Return to Transcripts main page


Funeral Today for 6-Year-Old Shot by Police; Bryan Cranston Portrays Blacklisted Screenwriter. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 9, 2015 - 16:30   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Topping our national lead today, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigned just hours ago amid charges by some students and some faculty that the school failed to properly address institutional racism on campus. African-American students in particular have been protesting for weeks after a series of racially charged incidents that they say the president did not take seriously enough.

The latest development, on Saturday, members of the Mizzou football team with support from their coach announced that they were refusing to practice or play until the president stepped aside.

In his remarks, Wolfe said his resignation came out of -- quote -- "love, not hate."

CNN's Polo Sandoval joins me live with the latest

Now, Polo, I have to say, it's been a dramatic scene at Mizzou for weeks now, including a student doing a -- undergoing a hunger strike. It seems from the outside as though it wasn't until the football team got involved and revenue was at stake that the university started getting real.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Jake. You're talking about an athletic department that brought in a revenue of about $83 million the last fiscal year.

And it truly is a remarkable series of events that we have watched play out in America's heartland. You have a small group of students that eventually grew support and it led to the resignation of that school president.


TIM WOLFE, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI: Please, please use this resignation to heal, not to hate.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Tim Wolfe is answering the call for change at the University of Missouri. He stepped down from his post as president amid heated racial tensions at Mizzou's main campus. Students insisted racism is real at their school and their leader wasn't doing enough about it. It's a claim Wolfe acknowledges.

WOLFE: I take full responsibility for this frustration. And I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred.

SANDOVAL: News of the resignation was met with celebration by some students and voices united in an anthem reminiscent of the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and '60s.

MAYA STEWART, STUDENT: It's really about just getting fairness. It's not just about Tim Wolfe resigning, but it's about just getting equal rights with different things on campus. And I know this is just like the beginning of it.

SANDOVAL: The push for change meant a personal commitment for Jonathan Butler. The Missouri grad student refused to eat until Wolfe stepped down.

JONATHAN BUTLER, STUDENT: After all the letters we have seen, all the in-person interactions, after all the forums we have attended, after all the tweets and D.M.s that we have sent telling the administration about our pain, it should not have taken this much. And it is disgusting and vile that we find ourselves in the place that we do.

SANDOVAL: Nearly half of the Missouri Tigers football team fueled the cause by threatening to stay off the practice field in protest. Their head coach announced support with a single image of his players locking arms. The team was prepared to boycott its next game, a move which could have cost the school a million dollars.


This morning, a faculty walkout added even more pressure. Missouri journalist and professor Cynthia Frisby says she's seen the ugly reality of racism firsthand.

CYNTHIA FRISBY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI: I have been here for 18 years and this is nothing new. So I have been called the N-word too many times to talk about it on camera and to write them all out.

SANDOVAL: Jonathan Butler has ended his hunger strike. The Mizzou Tigers will be back on the practice field tomorrow. But the student struggle is far from over.


SANDOVAL: All right, so what happens next? The group at the head of this movement, Concerned Student 1950 saying that they are still standing behind their long list of demands, some of which, Jake, the university says are actually being taken into account and are even being included in what the university is referring to as a diversity and inclusion strategy.

They have actually been working on this since last summer. They expect to unveil that next April. What's important here is that really this suggests that the university at least had an idea that this was something serious that they had to address even before the national spotlight got on these kids.

TAPPER: All right. Polo Sandoval, thanks so much.

Joining me is Cynthia Frisby, associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. You just saw professor Frisby in Polo's report.

Professor, thanks so much for being with us.

I guess the first question, what had the president done wrong in the eyes of student and faculty calling for him to go?

FRISBY: That's a great question and one I'm asked frequently.

I think it was the lack of response. I think even from a public relations perspective, you always want to respond immediately to any crisis, whether you're responding immediately by saying I'm going to look into this later, I'm not quite sure what's going on, but if you go back and look at the YouTube video from the homecoming parade and see that there was absolutely nothing done, I think that's a sign of leadership that people were complaining about.

TAPPER: You talked in Polo's piece about being called the N-word in your 18 years at Mizzou with far too much frequency. Once -- obviously, once is with too much frequency, but give us an idea of what day-to-day life is like for an African-American on Mizzou campus.


Well, I would say, quite honestly, I'm probably in a little bubble at the journalism school. So life for me is OK. I mean, it's great at the journalism school, but beyond that, you know, I do believe that I have to give a little bit more cognitive effort to some of the behaviors I get from students, from faculty.

A lot of times, you want to ask them, are you this mean by nature or is it because you harbor some resentments toward my skin color? So, like, I do think there's -- and that's not uncommon to me. I think it's a situation that I don't just see here at Missouri, but I'm pretty sure people will respond to that on other campuses just as well.

TAPPER: I have no doubt that there are some horrible people on campus, as there are probably...


FRISBY: Everywhere, yes.

TAPPER: Yes, as there are probably horrible people everywhere. But is this president resigning -- is his resignation going to change anything? He wasn't the one, after all, calling people those horrible names.


FRISBY: Yes, you know, that is a great question, because I do think it's one step in a bigger problem.

Like, you know, it's one piece of the jigsaw puzzle, but it's a step toward that direction. I think what we are probably going to need to do is figure out, structurally, what are some of the things that we need to change? Why do people feel so comfortable to use the N-word without any problem?

I think it requires a lot of discussion and it requires a lot of candid discussions, a lot of here's, how I feel about that. I think some of the questions about the N-word is, you know, let's just be honest, how can we use it in our music and say that other people can't?

So there's, like, broader issues, in other words, is what I want to say, that we have to work through those before we can see any kind of progress. So his stepping down was just one little mechanism that, again, is in a broader problem and framed in a broader problem. I don't know that that makes sense, but...


TAPPER: No, it makes sense.

Professor, do you think that the involvement of the football team was crucial when it came to the president's decision to resign?

FRISBY: Well, whether it was the football team or whatever was crucial, I think, you know, Jake, that what struck me the most was that, back in the '50s or '60s, we had a time where people put some action to their words.

So, for example, you had people who left their jobs in order to do a march, you know, left jobs that they weren't even promised that they'd have when they come back, or they went to prison. And in this day and time, what we see is a lot of people hiding behind computers, saying and hurling their insults or giving money to donations.


But you hardly ever see somebody do something that's so drastic in order to effect change. And I think that's what we were seeing with the football team. You know, we were seeing people who decided, OK, I have had enough and I have got to go back to doing something like from the Martin Luther King days that would effect change.

TAPPER: Associate professor Cynthia Frisby at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, thank you so much.

I hope the students behind you are getting credit for listening to this interview.

FRISBY: Thank you.

TAPPER: Appreciate your time.

FRISBY: Thank you. Thank you. TAPPER: Coming up: two police officers facing murder charges after

killing a 6-year-old boy. But the question remains, why did they shoot 18 bullets into this car? What did the dad do?

Plus, "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston will join me ahead to talk about his new movie and why he thinks it's good that Donald Trump is running for president.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our other national lead today, 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis was laid to rest this afternoon in Louisiana nearly a week after two police officers shot and killed the first-grader with autism while they were chasing his father's car.

[16:45:04] The same day he was buried far too soon is the day we may finally get some answers about just why this happened. Why officers fired 18 bullets into the vehicle when it was stopped at a dead end, with both officers facing the judge.

Nick Valencia now join uses from Marksville, Louisiana.

We're hearing that one of the officers may have known the boy's father.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly a bizarre set of circumstances surrounding this case, especially after what we're hearing from a source, Jake. A source close to the investigation who tells me that Norris Greenhouse, one of those charged in the murder of that 6-year-old, actually knew the victims prior to the shooting. While he knew them, how -- the extent of how they knew each other that's being investigated by the Louisiana state police, a big part of their investigation. And now this, the city's mayor telling me there's corruption in this city that he's been trying to get to the bottom of.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Outside the detention center the local sheriff announces the judge's orders for the two officers charged with the murder of a 6-year-old.

SHERIFF DOUG ANDERSON, AVOYELLES PARISH SHERIFF'S OFFICE: The judge set the bond. Set at $1 million.

REPORTER: For each officer?

ANDERSON: For each officer, correct.

VALENCIA: The officers were moonlighting as city marshals in Marksville, Louisiana, last Tuesday night when they opened fire on a car driven by this man, Chris Few. Inside, buckled to the passenger seat Few's son, Jeremy Mardis. The officers fired 18 bullets.

The little boy is hit five times, killing him instantly. The father is injured. He was unarmed.

Almost a week since, investigators still have not said why they believe the officers pursued the car or why they used lethal force.

COL. MICHAEL EDMONSON, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: Jeremy Mardis, 6 years old, he didn't deserve to die like that. And that's what's unfortunate.

VALENCIA: The incident is caught on police body cameras. The footage has not been released to the public, but Louisiana state police superintendent says the video played a major role in the arrest.

The arrests didn't come as a surprise to Marksville resident Patrick Jeansonne. In January, he won a lawsuit against Derrick Stafford for false arrest when trying to get his dog to the vet during a July 4th parade in 2012. The city is now appealing the decision.

PATRICK JEANSONNE, FILED LAWSUIT AGAINST STAFFORD: When I said I knew he had some play in it one way or another.

VALENCIA (on camera): Why is that?

JEANSONNE: It's just the city of Marksville how they are. They're going to cover for each other.

VALENCIA (voice-over): This small town now the target of new allegations of corruption. Something even the mayor acknowledges.

(on camera): Is this city corrupt?

MAYOR JOHN LEMOINE, MARKSVILLE, LOUISIANA: Depends the way you look at it. I think to an extent it is. And there are some things that need to be taken care of. And there's some things that need to be looked at very seriously.

VALENCIA: How do you address that as the mayor? Even the mayor of this city is saying there's potential corruption in this city.

LEMOINE: I plan on meeting with the colonel from the state troopers, and to get and sit with us with the police department and see if we can iron things out.


VALENCIA: Just shocking, Jake, when you consider how casual the mayor was talking about corruption in this city. He went onto tell me that he was actually thrown in jail, arrested based on false accusations from Derrick Stafford, who, of course, is one of those officers charged with the murder of the 6-year-old, Stafford has been an issue and problem here in this police department, and he's been trying for quite some time to try to get him kicked off the force without any luck -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Valencia with a bizarre and tragic story -- thanks so much. The sports lead now -- it's being called the residue leftover from the

old Soviet Union, a doping scandal that could keep Russia off the track and at the next Olympics. The World Anti-Doping Agency today recommending that Russia be banned from international competitions because of widespread doping. An investigation uncovered a deeply rooted culture of cheating at all levels within Russian athletics, including corruption and bribery. The report even accused Russian intelligence, the FSB, of being involved.

The Olympics governing body is now considering sanctions against Russia in advance of the next Olympic Games scheduled for summer 2016 in Brazil.

You used to go to SeaWorld for one reason, to see Shamu and to watch him do all kinds of tricks. But after some of the killer whales killed sea world trainers and after the CNN documentary "Blackfish," exposed just how brutally parks treat these animals in captivity, today the company says it is now doing away with its main attraction. SeaWorld's CEO promising a new orca experience, one focused on a strong conservation message, he says. But it's only at this one park. The other 10 SeaWorld locations in the United States will keep running the show.

The animal advocacy group PETA says the move will do little to improve life for the whales.

In our pop culture lead, from a chemistry teacher turned drug lord to a blacklisted Hollywood writer -- Bryan Cranston now receiving reviews for his latest portrayal.

[16:50:00] The actor joins me, knocking at THE LEAD, next.


TAPPER: Welcome back now.

The pop culture lead: He won two Academy Awards while blacklisted from Hollywood working under pseudonyms. Dalton Trumbo was one of the Hollywood ten, a screenwriter and member of the communist party in the 1940s.

At the time, the U.S. and Soviet Union were allies. But after World War II, fear of communist influence in the United States became a popular cause. The screenwriter was eventually found in contempt of Congress. He was thrown in jail and blacklisted.

Now, his story in a film is hitting theaters this month.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you up to these days?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll have another one of these and I just may tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, and I'm buying.

Usual. Same again.

[16:55:02] Oh, come on. I hear the rumors. Show me you're still in the game fighting in the good fight. Rub my face in it. Whisper a movie you've written in secret. Maybe I've even heard of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe you have.


TAPPER: Joining me now is the star of the film, the man who plays Trumbo. And for "Breaking Bad" fans, he is the one who knocks -- Bryan Cranston.

Brian, thanks so much for joining us.

BRYAN CRANSTON, ACTOR: Nice to be here, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: So, this film telling the story of a dark period not only in our nation's history but Hollywood's history. People were punished for their beliefs, their thoughts. The studio heads in the film are depicted I think accurately as cravenly caving to smear artists. I'm kind of surprised that Hollywood made the film, although it was done independently.

CRANSTON: It was an independent film. I think studio Hollywood would have endorsed a film coming out of the studio system if it were a commercial piece. But you have your lead character's a member of the American communist party. There's no sex, there's no action.

So, it's not a real heavily commercial thing. But it's an important film. And we handled this very sincere serious issue with humor and entertainment.

So, it's fun to watch. You learn some things. And hopefully coming away from it you leave with the sense that, you know, you are more learned about this period, about the blacklist. And hopefully you'll look up some more information about it and read up more about this period.

TAPPER: When you play a real person, either Trumbo or your current project in which you're playing President Lyndon Johnson all the way, which comes out next year on HBO, how do you figure out what impression, what's inhabiting a character, what's mimicry? How do you figure out what to do?

CRANSTON: You rely a lot on your instincts. So, when I go looking for a research, whether it's for Lyndon Johnson or for Dalton Trumbo, or someone you want to accurately portray and owe that to society and those who remember him well, I don't always know exactly what I'm looking for. So I have to just be an open vessel and take in as much information as I possibly can. And you distill it down to a usable sense.

Every piece of theatrical information, whether it's a play or television show or a movie, takes theatrical license. They have to, otherwise that would be far too long, too much material to be -- to handle it accurately. So what we try to do is to get to the core of the story. And even though Dalton Trumbo was, you know, at the vanguard of trying to make the blacklist collapse, there were other many members of that Hollywood community who contributed mightily to that cause. And Dalton Trumbo was one of them.

TAPPER: Speaking of taking license, you've said in an interview with another organization, I think "The Huffington Post" maybe, that you think Donald Trump's candidacy is great. Explain what you mean.

CRANSTON: I think I said that I was excited that he was in the running because I think he's refreshing. I think there's -- the American people -- I know I do. I don't want to see a candidate who's measured and controlled and governed to the last word about exactly what to say and whatnot to say and handled.

And you can't handle Donald Trump. He is his own person. And that part of him is very refreshing. There's most of his politics I don't agree with, but I think again that illustrates the point of our film Trumbo is that we are not to be afraid of a different opinion but to actually embrace someone else's different opinion.

And that's how our country started. The debates were long and hard and arduous. But essentially what the two sides or three sides are trying to get to is to build a country built on the foundation of our First Amendment, which was the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to practice whatever religion you choose.

And that's really the cornerstone of this story and many other stories that have to do with the lessening of the First Amendment or the oppression of it. And whenever that happens in any society, I think the citizenry needs to stand up.

TAPPER: Amen to that. The film is "Trumbo." It's a fantastic film. I recommend it. Bryan Cranston, thanks so much for joining us.

CRANSTON: Thanks, Jake. Good to be here.

TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer and "THE SITUATION ROOM". Thanks for watching.