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Don Lemon Tonight

COVID Cases In U.S. Not Slowing Down; Vaccine Are Being Pushed More By Health Experts; Democrats Not Happy With Sen. Joe Manchin; Louisiana Judge Under Fire For Using Racial Slurs; Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) Was Interviewed About What's The Stand Of President Biden's BBB Bill Among Their Own Party; Claudette Colvin Finally Free. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired December 16, 2021 - 22:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST (on camera): I have no beef with them sending that message. They just should have followed up in kind when they address it on their own television programs.

Thank you for watching. I'll be back tomorrow. DON LEMON TONIGHT starts right now.

UNKNOWN: Here we go.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. Thank you so much for joining us.

Look, I don't blame you if you feel like scrooge in the Grinch right now. The news on the COVID-19 pandemic getting worse by the day as the holiday season hits full effect right now.

I've been wearing this. I almost forgot to take my mask off to start the show. They had to remind me you have your mask on. Didn't we think that we were done with this?

Well, as we have seen time and time again COVID is not done with us, cases surging about 120,000 new cases per day. And let me say that again, nearly 120,000 new cases per day. That is a 40 percent jump over just last month. Most of them are the Delta variant, but Omicron is right on the heels. That variant is highly transmissible and it spreads a lot faster than the Delta variant.

Pay attention to this dire warning tonight about Omicron. It's from Michael Osterholm. You've seen him here on this program, one of the nation's leading infectious disease experts.


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICIES: I think we're really just about to experience a viral blizzard. If you look at what's happened in South Africa, you look at what's happened in Europe, I think in the next three to eight weeks we're going to see millions of Americans are going to be infected with this virus, and that will be overlaid on top of Delta. And we're not yet sure how exactly that is going to work out.


LEMON (on camera): Millions more infected with the virus, but will that lead to more hospitalizations, even deaths? Let's hope not. So far, the cases seem to be milder than even the Delta variant, the ones from Omicron.

President Joe Biden meeting with his COVID advisers this afternoon, issuing his own warning especially for the unvaccinated.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's here now, and it's spreading. And it's going to increase. For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for unvaccinated. For themselves, their families and the hospitals they'll soon overwhelm. But there's good news. If you're vaccinated and have your booster shot, you're protected from severe illness and death, period.


LEMON (on camera): A winter of severe illness and death. We have learned nothing in the nearly two years that we've been dealing with this pandemic. Have we learned nothing? It was exactly one year ago that the first person in the United States, a nurse in New York received the COVID vaccine outside of a clinical trial.

At that time the virus had already killed 300,000 Americans. Now a full year later 800,000 Americans are dead from COVID. And that number is rising every single day. On average, COVID is claiming 1,300 American lives each day. Tracking data from John Hopkins University confirms that daily number is higher now than it was last month.

Again, have we learned nothing? And still millions of eligible Americans refusing to get vaccinated. And we've got a big rush now to get those who did get vaccinated boosted. Dr. Anthony Fauci with a blunt warning.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The cases are going up. We have an average of about 117,000 cases. We have an increase in the percentage of hospitalizations. Deaths are still over 1,000.

And then you have looking over your shoulder the Omicron variant, which we know from what's going on in South Africa or in the U.K. is a highly transmissible virus.


LEMON (on camera): So, here's the bottom line. Get vaccinated, people. Wear a mask indoors. I mean, these simple protocols are all that we -- it's the only thing we're going to do to get COVID in control, get control of COVID. And remember, we can expect more and possibly more dangerous variants

to follow Delta and Omicron, right, if it keeps mutating, it keeps replicating because it's still out there because people won't get vaccinated. It's just a vicious cycle.

Also tonight, President Joe Biden throwing in the towel on getting the Build Back Better bill plan passed by the Christmas deadline, acknowledging he and Senator Joe Manchin, the hold out West Virginia Democrat, are still too far apart on what's in the bill and how to pay for it.

Saying he is determined to see Build Back Better become law next year and laying into Republicans for failing to help move the bill forward, basically calling them obstructionists. Except he's got a problem with his own party.


He and most Senate Democrats really wanted to get the bill passed before the Christmas break. Most but not all. Now, it's not going to happen. And some senators expressing anger and frustration with Joe Manchin refusing at this point to still get onboard.


UNKNOWN: What's the general feeling about where things stand -- are you frustrated?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Frustrated and disappointed.

UNKNOWN: At this point, is it time to start thinking about maybe breaking BBB into more digestible pieces?

DURBIN: I don't know if that's the answer or not. And apparently, Manchin's approach to this has changed a lot. I don't know where he is today or where he'll be tomorrow.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): We have one person or two people just stopped everything, and that is why people in our country should know that a 50-50 Senate sucks.


LEMON (on camera): Democrats heading home for the holidays without the president's biggest legislative priority. So is the strategy to change priority?


BIDEN: There's nothing domestically more important than voting rights, the single biggest issue.


LEMON (on camera): Well, that sounds good except Chuck Schumer admitting today that's also off the table for this year. No Build Back Better, no voting rights legislation, two big lumps of coal in Democratic stockings.

So the president issuing a sobering warning about the Omicron variant after meeting with his top COVID advisers today.

And joining me now Andy Slavitt, he is a former Biden White House senior advisor for COVID response and the author of "Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership, Failures, Politics and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response."

Thank you for joining us, Andy. How are you doing?


LEMON: It's good to be back. man. Look, I enjoy speaking to you, but under these circumstances I'd rather not if you know what I mean.

President Biden is warning of very serious illness and even death for unvaccinated Americans due to Omicron. And for the vaccinated he is saying get the booster. What's in store for this country?

SLAVITT: I think we're in store for a -- a very quick, very fast spreading and hopefully soon to be over wave that is going to overwhelm hospitals. And I think, you know, the good and the bad of this is if it goes up fast usually it goes down fast.

But for the health care workers, the hospitals, for people who are sick even mildly sick, even sick with things other than COVID, that represents a real danger and a real threat.

So, for people who are boosted I think they can unlike last year at this time when we felt a wave coming, we didn't have a tool that we could give all Americans. Today, we do. And so, for all of us individually we can feel very good that if we take advantage of the science, we're going to be in good shape. For the country as a whole this is going to be a very rough January.

LEMON: Andy, you are -- I'm sure you're looking at the models. You're hearing the sort of antidotal things that I'm hearing as well. People are saying, inside of my company, we have these many people test positive. We have this many people. We have this many people.

You don't necessarily see that in the news. And, you know, companies are being very quiet about the people who are becoming positive within their -- within their ranks.

Is this -- is this worse than we know about at this point? Is this everywhere, this Omicron -- especially Omicron and Delta?

SLAVITT: Well, it's more widespread. We don't know if it's worse. I think one of the biggest struggles is even if it's widespread and milder or not as severe, too many people are infected. Which means that even a smaller percentage of people go to the hospital, it will overwhelm hospitals.

So, it's probably you can look where it's tapping in. You're looking at the sports leagues. And there's a meeting today of all the sports leagues getting together and looking at the data, and, you know, it's pretty apparent from sports leagues from colleges looking what's happened with some of the colleges that have reporting information, they're spreading really rapidly.

But we don't know whether there are more people who are getting it asymptomatically or getting it in more mild forms because they have a prior infection or they have tease response from their vaccine.

So, we could see people who have some protection get it but just not get it as badly, and we can only hope that that's the case.

LEMON: So, what do you say to -- this is -- these are the conversations that people are having. I'm not -- I'm vaccinated. I'm boosted. I am __ I think everybody is going to eventually get it. I'm surprised that I haven't gotten it. If I do, I know I'm going to be OK.

But for me especially around the holidays it's a matter of convenience or inconvenience. I want to be able to go home and see my family. I want to be able to get on an airplane. I want to be able to take that trip overseas and not have a positive COVID test.

Do you understand what I'm saying? Is that -- is that the wrong attitude to have about this?


Because now it's the -- people who are -- especially the people who are vaccinated, the real concern is not getting sick and dying. Of course, they would not want to do that. The real concern is one of being inconvenienced and not being able to do things.

SLAVITT: Nobody wants to go through this again. I think people sacrificed in prior Christmases and Thanksgivings, and I don't think that people are going to do that this year. What I do hope people will avail themselves of the tools.

You know, we have rapid at home tests. We have booster shots. We have masks. We have the ability to do things outdoors. We have ventilation. So, all of these things, you know, if you can afford to take a rapid at home test, I would argue if you can afford to take a rapid at home tax -- test, take $10 out of your Christmas budget that you were going to buy for gifts this year and give everybody a test.

Then when they come over for Christmas you can have a great time and not worry about it. So, I like the fact we have tools now that can allow people to live their lives. But if they sit on the shelves, Don, and we don't use them -- if we don't get boosted, we don't use the at- home tests, then people are putting themselves at risks that they don't need to.

LEMON: What good are the at-home tests if you -- so let's just say that I come in contact with someone who is COVID-positive, right, and you are somehow exposed to it. You take a test a couple days later. That doesn't necessarily mean that you haven't -- that it shows up yet.

Or just because you test negative it doesn't mean on your way to the office or from the office of getting that test that you came in contact with someone who is COVID positive and -- is that a false sense of security?

Because I used to think, look, I'm in this restaurant and everybody is vaccinated and they have to show their cards. Everybody is putting on their mask when they get up and walking the table. But is all of that a false sense of security? I mean, I'm just, this is what people are wondering at home. People who were watching are wondering this.

SLAVITT: Well, look, there's no perfect indicator whether it's a booster shot or a test. But what the tests are good at doing, they're good at telling you whether or not you're infectious. Now whether you have a small trace of the virus that you get a day ago that you're still in your incubation period. But that's not irrelevant.

What it's good at telling you is whether or not you're likely to be infectious in carrying it around and they are going to spread it. So, taking that test in particular if you take it on top of other things gives you a lot more surety.

So, I wouldn't say that there's anyone sure fire thing. But I would say if you've been -- if you've taken an at-home test and it shows up negative, you can be pretty confident that you're not contagious.

LEMON: I want to talk about what's happening. You mentioned the sports leagues. I want to talk to you about that a little bit more, also what's happening on Broadway. Should we be gathering in large groups and also the CDC guidelines on quarantining if we have enough time.

I'm going to take a break and then we'll come back with Andy Slavitt. We'll be right back.



LEMON (on camera): Andy Slavitt is back. He's a former Biden White House senior advisor for COVID response. I'm so glad to have you back on.

So, let's talk about what's happening. Look, we -- you were meant to be in New York. My understanding is that you canceled your plans due to concerns of Omicron. Do people need to start changing their plans because of Omicron even if they are fully vaccinated and boosted, and I mean, especially now for the holidays where everybody travels?

SLAVITT: Things are changing fast. I mean, you know, it was only a week or two ago that you and I were sitting in a studio together. We probably wouldn't -- we probably wouldn't do that today or would be more cautious about doing that. And that's just a very short amount of time in the past. And yet, we were going to head to New York. We were going to see my

son. We were going to do some things in New York. And we decided, you know, we could afford not to do it. It wasn't worth it as much as we would have loved to have seen him.

So, I think people are going to have to reevaluate based upon the case count. You know, the odd thing is that cases are doubling every two to three days. You think about that. That means if you have 100,000 cases at Christmas, you have 400,000 by New Year's. So, it's almost like the human mind doesn't get -- wraparound something growing that rapidly.

And so, it's -- you've got to kind of play forward. And if you -- unless you are perfectly comfortable getting COVID or you're boosted and you're young and so forth, then it becomes a bit of a risk to travel because you're going to -- you're always playing into what is going to look like a couple days from now. And a couple days from now things are a lot worse than they are today.

LEMON: I want to put it up as you're talking about this. This is -- this is Omicron in the United States. It's gone from less than 1 percent to 3 percent of cases. If you look at New York, New Jersey it's jumped to 13 percent of cases.

So, here's the question. We've got these big -- obviously everyone's going to everyone's houses, right? You're going to be inside. But we also have these big celebrations that we have. The mayor of New York was on, the current mayor, the outgoing mayor was on a couple minutes ago with my colleague here.

He's saying they're still going to have to New Year's Eve thing in Times Square but everybody is vaccinated, what have you. You can still -- you can still get it if you're vaccinated, right? Should we be having these big events?

SLAVITT: Well, look, we have to adjust our mindset. Before Omicron two doses and you were vaccinated, your immunity was waning but at least you were vaccinated. You know, now think about it as the equivalent of losing a dose.

So, two doses now with Omicron is the equivalent of having had one dose. Three doses now is the equivalent of having had two doses before. So, everybody's risk has gone up a little bit. There's no world under which you wouldn't want to be boosted in this current climate because the difference between having boosted -- being boosted and having two doses right now is pretty significant.

So, you know, if you do that, I think you can feel good knowing that your risk of severe illness is much, much, much lower but you still might get infected. And I think that's the reality.


LEMON: Even an outside event?

SLAVITT: Well, we don't have data yet on the spread during outside events. It's much, much less likely. It'd be much more comfortable outside than inside. So, things happen. I think we'll learn, but I'm much more comfortable dining outdoors and doing things outdoors than I certainly would be indoors.

LEMON: What happened someone like me who is going from, you know, a fairly high vaccinated area, like 90 percent of New Yorkers have at least one shot to somewhere in Louisiana that's low vaccination rate. That's a concern for me. How concerned should everyone be? I think it stands at 50 percent in Louisiana.

SLAVITT: Yes. Well, look, the people unvaccinated in Louisiana will be at much, much higher risk than you will be. But you want to hope you or a loved one doesn't need to go to the hospital because the hospitals will likely be very, very busy and triaging quite a bit over the course of the next few weeks.

You know, you have -- so you're always going to be in better shape if you're vaccinated and you're boosted, but the people around you who aren't are at greater risk. And, you know, there's greater risk than ever that you'll get a mild case.

I think we can be confident given how healthy and in good shape you are that, you know, if you do get a case of COVID, it wouldn't be too serious. But you know, we never know. These cases can even the nonserious cases can be quite troubling as, you know, all of us know people who have gone through that.

LEMON: Hey, this is a lightning rod. I don't mean to get short trip to it. But what should we be concerned about with all the sports teams and Broadway shutting down shows or whatever? Talk to me about that, Andy.

SLAVITT: I think -- I think they're just in -- they're just in for kind of canceled games and so on. Hopefully it will be short-lived. You know, knock on wood we'll peak the third week in January and we'll be back at it after that.

LEMON: And what about the quarantining guidelines and isolation? Does that need to change from 10 days if you -- if you're asymptomatic?

SLAVITT: There's really no data on that yet to suggest that it has to. So, unless we hear otherwise, that's what I'd assume.

LEMON: Still 10 days?

SLAVITT: Yes, still 10 days.

LEMON: All right, thank you, Andy Slavitt. I appreciate it.

SLAVITT: You got it.

LEMON: All right. President Biden says it is the single most important issue facing the country right now. Congressman Jim Clyburn tells me if he thinks voting rights legislation can finally get passed in Congress.


LEMON (on camera): The President of the United States, Joe Biden, using a more urgent tone on the sacred right to vote.


BIDEN: There's nothing domestically more important than voting rights. It's the single biggest issue.


LEMON (on camera): Democrats turning to voting rights as President Biden's key legislation Build Back Better stalls in the Senate. Biden speaking with several key senators today trying to gain the support he'll need for this legislation to pass the deadlocked chamber. But whether or not Democrats can bypass the filibuster remains a major question.

Joining me now Democratic Congressman James Clyburn, the House majority whip. Congressman, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, thank you very much for having me.

LEMON: So, Republicans are working to restrict voting across the country, but even the White House is skeptical that voting rights will pass the Senate. Are you -- are your Senate colleagues dropping the ball here?

CLYBURN: Well, I don't think they're dropping the ball. I said that we're trying to deal with what we've got to deal with. The fact of the matter is you need 50 percent plus one in order for the bill to pass here to get rid of the filibuster or find a way to work around the filibuster. Other than that, you need 60 votes.

And we don't have with 50. How do you keep the 50? You've got to figure out whether or not you can get Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to agree to some kind of a work around. We haven't gotten there yet, but I wouldn't give up on it.

LEMON: But you are predicting that Republicans are going to get rid of the filibuster the moment that they can. Does the president need to make this priority number one because he's been really lukewarm at best on abolishing the filibuster?

CLYBURN: Well, the president as you know is the product of the Senate. He has a lot of friends there, and he doesn't want to do anything to disrupt what the Senate is going to do. I think it's up to the Democratic senators to decide whether or not they want to do this work around or leave themselves up to the creativity of Mitch McConnell when he gets to be -- if he gets to be the majority.

LEMON: Congressman, before we go, you have a very special day tomorrow. Listen, I'm so much -- I never went to my commencement, but you know, I got mine in the mail. But you were not able to march at your graduation in South Carolina State University, that was 60 years ago because you graduated in the winter time, but tomorrow President Biden is going to give a commencement speech at your alma mater and after all this time he's going to hand you your diploma. What is that going to feel like to you?


CLYBURN: It's going to feel great. And I think it's a good message for the students there. After 60 years I'll be coming back walking with them and getting my diploma from the President of the United States even though my state did not allow me to march when I grad -- when I finished.

And it's kind of interesting, but I think it'll be a good message for the students not to ever give up. And I will have the opportunity to say a few words myself, and I will use that issue to encourage them.

LEMON: I think you did OK after all these years. Thank you -- thank you, Congressman. I appreciate it. It's always a pleasure. Congratulations to you.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much. I appreciate you having me.

LEMON: Thank you. And President Biden acknowledging tonight that his Build Back Better bill will now be pushed into 2022 despite pledges to get it done before Christmas. Democrats have been voicing frustration all day that the bill isn't over the finish line and putting the blame on one senator. That's Joe Manchin.


UNKNOWN: What's your general feeling about things stand? Are you frustrated?

DURBIN: Frustrated and disappointed.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Manchin wants significant changes to this bill at this point. What is your message to him?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): We need to get this done. We have talked, we have talked, we have talked. It's time to put it on the floor.

HIRONO: You can have one person or two people just stop everything, and that is why people in our country should know that a 50-50 Senate sucks and we can't get things done.


LEMON (on camera): So, joining me now CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and Kirsten Powers. Good evening to you.

So here we go. I think we predicted this, but here we go. Kirsten, Senator Manchin is dismissing all this criticism. And this is what he said to CNN's Manu Raju tonight about to keep hard of the bill. Here it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: They're pressuring you to change your position on the child tax credit.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): No one pressures me. No one pressures me. I'm from West Virginia.

RAJU: Are you going to change your position on that?

MANCHIN: I've always been for the child tax credit.

RAJU: Yes, but the way it's in the bill, the one-year extension.

MANCHIN: I've always been for the child tax credit, always will be.


LEMON (on camera): So, he is for the child tax credit, but he has been saying all along that he had a problem with the price tag and the scope, so why are Democrats surprised that this isn't going anywhere?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Because the price tag has come down substantially. And at this point there is no reason for Joe Manchin to believe that this entire bill should be written to his specifications as if the only opinion that matters is his.

I think there's a real problem with this, that he really has this idea that it's whatever he wants is the way the bill should be. And there's been so many accommodations made for him that it's time for him to step up and make some accommodations of his own.

And honestly, at this point I think it would be better off if he just became an independent or a Republican and so that we can stop playing this game that, you know, that Joe Biden has these Democrats that he's not bringing around. Because there's just no reason to not support this bill if you're a Democrat.

And at least it would be very clarifying he could still be an independent and caucus with the Democrats when he wants to, but be very clarifying because he's not opposing this bill based on any issues, you know, that any Democrat wouldn't support. Moderate Democrats support this bill in the House. This is not about this being this wildly progressive bill. This is a perfectly mainstream bill.

LEMON: But isn't he, Kirsten, isn't he proving the progressives right because he said we're going to be duped because we're giving up all this stuff --


LEMON: -- it was a promise that this was supposed to be if they got one that they would get the other and they made all these concessions, and still Manchin is in the same place as he was or at least using a different excuse about why he's not supporting it.

POWERS: Yes, because I think there was this story line that was happening that somehow the progressives were the ones that were the problem or we're holding things up, when in fact they support Joe Biden's agenda.


POWERS: And so, it wasn't -- the people who were holding it up were Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. And Joe Manchin has continued to be highly problematic and using inflation as the excuse even though this is not an inflationary bill. The CBO score does not account for revenue that would come from tax enforcement.

And you, so I'm sorry, Joe Manchin, the world doesn't revolve around you. You know?

LEMON: Well, that's what I was going to say. Ron Brownstein, do you think he's just getting off on the attention and the power that he can hold up these bills? What do you make of this?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think the power. Look, I mean, near death experiences are common on big legislative fights. But even with that this has been a brutal 72 hours I think for Democrats. Because what it says is that after months of negotiation and cajoling and substantive concessions, as Kirsten was saying enormous substantive concessions to Manchin on this bill, as well as on voting rights bill, it appears that both he and Sinema on different fronts are willing -- still willing to sink the core of the Democratic agenda.


I mean there's a little bit of a catch-22 developing here where Sinema seems to have come around on the Build Back Better bill, but Manchin alone is saying that his view should prevail and that he is unwilling to do it. And that conversely reformers feel they are making some headway with Manchin on perhaps finding some adjustment to the filibuster that would allow them to pass voting rights, but Sinema is digging in against any change in the filibuster on voting rights.

So, on both fronts you have a single Democratic senator saying that their view should prevail over literally everyone else in the party in the House, the Senate, the White House, the governors, and that is just a unique and incredibly destructive environment.

LEMON: Even left leaning slate is out with a piece that says in part, caving to Manchin's demands will require Democrats to sacrifice some worthy parts of their agenda but it's time for them to buck up and do it lest they end up with nothing at all.

Do Democrats have any option here at all, Ron Brownstein? Do they have another option?

BROWNSTEIN: No, no. They do. The demands that Manchin are making now are just fundamentally incompatible. I mean, he is basically saying that the bill should be held to 1.57 trillion but any programs included in it should be funded over the full 10 years. Well, if you did the child tax credit that just about eats up the entire, you know, spending that he is willing to support at this point.

And so, yes, I mean, they are going to clearly, they are going to have to make some changes if they are going to get him onboard. But what he is asking for is essentially something that would blow up the entire Democratic coalition. And maybe that's why he's asking for it.

I mean, other Democratic senators have said to me that he has indicated privately that he is fine if this does not pass at all, but he does recognize that doing that would potentially, you know, sink Joe Biden's presidency. And he doesn't want to be responsible for that. And that means this really does come down to the president finding a way to move him.

But, again, this situation is remarkable. West Virginia ranks 44th, I believe, is the number in childhood poverty. It would benefit enormously for many of the provisions in this bill expanding health care access, the child tax credit, child care subsidies, universal pre-K.

And Manchin is choosing I think mostly for political reasons so he can look as though she's saying no to the left, to stand in the way of that.

LEMON: Yes. That's fairly obvious. Kirsten, did you want to say something?

POWERS: Well, I was going to say I think Ron raises just probably maybe the most important part of this, is that he's sinking Joe Biden's agenda. And you know, Joe Biden's success if you're a Democrat as he says he is, and I would even say for people who aren't necessarily Democrats but are concerned about democracy, it's an incredible -- causing incredible harm really to the country ultimately when you have one party that does not support democracy and you are willing to torpedo the agenda of the president --


LEMON: Well, it's not even that. It is that, but it's also because of -- listen, West Virginia is one state. And I understand he has constituents there. But he is holding up what is best for the greater good for the rest of the country because --

POWERS: Of course, it is.

LEMON: -- he's myopic about something that is happening --


BROWNSTEIN: And even for West Virginia, Don.

LEMON: Right.

POWERS: It's better for -- yes. BROWNSTEIN: I mean, West Virginia is on the front of the list of states that would benefit from many of these provisions.


POWERS: Right. It's better for West Virginia but what I'm saying is that -- what I'm saying, though, is he is -- by harming Biden he is in effect harming democracy.


BROWNSTEIN: Because there is no -- because Biden is really, you know, the only person at this point standing between, you know, us and everything falling apart in terms of the Republican Party having allegiance to -- you know, to Donald Trump and everything that they're doing with -- you know, that we've seen that's been coming out around the January 6th investigation.

And so, it has much bigger ramifications. I think those ramifications are big enough on their own, but they are even bigger than that.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

So, a Louisiana judge under fire after video surfaces showing her using racist slurs at her home. Now she is facing calls to resign.



LEMON (on camera): A Louisiana judge on unpaid leave and apologizing to her community after a video surface from her home where we can hear racial slurs being used. And tonight, growing calls for her resignation.

CNN's Ryan Young has the story. And I have to warn you, it contains offensive language.


UNKNOWN: Push (muted).

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A home video showing outdoor surveillance footage of an altercation with a burglary suspect.

UNKNOWN: They're like, hold up. Hold up.

YOUNG: We can't see their faces but the people who are watching and are heard commenting on the video at times using racist language.

UNKNOWN: And mom is yelling (muted).

YOUNG: The people who are watching the video are heard using the n- word over and over sometimes laughing, at one point saying the suspect was like a roach. UNKNOWN: You're like a roach.

YOUNG: It all took place at the home of Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet. It is unknown who recorded the video from the inside of the home or who is speaking and how it became public. Now Odinet is facing calls for her resignation.


YOUNG: Local advocate and activist Gary Chambers is among those calling on the judge to step down.

CHAMBERS: With this judge in the privacy of her home uses the n-word and refers to people as roaches. That's what she views certain people who come into her courtroom as, and therefore she cannot dispense justice equally.


YOUNG: Lafayette police say early Saturday morning two vehicles park on the home's driveway were broken into. The suspect tried fleeing but was caught and held down until officers arrived on the scene.

UNKNOWN: I'm the one that took him down.

YOUNG: Soon after the video became public Judge Odinet issued a statement to affiliate KATC saying in part, I was given a sedative at the time of the video. I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it. Anyone who knows me and my husband knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives. I am deeply sorry and ask for your forgiveness and understanding.

CHAMBERS: I don't know any medicine that makes you call somebody an n-word.

YOUNG: Odinet's lawyer telling local media she is now taking unpaid leave.

EDWARD JAMES, CHAIRMAN, LOUISIANA STATE LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS: I know that there are so many people that have said, she was in her private capacity. That matters not to me because a black robe does not hide what's obviously in her heart. And we all know what the entire country knows what she thinks about African-Americans at this point.

YOUNG: The chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus is calling for Odinet's immediate removal, and the local NAACP local chapter issued a statement saying in part, we call now for her immediate and uncompromising resignation. We demand swift and immediate act by the judiciary committee of the Louisiana Supreme Court removing her from office.

JAMES: We have requested from the Louisiana judiciary commission to place an ad hoc judge there. There's precedent. They've done it before when other racist judges have made comments. You know, I respect the due process, and I will allow for the judiciary commission to make their investigation and their findings. But if they don't, I'll be bringing them to the table here at the

legislature, because they have to come and answer to us anyway.


LEMON (on camera): Ryan Young joins me now. Ryan, thank you so much for joining us.

So, let's talk about. Judge Odinet was elected last year to a six-year term. I hear the governor tonight, John Bell Edwards, saying that she needs to resign. Who gets to decide if she keeps her job or not?

YOUNG: Well, you heard a lot of talk at the end of the piece about that commission. That judiciary commission will have a chance to review what exactly happened and they may be able to make a suggestion, too.

But, Don, one of the things that we didn't do in this piece and you listen to it -- when you go online and listen to it in the full. And of course, we don't want to play the n-word over and over again.


LEMON: Yes, I was wondering why be bleeped it so much. I think we should have played it. I wanted to, because I wanted people to hear the context, so what she did was just odious. But go ahead.

YOUNG: And I think that's part of the point here. If you listen to it in full and the first time, I heard it online as it was going viral you could just hear how comfortable everybody seemed making the comments and they were laughing and giggling about using the word, even calling the suspect a roach.

And that's what really stood out to a lot of people. The governor making his comments tonight that maybe she should step down. But one of the things that stood out about the governor's comments, he said, any time an African-American would be in her courtroom there would be obviously somebody who could say maybe she should not be involved in this case because after she displayed this sort of language in her own household, how could someone get a fair trial?

So, all these questions are being brought into the process at this point. And if you think about it, if you're African-American facing someone in court and she is the judge you may ask and say, well how is this fair considering the language that was used in that home?

LEMON: But she's saying that she used a sedative and she doesn't remember doing it. But the reason she took the sedative was because she was so upset by it. Because so she would have made those remarks before she took the sedative, so her excuse doesn't appear to even make any sense.

YOUNG: Right. And if you think about it, Don, and you've listened to this audio a few times. If you'd listen to the inflection in her voice it didn't sound like anybody was in fear in that video. It sounded like there was a lot of joy and laughter during that video. It really stood out in terms of how cavalier people were with throwing

the n-word around over and over again. And when you listen to it in its entirety it kind of shocks you just how comfortable everybody was inside that video.

LEMON: Well, it's going to be interesting, Ryan, and correct me if I'm wrong. I think people who have had cases before her asking them to go back and review those cases because they think that if they're -- if she's going to have a case come, they want her to recuse herself but also, they want her to look at her old cases because they're saying that she cannot be impartial because of the language that she used about black people.

YOUNG: Right. You think about this. It's a slippery slope on all the cases that we have in that area in that state. You know people are looking at that state under a microscope for a bunch of other cases. But now you have a judge who might have been putting sentences on people, and the idea that someone would be called a roach and the n- word in the same sentence. There's a lot of questions going on at this point.

You can understand why someone who is wearing a robe who is considered sort of at the height of justice would be looked at under a microscope after the words that were used on that video.

LEMON: Someone who's part of the judiciary should hold themselves to a very high standard. Thank you so much for that piece. I appreciate that, Ryan.

YOUNG: Thank you.

LEMON: She defied Jim Crow when she was 15 and she paid the price. Now Claudette Colvin is getting vindication for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger 66 years ago.



LEMON (on camera): Take this. Some long overdue justice finally coming. If you don't know the name Claudette Colvin, you should. She was only 15 years old, 15 when in 1955 she refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on an Alabama bus.

It wasn't until later that year that Rosa Parks was arrested on a different Montgomery bus. The teenage Colvin was charged with defying the city's segregation laws and assaulting an officer, eventually being placed on, quote, "indefinite probation," a probation that her lawyers say she was never told had ended.


And tonight, 66 years later, the now 82-year-old Colvin's juvenile records have been expunged, sealed and destroyed following a judge's ruling.


CLAUDETTE COLVIN, NURSE: I guess you could say that now I'm no longer -- I'm no longer a juvenile delinquent. My mindset was on freedom.

UNKNOWN: All right.

COLVIN: And my mindset was on the hero, the women, especially the women, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. So, I was not willing to move that day.

UNKNOWN: All right.

COLVIN: I told them that history had me glued to the seat. You just have to inspire the people that you know to keep on pushing and keep the struggle going because it is not over.


LEMON (on camera): And she is right. It's more and more clear that the fight for civil rights that she and so many other brave Black Americans began is not over. Congratulations, Ms. Colvin, and thank you for what you've done. Thank you for your sacrifices.

The Omicron coronavirus variant spreading across the U.S., President Biden warning unvaccinated Americans be prepared for a winter of severe illness and death.