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White House On The Offensive Over Special Counsel Report; Trump Attacks Foreign Aid, Nikki Haley In South Carolina; IDF Said To Be Preparing For Ground Offensive In Rafah; Nigerian Banking CEO Herbert Wigwe Among 6 Killed; Taylor Swift's Impact On The NFL. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired February 11, 2024 - 05:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong. Ahead on CNN Newsroom. The White House on the offensive after that scathing special counsel report critical of Joe Biden's mental acuity. We'll look at who's under fire for not doing enough to protect the President.

Plus --


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald, if you have something to say, don't say it behind my back. Get on a debate stage and say it to my face.


COREN: Well, Nikki Haley responds to Donald Trump's latest personal attack, but it's his message to Russia and warning to NATO members it's raising concerns.

And Las Vegas is ready for some football as fans prepare for Kansas City to take on San Francisco in the Super Bowl. We'll look at how Taylor Swift is getting more women than ever to watch the NFL and how the league is responding.

We begin in Washington, where the White House is on the offensive, working to get ahead of the uproar over a recent Special Counsel report. The First Lady added her voice to those criticizing the report's language, taking issue like her husband with a suggestion he didn't know when his son died.

She wrote, quote, "I can't imagine someone would try to use our son's death to score political points. If you've experienced a loss like that, you know that you don't measure it in years, you measure it in grief."

Well, CNN's Priscilla Alvarez reports from Washington.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House is going on the offensive and taking direct aim at Republicans and President Joe Biden's critics over his age, saying in a newly released memo on Saturday, quote, "This undeniable record,' referring to the President's legislative accomplishments, 'speaks to why it's no surprise that Republican officials continue their desperate and inadvertently self-undermining age attacks after many years of failure. They're afraid of Joe Biden."

Now, this memo also goes on to make notable mentions of people like General Mark Milley and former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who have called the President alert and engaged.

But of course, this comes on the heels of that special counsel report that also mentioned the President's age and apparent memory lapses. Now, this had aids to the President fuming over the course of the week who pushed back and said the President is sharp and tireless.

We also saw that anger spill into public view from the President himself, who took particular issue with the Special Counsel, suggesting that he had forgotten the day his son died.

Now, all of this is part of what is going to be a defining theme for the presidential election year, that being the president's age and fitness for office. Senior campaign officials say that the President is best when he is out on the campaign trail engaging with voters. And we have seen an uptake in traditional retail politics stops for him to do exactly that.

And that is ultimately them, the voters, who are going to pass judgment on whether the President is fit to serve a second term. But of course, polls show that there's still some concern here about how old he is.

But again, campaign officials and White House officials well aware of that, see it as something that they can navigate and remind the American people who he is and what he is like when he engages on the campaign trail. Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, Washington.


COREN: Well, the White House is also blasting remarks made by the likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that could alarm Europe and impact U.S. relations with NATO allies. The remarks were made Saturday at a campaign rally in South Carolina. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I came in, I made a speech, and I said, you got to pay up. They asked me that question. One of the presidents of a big country stood up, said, well, sir, if we don't pay and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said, you didn't pay? You're delinquent? He said, yes. Let's say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. (END VIDEO CLIP)


COREN: Well, the statement is extraordinary, in many ways, not least because it goes against the core premise of NATO collective defense. And NATO countries are not delinquent on any financial obligations or pay their share of the common budget.

In a statement late Saturday, the White House condemned Trump's comments saying, quote, "encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged, and it endangers American national security, global stability, and our economy at home."

Trump is also blasting the idea that the U.S. would give aid to any of its allies unless there are, quote, "strings attached." He wrote on social media saying the United States is stupid for offering support without the hope of payback and celebrated the failure of a bipartisan $118 billion border deal and aid package earlier this week.


TRUMP: I said, why do we do this? If you do, you give them not $100 billion, you give it to them as a loan. It's called a loan. Give them the money, and if they can pay it back, they pay it back. If they can't pay it back, they don't have to pay it back because, you know, they've got some problems. If that happens to our country, then very simply, we call the loan, and we say we want our money.


COREN: Trump is speaking out about a lot of topics on the campaign trail. He's not just attacking foreign aid, but targeting his Republican opponent, Nikki Haley, in a very personal way. Alayna Treene has the details.


ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Former President Donald Trump set foot in South Carolina for the first time this year and had a clear message to deliver to his supporters, which is, that this is his state to lose.

Now, Donald Trump and his campaign really do look at South Carolina as the place where they will deliver the final blow to Nikki Haley's campaign. And they tell me that's because he continues to do so well in the polls in this state. If you look at the past several months, he's consistently been leading her by an overwhelming margin, but it's also because of the intensity they've seen for him on the ground.

On Saturday, for example, many people showed up. The venue was packed and a lot of people could not get in and it hit full capacity very early on. So that just gives you a sense how strong the energy is for Donald Trump here in the Palmetto State.

But look, Donald Trump spent a lot of his speech on Saturday going after Nikki Haley, even though they are very confident in his chances here. He continued to ramp up his attacks on her. And at one point, he even questioned the absence of her husband on the trail. Take a listen.

TRUMP: Where's her husband? Oh, he's away. He's away. What happened to her husband? What happened to her husband? Where is he? He's gone.

TREENE: Now I just want to be very clear here that Michael Haley, Nikki Haley's husband is currently deployed in Africa and that's why he's not appeared on the trail alongside his wife. But I also think it's important to note that Melania Trump, the former First Lady, has not been appearing on the campaign trail or in any court appearances with her husband Donald Trump as well.

The only time we really saw her appear with him so far in the 2024 election cycle was when he launched his bid for the White House in 2022. But look, Donald Trump did not just attack Nikki Haley, he also spent a lot of time testing his general election rhetoric against President Joe Biden.

He attacked Biden's handling of the southern border and he also ramped up criticism of the Justice Department's decision not to charge Biden over his handling of classified documents. He also repeatedly criticized Joe Biden's mental fitness and what Special Counsel Robert Hur described as a "poor memory."

Alayna Treene, CNN, Conway, South Carolina.


COREN: Nikki Haley fired back at Trump after he made those remarks about her husband saying, Michael is deployed serving our country, something you know nothing about. Someone who continually disrespects the sacrifices of military families has no business being commander- in-chief.

Michael Haley also stepped in tweeting a meme at Donald Trump, which read, quote, "The difference between humans and animals? Animals would never allow the dumbest ones to lead the pack."

The stage is almost set for the biggest football game of the year, Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas. As you see in these live pictures, we are hours away from the kickoff. This year's event pits the Kansas City Chiefs who are looking for back-to-back titles against the San Francisco 49ers. The Super Bowl is, of course, the biggest night in sports.

But with Taylor Swift touching down in time to cheer on her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, it's a pretty safe bet, there will be almost as much attention on the pop star as there is on the game. It also has some of the tightest security of any event in the world.


CNN has a team of reporters and analysts standing by for the big game and the Taylor Swift craze. Well, more than a hundred million people are expected to tune in to watch tonight's Super Bowl on TV. On the ground, more than 30 law enforcement agencies have been working for the last 18 months to keep the event and travelers flying to the big game safe. CNN's Josh Campbell picks up our coverage.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: As fans await Super Bowl kickoff, law enforcement in the United States has been planning for months for this big event. The hundreds of thousands of fans who will be in and outside Allegiant Stadium will be protected by this massive deployment of law enforcement officers.

Some of the resources they're bringing include physical scanners for everyone going into the stadium. There are explosive detection canines. There are also sensors that are being deployed that essentially sniff the air for any type of chemical, biological, or nuclear type threat. That's what's happening on the ground.

In the air, a national security temporary flight restriction will be instituted just about an hour before kickoff that will be enforced by military fighter jets.

Now, one area of focus for law enforcement pertains to drones. Drone technology is obviously very cheap to obtain. There are a number of ways that bad actors could cause harm using a drone. And so the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have brought in counter drone technology.

The capabilities include being able to technically take over a drone, either drop it out of the sky, or perhaps take control, move it to another area if there's concern that it might contain a dangerous payload.

Now, at this point, all of this is precautionary. Law enforcement tells us that they haven't identified anything specifically gives them concern, but they're ready.

CATHY LANIER, CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE: There are no known specific or credible threats to the game or any of our events surrounding Super Bowl. As always, you'll see an increased security presence not only around the stadium on game day but also around all of our other events.

SPENCER EVANS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: We have FBI personnel stationed in our own Emergency Operations Center and at every joint command post and intelligence center operating throughout the Las Vegas Valley. We are monitoring and sharing every scrap of information that indicates a potential threat with all of our interagency, law enforcement and appropriate private sector partners.

CAMPBELL: Now, the work of law enforcement doesn't end with the final score of the game. They still have to get all of these people safely home. We're told by TSA that they will have increased personnel at Harry Reid International Airport. All security checkpoint lanes will be open for a period of about 48

hours. Of course, we know that not everyone leaves Las Vegas a winner, particularly for crestfallen fans from the losing side. TSA will be making their exit just a little bit smoother.

Josh Campbell, CNN, Los Angeles.


COREN: Pakistan's election results have finally come in, but it's still unclear who the next Prime Minister will be. A live report after the break.

We're getting a new look at the damage to Gaza City from the Israeli ground offensive. Ahead, hear from people who were trapped in the city during the fighting.

And the story of the little Palestinian girl that moved people around the world has a tragic ending. A live report and more on CNN Newsroom.



COREN: In Gaza City, some residents tell CNN that Israel's ground offensive left a scene of total destruction. This video was shot Saturday and shows damaged buildings, rubble, even extensive damage to the ground.

Palestinians who say they were trapped in Gaza tell CNN, there were dead bodies in the streets for more than a week because it was not safe to move them.


ABDUL KAREEM AL-QASEER, GAZA CITY RESIDENT (through translator): Every day there were martyrs. Every day there was shelling. Every day there was hunger. We even had to drink water from the toilets. We had to drink from it and make our children drink from it. There was no food, no drink.


COREN: Well, now Israel is said to be preparing for a ground offensive in Rafah. That's where the Israeli military told Palestinians to flee for safety. More than one million people are sheltering there, both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a warning that sending in Israeli troops could lead to serious repercussions.

For more on the situation, CNN's Nada Bashir is live in Cairo. But we begin with Elliott Gotkine live in London. Elliott, the Rafah offensive we believe is imminent. Where are the 1.3 million Gazans expected to go?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN JOURNALIST: We don't know yet, Anna, and I'm not quite sure that the Israeli authorities or the IDF knows precisely just yet either. Prime Minister Netanyahu has instructed the IDF to draw up a detailed plan to ensure safe passage for all of those Palestinians, more than a million Palestinians in Rafah.

And in an interview with ABC News, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that certain areas to the north, which have already been cleared by the IDF, since there were plenty of them there, that could potentially be one area that

those Palestinians could go to. But, of course, it's going to be a very tall order to move that many people, many of them who have already been displaced multiple times, to another area.

And if it proves unworkable, or if they decline to do so, the question is what happens next? But from Prime Minister Netanyahu's perspective, he says that if anyone says that Israel shouldn't go into Rafah, to deal with what they describe as the last bastion of Hamas, the four remaining brigades that Hamas has there, then they are simply telling Israel to lose the war and that Hamas should stay.

But of course, in addition to the concern expressed by the Emiratis, the Saudis, we've heard from the British Foreign Minister, from the European Union's Foreign Policy Chief, all expressing grave concern about the potential impact of a ground operation there in Rafah.

And of course, concern among the Palestinians themselves, many of whom have been displaced multiple times and allow living in desperate conditions there. They will say that, look, they've moved from other parts of the Gaza Strip, and this is where they thought they were going to be safe. Where can they go to now? And that's also something that the U.N.'s top humanitarian representative has been saying as well, that there is simply nowhere to go. So quite where they go, one imagines will become clearer once Israel has given more details on the precise nature of its plan and where it thinks they should go.


It says, we understand from an Israeli official that it wants to finish the operation in Rafah in time for Ramadan on March the 10th. That gives it just about a month to not just move all of these Palestinians out of the way safely, but also to get the job done when it comes to Hamas and destroy those remaining four battalions. Anna.

COREN: Elliott Gotkine in London, many thanks.

Let's now go to Cairo, where Nada Bashir has been following the tragic conclusion to the story of the little Palestinian girl trapped in a car with her dead relatives after their vehicle came under Israeli fire. Nada, what more are you learning?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, of course, we received that tragic confirmation from Hind Rajab's family, five-year-old Hind yesterday that she had indeed been killed in that car. For the last 12, 13 days, there had been hope that Hind may have survived. We'd heard that audio recording that she had made desperately pleading for help from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society before they lost contact with her. And the ambulance crew that had been dispatched to rescue her. Her family members had been waiting for days, and this is a child whose story has really captured the world's attention. But of course, as they have seen, like so many children in Gaza, we have had that confirmation that she has been killed.

A warning to our viewers some of the footage in this report will be distressing.


HIND RAJAB: (Speaking in foreign language.)

BASHIR: Five-year-old Hind Rajab, her playful voice cherished by all who knew her. But they will also be haunted by little Hind's terrified pleas heard in this audio recording.

RAJAB (through translation): Come take me. Will you come and take me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Do you want me to come and take you?

RAJAB (through translation): I'm so scared, please come.

BASHIR: Little Hind trapped in a car beside the bodies of her uncle, his wife, and their four children, all killed by Israeli fire. The Palestine Red Crescent says, while attempting to flee fighting in northern Gaza. All contact with Hind and the ambulance crew dispatched to rescue her lost just hours after her desperate call for help.

For 12 days, there was collective hope that Hind would be found alive. Her mother, desperate for her daughter's safe return, waited every day at the hospital gates. But now that hope is lost.

She was in the car for 12 days. May God punish all those who could have helped her and did not, Wissam says. And what did the Red Crescent crew that went to rescue her do to deserve this? To be burnt and killed? Why did you execute them when their sole mission was to rescue Hind?

The deep tracks of Israeli tanks are still visible, leading to the car where Hind and her family members were killed. The car is clearly riddled with bullet holes, evidence of the horror this family faced, as documented in this harrowing call to the Red Crescent from Hind's teenage cousin Leanne, moments before she and five of her family members were killed, leaving Hind alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): They are shooting at us. The tank is next to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Are you hiding?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Yes, in the car. The tank is next to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Are you in the car?



BASHIR: Satellite images taken hours before that fateful call show Israeli military vehicles just 200 meters away from where the family's car was found. The Tel el-Hawa neighborhood was at the time under an Israeli military siege.

Just a short distance away, charred wreckage is all that is left of the Red Crescent ambulance dispatched to rescue Hind. Struck before it could reach her.

The ambulance came under bombardment and was left completely scorched, this emergency worker says. The remains of the two paramedics killed, Yusuf Zeino and Ahmed al-Madhoun, are found inside. A deliberate attack, the Palestine Red Crescent says targeting the ambulance, despite prior coordination with the Israeli military, the IDF has since told CNN it is still looking into the incident.

In the wake of the Israeli military's withdrawal from this neighborhood southwest of Gaza city, there is nothing left but destruction.

Every day they set fire to apartments through sound grenades and shot at buildings, Mahanna says. They bombed all the buildings around us. We were inside. They could hear our screams. We saw death every minute.


After endless days in hiding, residents have emerged to search for their loved ones. But there are countless bodies to recover here. This child was five years old, just like Hind. Now, he is one of the thousands killed in this brutal war.

Those who survived, like so many in Gaza, are left with only the most painful of memories. Hind was martyred. My heart burns for her, Hind's mother says. How many heartbroken mothers do you want? How many more children, like Hind, need to be martyred? You have annihilated Gaza and its people. What else do you want?

And of course, Hind's story is one that has captured the attention of many across the world. She is one of thousands of children in Gaza that have been killed over more than four months of war in Gaza. According to the Palestinian health industry in Gaza, at least 10,000 children have been killed. And of course, as concerns mount over the situation in Rafah, ahead of what is anticipated to be a ground operation by the Israeli military, there is a huge amount of concern for the children in Rafah and around southern Gaza.

At least 600,000 children are estimated to be concentrated in that Rafah area. Many of them, of course, living in these small intensities with families, taking shelter in the very area they were told to evacuate to for their safety by the Israeli military.

And of course, while the IDF says it is targeting Hamas, it is hard to reconcile those expressed intentions with the reality that we are seeing on the ground of the Gaza Strip. Anna. COREN: So many heartbroken mothers. Nada Bashir, thank you for bringing us that report.

Coming up on CNN, insults flying between the last two Republican presidential rivals are increasingly personal. How Donald Trump is trying to get under Nikki Haley's skin and how she's responding.

And still to come, six people are killed in a helicopter crash in California, including two leading figures in the world of finance and philanthropy in Nigeria. We'll get a live report from Lagos.



COREN: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Anna Coren. This is CNN Newsroom.

I want to get back to our top story that we're following, the race for the Republican. Presidential nomination is getting personal. Donald Trump has a wide lead in the polls two weeks before South Carolina's Republican primary. But now he's taking shots at Nikki Haley's family mocking her husband Michael for being absent on the campaign trail.

He's currently deployed overseas in Africa. Haley demanded Trump confront her directly. In a rare move, Michael Haley also fired back, posting a meme on social media that joked about humans allowing, quote, "the dumbest ones to lead the pack."

Well, official election results in Pakistan are now in after days of protests and vote rigging allegations.

Independent candidates backed by the country's jailed ex-leader Imran Khan won a plurality of seats but no majority in the assembly after Thursday's vote.

Before the results came out, Khan had apparently sent word that protests should be held today outside polling offices, where his party says election results had been withheld and delayed.

Joining us now is CNN's Sophia Saifi in Islamabad. Sophia, are people heeding Khan's call to take to the streets and protest?

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Well, yes, Anna, there are protests taking place in the country today, as we speak. However, earlier today, while there had been calls for a nationwide protest by the BTI, which is Imran Khan's party, that has now been scaled back.

There were concerns that there would be an entanglement with the security forces, and that is something that they did not want to deal with, considering what happened last May and the crackdown that happened after those nationwide protests.

A crackdown which actually led to many of Khan's parties not being able to campaign properly for this election, not having an electoral symbol, for example, which is now even more compelling that Khan's party has won the lead in this election in the final tally that we received three days after the election took place by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

But what must be noted is that at the moment, none of the three major parties, and you can't recall the independence affiliated with Imran Khan's party, a party, but they're the big block, have not received enough to form a majority to form a government.

So now what we're going to have to see is who forms what coalition with whom, who is going to be the next prime minister. These are questions that are still up in the air. There's also a lot of rage amongst the youth here in Pakistan.

So yes, those protests have been scaled back, but they're still happening. They're happening outside polling offices. They might continue. Would it be a peaceful sit-in that lasts for days? I spoke to Raoof Hasan, who is a Senior Aide of Imran Khan, and he said that his party is going to be taking all legal and constitutional parts to clear what they feel is wrong against them with regards to the inaccuracies in the data that's been released by the Election Commission of Pakistan, according to them. And we just have to wait and see whether this becomes a bigger movement on the ground here in Pakistan. Anna?

COREN: Yeah, I get a feeling this won't be resolved for some time. Sophia Saifi in Islamabad, good to see you. Thank you.

Well, six people are dead after a helicopter crashed in San Bernardino County, California on Saturday night. The World Trade Organization's Director General has posted on social media that Nigerian banking CEO, Herbert Wigwe, was among the victims. She says his wife and son were also killed in the crash. Wigwe was described as a colossus in Nigeria's financial sector.

Abimbola Ogunbanjo was also the former Group Chairman of the Nigeria Stock Exchange. He was killed on the plane as well.

Joining us now is CNN's Stephanie Busari in Lagos, Nigeria. Stephanie, what more can you tell us about the victims of this crash?


STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN DIGITAL SUPERVISING EDITOR, AFRICA: Yes, Anna. So in the last few minutes, Access Bank have confirmed the passing of their Group CEO, Herbert Wigwe, and they praise his visionary leadership. We understand that Wigwe, his wife Chizoba, their eldest son Chizi, and Abimbola Ogunbanjo were on their way to the Super Bowl games when their flight crashed on Friday night.

The flight, the helicopter, the Airbus helicopter crashed at around 10 p.m. Pacific Central Time and burst into flames on the interstates near Halloran Springs, California.

Tributes have been pouring in, and President Tinubu of Nigeria has released a statement saying that he mourns these exceptional Nigerian business leaders and describes their passing as an overwhelming tragedy that is shocking beyond comprehension.

The President condoles with the Wigwe and Ogunbanjo families, the business community, and all those impacted by this harrowing incident.

Now, Anna, the nation has been plunged into mourning and Nigerians, many Nigerians, are feeling this loss quite keenly. Herbert Wigwe was known as a visionary and a brilliant banking mind, taking Access Bank from the 69th position to one of the largest banking groups in Africa and had recently opened a branch in Paris and South Africa.

So he really was on a mission to cement his legacy and create a global banking group. He was also known as a philanthropist, working at the time of his death on the creation of the Herbert Wigwe University, which he wanted to be a world-class institution for Africans.

Herbert Wigwe was also a patron of the arts, a known huge art collector who sponsored several art shows on the continent and a show on CNN called Africa Avant-Garde.

So today, many Nigerians are mourning his loss as well as thousands of underprivileged Nigerians who he created scholarships for, through his foundation. A truly sad day for Nigeria. Anna.

COREN: A huge loss indeed. Stephanie Busari, live in Lagos, thank you.

When we come back, she's Super Bowl bound heading to Vegas. Taylor Swift's plane has already landed in Los Angeles. Coming up, we're breaking down the undeniable link between the NFL and one of pop's biggest superstars.



COREN: It's often referred to as the Taylor Swift effect. The NFL is getting a dose of the star power that Swift brings when she attends a game, much less the Super Bowl. People around the world were tracking Swift's plane after she wrapped up her concert tour in Japan this weekend with her plane touching down in Los Angeles yesterday in plenty of time to make the short hop to Las Vegas.

Swift's impact on the league shows up in the numbers. Take the Chiefs Jets game she attended on October 1st at average 27 million viewers including two million women making the most watched Sunday show since last year's Super Bowl according to NBC.

By the end of the regular season the NFL had seen its highest rating since 2015. It was also the highest regular season viewership among women since it started tracking the statistic in 2000.

Well, CNN's Sports Analysts and "USA Today" Sports Columnist Christine Brennan joins me now.

Christine, I hope you're as excited as what everybody else is. Tell me, is the Swift effect responsible for this incredible increase in viewership with NFL games? CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Anna, absolutely, yes. That is

the answer. It is undeniable. This is the football season, the NFL season of Taylor Swift. We might as well call it the Taylor Swift Super Bowl. These are words I would have never thought.

I never would have thought I would have uttered them even six months ago, but the impact has been extraordinary and the NFL loves it. Yes, there are political people that are all up in arms about something or other, but that's insane.

The business impact, the future for the National Football League, the future for Taylor Swift, burnings for everybody, everyone makes money. Everyone, so many people feel good. You're smiling, you're laughing, you like it, you love it. Are they going to get married? Are they not? Will he give her the ring? You know, all these storylines, the NFL is just eating this up because they have men, right? Male football fans, we know that they're there. Women, many older women, absolutely.

In fact, about 45% of the NFL's fan base is women. So they already had close to, you know, half and half. The difference was the young kids. The younger girls and women, the millennials, the Gen Z, the ones who were playing Taylor Swift music or going to Taylor Swift concerts, but they weren't watching the NFL. And now they are. And for any business, your growth industry, your untapped market, and you can reach that, that's why the NFL is literally doing handstands today.

COREN: Are these girls, women watching Kansas City Chiefs games so they can see Taylor Swift or are they watching all NFL games?

BRENNAN: Certainly, the Chiefs games mostly, but that is the gateway, right? That's the entry point to the National Football League. So let's pick a 12-year-old girl who plays sports, who plays soccer, who plays volleyball, you know, whatever. So she's an athlete because we have now grown up, all these young women, have grown up with Title IX, a law that is 51 and a half years old that opened the floodgates for girls and women to play sports in this country with amazing impact.

And so they're playing sports, they love sports, but they really haven't gotten in touch with American football professional or college football yet. So they watch a game or two. And by the way, the NFL is a violent product, the concussion issue is huge. There are many, many negative things and important things as a journalist to discuss about the National Football League, which I've covered for over 30 years and I've been and covered 10 Super Bowls.

So it's not all just happiness and smiles. Nonetheless, in this particular case, yeah, it's the Chiefs, but the Chiefs are the entry point. So you're going to -- if you sit down and watch a game with your mom or dad as a 12-year-old girl and you enjoy that or you see that they enjoy it, might you watch another game or a game with a team that's closer to your home? I think the answer to all those questions is, yes.


COREN: Christine, how does the NFL respond to this new fan base? You know, how can they keep them engaged and keep them coming back to watch the game?

You might look for a few other pop stars who attract young girls and women on it. That certainly would be one. But no, they get it. The National Football League, as I said, have covered it for the length of my career.

And there is no league that is better, at least in the United States, at marketing itself. And in fact, the first commissioner who made a big impact, a man named Pete Rozelle, was a public relations man. And that explains everything. The NFL has just taken over America as a sports entity. And so my sense is, first of all, they probably would like to get her involved. Half-time show next year at the Super Bowl. Who knows what? Moving forward, we have her more involved.

And I think the idea of also understanding what these young girls who are going to grow up and be incredible consumers, buying products and potentially tickets and whatever they see in the ads of a game for the rest of their lives.

As we know, women often have the buying power in the household, if not complete buying power, because it is their household. And they can literally try to tap into that demographic, which is so huge and so important to them.

COREN: Christine, I just want to also ask you, now that the NFL sphere is full of these new female fans who will watch and attend the game, obviously cheer at every camera pan when it turns to Taylor Swift, could this grow the NFL's bottom line and, you know, strengthen its position?

BRENNAN: They already -- we already seen that. I mean, the NFL, we would have thought we had peaked, right? Most popular league, everyone's making money, billions and billions of dollars. And you would have said, OK, the NFL's probably doing about as good as it can do.

And then there's one person on earth who can actually help the NFL's bottom line and make it better. And that's Taylor Swift. And so yes, for sure. And you can rest assured, we can all rest assured on that the National Football League has people right now in its office, it's maybe right now, it's not even 6:00 in the morning on the Sunday.

But they have people -- they haven't even gotten asleep yet in Las Vegas, but they have people who are thinking exactly how to do this moving forward. But yeah, for sure, it is helping the National Football League. And it's only Taylor Swift could be someone who would take the behemoth of the National Football League and actually help its bottom line.

COREN: Let's hope that Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce never break up. Oh, God forbid that would be the NFL's worst nightmare.

Christine Brennan, great to see you. Enjoy the Super Bowl. Thank you so much.

BRENNAN: Anna, thank you. Take care. COREN: Still ahead, Super Bowl 58, finally here, where hours away from

kickoff. CNN Sports Andy Scholes joins me live from Las Vegas with a preview of the game. Please stay with us.



COREN: The long wait is almost over. We're now just a little over 12 hours away from kickoff of Super Bowl 58 between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. CNN Sports Anchor Andy Scholes joins me from Las Vegas.

Andy, what's the vibe there? Hours before kickoff.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Well, and it's Vegas, so you know my boys --


COREN: You haven't been asleep, that's what you're trying to tell us.

SCHOLES: Yeah, not a lot, not a lot. You know, the casino is still packed on, over here to Allegiant Stadium. It's just been an incredible week here. The energy in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, I mean, it's probably -- it's one of the best weeks I've ever seen it covering this -- this game for the past 12 years.

The NFL should really consider having this game here in Las Vegas at least every three years that's how good it's been. But we got a great game here today between the Niners and the Chiefs. San Francisco two- point favorites for Super Bowl 58 but the Chiefs they're trying to make a little history here. They're trying to become the first team since the Patriots back in 2005 to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, they're trying to win their third title in five years and many think if they're able to get that third title they really will cement themselves as one of the dynasties in the sport


PATRICK MAHOMES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS QUARTERBACK: I feel like dynasties for other people to talk about after your career is done. All you can do is enjoy the moment. All you can do is enjoy the moment. I know we've won a lot of football games and been in a lot of Super Bowls, but until you go out there and do it year in and year out and have the mind-set of continuing to be great, I don't know if you ever really just talk about it.

TRAVIS KELCE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS TIGHT END: The number three is a big number in terms of dynasties and things like that. So hopefully we can get this thing. And yeah, you guys can start talking about dynasties. I just, I'm trying to get this third ring now.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: All right, the NBA last time we had a fantastic finish between the Suns and the Warriors. The Golden State was down two, three seconds left. They're going to get the ball to Steph Curry, who knocks down the three, the crowd there in San Fran, just going bonkers. That was Curry's 9th three of the game. He finished with 30 points as the Warriors would win that one, 113 to 112.

All right, back here in Vegas, you know, we've been talking to people all week long, getting their predictions for the big game. And my colleague, Coy Wire, he was on the blue carpet at the big Fanatics party yesterday afternoon, getting some celebrity and athlete predictions. Take a listen.


PEYTON MANNING, PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMER: For some reason I think it's going to be high scoring, which means it'll probably be 10-7. But it's going to be a heck of a Super Bowl, I really think.

LESEAN MCCOY, 2-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: You can never bet money against. Tom Brady, and you can never bet money against, Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid.

NADER SISTERS, MODELS: I want the 49ers to win.

NADER SISTERS, MODELS: Yeah, we all want the 49ers.



NADER SISTERS, MODELS: Yeah, big 49ers fans.

MICHAEL RUBIN, FANATICS CEO: 49ers because it's better for Fanatics and Jed York's my brother and he owns the team so let's go Niners, baby.



SCHOLES: So you heard some Niners predictions there, Anna. But I tell you what, of all the people I've talked to, Coy talked to, it's -- it's been like 80% Chiefs predictions here. But I got a great stat for you, 16 of the last 19 Super Bowl champions have worn their white jerseys for the game. Who's wearing white here today? It's the 49ers. But that being said, one of those three teams over the last two decades that's won wearing their color jerseys, the Kansas City Chiefs, and they did that beating the Niners four years ago.

So I don't know what that means for the jerseys today, Anna. But my take, I just can't bet against Patrick Mahomes. He's proven over and over again that he is one of the greatest players to ever play this game. And as an underdog, he is 10 and 3 in his career. He's a two- point underdog today. We'll see what happens. Hopefully we get a good one. COREN: Put some money on it, Andy. You are in Vegas after all. Enjoy

the Super Bowl. Andy Scholes, great to see you. Thank you so much.

SCHOLES: All right.

COREN: The Super Bowl is one of the most watched sporting events of the year, but another game is far more adorable. Of course, we're talking about the puppy bowl. This furry little football game comes on before the Super Bowl. It'll feature 131 puppies from dozens of shelters and rescues across the U.S. The Best Friends Animal Society partners with CNN's parent organization, Warner Brothers Discovery to help these adorable little athletes get adopted.

Well, Team Ruff takes on Team Fluff beginning at 02:00 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday on the Animal Planet Channel. Oh, I'll take one home.

That wraps up this hour of CNN Newsroom. Thank you so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. For viewers in North America, "CNN This Morning" is next, for the rest of the world, it's "Marketplace Asia."