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Former Gaetz Associate Cuts Plea Deal To Cooperate With Investigators; Sources: Gaetz Ex-Girlfriend To Cooperate In Sex Trafficking Probe; New Body Cam Videos Document Ronald Greene's Brutal Death; GOP Fights To Keep Critical Race Theory Out Of Classrooms; More States Reopening With Daily Cases Lowest Since Last June. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired May 22, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KENNETH HODDER, NATIONAL COMMANDER, SALVATION ARMY: And we hope to bring all of the resources to bear on the problem. But our focus is always going to be does the person in front of us have a need for rent, or utilities or food or just a word of encouragement? And that's what we're going to focus on.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: And if my situation is yes, I need help to pay next month's rent so that, you know, me and my children are not out on the street. What can I expect from the Salvation Army? What would I do? How do I apply? How would you be able to help me?
HODDER: The Salvation Army is at 7600 locations around the country, we serve every ZIP code. I urge people to go to their local Salvation Army and see what programs are available there. The always the army will always bring all of its resources to bear in each community depending upon the needs of that particular community. So the programs will vary, but the intention will always be the same.
WHITFIELD: Commander Kenneth Hodder, thank you so much. Thanks for all that you're doing. You always - the Salvation Army always doing extraordinary work to help one another out. Appreciate it.
HODDER: Thanks, Fredricka. Thank you so much.
WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right. The legal pressure surrounding Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz continues to mount. The Republican lawmaker is under a federal probe over allegations of sex trafficking.
CNN has learned Gaetz' former girlfriend has now agreed to cooperate with investigators. This coming after Joel Greenberg, a close Gaetz associate recently pleaded guilty to six federal charges including account of sex trafficking of a child.
As part of his deal, Greenberg agreed to cooperate with ongoing investigations. Gaetz has not been charged in the investigation and denied any wrongdoing. Senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid joining us now. Paula, so good to see you. You helped break this story on Gaetz's ex-girlfriend's cooperation. What more can you tell us? PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, this woman is a former Capitol Hill staffer, she did not work for the congressman's, work for a different lawmaker, but she was linked to Congressman Gaetz in the summer of 2017. And that is a time period that's really critical and the investigation into whether he may have had sex with an underage girl.
To be clear, this ex-girlfriend is not the underage girl at the center of this investigation. These are two different people. But the fact that his ex-girlfriend has now signaled she will cooperate. This is really significant for investigators because they have records of hundreds of transactions, including some that allegedly show payments for sex, and they hope that this witness might be able to help them make sense of some of these records.
The Congressman is being investigated for possibly violating federal sex trafficking, prostitution and public corruption laws. And they're also looking at this question of whether he had sex with a minor. And Congressman Gaetz has not been charged and he has repeatedly denied ever paying for sex or having sex with a minor as an adult.
Now, it's not clear whether this woman has a formal cooperation agreement but at this point, she has signaled she is willing to cooperate with investigators. Her attorney declined to comment as a spokesman for the Justice Department.
WHITFIELD: And so Paula, investigators wouldn't make a deal, a plea deal with Greenberg if he didn't have something, have some real dirt on whether it's Matt Gaetz or some other big fish, so to speak.
REID: That's right. They're always looking for critical information. And CNN has learned that Gaetz's former close friend, Greenberg, he told investigators that the lawmaker had sexual contact with a 17- year-old girl. Now some context, earlier this week, Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal charges including sex trafficking of a minor, and he is cooperating with federal investigators in exchange for dozens of other accounts being dropped.
Now as part of that deal, he is required to cooperate fully in any other federal investigation, including the ongoing investigation into his former close friend, Congressman Gaetz. But in his plea agreement, Greenberg admits that he had sex with the minor at least seven times and that he then introduced her to other men who engaged in "commercial sex acts with her," but those other men, they are not actually named in the plea agreement.
Now, Gaetz and his representatives have attacked Greenberg's credibility in recent days. They're correctly pointing to the fact that Greenberg admitted in this same plea agreement to falsely accusing a political rival of having sex with a minor. Now decisions on whether to charge Congressman Gaetz have yet to be made. Those will ultimately fall to prosecutors in the Public Integrity section of the Justice Department.
In order to get that is a decision that will likely take some time as we know they're still gathering evidence, and then they'll need to look at everything they have and decide whether they have enough to proceed with an indictment.
WHITFIELD: All right, Paula Reid. And welcome this my first time face to face being able to say that, welcome aboard, welcome to the team. Thanks so much.
All right. Let's talk more about this case with Shan Wu. He is a former federal prosecutor and a defense attorney. Shan, so good to see you.
WHITFIELD: So how important is this news that Gaetz's ex-girlfriend has agreed to cooperate?
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's very significant, Fred, because she is there -- as reporting is indicated, if she was there in 2017, she can really bring to life, this probably mountain of electronic and paper evidence they have about receipts, which will show a time in places but there is no context to that. Who was there, who was doing what, at those times. So that's a very important role that she can play.
And of course, as a former girlfriend, she may not be very motivated anymore to protect Gaetz and may be more focused on protecting herself at this point.
WHITFIELD: And despite all of these reports about being under a federal investigation, and Gaetz's close friends and associates agreeing to cooperate with investigators, Congressman Gaetz, I mean, he continues to talk about this case, in this manner. Listen,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I'm not too worried about Joel Greenberg. Joel Greenberg is literally sitting in jail right now because he originally accused someone who was innocent of having had a relationship with a minor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So how risky is this approach that he's taking?
WU: It's very, very risky. And I frankly think that it would prevent him from ever being able to testify on his own behalf. He has been saying so many things publicly about his alleged defense. And that's posturing saying he's not afraid of Greenberg because Greenberg sitting in jail. That's exactly why he should be afraid of Greenberg, is because he's sitting in jail and has high motivation to give up evidence against Gaetz.
And this idea that Greenberg carries a lot of baggage. That's true. Any cooperator does and Greenberg may carry a bit more than most. But it's not entirely on Greenberg, there is the evidence that will corroborate what he says. And of course, most importantly, any of these women, particularly the 17-year-old child's victim, if they testify, that's going to be devastating for Gaetz because he has no defense to having sex with an underage child.
WHITFIELD: So Gaetz has not been charged. But in your view, is there some strategy behind making it public that this kind of investigation is underway, that a plea deal has been made with a close associate that that a former ex-girlfriend, you know, is now cooperating? I mean, does this intimate that, you know, something big is right around the corner or does it also kind of make one wonder that, you know, if something was going to happen, it would have already?
WU: Well, I think there certainly is more pressure on Gaetz from hearing these reports. The Justice Department, I think, is probably not adding to that too much. They prefer to keep things quiet and just work through the attorneys. You know, if this -- I would speculate that if this was just going to be about the under-age sexual relations, the equip case, if they can find that victim. The fact that it's taking longer and importantly, the fact that it's the Public Integrity section, looking at it is significant.
I prosecuted both sex crimes and public corruption crimes, they are very different. And these are not sex crimes investigators, they probably are focused on public corruption issues, and they're looking to build something bigger. But I hope that the victims in this case will not be forgotten in that because it's very critical that people be held accountable for any sexual crimes against minors.
WHITFIELD: Shan Wu, always appreciate you. Thanks so much.
WU: Good to see you (INAUDIBLE).
WHITFIELD: You as well. All right, coming up. He died in police custody two years ago. But the truth about what happened to Ronald Greene is only coming to light now. More of my interview with his mother straight ahead.
Then later, Republican-led states are calling on schools to stop teaching children about critical race theory. A historian weighs in on the controversy coming up.
WHITFIELD: Outrage and frustration are mounting this afternoon. We now have new video obtained by CNN showing the sequence of events that led to the death of Ronald Greene. A black man in his 40s in police custody. A warning some of the images that you're about to see are disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD GREENE, BLACK MOTORIST: Oh, Lord Jesus. OK, OK. OK. Oh, Lord Jesus. Oh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Louisiana State Police just released this footage which includes nine different body cam and dashcam video clips. Greene's death happened over two years ago. His family says police initially told them he died on impact in a car crash. I spoke with Greene's mother earlier today about what it's been like to finally see what happened to her son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONA HARDIN, RONALD GREENE'S MOTHER: My heart is beating crazy just for the fact that it's a constant reliving of this. I haven't even grieved. I told the kids, I said, do you know that I haven't even screamed, I haven't cried for my son? Because this has been a living nightmare. And the fact that he died and I knew it must have been horrific. And to see the videos. I can't absorb it all. It's horrific. I'm so angry. I'm so angry.
And yesterday it's another photo op because the State of Louisiana know the corruption that's happening with my son's murder is up in the news. So now, you know, who the hell are they going to throw under the bus this time to save their own neck? This is what's happening. I'm so angry.
The State of Louisiana has no credibility. They're an organized crime ring that's going on for hundreds and hundreds of years.
HARDIN: You can see this time and time again, my brother of my son, you can -- you can just see it from very beginning to end. It implicates those who are on there and then some. And it's just like Mr. Merritt said, you know, they have no credibility. They continue to try to shy away from and shine the light on other issues that has nothing to do with my son's murder. I'm disgusted. I just haven't grieved and I haven't even screamed, I haven't cried.
And they have -- there's no empathy for how they do another human being. And they let these families continue to suffer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Mona Hardin and family going through so much. Greene's family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit last year. The case is also now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation involving the FBI, the Department of Justice and the attorney general's office.
All right. Still ahead. A ceasefire appears to be holding in the Middle East. The former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. joining me live right after this.
WHITFIELD: The fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is now in its second day and it appears to be holding. There have been some skirmishes, Israeli police clashed with protesters. In the first few hours of the ceasefire things have been relatively calm. However, since then, at least 250 people were killed during 11 days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. President Biden this week talked about his role in getting the ceasefire in place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the reasons why we're able to get a ceasefire in 11 days. They didn't do what other people have done. I don't talk about what I tell people in private. I don't talk about what we negotiate in private. But I can assure you though, is that the last time it took 56 days and six months to get a ceasefire. I'm praying this ceasefire will hold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Again, more than 240 Gazans killed, more than 12 or at least 12 Israelis killed. Let's bring in Michael Oren. He is the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a former member of the Knesset. Let's begin with a ceasefire. Are you confident it can hold?
MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: I'm confident it will hold. It's interesting that, you know, Fredricka, majority of Israelis were actually against the ceasefire. So the -- almost 80 percent of Israelis polled against the ceasefire, because, frankly, they don't want to go back to the same situation where Hamas can replenish its missile supplies and start rebuilding those tunnels.
And then two or three years from now, we're going to be in the same situation. Since a lot of skepticism here. But there's also relief. Talking to you from Tel Aviv-Yafo, the beaches were full today, the parks are full today as a sense of a country coming back to life after being shut down for 11 days under rocket fire and the year before that under corona. So, a big sense of relief here.
WHITFIELD: And so, you said most Israelis are against this ceasefire. Netanyahu is listening to that majority, is he not? And when the President of the United States says he's not going to reveal to the world what his conversations are like, what he has told these leaders, the Palestinian-Israeli leaders, do you feel like the U.S. is at all influential at this juncture?
OREN: I think was hugely influential. I think that the President did an outstanding job. I'm watching from the side. And I'll tell you as a practitioner, and as an historian of diplomacy, it was first rate diplomacy. We have to see now whether the ceasefire is going to hold and whether Hamas will exploit the situation to rebuild its arsenal and re dig its tunnels. But the actual achievement of the ceasefire.
In the face of significant Israeli opposition keep in mind, and it's always going to pay a political price for this, make no mistake about it. Very unpopular position, shows that the influence that President Biden has by coming out publicly, even against some elements in his own party and standing up for Israel's right to defend itself. That got him a tremendous amount of credibility here, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: So Mr. Ambassador, you know, President Biden, you know, has said he will work with the Palestinian authority but he will not work with Hamas. And if you listen to our Ben Wedeman's earlier, he said Hamas really is the government of Gaza. And it's difficult to rebuild without their involvement. So how is this going to be achieved without Hamas?
OREN: Hamas is a terrorist organization, it's recognized as such by the United States of America. America does not deal with terrorist organization. It's committed to our destruction. But as in previous rounds, Gaza gets rebuilt, it gets rebuilt through proxies to the Egyptians, through the Qataris, through international organizations, America gives aid to those organizations, that aid finds its way to Palestinians in Gaza. It's just -- it -- what happens again and again.
The question is what's going to be different this time? It's very different. We can talk about moving ahead on a peace process with the Palestinian authority, which recognizes Israel's right to exist, it recognizes the legitimacy of negotiations, but not with Hamas.
Hamas is committed to our destruction, opposes any solution, two states, one state, just opposes our existence. So the best you can do is again, fund those international organizations work through proxies and try to make life a little bit better for the Palestinian's living.
WHITFIELD: Do you see a future of two states?
OREN: I see the possibility. Many things have to happen.
OREN: The first thing has to happen is if we have to have a government in this country that's elected. We're going -- maybe going to our fifth election in just over two years. And the Palestinian authority where President Mahmoud Abbas is entering the 16th year of his fourth term. And indeed, it was his decision to cancel Palestinian elections that triggered Hamas into shooting rockets at us to prove that it was still, you know, a strong Palestinian protector.
So I think the prerequisite for any diplomatic process is having stable, legitimate governments that can actually sign a piece of paper and have that signature means something.
WHITFIELD: Former U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Be well.
WHITFIELD: Thank you. All right. Still ahead. A critical race theory is a term being thrown around a lot of Republican-led states but it doesn't mean what GOP leaders say it does. So why is it gaining steam as an issue that needs to be tackled in schools? We'll talk about that next.
[13:30:10] WHITFIELD: Across the country, Republican-led states are taking aim at the topic of critical race theory. On Friday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp wrote a letter to his state's Board of Education, urging them to keep critical race theory out of Georgia classrooms, Kemp even going so far as to call it a dangerous ideology. But what is critical race theory, really? And why are so many Republican leaders fighting to keep it away from students? Here's CNN's Jason Carroll.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you tell me what critical race theory is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Critical race theory?
CARROLL: Critical race theory.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I can guess.
CARROLL (voice-over): Guessing or not across the country, a number of politicians are getting it wrong.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Critical race theory is a Marxist doctrine that rejects the vision of Martin Luther King Jr.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW, PROFESSOR, UCLA & COLUMBIA UNIV.: Absolutely false.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It's basically teaching kids to hate our country and to hate each other based on race.
CRENSHAW: False and slanderous.
CARROLL (voice-over): Meet professor and scholar Kimberle Crenshaw. Crenshaw is one of the founders of critical race theory, which she helped develop in the late 1980s. In short, critical race theory is an approach based on the idea that the history of white supremacy still has a very real and lasting impact on our society, and institutions today.
CRENSHAW: Critical race theory just says, let's pay attention to what has happened in this country, and how what has happened in this country is continuing to create differential outcomes. So we can become that country that we say we are. So, critical race theory is not anti-patriotic. In fact, it is more patriotic than those who are opposed to it because we believe in the 13th and the 14th and the 15th Amendment, we believe in the promises of equality. And we know we can't get there if we can't confront and talk honestly about inequality.
CARROLL (voice-over): Critical race theory is not a doctrine. It's not a manuscript. One way of describing it is looking with a critical eye at race and institutions. Let's take an example from history. The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal. A critical race theorist would note that slavery persisted for almost 100 years after those words were written, and it was more than a century before women got the right to vote. So why is the term causing such a stir in conservative political circles today.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): This left wing nonsense that suggests that any race is inherently inferior or racist or oppressive.
CARROLL (voice-over): Opponents are concerned critical race theory is or will be forced on students. Supporters say that critical race theory is not based on the view of this race is good, this race is bad.
Supporters also saying the wake of protests and calls for racial equality in the past year, those unnerved by it are now using critical race theory as a catch all term for everything related to race, politics, and education in this country. So says Princeton Professor Imani Perry.
IMANI PERRY, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I think this is this sort of post Trump era way of inciting anxiety, fear, and actually trying to sort of elicit a hostility towards the progress that I think we've begun to make in the just the last couple of months.
CARROLL (voice-over): To date, at least eight states have taken steps to ban topics surrounding critical race theory without naming it, including Oklahoma.
GOV. KEVIN STITT (R-OK): We cannot revert to 100-year-old thinking that a person is any less valuable or inherently racist by the color of their skin.
CARROLL (on camera): To be clear and critical race theory does not say someone is racist because of the color of their skin. And it does not say anyone should be ashamed of themselves because of the color of their skin.
(voice-over): Still, some parents who hear the term are speaking out in school board meetings.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because I do not want critical race theory taught to my children in school does not mean that I'm a racist, damn it.
CARROLL (voice-over): But Crenshaw says the theory is not about calling individuals racist, but looking at racism still ingrained in American institutions. And she says we have to talk about it.
CRENSHAW: If this censoring of all conversation about racism is called racism. That's what this move is really about. It's really not about a theory. It's really not about what's in people's hearts. It's about an effort to shut down all conversation about the sources and the reproduction of racial inequality.
CARROLL (voice-over): Jason Carroll, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)
WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk more about all this. Joining me right now is Julian Maxwell Hayter. He is an associate professor of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. Professor Hayter, so good to see you again, thank you so much.
JULIAN MAXWELL HAYTER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF LEADERSHIP STUDIES, UNIV. OF RICHMOND: My pleasure.
WHITFIELD: So I wonder if Crenshaw really nailed it right there at the end to say what this is really about. I mean, that this is -- this movement of saying, don't teach, you know, the direct correlation between history and today's inequities. Is that about -- is that what this movement is really about?
HAYTER: Absolutely. This is precisely but just thinking more intently about the continuity, and the ubiquity of race in America, inherent to this set of ideas is the idea that recognition of races going to be central to reconciliation over this tortured racial history
WHITFIELD: And isn't about when I think about even Jason Carroll's piece, and there was the one woman who was, you know, kind of shaken, I mean, talking about just because, you know, I don't want this taught doesn't mean I'm a racist, that it really is about, or perhaps some of this movement is about a shame that is associated with people learning with greater detail about history, about American history, and the ugly truths about American history, and that some people just feel so uncomfortable with it. They just don't want children being taught it, period.
HAYTER: Right. It's some -- we've struggle in many ways to come to terms with not just enslavement, but what happened during Jim Crow segregation. And in many ways, I think, things have been purposely erased from American history textbooks for most of the 20th century. And what we're seeing now is expertise finally coming to bear on history and rather than heritage in American classrooms.
WHITFIELD: And perhaps one of the more recent attempts to do so to enlighten people because so much of American history, black American history has been erased is the 1619 project. And, you know, well now we're talking about, you know, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who is being denied tenure because of the 1619 project. Do you see this as part of that movement across the country, whether it's in state legislatures, or whether it's denying of, you know, school instruction?
WHITFIELD: That is an example of it as well?
HAYTER: Yes. I mean, history is a high stakes, and deeply political endeavor. It's a high stakes game. I think it's kind of ironic that we've waged war on cancel culture. American history textbooks have been canceling certain people's history for decades. You look at a history textbook from the mid-20th century you'd be hard
pressed to find poor white folks, people of color, women. And what we're seeing now in classrooms to people trying to come look at absence, what Julian Bond called the sin of omission.
WHITFIELD: So what do you see in the short term, if not the long term, when it comes down to teaching American history, the good, the bad, and the ugly, embracing it for what it is, and America growing from that?
HAYTER: I think we've struggled to recognize that you can construct and deconstruct the narrative at the same time. That you can interrogate America's, the darker chapters in American history, and still recognize that we've made profound progress and still have a long way to go. I think it's impossible in some ways to measure how far we've come or haven't come if we're unwilling to deal with the darker portions of our past.
WHITFIELD: And then what do you say to those who are taking the philosophy of well, wait a minute, you know, America elected its first black president. And so clearly, that exemplifies how far America's calm. And so racism is in the past, because in the White House was a black man, a black family?
HAYTER: Yes. Look, I don't think political symbolism in and of itself means that we've resolved some of these issues. I mean, race and racism have been shockingly commonplace in the United States. It's simply how people thought and can some continue to think about one another. And I think CRT argues that racism is merely an individual act of malice on the election of an individual. It's been institutionalized, especially in terms of public policy.
I mean, people brought their biases to bear on American government, housing, education, economics and law for most of the 20th century. And those in some ways defined how we got to now and people who are proponents of critical race theory, the theory say there's no way to come to terms with contemporary problems without walking through the fire of that history.
WHITFIELD: And then now another instrument is an efforts to suppress the vote.
HAYTER: You know, right. I think you can't disassociate lily-white for instance Southern legislatures and legislations from these political movements. People have been politicizing education, especially in the south for a long time. Southerners have a long and tortured history of mandating certain ideas over others. So it's not surprising that this is emerging in Georgia and Oklahoma. The fact is, Southern classrooms have been deeply policed by lily-white legislations for decades.
WHITFIELD: Professor Julian Maxwell Hayter, University of Richmond, thank you so much, always good to see you.
HAYTER: My pleasure. WHITFIELD: Appreciate it.
HAYTER: Thanks for having me.
WHITFIELD: Thank you.
All right, for more discussions on race, sign up for CNN's new race deconstructed newsletter. Every week, you'll get the latest on current events, American history through conversations on the role of race and culture, politics and more. Go to CNN.com/racenewsletter to sign up.
All right, the first named storm of the 2021 hurricane season has formed Tropical Storm Ana is brewing 200 miles northeast of Bermuda, which is now under a tropical storm watch. This is the seventh year in a row a named storm has formed ahead of a hurricane season officially beginning which usually starts June 1st. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. All around the country, life is feeling a little bit more normal as states reopen, and then has a lot to do with this chart. Daily cases are at their lowest in almost a year. The country is averaging fewer than 30,000 a day for the first time since last June. California will fully reopen this June on the 15th. And Paul Vercammen is in Hollywood right now where live shows are coming back soon. So Paul, tell us where you all -- where you are and what's happening.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, I have to make a grand entrance. I'm at the Pantages Theatre here in Hollywood. Hamilton is coming. And we're going to get vaccinations related to that. They are offering the vaccine today, Fred, a lottery to win tickets to Hamilton three pairs if you get a shot in the arm, they're given out the Johnson & Johnson and the Pfizer vaccines today in this ornate theater and had been part of the Hollywood folklore, the Oscars were held here back when.
And this is not the only campaign in Los Angeles today that's giving away tickets you can win season seats to the Lakers at some other county areas. And as we look behind me and see them preparing to administer vaccines today, this all fits into the county strategy. Right now, 61 percent of the people in Los Angeles County have received at least one vaccine, 47 percent of the people in the county are fully vaccinated.
So now we're seeing a shift from these big vaccine sites to the smaller pop up events. And this one, as we said, the lore is tickets to Hamilton that can cost a few $100. I'm going to bring in the G.M. of the Pantages and talk to Jeff about this. I think the first question that we have for you, Jeff, is what is it like to be part of the fight against COVID-19?
JEFF LOEB, GENERAL MANAGER, HOLLYWOOD PANTAGES THEATRE: You know, we are thrilled that California is moving forward on the path to recovery. And at the theater here, we are laser focused on opening our doors safely. And one of those keys is making sure that everybody is vaccinated. So we want to get the word out. And we're hosting a vaccine site today from 11:00 to 6:00.
VERCAMMEN: And what's the strategy in terms of wearing masks or not wearing masks when you come back here to a show?
LOEB: You know, our latest conversations with the county health department and we're absolutely going to file -- follow their guidance is everyone's going to wear masks at this time. We don't know what it's going to be three months from now when we open but right now in our conversations with the county, we're going to ask that everybody be safe and wear masks.
VERCAMMEN: And what's the sort of anticipation or sense for getting back to normal and having Hamilton roll right in here? No pun intended, but one of the big tunes because I'm not going to miss my shot.
LOEB: You know, I've been here a lot by myself. And this building is beautiful, but it's nothing without the people inside. So when we put those performers on the stage, the musicians in the pit, and when our audience comes and sits shoulder to shoulder, it's going to be an unbelievable first performance. I mean, we're literally going to blow the roof off.
VERCAMMEN: Awesome. Raise that curtain, Jeff. Well there you have it, Fred, the Pantages Theatre steeped in all this Hollywood history, giving shots and getting ready to raise that curtain again, back to you now.
WHITFIELD: All right, and I caught that, I'm not going to miss my shot. It's all right there. Paul Vercammen thanks so much in Hollywood.
All right, just heard Paul talked me about incentives in California. They're not alone. All over the country, we're seeing measures to encourage people to get their shots, lotteries in four states in West Virginia, $100 savings bonds for young people, even premium features on dating apps like Tinder and Hinge. E.R. Physician, Dr. Rob Davidson joining us now from Michigan. Dr. Davidson, good to see you. So, incentives all over the country, is this good, will it work?
DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: I think it's great. I think we're seeing signs of this working. I even think the CDC masks guidance, I know from my wife where you met as a family doctor, she convinced somebody just this week who was in their 20s who wasn't really thinking much about it. But now that they find out they cannot wear their mask in public places if they're, you know, indoors, they are now going to get the shot. So I think it's all great.
WHITFIELD: Oh, good. I mean their incentives in it, of course your -- you know, your health and improving the health of others protecting others. So it wasn't that long ago, you know, that your state Michigan had one of the worst outbreaks in the country and now it is announcing reopening plans. How comfortable are you about that? [13:50:04]
DAVIDSON: You know, I'm very comfortable as a state our numbers were almost at 60 percent with the first shot, you know, and we're pushing forward. And I know now they're getting them into the offices.
My emergency department, as of last Tuesday is now offering either the J&J or the Pfizer vaccine to any patient who comes in and we're having those conversations. And so as we keep doing this, I think it's a great thing. And I think, again, the CDC has shown that the science shows if you're vaccinated, you're protected.
WHITFIELD: And when we talk about herd immunity, 70 to 80 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated. We're somewhere in the 40 to 50 percent range right now, right? So what happens if vaccination rates, you know, continue to slow down as they are and, you know, this nation is unable to reach that target?
DAVIDSON: I think we'll be dealing with COVID-19 for quite a long time, unfortunately. And, you know, as the numbers are coming down and it's great under 30,000 for a week straight every day, still had almost 600 people die from COVID-19 in this country last year.
That's way too many. So yes, I think we just have to keep pushing forward. Because, you know, thinking about what could happen if we don't get there, I just think we have to keep using every resource we have to get more people vaccinated.
WHITFIELD: What can we done about what appears to be a low level of trust in the CDC? Some people feeling very confused about, you know, their most recent messaging and edict about those who are vaccinated don't have to wear a mask. But then, you know, you got to count on the honor system. What can the CDC do to feel like people trust them better now?
DAVIDSON: Listen, maybe the impossible task of -- for all of us would be to get people like Tucker Carlson and those on "Fox News" to stop talking about the vaccine in negative ways and questioning it in very strange ways that have nothing to do with reality, we could get Senator Ron Johnson to get the shot and to stop spreading disinformation. Because I think that is where the distrust and -- comes in.
That disinformation that we've had from an entire media universe and much of a single political party has really poisoned the well so that when good science comes out, and we change guidance, and it's based on pure fact, we have a segment of the population that says, well, I just don't believe that I think there's something else going on. It's frustrating. But again, I think we have to just keep trying because, you know, we don't have to get 100 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent, I think we can get there. It's just going to take a lot of work.
WHITFIELD: OK. We will all remain optimistic. Dr. Rob Davidson, thank you so much in regards to your wife, both of you joining us last weekend. We appreciate it still.
DAVIDSON: Thanks Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. We'll have so much more on all of this. Make sure to watch our special at 2:30 today, life after lockdown. We'll answer questions about travel, summer camps, vaccines, and so much more. Don't miss it.
WHITFIELD: A woman in Memphis, Tennessee learned she had COVID-19 last year while pregnant. She came close to death but managed to beat the odds. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta has this week's human factor.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Susie Espinoza thought she had a bad cold last May until the symptoms got worse.
SUSIE ESPINOZA, RECOVERING FROM COVID-19: To me, I felt like I was drowning.
GUPTA (voice-over): Her COVID-19 test came back positive. And at the time she was 26 weeks pregnant. She said goodbye to her kids and her partner checked her into the hospital.
ESPINOZA: I remember putting the kids to sleep. And in my mind, I was like, please God, let me come back to them.
GUPTA (voice-over): Doctors had to put Susie on a ventilator, but she still wasn't able to get enough oxygen.
DR. PAUL DEATON, PULMONOLOGIST: She was working very hard to breathe.
GUPTA (voice-over): So they decided to put the mother of three in a medically induced coma. Six weeks later, Susie took a turn for the worst.
DEATON: She almost died. I said we got to get the baby out tomorrow. And so she had a C section the next day.
GUPTA (voice-over): The baby was born healthy, and Susie was well enough to be brought out of the coma to meet him.
ESPINOZA: But then, as the minutes went by realizing I couldn't move.
DEATON: She'd been in the intensive care unit for so long she developed very severe weakness. She basically had to learn to walk again, use her arms again.
GUPTA (voice-over): Then nurses introduced her to her baby boy, Brandon, and this is the moment she held him in her arms for the first time. Today Susie still struggles with nerve pain and numbness and she's working on getting her voice back every day.
ESPINOZA: I'm beating up the odds.
WHITFIELD: What a story of inspiration.
All right, tomorrow on united shades of America, W. Kamau Bell looks into what the wealth gap really looks like between the rich and poor. Here's a preview.
W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: To Jemaine one solution to the inequitable food systems all over America is urban agriculture, occurring vacant lots into lush gardens. She sees fresh feature farms as a recipe that's easy to follow for anyone who can find a bit of land and buy some seeds. Is this some sort of basil?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's oregano.
BELL: Oregano. That could turn into this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was like this, a little afro puff.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then it turned into your hair.
BELL: Yes. Natural Hair, natural care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. A.
BELL: Uh-oh, I don't want to step on anything. Oh --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BELL: Wow. That was delicious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BELL: Are you turning me into a farmer?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm turning everybody into a farmer.
WHITFIELD: It looks like it's working. And you can watch the full episode tomorrow night at 10:00 right here on CNN.