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Biles Returns to win Bronze; Morcease Beasley is Interviewed about Starting School in Georgia; Investigators Question Cuomo. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 3, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Fighting through mental health challenges, which she acknowledged very publicly. Simone Biles, she made her returned to Olympic competition today to win a medal, the bronze medal, on the balance beam.

Coy Wire, he was inside the arena in Tokyo.

Coy, you said you were just, what, 20 some odd yards away. Describe what that comeback was like and this win was like.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Jim, for the first time at these games, in my experience, there was an atmosphere. You know, no spectators. Mostly media members from around the world, some fellow athletes. They even made an announcement at one point, Jim, telling people, keep social distancing.

But everyone standing to their feet when Simone entered. My heart was bumping. Our Will Ripley was there. He had tears in his eyes. One media member, you know, had cardboard cutouts of Simone Biles' dog because they wanted to show love to her. That's what this environment was like.

But she kept calm. I watched her as she stayed relaxed before this big moment. She was even encouraged other gymnasts as they finished their routines, Jim. But when she got up on that beam, remember, this thing's only four inches wide and she felt like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders at time, she said, but she got up there, took that leap of faith, she nailed it, Jim.

Here's what she had to say afterwards about all those people who were calling her a quitter.


SIMONE BILES, SEVEN-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST: It wasn't an easy decision. So it hurts that people were like, oh, she quit or she did this because I've worked five years for that, why would I quit? Like, I've been through so much over the past couple years in the sport. Like, I just don't quit. That's not what I do. But the girls could see it. And I knew that they would get the job done.

And, at the end of the day, we're not just athletes or entertainment, we're human too and we have real emotions. And sometimes they don't realize that we have things going on behind the scenes that affects -- that affects us whenever we go out and compete.


WIRE: Now, Jim, earning a silver in the team competition here, (INAUDIBLE) also that bronze tonight on the beam, that's seven Olympic medals overall in her career. She was already the greatest of all time but the way she shed light on mental health and said it's OK to not be OK, even if you're superwoman, man, it's going to reverberate for years to come. A huge impact here in Tokyo.

SCIUTTO: No question. I think now tied with the most medals for a U.S. gymnast. Coy Wire, I'm envious that you were in the room for that. What a moment to witness.

WIRE: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, joining me is Amy Bass. She's a professor of sports studies at Manhattanville College. She's also author of "One Goal: A Coach, a Team and the Game that Brought a Divided Town Together."


Amy, it's good to have you hear.

I wonder if you could help describe just the difficulty, the challenge of the turn that Simone Biles made. She came in with the weight of the world, as she described, on her shoulders. She took this courageous decision to step back but then I think you could argue an equally courageous decision to step back into the ring in effect. I mean I can only imagine the pressure.

AMY BASS, PROFESSOR OF SPORTS STUDIES, MANHATTANVILLE COLLEGE: Yes, I mean she came in with predictions of five gold medals on her head, which is -- which is just a crazy thing to really think about and is walking away with a team silver and a bronze that is worth its weight in gold. I mean she's a four-time gold medal winner. She's a seven- time Olympic medalist, tying Shannon Miller as the most decorated, you know, American woman, 25 championships medals. There's really no -- there was never a question as to whether she was the great of all time.

But this showed a different side. This showed that sport isn't just a zero sum game. That sometimes we have to walk away with something other than a medal. And in this case it was mental health.

SCIUTTO: As you know, she's been the victim in these last couple of weeks of just the most shallow attacks, seeming politically motivated attacks, on her. Let's set those aside for a moment.

Tell us how athletes have responded to the stand that she made there. BASS: I think athletes are grateful to be given the depth that they

deserve. They don't stop being who they are when they hit the competition floor. They bring everything with them. And for Simone Biles this last week, it was a week ago that she withdrew from the team competition, it was demons and it was demons that we eventually were able to label, you know, the twisties, getting lost in the air.


BASS: But this goes further than that.


BASS: This is what Naomi Osaka is talking about in terms of facing a press conference. This is what Michael Phelps has been talking about. And I think there we need to take athletes seriously, not just for what they do in competition, but what they tell us about their lives.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, I was -- you said the twisties, which is a phenomenon there. You know, kind of underplayed what she was talking about because it was much broader about the overall pressure.

I just wonder, in your experience, what does this mean for younger competitors who look up to her because, as you know, the pressure begins at a very young age, right? I mean there's this ladder. You know, each stage and the kids, they feel it. I mean they feel it down into the single digits, right, in age.

What impact do you think this has beyond Olympic competition?

BASS: I really hope that one of the things we walk away with this is to not just say shake it off or there's no crying in baseball but to speak up. I think one of the most miraculous things that Simone Biles did in Tokyo is look at her trainer and look at the uneven bars and say, I can't go up there. And say it out loud.


BASS: And I hope that that is something that just, you know, kids can model moving forward.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, just breaking that stigma, right, of seeking help when you need it.

Amy Bass, we really do appreciate you coming on.

BASS: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, with COVID cases rising in the state of Georgia, several schools in that state have had to revert back to virtual learning. Goodness, imagine that. Is this a sign of things to come as more schools open? We're going to ask a superintendent from Georgia next.



SCIUTTO: In Georgia, most students are staring the new school year this week but the state is not requiring vaccines or masks in schools. That has led to a wide range of sometimes conflicting policies. In Clayton County, just south of Atlanta, two public schools had to start the year with virtual learning because there were so many staff members, teachers in quarantine.

I'm joined now by the superintendent of Clayton County, Morcease Beasley.

Mr. Beasley, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

So it's two schools in our country. They had to go virtual because the staff, not the students, were in quarantine. You have tweeted that you -- encouraging, in effect, teachers and staff to get vaccinated. But by not getting vaccinated, are they letting students down?


Here in Clayton County, we started school yesterday. Over 50,000 students went back to school.


BEASLEY: Of course, as you've shared, two schools we started virtually in light of the data, in light of the potential of spreading the vaccine -- or the virus. We decided that it would be best to give them three days to ensure that the staff members were safe. We did not want to contribute to a situation where students could potentially get infected. So we balanced the rights, our responsibilities and our reason. And we made that decision. But our staff members are --

SCIUTTO: OK. Should teachers be vaccinated? Should they be vaccinated?

BEASLEY: Well, Jim, I'm vaccinated. We believe that all of us should be vaccinated if we're eligible to be vaccinated. We're not mandating it but we think it's the right thing to do, it's the responsible thing to do, and, guess what, it's the reasonable thing to do if we expect, as a nation, to get this pandemic over with.

SCIUTTO: So, as you know, some folks, including teachers, although most, we should acknowledge, in the country have been vaccinated, but some, like other Americans, are refusing to and some might have health questions about it or others.

What do you say to teachers who haven't been vaccinated yet? How do you encourage them to do so?

BEASLEY: Well, the three words that I like to share, of course, that's their right, but I want to also share that all of our rights should be tempered by our responsibilities and we should be reasonable and we should think about our children, we should think about the vulnerable, we should think about our society, our recovery, and, of course, we want to ensure that our students have the opportunity to attend school every day face to face.


And if the vaccination helps to that end, that's the reasonable, right, and responsible thing to do.

SCIUTTO: So this is -- this is a question, right, because particularly as the delta variant spreads, you may have -- you may face more questions about going to remote learning. And I just wonder, if the American Federation of Teachers, for instance the union that represents many teachers around the country, they oppose to date a vaccine mandate. If you begin to see what you've seen already in Georgia, schools having to go remote again, do you believe that organizations like the AFT should require, should mandate vaccines for teachers?

BEASLEY: Well, I don't think that that is their role to mandate vaccination. However, they will have a voice. And I think all of us collectively that have the responsibility of educating children at every level of society, we should understand the science, be reasonable, understand our responsibility and balance that with our right to be vaccinated and let's all do the right thing. If that means getting vaccinated, let's all get vaccinated if we're eligible.

SCIUTTO: So the other piece of this, of course, is masking because to date only -- you've got to be 12 and up to get a vaccine. Of course many students are not. And you see the CDC guidance is for students to mask but you've seen political leaders in some states, Florida among them, you know, basically ban mandating masks among students. What's your reaction to that?

BEASLEY: Well, here in Clayton County, we require masks. And while we're in a state that allows us to do so, we believe that we have a right to determine whether or not we wear a mask. We've exercised that right.

But at the same time, we have a responsibility. If the science tells us through reason that masks help reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus, it just seems to us that it stands to reason to protect our children, to protect the vulnerable, our teachers and bus drivers and others that we should be responsible and wear masks. Therefore, in Clayton County, we have decided to lean in the direction of mandating masks in our schools on our premises.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure you've taken some flak for that from some -- from some parents. What do you -- what do you say to parents when they oppose a measure like that?

BEASLEY: Of course. Our response is always consistent. We're being responsible. We're being reasonable. And we appreciate their support. While we understand the differences, we understand their rights. We also understand that we have a responsibility, collectively, as a society, as a community, to do what is right to bring this pandemic to an end.

SCIUTTO: Morcease Beasley, to your credit for taking the flak and sticking to your guns and we wish you the best of luck as you face this going forward.

BEASLEY: Thank you, Jim. Glad to be here.

SCIUTTO: Well, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, he was grilled for 11 hours, part of a sexual harassment investigation by the state attorney general. Could that inquiry be coming to an end, reaching a conclusion? We're going to have new details coming up.



SCIUTTO: We have new details concerning the sexual harassment inquiry into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. "The New York Times" reports the Democratic governor was questioned for 11 hours under oath last month. Several women have accused Cuomo of inappropriately touching them or making offensive remarks. The governor denies ever inappropriately touching or harassing anyone.

CNN's Erica Hill, she's been following this story and she joins us now.

Erica, I mean 11 hours of questioning seems to indicate a very serious investigation.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: So 11 hours as you point out that the governor was apparently questioned about his treatment of women. And that stems from, as you said, Jim, multiple allegations ever either workplace misconduct or sexual harassment.

Now, as you pointed out, the governor has denied ever inappropriately touching anyone. He also said in a statement earlier this year in response to some of these allegations that he was sorry that his comments may have been, quote, insensitive or too personal at times and said he was sorry to those who may have misinterpreted them.

So what's happening at this point? Well, just the fact that the governor was interviewed on July 17th to many is signaling that this investigation by the New York attorney general could be nearing an end.

We don't have a timeline from the AG. We are told that a report will be -- there will be a public report when all of this wraps up.

CNN did reach out to the governor's office for comment. We also reached out to the attorney general in response to this reporting from "The New York Times" which included reporting that at times this 11- hour marathon session with the government at times there were some tense moments. Specifically, the governor questioning the independence and fairness of one of the investigators who had been involved in some past investigations involving the governor and his allies.

So, from the attorney general, this spokesperson giving us this statement noting the continued attempts to undermine and politicize this process are dishonest and take away from the bravery displayed by these women. Again, a lot of interest in this report and a lot of questions, once

we learned that the governor was going to be interviewed, that this could perhaps signal that this investigation is nearing an end, is wrapping up again as we wait on the public report, Jim.


SCIUTTO: Yes, We'll be watching for it.

We should note, the state attorney general leading it, also a Democrat, Latisha James.

Erica Hill, great to have you on the story.

SCIUTTO: Well, the Broward County Public School District in Florida forced to back down on a mandate for masks for students, teachers. Why? Well, the state's governor, Ron DeSantis, threatened to cut money, funding, for that school if they moved forward with restrictions. Governor -- the governor of Florida speaking moments from now. We're going to have a life update, see how he answers those questions. That's coming up.



SCIUTTO: A very good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.