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CNN On The Ground In India As Oxygen Runs Low And Desperation Rises; Former Arizona Lawmaker Who Attended Riot Seen Counting Ballots In Arizona Audit; McConnell Demands "1619 Project" Be Stripped Of Federal Funds. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 03, 2021 - 07:30   ET




SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He knew the chances of reviving the five were slim.

KILEY (on camera): When you heard this morning that you had just a few hours of oxygen and then eight patients died, what does that do to you -- to the soul of a doctor?

DR. SCL GUPTA, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BATRA HOSPITAL: I cannot explain to you my feelings. We are dying inside. We are the saviors, not the murderers. And we cannot express our feelings to you. I cannot express my feelings to you -- how I'm feeling inside.

KILEY (on camera): Is it destroying you?


KILEY (on camera): How long have you been a doctor?

GUPTA: What -- what, sir?

KILEY (on camera): How long have you been a doctor?

GUPTA: For 45 years.

KILEY (on camera): It must be soul-destroying. I can't imagine what it must be like for you. I'm sorry.

GUPTA: I'm sorry, sir.

KILEY (voice-over): Over the next hour, four of the five resuscitation patients died.

KILEY (on camera): In the space of about two hours when the oxygen ran out, 12 people died in this hospital -- which in every other respect is a first-world facility -- basically asphyxiated.

KILEY (voice-over): The hospital coped by advising patients to source their own supplies of oxygen to cover its erratic supplies. Local and international efforts to get enough of the gas into India's capital are still failing. India's central and national government have been unable to explain the oxygen shortages.

And as the numbers of people infected with COVID-19 soar in India, along with the daily death toll, the Batra Hospital, like many others, will admit no more patients. There's no point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will not take more admission because we don't want people to die in front of us. So they can go to the other hospitals where the oxygens are available.

KILEY (voice-over): Dr. Kishore Chawla runs a Hindu temple charity. He pulled through COVID before the oxygen started to run out.

DR. KISHORE CHAWLA, CEO, CHATTARPUR MANDIR: From housekeeping, even the nursing staff, the supervisors, are now working very hard.

KILEY (voice-over): Fair enough, but the Indian government's failure to ensure basic supplies to hospitals in the face of a long-term pandemic is simply not going to wash.


KILEY: Now, Brianna, the central government continues to say that it's got this under control, but this is Rikash (ph) here. He's barely able to speak his name and he's totally reliant for survival on a charity's donation of this oxygen.

But this is the view being expressed by the national government. Take a listen.



TEXT: The Indian government has provided data for appropriate oxygen production according to demand. And according to the production, states have been allocated their quotas. Delhi has been allotted more oxygen than what they probably asked for.


KILEY: Now, John, the Supreme Court has now intervened here to force the central and state governments to up their game when it comes to delivering vaccines. And at the same time, the central government has just announced that it's going to be mobilizing medical students to try to cope with this COVID pandemic. But it's most certainly on the back foot of trying to spin its way out of what is a humanitarian catastrophe -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you can't spin your way out of people dying before your eyes, suffocating in the hospital because they don't have enough oxygen. He could say quotas are being met but the quotas need to be higher, clearly, if it's not enough at this point.

Sam, I know that a lot of countries are sending relief to India. Has it arrived? Is it making a difference?

KILEY: Well, we've seen no evidence of it on the ground. These cylinders have come many hundreds of miles. There's no oxygen to be found at all in Delhi.

We have seen the television pictures, as you have, of this aid pouring in from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Singapore. You name it, they're giving. And yet, we're not seeing it hitting the streets at all.

And in terms of the national government's argument that Delhi is getting more oxygen than it has asked for is simply a fallacy. It's asked for at least 700 tons a day. And the other day, the last reckoning we had, they had only been delivered 490. So it's factually incorrect as well as politically bizarre, frankly.

BERMAN: Sam, I have to say we're reminded once again the key element of public health is public trust, and once you've lost that it's very hard to get it back -- very hard.

Really, really difficult to watch your report, Sam, and to hear from that doctor -- a doctor with 45 years on the job and never seen anything like it. You can tell his heart is broken and he needs to keep on working.


Our best to you and your team and thank you for your reporting.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Sam has really been some of our eyes and ears on the ground there in India. And I think, John, one of the things that is so disturbing about watching this is it feels like something that you might have seen over a year ago. But to imagine that they weren't prepared with oxygen, it just doesn't seem -- there's no excuse for it.

BERMAN: And also, to think about what might still be to come. Think about where we are in terms of vaccinations -- almost half the country vaccinated. In India, that would be 500 million people.

KEILAR: Right.

BERMAN: They're nowhere near that at this point. This could get a lot worse.


A Capitol rioter raising eyebrows because he was just spotted taking part in an Arizona county's hand recount of ballots

BERMAN: Plus, Senate --

KEILAR: -- from the 2020 election.

BERMAN: Plus, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell demanding the Department of Education revoke support for the 1619 Project. The creator joins us live to respond.



BERMAN: A former Arizona state representative, one named Anthony Kern, was at the Capitol during the January sixth insurrection. You can see him right there in that picture. He was also spotted this weekend counting ballots during Arizona's Republican-controlled audit, they're calling it, of the results of the 2020 election.

Joining us now is Jen Fifield. She is a reporter for "The Arizona Republic" and has acted as an observer -- one of the few -- during this audit. Jen, thank you so much for waking for us and talking about this.

This former state representative at the Capitol during the insurrection? Inside the room counting ballots? What's going on here?

JEN FIFIELD, REPORTER, THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC (via Cisco Webex): Yes, there's many things about this audit that are a little unique compared to normal election audits.

So this all started when the Senate Republicans -- the State Senate Republicans got ahold of the ballots and the voting machines through a subpoena through Maricopa County, the largest county here. And once they got control they gave all control over to private contractors, which immediately decreased the transparency of what's going on. It's made it hardest -- hard for us to figure out who's involved and who's paying for it.

And one of those things we're trying to figure out is how they recruited the actual people counting the ballots. We did notice that the former state representative was on the floor the first day of audit and has been since then counting ballots, which raised more questions for us about the recruitment.

BERMAN: Yes. I mean, what does it say about the nonpartisan or even bipartisan nature of the counting if a guy who was at the Capitol during the insurrection is counting?

FIFIELD: Yes, but if they do have solid counting procedures in place, right, audits are set up to have checks and balances. So, you know, if one person sees one thing on a ballot then there's supposed to be someone else there checking.

So the county should still be able to go as planned and well if they have bipartisan support. That's one thing that we're trying to figure out is if they do. And so that almost is more important than the individuals involved.

BERMAN: Right, but that's a huge if, isn't it?

And it's so interesting that you're bringing this up because you're one of the few people who gets to watch. But this is such an opaque process. Explain that. FIFIELD: We have tried really hard to try and figure out what we can because they handed it off to private contractors. Then the records request journalist file. You know, they may try to argue that they don't have to respond to those because it's private contractors and because they might have -- they have other people paying.

So we know that the Senate put in about $150,000, but we also know that Christina Bobb from OAN has announced she's fundraising. We also know that Sidney Powell, one of Trump's lawyers during this election process, is fundraising for the effort, too.

So anything we try to find out, we're struggling to do so because it's not actually a government entity that we're working through.

BERMAN: I've got to let you run, but just one final quick question.

Based on what you're seeing, do you see enough -- have you seen enough for you to determine whether or not this is going on fairly?

FIFIELD: Well, that's not up for me to decide. What I'm trying to do is to get the public as much information as they can so they can decide. So we're still working on things. I still want to figure out who is paying and I still want to figure out who is involved.

BERMAN: So many unknowns for something like this.

Jen Fifield, thank you so much for waking up for us. I appreciate it.

FIFIELD: Absolutely -- thank you.

BERMAN: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell protesting a proposal to promote teaching about systemic racism and the consequences of slavery. His scathing letter to the education secretary, next.

KEILAR: Plus, why Republicans admit they're having trouble getting their attacks on President Biden to stick.



KEILAR: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell plunging into the culture wars, calling for the education secretary to abandon curriculum in American schools that McConnell says tells a revisionist history of the country's founding.

The top Republican claims that programs such as "The New York Times" 1619 Project, which is on a list of curricula that if a school system uses they may be eligible for federal grants -- he said, quote, "...reorient the bipartisan American history and civics education programs away from their intended purposes toward a politicized and divisive agenda."

Now, the 1619 Project focuses on reframing American history when it comes to slavery and when it comes to the contributions of Black Americans. And joining me is the creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah- Jones. She is a staff writer for the "New York Times Magazine" and a 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner. And this is her first interview since Sen. McConnell sent his letter. Nikole, thank you so much. It's great to see you again.

And we really wanted to see what you have to say to this because as you are aware, the minority leader also wrote in his letter to the secretary of education, quote, "Families did not ask for this divisive nonsense. Voters did not vote for it. Americans never decided our children should be taught that our country is inherently evil."

I know you take issue certainly with that characterization. What is your reaction to this letter?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, CREATOR, "THE 1619 PROJECT" (via Cisco Webex): Absolutely, and thank you for having me on and talking about this.

I'd like to kind of reframe the question just a bit because this is fundamentally a free speech issue. If you look at the rhetoric of Sen. McConnell and state legislators all across the country that are trying to get bills passed to prohibit the teaching of the 1619 Project, it's not about the facts of history. It's about trying to prohibit the teaching of ideas that they don't like.


So we -- you know, I've been a little appalled by the silence of free speech advocates as there -- these attempts to ban ideas from being taught in schools are being introduced all across the country.

But in response to what he's saying, I -- of course, there's no single line or argument in the 1619 Project that claims that this country is an evil country and it's, frankly, a ridiculous assertion.

If you read my opening essay on democracy in the 1619 Project -- in fact, what I say is that despite everything that this country has done to Black Americans, the Black Americans have seen the worst of America and yet still believe in its best. I actually argue that Black people are the greatest democratizing force in this country.

So, no, this isn't a project about trying to teach children that our country is evil, but it is a project trying to teach children the truth about what our country was based upon. And it's only in really confronting that truth -- slavery was foundational to the United States. We, after slavery, experienced 100 years of legalized discrimination against Black Americans and those are simply the facts of our history.

What Mitch McConnell and others like him want is for our children to get a propagandistic, nationalistic understanding of history that is not about fact but is about how they would want to pretend that our country is.

KEILAR: Yes. I am -- I reread your opening essay and I would encourage anyone to do that whatever side of this debate they are on. If they're going to be talking about this they really need to read that essay to decide for themselves what the 1619 Project is about.

I also want to ask you while I have you here, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dismissed systemic racism in America in response to President Biden's promise to tackle it during his congressional address the night before. This is -- this is what he said. Let's listen.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST, "THE LAURA INGRAHAM SHOW": This proposition that we are a systemically racist country, your reaction?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Well, it's a bunch of horse manure. I mean, give me a break. This country has had more opportunity for more people than any country in the history of the world.

Here's the problem with things like critical race theory that they're peddling. They're basically saying all our institutions are bankrupt and they're illegitimate. OK, so how do you have a society if everything in your society is illegitimate? So it's a very harmful ideology and I would say, really, a race-based version of a Marxist- type ideology.


KEILAR: You know, from what I am seeing is people are talking about systemic racism, they are pointing out -- and it is backed by fact -- that there are biases in systems that you can't really argue with. Like criminal justice, whether it is policing or whether it is the court system.

So what do you say to someone like Gov. Ron DeSantis who is making this argument? And we hear from so many conservatives they're feeling -- and I think this is something that we should have you address, Nikole. They're feeling that kids are being taught basically to feel bad about being white or to feel shame in being white.

How do you address that?

HANNAH-JONES: Well, one, I would say that I doubt that Rick (sic) DeSantis or most Republicans actually know what critical race theory is. I doubt they have read any actual critical race theory text. Critical race theory has been around for a couple of decades and all of a sudden now it's all that you hear them talking about. And what could have -- because the way that they describe critical race theory is actually not what critical race theory is.

There are facts. The fact is Rick (sic) DeSantis is speaking about the lack of systemic racism from a state that was de jure segregated. A Jim Crowe state that had segregation and anti-Black laws all across every county in the state where Black people could not really vote until the Voting Rights Acts, where there were de jure segregated schools, de jure segregated businesses.

So to then argue in a state where legal discrimination existed in every aspect of American life until the 1960s that there is no systemic racism is really arguing for a country, again, that has not ever existed.

So what we -- it's important to what they're actually arguing. They are saying we can't talk about our past because it is shameful. They're not able to say that this is not the truth of our history, but that we shouldn't teach children our history because it's shameful.

I don't think anyone who reads critical race theory has ever seen it say white people should feel bad about being white. It does say that racism is embedded in our institutions and until we acknowledge that, then we will not be able to undo the harm of racism.


But none of this -- the 1619 Project, critical race theory, anti- racism training -- is about making white people feel badly about things that they have not done. That's just something that politicians are using to really stoke anger because they see this as a -- as a winning tool in the culture wars.

KEILAR: Nikole Hannah-Jones, thank you so much for joining us. It's great to see you.

HANNAH-JONES: Thank you.

KEILAR: Up next, the GOP's negative partisan attacks on President Biden. Are they doing any damage to his popularity numbers?

BERMAN: And, Chris Christie changing his tune on the former president again.


BERMAN: I'm John Berman in New York, with Brianna Keilar in Washington.

On this new day, the big lie takeover of the GOP. Are old-guard leaders like Romney and Cheney powerless to stop it?

Plus, conservative pundits say President Biden is more progressive than he promised to be, but that's not what voters say.

KEILAR: And the GOP in Arizona is still fighting.