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Queen Elizabeth to Skip Global Climate Conference Reception; Dave Chappelle Sets Conditions for Meeting with Transgender Community; Jelani Day's Family and Supporters Call on Illinois AG to Get Involved; Garland Faces GOP Pressure Over Memo Targeting School Board Threats; Two Students Save Bus Driver's Life. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 26, 2021 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: There are more royal schedule disruptions because of the Queen of the United Kingdom's health. Buckingham Palace says that Queen Elizabeth will regretfully not attend a reception at next week's global climate conference in Glasgow because she has been advised to rest.

Now the no-show comes after the 95-year-old spent a night in the hospital and cancelled a trip to Northern Ireland last week. Critics have urged the Palace to be more transparent about has been ailing the Queen.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, meanwhile, comedian Dave Chappelle is addressing his critics over the transgender jokes that he made in that Netflix special called "The Closer." These jokes sparked an employee walkout last week where dozens of staff members and their supporters protested outside of the company's Los Angeles offices.

BLACKWELL: Now, over the weekend in Tennessee, Chappelle told his audience that he's willing to meet with members of the transgender community but only on his terms.


DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: To the transgender community, I'm more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody's demands. And if you want to meet with me, I would be more than willing to, but I have some conditions.

First of all, you cannot come if you have not watched my special from beginning to end. You must come to a place of my choosing at a time of my choosing.


BLACKWELL: So, I think it is important that people watch the special before they have the conversation --

CAMEROTA: For sure, so they know what they're talking about.

BLACKWELL: But we know there are people who will have a whole conversation about something having no idea that what the special actually entails. We both have watched it now.

Some of the language, though, I will grant you an audience, right. Aren't audiences reserved for popes, royalty, the president.

CAMEROTA: The Queen.

BLACKWELL: And isn't it sometimes a little problematic when you say I'll meet with the transgender community, it's like when people say I'll meet with the black community. Well, who is that representative that you're choosing or is coming to represent all black people or all transgender Americans? I just wonder what the next step is there.

CAMEROTA: I think that's interesting. I think another interesting thing to watch is that this is going in a different direction than what we've seen before.

Normally when somebody high profile says something that's insensitive or perceived to be insensitive, they issue an apology or they're forced to issue an apology, and sometimes they lose their jobs.

This is not what's happening here. This is breaking the mold, and I think that his point is that conversation is more important than a hollow apology. And so, the fact that Netflix is sticking by him at the moment, the fact that he's not bending or apologizing at the moment, it's just different than what we've seen. And so, I just am wondering if this is a new path or if it's just a path that Dave Chappelle can take.

BLACKWELL: But considering that and how Netflix has backed him, this makes this next point that we heard in Tennessee a little more perplexing. Let's watch this.


CHAPPELLE: You said you want to safe working environment at Netflix, well, it seems like I'm the only one that can't go to the office anymore. Do not blame the LGBTQ community for any of this (BLEEP) this has nothing to do with them, it's about corporate interests and what I can say and what I cannot say.


BLACKWELL: But the corporate interest has backed him here.

CAMEROTA: That's right.

BLACKWELL: Right, the corporate interest has backed him at several steps and has said we're not going to pull the special.

CAMEROTA: But wasn't it important for him to say do not blame the LGBTQ community, this is not their fault. I think that that's an important message that he's sending to his audience there.

BLACKWELL: Blaming them for what though?

CAMEROTA: For this, for all of this controversy, for all of this controversy, and if he's taking any heat, don't blame them he's saying. This is about corporate interest. And again, I think that would like a few more details but I think that that was just important for him to say and helpful, actually.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I think it was important but also to say that it's the corporate interests, the corporate interests have backed you. Apparently, they think that it's in their interest to continue to back you. This is not over. We'll bring you the developments as they happen.

Let's move now to the coroner, who says missing grad student, Jelani Day died by drowning but how and when he went into that Illinois river is unknown now. And family and friends say none of this is adding up.


We'll tell you what they're calling for.


CAMEROTA: There are some new details surrounding the mysterious death of Jelani Day. The LaSalle County Coroner says the grad student in Illinois drowned but adds the manner in which he went into the Illinois River is currently unknown.

The 25-year-old went missing in late August, and his body was found on September 4th. But his remains were not identified until weeks later.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Omar Jimenez is with us now. So, there was a march and a rally today near where his car was found. His mother, the Reverend Jesse Jackson were there. What do they want, what are they looking for?


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Victor, and Alisyn, for starters, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the mother of Jelani Day, Carmen Day are insulted at what's come out of the LaSalle County Coroner's office, that as you just mentioned classified the cause of death here as a drowning.

Now the report was quick to add that the manner of death they still don't know or how Jelani Day got into the river but for Carmen, and again, Jesse Jackson, they say that that's not what should have come out if they didn't know how he went in there.

Now regardless, there was a rally here and a driving processional of sorts. It began here at the Peru Police Department and went to some key locations that were part of this case including a local YMCA here which is near where Jelani Day's vehicle was found in a wooded area but not a remote one. As I mentioned a YMCA on one side and surrounded by homes all around.

And as part of what is on the table, I guess, at this point, what's come out, Carmen Day, the mom wants people to look at this plainly, and say that at the end of the day, as she feels she knows, Jelani didn't do this to himself. Take a listen.


CARMEN DAY, MOTHER OF JELANI DAY: See it with your own eyes. See why I'm so adamant about finding out what happened to my son. If I thought that anything Jelani would have did something to himself, I can accept that those things. But my son, he loved life.


JIMENEZ: And again, Peru, Illinois, which is here, it's almost 70 miles from where he was last seen in Bloomington, Illinois. Moving forward, the family, they're calling for more people to be involved on the investigative side. They have called all the way up to the Attorney General, the FBI and others.

Now the FBI has been involved at points, and they told me just today that they've been in communication with the Peru Police Department, which of course, here is in Peru, Illinois, and providing resources as needed. The police department says they're continuing to comb through hundreds of hours of video footage, and following up with leads, but of course the family says it's not happening fast enough -- Victor, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Omar Jimenez, thank you.

Civil rights attorney, Charles Coleman joins us now. Mr. Coleman, thanks for being here. Jelani day's mother and the Reverend Jesse Jackson both believe that Jelani was murdered. I mean they believe that there is something just very highly suspect about how he ended up in that river. Who could investigate this? Since the coroner and the local officials have not given them very speedy answers thus far into Jelani's death, who could do that for them?

CHARLES COLEMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, you heard when Omar was talking about what has been the discussion and the correspondence between FBI and the Peru Police, that there has been sort of an inkling of a connection between the FBI offering resources, however, Alisyn, what we have not seen so far is a full-blown investigation from the FBI.

And quite frankly at this point when you hear from Reverend Jackson, when you hear from Ms. Day, when you hear from others, that's what they're looking for. They're looking for the FBI to get involved. They're looking for the Department of Justice to take an interest in this case enough where they independently take over this investigation.

Because quite frankly, what a lot of people are not talking about with respect to the story is that Peru, Illinois, has a history of racial discontent. This was a sundown town and a lot of people have left that out of the narrative here. And the remnants of that are in the opinion of Ms. Day and others still hanging over the cloud of what happened and the mystery of what happened with Jelani Day. And so that is why they are looking for the FBI to step into this formally, and not just offer resources to the Peru, Illinois, police department, but to actually take over the investigation and find out what happened here.

BLACKWELL: All right, let me ask you about Claudette Colvin, who in 1955 before Rosa Parks did it, she refused to give up her seat on the bus in Alabama. I want you to actually listen to her tell a part of the story. She spoke with Abby Phillip earlier this year.


CLAUDETTE COLVIN, ARRESTED AT 15 FOR NOT GIVING HER SEAT TO WHITE WOMAN: I was arrested in 1955, March the 2nd, for refusing to give my seat to a white lady. Most people think that because Rosa Parks sit down on this bus seat and because she refused to get up that that ended segregation.


BLACKWELL: Was she now wants her record to be expunged there in Alabama. I did a story with a group of activists who in the 50s refused to get up from a lunch counter and their records were expunged. Even though history is on their side, and it's been so more many years, Charles, it is so cathartic and important for history that these happen. What's your take?

COLEMAN: Well, Victor, I think you're absolutely right, I think when you have a conversation about the interest of justice, when you have a conversation about trying to reconcile some of America's racial discord that has been such an important stain and an important part of America's DNA for far too long.


These are the types of things that need to be done in the interest of justice. These are the types of wrongs that need to be corrected so that people can move on, and that there actually can be some semblance of just reconciliation, and corrective-ness, not because of what law says, not because of what the book says but because we knew then and we know now, and we're going to reaffirm now that it's simply the right thing to do.

So, Claudette Coleman is an American hero as far as I'm concerned, and she needs to be celebrated as such, and one of the first things in making sure that that happen is that her record is expunged.

CAMEROTA: I mean she may never be a household name like Rosa Parks but that's the least that history could do for her.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Charles Coleman, thank you.

COLEMAN: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: GOP lawmakers are relentlessly slamming Attorney General Merrick Garland over a DOJ memo that outline's the department's approach to threats to school board officials, why they're so upset. We'll explain. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLACKWELL: You should expect to see Attorney General Merrick Garland face some fierce backlash from Republicans when he testifies before the Senate committee tomorrow. The GOP has been going after him after he issued a memo on school board threats.

CAMEROTA: This memo was in response to a September request for help from the National School Board Association. It said that members were witnessing a rise in acts of malice, violence and threats against public school officials over mask mandates and how race should be taught in class.

CNN's senior Justice Department correspondent Evan Perez joins us now with the story. Evan, this has become almost a rallying cry from the right. They're talking so much now about schools and what's being taught. So how is Garland handling this?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think, Alisyn, this has been, as you said, a relentless issue for people on the right. But this is a real issue.

There are threats that are being made against school board members, against teachers, against officials on the local level because of issues like the COVID restrictions, including masks and the teaching of critical race theory, for instance.

And the fact that Garland issued this memo on October 4th which told the FBI to have meetings with local officials, to try to figure out what to do about these threats, that has now become a political issue. It's a political issue in the gubernatorial race in Virginia, for instance. And I think a lot of Republicans see the advantage in talking about this because they know that there are a lot of frustrations among parents coming out of two years, obviously, in which schools had to deal with all of these restrictions. And that's what you see being playing out with Merrick Garland, the Attorney General.

BLACKWELL: And some of the more vocal critics have really seized on one phrase here in this controversy. Let's watch this.

PEREZ: Right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They may be domestic terrorists --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Domestic terrorists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An act of domestic terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Domestic terrorists.



BLACKWELL: So, fact check this for us. Does the Department of Justice memo refer to these parents as domestic terrorists?

PEREZ: It does not. The memo says nothing about domestic terrorists. This is a letter -- there was a letter from the school board association which used that term and late last week, the school board association withdrew that part of it and said they apologized for using that phrasing. But they insisted that there is still this real issue of threats being made to school administrators.

And I think you're going to hear from Merrick Garland tomorrow that the Justice Department still has an interest in trying to make sure that there are not violence, that there's not threats against people as a result of what's going on in schools -- guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, we'll be looking for that. Evan Perez, thank you.

PEREZ: Sure.

CAMEROTA: So, an FDA advisory panel will soon vote on whether to officially authorize Pfizer's COVID vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds. How this could reshape America's race to end the pandemic.



CAMEROTA: Two Georgia middle schoolers are being hailed as heroes today after saving their bus driver's life. Conner Doss and Kane Daugherty found their driver on the ground grasping for air -- this was in Paulding County. Kane was able to call dispatch and set up the proper emergency signals on the bus while Conner kept his classmates calm.


KANE DAUGHERTY, SAVED BUS DRIVER: We know she's got diabetes so we thought maybe it was an attack, so we got like -- we got her to drink coke, eat cookies and all that.

CONNER DOSS, SAVED BUS DRIVER: Some were crying. Some were like just screaming. Some were just panicking.


BLACKWELL: So, they were able to wave down a pastor for help who then boarded the bus, prayed with the students until help arrived. A school leader says the driver is recovering but has not returned to work yet. And we know that according to local reports that the bus driver had a mini stroke. But you imagine if there's no bus aid on there, you've just got these preteens and teenagers with someone who is having a medical emergency. And they did really well. CAMEROTA: They did. That's really resourceful. I mean to, obviously,

try to keep everybody calm but also to know that you have to hit that kind of hazard button to have traffic go around you and then run out and try to look for help, for an adult. That's a lot.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and half the job there was to keep everybody calm.


BLACKWELL: Good job. "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.