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New Day

Caitlyn Jenner is Interviewed about California's Governor's Race; Russia's Space Chief is Jealous of U.S.; Abbott Signs Voting Bill; Toddler Found Unharmed in Australia. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 08:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: California is one week away from the second recall election in state history, and the fate of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is hardly certain. If a majority of voters vote to recall Newsom, the question will then shift to who should fill out the final year plus of his term.

And joining me now is one of the candidates looking to do just that as next governor of California, Caitlyn Jenner.

Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

CAITLYN JENNER (R), CALIFORNIA SPECIAL ELECTION GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: It is my pleasure. Up early here in California. We're getting the day going.

KEILAR: It is very early, and for that we certainly appreciate it even extra, I would say.

You know, I wanted to ask you, because you entered this race with such a splash. You are obviously a very well-known media personality and Olympian. You got so much attention. And now, you know, we're looking at the polls and it's kind of surprising because you're there at 1 percent. This is according to new polling with just a week to go now.

I wonder, have you thought about why you have struggled to resonate with voters? What do you think?

JENNER: Well, you know, we've worked very hard. First of all, the polls have been all over the place. I mean a couple of weeks ago they had me in second, and then you're all the way to the back and all over.

So, honestly, I feel like I'm in a good position. I'm going to work hard.

My campaign has all been centered around the people. I have traveled all over this state. And to deal with all the issues. I've been to the -- Venice Beach, with the homeless and with the locals there and find out what the -- what the situation is there. I -- by the way, Gavin Newsom has never been to Venice Beach, kind of ground zero for the homeless issue. I've been to the border. The border agents were fabulous. Great Americans. Gavin Newsom has never been to the southern border. That, to me, is shocking that the governor of the state of the last three years has never gone to the southern border. We have such issues down there.

And, as I was standing there, four illegals walked across because they saw all the border agents and they turned themselves in. They were from Brazil. They only spoke Portuguese. It was shocking, I mean, to see that's what our immigration system is right now.

So I've been to the fires up in northern California. I've just been working hard, dealing with the people. Yesterday I was with the farmers. It's been a fun campaign. I've met some really great people.

KEILAR: You are highlighting places that you've been going where you say Gavin Newsom has not gone. But one of those places includes Australia. You left at the height of the campaign to film "Big Brother" there. And I wonder, you know, as you're looking at the poll numbers, there is -- there are no poll numbers that show you in the lead. Do you have regrets about doing that?

JENNER: None whatsoever. I signed on to do that months before I even thought about this campaign. And like, you know, most politicians, I actually honor a contract. I went down there. I was in full contact with my campaign the whole time. I don't know why people keep bringing it up because Larry Elder still has his radio show he's doing a couple times (ph) --

KEILAR: Well, it's bizarre, quite frankly.

JENNER: All the other -- all -- everybody has a job.

KEILAR: It's -- it's bizarre to leave the country.

JENNER: That's -- that's my job.

KEILAR: OK. Fair enough. It is -- I will -- it is bizarre for a political candidate to leave in the middle of a campaign to go out of the country. I'm just saying, we don't see that very often.

But speaking of Larry Elder, you've repeatedly tried to position yourself as this moderate alternative to Larry Elder.


KEILAR: Which, you know, obviously, that's very key in a state like California. He's under fire for comments that he made in the past, including saying that a woman who has accused him of sexual harassment is too ugly to be taken seriously. What's your reaction to that?

JENNER: First of all, I've known Larry forever. I've been on his show. He is a very right-wing conservative talk show host.


And he does express his opinions. There has been other issues of Larry personally coming out recently, which if they are true, there's more to governing than just dealing with the economy. What about -- what are his -- you know, what are his policies when it comes to women? What his LGBT issues? We don't know that yet. And so, to me, it scares me.

What it has done is it has given the Democrats a lot of ammunition to go up against him. All the ads are this Republican recall, you know, and Larry Elder, far-right wing Republican. And they've used it as ammunition.

KEILAR: But is it -- is it disqualifying, do you think, these accusations against him?

JENNER: I'm sorry, what was that?

KEILAR: Do you -- do you think it's disqualifying, these accusations against him?

JENNER: No, I don't know if it's disqualifying. There's just questions about Larry Elder that I think need to be answered. And it has given the Democrats an enormous amount of ammunition. I think Larry Elder, in a lot of ways, is not good for the recall because there are so many undecided voters. A couple of weeks ago it was 55 percent. I hear it's down to 40 percent now. Ninety percent of those are Democrats and the rest are independents.

You cannot win California just with the California vote. It would be very difficult. You need to bring -- and that's why me being a moderate Republican -- I think is more like most Californians think about California. I mean I -- the reason I'm there, I have conservative economic values. I believe in less taxes, less regulations, a pro-business environment.

But then on social issues, I'm moderate. I'm inclusive to all people. And I think that's the way most Californians are.

KEILAR: So, let's talk, then about one of those issues, abortion, because Governor Newsom, obviously, has made this an issue in the campaign. We've seen it get so much attention with the Supreme Court allowing this Texas law that essentially bans all abortions to stand.

On that issue, where are you? Do you think that California should have a similar law?

JENNER: I am for a women's right to choose. I am also for a state having the ability to make their own laws. And so I support Texas in that decision. That's their decision. I'm OK with that. But as far as being a woman's right to choose, I don't see any changes in our laws in California in the future.

KEILAR: But you're fine with the Texas law, even though you say that you support abortion rights, you are fine with a law that essentially outlaws abortion?

JENNER: I -- I think -- I think they have the right in their state to do what they want to do. Now, do I agree with the decision or not? No, to be honest with you, I actually probably do not agree with the decision. But I agree with -- they have the right to make their own decision.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about COVID-19 because that's another one of the top issues on the ballot, and I know that you've been very quick to call out the governor about how he has handled the pandemic in your state.

Recently, though, you were asked which governor did it right, and you said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And I wonder why that is, because Florida, right now, is leading in COVID deaths per capita, averaging roughly 240 per day. California's averaging significantly less at 80.

So, you know, why is that your assessment that he's done a good job, DeSantis?

JENNER: Personally, COVID, throughout it seems like every month it's a whole new set of rules.

I got vaccinated. I believe in the vaccine. I would encourage people to get it. But -- my 95-year-old mother got vaccinated and I've been vaccinated.

KEILAR: OK, but we're talking about your assessment of governance in the COVID pandemic, and you said that Ron DeSantis was the best at it. I mean those death numbers, they don't lie.

JENNER: Yes, (INAUDIBLE). That was -- you're bringing that up and that was a few months ago. Obviously, things have changed. And I'm sure he will respond the best he possibly can to this.

As far as COVID, I think the vaccinations are good.

KEILAR: Do you -- well, then, do you change your assessment of that? Can I ask you, Caitlyn, do you -- do you feel differently then?


KEILAR: Do you think he's -- so what do you think about how Florida and Ron DeSantis have done?

JENNER: I think, overall, as things change, I think when the pandemic came out, I think he did a very good job. There is that delicate balance between the science and the economy and public health. I think at the beginning he weighed it very well and he was able to keep the economy going.

The reason Gavin Newsom is in this recall is because of the way he shut -- he was -- you know, Gavin Newsom wasn't for the kids, he was for the teachers' unions.


And the way he shut this state down for a year was the reason for the recall. I guarantee you most of the people, of the 2.2 million people who signed the recall ballot were mothers of kids who have been kept out of school. If you tell --

KEILAR: But is DeSantis doing a good job now?

JENNER: To be honest with you, I've been so into California politics right now that I really haven't followed it that closely, what's happening in Florida. We've got a week to go. I'm on the road every day. I'm up at 5:30 in the morning here talking to you. So we have been going really hard on the campaign. And I'm pleased the way things are going.

KEILAR: Well, you are up bright and early for us and we appreciate that so much.

Caitlyn Jenner, thank you for being with us on NEW DAY.

JENNER: It certainly was my pleasure, Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up, Russia's space chief has a billion reasons to criticize Russia's rich oligarchs. Why he wishes they'd stop spending their money on yachts and be more like Richard Branson and Elon Musk.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Russia's top space official is not afraid to admit that he is jealous of U.S. billionaires Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, for their innovations in space.

Dmitry Rogozin says he laments the fact that Russian oligarchs are more interested in buying yachts than rockets.

Kristin Fisher spoke with Rogozin and she joins us now with a CNN exclusive.

Kristin, that means it's interesting criticism of Russia's own, right? By the way, many Russian leaders are oligarchs themselves with yachts, et cetera.

So what did he tell you?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: So this was Dmitry Rogozin's very first interview with western media since becoming the head Roscosmos, Russia's space agency. And a lot of people don't realize this, but Russia actually pioneered space tourism. The very first space tourist went into space 20 years ago on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

And so I was really curious what Dmitry Rogozin was thinking as he watched Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos blast into space in June on rockets that they helped fund and develop.

Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DMITRY ROGOZIN, DIRECTOR GENERAL, RUSSIA'S ROSCOSMOS (through translator): There will be people who have an opportunity, inexpensively, to fly to space. I think this is a wonderful idea. We also have space enthusiasts. However, our millionaire prefers to invest more in yachts rather than in spaceships. But maybe kids of current Russian millionaires will be much more wise creatures.


FISHER: So Rogozin really telling all those Russian oligarchs, hey, follow the lead of your American counterparts. Invest more of your wealth in space. And it's so interesting because Russia has, for many years, kind of downplayed a private commercial space industry in its own country.

KEILAR: Ouch to the oligarchs, right?


KEILAR: OK, I know you asked him about Elon Musk. What did he say?

FISHER: Had to. Well, this is so fascinating because Elon Musk and Dmitry Rogozin have had -- they've had a kind of testy relationship. They've been trading jabs on Twitter. They're both prolific on Twitter for many, many years now.

And so when I asked Rogozin about this, he kind of dismissed it as just playful, normal, healthy competition between engineers. And when I asked him point blank, whose company do you admire the most, Richard Branson's, Jeff Bezos's or Elon Musk's, Rogozin said unequivocally Elon Musk's SpaceX.


ROGOZIN (through translator): For me, naturally, what Mr. Elon Musk is doing is very interesting. He realizes many ideas and thoughts that we wanted to realize but did not get to because after the breakup of the Soviet Union, our space program halted for some time. Nonetheless, we respect him as an organizer of the space industry and as an inventor who is not afraid to take risk.


FISHER: So Rogozin is now inviting Elon Musk to his home. He says he left the tea kettle on heat. He's also inviting Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to the launch of the Soyuz rocket in October.

And the other fascinating thing here is, in addition to these overtures to the billionaire space barranca in the United States, so to speak, he's also really extending an olive branch to NASA after threatening to withdraw from the Space Station in June. Rogozin now saying that Russia is committing to staying NASA's partner on the International Space Station.

SCIUTTO: Yes, interesting. A lot of people didn't know we were relying on Russian rockets to get to the Space Station for years after the shuttles. It was a big partnership.

KEILAR: And I guess that the tea kettle on heat thing is like, that's a real invite. That's not just an empty invite, right?

FISHER: I mean that's -- you would think maybe they drink vodka there, but no.


FISHER: Rogozin said, this is a tea kettle. There is a tea kettle on heat.

And, you know, these kinds of relationships are really important because in June, Russia announced that it was going to build a base on the moon with China, in addition to trying to potentially team up with NASA to go to the moon with its Artemis program. And so a lot of industry experts are very concerned about the potential for a Chinese/Russian partnership in space because that could truly have the potential to jeopardize American dominance in space.

KEILAR: It's a fascinating space race that we're kind of watching right now.


KEILAR: Kristin, thank you so much.

FISHER: Thanks.

KEILAR: Up next, the controversial Texas elections bill that adds new restrictions and criminal penalties to the voting process. That's going to be signed into law today. And we'll have a live report from Dallas.



KEILAR: Texas Governor Greg Abbott planning to sign a restrictive voting bill into state law just a short time from now. This is a measure that will make it harder to vote, and it adds criminal penalties to the process as well.

Let's bring in Ed Lavandera, who is live for us in Texas, in Dallas, with the latest developments.



Well, Governor Greg Abbott is headed to the politically friendly confines of east Texas to sign this bill in just a few hours. He will not be doing this, clearly, in the big cities in Texas where those are mostly run by Democrats and, in large part, many of the measures in this elections bill target what was done by Democratic leaders in those big cities.

And some of the things that this elections bill does is ban drive-thru voting. It puts new regulations on early voting hours and including a ban on 24-hour voting. There's a ban on distribution of mail-in ballot applications. There's new ID requirements, as well as a long litany of other things that has prompted critics to say that this is one of the most restrictive election bills in the country. Republicans say this is all about enhancing and protecting the integrity at the ballot box.

But this all comes amidst an incredibly right-wing shift in Texas politics, even by Texas standards. Even if you look at a breakdown of just the number of bills that have passed in recent months, you have the abortion ban that we've talked a lot and reported on extensively, the voting restrictions, permitless carry for weapons is now the law here in this state.


There is a limit on the discussions of race relations in Texas classrooms. Also requiring that the national anthem be played at sporting events, in pro -- pro-sporting events that receive public money. So there's just a long list of things here, how quickly and how dramatically the state has shifted even more so to the right.

And this comes as Governor Greg Abbott is getting ready for a primary challenge here in the coming months. And in the meantime, Democrats have not even fielded a candidate for governor in next year's elections.


KEILAR: All right, Ed Lavandera live for us in Dallas. Thank you.

And, up next, stunning video that shows a miraculous moment when a three-year-old is found alive after spending several days alone in the Australian Bush.


SCIUTTO: All right, so it is time for "The Good Stuff."

A three-year-old boy went missing Friday in rural, rugged Australia, has now been found and he's all OK.

CNN's Ivan Watson has a great story.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Three-year-old Anthony, AJ, Elfalak, spotted sitting on a river bank in the Australian Bush drinking water. He went missing off his family's property around noon on Friday and wasn't found until three days later. Hundreds of emergency volunteers joined the search. Little AJ is reportedly autistic and nonverbal. He apparently survived three near freezing nights in the plunging temperatures of the Australian winter. [09:00:05]