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Don Lemon Tonight

Biden Administration Promises To Pull All U.S. Citizens From Afghanistan; Taliban Continue Violence On The Streets; No Inventories Of People That Need To Be Pulled Out; Republicans Blame Unvaccinated Black Population. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 20, 2021 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): You are lucky you get the upgrade. Laura Coates in for D. Lemon right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Hey, how are you? I can't believe that, you know, the idea that just doesn't let up. I mean, now a hurricane we're all watching this. I mean, I hope people heed your warning, Chris, better safe than sorry. It's scary. It's a scary time.

CUOMO: I'll tell you. In a weird time, way, the act of nature, the tropical storm, whatever it is when it gets here is more predictable and more understandable than what's going on in Afghanistan and how we're making ourselves sick with this pandemic.

I'm a little torn. I got to see what this storm is going to do because I have to be there for my family. Long Island is a vulnerable place. You know, you lose power very quickly. It's hard to restore it. It gets wet. It floods very easily out there. So, I'm going to have to pay attention but if I can do the job, I will on Sunday when the storm is there.

COATES: Stay safe and keep your family safe. Everyone is thinking of everyone out there who needs to do the same. I appreciate it. Good luck.


CUOMO: We're all in it together, L. Coates, we're all in it together.

COATES: That's what they say, I'm waiting for the time that humanity believes it and act on it.

CUOMO: You got to say it.

COATES: We all. Say it.


CUOMO: You got to say it to make it true.

COATES: Say it. Say it and your conviction catches up.

CUOMO: Have a good night.

COATES: You're right. Thank you, Chris. Talk to you soon. Be safe.

This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I am Laura Coates in for Don Lemon.

And in the past week, we've seen the collapse of the Afghan government, the Taliban takeover. The chaos at the airport as thousands and thousands of desperate people try to get on planes, their only hope of escape.

That, as President Biden is holding firm today in his view that getting out of Afghanistan was not only the right decision but the only decision. Committing to do everything he can to evacuate Afghan allies and promising that any American who wants to come home will get home.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're going to do everything, everything that we can to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States. But let me be clear. Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home. Make no mistake.


COATES (on camera): But this was another day where some of what the president said just didn't match what we're seeing on the ground.


UNKNOWN: Will you sign off on sending U.S. troops into Kabul to evacuate Americans who haven't been able to get to the airport safely?

BIDEN: We have no indication that they haven't been able to get in Kabul through the airport.


COATES (on camera): There is no question. This is a massive incredibly difficult and dangerous operation but we've seen what is happening at the airport. I mean, a U.S. citizen told CNN it's been impossible to make it inside. And a White House official acknowledged tonight the challenge and chaos at the airport.

Remember this video? It's a baby being handed to American troops on top of a wall at the airport. Now the Pentagon says the baby was treated at a hospital and returned to the father but we don't know if they were able to leave.

The Pentagon also releasing photos tonight of troops sharing water with an Afghan boy, fist bumping another boy, and holding a baby.

I want to bring in CNN senior political analyst David Gergen and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. I'm glad to have you both. But under these circumstances there is a lot to talk about and you

both have the perspective.

If I can begin with you, David. You know, when you see all the chaos and all the desperation, I mean, literally thousands of people trying to get through very dangerous checkpoints and on to planes, how do you think that the president is handling this crisis?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I must say, Laura, that I think you got better this week on the last day. Today his statement I thought was more confident and more confident I seem to have a lot better grasp or command. He also acknowledged more than he has in the past, the chaos that has unfolded on his watch.

And very importantly, Laura, he gave a firmer commitment to the Afghan friends of the United States who are clamoring to get out because they may be put to death. The Taliban, when they get caught. So, he is firmer on that. So, I think all of that worked well. But with Doug here I can't help to think about the historical consequence of all of this. I do think this is going to be remembered for a long time but we don't yet know just how much blame Biden is going to get if this gets worse, which it may well.

I think he's going to be -- he's going to pay a tough price not only in 2022 but in his reputation as president and his strength as president.


I keep wondering what happens now to his bills these $3.5 trillion bills. Does he still have the same kind of power and authority that he did before Afghanistan? I'm not sure we know.

But one thing we do know is that there are two sets of reality we're being asked to watch. One is Joe Biden's reality. He thinks the world is orderly. Things are getting better. We're working well with our NATO allies and all of that. And there is (Inaudible) words sense of reality --


GERGEN: -- things are desperate which again on the ground is unbelievable.

CAIN: Right.

GERGEN: It is so, so hard breaking to see it. This child being thrown over the top of those wire fence and I think whoever (Inaudible) deserves all sorts of credit for being our eyes and ears as citizens figuring out what really is happening and I think she has a very compelling story to tell.

COATES: You're right. You're right. I want to bring in Douglas, and of course we cannot say enough about the excellent reporting and the valiant reporting of Clarissa Ward. We'll hear from her later in the show as well. Douglas, I want to play what we heard from President Biden during his

ABC interview versus what we heard today. I want you to take a listen. Watch.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: We've all seen the pictures. We've seen those hundreds of people packed into a C-17. We've seen Afghans falling --


BIDEN: That was four days ago, five days ago.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What did you think when you first saw those pictures?

BIDEN: What I thought is we have to gain control of this. We have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control of that airport and we did.

The past week has been heartbreaking. We've seen gut wrenching images of panicked people acting out of sheer desperation. You know, it's completely understandable. They're frightened. They're sad. Uncertain what happens next. I don't think anyone, I don't think any one of us can see these pictures and not feel that pain on a human level.


COATES (on camera): You know, it's interesting, Douglas, because he was someone who in many ways was thought of as going to be a consoler in chief as much as he was going to be the commander in chief. But I wonder why hadn't we seen President Biden's trademark empathy until today? What do you think of this shift?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I approve of the shift and agree with David. I thought President Biden did a better job today of at least communicating some emotion and concern. I think he's doubling down as we -- everybody in America is in agreement we must bring the Americans back, but he's talking about bringing on the Afghan visa applicants, people that have helped us in the 20-year war back in I think ramped up way.

But early in the week, this was a disaster. I mean, this is the Biden boondoggle. It was America with no strategy whatsoever. Everything seems to be helter-skelter and hurly-burly. We're witnessing now on CNN and every day one of the most momentous airlifts in world history going on and we can only pray that it's going to, you know, bring people back.

But the divide in the country is, you know, I think Donald Trump is getting off very easily for four years, he tried to disassociate from Afghanistan's helpers, the people that worked with us trying to sabotage visa applicants and Biden should have been more aware of that.

Instead, Tony Blinken I thought has been very weak and President Biden got off to a very bad start this week. Let's hope next week there will be more images of the airlift that's successful not people falling off of airplanes.

COATES: And those images are gut wrenching to think about. You're saying you're talking about the idea that this of course was the withdrawal was successive president. We're all thinking about the withdrawal. The question really is now the execution of this plan.

And David, you have worked with so many different presidents over the course of your history and your career. And today, really, President Biden was talking about the mission and our troops. He was putting it into a pretty personal term. Watch this.


BIDEN: We're performing to the highest standards under extraordinarily difficult and dynamic circumstances. Our NATO allies are strongly standing with us. Their troops keeping center alongside ours in Kabul as is the case whenever I deploy our troops into harm's way, I take that responsibility seriously. I carry that burden every day. Just as I did when I was vice president and my son was deployed to Iraq for a year.


COATES (on camera): I mean, the president is talking about his late son Beau. How important is it right now that he is reminding people that when he makes these sorts of decisions, they're not made with the lack of awareness of what it means for our troops.

I mean, really four presidents presided at this point and he's the only one to have had somebody who was a child who actually served in the military. What do you make of that, David?


GERGEN: Well, listen, I think it genuinely remain very much in grief about his son. It obviously follows him everywhere. And I think all of this are sympathetic to that. I don't think that that's at stake right now in the Afghan situation. I think it's less about him than it is about these people who are at these -- in these terrible, terrible conditions that Clarissa has been bringing to our attention.

You know, it's just not. What we know and I think Doug can speak to this really well, what we know is that presidents who are in crisis, often crisis of their own making, they do best with a country and they do best in history when they tell the truth about what has happened and they take responsibility for the truth.

You know, we've been talking this week about the Bay of Pigs with Kennedy, we had just put on president, it was a complete debacle in Cuba. That Kennedy recognized was that disaster and he went public and said it was a disaster and he even said I take responsibility. It was my fault. And guess what --

(CROSSTALK) COATES: Let me break down -- let me bring Douglas in on that point. I want to hold your thought there. Because I do want to hear about the contextualizing of the history of this because that comparison you draw and about the responsibility. And we've heard President Biden talk about the buck stopping there.

Douglas, four presidents have presided over America's longest war. I mean, as I mentioned, President Biden was the first now to actually end it. It's all significant as I mentioned. He's the only commander in chief out of the four who has had a child serve here and as Douglas stated to your point, David, this is not necessarily about the personal family of Joe Biden.

Speak to the significance of this moment right now. Give us the idea of what the legacy of this might actually mean given what David has just spoken about.

BRINKLEY: Well, you know, with George W. Bush used to say I'm the decider and he operated with a certainty and the buck stops here attitude. Harry Truman was a great hero to George W. Bush. The problem is if you're on a wrong policy, the buck doesn't just stop there. I'm the decider. And Biden just got completely unspooled off his game. It's really been shocking to see.

But history will show George W. Bush misled America when he -- after 9/11 we went into Afghanistan and we chased the Afghani insurgents of Al Qaeda, we ended up with the Battle of Tora Bora. We couldn't find Osama Bin Laden. But we went into Iraq and we shouldn't have gone into Iraq because Bush wanted Saddam Hussein's head on a platter and sold people on the lie that there were weapons of mass destruction, they're in there and there weren't.

So, George W. Bush gets low marks for his handling of Iraq and Afghanistan. Barack Obama did much better, using drones, Operation Neptune Spear which eventually got Osama bin Laden and Donald Trump spent four years trying to get out of there unable to but not wanting to bring Afghanis to the United States as part of his anti-immigration type of rhetoric, his nativism.

And Biden came in and kind of stumbled into all of this this summer sped up the time of pullout. It was done in the middle of the summer when we're just having the surge of COVID and his poll numbers are sinking right now. Let's hope by, say, September 15th, there will be a success story here that this airlift has really brought not just the Americans home but our Afghani friends and allies, at least, you know, 30, 40,000 of them entered the United States, if not many more. Hopefully, other countries will take these evacuees into their (Inaudible) also.

COATES: I got to end it there. But it goes back to your point of thought, David, about the idea of the novelty of telling the truth from the presidency. I thank you both --


GERGEN: Let me add one thing, Laura. COATES: Well, I got to -- real quick. I got to go.


COATES: Real quick. All right. I got to go, hon. I can't talk to you anymore.


COATES: I will talk to you more soon about it.

GERGEN: Take care.

COATES: We get cross fire there. Thank you.

Take a look at this, everyone. This scene on board an Air Force C-17. CNN's team and root from Kabul to Qatar with a crowd of some 400 Afghan nationals desperate to flee Afghanistan. But the journey began at the airport in Kabul whereas David was mentioning, Clarissa Ward filed this report.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After three weeks in Afghanistan, we joined the crowds at Kabul airport, now the only way out of the country. There is a huge block here, lots of cars. Hundreds of people wait in the blistering heat hoping for a flight out.

So, we just managed to get into the airport compound and I have to say, it was pretty intense. Just like this crush of desperate people and screaming children and women and babies and, yes, it's not every day you see desperation like that.


The few people that do make it are exhausted and scared but they're the lucky ones. They made it past the Taliban checkpoints Afghan security guards and finally, the airport gate. But they can't forget those who they left behind.

UNKNOWN: We're getting out. We're happy for that but we're heartbroken for our country, especially for those who can't get out, those who are stuck here, we're really heart broken. Our heart bleeds for them.

WARD: What do you feel for all the mother with young daughters who now will be growing up under Taliban rule?

UNKNOWN: Pain. Lots of pain.

WARD: The back of pretty long line now. Transportation is under strain they said and obviously, priority is getting children and babies out as soon as possible but I think we'll probably be here for a while.

You work for the U.S. military or?

UNKNOWN: Not military but the -- we are working with the Ministry of --

UNKNOWN: Defense --

UNKNOWN: -- Defense.

UNKNOWN: -- in Afghanistan.

UNKNOWN: But we are also work with the foreign people, too.

WARD: And so, you have visa?

UNKNOWN: Yes, we have documents and visa too.

UNKNOWN: Yes, yes.

WARD: As we interview this couple, suddenly shouts behind us. A vehicle speed through. That's a newborn baby that just flew past in that vehicle. That was a newborn. Did you see the baby? Just this big. The baby we find out has heat stroke and needs treatment, a reminder for these families that they're close to safety but not there yet.

We stand in the blazing hot sun for hours, everyone seeking what shelter they can, patience wearing thin. It's an agonizingly slow process but finally, we're allowed inside. Out on the tarmac now safe but the chaos continues.

UNKNOWN: I've been waiting for two days, yesterday since 3 a.m.

WARD: Yesterday since 3 a.m.?


WARD: Tell me what the situation was like trying to get into the airport.

UNKNOWN: It was really busy and a lot of people were just fighting and trying to make way for themselves but we pushed through.

WARD: We're certainly some of the very lucky ones here. Others as you heard from that young man have been waiting for two days. Others we saw getting turned around sent back told you don't have the appropriate paperwork. And there is no question everybody here is doing their best, but it's not clear if it's fast enough, if enough people can get out, and how much longer they have to finish this massive operation.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Kabul.


COATES: Thank you, Clarissa.

And President Biden is saying what we're seeing in Afghanistan is an example of American power and precision. I'll ask former NATO supreme allied commander General Wesley Clark if that's how it looks to him.




COATES (on camera): President Biden calling the evacuation in Afghanistan an example of American power and precision.


BIDEN: This is one of the largest most difficult airlifts in history and the only country in the world capable of projecting this much power on the far side of the world with this degree of precision is the United States of America.


COATES (on camera): But the images on the ground, well, they show something different, chaos and desperation at the Kabul airport. The video you're about to see was shot early today local time. There is tear gas, people screaming, gunshots. And I must warn you, it's hard to watch.

Unfortunately, we don't know what happened to the woman and two children on the ground.

Joining me now, CNN military analyst General Wesley Clark. He's the former NATO supreme ally commander.

It's very difficult and disturbing to watch especially not knowing what's happening. General Clark, does that look like precision to you?

WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I'll tell you, Laura, our military did a good job in getting there. And President Biden is exactly right, there is no other military in the world that could have brought 6,000 troops in air to take control of that airport like that as we did.

But that's only half the problem. The other half is getting people out. Now what we haven't heard yet is where are the Americans? Are they all in hotels in Kabul or are they scattered in Kandahar and at dozen other provincial capitals out in little villages? Who is doing the inventory? Who has the list of the Americans?

I'm getting calls from many of my retired friends are getting calls from people that they know saying please help me get so and so out. I'm hearing stories of C-17s being hired commercially and there is a lot going on that we're not seeing here.

But in the end when the president made the pledge that we're going to get you out, what that means is every American wants to come out so let's start by figuring out where the Americans are. And then the issue is can they -- can we get them to an assembly point? Various assembly points around the country. Can we pick them up by helicopter and will it be resisted? And if we can't do that, are we going to have to make a deal with the

Taliban and they're going to say well, we'll get you your Americans but you'll have to pay. That's not the way we want this to work.


You know, the analogy here really is Vietnam, and I don't mean the scenes of the helicopters taking off the roof of people hanging on the skids. I mean, the fact after the communists came in, more than a million Vietnamese fled Vietnam to get away from communist rule.

Two hundred, 400,000 were lost at sea. Something like 800,000 made it safely elsewhere. We got many of them in the United States. They're wonderful citizens, some of them serving in armed forces. Some West Point graduates. But it was an incredibly tragic tale.

And so, when we look at these flights, where are the Americans? Think about all those people outside that airport. There is 40,000 there. But if you ask how many people want to get out from under the Taliban and are going to try to do it at the cost of their own life, it may be a million, two million. They will be there.

So, when we're looking at this in a very narrow sense, we got to realize what the implications of this are. These people have seen the Taliban before. It's been ugly. Now the Taliban say they are much different today, well, that has to be proven.

COATES: It does. In fact, it was the old saying trust but verify. We get to see any verification of that. And General Clark, you talked about the strategy, right? And we're learning that the U.S. military used helicopters to evacuate 169 Americans from a hotel near the Kabul airport.

So, are U.S. forces going to need to carry out more missions just like this to get people to the airport to have the idea of the one foot in front of the other, the really methodical approach that you just laid out?

CLARK: I can't imagine we wouldn't be to doing that. You know, I can't imagine there are American there that don't have access to a cell phone, that there is someone in the states who knows where they are.

That information has to be being collected. Someone on the ground there has to have an inventory, a map, a roster who are the Americans? Where are they? What are their telephone numbers? Do they want out? How do we get them out?

So, yes, I think it's inevitable that given the chaos and the Taliban resistance and the Taliban's obvious effort to seek out and eliminate people who served the previous administration -- previous government there that yes, we're probably going to have to do many missions like that and probably the risk involve (Ph).

COATES: General Clark, thank you. There is so much more to discuss. I wish we had more time with you. But something tells me, we're going to have more many more of these conversations. I appreciate it. Thank you.

CLARK: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: Many people stuck in Afghanistan desperately, as he mentioned, trying to escape the Taliban takeover. Next, the story of one Afghan student, a 17-year-old girl.



COATES (on camera): Thousands of Afghans are desperately trying to make it to the Kabul airport. Their only hope to escape the Taliban, but millions more are faced with no way out. The cofounder of Afghanistan's only all girls' boarding school tells CNN that she's burning her students' records in order to protect those students.

There is a whole generation of women and girls who are now getting their first glimpse of what life under the Taliban is like. Seventeen- year-old Farkhunda is one of them and she joins me from inside Kabul.

Farkhunda, I'm really, really happy to speak with you and really want to hear from you. We all do. Thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.

FARKHUNDA, STUDENT STUCK IN KABUL: OK. First of all, I thank you for hearing our words and I'm happy to talk to you.

COATES: Farkhunda, I know you had to move from where you were living because it wasn't safe. Are you safe right now?

FARKHUNDA: It is -- the question is, it is hard. I have left my home and I'm in my brother's house. It is really hard to live here without my best friends, without some of your family members and also, sorry, it is hard for me to leave my house.

And yes, I'm -- now I'm safe because I don't go out and we have to be safe. But if you go out, there are Taliban, group of Taliban walking on the street and if we go out without a man or if we go out without burqa, they will beat the girls. And I can (Inaudible) that I am safe.

COATES: So, you're concern if you go out, the Taliban will harm you, will beat you as a girl, as a woman and you're 17 years old, Farkhunda, and the U.S. then has been in Afghanistan your entire life and you've never faced life under the Taliban before.


Did you think that this day would ever come, that this would ever happen, that you would be in this position?

FARKHUNDA: Yes. Because being a woman in Afghanistan is really hard. We're under the control of Taliban. If you leave under the control of Taliban, it is like alive in soul and a dead. Being a woman here is like waiting when you are going to get killed, raped or taken forcefully marry to someone if you can, if you can call it a marriage. Because it has happened in the past and being a woman in Afghanistan

is like making yourself ready to commit suicide. Unfortunately, I have heard of some young women and girls already took -- already took their own lives so they don't live a life with no hope and no future.

And for me as a girl, it is really hard for me to bear this situation because I have lots of goals and dreams. And these dreams and goals make me work hard and deal with many problems and challenges to build a bright and prosperous future for myself. Help as decided that I live in especially with women and children.

And my parents always had a dream, and that dream is to see their children's future is bright and safeguarded not like their past. But unfortunately, they're losing those dreams and when I see them hopeless, that really make me cry. It crushes me from within. It is really painful. When I look at my parents there's (Inaudible) I look their hope, and now that I see and look at their eyes, I see no hope in their eyes. It is -- you know, every day I cry and it is really painful.

COATES: Farkhunda, I think I heard you say that you know women, girls who have taken their own lives now because of the prospects of being ruled or governed by the Taliban and to hear you talk about not seeing any hope in your parents' eyes, you were their hope for the future. What were your own? I know you've taught other young girls English. What are, I hate to say were, what are your plans for the future?

FARKHUNDA: I have lots of plans and goals in the future, especially as a woman and girl and children and I want to be a leader for them, for those children who are poor who are on the street, for those girls who can't raise their voice. There are girls as I said before, which they commit suicide especially in far provinces of Afghanistan. And I want to be a leader but now I don't know who will help me, who would be my leader if I am in a bad situation.

COATES: Farkhunda, what message do you want to send to the people here in the United States? I mean, is there any way anyone can help you? You talked about you don't know how you can be the leader that you want so desperately to be. What is the message you have for the people here in the United States about how possibly anyone can help?

FARKHUNDA: My message to not only American or U.S. but to all the world, to please hear our voice. Please be our voice and save Afghan girls because they're really in a bad situation and they have lost their hope and it is really hard to bear this situation.

And at the end, I want to say that I'm calling to all international societies, human rights, as well as defenders to do not leave us and watch us burn. Please, help Afghan girls and women and save our lives because the international society does not help Afghan girls of this situation I doubt about the western democracy and human rights voice and this is not only my voice, this is every single woman's voice.

COATES: Farkhunda, thank you so much. I'm glad to know that you feel safe right now and we will all hope and dream for you and together please don't be hopeless. We hear you. Thank you for raising your voice. I appreciate it. Stay safe.


FARKHUNDA: Thank you. Thank you for hearing our words and glad to talk to you.

COATES: Thank you. Stay safe. We are all thinking of you.

For more information about how you can help, go to

Top Republicans in several southern states fueling the mask wars as COVID rapidly spreads and you won't believe who the Texas lieutenant governor is now trying to blame or maybe you will.


COATES (on camera): Not a single child under the age of 12 is yet eligible to get vaccinated. That means the majority of school aged children cannot and have not be vaccinated.


They have no choice in the matter. They are at the mercy of the choices of adults and those choices must be responsible.

Strangely, there is this maddening debate even playing out at raucous school board meetings across the country over whether children should have to wear masks in schools. Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis turning it into a political issue picking a fight with the Biden administration.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You have this obsession that a little five- year-old, you know, should not be able to go to school without wearing that mask for eight hours a day. And just as a parent, you know, I'm offended that the federal government thinks that they know better than we do as parents.


COATES (on camera): The federal government simply trying to protect children going back to school this fall. You remember schools, those places. They're the ones that in many cases were shuttered for the better part of an entire year, yet some of those adults argue that because masks don't provide a 100 percent guarantee against infection, mask mandates are political theater.

But I ask you, when it comes to our children's safety, where else would we require 100 percent guarantee before taking precautions to keep them safe. Car seats don't provide 100 percent protection against injury in the event of a crash. Is it political theater to require those?

How about seat belts? Is that about making a political statement? Helmets don't provide 100 percent protection against head injury. Political strategy then, too? I mean, all of these measures are directed with an eye towards protecting children from the behavior of risk of others, not risk guarantees mind you. But risk mitigation.

And yet, in an unprecedented global pandemic that claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Americans alone with record hospitalizations of children with COVID, this is the time we require 100 percent guarantees before we take precautions.

And it's not just about getting children back into the classroom for the sake of learning or even for perhaps parental reprieve. It's also about what school means. It means breakfast and lunch to hungry children. It means mandatory reporters who can detect abuse and get a child to safety. It means mental health support. It means support for those with disabilities. It means social and mental development.

When schools closed, it cut off lifelines for some of the most vulnerable, the same ones who are at the mercy of us, adults with a choice to make. Is it really still up for debate? COVID cases are spiking in many states including Texas and that state's Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is falsely implying that it's black people's fault.


LIEUTENANT GOV. DAN PATRICK (R-TX): The COVID is spreading particularly most of the numbers are with the unvaccinated and the Democrats like to blame Republicans on that. Well, the biggest group in most states are African-Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90 percent of them vote for Democrats in their major cities and major counties.


COATES (on camera): Let's set the record straight. I want to bring in Dr. Cedric Dark, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Dr. Dark, welcome to the show. I'm glad to have you here.

Because let me read this from our CNN fact check. OK? It says facts first. Just on raw numbers, black people at about 13 percent of the total population are not the biggest group of unvaccinated people either in Texas or across the U.S. And analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that white adults account for the largest share of unvaccinated adults.

So, the lieutenant governor is wrong, but what is your reaction?

CEDRIC DARK, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, first reaction is don't blame black people for your failure to implement mitigation mechanisms like masking and, you know, vaccinating in the people who you employ.

As you said, there are 3.7 million unvaccinated white people in Texas, which is vastly more than black people in Texas that are unvaccinated, 5.6 million versus 1.9 million. Now, you know, last time I checked, I'm a minority still in the population and, you know, there may be some half-truths that we're told in terms of percentages of people vaccinated when you divide that by race.


Forty 40 percent of white people in Texas are vaccinated. Only 29 percent of black people in Texas. But as you said, it is a numbers game. The more people you have, the more people that are unvaccinated, the more likely we are to spread this virus.

COATES: And, you know, you've been talking along with other doctors in Texas since really day one about vaccine hesitancy and also about misinformation. And what were you hearing from those folks about these issues?

DARK: I mean, you really speak to that point. What black men and black women in medicine did from the beginning of this pandemic, from day one, is reach out to our communities so that we could get past the vaccine hesitancy that we knew was going to be there because of systemic injustices due to things like the Tuskegee experiment.

We were the ones out there showing our arms and Band-Aids from getting vaccinated early on because we wanted to set an example for our communities and I'm happy to say that any time I get an opportunity to talk to somebody else about getting vaccinated, to go through whatever questions they have, I'm going to take that time to do so.

I did so for people in my church, I did so the other day, a group of friends of mine, we were out eating at a restaurant. We were all vaccinated. Our waiter leaned over us with no mask on. We asked him, are you vaccinated? He said, no.

And you know, I gave him my information so I could talk to him about why he's not vaccinated and what his issues were. Because I could try to get that one kid vaccinated, I can help to end this pandemic one person at a time. But people that have power, people that really have power need to stop putting politics into public health. I don't bring politics and put it in the exam room. They need to stop putting politics into public health and let public health and medicine do our jobs.

COATES: Well said, Dr. Dark, thank you so much for your time. I hope you also gave that waiter a tip, in addition to the tip that you gave him about vaccination. We'll be right back.



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