WHO funding TRANSCRIPT: 4/15/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I think people who sit in these chairs are aware of how we can be
thrown. There is various ways we can be thrown. One is the one-word answer.
That`s the last thing we expect from any guest especially politicians.
And so, it was especially delightful –
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
O`DONNELL: – to watch you fielding a one-word answer from Senator
Elizabeth Warren on would she accept the vice presidential nomination in
the last hour.
Do you mind, Rachel, if we show that to America again during this hour
complete with your reaction to it?
MADDOW: Of course. I mean, I will say, it is – it is a humbling thing.
Part of the thing with the remote studios is we have a little more of a
delay. It`s a little more awkward for our satellite interactions with
anybody but when she just said the one word that she said and I was like
oh, that`s it.
OK, right. It was probably not my finest, smoothest TV host moment but yes,
play it – play it at nauseam.
O`DONNELL: Well, Rachel, it was actually smoother than the recreation you
just did of it, but we`ll let the audience judge once again in this hour
when they see it. It`s a great moment and it was breaking news and we`re
going to use it.
MADDOW: Thank you very much, my friend. Appreciate it, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, people are dying in America because they cannot get tested for
coronavirus and once again today, the president said this country has the
greatest testing in the world, which is not true and that has to be
especially painful for Julie Murillo to hear. She told the story to Alex
Wigglesworth in today`s “Los Angeles Times” of the death of her 43-year-old
husband, Julio Ramirez who she met in high school. He died after he
returned from a business trip to Indiana last month.
When Julio Ramirez felt sick, he was twice refused testing for coronavirus
and told by doctors to just rest in his suburban Los Angeles home because
they couldn`t test him. They didn`t have the resources to test him. His
wife Julie took him to an urgent care center but she says no one ever
touched him there. Three days later, Julie couldn`t wake him up.
What happened next is a blur for Julie. From finding my husband to trying
to find a pulse on him, dragging him off the bed onto the floor, it`s just
a vision that I can`t shake she said. Everything is just a blur. What
happened and when I start getting a clear mind, then I start getting upset
that maybe somehow this could have been prevented or he could at least have
had a fighting chance.
One reason Julio Ramirez didn`t have a fighting chance is that the
president of the United States has not made coronavirus testing the number
one priority of his government as every expert says that he must if we are
ever going to be able to get America back to work and get students back in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have great tests and we
want the states to administer these tests for the most part, but we`re
standing behind them. We have great tests. We`ve done more testing now than
any country as you know in the world by far. We have the best tests of any
country in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The only reason we know that Julio Ramirez died of coronavirus,
the only reason we know that is because his wife Julie literally had to
call 1800-autopsy to get a private autopsy performed on her husband`s body.
And that`s when Julio Ramirez was tested for coronavirus in the country
where Donald Trump says we have the greatest testing in the world. He was
tested when he was dead.
We have now tested about 1 percent of this country. So we have about 330
million people to go and those tests don`t exist yet in the numbers that we
need them. The trained personnel to administer those tests to everyone in
America or even everyone at one of our large universities don`t exist. We
don`t have the people to do it.
College dormitories are like cruise ships. Nobody is going to be invited
back to a college dormitory if the college cannot test everyone in that
dormitory and do it repeatedly if necessary. Businesses cannot be reopened
if everyone working at that business cannot be tested and as of tonight,
they cannot be tested in the country that Donald Trump says is doing the
best testing of any country in the world.
Donald Trump says the testing is up to the governors and at the same time,
Donald Trump tries to pretend that he can somehow magically reopen the
economy and get people back to work even though he, Donald Trump, is not
going to get them tested.
You know who is trying to get you tested? The guy who put this sign in a
supermarket parking lot that I drove into the other day in Los Angeles and
when I took that picture, I didn`t know who put the sign there. The
Community Organized Relief Effort is running a drive-through COVID-19 test
site and more test sites around the Los Angeles area and the person who put
that sign there and is now getting drive-through testing up and running in
Los Angeles is the Oscar winning actor Sean Penn.
Right now, tonight, Sean Penn is doing more to save the life of the next
Julio Ramirez who needs testing than Donald Trump is doing. Sean Penn will
join us at the end of this hour to explain how he`s coordinating his drive-
through testing sites with the mayor of Los Angeles and governor of
California and how he hopes the model he has created can go national.
Sean Penn`s is first major relief effort was in Haiti after the devastating
earthquake in 2010. His organization did extraordinary work there which
continues to this day and when you hear Sean Penn talk about coronavirus
testing tonight, you`re going to hear someone who understands how
government should work in this crisis and you`re going to be listening to
someone who knows much more about that than the current president of the
The president demonstrated his ignorance on both reality on the
Constitution today when he said he would use his power to adjourn Congress,
simply close it down. One of Jared Kushner`s researchers must have
discovered the provision in the Constitution, which has never been used by
a president in history that allows under a very special circumstance the
president to adjourn Congress.
The constitutional allows a president to adjourn Congress in case of a
disagreement between the House and Senate on when they should adjourn. The
House and Senate currently have an agreement on when they should adjourn as
they always do. The president said that he would adjourn Congress so he
could then use his appointment power when Congress is not in session that
would allow Trump nominees who have not been confirmed by the Senate to
begin working at the job that Donald Trump has nominated them for.
This latest flight of Trump fantasy comes the day after Donald Trump once
again committed an impeachable offense this time in public. He repeated
that impeachable offense again today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The U.S. government has put a
hold on funding to the WHO, World Health Organization, pending a review of
the organization`s cover-up and mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is exactly what got Donald Trump impeached. For withholding
funding for Ukraine legally authorized and appropriated by Congress. He
withheld funding for Ukraine so that Ukraine would announce investigation
into Joe Biden and now, he`s illegally withholding funding from the World
Health Organization because the World Health Organization has not been
sufficiently accusatory of China. The World Health Organization has not
heaped enough blame on China for the coronavirus.
In a statement, former President Jimmy Carter said he was distressed by
Donald Trump`s decision on withholding funding in the middle of a pandemic.
Former President Carter said: the World Health Organization is the only
international organization capable of leading the effort capable to defeat
Trump loyalist, Senator Lindsey Graham, tweeted his approval of illegally
withholding congressional funding from the World Health Organization
because the World Health Organization shows, quote, overwhelming evidence
of China bias.
Lindsey Graham forgot to condemn Donald Trump`s China bias when Donald
Trump tweeted this. China has been working very hard to contain the virus.
The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It
will all work out well in particular on behalf of the American people. I
want to thank President Xi.
The United States now has 636,078 reported cases of coronavirus and as of
tonight, the United States has suffered 32,176 reported deaths from
The reality is that both of those numbers are much, much higher. One
estimate in today`s “New York Times” indicates that we probably have at
least 10 times the number of coronavirus cases than the reported number
given that testing is impossible for most people in this country.
And New York state has started to report the number of deaths presumed to
be from coronavirus although the victim was never tested. In this country`s
epicenter of the pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reported 2,253
new hospitalizations in the past day as well as 752 deaths, 45 of which
were in nursing homes. But the trend in hospitalizations in New York is now
going down, more coronavirus patients are being released from hospitals
that are being admitted to hospitals, admissions to intensive care units
and intubation have also decreased.
Today, Governor Cuomo said the challenge before us is how do we get from
here to a vaccine?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Well, when is this over? I say, personal
opinion, it`s over when we have a vaccine. It`s over when people know I`m
100 percent safe and I don`t have to worry about this.
Anything we can do to work with the federal government to get the vaccine
done faster, we are all in. You want to use New York state as a laboratory?
We are ready, willing and able. Anyway the New York State Department of
Health can work with the FDA to reduce that testing period, we are all in
and energized and creative and ambitious about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Kaitlin Gilliam is an ICU nurse at St. Luke`s Hospital in St.
Luke, Missouri. Her intensive care unit is now all COVID-19 patients.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLIN GILLIAM, ST. LUKE`S HOSPITAL ICU NURSE: I knew going into nursing,
going into being an ICU nurse that I was going to take care of the sickest
of the sick patients. Did I know I was going to be a nurse during a
pandemic? I don`t think anything could have prepared me for that.
We know we`re going to get through this. It`s a tough road, but at the end
of the day, none of my co-workers regret this. None of my co-workers regret
being a nurse, regret being a respiratory therapist, a doctor. We are here
to help our patients. Pandemic or not, we`re here and we will always be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight are Ron Klain, a former
senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama. He served as
the Ebola czar during the Obama administration.
And Neal Katyal is with us. He`s the former acting general and an MSNBC
And, Ron, I want to start with you on both items that we`ve seen from the
president two days in a row. One is this clearly illegal withholding of
funding from the World Health Organization and then since you`re a veteran
of the United States Senate staff, your reaction to the president`s idea
that he could just adjourn Congress.
RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO VP BIDEN AND PRES. OBAMA: Yes, so I mean,
both are absolutely absurd notions. Let`s start with the WHO. Has the WHO
made mistakes handling the coronavirus? Yes, it has. Should we look into
improve the WHO`s performance? Of course, we should.
Five years ago, I wrote an article calling for WHO reform. But if the WHO
was the only problem that existed here, than ever then other countries
would have the same coronavirus problem we have. They don`t. Why? Their
leaders have taken the steps they need to take to get testing in place, to
get the treatments in place, to get the medical facilities built up, to get
the equipment to the doctors and nurses.
So we should definitely question the WHO but this is not the WHO`s fault.
The problems in America are Donald Trump`s fault.
Now, cutting off funding from the WHO is not only illegal, as you said,
Lawrence. Of course, it`s illegal. The president doesn`t have authority to
change laws of the Congress. It`s also cutting off our nose to spite our
We need the WHO to fight this virus particularly in poor countries. It will
spread to the United States if the WHO isn`t on the job.
As to the president can unilaterally adjourn Congress, again not only is
that unconstitutional, it`s also stupid. We need Congress that work passing
economic aid, helping small businesses, helping workers. The idea that you
would send them home so the president can staff up the government with his
non-confirmed appointees is wrong in every single respect.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, both of these questions present constitutional
issues, so I`d like to giver them both to you. The withholding of funding
from the World Health Organization, which looks virtually identical to what
the president did with Ukraine funding, and then the issue of the
president`s notion today that he could just adjourn Congress.
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: OK. So, there`s a lot there.
And with respect to the WHO cutoff, as Ron says, there is both terrible
policy judgment here and blatant illegality.
On the policy level is I think everyone has been saying, and, Lawrence, you
were saying, no, there is no coronavirus policy by the White House, there
are no solutions. We`re in a testing crisis and cutting off funds to an
international organization and preening and conferences and, oh, signing
some checks to bribe voters, that`s not a coronavirus policy. And putting
your family and no scientist on a counsel to reopen government is not a
And, you know, so I think that this is a real problem from that
perspective, and then legally, absolutely, this is no different than what
he was impeached for. The president is trying to assert the powers of
Congress. In our Constitution, Congress sets the budget and the president
can`t just go and nix out items that he disagrees with, and just because he
doesn`t like an international organization or some foreign government like
Ukraine or some territory like Puerto Rico, you don`t get to like just nix
out funding. That`s not the way our system works.
And, you know, his claims here are very much King George-y. They`re just
like what he said a couple days ago when he said, I can force the states to
reopen. All of this together is blatantly a destruction of what our
Constitution is about.
He also said today that he was going to be able to adjourn Congress on his
own and put his own judges through and that has three very deep
constitutional problems. One is the Constitution just doesn`t let him,
Article Two says he can only adjourn Congress if they disagree. There is no
disagreement there. Both the House and Senate said they should adjourn on
Second, even if he could get over that, it doesn`t allow him to recess-
appoint judges, which is what he was seeking to do in the press conference
today because the Supreme Court a few years ago in a decision said you
can`t use the recess power essentially as an end run around Senate
confirmation and that`s, of course, what he`s doing here.
And third, most importantly, if you`re going to try to break constitutional
norms and break the Constitution, you better have darn good reason. Here,
his reason is, my judges aren`t being confirmed.
Well, give me a break. I mean, he`s had 50 Court of Appeals judges
confirmed in three years. Obama had 55 in his eight years. In the last two
years of Obama, he didn`t even get two judge, two court of appeal nominees
confirmed, two. You know, Trump gets that on any given Tuesday.
And, you know, the most galling thing about this is that they have the
nerve to say this when they didn`t even get Merrick Garland a hearing. The
president said, oh, the Senate isn`t doing its duty to confirm judges, the
Senate by his own party, and that`s why he wants to do this? I mean, boy,
we never heard any of that before when he had the most dramatic things at
stake. Sorry, that was a long answer but hopefully gives you something to
O`DONNELL: It`s why you`re here, Neal. We knew you could cover the bases
and we wanted you to do that.
Ron Klain, on the issue of testing, the urgent issue of the day, we can`t
move forward with any progress without testing to measure our progress.
Where do you think we are on testing now that we`ve achieved 1 percent of
the population having been tested? How do we get up to the levels we need
to get up to? Will we be up to those levels by September so that there is
enough testing in this country where colleges could welcome students back
KLAIN: Well, Lawrence, it`s a great point. I mean, the most depressing
thing about the testing situation is it`s not just that we`re not making
progress, it`s that we`re actually working backwards. Fewer people – looks
like we`re on track to test fewer in America this week than we tested last
So, your question is, will we make progress towards a goal? Not if you`re
going backwards, you`re never going to get there. And why are we going
Well, the president announced last week that the federal government would
stop subsidizing, stop paying for it, stop helping states conduct tests so
he`s really said states, you`re on your own.
The problem with that isn`t justify national. The problem with that is the
solution to the testing problem is for the president to use his powers
under the Defense Production Act to take control of the manufacturing of
these tests to order millions and millions of tests and get them where
You know, the funny thing about this dialogue, you and I and Neal are
having, the president is claiming a lot of powers he doesn`t have but not
using the one power he does have, to get these tests made and distributed.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, Neal Katyal, thank you both for starting us off
tonight. We really appreciate it.
And when we come back, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman will join
us on the economic crisis caused by the pandemic and all the ways that
Donald Trump is making it worse.
O`DONNELL: Today, once again, the president told his big lie about China
and tariffs. We`ll let you hear that lie in just a second.
Now, remember when you`re listening to this that the tariffs on Chinese
goods, the Trump tariffs sold in the United States are not paid by anyone
in China. Those tariffs on Chinese goods are paid at our ports of entry by
American purchases of Chinese goods, and those Trump tariffs then increase
the price of those goods when you purchase them, so you pay the Trump
tariffs. No one in China pays the Trump tariffs.
Here is the big lie Donald Trump tells about all of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China has paid us billions of
dollars, many, many billions of dollars in tariffs, which we distributed
some to the farmers, because they were targeted. We have a lot of money
that we`ve taken in from China.
This has never happened to China before. They never gave us 10 cents. Now
they are paying us billions of dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No, they`re not giving you ten cents now, either.
So, as America now tips into what could be our greatest depression since
the Great Depression of the 1930s, with massive losses of income by
Americans, Donald Trump is putting his name on checks that Congress has
authorized to be sent to American taxpayers desperately in need of money,
and some of the money in those checks is going to be used to pay for the
Trump tariffs on Chinese goods.
Joining our discussion now is Paul Krugman, “New York Times” columnist and
distinguished professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center.
He`s the author of “Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics and the Fight
for a Better Future”.
And, Professor Krugman, thank you very much for joining tonight and I`m
intimidated as I always am by Nobel Prize winners. So, I just want to give
you the floor but your reaction to how the Trump administration is handling
the economic challenge that this pandemic presents.
PAUL KRUGMAN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: OK. What`s happening to the
U.S. economy is we`re – I`ve been comparing it to a medically induced
coma. We have deliberately shut down a number of functions because we have
to limit the spread of the virus and that`s painful but necessary.
So, you know, GDP is going to fall a lot in the best of circumstances until
we have at the very minimum vastly increased testing which you`re talking
about before and then hopefully eventually a vaccine.
The big question is whether we contain the collateral damage. When you put
somebody into a medically induced coma, you can also do a lot of harm even
if it was necessary and you want to minimize that. And the way to avoid
that is to provide a lot of relief payments to those who are affected, to
basically provide a very effective financial safety net.
If you don`t do that, then it spills over. Then you get a whole second
round of job losses, a whole second round of economic contraction and pain
because people don`t have money. They can`t spend. Businesses can`t operate
and they – that then starts to spill over. So, even, you start – you
start to lose jobs in parts of the economy that shouldn`t be affected by
Where we are right now is that Congress passed a big bill which was really
a disaster relief bill, not a stimulus bill. People are misnaming it. That
did some of what was necessary but clearly inadequate, and Trump and his
allies in Congress are basically balking at doing the things we now need to
It`s – we`re talking about small business, that money is running out, but
that`s actually the least of it. The front line of the crisis right now is
hospitals are going under. State and local governments are in desperate
financial straits. The Post Office is at risk of collapse and we
desperately need money for that.
And we have – we`re not acting because Mitch McConnell is saying he won`t
pass a bill that includes aid to these afflicted parts of the economy,
which is going to you know, this is – so, we`re at risk of turning this
into something worse than it has to be.
O`DONNELL: We`ve never seen this before and yet, it does seem as though you
have a pretty clear view of what economic tools could work if used
effectively by administration.
KRUGMAN: Yes. Let me say, my colleagues, economists have been scrambling.
You know, this is – this is unprecedented. This does not look like
anything we`ve seen before although pieces of it look like things we`ve
But I`ve been impressed with how quickly serious economists have come to a
pretty good, I think, picture of what the issue is and what it says
overwhelmingly is that we need to be spending money freely to make the
immediate people, the people in the immediate economic path of this
disaster whole as far as we can.
We need to sustain wages and incomes. We need to make sure that lower
levels of government don`t run out of money. The federal government can
borrow as much as it wants. Investors are basically paying it to take their
So, this is where we should – what we should be doing. It`s not a hard
problem. Intellectually, it`s not a hard problem. The problem is that what
I see is that we`re reacting now economically in some ways the way that we
reacted to the emergence of the pandemic.
Administration is refusing to acknowledge the depth of the problem and it`s
trying to pursue an ideological agenda that is getting in the way of
dealing with this and, you know, reasonable estimates now say that we are
going to be heading within a month or two to an unemployment rate about as
high as it was as in 1933, 1934.
We really are talking about a depression level event.
O`DONNELL: Professor Paul Krugman, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. Real honor to have you join us.
KRUGMAN: Great to be on.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, it`s all coming together for Joe Biden. He picked up
Elizabeth Warren`s endorsement and Rachel asked Senator Elizabeth Warren
tonight if she would accept the vice presidential nomination. You will hear
Elizabeth Warren`s very clear answer about that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: If he asked you to be as running mate, would you
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Oh, we cut it too soon there. Rachel had a great reaction to
that which we will try to put together in the right version that cut. That
was Elizabeth Warren with Rachel in the last hour after she endorsed Joe
Biden for President. It`s all coming together for Joe Biden, this week.
First, Bernie Sanders then Barack Obama now Elizabeth Warren. Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez, a steadfast Bernie Sanders supporter now says she will vote
for Joe Biden for President. In an interview with the Associated Press,
Bernie Sanders said, it would be irresponsible if his supporters did not
back Joe Biden.
Joining our discussion now Claire McCaskill, former Democratic senator from
Missouri and an MSNBC political analyst and Claire, I remember after Joe
Biden came in fifth in New Hampshire, I forget which one of us said, it
would turn out exactly like this.
I`m sure one of us predicted that the Biden campaign was going to end up
exactly here. This is kind of - it`s - it`s - I think it`s easy to forget
how astonishing this outcome is, where we are now.
FMR. SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANLYST: Well, you know there
was a famous Will Rogers quote in the 30s. I belong to no organized
political party. I`m a Democrat and I think most of us thought for a number
of months that we were going to have a little bit of a mess on our hands
because we had so many candidates and we had different factions of our
party that were arguing with each other.
But you know what happened Lawrence. We had something very important
happened. All of a sudden Democrats of all stripes and even independents
who identify with our party right now decided that something was much more
important and that was coming together to beat Donald Trump.
And because of that and I think it`s only been exacerbated in the last 60
days with this mess and his chaotic leadership around it that everyone is
now all and in and together and I am - I don`t recall it ever bean this
harmonic in my party at this point in the presidential election cycle.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you expect to endorse him?
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, NEW YORK`S 14TH
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Yes, I think, we`ll see. We`re having conversations
with Biden`s team and trying to figure out what some of these policy -
policy conversations were looking like.
You know, I would love to see the Vice President clarify and deepen his
policy stances on certain issues but aside from that you know, I think it`s
incredibly important that we support the democratic nominee in November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So senator, you`re seeing this - Congresswoman is working her
way toward an endorsement is the way that sounds certainly and - and it`s
understandable that she wants to have a policy discussion as she moves
toward the formal endorsement.
But even before that, making it very clear absolutely, she`s going to be
voting for Joe Biden.
MCCASKILL: Yes, I really do think that there are some outliers but there
are always outliers but this is much different. I remember what it felt
like in 2016 and this feels much different. I remember the fight in 2008
between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
This feels much different. I do think that the greatest unifying force in
the history of our party is Donald J. Trump and even those who may disagree
on how we get more people covered by healthcare or how we get people more
security in with social security or how we get at the problem of income
We may disagree on how we get there but overall, people understand that it
isn`t Donald Trump who`s going to get us there and we`ve got to get him out
of the Oval office. He`s already done permanent damage to so many people in
this country to say nothing of the lives being lost as we speak.
O`DONNELL: All right, I have to ask you the question of the night. Will you
accept the vice presidential nomination?
O`DONNELL: OK. It`s a tie. One word answers from each possibility. Senator
Claire McCaskill, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really
MCCASKILL: You bet.
O`DONNELL: Up next, we`ll be joined by a doctor on the front lines in
Chicago. Dr. Garth Walker. Asked this question in the Chicago Sun Times Op-
Ed piece, as a doctor how do I tell a black family of five struck by the
virus to social distance in a 2-bedroom apartment.
Dr. Walker will join us next and a programming note. Tomorrow Joe, Mika and
Willie for a Morning Joe special report. They will get answers to your
coronavirus questions and they will have a line-up of special guests
including Joe and Jill Biden, Lady Gaga, Pete Buttigieg, all a regular kind
of Morning Joe. Watch Morning Joe, starting tomorrow at 6 AM eastern with a
Morning Joe special report, Isolation Nation at 8 AM eastern only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s a rumor going around that this is something
that doesn`t affect us.
OPRAH WINFREY, ACTRESS AND TALK SHOW HOST: Not only is it serious but
people that you don`t know but probably will know are losing their loved
ones. It`s important for African-Americans, we to understand for ourselves
but this is so serious. It`s taking us out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sky News reporter Cordelia Lynch spoke to a Louisiana family who
lost four members of that family in just 12 days to coronavirus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every other bed was one of the family members. Four
family members in the same ICU at the same time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was first my uncle passed, then two days later my
grandmother passed and a few days later my dad passed and a few days later
after that my other uncle passed.
CORDELIA LYNCH, SKY NEWS REPORTER: You`ve dealt with much loss in such a
short space of time. How are you coping?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole virus is just unbelievable and what`s the
hardest for me is some people really think that it doesn`t exist and it`s
not real and we buried four family members. We buried my husband and two of
his brothers in the same funeral. Three caskets in a row and it - I just
want the world to know that this is real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now Dr. Garth Walker, an emergency room
physician in Chicago. He`s also a public health researcher at
Northwestern`s Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Walker, what are we seeing
in - in these stories that we just heard from Louisiana?
DR. GARTH WALKER, ER PHYSICIAN: Essentially what the story that you`re
seeing in Louisiana, it`s a common story in Chicago. The disease is falling
along all racial and economic lines and it`s been with a lot of despair.
When I`m seeing patients in the ER, one of the biggest challenges is trying
to understand patients lived experiences and trying to meet them halfway
but it`s hard to get recommendations for a virus that is invisible and that
can kill people very quickly.
So when I`m talking with a patient, one of my favorite questions is, how
are you adapting, how are you dealing with - with your - with your time at
home? So if I have a patient that was with five or six people and they live
in a one-bedroom apartment, it`s hard for me to tell them to physically
isolate, especially if they have an individual with multiple medical
So it takes a lot of strategy and it takes a lot of empathy on the medical
side as well.
O`DONNELL: So Doctor, you`re describing and you did in your Op-Ed piece a
population that for whom the kind of social distancing that we`re
recommending is actually impossible. In the apartment that you just
described, the number of square feet don`t exist to create the six-foot
separation from every human being to another human being.
And so are their strategies that you suggest within that unbreakable fact
of the smallest of the housing unit.
WALKER: Yes and they`re - they`re difficult strategies to adhere by but
usually I`ll tell a family that if they have one person going out for
groceries, try to make that person the only person so that they only have
one person exposed to the virus.
If they have a family member that`s really sick, trying to figure out if
there`s other alternatives to housing for that person so that they don`t
get struck with the virus. I think one of the big things that we`ve been
dealing with - we`ve been dealing with a lot of questions and a lot of
frustration on the medical side.
A lot of people in the health disparity space saw this coming. Essentially,
what this pandemic did was lift the veil and show the fragility of our - of
our most vulnerable communities, especially when you think about the role
that race is playing.
And I think if we want to make any type of advancement, we have to
acknowledge the role that race is played in these communities because the
story is the same in Milwaukee, Detroit, St. Louis. We`re not alone.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Walker, what is it like for you personally when you`re in
these conversations. This was something that six months ago you could not
have foreseen the - just the personal and emotional burden you`d be facing
in trying to communicate the urgency of these measures that have to be
WALKER: Honestly, just like a lot of my colleagues, just been trying to
step up to the cause. One of the things that I was doing today was I was
working with Chicago Cred who does a lot of violence reduction work. Now
they`re taking their efforts to help with the pandemic. And I`ll tell you
one thing Lawrence. One of the biggest challenges that happened and one of
the most disappointing questions that I received today was about testing.
They asked if we`re sick and they - we need to be tested, will we have to
pay? And to me, when we`re in the middle of a public health issue, it`s
completely unacceptable. So usually my - my thought process is to focus on
three points. We need mass testing for most vulnerable communities, full
We also need social services to support our most vulnerable communities
such as housing and such as PPE for our essential workers that are
essentially keeping our economy going and keeping our economy alive and
then lastly, if you`re going to make any type of advancement on this, we
need to recognize the role that race is played because we`re not going to
make any solutions.
Health disparities will continue to persist, well-researched and we`ve
known about these disparities for a while and what we need is compassion
and empathy and for people who don`t necessarily know each other to want to
help one another.
O`DONNELL: Dr Garth Walker, thank you on behalf of people of Chicago, the
people of this country, thank you for your service on a daily basis. We
really appreciate it.
WALKER: Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: Sean Penn will get tonight`s last word. He`s doing more now to
provide coronavirus testing than Donald Trump is doing. Sean Penn is next.
O`DONNELL: A breaking news report at this hour. The New York Times says
that flawed tests, scarce supplies and limited access to screening have
hurt the United States` ability to monitor Covid-19. The Times report says
as President Trump pushes to reopen the economy, most of the country is not
conducting nearly enough testing to track the path and penetration of the
coronavirus, in a way that would allow Americans to safely return to work,
public health officials and political leaders say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The more testing, the more open the economy but
there`s not enough national capacity to do this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: As we reported to you at the beginning of this hour, people are
dying in this country because they cannot get tested for coronavirus. Our
next guest is one of the people who has stepped into the void created by
the Trump administration`s failure of leadership on coronavirus testing
Joining us now is Oscar winning actor Sean Penn who has been providing
drive through coronavirus testing in the Los Angeles area through the
organization he created, Community Organized Relief Effort.
Sean, thank you very much for joining us tonight. How did you get this up
and running so quickly and how big can you expand it to be?
SEAN PENN, ACADEMY AWARD WINNING ACTOR: Well first, thanks for having me on
Lawrence. It`s good to see you again. Well, I do - the way we were able to
mobilize quickly is that I happen to have an existing infrastructure with
the organization CORE and so as soon as this came - you know became clear
that this was a gap, we thought that you know we owed it to jump in.
It`s what we do, it`s what we`re committed to do and have committed to
people and our donors to do. So in this case the reason - the primary in
for us was that in California we have an extraordinary leadership from
Governor Newsom`s office to Merrick Garcetti`s office and starting in Los
Angeles, where we were able to create what I think is a first of this kind
of partnership between NGO and local governance.
Mayor Garcetti`s office with Los Angeles fire department had already been
doing sites but this took principle, high skillset, emergency responders
out of the station and off the streets. The lane that we work in can be
quickly trained up and so the Los Angeles fire department trained up our
volunteers and us in the testing process and we were able to absorb those
sites, increasingly absorb the sites that the firefighters were manning.
So that they can get back out and serve the people of California, serve the
people of Los Angeles and ultimately California and now we are moving and
expanding statewide in collaboration with the governor`s office.
Leadership and communications is everything and so I`m - I`m confident that
we`ll continue to be deliberate and move forward and ultimately hope to -
by ultimately I`m talking about within a couple of weeks, expand these
projects, both in course direct implementation but also by putting out a
manual of at least our lessons learned experience, working with local
governance to see that that could be replicated by other organizations at
large throughout the country.
O`DONNELL: And Sean, what about the supply of testing that we need both in
Los Angeles, beyond Los Angeles, the state of California and the country?
PENN: Well, I think we should be talking about supplies at large. The PPE
issue is - without PPE, you have no proper testing. This is one area in
terms of the national strategy, the federal guidelines that we really need
now and I think if President Kennedy could say in ten years we`ll get a man
on the moon, that it would be an extraordinary and doable legacy for the
current administration to - to really, really put a herculean effort into
the Defense Production Act initiatives.
So that all of these stockpiles in terms of immediately need could be
fulfilled and also so that we could end the day prepared for the next such
event in the way that we work today.
O`DONNELL: Sean, if we continue going the way we`re going, with the
President basically saying it`s up to the governors, the governors doing
their best, you jumping in, volunteers like you jumping in, how far away
are we tonight from getting 300 million people tested in this country?
PENN: Well, that`s - you know, I would be lying if I said that I was
particularly optimistic that that was going to happen. The other thing is
to be quite frank, testing is as valuable as the isolation or quarantine
that the person who`s been tested, offers following it before they get
If you - if you have contact between your test and your results then your
results are in question. The various test kits, this is part - partly the
problem in that is partly - part but certainly a function of pipeline but
it`s also a function of too much information absorption where there`s -
there seems to be every story is about the next test kit and so on and so
And so the basic integrity of these things are not being questioned. We
have an organizational policy which is slow, slow is smooth, smooth is fast
and blood is slippery and we`re trying with all of the organizational
efforts and with the great support of Los Angeles fire and Mayor Garcetti
and Governor Newsom to be very, very deliberate in everything we do so that
we can model something that can be done effectively and fully.
O`DONNELL: Sean Penn, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really
appreciate it. Thank you for what you`re doing in your community. We all
really appreciate that, too. Thank you, Sean.
PENN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Sean Penn gets tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian
Williams starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the