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CNN NEWSROOM

Joe Biden Receives Medal of Honor; Outrage over White Actor Cast as Michael Jackson; California Singer Hopes to Inspire Passion for Homeless. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 13, 2017 - 01:00   ET

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


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, new evidence backs CNN's reporting the President-elect was briefed by intelligence officials that Russia had unverified compromising information about him.

Plus, a teary-eyed farewell for the U.S. Vice President affectionally known as "Uncle Joe".

And later, the first look at the white actor playing Michael Jackson on British television, and it is sparking renewed outrage pretty much everywhere.

Hello, everybody, great to have you with us, I'm John Vause. We're now into the second hour of NEWSROOM L.A.

FBI Director James Comey, is facing an investigation by the Justice Department's Inspector General. He wants to look into how the bureau handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail case. Comey says, he's grateful for the investigation and he wants the results shared with the public. He sent a letter to Congress less than two weeks before the Presidential Election to say the FBI was investigating e-mails that could be relevant. Democrats say, that's why Clinton lost.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK DURBIN, UNITED STATES DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: I think steps were taken by the Director of the FBI, near the election, which were not precedent. It did not ever happen before. His statement about whether there was going to be an opening of an investigation, a closing of an investigation. I don't think was fair, professional or consistent with the policies of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

JASON CHAFFETZ, HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think justice is what we all want to prevail. There are questions on both sides of the aisle about the timing and who they met with and information that was put out. And so, it's not just about Director Comey, this review -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: U.S. Officials tells CNN the FBI Director personally briefed Donald Trump on unsubstantiated claims - Russia may have compromising information on him. That appears to contradict what Trump's Senior Advisor, Kellyanne Conway, has been saying over the past few days and we're learning more about Trump's choice to lead the CIA, including his views on Russia. Here's Pamela Brown, reporting in from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: I will continue to pursue Foreign Intelligence collection with vigor no matter where the facts leading.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Today, CIA Director Nominee Mike Pompeo addressed the reporting first on CNN that U.S. Intelligence Chiefs provided a synopsis of allegations compiled by a former British Intelligence Official to President-elect Trump and President Obama. The specific allegations which CNN has not verified or included in this reporting claimed that people within Trump's campaign communicated with Russia before the election, and also that the Russians have compromising personal information about the President-elect.

POMPEO: These are unsubstantiated allegations.

BROWN: Today, Vice President Joe Biden is confirming that he and President Obama were briefed last week by intelligence officials on the unsubstantiated claims. Biden's office also saying, the Vice President told reporters that intelligence leaders felt obligated to tell Obama because they were planning on informing Trump. The testimony by Pompeo comes a day after President-elect Trump rejected the reports calling them fake news and suggesting without proof - Intelligence Officials were responsible for the leaks.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Maybe the Intelligence Agencies. Who knows, but maybe the Intelligence Agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact they did that - a tremendous blot. Because a thing like that should have never been written. It should never have been had. And it should certainly, never have been released.

BROWN: U.S. Intelligence Chief, James Clapper, called Trump last night, trying to ease the tension between him and the Intelligence Community. Clapper released a statement after saying, "I do not believe the leaks came from within the I.C., Intelligence Community," and in what amounts to the first public confirmation of CNN's report that the synopsis existed and had been put together for the President- elect. Clapper added, "However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest picture of any matters that might affect National Security."

POMPEO: The leaks that occurred as well, I considered to be intensely serious, too, and I think Director Clapper's statement from last night to this morning about his concern about these leaks is worthy.

BROWN: During his testimony today, Pompeo also blamed Russia for interfering in the election. Coming out stronger than the President- elect has.

POMPEO: It's pretty clear about what took place here, about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy. This was an aggressive action taken by Senior Leadership inside of Russia, and America has an obligation and the CIA has a part of that obligation to protect that information.

[01:05:03] BROWN: James Clapper also said in the statement that was released after his phone call with Trump, that the Intelligence Community did not factor in any of the allegations in that 35-page memo when making its assessment that Russia tried to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump during the election. Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Joining me now is Ted Johnson, he's a Senior Editor and Political Writer with Variety. OK. Ted, all week long, what we've seen with Trump's nominees, it's been this sort of consistent pattern that the nominees, these very senior positions, be Attorney General, Secretary of State, or CIA, you know, they're breaking with their boss on some very controversial issues whether it's, you know, the ban on Muslims entering the country, or waterboarding, or torture for instance, or, you know, in this case on Russia. So, what is going on here?

TED JOHNSON, VARIETY SENIOR EDITOR: Well, I think, first of all, the question is, are they saying this because that will ease their confirmation process, create less friction especially with the democrats? But someone like James Mattis, who's the nominee for Defense Secretary, I actually genuinely believed that those are his views. You know, he's opposed to torture. Donald Trump's has already said that James Mattis convinced him to change his position on torture. But I actually, was really surprised at some of the things that Mattis said today. You know, he said that he does not oppose the Iran deal.

VAUSE: Yes, that is another big issue.

JOHNSON: Something that - yeah. That's something that -

VAUSE: Trump is going to rip it up on day one.

JOHNSON: Exactly, and it has, you know, not missed a chance to really criticize that deal especially during the campaign. And there's other issues, NATO, obviously. Trump has suggested that he would not quite have that collective defense with the - with NATO, that we've enjoyed, actually, since World War II. And you had Mattis come out there and say, no, that is very, very important.

VAUSE: Who wins out in that argument? If, you know, does the President take the advice of these Senior people in his Cabinet, or do they simply say what they have to say to get confirmed? And then they, you know, bend to the will of the -- you know, the Commander in Chief?

JOHNSON: Well, that's a very interesting question, because Mattis will be the Defense Secretary, but he won't be, you know, located in the White House. That's going to be - that's going to be the National Security Adviser, Kelly. And that is, you know, there's questions about him, you know, what type of advice is he actually giving to Donald Trump.

There is also this question about when Trump gets these intelligence briefings, you know, what is he taking away from it? How is he digesting the information? And I think, you know, there's been a lot of noise in this transition period over, you know, worries about how he is actually using this information. Is he responding to these intelligence briefings? I suspect that it will be a different situation once he gets into the White House.

VAUSE: Well, that's a fair point. Is expecting - some people are hoping that it will be a different situation. On the issue of the intelligence briefings here, we're now reporting that, you know, Trump was actually briefed by the FBI Director James Comey. You know, there was a conversation, if you heard one side about, you know, this apparently unsubstantiated embarrassing information that Russian intelligence may have gathered on Donald Trump.

We've had other (INAUDIBLE) relation taken a lot of heat on the Trump people. It turns out that it's right, but what is interesting is that, you know, the Trump folks when they get this information or this word that they don't like, they really go after the source as supposed to going after the information. What was interesting is Carl Bernstein, is one of the reporters who broke this story. He told us that a lot of what's happening right now, is a reminiscent of President Nixon and Watergate. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: In Watergate, the basic response of the President of the United States, to what we were reporting in Watergate was to make the conduct of the press, the Washington Post, the issue in Watergate instead of the conduct of the President and his men. That is exactly what has been happening here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So, moving forward as, you know, the Trump people settle into the White House. What do, you know, political reporters, White House reporters; what will they have to do differently to try and deal with could be a very difficult administration?

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I don't think that they have to do anything differently when it comes to their reporting. I think the situation changes a little bit if you take a press conference, for instance. Jim Acosta, after that confrontation with Trump the other day, he said that the Press Secretary for Donald Trump, Sean Spicer, actually threatened to throw him out of the hearing if he continued to try to get that question. Well, that was in the Trump Tower. That's ostensibly a private space. They are going to be moving these White House briefings, these White House press conferences to the White House, which is government property, public property. It's not that clear that you can just throw a reporter out.

[01:10:00] VAUSE: Good point. Yes. JOHNSON: I think that a media company would actually challenge that - may challenge legally.

VAUSE: I guess my point is, it felt like a missed opportunity at that press conference earlier this week when, you know, Jim's question was, you know, Trump refused to answer it. And what would have happened in the past like that, is that the next reporter would have picked up the same question and ask, and then if wouldn't answer then, then maybe the next. That didn't happen this time. It's almost like there's divide and conquer going on.

JOHNSON: Yes, yes, and I think that the fact that this happened I would imagine that there will be a little more camaraderie among the reporters.

VAUSE: It happened to us. It's going to happen to somebody else.

JOHNSON: Yes, yes, there tends to be within the White House press corps, because these are people who work together in very close spaces day-to-day and they've known each other for years. So, I think that it'll be probably be easier for them to kind of speak up in solidarity.

VAUSE: Yes, normally this period for the President-elect, normally they would lay low leading up to the inauguration. But what we have seen from Donald Trump as President-elect this sort of overwhelming desire or need to be at the center of the national conversation, be it for good or for bad. It just seems he is always tweeting, he's had controversies, he has gone after Meryl Streep, you know, he has lashed out. He has been very, very political. This does seem to be an incredibly new world that we're entering and it does wonder what the next four years will be like.

JOHNSON: What I would - I would argue is Donald Trump's media strategy is the same strategy that he had back at the 80s when he was this rising developer on the scene. When - and basically it was, you know, I need to get in the tabloids - the New York tabloids each and every day to make a name for myself. It doesn't matter whether it's good or bad.

VAUSE: So, all publicity is good publicity.

JOHNSON: I'm just - all publicity is good publicity. I'm not quite so sure that he's understood that the situation probably changes when you get to the White House when you are dealing not just with your image before the American public, but the whole International Community.

VAUSE: It does seem that the honeymoon for Donald Trump may be over. It didn't last very long, back in November let's look at some polling numbers here. His favorability, actually jumped 10, he got up to 44 percent that was, you know, that was the encouraging positive side. But now according to Quinnipiac it's backed-down to 37 percent. And his unfavorability is at 51 percent, I think it's the highest unfavorable rating ever for a newly elected President. I mean, at this point of his of his presidency, President Obama was at 78 percent. This inauguration just feels so much different than was eight years ago.

JOHNSON: It's sure. Yeah. It sure does. I mean, it - were in Los Angeles, the entertainment community, a lot of people refusing to go to the inauguration. A number of entertainers have said they've been asked and they politely declined -

VAUSE: Some not too politely.

JOHNSON: Not so politely declined. I think It raises a lot of interest in what Donald Trump will say in his inaugural address. You - usually incoming Presidents, they will have that message of unity. I would expect that Donald Trump would have that message of unity but he doesn't like to stay on the script. You never quite know what he is going to say and when he gets out there. So, but you know, if you look at the poll numbers it would - it would certainly point to, you know, there's work to be done from this new incoming White House in winning over the rest of the country.

VAUSE: Just very quickly, how do this poll numbers so impact what you can do? If your numbers are low - this low, and that's how you start, because usually they don't get much better than on day one. How does that sort of impact his agenda and his political capital, and I guess, you know, what he can get done with the Republicans in the House?

JOHNSON: Well, I think that - that is going to be a dynamic that you're going to really want to watch. Because if the poll numbers don't go up, if they slide down, I think It's the Republicans in Congress will really seize on that, and see that as an opportunity, rather than them listening to Donald Trump. I think they'll probably make the argument that it's he who should be listening to them.

VAUSE: They become more assertive. OK. Ted, thanks for coming in. Great to speak with you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, the Obama administration has ended the long-time practice of allowing Cubans who reach U.S. soil to stay and become permanent residents. Senior Cuban Officials says, Havana has been informed that Cubans entering the United States illegally will be sent back. Reporting from Havana, here's Patrick Oppmann.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[01:14:39] PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, just days left in office, President Barack Obama has made a major change to U.S-Cuban relations. The so-called "wet-foot, dry-foot" law, this was a policy that all Cubans arriving in the U.S. to stay. Cubans, who were intercepted at sea were generally sent back, but if Cuban made it to a beach in Florida or across the border from Mexico, they were essentially allowed to cut the immigration line and given a special status that people from no other nation in the world received.

Cuban government was very critical of this, they said it led to more illegal immigration. It led to more people smuggling and an end to the island of young people and some of the most educated Cubans like Doctors and Engineers. Other Cubans that I've spoken to said, that they saw the change coming as U.S. and Cuba have normal isolations. And we have seen an up-tick in Cubans leaving either by sea or making the land crossings from countries like Mexico in the last two years. Other Cubans I spoke to said, that they were very concerned that this will lead to an increase in unrest because for years, this policy has worked as something of an escape valve that people who were desperate enough, who wanted more personal freedoms that were unhappy with the sorry state of the Cuban economy. That they were able to leave more easily or able to - or arrive in the United States more easily than many other people and that essentially that the people who were going to effect change, who would might protest against the government would leave and now that doorway has been closed. But surely, an era of Cubans receiving the special treatment of leaving by the thousands appears to have ended. John.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Patrick, thank you. Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., Donald Trump says he is the victim of a Nazi-like plot. Why his comments have drawn criticism even from members of his own party.

Plus, a far-right politician spotted at Trump Tower. What we know about Marine Le Pen's visit. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Welcome back everybody, the leader of France's far-right National Front was in New York at Trump Tower on Thursday, but no one really knows why. Marine Le Pen has called Donald Trump's presidential win a sign of hope for everyone against globalization. The Trump transition team says there was no meeting scheduled with Le Pen.

The latest polls had her leading show she is leading in the French election. And her possible competitors faced off in their first debate on Thursday, former Minister Arnaud Montebourg, is seen as margely winning the list debate. Flash polls showed 29 percent of voters considered him more convincing. The former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and former Education Minister Benoit Amore, came in second and third. This could be a very tight race for the left until this week, Valls had been the favorite to win.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANUEL VALLS, FRENCH SOCIALIST PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): But this is about electing the President of the fifth world power, it is about electing the President of the Republic of the second largest economic power in the European Union. In an unstable world and in Europe in crisis, in a world of Trump, of Putin, of Erdogan with the crisis we are facing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: There are two more televised debates before primaries, later this month. Donald Trump is facing a back-lash after he compared U.S. Intelligence Agencies to Nazis. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the Intelligence Agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake, out. I think it's a disgrace. And I say that - and I say that, and that's something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Trump on Wednesday after a report by CNN that he was briefed by Intelligence Officials that Russia may have compromising information about him. Even some Republicans say, that Nazi comparison just went too far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM, U.S. SENATE REPUBLICAN: The last thing I would say about anybody working in the American Intelligence Community, is to compare them to Nazi Germany. I can only imagine what we would have said if a Democrat had said that. So, Mr. President, with all due respect. I want to help you. That was just really unfair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Well, for more I'm joined by Danielle Berrin she is a Senior Writer at the Jewish Journal. Thanks for coming in. So, Danielle, there seems to be a lot of confusion about exactly what the President- elect currently meant when he said this. Even the German Foreign Minister said he was perplexed, he had no idea. So, was Donald Trump comparing himself to the victim of Nazi persecution? Was he saying that the Intelligence Agencies were acting like Nazis or, you know, was he just being hyperbolic?

DANIELLE BERRIN, JEWISH JOURNAL SENIOR WRITER: I think what he was saying is that, I think he was trying to make the point that the Nazis spread false information but the problem with that, is that any time you use a profound and unprecedented historical event especially one that arouses such deep and complicated emotions in people to make a trivial point. You're going the lose your audience, because nothing really compares to Nazi Germany. And so, I think for people who feel that, you're - it just shuts them down and people stop listening to you, for someone who is such a master communicator it's a really bad communication strategy.

VAUSE: OK. Well, the Republican leader of the House, Speaker Paul Ryan he said Trump - he used that word because he was frustrated. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: So, obviously, those are not words I would use, but he is understandably very frustrated at what's happening because it isn't fair and it's all unsubstantiated. So, his frustration is completely understandable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So, the frustration is understandable. He was angry. You know, he was finding the right words to use here. Some people may, you know, agree with him, they may have used the word themselves, you know, and not actually tried to equate it with the holocaust but, you know, used it as a slur or an insult.

BERRIN: I think that first of all the idea that you could - it is laughable to compare a 21st century - the 21st century United States democracy with its free and fair elections and independent press, a civil service and rule of law, with a 20th century fascist dictatorship that committed a genocide against millions of innocent people. So, creating any kind of equivalency between the two countries is not ignorance, I think it's an upfront to anyone with the sense of history.

[01:25:01] VAUSE: There was this on, sort of going, tinge of Anti- Semitism during Trump's campaign, you know, there was a tweet with Hillary Clinton with the star of David with all the money behind it, you know, most corrupt politician ever. You know, and then there was also the America First, which Trump used to describe his foreign policy, you know, he then said well, you know, this America First it's not going back to the 30s which was a catch-phrase for Nazis in the United States. He also said as for that start of David, well, you know, that wasn't the star of David it was a sheriff's badge and then they changed it. You know, there are all these excuses. So, do you accept those excuses from the Trump campaign or do you think that there is something else going on here?

BERRIN: No, I don't accept them at all. I think that he was interested in power and he was using a historical example that wielded incredible power at any cost. And at the expense of millions of lives and so I think that it's offensive and beyond inappropriate to use that today. And I think that he failed to take responsibility for a lot of those tweets and comments and the fact that a significant portion of his voting demographic were people who were interested and persuaded by Anti-Semitism.

VAUSE: Quite often when Donald Trump is confronted by this and, you know, they show him the tweets and that kind of stuff and the allegations of America First he says, well, hang on, you know, my son- in-law is Jewish. My daughter converted to Judaism. My grandchildren are Jewish. Does that get him off the hook or does that mean he should actually be even more sensitive to all this?

BERRIN: Absolutely not, I'm not comforted at all by the fact that his daughter is a convert Judaism, and that his son-in-law is Jewish. When he was willing to say, and do things that were stoking, really fringe Anti-Semitic forces in this country because that is a lot more dangerous and we've already seen many isolated incidences of those groups feeling empowered to act out and commit acts of violence and acts of hatred all across the country, on college campuses, and in communities. So, I don't think that gets you off the hook. I think you have to call things what they are and I think you need to act responsibly and accordingly.

VAUSE: Especially when you are the President-elect. Danielle, great to speaking with you. Thank you.

BERRIN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, next on NEWSROOM L.A., typical White House ceremony ends in a big surprise for the U.S. Vice President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[01:27:33] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As one of his long-time colleagues in the Senate, who happened to be a Republican once said, if you can't admire Joe Biden as a person, you've got a problem. He's as good a man as God ever created.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:31:08] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

(HEADLINES)

VAUSE: Joe Biden has never been short on emotion during his eight years as vice president. But when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a surprise ceremony, there were a lot of tears, laughter and Joe-isms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks don't just feel like they know Joe, the politician. They feel like they know the person, what makes him laugh, what he believes, what he cares about, where he came from. Pretty much every time he speaks, he treats us to wisdom from the nuns who taught him in grade school --

(LAUGHTER)

-- or an old Senate colleague. But of course, most frequently cited, Katherine and Joseph Sr, his mom and dad. "No one is better than you, but you are better than nobody."

(LAUGHTER)

"Bravery resides in every heart and yours is fierce and clear."

"When you get knocked down, Joey, get up, get up."

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Get up.

(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: That's where he got those broad shoulders and that Biden heart. And through his life, through trial after trial, he has never once forgotten the values and the moral fiber that made him who he is.

For the final time as president, I am pleased to award our nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

(APPLAUSE)

(CHEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. President, this honor is -- is not only well beyond what I deserve, but it's a reflection of the extent and generosity of your spirit. I don't deserve this. But I know it came from the president's heart. I'm indebted to you. I'm indebted to your friendship. I'm indebted to your family.

And as I'll tell you, I'll end on a humorous note. We're having lunches, and mostly -- and it's whatever is on our minds, we talk about family a lot. About six months in, the president looks at me and says you know, Joe, you know what surprised me? We've become such good friends.

(LAUGHTER)

I said, surprised you!

(LAUGHTER)

But that is candid Obama.

(LAUGHTER)

And it's real.

And Mr. President you know as long as there is a breath in me I'll be there for you and my whole family will be, and I know it is reciprocal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[01:35:28] VAUSE: That is quite the moment.

A short break here. And when we come back, outrage over the casting a white actor to play the late Michael Jackson. We'll have more on the controversy and what it means for the industry in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: The public outrage is getting louder over a white actor's portrayal of the late, great, Michael Jackson. The latest voice to chime in is Jackson's own daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I sense danger.

(MUSIC)

MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER: That is so stupid. That's the most ridiculous, horrifying story I've ever heard. It's crazy. Why? Number one, it's my face as a child in the commercial. It was me when I was little. Why would I want a white child to play me? I'm a black American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Joining me, entertainment host, Alexander Nez.

Alexander, thanks for coming in.

[01:40:02] ALEXANDER NEX, ENTERTAINMENT HOST: No problem, John.

VAUSE: One of the tweets from Paris Jackson, he tweeted this out: "They worked for blood, sweat and tears for ages to create such a profound and remarkable legacies shameful portrayal."

She's referring to Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, as well as her father also in this movie.

There is also this Michael Jackson fan club out there urging a boycott of the show. Is this show boycott worthy?

NEZ: I don't know if it's boycott worthy, it hasn't come out yet. But I'm interesting to see how it plays out. But I am very upset and I'm kind of really surprised on how they made Michael Jackson look. It's no wonder that Paris Jackson is so upset about her dad looking like the scare crow Michael Jackson edition.

VAUSE: It is a bit weird.

One of the reasons for casting Joe Fiennes, because it was set in the days after 9/11, and if you look at Michael Jackson in the later years, they said he had a skin disease. His skin was becoming lighter. They said, well, you know, there is a similarity there, but is it just about skin color and skin tone or is there more to this?

NEZ: I think there's more to this. I don't have a problem with a white actor playing Michael Jackson. After the Golden Globe Awards, it was a night for diversity. And I think that should set the tone for Hollywood. Any actor should be given an equal opportunity to land roles. But I do have a problem with insulting Michael's legacy. Don't make him look like -- when I'm looking at the trailer, Michael Jackson is more frightening than any zombie on "The Walking Dead." He belongs in a non-scary way. So, that's where it loses it for me.

VAUSE: Right. OK. Ben Palmer, he urged everyone to reserve judgment. He told the "Guardian" newspaper this, "We were really looking for the performance that could unlock the spirit and we think that Joe has done that. He has given us a sweet, nuanced character performance."

At this stage, with the amount of outrage this has got, it seems that he could do a DeNiro in "Taxi" and everyone is going to hate it.

NEZ: Joseph Fiennes, he is known for William Shakespeare in "Shakespeare in Love."

VAUSE: 19 years ago.

NEZ: 19 years ago. And now he has found this role. Maybe you have to take the roles you get.

VAUSE: It was just a role?

NEZ: It was a role. Maybe he knew it would cause the controversy which is interesting. But again, no matter what background you come from, you make the character your own. But it is interesting that he took on this role, given his background and given his family history of actors.

VAUSE: Hollywood has a history of horrible casting choices. You probably don't remember it, but there was Charlie Chan, the China detective. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: One moment please. You did not come into room when shot fired?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, I stopped at the door.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Strange. Ink spilled here when Mr. Hopkins fall, yet stained your shoe when standing at door. Conclusive proof you were close to Mr. Hopkins when it fell. Now very evident attempted murder of Hopkins was last act to save self.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So that was an American-Swedish actor back in 1937. If you think things have improved since then, take a look at 2012, this is Johnny Depp playing Tonto on "The Lone Ranger."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: Eight men rode into canyon. I dug seven graves. Horse says you are spirit walker. Man who has been to the other side and returned. Man who cannot be killed in battle. Something very wrong with that horse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Something very wrong with that movie.

NEZ: Terrible wrong with that movie. VAUSE: But my point is, it was bad in the '30s, but it is still bad

now.

NEZ: As an actor, you have to know your strength.

VAUSE: Right.

NEZ: As an example, some people from different backgrounds can actually master the role. Look at Jennifer Lopez. She received criticism for playing a role as Selena because she was portraying a Mexican-American and she is Puerto Rican. But she absolutely did a fantastic job. And the actor that portrayed Pablo Escobar in the hit show, "Narco."

VAUSE: But there was blowback for him.

NEZ: There was blowback because a lot of people said his Spanish accent was not authentic. For me, that show is a hit, and I think he did a great job as Pablo Escobar.

VAUSE: So it all comes down to the actor?

NEZ: It really does. You have to make it your own.

VAUSE: OK, good advice, Alex.

Good to see you.

NEZ: You, too.

[01:45:04] VAUSE: Next of NEWSROOM L.A., the California singer who hopes to inspire some compassion for the homeless people all around the world.

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VAUSE: Right now, as temperatures plunge across much of the U.S. and parts of Europe, there is growing concern for hundreds of thousands of people who are homeless. Half a million in the United States alone. Worldwide the U.N. says more than 100 million people just don't have adequate shelter.

There are different ways to deal with this crisis. Last month, for example, Pope Francis invited eight homeless people to the Vatican to celebrate his 80th birthday. But in Denver, Colorado, the city's police chief defended his officers who confiscated blankets and tents from homeless people camping illegally. And there was the open letter to San Francisco's mayor from Justin Keller, which read, in part, "I shouldn't have to see the pain and struggle of homeless people to and from my way to work every day."

As much as Justin Keller, entrepreneur, did not want to be confronted with the reality of homelessness, singer, Andy Grammer, wants you to take another look.

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[01:50:33] VAUSE: That's Andy Grammer's latest song "Fresh Eyes," a hit that started out for his wife and now is shedding light on the plight of homeless people.

Andy joins us here in Los Angeles.

Thank you for coming in. It's nice to meet you.

ANDY GRAMMAR, SINGER: Oh, thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

VAUSE: It's good to see you.

How did this go from being an ode to your wife to essentially being social commentary?

GRAMMER: Yeah. Me and my wife have been together for a while so the song is rediscovering love with someone you have been with for a while. When it came time to make a video we thought what a cool idea to take a population that is often misunderstood or a lot of times not even seen at all and try to rediscover some love with them. We had this video where we kind of gave them makeups and it was really powerful.

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VAUSE: That was one of the parts of the clip I thought was so moving because you saw this transformation of all these homeless people. And what it said to me is that kind of really is the only difference between us, it's a haircut and a clean set of clothes.

GRAMMER: Even more powerful being there was seeing how they saw themselves. I think that was the most powerful part of the video is when they saw themselves dressed and clean, you could see dignity coming back in the way they were standing and talking to you. You could feel it while it was happening.

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VAUSE: In your early days, you spent a lot of time on the street performing, trying to earn some money, and you spent time with homeless people.

GRAMMER: There is a lot of homeless people in Santa Monica. And it's hard to ignore it. When you are spending eight to 10 hours out there, the homeless guy is no longer homeless, it's Dave.

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GRAMMER: That's Dave and one of them would teach me all the quirky things about being here. You have to get here earlier to get the good spot by McDonald's. They become people to you. And I think we're really good in this country at just saying they're homeless and therefore don't exist.

VAUSE: So you label them like in a group.

VAUSE: These are brothers, mothers, sisters, these are people in our society.

VAUSE: So you became friends with --

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GRAMMER: Oh, yeah. I have a lot of friends out there. And the people when I was making this video. I haven't got to go see them again but I need to. I feel a strong desire to go back.

Loretta, there is sweet people you are hanging out with that are no longer invisible and you can see them come alive just giving them a little attention.

VAUSE: There's a lot of reasons for homelessness. Some people have psychiatric issues and some can't afford a home.

GRAMMER: Some people are just down on their luck. I would talk to these people and go, well, how are you here, what's up? There is a lot of wide-ranging reasons. And they weren't just crazy. None of the people I talked to were crazy.

VAUSE: What that says to me is that there but for the grace of god goes I. That could be any one of us.

GRAMMER: That could be any one of us, yeah.

VAUSE: A turn of bad luck, something happens to you, and if you look at the cost of housing in Los Angeles, a lot of people can't afford a place to live.

GRAMMER: They can't afford it. And there's a lot of us that are very privileged. And I know this video is not going to make a huge dent in homelessness, by any means. We are raising money for the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, which is doing incredible stuff.

But it's what I wanted to do is raise some compassion. If someone saw this video and they go about their day and pass someone who is homeless and take an extra look and maybe say hi or give them something or start up a conversation with them and be able to breakthrough this film that our society has of who those people are, it would be successful.

VAUSE: This is something different for you. You are the happy guy. You're the guy that does the happy songs and not the social-issue guy, are you?

GRAMMER: We'll, around this, I am. It just makes your heart so happy.

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GRAMMER: Even just talking about it. Any time I get to talk about it, I get psyched up. And the more you pay attention to them, the more you find yourself around them. It's really -- I mean, it's an incredible bounty to be able to serve these people.

VAUSE: It's all about choices for all of us, isn't it?

GRAMMER: It really is, yeah.

[01:55:12] VAUSE: You're been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

And we'll leave you this hour with a performance from Andy Grammer of "Fresh Eyes."

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[02:00:11] CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Cyril Vanier. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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