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Kellyanne Conway Facing New Questions About Her Husband; Two Marine Pilots Dead Over Helicopter Crash; the SPLC's Internal Struggles; CNN Heroes; Former Nevada Politician Lucy Flores Accuses Joe Biden of Inappropriate Touching; South Texas Faces Mass Release of Migrants; Georgia Lawmakers Pass Controversial Anti-Abortion Bill. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 31, 2019 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:33] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, everyone. Thanks so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

On the heels of a possible 2020 presidential run, former Vice President Joe Biden is defending himself against allegations that he made a woman feel uneasy by allegedly kissing her. Former Nevada assemblywoman Lucy Flores says Biden approached her from behind and kissed the back of her head at a 2014 campaign rally when she was running for lieutenant governor. She recounted her interaction with our own Jake Tapper this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUCY FLORES (D), FORMER NEVADA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: Well, it happened all so suddenly. It's -- you know, anyone who's ever been at a rally recognizes that there is just chaos, there's a lot of energy, that everyone's running back and forth. Eva Longoria was there. We were all lined up next to the stage. Eva was in front of me, Joe was behind me. I'm kind of preparing myself to give these remarks. This is the very last days before the election, and very unexpectedly and out of nowhere, I feel Joe Biden put his hands on my shoulders, get up very close to me from behind, lean in, smell my hair and then plant a slow kiss on the top of my head.

And that in and of itself may not sound like it's a very serious thing. That in and of itself might sound like it was innocent and well intentioned. But in the context of it, as a person that had absolutely no relationship with him afterwards, as a candidate who was preparing to make my case for why I should be elected the second in command of that state, to have the vice president of the United States do that to me so unexpectedly, and just kind of out of nowhere, it was just shocking.

It was shocking because you don't expect that kind of intimate behavior, you don't expect that kind of intimacy from someone so powerful and someone who you just have no relationship whatsoever to touch you and to feel you and to be so close to you in that way. So I frankly just didn't even know how to react. I was just shocked, I felt powerless. I felt like I couldn't move. I just didn't even know how to process it. And my bigger point that I've been making is that in these power

dynamic situations, and women are subjected to this in the political setting, but in work settings all the time, that you just kind of process it and then you move on because you have a job to do. And frankly, what do you say? Who do you tell? Who do you -- there just isn't really a mechanism to deal with it, and so that's what I did. I went on and I made my case, and campaigned and frankly then went on with my life because, again, what do you do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And for the first time, Biden addressed the situation saying in part, "In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, supporting comfort, and not once, never, did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully, but it was never my intention."

Let's bring in CNN's Rebecca Buck who is getting some reaction from the campaign trail -- Rebecca.

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Fred. Multiple 2020 candidates reacting to these allegations against Joe Biden, saying they believe Lucy Flores, but stopping short of saying that the allegations themselves disqualify Vice President Joe Biden from running in 2020. I want you to take a listen to some of these reactions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think that's a decision for the vice president to make. I'm not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody, but her point is absolutely right. This is an issue not just for the Democrats and Republicans, the entire country has got to take seriously. It is not acceptable that when a woman goes to work or is in any kind of environment that she feels anything less than comfortable and safe. And this is an issue the entire country has got to work on.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have no reason not to believe her, Jonathan. And I think we know from campaigns and from politics that people raise issues and they have to address them, and that's what he will have to do with the voters if he gets into the race.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, again, I don't know, aside from this one issue, I haven't -- even this issue, I don't know all the details but I think that's why we have an election. That's that process, but certainly it's very disconcerting, and I think that again women have to be heard and we should really -- we should start by believing them.

[16:05:06] SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe Lucy Flores, and Joe Biden needs to give an answer.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should he not run as a result? WARREN: That's for Joe Biden to decide.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe Lucy Flores. We need to live in a nation where people can hear her truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCK: Now, Fred, it's not clear where this goes from here, how this could impact Biden's presidential bid if he runs for president, if he indeed announces. But you can see from those reactions, just how different this is in the post-Me Too era, when an allegation like this comes out in the context of a presidential campaign. And of course Biden's team taking it very seriously. That is why he himself put out a statement in his name so they're not taking for granted that this will just blow over either -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Rebecca Buck, thank you so much. You know, there are questions about the motive and the timing of Miss Flores' accusations, and she answered that question this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: Assemblywoman Flores, you write in the piece that you wrote for "The Cut," that you know that people might accuse you of being politically motivated here. We should point out, you supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 running for president. He's running again. You attended a Beto O'Rourke campaign event yesterday. You've told us that you haven't endorsed any candidate yet. You haven't decided who you want to support.

But how would you respond to somebody out there who says she's attending a Beto rally, she's supported Bernie in 2016. Politics might be at least partially motivating you here. What would you tell those people?

FLORES: I would say politics was definitely the impetus. The reason why we're having these conversations about Vice President Joe Biden is because he's considering running for president. And frankly the reason why I felt so compelled to finally say something was because over the years as this behavior was documented as it was frankly dismissed by the media and not taken seriously, that conversation was not coming up in the discussions about whether or not he would -- in a complete analysis of his history, of his record as we go through the vetting process for all of these candidates. That important aspect was being left out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Let's bring in Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times" and Elaina Plott who covers the White House for "The Atlantic."

Good to see you, guys. So do you agree, you know, Lynn, that it's been overlooked for a long time? The reason why -- as part of her motivation is really firing a warning shot, letting people know that it should not be dismissed. LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: Well, no

woman's accusation should be dismissed, but the only hope I have when we talk about these cases is to distinguish that everything is not the same. There is a difference between going four miles, five miles over the speed limit, and going 500. And so I think a proportional response, after consideration of finding out what the facts are, is what's called for.

Of course I want to be, and everyone wants to pay attention to an accuser. We have gone through this painful learning curve. But the story that she has to tell is now out there. I guess it goes into the factoring of whether or not Joe Biden, whether or not this will hurt him, coupled with his treatment of Anita Hill back in the day. So this is all part of what may be a narrative and a tougher start for him than he anticipated if he runs for president. But the timing is what -- I take her at her word that she wanted this out before he decided to run.

WHITFIELD: Mm-hmm. And, Elaina, you know, the former vice president's response that he didn't have, you know, any intention, does that clear things up? Does it make matters worse? I mean, where does this go from here?

ELAINA PLOT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC: What's interesting to me, Fred, is that Biden's team has been sort of gaming out his announcement, if he does indeed make one, as this kind of explosion of a buildup of intrigue of sorts. So this really, really complicates that. Not only is it difficult for him to respond to the allegation in and of itself, but to put that statement in the delicate context of not giving away necessarily whether or not he is going to run for president.

That's a dance that they are having to take right now. But to take a pretty clinical view of things, I mean, to kind of remember that Ralph Northam is somebody that pretty much everyone thought would have to resign in the wake of revelations that he wore black face in his yearbook. The fact that that governor is somebody that we don't really talk about anymore, you have to wonder if in today's frenetic news cycle, whether we're even going to be speaking about this next week.

SWEET: Well, the only difference is that Northam, lucky for him, had already been elected to a job for which there is no reelection because of term limits. So he was in a better spot than Biden who probably didn't -- I mean, this is another complexity as you've just mentioned in launching a presidential campaign.

[16:10:10] And you want a candidate to run against Trump if you're a Democrat who has the least amount of baggage, and that's, and that's part of what this big primary field has to be going through now, this kind of vetting, is who is going to be the strongest just to win.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Except, Elaina, you know, as you bring up, you know, are we in a different time, you know, whether it's the news cycle, et cetera, I mean, the current -- the sitting president, I mean, that was quite the bombshell of the "Access Hollywood" tape. He actually admitted to sexually assaulting women, grabbing women, you know, between their legs, and that didn't seem to make a difference, so is the point that you're making that because even of this allegation, it may not make a difference for a Joe Biden? I mean, are these, you know, allegations and admission to be compared? Will they be measured the same -- in the same way?

PLOTT: Well, I think that's why Lynn's point that she made at the beginning of this segment, Fred, it's extremely important, you know, in the post-Me Too era. I think we still tend to view things in a very black and white sense. There's really no gray scale when it comes to assessing different allegations. So this will -- you know, if Joe Biden does run, this will be up to primary voters. But I will point out that the trend we're seeing thus far is not necessarily, as Lynn said, vetting these candidates for who might be best equipped to beat Trump.

It's actually at this point a race to the left. That could very well change next week. But I don't think that voters in the Democratic base at this point are assessing candidates to see who might be the most pragmatic and reasonable figure to take on Donald Trump in 2020.

SWEET: Unless the body politic of Democrats decided that the person who runs furthest to the left is the strongest -- that's the strongest position to take on Trump, which I would be surprised if that's what evolves as a winning formula. But you have a point there that both things could be true at the same time. Yes, the Democrats are vetting as they're looking for a vetted candidate to fit into a more left political frame.

WHITFIELD: And might this be a moment that really helps, you know, magnify a real fissure, a division even within the Democratic Party? I mean, just last hour we were talking about this with two Democrats and one Republican. And the two Democrats saw things very differently, and they even both said that, you know, there may be a generational thing about that, you know, whereas, you know, one generation is saying, while we're familiar with, you know, some of Joe Biden's style, the other one is saying, which just because he got a pass, you know, for a very long time with that style, it may not be acceptable today.

PLOTT: Absolutely. And I do think that fracture is something that's going to become the big story with the Democratic Party moving forward. And also analyzing its roots. The thing about Congress controlled by Republicans is we report ad nauseam about the GOP civil war, but whether or not it's been festering in the Democratic Party as well I think is finally getting the air time it deserves, so it will be worth paying attention to that as we move ahead.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And when we're not talking about style, we're talking about -- in the context of the conversation, it was about the touchy feely. You know, people acknowledging that Joe Biden is touchy feely, a little different from what the allegations is now.

SWEET: Well, right now I would think in this atmosphere, you know, anyone who's prone to touch puts a lot of -- put a clamp on it. And who doesn't think twice now, who might just greet somebody with a hug? That might have been acceptable a few years ago.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: The hands on the shoulders.

SWEET: Be very careful. Yes. People are careful. And I think for the best especially if you are a public figure, and that's a self- regulator on people now that didn't exist a few years ago.

WHITFIELD: All right. Lynn Sweet, Elaina Plott, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much.

SWEET: Thank you.

PLOTT: Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Straight ahead, overwhelmed at the border. Customs and Border Protection says their facilities are well over capacity, and the Trump administration wants to cut aide to three Central American countries. Will that make matters worse along the southern border?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:24] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. President Trump is directing the U.S. State Department to cut off aid to three Central American countries, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. President Trump says those countries set up migrant caravans for entry into America.

Meantime, President Trump is also threatening to shut down parts or all of the border as soon as this week. And announcing he will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border in California this Friday. Meanwhile, his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney telling CNN who he says is to blame.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Look, there's a lot of good ways to help solve this problem. Congress can do it, but they're not going to. Mexico can help us do it, they're need to do a little bit more. Honduras could do more. Nicaragua could do more. El Salvador could do more. And if we're going to give these countries hundreds of millions of dollars, we would like them to do more. That, Jake, I would respectfully submit to you is not a reasonable position. We could prevent a lot of what's happening on the southern border by preventing people from moving into Mexico in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Border officials say they are at a breaking point.

Let's go now to Brownsville, Texas, where a Border Protection facility there is well over capacity.

CNN's Martin Savidge is there at a bus station. So what can you tell us? MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred. Yes, this is

the problem that's quickly spilling over from a crisis from the federal government as far as room for holding all of those migrant families to now an issue that's going to have to be dealt with on the local level. And Brownsville here, the bus station, has become the processing center. Essentially what happens is there's kind of a handoff. Federal officials bring the migrants here, drop them off by the busload, where they're accepted in, and then processed by the city officials as well as by county officials.

[16:20:08] All of this is designed to work as humanely and as quickly as possible. First they try to ascertain what documents these people may have. Second, they try to put them in contact with family members or others that they may have connections to here in the United States. And then they want to begin the traveling process.

The key here is that Brownsville does not want to become a destination and it certainly doesn't want to become a holding center. They have been dealing with hundreds on a daily basis. They could handle up to 1,000 a day. So far it's working. Here's the mayor, Tony Martinez.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR TONY MARTINEZ, BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS: I'm comfortable because what happened is, I've dealt with this issue for a long time now. And I'm not talking about decades, what I'm talking about, you know, a little bit more than a year. And everything that they've sent down our way, we've been able to handle and I'm very, very proud to be honest with you, of my volunteers, of my -- the people, the city people, the community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Transportation isn't the only thing that this community has to worry about, though. On top of that, say some of these migrants aren't able to transport right away or find family right away, they have to be housed. There are shelters that are opening up to take care of them. And then there's the issue of health. Screening for the migrants themselves, protecting the community at large in Brownsville. And it all costs money, money right now, Brownsville is spending on their own -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

Still ahead, it could become one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. Georgia's controversial Heartbeat Bill is now heading to the governor for his signature. The Democrats in Hollywood are taking a stand. More right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:19] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Georgia lawmakers have passed a controversial anti-abortion law known as the Heartbeat Bill. It would ban abortions once doctors detect a fetal heartbeat. As early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Opponents say many women don't even know they're pregnant at that time. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest data shows that in 2015, the abortion rate just over 11 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. That amounts to just over 1 percent.

Georgia's governor who ran on the platform, vowing to enact strict abortion laws says he will sign the legislation and that is already sparking backlash.

Here now is CNN's Christi Paul.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This house has agreed to the Senate's substitute, House Bill 481.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vote by the Georgia State House sends one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bills to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

ERICA THOMAS (D), GEORGIA STATE HOUSE: You do not need to sign this bill because you did this in your first year because you know you are done. You signed the bill, you are done.

PAUL: Known as the Heartbeat Bill, the measure makes it illegal for doctors in the state to perform an abortion once a heartbeat is detected which the bill says is around six weeks. Opponents of the measure saying many women don't even know they are pregnant after six weeks and these restrictions would cause these women undue hardship. Under the bill, victims of rape or incest would be able to still receive an abortion up to 20 weeks if they file an official police report.

JEN JORDAN (D), GEORGIA STATE SENATE: What gives this body the right to substitute its choices for those of the women who will no doubt bear the scars, the consequences and who will face death, and now likely prison. It is not for the government or the men of this chamber to insert itself in the most personal, private and wrenching decisions.

PAUL: Governor Brian Kemp has said he will sign the bill into law. And after lawmakers voted, he tweeted this, "Georgia values life. We stand up for the innocent and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. The legislature's bold action reaffirms our priorities and who we are as a state."

Now Kemp's opponent in the 2018 gubernatorial elections, Stacey Abrams, also reacted, tweeting this, "With one horrible exception, George didn't jeopardize stability, opportunity and leadership for dangerous legislation that treats the lives of women as political pawn. The film industry is now integral to our economy."

But if the governor signs the bill into law as he said he would, the state faces some backlash from Hollywood. Actors Alec Baldwin, Rosie O'Donnell, Mia Farrow and Sean Penn earlier this month joined over 40 others in opposition to the measure, sending a letter to the governor, urging him to veto the bill and if not for companies to pull TV and film projects from the state. "We cannot in good conscience continue to recommend our industry remain in Georgia if HB-481 becomes law."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And that was CNN's Christi Paul reporting.

So Democrats say they are mobilizing against the state GOP. The ACLU said it will go to court if Governor Kemp signs the bill.

No other state has been able to put a heartbeat bill into practice. An Iowa judge struck down that state's fetal heartbeat bill declaring it unconstitutional.

So let's talk further about this. With me now is Nikema Williams. She is a Georgia state senator, the first vice chair of the Georgia State Democratic Party and the public policy director for Planned Parenthood.

Thanks so much for being with me.

NIKEMA WILLIAMS, FIRST VICE CHAIR, GEORGIA STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Actually now the chairwoman of the Democratic Party?

WHITFIELD: And the chair -- you got so many titles. It's hard to keep up. Congratulations on all of that. All right. So you oppose this bill. Why Have you so many titles, hard to keep up. You oppose this bill, why?

WILLIAMS: I do, I oppose this bill. I know that, first, it's blatantly unconstitutional. Beyond that no two pregnancies are the same. I have a three-year-old son, and so I know what it's like to be a pregnant woman and not knowing that I was even pregnant at six weeks.

And women choose abortion for a number of reasons. One in four women before the age of 45 will decide to have an abortion. And they choose this for different reasons. And it's not my place or the government's role to insert themselves in such a personal, private medical decision. And we need to make sure that we're giving women more access.

Right now, Georgia has the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. But we're taking away access from care. Half of our counties have no OBGYN. And we want to force the government's role into the middle of a personal, private medical decision.

WHITFIELD: So as far we know, the governor has yet to sign this. But the ACLU has already launched, you know, a lawsuit. They are challenging this in court. Is that what you and other opponents of this (Inaudible) bill are counting on?

WILLIAMS: Well, we're still rallying our troops. I know that advocacy matters. But Brian Kemp told us exactly who he was when he was running for governor. And I am a firm believer when people tell you who they are, we should believe him. So I have no doubt that he's going to sign this law, this horrific law into -- this measure into law. And we're going to be ready to sue and fight back at every angle to make sure that women still have access.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. He promised on the campaign trail to have a very stiff, you know, piece of legislation as it pertains to abortion, something of this caliber. So now, you've got a huge industry in Georgia, the film industry speaking out. Hollywood stars, you saw in (Inaudible), and you also have now, you know, Alyssa Milano, an actress who tweeted this after the bill passed.

There are over 20 productions shooting in Georgia. And the state just voted to strip women of their bodily autonomy. Hollywood, we should stop feeding Georgia economy. Do you think that is going to be leverage for this state?

WILLIAMS: I think people are really thinking hard about it. We saw when North Carolina passed measures around the religious liberty laws, that the NCAA pulled out of the state and other industry pulled out. And so Georgians should be very afraid. And I hope that Governor Kemp is listening. If we continue to tout that we're the number one state to do business, we need to make sure that we're welcoming for businesses. And that includes the women in the industry that are coming here.

WHITFIELD: So potentially, it -- the industry and speaking out in this manner of tweet, other statements would need to influence -- have the ear of the governor. Do you believe that he could be influenced by an industry that has grown in Georgia, that is one of the -- really has helped propel the economy.

WILLIAMS: We've given Georgia tax credits year after year to the film industry. And so I don't see how someone who is leaving the state and trying to grow our economy and giving tax credits to the industry would not then listen to what would push them and force them out of our state.

WHITFIELD: All right. Georgia State Senator, Nikema WilliamS, thanks so much for coming in.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. She is one of President Trump's top advisers. But Kellyanne Conway can't seem to shake questions about her husband, George Conway, who has been a frequent critic of her boss, the latest response next.

[16:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Kellyanne Conway facing fresh questions today over her husband's relentless criticism of her boss, President Trump. Mr. Conway, a conservative lawyer, has been outspoken over Trump's policies and behavior. And just last week, he penned an op-ed calling the president guilty of being unfit for office. And today on a Sunday talk show when pressed on the issue, the White House adviser, Kellyanne Conway, snapped back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More people ask me to ask you about this than any other question. You know where I am headed here.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you do. This is the state of your marriage with George Conway. I am going to put up some of the things that your husband has said about President Trump. Just this month, March 5th, wherever he goes and whatever he does, Trump will always be summa cum liar. Let me try that again, always be summa cum liar.

March 19th, once someone understands narcissistic personality disorder, they understand you. March 26th, if the charge were on fitness for office, the verdict would already be in, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Here's how the president responded.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know him. He's a whack job. There's no question about it about it. And I call him Mr. Kellyanne. The fact is that he's doing a tremendous disservice to a wife and family. She's a wonderful woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is your husband attacking your boss?

CONWAY: Well, you can ask my husband. But it doesn't affect my job, because my job is to be counsel to the president and do the best job I can do to provide...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that he is -- come on, you've obviously thought about this. Do you think he's cyber-bullying you to try to get you to quit? Do you think he's jealous of your high profile?

CONWAY: Some people think that. They certainly do. My first line of protection in this world is and will always be my four children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally, and you have said that you believe that this has hurt your four children. And understandably, nobody would want to see their mom and dad fighting out in public.

CONWAY: That's not true. Some people would like us to fight. Some people take a little bit too much glee over this situation.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess the question I have to ask, bottom line, final question, has this hurt your marriage?

CONWAY: Chris, what are you, Oprah now? I mean what am I on a couch and you're a psychiatrist? I think that's a really inappropriate question, here's why. That's the line over which nobody should have crossed. So if you want to talk about policy issues, policy disagreements, the fact that my -- George Conway, my husband, would prefer that I not work in the White House.

[16:40:07] I guess can you ask those questions. The president has weighed in. I have weighed in, as modestly as I can. But now, you're asking a very personal question. And I would say to you, you should go ask it of many people. Because I have seen messy lives living in glass houses all over both cities in which I...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would only point out -- and look, this is not something I am comfortable talking about.

CONWAY: Well, I am surprised you would ask about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president did call him the husband from hell.

CONWAY: Well, I am just surprised that people would ask that question. I have seen home-wreckers on TV, as marital experts all of a sudden. It's very amusing to me. But I think people know they crossed the line when they're talking about people's marriages, all of this stuff about leave us alone in my private life. My family has a right to their private life also.

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: I have people who are 14, 14, 11, and 9, and the reason that this gets so much coverage, particularly by the mainstream media, is because George Conway now agrees with them. He shares their views...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kellyanne...

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: But you know what? If you read George's op-ed in the Washington Post, the headline didn't match the op-e. He was talking about the Mueller report, the Barr memo. And I think that they just -- (Inaudible) -- and people should have thought thrice before they crossed this certain line over the last...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kellyanne, you know, as I said, I am not comfortable asking it. It is what people are talking about. If I offended you, I am sorry.

CONWAY: I am sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Oh, man, ouch. OK, Lynn Sweet, Elaina Plott are back with us. Oh, man, that is so uncomfortable, isn't it? OK, so Lynn, you know, George Conway is putting it out there. I mean, you know, yes, they are public people and yes they have their privacy. But when he continues to tweet, you know, Kellyanne Conway is, you know, arguing that it's inappropriate to go there. Is it?

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: And not that anyone should take their eyes away from this incredible segment that we're doing here. But Conway just tweeted again, 49 minutes ago, taking on Trump with another round. So whatever was the impact of the latest interview of his wife, it did not stop him. So we have so many things we could go here, which is I do think it's fascinating.

I thought Kellyanne Conway handled herself well. Reporters are supposed to ask touch questions. We do it all the time. And I thought that Chris did a fine job of going there because they are public figures. And public figures are asked personal things all the time. Now, getting to the substance, what's it like to be them? Wouldn't we all want to be a fly on the wall?

WHITFIELD: Right, right. And, you know, I don't know. There were a lot of things to pick up on there, Elaina. I mean she kept referring to him not only as my husband but, you know, George Conway. You know -- and is George Conway, you know, attacking the president solely or is he also, you know, attacking her, you know, indirectly by taking stabs at, you know, her boss.

I mean the president of the United States and rather undermining her role. She's an adviser to the president.

ELAINA PLOTT, THE ATLANTIC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think you hit the nail on the head, Fred, as to why this story actually is important, not just sort of side show gossip. I mean at this point, we've had the president of the United States, the leader of the free world weighing in on the marriage of his counselor and her husband. I mean this is something that clearly is taking up head space for him, and thus something that journalists should be paying attention to.

So I do think questions like from somebody like Chris Wallace are entirely fair. As to the motivations of George Conway, these -- who he is actually attacking when he tweets, I don't think any of us are ever really going to know the answer to that. But I do think it gets to kind of the crazy mechanisms of the beltway, when you talk to sources in the White House.

And they even speculate to me that this might be just a way for Kellyanne to redeem herself after the Trump White House to have an ally on the other side, if you will. But those -- that's sort of the 4D chess that always accompanies stories like this. And I just think when it comes to what the president is talking about at the moment, that's what I think should be most interesting to people.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. And Lynn, I mean Washington is loaded with lots of power couples, you know, who maybe of, you know, opposing political persuasions. I mean it wasn't necessarily the case with George Conway and Kellyanne Conway, just, you know, there's parting of the sea as a result of President Trump. But, I mean, is there -- I mean I guess -- does Kellyanne Conway have to poise herself with a different way in which to handle it?

Because she has to expect that more questions are going to come as active as her husband continues to be.

[16:44:52] SWEET: Right. And so every interview that Kellyanne Conway gets isn't always about deep substance and policy. And she knows that. She was very good and is very good at deflection. She is totally great at deflecting questions. But she engaged a little bit. What makes this different is that this is a couple who come out of a common conservative Republican (Inaudible).

They don't oppose each other. This is different, because this specifically is calling out President Trump. It's not because of a difference of a position or ideology or...

WHITFIELD: And she is in a position of defending the president, whether it's his policy, his behavior, everything. I mean it's just -- all of it, she's out there, you know, on the frontline for the president. And George Conway is essentially -- I mean he's critical of the president in all of those categories. And she has to then spin it.

SWEET: And go home to it every night. And -- so the marriages are things that only -- it's often said that only the people in them really understand each other. And the question, when you looked at her answers today, is this something that she really is irritated at? I got a little bit of that vibe, didn't you?

WHITFIELD: I did by George Conway. I mean it wasn't my husband. You know not my sweetie, my hubby, or whatever.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: I think it hit a nerve, yeah it did. All right, Lynn Sweet, Elaina Plott, thanks so much. Good to see you ladies.

PLOTT: Thanks, Fred.

SWEET: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Tonight, find out the answer to the question who is Tricky Dick? Catch an all new episode of the CNN original series, Tricky Dick, tonight 9:00 right here on CNN.

[16:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: This is breaking news. Two marine pilots have been killed in a helicopter crash near Yuma, Arizona. Both pilots were on a routine training mission last night as part of a weapons and tactics instructor course. Their names are being withheld for now, the cause of the crash still under investigation. The Southern Poverty Law Center is known for championing social justice, tracking hate groups, defending civil rights, and even taking the KKK to court.

But now, the group is facing its own internal struggles. A co-founder was fired, and now the president is stepping down amid accusations of discrimination. Here's CNN's Nick Valencia.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, this goes to show you that no one is immune from these types of allegations, not even the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to a source, the current conflict at the SPLC hit a boiling point, when earlier this month a highly-respected African-American attorney resigned, and in her resignation letter, brought up the issues with the culture at the SPLC.

And according to a source, the legendary organization that for decades has fought for equal rights in America, couldn't even guarantee those equal rights for its own staff.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jews will not replace us.

VALENCIA: Since its inception, the group has fought for equal rights against some of the more infamous hate groups of our generation, like the KKK. But two current employees told CNN the Southern Poverty Law Center fell short in guaranteeing quality for its own staff. The employees we spoke to would not go on camera out of fear of retaliation.

But one told CNN the SPLC suffers from a systemic culture of racism and sexism within its workplace. A second employee agreed. It's an environment, one of the sources says, where black employees are not being promoted despite being qualified. A workplace where a woman is made to feel she is not seen or heard. Said one employee, my boss only hires white people. But now, some employees say the group has to practice what they preach.

It's bad. One employee speaking on condition of anonymity said the rank and file are deeply divided. The employee describes the current upheaval at the SPLC as a resolution against the organizations longtime leadership initiated by employees. Tired of seeing the pervasive culture exist and go and challenge by those in charge.

The SBLC declined CNN's request for an interview. They did not respond to the specific claims made by some of their employees to CNN. But they did send this response from its Board of Director's Chair, Bryan Fair. We acknowledge and take very seriously the significant concerns that our talented and deeply committed staff has raised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the Law Center, we see the solutions to these issues involving race injustice as not simple.

VALENCIA: The claims come after the firing of co-founder Morris Dees on March 13th. The SPLC says the 82-year-old was terminated after two separate investigations into alleged misconduct. They would not be more specific, citing privacy and personnel matters. Hi, Morris, my name is Nick Valencia. Dees did not respond to multiple attempts to reach him about his termination.

An SPLC spokeswoman said, in a statement regarding Dees firing, no one, no matter that person's position at the SPLC will be exempt from scrutiny and accountability. After Dees came the resignation of Richard Cohen, the longtime president of the organization. Cohen did not return calls. In a staff email, Cohen stepped down after 16 years at the helm.

We've heard from our staff that we need to do a better job of making sure that our workplace embodies the values we espouse, truth, justice, equity, and inclusion, he wrote. While some of sources have been critical of the culture at the SPLC, they acknowledge that the organization has done important work in shedding light on extremism.

CNN spoke to one woman who said a lot of the claims were greatly exaggerated. I am completely happy here. We have many women in leadership. But in recent days, the SPLC's female legal director also resigned, but she would not comment.

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[16:55:01] VALENCIA: One current employee that we spoke to at the SPLC cited the recent hiring by the board of directors of Tina Chen as a step in the right direction. Chen will investigate all aspects and operations at the SPLC, and she is said to be an expert in counseling companies on gender inequity, sexual harassment, and lack of diversity in the workplace. We understand from those sources that the SPLC that those meetings in Montgomery, Alabama are already underway, Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Nick. Now, let's meet this week's CNN Hero, Kerry Brodie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we're teaching our students isn't just knife skills and it isn't just cooking. It's the idea that you are human and you have value. And that's something that people have tried to strip away from others for such a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the dream team cooking up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Samba cake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Samba cake, awesome. That experience of watching our student's transform, of seeing our students really come into their own inspires me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And to learn more about Kerry's program, and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero, go to CNNHeroes.com. And thank you so much for being with me this weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We have so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom with Ana Cabrera. And it all starts right after this.

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