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New Day

Legacy of African American Golfer Lee Elder Examined; Omicron Variant of COVID-19 May Negative Affect Markets; South African Ambassador to U.N. Interviewed on Effect of Travel Ban Due to Omicron Variant of COVID-19; Representative Lauren Boebert Says She Demanded Apology from Representative Ilhan Omar. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 08:00   ET



DAN RAPAPORT, STAFF WRITER, "GOLF DIGEST": Yes, there's an old fable, we don't, now if it's actually true, but there's a story about the founder of Augusta National said as long as I am alive, all the players here will be white and all the caddies will be black. So it wasn't just that he was the first black man to play in the Masters, which is the most famous golf tournament in the world. It's that he did it Augusta National, a place with such a dark racial history.

And it's kind of a shame that the Tiger interview and news dropped yesterday, because Lee Elder really deserves his due. He deserved all the credit and all the honors that he got. It is a damn shame that it took Augusta National until last year when the man was 86 years old, he could hardly move, and to honor him with that ceremonial first tee shot that he couldn't actually hit the tee shot because he was struggling so much physically.

So he's a trailblazer. He's an absolute legend. And he's the one who set the path for players like Tiger Woods to play on the PGA tour. So his legacy will not be forgotten, and he is a true trailblazer in the game of golf.

KEILAR: Yes, I tried to think about it like that. That is the connection in a way, right, so many people have stood on Lee Elder's shoulders, including Tiger Woods. And you see -- you can draw a line, and it is really an amazing thing as we remember Lee Elder. Dan, thank you so much for being with us.

RAPAPORT: Yes, thanks for having me.

KEILAR: NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, November 30. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

And breaking overnight, the Omicron variant is now on five continents barely a week after it was first detected. It's still, though, too early to know what the impact here will be. Japan just discovered its first case overnight. And that means that 19 countries or territories have now diagnosed at least one case of Omicron. There are no confirmed cases in the U.S. as of now. And the president is urging everyone to stay calm.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we're learning more every single day.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president says he does not anticipate more travel bans or any new lockdowns. Earlier we spoke with Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who has been treating Omicron patients in South Africa, one of the first doctors to see a number of patients. And she told us what she is seeing.


DR. ANGELIQUE COETZEE, NATIONAL CHAIR, SOUTH AFRICA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: The majority of what we are presenting to primary health care practitioners are extremely mild cases, mild to moderate. We need to tell you what the symptoms are so that the people can understand, if you feel a bit fatigued for a day or two, something, not the fatigue you used. This is a different type of fatigue. With a bit of a scratchy throat and a bit of a body ache and pain, and we call it normally malaise, so don't feel generally well, go and see your doctor. I have seen vaccinated people, and not really very sick. That might change going forward. As we say, this is early days. And this is maybe what makes us hopeful.


BERMAN: Early days, the patients she's seeing only have mild to moderate cases, and vaccinated patients have been affected, she says, not really sick, no complications. Again, that could change, but that's what she's seeing now. The CDC is now strengthening its language on vaccines instead of telling all American adults they may get a booster, the message now is they should get a booster.

And in just a couple of hours, Fed Chair Jerome Powell is expected to testify before Congress that Omicron is a threat to the U.S. economy. CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans here with that. Concerns sort of across the board here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, let's talk about the risks. A week ago the narrative was of a strong U.S. economy into the end of the year, right? But now caution from the Fed chair about the potential Omicron threat to the economy. Powell zeroing in on three ways the variant could hurt growth. On inflation, he says the factors pushing up prices will linger into next year. Among those factors, of course, higher wages. If workers are less likely to return to their jobs in person because of this variant, it hurts jobs growth and feeds into wage inflation. And he warns potential outbreaks could worsen the global supply chain crisis. A reminder, everyone, this is still a COVID economy, and there is a

scramble on to understand how Omicron could alter what is by all accounts a strong finish in the U.S. economy this year. Powell predicts the U.S. economy will grow at a robust five percent rate for the full year. John, that's the fastest since the Reagan administration. Important context.

But there is much we don't know about the new variant and what it means for the Fed's plans to end its historic stimulus and begin start raising interest rates next year.


In the meantime, expect uncertainty to keep markets on edge. As we have seen this morning, stock index futures pointing to a stumble at the open here. European stocks also lower today. The Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will testify as well before the Senate Banking Committee this morning, John. So we'll get some more information from the Fed chief and the treasury secretary about where they think things stand in what has been otherwise a strong U.S. economy. They'll talk inflation and Omicron this morning.

BERMAN: I've got to say, those big down red arrows after the big green arrows up yesterday, we're going to have a tough two weeks in the markets here.

ROMANS: Get used to it.

BERMAN: As they try to adjust to what's going on. Thank you so much.

So gas prices had leveled off in recent weeks. Omicron could cause them to drop even further. CNN's Pete Muntean live in Alexandria, Virginia, with the latest on this. Good morning, Pete.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. The whole notion here that Omicron fears according to industry experts could go up and the whole idea of gas prices could go down. Just look at these latest numbers from AAA. They say that the price of gas has actually gone down a little bit from where we were a week ago. The national average of a gallon of gas now $3.39. And AAA says because as these Omicron fears go up, we could see five to six cents of relief relatively quickly.

What is driving all this is the cost of brent crude oil, now $72 a barrel. Now it was $80 a barrel just last month. So we're seeing some relief there. It is all about Omicron variant fears here, though. The idea of new lockdowns, new travel restrictions, there is some word from President Biden that we will not see any new travel restrictions anytime soon, at least for now. But the industry analysts who are on the inside on this say we could only see a little bit of relief for a short period of time. Come 2023, we could see $150 a barrel brent crude oil, and that could lead to $5 a gallon of gas, John.

BERMAN: Let's hope that doesn't happen. I'm worried about 2021 right now. 2023 will come when it comes. Pete Muntean, thank you very much for that. KEILAR: As the Omicron variant is surging across South Africa, the

list of countries restricting travel continues to grow despite several world health officials saying that the restrictions are counterintuitive. Joining us now is Ambassador Xolisa Mabhongo. He is the deputy permanent representative of South Africa to the U.N. Sir, thank you so much for being with us as your country is dealing with this. What can you tell us about your reaction, first, to the travel ban that so many countries have when it comes to South Africa?

AMBASSADOR XOLISA MABHONGO, DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF SOUTH AFRICA TO THE U.N.: We feel that the travel ban is very unfair. South African science should be commended for discovering this new variant and sharing the information with the world. We have paved our road very responsible. All countries have got a duty to inform the rest of the international community about these new variants.

Secondly, this also confirms the correctness of our call for vaccine equity and to ensure that vaccines are available in all countries and also internally, that as many people as possible get vaccinated. So as the world operates on this trajectory of vaccine inequality, we will not see the end of COVID. We think it is not wise to continue on this route. We think vaccines should be shared by all countries.

At this moment, less than 10 percent of the African population as a whole has been vaccinated. But we know that in other countries the rate is over 80 percent. So this is indeed very unfair, and we have been asking countries to reverse it because we do not think it will help in any case, because we know, the scientists are telling us that this Omicron variant is actually present in other countries as well. And it is also now being detected amongst people who did not travel to South Africa.

KEILAR: We're aware that community spread in Germany at this point. We know that it has been in the Netherlands for at least 11 days at this point in time. I do want to play something that President Biden said yesterday. You mentioned vaccine inequity. This is what he said about that.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We provided more vaccines, as I said, than all other countries in the world combined. And we provided significant vaccines to South Africa and that region. As a matter of fact, South Africa doesn't need any more vaccine. They're having trouble getting it out into people's arms, and the reluctance is there.


KEILAR: And we also heard the White House press secretary say that South Africa's turned down additional vaccine doses from the U.S. What's your reaction to that?

MABHONGO: Well, like all countries, South Africa continues to vaccinate its population.


Our people are queueing up for vaccination. And we do not see this as significant hesitancy that some people are talking about. But what we see is progress with our vaccination program. Now, again, like in all countries, it is possible that you know you will have some -- a small minority of people who are hesitant against vaccines. We see that in all countries, for that matter. But --

KEILAR: But let me ask you about that. You say there's -- you're saying that there's not hesitancy, but we see the vax rate is pretty low, and the U.S. has a long way to go, Ambassador, I certainly acknowledge that. But do you need more vaccine, or is it hesitancy?

MABHONGO: Certainly, certainly we do need more vaccines for sure. That is not a question. We need more vaccines in South Africa, in southern Africa and in the rest of the African continent. For that matter, we have already started collaborating with Johnson & Johnson and with Pfizer so that we can finish the packaging of some of the vaccines inside South Africa for distribution to the rest of the African continent. So in South Africa that we are collaborating on with Johnson & Johnson. That is likely to produce about 60 million vaccines per annum for the African continent. So, yes, I don't think there is any country that can say it does not need more vaccines at this stage.

KEILAR: Ambassador Xolisa Mabhongo, thank you very much for joining us this morning, and certainly good luck to your country as you are dealing with this Omicron variant.

MABHONGO: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: So with this variant raising new questions, Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta will come together with Dr. Anthony Fauci for an all new CNN global town hall that is called "Coronavirus Facts and Fears." That will be tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

BERMAN: So Congresswoman Lauren Boebert made a bigoted comment about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, insinuating she was a suicide bomber. Then Boebert promised to call Omar to apologize. When the call actually happened, it turned out to be anything but an apology. This is how Boebert, who clearly isn't sorry, described it.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT, (R-CO): I never want anything I say to offend someone's religion. So I told her that. She kept asking for a public apology. So I told Ilhan Omar that she should make a public apology to the American people for her anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-police rhetoric.


BERMAN: So joining us now, CNN political director David Chalian. So David, remember here, it is Lauren Boebert who made the bigoted comment about Ilhan Omar. And now Boebert has this apology basically asking for an apology to her. It really is an example of turn around here, and explains, I think, the challenge to Kevin McCarthy, who chooses to try to deal with this in private rather than make a public statement of condemnation.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. Also, Lauren Boebert there is acting somehow offended that Ilhan Omar is asking for a public apology. In Boebert's own telling of the conversation, she didn't even offer her a private apology, never mind a public apology for insinuating that her fellow member of Congress was a terrorist.

John, the incentive structure in American politics is so perverted, and this is yet another perfect example of it, because what Boebert gets here is the opportunity to put out that video on her Twitter page that has a link at the top of it to her win red, donate here to Lauren Boebert's campaign website. And so she is able to fundraise, rally the troops off of this, pick a fight with a target on the Democratic side, and win the day for her own personal political purposes. Unfortunately, the country, the Congress, we all end up losing out here because it just debases what representative government should be about.

KEILAR: Because her strategy here appears to be here being a jerk, right. But it appears to be working. So what is there to dissuade her or Paul Gosar or really anyone else? It used to be you were a jerk, you got in trouble, you got reprimanded for it. Now they get rewarded.

CHALIAN: Yes, because that is the incentive structure. Listen, John mentioned Kevin McCarthy. He does say, and people around him say, he thinks it is best to try and deal with this in private and not come out and publicly rebuke his members. Let me ask you something, Leader McCarthy, is that working? Is the behavior changing? Is that working? It is not working.

And so once again, that word "leader" in front of Kevin McCarthy, his title is not something he lives up to here because a leader, a true leader wouldn't allow this continue -- this kind of behavior to continue in his ranks.

BERMAN: He just got gamed, McCarthy did, by Lauren Boebert. If he thought dealing with this privately was going to work, she just totally, you know, browbeat him on that.


She basically said she was going to call Omar to apologize and then didn't, did the opposite of apologizing. So, if McCarthy, as you said, thinks that handling this privately or quietly it is going to work, it's just not. And every day that passes without taking a stand is notable.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right, because every day that passes without taking a public stand means you're tacitly allowing this behavior to grow, to fester, to continue to be seen as acceptable. That's the problem here, is that Kevin McCarthy's public silence on this equals can Kevin McCarthy saying what Lauren Boebert is doing is acceptable behavior. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I want to ask you about the Omicron

variant when it comes to the nexus of politics and President Biden. What does this mean for him? What does this challenge mean for him going forward?

CHALIAN: Obviously, the president is at a low point in his young presidency in terms of public approval rating and clearly dealing with an exhausted public. There is no doubt about that.

And so, having this come to the forefront again shows how difficult it is going to be for Joe Biden to move beyond this crisis number one of his presidency, which is to put COVID behind us.

Now, that being said, he's clearly trying to also seize the opportunity to show that he's in command, that he has the information, that they're going to wait for more data to plot the path forward, and so, if indeed this does elevate it to something that recaptures the attention of the American people, Biden wants to have done all the things to say I've got this, don't worry about it, we're going to plot a path forward.

Here's the thing. Have you noticed in all the public opinion polling, Brianna? The coronavirus has become a less important issue in Americans' minds. So now the challenge for Joe Biden is he's got to deal with this variant, and talk about an issue that is not the top issue in Americans' minds right now. It is the economy, it is inflation.

And so, the White House loves to say they can walk and chew gum at the same time, but when something like this emerges, it inevitably means that all the public focus and all the messaging goes to that, if that's with where the American people are and what they're focused on, that becomes a political disconnect for the president and the people.

BERMAN: And there is a particular challenge with this, David, and that there is so much uncertainty, and that he has to tell the American people the truth, which is that we won't know what the deal is with Omicron for a couple of weeks and that's hard.

CHALIAN: Really hard, really hard. And especially, John, if the American people are more focused elsewhere, right, that's the other thing. There is so much uncertainty. President has to say we don't know.

He has to show command of something that is different than the attention the American people want to be focused on, whether that's inflation, the economy, getting together with their family for the holidays. That is a disconnect that Joe Biden can't solve. He can't throw his hands up and say, okay, well, this isn't the top issue, I won't deal with it, it could become the top issue again because of how potentially threatening it is. As you said, we simply don't know that yet.

BERMAN: David Chalian, thanks so much for being with us.

CHALIAN: Sure. BERMAN: So, a Capitol insurrectionist who played Judas in "Jesus

Christ Superstar" invoking divine authority in front of the judge. You can guess how well that went.

And across the country, backers of the big lie lining up for elected office.

BERMAN: Plus, a pyramid scheme of abuse. That is what prosecutors say Ghislaine Maxwell created alongside convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Will Maxwell take the stand?



KEILAR: It is one of the more bizarre capitol riot cases to be sure. An actor who played Judas in a touring production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" claims divine authority over the U.S. in his first court hearing.

Well, that didn't sit well with the judge at all.

CNN's Laura Jarrett joins us with details.

I wonder why that didn't sit well with the judge, Laura.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, he may work on Broadway, but off stage a federal judge in Washington, D.C. was not impressed by his performance in court.

The suspect in question that I'm talking about, a Florida man named James beaks, is facing serious charges related to the attack on the Capitol. This time last year, he was a dues paying member of the far right Oath Keepers group. But he stood out in the mop on January 6th because he opted to wear a Bad jacket from Michael Jackson's world tour.

His theatrics, though, landed him in hot water Monday as he made the mistake of telling Chief Judge Beryl Howell he was gracing the court with his appearance there as he has in his words "divine authority" and the government has no jurisdiction over him. That, the judge dismissed, in highly technical legal speak as, quote, gobbledygook.

Now, Beaks is essentially parroting the likes of the so-called sovereign citizens, this loose movement of people who claim they don't have to follow any laws, the courts don't have any jurisdiction over them, and that often lands them behind bars.


But for now, Judge Howell has granted this defendant pretrial release and authorities won't have any trouble finding him, he has to wear an ankle monitor or they can buy theater tickets again. Investigators apparently tracked him down that way last time after sitting through two performances, not one, but two performances of "Jesus Christ Superstar". KEILAR: Two performances. I don't even know --

JARRETT: That might be punishment enough, I don't know.

KEILAR: All right. Well, it depends how well the performance went. I don't know. We'll see. It could have been good. It could have been bad.

Laura, thank you.


KEILAR: So here in a matter of hours a court will decide on President Trump's attempt to documents from the January 6th committee.

BERMAN: First of all, "Jesus Christ Superstar" is a terrific show.

KEILAR: You know, it could vary, though.

BERMAN: I could sit next -- I could watch it four times and not get old. The judge should have said, you know, you should be dragged through the slime and the mud. That should be a sentence there, directly from one of the lyrics of "Jesus Christ Superstar". Anyway, I digress.

The list keeps growing. Supporters of the big lie running for elected office at all levels. What does this mean for fairer elections?