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Charles Barkley on Race, Cops and Ferguson; Brown's Stepfather Sorry for Outburst; Stepfather Unlikely to Be Charged; Ben Carson Discusses Race and Ferguson; 2016 GOP Race
Aired December 3, 2014 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER PLAYER, NBA: The notion that white cops are out there just killing black people, that's ridiculous. That's flat- out ridiculous.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- with our Brooke Baldwin on racial profiling, what he thinks of police officers and what he thinks of the situation in Ferguson. Stand by for that.
And he's controversial. He's also very popular. He's right near the top of the list for the 2016 potential Republican candidates for president.
Dr. Ben Carson is here with me this hour. We have lots of questions for him from Ferguson to immigration to President Obama, a whole lot more. We're going to get his take.
Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, it's noon in Ferguson, Missouri, 6:00 p.m. in London, 8:00 p.m. in Gaza, Turkey, 9:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's begin with the tensions in Ferguson, Missouri and an apology from the stepfather of Michael Brown. Louis Head now says he's sorry for his outburst after learning that the police officer, Darren Wilson, would not be indicted for killing Michael Brown. The Ferguson police chief says authorities are investigating whether Head intended to start a riot when he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOUIS HEAD: Burn this bitch down! Burn this bitch down! Burn this bitch down! (INAUDIBLE.)
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BLITZER: In a statement obtained exclusively by our Don Lemon, Head blamed the outburst on raw emotions. But he said it's wrong to blame him for the looting and the arson that erupted. Head also said this, and I'm quoting, "I screamed out words that I shouldn't have screamed in the heat of the moment. It was wrong and I humbly apologize to all of those who read my pain and anger as a true desire for what I want for our community. But to place blame solely on me for the conditions of our community and country after the grand jury decision is as wrong, is as wrong as the decision itself." That quote from Louis Head.
Let's bring in our Justice Reporter Evan Perez. He's been doing some serious reporting on what's going on. You're hearing now that it's unlikely that he will formally be charged with inciting that riot?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Wolf. You know, there's a couple of problems with this. Obviously -- you know, this -- obviously as he described, you know, there was a lot of emotion that he was speaking with, very difficult for you to make a case that he intended to cause the riots.
And, secondly, I think there's going to be some prosecutorial discretion here. Do people who down there who were trying to calm things down really want to start something new by bringing charges against this individual? And it doesn't look like they want to at all. I'm told that this is not going to go anywhere.
BLITZER: Not going to go anywhere. But the police chief in Ferguson himself, he raised this possibility of an investigation and he's coming under some criticism for even suggesting that, right?
PEREZ: Well, yes, I mean, you talk to officials down there and they'd just really like him to stop because, you know, this is not the first time that he's made comments that are seen as inflammatory towards the public down there. You know, the -- he mentioned that, you know, Darren Wilson wasn't charged by the grand jury, that he could return to the police force which was never really part of the plan. Folks down there would really like to calm things down and this is not really helping that situation.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Evan Perez reporting for us.
The former NBA star, Charles Barkley, stirring up a bit of a controversy with his latest comments about the shooting in Ferguson and the aftermath. Barkley is a basketball analyst for Turner Sports. He's certainly never one to shy away from explosive issues. Listen to what he told our own Brooke Baldwin.
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CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER PLAYER, NBA: The notion that white cops are out there just killing black people, that's ridiculous. It's just flat out ridiculous. And I challenge any black person to try to make that point. This notion that cops -- the cops are actually awesome. You know, they're the only thing in the ghetto from -- between this place being the wild, wild west. So, this notion that cops are out there just killing black men, that's ridiculous. And I hate that narrative coming out of that -- out of this entire situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Charles Barkley also says Americans never discuss race until something like the Ferguson shooting happens. And then he says the discussion reflects what he calls a tribe mentality, everyone protecting their own group, whether they're right or wrong.
Let's get some perspective on all of this, on Charles Barkley's comments, the racial tensions in Ferguson, from someone who's generating a huge amount of political buzz right here in the United States. Dr. Ben Carson is a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon. He's a conservative activist, a possible, repeat possible, 2016 presidential candidate. Dr. Carson is joining us now from Philadelphia. Thanks very much for joining us, Dr. Carson.
DR. BEN CARSON: My pleasure. Nice to be with you.
BLITZER: So, what's your reaction to Charles Barkley's comments saying it's ridiculous to say white police officers are killing blacks?
CARSON: Well, I think it's true that the police are our friends. And I challenge people all the time, imagine living for 24 hours with no police. People would be walking into your house saying, hey, I think I like that television, I'm taking that. I mean, it would be total chaos. So, the police are our friends. Are they perfect in all cases? Of course not. No one is perfect in all cases. Doctors are not perfect in all cases. And what we need to do is tone down the rhetoric a little bit.
And I would love to see, you know, some real dialogue between the police and community leaders so that questions could be asked and those -- the answers could be disseminated in a public form so that people begin to understand, why do the police do what they do? A lot of times, just a little clarification can make a big difference.
By the same token, I think it's very -- it's important for the police to also understand why people have raw feelings. You know, a lot of times it's perception. But still, they need to know that. Both -- information makes a big difference. And when people stop talking, that's when things break down. It's just like in a marriage. When people stop talking, that's when a divorce ensues.
BLITZER: It sounds like you, basically, agree with Charles Barkley, right?
CARSON: Well, I think he has some very valid points, absolutely. I probably wouldn't have expressed them quite so vehemently. But I think he has very good points.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Louis Head, the stepfather of Michael Brown. He's now apologized. He delivered a statement to our own Don Lemon suggesting people -- you know, he was just overly emotional. He didn't mean to instigate any violence or anything. Do you believe police should still investigate him or are you over that part of the story now?
CARSON: Well, I believe that we have a particularly good legal and judicial system and I think it works. And I think the people who have all the facts and who have the knowledge to -- and experience in dealing with these kinds of things will do the right thing. They will take into consideration all the factors. And I'm pretty certain that they will do the right thing. And we have to, at some point, get to a point where we actually trust the system or we're just going to have chaos all the time.
BLITZER: Was justice served in the Michael Brown death?
CARSON: I guess it depends on how you're looking at it. Obviously, we never like to see death. You know, as a pediatric neurosurgeon, I saw a lot of death, particularly in young people, prematurely, and know what havoc it wreaked upon those families. So, no, we don't ever like to see that happen. But we also have to understand that people have to take responsibility for some of their own actions.
And we need to use our brains a little bit here. We say that, you know, Michael Brown was killed because he was black. Ask yourself if that police officer had been attacked by a white person of similar stature who, you know, had exchanged blows with him, tried to take his gun and then, you know, was charging at him. Would he have said, well, this is a white guy, so I'll just let him do whatever he wants? Somehow, I have difficulty believing that that's the case. And we need to try to be a little more objective. Of course it's a horrible tragedy. Of course we don't want to see that happen.
And where we really need to focus our attention is how do we prevent these kinds of things from happening? Are there things that the police can do? Are there messages that can be gotten across to these young men in these communities about how to interact with authority? Maybe we should be paying more attention to that so that we don't have these kinds of incidents occurring.
BLITZER: What do you think about the role that President Obama has been playing since the Ferguson crisis erupted? How's he handled this as the president of the United States?
CARSON: Well, you know, the president has to uphold the rule of law. And I think he has tried to do that, you know, certainly since the verdict came out. I probably -- had I been him, would not have gotten involved in the first place. We have to allow our system to work without biasing things. And we really should never take sides in these issues while the legal process is in the process of playing out.
BLITZER: You've suggested that the president has made race relations in America worse over his past -- the past six years. I want you to briefly explain why you would say that.
CARSON: I said that race relationships have gotten worse during his time. I don't blame it all on him. But I do think that there is a problem when you weigh in on situations like what happened with Dr. Henry Louis Gates and saying that the police acted badly. Why not let that system play itself out and let the -- let the system take care of that rather than weighing in and creating prejudice in an effort like that? The same thing with the Trayvon Martin thing. You really must, particularly as the commander in chief, be level headed and even handed and always upholding the rule of law. Once we lose the rule of law and chaos ensues, you know, that is not going to be the kind of country that any of us wants to live in. And the president is the chief law enforcement officer.
BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break and continue the conversation, Dr. Carson. But very quickly, I know you have three sons. Have you had a personal conversation with them over the years about walking around on the street, what do you do if a police officer, a white police officer, for example, stops you? Have you had that conversation with your sons as well?
CARSON: Absolutely. You would be very irresponsible not to have that conversation no matter what color you are but particularly, you know, as an African-American. I began telling them, at a very young age, how to respond to authority, not just police officers but to teachers, to anyone who is in a -- in a position of authority. If you have a gripe, there are legitimate mechanisms for taking care of that without inflaming the situation and perhaps doing something that's detrimental to yourself.
Dr. Carson, we have a lot more to discuss. Stand by. I also want to ask you if you want to be president of the United States. You're doing really well in our brand-new CNN ORC Poll among likely or possible Republican presidential candidates. Stand by for that. Much more with Dr. Ben Carson coming up.
Also, we have a lot more from Charles Barkley on race relations, the fallout from Ferguson. We're going to hear his take on racial profiling and the police. Stay with us.
BLITZER: There are two very recognizable names right at the top of the new CNN/ORC poll on 2016 potential Republican presidential candidates, Romney and Bush. But also on the list is Dr. Ben Carson. He's actually in second place in the new CNN poll, right behind 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, and ahead of the third member of the Bush political dynasty, the former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. Dr. Carson is back with me right now.
I want to talk politics in a moment. But, first, I want to quickly get your reaction - the other day I interviewed Cornell William Brooks. He's the president and CEO of the NAACP. And he had some strong words when I asked him to react to some of the comments you've been making on Ferguson, on President Obama. He said this, Dr. Carson. Listen to what Cornell Brooks said.
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CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: I believe Dr. Carson, with all due respect, should stick to the operating room rather than the campaign trail. These are the facts. We have a criminal justice system that over incarcerates and under educates, broadly speaking. The facts are, African-American males are over incarcerated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, you want to react to Cornell Brooks? BEN CARSON, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE: Well, I always
find it interesting that people think that doctors only know medicine. And I'd like to point out the fact that there were five doctors who signed the Declaration of Independence, three who signed the Constitution, signed the Bill of Rights, have been involved in lots of things. Believe it or not, doctors actually have brains, too, and actually can think about things and can opine on things and have been trained to make decisions based on evidence as opposed to ideology. So I am very happy that we all have the ability to express our opinions.
BLITZER: Do you want to be president of the United States?
CARSON: Well, I'm not sure that anybody wants to put themselves into that kind of horrible stressful situation. It certainly has not been a goal of mine. However, I do recognize that the direction of our country is not a good one. And I think millions of Americans resonate with that. And many of those Americans have been indicating that they want me to do it. So whether I want to do it or not, I do feel an obligation to at least very seriously consider the possibility.
BLITZER: When will you decide?
CARSON: Certainly before the first of May I will have made a decision.
BLITZER: But you're organizing already. You've got a staff. You've got volunteers. You've got people in Iowa, elsewhere. They're already working on your behalf, right?
CARSON: There's no question that we are putting together an infrastructure. But, you know, that's a by-product of who I am. I believe in always being prepared. So if you do make that decision, you don't start out behind the eight ball.
BLITZER: All right, so at least you're thinking about running for president. So I've got to get you to clarify a couple of very controversial comments you made. You and I have known each other for a long time. We're both Johns Hopkins University alumni, if you will. So it was pretty stunning to me when you said this, the comparison, it's been widely reported, about the United States and Nazi Germany. I'm going to play the clip and then I want you to explain, Dr. Carson, what you meant.
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CARSON: Very much like Nazi Germany. And I know you're not supposed to say Nazi Germany, but I don't care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe. And it's because of the p.c. police. It's because of politicians. It's because of news. It's all of these things are combing to stifle people's conversation.
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BLITZER: All right, so you've got to explain that, because when I heard the comparison of the United States of America, the greatest country in the world, the greatest country ever, to Nazi Germany, I said, what is he talking about?
CARSON: Well, see, what you were doing is allowing words to affect you more than listening to what was actually being said.
BLITZER: All right, so please explain that.
CARSON: And that's part of the problem - that's part of the problem.
BLITZER: Because you I greatly - I greatly admire you and what you've done over the years, but to make the comparison of the United States and Nazi Germany, that just struck an awful tone.
CARSON: Well, Nazi Germany experienced something horrible. The people in Nazi Germany largely did not believe in what Hitler was doing. But did they say anything? Of course. They kept their mouths shut. And there are some very important lessons to be learned there. The fact that our government is using instruments of government like the IRS to punish its opponents, this is not the kind of thing that, as far as I'm concerned, is a Democrat or a Republican issue. This is an American issue. This is something that threatens all of our liberty, all of our freedom.
And the very -- you can go out on the street and just talk to people and you will see that a lot of people do not feel free to express themselves. And, in fact, this is America, a place where people came to from other parts of the world to escape from governments that told them what they could say and what they couldn't say, where they could live, you know, all these kinds of things. This is a country that is supposed to be for of and by the people. The government is supposed to conform to the will of the people, not the people to the will of the government. We have to change that. We have to change it very soon.
BLITZER: I understand all of that and there's obviously no problem criticizing the United States government saying all that stuff. But to make the comparison, Dr. Carson, to Nazi Germany, the slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazis, the devastation that erupted in Europe and around the world, to the United States of America, I want you to reflect on what that potentially means.
CARSON: Well, again, you are just focusing on the words Nazi Germany and completely missing the point of what is being said. And that's the problem right now. That's what p.c.-ism is all about. You may not say this word, regardless of what your point is, because if you say that word, you know, I go into a tizzy. We can do better than that.
You know, when I was a child and when you were a child, they used to say sticks and stones break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Whatever happened to that? We need to get to the point where we can look beyond the word and look for the meaning and understand that, in fact, our country is changing, that, in fact, there are people here who feel threatened. Yes, there are people who are intimidated by what's going on. This has never been the intention for America. And unless we're willing to face it, we're not going to conquer it.
BLITZER: All right, so I just - I'm going to move on. We have more questions for you, Dr. Carson. But you don't want to revise or amend, take back the Nazi Germany comment?
CARSON: Absolutely not.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Dr. Carson, we have much more to discuss, including some other controversial comments you have made. Dr. Ben Carson, a possible Republican presidential candidate is with us. More questions for him coming up.
BLITZER: We're back with Dr. Ben Carson, the famed Johns Hopkins University pediatric neurosurgeon who's now thinking, he told us a little while ago, he's actually thinking of running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Dr. Carson, once again, thanks very much for joining us. Since you're thinking about running for president of the United States, you need to explain another controversial comment you made back in October of last year, the analogy between Obamacare and slavery. Listen to this.
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CARSON: I have to tell you, you know, Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way -- it is slavery in a way because - because it is making all of us subservient.
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BLITZER: All right, so I know you don't like Obamacare. A lot of people don't like Obamacare. But the worst thing that has happened in the United States since slavery? You need to explain that.
CARSON: OK. Well, thank you for the opportunity to explain that because, you know, I've seen, particularly in the left wing press, a lot of people who said that Carson equates Obamacare with slavery. I think perhaps those people need to go back to school and learn English. I said the first - the worst thing since slavery. That does not say that it is the same as slavery.
Slavery was a horrible thing and affected many people in horrible ways. Some of those effects still present today. So, no, it is not the same as slavery. However, what needs to be understood here is that the way this country was set up, the people -- we the people were set up at the pinnacle of power in this nation. The government is supposed to conform to our will. By taking the most important thing you have, your health and your health care, and turning that over to the government, you fundamentally shift the power, a huge chunk of it, from the people to the government. This is not the direction that we want to go in this nation.
Do I want good health care for everybody? Absolutely. Do we have the ability to give it to everybody? Absolutely. I've made many suggestions on how that should be done. Saveourhealthcare.org. And there will be many more coming out. But I want the kind of health care system that is truly affordable. You know, that's not jacking up people's rates to the point where they can't afford it, and that is causing people to lose 40 hour a week work jobs and go to 30 or 29 hour a week jobs. I want a system where everybody is equal, not a two- tier system where physicians save a number of slots for people in one tier versus the other tier because they have to make ends meet. That is not America as far as I'm concerned and we can do so much better than that.
BLITZER: Because you're very precise with your words, I know you, you say that Obamacare is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. Worse than the Great Depression of the 1920s? Worse than the Vietnam War? Worse than 9/11?
CARSON: Well, Wolf, I think it's non-productive to get into is it worse than this and worse than that, or maybe it's better than this and better than that.