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U.S. gas prices skyrocket as Energy Crisis Worsens; Virginia's McAuliffe on Parents and Education; Second Facebook Whistleblower. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 12, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, a costly trend for American consumers. You might have noticed it at the gas pump. The price of gas in the U.S. has been skyrocketing. This as global supply and rising demand for oil is already worsening. A surge in both prices and demand for oil and gas. Americans are now paying more at the pump than they have in the past seven years.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Pete Muntean joining us live from Alexandria, Virginia, and CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans also with us.

So, Pete, let's start with you. Look, you're there at a gas station. We see the prices behind you. They've actually nearly doubled in just the last 17 months.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica, gas was $1.77 a gallon back during the depths of the pandemic. Just compare that here to this station in Alexandria, Virginia, $3.15 for a gallon of regular. That's actually lower than the national average, which is $3.28 now, up 8 cents in just the last week. And analysts say it's really the price of crude that is driving this. It just hit $80 a barrel for the first time in seven years. And they're anticipating that it will go to $85 a barrel, maybe $90 a barrel by the end of this year.

The point is, this is just the beginning, and drivers are only now starting to take notice of all of this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Incrementally, it is small, those of us on a fixed budget hurt more than those who do not. But it is -- it's currently tolerable for the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a lot. I mean -- I mean you've got to constantly put gas in here, at least $20. I mean and with gas prices different all over the place, it's like you've got to travel miles upon miles just to find a good deal.



MUNTEAN: What's so interesting is that this is typically the time of year where gas prices are actually pretty low, between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, when demand drops. In fact, this time last year, the average price for a gallon of regular was $2.19. This is really going to sting for a lot of people as this is just now starting to tick up.

Jim. Erica.

SCIUTTO: We should note that comparing to prices during the pandemic is a little apples and oranges because there was a real trough in demand due to the, you know, shutdown, right, of the U.S. and world economy. But it's definitely going up well beyond where we were prior.

And, Christine, there are a lot of political charges going back and forth about who's to blame for this. Is this a market issue or a policy issue? What's driving it up?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, this has been called the shortage economy. And around the world, a global interconnected supply chain, one little blip and it goes -- it affects everything, right? I mean you see store shelves that are empty. You see goods that you're buying, the packages are getting smaller, the prices are going up.

And just listen to the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles about the backlog of ships.


MARIO CORDERO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PORT OF LONG BEACH: What this is, is a wake-up call for all of us in this industry to realize you can't operate with the model of yesterday.

RUBEN PONCE, TRUCK DRIVER: The port is backed up. Us, we're backed up. The truckers, we're backed up. Everyone's backed up. And it's just a big problem.


ROMANS: And this is because the economy crashed. I mean, think of it, all this cargo that used to fly around in the belly of passenger planes, well, passenger travel stopped. There are backlogs for months and months and glitches in the supply chain where people can't get the goods they need to make their products.

Sneakers, for example, there was a third wave of coronavirus in Vietnam and you saw clothing, sneakers, purses, all of these things you can't get for Christmas by some of these brands because the factories closed, they don't have the goods. There will be a backlog of artificial Christmas trees. That industry has warned us that there are about 10 percent fewer artificial Christmas trees. Cars. We told you about the chip shortage for cars. A lot of this has to do with the shortage of drivers, it has to do, in some cases, with vaccinated workforces or unvaccinated workforces and just a complete disconnect in supply and demand. Really -- really, honestly, crushed by COVID and then the recovery was so fierce nobody could really keep up.

HILL: And that semiconductor issue, with cars too, those all-important chips a major issue. It's all interconnected. And I guess we just buckle up and try to find our patience somewhere.

Pete Muntean, Christine Romans, thank you, both.

The extent of a parent's influence on what their child is being taught in school now a hot topic in the governor's race in Virginia. We'll discuss after this.



HILL: The Virginia governor's race will be one of the most closely watched elections next month. That race also now reigniting the debate over just how involved parents should be in deciding what schools teach.

SCIUTTO: Former governor and Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, he's facing criticism from some for these comments he made in a recent debate.


TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), CANDIDATE FOR VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: I'm not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions.

I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: You are getting pummeled by Republicans who say it shows that you don't think parents should have a say in their children's education. So my question is, do you think parents should have a way in their children --

MCAULIFFE: Sure. Of course. And they do. First of all, they get to elect school boards. And if you don't like them, then you get rid of them.


SCIUTTO: Joining us now, CNN politics editor at large Chris Cillizza.

So, Chris, I mean the issue here, as always, and (INAUDIBLE), what was he really saying, right?


SCIUTTO: I mean he's saying he said elect the school boards, don't come shouting at the school board meeting or chase the kids as they're waking out of school. CILLIZZA: Yes.

SCIUTTO: I guess -- I mean is that the point he's trying to make. The question is, does that explanation solve the problem?

CILLIZZA: Yes, so, breaking news, politics strips nuance out of political rhetoric, right?


CILLIZZA: I mean so -- he's -- the broad point he's trying to make is, I don't want parents coming in and making rules about mask debate --


CILLIZZA: You know, masking and all that sort of stuff.

The problem is, that quote that we just played fits very nicely into a 30-second ad --


CILLIZZA: That Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate, spent over a million dollars already on just that ad alone. I know you've seen it. I've seen it.


CILLIZZA: I mean that ad is everywhere right now. And there's a reason for it. Because it's a -- it's sort of an umbrella of issues, Jim. It's -- it's not entirely clear. He's talking about -- well, is he talking about masking. Is he talking about vaccinations. Is he talking about critical race theory. Is he talking about transgender and bathroom issues. Like that -- Youngkin is using it to --

SCIUTTO: Of course.

CILLIZZA: To try and do all of those things at once.

SCIUTTO: Nanny state, taking over our kids in school, yes.

CILLIZZA: Exactly. He's -- it's a stand-in for this sort of broader idea of, this is what Democratic governance looks like.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

HILL: It's also, you know, in many ways, right, like these snippets, right, and the -- and politics, which, as you say so well, strips all the nuance out. What it does, too, is it actually takes away an important conversation, right? So should we be having a discussion about really banned books or, you know, what is taught? Should there be a more fulsome history of the United States that's being taught that hasn't been whitewashed? These are all important issues that could be discussed at a school board meeting, could be discussed in each district, but there's not any sort of discussion happening because it's all reduced to sound bites and sort of, you know, gotcha political points.

CILLIZZA: Yes, you know, Erica, I think there's a couple of things there. Number one, a campaign is very rarely the best place to have a serious policy discussion.


It winds up being, well, you said this little thing that I can clip into a short thing or put on an ad or put on flyers. And the other thing is that, you know, we remain, in Virginia and everywhere else, deeply polarized. So what is Youngkin trying to do? He's trying to do two things. One, he's trying to rev up his base on things like critical race theory, which, again, I don't think most people even understand but they hear it and they say, oh, we don't want that. On things like transgender students, on things like vaccinations, again, all reactive partisan issues. And then he's also -- and this will be the key to whether it works really or not -- is he's trying to sort of use this in the northern Virginia outer suburbs to say, don't you want a say in your kid's education?


CILLIZZA: Now, that's not what ultimately Terry McAuliffe is saying, but he knows -- Terry McAuliffe knows politics. He should know well enough that when you say something like that, it's going to get used against you.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Stand by for the attempted cleanup.


SCIUTTO: So, Chris, this race, as we said with the recall in California, and as we likely will say about every race between now and the end of time, is being viewed as a referendum to some degree, not just on Trump, but on Biden.


SCIUTTO: Is that true, one, and where does the race stand?

CILLIZZA: Yes, so, what Terry McAuliffe is trying to do is make it a referendum on Trump. Essentially saying, Glenn Youngkin and Donald Trump are the same person.

SCIUTTO: Which is what Newsom did, by the way. Yes.

CILLIZZA: Which is what -- which is what most successful Democratic politicians will do because Donald Trump is very unpopular in the Democratic base.


CILLIZZA: I think the problem for Terry McAuliffe is, as prominent as Donald Trump remains, he is not the president. Joe Biden is the president. And Biden's numbers in Virginia and virtually everywhere else have sunk. And particularly have sunk among independents. He won independents by 14 points in 2020 over Donald Trump. His ratings among independents are in the high 30s, his approval rating. This is a huge problem.

If you talk to the McAuliffe people behind the scenes and they're honest with you, they'll say, look, Joe Biden struggles among independents and, more broadly, people don't approve of the job he's doing is really hurting us in northern Virginia, which, as a reminder, has the vast majority of the votes. I think that's why this race is getting closer, candidly. Biden is sort of dragging McAuliffe down a little bit.


CILLIZZA: And, yes, Youngkin has found an issue, again, it's -- it's an issue that encompasses so much. It's this broad umbrella. It's not like one little thing. It's like he doesn't want you involved in your kids' education, which it's not clear what he said. But I think those two things have made this race tighter.

I still think Terry McAuliffe, today, if the vote was today, might edge it out. But the trend lines don't look good. And Terry McAuliffe -- the thing Terry McAuliffe needs more than anything is the thing he can control the least, Joe Biden's approval numbers to bump up a little bit.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's why you heard Terry McAuliffe say that Biden and Democrats pass infrastructure, right?

CILLIZZA: Yes, he needs (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: You need something to show because that's going to affect my fortunes as well.


SCIUTTO: Chris Cillizza, always good to have you. Thanks very much.

Well, there is another Facebook whistleblower willing to testify before Congress and tell lawmakers why she felt she had, quote, blood on her hands. We've got more on that story coming up.



SCIUTTO: There is yet more scrutiny for Facebook this morning as another whistleblower comes forward saying she is willing to testify before Congress about her former employer.

HILL: Former data scientist Sophie Zhang says she felt like she had, quote, blood on her hands after working at the tech giant for nearly three years.

CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter joining us now.

So, Brian, Sophie Zhang was fired last year but says she's now brought information about Facebook to authorities. What more do we know about what that information is?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, and she won't name which federal agency that she has shared the information with, but she told our colleague, Donie O'Sullivan, that she has handed that over and that she is willing to testify now.

When she first came forward to "The Guardian" newspaper, there was not as much attention around her allegations as there had been recently about Frances Haugen. But Zhang now trying to change that, saying she is happy to speak in a more public forum and share what she knows with regards to whatever she has handed over. We don't know what she's handed over. But Frances Haugen's power came in part from the documents that she provided to the FCC (ph) and other organizations. So it's notable to see multiple former staffers saying, we've got the goods, we've got the receipts, we are showing you what we know to be wrong inside Facebook.

And, by the way, one of Zhang's top complaints about the company, one of the top reasons she left is because she says the company doesn't do enough to tackle hate and information in smaller countries. Yes, you know, the United States, there's been a lot of attention around these issues, less so in other countries, other parts of the world. Facebook disputes that, but it reminds me of what "The Wall Street Journal" reporter Jeff Horowitz said, the one who interviewed Haugen and who convinced her to come forward. He said, the version of Facebook we have in the United States is the best one, it's the safest one.


STELTER: There are actually more problems with the platform elsewhere.

SCIUTTO: That was something that Haugen noted in her testimony, right? I mean she talks about cases in Myanmar, Ethiopia, right, where the site is used to carry out violence against particular ethnic groups.


SCIUTTO: I just wonder, you have another FCC (ph) complaint about the graphic murder video the site refuses to take down. Folks have been hearing about whistleblowers. They've seen the sworn testimony before Congress. In fact, as we've heard about this failure to police itself for years from Facebook. Where does the chances of legislation stand or regulation stand or are we still in this kind of zone where like one thing happens and then you kind of move on to the next?

STELTER: I think we're in that zone, Jim. I think we've got to be skeptical about congressional action. But we're seeing a thousand points of pressure, whether it's former employees, or whether it's Andy Parker, who is going to speak in a few minutes in Washington to draw attention to his case. He has drawn a complaint to the FCC (ph) about his -- the video of his daughter Alison's death.


Alison Parker was murdered on live TV in 2015. And those videos still circulate on sites like YouTube and Facebook. She -- he has drawn attention saying, I should not have to be seeing that on the Internet, my daughter's death, my daughter's murder, and he has filed a new complaint with the FTC (ph) alleging unfair trade practices. So he's out today trying to call attention to this problem.

Jim, I think it's an example of a thousand points of pressure on Facebook. But whether that leads up to congressional action is a big, big question.

SCIUTTO: I've spoken to Parker's father. There's no reason any parent in the world should have to tolerate that.


SCIUTTO: It's just amazing.

STELTER: Absolutely.

HILL: All right, Brian Stelter, appreciate it. Thank you.

Still to come, the governor of Texas banning private companies from enforcing vaccine mandates. But is that executive order legal? What about all of the state's other vaccine requirements?