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Debate Over COVID Safety Measures In U.S. Schools Heats Up; Growing Threats Against Lawmakers, President Since Jan. 6th; Harry Reid Remembered By Politicians, Presidents, Friends And Family; GOP Sen. John Thune Announces He Will Run For Re-Election; Djokovic's Lawyers Say He Was Granted A Medical Exemption; Legendary Actor Sidney Poitier Dies At 84; U.S.-Based Team Aims To Be First All-Black Expedition To Summit Everest. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 08, 2022 - 20:00   ET




NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. racing to keep up with near-record hospitalizations in the Omicron surge, including child hospitalizations. With the pressure now on schools on whether to switch to virtual learning.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: I want a deal done this weekend. Our kids need to be back to in school.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST (voice-over): One year on, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection now looking to hear from former Vice President Mike Pence.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This is one more public service that needs to be performed by the former vice president.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: And a legendary life remembered.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actor and activist, Sidney Poitier, gone at the age of 94.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A blazing start in the firmament of black artistic excellence.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: His legacy in Hollywood and beyond.


MATTINGLY: I'm Phil Mattingly, in for Pamela Brown tonight, in Washington. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We begin this hour with a sobering reality on the COVID pandemic. That viral blizzard the U.S. was warned about, it's here.

The swift spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant has pushed hospitalizations close to the record set almost a year ago.

And the number of American children hospitalized with COVID has soared to the highest level of the entire pandemic. Helping drive that number, children under 5 who are too young to be vaccinated.

Many hospitals are facing a staffing crisis because COVID is infecting their personnel. Some states have deployed National Guard troops, seen here in the protective gear, to help fill that void.

New York is now the latest state to mandate booster shots for health care workers.

A former member of President Biden's COVID-19 advisory board says the nation needs better long-term planning.


DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER BIDEN TRANSITION COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER: 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.


MATTINGLY: And with child hospitalizations hitting record numbers across the country, many states are wrestling with the benefits and risks of in-person learning.

It's an impassioned debate involving parents and teachers, politicians and lawyers.

CNN's Nadia Romero has more from Atlanta.


ROMERO: Yes, Phil, here in Georgia, the governor says that even if teachers tested positive for COVID-19, they're infected with the virus, they can go back to the classroom, as long as they're asymptomatic and they wear a mask.

But he's leaving it up to all the school district to do what they feel is best.

So here at the Atlanta public schools district, they are requiring mandatory testing at least twice a week for their teachers and voluntary testing for students with parental consent.

That kind of a testing and that agreement that we're seeing here in Georgia's schools is not what we're seeing in Chicago.

They went through three consecutive days of kids being completely out of school. No in-person learning, no remote learning, nothing at all for some 340,000 Chicago school district students.

Now today, the Chicago Teachers Union held a press conference, came out with a statement.

And their pitch to the city's mayor was that they would go back to virtual teaching, starting on Wednesday. Meaning that teachers would be in the classroom doing their instruction, and the kids would remain at home for remote learning.

And this is why the teachers union president says that's the best bet for them at this point with all the rising cases in the city.

Take a listen.


JESSE SHARKEY, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION: We would begin instruction next week. And we would begin in-person instruction after a period of time where we could get kids signed up for testing.

And it would give parents the clarity. There's a definite date to that. And hopefully, produce confidence that we're not talking about a long and definite period where school is remote.


ROMERO: The city's mayor, Lori Lightfoot, came out with this statement shortly after, saying:

"CTU leadership" -- meaning Chicago Teachers Union leadership -- "you're not listening. The best, safest place for kids to be is in school. Students need to be back in person as soon as possible. That's what parents want. That's what the science supports. We will not relent."

You can see that the two sides haven't really come any closer into an agreement on what's the best and safest way to get kids and teachers back in the classroom.

We're also seeing this in San Francisco, in the bay area. We're seeing this in New York City as well.

And it continues to be a challenge for how to get kids to in-person learning, and how to do it safely -- Phil?



MATTINGLY: A challenge, indeed.

Nadia Romero, thank you very much.

Right now, Natasha Dunn joins me. Her daughter is a student in Chicago public schools.

Natasha, thank you so much for taking the time.

You heard from Nadia's report. No resolution on what happens next week for your daughter, and more than 300,000 other students.

You told our Jake Tapper that this dispute between the teachers union and public-school administrators has put you back to square one as a working mom.

What has the last week been like for you?

NATASHA DUNN, DAUGHTER IS CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS STUDENT: It's been very stressful. I'm not just a parent, but I have been always an education advocate and activist.

So for me being that, now I'm literally in the position where my daughter's future is at stake, it makes it a little different.

I think it is completely reckless to close an entire school district. We have over 600 schools. And that's too many schools to be just closed all at one time.

It's reckless to ignore that this pandemic is not just about physical health, it's about mental health as well.

We know that in the last remote portion of our learning, which lasted for almost two years, that children suffered. Children felt isolated.

We had a higher rate of suicide. We also had in Chicago an increase in school-aged children who participated in criminal behavior that we have never seen before.

So when we talk about the risks and the rewards of going back to in- person learning, we have to really acknowledge the mental health aspect of keeping children isolated and at home on a laptop all day long.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and I think that's the biggest thing that seems to have shifted in this moment than from a year and a half ago or two years ago, the risk/reward.

There's data to back up what virtual learning meant for children. It's not just the anxiety about health, obviously, that exists. But there are very real concerns about the academic effects of COVID.

DUNN: Yes.

MATTINGLY: Research tells us children fell far behind during the first year of the pandemic and are nowhere near catching up.

One researcher saying we haven't seen this academic achievement crisis in living memory.

You called remote learning a catastrophic failure particularly for black students. What worries you most about what you have seen the last two years?

DUNN: Let me say this. We have been in a racial disparity pandemic before this coronavirus pandemic.

We in the African-American community have experienced the largest amount of school closures and disruptions.

About 85 percent of black children who live in Chicago, receive their formal education in the public school system.

And before the pandemic, by 8th grade, less than 90 percent of children were proficient in reading and math. We didn't have a strong proficiency rate. There was an academic gap that already persisted.

And now you add on the fact that our students are now sitting at a laptop.

And we have data to show -- in fact, my group that I'm a part of called the Black Community Collaborative, we did a FOIA, a Freedom of Information, to pool CPS's data for the grades around K through 12 and the attendance.

What we found is it was a catastrophic failure for online learning, that the majority of our students were not logging in.

We had students that were getting -- receiving, "F"s and "D"s at a higher rate than they had ever in their lives.

And then we also had a lot of reports from parents who were having difficulties with the Chrome Books, being able to log in.

And if you have a family of five, six, 10 in a house using the Internet, the connectivity issues were horrible.

There were a lot of different components that were involved in disrupting the education of kids and making it difficult for them to really get a quality education.

And then you have to add on to that, not every child learns in a remote setting. Some children might fare well online.

But you have to be able to -- and the public school system is set up to be able to educate all children and work with all children who have various needs.

And I can tell you this. My daughter, she needs to be in the classroom, and so do so many other children in our community.

MATTINGLY: You know, you touched on this a couple minutes ago, but apart from the academic shortcomings, researchers say many children and teens are experiencing serious mental health issues based on the last two years. You can look at the numbers, suicide rates are up, especially among

adolescent girls. Behavioral problems are up.

How have the last two years affected your daughter beyond just the academics?

DUNN: My daughter has Selective M.U., social anxiety. She needs to be in the classroom and be around people. That helps her get more experience and comfortable with being around people.


And so this has really took her back. But she was so excited when school started and was very happy to be able to, you know, meet with her friends again in person.

And she even said when school started that she started feeling like she was doing better. And she had friends that she was, you know, hanging out with at lunch. And she would come home and talk about it.

She also has a 504 Plan, which requires her to see a social worker who helps her with her social skills.

And so these are things that she is not being able to get while she's at home on the laptop all day, which is what I have been doing with her. We have been doing remote learning here.

It's not enough. She needs that face-to-face interaction. She is just like thousands of other children in our community that really need to get out and be a part of the world.

What I want to say, too, is that Chicago is one city, right? We have a huge school district.

But there's children in private schools in the city of Chicago who are going to school in person. There's children in the suburbs who are going to school in person.

When we look around the country, there's other children who are going to school in person.

When you prohibit access to in-person learning for one group of people, what that does is it creates a disparity. It creates an inequity.

And we don't want to be able to keep living in a space where we're creating inequities. It is 2022.

We are at a place in our history where we know what to do to prevent these things from happening. And we just need to work better in dealing with this.

MATTINGLY: Yes, there's so many layers to it, and all of them seem to leave the kids in the worst place of all.

Natasha Dunn, I appreciate your time. I appreciate your perspective. Thank you so much.

DUNN: Yes. Bye-bye.

MATTINGLY: Still to come, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are finding more and more hatred aimed at them, especially in the wake of the January 6th capitol attack. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins us with more on how bad it's getting.

And new details about Novak Djokovic's health before his trip to Australia. Will authorities there let him stay and defend his grand slam titles?

Plus, how one group was trying to shatter expectations and summit the planet's tallest mountain.



MATTINGLY: On the anniversary of the capitol insurrection, there was a spike in threats posted on extremist Web sites. That's according to Homeland Security officials.

They say many threats targets members of Congress and President Biden.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Suzanne, it's a jarring reminder of the moment that we're in right now. What are you hearing exactly?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Phil, you really don't need statistics or those surveys to back that up, to get a sense, the feelings, tone, tenor, very different on Capitol Hill.

We often speak with lawmakers here about what it feels like, and just a difference of two years ago.

I mean, often you hear from the House progressive, Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, and Ilhan Omar, saying they are targeted. They share that information, and they say it can't be normalized.

Now we are also hearing from other lawmakers as well, backing that up, as well as some studies.

Studies that were released around the January 6th anniversary from Homeland Security, from U.S. Capitol Police, from the FBI, all confirming that this is a very dangerous, sometimes dangerous place, and that these threats are very real.


TOM MANGER, CHIEF, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE DEPARTMENT: You're getting multiple a day. They're increasing it. It's been a steady increase for the last four or five years.

I think, in 2017, there were around 4,000. So '18, '19, '20, '21 it's gone up every year. Last year, it was 8,600. This year is 9,600.

So the workload is increasing. We have increased the number of people investigating threats against Congress. I'm telling you, we're barely keeping our head above water.


MALVEAUX: And lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are complaining about this.

You have Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.

She said, after her late husband, John, passed away, and Trump had attacked him publicly, that she ended up getting very nasty, very harsh threats, life-threatening-type of language on her voice mail, and even people coming to her home who were armed.

I want to warn you some of the language here very disturbing.

But I want to play for you something that she shared with us recently, a voice mail that she received.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You're as old and ugly as Biden. You ought to get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off the planet, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Ought to try you for treason, you and every one of your scumbag friends.

I hope your family dies in front of you. I pray to god, if you have any children, they die in your face.


MALVEAUX: She also said not only did she have people who showed up at her home, but this is something she receives on a weekly basis.

And, Phil, also some Republicans as well. The 13 members who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, those House Republicans.

One of them, Fred Upton, who recently released a voice mail that he also received very disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hope you die. Hope your family dies. Hope everybody on your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) dies. You piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) traitor!


MALVEAUX: What is the next step, Phil? U.S. Capitol Police say they are taking a number of measures. They're getting more analysts in the Intelligence Unit to get on top of these things.

Investigations that they are opening up and following through, as well as field offices in various states, California to Florida.


To at least follow up on some of these complaints to find out who these anonymous figures are and to hold them accountable -- Phil?

MATTINGLY: Just toxic. I'm not saying it was warm and fuzzy when you and I were coming up but such a different environment.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

MATTINGLY: Suzanne Malveaux, great reporting as always from Capitol Hill. Thank you so much.

He was a titan of Democratic politics who served in the U.S. Senate for three decades. And today, politicians, friends, and family gathered in Nevada to remember former Senate majority leader, Harry Reid.

He died last month at the age of 82, after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Top Democrats, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Senator majority leader, Chuck Schumer, were on hand for the memorial service in Las Vegas.

And two presidents delivered eulogies.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pragmatism, adaptability, a premium on getting things done, a lack of pretension, an abiding loyalty, that's what Harry Reid represented.

A man of old school virtues. They are qualities that are in short supply these days.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Harry cared so much about his fellow Americans and so little about what anybody thought of him. It was all Searchlight, no spotlight.


MATTINGLY: Harry Reid is survived by his wife, Landra, and five children.



MATTINGLY: New tonight, South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune announced he will run for re-election this November.

Thune is the number-two in the Senator and the likely successor to minority leader, Mitch McConnell.

The announcement came after speculation that Thune would retire at the end of his term.

A reminder, in December 2020, then-President Trump declared Thune's political career over -- that's not true -- after the Senator called out his lies about the 2020 election.

Joining me now are CNN political analysts, Rachael Bade, of "Politico, and "Sabrina Siddiqui, of the "Wall Street Journal." My two good buddies.

And, Rachael, I want to start with you.

The fascinating thing about Thune's announcement is, if he runs, he wins. He's from a red state. No primary was going to have a different impact on him.

This was a different calculation from him in terms of whether or not he wanted to be in the party to some degree anymore as a sitting lawmaker.

What did you make of his decision?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, I think a lot of Republicans have sort of put off this decision about whether or not to run again.

They think, the closer you can get to a primary, or -- I'm sorry, the closer you can get to the primary time, the more likely they won't have an opponent.

And obviously, you mentioned Donald Trump being out there wanting to possibly recruit someone against him.

Look, it made sense to wait. And Thune talked about concerns from his family.

He has been in Washington for a long time. It's getting increasingly uglier, as you know from being up on the Hill.

And you know, a lot of Senators are asking themselves do they want to be a part of this.

I think for Republican leadership, it's a relief for two reasons. One of them is they have five Senate Republicans who are retiring, as you know. And every time somebody retires, it's harder to keep a seat.

It's already going to be a tough election for them next cycle as they're trying to flip the Senate. So this is another thing they have to worry about.

And as you mentioned, Mitch McConnell is going to be potentially retiring in a few years.

And I think a lot of Republicans respect Thune and would like him to stick around.

MATTINGLY: Yes, he's definitely respected in the conference. Sabrina, to flip to the other side of the aisle, where you and I sit most days, the White House, the president's agenda appears stalled less than a year from the midterms.

We'll take a look at the items that are still remaining. Obviously, voting rights is a huge push, the Build Back Better, immigration, gun safety, police reform. Climate action is a part of Build Back Better.

You're a good handicapper. Do we see movement on any of these before the November elections?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that's a big challenge for the White House is, what can President Biden still get done with respect to his agenda?

Now, obviously, the White House sees the bipartisan infrastructure bill as a major selling point going into midterms.

But they have yet to make any progress on the Build Back Better agenda, which is really the other key pillar of Biden's domestic priorities.

And voting rights is something that they're going to make a big push on in the coming weeks.

But it's just not clear that there would be any movement on voting rights, unless the president and Democrats in the Senate were to embrace a filibuster carve out in order to get it through.

So far, we haven't seen Biden explicitly call for that either.

And I think when you're kind of looking at what is already a tough map for Democrats, in, you know, a cycle that many are seeing be reminiscent of 2010, they're going to need more to sell to their base, to animate their voters to show up.

And also to convince those swing voters to give them another chance and help them hold on to majorities in Congress where they already obviously have a very narrow majority in both the House and the Senate.

So I think, you know, it's hard to say what's actually going to get done. But I think a lot of Democrats really believe that it's critical that they have more to run on going into November.

MATTINGLY: You know, Rachael, Sabrina mentions what Democrats have to run on. Fascinating thing that made me think of you in your reporting earlier.


A group of Democrat political operatives want candidates to talk more about Trump on the campaign trail. They formed a new Super PAC called Stop Him Now, which will call attention to Republican candidate's ties to Trump and his efforts to subvert the 2020 election.


Take a look at a clip from their first ad this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is marshaling another force to take over the U.S. Capitol, his army of Republican supporters, many running in this year's midterms and intent on helping him return to power. So you want to risk a return to this? Paid for by stop him now.


MATTINGLY: Now, Rachael, this group, maybe think about some of the threads and your deep dive into the DCCC reporting that you did a few weeks ago. What do you make of this strategy to run on Trump in 2022?

BADE: Well, it's really dividing the party right now. You have people like DCCC chairman, Sean Patrick Maloney, who sort of running the campaign strategy for Democrats next year. He agrees with this. He thinks that, you know, you can talk about Trump, but also talk about things you've passed, like the bipartisan infrastructure bill to, sort of, drive out the base, but also try to reach swing voters.

But all these frontliners, you know, I got to tell you, I've talked to a lot of them up on the Hill, they see this as a message that is just not going to resonate. They worry that it will only turn out Republicans, which they don't want to show up to vote because they want to keep their seats.

They worry that, you know, it might turn off swing voters who want to hear more, you know, positive message about what they're trying to do in Washington and what they are doing. And so, it's caused this sort of friction to the point that you have some frontliners questioning the DCCC and whether they know what they're doing. And so, it's really a toxic issue right now in the party, as they sort of split on what to do on this.

MATTINGLY: Yes. It's kind of the defining debate for the party going into the midterms. Sabrina, you've got a piece today, and you write that President Biden is beginning to recalibrate his COVID messaging, which made me think back to July where he said, we are closer than ever to declaring our independence from the virus. But take a listen to what he said yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 and continuing to develop that will keep contain COVID and other strains of codes.


MATTINGLY: Now, look what else they couldn't predict vaccination rates necessarily would stay where they were, they couldn't predict Delta becoming what it was, certainly not Omicron, necessarily. Is it -- but is it fair to say the President got over his skis to some degree back in July?

SIDDIQUI: Well, I think it was definitely premature for President Biden to say in July that the U.S. was closer than ever to declaring its independence from the virus. That turned out clearly not to be the case when you saw the Delta surge in the summer and into the fall. And now, of course, this nationwide uptick in cases prompted by the Omicron variant.

And so you do see the White House kind of shifting gears a little bit, where they still say it's Biden's ultimate goal to defeat the virus. But I think they are trying to prepare Americans to accept that COVID is still going to be a part of the environment, as the President said, it will still be a part of daily life. And so they've shifted a little bit from focusing on the number of infections to really how do you prevent further disruptions to society.

And you have seen that shift in tone from the White House where they're explicitly calling for schools to remain open, despite the Omicron surge, they're urging businesses not to shut down. I think a lot of people felt like the CDC shortening those isolation guided guidelines was very much to get people back to work and prevent further disruptions to the economy.

And so if you think about even just the broader picture going into the midterm elections, a lot of it will be determined by whether or not Americans feel like they have a sense of normalcy back, which was also a big pledge that Biden had made when he was seeking the White House.

And so, I think that really will be a defining factor, in addition to the economy. And some of the other issues we talked about in the midterms in the White House, I think, really is trying to recalibrate its COVID messaging, so that there isn't widespread panic, but also that they can prevent the kind of lockdowns or the feeling that we're still stuck in 2020, especially now that we have vaccinations and boosters and trying to just shift that mindset among the American public.

MATTINGLY: Yes, the mindset seems to be everything right. If people can feel good, look forward to something, that changes the dynamic, I think, overall for the Democratic Party, definitely for the President.

Guys, Rachael, Sabrina, appreciate it. As always, Sabrina, I'm sure I will see you on Monday. Rachael, probably you as well. Thank you both for your time. I appreciate it.

BADE: Thanks, Phil.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: All right. Some new evidence to newly leaked video, new updates in the saga involving the world's top tennis player who is still confined to a hotel room this hour all over Australia's vaccine mandate. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


MATTINGLY: There's a new twist in the bizarre saga of the world's number one men's tennis player. Novak Djokovic is confined to a hotel in Melbourne, Australia right now after that country cancelled his visa because he wasn't vaccinated.

Now, new evidence appears to show that he was granted a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open because he tested positive for COVID last month. And in a newly leaked video, the CEO of Tennis Australia breaks his silence and praises his staff.


CRAIG TILEY, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, TENNIS AUSTRALIA: There's a lot of finger-pointing going on and a lot of blaming going on, but I can show you our team has done an unbelievable job and have done everything they possibly could, according to all the instructions that they have been provided.


MATTINGLY: One way to frame things. Now, the decision on Novak Djokovic likely just a couple of days away. CNNs Blake Essig has more details, Blake.



BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The men's world tennis number one is waiting for an Australian court to decide his fate, that decision is expected Monday. Well, there's clearly a disconnect between Tennis Australia and the Australian Government that has led to the current situation involving Djokovic, there are also a lot of questions regarding the medical exemption he received from Tennis Australia to compete in the open.

On Saturday, based on court documents filed by Djokovic's lawyers appealing for him to stay in the country, we learned that the tennis superstar was not vaccinated when he arrived in the country on Wednesday. He'd been 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 16.

On that same day, and the day after Djokovic was photographed maskless at events, those pictures were posted on social media. It's unclear if Djokovic was aware of his test results before appearing at any of those events. CNN has reached out to Djokovic representatives for comment.

And according to league Tennis Australia documents obtained by the Herald Sun newspaper, the deadline to apply for a medical exemption was on December 10th. 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 and had his visa revoked, with Australia's health minister saying that he failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet entry requirements.

Again, whether or not he'll be able to stay in the country will likely be decided on Monday. So far, there's no official indication what the judge will 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.

Blake Essig, CNN, Tokyo.


MATTINGLY: Now, earlier, I spoke with former professional tennis player, Patrick McEnroe, and ESPN tennis commentator and host of the podcast, Holding Court. He thinks that it's unlikely Djokovic will prevail in Monday's hearing.


PATRICK MCENROE, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Well, his status, Phil, I would say is precarious at best. So there's a couple of possibilities here, Phil, one that is COVID test is not correct. OK. That is -- that is fraudulent. Of course, if that's the case, this is a major, major problem for Novak Djokovic.

Now, the other side of it is he -- if he did test positive December 16th, then he built -- he was seen in public multiple times in the day or two following that shaking hands, giving speeches, appearing at a panel discussion. So, of course, not abiding by what he was supposed to be doing, assuming he had tested positive.

Many people are questioning whether or not that COVID test was legitimate. And that may be why the Border Patrol stopped him at Melbourne Airport. We will find out all too soon. And this appeal apparently, Phil, will be live online. So, I hope they've got the bandwidth to be able to handle that on Monday morning, Sunday night.

I find it unrealistic to think that he's going to win this appeal and be on the court and he'll have to leave Australia on his own. That would be a darn, darn shame.


MATTINGLY: Now, McEnroe also called the situation a debacle with plenty of blame to go around, indeed.

All right. Coming up next, a trailblazer, actor, and Oscar winner, Sidney Poitier was all of these and so much more. How -- what he did off camera made such a difference in people's lives, still ahead.



MATTINGLY: Around the world, fans are honoring the life and indelible legacy of actor, Sidney Poitier, from his humble beginnings in the Bahamas to being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, Poitier's life and career were groundbreaking.


SIDNEY POITIER, BAHAMIAN-AMERICAN ACTOR: I'm your son, I love you. I always have and I always will. But you think of yourself as a colored man. I think of myself as a man.


MATTINGLY: CNN's Natasha Chen is in Los Angeles. And, Natasha, from President Biden to Oprah Winfrey, so many people are remembering the impact Sidney Poitier had on society. He was a man truly made for his moment, right?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Phil. You talked about him winning an academy award that was 1964. And just the year before that, he was participating in the March on Washington, you know, for someone where success was hard to come by. It could have been very easy to try to protect that and not rock the boat. That's not who he was. He really was a man of principle and stood up publicly for what he believed in.

Let me just read you some of the tributes that have been pouring in, including hear from Oprah Winfrey, saying, "The greatest of the great trees has fallen." Whoopi Goldberg is saying, "To sir, with love. He showed us how to reach for the stars." You mentioned Presidents Biden and President Obama talking about this saying -- Obama saying, "Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace, revealing the power of movies to bring us closer together."

A lot of people talking about how he laid the groundwork open doors for future generations of black artists. I talked to the senior vice president of the NAACP Hollywood Bureau, who told me about his favorite Poitier a film moment when Poitier played a detective, slapped in the movie by a white man and without missing a beat slaps him right back. He'll talk about that here in a moment, but first, from Poitier himself receiving the -- an Image Award in 2001, talking about the encouragement he got from the NAACP.



POITIER: That same encouragement resounded through the years and was always on hand to inspire us all. To stand firm, hold our ground, and refuse to be moved whenever the question of survival was at stake.

KYLE BOWSER, NAACP: When Sidney Poitier gets slapped by a white man on camera, and within a millisecond, he turns and slaps that white man back, as a young man growing up black in America, that was like someone turn the light on in a dark room.

He was synonymous to James Brown releasing say it out loud, I'm black and I'm proud. It was a moment when black American say, oh, OK, we're ready to turn the page. Things may not be exactly how we want them, but it's going to be different than it was on the last page.


CHEN: And Bowser told me, this is like a relay race where Poitier handed the baton to future generations. And now the question is, whom will they hand the baton to next? Phil.

MATTINGLY: Natasha Chen, great reporting as always. Thanks so much.

Now, everyone knows Mount Everest, it's the highest mountain in the world. Since climbers first reached its peak 70 years ago, only about 10,000 others have done the same. And only a few of them were black. But if everything works out, that's about to change. A team of nine climbers, black men and women from the U.S. and Kenya, they are training and preparing to tackle Mount Everest.

And joining me now is Abby Dione, a member of the Full Circle Everest expedition. And, Abby, I got to be honest, I've been excited to talk to you since I heard about this earlier today from the show team, so --

ABBY DIONE, MEMBER, FULL CIRCLE EVEREST EXPEDITION: Happy New Year. And thanks for having me.

MATTINGLY: Of course. I want to start with -- so talk to me about the details of this expedition, of this climb. How is this all going to work?

DIONE: Like it always does, a group of very ambitious and motivated climbers are going to go to Nepal. And with the help of our Sherpa team, hopefully summit, the tallest mountain in the world.

MATTINGLY: Now, I do have a question. You're currently in Miami.

DIONE: Correct.

MATTINGLY: I feel like you should be in a tent somewhere in the snow at like 20,000 feet. But joking aside, how are you preparing physically for what is one of the more challenging things a human being can do?

DIONE: You're absolutely right, I am at a bit of a disadvantage here in Miami. I'm actually below sea level where I live. So training for altitude is definitely a challenge. That's why I'm using every tool at my disposal. So, I actually do sleep in a tent that this tent is a hypoxic tent, and it sits in one of the rooms in my home.

And as a team, what we try to do is meet every quarter to actually test our training and be in the elements together. So a lot of cold, a lot of snow, and a lot of -- a lot of physical work. MATTINGLY: Yes. No question about it. One thing I was struck by in reading about you and the team is the name, you know, your expedition is called Full Circle. Walk me through the meaning of that.

DIONE: This is the brainchild of our team leader, Philip Henderson. He's been in the outdoor industry for over 20 years now. And so -- and he does tell the story way more poetically than I will, so you'll have to forgive me, Phil.

But his -- the start of his experience in the outdoor industry was -- he was pretty much one of one. And as time has evolved, and more of us, Daniel (ph) has come into the industry. He's found himself kind of starting full circle with something in his relationship with Nepal with us and this younger generation of climbers.

MATTINGLY: You know, if you're successful, Full Circle will be the first all-black expedition to the summit of Everest. How do you explain -- well, I guess the meaning of that, and then I guess why there's kind of a dearth and under Representation of Black individuals in what you're trying to do.

DIONE: Well, I think just fundamentally represent -- representation is key. We should have images and stories that reflect the real world, and we are a part of the real world. And we're out here doing wonderful things. And I think it helps folks to see themselves whether it'd be on screen or in a book or in any story, really.

One of my great teachers once told, Abby, where the mind goes, the body goes. So, if you see it and you think it's possible, then it's just a few steps and a lot of work. And you can --


MATTINGLY: In the five seconds we have left, when you summit, what are you going to do?

DIONE: Get the hell down.

MATTINGLY: I respect that in every single way. Abby Dione, the best of luck. Thanks so much for taking the time here.

DIONE: Thank you. It's very kind of you.

MATTINGLY: All right. And thank you for joining me this evening, I'm Phil Mattingly.

Coming up on CNN, friends, collaborators legends, Carole King and James Taylor in an unforgettable concert film, "Just Call Out My Name" is coming up next.