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State Of Emergency Ahead Of Charlottesville Anniversary; CNN Reality Check: How Many People Died In Hurricane Maria?; Children Flying Alone On Frontier Airlines Get Diverted And Stuck Overnight. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 10, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:33:28] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Charlottesville, Virginia is on high alert under a state of emergency as the city prepares to mark one year since the deadly clashes between neo-Nazis and counter- protesters.

Roads will be closed around the downtown area where Heather Heyer was killed when a rioter drove a car into a crowd. More than 700 Virginia State Police officers are on standby.

Joining us now with more on how the city is not only preparing but also reflecting and moving forward, I'm joined by Charlottesville mayor Nikuyah Walker.

Good to have you with us today, Madam Mayor.

As we look at all of this, so much --


HILL: Good morning.

So much focus obviously, on your city.

When you started your bid for mayor it was before everything had happened. It was in March of 2017 and you started it with a slogan that was unmasking the illusion. I know you went around town and you were asking people what that meant to them.

How do you think their answers and the feeling as to what that could mean has changed in the year since everything that we saw?

WALKER: Yes. Well, it was really individuals asking me what did I mean because for them, Charlottesville was the place that it's known for in the world -- you know, for most of them. Beautiful tourist destination, raise your kids here, retire here, one of the top universities in the country. So they had that -- those thoughts processing when they thought about Charlottesville, Virginia.

But I wanted to make sure that during my campaign year that we talked about the truth of Charlottesville and that there were major disparities and a lot of people who didn't have the opportunity to see the beauty of Charlottesville because they spend most of their days attempting to survive Charlottesville.

[07:35:06] So that was -- that is what I wanted to talk about -- the illusion of perfection -- and so that's what I did.

HILL: Everything that we saw unfold last year put your city squarely in the headlines, a spotlight shining on it. How has that changed things for the city and the tough conversations that needed to be had moving forward?


HILL: Is that happening?

WALKER: Well, yes. I mean, we're having the tough conversations but we're still debating about whether we should have them and what way we should have them.

HILL: Yes.

WALKER: There's a call from a lot of people.

We have a very wealthy community here. Our area median income is $89,600. It's one of the wealthiest cities in the -- you know, in the country.

There's a lot of old wealth here and at the same time, there are people who are trying to raise families under less than $10,000.

So for some people, the normal is OK going back to the way things were. They had a very comfortable life.

And I think people are still tugging with whether they want -- tugging with whether they want to return. Whether they want to return to that or have authentic conversations, and there are some people who don't want to have the conversations or don't know how to have the conversation.

HILL: Although a lot of people -- that is -- some people who may not know how to have that conversation. But starting it is obviously --

WALKER: Well, when --

HILL: -- the hard part.

WALKER: Well, when you are -- we have a very privileged -- if you're talking about being white and privileged and then challenging individuals to talk about white supremacy and how they have benefitted from it, that's a -- that's a hard conversation for people who've benefitted from the privilege. So, those are the individuals that we're having to work to convince maybe to join.

HILL: Yes.

WALKER: Not all, but a significant number.

There are people in positions of power who when you start to question how they either abuse their power or may have perpetuated some of the disparities that we have, they don't -- they don't want to let that go or they don't want to admit that maybe they've made some decisions --

HILL: Sure.

WALKER: -- in the past.

If you walk into a room and say that long before the two UVA alumni planned a rally here there were people living in poverty and struggling in a city that's been primarily Democratic control.

I mean, last year, people wanted to talk about who's in the White House and how that was affecting us and I switched the conversation to locally. We need to talk about ourselves and what's going on in our own house.

And so those kind of push -- you know, pushing back on the story that the narrative people want to tell versus the truth, that's been a challenge.

HILL: A challenge, but an important one that you have taken up.

As you look --

WALKER: It's very important.

HILL: And as you look forward to this weekend -- we have talked about the state of emergency. We know about the additional police force that's there. There's so much to talk about what could happen and concerns.


HILL: What are you concerned about and also, at the same time, what makes you hopeful one year on?

WALKER: So, of course, you're concerned. When people come with the intention to destroy and you don't know what their movements are, of course, there's a lot to worry there.

A lot of people in this town that -- I mean, I'm a native. I care about them, I know them. I know their families personally.

And then as the mayor, I don't want to see the devastation that we saw last year. And with not knowing what steps these alt-right groups might take -- how many people are coming, exactly how they might arrive and when, and how to keep people safe in the process.

Our law enforcement -- you saw all the videos last year. Their behavior was absolutely unacceptable and so people don't trust that process, so we have to see them at every level. Our local law enforcement, that State Police, and anyone else who's in town -- we need to see them react very differently to the situation than they did last year so people feel safe.

So we have a -- we have a lot of work to do to regain trust and in that process we have to ensure that the devastation that happened last year doesn't happen. And it's almost impossible to ensure that so that there's a lot of fear and anxiety surrounding that.

HILL: All right, we're going to have to leave it there.

Mayor, appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

WALKER: Thank you.


Puerto Rico increasing the death toll from Hurricane Maria 22 times higher than they initially reported. How did this happen?

We get a "Reality Check" next.


[07:43:30] HILL: We are following breaking news.

Police in Fredericton, New Brunswick -- this is in Canada -- are on the scene of a shooting. We know at least four people have been killed. Officers there telling people to stay inside their homes and lock their doors.

According to police, the situation is ongoing. They're not releasing any other details. But again, we'll continue to follow this story closely.

Four people killed as we understand it. We'll bring you more information as it comes in to us.

BERMAN: All right.

Time now for a CNN "Reality Check."

The government of Puerto Rico, still reeling 10 months after Hurricane Maria, just released a new death total for that hurricane and it's pretty astounding.

Our John Avlon with a "Reality Check" -- John.


One of the biggest scandals in recent memory is still unfolding and getting nowhere near the attention it deserves.

Just yesterday, news organizations caught wind of a new number of deaths quietly released by the government of Puerto Rico in July, 10 months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

The initial death toll was 16. Local authorities insisted it wouldn't increase significantly, but it was then revised to 64. And anyone surveying the damage could tell you this was a little untethered to reality. So then came the independent studies. CNN was one of the first, then

Harvard, "The New York Times", "The New England Journal of Medicine" and others all pushed back with significantly higher numbers.

The mayor of San Juan even started wearing a hat, with one of the worst estimates printed on it, out of protest.

But for months, the government stuck with 64. Now, earlier this summer, our Alisyn Camerota pressed the governor of Puerto Rico to find out why.

[07:45:08] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The number -- the official number on your Web site is still 64. If you know that to be wrong, why is that still the government number?



ROSSELLO: -- no doubt about it.

CAMEROTA: But the number is still on your Web site. I mean --

ROSSELLO: And we are making sure that all of the data --

CAMEROTA: I'm sorry to interrupt but just to be clear, you're saying that that number on your Web site -- the official death toll is not accurate?

ROSSELLO: Well, we've never expected that it was accurate. That's why we always said that it was going to be higher.


AVLON: Well, it turns out the real number is more than 20 times higher -- not 64, but at least 1,427. This is an estimate. The official number won't be revised until a government sanction study is released by George Washington University, and that study has been delayed.

But this revised estimate was quietly revealed by the government back in June only after CNN and the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico sued for it.

The number was officially released in a report in July. There was no official announcement -- hardly anybody noticed -- and it would appear that the government of Puerto Rico wanted it that way. But the families and friends of the fallen have certainly noticed.

Many of these are deaths of neglect. A failure to respond to remote areas in the wake of the storm compounded by feeble infrastructure.

One thousand four hundred and twenty-seven. These are American citizens, not statistics. And while the nation righteously rallied around New Orleans after

Katrina, Puerto Rico seems to have suffered a death toll almost as horrific.

Maria is now estimated to be among the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history but it's suffered its loss in the dark, literally. Some residents of the island just got their power back nearly a year after the storm hit.

What's worse, there have been no congressional inquests or serious attempts to learn from the deadly mistakes.

Our fellow Americans on the island of Puerto Rico, now facing another hurricane season, deserve better.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: All right, thanks, John, so much for that.

And I do want to note that Leyla Santiago, who did so much great reporting on the ground in Puerto Rico, pushed so hard on these numbers for so long. And I think you're seeing some of the results right now John, right?

AVLON: Absolutely. She has done extraordinary work. Bill Weir did extraordinary work. CNN has been on this as have other news organizations but pushing back on the official version of the truth, which does not reflect reality.

And look, this death toll which is so stunning and historic -- the attention hasn't been there, maybe because of geographic distance. It may certainly have compounded by infrastructure and other issues but it requires and demands and deserves our attention.

HILL: It does, and I'm glad you're giving it that this morning, John. Thank you.

AVLON: Thank you, guys.

HILL: A travel nightmare for two unaccompanied children and their parents who were told nothing about it, they say. What happened and how the parents actually discovered the frightening details. That story is next.


[07:52:11] BERMAN: Two young children, seven and nine years old, flying alone on Frontier Airlines ended up stuck overnight in a hotel room when their flight was diverted to another city, and their parents say they were never notified by the airline.

The children were flying from Des Moines to Orlando last month but their flight was diverted to Atlanta due to bad weather.

The family claims the children were left at the airport for hours, then driven to a hotel in an airline employee's personal vehicle. They say the kids were not properly fed and the only way they found out what had happened was when one of the children borrowed another child's cell phone.

In a statement to CNN, Frontier says they followed standard procedure.

Here to discuss, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants International, Sara Nelson. Sara, thank so much for joining us.

I have to say this is a pretty strange story. How surprised were you when you heard that these kids were taken to a hotel room by an airline employee without getting approval from the parents?


Airlines have different policies for unaccompanied minors but all of those policies across the industry are rooted in clear communication with the parents or guardians and a clear chain of custody of those unaccompanied minors.

So the fact the parents didn't know what was going on and that the policy was to take those children to a hotel with one airline employee, driven in a private car, is a very strange circumstance.


Frontier put out a statement and I want to read it.

"The children were attended at all times by a Frontier supervisor, placed in a hotel room overnight, and provided with food. Our records show that the children were in contact with their mother before being transported to the hotel and with their father the following morning before leaving on the continued flight."

According to the family, they were called more than an hour after the flight landed and then only because the kids endeavored to use someone else's cell phone.

As a parent, it seems to me you want to know the minute or within minutes of when that flight landed in a different city where your kids are.

NELSON: It's unimaginable that the parents didn't know where their children were.

Now, listen, I can't comment on the specifics of this flight because I don't know the specifics there. But what we can do is to give some advice to parents who are booking their children as unaccompanied minors because airlines do have a chain of custody there for those unaccompanied minors in any event and we have to recognize that the airline industry will have operational disruptions.

So to avoid problems, one thing that you want to do is make sure that you are booking your child on the first flight of the day. That's going to lessen the amount of operational disruptions. Avoid those red-eyes or late-night flights because the flights will be -- lights will be down. It will be harder for flight attendants to keep track of those -- of those unaccompanied minors.

Seat your child close to where the flight attendants are most commonly entering and exiting, which is the galley areas -- the areas where we're preparing the service which is typically near the airline doors.

[07:55:05] And you want to make sure also that as a parent or a guardian you are planning to have a gate pass to accompany your child to the aircraft and then picking up your child at the aircraft door when they arrive.

The flight attendants are charged with maintaining where those unaccompanied minors are and signing them off to another airline employee when we arrive. And there is a clear chain of custody and there should be clear communication with those parents or guardians.


All the experiences that I've had or been connected to there is a very high bar. There's a lot of things you have to do to get that child on the plane and off the plane. Here, there were these extenuating circumstances where it all broke down.

I want you to listen to the father of these children, Chad Gray -- what he had to say.


CHAD GRAY, FATHER OF CHILDREN ON DIVERTED FRONTIER AIRLINES FLIGHT: I think that they did the best they should or could. They shouldn't have left it up to a seven or a 9-year-old to contact their parents to let them know what was going on and what processes were going to take place.

I feel it should never have happened and at least, we should have been given the chance to make that decision on whether we wanted them to go to a hotel or stay in the airport and sleep on a cot.


BERMAN: So my understanding is that Delta is the only airline with a strict procedure for if something like this happens.

What do you know that airlines are supposed to do here?

NELSON: Well, that's not true, actually. I've talked with several airlines over the past 24 hours and they all have clear policies about what to do if there's an extreme circumstance like this.

And in every case, it starts with communication with the parents or guardians. If we're unable to get ahold of them then a station manager would be making a determination.

There are policies that include going to hotels where a security guard from the airport is stationed outside the door all night for those children. If there is an airline employee who is in the hotel room with the child, that is with communication with the parents and never less than one. So, two always with those unaccompanied minors.

These are some of the policies that are contained in airlines across the industry and there are clear policies for these unforeseen events. Now, they're extremely rare.


NELSON: It's very difficult to execute on this and that's why we really encourage parents to do everything they can to book children on flights to avoid this sort of circumstance.

BERMAN: Who is supposed to make that phone call? I mean, in this case it was the children themselves who somehow got ahold of another kid's cell phone to make the call.

Is it supposed to be the flight attendant? Is it supposed to be a gate agent? Is it supposed to be someone in central command for these airlines?

NELSON: The flight attendant would not normally be the one to make -- be making the call because they would be signing off those children to airport personnel when we're arriving at the destination.

It would normally be a station manager or someone in charge at that airport who would be trying to contact the parents or guardians in a situation like this.

BERMAN: All right. Sara Nelson, thanks for helping us understand this. As we said, it's an unusual set of circumstances here but one that no family wants to find itself in.

NELSON: Absolutely not. Thank you for talking about this.

BERMAN: All right.

We are following a lot of news this morning. Let's get to it.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The National Anthem kneeling controversy is alive and well in the NFL.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president obviously does not agree with the tactics of some players that have been taking a knee.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see these NFL owners say get that son of a (bleep) off the field?

TRUMP: I call it the rigged witch hunt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rudy Giuliani is making a confusing argument that the Mueller investigation could help rally the president's base.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The tweet had more distortions and untruths crammed into it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no collusion and this thing just needs to go away so that we can get on with the nation's business.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: All right, good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, August 10th. Friday -- I'll say that one more time.

HILL: It's Friday.

BERMAN: It sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Alisyn is off; Erica Hill joins me this morning.

The NFL preseason, it has begun and the controversy has begun. Several players on several teams, they took a knee or raised their first during the National Anthem last night to protest racial injustice in law enforcement.

Now, in the past, the president has railed against these protests. Will he react this morning? So far, not.

HILL: And a federal judge threatening to hold the Attorney General of the United States in contempt.

That judge erupting after finding out two asylum seekers fighting deportation -- he was the case at the time -- were at that very moment already on a plane being sent back to El Salvador. He ordered that flight be turned back. Ordered these two seeking asylum be brought back to the United States.

So what is the next move here for the Trump administration?

BERMAN: All right.

Joining us now is Gen. Michael Hayden, CNN national security analyst and former director of both the CIA and NSA.

General, I'm going to try something here that has never been tried before -- to take you from the football stadium to the border, to Brussels, to outer space all in one segment. I think we're up --


BERMAN: -- to it here.

I want to start with what we saw overnight because you have commented on these protests. You're a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan.


BERMAN: This was the first round of major preseason games and players did choose to take a knee despite the criticism they received from the president.

What did you see?

HAYDEN: So, John, I'm as irritated as the next fan.