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Don Lemon Tonight

Politico: Trump Draft Order Would Have Seized Voting Machines; Influence Of The Right-Wing Media In The Days Leading Up To The January 6th Insurrection; Judge Blocks Biden's Vaccine Mandate For Federal Employees; VA Mother Threatens To Bring Gun To School Over Mask Mandate; Theodore Roosevelt Statue Removed From Outside New York City Museum. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 21, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): The January 6th Select Committee now has in its possession more than 700 pages of records Trump has been trying to hide for months, political reporting that includes a draft executive order that would have seized all voting machines and election records.

Plus, another blow to President Biden. A federal judge in Texas blocking his vaccine mandate for federal employees. And the battle over masks in schools reaching a new low.


AMELIA KING, PARENT: My children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on. All right? That's not happening. And I will bring every single gun loaded and ready --


LEMON (on camera): Well, that Virginia parent charged after threatening to bring a loaded gun into school -- loaded guns to school all because she's against masks.

So, I want to bring in now CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates to talk about this. Laura is also the author of the new book, "Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor's Fight for Fairness." Laura, so much to talk to you about. Good evening to you.

Let's talk about this political reporting that January 6th investigators are in the possession of a draft executive order in from December 2020 that would have seized voting machines as part of Trump's plan to overturn the election.

It said in part, effective immediately, the secretary of defense shall seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention.

Laura, crazy seems like an understatement here. I mean, this -- thankfully, this order was never issued. But what could the document mean for the Select Committee's investigation?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It means there is really no ceiling or end to the absurdity of trying to use the power of the presidency in this way. I mean, imagine this, secretary of defense is going to use the military in order to seize voting machines and there's no basis to do so, there is no widespread fraud, let alone any fraud that would have overturn the election any way. You heard that from the former attorney general, Bill Barr.

The idea that we would be using the military for that, let alone the idea that you are going to go to this extent to try to prove that you are not a defeated president is really what tests the democracy of our system right now.

And the idea that here we are in a nation that is supposed to be really a role model for us, political system, and the president of the United States potentially is trying to put his thumb on the scale and overturn the will of the people, it seems to be shock upon shock upon shock.

LEMON: You know, the draft executive order also called for, and I quote here, "the appointment of a special counsel to oversee this operation and institute all criminal and civil proceedings as appropriate."

According to Axios, Sidney Powell, remember her, crack in, right, was pushing --


LEMON (on camera): -- for this role. This is a reminder of some of the crazy lies after election. This is here lies. Watch this.


SIDNEY POWELL, AMERICAN ATTORNEY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: What we are really dealing with here and uncovering more by the day is the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States.

So, we have mathematical evidence in a number of states of massive quantities of Trump votes being trashed, just simply put in the trash, like you would on your computer with any file, and Biden votes being injected. That's addition to the flipping. President Trump won by a landslide. We are going to prove it, and we are going to reclaim the United States of America for the people who vote for freedom.


LEMON (on camera): I mean, these are wild baseless conspiracy theories. It is terrifying, Laura, to think that she could have been appointed special counsel. What kind of authority which she had in that particular role?

COATES: Even an iota would've been too much authority for somebody who made those statements. I mean, remember, this is the same person, when she was sued civilly over her statements regarding Dominion voting and other instances, said that people would have been crazier and not in their right mind -- I'm paraphrasing her -- to even believe anything she had to say.


So, she already acknowledges to some extent that that was all foolishness. But then the idea of talking about when the courts of law were asking, probably salivating because they were asked to prove it, give us something, you've asked something about wanting to get the courts relief, do you have any proof whatsoever, anything that would allow the court to issue whatever injunction or relief you actually want?

And remember, it was just crickets, crickets who didn't have, as my mother would say, a pot to pee, window to thrown out of when it comes to evidence. There was nothing there. And yet, this is the person who was then going to come out and be overseeing and was of authority over any part of our elections?

That's -- when you think about the idea of a democracy and the future of democracy, the ability to call in a strong democracy, and then being so focused on one's own vein pursuit to not have been defeated, then you can go to this length.

I mean, just look at the records. Unfortunately, you know, educated people in the sense of looking at the information, not in terms of where -- educational attainment, but taking the time to educate oneself on the actual facts as presented.

Because of our echo chambers, because of our silos at information and then misinformation, people are not going to have heard the truth, which is she herself has already acknowledged that it was not truthful, what she said, when she talked about the absurdity of anyone even believing her, and that who would be in charge of any form of our elections? That's outrageous for anyone who believes that your vote should count and our democracy should be strong.

LEMON: Very well stated, especially what your mom said. My mom had a very similar one.


LEMON: It ended with a --

COATES: I think I mentioned one word.


COATES: I like that one, too. I think it's a mother's course. They all get a sense of the things you're going to say, it will all hit home, and your kids will then quote them on CNN on a Friday night. Sorry, mom.


LEMON: Thanks, Laura. Have a great weekend.

COATES: But still not as bad as what she had to say. Not as bad as misinformation. Okay? Not as bad as that.


LEMON (on camera): Thanks, Laura. So, joining me now, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and Mark McKinnon joins us well. He is a former advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain, and he's the executive producer of "The Circus." Gentlemen, good evening to you. So good to see you.

Let's see. Mark McKinnon, Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the January 6th Select Committee, hasn't personally seen this draft executive order. But this is what he said about that tonight.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): It indicates that there was one more line of possible attack which was something like a military coup that was being planned before January 6th, the military seizure of ballot boxes and essentially military takeover of the election process.

It seems to me that, you know, President Trump who was trying to, you know, let a thousand flowers bloom in terms of, you know, paramilitary and extraconstitutional attacks on the election result and all of it, of course, culminated on January 6th.


LEMON (on camera): Okay, so, Mark, seizing voting machines because you lost? This is the kind of thing that really stops you right in your tracks. This is crazy!

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH AND JOHN MCCAIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF "THE CIRCUS": It is, Don, and it shows the extent to which they are willing to go, and they were willing to go to the sort of things that we see in third world countries, as I heard you and Laura talking about in the last segment.

I just -- I thought about reading those sorts of headlines 20, 30 years ago about autocrats and dictators. I mean, the notion that we're talking about executive orders that are mandating military takeover to take over the election machinery of the country to flip the election, this is America, this is the sort of thing we are talking about, it's humiliating, it's embarrassing, and I can't believe that we're talking this in the United States of America.

LEMON: You know, Ron, I want to bring you in now because Congressman Raskin also says that the committee expects to get the outtakes of Trump's Rose Garden video from the 6th. According to the committee, the committee's letter to Ivanka Trump, the outtakes didn't ask rioters to leave the Capitol. Look, you got the voting machines and then you have this. This is astounding. I mean, Trump believed that this insurrection was going to work?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I wouldn't use the word "crazy," I would use the word "calculated." As this goes forward, I mean, what we see from the incredible work of the committee is that this was not just kind of a ragtag, you know, last minute kind of loose screws in the drawer that he is sending toward Capitol Hill.


I mean, there were, as Congressman Raskin said, a thousand flowers bloom, meaning that there were multiple pathways that he was using to try to overturn the will of the voters and it's much more serious and focused on it than, you know, seen from the outside chaos of January 6th.

And I do think that's why this committee is so important and potential public hearings are so important because right now, there is not, I think, a clear awareness in the public of the magnitude of what happened, and thus the risks that would be inherent in allowing that same person to have control of the federal government again.

There is a lot that the public needs to learn about this and once the committee learns, there is a lot that they need to impress on the broader audience.

LEMON: I have to tell you, listen, I want to move on to other stuff, these documents that they're going to get, right, the archives. When I read this, I couldn't believe it. I thought it was, you know --

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. Seven days in May.

LEMON: Yeah. I couldn't even explain what I thought it was. I thought it was like -- okay, is this the onion? Is this -- are they being sarcastic? I mean, like, it is too crazy to even believe. Am I the only who felt that way when they read it, Mark?

MCKINNON: Well, I like Ron's point which is it is crazy but it's calculated. And that particular measure, you're talking about thousand flowers blooming. That's like a thousand and one. That's the ultimate step, right? Just like after you've tried -- if this doesn't work, screw democracy, we are just going to -- we are going to pull the poison pill and just let it all go to hell and just take over. We are just going to play the military and take over.


LEMON: Isn't that what the big lie is about, Ron? I mean, that's basically the same thing, the big lie is. We don't care, that is a legitimate election, we should be able to take over, Trump should be reinstated. I mean, all of it is just wacky.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, the big lie is rooted in the belief that -- quote -- "our voters are the real Americans." And by definition, if we lose, it's illegitimate because the people who are extensively outvoting us don't represent the real America, the traditional American values.

And this, all of this, I think we have to take a step back. All of this is exactly what Republicans in Congress have been working so hard to prevent from surfacing, you know, filibustering the independent commission, voting against the congressional committee.

This is critical information, I think, not only looking back about how close we came and whether there need to be changes in laws to kind of reinforce more safeguards, but also, this is someone in Donald Trump who may seek once again to have the power of the presidency.

And his behavior, at this moment, which was probably all the evidence suggests the greatest threat to the functioning of American democracy since at least the Civil War and maybe ever, is very relevant to the question voters will face.

It's not likely to be a big issue in 2022, but for 2024, I would think voters deserve a full understanding of how far he was willing to go to try to undermine the pillars of American democracy.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, not just him, it' just --

BROWNSTEIN: Not just him.

LEMON (on camera): The 700 Trump White House documents that they received, according to Representative Elaine Luria, they have written down in the briefing books, actually written done in the books how to steal the election. It is just unbelievable.

Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. I will see you soon.

Now, the mounting evidence showing the influence of the right-wing media in the days leading up to the January 6th insurrection.

CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter has the story.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the weeks leading up to January 6th --

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Congress will decide in January, so we will see what happens --

STELTER (voice-over): Kayleigh McEnany said Donald Trump was fighting to stay in office.

MCENANY: This president is a fighter. He is not giving up. He will fight for the forgotten men and women.

STELTER (voice-over): Fight, fight, fight. That was the right-wing T.V. narrative until insurrection day.

UNKNOWN: I think it's not an understatement to say we are in a constitutional tinderbox right now.

STELTER (voice-over): These shows (ph) supply the firewood and the matches. But behind the scenes, some claim to fear of fire.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Multiple Fox News hosts knew the president needed to act immediately.

STELTER (voice-over): The House's 1/6 committee keeps sharing text messages that show how two-faced some of these stars are. On December 31st, 2020, Sean Hannity wrote to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, saying, I do not see January 6 happening the way he is being told."


(voice-over): And on January 5th, Hannity wrote that he was -- quote -- "very worried about the next 48 hours," according to the panel. But he never told viewers about his concerns.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Tomorrow's massive pro-Trump march in Washington --

STELTER (voice-over): And his colleagues were pumped about January 6th.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: We have hundreds of thousands of people pouring into Washington tonight.

HANNITY: Pouring.

STELTER (voice-over): It is as if they saw it coming.

INGRAHAM: We have a lot of people who are really angry.

STELTER (voice-over): But ignored their own roles in ramping up the rage. And then during the riot, Laura Ingraham texted Meadows, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.

Yet on T.V. that night, she tried to shift some blame to left-wing agitators.

INGRAHAM: There are reports that Antifa sympathizers may have been sprinkled throughout the crowd.

STELTER (voice-over): The next day, January 7th, according to newly released messages by the committee, Hannity texted McEnany, the then White House press secretary, with a plan for dealing with Trump. One, Hannity reportedly wrote, no more stolen election talk. Then he added a warning -- quote -- "Yes, impeachment and 25th Amendment are real and many people will quit." Love that, McEnany replied. Thank you. That is the playbook. I will help reinforce.

But on the air, they stayed loyal, never disclosing their private chats about trying to, in Hannity's words to others, land the plane without anyone else getting hurt.

Ingraham a few days later texted Meadows about fears of further violence and said, according to the committee, everyone needs to calm down. They went from fight, fight, fight to hush, hush, hush.

And they were rewarded for it. McEnany is now Fox host. And Hannity is using Trump to juice his ratings. Hannity's advice from then, no more stolen election talk, that's been completely ignored. This was Trump just last night talking about January 6th in happy terms, defending his speech on the Ellipse that day.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (voice- over): This was a protest rally against the election, which they considered to be totally rigged.

STELTER (on camera): So, the same Fox stars, who in private were trying to act like guardrails and trying to guard against Trump's worst behavior, in public, they were helping to crash the car.

And now one year later, they have forgotten the lessons of January 6th. They are in denial about what happened. But this House committee, they are forcing everyone to remember, and they still have a lot more text messages that we don't know about, Don.


LEMON (on camera): All right. Brian Stelter, thank you so much. I appreciate that, Brian.

A federal judge in Texas handing another defeat to the Biden administration's efforts to enforce vaccine mandates. That as new studies show that getting boosted is the best way to stay safe from Omicron.

And why is the NFL changing COVID testing protocols for unvaccinated players right in the middle of the playoffs?




LEMON: Major blow to the president's campaign to get more Americans vaccinated. Today, a federal judge in Texas blocking the administration from enforcing a vaccine mandate for federal employees. It comes the same day that three new studies from the CDC are making the most urgent case yet for people to get their booster shots.

I want to discuss now with CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Hello, doctor. Thanks for joining us this evening. This order from Texas judge comes just days after the Supreme Court blocked the administration's vaccine rules for large businesses. What is the impact on public health do you think?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Probably not a lot. There are about 98 percent of federal employees now are vaccinated. This mandate has been in place since the president issued it in November. So, just about everyone who works in the federal government has compiled. So, I'm not sure it's going to have a practical impact. But it continues to amaze me. You know, mandates for vaccines are not new. We've lived with these for a long time. Kids can't go to school in any state in this country without getting vaccinated. The military has had a vaccine mandate forever.

So, there is all this precedent. This is not some sort of brand-new government overreach to try and vaccinate people. We've lived with this for a long time. This is just a ginned up political thing right now. I don't think this judge's ruling will have any practical impact.

LEMON: I want to talk about this -- the new CDC -- this new CDC study of what it shows, doctor, that being boosted has never been more important. It says they looked at close to 88,000 hospitalizations across 10 states in December and found that getting boosted was 90 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations. But if your second shot was more than six months ago, that dropped to 57 percent. Break down this new data for us, please.

REINER: Basically, what the data says, Don, is that the efficacy of our two-shot regimen waned over that six-month period. But the booster could substantially restore the efficacy of the vaccines to prevent hospitalization and death for both Delta and Omicron. Very, very effective. And also, quite effective at preventing infection.


So, basically, what the studies that were published today by the CDC really have shown pretty clearly now is that a three-dose strategy of a two prime shots plus a booster for the RNA or J&J plus one really restores quite good efficacy at preventing infection and hospitalization and death and really should be the standard for the definition of fully vaccinate in this country.

LEMON: I've got to talk about this story. The NFL has told remaining play-off teams in a memo that unvaccinated players will no longer face daily COVID testing, okay, saying that they will test players or staff who show symptoms. I mean, it sounds like perhaps that they don't want to risk players testing positive during the playoffs or before the Super Bowl. Am I wrong here?

REINER: It's show time now. You can't take the stars out of the show, right, as the show is getting going. And there are only about 12 players who are still in the playoffs who remained unvaccinated and who might one of them be? Aaron Rodgers and his 90-day infection exception is coming due, so one wonders how much of this is timed to simply protect the biggest unvaccinated star in the show.

It's really cynical and unfortunate. You would hope that most of these professional sports leagues would understand that what is good for their business is to protect the health of their players rather than just, you know, hope for a higher rating. So unfortunate.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, doctor. Appreciate it.

REINER: Good night, Don.

LEMON (on camera): A school board debate over a mask mandate resulting in charges for one mom who made this threat.


KING: I will bring every single gun loaded and ready.





LEMON (on camera): A Virginia mom charged today with making a threat while on school property, threatening to show up with loaded guns if her kids are required to wear a mask at school. Watch.


UNKNOWN: Three minutes.

KING: All right. No mask mandates. My child, my children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on. All right? That's not happening. And I will bring every single gun loaded and ready to -- I will call every --

UNKNOWN: That's three minutes. You have gone past your time. It's a policy. Thank you.

KING: I'll see y'all on Monday.


LEMON (on camera): School board member later reading Amelia King's apology for the threat.


UNKNOWN: I in no way meant to imply all guns loaded as actual firearms but rather all resources I can muster to make sure that my children get to attend school without masks. My sincere apologies for my poor choice in words. I'm absolutely mortified.

I would never do such a thing. I was speaking figuratively as in notifying the press in creating a social media stir. Nonetheless, I'm beside myself. I've already contacted the sheriff's office to explain myself. I never meant to imply I'd show up with actual firearms. I'm not a dangerous person. I'm not a threat. I'm so sorry for the way it came across.


LEMON (on camera): People in the room are shaking their heads in disbelief there.

I want to talk about this with CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. Juliette, wow. Hello to you. This is a serious charge that could land her in jail for up to a year. Do you think this is a correct response from law enforcement and the school?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL, PROFESSOR AT HARVARD'S KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Yes. The harm is the statement, not whether she was serious or whether she would do it on Monday, she would go with guns. It is the --

LEMON: Say that again, the harm is the statement.

KAYYEM: The harm is the statement. It brought violence into a debate about masking and it brought violence to the school district and the school district and the threat of violence so much so that the school district is going to respond with a heavier police presence on Monday.

Her intent, her apology -- and I'll give her the benefit of the doubt -- does not one, excuse the behavior, or two, mean that it doesn't have consequences. People get drunk and get into their cars. They don't mean to, they don't intend to do any harm, but they do it. And there are consequences for doing that.

And I think a heavy hand -- you know, she doesn't have to serve time in jail. She is going to pay $5,000 bail, maybe get community service if she doesn't have a previous record, we don't know. But let's assume that she doesn't. She doesn't have to go to jail.

But yeah, the full force of whatever they can bring to her now and she'll have a defense is appropriate because if this -- as we've seen over the last five years where we're supposed to laugh at this stuff, unless you actually say there are consequences for it, it just festers.

And so, the damage has already done. Her apology has to do more with her and her intent than it does with what happened.


LEMON: You know, we have seen anger, Juliette, over --


LEMON: -- COVID protection measures bubbling up for the last two years, sometimes amounting to melees in the streets. Is this what happens when public health gets politicized?

KAYYEM: Yes. It happens when the issue of public health becomes like a team sport. You're either with me or against me. And long ago, you have been on the show, and long ago, I'm done with emotions because the truth is as a vaccinated, boosted mother of three children, I've got feelings, too.

I mean, why the non-vaxxers and non-maskers are allowed to assert their feelings everywhere they go and we're supposed to sit back and just say oh, well, it's a high emotion stakes game? It's just ridiculous at this stage. We're the majority. The majority of the American population is vaccinated.

And so, you know, anger just -- I just take emotion out of everything. She said something that was violent. It was threatening. It was at a school board. It takes a lot to drive to a school board and speak and wait in line to speak at a meeting.

And I don't -- I never understand from people what they mean by, I just meant guns figuratively. Like, what does that even mean? I mean, kids are getting killed in schools literally like every three days or every four days. I don't even know what the defense of, I meant that figuratively. And if she is, you know, just spoke out of turn, then as I said, there are consequences for doing that at a school board meeting about schools and about our children. The other parents have feelings, too.

LEMON: Yeah. Look, you said you gave her the -- you'll give her the benefit of the doubt about her statement, you knoq, being metaphorically she was speaking, but I should note that CNN has reached out to King for a comment. We have not heard back from her.


LEMON: It's also worth pointing out, kids have been through so much already trying to learn through this pandemic, right? Remember, the school closures with virtual learning and all of that and some schools still have that. Now, a parent is getting arrested for making threats on school property and there will be increased police presence at the school. How is all of this chaos affecting kids, Juliette? That's really the question, right?

KAYYEM: It really is, the long-term psychological impact of this. We know both from the fact that kids are home and then the sort of increased radicalization of some of these issues at schools, schools have become the sort of fighting ground over masking and over vaccination mandates, is having an impact on kids as well and their stress level.

We've noted -- I think the "Times" today have a story on sort of the psychological impact of masking on kids in terms of their own fears.

So, every which way you look at it, the pandemic has had an impact on our kids whether you're for masks or against masks. As adults, this is where, you know what, you have some responsibility as a mother or father. As adults, our job is to try to take that fear and that anger out of the situation that a 5-year-old kid or 7-year-old kid can't understand right now.

And so, yeah, I mean, I sound a little -- look, everything wrong with America should fall on this woman who said something at a school district.

On the other hand, the idea that an apology for that kind of action is suitable does not strike me as the right response by law enforcement. She should pay a fine. She should maybe have public service because once again, she's brought violence to the school district whether she intended to or not over an issue that we know across America is increasing the threats against public figures and school districts.

So, it's time we start saying, you know, there is no such thing as figurative violence. It's like it's literal at this stage.

LEMON: Yeah. Juliette Kayyem, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

LEMON: A statute of Theodore Roosevelt coming down after criticism of its depictions of black and indigenous people. What his own family is saying about it, that's next.




LEMON (on camera): A statute of President Theodore Roosevelt removed from the front of the American Museum of National History in New York this week where it stood for nearly 80 years. The monument criticized as a symbol of racism and colonialism.

CNN's Athena Jones has the story.


ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The equestrian statute of Theodore Roosevelt spent more than eight decades welcoming visitors to New York City's American Museum of National History.

The statute, commissioned in 1925 and designed by American sculptor James Earle Fraser, debuted in 1940. The nation's 26th president depicted on horseback, towering over two sparsely-clothed men, one native American, the other, Black, allegorical figures meant to represent the continents of North America and Africa.

But critics like former Mayor Bill de Blasio say it explicitly depict Black an indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior.

Now, after years of debate, the controversial work is being moved.

PHILIP DELORIA, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I think it's fair to say that, you know, we should see these as complicated kinds of issues, right? Roosevelt was a complicated person both in his motivations and his consequences.


James Earle Fraser was a complicated sculptor. The museum is a complicated place.

JONES (voice-over): The museum writing in 2020 in its initial removal request, the statue conveys a racial hierarchy that the museum and members of the public have long found disturbing. A city park's official calling the move incredibly rare but the right course of action.

DELORIA: Over time, the meanings of the statute really did start to change as we thought more what our social landscape looked like.

JONES (voice-over): Workers began dismantling it this week. Roosevelt, who also served as New York's 33rd governor, was hailed as the driving force for antitrust and progressive policies and as a conservationist. But scholars say he was also an imperialist. He said of immigrants in his 1905 message to Congress, the laws now existing for the exclusion of undesirable immigrants should be strengthened.

ANDREW ROSS, PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ANALYSIS, NYU: It's pretty clear that his personal opinions were quite frankly racist, especially in regard to indigenous Americans, African Americans and many immigrant groups.

JONES (voice-over): Roosevelt helped create the national park system, but he did it on once native land.

DELORIA: What Roosevelt did was participated in taking native land, putting in public domain, and locking it up in the public domain for the good of all, but that doesn't change the fact that it was native land.

JONES (voice-over): Opposition to the statute began to build in the 1970s. The movement reaching a crescendo in recent years as the nation's racial reckoning led to a reexamination of many national heroes.

New York City's Public Design Commission unanimously voted last June to loan the statue on a long-term basis to Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, North Dakota, slated to open its doors in 2026. It is a move even members of the Roosevelt family support.

Roosevelt's great grandson, Ted Roosevelt, V, saying in a statement to Don Lemon tonight, I don't think the statute's racial hierarchy is a good representation of Teddy Roosevelt's legacy.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


LEMON (on camera): All right. Athena, thank you very much for that. And no, the museum is not cancelling Theodore Roosevelt. They say that they will still be honoring the 26th president with a plaque and in other ways.

This specific statute was the issue. And the museum says in a statement that they are -- quote -- "proud to continue as the site of New York's official memorial to Theodore Roosevelt."

You know, the statute raising the critical question, how do we address symbols that show racism and how do we evaluate the legacy of historical figures? I'm going to talk about that with a Teddy Roosevelt expert. That's next.




LEMON: A controversial monument to President Theodore Roosevelt removed after decades of sitting outside the American Natural History Museum.

Joining me now, Michael Cullinane. Michael Cullinane is the author of "Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon." Michael, so good to have you. Listen, I find this story fascinating, and I'm so happy to have you here to speak with us this evening. So, thanks for joining us.

I understand that Theodore Roosevelt wasn't much in favor of having statues of himself. And as the family told us, even they don't think that it should represent his legacy. What is his legacy?

Okay, apparently, we don't have Michael. Well, we'll try to get him back. But, anyways, again, his family told us tonight and telling Athena Jones he didn't really like statues erected of himself and they didn't that this should represent his legacy.

So, listen, we're going to take a break, and we'll be back. Are we coming back or no? All right, we'll try to come back. We'll be right back. Don't go anywhere.




LEMON: Okay, so, we're back now. Michael Cullinane is here. He's the author of "Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon." There's some sort of ghost or glitch in the system because we lost you just as soon as we were coming to you. So, what is Theodore Roosevelt's legacy?

MICHAEL CULLINANE, AUTHOR: Well, as many cited, Theodore Roosevelt was a complicated person, as other people have said. You know, he was a number of things. But at that site, his legacy is really about conservation. The museum is really talking about his legacy as an environmentalist and America's greatest environmentalist president. So, that statue would seem out of place.

LEMON: You know, the story that aired before this, this isn't about any old Theodore Roosevelt statue. This is the story about this particular statue. The native American on the left, the Black man on the right with Teddy Roosevelt above them on horseback. What does this statue represent, you think?

CULLINANE: Well, it's really a depiction of racial hierarchies today. As one of your guests was saying earlier, you know, this is a memorial that has changed over time. People might not have thought about this memorial in those sort of terms 80 years ago, but today, that's front and center and that just goes to show that memorials are really living up Jackson (ph) away, that they show how our proclivities and our relationship to the past is ever changing and so important.

And so, you know, I think it's right that we revise our view of the past. And in this case, moving the -- moving the statue to somewhere where we can curate, think about it and understand race relations in the late 19th, early 20th century is essential.

LEMON: Listen, I understand that it's being removed. Hey, I've got 10 seconds here, but seriously there are people who say it was at a museum, that's the exact right place for it.

CULLINANE: They tried to curate the statue. They did it inside. They've done talks outside of it to explain it. It's not the right statue at the right place. The rest of the museum has so many other parts of it that are dedicated to TR's memory. I think those are the ones --

LEMON: Got it.

CULLINANE: -- we should really focus on in the future. And let's hope that what comes out in front of the Museum of Natural History is something that is more powerful to the community than it is really serving.

LEMON: Michael, thank you so much. I appreciate it. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.