Return to Transcripts main page

Cuomo Prime Time

U.S. Embassy Warns Americans Outside Kabul's Airport Gates To "Leave Immediately" Because Of Security Threats; Afghan Journalist Shares Personal Fears Of Taliban Directly With Biden Administration; Doctor Sees COVID Surge's Strain On Hospitals Hurting Others. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired August 25, 2021 - 21:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Especially if you can really say that these are Americans, why are you sending them away?

What would you do, to people, that you care about, when you learn, they were threatened? Would you send them away? Or would you want to keep them close? Bring them into the airport? Why not? Where's the answer to that question?

Look, terrorists are coming for the people that America is trying to get out, right now. Not just Taliban, hunting women and friendlies.

This threat is the new ISIS, ISIS-K, "K" stands for a province they come from, Khorasan, up on the Pakistan border. Remember, a lot of the Taliban, a lot of these bad guys, are not even from Afghanistan.

Listen, what does this mean, about when America will get the Americans out? Because, now, is this threat going to delay? Are we going to go back to this August 31 BS? Is that going to become a hard-out again?

Look? That was a media and political party trap. It was a gotcha. "What are you going to do? What are you going to do? What are you going to do?"

And the Biden administration did not deal with it well, and they just got on message that they're going to complete the job, no matter what. Will this spook them into having to make a quick exit? They were finally getting that they can't leave until you get all Americans and allies out.

Now, here's the good news. They are getting people out. We just got new numbers. Since August 14th, when Kabul fell, the State Department tabulates as many as 6,000 Americans wanted to leave. And since then, roughly 4,500 were evacuated, along with family members.

Secretary Blinken says his department is in contact with 500 Americans still there, and is aggressively reaching out to what could be 1,000 more, but likely less. So, approximately 1,500 American citizens remain. And the White House says it's not putting a cap on the number of SIV applicants, they hope to get out, by Tuesday. Now look, I know some of you don't buy the numbers. I know that you have no good reason to buy the numbers, because the White House has said they're not sure about the numbers.

Blinken now put out new numbers. Is he completely sure of these numbers? I doubt he would say yes. These are going to be their best estimates. Will you hear different ones from different sources? Yes. Should there be coordination of this? Yes. Is there? No. Is that part of the problem? Yes. Now, that's the truth.

And the bigger truth is this place has never been safe for Americans. There's been a lot of blood spilled, in that country. And it kept us safe for over 20 years. And the job remains the same. Get as many of our people out as you can safely, whatever it takes.

And the reality hasn't changed. Chances are bad things are coming in Afghanistan, Taliban, ISIS-K, or some other alphabet.

There will be chatter about America running away, and being weak, negotiating with the Taliban. We used to not negotiate with terrorists. Now we say "Ah! They're not that bad. And they deserve a chance to have a stake in this." What are we about?

And in a few months, you will hear talk of bad guys there, making plans to get us here, just like ISIS-K is now targeting people at the airport. There will be more, in all likelihood. But right now, that doesn't change anything.

This is an evacuation. And it's never been safe. And you've always had the same job. And it's time you just knuckle up, and say you're going to do it. You're going to get everybody out, no matter when it takes, even if it gets ugly, because you have to get them out. Period!

Because when American forces leave, those left behind will likely pay a price. Getting out will be at the mercy of men known for being merciless.

And the women there will be in grave, grave danger. Even while saying they'll be the kinder, more inclusive Taliban, they are telling women to stay inside, for their own safety.

And now, this new threat, ISIS-K. There will always be a threat. Are we handling this one the right way? And does it deter from the mission? That's what matters.

Let's take up those questions with a better mind, former CIA Counterterror official, Phil Mudd.

What do you think?

PHIL MUDD, MEMBER OF DIPLOMATIC TEAM THAT HELPED BUILD AFGHANISTAN GOVERNMENT, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER: Boy, I look at this, and say, if you're on the ground, you have a difficult choice, if you're the Americans. The Americans are talking about specific threats. If you get specific threats, then you have no choice. No choice except what we used to call in government duty to warn.

You have to tell the people, on the ground, "You have to move away, because there's a risk," and I'm just assuming they're here, but there's a risk potentially of something like a backpack bomb, or a suicide bomber with a truck.

The reason why the Americans would tell - the American government would tell Americans there to leave is that they can't afford not to tell people not to congregate around the entrances to the airfield. What else are they supposed to say?


Now, the challenge for, to close, Chris, the challenge for people on the ground is, you've got the Americans saying, "There's a potential physical threat at the airport. But if I go home, there's a potential threat from the Taliban, coming after my family." The people at the airport have no good options, and nor do we.

CUOMO: Why isn't the good option to bring them in?

MUDD: You could bring them in if this is like Target, and you could just walk through a turnstile.

But first of all, you got to certify who's who. While you're certifying, who's who, those people have to cross - go across town, and go in concentrated areas that are prime targets, for someone, who's plotting a terror attack.

So, what's your choice, if you're American? Congregate around the gates, because we have specific threats that say you might be targeted? Or say, "Go home?" They don't have good choices. We don't have good choices. There's no good answer.

CUOMO: Yes. But Phil, if you tell them to go away, you are now automatically making good, on the threat, by ISIS-K, or whoever's making it, because you're now putting them in even more danger. The farther they get away from that airport, the less chance they ever get back to it.

MUDD: That assumes that we can improve the processes over the next five days, six days.

Look at what's happened over the past five days, six days. Would you have said we'd be at 80,000-plus people, five days or six days ago? I would have said "No way." That also assumes something that nobody is talking about that there will not be a plan for September.

If you're sitting in the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House today, along with the CIA, one of the first questions, I would have, would be, how do you ensure that there's a conversation, potentially with the Taliban, remember, the CIA Director met the Taliban, for how to get people out, after August 31st, especially American citizens?

I wouldn't - I wouldn't judge that there's not a plan to do that. I'm not saying it's great. But it's better than having people congregate around a gate, and getting blown up, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, look, you know my suggestion. I don't understand why you would put any weight on the August 31st date. I don't understand why Biden ever did. I think he was duped by the media, asking him gotcha questions, and the fringe political base that worked against him.

Why did they ever play into that? "Oh, it's in the deal." The guys who made the deal, say the deal was a joke. You never honored the deal. You didn't work on the deal. Why would you honor it now, and give the Taliban that kind of respect?

So, the CIA guy goes to meet with the Taliban guy. Comes out.

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: Next thing Biden says is that date's a real date.

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: What does that tell you about the meeting?

MUDD: It says nothing about the deal. I completely agree. A deal doesn't matter if it involves the security of American citizens, if you can extend the deadline and get people out.

I don't care what we told the Taliban. These are people, who go into soccer stadiums, and assassinate people, for doing things like stealing.

CUOMO: Yes, that's what - that's what I'm talking about.

MUDD: No. No, yes but--

CUOMO: See, you have these conversations. What I'm saying, Phil, is how come this isn't the dialog?

"Look, I know you think you're going to be in charge here. That never happens, until we leave, and you know it. And we both know what happens when we stay. Let's stop these illusions about what it will take for us to take you out."

The Taliban can't think that way. They know that it is a straight, big fat L, against the United States military.

Why isn't the discussion "Soon as I get my people out and the allies, I'm gone. That's what you want. Let it happen. Help me make it happen." Why isn't that the deal?

MUDD: Too much risk. I don't think the deal makes any difference. As I said, any moment ago, I think people are placing too little emphasis, on the CIA Director's meeting. He goes out from that meeting. And shortly thereafter, the President says, "We're out." Why do you think that is, Chris? I'm going to make a bet. And that is because the Taliban told the CIA Director, "You guys are out. Or else you guys you're in deep trouble."

The Taliban holds the cards. They can go after the people, who were affiliated with us, and slit their throats. They can go after American citizens, and slit their throats, if we don't leave, and they have done that.

So, what's your choices, as the Commander-in-Chief? Extend the deadline and risk people's lives? Or say, "We're going to get 100,000, 110,000, 120,000 people out. And we're going to save American servicemen by leaving on time."

CUOMO: Phil?

MUDD: No good choices. I would have done with Biden did.

CUOMO: Phil, let's play that out, OK?

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: So, you leave, and you brag about your number. And then people like me poke holes in the number, for the next two and a half weeks, because we don't even know if it's real.

MUDD: Yes. Yes.

CUOMO: I mean, what happens to the people, who are left behind?

These stories that you're talking about, are guaranteed, they are guaranteed, if you leave, whoever is left behind, and by your equation, there will definitely be people left behind, and that's exactly what's going to happen.

So, you say, "No good answers." I say, "But there are levels of suck, here." And staying and testing the Taliban, how can that not be better than giving them free rein over people that you know, as you say, they want to slit their throats?

MUDD: Risk reward. Look, the risk is if you leave late that the Taliban does, as I just said, they start to assassinate people. Reward is what do you get for the upside? You potentially can get those people out in September, without risk to their lives.

If you're the President, and you're the Commander-in-Chief, your responsibility partly is for the men - service men and women, who are there, who are going to leave. And if they leave a day late, and there's a car bomb, and 20 of them - 20 of them die, a lot of us remember what happened in Beirut, 35 years ago, it's on you.

What's your risk reward? There's no good risk reward. But if I were him, I'd say the risk of staying and, dead Americans, civilians and military, by ISIS, or by Taliban, is greater. The risk of staying is lesser than the risk of leaving. [21:10:00]

CUOMO: What is the leverage to have any kind of deal in September?

And what Phil is talking about is that there'll be some negotiated detente, OK, where they keep letting people leave, even if the Americans aren't there. Why would they do that?

MUDD: I don't think there's a lot of leverage for Afghan citizens.

The Taliban has already said, and I think they're completely embarrassed by this, they've got a brain drain. The Taliban has already said, "These people shouldn't be leaving."

As far as let's say, depending on the numbers, looking at the Secretary Blinken's conversation today, depending on the numbers, you have 1,000 people left.

I could see going to the Taliban, and saying "We want 1,000 out," because if they don't come out, there's going to be tremendous embarrassment for you. And, at that point, if the Taliban starts going after people, our bets are off. They've already proven that they're going to kill people. We lock and load on them.

One last thing, I'd say, Chris, again, we're not focusing on the CIA Director's meeting. Not only would he have talked about the potential departure date, and I'm sure the Taliban said "Get the hell out, or we're coming after you," he's got a phone number.

So, if things start going ugly, with American citizens, after August 31st, I guarantee, he's the avenue, not the State Department, not the Pentagon, to call the Taliban, and say, "You got to get our people out."

But those Afghans, who worked with us, Chris, they're in trouble.

CUOMO: I just don't know how it's acceptable. Look, I hear you, brother. And you've done these deals. And you've had these conversations.

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: And I respect you and I understand why you're saying it.

But I just can't believe that America can't do better than say, "Hey, there's a threat. Everybody run away." And "Hey you, bad guys? You hold all the cards. We'll do whatever you want."

It just it's hard to square with what we're supposed to be about. But I appreciate you, brother. We'll keep putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

MUDD: Yes, it's tough.

CUOMO: And getting your take on what the picture is that it makes. Thank you. MUDD: I'll see you.

CUOMO: Man! Dark days!

You ever thought you'd be having conversations, like this, about the "Mightiest military in the world?" Can't even get your own people out? A threat tells you to tell your own people to run away, back into the places that you know are most dangerous?

The Taliban, they're doing their part right. They're loving this! They're issuing a new warning to the women and girls of Afghanistan, OK? I referred to it in the open, "For their own good." These guys are the threat. They're telling women to stay inside for their own good? They're the threat!

What does that mean about what's going to happen when we leave? Not that America has, as its job, to stay in Afghanistan forever. I've never said that.

But our next guest is an Afghan journalist, who knows the reality and took those fears to the Pentagon. Did you see this?


NAZIRA KARIMI, AFGHAN REPORTER: I left from the Taliban, like 20 years ago. Now we go back to the first step, again?


CUOMO: Why is she so upset? And why is she more worried now than ever? Hear directly from this journalist, next.









CUOMO: All right, so let's be real, about who and what we're dealing with here, OK? The Taliban deserves no respect, as any legitimate state-builder, all right? They have a perverse sense of religious justice. They maim and kill for minor infractions. And that's with men.

With women, the best of times are the worst of times. They are property, often brutalized, almost always subjugated, sometimes measured, in worth, when traded for cattle.

And now, the Taliban itself is telling women, to stay at home that they can't work, because their soldiers are "Not trained" to respect women. Think about that!

Remember, last time Taliban were in power, '96 to 2001, women couldn't work. They have to cover their entire bodies. They're not allowed to leave home, unless accompanied.

My next guest knows this reality firsthand. She fled Taliban rule. She became a journalist. She is the "American Dream."

She was in the Pentagon briefing room, last week, pressing Admiral Kirby, on the whereabouts of the Afghan President, last week, when those memories of her own reality came flooding back.


KARIMI: As you know, I am from Afghanistan. And I am very upset today, because Afghan woman didn't expect that overnight all the Taliban came. They took off my flag. This is my flag. And they put their flag. Everybody is upset, especially women.

Woman has a lot of achievement in Afghanistan. I had a lot of achievement. I left from the Taliban, like 20 years ago. Now we go back to the first step, again?


CUOMO: Nazira Karimi is her name, and she joins us now.

Welcome to PRIME TIME. Thank you for making your witness.

KARIMI: Thanks, Chris, to having me. I'm so honored. And I'm so happy that one more time I raise my voice, for Afghan voiceless, through by your popular show. Appreciate it. Thank you.

CUOMO: The idea that we're hearing is "America has to leave sooner rather than later, or the Taliban will hurt people." What do you think happens, no matter, when America leaves?

KARIMI: Thank you. It's a great question.

Everybody in my country, including women, men, kids, all Afghan people, 38 million people, like to leave America, no matter soon or late, but based of my opinion, step-by-step.


Unfortunately, the time that United States or Biden administration made decision to leave Afghanistan, in the sensitive time, it's a little hard for everybody, especially for women, especially me that I am woman. I'm a journalist. But nowadays, I would like to talk as a Afghan-pure woman, because the situation in Afghanistan is sensitive.

They start, two years ago, peace process. United States signed agreement with the Taliban. But everybody expected to be, take time, step-by-step.

But unfortunately, the Taliban also didn't keep their commitment. And overnight, took over all Afghanistan. And President Ghani, like week ago, disappeared. That's why I was crying. And this women, I, it's better to not crying for my stepfather.

And President Ghani always, he called Afghan people that Afghanistan people are, including men, women, kids, "They're all my kids. They are my children." How come our stepfather left--

CUOMO: He's gone.

KARIMI: --everybody alone? But, yes, but it's--


KARIMI: Yes. I agree with you. But it's not time to U.S. leave alone, Afghan people, because, you know?

CUOMO: Bad things are going to happen.

So Nazira, do this. Please, tell people what do you think will happen to women, when America is not there anymore?

KARIMI: It's a great question. Everybody know, nowadays Afghanistan. Popular country. Afghanistan is a rich country. We have a rich story. We have a great people. As a woman, we have educated women, Member of Parliament, sport women, journalist, engineer.

And let me tell you a story, Chris. A month ago, I asked President Biden that "What's your warm and sweet message to Afghan women, or for Afghan-suffered women, because everybody's worried?"

Month ago, Taliban started to take over Afghanistan, based off that agreement, in Doha, Qatar.

And President Biden kindly answered my question. And he said, even in Afghanistan, when he was former president Obama's--


KARIMI: --you - work, on that time with President Obama. And he said, "I faced two Afghan kids, Afghan children. They wants me that "Please don't leave Afghanistan."

And President Biden said, "I asked them "Why?" And the kid said, "Because we have planned to be doctor, engineer, journalist, and you guys have to stay in Afghanistan, because we need to get our goal."

And President Biden said one of the reason that we supported Afghan people, Afghan military, Afghan woman, that was the reason. Nowadays, there are doctor, engineer, journalist. That's why we would like to continue our support to Afghan people, and Afghan kids that now they are, you know, the kids now are a doctor, engineer.

But he promised me that Biden administration continue their support. Now, I would like to ask again, President Biden, you promised month ago, but unfortunately, Taliban took over Afghanistan. Still you are going to support Afghan people? There's a question mark.

And I'm going to come to your question. The Taliban is here. Me, as an Afghan journalist, as an Afghan woman, that I experienced Taliban policy on 1996.

Doubt it. I'm not optimistic. I have to be optimistic. But based off Taliban old policy, I'm not optimistic, because woman of accomplishment - woman of accomplishment - achievement - I mean, achievement, a lot of achievement, they would like to keep that, but how?

Because Taliban, you know, Taliban isn't - Taliban, they have an ideology that it's difficult for somebody to change their policy.

Right now, I'm so grateful. I'm happy that Taliban promised Afghan people that they are changed. Maybe this is new generation of Taliban. Still, we have to keep our hope. But how can you change somebody's ideology? Of course, if Taliban continued the same?

Let me tell you something, Chris. Taliban has announced amnesty for all, for everybody, government people and not government.

But unfortunately, today - not today, nowadays, I got a bunch of a phone call, every day. People call me, more than 100 people, they're crying. They share with me different story.


And today, like 10 minutes ago, before I came to your show, somebody said, "Oh Taliban, torture woman, torture men." How come Taliban doesn't keep their commitment?

CUOMO: I'm hearing the same stories.

KARIMI: They say "Amnesty."

CUOMO: I'm hearing the same stories, Nazira.

KARIMI: Yes. And--

CUOMO: And that's why we have to keep an eye on this. Look, let's do this. You're going to be hearing stories. You know that we're a phone call away, for you to share the information, so we can get it out to people.

The Taliban themselves just put out a warning to women that they should stay home from work because the soldiers aren't trained to respect women.

We can't expect anything, but what we've seen. We only know what they show, and it's never been good for women, as a starting point.

So, I appreciate you taking time on this show. We're always a phone call away. And I am very happy for your success and your presence. And I hope somehow there are many, more, who can follow, in your footsteps.


CUOMO: Thank you and be well.

Listen, I mean, what else do you need to know? We all know this. We all know the reality.

I'm not saying it's America's job to make Afghanistan a better place or any place. I understand the politics of it. But don't sleep on the reality either. And it makes the evacuation that much more pressing, and allies that much more pressing.

Now, to the war at home, a new sobering COVID reality. There are more hospitalizations now than since the early weeks of the vaccine rollout. Why? Because we didn't take it seriously. The virus got stronger. We got weaker. And Delta is tearing through the unvaccinated.

How bad? I want you to listen to a doctor. And what he says is the reality now about what's happening with people with real illnesses, because of all this, Delta, next.









CUOMO: COVID is killing people, who have it. But did you know that COVID is also killing people, who don't have it?

That's the reality from Dr. Nitesh Paryani. He wrote an opinion piece in "The Washington Post." The headline was "Unvaccinated COVID Patients Are Straining Hospitals Like Mine, Where I Had To Turn A Cancer Patient Away."

He joins us now.

Welcome to PRIME TIME, Doctor. Thank you.


CUOMO: What is the reality of what you're seeing?

PARYANI: I mean, what you said is absolutely correct. Delta is just ripping through the hospitals, in ways that we couldn't have imagined. And the strain it's causing on the health care system is, is unimaginable.

As I pointed out, in the Editorial, I wrote, I had to turn away a cancer patient that needed an emergency treatment, simply due to the fact that my hospital didn't have any beds.

When I established my cancer practice, and I'm a third-generation oncologist, the one principle that I had built, my family had built, treating cancer patients off of is that we would never turn away a patient, regardless of whether they could pay or not.

And, for the first time, in 60 years, of my family's history, of treating cancer, we had to turn someone away.


PARYANI: We just didn't have a bed. There was simply no room in the hospital to treat the patient.

CUOMO: We're hearing that they're taking COVID patients from hospitals, and sending them home, because they have other COVID patients, who are even worse that they need to put in the beds.

Have you heard stories like that?

PARYANI: I haven't heard that particularly. But what we're seeing is just a tremendous amount of patients coming in. I mean, the other day, our emergency room had a 12-hour wait.

Almost every hospital in the city is on diversion, meaning they don't have room to take transfer patients. Patients, who need complex care, simply can't access it. I mean, it's - this kind of strain is something we've never seen before.

CUOMO: What do you say to people, you're in Florida, who say, "Look, the vaccine, they don't even know if it works that well. They keep changing all the data. Really, all you need, just listen to the governor, you just need one of these antibody treatments, and you'll be fine, if you get it. It's basically the same thing as having the vaccine."

What do you say to them?

PARYANI: Well, you had my colleague, Steve Hahn, on the other day, former Commissioner of the FDA. And I think he said it best. This is the best tool we have to fight the pandemic. There's no question about it.

We're seeing in the hospitals greater than 90 percent of the people that are admitted in the ICUs are unvaccinated. There's no question that the vaccine is the best option we have. It's also the cheapest option we have. It is the most effective. And there's really no reason that people should be avoiding the vaccine, that there's not a single patient that we've had to intubate, because of a complication from the vaccine. The people we are intubating, the people that are on life support, the people that are dying, are the ones that are not vaccinated.

CUOMO: How difficult do you think it is to fight against, what we're calling the politics here, but it's not really politics, right? It's mis- and dis-information. The idea that--

PARYANI: Yes. It's exactly--

CUOMO: --"Mask mandates are the problem. And let the parents choose," and all that, especially in your state, what do you think of that?

PARYANI: I mean you're absolutely right. It's not politics. And it shouldn't be politics.

It's misinformation. And I think a lot - there's a lot of reasons for that misinformation. There's social media. There is other sources of information that people are gathering.

But we, as physicians, we have to rely on people like you, Chris, to get the positive message out, to get the truth out there that "Listen, this is a simple solution." The pandemic - I mean, the vaccine is a simple answer to help us end this pandemic.

Dr. Fauci said, I think today that he's hopeful by spring, that we can end this pandemic, if we can increase our vaccination rates. And we've just got to do it.

CUOMO: Well, the whole problem is who's the "We?" This country is now the vaccinated--


CUOMO: --and the unvaccinated. And the only people the unvaccinated will listen to are the people, who made it OK for them, not to take it in the first place.

But Dr. Paryani, you're not a politician. I'm not going to make you one. Thank you for doing your job, to try to keep people alive, in a very hard environment. And I wish you well.

PARYANI: Thank you, sir. Thank you for having me on the show.

CUOMO: All right. So look, Florida's governor is a good indicator of how this brand of politics, right, which I don't really believe that's what it is. But how is he doing as a function of what he's doing?

We have the Wizard of Odds here with a look inside Ron DeSantis' approval numbers. There is a reality found in there. I don't think you're going to - you're going to be surprised. Next.









CUOMO: Florida's governor is Ron DeSantis. He says masks don't help prevent kids from getting COVID. And yet, polling shows six in 10 Floridians support requiring masks in schools.

So, where does that leave the governor's standing with voters, as the numbers in Florida continue, to spiral out of control, and account, for some of the worst metrics, in the country?

The reality with the Wizard of Odds.

What do we see brother?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, not perhaps what you might expect. Look at where Ron DeSantis' approval rating is among Florida voters right now. It's the same as it was on Election Day 2020.

And look at this. Should he be re-elected in 2022? Look at this. 48 percent of Florida voters say "Yes," compared to just 45 percent, who say "No."

Look? That's close. But given where the cases are, given where the hospitalizations are, in Florida, I think that a lot of the viewers would expect his numbers to be far worse than they actually are.

CUOMO: Now, let's put this together with another piece, and then we'll have a conclusion for people. Show Biden's numbers in Florida.

ENTEN: Look at this, much worse than Ron DeSantis' numbers are, in Florida.


And this is what politics is basically coming down to, right now. It's negative partisanship. It's not just "How am I doing?" It's "How is my opponent doing," or "How are the Democrats doing?"

And what we see here is that DeSantis, you watch him go on Fox News. He always plays off against the Democrats. This is a smart move, in a state like Florida, where Joe Biden's approval rating, is down significantly, over the last few months.

And so, for him, he's like, "You know what? I don't have to be doing that great. I just have to be doing better than the other guys."

CUOMO: COVID - well, it's right. It's "Who's worse," right? That's the breakdown.

Who's worse? And it is all partisan. If anybody thinks that COVID created clarity that was transcendent of politics, it's just reinforced the same old rules. Hasn't it?

ENTEN: It's exactly right. It's just reinforced the same old rules.

And what I'll note here is that I think a lot of people expect a certain relationship with COVID, right? When cases are up, you'd expect that the incumbents would be punished. And if cases are down, the incumbent should benefit.

But what in fact, do we see? Look at this. This is the 2016 versus the 2020 election.

And if you look at the change, between those two, in the counties, in which there were more COVID cases that were in the top quartile, what happened to the Democratic margin? It actually went down.

Donald Trump improved in the places where the COVID deaths were highest. In fact, where he did worse was where they were lowest.


ENTEN: Here's why. The reason why is a bunch of things. Number one, where the cases tended to be lowest, were places where, for example--

CUOMO: People wear masks.

ENTEN: That's right.

CUOMO: People had testing. People believed.

ENTEN: Especially White voters with college degrees, in these suburban areas, versus what you saw, was in a lot of places that might be the rural places, where Trump did worse, or did better in, they might not necessarily, or in the urban areas, especially among people of color.

Remember, Donald Trump vastly improved among people of color, specifically, Hispanics, in urban areas, African Americans as well, even though they had some of the highest cases and death rates from COVID.

CUOMO: It's very interesting. And it also makes me wrong, because I say this country is divided. And the reality is, it's the Vaccinated against the Unvaccinated.

But Harry, no, it isn't. Because over 50 percent of Republicans, I bet you, even in Florida, you'd have to look at that, and let us know, but they're vaccinated.

And they're still backing DeSantis, even though you would think that the Vaccinated would be against somebody, who's keeping people, from doing what they're supposed to do, in a pandemic. The pandemic is not as strong as poison politics.

ENTEN: It is not. And you point out Republicans. And you're right. We don't have an exact number on the - actually we do. And I will tell you that a majority of Republicans are vaccinated in the State of Florida.


ENTEN: But take a look here, right? If you're looking ahead, to 2024, "Should Ron DeSantis run for president?" 67 percent of Florida Republicans say "Yes." This is a huge vantage, for someone like DeSantis, going forward, into 2024, because there are a ton of delegates, in a State like Florida.

Remember, when Donald Trump knocked Marco Rubio, out of the 2016 race? He did so, in the State of Florida, where he was able to defeat a sitting senator, in his home state.

If DeSantis can win a primary, like in Florida, and those numbers among Republicans, indicate that in fact, he can, he could ride all the way to the nomination. And so far, the Coronavirus is not keeping DeSantis down. If anything, he's able to go on Fox, and pump himself up.

CUOMO: Harry Enten, thank you very much, for the reality, behind the numbers.

ENTEN: My pleasure, my friend.

CUOMO: All right. Here's a weird controversy, just to get your head just to think about what are we doing in the society these days?

You remember this? Remember this album cover? You remember everything "Nirvana," "Smells Like Teen Spirit?" Smells like litigation now!

The song was one of the best-selling records of all time, "Nevermind" as an album, as an icon. And part of the reason, just part, was that cover art, the baby, who's not a baby anymore. He's 30. And guess what? He's suing.

Why? You will want to hear this! Next.











Hello, hello, hello. With the lights out, it's less dangerous. Here we are now, entertain us.


CUOMO: They're telling me "Go, go, go," but I want to hear the song.

If you're a Nirvana fan, you likely remember the iconic, I'm going to put it in front of my face, remember this album? Everybody does.

That baby from their cover art, his name was Spencer Elden. He's no baby anymore. You want to feel old? He's 30. And he's suing Nirvana for, "Child pornography."

Now here's some context. In 2007, Spencer said he finds it "Kind of creepy that many people have seen me naked. I feel like the world's biggest porn star."

On the other hand, he's often recreated the photo several times. The guy supposedly has "Nevermind" tattooed on his chest.

CNN has reached out to the defendants in the case. We've yet to hear back.

Joining us now is Elden's attorney, Maggie Mabie.

It's good to have you, Counselor.

Part of the lyrics of that song is "I found it hard. It's hard to find. Oh well, whatever, never mind." I'm a little bit like that, with your complaint. That's why I want to talk to you about it.

I get you bringing a claim that he was never paid, or I guess, his legal guardians or parents weren't paid, for the photo. That's a complaint - that's a complaint I could understand. You might be told by statute of limitations on it.

But how do you get to pornography here?

MAGGIE MABIE, ATTORNEY FOR SPENCER ELDEN, ATTORNEY, MARSH LAW FIRM: So, our firm centralizes our practice in child pornography litigation.

And when you look at the case law here, you look at the dosed factors that will help a jury determine, whether or not an image constitutes child pornography.

One of those factors, which is, very clear here, in the image, is that the focal point of the image is the minor's genitalia. And here, in that image, along with all of the other dosed factors, as we've pled in our complaint, it's a very over-sexualized image, and it does constitute child pornography.

More importantly, it was child exploitation, in the way that they created it, and the way that they continue to distribute the image today.


CUOMO: Well, look, again, the second part of that, I could see him having a claim against his parents, right? This was their decision. But that's one issue. Were they compensated? Did they know? Everybody's going to be familiar with that.

But the other part of this, I don't ever remember anybody ever writing or anything being out there, in society, about this image, as a sexualized or pornographic image.

I always thought that it was a suggestion of how, right out of the womb, people are just grabbing for money, and doing anything they can. I thought it was more about capitalism than it was sexuality.

Why are you so sure about your position? And why is he bringing it now, after all these years, of seeming to be OK with it?

MABIE: I'm sure of the position, because if you look at the case law, and the dosed factors, and you analyze this image, compare it to those factors, it very much constitutes child pornography.

And I think the reason that Spencer is bringing the suit now is because he's about to face a very large invasion of his privacy, and again, at the 30th anniversary. And when that album is released, he expects for his privacy to be invaded, and this display of his genitalia, to be put, all across the world, yet again.

Spencer wants this image redacted. He is saying that he doesn't want his genitalia out there, for the world to consume any longer. And if we have this image redacted, that will be a monumental signal for all victims of child pornography that their voices are being heard, and their privacy is being respected.

CUOMO: You think that this man is really a good face for the pain of child pornography?

Somebody, who's made money out of it, has a tattoo on his chest, about it, has celebrated it, at different times, in his life, and had all this time to reach out about it, in the context that you're offering now, and never did?

You really think that this is something that would be comforting?

MABIE: Well Spencer's--

CUOMO: To real victims?

MABIE: Spencer's connection with Nirvana, while may have been celebrated, is not the same as his image being displayed. He can say, "I don't have a problem being on the cover. I have a problem with my genitalia being displayed on the cover."

We are asking Nirvana to do what they contemplated doing 30 years ago, which is to redact the genitalia, from the image. Kurt Cobain himself said that they should have decided or at least contemplated, whether or not they would put a sticker, over the genitalia, talking about--

CUOMO: That's not - that's not accurate. That's not accurate.

In my reading of it, which is probably coming, from the same as yours, unless you've spoken to the executives, involved at the time, which your litigation doesn't say you have, "They" wanted.

There was some discussion on the label side, about doing something. And Cobain's response was, "The only thing I would do is put a label on that, that if you're bothered by this image, you're a closet pedophile," or something like that. I don't think that's the same as your reckoning.

But again, especially because - I hear your arguments. But to say, "This will be comforting to actual victims of child pornography," that's a heavy statement. And your client--

MABIE: Again, the actual victims--

CUOMO: --has had a lot of time to do this.

MABIE: --we represent victims--


MABIE: --of child pornography. We had clients reach out to say how proud they are, of Spencer, for being this courageous, and for asserting his rights, because they too feel his rights have been invaded, similarly to theirs. This is something that--

CUOMO: But he just found this now?

MABIE: --we have to look (ph) at society.

CUOMO: Listen, I'm with you. And I'd be--

MABIE: Child pornography--

CUOMO: Just so you understand, Counselor, I'd be happy to talk to you, about the exploitation of kids, and images, and how sexuality of them can be used, and more importantly, abused. I'm with you.

I'm talking about the incident litigation. He didn't do this for many, many years. In fact, I don't even know how you get past the statute of limitations on it. But how do you explain him never taking this step until now?

MABIE: All victims of child pornography have until they have discovered the injury, and then, 10 years later, under 2255, to sue. This also doesn't begin to toll even until the age of 18. So, it is contemplated, in understanding how these crimes work that a victim wouldn't come forward, until they're 28 or older.


MABIE: So, given what we know about these crimes, this is not abnormal behavior. And Spencer has expressed his discontent with being displayed this way, many, many times, for years, in the past. This is not a newly-manifested issue.

CUOMO: But he's gone back and forth, right? He's also celebrated it, and used it to his own advantage. He's tattooed the name of the album on his chest.

And again, that recollection dynamic that you discuss is very important in the law. And it's based in psychology, and it's one of the few favors the law has done to psychology, frankly.

But it is about when people are able or, for whatever reason, develop recollection of abuse and trauma that has been secreted away, or buried, or psychologically kept, out of their consciousness, from when they were children. And I know you know this, but just for the audience.


How does this apply to that? How is this, him realizing that he was abused as a child?

MABIE: This is Spencer realizing that the image of his genitalia, and it's not just a new realization, this is Spencer asserting that the image of his genitalia is being exploited, ongoing, to this day, every day. And he's known that and he's felt that.

And this is not about money. This is about redacting the image, to respect his privacy.

CUOMO: Money is involved, just for what it's worth.

MABIE: All lawsuits involve money damages.

CUOMO: I know. But I'm saying don't say it's not involved. It is in there. That's all.

But listen, Counselor? I'm happy to have you make the case here. We'll see what the Court of Public Opinion decides. And I appreciate you taking the opportunity.

MABIE: I try my cases in the court of law. Thank you.

CUOMO: I know, but not tonight, because that's where we are. We'll see what they say. Be well and good luck.

MABIE: Thank you.

CUOMO: We'll be right back with the handoff.


"I found it hard. It's hard to find. Oh well, well, whatever, never mind."