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President Trump Tweets Location for Possible Meeting with North Korean Leader Narrowed Down; North Korean and South Korean Leader Meet in DMZ; President Trump Calls for Senator Jon Tester to Resign for Public Criticism of Former Veterans Affairs Nominee Dr. Ronny Jackson; Ingraham with Congressman Paul Mitchell; President Trump Will Not Attend Correspondents Dinner; Former NBC Correspondent Accuses Tom Brokaw of Sexual Misconduct; NFL Player Larry Fitzgerald Discusses Charity Outreach to Children Around the World. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired April 28, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:27] CHRISTIE PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Always so grateful to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. You're in the CNN Newsroom. And the breaking news this hour, President Trump is tweeting about North Korea. This happened just minutes ago after the historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea. Here's the tweet, "Just had a long and very good talk with President Moon of South Korea. Things are going very well. Time and location of meeting with North Korea is being set. Also spoke to Prime Minister Abe of Japan to inform him of the ongoing negotiations."
PAUL: CNN international correspondent Paula Hancocks is live from Seoul, South Korea, and CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip is at the White House for us. Abby, we'd like to begin with you. What are you hearing from Washington regarding this conversation?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House hasn't yet released a full readout of the conversation, but we know in the last couple of days there's been some whittling down of the details for this potential summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. The number of sites that this potential meeting could potentially be held at has gone from about five to two or three, according to President Trump, who said that in a press conference yesterday. And now this conversation seems to indicate that that process is marching on.
Now, this phone call between the two leaders comes at a time when President Trump has made it very clear that he is eager to have this meeting with the North Koreans. He thinks that these talks are heading in the right direction, heading in a positive direction. But it remains to be seen, he has said, whether or not they will actually make it to the table. He has kept open the possibility that if North Korea doesn't satisfactorily give the United States something or what they want in advance of this meeting that the United States might scrap the plans all together or walk away once they are in the meeting, Christi and Victor. BLACKWELL: All right, let's go to Paula now. Paula, I don't know,
and you'll tell us if the South Koreans are talking about this call at all. And if you can in that answer, give us an idea. We've been talking this morning about the optimism balanced with skepticism here in the U.S. To what degree is there skepticism there in South Korea of these new talks, this new conversation with North Korea?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, there definitely is skepticism because the South Koreans have been here before. We are waiting at this point for the blue house, the presidential office here, to give us details about that call. It was planned to start about two hours ago. We don't know whether it actually started on time. But it was expected because we know that President Moon was very honest about the fact he knew he need Washington onboard for these North/South Korean talks to be successful, saying that previous engagements and agreements and declarations haven't worked because Washington was not 100 percent behind it.
So they have been very clear that it is highly likely as well that the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, will travel to Washington soon to brief the U.S. president Donald Trump in person about that summit that we saw between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in on Friday. So we're waiting for any kind of details. Maybe he spoke about that half hour that the two leaders, the North and South Korean leaders, were speaking. They were on camera. It was being beamed live around the world, but there was no audio, there was no interpreters near there. There was nobody except for these two men. What were they talking about? Potentially talking about the next summit.
President Moon has always said that the North/South Korean summit was just the guidepost, almost the stepping stone to the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. So people here are optimistic, at least some are. We have had small pockets of protests in the street this Saturday, hundreds of defectors actually gathered as well and said don't believe what you saw on Friday. That was a show by North Korea. Do not trust them, as you would expect they would say, having escaped North Korea and knowing the brutality of that country on a first-term basis.
So, certainly there is skepticism here. There is also -- I've been hearing from some South Koreans, some difficulty in reconciling the Kim Jong-un that they saw on their television screens on Friday and the Kim Jong-un that they know about, that they have heard about from defectors, from the United Nations, the human rights abuses, the fact that North Korea has threatened to turn Seoul into a sea of flames. So there's also some reconciliation that needs to be done here, trying to see Kim Jong-un in a different light because clearly what we saw from him on Friday, engaging with the South Korean president, they were embracing, they were smiling, they were laughing, shaking hands, is a very different Kim Jong-un to the one they're used to. Victor and Christi?
[10:05:06] PAUL: Paula, I want to go to Abby now here, because Abby, in this tweet from the president just a short time ago as well, he did mention that the time and location of this meeting with North Korea is being set. Is there any gauge yet as to where specifically this is going to be, and how soon we may know the details of that?
PHILLIP: Well, we could know fairly soon, Christi. It's clear that the president is eager to get this nailed down. He wants to know when it's going to happen because it's very important to him that if all things go well that they get to this point where they can actually meet.
But some of the list of countries that they've been talking about, they pretty early on eliminated the United States as a possibility. They eliminated North Korea as a possibility. But they're looking at some other locations within Asia more broadly, perhaps Singapore, places that are geographically closer to North Korea, in part, because of perhaps some logistical constraints on Kim Jong-un's part, his ability to get from North Korea to some place much farther away.
So they're looking for a somewhat neutral location where they can hold this meeting but one that allows -- that is possible for Kim Jong-un to get to on the kind of aircraft equipment that he has in North Korea. But no concrete details yet. But the president seems to be hinting that maybe they're close. Maybe they're getting to a point where they're almost there. They went from five to two to three -- five to three to two in the last several days, which mean this is process is moving forward fairly quickly.
PAUL: Abby Phillip, Paula Hancocks, we appreciate it so much. Thank you both.
Joining us ow, Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and New Mexico governor. He has also been involved in several negotiations with North Korea. Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us. First and foremost, your reaction to this phone call?
BILL RICHARDSON, (D) FORMER GOVERNOR, NEW MEXICO: Well, I'm sure it was a congratulatory call. I think this summit went very well. I think it advances the potential success of President Trump's summit. But I think maybe they were talking about some daylight that has occurred between the United States and South Korea.
One, if you read the declaration of the two presidents that just came out, they talk about a Korean free -- nuclear-free peninsula. One of the issues is, if that's the case, what happens to American ships and aircraft that have nuclear weapons? That affects the U.S./South Korea relationship. And, secondly, there is a little bit of a difference in terms of what denuclearization means. For the South Korean president, he wants a step-by-step process. In other words, North Korea does a little denuclearization and then they get some benefits, sanctions relief. The U.S. position is very clear. We want full denuclearization, and then sanctions relief, then maybe trade benefits, then maybe some kind of treaty. So there's a little daylight emerging between the two allies that has to be fixed before the summit.
BLACKWELL: So there's a lot there, Mr. Ambassador. Let's start with the daylight. President Moon ran, in part, was elected in part on talking to the North and trying to rebuild that relationship and is eager to come through on that promise. To what degree, then, should the U.S. consider any questions or concessions about the number of U.S. military resources there on the peninsula or in the region, or the frequency of these military drills?
RICHARDSON: Well, you know, we have to remember that the most vulnerable population in this entire Korean tension are the South Korean people. There's 25 million people right in the Seoul area that are susceptible, that are vulnerable to an attack by North Korea. So we have to take that very much into account.
However, you know, there is a treaty relationship which says we're going to maintain our military presence with South Korea. I think there may be some flexibility if an agreement is made on the kind of military exercises that we have with South Korea that might not threaten the North as much, also maybe moving some of the troops away from the DMZ, from the demilitarized zone, reducing the tension or the proximity of the troops. Maybe there's flexibility there.
But the treaty relationship is very firm. We have some ships, aircraft that have nuclear weapons to defend Japan, South Korea. Korean-free peninsula, nuclear weapons, and I know it was just the goal. I'm not trying to diminish a good summit, the importance of the summit of the two Korean leaders, but there's that daylight that is emerging that has to be fixed before the Trump summit with Kim Jong- un.
[10:10:15] PAUL: So, ambassador, when we look at this tweet and the president is talking about the conversations he had this morning with President Moon and Prime Minister Abe, do you have a sense of how influential those two leaders are on President Trump? Is he accepting guidance and input from them? The tweet conveys there's a sense of partnership, but at the end of the day we have a president who has been very vocal, saying he will walk out of this meeting if he doesn't hear what he wants to hear.
Well, look, Abe, the Japanese have felt they've been left out of the negotiations with North Korea, with South Korea. So they want to be sure that they're in. They've got a population vulnerable to North Korean missiles. We've got 50,000 American troops, major trading partners with Japan. So we've got to listen to the Japanese.
And I think the good point is the president has a personal relationship with Abe. With South Korea, we also have to acknowledge that it was the South Korean president that paved the way for the betterment of relations and easing of tensions in the peninsula and the summit. So we have to take them into account.
But in the end, the United States, we're the ones with the military power, with the treaty relationship, and North Korea wants to deal with us. So we're the biggest players in the room. But the president has to take them into account. My worry is that he gets a little impulsive. Although his tweets lately have been good, I just wish he would stop all tweets and leave the secretary of state and his diplomats to lead the negotiations. But anyway, that's not going to happen anyway. So --
BLACKWELL: Let me wrap this up with a quick question and hopefully a quick answer. The U.S. has been here before, watching this between the North and South, with Kim Jong-il and President Roh and President Kim. Does this look like the real thing this time to you?
RICHARDSON: It does look like the real thing, but with a lot of risks. The real thing, why? Because Kim Jong-un is involved and he's leading the negotiations. And he seems to be transforming himself from a pariah to a statesman. And then the fact that President Trump needs a big foreign policy victory because of some of the domestic problems and other reasons. So I think this is the real thing. I'm hopeful, but a lot of risks. And I just hope we're prepared because I know those North Koreans. They're prepared. They're going to be relentless. They've got something up their sleeve.
BLACKWELL: Something up their sleeve. Ambassador Bill Richardson, always good to have you, sir.
PAUL: Thank you, sir.
BLACKWELL: President Trump is continuing to defend his now former V.A. secretary nominee. Next, who he says should resign over the treatment of Dr. Ronny Jackson.
PAUL: Also Tom Brokaw withdraws from a commencement address after allegations of sexual harassment from a former colleague.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA VESTER, FORMER NBC REPORTER: I was deeply traumatized by being groped and assaulted by Tom Brokaw.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[10:17:29] BLACKWELL: This morning, President Trump is going after a Democratic senator and asking for him, or calling for him to resign for publicly criticizing the president's former V.A. nominee.
PAUL: The senator receiving the president's ire this morning. Jon Tester of Montana who went on multiple news organizations, including CNN, to detail his concerns about the allegations made regarding Dr. Ronny Jackson. The president's tweets this morning say those claims are, quote, phony Democrat chargers, and he calls for Senator Tester to step down because he discussed them.
BLACKWELL: Dr. Jackson withdrew his nomination to lead the Department of Veteran Affairs. That was this week after nearly two dozen of his current and former colleagues made some stunning allegations, including that the doctor got drunk while on duty, casually and perhaps inappropriately handed out prescription drugs.
President Trump is promoting his campaign rally in Michigan tonight, tweeting just a few minutes ago, "Look forward to being in the great state of Michigan tonight. Major business expansion and jobs pouring into your states. Auto companies expanding at record pace." Joining us now, Congressman Paul Mitchell, how timely, representing Michigan's 10th district where the president will hold that rally tonight. Congressman, good morning to you.
REP. PAUL MITCHELL, (R) MICHIGAN: Good morning. Nice to be here.
BLACKWELL: So first, let's start with the president's tweets this morning, and let's put one up here where he mentions his former, now, nominee to lead the Department Veterans Affairs, Dr. Jackson. And at the end you can see, first tweet on the left, bottom line there, Jon Tester should resign. Do you agree?
MITCHELL: I think we need to -- one of the concerns I've had since I've joined -- come to Washington is the extent to which we go to character assassination rather than deal with the facts, make sure all the facts are out. It's a matter of who can rush faster to the media to get on TV and attack someone else's character. I think this is indicative of the whole nominations process we've had. If you look at the number of cloture votes we've had in the Senate, it's at all-time record. We've had more cloture votes in the Senate on nominations that are pending than in the entire history of previous terms.
BLACKWELL: Congressman, let me bring you back to the question. Do you think Tester should resign?
MITCHELL: I think Tester is responsible for the accuracy of information he put out, and I think he should be challenged on that. We owe it to people who are nominated for positions to the White House to be careful not to just kill their reputation before there's a chance to look at it.
BLACKWELL: So let me also ask you, you just mentioned or complained about in Washington character assassination and rushing to the media to bash someone.
BLACKWELL: It would seem that President Trump is quicker to that than most by going on to Twitter and doing simply what I read this morning and what we read a lot of mornings, if not most.
[10:20:04] MITCHELL: I think what you're seeing is the president is unwilling to step back and let people around him he's trying to support take a shot unfairly, or he believes unfairly. And they haven't responded. We went after this guy, and it wasn't entirely accurate, it wasn't close to accurate. It was an appropriate thing to say.
BLACKWELL: Is it OK if the president attacks someone's character and tries to demean them via Twitter?
MITCHELL: I think the response the president made which was to defend someone he's close to who he believes is an appropriate candidate for the nomination. He did that in response to whole series of pretty nasty attacks. So you can assess who is right and wrong, but he is entitled to respond, and he has.
BLACKWELL: Let's move on to Michigan and the big show for the president tonight. MITCHELL: Sure.
BLACKWELL: We know the president is not going to be at the White House Correspondents dinner. The president has said that the national news media, just pointing at a group of cameras, said that they are the enemy of the people. You've been critical of the president in some of his statements in the past. Do you agree with that one?
MITCHELL: I think that the president's perspective on it is that the media has their own bias. I believe everyone has their own bias in terms of media. And he questions it sometimes. The reality is I'm thrilled the president is coming to my district, to Washington township. There's over 20,000 tickets that were printed for a facility that holds 5,000. People are going to stand outside and watch on big screen TV.
As you know, the president did extraordinarily well in my district. The reason he did is he speaks to the people of the United States and the needs that they have, the aspirations they have for their children and grandchildren. He is speaking to those people. And I'm thrilled he's going to be there. I'm looking forward to it.
BLACKWELL: Let's talk about jobs really quickly before I let you go. The president just tweeted out, auto companies expanding at record pace and jobs pouring into the state. An assessment, or at least analysis of the bureau of labor statistic shows unemployment up. Last summer it was 4.4 percent in Michigan, and it went to 4.5, 4.6, 4.7, 4.8 in February and then in March to 4.7. Is this administration as good for Michigan workers as the president claims, and as you claim?
MITCHELL: Absolutely. Absolutely. First, Fiat Chrysler announced they're moving the Dodge truck production back to Warren, Michigan, creating 2,500 jobs and $1 billion in investment. Those unemployment numbers are up slightly, incrementally because more people are joining the labor force. The flaw in those numbers are they hide people that aren't even trying to look for work. More people have joined the labor force to look for a job because they believe the opportunity is there. It has created opportunity. The one thing I can absolutely say for this administration is working with Congress, we've created more jobs in this country. If you look at the growth in domestic product, they're now projecting over three percent. It's been a very long time since we've had this kind of growth in this country.
BLACKWELL: Representative Paul Mitchell, thank you so much for being with us on NEW DAY.
MITCHELL: Good to be here, thank you.
BLACKWELL: Newsroom now. Sorry. We're in the Newsroom. Thanks for being with us.
PAUL: Continuing the conversation here, I want to bring in CNN political analyst and senior White House correspondent from Bloomberg News Margaret Talev. Margaret, thank you so much for being here. So the president adamantly defending White House physician Ronny Jackson this morning as well, calling on Senator Jon Tester to resign amid these misconduct accusations that he's talking about. You just heard from the representative there. What's your reaction? Should Tester resign? Do you think other people will be calling for that?
MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the president and the Republicans have been looking at a midterm year that is very difficult, in many cases particularly in the House, but looking for opportunities to get off of the defensive and on the offensive. This is now a prime target. Of course the GOP still has the primary to get through. But Senator Tester is facing reelection and this is giving the president a good narrative to go after a Democrat instead of to feel like he's always on the defensive.
But it is pretty unusual when you have White House aides showing internal documents. And the White House feels confident that Senator Tester and the Democrats overstepped on the information about Dr. Jackson.
PAUL: Have you ever seen a president, though, call for a sitting senator to resign in a situation like this?
TALEV: It's a very unusual tactic, but it's certainly in keeping with President Trump's style. He has used Twitter to galvanize public opinion and seize the narrative, and he feels very strongly, first of all, that this is a good political argument. And second of all he feels defensive. He likes Dr. Jackson, feels that Dr. Jackson has done well by him, and he feels embarrassed and frustrated that inadvertently this doctor with a long, admirable career in the Navy has found himself in the middle of this political firestorm.
PAUL: He is no longer, we're learning from the White House, the official doctor of the president. However, he is still there in the White House. I think the determination, as far as I can tell, is what will his role be? And that has yet to be determined.
I wanted to ask you about tonight. Of course, we've got the White House correspondents dinner. The president, again, will be absent. One thing that is different this year than it was last year is the fact that Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Sanders will both be at the dinner this year. How did that happen? Do you have a gauge of what changed?
[10:25:11] TALEV: Well, we've been in discussions with the White House, as you can imagine, for several months about this dinner, asking them in what capacity they would like to participate. And Correspondents Association has a long history of inviting American presidents and vice presidents to this dinner. The dinner is not about the president, it's not for or against the president. It's about elevating not just good journalism but the First Amendment and the ability in this country to be able to be for a president or against a president or for or against an idea without any repercussions. You're not going to be jailed or financially harmed if you take an opinion. So the dinner is about embracing the First Amendment. And the administration and the president has encouraged this year, not
just Kellyanne and Sarah, but all their officials who would like to attend to attend. We're going to have a room full of officials representing the administration tonight.
PAUL: So you've been talking with them you say for some time now to determine who would be there, who wouldn't. Does the president give any reason as to why he will not attend?
TALEV: Well, look, this is up to the president. If a president feels he's comfortable sitting there -- most presidents don't like to have four hours of their night swept up in this. But historically presidents have felt it is important to send a signal both to Americans and to the rest of the world that they support this quintessential part of American democracy, the First Amendment. And we welcome the president at any time when he is comfortable attending.
PAUL: Was there any point in your discussions that there was a glimmer that he might actually attend, or has it always been no?
TALEV: It's an interesting question. But it was never in that kind of a context. We want a president to attend if he's comfortable. If he's not comfortable, he doesn't need to attend. But I think after the gridiron, the president did seem to enjoy that interaction. I think the fact that this is on television and the fact that it's a difficult room to manage because you don't know who the guests are going to be. You don't know what the jokes are going to be. There's a lot of spontaneity in the night, that it makes it a little bit different than something like the gridiron dinner.
PAUL: And you're not the first person to point out that there are cameras at this dinner as opposed to the gridiron dinner. Perhaps that has play in it as well. Margaret Talev, always good to have you here. Thank you.
TALEV: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Next, a Kremlin-linked banker and the NRA, is there an investigation coming into their relationship? Well, the NRA is preparing for one. That CNN exclusive is next.
[10:32:06] PAUL: It's so good to know you're out there. I'm Christi Paul.
BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.
PAUL: So as the president looks forward to the next campaign event, which happens to be tonight in Michigan, there are still questions surrounding the 2016 race, of course.
BLACKWELL: So CNN has learned the National Rifle Association could be getting ready for a possible investigation over its ties to a Kremlin- linked banker. CNN political correspondent Sara Murray has that story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The National Rifle Association is setting aside years of documents related to its interactions with Kremlin-linked banker Alexander Torshin and his protege Maria Butina as it appears to be bracing for a possible investigation, sources say. The gun rights group is facing Congressional scrutiny over its finances and ties to Torshin, a lifetime member of the NRA and one of the prominent Russian government officials the U.S. recently slapped with sanctions. The NRA is also battling allegations that Torshin may have illegally funneled money through the NRA to bolster the Trump campaign.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There have been allegations that the Russians were going to funnel money through the NRA, and we sought to investigate that. There were witnesses with direct knowledge regarding those allegations that we sought to bring in. The Republicans refused.
MURRAY: The NRA has publicly denied any contact from the FBI or accepting any illegal donations. But sources say they are anxiously preparing, collecting documents as due diligence and dealing with Congressional scrutiny. The renewed tension highlights the uneasy alliance between top NRA officials and Torshin, a relationship that eventually ensnared members of Trump's campaign team, inviting Congressional scrutiny into advisers, including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Jeff Sessions. The NRA went all in for Trump in 2016.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been a member for a long time. And my boys are members. So to get the endorsement, believe me, is a fantastic honor.
MURRAY: It spent $30 million backing Trump's candidacy, more than it shelled out for 2008 and 2012 political races combined according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Behind the scenes, Torshin was using NRA ties to try to arrange a meeting with Trump at the NRA's annual meeting in Louisville. In an e-mail to the Trump campaign, a Torshin associate says he is cultivating a backchannel to President Putin's Kremlin, adding "Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump."
SCHIFF: Here you have in black and white evidence that there was an effort by the Russians to use the NRA as their channel, one of their channels to the Trump campaign.
MURRAY: Torshin didn't meet Trump at the NRA meeting, but he had an impromptu encounter with Donald Trump Jr., and even some NRA officials wondered if it was a setup by the Russians. Trump Jr. told investigators that he doesn't recall discussing the upcoming election with Torshin. Torshin's relationship with the NRA began years ago through David Keene, now an NRA board member.
[10:35:00] In 2015 Keene took NRA backers to Moscow, hosted by Maria Butina. She had attracted attention for starting a gun rights group in Russia, a country known for its strict firearms laws. The NRA group went sight-seeing and toured a gun manufacturer. By 2016, sources say Torshin and Butina had become fixtures at the NRA's high- dollar donor events. The NRA has said Torshin hasn't made any foreign donations aside from membership dues and said it hasn't found any foreign donations related to the U.S. election. But Russia experts say Torshin's close ties to Putin and division around guns in America mean his coziness to the NRA looks like a classic Russian influence operation.
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Vladimir Putin is using these issues to divide us, to split and make weaker the United States. And that's something that I believe all of Americans ought to be concerned about.
MURRAY: The White House, the Trump campaign, and the NRA did not comment for this story. When I spoke with David Keene, he said he did not want to talk about his 2015 trip to Moscow but he did say he was not aware of any donations from Alexander Torshin.
Sara Murray, CNN Washington.
BLACKWELL: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt could not be facing new ethics reviews in addition to the ones that are already underway. In a letter to Democratic members of Congress, the EPA inspector general detailed a list of possible reviews. They include a look at Pruitt's travel expenses, security team, and raises for staff members.
PAUL: His voice is familiar to so many Americans, really is one of the most trusted names in news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW: Good evening. I'm Tom Brokaw with NBC Nightly News.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: But now a former reporter says NBC News legend Tom Brokaw sexually harassed and assaulted her. Former NBC reporter Linda Vester says she had two encounters with Brokaw. The first was in 1993, the second when Brokaw came to her hotel room uninvited.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA VESTER, FORMER NBC REPORTER: He leans over with his index finger and puts it on my mouth to silence me and says this is our compact. And at that point he took the same hand, reached behind my head, and tried to force me to kiss him. I pulled back with all the strength I could muster and stood up. And I said, Tom, I do not want to do this with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Brokaw denies this and says the meetings were to discuss career advice, and he has been very vehement about this, a letter defending himself against the accusations leaked yesterday reportedly before it was finished, calling Vester's claims a drive-by shooting. This is the second time in months another big NBC News name, of course, is facing serious allegations. Senior media correspondent Brian Stelter is joining us now. Brian, what are you hearing this morning about this?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: One of the big unanswered questions here is whether there are any other women with similar allegations against Tom Brokaw. So far Linda Vester the only woman on the record who is making these claims. Her allegations date back to the early 1990s. She says she's coming forward now because NBC News has a problem, she says, a probably that has not been fully addressed with a culture of sexual harassment. And the firing of Matt Lauer in December was one sign of that problem, but she says there were other problems as well.
Linda Vester went from NBC to FOX in 1999, then in the mid-2000s she left the television news industry. Part of Brokaw's response here is to say she had a failed career that he tried to help her with but now she's disgruntled and bitter.
This letter he wrote yesterday is really stunning. Let's put part of it on the screen. He wrote this letter, he says, at 4:00 a.m. He says he didn't mean for it to get out but he confirms it's legitimate. He says "I am facing a long list of grievances from a former colleague who left NBC News angry that she had failed in her pursuit of stardom. She has unleashed a torrent of unsubstantiated criticism and attacks on me more than 20 years after I opened the door for her and a new job at FOX News."
Brokaw went on and on calling Vester a character assassin, saying that his friends and family are sticking by him despite this terrible time in his life. This is something unusual Victor and Christi. We've not normally seen in this Me Too moment in time where prominent men are accused of wrongdoing. We rarely seen one of these men come out so aggressively denying the allegations in a letter like this.
Brokaw said he didn't mean for it to get out, he told me it was a rough draft, but it does seem to reflect his true feelings, that Vester is a disgruntled ex-employee making up stories about her time with him. Meanwhile, like I said, the great unknown is whether there are other women that may come forward. I've asked Vester's attorney. He says he has no comment on that possibility.
BLACKWELL: Speaking of other women, Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC tweeted out late last evening a deadline story about a letter from dozens of women who have worked with and for Tom Brokaw.
[10:40:00] BLACKWELL: And she writes -- a letter of support. And she writes, add me to the list. So there seems to be this growing bank of support from women specifically who worked with Tom Brokaw.
STELTER: Yes, in Washington this weekend for the White House Correspondents dinner, I've been seeing a lot of journalists, some from NBC, who really are torn about this letter. It's an open letter from dozens of women at the network, including big names like Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Maddow, Stephanie Ruhle, and, as you mentioned now, Mika Brzezinski saying she wants to add her name. This letter says Brokaw was always a man of character, of integrity, someone who helped women in their careers at NBC. All of that, by the way, is true, based on the evidence we've seen for decades of Brokaw's time at NBC News.
However, there's concern amongst some of their colleagues that you're putting your name out with Brokaw. You don't know necessarily if there are more allegations to come. This is a very sensitive subject, because obviously the allegations from Vester are detailed, and yet Brokaw's denials are very detailed as well. So you see people that are colleagues of the two of them, or former colleagues of the two of them, choosing sides, many of them choosing Brokaw's side but some also standing by Vester.
PAUL: Also some drama with Joy Reid, we understand this morning, some words that she had said some 10 years ago, I believe, may be coming back to haunt her. What are you learning about that?
STELTER: This is a very strange story involving Joy Reid, the MSNBC host, very well known as a liberal commentator, very anti-Trump. But 10 years ago on her blog, when she was not well known, when she was just a kind of up and coming writer, she posted homophobic comments, anti-gay comments on her blog. She said she has evolved, she apologized for those comments.
But then something strange happened this week. More of those anti-gay comments were found on one of her blogs, more of them were found. And instead of admitting again it was her writing, or apologizing again, she said she was hacked. She said the blog was hacked, someone had put the comments there.
Now this morning she might be backing away a little bit from the hacking. She said she does not believe the words on the blog were hers but she admits that her security consultants can't confirm that she was hacked, they can't prove she was hacked. It's a strange story. We have a full report on CNNMoney.com about why her explanations don't seem to add up. It's reminiscent of that old line, it's not necessarily what you did. It's not the crime. It might be the cover-up. If you lied about it, that sometimes is the more controversial issue, the more disturbing issue. But she is defending herself, saying she has come a long way, she's evolved in the past ten years. But still saying she doesn't believe she wrote those words.
PAUL: All right, Brian Stelter, always good to have you break all of this all down for us. Thank you, sir.
BLACKWELL: A football star is making an impact on and off the field. Coy Wire is here with more.
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Morning, Victor and Christi. Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers in the NFL. But he went back to college to fulfill his mom's dying wish, and now he's helping kids all around the world. That's why he's featured in this week's "Difference Makers." Wait till you see his inspiring story right here on Newsroom.
[10:47:35] BLACKWELL: Larry Fitzgerald, 11-time Pro Bowler for the Arizona Cardinals, that's great. But it's what he does off the field that's even more impressive.
PAUL: In this week's "Difference Makers" with Coy Wire.
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Happy Saturday, everyone. This "Difference Makers" is brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.
Larry has traveled all over the world, a bit for pleasure but mostly for purpose. It's service to others that's seemingly written in his DNA, and that's all because of his mom who he lost to cancer. She was a light to Larry and to the world around him.
LARRY FITZGERALD, NFL PLAYER: I am Larry Fitzgerald and we are all difference makers.
WIRE: You lost your mom, Carol. As you look back on her time here and what she meant to you, what do you hope that she sees when she looks down at you today?
FITZGERALD: I'm just -- everything that I do, the way I live, the way I process things are all because of her. She has such an unbelievably humble spirit of service. And my parents always wanted to keep me involved in aspects that really matter. Catching touchdowns and doing things like that, people will forget. People will never forget how you made them feel. I saw the impact my mother and father had on people's lives, and I wanted to do the same thing regardless of what my occupation was.
The first time I was in India, I was fitting a young person with hearing aids with Starkey Hearing Foundation, and the young person had never heard before. And he had all of his family. They were just holding on to this glimmer of hope that he would be able to hear. And the first time he heard some car noises and birds chirping, cell phone ringing, he was looking around, it was like all this information was being processed for the first time. And I heard his mom and his dad just start weeping. And I kind of lost it a little bit because it was such an emotional moment to see the family so happy, him to be able to hear his mother's and father's voices for the first time. I was weeping, man.
WIRE: Larry Fitzgerald is one of the most accomplished receivers in NFL history. He's entering his 15th NFL season. He's still one of the best receivers in the league. His character, his career are both inspirations. But Larry once said I'm sad that my mom worked so hard for so long so that I could live my dream, but she never got to see the things that I could have given her. One thing is for sure, though, her spirit of loving kindness lives on in and through Larry.
[10:50:01] PAUL: I think she sees them. I'm just saying, I think she sees him.
Coy, thank you so much.
FITZGERALD: You're welcome.
PAUL: We'll be right back.
PAUL: According to the Centers for Disease Control, homicide is the number one cause of death for black men between the ages of 15 to 34. It's a horrid statistic. But for this week's CNN Hero, an emergency doctor in New York, it was a reality that pushed him to take action in and out of the hospital. Meet Dr. Rob Gore.
[10:55:02] DR. ROB GORE, CNN HERO: I don't like pronouncing people dead. It's probably the worst thing that I have ever had to do. I want to preserve life.
When I see patients that are coming in with violent injuries, when somebody looks like you, from your neighborhood, a lot of this stuff really hits home. You realize, I don't want this to happen anymore. What do we do about it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: For the full story go to CNNHeroes.com. You can also nominate somebody there who you think is a CNN Hero.
And thank you so much for spending time with us. It means so much to us, we love knowing you're out there.
BLACKWELL: Yes. Ryan Nobles is out there. He is up next for Fredricka Whitfield in the next hours of Newsroom. It's up next. Thanks for watching this morning.
PAUL: Make some good memories.