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Don Lemon Tonight
Senate Votes To Begin Debate On Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill; Interview With Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); CDC Changes Mask Guidance In Response To Delta Variant Spreading; NY Dem Mayoral Nominee Giving Party Leaders Policing Advice; Simone Biles Out Of Team Gymnastics Finals And Individual All-Around Competition; Right-Wing Commentators Attack Olympian Simone Biles And Officers Who Defended The Capitol. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired July 28, 2021 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Thank you, sir.
MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: The Senate voting tonight advance President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure bill. Seventeen Republicans supporting the $1 trillion plan. Plus, the pandemic of the unvaccinated is surging with COVID cases and hospitalizations rising in hot spots all around the country.
Corporate America is responding with multiple companies. As I just said, they're mandating that employees get their shots. One of the largest real estate developers in New York City telling employees that they will be fired if they're not vaccinated by Labor Day.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. It is good to see you, senator.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Good to see you.
LEMON: Thank you so much. Let's talk about the advancing of the infrastructure bill. You voted to advance it.
LEMON: The bill tonight. The final is 67 to 32. It's not easy to get 67 votes for anything these days. We're going to put it up on the screen, about what this bill will do. But you don't think this bill goes far enough. Why is that, senator?
WARREN: So, look, this is only a sliver of the infrastructure that we need. It's a part that some folks wanted to make sure was bipartisan. That's fine, long negotiations over that. But we still need a lot more.
We need child care. You know, people want to go to work. You need roads and bridges. Parents also need child care. We need home and community-based care. We need to make sure that we're fighting back against the climate crisis that is bearing down upon us. We want to do an infrastructure package. It has got to have that in it. It's time to expand Medicare.
All these pieces are going to be wrapped together, and they're really one big package.
LEMON: We are sitting distanced.
LEMON: You walked in with this. I have mine. I've been wearing my mask as well. I want to talk to you about COVID. Are you frustrated that it appears that we, Americans, are sliding backwards despite having lifesaving vaccine available?
WARREN: Of course, I'm frustrated. You know, we lined up. We -- look, what we would have done a year ago to say that there was a vaccine that can protect people that had nearly 100 percent effectiveness to keep people from being hospitalized or from dying, goodness! And we develop, we work hard, we get this vaccine develop, we get it out there, and for a while, people are clamouring for it.
WARREN: And now we're caught in this period where there are people who are not just vaccine hesitant, but all the way to vaccine resistant. And I -- this isn't about politics. This is about our health. This is about keeping our children safe. This is about keeping people who have immune compromised safe, people who are undergoing cancer.
LEMON: Taking up room in hospitals --
LEMON: -- in hospitals around the country.
WARREN: You know it is not a time to get sick.
LEMON: Medical bills, expensive --
WARREN: That's not --
LEMON: -- medical bills for -- yeah.
WARREN: Exactly right, all of that when it is preventable. I think the line that hit me the hardest was from a doc last week who said that virtually, every hospitalization from COVID now and virtually every death, is a preventable hospitalization, a preventable death.
WARREN: That means we need to do better, and we need to do better for all of us.
LEMON: What did you think of the gripping testimony from the officers yesterday? WARREN: It was a very sober reminder of how close we came to losing our democracy.
LEMON: What about the shifting of the blame and some Republicans saying I didn't have time to watch it, I didn't even have time to attend, I didn't have time to watch it, I was busy, meeting?
WARREN: Look, this is just one more version of what the Republicans spent four years perfecting. Every time Donald Trump said something outrageous, every time he did something that was just amazingly racist or ignorant, the answer was, oh, I didn't hear that, didn't see that. All the lines have been perfected.
And now, they are used in order to turn away from evidence of an armed insurrection that resulted in death, that put other lives at risk, and that put our entire democracy at risk. These people have no shame.
LEMON (on camera): Speaking of our democracy, you have called for the end of the filibuster. This is what the president told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: If it's a relic of Jim Crow, it's been used to fight against civil rights legislation historically, why protect it?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There's no reason to protect it other than you're going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done.
LEMON: All right.
BIDEN: Nothing at all will get done.
BIDEN: And there's a lot at stake. The most important one is the right to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): So how do you convince the president and other moderate Democrats in your conference who aren't willing to kill or carve out, you know, the filibuster in order to protect voting rights?
WARREN: Look, voting is the beating heart of our democracy. We lose access to the ballot box. We lose everything that democracy is built on.
WARREN: We cannot privilege a rule of the Senate that our founding fathers specifically rejected. Do remember that the founders debated the question of when to require a super majority.
LEMON: Mm-hmm. WARREN: And they finally decided, well, if you're going to impeach a president, you probably ought to have supermajority. If you're going to pass a treaty that overrules domestic law, you got to have supermajority. But they decided, you got a supermajority in the House, you got a supermajority in the Senate, you got a president who is willing to sign off, that's good enough to make something law.
Right now, the filibuster has given Mitch McConnell a veto over virtually everything we want to do. That cannot be put ahead of the urgency of protecting access to the vote, of getting rid of gerrymandering, and beating back the influence of dark money.
We have our toes on the line. We've got a bill that we just about got every Democrat signed off on. What we got to do is finish up that bill and then say, as a party, but also say as patriots, this is how we protect our democracy.
WARREN: We have got to set the filibuster aside and go forward on voting rights.
LEMON: Also something else. You, along with Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, you are calling on the president to cancel student loan debt.
WARREN: You bet.
LEMON (on camera): Listen to this though from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power.
That has to be an act of Congress. Suppose your family was not -- your child just decided -- they wanted at this time not want to go to college but you're paying taxes to forgive somebody else's obligations, you may not be happy about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): What do you say to that?
WARREN: Look, the president does have the power to cancel student loan debt. You know how I know that? Because President Obama did it, President Trump did it, and President Biden has already done it.
President Obama did it for several billion people -- million people. President Trump did it when he said for all 43 million people without standing student loan debt, I forgive your interest and you can suspend payments. Let's cancel your interest. Not delay it, cancel it. And President Biden has done both of those things. So, presidents have the power. They have used the power. I just want to see him use that power to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt. And I'll tell you why. It's because of the people who need that debt cancelled.
Forty percent of the folks who are carrying student loan debt don't have a college diploma. They tried, but life caught up with them. They had babies or someone in the family got sick, they were working three jobs. And now, they're earning what a high school grad earns, but they are
paying on college loans.
It is an economic justice issue. It's also a racial justice issue. African-Americans borrow more money to go to school, more money while they're in school, and have a harder time paying it off when they get out of school.
Cancelling $50,000 of student loan debt would help close the black/white wealth gap for people with student loan debt by 25 points, and for Latinos, by 27 points.
This is the single act that the president could take to help close that wealth gap, to help close that economic inequality gap, and to help our economy, to get people back into starting their own businesses, buying homes, being productive members and part of our economy.
LEMON: Senator Elizabeth Warren, it is good to see you in person. Thank you so much.
WARREN: It's good to see you.
LEMON: Let's hope this continues.
WARREN: You bet, and let's cancel that student loan debt.
LEMON: Thank you very much.
And after weeks of wrangling, President Biden got the Republican support he wanted for his infrastructure plan, but some members of his own party have concerns.
Let's discuss now. CNN White House correspondent Mr. John Harwood is here. John, good to see you. Looks like --
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to D.C.
LEMON: Thank you very much. It is good to be here. So, looks like Congress is inching closer and closer to an actual infrastructure deal. There is still a lot that needs to be done. But do you think that the president's bipartisan approach is working, at least with this?
HARWOOD: Looks like it is. I think it is a single issue kind of working. It's -- there's a reason that he picked infrastructure as his top priority for a bipartisan push. Roads, bridges, the energy grid, broadband, all those things are popular. They're difficult for a political party to roadblock opposition to, the Republican Party, and some members of the opposition party want credit for some of those things.
HARWOOD: So, you got 17 Republicans to vote tonight. That's a positive step forward. A long way to go, but it was a major advance for the president.
LEMON: I'm glad you said that, 17 Republicans, a long way to go. I mean, even the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, signed on to that.
LEMON: But it seems precarious, right, because there are so many things that could go wrong.
HARWOOD: A lot of things that could go wrong, including it could pass the Senate, the House could want to change it, you could have Republicans rejecting any changes coming from the House and seeing those as a ticket to pushing through the much costlier bill, the $3.5 trillion bill the Democrats want to pass with their votes alone.
But there's also a lot that could go right. This was a linchpin for getting unity in the democratic caucus because there are some Democrats, Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, who said, we need -- before we go with the Democrats' only plan, we need to see progress with Republicans.
If it works the way Biden envisions, he's not only going to get this plan, he's going to get a very large bill, the second part, the families plan, that will make life-changing investments for millions and millions of people. Child tax credits --
LEMON: That is the $3.5 trillion?
HARWOOD: The $3.5 trillion package. It may not pass in total, may get trimmed down. Kyrsten Sinema made noise in that direction today. But if they can hold those 50 Democrats together on that bill, they're going to make a difference for a lot of poor and working-class people. Health care subsidies, rental assistance, educational advances, preschool, free community college, child tax credits, a lot of things that Democrats have wanted for many, many years and have been frustrated on.
LEMON: It's good to see you in person.
HARWOOD: Hey, good to be here.
LEMON: Thank you, John Harwood. I know it's been over since COVID, over satellite, so it's really good to see you.
LEMON (on camera): Thank you very much. I appreciate it. COVID cases are up in hot spots all around the country and the people who won't follow the rules are ruining it for the rest of us. Will COVID be with us indefinite is the question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The pandemic we have now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. So please, please, please, please, if you're not vaccinated, protect yourself and the children out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Today, the nation's top health officials saying it again and again, the delta variant is running rampant because of the unvaccinated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR, DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: People not getting vaccinated, not only is a bad thing for them, it could actually interfere in a negative way with the rest of the country by generating variants that would elude the vaccines.
ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CDC: This is a situation that is created by more and more transmission of the delta virus among people who are unvaccinated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): And the CDC says it just -- in just days, we will have new data that shows why concerns about breakthrough cases among the vaccinated are growing.
Let's discuss now with John Barry. He is the author of "The Great Influenza," and we are so happy to have him on. Thank you, John, for appearing.
So, the U.S. is averaging more than 61,000 new cases a day compared to 11,000 just a month ago. Delta is around three times more transmissible. And you write in the news opinion piece for The Washington Post about how previous pandemics have seen much deadlier variants in the years after the first wave.
How worried are you about a variant evolving that could completely bypass existing vaccines?
JOHN BARRY, AUTHOR: I am worried. I think, you know, all the five pandemics going back to 1889 that we know anything about in detail, you know, the virus enters the human population, it's a new virus, it adapts to humans. Initially, it becomes better at transmissibility, which has happened.
And in past pandemics, the viruses have tended to become more dangerous as well, which the data is not crystal clear yet about these variants but they look like they're at least somewhat more dangerous.
But we're not done yet. I mean, there is almost certainly going to be more variants. And what their nature is whether they get worse or whether delta is the worst case, we don't know.
I do think that we have already seen tendencies of the various variants to at least marginally escape the ability of the vaccines. And for natural immunity, you know, they demonstrated at least some ability to escape.
I think over a period of time, it's very reasonable to expect them to improve on that ability to escape. That does not mean that we cannot keep pace with them with adjusting vaccines.
LEMON: So how would we deal then with the nightmare -- that nightmare scenario? I mean, there are plenty of resistance to basic masking around the country, let alone going to lockdowns. So how do we deal with that?
BARRY: Well, I think reality hits you in the face sometimes. I think, you know, the vaccine uptake has increased as people recognize the reality that 97 percent, whatever the precise number is in any particular area of the people in hospitals and/or dying, are not vaccinated. I think that is starting to take hold. That's number one.
BARRY: So I think people will probably -- the vaccine resistance, I think we'll make some inroads there. The other thing is the scientific community, I think, will be able to keep pace.
You know, the influenza vaccine, even when it drops below 50 percent effectiveness in preventing illness, is still well over 80 percent effective in preventing somebody getting admitted to an intensive care unit. So it's still pretty good.
We got -- right now, the COVID vaccines are much higher than that. We have a long way to go, and we can adjust the vaccines in the future.
LEMON: Yeah. So, there is increasing discussion, John, over when COVID might transition from a pandemic to an epidemic disease, one that may be less common -- excuse me, an endemic disease, one that may be less common but remains circulating indefinitely. So tell me more about the difference and what that would mean for us.
BARRY: Well, you know, as people's immune systems and as vaccines are able to respond better to the virus, you know, you adjust. That's -- the 1889 pandemic, which was long thought to have been influenza, there's speculation now that it was actually a coronavirus. And that virus that they think now may have caused the 1889 pandemic, which was fairly nasty, that now causes the common cold. You know, the virus adjusts, becomes at home in the human body and our immune systems adjust, and we end up with an endemic disease that can cause serious illness and death, but it wouldn't be like what we're facing now.
LEMON: John Barry, thank you, sir.
BARRY: Thank you.
LEMON: New York Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams hearing from leaders of his own party, asking how to approach policing. I'm going to ask him what advice he's giving them. That's next.
LEMON: This week, four officers giving hours of powerful emotional testimony about the violence they endured during the January 6 insurrection. I spoke with Officer Harry Dunn tonight about he is -- how he is holding up and what he is facing now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY DUNN, CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: I'm so fortunate that I was not physically assaulted. I dint get my ass whooped, and I am so thankful. But you know who did? So many of my co-workers, so many of the NPD guys. If I came here with my arm in a sling or bandage around my head, will that give me a little more credibility?
I'm sorry I can't put a band aid on my emotions or my brain, my psychological -- my mindset. I can't put a band aid on it. All I got are my words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Joining me now to discuss is Brooklyn Borough president and the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City, Eric Adams. Thank you for joining us, Mr. Borough president. I appreciate it. So, you're a former police captain. What was your reaction to hearing the officers' testimony yesterday and what Office Dunn said tonight?
ERIC ADAMS, DEMOCRATIC NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL NOMINEE: It's very powerful and there are so many different aspects of what happened there. And you have to ask yourself, Don, where are all the pro-police individuals on the conservative arm of politics in the city? Where are they? How come they're not outraged about what happened to these officers?
I met some of the officers when I was in Washington today and talked to them and heard about how frightening it was. They didn't discharge their weapons. They were really in a dangerous situation. And many of them, the officers of color, they had racial slurs hurled at them. It was really despicable.
We need all those who state they're pro-police. They should be speaking up right now at what happened to those officers.
LEMON: You have made public safety, quite honestly, the cornerstone of your campaign, if not your career, because you're a former police officer. And now, leaders of the Democratic Party, including the president and speaker of the House, have reached out to you for how to approach policing issues. What are you advising them?
ADAMS: Well, it is a unique moment. And sometimes, the intersectionality of our lives brings us together, not only was I a victim of police abuse and they went into the police department to fight for reform. So, we don't have to surrender the justice we deserve for the public safety we need.
And what we are learning, based on these conversations, is that it is the foundation of our country. I've said over and over, Don, that the prerequisite, the prosperity is public safety, economic recovery, and how we're going to handle the future of our children.
And I am really pleased at what the Democratic Party is doing and what the president is doing. He's finally saying, America, we must take a holistic approach to stopping the feeders of crime and deal with some of the imminent threats that we have now.
We have to go after those illegal flows of guns in our city and you do it by having a federal, state, and city -- tri-state relationship of information sharing and zero in on those illegal gun dealers.
LEMON: Mm-hmm. The New York Post -- I have to ask you about these comments. The New York Post reported comments that you made at a fundraiser --
LEMON: -- where you said that you're running against a movement -- okay, and that's a quote -- against democratic socialists of America. Are you trying to steer your party in a certain direction, away from Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?
ADAMS: Well, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not running for mayor and the Post made it appear as though my comments were towards her. No, I'm still campaigning. I have to win an election in November.
My comments are for those candidates that are in the race. We have different beliefs on what America needs to turn around. I don't support disbanding police departments. It is part of our public safety ecosystem. I don't support many of their concepts. And so I'm talking about the concept of the socialists that are trying to take us away from our way of life. It's not the individual.
Now, we all want the same thing. I'm proud of the life of many of those individuals that want better schools, better health care, affordable housing, rebuild our economy, end inequalities. We just have different ways of doing that. It's my job as the mayoral candidate to point out how different I am from those who are running against me.
LEMON: It's a pleasure to have you on, Eric Adams. And again, I hope that you come back so that we can continue these discussions. Thank you so much, okay?
ADAMS: Thank you. Take care.
LEMON: Thank you.
Simone Biles speaking out tonight, tweeting, the outpouring love and support I've received has made me realize I'm more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.
Gold medalist Dominique Dawes gives us her take right after this.
LEMON: U.S. gymnastics superstar Simone Biles withdrawing from another event at the Olympics. Biles will no longer compete in tomorrow's individual all-around gymnastics competition at the Tokyo Games. She stepped away from the team competition yesterday, citing mental health concerns, as she attempts to protect her body and mind. She may still compete in next week's individual event finals.
Here to discuss, Dominique Dawes. She won Olympic gold in gymnastics as part of the "Magnificent Seven" at the 1996 summer Olympics. I remember that well. Good evening to you. Thank you so much for joining us. Good to see you.
DOMINIQUE DAWES, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.
LEMON: Dominique, listen, no doubt that you can relate to the intense pressure that Simone Biles was facing or is facing. She was billed as the GOAT this year. Give me your reaction to her withdrawing from the Olympic Games.
DAWES: It's unreal, unreal, the amount of pressure I'm sure that this young lady was facing. Leading up to the '96 Olympic Games, I had an emotional breakdown. I was crying before marching out in the Georgia Dome to start the competition. I knelt down, I prayed with a teammate, Amanda Borden, who is amazing, and I got back up and felt a little sense of relief.
But the pressure was still there. There were nearly 50,000 people in the Georgia Dome and billions of people watching. Just think for Simone Biles's Olympics, the whole world is watching. There is not an audience there to help with the adrenaline rush, there is no family, and there are no friends in the stand. So it is a lot for this young 24 years old to take on.
And let's not forget how outspoken she has been about the culture of the sport of gymnastics and how much it needs to change. She has made it very clear that she is the only survivor of the Larry Nassar scandal on the floor. That is a lot of weight for a young woman to take on.
LEMON: It's even beyond that. I mean -- yeah, it's beyond that, because what she has to do, if she messes up, it can cause really serious injury. It's easy for people to understand a physical injury. But she has a mental block happening. It's called the "twisties," right? Have you experience that? Can you tell us what that's like and what she's been going through with that?
DAWES: I experienced the twisties. I never knew it had a name until now. But in the 90s, we called it bulking (ph). You would go for a particular move, usually at the (INAUDIBLE) or a twist, and you would lose a little bit of spatial awareness, get lost in the air, and then you obviously are going to land because gravity is going to pull you down.
It's very scary. I went through it quite a bit throughout my career. And many times leading up to a competition, even in the warm-up or touch, you can lose that sense of awareness. It sounds like that is what happened at the team finals.
She did a 1-1/2 vault instead of a 2-1/2 vault, lost her awareness, it really probably freaked her out, and she decided to listen to her inner voice, which I'm so thrilled she can hear her inner voice, and she did what was best for Simone, and that was to back out of the competition and protect herself mentally as well as from any physical injuries.
LEMON: Listen, I mentioned that you were a part of the "Magnificent Seven" in 1996 in the Olympics. Kerri Strug was on your team. I just want people to look at these pictures. I mean, Kerri won gold after breaking her ankle while attempting to vault. She got back up, taped her ankle up, and won a second attempt before collapsing in pain.
LEMON: Some people are comparing her and Biles right now. But these are two very different situations. Am I wrong?
DAWES: I don't think they are as different as you are thinking they are. Earlier, I brought up the correlation between the two and that was viewed the iconic moment. Twenty-five years ago, when we won the gold medal, the 1996 Olympic Games, Kerri was so courageous to go for a second vault, she was risking her physical health and even her emotional health, to tell you the truth.
Anyone in her shoes would have been scared, would have been anxious, and it affects someone for the rest of their life. So Simone was thinking about her mental health and her physical health, and she made the decision that she didn't feel right, she didn't want to take the risk, and so she made the best decision for Simone. Back in the 90s, we couldn't hear our inner voice. The sport was very much dealt with a great deal of control, fear, intimidation and silence. And so Kerri did what she felt like she had to do and had only one choice to do.
Simone, it was a different situation. She really thought, this is too much of a risk to take, I don't to harm myself mentally and I also don't want to harm myself physically.
She also said she didn't want to jeopardize team USA's chances of getting on the podium because she thought she would make multiple mistakes. So, I find that she is courageous and it is a very humbling move that she did make.
LEMON: Yeah. And she's getting a lot of criticism. She's 24. She's a Black woman. She has got the world on her shoulders.
LEMON: She's not the only one right now facing this. Naomi Osaka, she's been heavily criticized after losing in the third round after being expected to take home gold. She's talked about her battle with anxiety and depression, and you know what the spotlight is like. You are the first African-American gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal. Can you give us some insight into that?
DAWES: Well, think about the criticism and who the individuals are that are criticizing these great, amazing athletes, the GOAT in the sport of gymnastics or Naomi Osaka who has done amazing things on the court or even Michael Phelps who spoken out about mental health issues. These individuals who are criticizing them more than likely can't do a 10th of what these young woman and these young men have done with their lives.
So, I really hope that these athletes, if there is that criticism out there, I'm not privy to it, that they let it go in one ear and out the other. It is not worth their time. You really don't want to judge someone until you walk today in their shoes and no one has walked today in their shoes other than Simone.
LEMON: Dominique Dawes, it is so good to see you. You look great, you haven't aged, and you still have that million watts smile that we remember from the 1996 Olympics. Thank you so much.
DAWES: Thank you, Don. I appreciate it.
LEMON: So, the right is attacking Simone Biles. One conservative activist who probably never tried flipping in the air multiple times calls her a quote -- "selfish sociopath." And the same crowd is going after the police officers who testified yesterday on Capitol Hill. So much for patriotism and backing the blue, we're gonna talk about that, next.
[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON (on camera): Right-wing pundits are attacking Simone Biles from withdrawing from gymnastic competition at the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental well-being. Listen to this disgusting comment from conservative activist Charlie Kirk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE KIRK, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: We are raising a generation of weak people, like Simone Biles. If she has all these mental health problems, don't show up. She's an incredible athlete. Of course, she's an incredible athlete. I'm not saying -- I just said she's probably the greatest gymnast of all time. She's also very selfish, she's immature, and she is a shame to the country. She's totally a sociopath. Of course, she's a sociopath.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Who is Charlie Kirk, anyway? Let's see whoever Charlie Kirk has tried to twist and twirl eight feet up in the air like Simone Biles. This seems to be the theme on the right, labelling people who accomplished things that they never could as weak.
So, here's how Fox propaganda network hosts, who never served in law enforcement or the military, went after officers who testified yesterday about their experiences defending our Capitol on January 6th. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: The award for blatant use of partisan politics when facts fail, the Angle Award goes to Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn. For best performance in an action role, the winner is Michael Fanone.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Watch Fanone cites the psychological trauma he endured as an excuse for ditching our Bill of Rights.
MICHAEL FANONE, CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: I've been left with the psychological trauma and the emotional anxiety of having survived such a horrific event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Joining me now, national correspondent for The Washington Post Philip Bump and CNN political analyst Natasha Alford. Hello to both of you. Good to see you.
Natasha, the audacity, really, that's all I need to say, the audacity of these people sitting on their butts, bashing Olympic athletes and hero police officers while they constantly spout off about patriotism and backing the blue. What is happening here? NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I know, Don. I said the same thing. The thought that went through my mind was they could never, right? It is easy for them to, you know, sit behind their Twitter feeds or sit on their laptop and to talk about champions.
ALFORD: But I'm really interested in this attack, this obsession that right-wing media has with Black athletes in particular, Black public figures who speak up for themselves or who define status quo. I am thinking of Meghan Markle with her mental health concerns. I am thinking of LeBron James when he talked about social justice issues.
And I think that this actually goes back even further. Think of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, you know, with the black power fist at the Olympics.
And so, it's something about black individuals, in particular. I think when they speak up for themselves, the right-wing pundits -- they hate it. There is an audacity that they feel that these Black figures have, that they shouldn't be so confident. You noticed that they try to take down their talent. And it speaks to their insecurity and it also speaks to their fear of what these figures, the power that they have, to actually shift the culture.
LEMON: Yeah. Well, it plays well, among the party of the insurrectionists, right? So, I think that's -- there's your answer right there. It's what the audience and their party wants.
Phil, you have a new piece that's titled, to many on the right, perceived toughness outweighs patriotism. And you write, in part, you said, the through-line to all of this is the idea that American heroes are necessarily stoic and suffering, demonstrating the sort of rigid masculinity that the insecure demand of their children.
Olympians and other athletes are supposed to shut up and let us enjoy their accomplishments and fame. Members of law enforcement and military are supposed to keep the bad guys in line and be tough while doing it. The only emotions they are allowed to show are anger or triumph.
Why is this perceived toughness so appealing to the right? Is it because it's just performative?
PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: I mean, it certainly is the case that a lot of it is performative. But, I mean, I think it's important, Don, to remember that an undercurrent of the entire Trump era has been this performative toughness, has been this sort of machismo that Donald Trump at least portrayed verbally. You know, he always talks video protesters, taking a hard line with immigrants and so on and so forth.
This is very much a part of Trumpism, this idea that people are very tough, that all these tough guys were tough and they were hanging out with Donald Trump who is so tough. Like, this was what it was about. And so we see absolutely it's the case that if the Simone Biles were a white man who is playing in the NFL, the reaction would have been different. And absolutely it's the case that the police officers who are white are treated differently than the police officers who are not.
But it is nonetheless also the case that because these individuals are demonstrating something other than this sort of in John Wayne-esgue (ph) sort of toughness, they are then therefore necessarily cast as part of the opposition by this right-wing that sees toughness as the paramount virtue that people can demonstrate.
LEMON: Yeah. They realize, I think, the -- probably the most important thing you said was John Wayne-esque (ph) toughness. John Wayne was an actor.
LEMON: He wasn't a real cowboy.
LEMON: He didn't live on a ranch. He was an actor. Natasha, listen, of course, there is no recognition that when you are twisting and turning eight feet in the air like Simone Biles, one wrong move and you could be crippled. Is this about targeting her because she is a prominent Black athlete? Because, I mean, that seems like a straight out of the -- as I said, it plays well in the insurrectionists' party and in their playbook.
ALFORD: Oh, yeah. I mean, they would love the idea of Simone Biles not being as Black and excellent as she is, but they can't -- they can't take away her excellence. And so they seize this moment in which she's actually being a leader, where she is setting an example for the culture of what it means to take care of yourself. They are trying to seize this moment and turn it into weakness.
But I have to tell you, Don, for -- for Black women, in particular, so many of us, not only do we have her back, but we felt seen in this moment. Whether we are talking about politics or sports, you know, we're often praised for sucking it up and, you know, putting democracy on our back and being leaders. And so many Black women are saying that we have to take care of ourselves, too, even if that means stepping back.
And it was Zora Neale Hurston, the great writer, who said, if you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it. And Simone Biles refused to be silent. She spoke up about her pain and she freed a lot of people in the process.
LEMON: Yeah. Listen, Philip, people -- like the people I mentioned, Charlie Kirk and others, they know this kind of messaging sells. Otherwise, they just wouldn't do it. BUMP: Yeah, no, that's true. I mean, I think that there are a lot of these people, too, who very much feel as though they need to demonstrate how tough they are, that there is actually some insecurity to this. I think Charlie Kirk feels as though he needs to present himself as being a very tough person.
BUMP: You know, he did this ad where he is like selling pain relievers to old people, right? I mean, he's like trying to present himself as something that is part of this this sense of machismo and so on and so forth.
Look, Charlie Kirk -- at the end of the day, the United States won a different color medal than it would have, otherwise, had Simone Biles been performing. Charlie Kirk, I am very confident, cares very little about the Olympics beyond for this particular two weeks or the two weeks that is going to be coming up in four years.
All of this is about using a moment, once again, to try and score points in this never-ending cultural fight, which is so important to people like Charlie Kirk and other people on the right, and the people who suffer as a result of it are people like Simone Biles and those police officers on Capitol Hill.
LEMON: Yeah. You talk shit about your fellow Americans but, you know, whatever. I'm not going to go there. Thank you, both. Have a good night. And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.