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Confederate Flag Controversy; Manhunt; President Uses 'N' Word to Make Point about Racism. Aired 18-19:00p ET

Aired June 22, 2015 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:04]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Flag battle. South Carolina's governor joins both the state's senators in calling for the Confederate Battle Flag to be removed from the state capitol in the wake of the Charleston church massacre. Will there be enough support in the state legislature to lower it once and for all?

Manifesto. The hate-filled writings the Charleston shooter reveal -- Confederate Flag reveal his path to radicalization and ultimately murder. So, what sparked his racist awakening?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following two major breaking stories, including dramatic new developments in the search for two killers who escaped from a New York state prison more than two weeks ago.

We have just learned that a corrections officer who knew the men has been suspended and is under investigation. And sources now telling CNN the escapees' DNA has been found in a cabin only 20 miles from the prison.

The other breaking story we're following, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Tim Scott, they're all now calling for the Confederate Battle Flag to be removed from the memorial on the grounds of the state capitol. Pressure to pull it down has been mounting since white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people at an African-American church in hopes of starting a race war.

We're covering all angles of the breaking news with our correspondents and our guests, including the South Carolina State Senator Marlon Kimpson the NAACP president, Cornell William Brooks.

Let's begin with CNN's Boris Sanchez, though. He's in Upstate New York. He has more on the new clues in the search for those two escaped killers. Boris, what's the latest you're hearing?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Out of 2,000 tips that investigators have received, Wolf, this, by far is the strongest, DNA found in a cabin that was broken into over the weekend that matches the DNA of Richard Matt and David Sweat.

Now investigators are focusing their search on the area of Owls Head, New York, only about 20 miles away from the Clinton Correctional Facility.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Tonight, the first conclusive lead since a brazen prison escape more than two weeks ago, DNA discovered in a burglarized cabin. Police descended on a wooded area in Owls Head, New York, today just 22 miles west of the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility.

MAJ. CHARLES GUESS, NEW YORK STATE POLICE: We have developed evidence that the suspects may have spent time in a cabin in this area.

SANCHEZ: DNA from Richard Matt and David Sweat was found on personal items inside the cabin. That coincides with an eyewitness account of a person running from the cabin into the woods on Saturday.

GUESS: It's a confirmed lead for us. It has generated a massive law enforcement response, as you can see. And we're going to run this to ground.

SANCHEZ: The discovery shifts the hunt for the killers back to an area not far from where they escaped on June 6. Saturday afternoon, a possible sighting of the two fugitives 300 miles away near the Pennsylvania border have this small town of Friendship, New York, on high alert. Police swarmed the region with helicopters and search dogs, but nothing was found.

Sources now tell CNN there's no evidence the escaped killers have the support network needed to get away from the prison once they broke out. Joyce Mitchell, a prison employee, is in jail, accused of helping the two men escape. But investigators say she did not follow through with the plan to pick them up. And a corrections officer at the prison has been placed on administrative leave as part of the investigation into the men's escape.

Gene Palmer was questioned by law enforcement for 14 hours Saturday, but he has not been charged.

ANDREW BROCKWAY, ATTORNEY FOR GENE PALMER: I can 100 percent confirm that he did not know that they were planning to break out of the prison.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Detectives are now looking into hotel registries near the Clinton Correctional Facility, looking at the span over the past six to eight months, to see if anyone stayed there that may know these escapees, clearly, investigators exhausting every possible lead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Boris, thanks very much, Boris Sanchez reporting for us.

Let's bring in CNN justice reporter Evan Perez.

Evan, the FBI interviewed a corrections officer, who is now suspended, under investigation, who knew these two escapees. What are you hearing? What did he tell them?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, among the things he told them, Wolf, is that these two escapees were actually snitches. And one reason why they had so many privileges within the prison there was the fact that they would pass information to the guards to try to keep the prison safe, to keep information -- contraband and so on out of the prison.

And that's why, when Joyce Mitchell, the arrested prison worker, passed this hamburger meat which allegedly contained tools that was used -- believed to be used in the escape, this guard did not find it at all surprising, and in the end is now in trouble with the investigation.

[18:05:02]

BLITZER: We are going to have more on this search for these two killers coming up.

In a very unrelated matter, you're getting new information about that massive cyber-attack that stole the most sensitive information on millions of Americans. What are you hearing?

PEREZ: Well, Wolf, it's a lot worse than the government has said. So far, the Office of Personnel Management has said 4.2 million. We're told 18 million is the number that the FBI director, James Comey, gave to senators in a briefing. That's a number that is based on OPM's own internal estimates.

And what really this means is that we're talking about people who are former, current, and even people who -- employees and who are people who never actually worked for the government, people who filled out forms to try to get jobs at the government, but never actually got hired, their information is now compromised. And this is not the end of it, Wolf, because they believe that this is going to get a lot worse before they even know the extent of the damage.

BLITZER: And the suspicion that is these were Chinese hackers?

PEREZ: Absolutely. It's believed that the Chinese hackers were in there for over a year, Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow. All right, thanks very much, Evan, for that report.

The other breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, South Carolina's governor, both U.S. senators are now calling for the Confederate Battle Flag to be removed completely from the state capitol grounds. Pressure is growing in the wake of the killings of nine African-

Americans in that church massacre by the white supremacist Dylann Roof, who said he wanted to ignite a race war.

CNN's Martin Savidge is joining us from Charleston now with more.

What's the reaction over there, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the reaction as far as this whole flag issue is muted at this particular site, not because people haven't heard the news or not that they don't care. It's that they care more about the nine victims who lost their lives and supporting their families and making sure that justice is done for the killer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Inside this jail, the sheriff says a 21- year-old admitted killer is on a suicide watch, being kept from taking his own life after gunning down nine churchgoers Wednesday.

Now more analysis of the manifesto found on a Web site registered to Dylann Storm Roof, along with a simple black-and-white text, photos showing Roof burning the American flag, aiming a pistol equipped with laser targeting at the camera, and, chilling, visiting historic African-American sites just weeks before shedding blood at this landmark.

The manifesto's author writes, he was not raised in a racist home. The killer's parents say they are in shock, grief, and disbelief. According to the document, the author was truly awakened by the Trayvon Martin case. Coverage of the unarmed black teenager killed by a Hispanic neighborhood watchman in 2012 motivated the author to Google black-on-white crime.

And, later, the manifesto says to take action when skinheads and the KKK would not. The family of Trayvon Martin issued a response, saying -- quote -- "It is very unfortunate that an individual with such a vile mind and clear criminal intent would dare seek to undermine our mission of peace."

According to CNN affiliate WBTV, Roof told investigators he entered the church with seven ammunition magazines and considered not shooting anyone at first.

JOEY MEEK, FORMER FRIEND OF DYLANN ROOF: And he just had problems, I guess, that no one else really knew about, and not -- that's including me.

SAVIDGE: Now, with nine dead, the murderer's family and friends are recalling the potential warning signs.

MEEK: I didn't believe him whenever he was saying he wanted to do something crazy.

JOHN MULLINS, KNEW ALLEGED SHOOTER: There were jokes, I guess racist slurs. But they were never taken too seriously until now. Now I'm looking at them in a different manner.

SAVIDGE: But the words became real. And the shock is being felt across the nation, through Charleston, and through his family, his own uncle telling "The Washington Post" he would act as his nephew's executioner if he was allowed to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, the memorial at Emanuel AME Church continues to grow, as does the spirit of unity, not just here in Charleston, but all across South Carolina -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Martin, thank you.

Let's talk a little bit more about what's going on.

Joining us is Marlon Kimpson. He's a South Carolina state senator. He served with the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine victims.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

You saw the governor, Governor Haley, the senators, Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott. They're now all calling for that flag to be removed from the state grounds. Is it your sense, and you're there in the Senate, that this will happen? Do they need a two-thirds vote or a simple majority?

MARLON KIMPSON (D), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATOR: Yes, Wolf, let me first say that we are still in the process of mourning these nine deaths, and we have been discussing the funeral arrangements for all of the nine family members.

We go back to session tomorrow. We were going to -- we were scheduled for some time to go back tomorrow. The governor, as you are aware, made a pronouncement that she's in favor of the flag coming down.

[18:10:05]

But the reality is, we have to have a procedural motion to amend or file a new sine die resolution, which is a fancy term for a formal document which sets our agenda. So, the intent right now, since we will be in session, is to spend a moment on the procedural issues in the Senate to get this matter before the General Assembly, so that at a later point in the next few weeks, we can come back and debate the merits, which I believe are strong, for the removal of the Confederate Flag from a front of the statehouse.

BLITZER: Because when I spoke to Congressman Jim Clyburn in the last hour, he suggested there was some procedural way that a simple majority could get the job done to rescind the law that mandates that that flag remain there, instead of needing a two-thirds majority. Do you want to clarify that?

KIMPSON: Sure. Well, yes, Congressman Clyburn is correct. But under the current

sine die, there are three issues that we are brought back tomorrow for session to deal with. First is the general fund. The second is the supplemental fund. And the third is the capital reserve fund.

So, even if we were to embrace Congressman Clyburn's idea, which I think has a lot of merit, we would still have to amend the sine die resolution to give us the authority in an official way to debate the merits of the rescission of the Heritage Act or voting straight or down on the removal of the Confederate Flag. So, tomorrow will be a day of procedure.

BLITZER: Senator, you have said that removing the flag is a start, an important start, but that alone will not solve the racial divide in South Carolina.

What are the additional steps, the next steps you believe the people of South Carolina need to take?

KIMPSON: Well, after we mourn and grieve for these families, we wouldn't have this discussion but for the fact of this unfortunate incident.

But there are deep racial divides. And I want to be clear about this to the nation. There's a deep racial divide in South Carolina. Just weeks ago, we passed a body camera bill in recognition of more accountability and transparency of police officers who have shot unarmed African-American men.

So we need to have a serious dialogue in this state about what divides us and embrace those issues so we can move forward. I am particularly interested in economic empowerment. Here in Charleston, I have asked major -- many major municipalities and publicly funded projects how much of that money is spread along with minority contractors and other people of color.

Until we include everyone in the process, particularly with our publicly funded process -- projects, then we can't bring all South Carolinians along. So, economics will certainly be on the agenda. And then we need to have a further dialogue on race relations.

And I think we're getting prepared to do so. The flag is just the start, but very symbolic.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It certainly is.

All right, Senator, I want you to stand by. We have more to discuss.

I'm also going to be speaking with Cornell William Brooks, the president of the NAACP. He's here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM -- much more on the breaking news when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:18:14]

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, top South Carolina officials calling for the Confederate Battle Flag to be removed once and for all from the state capitol grounds.

Republican Governor Nikki Haley and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, they all want the flag pulled down in the wake of the deadly attack in an African-American church by a white supremacist. Nine wonderful people were murdered.

We're back with the South Carolina State Senator Marlon Kimpson, who served with the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims.

You were good friends with the reverend. And now we have learned today that President Obama, the first lady, the vice president, they will all go to Charleston on Friday. The president will deliver the eulogy.

Senator, what would you like to hear from the president?

KIMPSON: Well, I'm glad the president is coming. I received a call from his office earlier today.

I think the president has been on point with his consistent message. This is a message for these -- the family of these nine victims that we are united in condemning the acts of last week. What happened is an American tragedy. And we welcome him.

And I understand the vice president may be coming as well, because he is our leader. He speaks to the world. And I think he's been largely on point. The people in Charleston, who supported him, by the way, want to hear him speak about where we go forward after observing the proper condolences for this family.

This family, these families have been really, really forgiving families. They are very much in tune with their religion and the biblical teachings of forgiveness.

[18:20:04]

But they're going through a tough time. So I think the president coming here is going to be a great thing for these families, because you can't have a greater leader than President Obama. As we transition to moving forward, we have to focus on healing the racial divide and bringing -- concentrating on what unites us. And that is getting rid of symbols that divide us and an economic empowerment agenda for all.

BLITZER: Well said, Senator Kimpson. We will check back with you tomorrow. Thanks very much for joining us.

KIMPSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's dig deeper right now on the breaking news.

Cornell William Brooks is joining me. He's the president and CEO of the NAACP.

Why did it have to take -- you have been calling for the removal of that Confederate Flag for a long time. But, actually, it took -- it had to take the death, the murder of nine wonderful people in order for that flag to be removed. What does that say?

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Wolf, it's morally inexplicable.

The NAACP for 15 years has called for the removal of the Confederate Flag in front of the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina. We have made the call. We have engage in the boycott. We engaged -- the NCAA reached out to national companies and transnational companies to boycott the state.

The fact that it took the loss of nine lives is truly a tragedy. But looking toward the future, even as we pray for these families, extend our condolences and surround them with our love, looking toward the future, the fact that the governor has taken a step forward is encouraging.

BLITZER: It certainly is. The Mississippi governor, Phil Bryant -- I want to show you the flag of the state of Mississippi. This is the flag of the state of Mississippi. This is a state, 40 percent of the population of Mississippi is African-American. What do you say to the governor of Mississippi about the state flag there?

BROOKS: Well, I would say to the governor of Mississippi the same thing that we have said to the governor of South Carolina and to people all across the country.

We have one flag in this country, one flag that airmen, soldiers, sailors, and Marines have died for, one flag. These other flags that are not state flags...

BLITZER: But that's a state flag of Mississippi.

(CROSSTALK)

BROOKS: Excuse me. It is in fact the state flag that incorporated the rebel flag into it.

BLITZER: Right.

BROOKS: This -- the stars and bars do not represent American values.

And I know this, Wolf. The South prides itself on hospitality. I'm from the South. Nothing could be more hospitable, there's no greater Southern value, if you will, than inclusiveness. And having a flag that a shooter wore, that a shooter embellished his car with beside the flag of Rhodesia and the flag of apartheid South Africa, that flag and that constellation of hate is intolerable.

And we don't need to have these kinds of symbols flying from state capitols or in front of state capitols. It has to go. And I would simply note this, that, in 2015, the rebel flag, the Confederate Flag, is like an anachronistic Model T Ford being parked in front of the state capitol. We have got to get rid of that.

That -- it has no place on public space in a capitol.

BLITZER: And the president deliberately used the N-word in that interview he did on that podcast over the weekend.

I have been getting conflicting reactions from leaders in the African-American community. Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, he hates that word. He thinks that should be relegated to a museum as well. Others say, within context, the president spoke important -- made an important point.

You say?

BROOKS: What I say is this, quite simply.

The NAACP several years ago buried the N-word, plain and simple. That word, however, is being resurrected not by the president's podcast, but by contemporary events. And so we condemn the use of the word. But we commend the president trying to have an honest and frank conversation about race.

This is a moment in our history where a loving bluntness, being lovingly blunt and being righteously angry, and, in the case of these victim families, being divinely forgiving is necessary.

Let's be clear about this. The racial animus in this society, the violence in this society gives that word power. It's not the mere utterance of it. And so the president was endeavoring to be blunt. In the context of that podcast, I understood what he was trying to say.

We condemn the use of the word, but we appreciate him being -- trying to have a frank conversation about...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You wish he would have just used the N-word, instead of actually uttering that awful word?

BROOKS: Precisely. Precisely.

BLITZER: All right. Well, he decided not to do that.

He also said, the legacy of slavery in that interview, it's still part of our DNA.

[18:25:02]

You agree with him?

BROOKS: Absolutely.

In Charleston, there in the public market is a large block where African-Americans were sold. The remnants of slavery are all around. The names of African-Americans in South Carolina are also the names of plantations, the names of families that owned slaves. So it's not only in our DNA. It's in our surnames, it's in our history.

But the power of this country is the fact that we are able as a nation to rise above the ugliness of our racial past and speak to what Martin Luther King called the beloved community and to move toward that.

And the fact that we have a governor and a senator and a group of leaders saying now is the time to bring down that flag, I think that's important. Now, Wolf, I also note here that, to bring down the flag, we need to be clear about this, it will require a majority or supermajority of the legislators in South Carolina to bring it down.

But I want to be clear. A majority or supermajority may be legislatively necessary, but what's morally required is a unanimous vote. Every legislator in the state of South Carolina needs to cast a vote for bringing that flag down. There needs to be no equivocation. There needs to be no room for error. Everybody needs to line up on the side of those who were slain, line up on the side of those who are standing for American values, not these pseudo-values.

BLITZER: Cornell William Brooks, the president of the NAACP, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

BROOKS: Thank you.

BLITZER: We will check back with you this week as well.

Just ahead: escape tools possibly smuggled in frozen hamburger meat. We're learning new information about the New York prison break and the new clues that the escapees may still be in the area.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news in the manhunt for those two convicted killers who escaped from an upstate New York prison more than two weeks ago.

[18:31:26] We've just learned that a corrections officer who knew the men, that corrections officer has now been suspended. Investigators are looking at whether the tools the men used in their breakout were actually smuggled to them inside frozen hamburger meat.

Sources telling CNN the men's DNA has been found in a cabin that's only about 20 miles or so from the prison.

Let's get some more on what's going on. Joining us the former FBI assistant director, our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. Also joining us, former ATF special agent in charge and security expert, Matthew Horace. Retired chief deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg. Guys, to all of you, thanks very much for joining us.

Matthew Fogg, I'll start with you. They're looking at the possibility that some of the tools that they used to break out were smuggled in this hamburger meat, maybe given by someone on the inside. What do you make of that?

MATTHEW FOGG, RETIRED CHIEF DEPUTY, U.S. MARSHAL SERVICE: I think that's just absurd. When you really think about the fact that the type of provisions they have in security reasons in a prison, to bring in meat and actually stow away...

BLITZER: Apparently the hamburger meat did not go through some metal detectors.

FOGG: And that's what I heard. And again, that shows you the lack of security, even on that floor. When you're talking about the fact that this was an honor system. A lot of times honor systems the guards get very lax with the prisoners. Every now and then something like that might happen.

I just can't picture something as large as a power drill or something...

BLITZER: I could never understand, Tom, how two convicted murderers get into the honor system. I don't care what the honor system -- they should not be in an honor system, right?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, this place is starting to sound like an all-inclusive resort. All the things we're hearing they got to do. Now what? They're cooking in their cells. Bringing in tools in hamburger meat? I'm lucky if I could get a Swiss army knife in the hamburger I buy.

Matthew Horace, what happens to these two guys, assuming they're captured alive? Do they go back to that prison, a maximum security prison in New York state? Obviously, the security there not so maximum. What do they do with these two guys, Matthew?

MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Well, Wolf, this entire issue represents as serious of a security breach I've seen in quite some time.

I would say that, until they nail down exactly what's happening up at that prison, make improvements, capital improvements, and also they need to complete the investigation so that we know the full extent of employee and guard involvement. And not until that is complete do we send those two back into this environment.

BLITZER: They've got to send them someplace, though, right, Tom? There's a super max out in Colorado, right? That's a federal prison.

HORACE: Yes.

BLITZER: Matthew Horace -- Matthew Fogg, can they send them to that super max?

FOGG: Yes, they could. They're not going to bring them back here, that's for certain.

Not though that place?

FOGG: Absolutely not. They'll change it, put them somewhere else.

BLITZER: What do you make -- let's talk a little bit, Matthew Horace, about the DNA that was found at that cabin only about 20 miles or so from the prison. And not just the DNA but also an eyewitness who says that -- the eyewitness says that those two individuals were spotted there on Saturday. What do you make of that? It looks like they're getting closer.

HORACE: It does several things for us. No. 1, public safety is our primary interest. It reminds the public that there's a clear and present danger as long as these two gentlemen are alive and well.

No. 2, it reminds everyone, including law enforcement, that we're on the right track; we're on the hunt; we're letting information dictate the investigation. And slowly but surely, we'll continue to go down this path until these guys are in custody.

BLITZER: It's a major breakthrough, Tom, don't you think, the fact that they've discovered DNA from these two killers in this cabin?

[18:35:01] FUENTES: I agree. But the big issue for me in this one is that, from the time it was determined they had been in that cabin, if that's true, how long before they can get hundreds of officers to set up that perimeter, re-establish command posts, communications, who's going to do what, laying out the maps, the grids, everything they need to do. Could they have slipped away before they got set up?

BLITZER: What's your analysis?

FOGG: I just think -- one of the things when I was doing it, we always had contingency plans where we just -- if we'd get a call, we had certain people that would move right away. So we would get a certain group of people in there that would immediately cover the immediate perimeter, the interior perimeter.

And then we'd get other folks supporting us, backing us up. Right away, as soon as we'd get those calls, we'd take off flying and get to that spot right away.

BLITZER: My sense is, Matthew Horace -- I hope I'm right -- they're going to find these two guys pretty soon, just my sense. What do you think?

HORACE: Well, I think the net is closing in. I think the resources are diminishing. The government's resources are increasing. We're following the leads, and slowly -- slowly by slowly [SIC] , we're going to catch both of these gentlemen.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens, it happens soon, and nobody is hurt in the process. Tom Fuentes, Matthew Horace, Matthew Fogg, guys, thanks very much.

Just ahead, President Obama uses a really bad word, a racial slur, in an interview to try to make a very dramatic point about racism in the United States. We're going to hear what the president had to say in his own words, get some reaction.

Also, more fallout from the controversy over the Confederate battle flag. Hitting the Republican race for the White House, where do the candidates stand right now?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:41:25] BLITZER: It's one of the most charged racial slurs in the English language, routinely bleeped out on the air, commonly referred to simply as the "N" word. But in an interview President Obama said it to dramatic effect to make a point about racism in the United States. You're about to hear the president in his own words. Many people may find this offensive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say "nigger" in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't overnight completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get some more. Joining us, our CNN anchor Don Lemon and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin.

First to you, Sunny. What did you think? Was the president right to use that word?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think so. I will tell you that I was surprised. I was shocked. I was disappointed. I think language matters, especially when that language is coming from the leader of the free world, the president of the United States, especially as an African-American man.

I think what it does, quite frankly, Wolf, is give people the feeling that they, too, can use it. We hear that argument being made oftentimes. "Well, rappers use it, so I can use it too."

And I think that the president was sort of ill-advised in thinking that he was either going to be provocative or be instructive and nuanced. Because we all know he's a wordsmith. We know that he chooses his words carefully. So I don't think this was an accidental use of the term. But it now opens up the field for others using it.

And in fact, on our very network, Wolf, you know that this term was not used. It wasn't something that journalists could use. And it wasn't something that we aired on our network. But now, because the president said it, I have heard that word, a very hurtful word, over and over and over again.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: That's not right.

HOSTIN: Just today. It is right, it is right.

LEMON: No, I disagree with you. We have been able to use that word on this network for the entire nine years that I've been here.

HOSTIN: We haven't done it.

LEMON: Yes, we have. I've used it. I've done it the entire time that I've been here. And the guidance has been, if the anchor is comfortable saying the word, the anchor can say the word on this network.

HOSTIN: Don, we had a correspondent a couple of years ago, and I've been here for six, seven years...

LEMON: But the correspondent said it -- said...

HOSTIN: And that correspondent was not -- was reprimanded for using that term.

LEMON: No, she was not. She was reprimanded for using an expletive, not for using that word...

HOSTIN: That's even worse, Don.

LEMON: That word is not -- that word is not an expletive.

HOSTIN: It says it's worse than using a racial epithet. That's what she's saying.

LEMON: No, if you're using -- if she was on television calling someone that word, then yes, she should be suspended for it. But if she's on television using that word in context as to what someone said or what was used in a court of law or what have you, then no one should be suspended for that.

We should not sanitize that word by saying, "This person called such and such the 'N' word." No, that person didn't call that person the "N" word. That person called -- Sunny, I know you're going to get upset. That person called you or that person a nigger. They didn't say the "N" word.

HOSTIN: I can't believe, Don...

LEMON: As journalists -- as journalists, we are -- there's...

HOSTIN: ... that you as an African-American man are going to use that word.

LEMON: Of course, because...

HOSTIN: Words matter, and you should know that.

LEMON: I do know that. I have said the entire time that I've been here, I don't think we should bastardize the word. I don't think it should be used freely in songs over and over again.

HOSTIN: You shouldn't use it at all.

LEMON: If you're using it in context of a story, and it is relevant, you should be able to say it. And in fact, I encourage people to say it, because I think...

HOSTIN: You're encouraging people to use a racial epithet?

LEMON: ... you should hear the -- because you should hear the impact of the word. No, I'm not encouraging people to call people the "N" word. I'm using it in historically. If you are -- I'm a journalist. Journalists are part of the record. It is our job to convey the truth and to tell people reality --

HOSTIN: It's also our job to realize --

LEMON: It's not our job to sanitize a word.

HOSTIN: -- that there are certain words that should not be used.

(CROSSTLAK)

LEMON: It shouldn't be used if you're calling someone --

HOSTIN: To use our journalistic conscience to make sure --

LEMON: That's what we're doing.

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIN: Get on air and use expletives --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Don, I just --

LEMON: If you're using it to call someone a derogatory name, not if you're reporting a story.

BLITZER: Don, let me -- in the last two hours, I've interviewed Cornell Brooks, president of the NAACP, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. They both wish that word would not be uttered. Why do you have to use that word instead of saying the "N" word?

LEMON: You don't have to use that word. I wish that word would not be uttered. I wish people would not call --

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIN: You're uttering it yourself.

LEMON: But I'm not calling someone the word. I'm a journalist, I'm supposed to use it. We're supposed to tell the truth. We're not supposed to sanitize it.

HOSTIN: Oh my goodness. Wow.

LEMON: You're sanitizing it by using -- by saying that.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We're not going to continue this conversation right now.

But, Don, you're going to continue this conversation later tonight. I want our viewers to tune in, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN, tonight.

Sunny, thanks very much. Next time, Sunny, you have to tell us how you really feel about that word. And, Don, you as well. Don't hold back as you did today.

LEMON: I love you, Sunny.

HOSTIN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thanks so much.

Just ahead, Republican White House hopefuls speak out as South Carolina's governor calls for the Confederate battle flag to finally be removed from the state capitol. We're taking a closer look at how this is playing out. The fallout for the 2016 race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)(

[18:51:29] BLITZER: Let's get some more now on the breaking news.

The Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley joining Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott in calling for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the grounds of the state capitol. Pressure to pull it down has been mounting since the deadly attack on African-American church by a white supremacist killer.

Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining us now with more.

Brianna, the presidential candidates, they're now weighing in on this. Update our viewers what they're saying.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a number of them, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Rick Perry and Scott Walker have issued statements of support after Haley's call for the flag to leave statehouse grounds. Her move gave cover to candidate and would-be Republican candidates who were clearly worried about losing support from a key part of their base, white conservative voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): With a political debate raging over the Confederate flag in front of South Carolina's statehouse, Republican Governor Nikki Haley looked to ease tensions.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Today, we are here in a moment of o unity in our state without ill will to say, it's time to move the flag from the capital grounds.

(APPLAUSE)

KEILAR: Flanked by Democrats and Republicans, Haley tried to unify her state as the controversy threatened to tear it apart.

HALEY: The murderer now locked up in Charleston said he hoped his actions would start a race war. We have an opportunity to show that not only was he wrong, but that just the opposite is happening.

KEILAR: Several GOP presidential hopefuls praised Haley's move, which gives them cover on an issue they have struggled to navigate.

Friday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said this --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, there's a Confederate war memorial out front and there's an African-American memorial --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And that works for you?

GRAHAM: It works here.

KEILAR: But today, he said it was time for the flag to go. Before Governor Haley's announcement, Governor Jeb Bush reminded voters that in Florida, quote, "We acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged," but he did not explicitly say South Carolina should do the same.

Marco Rubio, who opposed Bush's move in Florida in 2001, this weekend, said it was a state issue.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's up for the people of South Carolina to make and I think they'll make the right one, like they've made them in the past.

KEILAR: As did Rick Santorum.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a decision that needs to be made here in South Carolina.

KEILAR: And Mike Huckabee completely dismissed the issue.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For those of us running for president, everyone's being baited with this question, as if somehow that has anything to do, whatsoever, with running for president, and my position is, it most certainly does not.

KEILAR: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Santorum previously received money from Earl Holt III, the leader of a white supremacist group, linked to confessed Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof. All three candidates are donating it to the Mother Emanuel Church's hope fund to help victims' families.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: It's interesting, Wolf, the Republicans were really thrust into the spotlight on this issue, because of the 2012 failed Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, after he tweeted that this flag on statehouse grounds had to go. Because of that, Republicans were facing this conundrum, what to do, especially when they're talking about a state, South Carolina, that is a key early primary state, where typically they are successful by playing to the right side of their party -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, thanks very much. Let's get a little bit more now.

Joining us are chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, and "The New Yorker" Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza, he's a CNN political commentator.

[18:55:01] Gloria, how's this going to play out in the short-term and long-term in this campaign?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, Governor Haley gave Republican presidential candidates a lot of cover to say whatever they want to say, because now, people who don't want to discuss it and say it's up to the states can do that. People who say the flag should be taken down can do that. You saw a bunch of them run today, after she made her announcement.

So, she lowered the temperature for them a little bit. She made life a little bit easier, and now the state legislature obviously has to deal with the issue.

BLITZER: You know, what's interesting -- you're from South Carolina, Nia. So, give us some context. You have the three top Republicans in the state, the two senators, U.S. senators, and the governor, all Republicans saying, remove the flag.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, huge day. The last time this came up, there was obviously a Democratic governor in the state, and finally, that bipartisan agreement in 2000. I thought what Nikki Haley was saying today is that South Carolina is the new South, right? And not only is South Carolina the new South, but the Republican Party is a new Republican Party, at least at the national level.

I think the devil is going to be in the details, in terms of what the state legislature wants to do. I was getting calls from folks down there, saying that Nikki Haley makes it seem like it's going to happen tomorrow. But there are all sorts of things that need to be sorted out and backroom deals that need to be made. Not clear at all that she has the power to, for instance, call a special session. She was sued on that issue in 2011. It's not clear that she can do that.

BORGER: She's got a lot bigger audience.

HENDERSON: She's got a lot bigger audience, a national audience, but ultimately, it's going to be those Republican state lawmakers who are very protective of their power, who make this decision.

BLITZER: You've got to give these three Republicans a lot of credit for making that decision.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You've got to give them a lot of credit. I think on the presidential side, we do not see any of the Republican candidates out there. No profiles in courage here, right?

BORGER: Mitt Romney.

LIZZA: Mitt Romney, the one guy who didn't run and doesn't have to worry about the South Carolina primary, actually, you know, actually came out and said that they should take this flag down. But not a single one of the presidential candidates actually stood up and did what Nikki Haley or -- actually, I shouldn't say that. Lindsey Graham is running for president. So, give Lindsey Graham some credit --

BORGER: But he did it right after she did it.

She had to go out first and clear the way for them. And then they followed.

BLITZER: She was very impressive. There's already a lot of buzz out there, Gloria, maybe she could be a vice presidential running mate for some of these.

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: You heard that.

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: She's second term, she's term limited, she can't run again.

BORGER: Sure.

And, you know, when I saw Mitt Romney tweet about it over the weekend and say, move the flag, I thought, she was so close to Mitt Romney, and I thought, oh, maybe that means Nikki Haley's going to feel the same way.

Yes, she's now moved herself to a different level. She's now playing on the national stage. And we're going to see how that works out with the state legislature, whether she can call the special session and how she can herd the vote --

LIZZA: But the fact that there's a process here. This means this issue does not go away. These candidates are -- the South Carolina press is going to be asking them on the process of this, again and again, what do you think of this representative's view of this? What do you think of this plan? The issue isn't totally dead for these guys?

BLITZER: What do you think, Nia, about the fact these Republican guys now give the money that they were given by this allegedly white supremacist leader and give it to the church, the church that was attacked last week?

HENDERSON: Yes, I think it recalled some uncomfortable conversations, and sort of alliances the that the Republican party has had. I mean, it recalls the Steve Scalise situation, the House majority whip, and he spoke unknowingly before white supremacist groups and also recalls what Colin Powell said, this sort of dark vein of intolerance that the Republican Party has had and is certainly trying to move past. And I think that's one of the things -- that's why Reince Priebus was there today, right? Because he very much wants his party to get -- to move forward.

BORGER: And Republican presidential candidates like Rick Santorum, at the church, at the memorial service. Look, they can't stop the fact that some guy, who's a white supremacist, donated to their campaign, but the minute you find out about it, they did the right thing. They give it to the church or they gave it back. They did exactly the right thing.

BLITZER: And the church can obviously use that money. It will be well spent, I'm sure.

Guys, thanks very much.

A sad note we want to report. The Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, he announced today he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. That's a form of cancer.

The governor said he was diagnosed a few days ago with what he described as a very aggressive form of the disease. Hogan says he will not be stepping down, he will begun receiving chemotherapy treatments but says he won't stop working.

We want to wish Governor Hogan only the best, to go through this chemotherapy, hopefully it will work and he will be the governor of Maryland for a long time. The governor of Maryland announcing he's got a very serious form of cancer and we wish him only best.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Tweet me, if you want, @wolfblitzer.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.