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Huckabee: Not About Discrimination, It's About Discretion; Germanwings Co-Pilot Sped Up Descent; Iran Nuclear Deal: Netanyahu Said Deal is Threat to Israel's Survival; Interview with Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana. Aired 9:00-10a ET

Aired April 04, 2015 - 09:00   ET


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome to the program.

The battle between religious rights and gay rights exploded this week. And in an attempt to quiet the uproar, the governors of Arkansas and Indiana signed fixed versions of their states' religious freedom laws.

Potential 2016 presidential candidate and ordained Baptist minister, Mike Huckabee, has taken a pretty hard stance on the issue, saying the gay community won't rest until, quote, "There are no more churches."

Governor Huckabee, thank you so much for being here and Happy Easter.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Michael, great to be with you.

Thank you very much.

Happy Easter to you.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, sir.

So the question of the week, should the baker have to bake the cake for the gay couple?

HUCKABEE: Well, I think the question is really whether or not a person of conscience is able to say no to something. This is not about discrimination, it's about discretion.

The fact is, if the baker said, no, you can't come into my shop, you can't get a cupcake, I'm not going to serve you a donut, that's discrimination. But if the baker is asked to do something that would require him to do something artistic that is not within his personal convictions, of course he should be able to say I can do this, but I can't do that.

SMERCONISH: But how would you...

HUCKABEE: And that would be true for anyone.

SMERCONISH: How would you distinguish that circumstance, Governor, from the Woolworth's lunch counter circa 1960 with an African-American patron? HUCKABEE: Well, I don't think there's any -- any comparison, Michael. And I think it's a false parallel.

For first place, if a person walks into a lunch counter, he doesn't walk in saying I'm gay, don't serve me. There's no one who is suggesting that a person is going to be turned away because of sexual preference. I mean I don't know of anybody who can say that that's happening in great numbers, or at all, for that matter.

What we're talking about is whether people who have a business and are asked to participate in a service ceremony or something along the lines of that have the artistic freedom to decline.

Try going to a Muslim bakery and seeing whether or not they will do a same-sex wedding cake.

So it's not just Christians, but the issue is religious liberty, whether or not people have a right to believe what they want to believe, practice their faith and not have the government come down on them and tell them they have to do something. And beyond that, to try to have people put them out of business because they don't agree with a particular view of marriage.

I -- I find that very strange...

SMERCONISH: Well, could...

HUCKABEE: -- that in America, where we're supposed to be tolerant and have diversity, this is intolerance and a lack of diversity and a push toward uniformity.

SMERCONISH: Governor Huckabee, you said earlier this week it won't stop until there are no more churches. And it occurred to me, and I listened to the totality of that interview, that in this particular instance, it wasn't the -- the LGBT community that I think caused the reversal in both Arkansas and Indiana, but rather, business interests, you know, traditionally Republican supporting business interests, whether it's entities like Walmart in your home state, Angie's List in Indiana.

React to that alliance, the alliance between the gay and lesbian community and transgenders and those business entities that traditionally would have been in the Chamber of Commerce realm with the GOP.

HUCKABEE: Well, Michael, first of all, the reason that those corporations put the pressure on Indiana and Arkansas was because the militant gay community put the pressure on them. I found it a little hypocritical, when you have companies even -- and I love Walmart, a big company in my home state -- but they do business in China, for gosh sake. And, I mean, I don't think the Chinese are exactly the paragon of human rights.

You've got Apple Computer, they're selling Apple Computers in Saudi Arabia.

Is Tim Cook going to pull out of there?

I don't think so. He doesn't mind making millions, if not billions of dollars, in cultures and countries where human rights are really an issue. And -- and for anybody to try to draw some comparison between what's happening by not getting a wedding cake made and people having, you know, their hands cut off or being hanged or imprisoned, I mean that's -- I find that a stretch. And I think these corporations really ought to either be consistent, quit making money from these countries that are really oppressing human rights, and quit bowing to the pressure and just sell their stuff. That's what they're in business for, to sell stuff.

SMERCONISH: But that's the argument...

HUCKABEE: Quit trying to make political decisions.

SMERCONISH: -- but that -- but Governor, that's the argument that's made from the other side about the baker and the florist and the candlestick maker. You're in business to bake a cake.


SMERCONISH: Just bake the cake and...

HUCKABEE: That's right.

SMERCONISH: -- go home. And go home and be a good Christian...

HUCKABEE: And a lot...

SMERCONISH: -- whatever that means.

HUCKABEE: -- a lot of people will do that, Michael. They will bake the cake.

It -- but shouldn't they have the discretion?

That's really, once again, the issue. If they want to turn the business down, they're not turning down the business of being open, being willing to serve any customer what they've got on the shelf. Again, it's the religious liberty, when people are asked to do something which they believe violates their conscience.

And the big, to me, confusion over RFRA was it didn't guarantee that the baker, the florist, the pizza maker, for that matter, was going to win. It just meant that he would have a hearing in court. And over the 22 years that RFRA has been in place, very few times has the religious objector even won.

So I'm not sure why Democrats loved RFRA in 1993. And you had Al Gore and Bill Clinton trumpeting it as wonderful and Charles Schumer sponsoring it. And 22 years later, because of political pressure, now they run from something that they once embraced.

I find it just hypocritical. SMERCONISH: Governor, what's your opinion of the deal that's been announced -- the parameters of the deal that's been announced with regard to Iran?

HUCKABEE: Very disappointing and very frightening, I think particularly for the stabilization of the Middle East. I'm not sure why we would ever think that negotiating with Iran to begin with makes a whole lot of sense, since they've never kept a deal they've ever made. But for them to have nuclear even capability is illegal. For them to push that they're going to end up with 6,000 centrifuges instead of 19,000, Michael, it's like giving a pyromaniac, you know, 6,000 gallons of gasoline instead of 19,000. But he's still got a bunch of gasoline to start a fire. And you -- you're talking about a country whose primary leader has been leading chants, "Death to America!" and has vowed to wipe Israel off the face of the map.

That's not exactly the kind of folks you want to sit down and make nice with...


HUCKABEE: -- and somehow assume they're going to be really keeping their bargain. I don't think they will.

SMERCONISH: President Obama said look, there are -- there are three choices here. Choice one is to negotiate a deal such as is now being put together.

Two is to bomb Iran.

Three is to walk away from the table.

First of all, are those the three options?

And if so, which does Governor Huckabee favor?

HUCKABEE: Well, the president has missed one. The fourth one, and one that was working, was to continue to put heavy sanctions on them and bankrupt them, force them to have to accept something other than now on their terms.

I don't understand why we took the pressure off when the pressure was working. We really haven't gotten much out of this deal, Michael. It doesn't sound to me like that anything is happening in Tehran other than laughter. But there's weeping in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and the rest of the Middle East, where they now understand that the Americans have capitulated and have let Iran move forward.

Somebody who is a blogger made an observation this week. I thought it was interesting, that there's been more pressure to put sanctions on Indiana than on Iran. I thought that was a pretty wise observation.

And it's been a -- a real almost distraction from something that is a whole lot more significant in terms of our national security than anything that's been occupying the front pages here.

SMERCONISH: Governor, I want to show you something that the president said this week and allow you to respond to it.

Roll the tape, please.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question. Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world's major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?


SMERCONISH: What's your response to that, Governor Huckabee?

HUCKABEE: Well, first of all, I'm not sure how verifiable anything is with the Iranians. If you honestly think they're going to let inspectors see everything, then you have a different view of the Iranians than I do.

And secondly, the notion that the only option is either to bomb them and have a big war all over the Middle East or let them have nuclear devices, if they get nuclear devices, do you think that they're going to just sit there and hold them not use them for some nefarious purpose, the same people who have already murdered Americans, kidnapped Americans, financed more terrorism around the world than anybody, funded Hamas and Hezbollah.

These aren't good people.

So why do we expect something good from bad people?

We're expecting good fruit from a bad tree. And it rarely, if ever, will happen.

SMERCONISH: I want to ask you a question about your intentions with regard to 2016.

First of all, are you prepared to make some news today?

Will you say that you're formally getting into this thing?

HUCKABEE: Well, let's hold off just a little while. We're working on the process, and it's coming along. But I've said all along it will be during the spring. So that gives me a few more weeks to -- to finalize the decision.

SMERCONISH: All right, well, while you're working on the process, Ted Cruz, Senator Cruz is airing the first criminal of the 2016 cycle.

Let's both take a look.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ, I would have been raised by a single mom without my father in the household. God's blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation. Over and over again, when we faced impossible odds, the American people rose to the challenge. This is our fight and that is why I'm running for president of the United States.

I'm Ted Cruz and I approved this message.


SMERCONISH: Governor, that's the type of a message that I anticipate coming from you and I think the problem politically is that it's also the type of a message that I anticipate coming from Senator Santorum, from Ben Carson, from a number of individuals who are thinking of running, I'll say, for the Republican nomination.

Here's the question. If you're all in, are you guaranteeing the nomination of Jeb Bush?

HUCKABEE: Oh, I don't think so. I mean, first of all, I don't remember doing many ads like that. I spoke a lot about joblessness, about the fact that people are working hard and getting further behind.

I think the narrative on me is that the only support I had was Evangelicals. I've often said if all the Evangelicals had supported me in a monolithic way, my gosh, I'd have been the nominee.

I had working class people who were the rank and file, the sort of nuts and bolts of my 2008 campaign. And I would suspect that a lot of the support that I'm going to have are going to be those same kind of people.

Many of them, yes, sure, many of them are people of faith, but not all of them. And a lot of them are just working class people who feel like they've been left behind and while the economy is supposedly recovering, according to Washington, it's certainly not recovering for a lot of people across America who are lifting heavy things every day.

SMERCONISH: Governor Huckabee, thank you so much for your time.

HUCKABEE: Michael, great to be with you again.

Thank you.


Coming up, the showdown between gay rights and religious rights isn't just limited to wedding cakes and pizza. The stakes are higher once you're denied medical care. Coming up the couple whose pediatrician refused to care for their newborn.

Plus stunning new details investigators are learning about the actions of the Germanwings' co-pilot in the days leading up to the fatal crash.

And dozens of cell phones have now been recovered from the crash site. What that means for the investigation.


SMERCONISH: Welcome back. Pre-meditated murder. That's how one official described the horrific crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 and now we know new details about the co-pilot's deadly path of destruction.

Investigators say that he purposely used the controls to speed up the plane's descent. Officials also say that the 28-year-old researched ways to commit suicide and cockpit door security in the days before the crash. Investigators are also taking a closer look at mobile phones found at the crash site.

Joining me now is a psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz and former FAA safety inspector David Soucie. OK. You two, you know, I've got my questions.


SMERCONISH: Doctor, eight straight days of doing online research sounds likes a chronic suicidal ideation and not a fleeting thought. Is that typical?

SALTZ: It depends on what you're talking about. None of this is typical. It's not typical for mass murder, this doesn't even fit the picture, you know, of depression, and just suicidal ideation. But some people who commit suicide do think about it quite a while, do plan and some people it's an impulsive act. This obviously sounds like a planned act which has to make us think about whether if there had been some sort of evaluation present or whether there was some way to let doctors be able to communicate more effectively, this could have been prevented.

SMERCONISH: How does this fit with a diagnosis of depression?

SALTZ: It doesn't. Most people who are depressed, if they are going to harm themselves, harm only themselves. They do not kill a large group of people. So this really doesn't fit. What does it fit with? Well, you have to think about sociopathy, somebody who just had a plan. They wanted to be infamous. They wanted to be important. They wanted to hurt others and they were willing to take themselves with that plan.

And you also have to think about another diagnosis which no one has mentioned. That is bipolar disorder. And that is because when you look at his age and his past history of depression one high risk possibility is that he wasn't just depressed but he was actually hatching what's called bipolar disorder and an episode of brewing mania or hypomania. People could become at high risk for suicide and at high risk for simply risky ventures.

SMERCONISH: David Soucie, speeding up upon descent. How would that have felt in the cabin?

DAVID SOUCIE, FORMER FAA SAFETY INSPECTOR: Well, at that point in descent it would have definitely known what's going on. They would have heard the engine spooling up a little bit higher. They would have actually felt the actual movement back in the seat because of the way that he did it. He increased the speed very rapidly. And he did it twice. So he did that by adjusting the speed, there's three different controls that he can adjust the descent, the speed, and the attitude of the descent as well. It's tragic. It would have been noticeable.

SMERCONISH: David, this black box actually when they found it actually was black, because it was submerged eight inches in the soil and my understanding is that it was detected by law enforcement on a second go round. I remember from many of our conversations about MH- 370, how in water the black boxes were emitting a signal. Why is that not done in this kind of a circumstance?

SOUCIE: It really should be. You know, the difference in water is the fact that it could be pretty much anywhere because of the drift and the float. In the idea here is that when the impact happens it's a heavy box it's going to go toward real close to the actual impact spot so typically it's easy to find.

I'm not sure why they didn't use a metal detector in this sense because a massive piece of stainless steel like that or steel itself would have been noticeable with a metal detector. You would look at all of this metal you think that doesn't make sense but most of the metal around there is aluminium which wouldn't be picked up by the detector. So surprised they didn't catch it on the first pass.

SMERCONISH: What else is this black box going to tell us?

SOUCIE: It will tell us a number of things. What I'm hopeful, Michael, is that it will tell us whether or not the switch was depressed and held in the down position. One of the things that still remains in my mind, a question is did the pilot have access to the system work where you put in the code and the door opens.

Because there was no buzzer that went off which is what is part of that system. So if it did not go off then that means that he was depressing that switch down. If we can conclude that the switch was depressed then we don't have to look any further into the door system to see if it worked properly. But if it didn't work properly that's something that needs to be fixed and the flight data recorder will tell us if that happened or not.

SMERCONISH: Doctor, I have just 30 seconds left. Might medication have been a trigger?

SALTZ: In some instance when someone is depressed or manic and you give them an antidepressant and it's in the early stage it can stoke some agitated feelings, it can energize them, it can actually aid in hatching a plan. I don't want to blame suicide on medication because it is critical and very helpful for many people. But in the earliest stages of medication, someone should be monitored closely because there can be some increased risk.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Saltz, David Soucie, as always thank you both. Now that a framework is in place to stop Iran's nuclear program, President Obama has the tough task of trying to sell the deal to those who oppose it. And one of those voices is the first Navy S.E.A.L. in the Congress. He is passionate about why he feels Iran cannot be trusted.

And as the final four get ready to battle it out the NCAA says in response to a lawsuit it's not our job to ensure educational quality. You are about to meet a man who gives new definition to the words student athlete.


SMERCONISH: Welcome back. There has been strong reaction to the proposed deal that would limit Iran's nuclear program and none stronger than from Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who says the agreement threatens Israel's survival.

President Obama insists the U.S. and the world are keeping a close eye on Iran and he's optimistic that this deal is the best option.

Joining me now is contributing editor of "The Atlantic" and "National Journal" Peter Beinart. Peter, many Americans are trying to evaluate this deal. What should they be comparing it to?

PETER BEINART, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR "THE ATLANTIC": They should be comparing it to the potential alternative. The alternative was the U.S. walks away, in all likelihood the international sanctions regime collapses because Russia and China have a strong interest in doing business with Iran.

They were not going to maintain sanctions forever in the absence of the possibility of a deal. And I think the pressure therefore on Iran actually goes down and because we have no other alternative we move towards war. So I think while this deal is not perfect, it's far better than the alternative which would have led to the collapse of the sanctions regime and also the collapse of the inspections that give us, allow us to know something about what's actually happening with Iran's nuclear program.

SMERCONISH: I asked that question because during the course of this week with my radio audience, we had this same exchange and many people were calling and they were viewing it against the alternative of a complete eradication of the Iranian nuclear program. To those people you would say what?

BEINART: We don't have the capacity to destroy the Iranian nuclear program completely. It's also worth noting that under international law, the IEAE Iran does have the right to a peaceful nuclear program. We only have - we can stop them from building a weapons program but they have every right to have a peaceful nuclear program. Of course it's hard to know where the line between one and the other is which is why it's so important that we have these sanctions.

But we don't have the capacity to force Iran into complete capitulation, we tried that with Iraq when Iraq did not completely capitulate to us we tried invading it and we did own the entire place but we saw what happened after that.

SMERCONISH: Let's work through some of the other criticisms. What stops Iran from getting a nuclear weapon in 15 years?

BEINART: Well, even after the entire - even after 15 years Iran, as long as it's still a member of the IEAE will be subject to IEAE international inspections. They will just be subject to the same inspections that everyone else is.

For the next 15 years they are subject to these super heightened inspections that other countries don't have to go through. We don't know, it's conceivable that Iran 15 years later could be cheating and playing hide and seek with those inspectors, but I think that the bed of this deal is that an opening of Iran to the rest of the world is more likely to produce political change in Iran, and part of the reason we're so concerned about Iranian nuclear weapon is because of the nature of this regime.

When you look at the Iranian people celebrating out in the streets, they are not celebrating because of the technical details of this deal. They are celebrating because they know that the possibility of an opening to the world will help them economically and it will help them politically, empower them and disempower their oppressors in this regime.

[09:30:00] SMERCONISH: But what if it helps them economically as you say and they use that funding to support sides that are antagonistic to the United States around the globe?

BEINART: Well, they may well do that. I mean, our own allies like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, also support groups around the world that are antagonistic to us. Iran supports Hezbollah for instance, so are the Houthis in Yemen, but some of our Gulf allies essentially support jihadist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS. This is going to remain a problem nonetheless.

This nuclear deal does not solve all of America's problems with Iran. But it does create the basis for a dialogue, a conversation with Iran and I think it makes the price of Iranian bad behavior higher because then Iran jeopardizes the relationship they now potentially have with the rest of the world.

SMERCONISH: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that he views this as a threat to the survival of Israel. Does he have the political power to disrail -- derail, pardon me, this deal?

BEINART: I don't think so. First of all, I think it's important to note that while Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called Iran an existential threat, several high ranking officials and former officials in the Israeli security establishment have said, in fact, that that's not true, that while they see Iran's nuclear -- potential nuclear weapon as a threat, they don't believe it's an existential threat to Israel.

It's not a threat to Israel's survival. Israel is, after all, a country with a couple of hundred nuclear weapons. Why are those nuclear weapons there but for deterrence? To deter any country that could develop a nuclear weapon from using it. And I think that's the perspective that many in the Israeli security establishment see this through.

SMERCONISH: Final question, was Prime Minister Netanyahu of benefit to the Americans in this negotiation? I know you paid close attention to what was going on in Switzerland and elsewhere. Was there a good cop/bad cop routine that Secretary Kerry was able o play out?

BEINART: It's a good question. It's hard to really know. I don't know enough about the thinking on the Iranian side to know that. What I do know is that I think Benjamin Netanyahu was actually made it easier for Barack Obama to sell this deal at home.

He has made the fight over this deal so partisan that I think it's made it harder for Democrats to ultimately oppose Barack Obama on what will be the signature foreign policy initiative of his administration, and it is Democrats that the opponents of this deal need if they're going to override an Obama veto. I think Netanyahu has actually made that prospect harder.

SMERCONISH: Peter Beinart, thank you so much. Happy Passover.

BEINART: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: So, has Netanyahu made it easier for Obama to sell this deal? Has the deal become so partisan that Democrats can't oppose it?

Joining me now is the first Navy SEAL elected to the House, a member of the Armed Services Committee, Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke.

Congressman, great have you here. Please react to what you just heard from Peter Beinart.

REP. RYAN ZINKE (R), MONTANA: Well, I think it's a false narrative. The negotiations should be clear, no legal pathway for Iran to have a nuclear device. No enrichment of uranium, no facilities that can be used to have a nuclear device and robust inspections. From our perspective I think that's fair, and above board.

I mean, we're talking about a nuclear armed Iran which will almost surely result in a nuclear arms race in the Middle East with Saudi, perhaps UAE, Turkey, Jordan, all having nuclear weapons in an area that's notoriously unstable? So, I think that -- you know, Congress, we have a right under the constitution, the president has the power, but certainly Congress has the advise-and-consent of a treaty under the Constitution, and will exercise it.

SMERCONISH: Congressman Zinke, the president said this week that any critic of the deal and, clearly, you're in that category needs to answer the question of why a verifiable deal is worse as an option than the risk of another war in the Middle East. Go ahead and respond to the president.

ZINKE: Well, I think it's a false narrative. One is the devil is in the details. You know, clearly, there's celebration in the streets of Iran. There

is very somber in Israel, and we don't know the details of the framework are here.

So, I think the president should by Constitution consult Congress, we should look at the details and make, assure that this is not a legal pathway for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. But it's a false narrative saying that sanctions didn't work. Sanctions were to the point that's why Iran came to the table.

So, it's not a question of war. That's a false narrative. The question is, what can we do, what do we have the capacity to do?

Sanctions certainly worked before, and if this deal is bad, we shouldn't take it. We don't have to take a bad deal. We don't have to have a path where Iran has a nuclear weapon.

SMERCONISH: It's also been pointed out this week that a military option if it were exercised -- and you're not advocating that, I understand but you have expertise, that's why I want to ask you -- that a military option would probably wipe out an Iranian nuclear capability oly for a period of two or three years, viewed against this prospect of 15 years of no Iranian nuclear capability.

[09:35:20] Doesn't that make this proposal more appetizing?

ZINKE: Well, no. We're talking about Iran having a nuclear weapon. This is a Khamenei regime which had multiple, multiple times has said they would want America destroyed.

You know, if you're looking at Iran through a lens of are they a responsible nation state? Has their conduct been one that would suggest they should have a path to a nuclear weapon? And the answer most assuredly is no. This is Iran, one of the funders of worldwide terrorism.

You know, wasn't that long ago when remember the hostage taking, remember Beirut, remember Africa, remember Iraq in the war. You have embedded troops right now, Iranian troops in the territory of Iraq.

So, you know, I don't think it's a good idea, it's not in our best interest given this state is also oil rich and has gas, they don't need a nuclear capability. I think the only reason why they have they are approaching a nuclear capability as far as power goes is to generate enough material to make a nuclear weapon.

SMERCONISH: Congressman Ryan Zinke, thank you so much for being here, sir.

ZINKE: Always a pleasure.

And coming up next, while college basketball's elite gear up for the Final Four, the NCAA prepares for a showdown of its own. The surprising statement that sparked a major backlash.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:40:44] SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

All eyes are on Indiana and not just for the religious freedom bill that has sparked so much controversy. College basketball fans have converged on Indianapolis for tonight's much anticipated Final Four. But despite the excitement in the arena a dark cloud is hanging over the NCAA, in response to a lawsuit filed by former University of North Carolina athletes, the NCAA has said it's not their job to ensure educational quality.

Well, my next guest knows all too well about balancing academics and the pressure of sports at a high level. Myron Rolle played at Florida State University, is a Rhodes scholar, played in the NFL and is now a medical student.

Myron, thanks for being here.

Is there more that the NCAA can do? They say, we don't have day-to- day responsibility for what happens in the classroom.


I do believe there's more that the NCAA can do as well as individual institutions. I think that once the NCAA and institutions realize that this once amateur model of college sports no longer exists, I think that's when we can make real progress. As you said, I'm a second year medical student to be a pediatric

neurosurgeon. And if I go see a patient and this patient has (INAUDIBLE), all of the clinical signs of some kind of low bar pneumonia I say this is lobar pneumonia, I go tell my attending physician, look, this is lobar pneumonia. My attending physician tells me, no, this is actually a broken foot, the attending physician is denying what's actually really happening.

And I believe that's the same thing, it's analogous to what's happened to the NCAA. They are denying that there is so much money and pressure and highlights and exposure for these young athletes that it's bordering on professionalism.

SMERCONISH: The Rhodes scholarship application process is legendary for its rigorous nature. What was the reaction of your football coaches in college when they became aware of the fact you were making that application?

ROLLE: Well, I wanted to do the Rhodes scholarship since I heard about the story of Bill Bradley. I went to high school at the Hun School of Princeton, I had a chance to just hear about Bill Bradley's awesomeness, basically, in college and in being a rock star in that respect. So, when I got to Florida State, I went to the office of national fellowships and said, look, I want to be a Rhodes scholar like my hero Bill Bradley.

And when I applied for the scholarship, as you said, it's very intense. You have to write a CV, go through many interviews, write a personal statement that basically tells the Rhodes Trust why you want to be a Rhodes scholar and how this education at Oxford can help move your interests moving forward.

There was a little resistance from a few coaches, but for the most part, I got a lot of support from Florida State, from administration, teammates, faculty, because they felt if I did well and I showed that you can actually balance academics and athletics in a major Division 1 college institution like Florida State, then that would be good for the program, that could be good for student athletes and good all the way around.

So, they told me I can go interview for the scholarship. I had to win it. I did and it's been a remarkable thing for me.

SMERCONISH: When you delayed your entry to the NFL, was the NFL as understanding as the coaches that you've just described?

ROLLE: Not at first. You know, I believe some people in the NFL are used to a certain athlete. They are used to a certain player and when there is a player that comes from a different sort of frame of mind, has a bit of a different ideology and doesn't have I would say 100 percent, you know, outlook or perspective on just football.

You know, I was somebody and my parents wanted me to have a breadth of knowledge at an early age. They came from the Bahamas and they made sure that I focused on many different aspects, being a great leader, being a great citizen, a great Christian, a great brother, a great thinker. And football was a part of my person but it didn't describe all of me.

So, I received a little bit resistance, more resistance from the NFL. However, it was a great opportunity to play at the highest level and am I got out the game healthy, safe, no concussions, hands good so I can operate in the future, and, you know, I'm excited about the choices I've been able to make.

SMERCONISH: There is so much money wrapped up in the Final Four which as you know tips off this evening. And some say that ought to be shared with the athletes, response is the athletes get paid in terms of scholarships for education. What's your take on that issue?

ROLLE: You see, I got to Florida state with a framework and structure and support from family that could help my journey.

[09:45:02] I came in with a good vision to understanding not only come into this school to play football and do well, but also to gain and accrue some intellectual capital, to develop some relationships and networks, to do multiple things, to enrich my college experience so that when I left, whether I played football or I went on to be a doctor, I did something else, I was going to be ready to take on the world.

A lot of my teammates and classmates didn't have that same kind of support. So, I believe that NCAA and some institutions should fill that void that some of these athletes are missing in their life and whether it's paying players directly, making them millionaires I'm not sold on that idea, but perhaps putting a fund together to help these athletes reach their goals. I think that's a good idea for them. SMERCONISH: Final question. Yes or no? Jameis Winston, round one?

ROLLE: Round one and first overall pick. No question.


Dr. Rolle, wanted in surgery. Thank you, Myron.

ROLLE: Thank you, Michael. Appreciate it.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, it's one thing to refuse wedding-related services to same-sex couples for religious reasons. It's quite another when a pediatrician tells you she can't care for your newborn baby. That's what one Michigan couple says happened to them and their story is next.


[09:50:54] SMERCONISH: Welcome back to the program.

The debate over religious freedom and gay rights sparked all kinds of talk about flowers and cakes and even pizza. But what if a pediatrician said she couldn't care for your child because of religious reasons?

Krista Contreras and her wife Jamie Contreras say that's exactly what happened to them. They say the physician refused to treat their newborn daughter because they're gay. I spoke to them recently.


SMERCONISH: Krista and Jamie Contreras and their daughter, Bay, all three join me now. Thank you so much for being here.

When you interviewed the pediatrician before the birth of Bay, were there any signs of trouble?

KRISTA CONTRERAS, SAME-SEX PARTNER: No. We really liked her. We thought she really liked us. We really didn't have any clue that she had a problem with our sexual orientation.

SMERCONISH: So, Bay is then born, and at age 6 days. It's time for her first pediatric visit. What happened?

JAMIE CONTRERAS, SAME-SEX PARTNER: Well, we go into the room right when we got there and we were just waiting for Dr. Roy and, a different actually doctor came in and said I will be the one seeing you today, Dr. Roy had prayed on it and she decided she won't be able to care for Bay and take her on as a patient.

SMERCONISH: And did you know what that meant, did you recognize those words, prayed on it, to be a reflection of the doctor's view of your sexuality?

J. CONTRERAS: Yes. You know, she made it pretty clear because she has said she prayed on it and she goes -- you know, she followed it up by saying, I don't care. I'll take care of anyone, you know, as long as they're loving parents, I'll care for any baby so she really kind of explained it in a round-about way of what she meant by that.

So, we really could recognize the red flag there, that there was an issue with our sexuality.

SMERCONISH: Eventually, and it's not immediately but eventually you get an apology letter from the pediatrician, which I'm going to show the audience now and there are two lines I want to focus on. First of all, one line says, "After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient/doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients."

This was intended to be a holistic approach. At some level did you say I guess we're glad she told us because we wanted a full sense of care for the family unit, not just for baby Bay?

K. CONTRERAS: Yes, definitely like we're glad we're not in the care of a doctor who doesn't support our family. It would have been really nice of her to let us know that ahead of time. I don't know that we would be sitting here right now if she had let us know ahead of time. I'm sure it would have hurt and we wouldn't have been very happy with it but at least we could have continued on to our plan to continue to meet with pediatricians and find the one, you know, that was a good fit.

SMERCONISH: Help me interpret another line in the apology letter, "Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice."

What choice is she referring to?

J. CONTRERAS: Obviously, she makes it pretty clear especially with the "prayed about it" line she's referring to us being gay and basically saying that we chose our sexual orientation, so you know, that word really jumped out of the page at us, you know.

If that's what she believes that's what she believes. That's her belief but you know, to say she doesn't judge us by that, she's definitely judging by that and saying that we chose this lifestyle. But, you know, Bay didn't choose anything so even if you do believe that, Bay is sitting here as a 6-day-old baby because her parents are, you know, gay that you can't care for her. And it was interesting.

SMERCONISH: Hey, I want to make something else clear, Jamie and Krista. There's no litigation pending, there's no litigation contemplated. You're here today to build awareness of an important issue. Explain.

K. CONTRERAS: Yes, so basically in Michigan, this is totally cool, like it's legal.

[09:55:03] She did nothing wrong according to our laws, and we just want to, you know, we think, yes, Bay was 6 days when we were sitting in that doctor's appointment. But what if she was 6 years old and asking why is my family being treated differently than any other family? And not understanding. So what we really want to do is raise awareness to what, you know, the status of the laws currently are and hope to change those lives, you know, to add LGBT protections to different laws in the state of Michigan and hopefully around the country.

SMERCONISH: Only 22 states prohibit the type of conduct that we're discussing and there's no federal law on the books that gives protection to your family unit in a circumstance like this.

J. CONTRERAS: Yes. You know, and right now, Michigan also has a law on the table the RFRA, Religious Freedom Religious Act, on the table literally right now being discussed. If that goes through it, it just furthers the doctors' rights to keep discriminating and any business at that point to say, you know, here is a license to discriminate however and whoever you want.

I think we really need to be aware of what laws are being passed right now. You know, all we need is a history book that shows that this isn't going to forward our society, it's not going to better our society for anyone involved. Really, we just want to make people aware that this is happening to families like ours and others like ours all around the country.

SMERCONISH: Jamie and Krista, best of luck, all good health with Bay and thank you so much.

J. CONTRERAS: Thank you. Thank you for having us, Michael.

K. CONTRERAS: Thank you for sharing our story.

J. CONTRERAS: Yes, we really appreciate it.


SMERCONISH: I'll be right back.


SMERCONISH: Thank you so much for joining me. Happy Passover. Happy Easter. And don't forget, follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish.

See you next week.