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Today: FDA Panel To Vote On Pfizer Vaccine For Ages 5-11; Zuckerberg: Leaked Documents "Paint A False Picture" Of Facebook; Anxiety Among Democrats As Biden Poll Numbers Fall. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 26, 2021 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Today in the hours ahead, very important for parents of school aged children. The FDA's Independent Vaccine Advisory Committee is meeting right now and then will vote later today on Pfizer's Coronavirus vaccine, whether it should be authorized for children ages five through 11. With us now to share her insights and expertise Dr. Leana Wen, the former city of Baltimore health commissioner, Dr. Wen grateful for your time especially on this day. Number one, do you see anything in the presentation from Pfizer so far that gives you pause. If you were on this Committee, what would your question be? What would your vote be?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right now, the data all look very strong and very much in favor of giving authorization for this five to 11 year old group because ultimately this comes down to weighing the risk versus the benefits. And I think it needs to be said that children in this age group of five to 11 do become ill from COVID-19. There have been 1.9 million cases of COVID in this age group. Over 8,000 children have been hospitalized, and a third of them have ended up in the ICU, 143 kids have died in this five to 11 year old group.

And so there is this very pressing and urgent case to be made to get vaccines available to this group. Thus far, it looks safe, it looks like it's very effective, at least 90 percent effective in preventing against symptomatic disease. And so I really hope for a favorable vote today, which as a reminder is the first in the four step process. So hopefully the FDA will take on the advisors recommendation, then next week the CDC and the Advisory Committee there will also vote in favor of getting this vaccine for children.

KING: And I want to ask you the follow up question in the context of the trends of where we're going. Number one, the map does look a lot better, 35 states in green, which means fewer COVID infections this week compared to last, so things are definitely heading in the right direction. If you look at the case count also coming down, the seven day average of cases is down 35 percent From October 1st down 57 percent from September 1st. You see 71,000 new COVID infections yesterday.

[12:35:05] Dr. Wen having lived through this, I don't want to go back up a hill again, right we're coming down right now 28 million children in the five to 11 age group. If a sizable percentage of that 28 million are eligible for vaccines starting sometime next week, what is the potential impact on the current trajectory?

WEN: I think we'll certainly it will make a difference for the trajectory overall, because we'll have many more millions of children who are going to be vaccinated. And we also know that children can be vectors of transmission for their family for their community. Although I don't think that this is the main reason we should be excited about getting kids vaccinated. It's not right to ask children to sacrifice for others. That's not the reason we want children to be vaccinated.

We want kids to be vaccinated to protect them. And also because by having kids being vaccinated, it will keep them in school, it will prevent them from having to be quarantined in the school, miss other extracurricular activities. It'll also give peace of mind to parents. That the protection of kids needs to be first and foremost as to why we want kids to be vaccinated.

KING: Amen to that as a parent of a 10-year-old, I would look at this one here, if you just look at the pace, the other big question is when will more of the unvaccinated get vaccinated, percentage of people fully vaccinated, the average of that is down 26 percent from October versus essentially a flat line now of about 200,000 Americans a day reaching full vaccination.

Is there anything, do you see anything as do you worry I guess it's a better way to put it. As the trajectory comes down, if you're on vaccinated, you say see things are getting better, I don't need to.

WEN: Yes. And in fact, that's what we've seen before happen as well that when things look better and restrictions are removed, the unvaccinated lose whatever motivation that may have had to get vaccinated versus the middle of the Delta surge we saw an uptick in vaccinations. I do think at this point, we have to rely on vaccine requirements that is what's going to boost the numbers in terms of people who remain unvaccinated.

KING: That's an important point. The President said the other day, waited a long time to do mandates but sometimes the data suggests maybe be, you know, a little bit more kicked up the numbers. Dr. Wen, as always, grateful for your insights.

Ahead for us, the proof right there in Facebook's own research, Facebook creates fake accounts to gauge whether its algorithm promotes misinformation, polarization, and guess what, it does.



KING: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defiant after leaked documents reveal his company's failure to police hate speech and misinformation. In an earnings call, Zuckerberg told investors least in his view, he says the media is cherry picking documents to paint a false picture of the social network. But those leaked Facebook papers once again raise questions about Zuckerberg credibility, and they show how much the company profits off the spread of false information.

Get this back in 2019, Facebook conducted an experiment to test how your Facebook feed might become politically polarized. It created a fake account to look like a 41-year-old North Carolina conservative mom. In just two days, Facebook's algorithm recommended she follow QAnon and other extremist groups. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins us now. Donie, this test example made public in these leaked documents, correct me if I'm wrong, highlights not only how Facebook allows to spread a falsehood, but it actually encourages it.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, just think about that for a second, John, a 41-year-old mom in North Carolina, after a few days, just liking, you know, conservative pages, big conservative pages, like Fox News and Donald Trump is getting dragged down this rabbit hole, not only just QAnon, by the way. After three weeks, she was recommended to follow a page belonging to the Three Percenter militia.

So I think when we talk in this country about how people are going down these extremists rabbit holes, why we wonder why the place is so polarized. Of course, there are other factors at play, but this is a huge one. And Facebook likes to say, you know, our hands are clean, we don't make decisions. We don't want to get involved in what's true or false. But the reality is the company makes, the company's algorithms makes millions of decisions every single day in terms of what to show us, what to amplify to us, and what not to show us as well, right?

Because it won't show us content, we -- it thinks that we don't like -- we won't like or we won't stick around for. And that is all of course contributing to these echo chambers. And I just want to show you a quick clip very quickly, a adviser to this whistleblower explaining some of this.


LARRY LESSIG, ADVISER TO FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: What it does is amplify the messages that it knows, will drive engagement. And it just turns out we humans get most riled up by lies and hate and all sorts of misinformation.


O'SULLIVAN: But if you ask Mark Zuckerberg or for that matter, some of his spokespeople, they'll tell you, basically it's all false, it's all loaded of nonsense, and that the media is just cherry picking all of this information. The awkward thing for Mark Zuckerberg of course is, is that this is Facebook's own research. And there are tens of thousands of pages of documents. And there are many more stories to come. John?

KING: Many more stories to come and a simple old adage from a long time ago follow the money. You'll learn a lot from following the money. Donie O'Sullivan, grateful as always for this important reporting.


Up next for us, an inside look at a serious case of Democratic jitters, COVID in the economy are driving a slide in the President's standing at a bad time for the party.


KING: Tonight President Biden campaigns in Virginia, campaigning for a candidate who worried out loud recently that the President sagging poll numbers might cause him to lose. Joining our conversation to discuss the state of the party at the moment Democratic pollster, Anna Greenberg, grateful to have you here.



KING: Let's start with Virginia because it is a great, what's the right word for it, Terry McAuliffe said out loud a couple of weeks ago, I might lose because the President is unpopular.


KING: The President is there tonight to try to help Terry McAuliffe.


KING: What does Virginia mean, why is it so close, and what does it mean nationally?

GREENBERG: Well, I mean, certainly it is about weather, right? Everyone looks to Virginia to see what might happen in 2022. So obviously, if Terry McAuliffe doesn't win, I believe it's going to be a lot of panicky Democrats, including me, as we think about what's going to happen in 2022. I think we would expect to see a drop off of interest and enthusiasm after we had our biggest two years and, you know, in modern history in 2018 and 2020. It's not a surprise, that enthusiasm and participation seems more muted, especially among Democrats. The question is, is it enough that would allow Youngkin to win.

I would just note something I read today, though, the number of people who have voted absentee is about six times higher than it was four years ago. Now we know that the patterns have changed, and Democrats are more likely to vote early and less likely to vote on Election Day. So I'm not suggesting that is predictive of any outcome. But it's still pretty astonishing how many more people are voting this time around than four years ago.

KING: Right, so how much of an impact, this is the here and now. Let's talk about the here and now then we'll see if we can change it. This is the President's approval rating right now. This is an average, our poll of polls takes the most recent polls and average them together. The President's approval rating is down to 44 percent. His disapproval is at 50 percent.


KING: If a year from now, the President's numbers are like that. Goodbye, House. Goodbye, Senate. Goodbye a lot of governor's races.


KING: Is that enough to sink Terry McAuliffe right there the President's approval rating alone?

GREENBERG: Well, I don't think so because at the end of the day, Virginia is still a blue state. And the dynamics, for example, the shift of suburban voters over the last four years, the Democratic Party, there's no evidence that has changed, if anything, whether it's the Texas abortion law, the big lie, anti-vax sentiment, if anything, suburban voters are even more Democratic. So I think the combination of suburban voters, minority voters in Virginia keeps that state blue. So I think that you have to look, you know, geography is everything, right? So the approval ratings are not dispositive when it comes to different parts of the country.

KING: Right. And before we came on the air, you were saying that you yourself are a little nervous right now.


KING: But, you know, you hope this time to change. So here's one thing the President's trying to get his giant agenda passed. There are a lot of things in there that are not only popular Democrats, a lot of things that are popular with voters across the spectrum. But we asked in our poll last month, what do you think, the Biden agenda passing makes your family, only half of Democrats say better off, 45 percent of Democrats say the same. What has happened? Where is the failed messaging or communications, if among your friends, people who are inclined to support the President and the party, nearly half 45 percent say will make a difference?

GREENBERG: Yes. I mean, there is clearly a failure of messaging about this package. That being said, part of the challenges, we don't know what's going to be in it yet. So for example, let's say you lean into some particular provision, and that gets cut out that's already happening, right? So, I think that that is obviously, you know, problematic. Democrats to some extent are driving that, you know, Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema, so it's not like it's necessarily Republicans making it difficult to message on the package. But when you don't know what's going to be in it very difficult to explain to people it's going to affect their lives directly.

KING: Right. If you look at the president now, a lot of people are having -- a lot of Democrats having very flashbacks to President Obama approval ratings down a little bit, legislative agenda in limbo, Democrats got wiped out in the first Obama midterm. Is that the terrain today? And what needs to change to keep it from being that way? GREENBERG: Well, I don't know if it's necessarily wiped out. But obviously, everybody knows that generally speaking, the party in power doesn't do well in the first midterm. So we I'd be foolish to suggest that we aren't in some trouble. That being said, I think there are things that are different. So for example, Obamacare is different than this package. Obamacare was not something that most people used. In this package, almost everybody gets some benefit from it. That's very, very different.

Second of all, we have tons of pent up demand. Now that's leading to inflation in the short run, but it's entirely possible next year that we're in a very different economic situation.

KING: I'll bring you back is that your plays out, and we'll go through all of those numbers. Now, it looks bleak, but I've been at this a long time, things can change. We will see.

GREENBERG: Absolutely.

KING: Anna, grateful for your time today.

GREENBERG: Thank you.


KING: Up next for us, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel becomes a hotly contested topic in what we were just talking about the Virginia governor's race.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, the Virginia governor's election now just one week away, the Democratic Party's biggest names heading to the Commonwealth. President Biden holds a rally with the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe in Arlington tonight. Vice President Harris will campaign with the Democratic candidate on Friday.

Latest polls have McAuliffe tied with Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin, one of the most polarizing issues in that race is education. And the Pulitzer Prize winning novel "Beloved," is now part of that debate. This week, Glenn Youngkin's campaign released an ad with a Virginia mom Laura Murphy, who took her fight against that book all the way to the state assembly after she said it gave her high school aged son nightmares.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They passed bills requiring schools to notify parents when explicit content was a sign. But then Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed it twice. He doesn't think parents should have a say, he said that, he shot us out.


KING: McAuliffe condemning that ad. In Texas, the Governor Greg Abbott signed the new congressional map into law. The map includes two new districts Texas is gaining because of the 2020 census. And because Republicans drew the map, guess what its new borders could give them an advantage. Here's an example, 40 percent of the population in Texas is Hispanic. In the new map, though, Hispanics are a majority in only seven of the state's 38 congressional districts, an analysis by 5:38 shows Republicans would be favored in 24 of those districts.


Appreciate your time today in Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.