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O'Rourke and Buttigieg Clash over Confiscation of Guns; Netanyahu Faces Toughest Election Yet; SNL Cast Member Uses Anti-Asian Slurs; Brown Makes Patriots Debut. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 16, 2019 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Leaving millions of weapons of war on the streets because Trump and McConnell are at least pretending to be open to reforms? That calculation and fear is what got us here in the first place. Let's have the courage to say what we believe in and fight for it.

Joe, so there's a split.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There is a split, but it -- but you have to understand the politics of all of this. I -- here's where I agree with Beto O'Rourke, which is, we shouldn't limit ourselves as Democrats based on what Mitch McConnell might do because Mitch McConnell is not going to do anything.

This is Lucy and the football. We've been watching -- I've been watching this since Columbine, where Republicans say, oh, we'll do something, and then they pull the football away. So Democrats should not be constrained, particularly the presidential candidates.

On another level, you've got to understand that Beto O'Rourke is now betting his candidacy -- it was nowhere. He's now put himself on the map. He is going to do this. And Buttigieg is, I think, articulating the position of most of mainstream Democrats, most presidential candidates, which is, this move has made Democrats pushing hard for an assault weapons ban much more likely. But Democrats are not going to next fall articulate a policy of confiscation. They're just not going to do it because I think most of them don't believe it.

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean I think that's true. I think that, you know, I don't think that the Democrats are going to go for confiscation, but I do think that this idea that we should play it safe is out the door at this point. It's not palpable politically for anybody to play it safe.

BERMAN: Aisha, Joe, thank you very much.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: A high stakes do over election in Israel now just hours away. Could it end, though, in a deadlock? We've got a live report from Jerusalem coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BERMAN: This morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fighting for political survival as voters in Israel go to the polls tomorrow for the second time in five months. The election comes as Netanyahu fights corruption investigations on several fronts.

CNN's Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem with this regular installment of Benjamin Netanyahu up for election again.

How do things look this time, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, there's already speculation that if this doesn't work out for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, maybe the country is headed to a third election, but let's not go that way right now.

Ever since this campaign began in the middle of summer, For three months polls have repeatedly shown an incredibly tight race between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party and his rival, former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and his Blue and White Party.

The question in April was, could Netanyahu form a government. And that answer was no, which is why we're in this situation now over the past few months of political deadlock. Netanyahu went back to elections hoping to improve his position, hoping to remain prime minister. And tomorrow we'll have that answer.


LIEBERMANN (voice over): It's an election race too close to call. The long-time leader of Israel versus the former leader of the military. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding a cabinet meeting in the West Bank, promising to annex parts of the territory if he wins. Despite the inevitable international outcry, Netanyahu has shown once again he'll do whatever it takes to win.

The 69-year-old leader has put his friendship with President Donald Trump on full display. He's made claims of election fraud, saying the left and the Arabs wants to steal the elections.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And another secret nuclear site --

LIEBERMANN: In his element, Netanyahu has controlled the news agenda, making big announcements almost nightly. But in his get-out-the-vote push, he issued a warning to supporters of his Likud Party.

NETANYAHU (through translator): Don't sit at home, don't say it doesn't matter. It matters, all right. Right now we're losing. If you go out and vote Likud, then we'll win.

LIEBERMANN: Former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has been polling neck and neck with Netanyahu. He has struggled to control the narrative and has not found a resounding message. Analysts have said his campaign is lackluster, and yet he's very much in this race. His main talking point, Netanyahu is a danger to democracy.

BENNY GANTZ, BLUE AND WHITE LEADER (through translator): Those who do not want to see a government that tramples on the principles of democracy must go out and vote Blue and White.

LIEBERMANN: Gantz served under Netanyahu as the Israeli military chief of staff, but now they are political enemies. These two men were separated by less than 15,000 votes in April's election. Both claimed victory that night and both men were, in the end, mistaken. Now it's round two, where a second chance to win also means another chance to lose.


LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu and Gantz both generally avoided media interviews in the early days of the campaign. But now that it's down to the wire, down to the last minute, they are both on a furious media blitz. Also turning to social media to get their message out. Polls open at 7:00 in the morning local time tomorrow. They close at 10:00 p.m. local time. And then the counting begins. By 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning on Wednesday morning, John and Erica, we should have a pretty good idea of how this race has turned out.

HILL: We will be watching for that. Oren, thank you.

A new "SNL" cast member under fire for racist Asian jokes. So why is Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang now coming to his defense? We discuss with Bill Carter, next.



HILL: Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang calling for people to forgive comments made by new "SNL" cast member Shane Gillis.


ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've experienced a lot of anti-Asian racism throughout my upbringing and it hurts, you know, and it's something that's very real. And I do think anti-Asian racial epithets are not taken as seriously as slurs against other groups. But at the same time, bigger picture, I believe that our country has become excessively punitive and vindictive about remarks that people find offensive or racist and that we need to try and move beyond that if we can.


HILL: "SNL," of course, announced the addition of Gillis last week. Almost immediately, videos began to circulate from his podcast where he also makes anti-Asian racist comments and uses racial slurs.

CNN media analyst Bill Carter joins me now. So as we look at all of this, Andrew Yang makes a really interesting point that, you know, there's this knee jerk reaction nowadays.


HILL: People are so quick to say, well, you said one thing back in the past and, you know, and perhaps maybe it was taken out of context. Not in this case.

CARTER: Not in this case, yes.

HILL: It does call into question, what is the balance in 2019 and how do you decide?

CARTER: Well, it -- it -- well, it's really an interesting challenge, especially for comedy. I mean comedy can be offensive and very funny. And I think that's acceptable. I've always felt that's acceptable. And -- but intolerance is not acceptable. And it depends on how you use it. And this did not seem especially funny to me the way he made these comments. It just sounds like he used the offensive word for the joke. That isn't particularly funny to me.

And I don't -- I don't know this guy. I'm not familiar with him. It's a -- it's an interesting thing to have a comic in his past doing something where you say, well, you know, like Trevor Noah had -- has some things he wrote on Twitter and it was kind of in the past.


And he's gotten on, you know, "The Daily Show" and he's done great and he's terrific. I think he's great. And maybe this guy would be great too. But these were very recent comments, so I think it's a little bit different. And the context is different for me.

HILL: The context is different. So what do you think should happen in this case?

CARTER: Well, I --

HILL: "SNL" isn't saying anything, which they generally don't.

CARTER: I -- they aren't saying anything. And they don't.

HILL: Yes.

CARTER: And you can't take away Lorne Michaels' progativcy (ph). He'll do what he thinks is right.

This guy doesn't have a reputation. So if he got kicked off the show, no one would care.

On the other hand, you don't want to make these knee jerk decisions. So if he's talented, you want to give him a chance.

Now, I think one of the things about Yang, Yang's handled this brilliantly in my view because he's basically said it's hurtful, it's offensive, but also we shouldn't be just make these knee jerk reactions, and I forgive him. I forgive him. Well, to me, the only thing worse than a slur based comic is a forgiven comic. So that is not great for a comic to say, oh, you're forgiven for not being funny. So, that, to me, doesn't help your career.

HILL: That is interesting.

You know, one of the other things he points out, he's talking about the Asian-American community as a whole.


HILL: And we have some of that sound, that it's -- it's bigger than just one person and, of course, one experience.


ANDREW YANG, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the Asian-American community is very diverse. And certainly I would never claim that my individual experience would speak to the depth and breadth of our community.

At the same time, I think Americans are very smart and they can actually see right through that kind of myth. And if anything, by poking fun at it, I'm making Americans reflect a little bit more on them.


HILL: I mean, that is true, you know, forcing people to have a conversation.

CARTER: Absolutely. And he makes a very good point that Asians have been sort of the target of these things without there being repercussions.

HILL: Without backlash.

CARTER: There hasn't been a lot of backlash. The word that was used is truly offensive. And there are words for a lot of ethnic groups that we don't use any more --

HILL: Right.

CARTER: Because they're really offensive.

HILL: Really quickly, what's sad is this is overshadowing to Bowen Yang joining the cast.

CARTER: Yes, exactly.

HILL: And this is a really important milestone for "SNL."

CARTER: Yes. Yes. They haven't -- they're going to have an Asian- American performer for the first time. And it's been -- let's face it, that show's been on a long time. It's long overdue.

HILL: Yes. Always good to see you.

Bill Carter, thank you.

CARTER: Good to see you.

BERMAN: A huge loss from the music world to report this morning. The Cars founder and front man Ric Ocasek has died.


THE CARS (singing): She's my best friend's girl. She's my best friend's girl. And she used to be mine.


BERMAN: Such a unique sound. The Cars used pop and new wave and had big hits in the late '70s and '80s. "My Best Friend's Girl" right there. "Good Times Roll," "Shake It Up," my personal favorite.


BERMAN: The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, which is ridiculously late given how good and influential they were. Ocasek died Sunday in his apartment in New York City where police found him unresponsive. The cause of the death is not yet known. Ric Ocasek was 75. He also was an incredibly successful producer after the whole Cars era. And, of course, The Cars, a big Boston band, so I have a particular place in my heart for them.

HILL: There is that.

BERMAN: Their music was great. I mean their music was just terrific and it represents, to me, a big part of the early '80s.

HILL: Yes. And this has been getting to know John Berman.


HILL: I'm just kidding.

Antonio Brown making a big splash in his Patriots debut, as the woman accusing him of rape is set to meet with the NFL today.

We have more on what that could mean for the case, next.



HILL: Antonio Brown making his debut for the Patriots despite facing serious sexual assault allegations.

Andy Scholes was at the game, joins us now with more from Miami in the "Bleacher Report."



Antonio Brown, he was greeted with cheers from the thousands of Patriots fans that were here in Miami for the game, and he immediately played a big part of the offense with the team. Tom Brady getting him involved right away. Brady finding Brown three times on the team's opening drive. Then in the second quarter, the two hooking up for their first touchdown together. And Brown jumping into the crowd to celebrate with some Patriots fans.

New England would win this game over the Dolphins in a blowout. It was 43-0.

Now, after the game, Brown nowhere to be found. He left without speaking with the media, which will likely earn him a fine from the league.

I was able to speak with some of Browns' teammates and I asked them what they thought of his debut with the team.


JULIAN EDELMAN, PATRIOTS WIDE RECEIVER: It was awesome. You know, he's a playmaker. A lot of energy.

SONY MICHEL, PATRIOTS RUNNING BACK: He's a team player. He did what he needed to do, you know, to help this team succeed.

TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: Good start. You know, I just was trying to find an open guy and he -- you know, was snapping off some routes and did a great job.


SOLES: Now, this is a big week for Brown and the Patriots. According to multiple reports, Brown's accuser, Britney Taylor, will meet with the NFL to discuss here sexual assault allegations later today. Brown, he denies those allegations.

The league will then have to decide whether Brown is going to go on the commission's exempt list, which means he gets paid but can't play. They could announce a suspension if they feel he's violated the league's personal conduct policy or the NFL could decide he hasn't violated the policy and let him keep playing while this civil suit plays out.

You know, John, the NFL known for dragging its feet when it comes to these kind of cases. We'll have to wait and see if they make some sort of announcement this week.

BERMAN: All right, Andy, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Christine Brennan, CNN sports analyst and sports columnist for "USA Today." Also Joe Lockhart, CNN political commentator and former executive vice president for communications at the NFL.

Christine, I want to start with you.

Three passes on the opening drive to Antonio Brown. Then, in the second quarter, catching a touchdown and celebrating in the end zone. This with the sexual assault allegation hanging over his head.

What kind of look was that for the NFL?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: It was -- John, terrible optics. Exactly what the NFL would not have wanted to happen. This is a league, we've talked about it many times, it's been five years and one week since the Ray Rice video, that terrible punch in the elevator.


Since then, every day the NFL has tried to explain to people and fans how important women are to the NFL, listen to women, pay attention to women. Forty-five percent of the NFL fan base is women and girls.

And this, wow, it is quite a statement. And I understand all of the, you know, pros and cons here. But it is a mess. And the NFL -- it's the last thing the NFL wanted, especially as it's celebrating its 100th season.

BERMAN: And, Joe, I mean the Patriots went out of their way to target Antonio Brown.


BERMAN: First, for football reasons, I assume, and then he caught a touchdown pass. If you're, you know, Roger Goodell, at NFL headquarters watching this, what's going through your head as this a going on?

LOCKHART: That this is an incredibly complicated issue. It's an incredibly complicated issue for America's -- in our -- in our culture and in our law enforcement and judicial system. But it's complicated for the NFL.

You know, there are -- I -- first off, the Patriots, I think Bill Belichick puts blinders on. And, for him, it's about football. It wasn't about making some statement about whether he thinks he's innocent or guilty. It's about winning a football game.

For the league, they have to balance two things. One is, when there is a credible allegation and it's brought forward, particularly in a judicial forum, they have to pay attention to it. They do have to balance it, though. They have a contract, an overall CBA (ph), with the players, with the player's right to due process. I take a little bit of exception with Andy's comments about the NFL dragging its feet. They are meeting with this woman apparently today. That's -- you know, if they -- if they wanted to drag this out --

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE). LOCKHART: They could have done it next month. And they are going to do what they decided to do in the aftermath of Ray Rice, where they stood up and admitted the mistakes they've made and investigate. And they're -- right now there's no one else investigating. The woman hasn't -- it's not in the criminal context. And they will investigate and do something. And investigating, I can tell you from my time there, takes time. People don't drop their lives to come in and talk to you.

BERMAN: It's interesting because Britney Taylor will speak to the NFL reportedly today, Christine Brennan. If she tells the story that the public has been told so far and produces the text messages that the public has read so far and then Antonio Brown just denies it, what then?

BRENNAN: Well, Joe articulated it beautifully, it's -- it is difficult. And navigating this is difficult.

A couple points. Certainly then you've got a he said/she said. And with the NFL carrying so much as it cares about women, that's going to be right out there for everyone to talk about and deal with.

The commissioner's exempt list means paid leave. I thought last week -- we talked about this last week, I thought that that would be a logical move for Roger Goodell last week. I understand, of course, the other side of that argument.

Frankly, I think with Antonio Brown and the shenanigans and the ridiculousness prior to this very serious lawsuit from Britney Taylor, I thought you could have given Antonio Brown the lifetime achievement award, commissioner's exempt list, just for embarrassing himself and the league over and over again the last few months.

But, here we are. And this is a real test case for the NFL and for Roger Goodell. And we are right smack dab in the Me Too movement. That is not breaking news. The NFL and Me Too, huge cultural issues. The NFL, the biggest, most important league in our country, shines a mirror on us and vice versa back to -- back to the league. And so we'll be watching.

And I think the NFL has -- this is as interesting a cross section of these moments in our culture as we've seen in a while. That's obviously why we're talking about it. And that's why the stakes are so high.

BERMAN: Joe, 30 seconds left. What do you think the NFL will do if Britney Taylor tells the same story that we've been told and Brown just says, no, do you think Brown ends up on the exempt list before next Sunday's game?

LOCKHART: I don't think so because I think the way the policy was written is the exempt list is for if there is a judicial proceeding, if there's a criminal act that's been charged and the law enforcement is investigating.

They may have to change that. They may have to open it up for, you know, something that's in the civil context. What they'll do is they'll investigate. This is -- you know, there isn't a criminal investigation here, so the NFL will do a criminal type investigation. They'll look at the text messages. They'll then go and find -- try to find corroborating witnesses who have contemporary -- comportarious --

BERMAN: Contemporaneous, yes.

LOCKHART: Contemporaneous knowledge and they'll do an investigation.

And what is going to make everyone angry is it will take time.

BERMAN: Yep. It won't be done before next Sunday, which means that Brown could be playing again next week.

Joe Lockhart, Christine Brennan, thank you very much.

BRENNAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. I'm John Berman. Erica Hill in for Alisyn today. Great to have you here.

HILL: Good morning.

BERMAN: We've got all kinds of breaking news from all over the world this morning.

First, the biggest strike by auto workers in more than a decade.


Nearly 50,000 United Auto Workers walking out on General Motors overnight. Factories in nine states are affected. The two sides.