Return to Transcripts main page


Virginia Governor Denies He's in a Racist Yearbook Photo; Trump Signals He Plans to Declare National Emergency for Wall; Thousands Rally in Venezuela in Pro- and Anti-Government Protests; Dozens Protest Federal Prison Without Heat, Power in New York; Rams versus Patriots in Super Bowl; Interview with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; U.S. Suspends Nuclear Arms Control Treaty with Russia; All- Female Flyover to Honor Naval Aviation Pioneer Captain Rosemary Mariner; Interview with Stacy Uttecht and Joellen Oslund, Naval Aviators; Pope Makes Historic Visit to UAE. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 3, 2019 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The governor of Virginia says the racist photograph in his medical yearbook wasn't him. But he calls -- says he will not resign and that calls for resignation are piling up.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Also this hour, protests and counterprotests across Venezuela. This as more diplomats and high- ranking military officers leave President Maduro's camp.

Later this hour, a milestone in U.S. aviation history, the first-ever all-female flyover of Navy fighter jets.

ALLEN (voice-over): It was carried out to honor the first female pilot in the Navy, who died this week. More about that this hour.

Welcome to our viewers from the United States and around the world, coming to you live from Atlanta, your Super Bowl headquarters, I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters. NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast.

Mistaken identity or convenient cover?

Those are the questions around the embattled governor of Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam, saying he wasn't in a racist photo 34 years ago. Keep in mind, it was just 24 hours ago he admitted to being one of the people in this very offensive picture.

ALLEN: Calls for his resignation are getting louder by the minute. And his news conference on Saturday, when he tried to explain himself, only made matters worse. Here's CNN's Jessica Dean with that.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Governor Ralph Northam really digging his heels in during a press conference on Saturday, continuing to say over and over again, it was not him in that racist photo that was found in his medical school yearbook and that he could continue to earn back the trust of Virginians and move forward.


GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: Today, I am not ready to ask Virginians to grant forgiveness for my past actions. I also do not fully expect that they will immediately believe my account of these events.

When I was confronted with the images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page but I believed then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo.

I stand by my statement of apology to the many Virginians who were hurt by seeing this content on a yearbook page that belongs to me. It is disgusting. It is offensive. It is racist. And it was my responsibility to recognize and prevent it from being published in the first place.

I recognize that many people will find this difficult to believe. The photo appears with others I submitted on a page with my name on it. Even in my own statement yesterday, I conceded that, based on the evidence presented to me at the time.

My belief that I did not wear that costume or attend that party stems in part from my clear memory of other mistakes I made in the same period of my life.

That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume. I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.


DEAN: Significantly, after that press conference, we started hearing from statewide elected Democrats; we heard from Senator Tim Kaine and Senator Mark Warner, both former governors of the commonwealth, as well as Representative Bobby Scott.

They put out a joint statement, saying they did not believe that this position was tenable for the governor, that the trust that Virginians had placed in him had been broken and that he needed to step aside and resign.

We also heard after that press conference from the state's attorney general, who is also a Democrat, calling for Governor Northam's resignation. So a chorus that continues to grow, calling for the governor to step aside. He, for now, saying he's staying in the governor's mansion. We'll see

how it evolves over the next 24 hours -- In Richmond, Virginia, Jessica Dean, CNN.


HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with CNN political analyst, April Ryan. April also a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and the author of the book, "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House."

Thank you for your time.


How are you?

HOWELL: Very well. Very well. So look, this is certainly controversial to say the least with Northam saying that he wants to stay in that position.

What does that mean for Democrats politically, if he won't leave, if he won't resign?

RYAN: Well, Democrats are saying, it is time for you to go, particularly after this press conference. You know, there's no space and place in 2019 for this kind of racist --


RYAN: -- behavior, even if it was in 1984.

It has been revealed now. And it has been compounded with his statements and the revelations of other things. You know, Democrats, right now, if you look at the political spectrum, if you look at particularly the presidential contest that is shaping up, this is the most diverse group of people thus far to run for President of the United States.

And then to have this, from one of their fellow Democrats. And the Democrats have been screaming about President Trump, about other people, to include congressional leader Steve King.

If they're screaming about them, they have to point the finger inside their own circle. And they're doing that.

And they have someone who can replace him, his lieutenant governor, who happens to be a black man. So this is going to play out for a minute. He doesn't want to step down but this is going to play out for a minute. You got Democrats and Republicans calling for him to step down.

HOWELL: So look, April, when the story first came out, he said that he apologized for being in the image. But 24 hours later he said, hey, it wasn't me.

What do you make of that excuse?

RYAN: Wasn't me. Wasn't me.


RYAN: It reminds me of this R&B song, "It Wasn't Me."

Although it looked like it, it wasn't me.

I think you know the song I'm talking about, Shaggy.


RYAN: Yes, but see here's the problem, George. When he came out and said I was one of the people, he didn't want to say which one he was. Now today -- that was yesterday and now today he's saying, oh, it wasn't me but I did, you know, use shoe polish to dress up like Michael Jackson for a contest, I did the Moonwalk.

But there is also another piece to this puzzle. There's also another yearbook with a nickname, Coonman. I mean, so, OK, so it wasn't you in that picture but you have some other things that were questionable. This is just -- this is not a good look at all.

And if he went in a court of law, beyond a reasonable doubt, you would really think he that was guilty of that yearbook image and that he, you know, knowing that he did blackface, already, you would think that he possibly was the blackface in this picture.

It is just an ugly scenario in 2019, especially for that state that is grappling still with the aftermath of Charlottesville. Charlottesville is not a noun anymore, it is a verb, it is the verbal racism, fighting racism. So it is just -- it is not a good look for this governor.

HOWELL: And, you know, we have an international audience on this show, along with our viewers here in the United States. And for a moment, I do want to pull up this despicable, disgusting image to show again. We hear Northam say he's not the person in the image.

But what we see there, we see a person dressed in a Klan's robe, we see someone who thought it would be a good idea to dress in blackface. Northam says it wasn't me but help our viewers understand the history, this goes back to minstrel shows. Goes back to the Jim Crow South, things that many people hoped were in the past but, no, they're not.

RYAN: So when it comes to blackface, it is about making a mockery of black people, making us like a character, a cartoon, if you will. It is not funny. It is very racist.

Since the time we were brought here, we have always been viewed as second class, never having first class status in the eyes of many, particularly racist America.

When they dress up in blackface, they dress themselves up in blackface, mimicking us, who want to be taken seriously, who want to have first class citizenship, it demeans us, it degrades us.

This nation was built on the backs of slaves, free labor, and then to make a mockery of us. It is a very, very ugly, very ignorant, racist gesture, it's like all we're doing is just laughing and hee-heeing.

Some of those things you see with people eating watermelon. It is not a good depiction of who we are as people, who we have been for this nation, the United States of America, and who we are, period, in general.

HOWELL: It wasn't good during the Jim Crow South. It wasn't good in 1984. And sure as hell isn't good now. April Ryan, we appreciate your time.

RYAN: Sure as hell isn't. Thank you, George.

ALLEN: We'll continue to follow that story if there are developments, of course.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Trump will deliver his State of the Union address, finally.


HOWELL: One issue that is absolutely front and center, the border wall that he wants. Mr. Trump isn't saying exactly what he will do to fund that wall but he is dropping some hints.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): Mr. President, have you privately decided whether or not you will declare national emergency. And just to clarify --

TRUMP: Have I privately?

You know, what's in my mind?

I'm certainly thinking about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're thinking ahead --

TRUMP: I think there is a good chance that we'll have to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): Are you saying that you will -- that we should be prepared for you to announce at the State of the Union what you're going to do?

TRUMP: Well, I'm saying listen closely to the State of the Union. I think you'll find it very exciting.


ALLEN: Boris Sanchez now, he's traveling with the president in Florida.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not much progress to show in talks between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of border security. And now both sides are engaged in yet another shouting match, with President Trump telling CBS that Nancy Pelosi is bad for the country and suggesting that Democrats have an open border policy, something that Democrats have refuted.

And today a spokesperson for the House Speaker shot back in a statement to CNN, writing, quote, "President Trump's recklessness didn't make us safer. It undermined our security with 35 days of Border Patrol agents, DEA agents, FBI agents and Homeland Security personnel missing paychecks.

Democrats have put forward strong, smart and effective border security solutions in the bipartisan conference committee while the president still refuses to take a second shutdown off the table.

"The president's wild and predictable misrepresentations about Democrats' commitment to border security do nothing to make our country safer."

To be clear, Democrats have offered Republicans some concessions, offering to expand funding for added personnel and technology at the border. But they've offered zero dollars when it comes to the president's long-promised border wall and not giving an inch on that issue.

The president clearly frustrated; that's part of the reason we've heard him threaten to declare a national emergency on the issue of immigration. On Friday, even hinting to reporters he may do it during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

No emergency declaration for the president on Saturday in West Palm Beach, though. Check out what he tweeted. He was golfing with legendary golfers Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus during his first trip to Mar-a-lago in 2019, his first trip since the 35-day record-breaking government shutdown -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president in West Palm Beach, Florida.


ALLEN: Well, let's talk about what we might expect this week from the president's State of the Union address with Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international politics at City University of London and frequent guest on our program.

Inderjeet, good to see you.

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you, very nice to see you too.

ALLEN: The president has hinted, we heard in that story, he will make an announcement regarding the border wall during his State of the Union.

What do you expect from Mr. Trump?

PARMAR: Well, Mr. Trump is coming off the back of a disastrous government shutdown, where he is perceived to have had to step back and allow the government to run again.

He's coming back off the largest defeat in midterm election history, really. He lost that popular vote by 1 million votes. So I think he's probably going to come out to reassert his authority, to try to win back the initiative, especially with his media supporters, who believe -- some of them believe he caved in with the government shutdown and others who believe he's playing a really wise kind of strategy.

So I think he's going to try to refire up his own political support.

ALLEN: We'll have to wait and see if it is an emergency declaration, because he keeps claiming there is an emergency at the border, even though the intelligence leaders of the United States did not indicate that this week when they gave their assessment report.

The Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, specifically, floated a type of Normandy fencing this week, looking for some compromise shy of a wall.

Would that satisfy his hardline base?

You mentioned the commentators that he so closely listens to.

Or does he need a bona fide wall?

PARMAR: Well, this is the big question, if you like, between the two parties and how they are perceived among their supporters. Each one is now fixated on either a fence or a wall.

Actually if you look at it, both have fairly strongly agreed that there needs to be greater levels of border security but they want for political purposes either to get a wall or to not grant a wall.

In the end, actually, those people who are at the border, who are in the various caravans seeking asylum or refugee status or on the move because of violent gangs and so on in their home countries, I don't think they're too bothered.

In the end they're going to get blocked. And I think the Democrats and the Republicans are playing a party political game. But there is a human tragedy which is unfolding at that border, which they're not addressing.

There's thousands of people who are being detained, thousands more --


PARMAR: -- children and their parents are being separated. But this is a party political game at the center of it. It focuses on greater levels of security, greater spending. Both sides have agreed on that.

They disagree on what it should be called. President Trump wants a wall. The Democrats are offering fencing, higher technology, drones and so on. Both are basically agreed on extra border security.

ALLEN: It is -- absolutely -- and meantime his -- a recent Poll of Polls conducted by CNN shows that his approval rating, with all Americans being polled, is 38 percent with 56 percent disapproval from Americans. So the government shutdown certainly had a negative impact on President Trump.

PARMAR: Absolutely. And I think -- President Trump is now in a kind of key point of his presidency. He's looking to 2020. He has done some real damage to the country, if you like. He is polarized. I think you can still win a polarized electorate for your side.

But what he's done is not just polarized, he's galvanized the opposition. The opposition is more fired up to oust Trump at the next election than they would otherwise have been.

So the midterms showed that very, very clearly. I think that was a bit of a shock to the Trump administration. They lost 40 seats in November. And I think what he's trying to do is now shore up that base.

But the problem is that he has actually lost a very large number of other people, very large proportion of other people. And I think what he wants to do is to sort of -- I think one of his statements, he said he wants America to choose greatness.

So in this State of the Union address, I suspect he's going to try to put forward that same argument, America is besieged by enemies within and without. There are great powers, like China, for example, who are seeking to oust America from kind of global leadership.

And the liberals at home and abroad have been wasting American power. And I think he's going to really sort of come down heavily on that kind of a message.

The problem is that he has alienated far too many voters and I don't think they're going to be necessarily persuaded, even though his base may well remain fired up.

ALLEN: We always appreciate your insights, your expertise. Inderjeet Parmar, thank you for joining us.

PARMAR: Thank you very much.

HOWELL: Still ahead, demonstrations and defections to tell you about in Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro faces challenges in his struggle to dig in and maintain power. We'll have the very latest from Caracas.

ALLEN: Also a power outage and brutal weather leaves inmates at a New York detention center shivering in the cold. Why protesters are outraged at the government response.






ALLEN: We are following new developments in the Venezuelan political standoff.

HOWELL: The country's ambassador to Iraq, he is defecting from the government of Nicolas Maduro. In a video declared support for the opposition, you see here, making him the first known ambassador to do so. This comes after a Venezuelan air force general announced his own defection. CNN cannot independently verify either of those videos.

ALLEN: Meanwhile, the Venezuelan president is defiant, despite mass protests. Mr. Maduro said he would support early elections for the opposition-controlled national assembly and he urged the militia to join the national military. Stefano Pozzebon has more now from Caracas.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two leaders, two crowds battling for the future of Venezuela. On one side, the Venezuelan opposition rallies around its leader, Juan Guaido, the young president of the national assembly who swore himself in as acting president of Venezuela on January 23.

People gathered from early hours of the morning to wait for Guaido's speech, many just hoping for an end to the country's years-long downward spiral. Over the last few years Venezuela's economy has collapsed and its people have been unable to put their hands on the basics of food and medicine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope we in this right now, I hope we have a free country. I hope we start our new lies, have this nightmare past this inferno situation we're in right now.

POZZEBON (voice-over): There is a new momentum behind the Venezuelan opposition after Nicolas Maduro began the second presidential term that many consider legitimate here and abroad.

POZZEBON: A lot of geopoliticians say here in Venezuela they have seen the negotiating going on. We have heard that both Russia and China are on Maduro's side and how the rest of the international community is on the opposition side. But today here in Caracas is the return of the street.

POZZEBON (voice-over): When Juan Guaido finally arrived at the rally, an avenue full of enthusiastic supporters welcomes him. On stage, the young leader outlined his plan to put an end to the humanitarian crisis that is bringing Venezuela to its knees.

JUAN GUAIDO, INTERIM PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): We are also announcing to the people of Venezuela that we already have three collection points for humanitarian aid. The first point, Bogota, Colombia, will be the first collection point of humanitarian aid. And there will be two more, which we will announce precisely where they will be in the upcoming days.

POZZEBON (voice-over): On the other side of the city, another rallying cry from the old leader.

NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): I am the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. And I owe myself to everyone, not just to some of them. I owe myself to all of Venezuela.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Nicolas Maduro standing firm, calls of fresh parliamentary elections that mean dismantling the national assembly led by Guaido.

MADURO (through translator): I am in agreement with rectifying the legislative power of the nation and going forward with free elections in the nation with guarantees for the people to decide on a new national assembly.


POZZEBON (voice-over): A proposal cheered by Maduro supporters, wary of the international interest towards Venezuela.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are telling those Yankee lovers, don't you dare do anything here.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Two crowds, two leaders, today simply not able to speak to each other. For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon.


HOWELL: Cold weather and a partial power outage sparked protests outside of a New York detention center.

ALLEN: Inmates have been shivering for days and the power may not be completely fixed until least Monday. Federal and local politicians are among the people getting involved and demanding action. Katie Corrado from affiliate WPIX has our story.


KATIE CORRADO, WPIX CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A heated protest outside MDC, demanding to know why inmates inside are freezing, reportedly stuck in cold, dark cells for days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are our families in here. These are our families in here.

CORRADO (voice-over): The problem began with a fire last Sunday. Elected officials who toured the facility today say some prisoners still have no heat, others have too much. Some have not showered in days, many receiving no medical attention.

No one, they say, has electricity or telephones to communicate with loved ones.

JUMAANE WILLIAMS, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL MAN: The warden and the people who are there have no sense of emergency. The only department where they would have cared is filled with white preppy students who are in there. And I'm going to keep it real about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are actually fixing the situation right now as we speak. We got electricians working around the clock.

CORRADO (voice-over): That's what the union president told us but Congressman Jerry Nadler said the warden actually allowed contractors to leave at 2:30 when they reportedly ran out of materials.

He says talks with prison officials went nowhere.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: We are so eager to solve this condition that the contractors have left for the day and won't be back until Monday.

CORRADO (voice-over): Council member Jumaane Williams says the city's offer to help fell on deaf ears.

WILLIAMS: The City of New York tried to give generators, tried to give blankets but the warden has not accepted it.

We ask them, why are you not accepting the blankets?

He said, well, you know what, it is an emergency, maybe we will.


ALLEN: We'll continue to follow that one for sure.

America's biggest football game, the Super Bowl, just hours away now. And it is a huge undertaking to keep thousands of fans, football players and people around the arena safe.

George, we'll talk with the mayor of the city about that -- coming up.





ALLEN: Welcome back to those of you watching around the world and here in the United States, this is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell. The headlines we're following for you this hour.


ALLEN: The biggest sporting event in the U.S. Is happening right next door, here in Atlanta, in just a few hours. The New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams will face off in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Super Bowl. A massive security operation is underway around the clock to keep fans safe.

HOWELL: And on the ground and in the air, thousands of local, state and federal law enforcement officers are at work patrolling. Authorities have declared a no-fly zone, that includes drones. The FBI has already confiscated at least six drones and they're warning users to keep them far away from the stadium.


HOWELL: Joining to talk more about the Super Bowl is Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Mayor, thank you so much for your time today.


HOWELL: So this is a big deal for Atlanta. This has been something the city has been working for several years to prepare.

Is the city ready?

BOTTOMS: The city is more than ready. We have been working since 2016, when we were awarded a Super Bowl. It has been a coordination of over 40 agencies, federal, state and local agencies.

And so obviously our biggest concern is about public safety. But we also want to make sure that people have a great time when they're in our city and it looks like everybody is enjoying our wonderful city.

HOWELL: With regards to public safety, what sort of things are in place to make sure that people are secure, as they enter the buildings, watch around the areas?

What sort of things are police and officials doing?

BOTTOMS: We've have a lot of coordination, not just in having manpower and womanpower on the ground but also making sure that our camera network is completely integrated. We have got things that we can't speak about publicly.


BOTTOMS: But it really has just been fascinating to watch the coordination with all of these different agencies and how well executed it has been.

HOWELL: What would you say the economic impact is for the city of Atlanta and the metro community?

BOTTOMS: I've seen numbers upwards of $400 million in terms of economic impact just from this week alone. But more importantly, it an opportunity for Atlanta to once again be on the worldwide stage. It is an opportunity for people to see our city in a very different

way. Not only are we a Southern city, with all of the warmth and charm that comes with that, but we also are a city that is able to host big events, to host big events that are watched on the worldwide stage like the Super Bowl.

So we know that we'll have companies and families seeking to move here and also more visitors coming into our city.

HOWELL: Certainly the eyes all around the country and even the world, looking at what happens here when it comes to the Super Bowl.

One other issue that has come to the surface and the city has put a great deal of focus on it, the issue of human trafficking.

BOTTOMS: This is an issue that is not just a concern for our city during the Super Bowl but really a concern throughout the year. We have appointed our first senior human trafficking --


BOTTOMS: -- fellow to really put direct attention on this issue because what we know, it is not just about sex trafficking, it is also about labor trafficking. And quite often it is happening right in front of our faces. And we don't recognize the signs.

So we have been working with our partners, with our people in the hospitality industry, giving them information on how you can identify the signs. Even our strip clubs, which are legal but if someone is working there against their will, then we want patrons in those places to recognize the signs so that law enforcement can get involved.

HOWELL: You know, one other thing, as people come to the city, all eyes are on this new stadium. Talk to us about what that new stadium has meant for this city so far.

BOTTOMS: You have this beautiful, physical feature, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. More importantly, in the shadow of the stadium, the West Side communities of Atlanta, our historic Vine City and English Avenue communities that have had so many resources poured into them as a result of building this stadium, in large part, because of Arthur Blank and the Blank Family Foundation, who owns the Atlanta Falcons.

We now have job training programs in this area. We now have substance abuse classes available. People are able to go back and complete their education.

And it has really been a coordination, not just with the Blank Family Foundation but with corporations and with community folk right on the ground, making sure that, as the city moves forward, that we aren't leaving anyone behind.

HOWELL: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you for a prediction.

Who is going to take it in the Super Bowl? BOTTOMS: Well, I've gotten in a lot of trouble with the Who Dat nation about making my wishes known about who I wanted to go to the Super Bowl. So my husband has asked many to please not offend anyone else.

So as the mayor of this city, since the Falcons aren't in the Super Bowl, I'll just say we hope that everyone has a great time and it is a great game.

HOWELL: Madam Mayor, thank you so much for your time.

BOTTOMS: Thank you for having me.


ALLEN: And you should be watching us during the Super Bowl. We'll be on as it is finishing up. You'll be probably be able to hear it through our microphone. You really can.

HOWELL: There's so many people here. It's just unbelievable.

ALLEN: The U.S. secretary of state made it official, he gave formal notice to allies on Saturday that the U.S. is pulling out of that landmark 1987 nuclear arms treaty with Russia. That takes place in six months.

HOWELL: Mike Pompeo says Russia has continually violated the Intercontinental Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia denies this and also said it would pull out of the pact.

ALLEN: Russian president Vladimir Putin also ordered his diplomats to stop any arms control talks with the United States. He says Russia will now build a new medium-range supersonic nuclear missile.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): I agree with the defense ministry's proposal to start working on turning caliber M cruise missiles into ground-based ones and creating a new medium-range hypersonic ground-based missile.

However, I would like to draw your attention to the fact we should not and will not get involved in a costly arms race.


HOWELL: Other stories we're following this day, a trailblazer in the U.S. military, remembered in death for allowing women to soar to heights never before achieved. We'll explain how she helped make history one more time at her funeral.



[04:40:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: Welcome back.

We take a moment now to mark the passing of a true aviation pioneer, Rosemary Mariner. Until she came along, no woman had ever qualified to fly fighter jets for the U.S. Navy. In fact, she was one of the first women even allowed to try in 1973.

ALLEN: Rosemary quickly proved she had the right stuff. Not only did she master the Navy's supersonic aircraft, she smashed through the gender barrier at close to mach 2 and never looked back. She would go on to be the first woman to command a squadron.

HOWELL: Retired naval Captain Rosemary Mariner died last week at the age of 65 after a long battle with ovarian cancer. And to honor her and her singular achievement, the Navy sanctioned another aviation first, an all-female flyover. There it is.

ALLEN: It is called the Missing Man formation. You'll see one of them zoom up into the heavens, although the Navy may want to consider a name change under these circumstances. At a predetermined moment, one of the jets streaks toward the sky.

It is a fitting and emotional tribute to the rare breed who can rightfully be called a Navy aviator.


ALLEN: Joining me now is the mission commander for the flyover for Rosemary Mariner, Stacy Uttecht, and also with her, Joellen Osland, the first naval helicopter pilot from the 1970s.

In the background, as you can see, we have naval aviation pioneers, plus the women from the flyover.

So I love the team spirit, ladies, that you have there with you. What a day.

Stacy, can you start and just tell me -- I have always lost my breath at Missing Man formations. I can't imagine what it was like to be in first ever Missing Woman formation or to witness it in the crowd. Tell us about your experience.

COMMANDER STACY UTTECHT, U.S. NAVY: So for our experience, you know, obviously the Missing Man formation is definitely a very emotional thing, especially if you're on the ground witnessing it. When you're actually executing it, you're focused on the mission at hand. We really wanted to make sure this was a perfect event to honor Captain Mariner.

ALLEN: Had you worked with these women pilots before?

Did you all just come together to do this?

Did you know of one another? UTTECHT: Some of them I had worked with before and met before and some I actually met over the last couple of days, as we did the planning for the event.

ALLEN: How about that?

SO I understand you were the lead pilot in the formation. Tell us how that works.

UTTECHT: So I'm the weapons systems officer. So I sat in the back seat of the lead aircraft. But we basically work all the timing to make sure everything worked out great, so that we -- everyone got the nice shot, the family was able to see the formation and everything like that.

And we also made sure that the lineup and everything was perfect for the Missing Man flyover.

ALLEN: And was it perfect?

UTTECHT: That's what I'm told.


ALLEN: Your supporters say, yes, it was perfect. Oh, my goodness. I can't imagine how emotional, because we lost Rosemary too early and what a trailblazer she was.

So I want to say that, coming in to the Navy, and I want to also ask this of Joellen, did you know --


ALLEN: -- about Rosemary, did you know about what she did to set the trail for the rest of you?

COMMANDER JOELLEN OSLUND, U.S. NAVY: Yes, absolutely. Rosemary and I were in officer candidate school together in 1973. And we finished that in May of '73 and then we went on to flight training together and we did preflight together.

And I received my wings in April of '74 and Rosemary was very shortly after that in May of '74. So we have been friends and colleagues ever since and kept in touch down through the years and shared a lot of experiences along the way.

ALLEN: Joellen, you have to give us a little taste of what it was like to be a trailblazer. The 1970s, there weren't other women like you.

OSLUND: There were six of us, exactly.


OSLUND: And we were trailblazers, no doubt. We kind of didn't realize our role at the time because, when you're in the midst of those things, you don't really realize what your impact may or may not be at the time.

So the six of us were -- we didn't spend a lot of time together. After we finished officer candidate school and went through preflight together, we basically did not see each other very much after that.

And, of course, back in the '70s, way before the days of cell phones and email and texting, it was very difficult to keep in touch with one another. But Rosemary and I managed to do that. And it has been very gratifying. And it was absolutely the saddest thing ever to lose her this soon.

ALLEN: Absolutely. I totally understand, I can't imagine how emotional it was to fly planes at the same time you honor her.

Stacy, what did you know about Rosemary?

UTTECHT: So I didn't actually know much about Captain Mariner until recently. But I do know -- I remember, in 1993, when the combat exclusion was lifted, I was 15 years old and I didn't quite have an idea of how big of an impact that policy change would make.

And obviously Captain Mariner and her contemporaries had a lot to do with that decision. And if you look at the female aviators that took part in the flyover today, we all have multiple combat deployments under our belt.

And it's all because of women like Captain Mariner and Joellen here and all the other contemporaries that paved the way for us and broke down those barriers.

ALLEN: Joellen, I want to talk with you, I asked Stacy about this.

What was it like for you to witness this all-female flyover there, to honor your comrade and your colleague in the Navy?

OSLUND: Well, today could not have gone any more perfectly. The weather was perfect. The entire community turned out for this event. There were people from the community parked all alongside the road. They had been parked there for a couple of hours waiting for the fly- by. The timing was perfect.

And it was just a very emotional and moving moment when the Missing Woman formation pulled away and disappeared up into the sun up above in the sky. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. And it couldn't have gone more perfectly.

And to have this event was sort of the culmination of Rosemary's work throughout her career. She challenged policies for 24 years that kept women out of tactical and fighter jets and out of combat and off of ships at sea. And to see this, 47 years ago we never would have dreamed that this would happen.

ALLEN: That's absolutely wonderful. Yes, one story, the headline was she was a badass.

(LAUGHTER) ALLEN: She absolutely was, wasn't she?

What a trailblazer. And you are, too.

Well, thank you so much, we appreciate you giving us your time, we appreciate your colleagues behind you, supporting you in this team spirit so much. Stacy Uttecht and Joellen Oslund, thank you so much and thank you for your service.

OSLUND: Thank you.

UTTECHT: Thank you.


HOWELL: That is just awesome to see, excellent reporting.

ALLEN: Really celebrating their friend that they lost.

Just a little side note, also speaking at the funeral was Tammy Jo Schultz, you may remember that name, she was the pilot of that Southwest plane that she had to make the emergency landing and she served under Captain Mariner in the Navy.

How about that?

HOWELL: Small world.

Still ahead, Pope Francis is about to make history with his trip to the UAE. What that means for the region's Christians and Muslims -- ahead. Stay with us.






ALLEN: Pope Francis is about to begin a historic trip to the United Arab Emirates, the first time a Roman Catholic pope has ever visited the Arabian Peninsula.

HOWELL: It is historic. The Vatican wants more freedom for the region's Christians and this will be a chance to discuss that with Muslim leaders. Our Becky Anderson has more now from Abu Dhabi.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): A message to the faithful ahead of his historic trip to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam and home of some of its holiest sites attracting millions of pilgrims each year. The Gulf also has a Christian past. PETER HELLYER, UAE HISTORIAN AND WRITER: We have evidence of Christianity in Eastern Arabia, including the UAE and Oman, certainly well into the 9th and 9th centuries A.D.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Abu Dhabi itself is home to the ruins of an ancient monastery built around 600 A.D., fragments of which can be found at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

HELLYER: It was founded by a denomination called The Church of the East, which is one of the eastern churches, that still survives. So the visit by the pope actually has a local resonance in that there is a tradition here of Christianity that is still related today to the Catholic Church.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Hellyer says history suggests that local followers --


ANDERSON (voice-over): -- of that church converted to Islam but it didn't mark the end of the Christian presence on the Arabian Peninsula. While Islam is the official religion of the Gulf States and leaving Islam is illegal, in the UAE alone, it is believed there are over 1 million Christians, the majority of whom are Catholic migrant workers.

HELLYER: You can't be a trading nation on the shores of a great maritime trade route without learning to develop some kind of tolerance and understanding and acceptance.

ANDERSON (voice-over): A champion of interfaith dialogue, Pope Francis will meet with the grand imam of the Egypt's al-Azhar mosque in Abu Dhabi during his trip, a cleric regarded as the highest authority in Sunni Islam.

ABDULKHALEQ ABDULLA, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE: UAE is already a role model of sorts. It's the trendsetter for the whole region. Whatever the UAE does, others follow.

ANDERSON (voice-over): The UAE is using this visit to shine a spotlight on its carefully cultivated image of tolerance on a world stage while maintaining a more muscular foreign policy. UAE's version of tolerance stands in contrast to neighboring Saudi Arabia, where churches are illegal and non-Muslims can't worship in public.

ABDULLA: And tolerance these days are in short supply, not only in this very troubled region but all over the world. It's in short supply in Europe, in America, wherever you go. So the UAE wants to be a leading global force for tolerance. And I think that is the kind of legacy that we are hoping that the pope's visit will leave us.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


ALLEN: The day's top stories are just ahead. Thanks for watching this hour. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell. More news right after the break.