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Interview With New York Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou (D) About Calls For Governor Cuomo To Resign; Potential Superspreader Events Coast To Coast; Interview With Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) About Bloody Sunday Anniversary; Pandemic Takes Heavy Toll On Children's Mental Health; Pope Francis Visits Iraqi Cities Once Decimated By ISIS; Russia Spreading Disinformation On Vaccines. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 7, 2021 - 19:00   ET



FRANK MEEINK, FORMER NEO-NAZI RECRUITER: So I don't need to hate other people. And when I see what I used to be I see it in QAnon, I see in the Proud Boys. Like racism always just recycles itself. You know, we can't be the KKK anymore, all right, so now we can't be the Neo-Nazis anymore. Now they're Proud -- it's just remarketing hate.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Hate remarketed. Now to be clear, this is not to say that every person who believes in the QAnon conspiracy is a danger to society. But there is plenty of evidence QAnon believers have engaged in harmful acts, and there is nothing confusing or gentle about that.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A defiant New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vowing he will not resign.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I'm not going to resign because of allegations.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Four women have now come forward alleging inappropriate conduct from the governor.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With each day and each vaccination, the U.S. inches closer to winning the brutal battle against COVID-19.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, BIDEN'S CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER ON CORONAVIRUS: Although the cases are coming down very nicely, we've seen that that decline has now done this, essentially starting to plateau.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People can protect themselves. At some point we have to rely upon common sense and good judgment versus mandates.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: This very church in this courtyard ISIS used it as a firing range. You can still see the bullet holes behind me. Well, today Pope Francis is here. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world on this busy Sunday. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A heated standoff with huge implications is playing out right now in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo defiant in the face of new allegations of inappropriate conduct made by a third former staffer.


CUOMO: There are some legislators who suggest that I resign because of accusations that are made against me. I was elected by the people of the state. I wasn't elected by politicians. I'm not going to resign because of allegations. Anybody has the ability to make an allegation in democracy, and that's great. But it's in the credibility of the allegation. No, there is no way I resign.


BROWN: After Cuomo vowed to stay in office this afternoon, New York Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins broke with the governor in a statement, saying, "New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing a societal health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign."

New York state's assembly speaker added that he shares the sentiment about Cuomo's ability to lead right now. The backlash from top Democrats comes after a former Cuomo aide told the "Wall Street Journal" that the governor asked her if she had a boyfriend, called her sweetheart, touched her on her lower back at a reception and once kissed her hand once she rose from her desk.

I'm joined now by New York Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. She is a Democrat who is calling on Governor Cuomo to resign.

Assemblywoman, thanks so much for coming on. If Cuomo sticks to his gun and doesn't resign, is there enough support to impeach him?

YUH-LINE NIOU (D), NY STATE ASSEMBLYMEMBER: I don't know yet because we have not yet gone back into conference to talk to our colleagues. But both of our leaders have now called for his resignation. And so I believe that, you know, we do have the numbers.

BROWN: Do you think that he should be impeached and removed if he does not resign?

NIOU: So, an impeachment process is actually a trial and also an investigation. And I think that, you know, that will help to also shed some light on all of the things that he has done for all the rest of New York state. And I think that it's really important that that happens. And I think that, yes, I think that there are a lot of grounds for his impeachment. There's also a lot of grounds for his resignation. BROWN: So, Governor Cuomo, as you know, he will not resign, he says

today. He says democracy allows due process to play out and that judgment should be withheld until this is fully investigated by the AG. Does he have a point?

NIOU: I mean, I think that there is also the impeachment process which would also bring in an investigation and a trial as well. And, sure, you know, we should, you know, take on all of the things that the AG says. But you have to also remember that the AG has already released a report about the nursing home deaths that he has (INAUDIBLE).

BROWN: So it sounds like you at least want there to be an impeachment process to go forward, even though you're calling for his resignation. He's clearly not going to do that. You want the impeachment process to move forward. Would it be satisfying to you at all if he announces he isn't running for reelection next year? Would that be enough for you? Or do you want to see this impeachment move forward?


NIOU: I think that right now the question is whether or not he has the ability to be able to govern. And I think that right now if New Yorkers are not able to trust the numbers that he is delivering and not able to believe the things that he is saying, if we as the legislature cannot actually believe the numbers that he's putting out and actually trusting the guidance that he's putting forth, it makes it so that we can't do our jobs, and it makes it so that we are putting New Yorkers at risk.

BROWN: What do you see as most damaging to him right now? And have you heard from him? Would you be willing to talk with him about what's going on?

NIOU: I think that there are many, many different pieces to all of the things that are playing out. Right now we have the -- the fact that, you know, the immunity language was in the provisions that were put in to protect nursing homes and protect nursing home executives, that language actually we have to look into the finances of what is going on there because there could be possible pay-to-play.

The other thing is also the, you know, obviously the covering up and the hiding of 50 percent of the nursing home deaths. Right? There were 15,000 people who passed away and their families have not had a chance to have that closure because our governor tried to disappear them, and I think that it's really important that we know that, you know, these folks are people and that they should not just be disappeared.

They are New Yorkers. They are our people, too. And I think that it's so important that we are recognizing that and that we are actually holding him accountable for trying to disappear them and trying to not count them. And also at the same time trying to blindfold and handcuff the legislature from actually being able to prevent more deaths, and I think that that's really important to note. And then of course --

BROWN: I just really --


BROWN: Go ahead.

NIOU: Sorry, and the last thing also is his perpetual and, you know, constant abuse of power which has been shown throughout, and that includes of course the sexual harassment in the workplace and of course how he treats, you know, the people around him.

BROWN: And of course, he has apologized and he has said he never made -- he never intended for anyone to feel uncomfortable or that he touched anyone inappropriately.

I just really quickly want to go back to something you said. You said possible pay-to-play. I just want to make sure I understood correctly what you're talking about there.

NIOU: So we actually, you know, know that the immunity language was actually put in by Greater New York Hospital Association, and that language is word-for-word how the, you know, Greater New York Hospital Association wanted the language to be. And they are also a megadonor of Andrew Cuomo.

BROWN: Very quickly, last question. Do you feel afraid at all about speaking out? We've seen others who have been afraid to speak out. They only want to talk anonymously. Why do you think it's important to come on the show and to talk about this?

NIOU: I think that I used to be afraid often. I used to be afraid often, but I think that, you know, hearing from so many of the families who have lost their loved ones and also hearing from so many of the staff who were affected by Andrew Cuomo, I feel like this is not the time to be afraid of anything. These women were brave. These families were brave, and, you know, right now if I have the ability to speak up, then I should.

BROWN: All right, Yuh-Line Niou, thank you for coming on the show. We appreciate it.

NIOU: Thank you for having me, Pamela.

BROWN: A potentially dangerous weekend is in full swing across the country with events that could turn out to be coronavirus super spreaders. Last night police were called in to break up a huge gathering near the University of Colorado Boulder campus. Few people wore masks and there was no social distancing among the hundreds who gathered.

In Atlanta NBA All-Star weekend is drawing crowds even though they won't be allowed in to see tonight's game. The NBA has sent cease and desist letters to dozens of venues trying to cash in on the sports spectacular with fans. And in Daytona, Florida, the first weekend of bike week is drawing thousands of participants. And as you see here not a lot of masks going on there.

A little further south of Miami, spring break season has already -- is already under way. There are lots of signs about masks and social distancing. Will that be enough?

Joining me now is Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor and dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College Medicine.

Thanks so much, Dr. Hotez, for coming on. Always good to see you. Before we dive right in I want to start with something personal. Earlier this week you shared this tweet. You said, "This coming weekend Anne and I will visit our two oldest adult kids and their spouses. We have not seen them in 14 months. Guessing it will be pretty emotional."


So tell us about that. What has it been like for you to see your family finally after all this time?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE; Yes, guess what, Pamela? It was pretty emotional, you know, especially for my wife Anne. You know, I've been so consumed with COVID-19 activities between our vaccine and everything else that we're doing, you sort of lose track. But I think for Anne especially it's been really tough. So seeing our two oldest kids -- our two youngest live in Houston including our special needs daughter who lives with us.

But seeing the two oldest was really nice. 14 months is probably the longest it's ever been. It was also our first plane ride. My oldest son lives in Tucson. So we flew to Tucson. And that -- you know, the last time I flew was in March 5th to give congressional testimony to the House Science Committee. So a full year without flying, that was pretty odd also. And I have to say the airlines did a pretty good job at maximizing the -- or reducing as best they could the risk to infection.

BROWN: Well, I'm so glad that you finally got to see your family. I know I'm looking forward to seeing my dad hopefully next month. I haven't seen him in a year and it is an emotional thing. We're at this stage right now in this pandemic where I think we can see the finish line and some people want to already be across that finish line even though we're not exactly there yet, and there's still this open question about opening schools, what should be done, right?

In Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order requiring all schools statewide to reopen for in-person learning by March 15th or after spring break. Students will be still given the option to continue virtual learning, but that may be mean that all teachers may not be vaccinated by that time. Do you think that is the right move?

HOTEZ: Well, I think it's really important that we at least begin the process of vaccinating the teachers. You know, when things started last year we heard, you know, there was this philosophy that we did not need to vaccinate teachers in order to open schools, and teachers did this at great peril. Things according to someone well, although there was never a full accounting of what the impact of COVID-19 was in terms of teachers and staff and we heard different reports on the number of teachers who lost their lives with schools reopening. So I'd push pretty hard on the Biden administration to at least begin

the process of vaccinating teachers. One, because -- and staff, one to protect them and keep them safe, but also to reaffirm their importance to society. There was this kind of undercurrent saying well, you know, we don't need to vaccinate teachers. And I think it was really important for teachers to hear that they are highly valued members of society. And the president gave a very important speech about a week and a half ago that reaffirmed that. So I was really glad to see that.

So it's going to be hard, Pamela, because as we've been talking about we now have this B.1.1.7 variant and we saw how quickly it accelerated in the United Kingdom, you know, in September when it appeared that it went to overtaking the country, the nation by December and now it's really revving up in Florida. We have some new information about Texas.

So I am quite worried about that B.1.1.7 variant, and we still don't have the full motherlode or full amount of vaccines available here yet. So we'd be in a much better place over the summer. But now we're in this very aggressive race to vaccinate ahead of the variant.

BROWN: Yes, 30 million Americans have been vaccinated, around two million a day, but you have these variants rapidly spreading. So we're not out of the woods yet as they say.

Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you so much for coming on. Again, so glad that you were able to spend some time with your family this weekend.

HOTEZ: Thanks so much, Pamela. Appreciate it.

BROWN: And stay with us, Dr. Hotez isn't the only one who has had a long awaited reunion with family. These sisters finally got to see each other after more than a year apart to get their COVID vaccine. We have got their story later in the hour.

Plus we are following breaking news. A State Department spokesperson tells me tonight that Russia is deliberately undermining confidence in America's coronavirus vaccines.

Also tonight.

Pope Francis gets a hero's welcome from Christians in an Iraqi town devastated by ISIS just a few years ago.

But first, House majority whip Jim Clyburn is standing by. It is 56 years since Bloody Sunday but the fight for voting rights is as fresh as ever today. We'll be right back.



BROWN: Today is a day of huge significance for America's civil rights struggle. This is the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. The infamous march in Selma, Alabama. A march that was led by the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. This morning President Biden honored the day like this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also urge Congress to fully restore is Voting Rights Act named in John Lewis' honor. Today on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday I'm signing an executive order to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting.


BROWN: More on the never-ending battle over voting rights in just a minute. But first we have to mention that because of the pandemic this is the first time in 56 years that people weren't able to walk en masse across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Instead virtual events commemorated what happened on March 7th, 1965 when activists were brutally attacked by Alabama state troopers.

And there's one more very significant difference this year. It is the first time in 56 years we can't check in with John Lewis who led the march on that fateful day.


An early example of the good trouble he was always getting into. Throughout his illustrious life and even upon his death last July, Lewis returned again and again to cross that bridge in Selma.

Joining me to talk about the enduring lessons of his longtime friend John Lewis, Bloody Sunday and America's ongoing racial reckoning, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn.

Congressman, nice to have you on.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Thank you very much for having me.

BROWN: Well, in addition to John Lewis, we've lost a lot of civil rights icons in the past year. Reverend Joseph Lowery, Reverend C.T. Vivian, attorney Bruce Boynton, leaving behind a huge void. As we reflect on Bloody Sunday today how far do you think we've come on the issue of voting rights since?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, in our society things go like dependent on a clock, it goes right, back left, back right again. And I think that what we've experienced in recent years is a country moving back to the right. We've moved to the left when we passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

And we moved far to the right eight years ago when the Supreme Court virtually gutted the most precious part of that act when they got rid of the formula out of Section 4 rendering preclearance nullified. And so I think that what we are doing now with this president is moving the country back to the left again.

And I applaud the president for signing the executive order today, bringing attention to the fact that the Voting Rights Act is under threat. And we've seen it in state after state, legislatures are now creating onerous laws that would make it virtually impossible for people to vote unfettered.

It's one thing they say that you vote, you've got the right to vote. It's something else to have the vote available to you in an efficient and effective way. And what we're seeing now are chips in state after state to make it harder for people to vote and in some instances taking the vote away by not counting it.

BROWN: So let's talk about that because more than 250 bills in 43 states are seeking to do things like scale back access to mail-in ballots. In Georgia a bill has passed the statehouse and is likely to pass the Senate making it a crime to hand out food and drinks to people waiting in long voter lines. And the bills cut back on early voting on Sunday. "Souls to the Polls" has been a hallmark effort to get out the black vote.

Do you think this is discrimination effort against black voters in Georgia?

CLYBURN: Black and brown voters as well. Working people as well. Election day is not a national holiday in this country, and there are many places where people do not get off from work or are not able to get off from work in order to vote. In a lot of countries voting is on Saturdays and Sundays. We always ask them the question, why Tuesday in this country? We know why voting was put on a Tuesday. And we have kept it there.

That in and of itself is discriminatory to working men and women. And that to me is ridiculous. We know what these laws are doing. We know what these states are doing. We need to move to make sure that we do not allow voting to be filibustered like we see in so many other instances.

Voting to me ought to be filibuster-free just like we arranged for the budget to go forward under reconciliation, civil rights laws, and voting rights laws ought to be subject to reconciliation efforts as well.

So I've been calling for us to have a new rule, whatever you want to call it, name it after a senator, Senator Warnock for instance and Senator Booker. Have a new rule that says we will not allow civil rights and voting rights to be filibustered as it was in the '30s, '40s and '50s.

BROWN: So you're saying that it would be catastrophic for the filibuster to end up denying voting rights, but we know President Biden as of now is not in favor of getting rid of that. And then you have the more centrist Democrats like Joe Manchin as well who has said that he wouldn't want to get rid of it. So what would be your plan in that regard then?

CLYBURN: Well, as I said, we allow for the bird rule to move a budget without the filibuster, absent the filibuster.


Maybe it's time for Senator Manchin, I would hope, I know him very well. I like him. But I really believe it would be catastrophic for him to allow the filibuster to be used in 2021 the way Strom Thurman used it back in 1957 when he set the filibuster record against the Civil Rights Act on 1957. And if you allow that, you're saying that people who do not wish for their vote to be unfettered ought to be able to have their way with the United States Senate.

That is just not going to be allowed with this party, and I would hope that all senators, Democrat and Republican, will recognize there's a difference between extending debate and denying constitutional rights.

BROWN: All right, Congressman James Clyburn, thank you for coming on the show.

CLYBURN: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, the pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives especially for our children. The isolation from friends and school, the stress of a parent losing a job or losing a family member to the virus, it has all taken a toll on their mental health.

And coming up, the story of a single mother who nearly host her daughter to suicide, and the message she has for other parents tonight. We'll be back.



BROWN: It is already an unthinkable number, nearly 525,000 American lives lost to COVID since the pandemic started, but there is another number we aren't counting: lives lost to suicide during the same period.

The C.D.C. doesn't have accurate statistics yet for suicides in 2020 or 2021, but anecdotal evidence tells us the problem has become more severe during COVID especially for younger Americans.

I spoke with a mother who nearly lost her own daughter to suicide after she struggled with isolation and being out of school.

Here's her story.


BROWN (voice over): Single mother, Becky Phillips says her daughter had struggled with anxiety and depression for years, but it dramatically worsened during the pandemic.

BECKY PHILLIPS, DAUGHTER SURVIVED SUICIDE ATTEMPT: She kind of shut me out and you know, would just be in her room alone and cry and she is very anxious about everything.

BROWN (voice over): Then one day in January, Becky's motherly instincts kicked in that something wasn't right after she left the house and couldn't reach her daughter, she had attempted suicide.

PHILLIPS: So I tried to text her back and her phone was turned off. So I just immediately knew. Something in me, told me exactly what was going on.

BROWN (voice over): A study published recently in the "American Academy of Pediatrics Journal" described higher rates of suicide ideation and attempts among young people early in 2020, during the pandemic, than in the same period in 2019.

VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER SURGEON GENERAL: The rise in depression and anxiety and suicide that we've seen during this pandemic have been staggering and deeply concerning because even before the pandemic, we were struggling with a very, very high rate of mental illness, including among our children.

BROWN (voice over): While there's no data yet that definitively links the pandemic with the sudden rise in suicidal thinking, parents like Becky think isolation during the pandemic, including the isolation of online learning is a major factor.

PHILLIPS: She had always gotten really great grades. And then after all of this, her grades just plummeted. I really had to help her a lot just to get her to pass her sophomore year at the end of the year, last year. You know, and she had done so well before.

So the stress of the school, the online school and not being able to see her friends, not being able to go anywhere. It was just really, really tough for her.

BROWN: Dr. John Campo, Director of Mental Health for the Johns Hopkins Children's Center says the pandemic is amplifying an issue that has been worsening for years.

DR. JOHN CAMPO, DIRECTOR OF MENTAL HEALTH, JOHNS HOPKINS CHILDREN'S CENTER: The pandemic is forcing us to look and say, my goodness, if we knew that there was a disorder that was killing, literally thousands of young people every year, multiples of what COVID has done, oh my goodness, we'd be paying attention to that from the public health perspective.

And the reality is, our healthcare system hasn't really been built to do that.

BROWN (voice over): And because of that, Dr. Campo says many emergency rooms don't have the resources to help the kids and their parents deal with the longer-term care needed in the aftermath of a suicide.

CAMPO: For the most part, most emergency departments are not very sophisticated, don't have access to specialized mental health services.

Mental Health Services are reimbursed at much lower rates than other traditional health problems, and it creates barriers to us doing the right thing and providing these kids and families with the good care they deserve. BROWN (voice over): Becky's daughter survived the suicide attempt, but

finding help after leaving the ER has been difficult.

PHILLIPS: Doing a therapy session on Zoom, she just can't do it. She can't open up. So just to find a doctor that accepts Medicaid is hard enough, but to find one that will meet her in person, I haven't found one yet.

So it's incredibly difficult.

BROWN (voice over): Sean Perry's company We R H.O.P.E provides life coaching sessions to school kids struggling with anxiety. He says the best approach is to listen to them and allow them to figure out how to work through their own anxiety.

SEAN PERRY, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, WE R H.O.P.E.: One of the things that we really find is that children are feeling hopeless and alone and that it's harder oftentimes, virtually. Then with some children, we find that they prefer not to even be back in the school because being home actually reduces their anxiety, their social anxieties that they're currently struggling with.


BROWN (voice over): Millions of students across the U.S. are still out of the classroom after nearly a year.

Nevada's Clark County School District opened back up to small groups of students on a voluntary basis after a startling rise in suicides. Since it closed in March of last year, 19 students died by suicide; the year before, there were nine.

PHILLIPS: I just feel like there's no end in sight.

BROWN (voice over): Becky says while parents wait for high schools to open, they should look out for signs and talk to their kids no matter what.

PHILLIPS: We need to figure out a way to give them some sort of hope that there's going to be an end to this and their lives are going to go back to normal and we just need to support them through it.


BROWN: And if you or someone you know is struggling, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The number is right there on your screen. There are counselors staffed 24/7, it is free and confidential. So please do not hesitate to call if need be.

And our thanks to Becky for talking with me for this very important story.

Meantime tonight, Pope Francis called for Iraqi Christians to return home and rebuild the town decimated by ISIS militants not long ago. More on his historic visit up next.



BROWN: Well, more Americans than ever now say they're willing to get the COVID vaccine, but tonight, we're learning that Russia is actively working to change that.

A State Department spokesperson tells me that Russian Intelligence is using online publications in a campaign to undermine confidence in the safety of U.S. vaccines. Those publications are called News Front, New Eastern Outlook and Oriental Review, and according to the spokesperson, they each spread many types of disinformation, including about both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and any divisive issue that they can exploit.

A Kremlin spokesman denied these allegations in a phone call with "The Wall Street Journal." And to be crystal clear, all three vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S. have been proven safe and effective by the C.D.C. and F.D.A.

Since beginning his historic trip to Iraq, Pope Francis has met with Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and visited the ancient city of Ur in Southern Iraq.

Today, the 84-year-old, the first pontiff to ever visit Iraq led prayers in Mosul. Once a bustling city in northern Iraq, it was reduced to rubble by ISIS. CNN's Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher has been traveling with the Pope -- Delia.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Pam, we are here in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, northern Iraq. This is the largest Christian city in the country, one which was devastated by the ISIS occupation.

In fact, in this very church, in this courtyard, ISIS used it as a firing range, you can still see the bullet holes behind me. Well today, Pope Francis is here, here to greet the Christians that are here, many of them lost loved ones or had to flee because of the fighting.

The Pope's message to them is to come back to stay and to rebuild. And it's his message to the Iraqi authorities as well to help make that possible.

Earlier in the day, he was in Mosul. Mosul, which was the de facto headquarters for ISIS for two years today became a sort of headquarters for Pope Francis, where he offered a prayer for the victims of war, a poignant moment on this trip which has had many of them that image of the Pope offering a prayer for peace amidst this still visible signs of destruction wrought by ISIS.

And Pam, this is the Pope's final full day in Iraq. It's been called a historic trip. It was one going in with a lot of concerns about security, about COVID. But the Pope was determined and the Iraqis have welcomed him every step of the way -- Pam. BROWN: Thanks to Delia. And up next on this Sunday evening, four

sisters who haven't seen each other in a year finally reunite to get their COVID vaccine.

And Italian food in Milan takes on a whole new meaning. I speak to Stanley Tucci about risotto, polenta and the essential post work drink.



BROWN: Well, some New Jersey sisters have a story to tell, thanks to the coronavirus vaccine.

Last week, four of the Langley sisters got their second shots together. The women have not been able to be with each other for about a year because the pandemic put a stop to their monthly lunches.

The four ladies are 84 to 97 years old and they will wait a few weeks before they meet up again. High on their to-do list, long overdue hair appointments. Very happy for them.

Meantime, Milan is Italy's second biggest city. One of the fashion capitals of the world. And Stanley Tucci shows us in this week "Searching for Italy," it is becoming a culinary mecca as well.


STANLEY TUCCI, CNN HOST: What are you making?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Polenta and what we do and this is a recipe of the house, I don't know where it comes from, we put in the water a piece of garlic. It will leave a flavor.

TUCCI: Yes, it's nice. Yes. But you know a lot about the food Lombardy in this area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Polenta in the ancient time, it was like the bread. You eat it warm with meat if you're lucky, or you would eat it with cheese or you would eat it just with butter or my favorite dish as a child was polenta. Warm polenta and cold meal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know people from south of Italy call us from northern Italy polentoni because of the polenta, yes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Usually your company will choose and in this case we have brasato, raised with wine, onion, carrots, celery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been cooked for like hours and hours. It really looks --

TUCCI: My God, it just falls apart.


BROWN: I had a chance to talk to Stanley recently about his visit to Milan and what makes Italy's northern region unique.


TUCCI: The thing about the North is, okay, again, the climate is so distinctly different from the south because Italy runs from the Alps, excuse me, from the Alps, down to 70 miles off the Coast of Africa, in this very long, narrow peninsula.

Therefore, the ability to create incredibly diverse cuisine exists naturally. So when you're up north, you're not going to have a lot of pasta, you're going to have more rice. You're going to have polenta, cornmeal, both white and yellow and you're going to have buckwheat.

Buckwheat flour is going to be used a good portion of the time. The cheeses are going to be completely different, your houses are going to be built differently.

People always think of Italy as is very sort of sunny everything. You know, it's always sunny and it's -- you know, you're on the Amalfi Coast and blah, blah, blah.

But no, I mean, a huge portion of Italy is in the north, and as you said has influences from Germany, from Austria, from Yugoslavia, of what was Yugoslavia and then from France, as you go further west, from France and from Spain.

But particularly in that area, you're going to have -- the dialects are going to be distinctly different because they're -- people sound much more German or Austrian than they do Italian.

BROWN: As we know, Milan is also home to aperitivo, an after work cocktail served with a light snack. Your social media cocktail tutorials have been quite popular during the pandemic. Tell us more about the aperitivos in Milan.

TUCCI: Yes, well, that's where the aperitivo was invented. And I guess the Negroni being one of the -- maybe the most ubiquitous. It's an amazing city, Milan. It's really -- I suppose in some ways now, it's the most international city in Italy because it is at a crossroads and so close to so many different European countries.

But they have a thing in Milan, where Americans do it at five, but Italians do it at seven. That's the time you have your aperitivo and you are always served some sort of snack, salami, prosciutto, mortadella, some breadsticks, something like that and a little bit of cheese. When you order a drink, that's what you get.


BROWN: And that is making me hungry. You can watch this brand new episode of "Searching for Italy" tonight at nine Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.

Well, this year marks the 15th anniversary of the CNN Heroes Campaign. And this week we are introducing the first CNN Hero of 2021.

Lynda Doughty grew up in Maine and developed a passion for its marine mammals. So when government funding vanished, and organizations working to protect the animals closed their doors, she dove in to fill the gap, meet the seal rescuer.


LYNDA DOUGHTY, SEAL RESCUER: When we see a seal, it is really bittersweet, and as much as I'm excited to see that animal be released, it's also hard in the sense of seeing the animal now gone.

You guys know that you're going back to the ocean.

So any seal that we rescue, the ultimate goal is for that animal to be released back into the ocean.

Oh, I feel this intense responsibility to help these animals, and really, this is what I was put on this earth to do.


BROWN: To see the threats to the seals and how Lynda helps and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero, go to right now.

And don't forget that you Tweet me @PamelaBrownCNN and follow me on Instagram.


BROWN: Thank you so much for joining me on this Sunday evening really appreciate it. I'm Pamela Brown and I'll see you again next weekend. Have a great night.