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Four Dead, 25 Injured In Five Mass Shootings Across The U.S. This Weekend; Interview With Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA); Prince Harry And Meghan Announce Birth Of Baby Girl. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired June 6, 2021 - 15:00   ET



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

All right, we begin this hour with the U.S. once again facing an outbreak of gun violence. In just the last 24 hours, we have seen at least four mass shootings, all of which come on the heels of a judge's decision in California reversing a 32-year ban on assault weapons.

Last night's shootings bring the total up to 250 shootings for the year.

In Miami Dade County, Florida, a shooting left three people dead and two others wounded outside of a graduation party. In Chicago, eight people were wounded early this morning when a car pulled up and someone opened fire. And then just this weekend, in that city, five have been killed and at least 40 hurt by gun violence.

In New Orleans, at least eight people were hit by gunfire on a service road of I-10. And in Utah, police say a white car drove up to a group in Salt Lake City and shot at least five people killing one.

And in all of these cases, police are still searching for the people responsible.

With me now is Congresswoman Barbara Lee. She's a Democrat from California. Congresswoman, so good to see you.

I'm going to talk to you about a lot of things. Let's begin with, you know, the rise in these shootings mass shootings and the ruling to reverse California's ban on assault weapons. I spoke with several people yesterday who lost loved ones or were victims of mass shootings and listen to their reactions to the judge comparing AR-15 rifles to Swiss Army knives.


BRANDON WOLF, PULSE SHOOTING SURVIVOR: If a Swiss Army Knife had been used at pulse, we would have had a birthday party for my best friend last week, not a vigil. The weapons we are talking about don't come with a nail file and a corkscrew just in case you get lost in the woods with a bottle of wine. RICHARD MARTINEZ, LOST SON TO MASS SHOOTING: This ruling, if it were

to stand would make our country a more dangerous place. Assault weapons, assault style weapons make our country a more dangerous place.


WHITFIELD: So Congresswoman, what are your thoughts, you know, on the ruling, the potential consequences and how it is making victims of gun violence feel?

REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): Fredricka, thank you so much for that question. I don't know what that Judge was thinking. All right, it's really very sad in many respects, I mean, we are heartbroken behind all of the gun violence and those who have been killed and we have to do more than send our condolences and sympathies to those families. We have to do something.

And for this judge to say that assault weapons can be used and basically that's what the ruling said, in a state where for 30 years we've had an assault weapon ban on is outrageous. And hopefully, the courts will reverse that.

But having said that we need to have strong gun safety measures and we need to move and insist that the Senate move on the measures that the House has passed over to them because this rise in gun violence is putting everyone in our country at risk.

WHITFIELD: Judge Benitez and his ruling, you know, simplified, I mean, he said, the state's definition of illegal military style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states and by the U.S. Supreme Court, while the Attorney General for California has appealed.

Do you see this potentially make its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court?


LEE: Let's hope that the appeal works in favor of the people in our state, but I just have to say, assault weapons don't belong on the streets of America. These are assault weapons, these are used in in wars. These are weapons designed to kill.

And for the judge to really come out and even say that and this ruling makes one wonder about his judgment and if he really knows what he is talking about. This is outrageous. And hopefully we'll be able to reverse it.

But also, as I said, we've got to pass our gun safety measures in the Senate now.

WHITFIELD: I want to talk to you about something else. You're very passionate about voting rights. Today, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia wrote in an op-ed why he is voting against the For the People Act, which expands voter registration and access. He said this in part, "Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the

fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. Today's debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage." So what's your response to what he wrote?

LEE: Well, I hope he reconsiders what his position is because this is not about partisan advantage. We know that Mitch McConnell has said from day one that he was not going to support anything that the Biden- Harris administration put forward.

This is fundamental to our democracy. This is taking away the rights of senior citizens, of young people, of African-Americans, of people of color, people in rural communities. This has taken away -- these laws are taken away -- that have been passed in the states -- our constitutional right to exercise our points of views in terms of our own government and elected officials.

And for anyone to say they won't vote for the For the People Act or for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, to me, needs to really search deeply and see what that's really about. Because if you ask me, it's about our democracy. It is un-American, not to, you know, allow people who would be disenfranchised the right to vote.

WHITFIELD: For the People Act was passed in the House, but it looks like it's an uphill battle in the Senate, particularly when Manchin reiterates his opposition to getting rid of the filibuster, which is what it might take in order to get it passed. So, do you think the filibuster has -- stand a chance of ending?

LEE: I hope so, because we cannot allow Mitch McConnell to continue to stifle progress. People in our country voted for Joe Biden, voted for Kamala Harris as our Vice President. We have a country, which now is really beginning to turn back the right to vote for so many people.

And so by any means necessary, we need to make sure that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is passed, and also the For the People Act, we've got to do that, because you can't play politics, I agree, with our constitutional rights. And these bills will make sure that what the states are doing, do not disenfranchise millions of voters.

WHITFIELD: Something else Manchin wrote in his op-ed, I'd like to get your response. He writes about that Democrats, in his view, quote, " ... attempted to demonize the filibuster, and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past." Does he have his history right in your view?

LEE: That's not correct. This was instituted as a result of, we know, segregationists tried to keep, you know, African-Americans oppressed and not providing for equal opportunities for black Americans. And so come on, this filibuster has been used in a very sinister way. We need to make sure that the voices of people are heard in our country and we need to make sure that Mitch McConnell does not continue to stifle progress.

And he said early on, he gave us his position. The country knows he said, he's not going to support anything that the Biden administration puts forward. He said that.

And so if he said that, how are we going to work on behalf of the people to make sure that their lives and the quality of their lives are what they should be after this pandemic? How are we going to make sure that we crush this virus and move forward and put the economy on a stronger footing? I don't know how we do that, with in fact, Mitch McConnell saying he's not going to allow that to happen.

So we've got to figure out a way and a path forward.

WHITFIELD: All right, and something else you're very passionate about, yesterday, you were in San Francisco marking the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, you know, what lessons do you see being borrowed, I guess from the approach to this pandemic and the approach to the AIDS crisis?


WHITFIELD: I mean, still no vaccine, still no cure after this many years for AIDS.

LEE: Sure, still no vaccine, still no cure. Yesterday was quite a powerful moment. I was with Speaker Pelosi and Mayor London Breed and all of our wonderful activists and scientists, you know, commemorating, first of all, all of those we lost over the last 40 years.

But secondly, recommitting ourselves to making sure that we find a path forward to end HIV and AIDS by 2030, hopefully, before 2030. But having said that, let me just say Dr. Fauci was there early. He led the effort in terms of a vaccine for HIV and AIDS, for AIDS, and he actually helped provide the framework, an architecture for the COVID vaccine.

And so, now, we have a COVID vaccine and we base that on much of what work had been done for the AIDS vaccine. Now, we're a little bit further ahead in the development of an AIDS vaccine.

And so I'm very hopeful that our scientists and Dr. Fauci and all those who've been working on this for so long will find a cure and a vaccine very quickly for AIDS, and I think that will happen.

So yesterday was quite a moment. We all, you know, saluted the activists and all of those who have been in this for so long and still in the Congress, this is a bipartisan effort finding the resources for HIV and AIDS care, prevention, treatment, vaccine, both for our own country and for the planet.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And so we remain hopeful, indeed. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

LEE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead. U.S. hits a major milestone in the effort to get Americans vaccinated against COVID-19. The C.D.C. says it has administered 300 million shots in the arms but now, there's another challenge brewing.

Plus, pro golfer Jon Rahm forced to exit in the middle of the PGA Memorial tournament after officials told him he tested positive for coronavirus.

And it's a girl. Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have just welcomed their new baby. We're live next.



WHITFIELD: All right, it's nice to give you a little good news. Prince Harry and Meghan have just announced the birth of their second child, and it's a baby girl. CNN's royal correspondent, Max Foster joining me now with reaction from the U.K. and, oh, this is interesting, Max because baby girl named after both the Queen and Princess Di?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the baby is called Lilibet Diana and Lilibet is the Queen's nickname, her pet name, so that -- the couple have said the baby is named after Queen Elizabeth, but also Diana. Diana is the middle name of Harry's late mother, of course.

So a real nod to the Royal family on this one. They've said as a couple they are only going to have two babies. Harry in the past said that's for environmental reasons. But this is the complete set of four. And the best news, they are healthy and they are well settling in at home.

They had the baby on Friday, already at home, Fredricka, so it's all looking pretty positive so far.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh. They didn't waste any time. Okay, yes, the baby was born on Friday. And so, okay, so Archie was born in the U.K., and now, Lilibet Diana, born in the U.S., but is there you know, dual citizenship? And is there any comment coming from the Palace, especially the Queen given you know her name is in the mix here?

FOSTER: Absolutely. Well, I actually got one single statement from all the senior members of the Royal family. The Cambridges, Charles, Camilla and the Queen, as you say, they say they've been informed as you'd hopefully they would be, and are delighted with the news of the birth of the daughter to Duke and Duchess of Sussex. So we've had that news from them.

What you're suggesting here is, obviously, Archie is seventh in line to the throne. He was born in the U.K., but Lili will be eighth in line to the U.K. throne, but was born in the U.S., so in theory, could go on to be U.S. President as well. So it could raise potentially a constitutional question there.

I think if you speak to constitutional historians in the U.S., there's absolutely no way that you'll be able to be President and have a title from a foreign country, but she is in this rather unique position where she is, you know, a relatively senior Royal member of the British Royal family, but also a U.S. citizen. I don't know how they will work this out, but probably it won't become an issue.

WHITFIELD: They'll figure something out. Well, congrats to them all. Max Foster, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right, straight ahead. He was winning, but Spanish golfer John Rahm has now withdrawn from the PGA Memorial tournament after testing positive for COVID-19. And guess where he found out? Live on television. We'll discuss, next.



WHITFIELD: All right, this just in to CNN. A plane carrying Vice President Kamala Harris bound for Guatemala has just returned to Joint Base Andrews after a technical issue emerged just after takeoff. CNN's Joe Johns joining me now from the White House.

So Joe, what more are you learning?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we are being told right now by the pool is that it was a technical issue with no major safety problems. What we know for sure is that the Vice President's plane departed Joint Base Andrews out of the Maryland suburbs near to D.C. around 2:28 Eastern Time.

Less than 30 minutes into that flight, the plane had to turn around. Still not a lot of details on this technical issue that supposedly was not a safety problem. Nonetheless, the plane is back on the ground at Joint Base Andrews at this time. We did get to see the Vice President disembarking and she even spoke very briefly. Listen.


QUESTION: Are you okay?

KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm good. Yes. We all said a little prayer, but we're good.


JOHNS: So we're told is going to take about an hour to get another plane. Apparently, they're not going to try to fix the one she was on and then she'll be back on her way to Guatemala. It doesn't apparently affect this trip very much because she wasn't supposed to meet the Guatemalan President until tomorrow. Fred, we'll keep you informed.

WHITFIELD: All right, at the very least, I'm sure it rattled a few nerves even though she had a smile on her face and said everything is all right, double thumbs up.

Alright, Joe Johns, thanks so much from the White House.


WHITFIELD: All right, so the U.S. has hit another major milestone in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The C.D.C. says more than 300 million vaccines have been administered in America. New numbers just updated in the last hour show more than 52 percent of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated, another 63 percent of adults have gotten at least one dose.

In total, the U.S. has over 51 percent of its population with at least one vaccine dose.

Coming up, in the next hour, First Lady Jill Biden and N.I.H. Director Dr. Anthony Fauci will be visiting a vaccination clinic in Harlem. The visit comes as the U.S. tries to reach President Biden's goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the U.S. population by July 4th.

All right, speaking of COVID, the world's third ranked golfer is forced to bow out of this weekend's PGA event because of coronavirus. Spanish pro John Rahm held a six-shot lead when he withdrew from the Memorial tournament after testing positive for COVID-19. Officials say Rahm was placed in contact tracing protocol Monday and was getting daily testing after coming into contact with someone who tested positive.

Rahm elected to stay in the tournament and agreed to daily testing and to avoid indoor activities at the event.

Joining me right now to discuss, CNN sports analyst, Christine Brennan. She's also a sports columnist for "U.S.A. Today." So, good to see you. Okay, Christine, this is really peculiar, is it not? I mean, for so many reasons.

Isn't it remarkable that it would be his choice, Rahm's choice to continue to play until testing positive as opposed to the PGA saying, you know, here's the protocol, you've been in contact with somebody. You have to quarantine like most people do.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Exactly. And I don't know, Fred, if you've watched any golf tournaments recently, or any of the --

WHITFIELD: I was actually watching that one until I decided not to, but I missed that moment. But go ahead.

BRENNAN: Well, and that was drama of the highest order on the 18th green as he is told and that doubles over. Understandably, so emotional, that he is tested positive and that he has to withdraw from the tournament as he is the leader with a six-stroke lead in this tournament.

He won last year, so he is the defending champion. This is Memorial Jack Nicklaus tournament, but if you look at the crowd, there's no masks and there have been no masks for a while. And interestingly, just a couple weeks ago, Phil Mickelson, of course, one of the greatest names in the history of the sport won the PGA Championship. And then he revealed the next day he was not fully vaccinated.

And yet the crowds were mobbing around him. It was kind of bedlam for a while and you had the fabulous scene of joy and victory for Phil, who is beloved by the galleries. But in terms of COVID that that was going on.

So, you know, the PGA Tour has an interesting relation scene. There are a lot of Trump supporters on the PGA Tour. They're honest, and they are about 50 percent vaccinated.

And one would think if you're going to be out there among people hitting shots in the crowd, having to go right by the galleries and be near people, golfers, Fred, are probably closer than any other athletes to their fans, to the public, to people they don't know.

One who is 50 percent vaccinated and then Rahm himself, we're not sure. In fact, he was in contact tracing, it tells us, if you're vaccinated, you don't have to be in contact tracing. So that may tell us something itself.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So, and I guess this reveals a bit about the approach of the PGA. There have been other, you know, leagues under scrutiny as well. I mean, just think of the MLB. I mean, even though these are sports that are largely played outdoors, the threat of COVID is still very real, and this is the latest instance of that.

Do you think that the PGA is now going to reconsider, perhaps its approach or is it just too late in the game so to speak for that?

BRENNAN: Certainly, there are reports out there that a lot of golfers who have not been vaccinated are considering being vaccinated very quickly, a mad rush, as one colleague said, to get vaccinated, so that's kind of interesting.

Obviously, when Rahm basically, if he won this tournament, Fredricka, it would be $1.7 million is the winner's prize money. And, of course, that's a lot of money there. $1.7 million to go get vaccinated.

But you know, this is really an interesting case study because as you mentioned, of course, the sport is outdoors. It was social distancing before there was social distancing.

It enjoyed a boom or at least a little bounce in public interest, people playing golf last year when they couldn't play any other sports. And so these would have been good days for the game of golf and a real crusher for the sport and for the way people look at golf in relations aspect of it as well.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Well, you mentioned a big purse in golf, big purse for tennis as well. The French Open is underway and you've got big names, Osaka, Williams, Federer. All of them are out for different reasons. But I wonder if this is a real dilemma for the French Open right now?

I mean Federer is out. You know, he's withdrawn. Williams have just lost in the fourth round there. And of course, we know, you know, Osaka, you know, bowing out as she addresses, you know, her mental fitness. So, how does the French Open manage all of this?


BRENNAN: So there are some stars left, of course, and upsets are the nature of sports and people love that, too, and there are new names and people rising up, Roger Federer turns 40 in August. Serena Williams will turn 40 in September, and of course, Naomi Osaka is 23. And we understand, of course, the mental health issues, everyone wish her well, to get help, to get what she needs and to come back when she can.

But you know, Serena Williams, obviously, people were looking to her. She has had this elusive quest to try to win her 24th Grand Slam title in record time, she hasn't been able to do it. And one wonders how many more opportunities she is going to have and Federer has had two knee surgeries in the last year.

So he said, he wanted to listen to his body, which is a good thing for 40-year-olds to do, but Federer and Serena, two big, big names and is now gone.

WHITFIELD: Well, the accomplishments still among all of them, collectively and individual are still astounding.

All right. Christine Brennan, thank you so much. Good to see you.

BRENNAN: Fredricka, thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, the chilling reality our country is facing right now why officials say cyberattacks are here to stay.



WHITFIELD: Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm today warning in stark terms that the U.S. power grid is vulnerable to attacks. She made this stunning admission to CNN's Jake Tapper.


JENNIFER GRANHOLM, U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: I mean, I think that there are very malign actors who are trying even as we speak, there are thousands of attacks on all aspects of the energy sector and the private sector, generally.

The bottom line is, we have all got to up our game with respect to our cyber defenses. The President is doing that.


WHITFIELD: Granholm's warning comes after weeks of intensifying cyberattacks on government and private sector targets.

Last week, the White House issued a letter asking companies to take the threat more seriously, that followed cyberattacks that shut down a gas pipeline company and one of the biggest meat packers in the U.S.

Joining us is Glenn Gerstell. He is a former General Counsel for the National Security Agency, the N.S.A. He served in both the Obama and Trump administrations, so good to see you. So let's begin with the Secretary Granholm's comments. Is the U.S.

power grid very vulnerable in your view right now?

GLENN GERSTELL, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL FOR THE NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: Unfortunately, the answer is yes. I think the lesson we're learning from the recent spate of ransomware attacks is that this is going to get worse before it gets better, and we're all vulnerable.

It's not just the energy sector, it's our ability to get everything from a hamburger because of beef processing plants being shut down to hospitals being shut down, and our ability to get x-rays, to gasoline at the pumps with the Colonial Pipelines ransomware attack.

So the lesson we're learning from this is that all of our sectors are vulnerable.

WHITFIELD: So it doesn't sound like it is avoidable at all. I mean, all companies, our ways of life, everything is relying on technology, and that is at the core of these attacks. So how can this nation protect itself?

GERSTELL: So unfortunately, the analogy to the pandemic, the COVID-19 pandemic is unfortunately a good one, which is, for years, people were -- experts were warning about the dangers of this, and then when it finally broke out, people downplayed the significance of it, then when it exploded, we were caught short, and it turns out everyone is vulnerable. That's exactly the same thing with our cyber vulnerabilities.

There are a wide range of steps we can take in this area, but there is no one single drug that we can take. It's not a disease that has a miracle drug that we can cure. It's more of a chronic condition really. And as a result, we need to manage it. We're not going to be able to solve it with any one thing, but there are a number of steps we can take.

WHITFIELD: So it sounds like different companies, different entities have to take different kinds of steps. But are they all equipped to do that when you look at the Colonial Pipeline and the JBS meatpacking, you know, security issues that took place. I mean, they are designed differently. And so they would avert this kind of trouble differently.

So who is going to be the guidepost? How are any of these companies in the private sector going to be assisted?

GERSTELL: The private sector is going to bear the brunt of this, there is no question about that. But every one of the steps we can take and by the way, this is a solvable curable problem. We know how to solve this problem. This is not some technical thing or some black box where we can't address ransomware. We know how to do it.

The problem is that all the steps are pretty complicated, and sort of like a drug, they have some side effects.

So yes, the private sector does have to increase its security. People have to move to better means of securing e-mail in their systems. They have to be more resilient with backups.

But it's not just that, we need to take coordinated action on an international front to make sure that countries such as Russia can't get away with exploiting cyber maliciousness. Perhaps we need to take a look at regulating virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, which enable the whole ransomware system to make sense.

So every one of these has a negative and a consequence, there's a lot of political inertia associated with every one --of implementing all these solutions, but if we try to implement some of these solutions, we'll make an effort on this, but bit by bit, we will chip away at the problem.


WHITFIELD: Wow, this seems like a colossal issue. All right, Glenn Gerstell, thank you so much.

GERSTELL: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Good to see you. All right, much more ahead in the NEWSROOM, but first, a quick programming note. By the year 2045 people of color will be the majority in America. That's the topic of an all new "United Shades of America."

Join W. Kamau Bell as he heads to Philly -- Philadelphia -- a majority-minority city to find out what that really means. An all new episode begins tonight at 10:15.



WHITFIELD: All right, for the past six decades, late night television has grown from a shot in the dark kind of experiment to a thriving cultural phenomenon. And tonight, the season finale of the CNN Original Series, "The Story of Late Night" looks at how the internet, Donald Trump and the COVID pandemic changed late night TV forever. Here's a preview.


JAMES CORDEN, TALK SHOW HOST: In less than 24 hours, the election will be over Thank God.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah, they decide to do live election night shows.

TREVOR NOAH, TALK SHOW HOST: I remember thinking, Hillary Clinton is going to become President and it will be the most boring time in politics.

STEPHEN COLBERT, TALK SHOW HOST: Welcome to my live election night special on Showtime. I am your host, Steven Colbert. [CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

NOAH: We will also be getting updates on the results from around the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are calling the state of Ohio for Donald Trump.


NOAH: He was winning all the counties that mattered. He was winning the Electoral College.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump won Florida.

COLBERT: It is happening.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're like, oh, Donald Trump is going to be the President.

NOAH: Any good news?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can smoke weed in Massachusetts.


NOAH: I remember thinking, "Wow." Like it's real now. That moment for me was when "The Daily Show" with Trevor Noah started.


WHITFIELD: Interesting, the evolution of. All right, joining us right now, Bill Carter. He is the executive producer of story of late night and a CNN media analyst. Wow. This has been quite the journey, Bill. Congratulations. It's been a lot of fun. A lot of laughs and then a lot of wow. Is that how it happened?

So over the past, you know, five years or so, there has been an explosion of late night content. And we heard you know, Trevor Noah explain so well why. So, talk to me about how this happened?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, you know, a lot of things were happening, obviously, with the election in 2016. There was a big shift to our political commentary and point of view in in late night where obviously, the hosts became really political advocates in a lot of ways.

And that, of course, furthered the entire, you know, divisions in the country, because you had all of this comedy coming at you and Trump fighting back. He took on the late night guys. He actually, you know, went after them in his tweets, et cetera. So that was a whole another level of, you know, I guess you might call it adversarial television that was brought to bear. WHITFIELD: Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of the late

night shows to do things differently, produced their programs in an entirely different way from their backyards, their living rooms, as well.

So, do you think any of that will stick around even as you know, the pandemic kind of hopefully just dissipates?

CARTER: Yes, I do. I think what really happened there was they were compelled by the fact that they couldn't have a studio, they couldn't have audiences, et cetera to be able to work remotely and have guests come in remotely. And I think that will be a factor going forward, for sure.

But you can also tell that as they go back to the studios now, and Colbert is going back shortly himself, you're going to see that that is going to raise the energy level of the shows because you know, comedy without an audience laughing is so difficult to do. I mean, I give these guys a ton of credit. They were able to do jokes and keep their comedy rhythm even though there's no response.

I mean, normally, if you're a comedian, and you do two three jokes in a row that don't work, you want to get out of there.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh. Oh, yes. You feel like, oh my gosh, I've killed it, but not in a good way.

CARTER: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. All right. Well, we'll be watching, Bill Carter. Thank you so much. Looking forward to the finale.

CARTER: Enjoy. It will be fun.

WHITFIELD: Yes, indeed.

And be sure to tune in for the season finale of "The Story of Late Night." It airs tonight, an extended episode, by the way tonight at 9:00 p.m. Only on CNN.

All right this week, the daughter of a California firefighter killed by an off duty co-worker was honored in a special way at her high school graduation. Dozens of firefighters dressed in black uniforms, lining the entrance to Saugus High School's graduation ceremony as Joslyn Carlon and her family walked in.





WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. Joslyn received her diploma while wearing her late father's firefighting jacket over her gown. What a moment. The Los Angeles County Fire Chief described Joslyn's dad, Tory as "A

very brave, committed loyal member of our department for over 20 years." That was his quote.

He was just 44 years old.



WHITFIELD: All right perhaps you've heard of it. It's called sea snot, an astounding phenomenon sweeping the seas off the coast of Turkey, but as our Arwa Damon shows us, this creeping problem could become global if our world does not pay attention.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Something is very wrong. An alien like web of slime is choking off all forms of life in the water here. From above, it looks like streaks of paint.

It is like sinking through what our future will look like if nothing changes, if we continue to pollute our waters and allow our planet to warm.

It's known as sea snot, in science speak, marine mucilage and it has happened here before, but never like this.

Getting sucked into the gills of fish, wrapping itself around corals, suffocating them.

We're in the Dardanelles Strait that connects the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean.

Associate Professor Baris Ozalp is a coral expert who has been diving these waters for more than a decade. This coral, it's dead. Another one, dying. This one, threatened.

He points to a healthy sponge. And right next to it, he wipes the mucilage coating off a dead one.

Back on board, the gravity of what we witnessed sets in. Professor Ozalp says he and other scientists first observed mucilage in these waters in 2007.

DAMON (on camera): Is this the first year where you've seen mucilage killing coral and sea life?

DR. BARIS OZALP, MARINE BIOLOGIST AND CORAL EXPERT, CANAKKALE ONSEKIZ MART UNIVERSITY: Yes. Yes, of course we feel very bad. Because, you know during our childhood, this ecosystem was a rich ecosystem, even one year ago. They are healthy. They were healthy one year ago. Now it is bad.

DAMON (voice over): A year ago, this is what the underwater life looked like here. This is the exact same spot today.

Professor Muhammet Turkoglu, a planktologist takes a surface sample. He describes mucilage as a dense organic soup, mostly made up of bacteria and phytoplankton mucus secretions.

DAMON (on camera): So what am I looking at right here?

DAMON (voice over): This little guy is just one of the phytoplankton species that Turkoglu says is one ingredient in that deadly nastiness underwater.

"The Sea of Marmara is just like a coronavirus patient who has been intubated," Professor Turkoglu explains, because the oxygen at the greater depths is almost completely depleted. It is close to zero.

Professor Ozalp slides his hand underneath the blanket of thick mucilage on the sea floor. Not only does this suffocate everything, but it also steals the oxygen at these depths as it decomposes, creating dead zones.

But phytoplankton is one of the linchpins of life on the planet. It's not the villain here. The imbalance that caused all of this, us, humans, our pollution, it causes an excess of nutrients in the water that acts as a catalyst for massive blooms, as does the manmade climate crisis that we have failed to prevent or even slow down.

Water temperatures here have increased by two degrees in the last 50 years, says Professor Bayram Ozturk who studies the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity.

DAMON (on camera): When you look at this, what do you think?

DR. BAYRAM OZTURK, TURKISH MARINE RESEARCH FOUNDATION, ISTANBUL UNIVERSITY: I think it's nature spitting in our faces, simply; and this is ecological catastrophe. But not only in the Sea of Marmara, this is a transboundary issue.

DAMON (voice over): Experts say this year's mucilage is all across the waters from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean basin, one of the world's most climate vulnerable areas.

The experts we spoke to fear the currents are not strong enough to dislodge the mucilage. It's too dense. It's not just a Turkey problem. This is symptomatic of the lack of global leadership and consensus when it comes to saving our planet.

The marine life here is asphyxiating. Their habitat is being destroyed and their fate could well become ours.


WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh, you wish there could be just some giant skimmer that could just scoop all of that up and get rid of it forever.

Arwa Damon, thank you so much for that report.

Thank you so much for joining me this weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, the CNN NEWSROOM continues with Jim Acosta right now.