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New Day

Barbados Ditches The Queen, Becomes A New Republic; America's Opioid Crisis Deepens During Pandemic; Tiger Woods Says His Days As Full-Time Golfer Are Over. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: No one is above questions and criticism -- no public official -- and that means Dr. Anthony Fauci, too. But some of what you've heard over the last 24 hours represents new lows in gross absurdity and new highs in historical ignorance.

John Avlon with a reality check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The partisan attacks against Dr. Anthony Fauci reached an absurd level. Yesterday, on Fox News, we saw two sick new examples.


LARA LOGAN, FOX NEWS HOST, "LARA LOGAN HAS NO AGENDA": This is what people say to me -- that he doesn't represent science to them. He represents Josef Mengele -- Dr. Josef Mengele, the doctor -- the Nazi doctor who did experiments on Jews during the Second World War in the concentration camps. And I am talking about people all across the world are saying this.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT": Tony Fauci has morphed into an even shorter version of Benito Mussolini.


AVLON: Now, for those of you keeping score at home, that's two Fauci- ist fascist comparisons from Fox News hosts in one day. But I've got to say, if people are actually -- keep coming up to Lara Logan and comparing Dr. Fauci to Josef Mengele, maybe it says something about the company she's keeping.

But, of course, that's kind of the point. Hating Dr. Fauci has become as a hothouse cottage industry on the far-right.

It began in the early months of COVID when polls showed that Fauci was more trusted than Trump. And this, of course, was an unforgivable sin and resulted in repeated attacks on the doctor by the Donald. It became a right-wing signifier with GOP fundraising off anti-Fauci schwag, like Gov. Ron DeSantis pushing "Don't Fauci My Florida" t- shirts as his state closed in on record COVID rates this summer. And according to data from Bully Pulpit Interactive, cited by Politico, conservatives spent $300,000 on Facebook ads targeting Fauci in the month of May alone as the threats became more personal and conspiratorial.

You don't have to think that Dr. Fauci has gotten everything right in hindsight to see that these attacks are desperate deflections. It's imminently possible, for example, to investigate the Wuhan lab leak theory without trying to blame the global pandemic on America's top public health doctor.

But even by these degraded standards, I was still a little surprised to learn that the latest anti-Fauci outrage accused him of killing puppies, literally. In some ways, it's actually the perfect cartoon version of negative partisanship where your political opponents are not merely mistaken but evil. So evil that they would even kill puppies in their spare time.


And normally, this isn't the kind of thing we'd bother to reality check but an incisive Twitter thread by "The Atlantic's" David Frum made me realize this has gotten real traction. It went beyond the typical grifters like Donald Trump, Jr., who is selling "Fauci Kills Puppies" t-shirts, to actual elected officials on both sides of the aisle.

And after it spun memes and flooded Facebook feeds, people started calling Fauci's office with death threats like these obtained by "The Washington Post."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: F*** you, Dr. Fauci. I hope they put you in a cage with a bunch of flies and let them eat you. And then I hope they hang you from the highest tree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You evil f***. Your days are numbered. Rot in hell, (bleep).


AVLON: Fauci responded to these attacks by telling "The Washington Post," quote, "The constant harassment in the form of ridiculous accusations and outright lies makes doing my job and that of my staff of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic all the more difficult." Well, that's clear.

But where exactly did this whole killing puppies thing come from? Well, it turns out that a group called White Coat Waste Project, founded by a former Republican operative, posted blogs alleging evidence that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci runs, had spent over $375,000 on truly grotesque experiments on dogs in Tunisia related to a disease spread by sand fleas. Except this was not exactly the case. The journal that published a study on the experiments issued a correction saying they had not received funding from the National Institutes of Health at all, but the NIH had previously funded another study where beagles were immunized against a disease spread by sand fleas to test its effectiveness.

Now, look, animal experiments may not be your moral cup of tea but as David Frum pointed out, the experiments in question a) seem imminently reasonable for research to advance to a vaccine against a serious disease; and b), had nothing to do with Dr. Fauci.

Now, for their part, the White Coat Waste Project's V.P. Justin Goodman told CNN that "As a single-issue organization, we don't take any stand on Dr. Fauci and the NIH's other policies or issues -- masks, vaccine mandates, the overall COVID response, or frankly anything else. We're only working to end his funding for these cruel experiments."

The group has not retracted or corrected its claims that the NIH funded the study in Tunisia and it's still publishing images from the study. In addition, they claim that the NIH is funding other studies where, at their conclusion, the dogs were euthanized as the disease's study had no cure. CNN has not been able to verify these claims.

Now, I'm tempted to step back and say the good news is that we've finally found some common ground between PETA and Trumpers, but that would be putting lipstick on a pig to use a metaphor that I'm sure PETA would also hate.

But the larger issue is this constant drumbeat of demonizing Dr. Fauci. It's an outgrowth of the disinformation industrial complex, which amplifies any negative narrative about designated enemies. And these obsessive efforts are a symptom of this environment of asymmetric information warfare where come people profit off polarization and misinformation while local newspapers that actually edit and fact-check are dying on the vine. The combination seems almost designed to decrease trust in media institutions at a time when we desperately need to be able to reason together.

As it stands, social media algorithms more easily spread misinformation than truth. We need transparency about how folks exploit these algorithms because right now, lies and conspiracy theories appear to be getting more exposure than actual facts. The sheer volume of disinformation is disorienting -- I get it. It caused people to lose their common sense. But these nightmare visions of negative partisanship are always ultimately nonsense.

And that's your reality check.

BERMAN: You know, Lara Logan and her friends may want to go buy a book or read one on Josef Mengele before saying something like that.

AVLON: Yes. It seems like a reasonable (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: It's repugnant. John Avlon, thank you.

Overnight, Barbados officially transitioned from realm to republic. In a ceremony last night, the nation bid farewell to Queen Elizabeth as its head of state and swore in its first-ever president.

CNN's Max Foster was there and he is live in Bridgetown this morning with the very latest. This was quite a thing to see, Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It really was, John. And when I talked to you yesterday from this beach I'm standing in a royal realm -- a British realm -- today I stand in a republic. And this nation now has a president who was born in Barbados. The queen no longer reigns here.

And there was a big celebration overnight for hours and hours. There was lots of speeches, and music and dancing. It felt like a really positive moment. And those speeches included one from Prince Charles, who was here as guest of honor.

Now, this push for a republic was very much about breaking links with their colonial -- their British past. And Prince Charles actually spoke in the strongest words I've really heard so far about Britain's role in slavery, which is very much part of the debate as we led up to this republican moment.



PRINCE CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES: From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.


FOSTER: Now there are those who didn't want the royals here. They didn't think it was inappropriate -- they didn't think it was appropriate. And they also felt he should have gone much further and offered a formal apology and compensation of reparations. He didn't do that.

Adding to that frustration was the fact that one of the first honors that the president conferred on someone was to Prince Charles in the Order of Freedom. The second one, interestingly, John, was given to Rhianna, who really is a national hero here and she was given that title, National Hero.

So, it was a very positive, forward-looking moment and also, a bit of a negative back-looking moment. But overall, today, I think people feel very positive about the future, John.

BERMAN: It should be said Rhianna has a much better voice than the Prince of Wales as far as I know. But Max, I do know -- also, look, there are a lot of countries in the

world who were watching what happened last night very closely because they face similar questions or moments like this in the next few years.

FOSTER: Yes. And we spoke to republican movements in Australia, for example, but also the U.K., and they were really celebrating yesterday, particularly when they see the young people talking about they want independence. There are those sorts of movements in Australia and Jamaica, for example, and I think they will be using this as a push towards their own republican movements.

BERMAN: All right, Max Foster, hang in there, in Barbados. We appreciate your hardship. Thank you.

Beginning today, the trial over the fatal traffic stop shooting of Dwayne (sic) Wright. How strong is the argument that the officer meant to grab her taser instead of her gun?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert gets on the phone with her Democratic colleague Ilhan Omar after insinuating she's a suicide bomber. But instead of burying the hatchet, she twisted the knife.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Never sympathizing with terrorists. Unfortunately, Ilhan can't say the same thing.




BERMAN: While the U.S. braces for a potential pandemic surge, accidental deaths from synthetic opioids are hitting record highs. COVID and America's addiction to painkillers proving to be a deadly combination.

CNN is launching a new special series called "United States of Addiction" and CNN's Miguel Marquez is here with the first startling report -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and last year, we hit record deaths -- 100,306 people died from deadly overdose year-on- year. Here's the story of one.


KAREN BUTCHER, SON DIED FROM FENTANYL OVERDOSE: I just knew in my mother's heart my son was dead.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Matthew Davidson, 31 years old, died from an overdose on Memorial Day 2020. BUTCHER: But I just remember crying out I wasn't ready to let you go. And I spent some time alone with him, patting his hair and touching his hands. He looked like he was just asleep.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Davidson, first addicted to prescription painkillers, then heroin, and struggled with addiction for 10 years.

MATTHEW DAVIDSON, DIED FROM FENTANYL OVERDOSE: This isn't my first time I've been in a program.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): In and out of recovery, overdosing more than once, his death ultimately caused by the powerful synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

K. BUTCHER: At one point when his girlfriend was asleep, I think that's when he decided he was going to take this dose of what he thought was heroin, but it was a very high level of fentanyl --


K. BUTCHER: -- as well.

G. BUTCHER: -- within the heroin. And it doesn't take any of it to hardly kill you.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Fentanyl and synthetic opioids like it accounting for 64 percent of the record 100,000-plus deadly drug overdoses from April 2020 to April 2021.

K. BUTCHER: Did the pandemic kill Matthew? No, it just intensified. I think he was more emotionally fragile during that time.

MARQUEZ (on camera): What did the pandemic do for addiction in places like Kentucky?

ALEX ELSWICK, CO-FOUNDER, VOICES OF HOPE: Yes. There was a clear and obvious increase in youths in overdose in any metric that you want to use.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Alex Elswick, a former opioid addict, now dedicates his life to studying, understanding, and working with the addicted and recovering at Lexington's Voices of Hope. He says the pandemic and the isolation that came with it devastated the addiction community.

ELSWICK: What addiction is in your brain is down-regulation of dopamine. And what social interaction does is up-regular dopamine. So, it's literally organic medicine for the recovering brain.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Add to the mix cheap and plentiful fentanyl -- 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, whether in pill or powder form injected or snorted -- dangerous even in tiny amounts.

MARQUEZ (on camera): How did fentanyl come into your life?

JAXXON SHEARER, RECOVERING OPIOID ADDICT: My first overdose. MARQUEZ (on camera): Your first overdose?

SHEARER: My first overdose.

MARQUEZ (on camera): How many overdoses have there been?

SHEARER: Fourteen.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Shearer says he was clean for 19 months; then last December, his grandfather died. Grief drove him to relapse. He thought he was using heroin. It was fentanyl.

MARQUEZ (on camera): How much did you use?

SHEARER: Very little. I wouldn't even say -- less than a tenth of a gram.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Less than a tenth of a gram?

SHEARER: Less than a tenth. And I found out it was straight fentanyl.

MARQUEZ (on camera): I mean, that's a --

SHEARER: That's --

MARQUEZ: That's a tiny --

SHEARER: That's tinier than tiny. It's like barely a sprinkle of salt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to welcome everybody tonight.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Social interaction is important for the addicted and their families, too.


Gene and Karen Butcher founded the Kentucky chapter of PAL (Parents of Addicted Loved Ones). Over the years, they've heard it all as they struggled to free their son Matthew from opioids.

G. BUTCHER: Well, send him somewhere and fix him or fix her. Well, it doesn't work like that.

K. BUTCHER: Why don't they just stop?

G. BUTCHER: Why don't they just stop? Don't they know they can stop?

K. BUTCHER: You'd think they'd know what they're doing to their children.

G. BUTCHER: But you see, drugs take over the brain.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Matthew's brother Glenn says there is no easy way to recover and money alone won't solve the problem of addiction. GLENN DAVIDSON, BROTHER OF MATTHEW DAVISON: Addiction isn't something you can just turn off or it's not -- for a lot of these people it's not a choice. They're addicted to these drugs and I think the only way they can get off is through support and love.

K. BUTCHER: This is his wallet and, you know, this -- he didn't have much.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Karen Butcher now clings to the few physical reminders of her son Matthew. Her favorite, a quilt made from all his favorite shirts.

K. BUTCHER: Sometimes I would think -- you know, OK -- I've got Matthew's arms wrapped around me.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): It includes the last photo they took together in his most favorite shirt.

K. BUTCHER: If the house caught on fire, I'd probably grab that quilt. I call it my Matthew quilt.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Matthew Davidson, one victim of America's opioid epidemic, wrapped in the pandemic of COVID-19.


MARQUEZ: Now, many, many thanks to the Davidson-Butcher family for speaking to us. It is not easy.

If there is a bright spot in all of this, the CDC does have come predicted numbers for 2021 and, so far, those overdose deaths are down for this year. Hopefully, the worst is behind us but we've got a long way to go, John.

BERMAN: Let's hope, Miguel. As you point out with that family, the most important number is one when it's someone you love --


BERMAN: -- and that's too much.

Thank you so much.

MARQUEZ: You got it.

BERMAN: So, Tiger Woods speaking publicly for the first time since the devastating car crash that nearly killed him. What he's now saying about returning to golf.

KEILAR: Plus, it's the documentary that has everyone talking. We'll speak live with the director behind the original video recordings of The Beatles' "Get Back" sessions. Hear what he thinks of the new film.


PETER JACKSON, DIRECTOR, "GET BACK": None of has had the idea of what the show is going to --



KEILAR: Tiger Woods is closing the door on golfing at the highest level full-time. It's been nearly a year since he lost control of his vehicle in California, suffering multiple fractures in his right leg from that accident.

Here is Woods in an exclusive interview with "Golf Digest," his first since that wreck.


TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: This time around, I don't think I'll have the body to climb Mt. Everest, and I took it.


WOODS: But I can't participate in the game of golf. I can still maybe -- if my leg gets good enough, maybe click off a tournament here and there. But as far as climbing the mountain and getting all the way to the top, I don't think that's a realistic expectation of me.


KEILAR: Let's talk about this fascinating interview with "Golf Digest" staff writer Dan Rapaport. I mean, Dan, that's a lot for Tiger Woods to grapple with -- that he may never win again.

DAN RAPAPORT, STAFF WRITER, GOLF DIGEST: That's a lot to grapple with and I think it's remarkable how at peace he seems to be with his new reality. You know, with Tiger, he's had all these injuries in the past but it's always been I'm doing what I can. I'm getting back to the top. I've just got to put one piece in front of another and one foot in front of another and eventually I'll be there.

But now it's different. I think this injury had a really profound impact on him and it really seems like he understands that his time as the game's dominant player -- as the alpha male of golf is likely over and he's OK with that. And I think that's remarkable for someone who is as competitive as Tiger Woods.

KEILAR: Yes, it's incredibly remarkable. And also, you know, he clearly has so far to go, still. I want to listen to part of what he said about his journey to recovery.


WOODS: And I have so far to go. I mean, this is just -- I mean, if you thought where I was was the beginning, I'm not even at the halfway point. I have so much more muscle development and nerve development that I have to do in my leg.

At the same time, as you know, I've had five back operations, so I'm having to deal with that. So, as the leg gets stronger, sometimes the back may act up.


KEILAR: I mean, he's a very young man to be in so much pain, you know?

RAPAPORT: Yes, he's young by some standards but his body -- I'm sure it doesn't feel very young. Tiger's 45. He's had five surgeries on his back and he's had surgeries on his knee. And I think now he just realizes that his body is kind of tapping out. It's saying I don't know if I can do this anymore.

He said in that interview that when he pushes his leg too hard sometimes his back goes out. It's all interconnected.

And he just doesn't have the ability, I don't think anymore, to get to the gym enough to produce a body that is going to withstand the physical pressure of playing on the PGA Tour. And I know when I say that some people cringe. They think it's just golf. But you've got to walk up and down hills and it's hot and you're sweating. And it's four days in a row and you're out there for five hours.

He posted that swing video -- one swing -- and I think everyone thought oh, he's coming back. He's coming back. But hitting balls in a perfectly flat range that he probably drove his cart to is a lot different from playing on the PGA Tour.

And like he said, he just doesn't have the body anymore to climb Mt. Everest, and he's OK with that. It's sad but it's also sort of uplifting that he seems so content with his new reality.

KEILAR: Yes. It's a lot of force on the body -- the torque of that swing, you know.

And Dan, before I let you go, I wanted to ask you about Lee Elder, who passed away this past Sunday, and just recognize how groundbreaking he was. The first Black golfer to play a The Masters at a -- at a club where they didn't have Black members until the 90s. This is quite a legacy he leaves behind.