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CNN's Drew Griffin Confronts Doctor Spreading COVID-19 Lies, Disinformation; CNN's Clarissa Ward Goes to Corners of the World Where Democracy Is Dying; U.S. to Vaccinate Kids 5-11; CNN's John King Reveals Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis on Air. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 21, 2021 - 07:30   ET




DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SR. INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: 6.34 billion doses of this vaccine have been given. If you're right, people would be dropping dead all around us.

DR. RASHID BUTTAR, COVID-19 DISINFORMATION AGENT: It's not orchestrated to do that.


GRIFFIN: It's not orchestrated to do -- ?

BUTTAR: Each vaccine has been geared up. So you can look at the ingredients of the vaccines themselves. It's all been published.

GRIFFIN: Complete the sentence: each vaccine has been geared up for what?


BUTTAR: Each vaccine is designed -- it appears to be different. I don't know the details because I'm not a vaccine developer.


BUTTAR: Scientific corruption --

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Because of his disinformation Buttar has been removed from Facebook and Instagram but he's still going strong on Twitter, Telegram and his own website all filled with false hoods.

GRIFFIN: On September 5, you retweeted a photo of a AstraZeneca packaging that seems to indicate the vaccine was made in 2018. That picture that you retweeted was a doctored photo, it was fake.

BUTTAR: Perhaps it was fake.

GRIFFIN: But why would you do that?

BUTTAR: So Drew, let me ask you something you saying it's not reasonable to question the same agencies that have resulted in numerous deaths, IEDFA (ph).

GRIFFIN: It's reasonable to ask questions. What I don't understand is how you get from your asking questions to your belief. You had 1.2 million followers at one point.


GRIFFIN: They got false information from you not correct or challenging medical information. They got a doctored photo.

BUTTAR: If I sent a tweet out of a picture that was doctored and I didn't know about it, I'm not perfect. Maybe I didn't make that mistake. But I cannot make mistakes on the numbers.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The very latest vaccine studies show they remained 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and death. Buttar tells his followers, it is the vaccine that is the danger.

BUTTAR: We already see thousands of people dying. This Delta variant is all vaccine injury. I mean, the CDC's own data and it's showing that now.

GRIFFIN (on camera): That's just not true.

BUTTAR: I don't want to be part of this mass genocide that I see happening and I think that what's going on right now will be remembered as a worst time in history. Compared to what World War II happened.

GRIFFIN: I just want to be straight with you. I think you're crazy.

(voice-over): Before COVID, North Carolina's Board of Medicine reprimanded Buttar, twice for the way he was treating autism and cancer patients. The Board accused him of charging exorbitant fees for his ineffectual therapies which he denied, including injecting a patient with hydrogen peroxide.

The FDA also sent him a warning letter over products he made and sold that promise to do everything from treating chronic pain to improving sex drive.

BUTTER: And yet I have an unrestricted license to practice for 30 years.

GRIFFIN: And that is the problem. Dr. Rashid Buttar repeatedly lies and disinforms on matters of public health, yet that doesn't have an impact on his medical license held in North Carolina.

Across the country, COVID-19 has created a subculture of disinformation among medical outcasts and state medical boards don't know what to do.

DR. HUMAYUN CHAUDHRY, PRESIDENT, FEDERATION OF STATE MEDICAL BOARDS: Those kinds of comments are very troubling to doctors who are on the front lines and managing COVID they're particularly frustrating. In fact, some of my colleagues are livid. GRIFFIN: CNN contacted medical boards in all 50 states. Half of them responded. Only two Rhode Island and Oregon said they had actually disciplined doctors for Coronavirus misinformation or related violations. That is despite hundreds of complaints.

The Federation of State Medical Boards issued a warning to physicians who generate and spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation that they are risking disciplinary action including the suspension or revocation of their medical license.

CHAUDHRY: Especially in a pandemic, your actions could lead to the deaths of thousands of individuals because people trust what doctors say.

GRIFFIN: Buttar doesn't seem to care.

(on camera): You had an outsized influence over just somebody who's living down the street in terms of people getting their medical advice you have to admit that.

BUTTAR: Absolutely, absolutely.

GRIFFIN: And you are raising doubt about a vaccine --

BUTTAR: I hope I am because I hope more people take heed of the warning that isn't necessary.

GRFFIN: And if you are wrong and they die because of that.

BUTTAR: I am confident, more than confident in my ability to have looked at the data and observe what's going on. And that if I'm wrong, so be it because I have to look at myself in the mirror every night when I go to bed every morning when I get up and I don't lose any sleep, Drew.


GRIFFIN: John, medical boards across the country are trying to tackle this, come up with new rules, new ways to punish these disinformers. Right now, their systems, their by-laws are just not geared up for this type of behavior -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Drew, you just went through the looking glass. This is "Alice in Wonderland" level madness here.


BERMAN: And people's lives are at stake.

GRIFFIN: Yes. It is -- it is unbelievable. It reminded me very much of an interview I did a while ago with the pillow guy, about how we vote in America. And just looking at the data, looking at the facts. And this person comes up with a conclusion that is just outside the realm of possibility or imagination. It's goofy land.

BERMAN: Drew Griffin, well, welcome back to reality. And thank you so much for your reporting.

GRIFFIN: Thanks.

BERMAN: Inside the homes of Afghan citizens, after 20 years of progress crumbles under Taliban rule. CNN's Clarissa Ward with dramatic new reporting.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And a story of survival. What happened after a plane carrying 21 people crashed near a Texas airport.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just told us to get out, get out. And we unbuckled ourselves and ran.

KEILAR (voice-over): That miraculous story straight ahead.






KEILAR: On the new podcast "Tug of War," CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward travels to some of the most volatile corners of the world to document the greatest power struggles of our time, countries where democracy is in its dying days.

In this clip, Clarissa speaks to an Afghan woman, who is watching helplessly, as 20 years of progress crumbles under Taliban rule.


SHAHARZAD AKBAR, AFGHAN WOMAN: I never thought I would do this but I have been encouraging people to leave. No woman's life is going to be better. I mean, yes, hopefully the bloodshed will stop. But Afghan women deserve more.

They deserve to live, not just survive and, in any scenario that I can imagine, it's going to be survival, at least for a while.


KEILAR: Clarissa is with us now.

I have been anxiously awaiting this. Please tell us a little bit more about what we can expect here.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So thank you, Brianna. I really hope you'll enjoy it.

Basically, what I just found on my travels over the past years is that I was so inspired and fascinated by extraordinary acts of courage from ordinary people, in the most devastating and dangerous of circumstances.

And particularly when we talk about the rise of autocracies in the world, by the way, since 2001, there are now more autocracies than democracies around the globe.

But you are also seeing this mushrooming of grassroots resistance, of pro-democracy freedom fighting. So I really wanted to explore that further, which is what we have really done in this podcast and whether it's looking at women in Afghanistan, who are fearful of losing everything in this moment, or whether it's looking at pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar, who did lose everything when the junta took power in a coup there earlier this year, or in Russia where president Vladimir Putin has created a state whereby dissent and opposition are no longer really tolerated.

We basically have gone around the world, exploring what these movements look like and what the people who are capable of these extraordinary acts of great courage in the face of really intimidating force, what they're all about, what inspires them, what gives them the sustenance to keep doing this work.

KEILAR: You take us behind the closed doors. I think that's what I appreciate so much about your reporting. It is so clarifying on the situations you're covering. You were recently in Afghanistan reporting on the crisis there.

Can you give us an update?

WARD: Well, the situation is very bleak. There's no two ways about it. In addition to all we are seeing in terms of decline and women's rights, you are also looking at a real decline in the security situation. ISIS-K waging a pretty vicious insurgency at the moment with attacks on mosques in Kunduz and Kandahar and Kabul and the Taliban grappling to try to respond. It is an irony, of course, that a group that was an insurgency for 20 years, is now ravaged by another insurgency.

More broadly than that, Brianna, you have this crippling economic crisis. Don't forget all the international aid to Afghanistan has been completely frozen at the moment. Salaries are not being paid. Medical workers are not getting paid. Medical facilities, particularly primary health care, are being forced to shut down.

Now you have the WFP, talking about a real potential hunger crisis in Afghanistan, as it's getting colder, as we go into the winter months. So the Taliban not only dealing with a desperate security situation but also economic crisis, humanitarian crisis, a social crisis. So it's a bleak picture on many fronts.

And that's why I'm hopeful that we will continue to keep traveling there and telling those stories and ensuring that it stays prominently in the world's consciousness, Brianna.

KEILAR: Clarissa, thank you so much for joining us. Please, everyone check out the "Tug of War" podcast.

Up next, CNN's John King is sharing a personal secret and he's stressing the importance of being vaccinated. How the shot helped protect him and his message to anti-vaxers.

BERMAN: Plus breaking news out of the White House. We're getting details of how the vaccine rollout will happen for children. We have new reporting ahead.





BERMAN: We do have breaking news. The White House is getting ready to unveil plans to roll out vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 just minutes from now. Jeremy Diamond is at the White House this morning.

Tell us about this.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. The White House is announcing ahead of the FDA, actually authorizing this vaccine for children 5 to 11, they want to show they're prepared for the rollout of this vaccine.

So what they're going to be doing is they have assured that they have enough supply for the 28 million children who would become eligible for the vaccine. They will also help equip tens of thousands of pharmacies, more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, as well as hundreds of community health centers to be able to administer this vaccine.

A big part of this is access. They want to ensure that children and parents have access to this vaccine in places that are close to them and in places they already consider to be safe and effective plates to receive their medical care.

This effort is going to unveil over the coming weeks. But of course, we are waiting for the FDA authorization. The FDA is expected to meet on this on October 26th. Then there will be a meeting of the CDC advisory board November s2nd to 3rd. We will see if it is authorized. Brianna.

KEILAR: Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thank you.

BERMAN: So important news about a friend and colleague, CNN chief national correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS" John King.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I'm going to share a secret I've never spoken before. I'm immunocompromised. I have multiple sclerosis. So I'm grateful -- you're all vaccinated -- I'm grateful my employer says -- or at least amazing people who work on the floor, who came in here for the last 18 months when we were doing this, are vaccinated now that we have vaccines.

I worry about bringing it home to my 10-year-old son who can't get a vaccine. I don't like the government telling me what to do. I don't like my boss telling me what to do. In this case, it's important.


BERMAN: Joining us now is chief national correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS," John King.

John, a million Americans are living with MS. And me, and I, just like most of the world yesterday, found out for the first time that you are among them.

So why did you share?

KING: I wasn't planning on it, John. We were having a conversation about vaccine misinformation in the context if the death of secretary of state Powell. Dr. Nguyen, one of our great medical experts, was talking about how we shouldn't be lying about vaccines because the data is overwhelming.

This is not a debate anymore. The data is overwhelming, the vaccines work. We should not lying and being reckless and dangerous. She talked about a sense of community.

And because of my personal experience, the issue has been front and center in my mind throughout the COVID-19 crisis. And it came out yesterday in the sense that I do not understand people who get up in the morning, who are vaccinated themselves, and who willingly lie to get attention, to get clickbait, to get whatever. I do not understand it.

We can have a debate about vaccine mandates. We should have big debates in America about the big issues in our country.


KING: But we should do them based on facts. The vaccines work. It's not just a million people with MS like me. There are millions more like General Powell. We just don't know.

One of the things I have learned in the last 13 years dealing with this is so much of it is hidden. People don't see it when you're having a bad day. So you don't know.

Is the person next to you immunocompromised?

The person in the grocery store, somebody you know and love or a perfect stranger?

So what is the harm of getting a vaccine that we now know is safe? This is not January or February. The questions then were legitimate.

But tens of millions of people here and around the world have received these vaccines. They work. They're remarkably effective at driving down COVID.

What is the harm of putting on this when you go to the grocery store or when you might be in close proximity to your Uber driver, to your doctor, to anybody in your life who might not know needs your help?

What is the harm?

BERMAN: I can hear it in your voice, John. I can hear it. I've known you since you were the AP reporter and strictly the news. This is different. I can tell this is getting to you. It was specifically, I think, the coverage of the death of Colin Powell over at FOX that ticked you off.

KING: Yes, it is a cumulative thing. But just to hear, look, Colin Powell is an American treasure, we lost a hero. For people to say this is proof that vaccines don't work, because Colin Powell was vaccinated, and he died is proof vaccines don't work, when just the opposite is true. Just the opposite is true.

Yes, Colin Powell was vaccinated but he had a condition that compromised his immune system, as I do, because of the medications I take. The medications that help me, remarkably. I'm grateful to my doctors, I'm grateful to the researchers who are working on MS, working on Parkinson's, working on anything, to make people better, to help people through crisis.

To lie about the effect of this, of vaccines, is just numbing. Look, I've been doing this for a long time. We've known each other a long time. I don't like injecting myself into this. It is not my way, it's not my training, it's not my place. It's not my place.

But when Dr. Wen took something that was here and just brought it here because of this sense of community, I get politics, I get the polarization. But this -- we're getting to the point where, by Thanksgiving dinner, the population of Denver will have been wiped out by COVID.

Is that not big enough to startle us, to say let's put the politics aside?

And debate the big questions but let's debate them on facts. The world is round. Trump lost. Vaccines work. These are the debates. Then have debates within the context of that.

The climate is in crisis. These things are not in dispute. But some people want to put them in dispute for reasons I do not understand.

And what crossed the line for me was lying about an American hero, when those 728,000 people who we have already lost, they're all heroes to somebody, too. They're all heroes to somebody, too. And to lie about vaccines and make it worse today and tomorrow based on all we now know is just reckless and it pushed me across the line. BERMAN: With your permission --

KING: For better or worse.

BERMAN: -- with your permission, I have a lot of questions, John, as a friend and a colleague.

KING: Fire away.

BERMAN: You just said 13 years.

KING: Yes.

BERMAN: Diagnosed 13 years ago?

KING: Yes, I've had problems going back to when I was covering the Clinton White House. I have not been able really to feel my legs since the late 1990s. And it took a while to figure out what it was.

And after I had some issues covering the 2008 Republican convention, for CNN, when I had problems, problems moved from my legs up into my upper body and my hands and that's when I got the diagnosis, the MRIs and the scans. And they diagnosed me with MS.

And back in those days it was frightening, very frightening. I decided to keep it a secret and then I kind of got caught in that. And very few people, a few people, a dozen people know, my siblings, my family, those closest to me and my family have known about it and more recently I told some people I work with.

Mistake to keep it a secret, because if I can do anything to help, I should have done that. I was scared early on. It is a challenge. It sucks. Every day it is with me in some nagging way. Other days it is with me in more profound challenging ways.

You fall down, you can't pick things up. But I'm so lucky, John. That's the point. That's one of the reasons I've been reluctant to talk about it. There are people who get this disease and other diseases who are not so lucky.

Mine has progressed very, very slowly, thanks to medications, thanks to great doctors, thanks to a great healthcare plan here at CNN that has not made this break my bank account, if you will.

So there are a lot of people out there, for who this struggle is much more dramatic than mine. So I don't want to draw attention to myself except to say there are -- what it has -- I hope it has made me a better person. It has certainly made me a stronger person.

But what it has made me aware of is that whether it is somebody you love or a perfect stranger, there might be somebody out there that you should help. Forget about politics.

What did our mothers tell us?

What did our priests and rabbis and ministers tell us? Love thy neighbor. If you can do a simple thing like this or like getting a shot that we all now know is safe, that helps somebody else and helps yourself, why not?

And then if you don't want to do that, fine, that's your right. Don't lie about it.

BERMAN: You care about the magic wall. Get the vaccine. If you want to make sure that John can be there.

John, how does it --



KING: I'm fine. I just -- I appreciate the humor there. But I'm fine. I'm fine and I'm lucky and I'm blessed and so I want to make that clear. Some days are harder than other days but that's OK. That actually does make you stronger.

BERMAN: How does it manifest itself day to day for you?

KING: Sometimes you drag your toe or you trip. I fall down the stairs a few times a year. Sometimes -- today I'm having a bad day with my hands, for example. So you reach over, you pick up your cup.

I have to look, I have to make sure I have a grip on that cup, because I might drop it. I've done that on occasions. Sometime some days your vision gets blurry. Some days you have what I call MS brain, everything just seems a little foggy.

BERMAN: I don't believe that.


BERMAN: It is hard for me to believe that your brain is ever foggy, for those of us who are glued to every word you say for hours on end. But really it does affect sometimes --

KING: It is different. It is different for everybody, which is why it is such a frustrating disease, as many diseases are for people, many conditions are for people. It is different for everybody. For me, heat and stress tend to be my triggers, which is why I'm grateful the Washington summer has passed.

I hope nobody noticed it but election week in America was probably one of my worst weeks last year. I was having a lot of trouble functioning.

But you learn -- you just -- one of the gifts of the challenge, that might sound weird but one of the gifts of the challenge is that you learn how to focus and learn to rewire how you do things and you learn to become much more aware of what you're going through.

And I hope that gives me a lot more empathy for other people out there, who, again, you know, you do not know that the person you're standing behind at the grocery store, at the coffee shop might be going through this too.

And they're looking around a little nervous and, in the current environment, in this pandemic environment, which has brought it front and center, they're looking around a little bit nervous.

This helps them. It helps save them. That is somebody's mother or brother or teacher. That person is a treasure to somebody, like Colin Powell was to America.

What is the harm?

I don't get it.

BERMAN: I have a couple more and I know this is not something you enjoy doing. So again, forgive me for this but Election Nights, you talked about that election week was bad for you, the magic wall.

Is this something you deal with, when you're talking for hours and hours and hours on end?

KING: I notice it when it happens. Dana texted me on one of those nights, Dana Bash, we have a beautiful son together, which is one of the reasons I get so motivated about people lying about vaccines because it's my job to protect him.

And she noticed and texted me once during election week, are you all right because she knows. I'm OK. There are times you're up for a long stretch and where you just -- sometimes the combination of stress and hard surfaces, standing on hard surfaces for a long time, can exacerbate my symptoms sometimes.

You get fatigued sometimes. It is OK. I was actually -- I was proud of myself. I don't like to talk about myself. At the end of that week, I was proud of myself because I knew how hard some of those days were but it was important for me to do it.

One of the challenges of getting through this -- and, again, millions of people out there dealing with MS and other issues who do this every day. And so I'm not special. It is just what you do. It is what you do. You have something that challenges you, you have to find a way around it.

And you need the love and support of your friends and you need good doctors and when these conversations come up about medical things, as you just went through with Drew Griffin and that remarkable piece, we need the truth.

Let's debate things but let's do it based on the truth. And let's do it, especially when you know. The people at the network you mentioned who are doing this, they're all vaccinated, John. They know. They know these vaccines are safe. They are effective. Debate mandates all you want. Debate them on facts and truth, not lies.

BERMAN: Talk to me about the fact that you say you're immunocompromised.

How has this affected you over the pandemic for yourself?

You mentioned your 10-year-old son and your concerns about your still unvaccinated son.

KING: Well, I decided to come to work every day because I love my job. I think it is important. The pandemic, as horrific as it is, is one of the reasons we do this, right?

It is our job to help people through dark times. It is our job to help them with facts and information and not lies. So I made a decision in consultation with my doctors to try to keep coming to work. My bosses did not know about this at the time.

But I talked to my doctors because CNN did an amazing job. Wolf and I were the only two coming into this building in the early days of the pandemic. Remember, back then, we were worried about touching surfaces. We knew so little about COVID.

But it was important for me to do my job and once I understood there were so few people in the building and we could keep safe and everything, there were a couple of days I lost my temper about people wandering around and getting in my way and I apologize for that. It was scary at the very beginning.

But I thought it was important to do my job. To the point about my son, my older children are heroes. And they're out, successful in life, doing incredibly well and keeping themselves safe, even though they're different politically, they respect science and respect facts.

My younger son, it is my job to protect him. You worry, am I the weak link, am I the weak link that will bring COVID into the house?

Because I'm immunosuppressed or immunocompromised.