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Nashville Hat Store Facing Backlash For Anti-Vaccine Patch; President Biden Honors Veterans on Memorial Day; Unmasked Holiday; Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 31, 2021 - 15:00   ET


CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Victor. This is shocking and could be an indication that Osaka has been shouldering a very large burden silently for a long time. There's still a lot of questions that need to be answered.


But you mentioned her decision to skip those mandatory post-match press conferences at Roland-Garros. The tournament flexed back at that. They wanted things to be equal for everyone.

But she did cite mental health concerns initially. And there was some speculation that she didn't want to be subjected to the scrutiny that might come with her performance on the clay court. She hasn't been as strong there as other surfaces.

But want to read you a little bit of what she said today, because she's offering some clarity on what she has been going through, and, more specifically, that she's been suffering with bouts of depression.

She said that that's one of the main reasons why she had so much anxiety coming into the tournament, and that she realized that her timing was off here, but that she really wanted to protect herself. She wanted to have self care, as she put it. And now she's saying that her future is up in the air, that she's stepping away from the courts, Victor.

And what that means most immediately for Wimbledon and then also for the Olympics is anybody's guess right now. But it just shed further light on what she's been going through. And I think her team and those around her also going to have to answer some questions now as to why.

It seems like she may not have gotten the support that she's needed until now.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: You never know. You never know.

Carolyn Manno for us, thank you.

Top of the hour. I'm Victor Blackwell. Alisyn is off.

In ceremonies across the country, the nation is honoring its fallen heroes, those who fought for this country's freedom and the Gold Star families they left behind. Memorial Day also signifies the unofficial start of summer. And, this

year, it's the first unmasked holiday for a lot of Americans in more than a year. And now that more than 40 percent of the people across this country have been fully vaccinated, more than 51 percent of adults, today looks very different than where we were last year, crowded beaches and pools, restaurants at full capacity, strangers not afraid to gather, as spectators are flocking to sports stadiums.

Look at this crap; 135,000 fans watched the Indy 500, the largest sporting event since the pandemic started.

The holiday is also setting a pandemic record for travel. AAA predicts 37 million people will travel 50 miles or more. Airports have been packed, close to two million passengers traveling through TSA checkpoints on Friday alone.

Let's go to CNN's Pete Muntean live at Reagan National Airport.

A lot of people have been marking this as maybe the day they get back out there. And out there, they are.

Pete, what are you seeing?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, this airport was a ghost town only a year ago, and now the TSA says it screened 1.6 million people in airports across the country just yesterday. Compare that to the same day in 2020, when only 350,000 people flew.

We have come a long way, especially considering that the TSA air travel record of the pandemic was set only back on Friday, when 1.96 million people flew. The big question is whether or not we will reach the elusive two million passenger mark. We will maybe see it today. It's slated to be one of the busiest of the holiday weekend. That number, we have not seen since March of 2020.

But the story not just about air travel. AAA anticipates that 37 million people will travel 50 miles or more on this holiday weekend, 34 million of them by car, those numbers really not that far off from where we were back in 2019.

But drivers are in for a bit of a rude awakening when it comes to gas prices, now the highest they have been in seven years, the national average for a gallon of gas $3.05, up $1 from where we were a year ago.

A lot of people leaning into this idea of the first maskless holiday of the pandemic, but, remember, you still have to wear a mask on all forms of public transportation. That includes planes, trains, buses, boats, and also here in terminals, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Pete Muntean, thank you so much.

Now, throughout the country this Memorial Day, Americans are paying tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. What you're seeing here happened at the World War II Veterans Memorial in Washington. Other Memorial Day tributes are happening at the Vietnam Memorial,

Navy Memorial, along with states holding their own commemorations. There are also so many loved ones who are visiting the resting places, those cemeteries of those taken too soon in defense of the U.S..

And, today, the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, he reached out to the families of the fallen.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: To the loved ones of those who have fallen, let me simply say, we know the depth of your sacrifice, but we can never truly know the depth of your loss.


What we can do is honor the memory of those you lost by caring for those who mourn them and by seeking to perfect our union and defend our democracy.


BLACKWELL: Since the start of the Civil War, more than 1.2 million people have been killed in service to this country.

Now, this is the first Memorial Day for President Biden as commander in chief. He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Vice President Harris and Secretary Austin, who you heard from, they also participated.Nearly 5,000 unknown soldiers are buried at the cemetery.

In a speech there, the president reflected on the meaning of the day and the personal toll he feels on Memorial Day.

Let's go to CNN's White House correspondent, Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, the president always speaks so personally about this because it is personal for him. What did he say today?


And President Biden reflected not just on the fallen heroes who died in service to our country, but also on his own personal loss. It was six years ago yesterday that his eldest son, Beau Biden, passed away from brain cancer. Beau Biden had served in the Delaware Army National Guard, including a tour of duty in Iraq, moments, the president said, was among the proudest of his son's life.

And, so often, as the president talks about his own loss, he relates to those military families who send their loved ones into war and for many who saw their loved ones pay the ultimate sacrifice.

You heard the president today saying that this is a very hard time of year for his family, just as it is for so many military families across the country. And in his remarks, he also drew particular attention to the losses from the -- America's most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a particularly poignant moment, as the U.S. is set to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as early as July.

The president said these fallen soldiers have been at the top of his mind dating back to when he was vice president. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I carry in my pocket the number of troops killed during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, not an approximation, not rounded-off numbers.

They each leave behind an entire community and family. And, today, that number is 7,036, 7,036 fallen angels who have lost their lives in these conflicts.

On this Memorial Day, we honor their legacy and their sacrifice. Duty, honor, country, they live for it. They died for it. And we, as a nation, are eternally grateful.


SAENZ: And on this first Memorial Day as commander in chief, the president urged Americans to come together to protect and defend the very democracy that so many fallen soldiers gave their lives to defend -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely.

Arlette Saenz for us there at the White House, thanks so much.

Let's turn now to retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He is a CNN military analyst who was commanding general of Europe and the Seventh Army.

General, something that we have discussed when I was on the weekend show, and I think it's so poignant, I want you to share here, that you carry a box of cards that I think people should know about as they consider. And it's nearby. As we're talking about beaches and traveling and everybody's getting e-mails of sales, tell us about your box of cards.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I just reached over to get it, Victor.

It's a box I have on my desk. Here it is right here. On the front of it, it says, "Make it matter."

And it has cards inside of it, 253 of them that look something like this. And they all have a picture and the name of a soldier that I either served with or commanded who gave their last full measure, the greatest sacrifice, in defense of the country, 253 souls from a couple of deployments that I had that I look at every day and say a prayer, a silent prayer, every day for them.

And so the president's comments today at Arlington, as well as Secretary Austin's, really sang to me, because he not only talked about the card he carried with the number, because that -- that number is somewhat -- it doesn't really describe the faces and the people, but it shows that he's caring for him.


But he also talked about the families.

And my wife and I still stay in contact with some of the families of these individuals that served -- that we served with and that we lost in combat. In fact, my wife got a text message today that she had sent out to one of the spouses of a soldier who had been killed in action in Iraq, and just checking in on her, seeing how she's doing, and got a response back saying that their young child, who was less than a year old when their father -- when his father died, is now 16 and heading off to college -- 17 or 18, I guess, heading off to college.

So, it's those kind of contacts that bring a real personal touch to this Memorial Day. It's more than just visiting the cemeteries. It's really reflecting and remembering those we served with and rededicating our lives to serving our country.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's the support after the funeral, the years that go on, that are so important to so many families.


BLACKWELL: I understand you told one of my producers you have got a favorite line that's applicable today to "Saving Private Ryan." Tell me about it.

HERTLING: Yes, it's -- "Saving Private Ryan" is probably my favorite movie. And there's a great line in it.

Anyone who's seen the movie, I'll describe it very quickly. Tom Hanks, who is playing Captain Miller, the guy who was tasked with the mission of going out and finding Private Ryan, one of three sons that he had to bring back, as the other two sons had died, is pulled in very -- he pulls in Matthew Damon -- yes, Matt Damon -- pulls him in close to him at the end as he's dying.

And then -- and he says, "Earn this." "Earn this."

And at that point in the film, it fades to -- from 1944 to today, where Private Ryan is now an old man visiting the cemetery in Normandy. And he turns to his wife and says: "Tell me I'm a good man."

That's what all of us have who has served with these young men and women who have given their lives in support of their country. We want to make sure we earn it for them as well.

Sorry about that.

BLACKWELL: No, don't apologize for that at all, General.

Let me ask you about a general who you know well who is now the defense secretary, Secretary Austin.

HERTLING: Yes. BLACKWELL: Our Barbara Starr had an exclusive interview with him.

And there was some propaganda from Russia, from China, even from some U.S. officials, who questioned the softening of the military. He says he doesn't lose a minute's sleep.

Your concern for the U.S. military softening?

HERTLING: I have none. They are not soft at all. The men and women that serve in uniform, who were the cloth of our country, have it right, Victor.

General -- Secretary Austin, former General Officer Austin, is a classmate of mine from West Point. I know him well. I served under his command in Iraq. He knows what he's talking about.

And if you talk to those who serve today, they will tell you there's no softening. The propaganda videos that Russia and Chinese -- China are trying to really put forth, and that some people, unfortunately, have bought in to, reflect America that is softening, I don't see it in the military. That's for sure.

What we have is a diverse, professional force, people who volunteer to serve from all walks of life, and they bring with them myriad diversities that contribute to the greater good.


HERTLING: And they represent our country, like no other army in the world.

And, by the way, they all take an oath that they vow to defend, unlike any other military in the world, a piece of paper, the Constitution...


HERTLING: ... not the motherland or the fatherland or the president or the king or the queen. They defend ideas and ideals and values. And that's what makes our military strong.

BLACKWELL: I'm glad you bring up that oath to that piece of paper, because there was something that was remarkable that was said by a man who took that oath, former general, former national security adviser.

Remember that context. This man was the national security adviser -- 22 days -- to a president. This is General Michael Flynn at a QAnon event over the weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a simple Marine. I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can't happen here.


MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No reason. It should happen here. No reason.


FLYNN: That's right.



BLACKWELL: That was General Hertling (sic) saying that there should be a military-style coup as like what happened in Myanmar here.

Your reaction?

HERTLING: Well, first of all, the simple Marine that mispronounced Myanmar -- Myanmar...

BLACKWELL: Sorry. General Flynn.

HERTLING: .. is very -- is very simple.

But I can't account for what's happened to General Flynn. I knew him when he was an active soldier. And I think just some of the things he's saying are getting crazier and crazier as the day goes on.

I don't understand it. He knows the wrongness of all the things he's doing. But it is freedom of speech. It's what we guarantee. And, unfortunately, he has, in my view, gone off the deep end. And he shouldn't say those kinds of things, because it's -- it runs contrary to what we vow an oath to defend and what we serve as soldiers and former soldiers in the Army.

BLACKWELL: General Hertling, thank you for your time.

And, as always, sir, thank you for your service.

HERTLING: Victor, it's always a pleasure to be with you. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

And we want to honor all of the Gold Star families who are mourning the loss of a service member today.



BLACKWELL: The owner of a hat store in Nashville is facing backlash after advertising the sale of anti-vaccine yellow Star of David patches.

It's the same type of bands that Nazis forced Jews in Europe to wear during the Holocaust. Well, the owner is now apologizing after these protests outside of the hatWRKS store in Nashville this weekend. Now, this is where this all started. The owner posted photos on

Instagram announcing the sale of a Star of David patch that says "Not Vaccinated."


RON RIVLEN, NASHVILLE RESIDENT: When you take a symbol like the gold -- the yellow star that was foisted upon Jews to ostracize them and make them victims, and then they took all those people and brought them on to boxcars and annihilated them, don't belittle the memories of six million Jews by using that symbol.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Jean Casarez is following this one for us.

She's now issuing an apology. What is she saying?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here is the apology.

And it was posted on the store's Instagram account. It says -- quote -- "In no way did I intend to trivialize the Star of David or disrespect what happened to millions of people. That is not who I am or what I stand for. My intent was not to exploit or make a profit. My hope was to share my genuine concern and fear and to do all that I can to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again. I sincerely apologize for any insensitivity."

But that apology didn't go too far in the eyes of some hat makers, because, as it stands now, there are four hat makers that are actually pulling their inventory, first of all, Stetson. They say that, as a result of the sale, they will not have any of their products at this store at all.

Kangol headwear, they gave her a chance. They feel the apology was sincere. Tula Hats and Goorin Bros. saying that they are horrified by this entire thing.

Now, she or the store went on to say -- another post, and this was the most recent one. She said -- quote -- "I was willing to put my business on the line to stand up for the freedoms that we still have in our country. Was the use of the yellow star an insensitivity? Obviously so to many, but it does -- does that make me an anti-Semite Nazi? No. No, it doesn't. Have I done unspeakable, unforgivable harm to others? No, I have not. But in the past 15 months, there has been plenty of unforgivable harm."

And you know, Victor, I think people want to understand her state of mind. You know, in criminal law, you always say the state of mind of someone. Now, obviously, these hat makers believe they have heard enough. They have pulled their inventory. They will no longer be in this store.

And they have got a lot of hats. I looked at the Web site. But that is the latest. And she seems to be very defiant, in a sense, apologetic to a sense. But does that distinction make a difference? BLACKWELL: Yes, certainly, to many people across the country and

those people standing out in front of a story, it certainly does not.

Jean Casarez, we will continue to follow this. Thank you so much.


CASAREZ: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Next: A high school English teacher is suing her district after being pulled from the classroom. She says it's all because of the support she showed for the Black Lives Matter movement.

She and an attorney will join me next.


BLACKWELL: High school English teacher Amy Donofrio was pulled from her class in March, reassigned to non-teaching duties, and stripped of contact with her students.

Why? Because she refused to remove a Black Lives Matter