Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

President Biden Criticizes Donald Trump On Campaign Trail After State Of The Union Address; Senator Katie Britt Faces Controversy Over Response To State Of The Union Address; Concerns Arise Over Princess Of Wales' Health After Edited Photo Surfaces; President Biden Focuses On Healthcare In Post-State Of The Union Tour; Tensions Between Israel And Hamas Despite Attempted Ramadan Ceasefire; Hostage Situation In The Middle East Draws International Attention; Allegations Of Misrepresentation By Alabama Senator Katie Britt In State Of The Union Rebuttal; Cyberattack Disrupts Healthcare Billing Systems, Causing Delays In Patient Services. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 11, 2024 - 14:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Coming out swinging, President Biden hammering Donald Trump on the campaign trail while his Republican rival returns the favor with insults as the race heats up following last week's State of the Union address. Meantime, the rebuttal to that speech leading to controversy of its own Senator Katie Britt wanted to focus on what she describes as President Biden's failures, but now the spotlight is on one of her own mistakes. We have more fallout from Britt's response as she denies misleading the country with a story she told in her speech.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And out of the public eye, but very much on their minds. People in Britain and really the whole world want to know what is going on with the Princess of Wales as an edited photo only fuels concerns about her health. We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN News Central.

SANCHEZ: We're going to be hearing from President Biden soon from the campaign trail, hoping to ride momentum from his State of the Union speech last week. And he's doing it during a pivotal time in the election season. Tomorrow, Georgia and several other states are holding primary contests. The president and his presumed Republican rival Donald Trump could win enough delegates to officially clinch their respective parties nomination for the White House.

That will solidify that the general election is in full swing some 230 days before all ballots close on Election Day. Let's begin the hour with CNN senior White House reporter MJ Lee. MJ, the president is set to speak in just minutes, and you're learning he's going to go on the attack talking about his plans for health care, contrasting it with Republicans.

MJ LEE, CNN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Boris. We do expect that when the president takes the stage at this event in New Hampshire, one of several battleground states that we're going to see him traveling to this week as a part of his post State of the Union tour, health care is going to be the major part of his focus. You know, health care may not necessarily be as politically salient as an issue like border policies or reproductive rights.

Biden aides do see an opportunity here to draw that contrast between the president and Republican lawmakers and, of course, his GOP rival Donald Trump. Now, particularly given that New Hampshire, has a sizable older and elderly population, what we should hear from the president in just a few minutes is really a focus on hammering home some of the work that his administration has done to bring down cost of drugs, including insulin, and also the efforts that are ongoing to protect Obamacare law, of course, which the president, when he was serving as vice president, had worked on with former President Barack Obama.

Now, this is a law, of course, that Donald Trump has long vowed to repeal. If he has the opportunity to do so, but it is a law important to keep in mind that is relatively popular with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to say it is an important issue for them heading into 2024.

So expect President Biden to talk a lot about this issue as they particularly pertain to the residents of this state and continue drawing that contrast with Republicans and their vision for health care as well. Boris.

SANCHEZ: MJ Lee live for us from the White House. Thanks so much, MJ. We want to turn now to CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston. Mark, thanks for being with us. Why do you think President Biden is stopping in New Hampshire? It's a state that Democrats haven't lost in a presidential election in some two decades.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things. One, the political world really has flipped on its head in many states that even two, three, four or five years ago, we wouldn't even be looking at. Look, we're talking about Georgia, for instance. And we saw Donald Trump and Joe Biden there this past weekend. But New Hampshire, as MJ notes, has a very big elderly population. They also have a very big population of former or rather retirees from the military. And this is a place that Joe Biden thinks that he can go up and try to secure those independent, those middle of the road voters. These are the same voters, Boris, that really decided to side with Nikki Haley during the Republican primary other than Donald Trump.


SANCHEZ: And, Mark, is it a realistic path for President Biden to go after those Haley voters?

PRESTON: Yeah, I think so. I mean, in fact, let's just look at these exit polls all in one graphic. We have it here neatly for you. It just explains why Joe Biden is going up there and the type of Republicans he's going after. If you look at that right now, Haley voters believe that the economy is doing pretty well. They also describe themselves as, you know, 7 out of 10 describe themselves as moderate.

And 94 percent of them said that they would be dissatisfied if Donald Trump were to win election. So when you look at a state like New Hampshire, this is the perfect state where you often hear us talk about independent voters, those middle-of-the-road voters, those voters who are going to decide the election, New Hampshire is ground zero for those voters.

SANCHEZ: Mark, I want to let our viewers know President Biden is now up at the podium in Goffstown, New Hampshire. We're going to keep monitoring those remarks. Mark, part of his message has to do with economic populism. He's talking about raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations and that overlap somewhat with health care. He's talking about expanding caps on prescription drug prices. What does that tell you about where he thinks the electorate is in terms of its priorities?

PRESTON: Well, what's interesting is that, you know, the electorate that we hear now tends to be the base electorate, tends to be the loudest voices on each end of the spectrum. I think what Joe Biden is trying to do, what his administration is trying to do, and we're seeing this not only with him out in the campaign trail, but we're seeing his cabinet secretaries are going to be heading out onto the campaign trail, you know, to states that they think that they potentially could win or at least try to cause some damage to Donald Trump in November.

He's talking about the economy, the basic issues that really when it comes down to, when it comes down to November, are people going to say, am I better off than I was, you know, four years ago? And I think, you know, the Biden campaign, certainly his administration believes that they think that most Americans are better off at this point. So even though we have this mood of despair, necessarily, if you do look at people and how well they're doing, how bad they're doing, a lot of people are doing OK.

SANCHEZ: Mark Preston, appreciate the analysis as always. We're going to stay on top of Biden's remarks and bring you the latest as we get them. Thanks, Mark. Brianna.

KEILAR: In the Middle East, a Ramadan ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has not materialized. And now Israel is preparing an advance into Rafah, despite resistance from the Biden administration. President Biden says that offensive would be a red line. Hours later, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed the warning, the latest example of their disagreements spilling into public view. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Jerusalem for us. Jeremy, the White House just weighed in. It looks like they're downplaying these tensions.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they certainly are. The White House putting out a statement saying that the president had a quote decade long, constructive, productive relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying that relationship that they've had allows President Biden to be direct and honest at times where that's needed. But there's no change here, they say, in the strength of the two leaders relationship. So, no surprise that they're downplaying those comments. But make no mistake, the comments that we heard President Biden make in that interview over the weekend are the most cutting, the most biting that we have heard from him in terms of the criticism that he's directed at the Israeli prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu.

We know that for months, President Biden and many of his advisers have been growing increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu as the U.S. has been trying to pressure Israel to curtail its offensive in Gaza, to pay more attention to the suffering of Palestinian civilians and also in its targeting decisions as it's carried out a military campaign that has now killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, both civilians as well as combatants.

But for the president to now be saying that Netanyahu is hurting more than helping Israel, to be saying that the death toll in Gaza is contrary to what Israel stands for, those are pretty remarkable comments. And while Netanyahu didn't fire back with full force, he did make clear where he stands, rejecting the notion that the positions he espouses are not shared by a majority of Israelis, and also reaffirming the importance, in his view, of carrying out this military offensive in Rafah, saying that the Israeli military will go there, will not leave a substantial number of Hamas's force intact by simply ending this war without going into what he has described as Hamas's last bastion. But that being said, I'm told by multiple Israeli officials that a military offensive in Rafah is not imminent.

In fact, it could be several weeks, perhaps, before we see that. Part of that is because the Israeli military has yet to build up the number of forces in Gaza that it would need to carry out this offensive. But another part of this is the fact that it has not yet finalized the plans to evacuate civilians.


About one and a half million Palestinians who are currently living in Rafah, the war cabinet has not yet approved those plans. And I'm told that such an evacuation could potentially take at least two weeks. Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Jeremy Diamond live for us in Israel. We appreciate it. And we're joined now by Yael Engel Lichi. And her nephew, Ofer (ph), was taken hostage on October 7th. He was released in that first hostage deal. Yael, thank you so much for being with us. First off, I want to ask you how your nephew is doing. How is he recovering and how is your family?

YAEL ENGEL LICHI, NEPHEW TAKEN HOTSAGE AND RELEASED: Hi, Brianna. Ofer is back and we feel like we had a really miracle to have him back. We're still getting over this enormous trauma we had. It's very hard.To do it when 134 hostages are still there. So.

KEILAR: Yeah, and I know families like yours whose loved ones have been released, even as you're dealing with the trauma, you have made it your mission to stand with the families whose loved ones have not been released. There has not been another hostage deal in months. How are you feeling about the possibility of one? How are families that you're talking to feeling about that?

LICHI: We have one thing that we say all the time. We want them back home now. We're begging for the government, for the people all over the world to ask for a deal just right now to bring them back home. As you know, on October 7th, thousands of people here were murdered and hundreds were taken. Nineteen women still there. We just had the International Women's Day last Friday and 19 women, Israeli women are still there for over six months. They're tortured and raped every day. And it can't continue. Just can't continue like that.

KEILAR: Israel believes at this point that 99 people are still being held and that there are 31 bodies of hostages still there. What do you think is standing in the way of the deal? What do you think needs to be done?

LICHI: I don't think you want my real opinion about that because I have one. But there are still 134 people there dead or not. We don't know. We don't know the number. The Hamas never told us the number of people that he's holding. It's the number is, Israeli, number and I don't know what's standing there. But I really want them back home now. I'm not the political politically woman. I'm not to a military. I just want them back home and It can't be that people and children and women were taken from their beds. You know, my nephew, I heard you talk about what happened in Gaza.

In Israel, we don't want innocent people to die. We really don't want it. We just want our people back home. And we feel sorry, I feel sorry for innocent people, women and children that are dead. But as you know, Israel is not in Gaza for 20 years. So the Hamas is the government. And they hold their weapons inside hospitals, inside kindergartens. And that's how they treat their people. It'snot something we did. My nephew, when he was taken from bed and held for 54 days without food, without water, nobody told him to evacuate the place before they did it.

They just did it. And I think every other country in the world and won't let that thing happen to it. So we just want them back home now. That's what we want, bodies, life, people. It doesn't matter. They have to bring back these people home. That's what we say all the time.

KEILAR: And I know that you hear the reporting about a looming offensive in Rafah. It does not appear imminent, but it looks likely. What do you think about that? And what have families of those who still have loved ones held hostage and perhaps worry they're in Rafah, what are they saying about what this could mean?

LICHI: We, all the families here, also, as you know, Ofer was taken from the house of his girlfriend with her father. Her father is still there. Her uncle is still there. Her father was dead one month ago. And we worried all the time, day and night, 24-7. We worried that they will be dead from IDF military forces. We worried that Hamas will kill them.

[14:15:09] As long as Hamas keep them as their shell, as their human shell, as they do with all their civilians, it's a big, big problem, very, very big problem for all of us and for- I think the world just see the things going on in Gaza. And I think the world should understand that the Hamas is a terror organization, a very bad one, and the world should stop him from doing what they do, because today it was in Israel, but tomorrow it can be anywhere else, also in America. They don't care about anyone. They don't care about their people. So what can we do? We just want our people back home, dead, alive, whatever, just bring them home, back now.

KEILAR: Yael, we're so sorry for what your family has been through, and we'll continue to tell the stories of the families who are searching for their family members to come home. Yael Engel Lichi, thank you so much for being with us.

LICHI: Thank you, Brianna. Thank you.

KEILAR: Ahead this hour on CNN News Central. The Princess of Wales admitting to doctoring an image that was apparently meant to quell concerns about her well-being, pressure now growing for the royal family to be more candid about Princess Kate's condition, and a sex trafficking victim coming forward to accuse Alabama Senator Katie Britt of misrepresenting her story during her State of the Union rebuttal. What she says the senator got wrong. Plus, a massive cyberattack has left doctors unable to bill patients for everything from prescriptions to surgeries. And we just found out a fix could be weeks away.



SANCHEZ: There are questions and suspicions swirling around the royal family after the Princess of Wales said that she was the one who edited this official family photo of herself and her three kids. Princess Kate is apologizing for what she describes as any confusion that was sparked by this image.

KEILAR: You can clearly see some of the inconsistencies. There is Kate's blurry hand, her blurry hair. If you look closely there, you'll see that Charlotte's left hand with the sleeve of her sweater. It's very strange. There's also stitching on Kate's sweater. They seem to indicate some kind of photoshopping and not very good photoshopping if that had been done. And this prompted several international news agencies to pull the photo, saying that it had been altered. We have CNN royal historian Kate Williams in London on this.

Kate, this was the first official picture of the princess since she underwent abdominal surgery in January. What is the palace saying about the blowback that this photo is getting?

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL HISTORIAN: Yes, well, as you say, Brianna, this is the first time we've had any update about the princess, any update from the princess since that shocking, really shocking announcement that she had had surgery and was going to be recuperating until after Easter. And there has been this internet speculation. It's been going wild over the past couple of weeks, saying, where is Kate? All kinds of lurid speculation. And clearly, this photograph from the palace, from Kensington Palace, was an attempt to end the speculation, say, here's Kate, she's fine.

But it fueled the flames with all of these, as you were saying, these photoshop errors within a couple of, you know, not 10 minutes, I think, of it being published. Twitter was aflame with all these poor people pointing this out. And then the international photo agency is a hugely reputable agency that is saying, we don't want, you know, don't use this. And there have been all kinds of suspicions about it even going as far as being AI, which is very serious if it's an AI picture. And the palace aren't saying anything. They said they won't release the original picture of which this was photoshopped from. They won't release that.

They're not saying anything else. Kate herself has said, it was me, I photoshopped it, and I apologize for the confusion. But there also today, there was a brief shot of Kate leaving Castle. Now, William was going to Westminster Abbey to the Commonwealth Service, a long planned engagement. Kate was in the car with him. And there were people already saying that this was damage limitation. This was people saying, you know, this has got out of hand. People are saying, you know, where is Kate? It's going to get even worse. So let's just see her coming out in the car.

And really, I think this has been, today has been just a disaster, a PR disaster for the royals. This vision they had of pouring oil on the troubled waters has actually caused more chaos. And now people are saying, well, if it's AI, that is quite serious. I think most people, I would say, oh, Photoshop, you know, celebrities Photoshop. But AI is, you know, making up photos, I think is quite a serious allegation.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, definitely. Kate, what do you make of the way that the palace has approached this? I mean, they had to have expected that there would be rampant speculation about Kate, given limited visibility after her operation. Is this being handled the right way?

WILLIAMS: Well, this is it, Boris. I mean, this kind of approach, which would have worked in the 1950s to say, a royal is ill. We won't tell you when they're better. That's fine. But this is a social media age. And in fact, the Queen's governor said in the 1930s, royals are only private in the womb.


And I'm afraid that's the poison chalice of being a royal. It's tough, but they are never private and people want updates and they wanted to hear how she was, they- I don't think they needed to put out this perfect beautiful family photo, I think it would be fine to just put out a small photo of Kate or even a statement from her saying I'm fine, I'm just recovering because we all understand that surgery is tough it's it's really a battering of the body you just want to sit on the sofa in your pajamas so but really the kind of palace I think has made things so much worse with not saying anything and then putting out this photo that was a total disaster so really they do have to engage in damage limitation.

This I think Kate being seen leaving a Windsor Castle today was damage limitation. I don't think it was inadvertent and I think we probably will have to see a photo or a statement from Kate over the next week or so with a bit more saying I'm feeling better and thank you. But really I think this has been you know this really shows that in an AI world in a social media world the royals are two steps behind and royals always photoshop.

The portraits are all wrong. Elizabeth I doesn't look like her portrait. There's a whole Henry VIII portrait with his children photoshopped in essentially by portraitures who couldn't have ever been at the same time. So we do forgive a bit but I think that this has gone too far and certainly the fact that the speculation about Kate has been the most -- really intense and you know very -- almost you know outlandish I've ever seen means that they had to have dealt with this better and really they didn't. I think it's it's been a big mistake and there'll be a lot of serious meetings about this at the palace to try and make sure this never happens again.

KEILAR: And yet, Henry VIII did not paint his own children onto his portrait. I imagine Kate because what you have is the princess saying she's the one who edited this and I think a lot of people were surprised that she might be doing her own attempt at photoshopping. What did you think of that?

WILLIAMS: Yes exactly right. Henry VIII didn't paint himself and indeed they never did so that's why so many royal marriages collapsed because they never looked like their portraits. And yes Kate said that she did it. She apologized and that is tough, it's tough, it really is tough for her but I have to say that I've been talking to a lot of experts today Brianna and they've all said to me I don't know much about photography myself, I don't photoshop my own photos but they've said to we think it's AI and that is I think quite serious. It's all very well. We've seen actually there was a royal christmas photo the most recent christmas photo, Louis was missing a finger but I think everyone thought oh well you know it's just photoshop.

But the accusation that they might have put these different pictures together, some people are saying. I've seen lots of comments saying that these were all different pictures of them that were taken long ago last year and they've all put them all together. Well if that is what people are accusing, then I think it is a problem because, you know, in the world of AI, we have to hold on to some kind of truth. And the royals, there is this contract with them that what they tell us should be, they don't tell us everything, but some of it should be truthful.

And I think that certainly with Charles being so open about his cancer, there was a lot of real support there. And people haven't been speculating about that. They've been saying he's got cancer, let's leave him to it. But the attitude of silence towards Kate, I understand it. She needs her privacy, but it has caused total, total chaos. And I just, I don't actually myself think that she did Photoshop it, really. I think that it's much more likely as the experts telling me that it was AI and someone did this who specializes in this, but simply within 10 minutes, it was being caught by the internet. And you have to be very, very good to think you can get it past those kind of sleuths these days.

SANCHEZ: Such an odd chapter for the royals. No matter what she's going through, we hope that Princess Kate is okay and healthy, and we hope to find out more soon. And If we don't, I'm okay with it.



KEILAR: No more photos like that, though, please.


SANCHEZ: Yeah. Kate Williams, thanks so much for the perspective. Thanks. So a sex trafficking victim tells CNN that it was her story that Senator Katie Britt shared during the State of the Union rebuttal. She says the Alabama senator misrepresented her plight. We'll discuss with an expert when we come back.