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Trump Headlines CPAC, Keeping Firm Grip on GOP; Trump's Election Lies Loom Large Over CPAC Agenda; Interview with Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) about Trump's Appearance at CPAC; Travis Flores Still Gets COVID-19 Despite Being Doubly Vaccinated; Richard Branson Travels to the Edge of Space and Back; Idaho Councilman Says He Can't Rent as Prices Soar; Vaccinated American Tourists Return to Paris; Eight-Part Series Features the History of Sitcoms. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired July 11, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: This outpouring of generosity helped expose one simple wish to so many people in the foster care community but that means that they have plenty of wishes on their site now waiting to be fulfilled.
For the full story and to nominate a CNN Hero, just go to CNNHeroes.com.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one. Release, release, release.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rocket engine has ignited. This is the moment that Branson and his team have been waiting for.
RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GALACTIC: For all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Right now, given the data and the information we have, we do not need to give people a third shot, a boost.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're seeing around the nation right now which is worrisome are outbreaks in certain states. If we could just get two or three more weeks of around three million vaccines a day, that's going to be a pretty big backstop against a true fourth surge.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you guys think the election was fair?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He didn't win fairly. I mean, it was rigged.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got to have the evidence. I got to see it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We no longer live under a system of justice.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday.
And we begin with the same old lines and same old lies on repeat today as former president Donald Trump took the stage at the country's largest Republican conference. In his headlining speech at CPAC Trump revived his baseless claim that the 2020 election was rigged against him. Told the crowd that innocent Republicans are being prosecuted and railed against the media and the left.
CNN's Sara Murray is in Dallas. So, Sara, Trump was definitely to his supporters there. He got quite the reception from the crowd and we heard chants of four more years.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, we've heard chants of four more years. He got a standing ovation when he made a joke about being impeached twice. You know, he covered what you would expect I think a Republican to cover right now, which is to talk about the border, to slam big tech companies, and cancel culture, slam critical race theory. But of course this is former president Trump, so he also spent a lot of time airing his grievances about the 2020 election. Here's a little snippet of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This must never happen to another party's presidential candidate again, can never happen. We are a laughing stock all over the world. A laughing stock. And you know who knows it better than even the people in this room? Democrats.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now obviously, this is, you know, CPAC in Dallas a snapshot of the conservative Republican base but they were eating up everything Trump had to say about, you know, this false notion that the election was rigged, that he was somehow robbed of victory. They did a straw poll here. And, you know, when it says that Trump could potentially run again, he runs away with it. He gets 70 percent of support from the CPAC attendees here in Dallas.
The closest person was Ron DeSantis who came well below him at 21 percent. And I think this just gives you a sense of how the former president has really frozen the Republican field. You know, normally at CPAC we would see all kinds of bright shiny stars in the Republican Party. We didn't really see that over the last three days. People are really waiting to see what Donald Trump decides to do, if he decides to run for president yet again.
I mean, it was even reflected in the merchandise for sale here, Pam. Everything was just emblazoned with the Donald Trump logo. There was like one T-shirt that mentioned Ron DeSantis, and it was only in the context of him potentially running as Trump's VP. So that's what going to on here in Dallas.
BROWN: Yes. Yes, that tells you a lot. Sara Murray, thanks so much. Great to see you.
And Trump's false claim about the election being stolen from him found plenty of believers at the gathering as we just heard there from Sara. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins me now. He's been speaking to CPAC attendees.
So what more are you hearing from them, Donie?
O'SULLIVAN: Hey, Pam, yes, I mean, it's quite sad really. I mean, the big lie, the conspiracy theory has led so many of the people we spoke to here this weekend to essentially lose all faith in American democracy. A lot of people we're talking to also say that they might not trust the results of next year's midterm elections, of course. They are all cheering on these new electoral law efforts, some of those of course particularly laws that would discriminate against voters of minorities, people supporting them. But have a listen to some of the supporters we spoke to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know this election was stolen and we're going to just continue to let people know because no one's educating anyone because the media, y'all, not personally anything, you know.
But no one is really telling the truth of what's happening in this country and it's really sad and it's a disjustice to our system.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
O'SULLIVAN: So there you have it. I mean, that is something that we heard over and over and over again this week, whether it was lies or people in denial about what happened on January 6th. People somehow thinking that it wasn't actually Trump supporters involved despite all the indictments that we've seen for insurrectionists, and of course just so many people who have because of a conspiracy theory now say they essentially don't have faith in American democracy -- Pam.
BROWN: It's all just make believe why they don't have faith, too, and that is what is so sad because that make believe is being pushed from the very top there. The leader of the party.
All right, Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, Democrat from Michigan.
Nice to see you, Congresswoman. Thanks for joining us. So you just saw there, right, former president Trump trotted out his greatest hits at CPAC, illegal immigration, the radical left, Joe Biden in particular, Democrats in general, but most of all he poured his venom into the big lie drawing these cheers and applause by his baseless claims. Does it surprise you how much his base continues to not only believe it but thrive on it?
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): So I obviously found this speech a little disturbing again because it's the same old fear and hatred that he has been spreading across this country, and the chaos and the drama for the last five years. And the fact of the matter is, is what really does bother me and has been previously stated was the fact that he is undermining the very pillars of our democracy in people's confidence in it.
I think what he's doing is playing to people's fears. He is pitting people against each other. I hear it. I've been home. And yet I want to push back on him. The fact of the matter is, OK, did he begin the development of vaccines? Yes. But did he help people get vaccinated? No. Did he create more chaos, tell people not to worry, it wasn't going to hurt them? And we're now at four million deaths worldwide, not because of his leadership.
I look at -- I've been home for 10 days, just in my hometown alone, almost 20,000 people have been damaged by floods here, which nobody is talking about, by the way. He talked about doing something about infrastructure but nothing has been done. There is a bipartisan bill now under Joe Biden's proposal, not bill, that would do something about infrastructure.
He's got to stop pitting people against each other, and we've all got to stop letting ourselves be pitted against each other. We are not Republicans or Democrats. We are Americans. And it's time that we remember what it means to be American. I'm proud to be American and what he does is just so unforgivable to me.
BROWN: But yet, you're seeing more and more Republicans adopt this lie, that the election was stolen, ahead of the midterms, right? I mean, as our analyst Ron Brownstein put it, it resonates with the base who feels their country is literally being taken from them. So what is the Democrats' plan to combat this sentiment?
DINGELL: So, first of all, who is the base? The fact of the matter is, even though he calls it a theft that he did not win, he didn't win, and very legitimately he didn't win. And you saw a lot of people who were tired of the drama, who wanted to see somebody actually care about them as people do something about COVID, do something about the economy, too. And that's what we have to do.
We cannot let ourselves get sucked into and go down this rabbit hole that he is trying to do of pitting people against each other. We have to talk about the economy. We have to talk about infrastructure. We have to show people what happens when a plan is put forth with vaccinated people and got -- we're not where we are. We're not at the 75 percent goal but we're getting close to it. And we got to talk about these issues every day.
And we cannot let -- you know, we're being forced to make false choices. People talk about it's not -- it's a false choice when we talk about public safety versus civil rights. We can have both and we need to be very clear and not let him dominate the headlines with fake news but we need to be very clear and dominate the news with the facts in what we are doing.
BROWN: Let's talk about some choices and I want to mention what Ron said also in this earlier segment that the real choice the Democrats in Congress face either protect minority rights in the country or the minority input in the Senate, you see how implausible it is that the standard Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema can be met. This is of course about the filibuster. So what do you say to that? What do you say to Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema?
DINGELL: So I know that people are talking to them. I know that a number of civil right leaders who also met with President Biden have talked to both of them. I know that the work, the effort to -- I think they're both also hearing what Republicans are trying to do in a number of these states. Texas is one that's getting a lot of attention. But they're trying to do it here in Michigan, too.
And not only are they trying to suppress the vote but they're doing things here for years. Seniors have been able to vote by absentee ballot and now they're trying to require them that even if they vote, they have to go in and show some kind of voter I.D. They are making it hard for their voters to vote. And the senior citizens that often vote for Republicans. So I am not someone who is giving up on something happening.
I know that very significant discussions are continuing and I know the leadership of both the House and the Senate are continuing to commit, and the president of the United States, to get something done on voting right.
BROWN: And the president, as we know, is going to be giving this big speech on voting rights but the bottom line is it's about the votes. What is the speech going to do? How is the speech on this going to actually move the needle in your view?
DINGELL: So I want to say to everybody out there, you need to talk to your senator that we passed it in the House. We need to get -- hear it from your senator and Joe Biden is a very experienced, seasoned public policy maker. He has relationships. He made a commitment to those civil rights leaders that were in this week. He is -- knows how to talk to people. He knows how to tell people the importance of it, and all of us have to do that.
You live in a state where one your senators needs to be convinced, sit down and make it real, put a face on it. And that's what we have to do. You don't get something done by giving up and I'm not giving up.
DINGELL: And nor are a lot of other people.
BROWN: Congresswoman Dingell, thank you. Always great to see you on the show and hear your perspective on these important issues. We appreciate your time tonight.
DINGELL: Thank you.
BROWN: With surging rents and sky-high home prices, it can be hard to live where you want. I'm going to get talk to an Idaho City counselor who can't even afford rent in the city he serves. But next, this man was fully vaccinated but still got coronavirus and almost died. Travis Flores joins me next with his story.
BROWN: After a week of confusion over COVID vaccine boosters, drug maker Pfizer will brief U.S. government officials tomorrow on the potential need for more shots down the road. Now this meeting is seen as a courtesy and federal guidance on boosters is not expected to change any time soon per an administration official.
Well, earlier this week Pfizer reported seeing a decline in how its vaccine is working overtime and said it would apply for an Emergency Use Authorization for a third shot. The FDA and the CDC say that they don't see any evidence that booster shots will be needed. But in Israel they are moving forward with boosters. An announcement today, a third shot would be made available immediately for people with compromised immune systems.
So if you're still resisting getting a COVID vaccine, pay attention to this story. Travis Flores has spent a lifetime coping with an unbelievable array of medical challenges, starting with cystic fibrosis, a progressive lung disease that has meant three double lung transplants. Three. He also has diabetes, kidney and liver issues and heart problems.
So of course Travis got the vaccine as soon as he could. That was in February. But he still got COVID at the end of the May. A dangerous thing for anyone, but imagine what that means for someone with serious chronic health issues. Travis Flores is still fighting the effects of COVID today. In fact he's joining me from UCLA Medical Center.
Welcome to the show, Travis. You are just such an incredible fighter and truly an inspiration. Tell us, what is going on for you right now? Why are you back at the hospital?
TRAVIS FLORES, WRITER AND DISABILITIES ADVOCATE: First of all, thanks for having me on the show today, Pamela. But yes, you know, my life has kind of been one that's plagued by the hospital unfortunately and COVID is just the latest stream of events that have placed me here and right now I'm dealing with some long haul COVID kidney issues.
BROWN: And you believe that that could be something you're going to have to deal with for months, if not years to come, getting infected with COVID.
FLORES: I'm sure.
BROWN: And dealing with that now.
BROWN: Again you were fully vaccinated, but you're immunocompromised. And that is what doctors have been saying that if you're immunocompromised and you're fully vaccinated, you have a higher risk of ending up in the hospital. Take us back a bit, tell me when you first realized you had COVID and what happened next.
FLORES: Well, you know, I think I am no different than most people in that I felt invincible against this virus, you know. I'm young and despite my issues, I didn't think I'd have to worry about it especially being vaccinated, but unfortunately, with a compromised immune system and taking so many medications to suppress my immune system due to organ transplant, it was a pretty severe situation I found myself in at the beginning of June.
BROWN: Do you have any sense or any idea of how you may have contracted it?
FLORES: No. You know, long before COVID I've lived my life under a mask. You know, that's just been my life with cystic fibrosis so it's really hard to say, but, you know, with so many other people taking the pandemic so lightly, it's not hard to believe that somebody who's immune suppressed would become really ill with COVID.
BROWN: And I mean, you almost lost your life, right?
FLORES: I did. Yes, I did.
BROWN: So you have multiple issues due to cystic fibrosis that were all made worse by COVID. The initial hospitalization to save your life and treat the virus was six days but you've needed more hospital stays in the last several weeks to help stabilize you. How much has COVID complicated your other health issues?
FLORES: You know, it's a never-ending battle at this point. I feel like having three double lung transplants in a lifetime is already a lot to go through. But COVID has certainly made my life a lot more complex and every issue that I had to begin with has just become more and more difficult to maintain and manage, and I found myself in the ICU a few times since the beginning of June.
BROWN: I imagine you were thrilled to make it through to the vaccine, getting through the pandemic, not getting COVID, then you get --
BROWN: Then, you know, you get COVID after you've been vaccinated but you say that getting vaccinated actually saved your life. So what is your message to people who still refuse to get the shot?
FLORES: You know, it's an interesting thing. I find that if COVID were cancer, for example, and somebody were to go into their doctor's office tomorrow and the doctor said, look, we have this new treatment available that can take care of this new cancer for you and cure you, I find it hard to believe anyone would battle that and say no to that. But when it comes to the vaccine and hundreds of years that we put into science for some reason people say it's too quick, and I don't get that because we have something here that the rest of the world and many parts of the world is begging for and suffering to get, and we have access to it. Every one of us in America. So it's disappointing to me.
BROWN: And tell us about how getting vaccinated actually saved your life. What did the doctor's say? Do you think you'd still be here had you not been vaccinated?
FLORES: I don't think I would be, honestly. And it's not me being negative, it's just I'm a very realistic person. I have so many chronic issues that it's hard to believe that if my body hadn't had somewhat of an immunity, just a little bit, that I would have been able to survive that heavily -- it was a really bad case of COVID. It was very bad from the beginning.
BROWN: And in light of all of this, you also believe that people who are vaccinated should still be wearing masks indoors and take precautions.
BROWN: Tell us about that.
FLORES: Yes, I don't think this is a matter of politics, you know. This isn't a matter of freedom of choice. This is humanity. This is taking care of your neighbor and fellow citizens of the world, and I've worn masks my entire life and that will never change for me so I feel like asking for other people to wear it for just a little bit longer to keep the more vulnerable population safe isn't too much to ask.
BROWN: It is not too much to ask. Travis, again, you are such an inspiration, truly.
FLORES: Thank you.
BROWN: Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming on the show. I hope that you can get out of the hospital soon and that your journey gets better from here.
FLORES: Me, too.
BROWN: We really wish you all the best, Travis.
FLORES: Thank you, Pamela. I appreciate it.
BROWN: Well, Richard Branson adding space travel today to his long list of adventures but this is more. Branson becomes the first billionaire space baron beating his rival at Amazon to the edge of the final frontier but who is really winning the space race? That story ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BROWN: Sir Richard Branson is calling it the dawn of a new space age after he rocketed into the cosmos aboard Virgin Galactic's Unity spacecraft. Branson is the first billionaire to travel the space aboard his own company's spacecraft beating Jeff Bezos to the punch by nine days.
CNN's Rachel Crane caught up with Branson moments after he came back down to earth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRANSON: I've always pictured what it would be like and it was just far more extraordinary than I could have ever, ever imagined, from the -- from going naught to 3,000 miles an hour in seven or eight seconds, being pressed back into the seat. The roar of the rocket to arriving in space and the silence. And, you know, to looking out of the window, seeing our glorious, glorious, the colors of the sky, to unbuckling and floating just literally lifting -- just going off to the ceiling and floating.
Looking back down on these big windows that now the spaceship is upside down facing back down to the earth. Seeing these three float around underneath me like, you know, giant fish. Get out of my way. I want to see the earth.
BRANSON: And then of course, you know, when we came back into the earth's atmosphere, the shuddering as the spaceship comes back in, and -- anyway, we just had a pretty extraordinary day.
SIRISHA BANDLA, VP OF GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS AND RESEARCH, VIRGIN GALACTIC: Oh, my god, it was amazing.
RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Congratulations, you guys, again.
BRANSON: Thank you.
CRANE: But it had to have been surreal for both of you.
BRANSON: It was -- I still sort of feel in my whole life I've just been so fortunate and -- I'm going to wake up tomorrow morning and I would find that I was dreaming. I mean, it was just like the most incredible dream and just we're all just so lucky, so lucky to have been able to participate in it and this one, and the rest of the team are just brilliant. This is Shirisha.
BANDLA: Yes. Absolutely. And I think that's actually part of it. The team and Beth Moses, our chief astronaut instructor, has prepared us so well. And it's not only just training and operations and emergency procedures, it's preparing for the experience. So when I was sitting in the spaceship, I knew it was real. I knew exactly what to expect and I could focus on the views and the experience, and it was just incredible.
BRANSON: And she was working as a scientist doing experiments, as well.
CRANE: And Richard, you have long spoken about the overview effect. Anyone who's gone to space often refers to the overview effect, how it fundamentally changes them and they become, you know, a steward of earth. Did you experience that?
BRANSON: I -- it sort of capped it off for me. I mean, I will now spend, and I promise, I will now spend the next -- I'm an optimist, the next 30 years of my life, you know, doing everything I can to protect the species on this beautiful earth. To, you know, work on climate change issues, to work on, you know, trying to stop the degradation of our rain forests. You know, just all the things that are going the wrong way, just to do everything we can to make them go the right way.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And our thanks to Rachel Crane.
Well, soaring home sales are pricing many out of the market. When we come back, I'll speak to a city councilman who says he can't even afford to live in the city he represents. No joke. Stay with us.
BROWN: Well, if you're looking to buy a home or to rent right now, you may be feeling sticker shock. Home prices are on the rise across the country at the highest pace on record. The median existing home price in May was more than $350,000. That's up from 283,000 the previous May. This is according to the National Association of Realtors. Idaho saw the biggest jump from 2020 to 2021. Home prices rose more than 30 percent.
In Ketchum, Idaho, near the Sun Valley Ski Resort, there are plenty of jobs to be had. The problem is they don't pay enough to live there. Ketchum City councilman Michael David says he can't afford to rent or buy on his city salary and job as a salesman at a ski shop. And Michael David joins us now.
Michael, thanks so much for coming on the show. Tell us about the predicament you're in.
MICHAEL DAVID, KETCHUM, IDAHO CITY COUNCIL: Well, you know, my situation is that for the last about a year and a half after my landlord decided to redevelop the property that I was living in that I've been looking for a permanent place to live and there isn't anything available right now. It's the inventory is non-exist and with the pandemic it just exacerbated the whole situation. So -- luckily my situation is better than a lot of other people in my community because I've got my mom's house where I can sleep.
I've got a friend who has a vacation home. He lets me use it when he's not around. So I can make do but it is -- you know, it's indicative of how bad the situation is. You know, even the people that have housing are facing the predicament of at any moment their landlord could decide to either raise the rent, which has happened to a lot of people where they've had their rent almost doubled or they decided to sell the place or something like that. So you're at the whim of your landlord and you have no security even if you have housing.
BROWN: And just for our viewers who may be wondering, you're at your mom's house now. You go from there to, like you said, your friend's house who may have a vacation home. You kind of bop around. But what do you believe is causing this? What is the root problem here in your view?
DAVID: Well, you know, in our high-cost resort area, affordable housing has been an issue for decades.
And what we're seeing lately is an influx of people coming in, moving to this great little area that we call home, and the work force is being forced out so as we have a demand for more services and then the workers are not there to provide those services and, you know, you can open up our little local paper every Wednesday and find, you know, four pages of help wanted ads and there might be one or two rentals available. So it just -- it doesn't work.
BROWN: And how does a work-from-home and Airbnb factor into this?
DAVID: You know, they're all little things that add to the problem. You know, the Airbnb has incentivized a lot of people to rent short term rather than long term, which could be housing opportunities for the work force. And, you know, the Zooming and the mobile remote working has brought a lot of people to Ketchum, Idaho, because they're able to work remotely and, you know, it's a wonderful place.
I've been here for almost 30, almost 30 years. Been on the city council for 10 years and, you know, we've been fighting to try and build more affordable housing for a long time but, you know, it's gotten to a crisis tipping point.
BROWN: Right. I mean, I'm sure just channeling people from home who are watching this right now they probably wonder, well, you're on the city council. Why aren't you guys doing anything about this? Right? And also, the city council was going to allow a tent city to be built for workers to live in temporarily as they look for a more permanent place, but the city council on which you serve nixed that plan. Why?
DAVID: Well, you know, we came up with what we thought were some better alternatives than camping in the city, in the public parks. So we are working on some RV parking. We're already created a permitting situation so you can park on private property, and we're looking at opening the public parking lots to overnight RV parking so that people can camp in their cars and not have to worry about the police knocking on their window at 6:00 a.m. So we're doing some other things.
The -- you know, I think we had to have that conversation about allowing people to camp in the public parks just to raise the awareness, and it did that. You know, there was a lot of people I don't think that were prepared to have our type of homelessness right in their face in a -- you know, a resort type of community like we have.
BROWN: So are you going to ride this out or do you plan to find someplace else to live with more affordable housing?
DAVID: Well, again, I have a situation where I'm going to be OK, but what we are seeing is we're seeing what used to be kind of a trickle of the work force leaving the area because housing was too big of a challenge. We're seeing that more of an exodus, and so a lot of people do -- are making that choice daily and certainly, you know, as they get notices from their landlord that their rent is increasing, then they move.
And what we're seeing is, you know, I went to dinner on Sunday night with my mom to the Sophie's Club, a kind of an institution seven days a week, and when we got there, there was a sign on the door that said due to the lack of affordable housing in the area we will be closed on Sundays now, sorry for the inconvenience. And we're seeing that in a lot of restaurants and a lot of shops where they're having to either, you know, trim their hours or shut completely. And then, you know, it just -- it won't work if it continues in that direction.
BROWN: Yes. You are fortunate to have the situation where you can stay with loved ones. And for those wondering, you have a PO box so that's where your mail goes to.
BROWN: Michael David, thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing your story.
DAVID: Thanks for having me.
BROWN: Well, it is another sign the vaccine is helping life return to something that looks like normal. Americans are taking long overdue vacations and packing flights headed to Europe. A report from Paris, next.
BROWN: Pope Francis making his first public appearance since having major surgery last week. The 84-year-old Pope led Sunday prayers from a hospital window in Rome, as you see right here. He underwent surgery a week ago to remove part of his colon due to inflammation. A spokesperson says the Pope is recovering nicely and he should be able to leave the hospital in a few days.
Well, after more than a year of COVID pandemic shutdown, vaccinated Americans are coming out of vacation hibernation and again traveling in large numbers. Businesses which are starving for tourists in France are more than happy to see it.
CNN's Melissa Bell has more.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Versailles, the home of French kings until the revolution and until the pandemic a favorite destination for American tourists, once again open for business.
Historically for us, says the president of the Chateau, American have always been the most important foreign tourists. In 2019 they represented 16 percent of the tourists who came to Versailles just behind the French.
(On-camera): In 2019, American tourists spent $4 billion here in France but then for more than a year, from the start of the first French lockdown in March of 2020 until June 18th when Americans vaccinated or not were allowed back into the country, the splendors of France were much, much quieter than usual.
(Voice-over): In fact for six months over the winter, they were entirely closed. Inside the Louvre, you could have heard a pin drop.
But even in between lockdowns, the streets of Paris, one of the most visited cities in the world, were hard to recognize without the foreigners. A disaster for France's tourism industry, which represented more than 7 percent of the country's GDP as of 2018.
Now with American allowed back in, there is at least hope.
SEBASTIEN VINCENT, BIG BUS TOURS PARIS: They are about 25 percent of our passengers at the moment so which is very encouraging because we didn't expect Americans to be so early back in Paris.
BELL: But many have rushed over making the most of the opportunity to travel abroad and with places like the Champs-Elysees still much quieter than usual.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So beautiful. Like I'm enjoying everything about it. It's so different than the United States so we're like we're enjoying it to the fullest. It's so breathtaking.
BELL: The Eiffel Tower reopens a week from now, American tourists are back already.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. The first time we've been on a plane in over a year and the flight was great. That's why it was full, which was interesting. It took about an hour to get through the airport, just to get out of the airport, but yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But once you're in, you're in.
BELL: With a chance to see Paris as few tourists ever get to see it, without too many other tourists around.
Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.
BROWN: We are just 10 minutes away from the premiere of the CNN Original Series "HISTORY OF THE SITCOM." And our Stephanie Elam is standing by at Central Perk, the place where six friends just hanging out in New York changed American pop culture even creating the Rachel haircut. We'll be right back.
BROWN: Well, get ready to be reacquainted with the television friends, family and co-workers that you grew up watching. The CNN Original Series "HISTORY OF THE SITCOM" debuts in just a few minutes. The eight-part docuseries features interviews with more than 180 stars, and here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those were not real people, but they entertained and delighted us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, kids. Dinner's done. We're sitting down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you get to "Father Knows Best," it's very patriarchal, dealing with tiny little problems.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quiet evening at home. I can use it.
BILLY GRAY, ACTOR: And I played Bud. Bud usually had a problem with truth telling on some level.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was all that racket upstairs?
GRAY: I didn't hear anything.
"Father Knows Best" represented the good life, the American dream.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here, I'll read you one story and then off to bed you go.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: CNN's Stephanie Elam is at the Warner Brothers Studio back lot in Burbank, California.
Stephanie, you've got the best assignment of the day. I'm guessing many of our viewers recognize that iconic coffee shop you're in. STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. This is Central Perk. This
is the couch where we'd see the friends hanging out. Fun fact here, they would change the art on the set every three episodes or so to just make it seem even more real. This is just one of the fun things that you can do at the Warner Brothers Hollywood tour. The studio tour you can come and see all of the shows.
There are 37 sound stages here. There are a number of shows throughout the years that have been filmed here. So many shows and so all of that history is here on this back lot and this new and enhanced tour that you can be a part of when you come here. And this is really amazing to see that since 1928 they have been making TV and movie magic. And you think about sitcoms and you think about all the things that we remember and not really maybe taking all the backgrounds but you can do that here.
In fact, look at this. You've even got Central Perk. Now this one, the other one you can't buy anything. This one you can actually eat so people can stop here and get food here, as well. And then further on down here, let's just go check out what it would look like if you're in their apartment. You can see that we've got Joey and Chandler's apartment over here, and we can just make our way through. And if you really wanted to get your friends merchandise and see of course the costumes from the show, all of that is here.
But you know what people really like to do? People really, really love to come and hang out in Monica's apartment because this is where all the action really did seem to happen, didn't it? And this is Chris.
Chris, what do you think about being in Monica's apartment right now? How does it feel?
CHRIS, TOURIST: It's amazing. It's a great experience to be here.
ELAM: Does it look like what you thought it would look like?
CHRIS: Actually it superseded my expectations, honestly.
ELAM: That's awesome. That's really cool.
ELAM: You guys are having fun. So this is one of the things that you can do, Pam. You can come out, you can actually see what it's like, where they've recreated the set, you can enjoy it. All of this just teeing us up because right about now we are about to start the "HISTORY OF THE SITCOM" which is about to premiere, and you can go back and look back at all the laughs that we had over the years -- Pam.
BROWN: This is just bringing back so much nostalgia seeing that set, and for so many other sitcoms, as well. I'm glad that we have this coming up. I'll definitely be watching.
Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.
And don't forget, you can tweet me at PamelaBrownCNN. You can also follow me on Instagram with the same handle.
Thank you for joining me this evening. I am Pamela Brown. See you next weekend.