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CNN Tonight

AK Gov. Sanders May Sign A Bill To Impose Restrictions On Drag Shows; Trump Unleashes On DeSantis; Some Pharmacies In Mexico Passing Off Fentanyl And Meth As Legitimate Pharmaceuticals; CNN Reports On The Deadly Opioid Boom; Pentagon Tracks Suspected Chinese Spy Balloon Over The U.S.; Disney Launches New Doll Collection With Photographers Who Empower Children Of Color. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired February 02, 2023 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the so-called war on woke is heating up. Tonight, we're learning Arkansas Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders may soon sign a bill that would impose restrictions on drag shows. That's according to "The Washington Post".

Now, this proposal still needs to make its way, of course, through the State House to the governor's desk, but her spokesperson telling the "Post," "The proposal is not about banning anything but protecting kids from sexually-explicit drag shows." -- unquote.

CNN has reached out to Governors Sanders for comment and we are still waiting to hear backup. But that is not all. In her first month an office, she issued an executive order to prohibit critical race theory in Arkansas schools. She also banned the term "Latinx" in official documents.

And it's not just her. Across the country, more politicians are getting traction with rhetorical and legislative wars on so cold woke culture and language.

I want to turn now to "New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof. He has a new piece out on these language wars and writes, in part, "I fear that linguistic contortions, however well-meant, aren't actually addressing our country's desperate inequities or achieving progressive dreams, but rather are creating fuel for right-wing leaders aiming to take the country in the opposite direction."

Nicholas Kristof joins us now on this conversation. I'm glad that you are here. A very thought-provoking column and one that people have been really talking about, frankly, for a very long time. I wonder, in your mind, what is the goal with all of the new words? It is to be inclusive, of course, but you fear that it might be alienating some?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Yea, and of course, I can attest from completely the opposite perspective of Governor Sanders --

COATES: We're having a little bit of hard time with your audio. I want to get that fixed. I want to make sure that we hear your position. It's very important, especially given this very thought- provoking piece and it's not unlike, frankly, what the former President Barack Obama had to say in a podcast a few months ago before the midterm elections talking about the idea of, you know, the good intentions leading to some kind of alienation.

I have you back. What did you want to say?

KRISTOF: Yeah, I mean, I come at this from the opposite perspective of Governor Sanders. I think that we should be inclusive. I think we should be prepared to think about our language and use it in a way that obviously doesn't dehumanize anybody.

But I do think that we have gone overboard. You mentioned -- you raised the term "Latinx." Okay, you know, 3% of Latinos use the term "Latinx." Representative Ritchie Torres himself Afro Latino, you know, told me that maybe this is more about the agenda setting power of affluent white leftists than it is about the interest of working-class Latinos.

Honestly, I'm speaking to you right now from rural Oregon. I think that there are a lot of Americans who, instead of feeling included, feel that the gap between well-educated liberals, often urban liberals who are crafting these new terms, is excluding them and they don't know where to tread and they resent it. And I think that makes them more likely to vote against their economic interests and to support somebody like Governor DeSantis.

So, I -- coming at this from a liberal, I think that our efforts to be inclusive have actually been counterproductive.

COATES: So, is there a way to course correct? I mean -- and I know on one of the examples that you write in this, about the many examples, you talked about perhaps being a gift to, say, Governor Ron DeSantis, the idea of people wanting to go in a direction that might be contrary to what their state of interests have been because they are trying to get away from the feeling of walking on eggshells.

But you write also about a recent tweet -- this is very interesting -- from the "Associated Press" stylebook, by the way, and it says, we recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing the labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college- educated.


I mean, the French one stands out, obviously, as odd in and on itself. They ended up to leading this very tweet. But I wonder, what do you see was the goal in the first place of this stylebook section?

KRISTOF: You know, I mean, I think they had a concern about the way that is used sometimes in ways that are pejorative. You know, if somebody says the Jews or the Blacks, that sounds kind of like throat- clearing to something bigoted that's going to come next. I think that's less true of the college-educated and certainly is not true of the French. And so, I just think that --

COATES: Well, it might be, depending on who's talking. I don't know.


COATES: I don't know --


COATES: -- if they're using context for people. But, yeah, go ahead.

KRISTOF: You know, and I guess I wish we would spend less time touching over linguistic rules and more time solving problems. You know, here on the West Coast, we have an enormous problem with unsheltered homelessness. And are -- the places in the country that have come up with the greatest linguistic response, you know, people experiencing homelessness, houselessness, et cetera, are in the places that have actually the greatest homelessness.

I have friends who are homeless and, you know, they appreciate the concern, they appreciate the inclusiveness, but what they want isn't new terms, what they want is housing. And I wish that we would focus more on actually solving some of these practical problems. I think that would be better for the people we are trying to serve and for actually, you know, winning votes in, you know, the next election.

COATES: You know, you illustrate the idea of form over substance or, you know, more putting lipstick on a pig in number of these instances. We will see what actually happens in the long run. Thank you so much. Nice speaking to you. A very compelling and thought-provoking piece. Thank you so much. I want to bring --

KRISTOF: Good to be with you.

COATES: Thank you. I want to bring in CNN political commentators Van Jones and Scott Jennings here to the conversation. Let me bring you in here first Van on this point. And Scott, only because I don't want to go from talking about lipstick on a pig knowing that you have a big and thinking I was only singling you out on this. He really does have a pet pig, everyone. There you go.

So, Van, I will begin with you instead here. Van, is Nick Kristof right in the sense of, are some on the left undercutting their own messaging by going what they believe to be too far?




COATES: Great. Now, for Scott. Next --


COATES: Go ahead. JONES: I mean, you know, obviously so. I think Scott and I are going to be in violent agreement tonight. Look, I understand that there are people who are concerned about the status quo, the way certain groups are left out and mistreated, and they're worried that some of the ways we talk might be -- the old language might be codifying the old attitudes. And so, they want new language to signify new attitudes.

But it has gone so far that it is a joke, it's a parody of itself all too often. And so, even people like myself who are passionately committed to these causes, you find yourself you're afraid to even talk on a zoom call because you might say the wrong word and spend 15 minutes getting lectured about how, you know, something that nobody even heard of six months ago is now required speech in plight company. And it is a distraction from getting anything actually done.

COATES: (INAUDIBLE) on that point. How does that, in your mind, translate to how an electorate might proceed? It is one thing to have the idea of whatever barriers and guardrails ought to be in place are now in place in the private sector, of course, and in your own individual lives. But in terms of how it translates for voters, do you see this as being problematic for those who are maybe Democrats and incumbents or liberal-minded?

JONES: Are you asking me or you're asking Scott?

COATES: Yes, Van.

COATES: Oh, yes. Listen, we are handing a big, fat gift to the right because before they can get in -- before -- you don't get a chance to engage something with this issue unless going out with people who don't have houses and people are being left out. Because the language is so crazy, they can just make fun of the whole subject.

Whatever these people are talking about, they have too much time on their hands. Whatever these people are talking about, they are clearly not like me and you. They have this much time to come up with, you know, people who are assigned female at birth (ph). Have you -- if you've got that many syllables to fire at the word "woman," you got more time on your hands than I do. And I think it creates a cultural gap between the Democratic Party and an awful lot of voters, which is not necessary.

COATES: Scott, on that point, I want you to weigh in because there is a group of Democrats, by the way, who are in Connecticut who are the latest politicians calling for a ban on, for example, Latinx, that term on official government documents.

Of course, you have the Arkansas governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, doing something similarly. And so, there are Democrats who are also against the so-called language wars that Van is alluding to as well.


How do you see this, Scott?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, on the point you asked about earlier, the electoral impacts of this, I mean, look around the country, look around middle America, look around rural community, you just don't that many elected Democrats anymore.

I mean, I'm in Kentucky tonight and about the only elected Democrats left in office other than Governor Andy Beshear, if you look in the state legislature, they're really clustered around the urban areas. That's true in a lot of states between the coast. I think a lot of it has to do with this language war that you are talking about and the implications of it that van is alluding to.

When you speak like this and you don't sound, you know, like just sort of a normal person talking about normal, everyday stuff, you sound like you're searching for things to make up, searching for problems to make up, and you're using language that sounds foreign, like a foreign language to people out here in the middle of the country.

It is a total barrier to political communication. How can I listen to what you have to say about, you know, whatever the problem of the day is when you are using a language I do not even recognize? So, you know, I don't wear this hat very often. If I were putting my Democrat strategist hat on, I would say this is one of the biggest problems their party has.

And rural America right now is -- you have all the greatest policy ideas in the world, but these cultural language problems and some of these invented issues, I think, and catering, frankly, to a real fringe who are trying to push this on the rest of us and make us all feel like we are taking crazy pills, major barrier, it's going to be a real electoral barrier.

COATES: Let me just say, you know, I mean, obviously, we're talking about this in very wide terms, very wide umbrella to think about what all the terms you're speaking about. Certainly, there would be those who agree that certain terms will seem quite foreign generationally. But there are certain terms that are being used or being asked to be used that would honor someone's individual identity or honor somebody's individual feelings of their connectivity to the world around them.

Is it so unlike, say, the transition from words of Black to African American, is it so unlike the conversation that we've had over time about how we address changes in the way that we view our society and we codify, we use our language then to really codify some of the transition and the evolution of thought? Is it -- is it problematic to have a language that matches the way in which our moral compass point at this point?

JONES: Look, this is tricky stuff because you do not want to give aid and comfort to people who actually, you know, hate poor people or who despise poor people or who don't care about transgendered kids or who don't care about gays and lesbians, who don't care to people of color. You don't want to give aid and comfort to those folks.

But that's not the conversation that I'm trying to have. I'm talking about the people who care, the people who really care, but who may be speaking in ways that are confusing or alienating or come across as so morally superior or so intellectually elevated that other people who care feel left out.

In other words, in trying to fight alienation, you just sometimes create alienation. In trying to fight exclusion, you might create exclusion. And that is just the moral hazard of trying to move things forward. I think that we have to take that moral hazard seriously. Those of us who do care, I do not want to do anything that's going to make it harder for us to deliver justice. But the way that we're talking sometimes, I think it is actually can be a barrier.

Now listen, every generation is going to say, look, we want to do it differently, we want to say it differently. So, you have this generational friction. That is okay. We'll get through it. But it's not like it's only one side. If you do not agree with us on this term that we just came up with six months ago, you are a bigot. That implication, I think, is dangerous and unfair.

COATES: But who is doing that, Scott?


COATES: I'll ask Scott on this point, especially the idea -- and again, taking a step back, you know, we are talking about in very broad terms here all of the terms, so to speak, which we -- I would note that the "Associated Press" had a style guide about the words (INAUDIBLE) being used here for that very reason.

But, you know, talking about the terms that are out there, Scott, is this in and of itself, however, a talking point where it seems as though everyone is being attacked and tarred and feathered because they use a wrong term or one that is not the international zeitgeist or is that more of a talking point that suggests that, hey, you would be targeted, the fear tactic, what might happen as oppose to reality?

JENNINGS: Oh, I think Van is exactly right. I think -- look, Van and I don't agree on everything, but we've got a lot of conversations where we do agree. But he is sometimes, I think, where I am, and that is having conversations where you are trying to talk across party lines or across ideological lines.

You know, I'll just be candid. Sometimes, you feel like you're walking on eggshells because you do not know what you're going to say that could totally derail a meeting or total derail what is otherwise something is going in a positive direction.


I know people in corporate settings feel that way. They're constantly walking up and down the hall wondering if H.R. is going to come knocking on their doorstep on a college campus with a conservative worldview and, you know, you're worried about opening your mouth.

I think a lot of conservatives feel like there is a group of people in this country who are openly looking to target anyone who doesn't fall in line with this new language zeitgeist. And as Van said, some of the stuff was just recently invented. If you don't hop on board, they then try to use that to make you look like you're racist or a bigot or you somehow don't care about the problems of the day or poor people or what have you.

And that is just simply not -- that is targeting some real fear and it does happen.

JONES: You know, what I love about your show, we could be nuanced here. So, there's are two things that are happening, not just one. On the one hand, you do have people who -- I've had the experience of saying the wrong thing and suddenly the meeting is derailed and you don't even know the new term. That's true.

Also, you have people, I think, like Governor DeSantis that is using this. That's actually taking this and trying to use it as a political weapon for his own purposes. I don't think he necessarily believes or cares at anything. This is a new cudgel. It is a new talking point for some on the right to try to get something going.

And so, two things can be true at the same time. I think on the right, be careful because it sounds like you don't care about people. On the left, be careful because it sounds like you're being a little highfalutin and more interested in sounding right than doing right. All of us as we get to this new society are going to have to be careful and listen to each other.

COATES: Let's see if the political campaigns coming ahead for 2024 appreciate the nuance you all are speaking with tonight. Thank you both, gentlemen.

JONES: Thank you.

COATES: Speaking of that, if you think the next presidential campaign is going to be smooth sailing, well, I have a bridge that you might like to buy tonight. The battle for 2024 is, in fact, heating up, and we'll tell you who's angling to get into the race.




COATES: So, here we are only about a month into 2023 and there are signs that battle for next year's presidential election is already heating up. More Republicans now eyeing a run against the scandal- plagued former President Donald Trump. But Trump is already hammering the man who could be his toughest competition.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): Ron DeSantis got elected because of me. You remember, he had nothing, he was dead, he was leaving the race. He came over and he begged me, begged me for an endorsement. He was getting ready to drop out. And there were tears coming down from his eyes. He said if you endorse me, I'll win.


COATES: I really want to know if that's true. I really want to know if that was true. Joining me now, CNN political commentator Ashley Allison, former national Republican senatorial committee aide Liam Donovan, and Margaret Talev, director of the Democracy Journalism and Citizenship Institute at Syracuse University.

Look, Margaret, he has not -- DeSantis has not officially thrown his hat into the ring yet. He is already, however, being targeted by Donald Trump, even after news that others are thinking about doing and going into the race. What does this tell you about the offensive on DeSantis by Trump?

MARGARET TALEV, DIRECTOR OF DEMOCRACY, JOURNALISM AND CITIZENSHIP INSTITUTE AT SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR FOR AXIOS: Well, Donald Trump knows who his biggest rival looks like right now. But DeSantis is not the only target of Trump's verbal warm-up activities. He's frantically going against Nikki Haley. It is going to be another two weeks before she throws her hat in the ring.


TALEV: Throwing some shade at Pompeo. Little bit of Mike Pence. At a minimum, he is trying to get everyone who might jump in the race to understand that if they really come after him, he is going to set them on fire. And in fact, when pressed about whether he would support a nominee other than him, he's not saying that he will.

So, it is again raising that sort specter of, is Donald Trump going to be in a position where, if he is not the nominee, he's going to set the party on fire? But that is for a year from now. Okay?

In the meantime, it is -- he is very clearly trying to set boundaries. He understands he's going to have rivals in this race, but he is trying to get them to sort of behave, to turn against each other, and it saves some of the fire against him.

COATES: I want to play that moment you talk about, when Trump was speaking about not wanting to support the Republican nominee if it were not him. Listen to this.


HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, SALEM RADIO NETWORK (voice-over): If you're not the nominee, will you support whoever the GOP nominee is?

TRUMP (voice-over): It would depend. I would give you the same answer I gave in 2016 during the debate. It would have to depend on who the nominee was.


COATES: Groundhog Day, Liam. Here we are again on this point. But I will say, if you are Governor DeSantis and the fact that you are one of the people that Trump is targeting, you might want to give yourself a pat on the back that something is going right for you, that you are perceived as a rival, right?

LIAM DONOVAN, FORMER NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE AIDE: I think the DeSantis team understands that they are the ones that are obviously seen as the key rival. But they've frozen this field in a lot of ways. I think people expected by now that you would have a lot more people joining the battle.

Everyone is waiting to see not only whether DeSantis gets in, but when he gets in, how he attacks this and how he is received, because he has been built up in a lot of ways by a lot of right-wing media to a lot of these voters and there's going to be a moment where people need to see what they are getting is what they've been promised.

And I think right now, that campaign or campaign to be is very deliberately, very carefully running a campaign that is a lot like the George W. Bush campaign of 1999, sort of road testing some of these things, kind of doing a book tour, lot of people coming down to Tallahassee to sort of kick the tires, but not fully engaging to the point where Donald Trump can really get at him.

And it shows a level of desperation and fear coming from the Trump camp that they are really trying to engage him already.


COATES: Speaking of Trump, his former press secretary who is now the governor, obviously, of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, now named to the retort essentially for state of the union address. What is that telling you that she was the one who was chosen at this time, not say a Governor DeSantis perhaps or anyone else?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, traditionally, whoever does the response is a rising star but not someone that would necessarily decide they were going to run in the most upcoming election for president. But I think it also says a lot about the Republican Party.

And, you know, let's not forget the era of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know, behind that podium lying to the American people, admitting that she was lying to the American people when she was the spokesperson for the sitting president as press secretary. And now, as governor, one of the first things she did was to ban, being able to say Latinx in her state.

You know, kind of playing to the red meat that the base wants to do. I think this Republican Party picks her to say, she's not Trump, but she's not a non-Trump person. And so, we still are the party of Trump. She is an up and coming star. Her name is well known.

It sends me signals that if he is the nominee, they will fall in line. That many people might not risk their political capital to really go into the 2020 prime -- 2024 primary and pick a candidate. It's telling to me for the Republican Party in the future that it's still aligned with Trump.

COATES: We will see what happens in all of it as it comes in. Stick around, everyone, because we've got more to talk about today, including the opioid epidemic that has plagued the United States for decades.

And now, there may be a new front in the drug war. A new investigation alleges some pharmacies in Mexico, including some in popular tourist and border towns that are frequented by Americans, are selling pills that purport to be legitimate medications but are actually laced with fentanyl.




COATES: The trafficking of illicit drugs made to look like legitimate prescription pills is exploding in this country, leading to a rising toll of overdose deaths. The number of pills the DEA confiscates every year has skyrocketed from just over two million in 2019 to -- get this -- more than 50 million last year alone. Nearly all the pills contain fentanyl, the deadliest drug in the United States.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta recorded some rare access to a secret lab where the DEA tests the seized illicit drugs.


SCOTT OULTON, DEA OFFICE OF FORENSIC SCIENCES: Over 99% of what we see are fake. They contain fentanyl.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Ninety- nine percent? That's mind-numbing.

(Voice-over): And look closely at how sophisticated the counterfeiters have become.

OULTON (voice-over): Just for example, these are some of the ones that we seized. They have the same "M" and "30" on the other side.

GUPTA (on camera): If you look at what is real here, the rainbow fentanyl, they're not even really trying anymore to disguise this. This is clearly fake. But also, if you look at these 800 grams of fentanyl, that turns into 400 to 500,000 potentially lethal pills. Think about that. One bag, that's 400 to 500,000 lethal doses.


COATES: Unbelievable. An investigation by the "L.A. Times" has found that pharmacies in several Mexican cities, including popular tourist and border towns, are selling counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine as legitimate prescription drugs. Connor Sheets is an investigative and enterprise reporter for "The Times," and he joins me now. It's really stunning to think about, just looking at those side by side that Dr. Gupta pointed out. You and your colleague actually tested pills, Connor, from pharmacies in three different cities. What did you find?

CONNOR SHEETS, INVESTIGATIVE AND ENTERPRISE REPORTER, THE TIMES: So, we tested pills in Cabo San Lucas, in San Jose -- in (INAUDIBLE), San Jose del Cabo and in Tijuana. We found that -- we tested 17 pills. We bought a number at different small pharmacies. We found that 71% of them tested positive for an illicit substance.

In all of these cases, we're talking about opioid pills such as Vicodin, Percocet, oxycodone. Pills that are being sold as those drugs in legitimate pharmacies in these tourist areas were coming up positive for fentanyl. And Adderall pills that were being sold as Adderall, 100% of the ones we tested came up positive for meth also. So, it is a widespread thing with regard to that.

COATES: Unbelievable to think about. I remember hearing the stories as well with many of the people on the show as well, people who mistakenly taken or thought they were taking one drug and taking another instead, and it has been fatal.

We know that there are pharmacies in Mexico that sell a variety of medications that really would require to have a prescription if it were sold in the United States of America. Walk me through just how easy it would be not only to get this but how would someone be able to understand or know, identify themselves, whether what they're getting is legitimate or fentanyl.

SHEETS: There's really no way to know whether what you're getting is legitimate fentanyl other than testing it. So, there's test strips that are sanctioned by crime reduction experts, people like the -- who, you know, know that people are going be using drugs. If you use these test drips, it'll tell you, do my drugs have fentanyl in them? They look a lot like COVID test strips. They can tell you immediately if there's a trace of illicit substance. It won't tell you the concentration.


So, you really just know that it's going to be in there. As far as how easy it is to get, you just walk down some of the main areas in Cabo, which is a very famous and very popular tourist destination. In Tijuana, right over the border where people go for medical tourism, for the red-light district, for eating, for going out at night. And really just almost -- just kind of walk into random pharmacies to some degree. Other than the ones -- other than large chain pharmacies, most of the pharmacies you run into are selling this type of pills.

COATES: I know in your reporting that these pills are likely coming from Mexican cartels. I do wonder about the crackdown now. This is being more and more apparent. I also wonder, what is different about the American pharmaceutical supply chain? What makes it difference? Are we here in the states able to understand and know that what we think we're getting is in fact what it ought to be?

SHEETS: I don't know the answer to that. We would hope the FDA is doing its due diligence to make sure that the drugs that we're getting out of pharmacy are legitimate. These were drugs that did not require a prescription, did not have to have a prescription. There was no -- they are being sold individually over the counter.

So, you know, we actually think they may have been targeting tourists because some of this cost as much as $35 a pill. If you imagine, you're a working person living in Mexico or the United States, $35 a pill is a pretty steep price. This is probably people that are coming in for weekends, partying, those type of things, are studying or whatever. So, it's an interesting situation.

COATES: It's really devastating to think about, just the span and reach of the opioid crisis. Thank you for your reporting. It makes us all that much more aware, Connor. Thank you.

SHEETS: Thank you for having me on.

COATES: You know, look, more than 100,000 people a year are now dying of drug overdose in the United States. The majority from opioids, according to the CDC. Around a million have lost their lives to overdoses since the opioid crisis began 20 years ago.

Now, the new CNN film, "American Pain," reveals the rise and fall of the identical twin brothers who ran one of the largest opioid pill mill empires in this country. Here's a preview.


UNKNOWN: The George brothers did not start the opioid crisis, but they sure all poured gasoline on the fire.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Let's talk about growing up in Florida.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Anything to do with money perks, Chris gets interest. The big money was at the pain clinics.

UNKNOWN: It's window dressing that allow them to deal drugs legally.

UNKNOWN: It was a line all the way down the street.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): It's like a frat house.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): We were basically the Disneyland of pain clinics.

UNKNOWN: They thought they were smarter than everybody else and they could get away with everything.

UNKNOWN: I thought this whole thing was spiraling out of control.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Florida was never ending pill (INAUDIBLE).

UNKNOWN: All these patients drive from out of state. UNKNOWN: People were dying because of them. They didn't care.

UNKNOWN: This was just bad (bleep) crazy.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): They put on the wire.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): These people buried themselves.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): We have the signal.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Baby, I'm (bleep).

UNKNOWN: I'm in America.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): "American Pain," Sunday at 9:00 on CNN.





COATES: This word today, the Pentagon is tracking a suspected Chinese spy balloon that's been traveling at a high altitude over the continental United States. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann has the details. Oren, what is going on?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura, the Pentagon has been tracking the surveillance balloon for several days now. U.S. officials say it came into the U.S. over Montano, coming in from Canada, and that's where they began tracking it. First, launching F-22 fighter jets. In the end, a decision was made not to shoot it down.

President Joe Biden was asked for military options, but senior military leaders, including chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, advised against shooting this down. Instead, they're keeping an eye on it and seeing where it goes.

The Pentagon does acknowledge that this has traveled over several sensitive sites, but they won't specify which sites those are. It is worth noting that Montana is home to ballistic missile silos. So, perhaps that's what this was after.

It's also worth noting, of course, that the Pentagon says they are confident, very confident, in fact, that this was launched by China. They brought it up through diplomatic channels both here in Washington and in Beijing, essentially to express how angry they are about this. Tensions with China are, of course, already high. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is heading to Beijing soon and this will only add to those tensions. Laura?

COATES: Oren Liebermann, thank you so much. When we come back, you've really got to see, your favorite Disney princesses reimagined in a whole new way. The founders of the Black-owned business, who helped launch a new doll collection with Disney, are going to join me, next. Beautiful.




COATES: Disney is embarking on a whole new world. The company partnering with CreativeSoul Photography to launch the CreativeSoul doll collection. It is hitting shelves tomorrow, everyone. First of all, I need to stop for a moment to see what you are looking at right there. On the left, you see the images of young Black girls dressed up as the characters on the right, you've got the doll embodiment of these figures.

The collection is based on Creative Souls reimagining of what classic Disney princess would look like through a diverse lens. The dollars will pay tribute to Disney princesses Tiana, Snow White, Rapunzel, and also Cinderella with natural hair styles and afro-centric fabrics. They are all based on the artwork and the vision of my visionary next guests.

I'm so happy to have with me now the founders of CreativeSoul Photography, Regis and Kahran Bethencourt, who joined me tonight from the Walt Disney World Resort. I'm so glad that you are both here today. I love your work. I'm so proud to see it.

REGIS BETHENCOURT, FOUNDER OF CREATIVESOUL PHOTOGRAPHY: Thank you so much. Appreciate you for having us.

KAHRAN BETHENCOURT, FOUNDER OF CREATIVESOUL PHOTOGRAPHY: Thank you so much. thank you for having us.

COATES: Talk to me about the vision here because I have a 10-year-old son, I have an eight-year-old daughter, and believe it or not, I once was the age of these little girls, and I think about what this would have meant to see this imagery. Talk to me about what motivated you to do this initially.


K. BETHENCOURT: Yes, so we are CreativeSoul Photography, as you mentioned. We have been photographing kids around the world for over 13 years now. And one of the things that we noticed was that, you know, there are so many negative stereotypes of kids of color around the world, in the media, and we really wanted to change that. We wanted to just provide a positive take on kids of color around the world. We have been doing that for years.

And when we had the opportunity to work with Disney to create dolls based off our photographs, we were so excited because we knew the impact that that would have on girls around the world, just being able to see themselves reflected in something as classic as the Disney princesses. So, yes, we were super excited about the opportunity.

COATES: It is beautiful. I cannot stop looking at them. I'm looking at you. I'm looking to the screen.


COATES: Everyone -- I mean, it is very captivating and mesmerizing to see. And just the sheer genius behind the wardrobe selection, the choice of color, the hair --


COATES: -- the styling of it, I mean, it really is so unbelievable to look at. And look at the photo sides by sides. I mean, I wonder, when you started out doing photography, did you ever expect that your photography would evolve --


COATES: -- into this level of social commentary, the idea of trying to make sure --


COATES: -- people saw themselves in the work? Where are you thinking about this now, Regis?

R. BETHENCOURT: Oh, my gosh. I never thought that we would be here at all. We just do what we love to do, which is photograph kids and use our platform to give them a platform, and, you know, raise their confidence and just all of that good stuff. That is my selfish part of it. I love seeing that. So, yeah, I never really thought that this would take us here.


R. BETHENCOURT: But, yeah.

K. BETHENCOURT: We actually just showed our moms --


K. BETHENCOURT: -- the dolls and we just, you know, reminisce about the fact that she is so excited and the fact that we started in my mom's garage, right?



K. BETHENCOURT: And so, now to have her see, you know, these photographs becoming dolls and Disney princesses, oh, my gosh, it is an amazing feeling.

COATES: And we are seeing boys now. First of all, we are seeing more boys on the screen as well.



COATES: So, it is not just for the girls. Of course, my son is always, like, that is great, but what about me?


COATES: What about me?

K. BETHENCOURT: I know. I know.

COATES: So beautiful.

R. BETHENCOURT: Absolutely.

K. BETHENCOURT: We do it all. Yeah, we photograph boys and girls.

COATES: You know, I want to know -- these dolls are going to be available starting tomorrow. what do you think it is going to mean --

K. BETHENCOURT: Tomorrow, yes.

COATES: -- to have a sense of -- I would love to see them. I want to hold them in my hand. I want to show and showcase it because --


COATES: -- what a beautiful moment to have a vision realized and then be tangible, and then be accessible, because that really in many ways is the beauty of art. What does it matter if it is going to be inaccessible to those who most need to see it?

K. BETHENCOURT: Correct. Yeah, I think, you know, that is the one thing that I'm excited about. I'm most excited to see, you know, the kids' reactions to actually seeing these dolls.


K. BETHENCOURT: You know, I think, you know, these are obviously special addition, but they are going to be made available at the shop Disney website and also the Disney parks. And so, we are just super excited about kids being able to see these. When I look at these dolls --

COATES: Oh, wow!

K. BETHENCOURT: -- you know, we just can't stop staring at them, the details. We actually just did the unboxing of them a few minutes ago. We literally cannot stop looking at them. Just the details of the hair, the clothing, the fabrics. Disney really worked with us to collaborate on every piece of this collaboration. So, down to hair textures, skin tones, we wanted to make sure we had just a broad representation because we felt that it was so important for kids to be able to see themselves reflected in this.

R. BETHENCOURT: And not only kids. I'm excited for, you know, adults, too, you know. We never got to see this kind of representation, you know. This is amazing.

K. BETHENCOURT: Yeah, we are super excited.

COATES: I'm so glad you said that because now it will be a shame when I have one, too.


COATES: And I have it. This is what we mean. What is the problem?

K. BETHENCOURT: We heard from plenty of adults that they are going to have these.


COATES: Well, you know, you're sitting there right now at the Walt Disney World Resort. They are known for appealing to the kid in all of us, so why not have that be there and as broadly represented as possible. Hey, listen, this makes me very proud to see.

As a mommy, I cannot wait to share it with my children. I know the moms and dads everywhere always want something where a child can envision themselves in a creative space and to have that visionary foundation is so important. So, thank you both.


K. BETHENCOURT: Thank you so much for having us. We are super excited. You know, we will be at the Festival of the Arts tomorrow, on EPCOT. And so, we will be doing doll signings and book signings. We are just super excited about the launch and for people to actually get these in their hands tomorrow. So, I can't wait.

COATES: I love it. Well, congratulations to you all, and thank you so much for being here tonight and being visionaries as well.

K. BETHENCOURT: Thank you.

R. BETHENCOURT: Thank you, Laura.

K. BETHENCOURT: Thank you so much for having us.

COATES: And thank you all for watching. I'm going to go find my Tiara somewhere because our coverage continues.




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Promises kept (INAUDIBLE) politics, or both? John Berman here, in for Anderson.