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Ted Nugent Admits He Crossed the Line; Deal Reached to End Bloodshed in Ukraine; Al Qaeda Trying to Recruit Americans; Big Pitch for Obamacare; Dangerous Storms Targeting East Coast

Aired February 21, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Ted Nugent apologizes. He says he crossed the line when he called the president of the United States a subhuman mongrel.

Also right now, a peace deal reached in the Ukraine. The president and the opposition agreeing to the terms. Now the world watches and waits to see if the deal will really hold.

And right now, new information coming in about Al Qaeda in Syria. The group may be recruiting Americans to carry out attacks right here on U.S. soil.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington. A surprising apology today from Ted Nugent for calling President Obama a subhuman mongrel. Was he sincere? You can judge for yourself. Here's what he told conservative radio talk show host, Ben Ferguson, just a short time ago.


BEN FERGUSON, HOST, "THE BEN FERGUSON SHOW": Subhuman mongrel is a derogatory term, most people agree with that. Did you cross the line by calling the president of the United States of America that? And if you saw Barack Obama, would you apologize to him for saying that about him?

TED NUGENT, ENTERTAINER, MUSIC INDUSTRY (via telephone): Yes, I would. I did cross the line. I do apologize, not necessarily to the president but on behalf of much better men than myself, like the best governor in America, Governor Rick Perry, the best attorney general in America. God, just think if America had an attorney general as great as Greg Abbott like we do here in Texas.

So, on behalf of those politicians and those who put their heart and soul into representing we the people so accurately, like the gentleman I just mentioned, I apologize for using the street fighter terminology, of subhuman mongrel, instead of just using more understandable language, such as a violator of his oath to the constitution. The liar that he is. The president lied when he said we can keep our doctors, and we can retain our health care, period. And that he -- his Department of Defense and Department of Justice called the Allahu Akbar terrorism at Fort Hood workplace violence. Those are the real offensive occurrences in America. So, yes, Ben, I apologize for using the term, subhuman mongrel, and I will try to elevate my vernacular to the level of those great men that I'm learning from in the world of politics.

FERGUSON: Are you apologizing to the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, for calling him a subhuman mongrel?


FERGUSON: If he hears this, and there is a good chance it's going to be played later today, and he's watching or listening, what would you say to him directly?

NUGENT: Good lord. There is an agenda for you.


BLITZER: And Ben Ferguson is joining us now. Ben, thanks very much. So, he apologizes. Qualifies it a bit. What was your take on that apology?

FERGUSON: Well, I think he apologized more because of the message it's taken and it's hurt people that he admires and respects in Greg Abbott. I asked him later, as you heard me press him again, do you apologize to the president, outside of that? And he said, yes.

And from his tone, Ted, several different times, I think he really does feel bad for the words he used. He feels bad for what it's done to the people he surrounds himself with. And that's the reason why he apologized. That's not something that is usually something he does. If anyone presses him, he usually ups the ante. So, putting it in the context of Ted Nugent, I think I was a little surprised by him saying, yes, I apologize to the president.

BLITZER: Because he's been coming under an enormous amount of criticism. And people really don't care that much what he says. But the way he has embarrassed the attorney general of Texas who wants to be the next governor. Rick Perry was with me yesterday here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Let me play a few clips --


BLITZER: -- of what they said and what Senator McCain had said as well.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's a free country but that kind of language really doesn't have any place in our political dialogue. It harms the Republican Party. I'm sure that it harmed that candidate there. And it should be obviously repudiated.

NUGENT: I've got a problem calling the president a mongrel.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Subhuman mongrel.

NUGENT: Yes, I do have a problem with that. That is an inappropriate thing to say.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Those sentiments there, of course, I don't agree with them. You've never heard me say such a thing and nor would I.


BLITZER: And Senator Rand Paul last night tweeted, he said, Ted Nugent's derogatory description of President Obama is offensive and has no place in politics. He should apologize.

So, he's come under enormous pressure from people who made earlier times have been willing to stand with him, invited him out there on the campaign trail. But they didn't want to have anything to do with him after he used those derogatory, vile terms of the president of the United States.

FERGUSON: Well, and I asked him about that. And Ted, I think if he could go back 40 days ago or 43 days ago, as he put it, he wouldn't have used those words. He said, I'm going to learn from the people around me in politics that I admire. I should not have used those words and they were the wrong choice to refer to the president of the United States of America. And for Ted Nugent, for him to say it that way, I personally was a little bit surprised that he apologized as he did because that's not his style. And I think he realizes the damage that was done.

I also think he realizes that what an opportunity this gave Wendy Davis to raise money against Greg Abbott, who he wants to be the next guy in charge in Texas. And he wanted to help. And I think that's where he really felt bad, is he didn't want to help out the Democrat. He didn't want to help out Wendy Davis. And that was something he made clear as well on the show.

BLITZER: Did he apologize to CNN for calling us a Nazi propaganda machine along the lines of Joseph Goebbels?

FERGUSON: He did not apologize for that. He did, however, give a nice accolades to Erin Burnett and said that when he had to cancel on her show the other night, as he put it, he said it was because of medical issues. He said, she is a classy journalist, and he likes going on her show. So, he did clarify why he had to cancel the other night on her show.

BLITZER: All Right, Ben Ferguson, thanks very much for joining us. Ben Ferguson is the host --

FERGUSON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: -- of "The Ben Ferguson Show", the one who got the apology from Ted Nugent. Thanks, Ben. Thanks very much.

In other news, a deal has been reached with Ukraine that could end the bloody confrontation in the capital city of Kiev. An agreement between the president there and the opposition group comes after several deadly days in the city's Independent Square. The deal was put together after representatives from Russia and the European Union went to Kiev.

Joining us now from Ukraine is our Nick Paton Walsh who has been on the scene since these demonstrations developed. So, what's in the deal, Nick, and is there a part in there that calls for an investigation into the dozens of deaths during these protests?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of -- a lot of stuff in this deal. But most of all, a timetable that was pretty strict in many ways. The first thing it asked for was the constitution to reduce the powers of the president. Now, parliament has already pushed that through, at this point. We are waiting to see if the protesters' obligations which is to disarm within 24 hours from now. They will do that at the end of Saturday and they're going to start clearing out of public places like those behind me by Monday, at some point.

You might be able to hear behind me the noise of the crowd jeering it seems. There's a lot of hugely infused (INAUDIBLE) reception. We can't quite work out what they're trying to say but the (INAUDIBLE) on the stage is opposition leader, Vitali Klitschko, who is here. He's come on the stage. And there's Vitali Klitschko who we are -- anyway, so, going back to where we are here. We're looking at a deal which within 10 days should have a unity government organized within Ukraine.

But the key issue here, the one that's got people concerned, is that by December only, might Victor Yanukovych come -- Victor Yanukovych stop being president. There is a call for an early election by them. So, it's not entirely sure if those conditions will be adequate for those in the crowds below me. And we walked through literally a few minutes and showed no signs of packing up and leaving -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we see any evidence, any signs that the protesters are starting leave that Independent Square there in Kiev?

WALSH: At this point, no. We've walked through. There was morning, candlelight vigils for those who died in the past few days. But no sense that they were packing up or going home. I believe they're waiting for leaders to give them a signal as to where they should go next. The barricades have been heavily reinforced around there. There are many people still on the street.

And what's so remarkable is an absolute absence of police wherever you go. They have pulled back entirely. Almost like a ghost town, where, before, there were many, many riot police lining the streets all over. So, we have a deal. It does have a lengthy timetable for the potential eventual departure of Victor Yanukovych. But what it does not do is give the immediate resignation that many in the crowd behind me would have hoped for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh in Kiev, thanks for that update.

There's new information now and a potential threat coming out of Syria, Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda may be recruiting fighters there to attack the United States. Our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is working this story for us. Explain this, Barbara. What exactly is Al Qaeda trying to do?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's some very dangerous new wrinkles emerging. Intelligence has been gathered by the United States that shows Al Qaeda elements, Al Qaeda operatives in Syria may be specifically trying to target Americans and other westerners with western passports coming to Syria to fight in the war there. We know they've been trying to recruit outsiders to come fight in that ongoing civil war in Syria.

But now, Al Qaeda, we are told by several sources, targeting Americans, targeting westerners. And then when they get to Syria, taking them or attempting, rather, to take them to special training so they can be trained on how to return to their home countries and carry out terrorist attacks. Of course, the big worry is there are Al Qaeda operatives in Syria, the U.S. believes, from Al Qaeda in Yemen. And that is the group, of course, that poses the most direct threat to the United States with that master bomb-maker named al-Asiri. That's the guy we're hearing about tied to the shoe bomb threat. So, all of this getting very concerning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are there a lot of Americans actually going to Syria, being trained in Syria to fight side by side with those anti-government elements?

STARR: You know, it's a really interesting question because, of course, nobody can really say for certain. But U.S. officials are telling us they believe there may be as many as 70 Americans, U.S. citizens, that have gone to Syria for a variety of reasons. And, of course, they contract them through international passport controls, transiting across borders, that sort of thing. But it's a very rough estimate. They don't really know. And people come and go all of the time. So, the problem is, this is a very tough place for the U.S. to keep an eye on and get really solid intelligence.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr with the latest on that front. Very disturbing information. Thank you.

Making a big pitch for Obamacare. The first lady of the United States did that on "The Tonight Show" starring Jimmy Fallon. You're going to hear what she said about the Affordable Care Act that got a big laugh from the audience.

And dangerous storms are on the move right now. They're targeting the east coast. The latest tornado warnings. That's coming up.


BLITZER: The White House is making a major push right now for Obamacare some five weeks before the March 31st enrollment deadline. The first lady is even pitching the Affordable Care Act. Michelle Obama took to the airwaves last night, appearing on "The Tonight Show" starring Jimmy Fallon to deliver a direct message to uninsured young adults. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Well, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, young people can stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26. But once they hit 26, they're on their own and a lot of young people think they're invincible. But the truth is, young people are knuckle heads, you know? They're the ones who are cooking for the first time and slice their finger open. They're dancing on the bar stool. They're, you know --

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Young people. Yes, yes, yes.

OBAMA: Yes, the young people.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know, you're dancing on the bar stool, right?



BLITZER: All right, so she's making a major pitch. They have five weeks. They've got to really get a lot of young people enrolled.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: And I assume that's why she decided -


BLITZER: To go on that show, which a lot of young people watch.

BORGER: Right. March 31 is the deadline if you want to be insured for this year. So they're trying to get these young people enrolled. Also, if their risk pool is going to work, you have to have a mix of people. You've got to have the young, healthy people with the older, less healthy people. So the push is really on because, as no one has to remind us, that this program got off to a really rocky start, Wolf. So the push is on to get those - to get those young people back, which is why you have the president out there, you have the vice president out there, and you have the first lady out there.

BLITZER: Republicans still believe this is going to be a huge issue for them going to the midterm elections.

BORGER: Sure. Sure. And that's why they didn't pick a fight on the debt ceiling. You know, they want to stick with the question (ph) of Obamacare, which, by the way, is still not popular in the country. People have a lot of questions about it. But when you talk to Democrats, they're now ready, and you saw this in the president's remarks this week, they're now ready to take it head-on. And they're going to say to Republicans, OK, you want to get rid of Obamacare, what are you going to take away from people? Are you going to take away coverage for preexisting conditions? Are you going to take their children up until the age of 26 off their health care policies? So what is it exactly that you want to take away? So Democrats are not going to shy away from it. Republicans, on the other hand, believe, look, they've got a -- they say it's not going to work. And I think at this point it's really too early to tell. We've got to wait and see how many people are enrolled. And the vice president this week said that they may not reach the 7 million goal. They had sort of a goal between 6 and 7 million in April. But I was talking to a senior administration official who said, if they only reach 5 million, that will still be OK if they have the right mix. That's the big question. Because if they have the right mix, people won't get premium shock when they get their insurance premiums. Because if it's not the right mix, insurance rates could go up and then Republicans will have something they can really campaign on.

BLITZER: And they really feel those Republicans in those red states, where there are Democrats up for re-election.


BLITZER: Whether Louisiana or North Carolina.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Alaska, some of those states. They think Obamacare will really help a Republican challenger to the Democratic incumbent.

BORGER: Right. And that's why you hear red state Democrats talking about fixing Obamacare, talking about getting rid of certain parts of Obamacare, talking about delaying the penalties for not enrolling because of the bad start that the program got off to on the web. So you have some Democrats saying, let's look for fixes in it because they understand how unpopular it is, particularly in the red states. So you're going to see some differences with some of those Democrats and the president.

BLITZER: We'll see how many more young people especially enroll between now and March 31st.

BORGER: I don't know. I think they'll go on Jimmy Fallon every night if they have to.

BLITZER: A great new show, by the way.


BLITZER: Have you been watching it?

BORGER: I love it.

BLITZER: Very funny.


BLITZER: All right, thank you very much.

Just ahead, tornadoes. The Midwest got hit first. Now much of the East Coast is facing the threat. The latest round of wicked weather, that's coming up.

And later, the battle for Ukraine as the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, flexing his muscles over the former Soviet state. We'll take a closer look.


BLITZER: Tens of millions of people from Boston to Miami are facing a severe weather threat today. They could get hit with damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes. That risk became a reality for parts of the Midwest and southeast yesterday. As many as 11 suspected tornadoes hit central Illinois. Several buildings were destroyed, 24,000 people lost power, but there are no reports of major injuries. Take a look at the lightning strike in Nashville, Tennessee. The wind there was also intense, with gusts reaching 70 miles an hour. CNN's Chad Myers is over at the CNN Weather Center with the latest on the tornado threat.

Where is it, Chad? What's going on?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The real threat would be the Delmarva and also eastern North Carolina. That's where I think it's still warm enough to put down some spin. These storms have been small in comparison to an F-4 or F-5 that we talked about in Moore, Oklahoma, or anything that's out really to the Midwest. These have been small threats, small tornadoes. But if it hits your house, it's a big threat, I guess.

All the way from about New York state, all the way down into Florida is where the cold front is. And along that line, along that cold front, that's where the risk of the severe weather is today. So we're seeing it move through Baltimore toward Dover and into the Delmarva, near Salisbury, and just off the eastern shore of Maryland there. Down farther to the south into Virginia and into North Carolina, the storm still has a way to go before they move offshore. So there are still tornado watches in effect in those areas, which means something could happen, not that it's happening. That's the warning part. It's the longer word. It's the more important word. But, still, if some of these storms are spinning, they could put down some of those little tiny F-1 and F-2 tornadoes today, at least until probably after dark.

BLITZER: And we're told, Chad, and you'll know a lot more about this than I do, another shot of very cold air on the way next week. What's going on?

MYERS: Yes. This is a cold front. But this has nothing on the next one. The next one is coming down from the poles, and it's going to take this arctic air all the way in and push it south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It might even be cold in Cancun, that's how far this cold air is going to go south. It's going to be 20 to 30 degrees below normal from New York, for Philadelphia, for Buffalo, for Detroit, all the big cities are going to go down probably very close to zero for morning lows, at least sometime Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of next week.

BLITZER: All right, Chad, we'll be on top of that story, as well. And hopefully it won't be that bad, but appreciate it, as usual. Thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Up next, President Obama, he's coming under fire over the Ukrainian fight. Did he underestimate Russia's influence? We'll take a closer look.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: And the breaking news is coming out of the White House right now. A senior administration official telling CNN, President Obama will be calling the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, later today. They obviously have lots to discuss, especially about the situation in Ukraine right now. In the capital city, the blood clashes this week have given way to a piece meal of sorts, sweeping changes to the government. Potentially, within the next two days, the country's old constitution will be put back in place, limiting presidential powers.

This picture tells the story. Look at this. That's the president, Yanukoviych, on the right, the opposition leader, Vitaliy Klitschko on the left, shaking hands after the deal was signed. As part of the deal, new presidential elections will take place this year instead of in 2015.

Back to the phone call. We will hear later today about the content of that phone call between the president of the United States and the president of Russia. But our own Jim Sciutto is here. He's been looking at this story very closely.