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New Day

Zuckerberg Responds to Whistleblower, Claims Don't Make Sense; Study Shows People With Substance Issues at Higher Breakthrough Risk; Power Lawyers Launch Complaint to Bar Over Coup Memo Author. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired October 06, 2021 - 07:00   ET



AARON BOONE, NEW YORK YANKEES MANAGER: The guys are crusher, you know? And tonight was another tough one to tonight was another tough one to take. And we've been through a lot of wars with guys in that room. And we have a lot of scars. So, guys are -- guys are bummed.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, and another long off-season there in the Bronx, haven't won a World Series since 2009. Aaron Boone's contract is up.

Your Red Sox meanwhile moving on to face the Rays. That series gets started tomorrow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Yes, the Red Sox aren't very good. But that doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is we beat the Yankees last night. Andy Scholes --

SCHOLES: Good enough to beat the Yankees though.

BERMAN: Exactly. Thank you, really. I mean it. Thank you.

New Day continues right now.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, October 6th.

And Zuckerberg speaks. Mark Zuckerberg breaking his silence on the damning testimony from employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen, accusing Facebook of putting profits before the safety of its users, including the youngest and most vulnerable.

In a letter to employees that he shared on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg says the company's work and motives have been mischaracterized and many of Haugen's allegations, quote, don't make any sense.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: And these comments that he made are coming just hours after Frances Haugen addressed Facebook's role in society and appealed to Congress for help.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy. The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional actions needed. They won't solve this crisis without your help.


BERMAN: All right. Joining us now is CNN Correspondent Donie O'Sullivan. Donie, I'm going to ask you to be a sort of human decodering here. Take me through item by item what Mark Zuckerberg said and sort of fact-check it for us.

So, he says, quote, if we wanted to hide our results, why establish would we have established an industry-leading standard for transparency and reporting on what we're doing?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, this was a very long essay he wrote last night on the platform. So, this is by far the most laughable claim. They are cherry-picking what research they release. The most obvious example of that came just a few weeks ago. Facebook put out a report about the most popular links on its platform in the second quarter of this year. An executive at the time had they brought it out said this makes us probably the most transparent platform on the internet. That report was for the second quarter.

What happened a few days later, we found out there was an actual report for the first quarter of this year but they shelved it because it made them look bad, because the top link on the platform was a piece of anti-vaccine misinformation. So, they are cherry-picking their research and now they're telling us that we are supposed believe them, take them at their word about their research.

BERMAN: Yes. Transparency isn't transparent when it's selective, as it were.

All right, he says, quote, if we didn't care about fighting harmful content, then why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other company in our space, even ones larger than us?

O'SULLIVAN: So, the number that Facebook likes to tell Congress, tens of thousands of people we have working on this. So many of the people they have working on their most -- their biggest issue, right, their content moderators.

They're not actual Facebook employees. They're contractors. They are paid nowhere near as well as a Facebook employee. They don't get all those free perks at the Facebook campus. So, if they really cared about this issue, if they really wanted to bring it up to that standard, why not spend that additional money, bring more people in- house, train them up to their own standard. Facebook would probably say, well, this is a scale issue. We cannot hire tens of thousands of people at once. But this issue has been on their platform for a decade now. What's delaying them?

BERMAN: All right. This is the third thing we want you to talk about here. Zuckerberg writes, the argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content. I don't know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed. The moral, business and product incentives all point in the opposite direction. They say they're not trying to make people angry to make money.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. I mean, of course, no platform is going out there building to do this. The reality though is for some advertiser, because Facebook -- for some of them, the only show in town because Facebook owns WhatsApp, they own Instagram, they own the Facebook platform itself.


Some advertisers feel they have nowhere else to go. And advertisers have also spoken out before. There was this stop hate for profit campaign last year.

And finally, I mean, this also comes down to a perception issue, right? I mean, advertisers -- I don't think a lot of advertisers know the half of what is happening on Facebook. And Facebook has a whole P.R. department pushing, downplaying the numbers on hate speech, everything that is on their platform. So it is also public perception.

BERMAN: Finally, Donie, Zuckerberg writes, we have an industry- leading research program still that we can identify important issues and work on them. It is disheartening to see that work taken out of context and used to construct a false narrative that we don't care.

O'SULLIVAN: He should spend more time on his own platform. Senator Blumenthal in his office did an experiment last week, which we replicated, set up an Instagram account as a 13-year-old girl, followed a few accounts about eating disorders and things like that, dieting, and Instagram's algorithm. The algorithm that Zuckerberg controls is pounding that account now with suggestions, more and more and more pro-eating disorder, pro-anorexia accounts to a 13-year-old girl's account.

BERMAN: Donie, I really appreciate this. I think it's very helpful. Because, oftentimes, people hearing this back and forth, oh, Facebook big, Facebook bad, but they don't understand the specifics of what is being alleged that they are doing that is either bad or wrong here. And I think you make it very clear. Thank you so much for your continued reporting on this.


KEILAR: Joining us now to talk more is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. He is the chair of the subcommittee that held the hearing with the Facebook whistleblower yesterday. His staff is the one that put together that experiment with an account posing as a 13-year-old girl.

Senator, thank you for being with us.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: So, you heard Zuckerberg's response. What do you think?

BLUMENTHAL: I think it is, number one, as John said so well, he's advocating selective transparency. If you look at the thousands of pages of documents they convincingly support the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, who was so compelling, incredibly, yesterday.

What she set forth essentially shows how Facebook is amplifying and weaponizing hate speech, disinformation, but also the anxieties and insecurities of teenagers, girls, negative self-image, eating disorders, online bullying. It's all there. And he ought to spend more time looking at the platform, as many of his own staff well know. And I'm hoping there are other whistleblowers out there and more documents. We can't count on Mark Zuckerberg to tell us the truth. He has lost all trust, if he ever had any.

KEILAR: If you want him spending more time on this problem, he spent Monday on a sailboat, the day between the whistleblower's 60 Minutes interview and her Senate testimony. What does that say to you?

BLUMENTHAL: What it says to me is very directly and bluntly, he would rather avoid these problems. His M.O. is essentially no acknowledgment, no admissions, no apologies, no action, nothing to see here, I'm out sailing. Well, apparently he's now back from sailing, and I think they're beginning to realize they have a big tobacco moment on their hands.

I was involved and helped to lead the states in suing the big tobacco companies. And I remember well that light bulb moment, a jaw-dropping time when we discovered all of the files of the big tobacco companies, how they knew of the harm they were causing, the toxic products and the denial suddenly were dispelled. And I think Facebook faces the same moment of reckoning and a moment of truth.

So, I think he's back from sailing but he has not yet discovered he has to come clean. And we will be asking him to come testify before our subcommittee. If he has disagreements with Frances Haugen or the whistleblower, if he wants to explain these documents, thousands of them, his own research, his own reports that show how they are putting profits ahead of people and endangering children, he should come tell it to our committee and to the American people himself.

KEILAR: And when will that be? Is that for certain?

BLUMENTHAL: I hope he will be coming in the next weeks, maybe in a month or so. We're going to invite him, ask him to come. I can't tell you whether he will accept. But I think Mark Zuckerberg has an obligation to tell the American people himself, not just in this message to his employees.


And there is a profoundly important point here, which is kids are in danger every day from that bullying, from the pitches to them, content pushed by a black box algorithm. Mark Zuckerberg is the algorithm designer in chief. He knows how it works but he is hiding it. He won't let anyone else have access to it outside the company.

KEILAR: You got a little attention during this hearing. You know the moment I'm talking about. Let's watch this.


BLUMENTHAL: Will you commit to ending fintsa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't actually to finsta.


KEILAR: I had a moment like this myself, Senator, when I first learned what it was, a fake Instagram account. It's sort of like a shadow Instagram account that the youngens used, right? There has been fall out, judgment of you for saying that. What is your response to it?

BLUMENTHAL: I took a little ribbing online. The internet had a laugh. My kids had a laugh. And I had a laugh. But we created a fake Instagram account. So, certainly, I know what finsta is and I explained it in the first part of that hearing, as people later acknowledged.

And I think the real point here is, and it's a deadly serious point, that kids are creating these fake accounts hidden from their parents. And it is the exactly kind of account for a 13-year-old that we created and who expressed interest in weight loss and eating disorders and she was deluged within 24 hours, flooded with content about eating disorders and self-injury.

That's the algorithm at work. That is the perfect storm. The words Mark Zuckerberg's own researchers used, perfect storm to exacerbate downward spirals. Girls look at themselves in the mirror and compare themselves to those images that are carefully Photoshopped and prepared and feel perhaps anxiety and bad about themselves. Well, Mark Zuckerberg ought to look at himself in the mirror.

KEILAR: Before I let you go, are Democrats going to suspend the filibuster to increase the debt ceiling?

BLUMENTHAL: I'm in favor of abolishing the filibuster. And I was 1 of 12 who voted to abolish the filibuster --

KEILAR: But right now, we know that's not what is going to happen. But in this specific case of just doing it for the debt ceiling, is that going to happen?

BLUMENTHAL: I would never predict what will happen. I will be in favor of doing it.

KEILAR: You are in favor of doing it. All right, Senator, thank you so much. This is such a crucial time in this discussion about social media and Facebook. We really appreciate you making the time.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: All right. Just in to CNN, a disturbing report from the CDC. It says the U.S. has recorded the biggest homicide rate spike in modern history.

CNN's Ryan Young joins us live with the details here. We knew 2020 -- this was last year, we knew 2020 was bad, now we know just how bad.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, John. We knew 2020 was tough. It shows you how critical this violence was across America, actually. When we talk to police chiefs, they tell you how difficult 2020 was when you think about the fact, the increase in gun violence and then you add on COVID, which COVID killed more police officers across the country than anything else in recent memory. When you think about that, this is a large increase since 2001 during September 11th. And, obviously, so many people have died during that tragedy.

And when you think about this, over 22,000 homicides, when you show these numbers, you can see the increase from 2019, that 30 percent increase, you can see it was about 6 homicides per 100,000. In 2020, we moved to 7.8 homicides per 100,000. And then when you think about the suicide number, this was sort of a surprise. Suicides actually dropped between 2019 and 2020. It was 13.9 suicides per 100,000. And in 2020, it was 13.5 suicides per 100,000.

But, John, as we traveled across the country, we were talking to police chiefs about the gun violence in this country. They were worried about exactly what they were seeing. Sometimes homicide detectives were working so much that they barely had time to clear a case before they faced another one.

Something to note here though, there were three states that actually saw a drop in their homicide numbers. That was Maine, New Mexico and Alaska. So, those three states saw a drop. And as you talk about this critical threat to the entire nation when it comes to homicides, police departments across country have been implementing new plans to sort of go after violent criminals.

And they are hoping that some of that will sort of stem the violence that's on the streets. But when you see the numbers on the increase, you can understand why some people were worried about the violence that we were seeing just last year.



BERMAN: Some signs it may be slowing down. Let's hope. Ryan Young, thank you so much for that report. So, what could put you at higher risk for a breakthrough COVID infection? The results of a new study, next.

KEILAR: Plus, an ESPN host suspended after making controversial comments about President Obama.

And the committee investigating the Capitol riot wants to subpoena one of Trump's former aides. There's a big problem though. They can't find him.


KEILAR: Just in, a new study says that people with substance abuse disorders are at a higher risk from coronavirus. Researchers found that smokers, drinkers, people who use marijuana are all at higher risk of breakthrough infections, and that's even if they're fully vaccinated.


CNN's Elizabeth Cohen with us now on this. This is a really interesting finding.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. We've talked a lot about, Brianna, what puts people more at risk for having COVID-19, but this is different. These are folks who are all vaccinated. And what put them at higher risk for getting COVID-19, it was abusing substances.

So let's take a look at what this study found. They found that people who did not have substance abuse problems and were vaccinated that they had a breakthrough infection rate of 3.6 percent, people who are fully vaccinated and abuse tobacco, 6.8 percent, people with cannabis use disorder, 7.8 percent. So you can see it really is quite a bit higher.

It's not entirely clear why. Some of it might be that people who abuse alcohol or drugs often have other health problems that go along with it, but that doesn't totally explain it. It might be with smoking or with marijuana, the damage is being done to the lungs or possibly also the immune system. Brianna?

BERMAN: So, Elizabeth, HHS, we are seeing now, is releasing a new set of advertisements today that takes a little bit of a different approach to convince Americans to get vaccinated. What are they doing?

COHEN: That's right, John. This is a CNN exclusive. At 9:00 this morning, HHS, the Department of Health and Human Services, will be released ads that are very different from anything than they have done before. The agency has been trying to get people vaccinated and they've been doing up until this point by saying, get vaccinated and hug your friends again. Get vaccinated, get back to normal.

That worked to some extent, but nearly one out of every four Americans has not been vaccinated yet. So they decided to try a different tactic. And, really, it involves fear. Let's take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRELL, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: I've been in the hospital for 76 days now. And by the grace of God, I'm still here. It was a lot of dark times. I died three times. They gave me a 5 percent chance of living.

AMANDA, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: I got COVID. I was intubated and in a coma for 11 days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A few months ago, I contracted the delta variant COVID-19. I haven't been the same man since. I went from being a man who loved to play outside with his children and exercise to a man who barely has enough energy to make it through the day.


COHEN: So those are real people. Those are not actors. And HHS is hoping that when people who have not been vaccinated see this, it will encourage them to go get vaccinated so that they don't end up in this situation.

All three of those people, none of them were vaccinated at the time that they got sick. Again, this is an effort to convince the one out of four Americans who still, despite 700,000 deaths in this country, still has not gotten even a single shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

KEILAR: Look, it's sad but it's true. They're revealing what they have been through. And a lot of those revelations, people see themselves in those folks and connect with that.

I do want to ask you about third doses of the vaccine. The FDA's top official said yesterday, well, side effects from a third dose are similar to the second. There is actually a swollen lymph node situation that may be more frequent. What is this?

COHEN: That's right. So, Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA said yesterday, you know what, we have been following this and we have noticed something. We have noticed that after a third toes, people are more likely to get swollen lymph nodes under their arms.

And so this is not anything to worry about. It's not anything dangerous. And it is not like it happened to a ton of people. It was just more common than after the second dose. So they go away, they're not terribly painful or anything.

We do have one interesting piece of advice. He said if a woman is about to go out and get a mammogram, she might not want to do it right at the time of a booster dose because then the mammogram might get kind of confused and see the swollen lymph nodes and kind of wonder what's going on. And so it's better to wait and get a mammogram a bit before or a bit after that third dose.

KEILAR: Okay. So, it's swollen underarms that do subside, right, Elizabeth? That's what you're saying?

COHEN: Exactly. And think about what you're gaining. You're gaining protection against COVID-19. The two can't even be prepared.

KEILAR: All right, don't be alarmed, folks. Okay, Elizabeth, thank you so much for that.

BERMAN: So, this morning, a bipartisan group of prominent lawyers, legal scholars and public officials are calling for an investigation into John Eastman. He is the former Trump lawyer who tried to convince former Vice President Mike Pence in that memo that Pence had the power to overturn the results of the 2020 election, a blueprint to overthrow the election results, and he wrote it all down.

Joining us now is Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey and co-Chair of the United States United Democracy Center, the group that filed this complaint against Eastman. Governor, thank you so much for being with us.

What is the basis of your complaint and what action do you want to see taken?


CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, STATES UNITED DEMOCRACY CENTER, FILED COMPLAINT AGAINST EASTMAN: Well, the basis of the complaint is that John Eastman did prima facie in flagrant violation of his ethical obligations as a lawyer by filing false claims and promoting them, actually advising a client to violate the Constitution, the constitutional parameters of what he could and couldn't do, meaning the vice president at the time telling him that he had the right to declare and who won this election by choosing which electors he would support.

This is -- goes against every ethical standard that you have in the legal profession. And until people are held accountable for this, we're going to continue to see these kinds of frivolous, fraudulent lawsuits go forward, which are all an effort to undermine the public's confidence in our electoral system.

And everything we have seen, the 2020 election was as free, fair, secure, accurate as any election we've had, with an incredible number of people voting in the midst of the pandemic with an administration that had been saying for months prior to the election that it was going to be fraud and watch out, it was going to be bad. And if they lost it could only be that way.

So, what we are saying is that the bar in California should -- we are following an ethics complaint or asking them to look at an ethics complaint because we think it is pretty obvious on the face of it that John Eastman overstepped his bounds, ignored his oath of office and his responsibility as an officer of the court and that his actions can only undermine people's feeling of security in our legal process and we need to stop it.

It's tying up the courts. It is costing money, the taxpayers' money. And it's to no good end because there is no there, there, as he well knew when he filed these various opinions and encouraged his clients to do things that he knew were illegal. BERMAN: You think he should lose his law license?

WHITMAN: Well, I mean, he could, and probably should. I mean, you know that some of the judges that heard the 60 cases that were brought to try to overthrow the outcomes in various states all were thrown out. And, in fact, because there was no there, there, by judges who some of whom have been appointed by Trump, they're Republican or Democrat appointees. But at least one said that the lawyer who brought the case should be sanctioned and that the Bar Association should look at it.

And that's going to be up to this California bar as to how they handle it and what kind of punishments that they mete out. But, frankly, until we start doing that, Rudy Giuliani lost his license over something else but all around this time and everything he was involved in. But until we start doing this, we are not going to have the accountability we need to ensure that our elections continue to be secure and that we are not just setting ourselves up for an easy ability to contest and call for the overthrow of returns in the 2022 and 2024 elections, and that's what this is about.

BERMAN: Let me ask you quickly about a related subject here, which is the January 6th committee. It wants to give a subpoena to Dan Scavino, who was former President Trump's Twitter guy, because Scavino presumably was with Trump all day on January 6th, and may have some information about what was done and not done by the former president. They want to issue a subpoena to him but they can't find him. So, what do you make of that?

WHITMAN: It has been extraordinary how many of those Trump officials have ignored subpoenas. You have somebody testifying that he was issued a subpoena two years ago. You cannot ignore the law. They will find him eventually and they will serve the subpoena. But this idea that somehow some people are above the law is a very dangerous precedent.

BERMAN: Governor Christine Todd Whitman, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

WHITMAN: My pleasure.

BERMAN: Just ahead, the sports anchor pulled off the air after remarks about race, vaccines and women.

KEILAR: And the Trump aide that the January 6th committee can't even find to subpoena.