tv ABC World News Tonight With David Muir ABC September 15, 2021 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
tonight, several developing stories as we come on. the olympic gymnasts and their very difficult and painful testimony. what they say the fbi allowed to happen. and the major news tonight on the coronavirus and booster shots. tonight, the fda now releasing the numbers on pfizer. and news on moderna, too. first, that gut-wrenching testimony from some of america's top athletes. olympic gymnasts simone biles and aly raisman among the athletes testifying before congress, saying they were betrayed by fbi agents. they say they buried their sexual abuse allegations against former team doctor larry nassar, allowing for more than 100 additional victims. tonight, fbi director chris wray and you will hear his apology to the gymnasts.
rachel scott live on the hill. also tonight, the fda releasing pfizer's data on its booster shot trials. and tonight, pfizer now recommending a third shot for those 16 and older. about six months after receiving your second dose. tonight, you'll see what their data shows. how much does the vaccine wane over time? moderna releasing its findings on a booster shot, too. so how would this work, if you got pfizer, a full shot for a booster, if you got moderna, a half shot. dr. jha is here tonight answering your questions on the likely path forward. in the northeast at this hour, parts of pennsylvania, new york, up through new england and the severe thunderstorm watch. damaging winds possible. and of course the flash flood watches across four states and the south tonight, from louisiana to florida, with that storm now stalled. rob is tracking both systems. new reporting tonight after those bombshell claims in a new book about the final days of the trump administration, called
"peril." tonight, the chairman of the joint chiefs general mark milley defending his calls with china. and jon karl here reporting tonight that general milley might not have been the first to reach out to china. california's recall rejected. governor gavin newsom's major victory. tonight, the developing news involving north korea, launching two short-range ballistic missiles. how far did they go and how is u.s. is responding. and a short time ago, the history-making mission. spacex and the launch to sfas with only civilians onboard. and we'll take you to the launch site. good evening and it's great to have you with us here on a wednesday night. there is major news on those booster shots, those third shots. the fda releasing pfizer's findings. moderna releasing new results, too. and dr. jha is here in a moment. but we begin tonight with that searing testimony from four of the best-known gymnasts here in the u.s. they talked about the abuse they suffered at the hands of their
team doctor, larry nassar. their testimony today largely focused on the failure of the fbi to take their claims seriously. they say it went on for years and that it allowed more than 100 more gymnasts to fall victim to dr. nassar. today, simone biles, mckayla maroney, maggie nichols and aly raisman appearing before the senate judiciary committee. maggie nichols the first to report abuse more than six years ago. simone biles said of the fbi, quote, we have been failed. the painful testimony from mckayla maroney, describing dr. nassar's abuse. she says it began when she was just 13. and she describes in what happened in the phone call with the fbi agent. and aly raisman said she was told to keep her reports confidential and not to tell anyone. the current fbi director christopher wray apologizing to
the young women, saying, "i am deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you." tonight, their painful descriptions of what happened and we warn you, this is difficult. and they describe those calls with the fbi, the silence at the other end of the line. abc's congressional correspondent rachel scott leading us off from capitol hill. >> reporter: tonight, four of the greatest athletes in the history of american gymnastics demanding justice. telling congress they were betrayed by the fbi agents assigned to investigate their allegations of sexual abuse by team doctor larry nassar. >> i don't want another young gymnast, olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that i and hundreds of others have endured before, during and continuing to this day in the wake -- of the larry nassar abuse. to be clear -- sorry. >> take your time.
>> to be clear, i blame larry nassar and i also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse. >> reporter: gold medalist aly raisman accusing the fbi of lying and dragging its feet for more than a year. >> it took over 14 months for the fbi to contact me despite my many requests to be interviewed by them. nassar found more than 100 new victims to molest. it was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter. >> reporter: her teammate mckayla maroney describes telling fbi agents how nassar started abusing her when she was just 13. >> i then told the fbi about tokyo, the day he gave me a sleeping pill for the plane ride to then work on me later that night.
that evening, i was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me, molesting me for hours. i began crying at the memory over the phone and there was just dead silence. i was so shocked at the agent's silence and disregard for my trauma, after that minute of silence, he asked, "is that all?" those words in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process for me. >> reporter: maroney accusing the fbi of covering up her claims to protect nassar. >> i thought given the severity of this situation that they would act quickly for the sake of protecting other girls. but instead, it took them 14 months to report anything, when larry nassar, in my opinion, should have been in jail that day. >> reporter: nassar will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. one of the fbi agents on the case has retired. the other one recently fired. today, director christopher wray personally apologizing to the women. >> i'm deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of
you. i'm sorry that so many different people let you down over and over again. and i'm especially sorry that there were people at the fbi who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed. >> reporter: wray then making this pledge. >> i and my entire senior leadership team are going to make damn sure everybody at the fbi remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail. >> very moving and painful testimony and rachel, we heard that apology right there, but these brave women who testified today say they want more than just an apology. >> reporter: that's right, david. they want those fbi agents to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. said how the fbi has handled this investigation has severely impacted her recovery, that she still has ptsd. i talked to her just moments before she left the capitol today. she told me that she was exhausted and that her and her teammates deserve more than words, that they need action, david. >> courage on capitol hill today. rachel scott, thank you. now to the other major news this wednesday night, the
pandemic and some eagerly awaited results on the pfizer and moderna booster shots. the fda releasing pfizer's results from trials with their booster, their third shot. pfizer is now recommending that booster for people 16 years and older, about six months after the second shot. moderna releasing its findings on booster shots, making a very similar recommendation tonight. but pfizer would be a full shot, moderna, a half shot. and we asked dr. jha why. but first here, the findings and here's abc's whit johnson. >> reporter: tonight, the fda releasing data from pfizer's booster trials as the company makes the case that americans will need a third shot. pfizer recommending that extra dose for those 16 and older, about six months after receiving their second dose. >> big picture, boosting is important, boosting is necessary. >> reporter: pfizer also suggesting the reduction in vaccine protection is likely not due to the delta variant, but
instead vaccine effectiveness decreases with increasing time since being fully vaccinated. the data showing vaccine efficacy against symptomatic disease was 96% a week after the second dose, but then dropped to nearly 84% after four months. >> there's no medical downside, because the safety profiles of these vaccines are incredibly good. at the same time, we want to wait for the fda and then cdc to really learn the best timing and dosage that they recommend. >> reporter: an fda panel is expected to decide friday whether to recommend pfizer booster shots, followed by a review of moderna boosters a week or two later. and today, moderna pointing to new data showing people who received its vaccine will also need a third dose after six months. >> it's not the kind of thing that you want to miss by six months. you'd rather be a little too early than a little too late, because ultimately, lives are at stake. >> reporter: the company says protection from the first two moderna appears to be the strongest among the three vaccines. and unlike pfizer, moderna's booster shot will be a half dose, which the company says
provides more than enough protection. still, the debate heating up over whether booster shots are needed for everyone. >> yes, we should probably boost people who need it in that higher risk category, immune compromised people, the very old. but for younger people, do we really have the science and data to say what's safe for a third dose or not? >> reporter: but dr. anthony fauci arguing that boosters could help slow transmission and reduce the rise of breakthrough infections. >> and so let's bring in whit johnson back with us tonight. and whit, we know a cdc panel is set to meet. any final decision from the fda and the cdc won't come until after that. so, bottom line here tonight, what's the guidance on the timeline, where it stands right now? >> reporter: david, the final step in this process has to go through that cdc panel and they're not expected to meet until next wednesday, so boosters likely won't be available to the public until late next week at the earliest
and if they are approved, the white house says they're ready to roll out those shots at 80,000 locations across the country. david? >> all right, whit johnson tonight. whit, thank you so much. i know many of you at home have questions about the potential for boosters on the way. so, let's bring in dr. ashish jha, dean of the brown university school of public health. dr. jha, always great to have you with us. let's get right to what the fda released today, this pfizer data. they're now suggesting this extra dose, this booster shot, a third shot, for those 16 and older, about six months after receiving that second dose. and they said this isn't necessarily because of the delta variant, instead, they said, this is because of effectiveness decreases with increasing time. essentially waning over time, which is what you and i have talked about so often here on the news. moderna releasing very similar data. are you convinced by what you saw today? >> yeah, david, thanks for having me back. what i'm convinced on based on the data today and other data that's been out, is people who are vulnerable. people who have over 65, people with chronic diseases, they clearly need that booster shot after about six months. because they don't just have more breakthrough infections, but often more severe disease, as well. younger, healthier people, they do seem to have more breakthrough infections after a period of time, but they're
still really well protected against severe disease. so, i think that part is less clear to me. >> so, that part, you're going to wait for the fda to authorize or make their findings clearer, which could come by week's end or early next week. >> that's right. i think in the next few days we're going to have the fda expert panel weigh in, we'll see more data from israel and elsewhere and i think we'll have a more comprehensive picture of what to do with younger, healthy people. >> and real quick, doctor, i know people will see these headlines. pfizer is suggesting a full dose of the pfizer vaccine. if you got the moderna vaccine, they're saying the third shot would be a half dose. why the difference? >> yeah, so, moderna just has a higher dose overall.
their first two doses are a bit higher, so it makes sense they may just -- you just need less of it for moderna. pfizer, again, that's where we've seen some of the waning and a full dose under pfizer makes sense to me. >> bottom line, doctor, do you think boosters are part of the reality that's coming? >> yeah, you know, for a lot of vaccines, we end up needing shots with some frequency, maybe once a year. i do think this booster is going to be necessary for many and we might need some again in the future. >> all right, dr. jha, thank you. in the northeast at this hour, parts of pennsylvania, new york, up into new england and the severe thunderstorm watch. we're watching it. damaging winds possible and of course the flash flood watches across four states in the south tonight from louisiana to florida, because that system has simply stalled. so, let's get right to senior meteorologist rob marciano, tracking it all for us tonight. hey, rob. >> reporter: hi, david. summer-like heat fueling these severe storms. and in louisiana, nicholas has put the brakes on. look at where the center of the low is now. it's pretty much where it was last night. flood watches remain up through new orleans, gulfport, mobile, all the way to panama city througd aca r wainas well. several of them across the i-10 corridor. in the northeast, we're looking pat this thunderstorm watch tha extends from pennsylvania through upstate new york. we've had dozens of reports of
trees and power lines down. damaging winds will be part of these storms until around midnight. david? >> a rough night ahead. rob marciano. thank you, rob. there's also new reporting tonight after those claims in a new book about the final days of the trump administration. the book called "peril." tonight, the chairman of the joint chiefs general mark milley now defending his calls with china. president biden saying he has complete confidence in him. and tonight, jonathan karl reporting general milley might not have been the first to reach out to the chinese. >> reporter: president biden today expressed great confidence in america's top general, joint chiefs chairman mark milley. >> i have great confidence in general milley. >> reporter: but milley is facing severe criticism, even calls for his resignation over revelations in a new book that he sought to undermine former president donald trump's authority, even reaching out to china amid their concerns about trump's incendiary rhetoric about covid, to say he would tell them if the united states were to launch a military strike.
because he was fearful trump could do something catastrophic during the final days of his presidency. today, a spokesperson for general milley confirmed some of the major events described in the book by bob woodward and robert costa. "his calls with the chinese and others in october and january," milley's spokesperson said, "were in keeping with his duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability." but there is more to the story. abc news has learned that it wasn't just milley who reached out to china, in fact, a former senior pentagon official tells abc the first contact came from trump's former defense secretary mark esper, who conveyed a message to the chinese defense minister one week earlier than milley, saying the united states had no intention to attack. it is donald trump who chose milley to be the joint chiefs chairman but now he is saying milley should be tried for treason. >> if it is actually true, which is hard to believe, that he would have called china and done
these things and was willing to advise them of an attack or in advance of an attack, that's treason. >> reporter: milley is scheduled to go before congress later this month in what is sure to be a fiery hearing with tough questions about afghanistan and now about whether he undermined civilian control of the military and, david, whether or not he should resign. >> jon karl back with us again tonight. thank you, jon. now to that new provocation from north korea, its first ballistic missile test in six months, releasing new images tonight of what they say are two short-range ballistic missiles, traveling some 500 miles, falling into the sea west of japan. just hours before, south korea tested its first submarine-launched ballistic missile. the u.s. tonight calling it a violation of multiple u.n. security council resolutions. when we come back here on the broadcast tonight, new developments in that nationwide search for a missing woman, a long island native. and now a person of interest. ♪ ♪
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finally tonight, that history made moments ago. the all-civilian trip to space. here's gio benitez. >> reporter: tonight, history made. the first all-civilian flight to orbit the earth has blasted off. four private citizens heading to space for three days without any professional astronaut onboard. >> there they are, our first all-civilian crew. >> reporter: training for months.
they're soaring 360 miles away from earth, farther than richard branson and jeff bezos went and farther than the international space station. 38-year-old billionaire entrepreneur jared isaacman bought the seats on a spacex rocket and then gave them away as a fund-raiser for st. jude children's hospital. one of the crew members, 29-year-old hayley arceneaux, is a physician's assistant at st. jude. she was a patient there as a child. she'll be the youngest american ever to go to space and the first pediatric cancer survivor. >> all the fun is going to go to these kids, these kids that i get to work with who inspire me every day. >> reporter: and now david, with millions having watched this launch, the crew hopes to raise $200 million for st. jude. david? >> all right, gio. incredible images, an incredible feat tonight. i'm david muir. i'