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GOP Governors in Virginia And Florida Double Down On Red Meat Issues; Chasten Buttigieg On Florida's "Don't' Say Gay" Bill; U.K. Police Now Investigating Boris Johnson's Lockdown Parties. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired January 25, 2022 - 07:30   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, RELIABLE SOURCES: The company has not shown any real concern about the content on the podcast and that's really at issue.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Rogan's songs, by the way, nowhere near as good as Neil Young's.

STELTER: (Laughing).

BRIANNA KEILER, CNN ANCHOR: (Laughing). Oh, you left it wide open but I'm not going to say anything.

OK, I want to, finally, ask you about this question of "CBC EVENING NEWS." There's this -- Brian Williams -- I know you have some reporting about some sort of possibility or overture there. What happened?

STELTER: Yes, this letter on "RELIABLE SOURCE's" -- newsletter overnight -- Oliver Darcy reporting that Brian Williams, who is now a free agent -- remember, he left NBC late last year without a new job lined up, which is rare in television. He's been out there thinking about what to do next.

And there were overtures from CBS for him to come anchor the evening news. Of course, remember, he used to anchor the "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" so he has that evening news identity. But he turned it down. He said no, no thanks, not interested. It seems like Brian Williams would like to do something else with the next stage of his career.

But it's unusual to hear CBS out there seeing if he's available and Brian Williams turning them down. I guess we'll find out in the months to come if he has another gig lined up. Maybe -- you know, I think Brian Williams, by the way, a great singer

in his -- in his other life, so maybe there's some synergy there with Spotify. I don't know. Just thinking out loud.

BERMAN: That's Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. A totally different person you're thinking about there.

KEILAR: Bryan Adams.

STELTER: Setzer Orchestra -- yeah, yeah, yeah.

BERMAN: Oh, yes, right -- Stray Cats, too. Very good.

Brian, thank you --

STELTER: Thank you.

BERMAN: -- very much. I love all your albums.

A new bill pushed in Florida to limit how LGBTQ issues are discussed in school. Critics call it the "Don't Say Gay" bill. Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg, says the bill will kill kids. He joins us live.

Plus, this.


CHRISTOPHER LLOYD, ACTOR, "BACK TO THE FUTURE": Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.


KEILAR: We'll show you the real-life DeLorean that just got flight certified.



KEILAR: Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis becoming breakout stars in the GOP. The two men gaining much notoriety in their party for how they handle hot button issues.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is with us now on this. Sunlen, tell us as you take a look at these two sort of GOP stars, as we said, what you found.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna -- they are two rising stars within the Republican Party. Two Republican governors who are making headlines for taking on polarizing issues like mask mandates and critical race theory, both going all-in on conservative issues ahead of the crucial midterm elections.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SERFATY (voice-over): Two Republican governors -- two of their party's biggest stars who took different paths to getting to the top, doubling down on their base's biggest issues, like keeping kids in classrooms during the pandemic, ending mask mandates, and keeping critical race theory out of schools.

Glenn Youngkin defeated his opponent last November in Virginia's hard- fought gubernatorial election.

GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA: Alrighty, Virginia, we won this thing.

SERFATY (voice-over): And once in office, he got to work fulfilling campaign promises he promised the Republican base --

YOUNGKIN: Let me be clear. On day one, we will not have political agendas in the classroom and I will ban critical race theory. On day one, we're standing up for law enforcement because they stand up for us. We're going to protect qualified immunity.

SERFATY (voice-over): -- issues DeSantis has been taking on ever since he got the top job in Florida.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We also have to protect people and protect our kids from some very pernicious ideologies that are trying to be forced upon them all across the country.

SERFATY (voice-over): Both banned mask mandates in schools. Youngkin's executive order started as the Omicron surge just started waning, leaning to some concerned parents and schools.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel really disappointed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I'm scared. I'm scared for my kid. I'm scared for her classmates. Yes -- and I feel like this is -- what other protection do we have?

SERFATY (voice-over): Youngkin's order is the subject of lawsuits from several school districts.

Another lawsuit was filed by a group of parents of public school students in Chesapeake. They are asking the State Supreme Court to block the executive order, pointing to the state law that says schools must follow CDC COVID guidelines.

In response to the suits, Youngkin's spokesman said those suing are ignoring parents' rights, which they say Youngkin has repeatedly voted to protect.

But as the controversy began, the new governor wasn't backing down.

YOUNGKIN: We will use every resource within the governor's authority to explore what we're -- what we can do and will do in order to make sure that parents' rights are protected. SERFATY (voice-over): Youngkin's stance similar to the defiant actions on COVID DeSantis has taken consistently, which has made him one of the most popular figures in the party. And while Youngkin steered clear of the party's most popular figure, former President Donald Trump, DeSantis has been a close ally who proudly accepted Trump's endorsement --

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Florida's got a great Republican governor and it had a great Republican governor, Scott -- Ron DeSantis.

DESANTIS: I think you're going to get tired of me calling you asking you for things for Florida, but I look forward to that. I think we'll have a great partnership.

SERFATY (voice-over): -- until recently. Now he's speaking out against the Trump administration's early guidelines to contain COVID in 2020, and doubling down on his decision to keep his date open.


DESANTIS: I never thought in February, early March that it would lead to locking down the country. And I think if knowing now what I knew then, if I -- if that was a threat earlier I would have been much louder.


SERFATY: The key unknown here is former President Donald Trump. Governor DeSantis has had a long history of supporting the president. But newly-elected Glenn Youngkin -- he notoriously ran a campaign void of any references to the former president. And Brianna, DeSantis and the former president -- they have had some public disagreements in the last few weeks, so we'll see which strategy plays out for him here.

KEILAR: Yes, a bit of a power struggle there.

Sunlen, thank you for the report.


BERMAN: Now, here's how this is connected to all of this. A Republican-led committee in the Florida State House just advanced a bill that would ban most discussions of sexuality and gender identity in schools, arguing that it preserves parental rights.

Now, critics call it the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and our next guest says it will kill kids. Joining us now is author and educator, Chasten Buttigieg. He is married to Pete Buttigieg, the Biden administration's Secretary of Transportation. I really appreciate you being with us this morning.

You say this bill will kill kids. How?

CHASTEN BUTTIGIEG, AUTHOR AND EDUCATOR: Yes. I mean, that's a staggering number. So the tweet I put out mentioned a survey by The Trevor Project in which 42 percent of LGBTQ kids -- kids who are safe and are comfortable enough to take the survey, said that they have seriously considered taking their own life.

And we should be approaching that number with urgency and with compassion and care, wondering what we're doing -- what kind of country we're building or in Florida -- what kind of state are you building where you're essentially pushing kids back into the closet. You're saying we can't talk about you. We can't even talk about your families.

And as a kid who grew up for 18 years being told you don't belong -- something about you is wrong -- sometimes you take that trauma to heart. And unfortunately, there are a lot of kids in this country who do the worst because we tell them something about you is twisted and you don't belong here.

BERMAN: What happens in your mind and your understanding of this bill if a child -- you know, maybe your own children who were to live in Florida eight years from now were to say I have two daddies in class? What happens?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. You know, I've wondered that. I've wondered that about the text of the bill. You know, if kids come into the classroom Monday morning and they're all talking about their weekends. And hypothetically, a kid like mine says I had the best weekend with my dads. We went to the zoo. We went -- we went and got ice cream. Is the teacher supposed to say hey, hey, hey, we don't talk about things like that in this classroom?

And not only what does that do to kids like mine, but what does that do to a kid in the classroom who might be starting to realize that they're different?

I mean, what this bill is essentially doing is pushing LGBTQ families back into the classroom (sic) and teaching LGBTQ kids that something is wrong about them.

BERMAN: Talk to me about your own experience. I don't think you came out until after high school. But talk to me about your own --


BERMAN: -- experience of what it's like to be a closeted student.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, yes. I grew up in northern Michigan and so, in many ways, it's similar to some places in Florida where you were just a good Christian country boy and that's all you could be. There was -- there was no differentiating from the norm.

And I grew up learning about Matthew Shepard and thought for sure that something like that could have happened to me if someone found out that I was different and I really did fear for my safety and my life.

I saw parents, I saw educators telling me that gay people are wrong, sometimes saying even worse things. And as I mentioned, that Trevor Project survey -- kids take that to heart and they learn from a very young age whether they're accepted or not. They're constantly listening. And so, for 18 years, all I learned was something about you is twisted.

And so, we have to be approaching these things with urgency, making sure that kids feel safe enough to come to school. Sometimes, teachers -- and especially for me -- were my safe place. Teachers want to be that place where kids feel comfortable learning and we should be making sure that school is a place where kids feel safe -- safe to learn. And I certainly appreciated having teachers that made me feel that way when I was younger.

BERMAN: So I want to pick up on that last point there because the supporters of this bill say --


BERMAN: -- it's about parental rights. And one of the provisions is somehow making the school legally liable. They can be sued, I think --


BERMAN: -- if a teacher or a school administrator doesn't tell a parent if it learns that a student is gay.

What's the impact there?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, and actually, I'm a little confused by the bill, too. I don't know if you looked at it but I think --

BERMAN: I have.

BUTTIGIEG: -- the language is a bit broad. So it kind of makes it sound like you might be responsible for outing kids if they're straight, too.

And, you know, I just want to focus on teaching. As a teacher, I don't want to be calling up my parents every night and saying hey, I just wondered if you knew your kid was straight. School should be a place, definitely, where kids feel like that they can be themselves and they feel safe enough to be themselves.

But I don't really think this is about parents' rights. Parents' rights to do what? To tell LGBTQ kids that they don't belong? To push LGBTQ families away and into the closet?

I mean, hypothetically, if we're having a bake sale on Friday, would my husband and I not be welcome at the school because we're in a same- sex relationship?


I just don't think this is what the governor should be focusing on. I think this hurts kids and this will hurt families. And this isn't about education or parents' rights. I think it's about using the LGBTQ community as a scapegoat, which we've -- we have been used as multiple times throughout history, and I just don't agree with it. BERMAN: Chasten Buttigieg, I appreciate you being with us this

morning. Thank you so much.

BUTTIGIEG: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: Breaking overnight, the parties at 10 Downing Street during the United Kingdom lockdown now being investigated by London police. So how much trouble could Prime Minister Boris Johnson be in?

KEILAR: And we'll show you the real-life "CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG" that just got certified to fly.







HOWES: What's happening?


HOWES: It's fantastic -- oh. You're a genius.


KEILAR: So, if you always dreamed of taking off in a car like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang it could soon be a reality -- maybe even a little cooler. Maybe better CGI.

All right. So the manufacturer of AirCar -- this is a dual-mode car and aircraft -- says it just got a Certificate of Airworthiness by the Slovak Transportation -- or Transport, pardon me, Authority.

CNN's Anna Stewart has the details.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Anna Stewart in London.

A flying car has been granted a Certificate of Airworthiness, potentially moving them a step closer to reality. The AirCar was granted approval by Slovakian authorities after completing more than 70 hours of test flights, including more than 200 takeoffs and landings.

In one of those flights last year, the AirCar spent 35 minutes flying between two cities in Slovakia. After landing in Bratislava, the aircraft was transformed into a car and driven into the city center.

Don't expect it to land in a car showroom near you too soon, though. The AirCar is still just a concept car and you'll need to be a qualified pilot to fly one.


KEILAR: Anna Stewart.

I love that thing but you're not fitting into a compact sport with that.

BERMAN: No, no. Hard to parallel park in the air, I'm told.

KEILAR: I love it.

So we do have some more on the breaking news this morning. Pfizer is actually about to launch trials for its Omicron-specific vaccine. How soon is that going to be available?

BERMAN: Plus, children in Atlanta and Chicago killed by stray bullets as the violence swirls in New York City. Its mayor revealing his plan for guns. He joins us live.



BERMAN: Troubling developments in West Africa this morning. Burkina Faso's military has seized power in a coup, detained the president, and dissolved the government. Overnight, the United Nations condemned the takeover and called for the immediate release of the president. The army announced it has control and the president has not been seen in public since Sunday.

We're also following other news around the globe from our team of correspondents.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul.

U.S. Central Command says the U.S. military launched multiple patriot missile interceptors at missiles targeting Al Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi. That is where approximately 2,000 U.S. servicemembers and personnel are based. According to CENTCOM, a combined effort from the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. military prevented those two ballistic missiles from impacting the base and there were no casualties.

This is the second attack in one week targeting the UAE by the Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, and the group has warned there will be more.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Arwa Damon in Istanbul.

For days now, the SDF, that predominantly Kurdish fighting force in northeastern Syria, has been battling against ISIS fighters who stormed into a prison last Thursday. The attack was carried out and very well-coordinated, using some 200 ISIS fighters -- a plot that was some six months in the making.

The U.S.-led coalition -- the Americans -- have been involved as well, providing air support as well as airstrikes.

And while this is an alarming situation it is not entirely surprising given that the SDF and others on the ground have been warning that ISIS has been intending to carry out similar attacks.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Patrick Oppmann in Havana, Cuba, following the killing of a Mexican journalist. This is the third killing of a journalist in that country in just two weeks.

Lourdes Maldonado Lopez was shot to death by unknown assailants in Tijuana, Mexico. Police there say -- who say they're investigating who would have wanted to kill her. This is the same journalist who in 2019 asked Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for his help, saying that she feared her reporting was putting her life in danger.

According to the organization Reporters Without Borders, Mexico remains one of the deadliest places in the world to work as a journalist.


KEILAR: We have some breaking news out of the United Kingdom this morning. Prime Minister Boris Johnson may actually be in trouble with the law.

The London Metropolitan Police announced it is investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street over the -- 10 Downing Street over the last two years while the U.K. was under harsh restrictions for social gatherings. This includes two birthday parties for Johnson in June of 2020.

CNN's Scott McLean is in London -- Scott.


Look, the U.K. had been anxiously awaiting the -- a civil service report investigation into all of these accusations of parties at Downing Street. Well, now, the publishing of that report will be pushed back because things have gotten a lot more complicated, Brianna. As you mentioned, the police are involved.

Now, previously, the London Metropolitan Police had said that they were not interested in investigating because there was not enough evidence and their policy, in general, was not to go back and investigate these types of COVID breaches retroactively. But this morning, the chief of police said that -- well, they have

been investigating the most flagrant breaches and based on new information, that includes several events that took place at Downing Street. And the justification or the criteria that she used to justify this investigation is pretty telling. That criteria includes evidence that the people involved knew what they were doing was an offense and that there was very clearly no reasonable defense.

Now, on the surface, even if Boris Johnson or any of his top aides are found to be -- to have been in breach of COVID rules at the time, it would only really result in a fine or perhaps several fines. The real danger for Boris Johnson here, Brianna, is that it would undoubtedly say in plain writing that Boris Johnson, in fact, broke the law. And that may convince many MPs to --