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Naysa Woomer is Interviewed about George Santos; TikTok Videos Sympathize with Bin Laden; Sheena Meade is Interviewed about the Clean Slate Law. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 17, 2023 - 06:30   ET





STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": After the report dropped, Santos announced he will "not be seeking re-election for a second term."

I know. I know. I'm - I'm so happy, too. Thank God I won't have endless content for my show anymore.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: The late-night shows getting what might be their final laughs at Congressman George - it's not going to be their final laughs. There's a lot more to come, guys. Momentum, though, is building for another effort to expel the New York Republican following a scathing House ethic report. That report concluded there was, quote, "substantial evidence" that Santos violated federal laws, stole from his campaign and delivered a, quote, "constant series of lies to voters." Santos is accused of using campaign funds to pay for Botox, Only Fans, leisure travel, a lot of other stuff too that did not appear to have any political purpose. The report says the committee uncovered additional, quote, uncharged and unlawful conduct that is being referred to the Justice Department.

Now, Santos has already pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including identity theft, credit card fraud and filing fraudulent campaign finance reports.

Joining us now, Naysa Woomer, the former communications director for Congressman Santos. She resigned back in May after he was indicted by the Justice Department.

Thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

I want to start with, if you were still counseling the congressman, that would probably be hard, but the November 30th press conference that he has scheduled several weeks in advance, what would you be telling him to do? NAYSA WOOMER, FORMER SANTOS COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, that press

conference should have happened from the beginning. Doing a press conference literally at the -- what may actually become the very end of his time in Congress seems - it's, you know, too little too late in my - in my professional opinion.

One of the things that I wanted him to do from day one was either, you know, either do a press conference with reporters on the steps of Capitol Hill, or do a major interview, whether it be, you know, here on CNN, or MSNBC, or wherever because, you know, he's allowing the media to create the narrative for him rather than him setting the record straight. But given what we've seen with this ethics report, we don't even know what the record would be.


MATTINGLY: Yes. You said after you --

WOOMER: For his terms.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Exactly. You said after you resigned, you know, exactly what you were alluding to here, go on an apology tour. Try and make this a very different understanding of things than perhaps it was being covered as.

To that point, you know, you interviewed for the job in December. We saw that there was kind of a vulnerability report that had been created by the campaign, and it was very lengthy, I think 130-plus pages. How much did you know, when did you become aware of these things, when did you realize this is potentially as bad as we now know it is?

WOOMER: So, this vulnerability report, all of this, I was never even privy to any of this. And I did not learn of it until even after I had resigned. And I was just completely shocked because, you know, when I interviewed for the job, just like anybody else, you're looking -- I remember looking on his website, his campaign website -


WOOMER: (INAUDIBLE) to -- looking to see, you know, his background. So, obviously, you go in good faith thinking, when they say they went to Baruch College, they worked for Goldman Sachs, that they actually did these things. And - and just to hear that he -- that none of it was true, it just -- it became harder and harder. And, you know, in the beginning, if it was just lying about his background, that could eventually die down if, one, you apologize, show real contrition and prove to your constituents that you are taking this job very, very seriously and you are committed to doing anything from, you know, very - you know, minimal constituent work up to introducing bills that would actually benefit his constituents.


WOOMER: And we are seeing time and time again that this is not the case. MATTINGLY: The -- I want to play a clip from Fox that has gone very

viral in the course of the last 24 hours.

Take a listen.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): You know, I'll - I'll - I'll indulge you this. I just discovered what Only Fans was about three weeks ago when it was brought up in a discussion in my office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think?

SANTOS: And I was very - I was oblivious to the whole concept.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ah, he just can't tell the truth.


MATTINGLY: First off, that was just a great caper to the conversation. But you said you were there - I think you tweeted you were there.

WOOMER: I was there.

MATTINGLY: You laughed because you knew it wasn't true. And I think what -- what are you thinking in that moment as a staffer?

WOOMER: Well, in a moment as a staffer, one, I can't believe this is being brought up in the Canon Rotunda that a - just like Only Fans, House of Representatives in the Canon Rotunda, I though, oh, this is becoming a bigger farce.

But just hearing -- because I was listening to the interview in an earpiece with -- when Kennedy said that, and I tried so hard not to laugh loud enough for audio to pick it up because I thought, oh, OK, here's another lie because, I mean, I hate to say it, and now that the report indicates that he, in fact, knew about Only Fans because, you know, he used campaign funds to open an account. So, again, it's just a cute lie said no one ever.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, to each their own, just don't use campaign money for it.


MATTINGLY: We've got to go, but real quickly, it seems like the momentum is headed towards he will be expelled. Do you think that's true?

WOOMER: It -- I think after seeing what was in that report because there were skeptical Republicans and even skeptical Democrats that wanted to wait until this report came out. And I think this confirmed everything that they had doubts about. And I could see an expulsion being brought to the floor after the Thanksgiving break.

MATTINGLY: Yes, everything they had doubts about and a lot more. Naysa Woomer, we appreciate your time, as also. Thank you.

WOOMER: Thank you. Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: A two decades old letter written by Osama bin Laden is stirring controversy and getting millions of views and opinion spread online. How TikTok is responding to users who say they sympathize with the terror leader behind the 9/11 attacks.




JOHN FEAL, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER: You don't post crap that was written two decades ago by a maniacal, twisted, evil piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and then say it's OK. You just don't.


HARLOW: That is 9/11 first responder John Feal on with our Abby Phillip last night reacting to some young people on TikTok who are sympathizing with Osama bin Laden over the letter he famously wrote in 2002 criticizing America and its support for Israel, trying to somehow justify the 9/11 attacks. It took nearly 3,000 lives.

TikTok has removed the videos, which including users saying things like, quote, "if we're going to call Osama bin Laden a terrorist, so is the American government." The White House is responding with this, quote, "there is never a justification for spreading the repugnant, evil and anti-Semitic lies that the leader of al Qaeda issued after committing the worst terrorist act in American history."

Back with us at the table, John Avlon and Errol Louis.

You're the perfect people for this given where you were and what you were doing, in New York, when 9/11 happened.

John, start us off.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was the chief speech writer for the mayor of New York, was across -- three blocks away at city hall when the towers fell. And my team and I were responsible for writing the eulogies for the police officers and firefighters murdered in the attack.

This is one of the most repugnant examples of 9/11 amnesia I can possibly remember and imagine. The fact that these folks are finding the bin Laden justification letter for the murder of Americans, the targeting terroristic murder of Americans, and saying it somehow epitomizes their feeling around the attacks in Israel on October 6th is repugnant and ignorant on every level. And we've done a terrible job educating people in our country about the history of that, if there's no historical context to round it and they're suspectable to this. And it also raises questions about the propagation of disinformation on foreign owned platform. And that's something we should take very seriously as well.



I - I - I watched the towers burn from my front steps. I was working at home that day. And the smell, you know, you never forget it.


It was - it was horrific.

John raises an important point, which is that, we've never known, and we still don't know, what's in the black box, the algorithm that's driving TikTok. What we do know is that they are attracting more younger Americans. They're spending more time on that than all other platforms combined.

HARLOW: You know, the Pew poll says, what is it -

AVLON: A third.

HARLOW: A third of young Americans 18 to 29 get a lot of their news on TikTok.


HARLOW: That's stunning.

LOUIS: It is - it is shocking. And I - you know, I mean, I stick some of our appearances on there. You know, you try and fight the good fight. But the reality is, there's so much misinformation just about, you know, diet and fitness alone. It's shoving all kinds of stuff in front of you that has no basis in fact. And if that's where people are getting their history from, then, yes, they'll come away thinking that, you know, Hamas is sort of like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or, you know, the ANC, or some other kind of grass roots liberation movement from the past. And - and it's simply not so.

We also have to remember we're all --


LOUIS: We're - we're all getting a little bit older. We remember 9/11. You know, you ask us, and I - I go right back to that date. But for somebody in their 20s, it's ancient history.

MATTINGLY: A I think this is a good point. I think part of the -- why everybody's so stunned is, we can't fathom the idea of not understanding that moment. And this is not giving people a pass for not knowing their history. But I also don't think this is a - like the youths are terrible, let's all hate on the youths, because, you know, to track back our great team, Grace (ph) and Andrew (ph), kind of tracked back how this came to become viral.


MATTINGLY: And it's not just as simple as people start talking about it on TikTok. You know, there was a -- the original video was posted. There's a hashtag associated with it. It was viewed 2 million times, which is actually not a ton on TikTok. Wasn't trending. Then it was tweeted out by a journalist. That kind of drove it further and then it caught.

I think this gets to the algorithm idea of, what causes things to catch fire? What causes things to spread? And what causes -- when those things spread, if that's how people are getting information, then you have a huge problem. And I don't know the answer to it.

LOUIS: That's right. But I also think it's -

MATTINGLY: It's just - it's complicated.

LOUIS: Think about if a third of all Chinese youth -


LOUIS: Were looking at an American platform that the U.S. government controlled. It would be negligent for us not to stick in some ideas about liberty and, hey, maybe your society's not so great and you need to make some changes. Why wouldn't we think that that is not happening right now?

AVLON: Well, and the inverse we know is happening right now is Maria Ressa (ph) and other have documented the Chinese version of TikTok internally is dramatically different.


AVLON: It is edited to make - have a - have a - not just engagement, but civic engagement to be a portion of it. And we need to take these kind of - you know, at a time when our country is fractured, not as fractured sometimes as our politicians would have us believe, this sort of, you know, propagation of disinformation is incredibly dangerous and is a form of information warfare. And that's not to say it's not complicated when things go viral.


AVLON: It is. But, you know, you need to defend the integrity of history, agreed that there are objective facts, and there is such a thing in good and evil in the world, especially in extreme circumstances like 9/11.

HARLOW: Yes. There's no question about it.

Let's go from one hate to another hate being spread online, and that is the fact that the owner of X, formerly Twitter, Elon Musk, has endorsed this claim that Jewish communities push, quote, "hatred against whites." I think we can pull up the tweet and then you can see. Here's the tweet, OK, "Jewish communities have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want to stop using against them." And Musk's response is, "you have said the actual truth."


LOUIS: It continues to be outrageous and shocking, but no longer surprising that Elon Musk, who, depending on the day of the week, is the richest person on the planet, would continue to sort of spread this kind of poison, and then wonder why, number one, he's losing a lot of advertisers, number two, he's losing a lot of users, and, number three, he is sort of demeaning the whole role of social media, that what started out and what used to be in the pre-Musk era sort of a - a great place to connect with people and get information is now turning into something else all together.

AVLON: Has become a - yes, has become a cesspool. An enormous amount of value destruction. But because there is actually -- it's important to have standards. It is important. You know, you can say you want a free speech utopia. But with all of a sudden you pull the goalie when it comes to actually tracking disinformation and misinformation and you have an enormous amount of sort of bots and trolls dominating a platform, then real civic conversation goes down and Musk is actually, you know, showing his cards as to what's happened with this platform.


MATTINGLY: When they show you who they are -

AVLON: Believe them.

MATTINGLY: Believe them.

John, Errol, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Well, Israel says it has now found evidence of a tunnel underneath Gaza's largest hospital as the body of another hostage is found near there. We're going to be live from Israel ahead.

HARLOW: Also, New York's governor has signed the Clean Slate Act. It is now law. It could affect about 2 million people convicted of crimes. We'll be joined by a real force behind all of this who says this law will give people a much-needed second chance.




GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): And I believe that the best anti-crime tool we have is a job.


HARLOW: That was New York Governor Kathy Hochul just yesterday signing the Clean Slate Law. It allows people convicted of crimes, if they serve their sentence and stay out of trouble for a set period of time, to have their records sealed.

New York is now the 12th state to enact a law like this. It goes into effect one year from now and it could impact 2 million people in New York.


Sheena Meade of the Clean Slate Initiative, which pushed for this law and laws like it all over the country, is personally invested in this legislation. Almost two decades ago she was arrested in front of her children after an $87 check she wrote for groceries bounced. And when she paid the money back immediately after her release, including the fees for getting arrested and going to jail, she thought that chapter of her life was over. But it wasn't.


SHEENA MEADE, CEO, CLEAN SLATE INITIATIVE: That arrest and that conviction, it remained on my record. And at that moment I realized that my true sentence had just begun, because, you know what, I a was no longer allowed to volunteer at my children's school. I could no longer rent where I wanted to rent because it is legal for landlords to discriminate against a person with a record. I even faced barriers trying to go to college. And still, to this day, I am excluded from certain certifications and occupational license. All I could keep asking myself was, damn, when will my sentence end?


HARLOW: And Sheena Meade joins us now.

It must just be surreal for you to see this now in 12 states across the country given what you experienced.

SHEENA MEADE, CEO, CLEAN SLATE INITIATIVE: Yes. Yesterday, and I brought this pen with me, the governor has signed a bill, and with the stroke of a pen saw 2.3 million people's lives change. Access to housing, access to jobs, barriers removed, opportunities unlocked. It was a joyous moment yesterday.

MATTINGLY: Were you -- I think what's most -- the most amazing thing about the legislative victory, not to get into the weeds of this stuff, is the moment that the country's in right now on issues of crime, on issues of people being concerned about their public safety, that type of moment usually insures stuff like that can't pass.


MATTINGLY: We saw the opposition from the state senate Republican leader talking about his concerns about various pieces of this.

Why were you able to get this done despite that opposition?

MEADE: You know, when you have one in three Americans that have a criminal record, an arrest or a conviction, it's close to home. People believe in second chances and redemption. People remember the moment that they were given a second chance, where they asked for another chance. And so I believe our country -- our foundation is based off of second chances.

And so I believe that -- folks believe that this is a common sense policy. You know, it's a workforce issue. We have employers who cannot hire people because people are locked out of jobs and employment due to an arrest or a conviction. There are over 44,000 collateral consequences that people with arrests or convictions stays (ph), meaning they can't get license, certifications, for the simple of jobs of just doing hair, cosmetology. And so I believe that people know that this is a common sense policy, from the left, from the right, and people in the middle.

HARLOW: But there is a lot of pushback from the right here in the state of New York. I should note that the most serious crimes, include murder and sex crimes and most other class a felonies are not part of this. That was a change before this got passed.

But what about Republicans who say things like, look, attempted murder, gang assault, arson are included. Or you heard also from a New York state senator, Dean Murray, who said the full criminal records of potential tenants will not be available to landlords or people with had crimes against children may be allowed to work with children again.

What is your response to that criticism?

MEADE: You know, Poppy, that's a great question. But what I hear when I travel across the country, in red states and blue states, and I talk to Republicans and liberal, they're saying that this is a public safety issue, that we have to put people back to work. People need to have access to be jobs, housing, have an alternative measures of not going back to prison. Reducing recidivism. They know, when people have access to jobs, that it reduces recidivism, it's a public safety measure, and we get people back to work. And so I don't hear a lot of that pushback and opposition across the country. I hear people saying that this is an opportunity for us to put people back to work and help our economy.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's certainly something echoed by business leaders. And Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan, said he was, I think, thrilled, I'm paraphrasing here.

HARLOW: Oh, yes.

MATTINGLY: Your story.


MATTINGLY: We saw a piece of it there. Take us from the moment you were describing to this moment now.

MEADE: Yes. It is surreal. And I will say that I still don't have a clean slate just yet, because I live in the state of Florida. But hope is on the way. But seeing that 2.3 million people in the state of New York have a pathway to get their record cleared, have a pathway to jobs and to housing, it was emotional yesterday.

You have -- we don't usually see legislators cry when a bill is signed, get emotional - a governor get emotional. The governor said yesterday, I have never seen a piece of legislation that has brought big businesses like Walmart, JP Morgan, small businesses, unions, labor, community, directly impacted people together to saying, people deserve a second chance. It was surreal yesterday.

HARLOW: And we're - I'm so glad you brought up big companies because that's something, for example, JP Morgan, for years, has been trying to hire more of them, but big companies need to now act, right, in hiring people?