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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Zuckerberg: Whistleblower's Claims About Facebook "Deeply Illogical": Brian Laundrie's Sister Breaks Silence, Manhunt Continues; CDC: U.S. Records Highest Ever Increase in Homicide Rate. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired October 06, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Wednesday, October 6, it's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks so much for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.


Let's start with the Facebook story this morning, folks.

Deeply illogical, doesn't make sense, just not true -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg breaking his silence, dismissing claims by the whistleblower that the social media giant fuels division to make more money.

Writing in a lengthy post last night, he says, quote: At the heart of these accusations is the idea we prioritize profit over safety and well-being. That's just not true. The argument we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content.

JARRETT: But the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, she tells a very different story. Her compelling Senate testimony painting a damning picture of a company that knowingly makes teens feel worse about themselves and undermines democracy. She is advocating for more government oversight to mitigate all these dangers and lawmakers seem to agree with her.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has more from Capitol Hill.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Frances Haugen is Facebook's worst nightmare. She proved to be an extremely articulate and compelling witness, really effectively breaking down these quite technical, quite difficult details about algorithms and how these platforms work and really have the senators gripped. Have a listen.

FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: Facebook's own research shows that. The kids are saying -- kids are saying, I am unhappy when I use Instagram and I can't stop. Kids who are bullied on Instagram, the bullying follows them home. It

follows them into their bedrooms. The last thing they see before they go to bed at night is someone being cruel to them. Or the first thing they see in the morning is someone being cruel to them.

I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy. The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed. They won't solve this crisis without your help.

O'SULLIVAN: And it's unlikely that this would be Haugen's last visit to Capitol Hill. She may be coming back to speak to this same committee again, the committee that is looking into the harms of social media platforms on young people. That is according to Senator Richard Blumenthal who is on the committee and mentioned that they may need to speak to her again.

And also very significantly, Congressman Adam Schiff who is on the House Select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection said that that committee should also speak to her, the Facebook whistleblower, about Facebook's possible role and culpability in the January 6th insurrection -- Christine and Laura.


JARRETT: Donie, thank you so much for that report.

Let's bring in Cristiano Lima, author of "The Washington Post's" Tech 202 newsletter.

Good morning. Thanks so much for joining us.

ROMANS: Good morning. It's been a riveting couple of days, hasn't it? And, Cristiano, the whistleblower says it's time for Facebook to declare moral bankruptcy. What else, what's the take away from you from this pivotal testimony?

CRISTIANO LIMA, TECHNOLOGY 202 AUTHOR, WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think lawmakers were very compelled by her argument that Facebook has basically put the safety of its users at risk and they prioritized its commercial success over that. And senators were really struck by this idea that they're unable to sort of lift the hood on social media and get a better idea of how Facebook works, which a lot of lawmakers on Capitol Hill consider to be basically a black box to them.

JARRETT: So, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, took a break from sailing to release a very long, very belated statement last night. One of his rebuttal points is this. He said, if we didn't care about fighting harmful content, why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other people in our space, even ones larger than us?

Is that a winning argument when this whistleblower Frances Haugen just told lawmakers that Facebook's own systems can only capture about 10 to 20 percent of the garbage, hate content on its platform?

LIMA: So, Frances Haugen in her testimony openly said she doesn't believe Mark Zuckerberg set out to create a product that harms kids, that has harmful content. But she said that in some of the decisions they have made to maximize engagement on the platform, that has in effect resulted in those harms. So that's an argument that hasn't, you know, the one made by Zuckerberg hasn't landed with lawmakers on Capitol Hill which showed very little sympathy for the company's point of view at the hearing yesterday.

ROMANS: You know, I feel like this is a new moment for big tech, right?


For so many years we heard, keep your hands off big tech in terms of regulation. It's such a big part of the stock market and economy. I feel like now, it's gone from, do you regulate Facebook to how do you regulate Facebook? Do you agree there is a new mood here, a new expectation?

LIMA: Yeah, absolutely. That was certainly felt by and expressed by a lot of the lawmakers yesterday. Senator Klobuchar at one point said action is needed and we believe you, Frances Haugen, you're going to be the catalyst for that action. Another lawmaker, Richard Blumenthal, said this should usher in a new era.

Now, certainly, we've heard this from lawmakers to rein in big tech. There was a bipartisan show of force yesterday that something needs to be done and that lawmakers are committed to doing something now.

ROMANS: What is your best sense of what that would look like? I heard one of the early funders of Facebook was on a different network saying you need an FDA-style new agency actually to regulate all of tech and look at it on a daily basis. I mean, do we need to stand up a new agency in Washington? Are there current agencies that could handle this or even have this technique, capability?

LIMA: So, some Democrats have proposed creating a new digital regulatory agency. But that's a proposal that Republicans have pretty much scoffed at. It's pretty much dead in the water politically.

But there is a proposal advancing in the house to create a new privacy bureau within the Federal Trade Commission, which could police some of these issues. So that's something to watch out for. And I think certainly lawmakers are rallying around this issue of how Facebook impacts kids.

And so I think we'll see them look to advance some legislation around kids' privacy, kids safety online in coming months.

JARRETT: I think the next big question is whether anyone else comes forward. Facebook dismissed her as a low-level employee who wasn't privy to all the information so she doesn't know what she's talking about. If somebody else comes forward, one of the more senior people, we could have a different conversation. Cristiano, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much. Appreciate


LIMA: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Seven minutes past the hour, inflation watch. Cotton prices are soaring, your next pair of jeans, next t-shirt might be more expensive. Cotton futures highest in ten years Thursday. Extreme weather has wiped out crops that demand increases. Classic 101, that pushes up prices.

Clothing prices were already rising. And the spike in cotton prices could eventually be passed on to you, shoppers. The global supply chain is still badly tangled. The workers who kept ships and trucks moving have warned they are reaching a breaking point.

It is all part of a pandemic mix of factors driving prices higher ahead of the shopping season. Toy makers warn of delays, shortages, higher prices. Amazon and target have started Black Friday sales earlier than usual to get ahead of the shipping and supply chain pain. Nike, Adidas are dealing with supply problems in Vietnam while some stores like Kohl's have said they might not even what you're looking for when you shop.

And oil prices are higher since 2014. You can expect average prices higher ahead. The average price is still $3.20 a gallon. A gallon that is a dollar more than last year. Think of it this way.

If you're a typical car, you're paying $15 more every time you go to fill up a tank. That's a real consumer inflation feel right there.

JARRETT: Yes. People actually feel it in the pocket books.

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: Still ahead for you, Brian Laundrie's sister speaking out for the first time on her missing brother.


CASSIE LAUNDRIE, BRIAN LAUNDRIE'S SISTER: I do not know where Brian is. I'd turn him in.


JARRETT: We have the latest on the manhunt, next.



ROMANS: Brian Laundrie's sister speaking publicly for the first time since her brother's fiancee Gabby Petito was found dead, and then he disappeared.

Cassie Laundrie wanting to make one thing perfectly clear. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUNDRIE: I do not know where Brian is. I'd turn him in. I would tell my brother to come forward and get us out of this horrible mess.


ROMANS: Meantime, Gabby Petito's family also appearing on TV as the manhunt for Brian Laundrie drags on.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in North Port, Florida, with more.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Laura, I had a brief conversation with Cassie Laundrie. That's Brian Laundrie's sister.

And we talked about her relationship with her parents now. She said she hasn't talked to her parents since about two weeks ago. And when they talked, it was a very brief conversation about Cassie's children.

She made it clear that their attorney has made it clear that they are not to answer any questions regarding Brian. So she describes herself as, very much in the dark and as someone who also has a lot of questions and is seeking answers.

In the meantime, the parents for Gabby Petito, her parents and step parents, spoke to Dr. Phil yesterday. Listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They found remains. We knew it was Gabby. Even though we were hoping it wasn't. It was the hardest thing I ever had to listen to. It didn't hit me right away for a few seconds. But I knew she was gone. As a mom, I knew she was gone.

SANTIAGO: Remember, last week, the Petito family held a press conference in which they called on Brian to turn himself in. Now in this interview, they're saying someone needs to start talking.

Interestingly enough, last week when they were asked about their relationship with the Laundrie family, they wouldn't go into the details there. But in this interview, they at least gave some insight into when they first started getting concerned for Gabby Petito and her whereabouts.


According to the Petito family, they reached out to the Laundrie family and never heard back.

Now, the attorney for Laundrie's parents says that they don't know where Brian is and they are hoping that the FBI can find him -- Christine, Laura.


JARRETT: Leyla, thank you so much. Still a lot of questions there. The medical examiner in Orange County, Florida, confirmed a body found

in the woods last weekend is, in fact, Miya Marcano. The 19-year-old went missing two weeks ago. She was last seen at the Orlando apartment complex where she worked and lived. Investigators believe Armando Caballero (ph) who was found dead late last month is responsible for the crime in their words and they are not looking for anyone else.

ROMANS: All right. The CDC revealing stunning statistics on homicide rates in the U.S. We'll break down these historic numbers next.



ROMANS: New overnight, a CDC report revealing a record increase in the homicide rate in the U.S. shows the number of homicide deaths in 2020 was the most in modern history.

We get more now from CNN's Ryan Young.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Laura.

This is troubling numbers that we're getting from the CDC when it comes to the homicide rate in the United States. From 2019 to 2020, we saw a 30 percent increase, more than 21,000 murders in this country, gun violence pushing a lot of that.

Of course, we've been covering cities throughout America that are showing an increase in violence. But when you see the sheer total of numbers of homicides in this country, you have to think just how deadly 2020 was, and you put that in perspective with the pandemic.

Taking a look at the numbers you see a 30 percent increase. In 2020, it was 7.8 homicides per 100,000. When you put this in perspective, the last time we saw an increase this high was after September 11th. And, of course, you had that tragic day. This was homicides driven much by gun violence according to the stats. When you think about all the advancement in health care and the fact that so many lives were saved once they got to the E.R., you really see in the pure numbers here the amount of gun violence, the amount of shootings and how it's taking a toll on the streets of America -- Laura and Christine.


JARRETT: Ryan, thank you for that.

Now to the other pandemic. The FDA's top vaccine officials say deaths among children from COVID-19 in the U.S. is an embarrassment. Speaking at a virtual town hall, Dr. Peter Marks says losing children to a preventable illness from something like COVID is motivation for authorizing a vaccine for kids.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. PETER MARKS, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICS EVALUTION AND RESEARCH: We feel the weight of the world on our shoulders with kids. It's challenging enough with adults, right? When we did the adult approval, we felt -- you know, we felt the weight of the world. Here we feel like the weight of the world plus the weight of Mars on top of us.


JARRETT: According to the CDC, nearly 700 children have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.

ROMANS: All right. Johnson & Johnson asking the FDA to authorize boosters for its coronavirus vaccine. An FDA panel plans to meet next week to discuss that request. J&J says research shows booster shots of its vaccine raise protection against COVID-19 significantly, making it 94 percent effective against symptomatic disease in the U.S. The FDA gave Pfizer the green light last month to boost certain high-risk groups who got their last dose at least six months ago.

JARRETT: So, we know vaccines save lives, of course. Now we know how many lives. A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services found the vaccinations kept at least a quarter million senior citizens from getting infected in the first five months of this year, and get this, prevented almost 40,000 deaths, nearly 80 percent of COVID deaths have been among people 65 and older, but fully vaccinated seniors have now had their risk of being hospitalized reduced by 94 percent.

ROMANS: I've been watching the age, average age for infection in death from COVID creeped down because of the strong protection of vaccines for older folks.

All right. President Biden hitting the road to sell his infrastructure bill.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We get this done, we're going to breathe new life into our economy. These are the kinds of investments that get America back in the game and give our workers a chance.


ROMANS: But can Democrats unite and pass the president's agenda?



JARRETT: The man behind former President Trump's tweets is supposed to submit documents to the House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection by tomorrow. Dan Scavino also has to give a deposition by next Friday. But here's the problem, he is MIA. After more than a week that Scavino was subpoenaed, sources tell CNN no one can find him to serve him.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has more.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura, Christine, we are a couple days away from that first deadline from the first round of subpoena requests for those four Trump allies and aides that were subpoenaed by the January 6 Select Committee. A round of documents is due by Thursday at midnight.

And what we are learning is that one of those individuals, Dan Scavino, the former deputy White House chief of staff, someone that ran or helped run the former president's social media accounts, someone that was often at the hip of Donald Trump, has not been able to be served. That the committee has not been able to find him to physically hand over the documents that would make that subpoena official.

And this complicates the process for the select committee. They were already bracing for a long-term legal battle between these four individuals in particular who they anticipate will not comply with the subpoena request.

Now, there is still some time, a couple days before that first round subpoena request is expected. But then also keep in mind, the following week, there is plans for in-person depositions of those first four individuals.

In addition to Scavino, we're talking about Kash Patel, who worked at the Department of Defense, who was a high-ranking Pentagon official. Steve Bannon, a former Trump senior counselor at the White House who was running a podcast and radio show and encouraging people to come to the rally on January 6. And then, of course, the former White House chief of staff.