Return to Transcripts main page


Jewish Group to Trump: You're Not Welcome in Pittsburgh Until You Disavow White Nationalism; Report: Anti-Semitic Attacks Up Nearly 60 Percent in 2017; Right-Wing Candidate Wins Brazilian Presidential Race; Boot: Trump Applying Fire to the Kindling; New Boeing 737 Crashes with 189 on Board. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 29, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, from the Tree of Life Synagogue, was on here at CNN earlier today. He was asked specifically about the open letter. Take a listen to his response.


ALISYN CAMEROTI, CNN ANCHOR: Rabbi, President Trump has talked about coming to Pittsburgh and coming to your synagogue in the aftermath of this. Do you want him to come?

JEFFREY MYERS, RABBI, TREE OF LIFE SYNOGOGUE: The president of the United States is always welcome. I'm a citizen, he's my president. He is certainly welcome.


HILL: The rabbi there saying he's always welcome. I'm curious the reaction from both of you.


HILL: Tammy, to you first.

HEPPS: Oh, I respect Rabbi Myers' position. We have a joke in the community, two Jews, three opinions, but we know we're representing tens of thousands of Jewish people who have already signed, and people across the United States, around the world who feel that the blood of these victims is on President Trump's hands. That he has knowingly and intentionally and selfishly for years used this rhetoric to endanger our community and all the other communities that have been on the front line since he took office and even before that. And on behalf of our community of people, we are saying, President Trump, you cannot come here until you renounce the words and the policies and the deeds that you have done that led to this day.

I respect all of those who see it differently. We did not post this letter to sow dissent in our own community in a time where we're trying to be unified, but he has to come here to mourn with the mourners and heal with those who seek healing and not to continue the things he has done that has led to this mourning and this need for healing in the first place.

HILL: To your point about the president, you would like to see him if he's going to come to mourn with those who are mourning, to try to heal.

Kate, could this also then be an opportunity to have that conversation with the president? Instead of saying don't come, offer him the olive branch and say, Mr. President, come, we need to have a serious conversation, here's why?

KATE ROTHSTEIN, MEMBER, BEND THE ARC PITTSBURGH: I believe that before that happens, there needs to be that renouncement of these words and these deeds in order to feel like the conversation would have any meaning and would be productive.

HILL: Kate Rothstein, Tammy Hepps, appreciate you both taking the time to join us. Thank you.

ROTHSTEIN: Thank you.

HEPPS: Thank you.

HILL: Just ahead, the Anti-Defamation League reports anti-Semitic attacks surged nearly 60 percent in 2017. So what is fueling that rise? That's next.


[11:37:08] HILL: Eleven people murdered for being Jewish. Two people murdered for being black. More than a dozen people targeted in a mail bomb spree for their political beliefs. Three separate crimes in America in 72 hours with one common denominator -- hate -- which is on the rise.

In fact, the Anti-Defamation League says anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. spiked 57 percent last year.

Joining me now is George Selim, the senior vice president at the Anti- Defamation League, where he oversees the work of the ADL Center on Extremism.

Good to have you with us.

When we see this number, it does stop you in your tracks to think there was a nearly 60 percent rise in the span of only a year, which begs the question, why.

GEORGE SELIM, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: So there are a few reasons as to why. And I should say, while that number is shocking, in some ways, it's not completely surprising. The ADL has been tracking and monitoring all forms of violence extremism for several decades now. We have seen a precipitous incline in the amount of both anti-Semitic incidents as well as all forms of other extremism manifesting themselves domestically across the country. While the numbers we see in anti-Semitic spikes in 2017 are, in fact, shocking, they're not surprising because we have seen this continued uptick. HILL: So again, where is that uptick coming from?

SELIM: Really a combination of things. For starters, in the past several years, we have seen a normalization of hate in this country, where extremism of all forms has really entered the main stage. Second, the frequency in which this information is disseminated on social media platforms and alternative social media platforms, like Gab, that are created for the sole intent and purpose to distribute and convene extremists of all forms to share their ideas and communicate with one another. The normalization of hate coupled with the speed in which this information is shared on social media is part of this really combustible mix.

HILL: There's a lot of finger pointing, especially in the wake of what we have seen in the last few days. President Trump is often brought up here, and even some of my guests from earlier pointed to the president as to blame in many cases. Can he be held accountable for the actions of others?

SELIM: The reality is that no one person can be held responsible for the heinous acts committed in Pittsburgh this past weekend. What's important to note is leadership in times of crisis counts. Leaders need to stand up and speak out forcefully against all forms of anti- Semitism, bigotry, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and all forms of bigotry and extremism. Leadership counts at the federal, state, local and community levels.

HILL: In terms of leadership, we should point out you also worked in the government under Presidents Trump, Obama, and Bush. Was there a difference that you noticed at all in terms of the leadership of those three in their administrations?

[11:40:06] SELIM: Leaders throughout all three administrations that I served, they all had different styles. The one thing that I could say is that I was fortunate enough at the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice where I worked where I consistently worked under leaders who stood up and spoke out against all forms of bigotry and extremism. My former boss, Jeh Johnson, was on the news this morning, was on the news yesterday talking about efforts the previous administration took to forcefully speak out against all forms of bigotry and extremism. I support the work we did in the previous administration.

HILL: I want to ask you about this other statistic. As disturbing as the 57 percent rise is over the span of a year, what really took my breath away was this, 90 percent, that's the increase of some 90 percent in incidents in K-12 classrooms. We often look at kids as being this great blank slate and being so accepting and not having formed their biases that may come later in life. But yet there was a 90 percent increase in incidents among elementary students? Where is that coming from?

SELIM: Erica, that's such an important point. Because as individuals start to talk to solutions and as we start to talk about healing in the aftermath of Pittsburgh, it's not limited to talking about social media companies and content on platforms. It starts really at the kindergarten and elementary school level. At ADL, we worked with students and teachers and institute programs that reach about 2 million students per year. Specifically focused on anti-bias, anti- hate programming at the lowest level, at elementary schools. And when we talk about modeling behavior, that's why it's so important to talk about leadership. We're asking young people these days to model behavior. And part of our work we do when we go into classrooms across the United States is teach young people those critical thinking skills, those skills to stand up and speak out against bigotry and extremism or bullying that they see happening on their schools and on their playgrounds across the country. That's an important part of the solution moving forward.

HILL: George Selim, appreciate you joining us today. Thank you.

SELIM: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: Just ahead, how does a new airplane crash? That question is one of many at this hour. A basically brand-new Boeing 737 crashes into the sea nearly 200 passengers onboard. The latest is next.


[11:46:53] HILL: Voters in Brazil, the world's fourth largest democracy, have elected a far-right candidate, a man compared to President Trump. President Trump tweeted congratulations to the president-elect and said he looks forward to working with him. Jair Bolsonaro's victory follows the election of far-right leaders in Poland and in Italy.

I want to bring in CNN global affairs analyst, Max Boot, who is also the author of a new book, "The Corrosion of Conservatism, Why I Left the Right."

You have an important piece out today as well, that we saw over the weekend in the "Washington Post."

But I want to start with what's happening in Brazil. We mentioned Poland and Italy. As there's this move to far-right extremism, is it something you see beginning to play out in the U.S.?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Absolutely. Unfortunately, the U.S. is part of this trend. In the past, we could say it's not going to happen here. We're seeing it happen here. We're seeing this assault on democratic norms, on centrist policies from these far-right populists. Whether it's Bolsonaro in Brazil, you see it with Orban in Hungary, you see it with Putin in Russia, you see it with the Law and Justice Party in Poland, and you see it right here with Donald Trump and his followers in the Republican Party. It's a very disturbing trend.

I mean, you know, I grew up -- as a write in my book, I grew up at a happier time for liberal democracy. I graduated from college in 1991 as the Berlin Wall was falling, as they were declaring the end of history and we imagined everybody was going to be a good liberal democracy. Unfortunately, not. And we're seeing some very serious backsliding. We're seeing a huge threat to even established democracies like ours.

HILL: In terms of the threat, your column in the "Washington Post," "What is Happening to Our Country," you write, "Extremism has been present in America for a long time, but Trump is applying a match to the kindling."

Is the president responsible for the actions of other people?

BOOT: Not directly, but the president is certainly responsible for creating a climate of hatred. Look, if there's an attack by an Islamist terrorist who is a lone wolf, we ask who is responsible, we say, of course, the individual is responsible. But who radicalized that individual, right? You have to ask, who is radicalizing people in America. Donald Trump certainly bears responsibility. He's part of that. It's not him alone. There's lot of other people in the Republican Party, FOX News, and the right-wing media play a huge role. But --


HILL: And social media as well.

BOOT: Social media as well.

HILL: You could easily make a case.

BOOT: Of course. There's a lot of influences. But a lot of people need to be held to account because we're seeing where this is leading. There's a cost to this crazy conspiracy mongering, about George Soros, who has become a representative of a Jewish conspiracy, or pretending that the Central American caravan of these poor refugees is somehow full of jihadist terrorists. There's a cost to that because it's radicalizing the right in America. And people who are already unstable, that's the kind of thing that can tip them over the edge and send them into violence.

HILL: So in these moments, and people are looking for someone to unite the country and be a voice of sanity --


HILL: -- there are a lot of calls for the president to step up. Patti Davis, the daughter of President Reagan, she writes this is morning in the "Washington Post," "This president will never offer comfort or compassion or empathy to a grieving nation. It's not in him. So I have a wild suggestion: Let's stop asking him."

Ari Fleischer made a similar point, noting more that this is a president who was elected, he wanted to be a different kind of president. He does things his own way. Is the role of consoler-in- chief gone and, if so, who do we look to as a country?

[11:50:13] BOOT: I agree with what Patti David said. We will never see Donald Trump step up and actually be presidential. The least you would hope is that he's not going to bind our wounds, but at least you would hope he doesn't pour salt into the wounds. He continues to do that. Event today you saw he was tweeting, calling the media the enemy of the people on the very same day that CNN received another suspicious package. He is still castigating people, like Tom Steyer, one of the targets of the MAGA bomber, calling him a lunatic. Just a minute ago, he tweeted, calling Andrew Gillum, the candidate for governor in Florida, a thief for no apparent reason. He continues to spew this crazy infective against his critics, his opponents, against the media. He is creating a very dangerous climate in America. He needs to stop. This is so irresponsible and so dangerous.

HILL: One of the things you point out, in terms of that rhetoric -- and I want to make sure I get it right -- you talk about it used to be we would settle our differences through debate followed by voting. When do we get back to that? That seems to have been thrown out the window.

BOOT: That's a great question. There's a real danger that we are spinning off the rails. And a lot is being done by Donald Trump and other Republicans and FOX News deliberately because they see this as a way to gain votes or for FOX News to gain viewers. They are essentially increasing our sectarian divisions instead of trying to bring us together. They are dividing us rather than uniting us. And in Donald's case, it's a very deliberate -- in Donald Trump's case, I think it's a deliberate political strategy. This is how he mobilizes his base with the fear mongering and hysteria, attacking the boogie man, like the Central American caravan or George Soros. It's a terrible thing for American democracy to have this happen.

HILL: Yet, out of all of this, we are hearing people in this community in Pittsburgh talking about their message, which is one of goodness and taking care of others.


BOOT: Oh, absolutely. There's a lot of great people in America. We have to rely on ordinary Americans to bring us together. We are not going to get that leadership from the White House.

HILL: Max Boot, always appreciate it. Thank you.

BOOT: Thank you.

HILL: Just ahead, why did a brand-new Boeing 737 crash into the sea? Nearly 200 people on board. That's next.


[11:57:08] HILL: Desperation beginning to set in as search-and- rescue hunts for survivors of an Indonesian plane crash. There were 189 people on board Lion Air flight JT610. Authorities say nine bodies have been taken to a hospital for identification.

The plane itself is a brand-new Boeing 737 that crashed minutes after takeoff from Jakarta. Indonesia's rescue agency said operations to locate survivors will continue around the clock.

We want to bring in CNN aviation analyst, Mary Schiavo. Mary, one of the things that came out this morning was the Australian

government advising officials and contractors not to use this airline, Lion Air, which has had a history of safety concerns. How significant is that information coming from the Australian government saying to avoid this airline?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's very significant. But they are not alone. The United States of America, the Federal Aviation Administration, from about 1997 to 2007, looked at them in 2007 and said, no, Indonesia, as a whole, doesn't meet our standards. Until 2016, even the U.S. government did not permit Indonesian airlines to fly to the United States. And the E.U. had banned them until 2016. So many nations have looked Indonesia and found their safety oversight lacking. They didn't look exactly at Lion Air, but, overall, in the big picture, not enough safety standards.

HILL: And when it comes to this plane in particular, a lot of times we'll go back say, well, how long has the plane been in the air. This plane was delivered a couple of months ago, basically, brand new. When that's what we're dealing with, where do you start as an investigator?

SCHIAVO: You are exactly right. A new plane going down is highly unusual, but there already there are many clues. For example, it was in maintenance the day before. I worked many accidents where the accident happened on the first flight after maintenance. It can be a maintenance mistake. They could have missed what the problem was. There could be other problems that developed after maintenance. There was case where they had tubes, called pedotubes (ph), and those were blocked. The first flight after maintenance is also of concern. You look at that when you had an accident. We have another clue in the altitude. At this point in the flight, the plane should have been much higher. The flight before, we can see tracks from those previous flights on this aircraft that reached 10,000 feet by this time in the flight. And often, when you can't get altitude, you look at power issues and engine issues. Sometimes it's control service issues. So we already have a lot of clues, but they really need those black boxes to solve the --


HILL: Certainly.

Mary Schiavo, Mary, always appreciate it. Thank you.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

HILL: And thanks to all of you for being with us today. I'm Erica Hill, in for Kate Bolduan

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts next.

[12:00:08] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Erica, thank you.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS.