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First Funerals to Be Held Today for Victims of Synagogue Massacre; Trump Continues Fearmongering Ahead of Midterms; Pastor Calls on Sessions to Repent for Immigration Stance. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired October 30, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Jewish people are strong and resilient. Hopefully from this, we will be stronger.
[07:00:32] BILL PEDUTO (D), MAYOR OF PITTSBURGH: We did try to get the message out to the White House that our priority is the first funeral.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump he is so divisive, it will be a distraction.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the climate is going to change in this country, it has to start at the top.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That is outrageous that anybody other than the individual who carried out the crime would hold that responsibility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an absolute moral vacuum in this White House, and they're all collaborators.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things can never be the same in our country.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone.
Welcome to your NEW DAY. Funeral services begin for two -- three of the 11 victims who were murdered by that gunman inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, just because they were Jewish.
The two brothers, Cecil and David Rosenthal, and Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz will be laid to rest today. President Trump is traveling to Pittsburgh despite the fact that some local officials wish he would wait. The president will visit with the first lady, his daughter Ivanka and
his son-in-law Jared Kushner. The president says he wants to pay his respects, but Pittsburgh -- Pittsburgh's mayor says the president is not the priority today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PEDUTO: We did try to get the message out to the White House that our priority tomorrow is the first funeral. I do believe that it would be best to put the attention on the families this week. And if he were to visit, choose a different time to be able to do it.
Our focus as a city will be on the families and the outreach that they'll need this week and the support that they'll need to get through it. Once we get past that, then I think there's the opportunity for presidential visits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Listen carefully to the words the president has chosen since the attack and since bombs were sent to his critic. He is fueling conspiracy theories about a group of asylum-seeking Central Americans 1,000 miles away from the U.S. border with Mexico. The president is calling it an invasion, the same type of language used by the synagogue attacker.
The president also is referring to the media as the enemy of the people again. This clearly is his midterm message.
CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, the rabbi of the Tree of Life Synagogue, and he will lead the funeral services for the Rosenthal brothers later this morning.
Rabbi, thank you so much for taking time to be on our program with us. We know you have a very busy and very sad morning ahead of you.
But Rabbi, we just wanted to have you back. I can't tell you how many people yesterday made a point of e-mailing me or coming up to me directly and telling me how moved they were by your words here on NEW DAY yesterday. And so we wanted to check back in with you and just hear how you're feeling and how your congregation is doing this morning.
RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, RABBI OF THE TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: Warm greetings from Squirrel Hill, Alisyn.
I think we're trying to put the pieces back together. Everyone, I think, is still in varied degrees of grief, shock, dismay, all rolled into one.
And my priority and responsibility, particularly over these next few days, is to tend to my congregation, all of their needs, most particularly the families who suffered losses. I mean, I met with a family yesterday; and how do I answer them when the parents say, "We thought the graves would be for us, not for our children"? How do you answer that? CAMEROTA: I don't know, Rabbi. How do you answer that to them?
MYERS: As best as I could. I said to them, "We have to be grateful for the years that we did have and what a gift both of your sons were to all of us, and how blessed we've been, and how they enriched our lives, and how lucky we were that they were part of us for the time that they were here.
CAMEROTA: I want to talk to you a little bit more about these brothers, Cecil and David Rosenthal, because although the rest of us don't know them the way you did, we've come to know them, we feel, through particularly this photo that somehow, I think, captures their warmth.
I mean, the idea that these gentlemen were greeters for so long at the synagogue. And we can only imagine that their smiles and how they greeted people. And we know that they had special needs and that they made much of their life about the Tree of Life Synagogue. So what will you say about them today?
[07:05:08] MYERS: Well, I haven't really formed all my words yet. I -- I hope I get some divine guidance as to the right words, but I can share with you, in the time that I've known both Cecil and David, that they brought a warmth into the building that had nothing to do with the heating system.
That when I would first walk into the building, they'd be there already, with a warm greeting: How am I, how's my family? And it just perks you up immediately to know, well, what an innately warm and wonderful human being, why can't there be more people like Cecil and David.
CAMEROTA: I think we all wonder that, obviously, in this time of threats and violence and crime. And of course, we look to our leaders to give us comfort during that time, and we look to our religious leaders, like you.
And so what do you say to your congregants? What do you say to the country? How are we supposed to make sense of everything that's happened in the past week?
MYERS: Sense, I haven't come an answer with yet, but I can say this, and this has been my message since this horrific incident. Words of hate must cease. I spoke Monday evening, I think was the vigil. The days have melded into one. I've lost track of what day today even is.
I said to our elected leaders that "You're our leaders. We turn to you. You're the models for our country. When you speak words of hate, when you speak ill of the other candidate, any words of hate, Americans listen to you. They get their instructions from you. When you speak words of hate, you say to them, 'This is OK. You can do it, as well.'"
So I turn to all of our elected leaders, because hate doesn't know a political party. Hate is not blue; hate is not red; hate is not purple. Hate is in all. I turn to them to say tone down the hate, speak words of love, speak words of decency and of respect. When that message comes loud and clear, Americans will hear that, and we can begin to change the tenor of our country.
CAMEROTA: From your lips to our leaders' ears, Rabbi.
I've heard that you've taken some heat for saying that President Trump is welcome in your synagogue. What do you say to people who criticize you for opening your doors to the president at this time?
MYERS: When I first said that the president was welcome, I've received a lot of e-mail, too numerous to count. I can't keep track. For every e-mail I read, two appear as I'm reading that one, so I just cannot keep up with it. I've received many e-mails that are not happy with those words.
The thing that saddens me is those e-mails also contain hate. And it just continues in this vicious cycle, hate promulgating more hate, promulgating more hate; and that's just not the solution. We need to be better than this. We can be better than this.
CAMEROTA: I was struck by you saying that you're not a rabbi for Republicans, you're not a rabbi for Democrats, you're a rabbi. And so how -- and you stick to the ideals, those principles, but how do you break that cycle of hate?
MYERS: After I share that solution, will you nominate me for the Nobel Peace Prize?
CAMEROTA: We already will.
MYERS: Thank you. I think -- I think it just comes one person at a time.
The -- I don't think there's a magic solution to breaking hate. I think every human being has the capability of being evil and of being good. They make a personal choice which direction they want to go. I've made the choice, and some say rather naively, but I've made the choice that good will always win out and that this is not about any one person. This is about hate, and that good must win. The alternative, I don't want to think about.
CAMEROTA: Do you plan to see President Trump during his visit today?
MYERS: I have no plans at this time for any involvement. My attention will be with the family. I have a funeral; and I must tend to their needs, and that's where my attention is focused.
CAMEROTA: If you do see him, what message will you give to him?
MYERS: The same message I just shared with you.
CAMEROTA: Yesterday, Rabbi, you shared with us something very personal about how you were feeling, because you were in the synagogue when the gunfire broke out, when the attack happened. You did the best you could. You were the first to call 911, as far as you know. You tried to save lives. I believe you did, but not everyone's. And you are processing that and wrestling with those feelings, and I'm
wondering what you tell yourself when you struggle with that guilt.
MYERS: I'm still wrestling with it. I still have the entire loop of those 20 minutes or so playing in my head nonstop. I think that's just part of how I'm going to find ways for me to cope with this, as well, but that's for another day. My attention first has to be with my congregants and their needs.
My -- I will attend to myself. I'm not that foolish, but that's not my priority right now. My congregants are all my priority.
CAMEROTA: Rabbi, what about the synagogue? What about that -- that building that has meant so much to people but that frankly became a crime scene? Do people -- can people go back? What happens there?
MYERS: The building is still not open or available. It's still an active crime scene with the FBI doing their due diligence. And I must commend them for the care and respect that they've given to our building, to our Torah scrolls and other religious artifacts.
I've been in the building. I've seen the aftermath of the chapel, so I know exactly what the challenges are for them and how warm and caring and professional they've done and I must commend them for all their actions.
We will not be in there for a very long time. I can't give you a timetable. There's much that needs to be rebuilt, both the physical structure as well as the rebuilding of my congregation.
I have no doubt there will be people who may not feel comfortable going back into that building, and those are going to be real long- term challenges for us. But we're a Tree of Life. We will rebuild, and life will continue in this building.
CAMEROTA: Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, we really appreciate you taking time on this morning to give us your words of comfort. And we are thinking about you and your congregation and Squirrel Hill and all of Pittsburgh today. Thank you very much.
MYERS: Thank you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: If you would like to help the families of the victims, you can go to CNN.com/Impact.
BERMAN: I cannot believe that Rabbi Jeffrey Myers survived a shooting not three days ago. Think of his eloquence. Think of his poise and think about where he was on Saturday morning. The strength that runs through that man's veins is astounding to me.
Jeffrey Myers, I think, this morning is America's rabbi, I think it's safe to say. And if he's not, he should be soon, because we should listen to his words very carefully.
Joining us now, CNN political analyst David Gregory; former White House legislative affairs director and CNN political commentator Marc Short; and former director of communications outreach for the Hillary Clinton campaign and CNN political commentator Jess McIntosh.
David, I want to start with you, because I think he gave us a roadmap. Rabbi Myers gave us a roadmap for how to approach this week and how to approach many of the questions facing the country today. He's welcoming the president. He wants the president to come and visit Pittsburgh and help heal.
But he also says very clearly -- and the president is part of the audience here -- when you speak words of hate, you allow other peoples to do it, too. You send the message that it is OK to do it, too. Rabbi Myers has a lot of wisdom.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He does, and I said when he was on the program yesterday that it is refreshing and important and just unfortunate that it's through this circumstance that a faith leader like Rabbi Myers is elevated in public discourse; that we can have him as a civic leader who can lift up the best of who we are, who can counsel citizens and who can counsel leaders on appropriate discourse and on fundamental American values.
You know, when he talks about standing up against hate, that's an American value. When I talks about welcoming the stranger, yes, a core religious principle in the Judeo-Christian tradition but a primary American value. And those are the words that we need to hear right now, instead of making different kinds of judgments. Those judgments will come, and they have their place.
But I think his emphasis is something that we all need to hear, because he is somebody -- he's not just a symbol for the country. And you talk about, you know, the grief. And the psalms say that God is close to the broken-hearted, they are relying on that wisdom from their rabbi, because there's no one else who can even begin to solve those wounds.
[07:15:03] CAMEROTA: Mark, that brings us to the president.
What we just heard from the rabbi was that he's asking everyone, he's beseeching everyone to stop the hateful talk. The president has even, just since all of this, used terms like enemy of the people, invaders. He's called people crazed lunatics, I mean, other politicians, just Democrats. Wackos --
CAMEROTA: Thieves. Why isn't the president stopping the hateful talk?
MARC SHORT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Alisyn, I think -- well, first, I think the rabbi, his advice is right. I think we all need to tone down the rhetoric, not just our elected leaders but, frankly, those on your shows and those of us in the news media.
CAMEROTA: Good. I'll start now. I won't use any of those terms against anybody. I won't call anybody the enemy of the people. I won't call anybody a thief or a crazed lunatic or wacko. Can the president follow suit? SHORT: Alisyn, that's a question for the president. I can't answer
CAMEROTA: You know him.
SHORT: I also have seen the president comfort families from Dover Air Force Base, who have lost soldiers in battle. I've seen him comfort victims of sexual assault --
CAMEROTA: And that's what's so confusing. That's what's so confusing. When he uses words of comfort and then reverts right back to the hateful talk. And so are you calling on the president to stop this kind of talk?
SHORT: Alisyn -- Alisyn, look, I've just said I think that all elected leaders need to tone down.
BERMAN: He is included in that.
SHORT: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BERMAN: Crystal-clear, he is included in that.
SHORT: Yes, he is the very top. He's the president of the United States.
BERMAN: So you'd like to see the president and others cut down on the rhetoric?
SHORT: What I've said on your show multiple times is the media is not the enemy of the people. And I've said repeatedly, though, that with that responsibility of free press also comes the possibility to report things fairly and accurately.
CAMEROTA: We know that.
SHORT: And I do think there has been enormous bias against this administration.
CAMEROTA: But the president has a responsibility, right?
SHORT: Yes, Alisyn, I said that three times. I'll say it again.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
SHORT: Of course. Of course. We all do.
CAMEROTA: You always work your way around to blaming the media, and that's the part that we have to stop.
SHORT: No, Alisyn, what I'm saying is -- no, what I'm saying is we all have a responsibility here. And I think what the media wants to keep doing is to turn this back and saying it's only the president's fault. How much have --
CAMEROTA: We have not said that. SHORT: Alisyn, come on. How much anti-Semitism -- we're covering
this right now. In Minnesota's Fifth District there's a Congressional Democrat that's running an anti-Semitic campaign. She has all sorts of anti-Semitic language in her past, and she's going to be the nominee. How much has CNN covered that? Do you even know her name? Do you even know who she is?
CAMEROTA: We've reported on it. But the point is, is that it trickles down from the top. Does it not? The president's words not matter?
SHORT: I think everybody has responsibility here.
CAMEROTA: I would say that one person has more responsibility.
SHORT: I accept that.
BERMAN: Jess, you look at Pittsburgh right now, and the rabbi did say that people need to change their language of hate. because it sends a message. But the rabbi also said that the president, he welcomes the president to be there.
JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think one of the ways that you can get through to somebody when clearly telling the president that the kind of hateful rhetoric is actually -- now it's physically hurting people. That hasn't seemed to work.
One of the ways to reach somebody who seems to be unreachable is to model for them what kind of inclusivity you would like to see from them. So I can only imagine that that's the emotional burden that the rabbi is taking on on the president's behalf today, and I certainly thank him for his grace and ability to do that.
I think more than toning down the hateful rhetoric, the president has -- he's one of the few people in the country right now who could truly get through to the people who believe this incredibly harmful conspiracy theory that there is a caravan of invaders coming to get us, and they are financed by Jewish Americans. And they have to be stopped, or they're going to destroy the way that we live.
That's -- that's the belief that's fueling this hate and fueling this violence. And the people who subscribe to that conspiracy theory tend to love the president.
If he stood there and said, "The caravan is made up of women and children who are hoping to seek a legal welcome to our country. There is nothing to be afraid of," that would carry some major weight. It's more than just stopping calling people the enemy of the people or stopping saying that it's the media's fault that people are trying to be violent towards them.
It's about admitting that some of the fearmongering they're doing seven days out from the midterms is not at all based in fact. It's meant to rile up the base; and it's incredibly sad that it's continuing when people are actually getting hurt.
CAMEROTA: What about that, Marc?
SHORT: And yet the shooter in this case specifically said he thought the president was too close to Jews. He said he'd elevated too many Jews in his administration, so --
CAMEROTA: But he used the same language in terms of invaders.
SHORT: There are a lot of people that have used that language. There's a lot of people that have used that language, Alisyn. You can't say the guy, the shooter says that --
CAMEROTA: Do you think --
SHORT: That he hates the president because he's too close to Jews then we say that the president is at fault in some way because of --
CAMEROTA: Do you think that the president's rhetoric about the migrant group is helping?
SHORT: I think the president is raising a real concern about the problem we have on our southern border. I think it's a legitimate issue. Absolutely.
CAMEROTA: You know they're not at our southern border. Right? You know they're 2,000 miles away?
SHORT: Alisyn, do you think we have a problem on our southern border?
CAMEROTA: I think the problem is way down, and I don't think that these folks are a marauding band of invaders.
SHORT: I think that we have --
CAMEROTA: Do you?
SHORT: I think we have a serious problem on our southern border, and it continues to be porous. I think the president's raised intention of that --
[07:20:00] BERMAN: I don't think we have the chart now, but just so people know, the illegal border crossings, the arrests at the border are near an historic low. They're about 390,000, which is the lower end. If you look back to the year 2000, it was well over, I think, 1.6 million. We usually have that chart on hand today, but just so you can see, it is going down over time.
David, what I'm interested in, again, over the next seven days is clearly how the president intends to use the same words he has used: invaders, invasion. He did last night. To use the same words he does about the media, "enemy of the people." And these were the very words and the very framing that Rabbi Myers just warned us about.
GREGORY: Yes, he did, and I think that the president has a special obligation to make it clear, when he denounces anti-Semitism, that anyone who would use these tropes or anyone who would use these images to actually commit crime, to commit murder are people that he does not want support from, does not want in his midst.
But I will also make a point that I've made earlier this morning, that I think we make a mistake if we do not widen out this discussion to focus on the resurgence of ancient hatred against Jews and others that has been unleashed.
That is not the work of President Trump. That has been a part of the American fabric for a very, very long time and has received the kind of connective tissue that only social media can provide.
And that is something that we need to focus on, as well. Why this hate is being unleashed, why it seems to be growing, why people in their anxiety feel a need to connect around this kind of anti- Semitism, because that's what's coursing through social media. And it doesn't help if we're going to start to assign blame when you have leaders in Silicon Valley like Mark Zuckerberg, who considered denial of the Holocaust a legitimate view to express online, that you can disagree with, but that's somehow based in fact when it's demonstrably false.
BERMAN: We have a whole discussion coming up on social media and the role it has played in the rise of anti-Semitism and the discussion about nationalism. And later in the show, Fareed Zakaria is going to join us to talk about the international trends pointing this way, along with Ian Bremmer, your friend that you have off and on the show here.
CAMEROTA: I am a fan.
BERMAN: Your friend. You used language very similar to David Gregory, which is that -- to say that President Trump is the cause is inaccurate but that, you know, he is a symptom here. And in some cases --
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, sure, people are debating whether he's a symptom or catalyst, and that's part of what we're having to debate. Marc Short, we appreciate you being here and your perspective. Jess McIntyre [SIC], always great -- McIntosh, always great to have you here; and David Gregory.
BERMAN: There was a dramatic confrontation between a pastor and the attorney general of the United States. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. WILL GREEN, BALLARDVALE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: Brother Jeff, as a fellow United Methodist, I call upon you to repent, to care for those in need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: The inspiration behind that pastor's protest, next.
[07:27:00] BERMAN: There was a dramatic confrontation between the attorney general of the United States and two religious leaders, pastors. It was over the issue of immigration. It happened in Boston as the attorney general was addressing a crowd about religious freedom. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREEN: I was hungry, and you did not feed me. I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me. I was naked, and you did not clothe me.
Brother Jeff, as a fellow United Methodist, I call upon you to repent. To care for those in need. To remember that when you do not care for others, you are wounding the body of Christ.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, thank you for those remarks and attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Joining me now is Reverend Will Green of Ballardvale United Church in Andover, Massachusetts. Sir, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate it.
What inspired you to stand up at that event and confront the attorney general of the United States?
GREEN: Thank you so much. Good morning. It's great to be here. I really appreciate the time to share with you.
So three things I want to share about yesterday and the interaction with the attorney general.
The first is that I think people saw that those of us engaging in the disruptive action are people who are grounded in our beliefs, in our religious beliefs, in our values, in what they believe in, what we stand by, what we're rooted in.
I think it's a scary disorienting time for a lot of people. It's hard to figure out which way is up. It can be hard for us, it seems, to remember what we believe in and who we are. So we were acting yesterday grounded and rooted in love. That was the inspiration.
Secondly, there is a video of me standing up by myself, but I was not alone. I was with Reverend Hamilton who also stood up, other people who were out on the streets. This action came out of deep community, people who are organized, people who work together doing a lot of good.
And the third thing yesterday that I hope people were inspired by when seeing the video and seeing our witness is an invitation for other people to get involved: to mobilize, to organize, to stand up, to speak out, to return to their values, to what people believe in and what we know is true.
BERMAN: Why did you choose that specific passage?
GREEN: Thank you. This is from the 25th chapter of the gospel according to Matthew. I chose it -- I'm a United Methodist pastor. I'm a Christian. I'm a Bible reader. I am rooted in scripture.
The 25th chapter of Matthew, this story, is a wonderful tool for us to use to examine our lives. It's a wonderful way for us to hold our lives up against the teachings of Christ, up to the witness of Jesus and to really look within, to get honest and to say how are we doing? How are we treating others? How are we living out our values in the world?
I would really invite anyone who feels so called to return to those words, literally, to read the Bible, the 25th chapter of Matthew, to talk about it with their friends, with their pastors --