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New Day Saturday

Protests Erupt Following Acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse; COVID- 19 Boosters Now Available for 114 Million Americans; "Build Back Better" Plan Clears House, Heads for Senate; A Chinese State-Run Media Announces Tennis Star Peng Shuai will Appear in Public Soon; NASA's Huge James Webb Space Telescope is One Month Away from Launch; College Football Star Uses Endorsement Money to Give Back. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired November 20, 2021 - 06:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you. Welcome to your "NEW DAY." I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Christi. I'm Boris Sanchez.

Following his acquittal, we're now hearing from Kyle Rittenhouse, his attorneys and the families of the people he shot. The reaction from all sides and what could happen next.

PAUL: And more than 100 million people, adults are now eligible for booster shots. What health experts say that means for the upcoming holidays and the rise we're seeing in hospitalizations.

SANCHEZ: Plus, the House passing President Biden's Build Back Better plan, but a makeover of that bill looms in the Senate. What's actually going to stay in that legislation and get it passed?

PAUL: And where is Peng Shuai? The stories surrounding the disappearance of one of China's biggest tennis stars.

So, Saturday, November 20th. How did we get to November 20th, Boris? Just flying by I know. Good morning to you.

SANCHEZ: It is just flying by. Thank you so much for waking up with us. Always a pleasure to be with you, Christi.

We start with the reaction after a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty in the shooting deaths of two people.

This was the scene outside of the Barclays Center in New York, where hundreds gathered to protest the verdict. Just one of several demonstrations across the United States. This group specifically marched from Brooklyn to Manhattan and shut down the Brooklyn Bridge before ultimately disbursing.

PAUL: Now, police declared a riot in Portland, Oregon as well after they say protesters began breaking windows and doors at city buildings. According to police, protesters also threw objects at officers in the area. The demonstrations came hours after a jury acquitted Rittenhouse of all of the charges against him including homicide.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury find, the defendant Kyle H. Rittenhouse not guilty.


PAUL: During the trial, Rittenhouse took the stand in his own defense saying he pulled the trigger in self-defense. And this morning, we're hearing from Rittenhouse himself.


KYLE RITTENHOUSE: The jury reached the correct verdict. Self-defense is not illegal. And I believe they came to the correct verdict and I'm glad that everything went well and it's been a rough journey but we made it through it.


PAUL: CNN's Natasha Chen is live in Kenosha this hour.

Natasha, good to see you this morning.

Talk to us about the reaction there specifically.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Christi and Boris, good morning.

It's been relatively calm here in Kenosha, compared to the scenes that you just showed in other parts of the country. No marching, no rioting. Around the courthouse here after the verdict was read, there are some celebratory shouts from people supporting Rittenhouse. And of course, very emotional reactions from the people that he killed.

Here is the family of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, their partners, talking about what this verdict meant to them.


HANNAH GITTINGS, ANTHONY HUBER'S GIRLFRIEND: I don't think that any of us who were directly involved in what happened last year, August 25th, are really that surprised. We know that this system is a failure.

KARIANN SWART, JOSEPH ROSENBAUM'S FIANCEE: If one person's life or two persons' lives don't matter, then none of our lives matter. And I feel like in this case, it feels like the victims' lives don't matter. And I don't think that that's acceptable.


CHEN: The person we did not see yesterday after the verdict was Kyle Rittenhouse himself. That clip that you played there was part of a trailer aired on Tucker Carlson's show last night. But his attorney told us that he really -- Kyle Rittenhouse that has really just wanted to get on with his life. Would probably move away from this area.

We saw as the verdict was being read in the courtroom that Rittenhouse and his family really broke down. Very emotional about that not guilty result. His defense attorney talked to us yesterday about the important decision they made putting him on the stand.

Interestingly, he told us that they used two mock juries, once practicing with Rittenhouse testifying, once without. He said, the difference was significant. And that's why he had to take the stand.


The press around that press conference also asked him about any possible regrets that Rittenhouse may have had. Chris Cuomo on CNN last night pressed him harder on that issue. Here's what he said.


MARK RICHARDS, KYLE RITTENHOUSE'S ATTORNEY: He didn't want to kill anybody. And he was left with a terrible choice, and he exercised that choice, which was found to be lawful.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": Does he think he did anything wrong?

RICHARDS: Legally? No.

CUOMO: Morally.

RICHARDS: He wishes he didn't have to do it.


CHEN: A really emotional result for all parties involved. A jury that deliberated about 25, 26 hours, definitely, Mark Richards said causing concern for the defense team. But ultimately, of course, they are pleased with how this turned out. Christi and Boris.

SANCHEZ: Natasha Chen from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Thank you so much.

Let's get some perspective from CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. He's also a criminal defense attorney.

Joey, good morning. Always appreciate having your perspective.

Natasha noted one of the pivotal moments in this trial. Rittenhouse testifying in his own defense. I want you to listen to what his attorney said about that decision specifically.


RICHARDS: Had to put him on. It wasn't a close call. In Wisconsin, if you don't put a client on the stand you're going to lose, period.


SANCHEZ: I'm curious to get your reaction to that, Joey. Did his testimony ultimately help his case? It seems like it did.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. Boris, good morning to you.

So, what happens is, is that when jurors sit in judgment, there are always two narratives, right? There's the prosecution's narrative with respect to what they say happened. And then there's the defense narrative. Who could be more helpful to establish that narrative than the defendant themselves?

The problem is, when you put a defendant on the stand, you expose them to so much risk. That's called cross-examination. When they have to answer tough questions and get pinned down in inconsistencies.

In this particular case, I think there were two things that were of real significance to the defense attorneys. One was the mock jurors that they did, right? One where they really went through the case without him testifying. The other was when he did testify. And they felt that it moved the needle.

When he did testify, remember, Boris, there was a lot of speaking about whether or not his tears or lack of tears, was he genuine, was he not. But I think they prepped him very well. They were able to get out through him what he was thinking and feeling and believing.

When there's a self-defense case, critical to that inquiry is what your intent was, what your state of mind was, were you in immediate fear of death or serious bodily injury, was it genuine. Did your actions - were they proportionate to the threat that was posed to you. Did you act reasonably? How did you perceive the environment?

And I think he was able to go through that and with respect to being crossed by the prosecutor, I don't think that much headway was made in that regard, so it turned out to be an effective decision.

SANCHEZ: And notably in Wisconsin, the burden of proof for prosecutors is especially high when you're trying a defendant that claims self- defense, right? I am wondering if in your mind this case might have had a different outcome if it had taken place in a different state.

JACKSON: You know that always an issue, Boris. So, there are a couple of things to consider.

The first thing is the jurisdiction a case takes place in, right? Because people view matters differently in different states as we know. If we extend this discussion more broadly, some states are more conservative, other states are more liberal. Some states you have death penalty, other states you don't. Some you have tough gun control laws, others you don't. What am I saying? I'm saying that the views, the values, et cetera of different people in different communities are vastly different.

Number two, now, it gets down to who's on that jury, who you select. Remember, Boris, the process requires that attorneys really interview jurors. They do so in a very in-depth way and they impanel jurors that they feel are appropriate to the cases. And so, you do not have an audience that is receptive to your message, you're going to get a result that is adverse to really what you believe it should be. And so, the answer to your question is yes, that could very well be probable. It always depends upon how people view and digest the evidence.

Last point and that's this. This is a case that sparks large emotions. It's a case where you have these two competing issues. Should he have been there in the first place? He's 17 years old. You're not a cop. You're not a person who's an emergency medical technician. Why are you carrying an AK - whatever it is - 15, semiautomatic weapon. How you really even watching off this set of circumstances, stay home.

The other narrative is, well that's not the issue. The issue is he did come and therefore has a right to defend himself under the circumstances, an environment like that, which is so chaotic, which the defense did a great job in establishing.


He had every right to defend himself. Those are the two narratives that came together. And obviously, those jurors felt that the narrative of the defense was more compelling.

SANCHEZ: Joey, looking to the future, the family of Anthony Huber, one of the people killed by Rittenhouse, say that they felt there's no accountability for his death. There are questions now about whether they will potentially file a civil lawsuit.

Do you think he's open to civil liability and given that the burden of proof in civil cases is lower than criminal cases, what might that prosecution potentially look like?

JACKSON: Yes. So, great point to be made here, Boris. So, there's a distinction, right. There's not any double jeopardy bar. We hear about this notion of double jeopardy. What does that mean? You can't be tried for the same offense twice. But a civil case doesn't implicate double jeopardy. You can be tried in civil court, even though you've had your day in criminal court.

To your point, different standards. Criminal court because it affects your liberty interest. What does that mean? It means because it's your liberty, the bar is high, beyond the reasonable doubt. You don't want people going to jail. We don't think are reasonably and responsibly guilty for what they did beyond a reasonable doubt.

In civil cases because it involves money and monetary issues, the span is far lower. Preponderance of the evidence. That means, is it probably the fact that you engaged in wrongdoing as conduct and were responsible for these wrongful deaths. So, because of that different bar, yes, he can be tried civilly for wrongful death. And the probabilities in civil court would be far more likely that there would be some liability there than it would be in criminal court.

So, if the families wanted to go that way they can. Last thing I'll say about that though is you have to think about whether someone has the resources to ultimately pay it out, right? So, people sue in civil court since it's about money. How much money does the person have? Can we collect? But there's a broader message. And that message is, even if you don't have any, we want to hold you accountable. So, that certainly could be a probability moving forward.

SANCHEZ: We will be watching to see if the family of Huber and others ultimately file lawsuits civilly against Kyle Rittenhouse.

Joey Jackson, always appreciate your perspective, my friend. Thanks for getting up early for us.

JACKSON: Thank you, Boris.

PAUL: This morning, 114 million American adults are eligible for COVID-19 booster shots. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky signed off on the extra dose yesterday afternoon. That was following the FDA authorizing a third dose of either Moderna and Pfizer's vaccine for everyone 18 and older.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. And there's more good news.

U.S. vaccinations were already on the rise. CDC data shows that in the past week. There's been a 36 percent boost in vaccinations, in large part, because of young children receiving their doses. That's more than double where the rate was just a month ago.

PAUL: Let's talk about the latest development here with primary care physician and public health specialist, Dr. Saju Mathew.

Saju, good to see you this morning.

So, I want to get your reaction, first of all. I mean this obviously broadens the scale of people who can get the vaccine, or the booster, who are eligible. So, just to be clear for everybody, you can go get this as of now?


Listen, I'm excited. I'm definitely one of the scientists that says that we need to boost everybody. 18 years and older, that's what CDC is now recommending. I would like for CDC to take a stronger stance and make it a comprehensive recommendation. That if you're 18 and older, everybody must get boosted, regardless of your medical situation.

And right now, CDC is just making a little bit of a distinction saying if you're 50 and older, you must. If you're 18 and older, you can. And, you know, the immunity wanes, Christi. We know that about pretty much every vaccine.

But we're about to hit 100,000 daily cases. And I'm seeing not only the elderly having breakthrough cases, but young people as well. And I also worry about the possibility of long COVID. Even if you get a breakthrough infection. So, definitely think that we need to get boosted and cut down that community transmission. PAUL: A lot of people watching this are concerned about adverse side effects from the boost. So, what do we know?

MATHEW: Adverse side effects, pretty much what you could expect from a second shot. Maybe pain at the injection side, some fever and chills. And that's what a lot of my patients are telling me.

I got boosted, Christi, and I had nothing. So, everybody is different. But nothing more than what you would expect from that second dose.

PAUL: So, is this current surge that we're seeing in the Upper Midwest, I know a lot of people are paying attention to that. Some will say, listen, it's the nature of the season, it's autumn, right? We're coming up on Thanksgiving. Is it indicative though of what you just mentioned, the potency of this vaccine?

MATHEW: You know, I mean, I think that was happening as the south got hit really bad. You know where I live in Atlanta and some of the southern states with the Delta wave and it's just moving up.


You know the bottom line is, anybody that's unvaccinated, communities that are unvaccinated, the virus goes there and attacks that community. It's also the reason why, going back to the booster discussion, Christi, I think it's really important that people realize that, yes, people are talking about booster shots. That doesn't mean the vaccine doesn't work. It means that we want to make this vaccine even more effective.

So, for our viewers listening people should not be discouraged by the booster shot. It just means that we're going to kick up the immunity from the low 80s to the high 90s, back to where it was, after two shots of Moderna or Pfizer.

PAUL: So, when we talk about the waning vaccine, do you see this booster being the first of what will become an annual booster? Like flu?

MATHEW: That's some -- yes, that's a million-dollar question, Christi. I think that we'll just have to wait and see. This is a pandemic that's going on in real-time. We've had vaccines in the history of science where you just get two or three shots and you're done. Maybe for 10 years. I'm hoping that that's where we're headed. But again, if we don't have 60 million people that are not vaccinated to get up our vaccination rates up into the 90s, there's always that possibility of surges and future boosters.

PAUL: Dr. Saju Mathew, thank you for getting up early for us and walking us through this. It's good to see you.

MATHEW: Good to see you and Happy Thanksgiving.

PAUL: You as well.

SANCHEZ: President Biden is celebrating today, it's not just his birthday, his spending bill also passed through the House. That celebration, though, may be short lived as the plan now heads to the Senate. We'll take you live to Capitol Hill for an update next.

And Chinese state media now saying that tennis star Peng Shuai will make a public appearance soon, after intense international pressure to provide information on her whereabouts. Will it prove that she's safe?



SANCHEZ: President Biden is celebrating his 79th birthday today. Also celebrating the passage of his Build Back Better plan by House Democrats.

PAUL: The $1.9 trillion spending plan includes a major expansion of the social safety net, as well as money to address the climate crisis. Now, the bill heads to the Senate where it faces a lot of challenges and potentially a lot of changes.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. Let's bring in CNN congressional reporter Daniella Diaz.

Daniella, what is ahead for this piece of legislation?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Boris, Christi, all eyes now are on Senate -- Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He is really the wildcard here when it comes to this bill in the Senate. He is the one, the one key swing vote, who will really be the decider of what is included in this bill, and really more technically what is paired back in this bill because he wants a more slimmed down version or a smaller price tag, not $1.9 trillion. He's always saying between 1 to $1.5 trillion. So, that is where who we're going to keep our eye on as the weeks progress.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said that he wants to pass this bill in the Senate by Christmas. However, of course, Senator Joe Manchin has still not offered his assurances that he supports this bill.

Now, why does Senator Joe Manchin matter so much? Well, they plan to pass this bill using a process called budget reconciliation which means since it's a tax and spending bill, they just need 50 votes in the Senate for it to pass. Which means they need all 50 Democratic senators to vote for this bill.

As of now, it seems that 49 have signed on. We have reporting that Kyrsten Sinema in the end is going to support this bill. She was the other wildcard here, but Senator Joe Manchin has repeatedly said he has concerns with the price tag. And he is also concerned that this bill will add problems to the country's inflation. Of course, rising inflation, rising gas prices, the cost of goods. These are real concerns affecting Americans. And he does not want to add more problems to what is happening to Americans directly. He is worried that this bill will do that. There is, of course, research that says that this bill would increase inflation short term. However, the White House has assured that it is just short term. Long term this bill which would expand the nation's social safety net, which would have pay family leave, it would have universal pre-K, it would have childcare. These are the things this bill would do helping Americans.

The White House has offered assurances that this will not increase any problems with inflation in the country. But the bottom line here is that Americans, of course, are worried about what is happening post pandemic. And that is why the Biden administration wants to pass this bill. But, of course, it all -- all eyes are on Senator Joe Manchin to see what he does in the next couple of weeks as Democrats continue to negotiate the bill in the Senate.

PAUL: Daniella Diaz, great job reporting on that for us. Thank you so much.

We want to get some insight on what all of this means for the president, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun- Times" with us now.

Good morning to you, Lynn. Good to see you.


PAUL: So, this House bill gives the president really a win that he needed. His job approval rating in the latest CNN poll of polls is hovering at 44 percent. 51 percent disapprove of his job performance thus far. How pivotal will this move -- the movement of this bill be to potentially help those numbers?

SWEET: Well, I think it all depends on what the Senate does. The House victory is nice. Very short-lived, overshadowed by the Rittenhouse verdict on Saturday. And I think the thing to realize here, Christi, is that this may not pass the Senate at all. Not only do you have the Joe Manchin factor, but this also has to face a scrub by the Senate parliamentarian. Because under the rules that they are trying to pass this by, every item in the bill has to be related to the budget.


This is only going to pass with Democrats, no Republicans are going to be for this. So, there are multiple hurdles to clear besides Joe Manchin. And if the parliamentarian says certain things can't be in, that of itself may change the bill. House numbers --

PAUL: OK. So, that --

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you. Go ahead.

SWEET: House members knew it, but they were able to put in what they wanted to what they thought would pass the muster of the parliamentarian. But they don't -- we don't have that assurance until the parliamentarian gives the green light on this measure. PAUL: So, that's my question, what is the weight of what's in the bill, the content of the bill, versus the bill passing? In other words, is passage enough to help this president?

SWEET: Yes, because it will let him say he got two things done, mega historic bills. One on -- more or less traditional infrastructure. The second bill which has also many climate change provisions as well as a social safety net, Christi.

It has things that, yes, Republicans will use to criticize President Biden. I would think the question is, will the impact of any of this show up soon enough so people could feel it? Quick example, the childcare tax credit brought real cash into the pockets of a lot of Americans. But as you just mentioned didn't make a dent in Biden's approval ratings. Even saw his ratings go down during this same period.

PAUL: OK. So, I want to listen to Representative Ocasio-Cortez here as to her reaction to what's happening right now with this bill.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): It's not just Joe Manchin that want to see some changes to this bill. I think that Senator Sanders wants to see some changes on this bill. I think he wants to cut some of the taxes - tax cuts on the rich. I think we need to open up a path to citizenship on the Senate side. So, you know, I think that certain changes on the Senate side can also be positive in addition to guarding the bill from substantive changes that would prevent us from tackling climate change.


PAUL: So, her -- her voice here illustrates something bigger than just this bill, it is the unity, or lack of, for the Democrats themselves. Do you see a space somewhere for progressives and moderate Democrats to solidify?

SWEET: Yes and no. When it comes to Senator Sanders, he's a budget - budget expert in the end. And you can negotiate on that. This issue that congressman brought up to us now on a passage to citizenship, there's a reason that the House bill could not put it in. It's because it could not pass (AUDIO GAP) with the parliamentarian.

There are provisions in there that allow people in the United States who are undocumented, many, not all, to stay with some provisions so they won't have to fear of being deported, Christi. But the provision that's in the House bill does not allow for a path to citizenship. If they could have done it, they would have.

I think what happens with leaders like -- when leaders have unrealistic expectations, whether you're a progressive or moderate, I don't think it helps the party or helps their cause. Have to think of it this way, perhaps, in analysis, is something better than nothing. Protections for immigrants from deportation allow freedom of travel, go back to a home country without fear that you can't get back in. That will help many people, not a path to citizenship, just can't do it in this bill at this time.

PAUL: All right. Lynn Sweet, your expertise is always appreciated here. Thank you, ma'am.

SWEET: And thank you.

SANCHEZ: Still ahead, Chinese state media claims to have proof that tennis star Peng Shuai is not missing, just hanging out at home. Hear when they say she'll return to the public eye, next.



SACHEZ: So, the editor-in-chief of a Chinese state-run newspaper says that Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai will appear in public soon and, quote, "participate in some activities". Peng has been missing for nearly three weeks after she accused one of China's most powerful leaders of sexual assault. Chinese state media released what it says are new pictures that Peng posted on social media. But there's no way of knowing if these photos that she supposedly posted were actually taken.

PAUL: The women's tennis organization is now threatening to pull out of China entirely unless they're reassured that Peng is OK. Here's CNN's Will Ripley.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tennis in China, a billion-dollar business for the WTA. Ten tournaments reportedly a third of their revenue, highly lucrative. And for the Chinese government, highly prestigious. Now, it's all on the line. The WTA demanding answers.


RIPLEY: Where is tennis icon Peng Shuai? Is she OK? A household name in China, Peng has not been seen in public since November 2nd. The 35- year-old doubles Grand Slam champion accusing China's 75-year-old former vice premier of coercing her into having sex about three years ago at his home. Chinese state media on propaganda over-drive, seemingly trying to silence the growing global outcry.

A Chinese journalist tweeting these pictures of Peng claiming they're from her WeChat, with the caption, "happy weekend".


No timestamp on the photos, no actual direct communication with Peng herself. On Wednesday, a suspicious e-mail released by a state-owned broadcaster only adding to fears for her well-being. The e-mail retracts her allegations, saying "I'm not missing, nor am I unsafe. I've just been resting at home and everything is fine." The WTA not convinced. Demanding proof Peng is safe. A probe into her allegations. The organization's CEO telling "OUTFRONT", he is prepared to pull out of China, potentially losing a lucrative ten-year deal.

STEVE SIMON, CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: We have to start as a world making decisions that are based upon right and wrong, period. And we can't compromise that, and we're definitely willing to pull our business, and deal with all the complications that come with it because this is certainly -- this is bigger than the business.

RIPLEY: China is a nation ruled by powerful men, long accused of suppressing the rights of women and minorities, including silencing leaders of China's MeToo movement, now, the apparent silencing of Peng Shuai. China appears to be going to great lengths, using the governments immense power to protect the reputation of a retired communist party leader. So far, Beijing's blatant censorship is doing just the opposite.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs refusing to comment or even acknowledge the growing controversy. The WTA taking a stand, a huge financial gamble, its regional headquarters is in Beijing. The tennis organization willing to walk away from the massive Chinese market to stand up for one of its stars. Olympics organizers are staying out of it, just weeks before the Beijing Winter games. Peng is a three-time Olympian. U.S. President Joe Biden considering a diplomatic boycott, but the IOC says experience shows that quiet diplomacy offers the best opportunity to find a solution.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: IOC buckles under the thought of losing business in China, the NBA buckles under the pressure. And here's the WTA saying enough is enough, standing up, doing what's right. When in the world do we see that any more in sports? A major pro-sports league or entity doing the right thing.

RIPLEY: The WTA's bold stance against China winning praise from around the world.

PAM SHRIVER, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: We're at a crossroads, and it's time now to make the tough decision that you can't do business when your -- the safety of your players are at risk.

RIPLEY: For the international tennis community, some things are more important than money.


RIPLEY: The WTA says they have tried by every means possible to reach Peng Shuai, whether it'd be messaging on social media, e-mailing, calling any number that they have for her, nothing. Radio silence. So until they can speak with her directly and feel confident that she's OK and she's not being held under duress or kept quiet, and until there's a full and complete investigation into those claims that she made, that was so quickly erased from Chinese social media, they say they are fully prepared to walk away from China, no matter the cost of their business. Christi, Boris.

PAUL: Wow, it is perplexing. Will Ripley, thank you so much for that. We appreciate it. So, NASA is hoping its telescope can spot aliens or intelligence life on other planets. Why the name of their telescope though, their new telescope is triggering some controversy here.



PAUL: So, tonight's new CNN film "THE HUNT FOR PLANET B" gives this revealing look at NASA's new James Webb space telescope. It's going to answer existential questions about the creation of our galaxy and the possibility of life on other planets.

SANCHEZ: It's scheduled to launch into space in just a few weeks, but one important thing is overshadowing the entire mission. The name of this new telescope. CNN's Jason Carroll explains.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to enter a completely new part of observation in space.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The next generation in science's effort to peek at galaxies far away is the James Webb Space Telescope, JWTS for short.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hundred times more powerful than Hubble.

CARROLL: Once launched next month, it will turn its eyes to distant stars in search of earth-like planets. While scientists are excited about what is to come, they're also divided over the telescope's name.

HAKEEM OLUSEYI, PROFESSOR, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: We have something new now. It's the woke leading the blind.


CARROLL: At issue, whether or not James Webb deserves to have his name on the telescope.


CARROLL: Webb ran NASA in the '60s and is credited for his role in building the Apollo Program. But some are calling out Webb's tenure during the so-called Lavender Scare. It started in the late '40s when the U.S. government rooted out gay civil servants and fired them. Webb served as Undersecretary of State during that time, and his critics say he didn't do his part to stop it.

(on camera): Do you think you'll ever get to the point where you'll use the name Webb and not think about the history behind it?


CARROLL (voice-over): Astrophysicist Sarah Tuttle is one of four scientists who penned an op-ed titled, "the James Webb Space Telescope needs to be renamed". [06:45:00]

TUTTLE: He was still the administrator while his head of security picked up someone from jail, interrogated him for hours, and that's the headquarters, and then fired him because he had been picked up for being gay.

CARROLL: Supporters of Webb say the history is murky, and those opposed in naming the telescope after him should take another look.

OLUSEYI: In this case, they're completely wrong.

CARROLL: Hakeem Oluseyi, an astrophysicist says after researching Webb's history, he found a man of tolerance.

OLUSEYI: James Webb lauded the intellectual power of an openly gay woman. He went out of his way to help use massive facilities to desegregate the south.

CARROLL: More than 1,700 people at last count in the scientific community signed a petition, asking NASA to change the name to Harriet Tubman; former slave who used stars to guide black people to freedom.

OLUSEYI: I love Harriet Tubman, but that's not appropriate for this.

CARROLL: NASA declined our repeat of a request for an interview, saying in a statement, the Lavender Scare was a painful time in American history. NASA's historian conducted an exhaustive research, he also talked to experts, NASA found no evidence at this time that warrants changing the name. Some astronomers say NASA needed to be transparent about how it conducted its investigation.

GAUDI: People like me that have worked with NASA extensively, done a lot of prop on our work, and are queer, and feel like this is a decision that was made without really understanding where it came from.

CARROLL: As the countdown to launch draws closer, there is one point of agreement --

TUTTLE: What I'll say is, whatever we call it, we're going to use JWST to do excellent science.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could there possibly be life out there?

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Jason Carroll for that report. You can watch "THE HUNT FOR PLANET B" tonight at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN. There's still much more ahead on NEW DAY, but first, meet one of CNN's top 10 heroes of 2021.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: African Americans were dying at a rate greater

than any other group in Philadelphia, so I jumped in. We were intentional about getting black and brown communities the access and care they needed. Those who are most vulnerable, they need to have the support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm done. You're great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just seeing folks come out day in and day out, their presence says everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes! And she's smiling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was all this narrative, black people don't want the vaccine, but they were lined up. We had to earn the trust of the people. You know it's saving lives. The data shows it. I could not allow one additional life to be lost, when I knew that I could do something about it. Everything we did was for them, to make sure they can get the care they deserve.


SANCHEZ: Go to right now to place your vote for the CNN Hero of the year. Stay with us, we'll be right back.



PAUL: So, in July, the NCAA put new rules in place that means that for the first time ever, college athletes can make money off their own names.

SANCHEZ: Soon after athletes began signing very lucrative endorsement deals and sponsorships, and some are now using that money to give back, including one of college football's top quarterbacks. Coy Wire has that story. Good morning, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Boris and Christi. University of North Carolina's Sam Howell, 21-year-old junior, well, he'll be one of the top quarterbacks taken in the next draft if he decides to forego his senior season. Now, Sam used the NCAA's new name, image and likeness rules to become a true difference maker in his community, partnered with TABLE, a nonprofit based in Chapel Hill fighting food insecurity in order to help give back to those who need it most.


SAM HOWELL, QUARTERBACK, NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS: I want to make sure that my first partnership was something that I really care about and something that makes an impact on my community. That's why I went with TABLE. I mean, they're a great organization and with what we're --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot of potential benefit to partnering with athletes. I mean, it's potentially a cool opportunity for our kids that we're serving to kind of see some athletes that are serving them and engaging with them in different ways. And then also just from an awareness perspective, I think that letting our community and even nation know just that food insecurity does exist and just the impacts of that.

Because it's not just a hungry belly, it's impacts the way that they learn and they interact with other people's relationships, their self- esteem. And there's other potential long-term health effects as well.

HOWELL: Growing up -- you know, I don't come from the best place, there's a lot of kids that were food insecure. So, this sounds like kind of hits close to home -- this because, you know, I know many people in my life that -- you know, suffer from this. You know, and this year in our community, one in every three kids are food insecure. This is something I feel like no kid should have to go through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Historically, over 3o percent of kids, nearly one in three children were participating in free introduced school meals, meaning they may not have enough food on weekends and school breaks. So the pandemic has obviously exacerbated the situation making those free introduced school meals even less available over the past year and a half.


We're also committed to family engagement in order to positively impact the health of our kids and their families. We deliver bags of food directly to our kids at their homes. That's 700-plus kids that we're delivering to every single week.

HOWELL: My message I want is always to make sure you're doing it the right way, you know, don't do it for selfish reasons, do it to help somebody, do it to make an impact on the community. You know, and that's one of the main priorities for me, is I want to make an impact on my community.


WIRE: Now, Boris and Christi, as Thanksgiving approaches, the fortunate among us think about big smiles and big tables full of food. But sadly, that's not the reality for too many people out there. So big salute to Sam Howell and TABLE for making a difference in the lives of those in need.

SANCHEZ: Yes, a great time if you can, to lend a helping hand to those who need it. Coy Wire, thanks for the reminder, always appreciate it.

PAUL: Thanks, Coy.

SANCHEZ: Protesters marched through the streets of New York last night, saying that justice was not served after Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges. More reaction on the verdict in the next hour of NEW DAY.