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Reality Check on Gay Rights; CNN Hosts LGBTQ Town Hall with Democratic Candidates; Kurdish Forces Bomb Turkish Border; Arkansas Activist Fear Re-segregation; Lauer Fights Back Against Accusations. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 10, 2019 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:30:00]

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: States where people can be fired simply for being gay. And the Trump administration is in court arguing it should stay that way.

If the Supreme's don't step up, it will be up to the Senate to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

Progress occurs when new coalitions are created that overcome prejudice and polarization. Lest we forget, one of the first national politicians to support the freedom to marriage was Vice President Dick Cheney, no doubt inspired by his daughter, Mary. And even Barack Obama didn't publicly support gay marriage until late in his first term, days after this happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT (May 6, 2012): What this is all about is a simple proposition, who do you love?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: We still have a lot of work to do in a world where there are still 70 countries that criminalize same-sex relations. But America is the land of the free because we're the home of the brave and our gains on gay rights are a welcome sign that we don't have to be hopelessly divided in the United States of America.

And that's your "Reality Check."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John, thank you very much.

And on that note, nine 2020 Democratic candidates will take the stage tonight in a special CNN town hall event on the issues facing the LGBTQ community.

Joining me now is Alphonso David. He is the new president of the Human Rights Campaign, the organization CNN is partnering with for tonight's town hall.

Alphonso, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Thank you for being part of this event tonight.

Just, big picture, what does it mean that a major party, as part of its nominating process, is holding an event like this?

ALPHONSO DAVID, PRESIDENT, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: This is an historic event. Tonight will be historic for all of us.

This is the very first time where we will have major Democratic candidates, in a nationally televised event, talking about LGBTQ issues. We have more than 11 million LGBTQ voters and more than 57 pro-equality voters. This is our opportunity to hear from these candidates about their views, about their plans for addressing many of the challenges that the LGBTQ community faces. So it is really historic for us and I hope for most Americans.

BERMAN: You talk about a big night. It is a big night. But it's also been a big week in the courts as well.

And the Supreme Court, this major case being argued before the court about workplace discrimination. What's your takeaway from the arguments that you heard?

DAVID: Well, I was -- I happened -- I was in the courtroom for the argument. And it was -- it's also historic that the court, for the very first time, heard issues that relate to transgender Americans.

What we have to remember is putting this in context. For the past 20 years, LGBTQ people have been protected under federal civil rights laws. They have been protected from discrimination in the workplace. Now the court is being presented with this question, whether LGBTQ people can continue to be protected under federal civil rights laws. So this is an incredibly important case.

In many states, there are no state law protections, so federal civil rights protections are incredibly important. My takeaway is, it's too soon to tell where we will go, but I'm cautiously optimistic that the court will respect jurisprudence, will respect stare decisis. We have federal -- many federal courts, circuit courts and district courts that have held that LGBT people are protected, and we need to make sure the court reaffirms that decision.

BERMAN: President Trump, when he was candidate Trump, at the Republican National Convention, made a statement during his acceptance speech which was historic. The first Republican nominee to say something like this. I want to play it for you.

DAVID: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (July 21, 2016): As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: To what extent has he lived up to that promise?

DAVID: Donald Trump has done the exact opposite. Donald Trump has attacked the LGBTQ community for the past two and a half to three years. He has systematically sought to roll back protections that this community has been relying on for years. There are so many examples. He is now banning transgender Americans from serving in the U.S. military. He is looking to enshrine discrimination into our regulations by essentially saying, if you are a federal contractor, you are allowed to discriminate against an LGBTQ person. He is looking to remove protections under the Affordable Care Act for transgender Americans. There are -- there's a laundry list of actions that the Trump administration has taken, including filing a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case that we just talked about, where the Trump administration is saying, LGBTQ people are not protected under federal civil rights laws.

Now, his promise on the campaign trail is directly opposite from what he's actually done in office.

[08:35:03]

BERMAN: All right, Alphonso David, thank you for being with us this morning. We look forward to the event tonight.

Be sure and join us for CNN's presidential town hall event "Equality in America," tonight, starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, the death toll is rising as Turkish troops advance into Syria. Smoke is filling the horizon, as you can see on your screen. As this situation unfolds, we have our correspondents in the region. We have a live report for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:40:24]

BERMAN: All right, breaking news out of northern Syria. These are live pictures. The sights and sounds of all-out war between Turkey and Kurdish forces in northern Syria. You just hear that explosion. Bombs dropping on both sides of the border. We're now told more than 100 people have been killed so far.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us live. He is on the Turkish side of the border.

Nick, give us a sense of what's happening, what we're seeing here.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we have seen in the last couple of hours the skyline behind me, as you can see, really rocked by what seems pretty consistent artillery fire. You hear it every minute or so. Normally it sounds like it's coming from the Turkish side heading in that particular direction. The smoke you're seeing on the horizon there, that is most likely from the impacts of those shells, but also possibly, too, according to our colleagues on the other side, because Syrian Kurds are lighting tire fires to obscure the vision of those trying to fire mortars at them.

This is the second day of Turkey's major offensive here. We're hearing from a U.S. official this could be widener in scope, in their assessment, possibly than many had, in fact, thought. But along that skyline there is the indication, the ground offensive that got underway there is continuing today as well.

President Erdogan responding to international criticism of this move from pretty much everybody you'd normally expect to be a Turkish ally, even Israel, European powers. He's saying, well, Europe if you don't get on side with this, if you think that this is a humanitarian catastrophe and I'm wrong, then I might as well send the Syrian refugees I'm trying to put back into Syria, that's why he's clearing an area here, I might send them, 3.6 million of them, towards Europe.

But this has not been a day entirely of good news for Turkey because we have just heard in the last hour as well that some mortar shells have landed inside Turkey itself, most likely fired in response to this by the Syrian Kurds. Unclear, but certainly, according to two government officials we've spoken to, one of them a police officer, landing near the government building and the riot police building here. Six, maybe seven civilians injured. The first time we've seen a response of shells in this particular area.

And this tension continually escalating. Donald Trump trying to be ambivalent here, talking about Normandy and how the Kurds didn't fight there, but essentially his conversation on Sunday made Turkey feel this might be something they could get away with and here it is unfolding behind us.

John.

CAMEROTA: I'll take it, Nick. We can see that unfolding behind you in stark relief.

Thank you very much for the reporting from the border for us.

Well, activists and civil rights groups in Arkansas are protesting a state plan that they say would lead to re-segregating public schools in Little Rock 62 years after the district was integrated.

CNN's Victor Blackwell has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Outside of Little Rock Central High School, where nine African-American students desegregated the then all-white Arkansas school six decades ago, parents, students and teachers are calling on the state to kill a proposal that they fear will lead to a new era of school segregation.

The state has controlled the Little Rock School District for nearly five years because some schools have been struggling academically. A controversial new proposal would return some control of better performing schools back to a locally elected school board. But assign, quote, different leadership to eight failing schools. VICKI HATTER, PARENT: This framework is divisive, and it is racially

biased.

BLACKWELL: Vicki Hatter is the mother of a tenth grader.

HATTER: When you look at a map, you clearly see where black and brown and Latinos and poor people live. Those are your failing schools.

BLACKWELL: Communities north and west of Interstate 630 are mostly white and are more affluent than the neighborhoods south and east of I-630, which are majority minority. Now here are the locations of the eight schools that will be controlled by separate leadership.

Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson is defending the framework.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: We can't abandon the Little Rock School District and just say, it's all up to you now, we're not going to be there with you, and turn it completely back without any state support, because it's our constitutional responsibility.

BLACKWELL: Stacey McAdoo attended Little Rock Public Schools. She's also the 2019 Arkansas teacher of the year.

STACEY MCADOO, THE 2019 ARKANSAS TECHER OF THE YEAR: If there is a system where one group of students and their parents are able to participate in a democratically elected system and another group of students within that same district are not, I mean, I think that message is very loud and clear.

[08:45:01]

BLACKWELL: Terry Roberts, one of the Little Rock Nine, says the proposal does not surprise him.

TERRY ROBERTS, FORMER STUDENT, LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL: I see it as one in a long line of verbiage that simply tries to obfuscate and tell the public that what we're doing is the right thing, when, in fact, what they're doing is being true to the ideology of maintaining the walls of separation.

BLACKWELL (on camera): Why is that not re-segregation?

HUTCHINSON: That is just simply an argument that is being made that does not reflect the intent of the state board, nor does it reflect any change in student assignments.

BLACKWELL (voice over): The plan is not final. And this crowd says that it will keep fighting to make sure that Little Rock does not become separate and unequal again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): I give and give and you take.

CROWD (singing): I give and give and you take.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLACKWELL: Now, the school board has not defined different leadership for those eight f-rated schools. They will take up the plan here at the school board today. The governor says it could change.

Now, separately, the board is considering a plan to no longer recognize the local teachers union. The clock is running on both of those proposals, whichever leadership is going to be implemented, it must be, by law, in place next year.

Back to you.

BERMAN: Victor Blackwell, thanks so much for bringing us this story. Just think of the history there in Little Rock. Thank you.

Here's what else to watch today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ON SCREEN TEXT: 9:00 a.m. ET, U.S. and China resume trade talks in D.C.

4:10 p.m. ET, President Trump departs for Minneapolis.

7:30 p.m. ET, Democrats speak at CNN LGBTQ town hall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK, now to this.

Matt Lauer is fighting back and denying sexual assault accusations in a very personal and graphic letter. And his accuser is now responding to that. We discuss all of it, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:51:16]

CAMEROTA: Matt Lauer breaking his silence and defending himself in a very personal and very graphic letter against accusations that he sexually assaulted a former NBC co-worker. Lauer is blasting his accuser, insisting she was a, quote, willing partner. Lauer's accuser says his letter is a, quote, case study in victim blaming.

A lot's happened in the past 24 hours, so let's bring in CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson and CNN political commentator Mary Katharine Ham.

Mary Katharine, I'm going to start with you because I don't think we're having a legal discussion actually at the moment about this. We're having a discussion about all of this playing out in public ahead of Ronan Farrow's book.

It sounds as though Matt Lauer has had enough of people telling his story and it sounded as though, in his letter, he was angry and he wanted to take the narrative back. I'm not going to read the most graphic and personal parts of the letter. People can do that themselves if they want to go to cnn.com. But here's what he says about the accuser.

There was absolutely nothing aggressive about that encounter. Brooke did not do or say anything to object. She certainly did not cry. She was a fully enthusiastic and willing partner. At no time did she behave in a way that made it appear she was incapable of consent. She seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do.

I mean, it's just a stunning statement, I think, from Matt Lauer, M.K., and I can't tell if he's trying to repair and rehabilitate his reputation, or what the point of this letter is. How did you read it?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, unclear whether it's going to work. By the way, the extent to which our national conversation, power structure and news cycle are at the mercy of the alleged perversions of a handful of very rich, powerful New Yorkers is stunning.

But this, look, I think he thinks it's been a mistake that he was quiet for two years and the story was told without him. But on the other hand, I'm willing to listen to his side of it. But also Farrow, who I think has been a -- largely a very thorough reporter and tried to mind his ps and qs, particularly when it comes to NBC, which is his former employer, he's had them dead to rights on quite a few things. And, of course, he got Harvey Weinstein very correct when a lot of people did not. So he's been working on this for a long time and trying to get the details corroborated.

There does seem to be some contemporaneous reports, not to law enforcement, of this what would be clearly a criminal act. And so there's a lot in Farrow's reporting that he has to deal with. He's taking a very aggressive stance, but I'm not sure that PR-wise that's the wise move.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, I'm -- I'm not sure what the upshot of any of this is. But, Joey, there's not a legal case here, but because that's your expertise, if there were a legal case, and the woman, Brooke Nevils, describes a non-consensual, violent sex act and Matt Lauer describes not one but multiple, consensual sex acts. How complicated would that be in a courtroom?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: All right, look, it's complicated. But, ultimately, going back to the reporting, a reporter can only be as reliable and credible as the person who conveys that information. So let's start there.

What happens is, is that you don't only take, Alisyn, a he say/she say. You look at other things like what? It's called evidence. If there's an interested relationship between the two, what happens? Usually there's an exchange. It starts with text messaging. What are the nature of those text messaging? Were there any apologies? I'm sorry I violated you in any way. I can't wait to see you. That's relevant. Any e-mails.

In addition to that, most of us have friends, right, and we speak to our friends, not perhaps intimately about every aspect, but there's something called recent outcry. I can't believe what this guy did to me. I can't believe how coercive he is. So that's evidence and information.

CAMEROTA: I'm telling you, Joey, this would be very complicated because --

JACKSON: No -- look --

CAMEROTA: I mean based upon what they're both saying --

JACKSON: Right.

CAMEROTA: This wasn't a one-time thing, incident.

JACKSON: This -- right.

[08:55:00]

CAMEROTA: This was an ongoing thing. It was very complicated.

Let me just quickly read Brooke's statement to -- about Matt Lauer's statement.

She says, there's the Matt Lauer that millions of Americans watched on TV every morning for two decades and there's the Matt Lauer who this morning attempted to bully a former colleague into silence. His open letter was a case study in victim blaming. I am not afraid of him now regardless of his threats, bullying and the shaming and predatory tactics I knew he would and now has tried to use against me.

One last thing, Mary -- M.K., this is just interesting because she's using her name and she's going so public now with all of this.

HAM: Right.

Yes, I mean, and this is the thing when you're commenting publicly on this stuff, it's so hard to adjudicate, but some things that I look for are some physically corroborating facts, perhaps, as you noted, text messages or messages that corroborate some of this, and a named accuser who does have to come forward and speak about this stuff.

By the way, one of the things that's going to be the fallout here, not just for Matt Lauer, who has been out of the public eye for two years, is for NBC brass that did, we know, sort of try to --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

HAM: Try to get the Weinstein story out of the way. Now we have some evidence here that the way they were dealing with this was not good at all.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Mary Katherine Ham, Joey Jackson, thank you very much.

JACKSON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Obviously, Ronan's book isn't even out yet, so there's more to come here.

Thank you very much.

JACKSON: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: John.

BERMAN: All right, we have new reporting this morning suggesting Mitch McConnell's phone has been ringing a lot. What the president has been telling the Senate majority leader about the impeachment fight. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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