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CNN This Morning

Shortage Could Affect Summer Travel; Four Horses Death at Churchill Downs; Breanne Heldman is Interviewed about Jamie Foxx; Jeffrey Toobin is Interviewed about Clarence Thomas and Oklahoma City Bombing. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 04, 2023 - 06:30   ET



ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Child at that school, I'd be much more concerned about person to person than I would about surfaces, although, of course, both are concerns. I mean they really need to figure out what exactly is this germ, what - what exactly killed that child?



HARLOW: It's so sad.

COLLINS: And we're still waiting to hear about that, of course. Thinking about those parents there.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

HARLOW: If you want to be an air traffic controller, you have to act fast. Apparently like really fast. The ultra-competitive once a year application window is about to open. Our Pete Muntean has what you need to know.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It's so much to keep track of. This is a tough gig.



COLLINS: You see New York City there this morning. About 6:35 a.m.

New York has actually just become the first state to ban natural gas and other fossil fuels in most new buildings. This new law banning gas powered stoves, furnaces and propane heating.


All electric heating and cooking will now be required in most new buildings under seven stories by 2026. Taller ones by 2029. On the national level, remember not that long ago, a federal official suggested, and then retracted that idea, there could be a country wide ban, causing outrage among Republicans.

HARLOW: Summer travel kicks off just a few weeks from now. Airlines are facing, again, a major problem, an air traffic controller shortage. Aviation experts are warning this shortage could affect your plans to travel and fly this summer.

Let's go to our aviation correspondent, Pete Muntean, live at Reagan National, just outside of Washington.

So, they're trying to hire a bunch of them or what?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. You know, the FAA really owning up to this shortage, which is so interesting. The air traffic control shortage is really a nationwide problem. But the FAA says the problem is so acute in some areas that it's asking airlines to operate fewer flights to some of the nation's busiest airports. A rare hiring window opens up this weekend. But that help will not come soon enough for this next major surge in travel.


MUNTEAN (voice over): Warnings of not enough workers for your next trip stretch from cockpits to control towers with the FAA's own air traffic controllers now in short supply. The agency says nationwide two in every ten controller jobs are empty. The problem is so severe at a key facility in New York that the FAA is warning summer delays at the area's three main airport could rise by 45 percent.

PAUL RINALDI, FORMER PRESIDENT, THE NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: It's a chilling message that we're not able to fly, you know, the routes at that level because we don't have enough air traffic controllers.

MUNTEAN: Now, the federal government is scrambling to play catchup, opening a rare hiring window Friday. Last year it was flooded with 58,000 applications. That's 38 candidates for every one opening.

MUNTEAN (on camera): It's an important job.

CAMREN SMITH, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL STUDENT: Absolutely it's an important job. Well, it's the backbone for aviation.

MUNTEAN (voice over): Camren Smith is one of the air traffic control students here at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, ready to hit submit the moment the application window opens. FAA hiring slowed down during the pandemic. Professor and former FAA official Michael McCormick says compounding the problem, the agency shuttered its training academy.

MICHAEL MCCORMICK, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY: Over time this builds, and that's why we have such a gap now in the training of controllers and they need to hire so many more.

MUNTEAN: To see if I have what it takes, I stepped into this control tower simulator to give it a try.

MUNTEAN (on camera): 3455 yankee clear for departure 16.

MUNTEAN (voice over): Students practice lining up flights for takeoff and landing, issuing fast, specific instructions with no margin for error.

MUNTEAN (on camera): It's so much to keep track of.


MUNTEAN: This is a tough gig.

SMITH: It's probably every single time I ever hear someone say that it's such a stressful job and I'm sitting here and I'm like, I can do it.

Spirt 195, decrease speed.

MUNTEAN (voice over): Clearly the students here are more accustomed to the intensity of this job than I am. It can take three years for the FAA to fully train recruits. Acting Administrator Billy Nolen insists hiring is on schedule, but it might not be fast enough to keep flights on schedule this summer.

BILLY NOLEN, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: We're hiring over the next two years 3,300 additional controllers. That will give us a net plus up of about 500, accounting for retirements and attrition.


MUNTEAN: This is ultra-competitive, Poppy. There is an aptitude test, a medical test, a psychological exam. There is a chance here, experts tell us, that if the FAA gets so many applications in the first day that they might close off this application window a bit early. Something else the FAA is doing to try and alleviate these summer problems, opening up extra air traffic routes up and down the east coast that are a bit more direct and don't zig zag. But experts tell us these are simply short term fixes for a long term problem and we should prepare for some bumps ahead during this summer travel season, Poppy.

COLLINS: OK, Pete, be honest, are you applying for this? Do I need to let the bureau know?

MUNTEAN: I wasn't very good at it. I'm going to stick to airplanes, I think, for now.

HARLOW: Hard pass for me. I'd be terrible at that job.

COLLINS: I feel like Pete's going to sneakily apply for this and he's just going to be gone one day. We're not going to have an aviation correspondent.

HARLOW: Thank you, Pete.

COLLINS: Thank you, Pete.

OK, also this morning, we're tracking a really sad development out of Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby race, of course, is Saturday. Everyone loves to watch it. This year's race, though, has a dark cloud hanging over it after the deaths of four horses at Churchill Downs in just the last week.

Andy Scholes joins us now.

Andy, I mean, my family, we love watching the derby. We watch it every year, along with the Preakness and the other races.


COLLINS: What happened here?

SCHOLES: Well, yes, good morning, guys.

Sadly, this is a big part of the sport, right? This happens quite a bit. Churchill Downs says, you know, this series of events, though, highly unusual.


And last Thursday, a derby contender, Wild on Ice, broke its leg while training. It, unfortunately, had to be euthanized. Another horse also suffered a similar injury during Saturday's competition. And then two horses trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. collapsed and died for no apparent reason. Parents Pride collapsed and died after raising on Saturday. Chasing Artie died under similar circumstances after racing on Tuesday. Now, Joseph told Louisville's "Courier Journal" that bloodwork and labs came back normal for both horses and that their team is testing the horse's feed and supplements for irregularities.


SAFFIE JOSEPH JR., TRAINER: It's - it - yes, I'm shattered, basically, you know what I mean, because I know - it -- it can't happen - like, it's mind boggling. Like, the odds of it happening twice is a trillion. I run 4,000 horses - almost 4,000 and it never happened like that. So, it just -it doesn't - it doesn't make sense.


SCHOLES: Now, Churchill Downs releasing a statement saying in part, while a series of events like this is highly unusual, it is completely unacceptable. We take this very seriously and acknowledge that these troubling incidents are alarming and must be addressed.

Now, according to jockey club data cited by the "Courier Journal," more than 7,200 horses died due to racing between 2009 and 2021. And you've got 20 horses set to race in the derby on Saturday. Post time is 6:57 Eastern.

All right, elsewhere, the NFL is set to take on the NBA on the golf course in this year's edition of "The Match." Reigning Super Bowl champs Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce going to square off against the reigning NBA camps, Steph Curry and Clay Thompson. It's going to be at the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas. They're going to play 12 holes on June 29th in primetime on our sister channel TNT. Mahomes and Curry, they've already played in the match before. They lost in their previous matches that they took part in.

And, you know, guys, we've seen a lot of fun in, you know, matchups in this. We had Tiger versus Phil. We had that one where you had Brady and Rodgers taking on Mahomes and Allen. But we've never had two iconic teammates going up against each other. So, this one should be tons of fun.

HARLOW: Love that.

COLLINS: And they're just a little bit competitive. So, I can't wait to watch that.


COLLINS: Andy, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

HARLOW: This morning we're hearing from actor Jamie Foxx. This is the first time we've heard from him. He's been in the hospital for weeks for an undisclosed medical complication.



COLLINS: Jamie Foxx is speaking out. The first time actually since he was hospitalized three weeks ago due to what we are now told was an undisclosed medication complication. Not a lot of details. But he did post on Instagram saying, quote, I appreciate all the love. Feeling blessed. He does remain hospitalized in Atlanta as of this morning. We've learned he will not be able to host the upcoming season of his game - of his game show, "Beat Shazam." And, instead, the show is announcing (INAUDIBLE) Nick Cannon is going to be filling in while he is out.

Joining us now is the senior editor TV of "People," Breanne Heldman.

Thank you so much for being here this morning.


COLLINS: What is going on? I think a lot of people - a lot of his fans are worried about what's going on with him.

HELDMAN: I mean it's the million-dollar question. Everyone really doesn't know. There's lots of mixed things going on. There's Taraji P. Henson posting to pray for him. It is so positive that we heard from him. That's the first time we've heard of him in three weeks, since the incident first happened on the set of his movie. And it's great. I mean he -- he posted that message on his own Instagram. He also commented on Nick Cannon, saying he'd do a great job hosting "Beat Shazam." And it's nice to see his daughter is still by his side, Corinne. His daughter is the DJ on "Beat Shazam." And Kelly Osbourne will be filling in on that role on "Beat Shazam."

HARLOW: OK. Can we turn to the writer's strike?

HELDMAN: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Because there have been -- it's a huge deal.


HARLOW: But I think there's also been some really notable things in terms of the support they've gotten. Like, for example, you have the Oscar-winning directors of "Everything, Everywhere, All At Once," Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, like, on the protest picket line and posting on Instagram, this is from Daniel Kwan, writers are one of the foundations of this entire industry. If we don't stand with them today, it's only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down, and also calling out what he calls the corporate machine.

HELDMAN: Yes. I mean so many people are showing their support. Shonda Rhimes spoke out yesterday.


HELDMAN: We see so many stars on the picket lines, from Natasha Lyonne, to Brett Goldstein, who's a writer and creator on "Ted Lasso," in addition to playing Roy Kent. And even Jay Leno showed up giving donuts to the - to the picketers.

COLLINS: Which he did the last time there was a writer's strike.

HELDMAN: Right. That was 15 years ago, if you can believe it, 2007. 2007 was the longest writer strike ever at 100 days. And it really did change the shape of television for quite some time. And we're still feeling the ripple effects because it brought in so much reality television that we are still stuck with today, for better or for worse.

HARLOW: That's so interesting. I didn't think about - that's one of the reasons why.

COLLINS: Yes, it changed - it changes things because we went to unscripted TV for so long.


COLLINS: It really shifted that landscape.

They're - not everyone has been acting perfectly here. I think there's a lot of scrutiny as well on how everyone is responding to this, who's voicing their support. Some people were complaining about Jimmy Fallon now coming to a meeting.

HARLOW: Right. COLLINS: But he then came out and said he was going to pay his writers for at least the next week for their salary.


I think the question is, and I'm curious what you hear from your industry sources, is whether or not this will actually yield change.

HELDMAN: I certainly hope that it will. It sounds like it will. But it really depends. I mean everybody wants to get back to work. All of these writers -- you saw writers from "Abbott Elementary" and "Yellow Jackets" return to work on May 1st for -- to start writing season three of both of the shows and then had to leave after one day. They're so excited to go back to work. It's not about people who don't want to work.

HARLOW: Right.

HELDMAN: It's about fair wages.


HELDMAN: And so I'm -- I'm certainly hopeful. It sounds positive. I don't imagine we're going to see another 100 days. But --

HARLOW: Maybe.

HELDMAN: Who knows?


HARLOW: Breanne Heldman, yes, thank you.

Extra shoutout to our writers on this show.

HELDMAN: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Extra appreciation for them this morning.


HARLOW: Brand new "Pro Publica" report, stunning, another one about the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

COLLINS: Yes, we've been talking about this all morning.

HARLOW: We have been. It just crossed, right, another story about him and Republican donor Harlan Crow. What we're learning about alleged private school tuition payments for one of his family members.



HARLOW: New this morning, we are learning more about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' relationship with a Republican mega donor, Harlan Crow. "Pro Publica" out with a new report this morning saying that the Texas billionaire paid for Justice Thomas' grandnephew to attend a private boarding school. This was in 2008. Justice Thomas had legal custody of the boy, and said to be raising him as a son. The tuition was $6,000 a month but the entire cost that was paid for by Crow is not clear this morning. "Pro Publica" reports Crow picked up the full tab, could exceed $150,000 based on public records.

COLLINS: "Pro Publica" is also reporting that Thomas did not disclose these payments from Crow. He did once disclose a $5,000 contribution to the boy's education from another friend. No clear sense of why he wouldn't disclose what Crow had done.

Crow's office, we should note, responded to "Pro Publica" saying, Harlan Crow has long been passionate about the importance of quality education and giving back to those less fortunate, especially at-risk youth. It's disappointing that those with partisan, political interests would try to turn helping at-risk youth with tuition assistance into something nefarious or political.

I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin, former federal prosecutor, and the author of a new book, "Homegrown: Timothy McVeigh and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism." A book that we have a lot to talk about and are going to get there in a moment.

Not a denial from Harlan Crow. And this seems pretty far outside the norm when it comes to these payments.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what -- what we have to remember about Clarence Thomas is, he knows that there is exactly one thing that you can do to a Supreme Court justice, which is impeach him and remove him, which is not going to happen here and is never happening here. So, what he has done is simply defy all the rules that are technically imposed on Supreme Court justices, which are extremely minor. It's OK to take money, but you have to report it. He, obviously, hasn't reported benefits of hundreds of thousands of dollars he's received from Harlan Crow, but his - his attitude, it appears, is, what are you going to do to me? And the answer is nothing.


HARLOW: Wow. And all nine justices unified in that statement about not going before the Ethics Committee.

TOOBIN: I mean, you know, they have put themselves, not just above the law, but above other federal judges -


TOOBIN: Who have a set of obligations that are not exactly onerous, but the Supreme Court doesn't even - doesn't even follow those.

HARLOW: Can we talk about this book?

TOOBIN: Yes, we can, Ms. Harlow. HARLOW: So you - I mean you reported on -- this is about the 1995

Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh. You covered it, the trial at the time, but were so deeply interested in it that you've written this and reported out this fascinating book. And your premise is, the conventional wisdom about Timothy McVeigh, what sort of dominated the headlines about anti-government lone wolf is - is wrong or at least not the complete story. Talk about why and the influences because I think it's so relevant to today sort of post-January 6th.

TOOBIN: If you look at McVeigh, you see that he was not a loner. Not by himself. He was part of a movement in the mid-1990s. He was part of the conservative movement. You know, he was a big Rush Limbaugh fan. He was out there with lots of other people in gun shows.

And if you look at what he really cared about, I think a lot of people remember that he was very outraged by what the FBI did at Waco. But he was just as outraged by what happened a year earlier when Bill Clinton signed the assault weapons ban.

HARLOW: Right.

TOOBIN: The obsession with guns. The - and the fear that the federal government is going to take your guns away. The belief in violence. The obsession with the founding fathers. The idea that because the founding fathers rebelled against the British, we have the right to rebel against the federal government.

Listen to the people on January 6th. That agenda was exactly the same as McVeigh's agenda 28 years earlier.

COLLINS: Yes, you have a through line through all of this, but saying he wasn't a loner is interesting because what I was obsessed with in here is, now Attorney General Merrick Garland's role in all of this.


COLLINS: And the way he stripped parts of that away, focused only on him, as this was going on simultaneously with the O.J. Simpson trial, which he was disgusted by the obsession with it.


COLLINS: All of - the way the media covered it.

TOOBIN: Right. Merrick Garland was a senior but not very top Justice Department official in the mid-90s, and he was assigned to run the Oklahoma City bombing investigation. The bomb, of course, was April 19, 1995. January 1995 was when the O.J. Simpson criminal case started. And Garland had a visceral distaste for all the celebrity worship that went on, all the attention that went on to the lawyers and the personalities. And he determined that the Oklahoma City bombing case was going to be very different. And he made sure that the case was tried only in the courtroom.

He is now in a very different place.


He's now the attorney general. But he has the same attitude toward publicity.