Return to Transcripts main page
Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Interview With Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN); Arizona Ballot Audit Drags On; New Information On Wuhan Researchers' Illness Furthers Debate On Pandemic Origins; Internal Report Shows State Troopers Hit Black Man Repeatedly After Car Chase, He Did Not Resist Arrest. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired May 24, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: And baseball, the Mets tonight will no longer require fans to show proof of a negative COVID test to enter the city field. So farewell to sports bubbles, canned cheers and boos and those weird cardboard cutouts because those definitely will not be missed.
Thank you so much for joining us tonight. "AC360" starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. With thundering silence from leading Republicans, the anti-Semitism of one of its members, a one- time QAnon promoter, we begin tonight with Bob Dylan who turned 80 today, in 1963, he released "Talking John Birch Paranoid Blues" The John Birch Society was the QAnon of its era.
Republicans back then had a problem with its extremism and the bigotry associated with it. What they did not have was a taste for alienating its members, many of whom voted Republican. It might sound familiar.
So throughout the 1960s, even though leading Republicans managed to distance themselves from the worst what Ronald Reagan once called the "lunatic fringe," they never fully vaccinated themselves against the underlying illness.
So flash forward to now, enter Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene seen here equating mask regulations for House members with the Holocaust.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi, Germany and this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That is the Congresswoman last week, Marjorie Taylor Greene trivializing genocide and briefly, here she is amplifying her remarks in case you missed the anti-Semitism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREENE: I said nothing wrong. And I think any rational Jewish person didn't like what happened in Nazi, Germany and any rational Jewish person doesn't like what's happening with overbearing mask mandates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Her remarks are, as my mom used to say, "deeply stupid," but much as she'd like it to be, this is not about her. It's about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House G.O.P. whip, Steve Scalise and conference chair Elise Stefanik all ignored multiple requests for comment on Greene's remarks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: CNN's Ryan Nobles reporting there. Those are the three top Republicans in the House. The number of rank and file Republicans did condemn Greene's remarks, including Congresswoman Liz Cheney who called them quote, "evil lunacy."
She was stripped by the way of her leadership post as you probably know, you'll recall for speaking out against the former President's election lie which did not go over well in a party increasingly tolerant of that same lunatic fringe Ronald Reagan wants decried. But also, so well trained over the last several years for silence.
Just take a look at the headlines from the past, "Most Republicans greet Trump's push to overturn the election with a customary response. Silence." Or this on the former President's promotion of a cruel conspiracy theory about MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, "Why are so many Republicans remaining silent?" It reads.
And going back a bit after, there's this one: "After Charlottesville, Republicans remain stymied over what to do about Trump." What many did was just avoid the subject and to remind you, Charlottesville refers to the former President's claim there were good people among the marchers chanting "Jews will not replace us" and "Blood in soil" on a Friday before there was rioting, which is what real Nazis shouted during the real Holocaust and Congressman Greene's mask fears notwithstanding, it is not like Jewish-Americans today don't have plenty to worry about.
Her remarks come just as the country is experiencing a wave of anti- Semitic attacks, including this one last week here in Midtown Manhattan. The victim Joseph Borgen, spoke about it this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BORGEN, BRUTALLY BEATEN BY GROUP OF SUSPECTS IN MANHATTAN'S DIAMOND DISTRICT: I was walking down the street, I see at the corner of my eyes someone you know, chasing me with their arm back looking like they want to punch me. Before I could even react, I was surrounded by a whole crowd of individuals who, yes, as you mentioned, proceeded to kick me, punch me, hit me with flagpoles, crutches.
And then towards the end of the assault, I mean, I thought they were urinating on my face, but it was actually, you know, pepper spray, which they were, you know, pepper spraying me for upwards of a minute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That happened on the streets in New York City last week. So why are these Republicans staying silent? If the answer is they don't want to offend bigots and haters and conspiracy buffs who might also vote Republican, then their silence is a deafening roar.
Joining us now is Tennessee Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee. Congressman Cohen, how do you push back on these disgusting comments without giving oxygen to this person who is at this point, essentially a taxpayer funded troll?
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Well, it's sad to see that Members of Congress have gotten to this low level. They don't understand history. They don't understand the Holocaust. You know, it was not just Nazi, Germany; it was Poland where some of this more severe, serious concentration camps were Auschwitz and Birkenau.
She doesn't understand and she's not -- she obviously -- the comments she made about lasers starting the California wildfires, she has got a real problem with Jewish people. I think she's playing to her base.
COHEN: And a lot of Republicans today have no experience in government. They don't have much knowledge of history and they're just trying to become social media stars, they raise money that way. And that's what they're talking about.
What they're doing is celebrity through social media, raising money with no sense of conscience, no sense of pride to pass legislation, and no sense of making America a country where people work together and try to have peace and both be together in all pursuits.
COOPER: I mean, just you -- and she is raising money, and she'll donate some of that money to other Republicans, and they'll continue to be quiet and they'll thank her until they'll take her money.
If the House Republican leadership won't condemn her for this. I mean, I'm not sure what it's going to take.
G.O.P. leadership spoke out against then Republican Congressman Steve King back in 2019, after he made remarks defending white supremacy. They stripped him of his committee assignments. They didn't do that with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Democrats led that effort. Why do you think Republicans are more comfortable condemning King than they are Greene? Have we changed so much?
COHEN: Maybe we've changed. Marjorie Taylor Greene and the Boeberts and the Cawthorns. There's a few others that have come up, some of them I hardly know until they make stupid stuff like it was like a typical visitors' day on January the 6th, and you realize who some of these people are. But that's so much that came in in this new class.
McCarthy doesn't want upset them. McCarthy has got eyes on being the Speaker, which he didn't have before, and so he has shown no leadership at all.
The Jewish Democrats in the House are putting a letter together. David Cicilline has been a primary force and we will be sending it to McCarthy and ask him to take some steps because we saw what happened on January 6th, and that was easily forecast. You could see violence was going to occur with Trump's remarks.
We say things with Asians and that was again Trump's remarks and these remarks about Jewish people, which Marjorie Taylor Greene has done rather consistently will lead to violence against Jewish people more and more, and it needs to stop and Republicans don't need to sit on the sidelines, and they need to step up and they certainly shouldn't be frightened of these fringe characters who Mitch McConnell calls Looney Tunes.
It's just, they've gone off the rails and it's just -- it's sad, in fact, they have no perspective in history and understanding. There used to be something called Godwin's law, a journalist law that most legislators and congressmen will have learned about, which is you don't compare anything to the Holocaust, because it was such a horrific act that nothing is comparable.
But Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn't get it. She thinks wearing a mask is comparable to a Holocaust. She needs to be [AUDIO DIFFICULTY].
COOPER: Congressman Cohen, I appreciate your time. We are having a little trouble with your connection, we appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
We're going to get perspective now from CNN political commentator, Amanda Carpenter.
Amanda, what do you think it's going to take for the House Republican leadership, I mean, to condemn these comments or even you know, where is the line?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think they are going to. They understand that Marjorie Taylor Greene has a better connection with the Trump base than they do. Just try to picture Kevin McCarthy holding a Trump rally without Trump as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz are doing now.
Try to imagine Mitch McConnell going on one of those stages and riling the crowd up. They can't do it. That's why they can't cross her on this.
And it's just kind of amazing. You know, when you think of Marjorie Taylor Greene, what she is doing, she is almost like an Olympic champion in competitive grievance. Because in all these issues, she and the Trump voter are the victims, right, like when it comes to getting vaccinated or wearing a mask. She is basically a victim of the Holocaust. When it comes to Parkland students wanting to advocate for gun control, she is the one that goes in stocks, people like David Hogg, to say that she is the victim because her Second Amendment rights are being hurt.
And then look at the January 6th Commission. There are people who are saying, you know, the people that invaded the Capitol were just peaceful protesters exercising their rights. I mean, this is why they're not supporting the January 6 Commission because they see that Trump base as people they can't cross, and that's why they're not going to condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene.
COOPER: I mean, it's fascinating that so many of these Republican Congress people have gotten themselves in a position where they are scared of the very people they are representing. And they're frightened that they don't know how to talk to them, that you know, they're just kind of trying to do whatever they can to just stay in power for some reason, which I don't -- well, you don't really have policy that you have an agenda on that when you don't really have something that a platform that you are fighting for.
I'm not sure you know, Tom Friedman says it's a free parking space at the National Airport. I don't know if that's the appeal for them or just a little bit of power that they have.
CARPENTER: Yes, it just all comes down to grievance and partisanship that is in place of any kind of policy debate right now.
CARPENTER: And I just -- I don't like the framing that Republican legislators are afraid of their base. I think at this point, you have to say they're okay with this direction, right? Like we had people sign on to the insane lawsuit by the Attorney General Ken Paxton to cancel votes. We had people vote to overturn the election after the riot.
We have senior Republicans in the House and Senate essentially saying the insurrection wasn't a big deal, and they don't want to investigate it, because they might have to look at themselves. They're not scared. They're okay with it and we all should be alarmed by that.
COOPER: Do you think they're okay with it because they think the institutions of democracy are deep enough and strong enough that it doesn't really matter. You know, it's just kind of, you know, playing along. I mean, or do they really want this?
CARPENTER: I mean, it's difficult. I think a lot of this goes into the partisan tribalism that really took hold and allowed people to justify their support for Donald Trump. I mean, really, after the insurrection, you would have activists, surrogates, sitting Members of Congress say, you know what, yes, that was really bad. You could tell they were rattled.
But if you ask them, is Donald Trump still the leader of the Republican Party? And if he was the nominee in 2024, would you support him? They said, yes, because that Republican label is so central to their identity.
And I don't know what the answer is, but a lot of work has to be done to explain to people what makes us Americans and what's unites us there and not just partisans, and until we break that logjam, I think we're in for a very hard road.
COOPER: Yes. Amanda Carpenter, I appreciate it. Thank you.
COOPER: Next, more in the big election lie. The bogus ballot audit that just won't quit. And the possibility it may be spreading.
Later, new evidence that could -- could -- speak to the theory COVID escaped from a lab in China. What we know and what we still don't know, ahead.
COOPER: In addition to their silence in the face of bigotry, the House Republican leadership as you know, stripped one of their own, Congresswoman Liz Cheney for speaking out against the former President and his big election live.
Meantime, believers in the lie have been engaging in a pretty bizarre audit of ballots in Arizona's most populous county, a populated county I should say. It was put on hold for about a week due to some logistical issues. But now it's back and it's no less bizarre.
Kyung Lah has been on it from the start and she has the latest.
BILL GATES, VICE CHAIRMAN, MARICOPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: I feel like I'm in the rabbit hole here, and it just gets worse every day.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): That's Arizona's Maricopa County Supervisor and lifelong Republican, Bill Gates talking about this.
The ballots from Arizona's most populous county came out of storage on Sunday. Trucks rolled them across the Arizona State Fairgrounds into the Coliseum. Forklifts moved pallets of ballots back on the floor.
This is being run by a little known contractor, Cyber Ninjas, hired by the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate. This is the third review despite two previous audit showing no widespread election fraud.
The Arizona Senate and Cyber Ninjas maintain this is a ballot election integrity.
GATES: Every day that goes on, it just continues to turn in another direction. It's clear that's not what this is about. This is about fundraising off of Arizonans. Now we've got "Fund the Audit" so again, they're just doubling down on this really being a fundraising effort.
LAH (voice over): Gates is talking about this e-mail sent to two dozen Arizona Republican Party officials late last week, first obtained by the Arizona Republic and confirmed by CNN.
Fund the Audit explains it will now actually vet who is chosen to count the ballots in Arizona's audit and links to this page, Volunteer to Hand Count Ballot Registration.
Fund the Audit claims it has raised $1.7 million to pay for Arizona's audit. It says it is powered by the America Project, a pro Donald Trump nonprofit started by former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne as he explained to media outlet and TV.
PATRICK BYRNE, FORMER CEO, OVERSTOCK: I got involved in this election fraud scandal, and it was fraud, it was a fraudulent election and it didn't end for us on January 20th.
LAH: Byrne is talking about the big lie that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. Byrne then tells this outlet that he donated a million dollars to fund the audit. $4 million total for the whole fight he says, chasing the lie.
BYRNE: This isn't an over by a longshot. At the very least, you have to be ready for 2022 to take it all back. You know we're not going to let this happen again, but don't believe for a minute that 2020 is over yet.
LAH (voice over): Then the big lie is amplified by right-wing national figures.
GREENE: Who do you think won Arizona on November 3rd.
LAH (voice over): This was Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene here in Arizona this weekend cheering on the Arizona audit and giving voice to lies about the election, which brings us back here.
This ballot review is so deeply contested, Maricopa County's Republican led Board of Supervisors warned the Cyber Ninjas and the Arizona Senate to preserve documents of what's happening here.
Why? A potential future court battle.
Hidden from view and inside one of these trucks on Sunday, the vote counting machines. The Arizona Secretary of State says they may never be used again, citing concerns they could have been tampered with during the so-called audit.
GATES: They have an agenda. They're expecting a different result because that is what has been sold to them.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Kyung joins us now from Phoenix. So this group along with the so-called Cyber Ninjas, they are now going to determine who gets to examine these ballots?
LAH: Basically, I mean, and this is being allowed to happen because the Arizona Senate Republicans, those Republicans that sit in the State Senate here, they are allowing it to happen. They are continuing to back this behavior, the entrance of more of this dark money, more of these outside forces in Arizona.
It is being allowed to happen by the Republicans in the state. Even though the County Republicans are trying to fight it, there is nothing that they can do.
And Anderson, you may be wondering, where is the Department of Justice in all this? Well, there are no overt civil rights violations as of yet. They have sent a strongly worded letter, but until there's something actionable on the Federal level as far as civil rights, it's going to be very difficult for them to step in at this point.
COOPER: Kyung, thanks very much.
To hear the former President describe it, Arizona is just the beginning. On Friday, a Georgia State Judge ordered Atlanta's Fulton County to let a group of local voters and their experts allegedly to inspect all mail-in ballots cast in the election.
Joining us now is Robb Pitts, Chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Chairman Pitts, thanks for being with us. So you heard the report from Kyung Lah about what's going on in Arizona. How concerned are you about some version of that making its way to Georgia?
ROBB PITTS, CHAIRMAN, FULTON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I'm really baffled about this. What do they want? We've had three counts already, one, two, three. This will be the fourth.
Of the first three, one of them was done by hand, and the results were eerily similar. So I'm not sure what they're after, unless it's some participation trophy, something of that nature.
The elections in Fulton County, Georgia, they were open, they were fair, and they were transparent. And what I've said from day one, I said to the then President of the United States, if you have some evidence of some malfeasance in Fulton County, bring it to me, I'll look into it.
I made the same request of the Secretary of State and his representatives, if you have something, bring it to me, otherwise put up or shut up.
I think what's happening here is that we won and they lost. It's as simple as that. They can't get over it. The votes have been certified. The election has been certified, so it's over.'
My advice would be: go to the film room, look at what you did right and look at what you did wrong, make any adjustments that you need to make, but get ready for 2022 and 2024.
Now, I understand that Representatives Gaetz and Greene are talking about coming to Fulton County to get involved. Why? They don't represent Fulton County. They know nothing about Fulton County.
My advice to them is stay the hell out of Fulton County and let us take care of our business.
COOPER: Well, as you know, they would obviously come there because it would get their names in the paper, boost their profile, and help them raise more money, even though they have no role in this whatsoever. This would actually make it as you said, the fourth recount. Do you see this as anything other than the big lie run amok? And I mean, how much time and expense does it cause taxpayers in your county?
PITTS: It is costing us money and this will be the fourth one, and I can guarantee you that the results will be -- of this one will be just like the results were for count one, count two and count three -- no change out.
Again, our elections are open, fair and transparent. I was personally involved in our elections. So I'm taking this very personally, if I seem a little agitated by this, because it just makes no sense.
Now, I don't know what's going on internal to the Republican Party. That's their issue. But leave Fulton County alone.
COOPER: The Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, who is a Republican, roundly criticized by the former President for not messing with the election results to favor the former President. He released his statement supporting the audit saying in part, quote, "Fulton County has a long standing history of election mismanagement, that has understandably weakened voters' faith in its system," end quote.
But Raffensperger has long stood by the integrity on the overall result from Georgia, which is that President Biden won the state. Why do you think he has reversed course?
PITTS: I think it is pure politics on his part because he actually congratulated Fulton County for the job that we did in the 2020 elections. And one of his top assistants, Mr. Sterling, who was on your show, saying that, that there was nothing -- no problems whatsoever. So I'm not sure what they're doing. Their messages seem to be mixed. But what I can tell you and I can tell your listeners is that, we did a great job in Fulton County, and we're preparing for municipal elections throughout our county for this year and we'll be ready for 2022 as well.
So, the people in Fulton County can rest assured. Now, if someone has something that they have not brought to me, if they bring it to me, we will look into it and if there is something there, we will get to the bottom of it.
But I was again, personally involved in our election. Nothing has come to my attention so far.
COOPER: Yes, Mr. Pitts, I appreciate it. Thank you.
PITTS: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up, new information and a U.S. Intelligence report that could fuel debate on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in China. That's next.
COOPER: A key milestone for COVID vaccinations, 25 states and Washington, D.C. have now fully vaccinated at least half their adult populations. Meanwhile, there's new scrutiny on the origins of the coronavirus, CNN has learned that a U.S. Intelligence report found that several Chinese researchers at China's Wuhan lab fell ill and were hospitalized in November of 2019.
Now the Intelligence Community doesn't know what the researchers were sick with, and this was before anyone heard of COVID-19 around the world.
Now, all of this of course could fuel speculation that the disease actually originated in the Chinese lab.
We are going to discuss with Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and a visiting Professor at George Washington University. Dr. Wen is the author of the upcoming book "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health," and also with us, CNN correspondent David Culver who has reported extensively on the pandemic from China and from Wuhan.
So Dr. Wen, you've studied the Chinese healthcare system, I know. I'm wondering what you make of the new reporting.
LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: -- I think there are a lot of unanswered questions. And I do think it's important for us to get to the bottom of this because this is a global pandemic that's killed nearly three and a half million people, we need to understand what the origin is.
If there is, in fact an intermediary animal from bats between bats and humans, we need to understand because there may be a reservoir of disease that we should be looking for. If this, in fact, is a lab leak, we should also understand for the purposes of securing lab safety protocols.
And I think in this case, I just don't know there is this report of these three lab researchers who sought medical care, but keeping in mind that medical care in China is different. There isn't much of a primary care system. And so, it actually is pretty common for people with pretty mild to moderate flu like symptoms to go to the hospital. But did they stay in the hospital? Where they're hospitalized for a long time? What kind of tests were done?
And also, what about the timing where these individuals initially did they go to the hospital in November? Where they the first people to get coronavirus? Or do they actually coronavirus in the community because it may have been circulating even before. So many unanswered questions here.
COOPER: David, I mean, you know, when you look at the timing of the illness of these three researchers, how does that square with what we already know?
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's concerning Anderson, given the initial reporting from the Chinese was about a month later. So when you're talking about November 2019, you're talking before when they initially suggested that anyone was potentially sick from this virus.
And you're also looking at a new level of severity, suggesting that these individuals now have to go to the hospital. So as Dr. Leana pointed out, that is not necessarily completely unusual here in China. However, it does raise a lot of concerns.
I think also you have to look at how they're reacting to this. And this is something that has been quite stark, and that they're pushing back consistently. And this has now been more than a year in which they are determined to not allow the U.S. and really we should point out the U.K. and European nations to go forward with their questioning of the origins that potentially this leaked from the lab.
COOPER: Chinese state media, David, and officials have pushed their own origin theory, which includes an alleged U.S. lab leak. You'd said there, I know they're pushing back. Are they still -- did they still push that line?
CULVER: They sure do Anderson and it continued even Monday from the foreign ministry. State media quoted the director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Lab, who considers this report to be a complete lie. And state media has echoed that.
And they've also gone forward with social media that's not allowed to be used here in China, interestingly enough, but continues to push that message to the rest of the world, through Twitter, through Facebook, and that's their effort.
But from the foreign ministry, they're now characterizing this to be hype on part of the U.S., which is interesting, because if you go back to the Trump administration, they were considering this to be a deflection from the mishandling under the Trump administration of the virus within the U.S., but they're pushing their own narrative here. And that is quite obvious. The question is whether or not that will resonate. One thing they're also going forward with Anderson is vaccine diplomacy. And that's an effort to really recraft their image in developing countries. So forget about the Western world.
They're hoping the countries in which China has a lot of influence in and is hoping to increase that influence will likewise push away the culpability against China and look at the vaccine diplomacy and receiving these vaccines from China as an effort of goodwill. But there's potentially another narrative there too.
COOPER: Dr. Wen, I mean, just in terms of finding out what actually happened, you know, there's a complete lack of transparency from the Chinese government. It's very hard to imagine how any international investigation would actually work without full Chinese cooperation.
WEN: That's right, Anderson, we've seen that the WHO has not succeeded in this effort. And part of the issue is we just don't know what we don't know. And at this point, when the Chinese government has shown us that they have done so much, by the way of cover up, I mean, even the initial physicians were treating patients in Wuhan, these physicians were called in and told to recant their statements.
These were whistleblowers whom one of them, or multiple of them have died since then, and become infected with COVID. And it I think the Chinese government has really shown that they have not been transparent, and therefore we don't know what it is that they're covering up.
And again, I think that the world really needs to understand this is not the last pandemic that we're going to see. And understanding the origin of this will help us to prevent something like this from happening in the future.
COOPER: And David, just quickly the WHO said in February that they couldn't pinpoint the source of the virus saying that a lab leak was extremely unlikely Dr. Fauci who said that it's extremely unlikely the virus was artificially manipulated in the lab is saying now that he no longer is convinced the pandemic originated naturally that more investigation needs to be done. I mean, are we any closer to finding the answer today than we were a year ago?
CULVER: So from a purely science perspective, possibly the issue is the science has been pushed aside. Even from the WHO field mission and it's become so heavily politicized Anderson, that that WHO field mission that was here in January and we were down in Wuhan around the same time, is facing a lot of scrutiny in part because of the heavy Chinese influence that that team has undergone and connections that have been questioned for some of the members who were even tied to the Wuhan Institute of Neurology before the outbreak.
So, I think the geopolitical aspect of this is pushing aside any sort of concrete answers from the science angle.
COOPER: Yes. Dr. Wen, Doctor -- David Culver, appreciate it. Thanks. (voice-over): Up next, you've likely seen that deadly encounter between Louisiana State Troopers and Ronald Greene, a black man was punched, kicked, taser two years ago, wasn't the only such incident with remarkably similar set of circumstances. One of the same officers involved in that assault was involved in another one and will speak to the man he allegedly attacked.
COOPER: Tomorrow President Biden will welcome members of the George Floyd family to the White House on the year anniversary of his murder on the streets of Minneapolis by a police officer.
Meanwhile, Louisiana State Troopers are facing more allegations of excessive force on a black man and one of the troopers present was also involved in this assault back in 2019 on Ronald Greene. As you may know, he died after being tasered, hit and dragged by the Louisiana State Troopers after he crashed a car after a chase.
Greene's family says they've been told by police that he died in an auto accident. Numerous agencies including the Department of Justice are now investigating exactly what happened.
Now, to this latest case that's come to light according to a civil rights lawsuit filed against the state police, Antonio Harris says almost the identical set of circumstances played out when he was stopped in May of 2020 also after a car chase. A subsequent internal investigation confirmed that Harris did not resist arrest once he actually got out of the vehicle after the chase, and that he was hit at least five times by one of the officers including the strike to his knee.
The lawsuit alleges officers later exchanged 14 text messages boasting about the beating of him. I spoke with Mr. Harris and his attorney Michael Sterling just before airtime.
COOPER (on-camera): So Mr. Harris, this incident with the Louisiana State Police took place a year ago yesterday. Can you just take us back to the moment after the high-speed chase, you get out of your car? What did you do and what happened next?
ANTONIO HARRIS, ALLEGEDLY BEATEN BY FOUR LOUISIANA STATE POLICE TROOPERS: As soon as I got out of my car, I lay flat on my stomach, put my legs on. And the police officer ran to me one knee hit me in my head. One was painting my eye with his fingers like digging into my eyeball. One was hitting me in my head --
COOPER (on-camera): While you were down on the ground?
HARRIS: Yes, while down on the ground. As soon as I got out of my vehicle, I lay flat on the ground. And one of them, the first hit that I felt was a knee to the side of my face. And I just feel a lot of feet on me and hands. And I just remember a police also digging into my eyeball with his finger like in both of my eyes. And one was pulling my hair, one was tasing me and one was hitting me.
And after so long that when -- it's like I went numb and I didn't feel anything. But I just remember one of them saying turn your body cam out, turn your body cam out. I remember one on telling me that my mother should have swallow me at birth. And one almost saying why didn't I fight big? And that's about it I got lay flat on my stomach?
COOPER (on-camera): And the investigation into this incident, it said that when they put you into the back of the police car, one of the officers said to you and I'm quoting stupid, Mother f-er I hope you act up when we get to the f-ing jail. I'm going to punish you dumb something. What the f is wrong with you? Continuing with curse words. Did you hear all that?
HARRIS: Yes, sir.
COOPER (on-camera): What did you think was going to happen to you when you got to the jail? I mean, based on what they were saying.
HARRIS: I thought they were going to continue to beat me. I thought they were going to cause me more hail once I got out of jail. I wish they did. But they didn't put their hands on me. But they still caused me more problems.
COOPER (on-camera): The police report is you know, that was filed? I mean, the story, the police report told me it's a completely different story than what actually happened. How did you find out about that?
HARRIS: Some detectives from New Orleans reached out to me and told me that I will be the victim in his case that they evidence of police -- the police beating me and they had video of it. So they reached out to me about three or four months ago. This I found out about it.
COOPER (on-camera): The investigation also found that the officers involved were texting about this, where they were joking about beating us saying quote, LOL, he was still digesting that ass weapon that went on to say he going to be sore tomorrow for sure. He's going to have nightmares for a long time.
It's remarkable not mean it's perfect, not only what they allegedly did, but the fact is they're talking about what they did to each other as if it's totally normal, as if it's clearly something they've done before.
HARRIS: Yes, yes. So now -- I'll read it. They will -- they were in another incident with somebody else a year before they and that person was killed.
COOPER (on-camera): You're talking about Mr. Greene, some of the officers were involved in that incident as well.
HARRIS: Yes sir.
COOPER (on-camera): Your -- Mr. Sterling, you're representing Antonio Harris in a suit against three of the four officers involved along with Louisiana State Police Superintendent the Louisiana State Police and the Richland Parish Sheriff and Detention Center. What are you asking for and what's the status of the lawsuit?
MICHAEL STERLING, ATTORNEY FOR ANTONIO HARRIS: You know -- well Anderson, we just filed a lawsuit on last week. Antonio retained me just a few weeks ago. We were able to -- make to file the lawsuit prior to the statute of limitations expiring.
So what we expect is we expect to get civil recovery for Antonio Harris. What's so despicable about this particular case, Anderson as you know, this isn't a case where you've got to question whether an officer made a split-second decision, and we're all wondering, you know, whether or not the use of force was justified, when there was a split second decision.
But this is a case where officers made a conscious decision to viciously beat Antonio Harris. Did after they beat him they lied about it in their police reports, each covering up conspiracy to cover up this case continued in the police reports continued their report to the district attorney's office. The conspiracy to cover this up, continue for nearly a year after Antonio suffered this vicious beating.
And, this was a -- this was clearly a culture within the Louisiana State Police no one stood up and said hey, this is the wrong thing to do. In fact, they did the opposite. They bragged about it, laughed about it, joked about it in text messages.
So, we aren't saying what this isn't a question of whether or not you know, officers were making this split-second decision. They made it -- they made a conscious decision to beat Antonio, to violate his rights, to violate the law, to violate the constitution. And they thought it was funny and joked about it.
COOPER (on-camera): Well, Antonio Harris and Michael Sterling, I appreciate you, you coming on. Thank you.
STERLING: Thank you, Anderson.
HARRIS: Thank you.
COOPER (voice-over): Up next, a message of love for your friend who's fighting a brave battle tonight.
COOPER: Before we go, some words about a person is very important to me and to all of us who work on "360", Faith Kleppinger is her name and you may not know her name, but if you've ever seen our "Ridiculist" then you know her work.
COOPER (on-camera): Time now for "The Ridiculist" and tonight we're adding anyone who missed out on Dyngus Day.
(voice-over): Faith Kleppinger was the writer behind our most memorable "Ridiculist" especially the ones I often couldn't even get through without giggling uncontrollably.
(on-camera): And here's how you celebrate Dyngus Day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The quirky little rituals include boys sprinkling girls that they fancy with water, and the girls striking back with a tap from a pussy willow branch.
COOPER (on-camera): I'm not going (INAUDIBLE) all right. (INAUDIBLE).
(voice-over): Faith started as a news writer at CNN out of college in 1994. She was one of the best we ever had. She'd never say so herself but that's the kind of person she is. Everyone who worked with her loves her. She's warm, she's kind and wickedly funny. And on a nearly nightly basis, she could destroy me with her words.
(on-camera): Time now for "The Ridiculist" and tonight we're adding Gerard Depardieu noted French actor Academy Award nominee, public urinator. That's right, I said urinator. Last night on a flight from Paris to Dublin, Depardieu reportedly peed on the floor.
So after Gerard took his little solo flight to urination, the plane had to turn around and go back to the gate and some unlucky cleaning crew had to deal with the Golden Globe winning tinkle.
Now all I can say is they should thank their lucky stars, it wasn't Depardieu. Sorry. It made me giggle every time I read it. He hasn't commented on this incident. Depardieu, I know you got it, but -- all right, sorry. All right. Sorry, this actually never happened to me. But we see this (INAUDIBLE). All right. Sorry.
(voice-over): With "The Ridiculist" Faith pretty much had free rein to pick whatever topic she wanted. When the Family Research Council and tried to brand the candy Mike and Ike as a gay couple. Faith stepped in to calm them down.
(on-camera): Mike and Ike do not exist. They are not real people. They are candy and as such, do not possess genitals. Now also, just for the record, Sour Patch Kids are not real kids. Starbursts don't have real stars in them. And there isn't an actual ranch where the Jolly Rancher works.
(voice-over): Then there was the time a pair of pet tortoises in England caused a house fire after knocking down a lamp while they were mating.
(on-camera): I suppose we can all take solace in the fact that they died doing something they loved each other. (voice-over): One of Faith's personal favorites was this "Ridiculist" about a contestant on The Bachelor dressed up as a dolphin.
(on-camera): Even if he didn't care for the dolphin a joke you have to admit she came in there with a real sense of purpose. Anyway, should we move on if you just keep going? Purpose, get it.
I have one question for this woman that I think The Bachelor will be interested in as well. Madam, if you are in fact a dolphin. I'm not going to say that. Where -- I'm not going to say that. The writer of the segment wanted me to ask, where's your blowhole? I'm not going to say that.
(voice-over): Faith's not only a talented writer, but she's also a great musician. This is her singing from her album "No Galore" (ph).
Faith left her show a few years ago, eager to explore life outside the news business. She moved closer to her family and got to spend more time with her nieces Lucy and Emma and her nephew Blake. She adores them and they call her the best aunt in the universe.
Last July, Faith wasn't feeling well took a while to figure out what was wrong. But in February she was diagnosed with a rare appendix cancer. Faith is facing her cancer the way she's always faced things with grace and strength and humor. Her sister Sue says even during her time in the hospital, Faith would keep everyone laughing with her one liners.
Her six-year-old nephew Blake started a lemonade stand to raise money for appendix cancer research. He was hoping to raise $500 but ended up raising more than four times that. He sent the donation in honor of his aunt Faith.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I have some?
COOPER (voice-over): Blake even made it onto the local news.
BLAKE, FAITH KLEPPINGER'S NEPHEW: We're donating the money.
COOPER (voice-over): I saw Faith just last week, my executive producer Charlie and I went to visit her at home. We sat in the shade outside and talked and laughed. When we told Faith we loved her. In the end, that is all there is love.
Faith Kleppinger is surrounded by love, her parents Barb and John her sisters, Jill and Sue, her nieces and nephews, and legions of friends. So much love and Faith tonight, all of us at CNN send you more love as well. Tonight, and in all the nights ahead.
COOPER: Faith Kleppinger in our hearts. The news continues with Chris right after this break.