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Al Franken is Interviewed about Biden's Economic Troubles; Archbishop Defies Pope; Family Misses Wedding due to Southwest Chaos. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 14, 2021 - 08:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Where it's going. So this is a big deal

Amara, thank you, live for us from Savannah.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, supply chain bottleneck, inflation. Look, President Biden and the White House facing a whole heap of issues, and it has some Democrats worried.

Joining me now, former Democratic Senator Al Franken. He is now the host of "The Al Franken Podcast" and currently on tour with his show "The Only Former U.S. Senator Currently on Tour" tour.


BERMAN: I said Democrats -- I said Democrats are getting nervous. You see inflation numbers which are higher than they've been in a long time. You see these supply chain backups where you hear Christmas in jeopardy, even though retailers --

FRANKEN: Hanukkah more -- is more in jeopardy.

BERMAN: They're both in jeopardy right now. Equal opportunity jeopardy here.

And you see the Democratic agenda stalled, at least for now, or we're waiting to see what happens with infrastructure and the stimulus bill.

As a Democrat, how nervous are you, scale of one to 10, 10 being the highest?

FRANKEN: I am nervous -- it depends what I'm nervous -- what you're asking specifically about. On this stuff, about a three or a four.

First of all, on the Build Back Better, it's going to get done. It is, because they have to get it done. So whether -- I'd like to see it sooner, and I'd like to see things that -- people really like what's in the package. If you ask Americans what's in it, they like child care, they like Medicare being able to negotiate with pharmaceuticals so it will bring pharmaceutical prices down. We pay two to three times as much as Europeans do for our pharmaceuticals that we produce. They like Pre-K. They want kids, three and four-year-olds, to be able to go to school. There is so much in this package that -- and what I don't like is when we refer to it as the reconciliation package instead of the elements of it, because the elements are so popular. And I don't know whether it's -- where between 1.5 and 3.5 it's going to land, but it's going to land and we're going to get it done. So that I'm optimistic about.

BERMAN: It's interesting you talk about this in this way because we have a brand-new poll at CNN where we asked people about this and we asked them how it will it impact their live if it's passed, the measures that the Biden administration wants to get passed. And better off is 25 percent. Worse off is 32 percent. About the same is 43 percent. So only 25 percent of people think, in the end, any of this is going to change their lives.

FRANKEN: That's -- I do believe that's because it's -- in the news it's called the reconciliation package and the -- it's all about Manchin and Sinema versus -- are they going to get the -- as opposed to what's in it.

BERMAN: Well, is that our fault or is that Democrats' fault or the White House's fault for not making a bigger deal about what's in it?

FRANKEN: All of your fault.

BERMAN: Well, I'm here with you talking about it.


BERMAN: But, no, look, are they talking about it enough? Are they doing a good enough sales job?

FRANKEN: I do think it is being covered in the news media as a reconciliation package and I -- of course, Democrat -- Democrats aren't the best at messaging, like all our bumper stickers and with continued on next bumper sticker, you know? So perhaps it's on us.

But the elements of this are great. And I do believe that once people see what -- what -- what has passed when we pass it, they will be very happy about it because this is going to be -- you know, free community and technical college is really important. It gets job training for people who otherwise wouldn't have it.

I was a big champion of workforce training. And that's -- and it's done in community and technical colleges. The elements of this package are very, very, very popular.

BERMAN: What would you give up if you had to get down below $3.5 trillion?

FRANKEN: There's different approaches. One, do you make it a ten-year -- certain programs ten-year, make them five years. Do you means test something? Like in Medicare, there is talk about doing a dental and eyesight and hearing. Well, you say, well, maybe that shouldn't go to people who make over $100,000 or $150,000, or $200,000. You can do -- but I'll tell you one thing we should be doing is that once this is implemented, we should start getting -- people should -- we should start delivering right away because I want people to get these benefits so they know what they are and they -- and Republicans can't take it away. Because the longer they have these benefits, they'll be going, like, don't take it away from us.

And the child tax credit is huge. That would reduce childhood poverty in half. This has been part -- we've had that this year.


We passed it as part of the relief package. That's about $3,000 tax credit to -- for each kid that you have, up to, again, it's means tested, but it's -- it makes a huge difference to families. It will reduce childhood poverty by 50 percent.

BERMAN: Want to ask you about something the former president has said. He's still talking. He's still lying about the outcome of the 2020 election and spreading lies.

FRANKEN: Now, this is former President Trump, not Carter?

BERMAN: I'm talking about former president -- not either Harrison, not Grover Cleveland, former President Trump. He continues just the lies --

FRANKEN: OK. I'm talking about the living -- living ones.

BERMAN: He says, if we don't solve the presidential election fraud of 2020, Republicans will not be voting in '22 or '24.

FRANKEN: Well, good. But -- because you're not going to solve it because there isn't any.

Look, the election was --

BERMAN: Is he helping you here?

FRANKEN: Yes, that would help. But every day he says something bogus. You know that. So what difference does today's bogus thing make?

Look, it -- either the election was stolen or it wasn't. And it wasn't. So, we know that.

And you're seeing people like, my God, Chuck Grassley embracing him in Iowa. You know, if you won't risk your political future when you're 87, you're just not a profile in courage. I mean it's amazing how these Republicans have just fallen -- and they know it. I talked to my former colleagues. They know this election wasn't stolen. And they just are basically saying, well, I won't get, you know, I won't get the nomination because, you know, two-thirds of Republicans in my state believe it was stolen.

BERMAN: But what do you say to Chuck Grassley? He's someone who's across the border for you -- from you.

FRANKEN: Chuck! I -- you know, I -- I say, Chuck, why are you doing this? Well, you know, because I want to -- I want to serve again. Until I'm at least 93. And then I'll make another decision. That's Chuck.

BERMAN: That actually isn't -- that isn't a bad Chuck Grassley.

FRANKEN: I know Chuck pretty well, yes.

BERMAN: But do you think he's caving?

FRANKEN: Is he caving?

BERMAN: Well --

FRANKEN: Yes, of course he is. Of course he knows the election wasn't stolen. And -- and I, again, he's 87 years old. If you can't stand up at 87 and say, look, this is -- this is jeopardizing our very democracy. It really is. I mean it really is. And it's an existential threat. That's why, to me, the Freedom to Vote Act is actually the thing I'm most worried about. You said on a scale of one to 10, what are you worried about? That's what I'm worried about because the Freedom to Vote Act addresses this very existential threat, which is all these Republican states have passed measures where the state legislature can overturn elections. That -- that's extremely dangerous. So that's the thing I'm most worried about.

I am worried about how fast they will get to this package of -- the Build Back Better package. But I believe they will.

BERMAN: Senator Al Franken, today playing the part of Senator Chuck Grassley, we appreciate you being with us.

Thank you very much.

FRANKEN: Well, thanks. My -- my pleasure.


The archbishop of the U.S. military defy the wishes of Pope Francis. Why he says it's OK for Catholic troops to refuse getting vaccinated.

KEILAR: And it was supposed to be the happiest day of this couple's lives. But the bride's family missed the entire wedding. How things went south fast and who they're blaming.



KEILAR: With vaccine mandates and religious exemptions on the rise, the archbishop of the U.S. military, Timothy Broglio, argues that Catholic troops can refuse the vaccine. He writes, no one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience. And his message defies the wishes of Pope Francis, making this clear just a couple months back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) POPE FRANCIS (through translator): Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love. And helping the majority of people to do so, is an act of love. Love for oneself, love for your families and friends, and love for all peoples. Love is also social and political.


KEILAR: Joining any now, CNN religion commentator Father Edward Beck here to talk about this.

OK, walk me through how you're interpreting Broglio's statement here because he's basically saying, you know, you can go with your conscience, Catholic troops, but he's also essentially saying, you can go with your conscience, but that would be defying, as we see the church's teachings about the vaccines, especially Pfizer and Moderna.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Right. So the archbishop is correct that in Catholic teaching there is a primacy to one's individual conscience. However, the teaching says that when you're making up that conscience and deliberating, you have to take into account church teaching and you have to be informed about what you're deliberating.

So, first of all, the person has to say, well, what is the church teaching about this? And as you just said, Pope Francis is saying, take the vaccine. The official stance of the church is that you should be vaccinated.

Now, the second part, are you informed? So, Brianna, if you talk to people, as I have, who are claiming religious exemption, the primary reason that I have heard people say is because, well, the cells are from aborted fetuses and I don't want that injected into my body, I'm opposed to abortion, therefore I can't get the vaccine. Well, that is not informed. And that is incorrect. These vaccines were developed with cell lines, which were cloned copies of cells from decades ago.


So we're talking about two abortions, by the way, in the Netherlands, one in the '70s, one in the '80s. The abortions were not done for the sake of research. So over decades, so you're talking about thousands of generations removed from that fetal tissue, cell lines were developed that were used in research for the vaccines. So they contain no tissue from fetuses and yet you hear people saying, well, I'm not going to have that, I want religious exemption because fetal tissue is being used. That's not correct. That's to say then you shouldn't take chicken pox vaccine, you shouldn't take the rubella vaccine.

KEILAR: Or Tylenol or Ex-Lax, right? I mean the list goes on and on, of other vaccines that we know people have taken and that, you know, this has been used in the same development and testing.

But I also want to understand this. He said, those who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine must continue to act in charity for their neighbors and for the common good by undertaking means to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. I mean the fact is, Father, you cannot do that in a submarine, you cannot do that in a tank, you cannot do that in a small office, you know, where so many service members also work. How do you square that?

BECK: I don't think you can. If you're saying this, that you have to protect neighbor, love of God and love of neighbor go together, you're saying you can't serve normally anymore. You can't live with others. You can't work with others. You have to isolate. You have to basically become a hermit to ensure that you are not going to transmit this virus to your fellow men and women.

So, I don't think that you can say, well, I'm going to be careful with this. We're told that that's not enough with this virus. And so I really don't think religious exemption works for troops here because your very situation puts you in close contact with others and you have the risk therefore of infecting them.

KEILAR: Yes, I think this will come down to, you can reject the vaccine using your conscience, but you cannot reject the vaccine and serve in the American armed forces.

Father Edward Beck, thank you. It's great to see you.

BECK: You too, Brianna. Thank you.

KEILAR: The wedding of her dreams, his dreams too, turned into a nightmare. Why this bride's family was nowhere to be found and who she blames for ruining her big day.



KEILAR: It should have been one of the happiest days of their lives, that they could share with their loved ones, but for one Chicago newlywed couple, that huge Southwest Airlines cancellations issue that we saw last weekend of more than 2,000 flights, well, it meant that their beloved family members, including the mother and the father of the bride, were left scrambling at the last minute trying and failing to get to their wedding. Instead, this is how the bride's parents watched their youngest daughter get married. They watched on Facetime.

Joining me now are the newlyweds, joining us actually from their honeymoon, So I thank you guys for being with us during this time.

Kimberli Romano Hlavaty and her new husband Kyle Hlavaty.

Look, congratulations to you guys, but I'm so sorry, Kimberly. This must have been so upsetting to not have your parents at your wedding.

KIMBERLI ROMANO HLAVATY, BLAMES SOUTHWEST FOR FAMILY MISSING HER WEDDING: Thank you so much. Yes, definitely a disappointment more so than anything else. Very emotional day for the most part, yes.

KEILAR: Kimberly, were you able to enjoy the day or was this just hanging over everything? K. ROMANO HLAVATY: You know, we did the best that we could to make the

best out of a really horrible situation. Tried to get all of my emotions out before the ceremony, to just really be present with my husband while we were getting married. And, you know, we enjoyed our first dance together and our vows with each other and that's most important.

KEILAR: Kyle, this must have been tough for you to watch Kimberli there without her folks and other family members.


KEILAR: Yes. No, incredibly tough, I imagine.

So, Kimberly, tell us, your family's from Chicago. They're in Chicago.


KEILAR: Your wedding was in Las Vegas. Beautiful, I might say.


KEILAR: When you realized that there was this issue with Southwest flights, you know, what did you try to do?

K. ROMANO HLAVATY: So Saturday morning we received a text message from actually one of Kyle's friends who was scheduled to be on the same flight as my parents. That was the first notification that we got that the -- their flight had been canceled. So we immediately tried to figure out what was going on. I called my parents, asked them to try to figure out what was going on. We called Southwest, customer service, the time frames to talk to someone was obnoxious, over 120 minutes. And then we decided then to just go to the airport to try to speak with an agent to see if maybe an agent could help us faster than trying to get someone on the phone. But, unfortunately, that was unsuccessful as well.

KEILAR: Why was that unsuccessful?

K. ROMANO HLAVATY: When we got up to the desk to talk to the agent, she just was not very helpful at all. Essentially told me that I need to call. There's not much that she could do on her end. And during that time my sister was, you know, on hold with Southwest customer service. She eventually got someone on the phone and was able to get my parents a flight out of Milwaukee at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, before our ceremony that started at 2:00. But late at night, it was like after midnight, that flight had been canceled as well.

KEILAR: And so Southwest has put out this blanket apology. They talked about weather and some external constraints that left aircraft and crews out at preplanned positions.

What do you think about that blanket apology and has anyone personally reached out to you, Kimberly or Kyle?

K. ROMANO HLAVATY: No. No one has personally reached out to us. [08:55:00]

I'm more so just looking for, like, a sincere, authentic apology about what happened, why it happened and why we weren't informed sooner of these cancellations because had we had just a couple more hours, I really think that the outcome could have been different. We, for sure, could have either found them a flight out of a different airline or rented a big vehicle and all my family drove down together. There -- there definitely could have been a different solution had we just had a bit more warning. And that's the most upsetting more than -- more so than anything else.

KEILAR: Are you guys going to re-create something so that your family can maybe be a part of this or is that the whole thing they missed?

K. ROMANO HLAVATY: You know, we definitely want to try to re-create something at home. I really want those memories with my family that I feel like were kind of taken from me in a sense that this was my first wedding, hopefully my only wedding, and it would have been different had I, like, known in advance that they weren't going to be there or had there been an actual, like, emergency, someone had to go to the hospital or something like that, like, that would be something that I could accept. But it's just heartbreaking that something that could have been prevented or something that we could have found an alternate solution to kind of took my day from me more so than anything else.

KEILAR: Well, I am so sorry. Look, may your marriage be as beautiful as your wedding.


KEILAR: And I hope that you do find a special way to share it with your family. Thank you so much, Kimberli and Kyle.


K. HLAVATY: Thank you.

KEILAR: And here's what else to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: 11:30 a.m. ET, Biden address on COVID-19 response.

1:00 p.m. ET, White House press briefing.

2:15 p.m. ET, Biden hosts Kenyan president at White House.


BERMAN: All right, more on our breaking news. A second Trump ally will not show up for his January 6th testimony today. So are charges next?