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Queen Releases Response to Meghan and Harry Interview; Interview with McAllen, Texas Mayor Jim Darling; CDC Not Encouraging Travel for Vaccinated Individuals. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 9, 2021 - 14:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: -- or the mental health crisis that Meghan were -- do we have a sense of that?

FOSTER: That is -- well, we don't. It's just I think they clearly had some sense of those issues, but not the full extent. So when Meghan talks about suicidal thoughts for example, maybe they didn't know that it went to that extent.

They say that at the heart of this -- sources told me -- the heart of this, they should be given the opportunity to discuss the issues raised privately as a family, so I think that's also a message saying, come on guys, let's talk about this between ourselves, we don't have to do this on television.

KEILAR: And I wonder, Sally, what stands out to you in this statement.

SALLY BEDELL SMITH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's very measured, it's very typical of the queen. She was given the statement yesterday, she decided to let -- first of all, allow the British people to watch the interview last night. And -- but she is a very measured, very moderate person. And I think she wanted to lower the temperature.

She's a tolerant person, and she doesn't jump into decisions with (INAUDIBLE), she wants to gather information and as Max pointed out, she wants to do it primarily within the family, while knowing that the implications of the issue of race go -- far transcend the family.

But it -- to me, it was very much, I think, between the lines, it was a message asking for some forbearance. Her husband since 1947, the duke of Edinburgh, is in the hospital and has been for nearly a month. And there's been a lot of -- you know, a lot of heat around this -- you know, this really explosive interview.

And one of her qualities is to bring a note of -- you know, a note of caution and let's gather the facts. And I think it also is important that she said that we need to do this as a family, and issues like the suicidal thoughts and Meghan saying that she took her mental health problems to people in the household, I think, you know, these are -- there are so many things in this interview that call for a very careful (INAUDIBLE) and fact-gathering, really.

KEILAR: Yes. And I wonder, Max, especially when you look at how many people in Britain watched this -- I think it was like one in five, watched the interview live last night? That's live, that's not just people watching the clips online the next day. I mean, think how many people have seen this. Is this short statement going to be enough? Where does it go from here?

FOSTER: Well, they want detail, everyone wants detail, who was in the room and how are they going to deal with things in future as well. But they want to take it, they want to rise above all of this, they want to take it behind the scenes.

So have they had a conversation with Harry and Meghan about reaching some sort of agreement about thrashing this out behind palace walls, or are they -- you know, is this a warning, in a way, to say let's stop discussing this in public, let's try to deal with it between ourselves. That's not entirely clear.

I did put a call into the Sussexes' office, they won't be commenting any further on this. So I think that they are satisfied that this is done for now.

I will point out one note that I was given by a royal source, and this is what they said to me. "Diversity, equality, inclusion and mental health are important issues, and highlighting that has formed part of the work of members of the royal family for many years."

I think that's an acknowledgement of how the accusations in this interview could have done harm to monarchy because it projects a sense of hypocrisy in a way, that if they aren't taking mental health issues seriously behind the scenes, then they can't necessarily speak to that as part of their role as royals as well.

So they were concerned about that, I think, and they're emphasizing that those values are important to them, despite what was said in this interview by Meghan and Harry.

KEILAR: Yes. Max Foster, thank you so much. Sally Bedell Smith, really appreciate it as well.

Race, I should say, unconscious bias and white privilege are all at play here. Harry himself saying in the interview that he did not at first realize the severe impact of implicit bias and his own privilege, until he was married to a woman of color.

Salamishah Tillet is a contributing critic-at-large for "The New York Times," and the Henry Rutgers professor at Rutgers University.

Thank you so much for being with us. I wonder, just first off here, when you hear the queen's statement, part of it is acknowledging the problem, but I wonder what you think of the statement overall.


SALAMISHAH TILLET, CONTRIBUTING CRITIC AT LARGE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think what Harry and Meghan exposed to us wasn't just a family squabble, but the way in which race and racism are central to how the monarchy exists, and also how -- which members of the family belong to the royal family. And so I think it's beyond a family squabble, but really endemic to and exposing of racism that's the core of the monarchy itself.

KEILAR: So, I mean, with that in mind, this statement talks about pulling this sort of in an insular way into the family, discussing this privately. But you're saying it's more than a family squabble. Do they owe the country a public conversation about this?

TILLET: Yes. I mean, they're already having these public conversations in England, right? This summer wasn't just limited to the United States in terms of the call to recognize black lives that matter, but also it was taking place in England as well as France and throughout Europe. So I think this is a really important moment for all of us to have these conversations.

But I think what was unique to me about Harry's position and his interview was that we could see, for the first time in real time, someone go from, oh, I didn't realize I was part of the problem. Oh, wow, wait, I'm not exempt from racism because now I have a wife that's biracial and my child has a grandmother who's black. Oh wait, this is terrible, and now I'm going to do something about it.

So there was a whole trajectory, a whole evolution of Harry's thinking that I really thought was important for us to see in this moment, as we're trying to understand what white allyship looks like, what white privilege looks like, what racism actually -- institutional racism looks like in the most intimate of settings.

KEILAR: That's a really interesting point. Meghan Markle's father, from whom she is estranged, is speaking out today about what his daughter said about racist treatment. Let's listen to that.


THOMAS MARKLE, MEGHAN MARKLE'S FATHER: This thing about what color will the baby be or how dark will the baby be, I'm guessing and hoping it's just a dumb question from somebody. You know, it could just be that simple, it could be somebody asked a stupid question rather than being a total racist.


KEILAR: What did you think about that, Salamishah?

TILLET: Well, I'm going to just use the language that Harry and Meghan used in their interview. So it wasn't simply a question of what the skin color of -- now we know of Archie -- was going to be, but they understood that as linked to certain privileges and benefits that come with being a prince. And so the relationship between skin color and being denied protection or being denied opportunities is how they heard it and how they told it to us.

And so I think it's not just a silly question, but also maybe a way in which we could understand how skin color and then these rules and these rituals that protect white people, primarily, in the monarchy, are now being used against their child who, for all intents and purposes, looks like the royal family. And I think that was part of what was absurd to Harry, but also not necessarily so absurd to people of color here in the United States and in England.

KEILAR: You know, I'm sure, as you were watching this, you saw it was like Oprah's jaw literally dropped when Meghan and Harry were talking about people being worried about what color complexion Archie was going to have.

And I've heard so many people say, why didn't, you know, whoever they were talking to, who is part of this institution, the palace, understand the opportunity in having a biracial duchess, of having a biracial child in the family. What do you think about that?

TILLET: Yes, I mean, I think that was part of what was striking about the interview, that Meghan and Harry not only represented an optimism, but they believed in the fact that their union could represent a new way of understanding the monarchy and understanding the commonwealth's relationship to the monarchy.

And so I think that naivete, which you know, we as Americans and me as a black American could say, well, why were they so naive? But Harry, that was his life, and he hadn't dealt with racism at all up until that point.

So I think that it was not only a missed opportunity, but it does say a lot about how all of these black and brown subjects, who live in the commonwealth, who live in all these countries -- my father's from Trinidad, for example, I remember the queen coming to Trinidad when I was a child -- all of these commonwealth countries, it does suggest something about not just a paternalistic relationship between the monarchy and the commonwealth, but a racist relationship that was there in the beginning and that continues today.


KEILAR: Yes. Great conversation to have with you, thank you so much, Salamishah Tillet, appreciate it.

TILLET: Thank you, thank you for having me.

KEILAR: The Oprah interview has drawn a lot of comparisons to Princess Diana's interview in 1995 with the BBC, both women speaking out in defiance of the palace as they try to set an independent course for their lives.

Meghan Markle, even wearing a diamond bracelet that once belonged to Diana for her sit-down. And Prince Harry, telling Oprah he has felt his mother's presence throughout the process of stepping away from his royal duties.

My next guest is Sarah Lyall, she wrote about this for "The New York Times." Sarah, thanks for joining me and talking about this. You write about how neither woman was protected by the palace, and in that, that's something they have in common.

SARAH LYALL, WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That's right. They both spoke about that in these extraordinary interviews. You know, when Diana had her interview, no one had ever done anything like this before, no one had heard someone who was a kind of outsider, who'd married into the family, speak about what it was like to be a royal bride, to speak about how hard it was.

And in her case, it was a bit different in that she had had a bad marriage, her husband cheated on her, she was essentially told to suck it up. You know, just this is the way it has always been. She had a lot of mental health issues while she was married to Charles, she tried to kill herself -- not really seriously, it seemed, but she was really crying for help and no one would help her.

And she spoke about that, and it was really striking how Meghan Markle said some similar stuff in the interview, and also how seriously Harry took it. I mean, Harry, I think is haunted by his mother's death, and has been very worried that he's seeing history repeating himself with the sort of things that happened to his own wife.

KEILAR: There are also some key differences here, and I was wondering if you could speak about that. What separates, say, Diana from Meghan Markle? Being, one, a product of an American culture versus a British culture, the timing, the difference in time. We are post-#MeToo, we have experienced, in this country, the beginning of a racial reckoning. And not just in this country, around the world including in Britain. What do you think about the differences here?

LYALL: I think that's a really, really interesting point. But you know, when Diana spoke out, it was the first time anyone in Britain in that kind of position had spoken about mental health, who had said, I've had problems, it's OK to talk about your problems, we're all sort of in this together, you don't have to just have a stiff upper lip. And that was what they had to reckon with then, when Diana was speaking.

And now, we're at a different point, they're reckoning with race. And so this issue of here are these people who are coming into this family and forcing them to sort of catch up with where society is, is a really resonant one.

KEILAR: Yes. Sarah, thank you so much, your story on this is very interesting and we appreciate you sharing it with us.

LYALL: Nice to talk to you, take care.

KEILAR: Still ahead, we're going to fact-check one of the biggest complaints that the GOP has about the COVID relief bill. Turns out that they supported it under President Trump.

Plus, the mayor of McAllen, Texas will join me live to talk about the growing crisis at the border. The number of migrants there, tripling in just the past two weeks and many of them are children.

[14:13:28] And we have new details about why the White House decided not to loosen travel restrictions in its latest round of COVID guidelines.


KEILAR: The Biden administration is already dealing with a major crisis at the southern border. More than 100,000 migrants arriving at the border in the last four weeks, the highest level in five years, and that includes more than 3,000 unaccompanied minors in Border Patrol custody who are now in need of beds and shelters. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is calling for help to deal with the crisis.

TEXT: Kids At The Border: 3,400+ unaccompanied children in CBP custody; Around 2,600 waiting on placement in shelters; Just over 500 beds available

KEILAR: Jim Darling is the mayor of McAllen, Texas, he has decided not to run for re-election when his term expires in May. And of course, McAllen sits right there on the border with Mexico.

Mayor, thanks for being with us. Tell us about what the situation is in your city.

MAYOR JIM DARLING, MCALLEN, TEXAS: Hi, welcome. Well, this is our third cycle of this. We've had three administrations where we've had the influx of asylum-seekers under, of course, President Obama, President Trump and now President Biden.

And our city's, we own two international bridges, we own the bridge of Anzalduas, where, right now, most of the asylum-seekers are being held pending release. And we own another bridge in Hidalgo, Texas. So we're pretty -- been pretty well involved in it.

And our process really is one where migrant -- I mean, asylum-seekers are released to our bus station to go north to the cities where they have sponsors, and so we've dealt with -- dealing with that. Obviously we have to house them for a day or two. Right now, because of COVID, we have to test them and we have to quarantine some of them. So it's been kind of a difficult process. And with COVID, it's even more difficult.

KEILAR: There are 3,400 minors who are in the custody of Customs and Border Protection right now. This is what the White House press secretary had to say about that today.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The reason we're in this circumstance, with thousands of kids coming across the border, is because this administration did not feel that it was humane or moral to send kids back on this treacherous journey, on the treacherous journey back to countries where they were fleeing persecution, where they were fleeing really difficult circumstances.

[14:20:05] So now we're in this tough spot where we need to be able to find facilities, shelters, where these kids can have access to educational resources, to lawyers, to doctors. And we are also in a circumstance where we're dealing with COVID, so a lot of these facilities have smaller capacity.


KEILAR: You know, Mayor, no doubt they're in a tough spot and we are in COVID, but we've known that for a long time. Should the Biden administration have better anticipated this?

DARLING: Absolutely. I mean, that's -- you know, in the Obama administration, he talked about doing immigration reform. And so the rumor was, what the cartels use, you'd better get here or it's going to be too late if you're not in the country when it happens, so we had a surge from that.

Under the Trump administration, it was we're going to shut the border and so you'd better get here before it's shut, and we had the huge surge in '19 for that.

And now with President Biden's election, it was -- the rumor was it's going to be open again, so come back, you know, first come, first served. And that caused it.

So I would understand that presidents would (ph) be more in tune to some -- what rhetoric or speeches have as much effect on immigration issues as even policies from that standpoint.

KEILAR: The governor of your state is blaming the Biden administration for the surge in migrants, and he is warning that the cartels are taking advantage of the situation. This is what he said at a news conference, moments ago.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: the strategy of the cartels is to overwhelm Border Patrol agents and law enforcement officials. And when the Border Patrol agents are so completely overwhelmed, it's during those moments that the cartels will bring across the border even the more dangerous elements.


KEILAR: Is that what is going on, in your view?

DARLING: That happens at the river. I mean, they've always done diversions, the cartels, whether it's to smuggle drugs or whatever. But, you know, having the Border Patrol handle all these kids and family members and adults, does keep them pretty busy. And then that's what they use to smuggle drugs and other contraband across the river.

It's -- you know, it's much more complicated, the problem I have is we say it's a crisis or not a crisis. That's, you know, that's really semantics. What's happening at the river is a crisis, but it's not any particular one's fault or anything. I mean, it goes back to public policy, with our foreign policy in Central America, and you know, and those countries.

So it's just -- you know, we get -- we feel the brunt of it because it makes our area look dangerous, it makes our area look overrun with uncontrollable immigration, asylum-seekers. And -- when in fact, you know, we're dealing with and it's -- you know, if they would do reasonable policies and whatever they are.

It's -- you know, holding people in Mexico for two years, asylum- seekers waiting for a hearing, wasn't a great policy either. It did certainly slowed it down, but we just need to have the Democrats and Republicans get together and come up with some policies and legislation that recognizes what we are and what our (INAUDIBLE) all about to deal with this. And until they do that, we're going to continue to have this particular problem.

KEILAR: Yes, your city is living this inability to find a policy compromise on this, sir. We appreciate you joining us, Mayor Darling from McAllen, Texas.

DARLING: Thank you.


KEILAR: Next, promising numbers about how many seniors have already had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and we will answer your questions on what is allowed once you are fully protected by the vaccine.


KEILAR: when the CDC issued its guidelines for what fully vaccinated people can and cannot do, it stopped short of making travel recommendations. Federal health officials tell CNN it was discussed at the White House, but the conversation didn't go anywhere. CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining me now.

Elizabeth, even despite the CDC guidance, people still have questions and we are hoping that you can answer them. So first here, there are a lot of people who live apart from one another. What does the CDC say about traveling to see loved ones?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Even if you are vaccinated, Brianna, the answer from the CDC is no, don't do it, don't hop on a plane, do not travel. There are several reasons.

One big one is that it is possible that even if you've been vaccinated, that you are carrying, you are infected with COVID-19 and you feel fine, you don't even know it, but you hop on a plane? Chances are 90 percent of the people on that plane will not be vaccinated, and the CDC doesn't want you getting them sick.

KEILAR: OK. Is there a limit on the number of vaccinated people gathering together? What about four couples who want to get together? COHEN: So the CDC says that if you are vaccinated, you can be indoors

without masks, without social distancing with other vaccinated people. They get a little vague because they say don't go to medium- or large- sized gatherings, but I think it would be safe to day that just four couples, eight people, that would be considered a small gathering, so go for it, have some wine, have some cheese, enjoy yourself, celebrate this milestone.


KEILAR: I like -- I can't even imagine that, you know? I'm trying not to think about it because then I'm --

COHEN: I know --

KEILAR: -- going to get excited --

COHEN: -- still so foreign.

KEILAR: -- and then I'm going to be mad that I can't do it.