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The Lead with Jake Tapper

President Biden Rallies World Leaders On Climate Crisis As Lawmakers Back Home Disagree Over Details; Manchin: Won't Support Spending Bill "Without Clarity" On Long-Term Effects Of Inflation, Deficit On U.S. Economy; Poll: 30 Percent Of Republicans Say Violence May Be Justified To "Save" U.S.; White House: 80 Percent Of Adults Have Gotten Their First Shot; Candidates Making Final Pitch In Dead- Heat Contest. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 01, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Democrats were approaching the finish line, but did Joe Manchin just throw out their banana peel?

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Biden is in Europe pushing Russia and China to do more to combat climate change. But back here in D.C., it's members of his own party standing in the way of an agreement.

Then, an alarming new poll showing one-third of Republicans in the U.S. believe that they might need to resort to violence to save the U.S. and that's just one of the troubling results.

And -- another airline hit by massive cancellations. And if you make it on the plane you might be met by aggressive passengers. The serious new action proposed by the transportation secretary ahead.


TAPPER: Hello and welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia now publicly refusing to commit to vote for the president's economic and climate agenda without seeing the final text first and working through some issues.

Now, the House of Representatives had hoped to vote on this legislation this week and now it's not clear that that's going to happen. The timing could not be worse for President Biden who is trying to rebuild trust with world leaders at the COP26 climate talks in Scotland. President Biden today apologizing to the world saying U.S. actions under president Trump put America, quote, behind the 8 ball. Biden eager to convince his peers that America is recommitted to slowing the warming of the planet. And world leaders speaking with increasing urgency have been begging for action.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: If we fail, they will not forgive us. They will know that Glasgow was the historic turning point when history failed to turn.


TAPPER: The collective goal limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Scientists saying that's the critical threshold beyond which the world must not cross.

Our team is covering these stories from both sides of the Atlantic. Kaitlan Collins live in Edinburgh. And Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill in D.C.

Let's go to you first, Manu.

The president selling his agenda in Scotland but his fate is in the hands of U.S. lawmakers right now or perhaps more accurately in the hands of just one lawmaker.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Joe Manchin making clear he might not ever be willing to support Joe Biden's larger economic agenda. The $1.75 trillion plan. He said I'll vote for a good plan but I may never vote for a plan he believes would hurt the U.S. economy. He had concerns if this bill was full of gimmicks and its true cost to the economy is more than $1.75 trillion. He raised concerns about the growth of social programs that are outlined in this bill.

He also made clear his concerns and opposition to the growth of Medicare. That would include hearing coverage for the first time under this proposal. He had been concerned about this and the solvency of that key entitlement program.

And overall, he wants more time. He says there needs to be more time to review the details of this proposal. Look at how it could impact everything from the debt to inflation to how the economy is growing at this time, which raises major questions about whether his support is even gettable at this point and whether they have to pare back this bill substantially, even further to get him behind this.

Now at the same time there are concerns among Democrats that maybe Joe Manchin might not be there at the end of the day, the separate infrastructure bill, $1.2 trillion for roads, bridges, waterways and broadband, that this may have new life in the House. The key progressive leader, Pramila Jayapal, told CNN earlier today that the progressives are willing to support the infrastructure bill, potentially as soon as this week, assuming negotiations on the larger bill are finished and those are getting close to being done. So, she thinks both bills could pass the house this week, regardless of where Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema stand.

Before they'd been demanding those two senators commit to the larger bill, now they're saying it's up to Joe Biden to get those two members on board. They'll just move forward here so at least one aspect of the president's proposal could become law.

TAPPER: And, Kaitlan Collins, how is the White House responding to this news from Senator Manchin, and how does Manchin -- does Manchin's announcement change Biden standing with his global counterparts?


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's certainly unfortunate timing for the White House, because that is precisely the argument the president is trying to make here today. And he was apologizing for steps that President Trump took at the time he was in office when it came to withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords and he was trying to make the argument that the U.S. is back at the table. And they are going to lead when it comes to climate change.

And now, of course, they've gotten this statement from Senator Manchin saying, he's not ready yet to fully support President Biden's agenda here. And the White House responded pretty quickly with Jen Psaki putting out a statement saying that Senator Manchin says he's prepared to support a plan that combats inflation, is fiscally responsible and will create jobs. Seventeen Nobel Prize-winning economists say this plan will reduce inflation and, Jake, they say as a result we remain confident the plan will gain Senator Manchin's support.

Of course, Jake, the key phrase there is "will gain". That means the White House realizes Senator Manchin has not yet expressed his support behind this plan. That was something president Biden was hoping to get before he came to the G0 summit in Rome but, of course, to this major climate summit.

It does reveal something about what happened last night during a press conference that we had with President Biden where he was leaving the room and we asked the president whether or not he had gotten the sign- off from Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema on this $1.75 trillion plan, Jake. And you can see as he was leaving the room he flashed a thumbs up to the reporters when we asked that question twice.

And, of course, later the White House walked that back saying that the president was just saying he feels like the bill is moving in a good direction, wasn't saying explicitly those two had signed on and clearly we know why because Senator Manchin made clear today he has not signed off on that.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan and Manu, thank you so much.

Let's discuss with my panel. Laura, let me start with you.

How big of a road block is this for the Democrats? I really honestly am told Manchin gave this press conference, I thought the Democrats would pass both of thesis this week.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you listen to what Manchin is saying, a lot of his concerns are ones he's laid out over the past few months. I was texting with a progressive senator who said, look, Manchin is going to Manchin. They think he'll ultimately be there in the end. The senator noted he was there on the rescue plan, he was there on impeachment, he was there on ACA.

So, the White House right now and progressives and House leadership are moving forward with their plan to potentially pass the Build Back Better plan along with the infrastructure bill as early as this week. And progressives in the House are saying that they're on board as long as those are happening in tandem. That appears to be the change from last week when progressives were saying, we're not for infrastructure at this point despite being pressured by the White House.

But the only thing that seems to have changed is they feel as long as they're happening simultaneously, back-to-back in the House, that they're ready to move forward on infrastructure.

TAPPER: And, Hilary, this is interesting because one of the things you hear from progressive leaders like Congresswoman Jayapal is, we're not worried. Joe Biden, President Biden has assured us the 50 votes will be there. 50 plus one, Kamala Harris, the vice president, and that's all. In other words, they are not expressing anger with Manchin and Sinema and they're basically saying, Biden, you promised us this and we expect you to deliver. Which is I guess why?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I can tell you the White House today is not worried about what Joe Manchin said. They don't think that he said anything different than he's been saying all along.

And, you know, look, the good thing for reporters is that Joe Manchin when he hasn't been in front of the camera for a couple of days, he's willing to go back out there.

But let's not pretend he's saying anything new. He was always around the same amount of money. He always had inflationary concerns. He always wanted to make sure it's been paid for. That's where we are and that's what this framework does.

The thing that's changed is something that he has been for all along, which is a -- pushing back on prescription drug prices which might be a little extra push for progressives, if you can cap out-of-pocket co- pays and things like that. And that's what Kyrsten Sinema is talking to Nancy Pelosi about.

So we've got Bernie talking to Joe and Sinema talking to Pelosi and Jayapal may get her prescription drug benefit.


ROSEN: Like this is coming together. The White House is confident.

TAPPER: OK, i don't know that I share their confidence.

What do you make of it, Tia?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: Manchin's comment comes at a time when, yes, Democrats in general want to move forward but there was also negotiating still ongoing about things like prescription drug costs and allowing --

TAPPER: Right, Bernie Sanders and them were saying we're going to keep trying to push stuff into the bill.

MITCHELL: Right. And so, I think this creates pressure to not do anything that expands the bill which puts that prescription drug cost stuff in jeopardy or changes the bill substantially but also there's risk because if Democrats feel pressure to try to work with Manchin to make tweaks that perhaps make him more confident, then that could cause progressives and also voters to say, now it's watered down to the point, what's the point?


TAPPER: Ramesh, I want you to take a listen to what Senator Manchin said in his statement in which he's basically accusing Democrats of hiding the true cost of this legislation. Take a listen.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): As more of the real details outline the basic framework are released, what I see are shell games, budget gimmicks that make the real cost of the so-called $1.75 trillion bill estimated to be almost twice that amount if the full time is run out, if you extended it permanently.


TAPPER: I mean, it sounds like something you might write. Shell games and budget gimmicks. I'm not saying he's wrong. But, I mean, is that accurate do you think?

RAMESH PONNURU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's a long tradition of shell games and budget gimmicks in this sort of legislation. But this is why I think that it is going to take more than tweaks. If you want to fund a bunch of programs and have it fit this $1.75 trillion box and you want to do it on a permanent basis, you're going to have to cut out some of the things that the Democrats say that they want to do.

So, that's going to take more than tweaks. It's going to take a fundamental redesign of the legislation. And then, if he also wants time to study the impact to run the numbers and go through the text, I think any idea that this is going to happen this week is off the table.

TAPPER: What were you going to say?

ROSEN: You know, the only troubling thing about what he just said is that it's probably going to be cut into a television commercial at some point, used against Democrats in the midterms. Other than that, it wasn't really anything new.

And so, again, we are in this position where Sinema and Manchin seem to want to be fighting for the last person reporters have to talk to or the president has to talk to. But that's what this is. There really is a framework here, and I think we're there.

PONNURU: Maybe nothing new, though. Maybe he means it.

TAPPER: Yeah, well, one of the things Manchin is saying is I don't want progressives to push me to do this. It's not going to work. And I want to run some video.

Senator Kirsten Sinema, who is the other holdout Democrat on this issue, confirms to me that the video we're about to see it real. She was at a wedding of a friend and some progressive protesters showed up at the wedding and disrupted Senator Sinema's friend's wedding outside the wedding. Take a listen.


PROTESTER: -- doing to our country! You know what? Tell her. Tell her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't disagree. It's my daughter's wedding. Please just go down to the corner for one hour. Please.


TAPPER: That's the mother of the bride. The couple from what I understand is not a political couple at all. Just the bride happens to be friends with Senator Sinema.

Do progressives -- do people like that think that this is effective, that this does anything other than anger somebody like Senator Sinema?

BARRON-LOPEZ: I'm not sure that they think this is necessarily effective, but I think there's a lot of frustration among Democrats and more left-leaning Democrats that they see a product and they see these provisions they really want to see passed. I mean, a number of provisions when you take them out individually can have some 70 percent or 80 percent support across the country and that it's two senators from West Virginia and from Arizona.

So a product of a 50/50 Senate which a lot more Democrats are realizing if they want some of these proposals, then clearly a 50/50 Senate is not going to get them that.

MITCHELL: And also that the protesters following Sinema around, it's not just that she's considered a centrist who stood in the way of some of these policies. But that she has not really been as transparent as some of her constituents and progressive activists would like her to be on where she stands, period.

And so, I'm not saying it's right for a wedding to be disrupted or for her to be followed to the bathroom, but what the activists on the left are saying is that's all they can do because she won't speak. She isn't transparent. She isn't engaging people to let people know where she stands. BARRON-LOPEZ: And unlike in West Virginia, I also think that a number

of progressives and activist groups in Arizona think that Sinema is potentially weak in terms of her re-election. They could potentially primary her. There's more room for that than clearly in West Virginia where Trump won by 30 to 40 points.

TAPPER: I think an event like that might cause Kyrsten Sinema to --

ROSEN: You're not going to change her one way or another --

TAPPER: It's not going to change her, but it also might garner sympathy for her.

ROSEN: She's not seeking sympathy.

TAPPER: Right.

ROSEN: I think the -- you know, we have another senator, Democratic senator from Arizona who takes different positions than she does. So it's not that it's about politics for her. I think her biggest mistake, honestly, is that she doesn't make herself accessible to the public in the way Joe Manchin does.

You know where Joe Manchin stands. You know what his values are.


Like them or not like them, you know that you either have to defeat him or support him, period.

Whereas Sinema I think is much more reticent. She doesn't talk about these issues from a values perspective.

TAPPER: She's not doing town halls or talking --

ROSEN: Or even to reporters really about what her perspective is on tax cuts or drug benefits or social programs. I think she would benefit from that, honestly.

TAPPER: Ramesh?

PONNURU: I think that's right. Although I am sympathetic to the --

TAPPER: I don't think anybody here supports disrupting the wedding. Let's be clear.

PONNURU: Absolutely right. I think it's the kind of tactic that makes apolitical people like that couple think, I don't want to have anything to do with these people, you know? Definitely, I don't know where they stand from politics maybe, but I'm not with those people. And I do think that that's the sort of thing that people who are not totally in sync with the public ought to give more attention to when they think about how to be an activist.

TAPPER: All right. To be continued.

Thanks one and all for being here. I appreciate it.

Coming up next, the stunning number of Americans who are buying into some extreme conspiracy theories.

Plus, actor and former White House official Cal Penn joins us live to discuss his revealing new memoir. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the big lie about election fraud, deranged conspiracy theories, other corrosive fantasies, all of them flourishing. Now a shocking number of Republicans according to a new survey believe, quote, true American patriots might have to resort to violence to, quote, save the United States. It's all according to this stunning new poll from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute.

Let's discuss with the organization's CEO and founder, Robert Jones.

Thank you for being here, albeit under this troubling circumstances.


TAPPER: Let's start with this first number. One-third of Republicans believe true American patriots might need to resort to violence in order to save our country, 17 percent of independents, 11 percent of Democrats.

Save America from what?

JONES: Yeah, you know, I think what we've seen really is the last really four or five years of president Trump, I think essentially saying your country has been stolen from you. And this sense of, we need to reclaim our country and the whole make America great again thing I think plays into that.

So when you get that, it really is a sense the country has been stolen. And from whom? If you really unpack it, it really is white Anglo-Saxon Christians. That really is who that group is most animated by that message. That's the vast majority Republicans are 7 in 10 white and Christian today and about one-third white evangelical. And that's the group that is really most animated by this message.

TAPPER: Yeah, and I think what's stunning is not just they think the country was stolen, which obviously it has not been stolen, but the idea they think violence, 3 out of 10 think violence will be acceptable. The poll found among the 60 percent of white evangelicals who believe the election was stolen from Trump which obviously is not true, 39 percent believe that true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save the country. So 39 percent of white evangelicals who think the election was stolen, that's a lot.

JONES: Yeah, it's a majority. First of all, it's the only religious group that thinks -- thinks the election was stolen --

TAPPER: White evangelicals.

JONES: Who voted 84 percent for Trump. So, they're all in for Trump. They believe this.

And that especially if you unpack this, this is a religion that not that long ago talked about itself as the moral values of the country.

TAPPER: Right.

JONES: Like that kind of. And turn the other cheek and all that stuff. And yet here we are, a major mainstream religion that's been all in for Trump and we have among those who believe the election was stolen, which is most of them, nearly 4 in 10 saying they can imagine it being justified to resort to violence to shore up their own political outcome.

TAPPER: We know there's this deep divide between those who trust right wing media outlets such as Fox News and those who don't. Your poll shows there's even a divide between those who trust Fox News the most and those who trust other MAGA media outlets more like One America News Network or Newsmax.

Take a look at this. 97 percent of far right news fans such as OAN believe the election was stolen. For Fox, it's 82 percent of fox news fans believe the election was stolen. Both the numbers are obviously very alarming. Neither one is acceptable since the election was not stolen, but what does that tell you?

JONES: You know, it tells you not only for a long time we've been thinking about Fox News is -- and we've been measuring that. What we found during the Trump era is we started having to measure one more click to the right. And that was organizations that get built up like One America News, that became kind of Trump's mouthpiece in many ways during his administration. And we're seeing that real effect show up particularly among Republicans.

As you said, it just escalates. So, among -- you see it among the people who believe the election was stolen, you also see that escalation among people who think that violence is going to be justified. It goes up 4 in 10 among those who most trust -- among Republicans who most trust far right news sources, it's 4 in 10 who think violence might be necessary.

TAPPER: I think it was December 2016 that I first heard this pizza- gate nonsense which is kind of the precursor of the QAnon nonsense. The idea Democrats, liberals are all conspiring not just to steal elections, which they're not doing, but also to eat and have satanic rituals involving children. I mean, just crazy stuff.

One in five Americans believe in this core tenet of QAnon, quote, there's a storm coming soon. I don't know they necessarily knew the significance but they think there's a storm coming soon. One in 6 believe the U.S. is controlled by Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run global child sex-trafficking operation. I mean, what?

JONES: I know. So, I can tell you as a social scientist, I never thought I'd be in a position of writing that question, right? Of conceiving a question like that.

But here we are and it shows up, yeah, and if you put all those questions together, including the violence question, it's nearly 1 in 5 Americans and it's a quarter of Republicans and a quarter of white evangelicals who believe all three of those things put together.


That violence -- a storm coming is going to sweep aside the elites and this crazy idea about a group of pedophiles that are controlling the government.

TAPPER: I mean, all of these are crazy ideas, but that's the craziest, I think it's fair to say.

And what is the reason? Is it just because -- not just. Is it because Republican officials, MAGA media, others are out there either stating this and not getting pushback or hinting about it and I mean, what is the reason so many people are believing all these lies?

JONES: I do think one problem is there's not been a clear no from Republican elites just to say no, right? This is not true. We've seen a lot of hemming and hawing, a lot of winking and nodding. I think that's a big part of the problem.

I think the other problem here, that the deeper crisis is that for many white evangelical Christians, white Christians even broader, there's a legitimation crisis, an identity crisis happening, right? They thought of the country as really God's Promised Land for white Christians. As that has broken down, the country has gotten more diverse, that's not what America is today.

It's created this deep, deep identity crisis and created this opening for these wild conspiracy theories to explain the unexplainable and that unexplainable piece is how can this country not be, quote/unquote, ours?

TAPPER: Robert Jones, a lot to think about there. Thank you so much.

This Friday, join me for a CNN special report. "Trumping Democracy: An American Coup." It starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Coming up, a major new milestone in the number of vaccinations in the U.S. and what seems to have helped.

Stay with us.


[16:31:26] TAPPER: Topping our health lead. An incredible milestone. Good news. The White House says 80 percent of U.S. adults have now gotten at least one COVID shot.

Good news for everyone. This is leading to clear trends in the right direction. Over the past month, the U.S. has seen a 35 percent drop in cases. A 32 percent drop in deaths.

And as vaccine mandates kick in across country, Alexandra Field finds the holdouts are way outnumbered.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More proof the mandates are working.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Since we announced the mandate just days ago, 22,472 new vaccinations among our city employees.

FIELD: Ninety-one percent of New York City's municipal workforce is now vaccinated. Police, EMS, sanitation workers and the fire department all seeing big gains in vaccination rates since the mayor announced the mandate 12 days ago.

DE BLASIO: Anyone who hasn't so far, there's still a chance to fix it. Come in. Get vaccinated. Come back to work because we need everyone to do their job, and we need everyone to be safe.

FIELD: Nine thousand 9,000 city workers who didn't get the shot are now at home on unpaid leave. Mayor Bill de Blasio says there have been no disruptions to police, sanitation and fire services, and no firehouses have closed. That's even with 2,300 firefighters calling out sick today, doubled and tripled the usual number. The FDNY says it's seeing higher than normal numbers of sickouts since the mandate was announced, the firefighters union still opposing the mandate.

ANDREW ANSBRO, UNIFORMED FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: We're hoping fire coverage is not impinged upon but it's hard to say.

FIELD: The battle over mandates is playing out against the backdrop of a big milestone. The White House says 80 percent of adults in the U.S. have received their first shot. Nearly 70 percent of adults are now fully vaccinated. New COVID cases continue to fall. Hospitalizations are under 50,000 for the first time in three months.

New vaccine mandates for federal workers, large employers and health care workers are set to take effect December 8th. The Biden administration is pushing ahead with that plan despite calls to push the deadline to 2022.


FIELD: Military service members are also now facing vaccine mandates. The deadline for the air force is just a day away. More than 96 percent of active duty members are now vaccinated. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD (on camera): Jake, with all that progress, we're also seeing more schools across the country easing their COVID related restrictions. Miami-Dade County public schools announcing today that their middle schools and high schools can now give parents the option to opt their children out of mandatory masking. The school district noting that's a function of the improved health conditions and they're saying you could see a further easing of restrictions for even younger students in the coming days.

TAPPER: Alexandra Field with some good news, thanks.

The final hours of voting are under way in Virginia. What the race might signal for Democrats and for Republicans. That's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, tomorrow's off-year elections feature high-stakes contests for governor in Virginia and in New Jersey. Big city mayor's races including in New York and Atlanta and Boston, as well as some special House races, and the fate of the Minneapolis Police Department as it exists right now.

The marquee race undoubtedly, however is the race for Virginia governor. An upset by the Republican is a very real possibility in a state that Biden won by 10 percentage points just a year ago.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is creeping track of the candidates as they make their final push for votes.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One final push for votes in Virginia.

TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Let's go vote, everybody. Let's go vote!

ZELENY: Democrat Terry McAuliffe is seeking a second act as Virginia's governor. But on election eve, he's locked in a bitter duel with Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin.

GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The entire nation is watching this. All eyes are on Virginia.

ZELENY: A year after President Biden won the commonwealth by ten points, Republicans are riding a wave of energy.


They hope to spark a party resurgence, as Democrats scramble to keep their party together and avoid an embarrassing defeat.

YOUNGKIN: We have a moment right now, the new path forward that isn't dependent on 43 years of political favors.

ZELENY: Virginia elects its governors the year after the presidential race. Since 1970, the party out of power in the White House has won every time. Except once in 2013 when McAuliffe narrowly carried the state after President Obama's re-election.

MCAULIFFE: We can't get this done unless we keep this positive momentum going.

ZELENY: This time, the political headwinds facing Democrats are strong, even with a parade of party stars visiting over the last month.

Tonight, more than 1.1 million Virginians have already voted, casting their ballots early. Aides to both campaigns tell CNN they expect a record turnout for a governor's race with most of the electorate voting on Tuesday.

The race has emerged as a proxy war for the popularity of the current president and the former one.

MCAULIFFE: That's what you got with Glenn Trumpkin.

ZELENY: Donald Trump said to call into a rally tonight after praising Youngkin in a statement saying: We get along very well together and strongly believe in many of the same policies.

Hoping to woo independent voters, McAuliffe has repeatedly tried tying Youngkin to Trump.

MCAULIFFE: Donald Trump and Glenn Youngkin are trying to run down the democracy of this country and we will not tolerate.

ZELENY: For months, Youngkin has walked the line trying to energize the loyal followers without alienating independents and even Republicans turned off by Trump. He's tapped into the latest front on the culture wars. From vaccine mandates to what kids learn and read in the classroom. It's put the power of the parents' movement at the center of the race.

YOUNGKIN: This is no longer a campaign. This is a movement led by parents, led by Virginians.


ZELENY (on camera): So by so many measures, Jake, it's clear that the momentum is with Youngkin in the final hours of this race. However, with so many early votes already counted, we have to factor that in as well. But it is closing in the northern Virginia suburbs here in Fairfax County and in neighboring Loudoun County. Those, of course, are the final two campaign stops for McAuliffe and Youngkin this evening.

President Biden won these counties dramatically just a year ago. So, one thing is clear, Youngkin is going after those Biden voters -- Jake. TAPPER: That's right.

Jeff Zeleny on the campaign trail in Virginia, thanks.

And be sure to join CNN tomorrow night for election night in America. I'm going to lead coverage of the key governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey, plus New York City mayoral race. Live special coverage starting tomorrow on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, from white castle to the White House, actor Kal Penn is now sharing a major revelation about his life. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our pop culture lead today, he is a self-described skinny brown kid from New Jersey, but you might know him as Dr. Lawrence Kutner or Garrett Modi or simply as Kumar. Actor Kal Penn is the son of Indian immigrants who has been making us laugh and smile and emote on the big and small screens for more than 20 years.

But after a stint at the Obama White House, he's now written a brand new memoir. It's called, "You Can't Be Serious." It's about his years growing up in a predominantly white suburb in New York. The racism he faced in Hollywood and why he felt drawn to public service. Plus, so much more.

The book comes out tomorrow. And Kal Penn, actor, writer, producer, former White House staffer, joins me now.

Kal, I told you. I read the book over the weekend. It's fantastic. It's really good.

KAL PENN, ACTOR: Yeah. Thank you.

TAPPER: We've covered a lot of anti-Asian racism this year. I suppose that's East Asian racism and you would be more South Asian racism. But --

PENN: Same umbrella.

TAPPER: Yeah, one of the most appalling and engrossing parts of your book deals with the racism you experienced in showbiz. And it all started really with one of your first big breaks in the year 2000, for an episode of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say we do a project on the gold rush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I say prohibition.

PENN: What is so wrong with the expedition of Lewis and Clark?

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: And time and again, you write in your book, producers forced you to use an Indian accent.

PENN: Yeah, that one in particular sort of summed up a lot of the experiences I had. I remember that.

You know, that was a show that little my cousins watched that I thought, wow, I'm auditioning for a project. It's a kid in a study group with Sabrina, made up this whole back story about this guy who is from Seattle, loves small batch organic coffee. You know, the silliness you put into your back story stuff.

And I get to work and they say we want you to do it with an Indian accent. And I sort of thought, well, maybe they're just ignorant, maybe I don't know. And I talked about how I grounded the character. It might be funnier without an accent. They said, no, no, it's funny. You're going to do it with an accent.

And I said, well, you know, I never grow up getting to see people who look like me so I'd appreciate it if I could do it without an accent. I have little cousins. It might be nice to see a depiction that kind of looks like -- looks and feels like us.

And I remember the director said, you know, your little cousins should be lucky that you're allowed on TV to begin with and so should you. And he walked off.

Ands the reason I recount that in the book is not to kind of dig up old memories, but because that was sort of commonplace in those days. And I'm so glad that the industry I love has moved so far forward. But there -- I mean, I had people tell me go home and put a bed sheet on your head because you're not wearing a turban, asked me why I speech such -- speak such good English.


And, you know, I was like, because I'm from New Jersey and we speak really good English? But there were, there were days that I know by 2021 standards, thankfully, we look back at that and say that was not okay, but there are still remnants of that for sure, that will continue to change.

TAPPER: I mean, it's still relatively recent. We're talking about since 2000.

PENN: Yeah, that's true.

TAPPER: I mean, you've talked about how important representation is for people of color for years. And back in 2017, you tweeted, found a bunch of my old scripts from some of my first years as trying to being an actor, and the casting description includes Gandhi lookalike, snake charmers, fire eaters, sand artists.

You say the industry has changed. Has it changed enough?

PENN: I think that if you ask anybody who will say it's changed leaps and bounds, and there's always room to grow, there's always room to continue to change. The reason that I shared those, you know, was not -- not to say whoa is me but to sort of highlight the barriers to entry that especially performers of color face.

Of course, for many of those roles I said no. For a lot of them, I said, I'll do it, because I need the credit on my resume. So, you know, the end result of that was having the chance to do things like "Harold and Kumar" or "The Namesake" or "House".

But I think one of the big things that's helped television and entertainment change for the better are the streaming platforms, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu. If you think about the content that they have, they're oftentimes outside of the purview of race or gender, any of that stuff. And they just make great compelling characters that everyone wants to watch no matter -- no matter what the characters are and no matter who we are.

TAPPER: Yeah, and your struggles, you know, in some ways I'm sure you paved the way for Mindy Kaling or for Aziz Ansari or for others.

Eventually, you end up at the Obama White House as a principal associate director in the Office of Public Engagement under President Obama. And you said that for you, it was never about politics. It was about public service.

Do you think that you might ever again return to public service in some capacity, including being in a White House aide?

PENN: You know, the -- I know I tell the story in the book over the years about how my grandparents who marched with Gandhi in the Indian independence movement. The stories they told me as a kid like when they were trying to get me to eat my carrots, the course of stories that every grandparent tells you, my grandparents happened to tell those stories about what it was like being jailed and beaten by British soldiers. And the 7-year-old me was probably just like, ah, God, there grandpa goes again, another Gandhi story.

But as I got older, obviously, realizing nonviolence civil disobedience, the ties to our own civil rights movement inspired the opportunity to serve at the White House. I don't think I would run for office which I think was your actual question.


PENN: But I would love -- I would love to continue helping out. I've made no secret of the fact that, in retirement, I'd love to maybe be an ambassador, work in the cultural diplomacy space and put my private sector arts experience to use.

TAPPER: A lot of competitive congressional seats in New Jersey, I'm just saying.

PENN: You know, a lot more movies to make, too, though.

TAPPER: One of the things that's interesting is you write about your partner Josh. You write about your sexuality in a very matter of fact way. You've been together for 11 years. You've been engaged for two years.

But I think a lot of people probably didn't know you were gay. Why did this feel like the right time to tell the public and talk a little bit about the decision you made to write about it the way you did, which was kind of like as if we all already knew?

PENN: Yeah, thank you. So, I mean, one of the big goals of the book was, A, to make people laugh and, B, feel like you're just having a beer with me or four or five beers depending on how long to take to read the book. And part of that was sharing a lot more experiences.

I mean, Josh have been -- Josh and I have been together for 11 years. I'm really happy to share that chapter with folks. That chapter to your point is a love story ensconced in NASCAR, because our second date -- I mean, you know, this from working in D.C., like Sundays were my only days off as a staffer.

So, when Josh and I met, I was like, why don't you just come over, we'll watch some TV or something. It's a Sunday afternoon. He comes over with an 18-pack of Coors Light and turns my TV to NASCAR. And immediately, I'm like, all right, well, this dude is going to leave with 16 of those beers because this is not going to work out.

And then next thing, you know, we're together for quite awhile. He, like my parents, sort of, shun the public eye, you know? I wanted to respect that when we codified a relationship. I just sort of thought, I'd like to be respectful of him the same way I'm respectful of my parents.

So when they've been introduced to all my work friends or have come to movie sets or premieres, it's funny to see how quickly they'll exit the car and sort of like go through a side entrance, get the popcorn and wait for me to do all my interviews. And then when it was time to put the memoir together, I just -- I talked to them all. So many great, fun stories I'd like to be able to share with people. Are you okay with that?

And they said sure, go ahead. You can share a couple of adorable stories, Kal. Put them in the book, but just a couple of.

TAPPER: Well, anyway, the book is a great read. I read it in a day on Saturday as you know because --

PENN: Thank you.

TAPPER: -- I was texting you while reading it.

PENN: Yeah.

TAPPER: "You Can't Be Serious". Kal Penn, author of "You Can't Be Serious," it's out tomorrow, November 2nd. Check it out. It's a fun read. Thank you so much, Kal.

PENN: Thanks, Jake. Nice to talk to you.

TAPPER: Senator Joe Manchin appears to have possibly just blown up Democrats' latest attempt to try to pass Biden's agenda this week. I'm going to talk to a leading moderate Democrat in the House, next.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, thousands of New York City firefighters are out sick today after a COVID vaccine mandate goes into effect.

Plus, a CNN exclusive out of Afghanistan. CNN witnesses desperate families who say they're being forced to sell their young daughters in order to survive.

And leading this hour, President Biden today hoping to lead the world against the climate crisis. The president saying the eyes of history are on the international climate summit under way now in Scotland.