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CNN NEWSROOM

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Shipments Begin; Interview with former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL); New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Releases Apology Following Sexual Harassment Allegations. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 1, 2021 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: At UPS' largest facility in Louisville, Kentucky as the shipments were loaded onto planes and trucks.

And it comes just as federal officials are sounding some new alarms over those variants. They're warning that vaccinations alone won't prevent a fourth surge in cases.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I remain deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic. The latest CDC data continue to suggest that recent declines in cases have leveled off at a very high number.

I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19. I understand the temptation to do this. Seventy thousand cases a day seems good compared to where we were just a few months ago, but we cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: The new vaccine doesn't have the same logistical challenges that the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines had. This is a single-dose vaccine, it can be shipped and stored at standard temperatures, standard refrigerated temperatures. But Johnson & Johnson and its partners face the same challenges of supply and demand that all of the manufacturers have had to manage so far.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is following the process.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a plan to roll it out as quickly as Johnson & Johnson can make it.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But the truth is, no matter how fast they go, it's never going to feel fast enough.

GUPTA: The number out of the gate -- meaning right after an authorization -- be closer to 10 million, now we're hearing 4 million. How is the public to make sense of that? SEAN KIRK, EXECUTIVE V.P., MANUFACTURING AND TECHNICAL OPERATIONS,

EMERGENT BIOSOLUTIONS: We don't ultimately control the distribution and the volumes of the vaccines in final bottle form. We're playing that middle step.

GUPTA (voice-over): Making a new vaccine by the millions was always going to be an impressive feat.

Sean Kirk is the executive vice president of Manufacturing and Technical Operations at Emergent BioSolutions. And right now, he feels the weight of the world on his shoulders.

KIRK: Can't sacrifice safety and quality for speed.

GUPTA (voice-over): And it's his job to strike that balance.

GUPTA: What is the biggest hurdle, then, to scaling up?

KIRK: The bottleneck is often time. These things just don't happen overnight. It can be a multi-year timeframe that we've undertaken. And fortunately, we've been able to compress that down.

GUPTA (voice-over): Emergent BioSolutions is one of Johnson & Johnson's manufacturing partners. At its sprawling 112,000-square-foot facility in Baltimore, it plays the key role of actually producing the viral vectors for the vaccine, basically the part that makes it work.

GUPTA: What limits the capacity here?

KIRK: We're dependent upon a variety of different critical suppliers who also are rallying to the cause, so the entirety of this industrial orchestration, if you will, is very significant and is very complex.

GUPTA (voice-over): For starters, they have to grow the tissue cultures in these large reactors, so they're dealing with actual living organisms. They have to ensure they have all the proper nutrients they need to grow, and then go through the purification steps to remove any debris.

KIRK: The manufacturing of biologic vaccine processes like these typically takes several weeks, upwards of a month. What's important to note is that we are in a cadence, which means we don't wait for a single lot to move all the way through before we initiate another lot.

GUPTA (voice-over): After all that, the newly manufactured vaccine is frozen and shipped more than 600 miles to another company, Catalent. That's in Bloomington, Indiana. What happens there? Fill and finish, and then every single vial is visually inspected: hundreds per minute will pass through this process.

It's fast, a breakneck speed, Kirk says. But again, in the middle of a pandemic, nothing is fast enough.

KIRK: We expect to reach the maximum of that commercial cadence, but we'll always look for opportunities to further refine in partnership with our customers, to tease out as many doses as possible. GUPTA: When they say a billion doses potentially by the end of 2021,

that number sounds reasonable to you, based on what you know?

KIRK: Suffice it to say we've got a little bit farther to go to get there, but that's all according to the plan and contracts we have with Johnson & Johnson.

GUPTA (voice-over): Every dose, every vial can still make a difference for the billions of people around the world waiting for their shot at protection. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: The country's top infectious disease expert and presidential adviser is responding to an attack from a governor who ignores science and data. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem claimed at CPAC that her no-mask mandate, personal liberty approach has resulted in success in her state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): We never focused on the case numbers. Instead, we kept our eye on hospital capacity. Now, Dr. Fauci, he told me that on my worst day, I'd have 10,000 patients in the hospital. On our worst day, we had a little over 600.

(APPLAUSE)

[14:05:04]

I don't know if you agree with me, but Dr. Fauci is wrong a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: But as Dr. Fauci points out, the numbers and the science speaks for themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: So I'm sure that, you know, you can get a standing ovation by saying I'm wrong, but the fact if you look at the scientific facts and follow what we need to do, as these cases are coming down, the thing we don't want is for them to do this and start plateauing at a level that'll give us a lot of trouble.

Go back and look historically at what happened when we tried to open up the economy and open up the country. We saw a variable degree of adherence to the public health measures by different governors and different mayors. And what did happen? It went like this and then went right back up, when we had, yet again, another surge.

We just don't want to see that. We don't want to continue to prevent people from doing what they want to do -- (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with us for more on this.

The governor of South Dakota, Elizabeth, isn't telling the entire story when she talks about the number of hospitalizations. We have covered this specifically on this show. Tell us about how South Dakota's COVID cases stack up compared to the rest of the country.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, she certainly isn't telling the whole truth. Just last month, Governor Noem said that South Dakota has been doing, quote, "better than virtually every other state, better than virtually every other state." And that simply is not true. Let's take a look at the actual statistics.

What the actual statistics show is that when you look at per capita cases, they are second highest in the country. When you look at per capita deaths, they are eighth highest in the country. In what world is it OK to be eighth highest in the country in per capita deaths? I mean, certainly, I'm sure she doesn't want the people of South Dakota to die, so how can she say she's doing better than virtually any other state when she is eighth highest in deaths?

And it really makes you wonder, gee, is this connected somehow to her attack on Dr. Fauci? You know, Brianna, you and I both know, when things aren't going so well for someone, sometimes they attack others to distract from how poorly they're doing -- Brianna.

KEILAR: It's a rural state, that's part of it, you know there are less people in that state than many others. But it's so important, not just to look at the total number, Elizabeth. You do have to look at per capita to really get the accurate picture of what's going on.

COHEN: Right. Right, exactly. And so the numbers that I gave you about being second or eighth highest in cases and deaths respectively, those are per capita. Those are numbers from Johns Hopkins, and they are per capita. Of course we always want to do that, you always want to have sort of a level playing field when you're talking about these statistics.

KEILAR: Yes, thank you so much for fact-checking that for us, Elizabeth Cohen.

Former President Trump is out of office, but he's back in the spotlight after spouting lie after lie at CPAC. In his first major public appearance since leaving the White House, Trump left the door open to 2024. He repeated the big lie, and he took aim at his perceived enemies in the GOP.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats don't have grandstanders like Mitt Romney, little Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Toomey.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: Actually, as you know, they just lost the White House, but it's one of those things.

So how the hell is it possible that we lost? It's not possible.

This election was rigged, and the Supreme Court and other courts didn't want to do anything about it.

It's just getting started. And in the end, we will win, we will win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Joining me now, former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh, who ran against Trump in 2020. What did you think of his speech?

JOE WALSH (R-IL), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Hey, Brianna, good to be with you. Look, it's the same old, same old, but it works. Donald Trump, Brianna, lost the election but I think among Republican voters, he won the argument. He's hung onto his big lie that the election was stolen, and I can tell you -- because I hear from thousands of Republican voters every single day -- Brianna, they all believe the lie.

What we all saw at CPAC this weekend, I hear every day of the week. They believe the election was stolen and, oh my god, it's like January 6th never even happened. Now they don't believe that really was that big of a deal either. It's pretty sad.

KEILAR: You know, I hear from -- Joe, I hear from a lot of people who are not Trump supporters, and they just don't -- they don't want to focus on him, they don't want to hear about him, they just want that to kind of go away. But I wonder if there isn't a danger in not paying attention. As you said, he won the argument. Is there a danger in not, you know, paying attention to where his supporters are in understanding? Because they do have influence.

[14:10:21]

WALSH: Oh, Brianna, absolutely. Look, this is the mistake the Republicans have made for five years. Five years ago, they knew this guy was a bad guy, they knew he'd ruin the country, they knew he'd ruin the Republican Party, but they did what you just said. They ignored his tweets, they patted him on the top of the head, they tried to appease him. And every day, week, month and year, he grew stronger.

And now, he's the monster they can't control. And I've got to tell you something, they're crazy if they think they can just ignore what he's going to do these next two to three years. CNN has some wonderful people on all the time, talking about whether Trump should have a future in the Republican Party. It's not up to them, it's not up to Mitch McConnell, it's not up to me. It's up to Republican voters. And they, Brianna, are solidly with him.

KEILAR: Let's listen to what he said, Joe, about the Supreme Court's rejection of a case that would have blocked millions of ballots in battleground states. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They didn't have the courage, the Supreme Court, they didn't have the courage to act, but instead used process and lack of standing.

They rejected it. They should be ashamed of themselves for what they've done to our country. They didn't have the guts or the courage to make the right decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Of course, the court includes three of his picks. And I wonder what you think. he's singling them out, he knows the peril of singling someone out.

WALSH: Brianna, he is -- my god, he is inciting another insurrection. We're barely two months removed from an armed insurrection on our United States Capitol, and there's the former president attacking the Supreme Court for not overthrowing the election. And, Brianna, everybody there booed the court and cheered him. It's like January 6th didn't even happen. We cannot become numb to this.

KEILAR: Last month, Nikki Haley criticized Trump. She said that he had no future in the GOP. It became very clear that was not the case, once the initial shock of the insurrection passed. And then she kind of came around, trying to appeal to him. She has accused the media of trying to start a GOP civil war. What do you think about all these various positions she's taken?

WALSH: I think Nikki Haley is done, Brianna. You can't -- when it comes to Trump, you can't straddle the fence. You're either all-in or you're all-out, you're either with him or against him. She tries to have it both ways every day, and she's pleasing neither camp. You've got to be either loving Trump or opposing him. I think she's done politically because of that.

KEILAR: You have called the GOP a shrinking, dying political party that will become Trumpier by the day. Is there any way around that, is there any other figure that the party could unite around?

WALSH: I don't think so, Brianna. Again, maybe my view is skewed because every day I'm beaten up by Trump supporters, and I hear from thousands of them every day. But what used to be fringe when I was in Congress is now the base.

And look, Adam Kinzinger, Liz Cheney, these people are going to be running for their life next year. Displayed great courage, but the vast majority of Republican voters are not with them. I think the party is shrinking by the day. I think we don't realize it yet, but we're watching a major political party die before our eyes. Something's got to replace it.

KEILAR: And what do you think would?

WALSH: Well, I think, Brianna, as the Republican Party keeps getting more extreme, and -- as you and I said -- Trumpier every day, there's -- you've got moderate Republicans, independents, conservatives like me, moderate Democrats who don't have a home. I mean, more and more every day, people are leaving the Trumpy (ph) party. They've got to find a home. You've got a lot of people in the middle. I wouldn't be surprised if, in the next few years, a viable centrist third party comes to the fore.

[14:15:00]

KEILAR: And we are certainly at a moment of reckoning. We'll have to see where this all goes. It's great to see you, former Congressman Joe Walsh, thank you.

WALSH: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Just ahead, half a million people are still under a boil water advisory in Texas, more than a week after that brutal winter storm.

Plus, Governor Andrew Cuomo admits he may have made comments that were, quote, "too personal" to women that he worked with, as he faces a second allegation of sexual harassment. Now there are calls for an outside investigation.

And a stunning moment in traffic court, when a surgeon called in to fight his ticket while in the operating room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY LINK, SACRAMENTO SUPERIOR COURT COMMISSIONER: I do not feel comfortable for the welfare of a patient if you're in the process of operating, that I would put on a trial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:20:05]

KEILAR: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is expressing regret without admitting any serious wrongdoing as two former aides accuse him of sexual harassment. "The New York Times" reports a woman named Charlotte Bennett, who's 25 years old, said the governor asked her explicit, unsolicited questions about her sex life.

CNN has not been able to corroborate the allegations, and has reached out to her for comment. She has not responded. But the "Times" reporter who broke the story tells CNN he had multiple lengthy conversations with her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSE MCKINLEY, ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: She shared, as you pointed out, text messages, contemporaneous to her experiences, which lent credence to what she was talking about. And as you pointed out, these are very serious allegations that she

levied. You know, things like asking if she'd slept with older men, her positions on monogamy, and the governor indicating a willingness to sleep with women in their 20s -- Charlotte herself is 25. All of that in toto basically sent a message to Charlotte that the governor was essentially propositioning her for a sexual advance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Governor Cuomo denies that he touched anyone or made inappropriate or unwanted overtures, but he did release a statement that says in part, "I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended.

"I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that."

CNN's national political reporter Maeve Reston is joining me now on this story. You know, it's interesting, Maeve, because he expresses regret, but not for any of the things that these women allege.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Right, exactly, Brianna. It's like he -- you know, he is someone who, over the years, rarely apologizes, and so it was a very interesting and carefully worded apology, not unlike the one that he gave on the nursing home data scandal, you know, just a few weeks ago, where he talked about being playful and in the office and teasing people about their personal lives.

But none of the allegations that you and I have read here are along those lines. They're very serious. You know, you can't imagine the position of a woman, you know, at that age, having to deal with questions from someone as powerful as the governor, who was her boss.

And I think that the apology, for a lot of the groups, the sexual harassment groups that were watching this closely, just didn't go far enough. He's still sort of putting the onus on the victims there, saying that they may have misinterpreted his comments, when there's just no reason to be making those comments in a work setting, in any workplace.

And particularly for a governor who has said that he's a champion of #MeToo and has put some workplace protections in place in his own state, so it was just -- yes, didn't go far enough.

KEILAR: Yes. He's given -- there have been written statements, right? That's we've seen multiple times now --

RESTON: Yes.

KEILAR: -- he hasn't addressed this publicly. At some point he's going to have to here soon, right?

RESTON: Yes, for sure. And I mean, you know, if you think about sort of the broader context of all of this, these are very troubling accusations of sexual harassment.

But we're also seeing a larger pattern here, where he has been known, over the years, as someone who can be a bully, who yells at people over the phone when things aren't getting done that he wants to get done. And that has come up in the nursing home data scandal that he's also dealing with here. And so I think he's going to have to answer for this culture that he has created in his office, that some clearly view as toxic.

And the other woman who made allegations against him, Lindsey Boylan, has said that he created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it's not only condoned, but expected. And said that if you speak up, that critics are silenced. And that's a really serious allegation just in itself that I think he's going to have to explain if he wants to win the trust of his constituents again here.

KEILAR: Yes, because she was accusing him not just of actions himself, but really of folks around him kind of protecting this kind of behavior, which takes it to another level as well.

RESTON: Exactly.

KEILAR: Maeve, it's great seeing you, thanks for being with us.

RESTON: Thank you.

[14:24:43]

KEILAR: Next, a California judge is shocked to find a surgeon dialing into his virtual courtroom in the middle of a surgery. You have to see this exchange. We're going to talk about this, and whether this doctor could be in trouble.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: A doctor in Sacramento raised on judge's eyebrows after showing up for his virtual traffic court trial from the operating room. The sight stunned the court clerk and the judge, as Dr. Scott Green, a plastic surgeon, assured the court he could safely operate on the patient and continue with his trial.

Here is how the courtroom video interaction started out.

[14:30:01]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT GREEN, PLASTIC SURGEON: Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Mr. Green? Hi. Are you available for trial?

(END VIDEO CLIP)