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U.S.A.G. Acts as the President's Personal Attorney; Trump Administration Refuse to Join Fight Against Violence; LGBTQ Community and Black People Within the World of Their Own; 2020 Race; Howard Stern Under Fire for 1994 Video of Him Wearing Black Face, Using N- word; Faith and Perseverance After Superstorm Sandy; CNN Heroes. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 17, 2019 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

What happens to people who move into the president's orbit? Are they willing to risk their reputations to satisfy his demands or do they end up showing their true beliefs and their true selves?

Tonight, we're looking at the big picture and a good place to start is the Attorney General William Barr. Because many in Washington, and frankly, around the country are asking, does President Trump finally have the attorney general he's wanted from day one, an A.G. who is going to do the president's bidding? And is Barr acting more like Trump's personal attorney rather than the chief law enforcement officer for the United States of America.

Barr going on Fox News, where else, and ferreting the president's specious claim that he was spied on.


BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You also said back in April that you thought there was spying going on in the Trump campaign. When do you think that start?

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm not going to speculate about when it started. We're going to find out when it started. I've been trying to get answers to questions and I found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate.

And I've also found that some of the explanations I've gotten don't hang together. So, in a sense, I have more questions today than I did when I first started.


LEMON: Did you hear about this? Chris Wallace of Fox News is now saying that Barr, quote. "clearly is protecting this president and advocating his point of view."

And this breaking news. The former FBI director James Comey calling out Barr tweeting that he should, quote, "stop sliming his own department."

As you can see there's a lot to discuss. Susan Glasser is here, as well as Max Boot. Max is the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I left the Right."

Hello to both of you. Thank you for coming on this evening. max, I'm going to start with you. The former FBI director James Comey just tweeted out tonight. I read a small part of it but let me give you the whole thing.

"The A.G. should stop sliming his own department. If there are bad facts, show us, or search for them professionally, and then tell us what you found. An A.G. must act like the leader of the Department of Justice, an organization based on truth, Donald Trump has enough spokespeople."

I mean, that is pretty scathing, Max, pretty scathing comments, unprecedented, really to have this kind of open war of words.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. And I think Comey is absolutely right. I mean, I think that Barr's conduct, Don, is just despicable. Just when you think it couldn't possibly get worse, it does get worse.

I mean, today, you know, with the interview that you were just playing a clip of from Fox News and the comments that he made to Wall Street journal, Barr is basically endorsing Donald Trump's conspiracy theories about the FBI spying on him, about this being a witch hunt, with Barr sawing that he could well understand why Donald Trump would see this as a witch hunt.

That is ridiculous. This is -- this assassination campaign against the FBI that Donald Trump has launched to besmirch their reputation, and you know, the head of the Justice Department is supposed to stand up for the people who work for him. He is supposed to stand up for the men and women of the FBI. He's not supposed to fling them overboard so they can cozy up to the president of the United States.

And so, what Barr is doing I think is just terrible. I mean, this is -- I've never seen worse misconduct by an attorney general. I mean, if -- you know, he is -- if there was a less partisan Senate, he would deserve to be impeached.

LEMON: One more question before I get to Susan. Do you think that we need hear from Robert Mueller now to at least try to put some of this on -- this ongoing fight -- fighting here?

BOOT: Yes, we definitely do. But it looks like the administration is trying to block Mueller from testifying even though Barr has said it's up to Mueller whether he wants to testify. That looks like not to be accurate.

Because there was just a news report today that Mueller is waiting for a ruling from the Office of Legal Counsel as to whether he can testify whether they're going to claim executive privilege, whether they are going to claim that there's things that he can't testify about. So, this is absurd and there's no reason why Mueller should put up

with it. He does not need to remain as a Justice Department employee. He can just quit and then testify. And I think it is imperative for him to do that right now.

LEMON: Yes. Susan, the attorney general, William Barr, doubling down without any evidence saying that there was unauthorized spying on the Trump campaign. He also defended the president's use of the word witch hunt to describe the Russia investigation.

[23:04:58] Why is the nation's top law enforcement officer fueling conspiracy theories?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Don, we may not know the answer to that. But I do think what we know is that this is an extraordinary breach of protocol and almost certainly of department regulations as well.

The nation's chief law enforcement officer, as you said, is not only not supposed to be felling conspiracy theories but there's an ongoing investigation which he himself has ordered up arguably for questionable political reasons. But nonetheless, there's an ongoing investigation. He shouldn't be commenting on it at all.

That's not appropriate. And if it was anyone else, he'd be screaming bloody murder. It's just an unbelievable breach, not just of norms but I believe of his own standard of conduct.

The attorney general of the United States is not supposed to be doing this, number one. Number two, I think Max is absolutely correct that in any other circumstance the Senate would be looking into this as an enormous breach of protocol and potentially an impeachable offense in and of itself of the attorney general. It's astonishing.

LEMON: Well, Susan, I mean, it is so obvious it is blindly partisan. I mean, look, he chose to do an interview with -- and I don't mean Bill Hemmer. I'm talking about on Fox News. He doesn't go on other networks. And take tougher questions about why he's doing it.

He said one thing during the confirmation hearings and then ends up ferreting the president's conspiracy theories. It's just, it's blatant. It's just obvious.

GLASSER; Well, look, I think first of all, it is of course nakedly partisan. But again, it's even more insidious than that it strikes me, Don, in the sense that it really attacks directly the legitimacy of our entire system of justice. Right?

To have the nation's chief law enforcement officer talking about crazy conspiracy theories on a TV network in the middle of an investigation. Essentially, you're just saying the system of justice is broken and it no longer functions in an independent and neutral way. The process is dead.

LEMON: Yes. Max, a lot of people gave Barr the benefit of the doubt when he got to the DOJ because of his long and reputable career in -- well, most of the time. There were some questions during the Bush administration. Didn't you give him the benefit of the doubt as well in the beginning?

BOOT: Yes, absolutely.


BOOT: Because I naively thought that he would want to uphold his reputation. He would not want to incinerate his reputation on the altar of Donald Trump, and clearly, I misjudged him.

LEMON: Well, that was -- that's my question then, Max. We have seen how he has changed in Trump's orbit. Why does -- why does this happen to people close to this president?

BOOT: That's a great question, Don. I mean, Rick Wilson has said, everything Trump touches dies.


LEMON: Did I stump you, Max? I've never seen you at loss for word?

BOOT: Yes. I mean, that's a great question. I mean, it's like some kind of force field that emanates from Donald Trump that causes people around them that warps their moral judgment, that warps their good sense.

And you would think that people like, somebody like Bill Barr who's been around Washington his whole life would be relatively immune from it but he is not. And perhaps, there is some people have suggested that he has an ideological commitment to presidential power at all cost, at least when the president is a Republican.

But this is, you know, I'm at a loss to explain it frankly. I mean, what he is doing is so bad, so heinous. It's not just bad for the country. It's bad for him. It's bad for his own reputation. Why is he doing this, why is not upholding the law, when is he not standing up for the Justice Department that he has led -- now leading for the second time in his life? It's truly puzzling.

But all we know for sure is that he is acting in a way that no attorney general should act. And there are a lot of people around Donald Trump that act in a way that no government employee should act. They act -- they're not acting as representatives of the people. They're acting as Donald Trump's henchman and that is wrong.

LEMON: Well, maybe they're just showing us who they are. And maybe this is just who Bill Barr is.

BOOT: Yes.

LEMON: Susan, I want to get the --


BOOT: Well. No, I did write that, just, Don, I will say, I did write in 2016 that I thought that Donald Trump was going to be a character test for the republican Party. And sadly, almost the entire party has failed that test. And you're seeing Bill Barr failing on a daily basis.

LEMON: I'm very impressed there. So, I want to get to the news now, Susan. That while Michael Flynn was cooperating with Mueller, he contacted the Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, a big Mueller critic. And here's what he said. He said "to keep the pressure on." He even sent eagle -- an eagle and a flag GIFs the day Barr was confirmed. Why would he do that?

GLASSER: You know, you keep wanting understandably to get inside the heads of these folks. I can't begin to get inside their heads. But these actions are extraordinary. They speak to, you know, a kind of willingness to use an abuse the traditions of American independent law enforcement for Donald Trump's personal aim in a way that is something really, really extraordinary and unusual.

[23:10:03] And I think Max's point and your point is right. Donald Trump is like an X-ray machine for those around him. And you know, you see this sort of naked ambition. Whatever it is that is driving people to do things that are just wholly outside the previous norms of American politics.

And I just come back to the fact that it's undermined our credibly overall of our justice system because, you know, one minute they're attacking the Mueller investigation. The next it's being hailed. The next minute we're investigating the investigators, and the net result I think for ordinary people looking at the spectacle is just to say this system is broken, it's rigged.

Even the people at the top of it don't believe in it, don't believe in the credibility. So, what is the message that you're sending to the American people? And in contrast, by the way, the behavior of Attorney General Barr with that of the FBI director Christopher Wray.

And I think right there you see the difference between somebody who is observing the norms of government, not speaking out in the middle of an ongoing investigation, versus somebody who's just decided to kind of go along with Trump's blowing up of the system.

LEMON: Yes. Well, I always say, you know, it's a cliche but it's true, what goes around comes around. If there happens to be a Democratic president in office next time, it's going to be interesting to watch. All hell will break loose.

Thank you. I appreciate it. Have a great -- have a great weekend to both of you.

The president refusing to join the Christchurch call for action the pact to fight extremist violence. I'm going to talk to a woman who is doing everything she can to fight that fight. The mother of Heather Heyer who lost her life in Charlottesville, Susan Bro is here, next.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: The Trump administration refusing this week to join an international pact that aims to fight spread of hate and extremism on social media.

I want to talk about this now with Susan Bro. Her daughter, Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist in Charlottesville in 2017. Mrs. bro, we're so happy that you're here. Thank you so much. And you lost --


SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER'S MOTHER: Thank you. It's an honor to be here.

LEMON: Absolutely. You lost your daughter at the hands of a neo-Nazi in Charlottesville. Many of those same extremists discussed, marketed, promoted that rally online before it took place. Now the administration won't join an international effort to fight this. How does that make you feel?

BRO: Honestly, I'm not surprised. I'm not sure how much to say beyond that but I'm not surprised.

LEMON: It is strange times we're living in, and, you know, during the break I ask you, I said how are you doing and your answer was? You said this is your new normal.

BRO: I don't remember, I'm sorry.

LEMON: No, I understand. You said this is your new normal.

BRO: Well, it is. Yes.

LEMON: Talk to us about that.

BRO: My new normal is -- well, here it is 11 o'clock at night and I'm in a portable studio because I'm willing to do that when I think it's important and I will drive to D.C. and talk to members of Congress if they want. And I will work late into the evening. I will get up early. I've been known to work all sorts of evening, weekends, whatever.

I don't have a nine to five job. I don't have a steady paycheck. I don't have any semblance of a normal life now. I am unique suited to not having a normal life. I've always been accused of not being able to hold to a schedule anyway. So, in some ways I was made for this job but it's not a job I asked for, it's not something I wanted.

LEMON: You said it was important to you. What do you want people to know? Why is it so important?

BRO: I want people to be aware that hate has consequence. That when we start with the ugly rhetoric, when we start trying to label people as us and them, that there are consequences to that. There are natural consequences to that. And that leads to violence. Violence leads to death. I mean, that's what killed my daughter. LEMON: You testified on Capitol Hill about white supremacist violence

just a couple of days ago. And I just want to play a little bit of that and then we'll have a discussion. Watch this.


BRO: I have been given a huge platform across the country. In some forms even around the world because I'm white. And many black parents lose their children, many Muslim parents lose their children, Jewish parents lose their children and nobody pays attention.

And because we have this myth of the sacredness of the white female, I've been given a platform. So, I'm going to keep using that platform to keep drawing the attention back to where the issues are.


LEMON: I am so grateful to you for doing what you're doing. And I want to ask you, what is the number one thing you would like to see this administration do, Ms. Bro?

BRO: I would like this administration to not only give -- to not only say that they decry hatred, that they decry extremism, that they decry people acting hatefully towards one another but also to give that example of not doing those things.

[23:19:58] LEMON: The FBI -- the FBI director Christopher Wray just last week told the House appropriation committee that white nationalist violence is a persistent and pervasive threat. Do you believe the Trump administration has emboldened white supremacy and far-right extremism?

BRO: I personally couldn't tell you one way or the other. But I will tell you that the extremists themselves say that he has given them a platform. That he has given them a nod, a wink, a go ahead and given them a rise and approval that they haven't had for many years. Those are words from David Duke, Richard Spencer and others.

LEMON: If the president were watching, what would you say to him?

BRO: Well, I've always said the same things that I say to the president, which are, number one, always think before you speak. Always tell the truth. And be accountable for your actions.

The same thing I would say to fifth graders, the same thing I try to say to myself. It's just a basic tenet of being a decent human being.

LEMON: Susan Bro, we appreciate your time and we thank you for standing up and doing what is right. And we are deeply sorry for your loss. Thank you for coming on tonight.

BRO: Thank you so much. Thank you.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Pete Buttigieg making some very interesting comments out on the campaign trail about the LGBTQ and African-American communities.

And I want to discuss them tonight with Aisha Moodie-Mills, Tara -- and Alice Stewart, and Tara Setmayer. Hello. Good to have all of you on this evening. So, I'm going to start with you,

Aisha. Because in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Mayor Buttigieg was asked if he believes African-Americans resent the rather quick assimilation of LGBTQ into the mainstream? He -- here's how he answered.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You look at the trajectory of equality for LGBT people and you compare it to the struggle that is going on for black America to this day and you got to ask the question. How come one moves so quickly and the other is plotting along generationally at such a slow pace.

And as somebody who is part of, you know, a group of people that's been pushed to the side in one way, I think I have that much more responsibility to be there to stand up to people who are on the wrong side of racism.


LEMON: What do you think of what he's saying?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that Pete is doing his best to really have empathy and to understand the plight of black Americans and I think that that's a great thing. So, I have done a lot of work at that intersection of being black and being LGBTQ. It's actually been my career --


LEMON: But that's a real question.

MOODIE-MILLS: -- by the --

LEMON: And I have to commend you for --


MOODIE-MILLS: And I thought that that was deep.

LEMON: -- asking that question because that is -- listen, I'm in both ways.

MOODIE-MILLS: It's a -- yes.

LEMON: As are you, correct?




LEMON: So, but that is a real question.



MOODIE-MILLS: I mean, it is deep. And I think that, you know, the question remains. I think that Pete did a pretty good job responding to it. I think the question remains can he actually connect with African-Americans in a way that isn't just me too, me too, but actually, I understand what our differences are and I empathize with what's happening in your community because I get it. I don't know if there yet, but I really believe that he authentically is trying.

LEMON: Yes. So, yes. The question will be -- I'll get to you guys in just a second. But the question is going to be why didn't he do that before? No, that's what people are asking. Why now?

MOODIE-MILLS: Yes. Yes. I mean, that is always going to be the question, right? And so --


LEMON: So, at 37 years old, why not? Why don't you have these connections with people?

MOODIE-MILLS: Right. And he was asked previously actually why he came out as late as he did. Right? So, here's the thing. You can't reinvent the past.

LEMON: Right.

MOODIE-MILLS: And I think that everybody has their reasons for doing things in their own time. My question is, what is he going to do moving forward?

LEMON: Right.

MOODIE-MILLS: That's what I care most about. We can debate like hey, guy, or you know, what are your motivations? But I think it's about what are going to do moving forward.

LEMON: But also, I mean, if you're going to run for president of the United States, you have to expect these questions. Right?


LEMON: Right. So, Tara, look, there's a long way to go toward full tolerance and equality. But, I mean, do you believe that he is right that there is a discrepancy between the relatively quick progress that the LGBTQ community or people have made and the progress of the black community? TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean -- I think

that's a tough question. A tough way to -- how do you necessarily quantify that? But I do think that he's doing a really good job of making an effort.

Because he knows that he has a problem here. And politically, you know, he -- even though he's been polling quite well, he's been polling terribly with black Americans for a couple of reasons. I think a lot of people just don't know who he is yet.

But also, because he hasn't really spoken to issues that the black community cares about and the issues that he has like, with policing and things, he had incidents when he -- as mayor of South Bend that didn't look very good to the black community initially.

But -- and he needs to make sure that he cans resonate if he thinks he's going to get past South Carolina in the primaries given that they're third in line. You got, you know, New Hampshire, Iowa, which are predominantly white and then you have South Carolina which has a predominantly black electorate in South Carolina.

[23:30:00] So he also knows just politically, empirically that he has to start making some inroads and getting people to listen to him. And the fact that he is so intelligent and thoughtful, I think he is, you know, warming people up to what he has to say.

But he needs to do a little bit of a better job, speaking more specifics to issues that the African-American community cares about directly. And he has a 27-point plan out now, so that's a start.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So, Alice, listen, Mayor Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, received some surprising support today from the president. This is Trump on Buttigieg's status as a married gay man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you think it's just great to see that you have a guy there on the stage with his husband and it's normal.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's absolutely fine. I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is it a sign of great progress in the country that that's just --

TRUMP: Yeah. I think that's great. I think that's something that perhaps some people will have a problem with. I have no problem with it whatsoever.


LEMON: So, it's interesting that, you know, we see the president's more progressive social roots showing. How is that going to land with his more socially conservative supporters?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It will land just as it did when he ran for election in 2016 and run the White House. Look, it is no surprise that he is going to be more beholden to his promises to the social evangelicals than his nod to the LGBT community.

And I think everyone knew all along that President Trump and candidate trump was more socially liberal than most normal conservative candidates that are running on the Republican ticket. This is not a surprise.

But at the end of the day, he can say that on television, which I think gets a lot of good press from the LGBT community. But in terms of following through on exactly what it will do in terms of a policy standpoint, we all recognize the fact that nothing will change.

Mike Pence is someone that will be forefront on that issue, will continue to be the leader on the social evangelical wing of the Donald Trump administration, will continue to push for traditional marriage and issues that are more along the traditional marriage standpoint, and he will represent this administration.

I think a lot of people are not surprised by what the president said. He just had the opportunity to say it out loud.

LEMON: Pete Buttigieg responded, and he said it was lip service.

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. Here is the thing. The president has been a complete hypocrite in a lot of ways his entire presidency so far. So he can say, oh, I don't care about the fact that he's married.

But everything that he has done in his administration from day one in terms of the people that he has appointed, obviously the vice president that he chose, hanging out with Steve Bannon, everything that he has done has been anti-LGBTQ.

In fact, he put LGBTQ youth at risk in schools because he pulled back some safeguards at the Obama administration, the military transgender ban and on and on. So, it is all lip service.

LEMON: I got to run. Thank you very much. I appreciate all of you. So, coming up, we are going to talk Howard Stern and the N-word and black face.


LEMON: Radio host Howard Stern facing tough questions on "The View" yesterday about the N-word and his show. Watch this.


SUNNY HOSTIN, LAWYER: I was in college in the '80s, and I found your show so offensive.



HOSTIN: That's what I figured.


HOSTIN: You were a shock jock. You were a shock jock. You used the N- word a lot.

STERN: I used the N-word?

HOSTIN: Yeah, you did.

STERN: Wait a second. Hold on. I didn't say that.

HOSTIN: I do. I remember it.

STERN: Hold on.


STERN: No. We had a guy on from the Ku Klux Klan --


STERN: -- who very freely used the N-word --


STERN: -- and my belief was hey, say it out in the open --


STERN: I didn't use the N-word. Let's be very clear.



LEMON: But there is recently unearthed video he starred in back in 1994, one of the shows on television. Howard Stern is dressed in black face and using the N-word.

Let's discuss now with W. Kamau Bell, the host of "United Shades of America" here on CNN. Kamau, it is good to see you. So, listen, "The View" -- we're not going to show the video, right, because you can't.


LEMON: But it's Howard Stern who's dressed up as Ted Danson. Remember Ted Danson went to the Friar's Roast in black face and Sherman Helmsley from "Movin on Up"? He is playing Whoopi. And so I'm wondering -- listen, it was a show. It was in 1994. What's your take on this?

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: I mean this is certainly not breaking news. Howard Stern is occasionally offensive. I kind of think this is Howard Stern's brand. I think there's a lot of talk right now of comedians being afraid to be offensive. It is like -- there are some comedians where their brand is to be offensive, so you can't really take them down.

I mean, people try to take Howard Stern down regularly in the 90s and finally they were like we'll just put him on satellite radio, give him a billion dollars, and let him cook. So I think that the idea that we would unearth tape of Howard Stern saying something offensive, you know, I think it's ridiculous.

LEMON: I mean I have to admit, I am a Howard Stern super fan. I'm not part of the whack pack, but I'm a Howard Stern super fan. I listen to him because he is the best interviewer out there. He has evolved over the years. He is still edgy, not quite as controversial as he used to be, Kamau.

[23:40:04] The thing is, was black face ever acceptable or are we looking at 1994, things that happened in the '90s through a 2019 lens? What do you think?

BELL: I mean he knew by using black face that he was being offensive. I think he was -- that was a lot of what Howard Stern did back in the day and maybe still does do at a lesser extent now. But he knew what he was doing. He was putting his hand on the third rail, you know.

So, I don't think -- to even try to get him apologize for it, it's like that's what he does. Here is my thing about comedy. There are some types of comedians (ph) who that's what they do. They are offensive. You look at like somebody sort of P.G. offensive as Don Rickles all the way through, Anthony Jeselnik who has a special right now called "Fire in the Maternity Ward."

LEMON: I just watched it.

BELL: And that's his brand.

LEMON: It's really good.

BELL: Yeah.


LEMON: It's really good.

BELL: Yeah. You can't take me down because I own what I do.

LEMON: Yeah.

BELL: The problem with these comedians, who that's not their brand and then lean into that, then people call it out on it, they get stuck in a middle zone of like I don't want to back off because I don't want to look weak but also I kind of should apologize.

So I think there are certain comedians who never going to get them to apologize because -- as much as I do that kind of comedy, I'm not advocating for other comedians to just be like me. I don't want you to watch me.

LEMON: Here's the thing. He's on satellite radio right now. But if listen to Howard as I do, Howard makes fun of everybody. Howard is Jewish. He makes fun of Jews. You know, he makes fun of his hair, his long nose, his personal body parts, all kinds of things, his weight. So I'm not saying that that's an excuse, but he is an equal opportunity offender and not really one to apologize.

But let's move on now. I want to talk about your show because you explore topics like this on your show, "United Shades of America." But on the new episode that airs this Sunday night, you went to Mississippi to talk about reproductive rights and reproductive justice. Let's play a clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take me to this little clinic place. They put me in a room. Now this room has like religious stuff around.


BELL (on camera): A room has to be really religious in the south for somebody to say it's religious because everybody's got some stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. So, old black lady comes in.

BELL (on camera): They brought the clothes you're in (ph), old black lady.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So old black lady comes in. She's like oh, wow, is this your first pregnancy? No, this is not my first pregnancy.

BELL (on camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a baby. And then she said do you have a picture of your baby? And I said I got a picture of my son on my cell phone. She said what if somebody killed Titan? Yes. At that moment, I was like oh this must be what hell is like.


LEMON: What did you learn in this episode?

BELL: That, you know, as much as I went down to Jackson, Mississippi, we went to the last abortion clinic that is open in Jackson, Mississippi, The Pink House, and I thought it was going to be sad, depressing episode. With the news right now, there is a lot of anxiety right now, that there are people in Jackson, Mississippi who knew this train was coming this way and they are there to fight and to stand up for reproductive rights and reproductive justice.

So, you know, as much as right now with everything going on in Alabama, people are really scared and I understand that. When you talk to activists who work on the ground, they know this work is real. They know that it's hard and they're not surprised by the things that are happening there.

As we see in the episode, from woman named Diane Derzis who owns The Pink House, she believes Roe v. Wade will be overturned and it's just the job of the activists on the ground to be ready for it.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, a lot of people feel that way considering what has happened. Thank you, Kamau. I always love hearing from you. I always love your perspective and I love watching your show. Make sure you tune in to "United Shades of American," Sunday night at 10:00 p.m., right here on CNN. We'll be right back.


LEMON: This week, we've been bringing you stories of remarkable people who are making lasting impacts around the world. We call the series "Champions for Change." It's our chance to revisit the change makers we have covered in the past who are still out there making a difference.

Erin Burnett first met Pastor J.D. Williams in 2012 right after Superstorm Sandy crashed the East Coast. His church in Far Rockaway, New York was on the brink of total destruction. Overwhelmed but not broken, Pasto Williams vowed never to give up. Today, almost seven years after the storm, he is still preaching faith and perseverance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): How many of you gone through a storm right now?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): For the parishioners of St. John Baptist Church, Sunday is a day to give thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): On the floor and pretend that that's where your storm is.

BURNETT (voice-over): And for Pastor J.D. Williams, there is much to be thankful for.


Sandy took the life out of this church and now we come here. This church has now been resurrected from the ashes and there is life here.

BURNETT (voice-over): Almost seven years ago, Superstorm Sandy ripped the community of Far Rockaway, New York, just outside Manhattan, and left a path of destruction up and down the East Coast. The storm killed more than 100 people, causing billions in damages.


WILLIAMS: I remember tragedy and darkness and despair. That's what I remember.

BURNETT (voice-over): More than 200 houses of worship were under water. St. John Baptist Church, less than a half a mile from the ocean, was among the hardest hit.

WILLIAMS: Water destroyed this unit. BURNETT (voice-over): I first met Pastor Williams here at St. John's in 2012, just days after Sandy hit.

[23:50:02] WILLIAMS: We need help. And I don't know even where to begin with all that we need. It's just overwhelming right now.

BURNETT (voice-over): Before the storm, roughly 20 percent of Rockaway peninsula's population was living below the poverty level, struggling with unemployment and a lack of housing.

INEZ COLE, MEMBER, ST. JOHN BAPTIST CHURCH: Everything that we had was destroyed. Every thought in my head is how we're going to survive this, but we didn't give up.

BURNETT: I remember coming here and seeing a place that had been destroyed.

(Voice-over): Hundreds of parishioners, young and old, have always relied on St. John for the basics: food, clothing, daycare, transportation. And now, that was gone.

WILLIAMS: Everything in the church on the lower level was under six feet of water.

BURNETT (voice-over): Juanice Pryce cared for children at the church for more than a decade.

JUANICE PRYCE, FORMER DAYCARE DIRECTOR: It was devastating to see all of the work that we put in, the equipment, the toys, the books destroyed. It made me feel so sad, but I always have the hope that we would open it up again.

WILLIAMS: All this was the daycare.

BURNETT (voice-over): Pastor Williams vowed to rebuild, only he had a big problem.

There was no money from FEMA for places of worship at all.

WILLIAMS: No money for places of worship.

BURNETT: How did it feel when you found that out?

WILLIAMS: I felt a sense of abandonment, forsaken.

BURNETT: Many churches were destroyed like St. John Baptist Church --

(Voice-over): But soon after we first aired the story in 2012, Pastor Williams says that feeling of abandonment began to change.

WILLIAMS: You are blessed because through that interview, people from across the country started sending donations to the church.

BURNETT: People could see one story about one place and raise their hand and reach out, and they made a difference.

(Voice-over): The difference between 2012 and today is striking.

I remember walking in here and sort of gasping because of how awful it looked.

WILLIAMS: Yes, yes. It was just an absolute disaster.

BURNETT: It looks wonderful now, though. You really have changed it.

WILLIAMS: You wouldn't know that this was the same room.

BURNETT: No, you would not.


BURNETT: The entire first floor has been rebuilt.

So then everything in here is --


BURNETT: Is new.

(Voice-over): A new boiler and hot water system, a new baptistry.

WILLIAMS: This is now the baptistry.

BURNETT (voice-over): The church is even providing math and reading tutoring for kids on the weekends.

WILLIAMS: I think we're up to maybe 25, 30 students.

BURNETT (voice-over): A church once again helping fill a gap in its community. But one thing still missing, the daycare.

There's still a need.

PRYCE: There's still a need, yes.

BURNETT: Do people in the congregation ask you?

PRYCE: Yes. They come now with children, where's the daycare, when is the daycare going to open? We can only say we're working on it.

WILLIAMS: Joy will come in the morning.

BURNETT (voice-over): There's a lot to be done but the church was saved.

COLE: We cried a lot. We shed a lot of tears because it was our home but we celebrate now because we see the victory.

BURNETT (voice-over): And for Pastor Williams, that is the key.

Tragedy and triumph.

WILLIAMS: Each time we face a tragedy, we've experienced thereafter a triumph.


LEMON: So joining me now is Erin Burnett. Wow, Erin, the church looks great now. They've really come so far. I understand they're also in the middle of renovating their kitchen so that they can provide meals to the community.

BURNETT: Yeah. Don, they want to be able to do that. That was so important for so many people. And they're on their way. They're using it a storage room right now where they used to do the meals, but now they've got a stove, they've got a microwave, and they've got a second-hand industrial stove. They're on their way to be able to do that.

They want to open the daycare. They are not there yet. There are a lot of expenses associated with that, you know, rules and restrictions. But, you know, to me, Don, one of the hardest things that I learned was that they still don't have vans. And that has actually resulted in some of the elderly who used to come to the church not being able to come because it's hard for them to take public transportation, it is hard for them to get there.

Those vans really were a lifeline. They don't yet have those. They are coming back but it just goes to show you it can take so, so long for recovery. But they -- some of those members that we met there have been involved for decades in that church and they are going to do whatever they can to provide those services.

LEMON: Well, maybe someone will watch this and they will get some help with those vans. I certainly hope so. This story just shows you where there's a will, there is a way. It's taking a long time but they're doing it.

BURNETT: Yeah. It's amazing what a difference the people who raised their hand and reached out and gave them money made such a difference.

LEMON: Erin, thank you so much. We really appreciate it. Good seeing you.

[23:55:01] We'll be sharing these inspiring stories this week and tune in this Saturday night at 8:00 Eastern form an hour-long "Champions for Change" special. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Recently, two CNN heroes joined forces to help a young girl. Amanda Boxtel assists people who have mobility impairments, and Ricardo Pun-Chong provides free housing and support for sick chlidren and their families while they receive medical treatment. Together, they work to deliver the gift of mobility to a child at Ricardo's sheter in Peru.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He sent me a little video of a little girl, who's eight years old, named Daleska (ph). She has cerebral palsy. She's been in a stroller for her whole life. It's time, don't you think, for her to have a wheel chair to call her own.

Look what we have for Daleska (ph)! We have to think of everything, because she's going to grow with this wheel chair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This chair is fantastic. She's going to be so happy. She's going to have a better life.


LEMON: To see the whole heart-warming story, and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero, go to

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.