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New Day

Fetterman and Oz Battle in Only Debate of Critical Pennsylvania Senate Race; Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY), Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) Clash in Fiery New York Gubernatorial Debate; Police Say, St. Louis Gunman Brought AR-15, 600 Rounds of Ammunition. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2022 - 07:00   ET



CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The other two days of the week, well, those have been set aside for crews that are working on the power grid, the water system and trying to get all of that debris out of Fort Myers Beach.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Devastating scenes and stories. That is a long road to recovery. Carlos Suarez in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, thank you very much.

New Day continues right now.


LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE: And let's also talk about the elephant in the room. I had a stroke. He's never let me forget that. And I might miss some words during this debate, mush two words together. But it knocked me down but I'm going to keep coming back up.

DR. MEHMET OZ (R-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm running for the U.S. Senate because Washington keeps getting it wrong with extreme positions. John Fetterman takes everything to an extreme and those extreme positions hurt us all.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All eyes on Pennsylvania on a debate in that race that could determine the balance of power in the Senate.

I'm Brianna Keilar with Alex Marquardt this morning. It's great to have you.

MARQUARDT: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: John Berman is off today.

And Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, who you saw there, arguing the issues, also attacking each other in their first and only debate. Fetterman addressed his recovery, as you heard, from a recent strokes. There were questions about how it might impact his debate performance and, clearly, it did. He used a closed captioning device for help. Still, the candidates went toe to toe on key issues, like inflation and the economy.


OZ: I can make the difficult decisions, as you do in the operating room as a surgeon. I'll make them cutting our budget as well to make sure we don't have to raises taxes on a population already desperately in pain from the high inflation.

FETTERMAN: He has never met an oil company that he doesn't swipe right about. He has never been able to stand up for working families all across Pennsylvania. We must push back. Inflation has hurt Americans and Pennsylvania's families and it has given the oil companies record profits.


MARQUARDT: And in New York, Governor Kathy Hochul and Republican Challenger Lee Zeldin, they sparred on crime, which has been a major concern for New Yorkers in their only scheduled debate. Hochul had been leading by double digits but the race has tightened in the final weeks of the campaign.

Let's go first to CNN's Jessica Dean live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with much more on the key race in Pennsylvania. Jessica, this was a contentious debate last night.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was, Alex and Brianna, and so many eyes on this because we know that the outcome of this race is very likely to determine who controls the U.S. Senate. So, there's a lot of eyes, a lot of pressure, millions of dollars being spent here in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

And last night, we saw the two men take the stage for their first and only debate. And you heard a little bit in the clips, John Fetterman acknowledging it right off the top that he is still recovering from his stroke, that he is still dealing with those auditory processing issues, and you could hear it in his speech last night. He was halting, he would some miss words, he would get stopped and started again. And so it's clear that he is still recovering.

If you talk to his campaign, they are adamant that they believe voters can look past that and understand the issues and where he stands on the issues. They're certainly hopeful of that as well. The Oz campaign very pleased with Mehmet Oz's performance last night, saying they really believe that he was able to paint Fetterman as extreme.

One issue that the Oz campaign really zeroing in on this issue of fracking, of course, a big one here in Pennsylvania, John Fetterman was asked about his previous comments where he said he did not support fracking and now he says he does support fracking. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're saying tonight that you support fracking, that you've always supported fracking, but there is that 2018 interview that you said, quote, I don't support fracking at all. So, how do you square the two?

FETTERMAN: I do support fracking. And I don't -- I don't -- I support fracking and I stand -- and I do support fracking.


DEAN: And, again, that's an issue the Oz campaign really thinks they can zero in on in the closing days of this campaign, Brianna and Alex. This race continuing to tighten as we move closer to Election Day.

KEILAR: And if fracking was the Achilles' heel for Fetterman, abortion might have the Achilles' heel for Mehmet Oz last night. Tell us about that moment where he really wasn't clear despite saying that he was.

DEAN: Yes, absolutely. And that, of course, is the issue that Democrats across the country, but certainly Fetterman here in Pennsylvania using as his closing argument, abortion rights, and what a Democratic Senate versus Republican Senate could mean for abortion rights moving forward in the wake of the Dobbs decision.

So, Mehmet Oz was asked by the moderators about this bill that Lindsey Graham presented several weeks ago, several months ago, that would limit abortions to 15 weeks, a federal abortion ban at 15 weeks.


Now, it's just a bill, it hasn't been voting on, but he was asked if it was, where you would stand? And he was asked multiple times. Here is what he said.


OZ: I am not going to support federal, federal rules that block the ability of states to do what they wish to do. The abortion decision should be left up to states. I've been very clear on my desire as a physician not to interfere with how states decide.


DEAN: And at one point, Alex and Brianna, he said this should be left to doctors, women, and local political government officials. This is what the Fetterman campaign really wants to seize on. They want to tie him on to Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, who, when he was a state senator, supported a fetal heartbeat bill. They want to paint that as extreme on the issue of abortion, Alex and Brianna. MARQUARDT: Yes. Abortion rights expected to drive so much of the

turnout in these midterm elections. Jessica Dean in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, thank you very much.

KEILAR: All right. Let's bring in CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Tara Narula to talk more about what we saw last night. It was -- he said it, it was the elephant in the room. He addressed his stroke recovery last night, his fitness for office. Here's what he said.


FETTERMAN: I believe if my doctor believes that I'm fit to serve, and that's what I believe is appropriate, and now with two weeks before the election, I have run a campaign, and I've been very transparent about being very open, about the fact we use captioning and I believe that, again, my doctors, the real doctors that I believe, they all believe that I'm ready to serve.


KEILAR: All right. You obviously do not treat John Fetterman, to be very clear on that. But you're a doctor and you see more than we do. And there are going to be voters who are trying to figure out some of what they saw last night. What can you share with us?

DR. TARA NARULA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, I think it's very unusual for people to watch somebody recovering from a stroke in public. And for some people, it may be uncomfortable. And I think the reality is we have to understand, as I spoke to a stroke neurologist yesterday who put it very well and said that this is a road, not a destination when you're talking about recovery.

And so he's about five months into his recovery at this point. We usually do see recovery in some cases up to 18 months. And, you know, what it appears that we're seeing is something called aphasia, which is trouble understanding language or speaking language, and that has to do with what part of the brain was affected by the stroke.

And I think what we need to also be clear about is that the blood vessel that supplies the certain area of the brain that's associated with language, in many cases, that's that area of the brain. It's not affecting the motor function. It's not affecting cognitive function. And so I think we need to separate out these two thins. So, while somebody may have difficulty understanding or speaking, that does not necessarily translate into their ability to make decisions or to, you know, their intelligence level or anything having to do with their cognition. So, those are two separate things.

In addition, I think there is a recurrent risk of stroke that we do need to be clear and honest about. We know that patients who had strokes can have strokes again. That's actually a risk factor. If their risk factors are definitely well controlled, that risk of recurrent stroke drops to less than 10 percent. If it's not, it can be in the teens. And, certainly, he also has atrial fibrillation, which is a condition -- a cardiac condition and arrhythmia that can lead to stroke, and it did, in his case, because he was not on blood thinners at the time, which can be protective. And patients who are on those blood thinners, again, you drop the risk of recurrent stroke by about a little over 50 percent.

In addition, we learned from his cardiologist he has something called the cardiomyopathy, which is a weakened heart muscle and actually had a defibrillator placed while he was hospitalized. So, there are underlying health conditions, but I think at this point, if people are really assessing cognition, then that should be apparent in the way he is understanding and able to answer questions regardless of how the speech is happening.

KEILAR: Yes. So, the expressive communication we see some issues with. But just to underline, on the cognition, his understanding once he had that accommodation of the closed captioning, you weren't seeing issues with that?

NARULA: I mean, I think he says he's had two cognitive tests. We haven't seen the results. So, it's difficult again to really assess that based on what we're watching. But I think that's unfortunately what people are going to be left with in terms of making this decision. It's unusual for people to recover from a stroke in public.

And I think there's an article in The Atlantic that put it very clearly, the headline said this is a Rorschach test for America's comfort level with disability. And I think that's true. I think it's going to be a question of how comfortable we are with being able to see somebody get up and talk in this way. That's not something we normally see with a politician.

But as far as the medical issues and the recovery, we're about five months in. And while we usually see the most recovery early on, there is a little bit of a plateau and that can happen.


And he is getting speech therapy. He is plugged in with his cardiologist now, who says he's being followed up regularly. He's seeing a neurologist. His recent labs that they released, his cholesterol, his blood pressure looked good. So, this is what we know. And, you know, I think that's going to be what voters have to base their decision on, unfortunately, what we know, yes.

KEILAR: What we know. Dr. Tara, thank you for that.

MARQUARDT: Now, crime is the number one issue among voters in New York. And it was a hot topic last night in a contentious debate between Governor Kathy Hochul and her Republican challenger, Lee Zeldin. Now, Hochul's once commanding lead in the race has now dwindled to single digits. That's according to a Quinnipiac poll from last week.

So, let's bring in CNN's Athena Jones. Athena, in this debate last night, is there any sense that they have moved the needle with New York voters?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alex. Well, it's hard to tell if either candidate was able to score enough political points to really change the dynamics of this race, but this was a matchup Congressman Lee Zeldin had been craving. And as expected, he attacked the governor on crime while the governor tried to tie Lee Zeldin to the former president, Donald Trump, and highlight his anti-abortion stance. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (voice over): The first and only head-to-head matchup between New York's Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul and GOP Congressman Lee Zeldin.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): New York is in crisis.

JONES: One hoping to become the first woman ever elected governor in New York.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): You will see a great contrast here tonight between myself and my record and someone who has been called one of Donald Trump's strongest and most loyal supporters.

JONES: The other vying to be the first Republican to win the office in 20 years.

ZELDIN: We've experienced on so many levels attacks on our wallets, our safety, our freedom, your children's education, you're poorer and less safe because of Kathy Hochul and extreme policies.

JONES: Hochul touted her record on job creation and reproductive rights and reminded New Yorkers of Zeldin's vote against certifying the 2020 election.

HOCHUL: He's been an election denier.

JONES: Zeldin, a four-term conservative from Long Island, wasted no time trying to paint Hochul as soft on crime.

ZELDIN: Two weeks from tonight, we can continue with the status quo, where they believe they haven't passed enough pro-criminal laws or we could take control of our destiny and make sure law-abiding New Yorkers are in charge of our streets again.

JONES: The governor repeatedly shifting the focus to guns, highlighting her success in passing legislation to raise the age to buy a semiautomatic weapon to 21 and slamming Zeldin for voting against federal background checks.

HOCHUL: It's a joke to talk about a crime policy that doesn't include doing something about illegal guns. I want every child to be safe in the state.

ZELDIN: Unfortunately, Kathy Hochul believes that the only crimes that are being committed are these crimes with guns. And you have people who are afraid of being pushed in front of oncoming subway cars. They're being stabbed, beaten to death on the street with hammers.

JONES: Hochul also hitting Zeldin on abortion rights.

HOCHUL: Lee, you can't run from your record. You're the only person standing on the stage whose name right now, not in years past but right now, is on a bill called life begins at conception. JONES: And in a debate with few areas of agreement, both candidates said they weren't planning to mandate COVID vaccines for school children.

HOCHUL: We're not talking about a mandating a vaccine for children at this time, but I'm encouraging it, highly, highly encouraging it.

ZELDIN: Where my opponent just said she will not mandate COVID vaccines at this time, let me be clear to all of the parents who are out there, I will not mandate COVID vaccines for your kids, ever.

JONES: As for what happens after this election --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to see Joe Biden run for re- election?

HOCHUL: Yes, I do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to see Donald Trump run for president in 2024, Lee Zeldin?

ZELDIN: Not even thinking about it.


JONES (on camera): One thing that was interesting about the hour-long was one of the few areas of agreement. Both Hochul and Zeldin tried to alignment themselves with New York City mayor Eric Adams, a moderate Democrat with a tough on crime message. So, consensus about the mayor. Alex?

MARQUARDT: All right. That race tightening in its final days. Athena Jones, thank you very much.

KEILAR: All right. Let's bring in CNN Political Director David Chalian, so much going on to talk with you about. But, of course, first off, let's just talk about the takeaways from this Pennsylvania Senate debate. Did this go down, as you expected? What were the takeaways for you?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I mean, clearly, obviously, one big takeaway is just Fetterman's performance and the obvious answer to, well, what will the impact be is we don't know, right? We don't know how voters will take that away.

But we do know the context in which this debate took place, which is one of the most consequential races on the map in terms of battle for control of the Senate and a race in which, for the last six weeks, both Democratic sources and Republican sources involved in this campaign will tell you the trajectory has been Mehmet Oz with momentum and closing the gap in this race.


So, I didn't see anything on the debate stage last night that would necessarily upend that trajectory, which, when somebody is closing with momentum, was sort of Fetterman's goal here.

Now, how people -- you know, you were talking earlier about The Atlantic piece and the Rorschach test, like how voters perceive this, I just don't think we know. It is not the norm. It is not how we normally see politicians debate. And so it could raise questions that kind of halting performance in voters' minds.

But as -- you know, as you guys noted, I think where the Fetterman campaign is going to come out of this and try to make some hey is on the abortion rights issue and the Oz campaign on the fracking issue. And this halting performance is just going to be something for voters to sift through. You can imagine there being sympathy for somebody recovering in public like this but also some serious questions of whether or not this fits the image of what people are looking for as a senator. MARQUARDT: Let's talk about Arizona, where election denialism has

been such a major issue, and where the GOP Senate nominee, Blake Masters, had appeared to have softened his stance. And now we have this clip of him receiving a call from former President Donald Trump after the debate. This is from a Tucker Carlson documentary. Let's take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If you want to get across the line, you have got to go stronger on that one thing. That is what they did, a lot of complaints about it. Look at Kari. Kari is winning with very little money. And if they say, how is your family? She says, the election was rigged and stolen. You lose if you do so. You're going to lose the base.


MARQUARDT: So, David, is Masters following Trump's orders in this race?

CHALIAN: Clearly, because after saying in the debate that he didn't have evidence of fraud, he started having different rhetoric again that was more in line with sort of election denialism and calling into question the integrity of the election. I mean, just hearing Donald Trump in that clip, of course, holding Kari Lake's election denialism as the example for what you should be doing, is perhaps not surprising, but no less astonishing.

Blake Masters, though, you hear in that clip too he didn't think he softened away from his position, is what he told the former president. He clearly did in the debate and that caught the former president's attention in a way where he just simply said, you're going to lose if you go soft on this. Blake Masters took that as instruction. I mean, just look at his behavior after that conversation. He changed his rhetoric again.

KEILAR: So interesting to see the pressure they're getting directly from Trump as we see in that moment there. Daivd, thank you.

CHALIAN: Sure. MARQUARDT: I appreciate it.

All right, this morning new details about the shooting at a St. Louis high school that left a teacher and a student dead. Police say that the 19-year-old gunman came armed with an AR-15-style rifle and more than 600 rounds of ammunition.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live in St. Louis with more. Adrienne, what more do we know?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alex, good morning to you. As details emerge, investigators are learning more about the state of the mind of that 19-year-old shooter. Perhaps the most revealing, a handwritten note the shooter left behind in his vehicle, according to investigators. I want to read some of what that note said.

He said in part, I don't have any friends, I don't have any family, I never had a girlfriend, I've never had a social life. I've been an isolated loaner my entire life. This was the perfect storm for a mass shooter. That 19-year-old was among the three killed inside of this school on Monday.

Meanwhile, at least one parent I heard from said she never thought anything like this would happen at this school because of the safety precautions the district took. So, was this enough? Listen in.


MATT DAVIS, PRESIDENT, ST. LOUIS BOARD OF EDUCATION: My understanding is that the assailant had a high-powered rifle, so much so that he could force himself into a secured building. The building is riddled with bullets.

I don't know how much firepower it would take to stop that person. You saw the police response, it was massive. It was overwhelming. If you talked to the law enforcement, they don't believe that it is in the best interest of our society to allow people to have these high- powered rifles, especially when they fall into the hands of people that want to do harm.

So, I don't know if it would have been different. I know what would have been different is if this high-powered rifle was not available to this individual. That would have been made the difference.


BROADDUS: And investigators have said that 19-year-old shooter did not have a criminal history.


This morning, a memorial us outside of the school honoring the victims continues to grow. Alex and Brianna?

MARQUARDT: All right. Adrienne Broaddus in St. Louis, thank you very much for that report. Let's get back now to that really dramatic debate in Pennsylvania. Michael Smerconish, CNN Political Commentator and Host of Smerconish, is joining us now to discuss.

Michael, this was a halting performance, as we've been saying this morning, from Democrat John Fetterman. How damaging do you think that debate was to his prospects in this race?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it was probably damaging. I've said, Alex, you need to be empathic. We all wish for him a 100 percent recovery, but you can't lose your objectivity.

I thought it was interesting when Dasha Burns from NBC was setting up her interview with John Fetterman, and she said, hey, I was having difficulty communicating, small talk with him before he was using the aides, and she was criticized for that. I didn't think that was right because she saw what we all saw last night from Jumpstreet. He had difficulty with every single one of his responses. I don't know if it was only in communicating. It may also have been in his thought process because he seemed confused. I mean, at the outset he wished everybody a good night.

Now, the issue is, many people just want Senate control either for the Rs or for the Ds. So, they're willing to overlook Herschel Walker's dimwittedness in Georgia, those Republicans, who are nevertheless willing to vote for him because they want control.

And in Pennsylvania, you may have Democrats who feel the same way about John Fetterman. Half of those who received a mail ballot in Pennsylvania have already voted, which is a shame. There should have been more debates. John Fetterman didn't want there to be debates. Now we see why he didn't want there to be debates.

As a Pennsylvanian life long, I feel let down because I'm accustomed to there being two, maybe three debates and carried by major outlets, which last night wasn't. Some people couldn't get access to that debate.

So, are folks so entrenched that it won't matter? That's possible. But to any objective observer of last night's debate, they would have to say that Oz, despite the fact that he was slippery and evasive, won the debate.

KEILAR: Look, I think it's really tricky how we talk about this debate. Maybe he meant good evening and he said good night, because it was an expressive communication issue. But at the same time, Michael, one of the things that strikes me is this was the first time where we all really got to see for ourselves how John Fetterman is doing, right? There have been moments where he's had these interviews but they have been tightly controlled. We've seen the letter from his -- I think it's his G.P., who's talked to his other specialists, but the letter is not from his specialist, we have not seen the medical records.

I guess my point is just we didn't know what we were really going to get until last night and I think it was different than what some people were expecting.

SMERCONISH: It's difficult to discuss, to even have this, I think, objective conversation is to be accused of ableism. I don't think that's what it is. I think that had John Fetterman been more forthcoming from the get-go, A, about the timing of the stroke, because there was a 48 or so hour time period, it was the final weekend of the primary where he didn't let us know he had a stroke, the underlying cardiomyopathy and the need for a defibrillator not revealed, the medical records have not been produced. I mean, I could go on and on and on. He's not been transparent. He's been opaque. His answer last night was to say, well, take look at me. Okay. Well, we took a look and our heart breaks for you but we're not comfortable, I think, is going to be the consensus.

KEILAR: Well, let me ask you another question. We were just speaking with a doctor who was talking about recovery can take up to 18 months, right? He's at the five-month mark. I mean, where do you think voters -- and, look, voters aren't a monolith, right, but a lot of people have experience with people in their lives recovering from strokes. I mean, where do you think the patient's level is going to be with voters thinking, yes, he might be in a better place in a couple months, maybe this isn't a cognitive thing and it really is just expressive?

SMERCONISH: I went personally went through this with someone close to me who suffered a stroke, so I know exactly of what you speak. In fact, I'll bet most of us have someone in our orbit who was stroke- afflicted and some recover better than others.

Now, here's the real hard answer, Brianna. At what point do I, as a Pennsylvanian, get to say, I totally respect that it's going to take a while for him to recover and maybe the next cycle would have been the better cycle for him to run? Because we require representation. There are only 100 senators in the country, two per state. It's a big, big job. And I think we deserve 100 percent of representation on hard issues.


MARQUARDT: Well, that debate certainly gave Pennsylvania voters a lot to chew over in these final days. Michael Smerconish, thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: Thanks, guys.

MARQUARDT: President Joe Biden is warning Russia against using a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. Bill Taylor, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, he will be joining us next.

And the financial fallout for Kanye West as a slew of companies cut ties over his anti-Semitic hate speech. We'll be right back.


KEILAR: Russian officials at the United Nations are doubling down on their accusations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb, an explosive device that would be laced with radioactive material.


DMITRY POLYANSKIY, RUSSIAN DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We have just asked for an AOB on the possibility of creation of dirty bomb in Ukraine by Ukrainian authorities. So, we think it's a very serious danger, serious threat.


KEILAR: So, while these claims have been rejected by Ukraine and western allies, it reflects an increasingly urgent concern that Russia may be searching for a pretext unleash such a weapon themselves, prompting President Biden to issue this stern warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin.