Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes; Racist Chant; ISIS Falling Apart?; Protests Over Wisconsin Police Shooting
Aired March 9, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Falling apart? New signs ISIS may be crumbling from within, Deteriorating on the battlefield, facing growing defections. Are the terrorist forces on the verge of a major military defeat?
Racist chant -- shocking video of fraternity members at a major American university shouts slurs about African-Americans lynching just as the country marks 50 years since the march on Selma. Why is this still happening? I will ask the university president, David Boren.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Breaking now, massive protests another shooting of an unarmed teenager by a police officer. Hundreds of people fill the Wisconsin state capitol, chanting black lives matter and don't shoot, outraged at the death of 19-year-old Tony Robinson.
We are also following another fast-moving, racially-charged story. Those are members of a popular fraternity at the University of Oklahoma. The group now being disbanded and the young men possibly facing expulsion after this video emerged of their racist chant. I will talk to the university president, David Boren, this hour to find out what action is being taken.
Plus, ISIS and growing signs that the group may be crumbling from within, beaten down by relentless coalition airstrikes and now on the verge potentially of a major military defeat.
We're covering all those stories and more with our correspondents and our guests, including the White House deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes.
Let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, first of all, tell us about this new offensive involving the city of Tikrit in Iraq. Are gains being made against ISIS?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, everybody has been watching this with laser focus for the last several days. It looks now like gains are being made. Iraqi troops with a good deal of help from Iran and its Shia militias are on the outskirts of Tikrit now. There are areas that have been liberated. Pictures coming in of them taking down ISIS flags and vowing to move beyond the outer areas of Tikrit right into the city and get it back from ISIS to liberate it.
This will be a big marker if the Iraqis can succeed on this, because the theory is it will set them up to get some momentum going to go further north and maybe eventually to get to the city of Mosul, that huge city in Northern Iraq, and work to take that back as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara, there are reports, as you know, that ISIS is now struggling as an organization. What are you hearing from your sources?
STARR: Well, there is anecdotal evidence, many officials say, including top U.S. military officials, that there are problems within ISIS, that there are shortages of food, electricity, commodities, oil due to airstrikes against oil refineries in the areas that they are trying to govern.
They have set themselves up to be this so-called Islamic State. That means they have to provide for the people and they cannot do that right now, we are told, in many areas. You are beginning to see some of these tears in the fabric of what ISIS did over the last several months when it was just rampaging through these areas unchallenged.
But now the question is, where does this leave everything? You know, ISIS still has -- is a recruiting powerhouse. They are bringing in foreign fighters. They are able to recruit local people, some through intimidation, but they are also still able to recruit. So, still, they have some capacity. I don't think anyone is counting them out of this just yet. But these anecdotal, as I say, tears in the ISIS fabric certainly, by all accounts, beginning to emerge -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, let's see where that leads. Barbara, thank you.
Meanwhile, an Ohio teen who says he is aligned with ISIS is speaking out in a chilling jailhouse interview detailing an alleged plot to assassinate President Obama and attack the U.S. Congress.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is joining us. She has details.
What is this young man saying, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Christopher Cornell did not mince words in this stunning jailhouse interview, admitting that if he hadn't been arrested by the FBI, he would have followed through on his plans, his plot to wreak havoc at the U.S. Capitol Building and the Israeli Embassy, as retaliation, he says, for U.S. aggression against his people in the Islamic State.
His interview is a window into the mind of a lone wolf in the U.S. inspired by ISIS.
BROWN (voice-over): Inspired by ISIS, Christopher Cornell boasts his thwarted attack on the president and the Capitol building would have been devastating.
CHRISTOPHER CORNELL, OHIO MAN ACCUSED OF PLOTTING ISIS-INSPIRED ATTACK: Although it would have been a major attack against America, events that will follow are dangerous and more enormous.
BROWN: In a phone interview from jail with CNN affiliate WXIX, Cornell admits he planned to first kill President Obama and then make his way to the U.S. Capitol where he would set off pipe bombs and unleash a firestorm on people as they fled the building, shooting them with two semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition police say he bought in this gun store in Cincinnati.
CORNELL: I would have took my gun, I would have put it to Obama's head, I would have pulled the trigger, then I would have unleashed more bullets on the Senate and the House of Representative members, and then I would have attacked the Israeli embassy and various other buildings full of kafir who want to wage war against us Muslims.
BROWN: The 19-year-old Ohio man landed on the FBI's radar a couple of months ago after allegedly writing about jihad on social media sites.
CORNELL: With the Islamic State, I have connections with many brothers over there. We have been corresponding for quite some time now actually.
QUESTION: When did you first come in contact with them?
CORNELL: I won't say that in specific either.
BROWN: A man who Cornell believed would be his partner in the attack was actually an FBI informant. The FBI says Cornell told the informant he was working with ISIS and that U.S. lawmakers were his enemies.
CORNELL: The thing is, we are indeed here in America. We're in each and every state. We're here in Ohio.
CORNELL: We're here in Ohio. We're in every state. We're more organized than you think.
BROWN: FBI agents arrested Cornell in January, the takedown captured in this image.
ANGELA CARMEN, MOTHER OF CHRISTOPHER CORNELL: I just want to give him a big hug and bring him home, because he ain't out to hurt nobody.
BROWN: At first, Cornell's parents staunchly defended their son.
JOHN CORNELL, FATHER OF CHRISTOPHER CORNELL: My son is not a monster. I'm not just saying that because he's my son. If I thought he was up to something, I would have -- I would have beat his butt and I would have been the first one to turn him in.
BROWN: Now, after hearing this interview with their son, they say they're cutting him out of their lives.
TRICIA MACKE, WXIX REPORTER: He now disowns his son. He had no idea that that was what he was all about. He believes us now and he disowns him.
BROWN: Cornell faces several charges, including attempted murder of government employees.
And, Wolf, in case you are wondering how he was able to make the phone call to that news station, he apparently, according to the sheriff there in Boone County, Kentucky, has a cell phone inside his jail cell and can still make calls. He apparently has no restrictions to who he can make calls to from that phone in his cell -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very strange, indeed. All right, good report, Pamela. Thank you very much.
President Obama slamming a letter to Iran's leader signed by nearly every Senate Republican warning that without their approval any nuclear deal signed by President Obama could be null and void after he leaves office.
Let's go to our correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. She's working the story for us.
It's a pretty stunning letter, when you read it. What's the latest reaction over there?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right.
You know, we have seen Republicans and some members of Congress try to bring up legislation, though unsuccessfully, to give them a vote on any nuclear deal with Iran. Now they have written this unprecedented open letter to Iran. The response came quickly from the White House and from Democrats, who called what they are trying to do basically amounting to a back-channel communication with Iranian hard- liners.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): Forty-seven Republican senators put their names today to this open letter to Iran, informing Iran that it may not fully understand our constitutional system and a warning that the Senate must ratify international agreements, which, in reality, isn't the case for a deal like this.
And they go on to say that any nuclear agreement not voted in by Congress will be viewed as -- quote -- "nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei, which the next president could simply revoke with the stroke of a pen.
Well, this president had a pointed response.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. It's an unusual coalition.
KOSINSKI: The surprising move was led by Senator Tom Cotton, who today defended it.
REP. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: The only thing unprecedented is an American president negotiating a nuclear deal with the world's leading sponsor of state terrorism without submitting it to Congress for approval.
KOSINSKI: Democrats, though, wasted no time pouncing on this as bizarre, cynical, a desperate ploy to sabotage negotiations.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Juvenile political attack is a kind of pettiness that diminishes us a country.
KOSINSKI: Senator Durbin said the letter weakens America's hand, highlight our political divisions to the rest of the world, and had a warning of his own. "If these negotiations fail, a military response to Iran developing their nuclear capability becomes more likely. These Republican senators should think twice about whether their political stunt is worth the threat of another war in the Middle East."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact is, they are against a deal. If they are so ashamed of the position, why wouldn't they advocate it publicly?
KOSINSKI: The White House would not say whether such a letter harms or threatens these delicate negotiations with Iran, would only say it interferes.
Congress would have some role in this process, ultimately to remove the tough sanctions against Iran or not if that were part of the deal. But, interestingly, the White House revealed today that that would only happen years down the road from a deal, a number of years, they said, after Iran proves itself willing to comply.
KOSINSKI: You can see this deep division here. Some of these Republicans feel like making a deal with Iran at all is dangerous, that you can't trust Iran, and putting a time frame on a deal or allowing them to have any kind of nuclear program is a threat to America's national security.
But the White House feels the not having a deal is a bigger threat, because it would take away any real scrutiny of what Iran is actually up to. By the way, Iran also responded to this letter today, at least in a few words, calling it a propaganda ploy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that would about the foreign minister of Iran, Zarif, who has been the chief negotiator with Secretary Kerry on this deal, the Iranians responding, the White House responding.
Let's get some more response from the White House right now.
Joining us, the deputy national security adviser to the president, Ben Rhodes, who is standing by at the White House.
Ben, thanks very much for joining us.
Let me get your quick reaction, 47 Republicans, almost the entire Republican Caucus in the U.S. Senate, writing this letter directly to the Iranian leadership. Give us your reaction. I'm sure you have carefully read this letter. What do you think?
BEN RHODES, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, Wolf, I think it's reckless.
Sadly, it's not too surprising. But the fact of the matter is, we have one president at a time in our system. The president of the United States, no matter what political party is, has to have the ability to conduct foreign policy. And not only is this a difference of policy, but, frankly, this is a fundamental misunderstanding about how our system works and about who is responsible for the conduct of American foreign policy.
BLITZER: Explain why you think this is a misunderstanding of U.S. foreign policy, because the Constitution does give Congress a right in certain foreign policy areas.
Congress has a critically important oversight role to play in foreign policy, including on Iran. But in terms of the negotiation of agreements, that's something that the president leads. We have agreements that govern the status of our forces overseas, that give our troops the protections they need in Afghanistan, the bilateral security agreement there, the agreement that we had to remove and destroy Syria's chemical weapons.
These are things that the executive branch, the president negotiates. And then Congress has an oversight role to play. But to insert themselves into the middle of a very sensitive negotiation at a critical juncture with the express purpose of seeking to prevent this deal from getting reached, that's harmful to American national security.
And it's important to remember, Wolf, it's not just the United States at the negotiating table. It's the United States, the U.K., France, Germany, the E.U., Russia, China, the world powers at the table with Iran. Let's let those negotiations play out. And then we will present the agreement to Congress and have a debate.
BLITZER: Will Congress be able to vote up or down on this agreement?
RHODES: Well, Wolf, part of the agreement is going to involve sanctions relief to the Iranian government that is meted out over time.
And ,clearly, Congress has had a role in building the sanctions regime. So at some point in the duration of this agreement, Congress will be heard on the sanctions relief. There will be a role for Congress to play in lifting sanctions down the line as a part of this agreement.
And, again, after the agreement is reached, Congress can take a look at it. We will have a debate about what role they play in terms of oversight. But the negotiation of this agreement, that authority rests with the rest.
BLITZER: How many years down the road would Congress have to vote on easing sanctions against Iran -- excuse me -- Iran?
RHODES: That's something that is still being negotiated, Wolf,, because frankly, the principle that we want is that we keep some of the sanctions architecture in place so that those sanctions can snap back on Iran if they don't comply.
There's a leverage that comes from maintaining those sanctions. Again, the duration of the agreement is still being negotiated. Exactly how the sanctions relief is phased in is being negotiated. But Congress will have a role to play through that sanctions relief.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Ben Rhodes. We have got a lot more to discuss, ISIS in Iraq, other critically important issues.
Much more with President Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes -- right after this.
BLITZER: Breaking now, an open revolt by Republican senators against President Obama's foreign policy.
Almost every one of them has now signed an open letter to Iran warning that any nuclear deal reached by the White House with Iran will be terminated the day President Obama leaves office. The president says the Republicans are now aligned with those Iranian hard-liners, who also oppose any deal, as well and Iran's foreign minister is calling the Republican letter a propaganda ploy.
Let's get some more from the White House deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, who is still with us.
You called that letter reckless, in your words, Ben. Dick Durbin, the Democrat in the Senate, he said, "Understanding that if these negotiations fail, a military response to Iran developing their nuclear capability becomes more likely, these Republican senators should think twice about whether their political stunt is worth the threat of another war in the Middle East."
But a lot of the Republicans, including Jason Chaffetz -- and I spoke with him the other day -- he says he would support a preemptive strike, if that was necessary to do away with Iran's potential of having a nuclear bomb. You haven't ruled out any options at this point, right?
RHODES: No, the president has said all options are on the table.
But he's also said it's preferable to resolve this diplomatically. We're testing right now in the negotiation whether we can do that. It would be more effective in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon than a military strike that would not set back their program as long as a type of deal that we're envisioning.
And, of course, there are huge costs that come with military action. That's why we said, it's not enough to just oppose these negotiations. What is the alternative to the type of diplomatic agreement we're reaching? Because, frankly, if the alternative is military action, that comes with great costs and consequences.
BLITZER: Are Iraqi -- turning to ISIS right now, Iraqi forces backed by Shiite militias, backed by the Republican Guard troops that are now with them in Iraq, are they winning at least some of these wars against ISIS right now around Tikrit, the battles?
RHODES: Yes, Wolf, what we have seen is, we have seen ISIL pushed back both around Baghdad and in that area around Tikrit, just as we have pushed ISIL back in the north around the Kurdish areas where we have been acting in support of the Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces.
The amount of territory that ISIL holds inside of Iraq has been shrinking.
BLITZER: Would Iran emerge as the big winner though if ISIS were destroyed right now?
RHODES: No, Wolf. I think, frankly, the Iraqi people would be the winner.
It's a multi-sectarian country. There are Kurds, there are Sunnis, there are Shia. The Iranians of course have had relationships there with the Iraqi Shia. But we worked very hard to make sure that there was an inclusive government in Iraq, that you have a new prime minister, Prime Minister Abadi, who has reached out to the Sunni and Kurdish communities.
And, frankly, we want to see an outcome in Iraq that benefits all of those different communities inside of Iraq and not one sect over another.
BLITZER: Is there any indirect coordination going on with those Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops involving the United States, the U.S., for example, sharing information with the Iraqi military, which then in turn shares that information with the Iranians?
RHODES: Well, Wolf, we certainly don't coordinate or cooperate militarily with the Iranians. Again, our cooperation is focused on supporting the Iraqi
government, the Iraqi security forces, the Kurdish forces on the ground. We know the Iranians have provided support to the Iraqi government as well. But that takes place in a very separate channel from our efforts to support the Iraqi government.
BLITZER: Does the U.S. still regard Iran as a state sponsor of terror?
RHODES: Absolutely, Wolf.
And it's very important for people to understand we're negotiating to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The day after we would reach that type of agreement, if we reach it, we would be just as concerned about Iran's support for terrorism, its support for Hezbollah, its support for Assad, what it's doing to destabilize the region.
However, it would be better Iran is not possessing a nuclear weapons capability to support the efforts. That's why we're trying to take that off the table in this negotiation.
BLITZER: Well, just clarify one thing. If the U.S. regards the Iranian leadership as supporting terrorists and the U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists, I see a disconnect here.
RHODES: Well, Wolf, we don't negotiate with terrorist organizations.
But the fact is, we do negotiate with governments around the world, and that includes governments who have been on the state support of terrorism list. The fact of the matter is, we're negotiating with a very explicit purpose, which is to deny that Iranian government that has supported terrorism the ability to build a nuclear weapon.
That ultimately is going to be good for our security and it's going to significantly set back their ability to support terrorist proxies with the umbrella of a nuclear weapon.
BLITZER: One final question unrelated. It involves the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, the uproar that has developed over her personal e-mail accounts, not using State Department e-mail system.
I assume you -- I don't know if you ever received any e-mails from her directly. But you have been with the president and the national security team from day one. Did she endanger national security by using a personal e-mail account on official State Department business?
RHODES: No, Wolf.
I think, again, what's important here when it comes to security is we have classified systems and then unclassified systems. And the important thing for national security is that when we're dealing with classified information, that stays on a classified system. That information is very protected.
People do, do a lot of e-mail work on the unclassified system. The important principle is that that information be preserved for record-keeping here at the White House. That's the Presidential Records Act. We certainly abide by those protocols. That's I think what's at issue here.
And, again, we have to make sure that we're always keeping our sensitive information, our classified information on the protected system.
BLITZER: Did you receive e-mails from her?
RHODES: You know, Wolf, I thought about this. I don't remember receiving e-mails from Secretary Clinton.
The fact is, some officials e-mail much more frequently than others. Secretary Kerry uses his e-mail quite frequently at the State Department e-mail that I have used with him. But the fact of the matter is, different officials have different e-mail habits.
The principle that has to apply again is that those e-mails are kept and protected for record-keeping purposes. That has a transparency benefit. It has a huge benefit to historians. And I think that's what Secretary Clinton is seeking to fulfill that requirement in her engagement with the State Department.
BLITZER: But as far as you know right now, did she do anything wrong?
RHODES: Not that I'm aware of, Wolf, here.
The principle is that those e-mails, those records are kept for posterity and for transparency purposes. And she clearly is seeking to fulfill that objective in her efforts with the State Department.
BLITZER: Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser to the president, thanks for joining us.
RHODES: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: There's breaking news ahead, the family of an unarmed teen shot and killed by police speaking out about this latest racially charged case sparking huge protests.
Plus, a shocking video of a fraternity's racist chant. Will the members be expelled from the university. The university president, David Boren, he is standing by. We will discuss. That's coming up.
BLITZER: We're following an exploding scandal at a major American university. The clock is now ticking for members of one fraternity at the University of Oklahoma. They'll soon be locked out of their house. It's now shut down, following a shocking racist chant that was all caught on camera. Our national reporter, Nick Valencia, is joining us from Norman,
Oklahoma, right now with the very latest. It is pretty shocking. Give us the latest information, Nick.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Shocking and disturbing, certainly, Wolf.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the largest fraternity in the United States, with more than 15,000 members. It's a fraternity with a checkered past, but that didn't stop the student body here at the University of Oklahoma from reacting angrily to the video that we're about to show you.
VALENCIA (voice-over): Today bags are packed at this University of Oklahoma fraternity house.
DAVID BOREN, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA: We do not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) racists and bigots at this university. I'll be glad for that.
VALENCIA: O.U.'s president minced no words, telling Sigma Alpha Epsilon members they were unwelcome after this video released Sunday showed unspeakable bigotry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can hang them from a tree, but they'll never sign with me. There will never be a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) at SAE.
VALENCIA: Cell phones captured this racist chant, sung loudly by at least some members of the fraternity chapter while riding a bus to a party.
Silent protesters began to flood O.U.'s campus within hours of the video's release. And today, there is no sign of slowing down.
Perhaps the most shocking, African-American students here say the only thing novel about this racism is that it was finally caught on tape.
CHELSEA DAVIS, CO-FOUNDER, UNHEARD, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA: Clearly, this has been going on for years and years and years, and they think it's OK because nobody's ever said anything. Nobody ever stepped in and said, "Hey, this isn't OK."
VALENCIA: Chelsea Davis is the co-founder of Unheard, a black student group advocating for cultural change on campus. It's the same group responsible for posting the video chant.
DAVIS: It's just really hurtful that students can think that this is OK. There's no reason that it should have escalated that far. Somebody should have got up and said, "This isn't OK," as opposed to sitting there and clapping and singing along.
VALENCIA: The song, apparently well-known to the fraternity's members and proudly belted out, came as a blow to the fraternity's national leadership, as well.
BRANDON WEGHORST, ASSOCIATE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, SIGMA ALPHA EPSILON: It's absolutely appalling and disgusting. Whenever people take it upon themselves to do something like this, it -- it affects the entire organization.
VALENCIA: SAE says their chapter at the university will remain closed for at least four years. But for many of the students here, that's just not enough.
DAVIS: I hope that the university mandates some type of mandatory diversity training, some type of sensitivity training, something to let people know who don't typically come from backgrounds where you don't see people of color, to understand that they are people different than you, but that does not make them lesser than you.
VALENCIA: Many students that we've spoken to here say that the penalties levelled against the chapter of SAE on the University of Oklahoma campus are simply not enough. One student I spoke to, Wolf, said she was surprised that SAE was the fraternity that was caught on tape, because there are other frats that are even worse than that. She's calling for the entire Greek system here at the University of Oklahoma to be investigated -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Nick. Thanks very much.
Let's get some more now from the president of the University of Oklahoma, the former governor of Oklahoma, the former senator, David Boren.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us. How could this happen at your university?
BOREN: Well, it seem almost impossible to me. It was -- I was outraged the minute I heard about it. I was saddened by it the more I think about it. And that's why we've decided to take immediate action.
Within just minutes of learning of this video and determining that some of our students were involved, we've kicked the fraternity off the campus. They are packing up their bags. They have to be out of the house within 24 hours.
And we're just not going to tolerate it. We have a zero tolerance policy. And I think that that is of racism. That's not who sooners are. Real sooners are not racists and bigots. Real sooners are people who respect each other and who care about each other. And we're not going to put up with this.
I think you have to send the strongest possible message. You impact not only the entire culture on this campus but on campuses across the country. And indeed for the rest of us, all of us across America have to start having zero tolerance. We can't sit still when we hear racist jokes or remarks being made, even in social settings. We need to stand up and speak out. Because I think that's why we're having all this problem across the country. And that's what we're trying to do here.
BLITZER: What about the students who were seen in that video? The members of that fraternity, what's going to happen to them?
BOREN: Well, we're investigating the individual members as we can determine who they are now. We're making progress in that investigation. And then we're examining our rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to see if we can take other actions, suspensions, expulsions for their students.
And we had already begun several weeks ago studies -- ironically, studies of all of our different organizations on campus to make sure that they were being sensitive and were being inclusive. And we've been in the process of making, I think, some positive change.
But our student themselves, I'm really proud of them, because as you've seen, the students of the University of Oklahoma, without regard to race, have said, "This is not us. This is contrary to all of our beliefs." They've stood up. They've demonstrated. I was out there with them this morning in the early dawn hours. I'm very proud of them. I'm proud of the person who brought that video to light.
And I have told them, if you have any other kind of information about anything going on in this campus that's not inclusive, let me know. We'll take action, and we demonstrated that today.
BLITZER: Why not simply expel those students?
BOREN: Well, we have to be very careful under federal law and under the Constitution in terms of what we do. We have to prove that they created -- created a hostile environment for other students in their education. And so we're going to -- we're certainly going to do that.
We have suspended students here before for racial activities. It's been many years. And in fact, I thought we were long behind that, because we've worked so hard to create a family environment here that it would be, really, a model for the rest of the country.
So when something like this happens, I think, again, to change the culture and to make the point, very quick action. We just can't -- we can't have any tolerance whatsoever, zero tolerance. And I think we have to have that for all of American higher education and for all of the country.
We hear these stories on -- following all of your stories on Ferguson. We heard the stories from Wisconsin today. It keeps going on across the country. Issues with the police, other kinds of issues. And I think we just have to start, all of us, wherever we live, whatever we do, we have to say we have a zero tolerance policy as individuals.
BLITZER: It's shocking to me -- I'm sure to almost everyone else, 50 years after Selma, and we just had commemorative ceremonies over the weekend in Selma, this kind of chant could still be going on. How confidence are -- confident are you, Senator, this is just a tiny, isolated incident? We heard some of the minority students at your university say they believe this has been going on for a long time, but it simply hasn't been caught on videotape.
BOREN: Well, I don't think it's an isolated incident. I don't think it's an isolated incident in the country, and I think it's far more widespread. And it's subtle.
That's -- what shocks me about this is this is this is almost a return to the 1960s, the kind of exclusionary attitude that I thought we had already dealt with in this country. And certainly, it's been our intent to deal with it here. I think we now have to engage in looking at other kinds of subtle forms of discrimination, as well.
And I certainly invited our students. We have been working very closely since early this fall to make some changes and make sure that all the committees of our major organizations -- whether it's homecoming, whether it's the concert series, whether it's the orientation program for our students, let alone the Greek system -- we're trying to make sure that all are inclusive, that they have minority representation and points of view that need to be heard. And we're making progress.
But this was -- to me, I'm like you; it's unbelievable to me that, in this day and age, we could have anyone, and especially at our campus, where our students overall, including our African-American students who have been very, I think, helpful in this regard and -- I just can't imagine it happening.
We're not going to put up with it. That's the message we're trying to send. We're not going to put up with it.
BLITZER: Good luck to you and everybody at the university there. David Boren is the president of the University of Oklahoma, the former senator, the former governor. We'll stay in close touch. Appreciate you joining us.
We'll have much more ahead on the breaking news. The family of an unarmed teen shot and killed by a police officer. The family is now speaking out.
BLITZER: We're following the growing outrage over the video of a shocking racist chant by members of a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma.
Let's get some more now. Joining us, our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes; our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin; and our CNN anchor, Don Lemon.
Don, we just heard from the president of the university of Oklahoma, David Boren. You've looked at that video. It's hard to believe this kind of stuff is still going on, although I suspect it's going on all over the place. But we don't necessarily catch it on video.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, you know, I never disagree with you. It's not hard to believe for me that it's going on. I'm not surprised that -- I was surprised that it was actually caught on videotape.
I told your producers of a very similar experience that I had when I was in college, which wasn't all that long ago. It was back in the late '80s. I was the senior -- the student body president for my school. And each week in the summer, I got letter upon letter, dozens of letters, every week, from fraternities to come join. And each fraternity that I went to, when they found that I was black, they would not allow me in. All of my white friends went off to white fraternities. All of my black friends went off to black fraternities. So, there were reasons, obviously, that had you to have black fraternities.
But I'm not so surprised. That did not just go away. That doesn't go away overnight. I think people use tradition of fraternities as a shield for racism. It's tradition. This person is a legacy. This is how we do it.
I'm really not surprised at all. It is outrageous. It is disgusting. But I actually heard and still hear worse things on that videotape even -- even today.
BLITZER: Yes, it's hard to believe.
Sunny, what's your reaction when you heard that?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I, too, like Don wasn't necessarily surprised. I mean, you know, what is surprising though is in the wake of the Department of Justice report on Ferguson, I don't think anyone at this point can say racism doesn't exist and racial bias doesn't exist in our society. Certainly, the highlight has been or the spotlight, rather, has been on our police departments.
But I was a bit surprised to hear educated college kids, this generation, the millennials, sort of espousing this sort of -- these racial epitaphs. That was surprising to me because you feel like when, you know, society evolves and you know better, you do better. I have heard over and over again that certainly people that are racist are over 40, you know, or over 50. But now, we're seeing the millennial generation on videotape chanting, not one voice, not two voices, but many voices. And that is what has concerned me the most about this.
BLITZER: Yes, that's an excellent point. You don't expect it from the young kids who are educated. They're in a university.
That's a pretty good point, Tom Fuentes, right?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It is a good point. And, you know, the unfortunate part is these morons -- excuse me, alleged morons at Oklahoma University, they paint the picture of racism being rampant and it may be. But then, the next story we're going to talk about is a white police officer shoots a black kid yet again. And therefore, that must be a racist act also, before we even have the facts of what occurred.
BLITZER: So, we were talking about what happened in Madison, Wisconsin.
FUENTES: In Madison, Wisconsin, correct.
BLITZER: A 19-year-old kid was shot and killed, biracial kid, by a white police officer.
FUENTES: Right. And we wait -- you know, to hear what the results of that investigation. It's not going to be conducted by Madison police. It's going to be conducted by the division of criminal investigation of the Wisconsin state department of justice. No Madison police officer is allowed by law to even participate in the investigation.
But that's going to take weeks, maybe months to be concluded. And in the interim, we have now this -- again, another racial occurrence that's occurred in the country which just lends credence to what the demonstrators are saying, that racism is rampant and it must be racist on the part of the police officer.
BLITZER: Here's a programming note to our viewers: Don Lemon is going to have more on all of the stories coming up later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon. You're going to want to see that.
There's much more ahead on the shooting of Tony Robinson, including a live update from the scene of the protest.
Plus, police reaction. We'll get reaction from police officials. Much more coming up.
BLITZER: Sources are telling CNN, Hillary Clinton will address the controversy over the use of a private email account while she was secretary of state perhaps as soon as within the next 48 hours. And then, it will be most likely be in a news conference, although a final decision has not been made.
Let's bring in the newest member of our CNN political team, our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
You're working your sources. Jeff, what are you learning?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this evening, Wolf, after allowing a full week to go by, Secretary Clinton is finally assuring top Democrats she knows she must address this controversy. She's trying to put them at ease and move beyond what many supporters believe is an unnecessary distraction. But she decided not to do it today.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you for
joining us as we take on this great unfinished business of the 21st century.
ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton talking about unfinished business. But tonight, she's still not answering questions surrounding her State Department emails.
REPORTER: Will you explain the emails, Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Based on 20 years of data --
ZELENY: In New York today, Clinton was talking but not about the controversy threatening to consume her for a second straight week. With daughter Chelsea at her side, she tried sticking to women's equality.
CLINTON: There has never been a better time in history to be born female.
ZELENY: But the rest of the political world is still asking whether she violated administration policy by using a personal email as secretary of state.
As Republicans demand answers, nervous Democrats are urging Clinton to break her silence.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: What I would like for her to come forward and just say what the situation is. The silence is going to hurt her.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I agree with Dianne Feinstein. I think she needs to explain what she did and she's called for the release of information. I think that's a good thing.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's true.
ZELENY: Over the week, President Obama said he didn't know about her email habits.
OBAMA: At the same time, everybody else learned it through news reports.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Good afternoon, everybody.
ZELENY: But the White House clarified his comments today saying the president and Secretary Clinton did exchange email.
EARNEST: The point that the president was making is that not that he didn't know Secretary Clinton's email address. He did. But he was not aware of the details of how that email address and that server had been set up.
ZELENY: The issue has now snowballed into a new punch line on "Saturday Night Live". UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not how Hillary Clinton goes down.
I mean, what did you think my email said? Hi, it's Hillary, I really screwed up on Benghazi today. Please.
ZELENY: But many supporters of Secretary Clinton just aren't laughing. They know this will not blow over until she answers questions. Now, that could happen in the next few days, possibly a press conference or a sit-down interview. She's hoping to finally change the subject, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jeff, stand by.
Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst, is with us.
You've been doing some reporting. What are you hearing, Gloria? Are we going to hear a detailed explanation from her in the next 48 hours?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think within the Clinton camp, there's a recognition that she's probably got to do that and that will come sooner rather than later because the pressure is building as you just heard in Jeff's piece, you know, you had Dick Durbin, the senator, who's friendly to her, Dianne Feinstein, the senator, who's very friendly to her, saying, look, we need to know all the details.
You can't expect everyone else, including people at the State Department, to give the detailed explanation that you want from your point of view. You've got to do it yourself, and if it's simple and one of my sources said to me what she did is, quote, "completely innocent", then, at a certain point, you just have to come out there and say it and tell the American public why.
BLITZER: She's supposedly thinking, Jeff, of either having a news conference, having an opening statement, take reporters' questions, or doing a sit-down interview with some sort of journalist. Are you hearing anything specific which way she's leaning?
ZELENY: They are still deciding that. But, I mean, if they go the transparency side and really try and show she's running a different kind of campaign here in 2016 once she gets in, I think the press conference would be a way to go. But that would also elevate it.
ZELENY: That would also sort of show that this is sort of DEFCON 5 situation. That's not what they're trying to do. So, I'm told tonight they are still undecided but she is going to address it in some fashion. She knows that she has to even if it's an innocent thing. She's been quiet for more than a week.
BORGER: You know, I think at one point, she tried to kind of just dismiss it with a tweet.
ZELENY: Right, a midnight tweet.
BORGER: A midnight, 11:35, right, tweet, and that really didn't work.
And again, there's a question of what's the right mix here? If you do a large press conference, there's going to be a scrum of I would say a gazillion reporters around there and maybe she will sit down with somebody to discuss exactly what occurred and why. Because the question she hasn't answered, to me, is why? Why did chef this separate email account? Maybe there is an innocent explanation for it.
BLITZER: But she's really heightened the controversy, don't you think, Jeff, by waiting so long. She had a tweet saying I handed these documents over to the State Department. We don't know if they are all the documents. We don't know if the documents were deleted on that personal, private server. She had sort of elevated the importance of this.
ZELENY: It has because so much time has gone by. And this media environment is different than anything she's dealt with before. It's different than her 2008 campaign. It's certainly different from the time in the White House. So that's what they're seeing here.
But she does not have the full scale campaign apparatus to deal with this yet, and that's what some of her sport supporters believe has to happen quickly, just to get it up and running and respond to this and move on and change the subject.
BORGER: You know, that's the downside of waiting to announce. You know, the thought process is let the Republicans fight amongst themselves and I'll just stand back. But the downside of not having the apparatus when something like this happens when you don't expect, and by the way, that always happens, in a campaign, is that you are not prepared to figure out how to deal with it in real-time.
BLITZER: Did she think, Gloria, that this was going to go away if she ignored it?
BORGER: Well, it's hard to say, Wolf. I think that they felt that perhaps the State Department explaining it, even the president of the United States explaining it, might have been enough. They wanted to see how that was going to play out because you did it questioned at the State Department podium, at the White House podium, and even the president himself. But that did not answer all the questions, and only she can answer why.
BLITZER: Are you surprised Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, two very friendly loyal Democrats, there saying you've got to come out and explain?
ZELENY: I'm not surprised. This has gone on so long. They wouldn't have done this a week go. But now, they know that this has gone so long. They are trying to send a signal to her and her team. The two big supporters of hers, of course, but they are getting nervous, because so many Republicans are piling on this, congressional investigations already happening. So, they are trying to send her a signal.
BORGER: You know, and, by the way, it's not as if the Democrats have a broad and deep field of presidential candidates. It's Hillary Clinton and also-ran at this point.
BLITZER: Whatever field is out there, some of them are smelling an opportunity to move on. Let's see what happens. The story will not go away.
BORGER: Welcome aboard, Jeff.
ZELENY: Thank you very much. It's great to be here.
BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny, good to have you part of our CNN team. Welcome to CNN. Good to have you here with us.
Guys, Gloria, of course, it's great to have you with us as well.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
Remember, you can follow us on Twitter, tweet me @wolfblitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.