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Don Lemon Tonight

Democrats Keep Their Fingers Crossed; The $3.5 Infrastructure Bill Might be Slashed; GOP Promise Not to Support the Vote Next Week; California Release its New Vaccine Mandate; Brian Laundrie Seen by Witnesses in North Carolina; Merck Pill a Game-changer for COVID Cases. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 01, 2021 - 22:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. Thanks for joining us, everyone.

And so, here is the question that everyone on Capitol Hill is asking right now. So now what? What happens now? Right? All of a sudden, we were in this big deadline, what are we going to do, the deadline is coming? Can Nancy Pelosi do this? Can the president -- will Mitch McConnell?

So, there was a day of high drama, right? We're waiting on the edge of our seats since last night for a vote that did not come. The president going to Capitol Hill to plead the case for his agenda with members of his party, progressives digging in their heels. So, what happens now?

President Joe Biden's agenda, the promises he made to the American people, the agenda that got him elected really hanging in the balance.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm telling you, we'll get this done.


BIDEN: It doesn't matter when. It doesn't matter whether it's in six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We're going to get it done.


LEMON (on camera): So, so much for the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi self-imposed deadline they blew by last night. In a dear colleague letter tonight the speaker says, and I quote here, "while great progress has been made in the negotiations to develop a House, Senate and White House agreement on the Build Back Better Act, more time is needed to complete the task."

Obviously, right? Because it's not done. The president vowing Democrats will overcome their differences. Several lawmakers telling CNN behind closed doors, the president said the top line number where they're looking to find agreement is somewhere between $1.9 trillion and $2 trillion.


REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D-TX): The president said that we got to get both of them done so it doesn't look like there is going to be a vote today. He basically said two things. One, sorry, it's not going to be 3.5. Maybe two, two instead of 3.5 so he said that and then the other thing he basically said, we need to pass both of them.


LEMON (on camera): So, there you go. Somewhere between $1.9 and $2 trillion. Congressman Mike Quigley telling CNN the president said that members are too dug in, they risk getting nothing. But he emphasized, and I quote here, "this was an olive branch not demanding." So, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the progressive caucus telling Anderson just a few minutes ago this.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I think we're going to have to get to a number that all 50 Democrats in the Senate and all of us in the House agreed to and, you know, 3.5 was our number. We are going to go back and see what we can do on that, because we understand we got to get everybody on board.


LEMON (on camera): Yes. And tonight, and sources telling CNN that House Republicans who were previously planning to support the bipartisan infrastructure bill are now rethinking their votes after Biden's visit to the Hill today. You knew that was going to happen. So that was the question.

When I was asking everybody last night and they were so hopeful about this saying they were going to get-together, I was asking Democrats, what about governing for Democrats? Doesn't that raise questions about governing? That was my point. And so now Republicans are saying maybe the ones who are going to support it are saying maybe we won't know. So, like I said, the question is what happens now?

And in the middle of this, the debt ceiling is still looming. I mean, this is where the urgency should be, as well. Maybe the number one priority until this is done and then focus on the other parts of the agenda.

But a House passed bill is scheduled for a vote next week in the Senate where Mitch McConnell has vowed there will be no Republican help on the debt and that means there is a very real danger the United States could default if Congress doesn't take action before October 18th.

So, it's all just a cynical political game, really. Republicans are determined to force Democrats to go at it alone. White House press secretary Jen Psaki naming and shaming Republicans playing politics with the debt. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Republicans in Congress are treating this like a game. Let me give you some examples. Senator Rick Scott and this is a real quote I will note. "This is going to be a ball. I'm going to have so much fun." That's about the debt limit. Senator Kevin Cramer, "it's sort of fun to watch." And Senator Cornyn said yesterday that Republicans would use every tool at their disposal to slow Democrats from doing this on their own.


LEMON (on camera): That, as Americans are facing some very real, serious real-world consequences if the country does default. OK? The real issue is nearly 50 million seniors could be left holding the bag if social security payments are held up.


The stock market would no doubt plummet. Mortgage rates would rise. And we could lose millions of jobs. And in the face of all of that, Mitch McConnell's hypocrisy is right out there for all the world to see refusing to vote something he is voted for 32 times in the past.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I think the debt ceiling legislation is a time that brings us all together.

In the case of the debt limit, we need to act quickly given the new uncertainty from the large costs of storm recovery.

Secretary of the Treasury that Senator Schumer and I had a good meeting this morning in my office to discuss the raising of the debt ceiling which we all know will need to be done sometime in the next month or so and we're going to be looking for a way forward to do that together to make sure America continues to never, ever default.

A time that we got serious on a bipartisan basis to try to work this out and not have the kind of chaos that goes along with our inability to come together on these kinds of important issues.

You may or may not recall I said that during the years when I was the leader of the minority in the Senate. I don't think there's any chance we'll allow the country to default.


LEMON (on camera): OK. So, he said well, we need to do it because of storm recovery. Aren't we recovering from storms now? Millions of people in this country recovering from storms. My own family in Louisiana. So now what's different? Never ever default he said. America never ever default on this debt. What happened to that?

It's time we get serious about bipartisan efforts to work this thing out. Where is that this time? What's different about that, Mitch McConnell and Republicans? What is different? That's how cynical and how toxic our politics have become and then there is the literal toxicity of anti-vax rhetoric in the face of mandates all across this country.

So, California is now the first state in the nation to require COVID vaccinations for students. Great California. I said it. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor tonight denying a request to block New York City's vaccine mandate for public school employees. It went into effect just about five hours ago.

And we're learning that Justice Brett Kavanaugh tested positive for COVID-19. All the other justices have tested negative and the court says that Justice Kavanaugh will participate in next week's oral arguments remotely from whole.

Meanwhile, we learned this week, we've been talking a lot about the NBA, they've been in the news this week. We've learned this week that unvaccinated NBA players who don't comply with local vaccination mandates won't get paid for games that they miss. OK. Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green says that he pushes his teammates to get vaccinated.


DRAYMOND GREEN, PLAYER, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: We're dealing with something that to me feels like has turn into a political war when you're talking about a vaccination and none vaccinated. I think it's become very political. You said we live in the land of the free, you're not giving anyone freedom because you're making people do something essentially. That goes against everything that America stands for.


LEMON (on camera): Draymond Green, that's actually wrong. It doesn't go against. And I'm going to tell you why it doesn't go against everything that America stands for. It actually goes along with what America stands for with what has already been decided by the highest courts in the land when it comes to vaccines and mandates. OK?

So, with all due respect to Draymond Green, this is about public health. We just passed a grim milestone of 700,000 deaths from COVID in this country. Seven hundred thousand dead Americans, 700,000 dead Americans from COVID. And now the vast majority of the people that we are losing are unvaccinated.

This is about stopping a virus that is killing us. It's not about feelings. This is not about freedom or liberties when people who had that wrong. No matter how loudly people yell about it.


UNKNOWN: We are for freedom, baby. We are for freedom all the way and that's what we love.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON (on camera): So, let me just for people are going to say well, I can't believe Don Lemon is calling out the NBA Draymond or conservatives or whatever. OK. So, yes, I'm used to that. It doesn't bother me. So, save it or do it. I don't care. I don't even look at it.


OK? So, this is a little history lesson for you. OK? In the early 1900s when smallpox was running rampant a man named Henning Jacobs (Ph) refused to be vaccinated. He took his case all the way to the Supreme Court where Justice John Marshall Harlan delivered the decision that the law did not violate the 14th amendment.

And writing here and I quote, "in every well-ordered society charged with the duty of conserving the safety of its members, the rights of the individual in respect of his liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint to be enforced by reasonable regulations as the safety of the general public may demand."

So, it is not about liberty. It's not about freedom. It is about public health.


UNKNOWN: Have you guys gotten vaccinated?



UNKNOWN: Won't do it.

UNKNOWN: Can I ask why you chose not to?

UNKNOWN: I'm allergic to a lot of things in the chemicals and stuff like that, and freedom. You get to choose. If you can have an abortion and choose your body, I should be able to choose if I get a shot.


LEMON (on camera): He's already been tested, as well because in previous cases in history where people refused, they were fine even if they said they had a health issue about it. In 1922, the court uphold a San Antonio ordinance that prohibited anyone from attending a public or private school without a certificate of smallpox vaccination.

So, like I said, this is not about feelings. This is not about freedom. What kind of freedom do people want when they say they're not getting vaccinated because they believe in freedom? Do they want the freedom to get sick? Do they want the freedom to be hospitalized or worse?

Do they want the freedom to be lying in an overcrowded hospital? Struggling for every breath? Do they want that freedom for the people they love to be infected with a deadly virus? What kind of freedom is that? Don't do it but then don't expect to be able to do what everybody else does. The people who are vaccinated.

But I want to go back to the question I asked at the top of the show. So, now what? Right? What happens now with a whole lot of things? President Biden's agenda is still hanging in the balance. He is vowing Democrats will overcome their differences but should he have gotten involved sooner?


JAYAPAL: Our position is exactly the same as the president's, which is we are going to get both these bills done and we are going to send them to the president's desk and it will take us a little bit of time to negotiate.




LEMON (on camera): So, now what? What happens now? Bold promise from President Biden on the future of his domestic agenda in the middle of deep divisions in his own party. The president vowing Democrats will pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a sweeping social safety net package no matter how long it takes.

The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying in a later -- in a letter, excuse me, tonight, that they need more time for negotiations.

So, joining me now is CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and former advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain and the executive producer of The Circus on Showtime, Mr. Mark McKinnon.

That letter was like duh, yes, of course we need --


LEMON: Yes. Here is what is happening. We need more time.

Good evening, gents.


LEMON: So, the president, you know, went to Capitol Hill, he's trying to rally the troops. You heard from Biden. He's pledging that this is going to get done regardless of the timeline. But this has been a really messy process. I hope maybe -- maybe I'm not category -- categorizing that right but I don't know. Or characterizing, excuse me properly and then there is still the big divide here. Is the president right? Will it happen?

BROWNSTEIN: You would think that it will happen for the reason that we talked about all the way throughout. That it's really not in anyone's interest in the Democratic Party to have it completely collapse. But Don, this is tough. They are trying to make great change on a slender majority to borrow a phrase from Thomas Jefferson and that is difficult.

You know, in the 20 -- in the 21st century, because the country is so deeply and stably divided, it's been really hard for either party to generate any kind of significant cushion in the Senate. There is only three Senates in this century where one party had at least 55 seats.

Right now, Democrats only have 50 and you're seeing the pains of that. We should be reminded that in 19 -- in 2017 Republicans only had 51 and they ultimately failed on one of their two big goals, which is repealing the ACA because they couldn't hold everybody together.

In the end, I still think they will find a way to get this done but, you know, in a 50/50 Senate every senator is a king and Manchin and Sinema in particularly sure enjoy that power.

LEMON: Hey, before I get to Mark, but do you think they'll get it done because there is word that they're losing the few Republicans support that they had --


LEMON: -- or supporters that they had.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. I mean, almost inevitable, right? This whole problem solver's caucus is melting away at the end of Republicans. They might have single digit Republicans supporting this.

The issue isn't really the Republicans in the House. It's whether the House and it's not just the progressives. It's really the broad range of the party in both chambers. The vast, vast majority of Democrats in both chambers can reach agreement with Manchin and Sinema on an acceptable number for the reconciliation bill, which is the core of Biden's agenda.

And let's not forget the only reason that so much is being waited on this one bill because it's the only way to avoid a filibuster. So many other things that Democrats care other. Immigration, police reform, LGBTQ rights, gun control, even potentially voting rights are all hang up on the filibuster. And this is their one chance around it for other parts of their agenda.


So, letting this go down would just be an enormous kind of self- inflected wound by Democrats and that's why in the end, you still have to bet they would find a way to do it.

LEMON: I think the technical term for it is dumb.


LEMON: So, Mark, do you disagree with that?

MARK MCKINNON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, listen, they either hang together or they hang separately. That's for sure. You know, having worked on both sides of the aisle, the one thing that's clear to me is that, when Republicans get orders, they salute and march. When Democrats get orders, they jump in a mosh pit.

I mean, just the way it is. Because they are -- you know, they are a party of 1,000 constituencies and we saw that in sharper leap (Ph) this week. Although at the end of the day, I do believe Joe Biden has a good point which is a year from now if there is a -- if there is a --


MCKINNON: -- reconciliation bill with a lot of the human infrastructure, and infrastructure bill were done. Voters don't care when it was done. But I also think that if you had --


LEMON: Hey, Mark, real quick.


LEMON: Voters won't care when it was done but also for the, you know, the Sinemas and Manchins of the world or whomever or even for the progressives, let's just say for the progressives in the House, are their voters going to care that it was 3.5 or 2.9 or, I mean, is that really going to matter to them?

MCKINNON: Well, I don't think the number is significant but it depends on what gets stripped out --

LEMON: What's in it, yes.

MCKINNON: -- of the package, if it's child care that gets stripped out, yes. Voters, you know, a lot of constituents will be upset.

LEMON: Mark, you are making a point. I cut you off. Sorry. Let him try to finish.

MCKINNON: That's all right.

LEMON: Are you good?

MCKINNON: Yes, I'm good.

LEMON: Yes, you're good. OK.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I just say like --


BROWNSTEIN: -- there may be a political win, win in here because the most logical way to shrink this down is to phase out many of these programs rather than stripping them out altogether. And that means you could run in 2024 on reauthorizing and continuing ideas like universal pre-k -- LEMON: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- and the children's tax credit and paid family leave. So, there may be kind of a logical way out of there impasse. You can cut the cost and maybe double down on the political benefit by phasing out the timing on how you implement these ideas. Most of which are individual and popular in polling.

LEMON: Well, Mark, that was my point last night where I said to members of the progressive wing, like, you know, if you're not in power, as Katie Porter, then what does it all matter? I mean, can you the point is to stay in power and then go back to your constituents and say, you know, this is America. This is how the government works. We need more time. We have more power. We'll have more influence and to be able to continue on doing what we're doing now.

MCKINNON: Well, that's exactly --


BROWNSTEIN: Double dip.

MCKINNON: And I mean, this has shown that the progressive wing of the party is really flexing its muscles. But I'm not really sure that that's where most of Americans are. And if the package is too big and too broad, I think that's problematic for 2022.

But I think Ron Brownstein has a really smart idea and I think the Democrats ought to listen to that advice.

LEMON: Yes. So, what do you think, what kinds of things are you expecting to see cut back to get to the price tag, Mark? Because you said, you know, it doesn't matter if it's 2.5 or 3, it's what's in it. So, what do you see getting cut back?

MCKINNON: I think the dental vision component for elderly Americans could go easily. I think the community college piece could go. I think those are a couple of, first couple of things that come to my mind.

LEMON: And what about you, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I guess, I think the logic is less to remove things entirely than to kind of play with how long they're in place and try to, in some ways, take the most popular items like the child tax credit, universal pre-K perhaps, some of the health care and child care subsidies and phase them out as a way to both save money but also to give you double dip.

Because you can run in 2024 and say look, this monthly payment you're receiving from the tax child credit that's helping you kind of make ends meet and buy sneakers for your kids, that's on the ballot and that's why you need to maintain a Democratic Congress both in 2022 and a president in 2024.

But I also agree that the Medicare expansion will probably go back. Don't forget they are trying to do two different things here. It's the biggest increase in public investment since the Eisenhower era in Sputnik through the things like universal pre-K and community college.

It's also a big expansion of the safety net. And they are trying to do them both at once in one bill, which is kind of crazy but it's the only way around the filibuster. Just more evidence of how much the filibuster is distorting the way Congress works in this modern --


BROWNSTEIN: -- polarized era.

LEMON: Yes. There's agreement from everyone here I see. I want to play Terry McAuliffe. He's a gubernatorial candidate in Virginia. The Democratic candidate going after Democrats in Congress. Here it is.


TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I say do your job. You got elected to Congress. We in the states are desperate for this infrastructure line. I work in a bipartisan way every single day. We get things done every single day. And people got to stop the posturing. They should spend less time talking to the press and they ought to spend more time in a room figuring out how they're going to help us out here.


LEMON (on camera): So, Mark, Terry McAuliffe is in the middle of a campaign. Terry McAuliffe is no novice at this. He knows what voters wants. The infighting causing Democrats too. I'm wondering if it's causing him to miss a bigger picture. Because there is no room for descent. There is no room for people peeling off or, you know, going the other way on the Republican side and each minute longer, they stand to do that as a possibility.


MCKINNON: Well, Terry McAuliffe is exhibit a of the potential, you know, collateral damage of what's going on right now. He's in a very tough race in this governor's race in Virginia and you can see a little bit of desperation there. He can't wait.

LEMON: Yes. He can't. And look, and Terry McAuliffe is also an example of where the Democratic -- where most of the Democratic Party is where they actually win elections.

Mark, the upcoming episode of The Circus is all about this.


LEMON: This is a clip featuring progressive caucus chair Pramila Jayapal. Here it is.


JAYAPAL: We are here to make transformative change for people in a moment of tremendous crisis. We're here to deliver on climate change. We are here to deliver on health care. We are here to deliver on paid leave and child care so women can get back to work. We are not going to leave people behind.

UNKNOWN: But I just mean in terms of the broader negotiations, I mean, are you confident if infrastructure doesn't get a vote coming out of this you can have a real conversation with the Joe Manchins and the Biden can have a real conversation --


JAYAPAL: Well, hopefully he understands that he's not the only one that has power with a slim majority.


LEMON (on camera): I think, Mark, I think you said it. I don't know. Both of you probably said it. But the progressives are flexing their muscles in ways that we haven't seen before but you said that Biden was elected to be the center. So, what's that dynamic going to look like for the rest of his presidency?

MCKINNON: Yes. Listen, I mean, first of all, kudos to Congresswoman Jayapal. She's done a really outstanding job and she's been a very effective member of Congress. But, to your point, I mean, Bernie Sanders was not elected president. Joe Biden was. And there was a reason he was elected president. And you know, at the end of the day, if it's Democrats want to win the midterms, which is a big challenge already or 2024, you got to remember why Joe Biden was legislated in the first place.

LEMON: Gents, thank you. Ron, Friday.

BROWNSTEIN: Hat game. I got to work on it.

LEMON: Friday. You got to work on the hat game and you got to work on the Friday no tie Friday.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Yes. You know, I'm all for it.

LEMON: It's no tie day. Friday.

BROWNSTEIN: All right.

LEMON: All right.

MCKINNON: I'm no tie in here --


BROWNSTEIN: Then we'll receive.

LEMON: Thank you. I appreciate it.

MCKINNON: Take care, Don.

LEMON: Listen. We need to talk about what's happening with the Gabby Petito case. There are new reports of Brian Laundrie sightings along the Appalachian Trail. We've got the latest on the investigation into the death of Gabby after this.



LEMON (on camera): Tonight, new tonight, a North Carolina sheriff tells CNN that they are getting tips about alleged sightings of Gabby Petito's fiancee, Brian Laundrie. The allege sightings happening just miles from a major hiking trail. Plus, new information about his family's camping trip days before he went missing.

Joining me now former FBI assistant director, Chris Swecker. Chris, good evening to you.


LEMON: So, let's see. This Watauga County sheriff in North Carolina tells CNN that they are getting these tips about the alleged sightings of Brian Laundrie in that area. So, I know you know this area. What can you tell us about it? And is this the type of place that Brian could stay undetected for a long period of time?

SWECKER: Yes, Don, I do know the area well. I was a special agent in charge in North Carolina for five years and I actually went to under graduate school up there. I know the law enforcement the agents up there and the sheriff and I think, you know, they are very much on their toes based on these leads but they have not been corroborated, they are not very specific. Nothing has been developed that I know of that would actually place him up there.

Now it's not illogical that he would be on the Appalachian Trail or somewhere in a place like that. I wouldn't discount it completely. But he's also been seen in the Bahamas, Mexico, Canada, Alabama and a bunch of other locations. He's been spotted more than Elvis.

LEMON: Or Tupac. So, listen, this case has been such a social media phenomenon. Do you think that these kinds of tips are going to help solve it?

These kinds of tips can be very beneficial but they're really, really pain take -- it's a pain take --


LEMON: Painstaking.

SWECKER It's a difficult task.

LEMON: Yes, thank you.

LEMON: It's Friday. I get it.

SWECKER: It's a difficult -- it's tough to go through all these leads. You have to have a lot of people working on it. You got to separate the wheat from chaff, what's corroborated and what isn't. What is specific and what isn't. And it just takes a long time to sift through it. Now there are gems in there but you really have to dig to find them.

LEMON: Yes. So, I want to play some. This is some new footage. It's from the incident in Utah. Police officers tell Gabby that witnesses have reported that they saw Brian hit her. Here it is.


UNKNOWN: Can I see the other side of your face? So, what happened here and here?

GABBY PETITO, BRIAN LAUNDRIE'S FIANCE: I'm not sure. I was trying to get in the back of the car and the backpack got me.

UNKNOWN: So, the backpack got you? So, there is two people that came to us and told us that they saw him hit you. There is two people saying that they saw him punch you. Which is, independent witnesses by moonflower.

PETITO: Well, to be honest, I hit him first.

UNKNOWN: Where did you hit him?

PETITO: I slapped him in the face.

UNKNOWN: You slapped him first? And then just on his face.

PETITO: I mean, (Inaudible).

UNKNOWN: How many times did you slap him?


UNKNOWN: A couple (Inaudible).

PETITO: A couple.

UNKNOWN: And then his reaction was to do what? He just grabbed you?



LEMON (on camera): So, when you watch this video, Chris, what do you -- what do you take away from that and should someone have been arrested that day?

SWECKER: Yes, it's heartbreaking, Don. Two witnesses said that she was slapped on the sidewalk near the cafe. She said she was slapped and then -- or she was grabbed and grabbed her face or hit her. Something to that effect. I said all along this is an incident of domestic violence. She appeared, in my view, to be the captive in a sense that he was

sort of the dominant one, he was doing most of the talking. She's very subservient. You can tell. Pretty classic domestic violence. I think this fit into the overall picture of what they're looking at for the homicide, or potential homicide charge. It's a building block and I think there is a lot of other evidence, as well.

So, I'm convinced that he's going to get caught. I'm more focused on the homicide investigation and the building of the case against him.

LEMON: You know, we have learned that Brian Laundrie's mother Roberta cancelled camping reservations for two people at Florida Park on August 31st and made new reservations for three people at the same park on September 3rd, two days after Brian returned home. What question does that raise for you?

SWECKER: It raises the question to me with a good amount of investigative experience and I think others in the same boat. Was he -- did they know that this -- that her -- that she was going to be reported missing? He obviously knows what happened. He's planning ahead for his, you know, for his escape, if you will. They're going on the run.

Are they staging supplies? Are they getting out of the harsh view of neighbors and getting to a place where they can privately set up and stage what's going to happen next? That's the only explanation I can come up with in terms of why they went to that camp ground, why the timing of when they were there, as well.

LEMON: Chris Swecker, thank you. This won't be the last time we discuss this unfortunately. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

SWECKER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Is there a new way to fight coronavirus? A brand-new pill could change everything. Stay with us.



LEMON (on camera): So, breaking just moments ago, it's really a grim milestone. The U.S. passing the heartbreaking milestone of 700,000 deaths from COVID-19. All 700,000 memorialized on the National Mall. There it is right there. That is California. The most populous state in the nation becomes the first to mandate the COVID vaccine for those students who want to attend school in-person.

And Merck announces an anti-viral drug that will cut the risk of COVID hospitalizations and death by 50 percent. That's according to the company. So also, tonight, American Airlines announcing that they will have a vaccine mandate for their workers.

So, let's break it down with Dr. Peter Hotez. He's the co-director at the Texas Children's Hospital for Vaccine Development.

Good evening, sir. I appreciate you joining us.

We got a lot to talk about actually. So, we have this sobering milestone. Seven hundred thousand deaths from COVID. More than any other country. So many of these deaths were preventable. What's your thoughts?

PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: Don, I'm especially thinking about the last 100,000 deaths, which occurred during this Delta wave over the summer despite the widespread availability of safe and effective vaccines.

So almost all of those 100,000 deaths were among the unvaccinated despite the fact that they could have gotten vaccinated. Almost all of those 100,000 deaths were preventable, were unnecessary. This is what I'm calling death -- I don't even call this misinformation or disinformation anymore. I call it death by anti-science aggression and this has become one of the leading killers in the United States, far more than global terrorism or nuclear proliferation or cyberattacks. And yet, we really don't do anything to combat it.

I've been calling these deaths by anti-science and writing and speaking about it now for a few years and it's just gotten so out of control and it's just completely heartbreaking.

LEMON: Yes. You know, there's -- with that grim news, there is very promising news from Merck to tell you everyone about. The first anti- viral pill designed for COVID-19. How does that work? Is it a game changer?

HOTEZ: Yes, actually the drug was actually first developed at Emory University in Atlanta and it was developed as an anti-influenza drug and it was shown to inhibit virus replication and then it was subsequently shown it does this for the SARS 2 coronavirus.

It's a very interesting mechanism but actually introduces mutations while the virus is trying to replicate and then that eventually stops it cold. And the great thing about it is it's an oral pill. There was a lot of pills. I think it's something like four pills twice a day so you wind up taking 40 pills or so.

But it works in terms of reducing the hospitalizations by half and in the control group, this was 775 patients with SARS 2 coronavirus, there were eight deaths in the control and none in the treatment group. So, it's still not a huge study but it was so compelling that the Data Safety Monitoring Board said stop, this looks like it's really promising and I think on this basis, Merck and company will file for emergency use authorization.


It has limits. You have to take it very early on in the course of the illness, probably a day or two after symptoms. You have to know that you are antigen positive. So, there is going to be some infrastructure that has to be put in place. But Merck is planning on success and I think they're trying to produce 10 million tablets by the end of the year. The other exciting part of this, Don, is unlike vaccines, which are

very hard to reproduce and scale all over the world, this one is relatively straightforward. So just Cipla in India makes retroviral drugs, they should be able to make this one and I think the plans are to have at least five generic drug manufacturers in India and elsewhere start producing it.

So, I think the key message, though, to take home for tonight is it's not a substitute for getting vaccinated --


LEMON: That was my next question.

HOTEZ: -- against COVID-19 --

LEMON: Let me get to that because I want you to drill down. But just real quick, how many pills a day, you said?

HOTEZ: My understanding is four pills twice a day. So, for five days. So, eight pills a day for five days, 40 pills.


LEMON: OK. Got it. Forty pills. I thought you were saying in one day. I get it.

HOTEZ: No --

LEMON: I get it. But this is -- I want to drill down on what you are saying because if the drug proves to be as effective as the company claims, are you worried that the vaccine hesitant people might say there is a pill that I can take, why do -- why do I get to get the shot?

HOTEZ: That's exactly right. I don't want this to be Ivermectin version 2.0. It's not as good as getting vaccinated. It is a reduction in severity of illness. But there is going to be a big range on how people respond and it's vaccination that's going to save your life ultimately.

LEMON: Yes. So, this is not an alternative. You should get the vaccine and if you get -- happen to get COVID, this is approved, then take it, right? Yes.

HOTEZ: Yes, absolutely.


HOTEZ: And --

LEMON: OK. So, listen, Cal -- did you want to add something before I go down, I want to talk about California.

HOTEZ: No, no, go ahead. LEMON: OK. California adding that COVID vaccine to the list of

required vaccines to attend in-person schooling. It's going to be phased in as the FDA approval comes. That could still be as early as the end of this month. So should mandatory COVID vaccines be the national standard, sir?

HOTEZ: Yes, ideally. The problem is, Don, that school vaccine mandates are regulated at the state level. So, California is kind of the tip of the spear on this. They're moving forward and I think that's great. I think other states will follow but it's likely to go along a partisan divide.

You know, here in Texas where we have a very aggressive anti-vaccine lobby that lobbies the state legislature. I think, you know, we're going to be one of the last to adopt it tragically. But no question that if we could implement vaccine mandates for the schools, it will get the kids safely through the school year, especially because we have approvals pending likely for the 5 to 11-year-olds in a few weeks.

The VRBPAC committee is going to be meeting and the FDA is going to be meeting in October, in the middle of the October so that's really exciting. So, the sooner we can do it, the better. But I think you're going to see a lot of variations state by state.

LEMON: All right. Doctor, thank you. I appreciate it.

HOTEZ: You're the best. Thanks.

LEMON: Thank you.

He said it was a credit to Jewish people that protesters use the Star of David to oppose a mask mandate. And take this. Now the mayor of Anchorage is apologizing.



LEMON (on camera): OK. Take this. A big city mayor apologizing. Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson now, quote, "truly sorry for comments he made about some of his residents wearing Stars of David to oppose a city mask mandate. Listen.


MAYOR DAVE BRONSON (R), ACHORAGE, ALASKA: We've referenced the Star of David quite a bit here tonight but there's a formal message that came out within Jewish culture about that and the message was never again.


BRONSON: That's an ethos and that's what that star really means is we will not forget, this will never happen again, and I think us borrowing that from them is actually a credit to them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Never again? How about never again referencing the Holocaust when talking about mask mandates? The Anti-Defamation League of the Pacific Northwest condemning the comments as disturbing and offensive. The mayor has self-described center right conservative opposes the mask mandate.

But he is now releasing the statement that reads, and I quote, "I should have chosen my words more carefully and if I offend anyone, I am truly sorry. I understand that we should not trivialize or compare what happened during the Holocaust to a mask mandate. And I want to apologize for any perception that my statement support or compare what happened to the Jewish people in Nazi Germany."

He should apologize because there is no comparison. But sadly, the mayor and the star wearing protesters aren't the first to equate critical public health measures to the Third Reich.


UNKNOWN: Science and law should be changing so fast. Has Nuremberg thought us nothing of medical tyranny in the past?

UNKNOWN: We are frighteningly close to reliving the history of Nazi Germany.

UNKNOWN: Ninety-thirties Germany has many similarities here. We know in this room who would turn an enemy friend. We know that. Thanks for showing your color.

UNKNOWN: And then we asked how many vaccines have you had? Have you been a good little Nazi? Hail Fauci! Hail Fauci!


LEMON (on camera): Seriously. What do you say to that? All of it, not just the last guy. And they're saying there are certain things that we shouldn't teach in school?


Comparing the murder of six million Jews in Nazi Germany to masks and vaccines isn't just offensive, it is unhinged. And yet, you hear it over and over and over again. All false parallel pushed by Republicans like, you know, that Marjorie woman. And right-wing media telling their viewers masks are tyranny.

So, let me make this very clear to you. Vaccines are not masks. Vaccines and masks, excuse me are not Nazism. Vaccines and masks are not Nazism. They are not the Jim Crow south. They are lifesaving public health measures that keep people and communities of all races and religious across all communities in this country safe.

So up next. No deal yet. Democrats say they need more time to negotiate. Can they overcome their major differences to get Biden's agenda through? We'll see.