Return to Transcripts main page


Homeland Security Chief on New Shootings; Should We Believe Trump's Net Worth Claim?; Educator Fired Over Same-Sex Marriage; Bush's Take on Americans with Disabilities Act. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired July 18, 2015 - 09:00   ET


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: A fifth young member of the Armed Forces has died in the Chattanooga shooting being investigated as a terrorist act. What, if anything, can be done to protect us?

And Donald Trump surprises everyone by filing his financial records with typical Trump-like bravado. But how forthcoming was he really?

And despite the legalization of gay marriage and the new Pope's lenient views a beloved long-time Catholic school employee was fired for being married to a woman. You'll meet her.

I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome to the program. We begin with breaking news.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

SMERCONISH: The latest on the shootings in Chattanooga. A fifth victim has died. Early this morning, the Navy has not yet identified him but a male Navy petty officer identified by his family as Randall Smith died of his wounds Thursday at the Navy Operations Support Center in Chattanooga.

Four young Marines died at the scene. Here's the thing, my heart breaks for the families of men who wore the uniform of our nation. And my prayers go out to them. I want us to aggressively hunt and kill the perpetrators of this type of Islamic terror.

At the same time, I'm troubled. Is terror on our shores the new norm? And what does that mean for us? It appears that once again a 20- something inspired by his distorted view of Islam has killed innocent Americans. Must we get used to this?

I just want us to maintain a sense of balance. They win when we overreact. When our need for basic safety is exceeded by measures likely to only make us feel more secure. In 2007 I remember reading a book called "Overblown" by John Mueler. He's a professor at Ohio State University. He argued that fear of flying after 9/11 caused more people to drive long distances, which led to traffic accidents that probably killed more people than 9/11 itself.

He wrote this, "Which is the greater threat, terrorism or our reaction against it? A threat that is real but likely to prove to be of limited scope has been massively, perhaps even fancifully inflated to produce widespread and unjustified anxiety. This process has then led to wasteful, even self-parodic expenditures and policy overreactions."

When I read those words in 2007 I was not ready to accept them. They sounded defeatist. But now 14 years removed from 9/11 and with yet another incident they are making more sense to me. They describe the world in which we live. The point is we need to fight terror without succumbing to it.

To continue this discussion, I have the ideal person, Tom Ridge, was the governor of Pennsylvania on September 11. Then was tapped by George W. Bush to be the nation's first secretary of Homeland Security.

Joining me now is Tom Ridge, governor, let me begin with a question of semantics. What is your word choice? How do you refer to the incident that just unfolded in Chattanooga?

TOM RIDGE, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, I call it an Islamic radical attack whether or not it is tied directly to ISIL remains to be seem but it certainly, in my judgment, was inspired by ISIL, so all the politically correct people may run around with either term, but that's my belief and I just expressed it publicly.

SMERCONISH: Do you think that the administration is hindered in its fight Islamic terrorism by not using that word choice? And if so, how?

RIDGE: There is no question about it. I watched and listened very carefully to President Obama's very careful, articulation of his expression of deep sympathy, of his commitment to the FBI to get to the bottom and try to determine all the facts, but frankly there's been a persistent and consistent pattern for the past six-plus years when initially these were called manmade attacks. Do you remember that?

And failure to recognize the nature of the enemy, then you really put yourselves, you jeopardize your ability to defeat the enemy. And I think that's clear not only here domestically but it's quite clear in our response to the ever growing response of the global scourge of terrorism in ISIL that this president refused to recognize it as a global scourge.

And frankly, I think he refuses to put his commander in chief hat on to deal with it directly.

SMERCONISH: Well, he would say I'm sure it doesn't mean he's fighting any less the forces of evil that bring this about, but he doesn't want to paint with a broad brush so as to inspire hatred against the U.S. in the Muslim community where perhaps it doesn't exist.


RIDGE: Well, I think - I share that concern and belief with the president. But he is - and you and I both know, there are ways that you can inoculate that impression. And there's no one better to inoculate it than the president of the United States.

This is clearly not a condemnation of the men and women who worship the individuals that worship in the mosque. This is clearly not a condemnation of a billion-plus Muslims who live and pray in a very devout religion around the world. This is a condemnation of those who have been extreme interpretation of the Koran and who wrap their evil around the language of religion to justify it and clearly this president who understands the value of words can articulate that message clearly, succinctly and persistently. He just chooses not to do it and I frankly don't understand it and I guess I never will.

SMERCONISH: Michael McCall is the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I'd like you to watch and listen to something that he said on Friday.


MICHAEL MCCALL: We have seen too much of this traffic. There, to me, the warning signs. The targets are identical to the targets called by ISIS to attack. So my judgment, in my experience, is that this was an ISIS-inspired attack.


SMERCONISH: Governor, I guess the question is, are we ever going to be able to catch a guy like this who was operating off the grid? I know that there are reports of his father having appeared on a watchlist, but as the story is evolving thus far, there's no reason to believe that he, the shooter, in this instance had been on the minds of law enforcement?

RIDGE: No, it is impossible in a country of 310 million people to take someone - listen, I have read some of the reports about this individual fairly devout up until a couple months ago, his wrestling coach had a great deal of respect for him, his classmates had a great deal of respect for him. No apparent evidence around his inclination or desire to commit these particular acts. So I think we are kidding ourselves if we believe that we can identify all these people in advance.

SMERCONISH: Am I hearing from you the nation's first secretary of Homeland Security, get used to it. This is the new norm.

RIDGE: Unfortunately, I think that you are hearing it from me. It's - we are going to do everything we can to try to identify these individuals, but it is impossible to do so in this country in spite of our best efforts. But we're certainly not making our best efforts overseas to defeat and discredit those who have thrown this ideology out, who have used the social media to make it far more attractive than any other global terrorist organization has ever done.

And that's one of the concerns that I've had, we don't have a commander in chief who has decided to take them on and defeat them and discredit them. Air strikes won't do it. This needs to be an Arab-led coalition that can defeat them in Iraq and in Syria.

SMERCONISH: Are you suggesting that young men in the position you were years ago, meaning when you served your country in Vietnam, American men should be going over there to fight ISIS boots on the ground? RIDGE: Well, it's pretty clear that ISIL brought the fight to American

soldiers to the United States. It's pretty clear that that was their directive. It's pretty clear that this murder carried out in Tennessee. And let me be also very clear, I've had enough friends who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, these brave young and women, by the way, who understand the nature of the mission. Who probably better understand it than a lot of people in the White House that this is a global scourge. And unless it's defeated militarily, the incidents that we're talking about today will be more frequent.

But this is taking the global scourge and reminding us the battlefield, remember, the president didn't want boots on the ground. We had boots on the ground in Tennessee. And we had ISISL saying, "you don't have to defeat the enemy over there. There are those infidels in the United States that wear law enforcement uniforms, they wear military uniforms. If you can't come over here to defeat them, defeat and kill the infidels there.

SMERCONISH: Do you worry that there's a risk of overreaction? And I don't want to understate the significance of four Marines losing their lives on United States soil. I think it's god awful, but we're having this conversation at a time when I'm looking at my CNN security pass and I'm thinking about taking off my shoes at the airport. I'm thinking about the dogs below me in the building where I'm sitting, in the subway system sniffing for bombs. And on and on and on. Do we have a tendency to over react in the face of this type of a catastrophe?

RIDGE: Security is pretty heavy just about everywhere you go in this country. To your point, I think it is appropriate, Michael. We lament the loss of the lives as a barbaric and evil act. The fact of the matter is - I don't mean we become immune to it, but we have to remind ourselves that the threat of Islamic terrorism is a global scourge and until we are much more aggressive overseas, not only here but U.S. citizens elsewhere and western interests are going to be under attack.

I think the level, obviously, the FBI and local law enforcement are doing everything they can. And it appears to me there's nothing anything else they could have done to identify this person in their midst.


SMERCONISH: Governor Ridge, stick around. Because in a much more pleasant subject, you and I are going to have a conversation about one of our favorite guys. Papa Bush. We'll do that in a couple of moments. OK.

RIDGE: Thank you. You bet.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, in the months leading up to the attack, how did the gunman turn from an all-American friendly kid to a killer?

And while the other presidential candidates have downplayed their wealth, that's certainly not true for Mr. Trump. But what in his financial background would he rather not talk about?

And a beloved Catholic school employee fired because she's gay even though administrators knew she was married to a woman. Why now?


SMERCONISH: Welcome back. The Chattanooga gunman was once described by a former coach and classmates as funny and charming. He was a disciplined mixed martial arts fighter and a top student at Redbank High School in Tennessee but that image of him was quickly shattered after his deadly rampage on Thursday.


Investigators say there are several factors pointing to the possibility that the shooting may have been terror. We are now learning that the suspect spent much of his last year in the Middle East and some close to him say that the trip may have radicalized him.

Now the FBI is doing all it can to gather more information on the alleged gunman combing through his recent e-mails, his phone calls, internet usage and building a list of anyone with whom he was recently in contact. Let's dig deeper, joining me now is Shawn Henry. He is the former executive assistant director of the FBI. Shawn, given what is now known, what do you find significant about his profile?

SHAWN HENRY, FMR. FBI EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, I think that the focus will be on the travel to the Middle East. When you look at the investigation that's been done locally there in Chattanooga, the interviews of friends and family members, people at the school and where he worked, all very positive, well acclimated young men who appears to have been associated within the community.

But after coming back from the Middle East, some stark change in his personality. I think as an investigator, looking at this that's where the FBI will focus and they will look at as well those communications to try to get a better understanding of that circle of people who may have influenced him.

SMERCONISH: He seems to have a lot in common with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, middle class, educated, athlete, teachers praised, people seemingly shocked that it could have been this guy. I worry that you're never going to be able to find that kind of a guy in advance unless they have a social profile.

HENRY: Yes, Michael, that's a great point. I thought the same thing. You looked at Tsarnaev coming back after having travelled internationally prior to the events in Boston. What the FBI needs to focus on going forward is a better coordination with the community. I think the bureau has a tremendous relationship. When I was the assistant director in charge of the Washington field office, I went at the end of Ramadan to (INAUDIBLE) dinner at the mosque. I was invited in and I sat with the leaders there. It was a time of celebration. Those people - the community there is certainly against this and is in a position to potentially identify somebody who might be making violent statements or acting abnormally, particularly if they come back from a trip like this where they may have become radicalized during the course of that event. SMERCONISH: April 20 he was arrested for a DUI. Apparently he smelled

of pot and had some kind of residue on his face that may have suggested he inhaled something, which makes me wonder, well how devout was he really?

HENRY: Yes, again, looking at the community and people who know him, if they see abnormal behavior, particularly after a particular event or some interaction with somebody, that is the type of opportunity where somebody can intervene. Not necessarily bringing all of that to the law enforcement attention, but actually just sitting down and engaging that person themselves. When you see somebody acting abnormally, do they need help? Are they troubled? Is there something that's occurred in their life that has created a change? And is a potential threat.

So that private sector side for the ability for citizens and the community to come together to intervene is really, really important. When the FBI is unable to identify people who pose a specific threat. That's not going to happen with 100% certainty, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Shawn, you may have not heard my opening commentary, is this the new norm? Do we as Americans need to get used to the idea that there will be terror on our shores?

HENRY: I think that that's right. You know, the advent of the internet, the proliferation of social media, the ability for radical fundamentalists to be able to reach out from anywhere on the globe into people's living rooms, into their bedrooms where they can access this rhetoric where they get this constant barrage, this daily pummeling of information on a regular basis.

And you never know what might cause them to act. If they're having a bad day or they have a dispute at work and they finally hear something that causes them to take up arms and to harm American citizens, I think we are in a new phase in our history and it's something we're going to have to deal with as Americans for a long, long time. Michael.

SMERCONISH: Final question, if I might, do politicians get tongue-tied as to what to call this? Does the label that they affix to a tragedy like this matter to a guy is like you in law enforcement? Does it have some kind of an impact as to how we fight it?

HENRY: I think to the average citizen it probably doesn't. From the law enforcement perspective, I think it is important to categorize things only because it helps when you're doing an assessment so, for example, in this particular case I know there's been some reference to this being domestic terrorism. This is not domestic terrorism.

SMERCONISH: What is it?


HENRY: If anything, the bureau is looking at international terrorism. The term international versus domestic is based not on where it occurs but who may have inspired it. So I'm certain the bureau is looking at this as ISIS-inspired. His travel internationally is a key piece here and they would look at this as international.

So the way that it's being termed by the FBI is critical just because you can start to look for patterns and it helps to assess where you may want to look as an investigator for additional leads, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Good information, Shawn Henry. Thank you for delivering it.

HENRY: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, Donald Trump surprises everyone by filing his financial statement. But his claims keep inflating. What can we believe? I'll talk with someone who has covered Mr. Trump for decades.

And we'll meet the veteran educator who was fired for being married. All that when we come back.




DONALD TRUMP: I don't need anybody's money. I'm using my own money, I'm not using the lobbyists. I'm not using donors, I don't area. I'm really rich. (INAUDIBLE) I have assets, big accounting firm, one of the most highly respected, $9,240,000,000.

The good news is, how much do I have? $10 billion.


SMERCONISH: Welcome back. So if Donald Trump is to be believed, his net worth has gone up another billion. Just in the time since he has announced his candidacy. But how credible are those claims?

Many of us predicted that Trump would quit the race before being forced to comply with the legal requirement of revealing his tightly held financial information. But he surprised as this week by claiming he had filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Unsurprisingly, Trump's two-page press release belittles the process as, "not designed for a man of Mr. Trump's massive wealth." And it proudly proclaims in all capital letters that Mr. Trump's net worth is now in excess of $10 billion. Are his numbers real? "Forbes" recently did the math and said his net worth was more like $4 billion. That's a pretty big discrepancy.

Here to examine the Donald's financial worth and history is someone who has covered Mr. Trump, on and off for almost 30 years and who recently wrote this pointed piece, "21 Questions for Donald Trump" for the National Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Syracuse University Professor David Cay Johnston. Thanks for being here.

So he's making money. He's already made a billion dollars in the time since he announced his candidacy. How credible is that? DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: Well, when you

have nine major companies, NBC, Univision and others have cut you loose, kind of hard to imagine that increased your net worth. Of course, Donald's statement, Michael, didn't show liabilities.

Donald, in the past, has had periods where he owed more than his assets. So we don't know what his net worth is. He just told us what his assets are.

SMERCONISH: I think members of the public don't comprehend this. I was in Chicago two weeks ago. In the course of driving through downtown Chicago, there's this enormous building emblazened with Trump across it. I'm wondering if some go by a building and think, my god, Donald Trump owns that and he owns it outright. Speak to the misperception.

JOHNSTON: Yes, Donald's properties are largely heavily leveraged. He once persuaded one of the major banks not to file a mortgage against one of his properties, which I revealed years ago. So, Donald and these buildings, some he only licenses his name and has a small sliver of ownership in them. Some things he owns outright. And then we don't know within the property what he has farmed out to other people, what his share of the profits it. So it is very misleading if you think because his name is on the building, it's huge.

Many of his businesses have been failures. The casino company went through bankruptcy three times. The Trump shuttle failed. He has had lots of businesses, very successful business people often have business failures, but according to Donald everything is a success.

SMERCONISH: But he is really rich, right? You can't deny he's a really rich guy.

JOHNSTON: Without any doubt, Donald is an extremely wealthy man. But to live the lifestyle he has doesn't require $10 billion even if you have that much. So it could be much lower and we don't know.

SMERCONISH: Let's drill down on an example of his worth, at least, as represented by Mr. Trump. He says that with regard to the "The Apprentice," he was paid $213 million for 14 seasons. That's not a bad day at the office.

JOHNSNTON: That's pretty good. You'll recall that in 2011, Mr. Trump announced that he had signed a two year deal for $130 million. And NBC, his employer, issued a statement saying those numbers are way, way out of bounds. It's nowhere near that kind of money. And Donald has testified under oath that he inflates the numbers he tells people. He's admitted to this under oath. So you have to understand that Donald puts a number, you can't rely on.

SMERCONISH: With regard to immigration, illegal immigration. As a businessman, has he practiced what he has preached?

JOHNSTON: No. And the most famous example was when he tore down Trump Tower.

SMERCONISH: Sure. JOHNSTON: There were 12 union guys in hard hats and 150 illegally here Polish men without hard hats. He paid them less than $5 an hour and somehow avoided safety inspections and labor troubles during that period. And was found by a judge to have engaged in a conspiracy to cheat the workers out of their pay.

SMERCONISH: Here's what surprises me. There was recently in "The New York Times," your former employer, where you won a Pulitzer prize, two front page stories about Marco Rubio. One had to deal with the way in which he runs his own personal finances. Another that delved into his driving record.

We learned since 1977 he and his wife have racked up 17 driving offenses. By the way, 13 were hers, four were his. Here's the question, none of that kind of scrutiny has been applied to the business practices of Mr. Trump. I wonder why as a journalism question, when that happens, will he be able to withstand that level of scrutiny with regard to his business practices?

[09:30:03] JOHNSTON: Well, Donald is very good at bullying news organizations and threatening people.

SMERCONISH: Did he ever threaten you?

JOHNSTON: Oh, sure. Oh, sure. I've gotten the whole treatment, being romanced and being told I'm the most awful person in the world. And he does to government officials, especially if you write about how Donald doesn't pay people that he owes money to or tries to avoid paying. I think if you're running for president, we should thoroughly vet who you are. We should you're your background and your past.

And, no, I don't think Donald will survive that, and part of the reason he won't survive it is, when Donald built Trump Tower and other buildings, he chose a company called S&A Concrete. It was owned by the mob.

His personal helicopter pilot was convicted of cocaine and marijuana trafficker, both and before he was in prison. And Donald wrote a wrote a letter seeking leniency and the sentencing of this man, whose case came up before of all people --

SMERCONISH: His sister.

JOHNSTON: His sister who recused herself.

SMERCONISH: I remember that.

JOHNSTON: She recused herself from it.

But Donald has had a lot of unsavory relationships that need to be examined in terms of his past. And if we're going to pick a president by Donald's standard, "I'm rich I'm worth $10 billion", well, I'm sure, Warren Buffett first and then Bill Gates, and Sheldon Gates is worth is $22 billion, at least. Let's make Sheldon president.

SMERCONISH: He clearly thinks the size of one's wallet ought to determine their thickness for wallet.

Quick final question, is he a generous guy?

JOHNSTON: No, nobody is going to find a serious record of that. He hasn't put a penny that we can tell into his own foundation since 2006. And before that, most of the money became the World Wrestling Foundation. But people who do business with him --

SMERCONISH: How appropriate.

JOHNSON: -- made contributions to his foundation.


SMERCONISH: And, by the way, still a cloud surrounding Trump University and the case, I think, from Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, is still pending.

JOHNSTON: No, Schneiderman said it was an illegal institution. Trump said, $35,000, I'll show up. He never showed up. I'll give you an explosive list of banks, they copied in magazines. You can buy them --

SMERCONISH: I can't wait so see what he called you on Twitter as a result of having been here to offer that opinion.

JOHNSTON: Thank you, David. Well, you'll be in a good company, mine.

Coming up, her sexuality was no secret. So, did a Catholic school go too far when they fired a long time beloved gay employee? We'll hear from both the president of the Catholic League, who says the case is a slam dunk, as well as the educator who was let go. Who she's appealing to for a little help you'll find interesting.


[19:36:28] SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

A headline from today's newspapers, in fact, I've got "The Times" right here, might alter the future rights of gays in the workplace. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal under federal law. Now, the ruling is not binding on federal courts but it might benefit employees who are fired for being gay.

In my hometown of Philadelphia, one such case right now is the source of great controversy. It certainly caught my eye as a cafeteria Catholic.

Margie Winters was the director of Religious Education at Waldron Mercy Academy. A title held since 2007, about as long as she was married to her wife Andrea. But her tenure with the school was terminated after some parents learned of her marriage and complained to both the school and the Philadelphia archdiocese.

Here's the deal, Winters never tried covering up who she is or who she is married to. And that has many asking, well, why now? And why the school hired her in the first place?

Joining me now is Margie Winters and her wife, Andrea Vettori.

First of all, people may be surprised to know that perhaps up until this development, you don't have a legal leg to stand on in challenging your termination.


SMERCONISH: And you acknowledge that?


SMERCONISH: So, you're not here to fight legally for your job, you just want your story told.

WINTERS: That's right. We think it's important that we've raised awareness of this in the community and in particular, in the Catholic community.

SMERCONISH: I have talked about your plight on the radio extensively. And a number of radio callers want to know, why did you want that job to begin with if you were the director of religious education and you knew that the church teachings were at odds with your marriage?

WINTERS: Well, my answer would be why wouldn't I? Waldron Mercy Academy is a wonderful community filled with faith-filled parents and children and teachers who are committed to mercy and justice. So, I think it has been a great place for me to express my faith and help the children learn about theirs.

SMERCONISH: Was there ever conflict in the way in which you approached your job and your own marriage? And if so, how did you resolve those issues?

WINTERS: There was never a conflict with my job. You know, in my job, I think I approached it as presenting the Catholic faith as it is. The conflict is, you know, with the understanding of teachings of the church. And for me, it's a conflict of vision, of who we are as a church.

SMERCONISH: If you had been an activist, say, for Planned Parenthood and held the same position, you could understand given the pro-life position of the church how they wouldn't want you in that role. Is this the same kind of circumstance?

WINTERS: I don't think so, because I think, you know, the marriage issue goes to or -- you know, goes to I am as a person and who God made me as. So, I don't think it's the same.

SMERCONISH: I was surprised, Andrea, with you have appealed to the pope. I always wondered, how do you address a letter to the pope? Here it is, Apostolic Palace, 120 Vatican City.

ANDREA VETTORI, MARGIE WINTERS' WIFE: We wondered that, too. We had to do some research.

SMERCONISH: Any reply from the pontiff thus far?

VETTORI: Not yet.

SMERCONISH: He said things recently that would seem supportive of a union like this.

VETTORI: Oh, absolutely. He has reached out to the gay and lesbian community. And I think, more importantly, he's a very pastoral pope. He has shown that he really wants to get to know the people that he shepherds. And that's really all we're asking, is to get to know us. You know, let us tell you our story.

[09:40:00] SMERCONISH: I was -- you already heard me describe myself as a cafeteria Catholic. I'm taking the Jell-O, I'm rejecting the turkey, you know what that's about. I was surprised by the depth of your faith in light of this, that this hadn't challenged your Catholic faith at all.

VETTORI: On the contrary. It's made it even deeper.


VETTORI: I love this church. And I think this has made me realize how much I want to fight for it, because there are some that want to exclude me from the faith. And I don't want to be excluded.

SMERCONISH: But by church teaching and the catechism, this is not something that the church condones.

VETTORI: It's not something that the hierarchy of the current church condones, but I think, you know, when Christ walked the earth, he railed against the hierarchy for trying to exclude people by using the laws of the faith at that time to exclude people. If that's not happening now, I don't know what else this is.

SMERCONISH: Margie, I can attest to the fact that at home in Philadelphia you have been the recipient of tremendous support. Can you summarize the sentiment at the school among the parents?

WINTERS: I think people are just in disbelief. And, in particular, because I think it goes against who they are. This community has claimed mercy and openness, trust, hospitality. And they are wondering, you know, they are struggling with the tension between the decision and who we are.

SMERCONISH: Am I right in saying that when you were hired you made clear that you were married.


SMERCONISH: And the principal who hired you knew that and it was fine.

WINTERS: And it was fine, yes.

SMERCONISH: And there was a change in the leadership of the school?

WINTERS: Yes. But that had nothing to do with this. The decision really -- or the conflict came when a parent complained about this.

SMERCONISH: How many beefed? One?

WINTERS: One parent, actually I think two as far as I'm aware.

SMERCONISH: And one last thing that's important, you weren't fired by the archdiocese. This is a private Catholic school, but Archbishop Chaput has weighed in on the side of your termination.

WINTERS: Yes, he has.

SMERCONISH: OK. Well, the pope comes to Philly in September.


SMERCONISH: Are you going to make a play to his attention in.

WINTERS: We are.

VETTORI: We hope to. I think if he hears our story, he would want to sit down and talk with us.

SMERCONISH: Well, thank you both for being here.

WINTERS: You're welcome.

Now to the flip side -- it's undeniable that public perception about homosexuality and same sex marriage dramatically shifted in recent years. But the Catholic Church's stance has not. So, Winters' firing doesn't come as a surprise to many, including the president of the Catholic League who has an op-ed out this morning about her firing.

Joining me now is Bill Donohue.

Bill, I have to ask, you know, the Jesus question. Would he be cool with the termination of this educator?

BILL DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE PRESIDENT: Oh, absolutely. Remember what Jesus did with the money changers? He took out his whip, didn't he? And he said, "Get out".

You cannot come into a voluntary organization, I don't care if it's a Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, doesn't make any difference, knowing full well what their strictures are, and then deceitfully decide, "Well, I'm just going to stay there and park myself there." An, by the way, the pope never said, let me correct this thing, Mike, the pope never said anything, even close to acknowledging and sanctioning gay marriage, never.

SMERCONISH: Wait a minute, if someone is gay who searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? Aren't you judging?

DONOHUE: He made a judgment, didn't he, when he said I'm not going to judge.

SMERCONISH: Come on, he's your guy. He speaks --

DONOHUE: I know that. And he speaks for me on that.

What he's saying is, he's not talking about homosexuality. He's not talking about marriage. He's simply saying something which is hardly unremarkable, which the previous popes have all accepted. If you happen to be gay, you are deserving of equal dignity as a child of God as if you were straight.

Now, there's a profound difference between being gay and straight and two guys saying, "I'm going to get married." We took our ideas from Jews. If you were at an orthodox Jewish school or Muslim school and you said, "I'm the director of religious education but don't really care for Islamic changes, I don't care for Judaic teachings when it comes to marriage," what would they do? Wouldn't they throw you out? Would this even be an issue for anybody of those folks?

SMERCONISH: Respectfully, that's not what I'm hearing from these women. To the contrary, they are the real embodiment of Catholicism.

I want to ask you something else. I have a colleague --

DONOHUE: You know the Catholic Church doesn't teach it.

SMERCONISH: I have a colleague --

DONOHUE: This is not what the Catholic Church teaches.

SMERCONISH: Let me show you something. I have a colleague at home in Philadelphia. Her name is Ronnie Paloneczky. She writes for "The Philadelphia Daily News". And she who wrote this, put it on the screen, "Attention all you divorced, remarried, pill-popping, Viagra- chewing, infertility busting, masturbating and/or unmarried fornicating employees of Waldron Mercy Academy: You days are numbered."

Hey, doesn't she have a point? Aren't we all in glass houses?

DONOHUE: No. I think there's really no asylum (ph) for her, if you want to know the truth.

[09:45:01] We're talking about many somebody to make a public statement. Everybody knew, eventually, they found out, that she was living in violation of the Catholic Church's teachings. It's not even a gray area. You either accept the teachings or you don't.

It's a voluntary organization. If I joined a vegetarian society and became an officer and I finally said, "You know, you guys ought to lighten up. What's wrong with having a hot dog at a ball game?", they'd show me the gate. That's exactly what should happen at any private institution.

SMERCONISH: OK. You know, the lawyer in me loves the analogy. So, I'll play along. If I'm a vegan and work at McDonald's but make a hell of a burger, right, should I nonetheless be fired when they say, oh, my God, Smerconish is a vegan. Isn't the most important thing she was competent in her job and that her marriage at home didn't intrude on the way -- I mean, let's cut to the chase, are you worried she's going to teach kids to be a lesbian?

DONOHUE: Yes, yes, yes.

Look, you can have a Catholic teacher arguably according to this insanity who belonged to the Klan, but only on weekends. We don't advertise that I belong to the Klan, but once in a while I hang out with the imperial wizards and I teach very good math.

Look, this is not even a math teacher. This was the teacher of religious education.


DONOHUE: She was there to subvert the Catholic Church and she lost.

SMERCONISH: She's been fired for doing something that's now legal across the country according to the Supreme Court of the United States.

DONOHUE: What? Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church. We don't care what the civil society says. It's a sacrament. It's entirely different.

We don't want the state telling the church what to do.

SMERCONISH: The pontiff is coming to Philadelphia and my guest before you, they say they will make this an issue upon his arrival. You heard that one of them has written to his holiness.


SMERCONISH: What do you think, if anything, he'll do with this issue?

DONOHUE: I think that he's engaged in outreach in pastoral changes, some stylistic changes, to soften the church's approach. But in terms of substantively changing doctrine, he's referred to the idea of gay marriage as the work of the devil. I mean, why don't people read what he has said?

SMERCONISH: All right. I think I read accurately what he actually has said on this. Perhaps he said things that are in contradiction with it. Bill, you know, I appreciate you being here. I don't -- final word, I don't think time is on your side with this argument. You must know that.

DONOHUE: You know what? I don't really care. I'm not engaged in a popularity contest. I'm engage with the Catholic Church and the pursuit of truth, that's it.

SMERCONISH: Thank you very much, Bill Donohue.

DONOHUE: Thank you, Mike. SMERCONISH: Coming up, Bush 41 on the mend this weekend after breaking a bone in his neck. I'll have the latest on his condition, as well as a new moving interview he did right before his accident. In it, he reveals the achievement he's most proud of as president.

I'll be right back.


[09:52:16] SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

Good news to report. After a big scare this week for the Bush family, its patriarch, former President George Herbert Walker Bush is expected to quickly bounce back after breaking a bone in his neck, the fracture caused by a fall on Wednesday at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Doctors say the 91-year-old, our nation's oldest living president, is in great shape, in great spirits and will not require surgery.

This latest incident comes a week shy of the 25th anniversary when Bush 41 signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Among those extensive pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.

President Bush, from whom I had the privilege of serving in a subcabinet level appointment in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, recently sat down to discuss that historic day in 1990 with former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.


TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Was it wonderful that you had Republicans and Democrats laying out that platform for people with disabilities?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Very important. If it had just been one party kind of thing, it would have been less effective. So, I think -- I think it's very important. Something I'm very proud of, perhaps proudest of when I was president.


SMERCONISH: Tom Ridge, who served in Congress under President Bush and voted for the ADA joins me again from Washington. Was it a controversial vote at the time that it was taken?

RIDGE: I think the way President Bush and then-Attorney General Thornburgh and I think on the Republican side, and Tom Harken and Senator Kennedy -- I mean, it truly shows the value of the country coming together around a common commitment to a common cause. I bet -- we needed the leadership. Many presidents had been talking about it, but he is the first one that embraced it and then committed his administration to getting the votes and getting it done.

And I was so happy to hear him say that he was proud about it because there's a lot of things that President Bush could be proud about that this sweeping change in civil rights legislation, ending discrimination, insisting that people have access to -- people with disabilities have access to public and private buildings, that they reasonable accommodations at the work place.

SMERCONISH: Governor, he is such a remarkable individual. I can remember being an 18-year-old Pennsylvanian in 1980 when he was running for president under the slogan, "A president we won't have to train", which was a reflection of his remarkable biography up until that time. And, of course, sill to come, was his tenure as vice- president for eight years and then president for four.

RIDGE: You know, that's one of the reasons -- I mean, candidly, Michael, that's one of the reasons I got involved. A little clip -- had a conversation with President Bush.

[09:55:01] I have a great deal of affection for the man. This was a man who was destined to be president. He's got public service in his DNA. He brings an agile mind and a huge heart to his terms as a vice president and presidency. And I think that his legacy is strong and this particular piece of legislation, in spite of all the other things he did, with helping dismantle the Soviet Union, and the great work he did overseas, the relationships he built overseas, among his most significant accomplishments, and he admitted himself, is the Americans with Disabilities Act.

SMERCONISH: Governor, thank you for joining us to salute a great American and a great achievement. And thank you for your work in this regard.

RIDGE: Nice talking with you again, Michael. Always my pleasure. Thank you very much.

SMERCONISH: I'll be right back.


SMERCONISH: Every week, I like to end the show and say you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish. A lot of Twitter activity today. Jacob who says, "@Smerconish always has guests that are not politically correct for the most part @CNN. That's why I watch it."

Thank you for that. There was also Jason however who says, "Schmerconish, another petty, jealous, liberal moron who knows best for us all."

Hey, Jason, I don't want to be petty but I think you mean "for all us".

I'll see you next week.