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Putin: I Think Trump "Agreed" Russia Didn't Hack Election; Haley Disputes Putin's Version of Meeting With Trump; Trump Leaves G20 As Questions Linger Over Putin Meeting; S. Dakota Company Creates Portable Solar Energy; "The Nineties" Airs To Tomorrow at 9 P.M. ET. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired July 8, 2017 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
All right, one meaning, two different take-aways, Vladimir Putin is now giving a firsthand account of his face-to-face meeting with President Trump during the G20 Summit.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said that the president confronted Putin about interference in the U.S. election, but Putin says he and Trump are in agreement that Russia was not involved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Did Trump agree with your position that Russia had not intervened in the U.S. elections?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Well, he -- let me repeat -- he answered all the questions and I think that he noted it and he agreed with it. But I think it's better so to ask him exactly what you asked rather than me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. But unlike Putin and other world leaders at the G20, we did not hear from President Trump directly assessing his trip. In fact, just moments ago we see him along with First Lady Melania in their departure from Hamburg as they are soon to walk up those steps and get right back into Air Force One.
So let's go now to CNN White House correspondent, Sara Murray, who remains there live from Hamburg. Sara, so the president is leaving Hamburg, allowing Putin to get the last word on what the two talked about and agreed upon?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It is sort of a bizarre situation. We haven't seen any Trump administration officials on camera today responding to those comments from Putin. As you mentioned, the president is scheduled to leave. He's already there at the airport at his plane without holding a press conference, which is customary for other world leaders to do at the end of the summit. So really the main readout we have is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday who was in that meeting with Putin as well, here's what he had to say about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The president pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement as I think he has in the past.
The two leaders agreed, though, that this is a substantial hindrance in the ability of us to move the Russian/U.S. relationship forward and agreed to exchange further work regarding commitments of noninterference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So basically the response from Tillerson is this is an intractable issue. We are not going to get anywhere if we keep talking about election meddling. Not a surprise given president Trump's comments on the campaign trail and since coming to office about wanting a closer relationship with Russia.
Now, if you're wondering how our allies are viewing this meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was saying she was actually delighted to see President Trump and President Putin meeting face-to-face for the first type at the G20.
She said that is how relationships move forward, is by having these conversations next to each other, with one another, rather than just talking about each other. Back to you, Fred.
All right, Sara Murray, thanks so much in Hamburg. Let's talk more about all of this with CNN presidential historian, Tim Naftali and CNN investigative reporter for international affairs, Michael Weiss.
All right, Gentlemen, good to see you. So Tim, customarily the president of the United States would address the cameras, say this is my assessment of how things went. Didn't happen from this president this go-around. Big mistake?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes, it's a big mistake. But it's a mistake in terms of our relations with the world, a mistake with regard to the Americans who are not -- haven't signed up in support of President Trump's agenda. It's not a mistake with regard to his base.
Let me tell you why it's a mistake for the world and part of this country. There are a lot of uncertainty as to whether President Putin paid a price for the handshake. After all, the Russian government, the Russian federation, intervened in our democracy last year.
[12:05:13]Ordinarily, you do not resume normal relations with a country that does that without them having paid a price, without them apologizing, without them in some way signaling that your sovereignty was violated. That appears not to have --
WHITFIELD: No consequence. But how -- what do you mean that possibly Putin paid a price by --
NAFTALI: No, no, no. He didn't -- I didn't say he did not pay a price. That's why the president needed to speak with us about why -- about the real nature of this meeting and allowing the Russians to have the last word.
NAFTALI: Leaves open the possibility that President Trump has decided that Russian intervention didn't matter because it helped him politically and that now he expects the Russians not to intervene because he's president. And that I hope is not his view, but he's left that open to interpretation.
WHITFIELD: So Michael, would it have made a difference if not for the handshake at the very beginning, because remember, you know, it was a matter of maybe the U.S. kind of settling the score, did you meddle or not and if you did, then why?
I mean, why would you start it off with a handshake, but perhaps if the handshake came at the end, you know, might it be interpreted differently that they, you know, came to terms or they're in agreement but made or there is some consequence that comes from the president of the United States initiating the conversation about meddling?
MICHAEL WEISS, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: I'm actually less concerned about handshakes and eye rolls and sort of the physical optics of two world leaders meeting with each other and more concerned with what Tim just said.
The president of the United States I think the duty bound to give a press statement at the end of a G20 in which he should have corrected the record if, indeed, the record needs correcting.
I mean, Foreign Minister Lavrov came out yesterday and said Donald Trump accepted our narrative of what happened. Putin reassured him we had nothing to do with meddling in the U.S. presidential election and Trump said, OK, great, that's fine. Let's move on.
Well, if that's the case, then that again shows the president of the United States contradicting the assessment made by the ODNI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which found the CIA, FBI, and NSA, all in agreement that Russia did indeed interfered in the election. So Donald Trump --
WHITFIELD: Putin came out again today and -- let me repeat, he answered all of the questions I think that he noted it and he agreed with it, but think it is better to ask him what you have asked rather than me.
WEISS: You know, there's a sort of irony wrapped in a tragedy here. The irony is that one of the best books written about Vladimir Putin going back to his days as a KGB case officer by Fiona Hill, who happens to be the lead Russia expert on Donald Trump's National Security Council.
Markedly and notably she was not in the meeting with Rex Tillerson and the president and she should have been because one of the important insights in her book is Putin by his own admission, what he was good at as a KGB case officer.
Case officers are those who run spies, cultivate agents and assets and people to work for the Russian government -- is what's known as working with people. Putin describes himself as a people person.
That has a different connotation in KGB speak than it does in the western imagination. What that means is Putin is very adept at getting a read of his interlocutor, in this case a man, who is frightfully sensitive and narcissistic.
And I would hazard to say megalomaniacal and desperate for approval and flattery and Putin is also quite adept at breaking them down psychologically and building them back up again in his image.
WHITFIELD: Putin had very flattering words about --
WEISS: Very flattering words and also -- exactly, right. I mean, you couldn't put a better kind of instance of trolling by the Russian president across. And he also said I don't know how this will sound, but Donald Trump answers questions adequately in person as opposed to the way he is on TV.
This is the Russian president eating the American president's lunch for him. Again, keep in mind, Donald Trump ran -- and some of the criticisms Trump leveled against Barack Obama I felt were quite well- founded.
Ran a campaign saying the former administration, the Obama White House, was completely hopeless when it came to negotiating, they inaugurated terrible deals on behalf of the United States, and they were adrift, out to lunch when it came to dealing with strong men and other governments.
Here you have an example of Putin coming away from this meeting saying I've essentially gotten everything I wanted and now it's on the president to tell me what he's prepared to do for Russia, whether it's a ceasefire in Southwest Syria or him denying, repudiating allegations by his own intelligence services that I had anything to do with swaying the U.S. election.
WHITFIELD: Interesting. There goes the president on Air Force One leaving Hamburg, Germany without having that live assessment from the president's lips about how this whole G20 went, what that conversation was like, allowing Putin to kind of get the last word.
So I also want to bring in CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson. Nic, you know, Angela Merkel has been very outspoken not just at the G-20 stage. [12:10:06]But we saw her do the same thing in Brussels where she is not at all afraid to be critical of President Trump. Yet she was complimentary about the meeting between Trump and Putin saying that she was delighted that it looks as though this is the start of a very good relationship. How are her words and stature on all that's developed, you know, being valued?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, she raises a very solid point that will undoubtedly be endorsed by a lot of the other leaders at the G20. It's very destabilizing for the globe with all the other issues that are happening around to have the United States and Russia at loggerheads, ostensibly.
Sort of talking about each other but not with each other. For her to say that many times before indeed about herself when she was meeting with President Trump earlier this year. She said it's much better to be talking to each other than about each other.
So I think she gets support there. She'll get support for managing to get a fairly solid communique out from here, a communique that is strong on trade, against protectionism, for free trade, against unfair trade she said.
But this really is a position that leaves the United States and President Trump's position somewhat on the outside through Angela Merkel and other people's definition, they see the United States as sort of the America first as protectionist, the same on globalization.
As you say, she was very, very critical of the position of the United States and very -- taking a lot of effort, we understand, to try and find inclusive language for the final communique between these 20 heads on climate change and it came down to only 19 could actually agree.
She said it was important if we disagree that we say that. On that position of, you know, United States position of not following through with commitments to the Paris Climate Accord, she said that was deplorable. These were her words.
WHITFIELD: And it's interesting, it was Putin who also said he does believe in, you know, the effort, the global effort to tackle climate change and that was another interesting I guess contradiction to, you know, where President Trump is coming from.
Tim Naftali, Nic Robertson, Michael Weiss, thanks so all of you. Appreciate it. Again, Air Force One now into the clouds as the president of the United States leaves the G20 Summit without addressing reporters or assessing himself how the G20 and the meeting with Putin went.
All right, still ahead, President Trump says he has built a, quote, "wonderful relationship with China's President Xi and something has to be done with North Korea." So could China be the key?
WHITFIELD: All right, President Trump has left Hamburg, Germany, now, but on this final day of the G20 Summit, President Trump urged action on North Korea. Before he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping today, Trump said, quote, "Something needs to be done."
He told Xi that he appreciates China's efforts in trying to halt North Korea's growing nuclear capabilities and said the U.S. and China have built a wonderful relationship.
The two leaders met after the U.S. escalated its message to North Korea flying U.S. bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Friday. The U.S. says it's a response to North Korea's growing nuclear threat and its test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
This all comes as the U.S. prepares to test its new THAAD missile system in Alaska. It would knock down any missiles heading for North America including those tested by North Korea this week.
I want to bring in now Balbina Hwang, a former senior adviser to Ambassador Christopher Hill and a former assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department. Also here, Adam Mount, a former director of the North Korean Task Force at the Council on Foreign Relations. Good to see both of you.
All right, so Balbina, you first, I want to get your take on President Trump's comments from the bilateral meeting with Xi Jinping. Do you see any real changes coming out as a result of this meeting?
BALBINA HWANG, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO AMBASSADOR CHRISTOPHER HILL: No, unfortunately, I don't. You know, the G20 Summit meeting are important for establishing relationships and sort of setting the tone among the leaders.
But frankly speaking for the last 16 years with two president, President W. Bush as well as President Obama, they have also tried to focus on China as the lead or the main point, the main actor in getting North Korea to comply with international standard, and it simply has not worked. I've always said the road to Pyongyang does not lay through Beijing.
WHITFIELD: All right, so how about from Russia, Adam, Russia has been an ally of North Korea and now we hear from Putin they had a very positive meeting, Putin and Trump, that is. Might the U.S. be able to leverage its new or budding relationship with Russia to get to North Korea?
ADAM MOUNT, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NORTH KOREA TASK FORCE, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I would hope so, but I don't see much indication of it. In the last couple years, China has been on a gradual trend toward putting more pressure on North Korea. Russia has been moving in the other direction. Russia has been very gradually been more lenient with North Korea.
And you saw this past week on the U.N. Security Council both Russia and China said that they are going to resist a new resolution on sanctions to tighten sanctions on North Korea. It's imperative that Mr. Trump get in the game and convince Russia and China that it's not time and it's not acceptable to let North Korea off the map. It's not time to abandon containment of the North Korean regime.
WHITFIELD: And Balbina, would that mean diplomatically?
HWANG: I think it's time that we understand that -- everybody's treating North Korea as if it is just some sort of, you know, inanimate dependent object that if we could only --
[12:20:10]Everybody else on the outside, all the actors could just tweak our behavior, we could somehow get this object to get what we want it to do. North Korea has a mind of its own, Leader Kim Jong-un does, he is clearly acting on his own, and yes, of course outside actors are important in what we do.
But that's what we've been focused on and I don't think that, you know, all of this talk about engagement or containment, that's fine that we want to engage, but if the other side does not want to engage and Kim Jong-un for the last -- the North Korean regime for the last eight years has said it will not engage with anybody, including the United States and South Korea. So --
WHITFIELD: Is that a precursor to what?
HWANG: Well, the point is I don't think focusing on Russia and China is the way to convince North Korea to engage with the United States and South Korea. The focus should be on us, our actions as well as on our allies and the allied actions that we take.
MOUNT: I agree. Mr. Tillerson said yesterday that he's not interested in pursuing a free on North Korea's nuclear program. This is tantamount to saying that we're going to acquiesce for the ability to strike at the continental United States, a freeze and a negotiation is the last chance and it's the only chance in restricting North Korea's nuclear program.
But I agree completely. This is -- the first priority has to be to act with our allies and Mr. Trump has taken sort of a transactional approach to how it approaches this South Korean relationship. He's been more interested in extracting trade concessions from President Moon than he has in standing shoulder to shoulder.
It's imperative he stands up personally, prominently, and says we are prepared to defend our ally under any circumstances. Mattis can't do it for him. Tillerson can't do it for him. North Korea is trying to defy us from our allies with this ICBM capability, and they need to be convinced that the United States commitment is not wavering.
HWANG: Let me point out that our alliances are stronger than just our individual leaders and I think there were some several positive developments out of the last G20. Yesterday for the first time there was U.S., Japan, and South Korean Air Forces that operated in a cooperative deterrence and defense action, that was extremely positive.
And the trilateral statement that came out was extremely positive, given than the new President Moon, everyone had predicted that it would be very difficult for him to cooperate with Japan. So I think the alliance is strong and that is absolutely the direction that we should be focused on.
WHITFIELD: All right. Balbina and Adam, thank you so much to both of you and your expertise. Appreciate it.
All right, straight ahead, it's a he-said-she-said situation after Trump's meeting with Putin and now U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is weighing in. Her comments next.
WHITFIELD: All right, massive crowds continue to gather outside of the G20 Summit today, the final day of that summit. German police preparing by calling in reinforcements from across the country. More than 100 demonstrators have been arrested.
CNN senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, is live for us on the scene there. So what is the focus of the protest since this is the final day?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, many of them, Fredricka, are very critical obviously of the G20. Behind me, you can see there's a small little protest right here at one of these police lines.
At the moment, it is very peaceful. That's something we've seen over the past couple of days, that usually during the daytime it was quite peaceful, but last night really things descended into chaos in large parts of Hamburg.
There were barricades being set on fire, protesters lobbing things like bottles and rocks at the police officers and the police officers responding with things like tear gas. There has been some violence. More than 200 cops have been hurt so far in these clashes -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Fred Pleitgen, a very volatile situation. Thank you so much.
All right, meantime, we're getting mixed messages on Russia's involvement in the U.S. election. Russian President Vladimir Putin doubling down on his stance that Russia had no involvement and that the president of the United States agreed. This morning, Putin created even more confusion by again kind of summarizing how that meeting went with Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Did Trump agree with your position that Russia had not intervened in the U.S. election?
PUTIN (through translator): Well, he -- let me repeat -- he answered all the questions and I think that he noted it and he agreed with it. But I think it's better to ask him exactly what you asked rather than me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's bring in CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance in Moscow. So, what else did Putin say about meddling, about his relationship with President Trump, that meeting while at the G20?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, (inaudible) because he gave unlike President Trump he gave a press conference today in which he opened the floor to questions from journalists, Russian journalists, I think, about how the meeting went with Trump and with the other world leaders that Vladimir Putin has been meeting with.
He was asked the question how the meeting went with Trump, of course, and this has been one of the big areas of anticipation, the personal chemistry between these two figures in the past, of course, Vladimir Putin has charmed American presidents, who can forget the time when George W. Bush peered into his eyes and got a sense of his soul.
Would Trump have the same sense of his soul kind of moment?
Well, Putin seemed to be, you know, impressed, shall we say, with Donald Trump. Certainly more impressed than he thought he would be. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Trump on T.V. is very, very different from the Trump in person. But I saw an absolute big difference. He is very good with (INAUDIBLE). He understand (INAUDIBLE). He respond to the questions which arise in discussion (INAUDIBLE) so on and so forth.
So it seems to me that we will be able to build future relations on the kind of meeting that we had yesterday and we will be able to actually get to the level that we need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: So President Putin of Russia making some very positive remarks about Donald Trump. And looking forward to the prospect that these two leaders, you know, doing deals, I suppose, in the future. Fredricka?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And so overall, how is Moscow reacting to that?
CHANCE: Well, I think in terms of the reactions to that first face- to-face meeting, the reaction amongst Russian lawmakers has been euphoric. I mean, one (INAUDIBLE) lawmaker here said the results of the meeting surpassed expectations and were, quote, a psychological breakthrough.
Now, I mean, expectations in fairness have been very low. Before the meeting took place the Russians were saying look, if they can even agree to meet again, that would be considered a success such as the poll state of the relationship between Russia and the United States.
But obviously it went much better than that. And actually some of the key issues, many of the key issues in the heart of this fractious relationship between Moscow and Washington were discussed and there was some progress it seems.
WHITFIELD: All right. Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you so much.
All right, so the contradictions about what really happened, well, just keeps rolling in over what exactly was said in the meeting between President Trump and President Putin. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley just sat down with CNN's Dana Bash to discuss that conversation. And why she believes Putin is just trying to save face and when it comes to Trump's version of the story, Haley says, quote, you'll have to ask him. Here's a portion of that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ambassador Haley, there were conflicting reports about what happened inside President Trump's much-anticipated meeting with President Vladimir Putin. The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov said that Donald Trump heard and, quote, accepts Putin's very clear statements that Russia did not interfere in the U.S. election. Is that true?
NIKKI HALEY, U.N. AMBASSADOR: OK. So I think we need to all step back and just look at what we wanted to have happen. We got two very important leaders together and said, OK, it's time for them to meet. This was long time coming. What we know is that when President Trump meets with a leader things do start to move.
So, from my standpoint and a lot of the administration it was important. What he did but bring up right away the election meddling and he did that for a reason. One, he wanted him to basically look him in the eye, let him know that, yes, we know you meddled in our elections, yes, we know you did it and cut it out.
And I think President Putin did exactly what we thought he would do which is deny it. This is Russia trying to save face. And they can't, they can't.
Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections. Everybody knows that they're not just meddling in the United States' elections, they're doing this across multiple continents and they're doing the in a way that they're trying to cause chaos within the countries. And it's not just going to be us saying this. I think you're going to hear other leaders come out and say cut it out, we're not going to put up with it. BASH: You said everybody knows that the Russians meddled in the U.S. election, and that the president said so behind closed doors with Vladimir Putin. If that's the case, why won't the president say this in public? It would put a lot of these questions and frankly the fact that a lot of your fellow Republicans are perplexed, would put it all to rest. Why won't he do it?
HALEY: I think that you can ask him. Everybody is trying to nitpick what he says and what he doesn't but, you know, talk is one thing, actions are another. He confronted President Putin. He made it the first thing that he talked about and I think we have to now see where it goes from here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, Haley says the president says cut it out, but we haven't heard that from the president of the United States, or nor did we hear that from Vladimir Putin. So, what was really said?
You can catch the full interview, conversation between Dana Bash and the U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley, tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., right here on CNN. And we'll be right back.
[12:34:03] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Right now, President Trump is heading home after crucial meetings for the G20 summit in Germany. He just left Germany moments ago. And we saw Trump on the world stage for the second time of his presidency covering a wide range of topics while there in Hamburg.
Russian meddling, Syrian cease fire and how to handle North Korean aggression. Joining us to talk about all of this and more, CNN Politics Senior Reporter Stephen Collinson live for us from London.
So, Stephen we just learn new details about Trump's two-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin from the point of view of Putin, who standing by his statement that Russia did not interfere the U.S. election. He said when talking to reporters today that that was the topic of conversation. And he even reiterated that Trump agreed with him.
So why wouldn't the president of the United States before he leaves Germany kind of clear the air himself by saying this is my version of events?
[12:40:04] STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: That's a good question. I think there's a case that the president might have raised this issue robustly as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that he's meeting with Vladimir Putin on Friday. But he's not given that same kind of robust accounting of what he believes really happened in the election to the American people and the rest of the world.
It's quite unusual that a U.S. president would leave an international summit like this without giving a press conference, so there's a clearly questions about this that the president doesn't really want to answer. We saw in Poland that he was much less equivocal before he went to the G20 summit about what he really thought went on. He suggested that although the Russians may have been involved in interference in the election there were other people involved as well which has been his position all along.
So there is this gap now between what the president was supposed to have said to Vladimir Putin and those talks and what he said publicly. And the Russians are sophisticated in getting their message out in international diplomacy. We had the foreign minister yesterday and now the president himself coming out and making some political hay over this issue.
WHITFIELD: Right, and trying to get that message out first. And we understand that on Air Force One, because we know the president is, you know, on Air Force One now. We've showed the live pictures of him leaving Germany.
But the National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, might be part of a gaggle and that sound at least we might be hearing on Air Force One. But, again, why would it not be the president who is trying to offer some clarity as opposed to having all these other people with the administration and their interpretations of what took place? Particularly now that Putin has spoken.
COLLINSON: I think you can only draw the conclusion the president isn't ready to shift his public position on this. I'm sure that H.R. McMaster will be grilled on Air Force One by the press pool about this issue. But everything or anything that he said is going to lack the impact of, you know, what it would be if the president said this publicly.
And as I said, the fact that he didn't have a press conference is very unusual. We had Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, even President Erdogan of Turkey, all of them came out at the end of the summit and gave their impressions not just of the summit itself but their meetings and their views on U.S. positions. That's the way you shape perceptions of what happened in a summit, not just in the media but to sort of compete against your fellow leaders.
The White House's strategy, as we've seen in Washington has been to sort of shield the president from those kind of questions and those kind of inquiries. He really answered a few questions in Warsaw on this trip in a one-on-one with the Polish president. But he really didn't apart from a few polls raised where there was some pleasantries and platitudes about the relationships with other leaders go into depths about his agenda and the Russia issue on this trip to Europe.
WHITFIELD: All right, Stephen Collinson, thank you so much from London. Appreciate it.
And be sure to check out Stephen's latest reporting on cnn.com. And we'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. So, tomorrow night, CNN kicks off yet another in-depth look at a decade long ago. This time it's the '90s.
Just 20 years ago or so when we saw the start of the internet, the beginning of DVDs, and a shift in T.V. culture. The '90s gave us shows like Seinfeld, Friends, South Park, and Living Single.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTAL BRENT ZOOK, AUTHOR, COLOR BY FOX: Twenty-five percent of Fox's market.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always get trapped in the corner with somebody named Bob. Hey listen, I'm Martin.
I just saw boys in the hood, all right? I didn't know, Martin. I didn't know.
ZOOK: And they knew that they needed to capture this audience to grow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I guess you think you're smart and cool. But if you think you get a job here, you a damn fool. Now get out.
ZOOK: So they basically gave the black creators freedom to, you know, do whatever you want, just get the audience. (OFF-MIC)
SARAH RODMAN, TELEVISION EDITOR, LOS ANGELES TIMES: The W.B. and UPN took that concept from FOX.
[12:50:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your shoulders are harder than cheap breast implants.
RODMAN: Going after this underserved audiences, urban minority viewers and really ran with it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a (INAUDIBLE) who will not be defined by traditional female roles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, so that was a clip from The Nineties. Actress Kim Fields, her show also appears in the series Living Single and she's here to talk about it. Good to see you.
KIM FIELDS, ACTRESS, LIVING SINGLE: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: Also, this is so fun because -- I mean, I'm a little older than you but I grew up with a lot of your shows. Facts of Life and then Living Single, and there was something particularly about the Living Single.
WHITFIELD: It just really exuded a lot of positive forces about seeing these young black upwardly mobile, trying to make it happen young people. And you got to be a part of that. What was that like?
FIELDS: That was a huge blessing. You know, especially transitioning from Facts of Life, taking a break, appearing on shows like Martin and Fresh Prince and then to go into a show like Living Single in a character like Regine. It's an actor's dream because I'm nothing like Regine. I wasn't then, I'm still not.
So it was certainly a wonderful challenge, you know, artistically speaking. And the chemistry and you don't realize that you're making an impact when you're doing it. You know, you're just doing the work and grateful for that.
WHITFIELD: And that chemistry was great. Because I feel like, you know, my friends and I were watching that show thinking, oh my gosh, that's kind of us. You know, really tight and then at the same time they were aspirational, they were trying to reach for bigger.
WHITFIELD: But they were dealing with the here and now.
FIELDS: The here and now. Sure. Very relatable. I think Yvette Lee, and then she became Yvette Lee Bowser did a tremendous job, you know, with capturing that voice. The voice for the male and the female for that time period and what we were all working towards and working for. And I love that even now, you know, everybody really uses a squad roll hash tag.
WHITFIELD: That's so great. But, you know, and you personally, I mean, your career has been magnificent because we have really watched you grow up in front of the television set. I mean, Facts of Life, you know, Living Single. I mean, you growing with these roles.
WHITFIELD: We've seen you in, you know, Housewives of Atlanta and the now you're in a British comedy as well. So, I mean, how have you been able to kind of maintain, you know, that presence in front of the public eye and at the same time really kind of handle the responsibility that comes with these roles?
FIELDS: Sure. Well, thank you for asking and for that acknowledgment. One, to God be the glory. Two, my Mama Chip, she made sure I kept my sanity, you know. And the rest of my village that helped to raise me all these years.
It's funny, I just finished writing my autobiography Blessed Life, and in the acknowledgment I say it takes a village to raise a celebrity. And so, you know, there's so many people that have been responsible for me being on their shoulders as they have pushed me along the way. And creatively, just making sure I learned my craft and really stuck with growing and evolving as an actor and then as a director producer. And then, you know, into different things so that creatively I wasn't starving at the same time, you know, not draining my batteries emotionally speaking. And making sure I just always was doing something.
WHITFIELD: So then in particularly for the '90s, how were you able to do that because there was -- I mean, a cacophony of shows? I mean, talk about Seinfeld, big ones. Seinfeld, Friends, Moesha, and all of them were making really big statements about culture in America.
WHITFIELD: And your show was doing that too but then you also wanted to make sure that it was yours, something you could identify with.
FIELDS: Absolutely. But I think that was the beauty of Yvette's magic, if you will. And her gifts and talents and the team that consistently put the show together for five years was but the fact that we were embracing the culture as it was, as it was involving, you know. And making sure that we did that with humor, staying relevant, and definitely relatable characters who had amazing chemistry.
WHITFIELD: Is it fun looking back at the '90s? We act as if really a long time ago.
FIELDS: I know, right?
(OFF-MIC) FIELDS: Well, I think it's wonderful that Tom Hanks and his team and CNN continue to really explore the decades that have come before us and especially from the entertainment perspective. So of course it's a lot of fun and of course -- and social media with all the, you know, throwback this and hash tag flashbacks and all sorts of things. So, it's always fun to look back and it's a blessing to see at least for me where I've come from. Where God has brought me from while you're also looking forward to, OK, let's tell you all, here's the rest of the journey.
WHITFIELD: Oh, that's awesome. Well, this has been so fun and so good to see you in person.
FIELDS: You too.
WHITFIELD: Of course we're looking to your comedy show as well as your new book.
[12:55:00] FIELDS: Thank you very much.
WHITFIELD: And I want some skin tips because your skin is magical, beautiful, flawless.
FIELDS: Thank you very much.
WHITFIELD: Kim Fields, all right, thanks so much.
And be sure to watch The Nineties, it kicks off tomorrow night, 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN. And we'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. Now for this week's reminder that taking just a few moments to fill out a nomination form to turn your hero into a CNN hero. That's what happened for 2013's CNN hero, founder of a drill team for at-risk youth in Camden, New Jersey. Meet Towanda Jones and the young woman who nominated her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was attending Washington State University. I told one of my professors about the drill team and what it meant to me. She told me, like, hmm, I think you should nominate her for CNN heroes.
TAWANDA JONES, CNN HEROES NOMINEE: To know that someone in a program nominated me for CNN hero, it means so much more because they were a part of the struggle, they were a part of those humble beginning --