Return to Transcripts main page


Palestinian Health Ministry Says 47 Killed In Deadliest Day Yet; Former Gaetz Associate Expected To Plead Guilty Tomorrow; Operations Return To Normal But Gas Shortages Remain. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 16, 2021 - 15:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right. Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says 47 Palestinians have been killed today in what has been the deadliest day yet in this week's escalating conflict in Gaza; that adding to the total death toll nearly 200 people killed since Monday.

The Israeli military reports 10 Israeli deaths since the fighting began, and it is strongly defending its recent strikes on a refugee camp and a high-rise building in Gaza housing media outlets despite growing outrage over those attacks. We will tell you why Israel says the strikes were justified in a moment.

And right now, the U.N. Security Council is meeting to discuss the conflict while protests condemning the violence breakout in major cities around the world.

Nic Robertson joining us live now in Ashdod, Israel. So Nic, tell us more about what you've been experiencing today.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, you have to look at today and say the rocket fire on Ashdod has been less than it was the previous day and probably less than it was the day before that and the day before that.

But the number of air sorties by Israeli Defense Forces on Gaza has been a heavy day. The death toll there in Gaza today, according to the Palestinian health officials is the highest so far that they've experienced.

There was a siren here just a few minutes after we finished speaking last hour, and perhaps that's going to be the routine through the evening. It does seem that the shelling picks up in the evening, but through the day, mostly quiet.

Our cameraman, Freddie, did see one of the Hamas rockets fall into the sea just off the coastline here. The Israeli defensive system, Iron Dome, doesn't target them when they're not going to hit civilian neighborhoods. But you know, for residents here, it's still been a day of worry and a day of anxiety, the same as it has been for people inside Gaza. Well, what we've learned from the Israeli Defense Forces today is

quite a staggering figure. They say in the first week, the first seven days of this conflict that began last Monday that Hamas and other militant groups have fired 3,100 rockets, and the Israeli Defense Forces say in all previous conflicts in Israel's history that is the highest rate of daily fire that they have faced.

So this is far from done and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that earlier today when he was speaking to the media, he said that he hoped that the conflict would be over, but it won't be over right now, but he hoped that it will be over soon. An indication from the Israeli side the number of targets today in Gaza, targeting tunnels, targeting ammunition stores, even targeting the political head of Hamas really does seem to indicate that Israel has more targeting to do and we've heard those aircraft flying over to Gaza and leaving off afterwards.

WHITFIELD: All right, Nic Robertson in Ashdod, Israel. Thank you so much for that.

This morning CNN's Brian Stelter pressed a spokesperson for the Israeli military on how they were justifying that airstrike on the building housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices in Gaza. Take a listen.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Can you show us the pictures, the intelligence you have?

LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, INTERNATIONAL SPOKESMAN, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: That's in process. And I am -- and I'm sure that in due time, that information will be presented. So far --

STELTER: But shouldn't have that happened 24 hours ago?

CONRICUS: Again, we've said very clearly what's in the building. And again, like the opening statement said, let's have a more nuanced and comprehensive view at what's going on here. It's not as if this was a --

STELTER: Right. But if you all knew Hamas was in the building and you're about to bomb a news bureau. You could have provided the evidence an hour or two later.

CONRICUS: Well, it's not about bombing a news bureau. It's about the fact that Hamas systematically uses civilian infrastructure for their military purposes. And I -- my assessment, our assessment is that this time, Hamas thought that AP and Al Jazeera and a few other smaller outlets would render them safe against any Israeli attack.


WHITFIELD: All right, and now to the White House where President Biden is coming under growing pressure to push for a ceasefire as concerns mount over the rising civilian death toll. Arlette Saenz is covering that end for us. Arlette, from the White

House, what is the President and his people saying about the plan to deal with this crisis.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, there is a real sense of urgency that the White House is operating under as there are growing more concerns about the civilian death toll in the region. The President is spending the day back home in Wilmington, Delaware, but yesterday here at the White House, he had a flurry of meetings and phone calls to try to address the issue and two of those phone calls were quite important.

The President had separate calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and also spoke with Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, the first time Biden had spoken with him since taking office.

Now, the President had also spoken with Netanyahu earlier in the week, and if you take a look at the White House and descriptions of those phone calls, there are slight shifts in language that are quite important. I want to read you one section of that readout of the President's call with Netanyahu.

The White House said, "The president shared his grave concern about the inner communal violence across Israel. The President voiced his concern about violent confrontations in the West Bank." That use of "concern" is something that was not included after the President had spoken with Netanyahu on Wednesday.

Also, the White House readout says that the President raised the issues noting that there were both Israeli and Palestinian lives that have been lost. Palestinians did not appear once in the readout of the President's phone call with Netanyahu on Wednesday.

Now, in addition to the President, other officials across the administration have been engaging, and one thing that they are trying to work on is encouraging partners in the region to try to help and arrange some type of ceasefire.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, saying in a prepared remarks to the U.N. Security Council that they are working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to try to bring an end to this conflict.

But the President is certainly getting pushed to do more, to take a stronger stance against Israel. This evening, the White House is hosting a virtual celebration for the Eid, marking the end of Ramadan, and one of the country's largest Muslim civil rights group says they are boycotting the event due to the White House's response to these actions from Israel.

So that is just one of the examples of how the President is trying -- or is being pressed to try to do more in this very, very delicate and complicated situation -- Fred. WHITFIELD: All right. Arlette Saenz at the White House. Thank you so


I want to bring in now the host of CNN's "GPS," Fareed Zakaria. Fareed, so good to see you. President Biden is laser focused on a slew of domestic issues: COVID, the economy, gas supply shortage in several states due to that pipeline hack. Where does this conflict now in the Middle East need to fall on his list of priorities?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Well, you put it exactly right, Fred. He is trying to really keep the world at bay, in order to pursue a series of very big domestic programs. The next big one, of course, being the Infrastructure Bill.

He has had this attitude towards almost all of foreign policy, which is just try to keep everything from blowing up, from exploding. He hasn't taken any major initiative in that direction and here, you have a crisis, which reminds you that you can't control the world, that things happen on your watch.

I think his effort is still very much did not get too involved. You notice, he has just had one brief conversation with the Prime Minister of Israel and with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, he doesn't appear to be -- you know, he is not nominating some high-profile envoy who is going to go and try and broker a settlement. In 2014, the last time you had this kind of violence, John Kerry, was the special envoy designated to go by President Obama. Nothing like that going on here.

It's possible that this will die down, but it does show you that at the end of the day, when the United States is not engaged in the Middle East, stuff happens. Local actors like Prime Minister Netanyahu or the Saudi Crown Prince, they do whatever they want, and it tends to be, you know, fairly disruptive. So he's going to have to ask himself how much Middle East instability can he take before he feels it's worthwhile to actively engage.

WHITFIELD: All right, so that's Biden on the world stage. Now Biden on the national map, he met with Republican leadership during the past week, trying really hard to find bipartisanship, consensus on his infrastructure deal, but the Republican Party is in trouble.

It's become radicalized from the deadly insurrection to rampant conspiracy theories, even restricting many Americans of their most sacred right and that is the right to vote.

But what is important to understand is that these radical tendencies in the party go back decades, we see that in your special, you examine this in your documentary, "A Radical Rebellion: The Transformation of the G.O.P." airing tonight. Here's an excerpt.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether you are Republican or Democrat, back up off the door. ZAKARIA (voice over): A bill in Michigan gives poll watchers more

power to challenge voters.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I'm actually going to sign it right here. It's going to take effect.

ZAKARIA (voice over): A law in Florida makes mail-in voting much harder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes are 100, the nays are 75.

ZAKARIA (voice over): And a law passed in Georgia --

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): I will not back down.


ZAKARIA (voice over): Strictly limits drop boxes, and makes it a crime to give water to voters standing on line.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, III, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: How inhumane can these legislators be?

ZAKARIA (voice over): These are all efforts by Republicans to make it harder for Americans to vote.


ZAKARIA (voice over): And they have all been triggered by a lie.

TRUMP: We won in a landslide. This was a landslide. This is the most corrupt election in the history -- maybe of the world.

I've just received a call from Secretary Clinton.

ZAKARIA (voice over): Trump won the Electoral College and thus the White House in 2016.

But in 2020 --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN projects Joseph R. Biden Jr. is elected.

ZAKARIA (voice over): He lost both the Electoral College and the Popular Vote



ZAKARIA (voice over): That loss highlighted a big problem for Republicans.

These days, they face a daunting challenge in winning real majorities. In the last eight presidential elections, the Republican candidate for

President has won the Popular Vote only once.


ZAKARIA (voice over): In 2004.

ZAKARIA (on camera): The Republicans have found a way to lose and yet still win. This has made elements in the party sour on democracy itself.


WHITFIELD: So the G.O.P. isn't winning the popular vote. Suppressing the vote -- is that the party's last ditch effort in winning?

ZAKARIA: Well, there are parts of the party that have decided that, look, the base of the Republican Party has become this elderly, white, often rural, often less educated group of voters. That is a declining share of the American voter.

Every demographic group that is growing: young people, minorities, Latinos, working women, is trending Democratic. And so, this has become a kind of de facto strategy. Obviously, not spoken off explicitly, but if you look at the -- I think you have almost three dozen measures in Republican-controlled states and only in Republican- controlled states, and they all have the same effect, which is whatever, you know, it says on paper, you notice that the effect is that minority voters find it harder to vote under the new rules.

WHITFIELD: Also, this past week, House Republicans voted to remove Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership posts. Listen to what Cheney said when asked today about House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, the woman elected to replace her.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: Are they being complicit in what you consider the Trump lies?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): They are, and I'm not willing to do that. You know, I think that there are some things that have to be bigger than party, that have to be bigger than partisanship, our oath to the Constitution is one of those.


WHITFIELD: All right, so Cheney, she effectively is trying to save the soul of the party. But is it simply too late to do that?

ZAKARIA: It isn't too late to do it. It's important that she try. The country needs a two-party system. The United States needs-- you know, I mean, this is how democracy is meant to work. She will probably lose her struggle in the short term. The party is just all in for Trump. Trump has really remade it for the reasons I described in this

documentary. These trends have been a long time coming. But somebody has to try to turn the tide and may take 10 or 15 years, it may take longer.

But if people like Liz Cheney don't do it, then the Republican Party will simply become a personality cult, dedicated to authoritarianism, anti-democratic tendencies and frankly, increasingly racist ones as well.

WHITFIELD: All right, Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much. Of course, we're looking forward to your special.

ZAKARIA: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And you can join Fareed Zakaria for this in depth look at the changing Republican Party. How did it become what it is today? "A Radical Rebellion: The Transformation of the G.O.P." that begins tonight at 8:00 Eastern and Pacific.

All right, still to come this hour, a close confidant of Matt Gaetz is set to be in a Florida courtroom tomorrow. How Joel Greenberg's plea deal could impact the Congressman.

Plus, Governor Matthew McConaughey? Why the actor may have a future in politics.



WHITFIELD: Tomorrow, a close confidante of Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz will be in court to plead guilty. Joel Greenberg who struck a plea deal with prosecutors to greatly reduce his sentence is expected to plead guilty to six counts including one count of sex trafficking of a child. His plea comes as federal prosecutors examine Greenberg's close ties with Congressman Gaetz who is also facing accusations of sex trafficking and sex with a minor.

Gaetz has not been charged with anything and he denies any wrongdoing.

CNNs Paula Reid is outside the courthouse in Orlando where Greenberg will be entering his plea. So, Paula, what do we know about this deal he struck with prosecutors and how it might potentially impact the congressman?


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is not good news for Congressman Gaetz, even though he's not mentioned anywhere in this plea agreement.

Joel Greenberg was a formerly very close associate, and in his plea agreement, Greenberg admits that he had sex with a minor at least seven times. And he says that he will admit in court that he introduced that minor to other men -- "men" plural -- so not just one person, but he does not named those other people.

Now, we know that Congressman Gaetz is under investigation for possible sex trafficking, prostitution and sex with a minor. We've learned from our sources that the investigation on the ground is really wrapping up, and then that decision as to whether to indict the Congressman will go to Washington.

Now, on Friday, Congressman Gaetz's spokesman released a statement insisting that the Congressman has done nothing wrong, and he points out that the congressman's name is not mentioned anywhere in this plea agreement, and the spokesman also took some shots at Joel Greenberg's credibility.

He notes rightly that in this plea agreement, Joel Greenberg admits that he has previously falsely accused someone else of having sex with a minor. In this plea agreement, he admits to accusing a teacher of being a pedophile. Now, in that case, the teacher was challenging Greenberg for his county tax collector position.

But it's true, Joel Greenberg has serious credibility problems. But we know from our sources that in this investigation, the F.B.I., the Justice Department, they have hundreds of documents and they have other witnesses that they're relying on as they make this decision about what to do regarding Congressman Gaetz.

Now, considering the fact that he is a sitting Congressman, he's a close associate of former President Trump, any decision about how to handle his case is something that will likely go to the highest levels of the Justice Department.

WHITFIELD: All right, Paula Reid. We will be watching tomorrow. Thank you so much.

And all right, all right, all right. A famous face could be entering the race to become the next Governor of Texas. POLITICO reports Hollywood A-lister, Matthew McConaughey is seriously considering a run for the top job in his home state. The Oscar winner is reportedly making phone calls to players in influential political circles to gauge the temperature of a potential run.

McConaughey has not filed any paperwork or made it official, but if he does decide to enter the race, McConaughey, would go up against incumbent Republican Governor Greg Abbott. Abbott is up for re- election in 2022.

All right, straight ahead, even though fuel is flowing again, gas stations across several states are still sitting empty. The city's hardest hit, next.



WHITFIELD: All right, updating breaking news now. Officials say two people have died after a bleacher collapsed at a synagogue in the West Bank. We have new video of the incident and a warning: you might find it disturbing.

The collapse happened during a religious service in a settlement just northwest of Jerusalem and you see it right there, the packed grandstand crashing to the ground. Officials say they transported more than 130 people to hospitals. One of the fatalities was a child who officials believe was around 12 years old. The other person fatality was a man in his 40s.

So far no word on what may have caused the collapse.

And now to the ongoing aftermath of the hack on the Colonial Pipeline here in the U.S. Even though Colonial says its pipeline has returned to normal operations, service stations, particularly in the southeast continue to report major gas shortages.

And in the nation's capital, a stunning 80 percent of the D.C. area gas stations are reporting no fuel today. Fifty seven percent of gas stations in North Carolina are also empty, as are nearly half of all gas stations in South Carolina.

CNN's Natasha Chen is at a gas station in Charleston, South Carolina. So a lot of folks are having to stay put, close to home, not drive. But what is the situation there in Charleston?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, it does actually seem like a lot of visitors are in town. So I don't know how much they've been stopped by this. But what we're seeing is this particular gas station behind us has not seen any new fuel supply in the last couple of days, and they are not clear on when they might get more supply.

That being said, other gas stations around the same area have seen new supply in the last couple of days, so it really is hit or miss. And according to the app GasBuddy, which is crowdsourced by drivers, self- reporting outages and prices across the country, it does seem that at this time, South Carolina is seeing 46 percent of gas stations without fuel.

Georgia is experiencing around the same. North Carolina as you mentioned, 57 percent of gas stations without fuel, that state is actually seeing probably some of the best improvement over the last couple of days, but still the worst off, Washington, D.C. currently, as of this afternoon, 81 percent of the stations there without fuel.

So when I say that, for example, North Carolina is seeing some improvement, this is still very incremental. It is very slow improvement, and that is because even though Colonial Pipeline, as you mentioned, said their operations are normal, we are talking about a pipeline that has fuel flowing through at five miles per hour. The trucks still need to make these deliveries.

And that's why you have several states in the southeast here still under states of emergency, lifting weight restrictions for the trucks delivering fuel, and those declarations also help in preventing price gouging, and authorities really still emphasizing to people please do not hoard the gas, only take what you need for the moment because hoarding gas could just prolong this and make the issue worse. So we may not see improvement, real improvement for perhaps a number

of days, and even a couple of weeks depending on where you live -- Fred.


WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. Even more weeks to go. All right, pack your patience, everybody. Natasha Chen, thank you so much in Charleston, South Carolina.

All right, coming up. Perhaps you recall, you met a beautiful family on this show a few months ago, the Campbell family, their two daughters were part of the Moderna COVID vaccine trial. Well, now guess what? They're all fully vaccinated and they're excited about this summer and making plans. I'll talk to them live, next.



WHITFIELD: All right, more than three million American kids between the ages of 12 and 18 have now received at least one vaccine dose. This comes just days after the C.D.C. extended emergency use authorization for Pfizer's vaccine to kids between the ages of 12 and 15. The Pfizer vaccine is the only shot now authorized for this age group in the States.

Well, two of my next guests are currently taking part in a pediatric trial for the Moderna vaccine and recently found out that they are now fully vaccinated.

Joining me right now are 15-year-old Zoe Campbell and her now 13-year- old sister, Esme, along with their parents, Dr. Lucy Chie, and Dr. Justin Campbell. Good to see all of you.


WHITFIELD: Well, Zoe, let me begin with you. So how did you feel when you found out that both you and your sister are fully protected now?

ZOE CAMPBELL, 15-YEAR-OLD PARTICIPANT IN MODERNA VACCINE TRIAL: Well, I was actually at school when I found out and my mom texted me that I was fully vaccinated, and my initial response was, I asked, "Well, what about Esme?" And after she told me that Esme was vaccinated, as well, I just felt immense relief, because it feels that we're almost at the end of this long pandemic.

WHITFIELD: And well, fantastic. Now, how did you feel during the trial? Were you excited about the possibilities? Were you nervous?

Z. CAMPBELL: Yes, I think I was just excited about the possibilities, even if I had gotten the placebo, that would have been okay. But I was definitely excited when I learned that I was fully vaccinated.

WHITFIELD: And so, Esme, how about you? Now, it's time to, you know, solidify some of those summer plan. You know, how are you feeling about your summer, and possibly getting together with your friends who are now also eligible, at least for the Pfizer vaccine?

ESME CAMPBELL, 13-YEAR-OLD PARTICIPANT IN MODERNA VACCINE TRIAL: Yes, so I have a couple of camps planned for the summer, and a lot of camps require you to be vaccinated, I think. So it's really time to actually be able to get back to normal again, and possibly even see my grandparents who are across borders.

WHITFIELD: Oh, fantastic. Of course, that's the best part, really getting to be with your family members, again and see grandparents that you haven't seen in a long time.

So Zoe, what kind of conversations have you had with your friends of your age group?

Z. CAMPBELL: Well, all my friends have actually been super, super excited to be able to get vaccinated. I remember when we heard the news, everyone was like already booking appointments, and some of them were definitely a little bit nervous. And as someone who's also very scared of needles, I just reassured them about the symptoms that I felt which were quite mild, and they only lasted a day.

WHITFIELD: So Esme, what do you tell, you know, people in your age group now, and maybe even either, you know, some teenagers a little bit older than you about whether you would convince them to get a vaccine? How do you assure them, make them feel more relaxed about the idea?

E. CAMPBELL: A lot of my classmates were really excited to get vaccinated. Once 12-year-olds were allowed to book appointments, the day after, like half of my class was already vaccinated.

And I didn't have to reassure so many people. I mean, I told them that the shot didn't really hurt, and I had really mild symptoms. But other than that, I didn't have to reassure them that much.

WHITFIELD: Oh, fantastic. Oh, Dr. Chie, I know you're so proud of your daughters. They're just taking it all in stride, no problem. And they are just like the poster children of trying to, you know, rest others assured. So talk to me about this immense relief that you are feeling.

CHIE: Yes, no, when I finally find out that they actually got the real vaccine, I was ecstatic. And we feel so blessed and lucky that they were able to be part of this trial, and that they actually got the real doses, both of them, and feel so great that now their friends can get the same vaccine.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So tell me how that worked that you, you know, we're informed that they are fully vaccinated? Is it because you weren't sure if they were taking a placebo? Or whether they were getting the real deal? I mean, explain to me kind of that space of uncertainty before you got news?

CHIE: Yes, there's definitely -- you know, whenever you enter a trial, it's completely randomized, blinded, double blinded, and so we didn't know if they got that real dose or a placebo. And now that Pfizer is out, we wanted to be sure before the summer happens that they actually were going to get the real vaccine now that they're eligible for a real vaccine.

And so we asked to be unblinded from the Moderna trial and learned yesterday, Friday that they were both vaccinated.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh, congratulations. So it's still so fresh. Dr. Campbell, you know, a recent survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, shows that just 29 percent of parents say they would get their child vaccinated right away. So what is your message to those parents?

DR. JUSTIN CAMPBELL, FATHER OF CHILDREN PARTICIPATING IN MODERNA VACCINE TRIAL: What I would say to them is that the vaccine has been shown to be very safe. We've seen very mild side effects in kids perhaps milder than adults and the immunological responses may be stronger than in adults.

Most importantly, kids can still get sick from COVID. They can get quite sick, although it's rare, they can and they can also spread COVID to other people. So there's -- this is part of us all getting through this pandemic, and when kids are vaccinated, they won't be giving it to all their friends and relatives, teachers and coaches.

We are all in this together and this is part of getting through.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Campbell, Dr. Chie, Esme, Zoe, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it and thank you for sharing your story, your experiences and have a great summer. I know you will.

Z. CAMPBELL: Thank you.

E. CAMBPELL: Thank you.

CHIE: Thank you.

J. CAMPBELL: Thank you so much.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much. All right, still ahead, honoring Kobe Bryant. His wife summons her Mamba mentality to induct her husband into the Basketball Hall of Fame.



WHITFIELD: All right, the New York Yankees are dealing with quite the COVID crisis, as nine team members who were vaccinated have now tested positive for COVID. All of the positive tests come from coaches, staff members and players who were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. They all received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Only one of the nine has actually shown symptoms.

Major League Baseball says it is monitoring the team. The team is in Baltimore this weekend finishing up a series against the Orioles. And Lakers legend, the late and Great Kobe Bryant was officially

inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last night. CNN's Coy Wire joins me now to recap how Kobe's Mamba mentality was cherished and celebrated last night.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Hey Fred, there is just no way to express what Kobe Bryant meant to so many people across the globe. His passing impacted an entire culture.

Last night was a celebration of a legendary career in a ceremony Kobe had talked about with his wife Vanessa, just the week before he died. Kobe's mentor and friend, Michael Jordan presenting him to the Hall of Fame last night. MJ walked Vanessa up to the stage so that she could give Kobe's induction speech in his place. She showed nothing, but pure strength.


VANESSA BRYANT, WIDOW OF KOBE BRYANT: Congratulations, baby. All of your hard work and sacrifices paid off. You once told me if you're going to bet on someone, bet on yourself.

I'm glad you bet on yourself, you, overachiever. You did it.

You're in the Hall of Fame now. You're a true champ. You're not just an MVP. You're an all-time great.

I'm so proud of you. I love you forever and always, Kobe Bean Bryant.



WIRE: Now, Kobe's passing was something that hit current LA superstar LeBron James particularly hard as well. He reflected on just how important last night was to Kobe and the entire Lakers organization.


LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: This is an unbelievable time for himself, looking down on all the compliments that he had for his wife and his daughters, for his daughter that's up there, and they will be watching along Kobe -- alongside Kobe when they watch the enshrinement. So, it was a beautiful thing to see Vanessa, you know, put the -- you

know, put the jacket on his daughter, on his eldest yesterday. Beautiful thing and, you know, it's a beautiful time for the Lakers.

You know, like I said, it's a celebration for another Laker great and just happy to be a part of his legacy.


WIRE: Kobe's legacy of hard work, determination and competitive fire that Mamba mentality, Fred, is something that's going to live on through the lives of people all around the world.

WHITFIELD: Wow, what a night and what a legacy. Coy Wire, thank you so much.

We're back in a moment.



WHITFIELD: All right, the days' long search for that missing Tiger in Texas is over.

India, the Tiger that authorities had been trying to locate for nearly a week was anonymously surrendered last night at the Westside Tennis Club in Houston.

India will be medically evaluated before being taken to the Black Beauty Ranch Sanctuary.

And we also know that he was found wearing this, a turquoise color studded with rhinestones. In a powerful tweet showing a picture of the color, the President of the U.S. Humane Society said, "We have removed India's collar. He won't be treated like a pet anymore. He can be the wild animal he deserves to be."

All right, for the past six decades, late night television has grown from a shot in the dark experiment to a thriving cultural phenomenon. This week's episode of the CNN original series "The Story of Late Night" looks at the drawn out drama over who would succeed Late Night King, Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show." Here's a preview.


WARREN LITTLEFIELD, FORMER NBC PRESIDENT: It was a very stormy February in Los Angeles and Rick Ludwin 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, it is February sweeps." So I picked up the phone and I said, "Johnny, we will 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 is 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 Jay 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.



WHITFIELD: Oh, the drama. All right, joining us right now, Bill Carter. He's a CNN media analyst and executive producer of "The Story of Late Night." He is also the author of "The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy."

Alright, so Bill, good to see is that. So, you know, heading into the 80s, Johnny Carson, I mean, he was the undisputed Late Night King, and he used some of that power to set up one of his favorite comics in late night. Tell us about that.

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: So Johnny was considered unassailable. But in the mid 80s, Joan Rivers became his guest host. And she then, you know, tried to spin off her own show and that didn't please Johnny at all, which we tell the story of "Tonight" in very dramatic terms, too. That's very dramatic.

And then he's in position of when he is going to step down, which we also deal with, and he surprises NBC with that announcement and David Letterman, who thinks he's going to get the job is very surprised. So there's a lot of drama in this episode tonight.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Can't wait -- I look forward to that. And I know that. I mean, it's been said for a long time that Johnny Carson was very salty over, you know, Joan Rivers kind of breaking out doing her own thing. And, you know, that was a big regret for her, too.

So Letterman wasn't, you know, allowed to use the same exact format as "The Tonight Show." So how did that push him to be more innovative? How did he start reshaping late night as a result?

CARTER: Right. We tell the story of "Tonight" because when Johnny consented to have David Letterman whom he liked enormously, by the way, do a show after him. He was like, but it has to be a little different. He can't do a monologue.

He can't have a big band. He can't have, you know, a sidekick, things like that. And all of those things to Dave's head writer, Merrill Markoe who is a genius beyond many of his bits was like, well, that liberates us to do all kinds of fresh things.

And so they were able to do incredibly inventive things with camerawork and stunts, and all kinds of inventive approaches to sketches. And it really made David Letterman, hugely, usually popular among young people, especially the college crowd. They just thought he was the greatest new innovation in TV in the late 1980s.

WHITFIELD: Okay, and then, you know, back to Joan Rivers, I mean, help people understand, you know, why it is that their relationship, you know, kind of fell apart. I mean, who could blame her that she, you know, was hugely successful, I mean, hugely popular, and she had an opportunity to break out and do her own thing.

But then Johnny Carson, you know, took that very personally, and their relationship was really never the same.

CARTER: No, in fact, what happened was Joan really did over career to Johnny, he gave her all this opportunity. And, you know, I think she in her back of her mind was thinking, I have a chance to succeed. But then she heard that NBC was never going to give her a chance. So

when the FOX Network comes and offers her a show, she takes it, but she doesn't go to Johnny first and say, Johnny, I want you to know, I'm going to take this, and that to him was the worst because he felt like he was not only her mentor, but her friend and he felt sort of betrayed by that.

And he just as we have someone on the air tonight, his producer Peter Lassally say he never wanted to have anything to do with her again and that really caused her because the big name guests didn't go on with her.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Okay. Quite upsetting for a lot of people who watched all of that happen. Well, we can't wait to see the rest of all the storytelling around comedy. It's not all laughs, some serious stuff going on here.

CARTER: No, but it is fun. It'll be fun, too. It is fun, too, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. All right. Thanks so much, Bill. Good to see you.

Be sure to tune into an all-new episode of the CNN original series, "The Story of Late Night." That's tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.

All right, speaking of late night comedy, "Saturday Night Live" had a little fun with the C.D.C.'s new mask guidance for fully vaccinated Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, we are four friends from three different households.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are all half vaxxed and traveling by train from Florida to the U.K.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of us is old and severely at risk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And one of us is a baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how many of us should wear masks and in which order?



WHITFIELD: What a mess. But it was funny. All right, thank you so much for being with me today.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The CNN NEWSROOM continues with Jim Acosta right now.

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

And we begin in the Middle East in deadliest day yet in Gaza, with 52 people killed bringing the total death toll there to nearly 200 since Monday. We're now getting heartbreaking images of children being rescued from the rubble of buildings that were leveled by Israeli airstrikes.