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Don Lemon Tonight

Federal Judge Issues Order Blocking Texas's 6-Week Abortion Ban; Senate Dems Indicate They Will Accept GOP Compromise, Allowing U.S. to Temporarily Avoid Economic Collapse; Deadline Looms For Trump Insiders To Cooperate With January 6 Probe; Law Enforcement Found Remnants Of Recently Used Campsite At Carlton Preserve In Search For Brian Laundrie; Body Camera Video Reveals Minneapolis Police Officers Talking About 'Hunting' People During Protests Over George Floyd's Murder; Dems And Republicans Battle Over Voting Rights Legislation; New HHS Vaccination Ads Use Real-Life Videos Shot By Unvaccinated People Seriously Ill From COVID; Virginia GOP Candidate For Governor Harnessing Conservatives' Anger Over What's Taught In Schools. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 06, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So here's the breaking news, a federal judge in Texas issuing an order late tonight, blocking the state's restrictive six-week abortion ban.

Also tonight, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell appearing to blink after repeatedly refusing to go along with Democrats in raising the debt ceiling just days before the U.S. government set to run out of money to pay its bills, now proposing potential options to avert default by passing an emergency debt limit extension into December.

And a source saying remnants of a recent campsite discovered in the Florida nature preserve where police are searching for Brian Laundrie.

I want to bring in now CNN's legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers. Jennifer, good evening to you. So let's talk about this Texas thing. This federal judge in Texas issuing an order tonight, blocking the state's six-week abortion ban after the Biden administration challenged it. Is it a big win? Can you quantify that way or classify that way?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a big win for now, Don, and it's really a big win for the women of Texas, who now will be able to, assuming that abortion providers will resume their services, obtain their constitutionally allowed abortion procedure. So it is a big win for women in Texas.

The problem is, of course, that the state of Texas has already indicated it will appeal this injunction to the Fifth Circuit, arguably the most conservative circuit in the nation in terms of the federal court, so we will have to see what the Fifth Circuit does. But for the moment, yes, a big win because the status quo of abortion rights in America is now back in place for the moment.

LEMON: Yeah. So, let's talk about the judges language in this when he made this ruling, incredibly strong, calling this a flagrantly unconstitutional law and an offensive deprivation of such an important right. How significant is that?

RODGERS: Well, it was blistering. I mean, really, Judge Pitman had no patients at all for what Texas has done here, which has really purposely written a law in order to evade the federal courts from testing that law's constitutionality.

I mean, he makes it perfectly plain. And this is what makes it so puzzling, that five of the nine, you know, supposedly the most brilliant legal minds in our nation on the Supreme Court couldn't figure out how to possibly issue an injunction here, well, Judge Pitman figured it out.

He just literally enjoyed everyone in the state of Texas, including everyone who worked from the courts, from accepting the lawsuits that S.B. 8 allows to be filed.

So, he had no patience at all for what the Supreme Court has done and no patience at all for what the legislators in Texas are trying to do, which is to not allow the federal courts to do their job of ensuring that all state laws are constitutional, according to our federal constitution.

LEMON: So there is unexpected appeal here. Do you think it will end up in the Supreme Court?

RODGERS: I think it will. I mean, there's a case in the Supreme Court this term out of Mississippi that will test the justices' appetite for overturning Roe v. Wade. So, if that's their goal, it may happen before this particular case out of Texas gets to them.

But I think where we are now on the injunction side before they get to the merits depends on what happens in the Fifth Circuit. But this may go up to the Supreme Court this term as well. And this injunction is really interesting because it does test this notion of how Texas is trying to evade review altogether.


RODGERS: So I think by the end of the Supreme Court term in June, we are going to know whether the justices are overturning Roe v. Wade and we may know how they view these shenanigans out of Texas as well which, by the way, has proven to be a copycat-type of situation where other states are looking to evade federal court review in the same way that Texas has here. So, it will be important for the court to speak on that point as well.

LEMON: Jennifer Rodgers, always a pleasure. Thank you so much.

I want to turn now to the latest on Capitol Hill with CNN White House correspondent John Harwood and senior political analyst Kirsten Powers. Good to both of you. John, Mitch McConnell finally offering Democrats an out to avoid the first default in U.S. history, but this debt ceiling mess is not over yet. Where do things stand on Capitol Hill tonight?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I have to say that what Mitch McConnell and the Republicans did today was good for the country, good for the economy, and good for the global economy to avert the rising risk of a crisis.

I've always thought in the situation that it was going to turn out okay because Mitch McConnell so a rational actor who understands the consequences of a debt default, as he does of things like government shutdowns, and he tries to avoid them because that's going to be down to the detriment of the Republican Party.

This is different from the situation, say, in 2011, when Barack Obama was president and House Republicans who took us to the brink of a crisis actually were convinced he needed to raise the debt limit. They were willing to take that risk. But this is a case where he stepped away from the brink. Democrats have not formally accepted the offer. They're trading paper back and forth.

But it seems that this has been resolved until December. Kick the can till December, but the signals that they sent today by backing away suggests that they're going to back away in December as well and we're not going to have a default.

LEMON: Kirsten, you know, this plan is clearly better than defaulting in 12 days. But, I mean, this debt isn't going anywhere. Isn't this all really an embarrassment and a waste of time?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's dysfunction and it's dysfunction with one party. And it's the Republicans that are creating this dysfunction. It's not a dysfunction that the Democrats really have any control over. And the money has already been spent.

So listening to Republicans say they're opposing this or have issues with raising the debt limit because they want to stop democratic spending when the spending has already been approved by Republicans, it's just, you know -- James Fallows (ph) is a journalist, you know, described the Republican Party, I think, today as nihilistic, which I think is the best way to describe them. They don't really seem to believe in anything, not even in the stability of the United States government in terms of funding.

So, this is sort of the Groundhog Day that seems to happen over and over again. But as John was saying, at least this time, there seems to be some of appreciation of what would happen if it wasn't funded.

LEMON: John, look, you know, it's not just a debt ceiling. I mean, the president's domestic agenda is still in jeopardy and his approval rating is hitting a new low, 38% in a Quinnipiac poll and 45% in CNN polls. How worried is the White House tonight or should they be?

HARWOOD: Well, sure, they're concerned. They know they've taken on water. The Quinnipiac poll is an outlier. The CNN average of polls, the 45%, looks more accurate when you take into account all the circumstances.

But there's been a series of developments that have been negative, that have taken Joe Biden after months of stability above 50%, down well below it. The Afghanistan pullout whether you agree with it or not created a very bad storyline for the administration. The resurgence of COVID due to the delta variant was a very bad story for the administration. It reversed some of the gains that they had achieved earlier this year.

So, it's of concern for the White House. But the two things that they need to do, the only two things that they can do that are effective are, one, try to get control the virus again and you're seeing increasing reliance on vaccine mandates, and pushing companies to mandate vaccines.

We heard from American airlines today along those lines. The federal government is on that as well. Cases and hospitalizations and deaths are now beginning to go down. So that's potentially positive.

But more importantly, they need to pass this agenda. And it does appear, even though there is continued bickering within the Democratic Party, they don't have the two holdout senators lined up yet. It does appear that they're on a path to getting a deal on the reconciliation bill, passing both elements of this agenda.


HARWOOD: And whether or not that moves his approval rating back to where it was, over 50%, I don't know, but that's the best they can do to try.

LEMON: So Kirsten, listen, also tonight, the former president is ridiculously claiming that the real insurrection was on Election Day, not January 6th. We know he's just trying to, you know, create chaos and misinform people, but what do you think he is trying to accomplish with this, both the lie about the COVID and election fraud?

POWERS: Just his continued, you know, sort of campaign to undermine democracy and undermine any trust in anything that happens in this country on to perpetrate a lie about what happened on January 6th.

It is just -- this is the test for people now. We see it showing up in polls, that basically the test is, are you a Republican, do you believe that Trump won the election, which he didn't.

It's the cult of Trump and he's just trying to keep that going. He doesn't have anything else. That's the thing. Nihilism really is the right word. There is nothing. There is no "there" there. There is no belief in anything, you know, except, I guess, Donald Trump. But even that, what does that even mean?

LEMON: Yeah. As we would say, Murphy's law, right, because we just let Jennifer go, and as luck would have it, we just got a statement from the White House regarding the Texas ruling tonight. I'll just read part of it. It's a statement from the press secretary, Jen Psaki, on the Texas S.B. 8 court ruling.

"Tonight's ruling is an important step forward towards restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas. S.B. 8 not only blatantly violates a right to safe and legal abortion established under Roe V. Wade, but it creates a scheme to allow private citizens to interfere with the right and to evade judicial review." And then it goes on. There is another paragraph after that.

But the White House releasing a statement tonight just shows you that they have got a lot of irons in the fire, they're juggling a lot of balls. I don't know how many other cliches, you know, I could use, but they've got a lot to deal with.

So that is coming just from the White House regarding what happened in Texas and the judge striking down, for the moment, the abortion law in Texas.

Thank you both. I appreciate it.

Now, I want to turn to former CIA officer, Evan McMullin. He is former Republican who just announced his run as an independent to challenge Republican Mile Lee in Utah Senate race next year. So, Evan, good evening to you on this very busy Wednesday hump night, whatever, however.

So I want to talk to you about the Senate run. But first, I had to get your take on this January 6 investigation. The deadline for Trump aides to turn over documents is tomorrow. But sources are telling CNN that the committee still hasn't been able to physically serve the subpoena to Dan Scavino, but he has been posting online the past few days. So, why can't they find him?

EVAN MCMULLIN, RUNNING FOR U.S. SENATE TO REPRESENT UTAH: Who knows? I would love to hear about his efforts to elude being served a subpoena. I mean, it is pretty ridiculous. But, look, clearly, he and his colleagues have something to hide. Otherwise, they would accept the subpoenas and appear before Congress and provide whatever information is requested of them.

And the American people need to have that information because we've got to be sure that something like January 6 never happens again. That was a true threat to our self-government. That's about as clear of a threat as you can possibly have, an outgoing administration that has lost an election orchestrating a violent mob to overturn the process that would assure them out. That is as about close to a coup as you get. And we just can't have that again.

So they ought to cooperate. The American people deserve to know what happened. And we've got to ensure that that's the case so that -- that we have an accountable government now and through the years to come.

LEMON: It is likely part of a stalling tactic by all of the key Trump aides. So, I mean, what should Democrats do to get them to cooperate? I mean, just because they can't serve them, does that make a difference? I don't know. But go on. MCMULLIN: Look, they should pursue whatever legal abilities they have. And it's not just the Democrats. There are Republicans cooperating in this effort. And that's great. And this is a bipartisan effort. It is a bipartisan investigation.

Adam Kinzinger is involved. Obviously, Liz Cheney, Denver Riggleman. These are true patriotic Republicans who are helping defend our democracy. And they're there along with the Democrats. So, this is a bipartisan patriotic effort to defend the republic and they ought to pursue any legal means that they have to cause these members of the past administration to provide information that they require, full stop.


LEMON: You know, Evan, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's new book, "Peril," details how Senator Mike Lee knew about Trump's attorney, John Eastman's plan, to try to overthrow the election. But instead of going public, he called the state legislators to see whether Republicans were sending alternate slates of delegates. Lee ultimately refused to go along. But do you see his actions as complicit in Trump's attack on our democracy?

MCMULLIN: Well, look, what I find most concerning about that is that he knew what the Trump administration, what Trump was trying to do, trying to overturn a legal election, a free and fair election, and he said nothing about it publicly.

I mean, if -- actually, he had been participating in Trump's spurious legal attacks on the results of the election, which went nowhere, as we all know, but Mike Lee was advising those. And then when he finally realized far too late, I guess, that this was a fraud, that Donald Trump's efforts were fraudulent, he did nothing about it. He said nothing. He said nothing.

In fact, after the January insurrection, January 6th insurrection, he said that Trump should be given a mulligan and then at some point thereafter went down to Mar-a-Lago with Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz and other far-right persons and raised money.

So, you know, it's not a good look. This isn't consistent with who we are in Utah. We shouldn't have a representative in the Senate or anywhere else, you know, looking after our interests and is going to behave that way.

And that's why we've announced a campaign to run against him. That's why I'm challenging him. And we invite everyone, Republicans, Democrats and independents to join us. They can do so at We have a real chance to beat Lee. He is vulnerable in Utah. He is not popular. I think that's the case because of some of these unfortunate decisions he has made that put our republic at risk.

LEMON: Look at that. You got the promotion and the website. You also got some very good points across. Thank you, Evan. We appreciate it. We will see you soon. Be well.

MCMULLIN: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you, too.

News tonight on the Gabby Petito case, law enforcement is finding remnants of a recently used campsite as they search for Gabby's fiancee, Brian Laundrie. And there is more. That's next.




LEMON (on camera): A big development tonight in the search for Brian Laundrie. A source is saying the remnants of a recent campsite have been found in the Florida nature preserve where law enforcement believes he may be hiding.

Laundrie disappeared more than three weeks ago. The lawyer for his parents now says that they believe he left to go hiking in the preserve a day earlier than they previously reported.

Also tonight, the parents of his fiancee, Gabby Petito, saying that they hope Laundrie is alive.


JOE PETITO, FATHER OF GABBY PETITO: You know I just hope he is found. I really do. Like I -- no, I mean, like alive.

NICOLE SCHMIDT, MOTHER OF GABBY PETITO: I want to look him in the eyes.

UNKNOWN: The more he runs, the more he hides, the less he can try to say it was a mistake or he had nothing to do with it.

PETITO: I want to see him in a jail cell for the rest of his life where he is an outdoorsman. Being in that concrete cell that he can't go see those trees and smell the fresh air like that.

UNKNOWN: He is an outdoorsman. That would in a cement box.


LEMON (on camera): It is amazing that they can sit there and do that interview. The strength that I am not sure I have. But there is a lot to discuss with Chris Swecker, former FBI assistant director for the Criminal Investigative Division.

Chris, we are going to talk about that. But wow, that family being able to speak so soon after finding out about their loved one to me is just amazing. The search -- good evening to you -- the search for Brian Laundrie appears to be ramping up. Today, we saw a larger police presence surrounding the Carlton Reserve as it's called. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office says that they were asked to help with the search. Does that tell you anything?

CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: I hate to say it, but not really, Don. They have to follow up on every lead, every possible credible lead. The fact that they are out there again just tells me that they got another lead, the campsite. They had to go out there and process it.

Everything that they do is in the public eye. I think sometimes we attach too much significance to it. That's not to say it isn't a good lead to follow up on. I just haven't heard any information that anything came out of that search of the campsite.

LEMON: CNN is learning from the Laundrie family attorney that Chris Laundrie, that's Brian's father, was asked -- has been asked to assist law enforcement in the search for his son in that Carlton Reserve. But after remnants of recently found campsite -- recently found campsite were found, I mean, they told -- I mean, what does that tell you? Does this campsite thing mean anything? Is this -- are we, you know --

SWECKER: Don, it's really hard to say without having some inside information. I can say this. The FBI's deafening silence in this case speaks volumes to me. I think they have credible leads that they are following up on and there are ones that we don't see in the public eye, the ones that are reliable, that ones that have been corroborated.

The fact that you didn't see the FBI out there with the evidence response team tells me that this was delegated to the local law enforcement. It's something they had to get out there and do and process. And I understand that the father said this is an area where he may have been hiking or has hiked in the past --

LEMON: But they rescinded that request, though. I mean, I wonder if that -- why -- you know, they said we want you to help in the search and they found the campsite things and then rescinded it. Are we just reading too much? Are people looking for every single thing, like, this is something or that's something?

SWECKER: This is such a public investigation. I think we're reading something into everything that happens.


SWECKER: The sighting on the Appalachian Trail, which I think, unfortunately, is not very credible. He has been sighted in the Bahamas, Canada, other states, Alabama, all throughout North Carolina.

I think the power of suggestion is very powerful. When you go out to the general public and ask for tips and leads, it is a two-edge sword. You get a lot of noise in the system. And frankly, it takes a long time to sort through all the leads that come in.

But it is significant going back to the Appalachian Trail sighting that the FBI took four days to get out and talk to that witness. That tells me that they are not really excited about that particular lead.

LEMON: And what about the car? Because police are confirming that the Laundrie family car was found abandoned outside the nature reserve on September 14th, which was the day his parents said that they last saw him. But his parents changed their story and now say September 13th was actually the last night that they saw him.

So, you know, now there is a timeline. Everyone -- you get -- you know, same question as before. Everyone is looking for something and, you know, what does it all mean now? We don't know.

SWECKER: Yeah, I have tried to piece together the timeline. Now, we learned that he flew -- Brian Laundrie flew back and forth from Utah or Wyoming and hung out in Florida, at his home, for a couple of days, right after the police stopped where, you know, there was that domestic violence incident that took place in Moab.

So the timeline, I think, is something that is going to be extremely critical in the actual homicide investigation. I have every confidence that he is going to get caught. I am really focused very much on the homicide investigation.

I'm waiting to see when he is going to be charged with homicide because I think it's pretty obvious he is driving her van, he is using her debit card, her debit card, doesn't report her missing, he flees as soon as it becomes public. So, it's pretty overwhelming there. It's going to be a circumstantial case. But I am watching that very closely.

LEMON: I think that is the key. When is he going to be charged? Very good question. Chris, thank you. See you soon.

SWECKER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: New body camera footage of Minneapolis police officers responding to protests in the days after George Floyd's death and it shows some officers talking about hunting civilians during the protests.




LEMON: Tonight, there is newly released police body camera video of Minneapolis police officers responding to unrest after George Floyd was murdered by an ex-officer last year. The video shows officers talking about hunting people as part of a response to quell the unrest and dropping F-bombs.

Let's get more on this developing story right now from CNN's Omar Jimenez. Omar, hello to you. Tell us more about what we're hearing on these videos.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yeah, Don. So this takes us back to May 30th, 2020. This is five days after George Floyd was murdered. Now, according to court documents, that night, this particular police unit was driving down Lake Street in Minneapolis clearing out people who were not adhering to the curfew with 40 millimeter non-lethal rounds. Now, those court documents show that after that was over, as part of a debriefing, Minneapolis police commander said this.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): That was a busy night.

BRUCE FOLKENS, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE COMMANDER (voice-over): What -- it's nice to hear for -- that we moved to -- tonight it was nice to hear. We're going to find some more people. Instead of chasing people around, we're going to hunt. You guys are out hunting people now and it's just a nice change of tempo.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yep (bleep).

FOLKENS: (Bleep) these people.


JIMENEZ (on camera): Now, for context, May 30th was maybe the most forceful response from police that we had seen up to that point, at least from our crews who are on the ground at the time. That had been after multiple nights in a row of buildings burning. That night, an 8:00 p.m. curfew had gone into effect.

By the way, this video comes from more than two hours of body camera video that was released, tied to the case of a man named Jaleel Stallings, who was recently acquitted on all charges, after firing a gun at officers who fired non-lethal weapons at him first.

And I asked the attorney why now, why have all this released? He said it was important for the public to see based on the assumptions that some people have about what law enforcement should be in this country, and he feels like this is viable insight during what was a very chaotic time in this country, Don.

LEMON: Omar Jimenez. Omar, thank you for your reporting. I appreciate that.

I want to bring in now Jelani Cobb, the staff writer for "The New Yorker," who is the author of "The Matter of Black Lives." Jelani, good evening to you. Thank you for appearing on the program.

When you hear this latest reporting from Omar, Minneapolis officers talking about hunting civilians in this body camera footage during the May 2020 protest, it is disturbing.

JELANI COBB, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Yeah, absolutely. It's absolutely disturbing. But it also not surprising, if that makes sense, because what we saw in the aftermath of George Floyd's death was the extent to which police did not know how to respond any other way than the manner in which they did.

We saw the incident in Buffalo with the elderly man being shoved to the ground and having brain swelling as a consequence of it. We saw the excessive use of force by police in Atlanta. We saw the police in New York City driving through protesters at a barricade.


COBB: And so we saw this time and time again. And so this is just an additional layer of evidence on the fact that we understood this to be the problem at the root of the protests in the first place.

LEMON: Yeah. A prominent theme, Jelani, in your new book, "The Matter of Black Lives," is policing. Are these videos the latest example of why policing needs to change in this country? I mean, you know, we saw what happened to George Floyd, as you said, but then we keep getting more evidence, more examples, other examples, example on top of example.

COBB: Sure. We're averaging in this country, you know, a thousand to 1,200 people who die at the hands of law enforcement each year. And that's just an astounding number. Some of this is, of course, related to the fact we don't want to do collectively anything to revise the relationship we have with firearms in society.

But nonetheless, we still have a form of policing that is just not justifiable. This level of violence is not justifiable on any possible way. And so it was interesting to -- I have written about this a good bit in the pages of "The New Yorker" and a lot of the work that we have though not all. We have a wide array of things in this collection. But it's a theme that people return to because policing is so central to this issue.

LEMON (on camera): The vice president talked about voting rights today with the Latino voting group. She also talked about voting restrictions with historically Black fraternities and sororities. I mean, this comes as a judiciary committee held another hearing on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. This is some of what we heard and then we will talk.


UNKNOWN: The state legislators and others are going to defame and diminish our democracy. We in the Congress have a duty to defend it.

UNKNOWN: This bill is a disaster. Why change what has worked for 240 years?

UNKNOWN: We know that John Lewis bill -- let me just step back -- will stop states with the history of racial discrimination from rolling back voting rights in the future.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): UNKNOWN: This bill is an assault on democracy. This is a power grab. It's cynical and it's wrong.


LEMON (on camera): You may not even want to respond to Ted Cruz, but I will ask anyway. A power grab and assault on our democracy. What do you say to that?

COBB: I'll just say that the math is off if you say that this has worked for 240 years. But only for 57 of those years have we had full enfranchisement of the population. That's the point. You know, we are talking about as if we have had full democracy since the outset of this country.

We're talking about last election saying the last election was rigged and there is no evidence that it was. But, you know, what was rigged? Every election we had prior to 1965 where we had entire swaths of the population who would be murdered if they attempted to vote.

And so that's the reason that we have -- the Voting Rights Act in the first place. And after the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated it, it made it more clear. What we have seen since then has made it more clear that we really need to have that law reinstated.

LEMON: Policing, there is an issue with that. That collapsed so far. We will see if somehow it gets back on the agenda there, voting rights. Is there any other hope for passing legislation on these critical issues to Black Americans and all Americans as long as the filibuster is in place?

COBB: It doesn't seem to be. It really doesn't seem to be. I hope that there is something that gets resolved, something that gets changed, particularly as it relates to senators Manchin and Sinema.

But the other part of this is that the midterm elections will be a bloodbath both because of the existing voter suppression laws that are in effect, and the fact that you will have an electorate that is demoralized, that will be looking at the democratic caucus and asking exactly what they did. It will be a good question. It will be a hard question to answer.

LEMON: Jelani, always a pleasure to have you on. You have to come back more often. I appreciate it. Just remember, this is his new book. It is called "The Matter of Black Lives." Again, our thanks to Jelani.

COBB: Thank you.

LEMON: The federal government taking a new approach to try to get people vaccinated for COVID and it involves new ads that use fear tactics.




LEMON (on camera): The federal government is hoping fear may convince unvaccinated Americans finally to finally get their shots. Check out these new ads from Health and Human Services using videos from unvaccinated people who seriously got ill with COVID.


AMANDA, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: I got COVID. I was intubated and in a coma for 11 days.

TERRELL, COVID-19 PATIENT: Been in the hospital for 76 days now. And by the grace of God, I am still here. It was a lot of dark times. I died three times. They gave me a 5% chance of living. We take advantage of, like, simple things in life, like going to the bathroom and brushing your teeth. I have trouble doing all that now, the aftereffects of COVID. I highly recommend everybody to get the vaccines and really protect themselves because this is no joke.


LEMON (on camera): Dr. Richard Besser joins me now. He is the former acting director of the CDC. Dr. Besser, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much. Good evening to you. What do you think of these new ads? Will scare tactics work? We have been hearing some unvaccinated people downplaying the illness or ridiculously claiming that those who got sick were just actors.

RICHARD BESSER, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR OF CDC: You know -- first, it's great to be here. You know, I used to believe the literature that said that scare tactics don't work.


BESSER: And then CDC put out a campaign around smoking called tips from former smokers and they tied it to quit lines and other support services. And they saw a big decline.

So I think if you put out ads like this and you tie it to improving the access people have to vaccines and pushing hard on that, I think there is a chance it could work. And I don't think that there is harm in trying. It is critically important we try and move the needle around people who haven't been vaccinated at all.

LEMON: Doctor, today, Canada issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for anyone 12 or older who wants to get on a train or plane. Testing will no longer be an option. Should the United States follow suit? Should we be doing the same sort of thing?

BESSER: Well, you know, I think it is worth considering. When you look at the impact we've been so far with mandates, where employers are putting in mandates, we are seeing people who are on the fence, people who weren't excited about getting vaccinated. But when it came down to going to work or doing the things they wanted to do, they are getting vaccinated.

The issue is that your decision around vaccination is not just a personal decision. If you decide not to get vaccinated, you are putting at risk those people around you.

And so when I think about the people who are working on the train, the train conductors, when I think about people on airplanes who may have gotten vaccinated but may have medical conditions that means the vaccine didn't work so well, or I think about the children who are sitting on the plane and we don't have vaccines for them yet, I think you can make a strong case for requiring vaccination if people want to fly.

LEMON: Let's talk more about children. You are a pediatrician. I have to ask about vaccines for children ages 5 to 11. We are still waiting on the FDA's decision. But polling shows that many parents may hold off on getting their kids a shot. You got a message for them?

BESSER: Well, you know, what I'm doing is -- I would say wait and see what the science shows, wait and see what the advisory commits show, and make your decision then. I'm holding off on that before I make a recommendation to my patients.

But I can tell you that I have real concern about the impact of COVID in children. We have over 600 children in America who have died from COVID. And that is absolutely tragic. We've seen thousands of children hospitalized with COVID during this latest wave. And that is absolutely tragic. And we see children who have developed long-term symptoms from COVID.

So, you know, while it's -- it gives me great hope that children -- because children are less likely to get severe disease or die, I would love to see a safe and effective vaccine. And if these committees show and the reviews show that these vaccines are safe and effective, it is very likely I would recommend it for my patients.

LEMON: Dr. Besser, I appreciate your time and your expertise. Thank you so much.

BESSER: Thank you. Great to be here.

LEMON: The race for governor in Virginia heating up and Republican Glenn Youngkin is latching on to the outrage about what is taught in schools to gin up conservative support.




LEMON: One of the most closely watched races this November is the Virginia governor's race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe versus Republican Glenn Youngkin, neck-in-neck. And Youngkin is swinging hard to the right, trying to harness conservative anger over masks and vaccine mandates, but especially about what's taught in schools.

Here's CNN's political correspondent Sara Murray.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Glenn Youngkin's campaign, it was a made-for-attack ads kind of moment.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, VIRGINIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I'm not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision.


MCAULIFFE: So, yeah, stop the bill that I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.

MURRAY (voice-over): Since that late September, Virginia gubernatorial debate, Youngkin, the Republican hopeful, harnessed that moment, launching a parents matter group, whipping up bumper stickers and yard signs and unveiling a barbed campaign ad that feels like it is playing every commercial break.

MCAULIFFE: I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Terry McAuliffe putting politics over parents, failing our kids.

MURRAY (voice-over): In a year when battles over returning to in- person learning, mask and vaccine mandates, and critical race theory are igniting the education debate, Virginia's latest fight erupted over reading materials in schools.

And Youngkin, who supports banning schools from teaching critical race theory and opposes vaccine and mask mandates, pounced.

YOUNGKIN: If you had any doubt, any doubt whatsoever about Terry McAuliffe's principles, he laid them bare last week when he said -- he said, parents do not have a right to be involved in their kids' education.

STEPHEN FARNSWORTH, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF MARY WASHINGTON: I think what Glenn Youngkin is doing here is trying to excite the base on the republican side. I don't know that this is going to change a lot of minds among those people who are not already in the republican or the democratic camps. I think it's more about trying to make sure that people who will support you if you turn out actually do so.

MURRAY (voice-over): In the days since the debate, Democrat Terry McAuliffe downplay the exchange, noted parents already play an active role in school districts, and escalated his attacks on Youngkin in an interview.

MCAULIFFE: I really get sick and tired of people like Glenn Youngkin and Donald Trump. They constantly are dividing people. They're constantly turning people against one another.


MCAULIFFE: And why are we doing this to our students? All we want to do is give them a quality education.

MURRAY (voice-over): Accusing Youngkin of using the debate to fuel unnecessary controversy about issues like critical race theory.

MCAULIFFE: They're desperate. This all goes back to critical race theory, which is not taught here in Virginia. And he's just -- it's a dog whistle. And I'm sick of it.

MURRAY (voice-over): And slamming Youngkin's opposition to mask and vaccine requirements in schools.

MCAULIFFE: What Glenn Youngkin is proposing is life threatening to children.

MURRAY (voice-over): But in the waning weeks of Virginia's tight race for governor, Youngkin is hoping a parents belong (ph) in schools message will invigorate his base and perhaps even reach beyond the conservative crowd to peel off some swing voters in a state President Joe Biden carried last year by 10 points.

YOUNGKIN: Virginia, we have an absolute right, a fundamental right to be engaged in our kid's education.

MURRAY (on camera): Even though Joe Biden won the state of Virginia by such a wide margin in 2020, neither of these candidate is sitting comfortably and you can tell the last few weeks of this race, it's going to be a bitter, hard fight until the very end. Don?


LEMON (on camera): Sara, thank you so much. And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.