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Zooey Zephyr is Interviewed about Being Silenced in Montana; U.S. Economy Grew in Q1; 88th NFL Draft Kicks Off Tonight; Rainn Wilson is Interviewed about his New Book. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 27, 2023 - 08:30   ET





ZOOEY ZEPHYR (D), MONTANA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: If you vote yes on this bill, and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there's an invocation when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: That's Montana State Representative Zooey Zephyr, the first openly transgender woman elected to the state legislature there, admonishing Republican colleagues for passing bills restricting transgender rights. Republicans have since banned her from the Montana house chamber for the rest of the legislative session. Days after she gave that speech, protests actually broke out in the house chamber when Zephyr raised her microphone in solidarity. Police in riot gear responded, ultimately arresting seven protesters. And, last night, this all culminated as Republicans kicked Zephyr out of the house chamber for refusing to apologize.

Joining us now is that Montana state representative, Zooey Zephyr.

Good morning and thank you for being here.

I think a big question people have is, what's next for you now that this has happened.

ZOOEY ZEPHYR (D), MONTANA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: So, I was elected to represent 11,000 Montanans in people's house and I left yesterday with my head held high knowing I had made a moral and right choice. And I will walk into the building this morning with my head held high. I will find a place to talk to my colleagues, sit down and to vote on the bills.

COLLINS: So you can't speak on the floor. You can vote remotely. Is that - is that right? Do I have that correct?

ZEPHYR: That's correct, which is important to note in that we have a handful of bills, big bills coming forward in the last week of our legislative session. Housing policy, the budget. And every time we debate any bill on the house floor, there's going to be 11,000 Montanans whose voices are missing from that conversation.

COLLINS: And what have you heard from the 11,000 people that you represent? Have you heard feedback from them since this happened, or what are their concerns about the idea that their elected voice won't be there as that debate is happening?

ZEPHYR: I think you hit it exactly at that. There's frustration in my community that the -- their voices aren't being allowed to be heard, but there's also gratitude for standing up. I know my community inside and out. I walked through it every day for years prior to my election. And they elected me to speak on their behalf and to fight the hard fights, which is what I did. And they're proud of me for doing so.

COLLINS: Here's how your Republican colleagues are defending their decision, the moves that they made last night. They say this is because of - of your speech that you gave on the house floor.


SUE VINTON (R), MONTANA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This body witnessed one of its members participating in conduct that disrupted and disturbed the orderly proceedings of this body.

DAVID BEDEY (R), MONTANA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well, it's an irrefutable fact that the representative in question did, indeed, actively support, and arguably incite, the disruptive antics of demonstrators who had gathered in the house gallery. The respective of house district 100 failed to do her duty.


COLLINS: Republicans want you to apologize. Will you?

ZEPHYR: No. What we have seen this (ph) session is an unequal application of decorum, and the speaker agrees with the Republican super majority. They get away with a lot. We've heard screaming in closings. We've heard people insinuate that my very existence is somehow sexualizing children. And when it comes to a bill that I know the real impacts of, I've seen and heard from the families who have been facing suicide, suicide attempts, assaults on them, to apologize for that would be to be complicit and (INAUDIBLE) and I can't do that.

COLLINS: We're watching what's happening here with your punishment. It comes after we watched very closely what also happened in Tennessee where Democrats there were unseated from their seats after they led a protest of gun violence on the chamber floor. Justin Pearson, one of those legislators in Tennessee, actually tweeted in support of you, saying, quote, we will not let our democracy die without fighting for every voice. We are in this fight from Memphis to Montana.


You know, now that you've been thrust into the national spotlight, just like they have, do you see the through line between what happened in Tennessee and what's happening in your home state?

ZEPHYR: I do. And I think the through line is that Republican super majorities in these states are passing legislation that is broadly out of step with our communities. Trans people are loved and accepted through my community and through many communities in Montana. Americans want gun reform. And what we're seeing is when marginalized communities stand up and talk about the real harm that these policies bring, it's not enough for these far-right legislatures to pass these bills. They want us to be silent. And we're not being silent. And the people who elected us (INAUDIBLE).

COLLINS: All right, Representative Zooey Zephyr, thank you so much for your time this morning.

ZEPHYR: Thank you for having me.

COLLINS: Also this released just moments ago, the Gross Domestic Product, the GDP report, for the first quarter of 2023. Our business team is crunching the numbers. Stand by. We'll bring those to you.

And also, it is a big day for sports fans everywhere. NFL draft day. You are now looking live at Kansas City. It's all going to go down there just hours from now. What teams can learn from previous picks. Harry Enten has this morning's number.


COLLINS: All right, some new numbers that were released just moments ago, the Gross Domestic Product report for the first quarter of this year.

CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here, has been tracking these numbers.

What does it show us?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the rearview mirror, but it shows us the first three months of the year the economy slowed a little bit, Kaitlan, 1.1 percent is the growth here in the U.S. economy in January, February and March.


And you can see how that compares, how that is a slowdown from the last quarter of last year, which was 2.6 percent. And certainly, from the middle of last year, which was a strong 3.2 percent. So, this is a slowdown.

What's happening here? You've got high inflation still. It's coming off the boil of last summer, but inflation is still too high here. And you've got interest rates that have been going up for a year now. So, I think this is what it looks like when you see those interest rates so high for over a year.

And the government says there was an increase in consumer spending. So, the consumer's still strong on the first part of the year, but a decrease in inventory bills and inventory investments. That's businesses cautious and pulling back.

COLLINS: Yes, OK, so with that backdrop, we've also been talking all week about layoffs and the amount of companies that are doing layoffs.

ROMANS: That's right.

COLLINS: We were talking about 3M, when that broke when you were on set the other day. We have new jobless numbers. What's that picture look like?

ROMANS: This picture is at odds with all the headlines of layoffs in so many different industries.


ROMANS: You have 230,000 first-time unemployment benefits. That is still pretty historically low. It's down 16,000 from the week prior. I had expected these to start to rise because a lot of people who got tech layoffs were still getting severance before they were filing for unemployment benefits. So, that was something I thought you'd start to be seeing in here. So that could happen in the weeks ahead. But this is still historically low and it shows a job market that is still pretty strong despite everything you're seeing, all those headlines you're seeing about layoffs in this economy, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: We'll continue to watch that, see if there's any revisions.

ROMANS: Yes. Yes.

COLLINS: Christine Romans, thank you.

Also, speaking of numbers, it is NFL draft night. Millions of people are expected to tune in to watch their teams pick their favorite football players. Thirty-one names of the first night of the draft, which is being hosted, we should note, in Kansas City, more than 250 players get to see if their dreams come true.

Harry Enten, what's this morning's number?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: OK. So, this morning's number is 12.8 million. That was the NFL first round viewership, an average over the last three years.


ENTEN: This is an event, Kaitlan. People come out, they wear their team's colors, they get so excited. We watch it on the air. I remember during Covid watching Bill Belichick's dog make a draft pick.


ENTEN: Remember that? That was fun.

COLLINS: When he was in his sleeveless hoodie. That was epic.

ENTEN: That's exactly -- he looked exactly like his owner. And I just want to point out that 12.8, how impressive that is. It's

more than game one of the World Series' average. It's more than the top scripted show has averaged over the last years. And it's more than the NBA finals game one has averaged over the first year. So, football, Kaitlan, in this country, it is king.


ENTEN: And here's the funny thing about this. If you look at NFL recent draft history, it was only first televised in 1980. They didn't think it would actually bring in any viewership. How --


ENTEN: Why? Because they didn't realize that --

COLLINS: They thought it would be boring?

ENTEN: I think people thought it would be boring. It would be like a process, right? So now, of course, it makes millions of dollars, not just for the NFL, but for the host season as - the host city as well, which is why these cities fight so much to get the draft in their backyard.

COLLINS: Yes. And it's in Kansas City this year.

OK, obviously, I have a huge vested interest in this. I always love to watch this as well. Who do we think is going to be the first round pick?

ENTEN: Yes, so, you know, if we look, you know, does this first draft pick become an all-star, an all-pro? And I've looked since 1990. And it turns out that 22 of them in the NFL had. That's basically on par with the NBA, where 23 have. In the MLB it's a little bit more of a crapshoot. But the chances are the person that you're going to see drafted first tonight is going to go on to be someone who's really, really good. But here's the one little thing I will point out.

COLLINS: I love this.

ENTEN: Sometimes the NFL drafts surprises, right? Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady was picked 199th in the 2000 draft. I don't think he exactly looked like the type of guy that you thought was going to go on to be this great player.

COLLINS: I think he probably hate this picture, that it's everywhere.

ENTEN: You know, what, very famous people deserve a little bit of teasing from time to time to ground them a little bit. That's why I like teasing myself and having people tease me because I like to say, grounded.

COLLINS: Yes, you want to just stay humble. I know. But this is so funny, whenever they compare this to that Mac Jones photo, of course, Alabama's quarterback, so great.

All right, well, we'll see to - we'll watch to see who's going to be the Tom Brady of tonight.

ENTEN: Who knows.

COLLINS: Harry Enten, thank you.

ENTEN: Also in Washington, President Biden, First Lady Jill Biden capped off the South Korean president's official state visit with a glamourous state dinner at the White House last night. These are always very dramatic affairs. But the highlight of the night was a karaoke rendition of "American Pie" by President Yoon.


YOO SUK-YEOL, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT (singing): A long, long time ago. I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.


COLLINS: A moment that had everyone laughing. Of course, the elaborate dinner is a result of weeks of planning that goes on by the White House chefs, their social staff, protocol experts. Like previous state dinners, the guest list was star-studded. You saw them coming in, the movie star and humanitarian Angelina Jolie and her son, Maddox Jolie- Pitt were there. Plus, the home design reality stars Chip and Joanna Gaines. Also, Olympic gold medalist, snowboarder, Chloe Kim. She has Korean parents.


She was there as well. In addition to Senator Mitt Romney.

Poppy, quite a moment there at the White House.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: He is one of the most iconic characters on television. Dwight Schrute from "The Office," now the actor behind the overachieving paper salesman is taking the lead on a spiritual revolution. Our sit-down interview with Rainn Wilson is next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is an organ donor.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me some ice and a Styrofoam bucket. Here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you - what are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We searched for the organs. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the heart? The precious heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not feeling well. I need to sit down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stanley, are you OK?






COLLINS: The actor, producer and writer Rainn Wilson won people's hearts as the surly and unapologetic Dwight Schrute in NBC's "The Office."


And now Rainn wants to tell you about the transformative power of religion and spirituality in his new book that is available now, "Soul Boom," why we need a spiritual revolution.

Rainn joins us now.

Thank you so much for being here.

Why did you write it? What drove you to embark on this project that was three years in the making?

RAINN WILSON, AUTHOR, "SOUL BOOM: WHY WE NEED A SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION": Well, a lot of people ask, like, why the hell is the guy who played Dwight Schrute writing a book about spirituality. But I will say that these topics, in it are something that have obsessed me for decades. I love reading about religion, about spirituality. I have a meditation practice. I love reading mystical writings and thinking about life's biggest possible questions, why we're here, what's the meaning of life, is there a god, do we have a soul? All of that gooey, messy, delightful stuff. And, finally, you know, Covid gave me an opportunity to sit down at a typewriter and come up with this thing.

HARLOW: One thing that struck me particularly in the book is when you write about after your father passed away. And you said, I knew in that moment there was something deeper afoot. That a life, mine, yours, my father's, could not simply come to an end because brain- centered activity ceased.

WILSON: I saw the body laid out and had this deep realization that this is not my father. This is the vessel that carried my father. Whatever my father is, his light, his spirit, his soul, his consciousness, whatever you want to call it. And this got me -- this motivated me to dig even deeper into the mystery of being alive. Kind of questions that we don't talk about much in contemporary society or think about too deeply or probe too deeply.

COLLINS: And something you said about young kids really stood out to me. I have young siblings. You said, the bottom line is, you people are suffering greatly. They seem to lacking in the tools, skills, and ability to find solutions to these difficult issues that we all deal with. To befriend, to bond, to connect, to self-soothe, to find joy. To create community.

There are a lot of people who are concerned about younger generations and what they are doing and what that does look like when it comes to this sense of spirituality.

WILSON: We have a mental health crisis among young people that is absolutely unprecedented in the history of the human species. There's -- climate change is a pandemic. Racism and sexism are pandemics. Militarism, nationalism are pandemics as well.

And all of these pandemics can't be addressed, you guys, by a new piece of legislation or a new election or some new congressman getting elected here or there. These are fundamental human issues that need to be addressed at the heart level and at the soul level.

And I'm not talking about some kind of airy, fairy, mamby, pamby kind of like incense and chakras kind of spirituality. I'm talking about a digging deep into who we are as human beings and addressing some of these issues at the soul level.

HARLOW: I have been sort of re-experiencing my faith through my children. When Sierra was three, she asked me who God is. And now I'm getting the questions from both kids about why does God let bad things happen.

WILSON: Right.

HARLOW: And you write about joy in this book. And you say joy, however, inherently acknowledges sorrow.

WILSON: And that's one of the profound human questions since the dawn of time. You know, why - and it really comes down to, why is there suffering? And in this mental health crisis, when you talk to mental health professionals, they'll address the mental health epidemic among young people as a lack of resilience that's often pointed to as a deficiency. But I do think that this lack of resilience points to an even bigger question, which is - has to do with the nature of suffering itself. Why do we suffer? And why, at the same time, when we suffered, are we grateful for the suffering that we've undergone?

So, joy is an antidote to that because we don't want to gloss over suffering and just try and eliminate suffering and just be happy all the time. That can be oppressive and insufferable sometimes and people - you see influencers on Instagram like, just be happy and look positive and -- but bringing joy, using joy as a tool to bring joy to others, like we did on "The Office," that acknowledges the fact that there are ups and downs and we can have suffering, we can also have joy. And that's part of the miracle of being alive.

COLLINS: Yes. Such a lovely way to put it.

WILSON: Thanks.

COLLINS: And the book is "Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution."

Do you think we'll get one?

WILSON: A spiritual revolution?

COLLINS: Are we in one?

WILSON: I hope so. We -- people are certainly way more open to these kind of questions and ideas than they were even like five or ten years ago because as things continue to unravel, people realize that, oh, maybe spirituality has some answers.

HARLOW: Before you go, OK, we want to mention this. A video that you posted of a guy sitting next to you -- this happened on a plane - watching "The Office." He had no clue that you were there.

COLLINS: I loved this.

HARLOW: Has anything like this happened before?


WILSON: You know, honestly, it was pretty great. Five and a half hours next to a guy watching "The Office," nonstop. And then finally, as we're landing, I nudge him. I'm like, hey, I heard that's a pretty good show, huh.


WILSON: And I'm - and I take off my Covid mask very delicately and - and then all of a sudden, his head explodes.

COLLINS: What did he say?

WILSON: Oh my -- oh --

COLLINS: To be fair, I'd probably do the same thing. Love "The Office." It's so great.

HARLOW: Thank you.

COLLINS: Rainn Wilson, thank you so much.

WILSON: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Congrats.


HARLOW: Be sure to grab this book, "Soul Boom: Why We All Need a Spiritual Revolution," available now.

COLLINS: My dad is so jealous.

HARLOW: Of the interview?


HARLOW: We like the pictures.

COLLINS: We love watching "The Office." We watch it all the time. We - I mean reruns are just constantly on and we're quoting it in our family group chat all the time.

HARLOW: I just was so impressed with him, you know?


HARLOW: Good for him for doing this.

COLLINS: It's - well, it's cool too - because you see someone and you think they're their character. And then you see them write a book on something totally different.


COLLINS: So, yes, our thanks to Rainn for joining us.

Also, thank you for joining us this morning. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right after this break.