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New Hampshire Voters weigh their Options; Taraji P. Henson is Interviewed about the Strike. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 20, 2023 - 08:30   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": He responded very bluntly about, you know, what he sees as America's hegemonic designs in the Middle East. And, you know, it had - it had a lot of the fire and brimstone of, you know, the old Iranian hardliners, which is what he is.

Remember, Raisi came to power after the Iran deal collapsed when Trump pulled out of it. And in the election, the more moderate wing of the party that had -- of the regime that had come to power and negotiated the deal was discredited. And the hardliners who -- Raisi had always opposed the Iran nuclear deal. It's those people who were empowered by the - by Trump pulling out of the deal. And turns out they are pretty tough hardliners.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Fareed, I can't wait to see the rest of the interview. Everyone can watch it on your show Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, here.

But before we go, I do want to push ahead to today, the meeting between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu on the sidelines of UNGA and that in the context also of this "New York Times" reporting about a potential agreement - a mutual defense agreement between Saudi and the United States. Tom Friedman put it this way in his column talking about Bibi. "He has formed the most extreme government in Israel's history, and yet your administration" - this is speaking to Biden - "is considering forging a complex partnership with his coalition and Saudi Arabia. There are enormous potential benefits and risks for the United States.

Can you - can you lay out those benefits and risks?

ZAKARIA: Sure. Look, the benefits are clear. The United States would be able to broker something that actually diffuses one of the central points of tension in the Middle East, and that is the rivalry and the hostility between Israel and the Arab states. If Saudi Arabia normalizes, it is, you know, really the - the -- at this point the leading Arab state in the - in the world. It is the richest Arab state in the world. It is custodian of the two great holy sites of Islam.

So, for all those reasons, it would be a huge symbolic deal and it would also be, in many practical ways, a big deal because Saudi Arabia is vast and the -- if trade between Saudi Arabia and Israel started to boom, that completely changes the dynamic of what's going on in the Middle East. So, that -- it also puts Saudi Arabia in the camp, along with the UAE and Qatar and Israel as a kind of anti-Iranian bloc in the Middle East.

The dangers of this is, the United States would be committing itself to the defense of a country that is not a liberal democracy, that is not in Europe or Asia, which it regards as its two principal areas of interest and influence in what, for the last 25 years, has been regarded as an unstable, troubled part of the world where the United States is actually trying to withdraw its military presence. You know, if you remember, Obama began the pivot to Asia. But the truth is, almost all administrations for the last four have been trying this pivot to Asia.

And it puts the United States more deeply and commits it more deeply. And I think what Tom Friedmann was saying is, look, if you're going to do something like that, make sure you're getting something big. And he points out the issue that still remains completely unresolved and that Bibi Netanyahu seems to show no desire to solve is the Palestinian issue.

HARLOW: Right.

ZAKARIA: Five to six million Palestinians living without a country, without a vote, and what are you going to do about that and what are your intentions on that issue and his argument is that Bibi Netanyahu, because he's catering to a very extreme coalition, has no intention of moving for any kind of resolution other than just continued occupation.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes. And the way he ends the column, I think suggesting what Biden would say to Netanyahu, quote, "Bibi, you're out of focus for the American people. We need to know, who are you now," is just fascinating and gets to the crux of it.

Thank you, Fareed. Congrats on the interview.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a large crowd gathering in Staten Island overnight protesting New York's handling of the migrant crisis. Police say ten people were arrested. The details on that ahead.

HARLOW: Also coming up, a look at where things stand with the Republican presidential primary. Voters from New Hampshire.


ANDREW KONCHEK, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN VOTER: I don't think a politician would ever understand what I do for work unless they come on the boat with me and then maybe they'll understand.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Did any of them ever offer to come on the boat?





MATTINGLY: Well, new this morning, several protesters were taken into police custody on Staten Island for blocking a bus carrying migrants seeking asylum in New York. The NYPD arrested ten people. One person for assault and nine others received a summons for disorderly conduct.

But just moments ago, New York City Mayor Eric Adams addressed the incident, saying the protesters were, quote, "banging on the buses," and, quote, "spewing hateful words towards ethnic groups."

Take a listen.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: And I say to those who believe they're going to use violence by throwing bottles at police officers and migrants, we're not going to accept that. That's the message we sent on Staten Island and I'm going to send it throughout the city. We're managing these crisis, but we're not going to do it with violence.


HARLOW: New York City, as you know, has become an epicenter of the migrant crisis. Since the spring of last year, the number of asylum seekers coming to the city surpassed 100,000. The Adams administration has projected that will cost the city up to $12 billion in the next couple of years as people line up in search of housing and other services.

Earlier this month, Mayor Adams did say this crisis could, quote, "destroy New York City."

MATTINGLY: Well, happening today, Donald Trump is headlining two campaign events in Iowa. Voters there and in New Hampshire are still very much undecided, weighing their options. In just a few months, the New Hampshire primary, first in the nation, will be a crucial test of former President Trump's comeback and proving ground for the general election.


CNN's John King joins us now.

It is true, or at least was true, J.K., that they actually let you out into the wild in your new fancy position. And -- the bear is loose. And what are you learning now as you're on the ground in New Hampshire?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating. Phil and Poppy, good morning to you.

Look, remember, it was New Hampshire where Donald Trump got his first win in 2016. And the rest is literally history. That was the hostile takeover of the Republican Party.

What's different now, when you go to New Hampshire, is, there no doubt Trump leads in the first primary state, but he's not the new guy anymore and things are, listen, a little different.


KING (voice over): Heading out in the moonlight. Andrew Konchek often spends 80 hours a week on the water. Sometimes more. It is grueling work. And it shapes his politics.

ANDREW KONCHEK, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN VOTER: I'm Republican. You know, it's - they're - they're more for the working man.

KING: Fishing boats have filled this harbor for 400 years. It is a proud but struggling industry. A blue-collar craft where the workers feel ignored by the regulators who set the rules and by the politics who now want to line the coast with wind turbines.

KONCHEK: That's going to completely destroy our fishing industry.

KING (on camera): And so your political decisions are based on?

KONCHEK: My livelihood.

KING (voice over): The men we met along these docks are not climate deniers. The water is warmer. The storms, wilder. The fish, different. But they say the people deciding what to do about it don't ask those who live it every day.

KONCHEK: I don't think a politician would ever understand what I do for work unless they come on the boat with me. And then maybe they'll understand.

KING (on camera): Any of them ever offer to come on the boat?


KING (voice over): Distrust and disaffection are easy to find here.

LUCAS RAYMOND, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I mean the middle class, the working class, fishermen, all of us, we - we are struggling in this economy.

KING: Anger at traditional politician's drew Lucas Raymond to Donald Trump back in 2016. He sees a new insurgence in the 2024 presidential field.

RAYMOND: I am extremely likely to vote for Robert Kennedy, yes.

KING (on camera): Why?

RAYMOND: He is willing to state that we should not blindly trust corporations or our government. And I think he staunchly believes in caring or our environment.

KING (voice over): Raymond says many Republican-leaning friends feel the same way.

RAYMOND: My crewmate sent me his interview with Joe Rogan. And I started listening to him. And I found many things about him pretty impressive.

KING: Two things to know about me. I love craft beer and I obsess about political math.


KING: How choices like Raymond's could impact not only the primary, but also the vote here next November.

Stanley Tremblay shares Raymond's disgust with politics as usual.

KING (on camera): 2016. Clinton/Trump.

TREMBLAY: I wanted neither. I didn't vote for either of them.

KING: Vote third-party?

TREMBLAY: Third-party.

KING: Gary Johnson, I assume?

2020, Biden/Trump.

TREMBLAY: Neither. Third-party.

KING: What are you going to do now? What if you get Biden/Trump again?

TREMBLAY: Probably not vote.

KING (voice over): Tremblay's father was a Vietnam veteran. His brewery is in an old fire station and signs of service are everywhere. He wants to believe, but he just can't right now.

TREMBLAY: We need to get the old out and bring new in and reinvigorate what, hopefully, is a better United States.

KING: Tremblay would never vote Trump. So you could argue his sitting out the primary helps the former president.

Pete Burdett's change of heart hurts Trump.

PETE BURDETT, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN VOTER: National security is the number one thing that any president would need to take precedence over everything else because you don't have an economy if you don't have a country.

KING: Burdett served 21 years in the Navy as a helicopter pilot and a flight instructor. Newcomer Trump won him over in 2016.

BURDETT: He was a pretty smart guy and I had met him personally.

KING: But Burdett says Trump 2024 is not Trump 2016. BURDETT: He's not focusing on the issues going forward. He seems to be

focusing on the issues of the past. I'm done with the past.

KING: Nikki Haley is Burdett's choice this time.

Still, signs of Trump's New Hampshire advantage are easy to find.

NATALYA ORLANDO, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN VOTER: It's definitely very much pro Donald Trump. From what I see here, grass roots on the ground.

KING: But Natalya Orlando adds a caveat worth keeping an eye on.

ORLANDO: I personally don't think that he's as strong as he was in 2016. I have people who argue with me about that and tell me I'm wrong and get mad that I'm saying this. But I'm going to be honest and say, no, I don't see it.

KING: Andrew Konchek agrees.

KING (on camera): Then, compared to now, same, different, less, more?

KONCHEK: I think it would be less now because all the legal cases. And, yes, didn't back him around here.

KING (voice over): Like in 2016 though, Konchek sees Trump as the best catch in another crowded GOP field.

KONCHEK: Donald Trump, as of right now. But I'm going to keep it open so that I can make an educated decision.


Trump would be first, DeSantis second.

KING: Konchek may have to catch the second GOP debate offshore on satellite TV. But fishing season will be on winter break when the primary is held early next year.


MATTINGLY: You know, Joh, part of your wizardry on the magic wall is you have a feel for the places. You've been there so many times that you can describe kind of what it's actually like. How has New Hampshire changed in your, I don't know, dozens upon dozens of times that you've been here - there compared to now?

KING: So, the basic dynamic in the Republican race, this is what we look at first. And New Hampshire's likely to be very competitive in the general election as well. Even though it's only four electoral votes, as you know, Phil, sometimes four matter.

So, right now, Trump is in the lead. There's no question about that. But the insurgency is not his anymore. He's now the establishment, if you will. It's his party. The crowded field, just like in 2016, helps Trump. You sense even talking to Trump voters that there are vulnerabilities. That even some of them have doubts, but nobody has impressed them right now. And if they're looking around, no one Republican has taken charge. So, that's the dynamic to watch in the Republican race. Trump benefits from the big field and the split among the Haleys and Ramaswamys and the DeSantis.

The bigger question, just as someone who's done this, this is my 10th campaign. I've been doing this for 35 years. It's just the disaffection. It's just the blah. The prospect of a Biden/Trump rematch. How people just feel -- that guy, Stanley Tremblay, a Vietnam veteran, Phil, you're from an Army family, the guy wants to vote, he's just disgusted by it. That's sad. That part is sad. Can somebody come along to get those people to come back into the process? Do they see a stake in national politics. He votes in local elections. Don't get me wrong about that. But the national, political dynamic and just how people just feel - I know it's not a word but they just feel blah about it.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's such a good point.

Noted craft beer enthusiast out in the field, John King. We appreciate it, my friend. Thank you.

KING: Yes. It was - it was good. Good. Not for breakfast, but it was good.

MATTINGLY: Appreciate it, buddy.

HARLOW: Thank you, John.

Striking workers and heads of Hollywood studios will be back at the negotiating table today. Television and movie productions have been halted now for more than four months.

MATTINGLY: Taraji P. Henson is here to talk about that, and also importantly her foundation's efforts to destigmatize the mental health conversation in the black community. That's coming up next. She's in studio.

Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: The contract talks expected to resume today between the union representing striking writers and Hollywood studios in an effort to end a labor dispute that's disrupted production for more than four months. Writers want higher pay and more protections around the use of artificial intelligence. The WGA is urging members to continue picketing outside studio offices until a deal is reached.

HARLOW: Well, our next guest is no stranger to the big screen.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within these walls, who - who makes the rules?

TARAJI P. HENSON, ACTRESS: You, sir. You are the boss. You just have to act like one.

I would do anything for you. And I did. And you lie. And you cheat on me.

I'm so sorry. I'm sorry. I have something I've got to say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing?

HENSON: I've been given a gift. I can hear men's thoughts. And right now, because of my gift, James, I know you are not worthy of my friend Mari (ph).


HARLOW: Don't we all wish we had that gift.

We are joined this morning by actress and producer Taraji P. Henson. She is with us now.

Good morning.


HARLOW: It is great to have you.

HENSON: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: I can't wait to ask you about your life's work. It's so impactful. But, you're here.


HARLOW: We've got to ask you about the strike.

Four months. They're back at the table. It's really financially crippling to many actors, right, that haven't had, you know, all the success that you've had and producers. What's going to happen here?

HENSON: Hopefully we come to an agreement because people just want what they deserve. You know, a wage where they can survive in this economy. We're artists, you know, we're vulnerable and we give so much breath and life to the world and all we're asking is for a wage that people can take care of their families and their likeness to be protected. That's not -- it's not uncommon. It's not -- we're not asking for the world, you know.

And I feel for actors who haven't seen the success that I have, and a lot of my friends, because, you know, we're fine during the strike, but we're striking as a whole because we're a family, you know. And if one artist is struggling, we're all struggling.

MATTINGLY: You mentioned the issue of likeness. The industry is going through such a -- our industry as well -- so many rapid changes right now on artificial intelligence, which has been a central issue in these talks and in the demands from the writers and the actors. What concerns you, kind of big picture, as you look into that as a - as an issue as an actress?

HENSON: Well, as an actress, it's the likeness. It's my likeness. I want to control that. I don't want industry -- you know, studios to be able to use my likeness in perpetuity, even after I'm gone. Like, I still have family that's here that could benefit from the work that I've done. You know what I mean? And I don't want it to go to artificial intelligence. That's weird to me. I don't think society is ready for that just yet. And there are good - there are good aspects of artificial intelligence, but you just have to figure out what that is.

HARLOW: Let's turn to why you're here.


HARLOW: And that is what you have launched, this initiative, She Cares Wellness Pods. These are HBCU campuses. Before you talk about that, this has been your fight for years. Here is you testifying before Congress in 2019 on mental health.



HENSON (June 7, 2019): We, in the African American community, we don't deal with mental health issues. We don't even talk about it. We've been taught to pray our problems away.

I need the person sitting opposite from me, when I go seek help for my mental, to be culturally competent. And if you're not culturally competent, how can I trust you with my deepest secrets and with my vulnerability?


HARLOW: You have called this your life's work, not acting, this fight.

HENSON: Yes. Because as people and as humans we are here to service each other. And for me it was always about, how can I affect as many people on the planet while I'm alive as possible? How can I do that in a positive way? And for a while - for years I thought it was through acting. You know, maybe I will change a life with this character or maybe not, you know. But the work that I'm doing now with the foundation, this is real work that is really saving lives.

MATTINGLY: The idea and then the delivery on wellness pods at HBCUs, the availability and the kind of you can see it is so critically important on the destigmatization side of things.


[08:55:05] MATTINGLY: How did you kind of get to this point?

HENSON: Well, at the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation we like to meet people where they are in their mental health journey. Some people are advanced. You know, they have therapists. They've been going for years. They have tools. They know how to work out their issues.

A lot of people, especially underserved communities, they're new to the notion of seeking help. You heard me say in the black community, we don't -- we've never been told to talk about or be vulnerable. That was a weakness for us, you know. And so this is new. This whole notion of talking about needing help and getting help in that matter is very new to the African American community.

And, like I said, it's about meeting people where they are. Some people -- it's very still stigmatized. You know, I had someone ask me yesterday, what would you say to a person who is trying to seek therapy for the first time and they may feel uncomfortable? I said the great thing and the blessing that came out of the pandemic was, start with a Zoom with a therapist. You're in the comforts of your own home, you know. That's a great way to start. That's a good tippy toe into getting your mental wellness.

And so that's the thing, we try to meet people where they are and we make it warm and welcoming. I think when people think about therapy, they think of a sterile room and it's all white and it's, you know, it's daunting to some people. So, with these pods, it's very welcoming.

You don't have to seek a therapist right away. You can just convene and talk about mental wellness. Maybe sometimes it's somebody's first conversation ever about the subject matter. But it's in a warm, safe place. We do -- you don't have to do yoga. It can be African dance. It's just ways to -- because what's happening is we don't have enough therapists.

HARLOW: Right.

HENSON: You know, and so we're trying to teach or build a module where people can -- they have tools that they can get to right away to work out issues. And it may not involve -- it may just be community for some people. Some -- a lot of people are isolating, they're suffering in silence and we just want to break that up, because you're never alone. You're never alone. Everybody has a cross to bear.

HARLOW: Good for you. Thank you for doing this work.

HENSON: Thank you.

And Kate Spade, I can't say enough, the best partner we have found in them and it's been very organic and we're family now.

MATTINGLY: Such an important issue. We really appreciate you coming in.

HENSON: Thank you. MATTINGLY: You saw the pods on the screen. Use them.

Taraji P. Henson, thank you.

HENSON: Thank you so much.

MATTINGLY: "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right after this break.