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State of the Union
Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Interview With U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy; Interview With U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired August 22, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Racing the clock.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history.
KEILAR: Will the president be able to keep his promise to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan?
BIDEN: I made the decision. The buck stops with me.
KEILAR: White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Republican Congressman and veteran Adam Kinzinger join me to discuss next.
And astronomical rise. COVID cases spread misery among the unvaccinated. Could a new announcement from the administration help keep you safe? Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is ahead.
Plus: profile in courage. Former Republican Congressman Paul Mitchell left his party over election lies. Months later, as he bravely faced death from cancer, Mitchell did one last interview with his final message.
FMR. REP. PAUL MITCHELL (R-MI): Learn to understand people and judge less, and love more. Let's have less -- less hatred.
KEILAR: Hello. I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington, where the state of our union is worried about friends at home and abroad.
The outer bands of Tropical Storm Henri have begun to pummel the Northeastern United States, as more than 50 million people wake up under tropical storm alerts. Henri is expected to make landfall in just hours on Long Island or New England.
All the latest and an update about expected flooding and storm surge ahead.
And we were also watching the situation in Afghanistan at the Kabul Airport, growing more dangerous and desperate by the minute, with 14,000 people there waiting to get out.
The State Department now warning Americans in Afghanistan not to travel to the airport, as a top U.S. official warns there is a strong possibility ISIS will attempt an attack there.
A Pentagon spokesman did not rule out the possibility that U.S. troops would leave the airport to rescue Americans who could not get there safely, and after President Biden committed to evacuating any Americans who wanted to leave, as well as the tens of thousands of Afghan partners who helped the U.S. during the war.
Over a 24-hour period this weekend, the U.S. evacuated 3, 800 people from Afghanistan, and the secretary of defense has moved this morning to compel commercial airliners to help transport refugees from military bases in the region.
Our Sam Kiley is there at the Kabul Airport.
Sam, can you tell us what you're seeing?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, in comparison to what Clarissa Ward has been -- reported when she left, things have settled down here at the airport.
There are large numbers of evacuees now joining aircraft. As I speak, there are three -- or four, rather, C-17 standing by the takeoff from the Emirates and from -- sorry -- from Qatar and from the United States, and, of course, a large military presence here, large numbers of refugees also a gathering on the outskirts of the perimeter, which we haven't yet been able to see, Brianna.
But the situation inside the airport is incomparable to the situation outside the airport, where many thousands have been gathering, where at least seven people were crushed to death in a stampede yesterday.
I was speaking, though, just as he was about to embark on a Qatari flight, to Kaim Noor (ph), who is a well-known journalist here who was evacuating. And he said he didn't know whether he was happy or heartbroken, because he was going to be alive. He had already left the country once in the past due to Taliban threat back in 2016
He had come back, worked on a lower profile. But, of course, he's leaving behind his family and friends and didn't know when, if ever, he would be able to return to his home country.
And another one also getting on that flight, another former journalist saying that he thought that Afghanistan was suffering a catastrophic brain drain now. And that is something that Taliban is anxious to avoid, while, simultaneously, they have been promising to have a more inclusive regime to -- compared to the medieval regime that they had in the late 1990s.
But on the ground, there is absolutely no faith in their promises of that, as a consequence of which these huge numbers of people are trying to get out -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, there is no faith. And that is why they are risking life and limb to get out.
Sam Kiley, thank you so much for that update from Kabul.
Let's talk now with the president's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, who is joining us from the White House.
Jake, thank you so much for being with us this morning.
And can you just tell us, do you know how many Americans and legal permanent residents are currently in Afghanistan awaiting evacuation?
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thanks for having me, Brianna.
We cannot give you a precise number, but we believe that it is several thousand Americans who are -- we are working with now to try to get safely out of the country.
The reason we can't give you a precise number is that we ask Americans when they come to Afghanistan to register with the embassy. Many come and do that, but then they leave and never do register.
Many others come and don't register at all. That is their right. And it was their right, of course, to remain in Afghanistan as long as they wanted. And it's our responsibility to get them out. That is what we are in the process of doing right now. We are working hard to organize groups of Americans, to bring them on the air base, to get them on flights and get them out of the country.
KEILAR: Their family members are certainly advocating for them. There are a number of veterans who are as well.
Do you have a sense from that the number of Americans that may still be in country there who have people or who themselves have contacted the U.S. government to say that they're?
SULLIVAN: As I have said, we have been in contact with a few thousand Americans. And we are working hard to make arrangements, make plans with each of those people and each of their families to get them safely to the airport and get them out.
We're communicating with them by e-mail, by telephone, by text message. They have been very responsive. And, as I said before, this is an operational and logistical challenge in a risky and dynamic environment. But we are executing a plan to get those American citizens out of the country.
KEILAR: So, now the question is, how do you do it? And the Pentagon yesterday hinted as much at this, that this could be going on or may be going on?
Are there special operations happening right now? Are there extractions happening outside of the airport within Kabul to get American citizens to safety? SULLIVAN: I'm not going to speak to the operational parameters of what is happening at the airfield right now.
What I will tell you, Brianna -- and this is very important -- is that for the American citizens right now who are sitting at home, we will be reaching out and contacting you. We have already spoken with nearly all of them over the past 24 or 48 hours. We will be making a plan for you to come to the airport.
And we have secured the capacity to get large numbers of Americans safe passage through to the airport and onto the airfield. The goal here is to move people as rapidly and safely and efficiently as possible. That's what we're doing.
KEILAR: You know there are many Afghans, including Afghans who have a legal eligibility to be in the U.S., who are braving those conditions that you're warning Americans against at the airport, because they know that the U.S. has a deadline.
"The New York Times" reports that the 2-year-old daughter of an interpreter who worked for an American company, who worked with American troops was trampled to death in a crowd yesterday.
And you know this situation outside the airport isn't getting better. It's getting worse. How many Afghans still need to be evacuated? And can you guarantee them that, even past August 31, you will get them out safely.
SULLIVAN: So, first, Brianna, we are all heartbroken by the scenes outside of the Kabul Airport. I read the same article that you read about that young girl. And it's terrible. It's just awful and tragic. And it is a sign of the human costs of what is unfolding in Afghanistan right now.
What we are doing every single minute of every single hour of every single day is working to establish as much order and security outside that airfield as possible, to create safe passage for all civilians, including the Afghans who worked for us, to the airport to get them on planes and get them out.
And we are not going to rest until we have followed through on getting visas to all of those people and getting them on planes and getting them out of the country.
KEILAR: Those crowds, of course, are vulnerable to attack. How real is this ISIS threat?
SULLIVAN: The threat is real. It is acute. It is persistent. And it is something that we are focused on with every tool in our arsenal.
Our commanders on the ground have a wide variety of capabilities that they are using to defend the airfield against a potential terrorist attack. We are working hard with our intelligence community to try to isolate and determine where an attack might come from.
It is something that we are placing paramount priority on stopping or disrupting. And we will do everything that we can for as long as we are on the ground to keep that from happening. But we are taking it absolutely deadly seriously.
KEILAR: The U.S. is talking coordinating with the Taliban.
The Haqqani Network, which is a powerful hard-line ally of the Taliban affiliated with al Qaeda, is also involved in negotiations and security in Kabul. Its leader was designated as a terrorist a decade ago.
Is the U.S. talking, is the U.S. coordinating with the Haqqani Network?
SULLIVAN: We're engaging through military channels with the Taliban. The Taliban, obviously, to a considerable extent are integrated with the Haqqani Network.
Our effort is with the Taliban military commanders currently in charge of security in Kabul, because they need to understand that Americans and those who have worked with us need safe passage to the airport. And if that passage is disrupted or operations are interfered with, the United States will deliver a swift and forceful response.
KEILAR: You had actually at some point this week, at least one point, to stop flights leaving the Kabul Airport as you had actually evacuees kind of building up inside, because there weren't places willing to accept the passengers that you're flying out at the -- at that moment.
Are you increasing the capacity that other countries are willing to take?
SULLIVAN: We now have agreements with 26 different countries on four different continents in what is an immense diplomatic and operational undertaking, so that people leaving Kabul have places to go.
We had an operational pause, as you said. Right now, flights are taking off, as your reporter just indicated. We are flying people out at an efficient clip. In fact, in the last 24 hours, the United States alone flew out 3, 900 people on military aircraft. And our partners, with flights we facilitated, flew out 3, 900 people, for a total of more than 7, 500 people in the last 24 hours.
They are moving out to multiple different bases in multiple different countries. And that will continue as this operation unfolds.
KEILAR: I do want to listen to something the president said on Friday that has gotten a lot of attention. Let's hear that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We know of no circumstance where American citizens who are carrying an American passport are trying to get through to the airport.
To the best of our knowledge, the Taliban checkpoints, they are letting through people showing American passports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: All right, so we know that's not true. We know there are many instances where that has not been true -- been true. And the Pentagon has acknowledged that as well.
We also -- he also said that al Qaeda is gone from Afghanistan, but, of course, from the U.N., from the Joint Chiefs, we know that is also untrue.
Why is he misleading with his words here?
SULLIVAN: First of all, I reject that characterization.
With respect to al Qaeda, right now, our intelligence community does not believe that al Qaeda in Afghanistan represents a threat to the United States homeland. That's what the president was referring to.
He has also clearly said over time that al Qaeda could in the future represent a threat to the U.S. homeland. And that is why he has positioned and over-the-horizon capability with intelligence assets and defense assets to ensure that never happens.
And he has pointed out that we have been able to deal with and suppress terrorist threats in other countries that do have attack capabilities against America without a permanent military presence on the ground. We intend to do the same thing when it comes to Afghanistan.
KEILAR: On Americans who have clearly had problems getting through the Taliban?
SULLIVAN: So, first, what the president has consistently directed his team to do and what he has explained, in fact, in that very press conference is that, if there are any issues with the movement of Americans through the city, we have dealt with those cases one by one and resolved them when that information is presented to us.
There is another challenge, though, Brianna, which your team has reported on quite effectively, which is, Americans who then get to the airport have had a hard time getting inside because of the very large crowds of people outside.
That is a logistical challenge we have been working on over the course of the past 72 hours. We now believe that we have alternative methods of getting Americans into the airport. That's what we're executing as we speak.
KEILAR: All right, Jake, thank you so much for being with us, Jake Sullivan at the White House. We appreciate it.
SULLIVAN: Thank you.
KEILAR: A critic of both President Biden and former President Trump over the Afghanistan withdrawal, GOP Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who served there, will join us next.
Some Americans are taking a horse drug to ward off COVID-19 symptoms. Obviously, don't do that.
The surgeon general is going to join us ahead.
KEILAR: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Brianna Keilar.
Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees, many who assisted the U.S. military during 20 years of war, are now desperately trying to make their way into the Kabul Airport.
Here in the U.S., governors from both parties are saying they will offer aid and welcome these refugees. But resistance is already building among some in the Republican Party.
Let's talk now with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who served as an Air Force pilot in Afghanistan. He is with us now.
Sir, thanks for being here.
I do -- we just spoke with the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and I want to get your reaction to what we heard from him. Do you think that things are getting better?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Well, I mean, I guess, given where we are, and the fact that we have the best military in the world that can really execute anything, we're better than we were -- we're in a better place than we were a week ago.
That doesn't mean we're in a good spot. And I think we have a responsibility to talk about what went wrong, where we're screwing up, as we just sit here and point fingers at the other party, because that's what we're obsessed about.
But this was a disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Even Jake himself said, look, yes, there is an acute ISIS threat on the ground. So how is it that we leave Afghanistan? We're going to be able to maintain a counterterrorism posture, supposedly, with this over-the- horizon magic stuff we have. But there's already an ISIS threat there when we're there.
Why is the Taliban, like what prior administrations have said, not attacking ISIS? Because, once we finally leave, and we finish this evacuation, which I certainly hope we're committed to following through with every American and every Afghan that helped us and deserves that shot to come home, I have no idea how we're going to be able to maintain that posture and stop the growth of terrorism.
It's a real concern. KEILAR: You know, as we're looking at making good on that promise,
the U.S. making good on that promise you just talked about, the Pentagon spokesman was asked earlier this week about U.S. troops operating outside the Kabul Airport.
And he was clear they weren't doing it. It now seems like that may not be the case. It seems that, according to what the Pentagon was saying yesterday, that there may be some of that happening. Is that your understanding, that U.S. troops are outside the airport, that there could be special operations extracting people?
KINZINGER: You know, I wouldn't be surprised. I don't know that off anything besides open source reporting.
But let me say this, and I think this is a really important thing, Brianna, is, we kind of have this failure of confidence right now in this country. And I think we could do a whole segment talking about what went wrong in the nation-building side of this. I don't think it's as easy as saying we're not good at nation-building.
But even the people that are totally against Afghanistan say we're really good at fighting, we're just not good at building back. OK, assuming that, why are we sitting in the Kabul Airport and in Afghanistan right now with such a lack of confidence that we're begging the Taliban to allow us to save our own citizens, that we're very scared to death to talk about if anybody's gone outside of the wire, because the United States military is truly capable of anything?
Like, look, OK, we can fail at the build back of Afghanistan. Again, we could have a whole conversation on that, where I might disagree a little bit. But we know we're good. And we're sitting around licking our wounds in the airport. And even President Biden at one point said, gee, we just can't guarantee the outcome.
The United States military can't -- and, by the way, I commend the military for carrying out this almost near-impossible execution of this, particularly given the circumstances they were handed.
KEILAR: We're seeing almost a bifurcation right now of U.S. citizens being told by the State Department not to come to the airport, it's too dangerous, but you're not seeing these visa applicants or folks who are eligible for that, who -- people who helped -- Afghans who helped the U.S. being deterred by that.
And part of that is because they see the deadline, this August 31 deadline, and it's coming up fast for them. According to "The New York Times," the 2-year-old daughter of a former interpreter was trampled to death in the crowd.
Do you think the president is making good on his promise to get Americans and Afghans who helped Americans and their families out?
KINZINGER: Look, I certainly think he's trying. I'm not going to say that President Biden, at this moment, wants to do anything but that. I think the execution has been extremely disastrous. But I also think you have to go back not just early in this
administration, but especially the last administration, and, frankly, even President Obama's, and say, why was this Afghan SIV issue, the Special Immigrant Visas, processed so slowly?
I have been working on this since I have been in Congress, by the way. We could have worked this. There have been people sitting in Afghanistan for five years that were maybe waiting on just one piece of that. Why did Stephen Miller particularly in the last administration slow it down?
I had a Republican staffer on Judiciary that told us there's not a chance we would be able to slip in raising the cap on the Special Immigrant Visas to help get rid of some of this backlog.
And then, of course, the State Department under multi administrations, why was it so slow at processing these?
But we are where we are. And I'm going to tell you, Brianna, what's most important, there's nobody that really doubts we're never going to be in a war again. If we fail to follow through on our commitment to these Afghans, that's going to put our serious national security at risk, if we fail to follow through with their well-being when they're here.
By the way, at Country First, Country1st.com, we have a fund set up to help Afghan refugees and their families. And we have raised -- this is what's amazing to me -- over $80,000. And that just shows the heart of the American people are with these folks' plight.
KEILAR: You're seeing members of your party, some of whom you mentioned there, President Trump, certainly others, Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and they have criticized the Biden administration, despite contributing to this SIV backlog.
What's your reaction to them rewriting history?
KINZINGER: You know, it's amazing.
I think what breaks my heart probably more than anything on a political side is that America is being splayed out in the world and embarrassed by the world and our European allies are saying America looks weak.
And yet, honestly, the Republicans are putting out talking points to make Biden look bad. Biden -- the Democrats are putting out talking points to point at the administration, the past administration.
Truth, they're both responsible. And we're so tribalistic as a country, it's hard for somebody to imagine a Republican saying, everybody's responsible.
But let's keep in mind, Mike Pompeo met with the Taliban. As Donald Trump was publicly saying, we have to get out of Afghanistan at all costs, it's not worth it, Mike Pompeo meets with the Taliban and tries to negotiate something. By the way, they end up getting rolled harder than Neville -- almost as bad as Neville Chamberlain, because they knew what the desired outcome of the Trump administration was.
So they set this up to fail, but always, of course, Joe Biden could have easily turned this around, and instead used it as the excuse to get out. Both parties have failed the American people. And it can't continue. And it particularly can't continue with just pointing fingers while America's embarrassed in front of the world.
KEILAR: You mentioned the efforts that you are undertaking -- and many other veterans are joining you in this as well -- trying to get Afghans, their friends, out of Afghanistan.
You are seeing in your party what appears to be a trend for some politicians seeing opportunity in this. They're painting Afghan refugees as invaders. There are undertones even of racism here.
What is your message to people in your party who are doing that?
KINZINGER: Oh, for sure.
Look, here's the thing. Keep in mind, most Republican members of Congress, for instance, I think, when we talked about doing this Afghan SIV program, we had a vote on that recently, and only like 16 Republicans voted against it.
But those 16 Republicans, holy cow, their face should be everywhere. And they should be asked why they did.
But what you see is, in the media echo chamber, this fearmongering, right, this: They're coming to your neighborhood, these hordes of people that haven't been vetted.
I mean, that is not American. We can -- you can always have questions with how this was executed, but America has always been the country that opens our heart. And, by the way, refugees to this country have always been the ones that are extremely entrepreneurial. I mean, we all know that. They come here. They work hard, they fight hard to -- for success.
And so if anybody wants to go out and fearmonger and continue that darkness in your heart and speaking it so you can win an election, A, you are either evil at your heart yourself, or, B, you're a charlatan who's only interested in winning reelection and you truly can't say you care about the health of the American people if you're out there doing stuff like that.
KEILAR: Congressman, I want to thank you for coming on.
We're -- look, we're still very much in the middle of this story, lots of moving parts, and we thank you for your insight here.
KINZINGER: You bet. Take care.
KEILAR: Why this week could be a major turning point in the push to get all Americans fully vaccinated. The U.S. surgeon general joins us next.
KEILAR: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Brianna Keilar.
Federal officials tell CNN that full FDA approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is imminent and could come as soon as tomorrow, a major development that could convince more hesitant Americans to finally get their shots.
For the first time since July, CDC data shows the U.S. administered more than one million vaccines for three days in a row, and that uptick due in part to people getting a dose of reality, seeing the severity of the situation, as the Delta variant overwhelms intensive care units and U.S. deaths top 1,000 per day for the first time since March.
KEILAR: Joining us now is the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Sir, thank you so much for being with us this morning.
I wanted to ask you, because the FDA, of course, is poised to give full approval to Pfizer's vaccine this week. Could that come tomorrow? And do you expect that this decision is going to make more Americans willing to get vaccinated?
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Brianna, I won't get ahead of the FDA's announcement.
But we have known for a while that they were considering the full approval for the Pfizer vaccine. And I anticipate that, if and when that comes, that will have two impacts. I think, for people who have been waiting for this, the -- I think -- and that's a small number of people, but I think still significant -- I think this may tip them over toward getting vaccinated.
But I also think that, for businesses and universities that have been thinking about putting vaccine requirements in place in order to create safer spaces for people to work and learn, I think that this move from the FDA, when it comes, will actually help them to move forward with those kinds of plans.
But all of this said, Brianna, I think what is important for us to realize is that we have had strong evidence from real world data that this vaccine has been doing remarkably well and has maintained a strong safety profile. We have given it hundreds of millions of people, and we have seen that it's doing its job.
And that's why we're continuing to recommend that people get vaccinated starting today, and as soon as they can, because, especially with the Delta variant, getting that protection is more important than ever.
KEILAR: You say that this would tip businesses and colleges to consider mandating the vaccine once it gets full approval. Would you urge them to do that?
MURTHY: Well, we already know that there are many businesses and universities that have moved toward vaccine requirements. And I think that's a very reasonable thing to do to create a safe environment.
There's one other thing, I think, we need to do that some states have been doing to create a safer school environment. And that's requiring that employees in the school, including teachers and other staff, are vaccinated as well to create a safer environment for our kids.
I think all of these are reasonable, because, when we're faced with the most transmissible variant that we have seen to date, the Delta variant, when we have our kids essentially as the point of concern here in our schools and their health and well-being on the line, we have got to take every step we can.
And so I think that the -- that these measures, these requirements we're seeing are absolutely reasonable. And I think they will help.
KEILAR: The Biden administration unveiled this new booster shot guidance this week. They're saying that Americans should get a third vaccine shot eight months after their second shot.
How worried are you that Americans just might not get these booster shots?
MURTHY: Well, Brianna, it's our responsibility to make sure people know what the science is telling us about COVID and about the vaccine protection, and then to help people to get those booster shots when that time comes.
And I will tell you, Brianna, the reason that we made this decision is because we looked at the data very closely, we meaning myself and the top public health and medical experts in the Department of Health and Human Services, and we saw that, while protection against hospitalization and death is remaining strong due to the vaccine, we -- there was a waning, a reduction in the protection against mild and moderate infection.
And our worry was that, as time went on, that we may start to see an erosion in the protection against the worst outcomes of COVID. That's why we're not recommending a booster today, because you still have good protection from the vaccines.
But the week of September 20, pending the FDA and CDC advisory groups weighing in, that is when we are planning to start the booster shots. And we will do everything we can, building on our experience from the last few months, to make sure people have access to the booster shots and to make sure they have the accurate information from credible sources. KEILAR: What about folks who got Johnson & Johnson? They're still in
the dark about how they will get boosters. And some people want to receive maybe a Pfizer or a Moderna shot as a booster when it's available.
I know that's not recommended right now, but is it safe? Is it unsafe?
MURTHY: Well, I'm really glad you asked, Brianna, because there are millions of people in our country who received J&J. We want to make sure that their protection continues as well.
And here's what we see, we believe. We believe that J&J recipients will likely need a booster. But we are waiting on some data from the company about a second dose of J&J, so the FDA can fully evaluate the safety and efficacy of that dose.
We also have studies under way that are called missing -- mixing studies, where we have one type of vaccine followed by another type of vaccine. That would include J&J followed by a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. And as soon as that data is available, we can present that to the FDA, and they can also review it for safety.
And so, as soon as those studies are done, we will have more to recommend to J&J recipients about the timing of a booster and which shot they should get.
KEILAR: Health officials in Mississippi say that poison control center calls are climbing because what they're seeing are residents taking something called ivermectin, which is an anti-parasite drugs for horses and cows, to treat coronavirus.
This has even led to one hospitalization. Can you be clear for the American people on this drug?
MURTHY: Well, Brianna, that is heartbreaking to hear.
And let me just say very clearly that ivermectin is not a recommended treatment for COVID-19. It is not a recommended drug to prevent COVID- 19.
The best protection we have against COVID-19 is the vaccine. And if you get COVID-19, we actually do have treatments that work, from steroids, to monoclonal antibodies, and other treatments. But ivermectin is not one of them.
And, Brianna, what this highlights is just the profound cost of health misinformation right now. We have been seeing that health misinformation as a problem for years. But the speed, scale and sophistication with which it is spreading and impacting our health is really unprecedented.
And it's happening largely, in part, aided and abetted by social media platforms. And this is why, a few weeks ago, I put out a surgeon general's advisory on health misinformation, in part calling companies to account to say they have to step up and take more responsibility for this health misinformation on their sites, because it is costing us in terms of people's health.
KEILAR: And can I ask you, to that point? Can I ask you, to that point, sir?
Because Facebook said this weekend -- and, yes, you have been clear on this, but Facebook said this weekend that a news story undermining confidence in coronavirus vaccines was the most popular link in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2021.
So, you have issued this warning, certainly, about misinformation. What do you make of this news?
MURTHY: Well, I think it reinforces what we have known for a long time, which is that there is a lot of misinformation circulating on these sites.
And, look, I will, readily say that the sites have recognized that this is a challenge, and they have stepped up to do some things to reduce the spread of misinformation. And I credit them for that.
But it's not nearly enough, because there's still a tremendous amount of misinformation circulating. There are people who are super- spreaders of misinformation who are continuing to put out inaccurate information online. And there are algorithms still which continue to serve up more and more misinformation to people who encounter it the first time.
These are things that companies can and must change. And I think they have a moral responsibility to do so quickly and transparently.
KEILAR: Dr. Murthy, thank you so much for being with us this morning on STATE OF THE UNION.
MURTHY: Of course. Thanks, Brianna. Good to speak with you again.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Former Michigan Congressman Paul Mitchell left the GOP after Former President Trump tried to question last year's election results. And soon after, Mitchell resigned to spend more time with his family.
Tragically, he didn't get much more time. Mitchell was diagnosed with cancer this year and though he confronted it bravely, the cancer spread and he entered hospice care. But his fight to preserve democracy didn't end.
He spoke with my colleague, Jake Tapper, just weeks before he died. And we want share that conversation with you now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Congressman Mitchell, this is an unusual interview. I've never done anything like this before. You're in hospice with cancer, and you said you'd like to talk, but you don't want this interview to air until you're gone. Hopefully, that won't be any time soon. Tell us, first of all, how you're feeling.
FORMER REP. PAUL MITCHELL, (R-MI): A little beat (ph) to be honest with you. We have -- we're on the upward climb. We thought we had it under control when I was in the rehab pretty well. And then had some issues in the ultrasound and found it had already spread significantly. So at that point in time, I think you just have to recognize reality, so we finished checking into hospice yesterday.
I believe only God gets to decide. That's what I believe about, and that's what I told folks when I was running for office. I don't believe in abortion, and I don't believe in executions, because it's violating what I believe. Only God gets to decide. He's decided that, my guess is, about a month here, I'm done. Okay. Spend some time with my family.
My mom always taught us, make a difference. Don't just fill up space in the world. Make a difference which is why I did what I did with my career. I don't know if I can (ph) make much of a difference now except to my family. I want them to understand that you can die with honor. You can die with peace. Why be angry and bitter with God, whatever God you believe in, when your time is up?
TAPPER: What are you happy about as you look at your life? What are you -- what are you proud that you've been able to witness and to see? And what do you think you're going to miss the most?
MITCHELL: I'm going to miss my family, of course, first and foremost. We keep humor (ph) in this family. What I miss right now is I wish -- I'd like to talk with President Biden and certainly by knowing (ph) the administration about we need real bipartisanship (inaudible) society is struggling. And it's struggling because people can't accept they believe in different things and look for what they agree on and decide whether someone's a good person or not. And tat's too bad because there really is a struggle (ph). For example, if you don't agree with us on having a vaccine or not a vaccine, it means I won't talk to you. It's breaking up families.
TAPPER: I imagine this experience has given you an even more unique perspective on the day-to-day concerns. A lot of people in politics and the news media have spent a lot of our lives dealing with. When you look at the state of our politics from your hospice bed, what does it look like?
MITCHELL: I think you have to choose whether or not -- you have to choose whether or not to love people or go through life trying to get political gain, some of it by creating hatred. I think we lack the willingness to just accept people. I've got good friends on the democratic side, what we agree on is maybe 10 or 15 percent, but I think the world of them.
TAPPER: I have to say, if I can call you -- I've always called you congressman, but I'm going to call you Paul, if that's okay.
MITCHELL: That's okay, we're well past congressman.
TAPPER: It's been an honor, you and I have become friends from interviews and then phone calls and text messages and it's been an honor to know you. And it makes me very sad that we're going to lose you. You've been a person who has conducted himself with real honor and integrity. And I hope you know that there are a lot of us out here who think that about you.
MITCHELL: I appreciate you saying that. I don't know that it's -- I do now a little better but it's not something I think of. For me it's innate to just say where can we agree?
There's value in people you don't agree with. It's easy to find people you agree with. There's value in people that you may disagree with on something strongly. That doesn't inherently make them a bad person. Learn to understand people and judge less and love more and let's have less hatred. It's a strong society (ph), Jake, our political process, you see what's going on, where it's, 'let's rev up the base, those people are evil. It's destructive and I just think if you just take the time to care about the other person and you care about them, it's hard to hate them.
TAPPER: You have six children, including a young son. Someday maybe he'll watch this video, maybe when he's in his 20s, 30s, 40s. What do you want him to remember about his dad?
MITCHELL: I think I want all of my kids -- as you mentioned, he's -- my youngest is adopted from Russia. We adopted him when he was two, or 22 months. When it became clear that I couldn't uphold my responsibilities as a dad to him in Congress is when I announced I was resigning or retiring.
What I want him and all my kids to remember is I did my best. And I did my best to buy time with them when this came up. The surgery I had, they gave me a 10 percent chance of surviving, and I wasn't going to die. I was trying to beat this cancer and it slapped me. But I'll do my best to maximize the time we have, because I think people should give their best.
TAPPER: I want to let you preserve your strength for the day, and I wish you -- and I hope you have a long, long time left, but however much time you have left, I hope it's full of love and comfort and peace, Paul. Thank you so much for joining us today.
MITCHELL: Thanks for taking the time, Jake.
KEILAR: Former Congressman Paul Mitchell died this past week. He was 64.