News Brief: Hurricane Latest, Funeral For Botham Jean, CBS Fires Executive
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The winds of Hurricane Florence have declined for the moment, but wind speed was never the biggest concern.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Yeah. What forecasters are really focusing on is the chance for heavy rainfall as the storm approaches the Carolina coast. The eye of the hurricane is projected to make landfall tomorrow, though it's expected people are going to start feeling the effects of this storm as soon as this morning.
INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Allen will be covering this storm from Wilmington in coastal North Carolina. Hi there, Greg.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: Are you set up to cover this? And what's the situation?
ALLEN: Well, you know, this part of North Carolina around the Wilmington area feels like it's ready. We're in a voluntary evacuation zone, not mandatory. But we're just about 10, 15 miles from the ocean here, so it'll be very close when the storm comes ashore sometime tomorrow, as you say. It's declined from a major hurricane, so we're going to see less potential wind damage, as you mentioned.
But even though the wind field - wind field has gotten much bigger, though, at the same time. So now we've got these tropical storm-force winds that extend nearly 200 miles from the center, making it a large storm, almost the size of Katrina at this point.
And so that, of course, brings this issue about storm surge - 9- to 13-foot storm surge - which is poised to do significant damage along the coast there - 20, 30 inches of rain, as you say. And here, people are about ready. Businesses and schools are shut down. Things are very quiet. Many have left town.
INSKEEP: Now I would normally think 10 or 15 miles inland, you'd be completely safe from storm surge. But, of course, you don't really know, if we're talking about 20 inches of rain, where the flooding might turn up. What are you hearing from people there?
ALLEN: Well, you know, here in Wilmington, we're right on a couple of rivers, and flooding is a real issue here. Yesterday, I was at the Home Depot nearby where people were getting - doing last minute preparation, getting supplies like generators, walking out with big sheets of plywood. But then, the Home Depot closed at 10 a.m. so employees could go home and make their own preparations. And that left them with very many angry, disappointed customers. You know, quite an uproar there.
We went down to Carolina Beach, which is in a mandatory evacuation zone, right on the coast. And the vast majority of people there are gone. We talked to Chris Stewart (ph) who was packing up and getting ready to leave. He grew up there. And although he's been through past hurricanes, he said, this time, Florence really had him worried.
CHRIS STEWART: And I'm the first one to tell you, I'll stay through them. And I'm - and this one - it's untypical. It's not like any of the other ones. Just doing something totally different. And it's, you know, the way it is. And that sends a red flag to me. I'm getting out.
ALLEN: You know, people do seem to be kind of evacuating from Carolina Beach. It was very quiet there, but we did come across some people who said they were staying. There was a guy on the beach surfing - his name was Tim Bolton (ph) - out there in the water. Said waves were good. But he said he was planning on staying, although he is closely watching Florence. Here's what he had to say.
TIM BOLTON: You just got to give it time. I mean, with storms like this, it's still two days out. We don't know. I mean, it might make landfall in, you know, Myrtle Beach or Oak Island. I mean, who knows? Just got to wait and see.
INSKEEP: Greg, you must be in a region where people have been through an awful lot of storms, an awful lot of near-misses and direct hits.
ALLEN: Well, you know, this area has had kind of smaller hurricanes, and it just kind of - there's no such thing, really, as a small hurricane, but nothing like this one in terms of the size. And so I think people compare it to Hugo, which was - kind of hit south of here but did a lot of damage. Really, the greatest thing is the comparisons to Hazel, which was a Category 4 storm. And that was very large and did a lot of damage. And that was in the '50s, so it's been a while. And - but people are taking it seriously, and they're evacuating.
INSKEEP: All right. We'll be listening for your reporting. Greg, thanks very much.
ALLEN: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Allen. And we'll bring you the latest on your NPR station, also at npr.org.
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INSKEEP: Last week, an off-duty Dallas police officer entered a neighbor's apartment and shot him dead. Officer Amber Guyger said she entered Botham Jean's apartment by mistake, thinking it was her own.
GREENE: Yeah. Guyger says she saw a figure standing inside and thought it was an intruder. She drew her service revolver and fired, killing Jean. But Jean's family and many people in the community are questioning the officer's version of events.
INSKEEP: NPR's Wade Goodwyn is covering this story from Dallas. Hi there, Wade.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: Would you walk us through the known facts in order? We just heard, effectively, the officer's story. But there are some other data points here.
GOODWYN: Yeah. So here's what we know so far. About 10 p.m. last Thursday, after a long shift, and she was still in her police uniform, Amber Guyger parked her car on the fourth floor of her apartment building garage. Normally, she parks on the third because that's where her apartment is. Guyger then walks into the building's hallway, somehow enters the apartment that's one floor up from hers, and shoots Jean in the chest. You know, he's minding his own businesses in his apartment when she comes through the front door, draws her weapon and shoots him in the chest.
INSKEEP: Is there some information to challenge that story?
GOODWYN: Well, there are three different stories about how the officer got into the apartment. The Dallas Police Department's search warrant said Guyger encountered Jean at his front door after she unsuccessfully tried to open it. Neighbors reported they heard words exchanged, and then two shots. So in this version, Guyger killed Jean after he opens his front door and she's standing there in the hall.
But then, in the arrest warrant, which was issued by the Texas Rangers, the story is changed. In this version, Officer Guyger gets to the door, inserts her key into the lock. But while doing so, the door just swings open because she inserts - it's not even latched. So she enters, sees Jean standing there, draws her weapon, calls out to him and fires two shots, killing him. Guyger says she then turns on the lights in the apartment, realizes she's in the wrong place and calls 911.
INSKEEP: And so we're talking about really subtle differences here, but things that could make a tremendous difference as to whether this killing could be seen, in some way, as explainable or not. It's also been reported that the doormat had something to do with all of this. What would it have to do with it?
GOODWYN: Jean put this red semicircle doormat at the front door to his apartment. And I've seen the picture. And the apartment door and the mat are in this well-lit interior hallway. One would have to stand on the mat when you face the door. And if you look down to insert your electronic key fob into the lock, you can't help but see yourself standing on this red mat.
It's bound to raise questions about why Guyger couldn't deduce from the physical evidence, you know, she was literally standing on top of that this was not her front door. On this subject, here's Benjamin Crump, lawyer for the Jean family, in an interview with NPR.
BENJAMIN CRUMP: It's very important because Botham put that red mat there so his apartment would be clearly identifiable to people who were coming to visit him. And that red mat stands out. I mean, it's a bright red.
GOODWYN: And these are the kinds of details that make this case so perplexing - evidence that points in both directions.
INSKEEP: And, of course, there will be funeral services today for Botham Jean. Wade, thanks very much.
GOODWYN: You're quite welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn.
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INSKEEP: In half a century of broadcasting, the CBS program "60 Minutes" has only had two executive producers. One of them was Don Hewitt, a television pioneer. And his successor was Jeff Fager, who was fired this week.
GREENE: Yeah. CBS News dismissed Fager amidst stories of sexual misconduct. Fager denied accusations in The New Yorker of inappropriate touching, also, ignoring complaints from staff. Now CBS says his firing was not directly related to those accusations. Fager says he was fired for sending harsh text messages to a reporter, and a CBS reporter says that she received them.
INSKEEP: CNN business and media reporter Hadas Gold is following this story. Good morning.
HADAS GOLD: Good morning.
INSKEEP: What was the essence of the case against Fager before these text messages?
GOLD: So there had been reports in The New Yorker by journalist Ronan Farrow that Jeff Fager had allegedly engaged in some inappropriate or uncomfortable touching of some of his colleagues during certain parties. There were other allegations about how he may have not acted as quickly on other harassment allegations.
But, as you noted, what caused his downfall from "60 Minutes" is this text message that he sent to a CBS reporter, who herself was reporting on these allegations. And this text message, which she later actually read on air on "CBS Evening News" said, be careful. There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me. And if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up, that will become a serious problem.
INSKEEP: Let's listen to that reporter, Jericka Duncan, on CBS because she goes on the air, and suddenly, she's part of the story. And let's hear, in her voice, the description.
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JERICKA DUNCAN: Fager, in a text, said to me, quote, "if you repeat these false accusations without any of your own reporting to back them up, you will be held responsible for harming me."
INSKEEP: It's also remarkable it's not clear that she intended to publicize these text messages. She said in a report last night, now that Jeff Fager is talking about them, out of transparency, I'm going to tell you what he said to me. And now we know what he said. What line does this cross for a news executive to talk to a reporter covering him in this way?
GOLD: Well, I mean, Jeff Fager knows, himself, that journalists are sort of used to receiving these sort of messages from people they're reporting on. But when it was from in-house that he was - David Rhodes, president of CBS News, said that he had - he violated their policy by speaking that way to the reporter.
I mean, it sounds like Jeff Fager was already in sort of a precarious position at CBS anyways, and this seemed to have sort of provided a reason for CBS to let him go because this was a very harsh message to an employee who was just doing her job reporting on a huge news story.
INSKEEP: As I understand it, CBS has not finished its investigation of the allegations against Fager, but the head of the network, Les Moonves, just lost his job the other day. How's this fit in the bigger picture at CBS?
GOLD: Right. And the investigation against Les Moonves has also not been - has not ended. And we don't know when that will end or what the results will be because, apparently, according to Moonves' contract, those results must be kept confidential. That might change. We don't know.
But CBS is in a huge time of change right now. As you noted, "60 Minutes" has only had two executive producers. And there is a sense of sort of conflict with CBS staff that I've spoken to who say, listen; Jeff Fager was an amazing producer. And they are concerned about what this will mean for "60 Minutes" going forward.
INSKEEP: So people are defending Jeff Fager that you're talking with?
GOLD: Well, before this text message came out, they were defending them - defending him more. The New York Times reported that "60" staff went to sort of a goodbye party for him. But then, once they saw this text message, some feelings changed. But still, you can have a feeling about a producer of how great a producer they might be but then also be sort of horrified by what they might've said.
INSKEEP: Hadas Gold of CNN. Always a pleasure talking with you. Thanks.
GOLD: Thank you.
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