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Laura Coates Live

Eleven Freed Hostages Are Back In Israel; Three Palestinian College Students Were Shot In Vermont; Polls: President Biden Sees Drop In Support Among Young Voters; Natalie Portman Says It Was 'Luck' She Was Not Harmed As Child Star. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired November 27, 2023 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Eleven more children and women released today. But the numbers, they don't begin to tell the story. Tonight, in the second hour of "Laura Coates Live."

Now, for every one of the 11 women and children released today, there are loved ones who have been suffering along with them, who didn't know whether they'd ever see their family members again.

For every one of those 11 people who are experiencing their first day of freedom since October 7th, there are others who are still being held hostage. I mean, just think of it. All the kids released today by Hamas still have fathers in captivity.

And for seven weeks, we've all been waiting. We've talked to mothers, we've talked to fathers, sisters, brothers. While so many of their loved ones are still unaccounted for, there are others whose tonight, their prayers have been answered.

Remember Erez Kalderon, who turned 12 in captivity along with his 16- year-old sister, Sahar? I talked to their mother, Hadas, just three weeks after they were taken.


HADAS KALDERON, MOTHER OF EREZ AND SAHAR KALDERON: You can imagine, you know, Erez, he was just celebrating his birthday, 12 years old birthday, in captivity in Gaza. We celebrate without him, a surrealistic birthday.


COATES: Well, now, Erez and his sister, Sahar, are free. But their father is believed to still be in Gaza and still being held hostage. And there are so many others. Just a moment, I'll talk to the mother of Alon Ohel. He was abducted from a bomb shelter at the raid where hundreds of people were killed. He is a 22-year-old pianist who loves music. This is Alon playing a piece called "Dimension," composed by (INAUDIBLE).




COATES: We are learning more about the conditions the hostages endured while they were held captive by Hamas, some fed nothing but rice and beans, which they tried to avoid even eating so they would not get sick. I mean, can you imagine being so hungry but still afraid to eat anything, living in darkness and knowing nothing about what was going on above ground?

But with the truce committing for now two more days, there will be some 20 more reunions, hopefully --



COATES: -- nine-year-old Emily Hand. You see her, who was initially believed to be killed by Hamas militants, reuniting with her father in his arms, while 13-year-old Hila Rotem reunited with her uncle after both were released by Hamas. Like Maayan Zin reuniting with her daughters, Dafna and Ela, following their release.

And the only American hostage released so far, Abigail Eden, the four- year-old American dual citizen abducted by Hamas on October 7th. I mean, look at her smile. This beautiful little girl is only four, turned four in captivity.

And she can't really know yet what has happened to her family. Her mother and her father both killed. Her father was killed while he was holding her. Now, imagine what she's thinking. A four-year-old held captive for seven weeks. And now, she's free. But will she ever feel safe again? And what about the others? What does the road ahead look like for them?

Joining me now, Idit Ohel. Her 22-year-old son, Alon, was abducted by Hamas, and she has not heard from him since October 7th.


Idit, thank you so much for being with us. I cannot imagine what you are going through and what these weeks have been like for you and your heart, but I do want to play this video of your son being taken by Hamas. This is the last time that you even saw a video confirming that he was all right. I have to warn everyone, it's extremely graphic to watch, to see. I can only imagine what it's like as a mother to view it. Do you know sitting here tonight, Idit, anything else about his condition?

IDIT OHEL, MOTHER OF ALON OHEL, 22-YEAR-OLD KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: No, I don't know anything about him. The last time I heard from him was at 8:00 on the seventh of October, 8:00 in the morning, when he was taken. I have -- I have no idea. I haven't heard from him since. I don't know how he is, where he is. I'm still waiting, you know, to be back with him in his home and with me, his family.

But we have no -- we have nothing. Obviously, we are worried. His sister and his brother also, um, feeling -- you know, they are hopeless in finding him and knowing where he is right now.

COATES: I mean, he's 22 years old, but he certainly is your baby. I know how -- I think about even my 11-year-old. It's still a baby to me. And your baby, he was hiding in a bomb shelter before being abducted. He was with three friends. Can you tell us what happened that day? What do you know about what happened that day?

OHEL: Sure. I know a lot what happened that day because of his great friend who was with him and survived this. So, he got to this bomb shelter because -- he actually got to the party, to the Nova party, at 5:30 in the morning. And by six, they started to hear rockets falling down. So, they had to find a bomb shelter to get cover. They drove and they found the nearest bomb shelter in Re'im place in Israel. They went and got inside. He was there with four of his other friends. And in this bomb shelter, there were also -- there are 30 some people in that bomb shelter. You have to understand that this bomb shelter is only capable to have like 10 people, okay, but there were more than 30. So, I think like about like 20 minutes after they got there, thinking that everything is okay, they were talking to each other and everything was fine. And then they started hearing things. And then suddenly, uh, the Hamas came in and started to throw twelve grenades into the bomb shelter. So, they were throwing grenades into the bomb shelter. And this beautiful man who tried to save everybody, his name was Ener (ph), I say was because he was murdered, trying to fight -- to throw grenades outside. So, he was taking these grenades in his hands, throwing them outside. What I heard was that my son took one or two and did the same because he was near Ener (ph) at this time. So, he was trying to help him. One grenade exploded inside the bomb shelter and injuring many and Ener (ph) died instantly because he was holding -- he probably was the one who was holding the grenade. We don't know. But he died, was killed that day. And then the Hamas went inside and took my son. Okay, that's what you're saying. He took my son and he took two others. He took Hersh Goldberg. He's an American citizen. He's got his hand amputated. So --


OHEL: -- Hersh, he's not my son's friend, but I know him because of this. So, he also was taken with my son, and that was the last time I heard from him. His friend -- two of his friends were killed that day because --


OHEL: -- what happened was that after Hamas took my son and these two others, they went inside and started to kill everyone. So, only seven survived. The Hamas didn't know seven survived because there were so many people killed.


They started to go and -- on top of each other. Each one was killed. And the people that were underneath that survived somehow, they were -- they played dead. Okay? So, one of them was my son's friend who played dead and waited six hours with others, hoping that somebody will come and take them, hoping that something will happen.

COATES: I mean, he waited six hours, and here you are waiting seven weeks now to hear some word about your son.

OHEL: Yeah.

COATES: And you haven't heard anything yet. And yet we're waiting. We're waiting for the list to come out day in and day out. We're waiting here, you know, in the safety of a studio and in the United States of America and think that you're waiting as a mother trying to figure out where your son is. I desperately hope that you get that word, Idit.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight and sharing about the bravery and the heroism and also about the reality of what you and so many others are facing tonight. Thank you.

OHEL: Yeah. It's very -- it's very -- thank you. Thank you. It's very important to say this. I hope that we'll get help and somebody will come and tell us that he's alive and will come back to us. It's very important for us. And thank you for you, Laura, for doing this and understanding what we're going through in Israel and what all the kidnapped families are going through. It's very important because this is real. This is not fake news. We need you for this. Thank you.

COATES: Thank you. We hope to hear him play beautiful music once again. Thank you so much.

OHEL: Thank you.

COATES: I want to bring in now Ofrit Shapira-Berman, a psychoanalyst and expert in treating trauma, who's also a professor at Hebrew University. Ofrit, thank you so much for joining us.

I mean, it's so hard for so many people to wrap their minds around even the stories that are coming out of what so many people endured. We are yet to scratch the surface, as you can imagine, of what else has taken place. We've been watching these videos, Ofrit, of helicopters, of vans bringing hostages to hospitals. How are doctors getting ready to receive these hostages? And, of course, you've got the physical, you've got the mental that's going to come along with it.

OFRIT SHAPIRA-BERMAN, PROFESSOR, HEBREW UNIVERSITY: So, hello. Good morning. At least in Israel, it's morning. First of all, it's important to say again that the western world has actually no experience in treating children who were held as hostages or so many women or actually so many men. The men aren't back yet.

So, what we've been doing here in Israel is actually reading every piece of article that has ever been published. I think the medical examinations are probably a little bit easier to figure out. I mean, the physicians probably know what they need to check. They're doing blood tests and all other kind of stuff. They're trying to figure out what's the short-term effect of the captivity and what will be the long-term effects. We will need to find out.

The mental state is probably the more difficult issue because those people who are taking hostages have all witnessed the most horrific atrocities before they were taken kidnapped. They were all seeing other people being murdered. Very often, their own parents or their own siblings.

And then they were taken away to a place that we consider to be one of the most dangerous places, at least for us. They were held underground, overground, often without food, very, very often without at least one of the parents. In the case of many of the children, without either parents.

And, you know, while you were showing the segments and you were interviewing Idit, I couldn't see the picture, I was just hearing the voices, and I could literally feel how my heart is broken again because I've spent a lot of hours with people who have survived the massacre and with families of those who were kidnapped. And still, when I want to really try and imagine what they're going through, I just need to think about myself as a mother and I can't --

COATES: Oh, Ofrit --

SHAPIRA-BERMAN: I feel that none of us can really -- sorry. Yes.

COATES: I know. I was going to say, I share that, that level of empathy with you.


And yet even neither of us can begin to imagine just the depths of what this must be like. And I'm so glad that you broke this down in terms of the trauma of what happened on October 7th, the trauma of what was endured since October 7th, and then the trauma of coming out of captivity after being in a news vacuum in darkness figuratively and literally.

And now, you're talking about the different demographics involved because, you know, one of the freed hostages, a woman named Elma Avraham, is on a ventilator, is in critical condition. She's in her 80s, by the way. Her family says that her body temperature was admitted -- when she was admitted was around 83 degrees. So just talk to me about the age of say an 80-year-old enduring all of what we know so far.

SHAPIRA-BERMAN: Well, I think it's almost impossible to imagine. On the one hand, these people are extremely strong. But they're extremely strong in terms of surviving this trauma, surviving the trauma, and being able to live or to lead a life following such a trauma. A good life are two completely different things.

I also think that what we are seeing over the first few days is just the tip of the iceberg. They're probably so happy to be reunited with the families or with the ones who have survived because almost all of them are coming back to reality in which at least one of their family members of the dearest and nearest has been murdered.

But the first few days are probably happy. They feel safe at last. The trauma will surface in days or months and will probably last for years because it will be -- I expect and I'm sad to say that, but I'm being realistic as a therapist, it will be extremely difficult for those people to ever feel safe again.

If you can be snatched away from your bed as a baby, as an 84 years old woman, if you can be walked down to Gaza barefoot, wounded after you've been shot, if you can be held without food, scared to your life -- you know, some of the people who came out said that they were actually -- they were thinking that they were being taken out to be executed, not to be freed.

COATES: Oh, my goodness. Ofrit, it's just -- when you think about the trauma and just -- I'm glad for your honesty, frankly, because this will be a process. And, of course, you and your expertise know that many of the trauma might even manifest years from now. And, of course --


COATES: -- as a human race, we are collectively grappling with the fact that this was even possible to happen. Ofrit Shapira-Berman, thank you so much.

SHAPIRA-BERMAN: You're very welcome. Thank you.

COATES: And as the toll of the Israel-Hamas war increases, we have news tonight about three Palestinian college students who were shot in Vermont. One of the students has now been released from the hospital, and we're learning more tonight about the suspect. That's next.



COATES: We're learning new details tonight about the moments police arrested the suspect who was now accused of shooting three Palestinian college students who were just visiting Vermont on their holiday break. Police charged Jason Eaton with three counts of attempted second-degree murder. Police say that when they approached Eaton's home, he said -- quote -- "I've been waiting for you" -- unquote.

The DOJ is now investigating whether this attack was a hate crime. And tonight, at least one positive development. A source telling CNN that one of the three injured students has been released from the hospital.

Joining me now is Elizabeth Price, the mother of one of the young men, Hisham Awartani. Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining me. I'm just so sorry to meet you under these circumstances. I mean, just Saturday night, your son and two others are just walking before dinner. And now, this has happened. I know you're making your way to the state because your son Hisham, he was shot in the spine. I believe he is stable. Have you been able to speak with him? How is he doing?

ELIZABETH PRICE, MOTHER OF HISHAM AWARTANI, PALESTINIAN STUDENT SHOT IN VERMONT: Yes, I have spoken with him several times. His spirits are high. He's just a very resilient young man. He has been trying to keep everyone's spirits up by joking and just trying to be as calm as possible.

I think he's approaching -- he's understanding now the very long road that he has in front of him. He has another month in hospital, and then several months of physical therapy. But currently, the doctors say that he has lost functional mobility in his legs.

COATES: How is the prognosis?

PRICE: The prognosis is bad. The prognosis is that he won't regain it. We are determined to work with him and support him and get the best possible care so that he can. I believe that Hisham has the determination and the courage and the resilience to regain his legs movement. But the doctors currently say that it is not possible.

COATES: Elizabeth, I can't imagine. You're on your way to the state. You're trying to get to your son. You're hearing this news. It's coming so quickly. How are you handling all of this tonight?

PRICE: Thank you. Well, um, it's early morning here.


I woke up last night after being asleep for two hours, kind of on the dot of 20 or 48 hours from when I got the telephone call around 2:30 in the morning. And, you know, I want to be there with him. I want to take care of him as a mother. I just want to be there to reassure him and just give him the comfort he needs as he goes through this difficult transition in his life.

My mother and my brother are on the ground. Well, they both live there. Hisham was visiting my mother. My mother lives next to my brother. They've been instrumental from the very beginning, caring for the boys 24 hours at a time. And that has made a big difference. I know that when Hisham -- after Hisham called the police, he texted my mother, and my mother was there at the hospital immediately. I think that has made a big difference.

And so, it's a lot easier for us knowing that we're going to complement and supplement the care that he's already getting and not to rescue him from amidst strangers.

COATES: What did he tell you about what happened on Saturday evening?

PRICE: Well, they had just finished attending my eight-year-old nephew, twin nephew's birthday party. The three of them decided they go around the block. They like to walk around the neighborhood when they're there. Each of the other boys have been to my mother's house for Thanksgiving twice. Hisham has been visiting Burlington for about 10 years. And so, he knows the community very, very well. And so, he was hosting them on a walk and they were walking down about two blocks from my mother's house. A man came out of a building and approached them. They stepped to the side to allow him to have space on the sidewalk to pass them. He pulled out a gun and without saying anything shot them. Hisham fell to the ground. In fact, he said he suddenly found himself on the ground. Tahseen, who suffered chest wound, was in terrible pain and screaming with pain. And Kinnan, who thought his friends had been killed, had escaped to try and get help. Hisham worried that -- the shooter stayed over them for a shorter period and then left. So, Hisham thought that the man was going to continue to shoot them and kill them. And then Hisham called 911 and the EMT came.

COATES: Just your son was the one to even call and to have that wherewithal to be able to do that and just be so afraid as well. Do you believe -- you know why he did this? Does Hisham thinks, though, he knows?

PRICE: I think Hisham and his friends have experienced a lot of harassment in recent months both -- and a lot of toxic narrative about who they are as Palestinians. My son is -- and Kinnan are both Palestinian citizens. My son is also an Irish citizen. Tahseen is here as a Palestinian citizen.

And, you know, Hisham, as an Irish citizen in Ireland, would be recognized as a person and supported in his experience, his historical experience and his cultural experience. The Irish are incredibly supportive of the Palestinians.

In America, the mainstream media and certain high-level government officials have called for really brutal action against the Palestinians, the Palestinians in Gaza, and have stood by or the other ones have stood by as the one in 200 Palestinians have been killed. I mean, the equivalent of the deaths in Gaza in America is roughly a million people in proportion to the U.S. population.

So, I think, you know, Hisham and Kinnan and Tahseen, I haven't asked them about this specifically, but in this context, which is very toxic towards Palestinians and Muslims and Arabs and in a current cultural state where people are othered very easily, it is easy to make a link between the actions that dehumanize Palestinians in general and the actions of someone who used his gun to express his opinion.

We are still waiting for the details of the investigation. I was really impressed with the Burlington Police and the U.S. government. They very quickly moved to resources to allow for the investigation of this as a hate crime.

The investigation is still ongoing, and I trust that it will be -- we will get information as it comes out. But this is a dangerous time in America if you are associated with a group that is involved in these conflicts. There is too much hate speech against all sides. And in that toxic context, people take an action on their own and with devastating consequences.

COATES: Elizabeth Price, I am completely in awe of your clarity. And it's very clear to me that you are a mother who is determined to get to her child and try this has not happened to anyone else's child as well. Thank you so much for joining us.

PRICE: Thank you.

COATES: Well, there have been a lot of polls raising alarm bells for Democrats. Is President Biden at risk of losing key groups who supported him back in 2020?


Harry Enten is here to break it down, next.


COATES: Democrats are banking on the youth vote for President Biden to be re-elected to the Oval Office. But a number of public polls show that young voters, well, they're turning on Biden. In fact, according to a CNN poll, the president trails Donald Trump by one percentage point. What's evenly hurting him the most among young voters is the Israel-Hamas war.

Let's break down the numbers with senior data reporter, Harry Enten. Harry, so good to see you. I'm really interested in this because we see a lot of the polling -- this effect. But young voters, as you well know, played a very critical role in helping elect President Biden back in 2020. But now, he's seeing quite the dramatic drop in their support. So, what exactly do the polls show?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yeah, Laura. I mean, take a look at the final 2020 polls. These are among 18 to 34-year-old voters. Joe Biden was leading Donald Trump amongst them by 29 points. Take a look. You know, you were mentioning those polls in 2023. I took an average of them, among 18 to 34-year-olds, and now Biden still leads, but his lead here is just three percentage points.


So, a massive drop in the client. Why exactly it's happening, we're not sure, but it's clear across pretty much all of the polls that although Biden still has a very small advantage, it's way down from where it was just a cycle ago.

COATES: And we're less than a year away, of course, from the election. I wonder, what did the polls show among Black voters specifically?

ENTEN: Yeah. So, you know, another pivotal part of the democratic base, Biden versus Trump margin among Black voters. Those final 2020 polls, Joe Biden was leading among Black voters by 73 points. He still has a substantial lead amongst them.

But look. Again, the margin is way down. It's down to just 47 points. That would be the worst margin for a Democratic candidate among Black voters since basically the 1960 election, of course, where JFK defeated Richard Nixon. COATES: Is that right? Well, look, there were a lot of reports as well of Trump doing better with Hispanic voters in 2020. Then, of course, in 2016. What does that trend look like?

ENTEN: Yeah. Again, fitting the mold of what we've seen so far, the final 2020 polls, Joe Biden was leading among Hispanic voters by 26 points. He still leads, but that lead is down to just two percentage points.

Again, this would be historic, Laura. You know, we mentioned African- American voters seeing a historic shift. You look among Hispanic voters, this would be the worst margin among Hispanic voters that, frankly, I've ever seen in a general election.

We'll have to wait and see if this holds, but the fact is we're seeing historic declines for Biden among young voters, Black voters and Hispanic voters, and that's part of the reason why that Joe Biden is currently trailing Donald Trump in the polls.

COATES: So, is it Joe Biden specifically or another Democrat? How would they do in terms of comparison to Trump and this margin?

ENTEN: Yeah. So, I mean, you know, look, we've seen that Joe Biden is doing poorly amongst core Democratic groups. But I want you to take a look among all registered voters. Look at a recent Fox News poll. What you see is that Joe Biden trails Donald Trump by four percentage points.

But do any of the other Democrats do really any better? No, not really. Trump by two, Trump by four, Trump by five. It doesn't seem to really matter who you face off against Donald Trump. Trump leads amongst against any of the Democrats.

COATES: And by the way, only one is a running mate. The rest aren't even running for office right now to be the president of the United States. So, this generic Democrat, so to speak, really fascinating. Harry Enten, thank you so much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COATES: Let's get some more perspective tonight from Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton and CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. Maria, let me begin with you here, because the youth vote, as you know, is so important to these candidates more broadly. How much do you think this has to do with the reaction to the Israel-Hamas war for Biden?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's part of it. But I think what we've seen is, we were talking about this in the green room, is that people are just in a general malaise, right? And young people specifically. I think they expected a lot from the president. They didn't get what they wanted.

But Laura, it's a year out. And let's also acknowledge that all of the mobilization and all of the energy right now is happening on the republican side. They're the ones who are having their crazy primary. They're the ones who are having the nutty race for speaker. All of the attention is on the republican side. They are ready, they are mobilized, they are energized.

We still have a lot of time to go. And what this campaign is doing, they are taking nothing for granted, they are taking these polls very seriously. I always say that even if you show me a poll where Joe Biden is 20 points ahead, they need to run like they're 20 points behind because that's the only way they win.

And he has a lot to run on. He can say to young people, look, I tried to cancel your student loans. Look who stood in my way. Republicans. Donald Trump. Give me another four years to finish the job, give me an expanded democratic Senate, give me a democratic House, and I will deliver this to you.

What will Donald Trump do? He wants to get elected to finish the job, too, to finish the job of destroying our democracy and taking away all of your rights.

COATES: Speaking of the mobilization, though, do you agree with what Maria is talking about? Because if Republicans have been this mobilized, they've got then the ground operations ahead, maybe, of what Democrats have had to do.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yeah. I mean, look, Joe Biden has had an opportunity for two years when he was first elected to accomplish some of these things, whether it's voting rights, whether it's attempting to forgive student debt. And to his credit, I want to give the president credit, he has forgiven billions of student loans.

CARDONA: Yes, he has.

SINGLETON: But not enough to impact certain groups, particularly Black young Americans. I think for most millennials, some of the older Gen Zers, we've lived through financial hardship. Many of us have started families later. Most cannot afford to buy a home. Many can't afford to barely pay back student loans. And those who do go to college don't usually finish because they can't afford it. So, you look at all of those variables.

And younger voters are saying, it's not enough to just say, give me four years, I'm going to address it. Tell me how you're going to address it because we've heard this message before. And they always fall on deaf ears, to be quite frank.

COATES: Why is he losing the black vote, you think?


SINGLETON: I think --

COATES: And also, by the way, not forgetting the Hispanic vote also. You saw those numbers from Harry Enten.

SINGLETON: I mean, look, I think he's losing the black vote because Black people are, particularly some of the young ones, are sort of sick and tired of saying, look, we're going to give you 95% of our support and we're getting the bare minimum for it. There is not a single group in this country more loyal than Black women and followed by Black men.

And while you see some movement here and there, it is not proportionate in terms of our overall support for the Democratic Party. Now, that's not to say that African-Americans are going to all of a sudden support Donald Trump. That's not what I'm saying at all, Laura. But what I am saying is that if the Democratic Party wants to continue to receive the support from Black voters, particularly younger Black voters, there have to be real deliverables, tangibles that people can feel and say, okay, this is what I'm getting in exchange for my vote. They're not seeing that.

CARDONA: And you know what the good news is though, Laura? There have been tangible deliverables. That's what this campaign is going to be doing in the coming months, telling all of these voters exactly what this president and Kamala Harris has delivered.

You look at focus groups. You look at all of these polls. When you're in a group of these voters and they have not heard of what this president has done, they hear what he has done, all of the programs that he has passed are incredibly popular, the numbers flip.

So, what this campaign is going to be doing, they've already started to, is invest record amounts of money in the messaging and the mobilizing and the ground game to make sure that all of this messaging works. I mean, this president has historic accomplishments on the economy. Not everybody is feeling it.

SINGLETON: That's fair.

CARDONA: He's going to continue to do it. On the Latino voters, they are going to make sure that they message this president the economic peace, which is critical, but also that if Donald Trump gets four more years in the White House, he's going to round up all of the undocumented immigrants, which every single Latino knows somebody who is or is part of their family.

They're going to put them in mass detention camps, they're going to do mass deportations, they're going to be -- he's going to be more draconian than he ever has been, and they're going to make sure that the message to the American people is this man is an existential threat to our democracy.

SINGLETON: But quickly, Laura, when I go home into my hometown of New Orleans and I talk to people that I grew up with, just regular Black folks, not the folks here in D.C. and the bubble in the circles.

COATES: I'm a regular Black person. Thank you very much. I'm regular but thank you very much. SINGLETON: They don't feel that their lives have improved. When I talk to members of my family or distant friends, they all ask, what in the hell are you guys doing in Washington? We continue to support these guys. I am still struggling to make the bare minimum. I'm still struggling to make sure that my kids have a better future than the current president that I have. And people don't see that. They don't realize it.

And so, my message to Democrats, Republicans aren't going to listen to me, Democrats, guys, you better get your stuff in order or Joe Biden will not win in 2024.

COATES: Well, there's so much more to talk about. And, of course, we're less than a year away.


COATES: Maria, Shermichael, thank you so much. I will point out --

SINGLETON: Thanks, Laura.

CARDONA: Thank you.

COATES: -- again, this regular Black woman.


Thank you so much. Ahead, Natalie Portman's message to young people. Be careful about being a child actor. She says she's lucky she wasn't harmed. And my next guest has their own story about working in Hollywood at a very young age. Alyson Stoner joins me next.



COATES: You know, sometimes, Tinseltown is not the magical fairy tale it's portrayed to be. Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman warning child actors about working in Hollywood.


NATALIE PORTMAN, ACTRESS (voice-over): I would not encourage young people to go into this. Like, I feel like it was sort of -- I don't mean ever. I mean, as children, like, I feel like it was almost an accident of luck that I was not harmed.


COATES: And now, I want to bring someone you've probably seen on the small and the big screen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNKNOWN: Word of advice. You want to be friends with Tess? Don't be.


UNKNOWN: Can I be photoshopped in?

UNKNOWN: Wait, if Sarah's being photoshopped in, then I'm definitely going to be photoshopped in.

UNKNOWN: Why don't we all be photoshopped in?


COATES: Alyson Stoner joins me now. They are the host of the "Dear Hollywood" podcast. Alyson, thank you so much for joining me tonight. You know, Natalie Portman is the latest actor to speak out about the experience of child actors in particular. And by her account, she was left unscathed. That has not been your story.

ALYSON STONER, ACTOR: Yes. Thank you for having me. And I appreciate Natalie raising awareness about this topic. So, I started performing at three, and Hollywood agents around the age of six insisted that I pursue it professionally.

Now, my family had no background in entertainment nor resources to understand the actual risks and difficult processes and long-term consequences of the decision.

So, after 200 films and shows behind the scenes, I developed severe health issues that led to hospitalization. I experienced financial exploitation that led to a bank account with $0 in it. And at six years old, I knew myself not as a human, but as a commercial product for consumption.

So, now, onto your Hollywood, we're unpacking this toddler to train wreck pipeline we see with child stars.

COATES: So, it's three years old, it's unbelievable to think about being in the business. And a lot of people will look at the so-called business, and they'll think to themselves, oh, I can't feel sorry for this person. Look at the fame, look at the money you're making. And they won't be sympathetic to you as a real human being. How do you make people understand that you're not just this commodity?

STONER: Absolutely. And yes, why should we care, particularly amidst so many overlapping national and global crises that deserve our attention? You know, this is an era of deeply reckoning with our systems, and I want to share the rest of the untold story.

So, while child stars usually are highlighted in the media for grandiose lifestyles and maybe reckless and entitled behavior, that's actually only about 3% of the reality. Behind the scenes, there's an entire industry ecosystem of child laborers that involves exploitation, abuse, traumatizing experiences that lead to mental illness, substance abuse, and in some cases, dying by suicide.


So, our focus here is on exposing the truth and building safer places for children and asking larger societal ethical questions around how we ought to approach children participating in media.

COATES: So, who does it come down to? Obviously, there's a lot of players involved in the overall machine. Some would look at this and say, a child actor, it's all on the parents. We're talking about a larger ecosystem. Who is a part of the protection universe?

STONER: I'm so glad you asked, and I'm so glad you spoke to the holistic and integrative approach, right? It includes supporting at the personal and familial levels, but also reforming actual industry protocol and passing legislation to protect children.

Fortunately, my team and some other organizations are designing these clear action plans. We have some tool kits that are designed with therapists that can equip people with tools to manage the industry pursuit. This can be given to agencies and acting schools and recruitment programs.

But on set, we also need mental health practitioners to support the cast and crew. And legislation, did you know 17 states still don't have child labor laws to protect entertainers? So, in some cases, the child on set is actually the most vulnerable and least protected person.

COATES: That's really shocking, to think about those numbers. I'm so glad that you've raised awareness on this issue. I keep going back to just the -- how young you really were and how many others are out there right now who might not realize really the underbelly of what you're talking about and maybe how to course correct. Really nice talking to you. Thank you so much for joining us.

STONER: Thanks so much.

COATES: We'll be right back.




UNKNOWN (voice-over): Don't get in front of it. He's got it. Lowering the hooks. Don't go in front of it.

COATES: No, you're not -- your eyes are not deceiving you. That's a police chase of a forklift in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And that's not even half of it. The forklift was allegedly stolen by a 12-year-old. And the pursuit went on for more than an hour.

Now, thankfully, no one was hurt, ending when the boy eventually pulled over and was taken into custody. Investigators say the forklift was taken from a middle school where it was left unlocked with the keys hidden inside.

Thanks for watching. Our live coverage continues in just a moment.