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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Rockettes Members Threaten Boycott over Trump Inauguration. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 29, 2016 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Red America, blue America, this is the United States of America. I hope he doesn't use that line. That has been used before.

Guys, great to see you. Thank you so much.

Kicking up controversy. Dancer from the Rockettes are scheduled to perform at Trump's inauguration but some may be boycotting. Why? That's ahead.

And tributes are pouring in for actress and singer, Debbie Reynolds passing away just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Debbie Reynolds there, dancing up a storm in the iconic movie, "Singing in the Rain." That was one clip from her long legendary career in show business. The singer and actress, who was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood's golden age, passed away yesterday at the age of 84. This, of course, was just one day after her daughter, actress and star, Carrie Fisher, passed away.

CNN's Leila Santiago is in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I'm sure you're hearing from a lot of fans probably still dealing with the shock of how amazing this was, not only the loss of Debbie Reynolds but the day after the loss of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

[11:34:45] LEILA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. All within just a few days, so it's easy to understand sort of that shock that we are seeing, that we are feeling out here.

I will tell you, I spoke to one woman who called it surreal. I spoke to another man who said that it was just so sad and he was convinced that this was because of heartbreak. Then I spoke to another woman who said look, it's just so tragic to lose people who enlightened the world.

This wasn't just an entertainer, a celebrity, a triple threat, actress, singer, dancer. This is someone who actually contributed to the world, be it through her work with mental health or her other charitable causes.

I want you to see the star. Let me walk you through what we have seen. One gentleman dropped off this bouquet here. He dropped off these flowers and then took a moment to say a prayer next to the flowers. You see this umbrella, and I will read it to you because I'm not sure if you can see this. It says, "This is for 'Singing in the Rain.'" That making reference to that 1952 movie that really put her on the map.

And this isn't the only thing that we see out here in Hollywood. She has her handprints at the Chinese theater. I took a moment to walk over there and already there are candles and a bouquet there. This is just a few hours after her death. I suspect this is going to be a growing memorial not just in the coming hours, but also in the coming days.

Interestingly, Carrie Fisher, her daughter, actually didn't have sort of this official star, so fans have created a star for her just a block away. They took what was a blank star and put on it, "Carrie Fisher, may the force be with you always. Hope." That, of course, making reference to "Star Wars."

So not only are we seeing and feeling the shock and sadness as fans come out to take a picture, to lay down memorabilia, flowers, candles, to remember this legend, but we are seeing the mother/daughter sort of represented through the fans who are still trying to make sense of something that happened in such a short time to two people who really made an impact on Hollywood -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Leila, thank you so much.

Let me bring in to continue the discussion Matthew Belloni, executive editor of "The Hollywood Reporter."

Matthew, thank you for joining me.

MATTHEW BELLONI, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: First, I'm surprised Carrie Fisher didn't have a star.

BELLONI: Well, that speaks a little bit to her personality. The stars are oftentimes studio driven or publicity driven. You pay a fee and you get the star. It didn't surprise me because she was never really that interested in pursuing the typical Hollywood career of publicity and promotion.

BOLDUAN: I'm sure, like you, like everyone, it is horribly shocking and sad not only losing Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, full stop, but the mother and daughter passing away one day of one another. What do you make of it?

BELLONI: It really is shocking. I think when you get to this question of dying of a broken heart, consider the fact that Carrie Fisher's heart issue that she had on the plane was last Friday, so this is something that her mother had been dealing with for several days and the family had gathered at the hospital and they were actually making funeral arrangements after Carrie Fisher passed away so this is something she had been dealing with for many days and her son said that she just was overcome and she had said to him that I miss Carrie. I think that probably was a factor here.

BOLDUAN: Almost must be, you almost have to think.

Talk about Debbie Reynolds, about the mark you think she's leaving on Hollywood.

BELLONI: Well, this is someone who harkens back to the early days of the studio system and Hollywood musicals. "Singing in the Rain" still considered a classic. That was at a time when you had stars were performers, dancers, singers, actors, larger than life personalities, and she absolutely fit that bill.

She managed to maintain her stardom for years, decades, going through a very tabloid situation when her husband left her for best friend Elizabeth Taylor.

Then having Carrie Fisher, as her daughter, one of the biggest stars ever, with the "Star Wars" franchise. That was a positive and a negative. She had tumultuous years with her daughter, especially around the time of "Postcards from the Edge" which painted her mother figure very much like Debbie Reynolds in an unflattering light, someone who couldn't deal with not being the biggest star as she once was.

But both of them had reconciled, and were working together on a documentary that actually was shown at the Cannes Film Festival about both of their lives. That will air on HBO this next year.

BOLDUAN: She had ups and downs in her personal life, of course, but she had ups and downs in the business, and was pretty open about that. Speaking about Debbie Reynolds. She spoke to Larry King back, I think the interview was in 1992. Here's what she said about the ups and downs of Hollywood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:40:00] DEBBIE REYNOLDS, ACTRESS: You have to be very strong, you have to be religious, or have your own faith of some kind, because you can't let it get you down. The failure that happens to you, the rejection is pretty tough sometimes so you have to stay really strong and hang in there, believe in yourself. You know you are really good and you know, you have to know your fans love you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: She even fell into hard times. Despite her huge name, she fell into hard times financially after her divorces but kept getting back up. She was very resilient. What do you think that says about her? BELLONI: I think, exactly, it points to her resilience she had. She

was a big collector of Hollywood memorabilia. She attempted to turn that into a business at one point. She had a casino in Las Vegas that had a museum of sorts of all the memorabilia she had collected over the years. Unfortunately, that business didn't really work out and she was forced to sell a lot of that memorabilia at auction. But she ended up making a lot of money on it because she had the foresight to see that a lot of these props and dresses and things the studios were essentially throwing away ended up being valuable.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Matthew, great to see you. Thank you so much.

BELLONI: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the Israeli prime minister hitting back today after Secretary of State John Kerry's big Mideast speech. Why Prime Minister Netanyahu called that speech biased and obsessive.

Plus, the Rockettes have been wowing crowds in New York City and beyond for decades. Why now we are hearing some of them want to boycott President-elect Trump's inauguration. Details on that coming up.

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[11:45:05] BOLDUAN: Secretary of State John Kerry says a two-state solution in the Middle East right now is in serious jeopardy. He also had a blunt message for Israeli leaders.

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JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Friends need to tell each other the hard truths and friendships require mutual respect.

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BOLDUAN: This seems a direct response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comments earlier blasting the U.S. over that U.N. vote when he said friends don't take friends to the security council.

This vital relationship seemingly on the rocks right now. Where do things go from here?

Let me bring in right now Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, now Israel's deputy minister for diplomacy. He joins me on the phone.

Can you hear me?

MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI DEPUTY MINISTER FOR DIPLOMACY & FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): I hear you fine, Kate. Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. In a new opinion piece that you just put out in "Newsweek," you write

this about that U.N. resolution. I want to read it for our viewers. "The goal of the initiators of the resolution was not to achieve a better two-state solution, I believe," you write, "but to deny Israel the right to defend itself and ultimately the right to exist as sovereign Jewish state."

The prime minister believes the United States, in his words, "organized, advanced and brought forward the resolution."

So, Ambassador, are you saying you think the Obama administration wants to deny Israel's right to exist?

OREN: No. I think the administration -- and I have seen the evidence, Kate -- was involved in advancing the resolution but the resolution itself originated with the Palestinians. And the Palestinians who are pushing this resolution don't want a better two- state solution. They have said publicly on the pages of "The New York Times" that it's their goal to internationalize and legalize this conflict, to bring Israel to international courts, and to sanction and boycott us. Now, that we regard as a strategic threat. Again, that's not just arms lifting here. Maybe a lot of people may have supported this resolution thought they were advancing the peace process, but the initiative behind it, the motive behind it for us is to take us down.

BOLDUAN: Want to play for you what Secretary Kerry said about the enduring relationship between the United States and Israel yesterday. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I want to be very clear. No American administration has done more for Israel's security than Barack Obama's.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, do you agree?

OREN: I think that no administration in history has done more in terms of giving us military aid. That is true. But we all still have to grapple with the ramifications both short term and long term of the Iran nuclear deal. And I don't think you can find many Israelis who think they are more secure today because of that deal. I think we are very much insecure. We have the Iranian army operating to the north of us, the east of us and the south of us, and operating with that tail wind from the Iran nuclear deal. The money from the Iran nuclear deal and, eight, nine years from now, Iran with the same horrible regime will be able to produce not one but hundreds of nuclear weapons. So, we can't say we are more secure. It depends on how you measure secure aid. If it's just in terms of dollars, it is true. The Obama administration has given us more aid. And we are deeply appreciative of that aid. But friendship is measured not just in money. And we look to our American ally not only to back us diplomatically, give us not just the military Iron Dome but diplomatic and legal Iron dome, and to understand the citizens of this country are facing threats that are not faced by Americans every day, and when they go to the polls, they vote for leaders who they think will best protect them. And probably the biggest problem we had with Secretary Kerry's speech was the insinuation that, somehow, he and others in the administration understand what's best for Israel better than Israel's citizens do and better than our democratically elected leaders do, and here I'm quoting myself, I'm a democratically elected leader.

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, you spent a lot of time with the president during your time as ambassador. When you were leaving your post as ambassador to the United States back in 2013, you said in an interview, you called President Obama a true friend. Do you still feel that way as he prepared to leave office?

[11:49:45] OREN: I think he's a true friend, but he's a friend of a certain type. He -- President Obama himself talks about his connections with Israel and he said the Israel he respects is the Israel that existed before 1967. Israel today is actually much more democratic, much more racially and ethnically diverse than it was in 1967. We have far more women serving in our parliament than we did back then. He's a friend of a certain type of Israel. His friendship has to correspond to Israeli realities.

During Secretary Kerry's speech, there was no mention whatsoever of 1,000 Israelis who were killed by suicide bombers because of the Oslo prospects he so reveres. No mention of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. We ripped up 21 settlements to make peace with the Palestinians and we got thousands of rockets. Not mentioned. Not mentioned, we offered Palestinians full statehood, all of Gaza, half Jerusalem, almost the entire West Bank, twice, in 2000, 2008. Palestinians turned it down. Now, for eight years, the Palestinians have refused to negotiate with us.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: We --

(CROSSTALK)

OREN: -- don't see the Middle East the way the secretary sees it. It's very, very different for us.

BOLDUAN: We have to leave it there. Of course, I do want to point out that Israel rejects this, but the Palestinian president said, after the speech, they're willing to go back to the negotiating table if expansions and building and settlements stop.

OREN: With conditions.

BOLDUAN: So, obviously, that is going nowhere. Just stated. So, we have that out there.

Ambassador, always great to speak with you. Thank you.

OREN: Thank you, Kate. Be well.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

We'll be right back.

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BOLDUAN: The Radio City Rockettes have been dazzling crowds for decades with their high-kick dance moves and precision. They are booked as one of the big-name acts for the inauguration next month. But as soon as that was announced, some of the Rockettes are already trying to back out. Why?

CNN's Brynn Gingras has the details.

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[11:55:05] TRUMP: Let's see the bells. OK.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump and the Radio City Rockettes, both New York City icons.

(SINGING)

GINGRAS: But the Rockettes are kicking up a controversy over the upcoming presidential inauguration.

One dancer speaking out after feeling pressured to perform at the ceremony for a candidate she does not support. Quote, "We do a lot of events but no events that could cause trauma, and doing this would cause trauma for some people." That said to journalist, Kaitlyn Menza, in a Marie Claire exclusive report.

KAITLYN MENZA, MARIE CLAIRE: Emotionally, people were crying on stage.

GINGRAS: According to Menza, some of the dancers who are full time were initially told they had no choice but to perform in the event. Word of the performance created a firestorm within the Rockettes organization and on social media.

Marie Claire reports the backlash changed the minds of the Rockettes management. The dancers' union said it would be voluntary.

Madison Square Garden, who employs the dancers, added, quote, "We have more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available."

MENZA: A lot of artists have wanted to participate in the inauguration and she's upset the Rockettes have. That makes it seem as if they stand by him and his policies.

GINGRAS: With dancers facing criticism from some Trump supporters, others favor the boycott, like this former Rockette who appeared on "Democracy Now."

AUTUMN WITHERS, FORMER ROCKETTE: The Rockettes represent a legacy of strong, intelligence, and classy women. To associate this with Mr. Trump, who has a history of degrading women, objectifying women, in my opinion, really tarnishes what the Rockettes embody and stand for.

ANNOUNCER: The Radio City Rockettes.

(MUSIC)

GINGRAS: The famous dancers were all on board for George W. Bush's celebration, both in 2001 and 2005.

This year, they are not the only ones wanting to skip out. Sources tell CNN President-elect Trump's transition team is having a tough time booking talent.

Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Brynn, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, friends or no friends, that seems to be now a daily question about the working relationship, or lack thereof, between the president and the president-elect. What put that relationship on the rocks? And what's smoothed it over? Details coming up.

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