Return to Transcripts main page
State of the Union
Interview With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Interview With California Senator Dianne Feinstein. Aired 9-10:00p ET
Aired April 05, 2015 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:09] JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Israel's prime minister blasts a deal he says threatens the country. Is the NCAA cheating student athletes? And finding faith in a world of turmoil.
This is STATE OF THE UNION.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slams the new deal with Iran. Senator Dianne Feinstein says, give Iran a chance. Easter and Passover collide with religious controversy. And the NCAA faces new scrutiny on a huge weekend for college sports.
Good morning from Washington. I'm Jim Acosta.
Breaking news this morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing his anger over the nuclear deal that the U.S. and other world powers brokered with Iran.
He joins us from Jerusalem.
ACOSTA: Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate it. Let's get right to it.
As you probably heard from the president last week, he said there are three options for dealing with Iran's nuclear program. That is to bomb Iran and to start a war essentially in the Middle East, continue the sanctions as they stand now, or take this deal. Is he wrong about that?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think the alternatives are not either this bad deal or war.
I think there's a third alternative. And that is standing firm, ratcheting up the pressure, until you get a better deal. And a better deal would roll back Iran's vast nuclear infrastructure and require Iran to stop its aggression in the region, its terror worldwide, and its calls and actions to annihilate the state of Israel.
That's a better deal. It's achievable.
ACOSTA: And why does this deal not roll back Iran's nuclear program? Initially, it was thought that their program would be on hold for 10 years. It turns out that portions of this deal extend that out to 15 years and beyond that. Why can't you live with this deal?
NETANYAHU: It doesn't roll back Iran's nuclear program. It keeps a vast nuclear infrastructure in place.
Not a single centrifuge is destroyed. Not a single nuclear facility is shut down, including the underground facilities that they built illicitly. Thousands of centrifuges will kept -- will keep spinning, enriching uranium. That's a very bad deal.
Secondly, Iran is going to have sanctions lifted, including crippling sanctions, pretty much up front. And that's going to have billions and billions of dollars flow into the Iranian coffers, not for schools or hospitals or roads, but to pump up Iran's terror machine throughout the world.
And it's a military machine that's now engaged in conquest throughout the world in Iraq and Syria and Yemen, around the borders of Israel elsewhere. So I think that's very bad. Third, the restrictions that are placed on Iran are only temporary. And after a few years, Iran will have unlimited capacity to build unlimited nuclear infrastructure. That's very bad. That's what's in the deal.
Now, here's what's not in the deal, the ending of their ICBMs, their intercontinental ballistic missile programs. That's not in the deal. And those missiles are only used for you. They're not used for us. They have missiles that can reach us and are geared for nuclear weapons.
And, secondly, no one is asking Iran at all in this deal to stop its aggression in the region and its calls to annihilate Israel.
ACOSTA: Well, clearly -- and, clearly, the White House has said that -- and, clearly, the White House has said...
NETANYAHU: Very bad...
NETANYAHU: ... and the region and the world.
ACOSTA: And you said that it would threaten your country's survival. You stand by that?
If a country that vows to annihilate us and is working every day with conventional means and unconventional means to achieve that end, if that country has a deal that paves its way to nuclear weapons, many nuclear weapons, it endangers our survival.
I will tell you what else will happen. I think it will also spark an arms race with the Sunni states, because they understand exactly what I just said.
ACOSTA: And let me ask you about that in just a moment.
NETANYAHU: This deal will both threaten us and threaten our neighbors.
ACOSTA: Yes, let me ask you this, though, Mr. Prime Minister. If you continue the sanctions as they stand now or even strengthen them, doesn't the risk exist then that Iran will take its program further underground, that the international community will not have any kind of inspection process to look at what's going on in Iran, and that their breakout timeline could be shortened dramatically, and that they could become a nuclear weapon power state in short order?
Isn't that the risk you run with your approach?
NETANYAHU: No, I think quite the contrary.
I think, first of all, I wouldn't bet the shop on inspections, because totalitarian regimes have a way of cheating. Iran has cheated in the past. North Korea -- they said the same arguments about North Korea. It will make them peaceful, it will make them moderate, it will make them abandon their program. And the opposite has happened.
I think, in this case, what is happening with this deal is that what has been illegitimate is being legitimized. Iran's nuclear program is being legitimized. And they're given the ability not only to maintain their infrastructure, but to -- within a few years to increase it.
[09:05:06] They don't even have to violate this deal. They can just walk into many bombs. And I think that's very dangerous. I think what is required is the application of very strong sanctions that have proven effective.
And they were only applied -- financial sanctions and the oil sanctions, the tough, biting sanctions were applied for the first time in 2012, got them immediately to the table. If they worked to get them to the table, why, when you get to the table, do you start lifting them immediately? In fact, apply those pressures because they do work. That's what's required.
There's still time to get a better deal and apply pressures on Iran to abandon, to roll back its nuclear program, and to stop its vast aggression in the region.
ACOSTA: But, Mr. -- Mr. Prime Minister, you know that your critics have pointed out that, back in 2012, at the U.N., you held up that picture of a bomb and talked about how close Iran was to acquiring a nuclear weapon.
We have the video. We're showing it on screen. You said that Iran would have enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb by the summer of 2013. Weren't you wrong about that, sir?
It's, in fact, the application of the pressures exactly at that time that rolled Iran back. I think it proves exactly the point that I'm making here. If you press Iran strongly enough, what seems unrealistic today becomes realistic tomorrow.
If you said two years ago, if you said that the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad would remove all the chemicals from Syria, would destroy and remove, dismantle and remove from Syria all the materiel and weapons-making -- chemical weapons that they had, you would have said that's unrealistic. You know, that would have been true then.
But the application of subsequent pressure on Syria produced exactly the result that we need here. So, what's unrealistic today with the sufficient application of pressure will become realistic for Iran tomorrow as well.
ACOSTA: And let me ask you this, Mr. Prime Minister. You had Speaker John Boehner there in Israel. How much are you coordinating with him the Republican strategy up on Capitol Hill to block this deal?
NETANYAHU: I'm not approaching it on a partisan basis.
I have talked to about two-thirds of the representatives of the United States, the House of Representatives, and probably an equal number of senators from both sides of the aisle. This is not a partisan issue. This is not even solely an Israeli issue.
This is a world issue, because everyone is going to be threatened by the preeminent terrorist state of our time, getting, keeping the infrastructure to produce not one nuclear bomb, but many, many nuclear bombs down the line. That's a palpable danger to the peace of the world. And I think it should concern everybody, Republicans, Democrats, independents, I don't care, and the citizens who want a peaceful world from every nation.
ACOSTA: And how much is your very tense and, let's frank -- let's be frank here, uncomfortable relationship with the president driving your opposition to this?
NETANYAHU: Not at all.
And I don't think this is a personal issue, not between me and the president, or the president and me. We have -- we had a respectful hour-long conversation the other day, as befits two allies, two democracies. And Israel views the United States as its great ally. And I think America has no greater ally in the world than Israel. But we do have a difference...
ACOSTA: Do you trust the president? NETANYAHU: It's a difference of policy, not a clash of
ACOSTA: Do you trust the president, Mr. Prime Minister?
NETANYAHU: I trust that the president is doing what he thinks is good for the United States.
But I think that we can have a legitimate difference of opinion on this, because I think Iran has shown to be completely distrustful. It's not a country that you can place your trust in. And it's not a country that you're going to resolve its congenital cheating. You're not -- you're just not going to replace it by placing more inspectors there.
ACOSTA: But do you -- but do you trust the president? I get -- you said that you trust the president to do what's best for the United States, but do you trust him?
NETANYAHU: I think it's not a question of personal trust.
Of course we have a mutual respectful relationship. And I always respect both the presidency of the United States and this president of the United States. But, as the prime minister of the one and only Jewish state, when I see a country, a terrorist regime, committed to our destruction, and not only to our destruction, having the path, the clear path to the bomb, it's my obligation to speak out, as I'm doing now, as I will do in any form.
ACOSTA: And, Mr. Prime Minister, I guess you have seen the reaction in the Israeli press to this Iran nuclear deal.
And I want to put a quote up on screen from "Haaretz," from a columnist in "Haaretz." He wrote that this is not a bad deal. He said: "Israel will have a hard time fighting this agreement or portraying it as bad. If Iran upholds the terms, its nuclear threat will be severely mitigated."
Isn't it true, Mr. Prime Minister, that you -- that you may represent all Israelis, but you don't speak for all Israelis when it comes to this deal?
[09:10:07] NETANYAHU: Well, I was just reelected by a fairly substantial margin. And the people of Israel knew what my position is on Iran.
Let me tell you this. The argument -- there was no argument in the elections about Iran. In fact, people said we share the prime minister's views on Iran. A major figure in the opposition today published in his blog a complete support of my position on Iran.
So, it's not a partisan issue in Israel. I think that the overwhelming majority of Israelis understand that Iran seeks our destruction. They don't buy the notion that Iran has spent these vast billions on a peaceful nuclear program. Iran is awash in oil and gas for their grandchildren's grandchildren.
Everybody understands they want a path to nuclear weapons. Everybody understands that, instead of putting the pressure on them to stop this program and change their policy, in fact, the opposite is happening with this proposed deal. They're getting a free path to the bomb. The sanctions are removed. They're continuing their aggression as we speak.
And a few days ago, a senior Iranian general said the destruction of Israel is nonnegotiable. Well, I guarantee you -- you may have a dissenting voice here and there in Israel -- we're a real democracy, a real democracy -- but, in our real democracy, the overwhelming majority of Israelis support the position I just put forward because they know their life is on the line.
ACOSTA: All right. We will have to leave it there, Mr. Prime Minister.
We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you, sir.
NETANYAHU: Thank you. Thank you.
ACOSTA: Will Congress support or scuttle the Iran nuclear deal? We will ask California Senator Dianne Feinstein about that and the massive drought in her state.
And, later, is the organization that runs college sports cheating its athletes?
ACOSTA: We just heard Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu slam the nuclear deal with Iran.
Now we have the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, to respond.
Senator Feinstein, thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you.
ACOSTA: I wanted to start with Prime Minister Netanyahu and what he has said about this deal. He says that this nuclear deal with Iran threatens the survival of Israel. Do you agree with that?
[09:15:00] FEINSTEIN: No, I do not.
The surveillance and inspection and transparency runs 20 to 25 years for everything, all the centrifuges, rotors, the mills. The production facilities for yellowcake go out to 25 years of IAEA surveillance and inspection.
So, dependent upon how strong that is -- and a precondition has to be that there's going to be a real rededication in the IAEA to do the kind of work that's going to be necessary to do 24/7, 365 days a year in the various facilities. But I think that, having watched this for a long time and knowing this particular foreign minister, I think this is the best that's going to get done.
It's a framework. It has to be wrapped into a final agreement. There still can be some changes. But I don't think it's helpful for Israel to come out and oppose this one opportunity to change a major dynamic, which is downhill, a downhill dynamic in this part of the world.
ACOSTA: But let me ask you this, Senator, because, obviously, Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to scuttle this deal. He came to Washington. He spoke to a joint meeting of Congress. He's continuing to speak out on news programs like this one.
Do you think he is overstepping his bounds as a foreign head of state?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think he's said what he's had to say.
And, to be candid with you, this can backfire on him. And I wish that he would contain himself, because he has put out no real alternative, in his speech to the Congress, no real alternative, since then, no real alternative.
ACOSTA: Well, his real alternative, he says, is more sanctions. What's wrong with that?
FEINSTEIN: Well, what -- it depends on what you believe more sanctions is going to do.
More sanctions will certainly drive the program more underground, make it more difficult. A couple of years now have gone in to get this far. And it's a better agreement, candidly, than I thought it was ever going to be. I think that it can be a very serviceable, practical agreement. And it can signal a new day. Otherwise, we keep this dynamic going, which is not productive of anything that's positive for the region.
ACOSTA: Senator, you have a lot of access to intelligence information on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And I don't want you to get into classified information, but, from what you can say to the American people, based on what you know, do you believe that the Iranians have been trying to develop nuclear weapons or weaponize their nuclear program up until this point?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I can say this, that the Iranians -- and the intelligence reflects that, of both people I have spoken with and reports I have read -- that this joint agreement has been carried out over the last couple of years without infraction.
And I think that's some indication. I believe that this foreign minister and this Iranian president, both of whom are moderates, really want to show that there is another way for Iran, and, therefore, giving up this program is worth it. So... ACOSTA: And -- and let me ask you this, because you mentioned
the foreign minister, Zarif, Javad Zarif, a couple of times. It sounds like you trust him. Do you trust the Iranians?
FEINSTEIN: I believe he is sincere. I believe that President Rouhani wants this. And it looks like the supreme leader will be agreeable.
Now, having said that, we have got everybody jumping to conclusions in the Congress. This agreement has to be written up into a binding kind of agreement. And that's the document that we all need to see, the final document.
ACOSTA: One thing that has been raised as an issue by the Israelis is that this will lead to an arms race in the Middle East, that the Saudis will want to develop a nuclear program and perhaps weaponize it, thinking that the Iranians will be able to do so as a result of this deal.
What do you make of that prospect?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I would say that's true if there's no agreement.
See, I -- it's a -- it's a perverse finding. To continue to go the way that this is going, that leaves only a military operation as a solution, or, as what some people would say, well, we have got leverage in sanctions, take down the whole economy, look, there are 77 million people in Iran.
I think they deserve more than take down the whole economy. Sanctions generally hurt those who can't afford a better way of life, and they're not a long-term answer, I believe.
[09:20:06] So, I think we're on the cusp of something that can be workable. I think the key is the 20-to-25-year surveillance inspection period and the changes that have been made. Obviously, it's a compromise, but that's to be expected.
And I think this kind of absolutist, well, no deal is better than a bad deal, but we don't know what a good deal would be, no, we have no suggestions, is not very helpful, candidly.
ACOSTA: Congress is going to want to have a say in all of this.
And, Senator Corker, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has a bill that says that the Congress would have a vote on this final deal that will be reached on -- or could be reached on June 30. I guess it's not a done deal yet. How would you vote on that bill today?
FEINSTEIN: Well, today, I would vote no on that bill.
FEINSTEIN: Having said that -- because this is essentially a presidential agreement.
And the agreement -- the Corker legislation, as I understand it, is going to have a hearing, I think on the 14th of April. And then it will be marked up in the Foreign Relations Committee. My understanding is, there may be changes. So I want to be cautious and wait and see what actually comes out of that committee onto the floor before I really cast my vote.
ACOSTA: And, Senator, you're coming to us from the great state of California, which is always just a beautiful place to visit, but, sometimes, that can come at a price.
You haven't had enough rain lately. And, as a matter of fact, you're in the grips of a massive, historic drought. And I just want to run through some of the numbers, because I -- I don't know if our viewers across the country have -- really have a grasp of this. This is the amount of water that California would need to recover from the drought that currently is in that state right now, 11 trillion gallons of rain, enough to fill 17 million Olympic swimming pools, more than 14,000 times the amount of water needed to fill the Dallas Cowboys' stadium, no offense to the 49ers, and 170 days' worth of water flow at Niagara Falls.
I suppose that answer the question, how big a problem is this? What can you do about it?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think our snowpack, which is a big source of spring runoff for the state, is at 8 percent of what it should be. That is an historic low.
I think it's very serious. We have, you know, close to 38 million people in this state. It's going to mean mandatory rationing. It's going to mean the fallowing of large amounts of agricultural land. It's going to mean being able to try to work our systems more efficiently.
And it's a very, very serious problem.
ACOSTA: And we...
FEINSTEIN: We're trying to put together a bill now...
FEINSTEIN: ... that would deal with working the system more effectively and efficiently. And that's a very difficult thing to do. So it remains to be seen if we can do it.
ACOSTA: Are we talking about federal relief that will be needed, funds that will be needed for California? Are we talking about a drought bailout?
FEINSTEIN: Well, the governor has just put forward some portion of a billion-dollar drought bailout in terms of supplemental commodities, foodstuffs, purchase of water, that kind of thing. ACOSTA: I want to switch very quickly, with the time that we
have left, to Senator Reid, who is stepping aside as the minority leader of your party, was the majority leader. And he's going to be leaving Congress.
And it turns out that Senator Schumer, it appears, will be stepping forward as the new leader of your party in the Senate. But there seems to be this disagreement as to whether or not Senator Durbin will remain the whip. How do you think that situation should be resolved? We know Senator Reid said...
ACOSTA: ... that these two men should chill out a little bit, I guess.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think chilling out is a good thing to do.
FEINSTEIN: This is a year-and-a-half away.
And one of the things that members take very seriously is their seniority. And once that's broken, it's broken for all time. So, this is a year-and-a-half away. I think chill out is a good motto for the day.
ACOSTA: And how do you think Harry Reid should be remembered as the majority leader and then minority leader of the Senate?
FEINSTEIN: I think he -- I think he should be remembered as a strong, tough leader who was a master at the inside game, who...
ACOSTA: Was he part of the problem, though, do you think, in the Senate, in terms of not getting things done, the gridlock that is there? He blames Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell has blamed Harry Reid. Doesn't he bear some responsibility?
FEINSTEIN: Well, yes, I think this. The majority has the votes.
Prior to, oh, about four, six years ago, we did not require 60 votes for virtually any major measure to pass the Senate. Cloture was rarely used. Since that time, it's been used dozens of times by the minority, which were the Republicans, to stop the majority from passing a bill.
[09:25:17] ACOSTA: All right.
Well, we hope for a break to the weather gridlock out there in California and bring some much-needed relief and much-needed rain to your state.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, thanks very much for joining us.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Jim.
ACOSTA: Congress returns on April 13. The debate over the Iran deal will likely be at the top of the agenda.
But, coming up: The NCAA says it's not its job to make sure student athletes get an education. Are schools using them for profit?
And, next, four religious leaders speak out on the thin line between freedom and discrimination.
ACOSTA: Christians and Jews are celebrating Easter and Passover this week, but the message of renewal seems to be obscured by the headlines.
Indiana and Arkansas caused a national uproar by introducing religious freedom laws, which opponents say promote anti-gay legislation. By Thursday evening, both states had revised the original bills, making changes to prevent discrimination. Will that quell the backlash?
Joining me around this table, Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Father Edward Beck, a CNN religion commentator, Reverend Delman Coates, senior pastor at the D.C.-area mega-church and, in 2014, a candidate for Maryland lieutenant governor on the Democratic side, and Rabbi Matt Gewirtz of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey.
I hope I got that right, Rabbi.
RABBI MATTHEW GEWIRTZ, CONGREGATION B'NAI JESHURUN: Close enough.
ACOSTA: Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Let me start with you, Dr. Moore, because this situation in Arkansas and Indiana, it really took a lot of people by surprise, and I imagine the governors of Arkansas and Indiana. Why do you think this caused such an uproar?
RUSSELL MOORE, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST ETHICS AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION: Well, I think it's really unfortunate that it caused such an uproar. (INAUDIBLE) supporter of religious freedom restoration act. So, what was happening in both of those states was a straightforward attempt to protect religiously motivated people in order to have a fair balancing act in court.
ACOSTA: You supported these laws?
MOORE: I supported these laws as they were originally introduced.
And then the hysteria that happened after that was unfortunate in all sorts of reasons -- for all sorts of reasons. One of them being the fact that you have a mischaracterization of what religious freedom is, how religious freedom protects all people, and then also the way that some of the leaders responded to the backlash. ACOSTA: What is your take on this?
REV. DELMAN COATES, SENIOR PASTOR, MT. ENNON BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, I'm concerned about the religious freedom laws, principally because I think it provides the potential for people to use their religion as a basis for discrimination and bias.
I'm very concerned because my sense is that people do not consistently apply what they regard as their religion. And so, this is not a protection of belief, it's potentially a protection of bias. And one of the things that makes our country so great is that we have found a way to do two things, to protect religious freedom and individual liberty at the same time. And I think the reason you had this outcry is because people all across the country are concerned about the precedent that this could establish for people using their religion as a basis to discriminate against a whole group of people based on their sexual orientation, country of origin, their own religious beliefs. I'm very concerned about it.
ACOSTA: And Rabbi, these laws were brought forward by Christian conservatives in both of these states. What does your faith say about this issue?
RABBI MATTHEW D. GEWIRTZ, CONGREGATION B'NAI JESHURUN: As far as it coming from a fundamentalist suggestion, you know, I'm different. I see the bible as one that I live by the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law. I think the spirit of the law is one that teaches us to love our neighbors our self, to not oppress the stranger because we were once strangers in a strange land. And I think these laws are taking people, putting them into a box and objectifying them.
ACOSTA: And Father Beck, I want to play something for you because I think it's interesting. Pope Francis, as you know, was asked about sort of an issue related to this. He was asked about whether gays should be able to serve as priests and what he said in response to that question really took the world by storm.
Let's play a little bit of what the Pope had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE FRANCIS, LEADER OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): If a person is gay and seeks god and has goodwill, who am I to judge him?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: There has been an evolution, has there not?
FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: The evolution has been one of inclusion. I think what this Pope has said is you have to bring everyone into the conversation, that everybody has a place at the table. Have the conversation and see where the people are.
With regards to this law, the federal law seemed to suffice until gay marriage started to gain traction in the states and then suddenly these other kinds of laws were made. So, I think that it was very (INAUDIBLE) in response to gay marriage and to kind of put some strongholds on it.
ACOSTA: Was it a teachable moment for the GOP do you think?
BECK: Yes, but it was disappointing because it wasn't for an issue of justice, it was an economic issue. You had the NCAA final four losing money, people were saying -- businesses were saying you can't do this to us. And so they said, OK, let's look at this again. And let's make it what it's really supposed to be. And now the right, the extreme right is saying, no, why did you backtrack? You should have left it as it was.
ACOSTA: And before we move off of this topic, Dr. Moore, I want to ask you the question I asked Father Beck. And that is, was this a teachable moment for the GOP? Do you think this should be a litmus test for Republican candidates for the presidency in 2016?
MOORE: Yes, absolutely this is a litmus test in terms of whether or not a candidate supports religious liberty for all people. That applies to Christians, Muslims, Jains (ph), to Hindus and to everyone else. And that's a question that - you know, we went through the past two presidential cycles with a lot of questions being asked in the debates but none about religious liberty. But over the last six years we have had constant assaults on religious liberty in this country from the Little Sisters of the Poor, the HHS mandate, and one thing after another. We need to know up front where candidates stand on how --
ACOSTA: Do you feel like your faith is under attack?
MOORE: I think faith in general is under attack because I think there's a secular rising strand in American life that doesn't understand religious motivation at all.
COATES: People of faith are concerned about what's taking place in corporate board rooms and not really preoccupied with what's happening in people's private bedrooms.
The scriptures that I read have more to say about poverty and addressing how we care for the least of these. And I wish there was more conversation from the religious right and groups of a variety of religious backgrounds that talked about how we can care for the poor, how we can care for the orphans, the widows, those in our society that have been locked out and left out. Addressing concerns of social justice, mass incarceration. I think these are the kinds of issues that people of faith all across the country are grappling with.
[09:05:04] ACOSTA: They're not always on the table.
And Rabbi, I want to turn to the presidential race that's taking shape.
Ted Cruz was the first to jump in. He announced his candidacy at Liberty University, which is a university who was founded by Jerry Falwell. How did that strike you, to see a candidate for the presidency of the United States launch his campaign from a university that is essentially founded by Christian conservatives?
GEWIRTZ: I think it would have worked well in the '90s and maybe pre-2001. I think it's tone deaf now.
I think it's tone deaf because I do not think faith is under attack. What I do believe is I have members of my congregation who so badly want to embrace faith. When they hear the kinds of things they've heard during the last couple of weeks it makes them think, if that's what faith is about, then I don't want any part of it. That they want spiritual life, they want inner life.
And, you know, before 2001 it was a luxury to think of the Mary Schiavo's (ph) of the world. Who would think about those kinds wedge (ph) issues that worked really well to get people elected. But guess what, since then I think it's 36 states have now passed gay marriage laws. And I think either America's beginning to move on or beginning to see that people of all stripes have a place around the table.
ACOSTA: Father Beck, what do you make -- because I think it's fair to say that Ted Cruz is wearing his religion, his faith on his sleeve. I don't think that's a slam on Ted Cruz. Do you find that to be authentic when you see candidates, political candidates wearing their faith on their sleeves?
BECK: I think perhaps it may be authentic for them but polls show Americans don't want it. Americans want to keep that separation. And so I think that they do it at their own peril because people are going to say, look, if that's what it's going to be about for you just bringing your faith into every decision, then you're not going to represent the vast majority of the country. And therefore, you may not be our candidate.
ACOSTA: Gentlemen, we have more to talk about. Thanks for that discussion, that part of the discussion. If you would stand by while we get in a break. When we come back, I'll ask you about the rise of anti-semitism around the world.
ACOSTA: And welcome back. You know, somebody from "The Daily Show" I guess who will be the new host of "The Daily Show" made some news this week, Trevor Noah. He's been tapped as the replacement to Jon Stewart.
And he made a lot of news. I'm not sure he wanted to make all of this news with some pretty controversial tweets that he did not go back and delete. Did you take those comments to be anti-Semitic or was some of these -- maybe some folks are being too sensitive to what's out there on Twitter and social media?
GEWIRTZ: I have a couple of comments. First I'm still lamenting Jon Stewart...
ACOSTA: Yes. GEWIRTZ: ...all of us are.
GEWIRTZ: But I would say the following. I grew up with Archie Bunker. And I think my generation learned a lot from Archie Bunker. I don't think that Archie Bunker could have existed today. So, his satire and Norman Lear's satire and the comedy taught us a lot about caricatures (ph) and stereotypes.
I don't know enough about Noah yet to know if he's anti-Semitic yet or not. I want to give him some rope because I think we all run to that spot of hate and everyone hates us. And we have to cower in our corner and our silos. I'll take notes and if it continues I will boycott against it. But I'm also really in favor of making sure the Bill Mahers of the world and the Larry Davids of the world who are universal offenders (ph) after all make us look at ourselves and not take light (ph) seriously some of us take it.
ACOSTA: Let's look at social media. Father Beck, you know, Pope Francis is sort of this Twitter sensation out there @PontiffX. How is that changing your fate? I want to ask you all of this.
BECK: Changing it in a sense that - first of all it's instantaneous what people are thinking about it. And I think what it's saying is you can look at all of these different perspectives. You just go down your feed and you say, this person said this, and that person said that. And I think it just makes it a lot more relevant because it's in time. And people are responding in time, too, which is also a bit dangerous, I think.
With regard to this stuff, the "Charlie Hebdo" stuff though showed that this can be a very dangerous slope. If you offend people's religious sensibilities, and the Pope spoke about this, if you'll recall, he said, watch out, you may get a punch in the nose. So yes, I think a universal offender is OK but when it comes to religious sensibility --
ACOSTA: You can't say everything.
BECK: I think certain things are sacred and they're off ground.
And how about you, Dr. Moore? In your community, especially among Christian conservatives, I mean, this has become a hugely helpful tool not only in spreading your word but also making political gains across the country.
Social media is enormously problematic and immensely helpful at the same time. On the one hand it's easy for someone to fill up a feed with views that they agree with and assume, well everyone agrees with me because the people that I follow were all saying the same thing. On the other hand though, Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, it provides me an opportunity to pray for people that I would not ordinarily pray for because I know what's going on in their lives and to --
ACOSTA: It's a window into (ph) the souls.
MOORE: It really is.
ACOSTA: And how about you, reverend?
COATES: With respect to social media, I think that this is not just about political correctness. I think in a more diverse world we have to be careful and mindful of the way in which the words that we use can hurt, can offend and malign and advance discrimination and hatred. And so I think we do have to be careful about our speech.
ACOSTA: And we have a pew poll we want to put up that talks about faith in our lives and where things stand right now. You know, it seems that by and large people are saying that faith is mattering perhaps less in their lives.
BECK: I think it's institution, religion. More people are suspect of it, especially millennials. They're seeing it as judgmental. And I think that if they see it that way, they're going to dismiss it.
I think you're seeing that people are spiritual. They're praying more. They're just very suspicious of any group that excludes other people. And so they're shying away from institutionalism but I think -- studies show that they're becoming more faith filled actually.
[09:45:09] ACOSTA: Rabbi?
GEWIRTZ: Institutionally suspicious and spiritually ravenous and hungry.
ACOSTA: Are you all suspicious of your own institutions at times?
GEWIRTZ: You know something, we are evaluating our institutions at every moment now because the millennial --
ACOSTA (ph): We do need to.
GEWIRTZ: The millennial is finding it at yoga, they're finding it on that (INAUDIBLE), they are finding it on the mountain top. And I can sit on my pedestal, on my pulpit and preach to an empty sanctuary or I can start to go beyond my walls and meet them in the yoga studio and on the mountain top and pray with them there.
ACOSTA: Is that happening --
MOORE: That's not what we're seeing with our millennials.
ACOSTA: No. MOORE: As a matter of fact what's going away is a nominal
cultural form of religion in which one checks a box in order to be a good citizen. That's going away, good riddance to it. And what's going away is the sort of mushy generic faith that has no content. Those churches are dying.
But in churches that have conviction about what it is they believe, those churches are thriving and filled with young people who are swimming against the stream of the culture in order to embrace something that is older and bigger than themselves, and in our case that's the gospel of Jesus Christ.
COATES: I think what's happening is millennials are saying to us that they're concerned about the practice of faith, not just the proclamations and the pretenses of religion. And so, think about it, all across the country when you think about Ferguson, its young people, millennials who are on the front lines. Many people who are coming from faith -
ACOSTA: That caught a lot of people by surprise.
ACOSTA: People did not see that coming. All those young people -
COATES: They're using their faith to say, we want to see how we can make our faith (INAUDIBLE) out in the world.
ACOSTA: Well gentlemen, thank you very much for that discussion. That was a great note to end on, and Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Everything to all of you. We appreciate your time very much and thank you for that discussion. We'll be right back.
[09:50:58] ACOSTA: Duke and Wisconsin square off in the NCAA men's basketball championship game tomorrow night. But the NCAA raised eyebrows this week when it said it is not responsible for the education of student athletes.
Joining me columnist and CNN sports analyst, Christine Brennan, and L.Z. Granderson, ESPN senior writer and CNN commentator.
I want to just start off by reading this statement from NCAA because it is - it does opens up this conversation very well. They say, "We embrace our role in providing student-athletes the skills for what comes next in life. It's our commitment and our responsibility to give young people opportunities to learn, play and succeed."
They worked a really long time on this statement. It's very well crafted. Do you buy it? CHRISTINE BRENNAN, SPORTS COLUMNIST AND COMMENTATOR: Well, I do
understand, Jim, that the NCAA is being buffeted in all ways. On the one hand you want people paying athletes. On the other hand you want people saying what about the student in student athlete? And I understand both of those conversations.
To me this is a cross road unlike any we have seen not only in athletics but in colleges in terms of what do we want - what do we want this to look like moving forward? And so I think the NCAA saying that they're not involved with the education of student athletes is ridiculous. But I also understand that they cannot be literally monitoring every classroom and every university in this country.
ACOSTA: And L.Z., I mean, this has become a massive industry. March madness in the final four that we're seeing now in Indianapolis, we have to say - I mean, it is pretty unbelievable what we've seen so far. It has been a great sports spectacle.
The student athletes don't get paid. They are basically pawns in what is a massive industry. What do we do about this? We just let it continue the way it is right now?
L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's immoral to let it continue on the way that it is right now especially in talking about the very -- two top sports that are biggest money generators being football and basketball. But the fact of the matter is when we look at the complications with Title IX and how do you handle that conversation. When you look at some of the smaller tiered schools who aren't generating as much money as the larger schools. How do you handle that conversation?
So, I'm not going - I'm not saying that the NCAA should get a pass but it is way more complicated than just handing out checks as well. And so, I think Congress actually needs to get involved a lot more than what is happening now. Because there are some anti-trust issues that needs to be vetted and I don't think that allowing the NCAA to do all the self-policing is the best way to get a solution here.
ACOSTA: And Christine, can we pay student athletes? Because - I mean, we should point out they receive a free education.
BRENNAN: You said the word, pawn which is -- critics have said that. The flip side is think about the scholarship and the value now up 50, 60 up to $70,000 per year, per student. What would some of these parents...
ACOSTA: At some expensive schools.
BRENNAN: Exactly. And even if it's a regular state school it's 30, 35, now 40. What would parents who are paying full freight for their kids or kids who are getting into the - buried in student loans and they're going to have to pay them for the next 20 years? What would they give to have the scholarship? So, I think, the paying of the student athletes is on the table clearly, it is a point of conversation in the sports media, Jim. But -- ACOSTA: Can we just pay them maybe not what NBA athletes get
paid but a small, put it in an account that they can't touch until they leave college?
GRANDERSON: I want to see...
GRANDERSON: ...I want to see is stop pretending as if college sports is not some sort of minor league for pros. If we can just get to that point, if we can start pretending as if March Madness and college football are not just minor leagues for the NFL or NBA. Then I think we can start having serious conversations of being paid.
BRENNAN: If you know though (ph) -- if we're going to pay the football players, you have to pay the field hockey players. It seems to me under Title IX, wow -
ACOSTA: Track --
ACOSTA: Let me do this because I don't want to run out of time. Because I mentioned Indianapolis I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the controversy in Indiana the last couple of weeks. The law that was passed there that some people said would have essentially made it easy for people to discriminate gays and lesbians. The NCAA sort of walked a tight rope on this.
Well, how did they handle it?
BRENNAN: Well, I think they handled it well. Mark Emmert came out and said, this is not acceptable and going forward how would we keep our business here and how can we have championships here? I think once again sports took us to a national conversation where we want to go just like with Penn State, just like with domestic violence. I think that's a positive thing.
[09:55:13] ACOSTA: And L.Z., former Governor Mike Huckabee had this to say about the situation in Arkansas, in Indiana. I want to play that before I get your response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: The reason that those corporations put the pressure on Indiana and Arkansas was because the militant gay community put the pressure on them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And he's talking about, of course, you know, when Apple's CEO came out and Walmart came out and basically blasted both of these laws in these two respective states. But Mike Huckabee talking about the militant gay community. This is still a very touchy subject around the country. How do we navigate this?
GRANDERSON: Well, first of all, I'm upset. Because I pay my dues, I've been openly gay for a long time and I'm not part of this militant - part of the organization he's talking about.
ACOSTA: Militant -
GRANDERSON: I want to know where this - I don't know where this part is located because I haven't seen it yet.
You know, Mike Huckabee is dipping his toe into the water to see whether or not there's room for him to run for 2016. That's what his comments were about. That's where his Guns, God, Gravy book is all about that he released in January. So, I don't really pay that close attention to him.
I do want to say one thing about the NCAA and how it's handled Indianapolis and that is -- I don't think they handled it very well. This law does not blind side them. They knew it was coming and they responded after the public outcry. If they were being responsible they would have gotten ahead of the message and not respond after the public got the message.
ACOSTA: All right. L.Z. Granderson, Christine Brennan, thanks for that discussion. We can go on forever but we won't. We can get to predictions but we'll see what happens tomorrow night.
That's it for STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. We're done here but don't leave because next up Fareed Zakaria's exclusive interview with Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, that comes up next. Don't go away.