Return to Transcripts main page
Virginia Governor Denies He's in a Racist Yearbook Photo; Trump Signals He Plan to Declare National Emergency for Wall; Thousands Rally in Venezuela in Pro- and Anti-Government Protests; U.S. Suspends Nuclear Arms Control Treaty with Russia; Rams versus Patriots in Super Bowl; All-Female Flyover to Honor Naval Aviation Pioneer Captain Rosemary Mariner; Interview with Stacy Uttecht and Joellen Oslund, Naval Aviators. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired February 3, 2019 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A U.S. governor faces calls for a swift resignation after he delivers a news conference that just makes things worse.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, in Venezuela, thousands of people march the streets of Caracas in support growing for Venezuela's opposition.
ALLEN (voice-over): And later this hour, we're just hours away from the most watched game in American sports. Right there. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, next to us. We'll talk about the security taking to hold a Super Bowl game.
HOWELL (voice-over): With the Super Bowl upon us, we are live at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. And we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.
ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen. NEWSROOM starts right now.
ALLEN: Our top story, the embattled governor of Virginia, now claims he was not in a racist photo from 34 years ago. You'll recall, just 24 hours ago Ralph Northam admitted to being one of the people in this very offensive picture. He also tried to justify it as simply the culture of where he was living back in the 1980s.
HOWELL: But calls for the governor's resignation are getting louder by the minute. His old boss, the former governor, Terry McAuliffe, says it is time to step down.
And Northam didn't do himself any favors with the news conference he held on Saturday, as you'll hear with our Jessica Dean, who has this report.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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: Thank you. So Northam digging in at this point. But if he resigns, his deputy lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, would take over the job. If that happens, Fairfax would be the only -- only the second African American person to become the state's chief executive.
ALLEN: Fairfax has not called for the governor's resignation but he did issue this strongly worded statement.
"I cannot condone the actions from his past that, at the very least, suggest a comfort with Virginia's darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping and intimidation.
At this critical and defining moment in the history of Virginia and this nation, we need leaders with the ability to unite and help us rise to the better angels of our nature."
The voters of Virginia are also speaking out, holding demonstrations and calling for Northam to step down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Each and every black vote that was cast for you, we trusted you. Maybe you have changed. People do. But we believe in reconciliation. A black man stands behind you. Step back. Step away so he can step forward. Resign today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: And signs of these protests really say it all.
One says, "Apologize to black people first."
In another, "No racist governor."
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.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Anytime, George.
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.
HOWELL: I do.
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 --
RYAN: -- 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.
HOWELL: I don't think this stops here. The question, Natalie, who took the picture?
Will the photographer step forward?
The question --
ALLEN: Who chose to put the picture in the yearbook?
HOWELL: Yes, the head of the -- printing the yearbook, who is that?
And then who is that other person in the picture?
There are a lot of questions, I imagine there are other people who will come forward to give some context to who is in that image.
ALLEN: I imagine so.
Another story we're following for you, U.S. president Trump will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday and the White House says the theme will be choosing greatness.
HOWELL: Mr. Trump has been hinting that he may announce his plans to fund his border wall, possibly by declaring a national emergency. Our Boris Sanchez has this report for you.
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: And let's talk about his speech coming up with Leslie Vinjamuri from London, the head of the U.S. and Americas Programme at Chatham House think tank.
Leslie, good to see you, Thanks for coming on.
LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you, Natalie.
ALLEN: I want to talk about what we just heard there, the president's theme for his speech, choosing greatness.
Do you think somewhere in there he's going to choose to go and build that wall somehow without Democrats and make that announcement?
VINJAMURI: It would be quite something if -- and remember, this is a State of the Union address that was originally designed to take place a week earlier than it will. It was delayed because of that shutdown.
So the idea that the president would actually declare a national emergency in order to fund the wall, that has been so deeply controversial and had such negative economic consequences and led to the longest shutdown that we have seen in the history of the United States, would be rather dramatic.
And I guess I'm skeptical that he would do this. But then, of course, we have seen a lot of things come out of this president that we haven't anticipated.
ALLEN: Right. And we're not sure who is advising him on what these days, he had so many leave, his close advisers leave. The question is, he's kind of stuck, because you got Democrats on one side, you've got Americans that according to polls, most Americans, --
ALLEN: -- don't think a wall is necessary and you've got his conservative base, the commentators he listens to. And then he gets called names when he doesn't stand up for them and get this wall built.
VINJAMURI: Yes. He's in a difficult spot and he's put himself into this position, of course, by making so much out of that wall. Remember his base isn't benefitting from the government shutdown and arguably many of those people stand to lose benefits and lose economically if there is delay in the delivery of government services.
And the president lost, right?
His approval rating declined significantly during the course of the shutdown. The polls didn't respond well; people blamed the president. They blamed the Republicans in Congress more than they blamed the Democrats.
So it is a difficult position. And the question is whether or not there will be some resolution that gives the president enough by way of border security or perhaps funding for a fence that he uses to then take and claim he was successful in getting money to make America stronger and safer again.
But, again, without -- it is unclear how that is going to come about. But at some point there is going to have to be some mechanism for the president claiming a victory, even if we don't see funding for that wall.
ALLEN: It seems -- it has to be an endgame somewhere on the question of the wall. So maybe it is coming.
I want to ask you, pivot to some global issues. We might also hear the president address his decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan and Syria and we know this new development, this weekend, that Russia and the U.S. have suspended the INF Treaty, one that was put in place to help protect Europe.
How is that being viewed there in Europe?
VINJAMURI: I think there is a great deal of concern; as we know, NATO has, of course, backed up, as -- in support of the decision. There has for a very long time, not only under President Trump but under President Obama complaints that Russia wasn't complying with this treaty.
So there is a track record, there is evidence of noncompliance that Russia is developing those intermediate range missiles.
But there is a broader question about what the implications are and I think, in Europe, there is a great deal of concern that what we're seeing, by taking the very dramatic step from signaling and identifying noncompliance to actually taking -- beginning the process of withdrawal, signals that this is a president that is no longer willing to demonstrate that it is actively committed to arms control; that is, restraint.
And that it might lead to spillover effects that endanger the future -- the negotiation of -- the renegotiation of the START treaty, which is due to expire in 2021.
So I think for Europe this is very deeply unsettling because, of course, America's actions have been uncertain; they have been unpredictable. There have been policy changes that haven't been taken in active coordination, in consultation with America's European partners.
ALLEN: Leslie Vinjamuri, we always appreciate your insights, thank you for joining us.
VINJAMURI: Thank you.
ALLEN: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, dueling rallies in Venezuela. Thousands of protesters taking to the streets of Caracas as the power struggle between two leaders continues to heat up.
ALLEN: Also, as we were just talking about, a key nuclear treaty between the U.S. and Russia is no more. We will talk more about that coming up here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL (voice-over): Take a look at the scene in Caracas, the streets there in Venezuela, a show of support for the country's opposition, where thousands of people rallied on Saturday, calling for the ouster of the sitting president, Nicolas Maduro.
ALLEN (voice-over): But, he remains defiant. He assured supporters in a separate rally that he would continue to lead the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: The political crisis in Venezuela continues to deepen; the ambassador to Iraq from Venezuela now says he has defected from the Maduro government.
HOWELL: This as the president says he would support early elections for the opposition-controlled national assembly. Stefano Pozzebon has details 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, Caracas.
HOWELL: The U.S. secretary of state is making it official. On Saturday, he gave formal notice to allies that the United States is pulling out of a landmark 1987 nuclear arms treaty with Russia in six months.
ALLEN: Mike Pompeo says Russia has continually violated the Intercontinental Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia denies this and has said it would also pull out of the pact.
HOWELL: And for his part, the Russian president --
HOWELL: -- Vladimir Putin ordered his diplomats to stop any arms control talks with the U.S. and said Russia will now build a new medium-range supersonic missile.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: In the state of Virginia, the governor resists calls to resign over a racist photo. When we come back, we'll hear from the president of the civil rights group, the NAACP, about it.
HOWELL: Plus America's biggest football game of the year, it is the Super Bowl. And it is just hours away here in Atlanta. And it is a huge undertaking, keeping thousands of fans, football players and locals safe. We'll chat with a former Secret Service agent. Stay ahead -- stay with us.
HOWELL: A warm welcome back to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. And we thank you for it. I'm George Howell.
ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories.
ALLEN: Virginia's Democratic governor is changing his story about a racist image in his medical school yearbook from 34 years ago. Ralph Northam now claims he's not one of the people in the offensive photo.
Just a day before he confirmed it was him and said he was sorry. And after walking that back, he admitted he once darkened his face to impersonate Michael Jackson.
HOWELL: Well, that revelation and that flip-flop are hurting him politically and hurting him badly. Prominent Democratic leaders across the United States are demanding that he step down; even his old boss, the former governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, says it is over for Northam.
One important person who has also lost faith in the governor is Derrick Johnson. Johnson is the president of the NAACP.
ALLEN: Here is what he told our Ana Cabrera earlier.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Sir, I want to get your reaction to Northam's refusal to resign and his claim that he had no idea this photo was even in his yearbook.
DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Whether it was him in blackface and he was in the party, in the room, or that it was in the yearbook, is a demonstration of his lack of competence in terms of race relations.
Blackface in 1984 was a problem as it is today. Being an individual from the South, it is unfortunately a cultural norm for too many people to accept racism. For him not to acknowledge this on the front end, to identify this as a problem, to object to the yearbook, having blackface in the yearbook, particularly on his page, it speaks to the character of the individual.
And that individual's inability to understand that racism is a problem not only in Virginia, not only in the south, but across this country.
CABRERA: What do you make of the fact that this governor now admits he wore blackface at another time in the past?
He said, in fact, it was the same year as that yearbook photo, 1984 and he says that's how he knows this actually isn't him in this particular photo.
JOHNSON: Well, you know, he was 25 years old, in medical school. So he was a learned individual, carrying out a southern traditional way and that is making a mockery of African Americans. That is a problem whether it's in this photo or the acknowledgement of him trying to portray as Michael Jackson.
African Americans, we have journeyed through this country for many years, objecting to and fighting caricatures of us in a negative light. The NAACP, one of the biggest campaigns we took on was against "Birth of a Nation," which had individuals in that film in blackface.
The NAACP, we understood what it went when Ronald Reagan went to the county and the message it sent. We understand what happened with Lee Atwater and Willie Horton. We understand the impact FOX News has had and Glenn Beck.
We understand the environment in which he existed. That environment is an environment in which he should have none better or acknowledged the wrongness of that activity well before now. CABRERA: Have you had a chance to speak to Northam?
JOHNSON: I have not spoken with Northam. Our state president in Virginia has spoken with him.
JOHNSON: And our position is the same. We think it's time for him to resign.
CABRERA: What do you want to say to him?
JOHNSON: Well, you know, whether he feels he's a victim of a political attack, the truth be told, I am African American, we represent African Americans.
And to see this is a painful reminder of the journey we're taking in this country to ensure that we are afforded equal protection under the law and we are seen as human beings and not something that's subhuman.
CABRERA: This yearbook is almost 35 years old now.
Do you think Northam has done enough in the last three decades to show that maybe he's a different person now or to separate himself from everything that picture represents?
JOHNSON: I think the first step should have been acknowledgement, acknowledging prior to now that this is a problem. You can't get your hands caught in the cookie jar and then say, look at me, I'm a different person, my hand just happened to be in the cookie jar.
In order for us to turn the page on race relations in this country, there must be some level of acknowledgement before one is put in the spotlight of past activities. I can tell you for a fact, there are many individuals who were involved in these types of racialized incidents.
Some of those individuals have come to terms with that and acknowledged the wrongness of their activity. We didn't see that with this governor.
CABRERA: So I just am trying to understand. If he had been out there and said something about this in a more transparent fashion, prior to even being elected, that would have made a different -- that would have given you a different impression of him now?
JOHNSON: Absolutely. So why now, is the question. Why now? Because his political career is at stake.
What would have happened if he had come out on the front end and said, you know, I've had a change of heart, I understand how my participation, whether I was in blackface or didn't object to the picture in the yearbook, actually could hurt individuals and is a part of a negative history and legacy of this country. That did not happen. Let's understand, race has shaped the most recent political dynamics in this country. Racism is germinating from the White House. Racism allowed for there to be public policy for children to be taken at the border. Racism allowed for an individual to go to a synagogue in Pittsburgh and perpetuate a massacre.
Racism allowed for what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. Racism is something we have to deal with in this country. And you don't deal with it after you've been exposed. You deal with it before you've been exposed.
ALLEN: Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is also weighing in.
She posted on Twitter, "This has gone on too long. There is nothing to debate. He must resign."
We turn now to the biggest sporting event in the United States, happening right here in Atlanta, just next door to CNN. In just a few hours, the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams will face off in a new Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Super Bowl.
A massive security operation is underway around the clock to keep fans safe. On the ground and in the air, thousands of law enforcement officers are patrolling.
Authorities have declared a no-fly zone and that includes drones. The FBI has already confiscated at least six of them. They are warning users to keep them far away from the stadium. We certainly hope they do.
Jonathan Wackrow is a CNN law enforcement analyst; he was a former Secret Service agent for President Barack Obama. He joins me now from New York to talk about the security apparatus.
Hi, Jonathan. Thank you for joining us.
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Hey, good morning to you.
ALLEN: I have to tell you, those of us that have been coming into work, trying to come into work, with all the throngs of the crowds, hats off to the --
ALLEN: -- security, the folks that are keeping all of these people safe, because we can attest, there are a lot of people out there. We've got to figure out how to get back in tonight. But, anyway --
ALLEN: It is a monumental challenge to secure such a huge event. But security teams got an early start. This has been a process that has been going on for some time. Tell us about it.
WACKROW: Well, so the process you're talking about is -- goes back to almost two years. From the moment that Atlanta was chosen as the Super Bowl site, law enforcement entities, both state, local and federal, have been working together through different working groups to plan a very comprehensive security overlay, to ensure that there is no incident.
As you talked about just a little while ago, coming into work this morning, what you faced was actually concentric rings in overlapping security measures -- different checkpoints, screening areas, everything that blends together to bring forth a very comprehensive security plan that, you know, it -- they have to look at the entire threat spectrum, so everything from ground-based threats to airborne threats.
But they also have to maintain civil order within the city of Atlanta and deal with the criminal element that exists through day-to-day operations. So when you start taking a look at the entire operation that law enforcement has to deal with right now, it is pretty monumental.
ALLEN: Everyone is out having a good time; people may not notice all of the folks out there working to keep them safe and the dogs, too. We're showing a video of dogs, I think there is 180 dogs assisting in this effort with the thousands of officers.
And as you said, it is not just inside the stadium, it is the -- it extends out, the parameter from the stadium. We all recall unfortunately the terrorist attack that happened in Olympic Park in '96. That's just next door to here as well.
So they've got a lot to keep an eye on.
And what are they looking for as far as a threat or -- what do they keep their eyes on?
WACKROW: Well, listen, there is a couple of things. They're looking for preattack indicators, people who are exhibiting behavior that, you know, may be an indicator for some sort of hostile act toward the event itself.
But they're also looking -- part of the plan is the overall safety plan. If there is, you know, any type of tactical issue, any type of medical issue or evacuation issue that may arise, the comprehensive security plan has basically a playbook in place that they can address everything from that entire spectrum.
Just remember, the bad guy has to be right once. Law enforcement has to be right all the time. They have to have contingency plans, they have to have everything in place, not only to protect the Super Bowl event, the 78,000 people that will be there at kickoff but the millions of people that are celebrating throughout the city of Atlanta.
They have to keep all of those individuals safe as well. So again, a multilayered approach, very close coordination between state, local and federal agencies, bringing forth a comprehensive security process.
ALLEN: Definitely comprehensive. I kept hearing this thing buzzing over where I live, oh, it is the blimp, I went out there, no, it's a police helicopter, already in place for the past two days.
So yes, we really appreciate their efforts and the technology that they're using as well will be in place.
WACKROW: Absolutely. When you look at the technology, you know, law enforcement has to keep pace with emerging technology that may be used for nefarious purposes. I think you spoke about earlier the drones.
Just a few years ago, we weren't thinking about how drones could be used as a hostile tool. But now law enforcement has to be very mindful that, you know, drones can be perceived as a threat, not just as a hobbyist tool.
So, again, there is a lot of different threats that law enforcement has to address and then mitigate the vulnerabilities against those.
ALLEN: Jonathan, we appreciate you coming on, Jonathan Wackrow, who was Secret Service agent for President Obama and a security expert. Thank you. We appreciate it.
WACKROW: Thanks a lot.
HOWELL: The good news, security in place, that's great. But the cool thing right now is just to see so many people, thousands of people here in the city, ready for this big party.
Keep in mind, the CNN Center in Atlanta, it is next door to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. For those of us that have to try to get into work, good luck.
ALLEN: We have been talking about it for as long as security has been working on it.
How are we going to get in there?
HOWELL: Here we are. The days are upon us.
So I chronicled my journey coming into the CNN Center. Take a look at that. That's the MARTA, the subway --
ALLEN: There's George.
HOWELL: I tried to --
HOWELL: -- get through all the crowds there. But so many people and -- I was just packed in that MARTA --
HOWELL: -- you get to know people pretty well there. But yes, so many people here; the atmosphere is fun. People are
excited and so far things are good.
ALLEN: Yes. Moving along. We'll get in somehow tonight, George. Somehow, we will.
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.
ALLEN: Want to take a moment to mark the passing of a true aviation pioneer in the United States, Rosemary Mariner became first woman to fly fighter jets for the U.S. Navy. Not only did she have the right stuff, she punched through the gender barrier at close to mach 2 and never looked back.
HOWELL: Awesome. Retired Navy captain Rosemary Mariner died last week. She was 65 years old, after a long battle with ovarian cancer. And to honor her and her singular achievement, the Navy sanctioned another aviation first. Take a look at that. An all-female flyover.
Earlier we spoke with two of the women aviators who came to Tennessee to pay homage to Captain Mariner and her amazing legacy.
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 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.
UTTECHT: 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.
ALLEN: I watched it over and over again. Our hearts go out to the family of Captain Mariner. She left behind a husband and a daughter and all the people who had the privilege to know her and serve with her.
HOWELL: Well, now to tell you about flooding and snow. Serious situation on the West Coast of the U.S. The drastic change that has been happening there.
ALLEN: Again, it is Super Bowl Sunday here in Atlanta. America's football biggest championship game kicks off soon. It will be a riveting fight for the title. More about it coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL (voice-over): Live picture of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium just outside of the CNN Center next door to us here in Atlanta, Georgia. We're just hours away from the Super Bowl, the biggest game of the year in American sports. Super Bowl LIII happening again right here in Atlanta.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: There have been a week of concerts, award ceremonies and other festivities leading up to the kickoff, which will happen just as we have been saying, you're sick of us saying it, steps away from the CNN Center. But we have been freaked out for months, how are we going to get to work.
HOWELL: You have been freaked out about it. So has Andy Scholes. Let's bring in Andy to tell us what to expect today.
A big game today, thousands of people, Andy. Here we go.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Super Bowl Sunday. It's one of the biggest days of the year here in the United States. Even people who don't like football, they tune into this game because it is much more than a game.
It is a cultural event. An estimated 103 million people in the U.S. watch the Eagles beat the Patriots in last year's Super Bowl; another 30 to 50 million watch the game internationally.
You can watch the numbers to be bigger this year. We broadcast it to 180 countries in 25 different languages.
A big storyline for this Super Bowl has been the two quarterbacks in the game. On one side, you have the greatest player to ever play the game, Tom Brady. This is going to be his ninth Super Bowl. He is trying to win his sixth.
On the other side you have the Ram, Jared Goff. When Brady won his first Super Bowl in 2002, Goff was a 7-year old. He's 24 now. He would be one of the youngest quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl. Brady is 41 years old now. He would be the oldest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: It's hard to believe that this is the ninth time doing this. It wasn't always like this. I remember it was a little bit smaller back in the day, the first time I did it. I think I'm a better player now than I was in 2001.
I don't think I was the best player I could possibly be at that point. I think there has been a lot of work and effort over the years to try to get to where I'm at now.
JARED GOFF, LOS ANGELES RAMS: It is always that type of stuff that you can look back on and say people who have doubted you or people who have said this or that, at this point, I am comfortable with who I am and I'm confident and try not to pay too much attention to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: With this Super Bowl there are so many fun things to do in the host city. This year it is Atlanta. The NFL experience is always one of the coolest things in the city. It's like a giant playground for NFL fans.
You can run the 40-yard dash. The fastest man in the world, Jamaica's Usain Bolt was here Saturday. He ran the 40-yard dash --
SCHOLES: -- in 4.22 seconds on his very first try. I actually tried this myself. I ran it just a hair slower than Usain Bolt.
Another big part of Super Bowl week is all the parties around town. Saturday, fanatics had their celebration. I went over there, talked to lots of athletes and celebrities and got their prediction for the game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you know early how it will be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're making a house call. We have to collect the copay. But this one time I'm giving away free recommendations. I'm going with the Pats to cover the spread.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going for the Rams. That's it. That's all I can say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom Brady is so good. I wouldn't mind seeing him win another championship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, I'm going for the Patriots to blow the Rams out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say Ben calls one way or the other. That's all I know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't bet against Brady.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prediction: Eagles will win 37-16.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eagles then?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last year, Eagles 37-16. That's my prediction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: That's actor Kevin Hart, a huge Eagles fan. He wouldn't give you a prediction for this year's game. Always the comedian.
I heard a lot more Patriots predictions than I did Rams. So a lot more -- a lot of people think that the Patriots are going to come out on top on Super Bowl LIII. I don't know, though. I think everybody might wrong and the Rams will surprise us all like the Eagles did last year.
ALLEN: We'll be watching. It will be a great one. Thanks, Andy. That was fun.
Despite losing to the Patriots in the conference final and not making it to the Super Bowl, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is still making headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the 2018 AP Most Valuable Player is Patrick Mahomes. HOWELL (voice-over): Mahomes took home two titles at the NFL honors
award on Saturday, including 2018's Most Valuable Player and defensive player of the year.
Thank you so much for being with us for NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.
ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. The news continues next.