Return to Transcripts main page


Searchers Skeptical of Plane Claim; Ryan Clears Air Over Inner City Comments; Ryan Clears Air Over "Inner City" Comments; "There's "Uncle Tom" Clarence Thomas"; "Somebody's Gotta Do It"

Aired April 30, 2014 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time for the "World Lead."

Claims by the Australian firm GeoResonance that they have found some sort of wreckage in the Bay of Bengal that may or may not belong to Flight 370 are being met with heavy skepticism by Australian officials and many experts.

So why are two Navy ships on their way to investigate?

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh explains the controversy.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Australian company released these images it believes could be wreckage from Flight 370 in the Bay of Bengal, 3,000 miles from the current search zone. Skepticism is high but so is curiosity. Two Navy ships from Bangladesh are en route to investigate.

But in a new interview the man in charge of Australia's search efforts rejects the company's claim. He's confident the best experts in the world have led his team to the right place.

ANGUS HOUSTON, CHIEF COORDINATOR, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTRE: On the basis of their analysis, is that the aircraft appears to have entered the water in the Indian Ocean.

MARSH: Within hours, the Malaysian government is expected to release to the world a preliminary report on the investigation into Flight 370's disappearance. The routine report is expected to include factual details, like a timeline. But will not make any conclusions about the cause of the plane's disappearance.

Meantime, Flight 370 families are learning even more. In a second day of in-depth briefings, Malaysian authorities went through their detailed questions line by line. Many questions on the plane's emergency locator transmitters which never signaled a crash. They demanded to know when they were last inspected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The data of the check was done on the 23rd of February of 2014. Is it possible to break the ELT at high impact? The ELT can break. Anything on the aircraft can break. MARSH: Skeptical of the calculations that led search crews to South Indian Ocean, families probed, trying to determine if experts missed something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): What I wanted to see here is whether or not certain considerations of mine have been indeed taken into account. That directly affects the accuracy of the Inmarsat report.

MARSH: Meanwhile, in the Southern Indian Ocean, bad weather had disrupted the subsea search, but now Bluefin-21 is back under water, scanning for evidence of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.


MARSH: Well, it's important to note that GeoResonance, the company that claims to have found a plane in the Bay of Bengal, won't release its 23-page report to CNN or give details about the methodology used, and that is why satellite and airplane imaging companies are so skeptical. But with two ships now headed to the area to investigate, we may soon have enough information to end the debate -- Jake

TAPPER: Thanks, Rene.

Let's go through these latest developments with our panel. Rob McCallum is a CNN analyst and an ocean search specialist and of course Miles O'Brien is a CNN aviation analyst, pilot, and science correspondent for PBS News Hour.

Miles, I want to start with you. You're very skeptical about this information from the Australian firm, but just to play devil's advocate, is there any harm in having Bangladesh send over two frigates just to check it out?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: No, there's no harm in doing that. You know, my concern was that they were going to somehow redirect assets that are in the more important area where we have actual evidence in the Southern Indian Ocean into that other zone. Bangladesh isn't involved in the search right now. If they want to go out and burn a little fuel and do a training mission to see what they can see, why not? At this point it's in the public realm, the families need an answer as really -- there's little basis in fact for it but it's worth running down.

TAPPER: Rob, is there any technology that you're aware of that could detect the plane the way that this firm is claiming they were able to?

ROB MCCALLUM, OCEAN SEARCH SPECIALIST: No, none at all. And you know, you have to think that if there was the ability to detect metals like gold and titanium by this methodology, they'd be selling -- they'd be doing a brisk sale indeed. You know, the claims that they have copper, gold, titanium, that sort of thing, and of course in this area is just too hard to believe.

Hard to work out how you identify an aircraft, the composition of an aircraft from the surrounding back scatter because of course that area is draining the broader Himalaya and so those metals will be present in quite high concentrations anyway.

TAPPER: Miles, this thing called the ICAO report, it stands for the International Civil Aviation Organization, it's an initial report that the Malaysians are going to be handing over to this organization, what's typically in these reports?

O'BRIEN: Well, these preliminary reports are preliminary. And we are past preliminary in this investigation. These are -- we're going to get a report on day 54, 55, which we should have got on day two or three. So the information we're going to get is pretty rudimentary I suspect. I actually have a copy of the form that you're supposed to fill out for this preliminary report. It's like filing information where and when, airline operation, whether it's general aviation or not, what sort of aircraft is involved, the sequence of events. And then the narrative, the narrative, Jake.

TAPPER: What actually happened. Yes.

O'BRIEN: Two hundred words. Two hundred words. After all this time, if they do the letter of the law, we're going to get something that is wholly unsatisfying. So maybe they'll go beyond preliminary and give us something -- you know, there's a preliminary, then there's a final report, which happens some years later. Maybe we'll get something in between preliminary and final.

TAPPER: Two hundred words, I mean, that's not even a college essay.

O'BRIEN: It's practically a tweet.


TAPPER: And, Rob, the Bluefin is now on its 17th mission, the man coordinating the Australian-led search, Angus Houston, we all are familiar with him now. He said that they're hoping to have some other underwater search equipment in the water by June. You and I have been talking for weeks about the need for better equipment that can go deeper. Why is it taking so long?

MCCALLUM: Well, I think because of the sort of side action, if you like, of the supposed pinger locations. And you know, those locations are definitely worth investigating which is what the Bluefin is doing at the moment. But it's time now to plan the broader search, the wider scale search along that aircraft flight path.

TAPPER: Miles, I want to play something else that Angus Houston said about a timeline to find the plane.


HOUSTON: I would say if everything goes perfectly, perfect weather, eight months. But if we have other things that happen, it could stretch out to about 12 months.


TAPPER: Are you surprised that he put that range on finding the plane?

O'BRIEN: Not at all. I think this is the real problem we're dealing with now. We in the media, the public, the families have a different expectation for the time it takes to do this painstaking business. The experts know those, 12 months is probably conservative. It took two years to find Air France 447. And they had a lot more data to go on. So a lot of the problem is, people are saying, well, they haven't found anything in the southern ocean.

They haven't really done much of a search yet. They've begun, they've done some work, but they have a lot more to do. And so the pressure to move on to the Bay of Bengal or anywhere else or wherever people find a piece of wreckage floating in the ocean I think is wrong. It doesn't recognize the technical difficulties.

TAPPER: Miles O'Brien, Rob McCallum, thank you so much.

Coming up, Republicans doing damage control after a series of racially charged remarks and now one black Democratic congressman is making headlines for himself, calling Clarence Thomas a, quote, "Uncle Tom."

Plus, this harsh and a long winter apparently wasn't just annoying. Economists claimed that it slowed down the economy, too. Ahead, I'll talk to Mike Row of "Dirty Jobs" fame about his ideas for fixing our country's job problems.


TAPPER: The "Politics Lead," a disgusting rant from a billionaire NBA team owner, the bigoted ramblings of a rancher in Nevada. Sure, race may suddenly be driving the headlines but the bitter reality is that the issue is never really very far below the surface in America and that's especially true here in the nation's capital.

Today Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin met with -- met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to clear the air after comments he made last month about how the, quote, "culture of inner cities keeps people in poverty." Ryan says his comments were not about race. But Republicans really don't get a lot of leeway on the subject, fairly or not.

CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here with more -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know, Jake, there is a new generation of Republicans trying to bridge differences with the black community but sometimes on the road to outreach some step in a pothole or two.


BASH (voice-over): A much-anticipated summit of sorts between Republican Paul Ryan and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: What we're trying to accomplish here is improving the tone of debate. BASH: But it was Ryan's tone in a March radio show that black lawmakers saw as racially insensitive.

RYAN: We have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.

BASH: Ryan quickly backtracked but enraged Black Caucus members wanted to hash it out.

(On camera): You've cleared the air on what many of you thought were racially --

RYAN: Yes -- no, look, the point I've been making all along is we are marginalizing and isolating poor in our communities and we need to stop doing that as a country.

BASH: The fact that this meeting happened at all symbolizes a Republican Party that is trying to shift along with much of the country in its approach to issues of race. Extreme example, just last week, after initially supporting him, conservatives stampeded away from Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy, after he made racist remarks.

CLIVEN BUNDY, RANCHER: I've wondered, better off as slaves picking cotton, having family life and doing things or better off under government subsidy?

BASH: Republican Rand Paul was one of those who quickly disavowed Bundy. After all he's been on a campaign to reach out to black voters advocating a change in mandatory minimums in drug sentencing, making appearances in black communities and colleges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican Party is always the party of civil rights and voting rights.

BASH: The same goes for the Republican National Committee. Just today, Chairman Reince Priebus visited a historically black college in Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Working towards building a strong relationship as we can right now and working to build their trust.

BASH: But as for Ryan and policy differences with the black caucus some members made clear there's a long way to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said he's done a tour of the United States and learned a lot and I think it still has a lot to learn.


BASH: A notable and telling factor is only one black Republican in all of Congress right now in the Senate, Tim Scott of South Carolina. Jake, right now, there are no Republican African-American members in the House.

TAPPER: In the House. Another racially charged story today comes from Congressman Bennie Thompson. He is a Mississippi Democrat, ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. He called into the New Nation of Islam radio program to say that he thinks Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is, a, quote, "racist." He said the Republicans are only against Obamacare because President Obama is an African-American and said this about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: And Uncle Tom, Clarence Thomas --


THOMPSON: You said that, I didn't.


TAPPER: And he went on to suggest that it's almost as though Justice Thomas doesn't even like black people. He doesn't like being black because every decision or color had something to do with it he went against it. Controversial comments from Congressman Thompson. You caught up with him. What did he have to tell you?

BASH: He doubled down on those comments. I asked specifically about the "Uncle Tom" comments and what he said about Clarence Thomas. Listen to what he said.


BASH: Calling him an "Uncle Tom," though, isn't that a racially charged term?

THOMPSON: For some it is. But to others, it's the truth.

BASH: Because, you know, looking at that, and hearing that kind of language, that certainly wouldn't be, you know, appropriate if it was coming from somebody who was white.

THOMPSON: But I'm black.

BASH: So it makes it OK?

THOMPSON: Well, I mean, you asked me the question, and I'm giving you the response.


BASH: Jake, he went on to say that the people he represents in Mississippi don't like what Clarence Thomas has done and the decisions that he has supported with regard to affirmative action, voter I.D., and the affordable care act. So that's the gist of what he's saying, but he, again, did not back down on any of the things that you said with regard to the president, that people who oppose him do so because he's black and even his racially charged comments about Senate minority leader. TAPPER: Dana Bash, thank you so much.

In other politics news, in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attacks in the heat of 2012 election, the Obama White House told the world that the siege of the U.S. compounds was sparked by an anti- Muslim video. In spite of intelligence and diplomatic sources who said at the time that the attacks were carried out by terrorists. The Obama administration has since tried to distance itself from blaming the attacks on the video, at least since it became clear that was not the primary motivation.

But now new documents show that the White House, behind closed doors, was arguing strongly that the attack, which claimed four American lives including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, was sparked by that video. That's what they were arguing obtained by conservative watchdog judicial watch through a lawsuit, the file shows talking points for then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice who was about to go on the Sunday shows.

Critics say that the documents are surprisingly political and seem less about nailing down the facts and more about making sure the tragedy wasn't seen as, quote, "a broader failure of policy." The bullet points also included a question and answer about how a Romney administration might have handled the protests. In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for the National Security Council says the documents reinforced the group provided its best assessment of what was happening at the time.

Coming up, he's a man who is not afraid to get dirty, even in Washington. Next, our own Mike Rowe stops by THE LEAD. He tells me about his new push to convince kids to reconsider whether or not they should go to college.


TAPPER: The Money Lead now. America's gross domestic product just hit a painful plateau, growing only 0.1 percent, 0.1 in the first quarter of 2014. Most experts say, this year's hellacious winter weather is to blame, but it's one more sign that five years after the great recession, we are still not fully recovered. That's especially true for the 10.5 million Americans still out of work. So, what do we do about that?

My friend, Mike Rowe has an interesting idea, bring back the skilled labor force. For years, as the host of "Dirty Jobs" with Mike Rowe, Mike brought us the stories of Americans who build our roads, patch our roofs and empty septic tanks. Now the host of CNN's "Somebody's Got To Do It," which is slated to premiere this fall is making a pit stop here in Washington to see if the lawmakers on Capitol Hill might be interested in rolling up their sleeves to help revive the workforce.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Closing the skills gap is about keeping America working. Really it's about keeping America, America. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And Mike Rowe joins me now. First, welcome to the CNN family, your new series "Somebody's Got Do It" comes to CNN soon. It's a fascinating show with powerful message, whether cleaning up rivers or zoo animals, somebody's got to get their hands dirty. Tell me about the show.

MIKE ROWE, CNN HOST, CNN'S "SOMEBODY'S GOTTA DO IT": This is about the mission. Previously, for the last eight years we were looking at dirt and work, "Dirty Jobs" was a love letter to a work ethic. "Somebody's Gotta Do It" is more about who's on a mission? You know, who wakes up agitated because the world's not quite the way they want it? Could be mad scientists, bloody do-gooders, people -- the guy who built stone hinge in his backyard.

TAPPER: You know who that guy is?

ROWE: I don't know him personally, but I have heard the story and I want to meet him because he was trying to make the point, no, aliens didn't do it, people did it. Let me show you how that happened and he took a year it did it, kind of cool.

TAPPER: And what's your message when you come to Washington, D.C., this isn't the first time you're testifying before Congress, meeting people at the Pentagon, what do you tell them? What do you want them to get from a Mike Rowe experience?

ROWE: Well, I've got my own mission, I've been on since 2008, concerns the skills gap. You know, we got few million jobs in the country that for whatever reason go unloved. Some of those jobs are extraordinarily great. Real shortages in these areas. Everywhere I went on my last gig, I saw help wanted signs even at height of the recession.

So my message, in a nutshell is to say we need a PR campaign, a big, fat, aggressive campaign that champions all kinds of jobs that people don't seem to want and reinvigorates a work ethic in the same way the keep America beautiful campaign, remember with the Indian on the side of the road?

TAPPER: Correct.

ROWE: That thing went on for 30 years and it eventually altered behavior. If we want to close the skills gap we have to work on the way we portray work and we have to talk seriously about the fact that not all knowledge comes from college.

TAPPER: In fact, you've rewritten the old saying, work smart, not hard. If we can show that. To work smart and hard. Explain.

ROWE: Look, it's a really simple little thing. Platitudes are powerful and that poster hanging there I saw in my guidance counselor's office in 1979. He was trying to talk me into a four-year school. I would have loved to have gone, but I couldn't afford it and I didn't know what I wanted to study. I said maybe a two-year school made more sense. He said that's beneath your potential, don't waste your time. He pointed to that poster and said which one of those guys do you want to be? That was really one of the first PR campaigns I'd seen for college, but it happened at expense of all other forms of education.

So my little theory goes like this. I think that's the worst advice in the world and I think we took it, societally, I think we took it. And over the last 40 years, you can see that sentiment portrayed in the portrayals of work that we typically see on TV, the books that we typically buy, shows we usually watch.

And on top of it all, maybe there's an explanation in there for a trillion dollars in student loans that suddenly ballooned out of nowhere, 2.5 million jobs that people don't want a labor short annual at a time of high unemployment. All of those things are disconnects, but you can start to understand them if you look back at the cause, which I believe is our relationship with work.

TAPPER: Mike, before you go, what do you think of Congress' work ethic? You're somebody who spends a lot of time seeing how hard working Americans spend so much time trying to get up. What do you think of the folks in Congress you've testified from?

ROWE: It's an easy target in a general way and I know what I'm supposed to say --

TAPPER: Interesting, what you actually think.

ROWE: What I think is back in 1780, whatever it was, John Adams and company were still riding from Boston down to Philadelphia to do the country's business in the snow. We had more snow days here last year. Nothing personal, work ethic is what it is. What's more important is a willingness to reconnect some of these dots in a non -- in a nonpartisan way.

When we talk about the skills gap it almost begs a political fight. Buddies on the right say problem is people are lazy. Buddies on the left, companies are too greedy. Minute that happens, nobody solves anything. The reality is, look at the opportunities that are out there, make a case for the trades, and stop with this idea that there's only one way to get educated.

TAPPER: Mike Rowe, thank you so much. Again, welcome to the family. You can check out Mike's new series "Somebody's Gotta To Do It" when it premieres coming up only on CNN.

And for the second time this year, we have a baby lead. Cameron James Henderson was born this morning to our talented writer and producer, Shenika and her husband, Mike, taking after dad. Cameron's a manly 8 pounds, 3 ounces and taking after mom, knows how to rock head ware. From all of us at THE LEAD, congratulations. Shenika and Mike, beautiful family. How do you look so good after having a kid?

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll see you tomorrow.