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CDC Greenlights Pfizer Vaccine For 12 to 15-Year-Olds; Some Republicans Try To Rewrite History Of Capitol Attack; Kobe Bryant Being Inducted Into Basketball Hall of Fame; Eight New York Yankees Test Positive For COVID Despite Vaccination; Growing Concerns About Safety Of Olympic Games In Tokyo; Israeli Airstrikes Bring Down Building Housing Associated Press, Al Jazeera. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 15, 2021 - 17:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

And it finally feels near the end of the year-long pandemic, at the very least the beginning of the end. If you're one of the 121 million fully vaccinated people here in the U.S., you no longer need to wear a mask in most places, inside or out. According to the CDC, it's pretty much life as normal, no masks needed except in some specific circumstances.

Now, the race is on to get kids to that same level of protection and normalcy, and get us all closer to herd immunity. As of this week, children age 12 and up can now get the Pfizer vaccine. And many parents are making sure they get the shots.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is at a vaccination site in Los Angeles.

Paul, any difference from the vaccination process from adults? I guess you're seeing a lot more kids.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is absolutely notable, Jim. Look down, look at the Vans shoes behind me. They are recovering in this tent after getting their shots. We have seen a torrent of 12 to 15- year-olds who have been urging their parents to give them the shot. They're all expressing the sentiment that they want to get out of the house, and hang out with their friends and see a whole lot of daylight.


SOPHIA LEVY-WRIGHT, RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE DOSE: I'm excited to hang out with more of my friends, see more people.

VERCAMMEN: Do you have a vacation planned?

LEVY-WRIGHT: Yeah, I'm going to go to Zion, Utah, with my friend Zee. It's really fen to always hang out with her. LUCAS BRUMBACH, RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE DOSE: It means a lot, I

probably have to say. I mean, it's really just kind of a matter of convenience, because I just get to fully vaccinated, don't have to worry as much, and life will just be easier. Pretty much.


VERCAMMEN: And in Los Angeles County, there are a half million 12 to 15-year-olds. Now, when those young teens want to go out to dinner, there's been a lot of confusion throughout California. The restaurant associate chiming in. What are the rules when you go inside to eat at a restaurant?

The county health director cleared it up for us earlier.


DR. BARBARA FERRER, DIRECTOR, LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Not the guidance is really clear. People need to read their masks. Most of the people in restaurants are eating and drinking. Most of the people in restaurants are eating and drinking.

And so, when you go into restaurants, mostly what you see is people who are at this table without their masks on. And that's appropriate and that's what the directives say right now.

But it also says if you're walking around waiting in line, going to the rest room, in a common area, please go ahead and put that mask on to protect everybody else. Also workers who work in restaurants are covered under Cal-OSHA, and they need as to keep their masks on.


VERCAMMEN: And this is the first weekend, by the way, that those 12 to 15-year-olds have been able to get that shot in their arm here in Los Angeles County.

Back to you now, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Paul Vercammen, thanks so much for that important information. We appreciate it.

And some thoughts now on this past week. Did the insurrection really end on January 6th? Or is it still happening in front of our eyes? It's been more than four months since the riot, but the truth of what happened that day is still under siege.


REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): There was no insurrection. And to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie. Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol, and walking through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion, staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos and pictures.

You know, if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.


ACOSTA: Tourists. Tourists? I'm sorry, these tourists did not come in on Segways. They came in with zip tying and bear spray. They broke down doors, busted through windows, attacked police officers, chanted "Hang Mike Pence" and sent lawmakers running for their lives.

There were lines at gas stations across much of the Washington, D.C. area this week, but there was plenty to go around on Capitol Hill. No shortages there. The gaslighting was on full blast.


REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of other.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): OK, at 2:07, a mob of Trump supporters breached steps. I don't know who did a poll that is Trump supporters. You had the media saying the same thing.



ACOSTA: Did he say poll? Did he mean the poles the pro-touch rioters used to beat the cops?

The insurrectionists were easy to spot that day. They were wearing those Trump hats. Shoots, there were carrying Trump flags.

Well, there were other flags that day, and federal law enforcement officials, they have identified scores of Trump-loving suspects. It was his mob that stormed the Capitol. Five people died. 140 officers were injured because of them.

Remember Officer Michael Fanone? He was dragged down the stairs, beaten and tased as one rioter screamed "I got one!"





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't hurt him. Don't hurt him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're better than this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold him, I got you, I got you. I got him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't do this.



ACOSTA: The cops know who carried out the attack, by waging a war on these facts, these lawmakers are taking the side of the law breakers, so much for backing the blue.


FANONE: Those are lies. And peddling that bullshit is an assault on every officer that fought to defend the Capitol. It's disgraceful.


ACOSTA: And yet somehow, the House minority leader still managed to say this with a straight face.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with.


ACOSTA: McCarthy, who has ambitions of becoming speaker of the House, is engaged in a cover-up. That's as bad as the crime. Nobody is questioning the legitimacy, he says. Nobody except the 147 Republicans, including McCarthy himself who voted to overturn the election results.

Nobody except the Republicans leading a sham recount in Arizona, or the politicians in dozens of states pushing laws making it harder to vote.

Nobody except the former president who just Monday compared or free and fair election to a thief robbing the jewelry store. You remember him. He now has a blog, crashes weddings, sort of like me in the late '90s.




They said, get 66 million votes, sir, and the election is over. I got 75 million, and they said, but, you know, you saw what happened. Ten- thirty in the evening, all of a sudden, they said, this is a strange thing. Why are they closing up certain places? But a lot of things happening right now.


ACOSTA: Say what you want about Liz Cheney, but she had the courage to speak out against the big lie. Then she got canceled by Kevin McCarthy. The same aspiring speaker of the house who aligned himself with GOP colleagues who were too busy tweeting, with zero irony, mission accomplished. If you're too young, Google it. Or trying to get in these other dumb, sick burns.

Here's another chance, guys, to listen to what Cheney was saying.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not anticipate in that. I will not sit back and what much in silence as others lead our party down the path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's crusade to undermine or democracy.


ACOSTA: It's pretty simple. The insurrectionists betrayed this country on January 6th, and some Republicans in the House have been betraying it ever since by denying the truth.

Remember the congressman a few moments ago who said the rioters were just tourists? Well, here's the same photo, the same congressman in a barricaded chamber that same day.

This isn't about bullshit. It's about betrayal, betraying your country. As long as the big lie lives on, the insurrection hasn't really ended. That's because this is a war on the truth.


It's a war. Whose side are you on?

Joining me now is CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean.

John, first, it was the crime, then it was the cover-up. Sound familiar to you?

What would have happened to people like you --


ACOSTA: -- if after the Nixon tapes, Republicans pretended like these were all normal conversations?

DEAN: Or the tapes were not what you actually heard.

You know, it's phenomenal, Jim, what's going on. It's -- they don't want us to believe what we saw, what we heard with our own eyes. It's making it very difficult for rational Americans to accept their position.

I suspect this is why they'll fight an independence commission every being formed that can get to the bottom and report the facts. We still don't really know all the facts. We have a good estimate of them.

And I think that the 400 indictments that have been brought so far against the rioters has got to be a -- you know, a charge towards reality, because those cases are going to be based on real facts when these guys are all prosecuted in the D.C. courts.

ACOSTA: I'm so glad you were able to come on and talk about this, John, because I want to go back to the era where you made a name for yourself. Why do you think Republicans were willing to make a firm break from Richard Nixon back then, but these days they just refuse to do the same thing with Donald Trump? What's happened?

DEAN: You know, Jim, it was very slow in happening during the Nixon time after the election, he had about a 60 percent approval. He would drop another 30 percent over about a year. The Republicans are the last to go.

He'll get down to as far as 24 percent in some polls, and that 24 percent is obviously Republicans who hang on. Today, Trump has got, what, about 34 percent that are solidly with him, and that's about 80 or 90 percent of the Republican Party.

So, what's different? The party has moved to the hard right. It was the hard right during Watergate that supported Nixon. It's the hard right today that a Nixon apologists who have come up with conspiracy theories. It started about a decade and a half after Watergate to try to explain away Watergate.

So, there was a whole school of conspiracy theories that do that, Jim, as well. So it seems to be something in the conservative thinking that they want to dismiss reality and have their alternative world that they want to live in.

ACOSTA: And Congresswoman Liz Cheney, she was ousted from the GOP leadership this week, because she refused to lie about the insurrection and about the election. Here's what she said to Jake Tapper yesterday.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I also think that you have more members who believe in substance and policy and ideals than are willing to say so. In some cases, if you look at the vote to impeach, for example, there were members who told me they were afraid for their own security, afraid in some instances for their lives.


ACOSTA: Yeah, I think back to Howard Baker and what happened during Watergate, the legendary Tennessee senator who essentially went down to Richard Nixon or told Richard Nixon, that's it, the jig is up. In this day and age, Howard Baker would be thrown out the way Liz Cheney is being ostracized by her party.

Does it have to do with, you know, Nixon and Trump always thinking that they have political enemies and that these enemies have to be afraid of them?

DEAN: I think it's more the radicalization of the base of the party and the leaders that are not radical or afraid of the base. Those who are radical are comfortable with them, and want them to continue projecting that radical image, and trying to give it some legitimacy. The people at the hearings that have been pushing these weird perceptions of what happened on January 6th are radicals.

So that's the only explanation, that we're down to a very radical Republican parties that has little connection with reality, Jim. The moderates and thinking Republicans, they're not in that group anymore. They're talking about -- I talk to a lot of them. They're trying to figure, do we start a new father? How do we get people to start facing reality?

And they don't notice exactly what to do at this time. They were delighted to see Liz Cheney come forward, but that helps.

ACOSTA: And what would Richard Nixon, just very quickly, what would Richard Nixon think of the insurrection, do you think?


I mean, you knew him. What would he think of this insurrection in the way that Republicans these days are just not dealing with this?

DEAN: I think he would be appalled by it, frankly. You've got to remember he resigned rather than put the country through worse times that would have been protracted impeachment trial. He's a man who actually believed in the rule of law. He knew the gig was up.

He was caught red-handed. He's been caught in lies. He'd personally lied, looked people in the eye and lied. He knew shame. These people don't seem to either have any conscience, have any shame or any belief in the rule of law.

ACOSTA: OK. It certainly seems to be the case, John.

All right. John Dean, thanks so much for coming on. I appreciate those insights, as always. I appreciate it.

DEAN: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Thank you.

And coming up, it's been a year of hardship for millions of kids as many have had to learn remotely. But now, with more and more kids getting vaccinated, can all kids finally get back into the classroom? The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, joins me live next.



ACOSTA: The CDC green-lighting the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds, and that means many school-age children will now be vaccinated.

And with me now is Randi Weingarten. She's the president of the American Federation of Teachers. Randi, you've been making headlines this week. You want all students back to in-person learning in the fall.

What does going to look like? What precautions should we expect to see in place?

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Right. So, we're going to have to figure what the -- you know, it's great news, the new unmasking if you're vaccinated news from the CDC, but it's going to take a few minutes to figure that out in terms of schools.

But in general, this is what we think. In-school learning is vital for kids. The vaccines have been a real game changer for adults. You know, it's not 100 percent effective, but it is basically 100 percent, you don't get really sick anymore. And I can see the huge changes in the workforce in terms of confidence. The schools that have been open have opened in the last several weeks and months have done the layered mitigation, the testing and vaccines, and there's real joy on kids and teachers' faces.

So it's not risk-free. We're going to have to have some layered mitigation. We're going to have to be careful about the testing and particularly with elementary school kids for whom vaccines are not available. But the vaccines for junior and senior high kids and teachers and other support personnel are a game changer.

And then, and now, it's time to focus on how do we reopen, how do we have smaller class sizes? How do we have the guidance counselors and nurses and the tutor that is we need? But also how do we re-imagine public education so that we're -- we have great curriculum and the community schools and sparking the passion so that kids have a great experience next year.

ACOSTA: And vaccine expert, Dr. Paul Offit, he issued this warning to teachers last night. Let's listen to that.


DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: If you're around a large number of children who are not wearing masks who certainly can get this infection, roughly 24 percent of the infections currently in the United States are in children.

I guess, were I a teacher, I would choose to wear a mask.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: But even if that teacher has been vaccinated?


(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: That's interesting. What do you think of that, Randi?

WEINGARTEN: So, I -- you know, I -- you know, you're hearing me kind of hesitate, because I'm hearing that from a lot of epidemiologists in the last 24 to 48 hours. We need to get to herd immunity for kids. Frankly I'm not shall sure that we should do everything is voluntary, leave it up to everybody to decide whether you're a wearing a mask or not wearing a mask. I think we're going to have to have some guardrails about masking in schools next year.

But let's be clear, we're in better shape today than a year ago. We're in better shape than four weeks ago. And we can' t have mask shaming if people want to wear masks for their protection, they should be able to.

What we have to make sure is that we keep our classrooms safe and that schools don't inadvertently become outbreak centers, particularly in elementary schools, where kids, you know, are not yet able to get vaccinations.

ACOSTA: Right. And I want to play this moment for you on Fox News earlier this week. Let's talk about this. Let's watch.



WEINGARTEN: I would hope Fox would be just as focused on let's get rid of the misinformation about what happened in this election. This election --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, come on, Randi. Come on. This is not the topic we're here to talk about. I'm not going to talk about that. We've talked about that before.


ACOSTA: Randi, why did you feel was necessary to do that?

WEINGARTEN: So, you know, the question they were asking me, Jim, is about the year 1619, and whether or not we should, as educators be teaching about peoples who have been oppressed in the United States of America, whether it is, you know, indigenous people or whether it was enslavement.


And there there's a big, you know, issue around 1619. I pushed her and I said 1619 is the year that slave ships started from Africa to what was then the colonies. And what you're doing is you are creating misinformation about that, and don't do that. And just like you have created misinformation about the election not being free and fair.

And, frankly, I'm a social studies teacher. It is part of my role and part of education's role to help kids discern fact from fiction. Opinion is one thing, and ideology is another thing. But people have to know what the facts are in order to arrive at opinions.

And the big lie that has happened about this election is hugely problematic to our democracy, and could ultimately overturn or democracy.

ACOSTA: Absolutely, and it's a good thing that some of those folks at Fox did not have you as a social studies teacher. There might have been some detention, some after-school detention, writing some stuff off the blackboard and memorize certain lessons from our history so we don't repeat them.

All right. Randi Weingarten, great talking with you. We'll have you back real soon. We appreciate it.

WEINGARTEN: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: Thank you.

And coming up, one legend set to immortalize a fallen icon. What to expect as Michael Jordan prepares to present the late Kobe Bryant for enshrinement into the NBA Hall of Fame. A legend in his own right, Bob Costas, the man right there who called Jordan's final championship clinching shot, who could forget that moment?

He joins us live next in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: A ceremony is underway at the Basketball Hall of Fame at Massachusetts to officially make the late L.A. Laker, Kobe Bryant, a Hall of Famer.

Along with Kobe's induction, the Hall of Fame is unveiling a new exhibit designed with help from his widow, Vanessa. It's dedicated to the Mamba, both the player and the father.

This new exhibit is full of Kobe Byrant's memorable achievements and milestones of his legendary career.

I want to discuss this and the other sports stories making headlines with sports announcing legend and CNN contributor, Bob Costas.

Bob, we're always grateful to have you on. It's a real accomplish to talk with us.


ACOSTA: This is not the usual Hall of Fame induction, is it? It's going to be filled with so much emotion tonight in Springfield.

COSTAS: Yes. There are other bold-faced names, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnet, Kim Mulky, Tamika Catchings, on the women's side.

Obviously, the greatest focus is going to be on Kobe Bryant. He was, as big as the other star were, he's the biggest start in that group. And he's being presented for induction by Michael Jordan.

You may remember that Michael as very emotional speaking at Kobe's memorial service about a year ago in Los Angeles. Became very emotional, tears streaming down his face. Said Kobe was like a little brother to him.

In truth, Kobe was entering the league as Michael's career with the Bulls was winding down. He did come back to play a couple seasons with the Washington Wizards.

But in truth, Kobe was kind of the successor in the public eye to Michael Jordan. There will never be another Michael Jordan, but Kobe came about as close as any backcourt player could come.

So they had that connection. They texted and spoke with each other all the time. And Michael said, earlier this week, that he may have trouble holding it together when he speaks about Kobe tonight.

ACOSTA: That will be a much-watched moment. I'll be tuning in. I'm sure you will be as well.

Let talk COVID and the hold it has over sports.

I was talking to Randi Chastain about this last Saturday.

This is a real, just unfolding dynamic for athletes. Eight members of the New York Yankees testing positive this week for COVID, despite all being vaccinated. That was a shocker.

What do you see as being the implications of this for the Yankees this season and for athletes overall? A lot of pro athletes are thinking, I got my shot, I should be fine and then they just get slammed with this.

COSTAS: Well, as a lay person, as I understand it, Jim, the implications for the Yankees and other team sports players around North America are not that dire.

One player, a key player, tested positive. Three coaches, including Phil Nevin, who is the only one who had any symptoms at all. They were mild. And he's since feeling better. And four members of support staff.

The Yankees are among four teams who have reached 85 percent or more of all tier-one personnel.

Once that tier has been reached, and 81 percent of major league players and others closely associated with them have at least received one vaccine, and the second is coming, once they get to that point, baseball has said much of the restrictions will be eased.

They don't have to wear masks in the dugouts. They can interact in the club house.

[17:35:00] So what we learned from this, I think, as a generalization, yes, even on occasion, those double vaccinated, can test positive, but they very, very unlikely to become severely sick. And in many cases, they won't have any symptoms at all.

So it eases concerns the past year that all the leagues have had about a teamwide or leaguewide outbreak that could interrupt the schedule, especially if it came during the post season.

ACOSTA: It shows you this is going to happen as we crawl our way out of this pandemic.

Let me ask you about the Olympics. Your voice is synonymous with the Olympics coverage.

A majority of Japanese people are against holding the Olympics. In a recent poll of respondents, 37 says it should be canceled, 33 percent say the games should be held with limited spectators 28 percent. saying the Olympics should be postponed. Some of those numbers might change a bit.

There's also a petition to cancel the Olympics as well that's gained some 350,000 signatures.

The opening ceremony, Bob, is just over two months away. What do you see happening?

COSTAS: Well, just as a side note, a very small percentage, something around 3 percent of all Japanese citizens have been vaccinated.

In many areas around the country they're under a state of emergency, including Tokyo itself.

There's 70,000 volunteers. Except for those over 65, are known at present eligible.

You have 200 some nations, and their athletes and smaller delegations coming together. It will be atypical.

Even if they pull it off without any health catastrophe, it's going to be very atypical.

The athletes will have to stay in the Olympic Village. When their competition is over, they can't stick around. They have to go back to their 4,078 countries.

Not all of them will be fully vaccinated when they arrive, even though there's a push on for that.

Only Japanese nationals, residents, citizens can be in the stands, even that will be limited so.

The late, great, Jim Mackay, said to me when I was embarking on hosting the Olympics, remember it's not just a sports event. It's a cultural panoramic art. It's a travelogue. It will ring hollow. It won't be anyone's fault. It just won't have the texture and element of spectacle and pageantry that it's always had. That's if they can thread all the needles.

ACOSTA: The biggest achievement during the upcoming Olympics, if they pull it off, is if they, indeed, make this happen without any big catastrophe.

Bob Costas, I wish I could turn the rest of the hour and listen to you. It's always great to hear from you.

I really appreciate the shoutout to Jim Mackay as well, who I used to watch so often when he hosted "the wild world of sports."

COSTAS: He was the gold standard. He really was.

ACOSTA: And you are as well.

Bob Costas, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

COSTAS: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: Thank you.

The middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness, is just a few hours away. Medina Spirit has been officially cleared to take part after passing his final two drug tests yesterday.

The Kentucky Derby champ tested positive for a restricted anti- inflammatory at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. Derby officials are still determining whether that win will stand.

Trainer Bob Baffert, a derby winner, has opted out of attending the race today. And of course we'll all be watching that's to see what happens.

Up next, much more on our breaking news out of the Gaza. Some incredibly important images to tell you. An Israeli airstrike takes outs a building with offices belonging to the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. How both media outlets are reacting.


Plus, the brand-new video showing journalists evacuating right before the building came down. You want to stay tuned to that.


ACOSTA: Now to our breaking news on the latest violence between Israeli forces and militants in the Palestinian territories.



(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: The military bombing a 12-story office building in Gaza city from the air today, sending it crashing to the ground. The building was used by several major media outlets including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera's acting director called the bombing, quite, "a war crime."

This happened the same day President Biden personally spoke with leaders on both sides of this conflict that seems to be getting worse every day.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem with the latest.

Ben, we understand we're getting brand-new video from inside the building earlier today. What does it show?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, let me give you some context, Jim.


WEDEMAN: The Associated Press said they received an hour's warning to evacuate the building.

Keep in mind -- you work in television. This is not a paper-and-pen operation. Lots of very expensive equipment that needs to be gotten out in an hour.

So in this video, you see that these people are rushing as quickly as possible to get out of this building, to pack up whatever they can carry down.

Don't forget, they need to go down an elevator. I don't know what floor Associated Presses is in, but that's going to take time.

It must have been some very different moments for the staff of A.P., who are already living through difficult moments covering this conflict.


Now, the Associated Press has added to its earlier statement, and they point out that "A.P.'s bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We've had no indication that Hamas was in the building or active in the building."

Of course, as I pointed out in the last hour, everyone knows Israel possesses the technology -- if it believes, as they have claimed, that Hamas had some sort of intelligence or research and development unit in the building, that they could have taken out that office or offices.

But in this instance, as we have seen basically this week, starting Monday, they are taking down entire buildings.

Just to add to sort of the press angle to this, the Committee to Protect Journalists has put out a same saying they believe this incident and others are an indication that Israel is trying to silence the media in Gaza -- Jim?

ACOSTA: Journalists need the space to be able to report on what's going on with such a critically important story.

Obviously, Ben, it will have a chilling effect on what we do if buildings will be blown up that house news organizations like our friends at the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

Ben Wedeman, thank you for that perspective, as always, and the experience you put behind it. We appreciate it.

We'll be right back.



ACOSTA: When the original king of late night decides it's time to ride off into the sunset, who takes the throne?

Hear about the drama behind the scenes as the network scrambles to find his replacement.

Here's a preview of a brand-new episode of "THE STORY OF LATE NIGHT."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very stormy February in Los Angeles. And Rick Loveland walked into my office and said, we won't have Johnny tonight. The road up to the house is flooded out. And I was like, oh, (EXPLETIVE DELETED). It's February sweeps.

So I picked up the phone and I said, Johnny, we'll send the NBC News helicopter out to your place in Malibu. And he said, Warren, are you trying to kill me?

And at that moment I realized that there's going to be a time when you don't have Johnny.

It forced a deeper thinking about what the future would be.

We did have David Letterman, who was the most obvious choice to succeed Johnny. But we also had J. Leno coming into his own.

When Joan Rivers got her shot over at FOX, there's the need to find another recurring sub. And Johnny was comfortable giving Jay a shot as a guest host.


ACOSTA: Fascinating stuff.

The CNN original series, "THE STORY OF LATE NIGHT," airs tomorrow night at 9:00. And some very sad news we are getting. Damon Weaver, who, as an 11-

year-old, garnered national attention for landing a sit-down interview with then-President Barack Obama, has died at the age of 23.

That's according to the Palm Beach County medical examiner. His sister reportedly said he died of natural causes.

In 2009, Weaver was selected to meet and interview President Obama at the White House where he asked the president questions mostly about school and education.

Let's listen.


DAMON WEAVER, YOUNG JOURNALIST WHO INTERVIEWED THEN-PRESIDENT OBAMA: Do you have the power to make the school lunches better?

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, I remember when I used to get school lunches, sometimes they didn't taste so good, I've got to admit.

We are actually seeing if we can work to at least make school lunches healthier, because a lot of school lunches, you know, there's a lot of French fries and pizza and tater tots.

WEAVER: I suggest that we have French fries every day for lunch.

OBAMA: See, if you were planning the school lunch program, it might taste good to you. But may not make you big and strong like you need to be.


ACOSTA: Such a great young journalist. Damon Weaver has passed away at the age of 23. Our hearts go out to his family.

And this week's "CNN Hero" became paralyzed from the waist down and struggled for years to get into shape and obtain a healthy lifestyle.

Inspired by his own journey, he created an adaptive physical training and nutrition program to help people with disabilities push beyond their limitations.

Meet Wesley Hamilton.



My main goal is to teach people how to take control of their lives.

Yes, there you go.

Take full accountability and embrace your reality.

Slowly. Start right here.

When we go through out program, it's only the beginning. I want to be there through your whole journey because I want to see you successful.

There we go. One more.

I've gained so much from my injuries. And I want other people to have that same mindset.

You're learning that you're about to do more.

I believe that once we help someone, now they have the ability to help someone else.


This has to have a ripple effect. We're coming together, empowering each other, being an inspiration for one another.


ACOSTA: And to learn more about Wesley's work, go to And while you're there, nominate someone who you think should be a "CNN Hero."

That's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Jessica Dean takes over the CNN NEWSROOM, live, after a quick break.

Have a good night.