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Don Lemon Tonight

GOP Critics are Looking to Challenge New Vaccine Mandate in Court; Big Developments on Mask Mandates in Schools; False Claim Goes Viral About F-22 Pilots Resigning After a Vaccination Text from Secretary of Defense; GOP Laying the Groundwork to Lie that the California Recall was Stolen; Statue of Confederate Robert E. Lee Removed from Richmond as America Continues to Reckon with Legacy of Racism; Experts Say Fentanyl is a Big Factor in Record Drug Overdose Deaths; CNN Heroes: Preventing Cervical Cancer Cases by the Thousands. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 10, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Tonight, President Biden's message to the Republican governors criticizing his sweeping new vaccine mandates and threatening to sue to block them, and I quote, "have at it".

And as the delta variant spreads like wildfire, especially across the south, tonight, big developments on mask mandates in schools in two states where the virus is surging.

Plus, California's recall election hasn't even happened yet and right- wing media is already spreading lies about the state's Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom's potential to beat back the recall.

Also ahead, my interview with a prominent professor and commentator on race, telling me what he got wrong about the state of race in America after living through the Trump era. You don't want to miss that interview.

I want to bring in now CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser and national correspondent for "The Washington Post" Philip Bump. It is so good both of you. Thank you so much. One day, I will see you in person in studio, hopefully soon, and the reason why I haven't seen you is because of this.

So, Susan, President Biden has a message for the Republican governors looking to challenge his new vaccine mandates. As I said, it's have at it. The truth is they are not willing to align with the best interests of the public health. They are making a base play gambling with lies. So, what other choice did he have?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it's interesting. You know, it took him a few months to get there, but I think what you are seeing is, Biden and the White House responding to the growing pressure really from their own base. You know, we spent four years talking about Trump and his base. Well, Biden has a base, too. And I think it is the majority of the country that of adults who have gotten vaccinated, who have become more and more frustrated with the idea that we are being held hostage in effect to the politics of a sort of resisting minority of people. So it is interesting.

I think, for once, we should be talking about the Biden base and not always about the Trump base. That's really what this is about.

LEMON: Can you please say that again. I have been -- I have been saying that forever, Susan. One of the smartest people I know, Susan Glasser. Hey, no slight to you, Philip Bump. But again, don't you think that's a point that -- I think for -- I think Biden hasn't realized, Democrats as well, that people should be -- maybe they should be leaning in more for what the folks who support him want.

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. I think that's generally true. I mean, it certainly is the case that there is a lot of frustration. I mean, bear in mind, more than half of Republicans have also received at least one dose of the vaccine. It is, however, the case that most of the people who are not vaccinated are Republicans, according to Kaiser Family Foundation polling.

So this is -- you know, there is this overlap of politics and vaccinations that is hard to prove through the numbers, but also hard to ignore. It is also clearly the case that Republicans are less likely to get vaccinated, that this outbreak is occurring much more dramatically in less vaccinated places.

And so part of the challenge is that when Joe Biden needs to twist the arms of the unvaccinated, twisting the arms of essentially mostly people who are actually Republicans. I think that's part of the challenge, too.

LEMON: You say, and I quote here, when Biden announced this plan, you say, the war over his vaccine push is mostly a contest for the approval of a vocal minority.

BUMP: Yeah, exactly. I mean, there has been all this rhetoric about how this is, you know, the start of a Civil War. That's because, you know, we have all of these people, there is this element of the right, which is very much used to having this contest to see who can be the loudest and most extreme voice, get the most viewers on Fox News, get the most re-tweets on Twitter, like there is this effort to try and be the most outrageous person.


BUMP: That leads to rhetoric about Civil War and all this nonsense, which is incredibly overheated. It fails to recognize the actual realities on the ground which is that the mandate isn't a mandate so much that it is telling businesses either you have to have people vaccinated or have them tests. You know, that's mandate --

LEMON: But, Philip --

BUMP: -- the definition there. LEMON: One more political question for you. Do they think that's really the best strategy? That that is what is going to -- what is best for their political interest is to kill countless Americans?

BUMP: It's a really good question. I think that the answer is that there appears to be actually sufficient insulation for people like Kristi Noem of South Dakota, the governor there, who had this massive outbreak, they had tons of people die relative to the state's population and, you know, has not paid any apparent political price.

And so if the base continues to be loud and active and support these people who make these calls, then apparently yes.

LEMON: Yeah. Susan, tomorrow marks 20 years since 9/11. Where do you feel about where we are heading two decades after this horrific date that changed this country forever?

GLASSER: You know, Don, it does feel like an inflection point. The symmetry, if you will, coming full circle from the Taliban being back in control of Kabul two decades later, it is something that -- you know, it's a moment where it feels like we are -- we are understanding that this is a different global time, that this is a moment where American hubris and overreach have perhaps, at least for now, killed off our sense of, you know, American exceptionalism, this idea that we were different and unique, that we operated in a way somehow outside of the laws of history.

I feel like this is a moment of sort of looking in the mirror and saying, you know, that's not any more the U.S. and it's a humbling moment, really, for the country in a lot of ways.

LEMON: Are you surprised at where we are two decades later, Susan?

GLASSER: Well, I mean, I would have to say that anybody, you know, who didn't tell you that on September 11, 2001, if you told them that they would still be leaving Afghanistan 20 years later, you know, yes, of course, you would be surprised that the Taliban, after a U.S. war to topple them, would be back in power, and that we ourselves would be tied up in knots over our own democracy internally, yeah, that's a pretty shocking turn of events. It really is, Don.

LEMON: Mm-hmm. Philip, I am going to give you the final word on this, to here we are two decades later. And if we could put the tribute and light up as Philip gives us his final thoughts here.

BUMP: I just say -- the one thing I would add is I look today actually at where the deaths occurred of service members who served in Afghanistan. It just covers every state in the United States. It covers the territories, Puerto Rico. This was the aftermath of this. It also touched all of America very directly. I think it is worth remembering that, too.

LEMON: Thank you both. I really appreciate it. You guys have a good weekend. Thanks so much.

BUMP: Thank you. LEMON: Tonight, two big developments on mask mandates in schools. A state appeals court in Florida upholding the governor's ban on schools requiring kids to wear masks.

And in Kentucky, the schools can now decide if they want mask mandates or not. The governor wanted all students to mask up but state lawmakers blocked him. It is important to note that COVID is surging in Florida, Kentucky, and across most of the south.

I want to bring in now Dr. Syra Madad, an infectious disease epidemiologist. Thank you, Dr. Madad. Thank you for joining us. I really appreciate it.


LEMON: The virus is spreading like wildfire across much of the country right now and rulings like these make it harder to put into practice measures that work. As a doctor, are these decisions holding back our ability to fight this pandemic?

MADAD: Absolutely. We know masks work. If we are looking at multiple different studies that have now proved it even in the real world, we are showing that masks are the most basic interventions that we can apply in this pandemic that can help curb the spread of this highly infectious disease.

As we look at pediatric populations in schools right now, you know, as a parent myself, no one wants to see a child getting infected let alone being hospitalized. We are seeing a record number of pediatric cases. I mean, just over the last week, over 200,000 pediatric infections and a high number of hospitalizations. We can prevent a lot of these cases just by putting a mask on.

LEMON: Doctors seek, you know, to do no harm, but unfortunately, that doesn't apply to politicians, does it?

MADAD: Absolutely not. I think politicians have been playing with, you know, science as a political football since the beginning of this pandemic and it is very unfortunate because the people that are being affected are all of us. You know, it is risking everybody's lives. It is very, very unfortunate.

And we need to make sure science continues to lead the way. It shouldn't be politics. It shouldn't be these knee-jerk reactions. It should be science, evidence-based, to keep everyone safe.


LEMON: You know, doctor, everyone wants to see all kids back in school. But what about kids under 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccines? How concerned about these kids attending school with no masks?

MADAD: I'm very concerned. I'm very concerned because as we are seeing play out right now in some of these states that have very high levels of community transmission, what you're seeing in these high levels of community transmission in the states is reflected in the number of pediatric cases.

And so what that means is that below -- higher number of community transmissions, lower vaccination rates, more are getting infected. And so it is adults that can help children. By getting vaccinated, it builds up bubble of immunity around children and keeps them safe, which we are not seeing in some of these estates.

LEMON: Doctors and healthcare officials have been clear that the best way to keep kids in school and keep them safe is to wear masks. If there are lot of kids return to school in these hot zones without masks, how bad do you see this getting?

MADAD: As we look at where we are, we are seeing a record number of infections per day. If we are looking at just comparing from last year, September 10th of 2020, we are at four times that rate now. And so going into obviously schools opening with fall and winter, holiday season, we are going to continue to see high number of cases. I think right now, certainly we are seeing a general decline in cases, but that may change on a dime.


MADAD: And so we just need to make sure that we are following the science, we are following this public health measures. You know, with the pediatric population, I think all of us certainly are waiting for the pediatric vaccine to be made available, but it is not going to be made available any time soon. So we need to do everything we can to protect these children and have that bubble around them.

LEMON: Listen, I think what many people don't get, especially the critics of the masks and other forms of protecting ourselves against this virus, is that it was called a novel coronavirus because it was new, and we were learning new things about it and learning new things about the science to protect and to keep it from spreading.

The guidance has changed. It has even flip-flopped over the course of the pandemic. Science changes as we get more data. Could the communication from officials have been better?

MADAD: Absolutely. I think the science communication and the risk communication certainly have been muddled (ph) since, you know, the beginning of this pandemic, we are 18 months in now. And I think, as you have stated, as science changes, you know, we learn more. It's not that science has lied. It's because we learn more and that's why we are changing any of the public health guidance or reinstating sustained mask mandates because we are seeing higher numbers of cases.

And so I think as we look at science and the evolution of science, it is hard for just a general physician to understand that. That's why we need to have good science communication. That hasn't been happening. At many levels, I think we are doing a better job, but I think we need to continuously educate the general public.

We need to continue to reinforce some of these measures that work. We need to continue to ensure that everybody understands that we are still in the throes of a raging pandemic and that we can get out of it, hopefully soon, but we just need everybody's support.

I think with the Biden administration's new sweeping mandates, it certainly will help. Those are more short-term solutions. We need to also look at some long-term solutions.

LEMON: Doctor, we love having you. You always give great information. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

MADAD: Thanks for having me on.

LEMON (on camera): Thank you. Night after night, we are knocking down misinformation about COVID and vaccines, and vaccinations. Tonight, a fact check about a false claim about Air Force pilots that went viral, viewed over a million times on Twitter.


UNKNOWN: My dad just let me know this. A text message went out last night from the secretary of defense to all the active military personnel, saying, you know, by 10:00 a.m., you have to go get the magic position or you are going to be court-martialled. And so as a result of that, 12 F-22 pilots, the most highly trained pilots in the world, walked off the job.


LEMON (on camera): Okay. How often do we hear something like that? People actually think it's real, right? CNN's fact checker-in-chief Daniel Dale is here. Okay. Daniel, good evening to you.


LEMON: The man in the video says the secretary of defense sent the entire military a text demanding vaccinations by 10:00 a.m. and that pilots have been resigning en masse. What's the truth here?

DALE: None of that --

LEMON: En masse, but go on.

DALE: Yeah. Don, none of that is true. So there was no mass text to the military about vaccinations from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. In fact, a Pentagon spokesman told me today on the record that the secretary of defense has never sent a force-wide email -- sorry, a force-wide text message about literally anything. So that didn't happen.

There was no mass pilot resignation. The two military bases where this supposedly happened both denied it on the record strenuously.


DALE: The Air Force and the Pentagon both say they haven't heard anything like that. And it just doesn't make any sense. The Air Force has very publicly set a deadline of November 2nd for active duty personnel to be fully vaccinated. So it just makes no sense that there would be some text demanding that people get it by 10 a.m. the next day or face punishment. It is just completely imaginary, Don.

LEMON: Where does this B.S., where does this nonsense come from? Where it did come from?

DALE: This came from a truly garbage website. That's not my personal opinion. I am not saying, oh, it's biased or I don't like it. This website that publishes stories, saying things like Tom Hanks has been executed by the U.S. Military. So it is completely imaginary, fake news in the traditional sense.

It went from there, spread online on social media as usual. It was picked up by this gentleman in the video who is a body builder who posted that on his Instagram story. That Instagram story was grabbed by some people on MAGA, pro-Trump Twitter, post it there, and then it was amplified by high-profile British radio host, some other people with big followings.

And the original nonsense article was also amplified by some high- profile people, including Fox Nation host Lara Logan and others. And so the article kept spreading. This nonsense video kept spreading.

I think the moral of the story is don't get your news from people who are claiming that Tom Hanks has been executed by the military. Don't take your news from Brando body builders on Twitter who are saying that they got the story from their dad.

LEMON: Let us put that last tweet back up. I just want to look at that because U.S. Air Force pilots resign. This is what courage looks like. This is Lara Logan, I guess, from Fox?

DALE: Yeah. So she's praising the pilots for their courage in resigning even though that didn't happen. And I don't know if she's deleted this in the last couple hours. But it was up for multiple hours even as people were trying to tell her on Twitter that it was completely fake.

LEMON: So -- okay. You know the difference between if that had been someone -- hopefully that would never happen to someone here at CNN. We would say someone made a mistake, whatever, correct it. We have since removed and it apologized for the mistake. Let's see if that happens from --

DALE: Yeah.

LEMON: -- this Fox newsperson.

DALE: Let's see.

LEMON: As we call it Fox propaganda on this show. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

California's recall election is still four days away but over on the Fox propaganda network, they are already pushing the big lie, part two, a bogus claim that the only way Democrats can win is if they somehow cheat.




LEMON: So they are at it again, throwing more red meat to their audience. Fox propaganda hosts pushing a new version of the big lie, this time falsely telling viewers that the only way California's Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom can beat next week's recall election is through voter fraud. Sound familiar?

More tonight from CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter.


TOMI LAHREN, FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR: The only thing that will save Governor Gavin Newsom is voter fraud.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's a new narrative on the right that is sounding all too familiar. Fox News star Tomi Lahren is diving deep into voter fraud conspiracy.

LAHREN: Pay attention to the voter fraud going on in California becauset is going to have big consequences not only for that state but for upcoming elections.

STELTER (voice-over): She is directing her warning at the Democratic governor of California, Gavin Newsom, who is fighting to keep his office in next week's recall election.

UNKNOWN: The ballot harvesting the Democrats will do --

STELTER (voice-over): This is an emerging story line on Fox, a prebuttal to the election, baselessly claiming the Democrats can only win if they somehow cheat. It's the big lie playbook flown from D.C. to SAacramento. And let's be clear, there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud. But the trusted voices on Fox like Tucker Carlson have been issuing veiled warnings for weeks which are false.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Noncitizens can vote.

STELTER (voice-over): As the old saying goes, history never repeats itself, but it often rhymes. Trump's tactics last winter now seem to be applied to the recall. With Newsom's chances of surviving looking pretty good, fraud is presented as an excuse to explain away any future Republican loss.

The leading GOP candidate to replace Newsom, Larry Elder, is now joining in.

LARRY ELDER, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: To the all sorts of reasons why the 2020 election in my opinion was full of shenanigans. And my theory is they are going to try that in this election right here in recall.

STELTER (voice-over): The key context here is that the majority of early ballots returned have come from Democrats in, of course, a heavily blue state. Now, Elder's campaign says it is gearing up for legal action.

ELDER: We have a voter integrity board also set up. These are lawyers. So when people hear of things, they contact us. We are going to file lawsuits in a timely fashion.

STELTER (voice-over): This "L.A. Times" columnist offering a timely response, saying only election losers cry 'voter fraud.'

(On camera): Well, lose, winner, we will find out about Larry Elder's status next week. But this big lie playbook is bigger than California. This disinformation strategy is clearly now a part of the GOP and it is here to stay, Don.


LEMON (on camera): All right. Brian Stelter, thank you very much for that.

I have an update now to a segment from last night about the cleanup in Louisiana from Hurricane Ida's conversation.


LEMON: In my conversation with Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to President Biden and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, he said that he had been talking to officials at State Farm about covering additional living expenses for policy holders who evacuated their homes ahead of the hurricane.

We reached out to State Farm and they responded with this statement. I quote. "State Farm stands with our customers to help them recover in those states impacted by Hurricane Ida. Our hearts go out to all those impacted. Significant additional living expenses have been and will continue to be paid in Louisiana in accordance with the terms of the policy. State Farm reviews every claim on its own merit in accordance with the insurance policy."

The statement goes on to note that the company is reviewing tens of thousands of claims in Louisiana and other states.

The removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia is getting a lot of cheers this week. But my next guest says there may be a better way to deal with our country's racist past.




LEMON: This week marking a moment in history for many Black Americans, the enormous statue of confederate General Robert E. Lee taken down in Richmond, Virginia. It is just the latest salvo in the battle over our country's history and legacy of racial inequality playing out in schools and public spaces around this country.

But my next guest says removing memorials may not be the right way to reckon with our past. Joining me now to discuss is Randall Kennedy. He is a professor of law at Harvard University and the author of "Say It Loud on Race, Law, History, and Culture." So good to have you on, professor. Thank you so much. Good evening to you.


LEMON: I am talking about this Robert E. Lee statue. I mean, it was up for 131 years. Richmond was the capital of the confederacy. For many people of color, it meant a lot to see it come down. What did it mean to you?

KENNEDY: Well, number one, I am glad that people were mobilizing against racism and are mobilizing against racism. So I applaud the people who organized to, you know, have it taken down.

I do have some cautionary notes, though. One, you know, no monument, no symbol has to mean just one thing. I mean, before they took it down -- you can take look at that picture -- the graffiti on it gave it a different meaning. You could have a Robert E. Lee statue and have it mean something different than a glorification of the confederacy.

You could have a statue and leave it alone and say, you know what, we want it to be here as a reminder of our nation's history. You could do that. I think people ought to be a little bit careful about overinvesting in any particular, you know, campaign. There are lots of things that we need to fight against.

LEMON: I get your point. A couple of points here, though -- I know there are lots of things that we need to fight. I have heard statues are not the most important thing. But it is one. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. I understand what you're saying.

If you look at it with the graffiti and the statue, it looks like it has become a different piece of art. But wouldn't be it better served in a museum where there can be some explanation about this statue and about what it meant?

KENNEDY: Listen, again, I am not fighting the people who have made this change. I am applauding them. I'm simply saying that -- frankly, I could live with a lot of different avenues of change.

So for instance, at my law school, we had a big struggle over the symbol of Harvard Law School. And there was a big -- you know, we got rid of the symbol because the family that sort of memorialized this symbol was a slave-owning family. We got rid of it. There was a person who actually argued against getting rid of it on the grounds that we should continue to have that symbol to remember the enslaved people.

Now, you know, I think good argument there. There are various arguments. And, again, I think that, you know, we should remember that symbols can be made to mean different things. That's all.

LEMON: Understood. And perhaps there is a place for both, you know, the old symbol and the new symbol. And it should be taught in, you know, when students come in to the school for orientation. And maybe you can teach them about that as a way of having them understand the history of the school and the country.

This -- let's get back to charlotte. The Charlottesville rally that head to Heather Heyer's death was about defending a statue, right, Robert E. Lee. Don't these monuments though promote a rallying cry for hateful ideology?

I know you will say at least it exposes them. Maybe I am putting words in your mouth. But doesn't it sort of provide a rallying cry for them and it gives them some, you know, some sort of something to, you know, defend and come out for, rally for?

KENNEDY: Probably does. And that's very tragic and that's very unfortunate. Let me say one other thing, though.


KENNEDY: There are buildings being built all the time. There are lots of things to memorialize. I'm certainly against memorialization of, you know, Robert E. Lee a traitor. I do think it would be nice to maybe spine a bit more time thinking, well, there are a lot of wonderful people that need to be memorialized.

We should do that. There should be memorials to (INAUDIBLE), to John Lewis, to Fannie Lou Hamer. Let us spend more time memorializing the true heroes of American history. Let us not forget that part of the struggle.

LEMON: So maybe Fannie Lou Hamer should go up in that place where Robert E. Lee was, the one that they just took down. I don't know.

KENNEDY: That would be great as far as I'm concerned.

LEMON: Yeah. I understand. Listen, I get it, because I like learning and reading and understanding history. People are fighting so hard now for our history, for the real history of this country not to be taught. And perhaps this is a way that it could be taught. I don't know. But I think that you have a point when you say that we should examine exactly what we are doing, not necessarily it couldn't come down.

I want to ask you. You described yourself as a racial optimist. This is back in 2014. But in your book, you write this about Trump, about Donald Trump. You said, the fealty he elicits reveals and reinforces ugly racial attitudes that are considerably more prevalent, deep- seated, and influential than I had recognized, even after decades of studying the race question. I am thus no longer a confident optimist.

I mean, that is a big statement because usually, you know, African- Americans will say I can't believe underestimated or didn't think that Donald Trump would get elected. Of course, he could. Of course, there is racism in this country. It has always been there. It sets the larger culture, meaning white people didn't see it because they didn't have to deal with it on a daily basis like people of color. Did you underestimate how much racial resentment was still bubbling just beneath the surface?



KENNEDY: It is humbling to say so, but it's true. I have never felt so much trepidation in my life as in the past two or three years. And, yes, I have been taken aback and I don't think I was a sentimental person

before, but I have been taken aback by the racism, by the cruelty, by the ignorance, by the resentment that is so obvious.

LEMON: Why didn't you see it before, though?

KENNEDY: Why didn't I? I'm -- you know, I'm not all together sure. Again, you know, I don't think I was sentimental, but I did think that we had gone farther down the road to racial decency than we have.

LEMON: That's a good way of putting it. Racial decency instead of, you know, equality.

KENNEDY: Yeah. It's -- I have to say, this -- this book, there are a number of places where I just say, humbly, I was mistaken. And on this one, I was mistaken.

LEMON: That is hard for people to say, especially in this day and age, because people are, you know, wedded to their beliefs. It is hard to change them.

Professor, I want to turn to the Supreme Court now. You argue that we give Supreme Court justices more deference than they deserve. And the recent decision on the Texas anti-abortion laws was so nakedly partisans that it is hard not to see justices as political actors. What happens if the court loses all ability to be neutral?

KENNEDY: First of all, we should recognize that the Supreme Court of the United States is not neutral. The Supreme Court of the United States is political. It's as political as the House of Representatives. It's as political as the Senate. It's as political as the presidency.

You know, the nine justices, all of them, you know, the conservatives, the liberals, they are -- they are political figures. Their politics takes place in a different way. They have a different vocabulary. They have different customs. Their politics is registered in a somewhat different way. But are they political? Of course they are.

That's why there is so much fighting and, you know, there is such a struggle over who is going to be on the Supreme Court. If it wasn't political, it wouldn't be such a big deal.

LEMON: Right. Well, it wouldn't be a conservative president appointing a conservative judge or a liberal president appointing a liberal judge or nominating a liberal judge because politics wouldn't play a role in it, you are right. Even at the beginning, on its face, it is political.

KENNEDY: It is thoroughly political.


LEMON: And we should -- and the citizenry should understand that. I think a lot of people want to sort of think that, you know, the Supreme Court is above politics. I think people get a certain, you know, sort of sense of security out of that thought. But it's a delusion.

LEMON: So I want to talk about the court's only Black justice, conservative Clarence Thomas. Though you disagree with his positions on racial issues, you used to say, calling him a sellout was going too far, but now, you write that if he is not a sellout, then the term has no utility. What changed your mind? Again, another big statement from you.

KENNEDY: Well, he has been on the court and he has participated in some of the most hurtful judicial delinquencies in modern American history. The worst was his vote in a 5-4 decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

People died seeking to get that act put into law. It was a needed, a useful, in my view, and obviously proper and constitutional enactment. And he participated in the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And there are other things, but that was the worst.

LEMON: Yeah.

KENNEDY: And against that backdrop, I have no problem with people, especially Black people shunning him.

LEMON: What do you say? I think you said it all right there. I think there are many people of color who feel exactly the same way that you do. Professor, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining. I can't wait to read the book. I haven't had the opportunity to read it. But I can't wait to get my hands on it and read it.

Check out Professor Kennedy's book. It is called "Say It Loud on Race, Law, History, and Culture." Really appreciate you joining us. Thanks again.

KENNEDY: Thank you very much. Good night.

LEMON: It is considered the deadliest drug in the country. Now, people are lacing fentanyl with other recreational kinds of drugs, adding all kinds of new risks.




LEMON (on camera): Very important story we are discussing. It needs to be paid attention to. The latest data from the CDC is showing drug overdose death in the United States at record levels. One of the primary factors behind that increase is fentanyl, a potent and deadly drug.

More tonight from CNN's Brynn Gingras.



MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS, ACTOR: Yeah, the cheese stands alone.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Acclaimed actor Michael K. Williams's death is igniting new conversations about the dangers of fentanyl.

WILLIAMS: Hey look, I ain't never put my gun on no citizen.

GINGRAS (voice-over): A law enforcement source says investigators are looking into whether the highly potent synthetic drug contributed to his death. Fentanyl isn't new. In 2019, the CDC considered it to be the most deadly drug in the country. It was commonly found mixed with other highly addictive opioids like heroin.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) overdoses (INAUDIBLE) on scene.

GINGRAS (voice-over): But now, police and health experts are seeing a disturbing new trend, fentanyl laced in more recreational use drugs.

ADAM SCOTT WANDT, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Drug dealers and middle men figured out that they could lace their regular drugs such as cocaine and marijuana with fentanyl and people would get higher off of it and think it was just a better quality drug when in reality they were exposing themselves to a completely new type of drug.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Adam Scott Wandt who researches fentanyl sales on the dark web says that means fentanyl is finding new users.

New York is seeing evidence of that with eight percent of cocaine samples tested in April containing fentanyl, according to the city's health department. That equates to one in every 12 bags found on the street. The problem made exponentially worse by the pandemic.

WANDT: People were quarantined. They were in their home. They had less time to go to work and get out of the house. So in general, we saw increases in drug use throughout the United States. On top of that, we saw regular drugs being laced with fentanyl and people being exposed to it for the first time, in some cases leading to overdose and/or death.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Last year, the country saw the highest number of drug overdose deaths ever recorded, more than 93,000, according to the CDC.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): A tiny amount the size of a few grains of salt can be deadly.

GINGRAS (voice-over): States are turning to public service announcements to raise awareness, putting warnings on drink coasters at bars.

UNKNOWN: You have to stick it in their nose.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Even encouraging having medications like Narcan on hand to reverse the effects of an overdose.

WANDT: Fentanyl is a new challenge at the massive amount of scale that what we have been seeing. And what we have been seeing is the federal government reinventing their techniques in order to combat this challenge.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Fighting a drug that's claiming the lives of too many people too fast.

Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.



LEMON (on camera): Thank you, Brynn. We'll be right back.



LEMON (on camera): Cervical cancer is killing thousands of women in countries around the world. This week's CNN hero left her Beverly Hills practice to begin her mission to eradicate cervical cancer globally, one woman at a time. Meet Dr. Patricia Gordon.


UNKNOWN: Free cervical cancer screening. Screen and treat for free of charge.

PATRICIA GORDON, CNN HERO: There are 350,000 women dying a painful, undignified death globally and it's almost 100 percent preventable.

So this is everything you need to screen and treat a patient.

(Voice-over): We bring in these big suitcases. We teach local healthcare professionals the see-and-treat technique. The end of the week of training, we pack up that suitcase and give it to the nurses that are going back to their clinics.

Within a day, we can literally save 20-30 lives, depending on the number of women we screen. That there are 8,000 women who are alive and well and able to provide for their families is, honestly, the most rewarding thing that I could have ever imagined in my life. I think I'm the luckiest doctor that ever lived.


LEMON (on camera): I mean, that is why they are CNN heroes. Go to to learn Dr. Gordon's full story and see her in action.

And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.