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Mass Grave in Northern Nigeria; Monica Lewinsky's Tell-All Essay; Hash Tag Activism and First Lady Michelle Obama; Experts Issue Death Penalty Recommendations

Aired May 8, 2014 - 12:30   ET



I want to get you caught up on today's top stories.

The United States has suspended services at its embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, because of recent attacks against Western interests in that area.

The State Department calls the move precautionary and says the embassy will re-open once it is deemed appropriate. We can only assume "safety-wise."

The CEO of the company involved in the South Korean ferry disaster says, quote, "I have committed a crime that can be paid back - only be paid back with my life."

Kim Han-sik is charged with causing death by negligence. At least 269 people were killed when that ferry sank. South Korean authorities are also taking steps to revoke the company's business licenses.

The bodies of more than 300 people were discovered in mass graves in northern Nigeria. Authorities say, yes, it is Boko Haram that is to blame.

That is the same Islamic militant group accused of kidnapping 276 school girls just a few weeks ago in April. Nigeria's president says this is a turning point for his country.


PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN, NIGERIA: I believe that the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria.


BANFIELD: Investigators say they believe Boko Haram may now be targeting those who are trying to find the missing girls.

How do you make a name for yourself or a life for yourself when that name is a synonym for scandal and humiliation and constitutional crisis, for good measure? Monica Lewinsky is still trying to figure out the answer to a question.

In a first-person essay for "Vanity Fair," available today in New York and L.A. and on e-readers, Lewinsky says she is, quote, "determined to have a different ending" to a story you thought you already new.

Our coverage begins with my CNN colleague, Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In her tell-all "Vanity Fair" essay, Monica Lewinsky says she's opening up about her scandalous past in an effort to move forward.

"I would give anything to go back and rewind the tape," Lewinsky writes about her affair with President Clinton. She provides insight into the nature of their relationship beyond the salacious details splashed across the headlines.

"It was an authentic connection with emotional intimacy, frequent visits, plans made, phone calls and gifts exchanged."

Now 40, the world's most famous White House intern examines the situation with new perspective. "I look back now, shake my head in disbelief and I wonder what was I, what were we thinking?"

Lewinsky has remained mostly reclusive, an effort to protect herself from the shame she felt when the affair went public.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

MALVEAUX: Following President Clinton's initial vehement denial and subsequent admission.

CLINTON: Indeed I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong.

MONICA LEWINSKY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN: I felt like a piece of trash. I felt dirty and I felt used.

MALVEAUX: Lewinsky says the scandal changed the entire trajectory of her life, making her virtually unemployable. She remains very much stuck in time, never getting married or having children. She writes, "With every man I date -- yes, I date -- I go through some degree of 1998 whiplash."

Lewinsky says she considered the consequences of telling her story on the Clinton universe and felt compelled to speak out now before Hillary Clinton's potential 2016 presidential bid, something which means more to her than just the possibility of having a female president.

"When I hear of Hillary's prospective candidacy, I cannot help but fear of the next wave of paparazzi, the next wave of where-is-she-now stories. But should I put my life on hold for another eight to 10 years?"


BANFIELD: Suzanne Malveaux telling the story for us. There are so many characters that came to light. People you never heard of before. People like Linda Tripp.

Remember that name, better known as "Tripp-wire?" She wore a wire and little Monica, a young intern, confided in her friend, Linda Tripp. She didn't know she was being taped at the time.

I want to remind you of some of the choice things that Linda Tripp taped her young friend, sad heartsick Monica saying to her about why she wouldn't talk publicly or to any prosecutor about what was going on in her love life.

Listen to Linda Tripp's evidence.


LINDA TRIPP, FORMER FRIEND OF MONICA LEWINSKY: Where is the expectation of privacy in the commission of a crime?

In other words, had I not documented the evidence -- remember, I knew Monica Lewinsky for a year and half in my life, didn't start to document evidence until eight weeks prior to having to testify in court about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

So where is the expectation of her privacy? I told her I would not fix a court case, I would not help fix a court case, yet I knew the president of the United States and Monica were intending to do that.


BANFIELD: Where is the expectation of privacy? Oh, where can I begin, Will Cain, Mel Robbins and Don Lemon?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Some friend, huh?

BANFIELD: Can I just say your expectation of privacy in the commission of a crime, Monica didn't commit a crime?

Can I remind everybody right now, for the last 16 years that woman has been vilified. She's been shredded. She's been humiliated. It continues. She didn't commit a crime. Right now, expectation of privacy --

MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR: She actually did, because she lied on an affidavit under oath, so she did commit a crime. But that's not what this whole hullabaloo is about.

BANFIELD: That's not what Linda Tripp's referring to.

ROBBINS: That's true. The truth is I look at this story very differently than I think the rest of the world does, because I look at it through the lens of what does it take somebody to survive the most humiliating thing that drives you to want to kill yourself, basically. How does somebody survive that?

We're all very are different. Look at this as a story -- I could care less about what happened 16 years ago. I look at this as a story of somebody who was able to push through it finally. It may have taken her longer than most people think they would be able to get through.

BANFIELD: Conservatives loved this story 16 years ago, and I'm not sure, Will, if conservatives love this story now, or if this is just toxic for them to seize on and capitalize on, politically.

WILL CAIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I have to say this, Ashleigh, because the consistency is being begged for here. You must separate the truth of what's being revealed from this expectation of privacy.

The reason I bring it up is because we just had an entire story, and you folks talked about Donald Sterling's tapes, which were illegally recorded. So you want to talk about whether there was an expectation of privacy, yes, there was there.

LEMON: We don't know whether they were illegally recorded.

CAIN: It's a two-party state.


CAIN: But the point is it's beside the point to the truth that's revealed, both in Lewinsky or Sterling's case. We learned something.

I totally agree with Mel. At some point, though, we also have to move on to what happened 16 years ago. Monica Lewinsky needs to be able to become her own person. She has become a cheap punch line. We are --

BANFIELD: She embodied the cheap punch line. She didn't become --

CAIN: Absolutely. But you know what, Ashleigh? This is consistent. We do cheap outrage on TV. We do cheap hash tag activism when it comes to the girls in -- with Boko Haram. And this is cheap. She's been a cheap punch line --

ROBBINS: I don't think you want to connect the activism that actually got the world to pay attention to the girls with what happened to Monica Lewinsky.

CAIN: I'm telling you putting a tweet up with a hash tag on it you didn't do your duty today.

BANFIELD: You're right. There's a lot of cheap --


BANFIELD: -- outrage on TV. I'm going to give you that. But when you look at a young woman who's 21 --

ROBBINS: We've got to address that.

LEMON: That's disgusting to say about over 200 girls who were -- what do you expect the first lady to do?

CAIN: Don, I wasn't necessarily targeting the first lady exclusively. It's not disgusting if you were -- LEMON: Then who are you talking about when you say that? Hang on. Who are you targeting? That's whose photo --

CAIN: Yeah, but my words --

LEMON: Who are you targeting then when you say that?

ROBBINS: Let's hear what will has to say.

CAIN: Ready to listen?

LEMON: I'm asking you, who are you targeting?

BANFIELD: OK, Will, you've got the floor. Go. Make it good.

CAIN: If they could rewind this tape 30 seconds --

LEMON: Who are you targeting?

CAIN: It's amazing. You can't hear what I say. I said society has gotten cheap. We do cheap outrage on television. We do cheap hash-tag activism on Twitter.

LEMON: And you said putting up a picture with a hash tag on it, so who --

CAIN: Every single person, Don. It's a meme.


CAIN: I didn't say anything about the first lady. You did.

LEMON: I asked you. All you did was say every single person. She's on the front page of the paper.

CAIN: I'm saying everyone.

LEMON: That's all you have to say.

ROBBINS: Let me try to save you, Will. Hold on a second.

CAIN: I don't need saving.

ROBBINS: I think you actually do on this.

LEMON: On this one you do.

ROBBINS. I think what you're saying, which is correct, is that the dialogue is cheap about a lot of things, particularly when it's driven by the media. And there's a lot of cheap things happening when people use hash tags as a way to say, I'm in that.

CAIN: I did my social duty today.

ROBBINS: Hold on a second. What we need to understand about the situation with the girls is there was tremendous confusion for the first two-and-a-half weeks whether or not the story was even real.

And given the fact that they were stolen from an area with no cell phone reception, with no technology, the families used social media and that hash tag that you just called cheap to get the world to pay attention.

CAIN: You don't have to --

LEMON: What do you expect the U.S. government to do, first of all, when they were not invited in initially? What would you expect the U.S. government to do?

CAIN: Make its policy outside of Twitter.

LEMON: OK, so what have you done? What did you do for those girls? If you're so outraged by it, what have you done?


LEMON: Besides sit here on television and criticize other people's efforts, if you're so concerned about it, what have you done?

CAIN: I'm pointing out something that is important, Don, that society has greater obligations --

LEMON: If you're going to point it out then do something to help rather than coming and --

ROBBINS: You guys are actually on the same side because Will is arguing we need to do more.

LEMON: No. I think what he said was a dog whistle to say, putting up a - you're talking about the first lady. Don't get on television

ROBBINS: No. You're the one that raised the first lady.

BANFIELD: I am hosting this show and I'm busting in.

CAIN: I need an interpreter so I can know my own words next time I'm on with Don.

LEMON: I'm not stupid and I've been on television with you before and I know your game.

BANFIELD: ServPro! Again we need ServPro!

Listen, I get your point. I see what you were saying. I see where it came off that you were making that obligation about Michelle Obama on the front page of the newspaper with "bring back our girls." I also see what you have to say about a lot of cheap references and people capitalizing on affairs and issues to promote or promulgate their issues, their messages or their shows --

CAIN: To say something about themselves.

BANFIELD: I will say this, had it not been for "bring back our girls" and those front pages and Michelle Obama, there wouldn't be meetings, there would be commitments from the French government, there wouldn't be meetings between the British --


BANFIELD: -- sharing of alliance in intelligence and the resources. Things changed.

CAIN: I'm not sure that's true. And if it is true, I'm not sure that's a good thing

LEMON: You don't know it's true because you're so stuck on criticism that you haven't really researched it and you haven't figured it out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think Jonathan would have lifted a finger three weeks after.

CAIN: Because I have been painted in an unfair and inaccurate way --

LEMON: You haven't painted it. You said it on television and came out of your mouth

ROBBINS: You have to let him talk.

CAIN: The only person that invoked the first lady today was Don Lemon, not me.

ROBBINS: Correct.

BANFIELD: It sounded like you were.

LEMON: No. You said it.

ROBBINS: He did not say that.

LEMON: It's exactly what you were inferring. You were talking about the U.S. government. You said -- what did you say about your policies?

CAIN: I appreciate you being my interpreter.

LEMON: Yeah, well, you need one. You're welcome.

BANFIELD: I will give you the benefit of the doubt and I understand where you got that impression, but we are a family and a family we will remain. It's like "Duck Dynasty."

LEMON: I'm not part of that family. Don't include me on that. I'm sorry.

BANFIELD: Listen, I get -- it's a healthy conversation. It was about Monica Lewinsky at one point.

LEMON: That's family I'm not interested in.

BANFIELD: So, guys -- I hear you about that.

ROBBINS: Wow. I feel like I'm mediating some sort of domestic dispute right here.

LEMON: No, it's not a domestic dispute. I don't need a hug. I'm great.

BANFIELD: One last thing I want to make about Monica Lewinsky about what's happened.

I had a conversation about a very respected journalist who's been in the business for decades what's happening right now on television in the media with Monica Lewinsky. It isn't just tawdry talk. There is a phenomena played out.

Monica Lewinsky was harnessed by an Internet that was new, and it was an Internet that very few people if any, certainly not Monica, knew how to harness back, and she suffered decades, well, a decade and a half, at least, for it.

And I think a lot of people are starting to realize that that big social experiment in Internet and cable news and talking wildly and, like you said, harnessing issues for your own benefit and being outraged for your own benefit actually has had dire, dire effects on people --

CAIN: Yes. She's been a victim of it.

BANFIELD: She has had a dire consequence for a crime -- I'm sorry. There was no crime. It was stupid. It was silly. She was 21. Many -- you and I --

LEMON: She was 22.

BANFIELD: OK, 22, I was worse, right?

LEMON: I just think you're an adult between 22 and 25.

BANFIELD: I know you say that. You and I can't fight now.

LEMON: There was a horrible power imbalance. Don't get me wrong.

BANFIELD: That was that. She didn't commit any crime, and she didn't sell anybody out. Linda Tripp sold everybody out and the rest of us we sold and fed on Monica. And we should all be sorry. I will say it right now. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

We have to go to break.


BANFIELD: You may support it, you may hate it but the death penalty exists in the United States, and it is not a token punishment to scare potential criminals, because most of the states that actually have capital punishment on the books as an option, they use it.

There are 32 states in which judges and juries can send people legally to death row and then to the chamber. The federal government and the U.S. military also have that authority. Last year, 2013, 38 men and one woman were executed in this country and all but one of them by lethal injection. So far this year, 20 people have died at the hands of the government.

And even before the execution went so wrong last month in Oklahoma, a group of criminal justice experts -- and when I say the experts, they're the creme de la creme -- they were meeting to try to overhaul the way we put people to death legally in this country.

They weren't rightists or leftists, so don't get all bound up in politics on this one. They were just real smart people from right across the board, and yesterday, that group released its findings.

Two things you've got to know. The public certainly does need to know more about the process. That's from the committee, not from me. And also the drugs that we use in the execution process, the committee says they've got to go. They've got to be changed. They say the method now is too complicated and it's just too easy to screw up, my words.

Paul Callan is with me, our legal analyst, and in Houston in Texas, the former Texas governor, Mark White, who also co-chaired that death penalty panel.

Mark White, it's great to have you with us. I want to being with you. I have so many questions and so little time, but it's surprising for me to hear from a governor of Texas, where arguably many of the executions in this country are prosecuted.

But you feel like we are doing things wrong, and we need to change things up, big. Why do you say that?

MARK WHITE, FORMER TEXAS GOVERNOR: We've seen the recent example in Oklahoma where the death penalty turned from a humane approach to execution to one that clearly came under the prohibitions of cruel and inhumane punishment.

That was a horrible tragedy, so bad that they closed the blinds so that no one could witness it.

We also know that from the beginning of the investigation of a crime all the way through the execution itself, many changes have occurred over the last 20 years, 10 years.

DNA evidence has changed our feelings about science, and we've known from actual events occurring that innocent people have served long periods of time. We know for a certainty that some people have been executed that were in fact innocent.

For that reason, this report from The Constitution Project was revealed yesterday. And as you said, it's a bipartisan report. It says that we need to modernize our system. We shouldn't be complacent, bring it up to date. Whether you support or oppose the death penalty, these are changes that need to be made.

BANFIELD: And, Governor, I could not agree with you more. I have said so often on this very luxurious platform that I am residing in that we've got a problem. We've got a big problem. And I'm glad to see that you agree with me.

I'm going to quote you. "I support the death penalty for guilty people but not for innocent people. We run the real risk today of executing innocent people."

We are getting great at crime fighting. We are getting smart with our techniques. But we are not remembering that we've applied old techniques to people who are still on death row. And you yourself, you were governor of Texas between '83 and '87, you oversaw 19 executions. Do you regret any of them, knowing now we are very fallible?

WHITE: Well, that's the reason, also having been a lawyer, I realize the fragility of our system, and we went over each execution in great detail as to the quality of the lawyers that were representing the defendant, the manner in which the investigation proceeded, the appeals, the process, was this individual given access to all of his constitutional protections?

And to the extent that you can humanly discover those answers to those questions, I was satisfied each of our people executed when I was governor were given constitutional privileges, and they were able to exert those privileges. But today in this intervening period -- pardon me.

BANFIELD: No. Go ahead, please finish.

WHITE: No. In the intervening period we've seen changes in the science. The DNA testing for evidence is something that wasn't available then; it is now. We know that it proves people who have been wrongfully convicted to be released from prison.

But what we don't think about many times is, when you have someone who is innocent that's in prison, it means the guilty have gone free.


WHITE: And that's why we should be looking for answers to guilt and innocence throughout the process. It should never be finished. We cut back on procedures.

BANFIELD: That's a big part of the issue with the innocent because there are innocent locked up, there are guilty who go free, and you don't get a mulligan when you kill someone; you don't get a do-over.

A 26-year sentence for someone who's innocent is reversible. Paul Callan, you and I have debated this. Why not just do what the governor and the rest of the commission are recommending, and that is, have a look at post-DNA conviction analysis?

We stop people from getting a look and a redo on their DNA testing in their trials. We make it difficult. These labs are backed up and shoddy and they have idiots, some of them, who are doing this testing that are convicting people, putting them on death row. We don't even videotape all of our interrogation.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have to agree with most everything the governor has talked about.

This is such a remarkable turnabout for Governor White. He ran a commercial when he ran against Ann Richards for governor of Texas in which he walked down the hallway next to portraits of all the men he had put to death during his governorship.

And now to turn and be a part of this report, I think is a remarkable act on his part. I think I agree with the recommendations. The most important one, I think, if we have a death penalty, let's make sure the drug we use works and is humanely administered.

BANFIELD: Getting harder and harder to do --

CALLAN: That's a brave thing for them to recommend, because many on the panel are opposed to the death penalty, although some support it.

BANFIELD: I have to wrap it up there, but this conversation's not over.

Governor, thank you so much for being part of the program. Will you come back and have a lengthier conversation with us?

WHITE: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: Governor Mark White, excellent to speak with you, thank you for your hard work and your co-panelists as well.

And as always, Paul Callan, you and I are never finished, never finished. Nothing to do about morals, all about procedure.

We are back right after this. Thank you.


BANFIELD: We are flat out of time, so like Calgon, I'm going to ask Wolf to take me away. Thanks for joining us, everyone.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now the Veterans Administration orders a review of all of its medical facilities after CNN's reporting on deadly delays sparks outrage.

Also right now, it's been two months since Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared. Today the families are still demanding answers.