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Don Lemon Tonight

Governor Jim Justice Appalled By The Lies; White House Want Trump Officials Out; Governor Abbott Promise To Remove Rapists; U.S. Capitol Under Threat; President Biden Set To Unveil New COVID-19 Plans; More Children Getting Infected By Delta; Robert E. Lee Taken From His Pedestal. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): Thank you for watching tonight. DON LEMON TONIGHT with the big star, D. Lemon right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Those fences are going to go back at the White House, and around the capitol, I should say. Wow. That is, here we are eight months later, and it seems like we're in the same spot.

CUOMO: That's because we are. What has changed? The anger, the animus, the misinformation, the disinformation. It just gets layered on. Remember the lasagna of lies?


CUOMO: It's just gotten higher and higher.


CUOMO: They're not changing their tune. The only change in tune that has been perceptible to me is right at the end of the Afghanistan exit when they were desperately trying to get people out, you had people on the right having it both ways where they'd be saying get them out, get them out. But don't bring them here. Can't have those people here, remember, they're brown, a lot of them are brown. Right?

LEMON: A lot of them?

CUOMO: But now because you have so many on the right and a lot of veterans actively trying to get people out, they've been quieting people with their xenophobia for now. That's the only perceptible change I've seen, the big lie, the recall in election in California is going to be rigged. Trump is spreading that B.S. again. All of the same vitriol still at play, brother.


CUOMO: Why would anything change?

LEMON: Well, and you have to be careful about who you amplify and give a platform, so I don't like to get -- and platform to liars. I'm not saying that you're doing it, I meant us in general, in the media. I mean, to think that we're in a place now where as you said has not changed much because people are still believing the lies even with all of the video that came out of January 6th. Even with all the evidence that came out about the election. The most secure election, the most secure in the history of this country.

Even with that, even with the fraud it happening in Arizona and no information being found, with all of that, the lies, the misinformation, as you said the disinformation --


CUOMO: But the power, the power.

LEMON: -- still running rampant in this country. And spilling over into the COVID.

CUOMO: Absolutely. Because the power is what people want to be true.


CUOMO: Why would you not take the vaccine? Because you want to believe that you won't need it and that the risk is worth it to stick it to the people that you want to be against.


CUOMO: That's what -- you want it to be true. You want that on January 6th they didn't really do anything wrong. You want to believe that it's about the deep state. You want to believe that it's about everybody else. Those are the people who are susceptible. The problem is it doesn't take many to do something really awful --


CUOMO: -- maybe in 10 days.

LEMON: Yes. Brainwash. It is a cult. All right. That's the truth. OK, I'll see you brother. You're the man.

CUOMO: D. Lemon, I love you.

LEMON: You know what? You're OK. Sometimes I love you. Sometimes I don't.

CUOMO: I aim for mediocrity. Anything above that is gravy.

LEMON: I'm only kidding. I'll see you soon, thank you, brother.


I've got a lot to talk about it. The president has got a lot to talk about as well because he's going to give a major speech tomorrow. The president contending with how we got to where we are tonight with COVID, OK, a place where virtually every single death is completely preventable. Did you hear what I said? Every single death is completely

preventable. And unvaccinated kids across the country are now caught in the middle of the political battles over masks and vaccinations. West Virginia's Republican governor, Jim Justice who has been pro- vaccine all along has just about had it with people, people who are spreading conspiracy theories in his state. He has had it in his state where less than 40 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.


GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): For God sakes of living, how difficult is this to understand? Why in the world do we have to come up with these crazy ideas -- and they're crazy ideas -- that the vaccine has got something in it, and it's tracing people wherever they go, and the same very people who are saying that are carrying their cell phones around.

I mean, come on. Come on. We just need to use good sense and get ourselves vaccinated, and then we'll stop this thing.


LEMON (on camera): He's right. Come on. It would take all kinds of shots, my back hurts. This hurts. I'll take that shot. You don't know what's in it. Do you really know what's in it? But you'll take that. I'm in pain. I need to take it. You'll take that. Right?

You don't even know what's in over the counter medicine, be you take that. You don't know what's in that beer you're drinking, but you'll take that. I hear people say I'm not taking that because I don't know what's in it, and then they're going outside smoking cigarettes. Really?


And then down in Florida, right? A judge is handing Governor Ron DeSantis a defeat today allowing schools in the state to mandate masks while the case is appealed. But as the mask wars heat up in school districts all across the country, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is pushing masks for school kids too young to get vaccinated.


GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): These little ones don't have the choice to take the vaccine. You wouldn't let them run across the street without looking. You certainly wouldn't put them in a crowded classroom without a mask.


LEMON (on camera): But let's remember just how vicious these mask wars have gotten. Here it is.


UNKNOWN: These are demonic entities in all the school boards of 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.

UNKNOWN: Your children and your children's children will make something (Inaudible) and when we asked how many vaccines have you had, have you been a good little Nazi! Hail you, Fauci! Hail you, Fauci!


LEMON (on camera): So I was having a conversation with -- we were listening to Chris's show and I was having a conversation with someone who works here, and we're the same age, a man of a certain age, and she said, man, I'm an older parent now and when I was in my 20s and 30s when I had my kids, I'm so glad I didn't open my mouth because I was so ignorant, I just didn't know.

You think you know everything when you're young, and you get to be a certain age, especially when you get to be in your 50s, you're like, I don't know, you know what, but I knew more than I knew when I was in my 20s, 30s and even 40s.

So sometimes people should just have a seat and listen to the experts. It's hard to believe that anybody takes stuff like that seriously, right? A good little Nazi, ha, ha, ha. What does that prove? Nothing. But if we are going to get more people vaccinated, we're going to have to find a way to get the message across, the message that masks and vaccines save lives.

So, CNN's Elle Reeve talked to some folks in Missouri about why they don't trust the vaccine. Here it is, listen.


WAYLAND BLAND, RECOVERED FROM COVID-19: Well, the one thing is they shafted my president. If they would have had the vaccine, already had it, already it, but they wouldn't give it to him because they knew damn good and well he'd be reelected. They got nothing nobody could it. So, they had to swindle around and skin around and keep it from him just as soon as the election was over, we got it.

You shafted me on my president, I am not taking your medicine. Not from -- I'll take what they give him, but I'm not taking yours.

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He took the vaccine, though.


BLAND: You're getting mad of. I don't know that.


LEMON (on camera): That guy sitting next to him with a dog is me. He's just smiling or whatever. Look, here's the -- people they sit around and they watch and they listen to certain people who give them misinformation. They are adults so they're responsible for their own being and what they think. What he thinks is actually wrong because the fact is the former president did get vaccinated. OK?

And this president has actually given him credit for helping to get the vaccine out. And just a couple of weeks ago, the former guy got booed by supporters in Alabama for recommending the vaccine.

In a new study out tonight confirms that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 90 percent effective in keeping people 50 and older out of the hospital. Come on, people. Let's deal in facts, not just what you want to believe and not having your own beliefs reinforced. There are facts and those are the facts.

The White House hoping that the president's new vaccine mandates will make a dent with the 26.7 percent of eligible Americans who are not vaccinated. And then there is the White House tonight, apparently removing 11 officials from the previous administration from military academy advisory boards after a 6 p.m. deadline for them to resign, and these aren't just any officials.

We're talking the likes of Sean Spicer, remember that? Period. Biggest audience, period, Sean Spicer and then Kellyanne Conway of the alternative facts. Well, White House press secretary Jen Psaki saying this today.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I will let others evaluate whether they think Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer and others were qualified or not political to serve on these boards, but the president's qualification requirements are not your party registration.


They are whether you're qualified to serve and whether you're aligned with the values of this administration.


LEMON (on camera): So Kellyanne Conway proving that she is not exactly nonpartisan, firing off a letter to President Biden saying I'm not resigning, but you should. This from the woman who served a disgraced twice impeached one-term former president. Not only served him, she helped to get him elected.

And let's remember, in November, just months before he left office, the former guy dismissed several members of the defense policy board before their terms were up including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger.

Now there are people in the group asked to resign today who seem pretty qualified. But there's also Heidi Stirrup a former White House liaison to the DOJ who was banned from entering the building after she tried to assess sensitive information about bogus election fraud in December. And then there is retired Colonel Douglas McGregor whose history of

controversial comments includes a 2013 radio show where he talked about what he called the entitled underclass of people concentrated in large urban areas and the threat they supposedly pose.

Now, who do you think he's talking about? Or as we say in my house, who you think he talking about? That's who he's talking about, exactly who you think. We've got a lot more to come on all of this. That as the White House is slamming Texas Governor Greg Abbott's defense of his state's six-week abortion ban, claiming he'll eliminate rape.


UNKNOWN: Why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term?

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): It doesn't require that at all because obviously it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion, so for one, it doesn't provide that. That said, however, let's make something very clear. Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.


LEMON (on camera): Jen Psaki saying this.


PSAKI: If Governor Abbott has a means of eliminating all rapists or all rape from the United States, then there'd be bipartisan support for that.


LEMON (on camera): So in the meantime, meanwhile, there's this ominous news tonight on Capitol Hill, this is what I was talking to Chris about, a source telling CNN the U.S. Capitol police formally requested that the fence around the capitol be temporarily put in place again ahead of a planned right-wing rally on September 18th, a rally in support of rioters jailed after the insurrection on January 6th.

The latest intelligence on the so-called justice for J6 rally knows there's been an uptick in violent online rhetoric around the event. A source of the capitol police board is likely to approve the fencing though it is expected to be smaller and up for only a few days at most, fingers crossed, we hope so.

So, it was just eight months ago that the big lie of bogus election fraud fueled one of the darkest days in American history, January 6th. That's when blood thirsty rioters tried to overthrow our free and fair presidential election. Hunting lawmakers forced to run for their lives, beating police officers, American heroes, trying to defend the seat of our democracy. We all saw what happened on that horrible day. Remember what you saw

with your own eyes when you hear those calls for, quote, "justice for the rioters who tried to take down our democracy." And those are the facts. Another one is that it's clear that the White House has a message tonight for Democrats that it can't afford to lose. You're either with President Biden or against him. The question is can they push his agenda across the finish line?


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): How much will it cost if we don't do this? Just think about what it's going to cost down in New Orleans about those nursing homes down there that have allowed people to die. That's a big cost that this country can do without.




LEMON (on camera): President Biden set to unveil his six-point plan tomorrow on how his administration will try to end the COVID pandemic. A source telling CNN the plan will include vaccine requirements, which sounds like mandates, further protection for vaccinated Americans with booster shots. A focus on keeping schools open, increasing testing and requiring mask masking, plus economic recovery and improving care for those with COVID-19.

There's a lot to discuss tonight with CNN's senior political commentator, David Axelrod and Matthew Dowd, the former chief strategist for President George W. Bush, and the author of "Revelations on the River."

Gentlemen, good evening to both of you.


LEMON: Matthew, we're now getting a sense of what we'll hear from the president tomorrow in his effort to curb the Delta variant and boost vaccinations. Is it time to see more sticks and less carrots in this battle against COVID?

MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, there's been a ton of carrots and very few sticks. So, I think we need more sticks. It's gone from hesitancy to out and out obstruction to folks getting the vaccine. I noticed today, I saw information, 91 percent of Biden voters have gotten the vaccine. Fifty percent of Trump voters have gotten the vaccine and that number has not risen very much in the last few weeks.

So, I think we're at the point in order to protect the common good, which all of us should have an interest in and move forward, I think we're going to have to start seeing sticks and that's going to start including mandates and ways to sort of make people do what's best for their communities. LEMON: David, there's people, you know, I talk to down at the

hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who didn't get the vaccine for one reason or another or for a lot of them it wasn't only political but for the ones who are dug in politically. What else could the president possibly do to convince them?


AXELROD: Yes, well, I'm not sure he can convince them. I mean, I don't think he's the most convincing figure for, you know, for example, those Trump voters that Matthew was speaking of.

There can be requirements, though, associated with employment and, you know, I think he can urge where he has authority implement those. By the way, I would -- I would always refer to these as requirements. I don't -- the word mandate has taken on some, you know, really dark implications.

We have all kinds of requirements that we live with as part of being a responsible society, including, by the way, vaccinations for our kids for other diseases in the schools. So, you know, these are requirements, and he ought to apply them wherever he can and particularly as it relates to people who come into contact with children, but I think more broadly as well.

LEMON: Hey, David, let me ask you something. I was just wondering why -- why he didn't and the administration didn't take that attitude initially? I think initially they said well, I'm not sure the president has, you know, the authority to be able to do that. But shouldn't that have been the requirement, at least from the folks in the government all along? This is a pandemic.


LEMON: This is a public health risk. This is a requirement. Do it or not. And who cares about what people were screaming around the country about we're not going to do it. Why not just make it --


AXELROD: Well, maybe -- well, maybe they wanted to see what kind of take up there was as time went on. But clearly at this point, you know, I mean, there's a lot of resentment among people who have gotten the vaccination that -- and done the responsible thing that their lives are now being held hostage in many ways to the people who refused to.

And then you think of the fact that our emergency rooms are over -- not emergency rooms, ICUs and hospitals overflowing with people who wouldn't get the vaccination and crowding out people who need medical care because these rooms are full.

I mean, yes, it's time to be a lot more aggressive with people. I personally think, you know, and I don't think he'll do this tomorrow, but I'd be a lot more aggressive with the politicians who are -- you know, who are politically or at least they think they're politically profiteering off of things like fighting mask mandates in the schools, jeopardizing kids.

You know, my 4-year-old grandson started preschool in a place where the governor was pushing, you know, the anti-mask line, and my grandson wore a mask. Other kids didn't. Within two days he was quarantined because he was exposed to people with COVID.

You know, this is not right, and you look at the stats where there is this explosion of cases among young people, and it's in those states where these fights are going on. That is not what a response -- how a responsible society function. We have obligations to each other, and you know, these politicians who are so craven as to overlook the obvious danger they're putting people in because they think they can score some points with their political base? I mean, they really need to be taken on frontally.

LEMON: Well, it's a surprise that -- I mean, we had an irresponsible president and then he had irresponsible, you know, promoters and apologists, and so I just -- but I don't think you should give any credence to someone for people who are irresponsible. I just think you say, look, this is what you must do --

DOWD: Don?

LEMON: -- and do it and don't worry about them. We need to save lives. Go on, Matthew.

DOWD: No, what I was going to say is this underlines, I think, a developed and it has become exacerbated today, this really fundamental line between sort of this idea that I'm going to do whatever is good for me and I don't really have to ware about the rest of society by community my neighborhood, my state, my country.

And it's really sort of, completely antithetical in my view to the Constitution of the United States of America, which obviously had individuals rights but the first line of the Constitution is we the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union.

And basically, the GOP pushed by Donald Trump, but pushed by many other people on many issues, this is just one of them. But fundamentally at this is the idea now they're taking umbrage to the idea of asking somebody to do something to benefit their community, to benefit fellow citizens and that now has become a line in the sand. The common good now is no longer seen as part of the American ideal.

LEMON: Yes. Well, also, too, I mean, you know, the folks out there who are supposed Christians and they're not looking out for their fellow man and just looking out for themselves, that's completely antithetical to that as well, to actually being a Christian and what the bible teaches.


Matthew, Senate -- I want to talk about infrastructure now and what's happening. Because the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says that Democrats are moving fully ahead on the $3.5 trillion spending package. We have seen the infrastructure and reconciliation bills on life

support before, and they have come back to life. So, pull out your crystal ball, if you will, will this get key part of Biden's agenda ultimately get passed in some form or fashion?

DOWD: I believe it will. And I'm sure what will have to happen is we'll have to bargain on it. It may not end up to be 3.5 trillion, if it ends up to be 3.1 trillion or 3.2 trillion, I think that's a huge movement forward for the country forward and fund all sorts of things that we need at this time of difficulty in this.

But my view is he'll get it done. It may not be exactly what everyone wants but something will get done. They'll get it through. They'll get these votes of the senators that they need to get by probably giving up a few things or doing a few things there.

But in the end I think he gets it done, and hopefully, Don, hopefully gets it done and we can move on to protecting voter rights because fundamentally in my view, that's the most important issue of our time is the protection of voter rights because without that, all of this other stuff doesn't matter.

LEMON: Amen. So, David, take us inside the maneuvering likely going on inside the White House trying to get this done and threading the needle between moderates and liberals. I mean, really, we always refer to Joe Manchin as a moderate.


LEMON: I think he's more of a conservative Democrat. He's not really a moderate Democrat. We certainly saw, you know, that -- you saw what was going on with Obamacare, so take us inside. What's happening?

AXELROD: Yes. Look, I mean, I think they're trying to get the best deal that they can get, and you know, Joe Manchin has -- I think now he's at 1.5 trillion, they're at 3.5 trillion. They're going to land somewhere in between that. And as Matthew said, it will be, you know, this will be a substantial investment in, you know, the social safety net of our country.

And you know, but I will tell you when we pass the Affordable Care Act, don, you'll remember there were people who were unhappy that we couldn't get the public option --


AXELROD: -- that we had fought for and that many progressives wanted in that bill.


LEMON: They want single payor too?

AXELROD: And then -- well, yes, but beyond that, in that bill, they wanted this public option as a step toward that. We didn't have the votes for that, and the choice was are we going to make substantial progress that will touch the lives of tens of millions of Americans or are we going to make the perfect the enemy of the of good.

You know, I would hope that if Biden is successful -- and I think he will be because I think there's just too much on the table for any Democrat to walk away from and be responsible for killing -- if Biden is successful, I hope that we don't see a repeat of that. I hope there aren't people who say, well, gee, we wanted 3.5. We wanted 6 trillion. We only got 2.8 trillion. This was a failure.

It won't be a failure. It will be a substantial success, and I think it's going to have to happen quickly because in order to get progressive votes to advance the process in the -- and moderate votes to advance I should say to get moderate votes to advance the progress, this process, they had to agree it was September 27th vote on the infrastructure bill.

Progressives are demanding that they move forward on both tracks at once, so this thing is on a very fast track, and we're going to know in the next few weeks what it looks like and whether it's up or down.

LEMON: Yes. Matthew, I got to run. You think it's going to happen, though, right? You said --


DOWD: I think it's going to happen, but I think --


LEMON: Somewhere in the 2's, you believe. It sounds like you were negotiating to buy a house offer this and then we'll settle here.

DOWD: But again, I'm going to say it's not near as important as what we need to do on voter's rights.


DOWD: Because every issue depends on voting rights.

LEMON: Thank you. And I'm glad -- and we will have you on to discuss that. I think you're absolutely right on that.

Gentlemen, good to see you. Great conversation.

AXELROD: Good to see you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

DOWD: Thank you. Thank you.

LEMON: Schools are reopening just as child COVID cases and hospitalization show a big jump. I'm going to talk with a top pediatric doctor. That's next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON (on camera): A stunning rise in new COVID cases among children. Data showing a 250 percent increase in cases from just five weeks ago. The American Academy of Pediatrics says kids make up more than one in four new COVID cases in the United States.

The number of children hospitalized with coronavirus jumping 12 percent last week and the troubling data comes as millions of children are now back in school sparking tense battles over mask mandates.

Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Dimitri Christakis, he is the director of the Center for Child Health and Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital and the editor in chief of JAMA Pediatrics.

Dr. Thank you. Good to see you, sir.


LEMON: So, as, you know, as of this week, almost every school child in the country will be back at school. What's your concern as we look at this rise in cases in children?


CHRISTAKIS: Well, the first thing I want to say is that the percentage of new cases in kids doesn't really tell the story, right? Because as others have pointed out, what we have here is an epidemic of the unvaccinated, and who are the unvaccinated? Well, children under 12 are all unvaccinated. People over 12 have the choice of being vaccinated or not.

So, in a perfect world, if we had done everything we could, we would see that 80 percent of the cases were in kids under 12 because everyone over 12 was vaccinated. The truth is that unvaccinated people are at risk and they get it from other unvaccinated people by and large.

So that's the challenge that we have a bunch of kids in schools that are not eligible to get vaccines and a lot of adults who are refusing to get vaccines themselves, and I might point out pushing back on even having children wear masks in schools. So, we are going to see COVID in schools. We're already seeing it.

LEMON: All right. Well, make this clear for me then because earlier in the pandemic it looked like kids didn't seem to contribute much to the spread. Has the Delta variant changed all that? Explain that to us.

CHRISTAKIS: Yes. Delta is clearly a game changer. So, there are two things about Delta, one which we know already, one which we're still trying to figure out. What we know is it's much more infectious, anywhere from five to 10 times more infectious. So, if you have Delta, you're much more likely to spread it whether you're vaccinated or not.

What we don't know yet, honestly, in the case of children is whether or not Delta, in fact, makes kids sicker. A lot more kids are sick so it stands to reason that there are going to be more sick kids. I can tell you the scientist in me says the data are not there yet. I'm part of a team that is looking at that right now.

We're looking at hundreds of thousands of children with COVID in the United States right now, and we expect to have an answer about the severity of Delta in children this month, but the clinician in me, the clinician in me who takes care of patients does believe Delta is -- poses a greater threat to children.

I say that because we had our first child die of COVID in our hospital this past month, and talking to colleagues around the country, everyone is seeing more very sick children with COVID than we've ever seen before. So, the data aren't there yet, but I expect they will show it's worse for kids.

LEMON: Here's what several doctors have told CNN, that most children hospitalized with COVID have pre-existing conditions but not all of them. What are you seeing in your hospital? Do you agree with that?

CHRISTAKIS: Yes, I mean, the sad truth is that most of the kids at our hospital and across the country are either unvaccinated when they could have been vaccinated and many have pre-existing conditions. But not all.

You know, we often hear people say about this epidemic, Don, that we're all in this together. You know, that's true to a point. We're in the same storm, but we're not in the same boat. Some of the us are in yachts.

We have resources. We can work from home, we're immunocompetent, we have access to a vaccine, and some of us are in rafts. All of us need to do all we can do to help those in less sturdy rafts, and that means getting vaccinated as soon as you can and masking up according to the CDC guidelines.

LEMON: You know, you were saying many -- that brings up a very interesting point. I know that you basically do pediatrics but I wonder why, why aren't adults back at work? If children can be at school and adults can be vaccinated and wear masks, why are we not back in offices? There's no excuse, I feel, for adults not to be back at work and back in offices masking up and being vaccinated.

CHRISTAKIS: Your previous guests were talking about that. I think that's the direction we're going to need to move in. I think that employers are going to need to start mandating or requiring to take David Axelrod's word, vaccinations, and insisting that people come back.

You know, I was just in -- I had the good fortune of being back in my homeland of Greece where they've been struggling to get enough vaccines. And they were shocked. Everyone was shocked to hear that in this country we are paying people, literally paying them to get vaccines and they're still not getting them.

People in this country have no appreciation of how fortunate we are and how easily we could return to some level of normalcy if everybody would just do their part, and I think it is unfortunately going to take sticks because we're all out of carrots.

LEMON: Yes. I just think, you know, the kids, to have the kids have to, you know, be in a place where some people don't want to wear masks and all of that, I mean, I think it would be a good example of us to get back to work and put on our masks, tell people in order to get back to this office you got to be vaccinated and you need to come back to work. That's just --

CHRISTAKIS: And Don, one last thing. I - one last thing that should really absolutely not be on the table. Keeping kids out of school again for another six months, another year, should not even be on our radar screen.


I'm worried that it's going to come on people's radar screens, but we should have learned by now that that is absolutely not the right thing to do. We've already made our children pay an incredibly unfair price for this epidemic.

LEMON: Thank you, Dr. Christakis. Good to see you. Be safe.

CHRISTAKIS: Good to see you, sir. Take care.

LEMON: Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, the capital of a defeated confederacy looks a lot like -- a lot different tonight, I should say. The confederate statue of Robert E. Lee taken down after 131 years.


LEMON (on camera): So tonight, a symbol of the confederacy and of the war to preserve slavery no longer overlooks Richmond, Virginia, workers removing the towering statue of confederate General Robert E. Lee from its pedestal.


So more now from CNN's Joe Johns.


CROWD: Hey, hey, good-bye

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After 131 years on display, the city of Richmond, Virginia says good-bye to a monument that's been a source of controversy for decades. This statue of Robert E. Lee, the largest confederate statue that was still standing in the U.S. was erected in 1890, more than a generation after the Civil War, but today it came down.

A heavy-duty crane lifted the 12-ton confederate general and his horse from its pedestal, cut into huge pieces for storage at a secure location. For many in the crowd, this day could have come sooner. UNKNOWN: It's hatred, and I do not like hatred, period.

JOHNS: Getting to this point was a monumental battle. The controversy surrounding it was amplified by the Black Lives Matter protests last year. And while confederate monuments in other parts of the U.S. came down, including in nearby Charlottesville, in Richmond once the capital of the confederacy, it took all three branches of government speaking with the same voice to overcome legal obstacles to removal.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D-VA): Yes, that statue has been there for a long time, but it was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

JOHNS: The legislature passed a provision supporting the removal, and finally, last week the Virginia Supreme Court threw out a challenge from some residents in the district and the descendants of the families who donated the property for the monument.

UNKNOWN: There's a lot of pain in this statue, you know, in the bottom half especially now, there's a lot of words in there.

JOHNS: But today also renews conversations over whether removing confederate statues is an attempt to rewrite or even erase the United States' troubled racial history. At the end of the day, the statue and its removal equally symbolic, the old Richmond coming down, and the new Richmond ascendant.

UNKNOWN: This is a very powerful place now. It's transformed into a powerful play.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Richmond, Virginia.


LEMON (on camera): Joe Johns, thank you very much for that. I want to bring in now CNN political commentator, Bakari Sellers. Hey, Bakari. Thanks for joining me this evening.


BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks for having me. Thank you for having me.

LEMON: You remember being there when that confederate flag came down right, in your state and now here we are. So, you say that even though you're glad that this racist symbol came down, racism exists, even if you paint all the streets with black lives matter. But does today help move forward the conversation about how we address race and our history in this country?

SELLERS: Unfortunately, I don't think it does. I mean, I'm someone who believes that statues of Robert E. Lee should come down, I mean, especially shoutout to Mayor Landrieu who's one of our colleagues, shoutout to all of those individuals who have led the charge to take these statues down, but the battle for many of us is systemic racism.

The battle for many of us is the racism that's engrained into the systems in this country. And we're having a debate right now in 2021, about the legacy of Robert E. Lee. I mean, let's think about that.

And there are people who are going to misquote his legacy and say that in 1856 he wrote a letter that said that slavery was both a political and moral evil, but they won't do the dot, dot, dot and talk about what he said after that in that letter. They won't talk about the fact that he believed that blacks were better off under the subjugation enslavement of their white masters than they would be otherwise.

They don't talk about the fact that he thought that the only way that we could get free or have our freedom or emancipation was divine intervention. They don't talk about the fact that Robert E. Lee was a slave owner himself, and they don't talk about the fact that he led his soldiers into the one of the largest slaughters that we've had in the history of the United States of America.

And so, it's frustrating that we're talking about Robert E. Lee. On the other hand, we can't teach America's history through what is now known as critical race theory, and so we're sitting here taking down statues, and black folk and brown folk and poor folk are still being oppressed.

LEMON: Yes. Well, I mean, there's a lot of willful ignorance when it comes to the history of this country. A lot of it is a refusal for it to be taught, and most people when you say critical race theory, the people who are fighting against it, they have no idea what it is. If you asked them what it was, they would have no idea. So.

SELLERS: I mean, at least -- I mean, you're right, but you know, the fact is you have people who are -- this is why -- let me start over this sentence. This is why controlling your own narrative is so important.

LEMON: Right.

SELLERS: And for black folk in this country, we have not been able to write our own stories. We have not been able to share our own history. That's why it's so important. When people like to lift up Robert E. Lee on the pedestal, I have to remind them that Robert E. Lee fought to make sure that they can enslave Black Americans.


That was his fight. That was his purpose. So that me and you would be in bondage. Do you know Robert E. Lee is rolling over like six, seven, eight times during this segment right now?

LEMON: Well, Robert E. Lee fought against a more perfect union. Right? And so, I mean, remember that.

SELLERS: There's no question.

LEMON: For everything that we hold dear. And you know, look, there's no -- there is no defending Robert E. Lee or his legacy or what have you.

SELLERS: You can tell some people that. LEMON: It's just dumb. I mean, that's a -- look, history is about, is also, as you say in large part about who is telling the story, right? And so, if you tell the story, chances are you're going to tell the story that makes the people --


SELLERS: But let me also -- let me just --

LEMON: -- who like you look good. I got to ask you this before you -- because I got to get it in.


LEMON: The former president put out a statement today condemning the removal of the statue. He says that our culture, our history and our heritage are being destroyed. The country is suffering an embarrassment because we don't have the genius of a Robert E. Lee. OK. Exactly what culture in history is he talking about?

SELLERS: I mean, I don't know. Listen, Robert E. Lee was a racist and a loser. Donald Trump is a racist and he's a loser.


LEMON: Bakari thought like I don't -- what the hell, what did the hell is he talk --

SELLERS: I mean, I don't --

LEMON: I'm sorry to even ask you that.


SELLERS: But the fact that he put that out.


SELLERS: Yes, and I don't know. But let me -- can I answer a totally other question that I want to ask you about.

LEMON: Yes, please.

SELLERS: That you have two losers and two racists, they get along.

LEMON: I love it when you don't like --


SELLERS: So, my only point is --

LEMON: Listen, I love it. I don't like giving ignorant people a platform. And so, thank you for that answer, it was right on point. Go on.

SELLERS: Look, the fact is, and I say this oftentimes, because I'm blessed and fortunate enough to have this platform. But we have to have a larger vision than taking down symbols.


SELLERS: In my life I don't want to make the person who makes yellow paint rich. The people who are out here painting black lives matter and yellow paint, I'm with you. But that's just not my ministry.


SELLERS: My ministry is going here to make sure that we change these systems that put black kids and brown kids in schools that are falling apart, that are putting black communities in places where they don't drink clean water, don't have clean air and where we have a criminal justice system that's incarcerating us multiple times by in comparison to our white colleagues.


LEMON: Don't forget the right to vote.

SELLERS: And so, and that is the largest and that was last thing where you have a new Jim Crow where it makes it more difficult for us to exercise that franchise.

And so, yes, I'm very proud of what happened, and I don't want to minimize what happened in Virginia. But what I am saying is, we have bigger fish to fry --

LEMON: Got you.

SELLERS: -- if we're all going to be free.

LEMON: I got you. Thank you, Bakari Sellers. I'll see you later.

SELLERS: Thank you, my brother.

LEMON: We'll be right back.



LEMON (on camera): Take this. More than eight months after rioters stormed the capitol, law enforcement is still searching for the person who planted two pipe bombs at RNC and DNC headquarters. The FBI releasing this new video of a suspect on a bench near the Democratic National Committee on the night before the riot.

The new video comes as capitol police are learning of potential violence and unrest at the upcoming September 18th rally in support of the more than 600 rioters who have been federally charged in the insurrection. And a source tells CNN tonight that capitol police are requesting a smaller version of the fencing that surrounded the capitol for months after the 6th be -- that it'd be temporarily be put back up.

President Biden set to lay out his six-point plan to end the COVID pandemic. We'll preview. That's next.