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Number of Fires Break out in Southern California; Mine Accident in Turkey Kills Hundreds; Donald Sterling Gives Apology Interview; Analyzing Sterling's Remarks on Racism; Wildfires Raging in California; Hearings Today on VA Hospitals

Aired May 15, 2014 - 07:00   ET

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


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's start right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've had nine confirmed fires.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is extreme. This has gone from dry conditions to horrible conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lifeless bodies are being brought out one by one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This woman screams "Let this mine take my life, too!"

DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: What am I, a Frankenstein, an ogre? One day they all love you and the next day they hate you?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: The community must act. This is a crime against humanity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Thursday, May 15th. It's 7:00 now in the east. And breaking overnight, fire crews in southern California are stretched to their limits and hoping for calmer conditions this morning as they battle nine different wildfires that have scorched more than,000 acres. But here's the bad news. Sweltering near 100-degree temperatures may make it tough to get the upper hand today. Overnight, hundreds of new mandatory evacuations were ordered in San Marcos, firefighters are trying to save hillside homes from the stubborn and fast-moving lines of burn. That's where our Akiko Fujita is now. Akiko, what's the latest?

AKIKO FUJITA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, you see the scene behind me. This is what a lot of residents here in San Diego County are waking up to this morning. The two homes back here among more than a dozen structures destroyed by these flames. Just take a look at the damage here. You can see the structure, a total loss. It's still smoldering. More than 20,000 residents told to evacuate here in the city of Carlsbad alone.

But the big concern right now, as you mentioned, is to the east of us in the city of San Marcos where an additional 600 homes were forced to evacuate overnight. This is an area that has seen its share of wildfires. Officials out here say they have never seen so many pop-up so quickly so early in the fire season. Conditions are so bad one official here says he hasn't seen anything like this in 20 years.

Now, fire crews have been working around the clock trying to gain the upper hand. They are gaining the upper hand at least here in the city of Carlsbad. The fire, 50 percent contained here. And they will be back at it again today, firefighters fighting this blaze with an army of firefighters on the ground. More than 20 aircraft, including a DC10 plane mounted with tanks that can hold up to 50 tons of water.

They are not expected to get cooperation from the weather today because temperatures are expected to soar near 100 degrees yet again. Schools throughout San Diego County have been closed for the day. And while crews out here have been trying to gain the upper hand on the blaze there's been a lot of speculation about how all of these flames started. Seven fires in one day. One official out here says, "I'm sure this could be chance but there is just too much coincidence here." Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Akiko, great question. First, though, get a handle on those flames. Thanks for that update. Let's continue, find out more on this fire. Let's bring in Ken Pimlott. He's the director of California's department of forestry and fire protection. He's joining us now. Thank you for joining us this morning.

KEN PIMLOTT, DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY AND FIRE PROTECTION: You're welcome. Good morning.

BOLDUAN: Just an update from the ground from our reporter, nine confirmed fires, really amazing. She said she spoke with one official who said they haven't seen anything like this in 20 years so bad, so early. From your perspective, because you've got the landscape of things, is this getting better or getting worse this morning?

PIMLOTT: I wouldn't say it's getting worse this morning. Obviously Firefighters have been working all night making progress on a number of the nine fires. But the fire you're looking at there is probably our most actively burning fire as well as the fire on the Camp Pendleton, the tomahawk fire.

BOLDUAN: Now put it in perspective for those who maybe aren't familiar with southern California wildfires. How bad is this? It is very early for it to be peaking like this.

PIMLOTT: I think the common theme statewide this year is unprecedented number of fires and fire activity across the state, in many cases, two to three months earlier than normal.

BOLDUAN: That does make you wonder if it's this bad this early, what do you think this means for the traditional kind of peak of fires of wildfire season that is supposed to be happening in the fall?

PIMLOTT: It certainly means that by the time we get to July and August, vegetation will continue to be critically dry. We'll have the long warm, hot days. The potential for large and damaging fires will be at their peak. And again, we had not seen conditions like this statewide since anyone can really remember, certainly in my 30 years in the fire service. To see this level of fire activity this early and the dry conditions statewide, it's really unprecedented.

BOLDUAN: Our correspondent on the ground raised an important question. It sure seems like seven fires started in one day, that seems like a lot of coincidence. Any suggestion so far of how all of these fires started?

PIMLOTT: Well, any time we have wind events like we've seen here in the last several days, there are numerous potential for downed power lines, you know, 95 percent of fires are started by people and that can be, you know, pulling a car off into dry brush. It could be anything. We're going to of course be actively investigating all of these fires to determine what the causes are.

But understand yesterday alone we had over 30 fires around the state, many of which we put out at that initial attack phase. So we're getting a lot of fires, most of which are being put out.

BOLDUAN: Which just shows what those firefighters that are on the front lines, what they are up against and they will be again this morning. Ken Pimlott, thanks so much for the time. Good luck in controlling those blazes. Chris?

PIMLOTT: Thank you.

CUOMO: Kate, hate to say it but hope is fading in the search for survivors after a deadly mine explosion in Turkey. More than 300 are confirmed dead and about 100 are still trapped under ground in deadly conditions. As word above ground that this mine was seen as a safety risk spreads, so does the anger. Families want answers from Turkey's government, and they deserve them. Diana Magnay is live with the latest from Soma, Turkey. Diana?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. Well, that's right. This counts now as Turkey's worst industrial accident. The death toll now at 282, expected to rise this much more now, a recovery effort than it is a rescue effort. I'll duck out of the way.

The president of this country is visiting right now, talking to the rescue workers down there. If we pan over a bit to the left you can see one of the entrances to the mineshaft where there is still smoke billowing out from the fire that is raging below. And you've got to hope that the president says rather more sensitive things than his prime minister did yesterday. The prime minister coming here and saying that really accidents like this are par for the course in the mining industry. That's very shocking photograph that we can show you now, Chris, which seems to show a member -- which does, show, in fact, a member of his entourage, the prime minister's entourage kicking a protester in the town of Soma, a protester who had come out to complain, to show his anger at the safety record here and at the fact that this accident could have happened.

And that really provides you can some kind of an indication of how the prime minister and his political behavior has polarized this nation one year since anti-government protests began in Istanbul and even today protesters came out on the streets to show their anger about this terrible tragedy, and police responding with water cannons, very, very heavy-handed approach. And it cannot but have political fallout even in the midst of this national tragedy.

CUOMO: All right, Diana, thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting from there. We'll stay on top of it, to be sure.

A lot of other news this morning as well. Let's get right to Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Chris, thank you so much. Here's a look at your headlines. Ukraine peace talks held without participation from separatists are expected to resume over the next few days. Wednesday's two-and-a-half hour session ended without any solutions. Meanwhile, the first ballots for Ukraine's May 25th election are being printed. But even if they're sent east, the big unknown is whether people there could actually use them to vote.

Breaking overnight, the captain of the South Korean ferry and three of his officers are now facing murder charges weeks after that ferry collapsed and sank, leaving nearly 300 people dead. Prosecutors stay crew fled the ship without helping passengers get to safety. Many of those passengers were high school students. If convicted the captain and officers could face the death penalty.

A big win for Jason Patric that could affect the rights of in-vitro fathers. A California appeals court ruled that Patric has the right to see his son because he had a long-term relationship with the boy's mother. Patric's ex-girlfriend used his sperm to get pregnant but then cut off contact between Patric and the child, but the judge ruled the law is intended to only stop donors with no connection to the mothers. So a victory for Jason there. We've been watching that story here on NEW DAY. You brought it to us.

CUOMO: I've got to tell you, we're going have Jason coming on the show later this morning. It's a big moment for him, personally, of course, but also legally. We'll just remind everybody --

BOLDUAN: Not just about him.

CUOMO: There is a kid involved and how ugly the situations can get and how the law can work against you. It's a terrible story.

BOLDUAN: More on that a little later in the show. Coming up next on NEW DAY, Donald Sterling looking for redemption with the NBA, saying he will not walk away. In fact, he says he should get a second chance. More of CNN's exclusive interview with the disgraced Clippers owner.

CUOMO: Coming up on INSIDE POLITICS, Bill Clinton standing up for his wife after Karl Rove started those rumors about Hillary's health. But is what the president doing helpful? We're going to show you what he had to say.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Donald Sterling, no, you have not heard it all yet. He actually added a new layer to the scanned. The disgraced Clippers owner acknowledges the NBA won't stand for racism but insists that isn't him. In fact Sterling says he's a giver, not a hater. He's hoping his fellow owners and anyone offended by his racist comments will forgive him and give him a second chance. Sterling also sounds off on the subject of racism in general. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think that is a problem in America, racism, and do you think it's --

DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: I don't think so. I don't think it's any -- I think it's better than any other place in the world.

COOPER: You don't see it as a big problem here?

STERLING: I don't see it. I'm not, you know, an African-American. You know, take Judaism. I don't think the Jews have any problem. There are a couple of people they killed that are Jews coming out of synagogue, remember.

COOPER: Of course.

STERLING: But in general, I think in America handles everything well. Do you think there's a lot of prejudice here?

COOPER: I think there's -- yes, I think there's prejudice everywhere. But I do think there's different forms. There's institutional forms of prejudice and there's stuff that -- biases that people have in their hearts.

STERLING: I don't know. In the legal profession, a guy comes in and he's a lawyer, I respect him if he's done it and worked hard, and I wouldn't think he was any different than a white lawyer.

I don't think -- I think America has worked well with that, maybe not as well as the African-Americans would like. But, you know, I'm a Jew. I watch what's going on with us, too. I think it's better than it's ever been.

I like to help minorities. That's why I contribute $7 million to the children's hospital for minorities. I've only paid a million down, but I owe the balance. And united -- you know, the united college, United Negro College fund, I've been supporting them for 15 years. The NCAAP, I've been supporting them every year. I support minorities. I'm so lucky. I mean, I'm so lucky. And so, I want to give. That is what my life is all about.

COOPER: It's not the first time you've been accused of that, though. As you know, Elgin Baylor accused you of that very same thing in a lawsuit in 2009. STERLING: But Elgin Baylor sued the league, the NBA. He said they created that, too. And then Elgin Baylor, when he lost against the NBA, then he sued me. Let's get it straight.

COOPER: But he did sue you saying that --

STERLING: After he sued the league and lost, and then he sued me and lost. I never said that.

COOPER: He said that you wanted all black players and a southern white coach.

STERLING: Elgin Baylor said that I never said anything racial to him.

COOPER: That's correct.

STERLING: OK.

COOPER: You he did say that, but he also --

STERLING: I loved the man. I respected the man. He worked for me for 23 years. Why didn't he say something in 23 years if he wasn't happy?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You've got to give it to Sterling. He did it a good job of beating back Anderson on the allegations about Elgin Baylor's suit. But what do these comments mean about how the league will perceive them?

Let's bring in Greg Anthony, Turner Sports analyst and CNN political commentator and Ms. Sunny Hostin, CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor.

At points, Sunny, you, uncharacteristically, seemed sympathetic to a man who was saying unsympathetic things, because?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think that he truly believes that he isn't racist. He's 80 years old. I think that he has lived in this sort of bubble of privilege. He's perhaps stuck in a time warp. And I think that he hasn't moved with the -- with society's pendulum as to what is acceptable now. And so I do have a sense of -- I sort of feel sorry for him. He just seems so out of touch to me.

CUOMO: He does touch on something that is worthy of discussion, I think, here. Greg Anthony, the idea of someone who believes, because of what they do, that that means that's who they are. So if I give a lot of money to an inner city youth program it doesn't matter what I say about blacks. That's not unique to Donald Sterling, is it?

GREG ANTHONY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's not. And what's unfortunate in all of this for me is simply that I think we're somewhat losing perspective on what's the real issue here. You know, it doesn't mean that Donald Sterling hasn't been a giving person and hasn't done some things that he or his family can be proud of.

What it means is that the conduct that we were all witness to in the audio tape is considered reprehensible and unacceptable and intolerable in today's society, in America today. And the fact that after that, in his mind, he still doesn't really believe that he's done anything wrong.

And that's what's unfortunate, and it's also not representative of what our league is all about, and what we are working extremely hard to try to project, not just in America but to the rest of the world.

We have an international league. We have a global game. We have players from all different ethnicities and -- and from around the world. And we're about inclusion. And those comments are anything but. And so you can walk it back. It's no different than someone who's been accused of a heinous crime. Oftentimes, they're always going to say they're not guilty and --

HOSTIN: And that they're good people. They say that they're good people.

ANTHONY: -- you know, but -- but we have it on audio tape. And the comments he made, those were deep. Those were thoughts that -- and beliefs that he has shown he's had his entire life. I mean, that was to me what was so profound in what he said.

CUOMO: I hear you on that.

ANTHONY: It wasn't just some off the cuff comment that he made.

CUOMO: I hear you on that. There's now an additional layer that's worth discussion also in terms of how we judge his character.

Sunny, Maserati, not just 15 cars that he may have in a garage somewhere, but this person comes forward and says, "I'm the one who taped the conversation with Sterling, and then I released it."

Sterling said the only person I talked to was Magic Johnson, almost suggesting that Magic would have been the one to leak it. If this is true, and Sterling must know that it's true that he spoke to this man, Maserati, or whatever his name is, what does that mean about what he was trying to do to Magic Johnson?

HOSTIN: See, I don't know that he knows that it's true. I -- I also think that there's something going on there. He just doesn't seem as clear headed.

But he does seem to have some strange vendetta against Magic Johnson. It doesn't really -- it didn't really make sense to me. I mean, is it coming from jealousy as he claims it is? Is it his real perspective that he thinks Magic Johnson is not a real person?

It's odd because we know Magic Johnson is not only an icon in the African-American community, he's an icon in the world for all of his philanthropic efforts, for his sportsmanship and for his good character. And so, I'm not sure where this animosity comes between -- from Donald Sterling/Magic Johnson. It's sort of another part of this really weird puzzle. It doesn't make any sense.

CUOMO: So now, the quick take on what happens next. I think Shelly Sterling is confusing the media more than she's going to confuse the league or any court of law in terms of whether she has ownership but I want --

HOSTIN: Oh, I disagree with you.

CUOMO: All right, so let's see. Because you guy have different takes on this. Maybe, maybe not. Sunny?

HOSTIN: I think she's on pretty firm legal footing. I mean, I've read, of course, the NBA constitution now. I think there are some missing legal documents. We don't know what the family trust looks like.

CUOMO: What would be the best case? Why would she get to stay?

HOSTIN: Well, she's 50 percent ownership and has 50 percent ownership, and I think Adam Silver, in his only misstep handling this so far, made it very clear that the comments were only attributable to Donald Sterling, and the punishment was only attributable to Donald Sterling. And so, I think that leaves a wide open path for Shelly sterling to say "I've done nothing wrong. Under the law I'm part ownership here."

CUOMO: I gotcha on that, but I think it assumes an ownership that doesn't exist for her.

Greg, my take would be -- and you can tell me if I'm wrong. He was the one approved by the league for the franchise, not her. She's never been approved. So it doesn't matter how he sliced up --

ANTHONY: Exactly.

CUOMO: -- his piece of the pie.

HOSTIN: Well, we haven't seen haven't seen the franchise agreement though.

CUOMO: But if he's the one that they approved --

ANTHONY: Well, I've -- but I've been privy -- I've been privy to those documents, and that is exactly the case.

HOSTIN: Oh, OK.

ANTHONY: And she was not approved for ownership.

HOSTIN: See, Greg, you've got insights, too.

ANTHONY: She was not approved -- no, no, it's not about -- it's just she was never approved for ownership. And that's what -- I think what we're confusing here is, even if you could prove that she has ownership stake in it, that doesn't -- basically she's entitled to the asset if they had to sell it, but that doesn't mean that she would be allowed to stay as owner.

He was the one approved. This is a franchise, much like a country club, so it doesn't necessarily work by the same rules that we would govern in other entities. So that's the reality of this case.

And at the end of the day, I don't think there's any scenario where you're going see Shelly Sterling as an owner of an NBA franchise. That's not going to happen. She may get the assets once the team is sold, she may get 50 percent of that, but that's yet to be determined. But I don't think there's any scenario where you're going to see her having ownership in the NBA.

HOSTIN: I think we may see Shelly Sterling -- I disagree with both of you. I think we're going to see Shelly Sterling perhaps take a passive ownership interest. I think it's going to be very difficult, absent some sort of legal intervention, to have her totally pushed out.

CUOMO: Bet you lunch.

HOSTIN: Oh, you got it.

CUOMO: Done.

HOSTIN: Done! Done, Greg.

ANTHONY: I want in on that lunch, too. I want in on that lunch.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: You're in.

HOSTIN: All right.

CUOMO: I'll need you if we lose. I've seen Sunny eat.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: Kate, over to you.

BOLDUAN: All right.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, the U.S. has already sent in surveillance planes to help in the search of hundreds of missing girls in Nigeria, but would U.S. special forces do more? Well, that, of course, is what John McCain says. Is it even an option, is another question. We're going to talk to a top former army general about it.

Also ahead on Inside Politics, standing up for Hillary. Bill Clinton's response after Karl Rove said that Hillary Clinton has suffered a traumatic brain injury, which needs to be looked into.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's take a look at your headlines now. Dry conditions in near 100 degree temperatures, fueling a series of wildfires pushing fire fighters to their limits in southern California. Thousands of homes, a university campus, a nuclear plant, a Lego theme park, even parts of Camp Pendleton have all been evacuated. The fire chief says nine wildfires have charred so far 9,200 acres.

Rescuers are making a last-ditch effort to find survivors from Tuesday's mine explosion in Turkey. Nearly 300 people are already confirmed dead. Another 100 are still trapped and are presumed dead (inaudible) smoke and carbon monoxide in the mine. Families are demanding a strong response from the Turkish government, which has been under fire for past mine disasters.

President Obama among those who will be on hand this morning to officially dedicate the 9/11 museum in New York. The museum is filled with remnants of the World Trade Center and objects from some of the nearly 3,000 people who died on that terrible day. It will be open all day for the next week, so families of the victims can visit. You're going to be heading down there.

CUOMO: I will. Kate has been there as well. It is different than museums usually are. This is, as Kate said very well, it's a real unvarnished look at what happened that day. So important that people do never forget.

BOLDUAN: Never forget, exactly, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. How about we never forget politics as well? We have Inside Politics on NEW DAY with Mr. John King. Some tasty topics for you today.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, Chris, and Michaela, good morning to you. I want to echo the point. I had a tour of the museum when it was under construction. Any American, anybody from around the world that's in New York, should go visit that, a reminder a that solemn day, a great piece of history. We'll watch the ceremonies there today.

Let's go inside politics. This morning, a lot to cover. With me this morning to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of the "Associated Press," Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times."

Let's start with what I'd call a potential tipping point day for the Obama administration and its Veterans Affairs Secretary. Eric Shinseki will be on Capitol Hill today testifying, and our Chris Frates has received his advance testimony, which doesn't say much.

The committee wants to know what is happening at V.A. hospitals around the country. At least two dozen veterans now have -- their deaths have been attributed to being put on waiting lists.

Julie Pace, Democrats are now getting worried like they were on health care. You're starting to hear, "we're not sure the administration is telling us everything. What else is there out there?" Republicans are saying, "Now that the administration has asked the deputy chief of staff at the White House to oversee what's happening at the Veterans Affair Department, don't they trust their people? Don't they know the information they're getting?" How big inside the White House do they view this?

JULIE PACE, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Well, it's becoming bigger and bigger. and I think that the decision by the president to send Rob Nabors, who's an unknown person to a lot of Americans, but is one of the president's closest advisors, a person who's really steeped in sort of management, making things work, is going over to the Veterans Affairs Department.

He's going to oversee this investigation, and it's the clearest sign that the White House doesn't trust this investigation that the V.A. has been running, needs to put a senior White House person in there, someone who has the ear of the president because these allegations are incredibly troubling, and they're becoming very worrisome for the White House and Democrats as a management issue.

KING: Worrisome about management, worrisome about competence, Jonathan, in an election year.