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Families Of Detained Americans Call On Biden To Bring Loved Ones Home; More COVID Cases Emerge After White House Correspondents' Dinner; 200+ Sailors Moved Off Aircraft Carrier After Multiple Suicides. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 04, 2022 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I believe your shirt is a shade of olive this morning.

I've got to let you go, Congressman Ryan.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE (via Skype): Thanks.

BERMAN: But President Biden -- will you invite President Biden to come campaign for you?

RYAN: Look, we welcome everybody's support but I will be the face of this campaign. I don't think surrogates are going to play a huge role here. I want people to get to know me. I want my -- I want to control my message. I want it to be my face and my background, my record.


RYAN: That's what we're going to push. And we welcome support from all corners -- like I said, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. We're going to have a big Republican for Ryan initiative with elected officials -- Republican elected officials in Ohio that are supporting us. Veterans who are two-time Trump voters who are in our camp.

This is what the American people want. This is what Ohioans want. Build a community of people who really care about Ohio, really care about the country, and want to put this partisan stuff behind us. The age of stupidity behind us.

BERMAN: Congressman Tim Ryan, appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

RYAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. The families of Americans detained abroad will call on the White House to bring their loved ones home. We'll be joined by some of them before a morning demonstration.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And don't become Putin's altar boy. The Pope making what could be his strongest condemnation to date of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.



KEILAR: This morning, the family members of Americans unlawfully detained abroad plan to protest in front of the White House. These families hope that they can secure a meeting with President Biden that could lead to their loved ones returning home.

With us now, Alexandra Forseth, whose dad Alirio Zambrano and her uncle Jose Luis Zambrano are currently being detained in Venezuela. And Neda Sharghi whose brother Emad Sharghi is detained in Iran. We're also joined by Joey Reed who is the father of Trevor Reed, a U.S. citizen and Marine veteran who was released in that prisoner swap last week after being detained in Russia since 2019.

Thank you so much to all of you for joining us as you're here with a message for the White House and for President Biden.

And Alexandria -- Alexandra, I want to start with you. Your dad and uncle are part of what's called the CITGO 6 -- American executives detained in Venezuela since 2017. You are bringing their plight here to Washington today. What is your message for the White House and for President Biden?

ALEXANDRA FORSETH, DAUGHTER OF ALIRIO ZAMBRANA, DAD AND UNCLE ARE PART OF CITGO 6: My message is that we have a sense that there's decisions that need to be made on this case and there's been a pattern of indecision. And it's not just my dad and uncle. There is several other Americans still wrongfully detained in Venezuela and all over the world, which is what's brought us here. Our issues are shared with other families and we need decisions made to improve their conditions and hopefully bring them home.

KEILAR: Indecision by who?

FORSETH: By the White House.

KEILAR: And so, you want them to make moves here.


KEILAR: Neda, your brother Emad is in the infamous Evin Prison. What is your message to the White House?

NEDA SHARGHI, BROTHER, EMAD SHARGHI, DETAINED IN IRAN: My message to the White House is that we've seen how much joy happens when a family is reunited. We saw it with Trevor. And we hope that they will make those tough decisions and use all the tools that are available to them to reunite us with our loved ones.

I think it makes the country happy. It would make us happy. We've just been living devastated like this for too long.

KEILAR: Joey, you know their pain.

JOEY REED, FATHER OF TREVOR REED: We do, and they hit all the key points there. We need the president to continue what he's done for our son. There are so many Americans that are in worse conditions than Trevor was in and they've been there longer and we need to get them out before it's too late.

And we'd like for the president to meet with the rest of the families and hear essentially the same thing that we said to the president, but all the different situations that they're in. The key is they're all Americans. They're held prisoner because of that fact. And he's the top American and he needs to bring them home.

KEILAR: Has the release of Trevor changed your hope for or your approach to trying to get your dad and uncle released?

FORSETH: I would say it hasn't necessarily changed the approach but, wow, did it lift our spirits. I mean, we were -- Joey's been working with me and Neda, and all of the families. We've been kind of throwing this together for a couple of weeks because we knew we'd be here for the Foley Foundation event tonight. And when we heard about this it was like oh my gosh, is this a manifestation of what could happen for all of us? And so, we shared that joy together and it gave us a lot of hope.

But we're still here to do the same thing we planned to do over a month ago, which is ask for a meeting with President Biden.

KEILAR: And we're going to track and see how your request goes. I will -- I will mention that.

Neda, I do want to give you a chance -- I mean, you just never know. What is your message for your brother? What is your message for Emad?

SHARGHI: Oh, I hope he knows we're fighting for him and I hope he knows that we've united with all the families in that position and we are working together to be heard. And hopefully, we can meet with the president and tell our stories to him. And that we love him so much and we're going to do everything we can to get him home.

KEILAR: What do you want your dad and uncle to know?

FORSETH: Oh, man. I think we've come a long way. A girl from Lake Charles, Louisiana sitting here with you on CNN in D.C. And we're not going to give up, just like my shirt says.

KEILAR: Never give up.

FORSETH: Yes. We're going to keep going until he's home and until they're all home.


KEILAR: Joey, how's Trevor doing?

REED: He's doing better every day. And I would be remiss if I didn't say the reason that we're here is -- me and his sister -- is that he wanted us to come and speak out for Paul Whelan. He's extremely upset that Paul is still there -- another Marine. And also, for Brittney and her family. And as we've said all along,

all the other families. But Trevor couldn't be here but he wanted someone to be here to represent him.

KEILAR: I will say it is amazing to see you banding together, comforting each other. So few people I think know this predicament that you're in and it's incredible to watch you guys together. So I thank you all for being with us. Thank you so much.

FORSETH: Thank you.

KEILAR: And we will continue -- we will continue to follow your family's stories.

SHARGHI: Please do.

FORSETH: Yes, thank you.

SHARGHI: And we're so grateful for Joey to be here with us --

FORSETH: Yes, absolutely.

SHARGHI: -- in the middle of all of this.


SHARGHI: It means the world to us.

KEILAR: It's amazing. And Taylor --

REED: Thank you.

KEILAR: -- your daughter, is off-camera here. But it's amazing that your family has had this success and certainly, we hope that for all of these families -- all of these American families.

Thank you, guys.

FORSETH: Thanks for having us.

SHARGHI: Thank you.

REED: Thank you.

KEILAR: Was the White House Correspondents' Dinner a superspreader event? The latest positive result is now raising questions about President Biden's safety.

BERMAN: New details in the manhunt for an Alabama corrections officer and the inmate who officials say she helped escape. What we are now learning about their, quote -- and this is their words -- "special relationship."


[07:45:48] BERMAN: Jonathan Karl from ABC News testing positive for COVID after attending the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Now there is concern for President Biden's safety and the many others who attended the dinner, not to mention the parties all weekend.

Joining us now is CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, Jon shook the president's hand and Kim Kardashian sat next to him. It was a big, crowded room, not to mention all the parties. How much risk is there?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, there's risk -- there's no question. People who were closest to someone like Jonathan Karl and they were there for the longest period of time, they would be at increased risk. So, Kim Kardashian and people at that table at greater risk than the president, for example, who he shook hands with briefly. But there is risk. There was clearly virus circulating in that room.

You know, the thing is -- so here is how the event sort of went down. People were required to show vaccination -- proof of vaccination and have a same-day negative antigen test. That's pretty good. But clearly, there are still people who may then have tested -- would have tested positive had they been tested again right before the event or maybe there were false negatives with those tests.

Regardless, you have to assume that there's virus circulating in a room like that -- more than 2,500 people there. So, the precautions they took are pretty good precautions.

But I think what Jonathan Karl's case -- and there's going to be a lot of others -- that will teach us is that what you do after the event is also important. So, testing before, proof of vaccination before important. Testing after -- because now he has the opportunity to not continue to spread the virus to other people. There's clearly going to be other people who will have tested positive in that room. But in terms of actually looking at the pandemic going forward, testing afterward really important.

And John, I'll just say everyone wants to have events like this again but thinking about ventilation in a room like that -- trying to make the inside environment as close to the outside environment as possible, that's going to be key. That's going to be something we're going to be talking about for years if not decades to come in terms of living with these viruses.

BERMAN: Sanjay, what do we know about new variants of Omicron? Of course, Omicron was first spotted in South Africa. Now, there is some thought that there could be even new mutations.

GUPTA: Yes, it looks that way. I mean, there's -- we know of BA.1 and then BA.2. There's all these numbers. There is BA.2.12.1. There is two more that are starting to circulate in South Africa pretty significantly.

And they are no doubt going to come here. I mean, we just have to assume when we see these things happening in other places around the world -- I mean, viruses don't -- you know, they cross borders. They don't discriminate in this way.

Take a look what's happening in South Africa. This is what gave us the clue about Omicron in the first place. This is going back to the end of last year.

We saw that. OK, well that's coming. If you look at the very right side of that screen you start to see the numbers tipping up again. That is going up -- cases -- but also an increase in hospitalizations, John -- important. About a third of people in South Africa are vaccinated.

But let me show you the next screen, which I think tells an important story here. So they've had these significant waves. You know, many people in the country would become infected. Ultimately, you had a significant decrease as you had that sort of infection-acquired immunity. And then another wave again three or four months later.

That's what keeps happening and that's likely what is going to happen here. People who have had previous infection may have some immunity for a period of time but that wanes. The vaccine protection also wanes over time -- maybe lasts a little bit longer but also wanes.

I think this makes the case that people who are vulnerable, in particular -- if they've been thinking about that other booster shoot -- seeing what's coming now because that's coming here -- that new wave. Maybe a summer surge as some people have described it. If you've been thinking about that second booster, especially if you're at risk, it's probably a good time to do it.

BERMAN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

GUPTA: You got it.

BERMAN: Hundreds of sailors moved off an aircraft carrier after a string of suicides among the crew. The parents of one young sailor who took his own life joins NEW DAY next.

KEILAR: And new this morning, comedian Dave Chappelle attacked while performing in Los Angeles. New video just in.



KEILAR: The Navy has moved more than 200 sailors off the USS George Washington aircraft carrier after multiple deaths by suicide among the crew, including three in the course of less than a week just last month, according to the Navy.

Over the past 12 months, seven members of the crew have died, including four confirmed by suicide, prompting the Navy to open an investigation into the command climate and culture onboard the ship.

The Navy identified the most recent death as Master-at-Arms Seaman recruit Xavier Sandor. He left his family in late January to serve on the ship and he took his own life three months later. He had just turned 19.


And joining me now are Xavier's parents, John Sander and Mary Graft. John and Mary, I thank you so much for joining us. I am so sorry that we are here and that Xavier is not, and that we are talking about him being gone here.

Can you just tell us a little bit about your son? Who he was and why he wanted to join the Navy?

JOHN SANDOR, FATHER OF NAVY SAILOR WHO DIED BY SUICIDE (via Webex by Cisco): He was a great boy. He was always a leader. He started off in martial arts at the age of five, received his second-degree black belt, and moved on to football. That was his love. Played quarterback all the way through high school. Graduated and enlisted into the United States Navy following in his Uncle Pat and his grandfather's footsteps.

KEILAR: Mary, can you tell me a little bit about Xavier?

MARY GRAFT, MOTHER OF NAVY SAILOR WHO DIED BY SUICIDE (via Webex by Cisco): He was a happy, kind -- just a great kid. So many friends. Just so full of life and loved so much.

KEILAR: But we see the photos --

GRAFT: I just miss him.

KEILAR: Of course, you miss him. He is a beautiful, beautiful young man.

And this carrier -- this aircraft carrier was in a grueling period of refueling and overhaul. It's a nuclear-powered carrier so this is something that can take years. It's not normal, though, to see this kind of despair among a crew, even as they're facing tough conditions.

What did Xavier tell you about what it was like on the carrier during this time?

SANDOR: He said it was -- it was awful, Dad. People shouldn't have to live like this. He loved his job.

He did his 12-hour shifts. And how do you sleep on a -- on an aircraft carrier with jack-hammering and smoke, and smells during the day? So he would sleep in his car.

It's just awful. No sailor should have even been living on that ship in those conditions.

KEILAR: And he would call you guys from his car? What were those conversations like? What did he say?

SANDOR: You know, how was your shift, boy? It was great, dad. But where are you? Oh, I'm in my car. And there wasn't much for the sailors to do because they're in a

shipyard and had to walk a mile to their vehicles. I find that he's not the only one that did that.

But it's awful -- it's awful. They had nothing for the sailors to do. There was lack of hot water and he couldn't even take a hot shower.

KEILAR: Did you get the sense that there was a culture -- a culture problem?

SANDOR: Not so much. He didn't reveal too much. He was too proud to say a lot was wrong. It was just like I don't like the ship. And basically, he was too proud to say what was really going on there.

KEILAR: Did he tell you at all John that other sailors had died by suicide or suspected by suicide? I mean, he was the third in a week.

SANDOR: He did not mention it. I did not know when we went to Virginia to -- we found out that he had passed and they didn't reveal that to me until I got home and saw some of the stories on the news, and it made me angry.

KEILAR: It made you angry. I think that's understandable.

Did -- were higher-ups --

SANDOR: Well, of course.

KEILAR: Were higher-ups receptive to any concerns that Xavier or others might have had? I know that some of the sailors actually did raise concerns with superior officers.

TEXT (U.S. NAVY STATEMENT TO CNN): "Our current focus is on ensuring that we are providing a safe and healthy environment for our sailors aboard GW, and ensuring we are supporting the GW by --

SANDOR: Well, he tried to talk to his superior officer. He always wanted to get into housing, which was the (audio gap) but you had to go through qualifications to do it. But knowing what was going on with the crew before him, this could have happened a long time ago and my son would still be alive. I don't know why it took so long for the Navy to act on it. They had to wait until the 7th to actually make changes? It's ridiculous.

And his higher-ups -- the Master Chief Petty Officer that came and spoke on the ship really -- he said something to the crew on the ship and it was very disrespectful and very hurtful to our family and friends of how at least you're not in a foxhole like the Marines. Well, this ship wasn't any better than a foxhole.

KEILAR: You know, Mary, I think at the heart of this is the loss of many beautiful lives, including that of Xavier's.