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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Interview With Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC); Third Democrat Senator Calls For Menendez To Resign After Indictment On Bribery Charges; Cassidy Hutchinson Defends Her Testimony In First TV Interview Since January 6 Hearings; CNN Video Shoes Crowds Of Migrants Crossing Through Colombia, Panama On Their Way To U. S. Border; Poet & Activist Amanda Gorman On Increase In Book Bans And Restrictions Across the U.S.; Frenzy Over Taylor Swift Cheering On Chiefs' Travis Kelce; Anderson On The Rise And Fall Of The Astor Fortune. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired September 25, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, notorious mob boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, once one of Europe's most wanted men has died. Italian media reports he died at a hospital where he was getting treatment for colon cancer.
Now Denaro was of the infamous Sicilian Mafia known as Cosa Nostra, once Italy's most powerful. He spent nearly 30 years on the run before his arrest earlier this year.
Police later finding at least two hideouts in Sicily where he reportedly lived recently, including a fortified bunker. He'd been given several life sentences in absentia for mafia related crimes, including two separate bombings that killed top anti-mafia prosecutors and the torture and murder of an 11-year-old boy who testified against the mob.
And then after 30 years on the run, captured, dies in less than a year.
Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360.
Six days till a government shutdown, the man who could prevent it, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy still can't or won't, if it means risking his job. We are Keeping Them Honest.
Also tonight, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez on whether anyone actually buys his new explanation for all that alleged bribe money found in his home, as two more fellow Democrats in the Senate want him gone.
And later, the young poet whose words of hope electrified President Biden's inauguration, Amanda Gorman and her warning now about silencing writers and banning books.
Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
We begin tonight Keeping Them Honest with Kevin McCarthy, who by title at least is the most powerful Republican in Washington, not to mention the Speaker of the House, second in line after Vice President Harris to the presidency.
It is certainly a lofty role and a lofty title and today, when asked about what it takes, including working with Democrats to pass legislation to prevent a government shutdown now six days away, Speaker McCarthy had a lofty answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): My whole focus, what's in my mind, what drives me is the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: My whole focus, he said to CNN's Manu Raju, is the American people.
Now, according to the census bureau, there are upwards of 335 million people in the country and if Speaker McCarthy truly were doing the people's business with only just a fraction of that number in mind, it would be an achievement because tonight, the evidence suggests he's mostly concerned with just five or so people. As in the five or so House Republicans who have so far blocked any legislations to keep the government operating after the end of the month, something President Biden underscored today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just a few months ago, the Speaker of the House and I agreed to spending levels for the government.
Now, a small group of extreme House Republicans, they don't want to live up to that deal, and everyone in America could be faced with not -- with paying the price for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Paying the price will be people who rely on government services and federal employees, including those who have to stay on the job with no money coming in -- air traffic controllers, federal prison guards, TSA, border agents. A shutdown means no paychecks for Americans in uniform, it could mean trouble for investors and the economy.
There's also this, historically, the political party seen as responsible for shutting down the government has paid a price on Election Day. Speaker McCarthy can avoid that by getting those five or so hardcore members of his own party on board, which has been hard enough, but just got tougher with this social media post by the former president. In it, he says: "Republicans will not be blamed for a shutdown" and urges the holdouts to, "Shut it down" unless they "Get everything" that they're demanding.
Now, that post only reduces any clout that Speaker McCarthy might have had, because it's from the de facto leader of the Republican Party.
And on top of not being able to gain the support of those five, he also faces the prospect of losing his speakership by reaching across the aisle.
We may soon see very clearly what is the priority for Speaker McCarthy, what's best for the American people, as he says, are preserving his own position in power.
Joining us now, South Carolina Democratic Congressman James Clyburn.
Congressman Clyburn, you've said that a government shutdown is not a foregone conclusion. Are you still relatively optimistic even as the clock ticks and the former president urges MAGA lawmakers to remain dug in?
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Yes, I am. I am just an optimist, I guess. I think that cooler heads will prevail in the final analysis.
If we have a shutdown. I don't think we will recover from it anytime soon.
We are talking about shutting down the government on the heels of a comeback from the worst health care crisis we've had in this country in over a hundred years.
And we know what that did to the economy. Kids are getting back in school. Now, settling back into normal routine. Businesses are back up and running again. We now have a lot of unhappy workers and we see strikes taking place because everybody is trying to get back on even keel, back to where we were before the pandemic.
And for us to shut the government down now, that will destroy everything that needs to be done in order to get our country back not just functioning, but flourishing again.
COOPER: You said cooler heads will prevail. Who are the cooler heads? Because I mean, Speaker -- I mean, do you think McCarthy will attempt to work with Democrats on a short term stopgap spending bill? I mean, that would almost certainly endanger his speakership?
CLYBURN: Yes, it may indenture his speakership, but I'll tell you this, I do believe he has 150 to 160 solid Republicans in his conference, who will stay with him no matter what.
I do believe that he can find the other votes beyond the 150-160 he needs on the Democratic side. If he were to settle down and sit down with Hakeem Jeffries, and negotiate a way forward, I do believe that's possible.
COOPER: Do you think he would lose his speakership if he did that?
CLYBURN: Well, I said, if you've got a hundred, the solid 160 or so people, why would you lose the speakership? You come out of your conference with the majority of the conference, and so he has around 221 to 222 people, 156 is certainly would be voting him out of the conference.
And then he gets to the floor, and that's when he sits down with Hakeem Jeffries, and see what he needs to do to get the other votes he needs on the Democratic side.
If they're going to put people above politics, then it is something like this would be the way to go.
COOPER: What do you make of the social media posts from the former president? How much influence do you think he has on this process?
CLYBURN: Unfortunately, he seems to have quite a bit of influence. And I don't understand, for the life of me. I've been around this earth for a long, long time. I've been in politics, all but 12 or 15 of those years and I've just never seen anything like this.
I don't know anybody who would want this man who seems to be controlling the Republican Party. They want their children to pattern their lives after this. It seems to me that we ought to be looking at the leader of this country in such a way that we can say to our children, that is somebody you can look up to.
With the record that he has, four indictments floating around; the kind of language that he uses, threatening people. This kind of bullying that we all teach our children not to do, he does it all, and they seem to be listening to him. I don't understand that.
COOPER: Well, let me let me ask you, because the former president campaigned in your home state, South Carolina today. He got endorsements from the state attorney general and the secretary of State. Those are the folks responsible for election integrity.
What does it tell you that they would choose the former president over Nikki Haley or Tim Scott, also from your state?
CLYBURN: Yes, he was in Summerville, South Carolina today. my dad pastored in Summerville when I was growing up, and I'm very familiar with that community, and they are God-fearing people. They're good. People who live by the Judeo-Christian principles that we all were raised by.
I don't quite understand why they feel it is necessary for them to kowtow to a guy like this. He is not going to get elected president of the United States, even if he were to get their nomination and I don't think getting the nomination for him is a foregone conclusion.
COOPER: Congressman Clyburn, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.
COOPER: Now Senator Bob Menendez Democrat of New Jersey until recently, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, member of the Finance and Banking Committees as well, he is tonight under federal indictment accused of taking bribes.
Today, shortly before a second Democratic senator called for his resignation, he offered an explanation of sorts for all the cash found at his home. And tonight, a third Democrat has joined the other two.
Former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, Jennifer Rodgers joins me along with CNN's Kara Scannell.
So Kara, talk more about what Menendez is saying about why he had all this cash in his home and gold bars.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this was the first public statement that he made addressing this indictment and according to the indictment, he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for his efforts to aid three New Jersey businessmen and the government of Egypt.
So today he was saying he thinks he is going to be completely exonerated when all the facts are in and he offered an explanation for why the FBI, when they searched his home last year, found envelopes of cash stuffed in the pockets of a jacket with his name on it. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.
Now this may seem old fashioned, but these were moneys drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCANNELL: Now, he also said that he wasn't aiding Egypt. He pointed to his record on the Hill as a lawmaker saying that he has taken a stance against Egypt and human rights abuses.
But you know, these are some of the defenses that he's starting to show, but he doesn't answer every question.
COOPER: Jennifer, in terms of the legal case against him, how strong is it?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, it's strong. I mean, it's really different from --
COOPER: Just to point out, he has been accused of corruption before.
COOPER: And that didn't -- he didn't get found guilty.
RODGERS: This is a much stronger case. I mean, the prior case, he was being bribed by allegedly someone who he was friends with, a long- standing personal relationship, and the bribes were in the form of trips that they took together, rides on a private jet, you know, luxury trips together.
So I think jurors got a little confused. You know, was there a quid pro quo? Was the stuff that he was doing for this person, because they were friends, or because he was taking rides on a private jet?
This is not that. He doesn't have a relationship with these people. His wife brought them into him. This is transactional. And they have a treasure trove of evidence in the form of text messages and e-mails where it is really all written out.
You know, the wife is saying, well, you know, my husband can do these things for you. What do you want him to do? Okay, he can do that. He has done that. Now, where is the money? And then, of course, all the documentation of the money coming in. She had a no show job. They bought a car for her. You know, so there's all this stuff that wasn't there before making it a much, much stronger case.
COOPER: Kara, so I mean, when I heard Menendez's excuse about, you know, being from Cuba and government confiscating stuff. I mean, he was on the Finance Committee. So the guy who is on the Finance Committee, who clearly has access to a lot of smart people in finance, is keeping cash over a 30-year period in his pockets of jackets and around his house? I mean, that's what his explanation is.
SCANNELL: Not only in the jackets, but in the closets in his house, too, according to the indictment.
COOPER: Well, that makes sense.
SCANNELL: Yes, I mean, it's, it raises just some questions here about why he would do that. I mean, according to the indictment, there was DNA on some of these envelopes from one of the co-conspirators, one of the New Jersey businessmen, which I think was them putting what they knew on the table about the strength of this evidence and to say, this wasn't just any money. This is money that came from one of the people that is a co-conspirator in this case, and it ended up in your jacket pocket at home.
COOPER: Jennifer, what do you make of the senator's comments today, as well as a statement that he put out Friday in which he basically imply he was being prosecuted, at least in part, because he's Latino?
RODGERS: Yes, I don't know where he's coming up with that. I think he's kind of testing the waters maybe with some of these defenses a little bit, but if you want to claim selective prosecution, you've got to prove that and I don't see how in the world he could ever prove that the Department of Justice went after him because he's Latino.
I mean, just look at the evidence here. They went after him because of the incredibly strong evidence and I mean, about this notion of the stuffing of the money and all that stuff, he is just begging prosecutors to bring unexplained wealth evidence, right? Look at what he makes, look at what he has. How does he have all of this money if he is not?
COOPER: There is damning text messages also and the like.
Jennifer Rodgers, Kara Scannell, thank you so much.
Next, former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, her new book and her new allegations since testifying before the House January 6 Committee.
And later remarkable video from Central America and a live report from the border as thousands of migrants make their way north.
COOPER: Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony before the House Select Committee put millions of television viewers around the country and the world inside the White House, as her boss, chief-of-staff, Mark Meadows watched President Trump's actions leading up to January 6.
Now, she is out with a new book complete with more revelations about that day and fresh allegations about some of the players. Hutchinson gave her first television interview about it over the weekend. More from our Randi Kaye.
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I ended up moving down to Atlanta for several months.
TRACY SMITH, CBS NEWS: They didn't even think it was safe for you to stay in DC.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After months in hiding, former Trump White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson is talking again, and she has plenty more to say since appearing before the January 6 committee.
As she told "CBS Sunday Morning," she nearly pulled out of testifying before the committee last year.
HUTCHINSON: I heard the door click open and I turned around and I looked at my attorney and I said, I can't do this. And I started to walk and he gently pushed my shoulders and he said, you can do this, and then we walked out. KAYE (voice over): Hutchinson details that and much more in her new memoir "Enough." She describes how her first attorney was paid by a Trump PAC and advised her the less she remembered, the better.
HUTCHINSON: In the final transcripts, it was riddled with "I don't knows" and "I don't recalls," which was information that I very clearly recalled.
KAYE (voice over): Hutchinson got herself a new attorney and gained confidence about moving forward she says after studying the testimony of Alexander Butterfield from the Watergate hearings. Butterfield was the former aide to Richard Nixon, who exposed the Oval Office recording system that helped topple Nixon's presidency.
HUTCHINSON: He really was the source of strength for me and gave me the perspective that not only that I could do this, but that there was life on the other side of it.
KAYE (voice over): Hutchinson is also defending some of her most explosive testimony. She shared with the January 6 Committee an incident that she said then White House deputy chief-of-staff, Anthony Ornato relayed to her, describing how Donald Trump on January 6, insisted on being taken to the Capitol to join his supporters.
When Secret Service agent Bobby Engel refused, Hutchinson described how Trump allegedly grabbed for the steering wheel of the presidential limousine and lunged toward the Secret Service agent.
HUTCHINSON: When Mr. Ornato had recounted the story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.
KAYE (voice over): Ornato and Agent Engel have said they don't recall the conversation.
HUTCHINSON: I stand by what I've testified to in that incidents and in any other incident that had been disputed.
KAYE (voice over): Hutchinson also stands by a disturbing new allegation from her book regarding Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Hutchinson describes how Giuliani allegedly groped her backstage during a rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.
"His hand slips under my blazer, then my skirt," she writes of Giuliani. Giuliani's team calls the accusation a disgusting lie.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: These are absolutely false. Totally absurd.
KAYE (voice over): Still, Hutchinson stands by her story and so does her publisher, Simon & Schuster.
Through it all Hutchinson says she's still a Republican, but don't expect her to vote for Trump. HUTCHINSON: He is dangerous for the country. He is willing and has shown time and time again willingness to proliferate lies, and to vulnerable American people so he could stay in power. To me, that is the most un-American thing that you can do.
KAYE (voice over): Randi Kaye, CNN.
COOPER: Perspective now from two of Cassidy Hutchinson's former White House colleagues, Sarah Matthews and CNN political commentator, Alyssa Farah Griffin, also CNN contributor, John Dean, who had his own historic moments testifying before Congress during the Watergate scandal.
Alyssa, "The New York Times" is reporting a fascinating detail from Hutchinson's book that she writes about Mark Meadows burning so many documents in the waning days of the administration that Meadows' wife complained to Hutchinson, about how expensive it had become to a dry clean the "bonfire smell" from the suits.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, so the chief-of- staff's office has a lovely fireplace in it, and my understanding is that in those final days, by the way, publicly Mark Meadows and others were saying there's not going to be a transition, Donald Trump won the election, they seem to be getting ready knowing that a transaction was coming and he was burning paperwork.
Now I'm not an attorney, but I was someone who was subject to the Federal Records Act, which required that any presidential documents, even if they're not classified, even if they're not sensitive, you are required to archive.
So even at minimum, that's a basic violation of that, but who knows the actual contents of them, and just the fact that he was doing this while at the same time saying they were, you know, the president had actually won, they weren't leaving office kind of shows that he knew he didn't.
COOPER: It's like out of a mob movie. I mean, if true of the feds are coming in, and they're trying to destroy evidence if that's --
GRIFFIN: I mean, that's exactly what it sounds like. And you have to wonder, was this going on throughout the White House? What documents may we never have? There's more that, you know, I know from talking to Cassidy that I don't want to get ahead of in the book, but it paints a picture of a White House in the final days following January 6, trying to cover any tracks that they can and trying to -- of any wrongdoing that there was, but also tried to kind of prepare themselves for an outside onslaught.
COOPER: Sarah, you testified before the January 6 Committee as well. Hutchinson describes fearing for her safety and not being able to return to her apartment in Washington, DC for months. I mean, you feel you've had that experience of testifying? Did you have those kinds of concerns? SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I think due to the bombshell nature of her testimony, she faced a heightened level of security threats. They obviously warned me that this was going to be something that I might face by coming forward and publicly testifying, but it was something I knew I wanted to do, because I thought I owed it to the American people for them to hear the truth.
COOPER: Were you scared, too?
MATTHEWS: I think I was. I mean, it's definitely a really scary position to be put in, to know that you're going to face an onslaught of harassment just from random trolls online, but also the former president, our former boss. I mean, he attacked me and Cassidy for coming forward and testifying and so that is a really scary position to be put in.
And then to know that you might have security threats. I had Capitol Police offer to put a guard outside my office where I was working at in the weeks leading up to the testimony and following the testimony, and they were patrolling outside my apartment.
I didn't face the same kind of security threat that Cassidy did where she needed to actually relocate, but I think that that should be something that people think about when they attack her and say that she's a liar, or she's doing this for fame, or whatever excuse they're trying to lob at her because I don't know why anyone would put themselves through that if they weren't telling the truth.
COOPER: John, as we mentioned, Hutchinson said that she was inspired by former Nixon White House aide, Alexander Butterfield's testimony during the Watergate hearings. I found that really interesting, because obviously, he played a crucial role when he revealed the existence of Nixon's Oval Office taping system. Do you see parallels between the two?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I was inspired by Alex as well, who corroborated my testimony that I thought I had been recorded. And of course, he was correct and that changed the whole dynamics of the investigation.
So I think that is a good inspiration and I was delighted to see that they, in the weekend clip that they had met each other and Alex indeed, who I'm in contact with regularly admired her gumption in getting up and testifying.
COOPER: Alyssa, I mean, it is extraordinary when you think about Sarah and Cassidy coming forward and all these other people not, and all of these other people who hadn't been -- you know careers behind them and we're already sort of well-known or you know had --
You know, Sarah and Cassidy, these are people in the beginning and start of their careers. There's a lot to lose.
GRIFFIN: In their 20s at the time, by the way. I think that's the most -- one of the most remarkable parts of this story is how many people in positions of power who had much bigger salaries, bigger titles, past and futures ahead, did not stand up and tell whatever one saw on January 6, and what I think most people knew in that West Wing, it was younger staffers who came forward and put it on the line.
And I mean, Cassidy has openly talked about the fact that she had to relocate. She didn't have money. She lost jobs because of her doing the right thing and speaking out against the former president.
But listen, like that's what you need, is you need people who are going to put what's right in the country ahead of their own ambition.
COOPER: Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you. Sarah, thank you. Great to have you here. John Dean as well.
One programming note, Cassidy Hutchinson is going to sit down with Jake Tapper tomorrow for an interview on his show, "The Lead." It airs at 4:00 PM Eastern.
Just ahead, a surge at the border, shelters fearing they may soon be overwhelmed by migrants and there is new video, it shows you the size of the crowds trying to make their way north. David Culver joins us from Mexico's southern border live on the migrant trail to the US, next.
COOPER: Some new video we want to show you of migrants hoping to reach the United States. These are Venezuelans gathered in the dark in a migrant camp still thousands of miles from the US southern border and about to embark on one of the most treacherous points of their trek north.
Someone prompts the crowd to sing the Venezuelan national anthem before they leave.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
COOPER: It was at about 4:00 in the morning. You can then see them leaving the camp, heading into the Darien Gap, which is a dangerous trail through a tropical forest between Colombia and Panama. A U.S. border official today says they're expecting to see the number of migrants arriving at the southern border with the U.S. to remain high.
David Culver is near Mexico's southern border with Guatemala for us tonight. So what can you tell us about the video and the sheer number of people that you've been seeing making this journey?
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's the most concerning, Anderson, is that you're seeing these massive crowds, which sure you've seen in the past, but they're incredibly organized now and they seem to go in cycles. So I'll start with a couple of pieces of video, and you'll see in the first one, those are those crowds that you mentioned. And we're seeing now this year alone and here we are in September, more than 100,000 than what we saw crossing all of last year. So the numbers are rapidly increasing. It's increasingly concerning and alarming for officials, not only in Colombia, where some of this video is starting, and you can then see them continuing through the jungle, which is and of itself very dangerous.
But also officials in the U.S. who are watching this and knowing that those individuals are headed north. Ultimately, the vast majority want to get into the U.S. Now, the jungle portion of itself is incredibly dangerous. I mean, not only are the terrain elements of themselves treacherous, but people are getting robbed, they're getting assaulted, and some of them have even described seeing others lose their lives right in front of them.
I caught up with some folks who are just a few days on the other side of having crossed through that have now made their way where we are in southern Mexico. Here's how they describe it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CULVER: It's very dangerous. Very dangerous.
She's saying --
(Speaking Foreign Language)
CULVER: Wow. She said when they went through the Darien Gap, she said at least seven people that they saw who had died, including somebody, a child around eight years old.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CULVER: A couple of hours ago, Anderson, I was talking to a group of kids. They ranged in age between six and 12. Their parents were around us as well, listening in. And what was most disturbing is those kids were describing in detail the bodies that they saw along the way, just very matter of fact and casual. It shows you kind of some of the trauma that's going to be sitting with them as they're continuing what is still a long journey ahead.
COOPER: So last week, there were reports that Mexican officials had agreed to, quote, depressurize their northern border cities by deporting migrants back to their home countries by trying to prevent migrants from using the railway system. Are you seeing that or what are you seeing near Mexico's southern border?
CULVER: Mexico is dealing with a mess right now, Anderson. I mean, the crowds are building. Let me give you a sense of where we are. And this explains what we saw from the Darien Gap, which continues. This is part of the migrant trail up. And this is Tapachula. So this is just over the border from Guatemala.
You can see here what are hundreds of folks, and we've actually even got another camera, too, to give you a better sense of the crowd. Hundreds of folks that have been lined up throughout the past hours, days, some of them even weeks.
And even if we continue over here, you can see it goes much farther back, a couple of blocks back. And they're settling in for the night because they've lined up here, the offices that are processing some of their asylum claims for Mexico, because that's part of the rules to get to the U.S. They have to claim asylum in a third country. So they're choosing Mexico, or some of them are just trying to get transit documents.
And so, they're waiting out until they get their appointments to meet with Mexican officials. They hope to then get those documents. And then, Anderson, once they get them, it essentially buys them time to make their way through Mexico. And every single one has the same destination in mind -- the U.S.
COOPER: David Culver, thanks. Appreciate it.
Coming up, Amanda Gorman, who gained worldwide attention when she read her poem at President Biden's inauguration, she's now lending her voice to stop the campaign to ban books from library shelves. She joins us next.
COOPER: In the past week, two reports have underscored just how widespread the threat of book bans has become. One by PEN America says that book bans in public schools during the most recently completed school year were up 33 percent. More than 40 percent of all book bans, according to the PEN report, occurred in Florida school districts.
And that state's governor, presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, as you know, championed a law in Florida that requires approval of books in school libraries. Now, a separate report by the American Library Association says that almost half of book challenges occurring through August have occurred in public libraries.
Last week, more than 175 writers and actors and entertainers and others signed a letter warning how these bands are, quote, "antithetical to free speech and expression", how they'll have a, quote, "chilling effect on the broader creative field".
My next guest signed that letter, Amanda Gorman. She's a poet and author who famously read one of her poems at President Biden's inauguration. She's also the author of a new children's book out tomorrow, "Something, Someday".
I want to talk to you about your new book, your children's book. But I want to talk first about book banning, which you and I have talked about before.
AMANDA GORMAN, POET & ACTIVIST: Yes.
COOPER: PEN America, the literary group which you've partnered with in the past, they say that there's a 33 percent increase in book bans during the last school year. You experienced this with your book, "The Hill We Climb", was restricted in the Florida school district. Where does this go?
GORMAN: I think the book bans will continue to rise unless they meet some type of impediment, as you mentioned. I think it's really important to put it in numbers as well. These are thousands of book bans. We've seen over 3,000 this year.
But you also have to look at it from the point of view. Last year, 60 percent of those thousands were pretty much filed by 11 people. So this is an incredibly small but vocal and coordinated minority.
COOPER: The book that was restricted to "The Hill We Climb" was kind of an offshoot of your poem --
COOPER: -- which you read at the inauguration of President Biden. I just want to play an excerpt of that, because for so many people, it's the first time they --
COOPER: -- ever saw you. So let's just watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORMAN: We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It gave so much sense of hope and sort of optimism. Do you still feel that sense of optimism?
GORMAN: 100 percent. For me, hope isn't a gift we possess. It's a gift that we practice. It's something that we have to fight for and learn and grow and lean into. So I wake up every day fighting not just for justice, but for my own hope and keeping that flame alive.
COOPER: Writing a children's book, what is the process -- how do you go about it?
GORMAN: Yes, I'm sure you've noticed this, reading children's books to your kids, but they're actually really complicated and sophisticated.
COOPER: They really are. Yes.
GORMAN: They really are. And so you have to, you know, write it at an age that's accessible for the young reader, but also an enjoyable experience for the parent, for the family, for the guardians. And so, I always try to start with the heart of the book. I was thinking, what's the experience of being a caregiver, caretaker of a young child at this time who has big questions about the world?
COOPER: That's the other thing about children's books, which I hadn't known much about until I did this. Is, you know, it's talking about what's on the page with your child --
COOPER: -- that's so interesting and the meaning of the words and what they see in the images and things that they didn't see, that they suddenly see.
GORMAN: Absolutely. And I think that's why poetic thought lends itself so well to storytelling, especially with young children, because you're looking at the unit of language as the most powerful measurement of sound and literature.
So for me, writing a few words on a page isn't a prison, it's a privilege. And so getting to think very finite about what's the word that's going to have the most impact on this beautiful, gorgeous soul that's reading my words. That's the fundamental question of poetry.
COOPER: Did the sound of the words matter to you as they may in poetry?
GORMAN: Absolutely. And I think it comes from my background. Having a speech impediment, being able to read poetry out loud, was a huge form of my own speech therapy and pathology. And so, I look at it on the page, but also, how does this feel kind of moving through a young person's body and mouth? And is this something I could imagine someone saying aloud is a huge component.
COOPER: Is that something you still struggle with? Because I had a reading issue when I was a child, a mild form of dyslexia, and I went to somebody and I also sort of stuttered and still do occasionally.
COOPER: Is that something you struggle with?
GORMAN: A 100 percent. I mean, it's something I think a lot of people use the word like overcome the speech impediment. I'm like, no, the speech impediment is coming with me wherever I'm going, but I'm just carrying it in a different way.
And so after, you know, around 20 years of speech therapy, I can have this conversation with you. But even just now, I was saying the word like prison and saying that R was hard for me because that's what I struggle the most with.
And so, you push through and I focus more on the content of what I'm saying than how it sounds sort of peers. And I think that's what gives me the bravery to continue what I do.
COOPER: What is the idea behind this book, "Something, Someday"? What did you want the message to be to a child?
GORMAN: Yes. Well, you know, I was thinking because I meet with so many young children, especially in elementary school and middle school, and they are incredibly emotionally intelligent. They are -- know there's disruptions and transformations happening in the world and they really want to understand what their place is within it, even from a very young age.
And I wanted to write a book that safeguarded and preserved their hope and their power and their spirit and their vibrancy and doing that kind of in the legacy of the songs I love of just this idea of change going to come.
I don't know when it's going to happen. I can't tell you if it's tomorrow or the next day or what it's going to look like, but I know it's arriving soon someday because of the young people we have in the world right now.
COOPER: Would you read something?
GORMAN: Absolutely. So I'm going to read just a small excerpt from the middle.
GORMAN: You make a promise to each other. You say there is a problem, but it's our problem together, so we can fix it together. This problem is big, but together, we are bigger.
COOPER: It's lovely.
GORMAN: Thank you.
COOPER: "Something, Someday".
COOPER: Thank you so much, Amanda Gorman.
GORMAN: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
COOPER: Amanda Gorman's new book, "Something, Someday", comes out tomorrow.
A lot more ahead. Coming up, Taylor Swift goes to a football game and the internet explodes. Our Harry Enten explains why. More ahead.
COOPER: Yesterday, the Kansas City Chiefs destroyed the Chicago Bears, which is not something I'd usually mention, but it's interesting because if you look at social media, it seems all anyone is talking about is Taylor Swift at the game, cheering on the Chiefs' Travis Kelce. She was seen sitting next to his mom in a suite wearing a team jacket.
And then after the game, the singer and football player were spotted apparently leaving the stadium together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR SWIFT, SINGER: Hey, let's go on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So for weeks now, I guess it's been rumored that Swift and Kelce are dating. Social media users cannot get enough of this, which is just the latest sign of the extraordinary popularity of Taylor Swift. Understandable.
They've given the two a moniker Swilce, Travis, or Tralor. And Harry Enten who's giggling, our senior data reporter is here to weigh in. So what is the impact of Taylor Swift's presence -- what is the impact of it on this team, on merchandise, on all of that?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Let me just say I'm a big believer in love, and I really hope they are together.
COOPER: You know what? People talk -- say a lot of things about you, Harry Enten. And usually the first thing out of their mouths is, Harry's a big believer in love.
ENTEN: I will. I appreciate that. And love will keep us together.
ENTEN: As my uncle once wrote. Look, here's the situation. You look at Travis Kelce, his memorabilia, his merchandise, it's now in the top five of all NFL players. It's up over 400 percent. Yes, there's numbers on everything, right?
ENTEN: Up over 400 percent in the last day since, of course, the Chiefs destroyed the Chicago Bears compared to where it was in the day prior. So the fact is, as we have a beautiful picture of a lovely, hopeful couple on the screen right there, the fact is, is you're seeing the effect that Taylor Swift can have on the merchandise market.
ENTEN: And I hope it's something that continues on.
COOPER: So the NFL is the biggest revenue generator in U.S. sports. How does it compare to revenue generated by Taylor Swift?
[20:50:04] ENTEN: I love this. So the average NFL team, according to Forbes, in the last year, the average revenue is a little bit less than $600 million per year. How much has Taylor Swift's eras tour generated revenue in North America, in ticket sales alone? North of $2 billion.
ENTEN: Four times, four times as big. So, the fact is, is that, you know, the NFL may be the king of the sports kingdom, but the fact is, Taylor Swift defeats the NFL, at least the average team.
COOPER: And how does the popularity of the Kansas City Chiefs, which I'm told, won the Super Bowl last time.
ENTEN: They did.
ENTEN: They did. They did.
COOPER: I actually didn't know that.
ENTEN: We're learning together.
COOPER: Yes, we are learning together. But now that Taylor Swift's interested, I might pay attention.
COOPER: But how does their popularity stack up with Taylor Swift's popularity?
ENTEN: Yes. So if you look at google searches over the last year, what you see is you see a green wave. Taylor Swift on her map is represented in green. And you can see that in 41 states, more people search for Taylor Swift than searched for the Kansas City Chiefs.
COOPER: Well that's not surprising. I mean, what is it?
ENTEN: I mean, as an NFL fan, it is somewhat surprising to me, especially given that they won the Super Bowl last year.
COOPER: Right. All right. Well, Harry Enten, thank you.
ENTEN: We'll watch a game together one of these days, I swear.
COOPER: Have you been to a Taylor Swift concert?
ENTEN: Maybe we can go together to that. We'll do it double.
COOPER: I don't know about that. Taylor Swift's name is famous around the world.
Next, we focus on another once world famous name, Astor, America's first multimillionaires. The Astors were one of the richest American families for generations. What happened? That's the focus of a new book I've written. We'll show you some of what made the Astors all that money, next.
COOPER: Two years ago, I wrote a book called "Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty", about the extraordinary fortune created by my mom's great great grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and what happened to it over the generations.
Now my co-author, Katherine Howe and I have a sequel. The book is called "Astor: The Rise and Fall of an American Fortune". It's about another once wealthy and powerful American family, the Astors. The name Astor became synonymous with wealth and elegance and glamour.
But as we write about in the book, which is just out now, the story behind the Astor fortune is a complex tale of ruthlessness, ambition and greed.
COOPER (voice-over): When you hear the name Astor, you might think of elegant balls and high society and gilded age palaces like this. But the story of how the Astors made their fortune and held onto it for so long is not a glamorous one at all.
John Jacob Astor, a young immigrant from Germany, became America's first multimillionaire by monopolizing the trade of beaver and other animal furs in the late 1700 and early 1800s.
KATHERINE HOWE, CO-AUTHOR, "ASTOR": He started buying up all the furs that he could and then he started voyaging up into the wilderness in upstate New York and into parts of Canada, where he picked up indigenous languages and very quickly started to amass his fortune.
COOPER (voice-over): Astor amassed that fortune ruthlessly using alcohol with indigenous people to get the better of them in trades and often sending them into debt. He plowed all his profits into buying parcels of land in the rapidly growing New York.
He and his descendants would come to own much of the land New York was built on, Greenwich Village, sites near Times Square and the land where the Empire State Building now stands.
HOWE: John Jacob Astor at the very end of his life. The only regret that he expresses is that he didn't buy more land in Manhattan. His son William Backhouse Astor acquires the nickname the landlord of New York because he builds on the empire that John Jacob amassed and really refines it to a science.
COOPER (voice-over): The Astors profited from the building of slums and tenements on their land, buildings with little ventilation, packed with multiple families in each room, living in deplorable conditions.
The rents paid to the Astors would fund their high living for generations. Caroline Astor reinvented the family of fur traders and slumlords into scions of New York society.
HOWE: Caroline saw that after the civil war, the United States was searching for a definition of itself, and she took it upon herself to define what would make American high culture.
COOPER (voice-over): Caroline's son Jack Astor was one of the creators of the Waldorf Astoria hotel and would end up on the maiden voyage of the Titanic with his young second wife.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's John Jacob Astor, the richest man on the ship.
COOPER (voice-over): He was famously depicted in James Cameron's film, "Titanic".
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, Astor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, hello, Molly. Nice to see you.
COOPER (voice-over): Jack Astor died on the Titanic along with more than 1,500 other passengers. His pregnant wife survived. His son, Vincent, from a previous marriage, inherited much of the Astor fortune and did something no other Astor had done.
HOWE: Vincent Astor put much of the Astor wealth into a foundation, and he was actually the first Astor who, rather than trying to build on the Astor money that they had, decided that he was going to do good things with it and give it away.
When Vincent Astor discovered the condition of some of the slums that the Astor family office controlled, he was appalled.
COOPER (voice-over): Vincent was married three times. His last wife, Brooke Astor, took over the family's foundation and helped rehabilitate the Astor name by giving away some $200 million to charities in New York, the city that had made the Astors rich.
Brooke Astor became a beloved figure in New York for her philanthropy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, the presentation of the citizens' medal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, look. Thank you, Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm overcome.
COOPER (voice-over): But her end was an unhappy one. Her only son was convicted of swindling her out of millions of dollars, getting her to make changes to her will when she had Alzheimer's.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think about this charge?
COOPER (voice-over): He was sent to prison for his crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How surprising (INAUDIBLE)? COOPER (voice-over): Brooke Astor died in 2007 at the age of 105, and with her passing came the end of an American fortune.
HOWE: On the one hand, the Astro family leaves a legacy of civic involvement and philanthropy. But on the other hand, the Astro family leaves a really shocking legacy of kind of rapacious, capitalist, advantage taking of people who are really in dire straits.
So, like most great fortunes, if you scratch the surface a little bit, there are a lot of unfortunate lessons about human nature that you can come to.
COOPER (voice-over): The Astor money may be gone in America, but you can still see the Astor name all over New York City, especially an Aster Place in Greenwich Village, where on the walls of the subway stop, if you look closely, you'll find ceramic tiles depicting beavers, the source of the fortune John Jacob Astor so relentlessly and ruthlessly carved out of the American wilderness.
COOPER: Of the book, "Astor: The Rise and Fall of an American Fortune" is out now. I hope you enjoy it.
The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now.