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Alito's Classmates Speak Out; Weekly Jobless Claims; Katie Porter Gives Emotional Peal to Democrats; Fast-Moving Blaze Engulfs Homes in California. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 12, 2022 - 08:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Judicial actions.

And this morning, women from Princeton University's class of 1972 have penned an open letter to fellow alum Justice Samuel Alito expressing their displeasure and protest over the draft opinion that seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade. In the letter published in the university student newspaper they write, quote, we ask our classmates and the community of Princeton to protest the logic that ties us to a constitutional originalism which resists any movement toward justice but rather moves us backwards.

I'm joined now by Susan Squier, who knew Justice Alito from their time at Princeton and organized the letter. She's now a professor emeritus at English and Women's Gender Sexually -- Sexuality Studies at Penn State University.

Professor, thanks so much for being with us.

Why do you think it was important to put this letter together?

SUSAN SQUIER, PRINCETON CLASSMATE OF JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO: Well, you know, it was a very fast decision based on waking up in the morning and reading the document. I had been planning to go back to Princeton, but when I saw the SCOTUS leak, and I started reading the document, I felt it couldn't be just business as usual. We had to respond in some way.

So, I wrote a number of the women I was going to see at Princeton and said, can we do something? Can we get together?

So, I drafted the letter on Google Docs and then we circulated it to as many women in the class as we could.

And it's not that we're doing this because we hope it will change things. I don't know. Wouldn't that be lovely? I don't know. Maybe I'm not -- I'm not that naive. But there is a time when you just have to speak out. And those of us who went to Princeton have a privilege of having gone there, we can get listened to.

So, we have to speak for the women who cannot get listened to, the women who are going to be massively impacted, I hate that word, by this horrible new decision. So that was what we were thinking about. BERMAN: Professor, it strikes me that you were a graduate in 1972, Roe

was 1973. So, you're very much part of a generation of women whose lives were changed by Roe.

SQUIER: Absolutely right. Yes. I mean, in fact, when I wrote to my colleague, my friend at Princeton, I said, it feels like this is the '70s all over again. Here we are, just one year from 50 years since Roe was passed, and why are we still fighting? Why are we still dealing with this? So, we really have benefited by the opportunities that Roe gave us. We could go to college. We could go to graduate school. Our lives weren't going to be massively impacted by it. It felt like we should do something.

And then when I read the document, I read all 98 pages of it, and, mind you, I'm trained as a scholar of literature and medicine, and I look at nuance. And when I saw that he had smuggled into the document the wording from the Mississippi Gestational Age Act, which as I understand it, now I'm not a lawyer, but isn't even law yet, and he was referring to unborn children rather than fetuses, I was just stunned. I mean I have read a lot of medical history going back for doing literature and medicine, and his is like a greatest hits of misogyny. He doesn't consider the context.

And this man was a historian at Princeton. He was a double major in history and poli sci. But it's as if he doesn't believe history actually involves a record of things changing. Instead, it's history as, let's go back to the Salem witch trials. Oh, it makes me so angry.

BERMAN: If you can, reflect on a moment about the direction you think this country is headed in, in 2022, versus 50 years ago, 1972.

SQUIER: What I would say is, we seem to be heading into a religious state. It's going to be a state run by evangelical Christians. And instead of what we were doing in 1972, which is widening access to the good things this country has, for people of all races, for people who are gay, for people who are disabled, we seem to be rolling that right back and we're going to really restrict all those liberties that some of whom were guaranteed us in the Constitution, some of them, like the ERA, have yet to get into the Constitution. But it was a really hopeful moment and now we seem to be going into a very dark period that doesn't feel hopeful.

BERMAN: Professor Susan --

SQUIER: The one hope, however, is that we were all -- the class -- my female classmates could come together on this and quite quickly we decided we needed to do something. And basically our feminism drew us together and our sense of obligation for the people who cannot speak, who do not get listened to and who are going to have feeling the brunt of this.


BERMAN: Professor Susan Squier, I do appreciate this discussion. And you will forgive my smile. You are a professor of English. I'm just a lowly TV writer, but I share your hatred of the word "impacted" right there.

SQUIER: Oh, God, thank you.

BERMAN: So, I appreciate -- I appreciate the acknowledgement there, joining me in this war. Appreciate it.

SQUIER: Yes. Good.

BERMAN: So this week's jobless claims just in this morning. We have a breakdown, next.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, a Democratic lawmaker making an emotional speech about skyrocketing grocery bills. An issue she says even impacts her, a sitting congresswoman.


BERMAN: All right, we're all watching the economic numbers so closely right now. And this week's jobless claims just came in.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans here with that.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And, John, why are we watching them so closely? Because this is a snapshot of what's happening in the American job market. And the trend here incredibly important.

Look at the improvement here. These are first time jobless claims, 203,000 last week.


That's up a few thousand. But, meaningfully, this shows you that companies are very, very wary of trying to have layoffs. They don't want to have layoffs. These are few layoffs overall in the economy because the other trend to show you is the jobless rate. This is a story of a job market that is strong, not enough workers.

Employers are hungry to find more workers. There is a war for talent. They are not in the business here of doing mass layoffs anymore as they were just a couple of years ago. It is the opposite.

John, another piece of information that we just received was the government's PPI report, Producer Price Index. This is inflation at the factory level. So, before it gets to the retailers and before it gets into your pocketbook, these numbers here, month over month, from March to April, prices on the factory floor up 0.5 percent. That's in line with expectations. And a little cooler than we've seen in recent months. An overall 11 percent inflation rate for -- annual inflation rate at the factory level. That is not a record, but, John, it's still hot. That is still hot inflation. So, this is up the pipeline, right? These are the kinds of numbers in the months ahead that will still get into your pocketbook. Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's, he basically says, look at

it this way, you're paying on top of what you would assume 2 percent normal inflation, you're paying another maybe $350 a month for the same goods this year compared with last year because of inflation. So, this is why this is issue number one for American families and for this White House, John.

BERMAN: That's real money. That really is.

ROMANS: Yes, it is.

BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, thank you so much.

KEILAR: California Congresswoman Katie Porter gave an emotional speech to her fellow Democrats about skyrocketing grocery prices and how it has affected her and her family. The congresswoman said, quote, there's a lot of shame around having to live on a budget or having to put food back at a grocery store. And I'm not ashamed. I'm doing the very best I can to make the choices financially for my family. She went on to say, it seemed like the first time the personal toll of high consumer prices had sunk in for some lawmakers in the room.

Joining us now is congressional reporter at "Politico," Sarah Ferris, who reported on this meeting.

This is really fascinating because it goes to the heart of how in touch these lawmakers are with what's going on out in the country. Tell us what happened at this meeting and what she said to them.


So, what the congresswoman said, her message to caucus was, look, I'm experiencing inflation myself. My family has been for months. This is an issue that is top of mind for us.

She has three kids. She's a single mom. She has to maintain two residences in expensive parts of the country. She says, I have to put food back sometimes at the grocery store. I have to tell my kids no. She talked to me about bacon that was $9.99 a pound, $7 blueberries. She says, you know, I'm going to wait for those to be in season. She's saying, this has just changed the way that me and my family have shopped. And this is something that the American public has been dealing with for over a year. This is something that I've been dealing with. And her message to the caucus was, we need to be talking about these issues in ways that show we understand these anxieties.

KEILAR: And so what was it like when she told them about that. They seem -- some of them seemed surprised, her colleagues?


So, what she told me afterwards was that some members who might not do their own grocery shopping, who might not be the ones who are directly having to tell their kids no in the store, whether it be -- it's their spouse who does the shopping or someone else, she said, it just didn't seem like the toll had really sunk in with how hard this really has been for folks and how much the prices have gone up.

And she had one colleague who pulled her aside after the meeting and said, well, we're not really seeing this in the polls, meaning the cost of food specifically. Of course, inflation has been in the polls. And so what -- Porter said that was really kind of a wake-up moment for her. She said she hopes this is an animating moment for the caucus to learn, look, we have to be talking like real people. We are real people. This is -- this is part of the problem that Democrats have had for a long time. This is -- this is something they really need to improve on in terms of communication.

KEILAR: Because what did she think when she heard them say, we're not seeing this in the polls? Is she thinking, well, of course people are feeling this, and this is going to impact them?

FERRIS: Sure. She said, well, maybe you don't know what to ask. She said, who are the people writing the polls? These are folks who are pretty well off. They're living in a bubble. And, meanwhile, folks who are actually going to the grocery store, seeing their price goes up, and she said it's been a fascination with gas prices, of course. That's a very easy number. You see it on every sign on every corner.

Food prices are different. You have to be really paying attention to how much things are going up and knowing, you know, what is the price of milk. It's a famous question to see if a politician can answer. And she said, we need to be able to do that.

KEILAR: When your grocery bill, when your budget is finite, then you know -- then you know what you can fit in that thing.

All right, Sarah Ferris, great reporting. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Flames scorching hundreds of acres in Orange County, California. We are live on the ground.

BERMAN: And Actress Ashley Judd opening up this morning about the suicide of her mother, Naomi.



BERMAN: New this morning, an emotional interview with actress Ashley Judd, opening up about the recent loss of her mother, country music legend Naomi Judd. The singer died 12 days ago at the age of 76 after a long struggle with mental illness. Now Ashley is discussing the severe battle her mother was going through, and how she chose to end her life.


ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS AND DAUGHTER OF NAOMI JUDD: Her brain hurt. It physically hurt. And I'm tasked with an exceedingly difficult task in disclosing the manner of the way my mother chose not to continue to live. And I've thought about this so much because once I say it, it cannot be unsaid.


And so, because we don't want it to be a part of the gossip economy, I will share with you that she used a weapon. Mother used a firearm. So that's the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing, but understand that we're in a position that, you know, if we don't say it, someone else is going to.

I really accepted the love my mother was capable of giving me because I knew she was fragile. So when I walked around the back of their house, and came in the kitchen door, and she said, there's my darling, there's my baby, and she lit up, I savored those moments. And every time we hugged, and she drank me in, I was very present for those tactile experiences because I knew there would come a time when she would be gone, whether it was sooner or whether it was later. Whether it was by the disease or another cause.


BERMAN: What a frank and painful discussion there.

If you are thinking about suicide, or worried about a friend or a loved one, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available around the clock. The hotline number right there on your screen.

KEILAR: At least 20 homes in part of Laguna Niguel, California, have been damaged or destroyed by a fast-moving fire. Families now evacuating hillside mansions in one of the state's most affluent neighborhoods.

Natasha Chen live for us there on the scene in Laguna Niguel.

I mean we can see the devastation behind you. Tell us what you're seeing there, Natasha.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, we're in Coronado Point, where you can see this house is just one of the many that were burned out. The doorway is still on fire here. There are hot spots just like that throughout the neighborhood.

The fire crews talked about how the embers really jumped from palm tree to palm tree, into the attics and so they are very careful right now in trying to stamp those out.

And look at this neighbor right here. Another example of a house completely burned to the ground. There are still hot spots. Some flames there.

And if you look further down in this neighborhood, their neighbor has a burned out car. Also the home completely destroyed. And yet, at the same time, there are homes across the street, like this one, completely untouched. And that's pretty common to see in fires like this where the embers may have jumped in a random pattern. Now, this started as a very small fire near a water treatment

facility. Still unclear exactly how or why it began. But the fire crews said in a press conference last night that the winds -- just everyday winds that they have here now that have become extremely regular in this area have picked up those flames and carried them very quickly up a steep hill. And that's how this spread.

Right now, the last update that we saw from the fire authority on Twitter was about six hours ago saying this was about 195 acres, and they plan another press conference later this morning to update this.

But the good news is, we're hearing of no injuries right now. But at least 20 structures like this one burned to the ground.


KEILAR: This is quite a residential area there, Natasha, but it's also an area that surrounds a canyon with so much brush and flammable material in it.

CHEN: That's right. And that steep hill that I was referencing, the fire chief said last night that that is a hill that had thick vegetation, had not burned in probably a decade. And so that contributed to how fast this spread yesterday.

KEILAR: All right, Natasha, on the scene there in Laguna Niguel, where these -- this fire has taken out many homes, thank you for that report.

Leaders in Finland announcing they are going to seek NATO membership ending decades of neutrality. Sweden might be right behind them. Russia's response this morning.

BERMAN: And then we have some really terrific video out of Florida. A group of good Samaritans rushing to a busy intersection to help an unconscious driver.



BERMAN: All right, we have some wild video to show you this morning. A group of good Samaritans in Florida rushing to the rescue of a woman suffering a medical emergency while driving. You can see it right here. The woman's car is slowly moving, kind of drifting into the middle of this really busy intersection. A co-worker noticed the woman slumped over the steering wheel, ran into the street to try to stop the car. Suddenly you see all these other drivers, all these other people jumping in. They're trying to stop the car as well. You can see them leaning onto the car to keep it from moving right there.

Ultimately, they used a dumbbell to smash the back door window and then they moved the car into a nearby parking lot. Police have released this. They're sharing this video hoping to honor the good Samaritans and reunite them with the woman who was driving. Apparently she's doing well right now. It's really crazy how many of them it took to fix the situation there.

And it just, you know, reinforces the notion you should always have a dumbbell around in case of an emergency.

KEILAR: I didn't see that one coming. But, yes, maybe something heavy or a glass break or something like that.


I just love this. There's like five people and how quickly they came to help. It's just such a beautiful moment.

BERMAN: It really is. You know, work on your biceps and save a live.

KEILAR: In the car, like, driving.

BERMAN: All right, CNN's coverage continues right now.