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Biden Unveils $2 Trillion Plan To Reach 100 Percent Clean Electricity By 2035; Orange County's Board Of Education Votes To Reopen Schools Without Masks Or Social Distancing; Tucker Carlson Responds To Lead Writer Resigning After Posting Racist Comments; Four Former CDC Directors Blasting The Trump Administration's Dismissal Of Science; Twenty-One-Year-Old Bring Virus Home, Dad Now on a Ventilator. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 14, 2020 - 14:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It's so important for younger people, right, Bill? We're in the middle of one existential crisis as we're going through this pandemic with coronavirus. We've heard a lot of public health officials who say they wish young people were doing more when it came to that.

But in terms of climate change, this is truly the existential crisis that this generation feels. This is going to be so important in bringing them around to participate in the process in November for Joe Biden.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, I think the one reason we saw all those Friday climate school strikes, led by Greta Thunberg, well, there's a lot of Greta Thunbergs across the country, pushing this issue into their parents' faces.

The worry was, if Biden got the nomination, his plan wouldn't be ambitious enough. The Green New Deal is derided because it's so big and includes social justice and guaranteed-income provisions.

And they say no, that's because the climate touches every aspect of life. It's not a menu item on a list of voter issues. It's the restaurants and everything. From economy to foreign policy to daily life, depends on a livable planet. And no plan is ambitious enough for these young people.

So, I don't know. We'll see if today is the first step in engaging those young voters.

KEILAR: Yes, we will see. They will be important for Joe Biden come November.

Bill, thank you so much for joining us from Brazil.

Thank you so much to Arlette, as well, following the Biden campaign.

Up next, the board of education in Orange County, California, voting to return to school with no social distancing, no masks, and full attendance.

Plus, four former CDC directors are speaking up, blasting the Trump administration's dismissal of science.

And a 21-year-old brings the virus home after going to a friend's house. Now his dad is on a ventilator. His wife will join me, live, with a warning.



KEILAR: Two of California's largest school districts will be holding classes online rather than in person when the school year begins. But Orange County, which falls in between these two districts, is not following suit.

The board of education in Orange County voting to reopen district schools in the fall, without a mandate for social distancing, no mask requirements.

I want to bring in now Noah Biesiada, who is a reporting fellow for the Voice of O.C., and Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, who is a primary care internal medicine physician. He's also a Democratic congressional candidate for the tenth district in Texas.

Noah, I want to start with you.

This really caught my eye. I'm from Orange County, California, and I come from a family of teachers who have taught in Orange County.

And so I was just wondering, tell us what exactly the board of education voted on here 4-1, and what they based this on, how they're justifying what they voted on.

NOAH BIESIADA, REPORTING FELLOW, VOICE OF O.C.: Of course. Thank you for having me on.

So, the main thing that I want to make clear is that this vote only applies as guidelines to districts, as they're moving to reopen. There's no mandate behind these requirements of no masks and no social distancing and different things like that. Those are all just suggestions being put out by the board of education.

Now the way that they came to those was kind of an interesting process. They had a seven-person panel that met several weeks ago to speak with people about what they felt were their concerns going into the next school year.

That was made up of a few education experts, several doctors from the area, Orange County's health care agency director, Dr. Clayton Chau, and Don Wagner.

The final report, people felt it was very skewed in the anti-mask, anti-social distancing direction when multiple members of the panel came out and said they disagree with that and think that masks are something that should be implemented.

KEILAR: Noah, your reporting on this is excellent. You walk us through it so well, I have to say.

As you mentioned, look, this isn't a mandate. The teachers' unions, teachers, parents, they're all going to have their say on this. It's hard to imagine that they're going to go along to the letter with the board of education there in Orange County.

But you talk about how there really was not a whole lot of time offered for public comment and also how the recommendations were formed that they actually would cite examples of reopening in some places, but not mention that they were using the types of precautions that the board actually voted against.

BIESIADA: Yes. That was one of the things that really came up, was public comment. At this meeting, they had a massive response from the public. According to their secretary, they had over 2,500 written comments get submitted and over 6,000 people were watching online during the meeting.

It actually became a problem. They couldn't support everyone through Zoom where they were streaming the meeting and had to move it to YouTube to allow everyone who was trying to get on.

That was a concern for a lot of people. Those comments weren't actually read at the meeting. What they ended up doing was allowed in, I think it was, just over 20 or so people to come and speak about the issue.

And most of those who spoke were all for the board's recommendations. They thought that was a great idea to return with the limited restrictions and different things like that, to allow some room for the kids to interact with one another.

And now there's been a huge debate over what's even going to happen with those 2,500 comments. The board pushed their decision on sort of how they're going to handle that to their August meeting.


So, people are really upset right now that they feel that their voices haven't been heard in this debate.

KEILAR: And, Dr. Gandhi, the board was really leaning in favor of this idea that masks are actually unhealthy for kids to use, that social distancing is unhealthy for them.

When you see a board of education that is supposed to be considering the health of children and teachers and everyone who works in a school, what's your reaction to this?

DR. PRITESH GANDHI, (D), TEXAS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE & PRIMARY CARE INTERNAL MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: I don't think those comments are rooted in science. I think that people feel pushed up against the wall because of the president's comments to essentially force school districts to open.

Masks are not dangerous for children.

But we've got to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, which is, in Orange County, you've had a significant increase in the number of percent of positive cases. You've had a decrease or not enough contact tracers to actually handle the positive tests that come in.

And on top of that, one-fourth of all teachers nationwide are at risk from complications of this virus, based on a recent Kaiser study.

Folks feel like their back is pushed up against the wall because there's no clear guidance from the federal authorities on how to move forward.

KEILAR: Yes. It has a lot of teachers befuddled. I will tell you that, and parents as well.

Thank you very much, Dr. Gandhi.

Noah Biesiada, great reporting. Thank you for joining us.

Very soon, Dr. Fauci will be speaking amid tensions with the White House. And more voices are coming to his defense.

Plus, FOX News host, Tucker Carlson responded to his lead writer resigning after posting racist comments. But the response doesn't fly.



KEILAR: Four former directors for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are blasting the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a scathing rebuke, in an op-ed in the "Washington Post" they accuse the president of undermining public health and sowing confusion.

The headline for the piece says it all" "We ran the CDC. No president ever politicized its science the way Trump has."

This public reprimand is coming as the president and White House mount a concerted effort to discredit Dr. Fauci, releasing what amounts to opposition research on one of the most experienced members of the president's Coronavirus Task Force.

Still, the president trying to downplay the friction.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci. I have had for a long time, right from the beginning. I find him a very nice person. I don't always agree with him. I get along with him very well. I like him personally.


KEILAR: Today, more than 12,000 infectious disease experts felt compelled to release a statement of support for Dr. Fauci saying, in part, "Reports of a campaign to discredit and diminish the role of Dr. Fauci at this perilous moment are disturbing. If we have any hope of ending this crisis, all of America must support public health experts, including Dr. Fauci, and stand with science."

CNN's Daniel Dale is joining us now.

This all comes down to Fauci having the courage to contradict the president's false claims about the pandemic.

Let's start here with testing. Just walk us through some of these discrepancies, Daniel.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Brianna, the bottom line is Dr. Fauci does not have to keep contradicting the president because the president has made a concerted decision to lie and deceive about the pandemic.

One of the things he's been most deceptive about is the issue of testing. What we've heard from the president over the past few weeks is the increase we've seen in cases is simply the result of more testing and that testing has pros and cons, it's good and bad. That's not what we hear from experts.

Listen to what Trump said and how Dr. Fauci corrected him.


TRUMP: We do the testing. And by doing the testing, we have tremendous numbers of cases. If we didn't do the -- we have 45 million tests. If we did half that number, you would have half the cases, around that number. If we did another half of that, you would have half the numbers. Everyone would be saying we're doing so well on cases.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Even more widespread testing on a surveillance basis is absolutely essential for us until we get a full understanding of the penetrance of this, particularly among individuals who are asymptomatic. It's the opposite. We're going to be doing more testing, not less.


DALE: Now the president's dishonesty about testing, Brianna, goes all the way back to March when he went to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta and said anyone who wants a test can get a test. It wasn't even close to correct.

And it again fell to Dr. Fauci to do a must-needed correction. Listen.


TRUMP: Anybody that needs a test gets a test.

FAUCI: The idea of anybody getting it easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we're not set up for that. It is a failing. Let's admit it.


DALE: So again, this is just Dr. Fauci saying the obvious. That's it.

KEILAR: Certainly. And the president has spent a lot of time touting a drug for coronavirus that health experts say is not effective.

DALE: That's right. Of course, this is Hydroxychloroquine. The president over weeks was saying it would be a game changer, there was very strong evidence that it worked against coronavirus. Again, it fell to Dr. Fauci to say, no, hold on, that evidence isn't as strong as the president claims. Listen.


TRUMP: It's shown very encouraging, very, very encouraging early results.

FAUCI: The evidence that you're talking about, John, is anecdotal evidence. It was not done in a controlled clinical trial. You can't make any definitive statement about it.


DALE: So, Brianna, this wasn't Dr. Fauci saying I hate Hydroxychloroquine, it's terrible. He was just asking the president to hold his horses, which the president, as always, was reluctant to do.

KEILAR: Daniel, thanks for walking us through that. Appreciate it.

Tucker Carlson started last week calling a Senator and a Purple Heart recipient and Iraq war veteran a coward who hates America. And started this week with the defense of his lead writer, who left the show after it turned out he was spending his free time anonymously posting racist and sexist comments online.


This is how Tucker Carlson described the departure of Blake Neff. Keep in mind, he's not a writer, as Carlson describes him. He was the show's lead writer.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT": Over the weekend, you may have seen stories about a writer on this show called Blake Neff. For years, since he was in college, Blake posted anonymously on an Internet message board for law school students. On Friday, many of those posts became public. Blake was horrified by

the story and he was ashamed. Friday afternoon, he resigned from his job.

We want to say a couple of things about this. First, what Blake wrote anonymously was wrong. We don't endorse those words. They have no connection to the show.

It is wrong to attack people for qualities they cannot control. In this country, we judge people for what they do, not for how they were born. We often say that because we mean it. We'll continue to defend that principle, often alone among national news programs, because it is essential. Nothing is more important.

Blake fell short of that standard and he's paid a very heavy price for it.

But we should also point out to the ghouls beating their chests in triumph of the destruction of a young man that self-righteousness also has its cost.

We are all human. When we pretend we are holy, we are lying. When we pose as blameless in order to hurt other people, we are committing the gravest sin of all, and we'll be punished for it. There's no question.


KEILAR: And that response was a joke. Not even an acknowledgment that his lead writer Blake Neff's postings were racist, homophobic and sexist. No apology that this was the man writing Tucker Carlson's copy. No mention that this wasn't just some college impropriety. This was just the last few weeks.

Neff responding to a thread that was titled, "Would you let a jet- black Congo N-word -- which was not redacted -- "do Lasik eye surgery on you for 50 percent off?" That is what one response was titled that Neff commented on. He responded, "I wouldn't get Lasik from an Asian for free. So no."

This was just in recent days, right, that we wrote this.

Tucker Carlson spending a third of his comments addressing Neff's resignation, attacking reporters for bringing his lead writer's offensive post to light.

It makes no sense until you consider that the biggest topic of Tucker Carlson's show this week was attacking one of the most prominent Asian-Americans in the U.S. government, Senator Tammy Duckworth, who is not immune from criticism.

But should be immune from Tucker Carlson questioning her patriotism even as she served in the military, unlike him, and lost both of her legs in the Iraq war when a RPG took down the helicopter she was co- piloting.

Carlson claims that his lead writer's offensive online posts have no connection to his opinion-based show, except verifiably they do.

CNN's Oliver Darcy, who broke this story, found several examples of what Blake Neff wrote online, overlapping with what came right out of Tucker Carlson's mouth on his show.

Including on June 25th, so recently, when the writer's post quoted a news story about coronavirus. "Interest in Montana real estate," to which Carlson referred to that night.

And then on June 15th, his words about a football coach wearing a T- shirt showed up in Carlson's script. Again, no connection to the show?

This writer once said, quote, "Anything Carlson is reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me.

And he goes on, quote, "We're very aware that we do have that power to sway the conversation so we try to use it responsibly."

But don't take Blake Neff's word for it. How about Tucker Carlson's? The host said on air that Neff is, quote, "a wonderful writer" and he credits his assistance on the nightly scripts and even acknowledged Neff in his book.

See, Tucker Carlson is showing us he's not ashamed by this racist talk. Tucker Carlson seems angrier about the exposure and appears to think it is something to be protected.

A programming note, Tucker Carlson will not be on TV tonight. He has gone fishing. A fishing trip that was pre-planned, of course.


KEILAR: And next, I'll speak with the wife of a man on a ventilator after his 21-year-old son brought the virus home after going to a friend's house.


KEILAR: A Florida woman and her family are living a coronavirus nightmare in a saga that began when their 21-year-old went to a friend's house and brought coronavirus home to the family. Now his dad, John Place (ph), has been on a ventilator for two weeks. He's just 42 years old.

John's wife, Michelle, is joining me now.

Thank you so much for being with us.

It is -- I mean, this ordeal that you're going through, I know a lot of families are going through it. But a lot of them aren't. And so they want to hear from you about what you're dealing with. First tell us just how everyone is doing?

MICHELLE ZYMET, 21-YEAR-OLD SON BROUGHT CORONAVIRUS HOME AFTER ATTENDING PARTY: You know, we're hanging in there. It is been hard. Especially on the children. And I've been doing the best that I can to kind of keep the household

going. I'm taking care of the kids, worrying about John in the hospital every single minute, not being able to work and just how to pay bills and do everyday life as well as dealing with him being in the hospital.

So I'm blessed that I have my best friend to help me and get me through this. And they set up a GoFundMe and they have people delivering us food every night because we're all COVID positive.

None of us could leave the house. We can't go anywhere. I can't see my husband. It is difficult. And it is scary that he's there all alone fighting for his life.

KEILAR: And as you mentioned, your kids, they're ranging in age from 6 to 21. Just like you, they could not see their dad and dealing with that.

Tell us what happened here. Because I understand your stepson went to a friend's House and was wearing a mask but decided to take off the mask. What happened next?

ZYMET: You know, I mean, I pleaded with him every time he left the house, please wear your mask, take sanitizer, make sure you're washing your hands. He assured me, don't worry mom, I'm doing everything right, relax and chill. You know how kids are. And I trusted in hi.

And it is hard when you're surrounded by friends. He went to someone's home and there were a few people there. And I'm sure they were eating, drinking and they felt it was time to take the mask off. No one seemed to be sick. Everybody is fine. We're not going to get anything. Just relax and enjoy the night.

And pretty much just a couple of weeks after that, he started feeling ill. And he thought it was just a cold, flu-like symptoms. So he neglected to tell us anything at that time. He didn't think anything of it.

And a few days later, my middle-aged son, who is 14 started coughing. He was kind of shortness of breath, body aches, everything of that nature. But I didn't associate it with the virus because he hasn't left the House in months. None of us go out and do anything and no one else was sick that I knew of at the time.

So, again, it sort of just fell apart from that point on. I took him to the doctor two days later and the doctor didn't think that he had COVID either. She prescribed him Amoxicillin for a nasal infection.

KEILAR: And then you realized what was going on. And you must have a message for young people, right, who are thinking they're invincible. What is it?

ZYMET: You're not invincible. This is not a joke. This is a deadly devastating disease that is affecting millions of people across the world. You need to listen and understand that you've got to take the

necessary precautions. Just wear the mask, at least wear your mask, try to wash your hands as often as you can and try to do the social distancing and not hang out in large groups and go to bars drinking.

This is not the time. You need to take care of your family. You don't know at what point in time, let your guard down one time and you come home and infect the entire house.

We're five people all infected with the virus and we're the lucky ones that didn't get affected the way my husband John is. But he's fighting for his life literally every single minute in that hospital.


KEILAR: Michelle, thank you for talking to us. We have John on our minds and on our hearts and I will send you a prayer your way this evening.