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New Day

Misinformation Destroys Democracy; Biden to Authorize New Ethiopia Sanctions; Escalating Tension between U.S. and China; Texas Orders Six Border Point Closures. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 17, 2021 - 08:30   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This NYU researchers were deplatformed by Facebook. Now, Facebook says the deplatforming was related to a different matter and says the study only regarded a tiny amount of content. But to be clear, polarization and misinformation do pre-date social media by decades.

But another NYU study finds that use of social media platforms intensifies this divisiveness and thus contributes to its corrosive consequences. They cite an internal 2018 Facebook presentation uncovered by "The Wall Street Journal," which states, quote, our algorithms exploit the human brain's attraction to divisiveness, driving users to more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention and increased time on the platform. Tis report offers several suggestions on how to reform social media, including mandating the disclosure of internal data, adjusting algorithms to depolarize platforms and diminish rewards for performative politics, while empowering the FTC to draft an enforce a social media industry code of conduct.

Now, of course, you can't understand how misinformation gets mainstreamed without looking at right-wing media. In a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute does just that. It drilled down for "The Washington Post" and found that among Americans who most trust Fox News or other right-wing news sources, 76 percent believe the 2020 election was stolen.

It gets worse. Only 12 percent of that crew says that Donald Trump deserves a lot of the blame for the January 6th Capitol Hill attack, while 64 percent say that liberal or left wings activists like Antifa are to blame.

This is complete fact-free hyper-partisan paranoid fantasy. Rewriting history to create a sense of legitimacy around the attacks and a sense of victimhood around the attackers that spurred this upcoming protest. As if on que, Donald Trump released a statement of solidarity with the Capitol Hill attackers yesterday, saying that our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly, relating to the January 6th protest, while repeating his lie that the election was rigged.

The combination of Donald Trump's demagoguery, right-wing talk TV and social media has created this cancer of misinformation in our nation. It has amplified lies that feed into existing prejudices, like fear of demographic change, and then stoked that fear until it turns into anger. And, as we've seen, violence.

That's precisely why there needs to be the justice of accountability for the people who attacked the Capitol, as well as for the man who incited them toward insurrection.

And that's your "Reality Check."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, sometimes language isn't sufficient to describe things. So the scope of the lies, the word lie or falsehood are inaccurate. It almost doesn't even cut it.

AVLON: No, it's more like an environment that's created a cult. And these people are suffering from it. But they're responsible for what they do under its -- under its influence.

BERMAN: John Avlon, thank you very much.

Up next, after a CNN investigation, breaking details on the Biden administration's new stand against the bloody conflict raging right now in Ethiopia.

And how the president angered one of America's top allies with a nuclear-powered sub deal.



BERMAN: Breaking news.

The Biden administration set to impose new sanctions on officials in Ethiopia as reports continue to emerge about atrocities committed in the northern Tigray region. Over the past year, CNN has uncovered evidence of mass detention, sexual violence, killing, that bear the hallmarks of genocide.

CNN's Nima Elbagir, one of the few journalist to gain access to the country and report on what has been happening., Nima joins us live with this important development that, Nima, I have to say, your reporting may be partially responsible for.

What is the president now saying about this potential action?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, for the first time, John, the president is outlining under an ultimatum. Officials we spoke so said that they need to see action on humanitarian access, they need to see concrete steps towards a cease- fire within weeks, not months.

And it is also, of course, as is ever the case with these things, about the message that is being sent by authorizing this executive order. President Biden is saying that the, as they put it, the ethnic based violence, the gender-based violence, the rape, that this all constitutes an emergency, a threat to U.S. national security. They're elevating their concern around this issue.

But we have to say, this comes after months of relative inaction, months of telegraphing concern, and lawmakers and sources in Congress that we spoke to said it was our recent reporting where we were able to finally pin down a methodical campaign, evidence of a campaign that bore all the hallmarks of genocide. And I want to show our viewers a little bit of this and warn them that this imagery is very disturbing, but it's important because the bodies that you see in these images showed evidence of torture. They showed evidence of execution. And they showed evidence of a campaign. And it's that methodology and intent that really explains the seriousness, the methodology and intent that we were able to expose that explains the seriousness that the Biden administration is seeking to deal with this (INAUDIBLE).

But, again, we have to give credit to the lawmakers who said that they felt our reporting ratcheted up the urgency and forced them to increase their pressure on the White House, John.

BERMAN: When you shine a light on injustice, this is what can happen. What might it mean, these actions, for people on the ground, Nima?

ELBAGIR: Well, the executive order talks a lot about the violence, but they also speak about humanitarian access. And this is really important because, yes, people are dying, yes, people are losing loved ones from the violence and from this new uptick in the violence. But people are dying every day and suffering every day from something which is fixable, which is the Ethiopian government and its allies blocking access to the region, blocking the ability of humanitarian actors to get resources in.


Over much of the last six weeks, they've only allowed in a handful of days' worth of aid. Something like five days' worth of aid into the entire region. And already hundreds of thousands of people are in what the U.N. calls famine-like conditions.

So this action, this new urgency, the hope is that it triggers an action on the part of the Ethiopian government to open that tap of resources because what we've seen consistently, John, is that famine and malnutrition, it doesn't just bring suffering today, it doesn't just ruin the lives of people and their loved ones in the moment. The long-term ramifications of acute malnutrition are absolutely awful. The impact it has on children's development, mental and physical, is awful. There is really -- it is one of the worst ways to die is through starvation.

So, what we're hearing from the ground is they hope that this will finally trigger the Ethiopian government into releasing these much- needed resources, John.

BERMAN: Nima Elbagir with reporting that might very well save lives, we thank you for all this. Thanks, Nima.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The spokesman for China's embassy in the U.S. is saying that America needs to shake off its Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice, that's a quote, after the U.S. announced it would help Australia secure nuclear-powered submarines. The latest point of escalating tensions between the two global superpowers.

Joining us now, CNN anchor and chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

And this is really a good time to look at how the U.S. and China are relating to each other, Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There is genuine nervousness about a brewing conflict, a military conflict, between the U.S. and China. In the last two months, two events took place, seemingly disconnected, many thousands of miles apart, but central to the relationship between the U.S. and China.

The first, in Afghanistan, the U.S. withdrawal. Of course, enormous consequence on the ground there for the Afghan people, lost American shoal soldiers, the Americans still left behind. But also this, China was watching, watching closely as the U.S. withdrew summarily to say, wait a second, if the U.S. there is unwilling to maintain this military presence, willing to walk away from its ally, what does that mean about the U.S. position around the world?

Why is that relevant today between the U.S. and China? Because of China and Taiwan. Chinese leaders speak openly about taking back Taiwan. Taiwan is an independent country, a democracy, a highly vibrant economy and economic system and political system, a friend of the U.S. The U.S. is not a treaty ally, but it is a friend. We send many millions of dollars in weapons systems to Taiwan to protect it from China.

But China watches Afghanistan, says the U.S. not willing to defend that ally, does that mean it won't be willing to defend Taiwan? Does it move up China's idea of perhaps invading there? And what does that lead to the risk for war? OK, so that happens.

Then you look many thousands of miles away to Australia, a U.S. treaty ally in the Pacific. The U.S. decided this week to share with Australia its most sensitive military technology. That is technology for nuclear submarines. There's only one other country in the world that the U.S. has shared this with in the last several decades. That is the U.K. It did that to respond to the threat from the USSR, an existential threat to the U.S. It is now sharing the same technology with Australia to respond to the threat from China.

So in the span of two months, two seemingly disconnected stories, both relevant to that relationship. In Afghanistan the U.S. withdrawal perhaps emboldens China. Here, this deal with Australia shows, well, the U.S. isn't leaving the Asia-Pacific any time soon and is willing to stand up to China militarily. You've got to connect the dots here.

And like I said at the beginning, Brianna, why is this all particularly relevant now? You speak to people in the Pentagon. Sadly, they don't talk about the if of a potential military contact -- conflict with China, they talk about when. It's an alarming conversation to have. KEILAR: Yes, it is, this battle for global dominance. Some very

interesting data points there.

Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. We'll see you very soon here in about 15 minutes at the top of the hour.

SCIUTTO: I'll be there.

KEILAR: Up next, a desperate scene at the southern U.S. border, migrants taking shelter under the bridge as they wait for processing. We'll have a live report.

BERMAN: First, a preview of the CNN film, "The Price of Freedom" airing this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NRA wants you to believe a fantasy about our founding in which our founding fathers believed that there should be no regulation of firearms.


That couldn't be further from the truth. It is absolutely clear that our founding fathers loved gun control. They, in fact, had loads of it.

ROBERT SPITZER, POLITICAL SCIENTIST AND AUTHOR: From our very earliest days in the 1600s through the 20th century, there were literally thousands of gun laws and they were gun laws of every imaginable variety.



BERMAN: Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he ordered six points of entry along the U.S./Mexico border to be shut down, with thousands of migrants gathered under an international bridge in Del Rio. Abbott said the crisis has become dire and that agents are overwhelmed in the chaos.


CNN's Rosa Flores live in Del Rio, Texas, with the latest on this situation, just this huge flow of migrants over the border.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it's heartbreaking. The Texas Department of Public Safety giving us an aerial tour of this international bridge where thousands of people are waiting to be processed by U.S. immigration authorities. I can tell you that the images are shocking and heartbreaking. You see men, women, children by the thousands. According to officials, these are mostly Haitians. And that processing all of these people will take about two weeks according to the mayor of this city.

And you can see signs that people are starting to live there, a camp is going up. Tents are going up. People are starting to dry their clothes on fences.

Now, all this as Governor Greg Abbott announced yesterday that he had directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to close six points of entry, blaming the Biden administration, and saying that it was actually the federal government who asked the state of Texas to assist in the closure of these points of entry.

DHS firing back yesterday, saying that that's not the case. That, in fact, if Texas closed points of entry, that that would be against federal law.

Now, I asked the mayor of this city about this, and, John, the first thing he said -- he said, closing the points of entry would do nothing because immigrants are not coming in through these points of entry. I can tell you, because I saw it with my own eyes, they're crossing the river. There were three different paths where we could clearly see people crossing the river.

And, John, the other thing that he said is, what about the novel idea of having the federal government, the state government come here and talk to local officials and fix the problem.


BERMAN: What about that.

Rosa Flores, thank you so much for your reporting. We know you'll be there all day. Thank you.

KEILAR: The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. And when offenders are released, they face challenges trying to earn a livable wage. In their first year home, 80 percent earn less than $15,000 annually and almost half the federal offenders are rearrested.

CNN hero Hector Guadalupe beat those odds.


HECTOR GUADALUPE: After surviving prison, you come home thinking you're able to start over. You want to be part of the society, but there's just so many layers of discrimination, boxes, you have to get through just to get an opportunity.

Society thinks, oh, you should just go get a job, and it's not that easy. Once you have a record, nothing is set up for them to win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And up, one. Good. Right back under.

GUADALUPE: At A Second U Foundation we give formerly incarcerated men and women national certifications and job placements in boutique gyms and corporate health clubs throughout New York City. You've got to be thinking outside the box.

You can't give someone a mop and say, this is your future, take minimum wage and deal with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go. You got it.

GUADALUPE: When you provide people with livable wages, they're able to be productive members of society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that belly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, almost there.


GUADALUPE: And that's why we are a second you. We want to give you your second chance at life.


KEILAR: And to get the whole story about Hector's program, go to

BERMAN: The Department of Homeland Security now warning of potential violence today linked to the protests tomorrow on Capitol Hill in support of the January 6th insurrectionists.

CNN's coverage continues.



BERMAN: All right, "The Good Stuff," but a sad morning for us at NEW DAY. As we say good-bye to the best-looking member of our team. I'm talking about our floor director Bruce Dunkins, who has been in charge here in the mornings for 19 years -- 19 -- which seems mathematically impossible because he appears so freakishly young and impressively handsome.

This is Bruce's studio. He tells us where to sit, how to sit, where to look, when to talk, when to stop talking, when your tie isn't knotted to his standards, which is a lot of the time because it's hard, Bruce. He is the person who greets our guests when they walk in and makes them feel comfortable, which is lucky for them because he is also devastatingly kind. Just incredibly nice. In fact, it sets something of an unachievable standard for us in the anchor chair because after talking to Bruce, actually doing the interview for guests can be disappointing. They tell their friends after, I met this amazing guy, Bruce Dunkins, this morning. Also, I was on TV.

So, news can be chaotic. Bruce is an ocean of tranquility no matter what and no matter where, at a debate, in a disaster, in a hurricane, just unmitigated calm. You trust him completely. Also, he manages to look good wet. It is hard for all of us here to imagine doing this show without him.

He makes it joyful. He makes it fun. He makes it work. Thirty years in the business, 19 of them here, during which time he helped raise his daughter Sasha, whom he adores. I mean, adores. You have not seen a smile as big as when he talks about her.

But now he's taking a break with his wonderful bride Eve who is here. Hi, Eve. They're taking a real break. They're hitting the road full- time. Think of it like the line from "Pulp Fiction." They're going to walk the earth like Caine from "Kung Fu." Walk from place to place, meet people, get in adventures. He's earned.


So, if you're on a beautiful beach somewhere, admiring some vista, at a cafe in an exotic corner of the world and you meet an impossibly handsome and overwhelmingly kind man, please say hi.