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Newtown Families in Washington Today; Republicans Threaten to Filibuster Gun Deal; "Accidental Racist" Sparks Firestorm; Indians' Manager gets lost on Way to Game

Aired April 9, 2013 - 09:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello. Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM, at 31 minutes past the hour, stock futures have been steady ahead of this morning's opening bell. Investors are weighing first quarter earnings. Aluminum producer Alcoa turned in mixed results. Reports are due later this week from JPMorgan and Wells Fargo.

Guns, guns, and more guns. We keep talking about guns and it's likely we'll keep on talking right past each other. Maybe the Newtown families, still grieving over last children, will get something done. The families flew to D.C. aboard Air Force One with the president to try and convince lawmakers to take an actual vote on some gun bill. Most want some form of gun control passed, they are not unanimous, however. Mark Mattilo , who lost his 6-year-old son James in Sandy Hook, stood up for the NRA and its plan to boost school safety partially by putting armed guards in every school.


MARK MATTILO, FATHER OF NEWTOWN SHOOTING VICTIM: I think politics needs to be set aside here and I hope this doesn't lead to name calling, but, rather this is recommendations for solutions. Real solutions that will make our kids safer. And that's what we need.


COSTELLO: He's talking, they are talking, but no one is really listening, too busy playing politics. So, let's talk. Let's get mad (ph) together, shall we? Jason Johnson, "Politic365" chief political correspondent and Hiram College political science professor; and John Avlon, CNN contributor and senior political columnist for "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast." Welcome to both of you.


JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about the filibustering Republicans. Fourteen Republicans say they will filibuster any gun bill that makes it to the floor of the Senate. Here are the 14 senators. They don't even want debate on a gun bill. They don't want any bill reaching the floor. What is that about, John?

AVLON: It's about an attempt to undermine representative democracy. You got a vast majority of Americans who support the modest proposals in the proposed gun bill. Already the really controversial stuff like an assault weapons ban has been removed. John McCain has called this out (ph), Rudy Giuliani has called this out. Because why not have a debate? Why not have a vote? If the vast majority of Americans, we're not talking narrow 54-46, we're talking 80, 90 percent say universal background checks is a good, common sense idea. Why not have a vote? Why not have a debate? An attempt to block that shows a certain degree of contempt for the opinions of the vast majority of Americans on this problem (ph).

COSTELLO: But not contempt for their constituents, right Jason? Because for their constituents, they don't want any gun bill going to the floor of the Senate. So maybe they're proud that Mitch McConnell is now threatening to filibuster.

JOHNSON: I have a different word. I don't think it's contempt, I think it's cowardice. Look, if they really feel that what they are representing is a better way for America to move forward with gun policy, they shouldn't be afraid. The reason they are afraid is because they know that the vast majority of Americans, including a lot of people within their own districts, actually think that again these proposals should at least be brought up for a vote. And I think it's disgusting and I think it's cowardly on part of the Republican party, especially those 14 senators.

COSTELLO: But John, when all is said and done, voters don't vote on gun issues like that. I mean, in the end, they won't care whether those Republican senators filibustered or not.

AVLON: I think that's wrong. I think that they are playing a dangerous game here. I think Rand Paul's filibuster of the drones was heroic. Because it was about educating the American people on a policy issue that some of them haven't heard of. This is about blocking debate. This is about stopping a national conversation. And when you have the vast majority of the American people saying yes to something, we're not talking about an aggressive proposal. We're talking about universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole. If we can't agree on that, when the vast majority of people agree, if there is that much of a disconnect in Washington and Main Street America because of the power of lobbyists, because the power of activists that's something that will infuriate people in Main Street America, and it should.

COSTELLO: Okay, so Jason if one of the Newtown family members, let's say a mother who lost their child. Knocks on Rand Paul's door and says please don't do this, what will Rand Paul say? Will he even meet with her and answer the door?

JOHNSON: First off, he would meet her at the door with a gun. Because these gun rights advocates would wonder why she was there. But, here's the thing. You know, I don't think that this is really about gun policy anymore. I think this is about certain Republicans, wanting to block a domestic policy victory for Barack Obama. That's what the problem is. Forget the Sandy Hook families, Gabrielle Giffords, a member of their own congressional family was shot a couple years ago. If that didn't move these people, it clearly is not an example of ideology, it's just resistance and cowardice.

COSTELLO: We'll see what happens. Jason Johnson, John Avlon, many thanks to both of you.

He says that L.L Cool J has become one of his best, best friends, but a song made with the rapper and country superstar Brad Paisley is causing a lot of controversy. It's called "Accidental Racist."


BRAD PAISLEY, COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST (singing): Red flag on my chest somehow is like an elephant in the corner south. I walked him right in the room, just a proud rebel son --



COSTELLO: Rap meets country or should I say country meets rap in a collaboration that's making headlines, but probably not in the way country star Brad Paisley and rap star L.L. Cool J had hoped. The song is called "Accidental Racist." It was inspired by a moment that Paisley was labeled a racist for wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt when he says he just wanted to show support for the band Alabama and his southern heritage.


PAISLEY (singing): I'm just a white man coming to you from the southland trying to understand what it's like not to be. I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done and it ain't like you and me can re-write history.


COSTELLO: L.L. Cool J then responds with a rap about stereotypes and how they don't just affect white men.


Dear Mr. White Man I wish you understood what the world is really like when you're living in the hood. Just because my pants are sagging doesn't mean I'm up to no good.


COSTELLO: Okay, so the song has gone viral now, and the reviews, well they're not so kind. the Atlantic, "Brad Paisley and L.L. Cool J show how not to sing about the confederate flag." This from "the road to 'Accidental Racist' is paved with L.L. Cool J and Brad Paisley's good intentions, but not much else."

Joining me now to talk about this, CNN contributor and ESPN senior writer, L.Z. Granderson and A.J. Hammer, who is the host of HLN's "Showbiz Tonight." L.Z. I want to start with you because you have written a lot about country music and racism and race relations and politics. So, you've listened to the entire song. What is your take?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, let me just say I actually pre-ordered Brad Paisley's new CD, because I'm a huge fan of his, and I know Brad's music. I know Brad's personality, and I know Brad is not a racist, but this is a god awful song. It's a god awful song, not just lyrically, but just because it's really sappy and it's kind of below the type of music I'm used to hearing from Brad in terms of instrumentation, in terms of creativeness, in terms of cleverness. So I just think it's a bad song for him and a horrible rap from L.L. Cool J.

But the greatest sin from this song is that it glosses over the fact that racism is not a relic from the confederacy. It still impacts society today. Socioeconomically, educationally. And so, the way that he approaches this song, the way that L.L. Cool J handles this song is just really clumsy. With all that being said, though, it's important that -- I know, I trashed the song, but it's important they did it because it allows to us have this conversation.

COSTELLO: Even the title of the song, "Accidental Racist." I mean is there a hipster race? I mean what's an "Accidental Racist?"

GRANDERSON: Well, "Accidental Racist" to me, I think perfectly sums up is how Brad was feeling. Which is that he did something that he didn't realize was offending people, and that his intent was not to offend people, and so what was communicated was an accident. To me, I don't really have a problem with that title. I just have a problem with the execution of how he was trying to communicate his feelings.

COSTELLO: I just want to read another lyric. LL. Cool J, we played a bit of his part of the song. This is also a bit of the lyrics that L.L. Cool J sang.

"Now my chains are gold, my chains are gold, but I'm still misunderstood. I wasn't there when Sherman's march turned the south into firewood. I want you to get paid, but be a slave I never could. Feel like a newfangled Django, dodging invisible white hoods."

It's like, what?

GRANDERSON: It's bad. It's really, really a bad song. Grant Landers writes, the road was paved with really good intentions, but, my gosh. The execution. Would you have thought two mega stars. I mean, L.L. Cool J, is one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time, Brad Paisley, certianly will be remembered as one of the greatest country artists of all time. You would you have thought somewhere along the road, someone in that studio, someone listening to the demos would have said hey, guys, you sure you want to say that? It didn't happen.

COSTELLO: Okay, so A.J. Hammer is here to make sense of it all, because this song, while it was all over the internet, has now been pulled from many sites, it's gone down. I don't know who pulled it or why. Go ahead. A.J. HAMMER, HOST, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": No, no. As far as it's being pulled. It's interesting, if you go to the site where it was pulled, there is a message saying it was pulled for copyright reasons. We're looking for an official explanation, but right now, what we're getting is that there perhaps were some stills or artwork or something that was used there that wasn't supposed to be up there.

The truth is, maybe the record label wasn't happy with it, maybe they're seeing the backlash now and they wanted to back off and come up with a game plan. But, both of these artists, Carol, are standing behind it, and I'm totally with what L.Z. Is saying. And this is a lot of the criticism out there, great intentions, poor execution. L.L. Cool J says we need to be provocative with art, and I felt it was important to do that because if it's not interesting, it's not worthwhile. And Brad Paisley very much standing behind this and making it very clear, by the way, telling "Entertainment Weekly" that this was not a stunt. He didn't do this to draw attention and get attention. He was aware that that would happen, but that isn't what he set out to do, other than perhaps facilitate a conversation.

COSTELLO: And Brad Paisley is supposed to be on "Ellen" later on today, right?

HAMMER: That's right. And what we're going to hear him say is that this is an issue that's obviously important and as I said a conversation he wanted to get going through his art. We actually have a sneak peek that I believe we can take a look at right now.


PAISLEY: I did a duet with LL Cool J who is -- who has become one of my best friends in the world and it sort of deals with some -- I don't know if any of you have noticed, but there are some racial tension here and there.


PAISLEY: And it kind of deals with that and I felt like when we were writing the song, it wasn't necessarily up to the media or -- or I don't really trust sort of I guess Hollywood, sorry, or the --

DEGENERES: I represent Hollywood?

PAISLEY: Yes, she does. She runs it. Or -- or sort of talk radio, anything like that, to sort of deal with that anymore I think it's music's turn to have the conversation.


HAMMER: So it's about the art as far as Brad Paisley is concerned there.

COSTELLO: Well, as L.Z. said at least he tried okay. L.Z. Granderson, A.J. Hammer many thanks.

GRANDERSON: Thank you. COSTELLO: Just ahead in the NEWSROOM. Louisville goes from tragedy to triumph. Let's look at how Louisville won the NCAA men's basketball championship. Oh it was dramatic.


COSTELLO: At 49 minutes past the hour time to check our "Top Stories".

Two missing brothers believed to be in Cuba now. Their father described as an anti-government protester. He's accused of kidnapping the boys from their grandmother's home in Florida last week after he and his wife lost their parental rights. Officials think the family may have fled to Cuba aboard that sail boat.

A wildfire forces people to flee 160 homes near Los Angeles. But it's already burned 170 acres in Ventura County, 400 fire fighters trying to contain the fire no injuries reported; two structures have been damaged though. The "LA Times" says the fire started after a power line came down with strong winds.

In sports getting to the ballpark proves to be a challenge for the new Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona. He lives just two blocks away but he got lost more than once on his way to Monday's home opener.


TERRY FRANCONA, CLEVELAND INDIANS MANAGER: I got lost three times. Even when I got to the garage, two people that work here say hey, do you know where you're going? I'm like no. I think Cleveland is officially like the nicest people I've ever met. I mean, everybody I did walk by was like hello. And like everybody I walked by said hello. So that was -- that was a little different than I'm used to.


COSTELLO: A lot different from Boston, right? Maybe he should ask those friendly people for directions. Francona has 80 more games, though, to get his directions straight.

The Louisville Cardinals who's celebrating national champions this morning. Louisville came back from a double digit deficit in the first half but they knocked off the Michigan Wolverines in Atlanta. The celebration in Louisville got a bit out of hand though according to the University of Louisville. Police used pepper balls and tear gas to clear the streets after someone jumped an arson officer. Police also arrested nearly a dozen people.

"Talk Back" question for you to today. "Should Republicans allow a vote up or down on gun control." or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question for you this morning. "Should Republicans allow a vote up or down on gun control?"

This is a tweet. I can never read the tweet tags anyway, here's one of the tweets. "Voting has always identified Americans for decades and not allowing a vote on the gun control on the senate floor is truly un-American."

This from Ed, "Absolutely not. The wording of the Second Amendment is quite simple, but the phrase 'shall not be infringed' seems to keep getting lost on politicians and liberal."

This from Ricardo, "Yes, yes, yes. I'm tired of this congressional stand still. The good of all Americans far outweighs the wants of one person or small group."

From Jeffrey "Background checks in no way affect the Second Amendment that's an inane fanatical argument."

And another tweet from ShatteredKarma, "No. Take Texas for example. Just because something happened in Connecticut doesn't mean we want gun reform down here."

Keep the conversation going or tweet me @carolCNN.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM, after a break.


COSTELLO: Happening now in the newsroom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to go, sir. You have to go. Please.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to go. Please.


COSTELLO: The Rutgers community unloads on their president as the school's fired athletic director gets a million-dollar settlement.

Plus eight years to pay off that new ride? Yes. The brand new eight year car loan.

And the Navy has a new weapon, lasers that can obliterate drones.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want a player who doesn't have the guts to fight back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I want a player who's got the guts not to fight back.


COSTELLO: Changing history. Jackie Robinson's story opens in theaters this woke and Robinson's kids share memories of their father.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.