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Don Lemon Tonight

Whistleblower Spill Beans Against Facebook; Facebook Divides People Than Unite; George Floyd's Bust Defaced; President Biden Slammed Uncooperative GOP; Firefighters Suspended in NYFD; Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Harassed by Protesters. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 04, 2021 - 22:00   ET





Let me ask you this. Do you feel a little bit calmer today? Do you feel like there were fewer angry voices out there? Well, maybe that's because Facebook along with Instagram and WhatsApp were all down for most of the day and you know what that did. That silenced the feedback loop that seems to be making Americans angrier and angrier. People couldn't yell at each other online so people were at least or maybe looking for other places to do it.

But I want you to listen to this. This is Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. She is claiming that anger is good for Facebook's business and she alleges a scale of the problem is much worse than the company is letting on or that the public even understands. She's on 60 Minutes and here is what she said.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: Its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that polarizing, it's easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions. Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they'll click on less ads, they'll make less money.


LEMON (on camera): OK. So, I mean, look, that's what she's saying. But think about what she's saying, though, right? She's a former Facebook employee and she's alleging the company is willing to let angry rhetoric spread as long as it's good for their bottom line. Now that whistleblower is going to appear before a Senate committee. It's going to happen tomorrow.

But before that happens, CNN has obtained prepared testimony, her prepared testimony saying that she knows Facebook could, her word, destroy her. And comparing all of this to big tobacco alleging that they know it's toxic, but they do it anyway, a quote here, "When we realize tobacco companies were hiding the harms it caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action. And today the government is taking action against companies that hid evidence of opioids. I implore you to do the same here."

Well, Facebook is responding and a spokesperson is telling CNN, another quote, "every day our teams have to balance protecting the ability of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place. We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true," end quote from Facebook. OK?

So, look, nobody is suggesting that everything you see on Facebook is harmful. No one is suggesting that. But it's also no secret that the platform has been used to spread hate and misinformation, hate and misinformation that just serve to pit us against each other.

Look, you see it everywhere. The anger is everywhere and it's toxic, anger on planes, anger over vaccines, anger over masks. It seems like America is angrier than ever. Two protesters flipping over a testing table at a tent where mobile COVID testing center today and obviously cameras everywhere. It's all caught on tape usually.

Who would have thought that school board meetings all across the country would completely erupt over mask mandates, school boards? Who would have thought that parents would be furious over attempts to protect their own children from a deadly pandemic?


UNKNOWN: Calm down.


UNKNOWN: Calm down. We know -- we know who you are. We know who you are.


UNKNOWN: We will find you.

UNKNOWN: You will never be allowed in public again.

UNKNOWN: I'm going to come for everybody that comes at my kid with this stupid ridiculous mandate.

UNKNOWN: We are the storm and we are here already and when this whole thing crumbles to the ground, we will be here to hold you accountable for your crimes against humanity.

CROWD: No more masks!


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.

UNKNOWN: You are allowing child abuse. You are allowing child abuse. You are allowing child abuse. You are allowing child abuse. You with your snotty little face, you're allowing it, as well.

UNKNOWN: You treat the parents of these children as domestic terrorists using our men in blue against us. Your power-hungry dictatorship has gotten out of control. This is no longer about our safety. It is about control.

UNKNOWN: No one knows history. No one remembers history. I am calling on churches, active duty military, veterans, freedom loving Texans, we're calling you guys. We need your help. Nineteen-thirties Germany has many similarities here. They censor everybody. They censor everybody. And all the people with the government we know in this room who would turn an enemy friend. We know that. Thanks for showing your colors.

UNKNOWN: And when there is time to quote the famous politician Adolph Hitler, when diplomacy ends, war begins.


LEMON (on camera): Good luck. I have said it before. These mask wars over what people like to call their freedom, what kind of freedom is that.


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


LEMON (on camera): What kind of freedom is that? The freedom for kids to get sick? The freedom for them to be quarantined. That's not freedom. And then there is the anger over critical -- critical race theory stoked by peddlers of lies using it as a political weapon, terrifying parents with the provably false lie that critical race theory, which isn't even taught to children is about hating white people. It's not.


UNKNOWN: White children are being told untruthfully that all the problems in this country were their fault. The morality and values of our founders are slipping from our fingers but we will not let this happen. If you believe in Christ, if you believe in the Constitution and if believe in America, do not let this country fall.

UNKNOWN: Critical race theory in fact pits black people against white people and has an end game goal of restructuring America to an authoritarian regime.

UNKNOWN: You're teaching children to hate others because of their skin color, and you're forcing them to lie about other kids' gender. I am disgusted by your bigotry and your depravity.

CROWD: Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!


LEMON (on camera): OK. I've said this a million times. But critical race theory is not being taught in grade schools. It's not about hating white people, it's about studying the fact, that's right, the fact that systemic racism is part of American society and challenging the beliefs that allow it to continue to flourish.

Instead, the peddlers of lies are using it to stoke anger. And don't kid yourself. The simmering rage is everywhere, everywhere. Look, the entire two hours that I'm on the air tonight, I could give you example after example after example but here is one. Another, I should say.

Dr. Fauci has gotten death threats for trying to save Americans from a killer virus and anti-Semitism and anti-Asian hate flourishing.


UNKNOWN: In surveillance video released by the NYPD you see the vicious attack unfold. A woman whom authorities have identified as a 65-year-old Asian-American is pushed to the ground, her attacker kicking her in the head again and again. Police say the man allegedly yelled expletives at her saying you don't belong here.


LEMON (on camera): Jesus. It's hard to watch. It's hard to watch. And it shouldn't happen. And now the probably biggest example that we saw of anger exploding and that was on January 6th, bloodthirsty rioters storming the seat of our democracy trying to overturn our free and fair election. Lawmakers running for their lives as the rioters put up a gallows outside and chanted hang Mike Pence.


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


LEMON (on camera): The anger was everywhere that day.



UNKNOWN: Tell Pelosi we're coming for that (muted).

UNKNOWN: Fuck her.

UNKNOWN: No, no.

UNKNOWN: Tell (muted) Pelosi we're coming for her. UNKNOWN: Guys.


LEMON (on camera): So according to a criminal complaint, the FBI says a Pennsylvania woman sent a video to her children saying quote, "we were looking for Nancy to shoot her in the fragging brain but we didn't find her." That woman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor last week.

The anger on full display on one of the darkest days in the nation's history. Body cam footage showing one man following and taunting officers as they made their way through the mob shoving one and punching him in the head. Now, I have to tell you, we have not bleeped this language so you can see it and you can hear it as it really happened. Roll it.


UNKNOWN: Are you an American? Act like it.


UNKNOWN: You don't know what the fuck you're doing. You have no idea what the fuck you're doing. Don't forget that --


UNKNOWN: Not one idea. Talk to us, (Inaudible).

UNKNOWN: Get the fuck out of here.

UNKNOWN: No, don't tell (Inaudible) by the fuck of you, man. Take it easy. No, they work for us. Fuck that.


LEMON (on camera): Blue lives matter. Those are our fellow Americans attacking the capitol and the police defending it and they weren't foreign terrorists. OK. Fellow Americans. But we all saw what they did that day with our very own eyes. And yes, I know it is hard to watch this again and again. I know it.

But we can't pretend that it didn't happen and so many people are trying to sweep it under the rug, right? We can't allow it to be swept away, pretend it didn't happen. We can't forget what happened to police officers like Officer Michael Fanone trying to defend the United States capitol from rioters.


MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: At some point during the fighting, I was dragged from the line of officers and into the crowd. I heard someone scream. I got one as I was swarmed by a violent mob. They ripped off my badge. They grabbed and strip me of my radio. They seized ammunition that was secure to my body. They began to beat me with their fists in what's felt like hard metal

objects. At one point, I came face-to-face with an attacker who repeatedly lunged for me and attempted to remove my firearm. I heard chanting from some in the crowd, get his gun and kill him with his own gun.


LEMON (on camera): Fellow Americans, not foreign terrorists, domestic ones. Rioters in MAGA hats battling police.

It's a crying shame. The anger is still out there, everyone. It's all around us. It didn't disappear after January 6. The lies, the misinformation, all still out there and make no mistake, the threat is gathering again. The big lie is all about laying the groundwork for the next time. It's still out there. It's still out there.

And Facebook, well, it seems to have decided it is good for business, at least that's according to the whistleblower but what happens to America when they choose profit over public safety?


HAUGEN: People enjoy engaging with things that listen an emotional reaction and the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact, the more they consume.




LEMON (on camera): So, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifying on Capitol Hill tomorrow. CNN obtaining a copy of her prepared testimony. She is going to tell senators that she came forward, quote, "because I recognize a frightening truth. Almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook."

Haugen telling 60 Minutes that Facebook knows its platforms are used to spread hate and misinformation but she alleges the company hides that evidence.

I want to bring in Matthew Dowd, now is the candidate for lieutenant governor of Texas. He is the former chief strategists for President George W. Bush. Mike Isaac is here as well, technology correspondent for the New York Times.

Gentlemen, thank you so much. Good evening to you.

Matthew, you're up first. So, when you hear what this Facebook whistleblower is saying that they are choosing profit over safety, anger is good for business, what happens when the anger and the conspiracy theories and the misinformation are amplified on social media? What happens to our democracy? I think we kind of see it, right? MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:

Well, we definitely see it. I mean, we saw it unfold in a tragic way on January 6th where there is insurrection at the capitol which is when those two things merge. And one of the things I asked people to do today, let's keep that date in mind next January when we have a cause to remember it and what effect it had on democracy.

I mean, I think Facebook fundamentally, it's fascinating about Facebook was, its original design and the original promise of Facebook was two fundamental things. Was, it was going to allow us to connect better and it would unify people and unify communities and unify country and would bring us together. That was the one promise.

The other promise, it would have an ability to share facts and data and information so we could get closer to the truth so people would be more knowledgeable. In fact, it's had the opposite effect on both of those. There are less facts. People are less available to the truth and we're more divided and more divisive and it's used as a way to divide us instead of bring us together.

And I think that's the fundamental problem with Facebook is its original design was a good thing, the way it now is done has been the opposite of those two fundamental things.


LEMON: So, listen, before I get to it, I want to ask you then what should be -- what should it be regulated? Should there be some rules? Should they have to abide by the same rules as legacy or traditional media, Matthew?

DOWD: So, Don, you know, I've been -- I've thought about Facebook for a while and I've watched this and its negative effect that it's had in the country and I'm going to bring up the movie "Jurassic Park." Because I think it's equivalent about "Jurassic Park." And there is a line in "Jurassic Park" Ian the chaotician or whatever, that's talking to Hammond who runs it and he turns to him and said, you were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, you never pause to ask yourself whether or not you should.

LEMON: You should. Yes.

DOWD: And that I think is a real problem with Facebook. And it's had the same effect. They created a theme park and "Jurassic Park" and then people ended up having horrible damage, horrible destruction, horrible things that happened to it and so the idea was, we're going to have this great celebration and it turned out because they never asked themselves whether or not they should or the process for it.

And to me, that's where we are today. Facebook ought to be seriously regulated, it is a new source for a vast part of our country. It ought to be regulated in a way that like a newspaper is or cable news is, and that there should be some standard set on Facebook and all that.

Because if it continues the way it continues, we're going to have January 6th multiple, multiple times because people are getting lies and conspiracies and they're also being encouraged to do awful things.

LEMON: Well, listen, it's Facebook. That's a whistleblower, but Twitter is same thing. You can just spread misinformation on Twitter, as well and there are other social media sites that you can do it, as well.

Mike, same question to you, what do you think? We know what the whistleblower is saying. Right? What do you think?

MIKE ISAAC, TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT, New York TIMES: Yes, that's right. Well, first of all, I think that was Ian Malcolm, one of my favorite Jurassic lines. So I appreciate Matthew in booking that.

But, you know, I think it's interesting because I think Facebook has actually called for themselves to be regulated for the past year. It's also kind of like ploy of them knowing that regulation has to come. They have gone this long without being regulated.

But I think they're, you know, they're one of the highest spenders of lobbying in Washington as far as tech companies go. They want to try to create a type of regulation that is kind to them essentially. And there is a version of this where regulation might actually benefit them and maybe pull up the ladder behind them so some of the growth tricks that Facebook did on the way up, on its way to like becoming the behemoth that is might be difficult for other startups to replicate and to eventually surpass Facebook someday.

But at the same time, we live in a world where very few real digital regulations around how Facebook operates, how tech companies operate, even exist and these companies move so quickly, it's hard to even keep up with what should be regular -- what regulations should look like.

LEMON: So Mike, this is what -- look, I'm sure we can all figure it out because I'm sure people are -- there are many -- there are many people out there who don't want the regulation but I think the silent majority of people want to -- would want to -- regulate if they knew exactly what was happening.

Facebook is saying, Mike, the 60 Minutes interview and research presented doesn't tell the whole story. And vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg was on with my colleague Brian Stelter on Sunday and he offered a prebuttal to the whistleblower Frances Haugen. Watch this.


NICK CLEGG, VICE PRESIDENT FOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS, FACEBOOK: I think it would be too easy, surely, to suggest that with a tweak to an algorithm, somehow all the disfiguring polarization in U.S. politics would evaporate. I think it absolves people of asking themselves the harder questions about the historical, cultural, social and economic reasons that have led to the politics that we have in the U.S. today.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON (on camera): So, Mike, listen, there are real issues out there

our society needs to address. But how can Facebook distance themselves when their platform according to this whistleblower is essentially pouring gasoline on the fire?

ISAAC: I mean, I think gasoline on the fire is the exact sort of metaphor I'd use. You know, one excuse that Facebook likes to card out a lot of the time is we are a mirror to society. We don't tell people what to do. We don't sort of like -- we aren't the cause, the primary cause but they don't really have a response to the idea that they are an accelerant, you know.

I -- you and I might not like each other or might get into words if I see you on the street or something. But I'm not going to have you in my face every day or the week or whatever just because I'm on the street.

Facebook recognizes that in the past, at least, recognizes that when you're -- when you come up in my feed, I have a response whether that's a positive or negative response. I'm responding to it a lot more. And historically, it's been good for Facebook when I have that response when I come back to the feed.


So I think as far as them saying, you know, society has its own problems, that's absolutely correct but as far as like how much Facebook accelerates some of these different types of feuds and puts us in each other's faces even more, that's something they can't really defend against because that's the3 whole point of Facebook, to bring us together whether we like it or not.

LEMON: Yes, but also to the analogy that you said, I mean, if you get into an argument or whatever, that argument happens on the street. It doesn't -- it's not spread around the world to billions of people.

ISAAC: A hundred percent.

LEMON: Right?

ISAAC: A hundred percent.

LEMON: And so there should be some responsibility with that and you know, you don't have the possibility of that many people, you know, egging you on or calling you names or trying to goad you. Responsibility should be there, as well. But can we put this genie back in the bottle, Matthew, with, you know, 2.8 billion people around the world using Facebook a month?

DOWD: Well, I think one of the things we have to acknowledge, is there are a lot of people on Facebook that all they're doing is sharing birthday photos or some of them had a birth of a baby or they had a Christmas party and they want to share that. So, there's a lot of people doing that that is beneficial to stay connected to their families and their friends and all of that. I think we have to put the genie back in the bottle. I mean, we've

gone through times in our world history where technology and especially in communication has come on. We've solved problems with it and then we sought to either regulate it or figure out OK, we got to alleviate the negatives and we got to do things, public policy has to do things to fix the problem.

So Yes, the genie is out of the bottle in that people are socially connected but now government and leaders have to respond to it as they watch these fans -- the flames be fanned across the country. It's now their time. We got technology. We've seen it in practice. We know the problems and now leaders have to respond to that in a way that protects Americans.

LEMON: Gentlemen, I mean, I could have had this conversation the entire program but we have other news, big news as well. We'll continue the conversation some other time. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

ISAAC: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you.

DOWD: Thank you.

LEMON: President Biden warning about a potential catastrophic event with the economy if the debt ceiling isn't raised and he is blaming Republicans for refusing to cooperate.



LEMON (on camera): President Biden is calling out Republicans who are refusing to help raise the debt ceiling to avert a potential catastrophic, economic catastrophe, I should say.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Let's be clear, not only are Republicans refusing to do their job but threatening to use the power, their power to do prevent us from doing our job, saving the economy from a catastrophic event. I think quite frankly it's hypocritical, dangerous, and disgraceful.

Their obstruction and irresponsibility know absolutely no bounds, excuse me, especially as we're clawing our way out of this pandemic.


LEMON (on camera): So, if the debt ceiling is not raised, it could be the first time ever that the U.S. defaults on its debts.

Joining me now Brian Fallon, the press secretary for Hillary Clinton in 2016 presidential campaign. Brian, good evening to you.

Last time we were on big breaking news. I hope you don't. It's Monday. I could use the break. But thanks for joining us.

Listen, President Biden is hammering the GOP calling them disgraceful for not helping to raise the debt ceiling. But based on the GOP that you know, do they have any intention to take this possible economic catastrophe seriously or would they rather see Democrats fail and thus, meaning the country will fail, as well?

BRIAN FALLON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEMAND JUSTICE: Well, first of all, Don, what Joe Biden is saying is absolutely correct. What the Republicans are doing is risky, it's dangerous, it's completely irresponsible. Mitch McConnell is saying on the one hand that Democrats should have to raise the debt ceiling by themselves and Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden are saying OK, we're willing to do that.

Will you at least not filibuster the measure so that we could have a simple up or down vote. And if we have an up or down vote Democrats will provide the votes to get the debt ceiling lifted. And Mitch McConnell saying no, no, no, I'm going to filibuster it.

And so, the obvious solution here for the Democrats is to carve out a new exception to the filibuster rules and go nuclear for the sake of raising the debt ceiling. The question is whether the Democrats are going to do that or whether they're going to get back into a corner here by Mitch McConnell.

Mitch McConnell is saying he wants the Democrats to use this reconciliation process, the same process that they're using to pass the Biden Build Back Better economic agenda. They want them to use that same process to raise the debt ceiling. Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden don't want to do that for among other reasons it would take a lot of time.

Janet Yellen has said that the debt ceiling needs to be lifted to be lifted by October 18th. You have to hold all kinds of procedural votes to be able to do a debt ceiling increase in reconciliation. So, it's very risky to take up all that time on the clock. So, the Democrats are saying we're not going to do reconciliation. Mitch McConnell is saying that's the only way I'm going to let you do this.

When Mitch McConnell commits himself to something in writing, I think he tends to see it through. The Democrat strategy here is to try to ashamed the Republicans and to letting them raise the debt ceiling. This Republican Party is past the point of being shamable.

So, I worry that the Democrats are either going to have to use this reconciliation process cumbersome now it is, or else get the Maxie (Ph) and the political will among their own Democratic members to change the filibuster rules.


LEMON: I want to change the filibuster rules because Senator Chuck Schumer is setting up a vote on the debt ceiling later this week. But yet again, the filibuster is in the way here even though Democrats have the majority in the House and Senate. Are Democrats letting Republicans who are in the majority, who have the majority rule because they are refusing to get rid of it?

FALLON: Yes. So, on issue after issue, now this is becoming a theme. It's the debt ceiling. It's voting rights. It's the Build Back Better agenda. Democrats are trying to find ways to pass all these measures on simple party line votes and it's impossible under the Senate rules to pass all those things that they want to pass with just party line votes.

The simple and most straightforward solution here is to just finally have Joe Biden meet with the Democratic caucus, iron out a path to getting rid of the filibuster, at least carving out significant exceptions to it in order to take advantage of this limited time window that they have, the remaining time during this Congress where they could pass these things on a simple majority vote if they would simply get the political will to change the filibuster rules.

The Republicans, I mean, Mitch McConnell with the position he is taking on the debt ceiling could not be teeing this up any better for the Democrats to be able to go to the public very convincingly and say, hey look, they left us no option but to do this, take this step to change the filibuster rules.

And just think of how asinine this whole conversation is done. Mitch McConnell's position is that he will allow the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling through a 50-vote process if it's through reconciliation. Well, what is reconciliation? Reconciliation is already a process that is an exception to the filibuster.

Congress decided several decades ago the act of passing a budget every year is too important and too critical to the work of government to have it be subject to the filibuster. We're going to carve out a special process where you can pass a budget by a 50-vote standard.

So, there is already an exception that the filibuster that exists for passing the budget, surely passing a debt ceiling increase and preventing a default on U.S. -- on the U.S. economy cratering is just as important. They should have a similar exception for the debt ceiling.

LEMON: Brian Fallon, always a pleasure. Thank you, sir. I'll see you next time.

FALLON: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: A bronze-coated bust of George Floyd in New York City defaced in the middle of the day. And it's not the first time the artist sculpture has been vandalized.



LEMON (on camera): Police are now looking for this man, the man riding a skateboard splashing paint on the statue of George Floyd in broad daylight. OK. The vandalism taking place just days after the statue or the sculpture, I should say, along with depictions of the late Congressman John Lewis and Breonna Taylor made their debuts in New York City's Union Square.

So, joining me now is CNN political analyst and New York Times political reporter, Astead Herndorn. And Chris Carnabuci, he is the artist behind those sculptures. Chris, so glad to have you on. Astead, welcome back. You're always on. I appreciate both of you, gentlemen.


LEMON: So, Chris, I'm going to start with you. This isn't the first time a George Floyd artwork of yours has been vandalized. Are you surprised how brazen this was, though?

CARNABUCI: Not completely shocked. I guess I'm somewhat surprised that it occurred in daylight, but I'm not completely shocked. I mean, listen, I know that there is a diversity of opinion on George Floyd and I just think there are better ways to express oneself than to damage an object, which is of course, it has meaning beyond it's physical state. But it's an object and defacing it doesn't damage the message of the meaning. In fact, in this case, it amplified it.

LEMON: I agree.

CARNABUCI: It gave definition to the meaning.

LEMON: Agreed. I knew when, you know, when we talked about it and I first read about it and it was erected, I said wait, let's see how long before this is vandalized, and sure enough, it happened really quickly. It's been --


CARNABUCI: I thought maybe a few more days.

LEMON: Yes. Well, you know, as you say, though, I think it amplifies and shows the significance of the artwork. You know, it has been a year since tens of thousands of Americans came out to protest police violence. Are acts like this a sign of just how far we need to go, Chris?

CARNABUCI: Absolutely. I mean, it's a perfect illustration but what's remarkable about yesterday is when it did happen, of course, I was -- I had to do a double take because it happened before. You know, I walked that -- walked that road before. But I called up Confront Art which is the curator of the exhibit and Andrew Cohen and Lindsay Eshelman got right on the ball. They got their supplies and tools and went up to the site.

And all of a sudden, all these people came out and wanted to help and it became this spontaneous show of unity and community and, you know, they all just were there for several hours working to achieve a common goal and they did a beautiful job and the sculpture is now back in its pristine original condition. And I thought that was quite fitting, frankly.

LEMON: Well, I mean, let's talk a little bit more about this. Because you have said, I mean, that sort of what happened of what you want. You said that you want these sculptures to lead to civil discourse.


LEMON: What are you hoping that this bust inspires in people who see them?

CARNABUCI: Well, I think we're all going to have our own individual reaction, right? As, you know, art is a tool for interception. It's sort of a self-check tool. When we look at a work of art, we look within ourselves and find meaning.


It's a deeply unique and personal experience but also, art -- especially with this type of exhibit also offers an environment for as you said civil discourse where we can discuss our differences and hear each other out and maybe get to an understanding of each other's perspective.

And I think that's -- that's the important thing. I'm not imposing my opinions or my thoughts on anyone. I'm simply creating a venue for that type of discourse and I think, you know, that is at least a good start.

LEMON: Astead, I want to bring you in now, because you have some reporting about the New York City, the New York City Fire Department or the New York Fire Department but first, let me get your reaction to this and then we'll talk about that.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, I immediately thought about the sign down in Mississippi about Emmet Till, which I know that is consistently defaced. I think that does speak to what we are, you know, what we are up against in terms of those who do not want to see those expressions of black humanity, of black folks being their full shelves and what George Floyd has come to represent, which was that national call for racial justice.

In the same way that that sculpture represents those side, the defacing represents a community that does not want to see that and that has been consistent throughout, I think the history of this country.

So, I think it's a great point to mention the unity and community that came from it but all sides here are represented. The power of that sculpture, but also those who do not want to see that power expressed is purely what those protest were about last summer.

LEMON: So, let's get to your report. Thank you for that, Astead. Let's get to your reporting now and the New York Times, that the New York City Fire Department suspended nine firefighters for sharing racist memes and jokes about George Floyd's death. What types of things were they saying?

HERNDON: You know, it truly was shocking. We had memes that talk that gloated about how police could legally shoot black children. You had memes that showed George Floyd's final dying moments that made fun of those moments. You had a discussion in that group chat that discussed whether firefighters should use hoses against protesters and someone responded saying well, wild animals like water.

This was really the most explicit form of racism and bigotry that you can really talk about and while that represents the minority of officers in that department, what our reporting show was that it spoke to a larger issue you both had as department that has been so overwhelmingly white male for so many years had resisted recruiting black and brown firefighters to diversify and that has seeped within the culture.

So much, Don, that it was actually written in the handbooks. Our reporting also showed that in the management and supervisor training manual for the FDNY, it had written down that team building would suffer or be challenged when new members, minorities or women came into the department.

That's the definition of systemic racism that's actually written into the rule book and that has seeped into the culture. It was both true for those text messages and it's true for those experiences that we had talked about with those firefighters who are coming up against an engrained culture of whiteness and of bigotry.

LEMON: Yes. The FDNY said that this was some of the biggest disciplinary action that they have ever taken. Astead, Chris, thank you so much. I appreciate both of you joining us. And keep up the great work.

CARNABUCI: Thank you very much.

LEMON: Thank you.

HERNDON: Thank you.

LEMON: Tonight, the Texas state board of pardons and paroles voting to recommend a full posthumous pardon to George Floyd for his 2004 drug conviction. Floyd had lived in Houston and the district attorney of Harris County hails the board's decision, saying that she hopes it brings a measure of comfort to Floyd's family. The final decision on the pardon rests with Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema confronted by activists where she teaches at Arizona State University and they followed her into a bathroom.



LEMON (on camera): So, take this. And listen -- well, please, please, please, please. So, activists upset, making sure Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin know it, the two facing a flurry of frustration over their roles in holding up Biden's economic agenda.

In Arizona, Senator Sinema confronted by young protesters waiting outside a class she was teaching at Arizona State University, following her into the bathroom with their demands for action. Watch.


UNKNOWN: Senator, we want to talk to you real quick. Can we talk to you real quick?

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): Hi. Actually, I am heading out.

UNKNOWN: Right now, is a real moment that our people need in order for us to be able to talk about what's really happening. We need a build back better right now.

UNKNOWN: So that we can have justice and solutions that we need for immigration, labor, climate change.

UNKNOWN: Build back better, pass the bill!

CROWD: Build back better, pass the bill!


LEMON (on camera): OK. So, the full video has already been viewed more than 5.5 million times on Twitter. They succeeded in getting attention. They did. But what kind? When you violate someone's privacy, it blurs a line between activism and harassment. I'm not sure if it's even that blurry. It's harassment.

Senator Sinema saying today that, quote, "their behavior was not legitimate protests." President Biden and Senator Schumer both saying that the tactics cross the line. Whatever point these protesters want to make, very few arguments, if any, have been won by yelling at someone in a bathroom. OK?


It's also -- it also probably won't make the target more sympathetic to your cause. And if you're thinking, look, Don is defending a Democrat. I said the same thing when Tucker Carlson was accosted in a fishing store this summer. It was going too far then, and it is going too far now.

And the thing is there are a lot of Americans who do want Sinema and Manchin to support Biden's agenda. And there are so many great ways to protest and prove your point. But this, this is not it.

Only two weeks away from what could be an economic catastrophe. President Biden attacking Republicans for refusing to raise the debt ceiling.


LEMON (on camera): Tonight, President Biden slamming Republicans for refusing to join Democrats in raising the nation's debt ceiling, calling their actions hypocritical, dangerous, and disgraceful.

[22:59:58] Congress facing a deadline of October 18th, two weeks from tonight to increase the country's borrowing limit or the nation could default on its debt for the first time in history.