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Clarissa Ward Returns To Afghanistan 1 Year After Kabul Falls; Sandy Hook Mom Who Won Against Alex Jones Speaks On Verdict; First Look At Johnny Depp As King Louis XV; Disney+ Raises Prices, Tops Netflix In Subscribers; Jordan Jersey From 1998 Final Expecting $5M At Auction. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired August 11, 2022 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Who were trying to speak out on behalf of girls have either been forced to leave the country or are forced to abandon that type of activity because it can potentially be dangerous for them and for their families.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Clarissa, a couple of things that sort of related here. I'm curious if in why the Taliban wants you there, what do they want to show the world today, one year later, and just one year later, you know, the airport, you spent so much time at the airport one year ago was thousands, and thousands of people trying to get out. Is that backup operational and open?
WARD: The airport is operational again, we flew a commercial airline in, it's a pretty normal process. You go through passport control, you go through customs, you collect your baggage, you leave the airport, some of the walls that were dubbed with basically slogans about democracy and freedom, during the time before the Taliban took power, have now been replaced with Islamic slogans and symbols. But also we saw outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, an interesting one which says, you know, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants peaceful and prosperous relations with the world.
So far, Afghanistan, under the Taliban leadership is not recognized by a single country. And while the Taliban does seem to understand that, that presents real challenges for them, and real problems for them, particularly in terms of securing the funding, and the investment, and the help with development that they so desperately need, they are not yet willing to basically adopt the more pragmatic stances that they had always promised to their people and to the international community. And so they remain rigid on these areas like female education, despite not even trying to claim that there is anything in Islam that prevents women and girls from achieving education, they are still very unflexible in terms of trying to adapt that more conciliatory pragmatic approach that I just referred to.
I think they want to show journalists here, two things, and they're pretty, they're pretty categorical about they don't want you to see, they want to show that life goes on, that there is law and order, that it is relatively safe. And they also want to show that the poverty that is being experienced by people here is biting, and it is real, and they want to maximize the amount of pressure that's put particularly on the U.S. to unfreeze those Federal Reserves and allow free and unfettered humanitarian aid to roll in. Obviously, many things, though, have made that a much more complex prospect than perhaps initially anticipated.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Well, look, it's so important to see you there, Clarissa. Year ago, I really, I'm surprised that I think a year ago if you told me that you would be there I would have been very surprised. So it is so important that you're there telling this continuing story.
Clarissa Ward, live for us in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Next, we're going to be joined by the mother of six-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. She has won a case against right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
BERMAN: And we are awaiting the release of a key inflation report this morning as gas prices for the first time in months dropped below $4 a gallon.
KEILAR: Last week's nearly $50 million verdict against Alex Jones was far from the end of his legal battle with Sandy Hook parents and survivors. But these damages are just a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the entire misinformation economy that he helped grow.
John Avlon, with our Reality Check.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There are two quotes at the start of Stephen King's book on writing. The first is attributed to Cervantes, honesty is the best policy. The second is anonymous, liars prosper. And never has not been more literally true at least for a time than in the strange case of Alex Jones, because we now know that the infamous conspiracy entrepreneur raked in big bucks by peddling lies at a time when local journalism is struggling to stay alive.
Now Alex Jones and kept his Infowars audience addicted to anger and anxiety boosting engagement by selling special knowledge, also known as alternative facts. There was no such thing as too extreme or too unhinged, even stating that the soul crushing Sandy Hook School massacre was a hoax, another false flag operation. It's not only ignored horrific facts, but it showed callous contempt for the suffering of families. And that's what eventually brought some measure of accountability to this misinformation magnet.
But trying to avoid justice, Jones company filed for bankruptcy as the trial began, but through filings and testimony in the civil defamation case brought by Sandy Hook parents, we've gotten a stark look at how liars prosper online. Get this. Jones and his company are worth up to $270 million. According to testimony from a forensic economist, Jones Infowars Company made north of $800,000 per day at times in 2018. His company credit card bill runs up to $300,000 per month. This shows online stores selling shady supplements and survivalist gear raked in more than 165 million over three years ending in 2018. And even after being deep platformed for violating hate speech policies that year, Jones revenue, actually rose plaintiff's attorney said in court.
Not accounted for his company testify that over the past decade and a half, Jones withdrew nearly $62 million from his company. And after default judgments in the Sandy Hook case, Infowars received millions and cryptocurrency transfers, which the accountant said went directly to Jones's pocket.
Now keep in mind, that the average American family makes about $80,000 a year 2021 and ask yourself what's wrong with this picture? I mean other than everything.
The incentive structure in our information ecosystem is all screwed up. It's allowing lies to be monetized while achieving reach that real news struggles to compete with. According to analysis by NewsGuard, top brand advertisers spend an estimated $2.6 billion a year to misinformation websites inadvertently, through programmatic advertising. Those automated placement of digital ads. And misinformation sites are cheap to run compared to real news organizations as the folks at NewsGuard write, misinformation publishers can produce low cost fake news, regardless of whether it's accurate or harmful, and use it to compete for clicks and ad dollars with legitimate journalism organizations spending millions on reporters, editors and fact checkers.
So yes, this is a serious civic problem if you give a damn about a well informed citizenry, which is essential to democracy. Because while Alex Jones been raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars per day, more than 360 local newspapers have shut down since before the pandemic. Not only that, the number of newsroom jobs were cut in half between 2008 and 2019. Local news deserts have left thousands of communities without a local paper and that means fewer reporters covering local and state government, which is in the long run an invitation to corruption. The lack of legitimate information as to cynicism and suspicion which demagogues take advantage of, politicians legitimizing their lives all leading up to the vocal role that Jones played riling up the crowd before the insurrection attempt on January 6.
Now look, there's no accounting for enthusiastic dupes, people willfully blinded by hyper partisanship or hatred or the rush of conspiracy theories. As PT Barnum reportedly said more than a century ago, there's a sucker born every minute, but the stakes are higher now. Political carnival barkers can have real power. In the monetization of misinformation threatens democracy itself, because it depends to a large extent, on reasoning together. And that's why we need to strengthen some basic civic guardrails, like algorithms reforms to ensure that truth has a fighting chance against the blizzard of digital lies. Because we've already seen how corrosive conspiracy theories can be to our country. Some form of accountability is a step towards healing that breach.
But remember, Alex Jones is just the loudest example of the larger problem facing our democracy. And that's your reality check.
KEILAR: John Avlon, thank you.
BERMAN: All right, joining us now is Scarlett Lewis. Her son Jesse Lewis was killed in his first grade classroom during the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook. Scarlett founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Moment in honor of her son. She and Jesse's father both spoke at the defamation trial last week against Alex Jones and they were awarded nearly $50 million in both compensatory and punitive damages.
Scarlett, thanks so much for being with us. I know you've gone through what you've gone through the last week is the culmination of so much work you've been doing for so long. I do want to ask about one thing I was not aware of, Alex Jones handed you a note inside that courtroom. What did it say?
SCARLETT LEWIS, 6-YEAR-OLD SON JESSE, KILLED IN SANDY HOOK SHOOTING: He did on the last day before the punitive damages. He handed both Neil and I a note. And it basically said that he was very truly sorry. And that he extended an olive branch and wanted to work with the Choose Love Movement to bring more love into schools, homes and communities around the world.
BERMAN: You buy it?
LEWIS: Well, I'm waiting, I have hope.
BERMAN: You looked into his eye in that courtroom. What did you see?
LEWIS: I saw something that I didn't expect. I saw a very lonely person, I saw somebody with a huge void and I realized that that was where the lies and the greed were actually coming from to fill that. And of course, because I've been doing this for nine and a half years, I know that the only thing that does fill that void is love and that's why I started the Choose Love Movement.
BERMAN: You said it was important for you to do this to be there to speak out to live up to Jesse's model. Talk to me about that.
LEWIS: Well, Jesse is known for saving nine of his classmates lives before losing his own. The shooter, recent former graduate of Newtown School System, went back to the elementary school that he had attended where his mother had taught. He shot his way through the glass doors, made a left down the first grade hallway that he knew because he had attended there. The principal and guidance counselor came out of a meeting with a parent that they were having on the right hand side. He killed them and then turned into Jesse's classroom. And Jesse stood up to him and saved nine of his classmates' lives.
So, you know in comparison, he was standing up to the ultimate bully so I was able to do that with Alex and having Jesse right behind me.
[07:45:04] BERMAN: Standing up to bullies.
BERMAN: When you're talking about Alex Jones as a bully, what does that represent in our society? What is this bully that you see in him?
LEWIS: It's, well, I mean, he was found guilty of spreading lies to intentionally harm someone. And, you know, I was sitting in the courtroom thinking to myself, I can't believe that I'm here actually having to hold a grown man accountable for lying, and doing that intentionally. It's -- when I was speaking to them in the courtroom, it was almost like I was chastising a young boy.
BERMAN: Do you think that this verdict will help keep this type of bullying from happening again?
LEWIS: I do. I think that the verdict sends a very strong message. In fact, my attorney and his clothes (ph), asked the jury to choose love over hatred and fear. And they did and I think that this sends a very strong message for truth to all of us. We need truth, to have a civil society and to have relationships and connections with one another.
BERMAN: And I know the goal is to have this money, go to the foundation and do the work that choose love and spread love. Do you think you'll ever see that money though, with all the shenanigans that can happen from here on out?
LEWIS: I do. I do. I have a lot of hope. And we're going to put it to very good use. And I think it's almost actually poetic justice, that that will go towards keeping kids safe in schools and choosing love.
BERMAN: Jesse will be proud of you.
LEWIS: Thank you.
BERMAN: I think he would think you are living up to his example. Scarlett Lewis, thanks so much for being with us this morning. Really appreciate your time.
LEWIS: Thank you.
BERMAN: For more information on Scarlett's nonprofit in honor of her son Jesse go to chooselovemovement.org.
Ahead, we're going to speak to the Trump administration's Former Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, get his reaction to the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.
KEILAR: And Republican Senator Tim Scott dodging questions on whether former President Trump should run again. His interview with CNN's Dana Bash is next.
KEILAR: Since Monday's FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, several Republicans have come to the former president's defense last in the FBI and the Department of Justice. Now the judge who signed the search warrant is facing threats.
CNN's Dana Bash, asked Republican Senator Tim Scott about the recent rhetoric from those in his party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Should they tone it down? Because there's potential for things to go south quickly.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): No question. I would say without any hesitation that every single member of our family, the American family should be very concerned when you feel like there was a weaponization of the Department of Justice against any individual, much less a former president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: All right, joining us now is CNN chief political correspondent and the co-anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION," Dana Bash.
I wonder Dana, what you think of his answer, and especially in light of what we know from the Wall Street Journal now, which is that it was someone within Trump's orbit, who told the Feds about documents at Mar-a-Lago that they should have their hands on.
BASH: Good morning. Well, yes, this interview was, as you mentioned, done before the new reporting from the Wall Street Journal, but also after that I pushed him on this whole notion of weaponization. Because to say, well, wait a minute, why, why don't they get the benefit of the doubt they went through the formal process, they went and got a warrant, which is not easy to do for anybody, never mind, a former president.
What was so striking, John and Brianna about that interview is that it was different from what we heard from the Senator, I thought, just a couple of days, even a day earlier, he's on a book tour. So he's been out talking about his new memoir. He was on CBS the day after the raid, and he was much more kind of in a wait and see mode. And what was strange -- and that's how I expected him to be. What was striking to me was that he was much more forward leaning into the rhetoric that you're hearing more broadly from Republicans. And Jim Scott is on the ballot. He's on the ballot in South Carolina, and South Carolina as one South Carolina lawmaker recently said to me, might as well be called Trumpistan, it is extremely supportive of the former president.
Now, that's not to say that, if we have I asked him that question right now with the information about the informant, or how I was able to have a more fulsome conversation, we wouldn't get back to the other. But it was really noteworthy to me, sort of the way that he expressed himself the tone that he took on this issue, because the pressure is so clearly there, from the former president from Republican, some Republican leaders, particularly those who are pushing on the campaign front.
BERMAN: You say he's on the ballot, you're talking about 2022.
BERMAN: But there's another ballot. There's another ballot in question. Right. And that's possibly running for president in 2024. And you asked him about that. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH (on-camera): You want another difficult campaign and your words in a difficult four years. Should he run?
SCOTT: Well, there's no doubt that one of the things I celebrate in the book I tried to, honestly Dana, I tried to tell both sides of story, I want the full ledger to be seen. While we had some challenges, I can name several of them. There were some really important points for we saw the country coming together. We're the most inclusive economy in the history of the country, creating 7 million jobs, two-thirds going to African-Americans, Hispanics and the women. We raised funding for historically black colleges --
BASH (on-camera): Do you want us to do you want the former president to run again.
SCOTT: -- to the highest level ever. I want the same policy positions that we had before that, I believe --
BASH: Can somebody else do that and not somebody who makes things in your words difficult?
SCOTT: Well, I hope that we will find our way back to a place where we're talking about principles and personalities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I have to say, I thought that was really interesting, especially in combination with his defense of Trump on the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago because he really left open the possibility of someone else the message, but not the messenger there.
BASH: It's the finest and finished of lines, that Republicans like Tim Scott are trying to walk. And I read his book, and he does talk about the former president, The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, talks about moments where he felt that he actually was heard by the former president, especially after Charlottesville and times where he was extremely frustrated with him. And therein lies the challenge for Republicans who have not gone sort of full Liz Cheney or full Adam Kinzinger. And saying, it doesn't matter what his policies are, if he's, from their point of view of fundamental threat to democracy, none of it should matter. Tim Scott, just like, frankly, most Republican elected officials are not there yet.
KEILAR: Dana Bash, I will always answer your questions very directly. I don't want to be facing that kind of (INAUDIBLE) --
BERMAN: Or I'll never answer her questions. Dangerous.
KEILAR: She's going to ask more. You're going to get more and more questions. Dana Bash, thank you so much.
KEILAR: So John Bolton is going to join us live ahead after it was revealed that Iran tried to assassinate him.
BERMAN: Plus, the first picture of Johnny Depp's first role since the defamation trial.
BERMAN: So we are getting a first look of Johnny Depp as King Louie XV in fresh director may wins historical love stories, Jeanne du Barry, I got a deal French, making me say anything in French is cruel and unusual punishment. Depp has been around filming -- he has been filming around Paris since late July. According to the French production company working on the film this is Depp's first film following the defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard.
KEILAR: And Disney+ is raising its prices for subscribers in the United States. The basic 799 monthly subscription will now include ads and the ad free option will increase to 1,099 a month. This comes after Disney top Netflix in total subscribers last quarter. Disney combined with Hulu and ESPN plus a 20 -- sorry, 221.1 million streaming subscribers at the end of its fiscal third quarter that ended in June, Netflix had 220.7 million.
KEILAR: The jersey Michael Jordan war during game one of the 1998 NBA Finals is being auctioned off by Sotheby's. The Chicago Bulls jersey is expected to reach up to $5 million. The auction house calls it one of the most significant items for Michael Jordan's career. According to Sotheby's it will be one of only two of his jerseys worn in a finals game to ever appear at auction. I assume it has been laundered.
KEILAR: I hope not.
BERMAN: Yes, we actually mean if it hasn't, I charge extra.
BERMAN: Why not?
KEILAR: What's the upcharge on that?
BERMAN: Michael Jordan's (INAUDIBLE) --
KEILAR: Two mil?
BERMAN: -- from Michael Jordan. KEILAR: Two mil for sure. "New Day" continues right now.
BERMAN: So your report in The Wall Street Journal raises the question.