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California Thompson Fire Partially Contained, Burns Thousands of Acres; Jill Biden All in On President Remaining in Race; Japanese Tourists Pack Los Angeles to See Shohei Ohtani Play Ball; 16-Time Champ Banned from Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest This Year. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 04, 2024 - 09:30   ET



STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Along with that heat you've got this blaze. We've seen fires popping up across the state over the last couple of days in this. And this is all leading to very dangerous conditions for those firefighters as you said, but also for the people living here, especially thousands of them who have been evacuated because of this Thompson Blaze up here in Northern California.

But just overall, I want to paint the picture of how much more dire things look this year as far as number of acres burned. According to CalFire, if you look at how much has burned so far this year, there is a 1600 percent increase compared to this same period of last year, when you look at the number of acres burned, so, so far this year and this not even including the expulsion of the Thompson Fire, there have been a burning of over 130,000 acres so far this year.

That is very concerning. And then you add in the fact that here in the Sacramento area, we're going to see the temperatures above 105 degrees for a week. That is also very dangerous. This is why, even though it's the Fourth of July, they are reminding people to not use fireworks. I know people want to do that and they're banned throughout a lot of California, but it is dangerous because of the fact that things are so dry.

In fact, take a listen to CalFire official here explaining just why we are in the situation we are with the brush.


NICK SCHULER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, CAL FIRE: This winter, we had a significant amount of rain, but with rain brings growth and the challenge with that is that fuels and vegetation continues to dry out. And in California that spells the next large wildfire.


ELAM: And we were out yesterday in the midst of the Thompson Fire and I can tell you as the day goes on, that heat starts to bake, and the winds pick up, that's also another concern, Fred, because it can blow those embers. And we saw one house was standing perfectly fine. Grass was green. The house next to it completely burned down. So dangerous conditions people need to stay inside. They're expecting people to die because of this heat.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, my goodness, you are absolutely right. There is too much all at once.

Stephanie Elam, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right. And she has been one of his most fierce defenders since last week's debate. Sources say Jill Biden is all in on her husband staying in the race for the White House. More on the first lady's role as the campaign moves forward.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, President Biden's family says they're, quote, "all in" on him staying in the race. First Lady Jill Biden is out on the campaign trail this week, visiting the battleground state of Michigan, where she reiterated her husband's commitment to beating Donald Trump.

Joining us now to discuss Jill Biden's role is CNN contributor Kate Andersen Brower. She's also the author of "The Residence" and "First Women."

Kate, great to see you. So we've heard so much in the past week about Jill Biden's influence on her husband, how are protective she is of him. So do you understand why she would want him to stay in the race after that alarming debate night?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Alisyn, I absolutely understand why every first lady wants their husband to get re-elected, being a one-term president is very, very painful. You know, looking back at George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush was deeply upset when he lost. Same for Rosalynn Carter and Betty Ford. I mean, they -- even Pat Nixon didn't want her husband to resign during Watergate.

So these women are fiercely loyal to their husbands and are their husbands' greatest defenders. So I would've been very surprised if Dr. Biden had come out and said that her husband should leave the race.

CAMEROTA: It's interesting that you say that, Kate, because if he were to leave the race, he wouldn't be losing the election, it would be his choice to leave. But either way, at the moment, First Lady Jill Biden is vowing to continue the fight. What is her role in this campaign?

ANDERSEN BROWER: Well, I think her role has changed since the Thursday night debate. Her role now is to show the public that she believes in her husband in a different way than what we saw before what happened Thursday night. I mean, she needs to show that he's physically and mentally able to lead the country for another four years, and I think what we need to see is really President Biden showing the country that. I mean, she can be helpful to his reelection efforts. And first ladies

always are. But she can't win this for him. He's got to go out there in media interviews and on the stump, and convince people that what they saw on Thursday was an anomaly. It's not what we're going to see in the future and that he's still very deeply engaged. But this family is really circling the wagons around President Biden.

And they're just a really tight-knit group of people with Hunter and his sister, Valerie, Ashley. I mean, they're all very much supportive of their father staying in the race because they do believe that he is the only real option to beat Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: How would you say or has it, has Jill Biden's role changed since the 2020 campaign?

ANDERSEN BROWER: You know, I think what's been interesting to see from her is their kind of lived experience after nearly five decades of marriage. And, you know, I reached out to the White House and the comment I got was so interesting. They said to say, you know, to say they've been in foxholes together it doesn't even begin to explain their bond.


And these are people that have been through several Senate and presidential campaigns, health crises, family addiction. And so I think that, you know, in 2020, what she did was show that Joe Biden is a family man and kind of speak to his values, which is what a lot of first ladies do. And I think that remains the same going forward, but there's an added pressure on her now to also show that he is still very much engaged in the business of the presidency, and still very much, you know, intellectually with it.

And I think that's going to be difficult for her to do, but I think we're going to see her out there as his strongest defender in the coming days.

CAMEROTA: It's interesting, the White House has been saying that politics is Joe Biden's lane, not Jill Biden's. But as you just pointed out, it becomes a family affair for better or worse, the whole -- when you are president, the whole family is involved and so are you surprised that his family is reportedly saying that he should stay in the race, given that on Thursday night, you know, he was subjected to some public humiliation.

ANDERSEN BROWER: It's interesting that all first ladies have to walk this fine line, and I think Jill Biden is no exception. It's, you know, she needs to be involved. She needs to look like she cares, but she doesn't need -- we don't want to see a first lady look like she's in this unelected position, you know, of really pulling the strings behind the scenes. They have come out, like you said, the White House has said that Jill Biden is not a political adviser. It's the president's job to run the country.

But I think what we're seeing is if they're talking about switching up members of the campaign team, that's what political advisers do, right? So there's a fine line that she's walking. So if we see changes among the campaign team and there are reporting that's out there that she is involved in those decisions, that shows to me that she really is more a Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton than some people might have thought before.

CAMEROTA: Kate Andersen Brower, always great to get your insight. Thank you.


CAMEROTA: Well, it's a Fourth of July tradition. Nathan's Annual Hot Dog Eating Competition. It's exciting, somewhat disgusting, and it's coming up next hour.

Plus, "THE FOURTH IN AMERICA," live fireworks from across the country and must see musical performances by Bebe Rexha, The Killers, Ashanti, En Vogue and more. It all starts tonight at 7:00 Eastern.



WHITFIELD: All right, this sounds like a lot of fun. New food, new vendors.


WHITFIELD: New fans. New excitement. New sponsors. All that, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. And it's seeing all of this action thanks largely in part to one of the team's newest players. The fans are coming from Japan. They're packing the stadium to see, just their chance to see that slugger play at the iconic Dodger Stadium.

CNN's Natasha Chen shows us how the city is rolling out the welcome mat in a very big way.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, Fred, the energy in here is crazy especially from the fans who've traveled thousands of miles for a baseball game. Now, yes, there have been Japanese baseball fans who have traveled to Anaheim to see Ohtani play when he was with that team the last few years. But anecdotally, we're told this is a whole new level. One major Japanese travel agency tells me they're booking up to 200 clients in these seats for every Dodgers home game.


CHEN (voice-over): Baseball is America's pastime. But here in one of the country's oldest baseball stadiums, you'll see a celebration of Japanese heritage and hear Japanese language tours four days a week, all because of six-foot-four --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is a superhero.

CHEN: -- star hitter and pitcher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are proud of him.

CHEN: New Dodger Shohei Ohtani.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is a good baseball player and so cute.

CHEN: After a record-breaking contract with the Dodgers, Ohtani is drawing fans from across the Pacific Ocean in waves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're expecting a spike, but truly nothing like this.

CHEN: The team has a dozen new Japanese sponsors this year and added six new Japanese-speaking tour guides. Dodger Stadium food now goes beyond the Dodger Dog to the Kurobuta pork sausage dog, sushi, chicken katsu, and Takoyaki, which are round fritters filled with octopus. You can get the original or --

It's got a kick. Salsa and cheese, and guacamole and cheese.


CHEN: The Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board says 80 percent to 90 percent of visitors from Japan come to Dodger Stadium at least once during their trip to LA. And many of them end up here in LA's Little Tokyo to find the mural they've heard about all the way from Japan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The painting is moving he said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They scan the QR code at the base of the mural, point your camera phone and they can see Shohei actually swing and see him pitch, and you hear Vin Scully say --

VIN SCULLY, AMERICAN SPORTSCASTER: It's time for Dodger baseball.

CHEN (voice-over): Artist Robert Vargas says he painted this mural to bring everyone together in the city's crossroads of Asian and Latin American communities.

ROBERT VARGAS, ARTIST: The city has been hard hit during COVID and I really felt like as a longtime resident of downtown L.A., I wanted to be able to contribute to the AAPI community.


CHEN: Little Tokyo businesses say they have doubled the customers they normally get this time of year. And with the weak Japanese yen, it's a costly trip for travelers from Japan spending U.S. dollars, but they'll find a few local deals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After he hit a homerun, next day, it will be 50 percent off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Shohei hits a home run, we automatically pass out Shohei's shot.

CHEN: You hope this goes on for 10 years. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CHEN: Yes.

(Voice-over): The Miyako Hotel general manager says rooms are fully booked during home games. Takayo Hizume says her son also play baseball and she feels as if Ohtani is Japan's son.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And wait until he starts pitching for us, I'm just like, my gosh.

CHEN: Whether fans are from his home country, second-generation Japanese American, or have no connection to Japan at all, it's a unifying moment.


CHEN: A moment as American as a hot dog on the Fourth of July and a Takoyaki covered in guac.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is good for everyone. This is good for all of baseball.


CHEN (on-camera): It's not just the fans, it's also Japanese media who have followed Ohtani here. So much so that the signs for media at the stadium are translated into Japanese.

Now the fans say they're also seeing other classic L.A. sites while they're here, which is what the L.A. Tourism Board wants to see. They tell me they're seeing Santa Monica Beach. They're seeing Hollywood, and now they're experiencing an American Fourth of July -- Alisyn, Fred.

WHITFIELD: I like it.

CAMEROTA: Me too. Natasha Chen, thank you very much.

That's not the only athletic endeavor happening today as we're about to talk about.


CAMEROTA: Because Americans got ourselves to a stupor. I can't wait. It's going to crown a new hotdog chomping king because the man who's won Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest for the last eight years in a row has been banned from the competition because Joey Chestnut won, as you know, a record 16 times. So he cannot complete this year because he struck a deal with the plant-based food company Impossible Foods.

So competitors begins stuffing their faces at 10:45 a.m. and our Harry Enten will be closely watching. And I see him practicing right now.

WHITFIELD: Oh, no. Really? And you're going to talk? Oh, my god. How do you do that?

CAMEROTA: Wait. OK. Harry, I mean -- OK. Wow. I guess I'll wait for the questions right now.


CAMEROTA: OK. How many people are watching this?

ENTEN: You know, we're kind of mocking a little bit but, you know, the fact is we're talking about a million people who are going to watch folks eat hot dogs over in Coney Island later today.

WHITFIELD: Right. Usually without the bun.

ENTEN: Usually without or they're going to stuff it into the water like this, you could do it like that, and you can go.


ENTEN: And there's going to be 40,000 people in person who are going to watch this thing. So that's more than a lot of baseball stadiums can hold, more than Fenway Park holds, for example. So there are a lot of people who are into this. It's become a July Fourth tradition. It's basically been going on continuously since the last century. So this is going to be quite the thing and it's something that I can watch, and say, you know what, maybe if I work hard enough, I can be part of this. Though I'm going to barely be able to finish this one dog, so I --

WHITFIELD: Yes, how many hot dogs will it take to come close to like beating the last record?

ENTEN: Yes. So if you look at Joey Chestnut, how many hot dogs that this guy eat?


ENTEN: He ate north of 70 hot dogs in his record time. OK. And over the 16 times that he won, he won't get -- hey, guess how many hot dogs? He are north of 1,000 hotdogs across 16 different wins. I don't think I've even 1,000 hotdogs in my life.

CAMEROTA: I hope not, Harry.


CAMEROTA: I really hope not.

ENTEN: You know, I try to eat more lettuce and salads. But on July Fourth, I believe that we can be brought together by one of these and watching folks stuff their faces. If you're at home in a barbecue, try not to eat 70 in one sitting. Maybe one, at most two.

WHITFIELD: That'll be a little indulgent.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that'll be better. I feel like people don't know exactly what they should be expecting after you watch somebody eat 70 hot dogs. I feel like I should warn people.

ENTEN: I think you should.

CAMEROTA: Because I've seen some of the aftermath.

ENTEN: Caution, don't do at home.

WHITFIELD: My gosh, really?

CAMEROTA: Yes, don't try that at home. Yes.

ENTEN: Correct.

CAMEROTA: Because we've covered this so often sometimes you have to avert your eyes, I will just say. But here's one of the big debates. What do you guys put on your hot dogs? This I feel is a real dividing --

WHITFIELD: Yes. I mean, the ketchup and mustard was there. So I put both.

CAMEROTA: You put both?

WHITFIELD: yes. And sometimes if there's a little relish, I'd go for that, too.

CAMEROTA: The whole thing.



ENTEN: I think that my number one choice if I'm going to choose between the traditional toppings is ketchup.

CAMEROTA: Are you kidding?


ENTEN: But I should note, I enjoy mustard. I'm not Anderson Cooper who had never had mustard until a few weeks ago. And more than that --

WHITFIELD: Is that possible?

ENTEN: That is possible.


ENTEN: That is possible. And more than that, Americans --

WHITFIELD: The things we learn.

ENTEN: Americans are with mustard. Mustard is their number one topping, and we're getting a course from the camera man behind us.

CAMEROTA: Guys, obviously, mustard is the traditional American choice. WHITFIELD: Yes. It's a staple.

CAMEROTA: Harry, why ketchup?

WHITFIELD: Wait, you do not put ketchup on your hot dogs?


WHITFIELD: I'm always seeing --

ENTEN: Are you going to have a bite of this thing?


ENTEN: OK, we're waiting for it. Do it on the air. What do we do? It's July Fourth.

WHITFIELD: Of course there's a little cheers. My kids and I would cheer food.

ENTEN: There we go.


WHITFIELD: You already ate, but I guess cheers. OK, cheers.

CAMEROTA: But, Harry, it does worry me that you brought these in, like, when was this cooked?

ENTEN: This was cooked within the last hour. I would not --

WHITFIELD: It is a little warm.

ENTEN: It's still warm, it's still lukewarm. I wouldn't try and poison you on the air. July Fourth is for living and celebrating America, not getting food poisoning. OK?

CAMEROTA: It's so good.


CAMEROTA: It's so good.

ENTEN: I bring treats. July Fourth is a great day for our country and we can celebrate in many ways, including eating a wonderful hot dog.

WHITFIELD: Eat and be merry.

CAMEROTA: You forget how good a hot dog is until you eat one.

WHITFIELD: Bun and freedom on the floor.

CAMEROTA: They're so good.

ENTEN: They're so good.

CAMEROTA: All right. Everybody, have a wonderful holiday. Eat a lot of hot dogs.

WHITFIELD: Cheers to your hot dog.

CAMEROTA: Great to work with you. Harry, thank you for breakfast.

ENTEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Tomorrow again?


WHITFIELD: Do we have a date?

CAMEROTA: No. Just you.

WHITFIELD: No? What are you doing? I'm here. Harry, are you here tomorrow?

ENTEN: I'm here.

CAMEROTA: You're coming for my hot dogs.

WHITFIELD: OK. Gang? Gang is all here. All right. Well, you were coming for this hot dog.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And the fireworks.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thanks for joining us. Have wonderful fireworks. Have a great holiday.


CAMEROTA: This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Erica Hill up next.