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Father Edward Beck: "Hold Chaperones Accountable"; Federal Contractor Unable to Buy Diabetes Meds During Shutdown; Democrat Running for President Say They're Sorry for the Past; Supreme Court Allows Trump's Transgender Military Ban. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 22, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Father Edward Beck with us now.

You are a Roman Catholic priest with an opinion of how the school chaperones should have handled all this. You said they shouldn't have allowed the boys to wear "Make America Great Again" hats on this school trip. Explain why you think that.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Brianna, I think there are a number of points to be made. First of all, I think the students acted inappropriately. I was raised at a time when we were taught, respect your elders. No matter how the Native American gentleman wound up in front of that student, that was the time to turn the other cheek, to step aside, no matter what you thought. It wasn't a time to thrust both cheeks, smirking, into the face of that elder. So, yes, where were the chaperones? This situation was escalating. You had the group that you mentioned with racial slurs. You then had kids behind them seemingly mocking this elder and smirking and laughing at him. I don't understand how the chaperones don't step in and say, first of all, boys, get to the bus, to defuse the situation. That's why a chaperone is there.

With regard to the hats, they were there for a pro-life march, which, granted, focused on abortion. The hats that they were wearing, the so-called MAGA hats, or Make America Great hats, come with a certain political agenda that, in my opinion, can be seen as anti-Catholic, anti-Christian. Because abortion is not the only pro-life issue. What about immigration and the migrants? What about capital punishment? What about the environment and climate change? By wearing that hat, it's saying you're aligning yourself with a political agenda. The students have no right to be wearing that hat.


BECK: Wear a school hat.

KEILAR: Can I ask a question about that? Would you have opposed them wearing, say, a March for Life T-shirt? I ask that because while certainly they would feel that that is a moral statement they're making, it also obviously intersects with the political sphere. You could argue that, too, is political speech. Might somehow -- there are people who might disagree with that view. There are people who disagree with the MAGA hats. Do you see a distinction between these two things?

BECK: I do see a distinction because they were there for a specific purpose, a pro-life perspective, which focused on abortion. And if they were to wear a shirt about that, I think that would be appropriate because it doesn't necessarily align with a political agenda. There are Republicans or Democrats who may be pro-life and opposing abortion. I think that's different from putting on a hat that is a symbol of a political agenda that says more. You're supposed to remain politically neutral as a Catholic school, first of all. You're not supposed to be partisan in this. I think what they did was ill-advised. And I think chaperones that allowed it, and parents that allowed it, were wrong.

KEILAR: They're being criticized now, these students, by Alyssa Milano who has been a big figure in the #metoo movement. This is what she tweeted. She says, "Let's not forget this entire event happened because a group of boys went to a school-sanctioned trip to protest against a woman's right to her own body and reproductive health care. It is not debatable that bigotry was at play from the start."

What do you say to that?

BECK: I disagree with that. I don't think that says anything about bigotry. I think they had every right to be there for the March for Life. That was why they were there. That was their perspective. Certainly, I don't think is represents bigotry. I don't think it needs to be inflammatory. I totally agree with her tweet about that. I think they are two separate issues.

KEILAR: You agree with her? You disagree with her tweet about that?

BECK: I totally disagree with her tweet.


BECK: I think she's mixing apples and oranges. This had nothing to do that from their perspective. It wasn't about bigotry. It was about their perspective on abortion and they were at a March for Life. Stick to that issue. I think it escalated into something else because they got out of their lane. And chaperones should have kept them in their lane.

KEILAR: Father Beck, thank you so much. We really appreciate you being with us.

BECK: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: As leaders in Washington play politics over the shutdown, the health of some workers is suffering. I'm going to speak with one worker who has not been able to afford her medication for diabetes.

[13:34:21] Plus, the Supreme Court allowing the president's ban on transgender in the military to take effect. Let's talk about the reasoning here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: We're in day 32 now of the partial government shutdown and that is 32 days too long for hundreds of thousands of federal employees, for contractors and for their families, totaling millions of people. Here's one of the stark realities. People are risking their lives during the shutdown. And I'm not being dramatic about that. This is what happens when people can't pay their bills, including paying for vital medications.

We have Tamela Worthen with us.

You're a security guard, Tamela, at the Smithsonian Institute. You actually are at three museums. These are some of the jewels of Washington, D.C. You're a diabetic, right, and you haven't been able to pay for your meds. Tell me about making that choice.

TAMELA WORTHEN, SECURITY GUARD, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE: I don't even know where to start. I guess when I learned that they were going to shut down or whatever, the first thing that came to my mind was not being able to get a paycheck. My biggest concern is my mortgage because I've had a home for four years, but to lie awake every day knowing that can be snatched from me is devastating. As far as with my medicine, I haven't had my medicine for nearly a week, and that's because I can't afford to pay the monthly premium. I'm not able to pay a $30 co-pay and I'm not able to get my medicine.

[13:40:25] KEILAR: How are you feeling?

WORTHEN: I've still got good spirits, but my body is probably wondering what's going on because you need certain medication to keep you functioning.

KEILAR: You're a contract worker, so you work for a company that the government contracts for. But you're like a federal worker except that you would not get back pay provided by the government, right?

WORTHEN: That's correct.

KEILAR: So what is your concern? Do you know if you're going to get back pay from your employer? Have they said they're going to do that? What happens if you don't get it?

WORTHEN: Well, they haven't said anything to my knowledge about it. What happens if you don't get it? Life goes on but the bills just keep piling up.

KEILAR: You've said -- you have dogs, is that right?


KEILAR: You have pets and they've factored into this. Tell me about that.

WORTHEN: The dogs are used to me being out anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day.

KEILAR: Yes. WORTHEN: Now they're seeing me 24/7, seven days a week, as if I'm cramping their style.

KEILAR: Oh, well, they probably -- I know they like having you around, but even feeding them is something you have to think about, right, in your expenses?

WORTHEN: Yes, because they have specific food they eat, and I like to give them what they like. I haven't been able to take them to get groomed or even to keep up on their shots, because their shots were supposed to be sometime around about this year.

KEILAR: We've had a number of people on like yourself affected by the shutdown. And members of Congress watch CNN. The president watches CNN quite a bit, actually. You have a chance to address them, to tell them how this is affecting you, what you want to be done. What do you want them to know?

WORTHEN: I want them to know that one man's decision is another man's pain, because that's what I'm feeling right now. Not only that, it's just not fair for someone to be in control of the presidency as the president to make a vindictive decision toward the federal workers to where they can't go to work. You can't maintain, you can't focus, you try to continue to keep things going and be in good spirits, but you have to deal with reality. And that's very dramatic when you cannot continue to be consistent to go to work and pay your bills.

KEILAR: Tamela Worthen, thank you so much. We appreciate you being with us. You provide security to three of the museums here as part of the Smithsonian Institute here in Washington, and we really appreciate you sharing your experience with us.

WORTHEN: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Thank you.

As the 2020 race officially kicks off, you may have noticed a trend among several Democratic contenders. They keep apologizing.

Plus, a new book from a former presidential aide says the White House is completely out of control. And it quotes John Kelly as saying that the chief of staff job was the worst he had ever had.


[13:47:52] KEILAR: There's a theme emerging from both official and unofficial Democratic hopefuls, and it is the apology.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, (D), NEW YORK: I realize things that I had said were wrong.

REP. TULSI GABBARD, (D), HAWAII: In my past, I said and believed things that were wrong. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT: To the women in our campaign, who

were harassed or mistreated, I apologize.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know we haven't always gotten things right but I've always tried.


KEILAR: Well, that was Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard, Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, all apologizing for something, and that does not include Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren who have made apologies or regrets of their own. Is this quickly becoming the "I'm sorry" primary where all the main candidates spend their time repenting for their record and not running on it?

Let's talk about it with Nia Malika Henderson and Gabriel Debenedetti here to talk about these things.

Just trying, Gabriel, to dispense with this early?

GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAIZINEAVE: Exactly. I don't think these people want to talk about this for more than approximately 32 seconds and they're probably not thrilled we're talking about it now. They're trying to get rid of this early so they can talk about their own things and their own messages. The worst- case scenario for these people are they're running their campaigns having to defend themselves because they've seen this over and over again.

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And these are folks who have really long records. If you think about somebody like Kamala Harris, she has a long record as a prosecutor. Joe Biden, digging into his record, first as Senator, then as vice president, there are a lot of things that come up. One issue is the Democratic Party, his move to the left over the last couple years, so they now have to rectify some of these past more-centrist and moderate positions, on issues like immigration and criminal justice. So that's why you see them going out there essentially apologizing and saying pay no attention to that old record and pay attention to what I'm doing now.

KEILAR: When you look at what they're apologizing for, do you think there are some candidates who it's going to be fine, they can dispense with it, let's move on, it's not going to be an issue. Are there any regrets out there you think are going to be really big issues?

[13:50:02] DEBENEDETTI: Absolutely. I think one of the issues a lot of these people are dealing with, if you look at someone like Joe Biden, some of the problems he's dealing with is these issues he's talking about are things that were played out in national television for decades, whether it's criminal justice or the Anita Hill situation. These are things that are baked into the national mind here. Some of these other people are saying, I took the wrong stance on a specific issue but we can move on from there. For him, this was encoded policy that affected millions of people. He'll have to answer for this if he does run. KEILAR: I think of Anita Hill.


KEILAR: I think of her testimony at Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearing and Joe Biden on the dais, and it was just widely seen as this big panel of men, not really taking a woman seriously.

HENDERSON: Yes. He hasn't really apologized to her publicly or formerly. That's one of the things he hasn't really talked about that and the idea of how he conducted those hearings. Why they were so chaotic, why she seemed to be targeted in those hearings, why there weren't enough expert testimony talking about her testimony as well. He's got a lot to answer for.

I do think the criminal justice -- we saw that play out. You covered Hillary Clinton. We all covered Hillary Clinton, and how hard she had a go of it in terms of rectifying some of the things she said about criminal justice reform back in the day and where she is now. Yes, he'll have a lot to answer for. But all of these candidates are. In some ways, the folk who had less of a record in public service might have more of an edge in terms of having to figure out where they are now and where they were before.

KEILAR: I do think sometimes, though, the old playbook is, you know -- you don't even necessarily say you're running for president, now people are less coy. I think sometimes -- I look at President Trump. He's almost been in every party in a way.


Is the electorate -- is the Democratic electorate forgiving? Do you think they say, OK, I get it because maybe I thought something different or my neighbor thought something different 10 or 20 years ago?

DEBENEDETTI: That's the big test. If you look at the things that Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand are apologizing for, it's essentially they're apologizing for their past in the Republican Party or on the conservative side of the spectrum. Joe Biden has something similar there. But they're all betting that this is a somewhat, you know, forgiving Democratic primary electorate. The reality though it hasn't been in the past. Of course, Hillary Clinton did win, but she had to spend a lot of time apologizing. And these people are betting that the activist base of the party is so invested in winning and beating Donald Trump that they're willing to say, well, let's put that aside for now. We can deal with that once you're actually president.

KEILAR: Who - and Republicans are taking a page out of his book -- does not apologize at all?


KEILAR: That's the Republican playbook.

(CROSSTALK) HENDERSON: It seems like the Democratic playbook is, if everybody's apologizing, then it's hard to separate one from the other if everybody's got something in their past they don't want to talk about.

KEILAR: Thank you guys so much. Love the discussion.

Gab and Nia, appreciate it.

Still ahead, why top Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are expressing concerns over Michael Cohen's upcoming testimony on Capitol Hill?

Plus, despite Nancy Pelosi's request, the White House moving forward with plans for the president's State of the Union.


[13:57:58] KEILAR: A set back today for LGBT activists. The Supreme Court has ruled to allow Trump's ban on transgender military personnel to take effect for now.

CNN Supreme Court reporter, Ariane De Vogue, is here to explain this ruling to us.

What does this mean?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: What it means is the Trump administration asked for the court to take up the appeal to this policy. The Supreme Court said, no, we're not going to do that today. We're going to allow this to play out in the lower courts. But what we will do is allow it to go into effect now while it's playing out below. So it was an interesting choice they made. And, of course, LGBT rights activists are very unhappy about the fact that they're going to allow it to go into effect.

KEILAR: So what does it mean, because there are military personnel who are transgender who are currently serving, I believe, thousands of them? How does this impact them?

DE VOGUE: By the military's own numbers, back in 2016, they said there's something like 8,000 people who identify as transgender individuals. That's the military's own numbers. But a very small percentage of that under the prior administration began to transition and they may be exempted. But LGBT rights activists say basically what this means is that people who want to serve in the sex that -- not the sex they were assigned at birth, they won't be able to. That's where things stand now.

It's worth noting there still is an injunction in place in one lower court case but the administration is probably going to go as soon as today and bring it up to date with what happened at the Supreme Court.

It's interesting. Courts going to stay out of the hearing the case but it's going to allow it to go into effect while it plays out in the lower courts.

KEILAR: All right. That means we have much more ahead of us for this case. Ariane, we know that you'll be following it. Ariane De Vogue.

And that is it for me.

[14:00:06] NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.