Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Holiday Travel Begins Amid Shortages, Unruly Behavior, And Weather; 4 Black Men Exonerated 70+ Years After Wrongly Accused Of Rape; Enes Kanter Escalates Rhetoric Against NBA, Stars Over China. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: With this big holiday week, the TSA is expecting a crush of passengers rivaling pre-pandemic levels last seen in 2019. But with mask-wearing mandates, unruly passengers, worker shortages, and possible weather delays, are the airports truly ready?

CNN's Pete Muntean, the world's most interesting man, live at Reagan National Airport this morning with what we're -- what's in store for us, Pete.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, these numbers are huge, John. Just one example -- United Airlines is anticipating its biggest numbers in 19 months. More than four million people will board one of its flights. But remember that airlines got a lot smaller over the pandemic, making the challenge to get you to the dinner table even bigger.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): The frustrations of Thanksgiving travel are back at airports across the country -- the latest estimate from the TSA that 20 million people will take to the skies for the holiday. That means this year's rush will look nothing like it did last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost back to where it was before the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's good to finally feel kind of normal again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People feel really safe about leaving and are excited to reconnect with friends and family.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Now the question is whether airlines can handle this rebound.

United Airlines' network operations center in Chicago is monitoring 3,900 departures a day, packed with the most passengers since the start of the pandemic.

DAVID KENSICK, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, UNITED AIRLINES: I'm ready to deliver a great product to our customers.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Operations director David Kensick says the goal here is to head off staffing and weather delays before they cause you to miss your flight.

KENSICK: I am confident in delivering a safe and reliable operation this Thanksgiving.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Shortages of flight crews contributed to schedule meltdowns at both Southwest and American Airlines in October, leaving thousands stranded by canceled flights.

Captain Dennis Tajer represents the American Airlines pilot union.

CAPT. DENNIS TAJER, ALLIED PILOTS ASSOCIATION: If management fails after Mother Nature hits and the storm hits to connect us to the airplane, then you've got headlines.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): American says 1,800 flight attendants just returned from pandemic leaves of absence. It is also paying flight attendants time and a half for working this week. But American's 14,000 pilots say that is not enough and turned down a similar offer to send a message.

TAJER: It's incredibly frustrating because we don't see the structural changes happening.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Airlines insist they are out of the woods and are ready for their biggest test of the pandemic.

KENSICK: Through all the challenges we faced it's just made us a bit more agile in dealing with any issues that come up so we are more prepared when we get to the holiday season.


MUNTEAN: So, the numbers today will be big. Tomorrow will be even bigger. But the TSA says the Sunday after Thanksgiving will be the biggest. That's when everyone will start coming home all at once. More than 450,000 people anticipated on United Airlines alone, John.


BERMAN: I hope they all go in with the right attitude.

Pete, I really appreciate you being there. Thank you so much for that report.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Four young Black men wrongly charged and accused of rape. Seventy-two years later, their families finally getting some closure.

A Florida judge exonerated the Groveland Four as they came to be known. They were, as we said, wrongly accused of raping a 17-year-old white girl back in 1949. The case is considered one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in Jim Crow-era Florida. A jury convicted the men without evidence of a crime. And more than 70

years later, the state sought justice once they realized that there was some new evidence and after a posthumous pardon from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

None of the men are still alive today but their families were in court as the Groveland Four were officially cleared by the court, and their emotion was raw.




KEILAR: That is the daughter of one of the Groveland Four, Charles Greenlee. And Carol Greenlee is with us now. Carol, that moment where --


KEILAR: -- we saw you in court -- I can't even imagine what this was like. How did that feel, finally, to have your dad exonerated in a court?

GREENLEE: It felt like 72 years of emotions boiled up in a bottle that burst. I tried to -- several times, tried to restrain myself but it just -- it was just hard to feel that at last, 72 years, this cloud had been rectified over me. I feel like I had gotten my day out of prison, riding a wave -- a huge monstrous wave coming up that I had to get on. And it just -- this wave just came up in emotions.

I can't -- I can't give you the right words to say how deep and how pleased I was just to hear the judge to say innocent. I waited 72 years to hear that word attached to my father's name.

KEILAR: How -- you know --

GREENLEE: It was just --

KEILAR: You father wasn't -- and you had a special relationship with him, Carol. You were 11 when he was paroled. How did it feel not having him there to hear this news himself?

GREENLEE: It felt -- it felt like he was there. It felt like -- I felt that I saw him in my spirit. I saw him smile. And that -- and that smile of his that says OK, it's over now. It's ended. And I just wish that I could just hug him like he always hugged me on his birthday.

And when it was announced, I felt oh -- my father's presence and it was -- it was a good feeling. It was a -- it was a grateful feeling. It was a thankful feeling.

I remember when I used to give him a birthday card or take him some peanut brittle, he would always say thank you, Carol. And I felt that yesterday. I felt him saying thank you.

KEILAR: You know, the details --

GREENLEE: Amazing.

KEILAR: That is amazing. It is amazing to hear you recount it, Carol -- I will tell you.

The details of what your father and these other defendants went through -- I mean, they're just horrific. They were beaten to receive a confession. Two of his -- all of his co-defendants were actually shot under question or circumstances at one point or another by law enforcement or by a white mob. And yet, the convictions stood even though from the very get-go it was very clear that they may be innocent.

Why do you think it took so long?

GREENLEE: I would think because when it happened folks were scared. They had been intimidated to the max. And that they didn't -- in some areas they just wanted it to go away because it was so horrific. It was so wrong.


They was afraid to talk about it. Even my father hesitated to talk about it -- to tell me about it. It took me 40 years to even ask him about it because I didn't want to open up those wounds. Because growing up, it appeared that everybody was hurt and it was such a painful time that nobody wanted to talk about it. That's what took so long.

Until you have the courage to pull the shade back and face the evil and the -- and the bad things, it will just stay there. It will just stay uncovered. So, until we can talk about it and face our mistakes and have the courage to do what attorney Gladson did -- to dig deep -- is when we correct the wrongs.

KEILAR: You know, Carol --

GREENLEE: And that's what took so long.

KEILAR: -- you were there seeing justice through for your dad. You said that you could feel him saying thank you. And I wonder what you would say to your dad today if you could.

GREENLEE: I love you. I appreciate you. I thank God for you. Because it is -- it is who my father was and still is to me -- my hero. He endured the worst of the worst and came out the best of the best.

He raised his children to be grateful, to be thankful, to be forgiving. To be honest and in all ways embrace the truth.

And I would say thank you, father -- thank you --

KEILAR: Carol -- GREENLEE: -- for raising me to be strong.

KEILAR: Carol, I want to thank you for being with us. And I'm so glad for your family for this just end to what has been a decades' long ordeal for you family, for the other families of the Groveland Four, and honestly, for the history of this country. I really, really am thankful that you're speaking with us today.

GREENLEE: I thank you for having me. Thank you very much.

KEILAR: And we're back here in a moment.



KEILAR: The links between the climate crisis and racial injustice exist throughout our history but also in our present day, from the damage of Katrina to the latest Hurricane Ida.

CNN's Rene Marsh is with us now on this story. And, you know, Rene, you have been looking at how minority communities in America survive the trauma of climate racism. This is a very, very significant thing that they're dealing with. They're predominantly impacted here.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and traveling to Louisiana, you really do see this outsized sort of impact on certain communities there. And in speaking with the people there, they say that so many people have already died as a result of this sort of environmental injustice. And now, they're fighting for future generations and they got to tell that directly to the head of the EPA, Michael Regan.


MARSH (voice-over): It's been nearly three months since Hurricane Ida, a category four storm, slammed Louisiana. Yet, this small Black community of Ironton looks like the storm hit yesterday.

WILKIE DECLOUET, IRONTON, LOUISIANA RESIDENT: They've got people that lost everything that don't know where they're going to get their next meal from.

MARSH (on camera): What is that like having to know that every --

DECLOUET: You know --

MARSH: -- hurricane season you don't know if you're going to lose everything again.

DECLOUET: I've never been to war but I could imagine what a young man that's been in the war and dealing with post-traumatic stress because this is a form of post-traumatic stress.

MARSH (voice-over): Steps away from destroyed homes, caskets with the dead inside sit under the warm Louisiana sun. The state-run cemetery task force has not returned them to their resting place after floodwaters forced them from their gravesites.

CASSANDRE WILSON, DECEASED FAMILY MEMBERS DISPLACED: It's heartbreaking to see that no one's really trying to put them back.

MARSH (voice-over): Ironton is in Plaquemines Parish where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico, south of New Orleans. Much of the area is below sea level and it has the dubious distinction of being one of the fastest-vanishing places on the planet due to climate change-induced sea-level rise.

A recent EPA study found minorities are more likely to live on land endangered by rising sea levels and more likely to die from extreme temperatures.

But extreme weather is not the only danger. A drive along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge reveals an 85- mile stretch of more than 150 petroleum and chemical companies that have sandwiched whole neighborhoods while spewing harmful emissions. More vulnerable to climate change, more exposed to pollutants.

It's the proverbial one-two punch, EPA administrator Michael Regan came to see as the Biden administration promises to address environmental injustices in minority and low-income communities.

MARSH (on camera): The general feeling here is that their government has failed them.

MICHAEL REGAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I think the state and federal government, and local government has failed the people in terms of effectively communicating and being transparent, and offering some levels of relief.

MARSH (voice-over): Failing people like 81-year-old Robert Taylor, a lifelong resident of Louisiana's cancer alley, where the nation's highest cancer rate is concentrated.

ROBERT TAYLOR, CANCER ALLEY RESIDENT AND ACTIVIST: We want him to stop the slaughter. This is outright slaughter.


MARSH (voice-over): These are all of Taylor's family members diagnosed with cancer. Almost everyone here has a cancer story.

REGAN: When you look at how much industry is here and the suffering that we're seeing, there has to be a correlation.

MARSH (on camera): The state has not declared this a public health emergency. Are you prepared to do against that?

REGAN: No. We're going to assess the data, we're going to follow the facts, we're going to follow the science, and we're going to follow the law.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MARSH: So, what the people there within these Louisiana communities got from the EPA was a commitment to fix these decades of environmental injustice that they've experienced. But we -- what we didn't hear, Brianna, was a specific timeline for when there would be specific deliverables to these communities.

And I can tell you in speaking with them they want action. They want it specific. They want it now. So, we will be waiting to see how the EPA moves forward.

And just one more note. Those coffins that you saw in the piece that were washed up by the storm -- we reached out to the state about that and have not received a response.

KEILAR: I mean, help is not going to come soon enough. That is what is very clear here.

Rene, thank you so much. It's such an excellent and much-needed report.

We have more on our breaking news. President Biden set to announce that he is releasing 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help lower gas prices. We'll have the White House joining us live coming up.

Plus, why a federal judge compared Al Gore to Donald Trump.

BERMAN: And a Boston Celtics star not holding back. Candid comments on the NBA, China, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and more when Enes Kanter joins us live.



BERMAN: Eleven-year NBA veteran Enes Kanter has become the league's most vocal critic of China.

In a new op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal," he calls for the Winter Olympics to be moved out of China entirely. He writes, in part, "The sports community must wake up and speak up. We need to realize that the authoritarian Chinese government isn't our friend. The Communist Party is a brutal dictatorship that has weaponized economic power to achieve ideological and political compliance."

And joining me now is Enes Kanter. Enes, thank you so much for getting up and speaking with us. I know you had a game last night.

Listen, you want the Winter Olympics --


BERMAN: -- to be moved. Let's say that doesn't happen. I think it's unlikely for that to happen.

What do you think athletes should do? Should they refuse to go to China?

KANTER: Thanks for having me, John.

You know, I think if you see what's happened in China, it's definitely heartbreaking. There are so many human rights violations and so many people who are suffering right now. And shame on our organizations -- organizations like the International Olympic Committee that's setting up an Olympic Games this winter -- coming up winter in a place like China where there is a dictatorship happening right now at this moment.

I believe, you know -- just to me it's very sad because there has not been one athlete or one country hasn't boycott the Olympics yet.

But I believe if you see what's happened to the recent attack on the Chinese tennis player, it's just heartbreaking.

So, I believe all those athletes -- but not just athletes -- all the countries and people needs to speak up and just definitely we need to boycott the Winter Olympics this coming up winter.

BERMAN: Altogether, countries and athletes, even if their countries don't officially boycott?

KANTER: Yes. That's what I believe, yes. That is the solution because they -- you know, the important thing is we cannot just have this kind of games happening where there is a genocide happening while we are speaking right now.

BERMAN: So, the WTA -- the Women's Tennis Association -- has spoken out against China, strongly --


BERMAN: -- for the treatment of Peng Shuai. Does the NBA need to join, too? Why is it just the Women's Tennis Association?

KANTER: I believe not just NBA but NFL, NHL, MLS, MLB, or every organization should take notes of what WTA did. It was unbelievable how they stand behind their players and they just said it. We do not care about your endorsement deals. We do not care about your business or money. We stand with our players.

It is important for these organizations to stand up for their players. It doesn't matter what kind of business that they're doing with China. So, when I read about that I was very happy with the stand that the WTA took.

BERMAN: Enes, you're not just speaking out against China. You're also speaking out against the silence of other athletes and prominent people vis-a-vis China -- specifically, LeBron James, the biggest star in your league and in your sport.

You tweeted last week, "Money over morals for the king." Very critical of LeBron James and his continued sneaker deals with Nike that produces in China. This is how James responded to that after you guys played each other

Saturday night.


LEBRON JAMES, FORWARD, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: I think if you know me, I don't really give too many people my energy, and he's definitely not someone I would give my energy to. You know, trying to use my name to create an opportunity for himself.


BERMAN: What's your reaction to that, Enes?

KANTER: I mean, it just -- it's said. It's sad because they're just puppets. I believe before this ad -- you know, before LeBron James or Michael Jordan, we need to call out these companies because it is sad. Like for example, Nike, the biggest sponsor of the NBA, right?

If you look at in America they stand with Black Lives Matter, Latino community, no Asian hate, and the LGBTQ community. But when it comes to China, they remain silent. So, I am asking all the American --