Return to Transcripts main page

Don Lemon Tonight

Russia Continues To Attack Ukraine; Russian Fuel Depot In Belgorod Was Attacked; Western Sanctions In Russia Kick In; Will Smith Resigns From The Academy After Oscars Slap; CNN Hero: Fighting To Save Lives. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 01, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is "Don Lemon Tonight" live here in Western Ukraine in the city of Lviv. And tonight, I have new video to show you, but it is graphic. It is from the town of Bucha near Kyiv. A town Ukrainian forces have retaken from the retreating Russians. Bodies can be seen lying in the street, but we don't know if they're civilians or soldiers.

Also tonight, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy refusing to say if his forces carried out a strike on a fuel depot in Russia. Kremlin is accusing Ukrainian forces of launching the attack.

And the sugar panic inside Russia. Consumers scrambling for basic household essentials as they begin to feel the bite from western sanctions.

CNN's John Vause joins me here live in Lviv. John, hello to you. We are getting some disturbing new videos from Bucha that I've talked about. That was just taken by the Ukrainians. We are only just getting a glimpse of the devastation. I mean, Russia has left in the wake here. What is going on? What is happening?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Bucha is 20 miles as it clarifies northwest of Kyiv, right?

LEMON: Right.

VAUSE: The Russians took control of this town. About 37,000 people in the first week of the invasion up until Thursday, when the mayor tweeted out just a few hours ago. The city had been liberated on Thursday. It is part of that counteroffensive we've seen in recent days.

As you mention, the images from inside Bucha that we are now receiving are graphic. Bodies are left lying on the streets. We do not know if they are Ukrainian soldiers or Russian soldiers, if they're civilians.

A human rights watchdog reports that many of the Russian soldiers were going from house to house, breaking down doors and windows, searching these houses, questioning people, taking their clothes and their shoes, and changing into their clothes on the streets as well.

There are reports also of extrajudicial shootings and killings. And people are actually -- civilians are being shot at while they went out to get water. This is according to human rights watch.

As Russian soldiers withdrew, they mine bridges as well as other civilian infrastructure. As a reminder, targeting civilian infrastructure, deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure is a war crime.

LEMON: Yeah. President Zelenskyy speaking up for the first time about the attack inside of Russia. What are we learning?

VAUSE: Well, yeah, he is saying a lot by not saying a lot.

LEMON: Yeah.

VAUSE (on camera): He was asked specifically if he ordered that strike on a fuel depot on Russian territory just across the border from Ukraine. This is what he said.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): I do not discuss any of my orders as commander-in-chief, the leader of this state. You need to understand that on that territory that you mentioned, you have to know, they were placing their shooting systems and firing those missiles themselves.


VAUSE (on camera): So, this has been consistent from Ukraine officials, from the president all the way down to the foreign minister, neither confirming nor denying that Ukraine was responsible for that attack. That itself says a lot.

Also, notable that at the end of day, he talked about how missiles systems have been placed on that territory, around the fuel depot, which would make it a legitimate military target.

LEMON: All right. It is from a fuel depot now to a nuclear plant in Chernobyl. Ukrainian officials warning that Russian soldiers may have been exposed to a high level of radiation at Chernobyl?

VAUDER: We talked about this last night.

LEMON: Yeah.

VAUSE: There are some reports that the Russian soldiers who occupied the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, may have been digging trenches in an area known as the red forest, which is on the perimeter around the nuclear power plant. That is one of the highly radioactive contaminated areas in the region. If they're digging trenches, they would have been exposed to radioactive particles. Also, we are now hearing from the state-owned company which is responsible for Chernobyl. They believe that the Russian soldiers were driving heavy-armored vehicles on the ground outside the nuclear power plant that picked up a lot of dust and in turn picked up a lot of radioactive particles as well. Presumably, the Russian soldiers have inhaled those particles.

If there is a high level of exposure to radioactive activity, it affects the organs, it affects bone marrow, can ultimately be fatal. So, that is a good question now which the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, would like to look into. We hear that the chief of the IAEA is heading to Chernobyl to find out more what has happened.

LEMON: John, we thank you for your report. We will see you at the top of the hour. You'll be leading our coverage.

VAUSE: Yeah.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Hopefully, I'll be okay out here. Everyone keeps wondering what is going on. I think I have a flu or a cold.

VAUSE: Okay.


LEMON: I'll be fine. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

VAUSE: You're welcome.

LEMON (on camera): I want to turn now to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen for more on this attack in a fuel depot in Russia.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It could be a brazen and bold counterattack by the Ukrainians.


(voice-over): This social media video seeming to show two attack helicopters penetrating Russian territory and firing at an oil depot, setting the facility ablaze. The Russian military publicly acknowledging the incident.

IGOR KONASHENKOV, RUSSIAN MILITARY SPOKESMAN (through translator): On April 1st, at around 5 a.m. Moscow time, two Ukrainian MI24 helicopters entered the airspace of the Russian federation at extremely low altitude, the spokesperson says. The Ukrainian helicopters launched a missile attack on a civilian oil storage facility located on the outskirt of Belgorod. As a result of the missile hit, individual tanks were damaged and caught fire.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Video from the aftermath shows the facility engulfed in massive flames with firefighters struggling to put out the blaze.

Belgorod is a highly militarized city right across the border from Kharkiv in Ukraine. It was from here that Russian forces crossed the border and attacked Kharkiv, moving large amounts of tanks, armored vehicles and trucks towards Ukrainian territory. But the Russians also have a massive military support facilities in this area.

The Ukrainians so far have not acknowledged they've hit the depot.

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY: I can neither confirm nor reject the claim that Ukraine was involved in this simply because I have not assessed all the military information.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The strike comes as Russian forces have been suffering setbacks in their invasion of Ukraine, withdrawing some forces from the area around the capital of Kyiv after failing to storm the city.

The Russians now saying they want to focus their offensive on the east of the country which includes Kharkiv where authorities report a major uptick in shelling in recent days.

All this as talks between Russia and Ukraine to try and end the fighting continue. But Moscow now saying Vladimir Putin has been briefed on the chopper attack and it could have a negative impact on the talks.

Of course, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for continuing negotiations, the Kremlin spokesman said.

The strike on the oil facility will probably do little to hold up Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but if the Ukrainians are behind it, it would show they are not afraid to strike back at the country that is attacking them.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv, Ukraine.


LEMON (on camera): All right. Fred, thank you very much.

I want to turn now to CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton for what is next in the fight. Colonel, thanks for joining us one again.

"The New York Times" is reporting that the U.S. will work with allies to transfer Soviet-made tanks to Ukraine. How will this stage Ukraine's ground game?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: Well, it is going to be really interesting, Don, because those tanks are going to be T72 tanks which are tanks that are very familiar to the Ukrainians. They are also, of course, very familiar to the Russians. It is basically the Russian war horse when it comes to tanks and to that kind of armor. What they would be doing is they would be -- the Ukrainians would be using these tanks in this very flat area right here. And what they can do with them is use them to go after Russian forces that would be going into the Donbas.

The Russians have telegraphed that they are going to go into this eastern region, which they've occupied part of through their proxies. The tanks could be used to counter Russian tanks, and they could be used as a kind of artillery to go into these areas and dislodge the Russians from these areas. So, that is potentially a bit of a game- changer for Ukraine.

LEMON: Colonel, I have been wanting to talk to you about -- wanting to talk to you about this airstrike on a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod. Explain why this is such a high-value target?

LEIGHTON: Sure, Don, absolutely. So, this is a really important place because, as we saw in the report that Fred Pleitgen had, Belgorod is right up here, Kharkiv is right here. So, this is an area where the Russians have been working quite a bit ever since the start of this invasion.

They have been going through this area. This is their fuel depot. This is what they need in order to replenish all their troops. All the troops in this area right here, those are the ones that get their fuel in part from the facility that the Ukrainians hit or may have hit during this.

When we look at the strike right here, we can see that there is a helicopter coming in, there is one rocket that goes into the fuel storage area right there, and then there is another -- there it is -- a couple of strikes right there from the second helicopter.

So, what this means, Don, is that they had precise intelligence on this target. Whoever did this know exactly what they were doing.


It was critically important for their effort in terms of tactical success. It meant a lot not only for the Ukrainians, but it also showed the weakness of the Russian air defense system if it in fact came from the Ukrainians.

LEMON: There are new satellite images that show Russian forces have disappeared from Antonov Airport in Hostomel just 18 miles from Kyiv. How big of a deal is that? Could it get more supplies in to help get more supplies into Ukraine?

LEIGHTON: Potentially it could. It depends on how good the runways -- what kind of a condition the runways have been left. This is a really interesting image. This image was taken on the 21st of March.

This is before image. And if you look really closely, you can see that trucks and artillery pieces are in place behind some of these berms right here that the Russians have built. They did this throughout the entire structure. Here's a tank, for example, that's inside one of these areas. They did this throughout the airport.

Now, let's take a look at Antonov afterwards. Right here, you can see that all of the berms that we highlighted before are now empty. Not a single Russian artillery piece or tank or anything else, not even a truck, in any of these areas.

So, what this means is this is open. They have to be repaired. They have to be fixed. This is open for the Ukrainians to use as long as it is not being targeted by Russian artillery or Russian aircraft.

LEMON: Very interesting, colonel. The Pentagon announcing tonight the U.S. is providing 300 million more dollars in security aid to Ukraine, including suicide drones, night vision equipment, anti-drone systems. What does this mean for Ukraine?

LEIGHTON: So, this right here is potentially something that may not necessarily be a game-changer, but it can help get to a game-changer. This is a video of the switchblade drone. You can see U.S. soldiers using it.

It's a very light, very portable drone -- we've talked about it before -- and it can target things directly. And then when it hits it -- it is called a suicide drone or a kamikaze drone -- it can go right in and basically destroy any target, and then it destroys itself. It basically takes care of itself.

And as you see, it's very easy to launch. It can be used in so many different ways throughout the entire theater. It can be highly affective. In essence, it's a force multiplier for the Ukrainian forces.

LEMON: I learned so much with you, colonel. That drone is -- can we see that drone once more? Can you put that up?

LEIGHTON: Of course, absolutely. Here you go. I'll step back here. You can see it's powered like this. It just launches like this. Wings deploy, as you can see. And then it goes right along the surface of the earth. And then it comes in this way. You can see the way it looks, you know, from a head-on view. Now, look as it go after its target. It just basically destroys it like that.

So, it becomes a really important tactical weapon that can be employed, you know, in any way that the ground forces want to employ it. Highly effective, very, very useful.

LEMON: And then it destroys itself. So, you get no information off of it. Thank you, colonel. Appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Don. Absolutely.

LEMON: They call it the sugar panic. Russians lining up to buy sugar off the back of a truck. That's what sanctions are doing to Russia. But will they stop Putin's war?




LEMON: New video tonight showing the atrocity of Putin's war in Ukraine. I have to warn you, it is difficult to watch. This is a town of Bucha. It is just outside of Kyiv. Ukraine says it has recaptured the town but these images show the cost of intense fighting. Unclear from the video where the bodies are civilians or military.

I want to bring in now PJ Crowley. He is the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Public Affairs. PJ, I appreciate you joining me. Man, oh man. This video from Bucha is chilling. The horror in these cities and towns across Ukraine becomes more apparent every single day. But the question is, will anybody -- the question is, how is it going to end? But will anybody be held accountable for this?

PJ CROWLEY, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Don, that's a very that's a long-term question. And obviously, accountability is dictated through the U.S., U.N. system, and Russia has a veto. So, you know, could they throw some mid-level people out of accountability (INAUDIBLE) down the road? Perhaps. Will that get all the way to Vladimir Putin? At this point, I would doubt it.

LEMON: You say Putin started this war and he will choose when to end it. So, what needs to happen to get him to negotiating table? When I said to you, when I first came to you, the real question is, how will it end? But what needs to happen to get him to the table?

CROWLEY: Well, at this point, my assessment would be that while he's had a bad month, at a tactical level, this has been a disaster for the Russian military, his strategic options are still very much in play. You know, he started this invasion a month ago with the intention of eliminating the Zelenskyy government. That may or may not happen. But he has turned to kind of a plan B.


He's just trying to destroy as much of Ukraine as he can. Those portions of Ukraine that is doubtful that he will control, he may well be consolidating his forces in areas that he expects to control.

You know, at the end of the day, usually the battlefield and the conditions on the battlefield will dictate what options are available once we enter negotiations.

LEMON: How long do you think it could take to reach a ceasefire? I mean, is there an answer really to that question?

CROWLEY: Well, on the one hand, when there is a ceasefire, sooner or later, you know, Russia will still be holding Ukrainian territory. And the unfortunate aspect is while Ukraine possesses the ability to resist, I don't think they possess the ability to expel Russia from Ukrainian territory. So, that will be leverage that Putin has.

I agree with Fareed Zakaria in the last hour that Putin is not in any hurry which means, you know, while there is an increasing cost in terms of sanctions on his country, he's not yet feeling pressure to compromise, you know, based on what he's still trying to do.

LEMON: So, let's talk about that because there's this video of Russians fighting over sugar. It shows the impact of the sanctions. Russia's economy is tanking. Inflation is crippling. But is that going to change anything in Putin's calculus?

CROWLEY: Sanctions are an imperfect tool. They can impose costs. So, they're good at punishing someone. They're not necessarily as good at changing behavior. Think about it. You know, the most sanctioned country in the world, probably North Korea, you know, it still possesses its nuclear weapons. Second place is probably Iran. It is closer to nuclear weapons than ever before.

So, you know, to some extent, Putin has eight years of sanction experience. He thinks he has found a way probably with China's help, you know, to make his economy as sanction-proof as possible. So, this is sanctions by themselves are going to be a long-term proposition.

LEMON: I want to get your take on this airstrike on the fuel depot in Russia. Whether Russia orchestrated this as a false flag or Ukraine attacked a military target in Russia, do you think this is going to lead an escalation, PJ?

CROWLEY: Don, in a sense, we're already experiencing an escalation. Could he use it for propaganda purposes, you know, to help him with his own public opinion? Undoubtedly.

LEMON: Of course.

CROWLEY: Russia has been attacked, and I would expect the Russian people to respond to that. But we're already seeing escalation in terms of moving from convoys heading to major cities now to more indiscriminate use of air power, artillery. If he has to at some point reach a ceasefire, he's going to try to take out as many Ukrainian cities as he can with the intention of if he can't destroy the Zelenskyy government, he's going to try to cripple it.

LEMON (on camera): Yeah. This is -- speaking of Zelenskyy, on Fox tonight. Watch.


UNKNOWN: Do you know how many assassination attempts you've survived?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): I don't know. But there have been some. There are things which are difficult for me to count. My intelligence says there were such attempts. And we saw information about some arrivals of planes. There were other details. But, listen, I'm alive, I'm not wounded, I'm intact. So, it's hard for me to talk about this. So many people have died in our country.


LEMON (on camera): In your previous answer, you said that he wants to -- that Putin wants to cripple or get rid of or cripple the Zelenskyy government. But how much does Putin want to get rid of Zelenskyy?

CROWLEY: I think that's part of what Putin fears most, an independent Democratic leader, charismatic leader, you know, right in his doorstep occupying what he thinks is already Russian territory.

At the end of the day, this is about Putin's hold on power and what he perceives as a threat to him personally. And so, you know, the contrast between Zelenskyy and Putin is very dramatic, and that is what Vladimir Putin fears above everything else.

LEMON: PJ, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much.

CROWLEY: Always a pleasure, Don.

LEMON: Thousands of people escaping from Mariupol tonight.


CNN was on the scene as they arrived in a much safer city. You're going to want to see this. That's next.


LEMON (on camera): Tonight, officials in the heavily bombarded city of Mariupol say more than 100,000 people are still trapped there, and Russian forces are blocking aid supplies from getting into the city.


But in a major development today, a convoy of buses carrying more than 700 people got out of Mariupol through a humanitarian corridor and arrived safely in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia.

That is where we find CNN's Ivan Watson tonight.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Ukrainian authorities are here waiting. Police checking the documents of the new arrivals.

(On camera): There is a war very much underway, a deadly war, and serious national security threats. After people are processed here, there is a major volunteer and city government effort to welcome the newly-arrived evacuees and to give them temporary shelter and warm meals.

People are tired. There are little kids who have been on this bus, I would estimate, for at least 11 hours, little kids who have witnessed a modern-day siege and perhaps the destruction of their homes and explosions in just a terrible environment.

Now, the international community, the Red Cross, is trying to reach the city of Mariupol and failed. It said it was not allowed, permitted to go through. There are still believed to be 100,000 or more citizens, civilians of Mariupol still trapped there in the combat zone as well as a force of Ukrainian troops that are still holding out against a vastly larger number of Russian military forces that have encircled the city and besieged it for weeks now.

So, while this is a glimmer of hope, after many failed attempts to evacuate civilians, there's still a lot of work to be done to protect the people still trapped in the combat zone.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.


LEMON (on camera): Ivan, thank you so much for that.

I want to turn to my colleague, John Berman. He is here. We've been on very different schedules here in Ukraine. I just want to share a conversation about our experiences since we have been here. I've been watching your reporting because, you know, obviously, we're not on the air at the same time.

One thing that we've been talking about is the resilience of the people here. I found of your reports extremely fascinating. It is when you talked to the fighter pilots. Talk to me about that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This was really interesting to me. "Juice" and "moonfish" were their call names. They don't want to give their real names to protect their identities and they were wearing their helmets when they were speaking to me. And I wanted to speak to these people who are miraculously defending the skies from the Russians who claimed from the beginning they had air superiority.

LEMON: Yeah.

BERMAN: And "juice" and "moonfish" told me a combination of their own skill and also the air defense from the ground has been able to keep them in this fight. And they told me, look, we've actually been in this war for eight years.

LEMON: Right.

BERMAN: Ukrainians -- I'm sure you found this also. They news phase started six weeks ago.

LEMON: Right.

BERMAN: But they feel like they've been at war from Russia this whole time.

LEMON: This was in 2014. And then you did this interview with this teenager, this kid, right? Where were you? In the back of an ambulance? Where were you?

BERMAN: We were at a children's hospital.

LEMON: In a children's hospital.

BERMAN: Children hospital. Andriy, he's 15 years old, which is how old my twin boys are.

LEMON: Oh, boy.

BERMAN: And I was sitting there with him the whole time thinking, what a different world it is for a 15-year-old boy now in Ukraine than it is for our children, the people we love back home, when their country has been invaded. They've been terrorized. I think we have a clip of this.

Andriy was blown up by a landmine. His legs are injured, his collarbone is injured. Worse than that, he watched his mother die --

LEMON: Yeah.

BERMAN: -- right next to him. Let's look at that.


ADRIY, ESCAPED CHERNIHIV (through translator): I started crawling away from the road. Then I felt pain in my left clavicle.

I have broken. I feel blood in my left ear. Then I hear shooting. Not from weapons, rockets, or something. And I climbed to stairs and hide here. I am screaming one time, two minutes or three. It was very cold. I haven't -- I'm just in socks.

BERMAN (on camera): You can't walk.

ADRIY: Can't walk. And some people in the village hear the explosion. And the people take us to his house.

(through translator): He wrapped us in blankets.


BERMAN (on camera): And your mother during this?

ANDRIY (through translator): She died -- she died at that location. She was still alive. She caught the fire. Her clothes got fire and she just burned.


LEMON (on camera): Then he broke down. I thought it was interesting because he's just like every other teenager. Didn't he say his mom used to get on him and his dad about keeping the place tidy and that?

BERMAN: Keeping his place clean. He said she was beautiful and she liked everything neat and tidy. His father is with him. He has his father. You talked about the resilience. He told me he wants to go back to Chernihiv.

LEMON: Oh, wow!

BERMAN: He wants to rebuild that city.

LEMON: Yeah. Also, there's -- I want to play this. This is from when I spoke to the mayor because the -- there were people who said to me, they've never hated anyone before, right? But now, they hate the Russians. Their contempt for the Russians is just unbelievable. Well, not unbelievable. Rightful contempt for what Russia is doing to them. Watch this.


LEMON (on camera): What do you think of the Russians and Putin?

OLEG KADATSKIY, ESCAPED MARIUPOL (through translator): Biden was asked about Putin and called him a butcher. I agree with him.

GENNACI KADATSKIY, ESCAPED MARIUPOL (through translator): Putin doesn't understand what he is doing. He is just a tool in the hands of the devil.

ANDRIY SADOVYI, MAYOR OF LVIV: Every day, Russian aggression killed children, women, old people. It is Nazi. It is Nazi. Today, Hitler equal Putin. Putin equal Hitler.


BERMAN (on camera): I was at a Christian relief shelter two days ago talking to people who are praying constantly. I mean, religion is what they do. I was asking them, you know, can you forgive Putin and the Russians? They looked to me and said, it's hard.

LEMON: It's hard.

BERMAN: It's hard.

LEMON: And the first part of the interview before the mayor, that family, one of the guys was a pastor. He said to me, I don't want the Ukrainian people to become cruel. Even, you know, despite what the Russians are doing to us. I don't want us to become cruel towards Russians. I thought it was a pretty big thing for him to say.

BERMAN: It takes a lot of strength, but it is not easy.

LEMON: I also noticed that we've been sort of on similar paths, even at different times, because I covered the arts here, I covered them, they took the statues and the artifacts out of the museums, scrambled to get them to safety, and you were covering the art as well. Did you get to museum?

BERMAN: So, if you walk around the city, which I know you have, I mean, there's just these posters everywhere. Art is crucial to the city of Lviv. And the propaganda art, the anti-war arts struck me. We had a chance to speak to a graphic artist who is producing these anti- war posters that just blew me away. What he told me is that, you know, this is my way to fight.

LEMON: Uh-hmm. Okay, apparently, we don't have that, John.

BERMAN: Roughly.

LEMON: That is what he said.

BERMAN: I'll paraphrase what he said. He said, this is our way to fight. You know, he wanted to evoke emotions. He says, sometimes, what art can do, what people speaking can't, which is get you emotional.

LEMON: The most dramatic moment. Listen, we thought -- I think the air raid siren goes off.

BERMAN: I think this is the all clear. This might be the all clear. We had an air raid siren a few hours ago when I was on air.

LEMON: Yeah.

BERMAN: Hopefully, this is the all clear.

LEMON: Okay. That was a long time before the all clear --


LEMON: -- came. But one of the most dramatic moments, I think, that we had was when the fuel depot was hit. You were on the air and then I scrambled to get there. I believe we have some video of that. It happened just a few days ago. I think of that -- there may have been sort of a false sense of security here because we're so far west, so close to the border of Poland, that we thought it could not happen. But this was strategic and that shows Putin's reach.

BERMAN: Yeah. He can hit anywhere he wants in this country with one type of weapon or another. He can't hit Lviv with artillery, with the dumb weapons that will just flatten a place. But if he wants to hit a fuel depot here, he has got the precision weapons to do it. You're right, there is no single place where you can escape.

LEMON: I have a few seconds left. What stood out to you most since you've been here?

BERMAN: The resilience of the people and how they -- not just the resilience, but they're all convinced, the conviction that they're going to win. Conviction that they're going to win.

LEMON: Yeah. I'd have to say it is a very similar thing. And also, what stood out to me is we have to be careful about not -- this not happening in the U.S. because there are people in Russia who are not speaking to their friends and family here because Russia is believing propaganda. They live in two different realities.

We saw that play out so much over the past five or six years in America. It was a lesson to me about being informed, about make sure you're staying informed and getting the right information to people.


There's only one country that invaded another country.

LEMON: Right.

BERMAN: One invader, one invaded in this case. Period. Full stop.

LEMON: Thank you. Good spending our time here together. Thank you. We'll be right back.


LEMON: So, Will Smith announcing tonight that he is going to resign from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences after Arts and Sciences -- after he slapped Chris Rock on stage during the Oscars show on Sunday night.


The academy out with a statement tonight saying that they accept Smith's resignation and will continue with their disciplinary proceedings against him.

So, joining me now is CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas. Chloe, hello to you. This is actually the first conversation I've had although I've been deeply engrained in -- at least paying attention to the story. The pressure is mounting on Will Smith now that he's resigned. What is he saying tonight?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Hey, Don. Great to see you. So, Will Smith released this incredibly lengthy statement. I'm going to read to you guys a small portion of that.

He says, the list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home. I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken.

Well, yeah, I mean, this has overshadowed the entire Academy Awards where you had Troy Kotsur, the first actor outside of Marlee Matlin, who has won an Academy Award, deaf actor. You had Ariana DeBose, who had, you know, this really big moment for her as the first pure queer woman of color to win for best supporting actress, not to mention Questlove in his category right after the slap.

So, it has retracted from all the good that came. But we still haven't heard much more from Chris Rock, you know, on this. Just a little bit when I went to his show earlier this week. He said just a little bit.

LEMON: Yeah.

MELAS: But we're just waiting for him to say more.

LEMON: Yeah. I'm going to talk to you about Chris Rock in a moment. But let's get back to Will because, you know, he just won -- by the way, the whole idea about Chris Rock not wanting him to be arrested is not new. I mean, the night of the Academy Awards, people were talking about that on social media. People who were there from Hollywood saying, he was going to be arrested. And Chris Rock said, no.

That part is not new. I found it interesting that it just came out, I think, today. But he won for best actor for "King Richard." This is so outside of anything that, you know, Will Smith has ever done. It goes against his whole -- what -- the way he's conducted himself. His whole image. Yeah, his whole image. How is this going to impact his career, do you think?

MELAS: Well, that's the million-dollar question, Don. So, first of all, the fact that he has resigned before he could be expelled is interesting to note. This means that he can no longer vote as an academy member. There is like 9,000-plus academy members. So that means that he won't be part of award seasons in the future in terms of voting and deciding perhaps who gets nominated because, you know, every vote counts.

Now, could he still be nominated? You and I were talking earlier, he does have a movie in the works called "Emancipation" that is going to be released later this year. A true story --

LEMON: It's supposed to be better than "King Richard." His performance in that is supposed to be -- they said it is better than "King Richard" but go on.

MELAS: So, here is what I'm trying to figure out. From what I'm hearing, Will could technically still, even though he's resigned, be nominated. So, he could be nominated. But here's where it gets interesting. On April 18th, the Academy is going to reveal what are their repercussions, what are the consequences, because we heard -- I heard from a source earlier this week that Will had a zoom meeting with Academy leadership where he apologized again. And they heard him out and they said, well, you're still going to face consequences.

So, he is banned, potentially, from ever attending the Oscars again, and then if he gets nominated, he wouldn't be able to go. But that's just, you know, theorizing here.

LEMON: Yeah. Yeah. Hey, Chloe, listen, it was my fault. I talk too much. We ran out of time. But I know Chris Rock is -- he said something about, you know, "F" Will Smith or something. He says, no, I'm not going to go there. I want to process this.

And I think Chris is going to deal with it in the way that he has dealt with this entire thing, the adult in the room. And he has been very introspective, and he has handled himself very well. So, we hope that Chris is okay because that slap is going to be out there forever.

Thank you, Chloe. I'll see you soon. Appreciate it. We will be right back.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: With COVID infection rates and restrictions waning in some places and a variant surge in others, it is difficult to understand where we are in the coronavirus pandemic right now. But two years ago, the situation was very clear. We were in a global lockdown.

And that's when 2021 top 10 CNN hero Dr. Ala Stanford sprang into action, testing and vaccinating more than 75,000 people in Philadelphia's hardest-hit Black and brown communities.

Well, today, she is still on the front lines working to protect her community from the ongoing virus and bring everyone the health care they deserve.


ALA STANFORD, CNN HERO: So, we started in the midst of this pandemic with testing. Then, vaccination. We were seeing folks that hadn't seen a doctor in a decade.


STANFORD: We were just literally putting a band-aid to a much bigger problem with health inequities and health disparities.


STANFORD: So, I opened the Dr. Ala Stanford Center for Health Equity. We are a multidisciplinary clinic. We take care of newborns, through grandma and grandpa. And that is the next step, to not just save lives but really impact an entire lifetime with people.

But after Christmas, there were so many people sick, literally wrapped around this building to get COVID testing. The positivity rate was 45%. So, we had to stop primary care and just focus on testing and vaccination. The need here right now is so great. I feel that this is where I'm supposed to be.


LEMON (on camera): To find out how you can support Dr. Sanford's work and nominate your own CNN hero, go to

Thanks for watching, everyone. Our live coverage continues in a moment with John Vause.