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Deadly Limousine Crash Kills 20; Trump Uses Kavanaugh Moment to Rally Voters for Midterms; Brett Kavanaugh Confirmed One Month Before Election Day; Mike Pompeo Hails Step Forward for a Second Trump-Kim Summit; Aired 4-5p ET
Aired October 7, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:20] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. Thanks so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
This breaking news. New details in that deadly limousine crash that killed 20 people in upstate New York. A limo carrying 18 people plus the driver plowed through a stop sign and hit two pedestrians. This happened about 24 hours ago in Schoharie, about an hour outside of Albany.
We have just received the 911 call of the crash. Listen to these frantic moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Respond to the intersection of state route 30 and 30A. Getting reports of a multivehicle motor vehicle accident. Unknown injuries at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apple Barrel reports possibly four or five vehicles involved, unknown injuries. 911 to Schoharie Fire Monitors second transmission. Central bridge fire and ambulance. They're requested to respond to a multivehicle motor vehicle accident, state route 30, state route 30A, to be a Delta response.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be advised, we have two cars lodged in the brush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And moments ago, we've heard from investigators. Here's what they said about the crash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER FIORE, FORMER DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT, NEW YORK STATE POLICE: The investigation of the scene revealed that a 2001 Ford Excursion limousine was traveling southwest on state route 30 and failed to stop at the intersection with state route 30A. The limousine traveled across the intersection into a parking lot and struck a 2015 Toyota Highlander that was unoccupied and parked. Two pedestrians standing nearby were also struck and killed.
ROBERT SUMWALT, NTSB CHAIRMAN: Twenty fatalities is just horrific. I've been on the board for 12 years and this is one of the biggest losses of life -- loss of lives that we've seen in a long, long time. Colgan Air at Buffalo killed 40 people or 50 people but that -- this is the most deadly transportation accident in this country since February of 2009.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN correspondent Christine Alesci joining me right now.
So the NTSB on the scene there, collecting evidence. Still unclear, you know, the sequence of events, what led up to this. But we know in all 20 people dead.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the investigators are going to be looking at vehicle factors including mechanical issues as well as the driver issues and anything else that would have happened environmentally, but clearly authorities are saying this is the biggest transportation accident since 2009.
There is going to be a lot of questions that are still unanswered in that press conference. We heard reporters asking how this could have happened. And authorities are really reluctant to give any details until they've had the time to really investigate.
This is a hard hit for a community that seems like a very close knit community, very tragic. We know that the accident happened outside of a local business. The Apple Barrel County Store. And the store actually is raising money for the local responders, which is a voluntary unit, and it put out a statement saying, "Our hearts and prayers go out to victims' families, our customers who tried to assist, and our staff who tried to comfort. We're a small community and you all will ever be a part of -- you will forever be a part of our family."
Look, we're still reporting out exactly what went wrong here. And our colleague Polo is on his way to Schoharie right now to report on the ground there -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Cristina Alesci, thank you so much. Tragic situation.
Joining me right now on the phone, Bridey Finnagen. She actually heard the crash and saw the aftermath.
And so, Bridey, while officials explained that it appeared as though this limousine just plowed through an intersection and then crashed into a parked vehicle, there were two pedestrians near that parked vehicle resulting in now 20 deaths in all, describe what you heard and then what you saw.
BRIDEY FINNAGEN, SCHOHARIE RESIDENT: Well, I heard a loud bang when I was in my dining room. I went out on to the front porch and I looked up at the Apple Barrel. I saw all these people coming out of the Apple Barrel restaurant and suddenly I heard lots of screaming. And I could see this vehicle in the bushes, and I couldn't figure out how it got there. I walked up closer to the scene and it turned out that it looked like
a bus, then I figured out it was some kind of a van limousine and the first responders were having trouble getting into it.
[16:05:05] I heard them smashing the windows with sledgehammers and then the fire truck came and they had the jaws of life, they tried to open the doors of the vehicle. It was very badly damaged. I saw only one person taken out into an ambulance, but there may have been others. And the first responders were all over, back and forth, assisting with the whole scene. So it was pretty horrific.
WHITFIELD: And so, Bridey, I understand from the authorities there that it looked like this limousine, you know, went through an intersection, that there is a stop sign on one of those roadways. Is this an area that in your view, you know, is difficult to navigate? What about this intersection and the area can you tell us about?
FINNAGEN: Yes, it's a dangerous intersection. And (INAUDIBLE) ago around 2010, New York state tried to improve it. And they straightened the hill so that route 30 ended in a straight line instead of a curve. It is a very steep hill and at the top of it there are many signs that say no trucks allowed. And it is possible that this limousine driver, consider it a heavy vehicle that should not be on it, but it has been a concern.
I have only -- I grew up there, but I have lived there only a year as an adult, and there were three accidents at that intersection in this last year. So it is a very dangerous spot. And perhaps the speed limits and maybe more warning signs need to be put in to make people realize that this stop sign is there.
WHITFIELD: And then as we look at kind of this aerial -- there's an aerial picture, you know, of a map of that area, you mentioned you lived nearby. This Apple Barrel, you know, Country Store looks like it really is kind of the nucleus of any kind of activity there. And then perhaps there's some other residences around there. Give me an idea of, you know, generally what kind of business or living happens in this immediate area.
FINNAGEN: Well, it is a rural area. But Route 30A where I live has several businesses on it. There is a school right next door to me and then a little bit beyond there is a hotel and Dunkin' Donuts entrance to interstate I-88. So route 30A has a lot of traffic on it. And then route 30 comes down and then ends -- it curves right there by the Apple Barrel and it goes into town. So this is not the town.
The Apple Barrel is kind of alone right there at that intersection as a commercial business and it is very popular, especially this time of year because of the apples and, you know, the leaf looking.
WHITFIELD: How shaken up are you and people generally in the area?
FINNAGEN: Well, it is extremely upsetting for such a small community to have something like this happen. I am often up at Apple Barrel, my husband and I go up there to eat dinner and buy items, and, you know, I could have been one of the people walking across that parking lot. It's just a horrible thing to think that this situation is there and that this actually is a worse case situation and that it actually happened.
WHITFIELD: Terrible situation. All right, Bridey, thank you so much for your point of view on all of this.
All right. And now politics and the final push to the midterms. President Trump is back in Washington today, riding a high after his victory lap in Kansas to tout his remarkable week with just 30 days until the November elections.
We now officially have a complete U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Brett Kavanaugh will sit on the bench starting Tuesday after being sworn in last night. Senators from both sides are still facing fallout from Kavanaugh's confirmation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I found Dr. Ford's testimony to be heart wrenching, painful, compelling and I believe that she believes what she testified to.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Could you lose this seat over your vote?
COLLINS: You know, I have to do what I think is right. And over the years the people of Maine have trusted me to exercise my best judgment. That's what I did in this case.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: She said that she thinks that -- she said that Dr. Ford thing thinks that she was assaulted which is even more insulting than saying that she gave a very credible account.
[16:10:07] I certainly believe Dr. Ford. The senators who are making these confirmation decisions are the people who are elected by their voters. And so as voters they have a role to play.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: With control of Congress on the line, the president's base is hoping to ride his wave of victories all the way to the polls. But fired up Democrats are vowing revenge come November.
CNN's White House reporter Sarah Westwood joining us right now.
So the president is getting ready for a very big week.
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Fred. And we know that President Trump has already spent the past couple of days basking in the success of Senate Republicans' efforts to pet Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. And there's no signs he'll be letting up heading into this jam-packed week of events across the country.
Trump spent that rally in Kansas last night, touting not just the confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, but also some other big wins from the past week including the release of a 49-year low unemployment rate. And the renegotiation of some new trade terms with Mexico and Canada.
And Trump unveiled what could become a central theme to his political messaging, heading into the midterms and that's using Kavanaugh's bitter confirmation battle as a warning to Republican voters about the kinds of things they might expect if Democrats retake Congress in November. And also using Kavanaugh's narrow margin of victory to fire up some GOP voters who might otherwise be complacent, try to get them out to the polls.
Remember that Democrats have for months enjoyed an enthusiasm advantage over Republicans. That's one of the reasons why experts have been predicting a blue wave come November. Now, top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway this morning echoed Trump's recent attacks on Democrats for the way they handled sexual assault allegations that had been leveled at Kavanaugh over the past several weeks. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: They wanted America to look up and see Brett Kavanaugh as a gang rapist and a lot of women including me in America looked up and saw a man who was the political -- political character assassination and also we looked up and saw in him possibly our husbands, our sons, our cousins, our co-workers, our brothers. And this was unfair. Had they shown Brett Kavanaugh the grace and dignity that his 10-year-old daughter showed Dr. Ford, that we all showed her in her testimony, in the FBI supplemental investigation, I think there should be some soul searching but it's not the Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: Now Trump will have several chances this week to continue this victory lap. He'll be trying to keep the excitement level of his base high as some GOP strategists are worried that that energy could dissipate in the weeks left before voters head to the polls. On Monday, Trump will go to Orlando for an official event and then throughout the week he'll hold campaign rallies in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and one on Saturday in Kentucky.
So, Fred, it's likely that we'll continue to be hearing this celebratory rhetoric from Trump throughout the week.
WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood at the White House, thanks so much.
So will Trump's win of getting Kavanaugh confirmed lead to bigger gains for Republicans on election day, just now 30 days away? Today the Senate leader thanked Democrats for giving what he calls a boost to his party before the midterms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Ironically the behavior of, first, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and then the overreach of the protesters at the capital has actually energized the Republican base, particularly in the red states where we're trying to pick up seats out across America. So I want to thank -- I want to thank the other side for the tactics that have allowed us to kind of energize and get involved our own voters. And I think this gave us the motivation and the opportunity to have the kind of turnout in this off-year election that would help us hold the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk about this. CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein with us, who is also senior editor at the "Atlantic," and CNN political reporter Rebecca Berg.
Good to see you both. So, Ron, you first. Is Senator McConnell right? Is the party energized as a result of Democrats opposing Kavanaugh?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, first thing is in modern politics four weeks is an eternity. So we don't know if this is still going to be top of mind for voters in November. But to the extent it is, I think it is going to have the same effect as almost everything else in the Trump presidency, which is to widen the divide.
There is it no question that there is evidence of a rally around the flag kind of reaction among Republicans. And that will affect Democrats at kind of the outer edge of where they were hoping to contest in the more Republican leaning House districts and the more rural and more blue-collar, and will probably affect them in some of the red states they are hoping to defend.
On the other hand, if you look at the polling over the last week, it's very clear that there is overwhelming opposition to confirming Kavanaugh and support for Dr. Ford's testimony among college educated white women, and college educated white men also narrowly break in her direction and against him and when you add those both up, I think it compounds the difficulty of the Republicans face in the places that are the absolute center of the battle for the House. These white- collar suburban areas inside the major metros.
[16:15:11] What this basically does is I think it leaves a situation which Democrats are still favored for the House, but they're going to have to max out on those suburban opportunities because the districts beyond that, the kind of more Republican leaning territory, probably get tougher after this.
WHITFIELD: And Rebecca, you're in Iowa, where Senator Cory Booker was trying to rally Democrats after Kavanaugh was confirmed. And what was his message?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Fred. So last night, Cory Booker was here in Des Moines speaking with roughly 1,000 Democratic Party activists and donors and he told them to stay faithful in this moment of defeat, when many of those Democrats last night were disappointed, still stinging, fresh wounds from their defeat in the Kavanaugh confirmation process.
He told them to channel that energy, channel that disappointment into the midterms. Of course the midterms are only a month away now and so he told them to send a message in November to Republicans that this is just one setback, but there are more fights to come.
WHITFIELD: And then, Rebecca, you know, Saturday the president specifically went after three Democrats who might run against him for the presidency including Cory Booker. He said Booker was a disaster as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, so what was Booker's response to all that?
BERG: That's right, Fred. Well, the president clearly noticing that Cory Booker was visiting Iowa, the key presidential primary state that it is. And it was his first visit to some pretty noteworthy in that respect. But Cory Booker did not take the president's bait. We asked him directly to respond to the president's attacks on him and his mention of Cory Booker. And Booker said, you know, he wasn't going to play the president's game.
I'll have you take a listen to his full response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERG: What is your reaction to his focus on you recently?
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I really have no reaction. The reality is that people in the state of New Jersey elected me state wide, very proud of the work that I did, the change that we made in Newark, the transformation going on in our city. But this is not about the president, it's not me. I will never let him pull me so low as to hate him. I'm going to be -- continue to be a voice in this country for the love, for bringing the nation together, not driving a nation apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERG: So Cory Booker obviously not wanting to engage with the president just yet. But as the 2020 race progresses and depending on Cory Booker's decision as to whether he'll jump into the race, we might see that change. For now, though, preaching a message of love here in Iowa.
WHITFIELD: Right. Ron, and then there's -- you know, a national poll taken just after Kavanaugh testified to senators, you know, Republicans cutting into the Democratic lead, when it comes to House races. 49 percent of American voters back the Democratic candidate in their local House race. 42 percent support the Republican candidate. A gap of seven points. Back in September, that gap was 14. So does this mean that there has been a big impact?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, the 14 was the anomaly, not the seven. Right? So the seven is more in line with where the average has been. So it's hard to know. I think there's unquestionably an impact in terms of Republican intensity and engagement today, four weeks before the election being up. And as I said, if you're talking about the places that are on the periphery, this kind of a second tier outer reach district that Democrats wanted to put in play, it makes it harder. On the other hand, in the NPR-Maris poll last week, 66 percent of college educated white women said they believe Dr. Ford and 72 percent said that Kavanaugh should not be confirmed if there is a doubt.
The plurality of voters said that -- they believe -- slight majority said he should not be confirmed. And I think the impact of that is going to be very deferential. I think it just adds to the head winds facing Republicans in these inner suburban districts where the president himself has been very unpopular, but it also increases the pressure on Democrats to really maximize their opportunities in those places.
We're talking about the suburbs of Philadelphia, and New Jersey, and Minneapolis, and Orange County, California, where they have a lot of opportunities on the board. The places beyond that may get tougher. But I think this is -- the idea that this is an unmitigated benefit for Republicans at a time when most people in the country said they oppose the confirmation, just seems to me a little bit of a stretch.
WHITFIELD: We will soon find out, won't we, just a month away.
Ron Brownstein, Rebecca Berg, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.
All right. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sits down with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Where does the denuclearization process stand and could there be a second nuclear summit on the table?
[16:23:55] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. The White House is expressing hope for a second summit with North Korea as soon as possible. President Trump tweeted these pictures of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fresh off his visit with Leader Kim Jong-un. They met for two hours in what is now Pompeo's fourth trip to Pyongyang. The trip was aimed at breaking a gridlock and nuclear talks.
Here's how Pompeo described the progress after arriving in South Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We had a good productive conversation. (INAUDIBLE). And we took another step forward. So this is I think a good outcome for all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott joining us now.
So has anything changed after this meeting?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, I can't say that anything has changed in terms of actual specifics that were agreed to or the North Koreans have done. I mean, obviously we know what was on the agenda. Specifically Secretary of State Pompeo was looking for particular steps that the North Koreans could take towards denuclearization, giving up their nuclear weapons program.
[16:25:02] The North Koreans have said they would invite weapons inspectors on the test site, or U.S. officials to monitor that. The North Koreans have also told the South Koreans according to the South Korean government they'd be willing to dismantle one of their missile test sites. And then, of course, the two men, Kim Jong-un and Secretary Pompeo were talking about setting up another summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Secretary Pompeo, we heard him there himself, saying that, you know, another step was taken. But he's being very tight lipped about what those actual steps are. So definitely seems what's continuing to change from where we were last year at this time, Fred, is a better tone, a better atmosphere, and an agreement in principle to work forward towards North Korea denuclearization. But no actual steps that have been announced yet -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: OK. And so far, as far as we can know, what are the steps that North Korea has actually taken toward any kind of denuclearization or effort to be more trusted?
LABOTT: Well, I mean, I think it's -- they deserve credit, if you will, for not testing from November. There has been no missile tests, there's been no nuclear tests. And that's what President Trump continues to cite when he says that there is progress. But since that summit in June, the North Koreans were expected to take some kind of steps, perhaps give a declaration of their nuclear program, dismantle that Web site, allow weapons inspectors in.
So far they've only said that they're going to do that. There haven't actually been any firm steps that are taking place. Secretary Pompeo has been looking for a timeline for these steps to be completed. We haven't had anything yet. He alludes to conversations that are taking place behind the scenes and U.S. officials have said that this meeting was better than the last meeting. Of course Secretary Pompeo did not get to meet with Kim Jong-un while he was there.
So the tone and the atmosphere is still very good. But those firm steps, we're still waiting to see them -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Elise Labott, thanks so much.
All right. Still ahead, a new tropical storm forming in the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters warning it could hit the U.S. as early as Wednesday.
[16:30:01] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: All right. We're keeping our eyes on a new tropical storm forming in the Caribbean. Tropical storm Michael is expected to be a hurricane by the time it makes landfall along the gulf coast this week. CNN Meteorologist Tom Sater joining me right now, Tom.
TOM SATER, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Well, Fredricka, it's just Mother Nature's way of reminding us the hurricane season does not end until the end of November. This storm system at noon today was named Michael, now a tropical storm. It's not moving anywhere. It is stationary. So it is going to feed on these very warm waters.
Currently, just south of Cancun, Cozumel, hurricane hunters have been finding wind gusts over 60 miles per hour. A northerly movement is expected to, again, start to take its place over the next 12 to 24 hours. I think by Wednesday morning, give or take a few hours, around maybe say 10:00, 11:00 a.m. We could have a category one landfall. Now that would be anywhere between say Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Destin over toward Panama City.
My concern is after landfall, even though it is a category one, it makes its way across the Carolinas, just where we do not want any more rainfall, maybe this time keeping the heavier rain in the southern sections of South Carolina, maybe not so much in North Carolina. But, again, they're still going to be recovering for weeks if not months.
When you look at the track, each time period, this system gains strength, I mean 7:00 a.m. on Monday, 15 miles per hour. Tuesday at 7:00, it's up to 70, then 80. So that's category one. And if it does place landfall in here, some of the heavier rainfall could be from Apalachicola to Tallahassee. Some of the models, Fredricka, want to drop maybe 9, 10 inches of rainfall in that Florida panhandle into extreme southern Georgia.
But then that area of red you see, I mean we're talking six, seven, maybe eight inch totals. And that gets into the Carolinas. So that is a concern for us. We're going to be monitoring the models. We always talk about these models. Sometimes, it is easier to forecast a track than it is the intensity. The U.S. model in red, European is a little bit slower. So that means everything as far as timing when the system moves in.
But right now, just a tropical storm, looks a lot like our first named storm, Alberto, which developed in the same area off the coast of the Yucatan.
WHITFIELD: Oh my, gosh. It feels like it was such a long time ago. All right, Tom Sater, thank you so much. We'll be right back.
[16:35:00] WHITFIELD: The Chicago neighborhood of Rogers Park is on edge as a masked killer remains on the loose. A reward is now reaching $16,000 for information leading to the arrest of this man, wanted in two recent shooting deaths. Police say two men were killed by the same gun, and those killings appear to be completely random. Here's CNN's Scott McLean with more on the desperate search to find the killer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCLEAN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: With quiet tree lined streets, a direct link to downtown, and sweeping views of Lake Michigan, Chicago's Rogers Park is a safe, desirable neighborhood by almost every measure. But lately, people here have been on high alert after two separate murders in a span of just 36 hours, the victims seemingly chosen at random. The first happened in broad daylight. Neighbors heard the shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't believe it was happening.
MCLEAN: Seventy three year old Douglas Watts was out walking his dogs when a masked man in a dark track suit shot him in the head.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy was such a nice guy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was a sweet old man. He could barely walk. I mean what kind of enemies could he have?
MCLEAN: Surveillance footage caught the suspect taking off down a nearby alley. But the video reveals almost nothing identifiable except, police say, for a distinctive walk. His feet point noticeably outward. Ladi Ogunnubi says he saw the suspect moments before the shooting.
[16:39:59] LADI OGUNNUBI, WITNESS: As I was stepping out my complex, he started, like, to walk further away from me. But I forgot something in the house on my way to church. So I ran back in to go get that. And when I had come back out, like within a minute or two, I started to see cops and a bit of chaos, it could have been me.
MCLEAN: Just a day later, 24-year-old Eliyahu Moskowitz was killed along the lake front path few blocks away, also shot in the head.
CLEVELAND HUGHES, AREA RESIDENT: It just made me really sad.
MCLEAN: Did it make you think twice to even jog down here today?
HUGHES: Yeah. It definitely makes me think twice. And if you saw me out here running, I'm trying to get it in, like in and out, as fast as I can.
MCLEAN: This week, police held a packed community meeting to calm fears and also advise caution. Some people wondered if these were hate crimes. The first victim was gay, the second an orthodox Jew. Others think that white people were the target. Police aren't talking about potential motives, but they are stepping up patrols. They think the suspect is a local.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not a ghost. He shops in stores around there. He walks the neighborhood around there.
MCLEAN: Police have dozens of leads, but still no suspects. Little comfort for a neighborhood praying he's caught before he kills again. Scott McLean, CNN, Chicago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And this just in, a deadly workplace shooting in the west bank. A spokesman for the Israel defense forces says two people were killed when a Palestinian gunman opened fire inside a factory where he worked. Authorities say the suspected gunman had a permit to enter the industrial park. Police are still looking for the gunman. We're told that they're still looking into some more details of that.
A third person was wounded. Israeli defense officials are calling this shooting a terror attack.
Melania Trump is back in the states from her solo trip to Africa. Before returning, the First Lady took a moment to talk about the latest Supreme Court battle and her husband's phone habits. Here is CNN's Kate Bennett.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATE BENNETT, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: First Lady Melania Trump spent the week a world away from Washington, trekking through several African nations on her very first solo international trip. The often reserved and quiet First Lady was as delighted as we have ever seen her when she fed baby elephants in Kenya. And in contrast to her husband's tough talk on foreign policy, she took a softer approach, offering her thanks to countries hosting her and promoting her campaign Be Best.
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: Thank you for educating them to Be Best.
BENNETT: But in a rare Q&A session with reporters before her tour of the Egyptian pyramids and the Great Sphinx, the enigmatic Mrs. Trump could not escape questions about her husband's political controversies, including comments he reportedly made earlier this year about, quote, shithole countries to describe Haiti and some African nations.
TRUMP: Nobody discussed that with me. And I never heard him saying those comments.
BENNETT: The First Lady also weighed in on the MeToo movement and the confirmation of her husband's Supreme Court nominee.
TRUMP: I'm glad that Dr. Ford was heard. I'm glad that Judge Kavanaugh was heard. The FBI investigation was done. It is completed. And Senate voted.
BENNETT: And shared her thoughts on the President's Twitter habits.
TRUMP: I don't always agree with what he tweets. And I tell him that. I give him my honest opinion and honest advice. And sometimes he listens, and sometimes he doesn't.
BENNETT: And once again, Mrs. Trump's wardrobe stirred controversy. She wore pristine white pith helmet on a Kenyan safari, an attention grabbing choice that seemed to veer towards costume, reminiscent of the film Out of Africa. Europeans wore the hats in Africa and India the 1900s. And they have come to symbolize white rule.
But later on the trip, the First Lady wore a men's wear inspired outfit, perhaps sending a message to Egypt's president about equality in a country with a poor record on women's rights. Kate Bennett, CNN, Egypt.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right. So much more straight ahead in the Newsroom right after this.
[16:45:00] WHITFIELD: A growing number of teenagers are rejecting boy or girl gender identities, and turning instead to nontraditional gender labels like a gender or gender queer. That's according to a new study out in the journal of pediatrics. These teens consider themselves gender fluid. On this week's all-new episode of This is Life, Lisa Ling explored gender fluidity and the revolution taking place, and how we think about and express gender. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA LING, HOST, THIS IS LIFE: Your parents said you played with dolls under your bed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I mean, I hid them. I have like a whole collection of them. My mom would take me to go and buy dolls and like the little dresses and stuff like that.
LING: So your mom actually bought you girly stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, even though she wasn't supposed to.
LING: Why wasn't she supposed to?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dad wasn't really keen on me playing with stereotypically girly stuff.
LING: You're Magic Johnson and you have this son who only wants to play with dolls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it was hard for me in the beginning, you know. I kept taking them away, trying to put something else in his hands. And about an hour or two later, I go back and it's back in his hand.
[16:50:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think because they're so young, if we just steer him the other direction and say, no, boys play with this, girls play with this, you know, eventually he'll get it and it'll be fine.
LING: A turning point came when EJ started elementary school and Magic got a call that set him on a different path.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The principal called us and said, you know, EJ Likes playing with the girls, likes being a girl in terms of dressing up, exactly. And so I said OK, now I got to start working on me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Lisa Ling, the host of This is Life joins us right now. So wow, quite a journey they were all, you know, about to embark on. So this concept of gender fluidity, it's not something that everybody is really familiar with. So how do you break it down and educate people that this is kind of an accepted term?
LING: Well, you're right, Fred. And it is difficult to break down, but it's a really special episode because it really is about this revolution that is happening, particularly I would say in high schools and colleges. If you visit any of them throughout this country, you will get a sense of this revolution that's happening in the way that people are choosing to identify themselves, what they're calling themselves.
It's hard to avoid trying to figure out what someone's pronouns are. And being gender fluid means that you don't fit the binary genders. You don't feel entirely male or female. But we also feature a person in our episode who calls himself agender, which means that they don't subscribe to being either male or female.
WHITFIELD: So it's created a new language, a new vocabulary. How did it come about?
LING: I don't know how it came about, but they -- you're absolutely right. And I'm still coming to terms with it. And I always tell people who are gender fluid that I will probably mess up because, you know, we're so used to referring to someone in the singular, but many people who are gender fluid don't want to be referred to as him or her.
They prefer to be referred to as they. And so it's not uncommon for you to visit a high school or a college, and for people to ask you how you identify. And someone who's gender fluid might say, well, I use they/them pronouns, which means I want people to refer to me not as a him or her but as a they or a them.
WHITFIELD: OK. So you talk to a variety of people, you know, all across the spectrum and from different walks and stages of their lives from, you know, parents, you know, to teenagers, etcetera.
LING: We did. And we just showed a clip of Magic and Cookie Johnson. And I have to say I was so moved and inspired by them, because Magic himself said, look, at a certain point I tried to do everything I could to get EJ to be more of a boy, to be more of a man. I put him in every sport. But then I got to a point where I realized it's not working.
Now I have to work on me. And I think the biggest hurdle that people who are gender fluid face is public perception and what people think of them. And, you know, as this piece is about to air tonight, you know, I have heard some very negative things about people who feel they're gender fluid, and it's really unfortunate.
Because I think for the first time, people who are gender fluid have vocabulary to be able to express themselves. And I think that's something that's really exciting. People have felt this way for centuries. But now they just have the ability to find other people who are similar and have vocabulary to be able to express themselves.
WHITFIELD: Also instructive in really teaching us all. I'd never heard the word gender fluid until preparing for this segment and your show. So Lisa Ling thanks for opening our eyes.
LING: It's a really special one.
WHITFIELD: It really is. So be sure to tune in tonight, and we will, of course, to an all-new episode of This is Life with Lisa Ling airing at 10:00 p.m. only on CNN. All right, now to this week's CNN Hero. For the past 37 years, one woman in California's remote north coast has dedicated her entire life to serving Americans in need.
And after being tortured as a child and coming to the U.S. nearly penniless, she is tackling the rampant homelessness problem in her own backyard. Meet Betty Chinn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In China, my family's a target for the government. I separated with my family and I lived on the street by myself. This all happened at a young age. I had nothing to eat. Inside my heart, I don't want anybody to suffer what I suffered. I don't sleep a lot. I get up at 2:07, not 2:08, not the 2:06. I tell myself time to go. Somebody needs your help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[16:55:11] WHITFIELD: Well, to see betty in action and all the services that she provides, go to CNNheroes.com. Thanks so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues with Alex Marquardt right after this.