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THE SITUATION ROOM

California Wildfires; Donald Sterling Under Fire Again

Aired May 14, 2014 - 18:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. A fire disaster unfolding. Right knew thousands have been ordered to evacuate. Fast-moving flames are threatening homes and schools in southern California.

Plus, we have brand new portions of CNN's exclusive interview with Donald Sterling. Portions that have just been released. He's pouring even more fuel on the scandal surrounding him and the NBA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD STERLING, OWNER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: What am I, a Frankenstein? What am I, some kind of an ogre?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The L.A. Clippers' owner also speaking out about a powerful threat that players might organize a boycott if he refuses to sell his team.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

Let's get to the breaking news this hour, a desperate escape from racing flames. Several major fires are burning across Southern California in the San Diego County area fueled by hot, dry winds. More than 15,000 people are under orders to evacuate. A naval weapons station and amusement park, they are affected along with many homes and schools that are considered at high risk right now.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Carlsbad, California.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, let's take a look at what this wind-whipped blaze did in just one canyon.

You can look over here, as we're up on a ridge. There's an active flank of flame burning over there. The fire then swept east down through here. And look at all of this scorched earth. As we go ahead and move through here, this Carlsbad fire, which in the late afternoon, it caused 15,000 evacuations, came racing toward a development. And you can see through the haze and the smoke the houses in the background, but a stand was made here and with fingers crossed, these houses survived. But this is just one of at least four fires burning in very dry San Diego County, the conditions here windy, hot, almost no humidity, less than 10 percent, San Diego County firefighters really up against it today and doing some extremely tough work -- now back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Paul Vercammen, stay -- we will get back to you.

I want to bring in CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray for the very latest.

That drought is really awful.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's really awful, unprecedented. We have never seen California this dry before. So this wildfire season could be one of the worst in history.

Of course, wind gusts right now not helping things. They are backing off a little bit, but still seeing wind gusts about 17 in Burbank, Santa Ana, about 17, and Big Bear city, 28 mile-per-hour gusts. We had gusts 50 and 60 miles per hour, Wolf, in the foothills and in the mountains. Incredible. And we still have that fire danger from, say, Santa Barbara all the way down to the Mexico border.

We are going to continue to see that as we go through the evening. Should start to die down as we go through tomorrow and through the weekend. That's when the wind should start to die down and those temperatures should start to back off as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jennifer Gray, we will get back to you.

Joining us on the phone right now, Ken Pimlott. He's the director of the California Department of Fire Protection.

What's your analysis right now, Mr. Pimlott? How bad is it?

KEN PIMLOTT, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FIRE PROTECTION: Hi. Good afternoon, Wolf.

Well, obviously, it's everything that we said it would be this fire season and it's obviously very early. We're seeing conditions, you're showing them there on TV, the fires burning with intensity that we would normally see in August. And so it is fire season in California.

BLITZER: Is it under control? Or are they still expanding and getting even more dangerous?

PIMLOTT: Well, obviously, with the weather report you just gave and the conditions that we're seeing, we have the potential all afternoon for new fire starts.

We have seen -- you know, we probably have between five and six larger fires burning right as we speak. Obviously, we're aggressively fighting all of them. We're moving resources throughout Southern California to meet that need. And we're doing well at gaining the upper hand on many of them and obviously, others, we're continuing to put resources on them until we can get to full containment.

BLITZER: We have been reporting about 15,000 people already have been told to evacuate their homes. Is that number growing?

PIMLOTT: You know, it's not a static number, for sure, because as the fires -- as new fires break out, or as fires change direction, the county, San Diego County is leaning very far forward with its phone notification system to ensure that people in the path of the fire are given early warning through those reverse 911 systems.

And so it's at least to that many number of people. Again, that fluctuates throughout the day depending on where the fire threat is and, again, what new fires may emerge this afternoon.

BLITZER: Well, Ken, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone fighting these fires. Ken Pimlott is the director of California Department of Fire Protection. We will check back with you.

And we're going to stay on top of this story. Much more on the fires coming up.

But there's another major story we're following right now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including this. Donald Sterling, he's digging himself deeper and deeper into scandal, the disgraced owner of the L.A. Clippers making more outrageous statements in an exclusive interview with CNN, and in another secretive recording that's been revealed.

Anderson Cooper is standing by with new parts of his exclusive interview with Sterling that have just been released. We will get to him in a moment.

But, first, our national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, she is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with some more of Sterling's latest shocking statements.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, we have learned so much from Anderson's exclusive with Donald Sterling, his conversation with Magic Johnson.

But, today, there's new sound from a recorded telephone conversation purportedly between Sterling and a longtime friend of his, a hip-hop artist named Maserati. We do not -- we're not able to confirm the voices of either of those, but this allegedly takes place about four days after the scandal broke.

It provides a very interesting twist to this sad and tawdry story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): In a recorded conversation, purportedly with his hip-hop buddy Maserati, a man who sounds like Donald Sterling says it's his girlfriend, V. Stiviano who's racist.

STERLING: She said, God made me black. I didn't want to be black. I have got 15 brothers and sisters. They're all Mexican, and I'm the only one that's black. She said, do you know what it is to wake up every morning and wish you were white?

MALVEAUX: Sterling claims she went so far as to bleach her skin.

STERLING: And she tried so hard to make her skin white. And she does it every night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To make it white?

STERLING: Yes, her feet, her hands. Well, what do you think about my skin color? I really didn't think about it. Well, do you like black skin?

MALVEAUX: An attorney representing Stiviano responded, saying: "It's nonsense. She's extremely proud of her heritage and her background. Despite all that has happened, she still cares very deeply for Donald."

Sterling says repeatedly that his actions were motivated by sex.

STERLING: She's got a fabulous body.

MALVEAUX: Publicly, Sterling is playing it cool as the NBA prepares to take away his team, telling CNN's Anderson Cooper:

STERLING: I don't want to fight with my partners, you know?

We all what we have to do in life.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You...

(CROSSTALK)

STERLING: I love them and I respect them. And whatever their decision is with regard to the disposition of my terrible words, then I have to do it, I think.

MALVEAUX: But, privately, Sterling says his legal team is preparing to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court.

STERLING: They think that it's excessive, far excessive for what happened. For what? Even if he said he hates Jews or he hates Koreans, can you charge him that? Isn't that excessive? Can you take away his living? Can you take away his living, I ask you? For what? For trying to get a girl hot and trying to make it with her?

MALVEAUX: The players are now threatening to boycott next season. Vice president of the NBA Players Association Roger Mason says LeBron James will leave.

ROGER MASON, NBA PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: He ain't playing if Sterling is still an owner.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: In his recording, Sterling repeatedly says he has done nothing wrong, calls the NBA ban cruel and unusual punishment and says he refuses to pay the $2.5 million fine. And he also says that he's paying a very high price for trying to -- this is in his words -- get a girl hot and make it with her.

So, you can see, Wolf, this is a very -- a real disconnect here with the way he is viewing the situation and his motives and how this is playing out.

BLITZER: Total disconnect. I can think of other words as well. All right. I want you to stand by, Suzanne.

Sterling is now reacting to the threat of a boycott by NBA players.

I want to bring in Anderson Cooper into this. Anderson, you had the exclusive interview with him. We know more that is about to be released on your program later tonight. Is he really serious about this effort to try to fight the NBA to try to hold on to his team?

Because he's going to lose that fight.

COOPER: Well, you know, it's interesting. First of all, Roger Mason, we just heard him saying that on a Showtime program about LeBron boycotting. He has now backed away from that statement about specifically LeBron saying that he would boycott. He does say all the players are united in wanting the Sterlings out.

Donald Sterling, though, in his conversation to me, though, while he on the one hand says whatever the owners want, I care, I love the owner, whatever they decide to do, I'm going to have to live with that, in the very next sentence, he will say, you know, he does have options to fight it. He hasn't made up his mind whether or not to do it.

He's clearly waiting to see, waiting for the next shoe to drop, waiting for the owners to vote. And then he's going to have to decide what he wants to do. But he does really kind of look down on this idea that the players don't like him. He believes that the Los Angeles Clippers even, that he has repeatedly said to me that that team loves him, despite his comments, that they like him. I asked him why aren't they coming forward and backing them up?

He said, well, they're under pressure because he blames it really on the media. But he seems to kind of pooh-pooh the idea that sponsors won't support the team if he's the owner, that players won't play. Here's some of what he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You believe you will be able to keep the team, though?

STERLING: Well...

COOPER: Because the advertisers certainly...

(CROSSTALK)

STERLING: The advertisers are all coming back. Let's not be crazy. The fans will all come if you have a good team. If you don't have a good team...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Even if you're owner?

STERLING: What am I, a Frankenstein? What am I, some kind of an ogre? I'm a good person. I'm a warm person. I say hello to everybody who comes on to the team.

COOPER: There's some players, though, who have talked about a boycott of the season.

STERLING: Well, that's talk. The media pushes that. Why would they do that? If they get their salaries, they're going to play.

I mean, one day they all love you and the next day you make a mistake and say something and suddenly they hate you? Is that the way it is? What if a player said, I don't like working for that Jew? What would we do? I wouldn't do anything. I would ask him, why? Why? I want to make you happy. If you want more money, you know, what, more attention, more love?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Anderson, I know you're going to have a lot more on this interview, excerpts that haven't aired yet later tonight on "A.C. 360." We will certainly be looking forward to that. I believe this man is living in another world.

Anderson Cooper, thanks very much for all the excellent work you're doing.

Still ahead, Don Lemon, L.Z. Granderson, Suzanne Malveaux also sticking around. We're going to have a lot more discussion of what we're hearing from Donald Sterling, his newest comments, the threat potentially of an NBA boycott.

Also, we're going to following the breaking news, the fire emergency in California. We're bringing you dramatic new pictures, new information directly as they come into THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're keeping close watch on multiple wildfires racing across Southern California, especially in San Diego County.

Officials say at least three homes have been destroyed, dozens or more have been damaged, including in the city of Carlsbad, where one blaze is very aggressive. About 15,000 people, we're told, have been ordered to evacuate. Flames are threatening many homes, some schools right now. The heat, the winds, the drought in California are unprecedented, we're told.

They're fueling the fires, making the situation even more dangerous.

Joining us on the phone is the Carlsbad fire chief, Mike Davis.

Chief, thanks very much.

What's the very latest? How's the situation in Carlsbad?

MIKE DAVIS, CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA, FIRE CHIEF: Well, Wolf, hey, I want to say thank you for all your thoughts and your send-out to everybody here on this side of the country. We very much appreciate it, and the opportunity to tell you that.

The forward progress of this fire, meaning that the bulk of it where it's chewing up the acreage, has been slowed or stopped. And that's the good news. We have about just in the city of Carlsbad 23,000 evacuation notices and most of those being mandatory, the others being advisory and suggested evacuations.

Now that we have the forward progress stopped, we should not have to evacuate any more citizens. Right now, we're looking at 15 damaged or destroyed homes and an acreage that is just over 100-acre fire. This is a very small acreage fire with a tremendous amount of loss. These fires in Southern California move extreme -- very fast.

They're what we would consider in the wildland firefighting arena to be very high-intensity wildland events, but short in duration. So the fire started at 10:30 this morning, and now we're looking at the forward progress being stopped, and firefighters will continue with really hard boots-on-the-ground work for -- working towards containment.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It's pretty early, pretty early, Chief, in the season for these kinds of fires to be developing at these levels, isn't it?

DAVIS: Wolf, I have been in the fire service 27 years, and I have never seen weather this early, what we would consider fire weather in Southern California. I just haven't seen it.

It's been a discussion point amongst all the chiefs of San Diego County, saying, man, this is just amazing that we're having these back-to-back Santa Ana wind events, and the dry fuels, of course, that you mentioned about the drought. It's just as if it was October here. And that's generally when we have these type of events.

BLITZER: And it looks like, given the drought and the forecast, this could just be the start. How worried are you, Chief, about that?

DAVIS: Extraordinarily. Yes. There's no question. All of us are -- we're on edge this morning. And when you -- you just say, you just hope it doesn't hit your city. You hope for everybody to do well. All the cities within the county of San Diego and Orange County, L.A. County, we help them, and they help us. But when you have the weather that we had over the last three days, you hope to dodge the bullet, so to speak, and it doesn't always happen.

BLITZER: Mike Davis is the Carlsbad fire chief.

Chief Davis, good luck over there. Give our best to everyone in the area. These are awful, awful scenes that we're showing our viewers.

We will stay on top of the breaking news. Much more coming up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to the Donald Sterling scandal right now, more of his outrageous remarks in that exclusive interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.

We're joined by our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, our CNN anchor Don Lemon, and CNN commentator L.Z. Granderson.

L.Z., what do you make of the assertion, we just heard him say it again to Anderson, that he thinks he's loved by the players, the L.A. Clippers, among others? Is he totally delusional?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely.

I'm going to that assume all he does is make phone calls that get recorded and leaked out later and he doesn't pay attention to like the newspapers or blog posts or anything that's happening in reality, because the truth of the matter is, is that the players are not happy. His coach is not happy. He's had previous executives in his franchise who weren't happy before.

And so I don't know where he's interpreting any of this behavior as love. It just doesn't make any sense.

BLITZER: Don, you heard that little excerpt, more of the interview coming up on "A.C. 360" later tonight. But when you hear him talking like this as if he's beloved, what goes through your mind?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, first of all, I can't believe that L.Z. said that it was leaked. He's insinuating that he set up this phone call.

I can't believe you would say that, L.Z.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: By the way, that is -- I am being facetious here.

GRANDERSON: Leaked.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER) LEMON: Yes.

When I hear -- I mean, it's just more of sort of the same. You know, Wolf, I keep saying the same thing. He keeps putting his foot in his mouth. No one believes him. No one believes, no matter how much he tries to apologize, which aren't really apologies, I just -- he -- yes, he's delusional if he in fact believes that.

But maybe somewhere in his mind or someone is telling him that, you know, if he goes out and he says that, that he has the opportunity to change public opinion. I don't see how that is going to happen. I think he is a lost cause and I think the Clippers are a lost cause when it comes to him owning them again.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right on that front.

Suzanne, he denies he's a racist. He accused Anderson Cooper of being a racist. Now he's talking about V. Stiviano, she is a racist. Everyone is a racist, except him.

MALVEAUX: But him, yes.

LEMON: Projection.

MALVEAUX: And we don't -- we don't know anything about V. Stiviano, really. We don't know what her thoughts are.

But it's important to at least address what he said. And it's very different. He's confusing two different things. He's saying that she's a racist and he's talking about suggesting that it's self- loathing or self-hate.

That is the byproduct of racism. That is not racism. There's a very big difference between stereotyping and discriminating against a whole group of people and maybe having some sort of identity issue or problem, you know, within yourself, and internalizing racism.

So that's a totally a false comparison that he makes. And we still -- we don't know for sure whether or not -- you know, you can take his word with a grain of salt what her real feelings are about who she is and how she identifies.

BLITZER: He says she bleaches her skin, L.Z. What do you make of that?

GRANDERSON: Well, you know, I agree with Suzanne. We don't really know much about her. He's actually accused her of a lot of things.

And just way that the telephone conversation seems to be happening, it just sounds as if it's someone who's purposely trying to trash his accusers and hoping to deter or turn away the detention being on him. It seems very calculative to me. But with that being said, we don't know about her; we don't know if she did pro bono work for the DA office, as he suggests she did. It just all sounds ludicrous and ridiculous.

LEMON: I think we need to -- I think we need to rename him Kodak, because he's projecting. He's the ultimate projector.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Because everyone else is what he is. So Anderson's a racist, V. Stiviano is a racist. Everyone is a racist but him. I'm going to rename Donald Kodak.

BLITZER: All right, guys, I want you to stand by. Don, I know you're going to be anchor our 10:00 p.m. Eastern hour later tonight. We will see you then.

But I want to get quickly back to the breaking news, those massive wildfires in Carlsbad, California.

Paul Vercammen is on the front lines.

Paul, what are you seeing right now? It looks awful.

VERCAMMEN: Well, Wolf, we're here on Aviara Parkway, a major road here in Carlsbad, California, where, again, they had to retrench and make another stand.

They put a lot of engines and even helicopters -- excuse me -- into this neighborhood, and just beyond in the smoke is another one of those vast canyons where you have this dry, dry, dry brush, translation, fuel for a fire.

It raced up toward this hill. As we said earlier, there have been 15,000 people evacuated, Legoland and schools here in Carlsbad. And right now, they're trying to hit this fire on the southern flank with everything they have.

It's so smoky. We're trying to pick out this helicopter above us. Go ahead. You can see if we can see it. It's critical to this firefight right now, because it's going to a nearby lagoon. And it's actually dropping some murky, brackish, dirty water on the fire, so that's what's going on right now here in Carlsbad, California, one of four fires burning in San Diego County -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we will, of course, stay on top of the breaking news throughout the night here on CNN. Paul Vercammen, thanks.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.