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Abby Grossberg Suing Fox News; Harmful Doses of Melatonin in Gummies; Elizabeth Whelan is Interviewed about Her Brother's Detainment in Russia; California Faces Flood Risk. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 26, 2023 - 06:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Whether or not he encouraged his supporters to create the chaos that you saw there.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This morning we're hearing from a former producer at Fox News who worked closely with ousted anchor Tucker Carlson. What she is saying about the dozens of audiotapes she has from her time at the network.

COLLINS: Yes, 90 tapes.

Also, you're waking up maybe from a pretty good sleep this morning thanks to melatonin, but there is actually new research about potentially dangerous and dosages that are unreported. We'll bring you the latest.


HARLOW: New this morning, "The Wall Street Journal," obviously owned by the same parent company as Fox News, is reporting Tucker Carlson's disregard for management and his vulgar messages about colleagues were a big factor in Fox News' decision to part ways with its primetime host. The Rupert Murdoch owned paper reports that in that Dominion defamation lawsuit, Fox's lawyers thought they were telling Carlson good news. They persuaded the court to redact from a legal filing the time that Carlson called a senior Fox News executive the C word.


But apparently Carlson wasn't impressed. He told his colleagues he wanted the world to know what he had said about that executive in a private message.

And this report comes on the heels of an interview given by Abby Grossberg, a former Fox producer, who's suing Fox now over what she described in the lawsuit as a sexist, hostile work environment at Tucker Carlson's show.


ABBY GROSSBERG, FORMER FOX NEWS PRODUCER: Tucker, and his executive producer, Justin Wells, who was also fired, really were responsible for breaking me and making my life a living hell. So, there is a feeling of justice, but it's only partial.

Immediately. I show up first day of work. And I know that this is a popular one. It's been widely publicized. There are literally pictures like this big of Nancy Pelosi in a bathing suit in Europe plastered all over. Within a few days, I was called into Justin Wells' office with Alex McCaskill, who was a senior producer as well, and asked if Maria was having an affair with Kevin McCarthy. It was just - I was shocked. I couldn't even believe it. I was floored.


HARLOW: Wow. She says she has 90 tapes.

CNN media analyst Sara Fischer joins us now, also media reporter for "Axios."

That was a very long, long, in-depth interview. What is the biggest take away?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: The biggest takeaway is that she has 90 tapes, which is a huge deal because, obviously, the legal fallout from her lawsuits, the two complaints she filed in March, is still ongoing. So, the more evidence out there, that's a big deal.

I think -- she detailed about the culture of misogyny at the show matters a lot because part of what she is alleging in these filings is that it was, you know, a culture of misogyny, et cetera, that was rampant throughout the show and the network.

And then I think the biggest thing, too, was that she said that Tucker was hell bent on finding some sort of a link between what happened on January 6th and the FBI being involved, a conspiracy known as a false flag. And, you know, she had alleged he could potentially be trying to find this link ahead of the trial to sort of absolve Fox from any responsibility.

So, those are the biggest takeaways to me. But, again, she says she has 90 tapes. There's a lot more that could be coming.

COLLINS: I have a thought on the connection, conspiracy thing. But on the tapes, what she seemed to be saying was, what reporters often do is use Otter (ph), that app. I mean it's not just that one, but others, to record conversations they're having, maybe pre-interviews or something like that. That's what she seemed to be saying she had those tapes for, not that she was necessarily surreptitiously recording people, right?

FISCHER: That's my understanding of it, too. And another thing I want to just flag is, part of what she says she has are sort of like pre- interviews that what the Fox News hosts were having with, you know, Trump allies. So, for example --

COLLINS: Lawmakers.

FISCHER: Lawmakers, or people like Sidney Powell, lawyers, et cetera. And that matters because in those interviews, apparently, these Trump allies had conceded that they don't have exact proof that Dominion Voting Systems rigged the election. So, that's why that's a very explosive thing to have because it essentially proves that Fox News knew that the people who were coming on its air were going to be promoting something that wasn't proven to be true about Dominion.

COLLINS: And she said that she's been subpoenaed in the Smartmatic lawsuit, which is the other tech company that is suing Fox. Abby Grossberg said she's been subpoenaed in that.

FISCHER: That's a big deal, Kaitlan, because if you think about Dominion, they settled for $787 million, but they were trying to get $1.6 billion in damages. Smartmatic is alleging $2.7 billion in damages. And so Fox actually now has to pivot and prepare for a potentially even bigger defamation suit that's going to go down. And so her coming out now is saying that there's even more proof out there. I'm sure Smartmatic's lawyers are looking at this and thinking that this is a huge win for them.

HARLOW: Yes. Great point.

By the way, if anyone thought this was just sort of a U.S. issue, think again. Sergey Lavrov here, given Russia's position this month on the Security Council, listen to what he said about this.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Perhaps it would be useful to consider how things are with freedom of speech in the United States. I've heard that Tucker Carlson has left Fox News. It's curious news. What is this related to? One can only guess. But clearly the wealth of views in the American information space has suffered as a result.


HARLOW: That's the Russian foreign minister talking about this in the - in an argument -- sort of an argument about free speech.

FISCHER: I mean that makes me more proud to be an American than anything I've ever heard. I mean Russia has passed a fake news law that doesn't even allow reporters to call its war invasion in Ukraine a war.

HARLOW: A war.

FISCHER: And so when that's his perspective, that we have a free speech problem because Tucker Carlson is getting fired for, you know, essentially being a part of a defamation suit for airing falsehoods, I listen to those types of comments and I think, gosh, I am so lucky to be a reporter here in the United States because, to me, that's crazy.


COLLINS: It's also classic Russia. To try to spin their problems and put them on the U.S.

HARLOW: Spin, like they always do.

FISCHER: Of course.

COLLINS: All right, Sara Fisher, got a lot to track, so thank you for joining us this morning.

FISCHER: Thank you.

COLLINS: All right, also this morning, as we just mentioned before break, you could be consuming dangerous amounts of melatonin and CBD for sleep.


COLLINS: There is a new study that found some of those melatonin gummies that are so popular actually contain way more of the hormone than they advertise. Researchers say that they found one product even contained 347 percent more melatonin than it was listed on the label.

Our CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is tracking all this and joins us now.

Elizabeth, what exactly, you know, did they find? If people have these gummies, should they be concerned about taking them before they go to bed?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think people need to know that the supplement industry, it's regulated but not the same way that drugs are. And study after study has found that the amounts that are in supplements are not always what they say they are.

So, let's take a look at these melatonin gummies. So, when this group did their research, it is published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association," they tested 25 brands. The levels of melatonin range from 74 percent to 347 percent. So, way more of what was in the label. And only three of them actually contained within 10 percent of what they were labelled. One of them actually had no melatonin at all.

Now, you know, sometimes children take these gummies and the side effects of melatonin used in children are -- you know, can be pretty serious. They get drowsy. They get headaches. They get agitated. They wet the bed. So, you know, you want to be really clear -- really careful. Just because something comes in a bottle and its labelled doesn't mean that you're getting exactly what you think you're getting.

HARLOW: Then how can you know - I mean how -- what would you do if this was your kids or you? Do you just stop taking them?

COHEN: Right. Well, what I would do - first of all, you want to seriously think about whether or not you want to take them. And then you want to talk to your pediatrician.

Here's some advice from Memorial Sloan Kettering, the hospital in New York. What they say is for all supplements you should be looking for a USP or a consumer lab label. These are third party labs that take a look at products and they give sort of their stamp of approval if they think that they contain the right amount.

Also, Memorial Sloan Kettering recommends buying products made in the U.S. because they say other countries don't have rules that are quite as stringent as ours. And also from a major supplier. Like look for a name that you recognize.

HARLOW: OK. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you. Quite a warning. I think it affects a lot of people. Appreciate it.


And you just heard from the Russian foreign minister a few moments ago, Sergey Lavrov. Now CNN pressing him about the role they could play, a possible prisoner swap, for Americans they've detained. Our next guest is the sister of one of those Americans, Paul Whelan. She was at a meeting that Lavrov chaired here in New York. She is going to join us for that remarkable experience that happened, next.




SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): In the Russian Federation there are several American citizens who are serving sentences for various crimes. I refer to Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich. They were detained when they were committing a crime, receiving material that was a state secret.


COLLINS: That's the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, talking about the detained Americans, wrongfully detained, Evan Gershkovich, a "Wall Street Journal" reporter, and the former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan. These are the last photos that Whelan's family saw of him at his trial three years ago. Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 after being arrested on espionage charges at a Moscow hotel in December 2018. His sister Elizabeth actually attended the United National Security Council meeting yesterday that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov chaired on Monday. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield specifically referenced Whelan's presence in the room.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Where -- today we're joined by Paul's sister, Elizabeth. And I want Minister Lavrov to look into her eyes and see her suffering. I want you to see what it's like to miss your brother for four years.


COLLINS: And Elizabeth joins us now. Thank you so much for being here and coming in person.

What was it like to actually not only be in the same room as him, but you actually made eye contact with Sergey Lavrov.

ELIZABETH WHELAN, SISTER OF WRONGFULLY DETAINED AMERICAN PAUL WHELAN: Yes. I literally sat there for two hours staring at him. And - and as you saw, the ambassador asked me to -- she indicated me, and I stood up. And they looked over, which I was surprised at. I thought he would shuffle papers or do something like that. But I thought it was really important for Paul's sake to show the face of someone who is being wrongfully detained in Russia.

HARLOW: Your brother Paul has been wrongfully detained for now 1,580 days exactly. And since his detention we've seen the release of Brittney Griner. We've also seen the detention of the journalist Even Gershkovich. Do you feel more or less hopeful now that your brother will come home soon?

WHELAN: Well, through this entire process and also with Trevor Reid being held -

HARLOW: Yes, who Kaitlan interviewed.

WHELAN: Exactly. The Russians have dealt with Paul as sort of a separate case. We don't know if that will continue. Evan has been charged with the same crime of espionage.

HARLOW: Right.

WHELAN: So, we'll have to see how that - that work out.

HARLOW: To that point, let's just play for our viewers to remind them what President Biden said. We were on the air that Brittney Griner was released. And President Biden addressed why he thinks the Russians are treating your brother differently. Here's what he said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul's case differently than Brittney's. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul's release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.


HARLOW: Yes. As you hear that, and now look at Evan also detained under the same false accusations, what do you think?


WHELAN: Well, of course I'm - I'm hoping that the same type of effort is put towards both of them. No American should be wrongfully detained by a foreign country. You know, that's hostage diplomacy. That's an attempt to get something from America using our people as pawns. It has to stop. And I want my brother home. COLLINS: You haven't talked to your brother since 2018, right?

December 2018?

WHELAN: Right. Yes.

COLLINS: He did get the chance to speak with the U.S. ambassador to Russia recently. I know they had quite a long conversation. What were the biggest takeaways that the ambassador had from that conversation?

WHELAN: I'm not sure. We haven't had an opportunity to speak to the ambassador about that conversation.

COLLINS: Why not? That kind of surprises me.

WHELAN: Well, I think it's timing as much as anything. And, of course, Paul is the detainee. So, you know, they're -- they have their own relationship now, they're own - they're own discussion. But we do speak to other people within the U.S. government and, of course, we were delighted to hear about that phone call. It's really important, I think, for Paul's morale that he knows he has that support.

HARLOW: We also heard from the envoy for hostage affairs overseas, these discussions with Russia, and that's Roger Carstens, who spoke with your brother just a few weeks ago. He told us, he told CNN, Paul sings the national anthem every day from his prison cell.

Do you know anything else about what his life is like detained now?

WHELAN: You know, we don't have an awful lot of details. He can speak to my parents in short phone calls a number of times a week, but he also is being listened to by the guards. And there's information -- we still don't know the details of his arrest, what happened at the trial, anything of that nature.

But I think it's important that although we think of Paul, you know, he's strong, he's singing the national anthem, he has to pull that strength forward every single day. He has to find that within himself every day while he waits for the news that he will finally be coming home. And as you said, 1,580 days later, it has not happened.

COLLINS: You are getting what you need from the White House right now?

WHELAN: Well, I got a little frustrated a couple of weeks ago. When Evan was arrested, we relived Paul's arrest. Our whole family just -- it was like a flashback. And I was very concerned, and I remain concerned, that Paul will be left behind a third time. And so I felt I needed to speak out a little bit about that.

Since then we have had some conversations with the White House that assure me that they're - they continue to be committed to bringing Paul home. But I also am committed to pushing to make sure that he is not left behind again.


COLLINS: And no one can blame you for that. HARLOW: Of course.

COLLINS: Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining us here.

WHELAN: Thank you very much for having me.

HARLOW: Just hours from now, a parole board in Oklahoma will meet and they will decide the fate of death row inmate Richard Glossip. In an unprecedented move, this has never happened in the state, the attorney general of Oklahoma is urging that board to grant him clemency. He sent a letter to the board yesterday and his office said that he will sit at the hearing today. That's also unprecedented.

In 1998, Glossip was convicted in a murder for hire plot against his then boss. He has maintained his innocence. Now the attorney general says, quote, material evidence was not disclosed to the jury.

Kim Kardashian, who has been a big advocate of social justice reform and worked against the death penalty, she tweeted her support this week for Glossip. I asked her about that yesterday.



HARLOW: Why do you believe he deserves a full pardon? He has a hearing tomorrow.

KIM KARDASHIAN, CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM ADVOCATE: Yes, his hearing's tomorrow. You know, I think that there was hardly any evidence that linked him, if -- none, you know, to his case. And I think that I personally don't believe in the death penalty. And I think that everyone deserves at least to have their case fully examined before they're about to be executed. It's just really that simple. And I just don't feel like he's gotten a fair chance.


HARLOW: The attorney general urged a new trial. The court of appeals denied that. Glossip will be executed May 18th if nothing changes. This is his ninth execution date.

Next hour on CNN THIS MORNING we'll have much more of that wide- ranging interview with Kim Kardashian.

We'll be right back.



COLLINS: All right, this morning, Californians are bracing for flooding as record snowfall over parts of the Sierra Nevada is melting. Rivers and streams have been filling up thanks to record rain and snow across the state, but now this comes as temperatures are beginning to rise and the hope that this snow is not melting too fast. Our CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the forecast.

Derek, obviously, this is the major concern that always happened here is when there's a ton of snow, a ton of rain, and then potentially a ton of flooding.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Yes, it's concerning enough that they are actually closing parts of the Yosemite Valley from Friday right through the weekend. Get this, there is 56 inches of snow water equivalent built up across the mountains of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. And that's like 56 inches of rainwater that wants to be released into the rivers and the valleys below. So, as the temperatures warm, we start to get outside more often. And then the concern is that people will want to cool themselves off in these rivers, which will be running very fast and very cold. Remember, you can lose body heat 25 times faster in cold water compared to that of cold air.

Now, when we look at the snowfall that has occurred so far this season, it has been mind-boggling. The southern Sierra setting a snowfall pack equivalent to date of 324 percent of average.


That's snow water equivalent. They've never had that much snow in the mountains.