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At This Hour

"Rust" Crew Members Used Guns with Live Ammo; FDA Advises on COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids; Facebook under Fire. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2021 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Here is what we're watching at this hour.

Preventable tragedy: more alarming revelations on the deadly shooting on the set of an Alec Baldwin film. New details on what the crew was doing hours before a cinematographer was killed.

Blame game: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg trying to blame the media for the issues facing his company as Congress weighs how to regulate them.

And Dave Chappelle now says he's willing to meet with the trans community but he has a list of demands.


BOLDUAN: Thanks for being here. I do want to begin with disturbing details about the tragedy on the movie set of Alec Baldwin's new film.

"The Wrap" is reporting that crew members on the film, "Rust," were doing target practice with live ammunition just hours before Baldwin was handled one of those guns that accidentally killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded the film's director.

Also CNN has learned the film's assistant director, who, according to an affidavit, is the person who handled Baldwin the gun, he was fired from another film production just two years ago over a gun incident. CNN's Lucy Kafanov is live with what is happening.

What are you hearing today?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know, as you mentioned according to the affidavit that Dave Halls, the assistant director, physically picked up a gun. It was on a tray.

He walked it over to Alec Baldwin, shouting "cold gun," which should have indicated it was safe. We know that not to be the case. Sources who have worked with Halls on previous productions have expressed concerns to CNN about his ability to take gun safety seriously. Several sources say he neglected to hold safety meetings. When he did

hold them, they were short. They didn't feel he took prop gun safety seriously on other productions.

Separately, Neal Zoromski, a prop master who was interviewed by the "L.A. Times," he told the newspaper that Dave Halls was, quote, "an accident" -- or sorry -- that the production, the "Rust" movie production was, quote, "an accident waiting to happen" because of safety concerns.

He said the newspaper -- he told the newspaper he talked to movie managers for days but felt like they valued cost over value and experience.

Now separately, new details we have on what investigators found onsite at that movie location, my colleague, Josh Campbell, actually obtained an inventory of the items that authorities seized from that movie set.

And they include interesting things, a fanny pack with ammo, boxes of ammo, three black revolvers, spent casings. A big, remaining, unanswered question is whether that ammunition was real ammo, real bullets dummy bullets or empty cartridges. We just don't know what the projectiles were that was used on set.

This is all part of the ongoing investigation. And Kate, we are expecting an update from the sheriff's office on Wednesday.

BOLDUAN: That's an interesting piece of this, Lucy, is that we haven't heard from the sheriff's office publicly and we reported on this on Friday. So tomorrow will be the first time we really will hear from them.


KAFANOV: That's right. We simply don't know what they found in their investigation. We know that no charges have been filed as of yet. There was obviously a lot of material to go through on that movie set. They were combing through evidence over the weekend, interviewing witnesses, eyewitnesses.

But no clear sign from the officials of what they're focusing on in this investigation. We hope to learn more tomorrow, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thank you very much for your continued reporting on this.

Joining me now, Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor.

Paul, as we're looking ahead -- and we will learn more. We learn more every day. But we will learn more when it comes to what the sheriff's department sees, holding this press conference for the first time tomorrow, we understand.

But looking at the investigation that is very clearly underway, you say that while Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger, he may be fairly viewed as a surviving victim of this horrific incident. Talk to me about why.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the real question is who put live ammunition in Alec Baldwin's gun.

As an actor on set, he has the right to expect that the person handing him the gun -- and the gun should have been kept in a secure place by the armorer, who is an individual, 24-year-old woman named Hannah Gutierrez -- that's supposed to be kept in a secure place and it's supposed to then be passed on to the actor to use on set.

In this case, of course, a gun with live ammunition was passed to Baldwin.


CALLAN: So I think Baldwin ultimately will -- his defense will be that he has the right to rely on the chain of custody of the gun, going back to the armorer, and that it was looked at by somebody who should have known better.

But obviously, Kate, if what we're hearing about this set is true, this was a disaster waiting to happen. And that story about live ammunition being fired by crew members in the vicinity of the set is just a disgrace. Live ammunition should be no place even close to a movie set.

BOLDUAN: I was going to ask you, just kind of, you know, a movie set is not supposed to be real life. But the fact of this reporting is that they were even using that same gun, is the reporting out there, to do basically target practice. I think they were calling it plinking, the target practice with cans of some kind, just hours before that morning.

Obviously, that just raises a whole host of questions of why.

CALLAN: Well, it does and it's an egregious violation of safety protocols at a movie set. That gun should have been kept in a secure location. It should have been checked carefully by the armorer before it was passed to Baldwin.

And Baldwin may be criticized, too, eventually, for his handling of the gun as well; I don't know. We'll hear more facts about that. We don't have all the details at this point in time. But clearly, he was betrayed by the safety protocols that were in place on that movie set.

BOLDUAN: Paul, stick with me for one second because we also have, joining us on the phone, we had hoped in person but due to technical difficulties, Richard Howell is joining us.

He's a film armorer with 30 years of experience, the owner of Fox Trot Productions.

Richard, thank you for jumping on the phone with me.

As someone who knows this job of an armorer so well, this report that Paul and I were talking about, about some of the crew that morning were kind of target shooting with live ammo, even with that very gun, what is your reaction to that?

RICHARD HOWELL, FILM ARMORER: First of all, thanks for inviting me onto your program. We did have the link. It's gone; I don't know why it's gone.

To answer your question, you know, there's -- it's just an absolute no-no having any live, practical firearms anywhere near a film set, a film location. It's just not done in the industry anywhere in the world.

You have the live practical firearms, yes, but you don't have the live ammunition, live rounds there at all.

I'll just go back a step, all of this should have been prepared by the armorer beforehand in their -- where they're based, you know, their store, armory store. You test-fire a batch of blank rounds to make sure they work -- you have got the flash, the sound, the firearms work.

You also go out with backup firearm in case you have a malfunction; a fire pin might go. So everything is in the preparation. So if the preparation had been done before they even got to the location, then the armorer would have done all that and they they'd have suddenly realized they're firing live rounds in their armory store.

And then it would be stopped then and that would have prevented it.

But anyway, that probably was not done at all. So they arrive on set and there should be absolutely no live ammunition anywhere near a film set ever, ever, or a television location.


HOWELL: There's only one exception and that's documentaries. You can have, you know -- you have live fire on a range; it's properly controlled. But a film and television productions on location, you never take light -- I mean, that's just -- so that's the first thing.

And the second thing is, when you come to rehearsing the scene that the director wants, then the armorer should be familiar with the script, this is what the director wants, what the actors want.

And then you go through those rehearsals with a dry, a clear firearm. You can show anybody who's interested, particularly the actors, that the firearms are clear.

Then you go through your rehearsals.

And the second big point, after no live ammunition on set, is that there's never, ever need to point a firearm at anybody on location. It's always cheated with the camera angles. And that's what you're working on.

So when the actor squeezed the trigger, then there's absolutely nobody in front. Obviously, this is not the case here, where, unfortunately, Halyna Hutchins was in front. BOLDUAN: Richard, also one prop master told the "L.A. Times" actually

yesterday that he turned down the chance to work on this film. Neal Zoromski is his name. And he said that, in talks with the producers, he requested at minimum two technicians to assist him if he took the job.


BOLDUAN: And the producer said that they wanted just one person to serve as both assistant prop master and armorer. And he says that there were massive red flags raised in his conversations. And he turned down the job on that.

Does that raise red flags for you?

HOWELL: Usually you will have a minimum of two armorers in the U.K.

Why do we have two?

One stays with the vehicle to look after all the live weapons and the equipment. And then the other can be on set, working directly with the actor and first A.D.

So on something like this, it's an 1880s Western, then you'd definitely -- I think you'd definitely have two people there.

I mean, can you do it with one person?

Yes, you can. But it's still quite a workload for one person. And with working with two, you can have the double-check. But I say, all this could have been prevented before they even got to the film set.

BOLDUAN: And all of definitely should have been prevented before it got to the film set, that is very clear. Richard, thank you very much for coming on. Looking forward to having you come on again.

Paul, thank you as always.

CALLAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Now to the wild and dangerous weather hitting the United States today. A rare October nor'easter is drenching the East Coast this morning, millions under flashflood advisories.

Just last month, the remnants of Hurricane Ida came up after it demolished Louisiana, coming up and killed more than 50 people across the Northeast, some drowning in floodwaters.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, FDA advisers are meeting right now to consider Pfizer's vaccine for younger children. Millions of children could soon be eligible; convincing their parents to get them vaccinated could be a bigger challenge.




BOLDUAN: Today is a critical step in the next chapter of fighting the pandemic. Right now, FDA advisers are meeting, considering a recommendation to authorize Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for children between the ages of 5 to 11.

The drugmaker says its vaccine is 90 percent effective against symptomatic COVID in that age group and these advisers are expected to vote today.

Joining me now is Dr. Richard Besser, the former acting director of the CDC, now the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Doctor, they are meeting as we speak.

Can you talk us through these next steps of the process?

What is this debate about?

What are you listening for?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Yes, Kate, I've been watching the hearings. And the presentations have been very valuable, very informative.

What's taking place now, this is an independent advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration. Their job is to give their best advice to the FDA as to whether this vaccine should be authorized for children 5 to 11.

And so they're looking at how frequently disease occurs in that age group, how severe that disease is, how effective these vaccines are and whether or not they feel the benefit of the vaccine will exceed any potential risk from that vaccine.

So assuming this committee makes a recommendation to FDA that, yes, this should be allowed for kids, the FDA will decide whether to accept that recommendation. And they usually do.

After that, there's another step that takes place. It goes to the CDC and the CDC advisory committee will look at the same information and decide, here we have a vaccine we're allowed to give.

Who do we recommend gets this vaccine?


BESSER: They'll make their recommendation to the CDC and the director will accept it or not. All of that could take place over the next 10 days to two weeks, which means that, if this is recommended, within two weeks, parents will have a decision to make whether or not to get their children vaccinated.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Besser, the White House is already talking about their rollout plans to get these shots to kids across the country, once given the go-ahead by the FDA.

What do you think the public messaging campaign should be to get more parents to get kids vaccinated?

BESSER: I think the White House has done a much better job with this than they did with boosters because they're making it very clear they're waiting to see what FDA and CDC say.

What I really like about this plan is that it makes use of pediatricians, family doctors, nurse practitioners, trusted health care providers. I'm a general pediatrician and, every time I'm in clinic, I'm talking to parents about vaccines.

On Friday when I was in clinic, I talked to a mom of a couple teenagers. And she's still waiting. She wants to see more information. She wants to see more data before deciding to give vaccines to her kids.

But she feels comfortable asking those questions. By rolling this out in doctors' offices, rather than in mass vaccine sites, parents are going to have the opportunity to ask their questions.

There are a lot of parents who want to right away get their kids vaccinated; some parents who say absolutely no way and then there's a large group who say, I want to see how it goes before I make my decision.

BOLDUAN: What you're saying in your clinic is exactly what is bearing out all over the country. The youngest people who are eligible now, the 12- to 15-year-old group, by far the group with the lowest vaccination rate.

Of course, they've been approved only most recently.

But as a pediatrician, how does that conversation go with that parent, who comes in and is not ready, wants more information, not sure they want to get their kids the shot?

BESSER: Yes. You know, I think it has to start from a position of respect and of listening. You know, the nice thing is, when you have a relationship with a parent, with a family, with a kid, you can do that.

You can enter that conversation and listen to see what are their concerns and address it and address it with information and evidence that is fact based.

There's so much noise out there. There's so much noise, so much information that's untrue. Having it take place in the setting where saying, look, this is your choice, here's why I recommend the vaccine, here's what the risks are from this disease, you know, the information presented today, there have been more than 1.9 million cases of COVID in children aged 5 to 11.

There have been over 8,000 hospitalizations. A lot of children in that age group developing this inflammatory medical condition, which can be very severe. More than 150 children have died.

So this is a real disease. So pushing back against the idea that children don't get it -- but it is true that children are at much lower risk than adults, than the elderly, of having severe disease. So you have that honest conversation. You listen to what a parent's concerns are and you give them space to make a decision. And that's really important.

BOLDUAN: Those are lucky parents that get to show up at your clinic. Thank you, Dr. Besser, really appreciate your time.

BESSER: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg slamming the media for his company's woes as lawmakers weigh how to regulate the social media giant.

Is this actually one area where Ds and Rs can come together?

I'm almost afraid to say it out loud. That's next.





BOLDUAN: Developing this morning, with tens of thousands of damning internal documents now out in the open, Facebook is fighting back. CEO Mark Zuckerberg now blaming the media, blaming journalists for reporting on his company's own records just as flood of new reporting is coming out about how the company delayed efforts to fight misinformation, knew his algorithms promoted extreme content and anger.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is back with us for more.

This -- Mark Zuckerberg and what he said on this earnings call is quite something.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Kate. I mean, this tone he's taking on is almost quite Trumpian in the sense that, you know, attacking the media rather than engaging on the substance.

We've heard this over the past week from one of Facebook's spokespeople, also another executive over the weekend, suggesting that the media were doing these stories because they were jealous of Facebook in some way. I guess it's all something that Facebook's Zuckerberg wants us talking

about this sort of idea than rather the actual issues. Have a listen to what he said on the conference call yesterday.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, COFOUNDER AND CEO, FACEBOOK: Good faith criticism helps us get better. But my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company.

The reality is that we have an open culture, where we encourage discussion and research about our work, so we can make progress on many complex issues that are not specific.