Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Democrats Seek to Add Immigration Reform to Spending Bill; New Details Emerge about Actor Alec Baldwin's Accidental Shooting of Cinematographer and Director on Film Set; Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen Releases Documents Showing How Facebook Profits Off Spread of False Information. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2021 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Crewmembers used prop guns with live ammunition for target practice, a pastime called plinking, just hours before cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed. Their report says one of those guns was handed to Alec Baldwin who fired the shot that killed Hutchins and injured the film's director.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: We also have some new reporting about the assistant director on the movie, Dave Halls. He was fired from a movie set in 2019 after a crewmember was injured in another gun safety incident. He is the one who, according to police reports, handed the weapon to Alec Baldwin.

And joining us now to discuss this, corporate media reporter at "The Los Angeles Times" Meg James. Meg, this is incredibly, incredibly disconcerting, this possibility that live rounds were not only on the set, but they were -- that these guns were being used for target practice.

MEG JAMES, CORPORATE MEDIA REPORTER, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Right. This story is really just a tragedy in so many ways. And in my conversations with crewmembers last week and over the weekend, there was a common theme that emerged. It was there was a big rush on the production, and they felt that there was really a disregard for safety. And with every new detail that comes out, it just seems to become even more horrific. It is really sad.

KEILAR: And so if you can talk a little bit more about that, because you spoke to a very experienced armorer who said that he actually turned down the job of armorer on this film because he had concerns. What were the red flags that he saw after he spoke to the producers about the film?

JAMES: This was a really interesting story. I spoke with Neal Zoromski, a veteran prop master, he's been working in Hollywood for more than 30 years. And when he -- when the production managers from "Rust" reached out to him in late September, he was at first really thrilled because in his long career he had never worked on a western. So he thought, wow, this is my opportunity, and Alec Baldwin on this film, he thought it was just, wow, this would be a great opportunity. So he immediately jumped on it.

He had conversations with the production managers over the course of four days, and he found that their answers were kind of evasive. He wanted -- and this was really sort of to cut to the chase, he wanted to have an assistant prop master and he wanted to have an armorer, one person who would be specifically dedicated to the care and handling of the guns. And the production said no, we only want one person to fill both roles. And that really gave him a sick pit in his stomach feeling, and he turned down the job.

The other thing that was interesting about it was that he thought it was strange that they were -- that they still had not organized, lined up the prop masters and the armorer two weeks before the cameras were supposed to roll. And that's really unusual. And to him that was another red flag that this might be a disorganized production.

KEILAR: And what about, Meg, these other reports of weapons going off on set before, discharging in a way they were not intended to before this deadly incident?

JAMES: Yes, this was a key part of my reporting over the weekend was that there had been several accidental discharges of these weapons. And people who worked on the set were wondering, why wasn't there any investigation into these accidental discharges? There were two -- the Saturday before the accident. And there were no safety meetings, these people said. And on a set that usually have safety meetings so people know, like, where the weapons are going to be, how they're going to be used. And the people who worked on this set found it really disconcerting that there was just a go, go, go mentality and not really a focus or an emphasis on safety.

KEILAR: Meg, one of the questions I have is reading the affidavit, you can see that they broke for lunch, and then they came back and they were doing this rehearsal after lunch. There is a big question if the guns were checked before lunch, were they checked after the lunch? Presumably no, because there was a weapon that had a live round in it, right? So what questions does that raise for you, especially considering the inexperience of the armorer on this movie?

JAMES: Well, you had an inexperienced prop master, you had an inexperienced armorer. She had had one film credit just a couple months before this "Rust." And then you have the assistant director who CNN and others, including "The Los Angeles Times" reported about some problems in his past on past sets, people thinking that his behavior was brusque and abrasive, and also just sort of that rush, rush, rush mentality.


KEILAR: Yes, so many questions here. So many questions. We are getting more answers though. And Meg, I appreciate you providing some of them. Meg James.

JAMES: Thank you.

BERMAN: We have new developments in the biggest crisis in Facebook's 17-year history. Tens of thousands of pages of damning revelations leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen show how Facebook profits off the spread of false information and relies on an algorithm that pushes fake news. Among the revelations CNN has uncovered so far, Facebook allegedly misled the public about perpetuating misinformation and extremism linked to the 2020 election and insurrection. It allowed its algorithm to promote QAnon conspiracy theories to users. It did little to stop the use of its platform to incite violence in places, including Ethiopia. It has not fixed problems with the use of its site for human trafficking, and may have misled its own oversight board.

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg struck a defensive tone, to say the least, and blamed media during his company's quarterly earnings call.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Good faith criticism helps us get better. But my view is that what we Are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company. The reality is that we have an open culture where we encourage discussion and research about our work so we can make progress on many complex issues that are not specific to just us.


BERMAN: Joining me now is Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investigator and mentor -- investor I should say -- and mentor to Mark Zuckerberg. He's the author of "Zucked, Waking up to the Facebook Catastrophe." Roger, thank you for being with us. What do you make of that defiant, aggressive reaction from Mark Zuckerberg to all these revelations? He's saying it is a coordinated media attack.

ROGER MCNAMEE, EARLY FACEBOOK INVESTOR AND MENTOR TO MARK ZUCKERBERG: I think Mark has been backed into a corner and he doesn't really have a choice. The fundamental problem that he faces is that he spent the last 10 years successfully persuading policymakers and the press that every attack against him was really an attack on free speech. And Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, has brought out evidence from Facebook's own experts, shared with the entire employee base, that say -- they prove demonstrably that Facebook's internal culture and its business policies and its algorithms, the whole business model, if you will, is designed to essentially maximize anger and fear in the users in order to profit from them. And that is just completely unacceptable. And it has got everybody recognizing that the issue is business model, and it's Facebook itself.

BERMAN: I have an example of this, that popped up, in "The Washington Post's" new reporting on these Facebook papers this morning. It has to do with the algorithm. Let me read you a quote from "The Post" this morning. "Starting in 2017, Facebook's ranking algorithm treated emoji reactions as five times more valuable than likes, internal documents revealed. Facebook's own researchers were quick to suspect a critical flaw favoring controversial posts, including those that make users angry, could open the door to more spam abuse clickbait inadvertently." That's from "a staffer whose name was redacted wrote in one of the internal documents. A colleague responded, it's possible." So emotional reactions, literally emojis, five times more powerful

than a like, the algorithm benefiting sort of anger or emotional responses. Is that what you're talking about?

MCNAMEE: Exactly. Think about it this way, John. There are nearly 3 billion people inside Facebook. There are no walls, there's no safeguards of any kind. You then have a business model that is aimed at promoting fear and outrage for profit. And you have perfect information about each user, so you give the advertisers the ability to target people individually.

So it's no shock that really extreme ideas, white supremacy, anti-vax, or ideas that are scams or things like human trafficking, suddenly have their whole ecosystem inside Facebook. And without any safeguards, it's really easy for them to exploit the people there and drive extreme ideas into the mainstream. That is precisely what happened.

BERMAN: Now, you have basically three things that need to be addressed to fix this. What are they?

MCNAMEE: So, John, I believe we need to look at this as a technology industry problem, not just a Facebook problem. In that respect, Mark is correct. But first, safety. We need to recognize we need something like the Food and Drug Administration that sits there and says when a technology is ready to come to market, when the safeguards are in place. And it needs to look at existing products like Facebook, like YouTube, Instagram, and the like, TikTok, and set rules that make them safe for users.


Secondly, we need to look at privacy. We need to recognize that it's not fair for corporations to know everything about us and have these tools that can exploit the portions of our personalities that we can't control and manipulate our behavior. That goes on routinely now, and it's spread outside the tech industry. So that is going to require some new laws.

And then lastly, we need to have competition. When Facebook went down a couple of weeks ago, the millions of people who depend on Facebook for their business lost their marketplace. And you have to have the ability for alternatives to exist, so people are not so dependent. Those are the three things we need, and we need them from Congress right now. And the great thing is Frances Haugen has removed any excuse for inaction.

BERMAN: We see it. It is in the programming. It is in the business model. Roger McNamee, thank you so much for being with us.

MCNAMEE: It is a great pleasure, John. Thanks for having me on.

BERMAN: So Senator Joe Manchin says he sees a deal in sight. But now some progressives are sounding the alarm. The sticking points that could derail the possibility of a deal this week for the president's agenda. Plus, capitalizing on tragedy, the t-shirts being sold by Donald Trump

Jr. that seem to mock the deadly shooting involving actor Alec Baldwin.

KEILAR: And Jeff Bezos has a plan to build a business center in space. So how soon could this happen? And what's the dress code?


KEILAR: A new response from comedian Dave Chappelle following this controversy surrounding his latest Netflix special, saying that it isn't about beef with the LGBTQ community, but it's about corporate interests.


Let's listen.


DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. Well, it seems like I am the only one that can't go to the office anymore. Do not blame the LGBTQ community for any of this (EXPLETIVE DELETED). This has nothing to do with them. It is about corporate interests and what I can say and what I cannot say.

To the transgender community, I'm more than willing to give you an audience. But you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody's demands.


KEILAR: Let's talk about this with CNN senior political analyst John Avlon as well as journalist and the host of the podcast "Run Tell This", Mara Schiavocampo.

OK, Mara, what is your reaction to Dave Chappelle's reaction?

MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, JOURNALIST: Yeah, it is really unclear what reality Dave Chappelle is living in right now, but he's making this about free speech, he's making this about efforts to reject cancel culture but he has won every skirmish related to the closer.

Netflix has stood behind him 100 percent, it refused to pull the special or add a disclaimer. The special has been in the top ten since it has been released. He was greeted at Hollywood bowl with a standing ovation.

He just released ten new documentaries screening dates with ticket sales and he enjoys tremendous support from his fans, especially in the black community.

So I'm not sure what he's fighting for at this point, when he is winning everything.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what he's fighting for is against the pressure that is being applied to him and Netflix to shut down the closer. People protest outside Netflix, from within Netflix. He's reacting to that pressure, not the results, which you're right, he has been winning every fight to date.

And free speech, especially for a comedian, social commentator, seems to be something we should not dismiss because historically that's usually the losing argument.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: But you see this effort to fight something that is not happening. And that's what is confusing. He has not suffered any consequences.

AVLON: The fight is different from a consequence. He's winning the battles, you're absolutely right. He's pushing against a real tide, which is why we're talking about it this morning.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: I would argue that the tide has been working in his favor tremendously and that by doing this, he's actually raising some questions about what he's fighting for.

People have been supporting him. When you speak to his fans, especially in the black community, this is a fight I've been having for weeks now because of my response to the special, people support him.

KEILAR: Which is that you don't like it.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: I did not like the special. I thought it was mean.

AVLON: And, look, I think the issue is that people -- a lot of people support Dave Chappelle, a lot of people are offended by this, there is no right to not be offended. Having the discussion is evidence of the fact that there is a controversy.

And my only issue is not whether Chappelle's right or wrong, but absolute right to say what he wants. And especially comedians and social commentators, when we have these fights, in our culture, I think we do well to remember liberal values, which is I don't agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.

We move away these illiberal impulses we're seeing to shut somebody down or condemn them. Whether or not that is actual consequence, the pitch of the fight itself is evidence that the fight is real.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: It is a little bit confusing and here is -- I'll tell you why, he ended his special by saying this is the final word on this. This is the last thing I'm going to say about it and this is the last time I'm ever going to talk about it, drop the mic.

So now why a few weeks later, after he's had arguably tremendous success with this special, is he bringing it up again in this way.

AVLON: I think the controversy has been pushed upon him. I think that's a very fair point. He said this is the last time I'm going to talk about it. That's because this issue has been elevated and there have been a lot of calls to condemn him and for Netflix to -- I think Netflix not pulling their support is the right thing to do.

We can disagree and we should have great debates about things. It is the impulse to say he should be shut down for this point of view that I think is troubling, not only to Chappelle fans, but to folks who say, look, we need to find a way to call a truce and do it by refocusing on liberal values.

If you look at what he's talking about in the special, he's talking about universal individualism, and the right of people to be seen as individuals and not primarily as members of a group. And I know that gets -- that wades into a really thicket of controversy right now. I think that's actually an underlying idea that gets lost when we retreat to these group identities and start pointing fingers at each other.

BERMAN: Do people have a right to be upset by the special?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: I can certainly understand why the LGBTQ community is upset. It is not my place to speak on their behalf, but I do listen. So when you have Netflix employees staging a walkout because they're so upset about this, you have leaders of advocacy groups saying this special is actually dangerous, in the midst of the deadliest year on record for transgender men and women, I have to take that seriously.


I think anybody that is part of a marginalized group and I'm part of two wants to be a strong ally to those who are seeking allies because we all need allies. It is understandable why people are upset. However, I think this san important point to make, it is also understandable why he has so much support within the black community, because he has been a tireless advocate for social justice for decades.

In fact, he walked away from the Chappelle show because in part he said he didn't like the way it was portraying black people. He walked away from $50 million for that. He is a fighter for the culture and I understand why he's a black hero for that.

BERMAN: I got to say, no one has been canceled. Someone is making a lot of money off of specials that are being sold right now.

KEILAR: And so, I also want to see what you guys think about the mask that we have seen on the house floor. I think you have seen this. It is a South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan and it says "let's go Brandon".

So if you have a friend name Brandon, maybe you think this is funny. What is going on here is that at a NASCAR race, a guy who won, the driver who won, Brandon Brown, there was a cheer coming from the crowd and the commentator thought it was "let's go Brandon. It was actually F Joe Biden. So that mask says --

BERMAN: F Joe Biden. It says one thing, F Joe Biden.

KEILAR: F Joe Biden. SCHIAVOCAMPO: It is one of these funny political moments, like covfefe coverage, right, where it just becomes kind of a joke. So, I think they're having fun politically, it speaks to something more serious, a lot of people are trying to figure out if the playbook of running against Joe Biden is going to be successful.

So, we're seeing that Virginia because Terry McAuliffe is very much running in support of Joe Biden, you know, little test balloons if you will and how successful they will or won't be.

AVLON: So, look, I think it is pretty different than the covfefe kerfuffle. This says F Joe Biden. This chant is getting mainstreamed.

I went to the beach with my kids. There is a guy with his jeep on the beach and he has a flag here that says F Joe Biden. I walked by and I shook my head.

And I said, look, there are kids here. He said, what is it, man? It's a free country last time I checked.

The mainstreaming of a chant that is absolutely F the president of the United States is not patriotic. It's troll-ish. There's absolute free speech, folks can do what they want. When members are Congress are bringing that kind of language, you can't repair and talk about the need for civility and respecting a president when he's from your party.

BERMAN: Look, it's on the House floor. The guy is wearing a F Joe Biden mask on the house floor, it is just, you know --

SCHIAVOCAMPO: I think we're so far past the point of what has been normal in the past. There are so many examples of things that in a pre-Trump world would have outraged anybody. People would have lost their positions, would have faced all kinds of consequences.

That ship has sailed. We're in a post Trump world and we are seeing the rules actively be redefined.

KEILAR: Yeah, it is not surprising perhaps.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: It is not surprising.

KEILAR: It's just so gross, I guess.

John Avlon, Mara Schiavocampo, thank you so much to both of you.

The new trillionaire in town, trillion, trillion dollars, wow.

BERMAN: You're talking about me, hopefully.

KEILAR: I wish. I wish.

No, Tesla becoming the sixth company in U.S. history to reach a 13 figure valuation, 13 figures, the deal that put it over the edge.

BERMAN: I can't even count to 13, let alone a trillion. And a new plan by Democrats perhaps to slide immigration reform into

the spending bill. How realistic is this?

Stay with us.



BERMAN: So new details on the negotiations surrounding Joe Biden's legislative agenda. Senator Joe Manchin saying he's optimistic that a framework for the social safety net package could be reached this week, but also that a sticking to his goals of the $1.5 trillion price tag. Meanwhile, House Progressive Leader Pramila Jayapal, she says she wants both the social safety net package and the bipartisan infrastructure bill to actually pass at the same time, including the text of the social safety net package.

Joining us now is the Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

Hoping you can give us an update on where things stand this morning.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Well, it is an anxious time on Capitol Hill, on the Democratic side. We believe this week is really the deadline week for us to get the agreement, the basic agreement done that has been going on for literally months. We have so many important issues at stake here.

I agree with Joe Manchin's observation, we are close to the finish line. The president is engaged completely in this. I think we can get it done this week.

BERMAN: You can or do you think you will? What's the handicap right now?

DURBIN: I'm going to put can, because we're dealing with individuals who need to be sitting down with others and reaching agreement. We have tried in many different ways. I would say we're 90 percent there.

But we need to close the deal. We need to move on. There are other things we need to consider.

BERMAN: Where is the holdup specifically?

DURBIN: The holdup, when dealing with a program over a trillion dollars and the exact figure is still in question, when you're dealing with a program that has so many changes, it trying to help working families across America finally have affordable, quality day care, what a difference that will make in their lives. Expanding the opportunity for education two additional years before kindergarten, these sorts of things are going to make a big difference in the lives of individuals and we want to get them right.

BERMAN: One of the things I did not realize until I read it last night that was going on was that immigration, there is an effort among some Democrats, you among them, to get immigration reform back in to this. How is that going to work?

DURBIN: Well, it works because reconciliation, the process that we're following allows certain things to come in, and what we need to do is to make sure that we write it in a way that it qualifies for reconciliation. We're on our third attempt at it. Why are we sticking with it? Because we have not passed an immigration reform bill in over 30 years. It goes back to president.