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Aired October 21, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Eastern and Pacific, only on CNN.

Hello, again, and thanks so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. It's the final push to the midterms. And we're just 16 days away and the stakes are high with control of Congress on the line. President Trump is crisscrossing the country hoping to drive voters to the polls, and now we're getting a new look at what's happening in the key state of Florida.

These are new polls that are just in to CNN. The race for governor showing Democrat Andrew Gillum with a sizable lead over Republican Ron DeSantis. And for the Senate race, things are a little closer, but current Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is still holding a lead against Republican Governor Rick Scott.

Let's check in with CNN's Ryan Nobles live for us from Tampa. That's where CNN will be hosting a debate tonight for the governor's race.

So, Ryan, you've been talking to voters, and what are the issues that's on their mind?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Fred, it's interesting when you actually get out on the campaign trail and you talk to these voters who are going to be casting these ballots in these crucial states like Florida, you know, some of the big topics in Washington aren't always as important as they are when you get to the local level. And if you take a look at this poll just commissioned by CNN, you see evidence of that.

Take a look at these numbers. 26 percent of Florida voters -- likely voters in Florida say that health care is their number one concern. The economy comes in a close second at 25 percent. 15 percent in Florida are talking about immigration. Gun policy is at 12 percent. National security at 8 percent. But then look at that, the Russia probe, which obviously gets a lot of attention, that's way down at the bottom with only 7 percent of voters saying that's one of their top priorities.

And then when you break it down by Republicans and Democrats, you can actually see that the priorities change just a little bit. If you look at the breakdown here as it comes to the support for Bill Nelson, the incumbent senator in the race for Senate here against Rick Scott who's the governor, who is challenging him, you can see that health care is the number one priority by 81 percent of Nelson voters, but only 14 percent of Scott voters.

Now flip that around and ask about the economy, 72 percent of Scott voters, the Republican, the governor, say the economy is most important, while only 23 percent of Nelson voters say the same. And for the immigration the breakdown is 35 percent for Nelson voters and 59 percent for Scott voters.

So, you know, it's interesting when you talk to voters here, Fred, each individual person has their own motivations for why they go to the polls, and I think that's why independent voters are going to end up being so important in this race. They aren't necessarily aligned completely down the spectrum as it comes to where Republicans and Democrats normally stand on these big issues. That's why I think this debate tonight with Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis is going to be important because it's going to give them the opportunity to really talk about these issues that are very important to Florida voters.

WHITFIELD: Right. And Ryan, Florida races are always so important particularly in a presidential, you know, race year, but what about for midterms?

NOBLES: Yes, well, they're extremely important because it gives us a window into what to think about the 2020 election because Florida, keep in mind, the fourth biggest state, but it is the biggest state that is a swing state. Meaning it votes both Republican and Democrat. And when you look at President Trump's numbers, as we lead into this midterm election, they're actually improving. You know, a poll -- our poll of polls, CNN taking a look at all the various polls that have been taken over the past month show that President Trump's approval rating is 44 percent.

Now that is positive if you're Ron DeSantis, somebody that has run very closely by President Trump's side. He's hoping that those supporters here in Florida, and remember, President Trump won Florida in 2016, will then come out again in support of him in 2018.

Enthusiasm is so important in a midterm election, Fred, and that's one of the things that we're going to be looking for tonight in this debate.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

All right. Meantime, President Trump is hoping his midterm campaign push will secure Republicans the votes they need to hold control of Congress. He is sticking to talking points that work for his base and driving home a very clear message.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The choice could not be more clear. Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs.

This November, when you're voting, vote for the jobs. Not for the mobs. Just do it. The choice for every American could not be more clear. Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs. That's become a hashtag.


WHITFIELD: CNN's White House correspondent Boris Sanchez is live for us now at the White House.

So this messaging, is it working?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's the big question, Fred. The president going in a route reminiscent of the 2016 presidential campaign, not just on messaging. I'll get to that in a second. But also with the amount of events on this schedule. Look at this calendar. In the month of October, President Trump with 15 planned campaign rallies so far.

[16:05:04] Just next week, he's got four. He's planning one in Texas on Monday. Wisconsin and North Carolina later in the week. And just announced this afternoon, another rally in Murphysboro, Illinois, on Saturday. Again, that's the schedule.

Now we should expect more before November 6th, but on your point about messaging, much of the rhetoric that the president is using to hype up some of his candidates in the 2016 -- rather, the 2018 midterms, goes back to 2016. He's harping on immigration. Notably, yesterday in Nevada when he was speaking to supporters at a rally there, he told them that Democrats would likely help undocumented immigrants secure welfare. Something that needy American citizens would like to have.

The president even told supporters that they should vote not only to save his agenda, but also to save the country. Today, on Twitter, he's at it again, attacking Democrats on the issue of immigration. He writes, quote, "Full efforts are being made to stop the onslaught of illegal aliens from crossing our southern border. People have to apply for asylum in Mexico first. And if they fail to do that, the U.S. will turn them away. The courts are asking the U.S. to do things that are not doable." Moments later the very next tweet, "The caravans are a disgrace to Democrat Party. Change immigration laws now."

The president is very aware of the chances for a blue wave to hit Congress in November. He is trying to urge urgency from his supporters to head to the polls, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

So immigration and economy big election issues. Let's get some perspective now with this. Former Republican lieutenant governor of South Carolina, Andre Bauer, and former D.C. Democratic Party chairman A. Scott Bolden.

All right. Good to see you both.

A. SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER D.C. DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: Good afternoon. WHITFIELD: Good afternoon. So, Andre, you first. You know, not

necessarily just on immigration, but the president also is tweeting out messages, making promises on messages with the economy. And actually promising that there will be a tax cut plan for the middle class as early as November 1 ahead of Election Day. And Congress isn't even in session at that point. How is he to do that, and why is he making a promise like that?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he's continued to push for what he thought was important and what he ran on. This is a guy that is a businessman. The economy is at the top of his agenda. Trying to make America again the strongest engine in the world, no matter what facet you talk about. That's his, you know, being -- I think that's the legacy of President Trump. The economy, what he's done to make it easier on business. And for people to continue to live the American dream and that's his best message, by the way, it's the best message for the Republicans as well.

The economy is on fire. Magnificent job, in less than two years and Republicans have helped him do that in Congress and hopefully he'll do all he can in turning out a wave of voters who appreciate him doing what he's doing.

WHITFIELD: OK. And another message the president, you know, is sending out, you know, Scott, this whole jobs, not mobs, you know, accusing the Democrats of, you know, just simply drowning out messaging. And that, you know, the Republicans should be associated with creating jobs. Is that a message, a mantra, you know, that will help get the votes for the GOP?

BOLDEN: Well, it may help get the votes for his 35 percent core base, but remember, 60 percent on average of the voters in this country don't agree with Donald Trump or the GOP and the direction that they're going. And this whole mob issue, he's always been the candidate of divisiveness and fear and he uses immigration as a fear to create fear for his base.

But the reality is, voters are energized and they're angry on the Democratic side because of Kavanaugh, because of the Me Too Movement, because the immigration issue is a very divisive issue. And Democrats just simply disagree with that. So, one, I don't think it's working. Two, if it were working in a state as important as Florida, the numbers would be completely different. But what you see happening in Florida is endemic of what I just said.

You have independents, voters of color and women who are changing the face of those elections where the Democrats are up by one and nine points I think for the governor and another one by five points for Nelson. Now that race may or may not close, but here's the other thing about Democratic messaging. Health care is the number one issue. That's all Democrats have been talking about.

They're not talking about immigration and some of those other issues or at least on the list, it's well below health care. That's why those candidates in Florida are way ahead of the GOP. WHITFIELD: And so, Andre, you know, particularly, to Scott's point,

you know, women are really galvanized particularly post, you know, Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court, you know, hearings. But it's the president who says, you know, the issues are Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order, and common sense.

[16:10:04] Why does he feel like that's going to be the big motivator to get people to the polls?

BAUER: Because he's right. And if you don't believe it, just a few months ago I heard about this unbelievable blue wave that was on the way here. It's now turning into a blue tidal pool at best. We're talking about just months ago losing the Senate. Now we're not talking about losing the Senate anymore. We're talking about a very tight race in the U.S. House of Representatives. So all this dreaming that everything was going to change overnight is now not happening and it's not happening because Donald Trump delivered on his promises.

The Republican Party does have messaging and they have candidates who stuck to the messaging. Where the Democrats, quite frankly, are splintered. There's a big part of the party that's going way right to the left. That's making it hard for the moderate Democrats like Governor Bredesen in Tennessee to hold on to a race that at one time was close, even with tweets from Taylor Swift.

It's now gone into a double-digit margin for Marsha Blackburn, probably going to win that seat, and you're seeing more and more of this in these swing states where the Republican Party is benefiting from this mob mentality and this mentality of trying to not address real issues that affect real people and that is going to hurt Democrats in this next election when they should have picked up (INAUDIBLE) number of seats which is what always happens in the midterm and it's not going to happen.

WHITFIELD: Midterms are traditionally a real referendum on -- you know, on the sitting president and this president seems to be embracing that. His approval rating is up to 44 percent according to this new CNN polling. And the president says, you know, if everything goes well, then credit him. If things don't go well, you know, blame someone else other than him, Scott.

BOLDEN: Well, he certainly had a good week a few weeks ago in regard to the Kavanaugh piece. But those numbers go to his base. So they're not really surprising. The real numbers for him have hovered between 35 percent and 40 percent.

And Andre, I'm too big of a guy to wade into a small pool of blue wave water. I still believe in the blue wave, quite frankly, because those numbers, while they may tighten up, nobody believes what the president is doing or supports where he's taking the country. And the other thing is this, the reason I believe in the Democratic wave is because Donald Trump is our greatest motivator. Every time he calls a woman horseface, every time he tweets an insult, every time he tells a lie on the Twitter account, that is great motivation for not only Democratic voters, but independent voters as well. And so we're competing in Georgia, we're winning in Florida. We are

competing in Texas. We're competing in Nevada. And that would never be the case in those red states or those leaning red states. And so that's the real proof in the pudding. And so Andre can say whatever he wants to say, the messaging of this president, he doesn't have one because the only message is his 35 percent and in many of these jurisdictions, that's not enough to win the election.

It's enough to control the Republican Party, but the message and those 35 percent is not enough because it's not the core of American values or the core of American voters. The Democrats are going to have that Democratic wave. And let's just wait and see.


BOLDEN: And by the way, one other thing, if I may, I don't think a lot of these races are going to be decided, at least the tight ones on November 6th. It may be a week or two before we find out because I've talked to my Republican contacts and they believe the races are tightening around the country.

WHITFIELD: OK. Real quick last word, Andre.

BAUER: It's the same people that say it's going to be close are the same people who say they're going to see this wave are the same people who said Hillary Clinton was going to get elected and she didn't. 35 percent (INAUDIBLE) much bigger. I promise you, it's not -- and that's why you just admitted that it's going to be very close races in so many places. It wasn't supposed to be.

BOLDEN: I said in some places. And Hillary Clinton's not on the ballot, Andre, and you know it.

WEIR: All right. We'll leave it there. Andre Bauer, A. Scott Bolden, good to see you, gentlemen. Thanks so much.

BOLDEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And of course, you've got to watch tonight. The Florida gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum square off in a CNN debate. That's tonight, 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

All right. Still ahead, some pretty terrifying moments in South Carolina when a floor collapses right under partygoers sends them plummeting to the basement.

I'll talk with someone who was there and says he could feel something was about to happen.

Plus, the Saudi Foreign minister speaking out calling the murder of Jamal Khashoggi a, quote, "rogue operation" and saying the crown prince knew nothing of the plan. But lawmakers, U.S. lawmakers, they're not buying that.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Just to be clear, you don't have any doubt that the crown prince is behind this?

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, look, again, Jake, my sense is that he is behind it.



[16:18:47] WHITFIELD: A terrifying scene at a party in Clemson, South Carolina, after an apartment clubhouse floor packed with students collapses.

Wow. Students and local residents were celebrating homecoming week when that floor gave way. Thirty people were injured but as officials tell us it could have been much worse.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): Celebration turns to terror in Clemson, South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The floor broke. The floor broke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was two feet from where it happened and I saw, like, 60 people just fall straight through the floor.

WHITFIELD: Thirty people were injured when the floor of an apartment clubhouse collapsed during a party sending people tumbling to the basement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Literal floor fell.

WHITFIELD: Amazingly no one was trapped and no one suffered any life- threatening injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really took minutes for firefighters to get there. Police to get there. Got there quick. I mean, I did see, like, people because we were held there for a long time, I saw people with, like, holding their arms and, like, I saw people with, like, bloody legs and stuff like that.

[16:20:04] WHITFIELD: Clemson Police say most of the injuries were broken bones and cuts.

CHIEF JIMMY DIXON, CLEMSON POLICE: It could have been a whole lot worse. There could have been entrapments. There could have been deaths involved. But any time that you've got people that are trying to have a good time, any time that you've got people that are there trying to enjoy themselves, and then the next thing you know, a floor collapses, you can take it from there.


WHITFIELD: All right. The university did release a statement saying an investigation is still ongoing but they are encouraged by initial reports of no serious injuries. Clemson University president Jim Clements tweeted the following about

the incident, "I'm monitoring the situation and my thoughts and prayers are with all who were injured. Our entire student support system will be available for any student impacted."

All right. Still ahead, the Saudi Foreign minister says Jamal Khashoggi's death was the result of a, quote, "rogue operation." This as President Trump says there's deception and lies when it comes to the explanation surrounding Khashoggi's death.


[16:25:38] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. President Trump with an apparent reversal now casting doubt on Saudi Arabia's story about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In an interview with the "Washington Post," the president now says, I'm quoting now, "Obviously there's been deception and there's been lies." But in that same interview, he praised the monarchy as, quoting now, "an incredible ally."

When asked about whether the crown prince may have ordered the killing of Khashoggi, Trump said, "Nobody has told me he's responsible, nobody has told me he's not responsible. We haven't reached that point. I would love if he wasn't responsible."

Well, today Saudi Arabia called the killing a tremendous mistake, blaming a rogue operation.


ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI ARABIA FOREIGN MINISTER: The reports we were getting from Turkey did not comport with the reports that the team had provided to us after the return to Saudi Arabia. The king then directed the public prosecutor to launch an investigation, which he did about nine days ago. He discovered that there were discrepancies. We discovered that he was killed in the consulate. We don't know in terms of details how. We don't know where the body is. The public prosecutor then put out orders to detain 18 individuals for questioning and possibly facing trial.


WHITFIELD: For the very latest let's go now to Ben Wedeman in Istanbul.

So, Ben, what do Turkish officials think about how the Saudis are handling it and how the Finance minister is now stating it?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's important to keep in mind that there are sort of two tracks when it comes to the Turkish position. Officially, on the record, the Turkish government is agnostic at the moment on the incident that surround -- the incidents that surround the death of Jamal Khashoggi. However, we have had a plethora of anonymous sources, anonymous official sources, who are feeding the media a lot of information. CNN, for instance, on Tuesday, this past week, heard from a Turkish

official, anonymous, saying that he was, indeed, murdered and dismembered inside the consulate behind me. Now we do expect the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Tuesday, speaking to -- at a ruling party event. He said he is going to reveal what he said was the naked truth about this incident. Interestingly enough, his speech will be coinciding with the opening of that investment conference in Saudi Arabia, the so-called Davos in the desert, which so many participants have, to date, dropped out of.

Now regarding the interview with the Saudi Foreign minister, Adel al- Jubeir, he definitely was at pains to distance Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from this sordid affair.


AL-JUBEIR: The crown prince has denied this. The crown prince is not aware of this. Even the senior leadership of our intelligence service was not aware of this. This was on an operation that was a rogue operation. This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had. They made the mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it.


WEDEMAN: Now, of course, Adel al-Jubeir there saying that the senior leadership of the intelligence services were unaware but we know that Ahmed al-Asiri, who is the number two in Saudi intelligence, has been relieved of his duties -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much.

Meantime, a Russian lawmaker warns the U.S. in bringing the world back to the Cold War by ending a longstanding nuclear agreement. This comes after President Trump said the U.S. will terminate the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow with reaction to President Trump's decision.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Fredricka. Yes, and a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, among the Russian government here. You have some Russian politicians who earlier today came out and said that this could have catastrophic consequences, not just for the U.S. and Russia, but, of course, for the entire world. The Kremlin also coming out even on a Sunday and saying they're going to want an explanation from the United States.

The U.S., however, believes that it's not in its interests anymore to stay in this agreement.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): The U.S. has long been accusing Russia of violating the INF treaty by developing and deploying medium-range nuclear-capable missiles. Now, President Trump says America is axing the agreement.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We're the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we've honored the agreement. But Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we're going to terminate the agreement. We're going to pull out.

PLEITGEN: during his visit to Moscow in the coming days, National Security Adviser John Bolton is expected to formally tell the Russians that America is leaving the INF treaty. INF stands for Intermediate Nuclear Forces. The treaty was signed in 1987 between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and ultimately led to almost 2,700 medium-range nuclear missiles being withdrawn. Experts saying, by in large, the agreement has worked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was designed to provide a measure of strategic stability on the continent of Europe, by banning missiles of a range between 300 and 3,400 miles, both cruise and ballistic missiles. So it was really meant to kind of take the temperature down and it resulted in the destruction of literally thousands of missiles and it has been in effect ever since.

PLEITGEN: Russia denies violating the treaty and accuses the U.S. of breaching it by developing anti-missile systems. Vladimir Putin recently making what some felt were troubling remarks about possible nuclear warfare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this situation, we kind of expect that someone will use nuclear weapons against us. We do not do anything ourselves. Well, yes, but then the aggressors should still know that vengeance is inevitable, that he will be destroyed. And we are the victims of aggression. And as martyrs, we will go to heaven, and they will simply die.

PLEITGEN: The U.S. also believes the INF treaty puts it at a disadvantage versus a resurgent China, which is not part of the agreement. Another reason the administration says to pull out of the deal.


PLEITGEN: And you know, Fredricka, you look at some of the things that the Russians have been say throughout the course of the day. I think one of the things that they're sort of trying to scope out right now is whether or not this is really a final decision on the part of the Trump administration, or whether or not there might still be some wiggle room to maybe somehow salvage this agreement.

But, you know, on the whole, you can feel how the tensions between the U.S. and Russia seem to be heating up even more than they were in the past, Fredricka?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much. All right, still ahead, Hurricane Michael left much of the Florida panhandle in ruins when it hit earlier this month. Just weeks ahead of a crucial election, how the state is working to ensure that everyone in the affected areas will get to cast their ballots, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:00] WHITFIELD: In just 16 days, Floridians will cast their votes in two crucial elections, among them, the matchup between Democrat incumbent Senator Bill Nelson and his Republican challenger for Senate, Florida Governor Rick Scott. A new CNN poll shows that race is incredibly close, with Nelson up by just five points. The other closely watched race will be this gubernatorial race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron Desantis.

That same CNN poll has Gillum leading by 12 points among likely voters. The poll was taken after Hurricane Michael decimated parts of the state earlier this month. It's unclear what impact Hurricane Michael will have, but state officials are relaxing voting rules in counties along the Gulf Coast where Michael killed, Hurricane Michael killed dozens of people and leveled entire neighborhoods.

CNN Correspondent Rosa Flores is in Miami for us. So what effect might this devastation have on the polls and turnout?

ROSA FLORES, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, you know, it is devastating, Fred, because some of the polling places were completely wiped out, which means that some folks still don't even know where they would cast their ballot. Here's the reality on the ground. Here we are about 11 days since the hurricane hit, and some people still don't have power, and others don't have cell service.


FLORES: Hurricane Michael ravaged through the Florida panhandle, damaging or destroying homes, roads, public facilities, and leaving tens of thousands of people picking up the pieces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just take it the way it is, man. We're still alive. House doesn't mean anything. We'll build it back or bulldoze it, whatever.

FLORES: As so many people work to rebuild their homes, there is an added worry. With midterm elections around the corner and some of the polling places in this Republican strong hold completely wiped out, many in this state with razor thin election margins still don't know the location of their polling place. At stake here, a tight governor's race and a Senate match between Senator Bill Nelson and Governor Rick Scott that could help tilt the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.


FLORES: As Governor, Scott actually has the power to help ease the voting process. Something he exercised Thursday when he signed an executive order extending and enhancing the voting options for these eight impacted counties. The order allowed among other things additional and alternative voting sites, extensions on early voting, and relocation, and consolidation of polling places.

[16:40:05] In some areas, basics like food and water are still being provided by government agencies, and communications are still down. So people here unable to call local election officials are finding information online. In Jackson County, for example, the warning is in red bold letters. Your normal polling location will not be open on Election Day, exclamation point.

Instead, this county and others are creating mega-centers or mega- voting sites with extended voting hours. And in Franklin County, where post offices double as supply distribution centers, election officials say their mailboxes are full, as residents send in their absentee ballots. As the sunshine state tries to balance election integrity and voting opportunity for Floridians, on election night, Florida is expected to be Florida's usual, a state with nail-biting races that captures the attention of the rest of the country.


FLORES: Now, the state of Florida does have a bit of good news for voters. They say that in those eight impacted counties, there are no reports of damaged voting machines or any voting equipment, Fred?

WHITFIELD: And so even with that, do they -- is there an expectation of what voter turnout might be in those localities?

FLORES: You know I talked to one woman. And again, cell service is very patchy there. But I talked to one woman who was very passionate about voting. She said that she was going to be out to vote, even though, Fred, she lost everything in that hurricane. Now, one of the other big worries is what about on election night? Will we know the results on time, especially because of all of the mail-in ballots?

I asked the state about that. And the Florida Department of State said that they're not expecting any delays, because hear this. Six days before the election, they're going to start processing those ballots and tabulating them. So fingers crossed, that we will have results on time on election night.

WHITFIELD: OK. We shall see. Rosa Flores, thank you so much, in Miami. And a reminder, the Florida gubernatorial candidates will be squaring off in a debate tonight, 8:00 eastern right here on CNN. All right, still ahead, comedian Amy Schumer joining a growing list of those saying they will not support the Super Bowl because of the NFL's stance on the kneeling during the national anthem. Is the NFL suffering from a real growing image problem ahead of its big game?


[16:45:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

WHITFIELD: All right, this breaking news right now. The U.S. general who oversees the NATO military advisory mission in southern Afghanistan was wounded in that Thursday attack, which took place in Kandahar province. U.S. Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley suffered a gunshot wound. CNN Pentagon Correspondent Ryan Brown joins me now on the phone with more on this. Ryan, this is very significant. RYAN BROWN, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, that's right,

Fredricka. The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan has initially said that a U.S. service member was wounded in this insider attack, which also killed several senior Afghan officials. Now, this was a very high-profile meeting taking place in Kandahar, and had actually the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan was present at this meeting, and the attack took place shortly thereafter.

We're now being told that that one service member who was wounded in the attack was, in fact, Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley, a fairly senior commander overseeing the advisory mission in southern Afghanistan. He is still in command, we're being told. So he is recovering and is being treated, but definitely a significant senior member of the coalition to suffer that wound.

WHITFIELD: And so this is the same incident where General Scott Miller, the head of the U.S. and NATO forces, drew his firearm during an attack?

BROWN: That's correct. This is the same incident. And again, it shows how high profile this meeting was. The top leadership from the U.S. military, from the NATO coalition, some of the most senior Afghan officials in southern Afghanistan were all present at this meeting, and this attack came just as it concluded.

So a very high-profile meeting and a lot of senior officials present, and it became so dangerous that the leader of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan was forced to draw his side arm.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Brown thanks so much. Keep us posted. All right, now, very separately, now another story that is getting a lot of attention. And it concerns this season's Super Bowl, two A- list celebrities saying no to separate roles in the Super Bowl over the league's national anthem policy. Pop star, Rihanna, reportedly turned down an offer to perform at this season's halftime show in support of former NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

And now, comedian Amy Schumer is following suit, saying she will not do any Super Bowl ads on Instagram. Amy Schumer explained, once you witness the truly deep inequality and endless racism people of color face in our country, not to mention the police brutality and murders, why not kneel next to your brothers? Otherwise, how are you not complicit? Let me bring in now CNN Media Critic Brian Lowry, Brian, good to see you.

[16:50:03] Your article on has the headline for stars, Super Bowl performances might not be worth the headaches. So is this just the beginning of a lot of no's from celebrities to anything Super Bowl related?

BRIAN LOWRY, MEDIA CRITIC, CNN: Well, that's certainly possible. It's a relatively odd construct, actually, to have a rock act or a pop act playing in the halftime show with something that was introduced in the 90s. And I think when the NFL took this action regarding Colin Kaepernick, they were reacting to some of the very loud criticism they were receiving, including from President Trump on the right.

But they weren't really thinking through what some of the fallout might be from the left. And now, you're seeing some of that.

WHITFIELD: So how influential might this be for the NFL to respond in a different way, to address, what now some of these A-listers are asking people to be a lot more thoughtful about?

LOWRY: Well, I think for starters, this doesn't really affect the NFL's bottom line in any significant way. The ratings have been up this year. The games are good. The league is feeling pretty good about itself. Some of the issues like the concussion issue haven't been talked about quite as much. I think in the long term, though, the NFL is extremely image conscious.

And they use celebrities and these kinds of performances to try to reach out to a broader audience, to try to reach people who might not be the standard NFL fan. So in terms of affecting their bottom line, I don't think it's a significant factor. And in terms of the NFL wanting to position itself as sort of a league for all people, that may take a bit of a hit.

WHITFIELD: OK. But if you say -- if the NFL is really image conscious and they want to use celebrities, you know, to reach an audience, to grow its audience, and you have A-list celebrities who then say you're not going to use us. You know and the power that we have, you know, to grow your base, then doesn't that mean the NFL could potentially take a real big hit?

LOWRY: I don't think a big hit. I mean really, the audience for football tends not to be the Amy Schumer audience in a significant way. The Super Bowl is the biggest stage in television, in media. The NFL tries to cover all its bases. But it is fundamentally a football game. And I think the idea that who performs at halftime will bring some extra people to the table. But in terms of it being a significant hit to the NFL, I don't think so.

WHITFIELD: Hmmm. But it generally is a pretty big deal, you know, who headlines the Super Bowl halftime show. And I mean is there confirmation? I mean, you know, reportedly it was Maroon 5. And -- but is there real confirmation of who, you know, has committed to say yes?

LOWRY: No. And they could -- I mean in the long term, this may be an issue where the NFL has to rethink who performs. And if -- you know, they got away with it for years, without there being a rock act in the middle of it. I think Adele, a few years ago, was offered the chance to play and said, you know, this is not about music. So it's always been sort of a strange thing to drop a musical performance into the middle of the game.

And it does give the league something else to talk about and something else to promote. But the Super Bowl is about what happens between -- during the game. I think the halftime show is just a garnish to that.

WHITFIELD: Uh-hmm, interesting. OK, Brian Lowry, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

LOWRY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


[16:55:00] WHITFIELD: All right, now to this week's CNN Hero. When army combat veteran Chris Stout saw some of his comrades falling through the cracks, he built a solution to help them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) after starting to work with veterans, I realized there was a huge gap in services. If you've ever served, you know that if one of your fellow platoon guys needs help, you help them. What we do here gives them an opportunity to kind of get stable, gives them a safe and secure place. And then fix what got them there in the first place.


WHITFIELD: More than 650 cities are interested in replicating Chris' program, which will expand to Nashville, Tennessee next year. To find out more, go to And, of course, be sure to tune in tonight for an all new episode of This Is Life. Lisa Ling meets with the hidden victims of violent crimes, children whose parents are responsible for infamous killings. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tonight, we're meeting two children of notorious killers. Your father is responsible for so much carnage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I spent so much of my life wondering why he chose the path he did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's it like to be the child of a murderer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just unimaginable. To go from thinking that your father is Prince Charming to realizing he's the Boogie Man. And the Boogie Man's real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what, if anything, can they tell us about what motivated their fathers to kill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't put together how a loving father could also be capable of such terrible things.


WHITFIELD: All right. The all new episode of This Is Life with Lisa Ling airs tonight 10:00 Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN. All right, thanks so much for joining me. I am Fredricka Whitfield, much more straight ahead with Ana Cabrera right now.