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First of All with Victor Blackwell

Memphis Mayor Sits Down With Gang Leaders; Weightwatchers Reels From Oprah's Departure; Education Department Opens Discrimination Probe After Death Of Nonbinary Student In Oklahoma. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 02, 2024 - 08:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: First of all, if the point of the effort to disqualify Fani Willis from the Georgia election to version case was delay, then the Trump team can count this as a win. There have been weeks of hearings and the judge says he'll rule within another two weeks, but each side accuses the other of using the race car. Today the future of the case and the relevance of race.

Plus, I speak to a mayor who met with his city's gang leaders to negotiate a ceasefire. A local activist says this is a quote, "the real killers ain't going to want to talk". Why does the mayor think this will work? And the Oprah effect meets the Ozempic craves. Hear from experts on what her departure from Weight Watchers means for the company and what it might tell us about the business of weight loss now. I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start the show.

We start here in Atlanta with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. The judge says that he'll decide within two weeks whether Willis will be disqualified from Trump's Georgia election subversion case. Now the attorney is trying to kick Willis off the case use their closing arguments to argue that the appearance of a conflict of interest is enough.


JOHN MERCHART, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: She put her boyfriend on the spot, paid him and then reap the benefits from it. That she created the system and then didn't tell anybody about it. She didn't even tell her dad about it.

CRAIG GILLEN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: These people, Your Honor, is a systematic misconduct, and they need to go.


BLACKWELL: The lawyers for the DA's office insists that there is no conflict of interest here.


it's desperate. It's in a desperate attempt to remove a prosecutor from a case with for absolutely no reason, Your Honor. Other than harassment and embarrassment.


BLACKWELL: Robert James is here to talk about this. He's the former district attorney for DeKalb County, which is right next door to Fulton County.

So good to have you this morning.


BLACKWELL: All right. So there was no legal analyst. I spoke with or watched on this network who thought before the closing arguments that Fani Willis would be disqualified from this case. Based on what you heard yesterday, as that changed for you?

JAMES: Not entirely. There is a slim chance based off of the argument that it's not just a real conflict, which I don't believe they've established. But there's the appearance of a conflict. And the judge has articulated through his questions that you know, that she could be disqualified because of the appearance of a conflict, not actually a conflict.

BLACKWELL: And you think he considered that just the appearance would be enough?

JAMES: Well, he could consider that. I don't know if he will. And I don't think anyone knows if he will. But the case law in Georgia suggests that -- that that is possible.

BLACKWELL: Let's get to this, as it's known that church speech. DA Willis went to a local church. This was after the motion or she was notified of the motion and she spoke about the focus on one of the three attorneys that she hired who we now know is Nathan Wade. Let's play it and then what one of the defense attorneys said about that.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: First thing they say, Oh, she can play the race card. But no God, isn't it them who's playing the race card when they only question one.

GILLEN: She chose to deflect and to do two things that are reprehensible, for any lawyer, but particularly for prosecutor. She chose to pull out the race card and the God card. That's what she did. And she wrote it out.


BLACKWELL: So what do you think about invoking race? She at that point knew why they were focused on Nathan Wade. It wasn't about race. It was about a romantic relationship.

JAMES: Well, you know, I don't know if it was smart. I don't know if it was appropriate. But I do know that it doesn't amount to forensic misconduct. Specifically, when you're looking at forensic misconduct and conversations and context of conversations had publicly about a case, you have to imply either state that a defendant is innocent or guilty. In other words, you have to comment on the innocence or the guilt of the accused.


BLACKWELL: Do you think race is relevant at all in this case?

JAMES: Well look, races, you know, I don't think you can talk about the American criminal justice system without at least considering race or discussing race. So those jurors, you know, make decisions based on various reasons that are motivated by race often. However, do I think that it's a direct issue? Or do I think it's a central issue? I don't think it's a central issue. But I think it's going to come into play at some point.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about it. You talked about the jury. Would you keep or should DA Willis keep Nathan Wade on this team, considering his role over the last several weeks in this hearing about potential conflict of interest?

JAMES: Absolutely not.

BLACKWELL: Tell me why.

JAMES: Well, look, it's a massive distraction. We've already, you know, spent the last several weeks talking about everything, butthe guilt or innocence of the individuals that are charged in the indictment about the merits of the case. We've spent the last several weeks talking about her relationship with Assistant DA Nathan Wade. And so leave them in the case. The jurors cannotwatch the evidence without watching him. And when they watch him, they're not going to be thinking about the evidence. They're going to be thinking about the relationship.

And so no, it's the distraction is too distracting, assuming that they survive this motion, he needs to go.

BLACKWELL: Thinking through the voir dire process of trying to narrow down to get a jury. Would you ask about this? Would you have to ask the potential jurors what they think about a potential relationship between the prosecutor and the DA, and if they want you, you have to get into all this mud?

JAMES: You had better ask about it. In a case like this are going to send out juror questionnaires, most likely. And so before the jurors even come down to Fulton County courthouse and had questionnaires in the mail, and they had better addressed that. I mean, ultimately, you know, it's the 10,000 pound gorilla in the corner, right. And if it's not addressed, it's going to come back and destroy you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Former DeKalb County DA Robert James, thanks so much for coming in this morning.

JAMES: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: The mayor of Memphis is taking an unusual approach to bring down violent crime in the city. He's talking to criminals or alleged criminals in some cases. This week, Memphis Mayor Paul Young, announced that he met face to face with some of the highest ranking gang leaders in the city. Here's the context to keep in mind.

More than 45,000 people in Memphis between the ages of 16 and 24 are either out of school or out of work. And nearly half of them live in poverty. That's according to a nonprofit in the city. The meeting was put together by community activists who say more gangs have formed and something has to change. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

K. DURELL COWAN, FOUNDER, HEAL 901: What I think has happened is that we progressively see new gangs formalized. This is not the traditional area of where you just have four or five gangs that you were able to talk to four or five individuals. We have hybrid gangs, and you're talking about these guys are popping up in various communities.


BLACKWELL: Joining me now is Memphis Mayor Paul Young. Mr. Mayor, thank you for being with me. This is really interesting. Now, I will say you're not the first to do this. But you've only been on the job for a couple of months, right? And local media has covered this and there have been some passionate and mixed reactions to this. Why did you do it?

MAYOR PAUL YOUNG, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: Well, I think it's really, really important for us to engage the subjects of our conversation, when we are talking about change in our community. Our city has had a big issue around crime over the last couple of years. And it's been top of mind for everyone. And I thought that it was really important for us to not just have dialogues about how to change the community in our boardrooms. But we had to take it to the streets.

We got to talk to the people that are actually engaged in the activity. And what came out of the conversation is that they want to be a part of it. Since I had that dialogue, and since the media has announced it, there are other sites that have reached out to me saying they want to meet and figure out how they can be a part of what we're trying to create.

BLACKWELL: In the years that I've interviewed former gang members, I will say it's not that they are aspiring to criminal activity, what they want is to belong. What they want is to provide. What they want is protection. What they want is some purpose and some place somewhere. So how do you provide that to these young people who are now in gangs?

YOUNG: Well, you know, when we had the conversation, I mean, it was it really just kind of took me by surprise, how heartfelt some of their requests were. And I will say that this was just a conversation. It wasn't a negotiation, but they were telling me what they thought needed to happen in their communities to change.

We've had an epidemic of car breaking, and what they said was that our young guys just need something to do. They steal cars because it's fun. Because there's a lack of activities in their community. They need ways to earn income. And we that, you know, inspire me to think about how we can change our programs. And then the last thing that I thought was really compelling, they said, Well, you know, if people in our neighborhood saw you. If they actually got a chance to talk to you face to face and direct, you can change their perspective. And so that taught me the power of mentorship. And so, you know, the things that our community needs aren't new. It's just something that we have to lean into, and make happen.


BLACKWELL: I want you to listen to a community activist there who spoke to, okay, we have the full screen here. Let's put it up.

This was the quote from a community activist there who says, "I'm going to tell you the truth about something. The real killers ain't going to want to talk. They got to understand how much bloodshed has been out here. It's going to take real people from the street to reach the real killers." And to that you say what?

YOUNG: I agree. I mean, I want to talk to any and everybody, and I know that it's going to take more than talk. But at the end of the day, we have to start somewhere. I firmly believe that we're going to have to have a balanced approach for public safety, one in which we hold people accountable. And, you know, there's some people that we're going to have to, you know, go take through the criminal justice system, but there are many others that if we can intervene and change their lives now, we can make a big difference in our community.

BLACKWELL: K. Durell Cowan, you know his name. He's the community activist we heard from just a couple of minutes before we came to you, who helped broker the meeting. He told my team that, you know, these aren't the citywide gangs of people think Crips and Bloods, and it's just two sides going at each other. He estimated 40 to 50, neighborhood gangs and school gangs and cliques across Memphis, and that some start looking up to these gangs at eight and nine years old.

You have a budget to put together over the next couple of months. How will that and having to focus on the other and not the hierarchy, but those children who are starting out, influence how you spend your money in Memphis.

YOUNG: I mean, we had a budget retreat yesterday with our city council and we are all committed to finding ways to put resources towards supporting those organizations that are changing the lives of our young people. And, you know, we have a couple of months to get it done. But we are all committed to it. We're going to find those resources and make the investments necessary.

BLACKWELL: Really quickly. You went in asking for not a negotiation but you asked for a seven day ceasefire. Did you get it? YOUNG: From the ones that were there, we didn't see any shootings from those. And so we're going to keep the dial. This is going to be a living dialogue. We're going to talk to any you know, I'm going to keep pushing.

BLACKWELL: Memphis Mayor Paul Young, I wish you success in the effort. Thank you so much.

YOUNG: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Heads up for tomorrow night on CNN. Could Tennessee's political battles foreshadow what's down the road for the rest of the country. Van Jones travels to Tennessee to investigate on a new episode of The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper. That's tomorrow night at 8:00.

Coming up the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and impact of the way changing one specific group is feeling about the crisis and how the U.S. is handling. Plus, the step Department of Education is now taking in the case of an indigenous non-binary teen whose death has alarmed the LGBTQ community.



BLACKWELL: It's not clear yet if there will be a hostage deal leading to a ceasefire in Gaza by Monday. President Biden sounded optimistic earlier this week. But now he's saying it may not get there. What is clear is the pressure ramping up on Israel to get aid to people in Gaza.

The United States now plans to do air drop foods into the area in the coming days. And President Biden says that he wants Israel to do more to get aid to civilians. And this week, we saw Arab Americans send President Biden the message that they feel he's not addressing the humanitarian crisis enough with a notable number of voting uncommitted in Michigan's primary.

But they're not the only key part of the coalition he'll need to get on his side for reelection that may be feeling a bit alienated, Surveys also show how black Americans increasingly sympathize with Palestinians and are against sending Israel more aid.

Here to talk about this is Christopher Shell. He's a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which has surveyed black Americans on the conflict.

Christopher, good to see you. And first for people who are asking well, why are we talking only about Black Americans? Well, for the Democratic Party, for a Democratic president, there is no demographic that is more reliable than black voters beyond age beyond region, income, education, religion, black voters are reliable for a Democratic president. He's going to need them.

So let's start here. After what we saw the shooting and the more than a hundred deaths at that aid, food aid station in Gaza City, how do events like that impact the black support for this war and for this President?

CHRISTOPHER SHELL, FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Exactly. You bring up a really good point. African Americans are a significant voting bloc for the Democratic Party. So it's important that the administration tunes into how African Americans are thinking about U.S. foreign policy and Biden's handling of the Gaza situation. From my survey, we already saw well before casualties mounted a plurality of respondents who are black said that they support a ceasefire, something like 46 percent.

So well before these casualties, the number of casualties mounted, there already was a feeling that African Americans would like to see some form of caution shown with the situation in Gaza. So with that already being the case, and then we see three African American service members killed and Jordan as a result of Biden's policy, where we're starting to see a shift in how the folks are starting to interpret how Biden's handling this situation. And then we have the 1,000 black pastors who have now signed on. And we both know that the black church plays a critical role in influencing black political consciousness.

So the 1,000 pastors have been signed on. And then more importantly, as well, young voters. History has shown us that with any political movement, it is the youth and in my survey also showed that young voters under 30, with 33 percent, more likely to feel worse about Biden. So these are all really important inflection points are showing that there needs to be some attention paid to how the black community is doing this conflict.

BLACKWELL: So we know that one black people know demographic as a monolith, right. And then voters vote on more than one thing. Is there any indication of where this ranks?

SHELL: Definitely. So that's a really good point. So we've done other work of the Carnegie Endowment that shown that black voters, like most Americans vote on domestic issues. So we know that it's the economy. But there's something particular here when it comes to black voters, they vote in particular on racial issues. And we've also seen that in decades pass for black voters when it comes to racial equality, it's not just a domestic issue. It also extends internationally. We can go down the list of black activists who see the Palestinian struggle for self-determination through the lens of the black fight for equality domestically.

So if I had to give an answer, I would definitely say that, yes, racial equality, economic equality are up there. But when it comes to humanitarian and in the respect of human rights globally, that is something that definitely registers high for black voters, because I will argue that in some way ties into this fight for racial equality.

BLACKWELL: We know that the uncommitted movement that we saw in Michigan is moving ahead to Super Tuesday. In Colorado, for instance, they have a non-committed option now on the ballot. And there's an effort to get people to vote for that as well. But will these voters come back? Ultimately, once it is one on one, Trump versus Biden, and Democrats see that if you don't vote for President Biden, your alternative is President Trump and what they believed what we know about him, will they eventually come back to support the president anyhow?

SHELL: Well, I would definitely say, you know, by and large, the majority of black voters are going to vote for the Democratic Party. They're going to vote for President Biden. I mean, the survey even showed that 65 percent of black voters in my survey responded and said that they feel the same about President Biden. Now mind you, that was in October.

So you know, the we're now we've now touching the six month mark, in the war. So that may change a bit. But I would definitely say that for the vast majority of black voters, maybe about a half, though this conflict probably is not going to, in some way, sway them to say, Okay, I'm not going to now vote for President Biden.

But once again, like I was saying earlier, I do think that the young demographic, those under 30 will play a critical role. So the answer your question, I would say that if we see I mean, the election is some months away. So if we see a change, like we were saying earlier about a ceasefire, we if we start seeing some change in the posture towards Israel, that may in some way can hold black voters back.

BLACKWELL: Christopher Shell, thank you so much for the research.

SHELL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Coming up. A rare case of a first responder facing justice as the first of two paramedics convicted in the death of Elijah McClain is sentenced.



BLACKWELL: Paramedics are rarely charged as someone they're treating dies, but one was just sentenced to five years in prison. This was over the death of Elijah McClain and we've been following the trials of those convicted and the 23 year olds a death after he was detained by police in Colorado and injected with ketamine. Peter Cichuniec pleaded for the minimum sentence which he got. And he spoke about it in McClain's death in court. Watch this.


PETER CICHUNIEC, FORMER PARAMEDIC, SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR ELIJAH MCCLAIN'S DEATH: I'm very sorry that Elijah is no longer with us. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Mr. McClain tragically lost a son and we also lost a patient and I don't take that lightly.


BLACKWELL: McClain's mother, Sheneen called Cichuniec sentencing the bare minimum. Watch this.


SHENEEN MCCLAIN, ELIJAH MCCLAIN'S MOTHER: If they were doing their jobs the first place, Elijah would still be alive. They got there and waited for the tournament to end. They didn't intervene. They didn't call foul. They did nothing to stop the brutality of my son. And then even worse, they injected him with something that would completely kill him.

If Elijah has survived he would not have remembered what happened to him because of ketamine. They attempted to do exactly what they did. They are compensated to my son's murder.


BLACKWELL: The other paramedic in the case is scheduled to be sentenced April 26. There's an update in the death of Nex Benedict. That's the indigenous Oklahoma high school student with family and friends say identified as non-binary and died a day after that they were involved in a fight with other students at school.


Now it's not clear if or how the fight contributed to Nex's death. But the U.S. Department of Education has now opened an investigation into whether the public school system there appropriately responded to reported harassment. The probe comes after the Human Rights Campaign filed a complaint. In a statement, the Alonzo school district says the complaint is without merit.

Joining me now is the president of the Human Rights Campaign, Kelly Robinson. Kelley, thank you for being with me this morning. What are you hoping to learn from this investigation?

KELLEY ROBINSON, PRESIDENT, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: We are hoping for accountability from this investigation. Look, what happened to Nex is heartbreaking. It is devastating. We're talking about a 16 year old kid that was harassed and bullied at school for over a year, then they were beaten brutally in a bathroom, sent home without medical care and died a day later. I've been on the ground in Oklahoma, and I've seen a community that is really a community that is grieving and a community that's demanding justice, this Department of Education complaint that we sent. We're glad that was acknowledged with filing for a formal investigation, because what I hear from that statement from the school district is that they're more focused on covering their tails than looking at what is important than looking at what is happening in the school and doing their job.

It is their job to create an environment that is safe and welcoming for all students, especially LGBTQ plus students. And that did not happen.

BLACKWELL: I wonder after you heard this story, what was most concerning to you about the school's response?

ROBINSON: It is just so gut wrenching to me, especially as a parent. Because what I saw on the school's response was they're not doing their job. The adults in this situation did not protect that kid in the way that they deserved, in the way that Nex deserved. And look, we have to look more broadly to understand what happened Nex. You have to understand what's happening in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is leading the pack and anti LGBTQ plus legislation, passing everything from gender affirming care bans, to anti-trans bathroom bans, to trying to get book bands across the finish line. And on top of that, you have politicians, adults who are making a business out of harassing LGBTQ plus youth.

You had an Oklahoma Republican state representative, who said that LGBTQ plus people were filth. You have a superintendent Ryan Walters, who has gone out of his way to harass -- to create an environment of harassment for LGBTQ plus youth. From attacking teachers who are affirming of the queer and trans and non-binary kids in their classrooms. To appointing a lives of TikTok co-founder to be on a State Advisory Board, someone who does not even live in the state.

This is about Nex, but it's about so much more. And right now, what we are calling on is a full demand for justice here, because we have to make sure that next is life is honored, but also to stop the systemic harassment that's happening to too many LGBTQ plus kids in the state.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned the bathroom politics here. And you note in your letter to the Department of Education, the Nex's family said that they first began being bullied after the Oklahoma governor signed the bill forbidding trans youth from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Do you think things would be different here if Nex would have been able to use the restroom of their choice?

ROBINSON: What we are seeing here is systemic. And I think what I really want to be clear about is that these laws, these anti-LGBTQ plus laws are moved in Oklahoma, but are moving in too many states are contributing to a culture of hate. And that hate too often has deadly consequences. You know, the Human Rights Campaign declared a national state of emergency because of all the anti-LGBTQ plus bills we've seen across the country. Already 400 bills attacking our community have been introduced just this year, and it is barely the beginning of March.

We have to do something to stop this onslaught of hate this onslaught of attacks in my community and it starts here. It starts by having real accountability in a Waso (ph), real accountability for some of the bad actors that are that are creating an environment where this is possible. Folks like superintendent Ryan Walters, who we are calling for his removal.

BLACKWELL: Kelley Robinson with the Human Rights Campaign. I thank you so much for your time, and we will watch this investigation closely.

Coming up. Latino students at one university say dangerous rhetoric about migrants and crime is leading to an increase in threats. They're scared and we saw the impact of that when we were preparing to tell you the story on the show today and we'll explain how, next.



BLACKWELL: I want you to think back to Charlottesville 2017 hateful rhetoric led to the white supremacist march at the University of Virginia and the violence that happened a day later. Well now there's real concern that right wing rage aimed towards migrants could put lives in danger again this time in Georgia.

The fallout is from the case of Laken Hope Riley. She was 22 years old and nursing student in recent UGA graduate. Police say that she was murdered by an undocumented migrant. I want you to watch this briefing on the case with the mayor of that county where the University of Georgia is.



KELLY GIRTZ, MAYOR, ATHENS, CLARKE COUNTY: I want to say that we center our work here in Athens, Clarke County, and people's humanity. And part of everybody's humanity is the expectation of human dignity. While 2019 was not that long ago, you might remember the dynamic we were living in, in the late teens in this country where you had the President of the United States speaking in the most vile terms about people who are foreign born. And you had that notion metastasizing in places like Charlottesville.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an invasion. This is an invasion.


BLACKWELL: You're the mayor there referenced Charlottesville and the protesters shouted, This is an invasion. Well, students say they've seen anti-Latino rhetoric circulating on campus and some say they've been confronted, told to go back to their countries. In a joint statement both UGA Hispanic Student Association and campus Latino mentoring organization least though they released a statement. And they say, "The hurtful and discriminatory comments made following the tragic loss of one of our own have deeply shaken us all. Such grief should not be made use for racism, hatred, or xenophobia."

Well, since Riley was killed, there's been a new push in the Georgia legislature for stricter immigration enforcement laws. It's a big story on campus at UGA right now. Critics of a bill passed Thursday by the Georgia House say, "It sets immigrants up to be victims of racial profiling."


STATE REP. PEDRO MARIN, (D) LONGEST-SERVING HISPANIC MEMBER OF GA LEGISLATIVE: I have witnessed again and again, ambitious representatives and senators pursue fear as they assess the strategy to attain and maintain elected office. But our community cannot and should not be collectively punished for the horrific actions of one.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLACKWELL: Now we reached out to several students from UGA and other

Latino community members here too, in Georgia to talk about the atmosphere on campus and across the state. One agreed to join us. Well then she cancelled because of death threats. And then we booked another one. And she backed out early this morning. Her parents say it wasn't safe.

This is how real the fear is. One student at UGA told CNN that she would feel safer on campus if the university released a statement acknowledging the issue. She said they should definitely speak on it and say that it's not okay. Maybe they're afraid it would take away from the bigger issue going on. But they should be saying that they see what's going on instead of ignoring it. Another student told us this. "The fact that they're staying silent is very, very upsetting, and it's telling, and I love UGA. It's a great school but right now it really sucks to be a Latino student here." They're afraid and someone should say something.

Coming up next. The mayor major impact I should say on Wall Street and the weight loss industry after Weight Watchers loses its most famous backer, Oprah.



OPRAH WINFREY, AMERICAN HOST, TELEVISION PRODUCER: This is the joy for me. I love bread. I love bread. I now just manage it. So I don't deny myself bread. I have bread every day. I have bread every day. That's the genius of this program. I lost 26 pounds. And I have eaten bread every single day.


BLACKWELL: When nearly a decade after declaring her love of bread and joining the board have Weight Watchers, Oprah announced this week that she is leaving the company. Here's one thing she's donating her shares of the company to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Now, as soon as she made the announcement, the Weight Watchers stock dropped like a rock.

But remember in December, she told People magazine that she's now using a weight loss medication. She didn't say which one. But the introduction of prescription drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy have hit these weight loss companies heart. So let's talk about the health angle here. And the business anger -- angle here with Dr. Alicia Shelley, a primary care physician and obesity medicine specialist. And Rachel Cohen-Noebes, a reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Welcome to you both.

Okay, Doctor, let me start with you. Because the reactions I've heard to the headline was, of course, is that with Weight Watchers anymore, now she's on Ozempic. We don't know what she's on. But what is the headline for you as it relates to weight loss and hearing this transition and seeing the results. DR. ALICIA SHELLY, LEAD PHYSICIAN, WELLSTAR MEDICAL CENTER: So it's unfortunate that the shares have dropped. But the one good thing about Weight Watchers is that they are now actually going into Weight Watchers clinic where they can actually allow their participants their clients to get GLP-1s and other anti-obesity medications. So it has that accountability and tracking all and emit plus medications all in one service.

So I think this is another way how the company is going to be able to pivot into this new era of anti-obesity medication.

BLACKWELL: And it's this and because even in that People magazine article, what Oprah said was, she still follows the principles. She moves a lot more. She does a lot of walking. So it's not like get the shot every week and you're good.

SHELLY: Exactly. You need to have lifestyle interventions are the foundation of weight management. So it's important that you have both, good lifestyle habits plus medications to help with weight loss.

BLACKWELL: Rachel, let's talk about the company. And after she made that if you look back at the chart that day, it went straight down. Now it's recovered a bit, what's this mean for Weight Watchers?


RACHEL COHEN-NOEBES, REPORTER, ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE: To be honest, the stock has been going down for years. This is not really critical news to the market. If we're looking at it, this is the news is the Oprah left and new, that is the headline, because Weight Watchers has been done for a matter of years.

BLACKWELL: And we've seen the same thing. I mean, Nutrisystem has some challenges as well. Jenny Craig filed for bankruptcy and have been swallowed up by another company. I wonder, Doctor, when people say that, well, this is just a fad, right? In the 90s, we had Phen Phen. People took it then. They loved it. There were some problems that cause health problems. Is this a fad?

SHELLY: No. These medications are here to stay. In fact, there are many companies who are coming up with new medications to help with weight loss that are very promising. So this is going to be more of a trend versus a fad. We know that obesity is a chronic disease, and that it needs a chronic actual management. And so with medications, this is an opportunity, how we can be able to help people with losing weight, but also maintaining their weight as well.

BLACKWELL: Last year, Weight Watchers acquired sequence, which is now branded, as you mentioned, under Weight Watchers clinics, where they can prescribe some of these GLP-1's for weight loss. That seemed to help the company for a little while. I think stock price got up to or above $10 and now it's back under four.

COHEN-NOEBES: I truly, it's just one of those things, where Weight Watchers has truly struggled. And this is like the doctor said, a chronic condition that people are going to struggle with for life long issues. And it is while this may be a trend is something that we are going to see in the markets for a long time. And there are going to be several rivals to these pills through these drugs coming out in the market is going to continue to react. And they're going to continue to react when things like this happen.

BLACKWELL: What I found interesting was that Goldman Sachs estimates that these drugs could boost the economy by a trillion dollars in four years with people who are being prescribed this with eventually one out of two people in America being described as obese. Let me read from that Oprah article in People Magazine that we've talked about in December.

She said this, "I realized I'd been blaming myself all these years for being overweight. And I have a predisposition that no amount of willpower is going to control. Obesity is a disease. It's not about willpower. It's about the brain." Do you agree with that it's not about willpower? It's not about only if I just ate right and exercise.

SHELLY: I 100 percent agree. In medicine, we used to tell people eat less and move more. But what we have found is that obesity is a chronic disease and it's multifactorial. It can be environmental. It can be genetic. It can be medical.

And so what she was sharing is what many people need to hear. Because we blame ourselves, we fat shame ourselves. But in actuality, it's more than just willpower.

BLACKWELL: Ladies, thank you so much.

COHEN-NOEBES: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Still ahead. A New York teenager is flying after becoming one of the youngest black pilots in the U.S. We'll tell you her story.



BLACKWELL: The British Prime Minister is criticizing the London production of a Broadway play. Two performances of the show slave play are scheduled for black only audiences. Slave play is set on a plantation and follows three interracial couples and explores race, identity, sexuality.

During its original run on Broadway the play received 12 Tony nominations the most for nonmusical play. And this week, a spokesman for British prime minister called the idea of black only audiences wrong and divisive. But Jeremy Harris, the playwright behind slate play says that he created blackout nights during the Broadway run as a way for black audience to experience the show free from the white gaze, G-A-Z-E. And the show's producers say no one will be prevented from attending any performance of the play while it's in London.

A teenager in New York is about to take off. At just 17 years old Kamora Freeland has become one of the youngest licensed black pilots in the country. She started taking lessons at 15 and recently passed the exam for her private pilot's license. She also passed her solo and cross country flight tests, even taking her mother to Martha's Vineyard last summer.


KAMORA FREELAND, 17-YEAR-OLD PILOT: Definitely amazing. Like I'm a part of the change that's definitely needed. And yeah, like I want other little black girls to do the same.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't see this a year and a half ago and be here to see all my own tour has I'm grateful.


BLACKWELL: Freeland is enrolling at Spelman College in the fall. Her next goal is to get her commercial pilot's license. Kamora Freeland, I see you. And if you see something or someone I should see, tell me. I met Victor Blackwell on socials.

Before we go today, I want you to get a little tour of our new home here at Techwood at CNN studios. This is the First Show of many here in this new space. These walls are very versatile so we will do a lot with a video.