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Queen Saddened in First Response on Harry and Meghan Interview; CNN Reports, White House Discussed Including Travel Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People in CDC Guidelines, But Decided Against; Final Vote on Historic COVID Relief Bill Expected Tomorrow. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired March 9, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: He's not in control of this. President Trump has a pretty big megaphone here, so we'll see.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Even though if he can win the fight, but it seems every day, he seems to be enjoying. Anyway, we'll see as it goes forward. Jeff Zeleny, I appreciate it very much, grateful for your time too.

Stay with us, a very busy news day. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, I'm Brianna Keilar.

Breaking right now in England, after sustained calls to respond to Harry and Meghan's explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, where they unveiled multiple allegations of neglect and racist treatment outside and inside the royal palace, Buckingham Palace has just put out a statement saying that it is saddened by what has transpired.

With me now is CNN Royal Commentator Kate Williams and CNN Royal Correspondent Max Foster in London for us with the queen's statement.

Max, to you first, tell us about the reaction here.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the statement from Buckingham Palace, this on behalf of her majesty, the queen, who is at Windsor Castle where I am.

Let's just take you through the statement. The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. So they are learning about this. I think this is contradiction in part to what Harry and Meghan were telling, which is that they have been having these conversations for some time.

The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. So they are accepting there is an issue here in terms of some of the racism claims, but they are suggesting that the recollections of those conversations differ.

So they've obviously spoken to the person in the family or on the aides' side of what they thought happened, and it doesn't match up, effectively, with what Harry has been telling Oprah Winfrey in the U.S. They are pointing out that Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved members of the family.

Just to take you through some other points as well, in terms of background, speaking to royal sources, and they're saying, at the heart of this is a family, and they should be given the opportunity to discuss issues raised privately as a family. I think that is a suggestion that these issues shouldn't be discussed in front of the world media in such a high-profile way. And let's face it, this interview could not have been more high-profile or hyped.

Now, it's been important for us to carefully consider this, is what I'm being told by the sources. They're talking about timing here. And what we're talking about is the fact that this interview was broadcast in the U.K. last night. It was in the U.S. on Sunday night. But they wanted people to have a chance to look at the interview and make up their own minds before the palace came in with a statement. That's effectively what I'm being told.

And they're talking about these key issues which have so concerned the world, really, in the light of this interview. Diversity and equality inclusion, mental health, they're all important issues, I'm being told by my source, and highlighting that has been part of the work of members of the royal family for many years. So they are concerned that the work of the royal family, the work of the monarchy could be undermined by these claims.

So whilst this is a quite conciliatory statement, it's also very strong, very bold, and it's answering back really to what Meghan and Harry told Oprah.

KEILAR: Thank you, Max, so much for that.

Kate, what do you think of this statement?

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's very short. We were expecting a statement. But what we see, it's very short. And I think I was quite struck by this point that we will deal with it privately.

Because what we saw in the interview, Harry and Meghan were saying, this -- we're dealing with things privately within the family when it wasn't working, Harry was saying that Charles stopped taking his calls when they discussing the exit and he obviously has seen as a lot of distance still there.

He was talking about the distance with everyone apart from the queen. And there seem to have been revelations come later on CBS that he was -- in terms he's spent time with senior roles, including her majest, around the exit, this didn't happen. So what Harry and Meghan really painted a picture was a family which is also a business in which things were not dealt with as a family and people were told things and they were told just to get on with it. So this is one question I think we have is how Harry and Meghan suggested things have not been dealt with well privately before.

It's very striking though, there are no denials here. There's no one saying that they were wrong to say it. No one gave Meghan help about here severe mental health crisis. So there were no specific denials here.

And I think, obviously, Harry and Meghan would say, well, we told you. We told you we were desperate. We told you that Meghan was suffering a severe mental crisis and nothing was done. So it seems quite interesting that the royal family have really suggested by saying, we now understand the full extent of what they were challenged by, that they didn't know.

So this video, I think, as Max said, a very strong statement and it really suggests most of all is we're not going to hear anything else. So, of course, where there were claims of bullying against Meghan in the newspaper, immediately, we're told there's going to be an investigation.


It does not seem there's going to be any investigation into -- Meghan wasn't just talking about members of the royal family, she was also talking about members of the staff. There didn't seem to be any questions raised that way. That what's the statement is saying. And also I think that this is saying we're not going to hear anything else more from the palace about it.

And I'm not sure that that's going to be enough for many of the audience who have felt so strongly for Harry and Meghan and particularly for Meghan's sufferings and for this question of racism and the question of Archie's title which still, I have to say, I don't think is very clear whether or not when Charles as king, Archie will have a title or not.

KEILAR: Yes. And that's certainly something that is going to be watched very carefully and is going to, quite frankly, have to be resolved by the royal family. And we'll see if they sort of stick with their way that they normally do, which is to proceed as they want, or if they're going to understand perhaps what a lot of folks are saying about taking that title away from Archie in a way that would be different than, say, other children would be treated, and certainly at least the perceptions of what that is and how that can become reality.

Max, I want to zero in on this one part of the statement that you also highlighted this. While some recollections may vary, it seems like a very, albeit, death way of saying, we disagree, the perception of Harry and Meghan when it comes to either racism or the mental health aspect of it that she was clearly in crisis, they did not experience it in the way that Harry and Meghan did. And yet in these issues of someone being in a mental health crisis, being suicidal, anyone who has been on -- having experienced a loved one like that will frequently tell you they didn't realize how serious it was, that's why it's so important to pay attention if someone is sounding the alarm.

And then on the issue of racism, it is also not unusual that they might be oblivious to the impact of some of the things that were said to Harry and then passed on to Meghan.

FOSTER: Yes, I mean, you could read, as always, this statement in different ways. But the way I ultimately took that, this was -- in terms of the recollections, they're talking specifically about the conversations that Harry was talking about in terms of skin color with someone else in the firm, so we're receiving that, a member of the royal family.

So who was the other person in that conversation? They know, we do not know, they have a different recollection of that conversation. So they're directly challenging, really, Harry's narrative there.

I think the other thing that stands out to me here is that they're saying they're saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for the couple. That also undermines the narrative, because, fundamentally, what Harry and Meghan were saying is we had these major concerns about suicidal thoughts, mental health issue we're talking about there in and race.

We made it clear to the firm, the family and all the aides about those concerns. And they didn't act so we were forced out. So that does contradict what Harry and Meghan were saying in the interview.

So what happens now, either they had a conversation with Harry and Meghan behind the scenes saying, we're going to sort this out privately, or I'm going to contact the Sussex side later on and they're going to come back on it, because they have a very clear view of how they saw things play out, and they decided to do it in the public forum.

KEILAR: Kate, what do you make of that part, we're saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been? I mean, the fact that Meghan and Harry stepped away from their work, the fact they left Britain, I mean, how was the palace not understanding the full extent of what prompted these two people to take this extraordinary step?

WILLIAMS: Well, this is question, isn't it, that Meghan made it very clear that she had spoken about her mental health crises and they particularly made it very clear that they have spoken again and again, begging people within the household to, as Harry put it, call off the dogs, stop the sexist, racist tabloid coverage, the coverage that was so cruel to Meghan, to stop this coverage, and they were told they couldn't. And also Harry and Meghan said there were also lies being spun to protect other members of the palace.

So, Harry and Meghan say they said this again and again that Meghan even went to H.R. and everything that you do with H.R. should always be recorded, that's how H.R. works, to discuss her mental crisis and there was no help for her.

So I think this is really the key question. And when Princess Diana was in the royal family, of course, she felt distant.


There was no one to talk t., there was no one to ask. And we thought it would change. But there was a very striking moment, wasn't there, when Meghan said that when she heard about the duke of Edinburgh going into a hospital, she just picked the phone called up the queen. And that was what she felt she could do now because she was out of the royal family. Within it, she felt that she would be perhaps blocked, I think, by aides and would not be able to speak.

And over and over again, they came to this image of distance. And I think what we're asking if this is going to be sorted out privately, who by? Because, clearly, Harry and Charles, it was made obvious by Harry, this distance, the calls aren't being (INAUDIBLE) and it's still very difficult. So, are they going to have a meeting? Are they going to have conversations?

And I think that we don't expect, as Max was saying, Buckingham Palace to say anything, but we do expect the Sussex side to come back on this, because these are severe allegations. And I think we were all expecting them to be answered.

And another thing I just sort of -- it would have been perhaps nice to mention that there was a gender reveal going on in the interview about the new little girl coming in the summer that was Harry, Meghan, Archie and the little girl to come will always be members of our family.

So I think that this statement has always been discussed for a long time. We understand there's been a lot of meetings about this, very high-levels, but I'm not sure it answers all the questions. And I think that many people will say, Harry and Meghan were sort of left adrift, and this statement is not sorting that out.

KEILAR: No. Maybe we'll see, maybe it's a first step. Kate, thank you so much. Max, thank you to you as well.

Harry and Meghan's interview, once again, has put the spotlight on race in the U.K., but it also puts white privilege under the microscope, especially in interracial relationships and families.

Carolyn Copeland is a Copy Editor and Staff Reporter at Prism. She covers racial justice and culture.

And you have talked about this. Like Meghan, you are biracial. You have previously publicly shared that you have been on the receiving end of unfair treatment by your relatives, namely your white maternal grandparents. It's really tremendous. I would tell people to check out what you've written. It's very important to read. When you watch that interview, you know, what did that evoke for you? What were the moments where you heard things and said, yes, I connect with that?

CAROLYN COPELAND, COPY EDITOR AND STAFF REPORTER, PRISM: Well, first, thanks for having me. But one of the biggest things or the biggest moments that really stuck out to me was when Harry was talking about how he lives in this bubble, or used to live in a bubble and how he didn't really recognize the institutional racism within his family and this institution that he grew up with until he brought Meghan in. And then he started to see, he said, really quickly how race became a factor for their relationship and their marriage.

And it really just speaks to how often people don't realize their own families are racist until they bring a person of color home. Because there are so many people out there who are perfectly fine with black people or people of color when they're over there. But as soon as had he come into your house and you realize that they may actually become a part of your family, it becomes a whole different dynamic and people really have to come to terms with that.

And I think Harry did exactly what a person should do in that situation. He took the claims seriously, he didn't defend his family or deny it, and he took his wife and he got them out of that situation, and then he called them out for it.

KEILAR: And you've talked about that. I want to know when you see -- you've heard the statement, I think, from the royal family here. They say the whole family is saddened to learn the extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues particularly that of race are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.

What did you make of this statement?

COPELAND: Well, I don't buy it for a minute. I think that the policies and damage control, they know how serious these allegations are, and they also know how believable they are. It's not uncommon or unbelievable that the very first woman of color ever in the royal family would have problems with colorism or racism. It's not unthinkable that that would happen.

So, yes, I don't buy for a second that this is the first time they've heard about this or that they've heard and though the extent of the damage that was caused to her, enough that she wanted to take her own life, enough that she wanted to leave and flee to another country. It's just damage control.

And I think that even though it seems like they are coming out with this statement that, okay, we're going to handle it internally, no. I think they need to actually come out with how they're handling it. And I hope -- I hope that Meghan and Harry will force them to come out with a statement or that they will follow up with a statement about how it's being handled or whether it's actually being handled at all.

KEILAR: Carolyn, thank you so much. I really enjoyed your writing and it's great to get your perspective on this, Carolyn Copeland.


COPELAND: Thank you.

KEILAR: As Congress gets ready to pass President Biden's COVID relief bill, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham calls the aid in it to black farmers reparations. A farmer will join me live to respond.

Plus, as the debate continues over the CDC's guidelines for those who were vaccinated, CNN is learning what the Biden administration left out.

And President Biden facing a big test as the number of migrants are surging on the border right now. This includes children and a scarcity of beds.


KEILAR: The CDC is sparking a debate about what you can and cannot do once you're vaccinated, from hugging your grandchild to going to a concert.


And we're now learning what the Biden administration decided to include in this guidance. Sources telling CNN federal health officials discussed loosening travel restrictions, but the conversation ended up going nowhere. Right now, coronavirus infections are dropping as the vaccinations rise, but the CDC still wants Americans to delay domestic and international travel.

The struggling airline industry is fighting back as travel spikes during spring break. The group, Airlines for America, says flying is safe because of a mandatory mask rule and because of heavily filtered air.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House for us on this. What more do we know about this decision, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it didn't seem to have a lot of momentum behind it, really, Brianna. It's not like they came close to changing the travel guidelines right now and then backed out at the last minute.

What we are picking up from sources and two of them familiar with what was going on in these discussions is that, yes, it was discussed, they talked about it, it was an option, but it never seemed like it was actually going to seriously be considered for this guidance that we got from the CDC.

And so that's why you heard the CDC director say pretty clearly yesterday, they are not going to changing the guidance and it's recommended Americans do not travel at this time. And, of course, that has raised a lot of questions. You were saying it's prompted some complaints from the airline industry who were hoping to get people back on planes, pointing to the lack of spread on those planes, but also you've heard from other health officials saying that this is something that could incentivize people to actually get the coronavirus vaccine.

They are seeing that fully vaccinated people are now being not only recommended but encouraged to travel. That is something that could drive people to get the vaccine. And we know vaccine hesitancy has been a really big aspect that this administration has been talking about.

But when we were going through what are the reasons for not actually changing the travel guidance, what I heard from several people was, one, what you just pointed to, spring break and those trips coming up because there is a concern that people would really abuse that and basically see it as a pass for everyone to get on a plane and go somewhere, and that is something that the White House and federal government doesn't want to encourage at this time.

But there are also other questions as well with what that's going to look like, not just with spring break, but also the idea that once you do change that guidance, you can't really go back from that. So that's the other question that they had been and had under consideration.

Now, whether that changes given the pushback that they are getting, it still remains to be seen, but at this time, it doesn't seem to be something that's on the horizon for the White House right now.

KEILAR: All right. Kaitlan, thank you so much for that, Kaitlan Collins live for us at the White House.

The president's rescue plan from the pandemic is now back in the hands of the House of Representatives. It is expected that lawmakers will give the final vote of approval on the nearly $2 trillion package tomorrow. And when the president officially signs it into law, the massive wide-ranging bill will become one of America's most significant pieces of anti-poverty legislation.

As his signature law enters the history books, what will President Biden prioritize next?

CNN Political Director David Chalian is with us here on this story.

Okay, David, before you tick through the possibilities here, I do want to ask that, for this COVID relief package, are any Republicans open to joining Democrats and is Joe Biden going to try to bring any of them along on other priorities that he will have in the future considering this may be a model with how they have reacted with the COVID bill?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It doesn't appear any Republicans are on board with joining Democrats in this final vote in the House. Remember, Brianna, we've already seen the House vote initially on this bill and not a single Republican came on board, voted in the Senate, passed there without a single Republican vote. It will be a big surprise if some Republicans decide to have some come over in this final vote in the House. I wouldn't expect that. It seems this bill is going to pass and get to the president's desk with Democratic votes only, which by the way, how huge this bill is, Brianna, this is still priority number one. We're going to take on some other priorities.

But even after this bill gets signed, Brianna, priority number one for Joe Biden is going to be selling the aspects of this bill, the individual components that are quite popular. He's not just going to be done with this. For months to come, he's going to talk about this and he's also going to make sure to keep crushing the virus as priority number one, because without that, not much of these things will get done.

But here are some of the other areas we expect the Biden administration to focus on in the coming weeks and months, infrastructure and climate. I put those together because if, indeed, an infrastructure bill does come to pass, if it is bipartisan, Brianna, as well, you're going to see some of the most aggressive climate change policies put in place as a part of that, sort of a green jobs kind of package there.

Also you're going to see immigration front and center. You saw the Biden administration send an immigration overhaul bill up to Congress. The prospects of that bill getting through the Senate seemed rather uncertain right now, Brianna, but as you just noted, before, sometimes an issue like immigration, it comes to the president's desk even if he isn't ready to fully prioritize it because you saw the crisis that's growing at the border.


Racial equity is going be a huge component of what we're going to see, especially some of those police reforms that we saw getting through the House. How does the Biden build on that?

Voting rights, same issue, that the HR-1 bill, all those voting aspects that the House Democrats have pushed through, is that going to be able to get through the Senate? Uncertain. How does Biden push that forward?

Health care, you saw on the campaign trail, Joe Biden promised adding a public option basically to the Obamacare system. That is going to be a priority for the Biden administration coming up as well, Brianna.

KEILAR: Wow. I'm looking at that list and it looks like what isn't going to go, right, what isn't going to, because there's so much there. David, thank you so much for taking us through that.


KEILAR: Also included in the massive COVID relief bill, $5 million in assistance to black farmers. Advocates say that this move is historic and they say it's overdue. If the bill is approved, the money will go toward paying off the debt of disadvantaged black farmers. It will also fund a racial equity commission at the USDA to address long- existing discrimination in the department.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has another name though for the assistance, reparations.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Let me give you an example of something that really bothers me. In this bill, if you're a farmer, your loan will be forgiven 120 percent of your loan, not 100 percent but 120 percent of your loan if you're socially disadvantaged, if you're African-American, some other minority, but if you're a white person, if you're a white woman, no forgiveness, as reparations. What does that got to do with COVID?

God help us all if we don't check and balance them in 2022.


KEILAR: Let's talk now with John Boyd Jr. He's a fourth generation farmer and the founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association.

John, I know that this has been a fight that you have been fighting for decades, trying to get fair treatment from the USDA, taking part in several lawsuits. What is your reaction to what Senator Graham said?

All right, I'm so sorry. Unfortunately, we have lost John there. We're going to try to get him back up, because this is such an important story that we are going to be following. Of course, as we mentioned, there is $5 billion in the COVID relief bill for black farmers, so we'll be touching upon that in just a moment.

After Republicans lost the election, more states have been making it harder to vote. Hear what Iowa just made law.

Plus, we'll have more in our breaking news. The queen has issued her first response on the explosive interview from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.