tv Anderson Cooper 360 CNN October 4, 2021 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT
good evening. the lawyer for facebook whistle-blower frances haugen joins us tonight on the eve of her testimony before senate subcommittee. and perhaps it was just a coincidence but today, the world's largest social network went down. facebook and facebook-owned instagram and whatsapp were all unreachable for much of the day. prompting one twitter user to write half jokingly, instagram and facebook are currently not working as our democracy, society, and a healthy sense of self. except, it's no joke according to the whistle-blower in question. former facebook employee, frances haugen, who revealed herself last night on cbs news's "60 minutes." >> when we live in an information environment that is full of angry, hateful, polarizing content, it erodes our civic trust. it erodes our faith in each other. it erodes our ability to want to care for each other.
the version of facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world. >> tearing our society apart. no joke and no accident, she says. she's got evidence or documents to go with that claim. haugen left facebook in may, taking with her a trove of internal company documents which she sent to lawmakers, federal regulators, and the "wall street journal." on the program last night, cbs quoted one of those documents. >> we have evidence from a variety of sources that hate speech, divisive political speech, and misinformation on facebook and the family of apps are affecting societies around the world. >> now, the company knew this, she says, and made changes in 2018 to the computer programming that it uses. the algorithms to determine which items out of potentially thousands you actually see on your facebook news feed. >> and one of the consequences of how facebook is picking out
that content today is it is optimizing for content that gets engagement or reaction. but its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing, it's easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions. >> misinformation. angry content. >> yeah. >> is enticing to people and -- >> very enticing. >> -- keeps them on the platform? >> yes. facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site. they'll click on less ads. they'll make less money. >> and that's the bottom line, yet facebook, whether out of fear of lawsuits or simple decency or whatever, did make changes ahead of the 2020 election. now, despite that, as we have been reporting for more than a year and a half now, the preelection social media world was full of angry misinformation, including, of course, from the former president. analysis by the left-leaning media matters organization reported in "the washington
post" showing that a quarter of the former president's facebook posts for 2020 and until the capitol insurrection, contained extremist rhetoric and misinformation about the election, covid, or his critics. the study using facebook's own data-crunching tool found that the problematic postings were shared and liked more than 927 million times. as you know, he was not the only one. many of his supporters who attacked the capitol either shared their exploits on facebook or spread the so-called stop the steal messages across the network. making it easier, haugen says, those preelection changes to the algorithm which didn't even fully work anyhow had been reversed. >> and as soon as the election was over, they turned them back off. or they changed the settings back to what they were before to prioritize growth over safety. and that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me. >> well, the question, though, is does facebook see it that way? here's chief operating officer, cheryl sandberg, on a reuters podcast the monday after the insurrection. >> i think these events were
largely organized on platforms that don't have our abilities to stop hate and don't have our standards and don't have our transparency. >> now, keeping them honest, the mere fact that the lead story centers on a whistle-blower says something about transparency. sandberg went on to say that the company banned so-called stop the steal content from the platform. she didn't -- did not mention, however, that facebook only imposed that ban after the insurrection. in addition, a facebook internal report obtained by buzzfeed news described the company's effort against stop the steal as quote piecemeal. again, if frances haugen is to be believed, by the time the big lie started spreading across social media, facebook already reversed some of the measures which might have limited the damage and would have also made the company less money. ms. sandberg did not mention that in her podcast interview and listen to what mark zuckerberg said about all this during congressional testimony back in march. >> we removed content that could
lead to imminent real-world imminent harm. we built an unprecedented third-party fact checking program and we have warning labels and significantly decrease its distribution. we invest a lot in directing billions of people to authoritative information. the system isn't perfect but it's the best approach that we've found to address misinformation in line with our country's values. >> we have heard similar words from the company before. in the wake of charlottesville in 2017, when white nationalists used facebook to spread hate. after the cambridge analytica scandal when trump consultants exploited data of millions of facebook users. we have heard it throughout a year and a half of covid misinformation, facebook has promised to change. and to its credit, the company has made changes but they haven't been enough. certainly, according to this whistle-blower. only now, thanks to -- because of this whistle-blower, we have a better picture perhaps of the financial incentives that facebook has not to crack down harder and a better sense of what the company, itself, knew about the damage it allows. we invited facebook to come on
the program. the company declined. joining us now is john thai, frances haugen's attorney. john, thanks for being with us. so facebook didn't want to come on the program. i do want to read a part of the statement they sent to "60 minutes" in response to their report and your client's main allegation that profits outweigh safety. they wrote hosting hateful or harmful content is bad for our community, bad for advertisers, and ultimately bad for our business. our incentive is to provide a safe, positive experience for the billions of people who use facebook. that's why we have invested so heavily in safety and security. what do you say to that? >> there are actually a few very very simple changes that facebook could make to its algorithm that would have marginal impacts on growth at the platform. but would have huge impacts on the spread of misinformation, conspiracy theories, violent and inciting content, hate speech. and they have been unwilling to take those steps with even a
fraction of 1% impact on virility and growth. >> what are those steps, as you see them? >> so just requiring that people click on a link before they re-share it. a lot of people just re-share links right away without even reading through. and their own evidence shows that the most likely links to be re-shared contain misinformation and conspiracy theories. limiting re-shares to two or three hops, instead of six, ten, 12 hops. the most re-shared links are actually the most misinformation content. other very simple steps with the algorithm that would have marginal impacts but would do a ton to restrain misinformation. >> when they say in that statement, things that are hateful, that he is not good for
advertisers, advertisers don't want that, that's probably very true. the problem is it's not always just hateful. the counter incentive they have is to keep eyeballs on facebook. to keep eyeballs on instagram. for as long as possible. i mean, that is the financial incentive to keep people engaged with the site. >> and anger sells. people are actually most easily engaged through anger and other negative emotions like that. it's actually easier to generate anger. >> well, of course. i mean, that's why -- i mean, look on cable news. you see the hosts who are, you know, yelling and full of anger. you know, that has the most buzz. that has the most clicks on -- you know, it's -- on any of these websites. you look at the headlines, and often the headlines are incredibly salacious or they are all about anger. this person attacked this person. then, you read the article and often it's very different than what the headline says.
i know you've received a copy of your client's -- go ahead. >> well, in europe, political parties actually came to facebook researchers and said in order to get things to go viral on facebook now after the algorithm changed in 2018, we have to take more angry positions. more -- positions that we don't even necessarily agree with if we're going to get any traction on your site. and so, they very clearly tied these algorithms to -- to -- to policy differences in the political system in europe. >> you know, we've had facebook folks on before. and we've had mark zuckerberg on during covid but we also had an attorney from facebook on when they hadn't taken down, i think, a nancy pelosi video that was -- or some videos that were very misleading. it made some political figures look like they were drunk or something. one of their arguments essentially is -- i mean, the dilemma it seems to me that they have is because they are so huge and seen in so many countries,
and have so many customers and want those customers to remain and want to remain in all these countries, for them to start getting into the business of actually being more than just, a conduit of information. to actually be a, you know -- an organization which actually vets information. they are going to have to -- which, you know, they need to do because they are in the news business. they are spreading information in a huge way. they're going to have to start making really tough choices that they clearly don't want to make. >> well, that's true and definitely more content should be deleted. one of the things that we've disclosed to the s.e.c. and to congress is that facebook has essentially been lying about how much hate speech it's taking down off the platform. so in public, they say they are taking down 90% to 95%. their internal documents say we catch 2%. maximum, 5%.
so vast differences between what they're saying in public and what they're saying in private. but facebook has actually been quite successful at a little bit of a bait and switch or framing the debate as one about censorship. and going back to my first point, a lot of the solutions here do not involve deleting more content. they actually involve very minor algorithm changes that would have huge impacts on things like stop the steal. on things like which groups are recommended when you come on the platform. one of the internal studies and you could actually re-create this. start up a new facebook account. select a few things like follow the republican party, donald trump. if you are pretending to be a teenaged girl and senator blumenthal did this. selects, you know, a weight loss -- a pretty standard weight loss thing and within 24 hours, you are getting the algorithm to recommend more and more extreme content. and within days, certainly within a week, you can end up in
qanon. you can end up in extreme anorexia or other types of groups. and so, it's not they have to delete other people's content. they are promoting this content and that's how they get engagement. they're amplifying some of the worst instincts in human nature. >> and it's one of the ways qanon spread, you know, even through like yoga sites. people who were interested in yoga. women who were interested in yoga. people who are parents and ultimately through that algorithm and that site and others, they would be kind of go down the rabbit hole. >> well, anderson, some of the -- one of the interesting things. the medium facebook user might be doing okay. the sort of 70% in the middle. but what facebook has done, the platform is so huge. and you have some of the worst actors in the world, whether they're foreign intelligence agencies, whether they're insurrectionists, whether -- you know, perhaps jilted lovers who are trying to get back at somebody or seek revenge. they are able to weaponize the
platform against the most vulnerable people. so people who are either teenagers and looking for affirmation. people who have left a relationship and are feeling depressed or anxious. and open to radicalization. and so, the platform is very easy to weaponize against the most vulnerable people. and so, it's not the medium user. it's those people on the edge. it's those percentage of vulnerable people who are most likely to become addicted, most likely to feel bad about themselves, most likely to go down these rabbit holes of conspiracy theories. >> john tye, appreciate it. facebook shares suffered their worst decline of the year today. joining us now, scott galloway. co-host of the pivot podcast. and the prof g podcast, as well. scott, facebook has obviously weathered plenty of controversy. you think this time, though, is different? >> yeah, let me be clear, though. you know, i've gotten this wrong a lot. i wonder if there's seven or
eight lives into their nine lives. but i think they poked the wrong bear here. specifically in the '80s and '90s mothers against drunk driving rallied together and enforced legislation that would restrict or withhold federal funds for highways. and we saw real -- we saw all the states raise their age limits. i wonder if a lot of moms out there have finally said, okay, i am not going to experience the terror of having my child be depressed. and it's clear that they don't care about our children, and they can ramp up or ramp down rage. and i wonder if this is kind of the ninth life here. that moms are going to bind together or more loosely speaking, parents, and say, you know, at some point enough is enough. i have been wrong so far, anderson. but i'd like to think that this is a bridge too far. that we might actually, finally, see some action. >> i don't know. it is so deeply engrained in youth culture, you know, not just facebook. but whatever the latest thing is. you know? snapchat. tiktok.
whatever. i mean, any parent knows to try -- i mean, you know this, you are a parent. to try to take away social media from your kid is, from what i hear, not an easy thing to do. i mean, you have talked about this concept called the algorithm of deterrence. what does that mean in relation to these revelations? >> so the greatest cop in the world is deterrence. simply put, it's the probability you are going to get something caught or illegal times the penalty should be greater than the relative upside. and what we have here is a company that's added 700 billion in market cap in the last few years. they always get caught. so there's huge upside and they always get caught but the downside, so far, has been seven or nine weeks of free cash flow and fines. i'll be honest. anderson, i don't think this stops until there is a perp walk. you have -- in 15 years, you are going to be thinking about getting your kid into college. if the stanford sailing coach calls you and offers you an opportunity to get your kid in for a $100,000 donation for the sailing program, you are going to hang up the phone because you saw aunt becky do a perp walk. until a tech executive does a
perp walk, it's more of the same in my view. >> you think that could happen? >> that's a correct question. most lawyers say it'd be very sketchy legal foundation. but you have a cartel pricing case in texas that could be federalized and the reason that's important is the remedies there are criminal. i think the s.e.c. could come forward and say that you have not disclosed mandatory disclosures around information. and also, i think there's now enough evidence that these individuals have lied in front of congress. which in my understanding is a criminal offense. but it might not even be that they win a criminal case. it's just someone is charged with a criminal offense. and i think you are going to see a lot of people -- what's most interesting of ms. haugen is it's obvious they're dropping dimes on each other now. they're starting to come after each other. so quite frankly, i think the perp walk is the missing piece here.
>> this has always been the argument, though, of facebook and others is like, look, we're just the -- we're the conduit of information. we're not the ones determining. we can't determine, you know, what's correct, what's true or not in, you know, in bangladesh politics every single day. we are a platform just like the telephone company is a platform. we're not penalizing people for what they're saying on the telephone. does that argument still hold up? i mean, given that they are in the news business now essentially. >> yeah, that's their go-to. the world is what it is, we're just a platform. but here's the thing. they have the ability to ramp up or down rage. and if you look at almost every problem in our society, it kind of stems around a lack of truth or polarization. and unfortunately, we have a company whose business model, their profitability is based on polarization. and if twitter can eliminate one-third of election misinformation by cancelling one account, if facebook has the ability to dial up or dial down rage, that just -- that dog
won't hunt. this is a company that knows it's dividing us. that knows it's depressing our teens. it knows it's weaponizing our elections and has the ability to take that rage up or down. so that's absolutely not true. this is not -- the world isn't what it is. the world is what we make of it or, specifically what facebook makes of our world and that world is depression, rage, and a lack of democracy. it is time for this company to stop wrapping itself in a flag that it then sets on fire. >> scott galloway, thank you so much, scott, appreciate it. by the way, scott and i recently had a great conversation on his podcast about my new book "vanderbilt, the rise and fall of an american dynasty." you can find it on his podcast. scott, thanks very much. >> thanks, anderson. coming up next. the former president suing to get back onto twitter after being booted off the platform back in january. speaking about misinformation. all this as new reporting says he was close to announcing a few weeks ago that he was running for president again. maggie haberman joins us to talk about that. and hecklers following
senator kyrsten sinema into a bathroom. is that fair game? or just ridiculously over the line? more ahead. >> right now is the real moment. only from fidelity. go with simparica trio it's triple protection made simple! simparica trio is the first and only monthly chewable that covers heartworm disease, ticks and fleas, round and hookworms. dogs get triple protection in just one simparica trio! this drug class has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions, including seizures. use with caution in dogs with a history of these disorders. protect him with all your heart. simparica trio.
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with the ill effects of social networks back on the national stage tonight, there are numerous new developments with one of the worst bad actors. former president filing suit in federal court to force twitter to reinstate his account and buzz building around his 2024 prospects. that and more makes it a good night to check in with cnn political analyst, new york times washington correspondent, and veteran trump watcher maggie haberman. so former president wants back on twitter. the multiple statements he blasts out to supporters every day that are riddled with lies, i guess, are not -- clearly, not working for him? >> what's interesting, anderson, is he has been making a point of telling people that he's really happy off of twitter. that he prefers these statements. that they're more elegant. this is a better way of doing it. one does not sue to get back on a platform if that were true. so obviously, he wants back on. i do think that twitter is going to try to stick with its ban of keeping him off. but if he does become a candidate, anderson, then i
think they're going to face a lot of pressure to reinstate him and i'm not sure how they are going to deal with that. >> so, i mean, this is -- i mean, let's talk about that. it's been written about a lot. he is obviously a de facto leader of the republican party. they are still pledging allegiance to him. what are you hearing about a run? >> sure. look. even if people were not pledging allegiance to him, he would still be the de facto leader of the party. he will be until there's another republican nominee. but what he is telling people is that he wants to run again. and, you know, his advisers -- more of them than not -- think he is going to do it. in part because he is sitting on a big pile of money. in part, because, candidly, he doesn't have is a ton else to do. he is not running the day to day of his company anymore. his son, eric, has been doing that for a long time. he went from having the most attention he'd ever had in his life to having the least. so that's where his head is now. he has left a carve-out saying, essentially, if he gets a bad letter from a doctor that he might not. i think there might be other reasons why he might not and, you know, two years out is a long time. a year and a half is a long time
but at the moment that's where his head is. >> how much of the calculus has to do with midterm elections in 2022? i mean, if republicans don't win back the house and senate, would that have any impact? or is it purely, as you said, you know, he's got a heap of cash and he loses all relevance if he's no longer the leader of the republican party and running? >> right, anderson, he's never really been somebody who considers his fortunes to be tied to republicans' fortunes, particularly since 2018 when the republicans lost the midterms quite badly. and he is well aware of that. they did better, actually, in 2020 than they did in 2018 but he has still treated himself as this separate entity. i don't think that the midterms relate to it one way or the other. except for the fact that if republicans win, then i think we will see him point to, see, look what i did. people want me back. but i still think that he will make a case to run even if republicans lose and that he, alone, can fix it. >> i want to ask about your piece over the weekend about
this attorney john eastman. it's a fascinating look at the former president's attorney who is behind the memo that some have likened to a blueprint for a coup. can you just lay out sort of what you learned? >> sure. so, john eastman went into actually really extensive detail about this meeting that he attended in the oval office with former president trump, with vice president mike pence, with two of pence's advisers on january 4th. two days before the riot at the capitol that followed a rally that eastman himself spoke at. and eastman laid out this argument for why pence could, you know, at first, it was that he could allow replacement, alternate slates of electors from different states. none of that ever materialized. there were no slates of alternate electors. so, he then switched his suggestion to that pence could basically go for a delay in certifying the election. and pence was arguing that he didn't have that power. he says at one point to eastman, do you think i have that power? and according to our sources,
eastman essentially admitted that he didn't. and then, pence turned to former president trump and said did you hear that, mr. president? he was trying make his case for why he didn't have that power and eastman was going too far. but it was really more vivid detail than we have had about this key meeting where they were trying to press pence to do something that pence was very clear with them, he believed exceeded his authority. and we saw what happened next. >> and is eastman still in the former president's orbit? >> the orbit is sort of loosely defined. he certainly has talked to the former president a few times. you know, i think he would like to be more involved. he made that very clear. i don't think he is that deeply involved right now. but, anderson, as you know, as well as i do, the cast of characters around trump is shifting sands and so he could end up coming back in some fashion. right now, he's not that deeply involved. >> seems like you can always come back to trump world. >> very few people have never come back. >> yeah. maggie haberman, thanks so much. appreciate it. coming up next, the question
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democratic senator kyrsten sinema has garnered a lot of attention and frustration after she resisted legislation that supported president biden's agenda. that frustration spilled over in a very public way sunday. it happened at a bathroom in phoenix. activists approached her. they attempted to speak to her about the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill when she told them she was heading out as she walked into the bathroom. one of the protestors then followed her while another one continued to video the exchange. take a look. >> i'll be back. >> senator, we want to talk to you real quick. can i talk to you real quick? >> hey. actually, i am heading out. >> right now is the real moment
that our people need in order for us to be able to talk about what's really happening. we need a build back better plan right now. >> we need solutions in the build back better plan, we have the solutions that we need. >> we knocked on doors for you to get you elected and just how we got you elected, we can get you out of office if you don't support what you promised us. >> we can have justice and solutions that we need for immigration, labor. >> build back better. pass the bill! >> the video has since gone viral online and attracted both criticism and support for the protestors. senator sinema's notoriously guarded rarely speaking to press, nor holding town halls. joining me now, cnn political commentator and republican strategist anna navarro. s.e. cupp. also a cnn political commentator. anna, protesters confronting senator sinema in a bathroom too far?
>> look. i think the cringe here is the fact that it was a bathroom. right? and i think most of us think that's a place where we should have privacy. and the expectation that we can twinkle in peace. so i think that's the part that is upsetting. but if you hear what these protestors were saying. if you hear what these -- and they're not just protestors. they're constituents of kyrsten sinema. they are people who supported kyrsten sinema. they are people who knocked on doors for kyrsten sinema who feel betrayed and who are telling their senator their story, and why this bill is important to them. you know, i watched -- >> but isn't there a difference between that and recording it all and then having someone record you record it? so then it's not about convincing her. it's about making a video for them so that they can put a video out and show themselves as activists which is what they are. and they have every right to, you know, believe very strongly what they believe. but isn't this more about theater and video? >> i think it's about -- i think
it's about making it known, their displeasure with their senator. and let's remember that this senator was -- kyrsten sinema was once a protestor, herself. >> true. >> she is on video attacking joe liebermann, attacking bill nelson for being centrists. and for not giving their vote to the democratic agenda. so that's very ironic. she was elected as a progressive firebrand. look. i don't like any of this. i don't like the way. i don't like this kind of political theater or rhetoric that gets tamped up. but what these people -- what these young people did. that wasn't threats. that wasn't shouting. that wasn't bad words. that wasn't offensives. it's much worse what we saw being done to lindsey graham or when mitt romney got called a traitor. >> s.e., what do you think? senator sinema put out a statement saying it was not legitimate protest. >> well, listen. i think it was worse than cringy.
i mean, for one, it was illegal. it's illegal to film people in bathrooms for a very good reason. you do expect privacy. and i think when you are chasing a woman into a bathroom, you're probably out of ideas. and being frustrated and desperate as i know many of her voters are is understandable. but it does not justify this failure to treat people with basic human dignity. i was repulsed by this video. and by people who have been defending it. why? because righteousness. because politics. because her politics are so bad or what she has done to joe biden is so bad that it justifies this kind of behavior. i don't think that's right. i think protest, of course, absolutely. and i've been very critical of kyrsten sinema for her opacity and the lack of communication with both her constituents and the press.
and even her colleagues in the senate who still don't know what she wants. that's a problem for her. but chasing her into the bathroom is not the solution. >> ana, the president was asked today if the tactics are crossing the line. i want to play what he said. >> i don't think they're appropriate tactics but it happens to everybody. from the only people it doesn't happen to are people who have secret service standing around them. so it's part of the process. >> and the white house press secretary, jen psaki, today kind of tried to clarify, i guess would be the term they would use biden's comment. the president's comment saying the freedom to protest and speak out is fundamental to our democracy but the confrontation with senator sinema was, quote, inappropriate and unacceptable. ana, would you feel the same way if these were, you know, pro, you know, supporters of the -- you know, who felt very passionately that the election had been stolen against the former president? and, you know, were following
some democrat into a bathroom while they were, you know, going to the bathroom. following, you know, speaker pelosi into a women's room. i mean, would that -- is it fair for anybody just because they're passionate about something to be able to do this? >> look. i think what biden said is true. it's inappropriate tactics. he said that at the get-go. and it does happen to everyone. we just saw emmanuel macron in france have an egg thrown at him. that is terrible. we've seen it happen to lindsey graham in an airport. we've seen it happen to mitt romney at a republican convention in utah. we've seen january 6th. so what i am saying to you is i agree. this is inappropriate. but when you put it in context with what we have seen, there was no threats. there was no offenses. there was no screaming. anderson, i've had worse. >> it's a little creepy, though, to have somebody -- it is creepy. i mean, look. i have had people show up to my home. you know, i have had all this stuff. it's creepy.
someone standing outside the stall in the bathroom with a video camera and their friend's in the doorway saying, you know, we'll un-elect you and i mean it's just creepy. >> i agree with you. i think that's the borderline there. >> also, anderson, i think joe biden really missed an opportunity, right? presumably, these are -- the protestors are his supporters, right? people who are protesting on behalf of his agenda. he had a real opportunity to say not only that this was inappropriate, and definitely not to say this was part of the process but to say don't do this. don't do this in my name. this is what we begged trump to do for four years about his supporters and their tactics. and what they were resorting to. and we were rightfully disappointed in him when he failed to do that. when he nudged them along or excused their behavior. now, i'm not equating, you know, different behaviors. but i am saying that we would
have been very disappointed in trump, had he said what biden said. and i think biden missed an opportunity to set his protestors straight. yes, protest. make your voices be heard. just not in a bathroom while a woman's in there. >> appreciate it. thanks. good to see both of you. coming up next, the doctor banned from youtube for spreading covid misinformation. so, why is he still available at the click of the mouse? answer is next. go with simparica trio it's triple protection made simple! simparica trio is the first and only monthly chewable that covers heartworm disease, ticks and fleas, round and hookworms. dogs get triple protection in just one simparica trio! this drug class has
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at the top of the hour, we told you about the facebook whistle-blower who alleges the social media platform turbo charged divisiveness in the u.s. by actively promoting false narratives, conspiracy theories, and hate. other social media sites under fire, of course, accused of doing the same. just last week, youtube removed and said they were removing any misinformation tied to covid vaccines, including videos from dr. joseph ricola. "360's" randi kaye tried to question the florida doctor about the misinformation back in august. take a look at how that went. >> reporter: dr. mercola, how are you? i'm randi kaye with cnn. can we ask you a couple
questions? >> no. >> reporter: we just want to talk to you about vaccines and what you have been saying about them. do you feel responsible for people who didn't get vaccinated, possibly got sick and died because of what you told them about the vaccine? what do you say to families who have lost loved ones? are you spreading misinformation? >> nope. >> reporter: why won't you speak to us? here's your opportunity to speak with us and answer questions. >> no answers there. and as i mentioned, he's been silenced on youtube. his lies and false propaganda are still available on other sites, of course, including the largest book seller in the world, amazon. the question is why? randi stayed on the story, set out to find out. >> it's an unproven vaccine. it's just being accelerated and eliminated virtually every safety study. >> reporter: that's dr. joseph
mercola spewing lies about the vaccines for covid-19 and much of it is neatly packaged in this book he co-authored "the truth about covid-19" available on amazon. for about $15, you get 226 pages full of false claims and outlandish conspiracy theories about the vaccines. despite that, the publisher told us the book has already sold about 250,000 copies in all formats. for weeks, it's been a best-seller on amazon. likely earning the doctor a tidy sum of money. but if it's full of misinformation, why is amazon selling it at all? long before mercola's book, the e-commerce giant had removed other books that make dangerous medical claims or peddle misinformation about vaccines. last year, removing a book that implied the virus was a bioweapon. the year before that, amazon removed books falsely promoting an autism cure, such as healing the symptoms known as autism.
the author reportedly claimed 115 children had been cured of autism using a form of bleach. yet, the fda had warned that chemical could cause life-threatening conditions. another book they removed "fight autism and win" suggests parents try medicating their children with an antidote for mercury poisoning which the mayo clinic says can cause potentially-deadly kidney damage. we tried to ask amazon about all of this and what, if anything, makes joseph mercola's book different from those it removed. after all, mercola's book is filled with debunked myths and conspiracy theories and dangerous medical misinformation just like the others that were taken down. first, the e-commerce giant declined our request for an on-camera interview. then, after we sent them a list of questions we'd hoped they'd answer via email, amazon rejected that, too. then, refused to even give us a statement. instead, saying they hope to be more helpful on future stories.
amazon's behavior has caught the attention of senator elizabeth warren who, in this letter to amazon's ceo, wrote she is concerned that amazon is peddling misinformation about covid-19 vaccines and treatments through its search and best-seller algorithms. she accuses the retail giant of being unwilling or unable to modify its business practices to prevent the spread of falsehoods. in her letter, she notes that when her own staff searched for terms covid-19 and vaccine, the first result that came up was, you guessed it, joseph mercola's book. and it was tagged as a best-seller. warren goes on to point out to amazon that the book perpetuates dangerous conspiracies about covid-19, and false and misleading information about vaccines. >> i'm randi kaye with cnn. can we ask you a couple questions? >> no. >> reporter: dr. mercola refused to talk with us when we found him in florida in august. but unlike amazon, agreed to answer questions about his book over e-mail.
mercola told us via e-mail that he encourages everyone to fully educate themselves to make individual decisions about medical risk taking. amazon does have content guidelines for books. but those guidelines do not include anything about medical misinformation. instead, they say in part that they include content that may be objectionable in their books. we also reached out to the publisher, anderson, chelsea green to ask why they are continuing to publish this book and do they think they are contributing to the misinformation that is out there. the publisher told us there is no misinformation, as far as we are concerned. we feel we are contributing to the truth about covid. and, anderson, i also asked dr. mercola what he plans to do with the proceeds from the book. he said he plans to donate all of them to the national vaccine information center which is the country's leading anti-vaccine advocacy group. and finally, we did also reach out to barnes and noble, apple and google, which is still selling mercola's book for sale. we wanted to ask them why they
continue to do so. the same questions we wanted to put to amazon. they did not respond to our efforts to reach out, as well. anderson. >> randi, appreciate it. thanks very much of. still to come. former presidential candidate and new york city mayoral candidate, andrew yang, no longer part of the democratic party he says. he joins me to explain why, next. your car to carvana? it feels amazing. when you get a great offer in seconds... (all cheering) it feels too good to be true. it's kicking back and relaxing as we pick up your car. and when you get paid on the spot, it feels like scoring big. you know the feeling. you just never imagined you could get it from selling your car. well, with carvana, you can. experience the new way to sell a car. people everywhere living with type 2 diabetes are waking up to what's possible with rybelsus®. ♪ you are my sunshine ♪ ♪ my only sunshine... ♪
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andrew yang, who ran as a democrat for president last year and new york city mayor this year, says he has left the party is now registered independent. he writes on his blog, quote, breaking up with the democratic party feels like the right thing to do. this comes as his new book set for release tomorrow, forward notes on the future of our democracy, andrew yang joins us now. thanks for being with us. why leave the democratic party? you ran for president and mayor as a democrat. >> i have been a democrat for 26 years, anderson.
if there is a theme tonight that i saw it was that polarization is at record high levels in the united states. political stress is approaching civil war levels. and the question is, how could we bring the temperature of the country down? and i want to be the metaphorical wet blanket for the country. i am bringing not just, hopefully, some kind of soothing words, but an actual policy fix that will help bring the temperature of the country down by changing the political incentive of our leaders because right now if you are a member of congress your job is to please the 20% most extreme on either flank of the population. what we have to do is change it so you have to appeal to 51% of the population and that would bring the temperature down very, very quickly, almost overnight. >> i don't think you want to be a wet blanket. sounds like you want to be a weighted blanket that is more comforting. >> yeah.
van said an sno cone. i want to be the thing that soothes people and makes them happy. >> when you look at the democratic party, the splits in washington over infrastructure, social safety net. i mean, if you're an independent, who do you think has the better argument between progressives with their $3.5 trillion pitch for spending, moderates who want to see the number cut in half at least? >> i'm someone who wants to solve problems, anderson. i happy to agree with one side's approach when it comes to infrastructure. it was a bipartisan bill at least in the senate. but the question is how can we actually make our system work for us, the people of this country again, because we can sense it's not working that well right now. we are being set up to fail. the incentives are such that congress has a national approval rating of 28%. the re-election rate of members is 92%. because again, they don't have to appeal to the general population. they just have to appeal to the 20% on either side. that's what we have to change and i am starting a popular movement to help implement open primaries and rank choice voting
that would improve our legislators' incentives and reduce the polarization that threatens to tear our country part. >> given republican control though of a lot of legislatures how likely do you think it is to change voting like that? i mean, you know, there are now increasingly bills in legislatures around the country to make voting more difficult. >> i am happy to say that this is already been done in one red state, alaska. and all we need is enough americans to come together and say enough is enough. we are sick of being pitted against each other, sick of the dysfunction and to push ballot initiatives that require a lot of americans signing in 24 states around the country from missouri to massachusetts. again, you know, i watch not just your show, anderson, but all of us can feel the political tension rising and rising. and the question is, what can we actually do to fix it? if enough of us get together we can make this happen state by state. you don't need congress or state legislatures in half the states in the country.
>> you wrote about what it was like to run for president as it was like having a birthday every day and it became sort of a brand that you were promoting. i am wondering the run for mayor, you ran for mayor of new york, lost in the primary. do you regret running for mayor? >> it was a privilege meeting so many people all over new york city. we set a record for number of individual donors to new york mayoral campaign. got over 115,000 first place votes. my only regret is i am not in position to do more good in new york. but now i feel like this can do so much good for the entire country, anderson, by proposing a real policy solution that will reduce polarization in this country and get us to where we can actually have dinner with our families again around the holidays. >> andrew yang, appreciate it. thanks so much. the book forward notes on the future of our democracy. it is out tomorrow. coming up next, more on a breaking news in the facebook whistle-blower and her expected
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