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NFL Drafts First Openly Gay Player; Search for Pilot in Balloon Crash to Resume; Crisis in Ukraine

Aired May 11, 2014 - 07:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning again. Thanks for waking up early on this Mother's Day. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Christi Paul, who is enjoying her Mother's Day, where she should be.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Happy Mother's Day to you, too.

CABRERA: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: You're going to enjoy yours as long as this show is over.

CABRERA: I will. They're with me in spirit.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell, 7:00 here, as we said, on the East Coast, 4:00 out West. It's NEW DAY SUNDAY.

CABRERA: And first up this morning, Michael Sam has made history.

BLACKWELL: Yes, he's now the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL. The St. Louis Rams drafted him in the seventh round yesterday on the final day of the NFL draft.

Joining us now to talk about it, Joe Carter with CNN Sports.

Really an amazing moment for all the professional sports.

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS: Yes, you talk about an agonizing day for Michael Sam, you see the emotion in the video right now we're showing -- the emotion from him to wait nearly seven full rounds, three days. He was the 249th pick, only seven more picks remained after Michael Sam but the emotion coming from him yesterday, you see him hugging his boyfriend and in a moment, we've never seen during the NFL draft what he and his boyfriend shared a kiss. So, really, unprecedented and historic moment, a great moment for Michael Sam and the NFL.

CABRERA: And it's showing they're just humans. It doesn't matter what our sexuality is. You love somebody and you show it right there.

And I love what Rachel Nichols tweeted out after this historic moment, of course, Twitter lit up on fire, everybody had something to say but she said, "Congrats to Michael Sam and Les Snead and the St. Louis Rams who are smart enough to know a good football player is never a distraction and that's what a lot of the talk at least the opponents of this whole thing moving forward have been saying, could this become a distraction for NFL?

CARTER: You know, I think the NFL is ready. I think that they have a blueprint for this, seen what the NBA has done with the Jason Collins situation. They've known this was coming out for a while. Michael Sam came out in February.

So, I think the NFL is ready, I think the St. Louis Rams are a good fit him. It's a good fit from a football standpoint and from geographical standpoint. It's only two hours where he went to college at the University of Missouri. He's got a lot of fans know from that area that know him very well and support him both on and off the football field and from a football standpoint he fits into that defensive scheme just well.

So, he's got a lot ahead of him. He's got to make the 53-man roster right now. He's not assured to make that roster. He's got to go into training camp. Obviously, it's going to be a media frenzy.


CARTER: You're talking about everybody from the morning shows to the entertainment programs will be there and it's going to be interesting to see how they handle that Michael Sam situation with the media.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about this in the context of the broader major four. I mean, they thought this perception of --

CABRERA: Bullying.

BLACKWELL: Bullying, yes, bullying from -- and I'm looking for the larger term, but bullying as it relates to the Miami Dolphins, the Sterling problem with the NBA. Is this a panacea for this or is it too early to know? I mean, of not being inclusive. Does this help fight off that perception?

CARTER: I think that this is a positive moment for the NFL. The NFL has plenty of negative moments to worry about, considering that they have a number of minority coach -- minority coaches that should be promoted or should be hired and are not being hired. They've got plenty of athletes out there that are being arrested for all the trouble they're getting into off the field.

This is a moment of celebration for the NFL. This is a moment of acceptance for sports. So, it should be celebrated like that.

I can't really compare the Donald Sterling situation. I think it's apples to oranges to the Michael Sam situation in my opinion.

BLACKWELL: What I was looking for is intolerance, that some people, considering maybe this helps with that but as you say, apples and oranges and we got to see if he makes the team.

CARTER: The amount of tweets I got last night when I posted the picture, the hate tweets that I got versus the amount of support tweets, they're are 50/50, which is discouraging.

CABRERA: Yes, that surprises me.

CARTER: We come a long way when you talk about with the St. Louis Rams in the '40s drafting the first black player, now first openly gay player -- 10, 15 years maybe this won't be an issue anymore.

CABRERA: Yes, this will be history eventually.

BLACKWELL: Joe Carter, thank you so much.

CABRERA: The search is said to resume for the missing pilot in Friday's deadly hot air balloon crash. The University of Richmond we now know has lost two staff members of its basketball program, Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis were on board that balloon when it crashed into a power line and burst into flames. They were both killed.

BLACKWELL: The two can be seen inside the hot air balloon just moments after it took off. It's the dark blue one on the left side of the screen here.

CABRERA: Now, Erin McPike is staying on top of the search and the investigation moving forward. She's joining us now.

Good morning, Erin.


ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana and Victor, the rest of the hot air balloon festival was promptly canceled and Virginia police held multiple briefings throughout the day Saturday as they come to through this densely wooded area, looking for the remains from this terrible tragedy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are transitioning from a rescue operation to recovery operation at this time.

MCPIKE (voice-over): From a search and rescue mission to a recovery. Virginia authorities confirming the terrifying hot air balloon accident was deadly for the three people on board.

UNIDENTIFIED AMEL: I have a visual of the airborne hot air balloon. It appears to be still smoking, still pretty high in the air.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got a report that the basket has come off and we're trying to find that right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Advise all units the airborne balloons aren't the issue, we need to locate the basket.

MCPIKE: Authorities say they still haven't located the basket, but retrieved the bodies of two of the three victims and are still looking for the third. Searchers have also retrieved debris and other items that would have been on the balloon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've had tremendous help. We've had probably anywhere between 30 to 40 calls from people who witnessed it from here at the festival on Friday, to neighbors, to people driving within the vicinity and it's been a tremendous help. We've been following one those folks.

MCPIKE: More than 100 people searched Saturday and civil air patrol assisted, challenging because the basket and balloon separated after snagging a power line and catching fire, leading two of the passengers, witnesses say, to jump or fall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My boyfriend came right out and he's like oh my God look at the sky, the balloon's on fire and all we've seen was stuff falling from the sky, the basket, the balloon, everything was on fire.

MCPIKE (on camera): The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating and the NTSB sent a letter just this year to the FAA suggesting there is insufficient oversight of commercial hot air balloons -- Ana and Victor.


CABRERA: Erin McPike near Richmond, Virginia, thank you.

BLACKWELL: There is a lot of cleaning up to do this Mother's Day in the town of Orrick, Missouri. Tornado tore through that town of 900 people. It's near Kansas City. It happened yesterday and destroyed homes, tore down power lines, left behind a wide path of destruction.

CABRERA: This home video showing you how powerful that storm was. Law enforcement officials have been going door to door, checking on some residents. You can see them here pulling one woman to safety from her damaged home.

BLACKWELL: But there's a threat of more tornadoes and severe weather across the country.

CNN's meteorologist Alexandra Steele joins us now.

So, what's the threat here?


You guys, can you believe the number of storm chasers out there that the video now that we can see with the complexity of these tornadoes, massive tornadoes on the ground yesterday, reports of at least 11.

Here's a look at where we're seeing right now. No warnings out there, no tornado watches, not tornado warnings as of yet, but there will be. Areas of concern today, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, just a big voracious storm with a lot of energy. On the cold side of this, Denver, Colorado, between six and nine inches of snow with this system today. On the front side, of course, we're going to see tornadoes, hail, some very strong winds.

These are the reports from yesterday, 11 reports of tornadoes, 49 very strong wind reports. Hail, 91 reports. Hail as big as tennis balls fell from this system so an incredible amount of uplift. Upper air energy comes in, the severe setup.

On the cold side, the Denver side, half a foot of snow for them, more in the mountains. Although that is a lot of snow this time of year, but they've seen a foot of snow in June, the second week of June. So, it's late but not that late.

Along this dry line and where we're going to see this warm front, Des Moines, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and down even towards San Angelo, Texas, the potential for long track very strong tornadoes. Most likely here though in the northern quadrants, even Chicago has the potential for some severe storms today. Kansas City, Wichita, again, Oklahoma City today.

The threat moves eastward for tomorrow. Not a lot of movement have this storm although the threat for tornadoes greater today than tomorrow. Big picture wherever you are, a little rain in the Northeast this morning but beautiful Mother's Day there from Albany to New York to Boston.

The Southeast, temperatures incredibly warm, well above average, Atlanta, Charlotte, mostly a dry day, a few scattered showers. But we're going to watch all these temperatures be so above average today. You guys it's really going to take the temperatures to drop 70, about 20 degrees or so into maybe the 60s in the Southeast.

So we've got a lot of warm, humid air here and it's going to take a long time for the front to pass eastward.

CABRERA: The 60s sound kind of nice.

STEELE: Eighties today in the Southeast.

BLACKWELL: All right. Alexandra Steele, thank you.


CABRERA: Right now, let's take you to Ukraine, where people are lining up this morning in eastern Ukraine. It is an historic day there, controversial vote set to happen.

Will pro-Russian separatists declare their independence by the end of the day? And why the results could trigger more violence?

BLACKWELL: And Pope Francis takes to Twitter to send out his prayer for the release of more than 200 school girls in Nigeria.


CABRERA: It's an historic day in eastern Ukraine and it's not without controversy. Right now, pro-Russian separatists are defying calls to delay a referendum vote for independence.

BLACKWELL: And you're looking at pictures out of Slaviansk where people have been ling up to cast ballots. This morning, there are growing concerns a vote to break away from the interim government in Kiev could push the Ukraine closer to civil war.

CABRERA: Let's go to CNN's Atika Shubert who's joining us live from Donetsk, Ukraine.

You know you are there at the polls. A lot of questions whether this was going to move forward. But we see behind you, people are coming out to vote, aren't they?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the referendum is clearly moving forward. We're actually in a school that's a polling station here in Donetsk, and this referendum is going ahead. Will it be a legitimate vote? Kiev clearly says no. And from what we've been seeing here. We're seeing a lot of turnout, lots of people coming out from 8:00 this morning. But having said, we've also seen other people coming in putting in multiple ballots.

So, is this a verifiable, accurate representation of the will of the people? At this point, probably not, but we are waiting for results to come out later today. Of course, no way for us to independently verify those results.

But in a sense, the answer to the referendum hardly matters. Many people think it's a foregone conclusion. What they're waiting for is what the reaction is going to be from Kiev and from Moscow.

BLACKWELL: Atika, do we know from the people who are there what they believe the tangible fruit of this vote will be?

SHUBERT: Yes, you know, a number of people -- I have to stress that even if this vote doesn't come out as legitimate, there have been a lot of people coming out, and they're frustrated and angry, especially with the government in Kiev. They feel that the government in Kiev was unable or unwilling to stop the violence, and that's where we're putting the blame.

And so, that's why people seem to be coming out to vote today.

But what will this referendum end up with? Some hope an independent government, some people are hoping to join Russia. Whatever it is, they're hoping from a change from the government in Kiev.

CABRERA: And one last really quick question, I know we don't have much time here, Atika. But you were showing us earlier that the ballots were flopping out of some of those boxes and could you see people, what they were voting.

Do you know, are people voting both ways or are these just people who are supporting independence that are coming out to vote in the first place?

SHUBERT: Well, look, we can look straight into the ballot boxes here and very few people have actually folded up the ballots. The vast majority of them as we've seen already have "yes" on them. I have seen somebody come in and vote no.

So, people are coming out with differing opinions. We don't know what the actual numbers will be. And as I've said earlier, we've actually seen people slip in multiple ballots.

So, in terms of -- you know, what we would consider a free and fair election, this is not.

BLACKWELL: All right. Atika Shubert in there in Donetsk, watching the vote for us -- thank you so much.

CABRERA: We'll be right back.


BLACKWELL: Before we go, Pope Francis is now among the growing legion of supporters using #bringbackourgirls.

CABRERA: He tweeted, "Let us all join in prayer for the immediate release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria."

BLACKWELL: First Lady Michelle Obama and others have also joined the social media campaign. Maybe you've seen the picture. The hashtag has been shared more than a million times.

CABRERE: It's hard to believe it's been almost 20 years since Monica Lewinsky was in the news and now making news once again. How will her "Vanity Fair" cover spread impact that this race for the White House -- how might it impact the race for the White House in 2016? Up next, we'll ask our contributor expert about this.


BLACKWELL: Good morning, Washington.

A beautiful shot of the Capitol and a great day there. Sunny skies, high of 81 degrees.

So good to have you with us this NEW DAY on this Sunday morning.

CABRERA: Well, it's been a tough week for Hillary Clinton. "Politico" calling this one of her worst since leaving the State Department.

BLACKWELL: So, she had her husband's infidelity rehashed in "Vanity Fair." Republicans called into question her leadership at the State Department over the attacks in Benghazi and failure to label Boko Haram as a terrorist group. But is this a conservative strategy or just a bad week? Is this what conservatives are going to try to use to derail her 2016 aspirations?

CABRERA: And we don't even know if she's running yet. Everyone is assuming so (ph).

To discuss, we're going to we're going to join Eleanor Clift, contributor to "The Daily Beast."

And so, let's start with talking about this as a Republican strategy. Do you think that's what this is -- just attack Hillary until they have a candidate that they can get behind?

ELEANOR CLIFT, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, if you look at Hillary Clinton's approval ratings among Democrats there, soaring into the 70s, and I think among the broader public at large, she does very well. She looks like a sure thing for the Democratic nomination, and she looks like a good bet to be the first woman to become president.

You look on the Republican side and they're really in disarray, they're fighting among themselves about various issues and they're looking at various tactics to try to tarnish Hillary Clinton's image, and I think Benghazi is certainly one of them, but I think dredging up the Monica Lewinsky scandal is not going to go very far with the American public.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the latter person and then talk about the former. At this point in the 2008 cycle, Hillary Clinton her approval ratings were just as high, she was far and away the front-runner. But Republicans then, even before this "Vanity Fair" article, did not talk about Monica Lewinsky at this point in the '08 cycle as they are ahead of 2016.

Why this time around is Monica Lewinsky coming up, do you think?

CLIFT: Well, the '08 cycle you had Barack Obama running against Hillary Clinton so the Republicans could stand down, you could say. I think Lewinsky is coming up now because she's written this article in "Vanity Fair", and she's trying to inject herself in the national conversation.

This is not the first time. She did a big Barbara Walters interview a number of years ago. She did an HBO special. She had a reality show.

She wants to be taken seriously. I think she wants to be forgiven, if you will, and I think she's frustrated that at 40 years old, she really hasn't found her way in the world, and she is -- this is another attempt on her part to basically understand, I think, what she did, and to get the country to view her in a different perspective. If she wants to do that, I think posing in a come hither pose on a couch is probably not exactly the best way to do it, although as I think any woman would probably jump at the chance to be photographed in such a flattering light.

She looks good, but she really has not been able to find a career path that is satisfying and you read the article, you feel kind of sorry for her. But the notion that she somehow is going to negatively impact the presidential race, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton have prospered since the whole scandal, and Bill Clinton won or the Democrats won an election in '98 basically on people's revulsion on all of the excess all around Monica Lewinsky, the investigation, the various players.

CABRERA: I think --

CLIFT: I think dredging that up does not constitute a modern political scandal. That belongs in the history books.

CABRERA: I think, Eleanor, also, you know, it's worth mentioning this is Monica Lewinsky coming forward. She even writes in the article or part of the interview saying this is her wanting to get out in front of that next presidential cycle, so that she doesn't get dragged back into it eventually and that could still happen.

Let's talk about Republican strategy as well here. I mean, are Republicans getting ahead of themselves by attacking Hillary and going after whoever this opponent is going to be? I mean, should they be focusing on the midterm elections which are right around the corner?

CLIFT: Well, I think it's all part of the midterm election, too. Benghazi folds nicely into energizing their base to come out and vote and I guess trying to portray Hillary Clinton in a negative light and warning the Republican base that, you know, she could be the next president might also energize their voters to come to the polls.

So I think it's all of a piece. I don't know that you can necessarily separate out the two elections.

BLACKWELL: Let me get one question in here, aside from Secretary Clinton, the Republicans this week announce their seven members of this hearing, this investigation into Benghazi. Five spots open for Democrats. Democrats are pondering the idea of boycotting.

Our chief political strategist Gloria Borgia has an op-ed on It says bad idea.

What do you think?

CLIFT: I agree it's a bad idea because there will be hearings. And if the Democrats are not represented, it will be one Republican question after another. And the witnesses who Chairman Trey Gowdy is already calling defendants, they won't get any sort of relief when they are questioned by Democrats who are more friendly.

So, I think Democrats have to consider how this whole thing will be staged and need to get their voices in there. There's one proposal that you would have just one person as sort of a monitor, but if you're looking for air time, you want equal air time I think the Democrats probably should get the five people that they are allowed to have on the committee, they probably ought to get them in there.

CABRERA: All right. Eleanor Clift, thank you so much for your time this morning. It's going to be fascinating here in the next couple of years.

BLACKWELL: So good to have you this morning.

CABRERA: And by the way --

CLIFT: Right, right, we're getting a head start.

CABRERA: That's right.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Eleanor.

CABRERA: By the way, another Clinton was in the news this weekend. Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, she earned her PhD in international relations from Oxford. Her PhD. Her father, the former president, he posted a photo here on Twitter yesterday and said, "Couldn't be prouder of Chelsea Clinton today. Congrats on your doctorate."

BLACKWELL: Well, we will see you back here at the top of the hour, 8:00 Eastern, for more of NEW DAY SUNDAY.

CABRERA: But coming up next, "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D."