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Woman Hid In Closet From Militants; Al-Shabaab Threatens "Another Bloodbath"; Ferguson's Ugly, Racist Emails Released; Family Rescued From Flaming RV; Castaway Rescued after 66 Days; Pesticide Probed in Illness of Family; Religious Freedom Law; Final Four Action Kicks Off. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired April 4, 2015 - 08:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: -- as new arrests are made in the horrific university attack.

BLACKWELL: Adrift for 66 days, a Virginia man lives to tell the tale of his time at sea. How do you really survive more than two months on a capsized boat?

PAUL: A trip to paradise turns into a nightmare. A Delaware family poisoned while at a hotel in the Caribbean. Now their two children are fighting for their lives.

BLACKWELL: Live pictures here from Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, we got the moon and one of the shortest lunar eclipses of the century coming close to its peak now. NASA says it will last fewer than 5 minutes, it's known as the blood moon. You can tell why, this reddish hue here. The reason is the earth's atmosphere is filtering out most of the blue light.

PAUL: So if you can't see it where you are, there you go, we have it for you. Good morning to you. We love spending Saturday morning with you. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's good to be with. We're starting with the breaking news this morning, an incredible story of survival.

PAUL: We could not believe this when we heard it this morning. A young woman hid for her life for two days from armed militants in a closet in this university attack in Kenya, so she was just discovered this morning.

BLACKWELL: Yes, look at these pictures. We've got just the first pictures of this woman. She ran into that closet when heavily armed al-Shabaab militants stormed the college in Northeast Kenya, happened on Thursday, and she is only emerging today.

She is just 19 years old. Her name is Cynthia. But for many other families, this is a day of mourning, the attackers gunned down 147 people, most of them students, before they were killed by Kenyan security forces.

PAUL: Now al-Shabaab says it's not done yet. This morning, new warnings of more attacks and vows that Kenya's cities will, quote, "run red with blood." We want the latest on this from CNN's Christian Purefoy. He is in Nairobi, Kenya.

So Christian, first of all, tell us more about this woman who hid from the gunmen. She had no food, no water, what is she telling you?

CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, it's really quite a remarkable story. She is 19 years old and she described to us how when the gun men came in she hid on top of a cupboard, a small space. She pulled the clothes and blankets over her head.

She could hear on the other side of that small flimsy wooden door her friends trying to hide elsewhere, under the beds, the gunmen came in and cleared everybody out of the room and she said that they separated the Muslims from the non-Muslims.

She could hear the Muslim girls who were taken out and they were made to recite certain Muslim phrases while the Christians were made to lie down. She says she doesn't know what happened next.

She said she couldn't hear that much and she just simply closed her eyes. This is a remarkable story. She was in that little cupboard over 48 hours, but here's what she had to say.


CYNTHIA CHEOTICH, ATTACK SURVIVOR: And then me, I decided to go to the -- in the small rooms. Then I covered myself with the clothes. Then these people entered into our room and my roommate who had hidden themselves in there, they told them to come out, to go out and -- when they were out, if you don't know how to read Muslim whatever, you lie down and then if you know you go to the other side.


PUREFOY: Now, you know, she was in that little room for 48 hours and she told us how she had to drink body lotion to try and keep rehydrated which is really quite remarkable. When the military found her, they had to bring the principal, the university principal back to try and coax her out. She simply did not want to come out of that college -- Christi.

PAUL: You can understand it. We know that al-Shabaab is threatening more attacks this morning. Can you tell us anything about that, Christian?

PUREFOY: Yes. Well, al-Shabaab carried out a series of attacks over the years in this area, in fact, this town, there has been a church attacked here, a bus attacked on the road down to here, and all similar attacks by al-Shabaab.

You know, this thing sort of in the bus attack, particularly they separate the Christians and Muslims and kill the Christians. Now they have said that they want to carry out more attacks as you said.

We spoke to the governor here and he said that al-Shabaab's aim here is to create division and chaos because there is also a large Christian community here and they want to create the division and chaos between those because it's in that chaos, Christi, that al- Shabaab thrives.

[08:05:13] PAUL: Christian Purefoy, boy, just great information bringing it to us this morning, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to Yemen now where there have been some dramatic new developments with the conflict there. We have new images of a senior al Qaeda leader inside a presidential palace in Southern Yemen.

We have to say that CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of these photos but Khalid Batarfi and more than 200 were freed from prison by al Qaeda militants. It happened earlier this week.

This comes as the U.N. is starting to meet. They are going to meet in just three hours to discuss a humanitarian pause in Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Arab states in an air campaign against the Shiite Houthi fighters who seized Yemen's capital.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is near the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Used sand bags and stepped up security, yards from Yemen, Houthi rebels just across the border.

Saudi border guards show us preparations for a war they hope will not happen. They're told to be ready for anything.

LT. COL. HAMAD AL AHMARI, SAUDI NATIONAL BORDER GUARD: We will remind them that this is our country, and we have to defend our country with our lives. They're happy to defend themselves.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Just over there that's the Yemeni border post and riding along here with the border guards just a few months ago we did not have to wear the jackets and helmets, but now they say that the situation has changed. It's a lot more dangerous.

(voice-over): Army tanks have been brought in to back them up.

AL AHMARI: One of the units belong to the army. It's a case of any movement on the other side.

ROBERTSON (on camera): So it's very close about half a mile to the border.

AL AHMARI: Yes, that right.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): No sign here of an impending Saudi ground force invasion. To the east and the mountains one border guard has already been killed and several injured in a recent Houthi attack. The Yemeni rebels have also threatened to invade and attack Islam's two holiest sites. Over here, that's dismissed as just talk.

AL AHMARI: We're defending our border and that's talking. They're talking. OK.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): A few miles away at the main border crossing is relatively busy almost like business as usual until you ask the Yemeni merchants crossing to sell their goods.

It's not stable this man tells us. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad. As we drive away from the border, more tanks and more heavy armor move in, tensions here far from over.


ROBERTSON: That escaped leader, al Qaeda has a track record in Yemen of using instability to gain strength and they certainly have a strong agenda to attack the Saudi monarchy here. So that's a very big concern here as well -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Nic Robertson reporting for us. Nic, thank you.

PAUL: Let's bring in CNN military analyst, Lt. General Mark Hertling. Lt. General, thank you for being with us. Saudi Arabia so we hear a Houthi takeover. If the Houthis are ousted, wouldn't that lead to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula having free reign in this country?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Christi, I don't think the intent is to oust the Houthis. I think it's to bring them back to the table as part of the representative government within Yemen and that's what the Saudis are attempting to do.

They are a minority sect within Yemen, and I think this entire revolution that they've created has caused the representative government to go into hiding and that in fact is what the problem is. Saudi Arabia wants them both to come back to the table to get some stability as Nic just reported into the country.

PAUL: OK, what about these new images that shows the senior leader of AQAP inside the presidential palace? What does that tell you about AQAP's grip on Yemen?

HERTLING: It's an interesting image and certainly fascinating to see him in the palace itself. And I think it speaks to the chaos that exists in Yemen right now as the representative government fled to the southern port of Aden. It left the capital of Sana'a uncovered.

With the chaos, with Houthis against the Yemeni government fighting each other they have completely ignored al Qaeda, and when that happens, they flourish. So that's the importance of getting the government back into place and creating more stability.

[08:10:06] Until that happens you're going to see probably the continued flouting of these kinds of instances as the al Qaeda prisoners have been released from the prison, all those kinds of things.

PAUL: Yes, there were 200 inmates released. Is there any way to gauge how dangerous some of those people might be and where they might crop up at this point?

HERTLING: Well, the leader, the picture you have shown has been in jail for several years, and he was instrumental in planning the Cole attack which in fact started the spiral of Yemen into the abyss. Aden was a great port. It was established to try to build the country up.

When the Cole bombing took place it destroyed that capability. These are the individuals who attempted to ferment chaos within the Republic of Yemen. I think you see 200 of these individuals, who have now joined forces.

And al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula is one of the more dangerous sects of al Qaeda, and it certainly is important to get them back under control.

PAUL: All right, General Hertling, your insight is certainly important to us. Thank you for being here.

HERTLING: Thank you, Christi.

So for more on how you can help keep children safe, as this violence continues to escalate in Yemen, you can check out We have information there that can help.

BLACKWELL: We're getting our first look at newly released e-mails, these racist e-mails sent by Ferguson police officers and the town's clerk. What the messages said and who they targeted. That's still ahead.

PAUL: Also, a free man after 30 years in prison for murder he did not commit. Hear what Anthony Hinton said to the men and women who helped sent him to jail.

BLACKWELL: Plus, imagine driving down the road and seeing this, an RV up in flames and there are people still inside, trapped there. What happened next? You'll see in a moment.



PAUL: Several arrests part of a disturbing trend when it comes to home grown terrorism. Two Illinois men have been indicted for allegedly conspiring to provide support to ISIS, a U.S. Army National Guard specialist and his cousin accused of plotting a terrorist attack on an Illinois military facility.

In the meantime then a Philadelphia woman named Keonna Thomas has been arrested and accused of trying to join ISIS. According to documents, she posted statements on Twitter that led officials to believe that she was trying to support the terrorist organization and if convicted, she could face 15 years in prison.

BLACKWELL: Racially charged e-mails that include offensive remarks about President Obama and the first lady written by former city employees of Ferguson, Missouri are now public record. The exchanges were written by the city's top court clerk and two police officers all of whom were fired or have resigned. Federal investigators found the offensive messages during a civil rights probe. And CNN's Ryan Young has the e-mails for us.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Victor, we get our first chance to look at some of these e-mails for the first time. We're not going to show you all of the e-mails, but we want to show you a few of them.

Speaking with the folks in Ferguson, they felt like that the police department and some city officials were racist. Now you get the see the e-mails they were trading back and forth.

This first photo shows Ronald Reagan holding a monkey and the caption says, "Rare photo of Ronald Reagan babysitting Barack Obama at early 1962." You can feel the offensive nature by just looking at the photo.

It moves on to show more photos. They even target the first lady and say that there's a group of women and it says this was a high school reunion for the first lady. These emails cost three people inside the Ferguson city government to step down. The last e-mail compares dogs to welfare recipients. I'll read part

of this e-mail and said "I wanted to get welfare for my dog and they're mixed in color and unemployed and lacy and can't speak English."

And it eventually goes on to say that he was able to get welfare for his dogs. When you look at the three e-mails and talk to people in Ferguson, you obviously understand another debate will be had after some of these e-mails came to light -- Christie and Victor.

PAUL: Thank you, Ryan. I want to tell you about Anthony Ray Hinton. He is waking up a free man this morning after being cleared of a murder conviction that he spent nearly three decades on death row. He was cleared only after a new trial showed the gun used in the murders did not match one that belonged to him.


ANTHONY RAY HINTON: I shouldn't sit on death row 30 years. All they had to do was test the gun, but when you think you are high and mighty and above the law you don't have to answer to nobody. But I got news for them. Everybody that played a part in sending me to death row you will answer to God.


PAUL: Welcome home, Mr. Hinton. He says he is praying for the families of the murder victims as well because he says they also suffered a miscarriage of justice. BLACKWELL: A motor home on fire and then there's the race to save a family trapped inside. We've got the dramatic rescue ahead. You have to see more of this.

Plus, adrift for 66 days, there is this Virginia man. He is living to tell the story of his time at sea. But can you really survive for more than two months on a capsized boat by drinking rain water and catching fish out of the water? We'll tell you what this man knows and we'll talk to a man who knows if that's possible.



BLACKWELL: It's 22 minutes after the hour now. An incredible scene on the Florida highway, this RV, it was on fire and the flames going pretty good here, but there are still two people trapped inside.

PAUL: This happened yesterday in a town outside Orlando. CNN affiliate, WESH has the story. Look at these pictures.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your car off of it.

GAIL PASCHALL-BROWN, WESH REPORTER (voice-over): Ross Thompson who happens to run a business called the RV Doctor and his son were coming down U.S. 27 in Lake County when they saw this motor home on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked over and I saw that there was a car attached to it, and I was concerned. I saw one man running around on the outside so I did not think there was anybody else there because it was so engulfed. I figure they were outside.

PASCHALL-BROWN: But they were not. He went to help them while his son caught it on the cell phone. Another man driving an 18-wheeler also stopped and helped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a foot sticking out the back window. So I stopped and we ran across to the back window and rescued her mom and the daughter and got them out because they could not get out. They were trapped. The whole front end was engulfed. There was no way there were going through the front door.


BLACKWELL: Wow. Everyone out OK, but the RV was a total loss. Thanks to Gail Paschall-Brown for that story and also thanks to WESH.

PAUL: So we also have caught on video one wild brawl. Look at this. O, heavens, look at the people, dozens throwing chairs, throwing punches. This is overnight at a casino in Queens, New York. Police say three men have been arrested, and injured officer was sent to the hospital. They still don't know what started the fight. They were in the casino so.

BLACKWELL: Couple of drinks maybe.

WHITFIELD: In case you did not catch the lunar eclipse this morning, we have you covered. We wanted to make sure you didn't miss it so here it is. A shadow passing over the moon, this is just shy of 5 minutes. This particular eclipse is called a blood moon because our atmosphere filters out the blue and leaves it tinged there with red.

BLACKWELL: Very nice. Glad to share it with you. If you think you can keep yourself alive at sea maybe you can for a short period.

PAUL: He's not buying it.

[08:25:08] BLACKWELL: Without fresh water, without food, for 66 days. Hear what a castaway's story is, his miraculous survival story. Plus a Delaware family lands in the hospital after a trip to tropical paradise turns into a nightmare. Find out what caused them to become sick.

PAUL: But first today's CNN money advance features a popular country singer who discovered his granddaddy's recipe for Moon Shine is now mass producing the family whiskey with a little bit of a kick. Take a look.


TOMMY TOWNSEND, SINGER/SONGWRITER: Hi, I'm Tommy Townsend, singer songwriter and founder of Granddaddy's Moon Shine. He was a colorful man. They called him the John Wayne of the North Georgia Mountains. He was a famous moon shiner. In the 1930s through the 60s, his whiskey they say it was strong enough to fuel a car and cure the common cold. I was 2 years old when he died. I guess, the recipe just laid around until now.

It's mainly corn, ground corn, and cane sugar. We are hand crafted. The labeling is done by hand. Bottling is done by hand.

This is my granddaddy's shop. We'll make it here and we can do tastings here. Right now we're just in Georgia and middle Tennessee, but our goal is to get it in all 50 states. This is my granny's cooking recipe. This is our 140 proof, high octane.

Music is my first love and my passion. I met Wailen Jennings when I was 13. The band is back together. I'm their lead singer. What better thing to be doing thank drinking when you listen to music.



[08:30:27] PAUL: A castaway lost at sea for more than two months says he is grateful to God for giving him another shot at life.

BLACKWELL: Now, this story reads like a Hollywood script. Stuck aboard a wrecked ship with a broken shoulder, Louis Jordan managed to keep himself alive for 66 days collecting rain water and eating raw fish. CNN's Gary Tuchman has the story for us. Watch.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Inside this basket a man being lifted from the Atlantic Ocean -- a man who had been missing for 66 days. Louis Jordan rescued after he says he spent most of the winter in the Atlantic in a 35-foot sail boat. Jordan says the boat capsized and lost its mast during rough weather. Now reunited with a father who thought he would never see his son again.

The 37-year-old says he set out fishing from a marina in South Carolina in late January. He was reported missing on January 29. Jordan who calls himself an inexperienced sailor says he survived by catching fish by dragging laundry in the ocean and drinking rain water.

LOUIS JORDAN, RESCUED AT SEA: The whole boat had turned around and I was flying through the air somersaulting and the ceiling was the floor and the floor was the ceiling and this side was the other side. Everything was upside down and backwards.

TUCHMAN: Now back on land, Jordan brought to a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia where he was treated and released. Authorities say he is in remarkably good condition.

JORDAN: I was utterly grateful and thankful to the people who rescued me and I was grateful to God that my parents were not going to be worried about me.

TUCHMAN: How did Jordan survive such an ordeal? In February air temperatures went down to the single digits. This Norfolk marina has many similarly sized sailboats to the one Jordan was on.

(voice over): It's very rare for a vessel like this to capsize, but when it does you are in dire trouble especially when you are by yourself.

(voice over): On a day like this with wind gusts near 40 miles per hour it's even risky to go sailing.

WAYNE DIVINEY, SAILTIME CHARTERS: I doubt that I could have survived that.

(on camera): And how long have you been sailing?

DIVINEY: About 40 years.

(voice over): Even with a cabin similar to this one, Wayne Diviney (ph) of Sailtime Charters says the combinations would have been very rough.

(on camera): So if you're out on the water for 66 days in a vessel like this in winter weather, can you imagine how incredibly dangerous that is and how hard to survive that?

DIVINEY: I just -- I can't fathom how it was even possible, quite frankly.

TUCHMAN (voice over): But Diviney and other sailors say combination of skills and some good luck could indeed result in this unlikely but very happy outcome. Jordan considers himself a man of faith, the name of his wrecked boat -- Angel.

FRANK JORDAN, FATHER OF LOUIS JORDAN: I always prayed that somebody would find him and they did.

L. JORDAN: Yes, let's have a hug. I love this man. Love him with all my heart.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Norfolk, Virginia.


BLACKWELL: All right. We have Cade Courtley with us now. He's a former Navy SEAL and the founder of SEAL Survival.

PAUL: Cade -- look, this is a remarkable story -- right. Of course, people have questions. They have some doubts about it. I'm just saying.

BLACKWELL: I have some questions.

PAUL: Yes, on Facebook one skeptic writes "Something just doesn't seem right about this story. He was gone twice as long as the contestants on 'Survivor' and they lose about a third of their body weight in just 39 days." What do you have to say to that first of all, Cade?

CADE COURTLEY, FORMER NAVY SEAL: First thing I want to say is I'm glad they found Mr. Jordan alive. Let's start with that.

PAUL: Yes.

COURTLEY: But yes, I have some questions. I have some questions I'd love to ask him. There are three things you need to worry about in this scenario -- exposure, dehydration, and then basically starving to death. And they talked about the conditions out there as far as the air temperatures.

Let's talk about the water temperatures. He had mentioned that he had been living in a vessel that was chest deep in water. Well, with those water temperatures you are losing your core temperature ten times faster than if you are just standing outside. So I want to know about hypothermia conditions.

Ok, he said that he gathered rain water. Yes, that's highly likely. But then again he said that he was constantly battling waves and when that salt water gets into that rain water, it's contaminated, you can't drink it.

And then the big thing for me is his condition when they found him. Now, I spent six days in POW school, I lost 22 pounds in six days. This guy looked healthy, he was walking, he didn't appear to have any exposure wounds on his skin or his face.

[08:35:10] And again, I'm glad Mr. Jordan is alive but I want to ask him some questions.

BLACKWELL: Yes, where are the sun burns? I mean if the boat capsized three times how are you with a broken shoulder going to flip it back the right way?

Last night on CNN Jordan's father said that he believes his son. Listen.


F. JORDAN: When I spoke to them this morning that he showed an emotional effects of this ordeal that I had never -- I never saw this emotion in him. He was very emotional and he's normally a very private person. So, you know, I know he went through what he went through.


BLACKWELL: And what we saw from some of the rescuers from the Coast Guard they said that when they saw this man, Cade, that all they had to see was the look on his face and the response when they found him that they believed him. Do you -- I mean I know you have questions but from all of your expertise do you believe this story?

COURTLEY: I believe this can be done given the conditions especially the fact that there was a lot of rain water that could have been collected. That's the first thing that's going to kill you next to the exposure. So I believe that a human being could make it 66 days in that location given the conditions. I do.

And I don't want to take anything away from this guy -- again, we're glad he is alive. I would love to chat with him, though.

PAUL: You know, the father report him and the boat missing January 29 and the father said he's got a very strong constitution not only physically but spiritually. And he told the father on the phone he was praying the whole time so I believe that sustained him a great deal.

What do you think this story says to you, to us, about human will?

COURTLEY: Well, in a situation like this when I'm discussing survival techniques, this is what I put under the long haul survival. That's when you have to completely re-gear your mind toward I'm not going to be here a couple days, I'm potentially going to be here a couple weeks or even in this case a couple months. So therefore little tasks like, you know, I was able to catch a small fish today. That ends up being a victory. And it's these series of little victories that will morally keep you alive.

And again, it's over the long haul. It ends up being you are running a marathon and you're doing a little bit each day versus a sprint. Now, you know, the power of faith is a very personal thing for some people. But it can also be a very, very powerful thing and apparently it was in this situation.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Again, as you said several times, we're glad that he is alive, he's home. And hopefully we'll learn more about those 66 days over the next few days.

Cade Courtley -- thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Cade.

COURTLEY: Yes. Thanks guys.

PAUL: You too.

You might describe it as a trip from hell -- an entire family goes on a tropical vacation and they end up in the hospital. Sara Ganim is following this story.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right Christi. It was supposed to be a trip to paradise but it turned into a nightmare. How a Delaware family might have been poisoned on their tropical vacation -- coming up on CNN NEW DAY.


[08:43:48] BLACKWELL: A tropical trip for one Delaware family ends with all of them -- all of them going to the hospital. Officials say a pesticide used at a luxury villa in the U.S. Virgin Islands where the family was staying may have caused all four of them to become ill.

PAUL: The Environment Protection Agency and the Justice Department have opened investigations into this case now. And CNN's Sara Ganim has been following this story.

Sara first of all, do you have any good information on how this family is doing this morning?

GANIM: Yes, you know, the family is in the hospital unfortunately, but the authorities believe that this is a trip to paradise really turned into a nightmare. They believe that the Delaware family may have been poisoned by a harmful pesticide while staying at a resort on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Now the Environmental Protection Agency says that traces of methyl bromide which is not allowed to be used indoors in the U.S. because of its acute toxicity were found inside the family's villa at the Sirenusa Resort on St. John.

Now the resort which is owned by Sea Glass Vacations, you can see it here, told us that the pest control company Terminex fumigated the villa below where the family was staying on March 18. That was like smack dab right in the middle of their nine-day vacation in the Virgin Islands. They fell ill shortly after it was fumigated and were rushed to the hospital. Now the EPA clearly states that methyl bromide is restricted, it's odorless, it causes injury to the lung and to the nervous system and could be fatal if the inhaled. The television station WPVI says the family is well known, they are well liked in their community and they are now back in the U.S. Mainland, but still hospitalized.

The mother and father in stable condition; the two boys, Shawn and Ryan, in critical condition this week at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.

BLACKWELL: So, Sara, what kind of punishment could the resort face if indeed they were at fault?

GANIM: Well, the U.S. Department of Justice has now opened a criminal investigation and the EPA is monitoring the air and environmental samples and working with local authorities to figure out what happened, Victor. Terminex told CNN in an e-mail that it's looking into the matter internally, cooperating with authorities. They said this, "We're thinking about the family and join the community in wishing them a speedy recovery."

Now, a spokeswoman for the EPA told CNN that it is actively working to determine how this happened and will make sure that steps are taken to prevent it from happening to others at vacation apartments in the V.I. or elsewhere -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Sara Ganim -- thank you so much for the update.

BLACKWELL: All right. Here's a question. Will the culture wars of the 90s take center stage in the campaign for the White House in 2016? Religious freedom bills triggered a storm of controversy and backlash in Indiana and Arkansas and donations of nearly $1 million for an Indiana pizzeria.


[08:48:02] PAUL: 47 minutes past the hour and $842,000, that's how much money has been raised in support of Memories Pizza. Remember, the restaurant's owner sparked outrage this week after they spoke out in support of Indiana's religious freedom bill. The owner said she just wouldn't cater same-sex weddings. The Go Fund Me page was started after Memories was forced to close. And they were forced to close because of threats that were made the business.

BLACKWELL: That religious freedom law has now been fundamentally changed adopting language that protects all citizens of Indiana from discrimination including for the first time in the state the LGBT community. But that has angered some social conservatives.

Let's have a broader conversation now about this. Let's bring in CNN commentator and fellow at Chicago's University of Institute of Politics -- we've got LZ Granderson; and Peter Sprigg, senior fellow at the Family Research Council. Good to have both of you -- gentlemen.


BLACKWELL: First question, LZ, I want to come to you. All of the protests and the rallies that I saw in Arkansas that we covered in Indiana were against these new bills, but for this pizza place to raise $842,000 -- I mean there is a lot of support on the other side as well.

GRANDERSON: Well, absolutely. You know, I wrote a couple of pieces on this for our ESPN as well as for CNN, and one of the numbers I was floating was this notion that 70 percent of Americans now live in states in which same-sex marriages are legal. That unfortunately for some they interpret that as meaning 70 percent of Americans approve of same-sex marriages. That's not the same thing.

There is a very strong opposition to same-sex marriage, even though it does seem as if the public opinion is swinging toward allowing this to happen. What you're seeing in response to the pizzeria is just simply the people who are opposed to same-sex marriages is showing support for a business that they share similar values.

[08:49:58] BLACKWELL: Yes. Peter, let me come to you with something that California Governor, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote in a "Washington Post" op-ed. He wrote that "As an American I'm incredibly concerned about what happened in Indiana this week, and the threat of similar laws being passed in other states. As a Republican I'm furious." What do you think about that?

SPRIGG: I think Governor Schwarzenegger probably doesn't understand the law, probably hasn't even read it. All the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act was to trying to do was establish a standard of review for courts to use in cases in which an individual might or a person might use -- might assert a First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion against some government action that was being taken against them.

It simply required first that person would have to show that there is a substantial burden upon their free exercise of religion in order to invoke the law, and if they are able to succeed in doing that then the government would have to show a compelling government interest that's being accomplished by the least restrictive means.

That's all the law did. It said nothing about discrimination. It said nothing about sexual orientation. But the change that was made in Indiana I think carves out an exception to this general rule for how we adjudicate these claims under the First Amendment. In a sense you could view it as making an exception to the First Amendment right and I think that's a very dangerous thing.

BLACKWELL: I can't imagine that if there were a law that were written that it would specifically cite sexual orientation or discrimination. But LZ, let me come to you with the trend across the country. We saw the "fixes", quote-unquote, in Indiana. We saw that there was a recall of the original bill in Arkansas. And they had to sign -- pass and sign another.

Stalls in Georgia, stalls in North Carolina -- but you say that this fight has not been won by the opponents of these bills.

GRANDERSON: No. This is going to be bleeding into the 2016 general election because there's no way that a conservative or GOP candidate can make it through the primary without voicing his or her opinions on what we've been seeing happen with these laws in 2015. I'm disappointed by that because I think that we're past that point in which we should be using same-sex marriages and LGBT rights as a divisive wedge issue.

But it seems as though particularly in the red states on the state level that they seem very, very focused on making sure (AUDIO GAP) known that they do not agree with these laws. And because of that, the general election candidates are going to have to respond to this sweep that we've been seeing happen.

BLACKWELL: Peter, do you think it would be advantageous, it would behoove a candidate for lack of a better term, ride some of the sentiment of these religious freedom bills that we saw in 2004 with the amendments to the constitution, riding that in ballot measures across the country. Do you think that that would be a positive move for some of the Republican candidates?

SPRIGG: I think it would be a very positive move for Republican candidates to come out strongly in favor of religious liberty which is a separate issue from the question of whether we should redefine marriage or whether we should create new protected categories in our nondiscrimination laws.

This religious liberty law is not about what the law should say, it's about what individuals -- how individuals should be able to practice their own religious beliefs and exercise their own religion. They are two separate issues. That's been the great misconception of the whole debate this week.

You may disagree with conservative views on same-sex marriage, you may disagree with conservative views on homosexuality but the whole point is that when it comes to a person's exercise of religion, the government does not get to decide whose religious views, whose theological views are correct and whose are not correct. If we live in a country where the government is deciding theological questions then we do not live in a free country.

BLACKWELL: All right. Peter Sprigg, LZ Granderson -- thank you both. Go ahead. Last word -- I'll give it to you. Go ahead, LZ.

GRANDERSON: Great -- thank you. You know, I just want to point out that it's very important that we look at the timeline in which these laws were created particularly in Indiana where they tried to ban same-sex marriages and it failed. And in response to that they came up with this law. This isn't about religion. This was very focused in on same gender loving people. You look at who surrounded Governor Pence when he signed this law. When he signed the bill into law he was surrounded by anti-gay activists.

He may have sent out a photo of religious figures but the other photo included people who have said some really horrific things with the LGBT community so while I appreciate your guest trying to characterize this as a First Amendment and about religion the fact of the matter is this was motivated by anti-gay sentiment.

BLACKWELL: All right. I got to call it there. LZ, Peter Sprigg -- thank you both. We'll be right back.

SPRIGG: Thank you.


[08:58:21] PAUL: College basketball's biggest weekend. And I'm out, people.

BLACKWELL: Yes. I'm out too. I mean sadly, our bracket challenge, we're under the graphic. I mean we're not even near the top.

PAUL: Scroll down just to find us at this point.

BLACKWELL: I'm 12th.

PAUL: I'm 14th. You just want to say that because you're ahead of me.

BLACKWELL: It's true. I did.

CNN's Andy Scholes is live in Indianapolis. Andy -- where are you?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS: Sadly guys, I'm supposed to be the sports genius right -- I'm below both of you guys in the overall challenge. So hey, when you fill out those brackets, the people who win sometimes pick teams based on colors. That's how it ends up working out.

But either way, you know, these games tonight are going to be so exciting. It doesn't matter if you are in your bracket challenge. We have Kentucky taking on Wisconsin, Duke taking on Michigan State; some real traditional powerhouses in college basketball.

Of course the big story this weekend is can the Kentucky Wildcats run the table and complete a perfect 40-0 season? They are two wins away from doing that here this weekend. Of course the Wildcats team is stocked full of future NBA first round picks.

Now, their opponents Wisconsin meanwhile, they have some stars themselves most notably Frank Kaminsky who was named the AP player of the year just this week. And after losing to Kentucky in last year's final four the Badgers, you know, they would love to spoil Wildcats' quest for a perfect season.


BO RYAN, COACH, WISCONSIN: Do you think I have to tell my players that this is a big game or that Kentucky's pretty good? They are. The problem is on a lot of teams the list is like this. And it's like this for Kentucky so it is a challenge.

[09:00:03] FRANK KAMINSKY, NCAA PLAYER: We take pride in the fact that we're kind of misfits who not everyone wanted coming out of high school.

It came together, we had a goal and worked as hard as we could to achieve those goals.


SCHOLES: Now the action gets started at 6:00 Eastern on our sister network, TBS. You have Duke taking on Michigan State. That will be followed by Kentucky taking on Wisconsin. We're going to get you ready for all the action right here on CNN at 2:30 Eastern with "ALL ACCESS AT THE FINAL FOUR". CNN's Bleacher Report Special Access, Rachel Nichols guys, she's going to talk to all of the coaches involved in the final four and talk about the role sports played in helping get that religious freedom law changed here in Indiana.

PAUL: All right. Andy -- thank you so much.

Stay with us. "SMERCONISH" is starting for you now.