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Trump, Rubio Insults Get Personal; Stars Putting on Free Event for Flint; Navy SEAL Will Receive Medal of Honor Monday. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 28, 2016 - 07:30   ET



[07:31:20] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: So, what are we talking about this weekend? One candidate's big ears. The other's spray tan.

Forget policy proposals. The GOP candidates are getting personal.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Really personal. Marco Rubio and Donald Trump seem to be the ones leading the way. Listen.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here is the one tweet. He put out a picture of me having makeup put on me at the debate -- which is amazing to me that a guy with the worst spray tan in America is attacking me for putting on make up.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's 22 points behind. If he ran in Florida today for an office he couldn't run for dag catcher he wouldn't be elected. He wouldn't be elected.


PAUL: So, let's talk to Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent.

Sorry, Victor.

BLACKWELL: This should be a two shot. Let's get both on camera.


BLACKWELL: Brian, let's start with this -- there we go. Let's start with this fight. You say it's made for modern media.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I sure think so. You know, TV is hard, you know. TV is hard sometimes but we all know how TV works. It is based on the sound bite. It's based on the clever pithy comment.

I think what we are seeing is a little bit of a tweak to that rule. Now, it's about the Facebook clip, it's about the Twitter clip, it's about the moments that can go viral that people will see here on TV, but also share on social media.

When you watch Rubio and Trump going back and forth, it is sort of the perfect example for the modern media age of something that can go viral. You know, not for entertainment or comedy but for news.

When Rubio was on stage reading tweets off his cell phone screen, mean things that Donald Trump has said, it looked like something straight of Jimmy Kimmel, something straight out of late night from when they actually read mean tweets.

So, you can see the candidates sort of learning from entertainment media. With Trump there with the water bottle he's doing visual comedy. He's doing shtick the way you se, at the stand up show.

Now, this is sort of the way it is, right? A lot of people say this is demeaning for the presidency. Bad for politics. But it is where we are at the moment. It's almost like they are using these techniques they have learned from late night and stand up comedy and then applying them to politics.

PAUL: Well, one thing nobody can get around, nobody can get around, is the fact that when you hear things like that coming out of their mouths, look at the reactions to the crowds.


STELTER: Yes, exactly.

PAUL: They are doing it because the crowds are egging them on essentially.

STELTER: Yes, I think there's nothing inherently wrong, and as a viewer, when I'm watching at home, I'm on the edge of my seat, you know, because this is inherently entertaining and captivating. It is compelling to watch, it's compelling to hear what these candidates are saying.

But at the same time, I think it's incumbent in the press to then remind people, OK, this is a presidential election we're talking about. It is fine and appropriate to be acknowledging what the candidates are saying and to cover them in depth but then we a do need to bring it back and remind people what the stakes are here. And the stakes, of course, are very, very high. That is something that is always the role of the press to have reality check on what these candidates are saying, and we're going to explore that this morning.

BLACKWELL: You know, this is not the first presidential election that Twitter has existed during. But this seems to be the Twitter election. Donald Trump tweets in the morning. It makes news, because he threatens that maybe he's going to run third party.

They read the tweets on stage. Even Mitt Romney the other day, when he went after the possible bombshell in Trump's taxes, he tweeted that.

STELTER: Yes, and then, of course, Romney was tweeting during the CNN debate to take advantage of the fact that the debate was happening and that 15 million people were watching on CNN and Telemundo, Romney was able to inject himself into the conversation by using social media.

I think six months ago, people wondered is Donald Trump lucky or is he good? Is he doing this out of luck when he tweets, when he uses television to get his message across?

[07:35:05] Is it strategic or is it accidental?

I think we can now safely say it is strategic. That his timing is extraordinary. For example, bringing Chris Christie up on stage the morning after the debate against Marco Rubio. And with his tweets also the timing very, very smart.

You know, however, and this is again where I go back to the reality check by the press. This morning, Trump is retweeting a quote from Mussolini from a dictator from the 1940s. That kind of thing has to be fact checked and scrutinized by the media, and I think it is, but that needs to continue to happen.

PAUL: Yes. I mean, we are definitely seeing some entertainment but we need to see some policy. We need to see something that's going educate us as well, definitely.

Brian Stelter, so appreciate it. Thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

PAUL: Sure.

All right. Still to come. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is responding to the Oscars diversity controversy saying, "I don't know if I like your Oscars, I'm just going to make my own."


RUSSELL SIMMONS, HIP-HOP MOGUL: You cannot live in a segregated world and produce content for the entire world. It just doesn't work.


PAUL: The one thing he says we can all do to break some of these barriers. The one thing. That's coming up.

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, Hollywood stars are taking action against what some of them are calling environmental racism. The fight to get clean water to the people living in Flint, Michigan.


BLACKWELL: Deaf Jam records founder Russell Simmons is reacting now to the Oscar controversy as only the media mogul can. He went out and created -- get this -- his own award show and he did it in just ten days.

[07:40:02] PAUL: Ten days. The All Def Movie Awards is Simmons' answer basically to what some are calling a lack of diversity in Hollywood. This controversy sparked the #oscarssowhite for the second year in a row.

Well, I talked to him about this earlier. And he had a lot to say about one thing we could all do to make a change here.


PAUL: Let me ask you, because you say we have to do it properly. How do you think Hollywood -- what do they have to do to do it properly, to progress? And what do you think is the -- what do you think really at the end of the behind closed doors in all of your conversations and your meetings, Mr. Simmons, what do you think is the biggest obstacle to making that happen?

RUSSELL SIMMONS, CO-FOUNDER, DEF JAM RECORDINGS: If you are an African American, you have to ask yourself how many white people were in your wedding? And if you are white and you work in Hollywood and you are in charge of building out content for all of America and almost half of it's not white, you have to ask yourself, how many people of color are in your wedding?

And you have to move towards a place where you have a life that is integrated in a way that reflects culturally and a real time what America is a reflection of. You cannot live a segregated world and produce content for the entire world. It just doesn't work.

It works to some degree, but it can work better if you take the time to reach out beyond your comfort zone and make friends.

PAUL: Was there at the All Def Movie Awards one stand out moment that you take away that meant the most to you? And also, how did -- how did Tony Rock do?

SIMMONS: Tony Rock did fantastic, because he's always fantastic. Tony Robbins got on the stage and he kept heckling Tony. So, Tony gave him a minute to speak. Will Smith wining his lifetime achievement award stood out.

There were so many moments that were -- Snoop Dogg and Mike Epps did the crip walk on the stage. They were pretty funny. It was really funny. There was a lot of funny moments. It's really a hysterical show. I think people will enjoy it.

PAUL: Again, tonight 7:00 p.m. on Fusion it starts and then re-airs. So people can kind of pick the hour that they can go and watch it.

And I love -- you know, your takeaway. Integrate our lives, and that is how we will integrate the change.

Thank you so much, Russell Simmons.

PAUL: It was a real pleasure to have you here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: I got to tell you, he did not hold back this our conversation. You can see the full uncut interview with the media mogul. Head to

And do it keep here at CNN for all your Oscars coverage. Don Lemon and Michaela Pereira, together on Oscar's red carpet for Hollywood's biggest night tonight, starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

BLACKWELL: And Hollywood is pulling together for the people impacted by the Flint water crisis. Coming up next, why some actors are calling this water scandal environmental racism.

Plus, a Navy Seal talks to CNN about the moment he raided a Taliban hideout and a lost a dear friend in the process. Now, he will be awarded with the nation's highest military honor.


[07:46:49] PAUL: Good morning to you.

We're talking about government officials in Michigan now who knew the water in Flint was dangerous a year ago. This is according to newly released e-mails sent to the governor's office back in January of 2015, where they were warned not to call the drinking water safe because of an increase in Legionnaire's disease.

Now, in response to the revelation, Governor Rick Snyder admitted his staff, quote, "let us all down", and added, quote, "I'm responsible for that."

Eventually, 87 people were diagnosed with Legionnaire's. Nine died. State officials say not everyone who got the disease was exposed to Flint water though. Film director Ryan Coogler -- you may know him from the movie "Creed" -- will not be in Hollywood tonight to see if Sylvester Stallone wins an Oscar. He's skipping the red carpet to take part in a star studied fundraiser for the people impacted by this lead contamination crisis.

CNN's Sara Sidner takes us there.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, "Creed" director Ryan Coogler is not talking Oscars on this Oscar night. He's talking water crisis here in Flint, Michigan. He and director Ava Duvernay are talking about it, but they're also doing something to help because he has said that he believes this is a state-sponsored human rights violation what happened here when the city decided to switch its water supply to save money and ended up poisoning its people.

Lead and other dangerous contaminants have been found in Flint's drinking water supply and people have been drinking it for some time. They have now switched the water back. But he says this is an example of environmental racism and he wants to shine a light on that. And so do the other actors, singers and comedians who have come to put on a free event for the residents here in Flint. They are doing something where they are allowing people to talk to

them. They are also going to be performing for them for free. They are also putting it out online, live streaming it so that people can donate online and also enjoy the event all over the world.

We should mention though they are not ignorant to the fact that this is Oscar night. They are not ignoring it. They're just saying, look, this is not about #oscarssowhite.

However, it does show some of the environmental racism they see going on here in the country, in America. If you look at the statistics here, 57 percent of the population here in Flint is black and about 40 percent of the residents here across races lives under the poverty line -- Christi.


BLACKWELL: All right. I'll take it, Sarah. Thank you so much.

Of course, tonight is Hollywood's biggest night, the Oscars. Red carpet being rolled out. But as we heard there are many celebrities who will not be walking down the red carpet, promising to boycott the awards because of lack of diversity in nominations. We're also going to talk about the Flint water crisis now with Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans.

Marc, good to have you back on the show.


BLACKWELL: I want to start with what we're seeing in Hollywood, and those who will be there and won't be not there and the lack of diversity. And you and others have made the point that this does not begin with simply the announcement of the nominees but it starts with the roles that are available and those who are choosing those who will receive those nominations.

MORIAL: This is comprehensive. Hollywood has a broad, longstanding problem.

[07:50:01] And I think for two years in a row, the Oscars having an all-white, if you will, tableau of nominees just certainly I think hit the nerve for the final time.

And I support the idea that what Hollywood needs is a makeover, and it needs a makeover that reflects 21st century America, from the executive suites all the way down to every position in front of and behind the camera.

Russell Simmons is absolutely right. If you're going to make content for diverse America, the people who make that content need to reflect the experiences of a diverse America. So, this I think is the beginning of the elevation of a conversation about Hollywood.

Why is this important? Hollywood is big business. These are jobs. These are economic opportunities. Great wealth is created from the making of movies in America.

Great job opportunities are created. Careers are created. And I think that when we're talking about jobs and income inequality in America and the wealth gap, Hollywood, a multibillion-dollar enterprise, has to be on the table.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And, you know, many of the actors who will not be in Hollywood for the big show will be in Flint, Michigan, trying to bring awareness and support to the people who live there. And I think people are hearing for the first time, maybe there was some notion that it existed, but they are hearing for the first time this term of environmental racism. In fact, that this would not have happened in an affluent or a nonminority community.

MORIAL: Like I said a decade ago with Katrina in my own hometown, this would not happen -- Flint would not happen in Greenwich, Connecticut, or in Beverly Hills or even in Oakland County, Michigan. It would not happen.

And so, is it environmental racism? Yes.

But you know what else it is? It's green eye-shade decision-making. And it's also the suppression of the truth. The idea that a year ago, public officials knew about this crisis and failed to disclose it or to take, if I can say, action toward it, borders on malfeasance.

This is an incredible crisis of failed decision-making, of decision- making which put dollars and cents before human lives. And I applaud those actors and those in Hollywood who are today taking a stand to assist the people of Flint.

We're working with the mayor to try to provide water and other cleaning supplies. And I think the nation should rally around this. There may be other possibilities, other risks of Flint out there because of the deteriorating infrastructure of so many American communities.

BLACKWELL: All right. Marc Morial, a former New Orleans mayor and head of the National Urban League, thank you so much for being with us --

MORIAL: Thanks, Victor.

BLACKWELL: -- and talking with us about these two important issues.


PAUL: Next, Victor, a Navy SEAL talks about a deadly raid that earned him the nation's highest military honor, but it cost him a fellow SEAL and a friend.


[07:56:31] PAUL: Top stories at this hour.

There's an AMBER Alert active in Montana for this missing 4-year-old girl. Whatever you're doing, please do me a favor and just look at your screen. This is Maci Lilley. She was abducted by a 20-year-old man Friday night.

Now, he has been taken into custody. But they can't find her. The FBI is leading this massive search effort for her now.

BLACKWELL: Last year's IRS theft was much worse, much worse than originally thought. The tax collection agency now says hackers stole personal data on more than 700,000 people, that's seven times worse than reported last May.

PAUL: And serious news, cessation of hostilities or cease-fire in some areas appears to be holding but there are several reports of violence there. This comes as warplanes believed to be either Russian or Syrian carried out several airstrikes across the war-torn nation. This is according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights who says some of the strikes targeted ISIS-controlled areas.

Terror groups such as ISIS and al Nusra front are not part of this truce agreement.

BLACKWELL: President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to a Navy SEAL tomorrow.

PAUL: Edward Byers Jr. helped rescue an American hostage being held by the Taliban. He talks about what happened in his own words.

Here's CNN's Michelle Kosinski.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a Navy SEAL, Edward Byers Jr. is well-acquainted with danger, and the night of December 8th, 2012, brought plenty of it.

EDWARD BYERS, JR., NAVY SEAL, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: The mission was a hostage rescue mission. So to us, that is a no-fail mission. Our objective, our goal, is to bring back an American hostage alive.

KOSINSKI: And that he and other SEALs did, rescuing Dr. Dilip Joseph whom the Taliban in Afghanistan had been holding captive for about four days.

BYERS: It was at that time that I engaged the person I was on top of and jumped off the guy I was on and onto the doctor who was about three or four maybe five feet away from me to my right.

KOSINSKI: For his heroic effort, President Obama is awarding Byers America's highest military honor.

BYERS: It wasn't until he called and I got to speak to him that -- and he said, you know, congratulations. I looked at your award, and I'm approving you to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. That's when it was, like, OK, this is real.

KOSINSKI: But Byers is also dealing with another reality. He was the second SEAL to burst into the Taliban hideout to free Dr. Joseph, the first SEAL, Nicholas Checque, was killed.

BYERS: Nick was -- embodied the essence of what it is to be an American hero. He will forever be remembered, you know, in the pages of history for the sacrifices that he made.

KOSINSKI: Plenty of people are calling Byers a hero as well, but his young daughter might not be one of them.

BYERS: My daughter knows that I'm daddy, and she loves me just for that. And if you talk to her one on one, she'll tell you the five different nicknames she has of me. And I don't think one of them includes hero.

KOSINSKI: The magnitude of the moment isn't lost on everyone, though, especially mom.

BYERS: When I called my mom that night and told her, you know, you've got to love my mom. She -- her first question out of her mouth was, do you think I'll be able to come to it? And I was, like, of course, mom. I'm pretty sure you're going to be allowed to come.

KOSINSKI: Michelle Kosinski, CNN, the White House.


BLACKWELL: Yes, you can bring your mom when you receive the Medal of Honor.

PAUL: And thank you for your service. Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: Certainly.

PAUL: And thank you so much for starting your morning with us.