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Don Lemon Tonight
Senator Reid Dies At 82; NFL Legend John Madden Died At 85; COVID-19 Cases Keep Rising Every Day; Stacey Abrams Fighting For Democracy; Orellana-Peralta Family Want Justice And Transparency. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 28, 2021 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST (on camera): I talked about this with Zeke Emanuel. More than 11,000 voted 89 percent said yes, pretty decisive. Only 11 percent said no.
Wish we had more time for more social media, but I'm up against the clock and I want to hand things over instead for DON LEMON TONIGHT. My friend Laura Coates sitting in. Hi, Laura.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Hey, Michael. Another fascinating show. I'm glad to see you.
SMERCONISH: Nice to see you. Have a great program.
COATES: Thank you. You take care, and happy New Year.
SMERCONISH: You, too.
COATES: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm Laura Coates in for Don lemon.
And we have breaking news. Two giants died tonight, long-time Senator and Democratic leader Harry Reid and legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden.
Harry Reid, the scrappy, former Democratic Senate leader who spearheaded epic legislative battles through three decades in Congress dying at the age of 82. His wife Landra Reid said he passed peacefully this afternoon following a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
Former President Barack Obama sharing a letter he wrote to Harry Reid ahead of his passing with this quote, "I wouldn't have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn't have gotten most of what I got done without your skill and determination. Most of all, you've been a good friend. As different as we are, I think we both saw something of ourselves in each other, a couple of outsiders who had defied the odds and knew how to take a punch and cared about the little guy. And you know what? We made for a pretty good team."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeting tonight about the long- time Democratic leader and perhaps not surprisingly one-time middleweight amateur boxer, saying Harry Reid was one of the most amazing individuals I'd ever met, he never forgot where he came from and used those boxing instincts to fearlessly fight for those who were hurting, the poor and the middle class. He's gone but will walk by the sides of many of us in the Senate every day.
Also tonight, the news that Hall of Fame coach turned broadcaster John Madden has died unexpectedly at the age of 85. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell saying nobody loved football more than coach. He was football. There will never be another John Madden and we'll forever be indebted to him for all he to make football and the NFL in what it is today.
And 10 seasons coaching the Raiders the team had no losing seasons. And John Madden led Oakland to the playoffs eight times. Madden covered 11 Super Bowls for four networks from 1979 to 2009 and we've got a lot more on this in a moment.
But I want to begin with Dana Bash on the life and times of Harry Reid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He led Democrats in the Senate for a decade but Harry Reid called one of his proudest accomplishments the impact he had on presidential history, encouraging Barack Obama to run.
FMR. SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): I did call him into my office and tell him he should take a look at it. He was stunned because I was the first one who had suggested that to him. When he was re-elected, that was one of the most moving phone calls I've ever received because he said you're the reason I'm here.
BASH: He spearheaded epic legislative battles like Obamacare with the scrappy style he learned during his impoverish childhood. Reid was born, shaped, and scarred in Searchlight, Nevada, essentially a truck stop outside Las Vegas. He grew up in a shack with no running water where this trailer now sits. He took us there in 2006.
His mother did laundry for the local brothels, his dad always looking for work as a miner. Both drank heavily. During that 2006 visit to Searchlight, he casually pointed out where his father took his own life at 58 years old.
REID: This house right here, that last room is a bedroom. That's where he killed himself.
BASH: He fought his way out of poverty as a boxer. As a politician, he was never afraid to punch below the belt. He even took on the mob as a young politician in Las Vegas.
A wide variety of adjectives have been written about you.
REID: Some good, some bad.
BASH: They describe you -- some good, some bad. Let me just read a few. Scrappy, tough, blunt, canny behind the scenes, mastermind, ruthless. Are all those fair?
REID: Well, if that's what people think, that's what they think. They're entitled to their opinion.
BASH: As Senate Democratic leader, Reid was a polarizing figure. Republicans argued a lot of congressional gridlocks stem from his hard ball tactics.
REID: Seeing the turning of the tide --
BASH: But he reveled in playing the political bad guy calling then President George W. Bush a loser and a liar well before politicians used those l words.
REID: I don't really care. I don't want to be somebody I'm not.
BASH: During the Trump presidency however, Reid changed his tune about Bush.
REID: In hindsight, I wish every day for a George Bush again. I think that he and I had our differences but no one ever questioned his patriotism. There's no question in my mind that George Bush would be Babe Ruth in this league that he's in with Donald Trump. Donald trump wouldn't make the team.
BASH: In 2012 he used the Senate floor to accuse Mitt Romney of not paying his taxes, even though he had no evidence.
REID: He's refused to release his tax returns as we know. Let him prove he has paid taxes because he hasn't.
No, I don't regret that at all.
BASH: Some people have even called it McCarthyite.
REID: Well, they can call it whatever they want. Romney didn't win, did he?
BASH: Years later, Reid did ask to meet with Romney to make amends.
REID: Shook hands but stop behind us.
BASH: Why was it so important for you to tie up that loose end?
REID: I tried to do that with everybody.
BASH: Reid also inspired fierce loyalty from many of his long-time aides as well as fellow senators. Not all out of fear but affection. He often told colleagues he loved them, even in public.
REID: I love you, John Kerry.
BASH: He had a story book romance with wife Landra, his high school sweetheart. The two converted to Mormonism together when they married. REID: She had a pair of Levi's and I said, ma'am, you just look so
BASH: That's amazing.
REID: That is true.
BASH: In January 2015, Reid, a workout addict, who ran numerous marathons, had a brutal exercise accident that left him severely bruised and blind in one eye. It cemented his decision to retire. A few years later he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The effects of chemo made it hard for him to walk. We went to see him in Las Vegas.
REID: That's one of my keepsakes from Donald Trump.
BASH: Never any complaints.
REID: I'm doing fine. I'm busy. I work quite hard.
BASH: Reid was an unlikely political leader in today's media age, soft spoken and gaffe prone but he played the inside game like no one could.
REID: I didn't make it in life because my ethnic prowess, I didn't make it because of my good looks, I didn't make it because I'm a genius. I made it because I worked hard. One of the things that I hope that people look back at me and say if Harry Reid could make it, I can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES (on camera): I want to bring in CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali and senior political analyst David Gergen now to talk about these issues.
I want to begin with you first, if I can, Tim. It's good to see you. I'm happy that you're here to help contextualize. I always look forward to your insight on issues like this.
And as you know, former President Obama said he would not have been president had it not been for Reid's encouragement and support. That's quite a statement to make of a former president of the United States. What was the impact of Harry Reid on American politics?
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, Harry Reid will be remembered and he'll be debated about because Harry Reid was extremely successful and effective at a period of high partisanship in Congress, a period that continues. And there are many who will argue that he went too far in using the nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster for judicial appointments other than the Supreme Court.
What is absolutely clear and I think is beyond debate is that it was essential for Barack Obama to have Harry Reid as a partner during the debate over the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare would not have happened without the legislative wizardry of Harry Reid. And Barack Obama is not the only president to have benefited from
Harry Reid. George W. Bush and there is no love lost between those men, George W. Bush and Harry Reid worked together to deal with the Great Recession. It was a Democratic Congress that passed the Bush administration's approach to the Great Recession and Harry Reid was there doing what he felt was necessary for the nation at a very difficult time.
COATES: I want to bring in David here as well to get your perspective as well. David, I mean, Obama made the point that they made a good team, as Tim was talking about, and that he wouldn't have gotten most of what he accomplished without Reid. Tell me about that, I mean, the economic stimulus, Obamacare. He pushed a lot through the Senate, right?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Those are Harry Reid's finest hours. Yes, he was very good during that period of time. You know, Obama was new to the presidency and he was kind of, he needed someone like Reid in effect to mentor him to be help him along, to help him navigate the very, you know, the complexities of the Senate and the House.
He did very, very well with that and I think Harry Reid will always be remembered as a father of Obamacare. At the same time, one can't ignore the other side of the ledger and that is did he show wisdom, was he helpful or not with regard to the filibuster, which is part of today's controversy.
He used a nuclear option as we called it at that time to blow up the filibuster and especially for people who were appointees of the president or appointees to the courts. And what that has done and one of the reasons it's so controversial for Joe Biden now is it violates a lot of the views of what the founders believed and that is that power -- if you are weren't careful, power could accumulate and all three branches of government, all three controlled by the same, in effect, by the same party.
And it was -- Adam said that would be the very definition of tyranny, to have all power in the three branches of government. The filibuster prevented that and it's coming back now. And it may help Biden, I think he's going to (Inaudible) for something and it may help Biden in big ways on some things.
But just as (Inaudible) Harry Reid way back when he got rid of the filibuster, you're going to come to regret it. We have three conservative justices might not be on the court had it not been for the demolition of the filibuster.
COATES: That is an interesting point. Of course, the filibuster is still being heavily debated as we speak right now. Of course, the Senate did make exceptions to it as the reason to raise the debt ceiling. So, it can be done for certain things that are actually in the interest of the United States as well. But I want to read what former President Clinton had to say, because
he released a statement as well, gentlemen. Writing in part, he was a canny and tough negotiator who was never afraid to make an unpopular decision if it meant getting something done that was right for the country. We will likely never see another public servant quite like him in personality, command of strategy and tactics and assuredness in marching to the beat of his own drum.
I mean, he was, as you laid out, Tim, a controversial figure, a boxer, who was all about his constituents in Nevada, he never forgot where he came from at all. That was very, very near and dear to his heart, even to the end.
NAFTALI: Absolutely. And look, he had very sharp shoulders. He was stubborn and tough and he wanted to get the job done. And as David mentioned, he used an approach in 2013 that arguably opened the door to Mitch McConnell's decision in 2017 to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. And of course, as David mentioned, that helped put three conservatives on the court.
COATES: And so, did Mitch McConnell, by refusing to give even a confirmation hearing of at least one person. So, we can't leave him out of the equation in terms of what led up to having three actual Supreme Court nominees all being confirmed when one was under a former president.
David, I want to turn to you. Because, you know, President Biden is struggling to pass his legislation, a lot of his initiatives. I mean, Congress of course looks very different now with Democrats holding these very slim majorities. But what are the lessons for the Biden administration and how Reid operated. Could they use a Reid now or are there lessons learned?
GERGEN: I think they could use some of the toughness of Harry Reid. He, you know, he came as this boxer as we're talking about and he brought the boxing right into the political ring. And he didn't mind being very pugnacious about getting the way and he held sway as a result of that.
But you know, he left in the wake these very, very tough decisions with Biden now, with Biden having the enormous pressure coming from his left, mostly from the progressives to get rid of the filibuster so that they can get some things done.
The Democrats are being blocked now, even though they have a slight majority, they're being blocked by the filibuster and there's a real push on for the voting rights bill and the Democrats almost unanimously support the restoration or the protection of voting in the country, and yet it may not happen unless you get rid -- unless you get of the filibuster.
You get rid of the filibuster long term. You may invite the very problems we're seeing now that Mitch McConnell cleverly identified way back when. It's not just the three on the Supreme Court. There were a rash of judges appointed by Trump where he was for years and they would not have been there had the filibuster existed. [22:14:58]
COATES: This federal bunch that the article III court. And I'll talk to Stacey Abrams later in the show and get her take on the filibuster as well.
But David, I want to stick with you for a second. You also heard Dana present Reid with how people described him, scrappy, tough, blunt, mastermind, ruthless. He didn't dispute it, did he?
GERGEN: He was. He was. He was all those things. And I think people were always taken aback by it. He was not a big, muscular guy. He was somewhat slight as an individual but he was tough as nail underneath. He had a caring side. He had an empathic side. He was loyal to people, he was loyal to his friend, he was certainly loyal to Searchlight, a little tiny little place that he came from.
And he was proud coming from Searchlight and coming up in the way he did. but at the same time, he's a -- you can't deal with Harry Reid without seeing there was a complexity there that is really, really striking, many good things accomplished, some things that are really, really questionable now.
COATES: David, Tim, thank you both.
GERGEN: Thank you.
COATES: Interesting to speak to both of you and give us the context on all of these things. I appreciate it. He will be debated but his legacy certainly one that is enviable to so many. Thank you.
GERGEN: Thank you.
COATES: You know, another legend passing away today. We're talking about NFL player, coach and broadcaster John Madden, who has unexpectedly died at the age of 85. Stay with us.
COATES (on camera): Breaking news. NFL legend John Madden died unexpectedly today at the age of 85. As a coach and broadcaster, Madden was known as a larger-than-life figure in football for decades.
CNN's Andy Scholes has a look at his remarkable career.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MADDEN, FORMER NFL COACH: I have never worked a day in my life. I went from player to coach to a broadcaster and I am the luckiest guy in the world.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Super Bowl winning coach, pioneer winning broadcaster, video game icon, a larger-than-life personality, John Madden was by any definition a true original. During his 30-year broadcasting careers, Madden was widely considered the voice of the National Football League.
MADDEN: You have to attack them with the passion, you have to attack them deep with the past.
SCHOLES: His passionate way of calling game with unique catch phrases --
MADDEN: The packers came out, it was boom, and they got 10 points.
SCHOLES: -- and his love for using a elastrator helped explain the game to hard core and casual fans across America. He called NFL game for all four major networks announcing 11 Super Bowls and earning 16 sports Emmys during his time in the broadcast booth.
Madden's playing career was short lived, he was drafted in 1958 by the Philadelphia Eagles but a knee injury cut it all short. That's when he decided to tried his hand at coaching, eventually becoming the youngest head coach in professional football history at the age of 33. In 1977, he led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl victory and still, the franchise's all-time wins leader.
Madden was inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame for his coaching career in 2006.
MADDEN: Boom! Go fight with Tinactin.
SCHOLES: Madden was a television advertiser's dream becoming the pitch man for numerous brands.
MADDEN: Let me tell you, Ace is the place for me.
SCHOLES: In 1988, Madden entered the video game world lending his voice and name to what's now called Madden NFL.
MADDEN: Anything that goes that far that fast ought to have dinner and an inflight movie.
SCHOLES: His video game is still the most popular video football game ever, selling more than 100 million copies worldwide. Whether it was his videogame, his broadcasting career, or his Hall of Fame coach, his passion for the game is what will always be remembered.
MADDEN: Some of us think maybe we will be immortal, that we'll live forever. But when you really think about it, we're not going to be. But I say this through this bust with these guys in that hall, we will be forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES (on camera): Joining me now Bomani Jones, he is a sports journalist and the host of The Right Time with Bomani Jones. Bomani, it's good to see you. I've been following your Twitter feed this evening and seeing just the impact that he has made.
And one thing you said was it's a reason people of generation, of our generation frankly don't appreciate any other color commentator in football. Tell me what John Madden meant to football.
BOMANI JONES, HOST, ESPN: So, I think the most interesting thing about Madden, you look at this from top to bottom from his coaching career all the way through and even with the advertising stuff that you saw the Tinactin and all those things, that he was a regular dude. Right?
There was a very approachable quality to him where football coaches now are much more slick CEO types and ultimately very boring. You never said that about Madden. But there was something really tangible and approachable about him.
So, if you go back and look at him in his coaching days he like the short-sleeve dressed shirt and a tie. He looked like almost Dan Conner from Roseanne going to work except he was coaching one of the best football teams there was. Then he becomes a broadcaster. And the way that he approaches he was so much like a teacher where he really enjoyed what he was talking about and always explained it in a very digestible way that was never intended to show you how much he knew as much as how much you could learn and then pick up from it.
Like the video game to me, when you start talking about him, that's like Jimmy Dean on the sausage almost. Right? That's a very secondary part of what he was before a significant portion of time for a lot of people, especially those of us who grew up at the tail end of Madden (Inaudible) era in this country, you look at John Madden, really as almost like somebody you knew because he approaches everything like you would hope somebody you knew would approach you.
COATES: It's true. And when you heard him do commentary, you didn't get the feeling of saying I wanted to hear the game, you wanted to hear his insight, you wanted to hear him add on. You relied to it, he smiles. He was also, as you mentioned, he was the head NFL coach at just the age of 32. I mean, explain how just big of a deal that is, 32 years old, a head coach in the NFL?
JONES: Well, not just 32 but I know at the time that he retired he had the highest winning percentage of any head coach. Like the Raiders were one of the marquee franchises at the NFL for the 1970s. And so, part of, you know, coaching the Raiders as you work for Al Davis, so he's going to do a whole lot of what's going on there.
But with Madden, the record that he put up and leading this kind of outlaw franchise, like it's very interesting that he is such a beloved figure because the Raiders are not a universally beloved sort of organization.
To be that young and be able to coach a team and be consistently successful and then ultimately when he left, it wasn't because he wasn't winning, it was because he became terrified of flying, which again, became another very human part of the John Madden story.
COATES: You mentioned wins. Of course, I'm from Minnesota so, Minnesota is still mad about the Super Bowl. So, I'm going to put that out there for a second and leave that there for a second.
But Bomani, let me ask you, though. You know, you say that Madden had an unreachable -- unreachable standard. Tell me what that means.
JONES: Well, for me, the thing with Madden was just as a communicator, right, that we can separate this from football. If you are talking about anything the ability to do it in a conversational tone while also be informative while also never being condescending is just really, really, really hard to do.
So, for all these people who do the color commentary job on football, nobody really has a really high overall I.Q. rating. And I really think it is because people like me, I'm 41. John Madden was the standard of that. Like how you can explain these things very well. How are you going to be likable while you do it.
It's hard for anybody else to live up for that -- up to that. Like when you start talking about Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver of all time or Jim Brown is the greatest runningback of all time, those are things nobody argues with you about. John Madden is the greatest sports broadcaster on television of all time, you're not going to get anybody to argue with you about that either.
COATES: Well, you know, you are going to -- people will miss the enthusiasm he brings to the game. The idea that his phrasing, things like what was it, wham and boom and doink and all of the different things he would talk about.
But I think about Steve Madden (Ph), I mean, John Madden, I don't know about Steve Madden but John Madden, you are at some age, Bomani, so forgive me, we are both 41. So, I remember every person I knew was always playing Madden. Had the legacy of that. I know it's secondary. But he was somebody that people associated. I mean, he was - he essentially was the brand of the NFL. He was enjoyable about it, and he had the staying power with the league. But most people are bale to churn out and churn and get out. How did he have the staying power? Was it the Madden bust, the authenticity? The fact that he had been a player, that he had been a coach, he'd never work to Dana's life as he talked about.
JONES: I think the authenticity is probably the biggest thing. I mean, that's still the most attractive quality that anybody can't resent. That even if people don't agree with you necessarily like Charles Barkley's success as a broadcaster is a testament to that.
Authenticity wins out above all else. But as a broadcaster, you got to provide for lack of a better term a service to the people who are listening to you. And so, Madden stopped being in the background, which is where most broadcasters really are and his partner, Pat Summerall was so good at being in the background, and knowing when how to pick his spot, when to get in, when to get out.
Madden used a lot more words. But when he's there doing it and he came out there you were always better off with the commentary you got from him. Because it always was so explanatory. Like that was the thing for me in watching it is, I really did feel like I was learning things about football. Like, he's almost like the football version of Schoolhouse Rock in that way. You're learning but it's not -- it's medicine but it tastes good, you know.
COATES: Everything but the sound track. Thank you so much, Bomani. Nice talking to you.
JONES: All right, you, too.
COATES: Well, the U.S. has now hit a record number of COVID cases. This is two years into the pandemic. What you need to know after this.
COATES (on camera): The numbers don't lie. A record-breaking surge pushing the seven-day average of new COVID cases in this country higher than it's ever been before, passing 256,000 tonight.
Joining me now, Dr. Richina Bicette McCain, medical director of Baylor College of Medicine. Doctor, I'm glad you're hear.
I'm sorry it's for this reason, though. Because, Dr. Bicette, I mean, the U.S. has hit a record average number. I mean, a record average number of new COVID cases today. We're two years in by the way. And the CDC is now saying Omicron caused 58.6 percent of new cases in the U.S. just last week. That's lower than previously thought, though.
Tell us what this means. Is the worst of Omicron yet to come? What are you thinking, doctor?
RICHINA BICETTE MCCAIN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: I definitely don't think we've seen the worst of Omicron just yet. It's taken over relatively quickly to become the most predominant variant but we do still have some Delta in the mix. I do believe that Omicron is going to continue to surge and I'm not sure how high those numbers are going to go but they're definitely going to be higher than what we're seeing today.
COATES: So, what are you seeing in your hospital and what are you hearing from patients and other doctors right now? I mean, you're in Texas which I know of course, as other states did have a different approach, shall we say, to COVID restrictions. What are you seeing now?
MCCAIN: You know, I didn't work clinically today but I logged in to our computer system to check the board and almost every complaint that I saw was shortness of breath, runny nose, congestion, COVID testing. There are people that are coming to emergency departments just to get a COVID test even though they don't have symptoms because they can't get tested anywhere else. Emergency departments are full, our waiting rooms are full and people are definitely getting very sick.
COATES: I mean, it's surprising people going there for a test. You're not wanting to be around in an emergency room but you're obviously going to be exposed to people who might likely be infected. That seems an odd thing. But the testament to where we are with the shortages right now, I'm
wondering, Dr. Bicette, is there a difference that you're seeing for the symptoms between the Omicron variant and the Delta variant? We're hearing that one may be less severe or different. Is that true in practice?
MCCAIN: It seems so far that Omicron is a bit milder than the prior variants that we've seen, but the caveat to that is we're seeing so many cases of Omicron, even though in general it's a milder variant, there are still going to be those people who end up very sick and need to be hospitalized and need to be in the ICU. So, the hospitalization numbers and the death rates are still picking up, though slower than the caseloads.
COATES: That's an important point. People should not rest on their laurels and think OK, it's less severe, never mind. It's still very serious, and it's still COVID-19. It's still a variant at this point of course. What do you say to people who are vaccinated or even boosted? Are you seeing people getting infected the same rates? Is it less? What's happening on the ground?
MCCAIN: People who are vaccinated and boosted are becoming infected less than those who are not vaccinated but breakthrough infections are still occurring. I will tell you this, though. Those who are vaccinated and boosted are not dying. And that's what the vaccines were designed to do. That's what they were implemented for, is to prevent severe disease and prevent hospitalizations.
We really have to change our mindset when it comes to COVID-19 and these vaccines because I see a lot of people that are upset when they get breakthrough cases. But remember, the vaccines were not designed to prevent you from getting COVID. They were designed to prevent you from dying from COVID.
COATES: It's a very smart point that needs to be echoed from here to there on that issue. And I wonder what you make of the CDC, Dr. Bicette. Because there's been some pushback on them cutting isolation from 10 days to five days if someone tests positive. Should the new guidance have included a testing component or some nuance between those who are unvaccinated and those who are vaccinated?
MCCAIN: Absolutely. Those are two huge points that were in the net of holes that I think were in the CDC guidelines. Those guidelines were a double-edged sword.
On one hand, we definitely needed to figure out a way to cut down the isolation time for people who are recently vaccinated or vaccinated and boosted while being asymptomatic, we know that their risk of transmitting COVID is very, very low.
So, isolating for 10 days was a bit egregious. But again, we're not distinguishing between those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated, we're not creating any kind of test out strategy in order for people to come out of isolation and we're also not distinguishing between the types of masks that people need to wear when they come out of isolation.
All the guidelines say is that it should be well fitting when really, they should mention that people should be wearing KN-95s or N-95s.
COATES: It's ordinarily important to think about that. And again, the idea of the guidance being helpful because people think to themselves, well, what's the point of getting a vaccine if I can't do x, y, and z. You don't want a disincentive; you want every incentive possible.
You know, doctor, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, you know, he has falsely claimed that mouthwash has been proven to kill COVID. I'll repeat hat. He has claimed that mouth wash could kill COVID. Let's just pause on that. But now he's saying this. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): We all hoped and prayed the vaccines would be 100 percent effective and 100 percent safe but they're not. We now know fully vaccinated individuals can catch COVID, they can transmit COVID, so what's the point?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES (on camera): This was your earlier point, right, the idea of thinking about people being dismissive of what it actually was for or just getting it wrong as to what it was for. What do you make about that statement?
MCCAIN: We always knew that these vaccines were not 100 percent effective. Nothing in medicine is 100 percent effective. Furthermore, we always knew just because you were vaccinated didn't necessarily mean that you couldn't contract COVID. But the early strains of COVID were so well-attacked by the vaccine that a lot of people who were vaccinated were not having breakthrough infections.
As the virus mutates and as it begins to evade immunity, we're seeing a bit more breakthrough infections but that does not mean that the vaccines have no point to them. Again, the point of getting vaccinated is so that you don't wind up in the hospital and you don't wind up in the grave.
COATES: Dr. Bicette, nice talking to you. I often see you. I'm glad we got a chance to talk tonight. Thank you.
MCCAIN: Nice to see you.
COATES: Thank you.
The vice president says democracy itself is at risk if voting rights legislation does not pass. Well, up next, a woman who has been trying to do something about that is here. Stacey Abrams is up next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COATES (on camera): There's battle over redistricting playing out in
key swing states all across this country, but it seems like Republicans, well, aren't winning the fight. They control the process in 20 states that include 187 seats, while Democrats control the process in eight states, including just 75 seats.
Joining me now, one of the nation's leading voting rights advocates, Stacey Abrams, she's running for governor of Georgia. She's out with her first children's book today titled, "Stacey's Extraordinary Words." I can't wait to read it and hear them as well.
Stacey, I want to ask you. I mean, President Biden called Harry Reid, you know, he just passed away today, we're learning, he called him a giant of our history. President Obama said that he would never have been president without Senator Reid and Reid made Obamacare happen. How do you see his impact on politics and everyday people?
STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Laura, for having me. I had the opportunity to speak with Senator Reid a couple of times, and each time I sat with attention listening to his wisdom, his insight and his very canny understanding of how politics work.
He was a brilliant, brilliant strategist, and because of him we have health care for millions of Americans. Because of him we have a process that gives us a way forward on some of the most intractable issues that we face. And I think that he is going to be sorely missed.
COATES: And of course, he made an indelible mark when it comes to areas around the filibuster as well, which I know is a very important aspect given the reluctance, shall we say, to actually change it or amend it or alter or eliminate it in any way to address voting rights. How do you feel about the legacy that he made in terms of the filibuster and what can be done now, Ms. Abrams, for this very issue?
ABRAMS: When it comes to the filibuster, the goal is to make the Senate work, to restore the Senate to a functioning body. And we've seen glimpses of what that can accomplish. When we have a functioning Senate, we solve problems.
We have seen the Senate come together to respond to this pandemic, which is now stretching into year three. We've seen the Senate work effectively to deliver relief to communities and now we need the Senate to come together and deliver protection for our democracy.
I believe that there are ways to restore the Senate. I'm heartened by the conversations that are happening in D.C. among U.S. senators, having these conversations about what to do, and we've seen that not only did Senator Reid lay out a pathway, he wasn't the only one.
We know that given the opportunity there are going to be other attempts to reform and restore the Senate but this is the moment, this is an existential moment for our nation. Democracy is not guaranteed. It is something we have to fight for as Americans, not as partisan. I believe there is a way to restore the Senate that we can defend our democracy together. COATES: I mean, there's also the ideas of the pillars of
redistricting, and we got the census data coming in. There's an effort to try to reassure a way that might sound like gerrymandering for so many people because in fact it could very well be. But it's not just that area as well.
And you have lawmakers in 19 states who have passed 34 laws that are making it harder to vote this year alone. And according to the Brennan Center for Justice, of course they've given this figure -- you are seeing the map right now, that also includes Georgia, Georgia. And you're running for governor of Georgia. Is that going to complicate your race, do you think?
ABRAMS: It complicates the ability of Georgians to participate in elections. This was an egregious attempt to silence voters who were in convenient to the leadership in the state. These are laws that unfortunately have become a pattern and have become a template for other states.
And we know starting in January other states are going to take up the call to make it harder to vote, to make it easier to subvert our elections and to enforce this notion that only those that we like or agree with us should be age able to be heard.
I don't fight for Democrats to vote. I fight for Americans to be able to cast their ballots. And that's why the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are so essential sense. They say that regardless of your geography, democracy should work no matter where you are. And that's we're fighting against. We're fighting against incursions on democracies.
And that means everything from how we register and stay on the rolls to making certain that anyone who gets to vote can vote for someone -- has at least the opportunity to vote for someone who reflects their values and that we stop the subversion of democracy that we're seeing play out across this country.
COATES: I want to highlight the area of redistricting because a state lawmaker draws districts that are even more partisan. The Washington Post is reporting that they're not just trying to elect more Republicans generally. They want pro-Trump Republicans who will push and help metathesize this big lie. So, what does that mean for our democracy and its future?
ABRAMS: We know that the challenge of gerrymandering is that what it says to Americans, is that your voice doesn't matter that where you live should not determine the quality and the value that you have to our communities. And we know that there are those who supported the insurrection who think that it is their chance to make permanent their attempts to undermine our democracy. And that should be something none of us are willing to support.
Our responsibility is to say that gerrymandering, that partisan gerrymandering, that racial gerrymandering shall not stand. That you should have the ability to elect leaders who reflect your values and reflect your communities. That's why we have districts.
Again, we shouldn't guarantee either party success. We should guarantee the people the ability to elect leaders who reflect them.
COATES: That's what democracy is really all about.
COATES: And I should note, that we did invite your competitor former Senator David Perdue to come on the show, but we never heard back about that very issue.
Stacey, I want to ask you. At the end of the day, as you've mentioned, this is really about preserving democracy, not just for ourselves and this generation but for our children as well. And you have a new book out today for kids. Tell me about it. Tell me about the message you are trying to get across here. It's called "Stacey's Extraordinary Words."
ABRAMS: It's a story that's based on my first spelling bee and it's a story about perseverance, about using your words to defend others. It's about believing that if you have a mission, you have to stick with it even if it seems hard. But most of all, it's about trusting yourself and working with others to make good happen.
My hope is that kids will hear these words, will find their own words, will understand that sometimes you may be anxious or afraid. You might not like competition, but if you are willing to be persistent, if you are willing to persevere, you can create change.
COATES: Extraordinary thought. Now I'm wondering what do you hope that kids see when they look to their government and officials in this country. I mean, such a very divided time. Are they learning the right lessons, are they understanding the context, do you think they are processing in a way where they actually want to be active participants in our democracy?
ABRAMS: I have nieces and nephews that range from age five to age 16. And to a child they understand that this is -- this is a country they should be proud of. But they're also concerned about what their future looks like. Their conversations they're having at this tender age that I never had to contemplate.
And I want them to grow up understanding when I think every child should have the opportunity to believe in, is that they have a future in this country, that opportunity exists for them. But they're going to have to invest, they're going to have to lean in, they're going to do good and they're going to have to navigate tough spaces and tough conversations.
They're not always going to agree with everyone but they have the responsibility to try to listen and that's what democracy is. Democracy doesn't guarantee you victory. It guarantees you a voice and that's what we should be fighting for our children and for our nation.
COATES: The book again is called "Stacey's Extraordinary Words," and they indeed are. Thank you, Stacey Abrams, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Thank you, Laura.
COATES: Well, they want justice and they want transparency. And they've got ben Crump on the case. He is here to talk about what justice means for the family. A 14-year-old was fatally shot by the LAPD in a store dressing room, after this.
COATES (on camera): The parents of the teen girl who was fatally shot by the LAPD speaking out today, saying she was so full of happiness and big dreams. Her name Valentina Orellana-Peralta. And her mother was recounting the tragedy. Saying he was with her daughter when chaos unfolded.
The two huddled together in a Burlington coat factory dressing room when Valentina was hit by a stray bullet dying in her own mother's arms. Her father crying talking about the Christmas gifts he bought for her including a skateboard, saying they've now have to take these gifts to Valentina's grave.
The family is calling for justice and also transparency.
Joining me now is Ben Crump representing the family of Valentina Orellana-Peralta.
Ben, it's nice to see you, but not under these circumstances. And this is such a tragedy. I mean, you have been known for taking some of the nation's most high-profile officer-involved shooting cases. Along with so many civil rights cases. I'm wondering what was it about this case that really compelled you to help?
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR ORELLANA-PERALTA'S FAMILY: Hi, Laura, it is one of the saddest of all the cases that I have ever represented. As a parent, as you and I'm sure many of your audience, you cannot imagine the pain and the grief that this family is experiencing.
These parents, to be hugging and praying with your daughter, hiding in a dressing room at the Burlington factory store, and suddenly there's commotion, a lot of smoke, and you see your daughter's body goes into convulsions in your arms.
I had to take the case when they call me because I'm a parent. And if you have a heart, you say we want to help. We have to help. It's the humanity in us that say we must make sure that there is accountability, there's some sense of justice for this beautiful little angel.
COATES: And when you think about what that looks like, I mean, one of the things that the family is calling for, and you are as well, is an independent investigation, and also for transparency. And the LAPD of course is claiming that they're very transparent. They released body cam footage almost immediately. Here's a part of it. And just a warning, it's graphic and disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: Victim down, victim down! Hey, hold on.
UNKNOWN: Hey, slow down, slow down, slow down. Let me take point with the rifle.
UNKNOWN: Hey, back up.
UNKNOWN: Get out. out, out, out.
UNKNOWN: He's got -- he's got a tube.
UNKNOWN: Hey, get her out, get her out.
UNKNOWN: You got it? You got it?
UNKNOWN: OK. On you.
UNKNOWN: He's hitting her now on the right-hand side.
UNKNOWN: She's bleeding.
UNKNOWN: Slow down, slow down, slow down.
UNKNOWN: Slow it down, slow it down.
UNKNOWN: Hey, she's bleeding! She's bleeding!
UNKNOWN: Hold up, hold up Jones. Hold up, hold up.
UNKNOWN: I got you.
UNKNOWN: Shots fired, shots fired, shots fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES (on camera): Now from what you've seen is there reasonably that they are withholding other information that's not available to the public that requires additional transparency more than this actual video? Are there more?
CRUMP: Well, Laura, if this was your child, you would want everything, you wouldn't want to have to speculate whether they have released everything. We know that there is surveillance video from the Burlington shopping factory. We also know that this was a shopping plaza that has surveillance video, all of which LAPD has possession of. They've released stuff, we believe, that they wanted to release. We
think there's more, and we have told them to preserve everything. Because the real question is this, Laura Coates. Were there less intrusive measures to where this 14-year-old little girl would not have ended up as collateral damage while she was shopping with her mother for a Christmas dress?
Could they have taken more measured action, where they issued verbal commands, where they made sure that they could take him outside of the shopping plaza because it was foreseeable that two days before Christmas, that there were going to be several people shopping.
And so those are the questions that you ask, Laura Coates. And those are the questions that we want to get answered. They do training for these types of scenarios. What did the training tell them to do? We think that the training was not followed completely in this manner. And tragically, this little girl was left dying on the dressing room floor with her mother trying to wake her.
COATES: The description of what happened is just so heart wrenching and heartbreaking. Ben Crump, thank you so much for your time tonight for helping us to understand better. And please extend our deepest, my personal condolences to the family as well. I know you will. Thank you, Ben Crump.
CRUMP: Thank you, Laura.
COATES: And thank you all for watching. Our coverage continues.