Return to Transcripts main page


Florida GOP Under Fire over Deleted Tweet Accusing Democrat of Anti-Semitism, Party Claims Tweet was Typo; U.N. Warns of Surging Displacement Globally. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 18, 2021 - 10:30   ET


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Members who seemed to want to just ignore the plain facts that are in front of us, which is that, first of all, black people were enslaved for a long time in this country and were not free and did not celebrate July 4th as independence day because they were enslaved.


And so it's just simply a fact that this is a different moment for black Americans, that they've had a different experience, and just acknowledging that fact doesn't make it divisive, it's not identity politics, it's just acknowledging the truth and acknowledging history. And a lot of people don't want to do that.

But, look, there are political reasons for them making the connection between, you know, Juneteenth and critical race theory, obviously. This is about trying to score points with the base. It's not about facts and it's not about history.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Let me show everyone something beautiful, and this is Opal Lee. If you're not familiar with her, our viewers, she was there yesterday at the signing. You see President Biden with her. At the age of 89, in 2016, she walked from her home in Ft. Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., in order to try to get this to happen, to turn Juneteenth into a national holiday. Listen to what she told our Chris Cuomo last night.


OPAL LEE, ADVOCATED TO MAKE JUNETEENTH A FEDERAL HOLIDAY: It's not a black thing. It's not a Texas thing. None of us are free until we're all free, and we're not free yet. There are too many disparities.


HARLOW: And, LaTosha, that -- it speaks to what you're doing now. It speaks to the work that is ahead.

LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER: Absolutely, it speaks and, literally, as she said, until all of us are free, none of us are free. And part of that is being able to use your voting rights and you can use your agency to determine what governs you, who governs and under what conditions you're governed by. And so Miss Opal is right, we have to literally understand that we're in a space that America that has missed out and the Constitution has yet to be realized, it's aspirational, that those of us, (INAUDIBLE) freedom, and we shall not rest until it comes (ph).

HARLOW: Can you leave us with a song of hope that you serenaded me with on the commercial?

BROWN: Well, thing I did right was the day I started to fight. Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on, hold on. Yes, we've just got to keep our eyes on the prize and hold on and people can actually join us on the freedom ride this week. We're so excited. Happy Juneteenth, you all.

HARLOW: Thank you. How can we top that, Abby? Thank you, LaTosha, thank you both. Abby, I look forward to your show. we'll see you then. It's appointment listening in our house Sunday mornings. We'll see you then.

PHILLIP: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Thank you, both. We'll be right back.



HARLOW: Welcome back. The Florida Republican Party is facing intense backlash for a tweet that attempted to brand a Democratic gubernatorial candidate as anti-Semitic. According to Politico, the tweet, which has since been deleted, read this way, quote, while Governor Ron DeSantis works on policies and signs legislation in support of Florida's Jewish communities, Pelosi calls an anti-Semitic Charlie Crist a leader. Crist, Val Demings and Nikki Fried won't stand up to Pelosi in doing nothing to defend Florida's Jewish community, close quote.

That tweet included video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying Rep. Ilhan Omar clarified her comments when she was slammed for language critics say equates Israel and the Taliban and Hamas, criticized by many of other own fellow Democrats.

Now, Fried responded by saying, quote, Charlie Crist is not anti- Semitic. As a Jewish woman, I find this accusation disgusting, it's a flat-out lie. And that's defending someone she's running against.

And the Florida Republican Party has since claimed the tweet was a typo. The spokesperson tells Politico, quote, was a total mistake, human error.

So let's talk about this with Florida Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Nikki Fried. She currently serves as the state's agricultural commissioner and is the highest ranking Democrat-elected statewide right now in Florida. So, thank you for being here, Commissioner. Good morning.


HARLOW: It's complicated, hopefully people followed that. But it matters because words matter. They always matter, even if they are in deleted tweets. How do you respond to the Florida GOP saying it was a mistake and a typo?

FRIED: What the Florida Republican Party did was absolutely despicable, attacking my opponent as anti-Semitic, and then, again, getting it as a typo, not take responsibility. And you're right, words have consequences.

And what the Republican Party has done, not just here in the state of Florida but across the country, is using the Jewish community as almost a ping-pong ball, and using it as a political tool to divide us. And all that is doing is actually increasing the anti-Semitism across our entire country. We need to take responsibility. They need to take ownership, that what they put out was a flat-out lie to spread misinformation and divide not only Democrats but divide our state and to fuel more hatred that we've already seen over the last four years.

HARLOW: Can we look big picture, because this follows last month's Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust, now you have this, I just wonder, if you think about Florida, sort of a microcosm in this incident, for what is happening more broadly across the country, what your reaction is as a Jewish woman.


FRIED: Yes. You know, as somebody who has been to Israel on numerous times, spent an entire summer there, I have been to the concentration camps to bear witness to what happened during the Holocaust, and to use the Holocaust in comparison to wearing masks only shows the insensitivity and almost, again, to increase the hatred that is across our entire country and our state and using it to divide the Jewish population.

And, look, it's not just on the right side. What this is doing is also fueling hatred on both sides. So we all have to take ownership, de- escalate the hatred and understand that the purposes of people like me being here, the first Jewish cabinet member in over 40 years to serve in the state of Florida, when we are the third largest Jewish population in the nation.

And so we need to recognize our similarities, recognize that we also have to appreciate our differences and learn from this. The only way that we are going to overcome hatred and overcome anti-Semitism is by education and not by divisive tweets, like you saw from the Republican Party.

HARLOW: So, let's turn to your race. You are running to be the next governor of Florida. You're challenging Charlie Crist and others on the Democratic side and then you may be up against Ron DeSantis. Every type of Democrat, except for you, has lost recently in the state of Florida, Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson, you name it. You've acknowledged, look, the party was on the defensive in Florida in the last election. Do Florida Democrats need a new formula to win statewide?

FRIED: Yes, absolutely, and that's what we're presenting. It's to follow the formula that we had in 2018. Look, I want our state, as a Jewish female from Miami, I want a steeper commissioner of agriculture, the first female to be elected not just here in the state of Florida but in the entire southeast. And so we had this equation in 2018 that we talked above partisan politics, talked about issues that concerned people across the board, whether they were Democrat, Republican, independent.

And the people of our state don't want to see the divisiveness. They want to see and have a leader who is going to do something new, and that' means crisscrossing our state, talking about issues that are impacting people's lives every single day.

And so when it comes to the people of our state, I said we've got to try something new. We've got to break this system. How many times can Floridians be voting for constitutional amendments and then they get to Tallahassee and get dismantled by special interests, Republicans that are in charge at Tallahassee for 24 straight years. So we've got to try something different, all the equation that got me elected in 2018.

HARLOW: OK. A lot of your (INAUDIBLE) then, but let's move on to you, let's focus on you because you're the one running. You've been very critical of Governor DeSantis' handling of the COVID pandemic. Listen to what he said earlier this spring.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you look at what's happening in South Florida right now, I mean, this place is booming. It would not be booming if it was shut down.


HARLOW: The data backs it up. I mean, Florida has a 4.8 percent unemployment rate, well below the national average, the per capita death rate from COVID-19 is 27th, nowhere near the highest. Do you think he deserves credit for that?

FRIED: No, I don't think he deserves credit.


FRIED: He had a hands-off approach to COVID. First of all, there was a lack of transparency during the entire pandemic. He had no information that was coming out of our nursing homes, no information that was coming out of our prisons.

HARLOW: He was one of the quickest governors to move to lock down the nursing homes, the opposite of what happened here in New York.

FRIED: Well, the problem was that he also wasn't giving information. And so it made orders very confusing to the people of our state. Local governments are the ones that stepped up and took leadership here. And then he dismantled their power along the way.

So the people that really should take credit for what is happening in our state are our local governments, our own local businesses that also stepped up, our food stores that made sure that there was social distancing inside of them, the restaurants that made sure that they had Q.R. codes. So it was private businesses and our local governments that stepped up.

Ron, the entire time, not only was not empathetic towards the people of our state but was very confusing on the way he was leading our state.

HARLOW: Okay, I hear your points on the messaging. I'm just asking you, Commissioner, since you're running to be governor of Florida, about the hard data while Ron DeSantis was, and remains governor, and you can't argue that the unemployment rate in Florida right now is half what it is in New York and California, and it is 27th on the list when you look at COVID deaths.

My question is, all your criticism of him saying he didn't shut down soon enough, calling for mask mandates statewide, looking at the data, did he have it right and did you have it wrong?

FRIED: No, and I go back to what the local governments did. The governor didn't do a mask mandate but the local governments did.


That is what slowed down the spread of the virus, down in South Florida, down in Orlando and Tampa and our big cities. That was what slowed down the virus, is because those leaders stood up and made decisions. And then when the governor lost control of the narrative, he then took away the power from our local government.

And so to give the governor credit and to re-invent the history of this issue is not appropriate. Sure, we are doing better now but that is because of our local governments. He chose which organization, which industries to open up, at what times, made it very confusing. It was the local governments and local businesses that stepped up to the plate.

HARLOW: Commissioner, let me ask you one final question. We'll definitely have you back. I wish we had a lot more time, so you're invited back any time. But let me ask you this. I thought it was interesting. I was watching an interview you did recently. When you launched your campaign, actually, you said this in the announcement, and you said it won't be easy. What do you think your greatest weakness is?

FRIED: You know, I think my greatest weakness is the fact that right now, Ron is on a platform on the national stage and so he's getting a lot of national P.R., but the greatest -- but we are going to take that and turn it into a positive. Because the people of our state want somebody who is going to serve four years in their term, and Ron DeSantis isn't going to promise that to the people of our state. And so we are needing to understand that Ron is already stepping on our backs to get to the presidency in 2024.

And so while he's getting all of this national media and national attention about taking the Trump platform to Washington, D.C., the people of our state deserve better than somebody who is already looking to run for president and not serve the full four years here as governor of our state from 2022 on.

HARLOW: All right. Well, you just had about seven or eight minutes on a national platform on CNN. So, come back and we'll dig more into the key issues for Floridians. Commissioner Fried, thank you.

FRIED: Thank you.

HARLOW: We'll be right back.



HARLOW: Welcome back. This morning, the United Nations is warning of a surging refugee crisis around the world, according to their latest report out today, the number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution and human rights violations in 2020 rose to more than 82 million. Those troubling numbers released just ahead of World Refugee Day, which is this Sunday, the 20th of June, a day meant to bring attention to the plight of those forced from their homes.

David Miliband joins us. He is the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and the son himself of refugees. Thank you very much for being here.

And they're very troubling numbers. I mean, you've got the U.N. saying 157 people per minute were forced to flee in 2020, the highest number since World War II. Explain why you call --


HARLOW: -- good morning -- what's going on now a triple threat.

MILIBAND: It's a triple threat because last year has been very tough for everyone because of COVID. But it's been brutal for people whose lives are uprooted by conflict and disaster. The triple threat is the conflict is driving people from their homes, the climate crisis is adding to the forces that are creating this displacement crisis, more than 1 percent of the world's population homeless because of conflict and disaster. And then COVID has added to the numbers. It's added to the misery. And so we've seen a 40 percent rise in the amount of people caught up in humanitarian crisis, 235 million in total.

So, the refugee numbers that have been published by the U.N. are a reminder that beneath the surface, the structural factors that are driving human misery around the world, even before COVID, remain very strong, and the increase in the number, 2.9 million more refugees were displaced in 2019, shows how urgent it is that the work of diplomacy and humanitarian aid gets taken to a new level. HARLOW: Does the IRC have a handle on or assessment of how many or how few of these refugees have access to vaccination from COVID?

MILIBAND: Yes. I mean, International Rescue Committee is a global humanitarian charity founded here in New York by Albert Einstein between the wars, and now working in 35 to 40 countries. And the simple truth is that the race between vaccines and variants is being won in rich countries like the U.S. and in Europe, and it's being lost in the poorer countries where we work. Essentially 1 percent of the population are getting vaccinations in the poorer parts of the world, in Africa and elsewhere. And when it comes to health workers, the numbers aren't that much better.

And so we need the redistribution of excess vaccines that President Biden announced last week, but we also need two other things, production of vaccines in these poorer countries in quantities that are sufficient, 11 billion vaccines are needed in total, even though people need a double shot. But also, just to finish the point, we need to distribute the vaccines within these countries. We need the cold chains and the skilled start to get the vaccines into arms.

HARLOW: It's a very good point. Just vaccine enough is not everything.

Before you go, on that exact point, IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva told me this week that even the billion vaccine dose commitment made by the United States and rich western nations to poorer countries isn't enough, that it needs to be much higher.

MILIBAND: Absolutely.

HARLOW: You agree with her?

MILIBAND: Yes. Look, the numbers are simple. There's 7 or 8 billion people in the world. They need, more or less, two vaccines each. So if there's 5 billion adults, 4.5 billion adults, you can see that 1 billion vaccines doesn't get you close enough to the kind of global universal coverage that's necessary. The International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, who you interviewed, they've said that the world could, using excess vaccines, reach 40 percent of the global adult population this year.


But at the moment, we haven't got the surge of redistribution and distribution that's necessary to make that happen, both in the interest of people in poorer countries, and, frankly, in our interest as well.

HARLOW: David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, thank you for being here. But, really, thank you for the work that the IRC does every day that many of us don't see. We appreciate it.

MILIBAND: Thank you very much, Poppy. HARLOW: Of course. And thanks to all of you for joining me today, for joining Jim and myself all week. Have a good, safe weekend, and we will see you on Monday. I'm Poppy Harlow.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan is next.