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THE SITUATION ROOM
Top U.S. General: Appearing in Trump Photo Op was a "Mistake"; Trump to Hold Tulsa Rally on Day Making Slave Emancipation in the City where Racist Violence Led to 1921 Massacre; Trump: WH Working on Executive Order on Policing Standards for the Use of Force Including Tactics for De-escalation; U.S. Surpasses 2 Million Coronavirus Cases, 113,000 Plus Deaths; Key Model Now Projects 170,000 Virus Deaths In U.S. By October; Doctor: I Fought Two Plagues And Only Beat One. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 11, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is most often portrayed to viewers as not only necessary, but also effective, Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Tom Foreman, thanks. And thank you for watching. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room.
President Trump right now is in Dallas as the country's top general is apologizing for his role in the President's very controversial photo op last week following the violent dispersal of peaceful protesters. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley now says it was a mistake for him to appear with Mr. Trump under the circumstances.
Meanwhile, the President is again threatening military action against protesters. This time in Seattle. Reclaims anarchies have taken over, prompting the city's mayor to tweet and I'm quoting now "Go back to your bunker."
And there's breaking news in the coronavirus pandemic, as the U.S. death till now surpasses 113,000 people. Now the influential model often cited by the White House is forecasting almost 170,000 deaths by October.
Revenue projections and the rising number of cases since stocks plunging today, the Dow lost more than 1800 points, nearly 7 percent.
First, let's go straight to our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.
Jim, the President is in Dallas to discuss race and policing. But we just found out some rather surprising information about who wasn't invited to the event.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, that's right, Wolf. And before we get to that we should point out right now we have some live video of protests in Dallas as the President is addressing this issue of the protests and racial disparities across the U.S. right now. Those protests can be seen as we speak.
And in the meantime, we are learning the Dallas police chief local sheriff and district attorney, we can show you their photos, they were not invited to the President's event this afternoon. All three of those officials are African American. The event, we should note, was supposed to give the President the chance to address the protests that have erupted across the U.S. after the death of George Floyd. But the President is still stoking tensions, bragging about his administration's violent tactics and clearing out protesters for that now infamous photo op at the church in Lafayette Park.
Even on the same day that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is apologizing for his role and that's done.
ACOSTA (voice-over): This is a no apology tour for President Trump who's still standing by his administration's response to the protest following the police killing of George Floyd.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to have to have law and order.
ACOSTA: Contrast that with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, who's expressing regret for his part in the President's tour of Lafayette Square where protesters were gassed and pummeled for Mr. Trump's photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church. Milley who was dressed in combat, fatigues that day, told graduates from National Defense University he crossed the line.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I should not have been there. My presence in that moment, and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I've learned from. And I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.
ACOSTA: Don't tell the President who's boasting it was a big success tweeting, "Our great National Guard troops who took care of the area around the White House could hardly believe how easy it was, a walk in the park, one said. The protesters, agitators, anarchists, Antifa and others were handled very easily. Milley doesn't sound like he's on the same page.
MILLEY: The freedoms guaranteed to us in the Constitution, allow people to demand change, just as the peaceful protesters are doing all across the country. That is why we serve in the military.
ACOSTA: But the President is warning of more harsh tactics for protesters in Seattle. Tweeting, "Radical left Governor Jay Inslee and the mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played. Take back your city now. If you don't do it, I will. This is not a game. He's ugly anarchists must be stooped immediately." Inslee noted the President's type of firing back, "A man who was totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington State's business. Stoop tweeting.
And the mayor tweeted to Mr. Trump, "Go back to your bunker."
The President risks' further and flaming tensions with his plans to hold a rally next week in Oklahoma set for Tulsa, the scene of one of the worst massacres of African Americans in U.S. history. The date of the rally June 19, also known as Juneteenth. The day slaves in Texas were read the Emancipation Proclamation after the Civil War. The White House as Mr. Trump is well aware of that.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The African American community is very near and dear to his heart. He's working on rectifying injustices, injustices that go back to the very beginning of this country's history. So it's a meaningful day to him.
ACOSTA: But the President is not budging on whether to rename U.S. military base. Honoring defeated Confederate generals even as some top Republicans sound open to the idea.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA: It could be appropriate to change some.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He decided that he was going to pit us against one another based on race.
ACOSTA: Former Vice President Joe Biden, who's blasting the President's handling of race relations says he has an even bigger worry about Mr. Trump.
BIDEN: It's my greatest concern. My single greatest concern. This President is going to try to steal this election. This is the guy who said that all mail in ballots are fraudulent. Direct voting by mail while he sits behind the desk in Oval Office and writes his mail in ballot to vote in the primary.
ACOSTA: Now worries about the coronavirus are clobbering the financial markets as the Dow plummeted. Take a look at this. More than 1,800 points the stock market way down today because of fears of the coronavirus.
And members of the coronavirus task force over the White House are looking into just how much the virus was spreading during the recent protests. I talk to a source close to the task force a few moments ago who said that this concern did come up at today's meeting.
The President's upcoming trip to Tulsa, meanwhile, is raising similar fears about spreading the coronavirus. The administration health officials said the President's rally will pose a risk for Trump supporters at the event. When asked if those supporters, do you have the chance of catching COVID-19 at the rally, this official said, you know the answer to that. Yes. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House. Thank you very much.
Let's get some more of the Joint Chiefs Chairman's public apology. Our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is joining us.
Barbara, so how significant is it for the Joint Chiefs Chairman to break publicly with the President in an apology like this?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well look, Wolf, Milley fashioned this statement very carefully. He made it a very narrowly focused statement that he should not have been there in that walk across the park. Of course, he did not appear in the actual photo op once they all got to St. John's Episcopal Church. Defense Secretary Esper did.
And even Esper has said, he somewhat -- he regrets actually being there. He didn't want to be involved in politics. So he's making the fine point that he should not have been there, because it can be perceived as him as a military officer being in a political environment, but Milley full well knows. This statement he made today is viral across the world.
As the United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, his words carry significant weight. And right now, the entire Joint Chiefs, the heads of all the military services are all issuing statements, social media videos, statements to the troops about racial equality and the lack of tolerance in the military, for any kind of racism. They too know that their statements are seeing around the world.
Right now you have a U.S. military, the most senior commanders really speaking out, moving ahead on the question of racial equality, even if the White House is not. Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, disturbing developments indeed. All right, Barbara Starr, thank you very, very much.
Let's get some more in all of this. The former Defense Secretary, former Republican Senator William Cohen is joining us.
Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. As you know in the aftermath of that crackdown on protesters over at Lafayette Square outside the White House, you said President Trump was acting and I'm quoting you now, "Like a dictator in chief." So what's your reaction to what we heard today from General Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs?
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Actually, I was very pleased to hear General Milley. I applaud him for what he said. I think it takes a man of great character and strength to admit having made a mistake and to apologize for it. And I was delighted to see that he was out there and talking to the world basically that he made a mistake. So I see that as a sign of strength. I suspect the President will not, but I support General Milley and everything he said.
BLITZER: We know others have resigned in the Trump administrate. Do you think General Milley or Secretary -- Defense Secretary Esper, for that matter, should resign?
COHEN: It's always up to the individuals involved. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Secretary of Defense all in the chain of command, every federal employee can be hired and fired by the President United States.
Basically, they serve at the pleasure of the President. If he gives them an illegal order, obviously, they have an obligation not to follow it. If it's legal, at least in appearance or culpably illegal. But if it strikes at the heart of their moral conscience, they have an obligation to say, Mr. President, I can't continue to serve you and then resign.
So it's up to them, whether they want to continue to serve. And certainly it is up to the President whether he wants them on his "team." But when I think General -- Chairman Milley was saying is, we are a military that serves the American people. We are here to carry out, to serve and protect. We are not here to be your political prop.
BLITZER: The President is going to hold his first rally since the pandemic, it's going to be in Tulsa, the sight of that 1921 massacre of African Americans on the holiday marking the end of slavery. So, what message is the President sending do you believe?
COHEN: One would hope it would be a positive message. I suspect that those who are planning this particular rally had something more nefarious in mind, to really put the knife in and then twist it on a day like that that is sacred to black Americans to help the President then say he's going to give a speech, hopefully one of reconciliation. I've never seen the President express that in the past. I've seen what he has said about not allowing any renaming of the bases that were named after, not victories, but defeated generals.
And for him to have ignored John McCain when he said that John McCain was no hero because he had shot down, got captured. And then to allow these generals who were losers, who were traitors, who lost in their campaign to maintain slavery. It seems to me that he could be least willing and open as the Pentagon is and members of Congress to say let's rethink this.
We renamed Andrews Air Force Base to Joint Andrew's Base, Joint Base Andrews. We renamed Fort Myer to a joint base, Joint Base Myer- Henderson. We can rename these other bases without insulting anyone.
In fact, most black soldiers who served and trained at those bases felt an enormous amount of, I guess, regret that they had to serve on at a place that was named after those who fought to put them in slavery, to keep them in slavery.
So I think that the President has indicated he is a nationalist. But I think that nationalism is confined to a specific group of people as white people.
And I think it's up to white people. I think it's up to white people to speak out and not allow this become a black issue. This is white people who have held the power for these 400 years. We need to speak out and say it's time for a change, that we live up to what the inscription over the over the Supreme Court says.
We believe in equality under the law, equality under the law. And that's something that they have not had. And so I think it's time for people to join and to speak up and speak out and to demonstrate that we want changes in terms of applying equal law to all people.
BLITZER: I want to play for you, Mr. Secretary, a clip. And we just heard from the President, he's in Dallas speaking on policing reform, so listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And we're working to finalize an executive order that will encourage police departments nationwide to meet the most current professional standards for the use of force, including tactics for de- escalation. Also we'll encourage pilot programs that allow social workers to join certain law enforcement officers so that they work together.
We'll take care of our police. We'll take -- without defunding police. If anything, we're going the other route, we're going to make sure that our police are well trained, perfectly trained to have the best equipment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: To get your reaction. Mr. Secretary, what do you think?
COHEN: There's a positive statement under that. He made that statement.
And I think there's some confusion over the use of defunding or the police. We need the police we need the police to act under the law and to be lawful themselves and the exercise of their duties.
So I would like to see a discussion about reforming the police to make sure that they serve the people and not simply abuse their power. And if they do abuse their power, they're held accountable by having a review of all that took place, have cams in operation both in cars and on person to make sure there's a review board that looks at everything that they've done when they take the life of anyone white or black, but especially black people. And then to impose -- to put more people on the ground, to invest them in the community, to have them live in the neighborhood, so to speak, or certainly in the district, and to establish friendship with the people that they are supposed to be protecting and not simply patrolling. So I think it was a positive statement. I think that we should have this conversation about reforming the police in our country, because we've seen how some have abused that power. And then you abused that power in a way that's deadly to black Americans.
BLITZER: The former Defense Secretary William Cohen, thanks as usual for joining us.
BLITZER: Up next, as a growing concern about a second wave of infections as the number of Coronavirus cases here in the United States climbs. And tens of thousands more deaths are projected in the coming weeks and months.
BLITZER: All right, there's breaking news, just in from Dallas, where the President has just confirmed that the White House is working on an executive order on policing standards for the use of force. Let's discuss with our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and our CNN Political Commentator, Bakari Sellers. He has a brand new book that's out there. You see the book cover, "My Vanishing County: Memoir."
Bakari, thanks so much for writing this book.
The President just warranted his remarks in Dallas against what he called falsely labeling 10s of millions of decent Americans as racist or bigot. So listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have to work together to confront bigotry and prejudice wherever they appear. But we'll make no progress and heal no wounds by falsely labeling tens of millions of decent Americans as racists or bigots. We have to get everybody together. We have to be in the same, same path.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What's your reaction Bakari?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I'm kind of sick and tired of explaining to people what racism is. I was like reading an article in "The New York Times" where Kamala Harris echoed many of the same thoughts. It's apparent that Donald Trump is missing the point.
And this is what happens when you have a lily white kitchen cabinet as we call it in politics, the people around you like diversity. Because no one is labeling individual officers racist, no one is saying that individual officers are inherently bigots. That's not what we're saying at all.
What we are saying, though, is that the system of law enforcement in the country, the system of law enforcement, the way that it interacts with people of color, the way that it treats people of color, the fact that black people are two times more likely to experience use of force, that system is inherently racist, and we have to deconstruct that system.
And so that would be my message to Donald Trump and everyone throughout this time. Because what Donald Trump is illustrating is not a Democrat or Republican fault. It's a fault of having an extremely large blind spot, one that you can only fix with understanding and listening something we know Donald Trump does not do extremely well.
I look forward to his remedies, but I would advise Donald Trump that I actually have faith in Tim Scott. And I know that my Twitter is going to blow up because I'm giving big ups to a Republican, but I actually have faith in Tim Scott during this moment to lead and I hope that Donald Trump follows his lead.
BLITZER: Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina.
You know, Gloria, I want you to listen to this clip, we just heard this from the President as well in Dallas, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Care of people that in many cases they never even met before. And at great danger, great risk, they get shot for no reason whatsoever or they're wearing blue. They get knifed. You saw that the other night, it was a horrible thing.
Allowed to do their job. They'll do a great job and you always have a bad apple no matter where you go. You have bad apples, and they're not too many of them. And I can tell you that not too many of them in the police department, but we all know a lot of members of the police.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's basically echoing what so many of his top advisors, members of the Cabinet and White House officials have said there's no systemic racism among the police.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The President has decided what his point of view is, and I think it's something that hasn't changed in decades. And he's adopted the 1960s Nixonian law and order, and he's not going to get off of it, Wolf.
So there are a few bad apples. And the people in blue, as he said, are getting targeted and getting knifed. And this is where it is. If at the same time, however, he is going to come out with serious reform. How do you balance that, Wolf?
If you are willing to say that serious reform is needed throughout the country, how do you then manage saying that and balance that with what he just said a few minutes ago, which is that this really isn't about needed reform, it is about a few bad apples. Either it is or it isn't.
And I think he's being tugged by people like Senator Scott. I think he's being tugged by people inside his administration, who want him to get reelected. I think he's being tugged even by other Republicans in Congress who believe that that something needs to be done.
And so he's kind of caught because his instinct, of course, is to say, dominate, give no ground. You know, the police are all great. It's a few bad apples, and let's stop accusing people of racism. So, he may be forced into doing something he doesn't really want to do.
BLITZER: Now let me get Bakari's reaction. Go ahead Bakari.
SELLERS: Yes, I actually agree with Gloria over there. I mean, I think that the President channels a view, which was successful in 2016, one that goes back to the era of, you know, of 1968, of 1970. He's a law and order president.
And this is the problem with that. If you do not understand that systemic changes are necessary. The reforms you put forth are not going to carry much weight.
I go back to Senator Scott, because Scott actually was stopped by Capitol Police. So when you think about all the things in your -- in this country you can't do while black. We joke and say that you can't barbecue while black, you can't go burn watching while black.
Well, you can't be a United States senator -- he stopped either. So follow somebody within your own orbit. And that's all I'm saying. This is why diversity in the workplace is so important, Wolf, and we're seeing it at the top.
If he had more diverse voices around him, he would understand and be able to have some level of empathy for the plight of people of color in this country who are harkening out for this system to change. Without that we're just going to have empty rhetoric, which is really good.
BLITZER: Bakari Sellers and Gloria Borger --
BORGER: And Wolf --
BLITZER: -- thank you very much.
Gloria, very quickly.
BORGER: Well, I was just going to add, if the president really were into racial healing at a perfect opportunity, when NASCAR said, we're going to ban these Confederate flags. The President could have come out and said that's a great move NASCAR, but he's too afraid to do it. He's afraid it's going to lose him some votes.
BLITZER: All right, Gloria and Bakari, guys, thank you very, very much. Coming up, another very alarming prediction about a new wave of coronavirus infections and deaths here in the United States.
Also, President Trump is in one of the states that setting records for virus hospitalizations. Right now we're talking about Texas.
BLITZER: The breaking news, we're following the coronavirus death count here in the United States now surpasses 113,000 with more than 2 million confirmed cases over the past three months alone. More states are reporting spikes in new infections as well as hospitalizations.
Let's get the very latest from CNN's Nick Watt, he's joining us. What are you seeing, Nick?
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've been fighting this virus for more than three months now. And we're beginning to set records again, bad records. 894 new cases in Alabama today. That is a new record high for this entire pandemic. The mayor of Montgomery blames it on reopening too soon, what he calls COVID fatigue and also people taking tips from the top. If the President's not wearing a mask, why should I?
DR. LINDA BELL, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: I am more concerned about COVID-19 in South Carolina than I have ever been before.
WATT (voice-over): She's not alone in South Carolina where the average daily case count just doubled inside of a week, is also not alone. In Texas, 2,100 were hospitalized yesterday. The highest number since this pandemic began.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are seeing the appearance of additional infections, particularly in the areas that are opening. If we handle them well, we could be OK. If not, then we really have a significant problem.
WATT (voice-over): In Maricopa County, Arizona, a quarter of all of their COVID cases have come in just this past week.
MAYOR KATE GALLEGO (D), PHOENIX: We have hit so many of the records you don't want to be hitting for COVID-19. From my perspective, we opened too much too early and so our hospitals are really struggling.
WATT (voice-over): Those well-known University of Washington modelers now say the daily death toll across the country will drop in June and July stabilize in August, then rise sharply. By October 1, they now project that nearly 170,000 Americans will be dead, killed by COVID. Others are even more pessimistic. DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: In September, we are going to cross the 200,000 mark, and we won't be done, right? We'll have many, many more months to go. It's really stunning to me that we have this much suffering and death and we're just not doing enough about it.
WATT (voice-over): Nashville, Tennessee just delayed phase 3 reopening because new case counts are climbing. Nationwide, many big events from Coachella to the Iowa State Fair, just won't happen this year. But what can we do as individuals?
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMIN, CENTER FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: If you get the majority of people wearing masks, the virus really has no place to go.
WATT (voice-over): Take this hair salon in Missouri, two sick stylists potentially exposed 140 people to the virus but none of them has since tested positive. Officials think that might be because everyone wore masks.
SLAVITT: If President Trump did one thing, if he wore a mask, and encouraged his supporters to wear masks for three weeks straight, he would be -- we would be sitting here four weeks from now, five weeks from now, six weeks from now with much of this virus behind us.
WATT: Now, as Jim reported earlier, U.S. stock saw their worst day today in more than three months, since March 16, which was, by the way, the first day that the first Americans were told to stay home. But Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said we can't close the economy again. But he says, over the next month, the government is going to pump in $1 trillion in an effort to keep things afloat. Wolf?
BLITZER: The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 1,800 points today, very significant collapse.
BLITZER: All right. Nick Watt, reporting for us, thank you.
Joining us now here in "The Situation Room" Dr. Richard Besser, he's a Former Acting Director of the CDC. Dr. Besser, how concerning are these latest numbers and these latest projections?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Well, you know, Wolf, when it comes to the projections, they don't have a crystal ball. And so what we do as a nation, whether we take seriously the recommendation in terms of wearing masks and washing hands -- that will have a big impact on what those numbers end up being. I am concerned about the rises around the country, especially in some of the states that seem to be taking the public health measures less seriously. There are states where the numbers are going down, and that's a good thing. But these rises in states that were some of the first to get people back to work without all the public health measures in place, that's very concerning.
BLITZER: And as you know, it could be very hard to pause or reverse these state by state reopenings that are going on right now. Do public health officials need to rethink their messaging to Americans who may be letting down their guard? As you know, a lot of people out there seem to think it's over, but it's, by no means, over.
BESSER: Well, I think messaging is a critical part of it. And it's for public health officials as well as politicians. Because what I've been hearing so much of is that states move from a phase 1 to a 2 to a 3. And with phase, it's more and more opening. What people have to understand and has to be measured is that some of these things are dialed down. And if cases occur, they're dialed up.
And one of the critical things, Wolf, that we've talked about before is that this pandemic has been hitting black Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans so hard. If we're not paying close attention in gathering data and focusing on those communities that have gotten hit the hardest, they're going to continue to get hit harder than anywhere else as people are going back to work.
BLITZER: The head of the University of Washington modelers says we could see much more rapid increases in cases once we lose the protective effect of seasonality. How should the country be preparing? Let's look ahead to the fall and winter, will there be a huge spike assuming there's no significant treatment available and assuming there's no vaccine?
BESSER: Yes, I think if we're not careful, if we're not paying close attention collecting data, understanding where cases are occurring -- where new cases are and then jumping on those with case tracking and isolation, we will see big increases. And, you know, it does seem like we are seeing some benefits from the hot weather, the humidity, and that will go away. It will come at a time when we're also seeing influenza flu season. That makes it much, much harder to do the control measures. So we have to get used to opening up and slowly closing down, opening up and closing down based on what's happening locally.
BLITZER: Dr. Richard Besser, as usual, thank you very, very much.
BESSER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Still ahead, we'll have more in President Trump's visit to Dallas for a roundtable on law enforcement, a roundtable notable for who wasn't invited.
BLITZER: In "The New York Times" op-ed, the head of New York's Montefiore Hospital writes about fighting two plagues, the coronavirus and racism. Dr. Philip Ozuah says he only beat one, we've only beat one. But here's his hope, he's joining us right now, he says he does have hope.
Dr. Ozuah, thank you so much for joining us. You've been fighting coronavirus in the epicenter of the pandemic, at the same time, you write about dealing with a cumulative burden of racism, in your words, day after day, week after week, month after month, decade after decade. On a personal level, Doctor, what is all this felt like this moment felt like to you?
DR. PHILIP OZUAH, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE, MONTEFIORE MEDICINE: Thank you, Wolf, I've been watching and I've been listening. I've been watching nation gripped by these two crisis and both exploding at the same time. One, another virus which threatened us as individuals and the other, an endemic virus which threatens our society. And so, I wrote the op-ed as a call to action.
As the head of a major health system, Montefiore Einstein in the hardest hit borough, in the hardest hit city, in the hardest hit nation by the pandemic. And as a black man who's had his own experiences with racism, I thought I was in a unique position to offer my insights. And, frankly, I felt a duty to do so.
BLITZER: Well thank you for doing this, Doctor. You say Americans have changed their behavior, in your words, profound and fundamental ways to fight coronavirus. How can Americans try to do the same thing to confront racism?
OZUAH: Well, coronavirus learned (ph) hard and fast, and ravaged our cities and filled our hospitals and loudly declared itself as an emergency and therefore forced us to change our behavior. In racism, on the other hand, is a more slow-burning, simmering and endemic virus.
And so it's going to be much harder to change behaviors in that regard, and I recognize that. But I would propose three ways of thinking about it. One is to think of racism as a virus and study it as we have with coronavirus, understand its causes, understand its manifestations from asymptomatic to severe, understand who's at most risks, and then think about how we address it.
Two, I would think of it as an idea and not as inherent attitudes and attributes that people have. I think ideas are easier to change. And so think of it as people have an idea about something, that banks have had ideas about who gets subprime loans versus others. And so ideas can be thought of and we can grow and change from ideas. And the third behavior I would say is whenever we encounter an ambiguous bias, we should call it out.
BLITZER: Dr. Philip Ozuah, thank you so much for what you're doing. Thanks so much for joining us.
OZUAH: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Please stay safe over there.
OZUAH: Coming up, the White House tries to explain President Trump's controversial decision to hold his first post lockdown rally on a day filled with very deep meaning for African Americans. And we're following the protests that are unfolding right now in Seattle, Washington, where President Trump has threatened to call in the U.S. military.
BLITZER: President Trump's first post lockdown rally is still more than a week away but it's already sparking controversy and concern. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, the President chose a location and a day with very deep racial symbolism.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did, Wolf. An African American residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma are getting very anxious over the President's rally. The black community there has a very painful history and two recent incidents in Tulsa involving police have only added to the concern.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
TODD (voice-over): At a rally of black activists in Tulsa, Oklahoma, noticeable tension over President Trump's upcoming visit to the city, where next week he'll stage his first political rally in months. Protesters are anxious about the date Trump chose for the rally, June 19th, known as Juneteenth. The day which marks the end of slavery in the U.S.
LAUREN BETHLY, TULSA RESIDENT: Just knowing the comments that he makes and how he speaks to people, I just don't see it being very positive, especially not by our community.
TODD (voice-over): But Senator Kamala Harris, a leading contender to be Joe Biden's running mate is decidedly more blunt, tweeting, "This isn't just a wink to white supremacists, he's throwing them a welcome home party". The White House staunchly defending the President's choice of Tulsa. And that date, his Press Secretary saying African Americans are, quote, very near and dear to his heart. And he wants to highlight what he's done for them.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a meaningful day to him. And it's a day where he wants to share some of the progress that's been made as we look forward and more that needs to be done.
TODD (voice-over): But tonight, Tulsa is also reeling from the kinds of racial tensions that the President has been known to stoke. A city police major being blistered by the mayor and black leaders for his comment on a radio show this week about the rates of police shooting African Americans in Tulsa.
MAJOR TRAVIS YATES, CITY POLICE, TULSA: We're shooting African Americans about 24 percent less than we probably ought to be based on the crimes being committed.
TODD (voice-over): The major then refused to apologize. Speaking to CNN, Travis Yates said that he meant that systemic racism and policing doesn't exist, but he said he recognized racism does exist and calls it our, quote, sin nature. He also said that he stands by his comments and added he was just quoting research.
And last week, Tulsa police were criticized when they arrested a black teenager and handcuffed another for jaywalking on a street that had no sidewalks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you putting handcuffs on --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, all you --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he have anything on him, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All he was doing was jaywalking which I'm talking with him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he have anything on that, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The he have to act to fool (ph) like that.
TODD (voice-over): It all comes against the backdrop of a horrible moment in history that Tulsa has never recovered from. In 1921, a white mob massacred hundreds of black residents of Tulsa, torched several businesses and homes in a successful African American community. The terrifying attack depicted in the HBO series "Watchmen"
One local African American leader believes Trump's rally will stunt Tulsa's progress in recovering from the 1921 massacre and the recent tensions.
PLEAS THOMPSON, PRESIDENT, NAACP TULSA CHAPTER: I'm sure the President is going to say something that's got to be divisive. This is just a cold water on all the things we were trying to do, all the things we were trying to do, and put a halt to the momentum that's going.
TODD: President Trump's campaign manager has defended the Juneteenth rally in Tulsa, tweeting that, quote, as the party of Lincoln Republicans are proud of what Juneteenth represents and the Emancipation Proclamation.
But given the fallout over President Trump's handling of the George Floyd killing, and those two racially divisive recent incidents with police in Tulsa, there is still a lot of angst in that city over the President's rally next week. Wolf?
BLITZER: Sure, there is. All right, Brian Todd reporting, thank you.
Coming up, President Trump talks about race and policing in Dallas, but three of the area's top African American law enforcement officials were not invited.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room".