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Remembering Atlanta Victims; Interview With Rep. Andy Kim (D- NJ); Anthony Fauci on Capitol Hill. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 18, 2021 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hello. It's the top of the hour.

I'm Brianna Keilar, and just in, a major development. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is reporting the CDC is expected to change its social distancing guidance for schools, recommending separations of three feet, instead of six.

I want to bring in Dr. Adrian Burrowes, who is a family medicine physician.

What do you think about this? Is this the right call? Or is this just kind of acknowledging the reality of having kids in school, that you can't actually space them six feet and get them all in a classroom?

DR. ADRIAN BURROWES, FAMILY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Hi, Brianna. Thanks for having me on.

So, I think it's a little bit of both. I have looked at this research, and it does seem that the spacing doesn't need to be as far as six feet in order to keep the children safe. And so that's one of the factors involved in the CDC changing its guidelines.

The other factor is exactly what you said. There is a push to try to get these schools reopen. And then you can't do that with them six feet apart. So, I think that both factors play a role. But it does seem, from what the evidence looks like, that three feet might be enough distance. When

KEILAR: Masking, right? Masking is obviously the key part.


BURROWES: Yes, so the things that need to occur for that to be safe is that they have to be fully masked and continue to do the handwashing and things that we are -- have become accustomed to.

KEILAR: Very important for schools.

I also want to play for you what was a heated exchange between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Senator Rand Paul at a Senate hearing today. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): What study shows significant reinfection, hospitalization and death after either natural infection or the vaccine? It doesn't exist.

There is no evidence that there are significant reinfections after a vaccine. In fact, I don't think we have a hospitalization in the United States after the two-week period after the second vaccination.


PAUL: ... death in the United States.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: You're not hearing what I'm saying about variants. We're talking about wild type vs. variants.


PAUL: What proof is there that there are significant reinfections with hospitalizations and deaths from the variants? None in our country, zero.

FAUCI: Well, because we only have a prevalent of a variant yet.

We're having one -- can I finish? We're having 117 that's becoming more dominant.


PAUL: You're making your policy based on conjecture.


FAUCI: No, it isn't based on conjecture.

PAUL: You have the conjecture that we're going to get variants.

But you some -- you want people to wear a mask for another couple years.


PAUL: You have been vaccinated, and you parade around in two masks for show.


PAUL: You can't get it again. There's almost -- there's virtually zero percent chance you're going to get it, and yet you're telling people that have had the vaccine, who have immunity -- you're defying everything we know about immunity by telling people to wear masks who have been unvaccinated.


PAUL: Instead, you should be saying there is no science to say we're going to have a problem from the large number of people who have been vaccinated.

You want to get rid of vaccine hesitancy, telling them they can quit wearing their mask after they get the vaccine. You want people to get the vaccine, give them a reward, instead of telling them that the nanny state's going to be there for three more years, and you got to wear a mask forever.

People don't want to hear it. There's no science behind it.

FAUCI: Well, let me just state for the record that masks are not theater. Masks are protective. And we ask...

PAUL: If they have immunity, they're theater.

If you already have immunity, you're wearing a mask to give comfort to others.


PAUL: You're not wearing a mask because of any science.

FAUCI: I totally disagree with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Fauci, if you could respond, so that we could understand the difference between the virus itself and the variants and the reason for a mask?

FAUCI: I'm sorry, ma'am, I can hear...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you could respond to the question, so that we could all understand the difference between the vaccine in controlling the wild type vs. the variants that are out there and the reason for wearing a mask, I'd appreciate it.


I mean -- yes, first of all, when you have a variant, you have an immunity that you get with convalescent sera, and the same sort of thing if I vaccinate you or me against the wild type. You get a certain level of antibody that's specific for a particular viral strain.

If there's a circulating variant, you don't necessarily have it. You have some spillover immunity, to be sure, but you diminish by anywhere from two- to eight-fold the protection. So, the point I'm saying is that there are variants in now circulating.

The point that Senator Paul was making was that, if you look at wild type only, there is some clear-cut credence to what he's saying. But we are living right now in a situation where we're having a dominance of 117, which was the original U.K. We have a very troublesome variant in New York City of 526. We have got two variants in California, 427, 429. And we have a number of others.


So, we're not dealing with a static situation of the same virus. That was the only point I'm making.


KEILAR: Nothing -- I have watched a number of interactions, I will say, between Rand Paul and Dr. Fauci, and it seems like nothing really brings out Senator Paul acting like an ass than Dr. Fauci just talking about what is accepted public health guidance here.

So, explain to us from a public health perspective this -- what people need to know to understand this.

BURROWES: Yes, so this is just radical Rand again challenging a renowned public figure, who has been educating the American public since the beginning on how to prevent themselves from getting COVID- 19.

He's -- Rand Paul is trying to use our government as theater, and radicalizing these views on his not well-thought-out views on how to manage this virus.

So, what Dr. Fauci is saying is that we're dealing with variants in the virus, which are mutations. And until we fully study them and understand them, we need to continue the things -- to do the things that we are doing to keep ourselves safe.

The vaccination is wonderful, and it works well. However, in some cases, that vaccination has not fully kept people immune from the variant cases of coronavirus. And so, until we can fully study that, even if you're vaccinated, you need to continue to wear your mask, social distance and wash your hands, per recommended CDC guidelines, irrespective of what Rand Paul says.

KEILAR: This -- he was saying -- he was making a point erroneously that he was saying that Dr. Fauci is basing this entirely on conjecture, because there isn't anything proven about variants.

But it kind of takes me back to the beginning of the pandemic, when you had -- it was so clear to anyone who was in public health and knows how a virus behaves where we were headed. And yet there were all these deniers saying, like, oh -- the president at the time being one of the biggest among them, saying, oh, it's going to go away and basically downplaying that it was big deal, or it was just the flu.

There's no such a thing as conjecture based on fact. And I wonder how you help us understand needing to listen to what doctors know is going to happen before it happens, or something that might happen before it happens.

BURROWES: Right. And you said that very, very well, Brianna.

So, the goal, as the physician, as the scientist, is to do what we can to make sure that we protect the most people. And if we had followed Rand Paul's advice or the prior administration's advice, we would probably have double the American public dead by now, OK?

And so, luckily, we have had people like Dr. Fauci and all the scientists and physicians working on this to give us guidance and tell us what we need to do to keep as many people as safe for as long as possible, without doing these theatrical things like what we saw today.

KEILAR: Yes. Dr. Rand Paul is lucky, I will say. There's 538-plus- thousand Americans who have not been so lucky. And those are just the ones who have died and are not facing the long-term effects.

Dr. Burrowes, it's great to have you here. Thank you.

BURROWES: Thank you.

KEILAR: Just two days after the shooting rampage that killed eight, six of them Asian American, another minority group is being forced to demand a reckoning in America.

A short time ago, the president ordered flags at half-staff for the victims killed in the Atlanta area shootings. And, tomorrow, he and the vice president plan to meet with Asian American leaders when they visit the city.

Today, the House is holding a hearing on anti-Asian hate in the country, after months of reports of bigoted attacks increasing during the pandemic fueled by bigoted rhetoric based on the virus originating in China.

Investigators in Georgia say it's still not clear whether racist hate was behind the murders there, detailing that the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, told them he acted out in distress over a sexual addiction. Long's court appearance today was canceled. We will get the latest on the investigation.

First, though, to the House hearing on anti-Asian attacks, in which a Texas congressman spewed the exact rhetoric that is blamed for inciting the racism, while invoking terms tied to lynching. It forced one Asian American congresswoman to respond quite forcefully.

Let's watch.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): The victims of race-based violence and their families deserve justice. And as the case what we're talking about here, with the tragedy what we just saw occur in Atlanta, Georgia, I would also suggest that the victims of cartels moving illegal aliens deserve justice.


The American citizens in South Texas that are getting absolutely decimated by what's happening our Southern border deserve justice. The victims of rioting and looting in the streets last week, businesses closed, burned -- I'm sorry -- last summer -- deserve justice. We believe in justice, right?

There's old sayings in Texas about find the all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. You know, we take justice very seriously. And we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys. That's what we believe.

My concern about this hearing is that it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society, free speech, and away from the rule of law and taking out bad guys.

So, now we're talking about whether talking about China, the Chicoms, the Chinese Communist Party, whatever phrasing we want to use, and if some people are saying, hey, we think those guys are the bad guys, for whatever reason -- and let me just say, clearly, I do. I think the Chinese Communist Party, running the country of China, I think they're the bad guys.

I'm not going to be ashamed of saying I oppose the Chicoms, I oppose the Chinese Communist Party. And when we say things like that, and we're talking about that, we shouldn't be worried about having a committee of members of Congress policing our rhetoric, because some evildoers go engage in some evil activity, as occurred in Atlanta, Georgia

Who decides what is hate? Who decides what is the kind of speech that deserves policing?

REP. GRACE MENG (D-NY): I want to go back to something that Mr. Roy said earlier.

Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don't have to do it by putting a bullseye on the back of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids.

This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community and to find solutions, and we will not let you take our voice away from us.


KEILAR: I'm joined now by Democratic Congressman Andy Kim of New Jersey.

Congressman, what was your reaction to that moment?

REP. ANDY KIM (D-NJ): My reaction was one of just diving into the wards of Congressman Grace Meng.

And she spoke for all of us. She spoke for those victims. She spoke for people who are trying to be heard and seen right now, not just being used as some type of rhetorical pivot for our colleagues in Congress to change the subject to something else.

Now is the time for us to have that deep dive and that true look at ourselves in terms of the racism and then the hatred. So, I'm glad that Congresswoman Grace Meng stood up for me, my family, for the Asian American community around this country.

KEILAR: It seemed like Congressman Roy was trying to decouple rhetoric that, say, might have to do with the Chinese government from the crimes that we have seen. We don't know -- look, we don't know what the motive is in Atlanta.

But you -- it doesn't escape anyone that six of the eight victims are Asian American women. And it seems like he's trying to decouple the rhetoric, which has increased, from the incidents that have increased.

And there are many that have been documented. We have talked about them on the show just here in the last hour or so. What do you say to that, of him trying to say there is, it appears, no connection?

KIM: Well, what he's doing is not trying to decouple. What he's doing is trying to change the topic. He doesn't want to talk about the issues of racism and discrimination in our nation.

He didn't -- we're in the aftermath, less than 48 hours since a mass murder. And he used this time to talk about changing the subject in that way, rather than thinking about the American people that were killed and the families that are still mourning. He is dramatically just out of touch with the challenges that Asian American community face and the pain that we are facing.

So, that's why he's -- he's just trying to turn to the subject that something that he knows better, something that he feels more comfortable talking about, rather than doing the hard work of digging into this extremely difficult and painful issue of racism that the AAPI community is facing.

KEILAR: He invoked lynching, and not just lynching, but lynching as if it were justice.


He used a phrase about lynching, which has a dark, dark history and a racist history in Texas. And he talked about that as if it were -- as if it were justice.

KIM: Yes.

Look, he no doubt used language that is absolutely offensive. And, look, I absolutely condemn the use of that language. And I believe that he was trying to change the subject and trying to move on from something that we need to confront.

But, look, I don't want to focus on him. I want to focus on the victims in Atlanta, their families. I want to focus in on the AAPI community around this country that is grieving and fearful yesterday and today, going forward, the calls that I'm getting, people breaking down, unsure what's going to happen next.

That's where we need to rally around. That's what we need to be focused on.

KEILAR: What are you hearing from your constituents or from people that you know about what they have dealt with in this last year or so, compared to before the pandemic?

KIM: They have experienced a lot. And I felt it too. I have had experiences, my family's had experiences where we have had people say racist remarks at us, try to get away, step away from us. They tell us to get away from them because they think they're going to get the coronavirus from us simply because we're Asian American.

But, look, the challenges that we face, certainly, over the last year, gasoline has been poured on this fire, but the discrimination that the AAPI community has faced preceded COVID. And it'll be around after COVID.

This is something deep. But people are feeling real pain right now. And what they want to have is to know that they're being seen and heard. I'm glad that the president the vice president will go down to Atlanta tomorrow. That is certainly a big step. And I'm grateful for his leadership.

KEILAR: Congressman Kim, thank you so much for being with us.

KIM: Thank you.

KEILAR: Atlanta police are preparing to hold a news conference here in the next hour.

CNN national correspondent Ryan Young is in Atlanta following this story.

Ryan, the suspected gunman's court appearance was today, but then it was canceled. Why was it canceled?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it looks like his lawyer decided to forego that first court appearance.

And, of course, we were hoping to learn some sort of information from that, maybe see some documents from the sheriff's department there. We do know the sheriff's department has put in so much work early on in this investigation, in fact, getting in touch with that shooter's family.

And that's what really helped sort of bring this to a close so very quickly, because they were able to track him down through his movements after he left Cherokee County. So we do know there's been conversation there.

So, not sure, now that he has a lawyer, that he's no longer talking to authorities, because you know investigators wanted to talk to him. There are so many people in this community, though, who want to start focusing and moving the focus on the victims of this case.

We have heard countless, numerous times that they want to hear their stories, because, obviously, they feel like those people did not deserve what exactly happened. But we do know, especially from the statements made yesterday, that when this suspect was first talked to, that he indicated that he had a sexual addiction. And that's what pushed him to the locations that are in question.

And one of the things that people and detectives are going through is to go through surveillance video to see if he's frequented these areas before. Had he come to these spas in previous times? And that's something that they're going through.

Now, of course, at 3:00, we do now that they're going to have this nice conference. Not sure the information they're going to share. One of the things, though, that stands out is the statements from the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department.

And the statement like this -- and we will play it for you -- it has so many people across the country wondering what they actually meant. Take a listen.


JAY BAKER, CHEROKEE COUNTY, GEORGIA, SHERIFF: He understood the gravity of it, and he was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope. And yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.


YOUNG: Brianna, there's been a lot of pushback about that comment. We're told there could be a statement from the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department about that statement some time soon.

To go into this, though -- and I also want to tell you there's massive amount of video surveillance that's throughout this area, and maybe, just maybe, the Atlanta Police Department is going to share how they were able to track some of his movements throughout this area.

We do know they got a heads-up from Cherokee about the vehicle they were looking for. But there's so many parts of this investigation that we still have not clearly found out, as investigators are really digging down into what exactly happened -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Ryan Young, thank you so much.

And still ahead, I will be speaking to the family of Delaina Yaun, who was killed in these horrific attacks.

Plus, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tries to rewrite history and claim that he never backed Trump's efforts to overturn the election. You have to see his exchange with our CNN reporter on the Hill.


And the FBI just released new video of some of the most egregious attacks on police during the Capitol riots.


KEILAR: We are learning more about the people who lost their lives in the Atlanta area attacks.

Among them, Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez. She was gunned down in the spa in Cherokee County as she and her husband were there to have a couples massage. This is according to her family. Gonzalez leaves behind her 9-month-old daughter, Mia, and her 13-year-old son, Mason.

And her sister, Dana Toole, is with us now.

Dana, I'm so sorry. Words cannot express how sorry we are for what you are going through and what your family is going through.


Can you just -- can you talk to us a little about your sister? We obviously know a little bit about her, but just tell us about the kind of person that she was.

DANA TOOLE, SISTER OF ATLANTA SHOOTING VICTIM: So, yes, she was a family-going person. She liked to -- her family came first. Everything was her family. She had such a wonderful, happy, upbeat personality.

We were planning the summer and doing some fun activities. And now I don't get to do that with her. And it's extremely hard to even think about. I'm waiting for her to come walking through the door. And to not get that phone call, it's devastating. It's hard.

KEILAR: And she and Mario were recently married?

TOOLE: Yes, they were recently married. They have an 8-month-old daughter named Mia.

KEILAR: So, they have a little one. That's pretty little. So, they were just -- they were just out trying to have an outing themselves alone?

TOOLE: Yes, I was told that they just went to go have some time to themselves.

And, yes, it's -- it's Harry Dunn, yes. It's -- to know that happened in just that little time. It's crazy. Yes, they just went to go have some time alone, husband and wife, just time together. And, unfortunately, it was -- it went bad. It went bad real fast. So, it's unfortunate.

KEILAR: You are -- you're aware the suspect has been arrested. He has admitted to the crime.

There are questions about the motive. He has said one thing. There's also questions about whether this was racially motivated, because six of the eight victims were Asian American.

What are your thoughts as you think about this suspect?

TOOLE: So, I know that he was arrested, which I'm glad that he was.

Unfortunately, the stuff that they said or are saying, it being sexualized, that kind of irritates me. I can't even -- I can't even describe how hurtful which it sounds.

But I definitely think that he targeted, for sure, targeted these places. And the fact that he would have kept going, yes, that's -- I don't know. It's just -- it's frustrating.

But I haven't even gotten on social media, really. I have seen it through, like, posts and comments. I haven't even watched some of the television, because I'm so focused on grieving my sister, you know?

But some of the things that they say, that he sexualized, I don't think that was one of them. I really don't think that was one of them.

KEILAR: Do you think he's just being dishonest with what police are representing as what he's told them?

TOOLE: There's a possibility, yes. I mean, like I said, those were targeted. Like, Asian -- Asians, it sounds like, were targeted. The Asian community was attacked.

And, unfortunately, my sister was in an Asian spa. She's enjoying a time. Like, she was just going to enjoy time with her husband, her husband. Come on. Like, it's supposed to be a safe place. I don't understand.

KEILAR: And she deserved it. I mean, she's the mom to two kids, one very young. I'm assuming she hasn't had a lot of time to herself here, especially in recent months.

You said your focus...


KEILAR: Sorry, go on.

TOOLE: Being a parent -- I have two kids -- sometimes, it's good to get that alone time, you know, time to get away. And that's what they wanted.

They wanted just time to themselves.

KEILAR: It's essential. Look, I have two small kids myself. It's essential.

You are now focused on this void now with your sister gone. I know you're in the early stages of this. You said you are starting to work through grieving your sister.

What do you want people to know?

TOOLE: That she was a good person. She didn't deserve -- she didn't deserve that. Nobody deserves it.

These families didn't deserve to lose their loved ones. I just hope -- I hope there's justice. I hope that we can prevent stuff like this from happening, because this is -- this is uncalled for.

The -- gun violence is more of a thing now. Like, you can't even go to the store