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Rick Grothaus is Interviewed about Quitting the School Board over Hostility; Don Lemon is Interviewed about Standards; Thousands Flee Lake Tahoe. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 01, 2021 - 08:30   ET





CROWD: No masks for kids. No masks for kids. No masks for kids. No masks for kids. No masks for kids. No masks for kids. No masks for kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Masks don't work.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you can see, fists are now flying. All of this on live television. Fists are flying. Unbelievable what we are seeing here today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are. No more masks.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That is just a taste of some of the hostility you face serving on your local school board or town council these days. Meetings that devolve into these shouting matches over masks and COVID. A growing number of board members are questioning whether it's worth it to serve on these boards and some have already quit.

Joining me now is Rick Grothaus, who resigned as school board president from Wisconsin's Oconomowoc area school board on August 15th, along with two other members.

Why did you quit, Rick?

RICK GROTHAUS, QUIT AS OCONOMOWOC SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT OVER HOSTILITY: Hi. Good morning, John. And thanks for hosting this conversation. I appreciate that very much.

Well, yes, the question, why we quit? It's not that we wanted to exit the school board. We would rather stayed and engaged in the important work of working for our kids. It's just at some point in time, you've got to question, you know, whether it's possible to continue that work. And sometimes you have to take a more disruptive action to send a message to your community that, hey, something serious is going on here. It's time to take a closer look. And is this what we want to have happening at the leadership level for our district?

And when you can no longer engage in that important work of helping our kids learn and preparing them for the future because it's gotten to a point where you're not allowed to and it's in -- there's no conversation that can take place, you've got to take a different kind of step and step forward and say, hey, community, this is what's really going on. Is this what we really want? And let the community start to sort that out through the process of elections (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: We played some different video clips of school board meetings around the country and they just got violent. I mean if not violent, violent rhetoric and shouting back and forth.


BERMAN: We did not have video from one of your meetings there. I'm just curious if that is something you've experienced either in public like that or privately?

GROTHAUS: Sure. We didn't get to the point of fist to cuffs. But was there lots of vitriol and a lot of shouting and a lot of disruptive, disrespectful behavior?


Yes, that did occur, both by a faction of our community, but also by some of our school board members as well engaging in promoting that kind of behavior. And that's difficult. That's not fun to deal with at all, of course. But, again, that's not the reason why we were -- decided to resign. We -- that's stuff you've got to deal with sometimes. It's at a different kind of a level now I think today in our -- in our local levels.

But when things are so divisive and so disruptive in that way, when we've lost the ability to be respectful and engage in civility and it gets to that point that you can't work with each other anymore at all, again, a different kind of action needs to take place and look deeper. You know, the whole issue of masks and those kind of things are really the surface level distractions that try and keep us from getting down to the important issues that we need to deal with and understand what's going on and how we can change that.

We want to, as school boards, to be able to be talking about and planning for, how do we help all kids learn successfully? How do we help prepare kids for their future, which is very different than what we -- how we've grown up? They've got challenges that they're going to inherit and they need a skill set and the ability to deal with all those kind of things. And how do we create, again, a more respectful and civil society and help our kids become the leaders that will cause that to happen. Those are the things we want to get at.

But I think, more importantly, we have to ask ourselves, you know, as a society, is the kind of behavior that you showed there on that -- that clip, is that acceptable anymore? Can we continue to say that is OK?

BERMAN: I can answer that. No. No, it's not. And the losers --

GROTHAUS: I think --

BERMAN: The losers here are the kids.

GROTHAUS: Exactly.

BERMAN: And, Rick, I hope -- I your message is being heard. I hope it has the effect you want because I also believe it's a loss if communities are losing people like you in positions of leadership and positions of power.

But thank you for joining us. Thank you for speaking out on this. Rick Grothaus.

GROTHAUS: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: So, taking a turn here, are game show hosts held to a higher standard in the United States than members of Congress? We're joined by a man that I hold to very high standards, Don Lemon will be here next.

COLLINS: Plus, anti-vaxxers need not apply. What jobs are now demanding of their new applicants in the pandemic.



COLLINS: Mike Richards went from being the executive producer of "Jeopardy" to the replacement for Alex Trebek, back to being the executive producer. Now he is leaving the program entirely. This was put in motion after revelations of discrimination lawsuits and derogatory comments that he made on a podcast several years ago. When this news broke, CNN's Jake Tapper tweeted, quote, we have higher standards for game show hosts than we do for members of Congress. Definitely a sign of a healthy society with its priorities in order.

Joining us now is Don Lemon, host of CNN's "DON LEMON TONIGHT," and author of "This is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism."

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Good morning.

COLLINS: What do you --

LEMON: Was that sarcasm in what Jake was saying? Is it -- the last part --

COLLINS: I -- I think there's a smidge. You know, it's so unlike Jake Tapper to be sarcastic.

LEMON: Yes. COLLINS: But I think there was a little bit of sarcasm in there.

LEMON: But there's truth there to that statement.

COLLINS: Right. I mean what -- what does this say to you of this -- how this has gone back and forth where he was being named the host, you know, this job of a lifetime, and then went back to being executive producer even after these comments had been unearthed?

LEMON: I don't think anybody -- after the comments had been unearthed, I don't think anybody in their right mind would think that he should still be the executive producer of the show that he tried to rig to be the host of and that there were complaints and, you know. I mean, this is -- I think for a while, you know, he was sort of in obscurity. He lived in a bubble because he wasn't front facing, right? He wasn't on the television. He wasn't really a public figure, except I think I would watch him on the Game Show Network when he -- I think he does --

COLLINS: "Wheel of Fortune"?

LEMON: No, he does "Pyramid."


LEMON: And so I would watch him as the host of "Pyramid" on the Game Show Network.

BERMAN: How often do you watch the Game Show Network?

LEMON: A lot. I've been watching the Game Show -- because I need to dial out sometimes. I can't watch news 24/7 anymore. I used to watch news 24/7. I just can't. It's too much. I can't be that inundated.

But I would watch him and I thought he was a pretty good host, but pretty much he was an obscure figure. And then once he got to the spotlight, it's hard to be able to operate in a system that you had, you know, were able to operate with impunity in your little sort of, you know, you can reign as king in that -- in that system. He wasn't able to do that anymore. His past caught up with him.

BERMAN: I've been fascinated by the discussion over "Jeopardy" this last month in the universal global importance it seems to have taken for many people, who the next host will be of this game show. The question here is, you know, Jake's tweet raises an important question here. One is, you know, we are -- a decision has been made about someone who hosts a game show whereas you have people in Congress who do and say things that are just way more offensive than what he did.

LEMON: Right.

BERMAN: Although, by the way, I think what he did is certainly -- he doesn't need to be running a game show or hosting a game show when there are clearly better people who could host it and run it.

LEMON: Right.

BERMAN: But what does it say in general about us, though?

LEMON: I think that everything has become politicized and I think that accountability doesn't seem to matter anymore because everyone -- listen, the last administration especially, you know, every single criticism of the last administration was couched in, well, they're trying to cancel me, this is a political witch hunt, rather than people being held accountable.

The last administration, the last president, every day seemed to be a crisis, right? Every single day of the presidency seemed to be a crisis or them trying to spin something into something that it wasn't, or saying that something was, you know -- was a witch hunt when it wasn't. People need to be held accountable. We are operating in a new paradigm now.


And I know people talk about cancel culture and all that. I think it's -- I think it's consequence culture, as LeVar Burton, speaking of "Jeopardy," said, that it is consequence culture, it's not necessarily cancel culture. You cannot -- you cannot be a dumb man, as we are, right, in this society and continue to operate, well, oh, the -- I remember when my wife did this.

I was watching Bill Maher the other night and I was shocked at the conversation that he and Andrew Sullivan were having about cancel culture and about -- about -- I thought we were supposed to strive to live in a color blind society. No, we don't strive to live in a color blind society.

We strive to live in a society that sees other people's color and their ethnicity and celebrates it, that celebrates women and women having a position and equity and equality in society. We don't want to go back to the '50s. I felt like they needed a new operating system and up -- you know, a system upgrade, as we have on our iPhone. They sounded like, hey, kid, get off my lawn. I just remembered, Betty and Wilma. They just sounded like Neanderthals.

Yes, we -- the things have changed, guys. We can't do what we used to do any more. You can't do what you used to do any more. People who had -- who were able to operate a certain way and we're getting -- the system was working for them. That system no longer works for them because people aren't standing for it any more. Women aren't standing for it anymore. You cannot do -- you cannot be a lug head any more. It just -- a knuckle dragger. It just doesn't happen.

BERMAN: And if you're running a game show, you just don't need that controversy. You just don't need the mess when there are a billion other people you could have as your host --

LEMON: Like Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was really great, by the way, on "Jeopardy."


COLLINS: Very good. BERMAN: Not to slight Anderson Cooper, who I know you also think was very good.

LEMON: Yes, of course. Of course.

BERMAN: And just, for instance, I'm going to say that on your behalf.

LEMON: I love Anderson. He has like 50 jobs though. So, Anderson, give one job to somebody.

COLLINS: He's a little busy.

We also want to ask you about something else, which is a new thing that we are now dealing with. I know you're a big football fan. And the head coach of the Jaguars says that whether or not players are vaccinated is -- it's not the sole reason, but it is playing a factor into cutting people from their roster.

LEMON: And they -- as well they should. I've said this a long time ago, they should. You don't want to get vaccinated, then don't come to work. If you don't get vaccinated, here's what happens, you can't come into this building, right?


LEMON: And, listen, I know it's different here. For some jobs in this particular industry, you know, maybe one doesn't have to come into the building. But in order to be a quarterback, one has to be on the field. And you have to be in close proximity to other people.

If you want to be a running back, a full back, or whatever it is, a tight end, you've got to be on the field. And if you can't be on the field, if you're putting your team in jeopardy and your teammates as well, then perhaps you should not be there.

And so I think that the team, the Jaguars, they're doing exactly what they should do. I think Cam Newton is possibly or probably suffering the consequence of that right now. Mac Jones, right, from Alabama, is now going to -- probably going to be the quarterback. But I think that -- I think that teams are right. I'm sorry. I know that people -- it's my freedom, it's my whatever.

Look at what's happening in Louisiana right now with where my family is. There are people who can't get into the hospital, who don't have COVID, who need treatment, and dire -- they're in dire situations. But many of the people who are in the hospital, the unvaccinated, are taking up the resources and the beds that people who have followed the rules need right now.


LEMON: And so I think if you don't play by the rules, if you don't do what responsible people are doing in this society, then you cannot, you should not be able to operate as if you are a vaccinated person and as if you are following the rules. COLLINS: And being in the NFL is your job. It is like going to a

workplace. You're in a locker room. You're on buses. You're in very close quarters, on planes, with a lot of your teammates. And so --

LEMON: You're also accountable to the fans, right?



LEMON: You're accountable to the people, just as in any business, you're accountable to the stakeholders and the stockholders. Same thing in the NFL or professional sports. You're accountable to the fans and you should be setting an example for the fans as well. You don't want to get vaccinated -- it is your right, it is your freedom, but not here.

BERMAN: Don Lemon, game show fan, and I also happen to know a very good game show contestant you are, Don Lemon.

LEMON: Who, me? Yes. Did I ever tell you about the time they asked me to be on celebrity "Jeopardy"?

COLLINS: What happened?

LEMON: Before -- before they -- before they could get the request out, the answer was, no, I do not want to do it.

COLLINS: Come on.

BERMAN: You are a multiple winner of the CNN quiz show. I happen -- I happen to know (INAUDIBLE). You are a two-time winner of the CNN quiz show.

COLLINS: Well, "Jeopardy" is now searching for an executive producer, so.

LEMON: I would love to do that job. I would actually love to host "Jeopardy," but that is a very tough job. No one can fill Alex Trebek's shoes. Someone -- someone will come along and do the show, but, I mean, Alex Trebek -- Alex Trebek was tremendous.

Speaking of the Game Show Network, did you ever see the old game shows that Alex Trebek did before "Jeopardy" with the crazy sweaters?

BERMAN: I think those are amazing.

LEMON: It's amazing.


LEMON: It's a whole different --

BERMAN: The '70s, it's a shame.

LEMON: And the '80s. BERMAN: Just the fact that we're not back in the '70s.

Don Lemon, thank you very much.

LEMON: Thank you too.

COLLINS: We'll be looking to see if you're wearing a sweater.

LEMON: It's good to see both of you.

COLLINS: Roll Tide.

BERMAN: You can watch -- you can watch Don Lemon at 10:00 tonight.

COLLINS: Possibly in a sweater.


BERMAN: And every night wearing a 1970s sweater.

LEMON: And my -- and my -- I feel like I should be serving ice cream with this.

COLLINS: You look good.

BERMAN: The candy man can.

Help wanted. Vaccination required. The growing trend in job postings right now, next.

COLLINS: And the fast moving wildfire that is now bearing down on an international tourist destination.


BERMAN: So, want a new job? Make sure you're vaccinated.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans here with that.



You know, there are help wanted signs all across the country, but it's help wanted with an asterisk. More employers are requiring job applicants be vaccinated. Job postings for vaccinated only applicants soared 90 percent in August. Job site Indeed noting the trend across a wide range of sectors. Software development, marketing, education, sales.

After months of reluctance to require the vaccine, patience is running out. A few factors here. The evidence is clear, the vaccine is safe and effective. Full FDA approval of that Pfizer vaccine has pushed some companies toward now requiring it.

And an unvaccinated workforce is simply bad for business. The delta variant twice as likely to land unvaccinated workers in the hospital. That hospital stay is disruptive for the company and costly. The vaccine, of course, is effectively free, but a stay in the hospital costs anywhere from $22,000, this is Medicare data, to almost $50,000 if you're on a ventilator.

Now, many companies are already mandating vaccines to return to their offices. For many, a vaccine mandate is simply a logical step to minimize hospitalization costs, quarantines and expensive testing regimes.

Now, it may be easier to mandate new employees, right, be vaccinated than current ones. Companies are still struggling, you guys, with how to get their hesitant staffs to get the shot. We know Delta Airlines trying something unique, adding money, adding a cost, a premium to its health insurance plans so that it can eat up the cost and try to disincentivize so many of these unvaccinated workers and let them get the vaccine.

BERMAN: It makes a lot of sense.

Christine Romans, thanks so much for that.

Here is what else to watch today.


1:00 p.m. ET, Pentagon briefing on Afghanistan.

1:00 p.m. ET, White House press briefing.

2:00 p.m. ET, Biden meets Ukraine's president.


COLLINS: Up next, beautiful Lake Tahoe is all but deserted as a wildfire roars ever closer.



COLLINS: One of the largest wildfires in California history is forcing thousands of residents from their homes. The Caldor Fire has scorched nearly 200,000 acres as the massive blaze races toward Lake Tahoe, destroying hundreds of structures and putting a lot of lives at risk.

CNN's Dan Simon is live in the south Lake Tahoe area with more.

Dan, what are you seeing and how bad is it getting?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kaitlan.

Well, the fire is just a few short miles from reaching this community. Crews doing everything they can to beat back the flames. The problem, though, is the wind and this area remains under a red flag warning until late tonight. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON (voice over): Fire crews racing to contain the Caldor Fire as the blaze is now turning and threatening parts of Nevada.

GOV. STEVE SISOLAK (D-NV): We are using all of our resources, everything we have at our disposal.

SIMON: Firefighters battled throughout the night to protect homes and businesses in the vacation enclave south Lake Tahoe. Tuesday, the streets in the area filled with dense smoke, leaving the area completed deserted. Crews were standing by to protect homes as the flames started coming down the mountainside. Residents preparing for the worst, fearful they will lose everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going through your mind?

STEPHANIE BUSBY, SOUTH LAKE TAHOE EVACUEE: Oh, everything, really, being, you know, our whole town, our jobs, everything. Just saying bye to our town possibly.

SIMON: Dry conditions and heavy winds have fueled the Caldor Fire for several days. So far it's burned nearly 200,000 acres. California is taking every measure to try to contain the Caldor Fire with planes dropping retardant chemicals and hundreds of fire trucks and water trucks in the area ready to help. The state has also deployed thousands of firefighters and National Guard troops to battle the blaze. All residents and tourists in El Dorado County and the surrounding areas have been ordered to evacuate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we were going through our house, you're kind of going through the boxes and you're like, OK, what can I leave behind and what do I have to take, you know? And we've got six kids. And so it's -- it was very hard to say, OK, do I keep their preschool pictures.

SIMON: The more than 53,000 residents scrambled to pack and get out as quickly as possible, causing traffic jams that left roadways backed up for miles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen anything like this before. I've never seen Tahoe be deserted and empty before.

SIMON: Some evacuees forced to set up camp at this shelter in Carson City, Nevada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got the clothes on my back right now and I've got the important papers. That's it. I'm worried to death.


SIMON: The Caldor Fire has been and remains the number one firefighting priority in the nation. So this is not about resources, this is about the wind and dry fuel and the historic drought we've been experiencing in California, which, of course, scientists say is driven by climate change. Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, it is, things that they're worried are out of their control but -- because those are very big questions.


Dan Simon, thank you very much.

And CNN's coverage continues right now. Thank you for joining us this morning and letting me fill in.

BERMAN: You'll be back.

COLLINS: Tomorrow.