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Trump and Top Officials Seen Without Masks at Rose Garden Event; United Airlines Requiring Masks for Passengers; Musician Leads "We Are" Protest March; NBA Players Divided on Restarting Season. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 16, 2020 - 15:30   ET



ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: - so he -- you know, maybe he has a little more leeway because he knows that they have a negative test. That is not the case in the rest of the world when you go to the supermarket, you don't who has COVID and who doesn't, nobody tested those people before they walked into the supermarket. So, in that way he's really even more giving the wrong message.

The bottom line is people should practice social distancing and they should wear masks. We all have a choice. We can listen to Donald Trump, who is called one of the most anti-science presidents ever, if ever in the history of our country or we could listen to people like Dr. Fauci and every infectious disease expert. We get to choose.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Who, by the way, we had just learned today in an interview Dr. Fauci hasn't spoken with the President in two weeks. But I appreciate the reminder, we are still very much in the midst of a pandemic and we should be wearing our masks as per the CDC. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

Now Democrats on Capitol Hill are taking a much different approach. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is telling her caucus that she is looking at requiring masks on the House floor, invoking the same rules used for dress codes. And several airlines are putting their own mask rules in place. Starting Thursday United Airlines will temporarily ban passengers who refuse to wear a mask in flight.

So, with me now, the Chief Communications Officer for United Airlines, Josh Earnest, who of course we all know from his post at the White House under President Obama as the press secretary. So, Josh Earnest, good to see you again. And I mean this is a huge step that United is taking. Tell me why they're doing it.

JOSH EARNEST, CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER FOR UNITED AIRLINES: Well, look, Brooke, we're listening to the same medical experts that just about everybody is. And we know how important it is to wear a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus particularly in situations like on an aircraft where you realistically can't socially distance.

So there are a whole bunch of things that we're doing to ensure that the air on board the aircraft is clean, that the surfaces on board the aircraft are clean, but we also want to make clear to our customers that they need to wear masks too to prevent the spread of the virus.

This policy has been in place for six or seven weeks, Brooke, and I'm pleased to report to you that the overwhelming majority of our customers recognize how important it is to wear a mask and they comply with our requirement that they do wear a mask on board the aircraft. But we made clear that frankly we're not messing around.


EARNEST: And if there are a small number of people who choose not to wear a mask, we're making clear to them that they shouldn't come on our planes and if they do they won't be allowed back until after our policy about wearing a mask -- until we can suspend it. But right now, we know how important it is.

BALDWIN: Well, you know, for whatever reason the issue of wearing masks, Josh, in this country, has become this cultural flash point. So, my question to you is, you know, a passenger gets on a United plane and just refuses, flat out refused to wear one, what do you do?

EARNEST: You know, what we'll do is we're going to have our flight attendants prepared to offer people masks if they need them. I guess the first thing, Brooke, I should clarify is, people have to be wearing a mask in order to board the plane.

And when people check in for their flight they actually have to affirmative opt in and agree to wear a mask on the plane. So, there are no surprises here. But once people get on board the plane and if they take their mask off, our flight attendants are instructed now to walk up to them and remind them of the policy and offer them a mask if for some reason the one that they had when they boarded they are not able to use it any more.

If they require a second reminder, we have our flight attendants on Thursday will have a card that will remind them of our policy and tell them that they are subject to not being able to flight on United Airlines in the future if they longer comply.

We're not going to hash this out on board but we do have a process in place that once the flight is completed, if we have a sound report that somebody has not followed the requirement to wear a mask, they will not be allowed to fly United until we no longer have this policy in place, until, you know, basically we have been able to defeat the coronavirus.

BALDWIN: And just lastly, I'd be remiss not to ask, you know, just talking to Elizabeth about the scene at the Rose Garden today. You know a thing or two about messaging and the White House. I mean you tell me when you see the President and folks surrounding him not social distancing, not wearing masks, what signal does this send to Americans?

EARNEST: Well, one of the things that I certainly learned from my tenure in the White House, Brooke, is that everything the President does sends an important signal. And it's not just the country, it's the world is watching the person that has that position. And it's why it is so important to be mindful of the signals that you're sending. It's why it's so important to not just talk the talk but walk the walk. And no president is ever going to be perfect on that score. But it is really important to lead by example.

BALDWIN: Josh Earnest, good to see you, thank you very much.

EARNEST: Thank you, Brooke. Nice to see you too.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

The protests for racial justice, of course, continuing today even as officials unveil new measures for reforming police departments. Coming up next, musician Jon Batiste joins me on how he's using his voice and his music to help the cause.



BALDWIN: Protests continuing around the country today, 22 days after the death of George Floyd. And one of the people leading the charge is a face and a voice you most certainly recognize. Utilizing his music to make a difference during these tough times.



JON BATISTE, MUSICIAN: Feel good today. Oh, so good today. I feel good, I feel free, I feel fine as being me. I feel good today.


BALDWIN: That is Jon Batiste playing to a massive crowd in New York. He is a brilliant musician and the band leader for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Jon Batiste is with me now. Jon, so nice to have you on. Can't help but move a little bit when you hear your music. Welcome.

BATISTE: Great to be here. You know, I'm glad that music is a gift that we have in the world in all times, good and bad.

BALDWIN: While you know a bit about music. Grammy nominated, Juilliard educated, there you are on the late show every night. You know some folks. But you also have been out on the street, you know, leading a protest with neighbors and friends and people you don't know with a piano and some 5,000 New Yorkers. Why do this, Jon? Why do this?

BATISTE: Well, I'm looking at the country and my heart hurts for our people and our lineage and I think there's a statistic that hit me so hard when I was doing research as to how to lend my voice to this moment. 100 million people did not vote in the last presidential election. 40 percent of people who could vote, more than 40 percent, who were eligible, didn't put their voice into the mix. And that speaks to something that is indicative of this moment we're facing. It's a generational trauma. It's a general apathy of not feeling seen

and heard. And when you bring music into the mix, that's one way of bringing people together and I feel I've been a community organizer for many years doing social music around the world, bringing people together and now I'm pointing it at a cause. Using it as an apparatus to get people to register, to vote and to know that they matter, and their voice counts in this country.

BALDWIN: Well it sounds like activism is in your blood. You know, you talk about how lineage is everything. Your grandfather was an activist, whose voice we hear in your new single "We Are." Here is a clip.


SINGERS: We are, we are, we are, we are the golden ones. We have, we are, we are, we are the chosen ones, we are, we are ---


BALDWIN: So, we hear your grandfather, we hear your two nephews, we hear your high school marching band from New Orleans. Just talk to me about "We Are" and how your roots inform both your activism and your music.

BATISTE: Well, our ancestors used music to speak and communicate unspoken joys and unspoken pain and everything in between. It was the part of their life that they could use to translate messages. It was a part that was a soundtrack to movements even going back to the civil rights movement when my grandfather was an activist and he fought for the rights of the New Orleans postal workers and the Memphis sanitation workers, the famous I'm a Man poster. Him being a part of this movement and teaching me through his example is something that I picked up vicariously without even knowing that it was going to lead to this moment where we're standing now. We're the ones. That's what this song is really about.

We're the ones standing on their shoulders and everything that they did provided us this really special opportunity to change the world for the next 100, 200 years, for the next generations and this is a very, very important window that we're seeing right now with so many people not just in our country, but across the world.

BALDWIN: And as you talk about change and looking ahead to 100, 200 years we also have to think back to the history of this country some 400 years, right. And I'm just thinking about this Friday it is June 19th. It is Juneteenth.

I was reading so, so much about you and about how you're actually hosting a rally with a variety of speakers and artists at New York's Grand Army Plaza this Friday. And so, I'm just wondering, there's been this whole conversation, Jon, just about, you know, Juneteenth -- again Juneteenth commemorates the end of the slavery in the U.S. just for folks who didn't realize that. Do you think Juneteenth should be a federal holiday and how do you think America should honor that day? BATISTE: It should be a federal holiday. It should be a holiday of

reflection and also of action. We've seen a lot of people around the world and in our country, people in power reflecting and figuring out how to act. How do you take all of what is going on and metabolize it and then do something that changes the course of history step by step. So, I think that day should be etched in our calendars as a date to continue this process and we should do it every day. But especially on that day.


Because that was the day when everything should have changed. And as we see, it hasn't. So, we still have a lot of work to do.

BALDWIN: Last quick question, Jon, since you are a man of music, is there any one song or one artist from any point in time that you've been listening to on repeat just through this time in America?

BATISTE: Wow, Mahaila Jackson, the great vocalist and song stylist Sam Cook. The classic gospel music and the songs that really brought the ancestors through. You know, there was a lot of music that I believe still carries their spirit. And whenever we sing those songs and play those songs at our rallies and we see people joining in, the thousands and raising their fists in the air and chanting, I really do think we're connecting not only to the past but we're connecting to the future generations who will benefit from all the work that we're doing.

BALDWIN: You give us this beautiful gift of music yourself. Jon Batiste, an honor. Thank you very much.

BATISTE: Absolutely. Thank you, thank you so much.

BALDWIN: A new shift from the NFL commissioner. Roger Goodell now says he is encouraging a team to sign Collin Kaepernick. So why now?



BALDWIN: It has been more than three years since Colin Kaepernick last played in the NFL following intense backlash for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. But today there appears to be new momentum for Kaepernick to make his long-awaited return.

In a new interview with ESPN, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he is pushing for a team to sign the ex-49ers' quarterback.


ROGER GOODELL, COMMISSIONER, NFL: If he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it's going to take a team to make that decision. But I welcome that, support the club making that decision, and encourage them to do that.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight to ESPN host LZ Granderson. And LZ, when you heard Commissioner Goodell, were you, like, right on? Or man, three years too late.

LZ GRANDERSON, ESPN HOST: (YAWN) I'm sorry, were you saying something, Brooke? I mean, seriously.

BALDWIN: LZ, you had me for a second. I got you. So, it's a big old yawn.

GRANDERSON: Seriously. Of course, it's a big old yawn. Listen, the NFL is very good at being reactionary. They're not very good at being proactive. If they were proactive Kaepernick would've already had his opportunity years ago. This is simply looking at the tea leaves of the nation, if not the world, and saying, ah, we don't want to look like we're saying the wrong things. Not doing by the way, they don't want to look like they're saying the wrong things because they're trying to wend the press conference.

BALDWIN: All right. Let me ask you too about, you know, you wrote in the "L.A. Times" today about in the wake of the George Floyd's death has led to this reckoning in the sports world, you know, even including NASCAR banning the Confederate flag.

But you call out the deafening silence of the mostly white team owners. Do you think these owners are even just sports overall, you know, to use your basketball metaphor, will follow through?

GRANDERSON: Well, I certainly hope so. And I have had conversations both on and off the record with a number of team owners throughout the Los Angeles area. I do so for the piece but also just my own edification. And there are some real concerns. There are some people who legitimately want to do something. And they're trying to figure out what exactly they should be doing. That is a group of people that I can work with.

What I can't work with, though, are those individuals who are only saying the right things but actually aren't necessarily trying to do the right things. And the reason why I pointed out the racial aspect of the white owners and the black and brown bodies that they're depending on for their success is because that's ultimately what this is all about. It's about the power. And it's always been about the power. It's not about the money. It's not about protecting their shield. It's about keeping people in their place so that things can be normal, so things can continue to go the way they've always gone and getting back to that place. It's not about upsetting the system and fixing anything.

BALDWIN: What about bigger picture, and I'm thinking now about the NBA in this, you know, hopefully climate of change. Talks about resuming the season next month. We've heard -- we know that LeBron James reportedly wants to play because he says the NBA can be a force for change. He wasn't on that conference call last Friday.

But I talked to Stephen Jackson, you know, former player, close friend of George Floyd's, yesterday. And he said, no. He said -- his quote was, we have to keep the attention on the task at hand. What do you think, should they play?

GRANDERSON: Well, I think they should play. But I certainly understand where Kyrie Irving and some of the other players are coming from, and this is why. Sports is a distraction. It is designed to be a distraction. So, the concerns that to play of the NBA or the NFL or any sports may distract people is legitimate because that's the whole point. The phrase, you know, stick to sports is because people didn't want the real world in their sporting viewings.

So, I certainly see where they're coming from. But the thing that I think is the best part of this conversation is that we're putting a light onto it. Kyrie and the other players are saying let us not lose sight of the mission. Let us not lose sight of this moment.

So, you can certainly play. You can use your resources. A fellow journalist, friend of mine, Mark Spears, suggested that these NBA players maybe use a little bit of their leverage to try to get more funding for programming particularly on the grassroots level to help address inequalities. So, I think there's room for both. Personally, I think the NBA players are better served by playing.


But the arguments as to why they don't play are legitimate. Sports is designed to be a distraction.

BALDWIN: LZ Granderson, appreciate your opinions each and every time. Thank you very much, friend. Good to see you.

GRANDERSON: Thanks, Brooke. And, remember, Roger Goodell (YAWN) do something.

BALDWIN: I hear you, I hear you loud and clear. Maybe he does too. Thank you, LZ.

President Trump signs a new executive order on policing. Is it enough to establish real reforms in police departments across the country? That's next.