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Bikram Yoga Founder Denies Rape Allegations; Memorial Service for 16 German Students; Seattle Takes First Step to $15 Minimum Wage. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 1, 2015 - 10:30   ET



[10:29:52] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: To his fans he's a fitness icon. Now the man behind Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga is facing a host of scathing allegations from some of his female clients. They say Bikram Choudhury preyed on vulnerable women, demanded sex, and then when he was turned down, he raped or sexually assaulted them.

Now for the first time the yoga guru sharing his side of the story, speaking out in an exclusive interview with CNN's Alisyn Camerota.


SARAH BAUGHN, ALLEGES BIKRAM CHOUDHURY SEXUALLY ASSAULTED HER: He needed somebody to be with him, to massage him, to brush his hair. And I need someone to, to have sex with me.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Besides Sarah Baughn's claim of sexual assault, five other women have come forward with civil lawsuits claiming Choudhury raped them. Choudhury vows to clear his name. But he says the damage has already been done to his family.

How has your wife responded to this?

BIKRAM CHOUDHURY, FOUNDER OF BIKRAM YOGA: Wow, that's a tough question. I just -- I can't answer that question. My wife won't look at me anymore -- my children, my wife. We die only once in our life. I am dying every day when I get up in the morning.

CAMEROTA: Does your family believe you?

CHOUDHURY: What can I answer? How can I share my heart, my spirit to you? 24 hours a day, I work harder than any other human being on this earth. This is the reward? I'm a rapist? Shame on the culture -- western culture. Shame, shame. Your job to go and tell the world the truth.


COSTELLO: Alisyn joins us now. So to be clear six women have accused this man of sexual assault.

CAMEROTA: Five women have accused him of rate, one of sexual assault. They all filed their affidavits in the L.A. superior court. However, we should say that the LAPD has declined to press any charges. They investigated these claims. They did not find the evidence to move forward with any criminal charges so these are civil charges.

You've seen this before Carol. I mean these cases are five years old, four years old, seven years old. It's hard for police to find any sort of physical evidence. I've read the affidavit, the women make a compelling case against him and he makes a compelling case for himself.

COSTELLO: So why does he say these women are accusing him of such terrible things?

CAMEROTA: His theory is that it's all because of a lawyer -- a money hungry lawyer. They are all represented by one lawyer. He thinks that it was a fishing expedition by the lawyer in order to get money because he's worth millions and millions of dollars.

COSTELLO: So will this case go to trial? What will happen?

CAMEROTA: It looks like it's going to. It looks like this summer these civil cases will get their day in court. He doesn't seem to want to settle because he says -- the reason he's speaking out exclusively to us, he wants to clear his name. He's determined to clear his name. He says he's not guilty of any of these charges. So this may ultimately be heard by a jury and decided.

COSTELLO: Alisyn Camerota -- thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: Welcome -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I appreciate it.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM: a town in shock, its young people in mourning. We'll take you to Germany for this morning's memorial for the students killed in the Germanwings Airline crash.


[10:37:06] COSTELLO: And we do have breaking news out of France in the investigation into the Germanwings crash. The BEA, the French government's investigative unit, is launching an inquiry into leaks surrounding the crash, specifically a report in the "New York Times" describing the contents of the cockpit voice recorder.

French police are also pushing back against claims a cell phone video recovered at the site shows the last moments of the doomed flight calling them completely wrong. And the CEO of Lufthansa remained quiet this morning regarding the revelation that the airline knew of the co-pilot's depression back in 2009; turning his back to reporters following a visit to the crash site memorial.

Just minutes from now, at the top of the hour, another memorial gets under way for the high school exchange students who were killed in the crash of that flight. In all, 16 students and two teachers died. CNN's Will Ripley is in Germany. He's in the town where that school is located. He joins us now on the phone. Tell us more, Will. WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Carol. This town has Haltern am

See has just 38,000 residents. And just a little over a week ago these 16 students were wrapping up a trip that their teachers feel would have probably been one of the most memorable and happy experiences of their lives.

This is the time of year here in Europe where a lot of students will travel to other countries, whatever language they were studying and that's exactly what these tenth graders at the Joseph Koenig School were doing. They spent a week in Spain near Barcelona learning about the culture, making memories with each other and they were flying back home on Flight 9525.

And of course, they never made it home. It's heartbreaking to think that their family members have been gathering at the airport in Dusseldorf waiting for them to pick them up. And now, as the rain spurts on and off here, I'm watching people going into this beautiful red brick church and the faces here, Carol, are so sad.

To think that these 16 young people on this flight aren't going to graduate from high school, they're not going to go on to university, they're not going to grow up and have families. The mayor of this town actually said a week ago that this is the darkest day in their city's history. You can certainly feel that mood here right now, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Will Ripley reporting live for us this morning.

The deadline passes but those U.S.-led nuclear talks with Iran slog on from Washington to Tehran, officials say there's just enough progress to forge ahead, at least for today. Both sides have said they would need some kind of general agreement hammered out now in order to complete a comprehensive deal by June 30th.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, one mayor is raising the minimum wage. And I'm talking about in a big way. We'll talk to the mayor next.


[10:43:24] COSTELLO: Folks go to Wal-Mart to save money. Now the stores' workers are going to be making more money. Pay raises are taking effect for the retail giant. Wal-Mart will now be paying 500,000 employees at least $9 an hour. That's $1.75 above the federal minimum wage.

Paychecks are getting bigger in Seattle, Washington too. Minimum wage for most workers in the city rises to $11 an hour today. It's the first step of the city's complex and ambitious plan to reach $15 an hour by 2017 for large scale employers like McDonald's.

So let's talk about that. I'm joined by Seattle mayor Ed Murray. Welcome, sir.


COSTELLO: First of all, where are you going to put all the people who'd be moving to your state because of the raise in the minimum wage?

MURRAY: Well, we're creating a lot of jobs. And I think that means we get some of the best employees in the city or in the country, especially when we pay them well.

COSTELLO: All jokes aside. Is that true? I mean it's going to $11 right now. So it hasn't created jobs just yet, right.

MURRAY: Well, Seattle, you know -- the state of Washington has a fairly high minimum wage compared to the rest of the country. And we know that that actually does help create jobs. It stimulates the economy. When people have more money in their pocket, they have more money to spend.

COSTELLO: Has there been any backlash from small businesses who say they can't afford this?

MURRAY: I think we did it $15 smart. We were phasing in over a number of years to get to $15. That allows small businesses in particular to adjust their business model.

[10:45:04] COSTELLO: President Obama, as you know, has tried to increase the minimum wage. He's been unsuccessful. Why do you think that is?

MURRAY: Well, it's a beginning of this discussion. Income inequality is a crisis in this country. The middle class is shrinking and raising the minimum wage is one way to build it. We did it here in Seattle, other states including red states, Republican states are voting to raise the minimum wage.

What starts in cities and states usually goes national so I think the President will find the nation catching up with him at some point.

COSTELLO: Really? You don't just think the federal government will punt as it always does and let states and cities decide for themselves what to do?

MURRAY: Well, you know, often good ideas start in cities and states and then they go to scale nationally. I mean we saw this with the civil rights movement. We've seen it with the environmental movement, with equal rights for gay and lesbian citizens. It usually starts at the local level. And it does get there. I mean we're unusually stuck right now on the national level and cities like Seattle are not willing to wait.

COSTELLO: I wanted to ask you about this law in Indiana because I know that you are openly gay. You've been married to your partner for 22 years. Your thoughts about this religious liberty law.

MURRAY: Actually, my husband and I have been married for two years. We were engaged for 22 years.

COSTELLO: I'm sorry.

MURRAY: We only had two years where we could get -- COSTELLO: Would have been impossible -- sadly, right.

MURRAY: Right. It would have been impossible. But to get to the point here, you know, this is a nation that's based on the freedom to practice your religion. This law is not about the freedom to practice religion. It's about going back to a place I don't think we want to go again, which says a for-profit business can discriminate. They can tell people, because of who you are you can't sit at my lunch counter, you can't come to my restaurant.

I don't think we as a nation want to go back and revisit that battle again. That's why I think it's important for cities like Seattle and states like Washington to stand up and say, not again.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor for joining me this morning.

MURRAY: Thank you.

COSTELLO: I appreciate it.

MURRAY: Appreciate it.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Bill Weir gets in some deep water in Venice. The host of CNN's "THE WONDER LIST" joins me next.


[10:50:46] COSTELLO: One of the most beautiful cities in the world is sinking. Bill Weir host of CNN's "THE WONDER LIST" takes us on a boat ride through the gorgeous canals of Venice.


BILL WEIR, CNN HOST: We slip into the Grand Canal so he can show me the palace that would be his if his great, great, great, great, great, great grand aunt hadn't been unlucky in love.

This is yours?

This was the family -- was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Went out in the 17th century. One of the family a woman that married four times left everything to another guy.

WEIR: Oh, no.


WEIR: Venice is the only city in the world that allows you to step out of your door and sail around the world. But the price is being surrounded by the whims of the sea -- being totally cut off.

How do most mainland Italians regard the Venetians?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're strange people. I remember I had some friends that they saw some people on the window, oh, that is a Venetian, like an animal.

WEIR: Do you consider yourself a Venetian first and Italian second?


The Venetians, (inaudible) 1600, they would say first Venetians, then Christians.


COSTELLO: Just so gorgeous. But you say it's in danger of disappearing?

WEIR: Well. The Venice we know and love is. I went there thinking this is going to be a story about water, rising sea levels, sinking city and people have been worried about that for along time. And there's this multibillion-dollar scandal-ridden project to try to save Venice from the floodwater.

COSTELLO: So Italian.

WEIR: But it really -- exactly. And it's bespoke. They didn't want to see it which made it much harder for the engineers to put underwater. But this is Aqua Alta -- but you know, Venetians have been dealing with water for 1,500 years.

What they can't deal with is the rising tide of humanity. At the highest of the tourist season, the ratio between visitors and local Venetians is 800 to 1.


WEIR: In Manhattan, it's eight to one as a comparison. The city used to be 160,000. 100,000 Venetians have gotten out. It's just too much of a headache. The soul of that city is going away. And they're trying to deal with how do you tell -- for a city that's built on tourism, how do you tell the tourists to stay away? We jus want the right kind of tourists? And so it's --

COSTELLO: You know, I can understand because I went there I remember it being very crowded. I thought this is so gorgeous but I felt claustrophobic. That's how many people were out because, you know, you're in a boat most of the time. There are very few places you can actually walk and the alleys are very narrow.

WEIR: Very narrow. It's a medieval city and when this the giant cruise ships, you know, disgorge thousands of people into St. Mark's at the same time, there's no public restrooms. So there's real concern that they're going to have to limit it. They're going to have to -- and maybe have ticketing. This is the reality of a world that gets more crowded and a lot more water in the wrong places. We thought it would be an interesting case study.

COSTELLO: Punishment when you have such a beautiful -- when you live in such a beautiful place, right?

WEIR: I know, people want to love it to death.

COSTELLO: Bill Weir, thanks so much for stopping by.

WEIR: Thanks Carol.

COSTELLO: Appreciate it. You can see much more of Bill's visit to Venice on "THE WONDER LIST", Sunday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Martha Stewart cooks up a different kind of roast. Now, many are begging for a second helping -- next.


[10:57:28] COSTELLO: From decoupage to taking digs, Martha Stewart goes rogue, uncensored and unloading at a Justin Bieber's roast. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you think the only thing Martha Stewart can roast is turkey, wait until you see her at the Justin Bieber roast.

MARTHA STEWART, TV HOST: By the way, Natasha, I do a lot of gardening but you are without a doubt the dirtiest used up (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I have ever seen.

MOOS: She was slinging mud instead of potting soil.

STEWART: Organic potting soil.

MOOS: It was a side of Martha we'd never seen. We expected the prison jokes at her expense.

NATASHA LEGGERO, ACTRESS: All these rappers on stage and Martha Stewart has done the most jail time.

KEVIN HART, ACTOR, COMEDIAN: Put your ankle bracelet on vibrate so we don't have no problem.

MOOS: It was even worse to come from Justin Bieber himself but Martha just cocked an eyebrow. After all, when it was her turn, things came out of her mouth that we can't even begin to repeat.

STEWART: Ludacris. You have three kids with three different women. May I suggest (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on some fine highly absorbent Martha Stewart bed linens?

MOOS: Airing dirty laundry while still flogging her sheets. Her viewers were awestruck. Martha absolutely crushed it, killed it, delivered the sickest burns. She was the baddest (EXPLETIVE DELETED) of all.

Wash your mouth out, Martha, preferably with one of your fragrant homemade soaps. STEWART: What a beautiful block of soap.

MOOS: But it was the cell block she saved for Bieber, giving Justin tips for when, as Martha put it, he inevitably ends up in prison.

STEWART: The first thing you'll need is a shank.

MOOS: She advised Justin to find himself the right girl.

STEWART: Someone you can smoke a joint with or indulge in an occasional three way.

So, Justin, my final piece of advice is, call me or --

MOOS: Remember the good old innocent roasts when even a turkey's rear end could make Martha blush.

STEWART: Please turn it around the other way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turn it around the other way?

STEWART: It's been looking right into me.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

STEWART: That's much prettier.

MOOS: New York.


COSTELLO: Oh, I needed that. Thank you so much for joining us me today. I'm Carol Costello.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Berman and Bolduan straight ahead.