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CNN NEWSROOM

Louisiana Repeatedly Breaking Its Own COVID-19 Hospitalization Record; Staffer Who Filed Criminal Complaint Speaks Publicly; Taliban Seizes First Major Afghan City After U.S. Troop Pullout; On the Frontlines Of Taliban's Brutal Advance In Afghanistan; Barbie Debuts Six Dolls Honoring COVID-19 Leaders; California's Worsening Drought Takes Growing Toll On State. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 8, 2021 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:31]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Governor Cuomo in the fight of his life, as he stares down sexual harassment allegations.

BRITTANY COMMISSO, GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO'S ACCUSER: What did he to me was a crime. He broke the law.

RITA GLAVIN, ATTORNEY FOR GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: From his perspective, he didn't believe it was inappropriate.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The flames are spreading quickly which means that it's sometimes impossible to stop them.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: These are climate induced wildfires. And we have to acknowledge, we have the capacity in this country, not just the state, to solve this.

BROWN: Meantime the Delta variant tearing across the country as hospitals swell with unvaccinated patients.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is really an outbreak among the unvaccinated.

BROWN: And Education Secretary Miguel Cardona calling out Republican governors for resisting mask mandates in schools.

MIGUEL CARDONA, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Don't be the reason schools are disrupted.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday.

Well, COVID-19 vaccines are a cheap code for the immune system. But literally half of Americans are still playing this game the hard way. We have seen a slight uptick in new doses administered over the past week but vaccine enthusiasm isn't spreading as quickly as the virus itself.

The Delta variant has driven new COVID cases and now hospitalizations to the highest levels since February. Dr. Anthony Fauci today coming out in strong support of vaccine mandates once the vaccine earns full approval from the FDA.

Meanwhile, masks are back at the center of a political tug-of-war. One Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas is expressing regret over signing a law banning school mask mandates. And while he may get a do-over, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has a message for any politician who isn't on the same page. Looking at you, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDONA: To those who are making policies that are preventing this, don't be the reason why schools are interrupted. Why children can't go to extracurricular activities, why game are canceled. We need to do our part as leaders like Governor Hutchinson is doing to make sure that they have access to the decision that they need to get their students safely back in school.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And Louisiana just keeps breaking its own records in the worst way possible. Multiple days last week saw the highest number of COVID- 19 related hospitalizations. Friday it was nearly 2500 people. On Thursday, the state says that 91 percent of those patients are unvaccinated. Health care workers there are so overwhelmed that the governor is calling for three days of fasting and prayer, specifically for them.

And in another sign that this phase of the pandemic looks a whole lot like last year, we've learned that New Orleans Jazz Fest, a major event, has just been canceled.

I'm joined now by a Louisiana doctor who says these the darkest days of the pandemic. Dr. Catherine O'Neal is the chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

Thank you so much for coming on, Doctor, especially as you have so much on your plate dealing with this crush of COVID in your hospital now, primarily among those who are unvaccinated. The number of hospitalized COVID patients in your state is out of control.

Let's listen to what these New Orleans areas nurses are saying about this current COVID surge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WANDA RIVERS, REGISTERED NURSE AT OCHSNER HEALTH: We're stressed because we thought that this was getting better. And now we're working as hard, even harder than we did a few months ago.

MICHELE ACCARDO, NURSE PRACTITIONER, LAKEVIEW REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: I've been a nurse for 30 years. And I just -- I've never seen anything quite like what we're dealing with right now. You go home and cry on the way home. Many, many nights I've done that. People need to know this is serious. You come in the hospital and people are sick in the way that we've never seen before.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, Dr. O'Neal, tell us about what is different this time around with the Delta variant.

DR. CATHERINE O'NEAL, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: There are so many things that are different this year than last year. I think the biggest thing that's taxing the health care system now is the influx of patients happened very, very quickly before we really had time adjust and add mitigation measures, and so the roll of patients just continues. And these patients are younger. And for adult medicine people we anticipate and we handle illness in the elderly.

[19:05:03]

But we don't anticipate and handle illness in young people very well. Young people shouldn't be sick. They shouldn't be in the hospital. It's a rare thing for us. And so to counsel and go through death and the dying process with people who are so young and their families is just an added strain on top of this last year which has been so difficult.

BROWN: Tell us what that is like. What are you seeing among these young people? When you say young people, are you talking about kids?

O'NEAL: I'm talking -- well, we have some kids in the children's hospital and we have more kids in the children's hospital than we've had at any other time in the pandemic. Luckily kids under the age of 18 overall still do well. But you never want your kid admitted to the hospital. Right? That is a -- that's just an incredibly fearful thing and to see those numbers rise is upsetting.

What really is taxing the system is the 20, 30, 40 and 50-year-olds. These are people who live their normal life. They're running triathlons, they're going to work every day, they're bringing their kids to school in a couple of days. And instead of thinking about those things, their families are thinking about how do I get to see them for a few hours today? Are we going to make it? Is today the day they'll be intubated? And we're seeing a growing number of that age group intubated in the hospital which means that they are in here for the long haul.

BROWN: Yes. And if they're intubated, that is not a good sign. There is a silver lining over the last week. Louisiana now ranks in the top five states for number of people per capital getting vaccinated. How do you keep that momentum going?

O'NEAL: You know, when you talk to people who are unvaccinated, they really do just want answers. And so I think that it's part of every educator's job to make sure that people get their questions answered. And we are having more and more answers available at our finger tips. Just a couple of weeks ago, we asked more questions about outbreak

patients and now we have them. On Friday we saw a great paper looking at, if you were previously infected versus vaccinated, what is your risk of a reinfection?

And saw that vaccinated people have less risk of reinfection than people who were previously infected. That's huge. And so that came out Friday afternoon. And as we answer more and more of those questions, it's really a relief to be able to provide that to people who are just waiting for answers to get vaccinated.

BROWN: Yes. And I know people personally who said, well, I was already infected in the past. Do I really need to get this vaccine? So that study was really important.

I want to mention, you recorded a video for Louisiana State University where you address people who feel like the vaccines came out too quickly to be safe. And I was struck by this sports analogy that you used in response. I think this could really hit home for people so would you share it with us?

O'NEAL: Absolutely. So we talked about one of the biggest questions we get, and that is this vaccine was made too quickly. I'm waiting. I want some more time. And those of us who do any sort of research are involved in the development of a drug or a drug product, you know that years before it ever comes to light, years before anybody ever brings that to the FDA, people are working in labs, they're doing studies, they're making sure things are safe.

And so when you look at the lifetime work that it took to make this vaccine, it's been happening forever. And how do you equate that to things that we do in our own lives and that educational program for LSU really trying to equate that so something that a person in there, 18 to 25-year-old age range may be doing, and that is sports. So we see our team play, you know, we won the national championship in 2020. And that team struck me in many ways especially Joe Burrough.

He had come from behind. He transferred schools. That guy had been just really digging in for years. Not just for a season. And so in that education, we talked about how athletes live a lifelong journey to finally their biggest accomplishment, which is a national championship. And so do scientists. They live a lifelong journey. And this vaccine was a lifelong journey here just in time for the pandemic.

BROWN: Yes. The MRNA technology had been around for decades.

O'NEAL: Absolutely.

BROWN: Dr. Catherine O'Neal, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for all of your hard work on the front lines combatting this pandemic.

O'NEAL: Thank you for having us. Have a good night.

BROWN: New details tonight in the sexual harassment scandal swirling around embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. One of his 11 accusers, in fact, the woman who filed a criminal complaint against him, has now publicly come forward.

Speaking exclusively to CBS this morning and the "Albany Times Union," she says Andrew Cuomo gradually escalated his physical contact with her and that the governor took advantage of the power imbalance between an employee and the most powerful man in New York politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMMISSO: Then they started to be hugs with kisses on the cheek, and then there was that point a hug. And then when he went to go kiss me on the cheek, he'd quickly turn his head and he kissed me on the lips.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you say?

COMMISSO: I didn't say anything. I didn't say anything.

[19:10:05]

I didn't say anything this whole time. People don't understand that this is the governor of the state of New York. There are troopers outside of the mansion. And there are some mansion staff. Those troopers that are there, they are not there to protect me. They are there to protect him.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And it's worth noting CNN has reached out to the New York State Police for comment. Governor Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing but even fellow Democrats have turned on him. State lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee meet tomorrow to review the evidence and the path forward toward possible impeachment and removal from office.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is in Albany, New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo facing what will likely be another trying week. On Monday, legislators on the state's Judiciary Committee return to Albany where they're expected to meet with independent investigators to review evidence related to the governor's impeachment probe.

With Governor Cuomo's sexual harassment investigation by lawmakers nearing completion, he has until Friday to offer evidence in his defense. An opportunity Cuomo's personal lawyer insists was not provided by the New York state AG before the release of the scathing report in which several women accused the governor of unwelcomed and nonconsensual touching as well as making comments of a suggestive sexual nature.

Adding to the governor's troubles, the possibility of criminal charges. The Albany County Sheriff's Department confirmed it's investigating a complaint of behavior from Governor Cuomo that was sexual in nature. SHERIFF CRAIG APPLE, ALBANY COUNTY, NEW YORK: That I had a female

victim come forward which had to be the hardest thing she's ever done in her life and make an allegation of criminal conduct against the governor.

SANDOVAL: Known in the report only as executive assistant number one, that female victim is speaking publicly for the first time together with Albany's "Times Union," CBS News, previewing their upcoming conversation with Brittany Commisso, one of the governor's current staffers who's coming forward to defend her account without blurring to protect her image.

COMMISSO: The governor needs to be held accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just so I'm clear again, being held accountable to you means seeing the governor charged with the crime.

COMMISSO: What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law.

SANDOVAL: Rita Glavin, Governor Cuomo's attorney, insists Commisso's claims are untrue. In her Saturday interview with CNN Glavin did admit the governor may have touched another accuser, a state trooper on the governor's protective detail. The AG's report alleges he ran his fingers down her back while standing behind her in an elevator.

GLAVIN: One thing I will say about this particular trooper is that I do know that the governor has tremendous respect for her. Believes she's been an excellent member of her detail. And to the extent that she believes and felt he did anything that violated her or was inappropriate, he feels very, very badly about that. That I do know and I know he's going to address this.

SANDOVAL: Exactly when that will be remains unclear. The governor has however apologized to a handful of women who he recognized were made to feel uncomfortable because of behavior he insists was well- intentioned.

GLAVIN: He does slip at times. He's not perfect. But yes, I get it.

BROWN: He does slip. When you say he does slip, what do you mean by that?

GLAVIN: He said it in his video -- he said it in his video statements, which is that, you know, he does make the mistake. He will say darling. He will say sweetheart. He does ask people questions about their personal lives. He didn't think that that was improper.

SANDOVAL: Pablo Sandoval, CNN, Albany, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: We have reached out to Governor Cuomo's office. They didn't comment any further on that CBS interview. And the attorney for Brittany Commisso noted that she waited to come forward until after the attorney general's report was filed. Still ahead this hour on this Sunday evening, toy maker Mattel honors

COVID heroes around the world with special Barbie dolls. Frontline doctor Audrey Sue Cruz is one of them and she'll be sharing her story.

But first, the local forces are being overwhelmed as the Taliban seizes a third major city in Afghanistan. CNN's Clarissa Ward has an exclusive report from the frontlines when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:18:24]

BROWN: Breaking news now out of Afghanistan where the Taliban has taken control of the northern city of Kunduz. It is the first major Afghan city to fall to the Taliban since the group began its offensive back in May. In just the past few days, the Taliban has seized three other provincial capitals and as U.S. troops pack up and head home, many fear this is just the beginning of a dangerous comeback.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Pamela, this really is an unprecedented 72 hours in the 20-year war in Afghanistan. Startling certainly to see a major city since the U.S. withdrawal began, Kunduz, fall to the Taliban. But this comes after an awful 72 hours for the Afghan government and their security forces.

Back on Friday we saw the first provincial capitals around, near the border with Iran, fall to the Taliban. That's key because the insurgency of good able to move around, much of the rural areas, but they struggled to push themselves into cities.

And we've seen now Zaranj fall after that. Sheberghan, as well, another provincial capital, reports today of another place called Sar- e-Pul also falling. Heavy fighting for a fourth and possibly a fifth provincial capital as well. And so a real sense of momentum in how the insurgency is moving into these urban areas.

Yes, it's true as in the case in Kunduz that the Afghan commandos are fighting back intensely, trying to push the Taliban back out. So they have succeeded twice in the past six years in doing that. But it's the sort of climate I think of how the insurgency continue to make gains that have many concerned.

[19:20:05]

U.S. air strikes have been used at this point. U.S. officials have said in the past few days, they won't say precisely where, and there have been accusations from the insurgency themselves, frankly with a bad track record of civilian casualties, that some of these air strikes may have hit civilian targets.

It's just going to get more brutal and awful, frankly, in the months ahead. And I think the major concern of Afghan officials now is seeing these cities beginning to fall and the intense fighting going on for a major city called Lashkar Gah down in the province of Helmand where so many U.S. troops have lost their lives, that there may become a point where security forces are overstretched across the country.

They're unable to know which fire they should necessarily be putting out, and you perhaps might see morale begin to ebb within the Afghan government. But many concerns as to how fast things have been moving in the last 72 hours -- Pamela.

BROWN: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you for bringing us the latest there.

And CNN correspondent chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward went to the frontlines in Kandahar and spoke to residents as the Taliban closes in. Here's her exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the road to Kandahar's frontline, there is still civilian traffic. Even as the Taliban inches deeper into the city. Afghan commandos have agreed to take us to one of their bases.

(On-camera): This used to be a wedding hall. Now it's the frontline position.

(Voice-over): Most of the fighting here happens at night. But Taliban snipers are at work 24 hours a day.

(On-camera): From snipers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

WARD (voice-over): The men tell us the Taliban are hiding in houses just 50 yards away from us.

(On-camera): And they shoot from people's homes? They shoot from civilian homes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. You see this is all civilians home. We cannot use, you know, the big weapons, the heavy weapons.

WARD (voice-over): Up on the roof, Major Habibullah Shaheen wants to show us something.

(On-camera): So you can actually see the Taliban flag just over on the mountain top there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are flags.

WARD (Voice-over): It's been nearly a month since the Taliban penetrated Afghanistan's second largest city. Since then, these men haven't had a break. U.S. air strikes only come in an emergency. The rest of the time it's up to them to hold the line.

"We feel a little bit weak without U.S. air strikes and ground support and equipment," he says. "But this is our soil. And we have to defend it."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bombardment using heavy weapons. GUL AHMAD KAMIN, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, KANDAHAR: Bombardment using

heavy weapons.

WARD (voice-over): In a villa in the eastern part of the city, Kandahari lawmaker Gul Ahmad Kamin is hunkered down. In decades of war, he says he's never seen the fighting this bad.

KAMIN: Millions of people in this city are waiting for when they will be killed, when someone will kill them, when their home will be destroyed. And it is happening every minute.

WARD (on-camera): Just spell out for me here. The Taliban is basically surrounding the entire city of Kandahar now. Is that correct?

KAMIN: Definitely yes.

WARD: And so where is there to go?

KAMIN: Nowhere. So there is only two options, do or die.

WARD: Do or die?

KAMIN: Yes.

WARD: And what does do look like?

KAMIN: That is the thing to convince different sides to ceasefire, to work on peace, to convince them to not to fight, not to kill.

WARD (voice-over): But that is a tall order in a city where war has become part of everyday life.

(On-camera): You can probably see there is a lot more cars on the road than there were previously and that's because in just two minutes at 6:00 p.m., the cell phone network gets cut across the city and that's when the fighting usually starts.

(Voice-over): Throughout the night the sounds of gunfire and artillery pierce the darkness.

Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban. They are intent on taking it back and the government knows it cannot afford to lose it. By day, an eerie calm holds. The U.N. says more than 10,000 people are now displaced in this city. On the outskirts of town, we find 30 families camped out in an abandoned construction site. (On-camera): He's saying that none of these children have fathers, all

of their fathers have been killed in the fighting.

(Voice-over): Thirty-five-year-old Rubbina fled with her two daughters to escape the fighting after her husband was shot dead. But still, it gets closer and closer.

[19:25:05]

"Last night I didn't sleep all night," she says. "And the fear was in my heart." In the short time we are there more families arrived. Street vendor

Mahmad Ismael says they fled the village of Malajad after an airstrike hit.

"Three dead bodies were rotting outside our home for days but it was too dangerous to get them," he says. "The Taliban is attacking on one side, the government is attacking the other side. In the middle, we are just losing."

Back at the base, dust coats the chairs where wedding guests would normally sit. As the siege of Kandahar continues, life here is in limbo with no end in sight.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Kandahar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Clarissa Ward, thank you for bringing us that report.

And we have an update now on an American man who has now been imprisoned in Russia for more than two years. Paul Whelan has been returned to the regular prison population after spending five weeks in solitary confinement. His brother says Whelan was finally able to speak with their parents after emerging from isolation but that the former Marine wasn't sure why he was even put in solitary confinement in the first place.

Paul Whelan was detained in Moscow in 2018 and was sentenced to 16 years in prison for an espionage charge he denies.

Well, up next, toy maker Mattel honors COVID heroes around the world with special Barbie dolls. Frontline doctor Audrey Sue Cruz is one of them, and there she is on the left side of your screen right there, and she joins me next to chat about this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:31:05]

BROWN: Real life Barbie dolls. Mattel has modeled one of a kind Barbies as their highest tribute to six bona fide heroes of the pandemic. Two doctors, a psychiatrist, a frontline nurse, a professor who led the development of a vaccine and a biomedical researcher.

One of those honorees is Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz, a frontline worker who joined forces with other Asian-American physicians to fight discrimination. Check out her reaction when she opens up the box containing the Barbie that looks just like her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. AUDREY SUE CRUZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE PHYSICIAN, INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTHCARE: Oh my goodness. Oh my gosh. They did such an amazing job.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: Talk about an amazing job, what you have been doing on the

frontlines. The real life Dr. Cruz, is incredible, joins me right now to talk about all of this.

Dr. Cruz, we saw you open the box there. Walk us through what was going through your mind when you unboxed the Barbie made to honor you.

CRUZ: Oh, yes. Hi, Pamela. Thank you for having me. Oh, my goodness, that moment was just absolutely surreal. I had no idea what to expect. And I didn't expect to be so emotional at the time, I was holding back tears. It was just -- it felt like a surreal moment, like it wasn't even real to me.

I'm just looking at all the details that they had, that they got right including, like the hair, the white coat, the stitching, even my name on the white coat. There's even a little mask right over here. Every little detail was just incredible. I was just in shock.

BROWN: Tell us a little bit about how this came to be, if you would, how you were selected? What the process was like to get to this point of now having a Barbie in your likeness?

CRUZ: Absolutely. So, it actually started a few months ago, I was contacted by Mattel and Barbie executives via e-mail, and honestly, at that time, I had no idea what to expect. Just a little bit of background is, I do, do some work on social media and I've worked with brands before, mainly lifestyle brands, because I do blog about wellness and lifestyle.

So, I did hear from Mattel at the time and Barbie and I had no idea what they were wanting and expecting me to do. So, we got on a call. They told me that they wanted to honor me as one of the representatives from the U.S. with my own Barbie doll, and I was just absolutely floored at the time.

I was like, "Me?" Like, "Are you sure?" I honestly just was completely honored.

And so we basically -- they had -- I'm not sure what their criteria is, but they had mentioned to me that they did see an article written about me when I was basically, last year, a group of Asian-American physicians and I teamed together to make a video that ended up going viral, but basically our goal was to bring awareness to the discrimination and the bias that Asian-Americans were facing in our community.

And so I did have several articles written and they did mention that they had seen the article and wanted to honor me with a Barbie doll in my likeness. So, that was just an incredible moment for me.

Honestly, I didn't feel deserving. But they basically had me work with the designers for Barbie. I submitted several pictures of myself in my work outfit. There were several back and forth between me and that designer. They sent over pictures and basically had me approve several rounds of edits and things like that. And so it was just -- it was an awesome process from start to finish. BROWN: Incredible and you know, you see this beautiful Barbie, I see

you talking, but what this all represents is something that is so important and it represents all of the work you did, fighting discrimination, but also on the frontlines fighting COVID. And when little girls play with your Barbie, what do you want the takeaway to be?

[19:35:16]

CRUZ: The biggest takeaway is that little girls of anyone in the younger generation can do anything. It doesn't matter what your skin color is, what your background is, what your culture is, you can do anything. And I hope that when they do see this Barbie doll, and they do see someone that may look like them, they know that anything is possible for them.

BROWN: Oh, that gave me chills. Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz. Thank you. This is wonderful. And one day, I hope to give my daughter your Barbie doll to play with and be inspired by. Thank you so much.

CRUZ: Thank you so much, Pamela.

BROWN: Well, the climate crisis isn't coming, it is already here, especially out West where not just wildfires, but also severe drought is taking a huge toll.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You've been a farmer your entire life, is this the worst you've ever seen it?

JOE DEL BOSQUE, CALIFORNIA FARMER: This is the worst. I have trouble sleeping sometimes because I just don't know if we're going to have enough water to get to the end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Why this farmer and many like him fear their American Dream is now at risk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:40:57]

BROWN: Wildfires fueled by a record-breaking heatwave warring across Greece this weekend. The fast-moving fryers are forcing thousands of families to flee their homes. Look at this incredible video.

Not helping matters, strong winds and temperatures soaring to over 110 degrees. The Greek Coast Guard rescued about 1,400 people from an island north of Athens. The only way to safety was by sea as wildfires swept across the island.

Fires are raging across the country right now. Today, the U.K. joined the long list of countries lending firefighting support. Devastating wildfires are also scorching much of Northern California and the drought is so severe that it shut down a major hydroelectric power plant.

This is Lake Oroville, right near Sacramento last year compared to now. Look at that. Water this low means the plant can't operate for the first time since it came online in the late 1960s. CNN's Dan Simon talked to California farmers just trying to survive as conditions there get worse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEL BOSQUE: When we're harvesting cantaloupes, what we're looking for is this golden color that you see right there.

SIMON (voice over): It is harvest season at Joe del Bosque's farm in Central California. These organic cantaloupes picked from the fields at the peak of perfection.

DEL BOSQUE: Take that little piece and give it a taste.

SIMON (on camera): Delicious.

DEL BOSQUE: Isn't it?

SIMON: Really good.

DEL BOSQUE: This is -- this is what we grow here.

SIMON (voice over): But growing has become increasingly difficult as the California drought crisis intensifies, and water becomes even more scarce.

SIMON (on camera): You've been a farmer your entire life. Is this the worst you've ever seen it?

DEL BOSQUE: This is the worst. I have trouble sleeping sometimes, because I just don't know if we're going to have enough water to get to the end.

SIMON (voice over): Days with dwindling water, del Bosque already made the painful decision in the spring to destroy his asparagus fields, the moment captured on this video.

DEL BOSQUE: And so, it was a difficult decision to make and I decided to destroy the asparagus to save the melons.

SIMON (voice over): But now, there's a new and even bigger concern. His cash crop melons that aren't ready for harvest still need water and there is no assurance he'll have enough.

DEL BOSQUE: In the past, we had water reductions, but we knew how much water we were going to get, and this year we have water reductions, but we don't even know if we're going to get that.

SIMON (voice over): He is far from alone. Just this week, California regulators cut off thousands of farmers from their main irrigation channels of rivers and streams to ensure the state has ample drinking water and to protect endangered fish. It comes as nearly half of the state is in an exceptional drought, the most severe category.

From raging fires to depleted reservoirs, Lake Oroville, the State's second largest has seen its level fall to a historic low, causing its hydroelectric power plant to be knocked offline, the first time in history.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Reality at the end of the day is we need to approach things differently. We need to acknowledge that the hots are getting a lot hotter, the dries are getting drier.

DEL BOSQUE: Years ago, we should have seen this coming because we've been in terrible droughts now for 12 years.

SIMON (voice over): Del Bosque says, for too long, State leaders have failed to come up with better water solutions. He says the farming he started 36 years ago and hopes to pass along to his children suddenly feels vulnerable.

DEL BOSQUE: I was a farm worker myself. I worked in this field driving a tractor, pulling trailers. So, this is kind of like my American Dream right here, and I hate to see it lost like that when it's something out of my control.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Dan Simon reporting there from Fresno County, California.

Well, rich or poor, we can all afford a good laugh right, and tonight's new "History of the Sitcom" episode shows us how comedy can shine a light on the haves and have nots.

"Entertainment Weekly's" Patrick Gomez is here to talk about how sitcoms tackle the American Dream, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:49:22]

BROWN: Well, the American Dream plays such a central role in our culture, but sometimes it seems so far beyond reach that it takes sitcom humor to laugh at the struggles of getting ahead. This week on an all-new episode of the CNN Original Series "History of the Sitcom," we look at how class divides us and the ways we tried to bridge the gaps between us. Here's a preview

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARSHA WARFIELD, ROSALIND "ROZ" RUSSELL, "NIGHT COURT": Looking at people sitting in their high rise offices in New York showing the north what they thought those people in the south were.

DANIEL DE VISE, AUTHOR, "ANDY AND DON": They all had pretty high ratings and CBS became known as the Country Broadcasting System.

[19:50:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But in the late 60s, ratings and demographic

tools improved significantly. Networks are able to see the ages, the education level, what kinds of jobs, the people who are viewing the shows have.

JENNIFER KEISHIN ARMSTRONG, AUTHOR, "SEINFELDIA": So, the more they could refine that, the more the advertisers wanted young, professional, and wealthy people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Joining us now is Patrick Gomez. He is the executive editor of "Entertainment Weekly." Great to see you.

Class divisions have been highlighted and the number of sitcoms over the years from, you know "The Beverly Hillbillies," which we just saw a clip there, to "Schitt's Creek," yet another sensitive topic, sitcoms make more approachable through humor. Why is class such good fodder for sitcoms?

PATRICK GOMEZ, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": Sitcoms are great for tackling all sorts of issues. You know, this series "History of the Sitcom" as mentioned race, and class is another place where we're able to look at it and laugh at it when otherwise we would be crying. And so you know, you have something like "The Beverly Hillbillies" and you see these people come from nothing to all of a sudden this enormous wealth and their fish out of water stories, which we all love.

But at the same time, they are commenting on the classism that exists, even once you're -- well, even once you're able to move into a mansion, you still don't belong because of your background and that's something we all -- even if we haven't come into a lot of money, can identify with.

And so that lets us look at these ideas, look at these concepts and laugh at them and we are able to accept it in a way that we wouldn't if it was like a hard drama that was just making us depressed really.

BROWN: Right, you could laugh. I mean, the reversal of circumstances, either rich or poor people in different circumstances. What do these kinds of sitcoms tell us, though, about the similarities and the differences of people in these different classes?

GOMEZ: You know, it's a situation where we all can laugh at things together, and we become unified. You know, we look at sitcoms like "The Jeffersons," and you don't need to be a black family to identify with "The Jeffersons," to identify with wanting to do your best, for wanting more out of life.

And so everyone is able to watch these and really find themselves in them -- at least on a good sitcom. That's why the ones that have lasted for generations have lasted, it's because the stories are universal. It doesn't matter if it was written in the 70s or this year.

If the themes are universal, then people are going to laugh, and people are going to enjoy it.

BROWN: And you've got sitcoms like again, "The Beverly Hillbillies," and "Good Times" that show poor working class families, moving on out, but you've also got a number of sitcoms that show, actually how hard the struggle is just to get by. "Alice," "Roseanne," "Good Times." What did these different types of sitcoms tell us about the American Dream?

GOMEZ: That it's not easy, and you know, even when -- even when the world is telling us, you know, we have social media, you look on Instagram, and everyone is putting their best selves out there. These sitcoms allowed us to look in the mirror and say, everyone is having a hard time. Everyone is not really able to make ends meet sometimes, and we're able to laugh and find humor and camaraderie in that.

You know, it's important to have representation of all kinds, and that's not just about race, that's about saying, you know, they're having trouble paying the bills, I'm having trouble paying the bills, and yet they're still able to have a good time and whether with their family or their chosen family find happiness.

And so you know, that's something you want to sit down and watch week to week.

BROWN: Well put. Patrick Gomez, thank you so much.

Well, be sure to tune in, an all-new episode of the CNN Original Series "History of the Sitcom" airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, only on CNN.

Still ahead, a California woman scared, straight off a cliff. Why police say she was spooked by a stranger.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:58:27]

BROWN: The world of college football is mourning the loss of a legend tonight. Longtime Florida State coach Bobby Bowden passed away peacefully at his home early this morning, according to a statement given to the "Tallahassee Democrat" newspaper. The Hall of Fame coach was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in July.

Coach Bowden molded the Florida State football team into a powerhouse in the 90s, winning two National Championships and 12 Conference Championships. He retired in 2009 and remains the second winningest coach in college football history.

Coach Bowden was 91 years old.

Well, a startling moment literally sent a woman off a cliff in Northern California. The woman was sitting in her parked car in the parking lot of the Santa Cruz lighthouse when a stranger opened her passenger side door.

Well, that frightened her so much that police say she accidentally drove off the cliff in front of her. Luckily, she only injured her foot. The person who opened the door said they thought they were opening the passenger door of their car, which was parked right next to hers.

Can you imagine? I guess, I'm not surprised by her reaction, but man, falling off a cliff. Fortunately, she only injured the foot.

Don't forget that you could tweet me @PamelaBrownCNN, and follow me on Instagram.

Thanks so much for joining me, I'm Pamela Brown. I'll see you again next weekend, and we leave you tonight with these images of the French Air Force painting the Paris sky red, white, and blue during the celebration at the Eiffel Tower as France prepares to host the Summer Games in 2024.

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