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Raiders Coach Jon Gruden Resigns Amid Email Scandal; Texas Governor Issues Order Banning Vaccine Mandates; Merck Seeks U.S. Authorization for Antiviral COVID Pill; Parliament Members Slam U.K. Government Response to COVID-19; Tensions Soar Between Taiwan and Mainland China; Thousands Under Lockdown as Lava Sparks Factory Fire; Search for Brian Laundrie is Still Underway. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 12, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and right around the world. I'm Isa Soares in London. And just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The barrage of tirades that went on many years and fuselage of attacks on the NFL including the commissioner himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you win the trust of the people in that locker room? You're their leader.


Breaking overnight, Jon Gruden resigns as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders over misogynistic, racist and homophobic emails.

Plus, one of the most important public health failure. A damning report finds the British government acted too late in its initial COVID-19 response.

And President Biden playing the balancing act with his national agenda and foreign policies, all while tensions rise between mainland China and Taiwan.

ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Isa Soares.

SOARES: Welcome, everyone. It is Tuesday, October the 12th. And one of the best-known and highest-paid coaches in the NFL is resigning after reports that he used racist, sexist and homophobic language in past emails. Now, Jon Gruden stepped down as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night -- late Monday night. He had won the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 2003, but it was a 2011 email when Gruden was an analyst for ESPN that really started the scandal.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports Gruden used racially insensitive language to describe an NFL executive, DeMaurice Smith, who is black. Now Gruden issued this statement last night. Let me read out to you. I have resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the

Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff and fans of Raider Nation. I'm sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.

Well, Gruden was on the field on Sunday as the Raiders hosted the Chicago Bears. And he was asked about the email after the game. This is what he said. Take a listen.


JON GRUDEN, THEN-HEAD COACH, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: All I can say is I'm not a racist. I can't tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to D. Smith. But I feel good about who I am and what I've done my entire life. And I apologize for the insensitive remarks. I had no, you know, I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all, but yes, they can. I'm not like that at all, but I apologize. I don't want to keep addressing it.


SOARES: Well, but the scandal doesn't end there. The "The New York Times" uncovered a trove of other troubling emails from Gruden. In them he denounced drafting gay players and letting women work as referees. He said the player who kneeled during the national anthem should be fired and he used a homophobic slur referring to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Take a listen.


KEN BELSON, NFL REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: What he's saying is going against everything the -- many of the things the NFL has been trying to address. The objectification of women, you know, race relations in this country. The Raiders just have a player who said publicly he's gay. So, here's the head coach whose past comments seem to contradict that. So, it's an awkward position to be in. I don't see how he could finesse out of this. Maybe one comment, two comments, but there were many other emails.


SOARES: Well, reaction to the Gruden controversy has been swift as well as harsh. Former NFL executive DeMaurice Smith tweeted this.

The email from Jon Gruden -- and some of the reaction to it -- confirms the fight against racism, racist tropes and intolerance is not over. This is not about an email as much as it is about a pervasive belief by some that people who look like me can be treated as less.

And this comment from "Washington Post" columnist Jerry Brewer -- as which I read this morning actually.

Jon Gruden is done, he writes. He could not coach the Las Vegas Raiders any more, not for another practice, let alone another game. As a matter of fact, he should just retire from typing because apparently, he can't control his bias when his fingers start moving.

And then CNN's Don Lemon spoke with several analysts about the controversy and this is what they said.



BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's one thing to say hey, a guy made a mistake, slip of the tongue or he reformed his attitude or he raised his consciousness and we're not going to hold him to account for one thing 10 years ago. But if there is a pattern of behavior, that's a different thing.


COSTAS: And of course, you know as a fan the majority of players on SCC teams and the overwhelming majority of players in the NFL are African-American.

LEMON: Right.

COSTAS: So even if you say starting today, I've learned my lesson in going forward I'll never do this, how do you win the trust of the people in that locker room?

EMMANUEL ACHO, SPORTS ANALYST, FORMER NFL LINEBACKER: It's not a matter of being canceled. It's realizing that Jon Gruden is today who he was in 2011. And the reason I can say that confidently is because he is ignorant of who he was in 2011, thus he has done nothing to fix or change or mature as an individual. So, this is not being canceled. This is being held accountable, and the accountability is, he has no place in the National Football League.

This is a bigger NFL issue. This is why there needs to be more minorities in position of power. More minority voices because there was literally just rampant ignorance laced throughout that email. And let's also be real. Bruce Allen clearly did something to allow Jon Gruden to feel comfortable speaking to him in that manner.


ACHO: Jon Gruden is the fall guy, but you allow someone a level of comfort to speak to you in such a manner.


SOARES: Of course, we'll have much more on Gruden as well as the NFL and what this means for the NFL throughout the day right here on CNN.

Now, the U.S. Justice Department is again trying to hit pause on the Texas law that essentially bans abortions. A law so restrictive it set off nationwide protests. You remember, on Monday the DOJ asked the conservative U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the abortion law while a suit challenging it is appealed. Last week the Justice Department secured a preliminary order blocking the ban, but the 5th Circuit put a hold on it and effectively revived the law.

Now, meanwhile, the Texas governor has issued an executive order banning coronavirus vaccine mandates. Greg Abbott says it applies to private employers who cannot require their staff to get vaccinated. Now, he has previously issued executive orders prohibiting government mandated vaccine passports. Take a listen.


DR. JONATHAN REINER, CARDIAC CATH LAB DIRECTOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Now what we see is the Texas governor really trying to prevent these mandates which have been shown to increase vaccination uptake in the United States. It's almost as if he's trying to sabotage the vaccine effort in his home state and people are dying as a result.


SOARES: Well, on Monday Abbott's Republican challenger Allen West who came down with COVID tweeted a video saying he's been released from the hospital. West, who was not vaccinated, says he will recover at home until he tests negative. He praised the infusion therapy that he received as treatment. West will go up against Abbott in next year's Republican primary.

Now, the policies of Florida's Republican governor may be fueling a teacher shortage in his state. According to one Florida education group, Florida has more than 5,000 teacher positions open right now. Educators there have been caught in the middle when ongoing battle over the governor's ban on mask mandates in schools, and the group says the stress from the pandemic has been pushing them out of the job.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci says mandates will work to get more people really revaccinated. Right now, around 66 percent of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated. The U.S. could also be getting a new tool, really, to fight the pandemic. Drug maker Merck has asked for Emergency Use Authorization for its antiviral pill to treat COVID. The company says the pill could cut the risk of hospitalization or death by half. But Dr. Fauci warns it's not a substitute for getting vaccinated.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The data on that drug Molnupiravir is promising. You know, it's a 50 percent diminution compared to placebo in hospitalizations and deaths. That's good news. But the best way to get 100 percent chance of not getting hospitalized or dying is to not get infected in the first place. That's better than any drug.


SOARES: Well, that's in the U.S., here in the U.K. members of Parliament slamming the British government for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis. In a damning report they blame the government for waiting too long to impose a lockdown in the early days of the pandemic resulting in, what it says, unnecessary deaths. They say these decisions rank as some of the biggest public health failures in the U.K.'s history.

For more on this let's bring in CNN's Nina dos Santos. And Nina, I was reading parts of the report and there were successes highlighted and it, in particular here the vaccination program. But give us more details on the errors, as well as failings by the British government -- Nina.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, this is one of the most significant pieces of research now identifying some of the failures that have been done over the last couple of years in the handling of the pandemic.


And as you point out, it raises this question mark over the mirror image of the failures of the early days counteracted by the big successes of the vaccine program that we see that's still being rolled out across the U.K. but has covered nearly 90 percent of the population so far.

And the really damning part of this report was when they were talking about the early days of the pandemic. COVID-19 was first identified in early January 2020 here in the U.K. It took until March 23rd for the government to lockdown. And just that delay of ten to 15 days could have resulted in tens of thousands of preventable deaths. This committee, cross bench committee, by the way, from all members of the political spectrum identified.

The report runs into 150 pages, but this is surely probably the most damning quote from it so far.

Decisions on lockdowns and social distancing and the advice that led to them rank is one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced. This happened despite the U.K. counting on some of the best expertise available anywhere in the world. The U.K. must learn what lessons it can of why this happened if we are to ensure it is not repeated.

What they're referring to here is this ill-conceived attempt to try and manage the spread of the virus in the U.K. in the early days of the pandemic. The pursuance of the so-called herd immunity which was very quickly abandoned when it became clear how deadly the virus was.

But there were also failings in the care sector as well with elderly patients being discharged without COVID-19 tests from hospitals into care homes, allowing some of the most vulnerable members of society to be put at the mercy of this virus that has now killed 150,000 people across the U.K. One of the highest death tolls anywhere in the world.

But as you were pointing out, there are still successes. They're saying that after this hard lesson was learned by the U.K., it embarked upon this very bold vaccination strategy which, of course, has led to one of the biggest vaccination programs we've seen in the post-war years -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, we shall wait to see what the government has to say, Nina, about this report a bit later on. Nina dos Santos there for us in London. Thanks very much, Nina.

Now, Kim Jong-un says North Korea's weapons program is not meant to start a war with anyone, but to prevent one. According to state media, the North Korean leader cited hostile policies from the U.S. and the military buildup in South Korea. Kim made the speech standing next to weapons and the missiles for their country's defense development exhibition. Analysts say North Korea appears to be pushing ahead with its missile program and has started expanding its main nuclear reactor to make fuel for nuclear bombs.

Now, U.S. President Joe Biden is facing one of his biggest tests as tensions soar between Taiwan and Beijing. China has called for a peaceful reunification with Taiwan. But in recent weeks it sent dozens, in fact, of military aircraft into the island's air defense identification zone. Taiwan, meanwhile, remains defiant with its president saying the island won't bow to pressure.

CNN's Ivan Watson is following developments and joins me now from Hong Kong. And Ivan, I feel like every day you and I talk about this. We are seeing heightened tensions really between both sides. Give us a sense of what the U.S., what President Biden is saying here, and how worried the U.S. is about these incursions, but also about the rise in rhetoric.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, the conversation -- if you wanted to describe it that way -- across the Taiwan Strait continues. And I think the most recent development is release of footage from the People's Liberation Army of China, of military exercises in Fujian Province. A simulated amphibious assault where you see soldiers kind of landing on beaches, cutting through barbed wire and making their way through what could be described as mine fields.

It is normal for a military to conduct exercises, but the release of this is clearly targeted and it's been interpreted on China's heavily censored internet, and in state media as a warning to Taiwan. In fact, I'll go on to quote an expert, an unnamed expert in China's nationalist tabloid, "The Global Times," saying that these exercises plus the military flight into Taiwan's air defense identification zone that you mentioned that hit record numbers in the last week-and-a- half, that all of that basically, quote, demonstrates that the People's Liberation Army overwhelmingly has an advantage over Taiwan's defense forces. Going on to say that resisting reunification by force will bring -- only bring doom more quickly to Taiwan secessionists.


And the Beijing establishment refers to Taiwan's democratically elected president, Tsai Ing-wen, as a secessionist and accuses her of provoking the ongoing tensions right now. Now of course, she has not gone to the point of declaring independence for Taiwan, but she's definitely critical of China, and that is not being tolerated. The Chinese government says Taiwan must and will eventually reunite with the mainland. It is only a matter of time. The U.S. does not recognize Taiwan's independence as a nation state, but it does defend Taiwan's right to self-defense -- Isa.

SOARES: Ivan Watson for us in Hong Kong. Many thanks, Ivan.

Well, back in the United States, President Biden is trying to get his stalled agenda passed. His approval ratings has dropped in recent polls. And Republicans are exploiting that in campaign rallies. No one is happier to take shots at President Biden and the Democrats than former President Donald Trump -- as you can see there. At a rally in Iowa with influential Republicans in attendance, Trump repeated his election lies. The longest serving Republican in the Senate Chuck Grassley was at his side. Take a listen.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Biden accept the endorsement of a person that's got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa. I wouldn't be too smart. I'm smart enough to accept that endorsement.


SOARES: So, how should we interpret this? Well, journalists and author Bob Woodward says it's clear Trump still has a firm grip on the Republican Party.


BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST: What's going on now really is an iron curtain of obedience to Trump. It's not just polite deference. It is obedience, and it really is an iron curtain because it's so strong. These people, like Senator Grassley, can count. They can look at the polls. They go to their home states. They talk to constituents, and there are tens of millions of people who support Trump. Let's face it. Trump's popularity, his power in the Republican Party, has grown since he left office. It has not shrunk. And so, there is work to be done to look at this and get the story out. Now, the January 6th committee has an important role. I'm not sure they're going to get what they really need.


SOARES: We'll stay on top of that story, of course, for you.

Now, a black eye for U.S. airline consistently ranked among the best after it canceled and delayed thousands of flights. Remember we brought you this story yesterday. Dallas-based Southwest has offered now all affected passengers a tremendous apology and says it hopes to restore full operations as soon as possible. But both the airline and its pilots union insist the multi-day meltdown was not due to employees protesting its vaccine mandate.

Over the past few days, the airline canceled -- remember -- more than 2,000 flights, most of them on Sunday, but close to 400 more on Monday, and some 40 percent of its Monday flights were delayed. Now, Southwest released a statement blaming some of the cancellations on weather, but also acknowledged out of place aircraft, and the ongoing strain on flight crews.

Now, U.S. oil prices are skyrocketing as energy demand really have made a comeback and his supply is in keeping up. Oil prices have passed $80 a barrel there, levels that we haven't seen in several years. And experts are predicting Brent crude and WTI will hit $100 by the year's end.

And the oil prices kept U.S. stocks down with the major indices finishing Monday with losses, red arrows right across the board as you saw there. Also concerns that the U.S. consumer prices and earnings reports coming from leading banks. And here's a look at the futures ahead of Tuesday's trading on Wall Street. Once again, that follows -- that trend follows red arrows again. As for the Dow, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500, some analysts expecting companies to report slowing growth because, of course, the supply chain problems and rising prices that we have just outlined for you.

Still ahead right here on the show, the lava on Spain's La Palma Island hits a cement factory and creating even more danger and putting thousands under lockdown. Where live for you in Spain.

Plus, some answers could come today about how Gabby Petito died. But the question remains where is her fiancee Brian Laundrie?



SOARES: Now, you are looking at live images from Spain's La Palma Island where as many as 3,000 people are under lockdown. The lava sparked a fire at a cement factory on Monday. Authorities say the lockdown is to protect people from the potential of course, toxic fumes as well as smoke. The volcano on La Palma has been erupting nonstop if you remember now for more than three weeks, destroying more than a thousand buildings and hundreds of hectares of crops.

Journalist Al Goodman joins me now from Madrid with much more. And Al, I believe many people have been evacuated, but still there are many in their homes. Do we know how long they will have to stay under lockdown for?

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: Hi, Isa. They've been under lockdown, these 3,000 people, closest to a fire at a cement factory in an industrial park that the lava came into that industrial park, ignited a fire at the cement factory. Officials are worried about the emissions from that fire. So, they've been locked down for about 20 hours. Authorities saying they're not going to let them out until they can further look at the air quality and they are also concerned about other buildings in that industrial park that may also go up in flames as this molten hot lava comes crushing through this industrial park. So, they're keeping an eye as well -- that's on the west side of the island.

[04:25:00] On the east side of the island, they're keeping an eye on the airport because if the wind shift blowing this volcanic ash from the volcano back towards the airport, there could be further delays there. Right now, it's open with some delays and a few canceled flights. But it is open, which is good news.

There have been no reported injuries or serious deaths or serious injuries. I'm told 6,000 people have been evacuated mostly at the beginning of this about three weeks ago. Now you have these 3,000 and people are worried about the financial impact here at the industrial park. The lava is marching through these agricultural lands. And officials are worried about particularly this northern part of the lava flow. There are three. One has already reached the ocean a couple weeks ago. Spectacular images forming a new piece of the coast line if you will. Not just sinking but forming a new piece of the coast line.

The northern part is more liquid and that could also reach the ocean. So, the government of Spain has promised aid to the island, the people there clearly seem to need it -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, absolutely. Spectacular images like you said, Al, but clearly wreaking the havoc on people's lives and land. Al Goodman for us in Madrid. Thanks very much, Al.

Now much of the U.S. Midwest has been under threat for severe storms. A tornado watch was is issued Monday for more than 11 million people including those in Chicago. The severe threat is now shifting back to the plains. Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin joins me now from the CNN Weather Center. Good morning, Tyler. Give us a sense of what we can expect in the next coming hour or so.

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hello, Isa. So today, Tuesday, there are two major weather stories. We've got yet more severe weather across the Central Plains and then we also have a major winter storm forming across the West Coast. This winter storm is going to impact 13 states across the U.S. West. And it's bringing with it a mixed bag of hazards.

That's why we have a freeze watch and freeze warning in effect. That's why we have winter storm warnings in effect. And it's also the reason why there are wind advisories and wind warnings in effect out West because those winds are just going to pick up. We're going to see cold air spill down and, yes, we're going to see more than 2 feet of snow in some parts of the northern Rockies. Actually, Bozeman, Montana has already picked up more than a foot of snow in just 24 hours. So, we're going to add to those totals.

Downstream of this storm system, we have the severe weather threat. A level 3 out of 5 risk for Kansas and Oklahoma. The main threats here are large hail, damaging winds, and isolated tornadoes. This will form during the late evening hours of Tuesday and last on into the wee hours of Wednesday. And you can see once it pushes out of the Central Plains it goes right into the Midwest and on into the Great Lakes. So, we're seeing yet more rounds of severe weather over the next 24 to 48 hours. And the snow just keeps a falling across the mountains out West. Reason being is because this time of the year, the jet stream gets

really erratic. When it dives down, that allows the cooler temperatures from the north to spill down. And then when it rises up, it allows the above average heat to bubble up, too. And that's what we're dealing with right now -- Isa.

Do keep us posted, Tyler. Thanks very much. Tyler Mauldin at the CNN Weather Center.

Now, later today a coroner in the U.S. state of Wyoming is set to release Gabby Petito's autopsy results revealing how she died. Her death has already been ruled a homicide, and authorities are still looking for her fiancee Brian Laundrie. CNN's Leyla Santiago has more on the intense search to find him.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What was once a search with ATVs, helicopters, a dive team now looks like this. No sign of any search teams at this 25,000-acre reserve. And yet --

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: A nationwide manhunt for Brian Laundrie is intensifying.

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Still, no sign of Brian Laundrie.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): North Port police tell CNN they have found no physical evidence of Laundrie at the reserve. Investigators still don't know exactly where Laundrie is today, nearly four weeks after he went missing following the disappearance of his fiancee, Gabby Petito.

TIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Anything's possible as far as where he could be. In four weeks' time, there's literally no place in the world that a person that has the financial capability can travel to.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): These are among the last images seen of Laundrie posted on Gabby and Brian's Instagram pages before he returned home alone. Investigators, including the FBI, are asking the public for help locating the 23-year-old who can be heard speaking in this video posted on social media.

BRIAN LAUNDRIE: We are right outside Capitol Reef right now.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Gabby and Brian's profiles on Instagram show he appears to have this tattoo on his hand. According to a tweet from North Port police, he has brown eyes, short-brown hair, trimmed facial hair, 5'8", 160 pounds. Last seen wearing a hiking bag with a waist strap but --

CLEMENTE: He could certainly blend in almost anywhere. He could change his attire completely. Change his look, grow a mustache, put sunglasses on, grow a little bit of hair, put a hat on, put a wig on.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): His parents reported him missing September 17th. JOSH TAYLOR, NORTH PORT PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: Their attorney was on the phone with us.