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Great Depression TRANSCRIPT: 4/23/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Irwin Redlener, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Kamala Harris, Lawrence Gostin, Esther Choo, Robert Reich

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And he couched it all the same way. I`m just putting it out there. I would ask the doctors, I`m not a doctor myself. But this is the kind of thing that, you`ll forgive the phrase, gets into the water.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER: Yes, it does, Brian. You know, and I think it`s like when he was promoting the anti-malarial drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and many, many other things. Listen, this is a president who has gone as anti-scientific, anti-evidence as possible throughout his administration.

And that`s coming back to bite him right now because he`s got people around him. I mean, some of whom are fine. Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, are very, very respectable members of the public health community. But this person from the Homeland Security has clearly no idea what he was talking about and the president just sort of amplified these statements that are without evidence.

And, again, I`m sure people are going to go out now and try to figure out how they can buy U.V. lights or how they can insert light and disinfectants into a human body. And I`m really just hoping that people don`t take this seriously. It`s just a pack of nonsense, if I could be so blunt, but really distressing to hear that.

WILLIAMS: Imagine a time where a physician has to say to a national viewing audience, pay no attention to what the president said at the briefing.

And to your point, doctor, we saw yet another public official being forced to come forward, in effect, sing for his supper and do so with slides. Doctor, thank you for always being available to take our questions. And thanks for your candor and response today.

We are joined by someone else in the news, that`s because her state and her governor are in the news and that is the mayor of the City of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms. Mayor, I have to ask you, if you were listening to the briefing, when the president suddenly now is coming down hard on your governor for his suggestion to open businesses, including but not limited to massage spas, hairstylists, tattoo parlors, the reopening guidelines that you of a mayor have been forced to deal with yourself.

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D- GA): Brian, I was very surprised to hear the president come down so hard on our governor and I`m even more surprised that I actually agree with our president. I think that opening up barber shops and hair salons and massage parlors and bowling alleys in the midst of a pandemic is simply not wise and it puts all of our communities at risk.

I am so glad to see that so many in our communities have said that they will not open. We`ve had many in the faith-based communities saying that they will not hold services on Sunday. And what I have said to the people of Atlanta repeatedly is don`t listen to me. Don`t listen to the governor. Don`t listen to the president. Listen to the scientists and the experts and our public health professionals who are telling us that we need to stay at home.

WILLIAMS: Mayor, you released on social media the most ranked racist Jim Crow era threat that you received. I don`t know that we would call it a threat as much as an insult. And I am sure there are more. I am sure there are sadly many of them. It speaks, I guess, to the pressure you must feel, again, with the president whipping up sentiment to reopen these states with your governor willing to be first in the nation to take such a plunge, there you are running the largest metropolitan area in the state.

BOTTOMS: You know, Brian, it was -- it saddened me to receive that message. And what was even more disturbing is that it also went to my 12-year-old son. So as elected officials, we are used to taking criticism, but certainly children should be off limits.

But I think more importantly the reason I released that message is because I wanted people across America to see what racism still looks like in 2020. And as we talk about the impact that this virus is having on communities of color, there is so much anxiety and so many unknowns and I think that`s why it`s even more important that we have stable leadership from the White House that`s encouraging the people, reminding people, that we will get to the other side of this in the same way we did when we went through Jim Crow and have gone through so many other things in this country.

But it is extremely destabilizing to people when you can`t look to the White House for true leadership and I hope that people remember that when we have an opportunity to vote in November of this year, but, you know, this was a teachable moment in my home. It was interesting to hear my high school senior tell my 6th grader that he`s been called the N-word more times than he can count. That was actually news to me. So there is still so much work that we have to do in America to close these gaps, whether it be racism, income disparity or these health disparities that are making people of color more susceptible to this virus.

WILLIAMS: Do you find, Mayor, that your constituents as a whole, your level-headed constituents, understand the spot you are in, understand this as a public health issue and are on your side, do you think?

BOTTOMS: They absolutely are, Brian. And I want to be clear, Governor Kemp and I have a very good working relationship. We work across the aisle. And I work with many Republican leaders in our state on many issues that impact our community. So I`m not pointing the finger at Governor Kemp or our leaders in this state, but, you know, this is something is that we are agreeing to disagree on. And we`ve just -- we ask that our communities be given an opportunity to get accurate information and have information that will allow them to go out and work and not put their families in jeopardy.

But I won`t blame any of this on any one person or one party. But we certainly can look at what the responses have been and we all have a responsibility to be responsible in our response to this pandemic.

WILLIAMS: Madam Mayor, I`m sorry about the impromptu home schooling lesson that someone caused you to have in your home. I`d call it a history lesson. But as you point out, sadly, it`s current events. The mayor of the City of Atlanta, Keisha lance bottoms, thank you so much for being with us and taking our questions after this White House briefing.

With us now is former Democratic presidential candidate, Democratic California Senator Kamala Harris. She serves on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

Senator, there was a lot to react to in addition to the president wondering if doctors can`t look into the injection of disinfectants and the introduction of U.V. light inside the human body to cure this thing. There was a quote that did refer to your party and your presumptive nominee. This is the president on Joe Biden. We have a sleepy guy in the basement of his house. He`s not moving around. He`s not moving too much.

The question is, and we`re involved in this debate, obviously, we just aired this event live. So through our audience and the other networks, people heard the president using these words out loud. Has there been any allowance or discussion for your party for the other side in this debate to have a response to any or all of this to counteract the air time?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Brian, well, in reference to the comments by the president, they`re juvenile. So I don`t think anyone in my party is actually going to respond to that. But we have responded and I think many Americans are responding to the lack of leadership that this president has provided from day one. He rejected information he received from the American intelligence community, he minimized the seriousness of this.

I believe there were 34 times he went on camera between January and early March and basically minimized the seriousness of the coronavirus and its impact on our country. He called it a hoax. He has tried to muzzle public health experts. He most recently fired the guy who is in charge of basically coming up with a treatment and a vaccine. And this is who he is. And that`s why we have looked elsewhere for leadership and, we are looking to Joe Biden for leadership in November.

But the reality of it is that this a pandemic that is, by nature, a public health crisis and we need a public health response and we need at the head of the public health response a president of the United States who embraces truth, who speaks truth, who embraces science and speaks in a way that`s about elevating public discourse, but also lifting up the American people in terms of their condition and also in terms of their spirits. And Donald Trump is incapable of any of that.

So, frankly, I think it`s a bit of a waste of time to talk about him if we`re looking for solutions to the crisis, but we should talk about his failure of leadership in terms of knowing that we need a new president and we need to elect Joe Biden in November to get to that place.

WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about your constituents who can`t make rent, can`t make a mortgage payment and your constituents who never ever dreamed it would be in line at a food bank. I am guessing you feel a sense of urgency as one of 100 senators that is not matched entirely by the legislative body in which you serve?

HARRIS: Correct. And to your point, Brian, and the last big bill, the $2 trillion, the $2 trillion bill, we fought to to get an extension of snap benefits, which are basically food stamps. It is federal aid to help people eat and feed hungry children, couldn`t get in on that one. Then this 3.5 bill, as we`re calling, couldn`t get in on this.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders have joined me together. We are arguing that in the next bill, we need to increase snap benefits by at least 30 percent. We also need to take away the work requirements because, obviously, when we have 26 million Americans that just in the last five weeks have become unemployed, the idea that we would put their reliance on assistance to buy food on them having a job is ridiculous, because they don`t have a job, that`s why they need assistance.

The other thing that you should understand, and I`m sure you know, when we`re talking about food and security, one of the things that I have been very focused on, there was a report in 2019 that almost 40 percent of college students are food insecure. There was a study at Howard University, my alma mater, a great HBCU, that almost 70 percent of the students were food insecure, okay?

These kids are now -- they are back at home. They are not at school. They are not in work study programs. And so when we talk about the breathe and depth of the people in our country who are standing in these lines at food banks for hours, it`s every sector of our community that you can imagine. And this is one of the tragedies of this moment that the public health crisis has manifested itself in an economic crisis that includes a crisis in terms of hunger in our country that is only going to grow if we don`t focus on the facts and focus on solutions.

WILLIAMS: You are also, I happen to note, from a blue state. I want to play this for you. The president responded to Majority Leader McConnell`s suggestion that states should file for bankruptcy during the pandemic, something the governor of New York said is vicious.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some states have -- in all fairness, John, some states have not done very well for many years, long before the virus came. You know, we can`t blame the plague, this horrible plague.

It is interesting that the states that are in trouble do happen to be blue. It is interesting. If you look around, the states that seem to have the problem happen to be Democrat.


WILLIAMS: So, Senator, you heard the man, the states that are having the problem happen to be blue. Yours is big and blue and home to 30 million Americans.

HARRIS: Listen, again, Brian, Donald Trump is unburdened by facts and truth and so I just can`t keep commenting on what he says. The reality of it is that states across our country, whether there is a Democrat or a Republican as governor are relying in need the federal government to support them in states and local government.

What do the state and local governments do? They provide police protection, fire protection, emergency protection, they provide sanitation workers. They are the people who every day make life for Americans as easy as possible. And right now, my mayor in Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, mentioned the number of city employees that are going to have to miss as much as 10 percent of the work year unpaid because the city is starting to lose so much money because they`ve had to put their resources into what the federal government under this president should have done at the beginning, which is have a national plan for addressing this pandemic and thinking forward in a way that we didn`t have to do the cleanup at the state and local level.

But since state and local leaders have taken on the leadership that was lacking from the White House, they should be supported in doing that. And we should support them with the resources they need.

WILLIAMS: From your seat on Senate Judiciary, you had one of the more memorable exchanges with our attorney general. In your view, what is Bill Barr doing speaking out and speaking up about this policy to socially distance and stay at home during this period?

HARRIS: Listen, I think the most important thing that we should think about as it relates to Bill Barr and this pandemic, this public health crisis, is that Bill Barr, the attorney general of the United States, has lawyers in courtrooms in our country trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which brought healthcare to 30 million people who did not have it. This in the midst of a public health crisis.

So, you know, I`m too busy watching what he`s doing to listen what he`s saying. And what he is trying to do is get rid of otherwise what gave healthcare to people are pre-existing conditions? What do we know about the coronavirus? It preys on people with pre-existing conditions. He is trying to get rid of what was the most significant public health policy in generations created by President Obama, together with Joe Biden. That was about bringing healthcare to people so we could, at the very least, have the strength to ward off something like the coronavirus. So let`s do focus on Bill Barr but let`s focus on what he is doing.

WILLIAMS: Final question, have you been in touch with the Biden for President effort about any potential vetting of you or your finances or papers or background?

HARRIS: I will tell you, I am focused on the pandemic and the issue at hand today. Obviously, the House just voted on a package that we just sent them. I am on constant calls with my colleagues in the Senate, in particular, my Democratic colleagues, and that`s my focus. I am fully aware of the conversation that seems to be having about who is, maybe, will be talked of as a consideration. I am honored to be considered and that`s it, if I`m being considered.

WILLIAMS: Is that to say are you being considered or should we take that as a no?

HARRIS: I don`t know. I don`t know. I don`t know. And, again, it`s --


HARRIS: I mean, and that`s not where I`m focused. But, yes, I don`t know.

WILLIAMS: Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, and we know a proud graduate of Howard, go Bison, a good plug to work in there, Senator.


WILLIAMS: Thank you.

HARRIS: Thank you, Brian. Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Also our thanks to our previous guests, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Dr. Irwin Redlener.

We invite you all, of course, to join Nicolle Wallace and myself, 10:00 P.M. Eastern tonight, 7:00 on the west coast, for an NBC special report about testing and the road to reopening. It certainly was a critical subtopic of today`s briefing.

Our special guests tonight will include the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, to talk about the difficult road ahead for their states and localities. Also that man on the far left, Bill Gates, will talk about his efforts through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fight this pandemic worldwide. Again, 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 on the west coast on this very network, where now Ari Melber picks up our continuing coverage from here. Ari?

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, very much, Brian. I appreciate it.

We have been, of course, keeping an eye on the White House coronavirus task force briefing and the interviews that Brian Williams has just done, including those interesting little clues about 2020 and the running mate consideration with Senator Kamala Harris. So we have a lot to get to.

I want to bring in our experts, Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist from The Washington Post, Lawrence Gostin, is Director of the Institute for National and Global Health at Georgetown University`s Law School, is a veteran of the WHO with an expert council on infectious disease, giving them his views, which makes him especially relevant given everything we`re dealing with worldwide, and Dr. Esther Choo, and emergency physician and associate professor at the Oregon Health and Science University. Good to see all of you.

Professor Gostin, I want to begin with you. Viewers have been living through this, keeping an eye on everything presumably often at home, may recall the big news not so long ago when the president lashed out at the WHO and you joined is for special coverage then. As mentioned you`ve advised the WHO on how to handle international spread of infectious disease.

With that in mind, putting the briefings and the politics to the side, I`m curious what you think of what we`re seeing in the ways that the federal government is trying to manage this phase while some states step out on their own.

LAWRENCE GOSTIN, PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN LAW: I mean, it really is very confusing to the public. I think the public is fearful. They don`t understand what the president and the White House are saying, and there is mixed messaging. One day we are told it`s safe to go back or that heat will get rid of the virus. The next day, we are told that we should social distance. The president has actively, and this is -- you know, we need the think about this, actively told his supporters that they should protest and liberate themselves from state public health laws.

If you think about that, public health is the most important thing that the president or any leader can do for the population. And to suggest that laws that are required for the public`s protection and safety should be ignored or we should be liberated from them really is disturbing.

MELBER: Dr. Choo, on that point, take a listen to some of the on-the-ground reporting here from Oklahoma, with salons and some other businesses returning. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that our clients let us know that we were opening before we even now. So, it was pretty quick.

QUESTION: Do you expect to be completely busy all day Friday?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we will be pretty busy all day, yes.

QUESTION: Are people -- so, what does that tell you? Does that tell you people are -- do you think people are confident that this can be done in a safe way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think so. I think everyone knows what precautions they need to take.


MELBER: Doctor?

DR. ESTHER CHOO, FOUNDER, EQUITY QUOTIENT: Yes, really concerning, obviously.

I mean, we will have to see, as different states and municipalities loosen up restrictions. We will have to see, first of all, if that is representative of how people feel.

I mean, from a public health perspective, it`s one thing to open up business doors. But it`s another thing to make people feel safe going out to businesses and back to their regular activities.

And I think some people will feel comfortable, and we will see that in the news. But I actually think that the vast majority of people prefer to feel safe, to see a strategy for testing and for social distancing and for sort of a rational return to activities, before they just want to run out there.

And so, hopefully, those kind of attitudes aren`t the most common and that more people will turn to their public health authorities and to scientists and get some clear answers about what the tragedy is where they live, so they know they can do those things, like we all want to, but do them in a really safe, graduated manner.

MELBER: And both of our medical experts here are giving us real contest.

Gene, I turn to you, like me, as a non-doctor, more qualified, perhaps sadly, to look at some of the way that Washington works, leadership or lack thereof.

But I want to be clear with viewers. I mean, part of what we saw from the president today was another example of where attitude and performance outstrip the medical science. So, the same president who literally within the last two weeks was hyping an earlier reopening day, now that policy is not currently the federal Trump administration policy.

Many medical experts tell us that`s a good thing. But yet he went out of his way to kind of flex against a Georgia governor who is literally doing the thing that Donald Trump himself claimed to be for a few weeks ago.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, that`s absolutely right, Ari.

First, before we get to that, I think...


ROBINSON: ... having just aired that briefing, the first thing we need to do is to tell viewers, please do not try to inject yourself with disinfectant to get rid of COVID-19.

Please do not try to somehow introduce ultraviolet light inside your body, as if that were possible in any sort of practical -- in this physical realm. But please don`t try to do that. These are highly unsafe things that the president mused about and recommended.

And so we just have to do -- say that first, I think.

And, second...


MELBER: Well, since you say that, let me -- I`m going to come back.

Let me do a little rules of the road. I`m going to come back to you then on part two.

Since you brought that up, I do want, for the benefit of viewers, to bring in Dr. Choo on that.

There was the little sort of -- I hate to say it, but a little bit of the WebMD comments section of the press conference. Gene has brought it to us.

Dr. Choo, do you want to speak to any of that before Gene finishes the other part?

CHOO: Yes. Yes, thank you for bringing that up.

I mean, that was -- I don`t even know how to feel or think or what to say about that. I mean, the idea of introducing something that is unknown toxin into the body, isopropyl alcohol, disinfectants, I mean, those -- those are things we always worry that kids swallow accidentally, or people who are intentionally trying to hurt themselves will swallow accidentally.

U.V. light inside the body -- if the answer to this is going outside and opening our mouths and letting sunlight in, if that`s the answer, that`s great. But that`s actually not...


CHOO: I mean, it just this stream of consciousness based on some -- I think probably on this underlying concept that many viruses have a seasonal component to them.

But to jump from there to the idea that sunlight is the cure, I am actually worried about what people will do with U.V. lights and creating burns on their mucosal surfaces.

Please -- I don`t know how -- that message is now out there. It`s one thing to be in your kitchen or your bathroom and be like, I have this wild idea. It probably makes no sense. And then your spouse can say, yes, that`s ridiculous, and that`s the end of it.

But to sort of have that stream of consciousness allowed on national TV with so many impressionable people watching, it was remarkable.

MELBER: Right.


MELBER: So, as part of this fact-check, which Gene first teed up.

And, Professor, I`m going to you in.

But, just for viewers, the best way to deal with aspects of the president`s portion of the briefing sometimes is the informational equivalent of dealing with the virus itself, which is, you need to keep a safe distance and then you need to disinfect the misinformation that you are receiving.

In that spirit, for Professor Gostin, who I`m going to bring in here, we will play just a snippet of what we`re warning viewers was this misleading section, where the president then was asking Dr. Birx about whether heat and light might somehow wipe out the virus, a claim she debunks.


TRUMP: I would like to you speak to the medical doctors to see if there is any way that you can apply light and heat to cure, you know, if you could

And maybe you can, maybe you can`t. Again, I say maybe you can, maybe you can`t. I`m not a doctor. I`m like a person that has a good you know what.

QUESTION: But, sir, you`re the president.

QUESTION: Deborah, have you ever heard of that, the heat and the light relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?


I mean, certainly, fever...


BIRX: ... is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond, but not as -- I have not seen heat.


MELBER: Professor Gostin?

GOSTIN: I mean, it really does matter what the president of the United States says.

There are a lot of people listening. And whether he`s suggesting that an anti-malarial drug can work on COVID, when the NIH later on said that it actually could be toxic, or now he`s making dangerous claims about U.V. light, or that somehow heat is going to get rid of this virus, these are dangerous things.

And we know from science that, if you hype things that are risky, it`s going to cost lives. And costing lives in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic, I think it -- we just have to shake our head, because science matters, evidence matters.

And the president should be on board and on the same page as all of his top science and medical advisers, including Tony Fauci and Deborah Birx.

MELBER: Very fairly put.

As promised, we return back to Gene Robinson, who is also going to address that leadership challenge vis-a-vis other states.


MELBER: Go ahead.

ROBINSON: Well, the person is trying to take every possible position on this.

Clearly, constitutionally and perhaps politically, he really wants the country back open. He wants the economy roaring again. He was planning to run for election on a roaring economy. And he`s now got the second Great Depression caused by COVID-19.

And so he really would like to get everything going. However, he has been convinced, I think, by Dr. Birx -- and, thank you, Dr. Birx -- that it is too soon to begin opening things willy-nilly, like massage parlors and tattoo parlors and nail salons, that that`s not a good idea, what the governor of Georgia is doing, and that that risks another peak, and it coming back and having to shut everything down again, which would be even worse for the economy.

And so he`s -- but it`s -- so it`s what he really wants to do, as opposed to what he knows he really shouldn`t do.

And then there is the other component, which is, who gets blamed for this, right? So, if the governor of Georgia goes ahead and decides to open up, which is apparently what the president thinks a lot of his base would like to see, and then everything goes wrong, the president didn`t tell him to do it, the president let him make the decision.

What the president really did was encourage this risky and, I think, incorrect decision, then decide against it, but not actually pull it back, not actually say, no, don`t do this.

And so he`s trying to have it every possible way.


Dr. Choo, the other exchange we want to show is some back and forth here, as we think about the future long-term risk and how flus and infectious- like flus come back. Take a look.


TRUMP: And, Doctor, wouldn`t you say there`s a good chance that COVID will not come back?

BIRX: We don`t know.

TRUMP: And if it comes back, it`s in a very small, confined area that we put out, like fire?

BIRX: Well, the great thing is, we will be able to find it earlier this time.

TRUMP: It may not come back at all.

He`s talking about a worst-case scenario, where you have a big flu and you have some corona.

It`s also possible it doesn`t come back at all.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We will have coronavirus in the fall. I am convinced of that.


MELBER: Dr. Choo, we have tackled some complex issues.

I want to serve up for you what in the news is sometimes called -- I don`t know if you have heard of this -- it`s sometimes called a softball.

But, based on what we just heard, who has the better side of the medical science, President Trump or Dr. Fauci?


CHOO: You know, I`m always going to go with Dr. Fauci.

I mean, this is one...


CHOO: Do you want to throw me another one? I feel like that wasn`t challenging enough for me to get a good grade here.


ROBINSON: That`s T-ball.

CHOO: But, yes, I mean, it`s just not in the nature of these kind of...


CHOO: What? It was a T-ball.

Just because I`m a girl doesn`t mean I can`t handle a real pitch.

Yes, it`s not in the nature of these viruses to disappear. That`s simply not what they do. They`re pros at sticking around, this one in particular, because of the way that it spreads with asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic carriers. This one is ingenious.

And we can expect it to come around and to become part of the virus cycle that we adapt to and we manage as best as we can.

MELBER: Professor, can you speak to that a bit more?

As I reminded viewers, you advise WHO infectious disease and flu-like problems and the way they spread globally.

And it would seem -- this is something we have discussed before, but I think it`s important and hopefully constructive for viewers to keep in mind, which is, when we have bad news, the best way to deal with it is directly and accurately, so we can be prepared.

And the worst way is to pretend there is not bad news. So if you are saying, oh, my God, even if we defeat this now, as best we can, and will it come back? Probably yes, as we heard Dr. Fauci say in some form. They may feel to someone like bad news. Why are you giving me that bummer?

When, in fact, walk us through how your work and how you and the WHO have advised countries to say, no, being ready for the bad news of a recurrence will help it be less bad.

GOSTIN: I mean, that`s very well put, Ari.

I mean, the truth is, is that public health 101 is, you tell it like it is. You tell it honestly. People would prefer to hear the honest truth, even if it makes them a little bit worried about the future. But they need to be prepared for it.

And quite the opposite of what the president said, not only will it not go away, but I think there is every reason to believe that we`re going to get a second wave and a third wave. Until we have a vaccine and an effective treatment, this is going to be a part of our environment.

We have hardly come across a virus that is this difficult to control. It`s highly contagious. It`s significantly serious and a cause of death. And so, as soon as we relax our guard, there is going to be another wave, and there is going to be a resurgence. We know that.

For every one person that has COVID and is circulating in the community, at least two others will get it. That`s the definition of an exponential rise. And so we need not to let our guard down. We really do need to take this seriously.

MELBER: Right. Understood.

And I think this has been really an important discussion. And I have been watching all of you interact with your different expertises. And it`s been helpful.

So, I want to thank Professor Gostin and Dr. Choo.

Gene Robinson from "The Washington Post" will stay with me.

Let me turn to the other biggest story in the world for everyone, the kind of thing that would be the number one headline, no matter what, if we weren`t dealing with this pandemic.

And that is the economic issues that we are facing as a nation for a couple time to come.

A couple points for you to consider. Number one, lawmakers now gather routinely in masks and gloves in this country. We can see that. And they went down into the floor of the House did this today -- and you can see there, presiding over the House, the mask obviously clearly visible -- $500 billion passed.

This is new funding to address the small business shortages we have heard about, money, new money for hospitals, and, of course, testing; 4.4 million Americans, meanwhile, are now additionally unemployed. That is a jump up from last week.

The total number now, 26 million people have become unemployed in the last five weeks. And we are seeing surges in all kinds of humanitarian challenges, food banks around the nation facing huge demand. Many Americans simply do not know where their next meal may come from.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our unemployment checks don`t even begin to cover our monthly expenses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s just a waiting game that`s really unsettling for a lot of us, because I honestly don`t know when that check will be coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All these things that I thought I had lined up, and they`re either canceling or they`re not doing an internship program or they`re not even hiring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our revenue has gone from around $250,000 a month to zero. And it`s been super scary.


MELBER: We have a very special guest for what we are facing.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is an expert on these issues. His latest book is "The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It." Obviously, he has literally led the federal oversight of labor in America and is a renowned economic voice. Gene Robinson still with us.

Robert Reich, let`s start with the big picture.

When say 26 million people are newly unemployed, and the vast, vast majority, through no fault of their own, it is just classic macroeconomic problem, not that they lost their job because of what they did, what does that mean for long-term recovery and changing the way our current system tries to support people who are in this position?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: We don`t have very much supports in place, Ari. And that`s one of the big problems.

The country is not prepared in terms of social safety nets to handle this degree of unemployment. You know, we are heading very rapidly toward 20 to 25 percent of our workers not having jobs. And we haven`t seen that degree of unemployment since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

And even then, we had to and Franklin D. Roosevelt had to create brand-new systems out of whole cloth, because we had not seen anything up to that point like the degree of unemployment we then experienced.

It`s the same now, although the reasons for this particular degree of unemployment are very, very different. It`s a pandemic. It is not a huge economic depression. Nevertheless, the economic depression could easily follow from the pandemic. And that`s, in fact, what is -- seems to be happening.

MELBER: That`s on the labor side. And we showed some of the real voices, just a tiny sampling of what people are going through.

Then you have the Congress busy and fighting and trying to figure out what do. We saw how quickly a program that was ostensibly for small business was gobbled up by larger companies. That led to outrage, some of it fixed, as some companies backed off.

Then you have the questions of different states hit so hard. And something pretty extraordinary broke. I have credited at times in our broadcast how there have been notes of comity, of bipartisanship, of urgency out of Washington.

And we will note that when it happens.

Right now, we have something approaching the opposite, Mitch McConnell coming out and claiming that help during the situation you just outlined and how serious it is would amount to a -- quote -- "blue state bailout."

Here was Governor Cuomo clapping back on that.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Vicious is saying -- when Senator McConnell said, this is a blue state bailout.

And if there was ever a time to stop your political -- obsessive political bias and anger, which is what it`s morphed into, just a political anger, now is the time.

And you want to politically divide this nation now, with all that`s going on? How irresponsible and how reckless.


MELBER: Governor Cuomo also went on, Robert, to say that what McConnell`s position amounts to is -- quote -- "one of the really dumbest of all time."

Walk us through this issue.

REICH: Well, it`s a it`s kind of silly actually to talk about using bankruptcy for states that are in trouble now, because state sales taxes and also income taxes -- and the receipts are way, way down.

Obviously, they`re going to be down because so much economic activity has stopped in the states.


REICH: And yet the states are, in a sense, the first responders to so much of the problems, in terms of not only public health, but also public services of all kinds.

And if those states and those locales don`t have the money, then people are going to be even worse off.

The second great irony with regard to Mitch McConnell`s comment is that blue states, so-called blue states actually in terms of how much tax revenue they send to Washington -- actually send much more than red states. They -- blue states essentially subsidize red states.

So, if anybody is going to be talking about subsidizing anybody, it is actually obviously blue states to red states.

But, I think the major point. And I think almost every American agrees with this. We should not politicize what`s going on. We have got to stay united.

This is a general -- this is a huge national problem. It`s an emergency, people are dying if great numbers. People who are laid off desperately need help. Let`s just put the politics aside.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Uh-huh. Yeah, folks we will see on our screen. I mean, Cuomo has gone out of his way even to be, you know, in a constructive relationship with the president. They met recently. He`s out here tonight saying this is dumb, irresponsible, reckless, I mean, absolutely torching that Mitch McConnell, who was the one that brought it up in the prism of blue versus red.

While you`re using McConnell`s blue versus red prism, there is also reporting out today documenting how the job losses are hardest in the so- called red states, in states that went for Trump. They are hurting. They are hit hard. That`s problem for the entire nation.

Gene, I want to bring you into the conversation here at the ethical level. When we think about what a tough time we`re going through for the whole country and then what the economic desperation amounts to, I will offer one observation. I want to play some sound from bioethicist Glenn Cohen from Harvard and get your reviews.

The observation I want to share is one of the reasons that Oregon donating is typically not legally allowed to be sold is not that if somebody hat a maximum sense of liberty said I want to do this it`s my body, I have to be able to sell my own organ. That might sound fine in theory.

But in practice, if you allow it, it is poorest of the poor and the most destitute who are forced into that economic bind and so, most civilized countries don`t allow it. I want to think about that prism and play this from Professor Cohen as we lean into a period of time where we are in tremendously desperate straits and the people being pressed back into potentially unsafe or life-threatening work environments will be those with less money.

Take a listen.


DR. GLENN COHEN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY BIOETHICIST: We have tons of people who are unemployed or desperate to enter the job market and may put people in the awkward position or dangerous position of incentivizing them to exposure to COVID as a condition of re-entering the workforce.


MELBER: Glenn, how should we be thinking at the ethical and policy level about this in the road ahead when we are still absorbing tonight 26 million people now newly without jobs?

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, I think it`s something we need to think about. I mean, we need to think somewhat longer term than like next week, or tomorrow afternoon. We need to think, for example, that there are going to be some jobs, some sectors of the economy that come back sooner than others.

And for some people, it makes, it`s, frankly, an inconvenience, right? Some of us are able to do our jobs from home. We are able to function not quite as and just as normal. But our -- the disruption is in our routines and everything. We don`t like it, but, we`re not desperate.

And then there is a level of other jobs that will come back that you can imagine being done safely in an age of COVID. You know, a lot of places, construction is classified as, for example, as essential and some places not. But you can imagine how you could distance workers in construction jobs and things like that.

Then you get to restaurant jobs and other sort of in-person jobs that are, where it`s much, much more difficult. And that will just have to really rethink that sector of the economy, how -- how we make it possible to come back again. How do you open a restaurant? You have a restaurant where you have checkouts and servers and dish washers and a lot of people that depend on this restaurant.

But you are depending on a certain amount of money every month, certain amount of revenue. And so, if you can only have half as many seats and therefore serve half as many meals at the end of the evening, how do you keep it going? How do you keep that business afloat? How do you pay the rent you are paying, much less keep a staff there?

And so, we`re going to have to be giving some serious thought to how we perhaps subsidize huge sectors of the economy or at least provide transitions for all the people. Oh, by the way, we`re not seeing now, we`re in our homes, we`re not seeing people, except on television.

MELBER: Right, we`re isolated in several ways.

Let me get in -- Robert, we have about 30 seconds left. If you have a final thought on that and I would be remiss since you are on "THE BEAT", if I didn`t ask you what do you normally listen to on those big head phones when are you not using them to do economic analysis?

REICH: Well, I listen to music that takes my mind away from what`s going on right now.

But, Ari, the point is and the biggest ethical question we face is widening inequality. It`s an ethical question before the coronavirus. But coronavirus has laid out in very stark terms exactly the degree of inequality we now have. We are not all facing the same set of problems.

MELBER: Well put. And as mentioned in your introduction that you`ve been at work on for so long, some of these issues are all the more acute right now. We have scratched the surface. It has been an enlightening, beginning of a discussion. Robert Reich, and Gene Robinson, my special thanks to both of you.

We`re going to fit in our first break of the hour. But when we come back, we`re going to do something special that we tried to do at the end of our several hours of coverage. And that is show you something else, something different, something with a little uplift when we come back.


MELBER: As the CDC urges most people to stay home, many are filling their time at home with movie and TV and streaming content online. Netflix adding more than 15 million new subscribers. Did you hear about that?

Nielsen reporting that streaming by most adults has almost doubled, even the traditionally premium services like HBO now offering some streaming content for free for you during this pandemic, a trend that also extends to a new video streaming app that`s designed for smart phones that`s called Quibi and it shifted from a planned service to temporarily free during this pandemic.

Quibi has some big names involved, from Stephen Spielberg, to Jennifer Lopez to all kinds of others including basically anyone you can think of in Hollywood has been talking about getting involved. This was launched by one of the biggest names in Hollywood, Jeffrey Katzenberg. He famously ran Disney, co-founded DreamWorks and awarded basically the highest honor for the arts by President Obama who noted his accomplishments and his confidence.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg -- Jeffrey like Melody has been a friend and a supporter through thick and thin, and, you know, I think his place in the entertainment industry is legendary. I don`t need to puff him up too much. He has a healthy sense of self.


MELBER: Katzenberg, a major player in film, business, politics and philanthropy, in fact, we should note he just donated half a million dollars to COVID relief in his L.A. community, and so, we just connected to discuss his projects and began with his charity during this pandemic.


JEFFREY KATZENBERG, AWARD-WINNING FILM PRODUCER: The tragedies we are witnessing, that we are seeing on, you know, sort of unravel in front of us every day. If that doesn`t, if that doesn`t grab you by the throat and the heart, you`re not alive. One of my great mentors of my lifetime was an actor, Kirk Douglas, and there are many, many things that were extraordinary and wonderful about him but the one thing -- he said four words to me that I have -- are the most valuable words that any human being ever said to me in my life and he said, that`s probably more than four, you haven`t learned how to live until you`ve learned how to give.

My wife and I have been in a position where we have the ability to give, and we do. And right now, this city like every city in this country is hurting. And this is my home and these people are our neighbors and our family and if we do not reach out to help them, shame on us.


MELBER: Now with 26 million Americans losing their jobs as we`ve been discussing tonight and other businesses all kinds of tough calls, including bankruptcy, I also asked Mr. Katzenberg about what he`s doing, pushing forward launching a new business right now and also literally changing the business model making it free for the first few months.


KATZENBERG: Meg Whitman, my partner and I really made the decision about five, six weeks ago to go forward with this launch because Quibi was built to entertain and inspire and to kind of put it out there in the world right now and we made it free to everybody for the first 90 days. Just seemed like maybe, you know, we could be a little -- bring a little happiness to people in a moment and time where we sure could use a lot of that.

Hollywood is full of entrepreneurs. As storytellers, you know, you start with a black screen and create something, so I came to them with a new proposition and it was the next form of film narrative of story telling and then an economic model that was very incentivizing they get to own their own I.P., something they don`t get anywhere else. What Quibi has done is we license the content, they continue to own it, and they have the right to go exploit it, get value out of it after a short period of time when it`s aired on the Quibi platform.

MELBER: Is that also part of the hook here?

KATZENBERG: A hundred percent.

MELBER: I mean, do you think you offer a sweeter deal than basically the rest of the industry?

KATZENBERG: I know we are.


MELBER: Now given all the Obama history, I had to ask about any plans for getting involved in 2020 in Joe Biden`s campaign.


MELBER: They call you a political king maker in Democratic politics. I`m curious if you look around and miss President Obama more than ever.

KATZENBERG: Again, I`m going to stay out of politics. It`s a very difficult, very challenging time, in the moment and time in which I`d like all of us as a country to come together and get over coronavirus.


MELBER: So no big word or answer there on the politics but we got into a lot more including what makes for a perfect Disney film. You can see the entire YouTube interview. We`ve posted it at the top of the page @thebeatwithari or @arimelber. Check it out right now.



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Vicious is saying when Senator McConnell said this is a blue state bailout. And if there was ever a time to stop your political -- obsessive political bias and anger, which is what it`s morphed into, just a political anger, now is the time, and you want to politically divide this nation now with all that`s going on? How irresponsible and how reckless.


MELBER: We`ve been listening to Governor Cuomo there who was going out of his way to cross swords with Mitch McConnell. It`s relevant to a programming note. Tonight at 10:00 Eastern, Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace anchoring a special delving to all the facts of this story, including special guest you see on your screen with Governor Cuomo, Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg.

Don`t go anywhere. Right now, though, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next.