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Multi-vehicle Crash In Alabama Kills 10 People; Gun Violence Continues Across The U.S.; Driver Crashes Into Pride Parade In Florida; Some Capitol Rioters Running For Office; Former Vice President Mike Pence Heckled At A Conference; Royal Caribbean Test Cruises For COVID Safety Protocols; U.S. Bishops Threaten Communion Ban On President Joe Biden; Federal Reserve Rate Hike Expected Next Year; Meghan Markle New Children's Book "The Bench." Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 20, 2021 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. We begin with a horrific crash in Alabama. Ten people were killed in a multi-vehicle crash in Butler County, southwest of Montgomery. Nine of those killed were children, including a 9-month- old girl.

The other eight children were -- who died were in a bus from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch that provides a home for neglected or abused school-age children. I want to go to CNN's Martin Savidge in Alabama on the phone. Martin, what more are you learning? This is just such a horrific situation there.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Absolutely, Jim. It really is. We are at the camp where they were headed to when they were returning from a beach vacation. Twice a year, girls from this particular facility go down to Gulf Shores. They were returning from that beach trip yesterday, and they were on I-75 northbound just south of Montgomery, Alabama when around 2:00 in the afternoon there was a horrific accident.

Nine people were in the van including the driver. Eight of the people in that van died. All of them children between the ages of 4 and 17. There was one survivor from the crash. And that person was the camp director and she lost two of her own children in the very same crash.

It was a fiery wreck and everyone who was there said it was absolutely horrendous. I want you to listen to the words of Michael Smith. He is the CEO of the Sheriff's Youth Ranches program that oversees this ranch. Here is his reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SMITH, CEO, ALABAMA SHERIFFF'S YOUTH RANCHES: When you look at what we lost yesterday, we lost eight young people that can make a difference in our world. We lost eight young people that didn't have a chance to have their own children. We lost eight young people that can't break the cycle of where they have been and change it for their children.

We had two vans of children coming back from the beach, and also a chase car, but they were several miles apart. And the first van was the one that had the accident. We had -- we had nine people in that van. We had eight fatalities and one survivor in that van yesterday. That's the tragedy that we're faced with.

(END VIDOE CLIP)

SAVIDGE (via telephone): This was a multi-vehicle crash, Jim. At least 15 vehicles involved. The NTSB is sending investigators to look into it. Two other people died in another vehicle, a father and daughter. He was 29 and she was 9 months old. And the weather at the time is now being looked at very seriously because we were dealing with the aftermath of a tropical storm that come ashore so the rain at times had been intense.

The road traffic was heavy, too, because you had a lot of people that were coming back from the beach. They wanted to be back home for Sunday and Father's Day. It is just horrendous, the attitude of grief here on this ranch and so many of those who died had already come from such difficult backgrounds and had survived so much only to die tragically.

And now their friends who mourn them are going through not only the tragedies of their own personal lives, but the tragic loss of their friends. It's heartbreaking, Jim.

ACOSTA: Just gut wrenching, Martin, to think about these children who were at a home for abused or neglected children and then to die in this fashion, it's just awful. And, you know, I hope people are thinking about these children tonight. Martin, let me ask you. One person in that van from the youth ranch did survive. What more do we know about the survivor at this point?

SAVIDGE: Yes, the ranch director was actually pulled from the crushed vehicle by passersby. Again, here's Michael Smith talking about what he knows about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: The survivor of that van is our director of ranch life here at the ranch. And thank god for the survivors. I mean, the people that were there, the bystanders that were there to help her become a survivor because they actually saved her life from the van.

UNKNOWN: She was pulled from the van.

[17:04:7]

SMITH: She was pulled from the van. She was trapped in the van. She was unconscious. And they were able to pull her from the van and her life was saved.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAVIDGE (via telephone): But she lost two of her own children as we reported. Now this facility here is preparing for eight funerals, and it's a heartbreaking loss not just for this community but for a number here in Alabama. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, Martin Savidge, thank you for that report. Just such sad news out of Alabama. Please think about those kids this evening if you can. Just a terrible situation. Martin Savidge on top of that story for us. Thanks so much.

Meanwhile, across the United States, the gun violence epidemic continues during another violent weekend in Philadelphia. Multiple shootings left two dead and several injured, including a 3-year-old whose father was among those killed in the violence. The toddler who police say was shot in the leg is now without a dad on Father's Day.

With me now is CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro. Evan, another unspeakable situation, just awful. Let's point out that we can't mention all of the shootings that have happened this weekend because there have been so many. Philadelphia isn't by any means alone this evening in this regard. Evan, what can you tell us?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. You and I talked about this yesterday a little bit and we talked about the record numbers of shootings in this country and mass shootings so far this year. The numbers have only risen since the last time that we talked. It seems that when people come together when they gather, there's always a fear of gun violence these days.

We have a couple of incidents to talk about of the many across the entire country that have happened the past couple of days. In Dallas, eight people shot, including a 15-year-old and a 10-year-old when police say two separate parties sort of interacted with each other and shots broke out leading to those people getting shot.

And in Oakland, another celebration happening. A 22-year-old man was killed and five other people ranging from ages from 16 to 27 were shot after gunfire at the celebration there. Police have arrested two men and confiscated two firearms in connection with that incident.

But these are just two of the many, many stories across the entire country that are happening this weekend, the previous weekend and hopefully not next weekend. But the way things are going now, this is the summer of shootings, Jim.

ACOSTA: It sure seems that way, Evan. And I want to ask you about Chicago. We saw another violent night. Tell us about that.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Chicago has been dealing with this for so long. And this weekend was another example of how bad things can be in that city sometimes. Twenty incidents of gun-related violence in a single night. Three people killed. The oldest victim was 62, the youngest was 20. There are no suspects in any of those cases. That's all according to Chicago police department.

Leaders in that city just like leaders in cities all across the country are begging people to try to put the guns away, maybe not bring them out in some of these disputes. But also, advocates are hoping that maybe something might happen in Washington or other places to put some sort of handle on this because right now, at this moment, we are seeing a huge surge in this that could be with us for the rest of the year, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Evan McMorris-Santoro, I'm afraid to say this, but I suspect we'll be back next weekend talking about this very same problem in this country. Evan, thanks so much for keeping tabs on that. Appreciate that as always.

Now to south Florida where more details are coming to light about this weekend's tragedy at a pride parade near Fort Lauderdale. The shocking moment when a pickup truck suddenly accelerated and crashed after hitting a group of people. One man was killed, another is badly hurt. And we're learning more now about who was behind the wheel.

CNN's Natasha Chen is near the place where the crash happened. Natasha, fill us in. It turns out this may not have been intentional it sounds like from what the police are saying.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Yes, Jim, we are standing at the border of Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors. And the Wilton Manors police chief issued a statement this afternoon saying that we now know yesterday's incident was a tragic accident and not a criminal act directed at any one person or group of individuals.

The Fort Lauderdale police have also issued more details of what happened saying this was a 77-year-old driver in a white pickup truck. He was going to be a participant in the parade and was not planning to walk in the procession but he was going to drive that car in this procession.

And so when he started moving the car forward to the start of the parade, it suddenly accelerated and, unfortunately, hit two pedestrians, striking them across the street there and then he plowed into that garden center you see with the yellow tape there.

The two people who were hit, one of them unfortunately died. The other is expected to survive. Now, the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus has told us that all those involved, the victims and the driver, are members of the chorus. And so this is a really difficult moment for them, you know, and we have been talking to some witnesses here who say that police and first responders really just jumped into action here.

[17:10:03]

The Gay Men's Chorus saying they are deeply saddened by this loss and really thanked the community for their love and support, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Natasha Chen, thanks so much for that update. And coming up from an insurrection on January 6th to running for office. That story is next. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:15:00]

ACOSTA: It is safe to say those who were at the U.S. Capitol during the January 6th attack have no regard for democracy or government, but now some say they're actually planning on running for office in their home states after being involved in something like that. And some think their actions on January 6th could actually help their campaign, if you can believe that. CNN's Sara Murray has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the Capitol riot?

JOEY GILBERT, LAWYER: Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was in Washington, D.C.

MURRAY (voice-over): -- to the campaign trail.

GILBERT: If election integrity is not the number one issue of these guys running, then they are either lost, confused or too stupid to be running.

MURRAY (voice-over): Republican Joey Gilbert, a former boxer turned lawyer says he's launching a bid for Nevada governor.

GILBERT: I'm not a politician. I never want to be a politician, all right. But let me tell you something I am probably going to be doing this early. And that's called running for governor.

MURRAY (voice-over): The announcement coming just months after Gilbert says he was in Washington and scaled the Capitol steps January 6th.

GILBERT: One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. People are on the Capitol steps. We just walked right up. When I went up there.

MURRAY (voice-over): But insists he never went inside.

GILBERT: Yes, some people did go into the capitol. I don't condone that. I had nothing to do with that.

MURRAY (voice-over): Gilbert who is still doubling down on the lie the presidential election was stolen --

GILBERT: In my opinion, Trump is still our president.

MURRAY (voice-over): Is one of nearly a dozen aspiring politicos spotted near the U.S. Capitol in January 6th by CNN and other news outlets. In Michigan, Ryan Kelley is running for governor and ducking questions about his whereabouts during the Capitol insurrection.

RYAN KELLEY, POLITICIAN: I never went inside the Capitol building. Never had the intention to and did not go inside, nor did I have any altercation with police officers.

MURRAY (voice-over): While he denied going inside, Kelley wouldn't respond to CNN or a local news reporter's question about images showing him deep in the fray of rioters outside the Capitol.

UNKNOWN: That's you, correct, right here?

KELLEY: You've got my statement on the Capitol, brother.

MURRAY (voice-over): Gilbert and Kelley could face crowded primaries and it's too early to say if they have a shot at victory. While neither of them have been accused of a crime, that's not the case for Jason Riddle. The New Hampshire resident arrested after sharing photos of himself inside the Capitol holding a bottle of wine he stole with a local news station.

Riddle faces five counts including unlawful entry and theft of government property and has pleaded not guilty. Now he says breaking into the Capitol could be a boost to his campaign.

JASON RIDDLE, RUNNING FOR OFFICE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: It tells them I show up, I'm actually going to keep my promises and make some changes.

MURRAY (voice-over): But first he'll have to clarify what if anything, he's actually running for.

RIDDLE: I thought Ann was a state representative.

UNKNOWN: No. So a state rep is in the statehouse in Concord.

RIDDLE: Yes, that's what Ann is.

UNKNOWN: No, no, no. She's in Washington.

RIDDLE: Well, I guess I got to run against that then.

MURRAY (on camera): Now, in addition to Riddle seemingly having no idea what he is running for, here is another wrinkle. He is not allowed to set foot in D.C. under the terms of his release. Now, lawyers for Riddle did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Additionally, Kelley and Gilbert also did not respond to CNN's requests. Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: All right. Let's bring in CNN political commentator and host of PBS "Firing Line" Margaret hoover and CNN senior political analyst John Avlon. John, let me start with you. Just when you thought you heard it all, insurrectionists for Congress. What's your reaction to what we just heard there?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's surreal but not surprising because the Republican Party has encouraged these people. You know, treason must be made odious but these folks feel that it will actually be a political benefit in a polarized situation with closed partisan primaries, and that's the problem.

You know, the Republican Party has created a circumstance where folks who attacked our Capitol, seditionists, feel like it's a political benefit in terms of winning a primary. So they may be absurd. They may be, you know, clueless as to what office they're running for like the guy who needs to figure out what district he's running in, in New Hampshire.

But don't treat it as a joke because as there's no compromise with lies here, folks. And these folks must be defeated down the ballot and Republicans must realize that engaging in sedition for whatever reason, listening to Donald Trump, is a deal breaker with democracy. Full stop.

ACOSTA: Yeah, Margaret, I mean, do you think some of these knuckleheads could get elected?

[17:20:02]

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Elected statewide, truly depends on the state. I tell you, there's one I have my eyes on. Not for a statewide election, but the reason I'm watching this gem and the reason it's important, especially if you have any interest in a strong center right Republican Party like I do, some of these candidates, so far, Republicans have tried to emulate Trump have not had that much success, right.

We have not spawned a whole new generation of mini Trumps that have had, you know, fast success at the ballot box that show that they could succeed Donald Trump and even reach the presidency. But this new generation of candidates with outsider status, charisma and ability to communicate, taking on Trump's kind of risk.

This new generation of people who would take on Trump's mantle within the Republican Party. And that makes it even harder for the Mitt Romneys and the Susan Collins and the Richard Burrs and the more centrist Republicans to fend off primary battles and for the center right to re-emerge within the context of the Republican Party.

So I actually do have my eyes on these candidates in particular to see how the state parties respond to them and whether they are successful.

ACOSTA: Right. And this week, John, as you know, this past week the Justice Department released some disturbing new video where rioters were seen punching and tackling police officers. I've been wanting to get your take on all of this for the last several days as we have been watching these videos.

And this comes as some of these Republicans in the House have been pushing these false flag conspiracy theories about the FBI behind these attacks. I mean, John, what is going on here? What do you think?

AVLON: Among other things, back the blue is a complete lie. There's no situational ethics. If you back people not only trying to overturn an election, you cannot be a patriot to try to overturn an election. You cannot back police officers if you back people who tried to attack them, who did attack them.

And the false flag stuff is sort of the last refuge of scoundrels here. I'm not surprised that folks are pushing this because that's what conspiracy theorists do when confronted with overwhelming facts, but don't, you know, the fact that it's a demonstrable lie that what Tucker Carlson let just say had said on air about, you know, unindicted co-conspirators being secret FBI agents is fundamentally wrong as any prosecutor will tell you.

But that his cluelessness is not a defense because then that gets in the water. So these people need to be called out as the grifters they are. They are lying to their supporters, they are dividing our country. And I'm not surprised to hear the false flag stuff. I've been seeing this stuff since wing nuts, but to see it done an attempt to overturn an election, don't underestimate the seriousness of this crazy to our country.

ACOSTA: Yes. And it's so scummy, too. Margaret, it seems like Republicans are desperately trying to blame anybody but who actually is responsible for what happened that day.

HOOVER: Yes. I mean, I don't know if I would -- there are Republicans who voted to convict the president, remember. You know, so let's not --

AVLON: God bless them, but very few.

HOOVER: But, yes, they are very few. I'm a little sensitive about painting all Republicans with a broad brush because there are some Republicans who are still vehemently defending the constitution, but the Republicans you point out, Jim, are right.

In the House of Representatives like matt Gaetz who is pushing the next greatest latest conspiracy theory. Remember, he was on the House floor less than 24 hours after the insurrection saying it was caused by Antifa, all right.

So these people do not have the best interest of your country, our democracy at heart. They have their own political ambitions, their own, you know, their own ambitions that are leading the way. So, unfortunately, that is the predominant strain in the House of Representatives and the Republican Party, but it's not all Republicans.

AVLON: Just most of them.

ACOSTA: Right. No, that's true. And John, former Vice President Mike Pence was speaking at a conference for religious conservatives in Florida on Friday and the crowd was just downright ugly towards him. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And I want to thank my friend Ralph Reed for those overly generous words. I'm deeply humbled by them. Ralph Reed knows me well enough to know the introduction I prefer is a little bit shorter. I'm a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order. And I am honored to stand before you today.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: John, isn't that wild given that mike pence has been a Christian conservative, I mean, since, I mean, since birth, I think?

AVLON: Well, I can't vouch for his childhood years but the seriousness of the situation is you cannot compromise with this kind of corrosive crazy. Mike Pence is never going to make the people who were trying to -- chanting that he should be hung on the Capitol steps like him, and he should stop trying.

But he should also use his position as a former vice president to call out this much more clearly. And the fact is, he's always going to get called a traitor by the extremes. That is a sign of how insane the circumstances right now. And if he can't figure out that, that actually the smartest thing politically to do would be to tell the truth, then I don't know what to do. My bride disagrees with me.

[17:25:04]

HOOVER: I would just like to -- I would just like to interject, though, Jim, because, you know, I watched that whole speech. That was one heckler at the beginning of the speech. And there are -- we all know, we've all been to political speeches. Every now and then you get a heckler.

But the large -- vast majority of that speech and that crowd was enormously supportive of Mike Pence. And what I took away from that speech watching the whole thing is that Mike Pence is running. --

ACOSTA: You know, Margaret, do you mind if I --

HOOVER: Go for it. Push back on me, but I --

ACOSTA: -- it's Father's Day and I was trying to keep the chill -- I was trying to keep it chill on this Father's Day and you're next to John and all that and you have a beautiful family, by the way --

AVLON: Thank you.

ACOSTA: -- but they were chanting hang Mike Pence on January 6th and then to hear a crowd at a friendly audience like that and, yes, maybe it was just a few folks in the crowd. We're hearing estimates of 6 to 8, maybe 10 chanting "traitor," that's disturbing isn't it? Because it just takes one cook to do something that, you know, just cause tremendous harm.

HOOVER: Yes, I just -- I want to put it --

ACOSTA: -- and I do think that it is worrisome. I don't think it should be diminished if I may mildly push back on you.

HOOVER: Yes, I know. By all means push back. I mean, that's the whole point. We're trying to get to the bottom of this and understand the truth for the sake of our viewers. And the point is, yes, it's troublesome. Nobody should be calling Mike Pence a traitor.

By the way, he gave that whole speech defending Donald Trump's legacy but not once apologizing for standing up for the Constitution on January 6th and doing the right thing, thank god, which they by the way, absolutely would have hung him for. On that you and I agree.

I would just say that he was well received by the crowd and what I took away from the speech is Mike Pence is running for president and he does have strong support within the religious community and the Republican base -- in the base of the Republican Party.

AVLON: Whatever that overlap is, Mike -- Jim, of people who are going to shout traitor at a Christian conservative rally should probably go back and read the Bible again and maybe reacquaint themselves with some of the virtues of mercy and faith and forgiveness as opposed to the kind of hate that's causing them to defend in an attempt to overturn an election.

ACOSTA: Well, I think you're right about that. But I think that Mike Pence politically has, you know, some tough sledding ahead of him given -- and it can be argued that he put himself in that position. We'll talk about this again in the future as future hoovalons come to us in the weeks ahead, but Happy Father's Day to both of you, Margaret Hoover, John Avlon.

AVLON: Happy Father's Day to you.

HOOVER: Happy Father's Day too.

ACOSTA: Thanks so much. Appreciate it. Thanks for being on.

Coming up, the cruise industry is getting one step closer to fully setting sail again. We're at the port of Miami where a Royal Caribbean cruise will embark on a test cruise in less than two hours. We'll watch. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:00]

ACOSTA: Royal Caribbean's "Freedom of the Seas" is setting sail to night on a test cruise with hundreds of volunteer employees. The two- night test will be a trial run of new safety protocols for COVID as cruise lines working on getting paying customers back on board, get that process under way.

And this comes just days after Royal Caribbean had to postpone the inaugural sailing of another ship due to positive COVID tests for eight crew members. CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Miami where the "Freedom of the Seas" will soon depart. Leyla, what are the protocols that we'll be seeing there?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we are going to see some changes and we expect this to kind of kick off right at 7:00 p.m. "Freedom of the Seas" will take off with 600 passengers. This is a simulated voyage as you mentioned, Jim. So consider it kind of a trial run, if you will. A requirement from the CDC if they want to avoid requiring 95 percent of passengers to be vaccinated. Now for this, they are turning to their employees to be the

passengers. All of whom are fully vaccinated. Today, Royal Caribbean told me that it is encouraging vaccination that it is key to all of this, but it is not requiring vaccination for future voyages out of Florida. So I asked why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRIK DAHLGREN, SENIOR VP GLOBAL MARINE OPERATIONS, ROYAL CARIBBEAN GROUP: There is a certain element. There's a certain percentage that we can handle, and if certain individuals do not want to get vaccinated, we do strongly recommend all the guests to be vaccinated. That's for sure, for those who are eligible. But we have measures in place to keep the cruises safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: Okay, so let's talk about the measures in place. The protocols for unvaccinated passengers on Royal Caribbean Cruises. Here they are. They must provide proof of a negative COVID test within three days of sailing. They must undergo COVID testing at the terminal before getting on and before getting off that cruise ship. And it comes with a $136 testing fee.

Now, here's a bit of a curveball, Jim. A development in the last 48 hours. You remember in April, Governor Ron DeSantis sued the CDC in court. On Friday, a judge ruled that come July 18th, the CDC cannot require these cruise ships to follow their new order. So what does that mean in terms of impact? Well, everybody is still sort of reviewing that 124-page ruling to figure that out. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, still working out the kinks in a very big industry. Leyla Santiago, thanks for breaking that down for us and great to have you on. We appreciate it.

Our CNN medical analyst and professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, Dr. Jonathan Reiner joins me. Great to see you Dr. Reiner. I want to get your reaction to this test that we're seeing from the Royal Caribbean Cruise ship that's about to embark. What do you think?

[17:34:58]

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to see cruises getting out on the water. I think every cruise should be 100 percent vaxed. And I think if you are an unvaccinated passenger, you are crazy to go on a cruise ship.

ACOSTA: Clinically speaking or just COVID crazy?

REINER: I think you're COVID crazy. Look, the delta variant that is quickly rising in the United States is very transmissible. And if you are unvaccinated, you are highly susceptible to that. You know, cruise ships, you know, are highly contained environments. A lot of people, you know, think about the buffet lines, think about the theaters and the casinos and the pool decks. There are a lot of opportunities for virus to transmit. Just think

about, you know, the "Grand Princess" off the coast of Japan, you know, last year with 700 positive passengers on board. So, it just takes one positive passenger to transmit the virus. And if you are unvaccinated, you are the target. So, do not go on a cruise if you are not vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, have a great time.

ACOSTA: Yes. You know you're right about that. And let me ask you about this because this crosses into the world of sports and I don't know about you, Dr. Reiner. I suspect you may be in the same category as me. I've been really disappointed in some of these athletes who have just not been doing the smart thing when it comes to advising people to get vaccinated.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley put out a tweet earlier this week saying he would rather retire than get vaccinated. His tweet came after the NFL laid out their guidelines for vaccinated and unvaccinated players and staff. What do you think about this? Do you think professional sports leagues should require their players and staff to get vaccinated?

REINER: I do and I think they should require 100 percent vaccination for two reasons. One from a business standpoint. It's incredibly disruptive when COVID starts going through your team in the middle of the season. Number two, it's the example you want to set. I thought Mr. Beasley's statement was sophomoric and selfish.

Look, this is not just about him. It's about his community. And there are 50 million children under the age of 12 that can't be vaccinated now. So his infection is a threat to them. There are many thousands of people who are immunocompromised because of either cancer or they are an organ transplant recipient or they take medications that lessen their immune response. They remain vulnerable.

And his intransigence puts them at risk. You know, he had this kind of full bravado statement where he said, you know, he'd rather die living. Well, you know, I've seen a lot of people with this kind of false bravery right up until the point they're paralyzed and intubated in the ICU all alone. So, spare me.

ACOSTA: Yes. It's important to remember, he is an expert in catching footballs not in deadly diseases like the coronavirus, right, Dr. Reiner?

REINER: Right. I don't catch footballs. And to -- don't get your coronavirus advice from a wide receiver.

ACOSTA: Yes. Well, but I wish that these athletes would do a little bit more in promoting this because it is just so darn important. We're seeing the vaccination levels in this country just not getting to where they need to be and hopefully there'll be some other pro athletes out there will pick up the slack from Cole Beasley. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thank so much for joining us. Great to see you. Happy Father's Day. You take care.

REINER: Same to you, Jim. ACOSTA: Thanks so much. And coming up, setting up a potential rebuke

of President Biden, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is moving forward with a plan that could deny communion to public figures who support abortion rights. Father Beck is here next to explain why he says this isn't a decision for the bishops or even the Pope to make. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:00]

ACOSTA: Developments this weekend on an issue that is throwing a light on people of faith, including the president of the United States. Leaders of the Catholic Church in this country are debating whether to formally deny communion to public figures who support a woman's right to have an abortion. One of those public figures who supports just that is President Joe Biden.

I want to bring in Father Edward Beck. He's a CNN religious commentator. Father, great to see you as always. And this is a very interesting issue. President Biden is the first Catholic president elected since John F. Kennedy, and you wrote in the CNN op-ed this week that the president's reception of communion is a private, you say, "between him and his confessor." Explain why you feel this way and why this is a touchy subject for the Catholic Church?

EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, Jim, it's one's individual conscience and informed moral conscience is the decision-making about receiving communion. So you don't know what's in the heart and mind of somebody, what process they have gone through, first of all.

You know, I had mass this morning, Jim, a few of them actually, and unsolicited, I can't tell you how many people came up to me and were really upset about this. I mean, across the political spectrum. And basically what they were saying was, you had a former president who checked none of the life issue boxes for the Catholic Church except that he said he would appoint Supreme Court justices that could overturn Roe v. Wade. And that's all that seemed to matter.

You know, he had a photo op with the bible. He seemed to make fun of the Pope and then you have Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, who is pro-choice, although he says he's personally opposed to abortion, and people are talking about denying him communion, the reception of communion.

And so people just see it as really based in hypocrisy. And I can't tell you, some people said, you know, this is the final straw for them. If the bishops go ahead with that, that's it for them.

ACOSTA: Yes, and father, you point out that some bishops in this country believe that church leaders are, "weaponizing the Eucharist for political purposes."

[17:45:00]

What bothers you when those two lines, faith and politics, come close to crossing? Should they cross?

BECK: Well, Jim, I think one of the questions is, are there then other litmus tests about communion? I mean, what about other life issues? What about capital punishment? What about immigration? What about the environment? So, are we supposed to stand then in a communion mind with a checklist?

And are we supposed to decide who's qualified to receive or is it just going to be this one issue? I mean, the word itself communion means with unity. And what we saw this week is the divided episcopal conference, divided bishops that are causing more division in the church. And, again, in fairness to them, Jim, there's no document done yet.

So, it's going to be now drafted and we'll see in November what it actually says. Maybe there will be nothing about the reception of communion of President Biden or anybody else. Maybe it will be kind of an exhortation on the Eucharist. We just don't know.

But remember, it has to pass two-thirds at that meeting to get approved of the bishops. And then Pope Francis has to approve it as well. And this is a pope who has said the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect. Its medicine and nourishment for the weak.

So I don't know if I'm going to see Pope Francis approving a document that might exclude people from receiving communion based on these cultural hot-button issues.

ACOSTA: Especially the president. And I want to ask you about that. What are the chances we might see President Biden and Pope Francis meet face-to-face, have a visit potentially at the White House?

BECK: Well, I mean, it would be great if we have the Pope come visit the United States again. You remember, Jim, what that was like the last time he came. I don't know if he's going to be coming back any time soon. He has a lot of other countries that he says is on his list.

But I think, you know, we heard all of this stuff about the meeting when Biden was in Europe recently that, well, the Pope shunned him. He didn't meet with him. Well, that wasn't true. They were never supposed to meet. The Pope has had, from what we've seen, a very warm relationship with President Biden.

So if he does come to the United States again, you can be sure that he will meet with President Biden, and they will have a conversation about this, but it will be in private. Pastor to congregant, to faithful. I mean, this is what the faith teaches us about communion.

It's supposed to bring people together. Jesus ate with sinners. That's the precursor of the Eucharist, those meal narratives. It's about inclusion. That's how conversion happens. So to base it on exclusion, I think, is barking up the wrong tree and I don't think Pope Francis is a fan of it at all.

ACOSTA: Very (inaudible), and I remember when Pope Francis visited the United States, came to the White House, met with Barack Obama. That was quite a visit and it will be fascinating to see. Pope Francis should come to the United States. We would love to see that happen. And Father Edward Beck, thanks so much for joining us and Happy Father's Day to you as well. Thank you for being with us.

BECK: Happy Father's Day to you, too, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, thank you. Thank you so much, Father. And coming up, hearing what spurred Meghan Markle, what she wrote in a children's book. But first, here is CNN's Christine Romans with this week's --

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. The U.S. economy is booming and prices you pay for just about everything are rising. Cue the beginning of the end of the Federal Reserve's unprecedented emergency support of this economy.

Last week, the Fed indicated interest rate hikes are coming in 2023. A year sooner than expected. Stocks wobbled on the news because more expensive borrowing costs could eat into corporate profits. The Fed is also starting to discuss when to roll back its bond buying. It's currently gobbling up $120 billion worth a month to keep borrowing costs low.

Now, some economists think the Fed should start to pare back buying purchases of mortgage-backed securities. Ultra-low mortgage rates have helped feed a frenzy in the housing market which has pushed home prices into the stratosphere.

In April, the median sale price for an existing home topped $341,000. That's a record high and up 19 percent from last year. This week, we'll get new data on the red-hot housing market. Reports on both new and existing home sales for May are due. In New York, I'm Christine Romans.

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[17:50:00]

ACOSTA: Meghan Markle sat down with NPR to talk about her new children's book titled "The Bench." CNN royal correspondent Max Foster has more for us. Max?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, the book was inspired by Prince Harry and son Archie and it features a diverse range of fathers and sons. The Duchess told NPR it's about representation.

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX (voice-over): Growing up, I remember so much how it felt to not see yourself represented or see your family or see that kind of diversity or a mixed race relationship or whatever it could be. So, any child or any family hopefully can open this book and see themselves in it.

Whether that means glasses or freckled or a different body shape or different ethnicity or religion, to really just feel like this story that I wrote for my husband and son could really be your story also.

[17:55:00]

FOSTER: The book actually emerged from a poem that Meghan wrote for harry for his first father's Day. And if you look closely, you can see a reference to his mother, Princess Diana in there as well. The duchess told NPR, "I think you can find sweet little moments that we've tucked in there from my favorite flower, even my husband's mom's favorite flower, forget-me-nots."

The interview was actually recorded before the couple had their daughter Lilibeth, but actually away still on parental leave, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Max Foster, thanks for that. That's the news, reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. Happy Father's Day out there. Happy Father's Day, dad, if you're watching. I hope you're watching, barely watching. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 3:00 p.m. eastern. Pamela Brown takes over in the "CNN Newsroom" live after a quick break. Good night.

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