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Northam Speaks Out; Trump Hold Border Wall Rally; Democrat Accused of Anti-Semitism; Teachers Strike in Denver. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired February 11, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:37] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back.

This morning, Virginia's embattled governor says he is not going anywhere, but now Governor Ralph Northam is facing even more scrutiny after new comments he made on race and slavery.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. For his part, the Virginia Democrat says that navigating the blackface scandal has taught him a lot about white privilege. Have a listen.


GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: I was born in white privilege. And that has implications to it. And it is much different the way a white person, such as myself, is treated in this country.

GAYLE KING, HOST, "CBS THIS MORNING": Did you not know that you were born into white privilege?

NORTHAM: I knew I was, Ms. King, but I didn't realize really the powerful implications of that.


SCIUTTO: That's quite an admission there.

CNN's Jessica Dean joins us now live from Richmond, Virginia.

So, Jessica, the governor also made comments about slavery that raise concern here. Tell us what he said here. I mean it's -- it's just -- it just seemed like another unforced error and a serious one.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, good morning to you both.

Yes, he was giving his first televised interview to Gayle King and a lot of his answers are raising some eyebrows. You just played that bit about the white privilege. He also was talking a little bit about Virginia's history, and this comment raised some eyebrows. Take a listen.


NORTHAM: If you look at Virginia's history, we're now at the 400-year anniversary. Just 90 miles from here, in 1619, the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Port Comfort, what we call now Ft. Monroe. And while --

KING: Also known as slavery.


KING: Yes. Yes.


DEAN: And you heard Gayle King there say, also known as slavery, which is something that a lot of people are saying and asking this morning. So much so that the governor has now put out a statement to clarify his answer. I want to read you what he said.

He said, during a recent event at Ft. Monroe, I spoke about the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia and referred to them in my remarks as enslaved. A historian advised me the use of indentured was more historically accurate. The fact is, I'm still learning and committed to getting it right.

So, Jim and Poppy, here's the thing. We heard over and over from the governor again today in this interview that he sees this as a learning moment. He told "The Washington Post" over the weekend that he wants to help Virginia heal. He wants to focus on what he's calling race equity. That he really sees this as a moment where he can uniquely lead the state forward.

But in interviews like this, other people are questioning, you know, if he's talking about white privilege and not really understanding it before, is he really in a position to do that? So that's where we are with the governor, who again reiterating, no plans to resign right now.

HARLOW: Yes. Really legitimate questions and concerns about those comments.

Jessica, thank you for the reporting.

SCIUTTO: We want to take a moment now to remember Republican Congressman Walter Jones of the state of North Carolina. He died yesterday. He was a 13-term congressman. He'd been in hospice the last month after he fell and broke his hip. His health declining shortly after that accident.

HARLOW: He was a conservative known for his independent streak. But he wasn't always a Republican. He switched parties in 1994. He was very well known for publicly regretting his vote to authorize the Iraq war. In 2007, he had a pointed message on the state of politics in this country. Listen to this.

[09:35:06] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. WALTER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I am seeing a great nation in the last few days of being a great nation. And it's because they -- we have those in Washington, D.C., who are not doing their job to protect the constitutional rights of the American people.


SCIUTTO: You know, and regretting that Iraq War vote, he spent a lot of his time in his final days writing a letter to the family of every fallen soldier in Iraq. He felt that that was his obligation having authorized this war.

The congressman planned to retire before the end of his term. There will be now a special election to fill his congressional seat. Congressman Jones died on his birthday. He was 76 years old.


[09:40:10] SCIUTTO: As negotiators try to strike a deal to avoid another government shutdown, if you can believe it --

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: President Trump is making his case by going right to the border today.

HARLOW: He will hold a rally tonight in El Paso, Texas, to insist on billions of dollars in border wall funding. This is after the mayor there, a Republican, said the administration should stop vilifying his town and visit it. Mayor Dee Margo writes, quote, we in El Paso, Texas, are a community that transcends the border, while some are concerned about our proximity to Mexico, we choose to celebrate it. While others embrace building a wall, we remind them a fence already exists.

So joining us now is El Paso Mayor Dee Margo.

Good morning, mayor, and thank you for being with us.

As the president comes tonight, what's your message as you welcome him to El Paso?

MAYOR DEE MARGO (R), EL PASO, TEXAS: Well, I've said for months, if you want to learn about the border, you need to come to El Paso. We are the largest U.S. city on the Mexican border and we're kind of really one region of 2.5 million plus people. So I'm pleased he's coming in and hopefully we'll get a chance to visit and talk about and see firsthand what the border really looks like and how we are so closely intertwined for almost 400 years between El Paso and Juarez.

SCIUTTO: As you're aware, the president has used El Paso's experience to justify his demand for a border barrier, claiming that the wall there reduced crime. CNN fact-checked this, others have, and I'm going to put a graph up on the screen here that shows that, in fact, crime -- violent crime in El Paso came down for years before a border wall decision in 2006. It ticked up a bit around the time it was built in 2008.

I'm just curious, because I know your position is to have a more broad discussion here. That barriers have their role, but it's not all about barriers. But this is a central part of the president's argument there, that you need the barriers, otherwise we're going to have a -- sort of wave of criminals coming across the border from Mexico. Is that connection, is that justification misleading in your view?

MARGO: Well, what he was echoing in the State of the Union, and he was certainly correct at the end of his remarks about El Paso, that we are the safest city, but the prefacing remarks were -- he was echoing what had been said by our attorney general a few weeks ago in McAllen that was wrong.

HARLOW: Right.

MARGO: If people had contacted me about our attorney general's remarks, I would have corrected it at that time as well.

HARLOW: You're talking about --

SCIUTTO: You're saying -- to be clear, you're saying the president is wrong. He was wrong in the State of the Union when he made this claim about crime rising there without the barrier.

MARGO: Well, exactly. We -- we were going back to 2005, one of the safest cities in the nation. The barrier went up and the fence went up and it's only about ten miles long. And the total fencing in the El Paso sector is about 78 miles. And it's not continuous.

Now it does -- it's part of the process for border security, but it's not the total panacea. But the remarks that the president made in the State of the Union were -- were stated originally, almost verbatim, by our attorney general some weeks ago. And that's where the erroneous comments came from that were not correct.

HARLOW: You're talking about Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

And I'm just wondering, if you reached out, your team reached out to the administration following the State of the Union to correct them on the facts there and, if so, what the response was.

MARGO: We didn't directly reach out. We reached out to public media when everyone was commenting. I reached out on my own personal media. And I've responded to every interview I've been requested since last Tuesday evening to correct the record. But when he comes in, if we can get a chance to visit, I'll reiterate that.

SCIUTTO: On the economic question, because you said in your op-ed that Mexico was actually an economic boost to your area there. Just explain that to folks at home who don't live in border communities and may be hearing different stories about -- about the economic positive -- economic benefits of what happens along the border. Explain that so folks understand.

MARGO: Well, from a trading standpoint, we -- which I've stated before, we have $82 billion -- we're like the tenth or eleventh largest trading port in the United States. We have 82 billion in goods, imports and exports, between here and Mexico. We have 115,000 employees tied to the Michaela Door (ph) program with manufacturing in Mexico. There are 559,000 employees in northern Mexico tied to the Michaela Door (ph) program. And that's where you send raw materials from the United States over to Mexico and in Juarez and they are assembled and manufactured and they come back across and duties are paid on the labor value added. And that's been going on for many years. We are closely tied economically with Mexico. We have families on both sides and we have the economics on both sides.

[09:45:23] SCIUTTO: Mayor Dee Margo, we appreciate you taking the time. It's always good have you on the air and kind of walk us through the facts along the border. We hope to have you back again.

HARLOW: Thank you, mayor.

MARGO: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: A freshman Democratic congresswoman ignited controversy once again for what some are saying were anti-Semitic tweets. So this morning the calls for an apology growing louder, even among some in her own party.


[09:50:13] HARLOW: All right, this morning, first term Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is facing backlash for her remarks that many are pointing to as anti-Semitic. In a series of tweets, Representative Omar suggested a major lobbying group is paying Republican lawmakers in the form of campaign donations in exchange for their support for Israel.

SCIUTTO: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans are pushing for Nancy Pelosi to take action against Omar. Some of her Democratic colleagues as well raising alarm here.

Lauren Fox is following the controversy on Capitol Hill.

What is the latest and is Congresswoman Omar listening to this demand for an apology?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Jim, Ilhan Omar back in the spotlight this morning after those tweets over the weekend about APAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group. She says that because of money that they spend on congressional races, that's the only reason that Republicans and Democrats support Israel.

Now, that caused admonishment from both Republicans and Democrats, including Chelsea Clinton and Democratic Congressman Max Rose. I want to read you what Max Rose said in a statement. He said, Omar's comments are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself. At a time when anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise, our leaders should not be invoking hurtful stereotypes and caricatures of Jewish people.

Former ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, also had a comment for Omar. He said the congresswoman's outrageous comments equating politicians' support for Israel with being bought off by American Jewish money are a vile anti-Semitic trope. They need to be condemned by all in our party.

Now, this already came after the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, said that Democratic leaders needed to rebuke anti-Israel comments from Omar and another Muslim congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib. All of that happening right now on Capitol Hill. We'll be awaiting to see if Omar has any commenting following up on the controversy.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Especially given the calls, you know, from Democrats about Representative Steve King of Iowa and his comments. You know, the question is, are they going ask for, you know, or rebuke her publicly? We'll watch.

Thank you, Lauren.

FOX: Thank you.

HARLOW: Live pictures from Denver where thousands of teachers right now are on strike there demanding higher wages. We're on the ground in Denver, next.


[09:56:54] SCIUTTO: Right now thousands of teachers in Denver are off the job striking over demands for higher pay. You're looking at live pictures there. Similar to scenes we saw in Los Angeles not long before.

HARLOW: Right. And this is just before 8:00 a.m. local time there for them as the school day is kicking off. Many of the teachers say they have to work a second or a third job in addition to teaching just to make ends meet. Some of them getting roommates just to afford their rent.

This strike leaves 92,000 students in the district without teachers.

Scott McLean is in Denver this morning.

What are the teachers saying?


Well, talks broke off over the weekend and this is over money. The district says it has put forward a pretty good proposal that would raise the average teacher's salary more than 10 percent next year to $61,000. But the union says, look, the issue is with how that money is distributed. They don't want it in the form of incentive bonuses or merit bonuses. They want it in terms of base pay.

I have one teach here. His name is Nick Childers. He teaches social studies at this high school, the south high school here in Denver. Nick, you know, a lot of people at home might be wondering, what is

the issue with bonuses? Doesn't that just reward good teachers and not bad ones?

NICK CHILDERS, DENVER HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: Yes, so, unfortunately, bonuses are really variable. And we can't depend on them from year to year. And so I'm out here to support a fair compensation system for all of our teachers. My pay has been too variable over the last several years.

MCLEAN: OK. And so I wonder, we know that the cost of living in Denver has risen dramatically over the last couple of years. How difficult has it been to live on a teacher's salary?

CHILDRES: So, now that I'm married, it's a lot easier. It's a two income household. But when I was single, I was paying about 42 to 43 percent of my take-home salary on rent.

MCLEAN: I wonder what the optics of this look like just because, you know, the district says, look, the average teacher's salary is going to go up more than 10 percent to $61,000. You know, they want to give bonuses based on merit, based on teachers who go to less affluent schools. Do you worry that the public sees that and says, look, these teachers are greedy?

CHILDRES: No, I don't, because what we want are -- is a system that's going to reward teachers that stay in the district over an entire career. And the district's proposal doesn't do the same thing that the unions proposal does in terms of providing steps and lanes across a 20 to 30 year career.

MCLEAN: All right, Nick, we appreciate your time and hopefully this is over soon one way or the other. Appreciate it.


MCLEAN: And so, Jim and Poppy, negotiations there expected to continue on Tuesday.

One other thing, of course, this is going to cause a disruption but maybe not as big of a disruption as you might expect. And that is because the district has actually found nearly 3,000 supply teachers, some central office staff, to fill in the gaps of the more than 5,000 teachers and support staff who might actually walk out today or could potentially walk out today. But a good chunk of that number, they're not actually union members. And so we are expecting that some teachers might actually show up inside the classroom today.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, that was an interesting part of it.

SCIUTTO: That is. No question. So kids get (INAUDIBLE) school.


SCIUTTO: Scott McLean, we know you're going to stay on top of it. Thanks very much.

[09:59:58] HARLOW: All right, top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

It is happening again. Instead of a deal, and that has been the talk as recently as Friday --