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Fauci: NIH Not Lying About Bat Research Amid New Revelations; Fox's Neil Cavuto, Infected With COVID, Pleads With Unvaccinated; Russian Hackers Still Actively Targeting U.S. Tech Firms. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 07:30   ET





BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here we are trying to recover from a global pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 Americans and put millions in harm's way. We don't have time to waste on phony culture wars or fake outrage that the right-wing media are peddling just to juice up your ratings.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Former President Barack Obama this weekend. He was campaigning for Democrats ahead of the upcoming gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. And he was saying that the Republican candidates are more interested in these quote "phony right-wing culture wars."

So, let's discuss this and other things with CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp, and CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

You know, S.E., maybe culture wars do not appeal to -- well, let's say they appeal to the lowest common denominator but they work. That's why they're being used.

What do you think about Obama's comments?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, exactly. Well, I loved this speech. I loved it the first time I heard it when Aaron Sorkin wrote it for "The American President." I mean, literally, he stole the line "These are serious times; we need serious people." It's a great speech but Aaron Sorkin's so great because he paints the worlds that we want to live in, not the one we do.

And, Obama's a little late on the culture wars. We're there. That's what the Republicans are doing. It's all they're doing.

So, I wish we'd be talking about the policies and politics and how to save our kids and our grandkids, but that's not the reality. The quote-unquote "phony culture wars" are the main attraction and we've got to deal with that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All I remember is the end of the Michael Douglas speech where he said, "And I am the President of the United States."

CUPP: The President of the United States.

BERMAN: Because Bob Brunson kept on saying "I'm running for President of the United States."

CUPP: And Andrew Shepherd was -- right.



CUPP: And, of course --

AVLON: -- chief of staff. Anyway, guys --

CUPP: But by the end of the movie -- by the end of the movie he passes the bill, he gets the girl, he makes the speech, and problem solved. It's just not --

AVLON: Yes. Look --

BERMAN: But the point is --

AVLON: -- life is sadly not as --

BERMAN: -- that Barack Obama should be putting a question mark at the end of it rather than assuming (ph) it as a statement. Bottom line is --

CUPP: I think so.

BERMAN: -- that these culture wars are at play in Virginia.

CUPP: Yes --

AVLON: Yes. I mean, look --

CUPP: -- and --

AVLON: -- he's pointing out the dynamics that dominate our political debates, which is about distraction and division and dividing to conquer. And it's helpful to have a good communicator point out hey guys, this is what dominates our conversation. Don't fall for it. But pay attention to where the real ball is, which is actually trying to govern, trying to unite people. Trying to pass things that might actually improve people's lives.

Look, it is -- it is not a secret that from the Facebook information that Donie just talked about that shows extremism and outrage and division proliferate on social media that elevates those politicians who play that game. That is the swamp we're swimming in right now. It doesn't need to be that way and it's important to point that out for folks.

KEILAR: It's so interesting when you talk to Republicans -- elected officials -- about January sixth and the 2020 election and try to pin them down on it to see where they are and, really, just the amazing squirming. And the latest example of this is really Sen. Roy Blunt, so let's listen to that.


SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): You know, I think the election was what it was. There's a process you go through that determines whether or not the early reports were the right reports -- and we went through that process.

And I'm of the view that the best thing that President Trump could do to help us win majorities in 2022 is talk about the future and he can be an important part of that -- this '22 effort. But I think better off to talk about the future than to focus on the past.


KEILAR: To not even agree on an established set of facts about the past, which is key to the future, John Avlon.

AVLON: Yes, it's freaking basic -- politicians who are playing that line (ph). It's particularly bad for a guy like Roy Blunt because he's not running for reelection. There's no political pain he could endure to actually just doing something basic like telling the truth. And so, that's particularly despicable. It's particularly cowardly.

You can't just focus on the future and advise Donald Trump we'd love to have you come back and I won't say whether I'll support the person who keeps lying about our democracy after trying to overturn it. But that's exactly the problem in the Republican Party. There is a cowardice created by fear and greed.

And when politicians like Roy Blunt, who know better -- who aren't even running for reelection -- are still cowering and driving towards appeasement, it's particularly disgusting.

CUPP: I mean, it is what it is or it was what it was is what you say when you have nothing to say. You don't know what to say because you're afraid to say the truth --

AVLON: The truth.

CUPP: -- which is that Joe Biden's the real president and the election was not rigged for Donald Trump.

AVLON: And that -- and that lying about the election should be --

CUPP: Right.

AVLON: -- disqualifying.

CUPP: Well, right. AVLON: Trying to overturn an election -- trying to execute --

CUPP: But this is --

AVLON: -- a coup should be disqualifying.

CUPP: We've talked a lot. I mean, you and I, Bri, have talked a number of times about how this Republican Party acts more like a cult --


CUPP: -- than a party. And this is what happens. The cult leader could be hauled off to jail. The doomsday prediction can come and go. You are still out there selling the cult's garbage -- the lies --


CUPP: -- because you're afraid or you're brainwashed, or you're still in it. And that's what we're seeing with people like Roy Blunt who is not even running again. It's wild.

BERMAN: I think the specific question makes this even worse, right? I mean, the specific question was in response to Donald Trump calling the real insurrection November third, right?

CUPP: Yes.

BERMAN: I mean, it makes it even more insidious.

AVLON: Let's not talk about the past.

BERMAN: Yes. It's really crazy.

Can I go back to the culture wars thing for a second here? Glenn Youngkin, who is the Republican candidate in Virginia, is running on schools --

CUPP: Yes.

BERMAN: -- and there is evidence that it's resonating with people in Virginia. I don't know if he'll win or not but he wouldn't be doing this if he didn't think it worked there. And it's interesting to hear Barack Obama basically say it's not an issue at all, right?

CUPP: Well, it's a very smart issue to run on in Virginia and one I know Republicans were telling other Republicans to run on for years in Virginia.

There's the way a candidate is talking about schools or abortion -- look at Texas, for example -- but you can't argue that these issues aren't important to people. And there's a good way to talk about something and a bad way to talk about it.

And if you're just using fear and ginning up -- and ginning up anger and division, that's one thing. But I think what Glenn Youngkin is doing very well is having an actual conversation about schools in a way that parents are concerned about.

AVLON: And Glenn Youngkin is the trial balloon for how Republicans would like to campaign in 2022, right? He is now repudiating Donald Trump -- being very careful to do that -- but also not campaigning with him. He wants the benefit of his supporters while still trying to say look, I'm a businessman. I care about issues that you care about, like schools.


And culture war issues do resonate more for folks than many other policy issues do. So that's one of the reasons why this is such a bellwether in a state that Democrats really have successfully flipped since Barack Obama became the first Democrat to win it since LBJ.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, if McAuliffe loses, if Glenn Youngkin wins, it is going to be a giant, giant shot across the bow for Democrats.

AVLON: Of course.

CUPP: Well, it's also wild that President Obama, a former president, is in New Jersey worried about that Democrat. I mean, things are weird right now.

AVLON: Well, he's not going to campaign here in New York City.

CUPP: Things are wild.

AVLON: Things are wild and crazy.

CUPP: Yes.

KEILAR: They are. And thank you for this wild and crazy ride this morning. Appreciate it John Avlon and S.E. Cupp.

Coming up, Dr. Anthony Fauci firing back at lawmakers who accuse him of lying about funding for the Wuhan lab.

BERMAN: And a Fox host issues an urgent plea to the unvaccinated. Will some of his own colleagues listen?



KEILAR: Dr. Anthony Fauci firing back at Republican lawmakers who claim he lied about the National Institutes of Health funding risky research at a lab in Wuhan, China -- listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There's all of this concern about what's gain of function or what's not with the implication that research led to SARS- CoV-2 and COVID-19 -- which, George, unequivocally, anybody that knows anything about viral biology and phylogeny of viruses know that it is molecularly impossible for those viruses that were worked on to turn into SARS-CoV-2.


KEILAR: CNN's Kristen Holmes joining us now live on this story. It's pretty complicated but basically, you have some people who are proponents of a conspiracy theory trying to say that this proves their conspiracy theory when it doesn't, Kristen.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. So, let's break this down because when start hearing scientists like Fauci talking about molecular breakdown, people's eyes glaze over. This is all about the COVID origins and, as you said, this conspiracy theory.

So, let's start with the facts that we know. The National Institutes of Health, which is Dr. Fauci's organization -- they did, in fact, provide grant money to a research organization that conducted experiments on bat coronaviruses in Wuhan, China. This, of course, is a big deal because Wuhan was the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic that we are all experiencing.

However, health officials have continued to say that it is impossible that these bat coronavirus experiments could have translated in any way to what we are experiencing now. That genetically, it's just not possible.

However, Republicans have seized on this. They have talked about a lab leak, a theory -- a conspiracy theory talking about how scientists in this Wuhan lab were ganging up together to try to come up with this virus, and that's exactly how we all became infected. Again, health officials say that is impossible.

However, there is now this letter and this is giving more fuel to the fire here when it comes to attacking NIH and Dr. Fauci. And the letter comes from NIH and it is to the research organization that they paid this grant money to, and it's about a specific experiment involving mice and these bat coronaviruses.

And they say, essentially, that there were significant findings from this unrelated -- again, completely unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic that we are experiencing as humans. But that because they get this grant money -- this research organization -- they should have disclosed those findings. So they're asking them to disclose them.

Dr. Collins, who is the head of NIH, is pushing back on this actual pushback from Republicans who say this proves something here about this lab leak theory. Dr. Collins is saying once again, this is not related to the human coronavirus. Take a listen.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Yes, they messed up. We are going to hold them accountable. They sent us a progress report two years late that they should have sent a while ago and it had information in it that they should have told us about. But let me be clear. This was in no way -- no way connected with the advent of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. Please, relax here. This is not a circumstance where I think you could say there was a major failure that put human lives at risk. It was a mess-up in terms of their being responsive to the requirements they should have followed.


HOLMES: So again, just to reiterate here, what they are asking for is the findings of these specific experiments. But this has nothing to do with -- and that's what the NIH are saying -- to coronavirus that we are experiencing as humans. This is just about grant money and turning over those findings.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, it raises some important questions about oversight of potentially dangerous research on viruses. But like you said, it's unrelated to the virus that causes COVID-19.

But on the political side of this, what Republicans -- we're seeing them do, Kristen, is really try to deflect blame from the Trump administration because this is a grant that funded this research that happened in 2014. To that allows them to go back to pre-date Trump and that's part of what it seems they're -- really, that's the whole of what they are trying to do here is deflect.

HOLMES: Yes, that's right. And no surprise here that Republicans are already attacking Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci has been the boogeyman for these Republicans really for the entire pandemic, and we know for Donald Trump as well.

We've already heard Rand Paul -- Sen. Rand Paul calling for his firing, saying that even if this letter is about something separate that he should be fired just because of his lack of judgment.

Again, none of this is surprising because we have heard Republicans, including Rand Paul, attacking Dr. Fauci with this conspiracy theory about a Wuhan lab leak for almost a year or more. So, it's not surprising that Republicans are really hitting back on this.


But I do want to note one thing here. We saw a tweet from the Oversight Committee Republicans and this is what they said. They said, "July 28th, NIH says no NIAID funding was approved for gain of function research at the Wuhan Viral Institute. Obviously, they were lied to."

The reason that this matters is there is no mention of gain of function anywhere in this letter from NIH to the research organization. This is something that is clearly becoming political -- that gain of function is something that has been a Republican talking point. They are putting that out there. That is not in the actual letter that went to the research organization.

KEILAR: All right, Kristen Holmes. Thank you so much for that report. BERMAN: So, harsh words from Fox host Neil Cavuto those who are still refusing the vaccine or spreading misinformation about it, which really seemed directed right at his own colleagues.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS HOST, "YOUR WORLD": Life is too short to be an ass. Life is way too short to be ignorant of the promise of something that is helping people worldwide. Stop the deaths. Stop the suffering. Please, get vaccinated -- please.


BERMAN: After testing positive for COVID, Cavuto, who has battled multiple sclerosis for 25 years, credited the vaccine for saving his life.

Joining us now Brian Stelter, CNN chief media correspondent and anchor of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Life's too short to be an ass. Am I wrong, Brian? Was that literally directed exactly at the other anchors at Fox News?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Based on my reporting about Fox for years -- yes, I believe it was. Cavuto has tried to speak out about nonsense inside Fox and inanity inside Fox.

But it's a remarkable situation inside Fox where you have these other hosts who are proudly unvaccinated or who are standing up against what they believe are tyrannical vaccine mandates. It's almost a hostile work environment where you've got your colleagues who are, frankly, prolonging the pandemic and causing more people to get sick.

I mean, look what happened over the weekend. Lisa Boothe bragging to her -- on Fox's air, saying I'm doubling down on being unvaccinated as a middle finger to Joe Biden.

And you're thinking to yourself, well, Fox has a vaccine mandate. You either have to get vaccinated or you have to get tested every day.

You want to know the loophole? A lot of these stars on Fox that get paid millions of dollars -- they sit in their own private studios. They're in their own home studios or they're in remote locations, so they never go into Fox's office. So they don't actually have to get vaccinated or get tested every day.

So at least, thankfully, they're not breathing the same air as Cavuto and hopefully, they're not going to get anybody sick.

But it's so striking how hostile this is. Thank goodness we work at a place where there's not these crazy daily arguments about whether to stay safe.

KEILAR: You mentioned what -- because look, there's two completely different views that you're hearing from Fox. STELTER: Yes.

KEILAR: Neil Cavuto is really, it seems, in the minority.

You mentioned Lisa Boothe's comments. Let's get the full experience of those.


LISA BOOTHE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I, as a 36-year-old woman with no underlying conditions, have a 99.97 percent chance of survival against COVID. So, I was on the fence because it didn't make sense to get vaccinated for a virus that is not a threat to my life nor one that I fear. But now, I'm doubling down as a giant middle finger to Joe Biden's tyranny because now it's a fight for freedom.


KEILAR: A middle finger also, I should mention, to the health of other people and just caring about other human beings.

STELTER: And that's the big story.

KEILAR: Well, let's not mention that, though.

STELTER: And her voice is usually much louder than Cavuto's. That's always been the issue at Fox in the Trump era and beyond. The sane, rational voices are the quiet ones, and the ones that are on another planet are the really loud ones.

BERMAN: Life's too short to be an ass, says Neil Cavuto at Fox. That's like click -- change the station if you're over there.

Thank you, Brian. I appreciate it.

STELTER: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, we are learning chilling new details of exactly what Alec Baldwin was doing when he fired the deadly shot on set and what the victim said after she was hit.

KEILAR: And we have some breaking news on a new cyberattack from Russia against the United States just months after President Biden met face-to-face with Vladimir Putin.



BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight, Russia apparently has launched a new cyberattack aimed at thousands of U.S. government, corporate, and think tank computer networks. This comes just months after President Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and imposed sanctions on Moscow for its cyber operations.

Joining me now is David Sanger, CNN political and national security analyst, and White House national security correspondent for "The New York Times." David, this is your reporting overnight. I have to say when I woke up and read that there's a new Russian attack on U.S. cyberinfrastructure, what's going on here?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via Webex by Cisco): Well, the first way to look at it John is what else is new? The Russians are out to spy and break into systems.

The other way to look at it is at the way they did this, which was to do an attack -- and not a terribly sophisticated attack -- on the cloud services where data is put by companies, think tanks or governments into central servers shows you that there's a new level of threat.

Because what the Russians have consistently tried to do -- with the SolarWinds attack back at the end of last year and with this one -- is to get into the supply chain -- the infrastructure that supports all of these systems rather than try to break into your account and my account and everybody else's. Rather, get into some system that will them to do it en masse.

BERMAN: All right, two questions for you.

How successful has this attack been? Did they get anything -- get anywhere?

And two, what about the White House Biden administration response? We were all watching. You were there. Joe Biden standing next to Vladimir Putin telling him don't do this again or next time our reaction will be stronger.

SANGER: That's right. So, on the first question, we don't know yet. We know that they got into about 14 resellers of Microsoft cloud services. These are companies that contract with Microsoft and then resell their stuff.

They should have been using some pretty basic protections. This does not look like it was a very hard attack to repel, and that alone is disturbing because the bigger faults here may be on these contractors from Microsoft who are required by contract to have better protections than they seem to.

On the second one, it's interesting. So, the White House argument is no -- what President Biden was talking about was a tax on major infrastructure and things that undercut the confidence in the internet. For this attack, they said well, this is what the SVR -- the Russian intelligence agency -- always does and is continuing to do it. So, they see this as pretty run-of-the-mill, which is partly their way of saying this is the kind of thing that we do to the Russians as well and to many others.

So, they are not as exercised about this.