tv CNN Newsroom CNN July 24, 2009 3:00pm-4:00pm EDT
hello,again, everybody. i'm rick sanchez with what is the next generation of news. this is a conversation. it is not a speech. it is your turn to get involved. boy, have you gotten involved. after our show yesterday, which you responded to in huge numbers on television, on my blog, on twitter, et cetera shall the story has gotten even hotter and has now been threatening to drown out president obama's health care message. no doubt. guess who just came forward and announced that, well, he may have misspoken, which we were talking about in the show yesterday, which some of my colleagues denied. the president of the united states, just half an hour ago, you know the story, first of all. let me catch you up.
following the arrest of harvard professor henry gates for disorderly conduct by a white cambridge police officer, james crowley was his name. the president goes on national television and takes sides with the professor. he goes on to accuse the officer of acting, quote, stupidly. i believe the president jumped to a conclusion there. a lot of people thought so. some of my colleagues didn't. before knowing the facts. or does he simply come to this story. this is what is interesting. this is what some of my friends like roland last night on my show said, maybe it is because the president comes to this story as an african-american from a place that many other americans simply don't understand or don't relate to. just keeping everything in perspective. let's begin, let's begin all the conversations, debates and arguments we are about to have on this show with what the president said about half an hour ago. >> i wanted to address you guys directly because over the last
day and a half, obviously, there has been all sorts of controversy around the incident that happened in cambridge with professor gates and the police department there. i actually just had a conversation with sergeant jim crowley, the officer involved. and i have to tell you that as i said yesterday, my impression of him was that he was outstanding police officer and a good man and that was confirmed in the phone conversation. i told him that. because this has been ratcheting up and i obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, i want to make clear that in my choice of words, i think i unfortunately gave an impression that i was maligning the cambridge police department or
sergeant crowley specifically. i could have calibrated those words differently. i told this to sergeant crowley. i continue to believe, based on what i have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling professor gates out of his home to the station. i also continue to believe, based on what i've heard, that professor gates probably overreacted as well. my sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved. the fact that it has garnered so much attention, i think is a testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very
sensitive here in america. to the extent that my choice of words didn't illuminate but rather contributed to more media frenzy, i think that was unfortunate. what i would like to do then is make sure everybody steps back for a moment, recognizes that these are two decent people, not extrapolate too much from the facts but as i said from the press conference, be behind full of the fact that because of our history, because of the difficulties of the past, you know, african-americans are sensitive to these issues. even when you've got a police officer who has a fine track record on racial sensitivity, interactions between police officers and the african-american community can
sometimes be fraud with misunderstanding. my hope is that as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what's called a teachable moment, where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other and trying to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities and that instead of pointing accusations, we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity. lord knows, we need it right now. because over the last two days, as we've discussed this issue, i don't know if you have noticed but nobody has been paying much attention to health care. i will not use this time to spend more words on health care, although, i can't guarantee that that will be true next week.
but i just wanted to emphasize that one last point i guess i would make. there are some who say that as president, i shouldn't have stepped into this at all because it's a local issue. i have to tell you that that part of it i disagree with. the fact that this has become such a big issue, i think is indicative of the fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society. whether i were black or white, i think that me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive as opposed to negative understangs about the issue, is part of my portfolio. so at the end of the conversation, there was
discussion about my conversation with sergeant crowley, there was discussion about he and i and professor gates having a beer here in the white house. we don't know if that is scheduled yet but we may put that together. he also did say he wanted to find out if there was a way of getting the press off his lawn. i informed him that i can't get the press off my lawn. he pointed out that my lawn is bigger than his lawn. but if anybody has any connections to the boston press as well as national press, sergeant crowley would be happy for you to stop trampling his grass. thank you guys. >> so there you have it. to his credit, the breaking news is that the president actually picked up the phone and called
officer -- should i say sergeant crowley. there has been a major shift in this story since we did our newscast yesterday, which has a fa aforementioned, the president was asked to make a comment. he did solace the night on night line. completely different response than what you heard from the president right here. let's listen to this. this is about a minute. the president talking last night on night line with terry more ran. >> it doesn't make sense with all the problems that we have out there to arrest a guy in his own home if he is not causing a serious disturbance. now, i don't know all the extenuating circumstances. as i said, i respect what police officers do. from what i can tell, the sergeant who was involved is an outstanding police officer but my suspicion is that probably it would have been better if cooler
had prevailed. >> there was the president essentially last night. he was sticking to his guns, right? picking sides. picking the cop's over his friends, professor gates from harvard. then, something changed. just as we were getting ready to prepare this newscast, we heard the president was going to jump out in front of cameras and start talking to reporters and do what some might characterize as a mira copa. sergeant crowley who teaches a course on racial profiling at the police academy, he is saying, you are not going to get an apology from me, because i didn't do anything wrong. that's what the sergeant is saying. crowley's fellow officers, you have to watch this, crowley's fellow officers all came together today standing shoulder to shoulder and they said a lot of stuff. one of the things they said is,
the president of the united states owes sergeant crowley an apology. >> they both qualified their statements by saying they did not have all the facts. usually, when one hears those words, one would expect the next words would be, so i cannot comment. instead, both officials, both admitted friends of professor gates proceeded to insult the handling of his case by the cambridge police department. president obama said that the acs of the c.p.d. were stupid an linked the event to a history of racial profiling in america. the facts of this case suggest that the president used the right adjective but directed it to the wrong party. his remarks were obviously misdirected. >> we want to continue to give all sides in this debate a fair chance to air their side of the story. so, now, what we want to do is give you sergeant crowley's perspective. he did not speak today.
the police report that he wrote seems to suggest that he believed, and this is important, he believed, that when he arrived at the scene, professor gates could have been a potential victim, which is why he says he asked him to step away from the residence, where he believed, again, sergeant crowley says, he believed there could have been two suspects that were, at the time, in his home burglarizing. that's his version of events. that's how gates did not see it, though. here is his latest on-air response. this is crowley's on-air response where he sits down and he talks to boston cnn affiliate station whdh. go ahead. hit that, raj. >> i was continuously telling him to calm down during this whole exchange, because i really didn't want this either. although i didn't know at the time who professor gates was, knowing he was an affiliate of
harvard, i didn't want to have to take such a drastic action, because i knew it was going to bring a certain amount of attention, unwanted attention on me. nonetheless, that's how far professor gates pushed it and provoked and just wouldn't stop. >> all right. you are going to hear more of everyone's side of this story and you are also going to be hearing from some of my colleagues, t.j. holms is following the story, as is don lemon. both of them have been talk together players involved on both sides of this issue. they are going to be joining us in just a little bit. boyce watkins is going to be joining us as well with melissa harris lacewell, who is going to be taking up this question about whether the president of the united states. this is an important question for all americans. whether the president of the united states jumped to a conclusion or whether it's his perspective as an african-american man that led him to simply react to something that many other americans don't relate to. i mean, this is important stuff. it is part of our national conversation.
welcome back, i'm rick sanchez. we are coming to you today from our time warner studios here in beautiful new york city off of columbus circle. man, have you guys gotten involved in this debate since yesterday. jeff, come around. let's look at a couple of tweets if we can. here we go. let's go right to the top. this is interesting. it says, i am now thinking, right there, i am now thinking that obama set us up with his acted stupid comment to deflect the news on the health care debate. that's the one at the top that says united 9198. let's skip down to this one here that says amadghatti. it says, i am a black man in america and i think henry lewis
gates jr. should apologize for overreacting and pulling the race card. that's interesting. we have been hearing more about that. some critics of sergeant crowley said he shouldn't have arrested the professor even if he was out of control. after all, he was in his own home, the professor was. whether or not he was making a ruckus or being obnoxious as some seem to suggest. that's what some argue. the legal counsel for the police union spoke today as well, trying to make us better understand what is disorderly conduct to begin with. when can a police officer use it, what is the threshold, for example, have to be. let's learn more about this before we get into the debate. here it is. >> you could find hundreds of lawyers who would debate the ups and downs and the merits and demerits of any disorderly person arrest. the police officer on the
ground, if you will, on the spot of making those decisions, does not have that luxury or ability. if you review sergeant crowley's report, i think you would find many lawyers who would agree that the evidence presented therein would be sufficient to make an arrest. >> let's talk about don lemon. he was there today for the press. he has been talking to many so of the players involved in this case. you know what this is coming down to, don? this is an interesting question. all of us as americans, hispanic, black, white, no matter where we come from, need to ask ourselves these questions. is this a case about a white police officer prejudging a black man or is this possibly also a case about a black man prejudging a white police officer? >> reporter: you know, rick, maybe that's what it all comes down to. i was going to say, that's what
got us in this predicament now. that's what got the president and everyone in this predicament, just judging things before they go out. where is this story going to go to next? i wasn't at the house. i don't know what happened. i have spoken in e-mail to mr. gates. i have spoken to the officer, the sergeant involved, personally. i have spoken to mr. gates attorney and everyone has their own thing about what happened. i have toll you that, like i said, where is is this story going to go? at least it feels like it is moving now, rick, towards some resolution, not only resolution where everyone is accusing each other but where people may sit down and talk to each other and come to some consensus on a solution. that's what black in america 2 is about, about solutions. let me tell you this. right after that press conference, with all of those people from the cambridge police department, black, white, hispanic, asian, men, women, i was the only reporter who got a chance to go in and talk to
these guys and talk to sergeant crowley. sergeant crowley has been, you know, told not to speak. he spoke to me off camera. he stood there while all of husband buddies, they talked about him and what happened. the guy you are going to hear from, lee on lastly. he is a sergeant here, a supervisor here. he was on the scene. do you have that picture? the arrest photo we have seen of henry lewis gates jr. he is the bald guy, on the scene. here is what he said to me, rick. he said, honestly, you know, the professor was acting erratically. he was saying strange things. they were trying to calm him down. >> this is a black police officer? >> reporter: this is a black officer. the black officer says that -- he said, this is what happens to a black man in america when a white woman calls the police,
that would be his neighbors. a black man in america ends up in jail for trying to get into his own house. so he said that and then he went on to explain why he is supporting the sergeant and what happened at the scene. take a listen. >> all right. >> every time we get into the situation, we are subject to being second-guessed as to why we did something or should we have done something differently. coming after the scene, that can be done. you can always say, okay, we could have done something better. we could have done it this way. right there, on the spot, that's what happened. from what i saw and i was there, he did nothing wrong. >> reporter: there is another side to the story. there is professor gates' side to the story and his attorney's side. they believe that professor gates acted accordingly. the interesting thing is going to be -- >> the problem -- go ahead. you finish. >> if they release these tapes
shall the 911 tapes and the tapes from the radio broadcast between the police certificatpo can hear in the become ground he was being unruly, professor gates. right aft presideer the preside started speaking, i called the police department. they said they were with sergeant crowley, listening, happy with the remarks that the president was making. i had this on good authority. they want the world to know and the president that sergeant crowley drinks blue moon beer. >> thanks so much. we appreciate it, don lemon. i want to go to t.j. holmes, who is also standing by. what's interesting, t.j., is if you look at it farrelirly, the y
is moving away from professor gates and with the president's miaculpa. this is not helping whatever case the professor may have presented earlier on but you have just spoken to his attorney, i understand. tell us what you have learned that we don't know. >> i am going to pick up on something you asked. that was the precise question, rick, that i asked, is this a case that maybe professor gates was profiling a white officer? is it a fact that he cease a white officer and jumps to a conclusion that this guy is going to be out to get me and not just doing his job? the response to that was, this is not about race. i know that sounds crazy coming from professor gates side and his attorney because that's all we have been talking about, racial profiling. this is a matter of a police officer exhibiting bad judgment. that is where he wanted to go and the direction they wanted us
to go and not about race. however, the reason everybody is talking about race, it became about race when that neighbor picked up the phone and said, i see two black guys. that is what triggered this whole thing. that's why it puts this whole mindset into these officers head that this is what we are up against when we head to the house. >> wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. i have got to stop you there. i understand on the record and i was reading this last night, that professor gates has gone and shaken hands with his neighbor and thanked her for calling the police and protecting his property. >> they are not saying the neighbor did anything wrong. when you called, according to charles obertri, you call and tell the police it is two black guys. he believes that set certain things into motion and that's why it got all out of hand. >> i have got to ask you this question. did you -- what did the officer do to make the professor believe that he was a racist or that he was racially profiling,
specifically, not that he is a liar, not that i don't believe him, not that i filed a fake report, what did he do or say specifically? have we learned that yet? i haven't heard that. >> quite frankly, here, rick, he showed up as a white cop. charles ogeltry said he was tired, he had a cold. he comes into his own home and he is being questioned. they didn't appreciate the fact that the officer immediately says are come outside. he didn't say, did you live here, can i see some i.d.? come outside. according to the attorney, professor gates took that the wrong way. he admits he was upset, loud rg, argumentative. wouldn't you be upset as well? gates had no responsibility to diffuse that situation and flat out said, no, he did not do anything wrong. of course, you heard, as you know, rick, from the officer. he is saying, i don't know what's going on at this house. of course, i want him to come outside. >> the officer said in his
police report, which i have here in this stack of papers somewhere. i could basically tell you what it said. he says, when he got the report and they said two people. so he assumed there could be two people inside the house or another person beside the professor. he wanted to straighten it out. so he wanted the professor to get away from the house, he says, for his own protection. he may have been a victim. >> that's not a good enough answer for gates and his side. they say he could have done other things to diffuse the situation. we heard from the president a short time ago, rick, trying to calm things down. i kind of got that sense from talking to gates' attorney today. we still have time. go ahead and roll that sound bite. >> let's do it. >> he says, why are you doing this. is it because i am a black man and you are a white police officer? >> was he saying it as calmly as you are saying it to me? >> the recordings will show. you can imagine that he is feeling this sense of in dignity. it has nothing to do with race. there are people who feel
powerless when they have done everything they can legally do to protect themselves and find what professor gates found. >> i know it sounds crazy. we have been talking about racial profiling the past couple days. it is not about race. they wanted to back it down. we heard about the recordings. those might be released. some are saying you might be able to hear professor gates yelling in the background. certainly, everybody thinks, rick, the president did a service to come out today, try to diffuse this a little bit and maybe we can move forward. right now, no lawsuit planned. they said this as well. charles ogletree, gates attorney, it is not on the table but they are saying at this point it is not a consideration to do a lawsuit. we just want this conversation to continue. we want more sensitivity training and to have this, again, as a teachable moment. >> i have got to tell you, i have learned as much in the last ten minutes on this story from you with your excellent reporting on this, stuff that we hadn't heard.
we hadn't heard the other side yet. it sounds like there is a little bit of backing down on all sides on this thing making for an even healthier debate in the end. i think it is good for the national conversation as well as from don lemon's report on what was coming in from the other side as well. this is good tv. i am so glad, t.j., that you were able to bring us that. >> we were going the wrong direction. it may be now we can have an intelligent conversation, cooler heads, calm down. maybe we will see picture of those three guys at the white house having a beer. >> this could end up being good for a lot of americans. this is the kind of conversation with race relations that we need to have. talk about open and honest conversation about race relations in this country, what is racial profiling? was that the case here? are we all perhaps jumping to conclusions from time to time when we see people whose skin is different than ours, whether ours is dark and theirs is light or vice versa. these are important questions we all need to ask, because we all
we have just learned that president zelaya may be returned to honduras after being involved in a legal removal after he tried to dismiss the constitution so he could stay in power ala chavez. i think i can listen to him talk and translate for you. hold on. he says i've never had a trial. if this isn't justice, what they did to me, this would be null and void anywhere else. he says the people in the government would be committed a huge error if they tried to fight me, because they don't control the country. now, what we are trying to understand is, is he in the country legally or not legally. i will keep listening to see if i can figure this out. this president was booted out of the country by his own people.
he says he just talked to the president of brazil. he says he has the support of many other presidents. he is arguing he needs to be let back in his country and given back his country. >> you told us this is from honduras, right? we don't know if he is back in honduras legally as president or back because he snuck in the back door and is now asking to put back in office. this thing could get really ugly. all the people you see around him. he is a very popular president with villagers and the indigent population. not so popular in the city. he says, we sat down with oscar arias, the president of costa rica and he accepted the terms
of my return but it doesn't say -- you know what we will do. let's get back to the story we are covering here, our own little crisis in the united states. we will get back to it. you know what it is. it looks like president zelaya is back in honduras. it doesn't sound like he is back in honduras legally. how are they going to make this legal? will this cause another skirmish? the same kind of violence we have seen before. carl is down there. if we can get him on the phone, i will get him on and see if he can clear this up. that's breaking news. the president, the embattled president zelaya of honduras back in his country. let's get back to the president of the united states and his battle. the latest being a comment he made in the very last question in a news conference of health care essentially deciding to take sides against the police department in cambridge, massachusetts and with his friend, who was a professor at
harvard at one point saying that the police officers acted stupidly. boyce watkins is joining us now. boyce was with me yesterday and somewhat brazen and courageous enough to say, my dad used to be a cop. even though i am an african-american man, i think the president of the united states, whom i respect, was wrong for saying what he did. that's what boyce watkins said on the air yesterday. what's your take after hearing the president kind of do a mia kulpa today? >> i think this shows that president obama is what i thought he was, an intelligent and thoughtful human being. i think it is wa a slip of the tongue. i think that president obama, i'm hopeful, will do a little bit of self-reflection and really ask himself, was it my association with my harvard buddy that led me to assume if he got arrested, the officer might have done something wrong. my belief is that this isn't as
much about race as it might be about class. >> or is it something else? is there something, boyce, in african-americans and to a certain extent, latinos and hispanics, that makes us often not in a mean or conspiratorial or bad extremely negative way but does make us have a tendency to prejudge things because of our experience. this is so profound that it would affect someone as smart and intelligent as the president of the united states, who is also an accomplished law professor. that is what we are getting to isn't it? >> racism is a disease that lies within the fabric of the social infrastructure. all of us are affected by racism. all of us are victims of the racial in equality. i don't blame professor gates
for his reaction. i remember coming back from a trip to china myself and going through some experiences that really upset me. i go through experiences at syracuse university that upset me as a black man i understand where he was coming from i think you have to be thoughtful and not jump to judgment. >> i think even he can succumb to this. even the president of the united states can succumb to a prejudgment even with all he is and what does that tell us about what any one of us can do, whether we are white or black in prejudging. i am not talking about how he prejudged the cop. i am talking about how more often than not white cops do prejudge latinos and african-americans. we have information on this breaking story. we are trying to figure this out. apparently, president zelaya of honduras is back in his country. karl penhaul, i understand is now on the beeper. that's what we call joining me
on the phone. are you there, karl, where the president is? >> reporter: i'm standing with one leg in honduras and one leg in nick ar raragua. he is still on the nick ar ago wan side of the border. they are waiting until he comes across. police officers are also waiting and the police officer that i just talked to said that if mr. >> zelaya steps one foot across this chain inside honduras, his order is to arrest him. the military that i spoke to said his order is to back up the police to carry out their arrest warrant, rick. >> oh, my goodness. what we are watching here is a real confrontation. you are telling me, because you sounded a little muffled. i want to make sure our audience understands it. this president is not actually in honduras.
he is steps away from the border where he will step into honduras and at that point, there may be a confrontation. >> reporter: he has stepped away 50 yards from a rusty chain that marks the borderline between nicaragua and honduras and ten yards across the other side. there, a committee of police officer and soldiers are waiting to arrest him, rick. >> so is president micheletti, the interim president, who is taking over for him in honduras, made any kind of threat or told his police officers to go ahead and arrest the former president? >> a standing order for mr. micheletti that his military forces should arrest mr. zelaya should he set force into honduras. according to the police officer i just spo he can to, that order is very much still in effect. the aim is to arrest mr. zelaya
if he sets foot in honduras. in order to keep his supporters off the street, the interim government in honduras has declared it safe on curfew. we do know a short distance across on the honduran side of the border, there have already been violent clashes between the security forces and mr. zelaya's supporters, rick. >> i imagine this region that we are in right now is not part of any big metropolis or city, right? this is more of a rural area where by the way guys like zelaya and cha chez avez are po. if they try to arrest him, would i be wrong to assume there would be a lot of people who might come to his aid. >> reporter: there will be a lot of people that will try to come to his aid and it will be an uneven fight. our reporters on the other side of the border, say there are at
least 1,500 heavily armed police and soldiers. they have fired some shots, we are told. so it is an even fight with mr. zelaya's support rs. many of them have tried to come from the capital, ta gu sa gallon pa. they have been throwing up road blocks. they are trying to impede their ability to get to the border and for which mr. zelaya is now just steps away from. >> do a little play by play for us, karl if you could. for those of us joining us, we are watching some real international drama here. the former president of honduras, who was ousted, is about to cross back into his country, even though he has been told he would be defying the law. he this is he is still the rightful president. it seems like he is really willing to force his way in, even though president micheletti, the interim
president, is saying he wants him arrested. karl, tell us now where he is in relation to where the border is? is he heading in that direction? it almost looks like he is walking in circles right now. >> well, there is an element of a political fear here and also media fear, because it has to be said, rick, right now what mr. zelaya has done is thee at trickily walking to the immigration office, the nick rog wan immigration office. he is making a show he is checking out of nicaragua. he is getting his exit stamp and making a show that he is now really intending to leave nicaragua. once he leaves that office, he will then be about 50 yards away from a rusty old chain that
marks the borderline between nicaragua and honduras. one foot over that rusty chain will become the point where the honduran military will decide what they have to do. on the other side, some 300 yards back from the honduran border, is where we understand these supporters are gathered. they will have to decide what they are going to try and do to protect their president. >> good, lord. karl penhaul bringing us an international account of what is developing on the border of nicaragua and honduras. we have been following this story for three or four weeks ever since that man you see right there, president zelaya, with that white cowboy hat, was ousted from the presidency. the supreme court decided he had tried to violate the constitution by getting ballots into his country to continue as president even though his term would eventually end.
that forced them to send the military general in to arrest him. instead, he told the military general he was fired. so then the supreme court eventually had him removed as they said, taken out in his underwear one night. it has created a huge situation for both the united states and secretary state clinton has weighed in, as has the president of the united states, barack obama. now, here we have president zelaya, live. we are staying with this drama unfolding before our eyes and because i happen to be able to speak a little spanish. let me see if i can listen in and hear what he is saying now. let's turn up the sound.
[ speaking in spanish ] >> the reporter says that the president is now talking to his family. i can't hear the president, because i hear the reporter talking about what's going on. apparently, he is talking to his family before taking those final steps. hold on. he says right now, i am right in the middle between honduras and nicaragua. i am waiting for you guys. waiting for you guys. let me hear what the reporter is saying. hold on.
he says, they are hurting the people of honduras and on and on. we have heard that before. it is still unclear whether he is going to be making a show of force there at the border or actually going in. karl, have you been able to get a better handle as to whether or not the president is going to be going in and if so, any time soon? he did say, i am waiting for you guys. was he waiting for somebody in the government? no. what he has said is he would hope to be reunited with his family on the border. throughout this crisis, his wife and his children had stayed inside honduras part of the time we understand in hiding as to whether mr. zelaya will get across any time soon from where he is standing right now, it would seem like to walk across into honduras. >> karl, karl, hold on a sec.
let's see what he said there. he made a pretty declarative statement. let's see if we can figure it out. i thought i just heard him say again -- boy, i tell you what. this fellow likes the attention. >> it is hard to figure out exactly what he is doing? karl, as we watch this. let me help you put this in perspective, because i have had some various conversations with international experts, including members of the reagan and bush administration, who were part of the latin-american strategy for this country. i still am not sure whether this guy i a good guy or a bad guy in all of this. on the one hand, as you know, he was planning some stuff that could have been considered very
nef fairus. on the other hand, it looks like from our vantage point, like he was ousted in couplike fashion, almost illegally. which is the truth? who is right and who is wrong? >> reporter: everybody in this crisis would say they were right from their side. the international community has come down very heavily on mr. zelaya's side. you have to remember this is the president who was democratically elected by the honduran people. remember, as well, that this man came to power with a sense of -- and shifted to the left. in no sense is this man a communist or socialist. he is simply proposing social reform. he did propose some things that constitutionalists inside of honduras believed crossed the constitution.
it remains that armed soldiers firing shots broke into the presidential palace, had taken this president and removed him in pajamas and bundled him off into exile in pajamas to costa rica and that in anybody's language is a military coup. >> this is a developing news story we are following for you. breaking news that we suddenly got a live picture of. the gentlemen in the white hat is the former president of honduras. it seems or appears as being reported by our own karl pen hall, that this former president is now possibly thinking about forcing his way back into his country. he has already been denied on several occasions, once coming in by helicopter. another occasion where he had apparently tried to negotiate with oscar areas and micheletti. it appears he is going to try to walk into the country in nicaragua. we are watching it for you.
we have karl penhaul there. we have a life picture on it. anything that develops, we will bring it for you here on cnn. in the meantime, we will stay on top of the latest breaking news here in our own country. that's the president of the united states backing down somewhat, trying to turn down the heat. perhaps even offering a mea culpa in what he had said by taking sides in the case of the harvard professor, henry louis gates. 8
welcome back. i'm rick sanchez. breaking news in central america on the boardser between nicaragua and honduras. for those of you yao who have been following our newscast for quite some time, you know the situation in honduras where the president was ousted, some say through a large measure through a coup. now what we are being able to see are live pictures of this president, zelaya, trying to force his way back into his country by walking across the border from nicaragua back into honduras. this is not something you see on live television every day, a story like this unfolding out of the blue. but that's exactly what's going on. we've got a series of experts that might be able to help take us through this. juan carlos lopez has been following this, one of our correspondents at cnn espanol. he's following the situation out of washington, d.c. do you know, carlos, if the president, former president, i should say, had actually made
any attempts to get back into the -- is that what he's really trying to do or is he just trying to get a whole lot of attention? >> it might be just today a whole lot of attention, rick, because recently he was speaking with our colleagues over the phone saying that his first goal today is to negotiate with the police and military at the border to get them to recognize him as deposed president, to recognize him as president and to let him in. but he hasn't said that he will cross the line, that he would go into honduras. obviously, if he does, the de facto government has said he will be arrested. so, so far it might be a measure to gain attention. another reason i say this, rick, is because the state department in their briefing today said that he had told them he would not go in because he's expected in washington on tuesday. so, this might be just to keep on -- the attention on this situation. he was desupposed by the current government in honduras.
>> yeah. >> and he claims that he is the legitimate president. >> yeah. everybody seems to be claiming these days they're the legitimate president. eric farnsworth is with us, as well, with the council of the americas. you could look at this story both ways and come up with some conclusion to your benefit. what do you make of what this president is doing and what his assertions have been? eric farnsworth, are you there? he's still getting his mike on. all right. as soon as we get a chance to go to him. raj, take a picture and see if we can listen to what the president is saying. he keeps doing these radio interviews on telephone or talking to family members. let's see what he's saying and what he's trying to accomplish. looks like he's signaling over to -- he's now signaling over to the honduran side, and he's telling someone on the honduran
side, tell him to come over. now, remember sh karl penhaul has told us he was trying to get his -- where is olivia, he now asks. karl penhaul told us he was trying to meet up with his family at the border. we haven't seen them. and i want to see my kids. i want to see my wife. i want to see chamara. i'm translating what the president is saying there at the border, trying to get into the country. and then he signaled with his hand. you saw that earlier. he said, let them come over. professor farnsworth, eric farnsworth, this is one hell of a spectacle. what do you make of it? >> the president clearly trying to force the issue. he's trying to return to the presidency of tech gal pa,
trying to get the president micheletti to react, force a reaction and either he goes home or he gets arrested, but either way the calculation has to be he wins. this is a media show and he's doing it for his own purposes, no question about it. >> goes to the border, tries to step over, the police officers arrest him, throw him in jail and no more chance of him becomibecomcoming back and becoming president if you're in the brig. correct? >> but he becomes a martyr and he already has national support him him and this only intensifies the pressure on the micheletti government to release him and release him quickly. so, the calculation has to be that he wins either way, either he's arrested or he's not, but he wins. >> from what you know of this guy, what's your best bet here? is this the kind of guy who's going to force the issue and allow himself to be martyred, as you say, or arrested, or is this guy really just all about show and going to the boarder to make sure he gets a lot of attention on the world stage?
>> well, there's certain lay lot of the latter, but i think he's going to force the issue. he tried to come into the country a couple weeks ago by airplane with a television crew, trailed by various presidents around the region. he's very serious about returning, and frankly, if he gets arrested, so be it. he's going to force the micheletti government to react in that way or not. but i don't see him hanging out at the border and not crossing it or not forcing the issue. i think this is all a plan. >> someone from the brookings institute here, as well. what's your take? >> i totally agree with eric. he's trying to force the issue. this is -- this is all very irresponsible. >> irresponsible? >> yes, profoundly. this is a country certainly not on the brink of civil war as some people have claimed, but there's potential for civil
rest. bear in mind, this is a country that's heavily armed. everyone has a gun in honduras, and that's not good when you have a situation of political polarization. >> you're saying the president by his actions could actually spark a violent episode that could lead to real problems in central america like we saw back in the early 1980s? >> not the same kind of problems that we saw in the 1980s because actually i'm saying that the potential for civil war is actually very low, and historically speaking, levels of political violence in honduras have been low, but the potential for civil unrest for sure. >> isn't this what chavez wants? i mean, let's face it. this is the kind of thing as instigators, which we know to a certain extent they are, not to cast negative aspersions, but this is the kind of thing that fidel castro used to do throughout latin-american and hugo chavez now does. i mean, causing this kind of havoc is a good thing from his
standpoint, wouldn't it be? >> the short answer is yes. >> yeah. what's the long answer? >> the electronics answer long probably not exactly the same thing as fidel castro used to do, but i think that the more turmoil is created in the region, the better for him. >> eric, do you agree with that? >> totally agree. you see the venezuelan handpr t handprints all over this. the former president is traveling with the foreign minister of venezuela. the venezuelan government supplied him the airplanes to try to come back weeks ago. their handprints are all over it. >> let's listen again to see what the president is saying. let's see if we can -- because we're literally learning the story from his own words. crank it up, rog.
he says the president of the united states -- the president of the united states -- the president zelaya says that he has time and he has the disposition and the patience to be able to do this well. what's he saying there, fellows? eric, let me begin with you. >> he's going to pick his moment. he's going to draw this out as long as possible. he's not going to cross this instance, but i think it is imminent. he's very much a showman, he's very much playing to the world stage ruight now and he's going to try to pick his moment for maximum impact, no doubt. >> lenny davis is about to join us with this, as we know, former white house adviser for president clinton. he's got a take on this, as well. let me ask you, kevin. you heard what the president just said there. it doesn't sound to me like from what he said that he's going to be rushing the border any moment now. we're down to 20 seconds. >> no. he's going