Good Friday TRANSCRIPT: 4/10/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Lipi Roy, Bethany McLean, Jon Meacham, Brian Williams

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The Manhattan Bridge, the New York skyline at the end of another stay-at-home week in New York City and elsewhere.

Good evening once again. Day 1,177 of the Trump administration. 200 days to go until the presidential election. The current President started this day wishing all Americans a happy Good Friday. Perhaps because of The New York Times story last night saying Republicans were trying to get the President to talk less every day. Today`s White House briefing went on for over two hours.

The President said some of the coverage is fake news. He said today flatly, everyone has the ventilators they need. He said, we`re in great shape in every way. He said at a certain point, it will be gone. It will be gone, he said, and it won`t be much longer. He said there`s not a lot of issues with testing, and we don`t need full testing. He talked about, "the death numbers," the numbers of death. He said at one point, we`re talking 50, 60, 65 maybe. What he meant was 50,000, 60,000, or 65,000 people dead possibly.

And on his topic of death, he issued his daily reminder of how bad it would have been had he not acted at all. That prompted David Axelrod to say the President was taking a victory lap on deaths. The President said staying at home leads to death also, maybe a different kind of death, he said. And about his campaign to reopen the U.S. economy, something ultimately up to governors and mayors and individual businesses, he said, "I`ve got to make the biggest decision of my life." Somebody said it`s totally up to the President, and it is. He said the states can do things if they want, and he added he can override them. He said, I have great authority if I want to use it.

Back in the real world, in our stay-at home nation, the number of coronavirus deaths around the world today topped 100,000. There are more than 1.6 million confirmed infections now. In the United States, the daily death toll topped 2,000 for the first time. We set a new record for our one-day death toll.

NBC News reporting over 18,000 people have now died from coronavirus. More than 490,000 are known to have been infected. That`s an increase of over 30,000 cases in just this past day alone. And the outbreak continues to spread. The state of Michigan saw its deadliest day thus far, 206 deaths from the virus though the President made a point today of saying Michigan is, "really doing much better than we thought."

Earlier today I asked Dr. Anthony Fauci about the latest death toll predictions for our country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The most recent examination of the model with the new data that has been put in says about 60,000. I still think we can do even better than that. That`s why I`ve always said, sometimes to the dismay of my modeling colleagues, that models are as good as the assumptions you put in, and you could influence those assumptions by real data. So 60,000 is where the model is saying now, but let`s see. Maybe we can do even better than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: More of my conversation with Dr. Fauci coming up. As we said, Trump still has his sights set on reopening the American economy as he puts it. And today he offered a preview of a new second government task force to get things up and running.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I call it the opening our country task force, or opening our country council so we don`t get it confused with mike`s task force, which has done so great. And we`re going to have the great business leaders, great doctors. We`re going to have a great group of people. I do say this, Jim. I want to get it open as soon as possible. This country was meant to be open and vibrant and great, not where people are, you know, staying --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you determined to do --

TRUMP: I would love to open it. I`m not determined anything. The facts are going to determine what I do. Bur we do want to get the country open. So important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Here`s the problem. The New York Times obtained government projections that warn of an increase in cases if restrictions are lifted too early. The Times reports it this way. Stay-at-home orders, school closures, social distancing greatly reduce infections of the coronavirus. But lifting those restrictions after just 30 days will lead to a dramatic infection spike this summer and death tolls that would rival doing nothing. Today the President was asked how he`ll go about deciding when to reopen the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say, sir, what metrics you will use to make that decision?

TRUMP: The metrics right here. That`s my metrics. That`s all I can do. I can listen to 35 people. At the end, I got to make a decision, and I didn`t think of it until yesterday. I said, you know, this is a big decision. But I want to be guided -- I`m going to be guided by them. I`m going to be guided by our Vice President. I`m going to make a decision based on a lot of different opinions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The President again insisted our country is doing tremendous testing for coronavirus despite shortages and backlogs. In hard-hit New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said antibody and diagnostic testings are needed on a massive scale to safely restart the economy. He also reported another devastating day for his state, 777 new deaths in just the past day for a total of more than 7,800 now. So far there are over 170,000 confirmed cases in New York, again, greater than any country except ours. But again today, Cuomo included some encouraging stats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We are cautiously optimistic that we are slowing the infection rate. That`s what the numbers say. That`s what the data suggests to us. Change in total hospitalizations is down not relative to yesterday, but when it`s averaged, the three-day average on the hospitalizations, you see a dramatic decline in those numbers, and that`s obviously very good news. Change in ICU admissions is actually a negative number for the first time since we started this intense journey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The governor again stressed the importance of staying on course in all this social distancing we`re experiencing. There were two other chilling numbers out of New York City. The NYPD has now lost 19 members to this disease. The department reported more than 7,000 uniformed members were out sick right now. That`s roughly 20% of the department`s uniform workforce. Then there are the chilling images, new video out of New York City of a trench being dug at the public cemetery on Hart Island to accommodate a dramatic increase in the number of unclaimed bodies. The cemetery receiving roughly the same amount of bodies per day that it used to receive each week.  Mayor Bill de Blasio offered this sobering assessment of the past seven days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): This is a week where we reached milestones we could never have imagined. 5,000 New Yorkers lost. So many more than we even lost on our worst day of 9/11. A number we literally can hardly imagine. And every single one of the people we lost, a human story, a family grieving. At some point today, we will get to the point of 100,000 cases that have occurred in New York City.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Puts a lump in your throat. Then again, all of it does. Here for our leadoff discussion on a Friday night after another long week in our country, Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, best-selling author who is now at work on a biography of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor over at Politico. And Dr. Lipi Roy, an Internal Medicine Physician in New York who is among our medical contributors.

Good evening and welcome to you all. Susan, I know your paper has been out doing both polling and reporting on how people are putting their arms around our new stay-in culture. And the thought of going back perhaps even too early.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": You know, we were in the field yesterday and today. The poll will come out on Sunday with Ipsos. It will look at how Americans are looking at this in terms of their daily lives. And we found not energy behind let`s open up the community as soon as possible. We found seven out of ten Americans say they would support a national lockdown for the next 30 days. That goes beyond what the country has actually done. We don`t have a national lockdown. We have a state by state lockdown and some states continuing not to participate in that. So while there is, I think, a lot of encouragement the President is getting from business leaders who want to open up the business of America and get the economy going again, we find Americans incredibly cautious about what they`re seeing in their own lives with this pandemic.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, we have tested less than 1% of the U.S. population as I keep saying. That kind of means we have no earthly idea how many Americans are walking around with coronavirus. What are your benchmarks? What would you want to see before we can begin to discuss turning a red light to green and giving people permission to go back out, go back out to work?

DR. LIPI ROY, INTERNAL MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Brian, good evening. It`s good to be with you again. What we`re witnessing is the richest country in the world struggling to mount a barely effective public health response to what is projected to be one of the worst mass casualties in U.S. history. Lack of protective equipment, lack of hospital beds, lack of ICU beds, lack of ventilators, lack of widespread testing, and the scarcest resource of all, lack of human resources, health care workers.

Just a couple of days ago, Governor Cuomo said, look, at this point we actually have enough beds. What we`re lacking are health care workers. And New York City hospitals is begging for -- asking for doctors but asking for unpaid doctors. So they`re asking us to risk our lives working on the front lines, taking care of some of the most infectious patients as they`re sick and unfortunately some of them dying, to risk our own lives. Many of my own fellow health care professionals are getting sick and dying trying to take care of other people.

You know, I don`t know about you, Brian, but I`ve never seen so many health care workers on television, on the streets petitioning. And I work in hospitals and clinics for a living. What does that tell you? That tells me that the fact that this -- the medical profession, not one, by the way, to be known for flighty rhetoric or embellishment. If they are complaining to this degree, I shouldn`t say even complaining, voicing legitimate concerns, then leadership needs to take that seriously. Yeah, widespread testing and accurate testing and really just understanding the data and applying it in real time. But at the federal level, we need help from the people at the highest levels.

WILLIAMS: Anita, the President today pointed to his head, indicated that his metric was his own brain in making this back-to-work decision. As we keep saying, the virus doesn`t respect instructions. It doesn`t recognize a red light or green light, and the parameters have to be so cautious preceding that decision.

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": Right. Well, you`re exactly right. But when he`s talking about that decision he`s making, he`s talking about the economy and what he`s hearing from so many people every single day. You know, a lot of the President`s friends that he would have talked to anyway that have nothing to do with coronavirus are business leaders, people he`s known his entire career as a businessman himself. But he`s also talking to industry leaders. Every single day he`s talked about how he`s working on a bailout for the airlines, and so he`s been talking to a lot of those people and the banks on the small business loans. It`s people like, you know, bank of America and Citigroup that are pushing him to get going on this, get going to reopen the economy in any way they can because America is not going to recover is what they`re telling him. And so he`s sort of weighing those two things.

Yes, he will listen to his public health officials. He will listen to the Vice President. He will listen to this new task force that he`s putting together. But in the end, he talks about how he has to make a decision. I would add, though, that it`s really not his decision. As you correctly noted earlier, it`s up to the states and the localities. He was reluctant to make a decision on a national, you know, closing down the nation. He didn`t want to do that. He let the states and localities do that. And so now he has to let them determine what will come next.

WILLIAMS: Susan Page, also I`d love a preview of your reporting on what folks are saying about suddenly prominent new figure in our lives, and that is our governors, wherever we live, kind of an outgrowth of turning to local news to hear the latest on our community, our states, our cities. Governors are rising to a level in American life that they previously have not occupied for the most part.

PAGE: You know, this has been a reminder of why people like governors, why so many governors have been elected President, because they`re on the ground. They actually have to do things. They don`t have to just talk about them. And one of the thing we`ve seen, it`s like the daily briefing with Governor Cuomo. You just showed a clip of it -- has made him a superstar and a revered figure in a way he`s never been before even though he`s been elected and re-elected governor. Governors are delivering information that Americans trust. And one of the things we found in our new poll is that the group -- the elected official that Americans say they trust most to tell them the truth about what`s going on with the coronavirus are governors. We`ve seen some governors rise like Governor Cuomo. We`ve seen some governors come under intense scrutiny, caustic scrutiny and a lot of criticism for the way they`ve handled this.

Governor DeSantis for instance in Florida has gotten less favorable reviews. This has been a crisis of the governors, a crisis that governors have taken the lead in handling.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Doctor, we heard Governor Cuomo mention and Mayor de Blasio, I guess, mention the previous disaster in New York City, the benchmark against which we measure everything was 9/11.

ROY: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: If you`re a member of the New York City Fire Department, you know the number by heart, 343. That was the number of New York City firefighters killed in one day, and it cut through the white shirts, management, and command, the chiefs and commanders, and the blue shirts, the firefighters, labor for lack of a better term. To pick up on your last point, I so worry about a generation in health care, a generation in medicine knowing that we`ve also plucked med school students who were just getting ready for their final spring out of school, some of them thrust into the jobs they`ve dreamed of, but way earlier and way more dangerous than they could have imagined.

ROY: Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up, Brian. You know, I`m so worried on so many different levels here. But when you think of the health care profession, particularly, yeah, the nurses, the respiratory technicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists. It takes years to train each and every one of us, but particularly a physician. It takes so many years. And what we`re witnessing now, even before this pandemic, remember, clinician burnout was an epidemic prior to the pandemic. Now with the burden that`s being placed on the health care profession, all of these sick patients and working in an environment where we have inadequate protections, we`re going to be seeing rising rates in burnout, which is going to be -- which is associated with rising depression, substance abuse, suicide. I`m really worried.

And, look, I remember my med school days like they were yesterday and my intern years and residency. We have to really nurture and take care of these people that are entering this profession. And, remember, what`s happening now, you talked about the first responders, fire department, EMT, police officers. We`re seeing people really getting sick and die in the most vulnerable of locations and facilities, homeless shelters, nursing homes, detention centers, jails, prisons. Frankly, I`ll be blunt. They`re becoming death camps. So we really need to pay attention to the most vulnerable of our brother and sister, take care of them as well as the health care profession. If you don`t take care of the health care profession, it`s going to take years to recover from that.

WILLIAMS: And, Anita, finally because you seem to have a special understanding of this President you cover, last night, New York Times reports Republicans around him giving him the advice to pull back, limit his media exposures. Today they go over two hours. I guess that makes as much sense as anything these days.

KUMAR: That`s right. He doesn`t actually believe it. You know, lots of times he gets advice from his advisers and his campaign, his allies, and he does the exact opposite. He hears them but sometimes he just doesn`t believe them. Now, you will probably see that he`ll take a pause this weekend for Easter. We aren`t expecting the briefings this weekend. But I suspect that he`ll be right back at it on Monday. He thinks it`s good for him. He wants to get that message out there in a way just directly to the people, and he wants to spar with the media. He likes that. I mean having covered him for the last three years, I will say he could have been doing this for the last three years, using the believing room and coming out and having these press conferences. He never did that. He`s now discovered that he very much likes it, so I assume he`ll be back on Monday.

WILLIAMS: Three terrific professionals. Susan Page, Anita Kumar, Dr. Lipi Roy, thank you for taking the time tonight at the end of this long week.

Coming up for us, more of my conversation with the nation`s top doctor in this effort, Anthony Fauci.

And later, the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author who finds some value in this crisis. An opportunity for all of us to return to what he calls primitive faith and to worship in private. The 11th Hour just getting started on this Good Friday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: We say it every night. This makes twice tonight with fewer than 1% of all Americans tested, we still have no idea how many Americans are walking around with this virus. Late today I asked Dr. Anthony Fauci without full testing, what metric can we use to decide when it`s safe to go back to work or school?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: Testing for someone who is infected is a different thing than testing for antibody because antibody gives you an idea of the number of people that have been exposed and infected and have actually recovered. So when you get an idea of that, you`ll know those people who very likely would be protected if they were put into a situation where they might be exposed. That is part of a multifaceted way of the things that you might need to come back and make a gradual return to normality. It`s important, but it`s not the only thing. And I think that`s the thing that needs to be emphasized. We`re not going to have testing for everybody in the country tomorrow. It`s going to be a gradual process where starting with the next week or so, we`ll be able to scale up the kind of antibody testing to give you a good feel for what the penetrance of the infection is. But you can start to think about some aspect of getting back to normal without having tested everybody in the country. That`s for sure.

WILLIAMS: In your perfect world, though, if Dr. Fauci ran the country, would you test 327 million Americans?

FAUCI: You know, I mean obviously you would like to know that. That`s not the primary thing right now. The primary thing is to essentially turn the corner on those areas that are hardest hit, the New York, the New Orleans, the Detroits. Right now we`re seeing the possibility of upticks. And all the areas right here in the Washington D.C. area and Baltimore, that`s the thing you want to do right now.

In a perfect world, as you said, of course. As we get months from now and we have literally an unlimited amount of tests for antibody, of course it would be very interesting to see, and it could be helpful to us how many people have actually been exposed and immune.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, I know you took on this question from the podium just in the last few days, but I wanted to run this past you. Channel 4 back home in New York, our NBC Station, WNBC along with the Associated Press is recording a massive undercount in COVID-19 deaths, a massive spike in cardiac arrest deaths. They are up 400%. Do you think that COVID-19 is being underreported as maybe a contributor to death but not the cause in chief?

FAUCI: You know, Brian, I don`t think that`s the case. I would have to take a look at that data because I`m a little -- I`m more than hesitant to start making, you know, a judgment on that until I look at the data and find out what the discrepancy is there. I`d certainly be happy to look at that, but right now this is the first I`ve heard of that.

WILLIAMS: What metropolitan areas in your view need to peak their vigilance right now over Easter weekend?

FAUCI: Right now where I`m standing in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area, Philadelphia, Houston, St. Louis, those are the areas we`re looking at to try and make sure that they could stay in what we call the control phase, in other words, to have containment. You know, you talk about containment versus mitigation. When there are so many infections and you see the peak that we`ve seen in New York, that`s in full mitigation. You have a period of time early on when you start to see cases, if you could contain it, you wouldn`t have to go into that feeling and that process of mitigation, which is obviously much more difficult because that means that things are really galloping along. So we have our eye on a number of metropolitan areas that hopefully will be able to, as we get the capability, which we do have, to be able to identify, isolate, and contact trace, we may obviate the need to be talking about mitigation. So those are the things we`re keeping our eye on right now.

WILLIAMS: If you had your way, and I know November to a lot of people seems like a long time from now, would people in all 50 states have the right and ability to vote by mail?

FAUCI: You know, again, Brian, that`s not my area of expertise. I would hope that by November we would have things under such control that we could have a real degree of normality. That`s my interest and my job as a public health person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Actual potential hopeful note at the end there. And with that, our thanks to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Coming up after another break, the growing worry that trillions, trillions in relief money could end up in the hands of the nation`s wealthiest somehow and not our neediest workers when we continue.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why does anybody deserve, using your word, to get wiped out from a crisis created like this? How does anybody deserve to get wiped out?

CHAMATH PALIHAPITIYA, SOCIAL CAPITAL, CEO: Well, but just be clear. Like, who are we talking about? We`re talking about a hedge fund that serves a bunch of billionaire family offices? Who cares? Let them get wiped out. Who cares? They don`t get to summer in the Hamptons? Who cares? On Main Street today, people are getting wiped out. And right now, rich CEOs are not, boards that had horrible governance are not, hedge funds are not, people are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: A remarkable moment on live television on CNBC. To that point, our next guest writes this week, "Ever since Congress voted to hand out $2 trillion in taxpayer money to those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, American businesses have been scrambling for a piece of the action. Among those angling for a federal handout is one of the wealthiest sectors of the American economy, private equity."

For more, we welcome to the broadcast the veteran journalist and author, Bethany McLean, "Vanity Fair" contributing editor and co-author of "The Smartest Guys in the Room". So, Bethany, is this a case of the rich get richer? If we picture the people at Ax Capital in billions with their fleece vests and Ferraris and houses in the Hamptons, they don`t have skin in the game, it seems to me, like an average employee of a country -- of a company in this country worried about their very basic livelihood. Yet aren`t firms like that going to be in line for money and use, what, pension funds as the justifier that they need to stay healthy?

BETHANY MCLEAN, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "VANITY FAIR": Yes. So it`s a really interesting question because private equity has -- I mean, we have famous private equity billionaires, right? People have made great personal fortunes from private equity over the last decade as it steadily marched through our economy. And yet now private equity invests on behalf of the nation`s teachers and firefighters and first-line healthcare responders.

At Blackstone, one of the big private equity firms, a third of their investment dollars come from public pension funds. And so private equity is just deeply intertwined in the fabric of our economy, and it makes it really difficult to say we should just let it go down. But it`s infuriating because big private equity firms have, I think, an estimated 1.4 trillion in cash sitting on the sidelines, meaning they`ve got plenty of money.

WILLIAMS: Are they, in fact, also considered too big to fail?

MCLEAN: Well, my argument in this piece was that they are something like the banks were in the financial crisis because we had to rescue the big banks, or at least that was the argument because taking -- letting the banks fail would hurt all of us every bit as much as it hurt the banks. And the truth is with private equity, the people who have made billions at the top of these firms are the people who have just made their hundreds of millions and their tens of millions are going to be just fine.

But if the private -- if the businesses private equity has invested it and get wiped out, that`s going to hurt all the people who rely on those jobs, and that`s going to hurt all the pension funds that have invested in these funds. And so there`s no way to hurt them without hurting all of us.

WILLIAMS: Assuming we can draw a red line from TARP to occupy, what`s going to happen, do you think -- and this requires a bit of a crystal ball. What`s going to happen as a result of this, just the initial tranche of $2 trillion? Who can get their arms around that? Where is all that going to go?

MCLEAN: Right. Well, the $2 trillion includes the money that the treasury is putting into this, that`s going to be leveraged by Federal Reserve loans, and so hopefully a good chunk of it is going to go to small businesses. But some of the battle with private equity of -- is what is a small business. And right now, the way the rule is written, it`s a business with 500 or less employees that doesn`t have a big federal parent can get access to this -- and I`m sorry, a big corporate parent can get access to this money.

And so the argument is, well, private equity firms do have a parent company. And so what does that -- does that mean they get access to this money or they don`t get access to this money? And I`m really hoping that we do this in a way that people -- I don`t think our social fabric, the social fabric of this country can handle something like the bailouts of 2008. And I`m really, really hoping perhaps naively, optimistically, that we get this right.

WILLIAMS: One of the bylines our viewers should look for routinely, Bethany McLean, thank you very much for having us to your house tonight. We appreciate it.

Coming up for us, a look at faith in these times of crisis. Pulitzer Prize- winning author Jon Meacham is with us when we come back.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. MICHAEL CURRY, EPISCOPAL CHURCH PRESIDING BISHOP: As a Christian, Jesus taught me that the supreme law of God is to love God and to love my neighbor as myself. In this moment of a pandemic, in this moment when my being in a crowd of people might well hurt someone else, might spread this virus, in this moment, to love your neighbor means to stay home and to physically distance yourself. That`s what love looks like in this moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: If that man, that man of faith, Reverend Curry, looks familiar, it`s because he presided at the wedding of Harry and Meghan. On this holiest day of the Christian calendar, Pope Francis led Good Friday mass inside a mostly empty St. Peter`s Basilica and observed the Stations of the Cross in a deserted St. Peter`s Square. And in keeping with our new global necessity, those who could around the world watched from their computers.

Earlier this week, families took part in virtual seders all over our country, all over the world, leading into messages of hope during uncertain times.

Back with us tonight, speaking of which, presidential historian, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham. His newest work, which is now available is "The Hope of Glory, Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross". And, Jon, in that spirit and because it`s so often your role on our broadcast, what`s good about this time right now?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, in the -- these are the holiest days of the Christian year. The story was supposed to be over at this point in the year 33 Common Era. The disciples had expected the messiah to throw the Romans out, to restore Israel, to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. This was going to be a triumphant moment when he came to Jerusalem, and then he`s arrested. He`s tried. He`s scourged. He`s crucified. He`s killed, and he`s buried as of tonight, as of early evening.

And this created enormous confusion, enormous chaos, enormous fear for those disciples, which put them in the great tradition of the tradition of which they were a part, ancient Israel. The story of Israel -- the word Israel itself means he who struggles. It`s a story of trying to find faith amid fear, of trying to find hope amid the vicissitudes of history. And I think that`s what, in my tradition, Christianity has done now going on two millennia and never more relevant, as you`re saying, than right now.

WILLIAMS: And fast forward to Good Friday 2020. We have a leader of our country who today said, I have great authority if I want to use it. Jon, it`s hardly wording that we are used to hearing from our presidents.

MEACHAM: It is, and it`s -- you know, our greatest presidents have been -- you know, Franklin Roosevelt actually said, I`m a Democrat and a Christian. That`s all, when he was asked once to define his faith. He said that there`s never been a better statement of ethics than the Sermon on the Mount. And I think that`s largely true.

The commandment we`re all supposed to follow, supposed to, we don`t, it`s much more observed in the breach than in the observance, is to love one another as we love ourselves. It is the most radical of commandments because who wants to do that, right? I think it`s fascinating actually that the golden rule is not love one another or do unto each other because it`s the right thing to do, right? The golden rule is do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It`s more of a covenant. And that`s the kind of spirit that FDR represented, particularly in the great depression, particularly when we had to reach out. We couldn`t clench our fists, so many of our countrymen as at this hour were suffering economically, were losing faith in the system.

And it seemed to be this force that you couldn`t see but Lord knows you could feel, right? John Maynard Keynes was once asked, was there anything like the depression? And he said, yes, it was called the Dark Ages and it lasted 400 years. So, we need a president who is going to be empathetic and put ourselves -- put himself in our shoes and not simply expect perpetual gratitude from the press corps.

WILLIAMS: And finally, Jon, it being a holy weekend, give us 60 seconds on how worship by oneself and just among a family unit has changed this year.

MEACHAM: We`re back to the primitive church, right? And this is something that Christians can learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters. This is very much part of the Jewish tradition. What was Passover, right? It was a moment of chaos and the families gathered to protect themselves from external forces.

The first Easter, the first Good Friday, the first Easter Vigil was commemorated in private, in small gatherings of, you know, family units, the family of the disciples in that case. And so there`s an opportunity here to have a very authentic and primitive Christian experience. Go to, you know, livestream your services. If you want to encounter some of the greatest language ever put forth, Google "The Daily Office" and the Episcopal Church which Bishop Curry is the primate. We have Elizabethan English that is the Elizabethan gloss on the great Hebrew and Greek. Read the prayers with your family. Stay -- keep to a small unit here. Love those close to you so that we can get healthy and expand that next year.

WILLIAMS: And because our families know each other, from me and mine to you and yours, have a Happy Easter. Thank you very much for coming on.

MEACHAM: You too, sir.

WILLIAMS: Jon Meacham tonight.

Coming up for us, schools may be closed, but as long as the buses run when they turn the key, one local principal vows to be onboard. His story when we come right back.

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WILLIAMS: The state of South Carolina saw another jump of confirmed coronavirus cases today. There are now over 3,000 confirmed cases in that state, at least 72 confirmed dead. Public schools in South Carolina are going to remain closed through at least this month. These days, the buses that would normally transport students are instead delivering free school breakfast and lunch daily to them. In at least one school district, along for the ride is the principal of New Prospect Elementary School because it`s the only way, the way he thinks of it, these kids are ever going to see their principal these days.

Here to talk more about it is, for the first time on this broadcast, Brian Williams, principal of New Prospect Elementary School in Anderson, South Carolina. Mr. Williams, with apologies for any adult life of ribbing that our shared name has brought into your life, tell us how you got this idea.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, PRINCIPAL, NEW PROSPECT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: This idea of riding the bus came from one day I was sitting in my office. It was the first day that we were actually out of school during the closure. So I was looking at my computer, and I was looking at 50 e-mails. My cafeteria manager came down, food service manager came down, and she told me that they were about to leave to go deliver the lunches. So I had a choice to either go look at my e-mails and answer those or get on the bus. So I happily got on the bus that day.

WILLIAMS: You know, I always tell the story of Lyndon Johnson. When he was a young man, he started out as a school teacher in Cotulla, Texas, on the Mexican border. He was stunned to see poor American kids come to school in the morning with distended stomachs from hunger, and he vowed if he was ever in a position to do it, to provide free and reduced-rate meals at school. Tell us the importance of school meals for some of the students you care for.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Our superintendent, and he`s Mr. Wilson, and his leadership team had a great vision for our students. We know we want them to complete their e-learning lessons, but we also understand without their basic needs being met, it`ll be very hard for them to do that. So providing them with the breakfast and the lunch each day is a little sense of normalcy for them. So we know it`s very important that our students have the opportunity to have those meals.

We actually have our buses run the route every day, but we also have four pickup locations for students that do not have a bus route can actually come to a pickup location and receive a breakfast and lunch. Actually, last Friday on the last day before spring break, our bus drivers and custodial workers and our food service and coaches and everyone, it was all hands on deck, actually delivered 70,000 meals because our district wanted to give our students meals for the whole spring break. So last Friday, we actually delivered 70,000 meals on buses.

WILLIAMS: Well, I know it means the world to those students to look up and see their principal on the bus. I know it means the world to their parents, and especially in this holy weekend. I join all of our viewers in thanking you for this effort. And let me say it`s a privilege to share your name. Thank you so very much for coming on our broadcast and being our guest. Principal Brian Williams, thank you very much. Happy Easter to you and yours.

Coming up for us after a break, tallying up more of the great change we have all undergone and are still undergoing in these times we`re getting through and living through.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, those of us able to work from home feel fortunate. And during this Holy Week, especially please continue to spare a thought for those who cannot and those who are out of work entirely. Certain occupations, let`s not forget, have been crushed by this pandemic from restaurant workers to airlines to movies and so on. Think of taxicab and ride service drivers with no one out and about, very few people traveling at all, and with all of us well aware that the enclosed environment of the inside of a car is not recommended during this time of mitigation.

As part of a special broadcast here this weekend, our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel took a ride with an old friend of his who drives for a living through the streets of London.

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RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: You know this city better than anyone I know by far. What do you think about what you`re seeing now?

PETE MULCAHY (ph), DRIVER: It`s devastating. It`s heartbreaking. I mean, generally, this is full up. Everywhere you look, there`s people. In my lifetime, I`ve never, ever seen it like this.

ENGEL (voice-over): I met an old friend of mine, Pete Mulcahy, a Black cab taxi driver, London tour guide, and former pro boxer. Like millions of others, he`s now facing an uncertain future.

When was the last time you picked up a fare?

MULCAHY: Two weeks ago. The last time I drove the cab as a cab driver was two weeks ago.

ENGEL: How long can you keep going if it stays like this?

MULCAHY: If it stays like this, three months. Most people have got nothing. I have three months, four months, but then I have to start digging into money I`ve put away for my long term. But the long term is you don`t want to think about.

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WILLIAMS: A brief bit from Richard Engel`s special broadcast called "Pandemic," which airs on this network Easter Sunday evening, 9:00 Eastern Time. That is our broadcast for this Friday night. Stay well. Stay strong. Wishing you a weekend both meaningful and safe. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, have a good weekend. Happy Easter. Good night from our temporary field headquarters.

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                           END