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Writers, Studios "Encouraged" As They Meet Again Today; Rupert Muchoch Steps Down As Chair Of FOX & News Corp; Senate Successfully Confirms Army Chief Of Staff Nomination; "Champions for Change," Sophia Chang. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 21, 2023 - 13:30   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ: CNN HOST: We're following two major stories that could reshape how you are informed and entertained.

First, Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as the chairman of FOC and News Corp. Murdoch made a household name of controversial conservative TV hosts, like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Bill O'Reilly, to name just a few. He will soon be replaced by his son, Lachlan.

Also today, there may be a new glimmer of hope in Tinsel Town. For the second straight day, striking Hollywood writers are meeting with the heads of four major studios.

That's where we begin with CNN's Natasha Chen who's outside of Netflix headquarters in Los Angeles.

Natasha, what's the latest?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, the CEO of this company is currently inside meetings with other studios and writers trying to negotiate a deal here.

At least he was with other CEOs yesterday during talks. And it's expected that they're back at the table today. He, along with the CEO of Warner Bros Discovery, of Disney.

And to keep in mind the writers who are along this picket line here have been on strike for four and a half months-plus. And they are really trying to negotiate a new deal that protects them as far as artificial intelligence goes, as far as streaming residuals go.

And the effects really of the strike has fallen far beyond writers and actors. There are so many businesses that serve these productions that have been at a standstill as well for months.

We talked to the owner of a prop shop who had to lay off half her staff.

Here she is.


PAM ELYEA, VICE PRESIDENT & CO-OWNER, HISTORY FOR HIRE: I'm the one who, you know, worries at night about what's going to happen. Because, you know, you don't lay somebody off without thinking, I'm not just taking their job, they're going to lose their home, they're going to lose their apartment.

Because nobody makes enough to live in Los Angeles. This is an extremely expensive city to live in. So you're really impacting someone's life.



CHEN: And the impact is nationwide. The Milken Institute tells me that the economic damage has reached beyond $5 billion, now pushing $6 billion. This, of course, is affecting major production hubs like here in California, Georgia, New York.

So we will track and see how those talks go today. There is a very important window of opportunity here -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: Natasha Chen, please keep us up to date with the latest on negotiations.

We want to turn now to CNN's Oliver Darcy, who's been tracking the news out of FOX News and News Corps.

Oliver, this move by Rupert Murdoch coming at an interesting time, not only for FOX but across the media landscape.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDICA REPORTER: Yes. This is a huge moment in the media landscape. Right now, there are trends that are making it difficult for companies, linear television companies like FOX News to survive.

And so Murdoch stepping down, he'll give the reins of the company to his son, Lachlan.

But the big thing is that Rupert Murdoch is also a very big political figure. And so he's stepping down at a crucial time in politics with Donald Trump set to be on trial next year, with the 2024 election gearing up.

And he runs FOX News, which is, of course, a major player in right- wing politics, and will have a big role in the 2024 election.

And so the important thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn't expect a major change in editorial policy from FOX News because Rupert Murdoch himself is saying that Lachlan Murdoch is really aligned with his vision, his right-wing world view.

In this note that he sent to FOX News staffers and FOX staffers at large, he talks about how there is a fight -- he says "a fight for the freedom of speech, and ultimately the freedom of thought." And he goes on, and he says that "members of the media" -- I guess he

doesn't include himself. But he says, "members of the media are in cahoots with the elites pedaling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth."

Of course, Boris, this comes just months after he paid a historic $787 million settlement to Dominion Voting Systems for doing just that, pedaling narrative versus the truth.

SANCHEZ: Oliver Darcy, important context to keep in mind there.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: A breakthrough in the months-long blockade on hundreds of military promotions, but only for some. Senator Tommy Tuberville keeps digging in his heels over the Pentagon's abortion travel policy. Where things stand now.



KEILAR: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moving forward with a handful of military nominations up for individual votes.

The chamber just confirmed yet another nominee, General Randy George, to be the next chief of staff in the Army. Also confirming General C.Q. Brown as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs last night. And also confirming the nominee for Marine commandant.

This is coming just a day after the Democratic leader narrowly avoided a rare and unprecedented move from Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville who threatened to hold his own vote on the Marine Corps commandant.

The Alabama lawmaker blocking more than 300 promotions of flag and general officers and vowing to continue his blockade if the Pentagon does not get rid of its abortion travel policy.

We have CNN national security reporter, Natasha Bertrand, here with more on this.

Tell us where this stands.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, nothing really has changed, except for these three nominees who have now been moved forward because of a threat by Tuberville to kind of try to force a vote on his own here.

And, so, we do have the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the next chair confirmed. We have the Army chief of staff confirmed. Now we are just waiting on the Marine commandant.

There are three senior positions. And the Pentagon is pretty pleased with that. But there are still over 300 of these nominees that are being held up. Tommy Tuberville says he is not going to lift his hold until the

Pentagon revises or lifts its reproductive health policy, which allows women to travel and be reimbursed for it by the department if they need to get that out-of-state care.

Now, the Pentagon is obviously happy that there won't be any kind of gap between the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because Mark Milley is going to be retiring next week.

But, at the same time, Secretary Austin said in a statement last night, quote, "Senator Tuberville's continued hold on hundreds of our nation's military leaders endangers our national security military and readiness. It's well pat time to confirm the over 300 other military nominees."

And this is really important because, while three of the most senior leaders, yes, they have been confirmed, the gridlock that remains because of the other hundreds, it is really kind of grinding everything to a halt here.

People can't go to their new jobs. Of course, they can't move to a different state. They can't get new houses, put their kids in school. It's really having an effect on the families.

And of course, on military readiness because you have lower-level people in jobs that would normally have more senior officers in place for them.

So, look, Schumer says that he has been forced to do this, get these three people to the floor because they say they have to confront Tuberville's obstruction head on.

But when it comes to confirming all of the other ones, it would take over 700 hours, according to the Congressional Research Service, to do them all one by one. Congress says they're simply not going to do that.

KEILAR: This is incredibly disruptive.

And I misspoke. So we're still waiting on the Marine Corps commandant to be voted on? Is that right?

BERTRAND: It should be happening as we speak or just happened or is about to happen.


BERTRAND: Don't expect much opposition to him.

KEILAR: All right, we'll keep our eye on that.

Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much for that report.


[13:45:00] SANCHEZ: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hitting another roadblock in his attempts to stop a government shutdown. He's now frustrated, especially at hard-liners in his party, who he says are just trying to burn the place down. We're live on Capitol Hill in just a few moments.



SANCHEZ: This week, we're bringing a new series, or rather a series we've done for years, but really it's a new set of these stories --

KEILAR: That's right.

SANCHEZ: -- called "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE." We're spotlighting everyday people making huge differences in the world through innovation and compassion.

KEILAR: Today, it's Sara Sidner who is bringing us a personal look at a bold mentor and one-of-a-kind personality who empowers women to unlock their potential.

There's just no one else like Sophia Chang.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR & CNN SENIOR NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is my 27th year in television news. I have reported from at least 15 countries.

I moved to New York in March of 2022. After 14 and a half years in the field, the pivot from the field to the anchor chair was uncomfortable.

People think that I'm fearless because I go into war zones or because I go into conflict.

This is an important day, especially for the rebels.

But I am afraid of failure because I grew up with very little. That battle to survive taught me to work really hard.

What Sophia does is she teaches you to break through that fear to get to where you need to be.

SOPHIA CHANG, FORMER MUSIC EXECUTIVE: People always say, how do I start? I knew the second I met you. I'm going to invite you to one of my dinner parties.

SIDNER: You did. Yes. You knew me for five seconds and you're like I'm going to show you New York. I'm going to show you my New York. Are you going to come over to my house?


SIDNER: You gather humans like flowers. Why do you do that? CHANG: I'm a French Lit major and there was a play I studied. And the most famous line means one must cultivate one's garden. I love pulling people together.

CHANG: Hi, Beautiful.

SIDNER: There are lawyers and there are actors and there are professors.

CHANG: Cheers, everybody.

SIDNER: You are there as a vessel to learn and to give back. So, it's a beautiful quilt of human beings.

(voice-over): Sophia stitched a storied career, most famously managing an A-list of Hip Hop royalty.

CHANG: That will never stop saying my name is Sophia Chang and I was raised by Wu-Tang.

I was a yellow girl in a white world who wanted to be white. And then I meet Wu-Tang, and they are so reverential of Asian culture. They brought me around to a love of my culture, and therefore a love of self.

SIDNER: A self-love that later motivated Sophia to create a space exclusively for women of color. She calls it, "Unlock Her Potential." It doesn't promise outcomes, but it does promise possibilities.

CHANG: I wanted to be very specific about this. It is also for 18 and older. Why? If you Googled mentorship programs, the vast majority are for young people.

SIDNER (on camera): Yes.

CHANG: Those folks absolutely need mentorship.


CHANG: But so do we. And as we get older, as women of color, we are erased. And so, I really fighting it for all of the other women of color out there.

MICHELLE, STAND-UP COMEDIAN: I'm so thankful to Sophia.



SIDNER: How old were you when you decided I wanted to be a stand-up comedian?

MICHELLE: Forty-eight. Ten years ago, I had a midlife crisis. And then I saw the ads for "Unlock Her Potential." Russell Peters is the mentor that I chose. And also, he picked me.

My husband, he said he was going to be here but he's not here. That's great news for me.


MICHELLE: I mean, I love to keep my job as a housewife.


MICHELLE: I have a big goal of going to Madison Square Garden.

SIDNER (voice-over): Sophia, as a champion, she's going to make sure that you feel proud of whatever it is you accomplished.


KEILAR: And Sara is with us now.

Sara, this is incredible. Tell us what it was like getting dialed in with her community?

SIDNER: Normally, it can be overwhelming in a room and someone's the head of this or the, you know, of a world-renowned author, a director.

But when you walk in that room, it's like we're all 15 again. Maybe a smarter 15. And everyone wants to know what everyone else is doing, what they're up to.

Mostly, how are you feeling? How are you doing, girl? You feel embraced when you walk in that door. And she does it with people from all different areas, from all different walks of life. It a beautiful thing.


SANCHEZ: Yes. And, Sara, one of the things you and I talked about many times -- and I should note, she is the pride of Miami Lakes, Florida. A shout-out, as always.

Whenever I see you on the air --


SANCHEZ: -- it's how much personality you bring when you're on the air.

And it struck me that you were talking about feeling intimidated by becoming an anchor, and fitting in to a corporate box that often doesn't handle outsized personalities.

SIDNER: It's still hard. It's still hard. But I think one of those things I really learned about myself and also something that Sophia championed is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. That's how growth happens.

And so that is one of the things that she's like, how are you feeling, girl? If you're uncomfortable, you can push back but you can learn.

Look at this. This is her. A master at Kung Fu. And it is incredible all of the different things she does.

But the thing I love that she does most, bring us together and make us see the world in the best possible light.

SANCHEZ: I've got to say, that watermelon salad --



SANCHEZ: Talking about it. On the screen.

Sara Sidner, always great to see you, my friend. A pleasure.

SIDNER: Good to see you, too.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

Hey, be sure to tune in Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for the "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" one-hour special.

And of course, stay here with CNN NEWS CENTRAL. We've got much more news to get to, right after a quick break.