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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Raiders Coach Resigns Over Email Scandal; Global Energy Crisis Sends Gas Prices Soaring; Texas Governor Bans Employer Mandated COVID- 19 Vaccines; Chinese President Xi Jinping Reiterates Vow to "Reunify" Taiwan. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 12, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: His racist homophobic and misogynistic emails mean a top NFL coach is out of a job. What else is lurking in hundreds of thousands of emails being reviewed by the league?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Travel trouble on the ground and in the sky. Gas prices are soaring, as the economy reopens, and Southwest struggling to get its fleet back in the air. We'll tell you why.

ROMANS: The governor of Texas bans all vaccine mandates in his state. Will that move stand up in court?

It is Tuesday, October 12th. It's 5:00 a.m. exactly here in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And Laura Jarrett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We have reports this morning from Virginia, Shanghai, Atlanta, and Johannesburg.

A lot to get to this morning, but we start with breaking news overnight, Jon Gruden resigning as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after "The New York Times" reported that he made homophobic and misogynistic comments in numerous emails over the course of seven years.

Our Coy Wire is here with all of the details.

Coy, good morning.

Update our viewers, how did all of these emails come out after so long?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, good morning to you, Laura.

Gruden's emails, they came to light as part of a workplace misconduct legal case against the Washington football team. "The New York Times" report says Gruden denounced women as referees, and drafting gay players when the Rams selected Michael Sam back in the 2014 NFL draft. Gruden also said, according to the report, that the player Eric Reed who kneeled during the national anthem should be fired and used a homophobic slur referring to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "The Times" says the emails are from a seven-year period that ended in early 2018. In a statement, Gruden said: I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction, thank you to all of the players, coaches, and staff and fans of Raider Nation. I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone.

Now, on Friday, "The Wall Street Journal" reported that in 2011, Gruden who was working for ESPN at the time used racially insensitive language to describe the NFL Players Director DeMaurice Smith. Gruden apologized after the team's game Sunday.


JON GRUDEN, FORMER LAS VEGAS RAIDERS HEAD COACH: All I can say is I'm not a racist. I don't -- I can't tell you how sick I am, I apologize again, to D Smith, but I feel good about who I am, and what I've done my entire life, and I apologize for the incidents that have -- the remarks that I had no, you know, I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all.


WIRE: Smith tweeted in response, the email from Jon Gruden and some of reaction to it confirms that the fight against racism, racist tropes and intolerance is not over. This is not about an email as much as it is about a pervasive belief by some that people who look like me can be treated as less.

Gruden signed a 10-year $100 million contract in 2018 to be the head coach of the Raiders. Laura, Christine, the Raiders announced special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia will take over as the team's interim head coach.

JARRETT: It seems like this is just the first of other things to come. A lot of emails there, Coy. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. Trouble on the road. The price of energy skyrocketing, oil prices crashed, remember at the start of the pandemic, as roads and airports were closed, and sat empty. Now, demand is ramping back up as the economy reopens but supply just can't keep up.

U.S. oil prices finished above 80 bucks a barrel on Monday. That's the highest in nearly seven years. Those higher prices mean pain at the pump for drivers, the national average for a gallon of gas hit a fresh seven year high Monday. Prices have nearly doubled since bottoming at $1.77 for a gallon of gas at the beginning of the pandemic.

And, you know, gas prices typically start cooling off in the fall, but the sticker shock may last longer because what is actually a global energy crisis.


PATRICK DE HAAN, SENIOR PETROLEUM ANALYST, GASBUDDY: Well, we're in the midst of what is developing into a global energy crunch, in China, they are trying to cut energy consumption, because of a lack of coal inventories, and in Europe, there is a shortage of natural gas, that have caused natural gas prices in Europe to explode to the highest level ever. And you start the pandemic and that is when prices in West Michigan fell to $1.30 a gallon in some cases and that started shutting down production and which is why oil companies let tens of thousands of worker goes and why they shut down so much production.


ROMANS: And honestly, the ferocity of the recovery caught everybody by surprise, right? Despite calls from the White House, for OPEC to ramp up production, that cartel has decided to only gradually increase output. That means prices continue higher.

JARRETT: And in the air, a fifth day of trouble for Southwest. The airline canceling more than 2,000 flights and delayed nearly 40 percent of its flights Monday, the cause of this whole mess is still unclear.

Some customers have taken matters into their own hands, one couple rented a U-Haul and drove nine hours to get home to Kansas and with staffing shortages crushing this industry nationwide, passengers can expect more headaches going into the holiday season.

CNN's Pete Muntean has more from Reagan National Airport.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: A major mess for South West Airlines and not like flipping on a switch to get things back to normal. In fact, this is more akin to unplugging the operation and plugging it back in again. Southwest says it all started with problems on Friday. And it pins the blame here on air traffic control and weather issues which prompted a rare statement from the Federal Aviation Administration saying that was not the case on Saturday and Sunday, when Southwest experienced the lion share of these cancellations.

The bottom line here is that the airline is not out of the woods just yet and says there was a ripple effect because of all of the problems that left planes and people in far-out places that they weren't intended to be, and in some cases flight crews were not able to get hotels, that all means that tens of thousands of passengers were stranded. You've seen the long lines at airports across the country, and passengers report very long wait times, to get on the phone, with customer service. And they're not happy about this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Normally, there is a weather problem, it is across the board all of the airlines are impacted. So yes, I'm certainly skeptical on what the reasoning is behind that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If this doesn't correct, by the holiday, the thanksgiving holiday season, it is going to be a nightmare, and this country for the entire holiday season.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no explanation for this problem. So I suspect that southwest isn't being totally honest with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been worrying about it for the past 24 hours, literally couldn't sleep last night really, because we didn't know what was going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And looking through, there is nothing, nothing, nothing. For like the next few days, and just really anxious to get home now.

MUNTEAN: And Southwest Airlines issued a new statement in which it says it is offering a tremendous apology to its customers, and it is also underscoring that these problems were not the result of employee protests over its new vaccine mandate -- Christine, Laura.


JARRETT: All right. Pete Muntean, thank you for that.

Growing challenges on the roads and in the air bring President Biden's economic challenge into sharper focus now. The House still hasn't passed the president's $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the one on roads, trains and airports.

ROMANS: Also, a new report says a quarter of critical infrastructure in the U.S. is at substantial risk of failure due to flooding and that includes road, airport, hospital, police and fire stations and waste water plants, and this will only get worse since the climate crisis grows. And 18 weather disasters this year cost at least a billion each.


Still ahead for you, a COVID-19 snake pit, why parents in Wisconsin are rising up to take two school districts to court, and we're going to tell you who is paying for it, next.



JARRETT: New this morning, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued an executive order banning any and all state businesses including private businesses from requiring COVID-19 mandates. The order is likely to get challenged in court and fast as it runs up against President Biden's vaccine requirements for large business and federal workers and federal contractors.

But it's the Republican governor's latest attempt to play politics with public health as he faces growing pressure from those on the right and the primary challengers.

So, let's bring in CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers to discuss all of this.

Jennifer, good morning to you.


JARRETT: Can the governor do this legally? I can think about three different reasons why this might get challenged. What do you think?

RODGERS: You're absolutely right, Laura. The primary reason that it is a legal problem for the governor is the supremacy cause of the federal constitution which says effectively when there is a conflict between federal laws and orders and those of a state, the federal law will prevail as long as it's constitutional.

So here we have a Biden executive order telling businesses that they can either require a vaccine or they can test, that is a constitutional order, and so the state of Texas's contrary order is not going to survive a court challenge.

JARRETT: It seems that is what animated this. Obviously, Southwest Airline, American airline, headquartered in Texas, recently instituted a vaccine mandate for federal workers and that seems like the motivation for this.

ROMANS: But, you know, Jennifer, 65 percent of Texans in a poll in August supported the vaccine mandate and Republican Party, pro business, keep the government's hands off our business, don't tell us what to do. And here he is telling businesses what they can and can't do.

So what's the motive here?

RODGERS: That's been puzzling, too, a lot of people, and all I think of he is a politician and wants to have it both way, we know that the governor is vaccinated himself, would he know that even in this executive order he makes clear to say that he thinks the vaccine is the best way to get us out of pandemic, it's safe, et cetera.

So all I can think of is he is trying to appeal to both side, the people who believe in the vaccine and the people who believe in freedom for Texans.

JARRETT: But he's not doing this obviously for all vaccines, he is doing this for the COVID vaccine, and he's taking it a step further.


He had already banned vaccine mandates for schools, and government agency. And he is now forcing private business owners as we said to do this.

So I wonder, Jennifer, who is likely to have the strongest case in court, to get some of these executive orders struck down? Is it a parent who wants to get their kid vaccinated? Is it a business, a small business owner, perhaps, who wants to make sure that he or she can protect all of its workers? Who is going to have the best chance in court?

RODGERS: I think at this point, Laura, the best chance is a business owner because we have the Biden executive order that is very clear about certain categories of businesses. So you take that, and you take the governor's order and directly contrary and you bring in the supremacy clause and I think that's game over for that business in Texas.

ROMANS: Thanks for getting up early for us this morning. Nice to see you.

JARRETT: Thanks, Jennifer.

RODGERS: Good to see you. Thanks.

ROMANS: As we talk about vaccines in schools, in Florida, another problem, a teacher shortage is only getting worse. The state teacher's union says classroom vacancies have now surged to 5,100, up 67 percent from last year, with another 4,000 openings for bus drivers, and cafeteria workers and other staff job, and the Florida education association says the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, that's what is behind these shortages.

But it also says the problem is being driven by Florida's low teacher pay, teacher pay in Florida, 49th in the country.

JARRETT: And in Wisconsin, two school districts are now being sued in federal court by parents who say their kids caught COVID in the classroom because their school does not require masks. One mom says a classmate who sat next to her son came to school sick leading to an outbreak in her son's class.

ROMANS: The parents say the districts threw students in a COVID-19 snake pit, and they have an unusual benefactor helping their cause, the owner of a small Wisconsin brewery.


KIRK BANGSTAD, OWNER, MINOCQUA BREWING COMPANY: These plaintiffs were in the health care industry and so they were particularly upset that they had, you know, been through COVID, helping other people recover from COVID, now that their school district wasn't protecting their kids, their kids brought COVID to their home.


ROMANS: Wow, so that brewery is funding the lawsuits against the Waukesha and Fall Creek Districts and is looking to have the suits certified for class action to take on all Wisconsin districts that don't follow CDC guidelines.

That must be honestly very frustrating to go through the whole health care disaster of a year and a half and then kid goes back to school, and then they bring home COVID.


All right, so you think you need a college degree for a good job? Well, a growing number of employers say no degree, no problem. We'll tell you why. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ROMANS: All right. More pressure on the White House this morning, after another round of provocations from China against Taiwan. The Chinese military carrying out drills in a province directly across the sea from Taiwan, and Taiwan, of course, is democratically ruled. But Beijing is stepping up pressure to force it to accept Chinese control. The U.S. caught in the middle here.

David Culver is live from Shanghai.

David, we've seen air force incursions into Taiwan's air defense zone, Beijing making a clear push to change the status quo here.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And if we go back to that video. Christine, that we were just shown, this was put out yesterday, which was the day after Taiwan celebrated its national day. And it was clear propaganda, but as you pointed out, the geography of where this was taking place, cannot be overlooked. It's Fujian province, which is directly across the strait from Taiwan, it shows military officials going on to the beach, troops training to go up into a terrain that is very similar to what you would see in Taiwan.

So what is that? Is it a flexing of military muscle? Sure, in part. Is it also possible training for these troops and also logistical work- through that they're trying to understand should they need to actually put it into practice. That, too, is a likelihood.

And you mentioned those incursions. We saw record incursions this month. Fighter and bomber jets were above Taiwan going into their air defense identification zone.

Now, China looks at this and says that's our sovereignty. This is not an incursion. This is doing what we believe to be part of our territorial right.

Taiwan has a very different take on this, and their president over the weekend saying that China's approach to this is threatening democracies around the world. And that's what brings the U.S. into all of this, because folks back in the U.S., they may look at this and they may say, why should we care what is playing out? They should very much care because Taiwan relies heavily on the U.S. not only for the military supplies and some of the training and some of the missiles and jets arsenal that have been demonstrated as recently as this past weekend, but also just from an overall approach of democracy, and how they are relying heavily on the U.S.'s support.

So, going forward, the question is going to be, is Beijing going to put enough pressure on the global community and particularly in their conversations, because there's now communication with the Biden administration, to eventually take over Taiwan? And that seems to be exactly where they're headed, because President Xi has said here, it's not a matter essentially of if, but when, it must and it will be done. Those words coming from the president here, as recently as this past weekend.

Christine, let's also put it into context of what we're entering next year. Beijing 2022 Olympics, it's going to be where the world stage is eventually coming back here to the People's Republic of China and so it puts a lot of pressure on showing a unified China, a more powerful China, certainly more powerful than 2008, the last time they hosted an Olympics.


And you also have next year, the Congress Party. Now that's traditionally, Christine, the transition of power, but we know that President Xi is very likely to move forward with continuing on as the leader here, as he abolished the term limits and it is likely he will continue to build up his legacy and what better way it do that than by reunifying Taiwan and the mainland.

ROMANS: David, this is an incredibly important story, with implications around the world, no question and a challenge for this White House. Thank you so much, David Culver, from Shanghai this morning.

CULVER: All right.

JARRETT: Coming up for you, a mental health crisis. College students facing enormous pressure, enormous anxiety, during this pandemic. What one major university is doing about it, next.