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Warrant For Ousted Ukrainian President; Troops To Remain In Afghanistan; Jason Collins Shatters Barrier; Religious Freedom Or License To Discriminate; Road Rage Hunt In Las Vegas; Baldwin: "Goodbye Public Life"

Aired February 24, 2014 - 07:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's give you a look at your headlines. An arrest warrant has been issued for the ousted Ukrainian president, but no one knows where he is. Viktor Yanukovych is wanted for the mass killings of civilians.

He tried to hop a plane out of the country over the weekend, but was refused and apparently went into hiding. Parliament voted to force him from office following protests that led to more than 100 deaths over the last week.

The Obama administration is apparently considering leaving 3,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan. That's one of the options on the table for after the end of the year when all U.S. forces are supposed to be pulled out. Military commanders recommended that 10,000 troops remain in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Hagel is expected to brief his NATO counterparts in Brussels this week on U.S. thinking.

Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete to ever play in a major professional U.S. sport. The Brooklyn Nets newly signed center played 12 minutes and pulled a couple rebounds last night in a win over the Lakers. Collins got a warm standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd when he came into the game in the second quarter.

Quite a mystery unfolding over a large stolen mango, thieves in Queensland, Australia swiped this 30-foot tall, 10-ton monument. Security cameras caught the whole thing. You can see thieves approaching the fiber glass mango. They have a crane and heavy machinery.

There were suspicions that that was a publicity stunt after police said the theft had not been reported. However, the Tourists Information Center is adamant that it is stolen. The "Guardian" have a clever headline, Chris, "mango unchained."


PEREIRA: That's good, right?

CUOMO: That's good. I like it. Even I get it so you know it's funny. All right, here's the proposition for you. Should it be legal for a business to refuse service to gays and lesbians because of religious beliefs? This is the substance of an amendment passed by the Arizona State Legislature and the legislature says yes and because of that its generated huge controversy.

Supporters say the law just protects religious freedom. Those against it say it's a license to discriminate. Let's debate. Joining us from Washington, D.C. is Kellie Fiedorek. She is an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was involved in drafting the amendment. Counselor, thank you for joining us.

KELLIE FIEDOREK, ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM: Thank you, Steve, for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

CUOMO: It's good to have you. You can call me Steve but my name is Chris. It doesn't matter. Everybody calls me Steve. I don't know why. Let me ask you this, Counselor, the main proposition for why this is OK in your opinion is that it's an existing law and just an extension of a right that already exists. Explain.

FIEDOREK: Well, there's been a lot of lies and misinformation spread about this bill. And what this bill -- this bill is not about denying people services. What this bill is advocating for is basic freedom, ensuring that everyone is respected and that the government is not allowed to force or to coerce or compel anyone to violate their beliefs or to go against their conscience. This is basically to keep the government from discriminating against people of faith.

CUOMO: Right. But fundamentally, what it allows, the mechanism is to allow an individual business owner to refuse to do business with somebody on the basis of it offending their religious beliefs if they do conduct that business. So for example, if I come to you and I say you sell flowers. I want you to sell flowers for me for my marriage to another man. You can say no, correct?

FIEDOREK: There's a difference. Again, there's a basic difference between denying someone a cup of coffee or a piece of pizza or selling someone a pencil versus forcing someone to use their creative ability to create a message to support an event, to support an idea that goes against their beliefs.

There's a big distinction in America that government should not force us to ever use our business, use our talents to go against what we fundamentally believe. There's a big difference like I said between selling a pencil and forcing someone to draw a mural that portray this is.

I mean, think about, for example, we would not force a Muslim to participate in a Koran-burning ceremony. We wouldn't ask a black photographer and force them to go take a picture of KKK event. This is America and America we should be able to live freely and not be forced to endorse ideas.

CUOMO: Counselor, tell me that you're not analogizing burning a Koran or the KKK with gay marriage. Do you really see those things as the same thing?

FIEDOREK: What I'm saying is that no one should be forced -- as an example, in this bill. It will not deny anyone any service. No one will be kicked out of a restaurant or denied a cup of coffee or piece of pizza. What this simple ensures is that everyone in the state of Arizona, these are common, fundamental freedoms that inherent in our country's history.

And this bill simply protects those freedoms and allows people to live according to their faith without the government coming in and saying what you can and cannot believe.

CUOMO: It allows people to not do business with gays is what it allows. Your organization has a history of trying to hedge the ability to deal with gay marriage and gay rights in the country. All somebody has to do is Google your organization. So let's just be open and honest about it. Why is dealing with gays or gay marriage out to a substantial burden of someone's religion? Whose religion does that burden?

FIEDOREK: Chris, you're misunderstanding the point entirely. For example, in our photography case, Elaine is a wonderful, young Christian photographer and she started her photography company. She is more than willing to take pictures of homosexuals. She will take passport pictures, portrait pictures anything.

What she will not do is use her creative art, her ability as a photographer to go in and promote and endorse a wedding, an event that she doesn't agree with. There is a big difference between --

CUOMO: But how is that a substantial burden? Let's say you're a Christian, which I'm sure most of people you're designing this law would be. How is it a substantial burden to my Christianity to take photos of a gay marriage? If I'm against it, I don't marry another man, right?

FIEDOREK: It violates your religious freedom if the government comes in and forces you to go against, to act in contradiction to what you believe. It doesn't just apply to Christians. A Jewish baker, you can't make them provide pork sandwiches for a wedding reception. That would go against his religious beliefs.

In America the couple in New Mexico, there are so many people willing to provide photography to use their creative expression for that event. So why can't we just let everyone live and be free and respect and advocate for tolerance of all viewpoints regardless of whether or not the government agrees with that viewpoint.

CUOMO: But aren't you arguing against tolerance? Because tolerance would be as a business owner, I don't even know why you need the Arizona law at all because if you don't want to do business with somebody, you can, for whatever reason, LGBT, the gay community in general is not a protected class under the federal law.

So it's not like race or religion where you can't discriminate. So you don't need this law unless what you want to do is enforce intolerance, Counselor. That's what it seems like you are doing to me and it seems pretty obvious.

FIEDOREK: No, not at all. For the record, I don't think people have actually even read this bill. This bill we're talking religious freedom has been on the books in Arizona since 1999.

CUOMO: For religious organizations.

FIEDOREK: This bill simply closes loopholes to ensure and it matches with the federal law. This bill simply ensures basic common freedoms for everyone. In no way, I want to be really, really clear on this. It would no way allow anyone to deny someone services. It would not allow them to kick them out of a restaurant or deny them something.

It simply won't force artists regardless of what you are or anyone to create or promote a message to force them to be in a parade or to be in an event or endorse that with their business, it wouldn't allow them to do that because of the fundamental respect for religious freedom.

COUMO: If I come to your restaurant -- if I come to your restaurant and ask you to cater my gay marriage, can you say no under the new law?

FIEDOREK: Under this bill that no one would be able to deny anyone services. They couldn't say no to a cup of coffee.

CUOMO: But can you cater my gay marriage?

FIEDOREK: There's a lot of examples and it would depend on what that person's religious belief were. Like I said, the Jewish baker, we could not say he would have to be compelled to provide pork sandwiches for an event --

CUOMO: That's because religion is a protected class and LGBT is not a protected class. That's why you can't say to the Jewish baker that he doesn't provide pork sandwiches in your example there, but LGBT is not protected. Why don't you own that proposition and say, yes, that's what my organization is about. We're trying to protect Christians who feel this belief and that's what this law is about.

FIEDOREK: No, that's absolutely not what this law is about. This law is about protecting religious freedom and protecting the dignity of every single person. And allowing and no one -- I can't understand why you would endorse the government and say, yes, the government can come into my life and compel me to create art or create something that violates what I sincerely believe.

This is not a country where that's something we have ever stood up for. If you're against discrimination, if you're against the government saying what you can and can't do in terms of going against religious belief, you should be for this bill.

CUOMO: I understand your point, however, I don't understand the example of how the government is compelling anyone to do this under the law as it is right now. It's just that you're extending a right where it didn't exist before to have intolerance. But the government isn't telling anyone to do business with anybody.

The LGBT community is not a protected class. We have to leave it there. I respect you coming on to make your arguments, Counselor. This will not be the end of this law. I'm sure we'll see it in other places. I hope you'll come back so we can continue the debate.

FIEDOREK: I would love that. Thank you so much.

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much. What do you think? You understand it a little bit better now from both sides probably or if not let me know, #newday -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, a horrible case of road rage in Las Vegas, an elderly man run over by a car at a gas station. Now police are looking for the run-away driver for attempted murder. We'll have the details on that ahead.

Also we've heard this before, but is Alec Baldwin ready to give up public life? We'll talk to the journalist who spoke extensively to Baldwin in a candid new interview.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. This morning, police in Las Vegas are searching for the driver who ran down an elderly man in an apparent act of road rage. The disturbing incident caught on this surveillance footage. Now the driver is wanted for attempted murder. For more on this here is CNN's Rosa Flores.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The video is shocking. Las Vegas police are calling this case of road rage attempted murder. Watch as an elderly man walks through a Vegas service station to pay for his gas and moments later, he is run down by another motorist.

Take a closer look as the driver pauses, just inches away from the man's knees, then floors it, running him over, leaving him riving in pain. Police have turned to YouTube asking for the public's help finding the driver of this gray Honda Accord.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The YouTube component is raring its head more and more.

FLORES: YouTube led to several arrests following this frightening ordeal on New York's west side highway last fall. The driver of this SUV was surrounded by a group of bikers after bumping one of their tires. He ran over three of them trying to get away critically injuring one.

After being chased and cornered, the driver was dragged out of his car and beaten. Last April this enraged motorist, a U.S. Marine went ballistic, caught on tape screaming profanities at another driver outside of Camp Penelton in California.

LOU PALUMBO, ELITE INTELLIGENCE AND PROTECTION AGENCY: There are these incidents more and more frequently being captured on camera. Your loss of patience and your aggression could translate to your arrest.

FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN, New York.


BOLDUAN: We showed that to you because they need your help in finding that person in that car. Thank you, Rosa.

CUOMO: We will follow up to be sure.

Coming up on NEW DAY, I give up. That's what Alec Baldwin is saying, apparently fed up with his public life, but not so fed up that he doesn't want to go public about it and he's revealing a lot in this interview directly from the journalist who scored it. We'll have the story from that man.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Actor, Alec Baldwin making headlines, this time, this morning, for an article in the "New York" magazine, taking on media, photographers, former colleagues, executives and other actors, just to name a few. Saying he's done, d- o-n-e with public life.

Here this morning to discuss it all is Joe Hagen. He is a contributing editor of "New York" magazine and the man who talked to Alec Baldwin for that cover story. Good to see you. Tell us the tale of how this came to be.

JOE HAGAN, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: It came out of the blue, sort of a mutual friend of ours who happens to be a journalist asked me if I would be interested in talking to a person about the media and maybe doing a story about this person's view of the media and it turned you want to be Alec Baldwin.

It was very unusual actually. It was not through a publicist or anything like that. He sort of came to me because he was really genuinely wanting to understand what happened to the media such that he arrived at this point where his career had been, you know, seemingly tarnished.

PEREIRA: But he clearly didn't want you to interview him, he wanted to tell the story.

HAGAN: Well, that's -- we talked about what's the best way to do this. I said tell me your story and I'll try to edit it into something coherent, and you can tell it yourself. You know, tell us what happened at MSNBC. Tell us about the paparazzi. Tell us about, you know, everything that's happened to you this last year. Basically the whole story is him trying to understand what's happened to him this last year.

BOLDUAN: So what's your big take away from it? He goes through a lot of the incidents that happened very publicly. His show with MSNBC, his falling out with MSNBC, constant issues with the paparazzi, the title of the piece is "good-bye public life." What's your big take away? Is he done, done?

HAGAN: Well, I would describe it as more like a guy who is trying to break up with a girlfriend and it's very painful for him. This is a relationship he's had for years. It's had its ups and downs, but now he's done he's saying. He admitted it was a difficult process. Not easy for him to make a clean cut like this but he's trying to. Whether he'll be able to do it will be, you know, we'll see.

BOLDUAN: What does that mean, he's trying. Can't you just say I'm done?

HAGAN: Well, that's true, but I think he also wanted to settle some scores and have the public understand as he, you know, kind of a farewell letter. We'll see if it's an actual farewell about what happened to him.

CUOMO: You got to know him. Full disclosure, I do know him. The point is this, now that you know him a little bit, do you think he's out there crazy, homophobic, racist any of these labels that's been put on him or has he violated the rule of messing with the media and he is paying the price.

HAGAN: Here's what I think. I think that he admitted in the story that he's the kind of person who may rise to a dramatic moment when given one. When a camera is in his face he reacts. He knows this reaction isn't positive for him.

PEREIRA: Maybe there's a third option, none of the above but --

HAGAN: I don't think that he's a bad guy at all.

CUOMO: Well, a lot of people disagree with you and say he's making consistent homophobic remarks. He tries to take it in your piece intelligently in terms of putting his position forward. Do you think it will sell with people? Will they think differently of him?

BOLDUAN: He comes off angry in this piece.

HAGAN: I think he is angry. There's a side of him that's bitter. He said I'm bitter. I'm a human being, I feel about what's happened. I wish it didn't happen. The big institutions like the "Huffington Post" and MSNBC is giving credence to tabloid media the sort that's coming after him. TMZ, he has a long history with these guys, aways antagonizing him. He makes a good point.

If you look what is going on Twitter right now the amazing amount of hate that's coming down on him for the story, maybe he attracted it, maybe he deserves it, but he calls it hate, incorporated. This is the new way of people having in public, they get constantly attacked, constantly -- who you are on your worse day is who you are.

CUOMO: I agree with that. The question is he asking for it though?

HAGAN: Well, I think that he knows that he kind of -- that this isn't a good relationship for him to go back to that metaphor and that's why he's trying to figure out how to end it.

BOLDUAN: Do you think he's ending it?

HAGAN: That's something that I can't answer. I hope he does because for his own sake because I think he's a great comic actor. A lot of people even if they don't like him, what they see of him recognize the guy is amazingly talented.

PEREIRA: His focus on theater. He's not done acting. He wants to focus on theater less than showbiz.

HAGAN: Right.

CUOMO: It shows how angry the social media environment is that an angry guy has to back away because it's way too angry even for him.

HAGAN: Lethal combination.

PEREIRA: My therapist once said what's the common factor in all these scenarios? Yourself.

CUOMO: That's true.

HAGAN: I think he's coming to grips with that to some degree, yes.

CUOMO: Interesting. It's an interesting story. It really is. Joe, thank you very much. Appreciate it, very interestingly told too.

Coming up on NEW DAY, cracking down on racial slurs in the NFL, 15- yard penalty if you use the n-word on the field. You like that idea? Is that the way to change culture?