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Don Lemon Tonight

House GOP Leadership Seeks To Purge Cheney For Telling The Truth; President Biden: Mini Revolution In GOP; Facebook Upholds Trump's Suspension; Battle To Rein In Disinformation On Social Media; Assault On Truth: GOP Pushes The Big Lie; Tennessee Lawmaker Falsely Suggests Infamous Three-Fifths Compromise Was To Help End Slavery; Judge Slams Former A.G. Barr As Disingenuous, Rules Memo Saying Not To Charge Trump Must Be Released; COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation Is Spreading On Social Media Parenting Groups. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 05, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): Tonight, Congresswoman Liz Cheney warning in a scathing opinion piece in the Washington Post that the GOP is at a turning point over Trump's repeated lies about election fraud, provoking the Capitol riot, and that he is trying to unravel democracy.

President Biden saying the Republican Party is going through what he calls a mini revolution as it purges itself of truth tellers and -- embracing the big lie a litmus test.

And Facebook's oversight board upholds the company's decision to suspend Trump from the social media platform but said Facebook must review its decision to block Trump within six months.

Let's discuss now. Joining me now, White House correspondent John Harwood. And former Republican congressman, Charlie Dent, he is now a CNN political commentator and we're glad to have both of them. Gentlemen, good evening.

So Charlie, let's start with you. Liz Cheney warning that Trump's language can provoke violence again. In her new op-ed she writes this. Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work. Confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. She's choosing truth over power. But I mean, she's pretty much alone. When they cut her loose, what should any remaining Republicans do?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (on camera): Well, Don, you're right. She is being canceled right now for standing up for truth. For standing up for democracy, for protecting the constitutional order. She's doing all the right things. Sadly, you know, like I said before, a leader with no followers is just a guy or in this case a gal taking a walk. And I feel for her, because she's trying to do the right thing. She and Adam Kinzinger have both snapped. They've had enough of this

all. And I'm just surprise that more haven't spoken up. You know, maybe there's a short term benefit to some of the House leadership right now by pushing her out. That might be enough. They can still win the mid-terms. But long term, I think this was a catastrophe for the Republican Party. Basically, you know, talk about a big tent.

Well, they're marginalizing those who are rational thoughtful voices like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Pushing them out while empowering and embracing the extreme elements like Marjorie Taylor Greene and others. It's really sad, it's tragic. It breaks my heart to watch this happen.

LEMON: Do you think there will be more people that will walk with her or no, they dare not do it? Can she build some sort of coalition? Like -- does she have any options or people like you and her and Adam Kinzinger -- are there any options?

DENT: Well, right now, I mean, look, when she sustained the vote, you know, a couple months ago when they came after her. This time it is a little different because it feels like it is not just a vote on whether or not you want Liz Cheney. There is a choice, there's an alternative waiting there on the wings. So, I don't know what the option is.

Nut Don, I'm part of a group that we are establishing principles that are going to be revealed fairly soon about what a true center right alliance should look like. About broad principles, truth, honesty, rule of law, support for democracy, tolerance. The ideals and values that matter. And this is why it is so frustrating because, you know, for so long, we were told by so many in our Party, guys like me were called a squish, a rhino, a bed wetter. Because we weren't true enough to principle.

And now all, you know, these people are so strong on principle. Where are they right now? They should be defending Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney and others for trying to do the right thing. But you know what, it is not about principles, it's not about ideals, it's about fidelity to one individual. I said that in 2017 early. It is the same today.

LEMON: Charlie, I love you, but I have to ask John. Do you think there's any room for principled Republicans in this new Trump-lican Party? John?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Don, the situation right now in the Republican Party is that you have a leader in Donald Trump. He doesn't care about any abstract idea. He doesn't care about truth or the rule of law. He doesn't care about country. He doesn't care about Party. He cares about self-gratification.

LEMON: But its about -- look, he's not in office. But don't you think it's about, maybe that's where you're going. It is about the people who are in office now. They don't have to be beholden to him. But yet they are. Look, Donald Trump is gone.

[23:05:05] HARWOOD: Right. But the reason Donald Trump rose in the first place,

the reason he still has a grip on the Party, is because he has persuaded a significant chunk of the American people who are fearful that they're being passed by changes socially, culturally, economically in this society.

Persuaded them that he is their champion. That's why he can lie about the election result and get them to believe the lie. Because when they project on to Trump that he is a winner, they're thinking that is victory for them, too.

Those people are not the majority of the country but they have a stranglehold on the Republican Party, on the current members of Congress in the Republican Party. And that is why those people are pushing Liz Cheney out. It's not, Donald Trump is a symptom. You know, Donald Trump commands loyalty. But it's not about Trump.

It is about vindicating people who think that they're losing status and ground and well being in American society. And Donald Trump has persuaded them that he is the ticket to resisting those changes and he has gotten Republicans to go along with him in doing that.

LEMON (on camera): Charlie, President Biden weigh in on what's going on in the GOP twice today. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It seems as though the Republican Party is trying to identify what it stands for. And they're in the midst of significant, sort of mini revolution going on in the Republican Party. I've been a Democrat for a long time. We've gone through periods where we've had internal fights and disagreements. I don't remember ever any like this.


LEMON (on camera): Well, I think he's right about that part. But listen, Charlie. Matt Viser, from the Washington Post, lays out this story of the GOP through Joe Biden's eyes. 2019. You will see an epiphany occur in January 2021. We need an opposition that is principled and strong. March, I have no idea if there will be a Republican Party.

Today, I don't understand the Republicans. So, how is he supposed to work with them? By the way, I mean, many people have been saying, Charlie, like -- they're never going to work with you. Now he's maybe realizing that. But go on. How is he supposed to work with them?

DENT: Well, actually, I do think there's some capacity to get some things done. Fortunately, there are still enough numbers and I'm going to go to talk about my friends and the problem solvers' caucus in the House and the Senate. There are enough of those members who represent the swing or marginal districts in states where they still have to show that they can reach across the aisle and they can get some things done. People like John (inaudible), Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Gottheimer in the

House, these people have to demonstrate they can get some things done. They have to. They need crossover votes. So, I'm hoping that people like that can develop policy proposals like they did in the end of last year on COVID. That basically forces the leadership's hands.

But look, there are going to be a number of people on the Republican side you know, who are not going to compromise, who are never going to be there. But I think there is a critical mass though, certainly in the Senate and I think there are enough in the House on infrastructure, anyway.

LEMON: All right, Charlie. We'll see. I don't know. I'm usually glass half full. Not on this one though. Thank you both, gentlemen. I appreciate it.


LEMON: Yes, I got to go but go quickly, please, sir.

HARWOOD: Well, look, I just want to say the dominant theory within the Republican Party right now is absolute resistance. We saw Mitch McConnell express that today saying he has got unanimity from Collins to Cruz to oppose what the Biden administration is trying to do. It is, it's not impossible that a small number of Republicans could choose to work with Joe Biden, but they're fighting badly uphill.

That's the strategy Republicans pursued against President Obama. That's the strategy they've set on to try to pursue against Joe Biden. And if that is somehow going to change so that a Democratic president can get something significant done, that has got to be demonstrated. Because there's no particular reason to think that that's going to happen again this time.

LEMON: Well, there are always miracles. We can pray. Thank you both. Thank you very much. I want to turn now to Facebook's oversight board. Upholding the company's decision to ban Donald Trump after the insurrection.

Let's discuss now. CNN, senior political analyst, John Avlon and Barry Schnitt, he is Facebook's former communications director and also worked at Google and Pinterest. Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you so much.

Mr. Avlon, this oversight board basically telling Facebook they need to deal with the mess that they helped to create and come up with some rules that apply to everyone. But look, this issue is bigger than Facebook and Trump. Is social media undermining basic truth in our society?


JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Among other things, yes. It is a new challenge. It's a new communications form. It is making it more difficult to reason together, because people are getting encouraged to, toward extremism by algorithms. They're being offered different versions of reality. So, it's a challenge we need to confront together. I think this oversight board took a step in that direction.

But the number I can't get away from is after he was deplatformed the first time, Don. After the Capitol attack, within one week, one study found a 73 percent decline in election misinformation. That to me is just clear cause-effect. That's a real problem we got to deal with.

LEMON: And that should be evidence that perhaps their decision needs to be, you know, permanent. I'm just saying perhaps if you have that sort of evidence. Let's ask Barry. Barry, what do you think of that?

BARRY SCHNITT, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, FACEBOOK (on camera): Well, I think it is definitely true. And I think what is important to look at is what is Facebook's role in all of this? And I think thus far, they've abdicated a lot of responsibility.

You know, there are a lot of users who come to Facebook believing lies and wanting to see them. And I think they want to serve those users well and not want to piss them off.

I think they don't want to devote the resources necessary to actually solve the problem and frankly I think they want to placate Republicans a little bit and do just enough so they can tell Democrats they care, and let enough through that they can tell Republican that they're not biased.

LEMON: So we've seen this. This is what you say. You say that Facebook, social media is enabling people to be misled in a way that we have never seen in history.

SCHNITT: Yes. I think that's right. You know, the scale, you know, there's that old adage, right. A lie gets around the world before the truth gets its pants on. Right. And with technology, I mean, I think it is more like, you know, a lie can circle the globe thousands and millions of times before the truth is even awake.

And it is all of what John said. It's those algorithms, it's all the things that Facebook and other social media companies pride themselves on, speed and that's what were dealing with.

LEMON: I don't know if there's a solution. I thought about it. I was thinking about this earlier. Because Facebook -- you know, it transformed from being a place where you share family photographs, right, and vacation pictures, and you know, I saw my new grand baby, to look at this. You know, it's crazy. Read this news. And it's fake and whatever.

Like, why is it, if it is not going to have the rules of legacy journalism, right, with all the checks and balances, then why allow, John, news, articles, and that sort of thing. Why isn't it is a just a place for you to share almost in the vein of an Instagram?

HARWOOD: I think that's one of the debates Facebook has been having, but look. You know, this new technology --

LEMON: Oh-oh, John, we lost him. Can you answer that for me, Barry? Is John back? John, he with lost you for a second.

AVLON: Right. Weird.

The companies need to step up. And also, laws need to take, you know, match the pace of technology here. But we need to recognize that this is a direct threat to democracy and the ability to reason together. And we can't just pretend that it's not happening. It is. So, when you take responsibility all of this (inaudible).

LEMON: John, this is a New York Times technology columnist, Kevin Roose (ph) tracks this sources of 10 top performing links post of Facebook -- by Facebook pages everyday. OK.

This is yesterday's list, dominated by right wing Trump supporters. If you look at it last week, the lists are very similar with Ben Shapiro, Fox News, Dan Bongino, I think is his name, making the top 10. Does Trump even need a Facebook account? Because Trumpism is clearly all over their platform.

AVLON: I think he wants one. I know he wants to run for re-election. His campaign wants one. This is a way to drive money. It's a way to drive attention. But you're right in that. The right-wing has been able to gain the system very effectively. We've seen, you know populous leaders from around the world to be able to gain these systems very effectively, to amplify their messages.

And that's why among other things, I think we need much more verification that folks are individuals and not bots. We need to look at the incentive structures that have been set up that clearly have been game very effectively.

LEMON: Barry, doesn't that undermine the right-wing argument that social media is censoring them?

SCHNITT: Yes. I mean, you know, the right-wing makes arguments, you know, all kinds of groups are to blame for all kinds of ills, right? But I think you know, I think actually Facebook and other social media companies have bent over backwards to try and allow things that they wouldn't normally allow.


You know, Mark Zuckerberg came up with a news worthiness exemption for basically for Trump to allow him to continue to be on the platform when he would have been banned if he was anyone else. And if you read the oversight board's report, they actually, you know, they don't have the power to overturn Facebook policies.

But they seem to make a pretty strong recommendation that in the opposite direction of what Mark did in that people like Trump who have oversized influence, should actually have oversized scrutiny. When Mark did the opposite and allowed him to say things and do things that he wouldn't allow other users to do.

LEMON: And similar, I think on Twitter. Is that a business decision you think by Facebook and maybe even by Twitter as well? Because I think Twitter was profiting off Donald Trump's wackiness on their site and Facebook similarly.

SCHNITT: Yes. I think it is part profit. I think its part political calculation. You know, again, you know, it wasn't that long ago when Republicans had the White House, the Senate and the House. And you know, that's a pretty scary thing to be seen as anti-conservative in that world and I'm sure were potentially not far from another that again. So, I think they want to please the politicians and they want to profit from it.

LEMON: John, did you want to say something? You're good?

AVLON: No, I mean, I think that is right. I think we just all need to recognize this is a common responsibility and social media can bring people together but can also obviously drive folks apart and that democracy is paying the price to some extent.

LEMON: I just want to -- it's a tough decision, because I think for them. Because they're thinking you know, first amendment, freedom of speech. That sort of thing. And they look at it that way even though it is a private company that has sort of evolved into a news disinformation site.

And perhaps instead of the rules changing so much, perhaps the site should change and what the site is about and what's allowable on their site. Do you get what I'm saying, John?

AVLON: I do. I mean, a new study was just released showing that the combination of conservative media and social media increased conspiracy beliefs, particularly around COVID. And it was actually quality journalism and long form reporting that could reason people out of some of those beliefs and make it more inclined to adapt for example masks and vaccines. There are real world effects on this that we need to confront and recognize the current system, it isn't working effectively.

LEMON: Yeah.

SCHNITT: I would like just to add. I think, you know, the social media platforms, they used the first amendment argument when it is convenient. They make decisions all the time about what speech to allow. You know, nudity is not allowed on Facebook, right. It is not illegal but it is not allowed. They make all kinds of arbitrary decisions about content to allow and not allow. And one that they make is if there is content that is going to cause imminent harm, right, or actual harmful.

You know, it was OK to be anti-vax and to spread information until people were dying from a pandemic. And I think one thing that we could do is ask them and maybe even require of them to take a longer-term view of harm. Rather than just being imminent. People are dying being hurt right now. There's' an actual riot at the Capitol this minute. Think about what led up to that.

And there was a pretty damming report that Facebook created itself, evaluating its role in the lead-up to the riot at the Capitol. And the two conclusions that they made were one that it was a prime vector for spreading misinformation that led to the riot and insurrection.

And two, that their policies were inadequate and their enforcement was inadequate because they don't take into account things that an individual basis are largely benign like hey, I wonder if this election was rigged. But at a grand scale or a network effect become actually very dangerous. And that's not just a point of view that they take and so far are willing to take.

LEMON: Listen. I do think that we, meaning the traditional media, and you guys who analyze us and criticize it. I think, I know that we have their attention now. So you have to keep talking to them and maybe have to do it the way did you with a former president. And that's do it through the television. Do it through the media. Thank you very much. Traditional media. Thank you very much, I appreciate you both joining us.

With all this disinformation online, with the big lie still being pushed, with the whitewashing of America's history, how do we talk about truth when so many people just won't believe it? We're going to dig deep into that. Cornel West, the professor is here. He's next.



LEMON: The power of the truth being tested in ways that are shaking the foundation of American democracy. Republican trying to undermine reality. Refusing to accept the results of the election. Trying to make it harder for people to vote based on Trump's big lie and ignoring the facts and spreading disinformation about everything from the coronavirus to President Biden's policy proposals.

I want to bring in now the Dr. Cornel West. Professor of public philosophy at Harvard University. Thank you, professor. And let me just say to you. I'm sorry about the loss that you recently had.

CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC PHILOSOPHY HARVARD UNIVERISTY (on camera): Yes, my beloved mother. For all of our West clan, indeed, indeed, my brother, but still fighting. Still trying to tell the truth.

LEMON: Yes. Good. That's what we will do now. And we're all thinking of you. So, again our condolences. Everywhere you look, there's an assault on truth. Whether it's a GOP operating on the big lie, the disinformation spreading through social media, the whitewashing of our racial history. Can you put this into perspective about how dangerous this is to our democracy?


WEST: Well, you know, brother Don, let the deepest of the (inaudible) in American history, Herman Melville used to say truth uncompromisingly told will always have its jagged edges. Which is to say truth is always unsettling, it's always unnerving, including ourselves. So no one group will ever have a possession of the truth. But there is a difference between wholesale lies and retail lies. Right now, the Republican Party is wrestling with a neo fascist

insurgency. So, when you talk about Trump, he's not an isolated individual. The majority of white fellow citizens in America voted for him. So it is a movement. It is based on wholesale lies. Like white supremacists' ideology, like attacks on Jews and Muslims and gays and lesbians and the rule of big military.

Now the Democratic Party has its retail lies. I mean, you have Brother Biden and Sister Harris talking about America is not a racist country. That's a lie. It is. Why do they have to tell that retail lie? Because that's a political strategy, too. So that we have to keep track of the fact that truth is bigger than all of us, brother.

And anybody who enters in the quest for truth has to be willing to be fallible enough to recognize the degree to which one has full possession. But right now the Republican Party with Sister Liz is dealing with, because Liz has been telling her lies about the Iraqi war and a host of others, but she's standing strong against neo- fascism within her Party. I agree with her courage in that regard. But I'm very critical of the various lies she has told.

But the same true with Biden. Biden told lies about Iraq, he told lies about mass incarceration. He told lies about Wall Street greed. So that when we approach this, my brother, especially from the black side of town. You know what I mean, because when the chocolate side of town, we are looking at the country and say your whole project is based on a lie of white supremacy. This ain't new for us. You've been denying our humanity for all this time.

But we recognize, we can still learn something from you when you talk about other issues. And you've got a whole lot to learn from us. Because we have been telling you truths about your white supremacist foundation such that you will lose your democracy if you don't come to terms with your deep racism.

And with your deep classism. Not dealing with poverty and so forth. So we shouldn't get too overwhelmed by this, my brother. Lies have been around a long, long time no matter what the technology used. You know what --

LEMON: I know what you're talking about. But what you're saying is people are willing to lose their democracy, lose their democracy to what? To keep white supremacy intact.

WEST: Oh, yes. Well, there's a number of things. There's greed. There's race itself, identity, there's a fear of the future. There is an insecurity about the present. And we have to be able to provide counter vailing voices that are more truthful. I would never say I have full control of the truth. I'm a human being. I'm fallible, right?

LEMON: Right.

WEST: But there's certain fools that are better than other lies. And we have to have countervailing forces and movement to tell the truth about every aspect of America. It's (inaudible), militarism, it's white supremacy, it's male supremacy, it's class structure, but also the best of America. Tell the truth about the best of America.

That's where Melville comes in. That's where Tony Martin comes in. that's where (inaudible) Simone comes in, that's what John Coltrane comes in. (Inaudible) from Louisiana come in, integrity, honesty, decency, generosity, serving the others, on and on from the Hebrew scriptures spread in that (inaudible).

LEMON: Thank you, brother. Our time is a little bit shorter tonight, but you know, this is a continuing conversation. Thank you.

WEST: Absolutely. Stay strong, my brother.

LEMON: You stay strong. Our deepest condolences.

WEST: I appreciate those loving words, my brother. I do.

LEMON (on camera): Amen. Thank you very much.

So it was a deal struck at this country's founding. Slaves would count as 3/5 of a person. Less than a free man, woman or child. Counted as property. But used in these count to increase the political power of the slave states. And yet one Tennessee lawmaker claimed it helped end slavery.


REP. JUSTIN LAFFERTY (R-KNOXVILLE, TN): The 3/5 compromise was a direct effort to ensure that southern states never got the population necessary to continue the practice of slavery everywhere else in the country.


LEMON (on camera: Know your history. Next.




LEMON: A Tennessee Republican state representative is facing backlash after defending what is widely viewed as one of the most infamous deals in U.S. history. The three-fifths compromise, wherein slaves were explicitly -- explicitly counted as three-fifths of a free person or three-fifths of a man, so that the slave states would be able to accrue more political power without having to count a slave as a full person. Infamous. Racist.

Take a look now. This is State Representative Justin Lafferty. This is what he had to say about it.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP. JUSTIN LAFFERTY (R-TN): We ended up biting a bitter, bitter pill that haunts us today. And we did it to lay the foundation for all this that we enjoy in this country. For as much as we scream and fight and argue, there is no place in this world that I would rather live and call home.

The three-fifths compromise was a direct effort to ensure that southern states never got the population necessary to continue the practice of slavery everywhere else in the country.

By limiting the number of population in the count, they specifically limited the number of representatives that would be available in the slave-holding states and they did it for the purpose of ending slavery. Well before Abraham Lincoln. Well before Civil War.

Do we talk about that? I don't hear that anywhere in this conversation across the country. I don't say anything on this floor today with any malice toward any of my friends on the other side. I say this only because I'm tired, y'all. The people of this nation are tired. If you start looking for trouble, if that's all you're bent on, I guarantee you you're going to find it.


LEMON (on camera): OK. That is what we're dealing with right now. The lawmaker making those statements during a debate over legislation in Tennessee that would limit what schools can teach students about racism and privilege. Our team reached out to him for a statement but has not heard back.

So let's get the facts now. Peniel Joseph is here, professor of history at the University of Texas. I'm sure --


LEMON: We need hours to talk about this, Peniel. Good evening to you. It is important to know your history here. Can you refresh everyone on the facts of the three-fifths compromise? Please.

PENIEL JOSEPH, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AT UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, AUTHOR: Yeah, Don. The compromise is really the fact that southern colonies actually wanted to count enslaved African-Americans as one person each for -- for issues of representation. And the compromise was that they would be counted as three-fifths of -- of -- of a person.

And what that did is actually give southern slave-holding states more proportional representation than their actual citizens who could vote. At the time, obviously, women couldn't vote but men could.

So when we think about the three-fifths clause, the three-fifths clause is a compromise to create the United States of America and have the Constitution ratified in 1787.

So, the idea that somehow we can turn that on its head and connect the three-fifths compromise to some secret plan by the founders to get rid of slavery and be antiracist is absurd, but it is part of the kind of history that we are facing, that Dr. West was talking about earlier. And I would -- I would call that history really a battle between the history of redemption and the history of reconstruction.

And redemption is really what takes place after racial slavery and the rise of white supremacy, starting in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1866 with the creation of the Klan. And the reconstruction history is really that multiracial, multicultural history that is going to include the Ida B. Wells and the Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas alongside of white Republicans who are -- who are abolitionists as well. So, we have those two battles that are continuing up until today.

LEMON: Mm-hmm. Peniel, listen, I want to have you back to discuss this more. I needed you to explain to us the truth about the three-fifths compromise. And again, this conversation is going to continue. He's not the first person to say that. Colorado Senator Ron Hanks did something very similar. Thank you, sir. I have to go, though. I appreciate you joining us.

JOSEPH: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. Bill Barr getting an earful from a judge over a secret memo -- a secret memo that -- take this -- the judge wants released.



LEMON (on camera): Take this. A federal judge is delivering a scathing rebuke of former Attorney General Bill Barr. The judge is also demanding that the DOJ release a secret memo documenting an opinion to not charge former President Trump with obstruction at the end of the Mueller investigation.

In a 35-page opinion, Judge Amy Berman Jackson accuses Barr of being -- quote -- "disingenuous" and says the former A.G. misled lawmakers and the public about the decision not to charge former President Trump with obstruction of justice.

Remember, Bill Barr released a misleading four-page summary of the Mueller report and hosted a spin session to get out in front of that report.

On obstruction, Barr's initial summary claimed that Mueller's report sets out evidence on both sides of the question of obstruction. But the Mueller report specifically said it did not exonerate the president and Mueller testified to Congress that he didn't.

You'll remember at the time, Mueller called Barr out, writing a letter to him just after the summary. It was released saying it did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of the investigation, and its conclusions. Mueller also made clear that if Trump did not commit a crime, we would know.



ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.


LEMON (on camera): If you thought it stank of a cover-up at the time, so does the federal judge now.

Vaccine misinformation is circulating online. CNN goes inside Facebook mommy groups where conspiracies could be putting women at risk.



LEMON: President Biden's new goal is to -- is in the fight against COVID-19, to get at least one dose of the vaccine into arms of 70 percent of American adults by July 4th. But that might be a heavy lift with the hesitancy of a lot of Americans to get vaccinated. And some of that hesitancy can be traced back to false information about the vaccine circulating on social media, including mommy groups.

Here is CNN's Elle Reeve.


MAUREEN GUAMACCIA, CREATOR OF CRUNCHY MOMS OF FLORIDA FACEBOOK GROUP: Whenever there is a discussion in the group about vaccinations or masks, the vibe is disturbed.



GUAMACCIA: Yeah. There is a lot of hate, a lot of name calling. They'll be like, why are you putting this in your body? No, thanks, I don't want to be a science experiment. They'll tell people, oh, well, you are stupid for wanting to get it.

REEVE (voice-over): One of the frontlines of the COVID-19 vaccine misinformation wars is in an unexpected place: mommy groups on Facebook. Do you want to see?

GUAMACCIA: They're hesitant. There -- there's trust, generally speaking.

REEVE (on camera): Like, what do they say?

GUAMACCIA: They are concerned about infertility.

REEVE (voice-over): Maureen Guamaccia is a dealer who runs a Facebook group called Crunchy Moms of Florida. She's had to monitor the group much more closely since COVID-19 hit.

GUAMACCIA: It says, just got my vaccination card, and the card reads, go (bleep) yourself. So, that's good. Rule number one is no-vaccine discussion and rule number six is no-mask discussion because a lot of misinformation follows these types of things, and you kind of want to be someone who is not going to give a platform for any talk that's not factual.

REEVE (voice-over): Misinformation has been circulating on social media that the COVID-19 vaccine can hurt women's fertility by either attacking the placenta or by causing a vaccinated person to shed the virus on to women and somehow affect their periods or pregnancies. There is no evidence of this. And the MRNA vaccines do not contain the virus.

UNKNOWN: Unvaccinated women report miscarriages after interaction with vaccinated people.

UNKNOWN: There was one woman. This is a case that they had, where she got herself that shot, and was nursing her six-month-old and the baby died.

UNKNOWN: Women in their menstruating years and not are experiencing severe side effects from people around them having received this jab.

REEVE (voice-over): Maureen says those in her group trying to evade bans on anti-vaccine talk use the term "medical freedom."

GUAMACCIA: This is our keyword alert.

REEVE (on camera): Wow! Medical freedom, medical freedom, medical freedom. Wow!

GUAMACCIA: They're all within minutes of each other.

LUCKY SEKHON, FERTILITY SPECIALIST, RMA OF NEW YORK: Pregnant women are allowed to get the vaccine and it is widely being encouraged. I get asked about this every day, you know. All of my patients who are either trying to conceive or they're already pregnant, they want to get the vaccine, they're interested.

But they have that nagging worry in the back of their mind that this could cause infertility, this could cause miscarriage, and we just know that this is not true. But unfortunately, it's such a scary thought, that it just really stuck.

The MRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna do not appear to pose any serious risk during pregnancy. According to preliminary findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine. But the CDC says pregnant women who get COVID are at an increased risk for severe illness, preterm birth, and maternal death.

I always talk to my patients about the risk-benefit calculus. We know that there are real risks if you're pregnant and you get sick with COVID. In my mind, the benefits outweigh the risks.

GUAMACCIA: Claims that are made about this vaccination, particularly, do target women, right? They target women. It's funny because the hesitancy that's shown amongst males as more politically-charged.

REEVE (voice-over): Yeah.

GUAMACCIA: That's what I've seen.

REEVE (voice-over): We were set to interview multiple women who told us they don't want the vaccine, but they all bailed. Some saying they feared backlash. That's not an irrational fear. There is a lot of shaming on social media which public health experts say does not work. Some of Maureen and (INAUDIBLE) friends wouldn't talk on camera. Neither would women CNN spoke to in public parks. Influencers turned us down. So, we went to an outlet mall and found this one woman.

(On camera): So, are you going to take the COVID vaccine?

UNKNOWN: At the moment, no, because I'm pregnant.


UNKNOWN: But I've like heard a lot of stories about -- people losing their babies and stuff.

REEVE (on camera): What kind of stories have you heard?

UNKNOWN: I've heard like, after the vaccine, they were having like issues with the baby and losing their baby and everything.

REEVE (on camera): And where do you get news about that?

UNKNOWN: There was an article. I'm not sure where.

REEVE (on camera): OK. And then what has your doctor said about getting the vaccine?

UNKNOWN: She hasn't said anything. I haven't really asked her about it.

REEVE (voice-over): Yeah.

UNKNOWN: Just taking caution right now.

GUAMACCIA: It is completely understandable, to be hesitant.


GUAMACCIA: I beat back hesitancy with knowledge.

UNKNOWN: I kind of hope that people, like, will look and see where this information coming from, where is the backing of this information. Is it something from the CDC or is it some quack doctor that who knows where he got his degree from?


REEVE (on camera): Is it influential at all, though, to know that there are other crunchy moms who got it? Does that seem to affect them?

GUAMACCIA: I am always getting these questions and they will assume, first, that I am not getting the vaccine or that I did not. So, it's kind of hard to tell them. And so, hopefully, me talking today helps some crunchy mom go, OK, all right, I won't do measles, but I guess I'll get the COVID one.


GUAMACCIA: You know?

REEVE (voice-over): Yeah.

Elle Reeve, CNN, Florida.


LEMON: Elle, thank you so much. Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.