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Democrats Alarmed by Jayapal's Handling of Rape Allegations Made by Hamas; Interview with Democratic Women's Caucus Chair Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fl); Newly-Approved RSV Vaccinations are Difficult for Parents to Find; Gabby Petito was "Gone" When Brian Laundrie Notified His Parents, According to Lawsuit. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 05, 2023 - 10:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: This morning, a resolution is in the works. A statement, a declaration from the House of Representatives to condemn Hamas's use of sexual violence and rape against Israeli women on October 7th. Two House Democrats are leading this push, working to craft the resolution, which comes after a couple of things, the silence from many international organizations on these atrocities committed by Hamas during the terror attack, and also these comments from the head of the Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal on CNN which drew criticism from fellow Democrats.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Rape is horrific. Sexual assault is horrific. I think that it happens in war situations. Terrorist organizations like Hamas obviously are using these as tools. However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians.



BOLDUAN: And joining me now is one of the lawmakers drafting the resolution to unequivocally condemn the rape and sexual violence committed by Hamas, Florida Democratic Congressman Lois Frankel. Congressman, thank you for coming on. You told the "New York Times" that you have been internally raging over the silence from international organizations, over this violence. What was it, though, that made you conclude you needed this resolution, this declarative statement to be made by the House?

REP. LOIS FRANKEL (D-FL): Well, first, thank you for having me here today. Listen, I think it's -- I want to make this clear. Rape and sexual assault is not an acceptable weapon of war. And this needs to be said from every level of government. And it has to be sent -- said from every person on Earth because this is a political and cultural and legal issue. I really -- this was really timed with the hearing that was held at the U.N. yesterday, and something that we've been talking about in one of my subcommittees which is the Foreign Ops Appropriations Committee that deals with funding of Israel and other foreign issues.

And, in fact, we've heard over the years, tales -- I shouldn't say tales, accusations and brutality of rape as a weapon of war. And now we hear about Hamas, but we've heard it about Ukraine, we've heard it about Afghanistan, Haiti. It's unacceptable wherever it is.

BOLDUAN: It does seem -- and in talking -- and when we're focusing in on the Israel-Hamas war and what Hamas did, it does seem, Congresswoman, that people -- some people think that by condemning rape -- the rape of Jews by Hamas, that they're somehow siding with the controversial policies of Benjamin Netanyahu, and they have nothing to do with one another. So, why is it, do you think, so hard for some to confront the hateful and hurtful reality?

FRANKEL: Well, Kate, I really don't think there's anybody I know or any member of Congress who does not believe that rape is an unacceptable tool of war. Whether people are unartful in their discussion of this, that's their problem. But I can tell you this, I believe this is going to be a bipartisan resolution. And I believe it will have overwhelming support.

BOLDUAN: As it should. Pramila Jayapal, how she answered the questions by my colleague Dana Bash on Sunday on this, did that play any part in your push to -- in your push to draft this resolution?

FRANKEL: Well, this really has been in the works since, as I said, but really it was -- it's -- been in the works for me for many months when we started hearing the stories from the women in Ukraine. And then of course, again, this now with Hamas and its atrocities. And, you know, I try not to have my actions here be dictated by inartful comments by other members. This is a much more serious issue than one member and it has to be said by all. Rape and sexual assault as a tool of war, as a weapon of war, is not acceptable. It needs to be criminalized in every country, in every territory, and it has to be prosecuted as a crime.

I mean, if one of our soldiers, an American soldier, or even an Israeli soldier, used rape as a tool of war, they would be prosecuted in their own country. And it has to be, as I said, legally, politically, and culturally unacceptable. And I'd like to see everybody at that -- all these rallies around the world, I have no problem with people being sympathetic. And I'm sympathetic to the inhumanity and the need for humanitarian support both in Israel and in Gaza. But everybody should be saying, enough is enough. Sexual assault is not acceptable.

BOLDUAN: But in your core, in your gut, it's not hard for you to say this very eloquently and very clearly.


BOLDUAN: Why is it for others?

FRANKEL: Now, you're asking me to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist. You know what? They have to answer for themselves. And I will answer for myself, but I do think I really, I speak for the overwhelming majority. Republicans, Democrats here, people with good hearts, sexual assault should not be a tool of war, and it's not acceptable. It has to be criminalized and has to be called out.


BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, you left the Progressive Caucus which Pramila Jayapal was the head of last month. The reason, as I've seen it described, is over divisions within the caucus over the Israel-Hamas war. But I haven't heard from you specifically. Why did you leave the caucus?

FRANKEL: Well, you know, first of all, I've been around a long time in politics, and my values and my political record is pretty clear. I chaired the Women's Caucus, it's a very -- it has all the women of the Democrats in it. It's very diverse in terms of the political spectrum of the Democrats. I consider myself I am a mainstream Democrat. I'm a strong Democrat, and I like being a free agent and really not have to be accountable for one caucus or another's position. That's how I feel about it.

BOLDUAN: Democratic Congresswoman Lois Frankel, thank you for coming on.


FRANKEL: Good to be with you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: The race to protect children from a dangerous virus that's causing a wave of frustration now among some parents.



SARA SIDNER, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: Parents are trying to shield their children from RSV, the virus that can be particularly dangerous for children and babies. The respiratory virus leads to more than 2 million outpatient visits among children younger than five each year. The new RSV vaccine for babies and toddlers is gaining traction, but getting one is being problematic for parents. Being a challenge.

CNN's Medical Correspondent Meg Tirrell is here. First of all, tell us a little bit more about the new vaccine and about RSV.

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, RSV stand for respiratory syncytial virus, and it's a virus that's been around for a long time. Most of us get it before we're three years old. And it typically doesn't cause huge problems except for very little kids and sometimes the elderly.

And so, this season, we actually have vaccines or protection from both of those groups. But especially for infants, this antibody shots, well, it's not technically a vaccine. It's actually the antibodies being delivered to protect you against RSV, this has come out. It's called Beyfortus. It's 75 percent effective in preventing severe disease for babies, and it costs about $500 before insurance. And so, there's been a ton of excitement in the public health world that this could make a dent in RSV, which is a really bad infection.

SIDNER: You know, we've talked a lot about this because I hadn't heard RSV for years until COVID. And then we're all talking about it at the same time. The outbreaks were different. Why is it so hard now for parents to get their hands on this?

TIRRELL: Yes. So, this was approved in July for babies. And then initially the issue was cost and the issues of reimbursement. This was a new product. And so, pediatricians offices and hospitals weren't sure they were going to get paid for it. And so, there's a lot of uncertainty there.

Then as the fall started in October, one of the makers said essentially that demand for the vaccine was higher than anticipated, and the CDC then said it should be prioritized for the most vulnerable babies and those under six months old. And so now we're in a situation where they're trying to make more available, but it's essentially a shortage.

SIDNER: It's really frustrating for parents, but there's something they can use and they can't get a hold of it. Lastly, how bad is RSV so far this season? I mean, we are entering that time and everybody is sniffling and sneezing.

TIRRELL: We are, and hospital beds are getting full of little babies with RSV and that's really awful. Our reporter Brenda Goodman profiled a parent who was trying to get this for her baby and couldn't, and then her baby was hospitalized for RSV. So, unfortunately, we're hearing about that happen.

SIDNER: Meg Tirrell, thank you so much for all your reporting.

TIRRELL: Thank you.


BERMAN: All right. New reporting. Well, Gabby Petito's parents say Brian Laundrie confessed to days before Petito was even declared missing.



BERMAN: New this morning, a lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito's parents alleges that Brian Laundrie called his parents to tell them that his girlfriend Gabby was, "Gone." They claim that call was made three weeks before Gabby's remains were found. Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt are suing Laundrie's parents and their attorney, claiming they purposefully withheld information about their daughter's death.

CNN's Jean Casarez here with the latest on this. Jean, what's going on here? JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the third amended complaint in this civil action. And this -- these are brand new allegations with more specific -- specificity that we've ever heard before. And let's look at the timeline right here because this, I think, is most important. First of all, on August 27th, we know it was a homicide. That's what the medical examiner ruled. That's what Brian Laundrie had written in his journal that was found after he committed suicide.

So, it's August 27th that's believed that she died. And then on August 29th, that is when the allegation in this complaint states that Brian Laundrie called his parents from Wyoming or either on his way back, saying Gabby is gone. I need a lawyer.

So, then it's alleged that the parents called the attorney, Steven Bertolino, on that date. And then on September 1st, Brian Laundrie arrives back home to Florida in the van, Gabby's van, but no Gabby. But then on September 2nd, this is very important, it is alleged in this complaint that the attorney for the Laundries called a firm in Laramie, Wyoming, even giving them a retainer. And previous to that, he had contacted the public defender's office, right? And they defend those who are charged with crimes in Wyoming in the specific county where her remains were found.

But her remains, just as you say, John, were not found until two weeks later. And it was not because of anything the Laundries did. It's because of the campers that were in the area. Everyone was trying to find what happened to Gabby.

BERMAN: Very quickly, Jean, this is a civil suit at this point. Do Brian Laundrie's parents have any criminal liability here, or are there any investigations still going on surrounding them at this point?


CASAREZ: Interesting question, because they were communicating -- first of all, they would not respond to the Petitos, and that's the basis of the -- of this whole suit when the Petitos were panicked about this. But they also, through their attorney, sent a letter, we hope that Gabby can be found. We hope you are reunited. So, that is part of the allegation.

But at the same time, John, law enforcement had to be asking the family of Brian Laundrie, do you know anything? What happened? Well, that can be the basis of lying to a law enforcement officer. That can be the basis of something that is extremely serious.

BERMAN: Jean Cazares, thank you so much for this reporting.


CASAREZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up still for us, I don't know if our party can be saved. That is what Liz Cheney is saying this morning. She also appears to be opening the door now to a third-party presidential run.