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Don Lemon Tonight

President Biden Delivers Address On Gun Violence; Buffalo Shooting Suspect Indicted On 25 Charges; January 6 House Select Committee To Begin Public Hearings; Amber Heard Plans To Appeal Verdict Finding She Defamed Depp; Teachers On Leave For Allegedly Sending Denigrating Texts About Students. CNN Heroes: Stepping Up To Help Babies In Need. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 02, 2022 - 23:00   ET



REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Let's be clear about that. This is about what the gun lobby -- what the gun industry is trying to do to sell more guns.

I grew up a hunter. I've been hunting and owning guns and using guns since I was 12 years old. I grew up a hunter, then I became an Army Ranger, and I'm a gun owner now. Never, never, in all that time, was this an issue of assault weapons, of AR-15s. It was never part of the dialogue until the last couple of years when the gun lobby decided they want to sell more guns. That is when it became part of the dialogue.

We need to stop this insanity, get back to reasonable discussions about what we can do to save people's lives.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So, listen, the president is leaving it up to you, to Congress and the Senate. The White House has been really staying out of the Capitol Hill negotiations on guns. Is this speech a sign that's going to change the president's involvement, or possible involvement may change here? Would you welcome the president's direct involvement?

CROW: I would -- I would love the president's direct involvement, and he has been directly involved in that. He has passed executive orders but, you know, the president is not a king. The president cannot just by fiat claim something to be the case. We have a system in America and that system starts with Congress to pass laws.

Now, the House of Representatives has passed, in my time in Congress, we have passed most of this major legislation. Of course, it goes to the Senate to die like most things do.

But we're going to do it again. We're going to go and we're going to back next week, we're going to pass it again because that's what the American people deserve, and we're going to send it back over to the Senate.

And people should vote and they should go back to their constituents and they should have to justify that vote and stand by the vote. We're going to make them vote because that's our job.

But we need public will and Senate behind us. We need to continue to push hard and have the American people push with us to put pressure on those who are not willing to come to the table.

LEMON: Do you think the Americans should take this to the ballot box come November if nothing changes? Do you think they will?

CROW: Absolutely. Absolutely, they will without question because parents are fed up, I'm fed up, children are fed up. We don't have to live like this. We don't. Since when have we become a country that can't solve major problems? That's not the story of America. The story of America is we do big and hard things.

So, we have a big and hard thing ahead of us, and we have to get it done. But there are people who are not willing to do it. So, it's time for them to get out of the way. It's time for the American people to fire those people and to hire people who are willing to do big and bold things.

LEMON: Congressman, President Biden reflected on a moment in a memorial service that he attended. This is more from the president. Watch.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And as we left the church, a grandmother who had just lost her granddaughter passed me a handwritten letter. It read -- quote -- "Erase the invisible line that is dividing our nation. Come up with a solution and fix what's broken, and make the changes that are necessary to prevent this from happening again" -- end of quote.


LEMON: So, clearly, that letter impacted him in a big way. It goes back to what the president campaigned on. That's -- he promised unity.

CROW: Right. Well, you get unity by delivering results and make people's lives better. That requires truth, that requires courage, that requires people who are not willing to be courageous or truthful to get the hell out of the way so we can do what needs to be done to save our kids' lives.

LEMON: Congressman Crow, thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us this evening.

CROW: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: There have been so many mass shootings in this country. It's sadly hard to keep track of them. Here what's President Biden said about that today.


BIDEN: Just do something. For God's sake, do something. After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done. This time, that can't be true. This time, we must actually do something.


LEMON: It's very similar to what President Obama said almost 10 years ago when a gunman killed 26 people, 20 of them children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a country, we have been through this too many times, whether it's an elementary school in Newton or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago.

These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics.



LEMON: Let's discuss now. CNN's senior political analysts John Avlon and Ron Brownstein, and also political commentator Alice Stewart. They're all here to discuss this. Good evening.

John, let's start with you. Twenty twenty-two, 2012, the message is the same. What do you think has happened in that decade and then in the last few weeks that maybe changes things?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What has happened in the last decade is more death, more mass shootings, more mass murders. And nothing has changed because after Sandy Hook, there was a bipartisan bill, Manchin, Toomey, 54 senators voted for it, but it was a filibuster, and people said, if we can't get action on common sense, gun safety reform after children, first graders were killed, we never will. So, people basically gave up.

But the death toll keeps rising. The mass shooting numbers are out of control. And I think there's regret at that inaction. And so, I think there is a window, a window where maybe you can get something modest bipartisan done at the Senate. That's the hope.

That's what President Biden was speaking to. Specific things. From red flag laws to assault weapons ban, although that would be ideal, but maybe raising the minimum age to 21. Things that we can do that we can agree on. That is not too much to ask.

LEMON: Ron, you have been looking into this. Are the American people behind the president when it comes to gun reform?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I mean, you know, the dynamic has been the same for a long time. There is a majority in support of the key proposals that he laid out tonight, including assault weapons ban over 60%, including a van on high-capacity magazines over 60%, and as your previous guest noted, roughly 90% in support of universal background checks.

And that consensus extends not only with Democrats and independents. As I've said before, if you look at the people, even Republicans who don't own guns, a majority of them agree and would support those positions. But the Republican gun owners are the one group that opposes all those ideas and they have a veto in the Republican Party.

It's easy to forget that in the 1990s, there were 38 House Republicans who voted for an assault weapon ban. There were none Senate Republicans. George W. Bush ran in 2000, said he would sign an assault weapon ban extension if Congress passed it, even though he didn't do anything when they allowed it to expire.

I think the question for Republicans is, what has changed from a policy point of view since then? As John said, there have been more deaths, more mass shootings. Why were those policies acceptable then and they are unacceptable now? The only reason is because of the shifting nature of the republican coalition, their increased alliance on the most culturally conservative voters, and they have a veto with the party's views on guns.

LEMON: So, I will ask Alice. What do you think? Is he right about that?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR TED CRUZ: I think, look, what we are seeing across the country and even within the Republican Party, people are saying, as President Biden said, they've had enough. They've had enough of the violence, they've had enough of the shootings, and it's time now to hope for change.

I am hopeful. I am optimistic that we will see change. Look, Ron is the expert on the numbers. He quoted a lot of numbers.

I was fascinated by a poll I saw today. YouGov poll polled people across the country. They view a lot of this as a mental health issue, not just a gun violence issue. So, that is something that needs to be taken into consideration.

President Biden touched on that. It cannot be just focusing on the guns. He mentioned several aspects. John just outlined many of them. Looking certainly at expanding the background checks, looking at the mental health issue, looking at the --

LEMON: Alice, hang on. I don't think anyone is saying just focus on the guns. I think that most people are saying it should be comprehensive. Every single person I've spoken to said it should be comprehensive. The only people who are saying it shouldn't be guns are the people who Ron mentioned, and that's Republicans.

STEWART: Actually, no. If you look -- a lot of Republicans I'm speaking with says they are not being reached out to my Democrats. Lindsey Graham tweeting tonight after the president's speech, saying that he stands and would be happy to sit down and vote on all of these proposals or have these conversations, but democrats are not willing to find common ground on this.

So, look, I think there are three things that are going to come out of this as we try to seek meaningful, important commonsense reform. Three things.

LEMON: Alice, hasn't Mitch McConnell deputized John Corny and others to deal with Democrats on this? Why do Democrats have to reach out? Why can't Republicans reach out? I think this is a bigger issue. This is a bigger and more important issue for Republicans. I think that they face more scrutiny come November if they don't deal with this issue.

STEWART: Look, everyone needs to put the partisanship aside and have these conversations. Three things are going to come out of this conversation. Progressives are not going to get everything they want as Biden said, Republicans are not going to give up everything they want, and Democrats are not going to get anything unless they really bring both sides together and have these talks.

We've heard Democrats talk about they're willing to put legislation after floor vote (ph) without having a bipartisan input on this.


We can't have that. We truly need bipartisanship to get something done.

LEMON: Okay.

STEWART: It needs to be comprehensive but it needs to be bipartisan.

LEMON: I want to play this. I think it is very important to get you guys to react. This is Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. He held a town hall in home state of Iowa. That was yesterday. This video is from Iowa Starting Line. It shows how he responded to a question on banning AR-15-style weapons. Watch.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Of the 400 million guns in the United States, 15 million of them are AR-15s. So, you're going to still have AR-15s even If you stop selling them right now.

UNKNOWN: No, you ban them.

UNKNOWN: The answer is not to do nothing.

UNKNOWN: You get rid of them.

UNKNOWN: Right. There are things that we can do.

UNKNOWN: If you catch somebody with it --


UNKNOWN: -- you confiscate it, and you find them or you put them in jail.


GRASSLEY: The answer to your question is a process answer. Whatever we do through the Cornyn-Murphy cooperative effort to make schools safe and to do what you can with guns, that probably would not get 60 votes and I'll say --

UNKNOWN: Quit filibustering it then!


LEMON: There you go! Look, conservative -- one of the most conservative. We reached out to Grassley's office, by the way, for a comment but we haven't heard back. Constituents are clearly angry, John. Do you think this is going to have an impact on senators like Grassley? That's why I said this is a more dangerous thing for Republicans, I do believe in this moment, come November than it is for Democrats.

AVLON: I think the issue is the parties are basically captive to their bases, particularly the Republican Party, as Ron was pointing out. But the fact that Chuck Grassley is getting that kind of push back in Iowa --

LEMON: Right.

AVLON: -- folks are saying, look, you're just telling me you can't do anything?

LEMON: Right.

AVLON: You know, that's not the American way. You deal with difficult issues and you find common ground. He said there's no way we're going to get 60 and that woman immediately said, well, then stop filibustering it, which is the actual issue.

So, you know, you got to have some faith in Cornyn and Murphy and Cassidy and Graham negotiating with these Democratic senators right now. Everyone is going to have to give a little. That's not a newsflash. The question is whether they can get 10 Republicans to support it.

LEMON: Right.

AVLON: That's the standard. It is not mission impossible unless everyone is so cynical in Washington that they treat it that way. But people will listen to their constituents. That was the power, what you just heard with Chuck Grassley.

LEMON: It is not just guns, but you cannot exclude --


LEMON: -- the guns, right?

AVLON: Red flag issues are both.

LEMON: It's comprehensive.

AVLON: It's both.

LEMON: Yeah, it's all of it. Thank you all. I really appreciate it.

There's so much gun violence every day in this country. People are getting shot all the time. And a lot of those shootings don't make the headlines but they are a huge part of the problem. So, what do we do about them?


REP. LUCY MCBATH (D-GA): Do we, as a nation, have a God-given right to live free from this scourge of gun violence, of senseless suffering, of death and despair? Because we cannot keep doing this. An entire generation of children are learning that the adults they look up to cannot or will not protect them.





LEMON: The 18-year-old suspected gunman in last month's racist mass shooting in Buffalo appearing in court today. A grand jury indicting him on 25 counts, including one count of domestic -- a domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree, 10 counts of first- degree murder, and one count of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.

The suspect pleading not guilty to all charges. The shooting at Tops supermarket left 10 people dead, three others injured.

I'm joined now by former NYPD Lieutenant Darrin Porcher and CNN law enforcement analyst Anthony Barksdale. Thanks for joining, gentlemen. Good evening.

Darrin, this is the first time New York has used the charge of domestic terrorism motivated by hate. He's facing 25 charges in all. Should more of these mass murders be charged with domestic terrorism?

DARRIN PORCHER, FORMER NYPD LIEUTENANT: Absolutely. This has been -- this has been a glacial process getting to this point. However, when we look at the over-problematic nature of gun violence, more so specific to these hate crimes, we should have had more teeth to the legislation in connection with charging people that commit these horrific acts, such as what we saw what happened in Buffalo. We need to move forward.

Another thing is when we look at what is happening to the Asian community, they have been just totally overwhelmed by hate crimes. This is something that is happening to the African-American community for years on end. It unfortunately seems as if we've become contrite and we've accepted it.

But now, we have legislation moving forward that will better assist in ensuring that people are prosecuted accordingly, and that is what we see reflective of this.

LEMON: You know, Anthony, it's not just mass shootings, but the small every day gun violence that's really eating away at the fabric of this country.

Today, in New York, a man was indicted for killing a food delivery man because he was angry about not getting enough duck sauce. Last weekend, in South Carolina, an eight-year-old boy was killed because police say a man was randomly shooting at passing cars.

I mean, where does this kind of callousness with guns in people's lives come from?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Don, it is out of control. I can't explain why people do what they do, but it's clear, if guns fall into the wrong hands, then these are the tragic results, and it is time for us to do something. The daily homicides, the daily shootings, they do significant damage.


Not only lives are lost, but families, communities. It just -- it's a poison. It's just so much to continue this way that we've got to stop it. We have to stop this.

LEMON: Yeah. And it's -- you know, every time I turn on the news here in New York, Darrin, you see, you know, a senseless murder, somebody, you know, being killed or shot in the subway. You know, all kinds of just madness. There are so many of these smaller killings that it barely registers with the public but they actually make up a huge portion of gun death.

PORCHER: Absolutely. The communities of color most specific have been under siege in the wake of gun violence. It seems as if we've gained a level of comfort in surviving in the ecosystem of gun violence. And these oftentimes do not get the headlines that we do from a mass shooting as what we just saw recently in connection with the school in Texas. And the same held true with a lot of these other school shootings.

But it goes back to, we have not gotten the necessary representation from law enforcement and elected officials in connection with the gun violence that's plaguing the communities of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

And I give President Biden a lot of credit for standing up to the gun manufacturers and the far-right. I'm going to tell you, I'm a Republican, but at the same token, I am diametrically opposed to the gun violence that's plaguing our country. Silence is violence. We need to take some action and it needs to come into effect now because if it doesn't, we have 400 million guns in the United States and only 360 million people. At what point do we identify that, hey, we have a catastrophic problem here that other countries are not experiencing?

LEMON: Anthony, I want to get this. There's a case in California where police arrested a 16-year-old after acting on a tip that he was allegedly recruiting students to carry out a mass shooting a high school. Among the items that they recovered was -- in that search in his home were assault rifles. I mean, how is it so easy for teenagers to get access to assault weapons like this?

BARKSDALE: The times that we're living and the access to these weapons, to parts of these weapons, is definitely a concern. For a 16- year-old to be able to actually start to plot and then start to obtain what's needed to pull off a plot to kill others, it's just amazing.

And then we have to look at copycats, social media, where's the parental guidance, mental health issues. It's just so much that we have to deal with. And, at least tonight, we heard President Biden mention numerous issues, including mental health, including going after the manufacturers of these guns.

So, this was a significant night, but we have a lot of work to do. We keep talking about it and people are steady dying every single day.

LEMON: Right.

BARKSDALE: And just because you aren't part of the measurement for a mass shooting, four victims or more not including the shooter, what about if you die in a triple shooting, a triple homicide, a double, a single? These people, these lives matter to their families, and we really have to do a better job.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, Anthony. Thank you, Darrin. I really appreciate it.

The January 6th Committee announcing public hearings, promising previously unseen material from the day of the insurrection. Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean weighs in next.




LEMON: Now, a CNN exclusive. Republicans who texted Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows with urgent pleas on January 6th say that Trump could have stopped the violence, that as the House committee investigating the insurrection announces the first public hearings after its 10th month investigation.

Joining me now, CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel Mr. John Dean. He is the focus of the new CNN Original Serios "Watergate: Blueprint for a Scandal," Sunday at 9:00 right here on CNN. Good to see you, sir.


LEMON: Thank you very much. Let us talk about what is happening because our very own Jamie Gangel followed up with people who texted Meadows during the insurrection, begging for Trump to do something.

A former administration official told her that Trump -- quote -- "failed at being the president." A Meadows's associate said that Trump waited too long to act, adding that he was derelict in his duty to speak out while the Capitol was being attacked. Is it the burden of the committee to prove that Trump failed?


DEAN: I don't think that's a difficult proof, Don. He obviously knows that riot go on at the Capitol, the insurrection was something he helped orchestrate, and I don't think we're going to have any trouble proving that piece of information.

LEMON: A lot of folks have been waiting on the timing of this. When exactly are they going? They said, you know, they were going to schedule these hearings. The committee announcing tonight, the January 6 Committee, that its first public hearing is going to take place next week, saying that it is going to present previously unseen material documenting what happened on January 6th.

And we've seen so much from that day. Vice President Pence being escorted out of the Senate chamber, among other things.


Brutal attacks on officers. What sort of new material do you expect them to share? Because it seems like we know an awful lot. There's more?

DEAN: We do. Who knows what they know? They've done a massive collection of information. They've got really an impressive witness list. It's just the opposite, Don, as Watergate. Watergate started with low-level people and they bored the bejesus out of everybody. The network threatened to pull coverage if they didn't get some more exciting witnesses.

But they went step by step by step. They upped the game here. They're playing with -- they have much more important witnesses, much more knowledgeable witnesses. So, I think it's going to educate the public faster.

LEMON: I want to talk about the witnesses. Do you think -- it's going to happen in primetime. Do you think that's going to make a difference to the American public? People won't be at work. Maybe they will be at home and they will be able to --

DEAN: I think it makes a huge difference being in primetime, yes.

LEMON: Yeah. Let us talk about the witnesses because the committee has started to reach to witnesses and informing them of their desire for them to appear as part of these upcoming public hearings.

You were the star witness during the Watergate hearings. How important is it for the committee to line up witnesses that are going to be compelling to all Americans? As you said, they threatened to -- the networks threatened to pull it unless they got more interesting witnesses. So, compelling witnesses, how important is that?

DEAN: It's important. Witnesses are unpredictable. There will be some examination. I think they're going to use counsel to cross-examine witnesses. That will draw things they're not expecting. There will be conflict, which is always good for television.

So, I think -- they have learned a lot from Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Clinton proceedings. They understand television much better now than when, say, 85 million people tuned in to watch me.

LEMON: Yeah. I was just looking at that.


LEMON: You in the 70s. You didn't even look at the video. When you look at that video, what do you think? Does it seem like another life?


DEAN: It was another life.


LEMON: Similar glasses. Similar glasses. I want to play a clip from the CNN Series, "Watergate: Blueprint for a Scandal." Watch this.


DEAN: One of the questions that Haldeman asked me was, can I be loyal to Richard Nixon. It struck me as a strange question because I thought we were all on the same team.

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI AGENT, YALE UNIVERSITY SENIOR LECTURER: The loyalty is about being a member of the group. That becomes the paramount value. If you're not loyal, then you get kicked out of the group. So, to maintain your tribal membership, you have to go along with whatever the leader says, and that's incredibly dangerous.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A vice president, a member of the cabinet, a member of Congress who is a member of the president's party, he should always consider that he is dispensable and to do what the man wants.


LEMON: I mean, that takes me back to my childhood. I remember my parents, my grandparents watching the hearings and watching the news as to what was going on. I remember our president leaving in shame on a helicopter, being taken from the White House. The Watergate scandal --

DEAN: You had the --

LEMON: Yeah. Remember he stood there and he did that?

DEAN: It was kind of a defiant salute he did at the end.

LEMON: Right. Yes. So, that compare to January 6th, both of these are about presidents trying to hang on to power. How does this compare to what happened at the Capitol? How does that compare to what you lived through with Nixon?

DEAN: Don, what happened on January 6th is so much worse than Watergate.

LEMON: Really?

DEAN: It really is by a hundred degrees. What we're talking about right now threatens democracy. If we don't get it right, if we don't get out of this mode where authoritarian leadership is accepted blindly, this is what Nixon gave us a hint of.

I think there's a difference, though. Somebody like Trump showed he had no shame. He really -- you couldn't embarrass Trump. You still can't. Now, the Republican Party is taking that attitude. They don't care if you shame them. And that's very dangerous for a democracy. A democracy has to be humble. It has to really think not of itself but of the people it's governing. And we're way out of whack right now.

LEMON: That isn't good, we're way out of --

DEAN: Way out of whack.

LEMON: That's a kind way of saying it. John, I can't wait to see this. It's so good to see you in person.

DEAN: Likewise.

LEMON: Thank you for coming in. Thank you.

DEAN: Pleasure. Thank you for doing this.

LEMON: I hope everyone watches this. It's very important. As you said, our democracy is on the line. The all-new CNN Original Series, "Watergate: Blueprint for a Scandal." It premieres on Sunday, 9:00 p.m., only on CNN.

Our thanks again to John Dean.

And up next, the case that exploded online, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Dan Abrams breaks down what it all means after this. Is Dan here?

[23:35:00] Has anybody seen him? There he is in the background.


LEMON: A lawyer for Amber Heard tells CNN that the reason the jury ruled favorably for Johnny Depp in the defamation lawsuit they filed against each other was because of his wealth, power, and fame. Depp was awarded more than $10 million in damages.


His ex-wife was awarded $2 million. Amber Heard says that she will appeal the verdict.

I want to discuss now. Dan Abrams, chief legal correspondent at ABC News. I'm so happy that you're here. He is also the co-author of "Alabama V. King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Criminal Trial that Launched the Civil Rights Movement."

I'm happy to have you. I'm going to talk about this because you and I have been discussing it personally. So, we're going to get to that. But you know I have to ask you --


LEMON: -- about what happened between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.


LEMON: You say that this was a complete disaster for Amber Heard, a total loss for her, a complete win for Johnny Depp. Why is that, Dan?

ABRAMS: Because if you look at the verdicts together, there's just no question that the jury didn't believe Amber Heard and they did believe Johnny Depp.

I mean, the victory that Amber Heard got in this case is a really technical one. It was basically a statement that Johnny Depp's lawyer had made about Amber Heard getting together with a bunch of her friends and cooking this whole thing up.

LEMON: Was this heard by more than one person?

ABRAMS: Exactly. So, maybe (INAUDIBLE). They don't believe that the friends all got together and cooked this thing up. But when it comes to Johnny Depp's claims for defamation, the fact that he won on all three says that they just didn't believe Amber Heard.

LEMON: You know what happened. I mean, Johnny Depp, a defamation in England, right?


LEMON: It was a different outcome.

ABRAMS: Yup. LEMON: A case -- a defamation case against a public figure --


LEMON: People --

ABRAMS: Harder here than in England.

LEMON: It is.


LEMON: So then, what does this say about defamation cases going forward? Does it set a precedent?

ABRAMS: It doesn't say anything about defamation.

LEMON: Okay.

ABRAMS: It says about this case. It says about in this case that these jurors didn't believe Amber Heard.

LEMON: Yeah.

ABRAMS: And, you know, when you listen to the statement from Amber Heard's lawyer, it's basically insulting the jury.

LEMON: Yeah.

ABRAMS: Right? It's basically saying, all these jurors were too blinded by his power and his fame, and it couldn't have possibly been that they reviewed the evidence. You know, you talk to people who saw the evidence every day and they were real problems with Amber Heard's account.

LEMON: Okay. Now, it's "Alabama V. King," all right? "Alabama V. King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Criminal Trial that Launched the Civil Rights Movement." You wrote the book with civil rights Attorney Fred Gray. Fred Gray represented Dr. King.


LEMON: How important was this case in establishing King as a national civil rights leader?

ABRAMS: It was the case. I mean, Martin Luther King was a local minister who had been asked by Fred Gray and one other person to be the spokesperson for this boycott that they were conducting in Montgomery of the busses.

LEMON: Yeah.

ABRAMS: That became a very successful boycott. It became so successful that the local authorities said, we got to get these people back on the busses. How are we going to do it? Let's prosecute Martin Luther King based on some ancient anti-boycott statute. Suddenly, the national media starts watching. What is this prosecution? Who is this guy who is being prosecuted?

The first time Martin Luther King is ever mentioned in the national media was in this trial. We uncovered a transcript of the trial. Martin Luther King testifies in his own defense. Fascinating stuff.

LEMON: You believe that he is one of the most underrepresented -- one of the most --

ABRAMS: Fred Gray.

LEMON: Fred Gray, civil rights. He was just 25 years old at the time. He also represented other civil rights activists, including Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, who was -- did the same thing -- similar thing to what Rosa Parks did, before Rosa Parks, the freedom rioters, numerous school segregation lawsuits, the most impactful things about the struggles of folks who were living in Montgomery, Alabama and the people who were dealing with what was happening at the time.

ABRAMS: What an honor to be able to -- I'm talking a piece of history, working on this book with him. It was great! It is like, wow, getting to work on this book with him.

I'll tell you, the most impactful this about working on this book, in addition to working with Fred Gray, was reading the accounts from the individual citizens, ordinary folks in Montgomery. Witness after witness who testifies about how horrible it was to ride the bus. How they were called the "N" word. You had to pay your money, you had to walk outside of the bus, and you had to go back into the back of the bus. And you know what? Sometimes, the bus drivers would just keep going.

LEMON: Yeah.

ABRAMS: And it was indignity after indignity, and it was really a reminder about what it was like in Alabama in 1956. That was more impactful than almost reading through Martin Luther King's own testimony.

LEMON: I can't wait to read this book. I have to read the book because I know Dan is going to --

ABRAMS: I'm going to check you.

LEMON: Hey, Don, good to see you. Did you read the book?

ABRAMS: Yes, exactly. Did you finally read the book?


LEMON: I am going to read the book. Dan, thank you very much. The book is called "Alabama V. King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Criminal Trial that Launched the Civil Rights Movement." Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

LEMON: Absolute pleasure. I also want to make sure that you know about this. "Juneteenth: A Global Celebration for Freedom." It is the first global celebration of Juneteenth since it became a national holiday. I'm going to be there along with a whole bunch of stars lifting up their voices, Sunday, June 19th, 8 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.


So, six teachers on leave in Rochester, New York for allegedly sending text messages about students the superintendent called racist. CNN investigates after this.


LEMON: Shock and outrage in one community in Rochester, New York. Six teachers in one public school placed on leave and at risk of losing their job after the discovery of vulgar and denigrating texts about some of their students and their parents, texts allegedly sent between the teachers.


The majority of the children in the school are Black and Latino.

We get the story tonight from CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro.


EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Upheaval in one Rochester New York public school. Six teachers placed on leave after an alleged group text chain making denigrating jokes and insulting students by name was exposed.

JENNIFER LOPEZ, PARENT OF STUDENT MENTIONED IN THE TEXTS: You're supposed to be an example for the kids. They look up to you, guys. They're somebody you guys are supposed to trust.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Anger from parents and outrage from the superintendent Lesli Myers-Small.

LESLI MYERS-SMALL, ROCHESTER CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT: I was horrified by the racist and demeaning references used to describe our children in the Rochester City School District.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Images of the text messages posted to Facebook by a mother of one of the students mentioned in them show one teacher calling three students the "B" word and the "C" word. Quote -- "Okay I also hate the students," the teacher wrote, before adding, LOL.

Another text wishes one student would -- quote -- "BTF" -- out of another student as a solution to a conflict between them.

The Rochester City schools have a student population that's majority Black and brown. The teaching staff is majority white. It's a common ratio in many minority-majority districts across the country. Some experts have said that all schools need antibias training, particularly in districts where teachers and students come from different backgrounds. Yet after urging staff to participate in voluntary trainings in Rochester, Myers-Small said fewer than 15% of the district's 5,100 person staff have taken her up on it.

MYERS-SMALL: About 700 of our staff have been through training to some extent and will continue to offer it and make sure that we have as many individuals participate in training because it's important.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): In one of the group texts, a teacher in the mostly Black district says he'd like to tell 90% of parents that they are "S" word parents and has "F" up kids.

In another, a teacher jokes someone close to them asked them to sanitize their clothes before coming into a house after work and suggests they get a job at a nearby wealthier district that is 80% white.

The six teachers allegedly involved remain on administrative leave as the investigation continues. To Myers-Small, this is not just a case of workplace venting. She says termination for those involved is potentially on the table.

MYERS-SMALL: There's a difference between saying things that you shouldn't and being -- humiliating the student. And the text messages, the images that I read were humiliating.


LEMON: Wow! Evan McMorris-Santoro joins me now. I hardly know what to say. You just heard the superintendent there. She called these text messages racist, her words. Vulgar and denigrating, they were, of course, if you read them. Are you hearing what are the teachers saying? What is the union saying?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, the teachers are mostly keeping quiet. The union sent a statement out, saying, everyone, and especially our students, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. And everyone is entitled to due process. The allegations against some teachers at School 17 are currently under investigation by the district. That is why we are constrained from commenting further until all of the facts are in and the investigation is concluded.

There's a due process here. There's a union. It's going to be a long process before we get to the bottom of this, but, obviously, you can see from that superintendent just how outraged she is.

LEMON: It is not the first time. This is the second time, I understand, in two months for this school district. Another teacher was placed on leave after parents alleged that he made his students pick seeds out of cotton. What's that all about?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, it's remarkable experience for you from the district in Rochester. Just a few weeks ago, this teacher was placed on leave after an exercise in which students say they were learning about slavery and the teacher had them pick seeds out of cotton. Some pictures were posted by parents, the children, like cotton balls, things like that.

But what these parents say -- obviously, they are outraged. And what they say is that there's a culture in this school system where some of these teachers, the students feel like, they're not respected by their teachers and maybe they're treated differently because of their race.

And that's exactly what the superintendent is talking about. She says that in order to combat this culture, it's to take it head-on and do these anti-bias trainings. That is why she if offering them. They are free. Anyone can take them if they want to. As you heard in the piece, only 15% of teachers have done it so far.

LEMON: You will continue to follow?


LEMON: Thank you, Evan. I appreciate it.

So, with no end in sight to the nation's baby formula shortage, many parents are forced to look elsewhere to feed their children. For some, breastmilk banks are helping get them through this crisis. This week's CNN Hero salutes lifestyle content creator Lucie Fink, a breastfeeding mom who is donating her excess milk for babies in need after sharing her journey with her online audience.



LUCIE FINK, CNN HERO: My son is now 12 weeks old and he eats four times a day.

It was actually my TikTok and Instagram followers that alerted me that I had such plastic oversupply of breastmilk. Pumping from the start was a big mystery box for me, and I know that it is that way for a lot of other moms as well.

Ever since having Milo, I will share a lot of content about my nursing journey. I would always express milk one or two more times in a day than he was actually feeding. I googled how to donate my breastmilk in New York City. It was easy. It was fast. The whole process was so incredibly rewarding, and especially now with the formula shortage, it's needed more than ever.


LEMON: And very cute baby there. To learn more about her efforts, go to And while you're there, you can nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero.

Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.