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Rise Of Delta Variant Threatens To Overwhelm Arkansas Hospitals; Tennis Star Coco Gauff To Miss Olympics After Positive COVID Test; Destruction Revealed As Waters Subside In Germany; Interview With Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) About Surge Of New COVID-19 Cases; Stunning Details On Top Military Official's Fears Over Trump. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 18, 2021 - 19:00   ET




PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: The Olympics Games are just days away but already some of the world's best athletes are sitting this one out to new positive COVID tests inside the Olympic Village.

Plus, catastrophic flooding across Europe. Tens of thousands forced to flee. Tonight hundreds are missing.

And the brink of war. New insight about how close the United States could have been to an all-out battle with Iran during the final days of the Trump administration.

I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday.

COVID cases continue to rise across the United States, and doctors say the patients they're seeing are younger and younger. Clearly the Delta variant is behind these increases, and just as clearly, the lagging U.S. vaccination rates are making the situation worse.

The CDC says less than half of the U.S. population, only 48.6 percent, is fully vaccinated. And medical officials say what seems bad now is only likely to get worse.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I'm worried about what is to come because we are seeing increasing cases among the unvaccinated, in particular. And while if you are vaccinated you are very well protected against hospitalization and death, unfortunately, that is not true if you are not vaccinated.

We're seeing 99.5 percent of deaths right now from COVID-19 in our country are happening among the unvaccinated.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: So your risk of catching the Delta variant is especially high on these 12 states, right here on your screen. They haven't even gotten to a 40 percent vaccination rate. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Let's take a closer look at Arkansas where only about 35 percent of eligible people are fully vaccinated. In the past week alone, there were more than 7,000 new cases. One doctor puts in it stark terms. "The hospital is full. COVID-19 numbers increase every day. We are staffing inpatients in the ER and recovery room. No space for transfers. Running out of caregivers. Support health care workers. Mask up. Get vaxxed."

That physician, Dr. Cam Patterson, joins me now live from Little Rock, where is the chancellor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Dr. Patterson, thanks for joining us. So your tweet from yesterday paints a grim picture, a picture we saw in the early days of the pandemic. Not something we'd expect to see now with three different effective vaccines available in the United States. One of your colleagues, Dr. Ryan Dare, says it is heart-wrenching to see unvaccinated individuals come into the hospital with regret. What is it like to hear regret when it's too late?

DR. CAM PATTERSON, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS FOR MEDICAL SCIENCES: You know, we talked to people who should know better, and they are now dealing with the worst health care crisis that they have ever been confronted with. There's a lot of misinformation that people unfortunately aren't paying attention to. We need to do a better job of talking to people in a language that they understand. And we need to make sure that everybody understands that this is a race against time. The Delta variant is way worse than the COVID-19 strains that were circulating a year ago.

BROWN: But help us understand what that is like. I talked on a medical professional yesterday from Missouri. He was saying, people were ending up in the hospital beds, essentially on their death beds. They decided not to take vaccine and they were expressing regret. I can't imagine what that would be like to be in your shoes and to hear that firsthand.

PATTERSON: You know, we used to hear people talk about COVID-19 being a bad case of the flu and you lose your sense of smell. Now people are coming into the hospital going straight on to ventilators, going on to heart-lung bypass. It used to be 65-year-old individuals with multiple medical problems. Now it's pregnant women who don't have other medical issues who are on heart-lung bypass to stay alive.

We've had patients who've lost babies because they were infected with COVID-19. This is not the same thing that we experienced before.

BROWN: That's just horrible, horrible, horrible to hear. But I think it is important for people to realize the real-life consequences of what could happen. And you look at Canada. I think it is interesting when you look at -- Canada is surpassing the U.S. with vaccination rates. And they have less access there to vaccines than in the United States.


They have social media, too. Right? I mean, they have access to misinformation. What do you make of that? What do you think is going on here?

PATTERSON: COVID-19 started out in urban communities. It was in New York, it was in L.A., it was on the West Coast. But viruses eventually find people who have poor access to care and who have poor access to good health care information. And those are people by and large who live in rural communities and there are states like Arkansas that have a high concentration of rural communities where those problems get amplified.

In addition, in Central Arkansas along the Delta, we have African- American communities who are historically, for good reason, accustomed to inequities in health care. And this is really creating a perfect storm for COVID-19 to thrive at a time when we have variants that are way more infectious and way more virulent than we have experienced before.

This is really a perfect storm for a bad outcome if we can't find a way to talk to people in a way that will allow them to understand that the vaccine is going to benefit them and their communities.

BROWN: Well, I think that that's a key point. It will benefit them. But it will benefit others. I mean, you heard Dr. Fauci say we wouldn't be -- we would still have polio today or the measles or other deadly diseases had it not been for the country coming together to get vaccinated. So what is different now? Why is it so hard for more people to come together, and do not what's best for them but what's best for others and frankly for the country at large?

PATTERSON: We've got to have a conversation about how the one off-ramp to COVID-19 going from a pandemic to an endemic situation, where it's always here, is for enough people to be vaccinated. And that's not going to be 50 percent. It's certainly not 35 percent like it is right now in Arkansas.

It's going to be 70 percent, 80 percent, or 90 percent of people getting vaccinated. We're going to have to find a way to talk to people in a way that they will understand so they appreciate that there's no going back to yesterday unless we all roll up our shirt sleeves and get a vaccine.

BROWN: Dr. Cam Patterson, thank you. You obviously are in such an important position of trust. So thank you for doing your part and getting all of the facts and science-based information out there. We appreciate it.

PATTERSON: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, just a short time ago, we learned that an American is one of at least three athletes to test positive for COVID-19 at the Tokyo Olympics. 17-year-old tennis player Coco Gauff says she has pulled out of the competition but hopes to make her Olympic dreams come true in future games.

CNN's Will Ripley is in Tokyo.

So, Will, Gauff's diagnosis comes as we learn of positive cases inside the Olympic Village. How much concern is there five days out from the games?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of concern, Pamela. Because yes, right now the number is just three positive cases inside the Olympic Athletes' Village, two athletes and a video analyst, but they're living in very close quarters. You're talking about sometimes up to eight people sharing a small apartment with four people sharing the same bathroom.

Now there are precautions that are in place. They're supposed to be wearing masks at all times. They're supposed to avoid all physical contact. Not even high fiving each other or cheering each other. There are daily COVID tests to try to identify these cases quickly. But you're going to have 18,000 athletes and officials living in the village at any given time. That's 85,000 athletes, officials, journalists and others who are converging here on Japan for the games.

And so a small group of cases can quickly turn into a cluster, can turn into an outbreak, and yes, there is a lot of concern that these athletes could be pretty vulnerable. Maybe not even bringing COVID into Japan but catching it here in Japan especially if they interact with unvaccinated Japanese and then potentially hurting their athletic careers and-or bringing it back to their countries.

BROWN: So Japan is a poorly vaccinated country and of course, athletes and staff are coming in from all over the world. How much concern is there that this could become a super spreader event on a global scale?

RIPLEY: Well, you touched on a really key point. It is Japan's low vaccination rate that makes this dangerous. They've caught around 55 cases so far, tied to the Olympics. And at the airport where thousands of people, more than 15,000 have come in so far, they caught just 15 cases. So Japan is really screening foreign visitors and making sure that they don't have COVID before they arrive. We took two COVID tests before even getting on the plane. We're taking another COVID today, which will be our eighth or ninth.

But in Tokyo itself their numbers have been trending upward for the last month. They've been hitting over 1,000 new cases every single day which is their highest numbers since January.


And so the problem is that you have less than 20 percent of people in Japan who are vaccinated. And if these staff members are interacting with athletes, there is that real potential, experts warn, for a super spreader scenario. And that is why you have the most unusual Olympics that we're ever going to see with no spectators at all of these events, aside from VIPs and journalists who are covering it, and team staff members.

You're going to have a very different looking opening ceremony. A very different looking medal ceremony where the athletes aren't even presented with their medals. Somebody walks up with a tray and they put it on themselves.

This truly is, Pamela, going to be an Olympics like we've never seen before.

BROWN: All right, Will Ripley, thank you for setting the stage for us. We appreciate it.

Well, one of the big hotspots right now for new COVID cases is Florida. In fact last week the White House said one in five infections came from the Sunshine State. We're going to find out what's being done to get more people there vaccinated.

But first, massive devastation. A horrific human toll. German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying she can't find words to describe the disaster that has struck her country. An update from the flood zone, up next.



BROWN: Well, German officials are calling it the worst natural disaster in a century to hit their country. Chancellor Angela Merkel says the German language doesn't even have the words to describe it. Catastrophic flooding across Western Europe has left least 189 people dead. Hundreds more are still missing right now. And as the floodwaters began to recede, it is clear entire towns, train lines and roads have been swept away.

CNN senior international correspondent Atika Shubert is on the sea for us in Western Germany.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, as the waters have receded, a lot of debris has been left behind. The river is about 500 meters that way. And the bridge is completely unpassable. In fact, it's collapsed. And you see a lot of these cars along the side of the road that have actually been washed up by the floodwaters. There's that one, and look at this one over here. It's actually wedged in between a tree and the building.

And what's interesting here is the fact that you might be able to see, the window has been smashed in. We actually saw the police team come in and smash that window in looking for the owner of this vehicle, who is still registered as missing. Now you can also see on the other window a chalk lettering there. It says "leer" and that means empty. So this car has already been searched and marked as empty.

This shows that the search and recovery operation is still very much ongoing. But you can just see from this little portion here, the sense, the widespread devastation. And this goes on all along the Ahr River Valley. This is not something that's going to take a few days to clean up. It is going to take a very long time for this region to recover -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Atika Shubert, awful. Thanks for bringing us the latest there.

And now let's check in on another area of Western Germany where CNN's senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is seeing the devastation first hand.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, you join me on what's left of the banks of the Ahr River. You can see the scale of the kinetic energy just here with this bridge, undermine there are trees that have been snapped like broccoli sticks. The energy behind these flash floods is quite simply catastrophic, terrifying, and this is what it did to a community not far from here.


KILEY (voice-over): A business ruined. Slung away almost as quickly as it was washed away. Flash flooding in engulfed Tui's Vietnamese restaurant Pho '68. Her father filmed the rising waters in Euskirchen. It's one of the many towns engulfed by floods that have killed at least 158 people across Western Germany.

TUI, OWNER, PHO '68 RESTAURANT: A lot of friends, they have a restaurant, a house. It is completely destroyed. I have a lot of friends they are near the water. The house is not standing.

KILEY: Tui's restaurant had only been open two weeks since the most recent COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. Now she's dependent on friends and former diners to help clean up. The violence of the flood is visible everywhere.

(On-camera): The disaster that engulfed this town wasn't the result of a swollen river bursting its banks. It was the result of flash flooding, of massive amount of rainfall coming in an incredibly short period of time and created torrents that swept through these streets. Often this high.

(Voice-over): Swollen rivers drained the floods eventually. But looming over the area has been the future of the Steinbachtal dam, part of it collapsed. And several villages below it evacuated. Engineers were rushed in to bring its levels down before it burst. Scenes like this and much worse are being repeated across Western Germany and in neighboring Belgium. Unseasonable rainfall has also hit the Netherlands and Austria and the Czech Republic.

While many are grieving, there is an energetic sense of community as cleaning up starts.

STEFAN, LOCAL VOLUNTEER: I don't know from who or where all the generators come from, where all the pumps come from. I don't know the people around here. But everybody is helping each other.

KILEY: The costs of this disaster are almost incalculable. But there will be a reckoning when the history of what happened here comes to be written amid the climate change crisis. It's likely to say this was a warning.


KILEY: Pamela, there hasn't yet been definitive conclusions drawn as to whether or not these latest weather catastrophes are actually caused by climate change but for communities who are living here now, they will forever be worried about the weather -- Pamela.


BROWN: Understandably. Sam Kiley, thanks so much.

And Pope Francis today expressing his feelings of nearness to those affected by the catastrophic floods in Europe. The pontiff praying for the victims and their families, and for emergency workers as he resumed weekly appearances from a Vatican window earlier today. It's the Pope's first services overlooking St. Peter's Square since his surgery two weeks ago.

And the Pope also called for peace in Cuba where anti-government protesters are getting support from Cuban Americans in Miami. Some even calling for military intervention.

When we come back, I'll speak to South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and find out how she thinks the Biden administration should respond.



BROWN: COVID-19 cases are rising across the U.S. along with hospitalizations and deaths. And according to the White House, nearly 20 percent of all those new cases are popping up in one state. The state of Florida.

Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins me now.

Thanks for taking some time out for us on this Sunday, Congresswoman. Your state is just barely below the national average for people being fully vaccinated. So what do you think explains such high infection rates?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): What I think explains high infection rate is that we have a governor who has not taken COVID seriously from the very beginning. You know, he has essentially right now treating it like a joke. He's got campaign merchandise on his Web site saying "Don't Fauci My Florida." And we've had nearly 40,000 Floridians die of COVID. We have -- we are contributing 20 percent of the COVID diagnosis in the country right now and we're on the rise.

And look, I would rather see us Fauci our Florida than have people go through death by DeSantis. And that's what we're facing right now. He actually had a law passed in Florida to prohibit local governments from being able to enact measures like mask requirements and social distancing to keep people safe. You just can't make this up. So that's where the blame lies. At his feet.

BROWN: And the question is, what more would you have him do? As you well know, he has defended his handling. He said the government shouldn't be meddling in this. It's people's personal choice. They should have the freedom to decide how they want to live, what they should do. What would you say to him? What more should be doing?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: He should join President Biden, join our congressional delegation, join Democratic legislators, join public health experts across the state who have gone through an all-out, full-court press to educate people who have not been willing to become vaccinated.

We are below the average. We really have a problem with, as our CDC director said, a pandemic of the unvaccinated now. Every single person that's died in this last month in this country of COVID has died without being vaccinated, because they were not vaccinated. And that's how they got COVID.

So we have to make sure that we're stopping the spread of disinformation like it's spreading rampant on Facebook. Some of which is propagated by Ron DeSantis himself and FOX News which he spends a lot of time on.

So, you know, look, we all have to pull together and try to make sure we can do everything we can to get everyone vaccinated because that is the key as we've seen to making sure that we bring the numbers down and make sure people don't get sick and die.

BROWN: Florida is a deep red state. We're seeing this trend. In the red states, there is a lower number of people being vaccinated. So in your state, I mean, these are people are individuals, seeing what is out there and choosing for themselves not to get the vaccine. How much responsibility can you really put on one individual, the governor of the state, for all of these people choosing not to get vaccinated?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We have a governor that likes to take credit for things. And so, you know, you can't take credit for the good things and then not be accountable for the things that aren't going so well. When you pass a law through the state legislature and sign it to say that businesses can't require vaccinations, to say that local governments can't take steps to keep their own people safe, that ignores public health, who really through the whole pandemic did everything he could to really stiff arm the pandemic, and taking care of people.

At the end of the day, when we're now facing the largest rise in the country, then, you know, the responsibility lies with you. And all he has to do is exercise his leadership and use his bully pulpit to encourage people to get vaccinated. He's been vaccinated. It's important that we make sure that we work hard to get to those tough people who really have been either impacted by disinformation spread by him or who simply just need a little bit more of a nudge to make them comfortable. That's our job as public --

BROWN: Yes. I mean, I had a lawmaker on earlier, a Republican, who is a pharmacist. And he's out there saying, look, you should take vaccine. We're seeing Republicans in Congress who have been out there on the forefront putting out PSAs saying take the vaccine. It is safe.

I want to listen to what Dr. Fauci said yesterday on CNN.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If we had had the pushback for vaccines the way we're seeing on certain media, I don't think it would have been possible at all to not only eradicate smallpox, we probably would still have smallpox and we probably would still have polio in this country if we had the kind of false information that's being spread now. If we had that back decades ago, I would be certain that we'd still have polio in this country.


BROWN: So in light of that, should the Biden White House mandate vaccines?


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What we need to do is make sure that we continue to educate people with the facts, use our public health experts, our public health network, make sure that every elected official is doing our best to act, to reach out to our constituents, and make sure we fight to submit this information.

And by the way, I agree with President Biden, Facebook needs to do a lot more and our social media companies need to do a lot more to take down these disinformation websites, take down the false information that their own algorithms allow to spread.

Yes, they've promoted vaccinations and gotten the truth out there. But you know, what happens with their algorithms, the faster -- the disinformation spreads much faster, and it is infecting people. It is ensuring that people don't get the vaccination, and those are the people that are dying right now.

I mean, the proof is in the pudding. The people that are dying now are the ones who aren't vaccinated. There is not a single person who has died that has been vaccinated in the last month.

BROWN: That's true.

SCHULTZ: That tells you the way it is.

BROWN: In the last month, I was going to say, there have been, but there's other -- then, there is, you know, immunocompromised people, and so forth. But you said you agree with President Biden on social media. Do you agree with him that Facebook is killing people?

SCHULTZ: I agree that Facebook has a responsibility to much more aggressively change their algorithms, so that disinformation about COVID does not spread faster than the truth spreads, and they need to have a much more aggressive takedown policy than they do and they need to be held accountable for the damage that their algorithm does when it comes to disinformation.

So yes, I think there is a line that is drawn directly from their spread -- their allowing the spread of disinformation on COVID to people losing their lives.

BROWN: And so then you do agree with him, that in essence, they are killing -- it is killing people.

SCHULTZ: I think what they're doing is preventing people from dying of COVID by not addressing this issue more aggressively. I'm caring more about making sure that disinformation about COVID doesn't convince people that they shouldn't get vaccinated and that is somehow dangerous. That's a huge problem.

BROWN: I want to talk about -- sorry, I just wanted to get to a topic that I know you want to talk about, and of course, that would be Cuba. As you know, we're seeing Cuba -- South Florida are seeing some of the biggest pro-democracy, anti-regime demonstrations in years. Many Cuban-Americans want the Biden administration to take action, some are even calling for military intervention.

What do you think the White House should do?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think first of all, President Biden was absolutely right in standing with the Cuban people, and I am so thrilled to see the protests that are finally spreading on the island itself, you know, supported by our folks in South Florida who are taking to the streets as well and backing them up.

President Biden said that he heard the clarion call for freedom from the Cuban people, and now, he needs to -- as I was glad to hear him taking the steps towards doing -- help the nation by opening the internet backup in Cuba, so that we can make sure that communication is able to more freely spread. And the protesters have the ability to coordinate with one another.

That's really critical, making sure that we increase funding for radio and TV Marti, that's going to be able to get more correct, truthful information to the Cuban people, to Cuban protesters. We need to make sure that the more than 50 years of repression, and the dictatorship, the regime that has kept the Cuban people down is overcome by the calls for freedom that the Cuban people are begging for across the island now.

They're finally -- they've found their courage, they are fed up, and we need to make sure that our administration and I'm confident that President Biden will back them up so that we can continue their momentum.

BROWN: Okay, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thanks again for your time on this Sunday. Great having you on the show.

SCHULTZ: Thank you. My pleasure.

BROWN: Well, America's top general was reportedly worried that Donald Trump would try to launch a strike on Iran in his final days in office. It wasn't the General's only nightmare. Details next.



BROWN: Stunning new details about the nation's top military officer and his fears during Donald Trump's final weeks in office.

According to this article in "The New Yorker," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley was secretly worried that Trump would, quote, "insist on launching a strike on Iranian interests that could set off a full-blown war."

Milley was also reportedly concerned that the former President might attempt a coup after he lost the election. Trump denied those claims last week insisting he never discussed a coup and suggesting Milley should be court martialed if he really believed that.

Susan Glasser wrote the piece in "The New Yorker," entitled "You're Going to have an Effing War: Mark Millie's Fight to Stop Trump from Striking Iran."

She and her husband Peter Baker have conducted nearly 200 interviews for a new book they are co-writing on the Trump presidency. Susan joins me now. Nice to see you, Susan.

So according to your article, General Milley believe that the U.S. came very close to a conflict with Iran during the end of Trump's presidency. You report that it was a running concern of Milley's that Trump would push the country into war with Iran. So, give us some background here. What led to Milley's concerns?


SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, thank you very much. I think, you know, I was really struck when I first learned of this account, you know, a few months ago in in course of doing reporting for our book, and you know that there were two issues.

I understood that General Milley ever since that Lafayette Square photo-op last June was very worried about Trump's effort to politicize the military, to possibly use the military in the streets in an inappropriate way.

But I didn't realize that there was also essentially a backstage struggle to make sure that Trump did not engage in some essentially politicized strike on Iran, and that the General articulated to associates repeatedly, meetings at the White House at which Trump and his hawkish advisers around him were suggesting a kind of missile strike that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was concerned would lead in an unintended way to a full blown war, especially after the election, which Trump lost. BROWN: So, given all of the reporting you have done, all the people you've spoken to about this, do you believe that Milley's fear of a full scale war was justified?

GLASSER: Well, you know what the General told associates was that we had actually come very close to a strike that could have come out of control. And what I would say is that throughout the Trump presidency, this is actually a running theme for four years.

It was coming up to the brink, coming close, escalating and escalating with Iran in a way that alarmed at various points, not just General Milley, but others of the military advisers as well, including also his previous Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis.

Now, you know, history will have to determine just exactly how close we came. But I think it's notable that the very last time that Donald Trump ever spoke with his handpicked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was on January 3, 2021, that is just a couple days before the January 6 storming of the Capitol, and the very last conversation they had was about Iran.

And it was only then, when you're so close to the end of his term, that two of Trumps very hawkish advisers, Mike Pompeo and Robert O'Brien, the National Security Adviser finally said, "Mr. President, it's too late," according to the account that General Milley gave others.

BROWN: Why is the public just now hearing about this? I mean, thanks to your great reporting and your husband's great reporting, this is coming out. But why do you think Milley didn't say anything sooner?

GLASSER: Well, you know, first of all, remember, he is the sitting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And, you know, I think it would probably be pretty inappropriate for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to be holding a press conference to talk about private military advice that he gave to the President of the United States in the course of doing his job. You know, you have to follow your objections through the proper channels.

Now, I would say that, you know, for history, as journalists, it is our job to keep reporting and to keep pressing and to keep, you know, trying to figure out what happened. In my view, there's still a lot more that we need to learn about the events of the last four years, and that's one of the reasons that I've embarked on this project.

I've been struck, not just how much we've learned about 2020, but going back even to previous years of the Trump presidency, there's a lot to learn and I suspect that there will be new information and new books coming out about this Trump presidency for a long time to come.

BROWN: Yes, as you keep saying history will tell and your great reporting and other reporters reporting is adding to that historical record, which is so important. Susan Glasser, thank you.

We'll be right back.



BROWN: Since the beginning of television, sitcoms have kept us smiling and helped us navigate an ever-changing cultural landscape.

Well, the new CNN Original Series "History of the Sitcom" looks at TV shows from across the decades like the "Facts of Life," and here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What made you get rid of that joint?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watching you last night. From now on, I'm going to stick to being high on me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, this shirt I wanted to find a way to pay homage to Norman Lear. "Facts of Life" was part of the norm and their family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about four teenage girls trying to find their way with the guidance of this wise older woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Divorce, virginity --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Snake and I slept together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Class wars on the regular.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you are not prejudiced. He's just a snob.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Teach me to be common. Joe. Bring me down to your level.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The show "My Facts of Life" is the beginning of the very special episode.


BROWN: CNN media analyst, Bill Carter joins me now for more on that. Hi, Bill. Nice to see you.

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Great to see you, Pam.

BROWN: So, let's look back. In the 70s, network executives wanted to capture younger audiences. So instead of basing TV sitcoms around the family unit, they based it around a group of friends. Tell us how did that change the face of TV?

CARTER: Well, you know, if you think about the really great iconic sitcoms, at least in my lifetime, an awful lot of them are about groups of contemporaries who hang out together and spend time together in social ways and aren't in a family unit and that includes great shows, "Cheers," and "Seinfeld" and "Friends," the absolute top shows of, at least of my lifetime are in that genre. And I think it just was a way to capture what was going on in America, which was people were not getting married at a young age. They were hanging out with their friends longer and having great experiences with them.


BROWN: And teenagers aren't the only ones who hang out with their friends, as we know. So, in the 80s, you have this explosion of grown up friends on TV sitcoms. What are some of the shows that we have to think for that trend?

CARTER: Well, I think "Cheers" was a kind of a watershed show because it was a comedy about a bunch of people who hung out at a bar, right? And you would think that was a risky thing for television at the time, except they had such connection. They were such warm people -- you know, they were so well developed.

And basically, the writing was brilliant on that show, and you wanted to be there, and then of course, the theme song says, "Where everybody knows your name," you want to be in that place, you want to hang out with those people, and you really associated with them.

I think that really turned television around. And then you've got all these other shows "How I Met Your Mother" and "Seinfeld" and "Friends" -- all of these great shows about that unit of a group of people that had shared experiences.

BROWN: Okay. 15 seconds, "Seinfeld" or "Friends," which is better?

CARTER: I hope -- it's "Seinfeld" for me. I mean, it's the funniest show of all time, in my opinion.

BROWN: All right, Bill Carter, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

An all-new episode of the CNN Original Series "History of the Sitcom" airs tonight at nine Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.



BROWN: The brazen and shocking assassination of Haiti's President has triggered a surge of violence in a country that is already facing a long list of challenges including gang crime and crippling poverty amidst the national crisis. CNN Heroes from Haiti are stepping up to keep the most vulnerable people, children and women safe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People instead are shock, I'm particularly I'm very much shocked. No matter how much you can criticize the former President, there is nothing that requires such barbaric action of violently taking his life.

MALYA VILLARD-APPOLON, 2012 TOP 10 CNN HERO (through text): When we look at this drama, where a President was assassinated and we say that we no longer have a country. What about the rest of the people that live in the slums, what are they supposed to do?

The women are being kidnapped, they are being raped.

When these catastrophes, these circumstances are taking place, these young girls and women are the ones that would be the most vulnerable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would love to think that it could be a turning point where people are conscientized about how the system works, and the reason behind such a horrible act.

VILLARD APPOLON (via text): The world could have helped us to put an end to this gang problem. Please send forces to disarm the gangsters inside the country holding the population hostage, which does not allow the population to live. The women cannot live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This kind of behavior is not enough to change my vision, to contribute to a positive development of this nation. It reinforces the reasons of what I'm doing to do everything I can to have the most impact towards the people who need it most.


BROWN: And to learn more about how these and other CNN Heroes are working to help the Haitian people, just go to While you're there, you can nominate someone you know to be a CNN Hero.

Well, thank you so much for joining me on this Sunday evening. It was great to have you along.

I'm Pamela Brown, and I'll see you again next weekend.