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Philonise Floyd is Interviewed about his Brother's Statue being Defaced; Shatner Goes to Space; Pfizer Vaccine Effectiveness; Toxic Politics of Facebook; Don Lemon is Interviewed about the Insurrection and Racial Justice. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 05, 2021 - 08:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The NYPD is looking for a skateboarder who was caught on surveillance video defacing a bust of George Floyd in Manhattan's Union Square. As the suspect rides by on the skateboard, you see there, he splashes gray paint across this bust. And this is vandalism that happened in broad daylight. This was Sunday morning. It was just four days after the bust was unveiled there. It's part of a larger installation with busts of Breonna Taylor and Congressman John Louis. Those were not defaced, they were left as they were.

Joining me now is George Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd.

Philonise, you were at -- you were the first person I thought of when I -- when I saw this video. And I just wonder what you were feeling when you saw it.

PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER FO GEORGE FLOYD: It was disgusting and downright wrong.

We live in a world where they're using brutal force against black, defenseless people and yet they're using brutal force against black statues. This is -- this is a problem.

But my brother, you know, he told me something a long time ago, you can't serve a purpose in life without somebody throwing rocks at you. But in this case, it's paint.

KEILAR: And it is new, right? It's new and this is someone that so many people connect with this new movement of racial reckoning in America.

It also comes on the heels of a "New York Times" report that nine New York City firefighters were suspended for racist messages that mocked your brother. White firefighters shared racist messages and memes on their phones that mocked his dying moments and they gloated about how police could legally shoot black children.

How discouraging is all of this to you and to your family? FLOYD: Right. It's -- it's terrible. You think about all of the

families who are going through this pain and the suffering. We didn't ask to be a part of this fraternity. We were thrown into it because our siblings who we love are being murdered in broad daylight. And it's -- this is a problem. And this is a problem with this country. And we need to solve it.

There is no way that we can get through this without solving it because, if you continue to destroy statues, it lets you know how much time that we have before they continue to try to do something to harm people who are alive and living.

KEILAR: One of our -- one of our guests yesterday reminded us that even decades after Emmett Till died, was killed, his memorial was defaced as well.

What does that say to you about the role in history your brother has played?

FLOYD: Well, I said it before, Emmett Till was the first George Floyd. And my brother, the only difference is, it was a camera, and it was a motion cinema picture, everybody seen it across the world. So it wasn't in any way that you could hide what happened.

And what I see and what people see is, we need to get everything together now because people as Americans, we don't want to live in a country where we can't walk outside. We're scared to be in a vehicle at a certain time at night because freedom is everything. And it's held to anticipate death. Nobody wants to do that. And that's the way this world right now is moving, where African-American will anticipating death when we get pulled over by police officers. We are praying and hoping that we live and that we get a good police officer and not a bad one. You have good ones and you have bad ones. You shouldn't have to sort them out.

KEILAR: Philonise, I thank you for joining us this morning and I do want to leave you, as well as our viewers, with the knowledge that volunteers mobilized very quick to clean up that statue of your brother so that it could return as it was there in Union Square.

Philonise, thanks for being with us.

FLOYD: But you -- you know, one thing before I go.

KEILAR: Uh-huh.

FLOYD: And I really wanted to get this out, I think that, like, I want to call out all the Democrats. I want all of them to bring the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act to the floor to vote. So senators need to show America how they feel. That's what I want. No more backroom conversations. This is what I want.

KEILAR: Yes, and so far their efforts have not yielded that. So we will continue to follow that.

Philonise, thank you. FLOYD: Thank you so much.

KEILAR: Is it safe for 90-year-old William Shatner to blast off into space?


Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join us next.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And how effective are Pfizer's COVID shots over time? The results of a large, new study.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Command engine start, two, one.

We have liftoff.


BERMAN: When Blue Origin from Jeff Bezos lifts off into sub-orbit one week from today, 90-year-old William Shatner will boldly go where no man his age has gone before, to space for real.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN chief medical correspondent and host of the "Chasing Life" podcast, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, William Shatner's 90 years old. And despite the fact he was in "Star Trek" has near really been to space.

So how safe is it?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, first of all, I'm jealous. I would love to do that. I just -- I think it's amazing, all this that's happening.

I mean, I think that there's obviously risks involved. But this isn't the days of "The Right Stuff," John. I mean, you know, there's people who -- John Glenn, in fact, went up in 1998, he was 77 years old. Wally Funk recently, she went up, 82 years old, she went up on the first Blue Origin space flight.

So, there's about 3Gs that you pull when you're actually lifting off. Coming down is probably the hardest part, this is about 11 minutes or so the entire flight. But that's kind of like -- the coming down part, the descent is similar to some particularly aggressive roller coasters, for example. You can get several Gs for periods of time.

There is no specific sort of physical criteria that one needs to pass to go up into space. Again, very different than early space flight. In fact, I think "The Wall Street Journal" was reporting that all you really had to do was prove that you can run up the seven flights of stairs within 90 seconds and fit into your spacesuit, essentially, to be able to go on one of these flights. So he can do that. It sounds like he can. It should be -- he should be good to go, you know,

It's -- it's all these sort of longer term risks of long-term space flight, radiation, isolation, all those sorts of things obviously won't apply to him because this is a very short flight.


BERMAN: All right, well, good for him. I hope he enjoys it. No beam.

Look, there's a new study out from Pfizer now on the Pfizer vaccine and its effectiveness over time. It has good news about severe infection and hospitalizations, but it did have a pretty glaring number about infection overall. What does this say?

GUPTA: Yes, let me show you this chart, and I'll sort of talk you through it because I think this is very interesting. For some time there's -- you know, you've heard this concern, does the -- does the effectiveness of the vaccine wain over time. And if it does, is that related to just time passing or is this because of new variants like delta?

What this study seems to show, and this is a big, real world study, is that this seems to be more related to just time, as more time passes, your overall effectiveness against infections seems to go down.

Now, when we say infections, as we've talked about, John, this could be anybody who gets a positive test and is surprised because they feel totally fine, they're asymptomatic, to people who have more severe illness. And what you find is that that, you know, just overall infection protection does seem to wane.

But, you know, the thing that the vaccine was originally designed for, what we heard originally from the outcome trials back in December of last year, was the protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death. And as you point out, that's the red line across the top. That's the line that sort of says, hey, look, even -- even with time it stays 90 percent plus in terms of protecting those things. And, again, this is real world data, all ages, in many places around the world.

So that's -- it's overall good news. But that white line is why there is such a conversation right now about boosters. We're hearing it from Pfizer, but also Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, they're all talking about boosters and I think it's something that we're likely to see from all these companies at some point or another.

BERMAN: I look forward to talking to you much more about the possible implications of that going forward.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: And congratulations, your new book, "World War C" is out today.

GUPTA: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: So, a former Facebook insider about to blow the whistle on the company at a Senate hearing. Live coverage here on CNN just ahead.

KEILAR: And CNN's Don Lemon joining us live.

BERMAN: We get the walking shot? We know he must be important if he gets the walking shot.

KEILAR: Very important. Oh, the dancing shot.

BERMAN: The dancing shot.

KEILAR: Right here when we come back.

Is he moon walking? Nice. All right, we've got to work on that.



KEILAR: Yet another Facebook whistleblower has come forward, alleging that the way Facebook does business is toxic, amplifies hate and is bad for the way that we relate to each other as human beings. But is there a solution in all of these complaints? Let's hope so.

John Avlon with a "Reality Check."

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: If you're wondering how our civic debates seem to have gone insane, it's because our incentive structures are screwed up and toxic politics and social media are intertwined. The latest Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, has pulled the curtain back on internal research showing that the platform knew its algorithms were amplifying division, extremism and polarization. But they did little because they wanted to optimize engagement and profit. Incentives.

After an algorithm change in 2018, researchers warned that misinformation, toxicity and violent content are inordinately prevalent, and the tail wagged the dog of democracy at home and abroad. A 2019 memo obtained by Haugen shows that European political parties were complaining that the change to the algorithm has forced them to skew negative in their communications on Facebook, leading them into more extreme positions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The European political parties were essentially saying to Facebook, the way you've written your algorithm is changing the way we lead our countries.

FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: Yes. You are forcing us to take positions that we don't like, that we know are bad for society. We know if we don't take those positions, we won't win in the marketplace of social media.


AVLON: The incentive structure was effectively forcing political parties to amplify negative messages. And the rising violent campaign ads here in America seems to reflect that same dynamic. The warnings have been with us for a while. There have been at least five other departures of noble Facebook employees over the past several years, warning the platform fails to respond to internal warnings and is profiting off hate, in the words of one ex-engineer. In addition to an SEC whistleblower suit.

And there's good reason for all this concern. The 2016 internal Facebook presentation obtained by "The Wall Street Journal" frankly stated that 64 percent of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools. They knew that neo-Nazis and white supremacists were recruiting and organizing on their platform for years. And while Facebook belatedly took steps to remove Holocaust deniers and QAnon conspiracy theorists from their platform, results have been, shall we say, uneven.

Now, this wasn't Facebook's intention. It was the result of the incentive structure. And the brutal reality that human beings are attracted to conflict and controversy and anger. Quote, our algorithms exploit the human brain's attraction to divisiveness, read a slide from a 2018 presentation. If left unchecked, it warned Facebook, users would get more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention and increase time on the platform.

With great power comes great responsibility, as we've been told. And it's clear that our laws have not kept pace with technology. And now we need to take steps to defend our democracy.

In Senate testimony scheduled to be given today by Miss Haugen, she says, when we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harms it caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action. I implore you to do the same here.

So, what can be done? Well, first, Facebook needs to be more transparent with its data. Algorithms should not promote radicalization or the spread of disinformation. There should be the same rules for political ads online as on TV. And as NYU's Jonathan Hyte (ph) recommends, there should be a requirement for users to verify their identity and age before opening an account. This would help decrease distortion of bots and trolls, as well as the psychological impact on kids by making Facebook actually enforce their minimum age requirements.

There's no silver bullet to stopping this toxic polarization of our society. James Madison warned that so strong is the propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities that the most frivolous and fanciful destructions have been sufficient to excite their most violent conflicts. Social media put these impulses on steroids.

Facebook's own employees are warning that something is very wrong in the way social media pumps up and profits off our divisions. We should listen and then take action. And that's your "Reality Check."

KEILAR: We'll see what that action is.

John Avlon, thank you.


BERMAN: So a federal judge sentencing a Capitol rioter rejected comparisons between the insurrection and some of the civil unrest that arose from last year's protest against racial inequality. The judge said, to compare the actions of people around the country protesting, mostly peacefully, for civil rights to a violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government is a false equivalency and downplays the very real danger that the crowd on January 6th posed to our democracy.

Just last week, a different judge, on the same court, suggested Capitol rioters have been treated more harshly, saying, quote, the U.S. attorney's office would have more credibility if it was even- handed in its concern about riots and the mobs in the city.

Joining us now is Don Lemon, host of "DON LEMON TONIGHT" and author of "This Is The Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism."

A tale of two judges, Mr. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "DON LEMON TONIGHT": One of them operating in reality.

Good morning, by the way.

KEILAR: Good morning.

LEMON: One of them operating in reality, the other one operating not so much in reality, because there is an "Associated Press" research study done that shows that those who were involved in the riots after George Floyd, I'm not talking about the protests, and even some of the protests, we have to distinguish between the protests and the riots. Two different things. But more than 300 people have been sentenced, very harshly, for what they did during those protests and riots.

And it's not the case when it comes to the Capitol riot. And there are judges who more than that one judge saying that these -- these people are being handed lenient sentences and wondering why prosecutors and the Justice Department, why they're not handing out harsher sentences for these people, are charging them with harsher crimes, because they were, in a -- in a -- essentially doing what, trying to undermine our democracy. And that is quite different than protesting because you are upset about something.

One is breaking the law from a lie, built on a lie, there was nothing about the election that was stolen or anything that was untoward. It was one of the most secure -- the most secure election in our nation's history. The other one was built on frustration and anger over what? A justice system that basically -- that is systemically racist towards people of color. That is the truth. The law shows that. The facts show that. And so one is a lie, built on a lie, the other one is built on -- out of frustration over a system that needs to be corrected.

Now, let me -- let me say this, no one should be rioting in this country. Everyone can peacefully protest. That is your right as an American citizen. But having said everything I said, no one should be rioting. But one is a total lie. And the other one is built out of frustration and built on actual facts.

KEILAR: There are many people who agree with the judge who conflates the two, right? They don't see the difference between riots, where someone is breaking into a shoe store and looting, and a riot where you have people entering the Capitol while Congress is in session certifying an election.

LEMON: One, a shoe can be replaced. And the vote is the value of a shoe. Again, no one should be doing it. No one should be stealing anything from anyone. The other one, can you replace a democracy? How do you fix a broken democracy? That is -- you can take a shoe and fix it or get another one, right, or an insurance policy can replace a shoe, an insurance policy cannot replace the democracy or fix our broken republic or fix racism or fix a lie that has been spread by one person and the people who enable him. So there's quite a difference.

I think the people who see the same, want to see the same. Again, not operating in reality. And if you look at the "Reality Check" of what John said, if you look at the reality check of having George Floyd's brother on and you see what's happening in the New York City Police Department, you see what's happening all over the country, again, people see what they want to see, and they allow their own racism to come to light.

We see it. We get it. But you don't want to see it and you don't want to get it.

So those who are saying that this is not systemic racism, there is no difference between those things, come on, you're not -- you're not working.

BERMAN: You say, how do we fix a broken democracy? How would fixing Facebook address that?

LEMON: Because it wouldn't allow -- it's not -- and people, you know, it's been so frustrating because everyone says, well, it's Facebook, Facebook. It's not just Facebook. It's all social media. It's Twitter. It's Instagram. It's the other, you know, Parlers or whoever it is that, you know, the sites that I don't go on. I try not to go on social media. I post thing that I want people to know about and then I move on. I don't read the comments. I don't, whatever, get trapped in that whole social media thing because -- because it allows lies to be spread unchecked.

So if we say something on this network that is not true, there are repercussions and ramifications, right? We face the consequences. If you do that on social media, there are no consequences. It's the wild, wild west. I can go on and say that you, you know, when was -- John, when was the last time you beat your wife, or any of those things on social media, and there are no consequences for it even though it is not true.


And it's not just someone coming up to you and screaming in your face and, you know, in public or whatever, it's spread around the world. And people believe those things, just like the big lie was spread around the world, in large part because of social media. And none of it is true.

Again, the election was not stolen. Just because people believe it doesn't mean it's not true. And it doesn't -- it doesn't mean that we should allow it in our society. We should not allow those things in our society. At the very least what we post on social media, what is posted on social media should be true.

BERMAN: So what is Facebook -- what is Facebook -- what is Facebook --

LEMON: And if it's not true, it should be taken -- take it down. If it's not true, take it down. If it's not true, don't allow people to put it up there. Have them face consequences. Have them -- if you're going to be on social media, you should put your real information on there so that if you say something that is not true, or that can be solved in a courtroom, can be fixed in a courtroom, then you should be able to face the consequences for it. It shouldn't just be bots out there spreading BS.

KEILAR: It was stunning, one of the revelation of Frances Haugen was how little of that information is actioned, right? On the violent and incitement language, it was like tenths of one percentage point, she said.

LEMON: Well, and, you know, I -- Facebook always says, well, you know, we walk a line between, you know, letting people -- you know, the free and fair flow of information. There are ways to do that. We figured out ways to do that. And most people in legacy media, not everybody in legacy media, because there are people and propaganda networks in legacy media that spread BS and don't face enough consequences.

But I do think that social media, just like any other media company, especially legacy media and traditional media, there should be -- they should -- they should face some sort of consequences. And they should be regulated. That's just -- and at the very least, what you put on there should be true. And if it's not true, then it should be actionable.

BERMAN: Don Lemon, thanks for getting up for us. It's always great. Come one.

KEILAR: Also for wearing this sweater. I love this sweater.

LEMON: Is this -- is this what you call -- I think it's called periwinkle. Is that what it is?

BERMAN: I'll take your word for it. KEILAR: You should more sweaters, Berman.

BERMAN: I should wear more periwinkle. I know. I knew you were headed there.

All right, Don --

LEMON: It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

BERMAN: We'll see you later.

You can watch "DON LEMON TONIGHT" in all colors at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.

CNN's coverage continues after this quick break.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Nice to have you in D.C. with me.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Erica Hill. Nice to be with you in D.C.