Return to Transcripts main page

Cuomo Prime Time

Democracy Expert On Trump's Big Lie, Future Of U.S. Elections; Former FDA Commissioner On What End Of COVID Pandemic May Look Like; Southwest Tells Employees The Airline Is Understaffed And Will Cut Winter Schedules If Needed Amid Meltdown. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 11, 2021 - 21:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The last mile, as you see, was for Beans.

Andrew crossed the finish line, in four hours and seven minutes. He did it for his daughter, and every child, and family, touched by cancer.

We're thinking about Andrew, and his wife, tonight.

The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Chris for CUOMO PRIME TIME.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, John. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

Now, I often wonder if people who are living, during times that will be historic, know it, because we sure are. Do you realize that?

Do you realize that people will be talking about this period, in American history, for decades and decades and decades to come? And my greatest fear is that the historicity of it that historically, it will be seen as a bad moment for democracy.

Why? Because we've never seen one party, in this damnable two-party system that we insist on, go all in on a lie. So, half of your political system is invested in a lie. That's happening. It's not just Trump. The whole party practically backs, actively or passively, selling that the election was not legitimate.

And I don't think enough people get that this may be just beginning. "Why keep talking about Trump?" Because he's the Head of the Movement. "Yes, but the election is over." He can run again. And they are all preparing to undermine anyone's confidence, who isn't voting for them.

The key moment that I think shows where we are, and where we could be headed, is not January 6. It's a moment that came after, a moment, it was clear that Trumpers decided the best play was to do democracy dirty.

I put it on this moment of May 12th.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with.


CUOMO: Now, McCarthy knew questioning the anchor of our democracy, our elections, it was bad thing to do. But he also knew he was going to do it. That same day, McCarthy said one did - one thing, but he did another. He kicked Liz Cheney out from her number three spot.

Remember that? Same day, that he said, "Nobody's really doing that," why did he kick her out? Because she didn't back Trump, because she refused to question Biden's victory. That was the day that it became clear that this was not all over. In fact, they were all in.

The man who helped the House Minority Leader McCarthy oust Cheney, House Minority Whip Scalise, made clear, just this Sunday, that, the Right has become consumed with something very wrong.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Do you think the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump?

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): I've been very clear from the beginning. If you look at a number of states, they didn't follow their state-passed laws--

WALLACE: So, you think the election was stolen?


WALLACE: Stolen?

SCALISE: What I said is there are states that didn't follow their legislatively-set rules.

WALLACE: Do you think the election was stolen, or not? I understand you think there were irregularities, and things that need to be fixed. Do you think the election was stolen?

SCALISE: Yes. And it's not just irregularities. It's states that did not follow the laws set, which the Constitution says they're supposed to follow.


CUOMO: He can't say it. You can ask him a 100 times. The point is to go to why he won't say it. And that is because he's banking on the lie, to motivate, scared, almost exclusively, White voters.

Now, what I hope you can pay attention to is his rationale. He says "We must get back to the Constitution." That sounds great. It sounds patriotic.

It is hollow. Why? The elections clause to the United States Constitution does make clear that time, place and manner elements of our elections should be done by the state. States should make the rules, and the Congress can change them.

He says "States didn't follow their own laws." One, it's not about the Constitution. Don't wave it around like that makes you a patriot. You're lying! Lying is what, is a judgment on your patriotism.

And, more importantly, him saying "States didn't follow the laws," just because you say it a lot does not make it true. And it is not true, according to the state officials, who all certified, including GOP officials, in key states.


This is not about the law. It is not about the Constitution. And it is not about the facts. Conversely, it is about making those things not matter.

They took Liz Cheney's position. But she still has a voice. And she tweeted the truth. "Millions of Americans have been sold a fraud that the election was stolen," Liz Cheney says, and "Republicans have a duty to tell the American people that is not true."

Their only duty apparently, is to win. How else to explain a senator, with 40 years of experience, Chuck Grassley, who called what Trump tried to pull off, "Unconstitutional," after January 6, now, leading this horrifying defense of Trump's coup attempt?

A rebuttal to his own Senate Judiciary panel's findings, words, I never thought I would hear, from an American government official.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Last night--


CUOMO: That trying to overthrow our democracy was quote, "Not unreasonable."


GRASSLEY: --the endorsement of a person that's got 91 percent--


CUOMO: And he took that garbage on the road, this weekend, to literally stand by Trump's side, at a rally.


GRASSLEY: I'm smart enough to accept that endorsement.


CUOMO: Listen to this.


GRASSLEY: He got together his advisers, seven or eight people, from the Justice Department, and other people. And he listened to their testimony. And, in the end, he decided he wasn't willing to do what one of those people, in the Justice Department, urged him to do.

"Maybe you can overthrow this election." That was the advice that one person in the Justice Department was suggesting, by just one person. And he rejected all that.


CUOMO: What a shame! 40 years, right down the toilet, Grassley! Right down the toilet! Trump rejected all that?

Again, Grassley is the man, who said what Trump tried with Pence was unconstitutional.

The Senator is lying. Grassley's own committee found that Trump pressured top DOJ officials, nine times, to overturn the election. Trump summoned them to the Oval Office. He wasn't the audience.

Trump's own lawyer laid out a coup blueprint, for Mike Pence to follow, step by step. Trump asked Georgia's Secretary of State to "Find" him a 11,780 votes.

The truth is obvious. And that makes Grassley, and all the others' insistence, on denying it so frightening. This isn't about being angry. This isn't about calling people names. We're way past that. I don't even know what the fix is.

Defending a demagog is bad enough. But this is not about changing the past. It's about putting the future in peril.

Now, listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary conceded. I never conceded, never.


TRUMP: No reason to concede.


CUOMO: You lost. That's the reason. Because you respect something other than your own satisfaction, that's why.

However, while Trump is desperately trying to sell the "Big lie," he just told the truth about one thing, and it is key. You heard him in the first part. Clinton did concede. "Clinton conceded," he said. You know why? Because she did. Remember that.

You're going to hear people, on the Right, who want you to sleep on this threat, saying, "Come on! This is no different than what happened when Clinton won. And she was shocked. And she wouldn't concede." She did concede. "It's no different than Stacey Abrams, or the Democrats did, when they lost." That is a lie.

Now, that doesn't mean I don't like what they're saying. Again, I think the two-party system is killing us. And its time has passed. This is about something else. A lie doesn't mean I don't like it. It's not a K away from a different word. If you don't like it, it's a lie. It's not how it works.

There were questions that Stacey Abrams and other Democrats had about rules and counts. They're often our questions. Our election system is imperfect. We have made it more so with what's happening around the states right now.

There is nothing wrong with pushing back and looking for proof. That's my job. And if there were proof to be found, we would blast it, because that is the best currency of this democracy.


Questioning is different than finding no proof, and then lying, and refusing to certify. That's what Trump and Co. did. There are not good people, on both sides of this argument. And I will be damned, if I sit by, and don't say this as plainly as possible, because this will be remembered.

And there are not good people on both sides. This is not a good-faith dispute. It is bad faith. They know the election was not rigged. They know it was legitimate. Anyone telling you with full knowledge that they have no proof, and yet the election wasn't legit, is part of an effort that may lead us to an all-time low.

Sadly, I think Bill Maher has it right.


BILL MAHER, REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER HOST, HBO: I was a young man, of 59, when I started using the term "Slow-moving coup." And it pains me to have to report it's still moving.

2024 comes, and Democrats treat it as a normal election year. They are living in a dream world.

Even if they win, Trump won't accept it. But this time, his claims of illegal voting, by immigrants, or mail-in ballots coming in after the deadline, or the system was hacked by Venezuela, or whatever Giuliani comes up with on the fly?


MAHER: They will be fully embraced by the stooges he's installing right now. The Ding-Dongs, who sacked the Capitol last year? That was like when al Qaeda tried to take down the World Trade Center, the first time, with a van. It was a joke. But the next time, they came back with planes.


CUOMO: Now, listen, you can take issue, right? 9/11 is a sensitive thing.

Bill Maher tests. That's what he does. I'm not here to critique his style. What I'm saying is that he is not wrong that this is not over. And that January 6th was scary. But it was probably just symbolic of what may be to come.

Let's bring in a better mind, who's been listening to what's being said.

Phil Bump is one of our best cultural watchdogs, not that he's going to come out and bash this. He listens, this guy.

I read him all the time, not just because of the genius of the cleverness of the things he comes up with, at "The Washington Post," how to explain things. But he listens to what's happening in the society around us. And he sees things often in a way that it takes the rest of us more time to see.

And you've been talking about this, that there is this invitation that if it was incomplete, it's OK, that, if it wasn't an expressed felony, then it is fine, because "They only attempted it. But it never happened. So, it's OK."

What do you think of the idea that things are not over, Philip, that, there is more to come, of the same variety and worse?

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I think it's an almost certainty. I mean, we saw in California, during the recall election, for example, Larry Elder, the leading Republican candidate tried to sow the seeds of claims of fraud, even before the election happened.

And he had his website up, basically saying that there have been rampant fraud, before voting was done. He ended up getting beaten badly enough that he didn't try and go to that well.

But I think we're absolutely, in 2024, going to see states that are facing new pressure, legislators in those states, executives in those states, who have watched, what happened, in 2020, who understand the importance of certification, who understand what the pressure points are, in a way that they didn't, coming into the 2020 election.

But now, all of this has been tested. There's been this trial run. And I think it's almost certain that we will see states, if there are close results, in those states, who come back and say, "You know what? We're not certain about this thing. And we are not going to certify the results," and throw everything into tunnel. CUOMO: Or you have states that could change the results.

BUMP: Right.

CUOMO: It's not so much that we're going to request - recount.

Now look, I think, again, how the system works, and how we vet the system, and what the layers are, that's, one thing. But this is about passions over proof.

BUMP: Right.

CUOMO: And what did you make of the fact that over the weekend, Trump put out a video, to mark the birthday of Ashli Babbitt?

It's the rioter. Obviously, you know. But the rioter, the woman, veteran, fell under the kind of seduction of the Q conspiracy.

BUMP: Yes.

CUOMO: And she wound up being shot and killed, trying to break through a door, inside the Capitol.

What do you make of Trump celebrating her?

BUMP: I mean, I'll say it first, I don't think there's anyone in America, who doesn't wish she hadn't died that day. There was no reason for her to.

There was no reason for them to be in the Capitol, in the way that they were, quite obviously. But all of them were suffering under this delusion that Trump had fomented about there being this widespread electoral fraud.


The person, who bears responsibility for her death, primarily is Donald Trump. The fact that, he came out, and it wasn't just that he was sort of celebrating her life, and recognizing her service to the country, because she served in the Air Force, because he was recasting her as a victim.

CUOMO: Right.

BUMP: He was continuing this argument that he's made that the people, who've been arrested, because of January 6th, are somehow political prisoners.

And he was celebrating her, essentially as a martyr, which is exactly what happens, in circumstances, historically. When you see, for example, fascists and authoritarians seize power, they seize upon these incidents, as emotional ways, of reframing political violence.

And Trump has long embraced political violence. He has nodded at it, and been approving of it, in various circumstances. And this is a very direct example of that, centered on a day, in which people tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 election.

CUOMO: Philip Bump, I appreciate you being here.

The reason I am not saying, "So what's the fix?" is because I don't answer questions that I know there is no good answer to. And we don't know, right now.

BUMP: Yes.

CUOMO: But we do know there's a problem, and that too many people are sleeping on it.

BUMP: Yes.

CUOMO: Philip, as always, a pleasure, brother. I'll check with you soon.

BUMP: Of course.

CUOMO: Now look, again, I don't believe it is a question, whether Trump would try to undermine anything that works to his advantage. He has never done anything else. What's new is, not his habits. It's that they have been adopted by an entire party.

An expert on authoritarianism is here. Don't get caught up with like big words. It's about how democracies do, in fact, die. Let's have a talk, next.









CUOMO: You're going to hear people telling you increasingly, that there's danger. And you'll hear the people, who are accused of causing it saying "Boy, listen to them, clutching their pearls," and all these other silly ways of dismissing the urgency.

If you ask the Republicans, who were willing to defy Trump, and voted to convict him, for inciting the insurrection, even they will say, "There is nothing to worry about."

I'm waiting for sound. But now it's just become a pregnant pause!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Have leaders, of the Republican Party, who have willingly gone along, as though they're members of a cult.

We are still in the midst of a concerted, well-funded effort, to undermine American democracy.

FIONA HILL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SENIOR DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN & RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: We all saw, in real time, what happened, on January 6, at the Capitol building.

This was, in effect, a dress rehearsal for something that could be happening, near-term, in 2022, 2024.


CUOMO: Now, what you just heard there is true, but there's a huge problem with it that gets to one of the big reasons that we are stuck on this course.

Let's bring in a truly better mind, Steven Levitsky. He is a Professor of Government, at Harvard, and the Author of "How Democracies Die."

Professor, thank you for taking the invitation. Appreciate it.


CUOMO: So, the flaw is not that what Clinton said, or what Fiona Hill said, is wrong. It's that they will not be listened to. Forget about Clinton, and Fiona Hill, she went, bad on Trump, so nobody, who believes the "Big lie," will ever listen to either of them.

When you size up our situation, we all get the problem. Do you see a path to correction, or what a fix is here that's being ignored?

LEVITSKY: Well, I don't think very many Republican leaders believe the "Big lie." The problem is they're willing to either remain silent, or perpetuate the "Big lie."

And I think the most straightforward way, out of this mess, is for mainstream Republicans, to stop lying, to start telling the truth, to their supporters, and to be willing, not to support Donald Trump, when he runs for president, again, in 2024.

We build a broad coalition that includes all wings of the Democratic Party, and Republicans, who believe in - who still believe in democracy, then, the authoritarian forces in this country can be isolated and defeated.

CUOMO: How so?

LEVITSKY: I think heading--

CUOMO: Because here's what I don't understand about that. I read the Op-Ed from, who was it, Christie Todd Whitman-- LEVITSKY: Yes.

CUOMO: --and Miles Taylor, who wrote the "Anonymous," the thing about Trump, Miles Taylor. Here's the part I don't get. Help me with this, Professor.

They say, "We got to join with the Democrats, moderate Democrats, to make sure that we get people, who are legit, in there, and get rid of these Trumpers." That doesn't work in an election structure. You got to elect Republicans or Democrats because we're in a damned two-party system.

So, how do you manifest what you see, as this coalition, of the conscientious?

LEVITSKY: Well, first of all, I'm not saying it's easy. There's no silver bullet, there's no magic formula, for saving our democracy. We are, without question, headed into some rough waters.

But what it's going to take is, first of all, it's going to take, kudos to Christie Todd Whitman, but it's going to take more Republicans, refusing to support any balloting, and any nominees, who align with Trump. So, that means backing Democratic candidates.

It won't - it won't change. There will still be a large number of votes for Trump. But it's not enough to win. It would reduce the authoritarian core to 35 percent of the vote. And that's enough to win.


CUOMO: I get you on the 2024 scale. I guess I'm thinking more 2022. But I hear you.

Now, let's reverse it, for a second.

People will listen to us, and say, "Ah, the bookish guy, from Harvard! And Cuomo has never found something that didn't make him upset. This is nothing. This is just politics. When the Democrats say something's wrong with an election, that's OK. The Republicans say it, now they're all authoritarians."

Do you believe that there is any hype to the suggestion that the "Big lie," is an existential problem for this democracy?

LEVITSKY: Look, I think it was reasonable that when Daniel and I wrote "How Democracies Die," in 2017, when it came out in 2018 that people said, "Ah, these guys are overstating the case there. They're a little too alarmist."

I think, after the 2020 election, when Donald Trump became the first president, in the history of the U.S. Republic, to refuse to accept defeat, when Donald Trump spent two months, actively seeking, to overturn the election, to steal the election, illegally, calling 30 public officials, including governors, Secretaries of State, led - state legislatures, telling them, asking them, to find him votes, to steal the election, and then incited the first violent assault on the Capitol, in more than 200 years, it's difficult for me to imagine anybody thinking that those who are concerned about the fate of U.S. democracy are alarmist anymore.

I think for the vast majority of Americans, the threat is very clear.

CUOMO: Professor, the book is how Americans died - how - oh, God forbid! "How Democracies Die."

"How Democracies Die." Now, it was written a few years ago. And it was seen as "This is smart, but this is what academics do. They exaggerate things, for effect, to show how smart they are."

They could have never guessed that it would come the way it has come afterwards, because nobody saw Trump coming, in this kind of situation that we have.

But Professor Levitsky, it is worth a read. Although you're going to have to add some chapters, because I think that we have some in extremis yet to come. And I'd love to have you back on the show.

As we see what the next play is, I would love you, to help the audience fit it into the context, of what it could mean, OK?

LEVITSKY: We have another book coming, Chris.

CUOMO: Oh, beautiful! Hopefully, it's not an epitaph.

I'll talk to you soon.

LEVITSKY: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right.

All right, I got good news, and good news regarding the pandemic. But none of it means that we can let our guard down.

I want to bring in a former FDA Commissioner, which is good, because we don't really have one right now. And I want him to talk about that, and what is in front of us, OK? Next.








(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Tony Fauci says you can trick or treat. I find that hilarious. Tony Fauci's job isn't to tell you whether or not you can trick or treat. Of course, these are all decisions that we have to make for ourselves.

It's about where the risk is and why. It's not about do or don't. As we approach the holidays, beyond today, Americans, across the country, are wondering what that may look like, for the second year, amid the pandemic.

Vaccines, we've done well. We're not where we need to be. Take home tests, you can get, or buy them, at CVS, not hard to use. I do multiple ones, because they are not as reliable as PCR tests. But there's something.

Maybe now you get an oral drug. You do know that the drug, if you take it by mouth, or monoclonal antibodies, you do know they don't keep you from getting sick, right? I really wish whoever's, putting that idea in your head would stop.

The pill, monoclonal antibodies, those help you, once you are very sick. They don't keep you from getting sick. It's a key distinction. The vaccine does.

Now, where are we? And where are we going to be, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas?

My next guest is the Author of "Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic." He says we're closer to the end than some may think.

Joining us now, former FDA Commissioner, a member of Pfizer's Board of Directors, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

Good to see you, Doc. How big a deal is it that we don't have--


CUOMO: --a confirmed Commissioner for the FDA?

GOTTLIEB: Well, look, we have a very good Acting Commissioner of the FDA.

CUOMO: Right.

GOTTLIEB: Dr. Janet Woodcock, who ran the Drug Center, for years, has been in that seat, all through the Biden administration. She's a very competent hand. I think quite frankly, the administration was better off with an experienced official, in that role, than bringing in someone from the outside.

Having been in that role myself, I could tell you there's a very steep learning curve. And having someone who can hit the ground, day one, and be effective, right from the outset, I think has been an advantage, for the administration, as opposed to trying to recruit someone, from the outside.

Now, that said, they've said that they're going to appoint someone into that position, imminently, or make an announcement, about an appointment, maybe within days right now.

CUOMO: Yes. My sources in the administration say the same thing. And they're worried they're going to trade down.


But I just wanted to get that out there on the record because it's a point of, they're keeping, the Republicans, are keeping this, from happening. But, right now, the status quo isn't the worst thing.

All right, so, I think messaging is getting screwed up here, again. Pandemic, endemic, these are not words that people use. Explain to me where we are transitioning, from and to, in terms of what it means, in everyday life.

GOTTLIEB: Well, look, we're in a pandemic right now, where there's uncontrolled spread, across the world, and across the United States, for that matter. At some point, we're going to transition to a phase, when this becomes a persistent risk.

But you don't have the extreme levels of virus that we have right now in certain parts of the country. And that's when this becomes an endemic illness, like flu, like other viruses, Coxsackievirus, Enterovirus. It doesn't go away. But we learn to deal with it as a persistent menace.

And it's not - it's not a binary point in time. We're not going to be able to say, "Aha! That was the moment." But we are transitioning there right now. And I think this Delta wave of infection is probably the last major wave of infection that we're going to have to grapple with, before this starts to become a more endemic risk.

Many people think, including myself that, the Delta variant will become the dominant variant, and future mutations that we see will be within that Delta lineage, one reason why we may eventually switch the vaccines over to a Delta backbone vaccine.

But we're not through this Delta wave, yet. The South is through it. And that's bringing down the virus levels, across the country. But other parts of the country still haven't had their real Delta wave yet.

CUOMO: Now, if people hear this, and say, "Then why mandate the vaccine? We're going to get through it anyway. And if people want the vaccine, they get it. If not, and they get sick, they got the pill. They can get the antibodies. Don't mandate it. It's just causing trouble," what's your response?

GOTTLIEB: Well, look, the reason why we're going to get through this, and the reason why we're going to accelerate our way, through this pandemic, to an endemic phase, with this virus, is because of the vaccine. If you look at past pandemics, they've lasted upwards of five years. This pandemic probably won't last that long for the West. And the reason is, is because of our technological toolbox, which you laid out very well, at the top.

It's not just the vaccines. It's the therapeutics. It's the point-of- care diagnostics, where people could self-diagnose at home, and get themselves treated. But the vaccine is a key part of that.

The fact that we could build a wall of immunity, through vaccination, and not just mass infecting the population, is going to be how we accelerate our way, out of the pandemic, into an endemic phase, with this virus, where we can hopefully keep it at bay.

CUOMO: You believe, you said this before, kids, five to 11, being vaccinated, that's the key. Why?

GOTTLIEB: Well, look, it's one key. I think we need to protect the children.

But what we've seen time and time again, is if we can control the virus, in adults, we can control the virus in children. So, if we can get more adults vaccinated, and keep the infection level down, in adults, that's going to ultimately protect the kids, as well as vaccinating them.

So, most kids, who get infected, get it from adults. They're not catching it from other kids, in most cases, except where we've seen outbreaks, in the school setting. Vaccinating kids is still going to be important.

I'm going to vaccinate my kids, when they're eligible. A lot of parents, I think, are thinking about vaccinating their kids, or up to a third of parents have said they already made the decision to do it, once it's available.

And I think every parent should consult their pediatrician, and get questions that they have, about vaccinating their kids, answered.

CUOMO: What is Christmas looking like?

GOTTLIEB: I think we'll probably be through this Delta wave, all around the country, sometime around Thanksgiving, or shortly thereafter. Prevalence declines, around the whole nation.

I think we still need to be careful through the winter. This is a winter pathogen. It'll continue to circulate, but not at the levels we're seeing right now. We have to get through this Delta wave. But, right now, you're seeing epidemic spread in the Midwest, and the Plain states.

I think the North still is going to have some kind of Delta surge, certainly not like what we saw in the South, because there's more vaccination, and more prior immunity, from prior infection. But the Northeast and the Northern parts of the country is still going to see a Delta uptick. But after we get through this Delta surge, across the whole country, I think Christmas prevalence levels will start to decline. And as we get into the spring, this will start to really decline.

CUOMO: "We will see," the three most loaded words that we have in science or politics.

Thank you very much, Doctor. Appreciate you.

GOTTLIEB: Thanks a lot.

CUOMO: All right, so we have a question. Vaccine mandates, are they screwing up U.S. air travel? Thousands of Southwest Airlines' passengers were stranded over the weekend. Did you hear about this? There were these massive flight cancellations. The company gave a reason. But they're being questioned.

We're going to dig in, with an authority on aviation, about whether or not he buys, what Southwest is selling, next.









CUOMO: Everything these days is a political football. And somehow, the Southwest Airlines meltdown has ended up on the list.

According to Senator Ted Cruz, the Southwest debacle that resulted in one in 10 flights being canceled, today, and over 2,000, this weekend, is the President's fault.

He writes "Joe Biden's illegal vaccine mandate at work!

Suddenly, we're short on pilots & air traffic controllers.


I wonder who the Texas senator spoke to, considering the Pilots' union says the chaos was not a result of the vaccine mandate.

Wonder how he feels about the "Big lie." Why doesn't he spend more time on that? He's a constitutional expert, legal expert, all about law and order. No concerns about bashing elections without proof? Remember, you said your proof was what you read in the paper, Ted? Still good with that?

Anyway, the airline blamed weather, and air traffic control, which is also interesting, because the FAA said it has no staffing issues, since Friday.


Arguably, the only coordinated effort could be, from those on the Right, considering that tonight, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, issued an executive order, prohibiting employer vaccine mandates.

You'll remember, Southwest Airlines is, headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

Let's get some perspective, on the Southwest woes, from "The Points Guy" Founder and CEO, Brian Kelly.

Good to see you, Brian.


CUOMO: You think this is about the vaccine mandate or something else?

KELLY: No, I mean, all signs, right now, point to the fact that it's simply operational staffing shortages.

Southwest incentivized a lot of employees to retire early. And, frankly, travel has bounced back, so quickly, and their schedules are so tight, that the littlest things happen, and it's a domino effect.

Our team, at "The Points Guy," we've tried to get the inside scoop, was this a hush-hush thing, against the mandate? And everything that's turned back so far is that that is simply not the case.

CUOMO: All right, so here's the pushback. "Well, if you were right, then it wouldn't just be Southwest, because everybody's dealing with shortages. Everybody's dealing with tight schedules. Why did this happen to them?"

KELLY: Well, Southwest is different. They don't have a hub-and-spoke, like traditional airlines.

And, by the way, this is happening to others. Spirit Airlines had a meltdown in July that was very similar. What happens is with these airlines that don't have hubs, is their planes and crews are all over the country. So, one cancelation cascades.

So, there might have been a couple weather pockets here or there that most airlines can recover from. But Southwest has been scheduling its pilots, and it schedules on very tight margins. So, this was simply a snowball effect.

CUOMO: United is reporting 96 percent vaccination, among employees. It seems like a lot of people, because of the mandate, they want to keep their job, or they're just being conscientious, so they comply. Southwest hasn't released numbers thus far. What are you hearing about employees and mandates in the industry?

KELLY: Yes, I mean, Delta also hasn't officially mandated it to their employees. In Canada, they mandated it, except for local freight carriers.

I think the majority of people support it. People want to be safe, while flying. But it'll be interesting to see how it plays out, especially with Governor Abbott, and his new executive order.

CUOMO: If Southwest is using the vaccine mandate, as cover, does that bother you?

KELLY: Of course. I also think it's shady, to throw the FAA, under the bus, with blaming them, and weather.

I think they - and they also, you know, they lost a lot of credibility, coming out, and saying that. So, they're feeding these conspiracy theories, because they were not honest about the true reason for the cancelation.

So, I think they need to do a much better job, not just at PR, but also with customer service. Thousands of passengers weren't even notified that flights were canceled. Or, my friend was rescheduled on a flight, at 4, in the morning. He got an email that he had to be there, at 6.

So, Southwest needs to learn from this. And frankly, all airlines need to do a lot better, at getting new people, to work, at the airlines, training new pilots. That's going to be a huge issue in the coming years.

CUOMO: Now, you flag that when you're looking at meltdowns, like this, don't worry about the vaccine mandates, or even just staffing shortages, but also new rules.

What new rules?

KELLY: New rules - I'm not exactly sure what you're asking.

CUOMO: That the meltdown isn't just about staffing with pilots, but also new rules that mandate crew rest, pilots needing to be behind the door of a hotel now?

KELLY: Oh, yes. Yes, so the good thing is, for, to protect consumers, and safety, pilots now need to spend at least eight hours behind a hotel room door.

This just makes scheduling, with an already small amount of pilots, there's just you know, it's better for passengers, because pilots are well-rested, but it's making it harder for airline schedulers, to make these schedules work.

So, the simple solution is airlines need to put their operations above profit. United's already doing this with taking more flights off the schedule, so that they don't have these types of hiccups. So, I think Southwest is going to have to take a long, hard look, at its fall schedule, especially as holidays are coming up. We really have over 2 million people traveling a day. And especially, if kids get vaccinated, there's going to be even more people in the skies.

CUOMO: Brian Kelly, Founder of "The Points Guy," thank you very much. Appreciate you.

KELLY: Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: Gabby Petito reported missing, one month ago. A lot more information about her homicide is are going to come to light.

Once you know her cause of death, not just that it was a homicide, meaning that somebody caused her death, it'll really point at whether this was someone she knew, or it was some other X factor.

And the search, where does it stand? Next.









CUOMO: Tonight marks one month, since Gabby Petito was reported missing.

Still, a lot of unanswered questions, surrounding her death, but, by this time tomorrow, we will probably understand how she died, what was done to her, the injuries, and what that tells, the county coroner in Wyoming, about what may have transpired by her - between her, and whoever killed her. And they're going to hold a press conference about the autopsy.

All we know from police so far is that the 22-year-old's death was ruled a homicide, meaning death by someone else. How exactly? We're going to know. But what does that mean about, who?

Now, we know where she was. And obviously, it's instructive that she was not hidden. She wasn't secreted somewhere. She wasn't buried.


She was found in a clearing, in Bridger-Teton National Park, right by the site. Listen to - the idea of this is if she was found in such a familiar place, that maybe this was done in a rush. It was spontaneous. It was an act of passion.

That's why people point to fiance, Brian Laundrie, especially because though he hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing, in her killing, and he does have that federal arrest warrant, for his alleged unauthorized use, of somebody else's debit card, maybe Gabby's, the fact that he didn't contact her family, he wouldn't help with her search, and that then he disappeared, are all very, very damaging aspects, for him, in this situation.

Now, we know through witnesses he was with her, in the days before she vanished, and that they had a tumultuous relationship that resulted, at one point, in a police response to a physical fight that witnesses reported.

On September 1st, he came home from the cross-country trip without her but with her van. And then he vanished. Why? There's more that we don't know.

The biggest thing for me has always been what is the good reason for neither him nor his family to talk to the Petitos? Why is there a good reason for him to not have wanted to help with the search?

Tomorrow, we're going to learn a lot more. And when we do, the real search for Brian Laundrie may begin.

We're going to take a break, and then we have the handoff.