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CNN NEWSROOM

Alabama's GOP Governor: It's Time to Start Blaming the Unvaccinated; On the Frontline with Crews Battling Massive Bootleg Fire; Olympics Open Historic Games Amid COVID Spike; MLB's Cleveland Indians Changing Name to "Guardians"; Tarrant, Alabama, City Councilman Refuses to Resign after Using "N" World During Meeting. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 23, 2021 - 14:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:30:00]

GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: CNN's Gary Tuchman is live in Mobile, Alabama, outside of the County Health Department.

So, Gary, what are people there telling you?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, first of all, I can tell you there are many reasons for the low vaccination rate here, but you have to keep in mind it's very politically red and that is a major reason.

But it's important to point out that Mobile County, Alabama, is a beautiful place to live. It's on the gulf. The water is warm. The sand is white. The people are nice. But their low COVID vaccination rate is a big problem.

And this is not a rural county. There are more than 400,000 people who live here.

So the people who work here at the Health Department, they've got to think out of the box. And what they're increasingly doing is they're bringing the vaccine to where the people are.

Case in point, last night, a food truck festival. You can get po' boys and barbecue and lemonade and beer. And you can also get a COVID vaccine.

Pop-up clinic for three hours from 5:00 to 8:00 and you could have your choice of all three vaccines.

It was very quiet at first. Nobody was coming. But one of the entrepreneurs, one of the food trucks came, got her shot, and other people followed.

What this county is doing increasingly is going to truck stops, going to coffee shops, going to barbershops, going to car dealers, trying to get people who are hesitant to take the vaccine.

Because it's easier to go to these places to get the vaccine than going through a drive-thru restaurant. And it's also cheaper. It is free.

We talked with the epidemiologist here at the County Health Department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. RENDI MURPHREE, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, MOBILE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: It's really important that we get the vaccine as close to the people who want to take it as possible.

We have very low vaccination rates in Alabama, in Mobile County. Only about one in three people are vaccinated.

So we're trying to make it as easy as possible, as convenient as possible. We're trying to get creative with where we go and what we say about getting vaccinated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Now, in addition to eating and drinking, we talked to a lot of hesitant people at this festival last night.

And we hear the same old thing, Alisyn, that we've heard for months. Talked to young people and they said, I don't need the vaccine, I'm not getting the vaccine, I'm healthy. We hope they stay that way.

But even people who decided to get the vaccine were hesitant. That's why they haven't gotten the vaccine for this long. And because it was so easy, that's why they got the vaccine.

And we talked with several people who got the vaccine and they all had different reasons for getting it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: How come you waited this long?

JASON SULLIVAN, RECEIVED VACCINE: Based off a lot of stuff that I heard off, you know, the Internet, what people were saying about the COVID shot.

TUCHMAN: Basically rumors?

SULLIVAN: Rumors.

TUCHMAN: Do you feel good that you got it?

SULLIVAN: I feel better now. I'm kind of protected from the virus right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: At the end of the night, 12 people got vaccines. That sounds like a low number. But combine that with the people who are on site right now and the private pharmacies, the number is in the hundreds.

And the number has trended up over the last couple of weeks.

Of course, the major reason for that is the Delta variant and the scare over that.

Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Gary, barbecue is a powerful incentive, as we all know. And that is great. I mean, 12 people at a time, you know, whatever it takes.

And it's good to see that people are being creative there.

Thanks so much for the reporting from the ground.

So, right now, thousands of people are under evacuation orders, and they're rushing to escape the Bootleg Fire in Oregon. So, we're going to go inside the fight against the flames with the brave men and women on the front lines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:38:05]

CAMEROTA: I want to show you what New York looks like right now. This is New York City shrouded in haze.

That's the sun, by the way, in the middle of your screen. But that's smoke all around it. And that's smoke that has traveled 3,000 miles from the western wildfires.

Firefighters are battling more than 80 fires across the U.S. and dozens more in Canada. The largest is the Bootleg Fire, which has burned more than 600 miles of central Oregon and growing.

This, as experts warn of an incoming, quote, "heat dome" that threatens to make conditions even worse next week.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov just embedded with a crew of firefighters battling the blaze.

Lucy, tell us everything that you saw.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, these are experienced firefighting teams. But all of the people we've talked to say they've never seen a fire that's gotten this large this quickly.

One of the major challenges they're dealing with is the drought conditions that have been in this region for the past several weeks and months.

That's meant that the trees, the underbrush, the forest is bone dry, and that is ample fuel for that fire to burn.

One of the problems is that embers from the Bootleg Fire, even when they make a safety containment line, can fly over that and spark new fires. That's something we saw happening overnight.

I want to show you new video that we got from the team that we were embedded with. This fire sparking hours after we left. Trees torched. New evacuation orders put into place.

They are still trying to contain that fire. They've managed to isolate it, but they don't think they'll have a control over this new spot fire until this evening.

There's another problem with this. It's such a massive fire, the Bootleg Fire, at over 400,000 acres, that it's actually, literally generating its own weather systems. Pyro-cumulus clouds that can lead to thunderstorms, high winds.

Take to listen to how some firefighters describe the conditions when one of those comes into effect.

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JOE RONE, INCIDENT MANAGER, BOOTLEG FIRE: It falls apart, but it falls apart much more violently than a typical rainstorm. Winds come back down to the ground. The winds go every direction. And they could be 30, 40, 50 miles an hour. And that's happened several times on this fire.

[14:40:15]

WESLEY JONES, WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER: You can hear it. It sounds like a train almost. It sounds like something crashing through the forest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAFANOV: It sounds like a train crashing through the forest. I mean, that's terrifying. It just shows you how dangerous and volatile this fire is.

They do have about 40 percent of it contained, thanks, in part, to higher humidity and smaller wind gusts but that weather can change and the fire can effectively create its own weather.

It's terrifying, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It looks terrifying. All the video looks terrifying. And we are thinking of everyone there on the front lines and those who have to evacuate.

Lucy Kafanov, thank you very much for bringing us that report.

Well, no fans in the stands and rising COVID cases. How challenging will these games be for the athletes themselves? Up next, one Olympian who is not letting anything, not even her own injuries, stop her from being there.

And be sure to catch an all new "JERUSALEM: CITY OF FAITH AND FURY." Learn how the city's people pay the ultimate price when three empires collide.

"JERUSALEM: CITY OF FAITH AND FURY," Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, only on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:45:49]

CAMEROTA: Elite athletes commit to years of grueling training and personal sacrifice to realize their Olympic dreams.

My next guest is a bronze medal Paralympian who knows the grit and sacrifice firsthand.

This month, just before she was named to the USA Paratriathlon team, Melissa Stockwell was involved in a bike crash. She collided with a tree.

Here are some of her injuries on screen. She fractured her back and severely bruised her pelvis.

Stockwell is not just an elite athlete. She is a former Army lieutenant, an Iraq War vet, who lost her leg in a roadside bomb while serving this country.

Melissa, it is a pleasure to meet you.

MELISSA STOCKWELL, PARALYMPIAN & VETERAN: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. Happy to be here.

CAMEROTA: Melissa, you are tough as nails.

I mean, but back pain is back pain. How are you coping? You know, two weeks ago, you fractured two of your vertebrae, and you're still trying to train.

How are you?

STOCKWELL: Well, there's never really an ideal time to fracture a back. I don't think anyone would ever put that on their schedule.

But, yes, you know, six weeks out from the Paralympics Games, not ideal timing. We are -- it's been three weeks. Yesterday was three weeks since the crash.

I have been able to get back in the pool. I can ride my bike on the trainer. Running is still off limits for now, just that impact.

But you know what? I'm so lucky. It could have been so much worse. I am here. I'm alive. I didn't have a head injury. So just thinking of the positive parts of it.

I'll still be there in Tokyo competing. And we're taking it day by day. Each day gets a little bit better. So let's speed up the timeline a little bit.

But I will be ready in Tokyo on that starting line.

CAMEROTA: Melissa, your personal story is so astonishing. You're just an astonishing person.

I mean, the fact that you served your country, you lost your leg, you then decided, I'm not going to let that stop me from becoming a triathlete and an elite athlete. And you have won the bronze in 2016.

You're just an incredible, I guess, personification of resiliency. I mean, what is your secret for everyone else who is going through a hard time right now? Many.

STOCKWELL: You know, the secret is you -- is number one, you can do it. I think we don't give ourselves enough credit on the things that we're all capable of doing.

And you know, we all have that power of choice to, you know, move on from these obstacles that come our way.

You know, all of us are faced with this obstacle of COVID that we never expected.

But getting through it, staying as positive as we can, and surrounding ourselves with a really good team of people that love you and support you.

And just that kind of inner drive, inner motivation to, I don't know, want to prove to myself, maybe prove to the world that losing a leg wasn't going to stop me from getting out there and representing our country or doing the things that I wanted to do.

So, it's a good life. I think a lot of times we, you know, don't think about the little things that we're just so fortunate to have.

So thinking about those things and just, you know, being thankful every day for what we have.

CAMEROTA: My gosh.

Do you worry that the COVID cases rising this year in Tokyo will eclipse some of the greatness of the athletes? And are you worried about the COVID situation as you head off to Tokyo?

STOCKWELL: You know, I feel our governing body -- so I'm a triathlete. So USA Triathlon, the USA Olympic and Paralympics Committee, they're doing everything they can to keep us safe as athletes.

I know that there are strict protocols in place, and they are there for a reason. So, as athletes, we obviously follow those. And, you know, the hope is

that we go and compete and come back and obviously are not affected by those COVID cases.

Obviously, I hear just as everyone else does, you know, what is going on in Tokyo, the COVID cases that are there. And you know, it's unfortunate.

It's exciting that the games are happening. I think the excitement is still, you know, at that all-time high level, but it's going to be different games, that's for sure.

[14:50:02]

But I'm just thankful that we have those protocols in place and those safety measures to keep us as safe as possible.

CAMEROTA: Well, Melissa Stockwell, again, you are an inspiration to everyone. We'll be watching.

And thanks so much. And I hope that you heal up very soon.

STOCKWELL: Thank you so much. I appreciate all of the support and the tears. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. A big change for Major League Baseball. The Cleveland Indians just announced that, starting next year, they'll be known as the Cleveland Guardians.

These are their new logos. They have asked Tom Hanks to be the voice of their new announcement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM HANKS, ACTOR (voice-over): We remember those moments as we move forward with change. You see, there's always been Cleveland. That's the best part of our name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: CNN sports anchor, Andy Scholes, is here.

Andy, tell me us the back story of how they got here to change their name.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Alisyn, they got to work a year ago on this change. They compiled a list of almost 1,200 names to work from and then they got to work.

They talked to 40,000 fans about the new name. Then they did extensive interviews with more fans, community leaders and some team personnel on, what would be the right new name for the city of Cleveland?

They wanted a name that embodied the city, a good baseball name and a name that would unite all fans everywhere.

They came up with Guardians. It comes from the Guardians of Traffic statue on Cleveland's iconic Hope Memorial Bridge.

They will keep the same color scheme. They will tweak the "C" a little bit on the hat moving forward.

And manager, Terry Francona, spoke moments about why they decided to make this change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY FRANCONA, MANAGER, CLEVELAND GUARDIANS: We are trying to be the most respectful we can.

And it's not about us. It's about other people. And you have to step outside of your own skin and think about other people that may have different color skin and what they're thinking.

We're trying to be extremely respectful. And I'm ready proud of our organization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Yes, manager, Terry Francona, has history with the game. He was a player and has been managing the team for nine years.

Alisyn, this has been a process for the team. In 2018, they stopped using the chief logo on their jersey. Last year, they said they would change the name.

It's a move we've seen started happening in the sports world. Washington dropped the Redskins name. They said, in 2022, they will announce a new name.

We'll wait and see if anything comes from the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs or the Chicago Blackhawks. Those are the three teams left that do have Native Americans as their mascots.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I was surprised they didn't go with the Cleveland Camerotas but I guess the Guardians are pretty good.

SCHOLES: That had a good ring to it, right?

CAMEROTA: I thought so. I thought so.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: Andy Scholes, thank you very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

CAMEROTA: Now to this. There was a shockingly racist outburst by a local city leader who shouted the "N" word on the floor of a city council meeting. Who is this guy?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:58:06] CAMEROTA: An Alabama city councilman is refusing to step down after he used a racial slur against a fellow colleague during a city council meeting.

CNN national correspondent, Ryan Young, has video of that city council meeting.

Ryan, give us the context. Who is this guy?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, look, this all happened right there on video. We have covered contentious meetings before but this was quite interesting because he stood up to make this announcement.

This is after everyone was sort of asking him about his wife's post on Facebook. It's at that point he stood up and said this.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMMY BRYANT, (R), TARRANT, AL, CITY COUNCILMAN: Do we have a house (EXPLETIVE DELETED) here?

(CROSSTALK)

BRYANT: Do we? Hey, do we?

Would she please stand up?

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: This is all directed toward Veronica Freeman, another councilwoman on that board.

You can see the room be in shock. No one moved at that point. You then see her in tears after this happened.

Bryant says he's only repeating what the mayor has said in executive session and he was trying to expose the mayor for using that language.

This hasn't gone over very well. People are calling for Bryant to resign but he says he doesn't plan to resign at all.

Take a listen to what he had to say when asked about this claim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BYRANT: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I may consider running for mayor next time because I did what needed to be done. It needed to be brought to light what kind of a person the mayor is in the city of Tarrant.

(END VIDEO CLIP) YOUNG: The mayor, Alisyn, is calling this a political stunt that's definitely backfired.

You think about this, it happened a in council meeting, that reaction from the councilwoman who walked out in tears. The fact he was able to stand up.

Of course, it's going to be for that city to decide whether or not he should stay as a council member.

[14:59:58]

That city is 53 percent black. You can understand the hurt in this community right now of what they heard in the council meeting, all caught on video.

You don't even have to put any wrapping around this. You just have to play it for itself and see how it worked out there.