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Don Lemon Tonight

Daily COVID Cases In U.S. Averaging More Than 100,000; Gov. Ron DeSantis Threatens To Withhold Salaries Of School Officials Who Enact Mask Mandates; COVID Also Infecting Children; Widow Wants Her Husband's Service To Be Recognized; Earth Under Code Red. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 09, 2021 - 22:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): Hello, everyone. This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.

And we have got big developments on three major stories and they all have something in common. So here we go, willful, deadly, disregard for the facts and for the truth.

Let's start, shall we, with the COVID crisis. Worsening by the day, yet some politicians are pretending that it's not a big deal. It is a big deal. So, I don't want to say that they are in denial because the truth and the facts, well, they are known. They're making a conscious choice trying to politicize a virus that is killing people and hospitalizing children when much of the spread is really preventable.

The United States now averaging more than 108,000 new cases per day. Let's look at Florida where the virus is raging, the seven-day average showing about 19,000 new cases per day. The hospitalization rate from COVID in Florida more than triples the national rate.

But the governor there, Ron DeSantis, he has decided that he is going to take a stand, a stand against measures that can stop the spread before its innocent kids who -- before it hits innocent kids who can't be vaccinated and hits them where? It hits them in their schools.

He feels so strongly about this, so strongly that school boards not take steps that they and medical experts say are needed to protect the kids that tonight he is threatening to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who disregard his executive order prohibiting mask mandates for school districts. Now previously he had threatened to cut funding to school districts that require masks. Seriously?

He's declaring war on local school officials who may feel it's necessary for children in their districts to wear masks? Is making kids sick somehow a winning issue? I can't imagine so and saying this over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Some politicians would say I am going to eliminate the virus. I will defeat it. Unfortunately, government can't just end it. You know, we still have 1918 flu floating around so it's something that, you know, if government can just end it, then people wouldn't need to get the treatment because you could end it, right? You can't.


LEMON (on camera): And he is not alone. In Texas where the virus is also surging, Governor Greg Abbott has banned mask mandates in schools. And just breaking tonight, a Dallas County judge is asking a Texas court for a temporary restraining order against the governor over his ban on mask mandates. And tonight, a teacher in Austin pleading with the school board of trustees to defy the governor and put a mask mandate in place.


CAROLINE SWEET, AUSTIN ISD TEACHER: For many years, you've asked me to be brave. You've asked me to be brave as I practice getting 24 fourth graders into a bathroom. You've asked me to locate in our hiding spot anything with which I might fight off an active shooter.

You've asked me to be brave as I think about what would happen if there was some sort of extreme danger and my class is on the playground, I've discussed with kids how we would run into the woods and hide by the creek all of us together avoiding danger.

You've asked me to be brave and come back towards during the pandemic after surgery and six months of chemotherapy for stage three cancer. And I have done it and I will do it and I will show up and I will get in that closet and I will look for the path to the woods.

Board members, you don't have to do these things but just as I will be brave and think about how my body might shield children from danger. I asked that you be brave today. You know what you need to do to protect children, do it. Implement a districtwide mask mandates and vaccine requirements for students and staff.


LEMON (on camera): Powerful words. That teacher will join me tonight and you'll hear more about the position the Texas governor has put her in. The Dallas school district already deciding to defy Governor Abbott's ban.


MICHAEL HINOJOSA, SUPERINTENDENT, DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: If we don't do anything, it could go as many as 2,000 new cases every day by the end of the month. So, I felt it was time to step in even though I'm going to get in trouble and I need to step in and just have some courage and make a decision I think is in the best interest of the district.


LEMON (on camera): To South Carolina where cases are also spiking. Governor Henry McMaster is urging residents to get vaccinated but saying no to mask mandates for school kids.


GOV. HENRY MCMASTER (R-SC): We're not going to shut our state down as other states did. Mandating mask is not the answer, personal responsibility is the answer, common sense is the answer and we have an abundance of both in South Carolina.


LEMON (on camera): Can we talk about common sense? Because he says common sense is the answer and that South Carolina had an abundance of both. Common sense would indicate you would follow the guidance of medical professionals. That's common sense.


And then there is Kentucky. Rand Paul who seems to be waging a one-man war against the Biden administration, Dr. Fauci and the efforts by the CDC to slow down the spread of the virus.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): President Biden, we will not accept your agency's mandates or your reported moves towards a lockdown. No one should follow the CDC's anti-science mask mandates.


LEMON (on camera): Anti-science mask mandates? He's a scientist and a doctor but above all else, he's a politician, delegitimating and politicizing scientists in the GOP playbook for decades.

Just take another of our major cities tonight, a climate crisis major stories, excuse me, tonight, the climate crisis and I do mean crisis. OK? Because as a new report from the United Nations climate scientist and it concludes that the earth is warming a lot faster than scientists realize. It is a code red. A code red is now.

It says humans are without a doubt responsible for the climate crisis and that the window to cut our reliance on fossil fuels is rapidly closing but somehow that has been debated for years, like there were actually two sides to this. Like the facts and the truth could be ignored, willfully, politicized intentionally.

For years, the Republican Party denied climate change. Minimized the risks, made fun of those who tried to bring it to your attention, pulled out of the Paris climate accords, mocked the Green New Deal. It was good politics. For them. Democrats are not climate change deniers. But they could step up their game in leading the fight for policy changes. Never mind that the truth has been known. That we knew this day was coming. I know because I've been reporting it for years. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: It is a great climate debate at this hour world leaders are gathering in Copenhagen to try to hash out a new deal regulating greenhouse gases. What does it mean to you?

Ice melting, glaciers shrinking as ocean temperatures rise. Climate change is happening.

This is the first year on record that the continental United States had two consecutive category four hurricane landfalls.

Food could be scarcer. The U.S. economy could lose hundreds of billions of dollars, and thousands more Americans quite frankly could die. We're already seeing evidence that this country is being hurt by climate change.

The past five years have all been the warmest on record for our planet and 18 of the hottest 19 years have occurred since 2001. Those are the facts, weather, climate change, two different things, the facts.

The climate crisis disaster spreading all across the country this summer. California officials warning extreme heat creating abnormally hot under water conditions in the Sacramento River which could kill off nearly all juvenile chinook salmon because the water is just really too hot.


LEMON: Those are facts. The facts are the facts, whether it's COVID, climate change or January 6th, the insurrection and the big lie our third big story tonight, the bad faith actors, the pandering politicians. They care about their polling right now or their political prospects in the next election.

They care about firing up their base while emergency rooms and ICUs are over run and the planet burns and democracy is threatened. But the truth doesn't listen to them. And you might not want to, either.

So, let's talk more about Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis now threatening to withhold the salaries of school officials who enact mask mandates.

Joining me now is Carlee Simon. Carlee Simon is the superintendent of the Alachua Florida Public Schools. Carlee, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it. How are you doing?


LEMON: So, superintendent, school starts tomorrow in your county, am I right?


LEMON: OK. SIMON: We start tomorrow morning.

LEMON: And the governor there, Ron DeSantis says he may withhold your pay for disregarding his executive order, which also threatens to withhold school funding. So, tell me why you're standing up to the governor.

SIMON: Well, I think the important component is that I'm committed to supporting our community and making sure that we are providing a safe and secure educational setting for our students. I'm focused on instructional hours.


And I really see this as a distraction because I have work to do and our community needs to have our schools open and this is what we believe is needing to happen in order to make sure that I have people in place to run the schools. I need to have bus drivers. I need to have cafeteria workers. I need to have teachers and then I also need students in schools.

So, if they are being quarantined and they are not in school, they are missing out instructional learning, and if they don't have the masks then what we are doing is we're just increasing their quarantine time. And my goal is to make sure that I provide the high-quality education and this is a direction I believe I need to go.

LEMON: I want to read something from your op-ed, you have an op-ed in the Washington Post and you write this. You say, I value life too much to take chances with the lives of others even under the threat of retaliation as our school board chair has so aptly put it, better a loss of funding than a loss of lives.

With the surge in cases and attempting to ban mask mandates, is your governor putting lives at risk? Do you believe that?

SIMON: I don't believe he's taking this as seriously as he should. I think, you know, for myself personally, one of the reasons that this means so much is I did. I lost my husband when I was 36. I had a 9- year-old, 6-year-old and 3-year-old. I know what loss looks like. I know what grieving children go through, and it changes you forever.

And if I can help to prevent this from any family in our community, then I'm going to do this. I think it's important and I don't think we should be careless and cavalier about life. The governor should take the conservative step and do everything he can to protect the lives of our community, and that's what I'm doing.

LEMON: Listen, with that just said because these are innocent kids that we're talking about, do you have any idea why he's doing this?

SIMON: I believe the governor has other interests that he's focusing on and I'm right now focusing on education and I would like him to let me do my job.

LEMON: Again, as we have established here, the schools start tomorrow, and the current new case positivity rate for children now, superintendent, under 12 is 20.5 percent. That's higher than the overall state rate of 18.9 percent. What are you hearing from your principals, teachers, parents and incoming students?

SIMON: I'd say our teachers and our principals are very much concerned about the positivity rate because we do run into, you know, this is what for people who actually are tested. So, we're pretty confident that it would be higher because we have not everybody gets tested.

We want to make sure that we run our schools. I think our -- you know, we are knowing that we have breakthrough cases, so I'm sure even my vaccinated educators and staff members are concerned about getting sick again.

And then, of course, you know, individuals who aren't are even more concerned about what this possibly means. But we want to make sure that we can run our schools, and in the positivity rate is concerning. So that's under the age of 11 that you pointed out.

We also have data from ages 12 to 19 and I believe it's like 24.3 percent right now and those are individuals who can be vaccinated. So, it's concerning because we need to be able to run schools and we need to make sure that people aren't testing positive or needing to quarantine.

LEMON: Superintendent Simon, best of luck to you. Keep us updated and we thank you for appearing this evening.

SIMON: Thank you. I appreciate this.

LEMON: Just ahead, how the surging Delta variant is affecting children and sending many of them to the hospital. We're going to hear from one doctor on the frontlines in my home state of Louisiana.


FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I certainly am hearing from pediatricians that they are concerned that this time the kids who are in the hospital are both more numerous and more seriously ill.




LEMON (on camera): The CDC warning that young children are at risk of severe COVID-19. New data shows that children under five years old hospitalized with the virus tripled in the first half of July.

So, joining me now is Dr. Mark Kline. He's the physician-in-chief at Children's Hospital in New Orleans. Thank you for joining us, Dr. Kline, appreciate it.


LEMON: You know, it seems like the idea that kids can't get hit hard by COVID is not necessarily the case anymore with this Delta variant. Tell us what are you are seeing in your hospital?

KLINE: You know, it was never really the case. This disease was trivial or inconsequential for children, it's certainly not the case now. This variant has been a game changer. We are seeing a huge number of children in the outpatient setting. The transmission among children in New Orleans and across the state of Louisiana and really the south has been just rampant.

And we've seen a number of children admitted to the hospital unfortunately and to our intensive care unit and we've had one death so far with the current surge at Children's Hospital New Orleans.

LEMON: How old are the children with COVID in your hospital?

KLINE: Well, this is sort of an interesting aspect of this. Half of the children that we've admitted have been under the age of two.


KLINE: Currently, we have a 7-week-old and a 10-week-old in the hospital. Really, the full age range. Don, from young infants all the way up to older adolescents, everything in between.

LEMON: Do the symptoms of kids getting it, are they more severe? Are kids ending up in intensive care?

KLINE: They're ending up in intensive care. Of the 18 children that we have in the hospital today with COVID-19, six are in intensive care and we've seen some very seriously or even critically ill children as I'm mentioned, the one death so far.

You know, it's very clear that the Delta variant is more contagious and what has been debated is whether it is also more virulent. I would say that base on what I've seen with my own eyes we certainly are seeing many more sicker children than we had seen previously.


LEMON: You were talking about this issue for children across the south and we have seen how southern states have gotten hit very hard in places with low vaccination rates. But I want you to listen to the former FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: I think the northern states are more impervious to the kind of spread we saw in the south. But they are not completely impervious. They have higher vaccination rates. There's been more prior infection but there are still people who are vulnerable in those states and the challenge right now is that the infection is going to start to collide with the opening of school. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): I'm wondering if you're worried about that? What's your concern level about the infection rate, the infection colliding with the opening of school?

KLINE: I'm extremely concerned. The adult vaccination rate in Louisiana is about 37 or 38 percent. The vaccination rate for adolescents 12 years of age and older who are eligible for vaccination in Louisiana is just about 13 percent. So, we have huge numbers of unvaccinated adolescents and adults.

These young children that we're seeing in the hospital today, they're not eligible for vaccination and that means that they have to be cocooned by adults and adolescents who have been vaccinated and they would derive some protection from that but instead, they're being exposed on a daily basis to adults that are unvaccinated and therefore at risk of transmitting the virus to them. And we've just got to do better.

You know, masks and social distancing are good interim measures but the thing that's really going to get us out of this in the end is vaccination and, you know, one thing not to care about your own health or to think that COVID is not a threat to you personally, but maybe if you learn that it's a threat to your children, you'll reconsider the idea of not being vaccinated.

LEMON: These are the ramifications. These are the things that happen. It is the ripple effect of someone unvaccinated, the potential of spreading it to a child who ends up in places like Children's Hospital.

KLINE: Correct. Exactly.

LEMON: Yes. So as a physician dealing with -- firsthand with the surge of COVID cases, I know you aren't political about this but watching what is going on across the country, what kind of protections do we need to be in place to keep kids safe with schools preparing to open right now?

KLINE: Well, I'm proud to say that here in Louisiana, at least our Governor John Bel Edwards issued a mask mandate one week ago today, so all children five years of age and up, teachers and staff in the schools are required to wear masks. I think that's a common sense measure. It makes perfect sense to me. I wish that governors across the region would have the courage to replicate that approach. That's the very least we can do.

I think bringing together large numbers of children congregating them in classrooms with masks being optional or worse yet, even forbidden is just a formula for disaster. This virus that we're dealing with now is a game changer and it's just so easily transmitted from person to person that this could truly catalyze an explosion of cases across the region.

LEMON: Dr, Mark Kline of Children's Hospital New Orleans, thank you very much. We appreciate you appearing today, tonight, I should say.

KLINE: Thank you so much.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you. He responded to the insurrection on Capitol Hill and just a few days later he died by suicide. I'll speak with the widow of D.C. Police Officer Jeffrey Smith in her first on camera interview. You don't want to miss it. It's next.



LEMON (on camera): Hundreds of officers put their lives on the line to protect the capitol from the mob of insurrectionists on January 6th. Many officers suffered injuries both physical and emotional as they fought that day. D.C. metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith was one of the many who rushed to defend the capitol.

The 12-year veteran was hit in the head with a medal poll during the riot and tragically just days later he became the second officer to take his own life after defending the capitol. Now his wife Erin Smith is asking D.C. to recognize her husband's death as being in the line of duty.

And she joins me now along with ger attorney David P. Weber. He is also an assistant professor of forensics at Salisbury University.

Thank you so much, both of you, for joining us this evening. Erin, you're going to be the focus here and let me just start off by saying I'm so sorry for what happened to you, what happened to your husband and I know it must be overwhelming for you. How are you doing?

ERIN SMITH, WIDOW OF JEFFREY SMITH, MPD OFFICER WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE AFTER JANUARY 6: You know, every day is different. Today was OK. I got up. I ate breakfast. I showered. I got dressed. I took the dog out. You know, those are some of the main things that I just try to do every day and keep a routine and keep things going. You know, I now wake up without a husband.

LEMON: Yes, do you really know, you know, in these moments, we like to ask people, are you going to be OK? Are you going to be OK? How are you feeling? Do you know at this moment what the future holds, how you're going to be going forward?


SMITH: I don't but I don't think anyone does if they're in this situation. I just take it day by day. I put one foot in front of the other and is sometimes I end up taking one step back and sometimes two steps forward. You know, it's just a gradual progression each day.

LEMON: That is understood. I want to talk about your husband now. Really, I believe what the officers did on that day and some of the ones who are step -- who are speaking out now what they continue to do, I think it's heroic. Your husband raced to the capitol on that day to defend it and was attacked by rioters. So, tell us about his injuries and how he was emotionally after that attack?

SMITH: So, I spoke with him sporadically throughout the day and then obviously I got the text that he was going to the police and fire clinic. He had stated that he had been hit in the head with a pole and that he also, you know, had been punched and pushed and all the things that we've seen on TV.

He told me not to worry and that he would go there and come straight home. When he came home, obviously, he explained what happened that day and, you know, that it was the craziest day he's ever been involved in. They're not trained for hand to hand combat and that's what happened that day.

After that, his mood changed. He kind of withdrew. He didn't want to do anything. He wasn't willing to come with me on walks with the dog. He barely even wanted to watch TV. He was pacing at night, not sleeping and just kind of became a completely different person.

LEMON: So, had he -- he had no history of depression or mental illness or anything like that that would give you any sort of warning signs?

SMITH: No, he never showed any signs of depression or anxiety or anything. He was very even keel, you know, he kind of kept me in check. I could have lots of highs and lots of lows and he was very straightforward and, you know, kind of assessed every situation and understood what was taking place and, you know, didn't go from one extreme to the other and really kept everybody level headed.

LEMON: Yes. I think it's important to point out here, which I think people will be surprised that because he took his own life, his death has been not been recognized as in the line of duty death. What does that mean for you and your family?

SMITH: So, because it's not classified as in line of duty, you don't receive any of the benefits that a police officer's family would receive if it was in line of duty. The main thing is they're not recognized. They're not given the burial that they're deserved. They're not given the recognition that they deserve.

My husband, you know, was a police officer for D.C. for over 12 and a half years. He gave his life for D.C. And he should be given the same respect as anyone else that puts on the badge and goes to work every day.

LEMON: Yes. David, let me bring you in to talk to you about this in particular. You're petitioning to get Jeffrey's death recognize as a line of duty death and you are specifically pointing to a forensics report that connects the injuries that he suffered that day to his state of mind afterwards. Can you talk to me about that, please?

DAVID P. WEBER, ATTORNEY FOR ERIN SMITH: Sure. So, in this circumstance, you have a D.C. law that says that in order to receive line of duty benefits, that the officer could not have intended to create their own harm. And so, in order to be able to look at what his mental intent is, so what we teach in forensics is that's called Mens rea. We need a forensic psychiatrist look at the chain of events that took place.

And so we engaged an expert witness by the name of Dr. Sheehan who exclusively practices forensic psychiatry involving firefighters and police officers. We also engaged a second forensic expert the former chief medical examiner of the district of Colombia who reviewed Dr. Sheehan's report and also reviewed the autopsy and in combination, these two experts concluded that he did not have the intention to hurt himself, that the direct proximate cause of his death was the injuries that he suffered on January 6th.

LEMON: Well, David and Erin, I want you to stick around. I have so much to talk to you about. We want you to continue to talk. I want to speak to you what happened when you saw President Biden in the Rose Garden. We'll be right back.



LEMON (on camera): I'm back now with Erin Smith whose husband took his own life after defending the capitol against rioters and her attorney is with us, as well, David Weber.

So, Erin, you and David both met President Biden and House Speaker Pelosi in the Rose Garden, at that Rose Garden ceremony on Thursday, awarding officers who defended the capitol a congressional Gold Medal. What was that like for you?

SMITH: It was nice that, you know, they took the opportunity to honor the fallen officers. Jeffrey's name is in the bill and it just meant a lot for America to see that these officers risked their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

LEMON: David, you know, you took advantage of the moment and you pressed the president for support for Jeffrey's death ruled in the line of duty death. What did you say to him and what did he say back to you?

WEBER: When I went up to speak to President Biden with Erin, Serena Liebengood was directly in front of us and was standing next to us even though you can't see her in the image of me talking to the president.


And I told him that it was a good first start that he awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Jeffrey Smith's widow but I asked whether he aware that Serena Liebengood and Erin Smith had their health insurance taken. And he kind of gave a grimace and he seemed very surprised and he wanted to hear more about it. And he very quickly gestured to a legislative aide and told them to the bottom of it.

We also had a conversation with Speaker Pelosi about the same thing earlier in the ceremony. And Speaker Pelosi has been quoted on the record as saying that she wants to support the line of duty designation for Jeffrey Smith and Howard Liebengood. LEMON: Yes. She reportedly -- let me say, to the New York Times say

that if the DOJ doesn't approve line of duty benefits Congress would look at a way to change the rules to allow it. Are you confident that this will get resolved because we understand you also got a phone call right after, right, you met with the president?

WEBER: I did. But I just want to clarify one thing. The quote that you're referring to in the New York Times is for a second set of benefits. So public safety officers who die in the line of duty, there is a Department of Justice benefit, which is a cash payment and also provides for tuition for survivors for their spouses and for their children.

That is the program that Nancy Pelosi was referencing in the New York Times quote. What Erin and I and Serena Liebengood, what we're all seeking for our respective, you know, survivors is we're seeking the actual line of duty pension and health care benefits that come with the line of duty death.

LEMON: Understood.

WEBER: Which is partly separate from the money.

LEMON: Understood.

WEBER: The health insurance probably the biggest thing.

LEMON: Erin, over the last few months I've gotten to know officers Michael Fanone and Harry Dunn and others who have shared with me the hell that they went through that day. What do you say to the people who try to downplay the 6th and act like it never happened or it's time to move on?

SMITH: They don't relive it every day. I'm sure other officers have stated the same thing. I was not there but I relive the same thing over and over again. I know that if Jeffrey didn't go to work that day, he'd still be here. The terror that he went through affected him and the city needs to recognize that.

LEMON: What do you want people to know about him?

SMITH: He was a great guy. He was a great police officer and he was honest. He was brutally honest. You know, so I think some people liked that and some people didn't but you knew what you were getting with Jeff and he had their backs and he was a good officer and a good friend, a great husband and a great son.

LEMON: Erin, thank you so much. David, thank you so much. Keep us updated on the situation as it relates to the pension and all the other things that you're working on. My heart goes out to you, Erin. Anything you need, let me know if we can help. OK?

SMITH: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I want everyone to know that there is no shame in asking for help. For

yourself or for someone you know who may be struggling, OK? So you can call the National Suicide Prevention lifeline or text the Crisis Text Line at the numbers up on your screen. We'll leave them there for a bit and we'll be right back.



LEMON (on camera): From COVID to election lies to the whitewashing of January 6th. Some of the GOP are spreading misinformation and it's having disastrous effects on people's lives.

Joining me now, Matthew Dowd, the former chief strategist for President George W. Bush. He is the author of the upcoming book "Revelations on the River," it's available now for preorder. Matthew, good evening. Good to see you.


LEMON: So, for the past hour, you know, we have heard from a school official in Florida battling misinformation coming from a Republican governor and a Louisiana doctor battling a surge of cases with kids in a state near the bottom of vaccination. And the widow of an officer who clearly struggled after defending the capitol from the big lie. This is the real cost of the lies and the misinformation right now.

DOWD: Well, exactly. I mean, it encompasses nearly every single major issue the globe is facing it right now. Not only us as a country but the globe, the misinformation on COVID, the misinformation on climate change. The misinformation on any number of issues. The misinformation on democracy.

All of this is having real world affects as your interviews just shown and the trauma that is being exacerbated on people across the country and this is what happens, this is what happens when a major political party is all about me and not about we.

They basically decided that they're a party that only cares about me and does not care about the common good of the country or the common good of the globe, and we're seeing it unfold in real-time in damage to our democracy and damage to the health of so many, so many hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

LEMON: Let's talk more about Jeffrey Smith's widow. We heard from her just moments ago. He served for 12 and a half years. No history of depression or mental illness. It's downright insulting that Republicans aren't really acknowledging the profound effect that day had on so many people.


DOWD: Well, my heart just goes out as I know yours does, Don, to Erin and the whole family and the friends of him in the midst of this. That this, the trauma of that day to our country and to individuals still ripples out across our land and it's going to continue to ripple out until we really get to the truth of it and hold people accountable.

It's not just that you and I can say what we know with our own eyes happened, it is actually we're going to have to excise this cancer from our midst and make people held accountable to it because if you don't hold as a country people accountable, it's only going to get worse.

What they're going to do and what people that are opposed to the idea of democracy, this great experiment that we've had, they're only going to push the envelope further and further and further. And so, January 6th to me was a bad day. But there are many worse days ahead if we don't deal with it.

LEMON: Matthew, the Department of Homeland Security is warning about the threat of violence in August, which fueled by the big lie, election lies. This weekend, Trump was on the Fox propaganda network ranting about his loss. It's seven months on now from January 6th. Is the big lie going to be a threat for us as long as he keeps telling it?

DOWD: Well, I think it goes past Donald Trump. I think if Donald Trump never uttered another word, I think the big lie has taken hold and taken root in the Republican Party. It's not just Donald Trump repeating it, it is elected officials across the country that are not only repeating it, they're acting on it and trying to pass laws based on that lie and base on -- that it would restrict people's rights, would roll back voting rights, would do all of these things that we as a democracy have espoused around the world in other countries that we have condemned for doing the same thing that they're about to do here.

So, Donald Trump is a great revealer of who people really fundamentally are, but I think if at this point in time Donald Trump completely disappeared, this is now gotten insofar into the ecosystem of one of the major political parties who hold power and could hold the Congress in 2022 if Democrats don't succeed, could hold the Senate in 2022, and no telling once they hold those two branches of government again, what they might do.

So, I think this is way past Donald Trump and it's something that all of us should be concerned -- Republicans -- I speak to Republicans, independents, Democrats, anybody that cares about our constitutional republic should be very concerned about where we are today as a country.

LEMON: Down in Florida, the governor there, Ron DeSantis is threatening to withhold salaries of superintendents who implement mask mandates. Seven states total including Texas have banned mask mandates in schools, their governors, all Republicans. It is insane to see how far that they're willing to go to prevent precautions that would keep children safe. I don't understand it, Matthew.

DOWD: Well, it's so desperately ludicrous that you would think it was a bad TV movie that we're watching unfolding with some sort of craziness that there would be some comedy about it but it's not a comedy. It's got real world consequences.

You mentioned DeSantis, governor in Texas where I live when I'm a Texan, Governor Abbott is doing the same or worse things around it. What's amazing to me, Don, is this is a political party that talked about local control and how we need to empower local municipalities and local jurisdictions to have more power and take more power away from the federal government and what they're doing is exactly the opposite of that.

If a place like Dallas or Houston or Miami or Tallahassee or whatever wants to do something to protect their citizens, protect their kids, to protect their elderly people, the governors of those states are refusing or -- not only refusing to do anything. They're actually proactively making it harder to do anything to actually protect people.

It's completely opposite of what I thought the Republican Party was on that issue which is give local jurisdictions more power to experiment and do things that they think are in the best interest of their constituents. They're taking that power away.

LEMON: Speaking of Abbott, in your state, he's asking hospitals to postpone elective surgeries, right, to allow more hospital capacity. How can you do that but then ban mask mandates at the same time?

DOWD: I mean, here's -- this is basically a guy that's brought gasoline to a wildfire. And now he's trying to figure out how do we make sure there's more fire people to the place he brought gasoline to help put out the fire that he's actually himself been -- making worse at this point in time.

And the idea both of these governors are trying to blame immigrants for this, Governor DeSantis and Governor Abbott have spread the virus -- I say this very clearly and sadly. Have spread the virus to more places and to more people than any immigrant ever has in this country.


Those two governors have helped spread the virus which has caused immense damage to our coverage and now they're trying to backstop it by sort of like acting like they're trying to fix the problem in the aftermath of having caused the problem.

LEMON: Matthew Dowd, always a pleasure. Thank you, sir.

DOWD: You too. Take care.

LEMON: So, some Republican governors may be banning mask mandates but now some schools are defying the bans. We're going to speak to some of them, next.


LEMON (on camera): The pandemic of the unvaccinated surging tonight. The U.S. now averaging more than 108,000 new cases a day, a level of transmission we haven't seen in six months. So why are some governors in hot spots threatening schools that want to protect their students with mask mandates? Parents and teachers are fighting back and you're going to hear from them tonight.


Plus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said to be in a fighting mood as more allies call on him to resign.

And a fighting -- a frightening new report on climate change from the United Nations.