tv CNN Newsroom With Jim Acosta CNN November 28, 2021 1:00pm-2:00pm PST
information about this new highly mutated covid variant known as omicron. president biden is now back at the white house and is being briefed by members of his covid-19 response team along with his chief medical adviser dr. anthony fauci. but as the omicron variant sparks fears of a pandemic setback, a top u.s. health official cautions against panic, telling cnn there's no evidence yet to suggest it would cause more serious illness than previous variants. >> how severe would it be? we have no data so far to suggest that it would be. there's even a bit of a report from south africa that maybe people with this are milder than the usual case, but they're mostly young people who have mild illness anyway so i would say we just don't know. we do think it's more contagious when you look at how rapidly it spread through multiple districts in south africa. it has the earmarks of being able to spread from one person to another. >> today the u.s. and south african health officials are meeting to talk about the
severity of covid-19 caused by the omicron variant. one question looming, though, is how well these vaccines are going to hold up. moderna saying just now they know, they will expect to know the variant's impact on their vaccine in a couple of weeks. meantime, fear of the unknown is sparking drastic new global travel measures. in just hour the u.s. will join multiple nations in restricting travel from south africa where this new variant was first identified and its neighbors. but the world health organization today is standing with african nation who's say travel bans are not justified, calling for borders to remain open as we wait for the facts to come in. this morning dr. anthony fauci was asked if travel restrictions could be just the beginning of new covid mandates. here's what he said. >> it's really too early to say. we just really need to, as i've said so often, prepare for the worst. >> and cnn's joe johns is at the white house. joe, dr. fauci is part of this briefing for president biden
today, but it sounds like we have a lot of questions, not a lot of answers at this point. >> reporter: that's for sure. and it's sort of been that way all weekend, jim. look, the president returning from that long holiday weekend with his family in nantucket, stopped at joint base andrews, was greeted by reporters, one of whom asked if there were going to be any more travel restrictions in addition to those restrictions the president put in place on several south african nations, including south africa, as well as botswana. the president responded that he was going to meet with his medical team today, and after that he'd have more to say. the question is whether he's going to have more to say today. what we know about that meeting you've already reported dr. anthony fauci, among others in the covid response team, expected to tell the president what they know at this stage. but, as you say, there is a lot we don't know. we also don't know whether we're going to see the president today himself or whether there's just
going to be a readout or whether there's going to be, frankly, anything at all, given the fact that some of the scientists we've seen on cnn and in other places have indicated that it may be several days or even a couple weeks before they know sufficiently enough about this variant in order to give people some substantial guidance. jim, back to you. >> all right, joe johns, thanks so much. as more countries are moving to block flights from south africa and its neighbors to try to stop the omicron variant from spreading, travelers are having to figure out how to get back home. one american who just arrived from south africa this morning said the mood there changed there quickly once countries started announcing travel restrictions. >> the workers there especially a lot of those in the tourism industry are going to be hit hard by this. and they're all, i think, confused and a little taken aback because things had just started to get back to normal thing. they are starting to bring back wages and money to their family.
and now all of our driver said he had five cancelations today. >> david, south africa's president today criticized these travel bans. what is he saying? >> well, jim, south africa's president doesn't come out too forcefully and name countries that he's displeased with. very much a different story tonight. he named each country and region, including the u.s. that has banned travel from southern africa because of fears of this covid-19 variant. have a listen. >> these restrictions are completely unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our southern african sister countries. the prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it
be effective in preventing the spread of this variant. it will just further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine the ability to respond to and also to recover from the pandemic. >> if you look where the pandemic is in south africa compared to the u.s., uk, and other regions, you kind of sympathize with ramaposa. cases are rising fast in south africa but he hasn't put in any new restrictions but is considering vaccine mandates in this country. jim? >> and are countries listening to the south african president or the world health organization? what's the response to what the president of south africa is saying so far? >> no, they're not listening. and, in fact, despite the talk of solidarity amongst african nations, rwanda, angola, morocco
swruz just some of the countries that are banning flights people to and from this region to visit there. talk is cheap and people are saying they are happy with the scientists here, they are grateful for the scientists here who are announcing this variant quickly and describing what they can. but, overall, nations are being hyper careful because of the lack of clarity on what this variant means. one just interesting note. i have been speaking to doctors over the last few days. there is some incidental evidence that at least the early stages of the spike compared to other ones that there's mild disease associated with this variant. now it's way too early to tell whether that will play out over the days and weeks ahead, but possibly a bit of good news on the horizon. we'll have to just wait and see, and it could be agonizing weeks of waiting and seeing. jim? >> yeah, we're trying to get
some clarity on this variant, and that information is not coming quickly enough for everybody involved. david mckenzie, thank you so much. joining me now professor of medicine and surgery at george washington university, cnn medical analyst dr. jonathan rhinart. it's great to have you with us. u.s. and south african officials spoke about this variant and president biden was briefed about it. it's early. but what are you hoping to hear from the administration as they get this information and take these next steps? >> well, i'd like to hear the administration sort of rachet down the temperature a little bit. what we know about this variant is that it has dozens of mutations, each with sort of theoretical changes to the properties of the virus. but when you mix all of that into a real and biological system, sometimes they're unpredictable. so, we won't know really what the effects are in terms of transmissibility, in terms of
immune escape, and in terms of virulence until scientists have a chance to really examine how our antibodies interact with this virus, and also to see how it behaves out in the wild. and we'll have that data over the next couple of weeks. i think it's also important for the american public to just sort of expect that this variant is already in the united states. so at some point over the next several days, there is going to be some sort of breathless announcement that omicron is in the united states. it's already here, if it's in europe and australia and china, it's already in the united states, it's probably been circulating for many weeks. >> so does it make any sense to apply these travel restrictions to one part of the world if it's all over the place? >> i think if this was a brand new virus that we were having trouble detecting and we were struggling to put together tests that could help us identify the presence of the virus, yeah, that might make some sense. but we know that our pcr tests
actually identify this variant. we also know that since the end of october since president biden signed this executive order, all nonu.s. travelers coming to the united states have to be fully vaccinated and have to be tested. so, i'm not sure what time this is buying us. what it does do is it gives sort of a negative disincentive to partners around the world. south africans did the right thing, they reported it promptly. we don't want to disincentivize countries to do this. and putting in place a travel ban that could negatively impact them economically seems to send the wrong message. >> we don't want to jump too far ahead of ourselves but dr. frances collins and other experts have been saying maybe this is not as serious of a variant in terms of causing
illness but that it may be more transmissible. it's possible that's this is kind of a nuisance that may spread rapidly but not cause severe illness. what do you think that says about this particular variant, what we should do about it? >> it's absolutely possible that this sort of massively mutated variant might actually be less functional in a way. it might produce less illness. right now all we have is anecdotes from south africa suggesting that the initial cohort of patients seem to be, you know, pretty mildly ill. there were three folks identified as positive in australia today, all of whom are asymptomatic. but it's just way too early to understand what the virulence of this is. the good news and the good signal, there does not seem to be a spike in hospitalizations in south africa, which would certainly be a concern, if that was sort of the first sign we
were seeing. but, again, the message, i think, to the american people is that we really don't know much about this variant now. so everyone just sort of needs to take their own pulse for a few minutes and just chill a little bit. >> chill, as young folks would say. and if you're fully vaccinated, double vaccinated, boosted, is there anything more you can do right now? you've basically done your job as a citizen. >> i think we should step back and say the greatest threat to the american people right now is delta. right now we are still experiencing about 100,000 cases a day of delta in the united states. and delta is killing 1,200 americans a day in the united states. because we've only fully vaccinated 60% of the country. so, what we need to do in this country is double down on vaccinating the unvaccinated. we've only boosted about 20% of
eligible people in this country. if there is a more potentially variant coming, the first thing you want to do is get boosted. if you're eligible to get boosted, now is a good time to do it. and if you needed any kind of incentive to get vaccinated, wow, now is the time for get vaccinated. >> and omicron is a good reminder of that. we're still dealing with disinformation. that's probably biggest threat out there right now. yesterday here's another question of this, and it's one of many. yesterday republican congressman ronnie jackson tweeted here comes the nev, he says, the midterm election variant. they need a reason to push unsolicited nationwide mail-in ballots. this is not only a republican member of congress, this is a doctor who was the white house physician. i worked at the white house as a reporter when he was the white house. this is just unbelievable. he seems to have become the
doctor of disinformation for the far right. >> and this is what's happening in this country. so if you look -- if you're searching for an explanation for why 50 million american adults have not gotten vaccinated, it comes from people like ronnie jackson, people who doubt the severity of this pandemic, people who have doubted the consequences of not getting vaccinated, people who have doubted the efficacy of masks. so now as a new potentially dangerous variant is identified, you see this anti-science coming from a former doctor. i call him former doctor because that's how he behaves. he behaves as a former doctor. i'll tell you that ronnie jackson is -- >> and doctors don't say that lightly, by the way. >> ronnie jackson called president obama a deep state
traitor. president obama was -- first of all, was his commander in chief, was his patient, and was also the man who promoted mr. jackson to flag rank. and he called that person a deep state traitor. and, to me, that tells me all i need to know about mr. jackson. >> i mean, he's betrayed so much. he's become an embarrassment. all right, dr. jonathan reiner, thank you so much. we appreciate it. coming up, dr. anthony fauci taking the medical gloves off. listen to what he had to say. >> senator cruz told the attorney general you should be prosecuted. >> yeah. [ laughter ] i have to laugh at that. i should be prosecuted? what happened on january 6th, senator? >> and later we'll talk to the navy veteran who received an epic surprise from dwayne "the rock" johnson. ting. among millennials, the interest is even stronger.
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dr. anthony fauci is laughing off attacks from senator ted cruz and other republicans who say he's been lying about the pandemic. let's take a listen. >> senator cruz told the attorney general you should be prosecuted. >> yeah. [ laughter ] i have to laugh at that. i should be prosecuted? what happened on january 6th, senator? >> do you think that this is about making you a scape goat to deflect from president trump? >> of course. you have to be asleep not to figure that one out. >> i want to bring in our senior political analyst former adviser to four presidents, david gergen, and senior editor for "the atlantic," ron brownstein. it sounds like dr. fauci has had about enough of all of this criticism, unfair criticism that's been coming this way. but i imagine the attacks from
the republicans are only going to get worse at this point. what do you make of what he had to say about ted cruz there? >> you know, he has been incredibly restrained, dr. fauci, all the way through. we are in a situation where fundamentally the biggest single reason we can't get past this pandemic or get it more under control is that so much of red america responding to the signals of people like cruz and former president trump and refuse to take it seriously. we're at a point where the share of republicans who are unvaccinated is four times the share of democrats who are unvaccinated, where the death rates in the most heavily trump counties is triple the rate in the most heavily biden counties. and the messages continue, as you played ronny jackson before, you hear other candidates around the country basically saying the concern about the new variant is a democratic plot. this is a fundamental -- we are in an almost unimaginable situation where a political kind
of dome has kind of descended around a significant portion of the country, when he venting it from fully grappling with the reality we are confronting. >> much of it is coming from fox, david gergen. former trump adviser steven miller, he was on fox news and made this, i mean, just cuckoo bizarre claim that trump would've been ahead of this variant. >> if president trump was still in office, by the way, we'd already have modified vaccines to deal with the new variants, which is a great point. president trump brought us vaccines in record times, which he made voluntarily, not mandatory, and he'd have updates too. but just as importantly, president trump emphasized therapeutics and treatments that are completely off the table now. >> david, that's obviously nonsense. >> it's all nonsense, and it's grossly wrong and immoral for
the republicans to be now pushing once again a false lie that is going to persuade as ron brownstein just said, will persuade many, many americans not to be vaccinated and not to get the booster. it's just grossly irresponsible to persuade people of something that's wrong and that is going to lead them to their deaths. many, many deaths. we have to remember donald trump was not the answer to this. if donald trump had been president, we'd be in far worse shape right now. he did move early on china. but the rest of his time he really lagged and basically scientists have concluded if the administration had just gone and paid attention to the science, many, many more americans would be alive today. it's just that simple. >> yeah. i mean, we could put out a list of these things that he did during the administration when he was in charge, telling people it would go away and they could inject disinfectants, to rebel against social distancing.
they're just trying to rewrite history. but, ron, let's talk about some of the other issues that we've been focusing on in the last couple of days. one would be just the dire situation that the house minority leader kevin mccarthy finds himself in right now. republican congresswoman marjorie taylor greene absolutely dragged the house speaker in the interview earlier this week saying that mccarthy does not have what it takes to become the next speaker of the house. >> kevin mccarthy has a problem in our conference. he doesn't have the full support to be speaker. he doesn't have the votes that are there because there are many of us that are very unhappy about the failure to hold republicans accountable while conservatives like me, paul gosar, and many others just constantly take the abuse by the democrats. >> yeah, she later tweeted that she had a good call with kevin mccarthy and they spent time talking about solving the problems of this country and so on.
but, i mean, she sounds almost like she's in charge and not kevin mccarthy. >> well, mccarthy has made the decision no enemies to the right, to reverse the saying from the 1930s, where he simply will not impose any discipline on the most extreme voices in the caucus. and the message that this has sent over and over, whether it's marjorie taylor greene or gosar or boebert is that they are, in effect, operating under kind of immunity to continue to break down the walls between the republican party and the most extreme voices in american society. and in many ways this is all a reflection of trump's own campaign to break down those walls. and i think mccarthy is very much under the view that if he acted in any way against marjorie taylor greene or boebert or gosar that he could expect a thunder bolt from trump. and he has decided that his path to the speakership is to kind of mollify trump as much as
possible. as i said before, troughly three-quarters of republican voters are okay with this course for the party. but there is another quarter that don't think that muslims are a threat, that don't think the election was stolen, who are uneasy with the overt nativism and racism that so many in the party have kind of moved toward in the trump era, and the question is what do they do. do they give their votes to officials like mccarthy who are going to enable all of those tendencies? >> david, we were talking about this yesterday, and it's almost like there is a freak show caucus over there on the republican side, and mccarthy has this policy of appeasement that he's seeking. and i just don't understand -- appeasement just doesn't work. >> it does not work. it's just really hard to believe that somebody can outtrump trump, but that's what these radicals are doing. the radical right is behind this. now, let me just go one more point if i could return to the
earlier conversation because it goes to how far right the republican party. tof claim this is a conspiracy theory invented by the democrats, this new variant, the emphasis is -- the points of that are so far wrong. this didn't start with democrats. the banning of travel started in europe, and major countries in europe all decided we can not afford to let these people come in from the southern part of africa. what happened just in the last 24, 48 hours, planes coming into amsterdam from the southern part of africa, 60 different people were found sick on those planes. they have every reason to stop this. and what do we find in the marketplace? the market is pretty smart about things like this. the markets basically collapsed on what they heard about what this new variant could be like. only 48 hours ago the signals were pretty dark about what was coming. and we still don't know what's
coming. but the market had the worst day in a whole year because they sensed there was something serious about this and we ought to button up. >> you're absolutely right about that. and you have to wonder, i mean, are these countries that are detecting the virus, are they in on the conspiracy? all of it just makes no sense. it's like, as ron brownstein was saying, they're under a dome of disinformation right now, and it's got to stop or we're never going to get out of this. anyway, we have to move on. great to see both of you. coming up, a story that speaks to the desperation some have to leave their countries. how did a stowaway from guatemala survive a more than two-hour flight to florida hiding in the wheel well of a plane? incredible video coming up. they guide me with achievable steps that give me confidence. this is my granddaughter...she's cute like her grandpa. voya doesn't just help me get to retirement... ...they're with me all the way through it.
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police say a stowaway survived on a plane. he emerged from the wheel well area. paramedics and customs and border protection officers helped him. this is the area where the man told he hid. it remains unclear though how he got onto the plane undetected. and it's not the first time someone has risked their life by hiding in an aircraft undetected. you may be wondering how they actually do it. cnn's gary tuchman showed us back in 2014 after a 15-year-old boy flew from california to hawaii in a plane's wheel well
and survived. >> reporter: this is southern california aviation airport in victorville, california, in the desert where airlines bring all their planes they're not using anymore. we're going to demonstrate to you how someone would get in a wheel well of an aircraft. this is a boeing 767 that used to be used. we'll show you how the process would start. someone who wanted to get in the wheel well would get on one of the two tires. you'd step on the bars right here, climb all the way to the top right here, and this right here is where an opening would be to climb into the landing gear wheel well. once someone would climb through that hull, they would end up here. this is the wheel well area. and we're told there is really only one place to sit where you could possibly survive because when the wheels move in, the two
huge wheels, there's no room except for right here in this spot. and this is where you would have to sit with your knees close to you. this is the only place where you could possibly survive. there's nothing stupider in the world to do, but this is where you can do it. >> do not try that at home. and from scrubbing social media to silencing cnn, the incredible lengths china is going to, to cover up the rape allegations made by a chinese tennis star against a top communist leader. g mabel here isn't a real cow. and she really hates that.
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this just into cnn. influential fashion designer virgil ablo has died after a long and private battle with cancer. ablo was the founder of the luxury streetwear brand offwhite as well as the artistic director of mens wear. you may also recognize he is the designer of serena williams' french open look. he was just 41 years old. a major loss in the fashion industry. the women's tennis association, meanwhile, saying today it remains deeply concerned about the fate of chinese tennis star peng shuai. the 35-year-old disappeared from public view weeks ago after
accusing a former communist leader of rape. but inside china the story is being blocked out all together. here's cnn's will ripley. >> reporter: when china's communist rulers don't like the message -- >> this broadcast is not being aired in china, it's being censored. >> reporter: they silence the messenger. they have an army of censors waiting to push that button. they don't want the people to see it. coverage of tennis star peng shuai blocked. >> it really tries to control the narrative. >> reporter: controlling the narrative means scrubbing social media. peng's explosive post on november 2nd, accusing a retired chinese leader of sexual assault erased within 30 minutes. look for the story on china's leading search engine, you get this message "sorry, no relevant results found." the scandal so politically sensitive a high-profile state propagandist referred to it on twitter as the thing people
talked about. inside china state media staying silent. no mention in the mainland's tv or digital media. outside, those news outs eagerly tweeting updates of peng in english on a platform blocked in their own country, an irony not lost on millions following the story outside china, some even mocking the state media tweets. peng is seen smiling but not talking at a tennis tournament, having dinner with friends and a chinese sports official who just so happens to mention the exact date several times. cnn has no way to independently verify these videos or this email, supposedly from peng, to the head of the women's tennis association last week, claiming, everything is fine, a computer cursor visible in this apparent screenshot. the head of the wta telling "outfront" he's not convinced. >> i'm just struggling to agree
to that and don't believe that's the truth at all. >> reporter: the wta demanding direct uncensored communication with peng. the organization's repeated calls and messages to the tennis star unanswered. >> china is well known for coercing statements to show that everything is fine. >> reporter: china's narrative bolstered by the international olympic committee, the ioc handed out this single image of a video call sunday, along with a statement summarizing the call, claiming peng is safe and well, totally ignoring her painfully detailed allegation of sexual assault. with billions of dollars in ad revenue on the line, critics call the ioc complicit china's apparent silencing of a three-time olympian, who many fear is being held under duress,
which blames hostile forces for politicizing the issue. when cnn goes to the next story, our signal returns. as china waits for the news cycle to move on, the pressure keeps growing. the world keeps demanding answers. will ripley, cnn, hong kong. >> and a programming note, join fareed zakaria for an in-depth look at china's leader xi jinping "china's iron fist" begins tonight at 9:00 on cnn. coming up, he has a heart as big as his biceps. how the rock surprised one very deserving fan just in time for the holidays.
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it'll be a holiday season to remember for one navy veteran who got the surprise of a lifetime from dwayne "the rock" johnson. >> ladies and gentlemen. [ cheers and applause ] ♪ >> how are you guys doing? >> good! [ cheers and applause ] there's a dude here, i read his story and i was really impressed. his name is oscar rodriguez. where are you, oscar? >> get out of here. [ cheers and applause ] [ laughter ] >> oscar, come on down. good to see you, brother. >> nice to meet you. wow! [ cheers and applause ] dude!
>> that is so great. oscar rodriguez was attending a special screening of the rock's new movie "red notice" when he learned he'd be getting a one-of-a-kind gift, the rock's own custom ford truck. >> i want to show you something real quick. it's a little thing. >> what the heck? ♪ thank you for your service, brother, enjoy your new truck. what the heck is up! [ cheers and applause ] get out of here, bro. oh, my god. ♪ >> you do a lot of good for people, man. >> i thought this was your truck, bro. >> it is my truck.
now it's your truck. this is my personal truck. it's yours now. >> wow, it is a cool truck, too. the rock said he was very moved by oscar's story, including how he provides meals for women who are victims of domestic violence. and joining me is navy veteran oscar rodriguez. how are you? >> what's up, jim? how are you? >> i'm doing great. with all of the bad stuff going on in the world, i'm just so glad we can do something positive like this. take us back to that moment in the theater when the rock called out your name. that had to be surreal. >> it was so surreal. my heart sank. i did not even expect anything like this to happen. and so when he said my name, for that moment, like, my dream, my hopes, all, like, came to fruition because i've been wanting to meet the rock for so long.
and for him to acknowledge me there at the theater was one of the greatest moments of my life honestly. >> now, were you in any physical pain when he hugged you? that was one of the things i had a question about. >> no, man. [ laughter ] i didn't wanna let him go. i got so many hugs. he's a bear, i love it. >> it's incredible. and take us to that moment when he takes you to the car, you read the card and you realize he's giving me his truck. what was that like? >> first off, that was not anywhere near my expectations at all. i was just so happy to be in the same room with the rock dwayne johnson. and all the way leading up to the truck, it was like living the dream, it was living this surreal moment in my life. and when i read the card, it
says, you know, oscar, thank you for your service, enjoy your new truck. >> that's cool. >> i collapsed because it was just so hard for me to comprehend, my mind couldn't comprehend the idea of me receiving a truck. and then in the moment i didn't realize that it was actually his truck that he was giving to me. i thought it was a brand new truck. and he's, like, no, it's my personal truck. and that makes it even more special for me. now i'm driving in the truck that the rock drives. >> because you know he's got all the extras. he didn't skimp on any of the extras. >> and it's super high. so every time i drive around other trucks, i'm, like, 2 inches higher, this is insane. >> it's the rock's truck, it has to be up high, it has to be big. what's that? >> it's lifted, huge tires. it's an amazing truck. wow, i can't believe it. my mom has a hard time getting up there.
she's got to do a big leg raise and i have to help her up. >> you're going to need the ladder for that. and when you watch the video of you and the response that you had, i mean, you got really emotional there. >> yeah. watching video just now, i did debt emotional. it's just reliving that moment. like i said in the video, it's encouraging, uplifting just to meet the rock. but then for him just to give me his truck, for that moment, i didn't want that moment to ever end. so now i have that moment in me, and i will never forget it. and every time i watch that video, it's going to be a tearjerker for me personally. i still can't believe it. it's such a wonderful gift, and i'm grateful to the rock, i'm grateful to god, i'm grateful for this moment. and, man, there's a lot of
moments in my life that i'm grateful for, but this is like number one, number two up there. >> and oscar, we're grateful to you for the charity work that you do. and that is exactly why the rock singled you out for this gift. thank you for sharing this with us. >> this has been amazing. >> take care. good luck with that truck. >> thank you. in the meantime, the world has lost more than 5 million people due to covid-19, and knowing just how difficult and isolating it is to lose a spouse, this top ten cnn hero created a community of widows that could heal together. meet michelle hernandez. >> i would tell the nurse, tell him i love him or put the phone by him because they would not let me in. sometimes i'd just go sit in the parking lot just to be close to him. april 13th they told me he was
gone. i needed someone to understand what it was like to be widowed. >> initially you imagine that when someone dies, the worst day is the day they die. and the truth is that living without them is the hard part. but you have to make your way through. thank you for being here and showing up for each other, and we hope people live and live through something that many times they did not think that they would survive. >> and go to cnnheroes.com right now to vote for michelle for cnn hero of the year or any of your favorite top ten heroes. ♪ (vo) subaru and our retailers believe in giving back.
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