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Korean War Chaplain Gets Medal of Honor; Gun Bill Clears Senate Hurdle; Mattel's Mexican Barbie Examined

Aired April 11, 2013 - 14:30   ET


BARAK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the camps that winter, deep in the valley, men could freeze to death in their sleep. Father Kapaun offered them his own clothes. They starved on tiny rations of millet and corn and birdseed. He somehow snuck past the guards, foraged in nearby fields around returned with rice and potatoes.

In desperation some men hoarded food, he convinced them to share. Their bodies were ravaged by dysentery. He grabbed some rocks, pounded metal into pots, and boiled clean water. They lived in filth. He washed their clothes, and he cleansed their wounds.

The guards ridiculed his devotion to his Savior and the Almighty. They took his clothes and made him stand in the freezing cold for hours. Yet he never lost his faith. If anything it only grew stronger.

At night he slipped into huts to lead prisoners in prayer, saying the rosary, administering the sacraments, offering three simple words, "God bless you." One of them later said with his very presence he could just for a moment turn a mud hut into a cathedral.

That spring he went further. He held an Easter service. I just met with the Kapaun family. They showed me something extraordinary, the actual Stoll, the purple vestment that Father Kapaun wore when he celebrated mass inside that prison camp.

As the sun rose that Easter Sunday, he put on that purple Stoll and led dozens of prisoners to the ruins of an old church in the camp and he read from a prayer missal that he had keep hidden. He held up a small crucifix that he had made from sticks.

And as the guards watch, Father Kapaun and all those prisoners, men of different faith, perhaps some men of no faith, saying the Lord's Prayer and "America the Beautiful." They sang so loud that other prisoners across the camp not only heard them, they joined in too, filling that valley with song and with prayer.

That faith that they might be delivered from evil, that they could make it home, was perhaps the greatest gift to those men that even amidst such hardship and despair, there could be hope. Amid their misery in the temple they could see those truths that are eternal, that even in such hell, there could be a touch of the divine.

Looking back, one of them said that that is what kept a lot of us alive. Yet for Father Kapaun, the horrific conditions took their toll. Thin, frail, he began to limp. The blood clot in his leg, then came dysentery, then pneumonia. That's when guards saw their chance to finally rid themselves of the priest in the hope he inspire.

They came for him and over the protests and tears of the men who loved him, the guards sent him to a death house. A hell hole with no food and water, to be left to die and yet even then his faith held firm.

I'm going to where I've always wanted to go, he told his brothers, and when I get up there, aisle say a prayer for all of you. Then as he was taken away, he did something remarkable. He blessed the guards. Forgive them, he said, for they do not know what they do.

Two days later in that house of death, Father Kapaun breathed his last breath. His body was taken away. His grave unmarked, his remains unrecovered to this day. The war and the awful captivity would drag on for another two years, but these men held on, steeled by the memory and moral example of the man they called father.

And on their first day of freedom in his honor, they carried that beautiful wooden crucifix with them. Some of these men are here today, including Herb Miller, the soldier that Father Kapaun saved in that ditch and then carried all those miles.

Many are now in their 80s, but make no mistake, they're among the strongest men that America's ever produced, and I would ask all of our courageous POWs from the Korean War to stand if they are able and accept the gratitude of a grateful nation.

I'm told that in their darkest hours in the camp in that valley, these men turned to song. As we prepare for the presentation of the Medal of Honor to Father Kapaun's nephew, Ray, I want to leave you with the words of that song, which sustained these men all those years ago.

Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Ray, would you please join me on stage for the reading of the citation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president of the United States of America authorized by act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.

Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving in the third battalion, eighth cavalry regiment, first cavalry division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Korea from November 1st, 1950.

On November 1st, as Chinese communist forces viciously attacked friendly elements Chaplain Kapaun calmly walked through withering enemy fire in order to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades and rescue friendly wounded from no man's land.

Though the Americans successfully repelled the assault, they found themselves surrounded by the enemy. Facing annihilation, the able- bodied men were ordered to evacuation, however, Chaplain Kapaun fully aware of his certain capture left to stay behind with the wounded.

After the enemies succeeded in breaking through the defense in the early morning hours of November 2nd, Chaplain Kapaun continually made rounds as hand to hand combat ensued. As Chinese communist forces approached the American position, Chaplain Kapaun noticed an injured Chinese officer amongst the wounded and convinced him to negotiate the safe surrender of the American forces.

Shortly after his capture, Chaplain Kapaun with complete disregard for his personal safety and unwavering resolve bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute Sergeant First Class Herbert A. Miller.

Not only did Chaplain Kapaun's gallantry save the life of Sergeant Miller, but also his unparalleled courage and leadership inspired all those present including those who might have otherwise fled in panic to remain and fight the enemy until captured.

Chaplain Kapaun's extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit up himself, the third battalion, eighth battalion regiment, the first cavalry division and the United States Army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us pray together. Lord God, let us go forth into the world in peace and dedication to your service. Let us follow Chaplain Kapaun's example held fast to that which is good, rendered to good. To the faint hearted. May we support the weary and even courage the tired and honor all peoples. Let us love and serve and may God's bless being upon us and remain with us today and always, this we ask and pray in your holy name, Amen.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I can't imagine a better example for all of us, whether in uniform or not in uniform a better example to follow. Father Kapaun's life, I think, is a testimony to his human spirit, the power of faith, and reminds us of the good that we can do each and every day regardless of the most difficult of circumstances.

We can always be an instrument of his will. So I hope all of you have enjoyed this ceremony. I certainly have been extremely touched by it. To the Kapaun family, God bless you. To all of our veterans, we're so proud of you. And my understanding is that the White House has pretty decent food, so I hope all of you enjoy the reception. Thank you very much.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: A short time ago, the Senate gave the go- ahead vote to begin the first comprehensive gun control debate since 1994. In recent days, you have seen Republicans, Democrats working in Washington, yes, to reach a compromise deal that would expand background checks including now gun shows and internet sales. Supporters and critics have sounded off in the Senate.


SENATOR PAT LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Special interest lobbies of either the left or the right should not dictate what we do. We do not lead a lobby's permission to pass laws, to fight crime and improve public safety.

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: The president has told some of these victims' families that this side of the aisle doesn't really care about their loss. That's not true. That's false.


BALDWIN: As for the NRA, they plan to keep score on lawmakers' score on gun laws issues saying, quote, "Given the importance of these issues, votes on all anti-gun amendment, the proposals will be considered in NRA's future candidate evaluations."

Coming up, I want you to take a look at something with me. Mattel's new Mexican Barbie doll, do you see what's under her arm? A Chihuahua and she also comes with a passport. Critics? Yes, they say this for the stereotypes, but are they being too sensitive? We're going to weigh in. Hot topics panel next.


BALDWIN: Time to talk about the things you'll certainly be talking about over the dinner table tonight. We call it "Hot Topics," beginning with Mattel getting bashed over its quote/unquote, "Mexican Barbie."

Here's a look. Mattel says this Mexican Barbie is fashionably ready for fiesta with her bright pink dress and her pink ribbons. But then there's this, she comes with a Chihuahua and passport. Offensive?

Critics say it reinforces stereotypes, but Mattel says Mexico Barbie is one of hundreds of dolls all with regional animals and passports. Let's talk about this with my hot topics panel today.

We have syndicated columnist and radio host, David Serota, comedian, Paul Mecurio, Sabrina Schaeffer, the executive director of the Independent Women's Forum and TV personality and radio host, Tanya Hart.

So welcome to all of you. And Sabrina, let me begin with you. Do you think this is offensive? Do you think critics have a point that this reinforces stereotypes or nah?

SABRINA SCHAEFFER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM: I think we should have a little fun once in a while with our toys. I love the fact that there's a Chihuahua there. My only concern is it reminded me more of Paris Hilton than anyone I know from Mexico. I'm from Southern California. I'm not sure that it's as accurate as they wanted it to be.

BALDWIN: David, what do you think?

DAVID SIROTA, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST AND RADIO HOST: Look, I think that clearly the critics have a point and I also think Mattel has a point and I think basically if this can spur a discussion about diversity and about sensitivity and about where the lines are in that, that's a good thing.

And here's the thing. It's going to become hard to become perfect. It's hard to find that perfect line. So if this spurs a conversation about what is perfect, you know what, the more conversation, the better.

BALDWIN: I know they've slammed on so many Barbies in the past. Tanya, I want to talk to you. I know you were a keynote speaker for Mattel last year. You talked a lot about Barbie, but hang on.

Because let me just read, one criticism. This is from a professor at ABC News. He teaches Latino culture, et cetera. He says the bright pink ribbons, the Chihuahua, that kind of stuff is so easy to use and someone else points out the fact that we're in this whole debate over immigration reform and here we have a passport here. Tanya, you defend the Barbies. Why?

TANYA HART, TV PERSONALITY AND RADIO HOST: Well, first of all, Brooke, I don't think any little girl or any little boy who picks up a Barbie with a pink costume on is going to say, let me put this down because it's too bright. I can't deal with it. No. Kids like color. Kids like dogs.

BALDWIN: It's going to cause a complex.

HART: No, it is not. All of the international Barbies by the way come with a passport. Barbie is what she is. A fashionista who's had more careers than we can ever imagine a doll or a woman having.

BALDWIN: Can we talk about the other Barbies? Because we have -- we've looked into the pregnant Barbie. A dog came out in '02. You had Oreo fun Barbie, a Mattel and Nibisco collaboration. Here she is.

She appears to be African-American. There was a Caucasian version as well and then there was wheelchair Barbie named Becky. Her hair was so long it apparently got caught in the wheels. I don't know. Paul, comedian, what do you think?

PAUL MECURIO, COMEDIAN: First of all, I'm excited because I'm going to be adding this to my collection of my Barbies that I have and I'm not afraid to admit it.

BALDWIN: Good to know. Good to know.

MECURIO: In all seriousness, they complain there's no narrative to this particular doll. They're dolls. The little girls provide the narratives by brushing their hairs and then brothers set fire to the doll. Women should be more offended about this, by the way, in terms of the dolls in general because they don't portray women accurately or realistically. I mean, these dolls have 38-inch busts and 25-inch waists and no private parts.

SCHAEFFER: They have beach houses. My girls keep saying we should have the beach house.

BALDWIN: I don't know. I don't get it. I had one Barbie as a kid and I pulled her apart. What does that say about me? Mattel is saying there are hundreds of these dolls of the world. They all come with regional dogs and passports so obviously they stand behind the Barbie. Let's move on.

Coming up next, what's the most outrageous thing your boss has ever asked you to do? I know one of you has an extra special story. We're going to weigh in there next.


BALDWIN: All right, back to the panel. Anti-social media, have you ever noticed this. You talk to them in person and all is good, but then you read an e-mail or tweet and you pick up a little passive aggression.

Well, there a non-scientific online survey, it supports this idea that people are much more hostile sort of hiding behind a keyboard instead of in person and it's leading to real world issues like not speaking to someone or holding a grudge.

Vital Smart is this corporate trainer asked 2,700 people and they found that close to 90 percent agree that people are ruder on social media than in person. Tanya Hart, have you experienced this?

HART: Yes. Well, you know, I'm in the media business so I get a lot of stuff.

BALDWIN: A lot of gruff all the way around.

HART: Yes. What I think has happened here is with social media, unfortunately, there's no sense of responsibility. It didn't come packaged like that. So you have people who are rude in real life and social media allowed them to be even more rude. I don't think that we should be surprised about this. I think we should have seen it coming.

BALDWIN: There is at least a name tied to a Twitter handle or a Facebook profile. It's not like some anonymous shady comment section on a blog. We can find you. We know who you are.

SCHAEFFER: But you're not going to run into them.

HART: No. You're not going to see them on the street. Some people are bullies. Social media works very well for bullies because they know they can do this. They can intimidate people online and they don't have to worry about a beat down in real life. MECURIO: And social media and the internet have emboldened people because you have an opinion doesn't mean you should express it. It's sort of emboldened people to say whatever they want to say, I thinking there's no ramifications.

I mean like Tumbler. If you have a Tumbler account, you think you're a publisher, an author. It's like me thinking I'm a professional baseball player because I walk around wearing a cup and a baseball cap. It's ridiculous.

BALDWIN: For me I think it's actually interesting because I find sometimes, you meet someone or you're interacting with someone online and you think they're interesting and kind and you meet them in person and you're like, you are not who you portray to be.

SIROTA: You have separate personalities. The internet allows people to have essentially separate personalities and I think the reason why it can be off-putting on social media is the person putting stuff on social media thinks they even never going to bump into that person ever. Once they do, guess what? What happened online affects what happens offline.

SCHAEFFER: I'm sure it's like a curve. If you actually that you're going to run into them, the politer you're going to be and if you don't think you're going to see them, all gloves are off.

BALDWIN: OK, let me segue from online arguments here to in the office requests. Career Builder, they funded this study that asked 3,600 full time workers what their bosses have made them do.

Some of the odd ball requests are as follows, a boss asked and employee to buy a rifle and he would pay the worker back, hook him up with illegal substances. I'm not making this stuff up.

Come up with a science fair project for the science fair for his daughter. Remove stitches and last one, clip the dog's nails. Paul, I hear you have a pretty good story involving a diaper and a baby shower.


BALDWIN: Spill it.

MECURIO: It's like you're inside my brain. A partner at the law firm I worked at time was a female partner, pregnant. They through a baby shower for her at work and they asked me to dress up as a giant baby wearing nothing but a diaper and a bottle.

BALDWIN: And you did it?

MECURIO: I did it because --

BALDWIN: Why did you do it?

MECURIO: Well, because to me that's Friday night anyway, so what's the big deal. BALDWIN: TMI, Paul, TMI. What about the rest of you?

MECURIO: I want to keep my job.

BALDWIN: That's probably what it is, why people clip dogs' nails or clip stitches. That's the climate.

SIROTA: I had to look into my boss' background. When I was in politics, I had bosses who say you have to look into my background to see if there's anything embarrassing in my background. Guess what? You do that and your boss says great, there's nothing embarrassing in my background. Then guess what, you find some embarrassing stuff and they get all defensive. It can be really uncomfortable.

BALDWIN: Ladies, go ahead, Tanya.

HART: It's kind of interesting. I've been in media and I've done some things that rival Indiana Jones. You know, in this business, you always have to go that extra step and so I found myself, you know there was one time here in L.A. When there was this big story about an A-list celebrity who got gotten caught helping out a tranny, transvestite.

So rather than just talk about the story, I said, OK, we are taking a crew out. I was out until 4:00, 5:00 in the morning seeing which celebrities were turning up transvestites.

BALDWIN: I'm sure we have good stories to share over brews. I don't have anything crazy, but hopping on a lot of planes and not sleeping and doing a lot of work but --

MECURIO: I heard a lot of stories about you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes. No diaper and baby shower for me, guys.

MECURIO: Remember that night in New Orleans.

BALDWIN: No, no, no, no, no. On that note, David Sirota, Paul Mecurio, Sabrina Schaeffer and Tanya Hart, thanks guys so much, hot topics panel.