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Doctor Leaves Louisiana Over Controversial Bills; Lisa Cortes is Interviewed about Little Richard; Thomas Discloses Trips. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 01, 2023 - 06:30   ET



DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Agencies are helping in this search. We're seeing canines, we're seeing drones out there. We're also seeing helicopters.

But I should say, Phil, we still do not have an answer from law enforcement officials to the big question, how did he break out of this prison.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And a critical condition at that. Danny, keep us posted, live for us in Philadelphia.

Danny Freeman, thank you.

Well, on the west coast there's actually another manhunt underway this morning for an escapee in Oregon. State police say Christopher Lee Pray, who's charged with attempted aggravated murder, fled from custody while shackled at the arms, legs and belly. They say he fled a hospital after commandeering a 2016 white Dodge Caravan on Wednesday night. Now, Pray is considered extremely dangerous.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR: Since 2021, lawmakers in more than 20 states have introduced or passed bills similar to the so-called don't say gay law in Florida. That's according to "Educational Week." Now, the controversial proposals and laws aim to prevent teachers from talking about certain topics, such as sexual orientation or gender identity. Louisiana has its own version of the bill and now a prominent doctor there says it's the reason he is taking his family and leaving the state.

CNN medical correspondent Meg Tirrell reports from New Orleans.


TOM KLEINMAHON: Yes, I mean, this is what we called it, our wall of love.

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When Jake and Tom Kleinmahon moved back to New Orleans, the city where they met and fell in love, they planned to raise their two kids and retire here. T. KLEINMAHON: We built this house honestly to live here forever.

TIRRELL: A pediatric cardiologist, Jake returned to be medical director of the pediatric heart transplant program at Ochsner Health. The only program like it in Louisiana.

TIRRELL (on camera): What do you love about being here?

DR. JAKE KLEINMAHON, PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGIST: I feel like I really make a difference here. And before I came, any complex patients were having to be sent out of state for heart transplants. And I felt like the kids of Louisiana deserve to stay in Louisiana.

TIRRELL (voice over): But now Jake and his family are leaving the state after a set of bills passed the legislature this summer that they say make them feel unwelcome.

J. KLEINMAHON: The part that really solidified it for us was when we were watching the Senate education committee hear the -- about the don't say gay bill.

DODIE HORTON (R), LOUISIANA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: HB 466 prohibits teacher-led discussions on sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-12.

J. KLEINMAHON: To think that if our kids went to public school and they were made fun of because they had two dads, a teacher would not have been able to step in and make a learning experience about different types of families.

TIRRELL (voice over): HB 466 and another bill, which sought to require permission from parents for school employees to use certain names or pronouns for students were vetoed by Louisiana's governor in June. And a third bill banning gender affirming medical care for most minors overcame the governor's veto and is expected to take effect in January.

J. KLEINMAHON: I'm really sad to leave, but I feel like I don't really have a choice. But the way that the political landscape in Louisiana is going, it's pretty clear that these laws are going to pass eventually.

TIRRELL (on camera): Jake's departure doesn't just mean there's one fewer specialist like him here in New Orleans. He says it leaves just two heart transplant cardiologists for kids for the whole state of Louisiana.

J. KLEINMAHON: There is going to be a hole that's left when I leave.

TIRRELL How much is that weighing on you?

J. KLEINMAHON: By far the hardest part of this decision was thinking about my patients.

TIRRELL (voice over): The Kleinmahons will move to Long Island, New York, where Jake will start a heart transplant program, and the whole family will start a new life.

J. KLEINMAHON: We teach our children about kindness, about celebrating differences, and we hope that they recognize this as us doing something so that they can live in an area where they can be free, they can be kind, they can celebrate our differences, our different type of family.

TIRRELL: Meg Tirrell, CNN, New Orleans.


MATTINGLY: Well, he was the influential architect of rock and roll, but did he ever get his due?


LITTLE RICHARD, MUSICIAN (singing): She rocked to the east, she rocked to the west, but she's the girl that I love best. Tutti frutti, oh rooty.


MATTINGLY: CNN Films presents the story of music legend Little Richard. Our sit-down with the film's director. That's next.



MATTINGLY: Little Richard kicked the doors open to rock and roll in the 1950s and paved the way for icons like Elvis Presley, James Brown and The Beatles. Now, the new CNN film "Little Richard: I Am Everything" examines his place in history and takes a look at the iconic performer's relationship with religion, gender and the music industry.


LITTLE RICHARD, MUSICIAN: Ready, set, go, man, go. I got a gal that I love so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, playing with Little Richard, having a (INAUDIBLE). He was so hot. We played something like five nights a week, two or three shows a day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember the 1950s, there's legal segregation. Black kids are not able to listen to music in the same spaces as white kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black and white musicians weren't allowed to play together.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have one night for white and the next night for African American. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the white kids would come to the black kids'

concert, too.


MATTINGLY: Joining us now is Lisa Cortes, director of "Little Richard: I Am Everything."

Thanks so much for being here. Congratulations on the film. I've watched it. It's extraordinary. But for me what - well, there's a lot of things that stuck out. But one of them was, you know -- everyone knows who he is. Everybody knows his music. But the kind of connective tissue he has throughout decades of U.S. history, music, life to some degree, I just didn't put it all together until I watched.

LISA CORTES, DIRECTOR, "LITTLE RICHARD: I AM EVERYTHING": Thank you. I think that's the goal is to take Little Richard from being this character who says shut up to really bring the viewer on a journey about who made this person, what was the interiority, where did the pain come from and how was his role as an architect of rock and roll influential to classic artists but also to artists now.


CORNISH: People think about Jerry Lee Lewis or Chuck Berry. But when you think about Little Richard, I think a lot of us have the images from the '80s and '90s kind of talk show circuit. And he was also openly gay, right? And talk about how significant he was, what kind of image he presented when he first came on the scene.

CORTES: Well, Richard was from another planet, I'd like to believe, you know, with the hair and the bouffant, the -- more makeup than me this morning, and also just the unabashed sexuality in his performance. But what we need to remember, it's a part of a continuum. Liberace is out there with a lot of glam in the 1940s, 15 years before Richard comes on the scene. And so Richard is though making his own gumbo in terms of music and presentation and leaning into troves (ph) that are affiliated with, you know, a more feminism-presenting face.

CORNISH: And getting away with it, if I can use that term, when you think about mainstream culture.

CORTES: Well, you know, the more we begin to interrogate LGBTQ history, we see that, you know, there's Gladys Bentley, there's a lot of gender non-conforming artists. There's drag kings and drag queens that go back to Victorian times. And I think it's always interesting for me is it shows that Americans have not been as conservative as we oftentimes have liked to think.

MATTINGLY: You know - well, what's interesting is, his kind of internal -- struggle might not be the right word, but kind of deliberations with his own faith and his sexuality and kind of the back and forth. His dad was a minister, but also created his own contrast. I think he owned a speak easy and a club.

CORTES: And he made bootleg. MATTINGLY: And he made bootleg.

CORTES: Liquor.

MATTINGLY: Sort of like right - they say it early on in the movie. And I'm like, oh, wow, that's an interesting dynamic. What was that like for him?

CORTES: Well, Richard's life is a roller coaster, I think, you know, swinging to extremes and having this great difficulty of balancing the sacred and the profane, which for him was the rock and roll. And it was very difficult to contain all the multitudes that were in him and that were so dynamic.

CORNISH: Can you talk about I guess why it's important to think about him now? There are so many sort of figures from the past that people are recontextualizing in documentaries and movies. Why did you think Little Richard was due?

CORTES: I think Richard's a touchstone for so much. It's the music. It's the transgressive impact on culture. But it's also about hidden history. You know, I think he was presented in one way and the full scope of his contributions has not been told. It's especially important now at a time when there are spaces and places that want to contain the telling of black histories.

CORNISH: Well, Lisa Cortes, thank you so much. The documentary is really wonderful and I hope people will - will take a look. Be sure to tune in, the all-new CNN film, "Little Richard: I Am Everything" premieres Monday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.

MATTINGLY: Two Supreme Court justices have just disclosed trips paid for by conservatives, adding to the question if the court can monitor itself. We're going to discuss that, next.

CORNISH: And, starting today, the pause on interest being added to your student loan debt expires. Interest rates were effectively set to zero percent during the pandemic, but today it will return to the same rate they were before the freeze. And when it comes to paying back your student loans, for most borrowers, the payment will be due sometime in October.

We'll be right back.



CORNISH: This morning, more calls for better transparency as ethics questions linger around the Supreme Court. Justice Clarence Thomas officially acknowledged that Harlan Crow, a GOP mega donor, funded private trips. Thomas shared that in a new financial disclosure form released on Thursday. Justice Thomas has faced a lot of criticism for accepting gifts from Crow, first revealed in a series of reports published by "ProPublica" earlier this year.

Joining us now is CNN senior Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic.

Good morning, Joan.


CORNISH: So, first, what do these financial disclose forms show that we didn't know about before?

BISKUPIC: Sure. And you're right to talk about the context at the top of - you know, just so much more media and congressional scrutiny on the justices these days, at a time when, you know, they're known for their lack of transparency and absence of a formal ethics code, as lower court judges have.

So, this is the first time that Justice Thomas in years has even referenced some of these private jet trips taken at the expense of Harlan Crow. What this form had was his 2022 activities that included two -- a total of three trips that Harlan Crow had financed on his private jet going to a Dallas event. And then also a very lavish excursion to Harlan Crow's estate. A beautiful vacation estate in upstate New York.

And then, going back to 2014, Clarence Thomas acknowledged that he should have put on prior forms the fact that Harlan Crow had bought three properties from members of the Thomas family in Savannah, Georgia, that benefited the Thomas family, but Clarence Thomas said that there had been an overall loss in the sale to him and he didn't think he had to report it.


So, those were the actual details of that filing.

As I said, just captured a single year except for the flashback to 2014.

CORNISH: I want to come back to that private travel for a second -


CORNISH: Because Justice Thomas actually claimed that he was advised to avoid commercial travel for safety reasons. And for context here, this was kind of after the leak of the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. I mean a huge case. Can you talk about how that could have played into this?

BISKUPIC: Yes, it was so interesting, Audie. It was the first time, you know, we had seen that publicly stated, that leak of the Dobbs ruling came on May 2nd last year. That was the case that did eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. And on May 12th is when he went out to Dallas on one of those trips. And he said in his financial filing that he had been advised - and I don't know if all justices had been advised, but he said he was following advice from court authorities to avoid flying commercial.

Now, I am not aware of other justices trying to take private transportation, private jets. I mean, obviously, cars and Supreme Court police escorts they travel with. But private jets, I hadn't known that that might be something that they'd be doing.

Now, it was, obviously, a very tense time after that leak emerged, but he's -- he's citing that as a justification for at least that May trip. But we do know that many times in the past before that leak had come out on May 2nd of 2022 he had been flying on Harlan Crow's dime.

CORNISH: Now, you also had Justice Samuel Alito confirm basically that he took a trip in Rome in 2002 that was paid for by a conservative group. I want to ask you, though, about Chief Justice Roberts, where is he in all of this, and kind of what is the sense of whether or not he considers it an actual problem.

BISKUPIC: You know, that is the question that a lot of people are asking because as much as Congress is -- Democrats in Congress say they want to do something on this, they are limited, in part -- largely by the political atmosphere in Congress. You know, legislation is unlikely to emerge from Congress to try to force the court to have its own code of ethics. So, it's really in the hands of the courts. And outsiders - and some justices themselves have looked to the chief to say, you know, show some leadership here. And he has -- individual justices have said that he is now of the mind that they should have some sort of formal ethics code, but that he wants unanimity. The only thing he has said publicly about this in recent years is in a - in May he said that -- he acknowledged that there -- there's attention on this issue and he said that, you know, they are - they are attending to trying to instill public confidence in their - in the work of the court.

But, you know, when they left for their recess in June, they were really deadlocked behind the scenes on whether they even needed a formal code of ethics. So, you know, he's dealing with nine individuals but I think that the - that it's right that members of Congress, advocacy groups, and, as I said, some justices themselves are looking to the chief to show leadership on this issue at a time when public confidence is plummeting, Audie.

CORNISH: Joan, thanks so much for following this.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, as questions swirl about the future of Mitch McConnell, a prominent conservative magazine website, they're calling for the senator to step down as minority leader after that latest health scare. We're going to speak to the publication's editor. That's next.

CORNISH: And this morning, the mayor of Uvalde, Texas, is calling for the district attorney, who's investigating the Robb Elementary mass shooting to resign. Why the mayor is alleging a cover-up. We'll have that ahead.


[06:58:37] MATTINGLY: So, I'm pretty comfortable going out on a limb here, safe to say that no one had a better day yesterday than Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. The 25-year-old is one of the favorites to win the national league MVP. He's an absolute stud, drops absolute bombs. And in the second inning against the Dodgers, Acuna broke a 1-1 tie with a grand - you're watching it, the grand slam home run. Now, this wasn't just any homer. It was the 30th of the season for Acuna. That makes him the first player in major league history to hit 30 dingers and steal 60 bases in a single season. It's September. Not even the end of the season.

That night - the funny thing is, it might not even be the most memorable part of his day. Earlier, he married his longtime girlfriend, Maria - you see a photo there -- in a small ceremony at a house in the mountains, about 45 minutes from the team's hotel. Caps off a pretty wild week for Acuna. On Monday, you'll remember, he was knocked to the ground when two fans ran on to Coors Field to give him a hug. He handled that brilliantly. But this, I think, was probably a little bit more memorable for him. Pretty - pretty great stuff.

CORNISH: I love a good game. I'm glad someone's winning going into the vacation.


CORNISH: Yes. That was a little sportsy (ph).

MATTINGLY: That was a cool story. I like the marriage and -- that's awesome. Congratulations to them.

CORNISH: I -- I'm from Boston. I don't even know if you're supposed to look at other teams. Maybe it's like not allowed.

MATTINGLY: Is this just like because I'm a Yankees fan and you're just trying to - you're trying to draw me in right now?

CORNISH: Oh, wait, what?

MATTINGLY: That's fine. That's fine. The good news is, we get to do this for two more hours.

CORNISH: Check please.


MATTINGLY: CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump pleading