Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Hollande Caught Between A Longtime Girlfriend And A Mistress; Report: Violations At Chemical Company; Could Asiana Airlines Victim Have Survived?; Will "Duck Dynasty" Sink Or Swim?

Aired January 15, 2014 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In other world news, the most salacious political scandal going on in the U.S. right now has to do with a traffic jam in New Jersey. So it's no wonder the French have once again found a way to out-sexy us. France's president Francois Hollande is facing hard-hitting questions from the press like who do we call the first lady, your girlfriend or your mistress?

The media circus began when a French tabloid accused Hollande of having an affair with an actress. The president would only call the claim "a private matter." But he may not be able to dodge the issue for long, seeing how as all eyes will be on his plus one at a White House state dinner next month. CNN's Erin McLaughlin has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: French president Francois Hollande saw the question coming after rumors of an affair with actress Julie Gayet surfaced in a French tabloid. Is his partner, Valerie Trierweiler, still the first lady of France? And will she join him for next month's state dinner at the White House?

CHRISTIAN MALLARD, JOURNALIST: The French president did not deny officially that he might have had an affair with Julie Gayet. He's just saying, well, I don't want to have a breach into my private life.

MCLAUGHLIN: The Obamas had extended the invitation to France's first couple, expressly welcoming not just Hollande but also Trierweiler. But is it possible he might bring the other woman instead? Hollande promised he'd address the issue before his February trip to the United States. The White House seemed loathe to weigh in on the matter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you expect from the state visit in February? Do you expect the French first lady to come with him?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president looks forward to seeing president Hollande for the state visit in February. In terms of that question that you ask, I'd refer you to the French government.

MCLAUGHLIN: But it wouldn't be the first time affairs of the heart have raised questions of international protocol. Back in 2001, then- Mexican president Vicente Fox was recently divorced and dating his press secretary. Just ahead of his own state visit to the White House, he married her. Over 13 years later, they're still together.

It's unclear if that happily ever after is in store for President Hollande. His live-in partner Trierweiler entered the hospital after reports of the scandal broke last week. And, well, she's still there, suffering from exhaustion.

She and Hollande aren't actually married. Hollande spent 30 years with the mother of his four children, (INAUDIBLE) Royale, before being kicked out for his liaison with his girlfriend. These kinds of trysts are, of course, nothing new in France. At the 1996 funeral of France's longest serving president, Francois Mitterand, the former first lady and his mistress stood together with Mitterand's illegitimate daughter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCLAUGHLIN: This whole affair obviously making headlines in France, but people will there are more concerned about what Hollande is going to do to fix the troubled economy and less worried about his rendezvous. Jake?

TAPPER: We should note that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy had issues, too, when it came to his love life. When he was wooing his now-wife supermodel Carla Bruni in 2008, a editorial in a French newspaper criticized him for lavishing her with his time and attention, writing quote, "he forgot that he should have a romance with France, not with himself and his paramour."

What about the White House, which is now organizing a potentially awkward dinner party? Should they even put out a placard for Hollande's date? What's the protocol? Let's bring in "Washington Post" contributor and legendary hostess Sally Quinn. Sally, great to see you.

If you're Francois Hollande, do you bring your girlfriend or do you bring your mistress or just see who you're --

SALLY QUINN, "WASHINGTON POST" CONTRIBUTOR: I would come alone.

TAPPER: You would come alone.

QUINN: I would definitely come alone.

TAPPER: That's the statement.

QUINN: Well, then there's not really much of a story. The story is he came alone, and then there will be a paragraph and he has this romantic blah, blah, blah, and that's why he came alone. If he brings one or the other, it's just going to be a huge story. And he's going to have to work it out obviously with --

TAPPER: That's why he's delaying announcement who he's bringing. QUINN: -- with Valerie, who's in the hospital about, you know, whether she's going to come or not. But they're not married. That's one of the things. So, the whole French attitude about sex and extramarital affairs is completely different from ours.

TAPPER: That's in fact -- a recent poll showed 77 percent of French voters consider this a private matter. That is not how we in the United States with our Puritan heritage, we would regard this.

QUINN: Well, I think that there's no such thing as privacy. I remember when the Clintons first came into the White House, and everything was on the table, and Hillary said in this sort of shocked voice, I thought there would be a certain zone of privacy.

TAPPER: Right.

QUINN: Well, it ain't going to happen, especially in this environment. And you don't get on your motor scooter and race over to the mistress' apartment with the press following behind and think that you're going to have any privacy.

TAPPER: Well, that's not the most discreet way to do it.

QUINN: He wasn't discreet. He knew what he was doing. He knew he was going to get caught because you always get caught. Then the question is what are the consequences? And I think, at least from my point of view, who cares whether he's having an affair or not? That's between them.

TAPPER: Sure.

QUINN: The issue is -- and I do think safety is an issue, you know, if you're on a motor scooter with one Secret Service or two, you're not safe. And so I think security is an issue. And I also think judgment's an issue, too, because it's a huge distraction from what he wants to accomplish, you know, with the economy.

TAPPER: If you were at the White House right now, if you were social secretary, if you were in charge of protocol, do you just say well it's up to him?

QUINN: Yes.

TAPPER: You don't say we'd really like it if you brought your longtime girlfriend.

QUINN: No! Oh, I would stay so far away from that. No, no, I'd say we welcome you, and we'll wait to see what -- I mean - you wouldn't

TAPPER: You wouldn't (INAUDIBLE) they di Mitterand funeral and say we're going give you because you're the president of France, we'll give you a plus two.

QUINN: No, no. But the people who work in the social offices will be talking to each other at a certain level and saying, well, you know, what's the story here, and it will all be worked out. TAPPER: It's not a crisis by any sort, but it is something of an amusement given the fact you have these state dinners to celebrate a relationship, and it's actually causing a little bit of awkwardness.

QUINN: Well, it's going to have to be a love affair between France and the United States.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Let's hope that's the only one going on at that particular moment. Sally Quinn, thanks so much.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, thousands of residents still without usable water in West Virginia. Now new details about serious violations by the company blamed for the chemical spill. Why were they not caught until after the disaster?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In national news, outrage in the Mountaineer State. Only about half of the 300,000 people affected by a chemical spill in West Virginia have gotten the okay to use their tap water again. For the others, same deal as the last six days. No drinking it, no bathing in it.

Last week an estimated 7,500 gallons of a chemical used in coal production leaked into the water supply from a company with a name ripped from a Tom Wolfe or a Chris Buckley novel -- Freedom Industries. The leak was first discovered by residents who noticed an odd licorice-like smell, which authorities traced to the chemical leak from a 35,000 storage tank along the Elk River. Freedom Industries has been awfully tightlipped. And when the man identified as the company's president gave a news conference on the leak Friday, he couldn't end that press conference quickly enough.

Today "Charleston Daily Mail" is reporting it's no wonder the spill happened because the company had a number of violations but they were not found until after the fact.

I want to bring in the David Boucher, "Charleston Daily Mail" capital bureau chief, who reported on these violations today. David, thanks for being here.You've gotten a look at the report from the state Department of Environmental Protection on violations at the Freedom Industries facility. What did they find?

DAVID BOUCHER, CAPITOL BUREAU CHIEF, "CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL": That's right, Jake. Actually, they found out that the Freedom Industries had to move the chemical, the rest of the chemical that was on the site. They moved it to one of their another locations, and the DEP went in to check that location and found five violations including that they had no secondary containment, kind of the emergency barrier to prevent a leakage from getting off of a property.

TAPPER: How effective are regulators in West Virginia? The state has a reputation for basically handling over control to industry. Obviously, I understand that it's an impoverished state. They need business. They need work, but is there a sufficient oversight of these companies?

BOUCHER: Sure. That's been part of the larger debate that's been going on since this spill. We found out that there's really some communication that's lacking between certain parts of the government. We see that there are reports that entities like Freedom Industries needs to file if they have a certain amount of chemicals.

But Freedom Industries fell into a category of some 9,500 other entities many of which are oil and gas rigs or gas stations and it's hard to kind of comb through those reports and find anything that's -- apart from the chemical inventory that can give you any details about the site.

For example, the report that was filed by Freedom Industries didn't say that this plant or this treatment -- not a treatment facility, but a storage facility was anywhere near a water treatment center. So there are definitely been questions about whether or not there should be more regulations from the state DEP or other officials.

TAPPER: Or just effective regulation. Now the company is kind of mysterious itself. Gary Southern was identified as Freedom's president last week, but the web site lists Dennis Ferrell as president. Why is there so much mystery surrounding this company?

BOUCHER: Sure. We think and this is as much as we can tell, since as you know the only thing we've heard from Mr. Southern was during that press conference. We think it might have something to do with the fact that this company officially merged with a few other companies on December 31st. It merged with Poca Blending, the company where they found the chemicals to be today or recently, and it also merged with Adua River Terminal Company, which is the site of the Elk River spill.

And there's numerous names listed with the secretary of state. The secretary of state, some are mapping partner, some are founding partners. So we're still trying to get to the bottom of who makes the decision and runs the company.

TAPPER: Lastly, David, the community right to know act in West Virginia requires businesses to file reports if they store at least 10,000 pounds of hazardous chemicals. What happens to these reports and did Freedom Industries file any of them?

BOUCHER: That's right. They've actually filed this report for the last six years, but this is the report that doesn't really give you any details about where the facility is located. It lists a little about the chemicals that are there, but typically just the name. I looked through the last report and it didn't give a lot of details.

Also in a different media report today, we saw that some of the local emergency response professionals say that they don't even look at the reports that often or create any sort of plan. One official said that it sort of fall through the cracks or are kind of left to decide.

So there are still lots of questions. The local mayor, the mayor of Charleston, said that he thinks somebody should go to jail over this so we're still learning about sort of planning that needs to go in from county and state officials to prevent some sort of event like this from happening again.

TAPPER: David Boucher, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Shocking new video has come out in the moments after the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco last summer that killed three and injured more than 180 others. A helmet cam of a firefighter who responded to the scene shows a fire truck was warned about 16- year-old Ye Meng Yuan lying on the ground nearby. Here's that video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop, stop, stop. There's a body -- there's a body right there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: According to CBS News, which obtained the video, the fire truck ran her over 15 minutes later while she was still alive. Another truck ran her over minutes later. It seems to contradict the initial reports that Ye's body had been covered by firefighting foam and was difficult to see.

CBS News got the footage from a source close to Ye's family, which has filed a claim against the city claiming gross negligence. Does this mean Ye's death could have been prevented and did those firefighters do anything wrong?

Joining me now is former National Transportation Safety Board Managing Director Peter Goelz. Thanks so much for being here. Peter, you've coordinated a lot of NTSB investigations. Looking at this video, do you think these response teams followed protocol?

PETER GOELZ, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, O'NEILL AND ASSOCIATES: I think there were a number of mistakes made. No one actually took 30 seconds to a minute to check the young woman on the ground, to check her vital signs before moving on. It's simply unforgivable.

TAPPER: Who is responsible ultimately? Is it the firefighters or the airport or is there even some leeway because it's an emergency situation?

GOELZ: There's always a tremendous amount of chaos in any first responder event. You know, oftentimes the early reports are completely wrong as they were in this case that she was covered with foam. But it is the responsibility of the firefighters who are first on the scene. Their job is save lives. That's number one. And in this case they apparently thought someone else had done it. She'd already been checked, and she was left. It was really unforgivable.

TAPPER: Attorneys for the family say the emergency worker who is spotted Ye on the ground, quote, "failed to move her to a safe location." Do they have a point?

GOELZ: I think they do and I'm not always a big fan of plaintiffs' attorneys, but I think in this case they have a real strong point.

TAPPER: If you were investigating this, what would you tell the family of this 16-year-old girl?

GOELZ: I would apologize from the bottom of my heart and I would say, listen, we're going to set new policies and procedures and make sure that this never happens again.

TAPPER: And lastly, sir, where are we on the investigation itself?

GOELZ: Well, they've had a hearing. The NTSB had a hearing on it and they are zeroing in on pilot error and zeroing in on how the three piles in the cockpit interacted with the very sophisticated fly-by wire system that governs the plane. But it's going to come down to human performance I believe in the end.

TAPPER: A tragic story. Peter Goelz, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

GOELZ: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next on THE LEAD, it's D-day for you "Duck Dynasty" fans. The hit reality show returns tonight, but will a new cast member from Taiwan help viewers forget the controversy of the last few weeks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the pop culture lead. Look, everybody, somebody from Taiwan has joined the cast of "Duck Dynasty." Season five of the reality show debuts tonight on A&E and it will feature two new featured players including Rebecca Robertson, a former foreign exchange student from Taiwan who was taken in by original cast members, Willie and Corey Robertson.

This will also be the first new episode of the show since the controversy involving family patriarch, Phil Robertson, his remarks about homosexuality and African-Americans sparked an uproar, I'm sure you recall, one that led to Robertson's temporary suspension last month. While A&E and cast members are clearly ready to put the controversy behind them, it's not clear yet whether viewers are just as anxious to move on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Tonight, the bearded brood from "Duck Dynasty" returns to A&E for Season Five.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes you just got to go for the goose --

TAPPER: The Robertson clan waded through controversy late last year, but they're expected to emerge from the muck with ratings intact. Why? Well, because for viewers the decision to forgive, forget, cheer on or flip the channel is all about whether these characters live up to their expectations. JEREMY D. HOLDEN, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: It's fascinating the nature of how we build relations with celebrities. We expect them to live up to that persona that actually we've created for them. Now, as a celebrity that can work in your favour, you can actually be given a pass on some things.

TAPPER: "Dynasty" patriarch, Phil Robertson charms his fans with his traditional beliefs about family and work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's a great fisherman?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: You.

TAPPER: Of course, when Robertson voiced polarizing opinions on homosexuality and what life was like for African-Americans before civil rights last month in "GQ" magazine, A&E suspended him from the show, temporarily. Afterwards, his son, Willie tweeted, "Old Phil may be a little crude, but his heart is good. He's the real deal."

A message that seemed enough for the show's fans. Not all who stumble recover, Seinfeld's Michael Richards was beloved by the sitcom's fans for his role as Kramer, the comedian's neurotic hipster duffus neighbor. Then one night in 2006, the comedian launched into an "n" word-filled rant during a stand-up routine. Yada, yada, yada, his career fell flat.

HOLDEN: Be aware of your own social contract, be aware of the thing that the standards that people hold you to. If you do something that creates a breach, an absolute apology, definitive apology is the first step.

TAPPER: Richards apologized on Jesse Jackson's radio program that same year.

MICHAEL RICHARDS: I know that what I said hit an African-American, hit us all, because it came out in the open. And I see it and I will take full responsibility.

TAPPER: But his words seemed to do little to repair his broken social contract with fans. Luckily for NBC and the Seinfeld franchise the show was already off the air, except of course in rerun, in which Richards, pre-scandal, seems to somehow be preserved in amber, protected from what the actor who plays him will later say.

PAULA DEEN, CELEBRITY CHEF: I've made plenty of mistakes along the way.

TAPPER: Food Network's star, Paula Deen, made tearful apologies when she was accused of racism last year after admitting having used the "n" word among other things.

DEEN: And I'm here to issue an apology.

TAPPER: The wholesome chef known for her sugar-coated southern charm was pulled from the airwaves almost immediately. So with the "Duck Dynasty" smoothing its ruffled feathers with tonight's season premiere, the question is will the Robertsons be rejected in any way at all or will they be rewarded?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Unlike previous celebrity controversies, the "Duck Dynasty" gang did not suffer any may major sponsorship hits after the scandal broke. The restaurant chain Cracker Barrel temporarily pulled the merchandise from store shelves then they immediately reversed the decision. You'll have to wait until tomorrow to learn who's up for an Oscar, but the list is out today for the anti-Oscars known as the Rozzies.

It's definitely not an honor just to be nominated. The Golden Raspberry Awards highlight the worst movies of the year and this time around "Grown-Ups 2," Adam Sandler's tour de force of awful leads the pack. The hit movie beloved by Sandler's accountants and few other scored eight nominations including worst picture and worst actor. It has some stiff competition in that worst picture category. Other nominees are "After Earth," "The Lone Ranger," "A Ma Day A Christmas" and "Movie 43." May the worst one win.

If you're still talking about Seinfeld episodes to this day, laughing about a woman named Melva or George's failed career as a hand model, you'll will happy to know that Jerry Seinfeld and the show's co- creator Larry David reportedly working on a gigantic project for Broadway. David says Seinfeld might star in it.

In other Seinfeld news, Jerry and his former co-star, Jason Alexander were spotted outside the New York City diner made famous on the TV show. Larry David reportedly was there too. It's not clear what the meeting at Toms was about, but there's speculation they were shooting a Super Bowl commercial. Then again maybe they were just nashing on the big salad. I wonder who paid.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is right next in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.