Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Biden Honors Fallen Heroes At Arlington National Cemetery; Defense Chief Lloyd Austin Overseeing End Of War He Fought; Companies Cut Ties With TN Hat Store Over Star Of David Badges. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 31, 2021 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00]

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF THE NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We're going to have a fourth major coronavirus epidemic. And a fifth one it's going to be a regular occurrence unless we fully understand the -- all the transmission dynamics and the zoonotic animal hosts involved in creating coronavirus epidemics.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Dr. Peter Hotez always good to hear from you. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us.

HOTEZ: Thanks Ana.

CABRERA: Up next, President Biden pays respect and he remembers America's heroes on this Memorial Day.

Plus, a CNN exclusive, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin describes the sacrifices that he has seen personally by Americans on foreign battlefields.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:35:03]

CABRERA: A somber ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery this morning, President Biden and Vice President Harris laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in honor of the fallen heroes who have died defending this country and our freedom. The President spoke about what this day means to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unity is essential to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And so remember those who gave their all in the cause of unity and the cause of a nation that endures because of them? We must honor their sacrifice by sustaining the best of America, or honestly confronting all that we must do to make our nation fuller, freer, and more just.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us from the White House. Phil, today is a deeply personal day for the President. How did his speech reflect that?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's interesting, whenever the President speaks to service members or speaks to anybody in the military community, he almost always references his son Beau, an Iraq War veteran who served before he passed away six years ago yesterday at Walter Reed Hospital near town. He's buried up in Delaware. And certainly Beau Biden was essential part of his remarks today, making very clear that Memorial Day reminds him of Beau.

Beau feels very close to him on Memorial Day, but also making clear that he understands the loss that so many families who were there at Arlington National Cemetery today, so many families throughout the country who've experienced the loss of Gold Star families. He feels like he can empathize with that. And I think empathy is obviously a kind of a core component of President Biden's role not just as President now, but when he was Senator when, he was Vice President, as well and so certainly citing that, certainly getting to that point.

But I think the other thing too about this speech is as personal as it was and as personal as this day is to President Biden was his effort to really kind of broaden out the view of things, obviously talking about those who gave everything in the service of their country. And what that means for everybody else. Making very clear, democracy, given what's going on in the world right now is not at all safe, it is very much at risk. And those individuals who gave everything, those individuals who fought and died for their country, fought and died to keep democracy alive, and it is incumbent upon everybody else in society, whether you serve or whether you do not to keep that in mind and try to operate on a daily basis with that goal, trying to further that goal that those individuals men and women fought and died for.

And I think the President's ability to obviously talk about the personal but then brought it out to the meaning for everybody else, particularly on at a time where a volunteer military is so few Americans seem to have a direct connection to that military these days. And the President really tried to bring everybody in and make clear, this isn't a guaranteed thing. People fought and died for this, do your part as well.

CABRERA: Absolutely, Phil Mattingly, an important and powerful message. Thank you.

Among the fallen we remember today are the more than 2,300 service members who have died in Afghanistan over the course of America's longest war. That conflict is winding down this year under the watch of President Biden and his Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, who knows personally the heroism and the sacrifice of our armed forces. He shared his reflections on this Memorial Day with CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This Memorial Day, the nation ending its longest war 20 years in Afghanistan, a war that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, as General Austin fought in just as he did in Iraq.

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I've had a front row seat on probably the greatest stage in our history in terms of, you know, being able to watch our troops in action and watch the things that they will do for each other, the sacrifices they make for this country and for each other.

STARR (voice-over): Twenty years of memories about America's troops from his own tours as a frontline commander.

AUSTIN: I will tell you, despite the fact that we can make great movies and write a lot of books. You can't adequately describe the things that I've seen over this 20-year period. And what these young people will do for each other or what they'll do for the country is absolutely amazing.

STARR (voice-over): Make no mistake, Lloyd Austin does not want to talk about himself. On this Memorial Day, he wants America to know what he knows.

AUSTIN: You know, these troops deploy because, you know, in support of their country, when a fight starts, they fight for each other, and they'll do anything for each other. And some of the things I've seen in terms of young people putting themselves in harm's way to protect their squad or protect their buddy or to go back into danger to retrieve their buddy willingly, you know, without even thinking about it, it's just amazing. Just amazing to watch what they'll do for each other.

STARR (voice-over): Austin has put tremendous emphasis on diversity and inclusion in today's ranks. And to political critics and adversaries who think it's all making the military look soft.

[12:40:04]

AUSTIN: It is not too soft. It will never be too soft. You know, I think our adversaries would like to capitalize on talking points like that or, you know, the Chinese, the Russians. And I welcome them to -- welcome them to do that because what this Department, what Lloyd Austin is focused on is to the defense of our nation.

STARR (on camera): So you're not too perturbed about Vladimir Putin or the Chinese leadership, let them say what they want. It doesn't sound like it worries you what they say.

AUSTIN: I will not lose one minute of sleep about what the Chinese leadership is saying or what Vladimir Putin is saying. What I will focus on and what I am focused on is the defense of this nation.

STARR (voice-over): For Austin, Memorial Day is about his duty to make troops ready to defend the nation and to remember those he has met along the way.

AUSTIN: You know, sometimes I would think to myself, OK, what do I got -- what do I need to say to this young man who just lost his legs to, you know, to encourage him that, you know, we can, you know, he can be successful in life and that sort of stuff. And without fail every time I walk into a room of wounded warriors, someone in that room cheers me up more than I cheer them up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Look, Lloyd Austin as Defense Secretary is well aware of all of the critics. But on this Memorial Day, his emphasis is very much on the strength of America's armed forces.

CABRERA: Barbara Starr, thank you for your reporting.

Up next, outrage erupts after a store owner adapted a symbol used to brand Jews during the Holocaust.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:46:35]

CABRERA: What can exactly feigned surprise that this went horribly major backlash against the Nashville hat maker, HatWRKS, after they announced, Friday, they were selling yellow star of David patches with not vaccinated stamped on them. It should be obvious why that idea is a problem. Jews in Europe were forced to wear Star of David patches by the Nazis. That was before the Nazis systematically rounded them up, sent them to concentration camps where millions were killed in the largest genocide in modern history.

CNN's Jean Casarez is covering this for us. Jean, the owner issuing an apology now, what she's saying?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She has and it was posted on the store's Instagram page it says quote, in no way did I intend to trivialize the Star of David or disrespect what happened to millions of people. That is not who I am or what I stand for. My intent was not to exploit or make a profit. My hope was to share my genuine concern and fear and to do all that I can to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again. I sincerely apologize for any insensitivity.

But the apology may have come too late because at this point, there are four hat manufacturers that have pulled their inventory. They will no longer allow their hats to be sold and they are Kangol headwear, Tula hats, Goorin Brothers, and Stetson. Let me tell you what Stetson says, they say as a result of the offensive conduct and opinion shared by HatWRKS in Nashville, Stetson and our distribution partners will cease the sale of all Stetson products.

And Kangol headwear say, that they felt strongly that they had a right to give Gigi Gaskins the benefit of the doubt to wait, to see what she said. But we did that. However, her further posts indicate to us that she is not sincere in her apology, nor has she removed the offensive posts. We are permanently therefore terminating HatWRKS Nashville as a customer.

And I think what a lot of people are wondering is, why hasn't she spoken out? What was her state of mind? Well, here is the last post that was on the store's Instagram account. Maybe this can give a bit of state of mind because she has not publicly spoken at all. She said I was willing to put my business on the line to stand up for the freedoms that we still have in our country. Was the use of the yellow star an sensitivity? Obviously, so too many. But does that make me an anti-Semite Nazi? No, it does not. I have -- I don't -- I have I done the unspeakable, she misspells that, unforgivable harm to others. No, I have not. But in the past 15 months, there has been plenty of unforgivable harm.

So Ana that is what we have. But the hat makers are increasing very rapidly of pulling their product from the store.

CABRERA: Wow. Wow. It's just what was she thinking, type of story. Thank you, Jean for sharing that with us.

Turning to a different tragic chapter in American history, tomorrow the President is heading to Tulsa and that city plans to dig up 12 coffins and as many as 30 bodies. Experts believe the remains may belong to victims of the 1921 race massacre that wiped out Tulsa's Greenwood District also known as Black Wall Street. Now, I want to bring in CNN's Abby Phillip. Abby, what do we expect from the President's visit tomorrow?

[12:50:08]

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's really important that President Biden plans to go there tomorrow to commemorate the -- what was lost, not just the incredible loss of life, some 300 people were thought to have been killed in that massacre, but also the loss of a place that a black people had built in order to survive. They had been able to accumulate wealth and businesses and a sense of community. And that was all destroyed in, you know, hours of racist hatred.

And I think one of the things that President Biden is going to talk about is this rise of hatred that we're seeing right now, and the connections to what happened 100 years ago, the vigilance that's needed, perhaps, to prevent something like this from happening again. But you also hear from a lot of Tulsans today that they want President Biden to speak about what justice really looks like. Many Tulsans in that, black Tulsans in particular, say that it's not just a commemoration that's necessary, but also reparations that's necessary for the three living survivors and for their descendants, who are still alive today.

CABRERA: Abby help put this into context, because I think this part of the country's history has perhaps been overlooked or just hasn't been put front and center. Why have so few people really known about Greenwood and what happened in 1921 until now?

PHILLIP: Yes, you know, I'm not sure I would say it was overlooked. I think it was hidden intentionally in some cases. No one was ever prosecuted for the crimes that occurred in Tulsa 100 years ago, the people who murdered black residents and looted and burned the city down, went about their lives as if nothing had ever happened. And that is one of the reasons why this was never taught. There were a lot of people invested in keeping the silent and there was also a lot of fear in the black community. They were living in a repressive racist society in which the KKK was a part of the fabric of Tulsa for many years. So that's one of the reasons this has never been taught. But that's changing now. And I think a lot of people say that is an incredibly important thing for the future of Tulsa but also for the future of the country.

CABRERA: And we will see how the President addresses this issue tomorrow when he makes that trip to Tulsa. Abby Phillip, thank you as always for being with us. Don't forget to catch Abby on her show Inside Politics on Sunday.

Still ahead, an all-star outfielder for the Atlanta Braves makes his first court appearance. Next, the horrible details of what police say they saw at the home of Marcell Ozuna.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:57:29]

CABRERA: This just in to CNN, Atlanta Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna has made his first court appearance after being arrested on domestic violence charges. Now the police report details just a brutal scene. Officers say when they arrived at Ozuna's Atlanta area home they saw him grab his wife by the neck and throw her against a wall. CNN's Carolyn Manno is joining us to discuss this and other sports headlines. Carolyn, the details from this report are horrific. How is the MLB responding?

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very disturbing, Ana. He was just granted a $20,000 bond a short time ago and instructed to have no contact with his wife. Major League Baseball has had a domestic violence policy in place since 2015. Though, you could argue its effectiveness because we've seen a string of really serious incidents since that time.

What they'll do now is conduct an independent investigation, and they can determine a punishment regardless of judicial outcome here, Ana. So they'll decide what to do. And if these allegations do stack up, if they are true with how disturbing they are, a suspension is certainly on the table and his career is definitely in jeopardy.

CABRERA: Meanwhile, a new display of fans behaving badly this time a Boston Celtics fan throwing a water bottle at Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving as he was leaving the arena last night. And that bottle just missing his head. What happened to that fan? And how is Kyrie reacting?

MANNO: Yes, this is the latest incident and a very disturbing trend that we've seen as fans have returned to the NBA. That fan was arrested according to the arena and is now facing an indefinite suspension from the arena which falls in line with the punishments that have been filled out for some other incidents similar to this involving player harassment. As for Kyrie Irving, I just want to play for you a little bit of what he said so that you can hear his reaction in his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KYRIE IRVING, BROOKLYN NETS GUARD: It's been that way in history in terms of entertainment, performers, and sports for a long period of time, just underlying racism and just treating people like they're in a human zoo. You know, throwing stuff at people, saying things, you know, it's a certain point where it gets to be too much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MANNO: You know, human zoo, that terminology really kind of underscores how serious this is and how unsafe the players feel, Ana. And Kyrie Irving has been a villain in Boston since his departure from the Celtics, there's no doubt about that. There is no love lost on either side. Still, he feels like there's racial undertones here as you heard him mention and no player deserves to be victimized and harassed in this way. It's something that the NBA is going to have to clean up because we've seen four such incidents in one round of the playoffs, which is unacceptable to say the least.

[13:00:07]

CABRERA: It's good to see teams and arenas and other officials finally saying, enough is enough. Carolyn Manno, thank you.