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Fired SpaceX Employees File Complaint Against Elon Musk; Defense Secretary Says, U.S. Will Support Ukraine as Long as It Takes; Biden Tells U.S. World Cup Team to Shock 'Em All. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 21, 2022 - 10:30   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Many of them did so anonymously.


Joining me now is one of the employees who was let go, has not been anonymous, is going very public with her story, Paige Holland-Thielen. Paige, thanks so much for joining this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, first, for the sake of our viewers, I wonder if you can explain what exactly about Musk's behaviors and comments led you and your colleagues to write this letter.

HOLLAND-THIELEN: So, there is a long history of poor handling of sexual harassment complaints at SpaceX. I was there for a little over four and a quarter years. I spent a lot of time talking to my peers and my colleagues about what experienced, what I experienced myself. It was very clear that until the behavior changed from the top down, the treatment of us employees on the ground was never going to improve.

SCIUTTO: So, you're saying it wasn't just his comments on social media. you were talking about the environment there at the company?

HOLLAND-THIELEN: Yes. Ultimately, we were trying to improve our own working conditions, have a reasonable response to sexual harassment complaints that were ongoing, very often mishandled, sometimes swept under the rug. The policies are very unclear. They lean on their no A- hole policy very heavily without actually defining what that means. So, ultimately and mostly our letter was attempting to get a little bit more clarity on those policies and ensure they're applied equally throughout the company.

SCIUTTO: You referenced what you noted, the company has a, quote, no A-hole policy. I won't use the actual word on the air. But what does that policy actually say? And how does the company respond to your complaint?

HOLLAND-THIELEN: It is unclear what the no A-hole policy actually means. And by my complaint, do you mean the letter?

SCIUTTO: Yes, the letter that you and your colleagues wrote.

HOLLAND-THIELEN: They initially asked us -- when the letter was released, they asked us to stop spreading it. I stopped engaging with it but it had taken on its own momentum at that point. And then at the end of the day after the letter release, a handful of us were called into H.R. meetings and promptly fired.

SCIUTTO: So, their response, you say, and the main response to that letter was to say, stop distributing the letter for signatures?


SCIUTTO: Goodness, okay.

Now, nine of the employees were fired, as you mentioned, eight then joined the complaint you have going now. Only two of you are speaking out publicly. And I wonder why you're taking that. I mean, it makes you a target as well and identifies yourself. Why are you taking the step to go public with this?

HOLLAND-THIELEN: One of the more light-hearted, I think, reasons I've given people is that I feel like I into he had to be braver than I was when I got fired but ultimately organizing in the workplace at SpaceX was initially my idea. And I feel like I just need to stand by that. I need let people know that it is okay to do this, it is legal to do this, you have rights, what we did was the right thing to do and I still think that is the case. I still think this is the right thing to do. I still think it was necessary.

Just because things didn't change right away doesn't mean that there is not change coming. And I want people to continue to fight for this. And I feel like I can't ask people to stand up and speak if I won't show my face and stand up and speak myself. So, that is why I'm here.

SCIUTTO: I hear you. Credit to you for taking that step and taking that risk.

So, the complaint now, that is before the National Labor Rights Board. The board will now investigate. We understand it takes 14 weeks or so, three months and then decide. What would be an ideal outcome from this process for you?

HOLLAND-THIELEN: I just want -- I just want accountability, ultimately, like I want justice for those of us who were fired because it was wrong. I want the people who were left behind to know that they don't have to live like this. There is say lot of fear being spread in our wake so I want change and I want accountability and I want justice.

SCIUTTO: Do you want your job back?

HOLLAND-THIELEN: I would be willing to do what the NLRB is able to do with this.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Well, listen, we wish you the best of luck. It is no easy thing to do what you're doing now given the public spotlight here, and thanks so much for joining us.

HOLLAND-THIELEN: Thank you so much for having me and telling my story.

SCIUTTO: Good luck to you.

We should note, we did reach out to SpaceX for comment. We did not hear back.

Coming up next, winter in an ongoing war zone. We're going to take you live to Kyiv as city sees its first snow and Russia continues its devastating attacks on critical infrastructure.



SCIUTTO: New this morning, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin says that America will continue to support Ukraine against Russia's ongoing invasion, quote, for as long as it takes. Have a listen.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's hard to predict how things will evolve and on what timeline. But we're in this in support for Ukraine for as long as it takes.


SCIUTTO: The comments come as Russian attacks hit the Ukrainian city of Nikopol, just across the river from Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia, where that nuclear power plant is.


CNN's Matthew Chance is live in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Matthew, these attacks, they have a goal. It is to exact punishment from the Ukrainian people, make them suffer, particularly as the winter begins there hitting all of this critical infrastructure. I wonder what it feels like there, if you could describe it to people, and how the Ukrainian government is responding.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it feels pretty daunting knowing that the cold weather has just started to really arrive here in the Ukrainian winter, the snow on the ground for the first time this winter over the past couple of days. And also during that time period, we've seen a real upsurge in the amount of missiles, rockets being thrown at critical infrastructure projects by the Russians to try and disable the energy distribution system in the country. And to some extent, it is working.

A couple of days ago, the Ukrainian president, President Zelenskyy saying there are 10 million people in this country without regular access to power. And so emergency teams, engineers are working around the clock to try and get the wires connected again after they've been hit and the infrastructure, things prepared and repaired. But it is just a question of spare parts as well. These things are not easily replaced. They're bringing in diesel generators but that is a slow process and also requires a lot of diesel, which isn't necessarily available in the country either.

The impact it is having on people, well, it is cold, it is dark and it gets dark at about 4:00 in the afternoon these days now. But also it is the communications as well. It is not just the heating and the cooking, which is bad enough. People -- telephone towers are down, the internet is down in large swathes of the country at any given moment. And so that makes life very hard and it makes the impact of this war, which is already incredibly difficult even harder for millions of people across Ukraine. So, it is a very, very serious situation that the country is facing as we enter what could be a very bitterly cold winter, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And based on the ongoing nature of these attacks, that is exactly the intention, it seems, to inflict punishment on average Ukrainians. Matthew Chance, thanks so much.

Coming up next, a set of healthy twin babies born to a couple in Oregon has made history. Why? Because the babies came from embryos frozen 30 years ago. Their amazing story, just ahead.



SCIUTTO: In a story you will see first right here on CNN, a couple in Oregon is now welcomed twins into the world from what may be the longest frozen embryos to ever result in a live birth. The embryos, they were frozen 30 years ago on April 22nd, 1992.

CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains how it all happened.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In April of 1992, more than 30 years ago, the world was a lot different. Bill Clinton was running for president. Phones looked like this. I was 23 years old. And in a small clinic, these embryos were frozen, suspended in time at nearly 200 degrees below zero, waiting patiently at the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. That is until just a few weeks ago when twins Timothy and Lydia were born to Rachel and Philip Ridgeway of Oregon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we heard about embryo adoption, we thought that is something that we would like to do and it is something that we think we're able to do.

DR. SIGAL KLIPSTEIN, REPRODUCTIVE ENDOCRINOLOGIST: Adoption refers to living children and it is a judicial order, it is a legal process by which a parent/child relationship is created when it did not previously exist.

GUPTA: Dr. Sigal Klipstein is a fertility specialist in Chicago and chairs the American Society of Reproductive Medicines Ethics Committee. She was not involved in the Ridgeways case.

KLIPSTEIN: Embryo donation is a medical procedure. It is a way by which we take embryos from one couple or individual and then transfer them into another individual in order to build families.

GUPTA: Freezing embryos is not a new technique. In fact, the first baby born from a frozen embryo was back there 1984. But at a time when medical science has pushed the boundaries life earlier and earlier, a new question has arisen, how late is too late.

RACHEL RIDGEWAY, MOTHER TO TWINS LYDIA AND TIMOTHY: Going into this process, we wanted to choose children that, in our eyes, were the most unwanted, the most needy, the ones in a lot of ways that had been overlooked.

GUPTA: Intentionally or not, the Ridgeways have set a record. After 29 years and 10 months, the donated embryos are believed to be the oldest embryos ever to result in a live birth.

We weren't looking to get the oldest embryos that had been frozen the longest in the world. We just wanted the ones that have been waiting at the end, see the longest.

GUPTA: NEDC is a faith-based center. The center says they have now facilitated more than 1,200 births through donated embryos. And according to the Society of Assisted Reproductive Medicine, the number has steadily climbed from 1,000 a year in 2013 to about 2,100 in 2020, of which around 40 percent result in a live birth.


RIDGEWAY: Dr. Gordon hands me a picture and I see the three of them and then he said, so, multiples can cause problems in pregnancy. And so at this point, I would recommend just transferring two. We'll put the third in the freezer. You guys can come back for it. And so I looked back at Dr. Gordon and started to get teary-eyed, I said, no, you just showed me a picture of my three children. I have to have them all.

DR. JOHN GORDON, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, SOUTHEASTERN FERTILITY: I didn't think we would get triplets. I figured that it would more (INAUDIBLE) be a single pregnancy.

GUPTA: But during an ultrasound, they discovered they were having twins.

KLIPSTEIN: I don't think there is any risk to freezing embryos that is related to the number of years that the embryo is frozen. We have been preserving embryos for nearly 40 years and there has not been an increase risk to the babies or to the pregnant women.

What makes the embryo a good quality oftentimes is the age of the woman at the time that she donated eggs. And so the younger the woman, the more likely that embryo is going to be chromosomally normal.

GUPTA: For the Ridgeways, it is all part of something larger, something they view as a personal mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is hard to wrap your mind around that I was five years old when God gave life to Lydia and Timothy. In a very real sense, they're our oldest children even though they're our smallest children.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


SCIUTTO: Pretty incredible and two cute little babies.

Well, in just a few hours, the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team will play its first World Cup match. The message President Biden had for them, that is coming up.

Plus, why this scene is making headlines from the World Cup, Iran's team not singing their own national anthem.



SCIUTTO: World Cup, are you excited? I'm excited and it has been a long, some fans would say, excruciating wait. More than 3,000 days since the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team played their last World Cup eight years ago. But just three hours from now, that wait will be officially over. The U.S. team set to take on Wales at the World Cup in Qatar over the weekend. They got a surprise pep talk from President Joe Biden. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It said POTUS. That is where it is coming from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, you have the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Coach, put me in I'm ready to play.

You guys, I know you're underdogs, but I'll tell you what, man, you got some of the best players in the world on your team and you're representing this country and I know you're going to play your hearts out. So, let's go shock them all.


SCIUTTO: Shock them all.

Joining me now live from Doha, CNN Sports Anchor Amanda Davies. So, Amanda, it wasn't a great series of prep matches going into this World Cup for the U.S. team. Well, what is the confidence level right now?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Well, I have to tell you, it is pretty high if Gregg Berhalter is to be believed, and even without President Biden in the team, I have to say. He has a team with such talented young players, the likes of Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie. And it's not only the messages of support they have received from the president but we've seen some really emotional videos that they've been shown from their families and friends back at home.

And perhaps they should also be giving some credit to that man, Ted Lasso. His mantra is, believe, isn't it, and they've posted those brilliant billboards of the hometowns of the players that were their message of support, to G the players along.

I have to tell you, though, if the U.S. think they've waited a long time for this reappearance at the World Cup, they are up against a Wales Squad, who are definitely keen to make the most of this moment. 64 years, since 1958, they have been waiting for this reappearance at the World Cup. And, of course, they are led by their charismatic (ph) captain and striker, Garreth Bale, a man a lot of these U.S. players know because he was very instrumental in guiding LAFC to their MLS Cup final victory just a few weeks ago.

SCIUTTO: Yes, he dangerous. American players have to be watching him.

Another moment, just significant, during Iran's first World Cup match today against England, they lost that match. But before, there was this moment, team members just seemed to send a message by not singing the national anthem. What do we know was behind this?

DAVIES: Yes. A lot of questions had been asked in the build up to Iran's first game at this tournament, because we've seen over the last few weeks a kind of growing trend of senior high-profile Iranian athletes showing their support, their solidarity for the anti- government protesters at home.

We're now over two months into these ongoing protests, aren't we? The players have kept the cause very close to their chest. But defender Ehsan Hajsafi had said felt that he that he and his teammates were the voice of those suffering at home. And when they came out, they lined for the anthems. It really did seem that they all purposefully kept quiet, not singing the anthem. It was given a great, rousing reception, really emotional moments inside the stadium.

I have to say, it didn't go so well for them on the pitch. They were pretty resolutely beaten, 6-2, by England. But some things are a little bit more important than the football, aren't they?


SCIUTTO: For sure. A stand like that, very courageous when you are dealing with a country like Iran.

Amanda Davies, enjoy the show out there. Thanks so much for joining us.