Return to Transcripts main page


Decision On Charges Revealed In Rayshard Brooks Killing; Playing Pretend, Trump, Pence Misleading On Virus Severity; Aunt Jemima Brand, Acknowledging Racist Past, Removing Image. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2020 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar and I want to welcome viewers here in the U.S. and around the world.

We are beginning with breaking news today. A city on edge, awaiting an imminent announcement on whether criminal charges will be filed in the deadly police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta.

The 27-year-old husband and father of four fatally shot after he took a taser from police and fired it at one officer following scuffle with two officers at a Wendy's restaurant last Friday night. Both of the officers involved in the shooting are white.

Garrett Rolfe, on the right there, is the man who shot Brooks. He has been fired from the police force. Devin Bronsan on your left there, placed on administrative duty. And the Fulton County district attorney has said that he is weighing murder, felony murder and voluntary manslaughter charges.

Let's go now to CNN's Dianne Gallagher in Atlanta. She has details. Dianne, what are you hearing?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Brianna, again, we're expecting to hear from the district attorney at 3:00. I can tell you that we are starting to see a crowd gather here at the Wendy's. I'm going to step aside just so you can see.

This is where it happened. This is where Rayshard Brooks was killed by the police in Atlanta and people even who have shown up just in the past few minutes said that they weren't aware of this announcement.

Now, look, you mentioned before that the district attorney has said that there were three options on the table, murder, felony murder and voluntary manslaughter. He also has said that he is looking at both officers, not just the former officer now, Garrett Rolfe, but also at the other officer who was the original responding officer, Devin Brosnan. Now, we're not sure. It may not be one of those three charges and the truth is, there may be no charges at all. The district attorney has not given an indication as to what he is looking at. He did tell us that he was spending time from the point of that shooting late Friday night until this announcement today looking at things like the ballistics, looking at the video that we have had a chance to see ourselves. At first, he said he was struggling to get some of that video from the police in Atlanta.

And also talking to additional witnesses who were out there. There were a lot of people at the Wendy's that night, which is why we have different vantage points of what happened, and at different periods of time, including the immediate aftermath and right before the shooting itself happened.

And so the district attorney has said that he's looking and taking all of that into account. He initially said those were the three charges that he was considering.

The families of Rayshard Brooks has said they want both of the officers charged and they want them charged the same, because they feel as if the other officer could have intervened or at least said something to maybe have prevented Officer Rolfe from firing those three shots, two of which hit Rayshard Brooks killing him on Friday night.

Now, I've spoken with the police union as well, which if officers are charged, has said, will represent them. They say that if charges are presented, Brianna, they feel that it is premature and political in nature. They say that the officers have not received due process or a proper investigation at this point.

And they point to the fact that both Paul Howard, the district attorney, and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, they feel, have political aspirations, including an election for the district attorney coming up that may cloud their judgment when it comes to this, according to the union there.

Again though, Brianna, the family says they want to see both of the officers charged in the death of Rayshard Brooks.

KEILAR: All right. Dianne Gallagher reporting outside of the Wendy's in Atlanta, where Rayshard Brooks was killed, thank you for that report.

Now, let's go to the coronavirus pandemic. The president is pushing ahead with a killer rally for his supporters this weekend. No, really. Doctors warn it's extremely likely that it could result in coronavirus fatalities. It's the exact recipe for a super spreader event that the president's own health officials are warning against. It's indoors. It brings thousands and thousands of people close together. It does not require masks, and it involves loud talking and screaming.

And yet the president defies the science, because, by his own admission, he loves his big crowds and he's trying to convince the American public in believing the coronavirus is contained. It is not. Here are the facts on the ground. Ten states show a 50 percent rise in cases since last week. Arizona, Texas and Florida all setting the daily record for new cases. In fact, today Florida is reporting more than 2,600 new cases.

How many stories have we seen where people in close quarters have become infected, bars, food plants, factories, graduation parties, nursing homes? Despite all of these facts, the president is misleading Americans on the severity of the virus, a virus that has already killed at least 117,000 Americans just in a matter of months here.


They continue to shun masks, and social distancing at events, even though it is scientifically indisputable that they contain and spread the spread and save lives.

The vice president telling governors to use a completely misleading argument about testing and then he wrote an op-ed trying to declare the virus over, saying the media is pushing a second wave. Well, that's just not true. His own White House coronavirus task force has warned of a second wave. And history tells us, there very well may be a second wave, but we are not even out of the first wave according to doctors and scientists.

I'm sure that Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham will use this clip to say, wait, what about the protests? The media doesn't raise alarm, they may say, about protests and spread of the virus. Well, yes, we do. We've been talking about it. We've been talking about it with doctors and scientists who have raised the alarm about the spread. We have been asking protesters about it. They say it's worth the risk for social justice. That's what they say. But this is the president putting Americans' health at risk for self-aggrandizement.

And joining me, I want to talk with CNN Medical Analyst Art Caplan. He is the Head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU's Langone Medical Center.

And, Art, in this op-ed that the vice president writes, he says, we've slowed the spread, we've cared for the most vulnerable, we've saved lives and we've created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That's a cause for celebration, not the media's the fear mongering. Do you think the vice president here is being honest with the American people?

ARTHUR CAPLAN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Hey, Brianna. No, absolutely not. In fact, he has engaged in morally reprehensible behavior because we're not out of the first wave. There is this notion somehow that the virus has been tamped down to the point where we're just putting out embers, to use his term. That's just not true. The virus is flaring up in many states, and, by the way, it's flaring up at a rate that's higher than any testing that's going on. So we know that it can't be a product of just test results.

So when you tell governors, which have outbreaks going on, forget about it. Don't worry about it. Lie to your constituents, when the president says, let's all get together indoors without masks, but insists on a liability provision on the ticket to say, don't sue me when you get sick? That's really irresponsible leadership. It's just horrible.

KEILAR: And what does that -- essentially a waiver, right? What does that tell you?

CAPLAN: It tells me that they know that the people who come to the rally, they don't care about them except as a photo op because they're going to kill some of them and some of their family and friends. It tells me too that they're pretending like they can escape liability. Those waivers aren't worth anything. If bring someone to a dangerous situation and you know it, you can't then say, don't sue me even though I expose you to danger. That's worthless.

So what we're seeing pure propaganda that is damaging to the American people. We're trying to get people to wear masks. Brianna, just this week, a couple of studies have been out, mask-wearing behavior really cuts down on the prevalence of the virus. It really stops exchange between people. So go around and be a lousy role model like Trump is doing at this rally, or to go around and say, lie to your voters in these states, it's just antithesis of responsible to public health.

KEILAR: The vice president highlighted rate of 750 Americans dying a day as a success. But as Politico's playbook pointed out, that's actually still -- if you look at it broadly, that would be 270 deaths a year. I wonder what you think about that number and touting that number.

CAPLAN: Well, what I do know is we've had 130,000 deaths. We didn't have enough protective gear, didn't do enough testing right away because we didn't have tests. Those deaths should be right on the doorstep of the president and White House.

I don't see how you can declare a broken economy plus 130,000 deaths and climbing any kind of victory. What sort of victory is that? So if the president wants to just say, look, I don't care, I'm just going back to business as usual, because that's what I need to get re- elected, then they work as politics. But no pandemic was ever defeated by a politician. It's defeated by public health.

KEILAR: Art, thank you, Art Caplan, we appreciate it.

CAPLAN: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: And underway right now, there's a clash between the Senate and the House over how to reform America's police departments.


See what is happening on the floor.

Plus, as we await a decision on charges in the Rayshard Brooks killing at a Wendy's in Atlanta, a Georgia lawmaker will join me to react to a sheriff in her state saying the killing by police was justified.

And the Aunt Jemima Brand will retire the image, acknowledging its racist past. Why this branding won't be the last to go away?

This is CNN's special live coverage.


KEILAR: We're back now to our breaking news.

Just a short time from now, we expect to hear the Fulton County district attorney's decision on whether to charge the officers involved in the deadly shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

I'm joined now by Georgia State Senator Gloria Butler.


Senator, thanks for joining us.

STATE SEN. GLORIA BUTLER (D-GA): Thank you so much for allowing me to be with you today.

KEILAR: So you're awaiting this decision on charges as really the country is here, because we're expecting it this afternoon. What do you want to hear from the Fulton County D.A.?

BUTLER: Well, I'd like to see charges that are appropriate to the crime, because it was a crime to shoot somebody in the back.

KEILAR: And what would that look like to you?

BUTLER: Well, probably either murder charges or -- according to District Attorney Paul Howard, he would probably charge murder or voluntary manslaughter, and I would be comfortable with those charges.

KEILAR: I want -- as you know, there are people who have very different point of view from you when it comes to this, and I want to play one of those. This is what a sheriff from Burke County, Georgia, Sheriff Alfonzo Williams, told me yesterday here on the show.


SHERIFF ALFONZO WILLIAMS, BURKE COUNTY, GEORGIA: If an officer is hit with that taser, that he -- all of his muscles will be locked up and he'll have the inability to move and to respond, and yet he is still responsible for every weapon on his belt. So if that officer had been hit, he still has a firearm on his side, and the likelihood of him being stomped in the head or having his firearm taken and used against him was a probability, and so he did what he needed to do, and this was a completely justified --

KEILAR: Which is --

WILLIAMS: -- shooting.


KEILAR: I wonder, Senator, how you respond to that? BUTLER: Well, the thing about a taser, it is not a deadly weapon. It may cause you to not be able to move for a moment, but it is not a deadly weapon.

So, you know, there are going to be different views on using a taser on someone anyway. So I respect his views, and I hope he respects mine.

KEILAR: Now, this morning Senate Republicans announced their police reform plan here in Washington. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who is the lone African-American Republican senator, was front and center in this announcement. And this is what he said about racism in the United States.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): We are not a racist country. We deal with racism because there's racism in the country. Both are mutually true, they're both true, not mutually exclusive. So I don't worry about the definitions that people want to use. It's good for headlines but it's really bad for policy. We're going to focus on getting something done.


KEILAR: Do you see a difference between those two descriptions as he suggests?

BUTLER: Did he say, we're not a racist country?

KEILAR: Yes, that's right. He said it's not a racist country. Basically there are just racist things that happen.

BUTLER: We are a racist country. I do see it different from him. How could there just be certain things that are racist? We are a racist country. It's simple as that. And it's been for a long, long time.

KEILAR: Georgia State Senator Gloria Butler, I want to thank you for coming on the program. Thank you so much for coming on.

And moments from now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will join me on the Senate Republican plan for police reform and where she'd be willing to compromise.

Plus, I'll ask her about mandating masks at committee hearings and what happens if Republicans refuse to wear them.

And I'll speaking with a man who started a petition to get rid of the Aunt Jemima Brand, and today, that happened.



KEILAR: An iconic and centuries-old brand of breakfast foods is acknowledging its origins are based on a racial stereotype and it's going away for good. Quaker Oats is retiring its famed Aunt Jemima line of food products and a company which is now owned by PepsiCo has marketed pancake mix, grits, syrup with the face of a black woman since it took over the brand in 1926.

The original logo from the 1800s used the very racist mammy stereotype of a smiling full-figured black woman who was wearing a headscarf. Over the years, this look was changed, but the name remained, a name that came from a minstrel show tune reportedly sung by slaves.

In a statement Quaker Oats said this about making the change. Quote, as work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers' expectations.


And then another iconic food product using racial tropes, Uncle Ben's, will also disappear. Its owner, the Mars Company, announced that it plans to evolve, that's a quote, that's the word they used, the food lines brand and, quote, visual identity. A new name and logo have not yet been decided.

Dan Gasby is a restaurateur and co-partner of the iconic lifestyle brand, B. Smith Enterprises. And I want to get your reaction this, because you actually called on Quaker Oats several years ago to change the logo because you had said it was, quote, the epitome of female humiliation. They told you that they would never do it. Now they have. What do you think?

DAN GASBY, CO-PARTNER, B. SMITH ENTERPRISE: Well, first of all, Brianna, thank you for having me. It's something that is a blessing. I mean, we're at a tectonic shift in our country about racial relationships and understanding how -- we're going to all -- has been something that -- let me just say my wife, the late Barbara Smith, was in a store, we were trying to develop a supermarket business, and she asked a young black girl who has happened to buy over -- well over a decade ago, a box of pancakes of Aunt Jemima.

And we walked up to her and said, hello, do you know who this image is? And the young lady says basically said it was basically said it was someone who was very important. And that was something that struck her as being unbelievably sad that she didn't know that this really represented something negative, and so that was the start of Barbara B. Smith wanting to make sure that young girls, particularly young African-American girls, would not have the situation where they would have stereotypes that were showing not the best of them, but showing the history of slavery.

KEILAR: Stereotypes are powerful. They have long-lasting effects, and an example of that in this case with Aunt Jemima, something that happened to one of your waitresses. Tell us about this, a customer actually calling your waitress Aunt Jemima.

GASBY: You know, it's so -- it still hurts me to this day. We have a restaurant isn't Sag Harbor and we were sitting on the deck. I was actually at the bar and a group of guys came in and a waitress, who was very large, was serving them and she was called Aunt Jemima. And two separate tables -- it shows you how things work out. One table that was predominantly black and another table that was predominantly white overheard the conversation and literally made those people leave. It's been a historic situation.

We started this well over a decade-plus ago. And I said to PepsiCo, to the people there who was the head of global marketing, I said, no one would want to get an Aunt Jemima award. You can't give a scholarship in the name of Aunt Jemima. You could give a scholarship in the name of Mrs. Butterworth and it would have more value, because there's not a single black girl in America who wants to be called Aunt Jemima.

I said, if you could imagine someone saying to your daughter, you remind me of Aunt Jemima or you embody the very talents of Aunt Jemima, they would be insulted. It met upon deaf ears over a decade ago.

And I am now so proud of this young lady named Kirby. The future is for the young, and what she did with social media is what's changing the course of our country for the better. You know, there's a real shout-out to Kirby more making this thing so millennials and people younger can see how difficult it is to be called the N-word is the same as to be called Aunt Jemima.

And so I'm very proud of what she did and I'm proud of what my wife had represented long before it was falling on deaf ears, the need to change and make this image go away and to find a suitable image that would be respected and admired and inspiring for others.

KEILAR: Dan Gasby, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts today. We really appreciate it.

GASBY: My pleasure, Brianna. Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: And next, the most powerful woman in Congress will join us live. Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the Republican plan for policing, her demand for members to wear masks and what she thinks of the president's rally in Tulsa.

Plus, just in, we are learning that Tulsa just set its daily record for total positive cases.