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re-open country TRANSCRIPT: 4/10/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Michelle Goldberg, David Frum, Lee Daniels, Jared Bernstein

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: MSNBC`s breaking news coverage continues right now with my colleague and friend Ari Melber.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck, thank you. Have a good weekend. We will be watching on Sunday.

We have a lot of important news tonight.

And we begin, as we like to do around here during this era, with the facts and the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is what you need to know. The U.S. now has 487,000 confirmed cases, 18,000 deaths from this pandemic. New federal projections warning these numbers could spike if the country does ease up on many of the precautions, including social distancing, in too hasty a manner.

It is not time yet to ease up. That is the implication. This afternoon, at the White House coronavirus briefing, Trump tried to sound optimistic.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s heading in the downward curve.

We had a number of 100,000 lives. As many as that is, it`s impossible to even think of it. I think we will be substantially under that number. Hard to believe that, if you had 60,000, you can never be happy. But that`s a lot fewer than we were originally told and thinking.


MELBER: The president has moved deadlines before, and he is proposing a new one, May 1.

But his own medical experts are cautioning the virus is ultimately the determinant on when to return to any sense of normal life. The president also saying there is no need, he thinks, to test everyone in the nation. But take a listen to one of his top health advisers just moments ago speaking to Brian Williams.


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

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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.

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.


MELBER: That is a diplomatic way to disagree with the president, but the facts at least are available to us.

Meanwhile, you have these staggering unemployment numbers. The vast majority of the nation remains under lockdown. Meanwhile, House Speaker Pelosi says the country could be facing basically a depression, depending on what comes next, and demanding the government do even more to try and uphold and support this troubled economy right now.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We could have a depression, because so many people are out of work. And that`s why we have to get the system really energized and working.

Let`s get out those unemployment checks. Let`s get out those direct payments. But I don`t think anybody could tell you what date, unless we just take a week at a time. But let`s be hopeful that it will be soon.


MELBER: Let`s be hopeful.

There is plenty of bad news here, and we will give you the news, bad, good, or in between.

But I want to show you, before we bring in our guests, one other hopeful sign here. It is the idea that if you have this antibody test, you can determine who is medically potentially protected against the disease.

Those are individuals who might be able to go out in public again more safely. And, again, handing the mic back to Dr. Fauci, he says that test could be available as soon as next week.


QUESTION: Let`s start with the antibody tests. I have heard you say -- some have been developed and even validated. Are we really just days away from them being in use?

FAUCI: Yes, actually, at the last task force meeting, the individuals responsible for both developing, validating and getting the test out are saying -- and I`m certain that that`s going to happen, that within a period of a week or so, we`re going have a rather large number of tests that are available.


MELBER: That would be great news.

I turn now to Dr. Natalie Azar, rheumatologist and NBC medical analyst, Michelle Goldberg from "The New York Times," and Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Vice President Biden, who`s now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and, as of late, has been known for his quick wit.

We may get to that later, Jared.

But we begin with the doctor.

Walk us through this sliver, sliver of potential good news. What is Dr. Fauci getting at?

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: So, just to review quickly, I know people have been talking about it all day, but the tests that we have had available up until now, or the original ones, were the swabs that were testing for the genetic material of the virus which would indicate active infection.

But it did nothing to tell us of a prior infection or protection from the virus. So the new tests that would be out would be the serologic tests. They were basically like, if you look in the rear-view mirror of your immune system, it can tell who was exposed in the past.

I thought that was a very nice way to put it. That was from one of the NIH people who is actually the lead in a study that is being currently done, monitored, I should say, from the NIH.

So the whole point here, and when we talk about when do we reenter society and we get back to work and all this stuff, is, do we have this test available and do we have it scalable?

My concern is the same way they talked about rolling out all of these tests for the swab and the genetic testing is who is going to be a candidate for testing? It`s not going to be -- they won`t be able to scale it up to do the entire population.

Will it first be for health care workers, which are a very important group? Will it be for folks in a nursing home or something like that, like those more vulnerable populations first?

So it`s definitely good news. We need to have this test. It`s just the practicality of it and logistically how it`s going to be rolled out, and how it will be utilized, remains to be seen.

MELBER: And, Doctor, are there lessons from other places or other similar analogs in history?

AZAR: Well, no, that`s the thing. We have never had to, to my knowledge, have to do this quickly. The antibody testing, the serologic testing always comes along, anything, bacterial infections, viral infections, but the need to have it for this purpose so quickly, not that I`m aware of, no.

MELBER: Before I bring in the non-doctors, so to speak, I also want to play for you some of the reporting we have that goes to this brewing controversy that, at a practical level, the president is not helping. That`s the nicest way I could say it.

Many would argue he is hurting it, which is as we get around any potential corner, how do we stay vigilant, rather than easing up on distancing and other precautions too soon? Take a listen, Doctor.


JESSICA VLAMING, RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: How am I feeling? I would say, honestly, I`m a bit angry right now. I don`t understand why the sidewalks, the paths, the parks are filled with people, with groups of people.

We`re seeing people of all ages coming in to the hospital, get intubated and go to the ICU. We`re seeing people die alone in their rooms because it is not safe for them to have visitors. And we have data that shows now that social distancing works.


MELBER: Doctor, that`s a physician`s assistant just describing one slice in Chicago, and the idea of people walking around makes her angry because of what she is seeing.

Your analysis of that perspective and the vigilance that may still be needed?

AZAR: Absolutely.

There`s no reason to think that we`re not going to see cases again if we become complacent now. I can make multiple different analogies to the treatment of arthritis or someone who is going through chemotherapy and there is a tumor response and then you just stop.

Of course, there is no precedent, and we`re going rely on public health experts and epidemiologists to tell us how quickly or slowly we can start this nuanced phase-back in.

The only thing I would say would be different, God forbid, should we have a second curve, is that we will have a significant proportion of the population who we assume is immune, if they have had it, if they were infected in the past.

But even with this antibody tests, which we probably won`t have available for everyone, we won`t know exactly how much immunity is conferred by even having the antibody present in the blood and for how long it lasts.

MELBER: Well, and on that point, Michelle Goldberg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously wrote when defending a different government policy that protected people, a civil rights policy, she said, if your umbrella is working in the storm, that`s not a reason to chuck it to the side.

And there is a simple aspect to this, Michelle, that we have seen where sometimes people, in this case Donald Trump, argue, well, this has worked, so stop it. And it really seems counterintuitive. Michelle?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, and I think you`re also -- you`re hearing a lot from the right that people projected that there might be 100,000 to 200,000 deaths, and now there is only projected -- the projections say 60,000 deaths, so that shows that those projections were wrong, as opposed to that shows that the interventions are working.

Right? If you kind of say, well, now the people who made those predictions have been discredited and we don`t have the take their advice, you`re basically -- you`re throwing away the only things that have saved us from those much higher numbers.

But I think you`re already seeing from some Republicans in Congress, from some Republicans in particularly conservative states, you`re seeing some of the same logic that goes into climate denial, this kind of distrust of models, this distrust of experts, the sense that any kind of demand for limits on individual freedom in the name of the greater good must be part of some kind of liberal conspiracy.

You`re seeing that, and I think it`s going to become more attractive. It`s going to become a more attractive message to a lot of people the more they feel their own lives intolerably disrupted.

I think they`re going to want to believe leaders who say there is a different way, which is why it`s so irresponsible when the president of the United States gestures in that direction.

MELBER: Jared?

JARED BERNSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIST TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, you know, I was listening to Michelle. I was thinking that a lot of people also will be very compelled to get back to work as soon as possible.

I kind of think about the economic situation at the level of what people are going through now is two groups, one group of still drawing a paycheck and one group who isn`t. If you`re one of these people who is clicking into Zoom meetings all day long, you`re in the group that is still drawing a paycheck.

And we`re in much better shape than the other folks. Not only are they oftentimes a couple of weeks away from real privation in terms of just meeting their basic needs, paying their rent, putting food on the table, but the measures that have invoked, the fiscal measures, what the Federal Reserve is doing, those are all potentially helpful, but they have got to get out there.

I think you were playing Nancy Pelosi herself a few minutes ago saying, we did legislate some really important interventions here, but we know when it comes to unemployment insurance, checks to households, help for small businesses, the pipes are clogged. And that kind of implementation problem really needs to be addressed ASAP.

MELBER: Right.

Well, I hear you on the Zoom meetings. The news business remains largely busy, given this pandemic. We have been holding those kind of meetings. In fact, we held one today. We did a going away tribute to one of our great producers who has launched this show, Ellen (ph).

But we had to do it over Zoom.

But, as you say, we`re also lucky to have jobs.

Jared, I want to show something Jared, I want to show something that really gives just a quick snapshot of the kind of hard economic hardship you`re talking about of many of the people without jobs, through, again, let`s be clear, no fault of their own, people who went to work every day, did everything they were supposed to do, paid their taxes, and all of the sudden, boom, they`re without a job.

This is "San Antonio Express News," which did reporting, and shows thousands of cars. You`re looking at thousands of cars at a food bank saying, we can`t feed this many. We also have some of the line at a San Antonio food bank which served 10,000 families yesterday.

And, Jared, across the board, to your point, much of what we`re seeing, this aerial shot, this is America right now. We`re struggling to find ways to show it, Jared. But it is tragic. It is sad. It is desperate. And I want to reemphasize, as is so often the case, the people who are hungry in America often are hungry because of what I guess you would call macroeconomic factors, not because they did something wrong, Jared.

BERNSTEIN: Very much so.

This is precisely what I`m talking about. I guess I really have never seen a picture like that before. It`s just as jaw-dropping as the kind of macroeconomic numbers I have been looking at and talking about.

Let me just make one quick policy point. Remarkably, and I think very wrongheadedly, for all the useful things that have gone into the measures that we have passed so far, we have actually left out SNAP, which is nutritional support for low-income families facing precisely the kinds of problems that the people in those cars are looking at.

And as we move toward a phase four plan, it should really include a bump up, maybe 15 percent, $100 a month for a family of four in SNAP, or nutritional assistance.

MELBER: Right.

BERNSTEIN: Something worked very well, by the way, the last time we were in this situation.

MELBER: Let me get Michelle in on that.

I think we`re going to put up again, just so folks can let it sink in, the cars, which is families. Every one of those cars has a person or a family, Michelle, that are just trying to get food.

GOLDBERG: Well, and I want -- obviously, a big part of this is the kind of macroeconomic crisis.

But part of it is a policy crisis, both incompetence in the disbursement of aid, incompetence in getting people the benefits they need, letting them apply for the loans that they need, letting them apply for the unemployment insurance they need.

People are needing to make hundreds and hundreds of phone calls just to get through to somebody to begin the process of applying for unemployment insurance.

Meanwhile, "The Washington Post" has a story today that labor secretary -- that the labor secretary believes that unemployment benefits are too generous for some people and is taking deliberate steps to curtail them, is taking deliberate steps to make them less available to people working in the gig economy, is taking steps to protect businesses that want to reduce benefits or reduce leave for some of their employees.

So part of this is an act of God, an act of nature, and part of this is a combination of policy malevolence and policy incompetence.



MELBER: We`re about to go. Jared, we`re about to go.

I have got to say, as promised, first of all, you told a joke, an economics joke, that was so bad -- and I say that as someone who knows about bad jokes -- that it was criticized by Stephanie Ruhle, but then it was reposted on Instagram by 50 Cent himself.

So I want to give you the chance. If you have any more economics humor, I want to give you the chance today.


MELBER: I will tell you, real quick, Jared, that I spoke to Richard Lewis, a legendary comedian, and he said, as a Jewish bad joke, this year, we take the matzah, and we don`t wrap it in its usual afikoman. We wrap it in a face mask.

That`s from Richard Lewis. Do you have anything, Jared?

BERNSTEIN: Well, it`s funny you should mention 50 Cent, because I thought, given recent increases in inflation, that his name was now 64 Cent.



BERNSTEIN: But I don`t know. Maybe I will have to good back and recalculate that.


MELBER: Well, I don`t have anything.

It`s just -- it`s -- you -- every time -- you know what it is? Every time you don`t deliver...

BERNSTEIN: I got a million.

MELBER: ... by which I mean, you do deliver -- and I can see why you would be a great lecturer, economics teacher.


BERNSTEIN: If you just want to do the next segment of me telling economics joke, feel free to call up (AUDIO GAP) and we will let it roll.

I will bet Michelle and Dr. Azar have a few of them.



GOLDBERG: Don`t put me on the spot.


MELBER: Yes, I`m not going to put them on the spot, because they can`t do it the way you do it. But I do feel that we all need our levity where we can take it.

BERNSTEIN: Hey, hey, wait a second.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

BERNSTEIN: Do you know the definition of a Keynesian economist in Washington right now?

It`s a Republican in the middle of a recession with a Republican in the White House. That`s what makes a Keynesian economist today, if you think about it, because back when we were doing that stuff -- back when we were doing that stuff, the Republicans were sniping at us like you wouldn`t believe.

But you put a Republican in the White House...


MELBER: Your follow-up, though, is more political, because you`re referring to the fact there is a lot of hypocrisy when you were on the Obama-Biden team, and the claims about deficits and the rest.

Your first joke was just a classic terrible joke.

Jared Bernstein, thank you.

Dr. Azar, thank you for putting up with us.

And, Michelle, you`re coming back later in the hour.

Let me tell you what we have, because we have something special.

If you watch THE BEAT, you may know we haven`t been on air for a couple of days. But we have something we have been working on, a fact-check on some of the most dangerous lies and misconceptions about this virus, covering everything from the president to FOX News to garlic and the 5G phone network.

And if you know someone who`s been struggling with facts, they will want to see this segment.

Also later tonight, Lee Daniels joins me to talk about the pandemic and how it`s affecting culture, entertainment and art.

We`re also going to hear some of the voices of health care workers on the front lines right now.


DR. ANGELO MASCIA, E.R. RESIDENT: In the past two weeks, I have probably seen as much depth as I have seen in the past three years.

DR. JAVIER SANCHEZ, E.R. RESIDENT: They`re all like trying to breathe. They`re all struggling. They all require some medical help and attention.

DR. JEROME ZARRAGA, E.R. RESIDENT: They`re almost drowning from the inside, in the sense that they they`re trying to breathe, but they can`t.

DR. DANIEL MUKAMAL, E.R. RESIDENT: We see that, and it breaks our hearts. And it`s also tough, because I`m thinking this could be me.


MELBER: We have a lot more up ahead. Stay with us tonight. I`m Ari Melber.

You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: This coronavirus pandemic has put us all through a crash course in gathering medical information.

Your safety can depend on gathering the right knowledge. And right now being misinformed can be a matter of life and death, which does bring to mind an old saying.


AIDAN GILLEN, ACTOR: Prominent families often forget a simple truth, I have found.

LENA HEADEY, ACTRESS: And which truth is that?

GILLEN: Knowledge is power.


MELBER: If knowledge is power, then ignorance can make you weak right now and can make you more susceptible to probably heading towards bad decisions based on bad information.

We have seen that among our own leaders.


TRUMP: It`s a little like the regular flu.

It`s going to disappear one day. it`s like a miracle. It will disappear.

No, I`m not concerned at all. No, I`m not.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Finding out this virus is transmitting before people see signs, those individuals could have been infecting people before they felt bad. But we didn`t know that until the last 24 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel, like the more I learn about this, the less there is to worry about.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Unless you have an immune system that`s compromised and you are older and you have other underlying health issues, you are not going to die, 99 percent, from this virus.


MELBER: Wrong.

This is where we can apply some Cyhi the Prynce lyrics to Hannity and Trump.

All you do is tell stories. You, a campfire. You can barely hold your water. You a damn liar.

These damn lies are dangerous. Many Americans are eying all of these competing claims, assessing misinformation that ranges from politicians to also friends to a spike of online rumors.

We`re seeing viral conspiracy theories and pitches promising coronavirus cures which are worthless.

And all of this brings us to our special report right now, confronting things that you or your friends might be hearing about this virus. And we`re going to report out the medical science, so you stay informed and safe, because this is important.

Consider this tonight, if you will, a kind of informational inoculation to prevent the spread of wrong and dangerous misinformation.

Take a YouTube video that netted hundreds of thousands of views before it was taken down because it was false information, falsely suggesting that simple hot air could kill this virus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coronavirus is easily killed in less than 15 minutes at just 56 degrees Celsius or 133 Fahrenheit.

The common widely available handheld blow dryer used for drying hair contains a heating element and a fan that instantly deliver hot forced air temperatures that will kill the coronavirus even faster.


MELBER: That false claim has spread in so many ways that the World Health Organization has spoken out about it, advising that blow-drying your sinuses or any type of dryer is not a valid way to combat the virus.

The WHO goes on to say that exposing yourself to warm temperatures or living in a warmer climate does not also kill or prevent the virus and that you need to know way that.

And in a sign of how backwards things can get, we want to warn you, some copies of that video are circulating on sites, and they falsely use the logos of the WHO and the CDC, which, of course, fact-check them, to try to trick people into thinking that those groups indoors or are associated with the presentation.

And then there`s some folklore with ancient roots. We have all heard about combating vampires with garlic. And there are many tips online about garlic as a homeopathic remedy with various health benefits, potentially helping reduce the risk of heart disease, for example, or boosting your immune system.

And that`s fine as far as it goes. But around the world, there have now been these viral rumors that you could use garlic as a kind of virus vaccine, a false Facebook post earlier this year claiming that chopped garlic with boiling water could cure coronavirus overnight.

Of course, this is false. Again, the WHO found enough confusion about it that they published guidance stressing there`s no evidence of that as a method of remedy.

Now, this misinformation is damaging if people focus on doing something worthless, which might provide a false sense of security, instead of following the scientific precautions.

And, again, if you want something true, these precautions are clean your hands often with soap or hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol for over 20 seconds. Don`t touch your eyes, nose and mouth right now. And, yes, stay six feet away from other people. And, of course, stay home, cover your mouth and nose if you cough.

Meanwhile, it`s also damaging if people follow the bad advice I just mentioned about garlic to extreme degrees. There was a woman in China who was hospitalized for eating over three pounds of garlic over about two weeks.

Now, beyond mistaken treatments, there are also baseless coronavirus treatment conspiracy theories about how we got here. An online rumor speculating on whether there is some 5G phone technology would spread the virus, misinformation speculating on this as actually some kind of bioweapon.

And it`s not just random talk. This has taken hold online. The most watched video linking 5G to coronavirus has been viewed over a million times. A similar YouTube video we found was shared to over 100,000 people -- accounts -- I should say, shared over 100,000 times on Facebook.

And there are celebrities with larger followings that contributed to that spread, one sharing a video to two million followers touting innuendo from a doctor on disciplinary probation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody want to make one guess as to where the first completely blanketed 5G city in the world was?





Those claims aren`t backed by evidence. The point about China, it was actually South Korea that was first to widely use 5G, but more broadly and importantly, researchers have not found that there was this kind of damage from mobile phone use networks.

But the conspiracy has gotten so far, the health expert that so many Americans turn to most, Dr. Fauci, was asked about it, and he knocked it down.


QUESTION: Now, I know you deal in professional documents, real research, real numbers and science.

Have you come across this hoax about this flu -- the coronavirus is actually caused by 5G antennas?


FAUCI: No, I haven`t, thank goodness.

As you guys know better than anybody, social media can really be advantageous for the spread of important information, but it certainly could be damaging for the spread of a lot of garbage.


MELBER: And that`s an important context here.

Dr. Fauci has been doing a wide range of interviews partly for that point, including beyond the traditional news. He has been going online. He has been going on social media, because he understands, and he`s been teaching us all, that getting the facts out is part of how we stem the actual spread of this actual virus.

Then, beyond conspiracy theories or online viral videos, accuracy today also requires that we note something unfortunate. The misinformation that has spread the farthest, which is measurable with the largest consequences, has actually been coming from the Oval Office itself.

President Trump not only lying about his administration`s response, downplaying the virus early on, downplaying how it would spread, downplaying wearing masks, which the CDC recommends right now, and then more recently breaking with medical experts to out the an unproven drug as some kind of potential treatment.


TRUMP: Now, a drug called chloroquine, and some people would add to it hydroxy, hydroxychloroquine, now, this is a common malaria drug. So we know that if things don`t go as planned, it`s not going to kill anybody.

We hear good things. Let`s see. Maybe it works, or maybe it doesn`t. I feel good about it. It`s very effective. It works. What the hell do you have to lose? OK?


MELBER: Doctors say you have a lot to lose by experimenting with unproven drugs.

The FDA has started fast-tracking the distribution of this one for sick patients. But the CDC emphasizes there are no FDA-approved drugs to prevent or treat this virus right now.

Doctors on the front lines also emphasizing Donald Trump`s approach there was flat wrong. They emphasize, again, patients may lose their health or life here because the drug`s side effects, especially when misused, can include cardiac arrest.

One man in Arizona dying after mistakenly taking a different toxic form of that drug. His widow now says they were listening to Donald Trump on television and tried using that parasite treatment for fish, which had a similar ingredient.

And even after that death, in the very same week, FOX News promoted the same medication over 100 times, which adds to a series of questionable accounts there about this pandemic.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS: It`s a virus, like the flu.

HANNITY: If you are over the mass hysteria, if you`re over politicizing and weaponizing of the coronavirus, you`re not alone.

Unless you have an immune system that`s compromised and you are older, and you have other underlying health issue, you are not going to die, 99 percent, from this virus.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: It is absolutely disgusting that Democrats are seeking to use this complex virus to score cheap political points.


MELBER: Score points? Give me a break.

The people treating this deadly pandemic like a game are the ones you just saw, projecting their own -- quote -- "disgusting problems" on others, shouting down doctors with their own agenda.

And let`s be clear. In the case of some on FOX News, some of their coverage here, it risks hurting their own audience.

Remember how we began tonight. Ignorance makes you weak and ignorance makes you weak and vulnerable with a threat like this. And there are surveys on this, showing a majority of people who get information from FOX still think the virus threat is overblown.

They`re more likely to downplay it even compared to other Republicans.

If you don`t get your information from FOX News or online conspiracy theories, you`re less likely to think it`s overblown, because it`s not overblown. This is a pandemic wiping out lives everywhere it goes, wiping out more lives in this country than any other on that map behind us here.

This has frozen life as we know it. It`s tanked the economy, because the alternative would be even worse, a higher death toll that would also still be tanking the economy.

But let`s be clear. For FOX viewers, it`s especially perilous. The median age there is 67, that mostly older audience especially vulnerable if they contract this virus. And as we just showed you, they have been told to basically downplay it.

Now, those are specific examples. But what if you hear some new story or theory or cure-all and you`re not sure what to think, which is understandable? This is where the scientific method and the journalistic method are similar.

I will tell you, basically, first, check the source. Are you looking at a scientific organization like the CDC or a journalistic outlet like "The New York Times"? Then you might be better off.

But, second, you sure you know what you`re looking at? Verify it. Don`t just look at, say, a logo or headline. Make sure the material you`re looking at matches the current Web site, if you think you`re on a Web site. If you see something that`s a picture or an excerpt on Facebook or social media, and you think it might not look right or you think it has medical advice, go verify at the original source.

We`re talking about your life, the health of you and your family. So don`t just take the Facebook picture. Go verify it.

And, third, before you take any action based on something that you find, obviously, yes, check with a doctor or a nurse or a health care professional. This is not a time to DIY your preventative medicine.

Now, we have just meticulously tried to go through several sources of misinformation, including, sadly, the president, so you have the facts.

But just because we`re fact-checking doesn`t mean there isn`t a wealth of great information out there. I don`t want to be too negative right now. In fact, for all those comparisons to, say, the 1918 flu epidemic that we have heard about, which killed an estimated 50 million people, there is one clear contrast today that is good news.

We have better medicine. And we have stronger communication systems to prevent the scale of the way the disease spread that time. So it`s not only the actions we take, but the facts that inform our actions, which can continue to save lives.

This is what I`m telling you tonight. Truth itself helps combat the spread of this virus.

And with that in mind, before we end our special report, we did want to turn from the misinformation and the Trump briefings to, for you, some solid information.


MATT DAMON, ACTOR: Everything you`re going to hear from us has been vetted by public health experts and scientists.

KATE WINSLET, ACTRESS: Wash your hands like your life depends on it.


LARRY DAVID, ACTOR: Stay home and don`t see anyone.

FAUCI: We`re going through a period of time now where we have got to, as a country, pull together.


MELBER: Let`s pull together with facts.

David Frum is here. He joins me when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: We`re back with David Frum, who served in the George W. Bush White House and writes for "The Atlantic." His new book is called "Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy."

David, where do you see facts and science fitting into these challenges right now?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think what you said was so powerfully true.

What we`re seeing is a race between an American government that is not working and an American civil society that is working, people finding from their communities themselves the resources to be ready for this terrible pandemic, at a time when the national government is failing.

And some states are magnificently stepping into the gap, other states doing less well. We thought we`d solve that problem in (AUDIO GAP) but apparently not. Apparently, we still have a differential with the states and a weak nation state.

MELBER: Do you think there is some sort of sliver -- I always use the word sliver, because there is a lot of tough stuff happening -- but a sliver of upside, when people do gravitate back to facts and are reminded that, in this so-called post-truth era, Trump`s war on truth, we need this more than ever?

FRUM: Yes.

I think, look, the past three years, if you are someone who has been very focused on public affairs, you`re a journalist, if you`re someone who works in government, you`re the kind of highly informed person who is watching this show, you have seen an erosion of norms and standards.

But most people (AUDIO GAP) say, well, what does that mean to me? That seems like Washington talk. Here in my neighborhood, there are jobs. The economy is growing. My 401(k) is up. These are very abstract concerns.

And what everyone has discovered in the past eight weeks is -- or 12 weeks now -- is what it means when the government fails, what it means when information is collected in China and put into the system and not read, what it means when no one steps up, what it means when you don`t pay the bills to maintain the ventilators, so that even though the government has purchased ventilators and stored them, when they come out of storage, they turn out to be broken because they weren`t maintained.

Suddenly, all of those things matter enormously.

MELBER: Well, take a listen to Bill Barr, who is out there speaking beyond his own expertise, just like the president has at times.

Here it is. Oh, I`m sorry. You know what? I don`t have the sound. I got confused, but I`m going to read it to you.

FRUM: Yes.

MELBER: He says: "It`s disappointing to see the politicization of these decisions. The president, before he said anything about the malaria drug I mentioned earlier, there was fair and balanced coverage of this promising drug."

He is basically making the argument that it`s actually the response to what the president says that is the problem.

FRUM: The new leader of the opposition in Great Britain gave an introductory interview, where he talked about the role that he saw for opposition in a time like this.

And he said, Keir Starmer: I`m not going to oppose the sake of opposing. But where opposing can lead us to better outcomes, better decisions, then the duty of an opposition serves the public.

So what is happening -- what we`re seeing right now is that this administration has not -- it`s idled away its time. And even now, in April, we`re past the point where testing would help, the administration is doing nothing on tracing, which is the next step, testing, tracing, quarantine.

They`re not working. There is a devastating story in today`s "Washington Post" about the complete failure of the administration to step that up.

So criticism is not done to be mean or to be nasty, as the president says. It`s done because people`s lives are on the line. The federal government is failing. Some of the states are working. Many are not.

And people need to know that, so they can demand better from the people whose salaries they pay.

MELBER: Yes, which guess back, as you said, the link between where we in terms of truth in this country and where are we in terms of accountability for the government, when everyone is reminded right now, as they`re under shelter-in-place orders and dealing with these rules, that the government has to be answerable to you on public safety?

David Frum, thank you so much.

FRUM: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We`re going fit in a break, but, when we come back, the virus impacting people around the globe. And that includes arts, culture and Hollywood.

Lee Daniels is here live tonight.

But, first, an update on Trump exploiting the virus to push his agenda, gutting oversight and how we are, as just discussed, holding him accountable.


MELBER: The Trump White House is putting emphasis every day on the idea that it is working on the pandemic.

Let me show you right now that, behind the scenes, the Trump administration at times is exploiting the pandemic and the associated concerns as a pretext to push its own agenda.

Many experts saying some of what`s going on has nothing to do with combating the virus. Take a look, for example, at this "Washington Post" reporting: "tighter immigration controls, relaxing environmental regulations, tax cuts and stricter curbs on voting," all forging ahead on that within the pandemic.

Trump continuing a pre-COVID purge in government as well. Very important, we want you to know, he has fired two key watchdogs -- they`re called inspectors general -- and they would have overseen your taxpayer dollars on the newly passed $2 trillion package.

Another who notified Congress about the Ukraine call which led to Trump`s impeachment was also ousted during all of this heading into the weekend. And then you have -- and I mentioned some of this earlier -- what Attorney General Bill Barr has been up to.

Listen to him supporting Trump`s actions.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I think the president did the right thing in removing Atkinson.

The president has every right to be frustrated, because I think what happened to him was one of the greatest travesties in American history, the whole pattern of events while he was president, so I -- to sabotage the presidency.


MELBER: The man who leads the DOJ saying basically the Mueller probe and other things that happened at the DOJ were sabotaging Donald Trump.

We want you to know what they`re up to, and we will keep you posted.

I`m going to fit in a break.

And when we come back, something different and something uplifting for the end of the week. Filmmaker Lee Daniels is here live on the power of art and movies during adversity.


MELBER: We have been reporting the impact of coronavirus on every aspect of American life these days, and that does include as well the larger culture that makes so much of life worth living, music, entertainment.

We have seen musicians inspire and change what they do, concerts from home. We have seen layoffs as well in so many industries that we rely on to get us through our weeks.

"The L.A. Times" reporting on how hard it has been felt in Hollywood, detailing the ripple effect on many facets of production, affecting not only the people we see on screen, like actors and big shots like directors, but the hairstylists, the makeup artists, the caterers, everyone who puts together such a big part of our culture and economy.

To get into this a little bit here at the end of a long week, I am thrilled to tell you we are joined by Oscar-nominated director and writer Lee Daniels.

His TV series "Empire" actually halted production of the final series -- of the season`s final series, I should say, because of COVID.

Good to see you, sir.

LEE DANIELS, "EMPIRE" CREATOR: Hey, sir. How are you? Long time no.

MELBER: I`m...


MELBER: You look great. I`m OK. I appreciate you coming through.

I`m going to start it up like this, Lee. I`m going to start it up with a little moment from "Empire" to remind everyone of this show that people love, which, as mentioned, halted for the safety of everyone involved.

Let`s take a look.


TARAJI P. HENSON, ACTRESS: I would like to propose a toast.

You guys have been through a lot, but look at you. To the new first couple of Empire.

Come on, honey.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You will have to excuse me. I`m not feeling very well.


MELBER: The drama, Lee. People say that show is dramatic. You know that.

DANIELS: Yes, on stage and off.


MELBER: Well, sir, tell us about it. You all had to make this decision to cut it short. Where do you go from here? What is the creative process?

DANIELS: Yes. Who knows, man?

I mean, you know, we`re living in unchartered territories right now. It was very strange when we -- when the public was pulled. We didn`t really know. When it first was going down, we didn`t know just what to do, whether or not we should run for the hills, whether we should shut down production.

And Terrence and Taraji and our crew, they`re tough. But I thought, at the end of the day, that it was just smart to just, like, call it a day, you know?

So we were in the writers room writing the episodes to the finale. And we were shooting -- in the middle of shooting three episodes prior to that. So that`s when all hell broke loose. So, we don`t have an answer quite yet.

But we are trying to figure that out right now.

MELBER: So, does it change the way you resolve the plot?


DANIELS: Say again?

Yes, of course.

MELBER: Does being cut off change -- yes. Go ahead.

DANIELS: Yes, of course. It`s (AUDIO GAP) and, also, we try to stay relevant.

So how do we bring into -- how do we bring -- when we do come back, how do we bring this all into it all. If that makes any sense.


And we have got people dealing with this all over the world. We have got young people who plan to come out and start a job or start a life, and now they`re part of this pandemic generation.

Do you think there will be art that comes out of this right now?

DANIELS: I think some of the best -- I know some of my best work will come out of it. I think that some of the best art from artists, from writers, from directors, I think some of the best work that we have ever had, that we`re capable of, will come from this darkness.

From darkness, there is light.


So much of your work that people know, "Precious," "The Butler" -- we mentioned "Empire" -- deals with race in America.

Race right now is cutting through this crisis as well, Mayor de Blasio this week saying black New Yorkers twice as likely to die from the virus.

I`m curious your views on that -- that part of the story.

DANIELS: Yes, Ari, it`s hard for me to even talk about Hollywood, when I have to think about family first, you know?

I think of -- it`s hard for me to even grasp "Empire" or the work that -- or "Billie Holiday" that I`m doing right now. It`s hard for me to think about that, when I have family members that work in stores, that work in hospitals, that are working with people day to day that are struggling.

So it`s easy for them to be told to -- it`s easy for everybody to say, stay inside. But when you`re dealing with family members that are actually -- it`s very -- it`s upsetting. It`s very upsetting.

So, that`s my focus right now. My focus is my family.

MELBER: We got about 30 seconds left.

What do you tell people is the best thing to do when they start their day, many people stuck at home?

DANIELS: I pray. I pray, because you get frazzled.

Is it going to be a good day? Is it going to be a bad day? How am I going to get into my routine? What`s going on? Start with a prayer. It`s easy.

MELBER: Hey, I appreciate that. I think we could all do...

DANIELS: I miss you, buddy. I miss you.

MELBER: I miss you, too.

I mean, this is what I tell everybody every day. I get up -- I get to talk to people through the screen, just like people doing that on Zoom and FaceTime. But it is nice to see you this way.


MELBER: I`m going to fit in a break, but let`s do it in person when it`s time for that, when the CDC cosigns it.

DANIELS: Stay safe.

MELBER: You stay safe too, Lee.

DANIELS: OK, buddy.

MELBER: Thank you, sir.

We will be right back.


MELBER: Thanks for watching.

Stay safe, stay informed, and keep it right here on MSNBC.