Trump DC Hotel TRANSCRIPT: 5/15/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.
Tonight, a mission accomplished moment from Donald Trump. The president has
been declaring, we`re back. Donald Trump deciding today is the time to move
forward, pushing to reopen states that clash with his own guidelines, virus
deaths climbing over 87,000, no vaccine or treatment, and new hot spots
popping up around the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to make something
clear. It`s very important. Vaccine or no vaccine, we`re back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, Trump appearing at the Rose Garden without a mask, or others
on his mask – meanwhile, others with him, you can see right there, wearing
masks, meanwhile, no scientific evidence for the claim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We think we`re going have a vaccine in the pretty near future.
We`re looking to get it by the end of the year, if we can, maybe before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Meanwhile, a vaccine as soon as possible would, of course, be
great. Everyone welcomes that.
Medical experts, though, have continued to say it`s unlikely. Dr. Fauci
warning, this is not going to happen soon. Others say a fast vaccine
outcome would mean basically a miracle happening.
Trump also says that testing itself might be – quote – “overrated.” The
White House claiming it had a pandemic plan all along, this coming as Trump
blames, of all people, yes, Barack Obama, a defense that has been recently
demolished by many experts on the scene.
Mitch McConnell admitting that President Obama actually had a pandemic plan
in place, which undercuts a false accusation that the – quote –
“cupboards were bare.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Clearly, the Obama administration did not
leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this.
I was wrong. They did leave behind a plan. So, I clearly made a mistake in
that regard. As to whether or not the plan was followed and who is the
critic and all the rest, I don`t have any observation about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: As we often do, we like to begin immediately with our experts on
these kinds of topics.
Jeremy Konyndyk is the former director for USAID under President Obama.
Michelle Goldberg joins us from “The New York Times,” and Dr. Natalie Azar,
rheumatologist from the NYU Langone Medical Center.
Dr. Azar, what context can you give us on all of the above?
DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the vaccine
story is probably the most interesting one of the day.
So I think it`s kind of important to put it into context that the vaccine
that the White House is talking about happens to be something – and I`m
going to get just a little bit technical for a second, because it`s a new
technology that we have never actually had a vaccine licensed with this
particular technology before.
So that`s important to remember, because the traditional way of making a
vaccine is indeed very cumbersome. They use virus that is either live,
attenuated or dead, and it takes a long time to develop that kind of a
vaccine, typically, that four-to-five-year at the shortest timeline that we
have been talking about.
This is different kind of methodology. And so, in concept or in theory, it
can be expedited. I have listened to a couple experts weigh in on this idea
that it can be ready by the end of the year, and I think the overwhelming
sentiment is that that`s incredibly ambitious, that that would be really
what would be an unprecedented sprint to the finish line.
And then I have heard some other people say, listen, this is Dr. Slaoui and
Dr. Fauci, who are sort of not agreeing with, but sort of are giving their
opinion on this, and they`re respected researchers and scientists, and they
say it is theoretically possible.
So I think it`s kind of like a wait and see. I think most people think, by
the time you get to the point where you have a vaccine that`s shown to be
both effective and safe and you have scaled it, by the end of 2020 does
sound rather ambitious.
MELBER: Yes, and we have looked at that.
And, Jeremy, take a listen to what experts are saying, health experts
pushing back on too fast of the expectations for a vaccine timeline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS
DISEASES: It would take then about a year to a year-and-a-half to be fully
confident that we would have a vaccine.
DR. RICK BRIGHT, FORMER DIRECTOR, BIOMEDICAL ADVANCED RESEARCH AND
DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Twelve to 18 months is an aggressive schedule, and I
think it`s going to take longer than that to do so.
FAUCI: There is no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be
BRIGHT: We have never seen everything go perfectly.
FAUCI: The vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term
would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY KONYNDYK, FORMER USAID OFFICIAL: You know, I think unless they can
outline how they can compress the timeline, you have to look at this with a
bit of skepticism.
I welcome the fact that they are going to throw everything they have at
expediting the timeline. I think that`s good. I think some of the things
that they`re looking like, bringing DOD in some the biosecurity
capabilities at DOD into the fight here, is great.
But it`s still – it`s really hard to compress that timeline below the 12
to 18 months that Drs. Bright and Fauci are talking about in a way that
doesn`t compromise the safety or efficacy of the vaccine product. So to
have a proven vaccine at scale by the end of the year, it doesn`t strike me
And they`re pretty thin on detail in saying how they`re going to do that.
MELBER: And, Michelle, take a listen to the way the president has
overpromised in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Ultimately, the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up. I
hope we can do this by Easter.
Widespread surveillance testing will allow us to monitor the spread of the
virus. And we`re doing that quite accurately.
In the next 100 days, we will receive over three times the number of
ventilators made during a regular year in the United States.
We ordered 500 million masks, 300 and 200, and they`re going to be here
We have prevailed on testing.
We think we`re going have a vaccine in the pretty near future.
No, I`m not overpromising. I don`t know who said it. But whatever the
maximum is, whatever you can humanely do, we`re going to have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Michelle, a brief fact-check for your analysis. The country didn`t
reopen by Easter. There is no widespread surveillance testing. And the
ventilator numbers, they were talking 100,000. They have about 6,000.
What context does this give, when the president can`t just be obviously
ignored or disappeared in our system of government, but you have this
repeat failure of the promises made?
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: I was reminded of that press
conference he gave where he said that there was going to be imminently
drive-up testing in every drugstore parking lot.
And so – and they`re not even trying to do that anymore. Right? It`s not
that they`re not on schedule. I think they just promised that, realized it
wasn`t going to happen and gave up on it.
And so I think it`s great actually that they have this extremely ambitious
timeline up for a vaccine. God knows we need it, and God knows you want the
government to be throwing everything it has at it and doing it kind of, you
But I don`t know why anybody would trust this government to follow through
on its big promises. And, you know, kind of savvy people, people who pay a
lot of attention to the news probably know to take everything that the
president says with a grain of salt.
But, understandably, there are people in this country who hear what the
president says and think that it has some validity and make their plans
around it, make decisions in their lives around it, which is especially
important right now, when the guidance on kind of public health is so
confusing, and everybody is having to weigh risks in their own lives, you
know, in the absence of a lot of good information.
The fact that we can`t trust the president for good information is a really
MELBER: Dr. Azar?
AZAR: Yes, I just think, listening to what Michelle is saying, just a
little humility would be welcome here, to say, we`re working with Moderna
on this vaccine. The Oxford vaccine is now collaborating with AstraZeneca
to scale up, because they had some very promising results in their primate
And just – and I know that this moonshot idea is something that they have
been talking about to sort of not squander resources, but gather as many or
try to collaborate with as many promising primate data and pooling that, so
that we`re not – we don`t have that many patients to test on, and we don`t
have much resource to waste, and just to say, look, we`re doing our best.
And, in the meantime, this is what we`re doing on therapeutics. And, in the
meantime, this is where we are on testing, because truth of the matter is,
oh, my goodness, if we got a vaccine that was really safe and effective,
that, by the way, a significant portion of the American population would
need to agree to get, which is another conversation altogether, it`s still
not going to be the only tool in the toolbox.
You`re still going to have to do all of the other things. And I just think
being honest about that and communicating that is so much more effective
than, we`re going to have a vaccine – a nonscientist saying we`re going
have a vaccine by the end of the year, which really no scientist has said.
MELBER: Jeremy, you`re nodding. Go ahead.
KONYNDYK: Yes, I think that that`s such an important point.
Even if you accept their timeline, which I think is highly questionable, it
doesn`t help us right now. We need to make it through to the end of the
year. And what we need to make it through to the end of the year is a lot
more testing, a lot more PPE, a lot more support to our hospitals.
And I`m really struck by the fact that the administration is choosing to
take ownership, take federal ownership of the vaccine issue when it
declined to take federal ownership of the problems we have right now,
particularly on testing and contact tracing.
That`s what we need to get us through to the end of the year. And they`re
leaving that to the states. They`re not taking responsibility for those.
MELBER: And, Michelle, the other thing I want to play is something we put
together where, again, you see the president`s own remarks here.
They have moved away, obviously, from the briefings we all remember, but
his own remarks pop up and continue to basically self-contradict. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have the greatest testing in the world.
It could be that testing is, frankly, overrated. Maybe it is overrated.
Another essential pillar of our strategy to keep America open is the
development of effective treatments and vaccines as quickly as possible.
If we don`t, we`re going to be, like so many other cases, where you had a
problem come in, it will go away. At some point, it will go away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDBERG: I mean, I don`t think that anybody believes that it`s going to
just go away, absent either a scientific breakthrough, kind of very strict
public health adherence, or herd immunity, which would kill maybe hundreds
of thousands, if not more, Americans, before everybody got the virus and
developed some sort of immunity to it.
And so we heard this from the beginning, right? It will go away, it will go
away. He`s already talking about the virus in some instances in the past
tense, as something that we have gone through.
And you hear him say, you know, vaccine or not, we`re back.
And it just doesn`t work that way. You know, the president can kind of deny
reality, create an alternative reality for his supporters in a lot of
different political realms, but I think we`re seeing in some of the states
that have already reopened, even when cases are increasing, you can reopen,
but you can`t make people go to restaurants if they don`t feel safe, right?
You can`t make people join crowds, fly in planes if they feel like they`re
putting their lives at risk, which means that you can`t just say, we`re
reopening and the economy is going to come back. Right?
The only way to do this is to actually do the work of fighting this virus.
And that is something this president, he`s not up for it, and he is not
even really trying.
MELBER: And so, Jeremy, what is the public health implications of that? Can
you measure or put a cost on misinformation that sends people in the wrong
KONYNDYK: Yes, absolutely.
The U.S. response has been plagued by the president`s magical thinking, as
Michelle noted, really from the very beginning. And it left us less
There was a cost right from the outset, that the country was not as
prepared as we could have been, because the threat was being downplayed,
and he had this magical idea that it would just take care of itself. And
we`re seeing that again.
And so, he is encouraging behavior in states that is very, very risky. We
need a couple more weeks to start to really gauge what`s happening in some
of the states that have reopened, in my view, prematurely. But I think
there is a very real risk that we just start seeing more cases again.
And the president`s supporters listen to him. Not everyone does, but they
do. And he is putting them at risk if he is giving them bad information.
MELBER: Dr. Azar, have you seen anything comparable to this in sort of
private practice or other scenarios, where people`s strongly held views
that are from outside of medical science, be they political, the supporters
that he has, or other generalized ideas – I mean, certainly, we all know
there is a larger anti-vaccination belief system that can cut against
public health expertise.
But what other examples do you have in a situation like this? And I`m
curious, what would you do with a patient if you had someone come in and
say, oh, someone or something they believe, political or otherwise, cuts
against the medical advice? What do you do in that situation?
AZAR: Yes, Ari, that`s a great question.
It`s something that, as a clinician, we deal with all the time, and we
teach our medical students how to – we just had this lecture, actually,
this past week about, you know, different belief systems and what you do in
And, you know, you don`t abandon patients when they disagree with you. You
– this is a very medically literal population that we have in general.
There is information access everywhere. And I think it`s all about
understanding and listening and saying, I value your opinion, and this is
why I think this, and this is my recommendation. And if you don`t choose to
follow it, that`s OK. I will still take care of you, but these are the
risks that I see for you.
You know, it`s very, very basic. You have to establish a trusting
relationship, and the patients do need to feel confident that they are
being heard. That`s very, very important, and in some capacity, to validate
them for having their opinions, although you do try to at least educate
them, so that they can make, you know, a decision that`s medically sound.
That`s the best you can do, but…
MELBER: Well, and that`s a fair point as well, because while it`s not a one
to one, the entire thing we`re living through as a nation, as you say,
building trust and showing respect, not just condescending or lecturing to
someone who may say, hey, I have a strongly held belief, political,
religious or otherwise, OK, respect.
But then what do we want to do about what we`re learning and how do we do
that together? I think it`s an important point, even if it`s at odds, as we
have just shown, with much of what the president is telling people, people
who choose to believe him.
Dr. Azar, Michelle Goldberg and Jeremy Konyndyk, I want to thank each of
We have a lot in tonight`s show. There are millions of Americans now lining
up at food banks trying to meet ends meet. And, tonight, we`re joined by
the Reverend William Barber about what this crisis means and what people
can do right now to help in their own ways.
Also, why Donald Trump`s usual approach of misinformation is not helping
him deal with the pandemic. “Art of the Deal” co-author Tony Schwartz, a
friend of THE BEAT, is back tonight. Very eager to hear what he has to say.
And there are new developments tonight in a lawsuit that is arguing that
Donald Trump is violating the Constitution. We have that story.
And, later, a special interview to end the week with an artist who is
fighting COVID and who says it`s changed his life forever.
We have a lot more coming up. I`m Ari Melber, and you`re watching THE BEAT
MELBER: (AUDIO GAP) is not true, the president claiming, asserting the
country is now – quote – “back.”
Of course, that`s despite the lack of vaccine or reliable treatment or even
the widespread testing that this administration itself said was necessary.
This is the kind of overstatement, exaggeration, or call it outright lies
that Donald Trump has actually leaned on in a variety of parts of his work
and life since the 1980s. You can recall it from when he promoted casinos
which were on their way to going bankrupt at times that he knew it and his
public statements were not true.
Or promoting Trump University, which, remember, was a business that gave
out business advice that went out of business.
Now, some have been on the case. You go all the way back to “The Art of the
Deal,” where Donald Trump wrote about talking up a construction site to
make it look busy as a lie to deceive investors – quote – “Bulldozers and
dump trucks, what they were doing,” he said, “wasn`t important, as long as
they did a lot of it,” all to deceive someone into investing in something
that wasn`t as it looked.
All of it echoing some of the events we now see, Donald Trump featuring
testing kits while the U.S. lags in testing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Anybody right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a
test. They`re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.
We had broken tests. We had tests that were obsolete. We had tests that
didn`t take care of people.
It`s going to disappear. One day, it`s like a miracle. It will disappear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But the president, and more importantly, really, much of the nation
is now up against this ongoing deadly virus, which does not respond, which
does not lessen when there is puffery or exaggeration, let alone threats or
We get into all of it here with “Art of the Deal” co-author Tony Schwartz,
a friend of THE BEAT, when we`re back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: We are back with “Art of the Deal” co-author and friend of THE BEAT
Tony Schwartz. He is part of our State of Mind series.
He is also the author of “The Way We`re Working Isn`t Working.”
It`s been a minute. Good to see you, sir.
TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, “TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL”: Good to see you,
MELBER: We, like many, recognize the echoes of the puffery, the strategy,
I`m curious what you see here on day when the president is again declaring
victories he hasn`t achieved.
SCHWARTZ: This has been revelatory to me, Ari.
The whole way he has responded has prompted me to really rethink Trump`s
motivation. I have always assumed, like most people have, that the primary
motivation is to be loved and admired and recognized and praised.
That is a motivation. But the deeper motivation is domination, is to win.
And that is a function of the fact that he has no conscience. And let`s be
clear, no conscience.
And this is really hard for us to understand. So, he doesn`t make a
distinction between right or wrong, nor does he feel a distinction between
right or wrong. So when he is inventing stories and lies and a reality that
is of his own making, he`s doing it without any shame or guilt.
And that is an enormous advantage in a situation where most people would be
limited by their respect for the truth and by their concern for how they
were going to have an impact on others. He doesn`t care.
The deaths – I know this is extreme – the deaths don`t matter to him. If
it`s a decision between saving himself and saving others, it is no contest.
MELBER: That`s your view.
I remind people, as I mentioned with the book, that you were up close with
him, that you worked on a project with him. You have since made donations
to charity. You have spoken about your work on the book didn`t make him
ever want him to be president. And you are one of the many people who`s
worked with him or knows him better than the rest of the country that
watches him on television. And these are your views.
So it`s striking to hear you say that.
We have witnessed him go out there day after day – and this is beyond
politics or ideology – and really present a view that he`s not going to be
focused on, let alone consoling or mourning, a death toll that is 9/11
times 20, Tony.
SCHWARTZ: No, he`s not going to, because what`s meaningful to him is
opening the economy, not because he cares about the people who are being
affected, but because he cares about their votes.
And he believes, rightly or wrongly, that people are going to be more
concerned with going back to work than they are with protecting their
We will see. But it`s not an issue for him what people are feeling, as I
said just a moment ago, and I know it`s – as you said, it sounds extreme -
- but it`s hard for human beings to understand the absence of conscience
and the absence of empathy, because it`s so second nature to us.
So, we try to see it through our lens. But imagine seeing it through his
lens, where all he`s thinking is, I either win or I lose. Right now, I`m at
risk of losing. So, I better do what I can to save myself.
Well, let me build on that, because everyone remembers the famous Fifth
Avenue quote, he could shoot someone. This, tragically, is an extreme
example that involves more than one loss of life, and people who are
following him, to their own measurable detriment of health and self-
interest, which is a hard thing also to get your heads around, although
it`s not the first time in human history that you can point to that
Howard Stern and you have something in common. Did you know that?
SCHWARTZ: I did.
MELBER: You both hung out with him in the old days, and neither of you
think, you have publicly stated…
MELBER: … that he is fit to be president. And there is a difference
between meeting someone in a certain context and then saying whether they
should be the most powerful person in the world, especially as we look at
the stakes in a pandemic.
Howard Stern making waves with this new comment. I want to make sure people
hear this. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The oddity in all of this is, the
people Trump despises most love him the most. Think about it.
The people who are voting for Trump, for the most part, oh, my God, he
wouldn`t even let them in a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hotel. I`m talking to you
in the audience, the Trump voter who idolizes the guy. He despises you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCHWARTZ: That is 100 percent true.
It`s actually something I said myself back in 2016 in the “New Yorker”
piece that was written about my experience, that he hates losers. He sees
the world in terms of winners and losers. The winners are Putin, Kim Jong-
un, Erdogan, and him.
The rest of the world are losers, including many, many people who have
worked for him. If you now take someone who – a working-class person who
is out of a job or has a drug problem and you say, that`s a person who may
have voted for Trump, the last thing on earth Trump wants to do is be
anywhere near that person. It`s like that person has cooties.
MELBER: What you would call affectionately, perhaps, in his world view,
SCHWARTZ: Loser cooties.
MELBER: And, Tony, this is, to my knowledge, the first time we have
mentioned cooties on the show in our news reporting.
And so I thank you for that as well.
SCHWARTZ: I like – yes, and I like to do firsts with you, Ari.
Well, tough times, but we can all use a cooties reference where we can get
Tony Schwartz, it`s been a crazy news cycle. I know our viewers appreciate
the context you bring. I appreciate you coming back on the show.
We will see you soon, sir.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you. Stay safe.
MELBER: Yes, sir.
We`re going fit in a break, but we have a lot more topics.
A lawsuit on Donald Trump deliberately profiting off the presidency that
might make its way to the Supreme Court, a big story.
Also, new reporting on how this pandemic is impacting poor and minority
communities the hardest. A very special guest, you may recall him from many
times on MSNBC, but we haven`t had him on THE BEAT lately.
I`m thrilled to tell you the Reverend William Barber is here live next,
right after this break.
MELBER: We have been reporting on the health crisis for the first half of
our broadcast tonight.
Now we turn to the related economic crisis, 36 million Americans out of
jobs, leading to scenes like this in Dallas and New York. This is just in
the last day, thousands of people at food banks, trying to make ends meet,
trying to find way to put food on the table.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know. This is a very scary time, and I don`t
think it`s over right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, I`m unemployed. Right now, I have two out
of my five – two out of five of my kids home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re going to see demand like this for years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a tremendous need. We have seen a 400 percent
increase in people coming to our pantries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now is Reverend William Barber.
He is the president of Repairers of the Breach, co-founder of the Poor
People`s campaign, a revival the effort first launched by Reverend Martin
Luther King Jr., who worked tirelessly, of course, on civil rights and
racial justice and also on working people`s rights within America.
It`s been a moment since I have seen you. It is good to see you again, sir.
REV. DR. WILLIAM BARBER, PRESIDENT, NORTH CAROLINA NAACP: Thank you so
And, you know, I stand there. I just looked at those lines. All that we`re
seeing is bad choices. This has been a damnable dereliction of duty that is
actually criminal. And if I were to speak in biblical terms, it`s evil,
when you – we have had this pandemic.
Before the pandemic, 140 million people were living in poverty and low-
income, 43 percent of this country, 700 people dying a day from poverty,
250,000 a year, and 80 million people either uninsured or underinsured.
And we knew, we knew going on in that pandemics live in the fissures and
the wounds of society caused by poverty and systemic racism. And what the
pandemic has been is like a contrast dye that you put in your body that has
forced us to see this.
And we didn`t have – this is choice, these lines, people not having health
care, people not having tested. This is not the disease. This is not the
germ. As ugly, as bad as that germ is, it`s not the germ. It`s the pandemic
of greed and lies and racism and public idolatry and narcissism, not just
from Trump, but even from the Congress and his enablers in the Congress,
where we did not respond to this thing properly.
And thousands of people have died needlessly. And it is a damnable
dereliction of duty, and now we`re just opening our society without doing
the things we ought to have done. It`s going to be lethal to so many
MELBER: And you say it goes beyond the president. What else is it
revealing? What do we do about it?
BARBER: Well, the first thing we need to do, we`re considering a fourth
The first thing, every congressperson ought to get on the floor and repent
for that first three bills. First three bills, $2 trillion, $3 trillion, 83
percent went to the corporations, not to the people. We gave the people a
title change, essential, but we didn`t provide them the essential things
they needed, health care, protection, testing, protection from being thrown
out and evicted, protections from their utilities being cut off.
And then what we need is a real bill, not just a hero bill, but a human
rights bill. You know, we`re talking about, Ari, anywhere from 11 to 13
million more people are going to be added to the uninsured, according to a
recent study by Harvard.
We`re talking 40 percent of people under $40,000 who making – will lose
their jobs. We are talking about the poverty going up exponentially. So, we
need not just the – we need a transformative bill, not a moderate bill.
How can we not pass to protect people with health care? We`re the only of
25 wealthiest countries that does not protect health care for everybody. We
attach health care to a job, instead of to people`s humanity.
Right now, in the midst of this pandemic, like Roosevelt did with the New
Deal, we should be saying, we`re going to insure everybody`s health care,.
We`re going insure a living wage. We`re going to make sure you can`t be
evicted. We`re going make sure your water can`t be turned off. We`re going
make sure that we enact the Defense Authorization Act that you have the
PPEs and everything.
What we have learned, Ari, is that, even before this, too many people are
too comfortable with other people`s death. And that has a long history in
America, from the death, genocide of Native people, from blaming diphtheria
on Chinese people, from blaming the swine flu on Spanish people, blaming
cholera on Indian – people from India, a long history of ignoring other
people`s deaths, to our own detriment.
So we now need a transformative day. And I`m so tired and people are so
I talked to a lady today – a few days ago who is a nursing assistant. And
she said, Reverend Barber, I`m a nurse`s assistant. We are experiencing
public policy mass murder. She said, the fact that we have to go by garbage
bags to go to work, we don`t have what we need, in a country with our
manufacturing power and our economic power…
BARBER: … the fact that we don`t have these things is policy decisions.
MELBER: Right. That goes…
BARBER: And a public health pandemic requires a policy reaction.
MELBER: And, Reverend, that goes to the last thing I want to ask you about.
In law and policy, you have acts, commission, and you have not acting,
omission. And both can be wrong. Both can have consequences.
The last thing I want to ask you about is a very simple statistic we pulled
here on what`s being provided to workers who are going back into this risk.
About half are being given gloves, which means half are not.
And masks, which the CDC says are necessary, 80 percent are not being
offered masks, only 19 percent being offered masks. Do you view that
omission as morally wrong?
BARBER: It`s sin. I mean, it`s literally evil, especially when you can do
That`s why we`re organizing, stay at home, stay in place, stay alive,
organize, and don`t believe the lie. That`s why, on June 20, we`re pulling
together a mass movement digitally, a national Poor People`s Assembly Moral
March on Washington digitally, and thousands, literally millions of people
are going to tune in.
We are in a battle for the very soul and heart of this country. And even if
you`re not a religious person, the way we have done these policies, what
Trump has done, and McConnell has done or not done, are commission. This is
They could have done better. And it doesn`t even line up in our
Constitution. There is nothing about this that establishes justice. There
is nothing about this that provides for the common defense. There is
nothing about this that promotes the general welfare of all people.
In like the Book of Jeremiah, it says from the greatest to the small, they
are lying. And they are applying a Band-Aid to a wound that requires
something much more. And it doesn`t have to be.
I agree with “The Boston Globe” when they said the blood is on the hands of
those in power who could do better, from the president to the Congress, who
know what to do and could do better, and are not doing it.
And we have to be just that clear. And that`s why poor and low-wealth
people and moral leaders are rising up in this moment, because, brother, if
we can`t get this right in a pandemic, God help us in this country.
If we can look at this level of death, and now our children, the children,
and if folk can glibly just go back, and knowing that they`re going spread
this, I feel sorry for people that will believe a con artist who walks
around with no mask, because everybody else has masks around him, and there
six and 12 feet apart. That`s not courage. That`s a con.
And to think that people are being conned, I`m getting (AUDIO GAP) from my
friends up in Appalachia, in the mountains, poor folk, that are going to be
devastated by this.
And it`s time that we have to come together and say, we – even if we are
taking our last breaths, Ari, we ought to say, if I`m taking my last
breath, because all of could be, then what am I going to use my last breath
to fight for, what kind of world, what kind of society?
BARBER: Let`s choose justice, let`s choose love, and let`s fight.
MELBER: You lay it out clearly.
I hope people are listening. We will come back to you again.
Reverend Barber, thank you.
And I want to make sure everyone understands you can go see Reverend
Barber`s march and how to get involved. That`s June2020.org.
Thank you, sir.
We will be right back.
MELBER: Update to a big story, a lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of violating
the Constitution`s Emoluments Clause, which says the president can`t just
take money from foreign governments.
This lawsuit now arguing he has actually been profiting from foreign
delegations staying at his infamous Washington, D.C., hotel.
And here is the update, a federal appeals court ruling this suit can
proceed, which means it could be a big battle at the Supreme Court, a story
we promised we`d keep you updated on.
Now, when we come back, a very special conversation with a very special
guest on his battle after contracting COVID.
MELBER: Coronavirus is impacting all parts of society.
We`re living through the impact on health care, economy, politics and our
culture. And artists are, of course, adjusting to the new normal, including
innovations, as people perform during quarantine and artists themselves
confront this adversity.
That includes when it hits home.
Take the legendary rapper performs Brad Jordan, who performs as Scarface.
He`s recounting his battle after contract in COVID-19 and facing kidney
failure related to the virus.
Scarface was a member of the groundbreaking Houston-based rap group, the
Geto Boys. He`s ranked as one of the top 20 lyricists of all time by “The
Source” and known for a career working with legends like Tupac and Jay-Z.
He also recently ran for city council in his hometown of Houston.
And now tonight, to end the week, Brad “Scarface” Jordan joins me, along
with former BuzzFeed Washington bureau chief John Stanton. He`s no stranger
to MSNBC viewers. You have seen him over the years on “Rachel Maddow,” and
he`s the co-founder of the Save Journalism Project, providing resources for
reporters navigating changes in the industry.
Thanks to both of you for joining me for this special discussion.
BRAD “SCARFACE” JORDAN, RAPPER: Appreciate it. How are you all doing?
MELBER: We`re doing all right. How you doing, Brad and John?
How are you both doing?
JORDAN: I can`t hear John.
MELBER: John hasn`t said anything yet.
John, how are you doing?
JORDAN: What is up, John?
JOHN STANTON, FORMER WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, BUZZFEED: I was waiting on
Scarface to start.
STANTON: I`m good. How you been?
JORDAN: It`s all good. We`re good.
MELBER: We`re all right. Good.
MELBER: Brad, I want to get into everything.
Let`s start, of course, with your health, sir.
MELBER: And I see you on your phone. You can pull it – if you pull it even
a little further away from you, we will get a better TV shot.
And I know that you are coming back from the – that`s pretty good, if you
Talk to me, sir. How are you holding up? How are you doing with this?
JORDAN: I`m adjusting to a new life, Ari, in all honesty.
JORDAN: I have lost kidneys. I lost my kidneys.
I go to dialysis four times a week now. I just – you know, the whole –
that whole – you don`t mind if I – 224 pounds to 184 pounds. Now they`re
draining all the fluid out my body in this dialysis thing.
But, you know, I`m glad to be alive, brother, in all honesty. I`m super
glad to be alive.
MELBER: Yes, sir.
JORDAN: I went through a lot of stuff, man, you know?
I woke up one morning – excuse me – I woke up with bilateral pneumonia,
went to the emergency room, when they said that I had the COVID. And this
was right when it first cropped up. This was like March the 7th.
I was diagnosed with COVID, OK? So, I went from the month of March all the
way until April 9 with COVID, bilateral pneumonia and kidney failure. And I
fought it right here in this very room right here, in this very chair.
Something just led me away from the E.R.s and the hospitals, you know, and
telling me not to get on those ventilators. You know, I have got underlying
health conditions also, from asthma, to high blood pressure, to congestive
heart failure, to you name it.
So, when you look at me still being alive, you`re looking at a miracle. And
I don`t know how strong the watchers` faiths – how they are in their
faith, but every time I talk to my doctor, they say – my doctors, they say
that I should have been part of those 85,000 people that`s already dead.
I mean, that – we`re glad, obviously, you`re not. This touches everything.
And you`re a person that is known to so many. And for you to share this is
– it`s a type of strength and courage, because people need to know,
obviously, how real this is.
You have followers. You have fans. It`s a reminder to everyone, just like
all the other stories we tell of how real it is.
John Stanton, I want to know what you think. And I know you`re down in New
Orleans. So, I know you know about the Scarface legend history.
STANTON: I`m glad you`re all right.
No, I think, actually, when you got sick, I think, for a lot of people, at
least in my generation, that was like a real wakeup call for us, you know,
because you were like the biggest celebrity that I had seen so far that had
And I think, for a lot of my friends and people in my community here in New
Orleans, it was a very big deal that this happened, because it happened to
somebody that we knew who you were. We have followed your career. And you
have had a big impact on everybody`s lives.
And I think it really brought it home for a lot of people.
JORDAN: Yes, a lot of people – excuse me, Ari.
MELBER: No, go ahead.
JORDAN: A lot of think this is fake or it`s a hoax.
This is not fake. It`s not a hoax. If you want to open up the country right
now and play games with people`s lives, you know, if you want to take – if
you want to partake in that, then that`s on you.
But I promise you, this is – I don`t ever want to catch this again. As a
matter of fact, I don`t even know how I caught it the first time, OK,
because I got a…
MELBER: Hey – yes.
MELBER: Brad, you saying that – I`m going to jump in and say, you saying
that is what people need to hear, because you`re saying, this is so, so
We did create something special I want to show you, though. Are you ready?
I want to show you a little – because you know we love you, OK?
JORDAN: I don`t want to know what this is, man, because I hate you rapping
my songs, man. What is this?
MELBER: You stay with me.
I want to just – end of the week, long week. You`re going through
everything. Let`s look briefly at the legacy of Scarface itself.
Everybody knows the iconic Brian De Palma film with Al Pacino. It
introduced a then 23-year-old Michelle Pfeiffer, the rags-to-riches story,
the rise, the fall, Tony Montana, turned drug lord.
MELBER: A story that resonates for viewers. It`s been embraced by hip-hop,
quoted in dozens of song, not only after its release in the `80s, but to
Take 2020 Billboard toppers Lil Baby and DaBaby, whose recent music video
reimagine themselves there in “Scarface.” And let`s take a look at some
other moments right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE PFEIFFER, ACTRESS: Lesson number two, don`t get high on your own
AL PACINO, ACTOR: This country, you got to make the money first. Then when
you get the money, you get the power. Then, when you get the power, then
you get the woman.
PACINO: Do you know what a haza is, Frank? That`s a pig that don`t fly
PACINO: Do you know what a haza is? That`s a pig that don`t fly straight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: “Scarface” the movie, started it. Scarface the rapper continued it.
And you have got artists to this day doing what you`re doing.
What does it mean to you? What did that movie teach you?
JORDAN: The movie put a – it put a you can come from anywhere and get it
mentality, you know, if that makes sense.
You can come from anywhere, any walk of life. You can be born in poverty,
and, you know, the next minute, you`re living the life of luxury, you know.
My thing is, don`t – don`t give up, don`t let go, because it`s a beautiful
– it`s a beautiful ending to every story, once you open your book. Once
you start bringing that story to life, it ends beautifully.
But you have to apply yourself, you know?
JORDAN: You have to have (AUDIO GAP).
Like, I wanted to live in the midst of this COVID, in the midst of this
pneumonia, in the midst of this kidney failure. I still want to live.
MELBER: Yes, sir.
MELBER: Let me say this, Brad, because we – I`m at the end of my hour.
I want to have you back on the show. I want you to recover. And I want to
see you in person.
MELBER: So, if you will do it, let`s do it again. And you come back.
JORDAN: You got my number. You can call me any time, you hear?
MELBER: You got it. Honored to meet you.
Thanks to John for riding with us.
Brad “Scarface” Jordan, we all wish you a speedy recovery.
That does it for us. Keep it right here on MSNBC.
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prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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