Return to Transcripts main page


Magic Johnson Fires Back at Donald Sterling; Nigerian Father Talks of Daughter Escaping Boko Haram; Interview with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.

Aired May 14, 2014 - 13:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington.

Given the chance to apologize, banned NBA owner Donald Sterling slid into a simple quote, "I'm sorry," but then he started to take shots at the Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. He tried to paint Johnson as manipulative, called him a poor role model for African-Americans and for the city of Los Angeles.

Johnson had a chance to fire right back in an exclusive interview with our own Anderson Cooper. Here's part of that interview.


MAGIC JOHNSON, NBA HALL OF FAMER: I continue to do good work in urban America. I will always do that. I'm devoted. My whole life is devoted to urban America. So, you know, I just wish he knew the facts when he's talking. But he's a man who's upset. And he's reaching. He's reaching. He's trying to find something he can grab on to to help him save his team.

It's not going to happen. It's not going to happen. Adam Silver, our commissioner of the NBA, did a wonderful job. I'll be behind him for life. Now the board of governor has to do their job. I'm going to pray for the man. Even if I say to him today, I'm going to say hello to him, hello to Donald and his wife as well. I'm not a guy who holds grudges and all that. Yes, am I upset, of course. But at the same time, I'm a god-fearing man. I'm going to pray for him and hope that things work out for him.


BLITZER: Let's talk about Magic Johnson's comments about the Donald Sterling scandal.

Joining us, our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, in New York; and David Aldridge, from NBA TV, also from TNT, our sister network.

David, what's your reaction to Magic? Because you and I know Magic. He's a real gentleman.

DAVID ALDRIDGE, NBA TV & TNT: Well, I covered the first Magic for the Dreamers charity game he had in the Capital Center in 1990 and that was for scholarship funds for primarily low-income Africa-American, primarily, students. This is a guy who has given millions to charity. He wrote a check to his own church for $5 million. To say he doesn't do things for the American-African community is preposterous.

BLITZER: Totally preposterous.

Give me your quick reaction, Sunny. Then I want to move on.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's clear he took the high road. He's an icon in the African-American community and Donald Sterling really misstepped by just not apologizing. Had he apologized, I think things may have taken on a different narrative. The fact he continued to bash Magic Johnson, again, this icon, in not only African-American communities, but in the world, in the world of sports. I think was such a huge misstep among missteps.

BLITZER: As both of you, Shelly Sterling has suggested in a few interviews that maybe her husband has dementia, that's why he's saying those kinds of terrible things. Anderson asked Magic Johnson about that.


JOHNSON: I only judge by what he says. So he seems like he's all there. And in your interview, he's a guy who's making conversation and he remembers time, dates. I mean, he remembered when I came to his beach house and that was 35 years ago. So he can't be slipping that much. But the problem is he's living in the stone ages. He can't make those comments about African-Americans and Latinos. You just can't do it.


BLITZER: Certainly shouldn't. You know, you've covered the NBA for a long time. In all those years, did you ever get to talk to him? Ever have a conversation with him?

ALDRIDGE: Just wrote about this a couple weeks ago. I've had one conversation with Donald Sterling.

BLITZER: All those years?

ALDRIDGE: Yes, because he was very insulated. He did not do a lot of interviews except with the local media in Los Angeles.

I'm telling you, this is the god's honest truth, at a playoff game in 2006, the Clippers in a playoff for the first time in a long time. At half time, I was talking to Elgin Baylor, the general manager of the team at the time. He introduces me to Donald Sterling. We talked about two minutes. Donald Sterling, out of the left field, he said, I want to ask you a question. I said sure. He said, why are all these black women having children out of wedlock.


I said, excuse me? I mean, literally, that's the first time --


BLITZER: What year?

ALDRIDGE: 2006. First and only conversation I've ever had with the man. I've covered the NBA since 1987 so that tells you something.

BLITZER: When you heard these other comments, you weren't flabbergasted?

ALDRIDGE: No. Nobody who covered the lead is not surprised at all, the history, the lawsuits filed by team employees, including Elgin Baylor. But also former coaches, like Mike Dunleavy, like Bill Fitch. This is a guy who tends to wind up in court with a lot of his e ex- employees.

BLITZER: A lot of court cases over the years.

Sunny, Magic Johnson said he talked to Sterling on the phone, told him to apologize right away, to speak about all of that with his attorney what to do next. That was, what, two weeks ago. So what advise does Magic Johnson have for Donald Sterling right now? I want you to listen to this.


MAGIC JOHNSON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: He finally apologized, but he still hasn't apologized to me personally. That's OK. Even if I don't get it, I'm fine with that. Look, you're 80 years old. You've had a tremendous life. Right. And you're going to benefit whatever the price tag is from this team selling. Just go ahead and enjoy the rest of your life, you know, you're fighting a battle that you can't win. And then you're putting your family in a tough situation as well. It's not just him. He's making his family members look bad by going out, saying these things about myself, African-Americans, on and on and on. So if I was him, I'd just, you know, benefit from the fruits of my labor and just take the money, go and enjoy your life.


BLITZER: Sunny, what do you think about that advice?

HOSTIN: It's really good, sound advice, isn't it, when you listen to it. And I think he's right, when he says he can't win this. We know that Donald Sterling is litigious by nature. He uses the law as sport. He is a lawyer. But at 80 years old, given his comments, given the NBA's position, which now is very clear, Wolf, they've sort of come out and laid out their legal footing, and I think it's very solid, it is time for Donald Sterling just to step down. I still think that the Shelly Sterling issue is a closer call. But given the NBA's position at this point, I think Shelly has to go as well.

BLITZER: I know everybody's watching the playoffs. These are great playoff games. You and I love basketball. How much pressure is building on the new Commissioner Adam Silver and the owners to finally get the job done, force him to sell the team so everyone can move on? ALDRIDGE: Well, a lot actually. You hear stories that maybe Lebron James is going to be part of a boycott next year if Donald Sterling is still the owner. There's a lot of pressure. The players really took control of this when it first happened. Made it clear they were not going to sit idly by and let this play out over years. They want action now.

BLITZER: Adam Silver moved quickly.

ALDRIDGE: Adam Silver did move quickly with the lifetime ban. Now the process of removing Sterling as owner is going to take time. That's not something you do overnight. I don't think he's going to sit by and let that happen. He will lawyer up. We'll see how that plays out in the court. The league will, I think, move quickly.

BLITZER: My advice to Sterling, not that he's going to listen to me, I've been saying this ever since the story broke -- Sunny, you know this -- my advice has been to him, very simple, deeply, deeply apologize. Say I was totally wrong. And then put your money where your mouth is, give $100 million or $200 million. He's a billionaire. Give a few hundred million dollars to very good causes to help African-Americans, to help Hispanics. Go out there and show you're ready to do something. And then maybe the public will eventually forgive him. I expect he's not going to do that.

HOSTIN: Agreed.

BLITZER: But that's just my advice if he were to ask me.


BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. Good discussion.

Be sure to join Anderson later tonight, "A.C. 360," for more of his exclusive interview with Donald Sterling. He's got excerpts you haven't seen yet. 8:00 p.m. eastern tonight only here on CNN.

Critical talks under way in Ukraine right now while the U.S. and Europe make their positions on the crisis clear to the Russian president. Will the strategy work? Italy's foreign minister, she's here with me. We'll discuss. That's coming up.

Plus, a place where Western education is considered a sin. We'll have an exclusive report from Nigeria where more than 200 schoolgirls have been taken hostage.


BLITZER: "Fear is everywhere," those word from a Nigerian father who got his family out as Boko Haram militants stormed his town, taking hundreds of schoolgirls from their dormitory beds. There's now a global movement to try to bring the girls home. Militants released video today. Some parents were able to identify their daughters. The name Boko Haram, by the way, means "Western education is a sin."

Our Nima Elbagir made it to Chibok, Nigeria, the remote area. She speaks to a father and young woman who escaped.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A burned- out dormitory, broken windows, what's left of the Chibok Girls Secondary School where a month ago the student's dreams were stolen along with hundreds of girls abducted from their beds.

(on camera): If the attack hadn't happened right here is where now the girls would have been taking their school exams. This school, these exams were supposed to be a gate way into a bright future that would take them beyond the boundaries of Chibok and out of the shadow of Boko Haram. For many girls now, even the thought of such a future is pretty much incomprehensible.

(voice-over): Educating girls is a sin in the eyes of Boko Haram, the terror group claiming responsibility for this devastation.

For one of the girls lucky enough to escape her abductors, it's a message she's received loud and clear.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: In Chibok, never go again.

ELBAGIR (on camera): You'll never go back to school?


ELBAGIR: Because they made you afraid?


ELBAGIR: What did you want to be?


ELBAGIR: You wanted to be a doctor?


ELBAGIR (voice-over): Now that seems far out of reach.

Daniel Movia (ph) and his family fled into the Bush the night of the attack. Luckily, altogether and all safe. But what he witnessed that night still has him shaken. This area has been under siege for years.

DANIEL MOVIA (ph), FATHER: Fear is all other. Fear is everywhere. Presently what we are seeing that has happened to our girls here now, for those that escaped and for those that are yet to be taken to school, now there's a big question mark for every parent about what to do about the lives of our children. Of course, no one can afford losing their daughter.

ELBAGIR: But he's not giving up hope completely. He prays a day will come when his daughters will be free to pursue their futures.

(on camera): What will you like your daughters to be when they grow up?

MOVIA (ph): Things like lawyers, doctors, engineers. Because when I see one of these people doing their jobs, I have the zeal or the hope I want my children to be like them.

ELBAGIR: You have high hopes for them?

MOVIA (ph): Very high hopes for them, yes.

ELBAGIR: Nima Elbagir, CNN, Chibok.


BLITZER: What a horrible story that is.

Meanwhile, world leaders are taking a look at the crisis in Ukraine. Can the violence between security forces, pro-Russian militants be contained? What about Vladimir Putin's intentions there? Italy's foreign minister, she is here with me, Federica Mogherini. We'll discuss what's going on in Italy. We'll discuss what's going on in Ukraine, other major issues when we come back.


BLITZER: Stopping violence on the streets of Ukraine, finding a negotiated settlement to the crisis there, that's the goal of a roundtable of talks today between Ukrainian's interim government and regional leaders. But it's unclear how much process could be made when a key group isn't there, the pro-Russian activists, who have been battling Ukrainian forces for weeks now. They say they won't talk with what they call an occupying force. That's just fine with Ukrainian officials who say they won't negotiate with what they call terrorists.

Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. strongly supports the talks. Kerry's also praising the European Union for imposing additional sanctions for Russia's actions in Ukraine.

Joining us now, here in Washington, is the Italian foreign minister, Federica Mogherini. This is her first official visit to the United States as foreign minister.

Foreign Minister, thank you so much for coming in.


BLITZER: Are you ready to go further in imposing sanctions against Russia in the coming weeks if they, for example, do something to up- end the scheduled elections?

MOGHERINI: We're already preparing next steps or sanctions. The point is we hope that will be effective in terms of putting political pressure on Russia to stop the violence and allow the elections.

BLITZER: Because so much of Europe, including Italy, they get energy, oil, resources, gas from Russia. You will pay a price if the sanctions are ratcheted up and that energy supply dries up.

MOGHERINI: You have to make sure that sanctions affect Russia and not ourselves. Also not to prevent our economic recovery to start again. But again, sanctions have to be a way of putting political pressure for finding a dialogue.

BLITZER: How much of your energy resources come from Russia?

MOGHERINI: Around 39 percent.

BLITZER: If that dries up, if the U.S. and others impose sanctions to curtail those kinds of exports, what does Italy do?

MOGHERINI: We are differentiating our energy supply. We are working together with other Europeans. Obviously, we hope not to get there. The point is using sanctions as a political way of finding the dialogue. Because the objective is not sanctions themselves. The objective is stopping the conflict.

BLITZER: You met, while here in Washington, with Secretary Kerry. You have spoken to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. Do you understand what Putin's goal is right now in Ukraine?

MOGHERINI: I don't know if anybody knows that. I think we have to put pressure on Ukraine itself to find a way of stabilizing the country, making the reforms, sustaining Ukraine and finding a way in which Ukraine can deal with its own divisions including Russia.

BLITZER: The Russian economy is suffering right now. That's why I've been confused by what Putin is up to. I assume you have been as well, because it's not in his economic interest to have this grab on Ukraine, if you will.

MOGHERINI: It is quite irrational behavior. I think the Russians sooner or later will understand that it's not in their interest.

BLITZER: As far as you know, is Europe united with the United States on this issue of additional sanctions against Russia?

MOGHERINI: Absolutely. Absolutely, yes. The positive point is that it's being taken with one voice within Europe. Europe and the United States, the G-7 in the United Nations have been working together from the very beginning. That has been very effective.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Syria, another important issue. You're off to London where the so-called Friends of Syria are about to meet. Secretary Kerry will be going there as well. First of all, is it true that Syria used fluorine gas aerial bombs in recent days against the opposition?

MOGHERINI: I don't know. I don't have evidence of that. We will discuss that in London as you said. The positive point, the only positive point about Syria is that we are proceeding quite well in eliminating the chemical weapons that were declared and that is going to happen in an Italian court, and they are cooperating with the international community. BLITZER: Is Russia still cooperating on that front?

MOGHERINI: On that front, yes.

BLITZER: And the U.S., the European Union, the Russians, everybody is working together?

MOGHERINI: Absolutely.

BLITZER: How long will it be before all of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles are removed?

MOGHERINI: The declared ones, we hope for a couple miles maximum, maybe much less.

BLITZER: So you're more upbeat. A lot of refugees are streaming into Italy right now, not only from Syria but from North Africa, as well, including Libya. Libya has turned out to be a total disaster. And Italy and Libya have a long-standing history.

MOGHERINI: A long-standing history and common border, which is our seat, a European seat, and we're trying to make all that we can to make sure that Libya has a government sooner or later that can find a way of becoming a country with real institutions.

BLITZER: And people are streaming to Italy on those boats, right?

MOGHERINI: Yes, it's not Libyans. It's mainly people coming from Africa and other regions of conflict through Libya --

BLITZER: And they get to Italy, what do you do with those people?

MOGHERINI: Many of them died at sea. We had major disasters there. And since then, we started saving them at sea. And then we have to share the responsibility with our European friends on hosting the refugees and asylum seekers. Because these are people fleeing conflict and we have -- (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Is Italy doing anything to try to find those girls in Nigeria that have been kidnapped?

MOGHERINI: We have asked and obtained from the European Union just last Monday to have a coordinated European action there. We have to avoid that European single country does things without being coordinated and without (INAUDIBLE) -- the Nigerian government, that is the one that is hopefully able to know what is more needed.

BLITZER: This Boko Haram group, this is a real terrorist group that is killing a lot of people right now, and not just in Nigeria but it is spreading into Cameroon, to Chad, to Niger, elsewhere in Africa as well.

MOGHERINI: And the terrible thing is the single of kidnapping these girls that are starting. That is a very powerful, very negative signal of wanting to stop girl's power, empowerment, and the will of having a good life. BLITZER: We just want them to bring those girls back and bring them back soon.

MOGHERINI: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Federica Mogherini, the foreign minister of Italy.

You've only been in the job for, what, two months?


BLITZER: Welcome to the United States. We hope you'll come back.

MOGHERINI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.

MOGHERINI: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Up next, trouble for NASA's future as the space program gets tangled up in the Ukraine crisis. We'll explain.


BLITZER: We'll check of the markets right now. There you see the Dow Jones down about 60 points. This comes after three straight days of record highs. We will watch the markets.

U.S. ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, is promising U.S. support for the massive clean-up at the Fukushima nuclear site. Ambassador Kennedy took her first tour of the plant today. She said the U.S. will offer experience and expertise to help resolve ongoing contamination problems. Fukushima was severely damaged from a massive tsunami triggered by an earthquake back in 2011.

The crisis in Ukraine looks like it will directly impact the U.S. space program. Russia says it will likely now pull the plug on the international space station in the year 2020. The U.S. wants to keep using the station until 2024. Russian rockets are the ones that ferry astronauts back and forth. The decision comes from the head of Russia's space program, who also happens to be one of the men singled out for individual sanctions over Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for joining us. I will be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM." We're following all of the breaking news here. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington.

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.