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President Biden Signs Debt Limit Bill Averting U.S. Default; GOP 2024 Presidential Hopefuls Gather In Iowa; Trump Lawyers Can't Find Document He Discusses On Tape; At Least 280 Killed In India's Worst Rail Disaster In Decades; Ukraine Uses Army Of Drones To Fight Russia; Experts Warn AI Could Lead To Human Extinction; Industry Leaders Say A.I. Poses "Risk Of Extinction"; The Growing GOP Presidential Field; Pride Events In Florida Scaled Back Over Backlash; Chick-Fil-A Becomes New Target Of Angi-Gay Ire. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired June 03, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.
It's now official, crisis averted. Earlier this afternoon President Biden signed into law the bipartisan bill that raises the nation's debt limit. That prevents the federal government from running out of money to pay its bills. Experts said that a default, the first in American history, would have been catastrophic for the U.S. and global economies.
CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins us live from the White House.
Priscilla, the president has really emphasized how close to the cliff this country came. But he had a couple of days to spare. What was his message today?
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and he made clear in his remarks on Friday evening that it was high stakes. And look, this was the outcome of painstaking negotiations over the last few months and especially weeks.
Recall that just a week ago, we were covering the breakthrough when President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had reached a tentative agreement. Now a week later you see a photo there from the White House of President Biden signing this into law and averting what would have been the nation's first default.
Now, in his remarks from the Oval Office on Friday evening, President Biden emphasized the bipartisanship and the work that was done between Republican negotiators and White House negotiators to get to this point.
Now of course, there has been criticism from President Biden's allies on the left as to what concessions were made, and President Biden noted that not everyone got what they wanted but what he did hear was also trying to tie in his -- all of the elements of his presidency, reaching an agreement with Republicans on this debt ceiling as well as looking forward in terms of unity and the expectation of how to work with lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans moving forward. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know bipartisanship is hard. And unity is hard. But we can never stop trying. Because in moments like this one, the ones we just faced where the American economy and the world economy is at risk of collapsing, there's no other way. No matter how tough our politics gets, we need to see each other not as adversaries but as fellow Americans. Treat each other with dignity and respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALVAREZ: Now President Biden also commended House Speaker McCarthy in those remarks, especially what he's called his good faith negotiations, but ultimately what we saw was President Biden taking a victory lap. And recall the White House has been pretty silent until this moment over the course of those negotiations and what they would entail, but now with the bill signed, the White House is making clear that they got it to the finish line, a default has been avoided and now it's moving forward from here -- Jim.
ACOSTA: All right, Priscilla Alvarez, thank you very much.
Just minutes from now an early window into the GOP presidential race will close. This is the Annual Roast and Ride gathering hosted by Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa. The state is the first in the nation for the Republicans' nominating process and nearly all the party's presidential candidates and likely candidates are campaigning at the event which is now wrapping up.
One face you do not see here is, of course, the former president Donald Trump. He is skipping this get-together.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now from Des Moines.
Jeff, what was the enthusiasm level there and I guess any, you know, clouds on the horizon there since Donald Trump is not there. He looms over everything but he's not a part of this. Does that change the event at all?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the speeches actually just finished just a couple of moments ago and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was the final speaker. He put an exclamation point on really an argument and a rallying cry Republicans have been making but he ended with something quite interesting. He said we have to end the culture of losing that has infected the Republican Party.
This has been a message he's been developing and building as he's campaigned here in Iowa earlier this week on to New Hampshire and South Carolina. He doesn't mention Donald Trump by name but that is exactly what he is talking about. He gives a veiled reference to the midterm defeats that Republicans had in 2018 and 2022 that a lot of Republicans essentially blamed on candidates supported by former president Donald Trump.
But as you said, Donald Trump was not here today but there were just a parade of other Republican hopefuls making the case, making introductions to these Republican voters and activists. They were, of course, railing against the Biden administration's policies but talking about how they need to win back the White House and a sense of having to turn the page here.
But we also got a hint of what former Vice President Mike Pence plans to do next week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: And I don't have anything to announce today but I can tell you, when I got time to announce come this Wednesday, I'm announcing in Iowa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So Mike Pence giving a bit of a tease there on something that we've been reporting for days. He will announce officially on Wednesday here in Iowa and that really sets up an interesting contrast. Actually, I was sort of surprised or certainly noticed the warm reception that Mike Pence got here in the room of several hundred Republican activists. There has been a question of how he'll be received in this very Trumpy Republican Party, if you will, but received a very warm applause.
He's going to be running to an evangelical lane, if you will, appealing to those voters here. He also is the only candidate to actually ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle here today, Jim. It's called the Roast and Ride. The roasting is of course a pig roast and riding is riding a Harley as Senator Joni Ernst does -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Yes, Jeff, we were just looking at that video a few moments ago. Tell us about that, the former vice president was -- did he get on the back of the Harley and ride down the highway or was it just the parking lot? How did that go? And I guess I can't get over what you were just saying a few moments ago, Jeff, and that is, he was greeted warmly, it sounds like what you're saying, and not perhaps what we might have expected because of all of that vitriol he faced on January 6th and the weeks that followed that day back in 2021.
ZELENY: Look, what you're going to see is he's announcing his presidential bid. They're trying to revert to the first chapter of his life, the first part of his record as an Indiana congressman, as the Indiana governor. Of course he was Donald Trump's vice president. He'll contend with that as well. But by riding the bike there you can see him alongside his wife Karen Pence.
So they did drive for several miles. He followed Senator Ernst over here to the Iowa fairground. So this is something he said it was great to be back on a bike. So he's again trying to show that he is a man from out here in the country. It is hard to imagine that he would be able to overcome all of the skepticism and hatred toward him among Trump supporters. He knows that. But he is also clearly going to make these deeply conservative arguments.
He just goes right up to the line of saying that Donald Trump is not a fiscal conservative. He goes right up to the line of saying, look, we spent too much during our administration, so, look, it's a challenging road for him, an uphill climb. He knows that but certainly a warm reception from here today. This is more of the establishment wing of the Republican Party to the extent that exists anymore. But he'll be officially announcing on Wednesday and, of course, having a CNN town hall that evening as well -- Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. The former vice president trying to find a lane in this Republican nominating process.
ACOSTA: Jeff Zeleny in Iowa, where else would Jeff be at this point in the campaign? All right, Jeff, thanks so much. Great to talk to you.
Now to a new development in a story CNN first reported. We've told you that federal prosecutors obtained an audio recording of former president Donald Trump acknowledging that he held on to a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran. The Justice Department issued a subpoena for the documents. Now in a new development Trump's attorneys say they can't find them.
CNN politics reporter Jeremy Herb joins us now.
Jeremy, update us on where things stand. I guess they haven't found the document. What does this mean for the Justice Department investigation?
JEREMY HERB, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, I think you know what this underscores is just how much of a flurry of activity, of investigative activity that we have seen from the special counsel investigation in recent months. Now this effort to find this document it dates back to March. That's when Donald Trump received a subpoena to turn over this classified document that he has heard about talking on tape and claiming he has in his possession.
He got the subpoena after one of his communications aides Margo Martin appeared before the grand jury and Margo was in this meeting with Trump in 2021 when he was talking about this document. Now Trump's attorneys, they looked for the document. They did find some material related to the subpoena that they were able to turn over but they could not find the document itself. And this document is allegedly about Pentagon -- a potential Pentagon plan to attack Iran.
Now what we don't know, it's unclear if this document has already perhaps been turned over in one of the tranches that were given to the government, if it's still missing or if Trump even had it in his possession as he claimed he did. I think one of the important things, though, is that on this tape where Trump is talking about the document he appears to acknowledge that it is a classified document which could undercut one of the defenses if there is a case that is brought against him going forward on this case -- Jim.
ACOSTA: And, Jeremy, the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney is now seeking information that two firms Trump hired to look at 2020 voter fraud claims debunked those claims. What is she looking for?
HERB: Yes, so this is the separate Fulton County investigation from Fani Willis, and she's looking for information from these two firms. They were hired by the Trump campaign to try to find voter fraud after the 2020 election. In fact, what both of these firms found was there was not evidence of voter fraud and that they undercut some of the claims that Donald Trump was making.
I think what the district attorney is looking for here is a pattern, a pattern of trying to -- of knowledge in the Trump campaign and for the former president that there was no voter fraud in 2020.
Now, the district attorney, she is investigating efforts to overturn the election in Georgia and she's expected to announce whether there will be any charges in that investigation in August. So this is one where we just have to stay tuned -- Jim.
ACOSTA: All right, Jeremy Herb, we will do just that. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.
We are following the latest developments out of India where rescue teams are combing through the aftermath of the country's worst rail disaster in two decades. It now halted operations for the night but survivors describe a horrifying scene of mangled steel and dismembered bodies.
CNN's Ivan Watson is on the story for us.
Ivan, what's the latest?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, Indian government officials are describing this as one of the deadliest train accidents that this country has seen in a century. A staggering death toll from the crash on Friday evening in India's eastern Odisha state. More than 280 people killed. More than a thousand people injured.
You basically had three trains that collided, two passenger trains and a cargo train with derailments, and the rescue workers describing bodies still believed to be trapped under overturned and derailed train cars. They say they brought in a crane to help lift some of these, they fear that there are probably -- there's little chance of any additional survivors being rescued. But have also described more bodies being trapped underneath these enormous railroad cars.
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was supposed to be inaugurating a new high-speed train for the country. But instead he had to rush to the scene of this awful disaster to meet with some of the survivors to express his grief on the part of the government for the enormous death toll here, and also to vow for an investigation and that whoever is responsible for this, he says, will be brought to justice.
There have been messages of condolences pouring in. Everybody from Pope Francis to the prime minister of the U.K., Pakistan, India's neighbor and rival, all calling in. As for what could potentially have been the cause of this awful disaster, one railroad official tells CNN this could have been a signaling error and that could have either been caused by human error or by some kind of technical malfunction. There is an investigation that will be underway -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Ivan Watson, thanks very much.
Ukraine's president tells "The Wall Street Journal" his country is ready for its counteroffensive in the war against Russia. That's next. Also ahead, a grave warning from artificial intelligence industry leaders and researchers, why they say an extinction event could happen unless regulating AI becomes a global priority. And later the truth is out there as NASA reveals its findings on unidentified aerial phenomenon.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: The long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive could be imminent. President Zelenskyy finally confirms in an interview that Ukraine is ready. He tells "The Wall Street Journal" he's confident it will be successful but can't say how long it will take.
His declaration comes as Ukraine sees some of its most successful incursions inside Russian territory. Kyiv still denies any involvement in attacks on Russia's Belgorod region. Some groups responsible are made up of Russian fighters opposed to Putin. Belgorod's governor says at least seven people have died in the region since Friday.
Ukraine says Russia may have the larger army but -- and more weapons but there's one advantage that they do have, creativity in the sky.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen takes us inside Ukraine's army of drones.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Can this fly into Russia?
VALERIY BOROVYK, CEO, ALLIANCE: Yes.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Valeriy Borovyk's company makes combat drones for Ukrainian frontline troops, and they allowed us to film test flights at a secret location. And he says, reaching Moscow is not a problem.
BOROVYK: We have a bigger drone for 700 kilometers with warhead 20 kilograms.
PLEITGEN (on-camera): And that could fly almost all the way to Moscow.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): While Ukraine denies direct involvement in the recent Moscow drone attack, Kyiv has drastically expanded its use of drones for everything from surveillance to directly bombing Russian ground troops. Cheap, easy to use, and lethal, UAVs, once considered toys, are now vital to Kyiv's war efforts.
(On-camera): The Ukrainians say for them drones are the big equalizer in this war. They say the Russians have more tanks, more artillery, and more planes. But the Ukrainians have the creativity of their population.
(Voice-over): This is a drone competition organized by Ukraine's government with simulated attacks on ground targets, chasing fixed wing drones, and even drone dogfights.
We were granted exclusive access on the condition we don't reveal the location.
It's like a startup fare for FPV or first-person view drones, small UAVs that can drop mortars and grenades flown by pilots wearing VR goggles from a makeshift trench to simulate the battlefield.
DENIS SEGA, DRONE OPERATOR (through translator): Our drones are very easy to use, especially if the pilot has flown similar drones. I think they will intuitively understand how they work.
PLEITGEN: The stakes are immense, a general involved in drone procurement for Ukraine's military tells me.
BRIGADIER GEN. YURIY SHCHYHOL, HEAD OF UKRAINE STATE SERVICE OF SPECIAL COMMUNICATION (through translator): About 30 companies in Ukraine are already mass producing these drones and our goal is to purchase up to 200,000 by the end of the year.
PLEITGEN: Their backs up against the wall. When Russia's massive army invaded last year, the Ukrainians quickly realized cheap air power could help keep them in the fight. First using modified consumer drones, now with more sophisticated UAVs developed in Ukraine. What the government here calls the Army of Drones Project, spearheaded by the Minister of Digital Transformation.
MYKHAILO FEDOROV, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION (through translator): This is a technological war and it's very important to understand how technology is developing and what we as a state can do to increase the number of drones. A certain revolution is also taking place regarding production scaling.
PLEITGEN: And while the Ukrainians still won't admit direct involvement, the Russians do admit they are concerned they might soon see more armed drones flying towards Moscow.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.
ACOSTA: Are we being smart about artificial intelligence? Hundreds of AI experts are out with a warning that the technology could lead to human extinction. We'll speak to one of those experts next.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: There's an ominous new warning about artificial intelligence. Top experts have signed a statement claiming that AI could lead to global extinction. It's just one sentence long. It reads, "Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war."
Dan Hendrycks is the head of the Center for AI Safety. That's the organization that released the letter.
Dan, how did this letter come about?
DAN HENDRYCKS, EXECUTIVE AND RESEARCH DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AI SAFETY: We put together the letter largely because we were noticing that a lot of academics, a lot of the professors who are studying artificial intelligence were starting to get very concerned about the risks given the rapid developments in recent months.
But it wasn't the case that people were open about this, so we created it so that people could sort of come out and express that they are, in fact, now concerned that we're on a trajectory where advanced AI systems could pose larger risks like extinction and that this should be a priority in the way that we treat nuclear weapons and pandemics.
ACOSTA: OK. And how would this work? How would AI make the leap to some kind of technology that would lead to human extinction? What are we talking about here? Because people have -- I mean, I'm sure you've heard this. People envisioned something like out of "The Terminator" or something like that.
HENDRYCKS: Yes. So certainly when there are like advances in robotics that could make things dangerous but right now the current chatbots are not particularly dangerous. We're not talking about the models today suddenly becoming extremely dangerous. It's more noting the fact that we're on an extremely fast trajectory because the AI companies are in arms race so they're rapidly developing AI systems.
So in the future, they should be able to perform lots of complicated sequences of actions and plans, things like that. So one person tried releasing an AI system that would try to take over the world. Fortunately, it's not competent enough to do that. Malicious use isn't that much of a concern -- isn't potentially existential today but when later on when it can plan, when it can hack, when it can make bioweapons, things like that, then it could potentially become substantially more catastrophic or cause extinction.
So it's more of a comment about we're on a fast trajectory because of the AI race and in the future they could be a lot more dangerous.
ACOSTA: And, I mean, we should note that you and these co-signers on this letter are leaders in the AI field. You all presumably believe in the promises of AI, want to see it advanced in positive ways. Do you wish you had not gone into this field?
HENDRYCKS: So I actually got into this field largely because of safety but I think a lot of other people were wanting to get at the benefits and it's possible for us to get at the benefits but we're going to have to really prioritize safety and make sure that we can bring development so that this is down to a negligible -- the risks are down to a negligible level.
It's very difficult to do it right now because since the companies are locked in an AI arms race they're prioritizing the development and the power and profit from these AI systems over their safety. So consequently that's going to be the case as long as they're racing, they're going to keep racing forward, they're going to make them more powerful, so I think we're going to have to try to cooperate and treat this as a broader priority so that we can proceed more prudently and less hastily in AI development.
ACOSTA: And what about focusing on AI's more immediate threats like jobs being threatened, discrimination, invasions of privacy? I mean, I suppose an AI technology could really, you know, wreak havoc in that regard in terms of privacy. What about those areas? Are you concerned about that? What should be done about that?
HENDRYCKS: I think -- I think those are important, too. I think for risk management it makes sense to have a yes and approach, that we're concerned about ongoing risks.
We're concerned about these catastrophic or extinction-level types of risks.
They end up interacting with each other quite a bit, too, so that if, for example, automation, right now, would end up transferring a lot more power and decision-making over to A.I. systems.
So for automating warfare, for instance, automating weapons, that makes the A.I. systems potentially more dangerous in the long run.
So I think it makes a lot of sense to keep track of things like automation and discrimination.
Misinformation, for instance, might -- it'll be a big topic in the upcoming election.
HENDRYCKS: A.I. can create a lot of fake information. This could erode some of the fabric of society and would be substantially ill-equipped to handle other risks that A.I. will be posing down the road.
So it's important to be proactive about current risks, too.
ACOSTA: Sounds like a lot of folks in Washington better be paying attention to this. It's a rapidly growing and evolving industry.
Dan Hendrycks, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.
HENDRYCKS: Thank you.
ACOSTA: And former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is set to announce his run for the presidential nomination next week. Does he have a chance? And what about the rest of the growing field? We'll run the numbers.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: Tomorrow night, live from Iowa, Jake Tapper moderates a CNN Republican presidential town hall with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. That's tomorrow night at 8:00, only on CNN.
In the meantime, this coming week, more Republicans are expected to join the growing list of presidential candidates but do they have a realistic chance at the nomination?
CNN senior data reporter, Harry Enten, joins us to run the numbers.
Harry, let's start with Nikki Haley. How is she polling nationally and in her home state of South Carolina? What's it look like?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Not good is the term that I would use. A very clinical term, Jim.
Look, at this particular point, Donald Trump is running away with this race nationally. You see he has a 30-point lead on Ron DeSantis. And he's up by 50 points over Nikki Haley.
But look at South Carolina, that's a clear indication of how wide Trump support is. And you can see, in South Carolina, he's at 41 percent. That's a little weaker than he is nationally.
But, look, he's up 20 points over DeSantis. And he's even up significantly over Nikki Haley. And this is something we see in state poll after state poll after state poll. That is Trump is leading everywhere. including in other candidates' home states.
And that is the sign of someone who is truly strong. And in Haley's case, it's a sign of someone who, at this particular point, isn't really going anywhere.
ACOSTA: Yes, I mean, I remember when Trump knocked Marco Rubio out of the race down in Florida and Trump was able to triumph there. And it can be just devastating to a candidate from a particular state.
And three more Republicans are expected to join the race this week, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Doug Burgum.
Are they resonating with voters at all? I suppose it's maybe too early to ask that question about Chris Christie and maybe Mike Pence, too. He hasn't officially announced.
But what do you see in the numbers?
ENTEN: Yes, I mean, at this particular point, none of these candidates are resonating.
Mike Pence is the highest of them all, tied for third place nationally with Nikki Haley at 4 percent. You see Christie and Burgum at just 1 percent of the vote and they are both tied for seventh place.
I think this is part of the problem, right? You have Trump who is well out ahead. Then you have DeSantis. And then, basically, it's a clown car between basically third and ninth or tenth place. There are enough candidates at this point to field a baseball team.
So I really do wonder if any of these candidates on the lower end of the spectrum can break out. There are so many splitting such a small percentage of the vote because Trump is getting a majority nationally -- Jim?
ACOSTA: And what about the history of low-polling candidates? Fill us in on this. There has to be some history of people who are back in the pack rising to the top.
ENTEN: There is. I mean, there are some candidates who polled lowly in the past two rows to the top. Bill Clinton jumped in 1992, Carter in '76. But in all of those cases, what you had was a polling leader who was really only in the 20s if not lower.
So if you look at candidates polling below 5 percent at this point, they have won zero out of six primaries when the leader polled at 35 percent or higher, like Trump is.
And I think that's the real issue here. It's not that you can't come from behind when you're polling low. It's that there really isn't that history of candidates who are polling low coming from behind when the leader is as high as Trump is.
And so the real question is, look, we have a sample size of six, can somebody actually break out, which hasn't happened historically? But, hey, look, history is made to be broken -- Jim?
ACOSTA: Absolutely, but that number that you just put up on screen, that just shows you what a tall order this is even with a very crowded field of candidates. And I suppose you could argue even with a crowd of candidates it's even tougher.
Let me ask you about Chris Christie, because he says he's in the race to go right after Donald Trump. Is he the best candidate to do that from a numbers standpoint from what you're seeing?
ENTEN: I don't really believe that he is. Because take a look at unfavorable ratings with GOP voters and the June before the primaries since 1980. Chris Christie is the second worst ever.
His unfavorable rating 44 percent. He just doesn't resonate with Republican voters.
It could be, if he goes after Donald Trump, Trump, in fact, may benefit from it because, say, hey, wait a minute, this guy we don't like is going after Trump.
So, look, we'll wait and see. But the fact is Chris Christie not a popular guy on the Republican side.
Harry Enten, thanks very much.
Check out Harry's podcast, "MARGINS OF ERROR." Find it on your favorite podcast app or CNN.com/audio.
In the meantime, June is Pride Month and this year comes as right-wing figures are taking on businesses who show support for the LGBTQ community. What is behind this? We'll talk about that. It's coming up in a few minutes,
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: A Trump-appointed federal judge in Tennessee rules that the state's new law restricting drag shows is unconstitutional. He called it a restriction of free speech.
This comes just a few days into Pride Month. It's normally a time where companies celebrate diversity and sell Pride merchandise. But this year, protesters are threatening workers and damaging rainbow- themed products.
And in Florida, Pride celebrations are being scaled back or outright canceled.
And CNN's Victor Blackwell takes a look at that.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Pride across Florida will be noticeably less colorful this year. Festival organizers are making significant changes or canceling altogether some LGBTQ-plus celebrations.
They fear potential consequences from Governor Ron DeSantis's new law that many believe targets public drag performances, a mainstay of Pride events.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome, welcome to St. Cloud's first Pride event.
KRISTINA BOZANICH, COORDINATOR, PRIDE IN ST. CLOUD: It's very disheartening.
Kristina Bozanich, coordinator of Pride in St. Cloud, canceled the Orlando-area event that was planned to include drag performers.
According to the new laws signed by DeSantis just weeks ago, local governments are banned from issuing public permits for events that include some adult live performances.
Venues risk steep fines and losing licensing if a child is present. Knowingly admitting a child would be a first-degree misdemeanor.
BOZANICH: Once the bill was signed, I said, we can restructure the event, we'll make sure it's only 18 and up for that portion. They went and talked with all the performers and came back to me and said, we're really sorry, but we just don't feel safe.
BLACKWELL: Organizers in Port St. Lucie canceled its annual Pride Parade. They reached an agreement with the city to host a slimmed-down festival. Drag performers were welcome. But anyone under 21 was not.
STEPHANIE PEYMAN, STUDENT: I was in the closet for so many years and I still face hatred and oppression. And I came up with my own PrideFest.
BLACKWELL: Kissimmee Pride is on but drag indoors only.
STEPHANIE BECHARA, COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC MANAGER, CITY OF KISSIMMEE: For example, Drag Bingo will be taking place inside of our civic center. And it will be an event where we will be requiring IDs. And we're also asking folks to go ahead and pre-register online to participate.
BLACKWELL: John Paonessa's Orlando restaurant, Hamburger Mary's, hosts drag shows most nights. He's filed a federal lawsuit against the state. He claims he's losing business because of the new law.
DeSantis's office has not responded to a CNN request for comment on the lawsuit.
JOHN PAONESSA, OWNER, HAMBURGER MARY'S: We have a street party with a stage with performers out front during Pride. We usually get three or 4,000 people in the street watching. That's something we can't do.
BLACKWELL: At the start of a month, that's, in part, a celebration of visibility, some feel that the Sunshine State is shoving them back into darkness. PAONESSA: Now, with the governor stepping in and the legislation that's going through, it's -- we're moving back in time. And it's unfortunate for us and everybody else in the state because, what they're doing, it's heartbreaking.
BLACKWELL (on camera): These are the beginnings of Gay Days here in central Florida. More than 150,000 people are expected to come here from around the world to celebrate Pride. They'll be at the major theme parks wearing red shirts to be seen.
In a statement from the CEO of Gay Days, he says that they are working with their hotels and different venues to make sure that they don't run afoul of the new law.
However, according to the Web site, there is a drag queen bingo event that is advertised as open to all ages. So we'll see how they navigate that. They've also invited Governor DeSantis to the event. It's unlikely he will attend.
Victor Blackwell, CNN, Orlando.
ACOSTA: To dive into this more, I want to welcome in Kelley Robinson, president of The Human Rights Campaign, and Carl Gould, president of 7 Stage Advisers, a company that coaches and consults businesses.
Kelley, let me start with you first.
Pride Month did not used to be this controversial in recent years. What changed?
KELLEY ROBINSON, PRESIDENT, THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: I want to say this. Pride Month still isn't controversial. The majority of Americans support companies that stand with the LGBTQ community.
And we know that the size of our community is growing. One in seven adults identify as a member of the community, one of four of Generation Z.
This is not a fringe issue. What is happening right now is backlash from an extremist part of the right-wing community that is attacking us.
Attacking us physically in the places that we live, attacking us where we shop and attacking us where we work.
This is a crisis moment where we have to identify it for what it is. It's not about Pride. It's about the extremists that are attacking the community and need to be held accountable.
ACOSTA: And, Carl, I want to talk about Chick-Fil-A. Years ago, the fast-food giant was donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations. And now has become a target in right-wing media because it has an executive overseeing diversity, equity and inclusion. If you were advising them, what would you say? What is your response
to that? Because Chick-Fil-A used to be a darling, a very conservative Americans. That's quite a turn of events.
CARL GOULD, PRESIDENT, 7 STAGE ADVISERS: It is. And what we're seeing is -- what I would say to Chick-Fil-A, if advising them, you have to go all the way here. You have to decide you are standing behind this movement or you are not.
And really that way their customers, their LGBTQ customers know that Chick-Fil-A has their back.
And what happens, Chick-Fil-A targeted to some degree. Bud Light for sure got themselves into trouble because they kind of backed off their support.
They say it, they say they're supporting, they get a little bit of backlash, then they back off a little bit.
And that little bit of incongruence to their client base, that's where they get themselves in trouble. They need to go all the way.
ACOSTA: And, Kelley, it's not just big corporations under fire. Sports teams have stepped in it, too. The L.A. Dodgers flipped back and forth on whether or not to invite a drag group to its Pride Night.
In the face of the outrage and, in some cases, a financial hit, what do you think? What do you think these companies should do?
ROBINSON: They have to stand firm in their values. And they also have to be assured that the majority of the country is with them.
Again, this is an extreme segment of the right wing that is launching an attack. The same folks that are targeting the Dodgers and Target are the ones pushing hundreds of pieces of anti-LGBTQ-plus legislation in the states.
They're the same ones pushing campaigns of harassment and bullying against our community online. They are the same ones that are launching these attacks.
So what companies need to do is to stand firm in your values, to stand up to the bullies.
We have seen examples, from Disney to Nike, that when they stand firm in their values, when they are unwavering, the community shows up in support. And at the end of the day, the bullies back down.
There can't be cowering to the bullies in this moment. And that's our call to every company, to stand bold in your values, especially during Pride season.
ACOSTA: Carl, why can't some of these companies --
ACOSTA: -- grow a backbone on this?
GOULD: Well, you just nailed it. I agree with Kelley. You have to be all in or all out.
And there's a difference between aligning with your core values and then trying to impose them on your -- on the marketplace.
Just like Kelley said, when a company says, these are our core values, we are in alignment with them and we're going to live along with them, then it's fine. The marketplace responds very well.
It's when they don't grow the backbone and they're trying to be all things to all people. And not every company and not every product is all things to all people.
So from a business standpoint, you have to decide on who your ideal client avatar is, your persona or your demographic, as people would say, and then you have to speak directly to them. And that means saying no to some other people.
Sports leagues, beverage companies, they try to grab everybody. They try to be inclusive when maybe they're really not. When they're out of alignment it shows. That's when the backlash starts.
ACOSTA: Kelley, as of May 26th, the ACLU says 491 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced across the country. That is, by far, a record.
Do you think this is only going to get worse as we approach the 2024 election season? We're kind of in the thick of it now. And you have candidates who want to make some hay out of this.
ROBINSON: Absolutely. Unfortunately, I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. The impact of these bills being introduced, whether or not they're signed into law, is it's creating a culture of fear in the community.
They are literally trying to push us back into the closet, to drive us back into a time when we had to meet in places that had no windows and to hide our identities. We are not going back there.
This Pride season, we're showing up boldly, defiantly, and joyfully to make sure of that.
And I think we also have to be clear that this is just not where the majority of Americans are.
It's good for business to do this. It's good for the community, as well. And 70 percent of non-LGBTQ-plus people believe that companies should publicly support and include the LGBTQ-plus community in hiring practices, advertising, and more.
This is a moment where all of us, if you're a company, if you're a teacher, if you're an employer, if you're a consumer, need to stand up. And when we do not let them allow us to waver in our values, that's
when the attacks will end. It's time to stand up to these bullies.
ACOSTA: And, Carl, does the campaign season make it more difficult, more complicated for these companies, or should they sense an opportunity here?
GOULD: Well, I think it's a little bit of both of what you said. It is an opportunity.
Will it be harder? Yes, because the company is going to have to be disciplined. The company is going to have to be willing to say, listen, we back this community, we stand behind them no matter what.
And there will be some backlash. They have to be willing to deal with a little bit of that noise or that little bit of that backlash and stay on point and stay on message.
If they're willing to take that first wave of some pushback from certain segments, again, it will quiet down.
Just like a lot of other either radical groups or even our kids, they test us. Are you really going to stand behind your word? Are you really going to stay committed?
If the companies show they will, there's a lot of examples of -- like Nike being one of them -- where -- where the market will respond positively, and some of that backlash will go away.
ACOSTA: Yes. Younger Americans, Gen-Z, they are well beyond this as an issue. I mean, they have accepted this as just a normal part of American life. I mean, there's just no turning back for younger Americans on this issue.
All right. Kelley and Carl, thank you so much. Happy Pride Month. It's a great time of the year. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.
Coming up, the son and 8-year-old grandson of a former Red Sox baseball star found dead. The latest ahead.
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