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At This Hour

Surgeon General Says, Misinformation Serious Threat to Public Health; Watchdog Says, FBI Seriously Botched Nassar Abuse Allegations; U.S. Military Trained Some Colombians in Haiti Assassination Plot. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 15, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: A new warning just issued from the surgeon general saying misinformation is, quote, a serious threat to public health. The Biden administration -- and here is why, the Biden administration is growing more concerned about the misleading claims that are out there about coronavirus vaccines.

And just take a look at the map to see where things stand right now in the country.


47 states are reporting increases in new cases. New infections are multiplying, a 70 percent jump in the last two weeks, and the vast majority are among unvaccinated people.

Joining me now is Dr. Megan Ranney, she's an emergency physician at Brown University. It is good to see you again, Doctor.

So, the surgeon general's message here in this like lengthy memo he puts out is declaring misinformation a serious threat to public health. How big of a problem do you see this as? I mean, what are you hearing from patients who still haven't gotten the shot?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Well, I hear these myths and frank lies, honestly, almost every day in the emergency department from patients who haven't been vaccinated yet. Some people have heard the misinformation, the statements that maybe the vaccine hasn't been tested enough or that it is somehow not safe. And there are other people though who have been caught by the real lies that are being spread online around vaccines hurting fertility or killing 5 out 100 people. Let me be clear, neither of those things are true.

But as we know, on social media, the lies spread really easily. There have actually been studies showing that fake news about health is 70 percent more likely to be shared than real news, because it catches your attention, it appeals to your emotions. It is a huge problem and it is keeping people from getting vaccinated, from wearing masks and from doing other basic things to protect themselves from this disease.

BOLDUAN: So then what is the solution, right? Because it appears clear now that speeches and pleading from the president of the United States, from Dr. Fauci, from governors and local leaders across the country, that it isn't working, right, to break through this, at least on some level. So what is going to make the difference?

RANNEY: I wish I could say there was going to be a single solution, as with so many problems, it is not -- it's a variety of things. The first is that the large tech platforms have to do a good job of identifying and stopping the bots, the people that are purposefully spreading conspiracy theories.

The next thing is that we have to become informed consumers. Every one of us has been caught by one of these myths or misinformation campaigns when you read a headline, when you read a post that immediately appeals to your emotion, take a second and double check the sources.

And then the third thing is these discussions with friends and family. It is those discussions over the dinner table or at a coffee shop that can help to change people's opinions and help to eliminate the truth rather than the lies.

BOLDUAN: I was actually wanting to ask you about that, because I was wondering if you think that that's really what this comes down to, is everyone's individual responsibility to speak to her loved ones now because, just to this point, pop star Olivia Rodrigo was at the White House yesterday to try to -- as part of a push to get more young people vaccinated. And she spoke directly to this point when she was in the White House briefing room. Listen to this.


OLIVIA RODRIGO, SINGER/SONGWRITER: It is important to have conversations with friends and family members encouraging all communities to get vaccinated and actually get to a vaccination site, which you can do more easily than ever before.


BOLDUAN: Is that a message you think that the White House needs to be pushing more, like it is up to every individual? Is that what this is coming down to?

RANNEY: I really think it is all three. There is national level kind of big tech changes that have to happen, but it is also the individual conversations. Listen, I went to my dentist this morning and they were telling me about the conversations that they've had with patients about vaccines. Each of those makes a difference. And we all have a role to play in fighting the misinformation that is out there around vaccines.

BOLDUAN: So, back to kind of where we are as a nation in terms of this surge that we're seeing once again, you say that the surge that we are seeing is sadly was predictable. Tell me why and tell me what you see now as then we head into the fall.

RANNEY: So I'll be clear that in my state of Rhode Island, we have done a great job with vaccinations so we're not seeing a lot of COVID cases right now. But my colleagues across the country, particularly in Missouri, Arkansas, Nevada, are telling me that the E.R.s are getting filled with patients with COVID again, that it feels similar to what they experienced in the fall and in the early winter of last year.

The sad part about this is that it is people who have not been vaccinated. 99 percent of the folks that are getting infected and are getting hospitalized are people who have not gotten the shots. That is what makes it predictable. This delta variant is so transmissible. And if you are not vaccinated, you are at risk, especially if you're not wearing a mask. And we know that not getting vaccinated and not wearing a mask tends to go together.

For the fall, Kate, I'm hopeful that we're going to be okay, because so much of the country is vaccinated, but what happens between now and September, how many more doses in arms, that is what is going to determine our course.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Dr. Ranney, thank you for coming on.

RANNEY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I want to turn now to this, a scathing report reveals massive failures by the FBI in its sexual abuse investigation of convicted former USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar.


The Justice Department's Inspector General's Office launched an investigation into the bureau's handling of the case in 2018 and it just released report saying very clearly the FBI failed.

Here is one quote. Despite the extraordinarily serious nature of the allegations and the possibilities that Nassar's conduct could be continuing, senior officials in the FBI failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required.

The I.G. said that agents violated multiple agency policies, failed to properly document complaints by the accusers, failed to even interview some of them. And in doing so, the report notes that in court filing says about 70 women and girls were victimized by Nassar between the time when the FBI first learned of the allegation and when he was arrested.

Nassar is now effectively serving a life sentence after hundreds of women and girls have said he sexual abused them over the course of 20 years, largely under the guise of medical treatment.

Joining me right now is Rachael Denhollander. She's a former gymnast, now attorney, and was the first woman to speak publicly about Nassar's abuse. Rachael, thank you for being here.

This report is more than 100 pages long. What was your reaction when you went through it?

RACHAEL DENHOLLANDER, NASSAR ABUSE SURVIVOR: Horror, disgust. I wish I could say I was surprised. But, really, what we have seen in this report is just one instance of what is taking place with law enforcement and rape and abuse cases across the country. Out of every 230 rapes reported to the police, only about six results in criminal charges despite a 92 percent to 98 percent accuracy in reporting.

So what we really need to be doing when we read this report is asking what are we not seeing and what needs to change so there is accountability and transparency and consequences for bad actors in our law enforcement. Right now, they have all of the authority and none of the accountability.

BOLDUAN: Rachael, during the investigation, during the course of this, did you think something was wrong? You said this did not surprise you?

DENHOLLANDER: It didn't. And the reason that I chose to come forward so publicly with my name and my identity and the details of my abuse was because I was convinced for 16 years that the only way to stop Larry was not only to be able to get control of the narrative from Larry and from the institutions surrounding him but also from law enforcement, who I was sure at this point have multiple botched investigations and likely outright corruption and collusion with these institutions. This is not an abnormality. This is a common problem that survivors walk through all of the time.

And so what I hope people see when they read this report and they react with right horror is ask what we're not seeing, what don't we ever find out because we don't have hundreds of survivors coming forward, we don't have a press that is paying such close attention to those cases. Look at this case and ask what you don't see and then how we change it the next time.

BOLDUAN: I have to say, there are many details in this report that are appalling. And just the fact also as I said at the top that it's reported that so many more women and girls were assaulted during kind of this time period. And it leads you to this point of understanding possibly that if this investigation had been handled properly, that it at least some women and girls could have been protected. How does that impact you?

DENHOLLANDER: That is an incredible weight to carry and that is the reality. In fact, we know that over 100 women and girls were abused from the time the FBI learned of exactly what Larry was doing and who he was but yet did nothing.

And, in fact, it's Detective Andrea Munford and Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis had listened to me and fought for the truth and moved so quickly, the likelihood is that Larry would still be out there. We have multiple failures in multiple law enforcement agencies, and out of all the reports that were made, only one detective, Andrea Munford, did the right thing.

And now the question is what kind of accountability comes for those bad actors and how do we change this system because this is what survivors face.

BOLDUAN: And I do want to read the FBI's statement about this as this report came out. The FBI statement includes this, actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization. Adding that it has taken action to ensure and has confirmed that those responsible for misconduct and breach of trust no longer work FBI matters. Is that even close to enough for you?

DENHOLLANDER: Absolutely not, because all of the movement of those officials are either voluntary retirement or voluntarily moving on to a new career.


There are no actually consequences for the agents that allowed over 100 little girls and women to be sexually assaulted. Those little girls and women now they carry the cost with them for the rest of their lives, it put myself and my family and the other survivors in a position where we had to speak publicly to relinquish every stripe (ph) of privacy and dignity just get law enforcement to take us seriously. And there are no consequences for those actors.

This is not an anomaly. This is what survivors face at every level. And very few survivors have the kind of press coverage and the group of sisters to walk with to be able to shine a light on to what is actually going on. What we're seeing in this FBI report is one case. Ask what we're not seeing. Ask why out of every 230 rapes reported to the police, only six results in criminal charges.

This is not an anomaly. This is very common and we have to start asking the hard questions of what we have to do to be able to make changes, to provide a level of accountability and transparency for bad actors in law enforcement because this is not an anomaly.

BOLDUAN: And I saw you write, when people say, why didn't you come forward sooner, in general, to survivors, you point to this and you say, this is exactly why. Rachael, thank you. Thank you very much for coming on. Thank you for your strength.

So, President Biden is about to speak at White House. We are going to take you there. We're going to go live to the White House very shortly as his remarks are about to begin. Please stay with us.



BOLDUAN: Developing right now, the Pentagon has just revealed that some of the former Colombian soldiers accused of assassinating Haiti's president actually received some training by the U.S. military in the past. CNN has also learned the head of security at Haiti's presidential residence is now in custody.

CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for us once again. Matt, there are new developments, startling ones, in this every day. Tell us more.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, that's absolutely correct. Seemingly by the hour, we're getting new information.

We know that the prosecution -- or the prosecutors that are leading this investigation into the assassination of the president wanted to question the heads of three different agencies here in Haiti tasked with protecting the president and/or the places where he spends his time, including one man, Dimitri Herard, he is in charge of protecting the presidential residence where this assassination happened.

And we know that he was detained, put into police custody last night after not showing up to that questions, the questioning session requested by the prosecution. We know that because we spoke to a very close associate, a friend, a business partner, of Herard, who talked to us yesterday. He said that he believes Herard is innocent, that he has nothing to do with this.

He believes that it goes much higher up in the Haitian government in terms of who is truly culpable in all of this. And he says that his friend, his associate, is basically being framed or set up in a very political way. We're going to have to see exactly how that plays out.

Plus, Kate, new information today with two more individuals being arrested by Haitian police accused of actually helping supply these alleged mercenaries carrying out this assassination. We know that these two individuals were found with rifles, pistols, bullet proof vests, lots of things that prosecutors say give them the evidence to eventually charge these men.

BOLDUAN: Matt, thank you so much for your continued reporting on this.

Still ahead for us, we are just moments away now from President Biden speaking at the White House about taking on child poverty in America. We're going to bring you his remarks live as soon as they begin. Stay with us.



BOLDUAN: All right. We're showing -- this is a live look at the White House right now, where any moment now, President Biden will be speaking and he will be touting the direct payments that millions of American families are feeling today or seeing today that are going out today as part of the expanded child tax credit that Congress passed. It's part of Biden's pandemic relief package.

I want to get right to CNN's John Harwood who is at the White House for us as we're awaiting this event to begin. John, what are we expecting to hear from President Biden about this?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, what we're expecting is to hear President Biden talk about what he considers a core mission of his presidency, to deliver tangible improvements in the lives of average Americans. And in the American rescue plan, they, for a brief period of time, temporarily expanded the child tax credit so that people with children under six years old could get checks of up to $300 per month to help support their families, people with kids under 18 and above age six would get up to $250 per child. Those are dramatic refundable, so that even if you don't have a tax liability, you're going to get that check.

Those are dramatic improvements or benefits in the lives of average Americans and Joe Biden wants to lay that in contrast with what happened in the previous administration. We're all now talking today about revelations in these books of crazy behavior. Joe Biden is going to try to say today, we're on the job, we're delivering for the American people, and this is part of his argument for the infrastructure and help for struggling families packages to follow because he wants to extend that child tax credit that is going out to millions of families beginning this month.

90 percent of households with children are going to be eligible for these expanded tax credits and Joe Biden considers that a signature achievement.


BOLDUAN: The president will be speaking any moment now. Let's see if he takes question, when he takes, also meeting with the German chancellor today. So there will be opportunities for questions.