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Biden to Meet with Pope Francis in Vatican; G-20: What Lies Ahead for U.S. Relations with Global Allies; Rupert Murdoch's News Empire Spreads Conspiracy Theories in New Documentary. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 29, 2021 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: In terms of what this meeting means for the White House, Kaitlan, what are you hearing?


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are going to be a few more dozen of those. I think it's about 80 cars in this motorcade, Chris.

But of course, when it comes to the actual substance of this meeting, it is going to be deeply symbolic for this president. Of course, he is only the second U.S. Catholic president, and he is someone who's deeply religious and goes to mass almost every single Saturday at a church in Georgetown.

And the president is someone who does know the pope very well. He met Pope Francis several years ago. They've met several times before, and they have a very close relationship. And he has talked about conversations they had after his son Beau died, and what that meant for him, and how Pope Francis was in the United States in 2015, actually, when that happened.

And they talked about the moment that they had when they were seeing Pope Francis off at the airport in Philadelphia. They talked about that. And President Biden has often said, you know, those moments meant more to him than he thinks the pope can even -- can even realize of what that meant to him as he was dealing with that and grieving in the aftermath of losing his son.

But, Chris, what's different about this visit is that it does have a more formal tone to it because, of course, this is the first time that they have met since Biden has taken office.

They spoke during the transition after he won the presidency in the election in November. But they have not actually met in person since then.

And so it's not just going to be the personal meeting between the two of them. Though certainly that is going to be a major aspect of it. But also, the White House says that they have plans to discuss issues like climate change, immigration, of course COVID-19, and the aftermath of the pandemic as the pope had talked -- has talked about the role that he believes nations have in the wake of the pandemic and the effect that that had worldwide.

And so it is going to be a little bit of both when they do get behind closed doors. And of course, we're not going to see much of this meeting because of how they've curtailed the press coverage of this, even though typically, you would be able to see them going in to meet, talking, saying their greetings, saying their hellos, and then the press will obviously leave the room. We won't have that moment today of course, Chris.

CUOMO: Great insights. Thank you very much, Kaitlan.

Let me go to Father Edward Beck. You and I were here in Rome together when then Bergoglio because Pope Frances. Both men were unlikely choices for leadership. But now here they are. How can they help each other in this meeting, Father Beck?

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Well, it's interesting. I think they're both facing similar obstacles, Chris. There is this neoconservatism faction in the Catholic Church, and we're seeing that politically here, as well, in the country.

And in a sense, I see them as allies in that. Pope Francis has been critiqued by right-wing media, religious media here in this country. He's come back at them for that critique. We've seen a great division with the recent election in the country of those who are saying the election is not even legitimate.

Some are saying the same thing about the papacy of Francis. They've called for his resignation. So in some ways, they can bond on the fact that they've been both maligned by similar factions.

And I think that gives them a certain solidarity, aside from the fact that you again have a shepherd and a parishioner, a member of the flock meeting. So yes, it's heads of state, but it's also a pastoral visit, I think, because obviously, President Biden has met the pope before. I mean, it's like the fifth time he's met him.

And so there's a certain connection between these two that I think we'll see carried out.

CUOMO: Right. I'm here in Rome with Delia Gallagher and Father Dwyer. You're going to to come to the Eternal City. You want to make a show. It's very important for President Biden to put a new face on America for the allies.

What does it mean to start by meeting with His Holiness?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, look, it's very important for the pope, as well. I mean, this is happening on the eve of the opening of the G-20, of COP26. Those are both international meetings where discussing issues that Pope Francis has really staked a large part of his pontificate on.

And he needs U.S. leadership on those issues. So the more that this relationship between President Biden and the pope can be a good one, various -- CUOMO: There's the president of the United States coming out, and he is meeting the regent, you said?

GALLAGHER: The regent of the papal household. So he's in charge of the papal apartments. His name is Monsignor Sapienza.

And he will greet them. And he greets also the gentiluomini (ph), the gentlemen, the papal footmen. This is a standard Vatican protocol. He says hello to them. And they will go inside the Apostolic Palace.

Of course, the pope doesn't live in the Apostolic Palace anymore. We talked about the papal apartments, but Francis has chosen not to live there. But he still greets heads of state there, because that's where the papal library is.

And that area is right on the square. You know, when you see the pope come for the Angelus on Sunday to his window, those are the papal apartments. That's where President Biden will be going now.

CUOMO: So you can see on the president's face his excitement, obviously, there with his wife, Dr. Biden, now.

Father, in terms of Francis's message, climate, why does it mean so much to a pope? And let's get past the irony that Joe Biden is here to talk climate and just showed up with 90 gasoline-burning cars.

But in terms of what this means for the pope.

FATHER DAVE DWYER, CSP, HOST, "THE BUSTED HALO SHOW": Pope Francis sees it, really, in terms about theology of creation. And that God has given us this planet and this universe as gifts to us, given us one another as gifts to us.

And we have the responsibility to be stewards of that. Pope Francis would see it almost as if someone lent you their precious Renoir and said, "I'm going to be back in a little while and hang onto this." And then we use it to clean up the paint in the garage.

That it is -- it is ours to take care of. And we believe that that -- that is theological. That comes from God.

CUOMO: Go ahead, Delia.

GALLAGHER: On a practical level, you know, when we talk about the pope, we're talking about the Catholic Church. And at a grassroots level, the Catholic Church has hundreds of organizations throughout the world that are on the ground. You want to talk about vaccines. You've got Catholic relief services, Catholic charities, hospitals run by Catholic personnel that are ready to implement any plans.

You know, the pope can talk about these things. They can implement these things. But he needs world leadership, U.S. leadership and other governments to come together and organize the plan. So that's where I think the focus is for this meeting.

CUOMO: Hey, Kaitlan, there's no question that there's great significance here personally for the American president. But you know, the G-20, he didn't have to meet with the pope first, even though he is in Rome, and this is obviously the seat of the Vatican. It is the eternal city.


But what do you understand in terms of why it was important for this president to meet with the pope right out of the box?

COLLINS: I think it's not surprising, of course. This is something that is -- it's so personal to the president. And he's one of our most religious presidents openly that we have had in some time.

Of course, you know, every Saturday nearly, he is going to mass at 5:30 p.m. in Georgetown. You see the president often. He talks about his religion in his presidential speeches a lot.

He's talked about the pope a lot. He's quoted him before and talked about his message that he has also said throughout the world. You know, this is a president who brought his rosary beads into the Situation Room during that bin Laden raid, of course, when President Obama was in office.

And so it's kind of something that is part a deep aspect of his presidency. And so I don't think it's surprising that he's starting his major second trip overseas with this visit.

But it's something that you were just talking about made me think about comparing, you know, the relationship that this president has with this pope, compared to the last president.

And often, when you saw Pope Francis trying to serve as kind of this moral counterpart when Trump was in office, and talking about building walls and a lot of the policies that he had, such a different message that the pope took, of course, throughout the world.

And lately, you've seen the pope talking about nationalism, and you've seen the president. Also President Biden talking about that, talking about how he's called it this phony populism. And you've kind of -- you've seen this, you know, interwovenness in their messages when it comes to aspects like that.

And I think it shows how symbolic and not only this relationship is, but also how often they agree on some of these policy matters, as well. Of course, obviously from two very different perspectives from the pope and from the president.

And so it's not just on top of what the White House says is on the official agenda for this discussion. Obviously, it will also be a personal discussion that the two of them will likely have when they're behind closed doors, as well.

CUOMO: You know, Father Beck, often you know, religion is a no-go zone in politics. If somebody says that they are devout, that's it. We leave it at that. I don't. You know, Trump was using it as a masquerade. He changed positions on

what he thought was moral or immoral to help himself. That has never been what Biden is or was.

And it's an interesting turn of events here at a time, as you were mentioning earlier, of what orthodoxy means. To meet with the pope, I thought this was going to be something that both men wanted to have very outward. But every minute of it would be seen.

And yet, the Vatican has decided to keep a lot of it quiet. We're going to have to hear versions of it later on. What do you make of that move?

BECK: Well, it's not unusual, Chris. Since coronavirus, nobody has been permitted with live feeds other than the Vatican press corps. And they've done all of this after the fact with some editing.

So it's interesting that they said it originally we would have the live feeds.

CUOMO: Right.

BECK: And then they just pulled it back yesterday. So these kind of conspiracy theories. Well, they didn't want to see him shaking Biden's hand live. I don't believe any of that. I think somebody said, why suddenly are we allowing this? You know, it's not American exceptionalism, is it? So no. Let's do what we've always done.

We don't have live feeds for it. We're not going to do it now.

So I don't think there is anything more to it than that. And we will get a summary of what they say. We never get a transcript of what they say. There's only an interpreter in the room. And we'll get kind of high points. But we won't get a lot of personal conversation that's really revealed, unless the president or the pope wishes to do so, and they really do.

CUOMO: You know, I want to send it back to you guys. But just one little taste of how special it is here. Of course, Father Edward is in that beautiful set.

I remember very well when they were building it. You look at Kaitlan's shot here with the beautiful picture of Rome, the Vatican City behind her, where we are with St. Peter's.

Rome is such a special place. And for it to be the meeting place of the G-20, this is a very important time and a very historical and beautiful place. And it means so much for both men that are meeting now. It will be very important to see what they make of their moment, John and Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And such an important start to this president's trip here to Europe. Thank you so much, Chris, for the wonderful coverage. Appreciate it.

World leaders heading to Rome for their first in-person G-20 summit since the pandemic. So what's going to be on the agenda? And can President Biden convince U.S. allies that America is still back?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And why is Rupert Murdoch having his media empire spread January 6th election lies?



KEILAR: Twin summits in Europe: the G-20 in Rome and the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, offering an opportunity for President Biden to reassert the United States' international credentials as his domestic agenda back home stalls.

Joining me now, CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. He is also the White House and national security correspondent at "The New York Times."

OK, so David, the G-20, I guess more like the G-16. I don't know. Because not all the world leaders are going to be there, right? Not participating in person anyway. And then this climate summit in Scotland. What does the president need to do here?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the president needs to show that he's back in command in a way that he really had been at the last time when we had a significant meeting with world leaders, which was June in Britain.

It was the G-7, a much smaller group and more allies of the United States. That was at the peak of his power, you know, when you think back at the -- that moment coronavirus seemed to be on the run.


Of course, we've had a summer ahead of the Delta variant. Growth in the United States was running around 6 percent. The latest numbers we got were closer to 2 percent.

The Afghan evacuation and the Taliban takeover of the country hadn't happened yet. But I think that that took the presidency down a little bit, because it pierced this concept that the Biden folks were full of professionals, which they are, who are experienced, which they are. And yet, they fell into this quite messy violent disintegration of the country that cost not only American lives, but the Taliban is back in place.

And even the submarine deal with Australia, which I think was the right strategic move that put the Australians firmly in the western camp and caused grief for China over the next few years, ended up insulting a close American ally, the French.

And you'll see President Biden trying to sort of make that up with President Macron today. But that's a -- that's a damaged relationship.

KEILAR: David, how much does it matter that China -- that Xi Jinping isn't going to be there? SANGER: You know, the two big no-shows this year, except by video, are

Xi Jinping and, of course, Vladimir Putin, the two major American adversaries.

In some ways, I actually think this gives the president some running room there. What he's been trying to do around the world is refocus American policy on dealing with China, engaging it where they can, particularly on climate issues.

But not only on that, on Iran and North Korea, economic growth but also confronting it and confronting many of its crackdowns in Hong Kong, threatening Taiwan.

Not having Putin there, not having Xi Jinping there frees them up in some way to sort of gather this group and said, look, China is the emerging threat, and Russia needs to be contained.

And you'll notice that, as soon as they landed, the G-20's first statement was actually one about suppression of media in Russia. So I think it actually plays to his benefit that they're not there in person.

KEILAR: It's very interesting. And that sub deal you mentioned is -- happened with the backdrop of this pivot to China, this focus on China. And Europe is worried, right? They're worried as they watch the U.S. change its focus.

What does he need to do to be very clear that European nations are still such important partners for America?

SANGER: Well, one thing he needs to do is get them to join the effort to go deal with China. Because China, while more distant from Europe, is in many ways as threatening to them on control of information.

He's already had some success, as had President Trump in getting countries to turn away Huawei equipment. Not all of them have done it, but some have. That's about letting China control the networks of the NATO allies and, of course, in Latin America and then in Africa.

But I think that the biggest trick that he's going to have at this point is to sort of prove the "America is back" line that seemed evident to everybody in the spring. And then he went through this summer in which people began to question whether America really is back?

And the European concern, as you point out, Brianna, is the term, the pivot means that, as you turn towards Asia, you're turning your back on someone else. And the Europeans fear that's them.

So he's got to make it clear that the agenda for America's traditional European allies and beyond is as vigorous as the one in the Pacific. And the fact of the matter is, this is a world of limited resources. And the least is military resources. He's going to overwhelmingly have to move to the Pacific.

KEILAR: Limited resources. Let's talk about the vaccine and coronavirus. What about on that front?

SANGER: Well, you know, here, the United States is in a position where we now are so awash in vaccine that I think the key is to show that he really is spearheading a move to vaccinate the rest of the world.

And here the United States, I think, was a bit slow in the beginning. And I understand that politically. Because no national leader could get away with not vaccinating their own people first.

But at this moment, I think he's got to show that we're not safe until everyone is safe and really move not just to providing the vaccine but helping countries that don't have much infrastructure get it into arms.


And that would probably be the most progressive single thing he could do at the G-20. At the climate talks, he's going to have to show that his climate agenda survives what's happening in Congress. And he's not going to be able to prove that for some time.

Because we've got a bill that we're not even sure is going to get through. And it's, of course, half the size of what we were discussing a few weeks ago.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, it is a chunk of money for climate change. But --

SANGER: It is. It's a lot.

KEILAR: It hasn't passed yet. It hasn't passed, so we're keeping our eye on it.

David, wonderful to talk with you. Thank you.

SANGER: Great to be with you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Right now, President Biden is meeting with Pope Francis. A lot of topics on the table here. We'll have our coverage continuing in Rome.

BERMAN: And the new conspiracy theory documentary putting -- being put out by a major U.S. -- or a major world corporation and the biggest star at FOX TV. What you need to know about this delusional product.



BERMAN: So FOX-TV branching into fantasy programming. A new series from Tucker Carlson traffics in conspiracy theories surrounding the insurrection on January 6.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: We've got to fight a new enemy in a new war on terror. JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: White supremacy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: False lies have happened in this country. One of which may have been January 6th.


BERMAN: This comes on the heels of a letter published in "The Wall Street Journal" by former President Trump that was full of falsehoods and debunked claims about the election that he lost. And it's no coincidence that both FOX News and "The Wall Street Journal" are owned by Rupert Murdoch's news empire.

Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

You know, I'd seen the Tucker Carlson trailer before, but seeing it again takes your breath away. When you hear someone on that special say, "false flags."

And I don't want to make light of this, but Geraldo Rivera tweeted about this: "False flags?" question mark. "Bullshit."

When you've lost Geraldo.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: When you've lost Geraldo. But you know, when FOX's primetime host is going into full conspiracy theories and rewriting of history around January 6th. This is recent history. And rewriting history is something typically, I don't know, communist regimes engage in. It's a very dangerous use of that power in that pulpit.

And it's part of a piece. Because there's an overall effort throughout history that we've seen members of Congress involved in, certainly, Donald Trump with his repeated lies that the real insurrection was on election day, not January 6th.

They are now party to this. They are responsible for this. And while the direct responsibility may fall on Tucker Carlson, the larger responsibility does fall on the people who run the company. The people who run the company.

And many of them may view this as that's not me. This is a business decision. You can say that's the height of cynicism, which it is. But it's something worse, because you're dealing with incredibly dangerous stuff in our democracy.

It is not only on Murdoch to say what's too far, what's the lie. Stop rationalizing this as a business decision to play to a niche constituency that's being eaten out itself by the far right.

What's too far for people like Paul Ryan, who said he cried?

BERMAN: Who's on the board.

AVLON: Who's on the board, excuse me. And that's an important point to point out. The question is a question of what is too far. Where do you draw the

line? If that line doesn't exist, then you're complicit.

KEILAR: It seems like it's the point, right? He's not allowing -- This is the point. The hate and the anger and the lies are the point. Why does Rupert Murdoch want to destroy America?

AVLON: The -- the anger and the anxiety is the point from getting a repeat audience perspective. That's one of the things the Facebook files has shown us and I think we've seen engaging -- happening over a long period of time.

To appeal to a narrow but intense niche audience, you need to keep them addicted to anger, anxiety, and resentment. That has, to a large extent, been the business plan. It is just literally weaponized by the ex-president and his minions and the people who enable him in Congress.

You know, the -- the rise of hyperpartisan media has helped lead us to this moment. And Rupert Murdoch has paid a very powerful driving force in that.

But that monster has also gotten out of the box. And here we learn again that Gollum turns on its creator.

BERMAN: The monster was pushed out of the box. I mean, they're more than just complicit. They're pushing this, really. You know, "The Wall Street Journal" yesterday publishing this letter from the former president that was full of lies.

"The Wall Street Journal" then put out an explanation for this. And I will read that. They said, "We think it's news when an ex-president, who may run in 2024, wrote what he did, even if, or perhaps especially if, his claims are bananas."

You know who didn't note that the claims were bananas when they published the letter?

AVLON: The paper when it published it.

KEILAR: That's right.

AVLON: And to do the follow-up statement is this is this classic move that says, Look, you know, we're just -- this is newsworthy, and we're just -- we're just pushing that forward.

Saying it's bananas after the fact and not saying that when you publish it or refusing to publish it is the point. That's an abdication of basic, basic responsibility when you run a newspaper.

And that doesn't only fall on the author (ph). It also falls on the people who run the paper. The editorial page. That is a decision they are making. They are -- they have made that decision to elevate lies on their editorial page, perhaps not for the first time.

KEILAR Maybe it would be weird to fact-check a letter to the editor like that. But it's also weird to allow a former president who's de- platformed on Twitter to sort of shoehorn himself into the letters to the editor. So you should have done a fact check.

AVLON: It should have been a conversation. Right? Well, we can't publish this as an op-ed. Let's publish this as a letter to the editor and then not comment on it.

BERMAN: The fact this is all happening in broad daylight.