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At This Hour

Afghans Who Helped America Now Fear for Their Lives; School Districts Defy Governors, Require Masks in Classrooms; Brett Favre Urges No Tackle Football for Kids Under 14. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 17, 2021 - 11:30   ET





CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I just wanted to ask you, because, obviously, I'm the one who is here on the ground talking to Afghans every day, who works with the U.S. military, who works with the U.S. embassy, who worked with American NGOs or journalistic organizations. I'm the one that has to look them in the eye. Can I offer them your assurance everyone who has worked with American organizations will be got out of this country safely?

ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Clarissa, first of all, thanks for your incredibly brave reporting and the images and the stories that you're telling. We're all grateful and we all know how hard and how dangerous that work is.

I would ask you to tell them that there is a process that they can apply for through the State Department to get on to the list and get on to the manifest and I would ask them to work with State Department authorities there in Kabul to do that.

And if they are through that process, I can assure them and you can assure them on our behalf that we in the Pentagon will do everything we can to help get them out of the country over the next couple of weeks. That is why we're flowing in extra aircraft for, that's why we're flowing in extra troops to maintain security at that airport so that we can do that.

And I would also say over the last -- since 2005, we've moved 70,000 of these individuals. We know we have an obligation to them.

WARD: To most Afghan people that I'm talking to, John, that is going to sound like hollow promises. Can I have your word? These people are depending on you. They are depending on America. Their lives are at threat. They have given everything to work with America to rebuild this country and now they are asking simply for an assurance that they will not be cast aside, they will not be abandoned, that America will step up and take responsibility for the lives that are in its care at the moment?

KIRBY: Clarissa, there is nothing hollow about the obligation that we know we have to the Afghans who so bravely helped us over the last 20 years. Believe me, nobody in the United States government more than the Pentagon understands that obligation to these individuals.

And as I said before, we will continue to do whatever we can to help them get out of the country in concert with the State Department colleagues. We are committed to that and we're going to stay and do it for as long as we possibly can up until the end of the month. Certainly, that is when the mission ends. We're going to continue to work on that very, very hard. That is why we're continuing to flow in more forces. That's why we're continuing to flow in more aircraft.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now for more on this is Democratic Congresswoman Sara Jacobs. She serves on House Foreign Affairs and the Armed Services Committee. Thanks you for being here, Congresswoman.

The Pentagon just said there will be 4,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan by the end of today. They hope to evacuate 5,000 to 9,000 people per day. You just heard the exchange with Clarissa and the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby. Do you trust the assurances of the Pentagon to get these people out and to safety?

REP. SARA JACOBS (D-CA): I do. I know that the Pentagon and the Biden administration is doing everything they can to get people out. I and many others in Congress continue to urge them to do as much as possible and to not let these paperwork and processes get in the way of getting people out. And we stand ready to do what we need to do from Congress to help facilitate that.

BOLDUAN: And if they're not all out by August 31st, which is the deadline that the president put in place, should the president extend that deadline to deal with the conditions on the ground in order to allow all of these people to get out safely?

JACOBS: I believe that we have an obligation to get our Afghan allies and partners, women leaders, politicians, people who really bought into the American mission in Afghanistan out and I think we have to stay and get as many out as possible, recognizing that this is not about redeploying and getting back into a fight with the Taliban. I believe the president was right to withdraw U.S. troops from the fight in Afghanistan. This should purely be an evacuation mission. But we should stay for as long as that takes.

BOLDUAN: Even if it does go past that August 31st deadline, you would support that?


BOLDUAN: Left in the lurch now is Afghanistan's women and girls. The data on this is really sobering. According to USAID, more than million girls were enrolled in school in the country in 2020. And before the U.S. came in 2001, I mean, virtually, zero girls were enrolled in school. Maternal mortality, that rate has dropped by 50 percent. USAID reports that it's helped 24,000 women get jobs. This is just from USAID. I mean, what do you say to these women and girls now about their future?

JACOBS: Well, one of the things that I have been pushing the Biden administration on is to expand who is eligible to be evacuated so that it is not only the interpreters, it's not only people who worked directly with the United States government, but actually women and girls and women leaders and teachers who taught women and girls in school. Because we know that we made --

BOLDUAN: Right. But, Congresswoman, realistically, you're not going to be able to evacuate every woman and child from Afghanistan.

JACOBS: That is right. I think that we should do everything that we can and then the United States has an obligation to support the U.N. and other humanitarian actors who will remain on the ground to provide humanitarian assistance.

BOLDUAN: But what is everything we can at this point? Because these women and girls, they are scared. We are hearing from them. They are not -- they're not on the streets. Clarissa, our reporters aren't even seeing them out any more because they're terrified. They know what the Taliban can be like. What is everything -- when you say, everything we can, what do you mean?

JACOBS: I know that the Taliban is looking for international legitimacy. They are going to need international assistance and support to be able govern Afghanistan. We've already seen them make some overtures in that regard. And I think that we need to prioritize protecting these gains and the rights of women and girls as we are doing those negotiations before we confer any international legitimacy.

BOLDUAN: One thing that we're hearing is the -- not only is it a challenge in evacuating people that are at the airport now, but it is even getting people to the airport to be evacuated. It was a big part of the conversation and questioning at the Pentagon this morning. This is a real problem in real-time. Should the United States be do much and whatever it can to get people to the airport if they are outside of the secure perimeter in Kabul and beyond in order to be evacuated? Should the United States be doing that?



JACOBS: We should be doing everything we can to get our partners and allies off the ground in Afghanistan and to safety.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you very much. It is a very rare we get a yes, no answer and I sincerely appreciate it when we do. Thank you very much for your time. Coming up, more than 5,000 students in Florida told to stay home from school after hundreds test positive for coronavirus. This really captures the importance of masks in schools. But the debate still rages on. We'll tell but this next.



BOLDUAN: The governor of Tennessee has now signed an order allowing parents to opt out of school mask requirements, but officials in two of the state's biggest school districts are vowing to continue enforcing their universal mask rules. It comes as local leaders in other states are now fighting to let science guide their school health protocols.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has more.




SANTIAGO: -- and Texas --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to get back to some normalcy despite all of this madness that's going on around us.

SANTIAGO: -- as students head back into the classroom, school districts are defying the governor's essentially banning mask mandates. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis --

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Parents are in the best position to know what is best for their kids.

SANTIAGO: -- and Texas Governor Greg Abbott --

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Kids will not be forced by government or by schools to wear a mask in school.

SANTIAGO: -- both Republican governors ignoring the science and data. According to CDC research, in places where mask use was required, fewer people ended up in the hospital. But Abbott and DeSantis are doubling down on their fight against mandatory masks. Schools that do not comply will face financial consequences, according to both of the governors' orders. In Miami-Dade County, the superintendent says his decision will not be made out of fear of losing his salary but advice from his medical task force.

ALBERTO M. CARVALHO, MIAMI-DADE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: I am accepting 100 percent of their recommendations inclusive of mandatory masking with accommodations as determined are in the best medical interest of students.

SANTIAGO: Abbott and DeSantis are both pushing back on legal battles.

JUDGE CLAY JENKINS (D), DALLS COUNTY JUDGE: The governor is looking at polls. He's no longer even talking to his own medical experts. He's looking at polls of what Republican primary voters want to hear and working from there.

SANTIAGO: As both states see rising numbers in the latest COVID-19 case surge, a small school district in West Texas sent students and staff home to self quarantine for two weeks after school had already started to, quote, ensure the safety of our students and staff. Florida's third largest school district, Hillsborough County, already has over 5,000 students and 300 employees in isolation or quarantine because of the rise in COVID cases and school has only been open for one week.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We want to get our kids back in school. We don't want schools to have to close and masking is, I think a lot of us could say, something pretty small that we can do.

SANTIAGO: As public health gets mixed with politics, the president's feud with the Florida governor is escalating.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I know there is a lot of people out there trying to turn a public safety measure, that is children wearing masks in school so they can be safe, into a political dispute.

SANTIAGO: Caught in the middle are children at school.

DESANTIS: Joe Biden suggests that if you don't do lockdown policies, then you should, quote, get out of the way. I'm standing in your way. I'm not going to let you get away with it.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And, Kate, we should mention both governors really pushing for parents' rights, parents' choice in this matter. We checked in with multiple school districts and the overwhelming majority of parents are not opting out of the mask mandate.

We should also mention that in just a few hours, the state's Board of Education is holding an emergency meeting in which they plan to take a look at Broward County and Alachua County and what they believe is noncompliance of the governor's executive order because they are moving forward with mask mandates in their schools without the opt outs.

BOLDUAN: Leyla, thank you so much for that.

Coming up for us, an NFL legend now warning parents against letting young children play tackle football.


Brett Favre joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BOLDUAN: A new public service announcement is warning parents of the dangers of tackle football at a young age, urging them to keep their young kids off the grid iron until they are at least 14 years old. Watch this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom, dad, let's talk about tackle football. I just learned about CTE, a brain disease caused by repeated hits to the head. The more I play, the more I'm at risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could be fighting depression, struggling to keep my thoughts straight. I can become violent even towards my own children. When I'm your age, what will matter to me is not my youth football career but like you, I'm a great parent and I can provide for my family.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is the man who is a star and a star of this PSA, Hall of Fame Quarterback Brett Farve. Also with us is Chris Nowinski, former professional wrestler, the co-Founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which released that PSA. Thank you both for being.

Brett, it's a really powerful clip and I urge people to go watch the full thing. You've publicly the talked about how concussions have impacted your life. Why did you want to be the face of this effort now?

BRETT FARVE, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: Well, a concussion, a major concussion, I think all concussions are major, by the way, but it ended my career. Now, yes, I was in my20th career, but still my last play was a major concussion in which I had memory loss and was out for a period of time on the field. And since then, the movie, Concussion, has come out, a lot of documentation, a lot of talk about CTE, and you've seen stories or heard stories about former players committing suicide, living in their cars. There's just so many stories. Dwight Clark just recently died from ALS.

Now, what does that have to do with concussions? Well, maybe nothing. But what we do know about ALS and a few things we know about it is head trauma will up your chances of acquiring ALS. So there are so many things impact impacting our youth and our adults from head trauma.

And so one thing we can't control is whether we teach them tackle football or not tackle football. I mean, concussions are going to happen. They are going to happen in every facet of life, adult, elderly, youth, race car drivers, all sports. So, ultimately, my goal is to have a treatment for concussions, which, right now, all there is is prevention.

BOLDUAN: Chris, the campaign is urging parents very specifically to not enroll kids until tackle football until they are 14 years old. What is it about the age of 14? Is it something specific?

CHRIS NOWINSKI, FOUNDER, COUNCUSSION LEGACY FOUNDATION: Well, our research has shown that your odds of developing CTE as a football player go up 30 percent per year you play. And so the best way to not get CTE is to shorten the number of years you play. And the logical way to do that is to start later.

We now know NFL players get this, college players get CTE. But now, we have 16 high school football players with CTE. 15 of the 16 started before high school, the point being they had longer careers. And so we're really urging parents to say, look, we want our child to play tackle football yet you don't want them to get CTE, your best move is to wait until high school. You start them earlier each year or every three years, the risk of CTE is going to double.

BOLDUAN: That is interesting. And, Brett, this all gets, as you're getting at, long-term health and a healthy and happy life. Another health issue that facing football and, well, everyone right now is COVID. The Falcons today became the first NFL team to say that they are 100 percent vaccinated. The NFL has a higher vaccination rate than the general population. They've been doing pretty well. But there are still some high-profile holdouts, like Viking's Q.B. Kirk Cousins. Why do you think there is still a struggle among some athletes, especially when people look to them at role models when it comes to the COVID vaccine?

FAVRE: Well, there's a great deal of uncertainty. You hear one thing one day and you hear something totally different the next, and this is from experts, experts on both sides of the argument. And, you know, the vaccine or the vaccines that have been administered within the last, what, six to eight months didn't go through a 20 or 30-year human trial study that FDA requires. So, we're sort of the human trials, if you will. And, you know, I think some people are frightened by that, and the conflicting info that we're all getting.

BOLDUAN: But, there isn't really conflicting info that the vaccine is safe, effective and needed and is a public health matter.


I mean, would you urge your current players to be getting a vaccine? Have you been vaccinated?

FAVRE: I would not rather say one way or the other, but I think it's not my place to say, get the vaccine or don't get the vaccine. I think that's a matter of choice by all individuals. And, you know, that's why we live in America. And so, you know, I think if you're concerned about it, go to a professional who has studied that field, not just a medical doctor, someone who knows a lot of information. Do your due diligence and then make your decision.

BOLDUAN: You yourself, I mean, you don't want to say, which I respect, but you don't trust the vaccines?

NOWINSKI: Well, I think it's actually a great analogy for what Brett is saying about the vaccine for what he's talking about with tackle football for kids. He's saying, I appreciate he partnered with us and our experts at Boston University to have this data and now we're telling parents this is the right choice based on the data. And so I think that's really good advice from Brett and I appreciate that he's a public health leader on this.

BOLDUAN: But -- okay. We have to leave it here, but just to be clear the advice of every health official from the top down, from local doctors to the government, to the best scientists in America and beyond has said that coronavirus vaccines are safe and the only way to make it out of this pandemic. Thank you both for being here. Brett, thank you for being part of that PSA. It's an important issue just as is the coronavirus pandemic and the vaccines. Thank you both.

John King starts right now.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington.

A giant change coming in the COVID playbook, the Biden medical team wants most Americans to get a booster shot eight months from the day you were fully vaccinated.

Plus, the Pentagon trying to speed up evacuations for Americans still in Afghanistan. Many Afghans want to flee too, fearful the Taliban promise of tolerance will evaporate the moment the cameras click off.


And a Biden competency crisis.