Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Memorial Service for Charlottesville Victim. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired August 16, 2017 - 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: Abby, it's 11:20, almost 11:30 in the east. After the complete shock of what happened yesterday after we watched this memorial service playing out this morning, where are we? What's your guess?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a good question. I think it's still really unclear where we are right now. There are a lot of things happening with Republicans. On one hand, they are trying to get Donald Trump to help them win the establishment, help the establishment candidate win in a special election in Alabama. So there's a little bit of that going on. Some hand holding of the White House there. And there's also some hand holding on tax reform. Republicans really want to get this stuff done. And I don't think there are many that you will find right now who see a path forward to confront Trump on agenda items. I think they want to be able to kind of like deal with some of these moral issues in another lane and then deal with policy issues in another lane. And I think it's unclear whether that's going to be a tenable solution going forward. When Trump gets back to washington next week, when Congress gets back later in the month, they will have to deal with some difficult issues. And I don't necessarily think we are seeing any sign, really, that Republicans are ready to go it alone, they are ready to speak out against Trump. I think you will see them working together on tax reform. You will see them kind of staying quiet when they need him to do certain things for their agenda. If that changes, that will be different from what we have seen from Republicans since Trump came into the race over 18 months ago, two years ago. So as far as I'm concerned, I have not seen anything change. And I have not heard anything from Republicans that suggests that it will.
BOLDUAN: Mayor -- go ahead, Mayor.
MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one, I agree with Abby. I think there's only one lane at the moment and they can't get around this. You can't ignore this. You're not going to just kind of sweep this away or make a statement and it's kind of over.
BOLDUAN: Is the damage undoable, Mayor?
NUTTER: I don't think the president at this point, because of what he's said -- and I go back to, the tape is played a number of times -- he's talking about the good people who were in that march and I can't say the things that they were saying, but we all get the point. He was so angry yesterday, combative yesterday. When I see him and you hear the marchers, if there's any equivalence, it's between them. He did everything but have a torch in his hand yesterday, the way he was expressing himself, the true Donald Trump. So he has no ability to get us past this. I think other leaders -- we talk about Republicans. It's not enough anymore to be quietly upset, privately upset, complaining to your staff if you're an elected official that you're really upset with the president. This is a seminal moment. This is the time for leadership. That's what people in elective office do.
BOLDUAN: Mayor --
NUTTER: They lead.
BOLDUAN: In this seminal moment, we heard from the Bushes, just read that statement. What do you think President Obama is thinking right now? He's been mostly quiet since President Trump took office. He's spoken out on a few issues. He issued a series of tweets quoting Nelson Mandela in the aftermath of Charlottesville. What do you think he's thinking right now?
NUTTER: I would like to think I know the president a little bit, President Obama, spent a fair amount of time with him. One, I cannot imagine just how upset both he and, still first lady to me, Michelle Obama, are. We know their character. We know their history. We know they are both stand-up, caring, committed people. There's never been any question about that with either of the Obamas. I'm sure President Obama would like to say more. He recognizes, though, where he is in these moments and his proximity to having just been a president. He's going to be very careful. But those of us who do know him a little bit, we know where his head and heart is. He will continue to express himself but it has to be on his terms and in his time.
BOLDUAN: But when you call it a seminal moment, do you want to hear him speak out?
NUTTER: Personally, I always want to hear President Obama. We know that if this had taken place a year ago, the country would be in a very, very different place. Many different things than what we have ever heard would be said. And he has demonstrated, we saw it with the terror in the church, how he handled that particular moment. It is a responsibility of this job, mayor, governor, president, the executive position, to be that healer, that comforter. Politics aside. The current president does not have that capability. We have seen that time and time again. So I'm not asking President Obama to say anything. He can conduct his own affairs. But we know that it would be healing, it would bring this country together. He will walk into the face of danger and dismay and unify Americans and quite honestly, people around the world. We know that about him.
[11:35:18] BOLDUAN: If you will all stay with me. We will take a quick break and get back to Charlottesville. Heather
Heyer's mother will be speaking. That's moments away. Stay with us.
[11:39:51] BOLDUAN: We are moments away from hearing from the mother of Heather Heyer. She is going to be speaking at this memorial service. We will bring it to you as soon as she steps to the microphone. We will bring you her remarks in full.
As we wait for that, I want to bring in my panel.
David, I just have a question as we watch this memorial play out. We think about national tragedies, these moments in the past. This is when presidents show up to these types of events. Should the president be there in Charlottesville?
DAVID FRENCH, NATIONAL WRITER, NATIONAL REVIEW: I would say this president should not be there in Charlottesville given his impulsiveness, given the way he's so explicitly given aid and comfort to the Alt-Right. I would like to say that I could have confidence that the president of the United States could be there and be a healing force for our country, a unifying force for our country. I don't think at this point this president is capable of that. In that sense, I'm actually glad he's not there because I don't know what he would do, I don't know what he would say. And based on the performance of the last 72 hours, to the extent he would say anything, I fear it would be terribly destructive.
BOLDUAN: Let's call it a juxtaposition of the last 72 hours, what we saw from the president yesterday, it was very obvious, Kirsten, that he was very angry and passionate and emotional in speaking about his frustration with the media coverage of the events in his statements over the weekend. I haven't seen that when he talks about the innocent woman who died at the rally. He tweeted something very thoughtful about her this morning. But I hadn't seen that. Why is that?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the person that when you see him just unplugged, that's Donald Trump. So maybe somebody put a gun to his head and made him tweet that other tweet. We don't really know. What we do know is when he's talking and is in control of it, that is who he is. And the fact that that's what makes him angry in this situation, again raises serious questions about his moral core. And the fact that he -- you know, we say a lot like why doesn't Donald Trump come out and condemn the Alt-Right. We had this conversation many times preceding this. I think the simplest answer is always the best answer. To me the simplest answer is because he somehow relates to them. At this point, you just can't excuse it anymore. I don't think we could ever excuse it, but he's given plenty of opportunities to condemn them and he doesn't condemn them. He always says something when you go and look at their Web sites afterwards, they have heard as a sort of secret message that he's kind of on their side. He knows that. So he is making a decision to not only condemn them but excuse them in this situation. I mean to actually equate them with people who are protesting them. Any person that looks at this and isn't disgusted and sick and in tears, frankly -- you know what I mean? Almost everybody I know that watched this was actually brought to tears. Something is wrong with you. Just something is really wrong with the president that he has reacted this way.
BOLDUAN: John Kasich said it really well this morning, there is no moral equivalency between Neo-Nazis, the KKK and anyone.
BOLDUAN: It doesn't matter. That from John Kasich this morning. It stuck with me when he said it.
If you could stick with me one more moment.
Mayor, please stick with me. I want to get you on the other side of this break.
We will be hearing from Heather Heyer's mother at the memorial service in her honor in just a moment.
[11:46:09] BOLDUAN: We will get back to Charlottesville, the memorial service in the honor of Heather Heyer in just a moment. Heather Heyer's mother will take to the microphone. We will bring you her remarks as soon as she begins.
While we keep our eye on that service, I want to bring in Montae Taylor, who took part in the protest on Saturday. He's the president of the NAACP chapter at Old Dominion University.
Montae, thank you for coming in.
I apologize if I need to cut you off to get back to the memorial service.
But while I have you, you were there on saturday. You saw all this play out. Where is your head today now that some time has passed, what you saw?
MONTAE TAYLOR, PRESIDENT, NAACP CHAPTER, OLD DOMINION UNIVEDRSITY: You know, it's kind of on one end I'm sad. I first would like to say rest in peace to Heather Heyer and also the two police officers who lost their life. This is the result of the country that we are living in today. To see what's going on and to wake up to the news that we see every morning, it's something that is not surprising, dealing with who we have running our country, but it is disheartening.
BOLDUAN: Montae, what did you see when you were on the ground? Did you see very fine people as the president said there were very fine people on both sides there?
TAYLOR: Honestly, when it came to the white supremacy organizations that were there, I would love to have seen some very fine people. Honestly, we were there for love. We were there to hopefully get a constructive conversation out of somebody. Honestly, if I would have gotten a hug from somebody, that would have been something that would have made my day. But instead, all we saw were these men and women walking around with big guns and pretty much in military uniform, we seen people riding around on the back of pickup trucks, about seven people on the back of these pickup trucks. They had, you know, white shirts and khaki pants and white helmets, white military helmets on. And they were not looking to just get a peaceful message out. They were looking like they wanted war. And that was how it felt.
BOLDUAN: I read that you have told some others that your great grandfather has told you stories about Klan activity that he faced, that they witnessed. Did you ever think after hearing those stories from your great grandfather that you would see burning torches in front of you today?
TAYLOR: I prayed that I wouldn't, but I'm not surprised that I have. This is something that -- this hatred is something that our country has been founded off of and our country has been built off of for many years now, obviously. And until we have people on all sides of this country who denounce it and then also a president who will not stand for it, we will continue to experience this.
BOLDUAN: What statements do you want experience this.
What statements do you want to hear today? Is there a statement -- is there something the president could say that could make you feel any better?
TAYLOR: Honestly, I have given up on looking to the president for any kind of statement anymore. The way he has acted since the time he began running for president, has shown that he's unprecedented and he does not know how to handle these people or he doesn't want to handle these people. I have given up on looking for any source of leader ship from this man. What I would like to see is more people of my age getting off of Twitter and getting off of social media and actually coming out and doing some things. And I would like to see more of my people getting involved in their community.
[11:50:26] BOLDUAN: Montae, if you could forgive me. I want to go back to Charlottesville right now.
Heather Heyer's mother speaking now.
SUSAN BRO, MOTHER OF HEATHER HEYER: She paid attention. She made a lot of us pay attention. Oh, my gosh, dinner with her, we flew was going to be an ordeal of listening and conversation and perhaps disagreement, but it was going to happen. And so my husband would say, OK, I'm going to go out in the car and play on my video game for a while and we would sit and we would grill. And she and I would talk and I would listen, and we would negotiate and I would listen. And we talked about all this stuff, we talked about politics, we talked about anything that caught her eye that she felt was fair, unfair. She would talk about her feelings about the office and how things were going. She just talked and the girl loved to talk. And she was single, and there was nobody to listen at home, and mama got a lot of it.
And that was wonderful.
You never think you're going to bury your child, you never think to take those pictures. They asked me for pictures for this and I struggled. I have had pictures in her childhood, but I have to go to face book to find pictures of my child because we were always together, I saw her a couple of times a month at least and we would text each other fairly often and we would text each other at bedtime, I love you, you doing OK? I love you. So I have no regrets on that part. Take pictures of the ones you love, because you don't know when they're not going to be there.
But here's what I want to say to you today. This could be a storm in a teacup and it could all be for nothing. I could have said let's don't do this publicly, let's have a small, private funeral, but that's not what Heather was. Anybody who knew Heather said, yes, this is the way she had to go, big and large, had to have the world involved, because that's my child. She's just that way. Always has been and she will continue to be.
Because here's the message. Although Heather was a caring and compassionate person, so are a lot of you. A lot of you go that extra mile. And I think the reason that what happened to Heather has truck a cord because we know that what she did is achievable. We don't all have to die. We don't all have to sacrifice our lives. They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her.
BRO: So here's what I want to happen. You ask me what can I do? So many caring people. Pages of pages of pages of stuff I'm going through, I'm reading pages and pages and pages of how she's touching the world. I want this to spread. I don't want this to die. This is just the beginning of Heather's legacy. This is not the end of Heather's legacy. You need to find in your heart, that small spark of accountability. What is there that I can do to make the world a better place? What injustice do I see and want to turn away? I don't really want to get involved in that. I'll speak up. They'll be annoyed with me. My boss might think less of me. I don't care. You have poked that finger at yourself, like Heather would have done, and you make it happen. You take that extra step. You find a way to make a difference in the world.
My child had a high school education. My child was no saint. She was hard to raise because everything was a negotiation.
I'm not kidding.
(LAUGHTER) [11:54:52] But you know what? She was a firm believer in whatever she believed and let's do that. Let's find that spark of conviction. Let's find in ourselves that action. Let's spread this. Let's have the uncomfortable dialogue. It ain't easy sitting down and saying, well, why are you upset? It ain't easy sitting down, going, yes, well, I think this way and I don't agree with you, but I'm going to respectfully listen to what you have to say. We're not going to sit around and shake hands and go "kumbaya." And I'm sorry, it's not all about forgiveness. I know that's not a popular trend. But the truth is, we are going to have our differences. We are going to be angry with each other. But let's channel that anger, not into hate, not into violence, not into fear, but let's channel that difference, that anger into righteous action.
Right now, down the road, there's a blood drive going on in Heather's name. Right now, there are people who are here willing to listen to one another and talk to one another. Last night, in New England, they had a peaceful rally in Heather's name to have some difficult dialogues. If you ever want to see what one of those dialogues look like, look at her Facebook posts. They were rough sometimes but they were dialogues. And the conversations have to happen. That's the only way we're going to carry Heather's spark through.
So remember in your heart, if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. And I want you to pay attention. Find what's wrong. Don't ignore it. Don't look the other way. You make a point to look at it, and say to yourself, what can I do to make a difference?
And that's how you're going to make my child's death worthwhile. I would rather have my child, but, by golly, if I got to give her up, we're going to make it count.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SINGER: It will be fitting to have this song "Amazing Grace" to be sung. It was a song that was written by John Newton. But I understand also is that it was moaned in the belly of a slave ship that was owned by John Newton. Seeing the intermixing of the good things, the hard things that come together and can make something as beautiful as "Amazing Grace." So you're going to hear some sounds. Some of you just imagine yourself on that ship. And the things that are going on and happening right now.