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Richard Soliz is Interviewed about Apologizing for Being Unvaccinated; Harris Arrives in France; China Builds Mock Targets of U.S. Ships; GOP's Murder Fantasies, Farrakhan and Secession. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 09, 2021 - 08:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: After battling COVID-19 in the hospital for nearly a month, Richard Soliz recently returned to Harvard View Medical Center in Seattle, but it wasn't for medical treatment, it was to apologize to the staff for not having gotten vaccinated.

Joining us now is COVID survivor Richard Soliz.

Richard, it is so wonderful to see you here and healthy. And can you just tell us why you decided, hey, I need to go back to the hospital and I'm going to say sorry to these doctors and nurses?

RICHARD SOLIZ, APOLOGIZED TO DOCTORS FOR BEING UNVACCINATED: Yes. Considering the amount of medical attention that I received, and to the extent, you know, that's -- when you're in a situation like that, literally fighting for your life, I was overwhelmed with the amount of care that I got and to the extent and everything that was done for me. I just felt that I needed to thank them and let them know that I really appreciated everything that they did for me, and in the manner and because literally they -- they literally saved my life.

KEILAR: Yes, they took great care of you. We are witnessing that right now.

SOLIZ: Oh, absolutely.

KEILAR: And we also -- these pictures of you going back and talking to them, they had hugs for you. I mean tell us how they reacted when you showed up.

SOLIZ: Well, they were -- they were so gracious. They were very kind. And sincerely glad to see me. And, you know, expressed a great deal of joy knowing that, you know, that I was better.

I was overwhelmed and very touched to know that they were -- they reached out to me in the manner that they did. I was -- I was moved to say the least.

KEILAR: They were happy to hear your change of heart on the vaccine? SOLIZ: Yes. You know, I had a change of heart in the process and in my

stay as everything occurred. I knew that I had been in error not getting -- being vaccinated. I, by all means, I knew that I had to do something about that.

KEILAR: So I'm not sure if you're a football fan, but I know that, you know, you don't have to be one to hear about what's been going on with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had said that he was vaccinated and then it turned out that he wasn't, that he had been lying about it.

What would you say to him?

SOLIZ: I wouldn't know why somebody would say that they're vaccinated and not be vaccinated. I don't know what the reason for something like that would be. But, I mean, considering what I've experienced and to the extent and everything that was -- the details and everybody that was involved, you know, coming to my aid, I'd expressed to him the importance of that vaccination. And, you know, to actually get it, not just say you got it, but to actually get it.

KEILAR: Well, Richard, I hope that, you know -- I hope people hear you. I hope you've changed some minds with this. It is -- it is wonderful to have you on.

Richard Soliz, thanks.

SOLIZ: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: And just in, a new provocation from China. This time it involves replicas of U.S. warships.

BERMAN: And moments ago, Vice President Kamala Harris arriving in France for a mission to smooth things over with one of America's oldest allies. We're live in Paris, next.



KEILAR: Vice President Kamala Harris is in France this morning. It is her first official European trip and she's been tasked with cleanup. Cleaning up the Biden administration's French faux pas in the wake of the nuclear submarine deal controversy with Australia.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is traveling with the vice president, and joins us live from Paris.

She is there with a big band-aid, Jeremy.


Look, President Biden already did the first step here in meeting with President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the G-20 in Rome a couple of weeks ago. But now step two is also crucial. And that is where Vice President Harris comes in. She's going to be spending five days here in Paris, including a bilateral meeting with the French president, participating in a forum that is a priority for the French president as well, delivering remarks, participating in some armistice day events, all of this intended to highlight the long and deep bonds between the United States and France, and to make clear to the French government that the U.S./French relationship is indeed a priority to this administration following that submarine dustup a couple of months ago.


But there's no question that the French president is looking to squeeze every ounce of juice out of that dustup as he possibly can. And French officials have told me that they are looking for concrete actions to improve the U.S./French relationship beyond just the rhetoric that we have heard so far from President Biden, reaffirming the commitment between these two countries. That will be difficult for the vice president to act on, but senior officials -- senior Biden administration officials have told me that they are prepared to improve the relationship in concrete ways, though they would not yet say exactly how they will accomplish that.

But no question about it, this is also going to be a key diplomatic test for the vice president and an opportunity for her to burnish her foreign policy credentials at the heart of the transatlantic relationship. And given her past stumbles, including on that first foreign trip to Mexico and Guatemala, there's no question that both her supporters and detractors will be closely watching this visit here this week.


KEILAR: Yes, look, she has a big task ahead of her during this week.

Jeremy, thank you so much for covering it for us.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New satellite images revealing China's military has built mock-ups of U.S. warships for possible target practice. Here's a full-scale outline of an aircraft carrier and at least two guided missile destroyers at a ballistic missile testing complex.

Joining us now, CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga.

Look, I'm sure these types of mock-ups aren't unheard of when you're dealing with military training. However, this is happening in the context of a pretty tense moment between the U.S. and China.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And it fits the narrative, that China is rapidly developing its military base. And you look at where these images originated from. And this is important context because the public is just now seeing them for the first time. But former and old satellite images show that this was started to be built in March of 2019. So this is something that they've been working on for the past few years.

But it does fit into the larger image of what Xi is representing for the country and its future. Right now the central committee is holding its annual plenary meeting in China right now. And it's basically solidifying Xi's role in China's history. If Mao was the leader that brought the country together, Xiaoping was the country that brought the country wealth -- was the leader that brought the country wealth, then Xi is the country -- is the leader that's bringing the country some force and strength.

BERMAN: That's right, vis-a-vis, it seems, the United States, explicitly in this case, if you're mocking up U.S. military vessels.

GOLODRYGA: And also remember what happened just the last few weeks. They test their first hypersonic weapon as well, and it's something that General Milley described as a near Sputnik moment. So it is becoming a conversation and talking point amongst military officials as to what China plans to do later, perhaps vis-a-vis Taiwan.

BERMAN: We'll talk more about Taiwan because you said this started, this military base where the mock-up is, this began in 2019. Taiwan's been an issue for a long time, but particularly tense moments recently. How much should we be thinking about Taiwan here?

GOLODRYGA: Look, the U.S. military is clearly thinking about Taiwan too. And I think from the context of a miscalculation, that is -- still continues to be the biggest risk that we could face in a potential battle between the United States and China.

And if you go back to just when we were growing up, right, we had U.S. presidents constantly issuing most favored nation status, right, to China, bringing them in. The World Trade Organization. Now I have my son asking if the U.S. and China go to battle, who's going to win? And it shows how far we have come in terms of relations between the two countries. Joe Biden and President Xi, I believe, will be meeting virtually sometime this week, but simmering tensions is where we want to be right now.

BERMAN: I appreciate the vote of confidence because there are some who say I have never grown up, but thank you very much for that.

So, the investigation into the deadly Astroworld Festival now turning to toxicology and the possible role of illegal drugs.

KEILAR: And Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene headlining an epic day for extremism in Congress. Your "Reality Check," next.



BERMAN: We talked about Congressman Paul Gosar's so-called fantasy video of him killing Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. It's not happening in a vacuum.

John Avlon with a Reality Check."

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We talk a lot about how the Republican Party has become dangerously extreme. And we're wary of giving too much oxygen to attention seeking trolls masquerading as legislators. But sometimes the patterns can't be ignored. So I want to highlight three comments from three elected Republicans that surfaced within 24 hours because it shows the moral gangrene that's disfiguring the party beholden to Donald Trump's big lie.

On Sunday night, Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar posted a photo shopped anime video showing himself killing Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio- Cortez and attacking President Biden. You know, just like any well- balanced, totally normal 62-year-old member of Congress who's been denounced by six of his siblings for being hateful and bigoted.

Now, we're not going to replay the sick video. It's already been viewed millions of times. But that's a measure of the real problem, which is the continued fetishizing of political violence, ten months after the attack on our Capitol, by backers of the big lie, like Congressman Paul Gosar.

There's a zero percent learning curve here from the party that continues to coddle him. But if threatening to murder your co-workers isn't a deal breaker in today's GOP, you'd think that praising the nation of Islam might be, after all the oxygen spent denouncing them. But, in an epic example of how the enemy of my enemy is my friend logic that could leads to some really bad places, the big lie backing QAnon curious congresswoman from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, got her Monday morning started with a tweet storm praising the black Muslim separatist organization for sharing her antivaccine beliefs. Quote, the nation of Islam is also strongly against the COVID-19 vaccines, Greene tweeted. The Nation of Islam sees the use and benefit of Ivermectin and is very angry that our media, Democrats and Dr. Fauci have attacked the drug.


We have common ground here.

She also praised the group's opposition to childhood vaccines, (INAUDIBLE) quoting their leader, Louis Farrakhan, for saying that vaccine mandates are a declaration of war.

Now, it's probably a complete coincidence that Greene found common cause with the notoriously anti-Semitic Farrakhan after her talk of Jewish space lasers and persistent Nazi comparisons for COVID vaccination efforts. But given that House Republicans introduced a resolution in 2018 condemning Farrakhan for promoting ideas that create animosity and anger towards Jewish Americans and the Jewish relation, I wonder whether Greene will get the same clear rebuke or whether this crazy is just considered baked in the cake. Even as October COVID deaths spiked more than three times higher in counties that Trump overwhelmingly won, anti-vaxxers are literally dying right now to own the libs (ph).

All of this comes on the heels of Texas Senator Ted Cruz picking a fight with "Sesame Street's" Big Bird over childhood vaccines, mistaking PSAs for propaganda. While "The Hill" published a report Monday night on Cruz's musings about Texas seceding from the union. Quote, we're not there yet, Cruz said, but if there comes a point where it's hopeless, then I think we take NASA, we take the military, we take the oil.

I guess he's giving up on any hope of being president of the United States and instead a need to become president of Texas.

But, seriously, this is a U.S. senator talking about secession, which, of course, caused civil war in which 750,000 Americans died. Approximately the same number of Americans who died during this pandemic.

Any one of these insane incitements might just be dismissed as crazy person says crazy thing. But taken together, and reports from a single 24-hour period, and you can see why we have a problem here. The nuts are being normalized to the point where it can seem like part of the scenery. And the GOP needs to take responsibility because there's no room for false equivalency here. The steady stream of incitement translates to things like a poll showing that 30 percent of Republicans believe that violence might be needed to save the United States. It leads to messages like this, left on Republican Congressman Fred Upton's phone for the alleged sin of voting for a bipartisan infrastructure bill, which he aired last night on "AC 360."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) die. I hope your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) family dies. I hope everybody in your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) staff dies, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Traitor!


AVLON: Yes, all this apocalyptic rhetoric has an impact. It's evidence of a sickness in our politics and it's got to stop before even more damage is done to our democracy.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: A sickness indeed.

John Avlon, thank you very much.

Developing overnight, six new subpoenas from the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection, including some for some very familiar faces.

KEILAR: And next, saying good-bye to an American hero far too soon.



KEILAR: We have some sad news to share about a young veteran that we introduced you to this summer, in a story about how burn pits threaten a generation of veterans that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Retired Staff Sergeant Wesley Black, who served in both of those wars with the Vermont National Guard, passed away over the weekend at just 36 years old. At 31, as Wes was settling into his post-war life in Vermont with his wife Laura and their new baby and a new career as a firefighter which he loved, he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer that had spread to his liver and lungs. An oncologist linked Wes' diagnosis to his exposure to the burn pits that the U.S. military had used to destroy trash in combat zones. It was a devastating diagnosis and yet Wes took his remaining time and he became a tireless advocate for other veterans exposed to burn pits, which are quickly becoming known as the Agent Orange of the post-9/11 generation.


STAFF SGT. WESLEY BLACK, DIED OF CANCER ON SUNDAY: I'm kind of like the canary in the coal mine. You know, I'm screaming my head off, trying to raise this issue of awareness. It's too late for me. But it's not too late for the next veteran that walks down the hall of the VA. We have a chance right now to get ahead of that ball. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


KEILAR: Wes' doctors had estimated that he had three to five years to live. Well, he beat that. He was able to see his son Ronan make it to kindergarten this year. And that was much to Wes' delight that Ronan loved school, because it was the complete opposite of Wes. And just a few weeks ago, even as Wes was in significant discomfort, he texted about how proud he was of his wife Laura as she was juggling his care, being a mom and finishing up her bachelor's degree. Laura, he said, hid her wonder woman bracelets well.

So, rest in peace, Staff Sergeant Wesley Black, you made a hell of a difference.


BLACK: I'm just a dumb Irish kid from Boston. All I know how to do is fight. And, you know, cancer is going to win. But it's going to be one hell of a war of attrition.


BERMAN: He fought and he made a huge, huge difference. And that in and of itself is a victory. And I know that his wife and his son, you know, for both of them, the years they've had, these extra years that they've had, because of his fight, is something they will cherish forever.

KEILAR: Yes, he really made a difference, John.

BERMAN: And thank you for shining a light on his life and his fight and the importance of the issues that he's brought to light because this is something that thousands of veterans are dealing with right now.


CNN's coverage continues right now.