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Dorner Support; C Plus; "Heart Attack Grill" Death; Toy Guns

Aired February 13, 2013 - 14:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Bottom of the hour, I'm Brooke Baldwin. For the next 20 minutes, we are going to flush out the stories you will be talking about around the dinner table tonight, starting here with the social media support for this ex-cop, who had been on the run, now believed to be dead, Christopher Dorner.

L.A. police have not yet confirmed the body found in that burning cabin to be that of Dorner's. He killed four people. Two of them officers in this revenge spree to get back at L.A. police for firing him back in 2008.

If all of that he's accused of is true, he's a villain, right? But there is this whole wave of social media support growing for this man at the heart of the largest manhunt in L.A. history.

On the "We Stand with Christopher Dorner" Facebook page, one post reads, I've never seen such a true hero as Chris Dorner. Someone else tweeted, his cause was just, his actions were just extreme.

Joining me now, MC Lyte, host of "Cafe Mocha" and the president of the L.A. Grammy Chapter, Jack Moore, editor of Buzz Feed Sports, Lauren Ashburn, editor-in-chief at the "Daily Download," and Mark Lamont Hill, a professor at Columbia University.

Welcome to all of you. Lauren, let me just begin with you. When you hear some of the comments, do you -- do these Dorner sympathizers, let's call them Dorner sympathizers, do any of them have any point?

LAUREN ASHBURN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "DAILY DOWNLOAD": My mouth dropped open when I heard you say this. I have a really, really hard time with people saying that this man is a hero after the people he killed, all the manpower hours that have been wasted, not to mention the airwaves that have been wasted by this chase. I'm in shock.

BALDWIN: Who disagrees with Lauren?

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: There is no waste here, though. I mean, this has been an important public conversation that we have had about police brutality, about police corruption, about state violence. There are even talks about making him the first domestic drone target.

I mean, this is serious business here. I don't think it has been a waste of time at all. As far as Dorner himself goes, he's been like a real life superhero to many people. Don't get me wrong. What he did was awful, killing innocent people is bad.

But when you read his manifesto, when you read the message that he left, he wasn't entirely crazy. He had a plan and mission here and many people aren't rooting for him to kill innocent people. They're rooting for somebody who was wronged, to get a kind of revenge against the system. It is almost like watching "Django Unchained" in real life. It is kind of exciting.

ASHBURN: But he went about it the wrong way.

BALDWIN: The LAPD angle, we now know Chief Beck said, look, yes, we will relook at the firing, we'll investigate. I don't know where that stands given the status of the case right now. But do you think that this should serve as a catalyst for a conversation, talking about racism in the LAPD?


MC LYTE, HOST, "CAFE MOCHA": Absolutely.

MOORE: I think this is really even beyond just talking about the LAPD, though. I think the issue is that you'll always have people on social media who support these villains. I mean, there are James Holmes fans on social media too.

BALDWIN: Is this the same thing?

MOORE: I think there is some part of it that is social media weirdness. But I think there is also something to it in that the narrative of Christopher Dorner doesn't -- in some ways it resembles a Denzel Washington movie where someone is wronged and he stands up for himself and goes down in a blaze of glory. It is hard not to turn it into a movie.

ASHBURN: We have the law. We have the law. There are appropriate ways to do this. You can --

MOORE: Not if the law is broken.

BALDWIN: Guys, guys, guys, what if we say previous to, take the murderous rampage out of it, would he have had a point?

ASHBURN: Would he have had a point to -- well, he could have gone through the proper channels, of course. I think this kind of thing happens a lot, but you don't go out and kill people.

HILL: The game totally changed. The proper channels don't work. If I say that the LAPD is corrupt, if I say the LAPD is corrupt and you say go through the proper channels. The proper channel is to call the LAPD. There are hundreds, literally thousands of cases of police brutality reported about the LAPD every year, 99 percent of them are dismissed. Guess who does the investigation? The LAPD, that's the problem, you can't go to --

BALDWIN: MC Lyte, I want to hear from you. You're listening to the voices, what do you think? LYTE: Absolutely. Everyone's making a point that needs to be heard, I'm sure. My take and especially what I read about the case is that he wanted to make good in terms of reporting, I guess, a fellow officer who had kicked a homeless person. So if it all has catapulted into this, I mean, sure shame and yes, just but it is extreme to take another's life.

HILL: Of course.

LYTE: I see on the social media fronts there are lots of folks there who say a lot of things we all -- they ought not say.

BALDWIN: There is weirdness.

LYTE: Weirdness about it. But truthfully, people are -- it is an uproar because people are being brutalized within L.A. and all over this nation. We're seeing kids die at the hands of police brutality. So, yes, it is out of weirdness, but these social media, it is good to hear what these people have to say. And, yes, it is not a waste of time because it is a conversation that needs to take place.

BALDWIN: I'm glad we had the conversation. I have a feeling the conversation will continue. Stand by. Hot topics panel because when we come back, anyone get a "C" in college? Would you have sued the university for said "C?" One student has done just that. We're going to talk about that on the other side of the break.


BALDWIN: Now to that "C" grade. This former graduate student suing Lehigh University in Pennsylvania for her, I should be specific, with a "C" plus. The "Morning Call" newspaper reports Megan Thode is suing the school for $1.3 million saying the grade kept her from becoming a licensed professional counselor.

She says her teacher had a bias against her when she gave her a zero for classroom participation. But the newspaper reports the school attorneys say Thode swore in class and she was unprofessional. I should mention she has a job now, after graduating from this masters program.

But here's part of the kicker. She had a full ride because her father is a professor at Lehigh. So before we get into this, Professor Marc Lamont Hill, give it to me straight. If you get a "C" plus in grad school, how bad is that?

HILL: "C" plus in grad school is pretty bad. That's the equivalent of an "F" in undergrad. You know, everyone in grad school pretty much gets an "A" or "A" minus. If you're a weak student, a "B" plus. If you get a "C" plus, that means you probably came in there on a crack pipe or playing etch-a-sketch the whole time. Like there's no way you get a "C" plus --

BALDWIN: So needless to say, she got the "C" plus. Jack, what do you think, now that she's suing the school? What do you make of it. MOORE: It is really great the idea that you can now sue schools for giving you a bad grade. I think NYU owes me a little bit of money then. It is ridiculous. It makes sense her father is a teacher there because a lot of the stories talked about how he was in all the meetings with her, talking to the school, and dealing with the teacher.

And it is, like, you're a grad student. At what point is your dad not going to be in your teacher meetings? Does he go on job interviews with you? Is he going to go on first dads with you?

BALDWIN: How about the idea that, you know, not every grade is black and white. Mc Lyte, can you sympathize with her at all? She says she was treated unjustly.

LYTE: At $1.3 million?

BALDWIN: That apparently -- that's apparently the difference between over a lifetime what she would have made had she gotten a better grade and had this sort of state level certification versus what she has now. Any who, continue.

LYTE: You know, to me a "C" plus doesn't come from out of thin air. There had to be many things going wrong. I'm not buying it.

BALDWIN: OK, someone else jump in. What do you think?

ASHBURN: -- I mean, look at this. This is the kitchen sink lawsuit, right? You throw everything in and what do we do and the solution to all of our problems are to sue? I give this woman an "F" in understanding the law.

BALDWIN: Is it, though, Lauren, the fact that we're in a litigious society or is it just another example of the millennial generation. My dad worked --

ASHBURN: I think part of that is true. That generation has been painted as a generation that has been handed everything, that expects things to just go their way. They change jobs if they don't like it. They don't have loyalty, they move here or there. I don't think that's it. I think part of this is an entitlement. I got a free ride, and I expect that free ride to continue into my grades.

BALDWIN: Jack, do you want --

HILL: That kind of language scares me a little bit because if we start talking about that, that becomes excuses to not give people scholarships not to give people grants because we'll say, if you -- even public assistance, if you give people free stuff they don't value it.

I think this is a generation or at least a particular student who is pampered, over scheduled and privileged. I have students who e-mail me at 5:30 in the morning and then they'll send me another e-mail at 8 a.m. like why you're ignoring me? I'm like not ignoring you, I was asleep -- BALDWIN: Good for those students. We have to talk on, we have to talk burgers because this guy was their number one customer, visited this place, we heard this, the "Heart Attack Grill," every single day, for about a year and a half until he died minutes after eating there. We're talking about this, next.


BALDWIN: The famed "Heart Attack Grill" in Las Vegas has lived up to its name here. The Vegas restaurant's top patron, a man by the name of John Alleman, died this week after a massive heart attack. Here he is in a photo on the company web site. He was 52 years old. This is according to the grill's Facebook page.

He was so devoted, apparently, to this "Heart Attack Grill," they actually dubbed him patient John. Got his own official caricature, unofficial spokesman and designed a clothing line for this man. He ate there nearly every day for the last year and a half.

And the place is known for its, shall we say, decadent. I mean, look at this. They pile this stuff on. Some say destructive menu. The "Quadruple Bypass" burger, by the way, comes just shy of 10,000 calories. In fact, the owner calls himself, quote/unquote, "a nutritional pornographer."

Back with my panel, Mc Lyte, I want to begin with you here because the real question is who is to blame? The guy who obviously on his own volition walks into this place each and every day and eats one of these things or is it the restaurant that continues to serve?

LYTE: I think it is everyone involved. Everyone has to have a certain amount of responsibility in this thing. If we care for other people, obviously this guy, naming "Quadruple Bypass" burger, that's ridiculous. It is a call to action for America to get with it. Like, take control of what is happening to us as it relates to our health. We're in bad shape.

BALDWIN: Jack, what do you think?

MOORE: I will -- now I'll think twice before opening "Diabetes Diner" and "We'll Kill You Cafe." It clearly will not stop someone from eating there every day. What do you have to do to know something is bad for you? Something is called "Heart Attack Grill," you're eating a quadruple bypass and he ate there every single day?

BALDWIN: For the last year and a half. The tag line is, taste worth dying for.

MOORE: Well, the only person who can answer that question is no longer with us. So why --

BALDWIN: Hang on, guys. Let me actually read this quote. This is from the owner of this place. Quote, "I absolutely think the food I'm serving is unsafe. The only way what I'm doing would be immoral would be if I were to market as healthy by throwing a cute side salad on the menu. The Heart Attack Grill is the most moral restaurant on the planet earth because we're absolutely here to make a statement about obesity, about coronary issues and about death and dying and all those things that are prevalent in this society."

By the way, I have this owner coming up next hour. Got me thinking, if you go to a bar, you can't booze too much because the bartender cuts you off. Would it be fair for this place to say, OK, enough "Quadruple Bypasses" for you.

ASHBURN: It is full disclosure, you cannot blame the restaurant. Did you read all of that? I mean, they're inviting you to die. Come on in, we have got a coffin in the back. I mean, it is your responsibility to, as MC said, you know, get a little bit of discretion, maybe set some boundaries on what you're going to eat.

But there is also a point here for someone who doesn't go every single day to the "Heart Attack Grill" that it takes a lot for someone to have a heart attack. You have to have a pre-existing condition. You have to have clogged arteries. And so for other people who go there, for the fun of it, to have a half a burger or to do whatever, I mean, it is a great gimmick.

BALDWIN: Sure. I'm sure they're trying to get to the bottom of what exactly, to the point of pre-existing conditions, it can't be burger and then you die. We'll find out. We're talking to the owner of this place, Jon Basso, coming next hour, and we'll ask him if he feels if he feels at all responsible for this man's death.

Coming up next, we're going to take aim at toy guns. Should kids be allowed to play with them? You're about to hear some surprising answers. We have two parents on the panel today. Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: Next topic for the panel, by the way, I hope you're tweeting. Tweet us. How grown-ups should handle toy guns. Hasbro has come out with this new "Nerf" gun, this pink guns specifically meant for girls. It's called the "Rebel" and it takes me to the topic right now.

Toy guns, should any child, girl, boy, be playing with one of these things, especially now in the wake of Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, gun violence very much so part of the national conversation. A lot of parents say no. Listen to one guest from Piers Morgan this week.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": You have an 8- month-old boy, you're going to let your boy play with guns?


MORGAN: Are we not getting it?

SALIE: When I was a kid, my parents wouldn't let us have water guns. I intend to do the same thing. When he's potty trained, I won't let him hold his penis in an aggressive way.


BALDWIN: So that's one person's opinion. Marc Lamont Hill, you're a dad. You have a 9-year-old little girl. If she wanted to play with a toy gun, big deal or yes?

HILL: Really big deal. In fact, this past summer, her summer camp was having a water gunfight day where everyone played with water guns and she couldn't participate. We sat out of camp that day. I don't think it is OK. I think we normalized a culture of guns.

Now let me be clear. I'm not suggesting that every kid that gets a water gun is going to shoot somebody or that there say one to one relationship between the images we see and what we do. But if we make it normal to grab guns and people get a love for guns, it leads to the kinds of things that we see in recent times. And that's what I'm worried about.

BALDWIN: This is a water gun.

ASHBURN: They're playing. I'll say it. I'm a mom of a 9-year-old. Listen, they are playing, they are not being aggressive. And I am much more concerned about violent video games and teens than I am with kids running around with a "Nerf" gun shooting each other.

HILL: Let me ask you a question, why does it have to be a gun. Why couldn't the water fight be with water balloons or something else? Why make the gun the mechanism by which we have fun?

ASHBURN: I have water balloons. My kids throw water balloons. That's true.

BALDWIN: We're talking about this because of what is on the market right now. Someone handed me, we have a couple toy guns apparently lying around CNN. One question, I guess, I this is, if you're a kid and growing up in a household where you say no guns, no guns, you think sort of reverse psychology, wouldn't that then perhaps make a child grow up and become, you know, I don't know, a gun collector as was the case with one of the writers on my team?

ASHBURN: There is somebody -- there is a professor who goes around the can country and talks and he spoke at my daughter's school, and he said that, and studied this behavior if kids are playing, if they're playing, not aggressive, it is not violent. It is violent if that kid takes the "Nerf" gun and puts it over another kid's head and bashes him. That's aggression that needs to be channelled.

BALDWIN: From Jack. Jack, go ahead.

MOORE: I just think -- it is more than just -- it is more than just -- it is more than just toy guns. Like, these kids are going to see it on TV regardless. They're going to see -- to draw the line at "Nerf" guns and water guns seems so short-sighted.

We want a solution to this problem so badly that this -- this is the easiest way to do it. Not let your kid play with a toy gun, but is that going to stop them from seeing -- is that going to stop them from seeing it on the news or TV or on movies? No. It is a systematic issue. This is not the --

LYTE: You can only be responsible for what happens in your own home. You can only be responsible for what happens within your reach. And, to me, just as the young lady stated, I'm worried about a video game, just as much as I'm worried about this, because, to me, it is a war on kids and their psyche.

BALDWIN: Have to leave it there.

LYTE: Who knows, who knows who is that one kid that is going to take it aggressively or take it --

BALDWIN: We don't. MC Lyte, I have to leave it there. I appreciate it today. MC Lyte, Lauren Ashburn, Marc Lamont Hill and Jack Moore, fantastic, fantastic panel today, thank you so much. And we're back at the top of the hour right after this.