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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Joe Biden Warns Of Threat Of Climate Change In Storm-Ravaged New Jersey And New York As Code Red; Interview With Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY); Texas Governor Signs New Abortion Law; Conservative Talk Radio Host Erick Erickson Bashes Those Who Spread Vaccine Conspiracies; Pres. Biden, VP Harris To Campaign For Gov. Newsom; RFK's Widow Says His Assassin "Should Not Be Paroled". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Alex, thank you very much.

And thanks to all of you, Anderson starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Two major events we are following at this moment both involving President Biden and both pivotal moments that may influence American livelihoods and prosperity, as well as the re-election prospects for the President and his party.

One, later this week, involves an address to the nation about the administration's fight against the coronavirus. We'll have more on that in a moment.

We'll start with the other major event. President Biden's tour this afternoon of the storm damaged northeast, stops in New York and New Jersey where most of the at least 52 people have died from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

It was a chance to meet those in need and in distress, but also a backdrop to try to push major agenda setting items specifically an infrastructure bill with nominal Republican support and a separate bill loaded with Democratic priorities, collectively worth trillions of dollars, and one of those priorities pushed about climate change, which the President today spoke of in stark terms.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so folks, we've got to listen to the scientists and the economists, and the national security experts. They all tell us this is Code Red. The nation and the world are in peril.


COOPER: We'll talk to New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about that in a moment. But first, our chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins who

traveled with President Biden today.

So Kaitlan, what did the President see and what was accomplished?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it was the damage up close. And keep in mind, this is his second trip to somewhere that was hit by Ida in a week. Last week, it was Louisiana. Today, he traveled seven or eight states up to the north and to the right to see New York and New Jersey, and it was devastating, Anderson.

It's really hard to overstate the level of damage that we saw, especially as when we got our start in the lost valley neighborhood of Manville, New Jersey this morning where there were stacks of debris, Anderson, in every single yard. Some of them were taller than I am. And it was just rotted, dry wood, ruined furniture, children's toys that were covered in mud.

I, even at one point saw Christmas ornaments littered across the ground. Just every house that had been devastated by the flooding that they saw last week that in New Jersey and some areas turned into fires and explosions.

And the President at one point was talking to one woman that we also spoke with as well and they came up to the reporters and to the cameras who luckily, she has a four-month-old baby, Anderson, and she was not there that night because they had gotten a heads up, so they left the area just in case because of all the rain.

She said part of her daughter's nursery was still there where their house was, part of it was down the street. It had been washed away. And as they were talking to us, you could see their front door right there with a TV rusting on it. Just everything is destroyed that these people had. And now, they are left to deal with that destruction. And that was one woman that the President had spoken with.

Then later on, we went to Queens where, of course, we saw a lot of devastation with flooding there. We were in an alley in between two rows of homes and a lot of those homes in New York have those basement units, where either it's the basement that the family use, or it's an entirely separate unit that another family lives in.

And we saw several of those families, spoke with them as well as they were telling the President about their experiences last week, Anderson, where several of those people in those basement units, those low-lying dwellings were trapped in their homes and died because they could not get to safety.

And so, it was just this larger piece of seeing the devastation up close of a storm that had started out in the bayou, made its way to the boroughs, and you're seeing this devastation that these people now have to live with and just how much wreckage there is to their own homes and what they have to do now going forward to try to pick up the pieces. COOPER: This is obviously something Presidents have done. It's one of

the things that Presidents do, visiting disaster areas. It obviously comes though, right after Afghanistan, how much is the White House or what do you hear from the White House that there -- how much of this is hoping that the President's handling these reason natural disasters may shift attention away from the withdrawal in Afghanistan?

COLLINS: Well, I do think to a sense, they are putting the withdrawal on Afghanistan behind them to a degree. There are still Americans there. That is still something that we are asking about daily as those efforts to get those Americans out.

But now that U.S. troops have left and that evacuation in the large scale that we saw was over, things are turning where you are President and different things pop up on your plate, like this storm and the devastation that they've seen.

And what the President used it today when he was in Queens and making remarks at the end of the day after he had made several of these stops, was talking about his agenda that he is trying to pass through Congress, which he said would make the nation essentially more climate resistant, because he was warning that climate change is here. It is undeniable. And so the question is, it's obviously not going to get better, but it doesn't get worse and how does the U.S. respond?

And so he was pitching his economic agenda, his domestic agenda, as a way to respond to that. Of course, Anderson, there are also big questions about what is happening in the immediate future and we should note that while we were there over traveling in New York and New Jersey today, the White House did send a budget request for emergency aid for areas that have been struck by natural disasters to Congress.


COLLINS: And they said part of that money, about $10 billion, is what they think they're going to need to respond to Hurricane Ida, though Anderson, that number is only likely to climb as they continue to assess and survey the damage.

I mean, we should keep in mind, in New Jersey, there are still four people who are missing as a result of this storm. And so it is still very much the top of the mind of the residents there that we saw today.

COOPER: Yes, Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thank you.

I want to get perspective now on the President's visit, as well as those trillion dollar fights over infrastructure and Democrats budget resolution from someone who was with the President today. I'm joined now by New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it. I'm wondering, just from what you saw today, what you heard from the President, were you happy or satisfied with what you heard from President Biden today in terms of his commitment to battling climate change and providing help to New York?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Well, you know, I think in the immediate sense -- in the immediate sense, we have been able to help facilitate and working with President Biden and as well as F.E.M.A. in getting one of the fastest ever disaster assistance approvals from F.E.M.A. so that we could help people on the ground and start helping people recover as quickly as possible.

Now, when it comes to climate change, we have to do so much more and the President's agenda, yes, is important. We must pass the Build Back Better Act, but it is not done until it is on the President's desk. And we also need to make sure that we're continuing to fund these priorities.

Right now, reconciliation is really embattled and we have to make sure that we actually bring this legislation home with the Build Back Better Act and making sure that climate is protected, because the fossil fuel industry, in the interest of the fossil fuel industry are very much doing their best to try to, you know, shape both this legislation and making sure that they're trying to pit it and frankly, tank it, compared to the infrastructure act as well.

COOPER: You know, when one talks to experts on climate change, and what, in order to respond effectively, what would need to be done, it is when you actually start to look at the full scope of all the aspects of life that would be impacted and need to be impacted.

I mean, the production of how concrete is made, how steel is made, you know, forming procedures, the electrical grid. It is a huge societal shift. Do you think Americans are ready for that or been kind of prepared for that?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think we are. I think we absolutely are, because the question is not, if our entire world and our entire society is going to shift because of climate change, it's a matter of how it is going to shift.

So basically, if we do nothing to address climate change, we are going to see the continued destruction of our supply chains, we are going to see our crops not be able to grow in the same way. We will see our infrastructure begin to crumble away.

We will see us not -- we will see the continuation of proliferation of other future pandemics as well. And so that is how our life could change if we do nothing. It will change dramatically. But it could also change dramatically in a positive direction if we do something.

We can create millions of union jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, shoring up our cities, our rural areas and our suburbs in order to prepare for the climate catastrophes that could come to our shores, but also draw down our carbon output in order to make sure that we prevent future calamities from happening as well,

COOPER: You're obviously from a more progressive wing in the Democratic Party than President Biden, who got elected in part by pledging to work across party lines. And as you clearly know, the bipartisan infrastructure bill seems stalled because Democratic moderates in the senate are balking at the price tag of a separated, but related budget resolution that is key to the House even taking up the infrastructure bill.

Is this split among Democrats? What do you make of it? I mean, is it healthy in your view? There certainly seems to be mistrust.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I certainly don't think it's healthy that ExxonMobil lobbyists are bragging about how many senators, Democrat and Republican that they get to have on speed dial and enjoy exclusive access to shaping the contours of this quote-unquote, "bipartisan infrastructure bill."

I don't think that that's healthy at all. I think the role of dark money and the fossil fuel lobby is extremely unhealthy for our democracy. But the fact of the matter is, is that we've got the people on our side and this is what we continue to say.

You know, they have money, these lobbyists and special interests have money, but we've got people.

The Build Back Better Act has popular support and even going above and beyond that, the Green New Deal has popular support even among Republicans and Independents.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: And so what people I think are united behind is the acknowledgement that climate change is human caused, that the burning of fossil fuels, and the continued construction of fossil fuel infrastructure, like what we're seeing with Line 3 in Minnesota must be confronted, if we're going to create a better future for ourselves, and we can do it while creating millions of union jobs.

COOPER: President Biden was just asked this evening about one of the key moderates or often referred to as moderate Democrats opposing the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package and Senator Joe Manchin, I just want to play for our viewers what he had to say.


BIDEN: Joe at the end has always been there. He's always been with me. I think we can work something out and I look forward to speaking with him.


COOPER: Do you -- I don't know if trust is the right word. Do you trust President Biden to strike a deal with Senator Manchin or do you worry about President Biden striking a deal with Senator Manchin? I mean, is there a deal that all Democrats will accept including Manchin?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think one of the interesting aspects of this situation is that it's not just, you know, Senator Manchin that has leverage. Frankly, the entire party also needs to, quote-unquote, "worry" about that more moderate agenda in the House, because just as we have an extremely slim Senate margin, we also have a very slim House margin.

And I, as well, as many, many members of the Progressive Caucus simply will not vote for Senator Manchin's infrastructure bill unless it is tied together with the Build Back Better Act so that we have an all of the above approach.

So we aren't saying it's either your bill or our bill, but that both of these bills must move forward together or neither will. And for the American people, that's the best case scenario where we are able to address the needs of all communities instead of just the needs of some communities that are represented by a very small sliver of that bipartisan group.

COOPER: I don't want to put you on the spot, but you mentioned fossil fuel industries. It reminded me of something you had tweeted, actually when Senator Manchin voiced his opposition in an op-ed last week, you responded via Twitter on September 2nd, you wrote, "Manchin has weekly huddles with Exxon and is one of many senators who gives lobbyists their pen to write so-called bipartisan fossil fuel bills. It's killing people, our people, at least 12 last night, sick of this, "bipartisan: corruption that masquerades as clear eyed moderation. Fossil fuel corps and dark money is destroying our democracy, country, and planet. All day, our community has been pulling bodies out of homes from the flood, entire families and we're supposed to entertain lobbyist's talking points about why we should abandon people and do nothing? No."

Are you suggesting that Senator Manchin is more interested in pleasing lobbyists than in saving lives from climate change?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think that in the year 2021, if any Member of Congress, whether it's a member of the House, or whether it's a member of the Senate continues to aid the fossil fuel lobbyists in advancing their agenda over the consensus of science, then they are disconnected from the reality on the ground. And that is simply a fact.

You know, what we've been doing over the last four days, first responders in my community have been pulling out bodies from apartments -- basement apartments in New York City because of these flash floods and the idea that we're going to continue building fossil fuel infrastructure that we're going to continue even in my backyard, continue to try to build things like peaker plants, natural gas, fracking pipelines for fracked gas, is -- it is unconscionable.

We know that the science is in and it says the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure will endanger people, it will make these storms worse. We have the capacity to transition to clean and renewable energy and create millions of good union jobs in order to transition to both our infrastructure and our energy system, as well as our power grid.

So, I do believe that with all of that evidence that we have, with all of the opportunity that we have, economic opportunity that we have, if we continue to listen to the fossil fuel lobby, and if we continue to allow them to have this infrastructure and have this influence in Washington, we are endangering our constituents and we have to choose the science for once ahead of the lobbyist money.

COOPER: Do you support nuclear? Because there are a lot of, you know, people who will look at this issue and say you know, the capabilities of transporting solar and wind power -- I mean, our electrical grid needs to completely be altered and upgraded. But even then, transporting it long distances and storing it, nuclear is the only answer, at least in the short term.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, you know, we've even addressed some of this issue, Senator Markey and I in the drafting of the Green New Deal, which is that, you know, I don't think that there's no position in terms of whether we are pro or anti-nuclear, it's about the amount -- it's about, frankly, it's a logistical question. Can we get an energy mix that is constructed in a 10-year timeline with the IPCC -- in accordance with the IPCC results.

And so, it certainly does not rule out on nuclear. But the issue is, is the construction, the timeline, and making sure that we can also focus on investments like for example, battery storage, and energy storage in our power grid, so that we aren't completely reliant on continual generation, but that we can store energy in times when it's not available.

COOPER: Just last, I want to ask you about something that Texas Governor Greg Abbott just said. He was asked about the Texas abortion bill and why force a rape or incest victim/survivor to carry a pregnancy to term? This is how he responded. I want to play this for our viewers.


QUESTION: Why force a rape or incest victim to carry pregnancy to term?

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): It doesn't require that at all, because obviously, it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion. So for one, it doesn't provide that.

That said, however, let's make something very clear. Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.

So goal number one in the State of Texas, is to eliminate rape, so that no woman, no person will be a victim of rape.


COOPER: I'm wondering what you thought when you heard that?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I find Governor Abbott's comments disgusting, and I think there's twofold. One, I don't know if he is familiar with a menstruating person's body. In fact, I do know that he's not familiar with a woman -- with a female or menstruating person's body, because if he did, he would know that you don't have six weeks.

It is that quote-unquote, "six weeks," and I'm sorry, we have to break it down on you know, break down Biology 101 on national television, but in case no one has informed him before in our life -- in his life, six weeks pregnant means two weeks late for your period, and two weeks late on your period, for any person, any person with a menstrual cycle can happen if you're stressed, if your giant changes or for really no reason at all.

So, you don't have six weeks. That's first things first.

The second area of this when he talks about going after rapists and this language of him that he uses about getting rapists off the streets. The majority of people who are raped and who are sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone that they know. And these aren't just predators that are walking around the streets at night. They are people's uncles, they are teachers, they are family friends, and when something like that happens, it takes a very long time, first of all, for any victim to come forward.

And second of all, when a victim comes forward, they don't necessarily want to bring their case into the carceral system. They don't want to re-traumatize themselves by going to court, they don't necessarily all want to report a family friend to a police precinct, let alone in the immediate aftermath of the trauma of a sexual assault.

And so while some victims do use that recourse, and that is something that is completely available, and if that is part of their process, that's great. But this idea that we're going to, quote-unquote, "end rape," when the same type of frankly, rape culture and the same type of misogynistic culture that informed this abortion law to begin with, is also you know, those beliefs are held by the Governor himself and this Texas State Legislature.

Frankly, there are many people in power, as we know from the #MeToo movement that commit sexual assault, that help their friends cover up these crimes. And some of them even serve in the same state legislatures that are voting on these anti -- you know, just these anti-choice bills.

It's awful and he speaks from such a place of deep ignorance, and it's not just ignorance, it is ignorance that is hurting people across this country.


COOPER: You said rape culture and misogynistic culture are behind this Texas bill to begin with, can you just explain that? How you feel about that to people?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Sure. So, when we talk about the law that was passed in Texas, we know that anti-choice bills are not about being pro-life, because if they were about being pro-life, then the Republican Party would support, frankly, an agenda that helps guaranteed healthcare, that helps ensure that people who do give birth that don't have the resources to care for a child can have that care for a child.

So we know that none of this is about life. None of this is about supporting life. What this is about is controlling women's bodies, and controlling people who are not cisgender men.

This is about making sure that someone like me, as a woman, or any menstruating person in this country cannot make decisions over their own body. And people like Governor Abbott and Mitch McConnell want to have more control over a woman's body than that woman or that person has over themselves.

And what that shares in -- you know, what that shares with rape culture is that sexual assault is about the abuse of power. And sexual assault is about asserting control over another person.

And the ease with which these men seek to do that to other people is atrocious. It is morally reprehensible, and they cannot even begin to understand the agonizing decisions that people have to make, including in cases of miscarriage, rape and incest.

COOPER: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Thank you so very much.

COOPER: We'll have more details about the President's speech later in the week devoted to the still rising threat of the coronavirus. I'll also talk to a conservative radio host about why he thinks vaccinations are a good thing.

Also more breaking news. More reaction to what Texas Governor Greg Abbott said today about the state's new and highly restrictive abortion law and the women who are survivors of rape. That's next.



COOPER: Breaking news now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott today signing into law what Democrats are calling one of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation. This despite that walkout by Democratic members of the Texas House that led to two special legislative sessions before the bill was passed.

During a news conference, as you saw earlier in the program, the Governor was also asked about another restrictive law signed under his watch, a legislation that bans abortion after six weeks before many women even know they're pregnant. There's that exchange once again.


QUESTION: Why force a rape or incest victim to carry pregnancy to term?

ABBOTT: It doesn't require that at all, because obviously, it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion. So for one, it doesn't provide that.

That said, however, let's make something very clear. Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.

So goal number one in the State of Texas, is to eliminate rape, so that no woman, no person will be a victim of rape.


COOPER: Joining me now, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin and Wendy Davis, former Texas State Senator who filibustered for 11 hours against another restrictive abortion law back in 2013.

Senator Davis, the governor didn't acknowledge that many women as Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, don't even know that they are pregnant in the first six weeks. I'm wondering what you made of his comments.

WENDY DAVIS (D), FORMER TEXAS STATE SENATOR: Well, I agree with the Congresswoman that his comments were completely repulsive, and absolutely unacceptable, and not at all in keeping with the understanding of how menstruating people's bodies work.

And I want to make sure that your viewers understand a couple of things about Texas and its approach to protecting sexual assault survivors.

When I was in the Texas Senate, we have the largest backlog of untested rape kits of any state in the country over 20,000, and I had to fight like hell to begin the process to start testing the backlog and to prevent a future backlog.

And that problem has still yet to be completely resolved, although other legislative members have worked incredibly hard on it. So number one, I want to challenge that statement.

Number two, in our state right now, there was an article in the paper recently that Rape Crisis Centers are afraid to refer their clients to abortion clinics for fear that they are personally going to be sued by one of these vigilante anti-abortionists under Senate Bill 8 that just passed into law.

And number three, so many of our abortion clinics now across the state of Texas, are no longer providing abortions at all. So even if you were a rape survivor, an incest survivor, and you realized in the first two weeks of your pregnancy that you were pregnant, and you had time to get to an abortion clinic, there probably wouldn't be one available to you.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, all those points are -- I mean, did the governor say anything today that would be relevant in a legal challenge over this law?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, first of all, his comments about rape were sort of ridiculous. I mean, rape has been illegal in Texas, basically, since Texas existed. So the idea that now Texas is going to start prosecuting rape, which it hadn't been doing before, is absurd.

But you know, the important thing to remember about this law is that this is not some speculative thing. This is the law on the books now. So today, now, victims of rape and victims of incest in Texas are being forced to carry their pregnancies to term. This law is on the books now, because of the way the Supreme Court handled.

This is not speculation, this is the law. And you know, I thought it was revealing that the governor chose either to display his ignorance or simply lie about this because in many indefensible aspects of the law. It is perhaps the most politically toxic that rape and incest victims are being forced to carry their pregnancies to term. But that's the law now. And that's the law that the governor signed.

COOPER: And Senator Davis, I mean, I think you make a really important point about backlogs on, you know, testing kits. That's a nationwide problem. I mean, that would not to take anything away from the problem in Texas. But it's a bigger problem than just Texas. It's -- there are many states across this country, which just simply have not taken sexual violence against women seriously.

DAVIS: That's absolutely right, Anderson. And let's think about the potential spread of Senate Bill 8, and its anti-abortion requirements state by state by state across the south. And it looks like it will march across the south if there's not something that we can do to stop it before that happens. And then each of those states state by state by state, we are creating a climate where people who have been victimized by sexual assailants are going to be forced to be victimized, to be traumatized even more, because they are going to be forced to carry that pregnancy to term.

I cannot even begin to tell you how horrifying, I and so many people not just in our state but all over the country find that idea. And the fact that Governor Abbott and others who passed this horrid law, into effect, claim to be pro life to reiterate the point that the Congresswoman made knowing and not caring that people are going to be traumatized in this way. And once again, that it's going to have a predominant and disproportionate impact on women of color and low income women in our state. Don't you dare say that you are pro life. There is nothing that is pro woman in those actions.

COOPER: Jeff, the Attorney General Merrick Garland has said he's exploring, quote, all options and quote, to challenge Texas is new abortion law. Realistically, what options are there?

TOOBIN: Well, well, they're not many. I mean, this, this just shows that when you control the federal judiciary, and you control state legislatures and state government, there's a lot you can accomplish. And that starts with abortion here. They're -- the -- you know, the gov -- the justice department can protect abortion clinics, and people walking in from harassment. I mean, there has been an idea that the governor -- that the Justice Department could try to intervene in these cases where abortion providers were sued by private parties. I -- you know, I think when the Supreme Court let this law go into effect. I mean, it really signaled where the law is headed. I think, you know, the only answer really to this is fights at the state level and political, the, these political fights now, if Roe v. Wade appears to be on the way out as the Texas -- as the Supreme Court indicated by voting five to four to let this ball -- law go into effect, it means that in all 50 states the question of whether abortion is legal is going to be up to the state legislatures and up to the governors and that's where the fight is going to be now because it looks like the federal courts are lost on this.

COOPER: Yes. Jeffrey Toobin, Wendy Davis, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, a leading conservative on those on the right spreading vaccine disinformation, his concerns. And the numbers behind the star prize in cases and deaths, ahead.



COOPER: As we reported earlier, President Biden is expected to deliver major address this week and the rising threat of the coronavirus. Last year on Labor Day, the seven day average of deaths was about 804 people, this year, it's 1,449. Last year, there were about 39,355 cases on Labor Day, this year 137,270. It's more than three times the number of cases. That despite at least 75% of adults who now have had at least one shot of the vaccine 40 millions infections total since the pandemic began. And now children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics make up more than one in four of new cases.

One conservative who's had enough of the disinformation is a talk radio host Erick Erickson, this is just a sample from his radio show last Wednesday.


ERICK ERICKSON, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: I don't care that you don't want to get vaccinate, I really don't. I don't care that you don't want the vaccine. But if you're out there spreading lies and misinformation and disinformation and willfully undermining people's trust in the vaccine. I care about that a great deal.

I don't care if you don't want the vaccine. Shut up. I'm not trying to offend you. And if you're offended by that you're an idiot anyway.


COOPER: Joining me now is Erick Erickson.

Erick, it's good to have you back on the program. That -- a very impassioned case you made I'm wondering what motivated you to speak out?

ERICKSON: Bash a lot. My wife lost a cousin who was in perfect health, no comorbidities and lost a cousin he wasn't vaccinated, I have lost several friends. Lost my mom's best friend who I consider my aunt. Had multiple friends who were an ICU several ventilator. And Vince (ph) my sister has lost several friends and I keep encountering people, at least in the online world who act like they don't know anyone who's been impacted by this.

It's very real. It's real for my family. My wife, Anderson, as you know, my wife's got an incurable genetic very rare form of lung cancer, there's no way she can get rid of it. She never smoked. It puts her at a very high risk of death. We got vaccinated, our kids wound up getting it despite all of our precautions, and we were perfectly fine. We've seen how the vaccine works so well. And to keep encountering people, particularly in talk radio people call in and well what about the Israel study that was misrepresented? What about this study that was misrepresented. These are well meaning people who are relying on their friends and their network of friends online, who have been misled and I feel badly for them. And I'm really angry at the amount of disinformation that's out there.

COOPER: I want to talk about that. But just one thing you said really struck me that that your kids got it which is awful. And but that the fact that you and your wife are vaccinated you -- are you really feel that that protected you both particularly your wife, when your kids got infected,

ERICKSON: Right. And, you know, this is one of the things we're dealing with it to be fully transparent. Both of my kids tested negative for having had. And we thought they had it, they had the symptoms, they tested negative. And then later, one of my children started having very weird things that fit into post COVID side effects and the doctor said they should have their antibodies tested. Sure enough, I mean, in a test that should have taken 15 minutes they spiked pretty, pretty pronounced. The nurse was very adamant that yes, they've had it and my wife with a profoundly increased risk of death from getting COVID never got it.

Or a better case in point I was with my dad for three days. He's been vaccinated, I've been vaccinated. He wound up actually getting it. Bought it off like a champ. I never got it after sitting in a hotel room with my dad for three days.


So, the vaccine really does work even for those who may get a breakthrough case, which today The New York Times says is actually rarer than we first thought. But he got one, and he's 82, 81 years old, has some comorbidities, it would have been very bad for him, but for the vaccine. So it really does work. I mean, my whole family's living proof that it works.

COOPER: What happens when you try to engage with your audience about the vaccine? I mean, you talked about the misinformation that's out there. And I think it's an important point that you make that it's not, you know, good people get misinformed. And, you know, and then get dug in on beliefs and it's hard to change somebody's mind or admit, you know, it's hard for any of us to admit, oh, you know what, we called it wrong, and you know, we should get it.

ERICKSON: Yes, you know, that's the hardest part is people bring up well, they got this wrong and they got that wrong. What about this? What about this? And there's a lot of what about some people you're never going to persuade. But I'm not a very patient person. I've had to learn patience and just trying to lovingly walk people through very relationally. You know, not to get philosophical, but where we are in post modernity where we talk about, you've got your truth, and I've got mine, there's not the truth. And we don't talk --

COOPER: Right.

ERICKSON: -- about it, (INAUDIBLE) --

COOPER: Which drives me nuts by the way. I hate that. Is that phrase --

ERICKSON: Yes, me too.

COOPER: -- speaking your truth? I'm like, there is something there --


ERICKSON: Instead of I think.

COOPER: Right, exactly.

ERICKSON: But it requires us to be more relational than we've ever had to be before, at a time when we're more divided tribally, loyally on the internet. So, just trying to break through and be a good neighbor of people and talk them through it. It takes time, but it works if you're willing to lovingly walk through the concerns with people instead of just dismissing him or saying, well, you're a Trump voter of course you're doing this.

COOPER: It seems like all I mean, all the studies have shown and just common sense tells you if you try to shame people, it doesn't work.

ERICKSON: Right? You've got to be relational. We're less and less of a relational people because we're all online now. And, you know, your online Facebook or Twitter for isn't going to come feed you if you're sick. But if you actually make inroads within your local community and stop worrying about the rest of the people, worry about your local community, you can have a real impact.

COOPER: Yes. Erick, I appreciate you being on and it's a good viewpoint to have. And I wish you and your family best.

ERICKSON: Thanks. Always good to hear from you Anderson.

COOPER: All right, you take care.

Coming up, California's governor, Gavin Newsom facing a recall election a week from today. The state will play there as President Biden plans to travel to the state and supported the incumbent Democrat. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COOPER: We're one week away from California's gubernatorial recall election. And the White House says the President Biden will travel to California early next week in support of the incumbent Democratic governor Gavin Newsom. Vice President Harris will also travel to her home state, the latest of several high profile Democrats also seeking to build up enthusiasm for Newsom by making campaign appearances there.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov has the latest.



LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With just seven days left to convince Californians that he deserves to keep his job.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Are we going to vote no on this recall?


KAFANOV (voice-over): Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is delivering his closing arguments.

NEWSOM: Racial justice is on the ballot. Economic justice is on the ballot. Social justice is on the ballot.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Striking on national time.

NEWSOM: We did not defeat Trumpism. It's still alive all across this country. It has come to the state of California.

KAFANOV (voice-over): With help from high profile friends from Washington.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I will fight with everything I've got to keep from putting one more Donald Trump Republican in office.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): It is part of the same thing suppressing the vote, going into the Capitol, stopping our democracy.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Newsom has sought to turn the race into a referendum and how to fight the pandemic.

NEWSOM: Our approach to this pandemic we believe is save lives. Their approach, we quite literally believe will impact not only the public health in the state, but impact our economic recovery.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Making a woman's right to choose a central theme after Texas bans most abortions this month.

NEWSOM: You saw what just happened in Texas. KAFANOV (voice-over): On the other side of the recall effort.

LARRY ELDER, (R-CA) GUBERNATORIAL CANDIATE: Just a few more days. You're going to have a new governor His name is going to be Governor Larry Elder.

KAFANOV (voice-over): The leading Republican contender conservative radio host Larry Elder also not shying away from national implications.

ELDER: God forbid Governor Elder should replace Dianne Feinstein, they're afraid I'm going to replace her with Republican which I most certainly would do. And that would be an earthquake in Washington D.C.

KAFANOV (voice-over): On the campaign trail, Elder also talking up local issues.

ELDER: Cost of living is going up. Homelessness is up. Crime is up. Where has this man done anything right?

KAFANOV (voice-over): Touting his outsider status as a selling point.

ELDER: I've never run for office before unless you count fifth grade class president.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Though for some of his supporters, it's all about the personal appeal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's like Donald Trump. I voted for Donald Trump twice.

KAFANOV (voice-over): The former president has refused to concede the 2020 presidential election, making false claims that it was stolen and full of fraud.

Elder seeming to take a page from that playbook.

ELDER: In the 2020 election, in my opinion, was full of shenanigans and my fear here they're going to try that in this election right here and recall, we have a battery of lawyers. We're going to file a lawsuit in a timely fashion this time.

KAFANOV (voice-over): California Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one. For Newsom, turnout is the name of the game.

NEWSOM: Let me be explicit. Either we vote no on this recall, or in a matter of weeks. The next governor of the state of California is Larry Elder.


COOPER: Lucy Kafanov joins me now. So I understand there's some new voter data that was just released today.

KAFANOV: That's right, Anderson. That seems that Governor Newsom strategy to try to energize the Democratic base by nationalizing this recall election seems to be working at least when it comes to the early returns. The new numbers that we got today indicate of the nearly 6 million ballots cast so far, more than 53% of the ballots returned came from Democrats and 24.5% came from Republican voters. That said there's still ways to go before voting ends on September 14th. Anderson.

COOPER: Lucy Kafanov, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Let's get some perspective now from Carla Marinucci, senior writer for Politico's California Playbook. And from John King CNN's chief national correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS."

So John, for people watching this all around the country tonight, why should they care about what happens in California? Why is it significant?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are there any long list of reasons Anderson. Let's start with just a couple.


Number one, just the race itself, the Democratic governor in the nation's most populous state, incredibly diverse state at the forefront of the pandemic, trying to keep his job in the middle of his term in this recall election with coronavirus on the ballot as well as all the other issues he listed as well. So just the drama itself and the quirkiness of the recall law make this worth watching, and it's giant California.

But then there are national implications. We can't wait. Let's not over read it. But Governor Newsom is trying to make this a referendum not just on him but on Democratic governance. On mask mandates, on vaccine mandates for public employees. Those will be the issues in 2022 as well. So, we're going to learn something about voter motivation, voter exhaustion in this pandemic.

California, as Lucy noted, two to one Democratic voting advantage. Governor Newsom should not lose. If it's even close, there'll be a message there for Democrats.

COOPER: Carla, I know you interviewed Governor Newsom today is clearly trying to nationalize this race tie the Republican front runner Larry Elder's Donald Trump. What's the governor's perspective on this recall one week ahead?

CARLA MARINUCCI, SENIOR WRITER, POLITICO'S CALIFORNIA PLAYBOOK: I mean it -- this has been a nerve racking number of months for Gavin Newsom, Anderson and Democrats were in a panic just even a couple of weeks ago when polls suggested that this was a dead heat. The bottom line is, I mean COVID got Newsom into this recall. And it looks like COVID is going to get him out of it is his performance. The mask mandates, the vaccine mandates. These are very popular with Californians right now.

And Newsom today pointed to the fact that California is has the second lowest positivity rate in the nation. He talks about Florida and Texas. And he talks about how California has some of the highest vaccine rates in the nation. That is working with him in the polls. He's got a 19 point lead at this point. And on his job approval rating, two-thirds of Californians, they back him on proof of vaccines, and they think he's done a good job on the vaccine.

So, going into this, it's COVID, COVID, COVID. That's where -- that is the number one issue for California voters. It is no longer a referendum on Newsom. It is a referendum on COVID.

COOPER: John, how much political capital do President Biden and Vice President Harris has invested in this race?

KING: Well there are a couple ways to look at it. Number one, this is about Gavin Newsom and about the issues in California. But number two, it's also about Democratic governance, is about turning out voters. Gavin Newsom is on the ballot this time. Joe Biden will not be on the ballot next year. Kamala Harris will not be on the ballot next year. But can they get Democratic voters who are exhausted, who are frustrated, who of course have a bone to pick with politicians, any politician. We've all lived through the last 18 months together. And we've all had moments where we feel powerless. What do people do when they feel powerless? They take it out on the powerful meaning the politicians they kick them. Gavin Newsom right now is the pinata.

So this is about Gavin Newsom. But again, can Joe Biden helped turn out voters, if he can help in California? Democrats will feel a little bit better about the tough climate next year.

COOPER: Carl? I mean, is it does the governor believe this recall is happening because of blunders he made during the pandemic like eating dinner unmasked at a fancy restaurant in Napa, you know flouting the state's COVID guidelines, or does he think --

MARINUCCI: Yes, that --

COOPER: Go ahead.

MARINUCCI: That didn't help him at all. And I mean, he has had self- inflicted wounds, and there's no question about it. But the bottom line is the recall, he has defined it as a Republican recall, a Trump recall. And he's gotten some help on that front Anderson, with Larry Elder entering the race.

At this point, he has been able to make this race about Larry Elder, he's been a gift wrapped, custom made sort of campaign for Gavin Newsom to use as an illustration of Republicans wanting to seize California. And he said it today in San Francisco and what will happen to the Biden agenda, what will happen to Nancy Pelosi, if the Republicans are able to take back California?

So yes, he is using it on a on a larger picture. But at the same time, Republicans have helped him out with the entry of Larry Elder in the race.

COOPER: And John, I mean, Larry Elder probably surprised a lot of people even on the right for how well he has done compared to the other candidates out there. (INAUDIBLE) is a lot of name recognition people know him from radio.

KING: And some of its Trump. But Carla makes the key point though, the emergence of Larry Elder has helped, has helped Gavin Newsom because he has someone to run against. Back in the last recall where Arnold Schwarzenegger came, you know, on to be the governor of California. Yes, you had the celebrity candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was very consistent, very focused in saying it's about cleaning house in Sacramento, cleaning house in Sacramento was all about Gray Davis. Now you have this Trumpy conservative radio host who is not representative of the entire California electorate. Can he pull it off in the quirky recall? Maybe. That's why we'll count the votes next week. Maybe. But that has helped Gavin Newsom.

Look Carla knows this better than I do. There is not an organized Republican Party in California. The state Republican Party has been in disarray for more than a decade. If Larry Elder is the next governor of California, we will be spending a lot of time analyzing this race. I think Carla is right. The indications today are not so, but that's why we come votes.

COOPER: And Carla any other Republican candidates even close to Larry Elder?


MARINUCCI: No, I mean at this point Larry Elder has big footage just about every other Republican in the race including some who are considered to be the future the Republican Party in California, but former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulkner, a moderate Republican, who seem to have the future. He's now down to 5% in the polls, Caitlyn Jenner at 1%.

So, at this point, Larry Elder is it. Republicans are putting their hopes in him. But the polls suggest how big the victory is going to be for Gavin Newsom, how big of a landslide it might be.

COOPER: Carla Marinucci, appreciated. John King as well, always, thank you.

Up next, Ethel Kennedy weighs in on the recommendation of parole for the man who killed her husband Robert F. Kennedy.


COOPER: Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F Kennedy doesn't want his killer freed. Last month California parole board recommended that Sirhan Sirhan is released. This afternoon Mrs. Kennedy released a statement saying in part quote, our family and our country suffered an unspeakable loss due to the inhumanity of one man. We believe in the gentleness that spared his life but in taming his act of violence, he should not have the opportunity to terrorize again. The 93-year-old added in her own handwriting. He should not be paroled.

Ethel Kennedy joined six of her surviving children in opposing Sirhan's parole. Two other children Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Doug Kennedy have signaled their support for his release. Sirhan assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in the Los Angeles Hotel in 1968. At the time Kennedy was running for president. Sirhan told the parole board last month he values his life and quote, would never put myself in jeopardy again.


News continues. Let's hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Chris.