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New Day

Licensed MD Spreads COVID-19 Lies and Conspiracy Theories; Border Patrol Sought Extra Resources in Del Rio in June; Texas Principal Says He's Being Ousted Because of Views on Race; Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired September 23, 2021 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: An influential coronavirus skeptic who spreads vaccine misinformation far and wide and pushes a conspiracy that the pandemic was a, quote, "pretext to take a down the U.S.," is also a licensed medical doctor and indicted January 6th insurrectionist. That's quite a resume. CNN's Nick Watt has more.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She wears a white coat but not a face mask; struts to a Ted Nugent tune in a promo video; tours the country, making false claims about the coronavirus --

DR. SIMONE GOLD, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Asymptomatic spread is not a thing.

WATT (voice-over): -- and about the vaccines.

GOLD: All the vaccine candidates have problems. They're all using the spike proteins, but the spike proteins themselves are what we doctors call pathogenic, meaning they are disease causing.

WATT: That is not true, Dr. Paul Offit, member of the FDA vaccine advisory committee, told CNN. But Dr. Simone Gold is a licensed emergency room physician, so people listen to her.

PROFESSOR ARTHUR CAPLAN, NYU GROSSMAN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: There are two huge impacts when a doctor lies in the middle of a plague.


CAPLAN: One, other critics, doubters quickly point out that they are doctors, suggesting that their opinions are somehow mainstream or common. The other is that they have trust on the part of the public.

WATT: And the CDC says the unvaccinated are 11-times more likely to be killed by COVID-19.

But Dr. Gold claims she's saving lives, leading a civil rights crusade against vaccine mandates. GOLD: With the tyranny of medical apartheid nipping at our heels, rise up, rise up, rise up! Yes.

WATT: She actually likens herself to Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks.

And just rolled up to a rally in San Francisco like a tardy rock star draped in the flag, claiming our leaders are the ones lying.

GOLD: The other one that really hurt our country was saying that masks work.

WATT: Gold claims she's been cancelled by big and social media. We caught up with her at that rally in San Francisco this past weekend.

Dr. Gold, Nick Watt with CNN.

Can we speak to you for a couple minutes?


No way.

WATT: It was her speech, flanked by associates on the steps of the Supreme Court, that catapulted Gold to fame -- or infamy.

GOLD: We're here because we feel as though the American people have not heard from all the expertise that's out there.

WATT: President Trump retweeted this video which social media companies later took down of them promoting unfounded cures like hydroxychloroquine. Through Gold's website, you can now connect to a third party that offers a $90 telemedicine consultation and those unfounded medicines for an additional price.

Patients with symptoms will be prioritized.

CAPLAN: That's preying on people who are desperate, trying to sell them junk when they're in dire straits.

WATT: Now, Gold has been arrested and indicted but for this, filmed inside the Capitol during the January 6th insurrection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now this lady is making a speech.

WATT: She pleaded not guilty to all five counts, including disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building.

GOLD: At the very least, it means the government can't be saying it's safe and effective.

WATT: As of today, Gold is still a licensed doctor here in California. The state's medical board can't say if she is under investigation, citing confidentiality. But told us, publicly spreading false COVID-19 information may be considered unprofessional conduct and could be grounds for disciplinary action. CAPLAN: I think people who spread false information or undermine trust in vaccination at the present time are spreading misinformation that is dangerous, that cost lives. And I think their licenses should be revoked.


BERMAN: What an interesting look. Again, a reminder that there was an anti vax rally just down the street from the insurrection rally on January 6th.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That's right. And, look, she also, as I believe we have a photo of her participating in that. There seems to be this small group of these doctors who are just saying wacky, crazy lies about coronavirus.

And you just have to wonder what are the ramifications of that.

And is this board going to act in time to stop this?

BERMAN: The ramifications are, people are dying.

KEILAR: That's right.

BERMAN: They don't have to be.

So migrants being released into the United States, despite what the Biden administration is claiming. We're live in both Mexico and Haiti.

KEILAR: And former president Trump turning on two Republican allies, even one of his BFFs for not going along with the dangerous lie.





KEILAR: The crisis that we're now seeing at the border crossing in Del Rio, Texas, has been brewing actually for some time. Border Patrol agents, as far back as June, asked for additional resources to more rapidly process migrants there.

But their needs were not met until recently, as the Biden administration scrambled to address the massive encampment under the Del Rio International Bridge. Some Haitian migrants are being released into the U.S., despite repeated claims by the Department of Homeland Security that anyone arriving at the southern border would be immediately turned away.

Authorities say a group of Haitian migrants tried to escape a Border Patrol bus in Kingsville, Texas. They were being taken to a processing center in South Texas. Deputies were able to detain the migrants and transport them to their destination. CNN is live on the ground this morning in Mexico with Matt Rivers, who

is -- and also with Melissa Bell in Haiti.

Matt, to you first. We are seeing images of people crossing the river from the U.S. side to Mexico. So tell us what you know about the situation at the border.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes; right now, all calm. No one crossing at the moment, Brianna. But that's only because it is, you know, still dark here in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, just across the border from Del Rio, Texas, where we have seen so many images from the encampment, where thousands of Haitians currently are.

What we saw all day yesterday were people coming from the U.S. side behind me, all those lights are state troopers, Border Patrol vehicles, lined up, preventing people from going further into the U.S.

What's happening is they are allowing people in the U.S. encampment to come behind me, use this rope line across the river, come across here into Mexico because it is easier to get supplies here on the Mexican side.


RIVERS: We saw volunteers here yesterday, feeding people. One mom came to get diapers for her kid. They were actually crossing back over the river, to go back to the encampment, with garbage bags, holding the things they came here to Mexico to get.

Not everyone went back to Mexico. There are a few hundred people on the Mexican side. Basically what you have are people trapped between both sides. If they go to the U.S., they risk being deported or they also have a chance of being processed and let into the U.S.; the exact same thing in Mexico.

Some have asylum status. They can be let back into Mexico. Or they risk being deported to Haiti. It's a difference choice for these migrants to make after many have made the journey, thousands of miles to get here. Ultimately they are stuck between two countries, threatening to deport them back to Haiti.

BERMAN: Which is where I want to go next.

Melissa Bell, you are there. Thousands of migrants have been sent back to Haiti on these deportation flights.

What are they saying about their experience?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, these are the unlucky ones. The steady trickle of migrants, the deportees making their way through the now closed gate at the Port-au-Prince airport, they have been telling us about their despair, their shock, their trauma finding themselves back in a country that is crippled by poverty, social unrest, a lack of basic resources, security concerns.

And I am quoting the Department of Homeland Security itself, when it announced it was giving temporary protected person status to those Haitians already in the United States. The ones brought back here were never even given a chance of applying for asylum.

Many did not know, as they were put on planes, where they were headed. We spoke to one of them yesterday, Eddy Teverrne, who says he crossed 11 countries, passing over the bodies of dead migrants along the way, drinking from the waters in which they lay, only to find that the worst treatment of all was to be in the land of his dreams.


EDDY TEVERRNE, DEPORTED HAITIAN (through translator): When we arrived in the U.S., the authorities put us on a bus and sent us to jail and said we would be released in two days. They put chains on our feet, around our stomachs and our hands.

They put us in cars and took us to the airport. There were Haitians who were working on the plane, who told us not to resist because there were many soldiers on the plane and they warned us that, otherwise, we would be mistreated.


BELL: Now there's migrants like Eddy, asylum seekers, who are now back in Haiti, come through the gate carrying $100 they have been given, a hot meal on a Styrofoam plate and a bag with their measly belongings and essentially led back into the country they fled for the most part many years ago but where the situation has only worsened, John.

KEILAR: Melissa and Matt, thank you for those important reports.

Up next, we'll talk to a high school principal in Texas, who says he is getting pushed out because of his views on race.

BERMAN: Plus CNN retraces what may have been some of Gabby Petito's last moments alive.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This clearing could be where that van was parked, certainly based on the distance we were given.






BERMAN: A Texas high school principal is speaking out this morning after the school district's board of trustees took steps toward not renewing his contract. James Whitfield is the first Black principal of a high school outside

Dallas. Whitfield says he's been pulled into the frenzy over critical race theory after a former school board candidate publicly accused him of having, quote, "extreme views on race" and promoting a, quote, "conspiracy theory of systemic racism."

The school board, however, says critical race theory has nothing to do with the steps they're taking. Joining us now is principal James Whitfield and his attorney, David Henderson.

Thank you so much for being with us.

Why is it that you think you're being pushed from your job?

PRINCIPAL JAMES WHITFIELD, COLLEYVILLE HERITAGE HIGH SCHOOL: Good morning, John and Brianna. Thank you so much for having us on.

You know, it's really difficult to understand why it is I'm being pushed in such a way. All I've done is tried to create a space, where all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, you know, religion, sexual orientation, I've tried to create a space where all students feel safe to come to school.

And for some -- for some people, that is not what school is supposed to be, in their point of view. And so I can't help but think, because of my unapologetic stance in regard to that, that is why we are here today.

Everything they have to say is against inclusion and diversity and equity. They have a problem with those words. And so I'm unapologetic in my stance toward advocating for those things. And I believe that is why we're here.

BERMAN: After the death of George Floyd, you wrote an email to the community that said, "I encourage us all not to grow weary in the battle against systemic racism, commit to being an anti-racist, well, there are great obstacles to face, please know I am with you on this journey."

That's the only writing of yours really that I could find here.

Just to be clear, did you try to institute teaching on literal critical race theory in the curriculum at your school?

WHITFIELD: Absolutely not. What we teach here in the state of Texas is the Texas essential knowledge and skills. So teachers, they have the curriculum based on that.

And essentially why I crafted that message, to go out to the community, after the murder of George Floyd, in the streets of Minneapolis, I've watched people around me. I've watched people in our communities surrounding us. You know, they were speaking out against this atrocity.

[07:55:00] WHITFIELD: And here in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, we had the murder of Breonna Taylor. We had just had all these tragic things happen to Black people.

And I knew that I have people in our school, in our community, I was just transitioning from a middle school principal to a high school principal. So I had two different staffs that were dealing with transition.

There are students of color, who are seeing these tragedies play out on a national scale. And I just felt called to say something. I saw people coming together in ways that I had never seen before in my life.

And I was inspired to craft that letter and say that, I see you, we see what's going on and I'm here to work with you to make basically try to make the world a better place. And at that time there was no concern about that letter; quite the contrary, I got nothing but positive feedback.

BERMAN: And that's not a call to teach critical race theory. As you say, there is no specific example of you trying to force in on the curriculum or whatnot.

The other side of that is that the administration says that's not why they're pushing you out. The reasons they're pushing you out has nothing to do with this.

And the reason I keep on harping on this is because the way this has been portrayed nationally is "principal gets fired for critical race theory."

No, that's not what you were doing. That's not why they say they're doing it. Let me play the sound that came from the Monday school board meeting -- so their explanation for why they want you out.


ROBIN RYAN, SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT: As this has played out in the media as a racial issue, many people have been hurt and confused. And for that reason I will say this clearly.

This recommendation is not about Dr. Whitfield's race, it is not about pictures of Dr. Whitfield, it is not about critical race theory, it is not about certain individuals in our community calling for his resignation or his firing.


BERMAN: So the board claims that there were performance issues, performance issues you were informed of over the year and unresponsive to.

What do you say to that?

WHITFIELD: So here's what I'll say to that. You know, prior to July 26th, when the board of trustees allowed an individual to get up and say my name in open forum against the rules of open forum and air these baseless grievances, they allowed people in the gallery to yell, "Fire him," call for my termination.

Prior to that, there is no mention of a nonrenewal of my contract. And, honestly, it's really off base to be talking about a nonrenewal of a contract in September for the upcoming school year.

And so, if there is no issue prior to that, there is no mention of a nonrenewal of contract prior to July 26th, but then yet here, almost two months later, that's what we're talking about, I think they're underestimating the intelligence of the broader community.

And, you know, you can't disconnect the two in my book. Of course, they're not going to come out and say it is about my race or it is about critical race theory or it is about those individuals.

They're not going to come out and say that. But I think most people are rational minded enough to look at the events and how they have played out and see what this is really about.

BERMAN: Counselor, David, what is the next step here for you?

DAVID HENDERSON, ATTORNEY: Well, John, they have left us with no choice but to appeal their decision. If we don't, then Dr. Whitfield is effectively fired, despite what they said in the press. It is never good to forecast what you intend to do in court before you've actually done it. But rest assured, we're not the people you come to when you're trying to avoid a conflict.

BERMAN: David, Mr. Henderson, we appreciate you being with us.

Dr. Whitfield, principal, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

BERMAN: And "NEW DAY" continues right now.


KEILAR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Brianna Keilar, alongside John Berman. And it is Thursday, September 23rd.

There are dive teams returning to the water today near the Florida home of Brian Laundrie. Gabby Petito's fiance has not been seen now for nearly two weeks since returning from their road trip alone.

A large van and a boat from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office arrived midday Wednesday at a swampy 25,000-acre reserve, where Laundrie told his parents he was headed last week. After four days now of searching, there is still no sign of him.

BERMAN: This morning, new clues about what may have been the final hours of Gabby's life. A couple says they witnessed an incident involving Petito and Laundrie in a restaurant. They report seeing a commotion that had Petito visibly upset. CNN's Randi Kaye piecing together witness accounts to retrace Gabby's final hours.