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Bergdahl's Health Improving at Hospital; California Chrome Denied Triple Crown, Owner Attacks Race Rules as "Not Fair"; Man Charged in Morgan Accident

Aired June 8, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All righty, we just hit 7:00.


PAUL: Right then and there.

I'm Christi Paul. I hope you're on time this morning.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Four out West, this is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

New this morning, we've got the dramatic new details about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's capture by the Taliban.

PAUL: Yes, how he's doing at a military hospital in Germany might be surprising to some people to hear how well he's doing. Today's "New York Times" is reporting that the Bergdahl has said the Taliban punished him when he tried to escape and they did so by locking him in a shark cage for weeks, possibly months, in the dark.

BLACKWELL: Now, let's talk about the recovery. "The Times" says Bergdahl is healthier than expected after five years in captivity. He's walking, talking with doctors, and has begun wearing his military uniform again, first time in five years, but he does not want to be called sergeant.

PAUL: Let's go to CNN's Karl Penhaul who is in Landstuhl, Germany, where Bergdahl has been treated, of course.

So, what have you learned about his condition, Karl, about his condition?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi and Victor, as you suggest a lot of the new stuff that we're learning about is coming from "The New York Times," and that unnamed source that they're quoting from the Defense Department in Washington, because here on the ground in Landstuhl, medical doctors are still very much playing by the rules, they're observing patient confidentiality, and really not saying a lot beyond the fact that they're saying that Bergdahl is stable, his condition is improving, and he is conversing with the medics around him. But as you say, from that "New York Times" article some dramatic

details, they suggest really the worst physical illness that he might be suffering from right now is some skin problems and some gum problems, because of the kind of nutrition he's had and because of his exposure to the elements over the last few years.

And then on the psychological front -- well, of course, that account of him having been held in a metal cage at times for weeks at a time in total darkness. That kind of stuff really has got to be playing on his mind right now.

And that is what the psychologists are trying to do, over the days that he is here in Landstuhl, they're trying to get him to come out of himself and to tell his story for the first time to this team of specialists around him, so that they can see what they can do to help him reintegrate back into both the military and back into his family.

But in terms of the physical side, yes, I mean, he's a guy who is 5'9" tall and according to that "New York Times" article, he weighs about 160 pounds. So, really no signs that he's underweight or emaciated in any shape or form, Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Part of the justification the White House has used for not speaking with Congress 30 days before taking someone from Guantanamo Bay was that this was urgent, that he had severe health concerns, but what we're hearing is that these are minor concerns overall physically. Does that jeopardize their storyline?

PENHAUL: Well, really, you know, because of the political firestorm that this handover, this prisoner swap has generated, you do have to question as well some of the motives of the sources quoted in that story, what kind of agenda are they working, are they trying to play into the political controversy going on in the United States right now?

I mean, we've heard President Obama, of course, saying, hey, I'm not going to apologize for anybody for getting Bergdahl back. He's been there for five years. Don't forget that. Whatever were the events that led up to his capture, he had been held by the Taliban for five years, and that has to take a toll on anybody both physically and mentally, even if right now the first signs are that he's got no life- threatening illness.

PAUL: All right. Good to know. Karl Penhaul, thank you.

BLACKWELL: So, 6:55 Eastern yesterday, I was right in front of my television.

PAUL: I was, too.

BLACKWELL: Watching, hoping, waiting at this historic moment, maybe, for California Chrome to become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years, but last night, didn't belong to Chrome.

PAUL: At the line, Tonalist, ridden Joel Rosario, was able to pass Commissioner to win by a head. It was so exciting.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it was, it was.

PAUL: Neither of the top two had run in the Triple Crown's first two races, the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness and the third place finisher did not run the Preakness either. So looking sluggish, California Chrome tied for fourth.

BLACKWELL: And there's also this injury we need to talk about to California Chrome's front right hoof, may have cost him glory. But in a heated rant, one of the colt's owners, Steve Coburn blamed rules that allowed horses to compete in the Triple Crown's final challenge even if, as we heard, they skip the two lead-up races.

PAUL: Senior correspondent Richard Roth was at Belmont Park.

All right. So, Richard, let's talk about Steve Coburn's gripe and is it valid?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, many people will tell you it's not valid. It's Coburn being a sore loser. I mean, he was not a happy man, even before this race. I had talked to him with other reporters a few days earlier and he was upset at the rules and all the commitments as an owner, he had to fill out paperwork. He said, I think he needed a visitor's visa to come to the Belmont, even -- maybe the pressure was getting to him.

But right after the race he unleashed a torrent attack on the horses and owners who had the, quote, "courage", in effect, to beat California Chrome by resting their horses from the other earlier elite races.


STEVE COBURN, CO-OWNER, CALIFORNIA CHROME: It's not fair to these horses that have been in the game since day one. I look at it this way. If you can't make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you can't run in the other two races. It's all or nothing. It's all or nothing, because this is not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people and for the people that believe in them to have somebody come up like this, this is the coward's way out.


ROTH: I mean, the rules he refers to are the fact that a couple of years ago, they changed the system so that horses had to win points to enter the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, and that eliminated some horses.

But for decades, owners have rested their horses and so-called new shooters have entered at the Belmont. This Secretariat overcame this, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, three winners of the Triple Crown in the mid '70s. So, I don't think Coburn is going to get much support.

But, yes, it's going to be 37 years at least since we've had a Triple Crown winner, horse racing's most elite prize -- Christi, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. We've got to wait until next season.

Senior correspondent Richard Roth, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Richard.

Now, Steve Coburn, he's 61 years old, he said that because of the rules, he's never going to see another Triple Crown winner in his lifetime.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about that.

Gene Menez, horse racing writer for "Sports on Earth".

Gene, good to have you with us.

Has the sports world seen the last Triple Crown winner, I mean, 36 years ago, Affirmed? Is that it?

GENE MENEZ, SPORTS ON EARTH: My guess is that no, the sports world has not seen the last Triple Crown winner. We'll get one of these eventually. It has been 36 years but we've had 13 horses win the derby and the Preakness and some of them have come so heartbreakingly short by a nose or a length, length and a half.

So, one of these days I think we will get it done. It's unfortunate Steve Coburn had to make his comments after the race yesterday, but my guess is we'll eventually see a Triple Crown winner.

PAUL: OK. But what do you think about what Coburn said? In your opinion, is what he said valid? Does it really make a difference if these horses do not run those other two races?

MENEZ: It does make a difference but I don't think his point is valid. Non-sports fan may agree with him, but this is how sports work. It happens in every sport, in basketball, in football.

You could you even make the case that in the derby, California Chrome had four weeks rest where seven of his competitors had only three weeks rest. In his first race in the six-race winning streak, he won the King Glorious, he had seven weeks rest going into that race and the second place horse Life is a Joy only had four. So, none of those other foes ever complained about California Chrome taking a coward's way out and I don't think that Steve Coburn really has a valid point here.

BLACKWELL: But there are some who argue it's more about the second and third races, the Preakness and the Belmont, you need a speed horse that can win that short, quick race at Pimlico and then you need a distance horse that can win at Belmont. How unlikely is it to find a horse that can do both?

MENEZ: Well, it's really unlikely, obviously. We've had only 11 Triple Crown winners in history. We've only had three in the last 66 years and obviously not one since 1978. You know, California Chrome, and there have been many who have had a chance to do this, but it's the difficulty of this Triple Crown campaign that makes it great.

That's why these horses, we consider them the greatest of all- time, they are able to achieve this. They were able to win a derby where you might have to beat 19 others. You've had to be both fast and versatile and then also have the stamina to pass the test of the champion at the Belmont. So that's the reason why this is such an elusive title to win.

PAUL: Gene Menez of "Sports on Earth", so grateful for your insight. Thank you for being with us.

MENEZ: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Gene.

A truck driver has been charged in connection with the chain reaction wreck that killed one man and left comedian Tracy Morgan critically injured. And now the driver's very famous employer is making a statement about it, talking about it.

PAUL: Plus, Shelly Sterling, the estranged wife of Donald Sterling, may remain close to the Clippers organization after all, even if she does sell the team.


BLACKWELL: You see the tweets there from rapper Raekwon and television personality Montel Williams. So much support on social media for comedian Tracy Morgan, he was injured, critically injured in a chain reaction accident in New Jersey.

PAUL: In fact, the actor's publicist says Morgan is receiving excellent care in the hospital, with his family close by his side. That wreck did kill one person and left two others critically injured.

So, now, truck driver is facing charges, including death by auto.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Alexandra Field is in New York with the latest for us.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Wal-Mart truck driver is facing charges this morning in an accident that left actor/comedian Tracy Morgan hospitalized in critical condition and another man dead.

The 45-year-old Morgan who rose to fame on "Saturday Night Live" and sitcom "30 Rock" had just wrapped up a comedy performance at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in Delaware. Morgan and fellow passengers in a Mercedes Sprinter limo van were travelling northbound on the New Jersey turnpike around 1:00 Saturday morning when the accident happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six-vehicle accident, two tractor trailers involved. Comedian and actor Tracy Morgan was involved. He is in intensive care at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick.

FIELD: Killed in the crash 63-year-old limo passenger James McNair known as Jimmy Mack, a fellow comedian and friend of Tracy Morgan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He always made sure there were programs for the kids, volunteered his time, great comedian, great writer, but very giving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Devastated, we're devastated. James, I love you.

FIELD: The exact cause of the crash is still under investigation by state and federal authorities, but New Jersey state police say the driver of the tractor trailer failed to observe slow moving traffic, swerved and hit Morgan's limo van, forcing it to overturn.

According to the Middlesex County prosecutor's office, the Wal- Mart truck driver, 35-year-old Kevin Roper of Jonesboro, Georgia, is facing one count of death by auto, and four counts of assault by auto. Those charges, forms of vehicular homicide and reckless driving under New Jersey law.

In a statement, Wal-Mart president Bill Simon said, quote, "We are profoundly sorry that one of our trucks was involved. If it is determined that our truck caused the accident, Wal-Mart will take full responsibility. We will do what's right for the family of the victim and the survivors in the days and weeks ahead."

Alexandra Field, CNN, New York.


BLACKWELL: All right. Alexandra, thank you very much.

PAUL: Now, Shelly Sterling, the estranged wife of Donald Sterling, may not be done with the L.A. Clippers just yet.

BLACKWELL: Apparently, even if she sells the team for $2 billion, she may still remain pretty close to that organization.


BLACKWELL: There's another twist, another turn, another U-turn and a left turn. We're talking about this Sterling story, it's developing this week, in that record-setting $2 billion deal for the L.A. Clippers.

PAUL: And now, we're learning Shelly Sterling, Donald's estranged wife, negotiated a deal that actually keeps her very close to the organization, which I thought a lot of people were saying we don't really want that.

BLACKWELL: Including the NBA.

Joe Carter from CNN Sports joins us now for more. I know in front of the curtain what we're hearing from

commissioner Silver was Sterlings have to go.

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS: Yes. And I think that's the sentiment across the league, as well as the players, even the fans are saying they want them to have nothing to do with this team. Remember, this whole deal still has to be approved by the NBA's board of governors. This isn't a locked down deal.

Part of the negotiations between Shelly Sterling and Steve Ballmer we're hearing details from a source close to the situation is that she's able to keep 10 percent or up to 10 percent of the team, and it's going to be in the form of a charitable organization. Now, you're talking about $200 million.

Now, Steve Ballmer and Shelly Sterling are going to cofound this organization together and it's supposed to help underprivileged families, battered women, minorities and inner city youths.

Now, her attorney said they suggested the idea to the NBA and the NBA was receptive. No comment yet from the NBA but she would not be a part of the day-to-day operations, only running this charitable foundation.

PAUL: What do you think NBA fans, how are they going to react to this, because a lot of the Clippers fans are like, we want Sterlings out all together.

CARTER: Well, you got to remember, if she's co-owner she gets the perks of ownership, she can still come to the games, sit courtside n the luxury boxes. She can still be part of the team for their organization, their offseason stuff, anything that has to do with the team event, she can still be a part of as a co-owner.

So, yes, the fans are going to be -- there are going to be certain sections of fans and players that are going to say, wait a second, I thought we were going to push the Sterlings out all together. Now, as far as Donald Sterling goes, he still has a lifetime ban over his head when it comes to the NBA. So, who knows how he'll play a role at least in front of the camera. We know that if he's still married to Shelly Sterling he'll have some sort of say behind the camera.

BLACKWELL: And that ban includes the charity.

CARTER: You would think so, yes, because that's part of the team. So, anything to do with the NBA, Donald Sterling is banned from.

PAUL: OK. Good to know. Joe Carter, thank you so much for breaking it down for us.

So, tennis star Maria Sharapova is celebrating today after winning her second French Open crown, she defeated Romanian Simona Halep yesterday to clinch her fifth grand slam title. Sharapova called it, quote, "The toughest grand slam final I've ever played." But it worked for her.

All right. Wind, hail, and I have to say it again, tornadoes.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this weekend, parts of the South and Midwest hit with some very severe weather. We'll show you the damage. That's next.


PAUL: Twenty-five minutes past the hour. We hope that you're doing well this morning.

But, boy, has it been a brutal, bloody weekend on the streets of Chicago. Twenty-two people have been shot, three of them fatally, in the city, since Friday afternoon.

BLACKWELL: Our affiliate WBBM reports the police are calling several of the shootings gang-related. At least two police officers were wounded when gunfire erupted during a traffic stop.

Good news here, things are all clear at the U.S. Capitol this morning after it was briefly evacuated yesterday. Authorities say a small aircraft -- a small plane there entered restricted air space.

PAUL: Air traffic control wasn't able to communicate with the pilot apparently, so two F-16 fighter jets escorted the plane to a North Carolina airport and an official tells CNN the pilot said he had outdated maps and they confused him.

BLACKWELL: I don't get that. The capitol has not moved in a very long time. Which map are you referring to, sir?

PAUL: I don't know.

But, boy, talk about a stormy Sunday that it's turning into. We have threats of damaging wind, hail in the Southern plains.

PAUL: Yes, let's go to Missouri. People are recovering this morning after severe storms and reported tornadoes ripped through the area, damaging homes, destroying businesses. Let's go to CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis in the weather center.

What is going on? Is more going to stick around today in?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It has been a sluggish weather system across the U.S.

And here are our damage reports -- about 14 tornadoes have been reported over the past 24 hours, most of those at EF-0 or EF-1. But lots of wind reports, high wind gusts around 70 miles an hour and we did see that across sections of Missouri.

My screen just went dark, this is a view of Atlanta, you guys. Victor and Christi, when you drove in, may have been a little lightning. It looked like the sun was going to come through, but no, the clouds reappear. We have the threat of 60 percent chance of showers and storms.

And take a look again at Missouri, where some damage was reported there, with 60-mile-an-hour wind gusts and we don't have any reports of any injuries, but in southeastern sections of Missouri, large-sized hail reported, trees down, people without power.

All of this is part of a stubborn weather system that is languishing across the south central United States and this complex of storms is going to rake through Oklahoma into Texas, across Arkansas, into southern Missouri again today. Already, we're receiving reports out of panhandle of Texas, and just to the south of Lubbock, where they have seen substantial rainfall over the past several days, and there is some localized flooding reported there.

Lots of lightning has moved on from Oklahoma City and is now traveling along Interstate 20 and Dallas. You're going to see some showers and storms in your forecast, in the next couple of hours. Where you see the green shaded area from Lubbock to Oklahoma City, to Springfield, down towards little rock, this is where we have the flood potential, because days and days of rainfall, and the moisture, the water just can't soak into the ground anymore, so you're going to be very susceptible to flooding, flash flooding, or just flood warnings over the next several days at least.

And as we take a look in the forecast as to what's going to happen for the rest of the day, stubborn weather system just languishing across the south central United States, but watch this frontal system. It sweeps across the Midwest. As it does, Chicago, this really nice, lovely warm temperatures you saw yesterday? Well you're expecting temperatures mostly in the 60s as we go into the start of the work week, and still stormy skies across the central U.S.

Back to you guys.

BLACKWEL: All right. We'll get ready for it, Karen. Thank you very much.

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

PAUL: But "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." starts for you now.