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Jackson Boil Water Advisory Lifted After Nearly 7 Weeks; Another Jury Deciding How Much Alex Jones to Pay for Newtown Lies; Biden Addresses Impact of Hate-Fueled Violence on Democracy. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired September 15, 2022 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Well just minutes ago, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced clean water has been restored to Jackson, Mississippi. The city spent more than a month under a boil water advisory. This is what was coming out of faucets over the last couple of weeks. Some families didn't have anything at all. Flooding caused major issues at Jackson's main water treatment facility. While the boil water notice is over for now, the governor warned the crisis could continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TATE REEVES (R) MISSISSIPPI: While we've restored water quality, the system is still imperfect and we are going to address issues throughout the duration of the state's response. It is possible, although I pray not inevitable, that there will be further interruptions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Joining us now is Cassandra Welchlin of the Mississippi Black Women's Roundtable. A community organization advocating for black women and girls. Cassandra, it's good to see you again. We spoke at the very start of the most recent water crisis. The governor says, listen, the water is clean. Are you prepared to drink it?
CASSANDRA WELCHLIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MISSISSIPPI BLACK WOMEN'S ROUNDTABLE: Thank you for having me back. There's a lot of hesitance there. No, I'm not prepared to drink the water and probably a lot of our residents aren't either, prepared to drink it. Because we've been at this place a number of times. And we know that some of the water is still -- there's still some discoloration. Some people are still experiencing discoloration and it's going to take, you know, a long time probably for that to come out.
We know that fire trucks are out opening up the hydrants and we know brown water is coming out. We've been here a number of times and a lot of folks are going to not be prepared to drink that water and so -- and my family is one of those.
BLACKWELL: You know, it's important to point out that this is not the first month long boil water advisory for Jackson. Not even in the past couple of years. So, when the governor said that he says it is possible but not inevitable that you will be here again. Do you think it is inevitable that Jackson will be here again?
WELCHLIN: I think we're going to be here a while. We know, as you said, this is not the first rodeo. We've been going through this for years. I think I said this when I was first on your show, I'm almost 50 years old and I remember as a little girl having to fill my tub with water. My mom would tell me to do that. We're still doing that. We get interruptions often. It's going to take billions of dollars of investment, even though the governor said he didn't think it would be billions, we know it's going to take that. It's not just the water treatment plant itself. It's also the infrastructure under the streets that is ageing that we have problems with.
I just saw a picture of a pipe that came up out of the streets and it was brown, the same color that we would see coming out of our faucets. And so that makes people also uneasy knowing that our infrastructure is aging and it is running under our homes. And so, this is going to be a long term issue and it is not going it be a quick fix.
BLACKWELL: So, we know the EPA is now investigating the water crisis there in Jackson. After the investigation in Flint, there were criminal charges, there were lawsuits as well. How much about what happens next do you think should be about holding people accountable?
WELCHLIN: Well, I'm going to leave that to the attorneys and the city to duke that out. What I will say is that residents definitely want the accountability to them because it's not just this administration. It's gone on for years and years and years of the disinvestment. And so, I believe that this is so important that the residents get what they need. And that they -- and we had a town hall meeting just this week and residents said what was really important for them and that is that is a right to have, you know, water, drinking water for everything, from fixing baby formula to dialysis. People who have dialysis at home, for moms just taking care of families.
And so, there definitely has to be accountability but I'm going to leave that up to the folks to duke that out. What I will say, though, Victor, is that this is also coming on the heels of black women's equal pay day. And these two things aren't unrelated because we're talking about massive amount of money that is having to leave a woman's budget in order to go and buy water or to pay high expensive water bills and so this is an economic crisis, this is a health crisis as well.
BLACKWELL: We have spoken with people who not only have to pay the water bills, which are high in Jackson, Mississippi, but also have these subscriptions to water services because they can't trust the water that they're paying so much for. So, there is certainly an economic element here and a business that were interrupted. Cassandra Welchlin, we will of course check in with you again and thank you for keeping us updated.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Now to this. Florida deputies are praising this Chick-fil-A worker for fighting off an alleged carjacker, saving a mom and baby and getting hit in the face in the process. This is all caught on camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(VIDEO OF ATTEMPTED CARJACKING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: The sheriff near Pensacola says Michael Gordon ran to help yesterday after hearing the screams of the mother.
BLACKWELL: And the carjacker officials say threatened the mom with a stick as she was putting her child in the car. Look at this. They say he grabbed the keys from her waistband and opened the car door and then got inside the car. Gordon, the mom, the child, they're fine. The suspect, a 43-year-old man has been charged with carjacking and battery.
CAMEROTA: That is a brave guy right there. That's what you want in your fast food worker, I think.
BLACKWELL: I've always loved Chick-fil-A.
CAMEROTA: Who doesn't. Going above and beyond.
OK, meanwhile today in the latest defamation trial against Alex Jones we just learns how much his viewership skyrocketed when he spews lies about the Sandy Hook shooting.
BLACKWELL: A lawyer for Alex Jones' Infowars organization admitted that false statements were made about the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in order to get more views and more money. He said that during a Connecticut trial to decide how much jones should pay to some of the victims' families for his lies that murders of first-graders were staged.
CAMEROTA: Last month a Texas jury ordered Jones to pay different plaintiffs nearly $50 million for his disgusting claims. CNN's Brynn Gingras is here. So, Brynn, what's happening in court today?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well so, continuing to be on the stand right now is this woman, she's a spokesperson for Free Speech Systems. That's a company that is owned by Alex Jones. She was on the stand yesterday. She's on the stand again today. Keep in mind she's only been with the company as a spokesperson for two weeks. But essentially, she's there to sort of give some intel into the inner workings Infowars, the show were Alex Jones did spread many of these lies about many things, but of course about the Sandy Hook massacre.
And the plaintiff's attorney essentially is just using videos from the Infowars' segments, spreadsheets, email, to prove that everything that he basically said on those shows is not true. Anything from the fact that the whole thing was a hoax, to the fact that Infowars didn't rely on analytics -- Google Analytics to figure out how many eyeballs that they were getting. To the fact that the kids that died in this massacre and their parents, they're actors. I want you to see this moment, today, the exchange with the plaintiff's attorney and this woman, Brittney Paz about that particular subject right there.
BRITTANY PAZ, ATTORNEY AND CORPORATE REPRESENTATIVE FOR FREE SPEECH SYSTEMS: Is Ben Wheeler an actor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
PAZ: No, Free Speech Systems doesn't contend that he is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is audio Richmond (ph) an actor?
Is Dylan Hackly (ph) an actor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Daniel Farden (ph) an actor:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Emily Parker an actor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Bill Aldenberg (ph) an actor?
GINGRAS: I mean, just a moment right there where you could see the courtroom and my colleague Erin Cooper is sitting there saying there are family members, they're parents sitting there crying as they were listening to the fact that she's admitting, no, they're not actors, this actually happened, guy. So yes, this is the second defamation trial. We knew about the one with $50 million were awarded to one family. There's eight families here that they are talking about.
CAMEROTA: Brynn, thank you very much for the update there.
Let's go now to the White House. This is where President Biden is speaking about hate-fueled violence and its effect on democracy.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Through your pain, you found purpose. Worthy of a life that Heather lived and a purpose to help us stand united as she did. And that's why so many of you have done for so long in your own way, as survivors, hate filled violence, family victims, you know, the allies and advocates, mayors, community leaders, members of Congress. Your presence is a testament to the truth that we must and we can come together. Regardless of our backgrounds, our beliefs, we have to stand united against hate-filled violence because it's real. You know better than anyone.
Confirm that an attack on one group of us is literally an attack on all of us. I sincerely appreciate all of you joining this first of its kind summit held here in the White House. And I want to thank Ana Navarro and Lisa Ling for participating. And I want to thank the civil rights organizations that called for such a summit after the evil came to Buffalo four months ago, the National Urban League, the Anti- Defamation League, the Asian-American Advancing Justice, the League of United Latin American Citizens and National Action Network. Jill and I -- my wife Jill and I -- and she's teaching that's why she's not here -- travelled to Buffalo to grief with families and deliver a message from deep in our nation's soul.
In America, evil will not win. It will not prevail. And white supremacist will not have the last word. And this venom and violence cannot be the story of our time. So, we convene this summit to make clear what the story of our time must be. It has to be a story in which each and every one of us has a vital role to play, a story, a story with this message from the White House. United, united, united we stand.
Look, I decided to run for president, as Susan knows, after Charlottesville. Literally, not figuratively. I had no intention of running, I give you my word. I was teaching and I thought that was the best thing for me to do as Chris knows my colleague from Delaware.
But Charlottesville changed everything. Because I believed our stories to unite as people's one nation and one America. When those folks came out of those -- that field carrying torches, the United States of America, carrying torches, chanting the same antisemitic bile that was chanted in Germany in the early '30s, accompanied by white supremacists holding Nazi flags. And I thought to myself, my God, this is the United States of America. How could that happen. I really mean it.
As my friends in the movement, civil rights movement, I got involved in politics because of civil rights as a kid.
But the idea, the idea that in the first quarter of the 20th century, we had a people come out and carrying torches, Nazi flags and banners, chanting the vile, accompanied by white supremacists, David Dukes and his crowd. And an innocent young woman is killed.
When the last guy was asked, what do you think, he said he thought there was some fine people on both sides. Look, folks, there are core values that should bring us together as Americans. One of them is standing together against hate, racism, bigotry and violence with long haunted and plagued our nation.
Another core value is standing united for the enduring source of our strength is the idea of America. We're the most unique nation in the world. Every other nation is based on ethnicity, geography. In America we're based on an idea. Literally, not figuratively, an idea. We hold these truths to be self-evident. All women and men are created equal, endowed by their Creator, et cetera.
We've never lived up to that. But we never before walked away from it. We never walked away from it. That's why it's so important what you're doing. It's so important that we keep hollering. So important for people to know that's not who we are.
You know, I do a lot of foreign travel in my business. I spent an awful lot of time and I know virtually every head of state. When I went to the first G-7 meeting in England of the largest democracies of the world, I sat down and I said, you know you've heard me say that before, I said, America is back. You know what these leaders said around a small table with no press there? For how long? For how long?
The combination of January the 6th, what they saw in Charlottesville, it's not America. Not who we are. The idea of America is guaranteeing that everyone, everyone is treated with dignity and equality. An idea that ensures an inclusive multiracial democracy. An idea that we give no safe harbor, none, to hate. I was never, as I said, fully lived up to the idea we've never walked away from it before.
Look, I'm not naive. Kamala have traveled to Atlanta to greet with Asian American residents as violence against the community rose during the pandemic. Too many people fearful just walking the streets in America.
Jewish high holidays approach, families will gather for reflection under the shadow of the rise of antisemitism just four years after the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The deadliest act of antisemitism in our nation's history.
This summer, 31 white supremacists in Idaho were stopped from unleashing hateful violence just before they reached a pride celebration. A threat following a record year of violence against transgender Americans.
Today, with the fall semester starting, we're joined by the presidents of historic black college universities should be able to focus on providing the best experience possible for their students. But instead, they're having to worry about more bomb threats against their institutions.
Too often Native Americans, disabled Americans face harassment, discrimination and violence and victimization. Unfortunately, such hate fueled violence and threats are not new to America. There's a through line of hate from massacres of indigenous people to the original sin of slavery, the terror of the Klan, to anti-immigration, violence against the Irish, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, so many of those laced through our history.
There's a through line of violence against religious group, antisemitic, anti-Catholic, anti-Mormon, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu, anti-Sikh. Look, folks, that through line of hate never fully goes away. It only hides.
As I said before, when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I felt really good that I got the extension of the Voting Rights Act, over 25 year, even got Strom Thurmond to vote for it, no, not a joke. And I thought -- I thought, well you know, hate can be defeated. But only hides and when given any oxygen, it comes out from under the rocks.
In the last few years, it's been given much too much oxygen in our politics and our media and on the internet. Too much hate all for power and profit. That's the part where you don't -- that's changed a little bit. It's about power and profit. Too much hate that's fueled extremist violence has been allowed to fester and grow.
You know, as a result our very own intelligence agencies, our own intelligence agencies in the United States of America have determined that domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy is the greatest terrorist threat to our homeland today. I've been around awhile. I never I'd hear that or say that. Enough. We need to say clearly and forcefully, white supremacy, all forms of hate fueled by violence have no place in America. Fair to call it out as complicity, my dad would say. If your silence is complicity, and you can't remain silent.
There's those that say we bring it up, we just divide the country. Bring it up, we silence it. Instead of remaining silenced. For in silence, wounds deepen. We have to face the good, the bad and the truth. That's what great nations do and we're a great nation.
So, we face at this moment in my view an inflection point. One of those moments that determine the shape of everything that's going to come after. Our great grandchildren are going to look back and decide whether or not in this two, four, six, eight-year period we stepped up because the world is changing. As the Irish poet said, all change, changed utterly a terrible beauty has been born.
We must choose to be a nation of hope, unity and optimism or a nation of fear and division and hate. And we choose as we do, we know this, hate fueled violence is born into the fertile soil of a toxic division and we won't solve the problem by going after the extreme fringes alone. We have to confront the ways in which our toxic divisions fuel the crisis for all of us. Our differences.
Certainly, don't turn a fellow American into a sworn enemy. Building bridges across divides doesn't mean we're sacrificing our own beliefs and our core values. To be a nation of hope and unity and optimism we have to recognize that there are not -- we're not helpless in the face of hate and fuel violence. We're far more united than we're divided but we have to focus on it.
In fact, the vast majority of Americans are overwhelmingly united against such violence. The vast majority of us believe in honesty, decency and respect for others. Patriotism, liberty, justice for all, hope and possibilities. I know we can do this together. I really mean it. We can do this together.
Last year with Susan here at the White House I signed a bipartisan COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act that included provisions named after Heather that are going to help state and local law enforcement better identify and respond to hate crimes. Earlier this summer, I signed into law a bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first major gun safety legislation ...
BLACKWELL: President Biden at the White House speaking at the United We Stand Summit. The White House says that this is the effort to push back against hate fueled violence and its effect on democracy right at the top but mentioned it several times. He was introduced by the mother of Heather Heyer who was killed in 2017 at that rally in Charlottesville in which he says that was a catalyst for his campaign for presidency in 2020.
CAMEROTA: And he says that we're at an inflection point in the country.
This is something he's been talking about not just today, but for a while now and he said that our intel agencies say domestic terrorism fueled by hate is the number one threat in the U.S. and he said loudly, enough, we need to name it and not be silent about it. And so that's what he was talking about and how we're much more united than we are divided but we need to talk about it and get back to those values, he said, of hope and unity.
And "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.