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Don Lemon Tonight

Facebook Whistleblower Testifies In Congress; Petito's Parents: Laundrie Is Hiding Because He Is A Coward; North Carolina Congressional Candidate Campaign Ad Goes Viral; Former Tesla Contractor Awarded $137 Million In Racial Harassment And Discrimination Lawsuit; Andrew Yang Leaves Democratic Party And Registered As Independent. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 05, 2021 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: She told the Senate Subcommittee that she believes Facebook harms children, stokes division and weakens our democracy, and says congressional action is needed. But Mark Zuckerberg fighting back, saying a lot of Haugen's claims don't make any sense and denying that Facebook puts profits over the safety and well-being of its users.

Also tonight, President Joe Biden trying to save his domestic agenda, selling his massive infrastructure bill to union workers in Michigan, while telling progressives the social safety net plan needs to be trim back to about $2 trillion. Will they go along?

Plus, Brian Laundrie's sister saying that she doesn't know where he is, pleading with her brother to turn himself in. And Gabby Petito's mother saying someone needs to start talking about what happened to her daughter.

CNN's Brian Stelter has the latest on the damning testimony from Facebook whistleblower that CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is disputing tonight.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: The only way we can move forward and heal Facebook is we first have to admit the truth.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And the truth, according to Frances Haugen, is that the social media giant is hiding what it really knows about its impact on its users, including the spread of misinformation.

HAUGEN: Facebook likes to paint that these issues are really complicated. Facebook prioritize that content on the system that we shares over the impacts of misinformation, hate speech or violence incitement.

STELTER (voice-over): Haugen testifying to the Senate about the company did and did not do to confront the spread of misinformation leading up to the 2020 election and beyond.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On "60 Minutes," you said that Facebook implemented safeguards to reduce misinformation ahead of the 2020 election, but turned off those safeguards right after the election, and you know that the insurrection occurred January 6. Do you think that Facebook turned off the safeguards because they were costing the company money, because it was reducing profits?

HAUGEN: Facebook changed those safety defaults in the run-up to the election because they knew they were dangerous. And because they wanted that growth back, they wanted the acceleration of the platform back after the election, they returned to their original defaults. And the fact that they had to break the glass on January 6 and turn them back on, I think that's deeply problematic.

STELTER (voice-over): Another big focus of the hearing, how Facebook and its other social media apps, including Instagram, negatively impact kids.

HAUGEN: Kids who are bullied on Instagram, the bullying follows them home. It follows them into their bedrooms. The last thing they see before they go to bed at night is someone being cruel to them or the first thing they see in the morning is someone being cruel to them.

STELTER (voice-over): Senator Richard Blumenthal calling the revelation jaw-dropping and comparing Facebook to big tobacco.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): It is documented-proof that Facebook knows its products can be addictive and toxic to children. And it's not just that they made money. Again, it's that they value their profit more than the pain that they cause to children and their families.

STELTER (voice-over): The word "addiction" coming up over and over again during the testimony.

HAUGEN: It's just like cigarettes. Teenagers don't have good self- regulation. They say exquisitely, I feel bad when I use Instagram and yet I can't stop. We need to protect the kids.

STELTER (voice-over): In a tweet, Facebook responding, saying Haugen didn't actually work on these issues directly. She was a product manager tackling misinformation and had no direct reports and never attended a decision-point meeting. But Haugen brought receipts, research from inside Facebook, documenting the damage being done.

HAUGEN: There are organizational problems.

STELTER (voice-over): And during all this, where was Mark Zuckerberg? Senators called out his absence --


STELTER (voice-over): -- and quipped that he was sailing, referring to his recent uploads to Facebook and Instagram.

BLUMENTHAL: Rather than taking responsibility and showing leadership, Mr. Zuckerberg is going sailing.

STELTER (on camera): Lots of comments about the credibility of this whistleblower. People are blown away by how knowledgeable she is and how much she is willing to share. And remember, Don, the documents she has provided, they show lots of employees inside Facebook have the same fears that she does. This story is not over. Not by a long shot. Don?


LEMON (on camera): Brian Stelter, thank you very much. I appreciate it. I want to bring in now New York Times opinion contributing writer Kara Swisher. She is also the host of the "Sway" podcast.


LEMON: Kara, so good to see you and it is really great to have you on to talk about this. This is right up your alley here. So, good evening. Today's testimony was incredibly damning. Will this be the moment that finally forces Facebook to change or some change, at least, when it comes to social media sites?

SWISHER: I do not think so. I think right now, it's the Congress that has to act because Facebook, as you saw from the response by Mark Zuckerberg, is saying this is not the company we know, which is in essence saying, we don't know what she's talking about.


SWISHER: And I think some of the tweets from some of the PR people and statements trying to minimize her, trying to make it seem like she's nobody, that she's not in on the big meetings, I think aggression is what they're using here.

And so it's up to Congress now to act, and frankly, they've done nothing. And so it's at their -- it's at their foot. They have to do something right now.

LEMON: Yeah. And to what you said, this is how they -- Mark Zuckerberg and others responded tonight. You just noted about what he said. Writing in part, he said, the argument that we deliberately pushed content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content.

So he is saying that Haugen's claims --


LEMON: -- don't make sense, right, but she came with receipts.

SWISHER: Well, they're minimizing the claims. They're trying to make them too broad. At one point, I thought -- I thought one of the comments was, you know, we didn't start the civil war or something like that. Nobody thinks Facebook is the cause for hatred among human beings. That's humans behaving like humans.

The politicization, politicians, you could blame Donald Trump, you can blame Fox News, you can blame anyone whatever side you're on.

But Facebook amplifies and weaponizes all these feelings (ph). There has never been such a communications platform in history. And the fact of the matter is that they manage it properly (ph). It seems around the world they've had problems, and now they've had them here. And what she was saying made a lot of sense. I think a lot of the people on both sides of the aisle were listening to her.

LEMON (on camera): Look, Mark Zuckerberg and those who work at Facebook, they could easily change the toxic nature of Facebook if he wanted to. Most of all, he's at the top. Take a listen to this.


HAUGEN: He holds over 55% of all the voting shares for Facebook. There are no similarly powerful companies that are as unilaterally controlled. And in the end, the buck stops with Mark. There is no one currently holding Mark accountable but himself.


LEMON: So, straight up, Kara. Is she right? Is Mark Zuckerberg the problem?

SWISHER: Oh, yeah. Well, he can't be fired. I don't know, Don. You and I can be fired, right?

LEMON: Yeah.

SWISHER: I mean it does have an effect on us. And so if you're unfireable and unaccountable and you run the biggest communications platform in the history of the world, you know, that's a lot on your shoulders, even if you're really good at your job.

And I sometimes, he does a good job. Sometimes, he doesn't. But it's too much for anyone to bear, and especially too much for one private company which makes money off our data to be able to be trusted with a lot of this stuff.

I don't know what the solutions are. I don't agree with a lot of her solutions. I don't agree with other people's solutions. But there should be a transparent discussion about how to regulate this company and others like it because they have an impact. And so what does that mean to do that? Are they utility? Are they a publisher? Are they a media company? That needs to be determined.

LEMON: Listen. I think you're right. I mean, look, I think that -- you know, I have my idea what I think it is, but I don't know if that will work. But we should have the discussion and see if there's something that will work.

Kara, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you. Have a good evening.

SWISHER: No problem.

LEMON: Thank you.

SWISHER: Thanks.

LEMON: Now, the Democrats scrambling to make a deal to pass the president's domestic agenda and avoid the nation's first ever default.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Colin Allred of Texas. Congressman, hello. How are you doing?

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): I'm doing fine. I agree with your previous guest, though, that we need to do something about Facebook.

LEMON: Go on.

ALLRED: Well, you know, I do think that, particularly among the younger members of Congress who have come in recent years, that we understand the reach and really the danger of some of these social media companies and recognize the need for some form of regulation. We need to have that debate. So I appreciate you covering that.

LEMON: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Let's talk about what sources are telling CNN that Democrats are floating the idea of changing Senate rules so the debt ceiling can be raised by a simple majority vote? Do you support this? Would you support this?

ALLRED: Absolutely. I mean, there is just no way that we can allow us to play politics with the full faith and credit of the United States, and really with the global economy.

I mean, the fact that Mitch McConnell, who knows better, who really does -- there are a lot of quotes from him previously talking about the importance of doing this -- is saying that it's only incumbent upon the Democrats to do this and they have to overcome his obstacles, then okay, we are showing right now how the filibuster has crippled the United States Senate and how we need to find a way around it.

LEMON: Finally! Finally, our Democrats are realizing that Republicans don't want to work with you and that -- I mean, finally. Seriously, I hate to sound, you know, -- I don't know.


LEMON: Sarcastic or whatever the word is but, I mean, congressman, where has this been? Where has this attitude been?

ALLRED: Well, it's been there. We just haven't always had the votes to do it, Don. I think -- you know, you and I talked a lot about voting rights and how passionately I feel that, particularly in the area of voting rights, it shouldn't be subject to a majority vote and that we should be able to do with majority vote.

And, you know, I really think that if we were able to get around the filibuster that you would see more bipartisanship in the Senate because there would be more, you know, there would be more impetus to work together.

LEMON: You have to work with each other. There wouldn't be this trick --

ALLRED: Yeah, because you know it's going to pass if you want to have some (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Right. There wouldn't be this trick or this sort of bypasses that you can -- in the system that you can use, right, in order not to be bipartisan. Finally! I hope, you know, most of the Democrats in Washington are waking up to this.

Okay. So, listen. President Biden told House progressives that the social safety net package has to come down from $3.5 trillion to somewhere between $1.9 and $2.2 trillion. So, where are you willing to make cuts?

ALLRED: Yeah. Well, I think we have to decide what is most important in this. What are the programs that we feel have to be in? And then we can decide on the top line number because it will be variable depending on how many years those programs are for, whether it's five years, 10 years, into perpetuity.

And so I think we have a lot of agreement on what those programs should be. And, you know, they're dealing with the environment, yes, but they're also dealing with helping hardworking American families who have had a really hard time and were having a hard time for a long time before that.

And so I think once we get those in, I think -- these are really popular things, like paid family and medical leave, capping the cost of child care, pre-K and early childhood education, things that I think we've seen. If you spent a dollar in early childhood education, you get $7 back in terms of economic output.

These are great investments for us as the country. So the top line number really is less important. I really mean that. We just have to arrive at the programs, arrive at what we're going to do, and then we'll work our way backwards and we'll get this done.

LEMON: The things that will probably benefit rural and red states, maybe even more than blue states. That's the point. People vote against their interests all the time.

ALLRED: In Texas, what we're talking about here would be incredibly important.

LEMON: Yeah.

ALLRED: I mean, just by expanding Medicaid, we could give over million Texans health insurance.

LEMON: Thank you, Congressman Allred. I appreciate it. So --

ALLRED: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: -- we've got new developments tonight in the Gabby Petito case. Her fiance, Brian Laundrie, has been missing for weeks. I'm going to ask a former FBI profiler if the trail has gone cold as her family speaks out.


PHIL MCGRAW, CBS HOST: Do you believe he is hiding somewhere?


MCGRAW: Why do you believe that?

PETITO: Because he's a coward. Flat out. I'd like to use some other words, but I can't use them on your show.





LEMON (on camera): Brian Laundrie's sister speaking out this morning, pleading for her brother to turn himself in, more than two weeks after the body of his fiancee, Gabby Petito, was found near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.


CASSIE LAUNDRIE, SISTER OF BRIAN LAUNDRIE: I would tell my brother to just come forward and get us out of this horrible mess. I would say Brian is a mediocre survivalist. It wouldn't surprise me if he could last out there for a very long time. But also, I don't think anything would surprise me at this point. I hope my brother is alive because I want answers just as much as everybody else.


LEMON (on camera): So let's discuss now. Former FBI profiler Candice DeLong is here. She is also the host of the new podcast, "Killer Psyche." Candice, good to see you. Good evening. You always have the best information on this, so let's get going. You're calling this interview with Brian Laundrie's sister very revealing about what she may know. What are you taking away from this?

CANDICE DELONG, FORMER FBI PROFILER, PODCAST HOST: Well, the first thing I noticed is that, unlike her parents who originally said, you know, contacted the police and said he's missing, we're worried about him, she's not worried about him. She said -- basically says she's not worried that he's dead, she hopes he isn't, but she is wanting him to come home and turn himself in and answer questions.

LEMON: Her name is Cassie Laundrie. She's also telling CNN that she hasn't spoken to her parents in two weeks and says that their lawyer advised them not to discuss the case even with her. I mean, what does it tell investigators about the parents? Does it say anything?

DELONG: It sounds to me like the lawyer is worried that if the parents talk to their daughter, Cassie, she might reveal something. It is ominous. It is similar to what I thought when Brian -- when Gabby's parents called her parents and they were referred to the lawyer.

LEMON (on camera): Now, Gabby's parents and stepparents are speaking to Dr. Phil today, saying that they thought both of them were missing until they found out Brian had come home. Listen to this.


NICOLE SCHMIDT, MOTHER OF GABBY PETITO: I didn't know about the van until --

PETITO: We actually thought they were both missing at that point in time when we were calling them.

SCHMIDT: I was worried about both of them.

MCGRAW: When did you learn the van was back?

SCHMIDT: The night of the 11th when I reported her missing.


SCHMIDT: A detective came to my door and let me know that the van was in Florida.

MCGRAW: That's when you said you knew bad, bad news.

SCHMIDT: Uh-huh.


LEMON (on camera): Now, I mean, what picture are these emergent details painting for law enforcement, do you think?

DELONG: Well, he shows up. Brian shows up in Florida, back at his parents with the van. Whether it was Gabby's van or his van, they were using that van. That was their traveling motel on their adventure in the west for their travel blog or Gabby's travel blog. And he shows up without her. He had been living in his parents' home with her. They were engaged. They were living there. They've been there for months. Certainly the parents would have said, where is Gabby?

LEMON: What's going on, right? Something.

DELONG: Yeah. What -- you know, I would love to know what he said. Did he say, oh, I dropped her off in New York or -- I mean -- and then everything that followed. The parents not talking with Gabby's parents does not bode well here. I mean, it just supports my belief that they know what happened. Perhaps he revealed what happened. We know she was found to be the victim of a homicide and nobody is talking.

LEMON: Now, listen, we covered this closely, but I don't think anybody is covering it as closely as you because you're doing it on your podcast, "Killer Psyche." Tell us about that.

DELONG: Last week, we shelved our regular episode and decided to focus on the Gabby Petito case. And it is obviously a story that has captured the nation. You know, young people set out on an adventure that they want to share with everyone and something goes terribly wrong. And the young woman ends up a homicide victim.

And the man she's with takes off after he had been home for a while. He didn't take off until, I believe, her body was -- it was determined her body was found. And then he takes off. So we go into all these details and as much background as we have on both of them as well as the case and what went wrong.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, listen. We'll be following this and we'll be listening to your podcast, "Killer Psyche." Candice DeLong, always a pleasure. Thank you very much.

A campaign ad for a congressional candidate in North Carolina going viral and it compares the hate we're seeing now to what the KKK did decades ago.




LEMON (on camera): Have a seat, everyone. Pay attention. Or if you're, you know, going to bed or whatever, just pay attention.

The congressional candidate's campaign ad is going viral. The ad from North Carolina's Charles Graham recounts what happened when the KKK came to his county in 1958 and the community of Native Americans and black and white towns' people stood up to the hate group and drove them out.


CHARLES GRAHAM, NORTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE (voice-over): That night they rolled in with their cars, their crosses, and a single light bulb hooked to a car battery.

(On camera): Fifty Klansmen. Not a bad turnout on a cold night. The problem is they were surrounded by 400 Lumbees.

(Voice-over): Simeone Oxendine had been a tailgunner in a B-29 during the war. Verdia Locklear was four months pregnant. Neil Lowery was the local barber. Hundreds of normal folks deciding to stand together against ignorance and hate. Lowery shot out the light. The Klansmen scattered. By the time the sheriff arrived to fish them out of the swamp, the press was running with the story. The Battle of Hayes Pond, where one town beat the Klan.

(On camera): A piece of forgotten history worth remembering, especially today.


LEMON (on camera): Boy, do we need more folks like you now? Joining me mow is Charles Graham. He is running for Congress in North Carolina's ninth congressional district. I'm so glad that you reminded us of that, and in the process remind Americans of it. I appreciate you joining us. Good evening.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Don. Thank you for having me.

LEMON: So, what a story here. Why did you make "The Battle of Hayes Pond" such a central part of your campaign?

GRAHAM: Don, this rollout yesterday, actually, was intended to demonstrate to the folks in the ninth congressional district that they have a gentleman who is running for this office who has demonstrated that when communities come together, as did Hayes Pond, African- Americans, Lumbee, Indians coming together to fight hatred, bigotry, we can accomplish a lot when we do those things as opposed to what we see today.


LEMON: You say that what happened then mirrors a lot of what we see today. Explain.

GRAHAM: Well, Don, on a smaller scale, I don't have to identify what the KKK stood for. We all know what they stood for: hatred, bigotry. As we move forward to 2021, I think the world knows what happened at our nation's capital. We have a divided country as we see today.

I'm a candidate running for Congress and I would use my voice to stand for what is right, to stand up for our democracy. And my situation, we have a sitting House member who has undermined our presidency, who has undermined -- and I'll be honest with you, Don, has turned democracy on its head.

Charles Graham, I was raised as a sharecropper's son. My grandparents were sharecroppers. I was taught value, how to treat people with respect, and those are things that I will take into Congress to work in a bipartisan way to make my community, the home of the Lumbee, a stronger and better community, and the communities throughout the district a much stronger and better communities.

And that's what I would be advocating for as opposed to what we see now from many of our representatives.

LEMON: Since you mentioned your -- the opposition, you're running against the current Republican congressman, Dan Bishop. Bishop was behind North Carolina's infamous bathroom bill that banned people from using restrooms that did not correspond with their biological sex, limiting access for transgender people.

The bill has since been repealed. But you voted for it and you put out a statement today apologizing to the transgender community and said that the vote was a mistake. What changed your mind, sir?

GRAHAM: Well, Don, that was approximately five years ago when I voted for that bill. I did not realize at the time what would be the outcome of that legislation. I realized after the fact that it was hurtful, it was painful to our transgender communities, and I made a choice that was the wrong choice. I've apologized for that vote. And in addition, Don, I did work diligently to repeal this bill. And I'm proud that I've done that.

I'm an individual who, Don, throughout my life, especially my younger life, I experienced hate, I experienced discrimination. I confronted it face to face. And as we move forward and going into Congress, it is my intention to make sure that all people of color, gender will have a voice in Congress as opposed to what we're seeing now, partisanship and divide.

LEMON: What you think your chances are, especially with what you're saying, partisanship and divide? What do you think your chances are? Do you think that what you're selling, people are going to buy it?

GRAHAM: Well, I think as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly, the constituents I represent, they want to see their member working across the aisle, trying to bring things to their district, and I've done that.

The House member that I'll hopefully be running against, Don, I don't know that we can say what he's brought to our folks in eastern and rural counties. But I can tell you, I have worked diligently to bring opportunities to the people that I represent, and I'm very proud of that fact.

So, my voice would be a voice as a uniter, not a divider. That's what we have in the current situation. Someone who has undermined our president, will not support his agenda, and I don't think people appreciate that.

LEMON: Representative Grisham (ph), I'm so happy to have you on. I hope your message gets to people regardless of how they vote. Graham, excuse me. I don't know why I said that, but Graham. I hope your message gets to people regardless of how they vote, if they vote for you or someone else, but your message is a kind that we need today. I thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Don. It's a pleasure to be with you.

LEMON: You as well.


LEMON: A former contract worker at Tesla is saying that he experienced a barrage of racial abuse at the company's factory in California. Now, a federal jury has awarded him nearly $137 million.


LEMON: A giant verdict against Tesla. [23:39:54]

LEMON: A federal jury is ordering the company to pay $137 million in damages to a former contractor at its Fremont, California plant who alleges that he was subjected to racial harassment and discrimination. No word on whether the automaker will appeal. But the company says it does not believe the facts justify the verdict.

Owen Diaz is the plaintiff in this case. He joins me now along with his attorney, Larry Organ. Thank you. I really appreciate you gentlemen joining me. Fascinating story. Good evening to you, Owen and Larry.



LEMON: In the lawsuit, you describe racist graffiti and insensitive caricatures. You say that you were repeatedly referred to using racial slurs and that you were told to go back to Africa. Tell us what it's like working in this factory. Talk to me.

DIAZ: Just a hostile work environment. You know, the thing is that my supervisors and co-workers were not only telling me to go back to Africa, they were saying the N-word and saying the N-word aren't S-H- I, you know, and things to that nature.

I also had a supervisor cost (ph) me in the elevator and threatened me with physical violence. And that was captured on surveillance video. And they never took a look at that. Then one of the other instances, when that same supervisor that accosted me in the elevator, he drew a picture of a jigger (INAUDIBLE) on a cardboard bill and sent it over to me.

LEMON: Wow! And a blog posted on the company's website, Tesla's head of human resources, Valerie Capers, a workman says that the company responded to Owen's complaints. The racist imagery was removed and two contractors were fired, one suspended, and that Owen only complained about usage of the N-word after he was not hired full-time. How do you respond to that?

DIAZ: Well, you know, my mother told me never to call anybody a wiseass. The thing is that they retained the supervisor that was causing the incidents, you know, and they kept them in the same position that he was in in the beginning. We don't know today if he's still dishing out that abuse to other employees.

LEMON: Yeah. Larry, you know, workman also says that witnesses testify that they regularly heard the N-word at Tesla, but that most of the time, they thought that the language was used in a friendly manner and usually by African-American colleagues. In what world is that okay?

ORGAN: Not okay and not true. So, you know, the whole point of the jury's award, $130 million, in punitive damage to punish and deter and to make Tesla listen to what they're saying.

What happens here? They put out the statement not five hours after the jury rendered its verdict. It doesn't accept what the jury says. It lies about Owen's relationship with Tesla because the jury found that he was an employee. They say no N-word complaint but two witnesses confirmed. In fact, the N-word was reported violence.

So, Tesla is just spinning here. And it, you know, it just shows you that the jury absolutely got it right. In fact, they probably should have awarded more money so that Tesla might shut its mouth and do something.

LEMON: Owen, you said the breaking point for you was when your son, who also worked at Tesla, was subjected to racial harassment and slurs, too. What?

DIAZ: Yeah, you know, it was the summer of 2015. I was taking my son like a father would do. My son was working and I was taking him with me. Then as I was coming around the corner, I heard his supervisor using the N-word, saying that he couldn't stand all the f-ing (INAUDIBLE).

You know, at that point, what he had did -- he affected (ph) the masculine in me. He also (INAUDIBLE) my son, (INAUDIBLE) me, broke in front. So, you know, the mental damage that has been done to a family is never can be reversed.

This is something that I have to go through with the rest of my life, knowing that not only did I make a mistake as parent and took my son into a hostile environment. But what I was trying to do was just the right thing. I was trying to keep my son on track and turn him into a productive citizen of society.

LEMON: Larry, quick response, because I want to get another response from Tesla. The human resources head also writes about the verdict. "While we strongly believe that these facts don't justify the verdict reached by the jury in San Francisco, we do recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we were not perfect."


LEMON: "We're still not perfect. But we have come a long way from five years ago."

What do you think? Is Tesla going to appeal? Quickly, if you will.

ORGAN: I think they will appeal and I think, again, they're not telling the truth. I've got a class action now against Tesla. And in that class action, we've got thousands of people who are potential class members. Over 100 people have sworn under oath that the N-word has been spoken at Tesla since the events that Owen was exposed to.

LEMON: Owen, thank you very much. Best of luck to you and your family. Larry, you as well, thank you.

ORGAN: Thank you, Don. DIAZ: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

Former Democratic presidential and New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang is breaking up with the Democratic Party. Why he says he is fed up with the two-party system.




LEMON: Andrew Yang says he is breaking up with the Democratic Party. Yep, the former Democratic presidential and New York mayoral candidate is now a registered independent, and he is starting what he calls the "Forward Party." He's also the author of the book "Forward: Notes on the Future of our Democracy." Andrew Yang joins me now.

Andrew, good to see you. Thank you for joining me.


LEMON: All right, Andrew, a lot of people have tried to make a third party successful, right, to have one before. Why would this one be viable?

YANG: Polarization is now at record highs and it's just getting worse, Don. Right now, Gallop just said 62% of Americans are looking for a third party. The question is why have none of them worked? And the answer is mechanics. You have closed party primaries that are driving the polarization.

So that's what the Forward Party is looking to change, to shift to open primaries and rank choice voting that would both decrease polarization and lower the country's temperature but also give rise to a new options and new alternatives.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, listen, as a registered independent, welcome to the club, okay? What? Go on.

YANG: That's fantastic. You know, I'm new to the club, but I'm enjoying it so far.

LEMON: Let's look at your former party, right, because you ran as a Democrat in all of your previous races. You were a registered Democrat. Let us look to your former party and the negotiations over the giant spending package just over the past few days. One thing we're seeing is that there really is a variety of ideas or there are a variety of ideas and priorities within the Democratic Party. You really don't think there's a place for you with that broad range in that party?

YANG: The dysfunction in Washington, unfortunately, is a product of our system, Don. What I'm committed to, what the Forward Party is committed to, is actually making sure our system starts working again.

Right now, we're living through a version of our founding father's worst nightmares. They would have never had this find of dysfunctional duopoly, which is vulnerable to authoritarianism because we have one party that has bad leadership than it can overrun all these safeguards.

But what they feared was clashing factions that never got anything done, and that's unfortunately a lot of what we're seeing in Washington over the last number of years, really.

LEMON: Look, you're aware that the GOP-led states across the country are working hard to pass restrictive voting measures. Several states already have. I mean, won't these sorts of laws and the GOP efforts to hold on to power really blunt any momentum for a third party?

YANG: What is interesting is the one state that has already adopted open primaries and rank choice voting is Alaska, which is a deep red state. It turns out that Americans of every political alignment think that our system will work better if our leaders have to try and appeal to 51% of voters instead of just the 10% to 20% on either side.

So this isn't a red or blue thing, this is a systemic thing, and that's why we all feel like we're being driven crazy and being pitted against each other. That's what we have to change. We have to disentangle the incentives so they actually line up with our interests, the interests of the American people.

LEMON: Okay. So, look, I have your book here, right? It is called "Forward." I just want to read a part from the book about your experience running for president.

You said, "The people around me treated me as either a celebrity or a product that hundreds of staffers were focused on selling, and everyone in my orbit started treating me like I might be a presidential contender. I was getting a crash course in how we treat the very powerful -- and it was weird." And you add that a power causes brain damage. So, talk to me about that and what is the remedy?

YANG: So, clinical studies have found that if you're in a position of power, it actually changes your brain wiring where you become less empathetic. We actually catch on to that, we kind of fear that our leaders are losing touch. It's one reason why they always try to recount their humble beginnings, to show that they're still like us.

But the fact is, the more time you spend in this kind of crucible of political life, when you're just being surrounded by a vortex of cameras and money and the rest of it, it does mess with your head.

And one thing I believe we should implement is term limits, 18-year term limits for members of Congress, because 75% of Americans recognize that sending someone to D.C. and then having them stay there forever should not be the way to go.

LEMON: Eighteen years? That's a long time.

YANG: See, I'm being pretty reasonable.

LEMON: When you're in office, you should be in office for service, not as a career.


LEMON: So 18 years seems like a long time. That seems like a career.

YANG: Well, 18 years would still be completely different than what's happening now where a lot of the congressional leaders have been there 20, 25, 30 years.

We have a gerontocracy in the United States right now, Don, because of these essentially lifetime appointments that are happening and even 18 years would be a massive improvement.

LEMON: Andrew Yang, always good to see you. The book again is "Forward: Note on the Future of our Democracy."

YANG: Let's fix it. Thanks, Don. Great seeing you.

LEMON: Thank you, Andrew. Good to see you. You be well.

And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Facebook likes to say it was built to bring people together. It literally uses those words in promotional material.