Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) Is Interviewed About The Best Way To Keep Students And Teachers Safe Right Now; Debate Over COVID-19 School Safety Measures Heat Up; Soon: Harry Reid Remembered By Biden, Obama, Other Dem Leaders; Djokovic's Lawyers Say He's Unvaccinated, Tested Positive In December; Sidney Poitier Known As Champion Of Civil Rights, Screen Icon; Record Rain & Snow Causes Floods, Landslides In Washington State. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired January 08, 2022 - 12:00   ET



SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): What operational steps should the Capitol Police and other law enforcement have taken to prevent the violent terrorist attack from successfully breaching the Capitol?


DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER (on camera): That was a comment in a Senate committee in June.

Now, Senator Cruz's spokesman told me that the premise of my story is false. He said, of course, Senator Cruz has in the past called people terrorists after they've assaulted cops.

But, come on, as you've heard here, Senator Cruz was using the phrase terrorist attack far more broadly than just for police assaults. That was his go-to term for the capital riot in general.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Right. It's still confusing, why would he feel like he needs to retract that. All right, Daniel Dale, thanks so much.

DALE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, we start with the U.S. scrambling to keep up with a surge in COVID hospitalizations. The number of patients across the country quickly rising in the last few weeks, nearing the record set almost a year ago of 142,000 hospitalizations.

Even more concerning, child hospitalizations are hitting new records as the Omicron variant spreads. CNN's Polo Sandoval is watching all of this unfold for us. So, Polo, what is the latest?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Fred, it's clear that federal health authorities are certainly urging those who have not yet boosted after they've completed their initial series to get boosted as soon as they can. And one of the reasons why the FDA and the CDC has basically amended that emergency use authorization that's been standing for some time, basically, shortening that period of time from the initial vaccine series, up to that moment when they have to get the booster. Now, that five months versus that original six.

So, that's certainly something that they hope will lead to an increase in vaccination numbers, and of course, number of people being boosted, because when you look at the number of hospitalizations certainly continues to increase, and the results have been staffing shortages that we've seen at hospitals throughout the country, many of those health care workers becoming infected themselves, and forced to quarantine.

And that's one of the reasons why we're seeing now states like California becoming the latest, to turn to their National Guard for some relief here, as they said about 200 service members or National Guard members to about 50 sites to try to expand their testing, and also to try to make up for some of that loss and manpower here.

Now, when you hear from some of those health experts, one of them in particular that we've heard from this morning, that there's some concern there about those vaccination efforts that may not necessarily provide that relief that we wish we had.

But more of those short-term mitigation efforts instead, that, that should perhaps be the focus given that Omicron surge. Take a listen.


DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER MEMBER, BIDEN TRANSITION COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD: Unfortunately, if you vaccinate today, the people who are unvaccinated, who account for about 75 percent of the hospitalizations, it's not really going to make a big difference over the next month because they need a second shot, and then 14 days after the second shot.

Public health measures that we've mentioned, better air quality, masking, not going into crowded indoor spaces. Those are really important measures in order to get past Omicron.

You need to plan today for three months from now. So, we're not caught in the same problem.


SANDOVAL: And trying to get ahead of things here, we heard an announcement yesterday from New York Governor Kathy Hochul, just yesterday announcing that they will be implementing stricter measure -- masking, and also even testing at nursing homes, in addition to requiring that health care workers get that booster if they have not received it already. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thanks so much for that.

So, this latest surge is fueling a new fight across the country over what you do as schools returned from winter break. Parents in Chicago are suing the teachers union over their refusal to administer in- person learning.

CNN's Nadia Romero is in Atlanta for us. So, students are set to return to the classroom on Monday. How is that move being received by folks in Chicago?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, well, Fred, we've seen this in Chicago, here in Atlanta, really all across the country, those school districts are supposed to go back to school after the holiday break, but many of them went to remote learning instead.

Well, so, here in Atlanta tomorrow, on -- or excuse me, on Monday, we'll have those teachers and students going back to the classroom in Atlanta public schools, because they will go back to mandatory testing for those teachers twice a week. And students can get tested here as well if their parent's consent.

But we're not seeing that same kind of activity happening in Chicago. And that's a big reason why there's so much contention in Chicago. Yet again, another time this school year between the city of Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools district, the teachers union, and the teachers themselves. They want more testing. They want more adequate masks for them and their students. And that's why they don't want to go back to in-person learning.

And we're also seeing the same issue in New York City. We saw some 30 lawmakers and teachers union, some of them protesting out in the streets, urging the city to allow for remote learning.


ROMERO: They say that will give them time to allow for testing and vaccinations. But instead, the city's mayor of New York, just like the mayor in Chicago, he wants in-person learning only. Take a listen why?


ERIC ADAMS (D), MAYOR-ELECT OF NEW YORK CITY: Strand after strand, we can't continue to stop our children from developing socially and academically, and the support that they need.

So, we have to learn how to live with COVID and live with COVID with the safe way, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to allow the hysteria to prevent the future of my children.

Receiving the quality education and the development that all sociologists are stating that they needed.


ROMERO: And Fredricka, the big part of the reason why the mayors of Chicago and New York City want in-person learning is because they say so many of our kids rely on in-person learning because that's where they get their meals, that's where they are safest, and it allows their parents, some of them who are single parents to be able to go to work and support their households.

But we will continue to see this back and forth between parents, teachers, and school districts, and governments throughout the next couple of weeks as they decide how to best go back to in-person learning if they can do it safely. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, operative word, safely. All right, Nadia Romero, thank you so much.

All right, there's also a massive push underway to ramp up testing, as states deal with this surge. On Friday, the White House signed its first contract with a test manufacturer, it's part of a plan to distribute half a billion free rapid tests CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House for us.

So, Arlette, what details do we have on this plan?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Fred, the Biden administration is taking the first step is to make good on that promise to distribute half a billion test to Americans, as there have been so many testing shortages across the country over the course of the past two weeks.

Now, so far, the Biden administration has signed two contracts to try to procure over-the-counter tests.

One of those contracts is worth $51 million. It is going to a Virginia-based company called Goldbelt Security. That contract would be used to purchase existing a test that, that company has. But it's unclear how many exactly that will be.

There is a second contract that has been awarded to a California-based company called revival health to procure 13.3 million over-the-counter tests.

Now, the Biden administration has said that there will be more contracts to come in the coming weeks, including some specifically focusing on manufacturing.

But so far, the White House has really offered few details about what this distribution will look like. They are planning to launch a web site where Americans can order these tests, and they will ultimately be shipped to their home that's expected to start at some point this month.

But President Biden has also acknowledged some of the frustrations with these testing shortages that have been seen across the country. And yesterday, he offered this assessment on whether COVID is here to stay for the long haul in the United States.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't think COVID is here to stay. That having COVID in the environment here and in the world is probably here to stay. But COVID as we're dealing with it now is not here to stay. The new normal doesn't have to be. We have so many more tools we're developing.


SAENZ: So, of course, this is one of those key challenges facing the Biden administration as so much of President Biden's legacy and performance as president will depend on how he confronts this virus. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Arlette Saenz of the White House. Thanks so much.

All right, joining us right now. New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman. He is a former educator, who now serves as the vice-chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor. Congressman, so good to see you again.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): Good to see you too.

WHITFIELD: So, in your view, what is the best way to keep students and teachers safe right now?

BOWMAN: Well, we have to make sure people are vaccinated and boosted. That's number one. Number two, testing needs to be ubiquitous. It needs to be consistent, I think, at least weekly for the majority of students in our schools to ensure that they're not coming into schools with the virus.

Same thing with teachers as well. Mask, N95 mask work. Contact tracing works, but also social distancing works.

Here's the thing. We opened the schools back up in New York City without any testing program in place. So, what happened was everyone came back to school, they didn't know if they were sick or not. And what we saw in many schools across the city, we saw a massive spread of events.

A remote option, I think, is also really important because there are many students and parents who do not feel safe sending their kids back to school. And there are some things kids who did better on the remote option because of social anxieties and other challenges that they have personally.


BOWMAN: So, it needs to be a combination of a variety of things. And we need collaboration now more than ever, we can't be fighting each other as we keep our children and our teacher safe.

WHITFIELD: Am I hearing from you because you seem like you're an advocate really both in-person as well as remote learning because of the conditions.


BOWMAN: That's right.

WHITFIELD: Am I hearing from you that you think school districts should be giving families the option, simultaneously?

BOWMAN: 100 percent. I believe a remote options should be implemented, it will help to keep class sizes smaller, it will help to give teachers and kids the individualized attention that they need. And it will stop us from rushing back in some circumstances where you sometimes have 30 kids in the class, 35 kids in the class, and not enough teachers to support them.

We also do not have enough mental health professionals to support our kids in our schools, or in our communities. And that's something that also needs to ramp up tremendously.

WHITFIELD: And you wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, asking for additional funding for the health and well-being of children during the pandemic.

Is this the area that you're talking about? You're looking for more funding for, like mental health, obviously test -- having test kits available? There aren't enough, you know, for everyone who wants them and needs them right now.

Is this part of what your letter is trying to promote funding for those things?

BOWMAN: Absolutely. This country had a mental health crisis prior to the pandemic. And it's only gotten worse since. We see an increase in suicide ideation, we see an increase in self-harm, we see an increase in emergency room visits and an increase in violence in our communities.

All of these things are directly connected to the lack of mental health supports in our schools and in our communities. And I continue to emphasize in our communities as well because it's not just a school's responsibility. You know, community-based organizations have been working in silos for several decades.

We have to break down the walls of silos and work collaboratively. Department of Mental Health, Health, and Human Services, housing, education. You know, all these agencies need to work together to make sure we're meeting the needs of our kids, and families, and teachers, because we're all dealing with this complex trauma at the same time.

And one other thing, children are still -- their brains are still being developed. So, the trauma that they are experiencing right now is literally impacting their brains development, it's called adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs.

If their brains are not able to develop properly, we're not going to have the academic success we want or the economic success we want, and it impacts our democracy in the long run. So, we have to have a real holistic conversation about what's needed.

WHITFIELD: I also wonder, you know, there have been conflicting opinions on what's best for our kids and schools. And in neighboring Pennsylvania, the executive director of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Policy Lab Research Group said in an interview that many public health recommendations -- and I'm quoting now, "are no longer feasible or practical for most schools." And that, "We need to recalibrate and start to think about COVID in the context of how we think about other seasonal viruses." Do you agree with that?

BOWMAN: I would go even further. This is not just a seasonal virus, we are at war with COVID. I mean, COVID has killed more people than were killed during the Civil War, and more people -- doubled the amount of people killed here during World War II.

So, the new -- the Build Back Better, the country that we are trying to get back to and redesign has to look completely different. We need new learning spaces, we need more schools, more teachers, more mental health supports, we need mutual aid networks of education in our communities, through our community centers, mutual aid, networks of mental health as well.

So, yes, we need to -- this is -- we're in the process, and we need to begin the process of rebuilding our country. And that's why passing the Build Back Better Act is also so important, because there are resources there to deal with the issue of violence reduction, climate, housing, and mental health. All are critical toward us building back the way we need to build back stronger.

WHITFIELD: All right, Congressman, Jamaal Bowman, thanks so much for being with us again. Appreciate it.

BOWMAN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be remembered by top Democratic leaders at his memorial service in Las Vegas today. We'll take you there live, next.


WHITFIELD: And later, the U.S. is still undecided exactly how to deal with Russia if they invade Ukraine. Just days away from a critical meeting between U.S. diplomats and the Kremlin.


WHITFIELD: Soon, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be remembered today by those who loved him and knew him best. President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, and former President Barack Obama are just a few of the prominent politicians who will be in Nevada to pay their respects to the late Democratic leader. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is joining us right now from Las Vegas.

So, Jeff, what are we expecting from today's memorial service?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Good morning, Fredricka. There will be -- you know, just a string of dignitaries as you said. President Biden, former President Barack Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, and so many more. [12:20:00]

ZELENY: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, on and on here in Las Vegas to celebrate the life and the legacy of Harry Reid who passed away nearly two weeks ago

More Speaker Nancy Pelosi Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on and on here in Las Vegas to celebrate the life and the legacy of Harry Reid, who passed away nearly two weeks ago at the age of 82.

The legacy and life will be celebrated here at the Smith Performing Arts Center in downtown Las Vegas, a city that really transformed throughout the lifetime of Harry Reid.

Of course, his hardscrabble upbringing from Searchlight, Nevada, you know, really taking him to the highest ranks of power in the U.S. Senate will also be celebrated here today.

But really, everything that he did and accomplished throughout his three decades and after leaving office here is it's so palpable, when we were flying into what is now the Harry Reid International Airport, was renamed just last month before he passed away.

Certainly, just one of the many things named in his honor. But it is no coincidence that Barack Obama, he will be here I'm told flying in from Hawaii, where he's been spending some time over the holidays, will be delivering the eulogy.

And thinking back, Fredricka of back to 2006, it was those private conversations that Senator Reid had with the freshman Senator Barack Obama that really convinced him to run for president.

So, they developed a very strong relationship. Without Harry Reid, as Majority Leader, the Affordable Care Act likely would not have been passed, the rest of the Obama agenda would not have been either. So, certainly, many leaders will be here celebrating Harry Reid, really one of the kind in American politics.

Over the last several weeks, of course, Bob Dole laid to rest -- Colin Powell. So, another American leader will be celebrated here. And certainly, his life and legacy will be remembered. That funeral starts in about 90 minutes or so. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. We'll be keeping tabs and checking back in.


WHITFIELD: And taking a lot of that live. Thank you.

All right, still to come, CNN is learning the White House is still undecided on exactly how to deal with Russia if it invades Ukraine. Just days ahead of a high-stakes meeting with the Kremlin. Much more on that next.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We're just days away from a critical meeting between U.S. diplomats and the Kremlin. The administration is hoping to avert a war between Russia and Ukraine. But CNN is learning that the White House is still undecided about how to penalize Russia if it were to invade.

While addressing the escalating situation in Kazakhstan this week, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said this about Russian aggression.


ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I think one lesson in recent history is that once Russians are in your house, it's sometimes very difficult to get them to leave.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Natasha Bertrand is following the story for us. Natasha, what more are you learning about this situation?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (on camera): Yes, Fred. Well, the U.S. does not know for sure whether or not Vladimir Putin has actually made that decision to invade Ukraine, and that's, of course, why they're holding these diplomatic talks next week to try to open that window and see if there's any room to deter Vladimir Putin from actually launching an attack on Ukraine.

But if that fails, and if Russia does go ahead and attack, then the U.S. is preparing a range of options to respond. Among those is very tough sanctions. What the administration has said is that those sanctions would be tougher than anything imposed previously, including after 2014.

The problem, though, is that very, very harsh sanctions, including on Russia's Central Bank, including on its energy sector, could have ripple effects for the global economy. Could ultimately impact the European economy, which in turn could impact the United States economy. Especially during the elect during an election year, some administration officials are concerned about what that would do to energy prices, about how it would affect trade and investment.

So, there's some caution going into this with regard to how to mitigate those spillover effects. The other issue is whether Russia might actually retaliate against those sanctions in cyberspace. And the administration has been briefing the private sector, warning them that there could be some attacks on critical infrastructure by Russian cyber actors if those sanctions move ahead because the Russians will want to inflict damage and costs on the United States' economy in the same way that the U.S. will if they do move to invade Ukraine.

So, a lot of considerations underway. Intensive discussions over the last several weeks about how best to mitigate that potential collateral damage.

WHITFIELD: All right, Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much.

All right, Russia's President Vladimir Putin held another phone call with his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who said the situation in Kazakhstan was stabilizing, but hotbeds of terrorist attacks persist.

Dozens of people have reportedly been killed after the cosmic president ordered security forces to kill without warning to crush the violent protests. The situation started with protests over rising fuel costs and then turned into anger over government corruption, poverty, and unemployment.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance is tracking the developments from Moscow for us. So, what is the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, it's pretty difficult to get, you know -- you know, good information out of Kazakhstan at the moment, because the Internet is been dying for a long time. It's coming up again sporadically, but we've managed to speak to some of our contacts on the ground.

And in terms of the main city, Almaty, the chaos that ruled there for the past several days seems to have eased. We aren't seeing protests in the street anymore, although there are unconfirmed reports of protests elsewhere in the country. So, it's not a totally, you know, suppressed protest movements at this point.


But the relative calm that is being experienced by the citizens of the residents of Almaty at the moment has come at a very high price. Of course, as you mentioned, there have been dozens of people who have been killed by the security forces. Yes, a number of the security forces have also been killed by the protesters and by the sort of rampaging mobs, as well.

And so there's been a very high death count, dozens of people dead. Nearly 4000 people, according to official figures, have been detained, put under arrest, taken away. We don't know what's going to become then. And of course, there's been this invitation by the Kazakh authorities to foreign troops, including Russian troops to come into Kazakhstan and to help them to restore order and to help them to secure key installations around the country.

And that's already happened with, I think, as many as 2,500 troops mainly from Russia, who have come in on various cargo planes over the course of the past 48 hours and have been deployed outside key areas to help bring calm in order to that country. But the consequences of course, as we heard, Secretary say Anthony Blinken there talking about Russian troops coming in are uncertain. It's not clear it's supposed to be temporary. It's unclear what the situation will be like and when they were actually leave.

WHITFIELD: Very tenuous, our Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks so much.

All right, new details today on tennis star Novak Djokovic's saga in Australia. Court documents now reveal he tested positive for COVID-19 in December.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're following new developments in the bizarre situation involving tennis star Novak Djokovic. Court documents show the 34-year-old is unvaccinated and had a bout with COVID less than a month ago on December 16th.

And despite that new evidence reportedly shows that he was told he would still be allowed to travel to and play in the Australian Open. Well, instead the world's number one player is now being confined to a hotel as he mounts a legal challenge. For the very latest let's bring in Blake Essig. Blake, where did these things stand for him?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka, at this moment Novak Djokovic has been detained by the Australian Border Force and is currently at an immigration detention hotel for asylum seekers and refugees pending his deportation from Australia while Djokovic and others who have had their visas revoked are free to leave the country at any time. The men's world tennis number one is waiting for an Australian court to decide his fate. That decision is expected on Monday.

And while there's clearly a disconnect between Tennis Australia and the Australian government that is led to this current situation involving Djokovic, there's also a lot of questions regarding the medical exemption he received from Tennis Australia to compete in the Open.

Earlier today based on court documents filed by Djokovic's lawyers appealing for him to stay in the country, we learned that the tennis superstar is not vaccinated, and that he was granted a medical exemption by Tennis Australia on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive for the virus on December 16th.

Now on that same day, and the day after Djokovic was photographed maskless at events, those pictures were posted on social media. And according to leaked Tennis Australia documents obtained by the Herald Sun newspaper in Australia, the deadline to apply for the medical exemption was on December 10th, six days after he allegedly tested positive. Now all that being said, the Australian government told Tennis Australia back in November that unvaccinated players with a recent COVID-19 infection would not be allowed to enter the country based on public health guidelines.

And so when Djokovic arrived on Wednesday, he was denied entry into Australia and had his visa revoked with Australia's health minister saying that he failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet these entry requirements required to get into the country. And again, whether or not he's going to be able to stay in the country will be decided on Monday.

So far, there's no official indication on what the judge is going to rule. But the Australian Deputy Prime Minister told our affiliate Seven Network in an interview that in regards to Djokovic being allowed to stay if he were a betting person, he would not put his house on it. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Wow. And then let's talk about the Winter Olympics. I mean, it's set to get underway next month. What is China doing to ensure that COVID doesn't kill Olympic dreams for the athletes?

ESSIG: Yes, Fredricka, 26 days, athletes competing here next month in the Beijing Winter Games are going to be extremely limited in what they're allowed to do. Beijing Olympic officials talk about a closed loop bubble which limits athlete's movements, and will offer organizers a level of control never seen before at any Olympic Games.

Now under this closed loop bubble athletes must essentially stay in place from the time they arrive until the time they depart. And for those athletes who are unvaccinated, you must actually spend 21 days in quarantine before competing and what we saw a lot of rules and regulations put in place by Tokyo 2020 organizers to prevent the spread of infection. Here in Tokyo, it seems like Beijing organizers are taking the mitigation measures to a whole new level. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Wow. It's going to be some games. At least that's the hope of a lot of athletes, right, that the games do go on. All right, Blake Essig, thank you so much.


OK, well she is just 25 years old but Mariah Bell has become the oldest U.S. women's figure skating champion in 95 years. It took Bell nine years as a senior competitor to finally win the national skating title.

Bell is now looking to become the oldest U.S. Olympic women's single skater in 94 years. The three women team will be named on Saturday, 2018 Olympian Karen Chen finished second at the nationals while 14- year-old Isabeau Levito who was not eligible for the 2022 Olympics, because of age requirements finished third.

All right coming up, legendary actor, director, and longtime activist Sidney Poitier has died at the age of 94. Look back at his extraordinary legacy straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: All right tributes are pouring in for legendary actor and activist Sidney Poitier, who died yesterday at the age of 94. Poitier was the first black movie star in Hollywood and the first black man to win an Oscar.

And many of his films dealt with issues of race and social justice during the Civil Rights Movement, including "In the Heat of the Night" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," his films and awards pave the way for generations of black actors. Joining me right now Michael Eric Dyson, he is an author and professor of sociology at Georgetown University. His latest book is entertaining race performing blackness in America, Michael, so good to see you. Congratulations. I've lost count of your books. How many are we at now?


WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh.

DYSON: And I got an announcement. I just moved to Vanderbilt University. So I'm teaching at Vanderbilt now as well.

WHITFIELD: Well, congratulations. I love that Vanderbilt campus. Congratulations. Nashville is a great place.

DYSON: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, well, let's talk about this, I mean, giant, right, and giant and so many levels. I mean, I think Viola Davis is among those who kind of said it best. You know, this is a big one. And Oprah saying the greatest of the great trees has fallen. I mean, so many actors from Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry, Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, you know, they explain, you know, how impactful Sidney Poitier was on and off the screen. I mean, he led the way on so much, didn't he?

DYSON: He sure did. And when you think about his acting, look at those Thespians of the first order, the magnitude of stars that have congregated, so to speak, to testify to Sidney Poitier's, meaning he was a man who broke barriers, who challenged obstacles, who overcame, you know, the kinds of difficulties and conflicts that lay before him for no other reason that he was a black man and yet he did so with profound grace, and tremendous elegance and cool.

And so he was able to embody the quest for black excellence, the demand for black humanity, to treat us with great respect. He refused to take roles that would demean him that would diminish him once having played Porgy, you know, in "Porgy and Bess." Because he had to work out a deal that if he didn't play in this film, he wouldn't be allowed to do "In the Heat of the Night" or another film and he regretted that, but he said he would never compromise the integrity of his art and craft to get ahead, to make money, or to in other -- in any other way, demean black people.

So he was looked upon as a path breaker and a blazing star in the firmament of black artistic excellence. And that's why so many people have lamented his death and sent condolences forward.

WHITFIELD: Right. I mean, hugely courageous. I mean, all speaking of his grace, his leadership, teachings craft, and that courage that you just spoke of, I mean, he himself in 1964, accepting his academy award, you know, talked about standing on the shoulders, you know, of many.

And then isn't it something that over the years, you know, he has so gracefully embraced others who openly acknowledged standing on his shoulders? I mean, how unique, you know, for him to be a mentor to so many and of so many varying generations.

DYSON: That's so true. You think about that beautiful picture posted online of him holding Halle Berry's --

WHITFIELD: Oh, what a beautiful picture, yes.

DYSON: It's so amazing. Or think about Viola Davis, think about, you know, Denzel, of course, when Denzel accepted his lead Best Actor Oscar looking up into the stands because Mr. Belafonte -- Mr. Poitier, he had accepted his honorary Oscar that night and said, it makes sense that you would get an Oscar tonight, I get my Oscar, because I've been chasing you from the very beginning. He was an inspiration to so many.

WHITFIELD: Right. Oh, I love what Denzel Washington said, talking about, you know, I've been chasing you, you know, and I'm so honored, you know, to always try to reach you know, the heights of you and your example. I mean, he just said it so beautifully. I mean, I just totally mess it up.

But it was eloquent and gorgeous. So, you know, perhaps, you know, most indelible, you know, to his legacy is really what you touched on, you know, his refusal to depict, you know, some characters saying, I mean, clear cut, you know, it's a choice, a clear choice, you know, and not at this stage of the game.

He had perspective. He knew exactly where he was. He understood where America and where it really where the world was I mean he grew up in the Bahamas but he, you know, he confronted things in the in America that he had not encountered while in the Bahamas. But it's amazing that he had the perspective of placement of his place in history, and what it meant to make certain choices about those roles and what kind of impact it would make.


DYSON: No, that's a great point. And he was, as you said, quite conscious about that. He said, not at this stage of the game. He said, I'd like to play some criminals. I'd like to play some bad boys. I'd like to play people who are nuanced and complicated. And black people should be allowed to do that. But at that period of time, he knew he couldn't.


DYSON: He bore with James Baldwin termed the burden of representation. And that burden meant that he had to be ever conscious of how the race would be read because of his performance, whether fair or not, whether it was a thing that others had to bear or not.

And Paul Newman didn't have to worry about that. Marlon Brando didn't have to worry about that. But Sidney Poitier was in a different rank, a different order, a different magnitude. That burden fell on his shoulders, and he says, look, I'd like to be able to do a lot of things, but at this point, I can't do it.

And look, he opened the door for Denzel to play that rotten cop in training day, which Denzel won --

WHITFIELD: -- he got that Oscar, right, so true.

DYSON: So he made it possible for complexity and nuance to be portrayed, even though he wasn't able to take full advantage of that possibility in his own career.

WHITFIELD: What a -- I mean, the title of his last book, you know, so suitable, I mean, "The Measure of a Man," that's really extra extraordinary. Michael --

DYSON: Yes, it is beautiful.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it is. All right, Michael Eric Dyson, thank you so much. And congratulations again on your umpteenth book and your new opportunity at Vanderbilt, they're going to love it.

DYSON: Thank you so very much. Appreciate it.

WHITFIELD: All right, good to see you. All right, you know her face but do you know her whole story, discover the life and legacy of the true Marilyn Monroe in a new CNN Original Series reframed Marilyn Monroe premieres Sunday, January 16th at 9:00 p.m.

All right, winter weather wreaking havoc for millions of Americans just look at this scene in Seattle, heavy rains causing a home to slide right off its foundation trapping a man inside. We'll tell you where this dangerous severe weather is heading next.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back a record levels of rain and snow are causing widespread flooding, landslides and the possibility of an avalanche across Western Washington State. In fact, in Grays Harbor County, a man who was missing in the floodwaters is presumed dead after first responders were unable to find him or his vehicle. In Lewis County, the National Guard has brought in -- was brought in, rather, to help drivers stranded in the floodwaters. People in Mason County are being told to evacuate now or they could be forced to shelter in place for several days, unbelievable pictures.

And then take a look at this right here. A Seattle man had to be rescued from his home after heavy rains in the area forced it right off its foundation and then sent the entire house sliding down the hillside. All right, CNN's Allison Chinchar joins us right now. Wow, this is really dangerous weather. What is the latest from the Pacific Northwest?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. Unfortunately, Fred, we do still have some rain in the area. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. And that is that by tonight, all of this rain should finally begin to end. So here's a look at the radar, you can see we still have a few areas of showers. The good news is most of them right now are still very light. We're not dealing with torrential downpours or anything like that. But

at this point, even a little bit of light rain just exacerbates a lot of the ongoing problems. Now with the rain ending tonight, that's good. But for rivers, creeks, and streams, it's more of a delayed effect. So that's why you still have these flood warnings in effect, because it's going to be several days before a lot of those rivers, creeks, and streams can get back down below flood levels.

There will be a temporary break but unfortunately, it's not a long one because once we get to Monday, you have another round of rain showers that will push in and then another one on Tuesday into Wednesday. Overall, we're not expecting a tremendous amount of rain. But again, back to back systems like that, likely just to cause some big problems.

On the other side of the country, ice is going to be the big focus here. We're already starting to see some of those areas, especially around Southern Illinois, portions of Missouri where you see that purple color. That's where we're getting ice. Now it's falling in the form of freezing rain, meaning it looks like rain when you look outside your window but it freezes on contact, which is what makes travel so dangerous not only on the roads, but also in the air.

You've got winter weather advisories out not only in the Midwest, but also in the Northeast because that's where this storm system is traveling to. So again, you'll see the main focus for today is the Midwest by tonight transitioning into the Great Lakes region and eventually in towards the northeast.

And again, all of those areas on the cold side are going to be looking at the potential for ice and yes, it is expected to accumulate most areas up to about a quarter of an inch but you could see here in the Northeast may have a few spots as high as a half of an inch of ice accumulating. And not only is that dangerous for the roads but it also claims to trees and power lines and those may continue to come down as well so you could have some power outages.