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Some In GOP Play Defense On Abortion, Shift Positions For Midterms; Meghan Markle Criticizes Royal Life In Candid New Interview; Is The World Having Enough Children So Sustain Civilization? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 30, 2022 - 07:30   ET




DR. SCOTT JENSEN, MINNESOTA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: That would have to be a medical consideration and an area for potential exception.

HOST: No exceptions for rape or incest?

JENSEN: Unless a mother's life is in danger.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now, in the general election, he's calling his previous words clumsy.

JENSEN: If I've been unclear previously I want to be clear now. Rape and incest, along with endangering the mother's mental or physical health are acceptable exceptions.

JOHN THOMAS, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It is an animating issue, particularly in very tight congressional and Senate races where there are lots of college-educated white women, but that's not every district in America. So in select races, you're seeing these shifts on abortion.

The challenge is on some of these very hot issues the other campaign keeps receipts, meaning they have the website, they have the primary T.V. ads.


LAH (voice-over): Those receipts are now appearing in general election ads. Democratic campaigns and groups have spent more than $50 million in ads referencing abortion since Roe was overturned, sensing a chance to energize voters this November.

LAH (on camera): Pivots in politics are certainly not that unusual. Whether it works on a wedge issue like abortion is how convincing the candidate is, if the candidate is sincere, and most importantly, whether voters believe it.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles. (END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And our thanks to Kyung for that report.

Here now, CNN political commentators Ashley Allison, Alice Stewart, Scott Jennings, and CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

John, what are we seeing?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We are seeing Republicans scrambling to change their position on something as fundamental and allegedly personal and principled as their -- as abortion because the politics are a buzzsaw right now. I mean, you're seeing -- Kyung's package was phenomenal because it showed -- it brought the receipts, right? I mean, there's websites being changed.

But these are things from maximalist positions like a personhood bill. No exceptions in case of rape and incest or the life of the mother that now people are saying well, I misspoke -- I was unclear. That rings hollow because it's not remotely credible at a time, especially when the number of Americans who identify as pro-choice is not up to 55 percent.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is the oldest dance in politics, right? After the primary, the move to the middle. This is the Romney Etch-A-Sketch slide to appeal to moderate voters.

The problem here is if you are going to evolve on an issue as important as abortion you need to do so with conviction and with passion. And as she pointed out in the piece, you don't want to be evolving saying this is exactly how I feel. I really do support exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. You have to do so with conviction because the key now is get moderates and undecided voters. That's the game for both sides, Republicans and Democrats.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. I think the authenticity issue for the one clip we saw is a -- is a real thing.

I do think Republicans, though, have had, at least for most of my political career, a pretty reasonable position on abortion, which is we're pro-life and we believe in the exceptions of rape, incest, and life of the mother. Somewhere along the way, people evolved away from two of those three exceptions -- not everybody. I mean, we do have Senate candidates in Colorado, Washington State, and others that are running on a different platform.

So, I think -- I think the personal nature of it is important. You have to be true to your own values. If you're shifting around on this people will notice that.

But also, what Alice said is absolutely true. What you choose to focus on matters. So if you're running in a Republican primary you might focus on more cultural issues, but if you're running in a general election you might focus on -- I don't know -- inflation and gas prices.

BERMAN: If you're the Democrat, though, the question is how much will you focus on abortion, actually? If you were running a campaign, how much would you have your candidate lean into that?


I will say for a long time, Democrats struggled to talk about the issue of abortion. And it's unfortunate because the country has been on a prochoice, as you said, slide for a very long time, and the court's overreach really was alarming. It's one thing to say we're going to take your right away. It's actually different when the right is taken away.

And the shock and wakeup for a generation who has never lived a day in their life, including myself, without having a right to choose -- we are afraid of the time that we're going. So, Dems should be speaking to young people like me and women who also grew up in a pre-vote era who don't want to go back there as well.

BERMAN: So, abortion is one undercurrent we're seeing right now in the midterm elections, but there are others. There's actually several things going on at once.

And we're just starting to hear from some conservatives.


BERMAN: Conservative commentators that one of the weights weighing down the Republican Party is Donald Trump.

I want you to listen to something that Ben Shapiro, a conservative commentator, had to say about this.


BEN SHAPIRO, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR, THE BEN SHAPIRO SHOW: So for Independents -- which is half of them -- who say that Trump is a factor in their decision-making, four to one -- they say that they're going to oppose Trump. Is that good for Republicans anywhere in here?

And meanwhile, Republicans are caught up in how do we show that we think that the FBI raid is really bad. What can we say to get Trump off our backs? What can we do here?


Again, you can rip the Trump FBI raid. You can and you should. But you can still point out that if you guys are distracted on the Trump FBI raid, that is going to not be a winning issue for you.


BERMAN: What do you think?

JENNINGS: Well, I hate to denigrate our profession here and make it sound so simple, but the reality is if you have a poll, right now the number one issue in the country is inflation, the economy, and it's been that way for a long time. And for Republicans, there are some other issues that pop up. Immigration is so very important.

But if you're not talking about those things -- if you're talking about Donald Trump, if you're relitigating the 2020 election, if you're spending all day long on the raid, you're not -- you're not talking about the things that the actual voters who are going to elect you or not elect you care about.

And so, it's the oldest sort of tactical issue in the book. Am I actually having a conversation with people about the things they want to hear about or not? And if you're not, it usually doesn't work out.

BERMAN: And Alice, is Trump making this more difficult?

STEWART: Certainly, because he is making headlines. He is advocating for issues that are important to him -- past election grievances.


STEWART: The abysmal FBI raid of his property. And for him, that's good for him because it helps him raise money. It continues to keep his name in the spotlight.

But that doesn't do anything to help a lot of these candidates that are out there trying to show a contrast with their Democratic challengers. And yes, Democrats would much rather be talking about Donald Trump than inflation, recession, crime, and all of these issues that are plaguing the party. And not to mention, President Biden's low approval numbers.

Republicans don't need to play into their hand. They need to show the contrast and focus on the issues that, as Scott said, people across this country are concerned with -- and that is inflation and crime.

AVLON: This is the frustration that Republican strategists feel. The problem is that Donald Trump is, by all polling, a frontrunner for the Republican nomination and he keeps inserting himself in the election. And guess what about Donald Trump? It's always about himself, except the comments have gotten even more unhinged, right?

So he's -- you know, just the other day he said he wanted an election immediately rescinded or an immediate redo. I mean, that's nutburger stuff from a guy who is treated as the top of the -- frontrunner for the Republican Party. And he is singlehandedly turning 2022 into a choice election rather than a referendum, which is what Democrats -- Republicans want.

ALLISON: Right. But the candidates aren't running away from him. They are seeking his endorsement. They are falling over themselves in their primary to get his support.

They have a choice, too. They could say we believe the 2020 election wasn't stolen --


ALLISON: -- but they're not. And their voters -- and they're actually winning. Two-thirds of the folks that run in GOP primaries are election deniers and they won. So it's not like the party is actually taking a stance against him. They're falling over to get his love and affection.

BERMAN: And we talk about choice versus referendum and in essence, this may be becoming a referendum but it's not on the current president -- it's on the last one.

JENNINGS: And this is what the Republicans want is a referendum on Biden, the state of the country.


JENNINGS: You know, the direction of the country is 30-70 right track, wrong track right now. He wants -- he wants to be about him.


JENNINGS: As Alice said, that's good for him. And the frustrating thing from a nuts and bolts campaign perspective is he is the biggest fundraising driver in the party. When he does these things money flows to him but that never flows out --

AVLON: To him, exactly.

JENNINGS: -- to the other campaigns.

AVLON: Exactly.

JENNINGS: And so, Democrats have unlimited money right now and Donald Trump has the unlimited capacity to raise money. And then the Republican candidates are sort of left twisting.

AVLON: You'd almost think it would be time for Republicans to actually stand up and denounce the guy, right?

BERMAN: If we can, I want to continue this thread for a moment here, but on the Democratic side and choices the Democrats are making here.

We have Maggie Hassan who is running a tight race for reelection for Senate in New Hampshire and she responded to the comments that President Biden made in his fundraiser last week where he said some of the ideology that's driving some of Donald Trump's supporters -- the MAGA supporters, as he called -- that was the word he used -- he said is semi-fascist.

Well, Maggie Hassan didn't like that. She said, "I have concerns about attacks on our democracy. I have concerns that some people seem to think that violence is an appropriate way of resolving disputes in our democracy. But I think President Biden's comments just painted with way too broad a brush." So you have someone running in a tight Senate race distancing herself from that.

At the same time, we just learned last night Joe Biden, who is in Pennsylvania today and is going back to Pennsylvania Thursday night to give a speech on standing up for democracy, which seems awfully close to the comments that he made that are being criticized.

ALLISON: I agree. Joe Biden's campaign was about saving the soul of our nation and we are in a very dangerous moment around democracy.

I also want to put context into what the president said. He did not call half of America fascist. He said people who believe that the 2020 election was stolen, people who want to ban books, people who are taking these steps -- we're on a very dangerous line and we have to call a thing a thing or we run the risk of allowing someone like Donald Trump -- we just had a conversation about how dangerous he is. I don't think Joe Biden is calling everybody fascist but you have to stand up for right is right and wrong is wrong.


AVLON: The term semi-fascist is not helpful. It's not befitting the office of president. And you can absolutely call out the dangers to our democracy.

But it makes, obviously, perfect sense for someone like Sen. Hassan because look, in New Hampshire, 40 more than -- more than 40 percent of registered voters are Independents, right? I mean, another 30 and change are Republicans. Democrats are the third category among registered voters. So she needs to be able to reach out and that language doesn't help her do that.

STEWART: And Ashley, you're being kind in terms of trying to parse and put what he said into a certain context. The takeaway from Republicans is that the President of the United States, who campaigned on, won on, and was sworn in on a message of unity, lowering the temperature and bringing this country together, just called half of the country fascist.

AVLON: Not half.

ALLISON: He didn't --

STEWART: And you can parse it however you want but that's the takeaway.

And Maggie Hassan was right. He painted the Republican Party as a bunch of fascists.

JENNINGS: This isn't a one-time thing. I mean, Biden has all the precision of a surgeon with a meat axe here. I mean, when Republicans wouldn't go along with his bill to federalize all elections he said well, you're either Jefferson Davis or Bull Connor. I mean, his natural instinct is to go to an extreme insult -- so you're sort of either racist or you're --

STEWART: That's about his -- JENNINGS: -- a fascist.

AVLON: Let me just say --

JENNINGS: That is exactly what he -- you know that's what he said.

AVLON: No, that's what he said but he's also a guy who praised Mitch McConnell for being a patriotic American. His natural instinct is not the (INAUDIBLE). I think part of the problem is when he throws the red meat --

JENNINGS: He tried to fight a guy in the Democrat primary.

AVLON: It's not -- I think actually, part of the issue is it's not authentic because Biden is actually not naturally a red meat buzzsaw- type politician.

BERMAN: I will just close with this one point, actually -- if you'll weigh in on what we're going to see. Whether it's right or wrong, I think it's notable that the White House and Joe Biden seem to be running toward this theme. Maybe not those words again but they're leaning into this theme.

ALLISON: I respect the White House and their leadership in this moment. Our democracy is on the verge of falling apart. And I love this country. I know everybody on this panel does. And leadership is needed right now and we have to call it out, and I think that is what you will see on Thursday. And it is needed because we have election deniers all over the ballot.

BERMAN: All right, Ashley Allison, Scott Jennings, Alice Stewart, John Avlon, thank you all for being here filling the table -- appreciate it.

Meghan Markle says the British press called her children the N-word. Her new interview on life after leaving the royal family.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And more buses carrying migrants from Texas are arriving in New York. Ahead, we'll be joined by a city official on how they're handling this influx.



KEILAR: Nearly three years after leaving the royal family, Meghan Markle says, quote, "None of it had to be this way." In a new interview with New York magazine's The Cut, the Duchess of Sussex opens up about relinquishing control to the monarchy, surrendering her royal title. And three years later, being able to use her own voice again.

Joining us now with more on the royal revelations is journalist and former British talk show host Trisha Goddard. Trisha, thank you so much for being with us this morning. I want to jump right into some of what we hear in this interview. She talks about what it was like having children in the royal family, the rules surrounding what could be made public on social media. And she told The Cut this. "Why would I give the very people that are calling my children the N-word a photo of my child before I can share it with the people that love my child? You tell me how that makes sense and then I'll play that game."

She's talking about the photo approval -- photo approval process, which was just one of many things that sort of confronted her.

What did you think about that particular moment?

TRISHA GODDARD, JOURNALIST AND FORMER BRITISH TALK SHOW HOST (via Skype): I wasn't particularly shocked. You have to remember that when the first royal baby was born there was a deejay -- a BBC radio deejay, Danny Baker, who tweeted a picture of the royal couple leaving the hospital hand-in-hand with a baby chimpanzee.

You have to also remember that one of the first headlines seen is when tabloids would say -- this is when they were friendly. They were supporting the new princess at the wedding. Right after I think when Harry and Meghan met, the headline in one tabloid was "Almost Straight Out of Compton."

And also, if you read the sort of comments under many of the newspapers, I think a lot of Americans would be really shocked -- really shocked. On one hand, they complain about somebody saying something awful about J.W. Rowling. On the next, if you read the comments, which I'm pretty sure that the royals would have, they allow the most racist things that I think most American publications would not allow.

So I think when you're very keyed into media and social media and the comments that newspapers allow to be on their websites, you would get that picture. You would -- you would find it a very, very hostile environment.

I also think that we need to remember that a 2021 study came out. I think the company was Bot Sentinel. And they found -- they found out that there were about 83 accounts that were sending out these hateful messages, which went out to about 17 million people -- retweeted.

So there is a very concentrated -- you would feel coming from a very different society --


GODDARD: -- going to the U.K. thinking you'd married your prince -- someone you love. And then if you're young enough to be keyed into social media and what the press allows in their comment section, absolutely -- I can absolutely understand her take.

KEILAR: You mentioned the -- it's undeniable the racism that we saw in some of the coverage, which is part of why it was so fascinating that Meghan, in this interview, says she believes that her problems with the royal family stem from her being American, and not necessarily a Black American. Now that's maybe the royal family versus the British public.


What did you think about that?

GODDARD: I agreed again. Wallace Simpson went through the same thing. There is a xenophobia. There is a degree of snobbery about Americans.

I mean, I'm a Brit living in America. When I go back to Britain some of the comments I get -- as per your previous discussion, it certainly didn't help when Donald Trump was in power because that played to the British -- whole British idea -- the stereotype of what Americans are like. You know, big, brash, loud, don't follow the rules. All of those sorts of things.

So that absolutely played into everything as well.

KEILAR: Trisha, it is so great to have you. Really, a fascinating interview one-on-one with a lot of information in it that I know you enjoyed pouring over, as I did. Thank you.

GODDARD: Thank you.

KEILAR: So next, why the White House is suspending the shipment of free, at-home COVID tests.

BERMAN: And a state of emergency declared in the city of Jackson, Mississippi after officials say there is not enough water to fight fires or even flush toilets.



BERMAN: This morning, Elon Musk says he is worried the world is not having enough children to sustain civilization. In a tweet he wrote, "Population collapse due to low birth rates is a much bigger risk to civilization than global warming."

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen with me now. So?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not true. Simply put, just not true. Population is going down -- that is true. Fewer babies being born. But the population is not going to collapse. This is in no way worse than global warming.

But let's take a look at some United Nation numbers that look at the number of babies being born. So if you look at 2021, that's 134 million babies. 2100 -- so, about 80 years from now -- 111 million. That is a decrease, there's no question, but it doesn't mean anything's collapsing.

And if you look in the United States, in particular, John, the reason for the lower numbers, to a great degree, is because there are fewer teen pregnancies. Fewer teen girls are having babies. That's a good thing.

BERMAN: There is an economic impact, whether it's worthy of discussion, but it may be different from what Elon Musk is saying.

Another important medical development, which is that the government's going to suspend providing free COVID tests. What does that mean? I mean, can you still get them now?

COHEN: You've got until Friday, so if you want to get those free tests at you have until Friday. The reason is that Congress has failed to fund it. The Biden administration has asked them to but they have failed to fund it. And so, what you can do is go to

Let's take a look at what that Biden administration program did. So, the -- what it -- the way that it works is that 16 tests per household, more than 600 million have been distributed.

Now, you have until Friday, again, to order tests at You can also get free tests through your insurance. It's more paperwork. It's a little bit more difficult -- I know that having done it for my family -- but it is possible.

BERMAN: Also, we are waiting for this new reformulated --


BERMAN: -- booster. When and -- it will be sort of offered before it's fully tested, yes?

COHEN: Well, it depends what you mean by fully tested --


COHEN: -- and here's what I mean. So, by Friday, we expect that there could be authorization from the FDA and the -- and also a green light from the CDC for this new booster. It is the same one that we have been getting -- the very same vaccine we've been getting -- plus, it has an Omicron strain in it, so it is thought to work better since Omicron is what's out there right now.

Now, did they do large-scale clinical trials with 30,000 people to see how it works? No, they didn't. And the reason that that Pfizer and Moderna -- or the reason that experts say Pfizer and Moderna really didn't need to do those is it's still the same vaccine.

And we know that it's safe. It's been given to millions, upon millions, upon millions, upon millions of people. We know that it's safe. And we know from other data that the Omicron-specific part of this works well against this strain.

BERMAN: Very important distinction there.

Elizabeth Cohen, great to see you.

COHEN: Thanks. BERMAN: Thank you very much.

NEW DAY continues right now.

So, a dire water crisis underway. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. This is happening in Jackson, Mississippi. Authorities trying to scramble to distribute water to 180,000 residents after the city's main water treatment facility failed.

KEILAR: The Mississippi governor says there is not enough water to fight fires or even to flush toilets.

CNN's Jean Casarez is joining us live on the very latest -- Jean.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN And this truly is an emergency. The city of Jackson -- it was already dealing with flooded streets. Now, 180,000 residents are contending with little or no water pressure in their homes. The city's main water treatment facility -- it failed on Monday.

Governor Tate Reeves says that he will declare a state of emergency for the state's largest city.


GOV. TATE REEVES, (R-MS): Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale. It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets, and to meet other critical needs.


CASAREZ: And right now, state authorities are scrambling to begin distributing water.

Jackson's water system has been plagued for years with issues. In February of 2021, a winter storm shut down the city's entire water system leaving tens of thousands of residents without water for a month, and that was during the pandemic.

All of Jackson public schools -- they're shifting to virtual learning today.

Authorities say the water is not safe to drink or even use while brushing your teeth -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, it is such a dire situation there in Jackson.

Jean, thank you for that report.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, let's get to meteorologist Chad Myers. Chad, put this into context after all the flooding.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we had an awful lot of rain in a very short amount of time, John. And we got all of the water in the river at the same time and the waters rose.