Return to Transcripts main page
"Out-Of-Control" Chinese Rocket Weighing 22 Tons Hurtling Toward Earth; Arizona Auditors Check For Bamboo In Ballots After Baseless Claim They Were Shipped In From Asia; Vaccine Disinformation Rampant On Social Media Parenting Groups; Alleged "Zip-Tie" Rioter Asks Court For Permission To Call Co-Defendant Mom On Mother's Day; FEC Declines To Punish Trump For Campaign Payment To Stormy Daniels; China Forces Uyghur Families To Host Government Officials In Their Homes. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 8, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then you're walk in, and it looks like it's as casual as hell. And in your head, you're screaming like you're jumping out of a plane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: It looks great, and don't miss the brand new episode of "THE STORY OF THE LATE NIGHT" at 9:00 p.m. tomorrow, right here on CNN.
ACOSTA: And you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.
Space experts are all telling us right now, don't panic but at the same time an enormous chunk of Chinese rocket debris is hurtling toward Earth at about 18,000 miles per hour. Will it hit the ocean? Will it hit land? Nobody knows, but it's coming and out of control.
The Chinese booster rocket blasted off last week and either today, tonight or tomorrow, it's expected to re-enter the atmosphere and crash somewhere, European space officials are being very vague about where the massive piece of rocket booster could land basically anywhere in the red zone, pictured here, it doesn't really narrow it down. That covers a lot of territory and potentially a lot of people.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann is with me now.
Oren, I suppose we're in that zoom as well. Tell us who is tracking this thing and it sounds like the Pentagon is on top of this as well.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Of course, U.S. space command and the space force are very much tracking this and they have very much narrowed the window of when this might come down.
The latest update which came out just a few moments ago is that it will re-enter the atmosphere at 10:04 tonight, our time, that is Eastern Time, give or take one hour on either side. That's still a two-hour window but that's a much tighter window than the nine or ten- hour windows we saw earlier today. And even before that.
At the speeds this is move, this piece of Chinese space junk which weighs 22 ton, that two-hour window is about one and a third orbits, and we know where those orbits are so we have a much tighter idea of where this could land. Now, it's still not precise, on the way, if it were to land on exactly the midpoint of the time frame, it would land in the mid Atlantic right off the coast of Portugal.
But because of the speed at which this is moving, that exact location is unlikely, simply because it is moving hundreds of miles every minute, so it becomes difficult to predict an exact location, even as we begin narrowing in on the time.
As long as it's in space, this remains space command's job to track this. When it re-enters the atmosphere it will be NORA. If it looks to head to the U.S. and some of the reentry lines in the southern east coast, it becomes a DHS and FEMA issue and, of course, it becomes much more complicated.
Now, look, the way the earth is 70 percent water. So the odds are it still lands in the water. So, Jim, back to the advice you started with, it was don't panic, which I'm obligated to point out is the model to the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy. It is still the right advice at this point I believe.
ACOSTA: Absolutely. We'll take it. But also keep an eye on the sky as well.
Oren Liebermann, thanks so much.
Let's get more on this. Jonathan McDowell is an astrophysicist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Jonathan, thanks for joining us.
According to the European space agency, this area in red is the risk zone. It's pretty vast. There's not much in that risk zone.
Do you feel comfortable narrowing it down any further? And where are you looking at right now in terms of where this thing could come down?
JONATHAN MCDOWELL, ASTROPHYSICIST, HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS: Right, just in the past hour, we've got an updated prediction that narrows down the time when it could come down, To within about four and six hours from now. And that narrows down the locations on that red zone.
And so it looks like it's going to come down on an orbit that takes it from Australia, New Zealand, across the Pacific, across Costa Rica, Haiti, Portugal and Spain, southern Europe, Israel, the Middle East, and then back to Australia and New Zealand.
And so, anywhere that isn't in that list now can breathe a sigh of relief that that is not probably going to come over their heads.
ACOSTA: And I hate to put you on the spot but do you have a guess as to where it's coming down?
MCDOWELL: Well, you know, most of the world is the Pacific. So just on, you know, who's the fattest, right? It's probably going to come down in the Pacific. And that's the best guess, and that's what the Chinese are betting on and that's why they went, okay, we don't really care, it's probably fine.
But we were unlucky last time. I bet that last time and I lost. It came down in Ivory Coast on the previous time they launched this rocket. So we could be wrong.
ACOSTA: That's right. I remember that.
And how much of a heads up do you think we're going to get before this rocket hits? I mean if it looks like it's coming down, you know, on land, will people in that area have time to prepare?
MCDOWELL: Not really, I think this though, it is vague, it is on this orbit, the best we will get now until after it's come down and the first we'll know is when we start to see the Instagram posts of some metal rods that fell from space.
So, yeah, now it's just a waiting game, waiting for reports, waiting for radar tracking to say that they no longer see it in orbit, and waiting for reports from the ground.
ACOSTA: And this chunk of debris is ten stories tall. How much damage could it cause if it hits land? I mean I think I remember from the situation in the Ivory Coast, there was a building or a home damaged of some sort.
MCDOWELL: That's right. Someone found a 30-foot-long metal pipe sticking out of the roof. And there was a few other minor damage in the villages along about 100 mile stretch of the Ivory Coast. And so what happens is, this enormous 30-ton, sorry 20-ton vehicle, breaks up, about 50 miles up, when it gets heated by re-entry.
Most of the energy gets dissipated in this big fireball, but some of the stronger structural elements survive, and come down at a couple hundred miles an hour and you might get as much as a ton of metal reaching the ground. So, it's not a catastrophic big disaster, but it's going to be nasty, if it hits a populated area.
ACOSTA: And we've been talking about this issue of China and these rockets, and this happening, with China, you know, when this sort of thing occurs, how did this happen? What went wrong? What are the lessons to be learned here?
MCDOWELL: Well, we -- it's the lesson that the U.S. and Europe learned in 1979 with Skylab, which is don't design your space missions to leave really big heavy dead things in orbit. So we went to a lot of trouble to design the space shuttle and the Ariane 5 and so on so that it didn't do this.
China decided that it maybe has a different relationship with risk to the public, that they would just play the odds and leave, design their rocket so it left this enormous thing in orbit to re-enter naturally. And so, I think the thing to do is we need international pressure to kind of establish norms for, yeah, don't design your rockets like this. Don't do this next time.
ACOSTA: And I just noticed, a little while ago, before this interview, Jonathan, there's a helmet behind you that is a bit instructive in terms of when these sorts of things can happen. What can you tell us about that?
MCDOWELL: Yeah, this is a novelty item from 1979. The Skylab protection helmet that is made out of cardboard, so I'm not quite sure quite how much it is going to protect me. But I promise to wear it at the time of re-entry.
So yeah, this was, you know, there was a big, Skylab was the first big public scare about a space reentry. And indeed, for those who were too young, it was huge pieces of it that landed in Australia. So whenever something like this happens, we kind of in our hearts think back to Skylab and go here we go gain.
ACOSTA: I remember Skylab well. Jonathan, I never had that kind of a helmet. So I have a feeling if you put that up on eBay or something like that, you might get a decent price for that, great piece of memorabilia.
Jonathan McDowell, thanks so much. We appreciate it.
MCDOWELL: Nice to talk to you, Jim.
ACOSTA: Good talking to you.
And coming up, an Arizona recount inspired by Trump's big lie gets even crazier, if that's possible, as one observer reveals, there is now a hunt for bamboo in the ballots. We'll explain.
ACOSTA: They're on the hunt for bamboo in ballots. Yup, if you thought the so-called audit of 2020 election ballots in Arizona's largest county couldn't get any stranger, guess again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's accusations that 40,000 ballots were flown in --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To Arizona?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Into Arizona, and it was stuffed into the box. Okay? And it came from the southeast part of the world, Asia. Okay. And what they're doing is to find out if there's bamboo in the paper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Bamboo in the paper.
That man was explaining one of the tests being done as a part of review of ballots in Maricopa County. He added he doesn't actually believe the theory that fining bamboo fibers in the paper will prove 40,000 ballots came from Asia.
Joining me now is former Republican senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake.
Senator, forget bamboo, these folks are being bamboozled if you ask me. What is going on in your state? I never heard of bamboo ballots before. I'm still trying to recover from that one.
JEFF FLAKE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this is pure lunacy. I mean there's no other way to describe it. This was a well-run election here in Arizona. And in Maricopa County, the county board of supervisors are four Republicans and one Democrat, and it's largely Republicans running the show, and they all came out afterwards and said it was done well.
They did, I think, three different audits of the machines, and hand counts. And still, people want to believe that something went wrong. And so, now, they're looking for bamboo in paper. It's nuts. It really is.
ACOSTA: And why do you suppose, you know, this is being allowed? I guess there's not much that can stand in the way, the Republicans are in charge, and so they can do this.
FLAKE: Yes, so the Senate Republicans in Arizona, the state legislature, has the power to do this. And nobody questions that. They have the constitutional authority. It doesn't make it wise.
But it all comes back to, you know, people, the base, that subset of a subset of Republican voters, believes that Joe Biden didn't legitimately win, and so they -- elected officials are willing to go along with it.
And it reminds me of our state party chair on the Republican side when she was running for re-election, or during, when she was in the state legislature, she held a hearing on chemtrails.
You know, those trails left by airplane, and people claim that it sprinkled pixy dust somehow on people and it is a form of mind control.
Now, she said she didn't really believe that.
FLAKE: But many of her constituents did, and so she went along with it, and now, she's chair of the Republican Party in Arizona, and one of the main boosters of this recount. So I don't know how this ends, if it's taking far, far longer than they figured it would to actually count the ballots, but if they do it appropriately, it will come out like it has before.
Joe Biden won Arizona by about 11,000 votes. And won Maricopa county I believe by about 40,000 votes.
ACOSTA: This whole effort is being overseen by Cyber Ninjas whose chief executive has publicly embraced conspiracy theories about voting machines and we learned that the former state representative of Arizona, photographed on the steps of the Capitol on the day of the insurrection was also seen recounting these ballots.
Are you shocked that there aren't more Republicans like yourself saying that this is ludicrous?
FLAKE: Yes, I am, shocked and disappointed. Now, there are some, obviously, the governor has all along said that the election was done appropriately, and that Joe Biden won it, as much as president Trump wanted him to play a role in trying to overturn it.
So there have been some in that state House of Representatives, the speaker of the house has done well, and others, but for the most part, most Republicans have remained silent, because they know that some 70 percent of base Republican voters believe the big lie, and are unwilling to challenge that, and that's what's just puzzling and unfortunate.
ACOSTA: And as you know, Congresswoman Liz Cheney is expected to lose her leadership post next week for speaking out against Donald Trump and the big lie about the election. She and other lawmakers have been censured, something you yourself, you've experienced your yourself.
What advice would you give Liz Cheney in this moment? Do you think she is doing the right thing here?
FLAKE: Well, she doesn't need my advice. She is doing exactly the right thing. And I admire her greatly for standing up.
And you know, people will say, well, she's miscalculating, this isn't good for her career, moving ahead, I think that's irrelevant to her, and appropriately so. She's saying I just can't go along with this.
And I wish more of her colleagues would do the same. Simply say this, I will not do. No career is worth debasing yourself, believing and promoting this big lie. It's simply not.
So I admire her. I think the chances she has of retaining her post are about the same chances of you and I getting hit with that space junk that's about to fall somewhere in the world.
So it looks like the fix is in. And she's going to lose her post. And that's unfortunate.
ACOSTA: You know, Senator, Elise Stefanik is poised to replace Liz Cheney and I wanted to ask you about that, because you know this all too well-being a former senator. There are these conservative groups who score whether one person is more conservative than the other person.
And as it turns out Liz Cheney's voting record is more conservative than Elise Stefanik's voting record. So they might potentially on the House Republican side, end up with a more moderate person in leadership.
Does that make any sense to you?
FLAKE: Well, not if you hear what they're talking about, but you and I know, and most of us accept that that doesn't matter at all. It's whether or not you believe the president's big lie, and you're willing to countenance that. No matter where you stand on the liberal or conservative scale, all that matters right now, in the Republican Party, and the U.S. House of Representatives, are you with the president?
And then that's unfortunately where we're at right now.
ACOSTA: Okay, former Senator Jeff Flake, we appreciate your time. Thanks so much.
FLAKE: You bet. Thanks, Jim.
ACOSTA: Good talking to you.
All right. Some sad news to report. The Obamas announcing their beloved dog Bo has died after a battle with cancer. The Obamas got Bo just months after moving into the White House, and you may remember him all too well.
They promised their daughters a dog on election night and Bo was there all eight years. The former president and first lady both shared really touching posts about their friend,
Michelle Obama ending hers with this quote, this past year with everyone back home, during the pandemic, no one was happier than Bo. All of his people were under one roof again just like the day we got him and I was grateful that Bo and the girls got to spend so much time together at the end.
And I just want to share my own reflection. I remember covering the Obama White House and seeing Bo and Sunny being walked around the White House grounds. They would and bring them up to reporters, and let us pet the dog from time to time.
It was one of those things that made you feel like you were not just at the White House but somebody's home. And just to hammer that point, we remember during the White House holiday parties that they used to throw at the White House before Trump became president, they -- for the press, they would have these Bo and Sunny Christmas cookies, or holiday cookies, there out there for all of us to enjoy. And it's just really nice memory of mine covering the White House,
when Barack Obama was president, whether you were Republican or Democrat, we all love dogs, and I'm sure the Obama family will miss Bo as we all will miss Bo.
And coming up, what were once blogs and chat rooms about parenting have now become a hot bed of conspiracy theories about the COVID vaccine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: It says, just got my vaccination card, and the card reads, go (EXPLETIVE DELETED) yourself.
ACOSTA: If you join a mommy group on Facebook you'll likely see parenting tips on everything from breast feeding to swaddling but you may also see false claims about how getting vaccinated may harm your baby. Group moderators say they are struggling to battle misinformation on a daily basis.
And CNN's Elle Reeve takes a closer look at how online parenting groups are contributing to vaccine hesitancy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whenever there is a discussion in the group of vaccinations wore masks, the vibe is disturbed.
ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, there's a lot of hate, a lot of name- calling.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They'll be like, why are you putting this in your body? No, thanks, I don't want to be a science experiment. They'll tell people, oh, you're stupid for wanting to get it.
REEVE (voice-over): One of the front lines of the COVID vaccine misinformation wars is in an unexpected place, mommy groups on Facebook.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to see?
They're hesitant, there's distrust, generally speaking.
REEVE: Like, what do they say?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're concerned about infertility.
REEVE: Maureen Gornachia (ph) is a doula who runs a Facebook group called Crunchy Moms of Florida. She's had to monitor the group much more closely since COVID-19 hit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It says just got my vaccination card, and the card reads, go (EXPLETIVE DELETED) yourself. So that's good.
Rule number one is no vaccine discussions and rule number six is no mask discussions because a lot of misinformation follows these types of things. And you want to kind of be someone who's not going to give a platform for any talk that's not factual.
REEVE: Misinformation has been circulating on social media, that the COVID-19 vaccine can hurt women's fertility, by either attacking the placenta or by causing a vaccinated person to shed the virus onto women and somehow affect their periods or pregnancies. There is no evidence of this, and the mRNA vaccines do not contain the virus.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unvaccinated women report miscarriages after interaction with vaccinated people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was one woman, this is a case that they had, where she got herself that shot, and was nursing her 6 month old and the baby died.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women in their menstruating years, I'm not, are experiencing severe side effects from people around them, having received this jab.
REEVE: Maureen says those in her group trying to evade bans on anti- vaccine talk use the term "medical freedom".
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our keyword alert.
REEVE: Wow, medical freedom, medical freedom, medical freedom, wow!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're all within minutes of each other.
DR. LUCKY SEKHON, FERTILITY SPECIALIST, RMA OF NEW YORK: Pregnant women are allowed to get the vaccine, and it is widely being encouraged. I get asked about this every day. You know, all of my patients who were either trying to conceive or they're already pregnant, they want to get the vaccine, they're interested.
But they have that nagging worry in the back of their mind that this could cause infertility, that this could cause miscarriage, and we just know that this is not true. But unfortunately, it's such a scary thought that it just really stuck.
REEVE: The mRNA vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna do not appear to pose any serious risk during pregnancy, according to preliminary findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine. But the CDC says, pregnant women who get COVID are at an increased risk for severe illness, pre term birth, and maternal death.
SEKHON: I always talk to my patients about the risk benefit calculus, we know that there are real risks if you're pregnant and you get sick with COVID. In my mind, the benefits outweigh the risks. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Claims that are made about this activation
particularly, do you target women, right? They target women. It's funny because the hesitancy that shown amongst males is more politically-charged. That's what I've seen.
REEVE: We were set to interview multiple women who told us they don't want the vaccine, but they bailed. Some saying they feared backlash. That's not an irrational fear. There's a lot of shaming on social media, which public health experts say does not work.
Some of Maureen and Philanie's (ph) friends wouldn't talk on camera. Neither would women CNN spoke to in public parks. Influencers turned us down.
So, we went to an outlet mall and found this one woman.
So, are you going to take the COVID vaccine?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the moment, no, because I'm pregnant. But I've heard like a lot of stories about losing babies and stuff.
REEVE: What kind of stories have you heard?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard, like after the vaccine, they were having like issues with the baby and losing their baby and everything.
REEVE: And where did you get to news about that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was an article. I'm not sure where.
REEVE: OK. And then what does your doctor said about getting the vaccine?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She hasn't said anything. I haven't asked her about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just taking caution right now.
MAUREEN GUAMACCIA, CREATOR, CRUNCHY MOMS OF FLORIDA FACEBOOK GROUP: It is completely understandable to be hesitant. I beat back hesitancy with knowledge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I kind of hope that people like will look and see, where is this information coming from, where is the backing up this information. Is it something from the CDC or is this some quack doctor that who knows where he got his degree from?
REEVE: Is it influential at all to know that there are other Crunchy Moms who got it? Does that seem to affect them?
GAUAMACCIA: I'm always getting these questions. And they'll assume first that I am not getting vaccine or that I did not. So it's kind of hard to tell them.
And so hopefully me talking today helps some Crunchy Mom go, OK, all right, I won't do measles but I guess I'll get the COVID one, you know?
GAUAMACCIA: You know?
(voice-over): Elle Reeve, CNN, Florida.
ACOSTA: Coming up, have you heard the new excuse? FOX made me do it? One suspect's surprise defense for his role in the capitol insurrection.
Plus, why another riot defendant is asking the court for permission to call his mom.
ACOSTA: How's this for a legal defense? FOX News made me do it.
An attorney for one of the capitol riot defendants, Anthony Antonio, said his client had lost his job at the start of the pandemic and basically only watched FOX News afterwards.
And said, quote, "For the next approximate six months, FOX News played constantly. He became hooked with what I call FOXitis or FOXmania and became interested in the political aspect and started believing what was being fed to him.
What was being fed to him? According to his attorney, were the lies of the election fraud constantly pushed by former President Doanld Trump and so many others.
Antonio is facing a number of charges, including violent entry as well as accusations he threw broken furniture and poured water on an officer being dragged down the capitol steps.
Joining me now, CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor, Paul Callan.
Paul, this is so awful and you don't want to make light of it. But this defense of FOX-itis, what do you think? I mean it just -- it sounds ludicrous, but I guess it does make some sense.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I've heard of the Twinkie defense, but I've never heard of the FOX-itis defense.
And I guess the cure for FOXitis would be what, watching CNN or MSNBC? I really don't know. (CROSSTALK)
ACOSTA: Ask your doctor if CNN is right for you, I would say.
CALLAN: Yes. That's right.
We can get Dr. Sanjay Gupta on to cure the guy probably.
ACOSTA: That's right.
CALLAN: I think it's a ridiculous defense. And the lawyer knows it's a ridiculous defense. And he's tossing it up there, because it makes a headline, and he's hoping to get a plea to something that will keep this person out of jail.
And he's facing very, very serious charges here. He could be in prison for five years to 10 years, under existing federal statutes for the crimes he's accused of.
So it's a very, very serious matter for Mr. Antonio.
ACOSTA: And Eric Munchel, the so-called zip-tie man, and his mother, have both been charged in the capitol riots.
Munchel has now asked a federal judge for permission to call his mother on Mother's Day tomorrow. It's nice of him to want to do that.
He is under strict rules not to confer with capitol riot co- defendants, including his mother.
What do you think? Maybe he could send a card, I guess?
CALLAN: I don't know where -- I don't know where they're going with that, Jim. I've heard the devil made me do it, but not my mother made me do it on Mother's Day.
So I don't know. If he's going that route, I think it's a big mistake. The mother might --
ACOSTA: Mommy Dearest defense.
CALLAN: -- when she takes the stand. So who knows what will happen with them?
And the Federal Election Commission says it won't pursue allegations that former President Trump broke campaign finance laws when his lawyer paid $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels to not talk about an alleged affair with Trump.
That feels like a million years ago because so much has happened since then. But this is an important decision by the commission. The commission's
decision was the result of a deadlock between Republican and Democratic members.
What do you make of the end result of all of this? And do you think this is the end of it?
CALLAN: It's a strange ending to this bizarre tale involving Stormy Daniels and the payment of $130,000 in hush money by Michael Cohen to keep her quiet during the election.
A federal grand jury in New York found that what happened was a criminal act that implicated Michael Cohen, who later pled guilty and got three years in jail.
But interestingly, the indictment also named the president of the United States as an unintended co-conspirator.
CALLAN: Now, his name was not revealed in the indictment, but subsequently, prosecutors and others have said that that's who the grand juries were referring to.
So for the commission now to say nothing criminal happened, in the payment of $130,000, is rather strange, since the grand jury said it happened.
Michael Cohen, who paid the money, also pled guilty, and said it happened, and that the president was the moving force behind it.
So it is a very, very surprising outcome.
But as you said, Jim, it's a partisan vote. It was two Republicans voted yes, two Democrats voted no, and two members of the commission abstained for reasons that I'm not -- I haven't been advised of.
ACOSTA: It just goes to show you how, I mean, a lot of people think they're really just toothless because of situations like this.
Paul Callan, thanks so much. We appreciate the insights. Great talking to you.
And imagine being told you had to host a government official every month who would eat and sleep in your home.
That is part of a Chinese government policy that ramped up in the country's Xinjiang region in 2016 when the authorities were allegedly detaining up to two million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities into internment camps.
The Chinese government insists these government home stays were popular.
But CNN's Ivan Watson speaks to several Uyghurs who said the unwanted guests meant they had to live in constant fear.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Playing with children, sharing meals, teaching Communist Party thought.
These are some of the activities of the more than one million people sent by the Chinese government to live with the families of mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in Chinese's Xinjiang region.
A very public policy Beijing says is aimed at promoting ethnic unity and battling religious extremism by forcing families to host government officials in their home.
NYROLA ELIMA, ETHNIC UYGHUR IN EXILE: We're not happy with it.
WATSON: Nyrola Elima, an ethnic Uyghur who lives in Sweden, says her parents in Xinjiang have had to play host to Chinese officials.
ELIMA: Come on, a stranger living at your home. How can we feel safe about that?
WATSON: The policy has been heavily promoted by state media. Cheerful portrayals show outsiders enthusiastically welcomed into the homes of ethnic Uyghurs.
Strangers sent by the government, to teach their hosts how to wear makeup, and even how to wash their hands.
HE JINGING, CADRE SENT TO UYGHUR'S HOME (through translator): I brought the concept of modern life into their home, so that they can live a better and more civilized life.
WATSON (voice-over): Did you have any choice whether or not to keep these people in your home?
ZUMA DOUBT (ph), ETHNIC UYGHUR LIVING IN EXILE (through translator): No, we had no choice.
WATSON: Zuma Doubt (ph) is an ethnic Uyghur from Xinjiang now living in the U.S. She says she was forced to host four Chinese officials in her home for 10 days every month. If she resisted, she says she risked being sent to an internment camp.
DOUBT (ph): We had to pretend that we were happy. If we did not, then the government would see that as being against their policy.
WATSON: Rian Thum, an expert in Uyghur history, says the Home Stay Program has a sinister motive.
RIAN THUM, UYGHUR HISTORIAN, UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM, U.K.: To combine indoctrination and a monitoring project.
WATSON (on camera): This is a 2018 memo produced by the government in Kashgar Prefecture for officials sent to live with families.
And it instructs them how to find problems, spotting red flags, that the authorities say could be signs of religious extremism.
Telling officials, for example, to look for religious objects hanging on the walls, and, quote, "ask children questions, while playing with them, because children never lie."
(voice-over): Thum calls this the ultimate invasion of privacy.
THUM: There's no private space that they can retreat to, where they can act in ways that they're comfortable with.
WATSON: Australian-born Marhaba Yakub Salay says her in-laws had no choice but to host a police officer in their house for months in 2018 while her husband, Mereza (ph), languished in an internment camp.
(on camera): Did you ever hear how your family felt about this man living in their house?
MARHABA YAKUB SALAY, AUSTRALIAN UYGHUR: They were like really scared. They just spoke about like how, at night, they couldn't really sleep properly.
Because it was just like, just to know that there was a strange man in the other room who was also sleeping. So they were just like pretty much living in constant fear.
WATSON (voice-over): The Chinese government's rosy portrayal of its Home Stay Program challenged by Uyghurs in exile, who claim the hosts are actually hostages.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.
ACOSTA: Coming up, one ground-breaking album. And 50 years later, it's inspiring a new generation of activists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Fifty years after its release, the ground-breaking album "What's Going On" is an anthem for a new generation.
In the midst of Vietnam and social unrest, the 1970s were turbulent times in America. And R&B singer, Marvin Gaye, captured it for the world.
CNN's Don Lemon joins me now with a look at how the city of Detroit inspired his ground-breaking album -- Don?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Jim. I'm really excited to share this with the world.
Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" has had a lasting impact because it speaks to everything that is happening in culture.
Here we are, 50 years almost to the day of the release of this album, and it is still relevant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Detroit is the tale of two cities. You only have to go two or three or four blocks and find solid, middle-class neighborhoods and then find abject poverty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the inspiration for Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "What's Going On" was made first. It was this kind of jewel. And then Barry goes back to Marvin and says, can you deliver a full album?
KEN COLEMAN, HISTORIAN: It was what the industry began to call concept albums. "What's Going On" dealt with a central theme and every track on the album added on to that theme.
JACK ASHFORD, PERCUSSIONIST, THE FUNK BROTHERS We just went from one song to the other. He had all of those songs together, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wanted it to all come together and meld together. He put together that theme and created a universe.
LEMON: This documentary walks you through all of the songs on the album and how they came to be.
And I can't wait for you to see it, Jim. It's -- it's probably the most beautiful thing that I've done since I've been here at CNN.
Back to you.
ACOSTA: All right. Can't wait to see it, Don.
Be sure to tune in. Don's CNN special, "WHAT'S GOING ON, MARVIN GAYE'S ANTHEM FOR THE AGES," airs tomorrow night at 8:00, right here on CNN.
On tomorrow's brand-new episode of "THE STORY OF LATE NIGHT," Johnny Carson navigates the turbulent 1960s to elevate "The Tonight Show" and become the undisputed king of late night.
Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": My experience with late-night television was all about my relationship with my dad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dad was a comedy maven. He would say, all right, you can stay up late to watch Johnny because he knew how much it meant to me. He would say we'll just watch the monologue.
JOHNNY CARSON, FORMER HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW" I understand we have a special group tonight, a Little League mother's here.
CARSON: Who brought a couple of old bats along, also.
CONAN: They'd go to commercial, and he'd says, let's just see if they do Carnac.
CARSON: A 100-yard dash. A 100-yard dash.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was funny and he was sharp. He had this aura about him.
CARSON: What happens after you eat a hundred-yard prune?
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, COMEDIAN & CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Johnny Carson was not black or white or Asian or nothing. He was funny. And funny, I think, trumps everything.
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": He was just part of culture. I thought that Johnny Carson came with the TV set. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And don't miss the brand-new episode of "THE STORY OF LATE NIGHT" at 9:00 p.m. tomorrow, right here on CNN.
When 22-year-old Amanda Gorman recited her inaugural poem at the Biden/Harris inauguration, the world took note. Also watching was a proud "CNN Hero" who first met Amanda as a young girl of 14.
Keren Taylor's organization, WriteGirl, offers thousands of teens support, guidance and the tools to have their voice be heard.
This week, "CNN Heroes" catches up with Taylor to see how far her group and the girls they serve have come.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEREN TAYLOR, CNN HERO: Many of our girls come from environments where they're really struggling with unstable family situations. Violence in their communities.
Our goal is to really try and reach the most teens we can that are in the greatest need.
Since receiving the hero award, we've expanded to include programs for boys and co-ed groups, to clarify our definition of girls, nonbinary girls, trans youth.
Developed more programming for youth who are incarcerated or are systems impacted, on probation.
We are always encouraging our girls to share their own story, what is going on in their world. Because they're the only one who can write that poem, tell that story, write that song.
AMANDA GORMAN, POET: And a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother --
TAYLOR: Amanda Gorman joined WriteGirl when she was 14.
When we saw her perform at the inauguration, we could see the same things that we really embody at WriteGirl represented in her, confidence, being willing to really be present.
TAYLOR: What was really exciting to know was that she represents not only every girl that's ever been in WriteGirl, but she also represents every young woman in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: To learn more about the story, and to nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero," go to CNNheroes.com right now. And that is the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll
see you back here tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. -- make that 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
Pamela Brown takes over the NEWSROOM, live, after a quick break.
Have a good night.