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Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) Reveals Partner's Death Was Suicide; Democratic Hopefuls Court LGBTQ Voters; New White House Press Secretary Bruised In Scuffle With North Koreans. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 1, 2019 - 07:30   ET



[07:31:43] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic Congresswoman Susan Wild revealed on the House floor last week that her longtime partner had taken his own life in May.


REP. SUSAN WILD (D-PA): Today marks the one-month anniversary of the death of my beloved life partner, Kerry Acker. What most people don't know is that Kerry's death was a suicide.

Kerry was 63 years old. He shouldn't have had a care in the world. He was financially secure and had a warm, loving family and dozens of friends. He loved them all.

And yet, incomprehensibly, he seemingly did not grasp the toll his absence would have on those who loved him.


CAMEROTA: Wild says that she's speaking out to remove the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health. And joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Susan Wild.

Congresswoman, we're so sorry for your loss. I know what a shock death from suicide can be and I just wonder why you decided to share your pain so publicly.

WILD: I decided, Alisyn, to share the pain because I realized that I have a public platform from which I can speak about an issue that, unfortunately, I think is too often swept under the rug. We pay a lot of lip service to mental health and yet, I don't think that we, as a country, really recognize the toll that it takes on people and how prevalent it is.

CAMEROTA: I read that up until the very last moment, you didn't know if you, I guess, would or could make that speech. And what turned it around for you?

WILD: That's correct. Well, you know, I just -- that's correct.

I was on the floor and we were in the middle of legislative business. It was late at night because we were taking late votes, and these speeches are typically given at the end of the day.

And right up until the last minute, I wasn't -- I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get through it. But I just pushed through because I felt so strongly about doing it. And there were some of my colleagues who knew that I was going to and they had gathered around and were there to support me, and I was very appreciative of that.

CAMEROTA: That is really nice.

Why do you think there is such a stigma around suicide?

WILD: You know, I've been grappling with that myself. Honestly, it's not something I've given a lot of thought to until the last month.

I think that we just don't have a recognition of the fact that mental illness has, I believe, some sort of chemical component to it. That it is to be treated as seriously as a physical ailment.

You know, you wouldn't hesitate to tell your neighbor, perhaps, that you have cancer. But you would never tell your neighbor about your psychological turmoil or what's going on.

The other issue that I don't think we pay nearly enough attention to is the issue of chronic pain and how that plays into mental health issues and specifically, to suicide. It's one of the leading causes of suicides, I believe.

CAMEROTA: Did you know that your partner was struggling?

[07:35:00] WILD: That's a really hard question.

I knew -- I knew that he actually is one of the people who suffered from chronic pain. I knew it took a toll on him. I never imagined -- and his chronic pain was related to a surgery that he had had years earlier.

I never imagined that it took this kind of toll on him. He was very adept at concealing it.

CAMEROTA: Chronic physical pain is such a cross to bear for so many people, and I do think that it's important, as you say, to talk about. I mean, people soldier through it, you know, or they try to. But they don't want to burden their loved ones.

WILD: And he did for many -- many, many years he did. For many years he did.

But -- and, you know, I'm not suggesting that that was the only issue, but -- and for many people, it's not. But I think when it's coupled with any other type of struggle it just makes it unbearable.

As I said in my floor speech, to all outward appearances there was absolutely nothing that should have caused this. He didn't have the financial insecurities that a lot of people have. He did have a warm, loving family. He certainly wasn't alone in life. And -- so, I've struggled to try to make sense of this and I may never make sense of it. But if I can help one person or one family avoid this kind of pain, I intend to use my public platform to do so.

CAMEROTA: Truth in numbers, and they're really stunning.

A 33 percent increase in suicides from the year 1999; 47,000 deaths by suicide in 2017. It's the second-leading cause of death for people age 10 through 44.

Why do you think we've seen this spike in suicide in recent years?

WILD: I am no expert on this subject yet -- I intend to become one -- and I don't know.

We often talk about things like veterans' suicide. We talk about suicide among LGBT youth. But we don't talk about the mainstream population and what's going on, and we need to find out.

I think it's an underreported cause of death. I think the numbers you just cited are probably lower than they really should be. And I think until we start to talk about it openly and honestly that we're not going to get to the root cause and prevention of it.

I will tell you, and I feel the need to say this, I did receive a phone call from a gentleman in the Midwest the day after I gave that floor speech. He had seen it on Twitter. And he told me that he had been suicidal for months but that after watching it, he felt that he could not do it to his wife.

And he promised me that he would seek treatment. I hope that he has.

But as I said, if I saved one life by being public about it then -- obviously, I'd rather not be in a position to be able to talk about this but I want to do something that brings light to it and makes people feel like they're not alone.

CAMEROTA: And I think that you are doing that. I mean, just by coming on T.V. and talking about something so painful and so private, I believe you are saving lives.

Thank you very much for your candor and for sharing your --

WILD: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: -- personal story with us.

And we just want to let anyone know if you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness or feelings of suicide, please know you are not alone. There are professionals standing by at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They would be happy to talk anytime, 24/7. The number, 1-800-273-8255.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also, she is doing the one most important thing you can do to save lives, which is to talk about it.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Which is to just talk about it.

CAMEROTA: Which removes the stigma. Every time we talk about it on national television it helps remove the stigma.

BERMAN: I don't want to diminish how difficult it is. It's really, really hard.

The beginnings of a new potential dustup involving former vice president Joe Biden. Comments he made about gay rights and the questions surrounding them, next.


[07:43:15] BERMAN: New York City overflowing with pride. Tens of thousands of people -- you can see them all there in rainbow colors -- filling the streets of New York as the city held the first World Pride Celebration in the United States. The celebrations also honored 50 years after the Stonewall riots that galvanized the modern LGBTQ rights.

CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, former vice president Joe Biden is taking some heat for comments he made this weekend about gay rights. Well, they didn't go over that well.

Biden was at a private fundraiser in Seattle, hosted by a leader in the city's gay community. And according to press reports, Biden suggested that public sentiment has come very far on gay rights in just a short period of time. He said that "...five years ago if someone at a business meeting in Seattle 'made fun of a gay waiter' people would just let it go."

Well, the audience then erupted -- or at least vocally pushed back on that, saying not in Seattle.

Biden also pointed out that when he was vice president, he publicly supported same-sex marriage before President Obama did.

BERMAN: Which is true.

CAMEROTA: That is true.

BERMAN: All right. So how are Joe Biden and the other 2020 Democratic candidates fighting for equality as they court voters?

CNN's Kyung Lah takes a look.


KRIS PERRY, BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: It's probably going to happen in a few minutes.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A short walk through San Francisco's city hall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the information on this verified? It is correct to the best of your knowledge?

PERRY: I do.

LAH (voice-over): -- ended a 9-year journey for Kris Perry and Sandy Stier.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, we witness not only the joining of Kris and Sandy but the realization of their dream.

[07:45:00] LAH (voice-over): The first same-sex couple to marry after a historic 2013 Supreme Court decision.

HARRIS: Oh my God.

SANDY STIER, BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: We saw Kamala Harris run to greet us. She was full of energy and smiling and embracing us and saying congratulations. This is going to be the best day ever.

HARRIS: By virtue of the power and authority vested in me --

LAH (voice-over): Then-California's attorney general, she officiated their wedding.

HARRIS: -- I now declare you spouses for life.

LAH (voice-over): Believing it was unconstitutional, Harris had chosen not to defend Proposition 8, the state's law prohibiting same- sex marriage --

HARRIS: Any day that justice is delayed, I would suggest justice is denied.

LAH (voice-over): -- and help forge the legal path to this moment.

LAH (on camera): Had she defended that law, what would have happened to marriage equality in this country?

PERRY: We would not have had her marry us. She played a pivotal role.

LAH (voice-over): From longtime equality supporters like Harris --



BUTTIGIEG: Yes, I'm pretty fond of him, too.

LAH (voice-over): -- to newcomers on the national stage, like Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first gay contender with a serious shot at winning a major party nomination.

BUTTIGIEG: There's no going back to normal. Don't listen to anybody in either party who says that we can just go back to what we were doing because we in the LGBTQ community know when we hear phrases like "Make America Great Again" that that American past was never quite as great as advertised.

LAH (voice-over): There's a reason why the 2020 Democratic hopefuls are courting these voters.

LAH (on camera): In 2020,


LAH (on camera): -- characterize the power of the LGBTQ vote.

SGRO: There are 10 million LGBTQ voters across this country and we're not just a powerful voting bloc, we're a voting bloc that turns out.

LAH (voice-over): And in 2020, faces numerous choices, says Chris Sgro, with the Human Rights Campaign.

One after the other, the candidates have spoken before the nation's largest LBGT advocacy group, talking about the records, digging deep to stand out.

SGRO: Nearly every single one of them on the Democratic side stands for equality and speaks out consistently for equality. That's is remarkable. It shows how far we have come as a country.

LAH (voice-over): Joe Biden represents a part of that evolution. In 2012, Biden jumped ahead of President Obama on marriage equality on national television.

JOE BIDEN (D), THEN-VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying are entitled to the same exact rights -- all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.

LAH (voice-over): Staunch backers of Bernie Sanders say his support dates back to the early 70s. In an editorial he published just a few years after the Stonewall riots, he called to abolish all laws dealing with homosexuality.

Then in the 90s, engaged in fierce debates in Congress in defending gay members of the military.

REP. DUKE CUNNINGHAM (R-CA): The same people that would vote to cut defense $177 billion, the same ones that would put homos in the military --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT) (1995): You have insulted thousands of men and women who have put their lives on the line. I think that you owe them an apology.

CUNNINGHAM: I'm talking about you and liberals like you that keep --

LAH (voice-over): Ahead of Pride Month, Elizabeth Warren and Beto O'Rourke rolled out platforms that include passing a federal law protecting LGBTQ Americans from discrimination, a measure Kirsten Gillibrand also supports.

Often stumping with LGBTQ voters, Gillibrand highlights her plans, rolling back Trump administration restrictions on transgender troops serving in the military and halting taxpayer-funded adoption centers from discriminating against gay couples.

Sandy Stier and Kris Perry witnessed and lived through progress, hopeful their marriage was one, but not the last step towards equal rights.

STIER: We have more solidarity than we ever have. And now, we just have to take that solidarity and make it impactful in this next election.

LAH (voice-over): Kyung Lah, CNN, Berkeley, California.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to Kyung for that.

Meanwhile, the White House's new press secretary was bruised in a scuffle with North Korean security. We'll show you the video and more of what happened, next.


[07:53:24] BERMAN: Some high drama behind the scenes at the DMZ. New White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham physically bruised after getting into a scuffle with North Korean security. Take a look.


STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Do not -- do not. Stop, no. Let go. I need help here.


BERMAN: Joining us now, Joe Lockhart, press secretary for the Clinton White House and a CNN political commentator. And, Brian Stelter, CNN chief media correspondent.

And, Joe, this is one of the jobs of the White House press secretary, traditionally. Stephanie Grisham put her body on the line to give the press access and get the cameras in. And I understand there's two sides to that -- but to get the cameras into part of this historic meeting.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, HOST, "WORDS MATTER" PODCAST: Yes, it is part of the job. And I think people would be surprised about how common this is, particularly in places that are authoritarian governments where there's state-run T.V.

I think it got an enormous amount of attention yesterday because of the combination of Stephanie Grisham -- it being like her first couple of days on the job -- BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR "RELIABLE SOURCES": Yes.

LOCKHART: -- and it being in North Korea, which is -- which had never happened before.

But I certainly had scraps with security people and it just gets a little bit messy. And part of the job is just getting your people in because it's the right thing to do. They have a right to cover it.

And you -- and, as you said, I think they wanted the picture. I mean, they -- it is part of their stagecraft.

But, you know, this happens in Russia, China, in the Gulf.

[07:55:00] So, she -- you know, I think she got a taste of what the next couple of years might be like.

CAMEROTA: Brian, we just don't know if this means that she will go to those lengths to go to bat for reporters --

STELTER: Yes, that's true.

CAMEROTA: -- or if they just wanted to -- the president --


CAMEROTA: -- when they -- she knew this was important for President Trump and he wanted to have this video.

But I guess it just will remain to be seen if she has dialing press briefings and if she's accessible to reporters.

STELTER: Yes, but -- and this is a good sign. This is the beginning of her role as White House press secretary. She deserves a lot of credit for doing this -- for making sure the American press was able to get in. That was good for the president, yes -- but it was also good for the public.

That said, it's been 112 days without a White House daily on-camera press briefing. We don't know if Grisham is going to bring those back or not.

I think the next week or two will reveal a lot about what her plan is as press secretary and how open she's going to make the press office to the press and to the public. I do think it's a great start, though.

Think about how Sean Spicer started as press secretary by lying to the public about the crowd sizes. At least Grisham on day one, essentially -- or day three of her new job was showing that she understands the importance of providing access.

BERMAN: You could make the case that press freedom is always good for the U.S. presidency. STELTER: Yes, absolutely. And the idea that, especially when you're in a place in North Korea or at the DMZ, it's vital to show those values -- American values on display, making sure the press has access.

CAMEROTA: OK, speaking of the media, we need to talk about the bald hypocrisy of some of it because --

STELTER: You talking about me?

CAMEROTA: No, that's hilarious.

STELTER: Just checking.

CAMEROTA: OK, the naked hypocrisy.

STELTER: OK, thank you.

BERMAN: You talking about me? Sorry, wait a second. That's my outside voice. Go ahead.

CAMEROTA: I'm going to redirect this however I can.

OK, President Trump was quite excited to meet with Kim Jong Un, as we know, as he has been.

And I think it's important to go back in the time machine and show how over at Fox, the commentators were appalled when candidate Barack Obama suggested that he might ever sit down --

STELTER: They were.

CAMEROTA: -- with Kim Jong Un.

So we have a little clip, courtesy of the Internet, of then, their feelings, and now.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW": Obama would personally negotiate with leaders of terrorist nations like Iran and North Korea without preconditions. Wow.

The world will probably be a little bit safer. The media should be giving President Trump credit for that.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Look, it's a bad idea for the president to speak to Kim Jong Un.

Why wait until the end of May? Let's do this by the end of March.

STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST, "FOX & FRIENDS": Would you, as president, meet with the leaders of a country like North Korea? Obama extraordinarily said, "Well, I'd meet with them."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it works, he should get the Nobel Peace Prize.


CAMEROTA: From this is horrible to the Nobel Peace Prize, Brian. It's really -- we could have gone -- that clip goes on for three minutes if you want to see it online.

STELTER: Yes. Now, this news found all these clips from the Obama years that do prove the hypocrisy.

I think two things are going on. There's a conservative media apparatus that, of course, is hypocritical about this and props up Trump. And then, the rest of the media, I think, is still grading Trump on a curve sometimes.

There are strange comments he's making during his Asia trip, not knowing what bussing means; talking about Western-style liberalism, thinking it means California. We heard strange comments that did not get enough attention over the weekend.

CAMEROTA: He also called John Bolton, Michael, who is a singer --

STELTER: Mike Bolton instead of John Bolton, yes.

CAMEROTA: -- by the way.

STELTER: Yes, that's a great singer.

You know, I think those kinds of comments never get caught up by Fox. That kind of strange behavior and mistakes never get noticed by conservative media outlets. But they also don't get enough attention from the rest of the news media.

Over at Fox, though, it is -- it is much more of a hermetically-sealed chamber when it comes to this kind of hypocrisy.

BERMAN: One of the things that frequently asked is what if Obama had done something like this?


BERMAN: How would we -- well, we have the answer --

CAMEROTA: There you go.

BERMAN: -- Joe Lockhart. You know how he would be treated because he was treated a certain way for some of this.

LOCKHART: Yes. No, it just makes your head hurt thinking about all of those questions. It's like what if Chelsea Clinton had been front and center like Ivanka was during the G20 meetings.


LOCKHART: It's -- you know, it's -- we live in a -- you know, Fox is -- if North Korea is the hermit kingdom, Fox is the hermit network. They don't let anything in, it's just the story.

I think that one of the really interesting things about yesterday, though, was it was historic -- the president going to North Korea. But the president's comments weren't about how historic it was, it was about how great the media was and how great his coverage was. And I think the media is often -- and the president certainly does -- mistakes motion and activity for progress.

You know, if you read "The New York Times" this morning, we've not only not made progress, we've actually taken a step back as far as our negotiating position. So, you know, a lot of chaos doesn't necessarily mean diplomatic success.

CAMEROTA: Joe, Brian, thank you very much for the analysis.

And thanks to our international viewers. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Max Foster is next.

For our U.S. viewers, a huge fundraising haul for a 2020 candidate. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Donald Trump made history at the DMZ.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not looking for speed, we're looking to get it right. There's been a lot of good will.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He keeps having these summits and meetings that really don't produce anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very unusual, bizarre diplomacy. The danger is that we've legitimized Kim Jong Un and he's given up nothing.