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Whistleblower Criticizes Facebook for Unsafe Platform Policies; Pipeline Oil Spill Occurs Off Coast of Southern California; Former Trump White House Press Secretary Expresses Regret for Working for Trump Administration. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 04, 2021 - 08:00   ET



FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER:. Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they'll click on less ads, they'll make less money.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Haugen also accuses Facebook of decisions that helped fuel the Capitol insurrection.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: They told us we're dissolving civic integrity. They basically said, oh, good, we make it through the election. There wasn't riots. We can get rid of civil integrity now.

Fast forward a couple months, we got the insurrection. And when they got rid of civic integrity, it was the moment where I was like I don't trust they're willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous. As soon as the election was over, they turned them back off, or they changed the setting back to what they were before the prioritize growth over safety. And that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.


BERMAN: Facebook denies Haugen's accusations.

Joining me now is John Tye, the attorney for Frances Haugen. Counselor, thank you so much for being with us. People describe your client as a whistleblower. If I were just to ask you off the street, what's she blowing the whistle on, what would you say?

JOHN TYE, ATTORNEY FOR FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER FRANCES HAUGEN: Well, a range of misconduct by Facebook both in the United States and in foreign countries that affects elections, that affects teenage girls, that affects ethnic violence in countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, including lying to investors, withholding material information from Facebook investors, a wide range of misconduct by Facebook.

BERMAN: Lying to investors about what? TYE: Everything from how much hate speech is removed from the

platform to some of the very serious problems that they've had expanding user demographics, American teens, others, and other issues, for instance, how many users are targeted with ads, misrepresentations to advertisers.

BERMAN: If you're lying to your investors, isn't that fraud?

TYE: Possibly. This will be up to the SEC to determine, and others. So Frances has made disclosures first to the SEC, which obviously has jurisdiction to supervise publicly traded companies like Facebook, to several state attorneys general including California, Vermont, Nebraska, Tennessee, Massachusetts, to the U.S. Congress, and also to some European regulators.

BERMAN: What's Facebook's responsibility, would you say, and how much of this is consumer responsibility, where people have to curate their own tastes and curate their own clicks?

TYE: Well, Facebook has tried to blame users for these problems, has said it, quote, "takes two to tango," implying that when people end up hurt on the platform, they share some of the blame. But we also know that Facebook's internal data shows that it knows many of its users have problematic use, they're addicted to the platform, including teenagers, younger people, people suffering from mental health issues, people who are open to radicalization on the platform. And so Facebook knows that its products are harmful to a significant percentage of its users.

BERMAN: What's your client's concern in terms of possible retaliation?

TYE: Well, it's scary. Facebook is valued at over $1 trillion. It's one of the largest companies on earth. It can afford the best lawyers in the world. And if they wanted to sue her, try to come up with some kind of frivolous claim against her, make her life miserable, they clearly could. And she's always been concerned about that. And so we have done our very best. We've ensured she is a lawful whistleblower. We filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which under the Dodd-Frank Act, protects her from retaliation as a lawful whistleblower.

BERMAN: Let me read to you the statement that "60 Minutes" put out -- sorry, the statement that Facebook put out after the "60 Minutes" interview. "Every day our teams have to balance protecting the ability of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform safe and positive. We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true." Your reaction?

TYE: That's disingenuous. No one is saying that they're encouraging bad content, and no one is saying that they're trying to make these bad things happen.

[08:05:02] It's they're not taking obvious steps to solve the problem. They have always put growth, virality, speed on the platform ahead of safety for the users. And so some simple interventions that don't all, not all of which require deleting content, so slowing down reshares, requiring people to click on a link before it's reshared, altering the recommendation algorithms -- some of these can reduce the amplification of hate, of violent and inciting content, of misinformation, whether it's about the election, about COVID, lots of things.

BERMAN: How much blame does your client think belongs to Mark Zuckerberg?

TYE: As she said last night, she has real compassion for Mark Zuckerberg because he's in a spot -- I don't think he's set out to create these problems. Just the opposite. But what the documents show is that even though he is the CEO, the chairman, holds the majority of the voting shares, he's actually unable to stop some of these things. For instance, the way the bonus structure is set up inside the company, if he were to have even a fraction of one percent impose changes that would reduce virality by a fraction of one percent, that would harm many of the executives' bonuses. And so even Zuckerberg feels like his hands are tied on a lot of these things, which really suggests that regulators and Congress need to step in.

BERMAN: They're tied, really? He couldn't change it if he wanted to? The lying, if you're accusations are true, lying to investors, he couldn't change that?

TYE: Well, no. Clearly there's some misconduct here that could be changed. But for instance, one of "The Wall Street Journal" stories from a few weeks ago showed that even when he actually set out to stop COVID misinformation he was unable to do so. He has created a platform that even he can't totally control.

BERMAN: John Tye, this isn't over yet. I know your client is testifying before Congress. We could a lot learn more in the coming days even beyond the 60,000 pages of documents now available to the public. Thank you so much for being with us.

TYE: That's right.

BERMAN: We appreciate your time, sir.

TYE: Thank you.

BERMAN: Go ahead. Did you have one last thing you wanted to get in?

TYE: The last thing is that she is up against $1 trillion company. She started a GoFundMe. And anyone who feels supportive of her, we encourage you to reach out and make a donation to help her protect herself against possible retaliation.

BERMAN: John Tye, appreciate you being with us.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And now to the ecological disaster that is unfolding along the southern California coastline after a huge oil spill there -- 126,000 gallons of oil pouring into the Pacific Ocean from a pipeline breach, and it's unclear if this leak has been stopped. The cause still unknown.

CNN's Natasha Chen live for us in Huntington Beach, California. I think that's also one of the big questions right now, how do they not know if this has been stopped or not?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, what we think is that what's been spilled so far, the 126,000 gallons that you mentioned, there probably isn't going to be any more spilled at this point because that was the entire capacity of that pipeline according to the CEO of Amplify Energy, the parent company responsible here. That's what he said in a press conference yesterday.

So that is the whole pipeline that is what's believed to be spilled at this point. There hasn't been any new spillage observed in the last day or so. So what we're seeing right now wash up on shore is from that initial spillage that some people started smelling as early as Friday evening, but that was officially reported on Saturday morning. So that started coming onshore about Saturday evening. And remember, this happened about four-and-a-half miles offshore.

So by Saturday evening, people are seeing clumps of oil pop up on shore, reports of animals with oil on them as well. Right now, officially, we're gold, one oiled duck is receiving veterinary care. The rest of those reports are being investigated right now.

And the advice is for people to really stay out of the water, to stay away from the shoreline. The people we met yesterday were trying to scrape those tar balls off the bottoms of their feet. Health officials say that people with respiratory illness should also be on alert because products that evaporate from this spill could potentially cause irritation for the eyes, nose, and throat, potentially even dizziness and vomiting. So that is something that everyone should really watch out for here, and just to stay away from the water for a bit. Brianna?

KEILAR: I'm sure, though, there will be some people planning to go check out what is happening there on their coastline, and they should heed those warnings. Natasha, thank you so much.

CHEN: Yes.


KEILAR: Just moments ago former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham spoke in her first TV interview about the damning claims made in her new Trump tell-all. You'll hear from her next.

BERMAN: Plus senator Kyrsten Sinema' side trip, why did she leave Washington during crucial talks over Biden's economic agenda? And how breakthrough infections dealt a setback to the cast and crew of a popular Broadway show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: New this morning, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham speaking out for the first time in a brand-new TV interview ahead of the release of her new book detailing her time in the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're likely to go down in history as the only White House press secretary who never held a press conference. Did President Trump order you not to hold briefings?

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. When we discussed me taking the job, he had already suspended the briefings for about six months under Sarah. And he said he didn't think we needed any more briefings. He spoke to the press two or three times a day directly. So then my job was going to be to work more behind the scenes with print, with regional and local.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you were talking about this culture of casual dishonesty at the White House. So you were, as press secretary, even if you weren't giving briefings, enabling that culture, weren't you?

GRISHAM: Yes, I was. And I've reflected on that and I regret that. And especially now watching him and so many people push the false election narrative, I now want to in whatever way I can educate the public about the behaviors within the White House because it does look like he's going to try to run in 2024.


GRISHAM: I didn't at first, but I'm starting to believe he will. I mean, he is clearly the front runner in the Republican Party. Everybody is showing their fealty to him. He is on his revenge tour for you know, people who dare to vote for impeachment.

And I want to just warn people that once he takes office, if he were to win, he doesn't have to worry about re-election anymore. He will be about revenge. He will probably have some pretty draconian policies that go on.

There were conversations a lot of times that people would say, that'll be the second term, that'll be the second term, meaning we won't have to worry about, you know, a re-election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it a mistake to work for President Trump?


STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did you do it?

GRISHAM: Like I said, in the beginning, watching how people reacted to him, and I do believe he gave voice to a lot of people who did feel forgotten. But I think that many of us, myself included, got into that White House and got heavy with power, and became really -- we didn't think about serving the country anymore. It was about surviving in there. And he loved it, he loved the chaos. And that's -- it's bad. And

obviously, hindsight is 2020. I have no illusions right now that people are going to suddenly think I'm some hero. That's not what this is about. This has not been a fun process for me. I mean, even just with the statement you just read.

The left doesn't like me, the right doesn't like me, but I have gone back to basics. And I have my family and I have my friends and people can you know, take this book for what it is. It's honest. And that's all I can say.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now is CNN white house correspondent, Kate Bennett.

It's juicy. That is for sure. This book, right? It's got a lot of details in it. I wonder what you think of her comments so far, knowing what you know about the book, which you've read?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, I do think it's interesting. She is basically saying this was a bad place. This continues to be a person speaking for President Donald Trump, who has -- whose motives are driven by revenge, they are driven by, you know, wanting to change the country in a way that might not be accepted.

I think what's interesting what she said there about the refrain of this -- that'll be the second term, that'll be the second term for the more draconian policies that were discussed within the West Wing.

You know, I think it's -- I think the juicy parts, as you say, are going to be the most interesting of Grisham's book and that she was really in the room more than any other adviser for both the President and the First Lady. And I think, for me, reading the book, those moments of insight into the chaotic world, the drama, the real life "apprentices" sort of feel and the West Wing was what was interesting. Yes.

KEILAR: You have your reaction from the former First Lady?

BENNETT: Right. I just got this from Melania Trump's office about Stephanie Grisham. I'm just going to read it real quick. "The author is desperately trying to rehabilitate her tarnished reputation by manipulating and distorting the truth about Mrs. Trump. Ms. Grisham is a deceitful and troubled individual who doesn't deserve anyone's trust."

And as Stephanie Grisham has said, that was -- that's she is expecting this. She is expecting them to take her down. And she said, I mean, this is the irony of the whole thing. She says I was once one of the people who worked on the inside and took others down when they turned on the Trump's. That was her job, ostensibly for many, many years.

KEILAR: Yes, where she said they got heady with power, basically didn't care about serving the country. That is a -- that is a sad admission, and certainly we're looking to see for more answers from her.

Kate, thank you so much for that. We will get a chance to talk to Stephanie Grisham. We're going to do that live right here on NEW DAY tomorrow morning.

And up next, the senator confronted by protesters while she was going to the bathroom.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, the Trump backed candidate running for Arizona governor still perpetuating the big lie?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone okay with road.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me, too. Roads are where trucks live.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just tell us, Kyrsten, what do you like? What is good to you want?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yellow Starbursts, the film "The Polar Express." And when someone eats fish on an airplane.


BERMAN: That's moderate Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema getting the "Saturday Night Live" treatment over the weekend. She is one of the key holdouts preventing the passage of two spending bills at the heart of President Biden's agenda and according to "New York Times," she left Washington at a critical point in the negotiations.

Joining us now David Axelrod, CNN senior political commentator and host of "The Axe Files" podcast. You know, you've made it into the cultural Zeitgeist when you are on "Saturday Night Live," but she was being mocked in a way for people not knowing exactly what she wants, David.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, that's kind of the hallmark of her public career. I mean, she rarely speaks in public, would not sit down with you guys or anyone else on TV.

You know, she doesn't hold town hall meetings in her state very often. She really keeps her thoughts to herself. And that's -- you know, that's difficult in a time when you're trying to negotiate a major piece of legislation like this if you don't signal your intentions to the people you're negotiating with.

She does speak out, John. She spoke out over the weekend to attack the progressives in the House for holding up her infrastructure bill, the one that she helped pass in the Senate, the bipartisan bill. But I think that was more to score points with Republicans and Independents in her state than to advance the process here and that's really too bad.


KEILAR: She visited Arizona and her spokesman said it was for a medical appointment. "The New York Times" reporting that she held a fundraiser on Saturday, I should say that CNN has not confirmed this, but what message does that send if true?

AXELROD: Well, I mean, it sends a message of priorities. And, you know, apparently she had a class to teach at Arizona State University on Sunday, she had a fundraiser on Friday night. But this is clearly -- we are at a serious juncture in this process. And you know what bothers me, you guys is, you know, there are two things that happen when these process go on, serious negotiations, and then people trying to dine on the situation with key constituencies.

She prizes in Arizona her standing with Republicans and independents. And she saw an opportunity to score some points here, but it sure didn't help the process. And yes, it's a bad look to go and hold a fundraiser, rather than sticking around in town, and sitting down and trying to work these issues through.

BERMAN: And she is in the middle of a firestorm, Now, you mentioned she had to teach a class at ASU. She was followed into a bathroom at one point by demonstrators there, which I think we can all agree, you know, that's --

AXELROD: Out of line.


AXELROD: Out of line. Yes.

BERMAN: And probably counterproductive if you want to change your mind on something.

AXELROD: No, I think she probably thought this was -- this is helpful because it makes her look like a victim. It wasn't, you know, completely out of bounds and inappropriate. But, you know, ultimately, I honestly believe they're going to get to where they need to go. And she is going to get to -- no pun intended there -- that the process is going to get to where they need to go.

But you know, it's going to go more slowly if people indulge themselves politically as she did this weekend by throwing a log on the fire, as did Representative Gottheimer who had a blistering kind of attack out on Friday, which will help him in his swing district in New Jersey, but will not help get to the goal line on these two bills. And if they don't get there, that's going to be a disaster for all of them.

BERMAN: Well, so for Joe Biden, clearly he needs to get there on both these bills. But what else does he need to do? He's had a string of not great things, or not great successes for the last month and a half or so, David? So if you were still in the White House, how would you tell him he needs to turn this around?

AXELROD: Well, I think this is a big win. I mean, the thing that has had -- the things that have happened in the past couple of months, some were of his making, some were not have called into question competence and command.

Certainly passing these two pieces of legislation would restore a sense of command and control on the part of the White House they know that, too. Clearly, they are very focused on it.

He is doing the right thing this week. He is going out into the country and giving people a sense of what's in these bills. It's a terrible, terrible default if they don't let people know what the specific elements of this bill are, and how they will affect their lives because otherwise, it's just a battle over price tag and that's never attractive.

But if it's about early, you know, about pre-K or about healthcare or about childcare, or paid leave, and so on. Those are things people can relate to in their lives. So, I think they're going to do -- they're going to be on a dual track. One is negotiating, and the other is selling and I think he has to do both to land the plane here.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, great to see you this morning. Thanks so much.

AXELROD: Great to see you, guys.

KEILAR: Just ahead, the Trump backed believers in the big lie about election fraud. What happens if they're elected to office themselves?

BERMAN: And a breakthrough COVID cases forcing Broadway's "Aladdin" to cancel performances. The genie joins us live.