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New Day

Sesame Place Apologizes; Hagar Chemali and Reena Ninan are Interviewed about Iran and Russia. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 20, 2022 - 08:30   ET





KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks for being here with us.

BERMAN: Look, the video is what the video is.


BERMAN: I mean you look at it and you're left to sort of wonder what's going on there.

LEMON: Yes. It is heartbreaking. Everyone asks, what do you think? And, honestly, I'm going to say what everyone says, right, for the most part, I don't know. I know what I see on the video, and the video is heartbreaking, and it looks awful. They're saying that it's hard to see in those costumes. If you've ever worn a costume for Halloween or if you know someone who is a mascot in school. Actually, a member of my team at CNN who was a mascot in college and says, it's really hard to see in those costumes. OK. Fine. Let's just say that's the case.

The problem for Sesame Place is that there are other videos out there showing very similar situations with kids who walk up, seemingly white kids who walk up are hugged, touched, and embraced and the black kids are snubbed. So, what I see with my eyes on that video, it's awful, it's heartbreaking, it should not happen. Sesame Place has said, you know, they're going to do some sort of training.

But that is a reality for black kids in this country many times. And it's a reality for people who may have issues with those kids. If they do, they shouldn't be in that costume.

I don't know who's on the other side of this costume -- that costume. What if a black person is on the other side of that costume. We don't know. We have no idea who's on the other side of that costume.

But what I do know is that Sesame Place needs to take a look at their employees, and the way they conduct business when it comes to greeting kids on, you know, in their parks, and probably make some changes. That's what I know. And I wish the family, the mother, and the kids well.

Do I think, now, you know, I think, you know, someone said the kids are going to be scarred forever for that. I don't believe that the kids will be scarred forever. There were worse things that happened to me as a kid, like being called the "n" word, these things should not happen and all the worse things that happened, but they were lessons for me as an adult and for my parents.

So, I'm sorry that it happened to those kids. It should never happen to any kid. I don't think it's going to scar the kids forever. This is the world. We live in a tough place. And they're going to have to deal with things that are worse than that.

BERMAN: Sesame Place did put out a statement, right, which I'm - which gets to some of the things you were suggesting that they do and handle this going forward.


BERMAN: They said no child should ever leave our park feeling disappointed or ignored.

LEMON: Should not.

BERMAN: And we commit to learn everything we can from the situation. We need to make changes. As noted previously, we will provide additional training for Sesame Place employees to help them better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience to our guests.

COLLINS: But correct me if I'm wrong, I think that's their second statement.

LEMON: It's the second statement.

COLLINS: I think their first response was to say what you kind of said and what you had heard -

LEMON: He couldn't see.

COLLINS: It's difficult to see. The members are - and, clearly, it's a busy, crowded situation. They're walking through that. Then, as the outrage grew, they put out that statement saying that they would undergo training.

LEMON: Yes. But - and, also, you have to remember, those characters are there to greet the kids. So, as far as greeting the kids, there should be very few excuses about greeting the kids. They should be open and embracing all kids. Now, I know there are policies that they don't pick up the kids or whatever to take pictures and they'll tell the parents that they can't do that. But they are there to greet the kids.

BERMAN: Do you like the costumes?

LEMON: Do I -- I love the costumes. I think they're great. Listen, I grew up on "Sesame Street." I'm a kid of the '60s, '70s, and '80s. I was a little too old for "Sesame Street."

BERMAN: Pre-Elmo? Pre-Elmo "Sesame Street."

LEMON: Oh, I'm pre-Elmo "Sesame Street."

BERMAN: Yes, me too.

LEMON: I mean "Sesame Street" every single day.

LEMON (singing): Sunny day.

COLLINS: I'm post-Elmo. Sorry.

BERMAN: Yes, no, Elmo was after our time.

LEMON (on camera): And, "Sesame Street," groundbreaking, right, when it comes to issues of race and social issues and cultural issues, groundbreaking. Sesame Place is a different thing, obviously, than the "Sesame Street" television show.


LEMON: Again, awful, should not happen, and I think we should watch and see where this goes.

"Sesame Street" has a history of doing the right thing.


LEMON: Let's hope they do the right thing in this particular situation.

COLLINS: And what more can you ask for?

BERMAN: So you, as one of your many fascinating interviews that air every night on CNN's "DON LEMON TONIGHT" starring Don Lemon, produced by Don Lemon.


BERMAN: You talked to Stacey Abrams, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia again. And you talked to her about President Biden's approval rating right now and the effect it's having on her candidacy.

Let's watch a little bit from "DON LEMON TONIGHT" with Don Lemon.


LEMON: The question was about Biden, though, whether Biden impacts you and your race.

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: And my point is this, that while we live in a nation where the president is doing his best to confront economic challenges that are happening around the world. We have a governor who has the very real tools in his hand provided by Democrats to actually stave off these challenges. He has the ability to take millions of dollars provided to the state by President Biden, by Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator John Ossoff. And, instead, he is refusing to deploy those resources, he's refusing to expand Medicaid, he's refusing to acknowledge the housing crisis. And so it's very important that we recognize that the governor's race matters because the governor have the ability to respond locally and directly to the needs of the people. And Brian Kemp is refusing to do that job, either because he doesn't care or because he's unwilling to do his job.



COLLINS: What was your question for her again?

LEMON: That was the second time I asked. My question was whether or not Joe Biden's poll numbers, right, and his job approval rating would affect her in her governor's race and others like Senator Raphael Warnock. And then again she turned it back to Brian Kemp and others and even Herschel Walker at one point. So --

COLLINS: Which I appreciate the tactic. I've seen it before.


COLLINS: But it wasn't an answer of your question.

LEMON: It wasn't, yes.

COLLINS: Which is a legitimate question that is facing the White House and Democrats before the midterm elections.

LEMON: Right. Right.

COLLINS: And the questions about Biden's approval ratings, which the White House dismisses as they go up, they go down. But clearly for Democrats they are paying very close attention to this.

LEMON: They are paying very close attention. And as you know, Joe Biden visited Georgia a while ago and Stacey Abrams did not show up. He also has - he's gone to other places, and the candidates have not shown up. They don't want to embrace him.

And we know why. It is because of his job approval rating. It is because of how people feel about the economy around the country and other issues. People feel that the country is going in the wrong direction.

Now, listen, it's not -- I'm not saying that it - it is or it isn't. I'm just reporting what's out there and people get upset by it, but that is the truth. And Stacey Abrams, Raphael Warnock, they're in Georgia, which is going to be very pivotal when it comes to the midterms and to the 2024 election. And they know it. They know that they're concerned about Joe Biden's poll numbers and they, as a candidate, they should be concerned about it because then my -- you know, I should have been more direct, possibly, and said, is he a drag on the party? Is he a drag on candidates? And, you know, looking back now, hindsight is 2020, maybe I should have asked her that.

BERMAN: You know, the chance -- the percentage chance she would have answered the question?

LEMON: That's - I -


LEMON: But she and Raphael Warnock, same thing, it is hard to knock them, as you know, Kaitlan, off of message. They have stayed on message. I even asked her about Herschel Walker. She gave a very similar answer to that.

And the problem for them is that the people in Georgia, those candidates, whether you like them or not, whether you think they're suitable for office or not, they're doing something that the people of Georgia like, because they're still in the running, right? They're neck and neck in the polling there. Herschel Walker is and, you know, the former president still has a very high approval rating in Georgia where he tried to steal the election.

BERMAN: Don Lemon, you have about thirteen and a half hours to get ready for your show.

LEMON: I am. And I will not be wearing this, but -

COLLINS: Come on.

BERMAN: We'll have to let you get started on the immense preparations.

LEMON: This is from the '90s, John. I haven't worn this since the 1990s. And I'm surprised it -

BERMAN: And it - and it still fits.

COLLINS: You haven't worn it since the '90s?

LEMON: I haven't worn it since the '90s. It's been sitting in my closet.

COLLINS: That's talking about staying power.

LEMON: I cannot believe I can still fit in it. It just came out of the dry-cleaning bag. I'm surprised it hasn't crumbled, right.

BERMAN: You look -

COLLINS: Well, I'm glad it's made its debut with us because (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Good to see you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: I know, it's nice to be here and hang out with you guys that I only see normally from this little screen. BERMAN: And, the second part. The second (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Done.

BERMAN: OK, Don Lemon, thank you very much.

You can, of course, see more of Don Lemon on "DON LEMON TONIGHT" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Vladimir Putin meeting with Iranian leaders in Tehran. The significance and what was discussed.

COLLINS: And a major NBA star is in court today facing felony domestic and child abuse charges. We'll tell you how we think the league is going to respond, next.



COLLINS: Ahead of the midterm elections, top national security officials are warning of multifaceted election interference threats from adversaries like Iran, China and Russia. FBI Director Chris Wray saying in a cybersecurity conference in New York, quote, we have to be concerned about hybrid threats, that includes an unremarkable cyber incident to sow panic or lack of confidence in our election infrastructure.

Joining to now to discuss this is Reena Ninan. She's a former ABC and CBS News anchor and the founder of Good Trouble Productions. And Hagar Chemali, former spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations under President Obama. She was also the spokeswoman for the terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department.

Both very qualified guests this morning.



COLLINS: I love that title.

What do you make of Christopher Wray's warning about this, about this idea of a triple threat basically?

CHEMALI: Well, I'm not surprised. This has been the pattern now for a while. Authoritarian regimes are very threatened by democracies in general. And so they're going to do everything they can, even if they're facing their own threats at home, their own - a war in Ukraine and a failing economy, China's challenges in general with their - the expansionist policies, undermining democracy in the United States specifically is a priority to them. They can walk and chew gum at the same time, which, as Director Wray said. And so it doesn't surprise me. It's something that everybody has to be aware of to make sure that they can identify efforts of disinformation or efforts to sew and create divisions among the public. NINAN: I don't think people realize just how much on a local level

it's ripe for interference. You know, you think often it's just the presidential elections. But I think one of the cases they're trying to make here is that local elections are also vulnerable and likely have less security and infrastructure in place to really help. So that's a big concern as well that I don't think people realize. It's businesses also that these countries want to target.

BERMAN: You know, and you add to this what is clearly a different type of relationship between and among those three countries listed, like Christopher Wray, obviously China and Russia talking extensively before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and then China sort of watching, not condemning it, and now Iran. What a picture. What a picture we see there on the screen with Vladimir Putin in Tehran, that meeting with the Ayatollah Khamenei. He also met with the Iranian president, what to make of this growing ever closer relationship between Russia and Iran?

CHEMALI: Yes, these are -- these are not natural allies. I remember a time -- I handled the Syrian crisis at the NSC, and Syria was failing, even with Iran's help. Iran was investing a lot in Syria. They were still losing. It wasn't until Russia came in. It was like calling the big uncle with the big guns.


When Russia came in, in 2014, that's when the tides shifted in Assad's favor in Syria.

So, Russia is used to this position of strength in the Middle East. So, to suddenly see him kowtowing, looking to Iran for support and strength for these unmanned aerial vehicles, these weapons capable drones apparently that he will be receiving, to look to Iran for support doesn't speak very well.

And, again, they're not -- these are not natural allies. The Russian citizens don't like the Iranian government. It's not something you normally see. Both have very different foreign policy goals and missions. But, as we've always seen in history, when adversaries are isolated and authoritarian leaders, in particular, they find each other for strength.

COLLINS: Yes, because they're both outcasts right now.


COLLINS: And so there is a new warning coming from the White House that John Kirby, who works for the National Security Council now, was telling reporters about yesterday, when it comes to what Russia is preparing to do in Ukraine.


JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We're seeing ample evidence in the intelligence and in the public domain that Russia intends to try to annex additional Ukrainian territory. Russia is beginning to roll out a version of what you could call an annexation playbook, very similar to the one we saw in 2014.


COLLINS: What do you make of this warning coming from the White House?

NINAN: You know, it's interesting because we saw earlier this month something that I've never seen before, which is the head of MI-5 and the FBI getting together in London, a joint press conference, saying, we are really concerned about Chinese espionage. And I think they're aware.

They -- that China and Russia, right before the invasion started, signed this agreement of memorandum between them. They made it clear, they want to change the world order. They want to create a stronger alliance. And I think all of this speaks to that.

And I think the intelligence community is very, very aware of what they're trying to sow and they've been very public and coordinated in trying to get the word out about just what can happen if you allow this to continue to grow.

BERMAN: Annexation, how does that complicate the U.S. support for Ukraine, or the western support for Ukraine going forward?

CHEMALI: So you mean the annexation of eastern --

BERMAN: If Russia goes ahead and does what it tried - you know, what it did with Crimea and says it's now Russia, what does that mean going forward?

CHEMALI: Well, for all intents and purposes, they've kind of already done that, except for - I mean and so - for certainly on Russia's end. And the U.S. has responded by sanctioning those areas. That's a common tactic Usually when Crimea was annexed, the U.S. did the same thing, they immediately sanctioned so that the government that did that, Russia, can't benefit financially from that region.

Does it complicate things further? I mean it complicates things domestically in Ukraine because President Zelenskyy wants his people to decide. His people so far have said, no, these are not -- we're not willing to give up territory or land. And what that means overall in the bigger picture is that we're a aways away from diplomatic negotiations. And, however, diplomatic negotiations are what's needed to put an end to this war.

COLLINS: And that's the question that they have of whether or not it could happen by the end of the year.

NINAN: Putin sees negotiation as weakness. I just don't see how this is going to end with a negotiation. (INAUDIBLE).

COLLINS: Reena, Hagar, thank you so much for joining us this morning to break down so many important issues that we're talking about.

CHEMALI: Thanks.

NINAN: Thanks.

COLLINS: Up next, we'll talk about Elon Musk, who is losing his effort to delay the trial over his attempting to thwart that Twitter deal.

BERMAN: And straight out of an old western, sort of, except it was on the streets of New York City. A suspect in New York stopped by an officer on horseback.



BERMAN: All right, time now for the "5 Things To Know for Your New Day."

The Secret Service turning over just one, one single text exchange in response to a request from the Homeland Security inspector general for a month's worth of records from 24 Secret Service personnel. The National Archives has asked them to investigate, saying they are aware of the, quote, potential unauthorized deletion of text messages.

COLLINS: If it feels hotter outside than normal, it's not just you. There is a dangerous heat wave scorching the United States and the globe really, impacting millions of Americans and shattering records and sparking wildfires in western Europe.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The dam just exploded.

It just popped (ph).

Do you feel that?


BERMAN: Wow, fire at the Hoover Dam. A transformer exploded, sending plumes of smoke into the air. It was put out in about 30 minutes. Pretty scary looking. But the dam is still generating power.

COLLINS: And the forward for the Charlotte Hornets, Miles Bridges, is set to be arraigned today on felony domestic and child abuse charges after he was accused of assaulting his partner in front of their two children. The team and the league both aware and monitoring those charges.

BERMAN: And a judge ordering a five-day October trial for the lawsuit between Twitter and Elon Musk. The world's richest man is now trying to back out of his agreement to take over the company. Twitter is suing Musk to force him to complete the $44 billion deal.

COLLINS: Those are the "5 Things To Know for Your New Day." More on these stories all day on CNN and And don't forget to download the "5 Things" podcast every morning, as I do. Go to Millions of dollars' worth of gems and jewelry were stolen from an

armored Brinks truck. Many people are wondering how in the heck these crooks pulled off this heist.

BERMAN: And former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, he has arrived back in court this morning. You can see video of his arrival right there. The criminal contempt of Congress trial picks up again shortly.



COLLINS: Talk about brazen. It was a multi-million-dollar jewel heist that happened in California where authorities say thieves stole the jewelry from an armored Brinks truck that was pulled over at a rest stop. The merchandise belonging to 18 different jewelers. It included diamonds, gold, luxury brand watches. The FBI is investigating the matter, along with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. But there are still a lot of questions and many people left wondering what happened and how.

BERMAN: All right, there's this. A heist of a different kind. Dramatic body cam video -- I think this is human body cam video of an NYPD officer in a high speed chase on horseback. The suspect, you can see there, running down a Manhattan street on Saturday with the officer in hot pursuit.

But let's be fair here, it's Sampson the horse doing the work here, doing the pursuiting.


Police say a sunglass vendor in Times Square told them a man stole seven pairs of sunglasses after threatening him with a broken piece of glass. The suspect, thanks to Sampson and the work being done here, finally caught and arrested.

COLLINS: Imagine if you think you're just committing a petty cripple and this horse comes galloping after you down Fifth Avenue.

BERMAN: That's a thing.

CNN's coverage continues right now.