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White House Refuses To Denounce Confederate Flag; Brazilian President Awaits Coronavirus Test Results; Michigan's Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) On State Reopening. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 7, 2020 - 07:30   ET



RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER U.S. SENATOR (via Cisco Webex): By the way, we all qualify for -- and someone who lived a life or principal focus of life was something that was injurious to the country.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And does that worry you, Bakari, that somehow, the president will be able to make that argument that, you know, a pundit -- if a pundit says that they do think that, let's say, a statue of George Washington should come down, that he'll be able to use a broad brush and say that's how Democrats feel?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, AUTHOR, "MY VANISHING COUNTRY" (via Cisco Webex): So, this is a question about the history of our country.

And, you know, I do have to reject one thing. We've all done things bad in our life. I mean, I'm not sitting here saying that I'm holier than thou.

But I don't know anybody who's actually owned other people. And I think that being a slave owner and owning slaves is vastly different and is the context that we need.

I mean, no one is calling on us to take down Mount Rushmore. Ain't nobody saying we're going to do that. We're not going to take it away. We're not going to --

CAMEROTA: But, Bakari, some people -- I hear you. But some people are saying to take --

SANTORUM: Yes, that's not true.

CAMEROTA: -- down -- to take --


CAMEROTA: -- the name George Washington -- or to take Washington out of Washington and Lee University -- along with Lee. Some people are saying to take down George Washington's statues.

And so, what do you think about that? SELLERS: But, I -- but, you know, I'm someone who says that taking down statues, for me, doesn't fix the problem of systemic inequality and institutionalized racism. That's where we're going -- that's where we're headed. Painting Black Lives Matter on streets doesn't do those things for me, so what's where I land.

However, I can also say that it's important that we add context. George Washington literally owned slaves. Like, let's not forget that, that our Founding Fathers owned slaves. Many of them were brutal slave owners.

Not only that, but the Declaration of Independence -- our Founding Fathers -- quote-unquote, Founding Fathers -- they were all white men.

And so, now that we have people like Alisyn Camerota and Bakari Sellers -- we've had Barack Obama -- we've had the diversity of this country show forth -- I think that the evolution of our country needs to show forth, and that's all I'm saying.

And I think that people are pushing for context to be accurate and history to be accurate. We can't celebrate George Washington and simply say he was a great man who made a mistake. No, George Washington actually owned slaves.

And I think it's important as we look at things and statements like what Frederick Douglass said, to what is the fourth -- to what is the slave the Fourth of July?

Those are the type of discussions we have to have, historically -- accurate discussions.

CAMEROTA: And just very quickly, Bakari, does that mean the statues of George Washington come down or not?

SELLERS: So, I'm someone who says well, let's make sure that we're adding context. No -- leave the statues of George Washington up. I don't have a problem with a statue of George Washington.

For example, in South Carolina, we have a statue of Strom Thurmond. I'm not calling on a statue of Strom Thurmond to come down. I did want it to be historically accurate on Thurmond's black child. We literally had to go on that statue and strike out four and put five children, and add the name of his black child on there so all five were there.

And so, that is the type of historical context that we have to make sure that people understand.

George Washington was a slave owner. Put that on the side of the statue so that when people go and watch and see and want to understand who George Washington is, they get the full picture of what our country once was.

CAMEROTA: How about that, Rick?

SANTORUM: Yes. Look, I think you have to look at the context of what George Washington was to this country. This country wouldn't exist without George Washington.

So to say that the only way you put context to something is to point out every fault that this person had -- look, I'm not suggesting it wasn't a serious -- a serious fault, but in the context of the time, what you saw is a man who did extraordinary things. There's probably no greater American.

At the same time, yes, should George Washington be -- should be -- should it be known that he was a slave owner? Absolutely. No one's trying to hide that fact. No one's trying to bury that fact. But that shouldn't be front and center of what George Washington is.

Context is important and George Washington, by every account, is the father of this country and is someone that without this country -- he's sort of the essential person -- without this country, wouldn't exist.

And just recognize that this country is the beacon of hope for the rest of the world and that people come from all over the world -- black, brown, and others -- because they see this country as the freest and greatest opportunity for success. And that is built on the shoulders of that man.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Quickly, Bakari.

SELLERS: Yes, but that's not -- but that's not the case. Like, I agree with that and I hear the exceptionalism.

But black folk didn't come to this country because it was the freest and greatest country in the world. Black folk came over here --

SANTORUM: I'm saying now they do.

SELLERS: No, but -- I know, but I'm also -- I'm also going back to this point that needs to be made.

Black folk came to this country in bondage and that is -- that's the reckoning that we're having.


SELLERS: Four hundred one years ago came to this country in bondage and built this country.

So for every ounce of credit that you want to give George Washington, I'm going to give that credit to the men and women who came over here in bondage, who were lashed and beaten. Who helped grow the economy, who helped -- who helped sustain this country. Who literally -- who literally built this country. I'm going to give them that credit.


And it's hard for me to reconcile a man's greatness and them -- and their inhumanity. And so, while people want to rain praise on George Washington, I think it's a more complicated discussion because I cannot reconcile his greatness and also him owning other human beings. For me, that is something that I just simply can't do.


SANTORUM: All right, just one final point on that is look, I consider -- right now, as someone who considers himself pro-life and I can say the same thing about politicians. I have a hard time reconciling people who are allowing people to be killed in the womb. But you know what, I do -- and we all do.

And we all have to reconcile that there -- that we have differences about we treat other human beings.

SELLERS: That's not -- slavery and abortion are not the same thing. Slavery and abortion are not the same thing.

SANTORUM: I believe it is.



SELLERS: That's like -- that's like apples -- that's like apples and bobcats.

SANTORUM: No, it's not.

SELLERS: There's nothing the same about slavery and abortion. And let's not contort our self and have a -- let's actually stay on track.

I mean, if there is a mother who is about to die or if she is raped or the victim of incest and she makes a decision, Rick, that's not the same thing as being drug over here --

SANTORUM: That's not --

SELLERS: -- against your --

SANTORUM: That's less than one percent of abortions you described, Bakari.

SELLERS: -- against your will --

CAMEROTA: Guys, listen, I hear you. I hear -- I understand --

SELLERS: What are we talking about?

CAMEROTA: Right, I understand. We're veering into -- I hear what you're saying, Rick, that you -- that you feel --


CAMEROTA: -- that people are morally compromised on different issues.


CAMEROTA: But I do want to stay on topic and they're yelling at me that we're out of time. And look, I appreciate you having -- both having this complicated conversation and we're just at the beginning. I mean, we're just at the beginning.

And what I hear you both saying is that you're calling for a factual accounting of history, even if that's complicated. So, Bakari Sellers, Rick Santorum, we really appreciate that. Thank you very much.

SELLERS: Thank you.

SANTORUM: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, the woman who called police on a black man who was birdwatching in Central Park is now facing charges. Manhattan's district attorney plans to prosecute Amy Cooper for filing a false report.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has the latest.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. So, charges announced yesterday -- late yesterday that they were going to bring these charges against her.

And remember, this happened back on Memorial Day. It happened inside Central Park. There's Amy Cooper there. She was with her dog inside the Ramble's wooded area of the park where a lot of birdwatchers frequent.

The man who encountered her was Christian Cooper. And simply, what he did was he asked her to leash her dog and then it just sort of unfolded into this confrontation.

Specifically, what happened here, of course, touched off a nationwide conversation -- the video here that went viral. She was frantic on the 911. She called 911 frantically saying that an African-American male was threatening her life, was threatening her dog -- all of that false.

Amy Cooper wound up apologizing. She issued a statement within days of this incident apologizing for what she did here -- for how she overreacted.

Christian Cooper, he was not cooperating in this investigation but the prosecutor still went ahead and charged her with this charge of filing a false report. She is due back in court on October 14th to face the charges, John.

BERMAN: All right, Shimon. Thank you very much. Keep us posted on developments there.

So, Brazil's controversial president, one of the most outspoken critics of coronavirus restrictions, is now awaiting test results. We have a live report from Brazil, next.


BERMAN: Developing this morning, Brazil's president is awaiting coronavirus test results. President Jair Bolsonaro has been flouting guidelines for using masks. He also received a lung screening yesterday. It comes as Brazil's largest city emerges from lockdown.

Bill Weir live in Sao Paulo now with the very latest. A whole lot going on there all at once, Bill.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An amazing twist last night, John, yes.

His mantra, President Bolsonaro, as he flouts those social distancing rules and wades into crowds says we're all going to die someday. And now, we're waiting for the results of his fourth coronavirus test.

The U.S. ambassador, after lunching with President Bolsonaro on July Fourth, will now be tested as well.

And the irony is so thick when you look at the trajectory of this country in terms of infections and deaths and how much every one of his actions has mirrored that of Donald Trump and then gone two steps farther.


WEIR (voice-over): In the age of Covid-19, Presidents Trump and Bolsonaro are two of a kind. Both love Twitter and by all appearances, hate wearing masks. Both are openly at odds with their nation's top doctors --


WEIR (voice-over): -- and rely, instead, on the support of fans as they dismiss the pandemic as a little flu and a lot of hype.

WEIR (on camera): So you don't believe Covid-19 exists at all? It's an -- it's a hoax?

SCHWARTZMANN: Yes, it's just a problem (ph).

WEIR (voice-over): It could exist, this pro-Bolsonaro YouTuber tells me. But if it exists, it is weak.

WEIR (on camera): It's not that deadly?


WEIR (voice-over): He sounds just like his president, who when asked about his nation passing China in fatalities said, "So what? I mourn, but what do you want me to do? I can't work miracles."

But the pot and pan protests that now ring out every time he goes on T.V. are just one side of a nation at odds with itself. Testing is still hard to come by. And as they dig mass graves from Amazonia to Rio, some experts believe the official 1.6 million infections reported could be 12 to 16 times higher.


And yet, the big cities are opening up just as Bolsonaro uses his veto power to water down new laws to protect the public -- ones that would make mask-wearing mandatory in churches, schools, shops, and prisons.

NATALIA PASTERNAK, MICROBIOLOGIST AND PRESIDENT, QUESTION OF SCIENCE INSTITUTE: It's crazy, it's crazy. Science is being ignored in this government as it has never been before.

WEIR (voice-over): Natalia Pasternak is a microbiologist who lobbies for more science in government policy and is among the many who were horrified when Bolsonaro fired his respected health minister for advancing quarantines. A loyal general with no health care experience is now running the nation's pandemic response.

PASTERNAK: Are we going to be able to care for these people? I mean, will there be hospitals for everyone? Will there be ventilators for everyone?

We never reached the situation that they reached in Italy where the doctor is forced to choose the person that gets the ventilator. I hope we never come to that but I'm afraid we might.

WEIR (voice-over): Bill Weir, CNN, Sao Paulo, Brazil.


WEIR: And as the health care system here braces for another wave of patients -- Covid-19 patients -- thousands of them are participating in two major vaccine trials. These are stage-three where they give them to thousands of people to test their efficacy. So who knows (audio gap).

CAMEROTA: Yes, all right. Bill, our thanks to you. Great reporting there.

We want to take some time now to remember some of the more than 130,000 Americans lost to coronavirus.

Stephen Cooper's family says he was proud to be in this iconic photo of New Yorkers fleeing the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11. That's him on the left, carrying the envelope. His partner, Janet Rashes, told CNN he did not even know he'd been photographed until weeks later. He was 78 years old.

Yves-Emmanuel Segui emigrated with his family from the Ivory Coast to New York City in the early 2000s. He'd been a pharmacist back home but it took him eight tries to pass the licensing exam in the U.S. His daughter told NPR his dogged determination inspired her to become a doctor. Mary and George Schneider were married for 63 years. They died just three days apart in late April. Their daughter told "The Philadelphia Enquirer" that her parents were incredibly close and did everything together. George was 88, Mary was 91.

We'll be right back.



CAMEROTA: Michigan is seeing a rise in coronavirus cases, leading the governor to reverse plans to reopen some businesses.

Scenes like this over this weekend not helping. This is a crowded lake party without social distancing or masks. There are hats, but that doesn't protect you.

Joining us now, Michigan's Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer. Governor, great to see you.

What did you think when you first saw that video of the lake party over the weekend?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR, BIDEN CAMPAIGN (via Cisco Webex): Well, of course, I was disappointed. Covid-19 is still very present here in Michigan and across the country, obviously. We have taken herculean efforts to push the curve down and we've saved thousands of lives.

Michigan has been on the forefront and we've done an incredible amount of work. And I would hate to think that this sacrifice that we've made could be made in vain because some people are losing interest or are dropping their guard. We've got to double down right now more than ever.

CAMEROTA: Why are those young people at that party not getting the message that they are putting themselves in danger and putting their, obviously, older relatives in danger? What's wrong in the messaging in Michigan?

WHITMER: Well, we're trying to figure that out, Alisyn. We know that across the country we've seen an increase in this age group in terms of Covid-19.

Perhaps it's all of the mixed messaging that's happened at the federal level. Perhaps it is the fact that Covid-19 doesn't have the same death rates amongst that age group and maybe it's not taking it seriously. But the fact of the matter is every one of those people can be carrying Covid-19 and a lot of them might be without even knowing it, and that's the inherent danger in this moment.

And that's why it's incumbent on every one of us to mask up to -- from the White House to the State House, and everywhere in-between. That's the most important thing that we can do right now.

And we're seeing things like this play out across the country. We've got to all do our part to make sure that that doesn't happen.

The numbers that we're seeing in the south, in particular, are really concerning. We have not seen that kind of an uptick yet, but that's precisely what we want to avoid.

CAMEROTA: Here are the numbers as we see it this morning. This is the average Michigan seven-day moving average of new cases. Let me put the graphic up on the screen for everyone.

You're obviously not hitting the highs, in terms of new cases, that you were in mid-April, thank goodness. However, as you can see from June to July, it's been a pretty steady uptick.

And so, what's the plan now?

WHITMER: Yes. So we have a phased-in reengagement of our economy and we -- I had hoped to take the rest of the state to phase five, but we dialed it back right before Fourth of July because we see these numbers increasing. So, not having bars that are serving indoors, that's one thing.

But we're going to continue to monitor the numbers. If they keep moving up, we're going to dial back if we have to -- and it's the last thing any of us wants.

I've got to tell you, I want to reengage this economy more than anyone but I'm not going to do it if it is too risky to do so, and that's why we're staying focused on the epidemiology. I'm not going to be bullied into moving before it's safe -- and if we have to move back, we're going to.

CAMEROTA: So is it just bars that you're -- that you're having reverse course? Are restaurants open, gyms, hair salons?

WHITMER: Gyms are not open, theaters are not open. There are a number of other business entities that are not reengaged yet.


Insofar that we reengaged hair salons, that's something that if we see some outbreaks we may have to disengage on that front.

And that's -- I took a lot of heat when we brought that curve down. We saved thousands of lives. I'm prepared to take heat if it -- that's what it's going to take to keep people safe.

CAMEROTA: Schools -- what's your thinking about whether schools in Michigan will reopen in September?

WHITMER: So, we've put together a task force of 25 people with incredible expertise to put together the protocols to reengage schools in the fall if it is safe to do so. So we will be prepared but, of course, I cannot tell you what life is going to look like in Michigan in two months from now. We're going to continue to watch the numbers.

Depending on which phase we are in, we've got different protocols that have been promulgated because we want to get kids back in the classroom, but only if and when it's safe to do so. And that's why wearing a mask today increases the odds that we can get our kids back in class in the fall.

CAMEROTA: You say that you took a lot of heat for the -- what people thought were sort of rigid shutdowns that you had done -- so much so that people with guns -- armed people were showing up in public spaces like the State House and stuff.

Was that a nerve-racking time?

WHITMER: I think that the most nerve-racking aspect to this whole public health crisis is the fact that it's become political. Lives will have been lost because of the politics around what should just be a public health crisis.

We know -- we started talking about that sandbar party in the southern part of the state. We know that people came in from Indiana and Illinois to attend that. Covid-19 does not respect party line and it does not respect state line, and that's why every one of us has to do our part.

And so to see this political conversation impacting public health is, I think, the most disconcerting thing that we've confronted here -- that and the lack of preparedness at the national level. And that's precisely why we are going to do everything we can to take the politics out of the conversation and prepare for the fall.

CAMEROTA: You've talked about how the national -- President Trump, at the national level, hasn't provided enough support, you think. What are you looking for now from the White House?

WHITMER: Well, I'd like a national mask-up campaign. I think that if everyone endorsed this, it's the simple, cost-effective thing that we could do to really mitigate spread. But the symbols that come from the very top matter and it changes behavior. If we can take the politics out of mask-wearing we can save a lot of lives. And in doing so, save the pain -- the economic pain that we are feeling across this country.

This is the -- one of the most powerful country -- this is the most powerful country in the world. The fact that we are behind the rest of the world when it comes to protecting our own people is a disgrace. And if we could simply change that one aspect of messaging there's no question that thousands of lives would be saved and so would our economic pain.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk politics for one second. Any idea when former Vice President Joe Biden will make his vice presidential pick?

WHITMER: You know, as someone who has been in a position where I had to pick a running mate, I can tell you that it -- the decision lies with that one person. So you'll have to ask the former vice president that question.

CAMEROTA: There's been some talk, particularly since George Floyd, that he should pick a -- he had said he was going to pick a woman but that he should really pick a woman of color. What do you think?

WHITMER: You know, I was talking with my lieutenant governor about this, Garlin Gilchrist -- Michigan's first African-American lieutenant governor.

And, you know, everyone and their brother had opinions about what I should do. Many deigned to tell me what to do. The fact of the matter is I knew that I needed to have someone who could do the job in the event I wasn't able to, and someone that I could trust. That we saw the world in the same way.

And so, I think that those are paramount. I recognize that representation matters and we've got the most diverse cabinet the state of Michigan has ever seen. And I think that that is an important part of the conversation about where we're headed as a country.

CAMEROTA: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, thank you. We appreciate talking to you on this very busy time in Michigan.

WHITMER: Thank you, take care.

CAMEROTA: You, too.

And, "NEW DAY" continues right now.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this, so it's a serious situation that we have to address immediately.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Clearly, our current approach, if you call it that, is not working.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miami-Dade County rolling back some of its opening plans.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: There's no need to really be fearful about it.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI: I am looking at the statistics and the statistics are very grave. Every single metric is up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There cannot continue to be mixed messages. On the one hand, this is concerning and on the other hand, it's not. The numbers tell the story about it.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, July seventh, 8:00 in the east. A sobering warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci that the U.S. is now in a full-blown crisis and the time for action to beat back the coronavirus pandemic is now.