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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
New Shoe Bomb Threat Linked To Al Qaeda; Colorado Is Cashing In On Pot; App Creator Goes From Food Stamps To Billionaire
Aired February 20, 2014 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next breaking news, airports and airlines around the world on high alert tonight. U.S. officials linking the credible shoe bomb threat to al Qaeda.
Plus, pop the new cash cow, how Colorado is making a killing on weed. The numbers are in. They may mean pot is coming to your state and pretty darn quickly.
And Ted Nugent called the president a subhuman mongrel, why are Republicans, some of them, defending him. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. U.S. officials tonight, tying the new threat of shoe bombs on airplanes to al Qaeda. There are indications that the threat could ultimately be tied to the man on your screen right now. His name is Ibrahim Al-Asiri, the master bomb maker for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
He's the man officials say designed the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day in 2009. He also built the printer cartridge bombs that al Qaeda placed on cargo planes destined for Chicago the next year.
Officials tell CNN the new warning is related to recent intelligence gathered on bomb making tactics believe to be tied to Asiri because our understanding is that these bomb makers end up with a fingerprint. There are things they do in designing these bombs that trace to a specific individual.
Our chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is in Washington tonight. Jim, what more do you know about this warning and about this situation?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, let me tell you what officials are telling us. One U.S. official telling CNN the threat is, as you say, related to al Qaeda. This official would not be specific as to whether it was related to al Qaeda core in Pakistan led by formerly by Bin Laden or an al Qaeda related group such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula headquartered in Yemen, growing in strength in recent years.
And this is a group tied to this master bomb maker for al Qaeda Al-Asiri and someone they have been watching for some time. Now the intelligence was based on intelligence or the warning was based on intelligence that this bomb maker was working on a new design for shoe bombs intended to get past airport security.
As you know, we take our shoes off. They've already been looking at this ever since Richard Reed attempted this kind of bombing in 2001 just after 9/11. Their concern overtime as always with al Qaeda-like groups is that they're always honing their methods to make them better and that they've been trying to make a bomb better to get it passed that kind of security.
It's this guy, Al-Asiri, who they believe can do that. You know, as you mentioned, the underwear bomb, Christmas Day in 2009, but also this is a guy who sent his own brother with another bomb somehow carried on his person that nearly killed the Saudi prince and killed that brother.
So he's a ruthless guy. He's skilled and his tactics are being shared widely. That's why they're concerned about that kind of thing.
BURNETT: All right, so but they are being rather specific, and at the same time specific and not specific, and at the same time, not specific, which you know, that's the line they try to walk, right? But they are saying be worried about this and then they are giving 25 or 30 cities and then they say they don't know if it's imminent and just a lot of questions. The Homeland Security secretary was asked about that today. You know, how serious is this threat? What was the response?
SCIUTTO: It's an excellent question, Erin, because his response, this is similar to what I've been hearing. I have been talking to folks at all the intelligence agency, National Counterterrorist Center, you name it. And what they will say is that, listen, it's credible. We're concerned about it. It's a serious threat, but not specific in target or timing.
So when you bring it altogether on the scale of, say of one to ten, it's a moderate threat. It's somewhere in the middle. And that means that you'll see some, you know, increased scrutiny at this kind of thing, but they are not to the point where they're canceling flights and taking extreme measures. That's where it is on the scale. This is the battle with this kind of intelligence that they never know for sure, they can only do their best.
BURNETT: All right, Jim, thank you very much. I want to bring in now our national security analyst, the former CIA operative, Bob Baer. Bob, because we're just trying to understand exactly what they mean when they put this warning out here. Second day in a row we heard about this threat. When you hear about it, how concerned are you when you say it's been two days in a row and it's getting more and more specific?
BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Erin, two days in a row they have something. They have credible intelligence. It could be from chatter or from another country or a source. They're clearly worried about this. They're worried Al Asiri is getting better and better with his technology. You know, a couple of these bombings, the detonators failed. He's been improving those. No doubt about it. He's using a kind of explosive, which is extremely dangerous, PEKN, you can cut the skin of an airplane if it's planted at the right place. So I think there's a serious threat to aviation. But what they don't have is actionable intelligence to actually arrest somebody, but that's often the case. You never get the full report. You know, that leads immediately to an arrest.
BURNETT: I mean, this guy, the suspect is a master bomb maker, at least intelligence officials tell us, Ibrahim Al-Asiri. We've talked about him before. The 31-year-old college dropout, but he's known to be incredibly sophisticated in terms of making bombs. How dangerous is he? I mean, the fact that we know his name and this is the second time now in a few months that his name has come up in particular in related to threats of bombs on airplanes?
BAER: Well, they are certain technology they're worried about that went down to Yemen and he picked up. It was developed by the Palestinians in the '70s. It is an extraordinary technology, the ability to hide explosives and use specialized detonators that can get through security and I can tell you --
BURNETT: They still can even though it's from the '70s?
BAER: It was a couple engineers that built these things. It wasn't widely defused, but it took down three airplanes, Korean airplane. It took down a Canadian airplane, an Indian airplane coming out of Canada and Pan Am 103 was connected to the same technology. So yes, it's definite. No airport is completely secure and that's why it's vulnerable, you know, aviation.
BURNETT: Can this guy be caught? I mean, they know his name. They believe he is in Yemen. We know that they don't seem to have any compunction in terms of using drones to kill people they believe to be al Qaeda operatives in Yemen. Why is this guy hasn't been caught?
BAER: Well, Erin, he's up in the mountains of Yemen. He's gone off cell phones. There's no digital footprint that he's left behind. He's smart, he's learned. He's read about leaks in this country. He looked at Al Awlaki, which is killed by drone in the beacon. He knows what he's doing and by hiding with these tribes in a remote area and no way going out and becoming public or talking on the phone, he's fairly immune and there's nothing the Yemeni government could do about it. Yemen would love to get a hold of him so what Saudi Arabia and they are doing their best, but they just can't.
BURNETT: Before we go, do you have any idea of how many people he could have trained to do this? I mean, obviously, 31 years old, college dropout who has this ability this person has an unusually high intelligence. I mean, how hard is it to find other people that they may have trained or is it as simple as one person?
BAER: I think he's trained other people. There's no doubt about it. You kill him, someone's going to step up, use the same technology. It's a race. So far we've won it but let's see.
BURNETT: All right, Bob Baer, thank you very much. A sobering way to end the conversation, but obviously an important way to look at it.
OUTFRONT next, we are going to talk about America's cash crop, Colorado's marijuana sales literally through the roof. The numbers are in and they're pretty darn shocking. So does it mean other states should get in on the action?
Plus two former Navy SEALs found dead about the "Maris Alabama." Why some say the famous "Captain Phillips" ship is cursed. Is racism on the rise in America?
BURNETT: Tonight Colorado rolling in the green. The numbers are in. Colorado's legal marijuana market is booming. The governor expects to take in $184 million in tax revenue from pot. This is just in the first 18 months of being legal. I mean, that's pretty incredible. I mean, they sold $610 million at the store. I guess. That's pretty incredible number.
It is well, well, ahead of what they were expecting. I believe $100 million at least more than they thought. Anyway, joining me now, former senior drug policy advisor of President Obama, Kevin Sabet, and Bloomberg television anchor, Trish Regan who also has written a book on pot.
All right, let me just start with you, Kevin. These numbers are stunning and they don't surprise Trish because she has been reporting on this. Do they surprise you, $184 million in tax revenue from pot? That makes the argument that every state should rush to do this?
KEVIN SABET, FORMER SENIOR DRUG POLICY ADVISOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, look, we've heard that argument for the lottery to save public education and the last time I checked, teachers still being paid embarrassingly low salaries, our education system hasn't been fix. This is now just the latest in a series of things presented as a quick fix.
So my question back to the governor and also to Trish and others at what costs do these revenues come? So what about the extra cost of the increase problems that we have? We had a recent report saying from last week, from a drug testing company showing a 44 percent increase in marijuana positives in the workplace.
So that's a cost employers will bear. What about the health care system? What about education? We know the connection between marijuana and I.Q. and, frankly, low grades and heavy marijuana use among kids. The only people making money from this, Erin, is the big tobacco-like industry that is in full force advertising like crazy, promotions with your ski pass and these ridiculous things, yes.
BURNETT: I know, Trish, you know you were saying there had been a big pickup, by the way, in Colorado versus other states in the west. I mean, Kevin has a point on that, right, in terms of tourism, people going because of pot.
TRISH REGAN, BLOOMBERG TELEVISION ANCHOR: Kate, you know, if you're a group of guys and going skiing and you have a choice between Utah and Colorado, well, maybe you're going to choose Colorado for --
SABET: Not if you're a parent. You're not going to choose Colorado if you're a parent. You're going to go to Utah.
REGAN: You know, you brought up some interesting points, Kevin, and I think, you know, the bottom line here is what you're trying to do is take the criminal element out of this industry. There is no more profitable drug in the world right now than marijuana. It's the reason why you have drug cartels coming up from Latin America and growing in Northern California on parkland there. It is because it's an opportunity for them and, so --
SABET: Drug cartels make money from cocaine and heroin and other drugs, right? It's 15 percent revenue. Marijuana, that's not true.
REGAN: Marijuana is the number one drug --
SABET: Trish, you need to look at the Rand Report, basically it's 15 percent to 25 percent maximum revenue from marijuana gotten by cartels. The last time I checked the cartels were not wiped away in Colorado or Washington. They're still there and actually now targeting minors because you can only sell to 21 and over.
BURNETT: All right, go ahead, Trish.
REGAN: The issue here at the end of the day is you're trying to take an industry and take the criminal element out of it.
SABET: It's still there.
REGAN: I'll tell you one thing. I have three kids and I am absolutely not an advocate for marijuana use or drug use of any kind. I actually never even tried it, but I'm for legalization. The reason is because you have the opportunity to tax and regulate this. I've spent enough times around this subject and reported on it so much.
That at the end of the day, Erin, you say to yourself, if someone has the opportunity to buy this in a criminal setting or from a drug dealer, aren't you running the risk that then can it transfer into something more. But if it's just down the street at your local dispensary, at least you're taxing and regulating it.
BURNETT: Money from the government for it.
SABET: That's right. We're getting for every dollar and alcohol and tax revenue it's costing us 10 in social cost. So the idea that you know, we're going to give money to the government. Well, yes, you are going to give money to the government with tax revenue, but you are going to be then spending it with, what about the highway accidents? What about the health care costs and the second-hand smoke costs?
BURNETT: Kevin, let me just say something Dr. Sanjay Gupta, you know, has come out and shocked a lot of people when he said I used to be against pot and now I'm not. The 88,000 deaths due to alcohol abuse, zero from marijuana, and that's what changed his mind and made him for legalization. SABET: Last time I checked, which was a month ago with Dr. Gupta he told me personally that what he was talking about was medical and not legalization. Maybe we should have him on the program to clear up the subject. So he's been saying one thing and the other. I'll take him at his word, but he is not in favor of legalization. It was more of the medical aspects of the components of marijuana. I agree with. That's a separation.
REGAN: Kevin, what we went through with the alcohol industry back in the days of prohibition, and all the crime that was attached to that industry. Now, you know, alcohol, you could say that's also a drug.
SABET: Yes, it is a drug.
REGAN: And people do have problems with it.
SABET: They do.
REGAN: But at least we've taken the criminal aspect out of the alcohol industry and I think that --
SABET: Trish, alcohol was legal for our history and illegal for about ten years, a very different --
REGAN: During that time, it's not like you stopped people from drinking. They were drinking it out of bathtubs in the back.
SABET: Overall alcohol use and cirrhosis of the liver dramatically reduced. It doesn't mean that I'm in favor of alcohol prohibition. Alcohol, although deadly, of course, has a totally different history than marijuana. What we're doing now is creating the next big tobacco of our time.
So in a 100 years, people are going to say what were these people thinking. We now have a third legal industry with offices on K street in Washington out there promoting and lobbying as a special interest group. Is that the kind of society we want to create?
BURNETT: Let me just ask a premise because I keep hearing this big marijuana. Trish, you looked at the numbers. Are they really as big as big tobacco?
REGAN: It's $75 billion industry, Erin. I mean, look at the alcohol industry, which is north of $200 billion.
SABET: Those are -- you want to create that for marijuana. You want to equate it for that.
REGAN: It's estimated to be somewhere between a couple billion and 10 billion. So, that's where it currently stands. Could it be bigger?
BURNETT: According to the numbers.
REGAN: It's not of the same scale, for sure not. But it is, it is a decent size industry. One that, in other words, you could gain a lot of tax revenue out if we choose to regulate it. SABET: Trish, I think you would and I would agree you've been at some of these -- I know you keynoted a legalization commission the other year and what you --
REGAN: Not a legalization convention. I might have been on the panel talking about this issue.
SABET: Yes, but my point is, Trish, when you were there, you saw a lot of those people, these private investor groups and these major -- "Wall Street Journal" says the Yale MBAs are here. This isn't about your old dorm room, you know, roommate selling you pot. These are major businesses.
REGAN: Recognize to your point that this a business opportunity --
SABET: Right, exactly.
REGAN: But not big business by any stretch of the imagination right now -- small business owners, I met with mom with two little kids at home who is running a dispensary.
SABET: When you have someone tell you they want to create the Starbucks of marijuana. You have a guy in California --
REGAN: He actually doesn't have a dispensary yet.
SABET: That's a problem.
REGAN: There are people out there that do recognize this as a business opportunity and it certainly is. However, there's not necessarily anything wrong with that, Kevin, if you can, in fact, create an industry that is free of all the criminal attachments that currently exist.
BURNETT: All right, we got to leave it there. I made the deal, I made the deal. You guys were great together and I know you've done this before. Thanks so much to both of you.
Still to come, Facebook spends $19 billion on WhatsApp. How the founder of the app went from food stamps to billionaire to great personal story.
Plus Chris Christie finally faces his critics, except his critics did not show up.
BURNETT: Meet Silicone Valley's newest billionaires. They are the brains behind WhatsApp, the application we told you about last night that Facebook bought for $19 billion. Well, as you're about to see this duo's newfound jackpot is an amazing rags to riches story. I had no idea, Bill Weir, how cool this story is.
BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Amazing, a new kind of American dream. Let me tell you this story, folks. It's about a guy named Jan and it begins when he was 16 growing up in a rural village outside of Kiev, Ukraine. And as he told "Forbes" recently, this was not greatest place or time to be Jewish. So a 16-year-old Jan and his housekeeper mom decide to move to America. Dad, he can't afford to come.
And just to save just a few pennies more, they fill a suitcase with Soviet issue pens and notebooks so this boy would have supplies at his new school in Glorious, California. They land in Silicon Valley where mom gets a job and then gets cancer and they survive on her disability insurance and food stamps.
Jan gets in a bit of trouble at school, but at the same time, teaches himself computers with manuals from the used bookstore. He enrolls at San Jose State, but then drops out when Yahoo! calls with a good job and there he befriends a guy named Brian, who takes him under his wing when Jan's mom passes away.
After almost a decade of mostly soulless engineering work at Yahoo!, they quit and blow some of their savings on some travel and go to South America, play some ultimate Frisbee. They apply for jobs at Facebook and get rejected. But using one of those Soviet notebooks he was saving for special projects, Jan draws up plans for something called WhatsApp.
His invention would allow a person to message anyone on any device anywhere in the world for free. A couple years after launch, it explodes, and then Mark Zuckerberg calls. And at the Facebook founder's house, over chocolate covered strawberries on this Valentine's Day, they strike a deal.
This week along with their main investor, the guys make a symbolic trip back to the social services office where Jan used to line-up for food stamps and they signed the papers that make these guys billionaires. To put this in perspective, Erin, factoring in tonight's market cap, Wal-Mart is worth about $108,000 per employee. GM is a little over $273,000.
Apple almost a whopping $6 million per full time employee, but WhatsApp just sold for $344 million per employee. They only have 55 people working there although they are hiring tonight.
BURNETT: You know, I love the story, although I have to say when you look at over evaluation case, that kind of screams red flag. They have a different model than Facebook, right? They really rely -- they don't have any ads. I mean, how is this going to work?
WEIR: Well, that's the thing. Jan hates two things. He grew up in Ukraine so he hates privacy invasion and he hates advertising. In fact, if you go to the web site after they quit Yahoo! They are working on ads of Yahoo. They quit there. You go to their web site and their mantra on the homepage is this quote from Fight Club.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Advertising on cars and clothes working jobs we hate so we can buy -- that we don't need.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WEIR: The wisdom of Tyler Dirdin and he explained that sentiment further at a tech conference in Berlin last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAN KOUM, WHATSAPP CO-FOUNDER: For us, putting advertising on something so personal that is your phone and putting advertising in a way of people trying to communicate and stay in touch and message each other would just be so, in our mind, wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEIR: Yes. Yes. But have you seen Facebook lately, Jan? Zuckerberg used to talk like that about ads being wrong, but right now on my feed, they sold my data to Mienke, which is now using my Facebook feed to try to sell me a muffler. Facebook stock is now in a rocket ride because they finally figured out how to advertise on mobile. Jan in Facebook insists they will remain ad free and not sell user data. How long they can keep that promise and hold on to their souls is the next chapter.
BURNETT: Well, you know, it's easy to hold on to your soul when you have $344 million in your pocket. Thanks to Bill.
Still to come, Barack Obama gambles and loses, the seat price that he is paying tonight.
Plus, a political fire storm in Texas. Will Ted Nugent's comments about the president as a subhuman mongrel sink the GOP?
You're looking at a live picture of the protests in Kiev. Yesterday, there was a horrific loss of life today. We'll be back.
BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.
The Ukraine sees its deadliest day since the uprising began. These are live pictures of Kiev at 2:30 in the morning. The death toll today, more than 100. This is according to the opposition, but that is a one-day number.
The tactics on both sides growing more extreme amid allegations government forces are using snipers and demonstrators are kidnapping police. It is completely chaos. The loss of life is widespread.
Earlier today, a CNN photographer captured the moment medics helped a man on the ground when one of them was hit by gunfire, as you can see there. I mean, that is the situation here. You can't even help people. We don't know if that man even survived.
The latest bloodshed broke out hours after Ukraine's president and the opposition had agreed to a truce.
Well, Chris Christie talked Sandy and Springsteen. It was his first town hall since last summer. The New Jersey governor had been a couple times delayed and went and answered questions on everything from hurricane assistance to his relationships with the state's biggest rock star.
Christie even talked about -- by the way, you have been seeing a lot of older video of Chris Christie because he hasn't been out in the public so much lately. He looks different. Here's what he had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the way, your exercise program work good. Looking good.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We're getting there. We're getting there. As I told a student came up to me and said to me, "Governor, you are getting a lot smaller." And I said, I said to her, I said, "Well, thank you." And she goes, "When are you going to get really small?"
CHRISTIE: And I said to her, 'Well, my dear, Rome was not unbuilt in a day either." So, you know, we have a little work still to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The governor has lost an incredible amount of weight.
I do want to say, though, one interesting note -- because you may say, why are you playing Chris Christie talking about his weight? Well, that's because nobody asked him about the bridgegate scandal. He did not receive one single question on that.
Obviously, this town hall was held in an area that had been hard hit by Sandy, but, you know, it's hard to say. Did the people of New Jersey just not care about the brouhaha? Pretty interesting question to ask. He got none of them today.
And now to political firestorm brewing in Texas. You may have heard that the Republican leading candidate for governor, the state's attorney general, Greg Abbott, has been called out for campaigning with fiery ex-rocker Ted Nugent, after Nugent called the president, President Obama, a subhuman mongrel.
Extremely bad, judgment totally repugnant, an insult to every Texan -- those are some of the reactions from political opponents and bloggers from some of Texas' main magazine. "Texas Monthly" was one of those.
CNN's Ed Lavandera tried (AUDIO GAP) asking Greg Abbott about Nugent and I wanted to play for you how that happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why did you think it was a good idea to campaign with Ted Nugent?
GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: You know, it's funny how the reactive the Davis campaign is to this. It shows that he's driven a wedge and exposed the fraud that they have displayed on second amendment-based issues. Ted Nugent was a way to expose Winnie Davis for her flip-flopping on government-related issues.
LAVANDERA: But this is Texas -- but this is Texas. Finding someone who is pro-guns is not that hard. Why does it have to be Ted Nugent?
ABBOTT: What was your question?
LAVANDERA: That was the question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw your --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, Ed kept trying. He's a persistent guy. He did not get an answer to his question, no matter how hard he tried.
OUTFRONT tonight, Lisa Fritsch, one of Abbott's opponents for the Republican nomination for governor of Texas. And really appreciate your taking the time, Lisa, to be with us.
So, first, let me just ask you what you think of Ted Nugent's comments. Obviously, you're sitting here talking as an Africa- American woman running for governor of Texas. What do you think?
LISA FRITSCH (R), TEXAS GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I don't think this is about Ted Nugent. I think this is about leadership in Texas that needs to realize we're in for a spiritual battle where we need to appeal to the hearts and minds of the American people. And this is not about political gains. We need to appeal beyond our base to those people who have been sharing our values, but who have been rejecting this party. And it's a shame that an incident like this prohibits from achieving that particular goal.
BURNETT: But what do you think about what he had to say? I mean, what do you think about the word "subhuman mongrel" to describe the president of the United States? Is that acceptable?
FRITSCH: It's not acceptable. And it's not acceptable for leadership to not come out and completely disavow that type of rhetoric and that type of language. The problem really is, though, Erin, is that until the party can solve our identity crisis, rebuild and rebrand and articulate what it means to be a conservative and get back to the tenants of hope, faith, and charity, we are putting this party and the future of Texas at risk. I don't need to tell you that if we cannot keep Texas strong and conservative, we run the risk of losing the White House for many years to come.
BURNETT: Well, Texas, obviously, could turn Democratic. We reported a lot on that when we look at the demographics. But let me ask you about this, because when you talked about, you put a statement out about what Ted Nugent said. I wanted to just read to you, because there's something in it I just want to pull out here for our viewers. You called Ted Nugent a noted misogynist and bigot no matter how fervent his love of guns and the Constitution.
And what I wanted to get out here, no matter how fervent his love of guns and the constitution. Greg Abbott had him on stage because he is pro-guns. That's why he wanted Ted Nugent. Even you seem to be nodding to that.
Is it that hard to say I don't care what that guy has to say about guns, no?
FRITSCH: It's not that hard. And as a matter of fact I would say that as a conservative, the Second Amendment, the Constitution and a fervent protection of those things are very important.
However, that is necessary, but not sufficient. The most important part about being a conservative and a Republican is that we champion growth and opportunity for all Texans and have leadership who understands that we cannot grow and be electable in the 21st century if we do not firmly reject those ideas of things that have really demeaned and devalued core demographics that we desperately need to be with us.
BURNETT: So, I'm translating. You alienate African-American. You alienate women. You end up with a lot fewer people even though you get the gun base, for example.
But let me just -- our Dana Bash interviewed Ted Cruz, obviously, another Texan, who everyone in this country now knows who he is. She asked him what Ted Nugent had to say and I want to play for you how Ted Cruz responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Those sentiments there, of course, I don't agree with them. You've never heard me say such a thing and nor would I. I will note, there is a reason Ted Nugent, people listen to him, which is that he has been fighting passionately for Second Amendment rights.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Would you campaign with Ted Nugent?
CRUZ: You know, I haven't yet, and I'm going to avoid engaging in hypotheticals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. So, here's my question to you -- why can't he answer that question? I mean, I'm going to avoid engaging in hypotheticals. That's not no. It's most definitively not a no. That's what is happening in your party.
FRITSCH: I think that's a shame, actually. I think that until we can stand up and have the courage to say, listen, just as I condemn what Jeremiah Wright said with Obama, I'm going to stand up and condemn what Ted Nugent said and it's stately. Leaders are called to be statesmen. And as the governor of Texas, we make decisions about leadership and appointments and who we decide to represent us and campaign with us is a reflection of that leadership.
And I have no problem coming out and saying I disavow those statements, I condemn those statements. They're wrong. You would never see me campaigning with someone like that. They could endorse me. But I do not endorse that.
BURNETT: Well, Lisa Fritsch --
FRITSCH: This is not the Republican Party that we know. The Republican Party is Lincoln. It's values. It's hope. Charity.
BURNETT: Well, thank you very much, Lisa Fritsch, for taking the time as we said. Candidate for Republican governor of Texas and a Tea Party leader in Texas.
OUTFRONT tonight, Ben Ferguson, CNN political commentator and conservative radio show host, and Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist.
All right. Thanks very much to both of you.
Let's just talk about Ed Lavandera for a moment, all right? Our reporter and I don't know if you could see the picture there, Ben, but, you know, we asked Greg Abbott and Greg Abbott does this -- like his nose goes in the air and he's like looking at anybody but Ed Lavandera.
OK. How is it so hard to say -- I'm not going to be with that guy again and what that person said was horrific? Why is this that hard to say? You said it last night on this show, Ben.
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think you're in an awkward situation where you ask a guy to come out with you. You invite him and then a video comes out of something in the past that you didn't know was out there. And then, all of a sudden, you're stuck in this awkward situation.
If I was him I would say, look, knowing what he said now, probably wouldn't have done this.
FERGUSON: Well, I wouldn't have done it. Let's just go there.
FERGUSON: He is a great guy on the Second Amendment. That's why I was having him around on that. People know him for that, these other comments I would not endorse them or say them and I probably would have done things differently in the future.
Why didn't say it? I don't know. Maybe it's because everybody is in his face.
And, look, Ed is in his office every day. He's an intimidating guy. I give him full credit on that one. I'd be afraid of him, too.
BURNETT: Ed is a tough reporter. I mean, he's asking the questions. This is serious.
I mean, Chris, what is your take on this? When you end up in a situation, you know, you sort of at least have to say, you know, where incidents like this remind a lot of people around this country who are not in the Second Amendment core base of the Republican Party who frankly aren't going to vote anything other than Republican to begin with, remind them why they don't want to vote Republican. I'm talking about African-Americans, women, people of color, those are the people the Republicans need to start becoming Republican. And this doesn't help.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It doesn't help.
Aside from the demographic problem the Republicans have, you know, right now, let alone in Texas and the coming years, they have -- there's this tendency that has been growing. You have seen this over the last few elections where the misstatements or the outright hate- filled words that either their candidates used or their surrogates use, they don't know what to do about it.
And the problem is, it's really easy. When someone says something that is this offensive, it is arguably, not even arguably racist, it is racist, you have to quickly condemn it. And he doesn't.
And so, the problem is he doesn't stay in Texas. We live in a 24/7 interconnected world when this goes out, it goes out across the country. And voters, those independents, those moderates that both parties are fighting for, they're like, wait a second, this is the Republican Party? It just further alienates them.
BURNETT: So, do I have --
BURNETT: Go ahead, Ben.
FERGUSON: This is the core issue that really irks me the most on this, is somehow the outrage that has come out over this. When Wendy Davis' own campaign members were caught on camera mocking a handicapped man that is running against her and mocking the fact that he's in a wheelchair. Where was the outrage and the camera in her face when her own campaign people made fun of the guy because he's handicap in a wheelchair saying he can't even stand up in Texas --
BURNETT: Except for, Ben, it's little different than it being her herself. I mean, it is horrific, don't get me wrong. She should apologize. Not as if she was doing it.
FERGUSON: Well, her campaign people. Well, her campaign people that did it.
BURNETT: She's responsible for their actions.
Sorry, Chris, go ahead.
KOFINIS: No one is going to make an excuse for that kind of behavior or that kind of talk, but there's also a fundamental difference than calling the president of the United States -- I don't care whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, call the president of the United States a subhuman mongrel. I mean, that is a kind of tone and rhetoric that has alienated so many people and the notion that you're running for governor of a state and that the person that is sitting next to you or is going to use those words and you're unwilling to condemn it, really raises questions about why are you running for office.
BURNETT: Ben, let me ask you about, let me just play, again, because this really struck me when our Dana Bash spoke to Ted Cruz. Let me play that sound bite again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: Those sentiments there, of course, I don't agree with them. You've never heard me say such a thing and nor would I. You know, I will note, there is a reason Ted Nugent, people listen to him. Which has been that he has been fighting passionately for Second amendment Rights.
BASH: Would you campaign with Ted Nugent?
CRUZ: You know, I haven't yet and I will avoid engaging in hypotheticals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He said I don't agree, I'd never do those things. OK, that's good. There is a reason that people listen to Ted Nugent, Second Amendment, also true. Then he wouldn't say I wouldn't affiliate myself with that.
FERGUSON: And I think it's because he understands the context of Ted Nugent that Ted Nugent is a crazy, outlandish rock star who loves a camera in his face. He says crazy and outlandish things. He's not going to look at him the same as I said yesterday a pastor or pope or police director or politician.
KOFINIS: Ben --
FERGUSON: You look at Democrats and they will sit on stage with rappers that talk about popping a cop and police officers. They will sit there with people who make horrific movies, depicting beating women in a movie role and they'll put their arms around them and break bread with him for $2,000 a plate dinner. KOFINIS: Ben --
FERGUSON: So, let's look at it from that perspective.
KOFINIS: Those are really nice ad hominems, but here's -- the reality --
FERGUSON: They're not ad hominems. They're reality.
BURNETT: They do happen, Chris. Go ahead. Final words.
FERGUSON: Well, no, they do. But what we're talking about is this situation. If we want to talk about rappers and stuff like that, that's a great discussion, let's have it.
At the end of the day, what we're talking about is Ted Cruz and in this case, Ted Nugent. In the case of Ted Cruz, it's very simple why he won't do it. He knows it would inflame the people he needs to support him. This is the reason why Republicans in this situation do not condemn what is, obviously, something that should be condemned.
FERGUSON: I condemned it. Ted Cruz said that he wouldn't relate to it. But I will say this to make it very clear, if you hold this standard with all of Hollywood that embraces the president of the United States of America, you couldn't have any of those movie stars based on how they make money and what they put in their movies next to the president with the same standard. That's all I'm saying.
BURNETT: All right. I'm going to thank both of you very much again for talking about that.
Still to come, three teens charged for carving a swastika into their classmate's forehead. Was it a hate crime?
Plus, President Obama wagers big on America's hockey players. But is he prepared for what a loss could mean?
BURNETT: Now let's check in with Anderson with a look at what's coming up on "AC360."
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Erin.
Yes, we got a "360" exclusive ahead on the program. We take you inside the jury room with juror number 8 in the trial of Michael Dunn for the killing of Jordan Davis. Her thoughts on the 30 hours of deliberation, including the dramatic deadlock on first degree murder charges. Also he'll talk with the parents of Jordan Davis. Their reaction, really a shocked reaction to juror number 8 who is African- American and said that race was not a factor in the trial.
(BGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think she's being genuine. For her as an African-American female, to go into this case with this type of evidence, with this type of rage, with him saying thug music, how can you as a juror not think that this was about race?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's a really strong interview. You'll want to see that at the top of the hour. Those stories, also breaking news in the violence in Ukraine, also in Venezuela, plus tonight's Ridiculist, all the top of the hour, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thank you very much. Looking forward to seeing that interview for sure.
Well, a shocking attack in Oregon. Three teenagers charged for carving a swastika into a classmate's forehead with a box cutter. They said they wanted his skateboard and cash. It's a horrific thing to comprehend but it is not the only example of racially horrific things happening. We've seen several disturbing things recently.
In Mississippi, a noose hung around the neck of a statue of civil rights icon James Meredith, and in Georgia, anger over officials approved a new license plate featuring two images of the Confederate flag.
OUTFRONT tonight, Mark Potok, senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center and CNN contributor Reihan Salam.
Great to have both of you with us.
So, Mark, let me ask you the question point blank. We see these headlines, these are horrific things that's impossible to imagine are happening in 2014. Are they part of a larger trend, an increase in these kinds of things?
MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, I think the best data shows that in fact, anti-black racism has risen over the last four or five years. There's polling that shows that both implicit and explicit anti-black attitudes among American whites have gone up quite significantly between 2008 and 2012, to the point where now more than half of white Americans have these anti-black attitudes.
BURNETT: Half of why white Americans have --
POTOK: So, I think that's the real evidence.
BURNETT: All right. Reihan, half of white Americans have anti- black attitudes?
REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's extremely misleading. When you're looking at things like implicit associations, looking things like so-called micro aggressions, some people have identified things that we're characterizing as anti-black attitudes.
The trouble is that if you use these same standards in the past, you would see there's actually been a sharp decline. You'll see for example that one out of 12 marriages in the United States are mixed racial marriages.
BURNETT: You're talking about if you want things as racism then that you count now and did an apples-to-apples comparison --
SALAM: Exactly. You need an apples-to-apples comparison. And the thing is that people are getting very creative in what they're characterizing as racism.
When you look at hard statistics like interracial marriages, interracial friendships, when you look at the level of racial segregation, you've seen enormous progress over time. And I think that we should celebrate it.
BURNETT: Mark, what's your response to that?
POTOK: Well, I think if you're talking about a 50-year span or 100-year span, obviously that is correct. It is false, though, that it's only some kind of weird implicit test that shows the rise and the low for the last five years or so in anti-black racism. That shows explicit anti-black racism.
And we've also seen an enormous growth over the last 15 years or so in the number of hate groups, primarily white supremacist groups from about 600 in 2000 to more than 1,000 today.
So, there are a number of things out there that suggest this is going on. Frankly, I think a piece of it is the permission giving that people like Ted Nugent in effect give. When Ted Nugent describes the black president as a subhuman mongrel, he is using language that comes right out of the Nazi party, right out of the Klan.
So I think that has an effect. When, you know, a major politician in Texas refuses to condemn this in any way, you know, I think it in effect tells certain people out there, it's all right to have these kinds of attitudes.
BURNETT: Do you think that's true, that it tells certain people that it's OK? People who already think this, no normal person would but certain people?
SALAM: Well, quite the opposite. I think what we see is a world in which anti-racists have a lot of voice. They have a lot of insolence.
So, whenever someone says something like that that's so appalling, what happens is they get an enormous amount of push back. I think that's a very good thing.
But another thing is that we have organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that really have grown enormously in recent years. For example, in 1995, the SPLC had net assets of about $52 million. In 2011, they had net assets over $250 million.
And, you know, this is not a period of time during which racism increased by a factor of five. Rather they've been able to grow by drawing on incidents of this kind and then weaving them into a story about racism growing.
Racism is real. It needs to be combated. But we also need to be wary of people who profit from the perception that racism is something that it's not, which is to say a growing phenomenon.
BURNETT: So, Mark, let me give you a chance to respond to that since obviously that's you he's talking about.
POTOK: Well, it's simply an ad hominem attack on the part of my counterpart here. You know, the reality is, is that people out there are worried about what is happening in this country. I think it is undeniable that we've seen a remarkable amount of polarization over the last five or six years. And that is very likely the reason that people send us money.
You know, the idea that the data I'm citing has somehow been produced in order for the SPLC --
POTOK: -- to get wealthy is just, you know, kind of a gutter attack that doesn't really mean much.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you. I appreciate to get feedback from all of you on that on those points. Thanks so much.
Thanks for all of you watching.
Anderson Cooper is after this.