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Four New York DA's Seek Evidence into Gov. Cuomo Sexual Harassment Claims; Powerful Dems Call on Gov. Cuomo to Resign in Wake of AG Report; Teacher Details Pandemic Fears for New School Year; Taliban Claim Responsibility for Kabul Car Bombing That Killed Eight. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 4, 2021 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Protests outside New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's office today, calling for him to resign after that damning report from the State Attorney General found he sexually harassed 11 women.

Governor Cuomo denies any wrongdoing. But a state official tells CNN that New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is preparing herself in the event that she needs to step in and take over as governor of New York.

And four local district attorneys from Albany, Westchester, Nassau, and Manhattan all requesting investigative materials to decide if criminal charges should be filed in their jurisdictions.

At least 67 New York State Assembly members tell CNN they would vote to impeach the governor. One of the governor's accusers, Charlotte Bennett, described what she wants to see happen next.


CHARLOTTE BENNETT, GOV. CUOMO ACCUSER: The governor broke federal and state law when he sexually harassed me and current and former staffers, and if he's not willing to step down, then we have a responsibility to act and impeach him. He sexually harassed me. I am not confused. It is not confusing. I am living in reality. And it's sad to see that he is not.


CAMEROTA: Attorney Debra Katz represents Charlotte Bennett. Debra, great to see you. Thanks so much for being here. So, when Charlotte says, quote, we have a responsibility to act, what is your next move? I mean, what are you and she considering doing now?

DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY FOR GOV. CUOMO ACCUSER CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Well, at this point, she's done her job. She came forward. She cooperated fully with the Attorney General's investigator. She provided a day of deposition testimony and documents and she encouraged other women to come forward, as well.

Now, we have a report that documents systemic, severe, and pervasive sexual harassment of at least 11 women. Now, it's time for either the governor to resign, which it seems like he is unwilling to do, and if he does not do that, the legislature must act and must impeach him.

CAMEROTA: I mean of course neither you nor Charlotte can control what the state legislature does nor, of course, the governor does, but can you sue him, civilly. Are you considering that?

KATZ: I'm losing you.

CAMEROTA: Oh, can you hear me, Debra?

KATZ: I'm sorry, I lost you. I can now. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Deborah. So, could you -- are you considering suing him civilly?

KATZ: At this point, our focus is on supporting the impeachment efforts. That's why Charlotte came forward, was to ensure transparency and accountability. That's our focus.

CAMEROTA: I understand. I mean, I just read through the report from the Attorney General, and the stuff that she says that she was subject to is, you know, disturbing on its face. I mean, number one, telling Ms. Bennett in talking about potential girlfriends for him that he would be willing to date someone as young as 22. He knew she was 25. Asking her whether she had been with an older man.

KATZ: Correct.

CAMEROTA: Saying to her during the pandemic that he was lonely and wanted to be touched, quote. Asking whether Ms. Bennett was monogamous. Telling Ms. Bennett after she told him that she was considering getting a tattoo for her birthday, if she did get a tattoo, she should get one on her butt. I mean why not sue him civilly with all that as evidence?

KATZ: That's not her focus at this point. Her focus is on seeing that there is a full record of what the governor did. I think we have that record now. And supporting efforts to remove him from office.

He still does not get it. He still needs to understand that his behavior is not a generational problem or a cultural problem, which is what he said yesterday. It's not that the women misread him. It's not that I misread his intentions, which he also accused yesterday. It's that he sexually harassed 11 women, and he is the governor of the state. He signed into law the most important and protective legislation of any state in the United States, and he flouted the law. And he has to be held accountable. That is our focus.

CAMEROTA: I do want to play for you that portion of his taped statement in reaction to the Attorney General's report, where he did bring you and Charlotte up and say that you had basically -- she had misinterpreted things. So here it is. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I've heard Charlotte and her lawyer, and I understand what they are saying. But they read into comments that I made and draw inferences that I never meant. They ascribe motives I never had. And simply put, they heard things that I just didn't say.


Charlotte, I want you to know that I am truly and deeply sorry.


CAMEROTA: So, Debra, what's your response to that, and what's Charlotte's response to his apology?

KATZ: He's truly and deeply sorry that he got caught. He is truly and deeply sorry that there is now a record of his misdeeds. That is the only thing this man regrets.

No one misunderstood his sexual come-ons, his sexual innuendos, his bizarre comments at work, his touching, his advances. No one misunderstood that. And this is classic gaslighting. The victim misunderstood. They did not misunderstand. They know exactly what he was doing, and he has no real apology here. He continues to misuse his authority by demanding that these women stand down, they all got it wrong.

You know, sexual harassment has a clear legal standard. He violated that standard. And this is not what we feel about his subjective intent or what he meant or that he's huggy or any of those things. There are clear lines. He violated those lines again and again, and he still does not understand it. He needs to step down.

CAMEROTA: A couple more questions.

KATZ: Sure.

CAMEROTA: The Albany District Attorney says he welcomes victims to contact his office directly with their cases. Will Charlotte do that?

KATZ: Charlotte is not contending that there was any criminal violation in Albany. There are other D.A.s who are looking into what could be misdemeanor sexual misconduct, touching, groping, grabbing breasts, that would be criminal violations.

You know, there's one other thing that we've got lost in all of this. Which is, he not only has potential criminal liabilities in four different jurisdictions, but a different branch of the AG's office is still looking into whether he misused government resources by having individuals like Charlotte help him with aspects of his book when he was paid, I think, a $5 million book advance writing about COVID.

There are a lot of things that he is still having to defend against. And he's not paying attention to the business of New York State when he's making prerecorded tapes of himself kissing dozens and dozens of people. He's just not focused where we need him to focus. It's time for him to step down.

CAMEROTA: CNN has reported that a majority of the New York Assembly members tell CNN that they would vote to impeach Governor Cuomo. 79 Democrats and Republicans would say, yes, they say, if the impeachment articles were introduced. So, is that what you and Charlotte believe will and should happen next?

KATZ: If he won't resign, that is absolutely what should happen next. He broke the law. If he were a CEO for any major corporation who engaged in this conduct, he would be fired. We would not be having a conversation about what should be done here. He needs to go.

And if he will not save the state from the pain and the expense of impeaching him, people need to step up and the legislature needs to impeach him. And Charlotte and the other victims will cooperate fully in those impeachment efforts.

CAMEROTA: Debra Katz, thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate it.

KATZ: Thanks for having me.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The school year is starting, and the pandemic is set to disrupt for the third straight year. A long-time teacher has published its list -- published the list for the top of students there. We'll talk with him next.



CAMEROTA: Concerns mounting over how to keep students and teachers safe as they head back to the classroom. The American Academy of Pediatrics just released a report showing a substantial increase in children and teenagers catching COVID. Almost 72,000 children tested positive for the virus last week. That's an 84 percent increase from just the week before.

Our next guest says that's just one of his worries about returning to the classroom. Larry Ferlazzo has been teaching English and social studies for 18 years at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento. In an article for the "Washington Post" Larry detailed seven of his biggest concerns for the upcoming school year.

Larry, thanks so much for being here. Great to see you. So, let's talk about your concerns. Number one, not only the physical health of your students but their mental health. What part worries you?

LARRY FERLAZZO, TEACHER, LUTHER BURBANK HIGH SCHOOL IN SACRAMENTO: Well, 18 years -- I'm sorry, 18 months of this COVID-19 pandemic -- hopefully it won't be 18 years -- have put a lot of stress on our students. Not only have many been restricted to their homes often times, but many have also had to act as caregivers to their younger siblings. In addition to that, many of my students have had to take nearly full-time jobs to help their families during the recession. All that has created a lot of mental health stress on our students,

and I'm really concerned that many districts have not ramped up enough to provide the mental health support to them in terms of hiring more counselors.

Before the pandemic, mental health support from schools was severely under-resourced, and it's not getting any better.

CAMEROTA: Yes, so I mean as they come back to school this year, it's not like something has been fixed. They're still suffering the consequences of what they've lived through for the past year plus.

OK, next, the economic health of students. What do you mean by that?


FERLAZZO: Well, many of our families are going to be faced with a potential eviction if the eviction moratorium is not extended for a substantial period of time or if it is not held up in court.

And again, many of our students are still in a position where they have to work many more hours to support families who lost jobs during the recession.

Many of our students -- I teach at a school that is predominantly comprised of students of color -- are service workers who have worked in industries there have been layoffs. They're being rehired slowly but surely, but even pre-pandemic salaries weren't very high and are not getting that much higher now.

CAMEROTA: I just wanted to go through a couple more of your things. Poor remote learning. It is harder for students and it's harder for teachers to do remote learning and teaching. School district leaders you think will make unwise choices. We've already seen the political quagmire that obviously, you know, leaders are trapped in there.

And then 5 to 8 percent of students who have gone MIA. We have heard about that, as well. That teachers -- once kids went remote, a lot of teachers couldn't find them.

So, Larry, I'm sorry, we have a few seconds left, what's the answer to all these concerns that you have?

FERLAZZO: Well, I would say in terms of school districts, they don't have to make unwise decisions. And that they would increase the odds of making wise decisions by not feeling that they are the smartest people in the room and, instead, engaging with teachers, our unions, our students and families, in determining the wisest course of how to deal with these issues. And not feel like they have all the answers.

CAMEROTA: Larry Ferlazzo, we appreciate you sharing your perspective as long-time teacher with us. Thanks so much.

FERLAZZO: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: One of the country's most famous friends says that she is cutting ties with people in her life over their vaccine status. We'll explain that next.

CAMEROTA: And join CNN for "We Love NYC," The Homecoming Concert. This is a once in a lifetime concert event. It is Saturday, August 21st, exclusively on CNN.



BLACKWELL: In Afghanistan today, the capital was rocked by another explosion just hours after a car bomb killed eight civilians in Kabul on Tuesday. Now the Taliban has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack. The violence continues as the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from the region nears completion.

CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is there in Kabul for us with the latest.

CLARISSA WARD, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Victor and Alisyn. We actually ran up onto the roof after hearing that large blast that really shook the capital and shook people's sense of security.

It had been largely quiet here for a number of months, but this was a complex attack. There was that one big explosion. Then we heard a second, a third explosion. There was sporadic gunfire. The intended target of the attack was the acting defense minister. He was not killed. But, unfortunately, eight civilians were killed.

There was another attack again this morning in a similar neighborhood. No casualties there, only two people were wounded.

But, again, this all coming at a moment where people here in the capital of Kabul feel extremely anxious about the rapid, rapid offensive that the Taliban has made as the U.S. has been withdrawing its forces. They are now in control of countless districts, border crossings. They are currently threatening half of the provincial capitals in this country, and they are actually laying siege to three major ones, Kandahar, Lashkargah, and Helmand Province and Herat.

And Afghan security forces have simply been overwhelmed by the speed and the ferocity of this onslaught. The vast majority of momentum and territory that the Taliban has been able to take has happened since May when the U.S. began withdrawing its forces.

And the big reason, people say, is because the Afghan army really relied on U.S. air power. One analyst estimating that 80 percent of the Afghan military's ability to respond to the Taliban threat was done through the U.S. Air Force.

Now, the U.S. is carrying out some strikes in those key provincial cities that are under siege. We also heard the Afghan military urging civilians in the city of Lashkargah to leave the area, if they were in an area and in a home that it was in area that was under control of the Taliban. They said, you must evacuate, indicating that some kind of a counter offensive from government forces may be imminent.


And, you know, one more thing I just wanted to add because it was such a unique moment after this attack here in Kabul, we heard people come out across the city and start chanting into the night air, "Allahu Akbar," it means God is greatest.

But this was a symbol of defiance against the Taliban and a sense of affirmation with Afghan forces. There is a tremendous belief here that people want to stand strong and that they will not be cowed by the militants -- Victor and Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Clarissa Ward, thank you. And we'll be right back.


CAMEROTA: OK, we have important Jennifer Aniston news. She is cutting ties with the unvaccinated in her life.

In an interview for "InStyle" magazine, Aniston says: ... there's still a large group of people who are anti-vaxxers or just don't listen to facts. It's a real shame. I've lost a few people in my weekly routine who have refused or did not disclose whether or not they had been vaccinated, and it was unfortunate.

Now it doesn't sound like these are close friends of hers, right. I mean it sounds like in her weekly routine it means like personal trainer, her barista, you know, she comes in contact with.

BLACKWELL: Her what?

CAMEROTA: Barista.


CAMEROTA: But have you had this issue where you've had to cut anybody out of your life?

BLACKWELL: I haven't had to cut somebody out of my life, but I know at some point you try to convince and then you try to make the points, and then they don't get it.

I've got one family member who I will not name, one family member who is unvaccinated, and I went to help and have a conversation about something completely different, and he says to me, I'm not getting that because I don't know what's in it., and then vapes.

CAMEROTA: That really refutes I think what he's saying.

Also, I just want to say a thing. I do think we're burying the lead here. She says her favorite TV to watch is The Bachelor and CNN. Hi Jenn.

BLACKWELL: How is that in the same story? All right, The Lead starts right now. END