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At This Hour

More Than 200 Million Americans Are Fully Vaccinated; Jury Deliberates in Jussie Smollett Hate Crime Hoax Trial; Senators Grill Head of Instagram Over Harm to Young People. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 09, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: More than 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated against COVID. That's more than 60 percent of the population. The rate of vaccinations has ticked up in recent weeks over concerns about the omicron variant.

Following yesterday's news from Pfizer about booster doses holding up to that variant, Pfizer's CEO also is now talking about a possible fourth dose.


ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: I think we will need a fourth dose. With the previous, I was projecting that that would be on 12 months after the third dose. With omicron, we need to wait and see because we have very little information. We may need it faster.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is Dr. Carlos Del Rio, the executive associate dean of Emory School of Medicine at Grady Health System.

Doctor, what do you think of what Albert Bourla is saying this morning about a possible fourth dose?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: Well, good morning, Kate. I mean, I think with all due respect to Albert, the key word there is may. You know, you may need. I don't think he's saying you will need. I think he's speculating. And at this point in time, we have absolutely no evidence of that a fourth dose being needed. I think we need to see where this pandemic is going.

I mean, a few months ago, we were saying boosters were not necessary. Now, we're saying, based on omicron, boosters are necessary. We'll have to see what's going to happen. When he talked about a fourth dose, he said 12 months from now.

Again, I can't predict what's going to happen in a month, let alone in 12 months.

BOLDUAN: Especially with this pandemic, which unfortunately has been the case all along, right?

So, Dr. Fauci was on with me yesterday, and we talked about the booster dose and the news from Pfizer about holding up against the variant. I asked him if guidance and the definition of fully vaccinated should change in light of this.

Let me play for you what he said.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It's a technical, almost semantic definition, and it is the definition for requirements, If someone says, are you fully vaccinated to be able to attend class at a university or a college or be able to work in a workplace.

Right now, Kate, I don't see that changing tomorrow or next week, but certainly if you want to talk about what optimal protection is, I don't think anybody would argue that optimal protection is going to be with a third shot. Whether or not it officially gets changed in the definition, I think that's going to be considered literally on a daily basis. That's always on the table.

You know, my own personal opinion, Kate, is what you said is correct. It's going to be a matter of when, not if.


BOLDUAN: Doctor, how soon do you think that should happen? I mean, should there be a sense of urgency now with omicron?

DEL RIO: Well, I think there is. I think the question, as Dr. Fauci says, is what is considered good enough and what is considered optimal. And to me, given what we learn about omicron and what we learn about protection, getting a third dose, a booster dose, I would say the optimal immunization is to get, you know, three doses. That should be your series of being fully immunized.

Whether that's considered a requirement to go somewhere, that's going to be the complicated part. In my mind, if I'm advising my patients or if I'm advising my family members, I am telling them in order for you to be considered fully immunized, you need to get a third dose, you need to have received a booster.

BOLDUAN: Look, and we also don't want to forget that there's still millions of people that are not going to have their first dose let alone are heading towards boosters, right? I mean, there's a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey out. And I wanted to ask you about one part of it that really stuck out to me, which is about 3 in 10 parents, about 30 percent, say they will definitely not vaccinate their children against COVID.

Their hang-up, it appears, is at least for the majority of those folks, is a lack of information, they say, and safety concerns. But this is the most researched and scrutinized vaccine ever. I mean, if people still think they're lacking information, do you think that is a failure of government ruling this out or a failure of something else?

DEL RIO: I think it's a fill your of what disinformation has done. There's been a lot of misinformation in social media. There's a lot of concerns that people have because, you know, they're listening to Facebook and they're listening to other postings that are spreading misinformation. And a lot of people are using this opportunity to spread misinformation. And, unfortunately, that catches up with a lot of people.

I would tell you that, as you say, this is a very safe vaccine, I would vaccinate my kids. I was happy to hear a couple minutes ago that the FDA has actually now approved boosters also for 16 and 17-year- olds. In my mind, as you said, the biggest concern that I still have is that, you know, close to 60 million Americans are still unvaccinated and millions globally are still unvaccinated. We will not end this pandemic until we do better.

BOLDUAN: We are not safe until we are all safe. Thank you so much, Dr. del Rio. I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, jury deliberations underway in the Jussie Smollett trial, deciding whether or not the former Empire actor staged his own hate crime attack. That's next.



BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, the family of one of the victims of the Michigan school shooting is suing the school district and several employees, claiming that they did not do enough to protect students. Last Tuesday, as you remember, a student at Oxford High School shot and killed four students, wounded several others, including a teacher.


In the federal lawsuits filed on behalf of a pair of sisters, Riley and Bella Franz, and their parents, is now seeking $100 million each. The school district has not commented on the lawsuits. WE'LL stay on top of that for you.

In Chicago, a jury has started its second day of deliberations in the trial against former Empire Actor Jussie Smollett. He's accused of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself.

Joining me now on this, CNN Legal Analysts Areva Martin and Joey Jackson.

Areva, let me start with you. What do you think is the key question or consideration that this jury is facing?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's credibility, Kate. Because what you have here is a essentially a he said-he said situation. You have Jussie Smollett painting the picture of being attacked by these two brothers in what he described as a racist, homophobic rage that involved the use of a noose, that involved the use of racial slurs.

But on the other hand, you have these two brothers who took the witness stand for the prosecution and told a very different story, told a story of being paid by Jussie Smollett to stage the attack for purposes of Instagram and social media and publicity.

So, the jurors are going to have to really decide who's telling the truth. Jussie Smollett took the witness stand in his own defense, so he gave his version of the events and, you know, remained consistent that this was a hate crime, that this was not staged, that he did not pay these brothers to attack him. But jurors are going to have to decide who's telling the truth. And that can be very difficult sometimes for jurors.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, everyone accusing everyone of lying from the witness stand in this trial. It's pretty interesting.

Joey, I want to turn into a very different trial that we are following very closely as well, the trial of Kimberly Potter. She's the officer charged in the shooting death of Daunte Wright during a police traffic stop back in April. This is the officer that was heard on body camera warning and yelling that she was going to taser Wright when he was trying to get away. She actually then had pulled her gun and shot him, not her taser.

Daunte Wright's mother took the stand, and I want to play a bit of her testimony for everyone.


KATIE BRYANT, MOTHER OF DAUNTE WRIGHT: He was bleeding on the ground, said it was a person in the other car and that he was in the back of a cop car. He was so confused, angry, scared. I was just -- it was the worst day of my life.


BOLDUAN: It's very emotional testimony, Joey. But Potter defends herself saying that it was a mistake, and her attorney saying in court that she has -- the attorney said it was unending regret. What does that mean for this case?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It means the following -- good to be with you, Kate and Areva. But I think there will be three central questions. Number one, we get an understand based upon the videotape how emotional it was not only for the mother, right, but for the actual person, Kim Potter, who's on trial, how regretful she was and how sorrowful she was. The question is, is that enough to get a pass when you're taking someone's life when you're on the force for 25 years and you are the training officer and should know better?

So, the jury is going to have to evaluate, yes, we know you're remorseful, we know that you certainly didn't want to be in this position, we know that you regret this unimaginably, but should we give you a pass based on the fact that we give you the license to carry a firearm and you're there to preserve and protect life?

Two other things. The second issue they'll have to decide, that is the jury, is whether the conduct of Ms. Potter, the officer, was reckless. If it is, then that's first-degree manslaughter and that's 15 years in jail. In the event they conclude, well, she wasn't reckless but she didn't consciously disregard the risk, was she at least careless, that is negligent? And if they conclude that, that's second-degree manslaughter and that's a decade in jail. So, those are really the issues surrounding that horrific trial and the fact that, you know, Daunte Wright is not here and really should be.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Thank you both very much. Two very important trials we are going to be following up very closely.

Still ahead for us, William Shatner captivated us all with his incredibly moving reaction after his mission to space. He joins us live to talk about the next Blue Origin mission and how the experience changed him.



BOLDUAN: Lawmakers grilled the head of Instagram on Capitol Hill. Senators putting tough questions to the social media giant for hours, one lawmaker calling the company the new tobacco.

Here's CNN Donie Sullivan with more.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Self-policing depends on trust. The trust is gone.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The head of Instagram facing a disturbing picture of his platform and the harm it causes especially among kids.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): You view the kids as a way for people to get into your product. Have you not done things to get more teenagers interested in your product? Are you not worried about losing them to other platforms? You better tell the truth. You're under oath.

O'SULLIVAN: It is the latest round of tough questions from lawmakers for Meta, formerly Facebook, which owns Instagram.


BLUMENTHAL: Shouldn't children and parents have the right to report dangerous material and get a response?

ADAM MOSSERI, HEAD OF INSTAGRAM: Senator, yes, I believe we fail to respond to all reports, and if we ever fail to do so, that is a mistake that we should correct. O'SULLIVAN: Instagram embroiled in controversy since Whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents from the company about the harms of the social media platform on young people, particularly teenage girls.

FRANCE HAUGEN, FORMER FACEBOOK PRODUCT MANAGER: Facebook's internal research is aware that there are variety of problems facing children on Instagram.

They know that severe harm is happening to children.

O'SULLIVAN: Mosseri today pushing back.

MOSSERI: I firmly believe that Instagram and that the internet more broadly can be a positive force in young people's lives. I also know that sometimes young people can come to Instagram dealing with difficult things in their lives. I believe that Instagram can help in those critical moments.

O'SULLIVAN: The Instagram boss being asked about research released this week that shows teenagers are easily able to find accounts advertising the sale of drugs, like Xanax and Adderall, its algorithms even promoting these accounts to some users.

MOSSERI: Accounts selling drugs or other regulated goods are not allowed on the platform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently, they are.

MOSSERI: Senator, respectfully, I don't think you can take one or two examples and indicate that that is indicative of what happens on the platform more broadly.

O'SULLIVAN: Mosseri pledging the company will do more to protect young users, but it's too little too late for people like Ian Russell, who lost his daughter, Molly, to suicide in 2017.

IAN RUSSELL, LOST DAUGHTER TO SUICIDE: There was no sign of mental health in Molly before her death, and we couldn't work out what could possibly triggered it.

O'SULLIVAN: Russell says he looked at his daughter's social media and was disturbed by what he saw on platforms, including Instagram.

RUSSELL: Having a glimpse of what Molly was exposed to, I think I now understand why she was pushed to do what she did.

O'SULLIVAN: Adding to the pressures on the social media giant recently a bipartisan group of state attorneys general, launched an investigation into the potential harms of Instagram for children and teens. Meta claiming the allegations are false.

Donie O'Sullivan, CNN, New York.



BOLDUAN: Space tourism has really taken off this year. On Saturday, Blue Origin will launch its third mission to suborbital space with six travelers, including ABC News Journalist Michael Strahan. The last time the New Shepard rocket flew in a mission to space, it took four crew members, including the one and only William Shatner, the actor who the world, of course, knows as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek franchise. His incredible experience is documented in a new special, Shatner in Space, premiering on Prime Video next week.

And joining me now is the actor and now astronaut William Shatner.

We can put you in space, but technologies won't let us connect properly to do the interview.

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: No. In addition to all of that, I'm an electronics technician holding my camera at arm's length, trying to keep Kate Bolduan at arm's length.

BOLDUAN: You and every other man in America.


I will say though --

SHATNER: I know, Kate.

BOLDUAN: -- I do not think it is too bold to say that the world was captivated when you emerged from that capsule and spoke about your experience.

SHATNER: It's pretty bold.

BOLDUAN: It happened during our show, and I was -- it was riveting. I re-watched it after the show because it was amazing to see, truly, and you said then something that stuck with me, I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain that what I feel now and I don't want to lose it. What did you want to hold on to? Were you able to keep it?

SHATNER: Yes, yes. And I've been able to segment what it was I was feeling. When I came out of that spaceship, I must have been relieved to step on to firm ground. That would be part of it. The other was I felt an overwhelming sadness up there when I saw the Earth and how tiny the Earth is. I mean, we say tiny, but when you can see the curvature from where you're standing and realize one end connects to the other for a very short while, you realize it isn't just tiny, it's insignificant, and we are so insignificant.

And the fact that we're -- my sadness came about by the knowledge of how much harm we're doing our Earth. And when I am able to think about it more, Kate, here's the conclusion I've arrived at. It's terrible what we're doing to the Earth and we need to fix it immediately. That's the general lesson. But it's also how insignificant the Earth is, the planet is, compared to space, and how incomparably insignificant we are on the planet. So, there's this insignificant planet with these insignificant beings on it, with one pause, and that is one consul, which is we're here observing how insignificant we are.

And that's what our purpose is. To see the majesty of the universe, how precious this Earth is that life has formed over 5 billion years, the beauty that is here and the ultimate message is we've got to stop polluting.

BOLDUAN: And here you do it again. I have to say, your reaction and your description of your experience, and even just hearing it, I don't think it's too corny to say I'm moved a hearing you describe, and kind of re-feel it again.

SHATNER: And that's what I mean when you say, I hope you haven't lost it. That's exactly right. I haven't lost it. It's just I've made it more particular.

BOLDUAN: Right after as we were watching this happen, your experience live, Miles O'Brien said it really perfectly, as you had described your experience. He said, this is exactly why they should put people other than engineers, other than scientists up into space because you've described an experience in a way that other astronauts have not.

I was wondering if you thought about who else, as we look upon another mission going up, who else or what type of person you would like to have experience what you have.

SHATNER: When I was asked to go up and I decided I would, I thought -- I didn't want to say the little blue planet, which is a cliche, I wanted to say something poetical. Why don't I contact a great poet and say, would you write me a sentence that I could say up there? I was looking for help to memorialize, far beyond my capabilities so that it would be memorable in other people's minds. I never did contact anybody. I was spontaneously myself.

Engineers, astronauts are by training, most of them were at least, test pilots, and their training is suppress any emotion, cold hard facts, what are you doing, why is the airplane tilting this way, what can I do to (INAUDIBLE) it? What can I do to make this thing land and your total attention is on the technical stuff? Only rarely did they look out the window and say oh, my God, it's a little blue planet. But it's far more than that. The context of the earth and the universe is something that needs profundity.


It needs leaders --

BOLDUAN: More William Shatners, if I can say that, if I could be, again, so bold to say.

SHATNER: I appreciate you saying that, but it is --