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Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) is Interviewed about Reopening Texas; Europe Weighs Reopening; Mideast Countries Experience Spike; Brazilian Cities Ease Restrictions; Calls for Diversity in Corporate America. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired June 26, 2020 - 09:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: That the data is pushing him away from the politics.

REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): I surely hope so. Right now is not the time to listen to political consultants while we make health care decisions. We need to listen to our health care experts. We can't follow President Trump's agenda in the opening of Texas at the cost of Texas lives.

And I think this is the consensus across the state. This is what the people of Texas want. And I think that the governor moving in this direction is doing the right thing. And that -- we hope to, you know, hold him accountable, to do what's appropriate, follow CDC guidelines, recommend for people to wear masks in public places, limit groups -- group gatherings across the state and really just follow CDC recommendations, WHO recommendations and talk to our friends and neighbors across the country who have been successful in lowering their numbers.

As you know, Washington, D.C. had a -- had a huge issue just a month ago. Right now things have flipped from where we were a month ago in Washington and Texas. The script has really flipped in regards to new infections.


So the other side of this, of course, I don't have to remind you of this because I know you're in touch with small business owners in your district, is the severe, devastating economic impact of this. As Congress considers a new round of stimulus, as some of the other initial rounds are set to expire, where would any new money best be spent based on what we've learned about the first round? Where is it needed most? Where would it work most?

GONZALEZ: Certainly our small businesses need to be uplifted. Hotels, restaurants, public venues that hold large gatherings of events. Our live entertainment venues have been impacted. But also, you know, manufacturing, trade is being impacted. Agriculture to some extent. So it's across the board in terms of the economy. And you're not going to find a single red blooded Texan that doesn't want to get the economy open again. I certainly want to get everybody back to work and open. But we need to do this in the safest way possible, not in a way that costs lives, like we've seen in the last 30 days.

SCIUTTO: As you know, there's been an effort to cut federal funding for testing. And even Republican senators have differed with the president on this, including Senators Cruz and Cornyn from Texas, asking the administration not to stop federal funding.


SCIUTTO: What do you say to the president and others as they -- as they consider that in the midst of Texas' spike in cases?

GONZALEZ: That would be reprehensible to imagine that we would be cutting tests at a time when our pandemic is increasing in leaps and bounds in a state like Texas. So I hope that the president follows CDC recommendations, listens to Senator Cruz and Senator Cornyn and the rest of us. And assuring that testing is robust, that it's widespread, that it's available, that's the only way we're going to ever get this under control is testing, tracing, and -- and treating folks who -- who are infected and have a medical impact from this.

We -- we need to educate the community to stay home when they don't need to come out, to wear masks, to wash their hands thoroughly and often. You know, all the rules that have been put out clearly save lives. We need to start following the recommendations of our health care professionals, not our political consultants. And we can't open any state in this country based on President Trump's political agenda.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, thanks for joining the broadcast this morning.

GONZALEZ: Thank you for having me.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Europe is about to open its borders to travelers next week, but a huge question, will Americans be welcome?



SCIUTTO: European Union officials are meeting today, discussing how to reopen their borders to tourist and this, whether to ban travelers from countries where coronavirus cases are surging, such as the U.S.

HARLOW: That's right.

We have our reporters around the globe covering this pandemic.

Let's begin with Nic Robertson.

Nic, let's talk about the EU. They're going to start lifting these travel restrictions next week. Has there been a decision on whether or not people from the United States will be allowed to come? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: No decision yet.

They say that they're working around the clock. Indeed, EU ambassadors, 27 of them, will be meeting in one room, face-to-face, later today to discuss exactly this. They're looking at the criteria of what should allow people from other countries outside the European Union to come into the European Union.

And one of the key factors that we know that they set as a standard is their reciprocity, meaning, you know, if the European Union citizens are blocked from going to a country, well, therefore,, they would block those citizens coming into the EU. The United States falls into that category.

And the other area that may trip up the U.S. at the moment is an equivalency on the sort of infection rates. The EU's likely to get a -- sort of a threshold infection of around about 50 cases per 100,000. Right now the U.S. is way above that, Europe way below it. So it doesn't look good for U.S. citizens at the moment.

Poppy. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. I mean that comparison between the EU and the U.S. is -- is just remarkable.

Now to Arwa Damon.

Arwa, a spike in cases in many Middle Eastern countries. Do we know why and what are they doing in response?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the why is a combination of either governments never really taking sufficient precautions to begin with, shutting down their economies fully, many understandably reluctant to do that, or some who did but then sort of lost the grip that they had on Covid-19 as they were reopening.


So Iran, for example, there are a lot of concerns there that it could possibly be at the beginning of a second wave. The government urging people not to be complacent. But if we turn to Egypt, the region's most populous country, there they never really took that many precautions. There, they have too many people who are too reliant on wages. They are day laborers and the government isn't really in a position to try to supplement their income in any way.

If we look at Iraq, though, Iraq also very concerning because not necessarily into the list of top five just yet in the region, but cases there are increasing quickly and regularly. There are mass graves who are being -- that are being dug. And we have a fairly high infection rate among hospital staff as well.

HARLOW: Arwa, thank you very, very much.

Let's go to Shasta Darlington now and talk about what's happening in Brazil, where several cities are easing their restrictions even as Covid cases and deaths keep going up? SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right,

Poppy. Unfortunately, Brazil is no shining model. The country has already reported more than 1.2 million cases of Covid-19. In the last three days, they've reported more than 120,000 cases and the death toll is nearing 55,000, no peaking.

On Thursday, just the state of Sao Paulo surpassed Italy in total coronavirus cases. Nearly 249,000. So even though Brazil hadn't come down from its first wave, as you said, several cities from Sao Paulo and across the country continue to relax restrictions. They're opening stores and shopping malls, allowing people to go back to offices, even planning for schools to reopen in September.

All of this, of course, egged on by President Jair Bolsonaro, who has made light of the -- the virus, calling it a little flu. Although he did strike a rare, pensive tone on Thursday night during a live speech on FaceBook, recognizing and paying tribute to the thousands who have died during the pandemic, even playing Ave Maria during the recording, Poppy.

HARLOW: Shasta, thank you for that reporting.

Our thanks to Nic Robertson, Arwa Damon as well.

Next for us, from the bottom 1 percent to the top 1 percent, this black leader is calling out corporate America and asking those with power, what are you willing to give up?



HARLOW: Right now, a critical conversation about race and inequality needs to keep happening. My next guest says corporate America has failed black America. That's his quote. There are only four black CEOs in the entire Fortune 500. And last year just a third of those companies didn't have a single black board member.

Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, says we are living in a time of conscious-less capitalism. He argues in a "New York Times" op-ed, quote, those of us with power and privilege must grapple with the more profound question, what are we willing to give up?

Darren Walker joins us now.

Both quotes from you, very provocative and very important right now.

I don't disagree with you that corporate America has failed black America. And a number of white CEOs have also told me they agree with you. But what I hope to know from you, Darren, is why? Is it apathy? No one held them responsible? What is it?

DARREN WALKER, PRESIDENT, THE FORD FOUNDATION: I don't think it's apathy. I think it is culture and race. I think culture of corporate America is white. For African-Americans it is often unwelcoming and does not embrace and recognize the reality of racism and how it excludes and puts barriers in place that make it difficult for African-Americans to succeed in corporate America. There has to be a reckoning with a state in this country of corporate America with fewer CEOs than we had five years ago.

The numbers of African-Americans on boards is basically flat lined. And as you say, we literally have dozens of companies that do not have an African-American in their senior management.


WALKER: This is shocking in a country as diverse as America.

HARLOW: It is. And it can be changed. Boards can be changed overnight, as you know. You're on the board of Pepsi. Now you're on the board of Ralph Lauren, Square. But you say in this - in this intriguing op-ed, you know, privileged, wealthy, mainly white leaders need to talk about and actually act on, what are they willing to give up. Do you mean stepping down from these positions and making room for African- Americans in them, like Alex Ohanian did at Reddit?

WALKER: Well, what I mean is recognizing that there is talent all around these CEOs that they are blind to see, or because of their own privilege, their own background, they don't see themselves in a black executive. And so I think we have to recognize that privilege, which is basically a status that most white men in this country enjoy, is a barrier. Their own privilege is a barrier to our advancement. And some of that privilege has to be interrogated. I know many white CEOs say things to me like, well, I'm a self-made man. I did this all on my own.


You started with skin color of white in a society that has a legacy of white supremacy. And this is what we must talk about.

HARLOW: You know, when you look -- I just want people to know, you are -- you're a proud capitalist. As I said, you -- you're on these boards --

WALKER: I'm a very proud capitalist. Absolutely.

HARLOW: You worked on Wall Street at the beginning of your career. But you also say that inequality asphyxiates hope. And I wonder if you could explain why inequality is not only bad for those who are on the lower end, where you started, right, in the bottom 1 percent, but why it's so bad for, in your argument, democracy and why it's bad for rich people too.

WALKER: Because at the center of the American dream is the idea of hope. And inequality asphyxiates hope. It makes us believe that our systems and our institutions are rigged for the rich and the powerful.

And, Poppy, regrettably, the latest surveys from Pew and Edelman Trust also indicate that growing number of Americans believe that our systems are rigged for the rich, the wealthy and the powerful. And, therefore, I think it is incumbent upon those of us who are privileged to interrogate our privilege and ask why is it that the systems, our tax policies, our economic policy favor us, in fact compound our advantage while they compound the disadvantage of working class Americans and poor Americans and particularly poor Americans of color.

HARLOW: You know, the Kerner Commission told us, right, under Lyndon Johnson, more than 50 years ago, what a key issue was here on inequality and race and what to do about it and then not a lot happened. But now the statements from companies are different, the money companies are putting forward is different, Darren. Apple, $100 million initiative to fight racism. Bank of America, over a billion. Google right up there in their numbers as well.

But an interesting conversation has been starting amongst some of the protesters about reparations in corporation America and what role companies may have in the conversation around reparations for the descendants of slaves. I wonder what you think about that.

WALKER: Well, let me start with where you started, the Kerner Commission, and why was the Kerner Commission shelved. Because that is what President Johnson did. It was shelved because the executive summary said that the problem of America's Negro communities, what they called the ghettos, were the problems -- the result of white racism. President Johnson could not take that message to the American people, that white people and white racism was the reason we were seeing so much social unrest in our cities.

And so, today, that same challenge of understanding racism -- and I believe that the murder of George Floyd for white people in America was a moment of grief and heartbreak. But the hearts of African- Americans in this country have been broken for over 400 years because of racism and now white Americans are understanding that racism is with us. It is no longer deniable. Deniability is not an option.

And so we come to the conversation about reparations, which is an important conversation to have and corporations have a role to play in helping African-Americans to grow well, to build assets. But in order for that to happen, we're going to have to have a reckoning in this country with the challenge of race, and it is the work of the next decade for corporate America and all Americans to come together and help this nation heal from its division, heal from our history, but understand that together we can be a better America.

Langston Hughes said in his great poem, let America be America. America never was America to me. He was defiant, but he said in the next stanza, but, America some day will be. And while he was angry and defiant, he believed, as I believe, that America could live up to its honorable and valiant and noble aspirations as a nation. And we must be on that journey. That is our work, Poppy.

HARLOW: It certainly is.

Thanks you so much, Darren, for being here.


I hope everyone goes and reads what you have written on this. It's important.

WALKER: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Darren Walker, thanks so much.

We'll be right back.


SCIUTTO: Very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

It is getting worse by the week and by the day. This just in, the United States is currently averaging more new coronavirus cases per day than at any point in the pandemic, just setting a new record for cases of Covid-19. Nearly 40,000 reported in a single day, and now we are seeing 32 states with week-to-week spike in cases. That means four months into this pandemic we very well may be back to where we began.

And the CDC is warning that the infection rate is likely ten times higher than known cases.


Ten times higher. But even at that rate, 90 percent of this country's population has not yet been infected and still could be.