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CNN Obtained New Sound Recording From President Trump/Bob Woodward Interviews Calling COVID-19 A Killer; Hurricane Sally A Category Two Storm In Gulf Of Mexico; Top HHS Spokesman Claims Without Evidence That CDC Scientists Are Working To Resist Trump; Trump Dismisses Science Amid Pandemic, Hurricane And Fires; Trump Appointees Tried To Alter CDC Coronavirus Reports; President Trump Visits California. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 14, 2020 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon, 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast, 50 days until Election Day. Can you believe it? And we're following this breaking news stories for you. CNN obtains additional audio tapes of President Trump's interview with veteran journalist Bob Woodward.

In a conversation recorded one month ago on August 14th, Trump claims nothing more could have been done to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and despite down playing the severity of the deadly virus for months, the president telling Woodward the virus is a killer in a conversation way back in mid-April.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This thing is a killer if it gets you. If you're the wrong person, you don't have a chance.


This is a scourge.

TRUMP: It's a plague.


LEMON: Can you believe that? While the president holding an indoor campaign event tonight in Arizona with a packed crowd and few people wearing masks.

And then there's wildfires are burning out of control across the western part of this country. At least 35 people have been killed. Many more missing. More than 4.6 million acres scorched in 10 states. We're going to go live to California for you.

Hurricane Sally now a category two storm as it moves towards the Gulf Coast. It is expected to get even stronger as it makes landfall possibly tomorrow. Hurricane warnings posted from Louisiana to Florida's panhandle. Those stories and more in the hour ahead for you.

LEMON: We want to get straight now to our breaking news as the Gulf Coast braces for the impact of hurricane Sally, I want to bring in Noah pilot Lieutenant Commander Adam Abotal (ph), who is flying above the hurricane right now.

Lieutenant commander, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us. I know that this is a busy time so we really, really appreciate it. Let's talk about Sally upgraded to a category two hurricane. Wind speed up to 100 miles per hour. What are you seeing as this storm moves closer to land?

Colonel? Are you there? OK. We must have lost him. But listen, we'll try to get him back. Can you guys try to dial him back? But again, this is moving closer and closer to the Gulf Coast, it supposed to make landfall sometime tomorrow night but look at the winds.

We heard just moments ago from Ms. Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans and lieutenant Governor of Louisiana saying because the category two, maybe a category one that people become complacent and that's when it gets dangerous when that happens.

We just had a -- just a week ago, another hurricane that went through or two weeks ago went through Louisiana and really did a number on Lake Charles and Port Charles there close to the Texas coast, but again, Sally is now a category two making its way to the Gulf Coast and look at that. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida the panhandle all in jeopardy. We'll keep an eye on it for you and also see if we can get lieutenant colonel Abatol back for you.

Let's check in now though with our White House correspondent John Harwood to get some of the political news in here. John, we heard the president admit, did you hear the virus he said this thing is a killer. It's terrible if you get it. Right? But he is still -- yet, he's still holding packed rallies, indoor rallies, no social distancing, a few masks. So, he is putting lives at risk. Just doesn't care. Is that your assessment?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In fact, he doesn't, Don. One of the most consistent traits we've seen President Trump demonstrate in addition to dishonesty is an exclusive focus on the self, on himself. His ego, his personal wellbeing, his financial wellbeing, his political wellbeing.

And so, a few months after he held an indoor rally in Tulsa where several of his secret service agents and advance staffers got sick with COVID. Where one of his prominent supporter later died of COVID after attending that rally, he's now back at it again. He has made a complete break from scientific reality on the coronavirus and the need -- what needs to be done to control it just as he has made a break with climate science as he expressed when he was out visiting the wildfires today.


LEMON: I just want to play more of this new sound that we have from the president's interview -- interviews I should say with Bob Woodward, watch this.


WOODWARD: Listen. I mean, you and I --

TRUMP: There's nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done, I acted early. I acted early I would say.

WOODWARD: This will be the history that we start the first draft of. And it will continue and --

TRUMP: So you think the virus totally supersedes the economy?

WOODWARD: Oh, sure. But they are related, as you know.

TRUMP: A little bit, yes.

WOODWARD: A little bit, I mean ---

TRUMP: I mean, more than a little bit. But the economy is doing -- look, we're close to a new stock market record.


LEMON: Nearly -- it's just every time I hear that, John, I can't believe it. He's like we're close to a new stock market record. Guess what? Let's just say that you're one of the few people in America, right, the average person is not involved in the stock market but it doesn't matter if you are not alive, you can't, you know, enjoy what's happening in the stock market. There are nearly 200,000 Americans that have died, and this president doesn't want to focus on that.

HARWOOD: Don, there are three things that were really striking about that clip you just played. One is the ludicrous bit of self- justification at the beginning with the president says nothing more could have been done. That's preposterous. Everyone knows it preposterous.

He did a few things in the beginning. He restricted travel from China but those are way outweighed by the things he did not do and look at the case counts and death that resulted. Secondly, he is not acknowledging until product by Woodward the intimate connection between control of the coronavirus and the state of the economy, because you cannot have an economic recovery without control of the coronavirus.

And the final thing is, the delusion that he expressed that the stock market amounts to a proxy for the economy. It is not. And the economy has wobbled in recent months. Job growth has returned to some degree but slowed and until we get control of the coronavirus, we are not going to have a full economic recovery and he points to the stock market and thinks he's got it. He doesn't.

LEMON: We're learning that Michael Caputo -- Michael Caputo is a top official at Health and Human Services. He's accusing the CDC of sedition and having a resistance unit to undermine the president. I mean, just tonight his hometown paper is calling on him to step down. What's going on?

HARWOOD: Well, this is related to the break with scientific reality that I mentioned before. The Trump-led Republican Party has so painted itself into a corner against acknowledging realities that are playing to everyone else in particular on coronavirus, climate sciences is another example. They install people into government who are not serious public servants capable of dealing with these problems but instead are political activists, propagandas like Michael Caputo.

Michael Caputo express this preposterous views about sedition, deep state in the vile of the CDC, not recognizing the primacy of scientific knowledge in battling this pandemic. Further, he expressed all this wild statements about they are going to kill me and hit squads after the election.

He said in some of the remarks associated with this that his mental health had suffered during the time that he had -- since he had been appointed in April and I think people have to take him seriously.

I hope he gets some help with that but his hometown newspaper is calling for him to leave his job, because he does not seem well and he does not seem capable of doing what the head communications officer of the Department of Health and Services needs to do during this pandemic.

LEMON: I've been wanting to talk to you about this, John. This is Senator Lindsey Graham's reelection. OK? His campaign. Take a listen to what he said earlier today about his opponent Jamie Harrison.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I've released 11 years of my tax returns. Where are your tax returns? How did you make your money?


LEMON: I mean, he's also tweeting about asking Harrison, what is he hiding? So a South Carolina Senate candidate should release his tax returns, but the president of the United States shouldn't? I mean, come on.


HARWOOD: Don, Lindsey Graham has revealed that whatever principles he holds are entirely situational. He for political advantages trying to make this call on Jamie Harrison. I haven't followed that race. I don't know what the issues are with Harrison and candidates ought to release information. The public ought to know about their finances.

But the fact that he does that while not pressuring the president to do the same thing to show that it is purely for advantage of the moment and in the same way, that he said a bunch of things about Donald Trump in 2016 said he was a xenophobic bigot, who would be disaster for the Republican Party.

He plays golf with the president now and does the opposite. So, Lindsey Graham's words can only be taken as far as the immediate circumstance that he's in. What is going to happen him in that immediate circumstance?

LEMON: John, when I saw that, I kept thinking, I'm like -- is he talking about Donald Trump and he had to refigure out what it was. Wait, what happen, but he was not. Thank you.

HARWOOD: Well, the key thing there is the D after Harrison's name and the fact that he's running close to Lindsey Graham in the polls.

LEMON: Thank you. John. Be well. I'll talk to you soon.

I want to bring in now Tony Schwartz, who spent 18 months with President Trump to write the art of the deal and now he's out with a new audio book Dealing with the devil, my mother, Trump and me. Fascinating. And I'm glad it's on audio. Because I will be listening to it. Tony, how are you doing?

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, THE ART OF THE DEAL: I'm doing well, Don. Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Thanks for appearing. So, the president calls the virus a killer. He says it rips you apart but he's more concerned about the stock market. The tape shows that he actually knows the real truth and he has known it from the beginning.

SCHWARTZ: Look, this is really a terrifying time and the reason is that the truth has gone from being frequently sacrificed my Trump to being obliterated. And this is what autocrats do.

And we've known now for four years that Trump's desire and intent is to put himself in the position that his heroes like Kim Jong-un and Putin are in, but now you really ask yourself could he successfully create a fictional world that enough Americans are willing to support that he could be reelected? And I have to say it really physically -- I find it upsetting, of course (ph) emotional.

LEMON: Then you spent so much time with him. I just interviewed Michael Cohen. He compares it to being in a cult. What is it about him that makes -- that allows other people to be his mark, because he is not truthful? His supporters are voting against their own interest. He's putting their lives in jeopardy by putting them in a crowded space with a pandemic going on. What is it?

SCHWARTZ: You know, it's the willingness to say anything. He's actually helped by his absence of conscience and by his absence of empathy because that removes any normal barrier, boundary that might be set by those concerns. You know, my experience was it's interesting, Don, because my experience was I didn't feel drawn into that cult --

LEMON: Never.

SCHWARTZ: And I believe it's because I found the truth to be so powerful that I was never swayed by the idea that his relentless hammering home of fiction meant that the fiction was true, and actually, you know, in this book I've done, I'm really describing how I think you survive someone like Trump because what happened for me is that the willingness to embrace all of who I am, which includes the part that chose to do the Trump book has actually set me free and the way it's set me free is by giving me nothing left to defend.

So yes, the thing, the impulses in me that that prompted me to write that book, one of which was to stick it to my mother who was a very tough lady in her own right but hated Trump, the impulses that prompted that decision are ones that I now can accept without acting upon and the reason I can is because I know it's not all that's true.


That's something Trump has never done. Trump genuinely believes deep, deep down below his consciousness that he is bad, and when you feel that way, you must be defending in part through deceit the experience that that gives you because it's so overwhelming and so threatening.

LEMON: It's interesting. I was just -- I remember reading -- do you remember Scott Peck, the road less traveled?


LEMON: He wrote a book call -- he wrote a book that I think is -- remember People of a lie? This is after the Road less traveled. He wrote this book called the People of a lie. And I just thought about it as you were saying that is fascinating. You should read that book.

SCHWARTZ: Yes. That's what he was writing about. He was writing about the existence of evil. The rare but terrifying situations in which a person really is dominated by evil impulses. Most people, the overwhelming majority of people are a blend of good and bad.

What Trump has done is pulled up all of the worst impulses in people for those who support him, he's pulled up their racism and their willingness to overlook the truth and all that for those who oppose him, he's brought up fear and anxiety and all of these feelings that get in the way of living a productive and happy life.

LEMON: Yes. But the book you should read right now is called Dealing with the devil. At least listen to it on audio because it's out on audio and audible and wherever you can read your books. Dealing with the devil my mother Trump and me. It's by Tony Schwartz. Tony, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Best of luck to you.

America battling multiple life threatening crisis all at once with hurricane taking aim at the gulf. The Gulf Coast, the pandemic death toll in this country getting closer and closer to 195,000. Wildfires raging across the western United States and the president just dismisses the science out of hand.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're seeing this warming trend, make our summer's warmer, but also our winters warmer, as well. If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it's all about vegetation management, we're not going to succeed together protecting Californians.

TRUMP: OK. It will start getting cooler. You just watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish science agreed with you.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.




LEMON: President Trump's claiming that he has done everything he could to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Here is what he told Bob Woodward a month ago.


WOODWARD: It's going to be a contest between you and Biden. It's going to be a contest between both of you and the virus. The virus is said -- because it's in real people's lives, you know, all those tens of millions of people who don't have jobs, who don't have --

TRUMP: I know.

WOODWARD: Listen, I mean, you and I --

TRUMP: There's nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.


LEMON: Nothing more could have been done. In the months since he spoke to Woodward, nearly 30,000 more Americans have died while the president is putting countless lives at risk by holding mass rallies without social distancing and few masks.

Let's discuss. Dr. Jonathan Reiner is here, the Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Program at George Washington University Hospital. Andy Slavitt is here as well, the former acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.

Gentlemen, thank you. Doctor, I'm going to start with you. What goes through your mind when you hear the president saying nothing more could have been done with this virus?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Anger. And frustration. Look, we lead the world in deaths. And we're a country of really smart people. Really capable people. A country that can really achieve anything but yet, we have the worst outcomes on the planet for really three major reasons.

It took forever to ramp up testing, almost two months to ramp up testing. We didn't mask up. And we opened up our states way too early. Not enough contract tracing. We can go on and on. But those are really the major three or four points. And we had failed to learn from our lessons. We've made mistakes and then we failed to learn from them. It's been an unmitigated disaster.

LEMON: Are we even ready for another wave, doctor?

REINER: No, I heard the president the other night criticizing Vice President Biden, who he said, if he's elected and the docs recommend closing, he'll closed own, you know, this country. I will never close down this country. Well, look what is going on in Israel. Israel has another big wave now and they've closed down. That's what you do when the pandemic rises out of control. You have to close down.

You have to close down, get control and save lives. What he's done over the last nine months is place the welfare of his campaign and his own personal fortunes before the welfare of the American people at large and the net result is the death now of almost 200,000 people. Almost certainly at least 150,000 of whom did not have to die.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, I agree with you. I wish we had more compliance and more buy in. But I think a better answer from Joe Biden would have been we are never going to be in a position to have to shut down when I'm president, because I'm going to make sure that we have all the things in place.


Because that shutting down frightens a lot of people and people want the economy to be back and they want to get back to normal understandably, but they want to do it safely.

Andy, a federal health official tells CNN that Trump officials pushed to change the language of weekly science reports released by the CDC. How dangerous is that?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ADMINISTRATOR AT THE CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: It's very dangerous. I think it threatens Americans ability to know what to do. You know, take the politics out of this. This whole time Americans just really want to know how to keep themselves safe. How to keep their family safe. That will take the case countdown and it will allow us to open the economy.

So itself defeating when we turn the science upside down and make the scientist untrustworthy, tell people to go to universities. We probably have right now an estimated 200 to 250,000 coronavirus cases in universities around this country. Those cases are the beginning, very likely, of multiple hot spots. Maybe not all of them but many of them will spread through the community by ignoring that, we are just lighting new fires.

LEMON: Yes. Doctor, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, the largest one in the world now warning that if people need two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, the world won't have enough until 2024. Is that real? Could that really take that long?

REINER: Yes, this is an enormous undertaking. Unless we could wider go take the vaccine at the United States. So, there are about 330 million people in the United States. Once we find vaccines that we think are both safe and effective, we have to get it out to the public. Two of these vaccines, the MRNA vaccines require deep freeze storage.

The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at minus 94 degrees. There are very few places that can do that. You just can't ship that to your local doctors' office. It can only basically reside in a refrigerator for about a day. So, we have to reinvent how we distribute these vaccines and we need two doses, separated by about a month.

So, think of it this way. If we were fabulous and we started vaccinating 1 million people a day, it would take a year to vaccinate the entire country. And I don't think that's possible. I think it's going to take at least two years to vaccinate the United States and don't forget, some of this vaccines, if you have to keep this vaccine at ultra-low temperatures, it's not so great for parts of the world where electricity is not in abundance.

LEMON: Right.

REINER: So, you know, hopefully there will be more heat stable vaccines for other parts of the world. It could take four to five years to vaccinate the world, easy.

LEMON: And Andy, then you have a lot of folks who don't even want to take the vaccine. They're afraid of it because, and you know, in many ways, be the president -- the hydroxychloroquine they push, and all these other thongs. They are afraid and they just don't trust it.

SLAVITT: That's right. I think the FDA needs to really be accountable not just for an affect but safe vaccine (inaudible). But also a vaccine that people could trust. Because you can have a vaccine that's 100 percent effective but if only 30 percent of people trust it, we are only going to get 30 percent of the immunity that we need.

Likewise, if you can get 80 percent trust, you don't have to need a vaccine nearly as good. So, it is worth taking the time here. We did some analysis, the great Bill Joy (ph) the scientist, helped me do (inaudible) which sowed that for every 10 percent of the population, it doesn't take the vaccine, that's another 100,000 lives we'll lose. That's what is at stake and the FDA making sure we have a trusted process.

LEMON: Andy, doctor, thank you so much. I appreciate it.


LEMON: Nearly 90 major fires burning in the west leaving at least 35 people dead. Neighborhoods decimated. Look at that. During the briefing in California today, the president made this totally unscientific claim.


TRUMP: It will start getting cooler. You just watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish science agreed with you. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, the official answered him there joins me next.




LEMON: President Trump visiting California today amid historic wildfires that have killed at least 35 people throughout the region. Fires burning all along the West Cast forcing tens of thousands to run for their lives and it's destroying property and it's destroying building. When California Secretary of Natural Resources brought up the impact of the climate crisis today, President Trump tried to laugh it off.


WADE CROWFOOT, CALIFORNIA SECRETARY FOR NATURAL RESOURCES: We want to work with you to really recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests and actually work together with that science, that science is going to be key because if we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it's about vegetation management, we're not going to succeed together at protecting Californians.


CROWFOOT: I wish --

TRUMP: You just watch.

CROWFOOT: I wish science agreed with you.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.


LEMON: Gee. Joining me now to discuss is California's Secretary of Natural Resources, Wade Crowfoot. Wade, thank you. Mr. Secretary, thank you and I'm so happy that you're here, the president quickly moved on, but what was going through your mind when he said that?

CROWFOOT: Well, I have to say it's, you know, it been a really challenging summer in California. Right now, we have 16,000 men and women on the lines fighting over a dozen major fires. Three of our five largest fires in our state's history are burning right now.


So, you know, we welcomed the attention from the federal government and the president. Our Governor Gavin Newsom actually before that, that exchange but with me and the president actually had made a forceful point about climate change.

The fact is, there are things we need to do to fight fires and also to manage our forests but we have to recognize climate change is making conditions worse and forcing us to work more urgently.

LEMON: Listen, you're right. And you guys brought up that point today. Listen, I just want to put up you responded to the president's comments in a tweet today writing quote, "it actually won't get cooler, Mr. President." Climate change is real. The science -- the science is clear on this issue. Right?

CROWFOOT: Yes, I mean, it's undebatable at this point. Our winter temperatures are warming in California. Our summer temperatures are warming in California. This summer we shattered records, over 120 degrees in greater Los Angeles and where I live in Sacramento, well over 110 degrees.

Climate is driving these conditions that are fueling these massive catastrophic wildfires. One of our fires in Fresno County in the center of the state was burning in an area with major tree mortality from the recent drought itself exacerbated by climate change. It created a cloud 50,000 feet tall, almost unprecedented in meteorology.


CROWFOOT: Likewise, our coastal old growth Redwood forests, which are typically foggy and damp and cool have never exhibited large -- or never experienced large fire. This year in places like Santa Cruz and parts north, we're seeing wildfires in the tens and thousands of acres.

So, things are changing. And what we wanted to tell the president today is this is not a partisan debate. This is not a philosophical difference. This is fact that we have to move on right now to protect California.

LEMON: Yes, I'm just wondering, you know, how much more difficult having a climate denier in charge, how much difficult it makes your job in fighting these fires because the president he has tweeted support for the firefighters and first responders but he has been largely silent on the crisis itself. The Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti suggesting that Trump hasn't responded sooner because of politics. Do you think the president would have responded sooner if California were a red state?

CROWFOOT: Well, boy, that's not a question I can answer. You know, what we've been focused on is protecting people of this state no matter where they live, no matter who they vote for. And, you know, Mother Nature is not a Democrat. Mother Nature is not a Republican.

LEMON: Right on.

CROWFOOT: We need to actually work together to understand how it's impacting us.

LEMON: Yes. CROWFOOT: I'll say, Don, you know, California is in the news right now

but we're also mindful of other Americans on the Gulf Coast who are experiencing worsening hurricanes. On the East Coast, obviously more intense storms like super storm Sandy. Parts of the Midwest that are having major changes to their crops as a result of climate change.

Gavin Newsom, our governor, put it -- put it succinctly on Friday, he said California is America fast forward.

LEMON: Right.

CROWFOOT: In other words, a postcard from the future.


CROWFOOT: The climate impacts we're having right now we worry other Americans will experience too if we don't actually act on climate.

LEMON: Well, Secretary, we're thinking about you. Best of luck and the folks out there, the first responders are doing a really great job and we're thinking about them, as well. Be safe. Thanks.

CROWFOOT: Thank you so much.

LEMON: South Dakota's attorney general now under investigation himself. The fatal hit and run he was involved in and what he told police, next.



LEMON: There's an investigation underway in South Dakota after the state's attorney general was involved in a fatal car crash on Saturday night. He initially told police that he struck a deer but the body of a 55-year-old man was discovered Sunday morning.

CNN's Ryan Young has more now. Ryan, good evening to you. How are you?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Don. How are you?

LEMON: I'm doing well. Listen, this is a remarkable story involving the South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. Walk us through what happened.

YOUNG: Yes. You know, a lot of questions about this, Don, especially if you were watching the news conference today. You can see there was not a lot of details given by authorities in this.

What we do know Saturday around 10.30, he reported that he apparently hit something. He said it was a deer but clearly, that is the not the case. It's a 55-year-old man who was a pedestrian. Of course, you would maybe think they would have more details about this but this investigation is ongoing. It seems like they may not have gotten out there and found that body until Sunday so just a lot of questions about exactly what happened leading up to the crash. LEMON: Yes, and then the body was discovered on Sunday morning, Joseph

Boever on Sunday morning.


YOUNG: Yes. I mean, that's one of the questions that people have. Look, we just got more information in just the last half hour about the attorney general. Apparently, he has six speeding traffic tickets between January 2014 and September 2018. And he has pleaded guilty to eight traffic violations.

So that's all new information that we've gotten just in the last half hour. But when you think about this case and especially as a governor, we're talking about it today, you thought maybe they would give some more circumstances about what happened out there. And so far, these details haven't come forward.

LEMON: So, who is going to conduct the investigation, Ryan?

YOUNG: That's a great question. The South Dakota state troopers are going to do this investigation. In fact, listen to the governor talking about this investigation this afternoon.


GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): South Dakota highway patrol will run the investigation and the Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price will oversee that and report directly to me.


YOUNG: Don, you and I both worked in local news. You know when you go to one of these fatal accidents, you get a lot of information usually from state troopers about this. Today as they went through some of the details in this, what we didn't find out is whether or not there was any sort of any car accident beforehand. Where was the man while he was walking in the street? Were there any streetlights out there?

All that sort of descriptive information that would go along with an accident like this was not given. Obviously, this is a very high- profile case at this point. So, I'm sure they will have to do a thorough investigation using the state troopers to do this sort of accident investigation all the time. But as they piece this together, hopefully we'll get more as they reconstruct the scene.

LEMON: Ryan Young reporting. Ryan, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

YOUNG: Sure.

LEMON: We'll be right back.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: All this weekend, a special series called Champions for Change, CNN brings you inspiring stories of everyday people, making big, positive changes in the world. Tonight, a young man from Atlanta reshaping harmful narratives about African-Americans. He uses superheroes to empower youngsters through media literacy.


TONY WEAVER, JR., FOUNDER, WEIRD ENOUGH PRODUCTIONS: The United States is in a place of reckoning. And that what some people interpret as rising, racial tensions that are recent, are actually things that have been present in our country for a really long time. That I believe are actually woven into the fabric of what this country is.

Black students are dealing with something especially stressful, right now. They see pictures and videos of people that look like them, being killed and assaulted by police around the country. When I think about kids, right now, it makes me realize that there's a lot of work that needs to be done.

When I was younger, I was dealing with a lot of bullying. And I wanted nothing more than to not exist. I can't rest knowing that there are kids that look like me, that want nothing more than for somebody to look at them and say, I believe in you, you're worth something, and they don't have it.

When I started Weird Enough in 2014, I was struck by the fact that media portrayals of Michael Brown were having a tangibly negative impact on the way that I, as an individual, was treated on a predominantly white college campus. So, I had a thought process that, maybe, media representation can have a positive impact as well.

My work is rooted in creating a new world of diverse and original stories, featuring characters and heroes that help young people find the hero in themselves.

I'm really excited to see everybody.

The Weird Enough team is scattered around the globe. Our thought was what if we could take that same amazing feeling that you get when you watch an anime, and translate it, scientifically, to the way that young people behave in school and the way that they develop.

So, we have a program where we take an original comic series that we create called "The Uncommons, " then we partner it with lesson plans and curricula that can be used in school, but also, any kid or any parent or caretaker can access from home, too.

AMARA BOWMAN, THIRD GRADER: Vernon (Ph) has very, very, very great power. What I like most about The Uncommon is that it is about black heroes that save the day. My favorite character is Iris because she is mostly curious and funny. She is a black girl and a hero. Kind of like me.

WEAVER: Our characters fight giant monsters but they're not the type that are the size of buildings. They're different types of monsters, insecurities, fears, past failures. Things that people spend their entire lives running from.

YOLANDRA HANCOCK, PEDIATRICIAN: This doctor approves of Tony Weaver's message. When we have books that can speak to what messages we are trying to encourage in our children, there's one thing for me to say it as a mommy. But there's something completely different when my daughter can look in a book, and see herself and the messages speak to some of the challenges that she has as a little black girl growing up in this country.

HATTIE MITCHELL, FOUNDER, CREATE ACADEMY: There has not been, in my experience, a curriculum that represents our black and brown kids in a positive way.


When Tony introduced his literacy program, in 2017, he also just spoke to the kids about being a young, black, entrepreneur. So, they were inspired that this young kid with a cape, who's supercool and has a high top, you know, haircut, looks like them.

WEAVER: For me, my cape is a way to unapologetically bring myself into any space I enter. My way of saying that I'm not going to allow any people to minimize who I am. But, what's a cape for me, might be different for a different young person. So, I encourage them to find the thing that makes you feel empowered, and don't let anybody take it away from you.


LEMON: Fantastic. We'll continue to share these inspirational stories all week. And be sure to watch "Champions for Change," one-hour special, this Saturday, at 10 p.m. Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.