bang him over the heads a few times on it. So, if he wants to come and see what I need to show him, what he needs to change his position on, I'm happy to do it.

BERMAN: It seems like a dream trip for the president. Not sure this is going to happen, but -

BEGICH: I think -

BERMAN: Go ahead.

BEGICH: Maybe I'll take him up in the winter time and maybe show him a little bit of ANWR and then he'll have maybe a different opinion about we need to drill in ANWR and do it right.

BERMAN: All right, Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, we really appreciate your time and talking to us. Thank you so much.

BEGICH: Thank you. Have a great day.

SAMBOLIN: Did he really say bang him in the head?

BERMAN: He said he's going to bang the president on the head. Bring him up to Alaska and bang him on the head on several issues.

SAMBOLIN: That won't go over very well, I would imagine.

BERMAN: Coming up, here to get more reaction to the president's announcement from both sides of this debate, and it is a very heated debate.

SAMBOLIN: But next, passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight say their pilot told them, we're in trouble, we're going down. You're going to hear a chilling account from one passenger and the response from Southwest.

Plus, the crack smoking mayor of the fourth largest city in North America somehow manages to take his circus to a whole new level today.

BERMAN: A whole new level.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: Take legal against the waiter that said I was doing lines at the beer market. That is outright lies. That is not true.


SAMBOLIN: Oh, Rob Ford did not stop there. Things got profane and very, very personal.


SAMBOLIN: His admissions to buying drugs and smoking crack have turned his city hall into a protest zone. But today the mayor of the fourth largest city in North America was all about denials. Toronto's Rob Ford took to the cameras saying a new batch of allegations are wrong and he is now planning to sue. Those allegations came from 500 pages worth of just released police reports.

BERMAN: Among the accusations, Ford guzzled vodka and then drove his car, he had a woman who appeared to be a prostitute visit his office, and he made lewd suggestions to one of the women on his staff.


MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: I can't - I can't put up with it anymore. So I'm naming names. Litigation will be starting shortly. I've had enough. that's why I warned you guys yesterday, be careful what you wrote.

To take legal action against the waiter that said I was doing lines at the beer market. That is outright lies. That is not true. You know what - but it hurts my wife when they're calling a friend of mine a prostitute. Velana (ph) is not a prostitute. She's a friend. And it makes me sick how people are saying this. Olivia Gonda (ph) says that I wanted to eat her (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I've never said that in my life to her. I would never do that. I'm happily married. I've got more than enough to eat at home. Thank you very much.



BERMAN: That is, again, the mayor of the fourth largest city in North America, an elected official.

But Ford was not finished, even with that. Hours after that rant, he went before the cameras again.


MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: I want to apologize for my graphic remarks this morning. Yesterday, I mentioned it was the second worst day of my life, except for the death of my father. For the past six months, I have been under tremendous, tremendous stress. The stress is largely of my own making. I have apologized and I have tried to move forward. This has proven to be almost impossible. The revelations yesterday of cocaine, escorts and prostitution has pushed me over the line and I used unforgivable language. When you attack my integrity as a father and as a husband, I see red.


SAMBOLIN: So joining us now, anchor of CNN's "Legal View," Ashleigh Banfield.

And, Ashleigh, it seems that he is trying to kind of divert the attention, right, and say perhaps now he's going to sue so that we don't focus so much on him.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, CNN'S "LEGAL VIEW": I think in the - in Vegas they call it doubling down or maybe this is quadrupling down. Actually, these -- there's so many multiples, I don't know what to call it anymore guys, honestly. If it hadn't have been for President Obama on the television today in America, this would have been wall to wall. It was absolutely jaw-dropping.

First of all, to hear some of the most profane language I've ever heard on television, not just from a, you know, a public official, but ever. And that forced him to have to make that apology. But again, it was an apology with blame. Everyone else was to blame for causing stress that used him to use that unbearable, profane language, which, by the way, went live all over Canada. That was live on the news all over Canada.

BERMAN: And no one forced him to walk in front of people to talk today.


BERMAN: He doesn't seem to be able to stay away from the cameras.

BANFIELD: No. It was actually very strange. After that unusual press conference apologizing for using lewd language and blaming the situation that everyone's caused for him using that language, he then used a door that he did not have to use. He had a door that he could have gone out with his wife privately and gone to the parkade and left for two hours before council started back up, but he chose to go through a door right into a throng of dozens of cameras and reporters, and he physically pushed his way through. Some of the reporters actually reported afterward that they'd been hurt. That they'd been hurt. That they'd been physically hurt by Rob Ford barreling his way through that throng of reporters that he did not need to go near.

SAMBOLIN: What do you think happens next? Yesterday we talked a little bit about the fact that once he admitted to smoking cocaine, that his approval rating actually went up. Are we going to see his approval rating plummet?

BANFIELD: It has plummeted. You know, we had this conversation yesterday. It's been going down. It has been. There are about 25 percent of the people who now say he shouldn't really be in office and that's give or take. But I think what's critical here, it started as a funny story. It became a very sad story. It is now an unbelievable story and I think it's a dangerous story because where this is really going is, there's an investigation that's ongoing that, you know, we're so caught up with the antics and the frenetic nature of this. There's a murder out there right now among those drug dealers that he was photographed with. There are potential extortion charges. There are so many criminal charges that are swirling around now in an investigation. That may be, and I say maybe because the police are not talking, but many people ask why hasn't he been charged by now. Sometimes it takes a long time to get a lot of information on an even bigger issue. And that's what most of the talk is, you know, among the reporters in Canada.

BERMAN: All right, Ashleigh. Ashleigh Banfield -

BANFIELD: Oh, by the way, the Toronto Argonauts, the jersey that he was wearing, the team came out today to ask or to say that they were offended that he was wearing their jersey while saying such horrible language.

BERMAN: That's what it has come too.

BANFIELD: So it may just - it's just - oh, and the Santa Claus Parade asked him not to partake.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

BERMAN: Ashleigh Banfield, Canadian native -

BANFIELD: I'll see you tomorrow.

SAMBOLIN: Keep (INAUDIBLE) - yes, we will see you tomorrow.

BERMAN: Thank you so much.

BANFIELD: That's an awful, awful story.

SAMBOLIN: All right, so it's happened again. A huge sink hole threatens an entire neighborhood in Florida. Look at this, one house is pretty much gone and more could be swallowed up. I'll talk with a man who lives in that neighborhood coming up next.



SAMBOLIN: Well, talk about living on the edge. A sinkhole is growing in Florida and it's already caused the collapse of one family's home. This is what the Dupres had to face in the early morning hours. Can you believe that? And, get this, engineering crews were already at the house. They were trying to address sinkhole activity from two years ago. It is happening in the town of Dunedin. The sinkhole, at last word, is 45 feet wide, 30 feet deep and has forced the evacuation of seven homes so far. It was Ivy Dupre who alerted her family their home was falling into the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) IVY DUPRE, EVACUATED AFTER SINKHOLE: I heard really loud banging. And so I went to my parents and I just got them. And then my dad went to look. And, yes, the whole screen room was tilting in.


SAMBOLIN: CNN's John Zarrella is joining us now.

And, John, you are with the fire chief, I understand, Jeff Parks. You know, I have a question. I am surprised. I was reading some of the reports on this, that the family was actually inside the house when this happened?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Zoraida and John, the family was inside. Now early this morning it was 5:30, 5:40 this morning when all of this happened. And they went outside. They noticed the sinkhole and immediately got out as quickly as they could before it started expanding. And as you mentioned, it certainly has engulfed the back section of their house and another house.

And you know they had been working for the last two years with their insurance company and an engineering firm had been out here the last couple of days doing work to try to stabilize the house. So they knew they had a sinkhole under there, but before that work could be done, it opened up. And it's not only begun to -- you know, swallowed up most of their house, one of the houses next door and a third is also in danger as well.

And I do have the fire chief here with me, Jeff Parks.

And, chief, the hole is still expanding, correct?

CHIEF JEFF PARKS, DUNEDIN FIRE DEPARTMENT: Yes, at this time. It slowed down a little bit, but, yes, it's still expanding.

ZARRELLA: What do you have it now at?

PARKS: It's about 70, 75 feet wide and about 50 feet deep.

ZARRELLA: And you were saying it's moving to, what, about the - to the northwest?

PARKS: Northwest, yes.

ZARRELLA: So if we look back there, that would be in that direction, right, sort of away from us, moving away from us?

PARKS: Yes. Yes.

ZARRELLA: So houses on this side probably less effected at this point.

PARKS: Right, at this time.

ZARRELLA: Any idea if any of these homeowners are going to have a shot of getting back in? PARKS: We're still waiting on our engineering firm to give us some idea. A couple of them probably will not be home tonight. We have a shelter. Red Cross has set up a shelter for them.

ZARRELLA: And what is the plan going forward now? What are you going to try to do, at least initially?

PARKS: Right. We're going to fence off the area, obviously, to keep people out tonight. We'll keep crews here. The plan right now with the city engineer, we're going to try to fill the hole in tomorrow before some rain is expected this weekend to make it a lot worse than what it is already.

ZARRELLA: Right, because once you get some rain in there, if you've got these sinkholes, it can further erode the ground underneath.

PARKS: Correct.

ZARRELLA: So at this point everybody was out safe, which is the good news. And you believe that at least at this point the area that you have cordoned off is the venerable area?

PARKS: That's correct. There may be behind the house, the neighbor houses behind that may be in danger as well, but we're watching that as well.

ZARRELLA: There's some cracking on one of the houses on the other street, correct?

PARKS: Yes. All - well, not on the other street. There's some lose ground there. Further to the west, the house there, that has some cracking in it.

ZARRELLA: So all things that you're going to have to keep an eye on.

PARKS: That's correct.

ZARRELLA: Chief, thanks so much for spending some time with us. So again, you know, certainly continues to be, as they say, a fluid situation. But, of course, the good news is that everyone was able to get out. And I did talk to another homeowner whose house is right back here. And Matt was telling me that, you know, as soon as they knocked on his door this morning and said, hey, there's a sinkhole, get out, of course the first thing that came to his mind was the Sefner (ph) collapse where the man fell in the hole and died.

SAMBOLIN: Right. Right. Wow.

ZARRELLA: So he got out as quickly as he could with his wife and his 11-year-old son.

SAMBOLIN: We are very happy that everybody is out safe because looking at those pictures, it's just remarkable.


SAMBOLIN: Thank you, John Zarrella, appreciate it.


BERMAN: Amazing pictures.

SAMBOLIN: You know what's weird, is that they were working on the house to repair the sinkhole and people were inside the house.


SAMBOLIN: I find that remarkable.

BERMAN: Nutty.

All right, coming up, more on our breaking news today. President Obama offering a fix to the promise that was broken, that if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it. One insurance company source says this fix is a total mess. We're going to have the debate. Stay right here.