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Interview With State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf; Hillary Clinton Responds to E-Mail Controversy; Oklahoma University Students Expelled
Aired March 10, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, nuclear fallout with negotiations over Iran's nuclear program down to the wire. Some are now asking if 47 Republican senators actually broke the law going behind President Obama's back writing directly to Iran's supreme leader.
Keeping e-mails private. Hillary Clinton firing back at her critics who say she broke her own rules as secretary of state. Has she put the controversy to rest?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: All set?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Expelled -- two fraternity members kicked out of the University of Oklahoma over this racist, racist chant, all caught on camera.
And, tonight, a shock new video showing their house mother using the slur. Has the school done enough?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news.
Hillary Clinton breaking her silence on the controversy over a use of a personal e-mail account while she was serving as secretary of state. The likely Democratic presidential candidate explaining why she did it and revealing new details. Clinton is also weighing in on the controversial letter from Senate Republicans to Iran's leader about the current nuclear negotiations, a dispatch which has the White House outraged, officials calling it irresponsible and dangerous.
We're covering all angles of the breaking news. The State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, she is standing by, along with our correspondents and our guests.
Let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has much more on that letter from Senate Republicans to Iran.
What's the latest, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
Republicans today now passing around details of what they say is their regular contact with foreign governments, the message being, nothing to see here, it's all normal, it's all routine. But this time with this situation in Iran, what they are talking about is sending a message that they could revoke a presidential agreement.
STARR (voice-over): Blistering language from all sides after first- term Senator Tom Cotton and 46 Republicans signed a letter warning Iran not to agree to any White House nuclear deal.
REP. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: If Congress does not approve an agreement, the agreement will not necessarily have lasting effect. Future congresses or for that matter a future president can change them.
STARR: Vice President Joe Biden, a 36-year Senate veteran and former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, firing back, saying it's all beneath the dignity of the Senate, adding, "The Republican letter is expressly designed to under cut a sitting president."
Biden goes on to say, "I cannot recall another instance in which senators wrote directly to advise another country, much less a longtime foreign adversary."
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We believe it's harmful to America's national security for anyone to insert themselves into the middle of a very sensitive negotiation.
STARR: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scathingly critical of Congress, calling it:
CLINTON: out of step with the best traditions of American leadership. Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander in chief.
STARR: Iran apparently undeterred.
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): This is a propaganda ploy and bears no legal value. This shows how worried one group is.
STARR: Senators like John McCain often travel overseas and offer their views to foreign leaders. But here, the political question, the political question, is this Senate letter challenging the political ability of any commander in chief to deliver on U.S. commitments?
LT. COL. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT (RET.), FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFF: Presumably, it means that any agreement that the next president makes, a President Hillary Clinton, a President Jeb Bush, a President Scott Walker, you know, whoever your favorite candidate is, isn't then not binding on his or her successor?
STARR: Instead of writing letters to other countries, some say use the power of the purse. Deny funding to agreements you don't like.
OLLIVANT: The president can do anything he wants to essentially in foreign policy that does not rise to the level of treaty. But he has to have money to do it.
STARR: Power of the purse has been used, in fact. Remember, on the situation on Guantanamo Bay, the prison facility there, Congress has not allowed the U.S. any funding to transfer prisoners from Gitmo to the United States, effectively blunting a major Obama foreign policy initiative to shut Gitmo down. The power of the purse is always out there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The constitution gave that power to the U.S. Congress. Thanks very much, Barbara, for that.
The White House is furious over this letter to Iran's leaders. Even some Republicans are raising serious concerns about it.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. She's working this part of the story.
Has the president reached out to any of those senators as far as we know who signed this letter?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.
It seems like no. We have reached out directly. They haven't responded to that particular question. But when you look at how this came out, it seemed to take everybody by surprise. It was written obviously not in consultation with the White House. So the White House clearly seems to think what good would it be to talk to some of these signatories now? The damage has been done, if not in the actual Iran negotiations, in at least in the airing of America's political squabbling and dirty laundry around the world.
I think it's interesting because this is the first time in a long time that we have seen the White House respond so strenuously to something that Republicans have done or are working on. The White House saw fit to really come out swinging verbally back during the wrangling over funding Homeland Security, where Republicans were trying to tie that to defunding the president's executive action on immigration. For a while the White House was pretty quiet about all that, but not in this case, Wolf.
BLITZER: White House did get a vote of confidence on this issue from Hillary Clinton. She is helping them. Are they helping her on the other issue she's facing right now, those e-mails?
KOSINSKI: That's a good question, Wolf. They have tried to stay out of it pretty much, putting all of the responsibility on the State Department and on Hillary Clinton. But they are also careful not to try to, you know, detract from what
she was doing as secretary of state or to imply that she was -- had done anything wrong. What they keep saying it appears she has not violated any law and that as far as they were concerned she was in full compliance -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Michelle, thank you, Michelle Kosinski at the White House.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Joining us, the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
Marie, thanks very much for coming in.
MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: Happy to be here.
BLITZER: Does your boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, believe that this letter signed by 47 Republican senators will actually have any real impact on the delicate negotiations? And they are at the tail end right now, these negotiations between the U.S. and other members of the Security Council, Germany and Iran.
HARF: Well, I don't think we think it will have a big impact inside the room, but certainly any distraction like this, it's sort of just common sense, plays a part here in this bigger conversation we're all having about whether or not we can get to an agreement.
And I think we all agree that it was reckless, that it was irresponsible, it was unprecedented. And I don't think, many of us feel, that the signatories on that letter were actually trying to make diplomacy better or give us more tools for diplomacy. They were actually trying to undermine it. And that's problematic.
BLITZER: But you don't think it's really going to have much of an impact, practically speaking, in these final two weeks? The deadline is two weeks from today.
HARF: The deadline is the end of March. We're very focused on that. And we're focused inside the room on whether we can get to our bottom lines, whether we cut off Iran's four pathways to a nuclear weapon, and whether we can get to a year of breakout time.
The Iranians are on the other side of the table. The P5-plus-one is standing by us. We're all united. We're really focused on what's happening inside the room and not really on partisan politics, to be honest with you.
BLITZER: Today, what are the chances of success?
HARF: President has said 50-50. I think I'm right there with him.
We're very committed though to seeing if we can get a good agreement. We will not take anything less, but we know, Wolf, that the alternatives are much worse. They aren't as durable. They don't give us the kind of transparency we want. And that's why it's so disturbing to see this kind of partisan politics being played with something so serious that's really been designed to undermine these negotiations.
BLITZER: But you are not really surprised. You know a lot of these Republicans, at least 47 of them, they have serious doubts that what you're trying to do is really going to do away, eliminate the nuclear potential of Iran.
HARF: I actually -- Wolf, I was surprised about this. We know their concerns.
We have tried to address them. And we have said if we get to an agreement, it will be one we can defend, that it meets our bottom line. It gets Iran to a year breakout. But I think you see from our response that a lot of us were surprised by how partisan this was, how unprecedented it was. It really was quite extraordinary.
BLITZER: Do you think, if you had to guess right now, that the Iranian supreme leader, even if the negotiators, the foreign minister, Zarif, and the others, Rouhani, supposedly the more moderate Iranians, do you think the supreme leader is going to go along with what they might be willing to do?
HARF: Well, look, I'm not going to do an analysis of internal Iranian decision-making.
But we do know that the Iranian team is at the table having very serious, very detailed discussions, working to see if we can get to an agreement. I don't know if we will.
But we know they are at the table trying to do that.
BLITZER: "The New York Daily News" had a front-page cover today calling these 47 Republicans -- there it is right there -- traitors, suggesting that maybe it violates the federal law, the Logan Act ,which prevents correspondence with foreign governments.
Do you believe -- and you're the deputy spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department -- that these Republicans may have violated federal law?
HARF: Well, that's really a legal question. And I'm certainly not a lawyer, an expert on those issues.
I haven't heard anybody inside the administration talk in those terms. But I do think, beyond sort of that question, which I understand is a sort of amusing one, I think that there's a bigger question here about the executive branch and the president, under both administrations, under both parties, has the power to conduct foreign policy. We have one commander in chief at a time.
And I would hate to see what the Republicans would think if there was a Republican president and the situation were reversed.
BLITZER: Has the secretary of state, your boss, John Kerry, demanded from the Iranians that as part of any deal they stop funding international terrorist organizations, because the State Department still considers Iran an official state sponsor of terror?
Has the secretary of state also demanded as part of any such deal that they stop calling for elimination of Israel?
HARF: These are separate issues, Wolf.
And I know there's been a lot of talk about this lately. We're trying to negotiate an agreement so they cannot get a nuclear weapon. That's an important enough issue. We need to do that independent of our disagreements on other issues.
But on those other issues, we continue to sanction them for their support for terrorism, for their human rights record, for a variety of reasons, for other ballistic missiles and things like that as well. We will continue to put pressure on them in those areas. But we need to handle the nuclear issue.
And if we can do that through this agreement, that will be certainly very helpful to Israel's security, to our security and we will keep putting pressure on them on the other places.
BLITZER: but if they were to do that, that would go a long way in reassuring the skeptics, whether in the United States Congress or the Israelis or other friendly allies, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, it would go a long way if they stopped supporting international terrorists and if they acknowledge that Israel exists.
HARF: We certainly want them to stop doing things like supporting terrorists.
BLITZER: Why not raise it directly in the negotiations with them and tell them, do this, it will help you?
HARF: Because these are negotiations about the nuclear issue. That's a complicated enough issue when you have to deal with numbers of centrifuges, cascades, how they're set up, plutonium, all of these issues, stockpile. Those are complicated enough.
It is going to be difficult enough to get that done without putting all these other difficult issues in there. It doesn't mean we're not going to keep working on them. But the nuclear issue -- because they are such aggressive actors in the region, because they have been so threatening, that's why we need to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. And that's what we're trying to do.
BLITZER: All right, Marie Harf, stand by, because we have more to discuss, including those Hillary Clinton e-mails. She says she's given, what, 55,000 pages of e-mails to the State Department. Much more with Marie Harf when we come back.
BLITZER: We're back with breaking news.
Hillary Clinton now speaking publicly for the first time about the controversy over her use of a private e-mail account while she was serving as secretary of state.
The State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf, she is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stand by. We will get back to her in just a few moments.
But first our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is over at the United Nations, where Secretary Clinton took reporters' questions today on this whole e-mail controversy.
Jeff, tell our viewers what she said.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
She vigorously defended her use of that private e-mail address, but it's far too soon to know if she actually cleared up that cloud of controversy or provided even more fodder for more questions.
ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton finally breaking her silence over the e-mail controversy that has consumed her campaign in waiting.
CLINTON: Looking back, it would have been better for me to use two separate phones and two e-mail accounts. I thought using one device would be simpler. And, obviously, it hasn't worked out that way.
ZELENY: She acknowledged she may have made a mistake, but insists it was an innocent one.
CLINTON: Even if I had two devices, which is obviously permitted, many people do that, you would still have to put the responsibility where it belongs, which is on the official.
So I did it for convenience. And I now, looking back, think that it might have been smarter to have those two devices from the very beginning.
ZELENY: At the United Nations today, Mrs. Clinton took questions for nearly 20 minutes. Those two words came up again and again.
CLINTON: Looking back, looking back, now, looking back, again, looking back.
ZELENY: But now she's looking ahead to a second presidential campaign and she finds herself in the middle of another political firestorm, with Republicans smelling new blood on a favorite old target.
Mrs. Clinton said she turned over work-related e-mail to be archived by the State Department.
CLINTON: When the search was conducted, we were asking that any e- mail be identified and preserved that could potentially be federal records. And that's exactly what we did. And we went, as I said, beyond that, and the process produced over 30,000 work e-mails. And I think that we have more than met the request from the State Department.
ZELENY: But this doesn't necessarily put the questions to rest. She acknowledged she was policing herself, making her own determination of which e-mails should be turned over from her time as secretary of state.
She said she deleted all personal e-mail and she said she had no plans of turning over the private e-mail server for an independent review.
CLINTON: I believe I have met all of my responsibilities. And the server will remain private.
And I think that the State Department will be able over time to release all of the records that were provided.
ZELENY: The session today did little to quiet her Republican critics. Trey Gowdy, the head of the congressional committee investigating the Benghazi attacks, released a statement that said, "Because Secretary Clinton has created more questions than answers, the select committee is left with no choice but to call to appear at least twice."
ZELENY: Now, calling her to testify will certainly embolden her Republican critics, but it will enrage her Democratic supporters. But, Wolf, it means one thing. All of this will carry on throughout her presidential campaign, which I'm told by top Democrats is only a few weeks away -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, well, everybody expects she will make some sort of an announcement in April. All right, Jeff Zeleny at the U.N. for us, thank you.
Let's bring back the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
When will the State Department release these 55,000 pages that Hillary Clinton has already given the State Department of her e-mail?
HARF: Well, we're going to undertake a review of them, as we would with any FOIA-like release, using FOIA standards.
BLITZER: The Freedom of Information Act.
HARF: Correct, the Freedom of Information Act.
We expect that to take several months, given how large this document set is. So, we will release them at the end of that. Separately, we will first review for public release these 300 e-mails we have already provided to the Benghazi Select Committee. We will go back over those for public release and we will release those first, because we understand there's so much public interest in them. I don't know how long that will take.
BLITZER: You're going to give all these documents related to Benghazi to the select committee that is now investigating.
HARF: We have given the select committee a little under 300 of her e- mails from that tranche she provided to us that were responsive to a request from them. We have already provided the select committee with those. We're reviewing those first for public release and we will then review the rest of the 55,000 pages. We expect that to take several months.
BLITZER: Do you have any problem with the fact that she decided, she and her team decided what was government-related, the 30,000 e-mails that she said were delivered to the State Department? But another 30,000 were private, she said, and she indicated pretty strongly those have already been deleted, if you will. They are not even available? Is that a problem there, as far as the State Department is concerned?
HARF: Well, she says she provided anything that could possibly be an official record.
And it is incumbent under federal regulation for each individual, each official to give back and to make sure the government has anything that's an official record. So, as she said, it's incumbent upon each official to do that, me, her, anyone else. Today with Secretary Kerry, we automatically journal all of his e-mails. We have those.
This is an evolving process. She says she provided them. And that's what we're working off of.
BLITZER: Because you know a lot of her critics, they don't trust her. They don't believe she did it accurately, honestly. They want a fuller review. You appreciate that?
HARF: Well, look, I understand there's going to be a lot of discussion around this topic, given the political season, given the environment.
We at the State Department are focused on the facts, that she gave us 55,000 pages of her e-mails that she said was what she had that might be an official record. We're going through that. We know it's in the public interest to see what can be released publicly. That process is ongoing. And we will do it as quickly as possible.
BLITZER: She said nothing was classified. She used the word classified as far as those 55,000 pages.
But, as you know, there could have been sensitive information on her personal e-mail account as well. And potentially if you take a look at all that personal sensitive information, that sensitive information could have been helpful to adversaries of the U.S. if they would have hacked into that.
HARF: Well, I don't want to pre-judge what's in the e-mails. I certainly haven't seen them. We haven't done a review of them yet. She can speak what's in them, given they were hers.
And we will do a review. And at the end of this, we will put out publicly what under FOIA standards, which we use for public releases, can be put out.
BLITZER: Does the State Department believes she did anything wrong?
HARF: Well, look, we have all been clear that there was no federal regulation prohibiting an official then or now from using a personal e-mail for official business, as long as they were cataloged properly and made part of the official record.
She's done that now. She claims this is everything she has. Look, she spoke today, as Jeff Zeleny just said, to what she would have done looking back. She can speak to that. But what we're focused on now is, we that have documents, we're going through them. And when we're done with this, the public will see them.
BLITZER: So as far as the State Department is concerned -- and you obviously speak for the State Department -- it's over. She's met all of her responsibilities and we can move on. Is that a fair assessment from the State Department perspective?
HARF: It's certainly not over. We're undergoing a review of a huge set of documents. So, clearly, this is going to be an ongoing process for us to make sure we review them, as appropriate under the standards we have, to get them out in the public domain.
And I think we will leave the sort of partisan politics and analysis to people who do that on a daily basis. We certainly don't do that at the State Department. And that's why we're focused really on these documents and getting them ready for public...
BLITZER: As a former secretary of state, has Hillary Clinton met all of her responsibilities to the federal government?
HARF: She says she has turned over everything that could be an official record. That's her responsibility. She says she has. I think she can speak best to that. We're looking at the documents and we will get them ready for release.
BLITZER: I know that's what she says. But the question is, does the State Department accept what she says?
HARF: I have no reason to doubt what she says, Wolf. And neither does anyone I have talked to.
But, again, she's the one who can speak to that. She had the records. She and her team have said they gave everything that possibly could be a record. And this covers the breadth of her time at the State Department. It's a huge document set. And that's what we're focused on.
BLITZER: Marie Harf, thanks very much for coming in.
HARF: Happy to be here.
BLITZER: Just ahead, Oklahoma University expels two students over this fraternity's racist chant. We now know the identity of one of them.
And the scandal grows as another shocking video emerges of the fraternity's house mother.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We have got more on the breaking news, Hillary Clinton
breaking her silence on the uproar over her personal e-mail that she used while she was secretary of state.
Clinton says it was more convenient to use one account but now wishes she'd used multiple accounts. She insists she acted within the rules, never sent any classified information, turned over all appropriate communications to the State Department.
Let's get some more with our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, who was at that news conference at the United Nations. He's still there. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Our CNN national security commentator Mike Rogers, the former Republican congressman who served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. And our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Gloria, how did she do today? Did she put this to rest, or is it continuing?
BORGER: Totally to rest we'll never talk about it again. It will never -- oh, no she did not put to it rest. Nor, by the way, did anybody who worked for her to expect that this would put it to rest.
If you're inclined to believe Hillary Clinton, give her the benefit of the doubt, you will. If you're inclined not to, you won't. That's why you heard Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the committee investigating Benghazi, saying, "Look, we're going to subpoena her at least twice: once to deal with emails and once to deal with Benghazi."
I think the big thing that's left on the table is that Hillary Clinton remains the decider here. She's the one and her lawyer who determine what e-mails are personal and then they go away, or what emails are actually business. And that doesn't sit well with a lot of people, particularly those who don't trust her.
BLITZER: I know, Jeff Zeleny, you've been getting a lot of reaction. What do you think? First of all, how did she do and what's happening now?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, being in the room with her, it struck me that we just haven't heard from her for so long. Certainly not in a setting like this. She's not held a press conference of any kind in so long.
So for one it was clear that she was trying to go on offense. And she's actually pretty good when she's going on offense. She was answering a lot of questions. But of course, every question she would answer, she raised some other questions, certainly for her Republican critics.
One thing after this was over, the Clinton campaign put out a statement, trying to clear up some other things. And they finally put some numbers to these specific emails. We've heard about 55,000 pages. But they actually said there were some 60,000 emails. She turned over only half of those. So half of the e-mail that she sent, she deemed personal. And Gloria is absolutely right. The big question here is she's
policing herself on this, and some people simply won't trust her to do that.
BLITZER: And Mike Rogers, she also was very specific as she was asked about the national security ramifications of using a personal account for official State Department government business. And she said she never included any classified information on any of those e mails. That good enough?
ROGERS: Well, no. And here's where she got herself in a little bit of trouble a little bit today. We already know now that on that server, there were government-oriented emails, because she turned some of them back over to the State Department.
BLITZER: Thirty thousand e-mails were government-oriented.
ROGERS: That's a huge problem for her now. Because now she's established -- and again if you're the committee offering a subpoena, now you have all the basis for that subpoena to get that server, because she's already admitted that there were government emails.
BLITZER: Well, Jeffrey Toobin, I have to press you on this issue of a subpoena. Thirty thousand emails she handed over, 55,000 pages that she actually printed them out, as she's required to do, in boxes. But now there are suggestions Republicans in the House, they want to subpoena that server, which she says is going to remain private. Can they do that? Will they get that server?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: They can try. And it would probably go to court. And, you know, if that's how we want to spend the next year and a half, we can.
I mean, look, I think we should pause a little bit about our -- sort of, you know, the phony outrage that someone is using a Gmail account or a private account for government business.
BORGER: I'm shocked.
TOOBIN: I don't know about you, but every government official I've ever dealt with has two accounts and uses them both for -- for government. Now maybe that's a bad thing. But the idea that Hillary Clinton is the only one who did it is kind of...
BLITZER: Well, let me ask -- let me ask Mike Rogers. When you were the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee you had two accounts, you had a government e-mail account and you also had a private e-mail account. Did you ever use the private e-mail account for government business?
ROGERS: Never. And I'll tell you why. The House is very clear on their rules that says that your private account must be used for political activity. You can't use your government account for political activity.
BLITZER: To raise money. ROGERS: You can't raise money. You can't have political conversations. You can't say, "I'm going to this political event to raise money for you or someone else." And so the House rules are pretty clear.
But the State Department also has rules that those documents have to be housed at the State Department. They were not. Or at least turned over to the State Department.
BORGER: And the rules changed.
ROGERS: There's no audit provision.
BORGER: And the rules changed.
ROGERS: ... questions -- I think if she wanted this behind her she should have said, "I will gladly have an agreed-upon third party review the personal -- or what's on that server to determine whether it's personal or not. I think this thing would go away.
BORGER: Well, I don't think it would go away, but I also think she made it clear that she doesn't want to be treated any differently than any other government or federal official.
And she and her staff -- I was going to say campaign, but her staff cites the Federal Records Act and says that it's the obligation of the government official, not the agency in which she serves, to police those emails and hand them over. So she says, "It's my responsibility to determine what's personal. The government gives me that responsibility. That's what the Federal Records Act says, and I'm not go a step beyond that, nor should I be required."
BLITZER: We're going to ask Jeff Zeleny how she did. In terms of some of the tough questions about the laws, whether she broke any laws, there were some pretty serious questions there.
How did she handle those tough questions from the reporters? Was she cool? Did she lose her cool? She was supposedly going to be a little rusty, because she hadn't had a news conference in a long time.
ZELENY: Wolf, I didn't think she was actually very rusty at all. Like I said earlier, we've not seen her in this setting for quite a while. But it's clear that she's been boning up on this, you know, giving speeches and whatnot, so she was very well-prepared for this.
But you could say she should be. This is the eighth day, the eighth day of this controversy. So it's one of the reasons that they waited.
I asked a top Democrat close to her, saying why didn't you do this soon sooner? They said she was actually trying to get her -- her facts in order. She wanted to have this type of presentation. So she certainly left open a lot more questions. People will seize on them.
But in the moment, she was not flustered. She was smooth in answering people's questions. Her press secretary was calling on reporters, but I wouldn't take that as much of a criticism. It was pretty chaotic in there, Wolf. There were dozens and dozens of
reporters, camera people. One of the reasons they had it here at the U.N. was to try and keep some control over this, so it wouldn't become even more of a circus. But I thought she handled herself pretty well in terms of the structure of her answering questions.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Good discussion. We're going to have much more on this story, because clearly, it's not going to be going away.
Just ahead, one of the Oklahoma students leading that racist chant that was caught on camera has now been identified and expelled, along with another student. And the scandal grows with shocking new video of the fraternity's house mother.
BLITZER: Breaking now, two students expelled from the University of Oklahoma over that now-infamous video of a shocking racist chant by members of the school's SAE fraternity. Now one of them has been identified by friends and by his high school as 19-year-old freshman Parker Rice. He has not responded to CNN's multiple requests for comment.
CNN Miguel Marquez is working the story for us. He's in Norman, Oklahoma, right now.
What's the latest you're hearing over there, Miguel?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, we have been to Parker Rice's home in Dallas. He has left here in Norman, Oklahoma, and gone home to Dallas. We went by there today, and he has gone underground. All the members of the SAE fraternity are being silent today, out of the public eye after that very public video went worldwide.
This as the investigation here by the school is continuing. There's possible more disciplinary actions down the road and possibly even more expulsions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will never be a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) at SAE.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): It's the racist song...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can hang them from a tree, but they'll never sign with me. There will never be a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) at SAE.
MARQUEZ: ... sparking outrage nationwide.
CHELSEA DAVIS, CO-FOUNDER, UNHEARD: It's sad. And it's -- it's hurtful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disgusting.
DAVID BOREN, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA: You're disgraceful. MARQUEZ: Now two students expelled. University of Oklahoma
president's says he's employing zero tolerance, singling out the two who took a leadership role in the SAE fraternity video, saying they created a racist, hostile and exclusionary environment.
This as all SAE members are vacating their house. Today even the Sigma Alpha Epsilon letters gone.
The fraternity's house mother, Beauton Gilbow, now also stirring anger after this video from 2013 surfaced, in which she repeatedly sings the "N" word.
BEAUTON GILBOW, SAE HOUSE MOTHER: (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
MARQUEZ: Gilbow has now responded to the video, saying, "I am heartbroken by the portrayal that I am in some way racist," claiming the video is being taken out of context, and she was innocently singing along to the Trinidad James song, "All Gold Everything."
Before the video featuring her went viral, though, Gilbow told CBS News her fraternity family was not racist, and she was shocked to hear them use the "N" word.
GILBOW: I heard the words. Unbelievable. This is not -- this is not SAE.
MARQUEZ: Howard Dixon, who worked as a cook at the SAE house for about 15 years, is today out of a job.
HOWARD DIXON, COOK AT SAE HOUSE: We had so much fun on game day, football season. And now it's all gone.
MARQUEZ: But contributions of more than $50,000 has already been raised online to help him out.
William James, who says he's the last African-American member of SAE here, is in disbelief.
WILLIAM BRUCE JAMES II, LAST AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEMBER OF SAE AT O.U.: I walked those halls. I lived in those rooms. My picture hangs on the wall. I held offices in that house. They were talking about me.
MARQUEZ: Students here in full protest mode, a storied football team linking arms in a powerful show of support. But there is fallout. One star recruit who had signed to play for O.U. says no more.
JEAN DELANCE, OU RECRUIT: I wouldn't want my son or my child to go there or to anywhere like that, my brothers go anywhere like that. So, it was just very disturbing to me. I don't like it.
MARQUEZ: Now, I think the university here is really grappling with everything that this video has brought up. The investigation continuing, certainly, as students are coming together. Not quite protesting this but coming together to rally to show support and to try to figure out how they can talk about race going forward -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Miguel, thanks very much for that report.
Let's dig deeper now: joining us, CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin, the president of National Urban League, Marc Morial, and our CNN anchor, Don Lemon.
Sunny, what's your reaction to the expulsion of these two students seen in that video leading those awful chants?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think the president made this very strong statement, that there would be zero tolerance policy and I think, you know, the nation is reeling from having seen the video and he's showing great leadership.
I also believe, though, there will be a constitutional challenge to it because it sort of one of the first things you learn in law school, Wolf, when you're talking about free speech is that, you may disapprove of what someone says but still defend their right to say to it the death. And so, I think there'll be the arguments that these students were students and that at our educational systems, we want people to have maybe a heightened level of freedom of speech.
But I think that this president of this university made it very clear that he was basing his decision on the fact that this created a hostile learning environment and because this video went viral, it certainly affected the entire campus community. So, we're going to see that legal challenge, I think. But I think that this feels right, right? I think this feels strong and it feels like it's the first step to healing this community.
BLITZER: Let me ask Marc Morial. What's your reaction?
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Well, David Boren, and, you know, Wolf, he's a former member of the United States Senate, was swift. He was decisive. He didn't say let me -- let an investigation play out. He made a strong judgment, and in doing so, he's demonstrated the kind of leadership we would expect from the leaders of the nation's higher education institutions.
The language was coarse. It was unacceptable. It was reprehensible. And the expulsion of those studio audience and I think the expulsion of the fraternity from the campus is the exact right things to do. But it just demonstrates why this nation needs a conversation. This nation needs to heal.
This is yet another example of why this sort of element of racism and division has to be, one, brought out in the open, and two, dealt with by all of us as a nation.
BLITZER: Don Lemon, we're hearing from a friend of one of the students seen leading that racist chant, a graduate of the Jesuit prep school actually. I want you to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEW LOPEZ, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA FRESHMAN: Parker Rice is a charismatic person with a good soul, with a good spirit. But I feel truly did not believe in or did not truly understand what he was saying. And I feel like that is due to the facilitation of not just him, but the influence of the fraternity system and the traditions that had been embedded since pre-civil war times when the fraternity was made, which obviously wasn't the most tolerant times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, Don, what's your take of the outing, the political shaming of this student seen on that racist video, chanting. Could the reaction help prevent racist behavior like this down the road?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: In short answer, yes. I mean, I hate to see -- listen, I don't cheer for anyone's demise. I think it's awful for anyone to do that. But I think there has to be consequences for someone's actions.
And I'm so glad that Marc Morial is on this panel with us this evening. Both of us being from Louisiana. I attended Louisiana State University. Marc knows the Greek system at Louisiana State University and other universities in the South and especially in Louisiana, and this type of thing happens all the time.
And so, I am glad that light has been brought to it. I'm sorry that this student has to be expelled, but I'm glad this is going light. And I think those are -- that's the punishment for this type of behavior. Again, it happens all the time.
And we will be speaking to a friend of Patrick Rice this evening on my program as well.
BLITZER: At 10:00, later tonight.
Marc Morial, quickly, you agree with Don that this is going on not just in Oklahoma, but in Louisiana, other places as well?
MORIAL: Well, I wouldn't want to specifically say, but I think what Don is really saying is that in this fraternity, this chant, obviously, must have some history and some tradition. These members of this chapter didn't make that chant up. They didn't invent that chant.
LEMON: Because, Marc, those -- they said that they were pledges. So, a pledge would not be saying I will never sign. That would have to be coming from older people in the fraternity, from the people who've been with the fraternity, right.
MORIAL: And this fraternity needs to do some soul-searching and purge its process and its culture of this sort of racist and obnoxious and reprehensible technique, procedure, pledge standard, whatever they want to call it. It needs to be expunged and expelled from this fraternity.
And I think that the fraternity's leader, Brad Cohen, I think he was also swift in his denunciation of the University of Oklahoma chapter. But the larger question is, what's been going on and what they have been teaching their pledges for over 100 years?
BLITZER: I want all of you to stand by. Sunny, I want to come back to you in just a moment. We're going to talk about that house fraternity mom. She was caught on videotape using that N-word a year before this most recent incident.
Much more right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's a fraternity house mom about a year or so ago before this latest incident at the University of Oklahoma, singing some sort of rap song using the N-word. Clearly, it's causing more controversy over at that university.
We're back with our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, the president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, and our CNN anchor, Don Lemon.
Sunny, it's bad enough to hear those young guys, those fraternity brothers saying those awful things and that racists chant, and now, the fraternity house mom. I don't know if she thought she was having fun. They were singing a song that used the N-word, but it's pretty awful.
HOSTIN: It is really. As I said yesterday, Wolf, I was surprised to hear the young people saying this, because you think that as we go through our society, the pendulum swings, and, you know, our millennials should do better because they clearly should know better. So, when I saw this, though, it showed me if the house mother is doing this, this is so pervasive in the culture of that fraternity that it now is very clear that this is an institutional problem.
It's maddening that we're still talking about these issues, although I'm happy like Marc says, that we are talking about these issues.
LEMON: Sunny, she's singing a song. She's singing a song that those words are in the song.
HOSTIN: We should never use the N-word. No one should use it.
LEMON: I hate that word, no one should use that word. And so, it's -- I know people who are her age who are my color who say that word when they're saying a rap song.
HOSTIN: It should be retired.
LEMON: It should be retired. I don't know if that makes her racist because she sang it in a song or because some kids goaded her singing a rap song.
LEMON: I don't know if that makes her racist.
BLITZER: Hold on one second.
MORIAL: I also question her common sense. She appeared --
LEMON: Yes, I agree with that.
MORIAL: She appeared in an interview in effect expressing shock, surprise and disappointment. And then, it's revealed that she used the word and she was --
LEMON: Don't you think it's out of context? She's using it in context to sing a song, which people do all the time. I'm not saying it's right. Is she really racist?
HOSTIN: Oh, come on, Don.
LEMON: Because some kids are goading her into singing a song that contains the N-word?
HOSTIN: It's clear she's so duplicitous. She's so duplicitous.
LEMON: If she's flat out calling people the N-word, that is a different thing. She's singing a song, I think that's different.
What's the song we say, "these hoes ain't loyal", do I -- am I really calling women that word? No. Am I singing a song in the club? Yes. Does that make misogynistic?
HOSTIN: You're appearing apples and elephants. OK? It's completely different.
LEMON: I'm not saying it's right. I'm saying there's context to everything.
MORIAL: You know, there are consequences to what you say. If you want to sing it, maybe you have a right to sing it but if you lose your job over it, or you lose your position over it, you should be responsible and know.
I think people should understand these words are offensive. They should not be used. Responsible adults don't use them. Just because rap artists are using it and making money off of it, doesn't mean that one needs to repeat it or show up and pretend that they can sing it, too.
HOSTIN: Especially not someone in a leadership position because that woman was the house mother. And so, she was a guidance counselor.
LEMON: Sunny, if you're at party and you're singing those lyrics, I'm not going to think you're racist or I'm not going to think --
HOSTIN: I don't sing those. You'll never hear it. Ever.
LEMON: I'm just saying. If it happened, I'm not necessarily going to think that, you know? Especially, if you're doing this in a public venue then I would question your judgment. I do question her judgment a little bit because she's the adult in the room, but she's at party and she's got these young kids that are goading her into doing it. So, I'm not so sure about that.
HOSTIN: It just goes to show how pervasive the culture is there. I don't think that you can just look at other way and say, well, she's singing a rap song.
BLITZER: All right.
MORIAL: It's indefensible.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we've got to leave it there. Good conversation. Important conversation.
Thanks to all you have for joining us, Sunny Hostin, Don Lemon, Marc Morial.
An important note to our viewers: Don is going to be back later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Much more on this. All the day's important news. Don Lemon, "CNN TONIGHT", 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Stick around for that.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.