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Pope To Hold Mass In Revolution Square Soon; Donald Trump Addresses "Obama Muslim" Controversy. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2015 - 06:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning. In just three hours, Pope Francis celebrates mass in Cuba for hundreds of thousands, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, a trip which also includes the U.S. in just a few days.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And maybe Trump like you've never seen him before, personal bible in hand. He responds to backlash after brushing off a supporter who claimed President Obama was Muslim.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you personally think that Muslims pose a danger to this country?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love the Muslims. I think they are great people.


PAUL: Good morning. Welcome on a Sunday morning. We are so grateful for your company as always. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you. Welcome to our viewers around the world. We are live in Havana marking the historic trip by the pope to Cuba.

My colleague and "NEW DAY" anchor CHRIS CUOMO is there. Chris, good morning to you. We see that there are huge crowds are filing in already before dawn.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Well, look. This is literally you are watching history, Victor and Christi. Good morning to you both. At 4:00 this morning local time same as in the east. That is when people were let in. You can see -- take the picture. That is our photographer.

They have been here on since 4:00 in the morning and thousands of people are here. The Cuban authorities say that there will be hundreds of thousands here to hear Pope Francis say mass at 9:00 this morning, a homily that will reverberate through this crowd and through this island and across this world.

What will he say to the Cuban people? What is the promise of the pope's trip there? There is something else we want to show you. This is Revolution Square. The people we are talking are saying they hope it will become Evolution Square.

Look at this. There is a new Holy Trinity here. You have the champion of the revolution, right? You have another captain of the revolution, one of the main people that helped with the military here. Look who has been added. They say this is the first time this has ever been seen in Cuba in revolution square.

Not lit well but there before your eyes is a huge picture of Jesus Christ and below him is the message (inaudible), come to me. People say they have never seen it and this photo will be facing directly to the podium where Pope Francis will be. The mass begins at 9:00 and literally the country is on edge waiting for the hope to give them their message.

BLACKWELL: Chris, we know that the president, Raul Castro, has been complimentary of the speeches and the messages from the pope and says if he keeps this up, Raul Castro says he will pray again so this could be an important visit for Raul Castro personally.

CUOMO: It was interesting what he said. Raul Castro, an educated by Jesuit. Pope Francis is a Jesuit. There is a synergy. In his speech yesterday, Castro said that he had a fondness for the pope and he listened to his words and looking at the words in the bible he referred to and looking at the words that the pope had pointed to especially about global warming.

But then he took a political turn and talking about the embargo as illegal and he talked about sovereignty and he followed up with sovereignty that nobody should interfere with the dealings of another country. Let's not forget, the people here today are joyful, but they are not just the faithful here, they are the hopeful.

This is an oppressive regime. People want freedom and change. Later, the pope is meeting with 200,000 people and the only thing he asked for his concession is Wi-Fi. The cell towers are to block messages and not transmit them.

When they talk today about their experience as Cubans, that is huge because people here are so desperate for freedom and that is what they are looking for with the pope today. They heard Castro's words yesterday. They hear them all the time.

The propaganda still all over this country about what the revolution is and what it should mean to them, but they are hoping for change and maybe that comes in the form of this pope.

PAUL: All right, Chris Cuomo, a great picture of what is happening there and a really good sense for us since we can't be there with you. Thank you so much. Chris is going to be with us all morning long, by the way. He is going to have much more for you coming up.

[06:50:05] We do want to turn to politics now. Here is the thing. Big poll numbers set to be released on CNN. This is coming on the heels of the second GOP debate so it could be a major indicator to see whether other candidates are gaining ground on frontrunner, Donald Trump.

Speaking of Trump, he attended a Faith and Freedom Forum in Iowa and I'm betting maybe you've never seen him like this before. There is he taking the stage with bible in hand, showing the crowd -- there he is. He is showing the crowd a photo of his confirmation.


TRUMP: Actually, this was given to me by my mother and I was just noticing it yesterday --


PAUL: A gift, obviously, there from his mother as well. He addressed the controversy over a town hall claim that the president is Muslim. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I had a couple of quite a few days as you noticed. I did a very innocent town hall with about 3,000 people at least and the first question, I said this can only happen to me. You all know what the first question was and the press is going crazy and they all wanted to see me. I said for the first time in my life, I got in trouble by not saying anything. I didn't say anything.


PAUL: CNN's M.J. Lee is in Des Moines, Iowa and has been following the Trump campaign. This is the other thing. We understand he went to a homecoming event last night and you were there.

I'm assuming the Muslim controversy certainly took center stage, but this was a homecoming event with teenagers who, as I understand it, maybe only the seniors by next year will be able to vote. Were their parents there? Were there people who are of voting age there that he was talking to? What was it like?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, Christi. You're right. Donald Trump is continuing to face questions about this latest controversy. He was uncharacteristically quiet earlier in the week and broke his silence yesterday on Twitter sending out a series of tweets, basically, defending his interaction with this man at a town hall earlier in the week in New Hampshire.

He spoke at the Faith and Freedom Forum yesterday in Iowa and then, you're right, he went to a high school homecoming where 9th to 12th graders were very excited to have a presidential candidate, the front-runner, not to mention, speak at their homecoming.

There were students, as well as parents and a mix of some of Trump's supporters as well. After the event I was able to catch up with Trump and ask him about his views on Muslims and he got a question from one of the high school students about Muslim Americans in the country. Take a listen to what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you personally think that Muslims pose a danger to this country?

TRUMP: I love the Muslims. I think they are great people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I consider Muslim Americans to be an important asset to our country and society. Would you consider putting one in your candidate or even on your ticket?

TRUMP: You consider what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Putting one in your candidate or on your ticket, a Muslim-American.

TRUMP: Muslim? Absolutely. No problem with that. Would I consider putting a Muslim-American in my cabinet? Absolutely, no problem with that.


LEE: As you can imagine, Christi, Democrats have pounced on Donald Trump and outright calling him a racist in interaction with this supporter. Republicans on the other hand, have had a mixed reaction saying it's not always a candidate's responsibility to correct a voter when they say something that is incorrect.

PAUL: All right, M.J. Lee, we appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's get more insight on this with CNN politics, Eric Bradner. Eric, good to have you back this morning. Quinnipiac poll shows Trump, the most recent poll, trailing Ben Carson among Christian conservatives in Iowa. He has some work to do there.

ERIC BRADNER, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: He does. Now, Trump really sort of turned off a lot of Evangelical leaders earlier this summer with a couple of incidents, including one where he couldn't name his favorite bible verse and one where he said he had never asked forgiveness from God.

Now, Trump is going up against Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, coming off a strong debate performance, who both really speaks to Evangelical voters. Carson talks openly about his faith. And Fiorina has made a big point of focusing on this Planned Parenthood controversy, which is also important to Evangelicals.

So Trump is seeing this in early states like Iowa and South Carolina as a potentially significant liability and that is why you're seeing him doing events like the ones he did yesterday.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about this comparison between Trump's, I guess, nonresponse to the criticism of President Obama and Muslims in America, and the 2008 exchange between John McCain supporter at a rally. First, let's listen to that exchange and then we will talk about it.


[06:10:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not -- he's not -- he's -- he's an Arab.





MCCAIN: No, no, ma'am. He is a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that is what this campaign is all about. He is not. Thank you.

TRUMP: This one is if I would have challenged the man, that's the man that made the statement. Somewhat maybe negative to the president, to put it mildly, the media would have accused me of interfering with that man's right of free speech, a no-win situation.

Do we agree? If I would have stopped him, and you remember the famous thing where John McCain just ripped that microphone out of the woman's hands, I don't know. I thought it was a little bit harsh, to be honest with you. Does anybody agree with me? That was harsh, wasn't it?


BLACKWELL: All right. This is now becoming, I don't want to say a theme, but the second time that Trump has gone after John McCain, at least taking a dig here. Earlier in the year, he said he questioned the heroism of John McCain. Is there some benefit of going after McCain to this crowd specifically?

BRADNER: Well, Trump spends a lot of time going after Republicans who aren't particularly popular with the base, people who are sort of easy targets and appealing to the die-hard Republicans that feel the party hasn't run candidates who are far enough to the right, rock ribbed conservatives in recent presidential elections and has taken a lot of shots at Mitt Romney.

You're right. He finds some particular glee in going after John McCain. I think this is sort of another example of Trump kind of as a bombastic truth telling candidate and that is why some people like him, but it does raise a bigger question about whether politicians are responsible for a source of crowds that they bring out to their events and the sorts of comments that are made there.

BLACKWELL: We have heard criticisms from both Republicans and Democrats of both Trump's nonresponse and the media for questioning Trump's nonresponse. Eric Bradner, thank you for being with us this morning. We will have this conversation throughout the morning as we look ahead to these new poll numbers scheduled to be released at 9:00 a.m. Eastern this morning. Thanks, Eric. Let's talk now about these migrants and ongoing desperate call

for support and freedom march from Austria to Hungary. CNN is with them and you'll want to watch this report in a few minutes.

PAUL: We are live in Havana. Look at the first of the hundreds of thousands of people who are expected to listen to the pope as he celebrates mass there in just about three hours.


PAUL: A live picture of Havana, Cuba, this morning. Those are some of the hundreds of thousands of people expected to come see the second day of Pope Francis' visit as he is going to hold a mass celebration there. This is a country where religious activity is still so restricted and it's a country with real atheist and socialist paths.

BLACKWELL: The pope is offering a first communion of five children and a sense of rebirth there in Cuba. Let's go Chris Cuomo live there at Revolution Square where the thousands, as we said, are piling in.

CUOMO: Overnight, people were coming here. All day yesterday, they were traveling from all over this anxious island to get to this moment. This is history in the making. Not just for the people here, but literally as a world moment.

Pope Francis has done something we do not see in recent times. He has delved into the political world. There is no question that the Vatican had a heavy hand in getting Cuba and the United States to start to reconsider relations.

Of course, there are motivations on both sides but his hand is here and it's real and they know. This is the way the day sets pup. The mass at 9:00 a.m. and an hour and a half, a full mass, you hear the music this tested behind us.

It is going to be a very, very glorious presentation and ceremony. On your screen, you'll hear the big events. When the pope meets with Cuban government officials that could mean meeting with Fidel Castro, we don't know about that yet.

What is happening with the 2,000 young people that get to meet Pope Francis is they are going to have Wi-Fi and they are going to be encouraged to send messages into social media. Remember where we are. This is Cuba. You take Wi-Fi and social media for granted. Not here.

Few have regular access to internet. The cell towers are here to block messages. When the pope went through the streets yesterday, Christi and Victor, the crowds were there and in Patrick's word, lives here. He says that is real enthusiasm. That is not the government putting people there to applaud politely. That is real.

Let me give awe feel of the crowd. How much this moment means to people. We have our Ed Lavandera out there. Ed, how are the communications working out there? Can you hear me?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can hear you, Chris. We are out here in the crowds where hundreds of thousands of people will be showing up here and already showing up in droves. We are a good 150 yards back away from the altar here where Pope Francis will be conducting the mass. There have been the crowds here.

These folks telling me this morning they started showing up at 3:00, 3:30 in the morning. One of the big concerns for them throughout the day will be the heat. It has been painfully hot here. These are one of several Red Cross stations that have been set up throughout the plaza of the Revolution.

We have already seen people starting to faint and get treatment here so that will be a big concern. Once you go back into these crowds, it will be even hotter as everybody is standing together.

Hundreds of thousands of people expected to be here in the plaza, already starting to pour in and they have been people have been bussed in and strongly encouraged by the government to attend the services.

[06:20:10] Chris, when you talk to people, there is not a strong history of Catholic faith and Catholic participation here on this island. Many people you talk to, many young people simply haven't grown up in that culture.

So this kind of experience for many of these people is very new and very eye opening for them in many ways. So we will continue to watch with them from the crowd throughout the morning here -- Chris.

CUOMO: Ed, we will check back in with you and you're making a very strong point there. It's not just about the faithful but the hopeful. The Cubans who are hoping for something better and a change and heard a little bit about it and now they get to see.

We have a good understanding of what is going on the ground in good because of our man in Havana. Patrick Oppmann is joining us, the only TV American journalist who lives here. Your kids are here and your wife is here. You've been living this story. How important is this day for the religious, but just for the people in general?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The pope is a Spanish speaking pope and will address them directly. I've covered the two other papal visits and it's a big deal instead of having a pope that speaks another language and perhaps reading a statement and perhaps a heavy accent and pope go off message and communicate with them directly and hit people in the hearts. That is what we are looking for. It's a pretty exciting day here.

CUOMO: When we look at the agenda for the day we teed up how big the meeting is with the 2,000 kids is. Am I exaggerating? The kids are encouraged to send messages into social media by or with the approval of the regime? That's a big deal?

OPPMANN: It's never happened quite like this before and no official come in and said I want this and it's happened. I came here four years ago there was almost no internet and now a little but people complain it's expensive. They have three Wi-Fi routers scattered about the old area of Havana and amazing how long will they last after the pope leaves?

CUOMO: That is the always big if, right? What happens once the pope leaves? But let's deal with the present for right now. There were interesting coded comments in both Castro's speech and in the pope's speech. The pope talked a lot about wanting to be here for the people he is going to meet and the people he said I cannot meet for various reasons.

A big theme was reconciliation among the faithful, among the United States and Cuba and among those in Latin America and the rich and the poor. Listen to a little bit of it.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): The world needs reconciliation in this environment and third world stages of what we are experimenting. I urge the political leaders to persevere on this path and they are called on to carry out on behalf of peace and well-being of their Americans to all of America and as an example of reconciliation for the entire world.


CUOMO: Reconciliation, what does that mean from the Cuban perspective?

OPPMANN: It means so much. Almost everybody I know here has family outside the United States. Used to be when you left, you couldn't come back. You were considered a traitor. That has changed. So this is something the people of Cuba have moved on with. The government really has not in many, many wanes the pope coming here pushing for reconciliation saying both governments need to move forward and taken a big step, but he wants them to take more steps.

CUOMO: We know that Obama and Castro were on the phone talking about the papal visit and ease of restrictions that starts tomorrow. What are the massive changes?

OPPMANN: There are going to be massive changes in telecom companies and allow them to come and set up business here and really important and the issue you were talking about Wi-Fi internet and those kinds of things. The U.S. is challenging the Cuban government for saying for years an embargo and why people couldn't get online. We will open that up and that is the pope's message he is coming and encouraging youth to get online.

CUOMO: Christi and Victor, you have to remember where we are. Yes, it's always a big deal ceremoniously when the pope shows up, but the hunger for change here cannot be exaggerated so the pope has to promise with what he knows will be delivered.

BLACKWELL: We also look to find out what happens with that potential meeting between the pope and Fidel Castro and if that happens today or during this visit. Chris, Patrick, thank you so much. We will get back to you in a moment. New details are emerging about a story in the United States.

What may have happened to Baby Doe now identified as Bella Bond just before her tragic death. CNN has learned she may have been repeatedly punched. Plus --

[06:25:07] PAUL: Here they are again. The pictures live from Havana, Cuba. One much things Chris pointed out in the last block here, I don't know if you can see it there, but something that has never been seen there before, a huge picture of Jesus Christ with the words "come to me."

These are people and some of whom have been there two and a half to three hours and still have two and a half hours before the pope will address them. We are there live all morning for you. Stay close.


PAUL: Voters will once again decide whether to give leftist another chance. They are back to the ballot box for the third time this year to elect a new parliament.

BLACKWELL: You know the country is still mired in the political and economic turmoil and the Greek voters need to choose this new government as soon as possible or it will risk losing out on this financial bailout from Europe.

PAUL: The Boston area mother and her boyfriend accused of murdering 2-year-old Bella Bond who was known as Baby Doe, are making their first court appearances tomorrow. A law enforcement source tells CNN 35-year-old Michael McCarthy says that he punched the toddler because he thought she was possessed. Bella's mother is accused of covering up the crime. It's not clear whether her boyfriend's punches are what killed that little girl, but her body was found last June along the Boston harbor.

BLACKWELL: Let's take another look at the hundreds of thousands of people there at the Revolution Square there in Havana awaiting the 9:00 a.m. Eastern beginning of the mass delivered by Pope Francis. Back in 2012, Pope Benedict said mass there at Revolution Square.