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CNN NEWSROOM

Interview With David Hogg; COVID-19 Origins. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 24, 2021 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Thanks for being with us on NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: And I'm Erica Hill, in for Victor Blackwell this afternoon.

We begin with promising new coronavirus numbers, as the country transitions from lockdown back to life as we knew it, the average daily cases now just over 25,000 a day. That's the lowest we have seen since last June and further evidence that the vaccines work, hospitalizations rapidly declining. And daily reported deaths are also down, now averaging 546 a day.

CAMEROTA: So, all of that is good news as we approach Memorial Day weekend and see signs that summer might look normal.

Madison Square Garden hosted 15,000 basketball fans last night for the largest indoor event in New York since the start of the pandemic.

And fans stormed the fairway yesterday when Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship.

In Huntington Beach, California, police had to break up a 2,500-person party.

HILL: Wow.

Meantime, air travel hitting yet another new high, over the weekend, the TSA screening 1.86 million people on Sunday. Compare that to just 267,000 this time last year.

Now, all of this as we're also getting more information about the possible origins of COVID-19.

CAMEROTA: A U.S. intelligence report reveals that several scientists at that research lab in Wuhan, China, were hospitalized in November of 2019 with an unknown illness.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is following the story for us.

Natasha, tell us about this report.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Alisyn. Yes, so this report is basically adding more details about a potential

origin theory about COVID-19 and how the pandemic spread. What it says is that these researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November of 2019, about a month before the first symptoms first appeared, according to China, of COVID-19, and were sick enough to seek hospital treatment.

This potentially moves up the timeline of the outbreak of COVID-19, though it is important to note that the intel community still does not know for sure whether these researchers actually had COVID-19. They don't actually know what exactly they were sick with.

However, the report does note that the symptoms that they had were consistent with COVID-19. But they also could have been consistent with other seasonal illnesses like the flu, for example. But what this does do is, it raises more questions about the so-called lab leak theory, which is essentially that the -- COVID-19 was being researched in a laboratory and through some kind of accident it broke out and then that caused it to spread, instead of another theory, which is that it spread naturally from animals in, say, a wet market.

And so the lab leak theory taking on increasingly -- increasing prominence among the intel community, though they still have low confidence in the actual origins. But take a listen to what former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb had to say about the debate this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I think the challenge right now is that the side of the ledger that supports the thesis that this came from a zoonotic source, from an animal source hasn't budged.

And the side of the ledger that suggests this could have come out of the lab has been continuing to grow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERTRAND: So, this is, of course, coming about a month after Dr. -- or a couple weeks after Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he is not completely convinced, actually, that this pandemic first occurred naturally, and that more research needs to be done and more investigation needs to be done into whether this did spread from a lab.

Even the head of the WHO, who conducted -- which conducted that big investigation into the origin, said that they did not have sufficient evidence to rule out this lab leak theory, so this another part of the puzzle that researchers and investigators are putting together to determine the origins of this pandemic, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Natasha Bertrand, thank you very much.

OK, CNN political analyst Josh Rogin joins us now. He's also a columnist for "The Washington Post" and has spent the past year reporting on the origin of COVID-19.

Josh, great to see you.

China claims, OK, that the first patient with COVID-like symptoms was December 8, 2020, OK? So -- or no -- sorry -- 2019.

This intel report shows, no, it was November that these researchers from that Wuhan lab were hospitalized. So, clearly, once, China is not being reliable and trustworthy. How are we going to figure this out?

[14:05:06]

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

We have a number of different timelines. Remember that the former CDC Director Robert Redfield said that he believed that the outbreak started in September and October. And while we don't know whether or not these researchers had COVID, we know that their medical records are there somewhere in Wuhan, and they won't show them to us.

Where are the researchers? Are they OK? Are they still alive? Let's get them on TV. Let's talk to these guys or gals. This is a -- it's been a year-and-a-half of the Chinese government covering up what they know about the origin of this virus and attacking any country or person who dare ask the question.

They punished Australia for even starting an investigation. They jailed all the whistle-blowers. They censored all the science. They're holding the data. They took the virus database offline.

If they're so innocent, then why won't -- why are they spending all of their time attacking everybody who brings up the lab leak theory and hiding all of the data that would exonerate them, right? If the data exonerates them, you would think that they would want to give it to us. So, we can't take the Chinese scientists at their word.

We also can't take their word the American scientists who are the best friends of the lab, who went there and said it was highly unlikely, before even really doing the investigation. It's going to be tough, Alisyn. There's no doubt about it.

But we need the Biden administration, first and foremost, to make this an issue, to make this a priority, and then to go to the Chinese and say, no, no, no, this is important. We need to figure out what happened. That means taking a look at the lab, whether or not they like it.

HILL: In terms of the Biden administration, Josh, as you point out, you want to see a little more action from the Biden administration.

Jen Psaki was pressed on this earlier today. She said, we need more data, but seemed to be looking to the WHO for that data. Do you think discovering the origin of this virus is a priority for the Biden administration?

ROGIN: I'm here to tell you from my own sources, from my own top administration sources, that there's an ongoing debate inside the Biden administration about whether or not to do more to find out the origin.

In other words, we have been waiting for the intelligence community to come up with an answer. Guess what? They don't have an answer. They don't know, OK? Even this little bit of information that we got in "The Wall Street Journal" today doesn't get us very far, honestly.

And if the intelligence community doesn't know, well, OK, they don't know. That doesn't mean we should just stop and throw up our hands and say, oh, well, I guess we can't figure it out, because we need to figure it out, because we need to know how it started to prevent the next pandemic, which will surely come.

So I think they're actively debating that inside of the Biden administration right now. You can see why they don't want to do it, right? It's a political sort of like problem for them. It's a real -- it's a no-win situation.

If they find out the lab leak was true, they kind of have to admit that Trump and Pompeo were right, which is like, I'm sure they don't want to do that. On the other hand, they do want to make sure we don't get to have another pandemic. So, in the end, I'm hoping that we will do the right thing and just investigate all the theories.

Investigating the natural theory. Investigate the lab theory and figure out what's what for the sake of our public health and our national security and to find out what happened to the 580,000 Americans who died.

CAMEROTA: But, Josh, I mean, politically speaking, is Biden's biggest fear upsetting the Trump administration -- or admitting that the Trump administration was right about the lab leak? Or is it that this would again complicate issues with China and the relationship?

ROGIN: Yes. Yes.

I think it's both of those things, to be honest. And, yes, it will complicate relations with China. It's not -- the Chinese government's not going to be happy if we look into this. Is that worth preventing another pandemic that could cause another 580,000 Americans to die? I think so.

You know what I mean? This -- if we don't stand up to China and demand basic answers on this, then what do we stand up for? At what point do we say to the Chinese, hey, you got to tell us the truth?

Plus, we have all the scientific collaboration with China. If they lie -- I mean, we know they're covering it up. Is this collaboration really a good idea? We want to be doing all this dangerous, risky virus research with Chinese scientists who won't even tell us what's what when the chips are down, when we're in the middle of it, even if they're innocent, even if they're guilty?

They won't even give us basic information? What kind of collaboration is that? That whole system of research is really looking not like such a smart move right now. And that's like -- so, yes -- yes, it's going to make things tough for the Chinese, but so be it. CAMEROTA: But, Josh, one last question.

And that is, I mean, I think we have all -- most of us have been trying to be open-minded, trying to wait for evidence...

ROGIN: Sure.

CAMEROTA: ... until we draw some sort of hasty conclusion about where this came from.

We have heard Fauci now, we have heard Redfield, we have heard lots of people say, yes, I'm open to the idea that it came out of the Wuhan lab. What evidence -- since you have been studying this for a year, what piece of evidence would be conclusive? What more do we need to hear?

ROGIN: Right.

I think what you see is, you see the scientists like Fauci and others moving, changing their position, actually, quite clearly, if you just look what -- before, they were saying, oh, no, it's probably not the lab. It's probably not. Now they're saying, OK, let's check out the lab, which is fine.

You can see why they're doing that, because more evidence keeps coming out. But if we're waiting for the smoking gun, for that person to say, I did it, I was the lab researcher, I was patient zero, well, then you're sending a standard that's unlikely ever to be reached.

What you're going to have is, you're going to have a very strong circumstantial case one way or the other. And the only way to make that case is to actually do the investigation.

[14:10:04]

So, you will see a lot of guys like Fauci say like, oh, well, sure, take a look in China and see what's what. If you can figure it out, great.

But that's not enough, right? Because without actually using the U.S. government to put pressure on the Chinese government to tell us what they know, to give us the data, to give us the information -- how about the virus database that they took offline mysteriously in December 2019?

Let's start there, you know? So it's not enough just to say, oh, well, I guess we will never find out. We have to find out. We have to prevent the next pandemic.

Millions of lives are on the line. It's important.

CAMEROTA: Josh Rogin, thank you for all of your research and reporting.

ROGIN: Thank you.

HILL: More now on how the U.S. is making some major gains when it comes to the fight against coronavirus.

By almost every measure of the country is heading in the right direction.

CAMEROTA: Nearly half of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

For more, let's bring in CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, tell us where we are.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're in a pretty good place. It feels good to sit here and be able to have a smile on my face.

Let's take a look at the case counts, looking at the seven-day averages. If we take a look at this graph, look at that spike back in sort of January, February. Those were the dark days. Look how much it's fallen. We are at the lowest rate since June for cases. That's pretty amazing.

Why? Well, the answer is simple. To a large extent, it is the vaccine. So, we have nine states that hit a really important milestone. They have vaccinated at least 70 percent of their adults with at least one dose. So that's nine states 70 percent of adults or more have gotten at least one dose. You can see most of them are in the Northeast.

Now let's take a look at the states that are hopefully on their way to this metric. About half of states, 50 percent of their adults are fully vaccinated. So that is good. And, hopefully, they are on their way to having even higher percentages.

Now, as I save this, and as I am smiling -- and this is obviously a very optimistic time -- I do want to remind people that more than 500 Americans are dying every day of COVID. That is a lot. That is a lot of lives lost.

And it is also possible that we're seeing this dip partly because we're moving into a season when these kind of viruses tend to go down. And, also, we don't know what variants might be lurking. So it's not time to sort of break out into a party and woo-hoo, this is over. That's not the case.

But are things headed in the right direction? Are we in a pretty good place? Yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, I'm so glad that you point out 500 Americans a day. That is a sobering number.

Thank you very much, Elizabeth.

OK, coming up: This weekend was so violent. There were at least 13 mass shootings across the United States. How will we ever turn gun violence around? David Hogg will be here for that conversation, as well as the new appalling statements from Marjorie Taylor Greene. You will remember he had his own run-in with the controversial congresswoman.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:17:20]

HILL: As the nation reopens with the pandemic, through the pandemic, another epidemic is taking hold. And this is one only found in America, gun violence.

Over the weekend, at least 13 mass shootings across eight states -- each incident involved at least four victims who were either wounded or killed by gunfire.

At an unauthorized concert in South Carolina, 13 people were hurt, one person was killed just, 14 years old.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REGGIE BURGESS, NORTH CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA, POLICE CHIEF: The Bible says, God judges us by our hearts.

And a 14-year-old girl, come on, she couldn't have had any problem with anybody. So, all I can say about that is, I know that the lord is going to give her a resting place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: And in New Jersey, state troopers have arrested one person, with more arrests expected, after 12 people were shot, two of them killed, at a birthday party.

The governor says this was a targeted attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): This is a nation awash in guns. And we're not an island. We are not immune, as was proved two nights ago. There are still too many people with easy access to guns who should never have access to a gun.

The state troopers who arrived on the scene didn't know if someone was waiting in the woods to ambush them as they responded to the calls. We cannot normalize what we saw. We cannot put our heads in the sand and just say this is the price we pay in a free society.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Since the year started, the Gun Violence Archive says 7,500 people have died from shootings.

Six-year-old Aiden Leos was just one of them. On Friday, someone shot and killed the 6-year-old as he was riding in his car seat on the 55 Freeway in Orange County, Florida. Investigators believe he was the victim of a road rage incident. And they're still searching for the shooter.

His sister is begging for help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXIS CLOONAN, SISTER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: Please help us find the people that did this to my little brother. He's only 6, and he was so sweet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: CNN's Stephanie Elam is on this story.

Stephanie, that is such a horrible story. What happened on that freeway?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sounds like -- because I just got off the phone with California Highway Patrol, Alisyn, and it sounds like they still believe that this was a road rage incident that happened at 8:00 in the morning on this freeway here, the 55 Freeway in Orange County.

The mother, Johanna Cloonan, was driving her 6-year-old, Aiden Leos, to school, when she says, according to an interview did with ABC News, that there was some road rage, where the -- she had a little bit of a moment with a car, a white car, a sedan of some sort.

[14:20:10]

Officials believe it may be a Volkswagen. And that -- she says that she got cut off by that car. And then she heard a loud noise. And that's when she said that she heard her son say that he was hurting, something was wrong. Take a listen to Aiden's older sister explain what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLOONAN: There was road rage on the freeway, and someone pulled out a gun and shot my little brother in the stomach.

And he said: "Mommy, my tummy hurts." So, she went and she picked him up. And he was bleeding on her and she had blood on her clothes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELAM: Don't know exactly how you recover from that, your 6-year-old basically dying in your arms. He was pronounced deceased at a nearby hospital.

And now you can see what has been happening all weekend long is this memorial that continues to grow above on this overpass overlooking the freeway, people remembering Aiden, people coming from all over, people who didn't even know this family coming out because they're just incensed that a 6-year-old is dead because of something that happened on the road. And the fact that they still have not found the person who was shooting from this vehicle into this car that led to the 6-year-old to lose his life just has people very incensed here that this has happened -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

HILL: And understandably so.

CAMEROTA: Yes, not just there.

Stephanie Elam, thank you very, very much.

Our next guest has been trying to reform gun laws nationwide and cut down on gun violence ever since he survived a mass shooting that killed 17 people at his high school in Parkland, Florida, in February of 2018.

Joining us now is David Hogg. He's the co founder of the group Never Again MSD.

David, great to see you, as always.

DAVID HOGG, CO-FOUNDER, NEVER AGAIN MSD: Thank you for having me on.

CAMEROTA: David, I'm sorry that, through no choice of your own, this has become your area of expertise, mass shootings.

But here we are again, 13, at least 13 that we know of, mass shootings across the United States this weekend alone. And this year, there's been a 23 percent uptick in deaths from gun violence.

You have studied this since you were one of the victims of a school shooting. What is going wrong?

HOGG: I think what's going wrong is the fact that, mainly, we claim to have a representative democracy, but, clearly, with things such as the filibuster, it stops our country from doing -- our government from performing its most basic role of protecting its citizens from all threats, foreign and domestic.

And gun violence is a uniquely domestic threat here in the United States, in comparison to most high-income countries. And I think one of the most frustrating things about that is, we constantly hear people get in debates about these things, and oftentimes forget about the humanity of the 6-year-old that we just heard about that was unfortunately stolen from their family by gun violence, or any number of individuals every day that are stolen from their families by gun violence, because they're not lost.

This is not a natural disaster. This is a completely human-enabled disaster and a disaster that's enabled by the corruption of our elected officials that say repeatedly let's just go with whatever the NRA says.

And we have been doing that for 30 years. And that's why we're still here. Maybe it's time we try something new, because kids and everyday people are dying every single day. And I don't just want to talk about this after there's 13 mass shootings every time.

I want us to be talking about this proactively, so that we're able to stop that next mass shooting or that next everyday incidence of gun violence, because the reality is, although those shootings that kill four or more people get on the news, there -- we have the equivalent of several dozen mass shootings every day in the United States in the form of everyday gun violence that, in large part, is preventable.

CAMEROTA: I know.

HOGG: But our elected officials fail to act.

CAMEROTA: I know. I mean, and you have been trying to get our attention about this for the past three years. And it's not only gun violence that's going up.

It's also gun purchasing. So, in just the past year, in 2020, there were nearly 23 million gun sales across the United States. That's up 65 percent over the year before. And then, in January, OK, after the insurrection at the Capitol, there were two million gun sales. And that's up 75 percent compared to the January before that.

So, what's that about to you?

HOGG: I think it's about fear. I think it's about the fact that, as a country, oftentimes, we would rather, unfortunately, turn on each other and point to someone's skin color or point to someone's immigration status or their gender or their sexual identity and claim that's the threat, when, in reality, we should all be working together against the sources of evil that are creating this gun violence and the injustice that promotes this gun violence and gun purchases in the first place.

Because the reality is what's going to help solve this situation is not somebody's buying another AR-15 or another gun.

It's going to be all of us working together to change the political system and the corruption and system of loopholes that has brought us to this place where a corporate -- a corporate lobby, essentially, like the NRA, is able to put such a choke hold on our elected officials that they're letting thousands of Americans die every year, simply because they're more afraid of what the NRA will do in their next election than whether or not there's going to be another school shooting in their community, or an everyday act of gun violence.

[14:25:30]

And that has to change. We have to come together as Americans and realize this isn't about being Democrats or Republicans. That 6-year- old, that 14-year-old, that 12-year-old that die every day, they don't have a political affiliation. They're a kid that wants to grow up, and they deserve to grow up in peace and security, no matter their zip code, no matter the color of their skin or where they come from or who they are. And we have a responsibility, as older people, to act to protect them,

so that, in the future, they're able to be college students, and they don't have to come on CNN and talk about the fact that we're the -- a country that uniquely has to deal with this situation, because we don't have to.

It absolutely does not have to be this way.

CAMEROTA: David, what do you say to those grieving families today, since your family has been through this?

HOGG: What I would say is, it's -- I have often heard it described as for many, many people, joining a club that nobody ever wants to be a part of and I don't want to see continue expanding on a daily basis.

I think one of the most horrific things in the aftermath of these instances of gun violence is that our elected officials, for the most part, have proven to be so -- to be such utter failures, that it is now on the victims and survivors of gun violence to end gun violence themselves, instead of the people that we pay to do the job of helping protect us as a country that are supposed to do the job of a government protecting everyday citizens like you and I, Alisyn and not organizations like the National Rifle Association or ridiculous parliamentary procedures, like the filibuster that enable this inaction to continue, as thousands of Americans continue to die.

Because that's the reality here. As these debates continue on, it -- we can argue about this all we want, as we have for the past 21 years, ever since before I was alive, but the reality is, so long as we continue debating and we continue arguing about, oh, filibuster this, filibuster that, bipartisanship, I don't care about bipartisanship

I care about action because kids are dying today. People are dying today. And they don't care if it's party-line vote or not. We need to stop the people that are killing them from getting guns in the first place.

CAMEROTA: And, David, speaking of the people that we pay on Capitol Hill, Marjorie Taylor Greene is at it again. You remember her, of course. She famously harassed you on the sidewalk outside of the U.S. Capitol when you were there lobbying lawmakers against gun violence.

She followed you and said all sorts of nasty, triggering things. So now, last week, she was on this podcast, and she likened mask mandates for unvaccinated lawmakers, OK, to Nazis loading Jews into gas chambers.

Let me just play a portion of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We can look back in a time in history where people were told to wear a gold Star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany.

And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK, what are your thoughts today on Marjorie Taylor Greene?

HOGG: We need leaders that bring us together as everyday people, as Americans of all different faiths and religions.

And the continuation of the horrific increase that we have seen in recent years of anti-Semitism perpetuated by a United States congresswoman, regardless of political affiliation, is truly horrific and disgusting at the highest level.

I think that this kind of outrage machine that Marjorie Taylor Greene plays into profits, from, and then continues her escapades on by attacking other people, and not focusing so much on literally fighting teenagers a lot of the time -- she even attacked a congresswoman's daughter the other day.

And I -- what I don't understand is, why can't -- why does she spend so much time fighting against everyday people, everyday American citizens that are -- may have a different opinion than her, instead of fighting for her constituents in the first place? Why does she -- why can't she lead by example?

Because I can tell you that we need leader -- we have seen the effects, the horrific effects on gun -- through gun violence and other instances of mass shootings and mass violence and even, unfortunately, genocide that leaders with so much hatred in their hearts end up -- can end up creating or promoting.

And we need Marjorie Taylor Greene and every single person on both sides of the aisle to come out and condemn the anti-Semitism that she showed in that clip and all other forms of it that she has continued to promote, because it is truly horrific.

[14:30:00]