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At This Hour

Palestinian Militants and Israel Exchange Barrage of Rocket Fire; Some Families Hesitant to Send Kids Back into Classrooms; Man Charged in Capitol Riot Claims Foxitis Made Him Believe U.S. was Being Robbed of a President. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 11, 2021 - 11:30   ET


PAUL MITCHELL, LEFT GOP IN DECEMBER 2020: Its loyalty to Trump.


And I don't believe that blind loyalty to any person is a healthy thing in our democracy. It simply is not. We ought to be loyal to our Constitution, to principles that we have, but blind loyalty is someone whose level of narcissism, frankly, is extraordinary. It's simply not the answer for our country.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Look, Congressman, you and Liz Cheney both conservatives, both conservative voting records.


BOLDUAN: You served with her. What do you think is driving this for her? Why is she the person kind of standing up in this moment? You were that person in December before the insurrection. Why is it Liz? What is driving her now?

MITCHELL: First, I think it's a belief in what is right. And I haven't always agreed with Liz but I'll give Liz credit that she's always stood for what she believes is right, when she believes in principle regardless of the cost. And she's disagreed with President Trump in other things in terms of foreign policy. I think that's the first thing that drives her.

The other is I think there is a longer term political interest for her and our nation that when we figure out how destructive this is, we need leadership that will help lead this country. President Biden has said it, we need a healthy two-party system. I'm not sure we need a three-party system but also over two competitive, healthy parties. And right now, the Republican Party is not healthy.

BOLDUAN: Thinking of political interests, and these would be short- term political interests, I want to ask you about Kevin McCarthy. I want to read for you how he kind of described this moment in a letter to other Republicans just yesterday. He wrote, we are a big tent party. And unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate. All members are elected to represent their constituents as they see fit. But our leadership team cannot afford to be distracted by the important work we're elected to do and the shared goals we hope to achieve.

What do you think of Kevin McCarthy's role in all of this?

MITCHELL: I just think Kevin's primary interest is achieving the gavel. He will do almost anything to get the gavel and become speaker, short of throwing his mother under the bus, I think, to be actually honest with you. Unfortunately, the drive for political power for that prestige for some people is extraordinary. And I think in this case, it's overwhelmed the best interests of the nation, of members of his party and will not be long-term good for the country.

The irony is, Kate, I believe that even if the Republicans gain the majority in '22, he will not have the votes to win the speaker's role. I don't think he'll get that role.

BOLDUAN: Do you think this could backfire on that one?

MITCHELL: Absolutely, absolutely do. It's one more indication of even as allies, even people close to him, if you get in the way, he will throw you under the bus. It's not the first time it happened either.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, Cheney said when she was asked that she would not support Donald Trump if he ran in 2024. Look, we're looking at hypotheticals. But it is a statement about beliefs and what you stand for. You voted for him in 2020, if I remember correctly. Would you vote for him again?

MITCHELL: All I can say is, oh, hell no, absolutely not, not for him and not for any of his minions. I contributed a fair amount of money both through fundraising as well personally to a variety of Republicans in '16, '18, '20. I will not be contributing to any Republican who supported the overturning of the election, absolutely not. I won't be supporting it there. I won't be supporting the state. So good news, I guess, is my contributions will be less than they've been in previous years.

I certainly will not support Donald Trump or anybody that is espousing the big lie to lead this country or, frankly, to lead the House. We need people who stand on principle. And there are currently fewer of those than you and I would I think like.

BOLDUAN: I think it is surprising many, actually, as it becomes more of a realization. Congressman, thank you very much for coming in.

MITCHELL: Thanks very much for having me. Have a good day.

BOLDUAN: You too.

Coming up for us, violence escalates in Israel and our CNN crew is forced to take cover as warning sirens go off. We're going to take you there live for an important update, next.


[11:35:00] BOLDUAN: Some truly terrifying moments just now in Israel. Sirens in Israel are sounding basically nonstop in some cities, warning of incoming rocket fire. Just listen to this.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Guys, we have sirens. Let's go. Let's go. Let's go.


BOLDUAN: That is the sound of sirens and that is one of our CNN crews on the ground forced to run for shelter. As those sirens began once again, Palestinians in Gaza and Israeli forces have been trading rocket fire consistently since yesterday as the situation is escalating quickly.

Let's go there. CNN's Hadas Gold, she is joining us just right now. Hadas, we just showed viewers what happened to you and your crew earlier.


What is the situation right now?

GOLD: Well, Kate, that situation has actually been repeating itself over and over again today. We've actually been live several times when the air raids have gone on. We've had to run into the building behind us, which was actually hit by rocket fire in the early hours of this morning. I'll have my cameraman pan out so you can just see the site of that impact and the dramatic damages that it caused.

We have been here all day and all day long. We have heard air raid sirens. I've lost count of the number of air raid sirens we have heard. We've heard rockets being launched. We've heard rockets being intercepted likely by the Iron Dome.

We have also been hearing airplanes flying above us and then we're hearing explosions and sort of booms in the distance likely strikes in Gaza, which is only about ten kilometers away from here.

And I've been speaking to the residents here in this building and they say that while living in Southern Israel and living near Gaza and for both sides, the conflict is unfortunately something that they have come to live with, the level, just the pure level of escalation and the number of rockets they have experienced, more than 500, according to the Israeli military, have been launched from Gaza into Israel in the last 24 hours. It is a level that they have not seen in many, many years. It is a very tense moment, very high escalation.

We just heard -- I'm just hearing right now some more booms in the distance. We've been hearing that in the last few hours.

Now, what sometimes happens is we will hear airplanes flying in. We'll hear some booms. And then a few minutes, we'll hear an air raid siren and rockets, that means rockets are coming in towards this area. But the IDF said that they have been targeting Gaza militant locations in the Gaza Strip. They said they had more than 150 strikes. They say they killed at least 15 militants.

The Palestinian Health ministry in Gaza says that 28 Palestinians have been killed, nine of them children. The Israeli military is saying they're investigating that.

And here in Ashkelon, two people lost their lives earlier today in two separate rockets. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Hadas, thank you for your continued great reporting. Thank you for being there.

Coming up for us still, some are calling it school hesitancy now. Families reluctant to send their children back to in-person classes even after the schools are open back up and they say it's safe. Next, one school superintendent on the struggle to convince parents now and students to come back in the classroom.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What went into your decision to come here, Jacob?

JACOB LANEY, 14-YEAR-OLD GETTING COVID VACCINE: My friend got COVID- 19 and it did not look fun at all because he was always tired and had aches everywhere. And I just didn't want to get that at all. And also it means that I can go more places and be less worried about what I'm going to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you think your life is going to change after you get your second shot, after you get the second Pfizer short?

LANEY: Well, I'm going to be able to go more places without being scared of getting COVID-19 and I'll be able to just feel safer anywhere.


BOLDUAN: That was this morning in Georgia. A 14-year-old excited to be one of the first kids his age to get the Pfizer vaccine after the FDA just gave the green light for kids to get the shot as young as 12. This is good news for many families and also good news for schools across the country. As of last month, more than half of the country's largest school districts are offering a full-time in-person option for grades K-12.

But with that, a new challenge has emerged. Some families hesitant to send their kids back full time, even when it becomes an option. They're calling it now school hesitancy. And some experts feel it may be the start of a social and educational crisis that we're looking at, a problem that many school districts are facing, including in San Antonio, Texas.

Joining me right now is Pedro Martinez, he's Superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District. Thank you for being here.

First, just, more broadly, your reaction to this news that kids and students as young as 12 can now get the Pfizer vaccine. We're talking sixth graders here.


We have -- we started vaccinating our high school students three weeks ago and we're doing that now every day. We have slots. And what is exciting now is now we're going to start next week starting to vaccinate our 12-year-olds and up. And so this is a big development for us and it makes me more optimistic.

BOLDUAN: The latest that I saw is that your schools are up for up to 70 percent capacity right now. How much of a difference does this news of these kids as young as 12, how much of a difference does this make for your goal and your plans to get kids back into the classroom full- time?

MARTINEZ: It makes a big difference, Kate. What's interesting is that the parents of younger children are feeling more comfortable because we show our cases, you know, week-by-week for each one of our schools. And they're seeing very little cases with our youngest children. So I'm seeing the elementary children now starting to have as much as 70 percent of our children in person where I'm seeing the hesitation is in middle school and high school.

High school, we're at about 30 percent, even though we're offering more than 50 percent of our children in person. And middle school, it's right around 40 percent. And so having these vaccines available gives me some hope that if it we can get more of our children vaccinated, families will feel more comfortable students will feel more comfortable being in school in person.

BOLDUAN: Talk to me about this hesitancy. How big of a problem do you think this is becoming? Why aren't -- you're talking did mainly high school kids especially. Why aren't they coming back? What are you hearing from them?


MARTINEZ: So every story is a little different, Kate, and some of them do break my heart. So many of our students -- in San Antonio, 90 percent of our children live in poverty. We serve the majority probably in the entire county. Many of our children who are just -- you know, they want to help their families. They know that some of their parents or relatives have lost their jobs and the shop may not be coming back. And so they want to work and help pay the bills, pay the rents, making sure that they don't get evicted.

And so I'm seeing more and more of our students wanting to do that and, unfortunately, even though they might be passing their classes, it's just not optimal for them. We know that they need to be in school in person, and, frankly, they're being forced to be more mature than they need to be, especially at 16, 17 or 18 years old.

BOLDUAN: That really is heartbreaking. They're not doing it to skip class. They're doing it to help their families.

What needs to happen to get back to a normal school schedule? Like what is the biggest hurdle that you see to need to get to over between now and the fall?

MARTINEZ: So I think there's a couple of factors in play. First of all, we're now in May, so we're only about a month and a half away from finishing the school year. So for some of our students, they just feel, you know, what's the point? What's the point of coming in person now with only six weeks left? We also still have younger children that are still at home, and so some of our students are babysitting younger siblings. And one of the challenges, again, is we still continue to see a lot of our essential workers either having their hours cut or not enough work for them.

So I think, number one, is we need to work together to get the economy to really be, you know, open for everybody. One of the challenges that I see, especially around San Antonio, is with so many of our families that work in the hotels, in the tourism industry, the jobs are not coming back fast enough. So that's one challenge.

But the other, frankly, is we need to just make school fun for our children again. I think they have forgotten how great it is to be -- to just see their friends and to see their teachers. And so that's one of our goals as we finish the year, is, you know, bringing backfield trips. And we want to bring extracurriculars for all of our children.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thank you very much for coming in. The challenges are great, but thank you, thank you for being here.

MARTINEZ: Thank you for having me, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, a man charged and accused of federal crimes, for taking part in the insurrection on January 6th, he blames Fox for making him rush the Capitol, his defense in his own words, and why his attorney is calling it Fox-itis.



BOLDUAN: A man charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot, he says he takes full responsibility for his actions but he says he did it because he believed what he saw and heard on Fox News and from former President Donald Trump.

His name is Anthony Antonio and his attorney calls what happened, what motivated Antonio, Foxitis and Fox Mania. Here is Antonio in his own words speaking to CNN's Chris Cuomo. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY ANTONIO, ACCUSED CAPITOL RIOTER: Last year, I honestly put a man above Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. I believed a man. I believed what was being told to me. He was the president of our United States. And I believed him because he's the president of our United States.

And so because of that I went to Washington, like he called us to, having no clue what to expect, having no clue what was about to happen. I just knew that the president of our United States told me to go there.

I got wrapped up in what was being told to me, and what was -- what was on the T.V.

I truly believe that Trump won the election. As of right now, I acknowledge and I know that Joe Biden is our president. That's not a mystery. That's a fact. But I felt like, you know, maybe I believed that America was being robbed of a president. And I now know that that was a lie.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now for more on this is CNN's Brian Stelter. Brian, yes, we do need to remember, and everyone should, he is -- wants to keep himself out of jail and out of trouble. That is something to remember as we talk about all of this. But what do you think when you hear from this guy and his defense?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think it's actually really helpful to hear from these riot suspects and what was going through their mind and how much they point the finger at the former president as well as at right-wing media outlets.

I don't think the Fox made me do it defense is going to win any points with a judge. This man is accused of violent entry, destruction of government property, disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds, he hasn't entered a plea yet.

But I think it is worth taking these defenses or these excuses seriously because it does tells us about the mindset of so many Americans who were conned by the former president, who were tricked by right-wing media.

There's a reason, I think, Kate, why so many sources inside Fox and around Fox have used the word, brainwashing, when speaking with me. It's a strong. It's a sensitive word. They don't always mean it literally, but there is, if you watch every single day, if you consume these right-wing websites and channels a sort of obsessive takeaway about the former president being robbed. And that's why this lawyer is blaming Foxitis.

BOLDUAN: But, Brian, what do you think this misinformation, these lies being pushed by Fox and other places, is so persuasive? Why do you think it is so effective? Because in someone, you can see, like some of these folks are victims of misinformation, as you've pointed out.

STELTER: Yes, I do think that's an appropriate word in some of these cases. Political science points to sectarianism on the rise in the U.S., this notion that the other side is evil and some of that is what's at play at the riot. It's also about a lack of leadership, right, Kate? There still hasn't been a plan for a 1/6 commission. There still isn't an agreement on the facts of what went wrong that day. I know Democrats are trying, some Republicans are trying to have a commission, but it's been more than four months. They haven't even agreed to have a conversation about what went wrong.

Unfortunately, what we're about to see in the Congress tomorrow, this vote about Liz Cheney, it, again, speaks to a lack of leadership. And, ultimately, it's not about the politicians, it's about the men like this riot suspect who were misled, who were conned.


Who's looking out for them? Is anybody looking out for them?

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Brian, thank you.

STELTER: You too, thanks.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

And thank you all so much for joining us today.