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Conspiracies Evident Among Trump Supporters At Iowa Rally; CNN Interviews William Shatner And Crew Before Space Flight; Survivors Livid Over Video Game Featuring Iraq's Bloodiest Battle. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 11, 2021 - 07:30   ET




AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The Cathedral's dean called it provocative but said it was about a conversion through love and was only meant to boost dialogue between modern culture and the church.

The archbishop, in a statement, condemned the scenes, adding he was completely unaware of the project.


LISA FRANCE, CNN SENIOR ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER (on camera): This is Lisa Respers France.

Adele is back. The British singer previewed a small clip of her new single "Easy On Me" on her Instagram stories and fans are already in love.

Adele told "Vogue" she has been trying to find her happy since her 2019 divorce, so everyone is expecting an intense, emotional journey with her forthcoming album. This will be her first since her last album "25," which was released in 2015.



Clip from "Squid Game" on Netflix.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: "Squid Game," set to be the biggest hit ever, period, on Netflix. It's also, though, sparked a warning about violence. The show is about desperate adults playing childhood games, like red light, green light, for money, but the losers die.

A school in Belgium says the show has inspired some children playing the game to punch the losers. Officials are asking parents to help stop the problem.

Donald Trump held a rally in Iowa over the weekend and comments from some of his supporters are really raising eyebrows. Let's listen.


RICH THOMAS, ATTENDED IOWA RALLY: Dear Mr. President, Donald J. Trump, I have come to deliver legal documents to you so that you can give them to your legal team, period. Our king, Jesus Christ, has spoken to put you back in your office at the White House now. Capeesh? Sincerely, Rich Thomas.

LORI LEVY, ATTENDED IOWA RALLY: We're not going to take it anymore. I see a civil war coming -- I do. I see civil war coming, especially with his mandates.


KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss this is Mark McKinnon. He was a chief adviser to the George W. Bush and John McCain campaigns, and he is currently a co-host of "THE CIRCUS" on Showtime.

You know, Mark, you listen to what the supporters of Donald Trump say and the whole backdrop of this is that Facebook -- really, we've learned -- is continuing to amplify this. That really doesn't seem to go away. It seems like these are the kinds of opinions that are just going to keep growing.

Where does that leave us?

MARK MCKINNON, CHIEF MEDIA ADVISER TO THE GEORGE W. BUSH AND JOHN MCCAIN CAMPAIGNS, CO-HOST, "THE CIRCUS" ON SHOWTIME: Well, it doesn't leave us in a very good position. I mean, the disinformation amplifiers cranked up to 11 and it's going up to 12.

And you can see if supporters are talking about Jesus Christ and civil war hand-in-hand -- you usually don't think about Jesus and civil war together, but when you do, what you get is an insurrection at the Capitol. And if that's what happened last time, imagine what could happen next time if things are just getting worse.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, there might only be one person on earth who's cooler than Mark McKinnon and that would be George Clooney. And this is arguable, right? I mean, that's -- you know, it's close.

Clooney talked to the BBC and this is what he had to say about President Biden's current struggles and also, Donald Trump.


GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR AND DIRECTOR: It's like taking a battered child and thinking he's going to -- everything's going to be OK and, you know, his first day in school. There's a lot of things that have to be repaired.

You know, he's going to be -- he's going to be a factor for a while.

It's so funny because, you know, he was just this knucklehead. I knew him before he was a president. He was just a guy who was chasing girls. Every time he went out, he'd come over and be like what's the name of that girl? That's all he was.

And the idea that there's this whole group of people that -- you know, that they think he's the champion of which he certainly can't stand in real life. But, you know, he's going to -- you know, he's going to play this out for a while.


BERMAN: So, there was a lot in there, Mark, actually. At the end, he said two things, one of which had to do with what we were just talking about. There's a group of people who are just devoted to him -- blindly devoted to the former president at this point.

But then he said something you hear from time to time where he doesn't think that Donald Trump even cares about these people.

MCKINNON: Well, I mean, that's the great irony. He's supposed to be a man of the people and came down the golden elevator in Trump Tower and you couldn't imagine a billionaire real estate developer. And yet, he has a stranglehold on sort of the quote "middle class" of America -- but he does.


And that's the real -- you know, I think the Republican Party is clawing its way to the bottom with Donald Trump. And I thought that this election was a real opportunity to move forward and not look in the rearview mirror.

I know from campaigns that the way you win future campaigns is to look forward, not backwards and not play the last play. But clearly, the Republican Party now is dedicated and is doubling down with Donald Trump. And that's going to be the future of the Republican Party and I see that as a real problem not only for our party but for our country.

KEILAR: I mean, you see -- we played some of the sound of his supporters there at his rally in Iowa. But you see the people who are elected officials -- Republicans who were there supporting him -- Chuck Grassley, the governor, the chair of the Iowa Republicans.

You know, where does this end, and how long does it take to get there for Republicans -- or does it end?

MCKINNON: Well, that's what's -- again, that's what's so depressing to me as a former compassionate conservative Republican. There's no place for people like us in the party anymore.

Look at Ohio -- Rob Portman, who was a very centrist, reasonable Republican. Now, everybody is literally trying to see who can be Trumpier than the next person.

So, the future of the party is clearly with Trump and that's what's depressing to me. It's not so much Trump himself but it's the Trump enablers, like Chuck Grassley, who know better.

BERMAN: But, back to George Clooney. Let's get back to the important stuff if we can here.

MCKINNON: Yes -- thank you, George.

BERMAN: He told us about his political future. Let's listen.


ANDREW MARR, BBC ONE HOST, "THE ANDREW MARR SHOW": Do you ever see yourself, like some other actors, going into politics?

CLOONEY: No, no. No, because I actually would like to have a nice life -- and I'm 60 and I can still play basketball and still do the things I love. But in 20 years, I'll be 80 and that's a real number. It doesn't matter how much you work out; it doesn't matter how -- what you eat, you're 80. And so, I said we have to make sure we enjoy and live these years in the best possible way.


BERMAN: I mean, if you can't get a guy like Clooney to run, does this just show, Mark, that good people aren't getting into politics anymore? I jest. Look, I don't think George Clooney -- I think George Clooney is living his best life and probably doesn't want to get into politics. He doesn't need it and he may have things in his past he doesn't want brought up.

But the larger issue of -- are we getting the best possible people to run these days?

MCKINNON: Well, Clooney is just a great example of a healthy human being. Who in their right mind would run for politics in this environment, which suggests that people who are not in their right mind are the only people running for office?

And that's -- again, that's what -- you know, I'm a prisoner of hope and I'm going to keep -- you know, it's a -- it's a really steep hill and a big rock but I'm going to keep pushing. And I hope lots of other Americans will, too, who believe in our democracy -- will keep fighting the good fight. But, man, I'll tell you what. Even though I'm a prisoner of hope, this cell is getting really dark.

BERMAN: Finally -- and the Boston Marathon is today. It's supposed to be on Patriot's Day in April. But in honor of the Boston Marathon and the Red Sox' traumatic 13th-inning walk-off victory last night --

MCKINNON: That's great (ph).

BERMAN: -- I do want to ask you a matter of parochial interest.

And this is about the mayor's race in Boston, and it's going to make history. There's going to be a woman who is elected mayor in a minority for the first time ever, in either case, in the city of Boston. And one of the two candidates, Annissa Essaibi George -- I want you to listen to how she sounds here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANNISSA ESSAIBI GEORGE (D), BOSTON MAYORAL CANDIDATE: And I'll be the teacher and the mother, and the mayor that's going to get it done.


BERMAN: All right. There are actually some better clips out there, too.

She's got a really thick Boston accent -- like, really thick. And it's interesting because she's the child of Polish and Tunisian immigrants -- Arab and Polish. Her opponent is Asian, from Chicago. So we're seeing something completely different and new in Boston. Yet, she's really leaning into the Boston accent there to show that she has a connection, I think, to the working-class roots in the city.

How much does something like that matter?

MCKINNON: Oh, it's huge. I mean, not only does she walk the walk she talks the talk, right? Welcome to Madam Mayor.

And it's -- the most important thing in politics these days is if you can communicate some sense of authenticity. You can't fake that accent and if you do, you're out. I remember when Hillary Clinton adopted a southern accent when she went to the south.

But that's the real deal and that just says to people she's one of us -- she's from here.

KEILAR: It is a fascinating part of that race. I know you say a parochial interest but I think it's sort of some -- everyone loves talking about the Boston accent. It's just so unique.

Mark, it is great to have you here this morning, and thank you for coming on.

MCKINNON: Thank you -- kick it.

BERMAN: So, a video game based on a real-life battle angers some of the people who actually lived through it.

KEILAR: Plus, how does "STAR TREK's" William Shatner feel about going into space for real this week? Yes, that's happening. A new interview just in to CNN, next.



BERMAN: T.J. Hooker is going to space. William Shatner will be part of the four-person crew on a Blue Origin space flight that's slated to launch on Wednesday now. At 90, Shatner, who also did some space acting, will be one of the oldest people -- will be the single-oldest person ever to travel to space.

CNN's Erica Hill got to speak with Shatner and his crew --not Adrian Zmed and Heather Locklear, but the crew of Blue Origin. ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BERMAN: And she joins us now with how he's feeling this morning.

HILL: We're going to work on that reunion for a separate segment --


HILL: -- because I know how --

BERMAN: That's everything to me.

HILL: -- much you love T.J. Hooker. So, we'll get right on that.

But while we're waiting, this isn't so bad. What I found really remarkable about William Shatner in some of these interviews is he's been really candid about how he's feeling. You don't hear the astronauts say you know, I'm a little terrified, I'm a little anxious. He is.

And so, I asked him -- and now that there's a weather delay of another day, how is it for him sitting with those feelings. Here's what he said.


WILLIAM SHATNER, 90-YEAR-OLD ACTOR SET TO BE OLDEST PERSON TO TRAVEL TO SPACE: I feel comfortable, but I'm also uncomfortable. I'm -- I'll be very happy when we go up and we're in weightlessness and we know we're safe because everything else should be alright, and we have that moment of inspiration, which I feel will be there when we're looking into the vastness of the -- of the universe.



HILL: He's pretty awesome. I've got to -- I mean, I have to say, you're sitting there and he's 90 years old. He looks phenomenal. I want to look like that now --

BERMAN: Phenomenal.

HILL: -- at 45. He's 90.

But he -- you know, he is genuinely really, really excited about it, and a little nervous.

BERMAN: He looks amazing.

What about the other paying astronauts?

HILL: So, some of them -- it's interesting -- are really looking at this more as -- they're not really looking at it as "space tourism" quote-unquote, but as more of mission, each for their own separate reasons. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS BOSHUIZEN, FORMER NASA ENGINEER, CO-FOUNDER, PLANET LABS: I'm really excited to be part of this journey. And I think in another 60 years we'll look back at this -- this week, this year -- and say this is when the human race finally began to move into space.

GLEN DE VRIES, VICE-CHAIR OF LIFE SCIENCES AND HEALTHCARE, DASSAULT SYSTEMES: I don't know exactly how space technology and people going into space is going to change society, but I know that it is going to. And I know that the faster we get more people up there and do things like what we're doing at Blue, the faster we'll make that technology and those benefits available to people all over the planet.


HILL: You know, they're in -- Chris Boshuizen was saying, too, he has wanted to be an astronaut since he was four but couldn't do it. And he has really dedicated his life to also getting kids excited about STEM. So for him, this is a big moment in that respect, too.

But, it's just interesting to see their takes. I mean, he kind of lobbied hard, right? William Shatner gets the call. He's been like hey, can I go because this is his life's dream.

BERMAN: Do they consider themselves astronauts?

HILL: It's a good question. I was talking with our correspondent, Kristin Fisher, about this on Friday -- you know, with a little prep for this interview -- and that's sort of a point of -- I don't know if I would say a point of contention but up for debate. So I asked them what they thought.


SHATNER: A small -- a small A, followed by two S's. It's a little jeopardizing, you might say.

AUDREY POWERS, VICE PRESIDENT OF MISSION AND FLIGHT OPERATIONS, BLUE ORIGIN: I'll take the astronaut title. I would very much appreciate being held in that -- in that club.


HILL: We're going to give Audrey the capital A, but William Shatner very clear he's the small a-double-s kind of astronaut.

BERMAN: He's the best.

HILL: He's -- yes. It's super fun.

BERMAN: All right, I'm all in.

HILL: You're all in.

BERMAN: I'm so -- I'm so happy for him. HILL: We have a little bit more that -- we didn't show you all of this -- so, coming up a little bit later this morning. Because look, there's also some questions about this letter by 21 current and former employees raising safety concerns about Blue Origin. So I asked if that's giving some of them pause before this flight. Tune in and you'll find out.

BERMAN: Stay tuned.

HILL: We call it a tease, J.B.

BERMAN: Deep tease.

Erica, thank you so much.

KEILAR: Just ahead, breaking news on a new pill to treat people infected with COVID. Could this be a game changer?

BERMAN: Plus, survivors calling out the company that turned Iraq's bloodiest battle into a game.



BERMAN: A U.S. official says talks between the U.S. and the Taliban have been candid and professional. The two-day meeting in Doha focused on security and terrorism concerns, the rights of women and girls, as well as evacuations from Afghanistan. The Afghan delegation is reported to also have described the discussions as positive.

The weekend talks were the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August. Neither the U.S. nor the Taliban have said if any agreements were reached.

KEILAR: Some Iraq war survivors are upset about an upcoming video game that is based on the life-or-death experiences that they faced for real. "Six Days in Fallujah" is based on the battle -- the second battle of Fallujah in 2004, widely regarded as the U.S.'s toughest urban battle since Vietnam.

The companies behind the game say that "Some people believe video games shouldn't tackle real-life events to these people. Video games seem more like toys than a medium capable of communicating something insightful. We disagree.

Throughout history, we've tried to understand our world through events that happened to somebody else. Six Days in Fallujah asks you to solve these real-life challenges for yourself. We believe that trying to do something for ourselves can help us understand not just what happened, but why it happened the way it did. Video games can connect us in ways other media cannot."

Joining me now is an Iraq War survivor, Najla Abdulelah, who is with me. Najla, I know you disagree very much with that statement coming from

the game's makers. Tell me why you are opposing the release of this video game.

NAJLA BASSIM ABDULELAH, IRAQ WAR SURVIVOR (via Webex by Cisco): Yes, absolutely. Thank you for having me.

So, I believe this game absolutely gamifies traumatic experiences for profit. It's a very despicable form of exploitation and it puts people like me not only in danger of facing our past traumas in a very live way but also with a possible threat of future violence against us when it -- when this game is lumping people that look like me as possible insurgents, as well as civilians.

It's a very damaging way of looking at experiences that happened to real-life people. This is very recent history and the idea of this game being released is just -- it's beyond mortifying to me.

KEILAR: You know, to be clear, you were not there during the time of the Battle of Fallujah, but violence from the Iraq War was part of your daily life, right? You were walking alongside --


KEILAR: -- your friend on the way to school when your friend was shot.

ABDULELAH: I grew up in Iraq. I was born and raised there and I came to the U.S. in 2008. However, I was not there for that specific war.

But as you mentioned, I did experience some severely traumatic experiences, one of which was my -- a friend of mine being shot and paralyzed from the waist down while -- you know, while we were in school. It was just a casual day and we all had to go back to class after it.


There was no time to digest what happened. There was no time to understand what had just taken place. No time to even understand the trauma you. You just had to continue on.

And this game will merely open up these wounds in such a way that is just absolutely absurd. No Iraqi has been consulted, to my knowledge, about this game. And if there were enough people consulted, this game would not be coming about.

KEILAR: The makers of this game say that they did consult, I believe with Iraqis, and they collaborated. Here -- let me tell you what they say. They say that they collaborated with more than 100 service members who were there during the Battle of Fallujah. And they interviewed dozens of Iraqis -- a number of them from Fallujah. And they're trying to make a case that this is a chance for people to learn.

But you don't see it that way. I know you have concerns about what this will mean for how people view Muslims. What are your fears?

ABDULELAH: Like I mentioned, if -- you know, a larger sample would have to be tested for this kind of game. A couple of dozen people do not represent 20 million people that have suffered through the traumas of the Iraq War. The Iraq War, as a whole, has a lot more -- a lot more to it than just the opinion of a mere two dozen people.

I do think Islamophobia, while it's on the rise, will also be impacted severely with this game. It'll paint my face as a possible insurgent, as a possible civilian. You'll never look at one person and assume they're either/or. It'll add that layer of this is a possible threat, and that is mortifying to me. That is very scary.

KEILAR: In this particular game -- and look, I'll tell -- I watched the trailer for it. It is -- it seems incredibly realistic. But they say that gamers can choose between being a U.S. serviceman who is leading a team on missions against insurgents. And in the trailer, that is very much the role that is emphasized. There's also an option to be an unarmed Iraqi father who is trying to escape with his family to safety and players hear narratives from real people.

I mean, what do you think, in the end, the gamers who participate in this game will be looking for?

ABDULELAH: I'm not sure exactly what they would be looking for but this, to me, just screams exploitation of trauma. I mean, it's just -- I can't even begin to think why anybody would want to play that game, let alone to -- for it to be made, it's just -- it baffles me, honestly. I don't understand why anybody would want to play it.

I strongly urge the makers to shelf the game. And if they do end up putting it out, then I strongly urge the public to not buy it -- to not partake.

KEILAR: Najla, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

ABDULELAH: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: NEW DAY continues right now.

BERMAN: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, October 11th. This is a special holiday edition of NEW DAY.

And we have breaking news in the battle against COVID. This is a pill that might be able to treat the virus. Drugmaker Merck announced this morning that it has applied for emergency use authorization for a new antiviral drug. This is something you would take if you get COVID. Vaccines are still super important to keep you from getting infected, but if you get infected this is a pill you could take that could help you get better in theory.

The company says it cuts hospitalizations and deaths in half for people with mild to moderate disease.

KEILAR: Now, if this antiviral pill is approved, it would be the first oral medicine to fight COVID infections, and it could help restore all of our lives back to normal, right? That is a big hope.

So let's get right to Elizabeth Cohen with the breaking details on this. Can it deliver on what we would all like, which is some normalcy?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think this pill in and of itself, Brianna, is going to deliver our normalcy. I think it is part of the puzzle -- part of, sort of, our arsenal that can help get us back to normal. A lot of that is about getting vaccinated, which as you just said, that's the best way to go. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

But this pill does really seem, according to data from Merck that has not yet been published -- it does really seem to work -- and it's a pill. Right now, if you were to call your doctor and say doc, I was just diagnosed with COVID. I'm not in the hospital. What can you get me? The only thing at this point, really, is monoclonal antibodies and that involves an infusion or shots -- very complicated.

So, let's take a look at this pill that, hopefully, your doctor will be able to call in if you were to be diagnosed with COVID.

So, Merck put it to the test with 762 clinical trial participants -- again, in early stages. They were not in the hospital. And the half of them that took a placebo -- 45 of them, over time, were hospitalized and eight died. The half that got the actual drug -- only 28 were hospitalized and none --