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Two New Studies Suggest Increased Cancer Risk For 9/11 First Responders, Rescue And Recovery Teams; Retired Firefighter Opens Up About Responding To 9/11 Attacks, Health Issues & Pushing For Adequate Funding; Afghan Family Reunited In U.S. After Vet Helps Teen Escape. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 10, 2021 - 21:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The news continues. So, let's hand over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: He's a good man. I was lucky enough to work with him, at ABC. He's strong. He's smart. He'll be missed.

BERMAN: One of the best!

CUOMO: J.B., have a good weekend.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

We promised we would never forget 9/11. Now, this is not a topic that I'd like to talk about. But tonight, we have to.

I think we have to talk about what "Never forget" meant, because it wasn't a call to simply remember the event, or who was lost, or how many, 2,977, most here, in New York, too many never even found, to never forget who did it.

Who could forget? I am haunted still, every time I look at the sky downtown. I still see the collapse. I feel what went through my body, as the towers came crashing down, being covered in pulverized powder. What filled my eyes, ears, overwhelmed all my senses.

It was a day that you could never forget. In fact, to kind of remember it, I keep some of it. I actually forgot it tonight. But I keep some of it, right next to my desk. My Senior Producer, Terese (ph) just handed it to me.

I keep it because not just simply to remember, but because of what is in here, of what it meant, of what it meant about us, about the people I would never find, the people I would never see again, and the people I would never forget. I remember it all. So many of us, do.

But never forget, the call was for more than what was lost. We would have never forget what was found.

And this reminder is so important right now, that is worth discussing.


CUOMO: Because I'll tell you, the kid that you're going to see, in these scenes, from the reporting that I did, in the days and weeks after, I don't even - I don't even recognize him. I don't even know what I would say to him.

What we were trying to capture was not the uniqueness of the threat, but the uniqueness of the response. 9/11 was a horrible day. 9/12, 9/13, and the weeks thereafter, that's what we need to never forget. That's what we need to remember now.

America showed her best during the worst. The quiet city, because so much of the horns, or frustration, and right, anger, it was quiet.

The interdependence was evidenced shore to shore. You were all New Yorkers. You all hurt for the loss. You helped the survivors and the first responders. You hunted the bad guys.

Anyone can kill. I was never impressed by 9/11. But what America was, coming out of that event, was something only she, only we, are capable of. A singular resolve to fight what had just come our way, with all our might, with all of us together as ever, as one.

Because when you come at one, you come at all, and the President got that right that time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't hear you.



BUSH: I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you. And the people--


BUSH: And the people, who knocked these buildings down, will hear all of us soon.





CUOMO: When's the last time you heard chants of "USA!"?

Hard times make strong people. And we were so strong in the aftermath.

Now remember, President Bush wasn't exactly the poster boy of popularity, leading up to that time. But you'd be hard-pressed to find someone, who wasn't behind the words that came out of that bullhorn.


Things were put aside because we saw what mattered. Many Americans enrolled in the Military. Donors overwhelmed blood banks. People gave money, money that they didn't even have to give. People wanted to help whoever, however.

There was a run on U.S. flags, in stores, all across the country. They were flying off the shelves. "God Bless America" almost replaced the national anthem.

And we didn't get it all right. Bush, our other leaders, they made bad moves. There was anger. But the infighting was much less. And there were many more willing to bridge any divide. We were full of Ameri- CANs, not about politics, but people, country, cause.

9/11 completely changed so many, including me. Attacks like that, at that time, seemed to be the new normal. We thought this was so easy for them, to pull off, this is going to happen all the time. The future became a guess as much as anything that was guaranteed.

I got engaged 11 days after 9/11. Cristina and I were married two months later. I joke all the time, Cristina put the wedding together very quickly, because she knew that I'd snap out of the trauma. But that's not the truth.

The truth is that she gave me a chance, because we were all willing to take a chance, on love, at that time. And it was without question everything that wound up mattering to me in life, grew out of that moment, 9/11, and my engagement, a sense of purpose, and a sense of passion.

If you told me back then we wouldn't be attacked like that, again, for 20 years and counting, I would have thought you were off your meds.

Like many others, I would do the training. And I would ask to cover the war. I would go to Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan. I'm not a war correspondent. I'm not nearly as brave or as capable as the people that you see in bad ways.

But I wanted to do my part. I wanted to inform you, but also to support the cause to never forget. And I keep telling you that because we did forget, didn't we? That is so clear now.

Even if you look back, our heroes, who ran into those burning towers, while everyone else was running out, why did they have to fight, for so many years, to prove what was obvious that they were made sick by their commitment? Why did they have to go to Capitol Hill, to fight waves and waves of politicians, over the years, just to get their health claims paid?

Our time, our collective resolve, over time, our desire to protect one another, it's waned. It's been replaced by division, and advantage and poison politics. Everywhere, there are too many of us that see an "Other" rather than a "Brother." And then came the most painful proof, the Pandemic, an enemy many times greater than al Qaeda. And, in the face of the threat, we forgot. We literally were in denial. Our leadership turned us against one another. And we made ourselves sick, literally.

We all mourn 2,977. But we all but ignore 650,000 dead. And what's worse, is that we had some control. We had no control over 9/11. We had control, and we have control, over this Pandemic. And we're making it worse. We still are. We forgot.

But what is forgotten can be remembered. And the President now called us to recall that we can be different.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: One of the lessons I hope our students can unlearn is that politics doesn't have to be this way. Politics doesn't have to be this way. They're growing up in an environment where they see it's like a - like a war, like a bitter feud.

It's not who we are as a nation. And it's not how we beat every other crisis in our history. We got to come together.


CUOMO: Hard times make strong people. And weak people make hard times. And we're acting like a weak people right now.

Those words that he said there, they echo to a time now, 20 years past. That's what we're going to commemorate with 9/11.

But while it's 20 years ago, it is a state of being very much needed in the present. Actually, I argue we need to be who we were then, more than we needed to be that then, we need it now.


CNN Political Analyst, friend, David Gregory, had a front row seat to 9/11 history. He was covering the Bush White House. He was in the Press Corps, in 2001, traveled with Bush, on 9/11.

He was with him at the elementary school. Remember that, in Sarasota, Florida, when the 43rd President learned from that whisper, from Andy Card that the second plane had hit. You got to remember, they thought it was like a private aviation accident, at first.

And now, here we are, all these years later, you basically look the same. But the country, the country is very different brother. Are we not?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "HOW'S YOUR FAITH?": Yes, I think we are. I mean, I really identify with so much of what you said.

And I think what struck me is how short-lived the best of ourselves, were back then, that period where we came together, because when you face an external threat, to who we are, we were reminded of who we are, and the best of ourselves.

And I think - I think President Bush, at the time, captured the sense of vulnerability and, also, the resolve.

And the bullhorn moment when I was - I was 20 yards from him, when he had that bullhorn, on September 14th, and that was the spontaneous moment, in front of that crowd, he reflected that moment, so well.

But 20 years later, I'm just reminded of how short-lived, that sense of togetherness was. I mean, I have all the same stories. My first child was not born until 2002. And I remember thinking, looking back, and how thankful I was that he was not born on 9/11.

Because, for me, I remember that morning on September 14th, going to Ground Zero, with President Bush, I was having a hard time, as a reporter, holding it together. Hearing the stories of the trauma and the heartbreak, just as a reporter, was overwhelming to me, let alone having been a parent at that time.

So, we all have these touch points of where were we when, and where were we in our lives. And I get what strikes me is that we weren't our very best for long enough.

CUOMO: When you think back to the 14th, what do you remember about the mood and the feel that Bush absolutely brilliantly picked up on, and gave strength, to a collective?

But what do you remember seeing and feeling from those first responders, mostly, who were down there?

GREGORY: Well, I remember coming around the corner.

So, we had flown up to New Jersey, to Fort Dix. And we switched into helicopters, Marine One. And we flew. And we got to ground to our Ground Zero, when it was still - I mean, there were first responders who were down there.

But I remember coming around a corner, and being so overwhelmed at that, this, like this jagged shard of latticework that was one of the towers that was sticking up, almost like a fossil, out of the ground, out of the smoky remains of the site. And I was literally blown away emotionally by that.

And I was right behind Bush, as he was seeing this for the first time, and being struck by the weight of that moment, right? There was that kind of the weight, you're a leader, you have to empathize with this moment, you have to reflect the resolve of the country, and also trying to figure out, "What do I do?"

I mean, he knew this would define his presidency. He was an untested leader. We were talking about so many different things, then, even though the al Qaeda threat had been known within the government.

But how do you lead the country, at a moment, when the country is facing this external threat, and when the - when the country is scared? He knows then how scared the country is?

You made the point. I mean, the idea of further attacks was something we all kind of took for granted.

CUOMO: Oh, yes, I mean.

GREGORY: And I think one of the legacies of 20 years is what does a country, what does a government do, when it's afraid?

CUOMO: Yes. I mean, that is perfectly put, brother.

I do wonder, and look, hopefully, this is just me being cynical, but Bush wasn't popular at that time. He was having trouble. Giuliani was not popular at that time. He was having trouble.

But they both owned that moment. And people put everything else aside because nothing else mattered as much.


CUOMO: I wonder if today, God forbid, if it happened today, when we saw what happened with the pandemic, and we saw what was, really, really gratuitously twisted, out of the Afghanistan history, to how we got here, do you think we would come together, as we did then?


Or do you think the reflex would be Trump blaming Biden, or the Right looking at him, saying, "Told you, we were weak," and them saying, "No, you got us here!"


CUOMO: I wonder, because there was none of that then.

GREGORY: So, I have two thoughts about that. One is I think, human being to human being, we are still the best of ourselves, in a crisis, and when we're under that kind of stress, and when we face a crime.

I think there's little difference, if this happens on your block, if it happens in your community, or if it happens to the country. I think we have, you know, we look after each other, and we're engaged in this kind of I and our relationship, what happens to you matters to me and vice versa.

I think our media is so much different now, Chris. And we saw this. I mean, it didn't take, but a day, after 9/11, for a lot of questions about why didn't Bush come back sooner? Was there really a threat to the White House?

There were a lot of tough questions. That would be amplified now. I mean look how much traction some of the conspiracy theories got around. "Was this an inside job?" That was even happening, then.

I think you'd see a lot more splintering. I think it'd be a lot faster, to blame a current administration, for lapses, because I think there's enough of a kind of cacophony, in media spaces that are far more disparate, and disaggregated, than they were, even in 9/11.

So, I don't think that that center would hold. And I think there'd be people, who would argue that that's a good thing that you would shine a light on getting more information, more transparency. I don't know where I come down on that question. But I know.

I think the - I think the response would be different. Human being to human being, it would be the same. But I think our media is so much different, because my belief is that 9/11 accelerated a splintering in the media that had already started.

I think it goes back to really the Clinton years and impeachment. And then 9/11, think about the cable news wars, think about the debates over the PATRIOT Act, "With us or against us? Are you really a Patriot? Are you for our troops?" All that stuff happens.

In the media alone, wearing of the pin, "Should you wear it on the air or not?" I mean, all of that stuff happens.

CUOMO: The flag pins, David's talking about.

GREGORY: And it was an acceleration of the splintery.

Yes, the flag pin, wearing. Now, our politicians wear that all the time. And Obama didn't want to wear it initially, and realized that he had to.


GREGORY: At NBC - at NBC, I had a colleague, our former colleague, Terry Moran, who did wear a flag pin. I remember Tom Brokaw saying to me, "Look, we're just not going to start doing that," because it was true.

That became not just a kind of patriotism, but it became an emblem of "Are you kind of behind what the administration is doing." And the Bush administration knew that. And so, it was a mixed kind of message.

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: And a lot of people in the media stood down from them.

CUOMO: It's just then, in the aftermath, Republicans were obviously in control. And they asked Americans to give up real freedoms. That's when we started getting searched at the airports.


CUOMO: And, of course, the PATRIOT Act, that was overreach in some ways, but people did it because of collective cause. And now, taking a vaccine is too much for them!

Anyway, I appreciate the perspective.


CUOMO: Well-delivered, as expected.

GREGORY: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: My brother, David Gregory, thank you for joining me.

GREGORY: Thanks pal.

CUOMO: David Gregory, he'll never forget!

Now, I mentioned the first responders in there, because they were an early sign of what David is talking about that yes, we come together in a crisis, but do we stay together?

Why do our first responders, all right, who we say are our heroes, they breathed in poison for us, why did they have to fight so long? Why are they still fighting?

My next guest is among those with chronic health issues. His first day, as a firefighter, was on September 11th. You got to listen to him, next.









CUOMO: We'd do ourselves no favors, if we lie about the past, for we want to learn. 20 years we are marking, and the heroes, the real heroes of 9/11, are still fighting, just to get the care, they need, from what they did for us, on 9/11.

New research reveals how badly many are still suffering.

One new study published today finds 9/11 rescue and recovery workers have a 24 percent greater risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer than other New Yorkers. I wonder why!

More new research finds Ground Zero firefighters are 13 percent more likely to develop cancer than firefighters, who didn't work at the site. Gee, I wonder why!

My next guest has been fighting, for years, to get Congress, to pass more funding, so heroes like him can get adequate health care. They're not asking for a payoff. They're just asking to have their bills paid.

Joining me now is retired firefighter, 9/11 first responder, Rob Serra.

Appreciate your service, brother.

ROB SERRA, RETIRED FIREFIGHTER, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Chris.

CUOMO: Now, I know that you got the big hockey game going on, the Cops versus the New York Fire Department, to raise money and awareness. And I know it's been met popularly. And that's a great sign!

But 20 years later, as I said before the break, it was Rob's first day on the job, 9/11. What does 20 years mean to you?

SERRA: I don't know, man. As I said today, it's been 20 years. I might be retired, but I haven't had a day off, from 9/11, in 20 years.

I'm tired. My body is tired. I'm emotionally exhausted, for all the reasons that you just stated. I don't know. In many ways, it feels like it just happened yesterday. And in other ways, it feels like it happened two lifetimes ago.


CUOMO: How do you explain how the people that everybody held up, as a symbol, of our resolve, of our strength, that you guys have just been screwed, time and time again, when it comes to just taking care of you?

It's not like you guys all said you want to punch golden ticket, because you were there for us on 9/11. It's just to deal with the bills, and to get them paid for illness. Why do you think it's been so hard? What are we missing?

SERRA: I don't know. I think there are people, who made a career, out of making us fight for this, for 20 years. And I think - I think that's where it starts. But I'm not sure.

We didn't become firefighters to get rich, you know? We would have chosen a different profession, if it was about the money. Frankly, it's insulting, you know? And it's not just insulting to us. They didn't just let us down. They let down everybody who lived and worked in Lower Manhattan.

They let down the 19,000 school students, who were sent to school, in that toxic dust cloud, under the assurance that the air was safe to breathe. And now, they're in their 20s, in their 30s, and they're getting sick, and they're dying.

So, it's not just about us. It's about - it's about all of us, really. And, as you alluded to earlier, it's about letting Americans down, you know?

If we're not going to take care of the people, who rushed into burning buildings, and to terrorist attacks, if we're not going to take care of those people, then who's going to show up the next time, you know? And that's something I often brought up, in Washington, you know? You can't just say, "Never forget," and prop us up, once a year, on your Twitter feed. And then 364 days, we have to - we have to fight for the - for the health care, and basically the scraps off their table.

So, they like to say "Never forget." But they forgot us very early on. They held - the warning signs were there, in 2001. We had people getting sick. We had people having heart attacks. We had people committing suicide. So, it's really been a never-ending battle for us, you know?

Everyone says, "We should go back to September 12th." But, for most of us, we've been - we've been stuck in September 12th, for 20 years. And it really is it's a disgrace, quite frankly, the way all of us have been treated. And it doesn't bode well, for history.

CUOMO: Where does it stand now, in terms of the physical, and as you mentioned, the emotional, the psychological, the illnesses that came about because of the experience in the job down there?

SERRA: Yes, I mean, the connections between the emotional trauma and the physical are real. That's why we're seeing accelerated cancers. That's why the funding - the fund is - running out on funds, because we're getting sicker more rapidly. We're getting sick, quickly.

I have a friend, who ran the New York City Marathon, in November. And he died of lung cancer, by March. That's five months.

It's just - it's really, it's taking a toll on all of us. And when we hear things like the fund, the Health Program is running out of money, the week leading up to the anniversary, of 9/11, what does that do for us, you know?

Now we have people, who not only are living through the trauma that they experienced, 20 years ago, then the trauma of watching their friends get sick and die, over the last 20 years, but now, they have to worry that, that if they get sick that they might have to choose between their house, and getting medical treatment, or sending their kids to school?

We have - we had one firefighter. His daughter was 18-years-old. And she was the only one that he had to take care of him. And he was dying of cancer. And she had to drop out of college. That's not right.

It shouldn't be on people like me, and other advocates, to go out, and raise funds, basically, to give these people a quality of life, you know?

CUOMO: Right now, as is not often the case, we're going to see it from Ground Zero, the Pentagon has a beam of light right now that they're shooting up - put the shot up - for people.


CUOMO: And I always wonder, one of you guys, I forget who it was, but one of the advocates, and a brother, who had been down there, said, "You know, when that beam of light, when you see it, we shine it as a reminder, but it's also supposed to be about what we're shining it on."

From the Pentagon, it's shooting up into the sky. But if you want to focus people, on things, focus on what matters, and taking care of the people, who took care of us, matters.

And Rob, I promise you. You have found friends, and champions, in the media. But I promise you, you got friends here. And we will fight the fight, for the people, who fought for us. And I wish you well, brother.

SERRA: All right. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

CUOMO: Rob Serra.

Now, this is the first 9/11, since we ended the war in Afghanistan. We have some good news on that front. Remember, you want to come together in a crisis? We got to get Americans home. We got to get allies home. And we are.


I have a story for you, about an Afghan family that escaped. One son had to be left behind. But he just made it to America. How? Next.








CUOMO: This 9/11 will mark the first anniversary, where U.S. troops are no longer on the ground, in Afghanistan, as far as we know. As this day reminds us what "Never forget" is supposed to mean, we also can't forget who's been left behind.

The State Department says nearly three dozen U.S. citizens have been evacuated, in the week and a half, since we pulled out. But they say roughly 100 Americans still remain. I hear the number is more. But we'll see.

The number of Afghan allies, I mean, who knows? I mean, literally, it could be thousands, could be in the tens of thousands, of people who may be hunted.

Through it all, Veterans, not Left and Right, just the reasonable and righteous have been leading the rescue effort, and making all the difference, #DigitalDunkirk.


CUOMO: One of them is this man, Army veteran, Steve Kling. The man next to him is Sayed Sadat, his former Terp - interpreter.


In the days leading up to Kabul's fall, Sayed knew he had to get his family out.

But, on the day it was supposed to happen, a clerical issue, with his son's SIV paperwork, forced a heart-wrenching decision. Leave the kid behind, and get everybody else out, including this five other young kids, or nobody goes.

They were comforted only by the hope that this simple error could be fixed. But then what happened? Kabul fell. We showed you what it was like.


CUOMO: Sayed's son Adil spent a week, trying to cut through this chaos, to get to the airport. A week, it took him. He spent several days, trying to identify himself, to soldiers. Eventually, with Kling's help, Adil was finally rescued, brought over a gate, with a ladder, in the middle of the night.

It took some time. But yesterday, Steve got word, Adil is in D.C. He immediately bought plane tickets, to get the teenager, from D.C., to his family, in Sacramento, California. And this, this is what it's all about.


CUOMO: Father and son reunited, and a promise kept.

Guess what? Sayed, Adil, and Steve are all here. You'll hear directly from them, what this was about, and what needs to happen next.








[21:40:00] CUOMO: A father and son, apart for four weeks, but their entire worlds have changed.

I just told you about Sayed Sadat, and his 16-year-old son, Adil, and the strides, the efforts it took, to get Adil, out of Kabul. He finally reunited with his family, in Sacramento, last night.


CUOMO: The man recording the moment is Steve Kling, a veteran, who helped Adil escape.

Steve, Sayed, and Adil are all here.

Beautiful, brothers! I'm so happy that this came together. But I want to start, with the guy, who matters most, Adil.

You are the one who fought your way, through the crowds, got to the gate, and pleaded with people, to listen to you. What was that like for you?

ADIL SADAT, 16-YEARS-OLD, CAME TO U.S. WITH SPECIAL IMMIGRANT VISA: Like so - I am so scared from the Taliban in this. But when I come inside of airport, I was so happy, because I will come to my family. And four weeks, I didn't see my family. So, I was so happy for this.

CUOMO: Sayed, how hard was it, for you to make the choice, of who to take, and how to leave your son, in that moment?

SAYED SADAT, FORMER TRANSLATOR FOR U.S. MILITARY: It was really tough decision for me. But we had no choice.

Already my visa, two months were gone. And if I wait four more months, my visa will be expired. So, that's why I take my decision, to leave with my five kids, and leave my oldest son behind, so I can help, from the United States, to bring him out.

CUOMO: Steve, thank you, for your service, including what you're doing right now.

It took me a while. But finally, one of you guys explained to me.

Because, this has never happened before, Digital Dunkirk, Veterans, like you, the networks of helpers. And the reason that it's happening is because of what the promise that is made to battled brothers and sisters means, to a veteran, who's been in theater with them.

Explain to people why people like Sayed means so much to you, why you call them allies and brothers?

STEVE KLING, VETERAN HELPING AFGHAN ALLIES ESCAPE: Well, and that motto is leave no one behind.

And Sayed was with us shoulder-to-shoulder every day. We were Civil Affairs. We had a very busy OPTEMPO. We were outside the wire every day, almost. And Sayed was with us every day, except for the few days, where his son Adil was born, we were there on that tour. Not only that, not only did Sayed have our back that entire time, he went on to serve with additional seven or eight additional teams, after we left.

And, of course, I'd like to call out the fact that we got to go home at the end of our tours. That was their home. They had to put their families at risk, their identities at risk, to go out there, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us on that mission.

CUOMO: It's become politicized, that this is about hurting Biden, and that this is all to embarrass, Republican. I have not heard that from any of the guys and women that I've been trying to help, coordinate these efforts, and get the message out.

What do you want Americans to know about why this matters so much to them?

KLING: I wish that I could find a way for all Americans to feel the way that I felt the last few weeks.

Coming together, starting a Slack channel, I'm standing in the home of a gentleman that I didn't even know, three weeks ago, who we started a Slack channel with that brought thousands of Veterans, and matched need with capacity.

And no one even thought to ask what your political persuasion is. It would have been almost profane to do so in that context.

It's something, where we all came together. It made absolute sense to all of us that we were going to, you know, we were going to fulfill this mission, and fulfill that motto, to make sure that those that stood with us are not left behind.

And we're here to put pressure, on the administration, to remember that oath that we take it seriously, and in the hopes that they will also take it as seriously as we do.

CUOMO: Sayed, you're new to the United States. What is life like for you here? How are people greeting you, in the country, when they find out how you got here?

S. SADAT: I like it here. I got freedom. Full freedom I got here. Culture wise, region wise, I'm very happy with my family right now. I'm the happiest man right now, especially with my son up here right now.

CUOMO: And when people find out that you were an interpreter, and you were brought over here, and that the Veterans helped you, what do they say to you, the other Americans?


S. SADAT: They were happy, because when they saw me here, and I'm here with my family, they're very happy. CUOMO: Adil, you already showed, you can get through something that very few people your age would do, especially, on their own. And I'm sure that it signals that you're going to have a great life here. And I'm very happy you're here.

In fact, it's good, this shot of you three guys, you look like a band. You're all kind of dressed together, and the angle, it looks like an album cover. I'm glad the band is back together.

I wish you a very good life in this country. And I thank you for the help, in keeping people, like Steve, safe, Sayed.

And Adil, welcome to the country, enjoy yourself, and make the most of your freedom.

And Steve, thank you for showing why you guys, are the best of us.

We'll be right back.

KLING: Thank you, Chris.

S. SADAT: Thank you.









CUOMO: A lot of governors, on the Right, quickly promising legal challenges to Biden's new vaccine mandate plan.

The President today, said, they can, quote, "Have at it." Not a one of them have even read it, hasn't even been written. That's because OSHA hasn't even put it together yet.

OSHA is going to be key. Because for all that fear, being stoked about the government, forcing people to get a shot, what we're talking about would likely be workplace safety fines. They all say they want more people to get vaccinated. The question is what else can we do?

Let's discuss with Scott Jennings.

Good to see you, brother.


CUOMO: So, nobody really likes the idea of the government telling us to do anything. But telling us to take vaccines, polio, smallpox, mumps, measles, rubella, this is not new.

What makes this such a novel revocation of freedom to you guys?

JENNINGS: Well, first of all, I just like to start off this segment, by saying, I'm vaccinated. I got my shot, as soon as I could get it, because I wanted the personal freedom, to make my own decision, and study it.

And I came to the very quick conclusion that these vaccines work. We all need to do it. I got my - my wife got vaccinated. Our oldest child is as well. He's the only one, in our house, old enough to do it.

So, you're talking to a conservative, who believes in what has happened here with the vaccines. I think a lot of conservatives, though, have different rationale, for opposing this.

Number one, as you said, they don't like being told what to do.

Number two, I do think there are some conservatives out there, who are worried about the slippery slope.

"If you can mandate this and, to own what they consider a very personal decision, for the purpose of public health, or alleviating emergencies, in our health care system, what else could you apply that to, and the slope that that puts us on?"

Number three, I do think there's a lot of libertarian-minded people, out there, who just don't think the government ought to be involved, in any kind of a decision, like this, particularly one of a personal nature.

So, I don't know that you could pigeonhole it into one, a specific reason. Oh, by the way, there are a lot of young people out there, some conservative, and some not, who think their risk is so low that this is unnecessary.

CUOMO: Right.

JENNINGS: So again, I think there's numerous things going on, among the population. None of it is curable, probably, frankly, by the mandate.

CUOMO: But a lot of it doesn't have any substance behind it. "Well, they think, well, they feel, well, they don't know," that's not the issue.

The issue is we have a pandemic. The issue is the only thing that works is the vaccine and mitigation measures. And everything else has been tried.

And we are steeped in sickness that is keeping you, and me, and a majority of Republicans and Democrats, whatever that means, these days, from living their lives, because of this stubborn minority.

So, if not the mandate, then what is to be done?

JENNINGS: Well, I think there are some people who would say, there's nothing to be done, that we're going to have to learn to live with it.

And they would say, again, I'm projecting here, but I think they would say, "Look, we learned to live with the flu. We learned to live with a lot of health care issues, in this country, and we just sort of mitigate it."

30-some (ph) percent of people get a flu shot. And yet, the flu kills quite a few folks every year as well. And we don't seem to care about doing anything about that.

CUOMO: This is nothing like the flu.

JENNINGS: So, I think there are some people, who would say--

CUOMO: The only reason it's even in the conversation--

JENNINGS: --"Hey, we're not going to get to COVID Zero. We're going to have to learn to live with it, because it's here to stay."

CUOMO: Listen, we're going to have to learn to live with it anyway. They still have vestiges of the Spanish flu that are around in circulation. That's also not the point.

The only person who ever likened this to the flu was President Trump. It is nothing like the flu. It is far more contagious. It kills more people. It maims more people. It's not even a close call.

And we have a variant upon a variant because of our negligence. Our kids, who can't be vaccinated yet, are now vulnerable. The elderly and the infirm are vulnerable, because of this stubborn minority.

Again, I'm all for freedom. We were just talking about 9/11. The Republicans asked us to give up a lot more freedoms than the choice to question a vaccine that you don't know anything about, after 9/11. And we did it out of collective cause.

Where is the sense of collective cause, among the people, passing bad information, on your side of the aisle, and just deciding not to go along with what they're told to do? At what point must that have a consequence?

JENNINGS: Well, a couple things. Number one - again, I agree with you. I think getting a vaccination, frankly, is part of our civic duty, at this point. I mean, and I'm glad I had the personal freedom to do that. I don't need to be told about this.

CUOMO: I hear you. Scott, just help me with one thing.

JENNINGS: Because I read the information.

CUOMO: And then make your point. JENNINGS: I am--

CUOMO: But just define one thing. You guys keep saying this. "I had the personal freedom to do." Where is this language coming from? When you got your kids vaccinated, right?

JENNINGS: Well, I mean--

CUOMO: You don't say, "I have the personal freedom to get my kids vaccinated today." You get them vaccinated because they have to, to go to school.

What is this personal freedom thing all the sudden?


JENNINGS: Well, I mean, I would tell you that for conservatives, the word, "Freedom," and "Civil liberties," and "Personal freedom," however you want to term it is, it's not a new - not a new thing.

CUOMO: I know. But why are you applying it to this?

JENNINGS: I mean this is a motivating issue for a great part of our party's--

CUOMO: Yes. But that's what I'm saying. Of course, everybody believes in freedom, and civil liberties, and being able to do their own thing. I just don't see how it applies here.

The science says, "Take it." Just like with the other vaccines, it says, "Take it." And we do it. But not this time, why?

Quickly. I got to go, but last point to you.

JENNINGS: Yes, absolutely. Well, I mean, look, I would just tell you, a lot of folks think it's a very personal thing, to take a medicine, or a vaccine, of any kind, and to be told to do it.

Again, I don't need to be told to do it. But I think, among the unvaccinated crowd, I do think the - there's some behavioral psychology research that indicates mandates may make it worse. They may make them dig in even more.

And so, I would just say to you, as someone who wants more people to get vaccinated, I'm skeptical that the mandates are going to work, because of that issue.

I would also just wrap up by saying Biden may actually find some political running room on this.

I actually happen to think his people are for it. Probably a slight majority of Independents are for it. And you're going to find a slice of Republicans, particularly older ones that are for it too.

So, he may find some political running room, even if it ultimately doesn't have the desired impact. CUOMO: Scott, I appreciate it. Good health to you and your family.

We'll be right back with the handoff.

JENNINGS: Thanks, Chris.