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First of All with Victor Blackwell

Hope Dims For Ceasefire Deal By The State Of Ramadan; Parents Of Tyre Nicholas Seek Meeting After Setback; Tyre Nichols' Parents Seek Meeting With Biden Over TN House Bill They Say Undercuts Police Reform Law; Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA), Is Interviewed About Biden, Trump Hold Dueling Campaign Events In Georgia. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 09, 2024 - 08:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, first of all, the State of the Union address certainly quelled some Democrats concerns about whether the President is fit for fight, but to win, he has to start landing some haymakers Biden and Trump are in Georgia today. And we're going to zero in on the swing state voters their vote targeting with experts who know how to win them. Plus no ceasefire, no hostage deal before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and no relief to the humanitarian crisis. I'll speak with someone who says she's frustrated by who is being put out front to defend the U.S. strategy on Gaza. And the parents of Tyre Nichols, they were guests of President Biden's 2003 State of the Union. Well, now they want to meet with him after they say they were blindsided by a vote in the Tennessee State House. They will join me live. I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start the show.

The presidential race is heading to Georgia today. It will be the first weekend of the 2020 camp -- 2024 campaign, I should say where President Biden and former President Trump are again their party's presumptive nominees. So now it's time for the candidates to fine tune these messages and swing states that could decide the rematch. President Biden is framing his accomplishment as bringing people together. He says his predecessor's policies are divisive.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Honesty, decency, fairness, equality, just treating people just fairly. I really mean that we don't always live up, but that that's the American creed. Donald Trump sees his story differently. He sees a story of resentment and revenge retribution.


BLACKWELL: Former President Trump after his Super Tuesday wins claims the opposite.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, women, men, people with diplomas from the best schools in the world, and people that didn't graduate from high school, every single group was doing better than ever before. And it was a beautiful thing. Our country was coming together.


BLACKWELL: I've got two experts with me to talk politics. Camilla Moore is the chair of the Georgia Black Republican Council and Howard Franklin is the former chair of the Georgia Democratic Party's African American Caucus. He's now a strategist. Welcome to you both.


BLACKWELL: Camilla, let me start with you. Okay, so both of the likely nominees are here in the state. Georgia is important, especially because of the swing states. Georgia has the largest percentage of black voters, 33% of presidential voters. What does he need to do? What is President Trump need to do to win those voters here?

MOORE: I think he needs to run on what he did when he was president the last time and he has to make the message relatable. In other words, the things that made him successful in terms of the things that he did for the black community, he needs to hone in on that and say that, what he will do if he's reelected, that he would do more, because he didn't get a chance to have a second term is why all of those big items that he had on the table for black America, particular black Georgians. He has an opportunity at that point to say, I will be able to achieve it all. I give you a little bit. I need another four more years to do the other things that I had on the table.

And as you know, the things that we talked about was that the economy for the black community criminal justice reform, how he dealt with historical black colleges, and just the entrepreneurship and the deregulation. So those things that he hits points.

BLACKWELL: We'll come back to the point that he made in South Carolina in just a moment. But for the former -- for the current president in his case here.

HOWARD FRANKLIN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, GA DEMOCRATIC PARTY'S AFRICAN- AMERICAN CAUCUS: Yes. I think continuing the progress, right? That's essentially what President Biden has been campaigning on right, finishing the job has been record job creation. There's so much effort to close the racial wealth gap. So many, you know, so many issues that this President has been able to be successful and it's really actually kind of incredible, you know, to see how quietly he's been able to make this progress. And unfortunately, what he needs to do is really communicate more of the progress that this country has made coming out of this recession or at least out of out of the pandemic, et cetera, more communication on the accomplishments that have actually happened all across the country.


BLACKWELL: And even with those accomplishments, we'll come back to the poll numbers that show that he's trailing former President Trump. You talked about the appeal that the former president should make to black voters in Georgia and across the country. Here's what he said to a group of black voters in South Carolina.


TRUMP: The mugshot, we've all seen the mug shot. And you know, who embraced it more than anybody else, the black population, it's incredible. You see, black people walking around with my mug shot, you know, they do shirts, and they sell them for $19 a piece. It's pretty amazing.

Millions, by the way, millions of these things have been solved. So I don't know if I'm proud of it or not proud of it.


BLACKWELL: And Camilla, you agree with that? You told voters, quote, "the black community can really sympathize with what Trump is going through because of our history". Say more.

MOORE: So let me just share a little bit about my background. I'm a government employee. Most of my life has been in the black community. And so I live in a black community. So I talk among my community. And I think historically, the criminal justice system has not been our friend in America. Percentage wise, there's more black males incarcerated, more black women incarcerated. So where am I going with this?

So we know that typically, when someone doesn't are unable to afford a great attorney, they get a DA, and they get a plea. And so when this occurred, I'm getting calls from members of my community, and they're laughing, and they say, you know what? Glad he gets to feel what we feel. Because this --

BLACKWELL: Okay. But you're not suggesting that Trump can't afford a good attorney because tens of millions of dollars actually have other people's monies paid for.

MOORE: No, no. But I thought your question was, why were black people saying what they were saying about his ability to be that situation was relatable, in terms of does the criminal justice system, can it because what it does to black American, it shows that it happens to someone that's a fluent, that is white, that can be a mugshot, and those were the conversations from my community. Now you can agree or disagree. But those were the calls. Those were the conversations that I was getting from neighbors and my friends --

BLACKWELL: And you think people going to vote for it because of it.

MOORE: Oh, absolutely not. I think your question was my remark in reference to black people giving or having a discussion about the mug shot, and the fact that he was indicted and what that how was that relatable to black people in the black community.

BLACKWELL: Howard. FRANKLIN: So much so unpack here. I mean, I guess you could at least say this is an improvement on his outreach to black voters many years ago, when he asked what the hell have you got to lose. But I think a lot of folks have already spoken out about this. And you know, whether or not you feel like it's maybe has some racist undertones. Maybe if you see black voters, only seeing the criminal justice system as the first and foremost issue that they're concerned about. I would say that black voters are as sophisticated as any other voters. And they are concerned about a whole range of issues.

And I think we've seen over the course of the last several years and this presidency, really President Biden speaking out and making progress on a whole range of issues that matter to black voters.

BLACKWELL: Even with all of that President Biden is still trailing for President Trump on the latest poll by four points outside of the margin of error, every poll I've seen across the state shows him trailing. Why?

FRANKLIN: Why. Yes. That's a great question. I mean, I think a number of things contribute to it. I've one of the biggest ones is what I mentioned earlier, President Biden is really set to the work of actually improving this country, pulling us out of a pandemic, working on a number of myriad of big issues and not really done a one of the things that we oftentimes see Democrats do, which is putting your head down and doing the work and not talking a whole lot about it. He definitely has to get out there and communicate to voters on the again the myriad of issues that he has really produced (inaudible).

BLACKWELL: It's just a message. It's just that he hasn't said that (inaudible) enough.

FRANKLIN: I don't think it's just a message. I don't say it's just a message. I think that not only saying it but then showing through surrogacy through his own active campaigning, I think, again, when you're in the presidency, you think because you're on television, or you're cutting ribbons, et cetera, that folks are getting the message directly. I don't think they are or I don't think they have at the same vibration they need to and I think today will be a great testament to that point with both the former President and President Biden here in Georgia to see exactly what kind of crowds they draw, what kind of excitement they can bring in a statement of, I just say the State of the Union, we really saw an energetic Biden. If he can show -- if he can keep that same energy and young people like to say I think people will respond to it.

BLACKWELL: All right. Howard Franklin and Camilla Moore, I've got to wrap it there. Thank you so much. And we will of course will watch both events here in Rome, Georgia and Atlanta as the president, former president come here to meet with the Georgia voters. Thank you so much.

MOORE: Thank you. FRANKLIN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Another story of voters are watching closely the ceasefire and hostage deal unlikely to happen before the start of Ramadan tomorrow evening. The U.S. has pushed for a deal before Ramadan. Israel has threatened to ground offensive and Rafah if there is not a deal by the start of the Muslim holy month.


Now the Biden administration insists that Israel has already accepted the broad terms of a six week pause and that Hamas is holding out. But critics accuse the White House of calling for a ceasefire while enabling Israel's war efforts. In the Washington Post, our next guest writes this. "The Biden administration has deployed black women as both velvet gloves and iron fists in respect to Israel's latest assault on Gaza, and both and forcing U.S. complicity in this atrocity and attempting to soften its appearance.

Joining me now is Karen Attiah, columnist for the Washington Post. Thank you so much for being with me. Before we get to the most recent column focus on the Vice President and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, I want your reaction to now these announcements of a port being built to bring in aid into Gaza. This now maritime aid corridor in the air drops, your reaction to this aid as of late from the U.S. and other countries.

KAREN ATTIAH, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I think ultimately, it doesn't answer or help the main question or the main problem, right, which is the U.S. supplying the bombs that are being dropped on Gaza. And many people already criticized the air drops, and all that many of us have questioned whether or not it is really possible and really true that the U.S., the world's premier superpower can really have a "temporary military presence anywhere". Of course, the Biden administration has said that there will not be troops on the ground. But it still leaves open questions of, yes, having this port that opens, how will it still reach inland, the people who need it the most.

We've seen all the footage of protesters, Israeli protesters against letting a trucks by ground going into the areas where it is needed. And we're seeing these polls of just you know, the resistance from Israel to letting humanitarian aid reach where it is needed the most. So --

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about your latest column in which you call out the use of the Vice President and Kamala Harris and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield as quote, "the faces of America's ugly Gaza policy". You write about the Vice President. She was not the face of Biden's weakness. Then she was the face of continued U.S. cruelty toward Palestinians, with a spoonful of hashtag black girl magic to make the poison go down a little easier. Is it your suggestion here? It was make a plain for us. You believe this administration is putting black women forward because they are black women to sell this policy.

ATTIAH: I think that when this administration first came on, I think a huge part of the appeal of the Biden administration has been obviously the connection to black voters through the Vice President being vice president to Obama. With Kamala Harris, we heard a whole lot about the first black women woman being vice president. I do think the president, vice president, excuse me, giving remarks about calling for only a temporary ceasefire when people have been asking and particularly black people we saw thousand black pastors asking for a permanent ceasefire to juxtapose.

I do think it was a deliberate framing to juxtapose that with the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in which black civil rights protesters are marching against the racial apartheid and we're marching against American state brutality. So in order to do nothing, with stopping the bombing with stopping the oppression, frankly, of Palestinians, while juxtaposing that with black American civil rights struggle, I saw that as pretty darkly cynical. Do I -- Vice President Kamala Harris, Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield who voted twice at the UN against ceasefires. Yes, I think that they are doing their job. But honestly, a lot of us black women, and we've been in the group chats we've been talking about how deeply almost painful I think it feels to see that while white men are still making these decisions, it's often black women's faces being used to their to sell this.

BLACKWELL: How was the vice president or Linda Thomas Greenfield, of whom you say in the eyes of the world Greenfield like Colin Powell is a black face providing cover for America's direct and indirect brutality and the Arab world. How are they any more the face of this then the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken who has been traveling all over the world? Then even the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a black man, why would you say that they are the faces of this more than the other members of the administration?


ATTIAH: I think we can say even from reports, I think there's difference between faces and difference between people who are actually calling the shots and making actual, let's say, very, very consequential policy decisions. We can I think, again, you know, for me, what really struck me was the optics of the Vice President, again, using the black sort of liberation protest struggle, right, against apartheid and oppression here, visas, and that, I think, is a very deliberate sort of, you know, choice.

And so to me, I think that's, that's what irks me. And not just that, but again, we are looking at a broad base, not just black Americans, not just Arab Americans, but we're looking at a broad base of Democratic voters who were deeply unhappy with the Biden administration's Gaza policy. And it just, it doesn't cut it anymore. Hashtag representation matters just doesn't cut it anymore. And we're looking for a broad change in policy and approach.

BLACKWELL: All right. Karen Attiah, thank you so much for being with me.

Coming up. We have live in Haiti, the violence there is getting worse, you're going to meet a Haitian American woman caring for 17 babies in her home. While she says she needs to stay. Plus, we look ahead to the diverse nominees up for Oscars tomorrow night, including the first Native Americans who could take home Academy Awards.



BLACKWELL: In Haiti, police and military are struggling. Struggling to control the gang violence in the nation's capital. Last night armed men attacked two police stations near the National Palace. A gang leader says the coordinated attacks are meant to overthrow the government. And he promises more violence if the Prime Minister Ariel Henry does not step down. Henry is reportedly in Puerto Rico. He's not been able to get back into his country since leaving last week for Kenya where he secured a multinational mission to help restore security.

Kareen Ulysse is in Haiti right now living through this. She's a Haitian American who works with her father's foundation in Port-Au- Prince. Kareen, thank you for being with me. First, I just want to set the table here. You are not only working for your father's foundation, you have taken over the hospital. And how many babies do you have living with you you're caring for in your home?

KAREEN ULYSSE, FOUNDER, CENTRE HOSPITALIER DE FONTAINE FOUNDATION: Yes. So the work is 32 years old. I'm taking over pledging 32 years of my own. I have 17 children with me.

BLACKWELL: 17 children you're caring for there. As all of this is happening around you, we see the video of the shootouts in the streets, the tires burning. Is that representative of what's happening on a daily basis walk us through what's happening around you there near Port-Au-Prince?

ULYSSE: Unfortunately, it is a representation of what's happening on a daily basis. And I personally have not been out and about we don't expose ourselves unless we have to but it is barricades everywhere. The communities who can protect themselves, you see broken down cars, blocking entrances. Most neighborhoods have one way in one way out. Our staff who would expose themselves to and from work every day they have to go to the barricades. Sometimes on their way home, they're caught in the crossfire as you see with the police officers positioning themselves to fight against gang so tires burning, barricades everywhere. So it is unfortunately true in a daily occurrence.

BLACKWELL: How do you get the supplies and the staffing to help you if they have to get through that?

ULYSSE: Well, I am supplies have been difficult. As of late, our ports have been shut down for several days now. And to get our staff safely to and from work, we have an employee bus that we that we transport them through. But unfortunately sometimes he can't make it all the way to the hospital. They stop halfway and then they catch motorcycles when they can to make it to work. But ensuring their safety has been more and more difficult as of late.

BLACKWELL: I've been following some of your -- I'll call it reporting on social media on your page and you got an entry recently called Dear Diary. And you right this, "Just heard my neighbor screaming someone sent her video of the shootings near the spirit that just happened and she saw her father and it gunned down. I can hear lots of cars honking and driving fast to get in. An employee just called saying she barely made it waiting to hear from the rest of the staff if they made it home. Curfew starts in 31 minutes." Are you afraid? What are you feeling in this time?

ULYSSE: We are scared. I don't want to use the word afraid and entertain the thought of fear. Once you let fear take over, rationality takes the -- is gone. So we are scared. Once you leave home, once our family and friends leave home, you're always on high alert. And but uncertainty is the biggest feeling.

Every time you step out you do not know if you or your loved ones or your personnel will make it home so uncertain. And it's just a fight of faith. You have to be faithful that you're -- I'm on a mission that God sent me on this mission and my time isn't here yet so you just aware of the risk. You take the necessary precautions, but I can't entertain any extra thought of fear and dying in anything else. My time is already written we keep forward.

BLACKWELL: And you have not entertained the idea of leaving Haiti.

ULYSSE: No. No, no no. And leaving when it's difficult is what the Haitian population especially the people that we serve, the communities that we serve Cite Soleil. They're used to people with good intentions that have been in with nonprofits in (inaudible). But when things get tough, and we turn our backs on them.

So my father has been here for 32 years. He's been through unimaginable times as well. Unfortunately, during my 32 year journey, this is part of my story. He's here. I'm here. He made it through. I will make it through. I will not entertain the thought of leaving other than getting supplies et cetera.

BLACKWELL: Kareen Ulysse, thank you for your time and thank you for the work you're doing not only for those 17 babies that are with you, newborn or for, but for the entire community your serve. Thank you so much.

Coming up the parents of Tyree Nichols join me. They want to meet with President Biden. Why they feel they fight for police reform after the death of their son is being undermined in Tennessee.



BLACKWELL: The parents of Tyre Nichols went a meeting with President Biden. They say their work on police reform after the death of their son is under threat. You will remember that Tyre was violently beaten by Memphis police officers in January of last year after a traffic stop. He died in the hospital.

Well, Memphis City Council passed the Driving Equality Act in honor of Tyre Nichols. The law aims to cut down on traffic stops for minor infractions. But a bill passed in this Tennessee State House this week would essentially cancel that out. Tyre's parents, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells are with us now. Thank you for your time.

And when I say minor traffic infractions, we're talking broken taillights, license plate in the back window instead of the bumper. This Tennessee bill would make it unlawful for local municipalities to make their own laws that would override state laws. After this bill passed, what RowVaughn did that feel like that this could undermine the local law name for your son?

ROWVAUGHN WELLS, MOTHER OF TYRE NICHOLS: And it was actually I felt like it was just a kick in the face really. We were promised that the bill would not go through at that time. We were getting word that the bill wouldn't go through. And they put it through.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the Representative John Gillespie, who was the sponsor of this, you were there at the Capitol on Monday, you were told that you -- it would not come back to a vote without you there. And then you return to your home in Memphis and it was passed without you being there.


BLACKWELL: What would be the impact on people in Memphis, do you think that this would make people less safe if this goes through that there would be more interactions like the one that involved your son?

ROWVAUGHN WELLS: Well, I feel like those pretextual stops, right, just a smokescreen to harass. Our traffic stops and other traffic stops are dealt with differently. Someone else has a broken tail light, most likely the police officer would pull them over, let them know that they had a broken tail light, and probably would send them on their way.

However, when it's somewhat of a black or brown person, we're normally being spoken to.


ROWVAUGHN WELLS: Harassed in a demeanor way. And it just seems like the traffic stops are different. So, for them to undermine what the people of Memphis did, it was just like a kick in the face. It doesn't make sense.

BLACKWELL: I apologize for interrupting you there. The State Rep, again, John Gillespie, who sponsored this in the Tennessee State House says that this would make the Tyre Nichols Driving Equality Act in Memphis would make people in Memphis less safe that it would essentially tie the hands of local law enforcement, he told a local television station there. What do you say to that?

RODNEY WELLS, FATHER OF TYRE NICHOLS: I say that he lives in a different community than we live in. So for us, the reason why we pass it was because of all the harassment that we were getting, and in our community, so he, you know, it's like apples and oranges. You know, it's just like what President Biden said last year, when his kids go out here, we have to give them a speech. But when our kids go to -- go out, you know, to come home safely, we have to give them that speech, you know, whenever you get pulled over as yes or no, sir. Obey all commands.


RODNEY WELLS: You know, so --


RODNEY WELLS: Influential neighborhood environment. And so you don't have to deal with stuff that goes on basically down in the hood.

BLACKWELL: RowVaughn, you want to meet with President Biden, what do you want out of that meeting?

ROWVAUGHN WELLS: I want him to let the people know that they are working on police reform. There are too many black and brown men and women being murdered by police officers. When this happened to us last year, we have met so many different people, some of their -- some of them we've never heard of.


So we need to get something done because this is getting out of control. I've never thought in a million years that I will be sitting here speaking on our son's death, because as we all know, and if he saw the video, our son was very polite. I think he followed all the rules. Yet still, he still got beaten, and he died. So we need to do something and we need to make these police officers accountable.

BLACKWELL: RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, thank you for your time this morning. And let us know if you hear from the White House in this effort to sit down and speak with the President. Thank you.

Ahead of his visit to Atlanta, President Biden is touting endorsements from political groups representing Black, Latino and Asian American communities. The lawmaker representing the district, he will visit today, joins us next.



BLACKWELL: The 2024 campaign trail runs through Georgia this weekend. Donald Trump will be campaigning in Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green's district. And President Biden will rally voters here in Atlanta in the district represented by my next guest, Congresswoman Nikema Williams. She's also the chair of the Georgia Democratic Party. Thank you for coming into studio this morning. All right, so the latest state poll has the President a few points behind former President Trump's latest poll out from "Fox News," 51 percent to 43 percent. How do you turn that around in Georgia?

REP. NIKEMA WILLIAMS (D-GA): Well, first, thank you for having this conversation, Victor, because what people need to realize, it's a long time between now and November, and there was a "Fox News" poll. But between now and November, what we know is that we have to continue to have the conversation. Georgians have been counted out before when it comes to the presidential elections. When we flipped the state in 2020, we won for a Democrat for the first time in 28 years.

So we understand that there's a lot of work that goes into this. Nothing is given. We're not a blue state. We're not a red state. We're periwinkle. So we have work to do. And we have to keep having that conversation.

BLACKWELL: That's the first time I've heard a state described as periwinkle and not just purple, but I accept that. I like it very much. So we've --

WILLIAMS: It's close to blue.

BLACKWELL: Yes, so we've got the Georgia primary coming up on Tuesday.


BLACKWELL: And there is an effort, of course, President Biden is going to win the primary here in Georgia.

WILLIAMS: With enthusiasm because Georgia voters are ready.

BLACKWELL: But there is also this movement, we saw the 100,000 votes that the uncommitted campaign in Michigan got, there is something similar, uncommitted, non-committed is not an option here. But there is a campaign here amongst progressives in this state, led by the first Palestinian American legislator in Georgia, the hashtag, Leave It Blank Movement, a request for people to get the Democratic ballot, and leave it blank. Your concerns about that?

WILLIAMS: So I don't really have concerns about that. Primaries are about making sure that you have your party standards brought to the table, and we're having a conversation. We're having a conversation with our primary electorate. And what we know is that people are excited about President Biden coming up that State of the Union address. What I heard was a man of compassion, a man who was looking at the humanity and the situation. We're increasing the humanitarian aid that's going into Gaza right now.

Making sure that we are addressing the needs at hand, we all have seen the devastation that has occurred. That in no way relinquishes what we that have standing with our ally in Israel, but we have to address what is happening on the ground and the loss of lives. And that's exactly what our President is doing.

And so as a Palestinian American, state representative who is leading this charge, she has every right to do so. We need to hear from all of our voters in this process. And on Tuesday, Georgia Democrats will show up in force within the museum to support our President. He's going to be here today. We're going to have lots of people here to rally him to that victory.

BLACKWELL: Some of your fellow Democratic Congress members, their caucus members there, during the State of the Union, they weren't rude enough to shout at the President like Marjorie Taylor Greene did.

WILLIAMS: That part.

BLACKWELL: While he was speaking. But they did hold up signs. Let's play some of this. These are some of the representatives. We have Representative Omar, Representative Pressley, Representative Tlaib calling for lasting ceasefire and stop aiding the IDF. Is it time to call for the President to call for a permanent ceasefire?

WILLIAMS: So what President Biden has said is that he wants a ceasefire. We're starting with at least six weeks, but we have to address the issue at hand. Hamas is a terrorist organization. And we don't want anyone living in the fear under the reign of a terrorist organization. And so President Biden has called for a ceasefire for at least six weeks, and what we're looking for is lasting peace in the region. We have to bring stability to the region. And we can't do that unless we address the root cause. And that is terrorism in the region.

BLACKWELL: There some who say that the aid that's even going in now dropping the aid in or this maritime aid corridor it's just too little too late from the U.S. If they really cared about the people of Gaza, this would have happened months ago, not five months in.


WILLIAMS: Well, President Biden also is not in charge of Israel. They have their own leadership. And what we are doing is leading with the compassion that we have known him to do. And so right now, we can't change what has happened in the past. But what we're doing is moving forward and increasing the humanitarian aid on the ground. That is so critical, because we cannot stand by and watch the famine, the dehydration, and just the destruction of people in this region. And so President Biden is stepping up and leading.

BLACKWELL: The President was criticized in this exchange with Marjorie Taylor Greene about referring to the suspect in the killing of Lincoln, Riley, referring to him as an illegal. Here's what he said on the tarmac the next day after you have some time to think about the use of that word.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you regret using the word illegal to describe immigrants last night, sir?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, not probably. I don't regret it. Technically, he's not supposed to be here.


BLACKWELL: I don't regret it. Technically, he's not supposed to be here. Are you satisfied with that answer? Are you comfortable with the President referring to anyone as an illegal?

WILLIAMS: So I don't think people are illegal, their actions might be illegal, not the word choice that I would have used. But what we know is that Republicans have politicized this. We had a border deal on the table, a bipartisan deal that was negotiated by Republicans, and they pulled away because they were afraid of Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the head of their party. This election is about a contrast. And today in the state of Georgia, we have both of our candidates at the head of our tickets right here, laying out that contrast.

And what I know is I need a leader who is compassionate, who can lead the world, and that is President Joe Biden. He has shown us time and time again. And what Donald Trump has shown us he is not even fit to serve in this office. He has 91 indictments looming over his head, but yet we have a Republican Party who continues to kowtow to him. And they stepped away from a deal that they negotiated. A deal that would keep us all more safe, secure borders, get more people down to make sure that we can get people through the asylum process, increasing the judges that we have to move people through the process, but yet they walked away from their own deal because they're afraid of Donald Trump.

BLACKWELL: And even in the context of everything you said, Donald Trump still eight points ahead here in Georgia, as you say, eight months until the general election.

WILLIAMS: There's a lot of time.

BLACKWELL: And a lot of work to do. Thank you very much, Congresswoman Nikema Williams.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right coming up, CNN sits down with the star of TikTok series, people just cannot stop watching.


TAREASA "REESA TEESA" JOHNSON, CREATOR OF VIRAL TIKTOK SERIES: And welcome. We all know why you're here. You're here for part of the new series that I'm calling, who the -- did I marry?




BLACKWELL: Tomorrow night is Oscar night and it could tell us a lot about the state of Hollywood for actors of color, one win that could make history, the first Native American Academy Award winner. CNN's Lisa France is here with us in our new studio. You like it?


BLACKWELL: Excellent. Good, good. Thank you. All right, so let's talk about Lily Gladstone. First, she's one of two Native American nominees this year. It could be a big night.

FRANCE: It could be a big night. And she's already won. And we have to keep in mind that a lot of the voters for the Academy Awards also vote in other guilds where she's already won best actress. So it would be a huge moment for indigenous people if she wins, in addition to the fact that one of the songs from the movie is nominated. And I believe that's the first Native American nominated for that song, that Scott George, and he's going to be performing with singers from the Osage Nation. So it's a really proud moment for Native Americans this year.

BLACKWELL: It's going to be a fantastic moment on the broadcast. Let's talk about this obsession, Reesa Teesa. And I got to admit I'm late to this. I'm late to it.


BLACKWELL: I know, I know. There's so many people who are just enveloped and just obsessed with this. Tell us about it.

FRANCE: Absolutely obsessed. So Reesa Teesa Tisa is a woman who has taken what she says was a horrible marriage in which she found out that her husband was not who he told her he was. And she turned it into 10 minute TikToks, right? So she had initially 50 episodes of this. And when I tell you that it was so engaging, that it pulled people in, I mean, this was like Netflix.

BLACKWELL: Four hundred million views across those 50 videos.

FRANCE: So many. Hundreds of millions of views. She's now completely recognizable. She has been on a bit of a whirlwind tour, and talking to people about it, because she is the new star of the moment.



BLACKWELL: And you spoke with her.

FRANCE: I did talk to her. She was -- it was engaging I got to say.

BLACKWELL: Let's play some of that.


FRANCE: What do you see as the next thing for you?

JOHNSON: So for me, I would really like to take this story to a bigger platform. TikTok is huge. And I acknowledge that because, my God, this is blown up. But it can go even bigger. What do I mean by that? It can be books, meaning publishing, television, movie. There are a lot of people in this world who are going through something similar or even worse than what I went through. If this story can help them and if a bigger platform will help them, I want to take it to a bigger platform.


FRANCE: So relatable, that's what I think really pulled people in. Lots of people can relate to, you know, dating disasters relate to getting their heart broken, relate to she says, you know, he lied to her. There's a lot there. There are layers there.


FRANCE: And I think it's not just that she was so relatable. I think it's also the way she told it, like she's such a good storyteller. And I said to her, you're so incredibly poised which by the way is one of the reasons why some people think it didn't actually happen.



FRANCE: I was able to talk to one of the realtors that she mentioned in her story she talks about a particular realtor. She actually mentioned more than one. But this woman is a local woman, Amber Steele, and she gave her permission to share her name and her image. And she said to me, the part of the story that she told about her, absolutely didn't happen. Absolutely sure.

BLACKWELL: I've got to find this now. I've got to go and watch these 50 episodes. Lisa France, always good to have you in.

FRANCE: Thank you. Good to be here.

BLACKWELL: Thanks so much. We'll be right back.


BLACKWELL: This next story comes to us from San Diego State University. Gus Thompson, a former slave moved to come California in the late 1800s. He and his wife, Emma, built a home there. And when they moved in the late 30s, 1930s, the Thompsons rented it to the Dong family. And so the Dongs were Chinese immigrants, no one else would rent to them.


And when Gus died, his widow sold the Dongs the home. It's where Ron and Lloyd Dong Jr. grew up. And now in their 80s, they've sold the house and property next to it, and they're going to donate $5 million from its sale to the San Diego State University's Black Resource Center. To the Dong family, I see you.

Thanks for joining me. Smerconish starts now.