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Don Lemon Tonight
First U.S. Case Of Omicron Variant Confirmed In California; Abortion Rights At Stake In Historic Supreme Court Case; Fifteen-Year- Old Student Charged With Murder And Terrorism; Capitol Rioter Apologizes In Newly Released Video; Dr. Oz Announces Bid For U.S. Senate Seat In Pennsylvania. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired December 01, 2021 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): The case is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and abortion rights in the U.S. are at stake tonight.
And Michigan prosecutors charging a 15-year-old high school student as an adult with terrorism and first-degree murder in a deadly shooting rampage that killed four students and wounded seven others.
I want to turn now to CNN's Kaitlan Collins for the very latest on the case of Omicron variant confirmed here in the U.S.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's what scientists were bracing for.
ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We knew that it was just a matter of time.
COLLINS (voice-over): The Omicron variant now in the United States.
FAUCI: This is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant detected in the United States.
COLLINS (voice-over): A fully vaccinated person who recently returned from South Africa to San Francisco, the first to test positive for the new variant about which little is known.
(On camera): Have they had a booster shot yet?
FAUCI: To my knowledge, no, Kaitlan.
COLLINS (voice-over): This person returned to United States on November 22nd, tested positive a week later, and is now isolating as close contacts are being traced and tested.
FAUCI: No close contacts thus far have tested negative.
COLLINS (voice-over): The news coming as the CDC prepares to tighten testing restrictions on all travelers entering the United States, shortening the timeframe for a negative test from 72 hours to 24.
FAUCI: This person, I mean, did what we hoped other people will do. They got off and as soon as they became symptomatic, they went and got tested, and it was positive.
COLLINS (voice-over): A mandatory quarantine not currently under consideration as Dr. Fauci is calling on the 100 million eligible Americans who have yet to get boosted to do so.
FAUCI: If you look at the peak following the third shot boost, it goes way up here.
COLLINS (voice-over): Fauci warning not to wait for an Omicron- tailored booster shot.
FAUCI: The mistake people would make is to say, let me wait and see if we get one.
COLLINS (voice-over): More than 20 countries have not detected the variant in their nation, raising questions about the value of travel bans.
FAUCI: No one feels, I certainly don't, that a travel ban is going to prevent people who are infected from coming to the United States, but we need it to buy some time.
COLLINS (voice-over): Fauci offering this advice for Americans hoping to attend holiday parties.
FAUCI (voice-over): Indoor-type settings with family that you know is vaccinated, people that you know, you can feel safe without wearing a mask. But when you are in a public, congregate setting in which you do not know the status of the vaccination of the people involved, it is very prudent to wear a mask.
COLLINS (voice-over): Tomorrow, President Biden is set to deliver a comprehensive speech laying out his plan for combatting COVID in the coming months.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We'll fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion.
COLLINS (on camera): And Don, one other step that we are learning the White House is expected to take is extending that mask mandate on travel. Of course, that comes on airplanes, on trains, all of these mass transit purposes that you had to wear a mask for the last several months. We are expecting the Biden administration to extend that now that, of course, they are concerned about variants popping up in the United States.
LEMON (on camera): Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much for that. I appreciate it. Joining me now is Dr. Megan Ranney. She is a professor of emergency medicine at Brown University. Doctor, so good to have you. Let's discuss this. We are learning new details about the first case of Omicron variant detected in the U.S. What should we be expecting to hear next about in this country? It a matter of time before we start hearing about community spread, that it's, you know, spreading among folks?
MEGAN RANNEY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: That is exactly right. This is just the first of many cases that are going to be reported over the coming days. And over the coming weeks, we will start hearing about community spread. I expect that most of the initial cases will be travelers who are going to be a little more alert to the fact that they may have this new variant.
Just like when COVID-19 was first identified in the United States going back to February of 2020, we found it in folks who had been to China and Italy, even though in reality, it had been here for a while, we just hadn't identified it yet. Same thing is going to happen with Omicron. It is why wearing those masks in public settings is so important and vaccinations and boosters matter too.
LEMON: Look, if there is, you know, a positive in all of this, it is important to note that this person had mild symptoms and they are now improving and they were vaccinated, but they weren't boosted yet. What do you make of that?
RANNEY: So, this says to me that the vaccines still work for the things that matter most, which are avoiding severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Now, I will make the caveat as a scientist that this is only one person, but this mirrors what is being reported out of South Africa, which is that the sickest patients are the unvaccinated.
That is a very reassuring sign and that also reinforces the importance of going out and getting your booster if you are six months from that primary series of vaccines.
LEMON: Doctor, testing is such a critical part of identifying a new variant, but that still a major problem in the U.S.
LEMON: How concerning is that?
RANNEY: It's not just a problem, it is a problem that has gotten considerably worse over the last couple of months as a number of those large mass testing centers have shut down.
So, what I'm telling folks is there are two things you can do. The first is if you are symptomatic, you can use one of those rapid antigen tests that can be bought at any drugstore. They're not perfect but they are good initial screening tests. After that, right now, pharmacies, places like CVS and Walgreens are often the best place to go to get a PCR.
The other part, of course, is whether -- trying to find out whether or not what you have is regular COVID or Omicron. Those PCR tests can be used to do a quick and dirty test for your health department but that longer sequencing will take a while and you may never find out which variant you have. Regardless, isolate, if God forbid you do have a positive test.
LEMON: Yeah, you know, doctor, we keep hearing from officials, you know, don't panic about Omicron, but a lot of my family and friends are now worried about upcoming holiday travel plans. Do you have any hesitation, do you have any advice, any words of wisdom here, please?
RANNEY: So, I am among those. I have family celebrations planned. I have our first airplane trip. My little guy will finally be fully vaccinated when we book an international trip for the first time since 2019. What I am telling folks, including my own family, is hit pause, look into your cancellation policies, but don't panic yet.
Today is not the time to cancel plans. Make sure you are vaccinated, have your masks ready. We're going to new a lot more in one to two weeks about how bad this variant is, how quickly it spreads, and how dangerous it is.
LEMON: Look, I went from the planning stages with my mom, with her, to a nope. So, she's really concerned. So, I'm trying to find some positive news to get her actually come visit me here for the holidays. So, thank you for that.
Listen, you know, tomorrow, President Biden is expected to lay out a comprehensive plan for fighting COVID in the coming months. What's the most critical thing that needs to happen here?
RANNEY: So, there are a couple of really important things. The first is I want to see a vaccine mandate for all international travelers, not just for nationals, but also American citizens. I would, of course, love to see that domestically as well, but I think the chance of that is little to none.
Extending the mask mandate for travel is critical. I know that the federal government doesn't have much say over the individual states, but masks are so important during surges. And then I hope to see the federal government step up in terms of rapid testing availability, PCR availability, and most importantly, step up in terms of supporting our health care workers.
Don, we are so exhausted after the last year and a half. Our ERs and hospitals are full, not just of COVID patients, but with all of the other medical, surgical, and trauma problems that have ballooned over the course of the pandemic. There is no space at the end and I would love to see the federal government step up and provide a little support for all of us to help us get through this inevitable winter surge.
LEMON: I was just speaking to a friend yesterday and her wife was a frontline worker and is burned out and just can't go to work anymore. And I can certainly understand why because they've been under so much stress the last couple of years. Thank you, doctor. I appreciate it.
RANNEY: Thank you. LEMON: Thank you. The battle over Roe v. Wade front and center at the Supreme Court today. Justices hearing oral arguments on a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The law is designed to be a direct challenge to Roe.
I want to bring in now CNN's chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Good to see you, Jeffrey.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Hi, Don.
LEMON: So, you said that this would happen. And so, do you think the votes are there to overturn Roe v. Wade?
TOOBIN: You know, I wasn't sure before the oral argument. And, you know, sometimes, you can read too much into what justices say. But there were five justices today who looked very ready to overturn Roe v. Wade. The five most conservative members of the court: Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.
Chief Justice Roberts tried to suggest that maybe there was an interim position, that you uphold the Mississippi law but you don't specifically overturn Roe v. Wade. And none of the other five conservatives seemed to remotely interested in that. And you have people like Brett Kavanaugh and the other conservatives saying, you know, we overturn precedents sometimes, there's nothing unusual, nothing wrong with that, and Roe v. Wade looks next.
LEMON (on camera): Let's listen at some of what the conservative justices said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): But if it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?
SAMUEL ALITO, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): The fetus has an interest in having a life and that doesn't change, does it? From the point before viability to the point after viability?
BRETT KAVANAUGH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): The reason this issue is hard, is that you can't accommodate both interests.
KAVANAUGH: You have to pick. That's the fundamental problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Okay, well, I thought he said this was settled, at these hearings.
TOOBIN: And Susan Collins based her whole vote for his confirmation on the idea that it was settled. That was then.
LEMON: That was then. Conservatives have been working for a long time to get a court like this.
TOOBIN: Decades. Decades. I mean, this -- the Supreme Court has been the great conservative project and Roe v. Wade has been the great target of that project. And they thought they came close in 1992 when the Casey decision came out. They were surprised when David Suitor and Sandra Day O'Connor, Republican appointees, voted to uphold Roe vs. Wade.
The scrutiny that Republican appointees to the court have gotten since then is very different. They have -- they have been scrubbed to make sure that they will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. And today, we look -- it looked to me at least like that effort is on the verge of success.
LEMON: What do those hearings -- do they even matter? Because Kavanaugh said -- he said -- he said confirmation -- he said, a string of important cases that overturned precedent -- he talked about -- but he said this had been subtle (ph). I think he said there was case on case as something a precedent --
LEMON: -- this was a settled issue.
TOOBIN: That's right. He said Casey was on top of Roe v. Wade --
TOOBIN: -- so that -- so that, you know, it's like a double precedent in effect. You know, Chuck Schumer, who I've interviewed many times about Supreme Court vacancies, said that at this point, he basically ignores the hearings because everybody knows the script that they have to follow in order to get confirmed, and the only thing we should look at is what the presidents look at when they appoint the justices, which is their record.
And if you look at Kavanaugh's record, if you look at Barrett's record, Gorsuch's record, you can see why Donald Trump said in one of the debates with Hillary Clinton, if I get elected president, it's going to be automatic that Roe v. Wade gets overturned, and I think he's going to be proven right by that.
LEMON (on camera): I want to play something that we heard from Justice Sonia Sotomayor today. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONIA SOTOMAYOR, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception, that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don't see how it is possible. If people actually believe that it's all political, how will we survive? How will the court survive?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): You have an answer for that?
TOOBIN: Stench. That's not a word you hear justices talking about with their own --
LEMON: Say again.
TOOBIN: Stench. That's a pretty tough word. You know, Justice Robert Jackson, who served in the 40s and 50s, he had something he said about the Supreme Court that I always remember, which is we are not final because we are infallible. We are infallible because we are final. In other words, somebody has got to have a last word. It doesn't mean we're always right, but the system has been set up that we have the last word.
So, she says how are they going to survive? They're going to survive because they survive, because our system needs a last word about what is constitutional. Doesn't mean people will like it, doesn't mean people will respect the court perhaps the way they do now, but this is the system that we're stuck with for better or worse.
LEMON: For better or for worse, elections, and that's a cliche, have consequences.
TOOBIN: Boy, do they -- I mean, they sure do.
TOOBIN: All I can say is yes.
LEMON: Thank you, Jeffrey. I appreciate it.
Chilling new details about the 15-year-old suspect in the deadly shooting, school shooting in Michigan. I'm going to talk to the sheriff. He's next.
LEMON: The 15-year-old suspect in the Michigan high school shooting appearing in court today for the first time since the attack that left four of his fellow students dead. He is being tried as an adult with charges ranging from terrorism to first-degree murder. And in court today, we got more detail about what went into the planning of this attack.
More now with -- joining me is Michael -- Sheriff Michael Bouchard of Oakland County, Michigan. Sheriff, thank you for joining us. I know it's very busy and sad time for you. I'm so sorry about what happened to your community. But we appreciate you joining us.
MICHAEL BOUCHARD, SHERIFF, OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN: Thank you. LEMON: We are learning that the school had contact with the suspect
the day before the shooting and his parents the day of because of concerning behavior. I mean, it's shocking. You say you didn't learn of the meetings until after the shooting? Should these have been reported to you as red flags?
BOUCHARD: Well, we always encourage schools and parents and teachers and students for that matter. Students are in the best position to see concerning behavior, Snapchat or kind of screen shot things. We encourage people to contact us if there is anything concerning and let us check it out. And maybe it's nothing, but we would rather check 1,000 nothings than miss one real deal.
So, you know, we just think that's an important thing for everybody to do. Never view it as a burden because that's what we want to do. That's what we're here for.
LEMON: It was revealed, sheriff, in court today that there are two videos of the suspect's phone where he talks about killing students. What can you tell us about how the suspect was planning this attack? What do you know?
BOUCHARD: You know, I can't get into great detail because we're in the handoff face where it becomes from investigation to prosecution.
BOUCHARD: But I can tell you it's chilling, it's disturbing. And from all the evidence that I've seen and also being on the scene, seeing the actual site, being in the school, you know, I've seen a lot of death and bodies in my career, but any time you see children, it's somehow much a bigger gut punch on so many different levels.
And being in that school and seeing the victims, seeing the chaos of that moment, and knowing and seeing because we actually have video of him carrying out these devastating attacks is incredibly sad, disturbing. And also, for me, it makes me quite angry.
LEMON: The big question is why? That's what everyone wants to know. If you uncovered any possible motive? Do you have videos? You've been talking to people? He's in custody?
BOUCHARD: He's not speaking with us. In Michigan, under the current statute, it says that if we are going to interview or interrogate a juvenile, the parents have to give permission and they have refused permission, so we're not talking to the parents or the individual that now has been charged.
But I certainly believe and have seen some of the evidence, which I think will portray some of the direction of why he decided to do it. But again, there is absolutely nothing that could ever lead anybody to see that this would be a reasonable thing to do regardless of what they are thinking or feeling.
And I also want to put to rest, we have no evidence that he was ever bullied by anyone. We have no information that's come to us on that level. That's a rumor that's floating around and that's false.
LEMON (on camera): Sheriff, I want to play something that was on CNN earlier. The Oakland County prosecutor was on tonight. She was asked about potential charges for the parents. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN MCDONALD, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR: I've made it very clear that we are -- there are likely potential additional charges, which we intend to announce very soon. With the right of owning a gun comes responsibility. And the responsibility of a gun owner is to securely store that weapon and to keep it out of the hands of somebody who could kill people. And in this case, that does not seem to have happened. But again, we're still investigating that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Is it concerning to you, the father of the suspected shooter bought the weapon just days before the shooting? And what do you think of what she said?
BOUCHARD: Yeah, well, the whole thing is obviously tragic and concerning to me and the whole community. That's part of our investigation right now, to determine how he came into possession of a weapon. I mean, we know for a fact, obviously, him merely possessing the weapon is a crime. Him taking it into a school is another crime even before he began to pull the trigger.
How he became in possession of that, whether he was given it, which would make it a crime, or whether he stole it. That is ultimately going to be key information that we attempt to learn and then present to the prosecutor to allow her to make an informed charging decision.
LEMON: You know, sheriff, a fourth student died in the hospital today, Justin Shilling, 17 years old. Absolutely tragic and on a personal level, though. How has this affected you and how has it affected your community?
BOUCHARD: It's gut-wrenching. You know, I can't tell you how many people have been touched and affected even those outside of this particular school district. A lot of people and parents kept their kids home. Sadly, we've had a host of copycat threats all across the county and probably across the country. We've been working on about 10 copycat kinds of threats.
So, it's just been a gut-wrenching 48 hours on so many levels. But the parents in the community are rallying around to support the victims of this and to do everything they can to help. And that's, you know, what makes Oxford, the community, that it is. It's heart. It's character.
LEMON: Sheriff Bouchard, thank you, sir. I appreciate your joining us.
BOUCHARD: Thank you.
LEMON: And we also want to report to you some tragic news tonight in Los Angeles. Jacqueline Avant, wife of legendary music executive Clarence Avant, shot and killed early this morning inside their Beverly Hills home. Police saying there is a chance she may have been targeted. An investigation is ongoing.
In a statement, Jacqueline Avant's family remembered her as a wife, mother, and philanthropist. Clarence Avant was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year and was subject of a 2019 documentary "The Black Godfather."
The Capitol rioter accused of tasing Officer Michael Fanone on January 6 sobbing over what he did and apologizing. Michael Fanone is here to respond. He's next.
LEMON (on camera): So, the Justice Department releasing new video of the FBI's interview with the Capitol rioter accused of tasing Officer Michael Fanone. Here is a reminder of what happened to Fanone on January 6th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (voice-over): But now, Daniel Rodriguez is apologizing.
(On camera): Here is what he said to federal investigators.
UNKNOWN: Why did you tase him?
DANIEL RODRIGUEZ, CAPITOL RIOTER: I don't know. I'm a piece of (bleep). I'm sorry. I don't know. He's a human being with children, and he's not a bad guy. He sounds like he's just doing his job and he's (bleep).
UNKNOWN: But why? Why would you go up there with a taser?
RODRIGUEZ: I said I don't know.
UNKNOWN: Why would you take that?
LEMON (on camera): D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone joins me now. He's one of the heroes who risked his life defending our Capitol on January 6th and I'm honored to call him a friend. I have said it every time because it is true. So, don't get the big head, sir. Good to see you. How are you doing?
MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: Good to see you. Good, man. How are you? LEMON: I was going to say how are you doing since our last -- I guess
we haven't spoken in like three or four hours. Listen, what is your reaction to hearing the man that tased you during your brutal assault on January 6th? He says he's sorry for what he was doing. He seems very emotional. Do you think it sincere?
FANONE: I mean, for what I did watch, I did -- I did feel like it was sincere. I mean, obviously, I agree with his self-assessment. But what was most striking to me was, you know, what I've seen in a lot of these interviews is the direct correlation that these individuals who are charged with violent acts on January 6th, you know, stated they were sent there or directed to go there by Donald Trump.
LEMON (on camera): Yeah. That is -- we're going to play that. But I just want to ask you. Let me play it. Let me say it and then I'll ask you the question. He told the FBI that, you know, he followed the right-wing site Infowars closely and then, as you said, he felt that Donald Trump wanted him to fight on January 6th. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODRIGUEZ: Trump called us. Trump called us to D.C.
UNKNOWN: Tell me about that. How did he let you guys know to come to D.C.?
RODRIGUEZ: If he's the commander-in-chief and the leader of our country, and he's calling for help -- I thought he was calling for help. I thought he was -- I thought we were doing the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Look, Michael, multiple rioters are saying Trump motivated them to show up on the 6th. What do you think of all that?
FANONE: I think it shows how dangerous political rhetoric can be. You know, these people clearly were manipulated by the lies, you know, spoken by Donald Trump, his sick offense. They believed that they were ordered to go there, that they were directed to go there, that they were doing what was right.
You know, these people are not patriots. These were misfits, morons and malcontents. A lot of them harbored some pretty significant anti- government views. And this is the army that Trump assembled to try to subvert the election, overthrow the government.
LEMON: Just today, a federal judge suggested that Trump and others who spoke at the "stop the steal" rally on January 6th should be held accountable for stoking the crowd. I mean, that hasn't happened yet. Why do you think that is?
FANONE: I have no idea. But it seems to be par for the course. I see politicians hiding behind the idea of political speak, saying things that, you know, in my view is insightful, that there's a direct correlation to violent acts on both sides of the political aisle, but specifically January 6th. LEMON (on camera): Let's hear more from that interview with Rodriguez
and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODRIGUEZ: We felt that they stole the election. We thought they -- we felt that they stole this country, that it's gone, it's wiped out. America is over. It's destroyed now.
UNKNOWN: And so, if you took the Capitol, then what?
RODRIGUEZ: I don't know. We just thought that -- damn, dude. I don't know. I understand what it -- it's very stupid and ignorant, and I see that it's a big joke, that we thought we were going to save this country, we were doing the right thing and stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): All of it based on a lie. What kind of consequences do you think these rioters should face?
FANONE: I mean, I want accountability.
FANONE: You know, anyone that's willing to accept responsibility, specifically the defendants charged in my assault, I forgive them. But I want them to be held accountable. I want, you know, I want the individuals who led them, directed them to the Capitol that day to be held accountable as well.
LEMON: That was a question that I was going to ask you. I said I'll ask you later is if you forgive him.
FANONE: I do.
FANONE: I mean, I don't want to carry, you know, the anger and hatred of that event around with me for the rest of my life. And also, in a lot of ways, I think my experience as a police officer allows me to compartmentalize what happened to me as an individual. But I do want accountability for Officer Michael Fanone and all the other officers that responded to the Capitol, the true patriots that day.
LEMON: Are you worried it will happen again?
FANONE: I am. I mean, I see a continuation of the same political rhetoric that was used in the weeks, months leading up to January 6th being utilized today with very little, if any accountability. I mean, I see, you know, individuals, members of Congress, elected leaders making some of the most outrageous statements and claims publicly and, you know, what is accountability for them?
They get, you know, stood in front of colleagues in the well of, you know, on the House floor wearing a proverbial cap and having somebody read off a list of their wrongdoings. That doesn't work with my 6- year-old. I don't think it's going to work with a grown adult.
LEMON: You know, I've watched Liz Cheney. And I think we were on the phone today. We were talking about Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. She is like woman on the Nile and so is Adam Kinzinger standing up doing what is right when everybody around them is, you know, calling them a traitor.
Do you feel that way with what you do with your work with law enforcement? Many people in law enforcement are supporters of the former president and I know that they haven't said, not all of them, you've had some support, nice things or kind things about you.
FANONE: I mean, I've had thousands upon thousands of Americans take the time to sit down and hand write me letters thanking me for what I did and not just me but also all the officers that responded that day and fought to preserve democracy and, you know, to save the lives of members of Congress and their staff.
I feel supported. I think it's unfortunate that people fall prey to or susceptible to political pandering, some of the rhetoric that is used by the former president, because I don't believe that he cares about law enforcement any more than he cares about America, democracy or Constitution. He cares about, you know, lining his pockets.
LEMON: Michael Fanone. Thank you, sir.
FANONE: Thank you.
LEMON: Talk to you soon. See you.
So, he comes under fire for making claims about so-called miracle cures often without medical evidence. Now, TV personality Dr. Oz is making a run for U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania as a Republican.
LEMON: Dr. Mehmet Oz wants to take his career in a whole new direction. He is a heart surgeon, familiar to many Americans for his TV show where, quite frankly, he has faced a lot of criticism over the years for pushing medical claims that often like evidence. And now, Dr. Oz says he is running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania as a Republican.
More tonight from CNN's Randi Kaye.
MEHMET OZ, TELEVISION PERSONALITY, CARDIOTHORACIC SURGEON: I want to challenge you.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His audiences watch in awe as Dr. Mehmet Oz pushes so-called miracle treatments or cures that often lack medical evidence to back them up.
OZ: And I've got the number one miracle in a vial to burn your fat. It's raspberry ketone.
We are kicking it off with what I believe is one of the most important discoveries we've made to help you burn fat faster. Green coffee bean extract.
KAYE (voice-over): Dr. Oz also once claimed putting a bar of lavender soap in your bed can help prevent restless leg syndrome. But there is nothing like his showmanship for his so-called "rapid belly melt" demonstration. He used it to promote yet another questionable fat- burning product he called "lightning in a bottle."
OZ: This is what it does to your belly fat, whoa! And as it burns it away, what's left behind?
KAYE (voice-over): More recently, he made claims during the pandemic that critics called "medical misinformation."
OZ: I would take it myself if I was having issues with the virus.
KAYE (voice-over): That's Dr. Oz speaking with Larry King last year about using the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to fight the coronavirus. Remarks that he later walked back.
OZ: Because it's believed to be so safe, it's used widely, and it turns out that it might have an effect against this virus.
KAYE (voice-over): The fact is the CDC has noted the drug's efficacy to either prevent or treat this infection are unknown. It's warned that unsupervised use of hydroxychloroquine can cause serious health consequences, including death.
FAUCI: I think we've got to be careful that we don't make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug.
KAYE (voice-over): And last year, Dr. Oz made comments that were interpreted to mean that three percent total mortality due to COVID was worth the cost to some to reopen schools.
OZ: I just saw a nice piece in "The Lancet" arguing that the opening of schools may only cost us two to three percent in terms of total mortality.
KAYE (voice-over): The backlash was swift and Oz later said he misspoke. A 2014 study in the peer-reviewed British medical journal found that a 40 randomly selected episodes from Oz's television show, his health recommendations were based on evidence just 46 percent of the time.
OZ: Here is what we're going to do.
KAYE (voice-over): The following year, a group of doctors and professors sent this letter to Columbia University's dean of medicine, asking him to remove Dr. Oz, who is a trained heart surgeon, from his faculty position. The group cited Oz as -- quote -- "egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain," something Dr. Oz later denied.
Colombia stood by him. But in recent years, Dr. Oz has also had to answer to a Senate committee, which also questioned his advertising of unproven weight loss products.
CLAIRE MCCASKILL, FORMER MISSOURI SENATOR: I don't get why you need to say this stuff because you know it's not true. So, why when you have this amazing megaphone and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?
OZ: I recognize that oftentimes they don't have the scientific muster to present as fact.
KAYE (voice-over): If Dr. Oz has his way, he'll soon trade television for the U.S. Senate and likely work with some who already question his ethics.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
LEMON (on camera): Randi, thanks for that. Does Dr. Oz have a chance in Pennsylvania? That's a question. We got a Pennsylvania expert here, former GOP Congressman Charlie Dent. He is next.
LEMON: So, joining me now to talk about Dr. Oz, Charlie Dent, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. Good evening, sir. So, you saw Randi's story about Dr. Oz and how he has spread some of these false baseless medical claims. Now that the candidate endorsed by Trump has dropped out of this race, is celebrity and wealth enough for Dr. Oz to win in Pennsylvania?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: Don, I think the answer to that question is absolutely not, especially when you're a celebrity. By the way, I might be one of the only people in America who's never watched his show. But some of these quack theories or therapies he's been promoting, he'll have to answer for.
But I think he actually has a bigger problem than his celebrity or notoriety in this case. His bigger problem, I think, is his residency. You know, he's from Cleveland. He lives in Bergen County, New Jersey as I understand it, which is right near New York City, and really doesn't live in Pennsylvania. His mother-in-law apparently does.
And in 2004, Don, I came to Congress, I beat a guy who didn't live in the district in which I was running in. He lived in the Philadelphia mainland. He might as well have been from Mars. It was what we call an 80 percent issue. It was an issue that was disqualifying for that candidate.
I would just argue that try to explain to people around the state that why are you running for the U.S. Senate when you really haven't lived there?
DENT: How could you possibly represent people that you don't know?
DENT: I think that's a bigger problem for him.
LEMON: Yeah. Look, it's interesting because I was telling the folks in the studio here, I have to do my job, I know Dr. Oz. I'm not good friends with him, but I know him. I see him socially. The nicest guy, at least from the interactions that I've had with him. But there are all these allegations. He did have to testify.
I mean, he's already appeared on the Fox propaganda network sounding very Trumpian. He has talked about America's values being under attack. Is this the model the GOP now needs to use in order to win here?
DENT: It seems to be -- like you said, Don, it sounds like he's a nice man. In fact, he has said that Arnold Schwarzenegger was his role model. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a very moderate Republican. But I think he has done like so many. They have transformed themselves into something that they are not in order to win a nomination.
That's what it appears Dr. Oz is doing. Even though, as you say, he's a nice guy and he's a self-described -- he called himself once a moderate Republican.
DENT: Well, that's not how he's positioning himself in this primary. But yeah, that's the sorry (ph) state of affairs, that in order to win a primary, they think they need to get, you know, so far over to get Trump's endorsement.
DENT: That didn't work so well for Sean Parnell, who Trump endorsed and had to drop out of the race because of credible accusations from his wife for beating the children and trying to strangle her, and he is out of the race.
LEMON: Yeah. DENT: That's what happened. But these candidates are going -- they're behaving in ways that are outside of their normal character and persona.
LEMON: It shows you that name recognition, celebrity, notoriety can hurt you equally as much as it can help you, depending on what you've said and done, your actions in the past.
Thank you, Charlie. Good to see you.
DENT: Good to see you, Don.
LEMON: Thank you.
DENT: Have a good night.
LEMON: Thank you. You as well. Thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. We begin with breaking news. There is a lot of activity in the White House tonight. They have been preparing for several days now to deliver a major update to the nation on the president's strategy to defeat Omicron, the newest strain of coronavirus.