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Don Lemon Tonight

President Biden Says No To Extending War; GOP Criticized Biden's Exit Plan From Afghanistan; Louisiana Dealing With Inconveniences At Once; Exit Is Good, Exit Plan Is Not; Louisiana Under Tremendous Heat After Storm; People Fistfight Over Mask Mandate. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 31, 2021 - 22:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): Let's get right to "DON LEMON TONIGHT" with its big star, D. Lemon. Sorry, I ate into the time there but I have --


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: No, it's very important. You don't have to explain, you don't have to tell me. Listen, here is how I feel about that. If you're not going to get vaccinated, you don't want to social distance, you don't want to wear a mask, then maybe you don't want to go to the hospital when you get sick.

I know that sounds harsh but you're taking up the space for people who are doing things the right way. You and I both agree on, this is going to be between the vaccinated and unvaccinated moving forward in this country.

And I just think if you don't want to play by any of those rules and all of a sudden, you end up in the hospital. I feel bad that you, but maybe you shouldn't go and take the resources from someone else. That's it. So, you don't have to apologize for taking up the time.

CUOMO: It's just that I feel so bad for him. You know, our kids are almost the same age. Three girls, he has, obviously we got the two girls and Mario. But 18, 16, and 9, their mother fighting like that. The father feeling like the only thing he can do is just to plead to people to understand what they are doing and what they're taking from families. That time is so precious.

Stage four cancer, any time you can get with your kids at that age, with your husband.


CUOMO: I just -- I just don't know what's going to get through to people. I mean, that is just -- it just destroys me that whole life is forever changed by something that didn't have to happen. I'm not saying that's why this woman succumb to cancer but I'm saying the end is so important.

LEMON: But let me tell you having experienced -- listen. You know. You had COVID. I mean, do you agree that you have long haul, as well, right?

CUOMO: I absolutely still have stuff.

LEMON: OK. So, you understand it. I understand it from visiting the hospitals with people. I've seen the COVID wards. They weren't COVID wards until a short time ago, and every single person who works there from the head of the hospital on down to the person whoever, the people who are really keeping things going, who are cleaning up the mess, if you know what I mean. I won't be graphic about that.

Every single person will tell you they're exhausted. They barely have time to take off to spend with their own families. They're worried about catching COVID and a different variant.

It is putting a stress and strain on the system and people all over this country because some people who are so selfish are saying it's my freedom and I don't want to get vaccinated. OK. Fine. But think about someone other than yourself.

And if you don't believe that COVID is real and that it can affect your health and possibly take your life, don't go to the hospital then when you get sick. Don't take up the resources from other people who are playing by the rules, getting vaccinated, social distancing and putting their lives on the line to try to take care of the people who are there. That's all I'm saying. That's how I feel. And I don't apologize --


CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.

LEMON: Love you, brother. Get off my high horse but it is the truth. Thank you, brother. I'll see you soon. I got breaking news to get to.

So, this is Don Lemon Tonight. Thank you for joining us. Here is our breaking news.

The defiant President Joe Biden fires back at critics and makes a forceful defense of his handling of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan one day after the end of America's longest war. The president praising what he calls the extraordinary success of the evacuation of 123,000 people most of them Afghans, bluntly saying that he was not going to extend a forever war.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We were left with a simple decision either follow through on the commitment made by the last administration on leave Afghanistan or say we weren't leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war. That was the choice, the real choice between leaving or escalating. I was not going to extend this forever war. And I was not extending a forever exit.


LEMON (on camera): Answering back at critics who say the evacuations should have started sooner.


BIDEN: I take responsibility for the decision, now some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner and couldn't this have been done -- have been done in a more orderly manner? I respectfully disagree.


Imagine if we began evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war. There still would have been a rush to the airport. A breakdown in confidence in control of a government and still it would have been very difficult and dangerous mission.


LEMON (on camera): Imagine that, though. Listen, President of the United States saying I take responsibility. Sounds odd. That's the way it should be. But we hadn't heard that in at least five years. The president also insisting that he remains committed to helping Americans who still want to leave.


BIDEN: The bottom line, 90 percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out. Secretary of State Blinken is leading the continued diplomatic efforts to ensure safe passage for any American, Afghan partner or foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan.


LEMON (on camera): This may be the biggest challenge so far of the seven months of Joe Biden's presidency. How to keep that commitment to Americans and Afghan allies who want to leave even now that there are no longer any U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

And while dealing with one crisis after another here at home from the raging pandemic to more than a million people without power in stifling heat in the wake of Hurricane Ida to the political push back over Afghanistan. You're hearing a lot of Republicans who are outraged over President Biden's handling of the exit especially in a so-called freedom caucus.

Yet, they support the former guy, the one who sent all of this in motion in the first place. The hypocrisy is off the charts, and it is sickening. And it's not like it's the first time. They are all about criticizing President Joe Biden for leaving Americans and allies behind. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARY MILLER (R-IL): I go to bed at night, I wake up during the night, I wake up in the morning thinking about the families that have lost loved ones over there and in addition, the Americans we left, the allies we abandoned, the Christians that are going to be murdered, tortured and murdered and the women and girls.


LEMON (on camera): Louie Gohmert back there shaking his head. But they don't want those allies coming into the United States.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): Former intel that are telling me people that are being brought in here, there is a significant percentage that our future Boston marathon bombers because they're not doing adequate vetting.


LEMON (on camera): Do you see the ridiculousness in that, right? And what's the logic here? So, are they allies or are they Boston marathon bombers? Make up your mind. You're upset because you left people behind and whatever and they're bringing but the ones that he -- when you get them out and bring them over, they're future Boston marathon bombers?

They can't really seem to decide. It makes no sense. And then there is of course Kevin McCarthy who was all in favor of the former guy's plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan but now that President Biden has actually done that, he's outraged.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We now have Americans stuck in Afghanistan. The Taliban in charge with more weaponry than they've ever had in the past and a border that is open.


LEMON (on camera): He is not even a good actor. And we have and a border that is open. The GOP going after a president for carrying out the deal the former guy cut in the first place.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): After 20 years of war, Joe Biden or whoever is telling him what to do nowadays made the Taliban stronger than ever.


LEMON (on camera): So, we, you know, like this news network, so we like facts here. Let's remember it was the previous administration that began the process of negotiating with the Taliban. It was the former guy who secretly planned to meet with the Taliban at Camp David right before the anniversary of 9/11. It was the former guy who signed a peace treaty with the Taliban.


Let me tell you -- say it again. It was the former guy who signed a peace treaty with the Taliban, who bragged about his phone call with the man who now leads the Taliban in Afghanistan, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was released from prison at the request of, wait for it, the Trump administration. Whose secretary of state met with Baradar last fall.

So, yes, who was it who made the Taliban stronger? Who was it who made the Taliban stronger? Are you listening to me? Who cut the deals? Who met with? Who had the phone calls? Like I said, in the middle of all of this, the president is dealing with one crisis after another here at home.

More than a million people along the Gulf Coast who survived one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the United States now facing the possibility of weeks, even up to a month without power.

The National Weather Service issuing heat advisories and I can tell you firsthand summers in Louisiana are brutal. Brutally hot and muggy and dangerous. People lining up for food and water.

We're only getting the full picture now of just how bad things are in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Five storm related deaths reported. The governor of my home state of Louisiana telling people who fled the storm not to come back yet. Don't even come back yet.

New Orleans is under a curfew tonight as desperate people are still picking up the pieces. And then there is the destructive effect of the big lie, still being felt all across this country with the assault on voting rights, which is nothing less than a plan to give the GOP the power to overturn the next election if they don't like the results.

The big lie that fueled one of the darkest days in American history. January 6th. You know that's when blood thirsty rioters tried to overthrow our free and fair presidential election. Hunting lawmakers forced to run for their lives including the vice president, beating police, American heroes trying to defend our seat, the seat of democracy.

We all saw what happened on that horrible day. It played out live, much of it and then we saw the rest of it, the body worn cameras from police officers, the other video that people recorded happily now getting them in trouble indicted. We can never forget what we saw.

So, it is utterly disgraceful that a United States congressman who was there on that day is not only still spreading the big lie of bogus election fraud, but he's talking about taking up arms against his fellow Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): If our election systems continue to be

rigged and continue to be stolen, then it's going to lead to one place, and it's bloodshed.


CAWTHORN: And I will tell you as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there is nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American, and the way that we can have resource against that is if we all passionately demand that we have election security in all 50 states.


LEMON (on camera): These people. I mean, no shame, none. Madison Cawthorn he doesn't seem to understand that words matter, words like rigged, stolen, taking up arms against a fellow American. He doesn't seem to understand that those are the kinds of words the lies, I should say, that fuel the insurrection at the United States Capitol in the first place. Maybe he does understand. After all, he was right there at the rally before the capitol was attacked. Right there, spewing lies.


CAWTHORN: The Democrats with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice.


LEMON (on camera): That night he voted to overturn the election results even after the very real violence and bloodshed that we all saw that day. Can you imagine voting to overturn the election after having witnesses and possibly having your safety and your life jeopardized? Well, their safety was jeopardized, their lives were jeopardized, not possibly.

What do you expect from the congressman who, just weeks before the violence at the capitol said this?


CAWTHORN: I'm encouraging you, please, get on the phone. Call your congressman and feel free, you can lightly threaten them and say you know what? If you don't start supporting election integrity, I'm coming after you, Madison Cawthorn is coming after you. Everybody is coming after you.



LEMON: You can lightly threaten them. Congressman Cawthorn's spokesperson says that he was clearly advocating for violence not to occur when he talk -- when he talk about having to pick up arms against a fellow American. OK. All right.

But words matter. Words that spread lies, the lies that I have said before are killing us and our democracy. Case in point, here it is. Remember that school board meeting in Fort Lee County, Florida yesterday? The one where a fistfight broke out over the county's new mask mandate happened, it was caught live on television.

Well, there is more, much more. What happened outside is really nothing in comparison to what went on inside.


UNKNOWN: These are demonic entities and all the school boards of all the United States of America and all of us Christians will be sticking together to take them all out. Masks don't work. These doctors that sit up here that were sneering at us and looking at us like we're scum bags, they need to go back to (muted) medical school.


LEMON (on camera): Wow. She used Christian and that word -- in the same breath. Being a Christian is not just saying I'm a Christian. It's actually abiding by the principles of what being a Christian is supposed to be about. You just can't do whatever you want and say whatever you want and call people talking about and say f words and all that and then say I'm a Christian.

I don't want to wear a mask. I don't want to help my fellow person. I don't want to do unto others. I don't want to save other people's lives but I'm a Christian. Come on, man. Really?

This just goes to show you how divided America is on every single level. We can't even agree on a simple thing like masks to keep our children safe, the least of these. I'm a Christian. I want to keep children safe, my child, my decision. What about that other person's child? Huh?

Can't do this with child COVID hospitalizations reaching a new high. Divided on vaccines and masks. Divided on January 6th and the big lie. We are the divided states of America. What would Jesus do? And it's an open question, what Americans will think about the president's exit strategy in Afghanistan. Will America's national interest count more than the chaos now that the war is over?


BIDEN: To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask, what is the vital national interest?




LEMON (on camera): President Biden giving a forceful defense of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The president presenting the choice as one between leaving and escalating, and saying that he is honoring a commitment, an escalating war and saying that he's honoring a commitment made to the American people to the end, to end the 20-year war.

So, joining me now CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod and the former chief strategist for president, former President George W. Bush, Matthew Dowd is here, as well.

Gentlemen, good evening to you. I'm so happy to have both of you here.

David, the president's speech was defiant. It probably was the most forceful we have seen him on Afghanistan. He was trying to sell the decision to leave while defending how it was carried out. How do you think Americans are going to will see this?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, first of all, I'd be the first thing I'd always say is it's hard to judge anything in the moment, you know, and we tend to do that, we tend to say well, this is what's going to happen, this is how people are going to interpret it in the future. I think time will tell.

My guess is, that the decision to leave Afghanistan will wear well. Already, most Americans support it. Even as most Americans think the exit wasn't handled as well as it could have been. And I thought the most powerful part of the president's speech today was not his sort of defiant defense of the details of the exit but his very compelling argument for why it was time to leave Afghanistan and what it would have meant to stay.

And I think most Americans believe that. I think it is a major, major turn in American foreign policy and it's a speech by the way, Don, that I heard him give 12 years ago when President Obama was dealing with Afghanistan and this is what Joe Biden believed then that, you know, we should have a focused mission and that mission should be on going after those people who attacked us, not in nation building in Afghanistan.

And so, you know, Dan Boltz (Ph) wrote in the Post tonight that he gave a speech he's been practicing for years, and I believe that's the case.

LEMON: Yes. Matthew, you know, having heard what David just said about public sentiment, you said that the last few weeks we have seen the most honest and competent moments of presidential leadership on Afghanistan over the last 19 years. But there is a new poll it shows only 38 percent of Americans approve of how he has handled the withdrawal. Do you think the public ultimately won't focus on all the chaos?

MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think the public, as David said, the public is moving towards where the president is on this. And much of this is where the public is because what they've seen and heard from the news media over the course of the last two weeks and their interpretation of it. But the public wanted out of Afghanistan. We're now out of Afghanistan

and as each day goes further, I think they are going to see wow, they are going to start understanding the facts of this situation in what happened.


And even though it was a chaotic and war zone that we were in, he was able to get out more than 120,000 people out of there, and obviously, there was loss of life but there has been loss of life in Afghanistan for 19 years.

And I think the public was weary and I think over time this will be accrued to the president's benefit. Because I think in the end, in the short term many times they're punished for telling the truth, but in the long term, I think they're always rewarded for telling the truth. And I think Biden more than any president since 2001 fundamentally told the truth about what Afghanistan was about and what happened and where we ended up.

And the other thing I'll add, is this, you know, keep in mind that the elections are fleeting in election than midterms is a long way away and the 2024 is a long way away. In 1975, when Saigon fell, a year later, the Vietnam wasn't even in the top 10 of issues discussed in 1976. And in 1983, 241 soldiers were killed, 220 marines at barracks in Lebanon. And a year later Ronald Reagan won with 49 states and won a landslide.

So, these things have a tendency to move quickly but I think in the end, Biden will gain from this over time as opposed to lose from it.

LEMON: And the guy you served also won a second term, as well, when, you know, just so you know won a second term. Biden -- David, we're going to speak to someone who is an American citizen, went back to Afghanistan to get his family and it's now says that he is having trouble getting out. He can't get out.

He did, as you said, you've been saying he promised to get all Americans out but some 100 to 200 are left behind. There is this new ABC/Ipsos poll, ABC News/Ipsos poll that shows 84 percent of Americans say U.S. troops should have stayed until all Americans had been evacuated.

If we don't get these people out, again, Matthew says public sentiment he thinks is going to move on and it's going to be on the president side but do you think it's going to come back to haunt the president?

AXELROD: Well, look, you know, I said earlier today that we've left Afghanistan but it's not clear that Afghanistan is going to leave us. You know, and if there are, you know, if there are tragic stories about what happens to Americans trying to get out of Afghanistan, that is going to -- that is going to be held on the president's account. I'm sure of that.

But, you know, I thought, you know, today in the speech I thought he made too little of the fact that there were -- he said we got 90 percent of the Americans out that want to get out. Ninety percent means that 10 percent are still there, but he also was compelling on what it would have meant to leave the -- leave the -- to continue this evacuation and we saw, we got a taste of it with that horrific terrorist attack the other day.

These are hard, hard judgments that presidents have to make. And, you know, I do think in the main, the military did a splendid job after the mission got scrambled when the Afghan forces collapsed in the ways that the president himself acknowledged knowing or that at least many didn't anticipate.

So, you know, yes. But the short answer to your question is yes, I think that this is not over. And they have to be assiduous about working every angle they can to get every American who wants to get out - out, and God forbid something happens to one of them and that will -- that will be an issue.


AXELROD: There are all kinds of bumps in the road here, you know, on the main issue, I think he wins and I think it's an important moment in American policy, foreign policy but the details of the exit remain bumpy and it's something I'm sure they are going to have to be very assiduous about in the months to come.

LEMON: Matthew, I'll give you the last word. I have a short time here if you can, please.

DOWD: Sure. The only thing I'll give the president credit for is that in the midst of this, he's obviously in the midst of multiple other crises. I mean, keep in mind, he got out 123,000 people, at the same time 10,000 people have died from COVID, and 1,000 people died from gun violence in our country, and we're still under assault of our own democracy.

So, if we want to concentrate on nation building, maybe this is a moment to start moving money and moving resources away from foreign policy entanglements and military and towards the work we need to do at home and rebuilding our own democracy.

LEMON: Yes. Two trillion dollars, you know, there are other places that we could use $2 trillion in this country but $2 trillion that we spent on that war.

Thank you very much, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

So, the governor says do not come back. Do not come back. Massive damage and weeks without power for some parts of Louisiana after Hurricane Ida. We're going to go there next.



LEMON (on camera): So, tonight, millions of Americans living along the Gulf Coast are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida's devastating blow, more than one million people mostly in Louisiana without power. Those power outages could last for weeks amid excessive heat, really excessive heat down there.


The storm is already blamed for at least five deaths.

And I want to bring in now Cynthia Lee Sheng, the president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Thank you so much for joining us, president. I really appreciate it.

I'm sorry for what you guys are dealing with but I know you have great folks there and you have great leadership and so you will get through this but it's going to be tough. So, again, thank you for what you're doing and thank you for appearing.

So, we can -- we can see so much damage and flooding in Grand Isle where the video is up now, a town in your parish. Give us the latest on the rescue efforts and trying to evacuate residents displaced by Hurricane Ida.

CYNTHIA LEE SHENG, PRESIDENT, JEFFERSON PARISH: So -- so, we were lucky members of our team went down there. One of our council members, Ricky Templet, my director of fire services, Brian Adams brought -- and their staffs brought supplies. Our sheriff -- our sheriff Joseph Lopinto had a caravan down there with supplies and they were able to get through luckily, they said the road way, they were just the poles were leaning in the right direction and they were just able to kind of get through.

Unfortunately, the way it's described is that it's uninhabitable, a hundred percent damage. Probably 40 percent of the structures are just gone or maybe just a wall left is very, very sad situation that they saw. There is a smell of natural gas on the island they said.

There are -- it's like three feet of sand that because we did have some of the levees break, so I think it brought up the sand on the island, so very, very difficult. I think it was a very hard day for them to be on the island but we were glad that, you know, every day is progress, and you know, we didn't even have eyes on the island for a long time.

I sent my videographer and my public information office to get footage. So, you know, we made progress every day but every day we see how long the recovery is going to be especially for the people of Grand Isle. And we can't -- there is no communication there. So, I know the residents of Grand Isle want a way to communicate. We're going to open up those channels. But you know, and people don't have electricity now so we're really dealing with very difficult issues.

LEMON: Boy. I'm looking at the video now. It's just, it's unbelievable. And look, I know, I've covered many hurricanes there and that one road in and one road out and when that water gets really high, if it gets high enough, it can wash you right out into troubled waters. Right?


LEMON: And so --


LEMON: -- I've been there in the middle of the night trying to get out of Grand Isle on that road hoping that it doesn't flood and wash our cars and news vehicles away.


LEMON: I want to play something from the governor earlier, OK, madam president, and then we'll talk. Here it is.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): So, if you have already evacuated, do not return here or elsewhere in southeast Louisiana until the Office of Emergency Preparedness tells you it is ready to receive you. The schools are not open. The businesses are not open. The hospitals are slammed. There is not water in your home and there is not going to be electricity.

So, let's get you where you'll be safe and somewhat comfortable. And if you need a hospital, we can get you to a hospital. Please don't come home before they tell you that it's time.


LEMON (on camera): That's quite a message. Where should people go?


LEMON: What -- what should they do?

SHENG: We couldn't agree more. And you know, what we're finding is people who are here are leaving. There was backed up traffic on i-10 because people are getting out actually. So, they stayed during the storm but now these living conditions they've decided to just, you know, move elsewhere for the time being.

We set up a shelter today. You know, we have some -- look, look, Don, we're expecting a lot of resources to come here. We have so many people who want to help us. I was on the phone with our congressional delegation, our state, private, non-profits, NGO's. They are coming but the difficulty is the supply chain.

They're having the same difficulties getting their supplies as we're having living here, you know, but leaving here. So, it's going to take some time. In the meantime, we set up a shelter today at a local playground. The state is picking them up and taking them to Alexandria so people can get air conditioning, food, water, and the medical, the depth of medical services that they need.

LEMON: Let me ask you this. Because I know how hot it is there. My entire family is still there. SHENG: Yes.

LEMON: Some of them still don't have power. They're in Baton Rouge. They're all alive and safe so I'm happy. You know, they'll lose the food in the refrigerator, OK. That's not -- or in their freezer, fine. But it's stifling heat there. And then if you don't have a place to go and you are telling people not to come back and others to leave, look, I don't want to be hyperbolic.

But are we going -- because people, they look at this and say, well, so five. Only five people considering these deaths from hurricanes, it's not that bad. Any death is tragic. But we're not going to get -- we're not going to get back to the place where there are FEMA trailers for folks. Are we going to reach that point with this?

SHENG: Well, I mean, if you don't have a house, you are going to have to stay somewhere to rebuild. So, yes. I mean, that's what it's going to look like certainly on Grand Isle. People are going to need, you know, these resources. They have to be close to their home to rebuild. So, I think I got disconnected --

LEMON: No, you're here. You're there. We can hear you.


LEMON: And we can see you're fine.

SHENG: My screen went blank. OK.

LEMON: That's OK. You're good.

SHENG: OK. OK. So, yes, I mean, we probably are going to get to that level of this. You know, we don't have gas. There is long, long lines for gas right now. Some of the stores, most of the stores are still closed.



SHENG: So, this is not a livable condition. And fortunately, Don, you know from being here, it's like, you walk outside and it can feel like a sauna when you're on days in August in Louisiana, right?


SHENG: So, many of the people I met today, their home was OK but they said without electricity, they can't live here.


SHENG: And, you know, it was the elderly people, medically vulnerable people, and I said you're making the right decision. Just get to where you can have the comforts of just living right now until you can come home.

LEMON: Madam president --


SHENG: So, very tough.

LEMON: Madam president of Jefferson Parish, Cynthia Lee Sheng, thank you. Keep us updated. We're thinking about you, OK? I appreciate it.

SHENG: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. A fistfight outside a school board meeting in Florida over masks. We showed you that yesterday but now we have got the tape inside. You want to see it.



LEMON (on camera): Gather in front of the TV set for this take this, everyone. Tonight, the American Academy of Pediatrics warning of an exponential rise in COVID cases among children, more than 200,000 children testing positive in the U.S. last week alone. That's five times more than just a month ago.

So why are people fighting against basic steps to keep kids safe like masks in schools? We showed you this last night. A fistfight outside of a school board meeting for Lee County schools in Florida after the district announced a new mask mandate.


UNKNOWN: So, as you can see, fists are now flying. All of this on live television. Fists are flying. Unbelievable what we are seeing here today.


LEMON (on camera): OK. And if that wasn't wild enough, now we have got the tape of what went on inside that meeting.


UNKNOWN: I'm going to tell you that your time is up. The people of the state and this district are rising up and you have awakened a sleeping beast.

UNKNOWN: Maybe the reason why we have people in the hospitals all this mask wearing? Did we ever think of that? Did we ever think of that?

UNKNOWN: Putting a mask on those children is robbing them of their education. You are robbing these kids of their developmental rights in terms of education. Are you educators? Don't you know that?

UNKNOWN: I want to talk about the real pandemic, child sex trafficking. By putting masks on these kids' face, you can't identify any of them.

UNKNOWN: They don't care about your children. As a matter of fact, they hate them. They hate your kids. They hate my kids. They hate your kids. They hate my kids. get it?

UNKNOWN: Ninety-nine point nine live through this flu, especially the kids, and the data proves that, too. Science and laws shouldn't be changing so fast. Has Nuremberg taught us nothing of medical tyranny in the past?


LEMON (on camera): Unfortunately, this isn't the first time the Holocaust has been invoked in the mask debate and no to anyone trying to make that argument. The comparison does not work, and those statements should not many made.

Conspiracy theories and personal attacks will not slow the spread of COVID. But we know that masks do. And schools need them if kids have any shot at a normal school year. But these people are fighting against that. Even though Florida has already has more than 26,000 students and staff testing positive for COVID, more than 45,000 students and staff quarantining.

And let me remind you that Florida is one of the five states with less than 10 percent ICU capacity remaining because of the Delta surge. But is that what the governor is worried about? No. His education department is penalizing two school districts for their mask mandates withholding funds until they get rid of those mandates, all this, leaving children in the middle.

But down in Lee County, they are still implementing a mask mandate. They've got it down on the books for the next 30 days, at least, they might get it shut it down. They might have to contend with an anti- mask governor but they are putting those kids first instead of in the middle.

Debbie Jordan is here. She's the school board chair for Lee County schools. And I've got a whole lot of questions for her after the break.



LEMON (on camera): Florida's Lee County schools announcing a 30-day mask mandate going into effect this week for the district's roughly 90,000. The decision sparking angry outbursts and fistfights at the school board meeting.

Joining me now to discuss is Debbie Jordan. She is the school board chair of Lee County School District. Thank you so much, Debbie, for joining us. I really appreciate it.

So right before the break we played some from the vitriol from the school board meeting. What was it like being in that room? DEBBIE JORDAN, SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR, LEE COUNTY SCHOOL: It was tough

seeing what was taking place, seeing what was taking place outside, as well. We've never experienced that before. So, this was, you know, the first time that we've actually seen the anger like that.

LEMON: Yes. Debbie, are all these people parents or are we seeing any outside agitators coming into these meetings or activists?

JORDAN: I -- well, we actually put that into our public comment to ask that. Are you a Lee County resident? Are you a, you know, a parent? So that way we could get kind of like a guesstimate of who actually lived here in Lee County. We did have a meeting a couple weeks ago where we had a scene that we had a large population of people who did not even live in within our area.


JORDAN: It was more regional.

LEMON: Yes. So, before the announcement that parents could opt out of masks for children, it has been three weeks since kids went back to school in your district. Were you seeing a large influx of cases? I mean, why did you all decide the policy needed to change?

JORDAN: Well, we had guidelines from the governor, of course, stating that we had to have everybody in the brick and mortar schools with only one option as far as a virtual school -- well, I'm sorry, let me take that back.


There was a virtual option, which we have a Lee virtual. He we had a Florida virtual and home schooling, of course. There was an opt out for parents, which we had to implement so they could actually opt out of wearing masks but our -- what we found is that our Lee virtual school wind up filling up immediately. Then we had the secondary, which was the Florida that also filled up quite quick.

Last year, we were able to do a home connect, which was connecting children with teachers. They took that away from us this year so we were not even allowed to give that option to parents. So, when we see the judge -- the judge's ruling giving us the right to go ahead, the superintendent went ahead and implemented his policy 1.181 to the full extent, which was requiring masks.

LEMON: Well, so at least you can do it for the next 30 days. Let's hope that makes -- has a positive effect on the numbers and the kids and that they don't become infected and then, you know, you are able to help the kids even with the rig and the roll, everything going on around it.

Debbie, thank you. We'll have you back. We appreciate you coming on. Stay safe, OK?

JORDAN: Thank you so much. We really appreciate you.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

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