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Atlanta Airport Chaos After A Man Discharged His Weapon Gun; Tucker Carlson Film Crew Embedded During Kyle Rittenhouse Trial; CDC Okays Booster For Adults 18 And Above; Looming Storms For Thanksgiving; Missing Chinese Tennis Star Re-appears; Thanksgiving Holiday Shopping Season. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 21, 2021 - 17:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in New York. Tonight, still no trace of the man who escaped the nation's busiest airport Saturday after a gun he allegedly carried into the terminal went off sparking major chaos.

Police say 42-year-old Kenny Wells, a convicted felon, fled the Atlanta airport with that gun once it was found during a security screening. But as passengers heard the shot ring out, they began to panic, running for their lives, afraid an active shooter was on the loose.


UNKNOWN: I was in the security line. We heard gunshots and got down, and then we ran out.

IVAN STOBERT, WITNESS: We heard somebody say "active shooter, get out" and that's when everyone start running away really hard.

JUDITH FOUTS, WITNESS: People just came flying through and just were, like, run, run, run! And then people were just running. And we all just ran outside this door right here.

KEVIN HELGREN: Everyone was dropping their suitcases, folks were running in any possible direction away from what we thought was the center of action. People were sliding under rails and jumping over barricades.


ACOSTA: All right. Let's go to CNN's Nadia Romero who's at the Atlanta airport. Nadia, what's the latest in terms of what officials are saying about this suspect?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, they're really trying to clear up a lot of misinformation. As you know, nothing spreads faster than fear or misinformation, especially when the misinformation sparks fear. That's exactly what happened yesterday on social media for sure.

People thought they were in the middle of an active shooter situation. The Atlanta airport then coming out and saying, no, this was an accidental discharge and that people were no longer in danger. So that information is still being trickled out right now.

There is still some stuff on social media that's rumors. But people responded in the way that they felt appropriate. What's still a concern, though, today as you mentioned, is 42-year-old Kenny Wells still out there potentially with that gun that he brought in the TSA checkpoint area here at the airport.

And there are warrants out for his arrest because he brought that concealed weapon into the commercial airport here, also for discharging that firearm. And not to mention the fact that police tell us he's a convicted felon so he wasn't supposed to have a firearm in the airport or anywhere.

And he's also being looked at because of just overall reckless conduct, the domino effect that his actions allegedly caused by sending so many people into chaos and confusion and panic throughout the airport with people running outside of the tarmac leaving their bags, leaving everything behind, fearing for their lives and their safety.

There was a ground stop here that resulted in some flights having to be delayed, some planes having to go elsewhere because they couldn't land here. And it was about two hours or so where people inside of the airport were not allowed to leave. And you could imagine just that backup that it caused because we're at the busiest airport in the country on a very busy travel weekend.

So this is not isolated, though, unfortunately. The TSA has been telling us about the increase in firearms that they've been confiscating at airports all over the country. Some 4,650 firearms they found at TSA checkpoints so far in the first 10 months of the year. And the majority of them loaded. And that even breaks the record that we saw for a full year of 2019 with some 4,400 firearms confiscated.

And Atlanta's airport is leading the way and guns being found by the TSA. So you can look at it both ways. The TSA finding these guns before they make their way on the other side of the security checkpoint and onto planes potentially. That could be a big problem. But also there is a concern because so many people are either intentionally bringing these guns with them or they're forgetting them somewhere in their purse or their luggage as they're trying to board these planes.

There are security cameras throughout the airport, more than 3,000. They are being monitored 24/7. And they had their eye on Kenny Wells. You can believe they went back and checked all those cameras to see where he went. And we're still digging for more information, Jim, about this man and where he took off. Jim?

ACOSTA: And Nadia, we were told three people were hurt during the chaos there. I understand you're learning more. What's the latest on that?

ROMERO: Yes. So we spoke with a spokesperson from the Atlanta airport and this is part of that misinformation that spread on social media. There was also a post that somebody was shot during this, and that did not happen. That's what authorities are telling us. Three people were called for a medical attention at the same time of this incident, but they are telling that you say one woman was down stairs in a separate part of the airport and she trip and fell.

So they say that the three people who suffered minor injuries and called out for medical help were not involved during this incident. But if you go on social media, you'll see something different. Jim?


ACOSTA: All right, Nadia Romero, thank you so much for that.

Meanwhile, Kyle Rittenhouse's mother is speaking out after a Kenosha, Wisconsin, jury acquitted her son of all counts on Friday.


WENDY RITTENHOUSE, KYLE RITTENHOUSE'S MOTHER: Waiting for that verdict felt like forever. Just looking as a mother's point, you don't want to see your child in that situation. That was the first picture I ever saw of him smiling like that since this happened. It made me feel like I had a part of my son back.


ACOSTA: CNN's Natasha Chen is with us now in Kenosha. Natasha, it's no surprise that Fox News secured that interview with Kyle's mother. A Fox film crew has been embedded with Rittenhouse for the entire trial. I mean, it's just a stunning development after everything that's happened in that case. And tomorrow an interview with Tucker Carlson and Kyle himself is set to air. What more are you learning at this point?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, this is another promotional clip that they've now aired of Kyle Rittenhouse. They've aired a couple of them promoting a longer interview that will air supposedly Monday night. And it shows his reactions after the verdict on Friday.

And besides that, we really haven't heard from Rittenhouse. His attorney said that he had left the immediate area and that he wasn't really speaking to other news crews. So, we know that, you know, this is special access that was given for that camera to be embedded with him during this process. Here's the latest clip that they aired.


KYLE RITTENHOUSE: I told everybody there what happened. I said, I had to do it, I was just attacked. I was dizzy. I was vomiting. I couldn't breathe.


CHEN: And Fox News has said in a statement here, neither Fox News channel's "Tucker Carlson Tonight" nor Fox Nation's "Tucker Carlson Originals" paid for any access, footage rights, legal fees or made any other payments in the production of the episode on the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

His defense attorney did tell us in the same vein that you heard from Rittenhouse's statement in that clip that he wishes he didn't have to do what he did in August of 2020 resulting in the deaths of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum. The people behind me, this is what's left of the crowd that just finished a march around Kenosha.

They even took a knee in the spot where Huber and Rosenbaum had been shot and killed. The message from one of the speakers was that what Rittenhouse did in this verdict make it's so much harder for this community and this state to heal and to feel empathy and the humanity in each other. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, Natasha Chen, it'll take some time for healing in that community. Thanks so much.

Making this development more interesting is the fact that just a few days ago while jurors were still deliberating, the judge absolutely lambasted the media's handling of the case, going so far as to question even whether he'd allow cameras in his courtroom in future cases. Here's what he said.


BRUCE SCHROEDER, KENOSHA COUNTY, WISCONSIN CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE: When I talked about problems with the media when this trial started, we were there in part, not fully but in part because of grossly irresponsible handling of what comes out of this trial. I will tell you this. I'm going to think long and hard about live television in a trial again next time. I don't know, I've always been a firm believer in it because I think the people should be able to see what's going on. But what I see what's being done is really quite frightening.


ACOSTA: On the note, I want to bring in a former federal prosecutor and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, let's get that -- let's get your reaction to that sound from the judge knowing now that camera crews were embedded with the defense throughout the entire trial. I mean, I wonder, Jeffrey, whether the judge was aware that Tucker Carlson had a film crew with Rittenhouse during this trial.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I doubt he did and, I mean, in fairness to Fox News, I don't think they were under any obligation to disclose it in advance. I think the effort by Fox News and people on the right generally, to make a hero of Rittenhouse is appalling and disgraceful even as I believe the verdict in the case was defensible.

But, you know, I think what's so nauseating about this hero worship of Rittenhouse is that it is -- it sends the message that his behavior was not just worthy of a not guilty verdict but somehow admirable, which I find repelling.


ACOSTA: Yes. And as they talk to the media, should the Rittenhouse's be concerned about potential civil suits?

TOOBIN: I think they should be very concerned about that. Just to refresh people's memory with the O.J. Simpson case. You know, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder, as everyone remembers, in Judge Ito's courtroom.

And then the family sued and received a very large damage judgment because it's separate -- a civil proceeding has a lower standard of proof. Jail is not, you know, on the table. So, I think the victims here might well sue Rittenhouse and -- for civil damages, you know, whether they will ultimately recover any money and actually be paid that money is a separate question. But I think he is very much at risk for a civil suit from the families of the victims.

ACOSTA: And let's talk about the January 6th investigation because even now knowing everything that we know, Senator Ted Cruz is defending, spearheading efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Let's listen to what he had to say.


SEN TED CRUZ (R-TX): I absolutely condemn acts of violence. But what --

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS HOST: And the inspiration for that.

CRUZ: -- what I did was led 11 senators in a constitutional option, which I think would have been much better for our democracy because we right now have a substantial chunk of our country that has real doubts about the integrity of the intellection. And if we had had a credible electoral commission do an emergency audit, it would've enhanced faith in democracy.


ACOSTA: Yes, I mean, he's basically, you know, saying that there was fraud, and there was no voter fraud of any substantial, you know, value during the election. I mean, it's just -- it's absurd what he's saying.

TOOBIN: I mean, and it's such a vicious cycle that's going on now. You have people like Ted Cruz, people like former President Trump continuing to lie to the public and say that there was fraud in this election. And then they say, well, we need an investigation because people believe there's fraud.

The only reason they believe there's fraud is that people keep lying to them about it. And, you know, Jim, to me, it is so fascinating the way the Republican Party has moved on this issue. You know, in the immediate aftermath of January 6th, you had people like Kevin McCarthy, people like Mitch McConnell outraged at this incredible -- this awful event in American history.

But what we have seen as the months have passed is the normalization and how now people are saying, well, you know, protests are legitimate and, you know, the Republicans in Congress refuse to participate in the investigation. I mean, this has become, you know, they've normalized this terrible event in American history. And what Ted Cruz said yesterday is just continuing now.

ACOSTA: Yes. And it's just cowardly behavior because what we really need in this country is people like Ted Cruz, people on the right to stand up and tell the truth. And to continue to peddle those lies out there is just cowardly and, you know, it's just so unfortunate because, as you said, Jeffrey, this kind of political violence is fueled by those lies.

And, gosh, what a disservice that he did there. We've also learned that the select committee has interviewed more than 200 witnesses. I've asked committee member Zoe Lofgren who those witnesses are. We talked about this yesterday. Here's what she had to tell me.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Many of them are people who were in the administration during the former president's term who have information that they want to give to us as well as people involved in the events leading up to the 6th. And they want to voluntarily give information.

ACOSTA: And can you say if former White House staff -- staffers have testified, Trump campaign staffers, the staff of the former Vice President Mike Pence? All of the above?

LOFGREN: Let me not be as specific, but let me say certainly there have been people, part of the Trump administration, who have spoken to us and provided important insights that have led us to further questions.


ACOSTA: A lot has been made, Jeffrey, of who the committee has not spoken with, the documents they're not getting access to. But based on what you just heard, how much do you think the committee actually knows right now? I mean, they are talking to people, it sounds like, people who might have some information.

TOOBIN: Well, look, they are doing a thorough, professional job to the best of their ability.


But, as you know, because you covered the White House during the Trump days, what they learned during that period is that you can obstruct congressional investigations simply by delay, simply by running out the clock by going to court.

Even Steve Bannon, who has now been charged with criminal contempt of Congress, that case is not going to move very quickly. There will be appeals and everyone at the closest level to the former president, you know, the former chief of staff, the former lawyers, they are all not cooperating.

And, yes, it's good that they're getting 200 people to cooperate. But investigations depend on getting people close to the principals and the principals themselves to cooperate and the Trump message of do not cooperate, go to court, delay congressional investigations, which have time limits unlike criminal investigations, it's very effective and I'm fearful that it will be effective here, too.

ACOSTA: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, we'll have to end on that note, unfortunately. Thanks so much for your time. We appreciate it.

TOOBIN: All right, Jim.

ACOSTA: See you next time. Dr. Fauci says all adults should get a COVID vaccine booster six months after their second dose. So why wasn't that the guidance two months ago when boosters were authorized for only certain people? We'll ask Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health that very question next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: The Biden administration has faced sharp criticism for the shifting guidance around who should get an additional dose of a COVID vaccine. But now that boosters are authorized for all adults, officials hope the confusion will subside. To that end, the administration's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, offered a simple recommendation on CNN this morning.


ANTHONY FACUI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Let's make it clear. You know, when there's lack of clarity, people get confused, they're not sure what to do. If you are 18 or older and you've been vaccinated, fully vaccinated with the Moderna or the Pfizer mRNA six months or more ago, get a booster. If it's J&J and its two months ago or more, get a booster. I don't think we should get hung up on should/may. Just go out and get boosted.


ACOSTA: And here's a stark reminder about what's at stake with these shots. More Americans have died of COVID so far in 2021 than in all of 2020, even though vaccines have been widely available for most of this year. And we've learned more about how to combat spread.

Here to discuss, director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins. Dr. Collins, thanks so much for being with us. Why are more people dying now that we have this vaccine and died during the year that we didn't?

FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Well, that's pretty heartbreaking isn't it, Jim, because we shouldn't be in this place right now. But keep in mind that since vaccines became widely available, the vast majority of those who are dying are the unvaccinated, people who for one reason or another have been led to believe that this is not something they want to take advantage of.

That's true even now. More than a thousand people dying every day. The vast majority of them unvaccinated. Those are preventable deaths, probably at least 100,000 of the deaths that have happened this year didn't need to.

ACOSTA: And let's talk about boosters. As we just laid out, the guidance now is clear. Everyone 18 and older needs a booster. Why wasn't that the guidance two months ago when boosters were authorized only for certain people?

COLLINS: Well, let's focus on the good part of this. As you just said in that clip from my friend Tony Fauci. As of now, everybody over 18 is eligible to get a booster if it's been six months since you got Pfizer or Moderna or two months since J&J. And let's keep in mind the timetable here because a lot of it, Jim, was based upon gathering additional data.

But back in August, a bunch of us, myself included, but also the heads of the CDC and the FDA and the surgeon general, said it looks like boosters are going to be needed probably for everybody but let's look closely at the data. The data came forward, and in September booster is authorized for people 65 and over.

By October, it was basically also Moderna and not just Pfizer. And now here we are covering the bases for everybody over 18. What happened in those two or three months is additional strong data, both from our country and other countries, showing that there is a waning effect of the vaccines, especially in the face of this delta variant.

And the best way for people to be really protected is to get boosted. So people listening tonight, if that's not something you have done yet and you're in that category of being 18 or older with a certain amount of time since you got your initial immunization, this is the time to do it.


COLLINS: Go to You can find out the closest place to get boosted.

ACOSTA: But Dr. Collins, would you acknowledge, though, that it was confusing, the information that was out there to the public about these boosters?

COLLINS: I think --

ACOSTA: I mean, you know, I'll just say, it was confusing, you know. I remember right before I got my booster, I was thinking to myself, am I eligible? Should I get it? What's going on? And I talked to so many other people who felt the same way. So, it was confusing for a while, wasn't it? COLLINS: I will grant you that the way we were trying to do the best

job, the advisers were on the data that was available, sort of trying to, in some way, emphasize who was at highest risk, made it difficult for some people to figure out am I in that group or not? I'm glad we're past that. I hope the message is now really clear. Those sub categories need no longer be thought about. If you're over 18 you're eligible.

ACOSTA: And did we miss an opportunity there because, you know, there are some folks, you know, who just, you know, were not aware that they could have gone out there and gotten a booster. A missed opportunity?


COLLINS: You know, it's hard, Jim, to do this by looking back. You recall that when we put out that recommendation that boosters ought to be seriously considered, there was an outcry, like, oh, you're getting way ahead of the data. There was no evidence for that.

The data was being built up over those two or three months. We were trying to do this in the most scientific way possible. Okay, so maybe it wasn't as clean and pretty as people would have wanted. I get that. But I think we were trying to do the right thing by building this on evidence, which is really what our public health system is supposed to do.

ACOSTA: And doctors have told us on this program that this should be considered a three-dose vaccine. Can we expect the definition of fully vaccinated to be updated? For example, should folks who have not gotten their booster right now consider themselves to be fully vaccinated if they've only had those two shots?

COLLINS: Nobody's ready to go there yet, Jim. I think fully vaccinated will remain being that initial vaccination, two shots of Pfizer and Moderna, one of J&J. But this is a way of saying if you need to be boosted up to higher immunity, do so. No one's ready to change the definition quite yet.

ACOSTA: And you and I talked a lot about the impact of misinformation during the pandemic. Recently there was a false claim circulating that Dr. Fauci's institute funded medical experiments on beagles in Tunisia. It's unbelievable where this stuff comes from. It's just so outrageous. But "The Washington Post" is reporting that. It led to Fauci's office being overwhelmed with death threats, such as this one.


UNKNOWN: (BLEEP) you, Dr. Fauci, I hope they put you in a cage with a bunch of flies and let them eat you. And then I hope to hang you from the highest tree.

UNKNOWN: I would like Dr. Fauci to stop using beagles and killing animals to prove his unverifiable points about COVID, his ever- changing little pea-brain.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: It pains me to put that on the air, Dr. Collins, but you know, we shouldn't stick our heads in the sand on this stuff because it is so volatile and it's so dangerous in this anti-science behavior has just gotten so totally out of control in this country, as you know. Why do you think people -- some people out there are so set on making Dr. Fauci into some kind of villain?

COLLINS: It is deeply disturbing. And I will tell you because I was quoted in that same story you were just talking about in the "Post" that I got a whole slew of really nasty e-mails today with language just about like what you just played. Mine were e-mails instead of voicemails.

There is such anger out there and it has been so fired up by misinformation and, frankly, disinformation, much of it based on political motivations. It is clearly the case that there are people for political reasons who want to take down Dr. Fauci as somebody who is giving out truth that they don't want to hear.

And their goal, therefore, is to discredit him by whatever means possible. It's disgraceful, it's shameful. It should stop. But there is a present time there doesn't seem to be any real penalty for those who are intentionally spreading lies.

ACOSTA: That's right. And we've talked about that dynamic when it comes to political violence in this country. And I think it applies to the threats, the vitriol that is directed in the way of our scientists in this country. And Dr. Collins, you and I have talked before about your faith and how faith and science can complement one another.

And on that issue, a group of sociologists found that when medical experts invoke their belief in God, it can increase the willingness of unvaccinated American Christians to get the COVID vaccine. I wonder if you've pondered that at all.

The study even used your biography and a video of you talking about religion. Are you heartened by these findings? What do you think about all that?

COLLINS: I saw that study just yesterday and it was a bit surprised. I didn't know they were doing this. But I am somewhat heartened. My heart goes out to people of faith who are getting all kinds of messages that are sent to them through social media, through other kinds of influences, where politics has gotten all tangled up particularly with evangelicals, and who are frightened and they're hearing all kinds of messages of what might be in that syringe, like a chip.

Or maybe this has some sort of religious significance like it's the mark of the beast if you get vaccinated. Those are absolutely false and misleading claims, but yet they're confused by them and having a hard time figuring out who to trust. And maybe it does people if one of the people who is in the middle of this, and I guess I certainly have been, is happy to say I'm a person of faith, too. I'm a follower of Jesus. If there's something we can talk about here, let's do that and I'm willing to do that at any time with any group that's trying to understand what the real facts are. After all, the Christian faith talks about what we're built upon.


We're built upon love and we're built upon truth and the truth will set you free, but there's not a lot of truth circulating right now about COVID vaccines. There's a lot of lies and that is heartbreaking. And how do we get there and how do we pull ourselves out of that.

ACOSTA: And, you know, loving thy neighbor, loving one another, I mean, that is at the heart of why we want to get people vaccinated and get people healthy in this country so we get out of this pandemic. Dr. Francis Collins, amen to everything you just said there. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

COLLINS: Well, Happy Thanksgiving. I hope everybody's going to be safe. Get that vaccine if you haven't already, get boosted. Get the kids vaccinated, too. We got a lot of things we could do. This doesn't have to be going on forever.

ACOSTA: All right, sounds good. Thanks so much, doctor. We appreciate it. And we'll be right back.



ACOSTA: The Thanksgiving travel blitz is in full swing and already breaking records. The TSA says they screened more people on Friday than any other day since the pandemic began. But whether you're hitting the roads or heading to the airports, some troublesome storms could cause you some major headaches. CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis joins us now with the holiday forecast. I guess, Karen, folks want to get to grandma's house, but that line of storms there, that does not look good at all.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. As a matter of fact, this is not the only one that we're going to be observing over the next several days. It's going to be kind of a rollercoaster ride as far as the travel goes, both along the interstates and in the skies.

All right, here's what's going to happen over about the next 24 hours. Here comes our frontal system. Along that frontal boundary this is where we'll pick up the wet weather. Are of low pressure treks up into Canada. That's going to be key as to what happens into the Midwest and towards the Great Lakes.

But in the morning hours, right along that I-95 corridor, in areas around Boston and New York, also for Philadelphia and into New Jersey and Connecticut, it's going to be a little slippery. So the roads are going to be a little more treacherous. But on the back side this is where we're looking at the potential for those lake effect snows. Still the waters are still relatively warm. And as we see that, we'll pick up some of the snowfall. Most of it in the 1 to 2 inch amounts, but it's going to be very blustery. So that's going to blow some of that snow around and make it very dangerous on the roadways.

All right, everybody looking pretty good as far as the major airports across the U.S. right now. But as we all know, later on in the evening and during the early morning rush hours, that's when we start to see things get bogged down a little bit.

Wind advisory up for the Great Lakes especially for the (inaudible) of the Great Lakes where we could see some wind gusts howling between 45 and 50 miles per hour. So watch out for that. We've got Santa Ana winds in southern California, but the bulk of the troublesome weather as we head into this Thanksgiving week and for travel is going to be into the eastern third of the U.S.

Frontal system slips towards the east areas from Detroit, Chicago, eventually towards Atlanta and to New York. That's where it's going to be wet. And on the back side, much colder as we head towards next weekend. Jim, back to you.

ACOSTA: All right, it's coming. I guess we've got to get ready for it. Karen Maginnis, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

Next, to the mystery of missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. She claimed to be safe in a video call with Olympic officials today. Is that enough to convince the world that she's okay? And if so, can it be believed? CNN's Fareed Zakaria joins us next.



ACOSTA: Just in to CNN, the Ohio-based organization Christian Aid Ministries says two of its missionaries have now been freed in Haiti. They were a group of 16 Americans and one Canadian who were kidnapped for ransom last month. No other details were made available including the released hostages' names or where they are right now. CNN has reached out to the FBI and State Department, has asked the Haitian police for comment but has yet to receive a response.

And now an update on the international tennis star whose whereabouts have been a mystery for three weeks now. Today, the International Olympic Committee announced it held a 30-minute video call with Peng Shuai saying in a statement that Peng explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time.

The Women's Tennis Association released this statement to CNN just moments ago. "It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos but they won't alleviate or address the WTA's concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion. This video does not change our call for a full, fair, and transparent investigation without censorship into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern." Peng shuai hadn't been seen publicly since accusing a former Chinese communist leader of sexual assault with the Women's Tennis Association and the White House pressuring China for proof she was safe. Then just this weekend, Chinese state media began sharing photos and videos of her on twitter, which isn't available in China, clearly aimed at an international audience.

Let's bring in CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS." Fareed, what do you make of these highly unusual appearances by Peng Shuai amid all of this international pressure on China? I suspect this is a story that the Chinese did not expect to blow up in their faces the way it has.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: I think you're exactly right, Jim. I think that this follows a fairly standard Chinese procedure, which is when somebody that they don't, you know, is bringing up embarrassing things about the regime one way or the other, they essentially have that person disappear from the media.

Well, one doesn't know whether they actually formally placed under house arrest or they're just told to lay low. Then when concerns are raised, they surface in ways just like this. You remember a similar pattern with Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba who made a speech in which he attacked Chinese officials. He then disappeared for a while then resurfaced.


So it seems somewhat similar. The difference this time is the Women's Tennis Association is being very tough and demanding an investigation and saying it will essentially pull out of China if it doesn't. The White House is also putting some pressure on.

And this is an allegation about a single official, a vice premier, a very important guy, but still not quite what Jack Ma was doing, which was accusing the entire Chinese system of, you know, of being bad. This is a specific allegation against a specific person. So the Chinese, you know, they may decide it's worth actually investigating it.

ACOSTA: And, Fareed, you have a special premiering tonight taking an in-depth look at China's leader, Xi Jinping. Let's watch a preview of that.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): Xi still just a child was forced to fight for his life in the streets of Beijing.

UNKNOWN: There was nobody at home. There were no parents at home for a very young teenager.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): And that teenager was trying to survive in the chaos of a revolution.

UNKNOWN: The Cultural Revolution was this implosion of Chinese society right down to the family level, just this kind of inferno of all of the bonds of trust and hierarchy that organize society.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): In his late teens, the party sent Xi out to work as a peasant in the countryside.

UNKNOWN: He spent many, many years in a very poor county in northern China basically doing manual labor being a farmer, feeding pigs.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): After years spent working as a farmhand, Xi made a decision about his future.

UNKNOWN: Xi Jinping did a very surprising thing. Which is that he applied to become a member of the party. And not just once. He was rejected over and over and over again. He was rejected because his family name was now poisoned in Chinese politics for this period of time.

ZAKARIA (voice-over0: Finally, he gained admission to the party and began an almost 40-year climb up the ladder. But why, why would Xi Jinping, a victim of some of the worst cruelties of communism devote his life to strengthening the party?


ACOSTA: And, Fareed, I remember from my travels to China, I mean, he is just a ubiquitous figure. I mean, you just see signs of him everywhere. I mean, he's just a huge part of Chinese society. Was there anything from Xi's past that surprised you?

ZAKARIA (on camera): Some of what we found in this, you know, this history of the cultural revolution, just how much he was a victim of the excesses of Chinese communism, the degree to which his family suffered, the degree to which he personally suffered, his sister.

You know, so, an extraordinary reality here is that some of the people who suffered the most from the cultural revolution didn't come out of it saying we've got to liberalize, we've got to open up, we've got to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen.

No, what they decided was we've got to be so hard-lined, so true to the communist revolution that nobody can ever turn on us again. It's a fascinating ride or sometimes you imagine that people who've been victimized take the perspective of the victim, but sometimes they say we want to make sure we're never the victim again.

ACOSTA: And what are his aspirations for China's global dominance? Is that an aspiration of his?

ZAKARIA: Look, that's the million-dollar, trillion-dollar question. He is clearly much more ambitious for a China that has a much larger role on the world stage. Whether he wants to achieve that through military force, through aggression versus just diplomacy and aid and trade, that's the part where it's still very difficult to tell.

And it all comes down to a place like Taiwan where we know every Chinese leader has said they want to unify China with Taiwan. They've said that. It's in the constitution of the communist party. But do they want to do it militarily or are they relying on political and peaceful means? That, you know, is the difference between war and peace today.

ACOSTA: Yes. And potentially just a major test for the United States. All right, Fareed Zakaria, thanks so much, as always. I mean, I'm really looking forward to watching this. Be sure to tune in tonight "China's Iron Fist: Xi Jinping and the Stakes for America" airs tonight at 9:00 right here on CNN. It should be fascinating. And we'll be right back.



ACOSTA: ACOSTA: Wall Street is keeping an eye on the earnings. Here is CNN's Christine Romans with your "Before the Bell Report." Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. You're paying more for everything but you're still shopping like crazy. October retail sales soared at the fastest pace since stimulus checks were sent out in March.

Sales at Walmart, Target and Home Depot, they're booming. Next up is Black Friday, the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Yes, consumers have started shopping earlier this year, heeding all those warnings that inventory could be in short supply. But the National Retail Federation says Thanksgiving weekend will still be big.


Nearly 2 million more people than last year are expected to shop from Thanksgiving Day through cyber Monday. Now, that's still below 2019's pre-pandemic level. But overall, the NRF says holiday spending this year could shatter previous records.

On Wall Street, that strong spending has pushed retails stocks higher, outpacing the S&P 500. Keep in mind, it's a short week for investors. Financial markets close on Thanksgiving and trading ends early on Friday. In New York, I'm Christine Romans.

ACOSTA: Christine is reminding me I got a lot of shopping to do. That's the news. Reporting from New York, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 3:00 p.m. eastern. Pamela Brown takes over the CNN NEWSROOM live after a quick break. There's a beautiful shot of New York. Have a good night.