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Cuomo Prime Time

Mother Of Two Burned Artwork To Keep Warm During Texas Power Outage Crisis; Power Problems Compounded By Water Trouble In Houston; Surge In Violence, Including Hate Crimes, Against Asian-Americans During Pandemic. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 17, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's it for me. The news continues right now though. Let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, appreciate you, Anderson.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

Today is Ash Wednesday, right? Why is mine so good this year? Because I did it. The Catholic Church has the priests spreading the ashes on my head. I said, "No thanks." So you had an option to do it yourself.

And here we go, the beginning of Lent, and it begins with a reminder, what is this about? We're all dust. From dust, we come, unto dust, we return. And in that way, we are all connected. We have to remember that.

Maybe the crisis in Texas will help us reconnect. Our brothers and sisters there are hurting, and there is no end in sight. More than 2.5 million families and businesses are still without power. They've had no power for days. They have no timeline for when the lights will come back on, for many of them.

Now, the big question is why? The storm, of course. Texas, cold snap, not a good mix. But why weren't they ready? Why didn't they know when this power grid will be fixed? Why didn't they fix it before? They knew before, I'll show you.

The most vexing question though, is why did their Governor decide to blame it on Democrats?

Here's what we know. Some of the coldest weather in decades knocked off the power grid, prompting rolling blackouts. Most of the state will have below freezing temperatures until at least Saturday.

You're seeing icicles on ceiling fans, no heat, no running water, no flushing toilets. Pipes, of course are freezing. Families have been sleeping in cars. They've been running cars in their garages. Carbon monoxide, big risk, OK?

Others, like our first guests, are burning what they own in their homes, because they've run out of firewood. Food stores closed or extremely low. People can't get prescriptions. People can't get COVID vaccines.

So with all this trouble, again, why is Governor Greg Abbott creating more?

Listen to what he said on Fox.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.


CUOMO: Once off Hate TV, this is what he told local news.


ABBOTT: The companies that generate the power, their operations have frozen up or have trip-wired and are non-operational. That is the lead reason why there is a shortage of power.


CUOMO: That's different, right? So, he gets called on it. And today, this was his excuse.


ABBOTT: What I made it clear was the fact that if we relied solely upon green energy that would be a challenge. But, in Texas, we do not rely solely upon green energy. We have access to all sources of energy.


CUOMO: Look, if you relied only on any kind of energy, you'd still have to be prepared for a cold snap. And you weren't.

Here's the truth. They're not in this mess because of wind turbines. Yes, some wind turbines have frozen. But so have coal piles, and so have natural gas pipelines. Yes, Texas generates more wind power than anywhere else in the country. But it produces more of every kind of energy. Period!

Keep in mind, Texas is huge. Only 10 percent of its electricity comes from wind. This is not about that. States like Oklahoma and Iowa, they depend way more on wind than Texas does. You don't see that problem there. Even with the storm, the state's turbines are actually outperforming projections, all right?

Now, to the real point, the main sources of power in Texas are natural gas and coal plants. Right now, too much of that gas is frozen in the ground, because the real problem is infrastructure.

They had cold snaps in 1989 and 2011. The infrastructure failed then too. Both times, they were warned to prep for extreme weather. Both times, they failed to invest.

That failure is compounded because the Texas grid is cut off from the rest of the country, which means it can't get emergency power from other states. It also means the same people who are trying to stay alive are now going to see their electric bills go up.

Now, let's get to our first guest. She is among many desperate Texans, who were caught by surprise on this. And that's a big part of the story.

Brianna Blake is a mother of two. Listen to this. She and her family moved to Texas after their home in Ohio was destroyed by a tornado. And then after that, her husband, Marcus, lost his job in the Pandemic. So they went to Texas to start again. Now they're faced with this.

Brianna Blake, Marcus Zeigler join us now.

Thank you for taking this opportunity, especially now.



CUOMO: How are we holding up, Brianna?


BLAKE: Pretty OK. We're kind of still at the beginning of this whole fiasco, for lack of a better word. We're still kind of waiting to see if we're going to keep the power that we have. We did get our power turned back on.

We were just made aware that we're going to be losing our water again, which is another kind of different layer to this whole dance. A lot of communities are also losing their water along with losing the power.

So, I think it's just kind of "What next?" is kind of what we're all in anticipation of, and where - how to get back to normal from this.

CUOMO: Let's start at the beginning. You say you were caught by surprise on this that you weren't told that this is what to prepare for? How so?

ZEIGLER: Well, we got a notification Sunday at night, right around midnight, which I didn't even - I didn't even see.

But, it stated that we were going to be getting rolling - rolling back power outages, meaning that our power go out for a couple hours, and then come back on, which isn't ideal. But, that's enough to be able to keep your house heated.

BLAKE: Yes, it was at least a plan, which is what we prepared for was to be sharing the power with kind of everyone.

We had never anticipated that we'd go 36 hours without any heat in the house. That was not what we - we weren't told that that's what could happen. We were kind of led to believe that we would be doing these rolling outages.

CUOMO: Right. Now, Marcus, you are an electrician. But obviously, you can't fix what you can't get power to. So, this wasn't about fixing.


CUOMO: Your knowledge was not helpful here. But you got two little ones running around in the house. And Brianna, what did that mean, in terms of what life got like for you guys and fast?

BLAKE: I think we were really kind of still even into, and I can only speak for me, but even into Tuesday morning, when we were - we had no firewood left, and we started using things in the house to keep the fire going, it was just kind of the unknown.

And seeing my two sleeping babies under a bunch of blankets, in front of the fireplace, that was slowly going out was heartbreaking. We've already had a terrible year. I mean, kids are resilient as all get out. Right now, they're - they're being put through things we could never have fathomed when we were their age.

So, to see our kids kind of have to go through one more thing, that is just kind of unbelievable. I couldn't have called this two months ago, you know? I would not have called a lot of things that have happened.

CUOMO: Well--

ZEIGLER: In my opinion, completely avoidable.

BLAKE: Completely avoidable.

CUOMO: Right. We'll talk about that in a second. But I can't believe you had to burn stuff. What did you wind up - I can't imagine the conversations you guys were talking - to having about what to choose. But what did you have to burn, Brianna?

BLAKE: That was really the weird part about it all is because it was kind of like a second nature thing. I just started kind of grabbing my canvases off the wall, and breaking them, and throwing them in the fire.

And while I'm doing that, he's getting fencing, parts of our Bunny Hutch, and he's just hand-sawing them in the garage, as we're also simultaneously reaching out to everyone trying to find firewood.

And we luckily, our community really came together. And we were able to reach somebody at 5 A.M., and they answered the call, which is remarkable, from a complete stranger. We just moved down here so, we - and we moved down in the middle of a Pandemic. So, we don't really know anyone yet.

And luckily, we had an acquaintance that knew and gave us somebody to reach out to. And they own a tree service? And he was - that's what he was doing, was just making sure people got firewood, which was kind of remarkable.

CUOMO: There are good people. There are good people everywhere.


CUOMO: And you're two of them. And you were put in some spot. So, you got the little ones, you're worried about the temperature. What was the hardest part for you, Brianna, emotionally, in having to deal with what was happening to the family?

BLAKE: Really, right now, I think the hardest thing is kind of trying to balance my children's mental wellbeing. Like I said, and I think it's at the forefront of almost every parent's mind that we support them, in everything that they're going through right now.

And this was just another thing for especially my 7-year-old. He's going through a lot in terms of his whole life.

So, trying to make sure that we spend this time - trying to make it family time rather than focusing on how terrible it was, and trying to keep him grounded, and know that we're going to get through this, and it's going to be OK, and keeping their mental health in check, so I mean--

CUOMO: Well.


BLAKE: --it's been a long couple of years for them.

CUOMO: They've seen that mum and dad can keep them safe in anything. And that goes a long way with kids. They know what they see even at that age.

And Marcus, you said this was totally avoidable. Where do you see the accountability here?

ZEIGLER: I see the accountability, mainly with ERCOT. I mean, like you said earlier, they have--

CUOMO: Explain what ERCOT is.


BLAKE: Oh, I'm down with it (ph).

CUOMO: It's the power grid.


CUOMO: It's the energy companies.


ZEIGLER: Yes, the governance of the power grid. And they completely dropped the ball on this. They - they've had, what since 2011, since the last time this happened.

CUOMO: Right.


BLAKE: To winterize.

ZEIGLER: Yes, winterize, get their act together and prepare.

CUOMO: So they could have done it. But look, you guys are taking care of yourselves and your community is stepping up. Shouldn't have to, but they are.

And again, Brianna, trust me. Take it - take it from an old parent. The little ones won't remember this except for what you tell them. And emotionally, they will know that their family stuck together and got through a hard time. And as much as this stinks, there's a real blessing for them in that.

Brianna Blake, Marcus Zeigler, thank you both. I hope the worst is behind you. Please stay in touch and let us know.

BLAKE: Thanks so much.

ZEIGLER: Yes, thank you.

CUOMO: All right.

No power, right? Now, that means, as Brianna told you, for them, at least they had water.

No power can also mean no clean water. That's what's happening in Houston, a city of more than 2.3 million. The entire city is being told to boil its water. But here's the catch. How do you boil water if you don't have electricity to turn on your stove?

Situation is especially worrisome for the Fire Department. The water shortage is compounding the need, especially as desperate families turn to dangerous alternatives, just to stay warm.

Lina Hidalgo is the County Judge. County Judge is the highest-ranking official in Harris County. That's where Houston sits.

Judge, welcome back. How's your family?

JUDGE LINA HIDALGO, (D) HARRIS COUNTY, TX: Thank you for having me.

Look, we have all experienced, myself, my family, outages since Monday, 1 in the morning. So it's going on three nights without power. I think they just got it back for a little bit, so that may be good news.

But just like Brianna, and Marcus, there are millions of families. This is a County of 5 million people. About half of them have been without power since Monday, so 2.5 million people, no power, freezing temperatures, no water. The low water pressure has meant that our hospitals can't adequately operate, our Fire Departments can't adequately operate, and just unbelievably tragic stories, so much suffering, people who are fed up.

And the toughest part is, and I think they mentioned it a little bit, is this is not a disaster that was all nature, right? A lot of this is man-made. And by virtue of that fact, a lot of this could have been avoided.

And so, once this is over, there's going to have to be accountability, and there's going to have to be answers. For these people, it hopefully changes, so this kind of thing can't happen again.

CUOMO: Well, the Governor and at least one Member of Congress, from your state, jumped out that this is about wind energy. This is about Green Deal policies and Lefty politics being pushed on them.

I'm sure your constituents don't care where this power coming from is just that they don't have it. But what do you think of their statement?

HIDALGO: They don't. I can tell you, I'm here with so many first responders, who are worried sick about their families, their - the cell service has also been spotty. And none of them, none of the people who live in this County, in the state, who are out of power, care about this political posturing that is going on. It's not appropriate.

In fact, it's disappointing that some folks are using their energy to try and gaslight, try and focus on these culture wars, to say that this is caused by wind energy, in a state where we know that the bulk of our energy is not wind energy, where we're, you know, it is just, you know, they should be focusing their time on trying to pressure this state agency to get the energy back up and running, so that we can get these people back and out from this tragedy.

Right now, that is what the focus should be. And I'm sad to hear that folks are not only not focused on that, but are making things up that are simply not true, because that is going to be a problem, when we try and focus on accountability.

CUOMO: Do you know what people in your County need right now? Is there word that we can get out to your collective family that are watching right now?


HIDALGO: Right now, the need is - it's just cascading effects, right, from this crisis? So there's power, and then there's the water, but there's also lack of food, because some of the grocery stores are out of power. The ones that have supplies can't open. Some don't have supplies, because the--

CUOMO: Do you have a relief organization that works well within your area that people can reach out to, to help? HIDALGO: Folks can always support the Red Cross. We're very grateful to the Administration. The state's been working to send us resources. But it's hard without the roads being passable.

CUOMO: Right.

HIDALGO: So, folks can support in that way. And then, the attention you're putting on the failure of these agencies, this is something that absolutely needs to change going forward. And to the extent we can keep that pressure, that's a big deal for this community.

CUOMO: First, it was the lines of food we saw in Texas. Now we see people desperate for gas and energy. You're just not used to seeing these scenes in America. We have to do better.

Judge Hidalgo, the best to you and your family. You know we're always a phone call away, if you have information that needs to get out.

HIDALGO: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, we will monitor. As develops - developments come in, I will bring them to you.

But next, I have a look for you into why Governor Abbott, why this other Member of Congress, and other Righties, are all stepping up their Trumpiness, right now. Did you see this, by the way, little side note metaphor?


CUOMO: Is this Trump Casino in Atlantic City no more, is it a metaphor for him, or his Party, or both? And I actually know something, and have a connection to his casinos in Atlantic City that you will not believe. Next.









CUOMO: Take a look at this. Did you see this?

I'll wait.




CUOMO: No, you're supposed to show it blowing up.






CUOMO: All right, this is a surprise to me. I wanted you to show the casino blown up. But you know that is? Me and a stuntwoman. So, the Trump Casino blew up today, right, the Trump Plaza casino? Was supposed to be the best, and now, it's in rubble.

His other one, this is what happened. You were supposed to see this first. Ah! Live TV.


CUOMO: So, this is gone. Another great effort gone kaput. His other casino is called the Trump Taj Mahal, OK? That actually he lost also. Now the Hard Rock has that. They've had it for years.

So, I did a stunt off that other casino. That was me jumping off. It was part of a "Facing your fears" thing, OK? And obviously, that's where we all are right now.

Trump donated $20,000 to charity for me doing this from one of his hotels.






CUOMO: He offered me another $20,000 to do it again without the harness. You think he was joking? I'm not sure. But this is the question now. All right, enough of that.

What is it a metaphor for, this collapse of the building? Trump, the GOPQ, or both?

He is going after his own because they all have to be his. And that's why you see people like Governor Abbott, and this Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw, they're all muscling up in defense of Trump and Trump's fights. There's a purity battle going on there right now.

So let's bring in two of our better minds, Van Jones and Michael Smerconish, to talk about the state of play there.

Now, Michael - that's actually true story. That really was me going off there, by the way. Can't lie with the ashes on my head!

So Mitch McConnell hears that Trump is after him. They say he laughed, and Trump is in the rearview mirror. How do you see the state of play in that Party?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: The numbers are still unsettled. But the preliminary polling is quite shocking.

I'm referring to the Morning Consult and Quinnipiac that show that the GOP numbers are holding firm that his - his support within the base may be dipped for a couple of days after January 6. But now, it's back.

Tonight, I also took a look at the latest Gallup party identification numbers. Independents have never been as high as they are now since Gallup has recorded, 50 percent.

Here's an interesting question. The Rs and the Ds are deadlocked at 25. Why aren't more identifying as Democratic, given what's been going on in the country, for the last couple of months?

CUOMO: Strongpoint! Van?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think that there is a shift away from the Republicans. There's not a shift away from the Democrats. So, the Democrats are holding firm, and the Republicans are getting smaller.

Why people are not joining the Democrats, I don't know. But I can tell you, people are not leaving the Democratic Party. And they're leaving the Republican Party by the tens of thousands.

And that is because people, I think, who are principled conservatives, who are Ronald Reagan conservatives, Abraham Lincoln conservatives, they just don't see a place for themselves in this Party anymore.

CUOMO: So, a follow to you Van, what does this mean for doing business as Democrats? You know that you are an existential threat to most people in the other Party, and they're looking to be oppositional. What does that do in terms of hunting for compromise, like on the relief bill right now?

JONES: Well, I mean, I think if you look at what the Biden White House is saying, is that they think that they have the Republicans right, where they want them that if they continue to be obstructionist, and oppositional that they're going to continue to bleed support, that it's actually not that you actually have a pain threshold that's been hit in Red states and Blue states, in Rural America and Urban America that demands action.

And the Republicans, who want to just continue to chase Donald Trump down the drain, play footsie with QAnon, and not deliver the goods, do so at their own peril.


But in the meantime, while you're waiting for reality to set in with the Republican Party, people are hurting. And it's going to be tough, I think, for Democrats to find good dance partners on any of the issues that the country needs action on.

CUOMO: Will obstruction cost the GOPQ, or the Trump Party, or whatever they've become?

SMERCONISH: It will, if it continues.

And I think Van's right in his assessment. What's going to happen is that the Biden Administration is going to have to do the heavy projects, all alone. Republicans are then going to say "See that? He didn't mean it when he spoke of unity."

But you take a look at this relief package right now, and the inability of them to work together. If they can't work together on this, is what I'm trying to say, I can't imagine how other projects will be mutually accomplished.

CUOMO: Doesn't it matter about why they're not working on it, though now, doesn't that have to be part of the story, I guess, for Biden and the Democrats, that this is not a good faith negotiation? You have the Republicans wanting to walk away from whatever the offer is on the table.


JONES: Well I mean you got to--

CUOMO: Or Van. Van, go ahead.

JONES: Because you have a lot--

CUOMO: Go ahead, Van.

JONES: You have a lot of political theater going on, on the Right, right now.

People can't figure out, are they in a democracy, whether they need to appeal to the people? Or are they in some kind of autocracy with a king-in-waiting and they've got to appeal to the sovereign, to Trump, to, you know, to the would-be king? And that is causing a lot of dyspepsia, and therefore, political theater.

I think that they are fiddling while their Party burns. And I do believe that in time, some of them are going to realize that they're going to have to do something. I think that Biden will be a partner. I think a lot of Democrats will be a partner to them, as they come around.

In the meantime, I think Democrats have to put the people first, not the Party, not the politics, but the people first, and deliver real aid. And if they can do it with Republicans, great, if they can't, the Republicans are going to have to come around at some point. But the American people can't wait.

CUOMO: Last word to you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: A low point of what we're discussing here, you can tie all these subjects together, go to a different channel tonight, and you'll see B-roll, as we would refer to it, of frozen wind turbines, notwithstanding the fact that in Texas, in the winter, they account for about 10 percent of capacity.

And yet, it's being seized as an opportunity to try and sink any prospect of a Green New Deal. It's all about simplicity and reaching the base.

CUOMO: Hey look, you know what's going on, on the other channel right now, or one other channel? They've got the "Former guy," as Biden calls him, still fire-breathing about having been robbed on the election. They've made their choice.

If the Party follows that, the sweet spot is going to be who is hearing people? That was what by - that is what Trump had over everybody else. He was out there with people all the time. They saw him as a straight proxy.

If Biden can take some of that mandate, maybe with Harris, to stretch the energy, that's what's missing right now. Left and Right has been tired for people. Let's see who seizes the advantage.

Van Jones, Michael Smerconish, appreciate you better minds.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

CUOMO: President Biden fielded a lot of questions in the CNN Town Hall about America's way forward. Remember, that was part of this strategy. Get out to Wisconsin, talk to the people there. Did his answer satisfy?

Now, I want to talk specifically about COVID with respect to schools. Everybody has always said we have to get back. But there are issues, even with the messaging, even with this Administration, and we have to clean it up, next.









CUOMO: All right, we all want schools to open, right? The question has always been how. "Former guy," as Biden calls him, punted to States and did little else. President Biden promised more. It is not proving easy, even in the messaging.

Last night, the President said this.


COOPER: Do you think that would be five days a week or just a couple?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think - I think many of them are five days a week. The goal will be five days a week.


CUOMO: But the CDC guidelines don't go that far. They still talk about hybrid models, using different cohorts and podding of students, and some students and teachers sticking with virtual options.

The big issue is how to help schools do what it takes to reopen for real. Now, one obvious tool would seem to be vaccinations, specifically with teachers and staff. The Administration seems a little squishy on this idea.



KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I think that we have to decide if we can put in place safe measures.


CUOMO: Now, we get the dodge. Why? Because the CDC says that teachers don't need to be vaccinated to return safely. It's been done in places without teachers being vaccinated. But Teachers Unions don't really agree with that.

So, if that's the situation, just say it. But if it is, then why did Biden answer this question directly and differently, last night, saying, "Yes, teachers should be vaccinated," which we've never heard from the White House COVID Response Team, until today.

And then the Press Secretary takes a turn at bat and walks it back. Listen.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Neither the President nor the Vice President believe that - that it should be - it is a requirement.


CUOMO: Why the confusion? Now, first of all, we invite the team on here all the time, and the invitation is open, OK? So, this is not about giving you a chance to speak. It's about you taking that chance.

But here's what the confusion comes down to. It's the same issue we've got everywhere with the vaccination effort. They don't have the doses.


So, they don't want to say "Yes, they should be vaccinated," and figure out what the science is whether it's really worth it or not, if they can't even get it done, and it winds up protracting the timeline.

But the timeline is got to be a function of safety. It's always have to be that way, especially when you're dealing with millions of teachers in this country. This straight read seems to be that point.

Listen to Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I think if you were going to say that every single teacher needs to be vaccinated, before you get back to school, I believe quite frankly, Tony, that that's a non-workable situation.


CUOMO: Yes, I think that's what it is, right? It's got to be about, so he says non-workable situation, what does that mean? That you're not going to be able to get the people in the phase before him, and every - that's going to screw up everything.

But what's your priority? You see what I'm saying? So there's still more than 20 states, where teachers can't get vaccinated. Yes, it's done by state. But that doesn't mean that the messaging from the top doesn't matter. That's where they get the vaccine, right?

So, what is the deal? Let's ask Dr. Leana Wen. She ran Public Health in Baltimore.

Let's start with the science, OK? Then we'll go supply side.

Thank you, Doctor, for being with us, by the way.

On the science, "It is not necessary," the CDC says that teachers can go back and be safe without being vaccinated. How would you explain this? DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER, ER PHYSICIAN, PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR, GWU: I would say that they are partially correct.

So, if you have low levels of community transmission, if you have mitigation measures put in schools, then it is safe for teachers and students to be back in school. If you have higher levels of community transmission, it can still be safe, but then you need a higher level of the mitigation measures as well. Many schools don't have that.

Actually, in many high transmission areas, teachers or school staff are already back for in-person instruction.

And in many of these places, teachers are in cramped classrooms, without good ventilation, with lots of kids around them, who may not be abiding by social distancing, in their own lives, and may be bringing COVID into the classroom. These teachers are saying, "Why am I not prioritized?"

This is not a question of saying, "Well, maybe vaccines can be available in the future, a year later. And let's not wait until we get vaccines."

We're saying the vaccines are available right now. We can get every teacher vaccinated within a matter of weeks, if we just made that a priority. So, I can really understand why teachers are very upset about this.

CUOMO: But it has to be this supply priority because that has to explain the kind of mixed messaging from the White House. I'm not ascribing any animus. But it has to be that it is not a no-brainer that teachers should go before all these other groups. And that has to be true because the schools have never come first.

WEN: Well, and I think that's the problem. So yesterday, we heard President Biden say that, "Well, it's not up to the federal government. It's up to the states to figure out priority groups."

And I would really argue with that and say, actually, it is up to the federal government because here's what the federal government can do. They can earmark doses specifically for schools. Right now, they're earmarking doses for health centers.

CUOMO: Right.

WEN: They're giving doses directly to health centers, giving the doses directly to pharmacies. Why not give doses directly to schools and have school nurses administer the vaccines to their staff?

They can even deploy the National Guard, if it's so important, and start up pop-up clinics in schools, or they can tell these governors, these 20-plus governors that have not prioritized teachers, they can say, "We're not going to give you any more vaccine, unless you prioritize teachers."

CUOMO: Right. WEN: So, it's a matter of will and intention. And with due respect to President Biden, he's just not willing to do that yet.

CUOMO: And for what it's worth, there's no parent that I talked to, that this isn't their primary concern. Even before getting themselves vaccines, they're so interested in getting their kids back into school, and normalizing their - their kind of life flow. And you know that also as a parent.

Now, I want to ask you something else, as a parent, as a doctor, as a person, as somebody with Asian heritage. So you know about what's going on. You know, in the next segment, we're going to take it on directly about hate crimes.

Now, Asians are over-represented in the medical field, right? Hard work, dedication, commitment to education, you've really blossomed there, and such a benefit to the country.

We are seeing that people are trying to avoid Asian medical care, from Asian clinicians. Were you aware of this? And what does it mean to you?

WEN: So, it hasn't happened to me directly, Chris.

But I have had colleagues, who have had patients, spit on them, or refuse to be treated by them, or even say to them, "I don't believe you because you're the reason why we have Coronavirus in this country. So, why should I believe you when you give me medical advice?"

Again, I haven't had this happen to me in the clinical setting, although every time I appear on air, I do get social media messages somewhere along those lines too. So, I certainly know that this is out there. And I think that says a lot about why language really matters.


There is a reason why the World Health Organization says that we need to not call diseases by the country of origin, or by a people, because then you get this fear and stigma that's directed to a particular group of individuals.

And I am extremely concerned about the racist attacks that seem to be growing in different parts of the country.

CUOMO: You know, look, just as a matter of fact, the Spanish Flu, we always talk about, didn't start in Spain. It got called the Spanish Flu, because they were the first to be honest about it.

And, again, we know where this started. We know who started it. He's gone. But it's about what remains and this is part of that stain.

Thank you for being honest about it. Thank you, as always, for being with us on the show. Appreciate you, Doc.

All right, look, we got to talk about this. We've got to be better than this. It is not just about the "Former guy," OK? It's what remains. There are people fighting for that mantle of malignancy, of malevolence, of malice. And you're seeing it.

You saw it on January 6th. And this is now the next chapter, a disturbing rise in targeted violence, during the Pandemic, against Asian Americans. These are racist attacks. And yes, they are increasing. Why?

Actor Daniel Dae Kim is actively trying to help. His connection, his plea, next.









CUOMO: "Justice For Vicha," this viral illustration not only serves to commemorate the 84-year-old Thai man, who died in an horrific and senseless attack, but it's become the latest symbol and rallying cry for action amid rising anti-Asian attacks, especially among the elderly.

The videos I'm about to show you, they're graphic, and they're hard to watch, but I think we should watch. We should see what's being done to our fellow Americans, and have outrage.

This is the moment that Vicha Ratanapakdee was brutally shoved to the ground. Watch.


CUOMO: Remember, he's an old guy. And this guy just runs over. I mean, this was his intended purpose. This was an attack. This punk ass, younger guy runs up and does this to an old man, on his morning walk in San Francisco. His family never got a chance to say goodbye.


MONTHANUS RATANAPAKDEE, VICTIM'S DAUGHTER: Officer answered the phone and then he told us like, they found him, got assaulted. He got an injury very bad about his brain, bleeding. And he never wake up again. I never see him again.


CUOMO: Can you imagine if that were your grandfather? And you know somebody knows that guy, right? You know the chance that

that guy did that alone, without talking about it, without bragging about it afterwards, is almost zero. So, where are they?

Vicha died two days after the attack. Same weekend, in Oakland's Chinatown, three seniors reported being attacked, including this 91- year-old man. Again, it's obviously a younger guy, attacking an old man.


CUOMO: And it hasn't stopped. More than 20 assaults and robberies were reported in Oakland, over a two-week period last month. In Portland, more than a dozen Asian businesses have been vandalized in recent weeks.

And here in New York, a 61-year-old Filipino man was slashed in the face on the New York City subway.

Authorities say it's hard to nail down evidence to prove that these crimes were motivated by racism and hate. But rights groups say you only need to look at the pattern of unprovoked attacks, and see the targets, to see it for what it is.

Who goes running around pushing over old people? You know that's not a thing.

Organizations that track the animus point out the dramatic difference. Look for yourself. 2017 to 2019, "Asian Americans Advancing Justice" says it received less than 500 of reported instances of hate against Asian Americans. Since last February, when COVID hit, they've tracked at least 3000.

Whole communities are on edge. It's got residents, activists and Hollywood celebrities upset, like our next guest, Daniel Dae Kim. They are clamoring for awareness and action.

Now, Kim and, a fellow actor, Daniel Wu, even offered $25,000 to track down the suspect in the Oakland case. And he joins us now.

Good to have you on the show. I wish it for - were for a better reason.

DANIEL DAE KIM, ACTOR & PRODUCER: Thank you, Chris. And I'm really happy to be here. And thank you for putting a spotlight on this issue. And happy Ash Wednesday.

CUOMO: Thank you. I appreciate you, Brother. Listen, we got to take care of one another here.

KIM: Absolutely.

CUOMO: And what is your thought as to why this is happening?

KIM: That's a complicated question. It's definitely a confluence of events, you know?

These are economic hard times for everybody. I think the Pandemic has really created a situation, where the stakes are higher for life and death. And these are often impoverished communities where these crimes are taking place.

But I don't think you can also deny the fact that there has been racist rhetoric coming from positions of power that where you can draw a direct line to the surge in these kinds of crimes.

I think your statistics are really effective and accurate. Starting in March, when the Pandemic was started to be labeled the "Kung Flu" and the "China Virus," there was a 1,900 percent upsurge in crimes of this nature against Asian Americans in March alone.

So, you can draw a direct line from one thing to the other. And words matter, especially from positions of power.


CUOMO: Why did you put up the $25,000? And by the way, I hear that there is a suspect in the Oakland case. They have somebody in custody. But what motivated that?

KIM: Two things, you know? First and foremost, we wanted to find the - we wanted to help find the perpetrator. But just as importantly, we wanted to raise awareness for this issue.

Those of us in the Asian American community know that this has been going on since last March. It shows up almost daily in our news feeds. And, and yet, despite our pleas, nothing has really been done, and no one has really amplified this issue.

And the night I saw Mr. Ratanapakdee's murder, and the incident against the man in Oakland, I got so upset. And I was very emotional. And a friend of mine, Daniel Wu, who also is very passionate about this issue, you know, and I - we connected.

And I just said, "We have to do something more than just tweet about it, and speak about it. This has been going on for too long, and enough is enough. We need to do something. We need to put our money where our mouth is."

And so, we thought that by offering a reward like this, we could draw attention to this issue. And thankfully, in part - that, in part is the reason why we're able to talk tonight. And so, I'm really glad to be able to speak with you about it.

CUOMO: Awareness plus, what? What do you think needs to be done?

KIM: Well, that's a great question. Because awareness is really just the first step. Now, it's about volunteering.

It's about contacting community organizers, who are working in communities like Oakland, and the Bay Area, and New York City, where so many of these attacks are, are happening, and donating to these causes. And it's about speaking up.

It's about not being silent. Whether you're a witness or a victim, report these incidents because we know that there's a tendency in the Asian American community not to report. And these figures that we're citing now as a result are not accurate. They're actually very underreported.

So, we need to know the scope and the breadth of this problem. So reporting is part of it, amplifying the message is part of it. If you have a Twitter, if you have any social media, get the message out. And the media can really help.

And I also - I would also say, contact your legislators and your district attorneys, ask what they're doing.

In fact, we're trying now to connect legislators, to community organizers, and trying to find out how we can figure out the connection between the two, so that they can work together, to help solve this problem in the long-term, because offering a reward is just a band aid. But what we can do in the long-term is what's really important.

CUOMO: How do you reconcile something like this with the life that you know?

I know you well. You are so highly regarded. You're a sex symbol. I've seen too much of you, in my house, with my kids, watching you. I know exactly who you are. I know exactly how you look.

And so, you are celebrated, for your talent, for your beauty. And then you see people attacking people like you. Yes, picking on the old, picking on the infirm. But how do you reconcile the two?

KIM: It's difficult. And I think it's really important to know that I am an Asian American, but I do not represent all of Asian America. And this is part of the model minority myth.

When we see the super-successful among us, we think, "Well, Asian Americans, they're fine, they're doing - they have a lot of buying power. They're fine that, you know, no need to worry about them."

But we are not a monolith. And there's so many of us, who are living below the poverty line, who are invisible to society. And that's part of the problem.

There's something in the American psyche, there's something in the psyche of people that somehow makes it OK for us to attack and verbally abuse Asian Americans, and especially the most vulnerable of us, the elderly, our children, women.

There are reports of attacks on women almost daily. And the verbal abuse that so many of our children are, getting in school, are all part of the same phenomenon.

And it's really just a question of speaking up, speaking out, and really fighting the injustice that we've been subject to historically, since our immigration to this country, but especially now.

CUOMO: It's very important also to have members of the majority saying it's wrong, because this isn't new.

The xenophobia of "Us versus Them," what happened during the war to Asian Americans, specifically Japanese, this is not new, in this country, and it's about it being rekindled.

KIM: Right.

CUOMO: And we saw that in ugly effect on January 6th.

I'm with you, Brother. I'm with you, even with my own personal bias after having been confronted with how you look, and you're in such better shape than I am, with my kids watching you all the time.


I'm with you for the cause, because we are brothers here in this country. And I wish you well. I'm always a call away to help with the effort.

KIM: That means so much. We all need mutual ally-ship. We need to help one another. So thank you so much, Chris.

CUOMO: I'm a call away. I'll make sure you have it. Be well. Daniel Dae Kim, thank you for bringing awareness to this and more.

We'll be right back.








CUOMO: You know you can see everything that's happening around us as related. What's happening with Asian Americans being targeted, this, this flux of animus, it's like we're addicted to it. Our politics is all about enmity. It's happening in our culture again and again.

You see what's happening in Texas, should be a straight tell, man, we got to care about our brothers and sisters there, figure out how to help, help the Red Cross, watch, wait.

But no, it's about politics. "Oh, this is what's going to happen with the Green New Deal." Where did that come from? He knows it's not accurate. But why even make the point in this context? It's all related. We are addicted to the animus, and it's not going to

be easy to stop.

"CNN TONIGHT," the big show, with the big star, D. Lemon, now.