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Don Lemon Tonight

GOP Governors Fighting Against Mandates; President Biden Remind Americans of What Unity Is; Americans OK with Vaccine Mandates; Americans Fight Over Mask Mandates; U.S. Marks 20th Anniversary of 9/11 Attack. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 10, 2021 - 22:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Nine-eleven made me late. Don Lemon Tonight starts right now with the big star, D. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: let's put it up then. Look how beautiful this is. Can we show it? Look, you were born here. I wasn't. I moved here. And it's hard -- I still look at the skyline and, you know, driving on the BQE on the FDR, and I expect to see those buildings around every turn and it is a reminder every day when you look that way that it's not there but especially today and it's also a reminder how much we lost but a reminder, as well, on how we can come together no matter what as Americans as we did after those horrible attacks. Disagree?

CUOMO: Yes, that's what I always thought 100 percent. Beautifully said, my brother. I've always felt that that's what never forget really is a reminder about, not what happened, obviously we know what happened but how we were 9/12, 9/13, 9/14. I wasn't perfect. We made mistakes. It didn't last forever. But we put things aside and we came together with a common cause with a collective will.


CUOMO: You contrast that with where we are today. I'm telling you, this vaccine hesitancy, sure there is a little bit of a personal freedom thing, people don't want to be told what to do. Somebody made people think that the vaccine is a personal choice issue.


CUOMO: Because it doesn't naturally occur that way, brother.


CUOMO: Because we get our kids vaccinated, mumps, rubella, polio, small pox. We all do it. That's all this is. But all of a sudden, it's a big deal. Somebody put that idea of that in their head. Or somebody's, a group of people. We are not who we were after 9/11.


CUOMO: This pandemic has proven that. We are weak people and we are making hard times for ourselves.

LEMON: Look, and you can go back -- I mean, look what happened over the summer of -- the spring and summer -- late spring and summer of 2020 when you saw the division, the coming together after George Floyd and then the division afterwards, right?

And so, when events like that happen, it proves to us that we can all be what we strive to be and that's all Americans together when there is a crisis and no one is expecting 100 percent of people to agree all the time. But when we have tragedies like a 9/11 or we have something like a tragedy like what happened with George Floyd and we see how America can come together, Americans can come together and then all of a sudden, people usual usually, politicians, some members of the media use it to exploit the divisions in our society and then they divide us even further.

We've got to stop that. That should be a lesson to us. Let that be a lesson to us.

CUOMO: I wonder, God forbid, God forbid, God forbid.


CUOMO: If anything like that ever happens again, I wonder if the first reaction right now would be --

LEMON: Whose fault is it? There you go. That's -- that's go to end on and that -- it shouldn't be that. I'll see you. I'll see you this weekend.

CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.


CUOMO: I'll see you.

LEMON: Hey, I love you more. You know that. I really mean that. I know people think we just say that as a catch phrase but I really do.

CUOMO: I don't say anything I don't mean.

LEMON: Whatever.

CUOMO: I love you. I'll see you.

LEMON: I'll see you.

This is Don Lemon Tonight.

You know, it's ironic, isn't. We were just talking about this. What's going on the polarization of everything, But this is ironic that anti- vaxxers and anti-maskers today are using freedom as a political rally, claiming it's anti-American and anti-freedom to require someone to get a free, safe vaccine that will save their lives and those of their countrymen and women. Well, maybe they just mean their own freedom, right? Just their own

freedom. That's called selfishness. Freedom to spread a deadly disease, freedom to land in over taxed hospitals, freedom to take a hospital bed from a cancer patient or an accident victim?

They don't seem to care about freedom for the rest of us, freedom from the pandemic that is overshadowed everything that we have done and been unable to do for more than a year and a half. Whatever happened to that summer of freedom that we thought, we hope we might have had once, we might had once a miracle vaccine rolled out.


It disappeared in a pandemic of the unvaccinated. That's what happened to it. And now President Joe Biden's frustration is shown, his frustration over people playing politics with all of our lives, his frustration with Republican governors who are apparently willing to put the lives of their own people at risk to oppose common sense measures that could end this pandemic.



UNKNOWN: What is your message to Republicans who are calling your vaccine requirements an overreach, who are threatening to challenge it in court?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Have at it. Look, I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities. This is -- this is -- we're playing for real here. This isn't a game.


LEMON: Now this whole idea that a mandate for vaccines and testing in the middle of a pandemic is somehow anti-American and anti-freedom just is a concoction. Freedom to get sick? Freedom to die?

The fact is, the fact is vaccines are already required. Kids in schools and child care are widely required to get vaccinated for things like diphtheria, ptosis, and tetanus, also, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and chickenpox.


BIDEN: Vaccinated requirements in schools were nothing new. They work. They're overwhelmingly supported by educators and their unions.


LEMON: Vaccination mandates are really nothing new. They go all the way back to the revolutionary war when George Washington mandated smallpox inoculations for soldiers. George Washington revolutionary war. Mandated smallpox shots for soldiers. Freedom. Liberty. Look up the definitions.

And let me tell you -- let me tell you something that you might not get from watching the news, listening to the amplification of the loudest, most ignorant voices. Ready? The majority view in this country is that people should get vaccinated, that's the majority view. That's the same view. The people with sense. Common sense.

Look at your screen. That's the latest Gallup poll, finding that majorities support vaccine requirements to work in an office, to travel by plane or eat in restaurants. Again, leave that up. The majority of people in this country said that there should be vaccine requirements if you want to work in an office, if you want to travel by plane, if you want to eat in restaurants.

Freedom. Liberty. Most people agree that vaccines are necessary to end the pandemic but a vocal minority is holding everybody else back and too many Republicans are trying to use that to play to the base. They think that vaccines are fine. It's mandates that they don't like.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey encouraging the people of her state to get vaccinated but saying we're never going to mandate it, and vowing not to let the president, her words, tell Alabama what to do. Think about that logic.

That's like saying well, I encourage the use of seat belts and driving with insurance but how dare you mandate it? It's mandated already. Kay Ivey. Interestingly, though, that Governor Ivey was pretty clear over the summer when she blamed people who refuse to get vaccinated.


GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks, it's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.


LEMON: So here is the thing. So, if you were saying on the one hand people need to get vaccinated but on the other hand, rarely against mandates for them to do so, does that mean that you are fine with the virus running its course and overwhelming our hospitals?

You're fine with more Americans dying of an entirely preventable disease? You're fine with kids who are too young to be vaccinated catching that entirely preventable disease from people who just refuse to roll up their sleeves?

Freedom. Liberty. Because that's exactly what is going to happen. That's what is happening right now. And some of the people who called vaccine mandates anti-freedom are the same ones who spread the big lie that fueled January 6th, an attack on our freedom as Americans.


Exhibit a, the former president who said this in 2019. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: They have to get the shot, the vaccinations are so important. This is really going around now. They have to get their shots.


LEMON: Kelly, can you re-rack that? This was the former President of the United States saying in 2019 to get vaccinated. Let's roll it again, please.


TRUMP: They have to get the shot. The vaccinations are so important. This is really going around now. They have to get their shots.


LEMON: I don't need to say anything. I could just play that sound bite for the entire show. Where was the GOP outrage then? Where was the GOP outrage when Trump said that you have to get the shot? Where was the shouting about freedom? Liberty?

Where was the GOP outrage when where was the GOP outrage when he touted the miracle vaccines that he said he helped to create, back in December, where was it?


TRUMP: Today we're on the verge of another American medical miracle, and that's what people are saying, people that aren't necessarily big fans of Donald Trump are saying whether you like him or not, this is one of the greatest miracles in the history of modern day medicine or any other medicine, any other age of medicine.


LEMON: You know who was in the room that day applauding, applauding the vaccines? Well, it was governors like Tennessee's Bill Lee now at the same time, he calls vaccines the best tool we have. He blasts the mandates we need to get shots in arms as a power grab. OK? Also applauding that day was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He supports vaccines, too, but slams mandates as the president having a hissy fit.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): To take people's jobs and livelihoods away from them with no force of law just an executive edict, that is fundamentally wrong and so we need to be providing protections for folks here in the state of Florida. You should not lose your job just because Joe Biden is having this hissy fit.


LEMON: You have to get the vaccine. That's it. They have to get the shot. The vaccines are so important. This is really going around now. They have to get the shots. But now. President Biden is having a hissy fit. Ron DeSantis, come on, we see you.

And then there is the Texas Governor Greg Abbott who tweeted saying that he'd protect Texans rights to choose. Right to choose. The hypocrisy. Texans right to choose, huh. All of a sudden, the governor of Texas is all pro-choice? Just not for women.

In Texas, they don't have the right to choose to not carry the child of a rapist to term. The people who want to go around. Think about that. Think about that. He's going to protect people's right to choose. But if you happen to become impregnated, you're a woman, young woman, a child, you got to carry the baby. Let that set in for a while. Interesting.

For people that want to go around unvaccinated, unmasked in the middle of a pandemic, right, what about that, right? That seems like that they can do whatever they want. We've talked about freedom tonight.

Well, right now as you're looking live at the iconic tribute and light, we're just hours away from marking the solemn anniversary of the day when foreign terrorists attacked our freedom, a day when 2,977 people died at the World Trade Center at the Pentagon and in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The White House releasing a video ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.


BIDEN: This is what makes us who we are, America at its best. To me, that's the central lesson of September 11th is that at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of all that makes us human and the battle for the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength. It doesn't mean we have to believe the same thing but we must have a fundamental respect and faith in each other and this nation.



LEMON: Unity means that we don't have to all believe the same thing but we have to have a fundamental respect. Think of all the sacrifices we made after 9/11. Think of how Americans came together, our unity as Joe Biden says.

Now, some of us won't even get a shot or wear a mask to save precious American lives. We're losing as many people every two days as we lost on that terrible day of 9/11. And it is completely avoidable. If we don't let politics divide us and steal away American lives.

The president is trying to end the pandemic and some Republican governors are fighting him. Do they really want to play politics while Americans are dying?


BIDEN: Politics doesn't have to be this way. Politics don't have to be this way. They are growing up in an environment they see it's like a war, like a bitter feud.




LEMON: So, the president is getting a lot of blow back from Republican governors over his vaccine mandates. Florida's Ron DeSantis calling the mandates unconstitutional and saying that he'll fight them. Florida, by the way, averaging more than 14,000 new COVID cases each day.

Mississippi's governor claims Biden doesn't have the authority to impose mandates. He said that today while extending the COVID state of emergency in Mississippi for another 30 days. Just saying.

So, I want to bring in now CNN's senior political analyst Kirsten Powers, and medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner.

Good to see both of you. Good evening.

So, let's talk about this, you all. I've been talking to my family in Louisiana too much. Sorry about that.

Kirsten, several Republican governors are rejecting Biden's vaccine mandate calling it an overreach and saying that they'll challenge it in court and President Biden is daring them saying, have at it. He's trying to end the pandemic. What are the Republican governors trying to do here?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They're trying to rev up their base. There is no other explanation for what they're doing. They don't -- you know, this is not in any way going to help save a single life. That's not going to -- it's not going to even help a business if you care about your businesses in your state by trying to fight a mandate.

I mean, the business groups that typically trend Republican, they tend to support Republican views are all in support of this mandate because they know that this is something that's necessary for businesses and for the economy and it's obviously something that's necessary to end the pandemic and save people's lives and help everybody get back to a somewhat normal life. So, they seem to just be playing politics.

LEMON: Yes, well, having said that, Dr. Reiner, there is a recent Gallup poll. I don't think this is going to win them over. It's going to expand the tent any (Ph). Because the recent Gallup survey taken before Biden announced this new mandate found that 56 percent of Americans favor vaccine requirements at their office or work site. Forty-four percent oppose.

I mean, it's a good reminder most people want it and the experts say that vaccinations are the way to get back to normal.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right. So, let's remember that 75 percent of America's adults have been vaccinated. So, the tail has been wagging the dog in this country for the last 18 months and it looks like the administration finally wants that to stop.

The vast minority of Americans are resistant to vaccination but that's where the virus has been circulating and that's why we have, you know, 14 -- 140,000 cases a day. So, I think most Americans understand the value of vaccines as evidence by their willingness to get vaccinated. That's why vaccine mandates are widely approved in the United States.

LEMON: Yes. Kirsten, should we be discussing it this way, I mean, despite, you know, the people at school board meetings or people refusing -- did we lose Kirsten? Kirsten, can you at least hear me? She's gone. So, we'll try to get her back.

So, let me ask you that question. Should we be discussing it this way despite the people at the school board meetings, doctor, or the people refusing to mask up on planes, they're a vocal minority but they are in the wrong. They're the ones who are holding the majority of the country back and dictating how everyone else has to live, the minority is dictating to the majority.

REINER: That's right. And look, we live in a country that has rules. You can't smoke in most buildings in the United States, and you can't drive drunk.

LEMON: You can't smoke on planes, you know.

REINER: You can't smoke on planes. And you can't blow virus into my face. That's how it has to be in this country. And if you're going to be a persistent threat to the public health by refusing to get vaccinated, well your actions have consequences and the consequences may be that you can't work at your job.

My guess is that, if businesses have the choice between mandating vaccines and testing, they are going to choose mandating vaccines because that's the most cost-effective way from them to do business. First of all, testing is probably going to cost them some money, and vaccines, which prevent illness will keep their workers on the job.

So, I think what the Biden mandate is going to do is going to is going to -- it's basically going to handcuff the businesses around the United States and you'll see all kinds of restaurant chains and manufacturing facilities mandate vaccines for their employees.

LEMON: Kirsten, let me ask you the question in a different way. Remember during Obama's first term where he kept trying to work with the Republicans and I want bipartisanship and I want to work with Republicans, I want to work with Republicans.


And then during this pandemic, Joe Biden has been doing a similar thing but with the pandemic he has been coaxing people, urging people, what have you. When the polls clearly show that the majority of people want him to be stronger on this issue, they want mandates. They want to get back to normal. Do you see the similarity there? Do you get the point that I'm making

that maybe the Democrats, Joe Biden and the Democrats need to lean in a little bit harder with their agenda instead of coaxing and trying to go for bipartisanship and --


LEMON: -- you know, OK, come on and try to string people along?

POWERS: Well, I think it's sort of both. And I think that on the one hand he needs to still try to reach some of these people because I do think while we all -- a lot of us feel very frustrated and very angry about what's happening, the people to be really frustrated and angry with are the leaders and the people that are giving them this information. The Tucker Carlsons of the world, right? The people who, you know, the governors who are fighting this and are giving out bad information.

So, so I think that that's -- I think it's right for him to still try to reach those people. The problem is those people probably will never see them because they're consuming news, news from news outlets that don't ever really show this to them.

But I do, I do feel like he could have been a little stronger sooner in terms of, you know, asking businesses to do these kinds of things even before, you know, I guess he wanted to wait for FDA approval to do this but then why not the minute there is a FDA approval, you're not ready to go, right?

I don't -- this is -- people are dying, and so, it just -- it's just incredibly frustrating. You know, I was in Italy this summer when they started doing their vaccine mandates and they have they call a green pass over there and, you know, it's just -- it just, everybody just did it, right? It was something that everybody just understood, you have to be thoughtful towards other people. You have to think about other people when you go into a restaurant and you are going to take your mask off. Of course. Here is my green pass. I'll show you that I have, I've you've been vaccinated.

And so, it was sort of frustrating seeing that happen and then coming back to the U.S. and seeing that we're still having people, you know, walking around without masks and infecting each other. So, yes, I think that, I think he can try to reach those people but I also think the time has passed in terms of policies. You can't cater to them.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you both. I'll see you soon. Have a good weekend.

POWERS: OK. Thank you.

LEMON: Fights at school board meetings, fights on airplanes. Why everybody is angry?


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: I really want you on this evening to listen to this next segment. There -- we have new polling from CNN that finds 74 percent of Americans are angry about how things are going in this country today, and you can see it. OK? You can see it on planes.


UNKNOWN: Hey! No! No!


UNKNOWN: Hey! Chill! Chill! Chill out!

LEMON (voice over): You can see it in schools.

UNKNOWN: OK. Right here, look, right here. So, as you can see fists are now flying. All of this on live television. Fists are flying.

LEMON: You can see it at protests.



LEMON: So, the question is where is all this anger coming from? Why is everybody so angry?

Let's turn now to CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron, I've been asking this forever since, you know, early in the pandemic and especially now I don't though why everywhere you go, everywhere you look the anger is palpable, some of it is getting physical. What is making us so angry?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I don't think there's like one explanation for, you know, that runs every event. I think there are long term factors and then there is a very immediate kind of trigger and match.

I think the long-term factors, Don, is that we're living through the modern equivalent of the 1850s and we are in a Cold War between the states, between now between red and blue America. And the issue of whether the disconnect and divergence in values and priorities between red and blue America is being crystallized in a way that it never has before.

The pandemic put everybody under a lot of pressure in their daily lives and those are real factors. But I think the immediate trigger, the match that has kind of let all, you know, set all this ablaze is that Donald Trump legitimatized violence and intimidation as a political tactic, other Republicans have not pushed back against that.

They are trying to normalize the January 6th insurrection and he told his supporters, and I believe this is the exact quote, this is our America and they are trying to take it away from us. And if that is your perspective, if you believe that the America that you know is being stolen and irrevocably transformed into something unrecognizable, you can see where it leads.

I mean, there were Republican Senate candidates in Ohio last night who are calling for defiance of the vaccine mandate that you were just discussing even if the Supreme Court upholds it. And I think that's, you know, that is the logical end point of kind of his messaging that violence and intimidation are acceptable and that this is our America and it is being stopped.


LEMON: Every time I read something or see, you know, either on social media or in traditional media and I just read it, I don't see the person and then it's always the same type of person that is angry and nonsensical about why they won't wear a mask or coughing in someone's face or they're, you know, it's just -- it's -- I don't -- I don't really get it.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, no. But I mean, I think I do in the sense that the -- look. The Republican coalition particularly under Trump has become increasingly dependent on the voters who the most uneasy with the ways America is changing. Demographically, culturally, and economically.

And everything that happened in COVID, you know, has kind of provided an opportunity, you know, you would not think, you know, extensively that a public -- the biggest public health crisis in 100 years would become the arena for a culture war but that's what it has become.

And so, things like mask wearing or vaccine mandates really energize and antagonize a minority of the population. And as we talked the other night, what we're learning here in California in this recall, for example, where Gavin Newsom seems to be strongly in command by emphasizing his support for mandates is in fact, there is a majority of vaccinated Americans where up to three quarters of Americans are vaccinated who are kind of exhausted with all of this posturing and this kind of rhetoric about liberty. Liberty at the cost of endangering someone else.

And so, I actually think there is an American majority that is kind of had it with this -- with this argument but within the Republican coalition, it is the dominant piece and there are I don't think any -- I'm not aware of any Republican, you know, leading officials who are saying that they can or will accept mandates.

LEMON: Well, I mean, you see it when people are -- if someone is not wearing a mask and sort of defying and when they are coughing on people or if they are on an airplane. Everybody else is going, get off the plane, shut up or in the store --


LEMON: -- put on a mask or here we go again and there is one in every single bunch but no matter what Biden does, the Republicans are going to be angry anyway especially when they are fueled by people like DeSantis and Abbott and the media ecosystem that tend on enraging them? BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, as you were discussing in the last segment, I

mean, this is, Biden came in -- Biden I think wanted to be Eisenhower. He wanted to be a kind of an elder statesman who is largely above politics who is bringing the parties together and kind of tamping down the cultural and social conflict and focusing on kitchen table issues, shots in the arms, checks in the pocket, shovels in the ground.

What he has found is that this moment of intense polarization when so many red states are careening so far to the right on so many issues on masks, on abortion, on voting rights, that that posture is simply untenable that if you try to be kind of above the fray, you end up not being Eisenhower but James Buchanan who is the president before Lincoln who kind of blundered into the Civil War.

Ultimately, he, I think, has recognized that if he's going to achieve what he is setting out to do and which majority of the country supports, he is going to have to confront more directly those forces in red America that are opposing it, whether it's the unvaccinated through mandates or whether it's the governors that he is, you know, going after on a variety of fronts now from education department investigations on mask to the lawsuit on abortion in Texas.

And I think the critical next front in all of this is, is he willing to do the same thing on voting rights.


BROWNSTEIN: Because the divide -- this (Inaudible) force is just too much to try to pretend that we're all in this together at this moment.


BROWNSTEIN: We're not and there are different perspectives and different views and ultimately, he has decided he has to stand up a little more firmly for the one that he believes in.

LEMON: Before I let you go I just want to say that it's not just Republicans. Nearly nine in 10 Republicans say that they are angry.


LEMON: Sixty-seven percent of Democrats say that they are angry but it's for different reasons and we'll get into that at another time. Thank you so much. I appreciate it, Ron Brownstein.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. You know, it's been 20 years since September 11th. How have we as a nation changed?



LEMON: September 11th, 2001. Tomorrow marks 20 years since that horrific day when 2,977 people were killed and this country changed forever.

Joining me now, CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. Douglas, good evening to you.


LEMON: It's been 20 years since the 9/11 attacks and for some of us that lived through it, it's years ago but also just yesterday all at the same time. Where are we historically with that day?

BRINKLEY: Well, one reason we relive it is the film footage is indelibly seared in our imaginations. It's the same as the Kennedy assassination and that way we watched the World Trade Center collapse over and over again in our minds. You know, 20 years ago, our country pulled together.

That was the deadliest terrorist attack in world history. We lost nearly 3,000 Americans. We had 25,000 injured. Many people were later sick from environmental problems developed from the attack. But the immediate wake at the time when George W. Bush spoke from the Oval Office to the country and then days later came to New York with the bull horn, American flags went all up over the country.

As you remember, Don, we were like united. We were living the United States of America and where we're going to stand together and that quickly dissipated, probably by mission over reach in the United States. We went into Afghanistan to fair out Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but here we are 20 years later the Taliban now in Afghanistan we had our longest war in Afghanistan without a clear victory.


So, we're having to scratch our heads tomorrow somberly, prayerfully remembering the dead of 9/11 and remembering that moment but also using it to say what are we doing in the United States? What it is our foreign policy? What are we about and why are we ripping at each other throats instead of terrorism, we're now fighting the enemy within ourselves?

LEMON: I want to play part of the video that President Biden released tonight focusing on the sense of unity in this country following 9/11. Here it is.



BIDEN: Unity is what makes us who we are. America at its best. To me, that's the central lesson of September 11th is that at our most vulnerable. In the push and pull of all that makes us human and the battle for the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength. Unity doesn't mean we have to believe the same thing. We must have a fundamental respect and faith in each other and in this nation.


LEMON: Clearly, we lost a lot of unity. When you look back on these 20 years, how did that happen?

BRINKLEY: Well, the good news is we reacted to 9/11. We built a Homeland Security Department, and we -- the TSA increased at airports and I feel we have better port security. We're able to monitor terrorist groups ostensibly much better than we did 20 years ago.

But it's gotten ugly and heinous within. Part of it is American xenophobia and nativism. A lot of the tensions today are stoked by Donald Trump. I find it shameful, Don, that Donald Trump is going to be a commentator on a fight on 9/11 commemoration instead of being there laying a wreath in Shanksville or New York City or Washington, D.C. showing the unity that President Biden is talking about.

Instead, we will have Harris and Biden there. We will have Obama and Bush 43 but Trump is out on some Looney Toon fighting game and the continuing to be the dis-uniter of America instead of a uniter. We had an authoritarian president for the first time and we're reaping the problems that Trump sowed with us everyday right now.

LEMON: Yes. I'll say that, Douglas, no disrespect to you, but my -- when I heard that or read it, I just said of course he is. You know. That's who he is.



BRINKLEY: That's who he is. No, I agree.


BRINKLEY: But you know, when you do presidential history, Don, we like to think that there is a moment that anybody would do the right thing and instead, Trump on the anniversary isn't so we pay respect to the fallen heroes of 9/11, the firefighters and the policemen who died and just put aside that person who is trying to divide our nation and just won't be part of the ceremony tomorrow.

LEMON: Thank you, Douglas Brinkley. Always a pleasure to see you.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you.

BRINKLEY: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: The tribute and the light shining over New York City tonight honoring those who died in those terrible attacks of 9/11. We're going to be back with a look at the events of that morning.



LEMON: Take this. Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Almost everyone remembers where they were when they learned about the attacks. But harder to remember after two decades is just how little we knew that day as we watched the attacks unfold, wondering if there was more devastation in store, and whether our country was now at war.

So tonight, I want to take us back in time to the events as they unfolded that day. At 8.49 a.m., CNN cut in with breaking coverage of the smoking tower, an unconfirmed report of a plane crashing into it. And I want to warn you that even 20 years later these images are graphic and disturbing.


UNKNOWN (voice over): This just in. You are looking at obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center. And we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

CNN center right now is just beginning to work on this story. Obviously, calling our sources and trying to figure out exactly what happened. But clearly, something relatively devastating happening this morning there.


LEMON: And just minutes later as we were still trying to make sense of what was happening, another plane flew into the south tower of the World Trade Center.


UNKNOWN: I say the hold takes about, so four, six, seven floors were taken out. And there's more --


UNKNOWN: There is --

UNKNOWN: -- explosives right now. Hold on.

UNKNOWN: We just hold on.

UNKNOWN: People are running.

UNKNOWN: We should hold on just a moment.

UNKNOWN: Hold on.

UNKNOWN: We got an explosion inside.

UNKNOWN: The building exploded?

UNKNOWN: If you look at the second building, there are two -- that both twin towers now are on fire. This was not the case, am I correct? A couple of moments ago. This is the second twin tower now on fire. We are going to check on the second flight, if perhaps that had happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: The second plane made it clear the unfolding tragedy was a planned attack. Moments later then President George W. Bush was told the country was under attack while reading to elementary students in Florida. At 9.37, a third plane struck the Pentagon building in Washington. Smoke was soon billowing out of the building, visible from across the city.

It was clear American lives had already been lost. But no one was prepared for what was about to happen in New York.


Just before 10 a.m. the South World Trade Center collapsed. It was hard to even tell what had happened at first.


UNKNOWN (voice over): Jamie, I need you to stop for a second. There has just been a huge explosion. We can see a billowing smoke rising. And I can't -- I tell you, that I can't see that second tower. But there was a cascade of sparks and fire, and now this -- it looks almost like a mushroom cloud explosion.


LEMON: As America was glued to the horrific images playing out in New York in a lonely field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, United Airlines flight 93 crashed, killing all on board. The passengers and crew had fought back against their hijackers, having learned what was happening outside, and moments later, collapse again.


UNKNOWN (voice over): In Washington, there has -- there is a large fire at the Pentagon. The Pentagon has been evacuated. And there, as you can see, perhaps the second tower, the front tower, the top portion of which is collapsing. Good lord. There are no words.


LEMON: There weren't. And there still aren't. It was unbelievable. Just because we know now what we're seeing doesn't diminish the heartache or the shock. Two thousand nine hundred seventy-seven Americans died that day. And many of those who rushed to ground zero suffer still, through lingering illness tied to the fumes and the rubble.

Today, 57 percent of Americans say the attacks changed how they live their everyday lives. A whole generation of Americans born in the shadow of 9/11, with no memory of the day itself. And tonight, where there was once destruction and smoke two towers of light shining into the New York City sky, calling again for unity and for us to never forget.