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Another Legal Twist For Britney Spears Over The Control Of Her Estate; Randi Weingarten Bowing To Defend Educations Who Get In Trouble For Teaching "Honest History"; Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green Not Happy WIth The Biden Administration Going Door to Door Knocking For Vaccinations; Coronavirus Cases Rise Across 16 States. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 07, 2021 - 07:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 600,000 people died in the Civil War to end racism and slavery. Don't rewrite factual history or indoctrinate. Just present the facts.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY HOST: Plus another legal twist in the Britney Spears saga over control of her estate and her life and her body. Why her lawyer and manager have just quit.



The president of the second largest teachers union is bowing to defend educators who get in trouble for teaching, quote, "honest history". In a speed Tuesday, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, addressed the controversy surrounding critical race theory which examines U.S. history though the lens of systemic racism.

Republican politicians have been framing this theory as a threat to American children, and legislators in more than 12 states have proposed bills to ban it.


Weingarten says her union is prepared to stand up for any member who is published for teaching lessons on race and racism. CNN's Elle Reeve spoke with a teacher who uses critical race theory and looked at how backlash to this framework has exploded. So Elle, do these vocal opponents of critical race theory actually understand fully what it is?

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, and why should they? It's an academic theory mostly taught at the grad student level, but what they think it means is teaching white kids that all white people are racist. And so, of course they're afraid of that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are thousands of parents all over the U.S. of all races who have been speaking out against CRT and rightly so. These are my babies. Not yours. If you're embarrassed or ashamed of your skin color, that's your issue. Not mine not my children.

REEVE: This is a school board meeting in a suburb of Philadelphia where a small group of very vocal parents are speaking out against critical race theory or CRT.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not want our children to be taught that America is systemically racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 600,000 people died in the Civil War to end racism and slavery. Don't rewrite factual history or indoctrinate. Just present the facts.

REEVE: In the wake of protest of the murder of George Floyd, Republican politicians have been hyping critical race theory as a threat to the impressionable minds of America's children.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), T.X.: Critical race theory says every white person is a racist. Critical race theory says America's fundamentally racist and irredeemably racist.

REEVE: In more than 12 states legislators have proposed bills to ban CRT. We wanted to meet the actual people working with actual kids in actual schools, so we talked to Keziah Ridgeway who teachers high school African American history and discusses CRT in her anthropology class.

Can I just start with a very simple what is critical race theory?

KEZIAH RIDGEWAY, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: Yes. Critical race theory is not being taught in schools. It is a theory. It is a lens by which to view history in the way that law and race kind of overlaps and connects in society.

Can it influence the way that some teachers teach? Yes, but that's a good thing, right, because race and racism is literally the building box of this country, so how can you not talk about it?

REEVE: Critical race theory is an academic framework that says racial inequality is perpetuated by the racism embedded in America's laws, not by individual bigotry. But relentless propaganda from some conservatives has created a panic that white people, and especially white children, are under attack.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Critical race theory is basically teaching people to hate our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Schools are embracing this ideology and forcing white students and white teachers to be ashamed of their own skin color. TUCKER CARLSON, TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT HOST: It's not critical race theory. It's racism.

RIDGEWAY: These are systemic things. Ignoring perpetuates the problem. By acknowledging it we can find solutions and we can address the problems and the inequality that exists in our country. And so, I think teaching it this way actually does the opposite of what these people say it does.

REEVE: Are you teaching children to hate America?

RIDGEWAY: No. I'm teaching children to question America, and that's what makes a good patriot.

ELANA FISHBEIN, ANTI-CRT ACTIVIST: Don't force on our kids a particular world view. Taking a wide brush and painting this country as structurally racist, it's insane.


REEVE: Why is it insane, though?

FISHBEIN: Because it's a lie.

REEVE: Last year, Elana Fishbein said she received an email from her kid's school that students would be learning more about the role of race in American society. She thought the materials were racist, so she pulled her kids out of public school. They she created an advocacy group, No Left Turn in Education, to draw attention to her claims that CRT is poisoning young mind.

This isn't distant history. In the 90s, the crime bill gave much more severe sentencing to crack cocaine versus powder cocaine simply because black people were perceived as doing crack cocaine and white -


FISHBEIN: Then ask Joe Biden why he did that. Ask Joe Biden.

REEVE: I think that's a great question. With this Joe Biden I thin is a perfect illustration, right? Joe Biden would present himself as a nice guy who would never have a racist bone in his body, yet he participated in creating these laws that have a structural effect of affecting black people more than white people.

FISHBEIN: But we don't have them now.

REEVE: People affected by that law are still alive.

FISHBEIN: We're talking about something entirely different now. This is my taxpayer money. I don't want it to go to indoctrinate kids that they're not going to help my kids because of the color of their skin and attack them because of the color of their skin.

What happened in the summer, it twisted the minds of all kids. My kids can be attacked by ANTIFA kids or BLM kids that are not black. [07:40:00]

They're white like my kids, but they are believing they were indoctrinated and they internalize this philosophy.

REEVE: Were your children beat up by ANTIFA kids?

FISHBEIN: I beg your pardon?

REEVE: Were your children beat up by ANTIFA kids?

FISHBEIN: I'm talking it's going to happen if we're not going to stop it, but we are going to stop it. We are. We are the great majority of this country.

REEVE: Anti-CRT propaganda is drawing big crowds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course I'm against critical race theory.

REEVE: More than 100 people showed up at this diner near Baltimore where local Republican groups held a panel on school COVID shutdowns and CRT.

What is critical race theory?

SAM JONES, COLLEGE REPUBLICAN: Critical race theory is the idea that's taught to our nation's youth that the way that you're born contributes to the amount of success that you can achieve in this country. It basically states that white people are born with everything, and if you're not white you're born with nothing.

REEVE: Can you name any critical race theory scholar?

JONES: Probably not.

REEVE: Can you name any critical race theory concepts?

JONES: I don't know what the concepts are. I think I - I think I summarized critical race theory as a whole pretty well.

CRAIG LEWIS, COLLEGE REPUBLICAN: To paint the country as a inherently racist country from its founding I think is dangerous.

REEVE: The Three-fifths Compromise is written into the Constitution in which slaves are counted as three-fifths of a percent.

LEWIS: Of course, and that was applied at an earlier time. That is not the case now obviously.

REEVE: Well you just mentioned the founding of the country, so -


LEWIS: Well yes. It wasn't perfectly written in the Constitution.

REEVE: When did you first hear about critical race theory? MEKKAH X MOHAMMED, CONCERNED PARENTS: Some time around last year.

REEVE: Where'd you see it?

MOHAMMED: On Fox News. The idea that you can't succeed based on your race is ludicrous. This is not the 1960s anymore. Just because of your skin color does not mean that you cannot be successful here in American, point blank period.

RIDGEWAY: I teach these books for my anthropology class.

REEVE: Are you teaching white kids to hate themselves for being white?


REEVE: Are you teaching black kids that there's nothing they can do to improve their situation because -


RIDGEWAY: Absolutely not.

REEVE: -- there's racism and they can never fight it, so they should give up?

RIDGEWAY: Absolutely not. I am creating little free thinkers and future politicians and lawyers and teachers and change makers. Our kids are smart. They know what's happening, and I think we do them a disservice by continuing to pretend like critical race theory is the issue when it's really you just don't want kids to learn the truth because not only do they become critical thinkers they also become voters, and that is what's scaring a lot of these people because they know that as this generation gets older a lot of these people that are making these laws will be voted out of office.


REEVE: All these opponents of critical race theory told us that, sure, racism was a problem in the past, but it's not now. And so, we got into these long conversations about when exactly they thought racism had ended in America, and they didn't have a good answer.

KEILAR: What did they tell you? What were their answers for that? Did they point to any specific data points?

REEVE: Well one person offered the 90s. Another person said, well, the 50s and 60s were really bad, but that ended sometime in the 80s and 90s. Other people pointed to Barack Obama.

KEILAR: It is a fascinating report and such an important, in-depth look that you took there, Elle. Thank you.

REEVE: Thanks.

KEILAR: John - JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY HOST: That was so great.

KEILAR: Right?

BERMAN: I mean, that was just so great, and just the way the questions are asked. Just by asking simple questions you revealed so much. I mean, that was just fantastic.

REEVE: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Marjorie Taylor Greene, comparing the president's vaccination strategy, yes, to Nazis. Boy, that Holocaust Museum trip really paid dividends. We're going to get response from the White House next.

KEILAR: And will President Biden retaliate against Russia for its latest series or this latest series of cyber attacks?



BERMAN: As coronavirus cases rise across 16 states, the Biden administration is launching a new door-to-door effort to help Americans get vaccinated. That plan prompted this new Nazi-era comparison from Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who tweeted a statement, by the way, full of things that are lies.

She writes, "People have a choice. They don't need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can't force people to be part of the human experiment." This comes just weeks after Greene stood outside the Holocaust Museum and apologized for comparing COVID safety measures to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.

Joining me now is White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki. Jen, thanks so much for joining us -


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Good morning, John. How are you?

BERMAN: -- this morning. I'm very well. Look, I know that the people going door-to-door are not forcing anyone to get vaccinated, so I will stipulate there are things that are just flat out dishonest about what Marjorie Taylor Greene said there, but there are other Republican members of Congress, too, who are for some reason are upset about this door-to-door effort to educate people on vaccines. What does her statement really say to you?

PSAKI: Well first I will tell you we don't take any of our health and medical advice from Marjorie Taylor Greene, so I can assure everyone of that, but also, John, what we're trying to do here as the federal government is protect the American people and save lives, prevent people from getting COVID and the coronavirus. And what we've seen over the course of the last several months is that on of the biggest barriers is access and people knowing when they can get the vaccine, where they can get the vaccine, the efficacy and safety of the vaccine.


It's up to every individual to decide whether they're going to get vaccinated, but especially as we're seeing reports from the CDC about the rise of the Delta variant, one of the most transmissible variants we've seen there, this is about protecting people and saving lives. That's a role we're going to continue to play from the federal government and use any of the tools and tactics that we think will be effective.

BERMAN: So you're not going to take medical advice from Marjorie Taylor Green but what about Kathleen Sebelius, former Secretary at HHS, because she talks about the idea that maybe the administration should completely abandon the idea of not - if not vaccine mandates at least encourage some businesses or public places to require them.

She says, quote, "I'm trying to restrain myself, but I've kind of hat it. You know, we're going to tiptoe around mandates. It's like, come on. I'm kind of over that. I want to make sure that people I deal with don't have it so I don't transmit it to my granddaughter." So why not encourage if not governments to mandate it then some businesses if least to require it?

PSAKI: Well many businesses, private sector entities, schools, universities will do that, and that certainly is their choice to make, but we feel that our role from here is to provide public health advice, make sure we have the supply available, work with local communities to make sure that people have access and are using best practices. That's the role we can play, but she's right that there are a lot of private sector companies and organizations and schools -

BERMAN: But you could encourage it. You could encourage - you could encourage -


PSAKI: -- that will mandate it.

BERMAN: You could encourage it.

PSAKI: I don't think that's our role, John. And look, at the end of the day what we can do from here is what we've already done, which is provide supply, make sure we're taking steps to reduce the death rate. It's gone down by 90 percent. Reduce the rate of people who are getting COVID. Also gone down by more than 90 percent. And make sure communities have clear and direct public health information. That's what we're doing from the federal government.


BERMAN: Why isn't it - why isn't it your role in your mind to encourage it?

PSAKI: Well again, there are a lot of private sector companies and entities that will decide to do exactly that, and that's their right to do, but we're going to continue to focus on our role, one that has been quite effective in getting the coronavirus under control even though we have more work to do ahead.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about Russia and these two now hacks apparently emanating from Russia over the last week. The first into this software company that services some 800 - 1,500 U.S. companies or companies around the world, and then a contractor at the Republican National Committee.

The president told Vladimir Putin there are 16 areas that are clearly off limits period to cyber attacks from Russia and that the U.S. would retaliate if any of those were sort of, you know, violated there. Don't these hacks violate those off limits areas?

PSAKI: Well first, John, we have not made any attribution or official assessment from the federal government on either of those attacks, and the RNC also put out a very clear statement yesterday that contradicts what some of the reporting has - is out there publically.

But let me take the attack on some of our - that happened over the weekend on some private sector entities. What the president made clear and said to President Putin is something that our experts in these conversations that are ongoing with Russians are conveying clearly as well, which is even if it's a criminal actor, even if it's someone that's not the federal government, even if it's a bad guy or bad gal in Russia, you have a responsibility there and you have a responsibility to take action.

And if you don't take action we reserve the right to. So the president is meeting with his national security team, members of them this morning to get an update on cyber, on ransom ware, and we'll see where we go from there, but he reserves the right to take action should he warrant that being the appropriate step forward.

BERMAN: The Haitian President, Jovenel Moise, assassinated overnight. What's the U.S. message to the people of Haiti and what is the United States willing to do to keep that island stable?

PSAKI: Well firs it would say the message to the people of Haiti is this is a tragic tragedy. It's a horrific crime, and we're so sorry for the loss that they are all suffering and going through as many of them are waking up this morning and hearing this news. And we stand ready and stand by them to provide any assistance that's needed.

This news is just coming out as you know, John, overnight, so we're still gathering details. We're still gathering specifics, and of course, our embassy and State Department will be in close touch, but it's a tragedy. We stand with them and it's important the people of Haiti know that.

BERMAN: I know the president's giving a speech today, travelling around the country to promote the infrastructure plan and the various plans, that work over the summer trying to get its way through Congress. What's the most important message the president can deliver today?

PSAKI: Well first the president's doing what he does best, which is be the explainer in chief, go out there in the country and tell people how these plans are going to make their lives better. And last week he went to Wisconsin. I went with him, and today we're going to Illinois. And he's going to talk about his - the rest of his build back better agenda, John.

So we shorthand this a lot in Washington. I do this, too. The reconciliation package. Nobody knows what that means. What he's going to do is break down all the specific details and specifically how areas like extending the child tax credit, making sure that kids have access to universal pre-K, community college.

How can you make people's lives better so that more women can come into the workforce, more families, more kids can be competitive over the long-term, and that's what he's going to be talking about today.


BERMAN: One thing that would make people's lives better is lower gas prices, right? I mean, they're rising steadily. What can the president do to keep those down?

PSAKI: Well we have had a team of our officials in the government in touch. We're not apart of the OPEC negotiations, the OPEC discussions which are ongoing, will have a big factors on the price of oil, which has a factor on our gas prices here at home. We are in touch with a range of entities who are apart of those discussions - Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others - and we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep the price of gas low. That's why the president also a red line for him was no gas taxes for the American people in these infrastructure negotiations, but the OPEC discussions happening on the international level are going to have an impact, and we're engaged in the actors who are involved in those discussions as we speak.

BERMAN: If I can, I want to ask you about Sha'Carri Richardson one more time because last week the president when she was prohibited from running the 100-meter dash at the Olympics said the rules are the rules. She failed a drug test, admitted to using marijuana. The rules are the rules, and they are. And that's why she was not allowed to run the 100 meters.

However, we now learned overnight that she will not be running in the relay either, and that's beyond the rules. You know, U.S. Track and Field could have included her in the relay, so I'm wondering of the president or you for that matter have an opinion on that? Doesn't that just stink?

PSAKI: It does stink, John. I don't think there's a better definition of it. And you know, she's someone - as an Olympic-obsessed person myself. I know the president watches closely - who is inspiring. She had lost her mother. She had gone through a tragedy, and she's also the fastest woman in the world. And I think she's sending a message to a lot of little girls out there you can do this.

And so, it's sad to see this be the end. It's not the end I should say. It's maybe the beginning of her story. We know the rules are where they are. Maybe we should take another look at them. We certainly have to respect the role of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the U.S. Olympic Committee in the decisions they make, but it is sad, and we do wish her luck and look forward to seeing her running as the fastest woman in the world for years to come.

BERMAN: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

PSAKI: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So tropical storm Elsa about to make landfall along Florida's Gulf Coast. Hurricane warnings in effect. We're going to have the new advisory from the National Hurricane Center.