(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are just learning so much about it as we go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In some ways it`s almost like fighting a ghost. Because you just don`t know what you are up against.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to educate one another. We have confidence in our providers and health care in general and stick together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m afraid that we`re going to get to a point where all of a sudden everybody realizes this is bad but a lot of the damage is done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not going to go away quickly, and I know people are exhausted and have kind of gotten tired about hearing news about this, but this is what we get to deal with here for the next weeks to months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Once again, we start the show with voices from medical workers on the front lines to this pandemic. And as you can see geographically, that front line is in America`s Sun Belt. Welcome to Thursday, it is MEET THE PRESS DAILY. I`m Chuck Todd on a day of bleak and ominous coronavirus headlines in the United States. As this country confronts a second surge in cases in this first wave.
A record number of cases are being confirmed right now. Yes, we`re testing more, but still we`re not nearly testing enough. In fact the CDC today said that there may be 10 times more cases than what`s been reported, which would mean north of 20 million infections in the United States. And this afternoon the CDC put out new guidance, warning that more people may face an elevated risk. Writing quote, CDC now warns that among adults risk increases steadily as you age. And it`s not just those over the age of 65 who are at increased risk for severe illness.
And earlier this week the CDC Director testified that we are still far shy of the number of contact tracers that we need. Bottom line, over the last three days, let`s put this in perspective here, the CDC basically our lead agency on this pandemic, has basically said that more people have contracted the virus, more people can get seriously ill from it than we first thought, and we don`t have the resources necessary to isolate all these cases.
Again, this is America`s lead agency on this. Sorry if you missed the press conference involving these new CDC guidelines. Oh, wait, they didn`t have one. Confirmed cases right now are on the rise in dozens of states and a number of them may across the south and west are experiencing record numbers of hospitalizations. In Houston, America`s fourth largest city, the ICU beds at the city`s largest hospital network are now at capacity.
The governor of Texas announced today that the state was freezing its plans to reopen as cases continue to rise. Simply put, the data suggests that this country is reopening too quickly, especially when compared to the rate of new cases per capita in places like Europe, Canada and Australia.
The White House meanwhile as it always has done is painting a rosier picture of the problem. The vice president today repeated a claim that was part of an official readout of last night`s task force meeting. That cases are stable or declining in 38 states. The public data suggests they`ve got it backwards. Because cases appeared to be rising or stable in 39 states.
For what`s it worth we asked the White House for the data they`re citing to back up that claim. We`ve been asking since last night and they refuse to share this data. And the president is in part downplaying the situation by pointing to the downward trend in deaths, even though the nation`s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci has publicly sounded the alarm over the past two days about the rising cases because deaths usually lag cases, sometimes considerably.
The president is pushing for this country to reopen as he wages his re- election on the hopes of an economic recovery, as polling indicates that he is falling substantially behind Joe Biden, even though he still leads on the issue of the economy. Which makes it all the more remarkable the position he`s in. The national polling right now has him trailing by double digits. And new battleground polling has him trailing Biden pretty much everywhere as you can see.
And we are now talking about states that we didn`t think we are going to be in the battleground suddenly in the battleground. Think Ohio, think Iowa. Joining me from Marinette, Wisconsin, where President Trump is set to deliver remarks, my NBC news colleague Josh Lederman and also with us from Wisconsin, Charlie Sykes, founder editor at large of the Bulwark, of course, an MSNBC contributor. Josh, let me start with you. You`re getting ready there, we are going to -- the president is doing a town hall. Give me a sense of what his day has been like so far in Wisconsin.
JOSH LEDERMAN, NBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, so far since he got to Wisconsin, Chuck, he taped a town hall with Sean Hannity from Fox News before heading here to this shipyard to do a tour of a facility where the president sees a positive economic message. You can see this ship behind me, this warship, which is one of the ships that they built here at this shipyard that is supposed to build about 1,000 jobs to the region, about a $5.5 billion contract.
The president trying to highlight a positive economic message even as we are getting more and more information about these spikes in cases and concerns about what the president`s own campaign and official activities are doing as far as the spread of coronavirus. You can see even here at this event we know the ship builder had said that masks, were going to be required for the about 500 people that are here.
But there are very few people that we see here wearing masks. All of this coming as you mentioned, the vice president downplaying these concerns and suggesting that in a majority of states that cases are either holding steady or even declining.
TODD: Has the president at all today in your -- and perhaps we`ll find out with the town hall that he did on another network, but has the president have addressed any of these new developments today?
LEDERMAN: He has not. He`s been trying to stay away from the coronavirus topic today aside from of course that town hall. We don`t exactly know what had happened in that. But he`s really just been focusing on trying to put a positive message out there about manufacturing, particularly in light of the really troubling poll numbers that his campaign is seeing not only here in Wisconsin but in the other key battleground states.
TODD: Charlie Sykes, I`m going to show you this one tweet from the president now. The number of -- this is his word, China virus cases goes up because of great testing while the number of deaths, mortality rate goes way down. The fake news doesn`t like telling you that. Well, we actually just reported these in a factual way here. The president doesn`t -- I mean he just doesn`t want to deal with this virus and just wants to believe another narrative that doesn`t exist.
CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BULWARK: No, the president has chosen to gaslight Americans rather than lead them here. I mean, look, what you`re seeing is a failure of moral leadership and political leadership. Look, you look at the map of where the outbreaks are occurring and you see that in fact places that have had aggressive mitigation have lowered the infection rate. But the president has basically sent out the signal that it`s all over, we don`t need to take this seriously, and you can see the split screen nation that we have right now. I mean look where -- look where this is exploding.
SYKES: And rather than providing the essential leadership -- what the president has done is, he has gambled his political future and the nation`s health on the belief that if we just pretend it went away, that somehow it would disappear, that in fact we could reopen the country, we could make light of wearing masks, make light of the social distancing and that somehow both the coronavirus will go away and the economy would come back. And I think that he seems to be losing that bet at the moment.
TODD: And then there`s this other aspect that you hear when you see Vice President Pence, and I want to play another sound bite for you here. This is from the HHS secretary, Alex Azar, here. It`s spin the vice president used too about counties and infections. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX AZAR, U.S. SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: It`s important for the American people to know this is a localized situation. The counties that are in hot spots are 3 percent of American counties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: OK. I get the math he`s trying to pull here. But when 3 percent of these counties are counties like Harris, Maricopa, Miami-Dade, you get the picture here, Charlie Sykes. It`s sort of like technically accurate, but completely misleading.
SYKES: But is completely misleading and I think this is why this is so dangerous for the president, because there is a reality out there. And, you know, this is a president that honestly thinks he can spin or market his way through any problem. But you can`t when you`re dealing with a pandemic like this. And so we don`t -- what you`re getting, though, is this happy talk that is so out of line with the reality.
And by the way, I think one of the most dramatic charts that you showed a few minutes ago was watching the lines, the infection rates, in Europe and other countries that have dealt with this aggressively and seriously compared to the United States. That chart would suggest that this can be dealt with proper leadership and what`s happening in the United States is failed leadership. And the president has no intention, I think, of pivoting back and taking it seriously.
TODD: Josh Lederman, as you`ve been on the ground today and you`ve been in some interesting parts of Wisconsin, not just where, you know, sometimes cover just Milwaukee and Madison, but in some other parts, what has been the local conversation on this issue of the virus and masks?
LEDERMAN: Well, here in this part of Wisconsin, Chuck, it`s a deep red part of Wisconsin. It`s also a very rural area, so you do have a lot of diehard Trump supporters who seem confident in the president`s leadership on this. That may be one reason that you see them not wearing masks as they`re attending this event and others in the area. But as you go to other parts of this state, you do hear from people who see that the numbers of coronavirus cases even here in Wisconsin are rising quickly.
And it`s not just as the president says a matter of you do more testing and you find more cases. They`re also seeing the positivity rate increase here, actually double between Tuesday and Wednesday. And you hear a lot of people concerned about that, not convinced that the government is fully taking this serious enough to do everything they can to stop what a lot of public health experts anticipate are going to be rising mortality rates in just a few days or weeks.
TODD: It sounds like you`re going to be wanting to listen in there in a second, Josh, so I will let you do that. But Charlie Sykes, I want to play a mash-up of when Florida and Texas in particular were getting ready to open up, the president was very excited. Let me play that sound for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you on covid or coronavirus or whatever you want to call it, plenty of names, tremendous progress is being made. I spoke with the governor of Texas where they have done a fantastic job. He`s got it in great shape, Texas. Florida is doing very well.
The numbers are actually going down. You look at Florida, the state of Florida, doing a great job. The job the governor of Florida has done, it`s incredible. The numbers they`re doing. You`ve got to open it up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Well, none of those things are true now. And you do get the sense, at least in Governor Abbott, Charlie, that if he wants to do more, but he could use some political cover. All the president of the United States would have to do is tell those governors do what`s best for your state, I support you and he doesn`t seem to even want to give people like DeSantis and Abbott that kinds of cover.
SYKES: No, you`ve got to give Governor Abbott some credit to be able to reverse himself on all of this. Look, the ads just write themselves when you play those sound bites. You know, the president failed initially in moving quickly enough to deal with the pandemic. But this is a second failure that is every bit as serious as the first failure, which is to not react -- in fact to counteract, not provide political cover for governors like Abbott, who were trying to reopen.
Look, I mean it work were backing off on reopening? Look, the president made this wager that if in fact he aggressively pushed to reopen the country that everything would work out, that we`d have a v-shaped recovery and that he could run on this as the great comeback story and the economy would come back. The economy is not going to come back until the pandemic is under control. And I think we`re going to pay a huge price.
So the president`s investment and happy talk, you know, people are paying attention. Now, whether you`re talking about a battleground state or not. They`re listening to what the president is saying and then they are hearing from the medical professionals. They are seeing these numbers, they`re seeing the contrast between us and what`s happened in Europe. I think that this is -- this is going to turn out to be a very, very bad wager. Unfortunately, Donald Trump is not the only one that`s going to pay the price.
TODD: Yes. Very quickly, Charlie, it doesn`t even seem rational for a guy that is supposedly is so poll driven, he`s not paying attention to the polls.
SYKES: No. And in this one, you know, we talked about the president`s instincts and I`ve given him credit for sort of having a reptilian instinct that keep his finger on public sentiment, but I think he`s lost the narrative and he is very much out of touch with all of this. And I think that you`re seeing the gap between his wishful thinking and reality on the ground.
I don`t think he`s caught up with it. But the poll numbers today have got to be sobering because this is really the low point. When you are down by double digits in a state like Wisconsin, in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, that is an existential political crisis. And if the president doesn`t pivot, he knows what`s going to happen. But this president is not capable at this point of pivoting, I think.
TODD: He`s never been capable to pivot. People are still waiting for the 2016 pivot. Josh Lederman, I appreciate you, thank you, sir. Charlie Sykes, thank you both for getting us started.
Now I want to turn to Texas where in addition to pausing the state`s reopening plans, Governor Greg Abbott is now suspending elective surgery in four major counties to preserve hospital space for coronavirus patients. Those counties include the state`s largest city, Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. And the news comes as the Texas medical center in Houston reports its ICUs are full. Well, there are plans in place for hospitals to add more beds.
Moments ago, we learned that Texas has broken hospitalization records now for 14 straight days. And Texas also just reported nearly 6,000 new cases for the day. That makes today the third day in a row that Texas has reported more than 5,000 new cases.
Well, joining me now is Dr. Alison Haddock, she is a Houston-based emergency room physician. And her area is on the brink of a public health disaster. She`s also on the board of directors, the American College of Emergency Physician, and teaches at the Baylor College of Medicine. And Dr. Haddock, your colleague there Dr. Hotez was telling me yesterday that we were talking about 5,000 and 6,000 cases statewide. He was concerned earlier today of 4,000 cases alone in Harris County that we could start to see on a daily basis. Paint the picture, how bad is it?
DR. ALISON HADDOCK, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, PUBLIC HEALTH DISASTER: Yep. Yeah, the numbers that we`re seeing in Harris County are definitely rising very quickly, and that`s numbers of hospitalizations, numbers of patients in the ICU, numbers of positive tests, percentage of tests that are positive all rising precipitously.
TODD: So, on the hospital bed situation, if you`re at capacity but they`re going to add beds, what does that mean? Are we talking about within the medical facilities themselves you can create more ICU space or are we going to start to think about finding a convention center or an unused arena or something like that?
HADDOCK: Well, one of the advantages that we do have in Houston and in Texas is that we`ve seen what`s happened in New York and in other states and we`ve had a chance to be thinking for the past several months about how we can in our area have hospitals expand capacity. So I do think we are definitely going to see area hospitals expanding capacity but at some point we might reach the limits of even our ability to expand capacity in our hospitals and I do think we are going to have to start thinking about field hospitals like at NRG Stadium, for example. Is that going to need to be a site that we can start sending covid patients?
TODD: The decision by the governor to get rid of elective surgeries for now, we know that the last time those bans went into effect, you know, those temporary bans, it ended up there was another sort of unintended consequence. Is it kept people away from E.R.s that needed to be there? I assume this is yet another concern?
HADDOCK: It is. It`s definitely a concern. And I want the people of Houston to be reassured that just because our ICUs that are not 100 percent capacity does not mean that our E.R.s are unable to take care of you. Emergency physicians are very proud of our ability to take care of everyone in any situation. And if anyone is in an emergent situation, they should still come to the emergency department.
And around the country, it is true that not every, you know, hospital system is in the situation that the TMC is in. And we`ve seen throughout the course of this pandemic, patients with appendicitis and patients with heart attacks who are afraid to go to the emergency department for care. And we do want everyone to know that the emergency departments are there for you in emergencies and we want you to seek care when you need it.
TODD: If you`re at capacity today, where are you going to be on July 4th?
HADDOCK: I am very worried about the upcoming July 4th holiday. One point that we seem to have perhaps seen an inflection in our curve is after the Memorial Day holiday. I think that people have a lot of traditions around holidays where they like to get together with friends. And in Houston, this is a very hot time of year so sometimes those activities are really taking place indoors, which we know is the highest threat for a transmission of covid.
So, I encourage everyone on the Fourth of July to find activities where they will not be in close contact with each other and can be wearing masks and washing their hands and avoiding the spread of covid because the graph that you`re showing right now of TMC bed capacity shows that our hospitals could be pretty full by the time July 4th rolls around. And any actions that we`re taking today are really going to be benefitting us the most in two weeks. That`s when we really start to see hospitalizations change. So we really need the people of Houston to be taking measures and being safe.
TODD: All right. Other than asking, do you think this needs to become mandatory? Are you asking for public officials to make, you know -- would you like to see Harris County locked down for the next two weeks?
HADDOCK: I would like to see whatever we need to keep Houstonians safe. So, one thing I`d like to see is more masks available everywhere. I haven`t seen any public displays of free masks. And at this point in the pandemic, that`s something that we should be producing and making available to everyone in every part of town, every neighborhood regardless of the income of that neighborhood.
I think we`re all safer if we`re not going into restaurants. Restaurants are allowed to have dine in right now. And I certainly am encouraging all of my friends and family to choose takeout, to get their groceries at curbside pickup. Don`t go into the grocery store and do everything we can to avoid transmission.
TODD: I was just going to say, would you do anything other than go to work for your job because you had to treat a patient and stay in your house? I mean, would you go anywhere else right now?
HADDOCK: No. I really have strictly curtailed my activities. I have a hobby that`s indoor in Houston in the summer that I`m not participating in. I haven`t gotten groceries in a grocery store since, I think, February. We have not dined in, my husband and I, in a restaurant in months and months. And I think that`s really what we need to be doing to keep essential workers safe. I have to go to work. My brother-in-law, who works in a grocery store has to go to work. And we need to be protecting the people who have to go to work. And the best way we can do that is by staying home.
TODD: Dr. Alison Haddock from the Houston area on the ground there, on the frontlines of the fight there, thanks for coming on and sharing the perspective from there. As Dr. Osterholm said to me on Sunday, he still got the same tank of gas that he had in March which tells you how much he is circulating these days as well. Anyway, thank you very much.
Up ahead, we are going to head to another place that`s dealing with a major uptick in coronavirus cases, we are sticking in the Sun Belt. I`m going to talk with the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. What the city`s latest response and what their bracing for.
And later, it`s been one month since the death of George Floyd. Amid the protests and the outrage and calls for action, there`s about to be a vote on Capitol Hill.
TODD: Welcome back. It`s not just Texas or Florida, Arizona or California. States out west and across the Sun Belt are seeing coronavirus cases rise. They don`t skip over the small states. And local experts fear that residents will not realize it until it`s too late. Take Mississippi which just saw its highest numbers of new cases since the pandemic began.
Here`s what the state`s health officer told the Associated Press today. I`m afraid it`s going to take some kind of catastrophe for people to pay attention. When we were in the spring people were clamoring to shut down and certainly we had a brief period of shelter in place. It did help. We certainly did flatten the curve. Now we are giving away those hard-fought gains for silly stuff.
Joining me now is the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Lumumba. Mayor Lumumba welcome to the show. So, paint the picture, sir, tell me the situation in Jackson and how are you doing as far as caseload and hospitalizations?
MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA (D-MS), JACKSON: It`s a pleasure to speak to you, Todd, about this very important discussion. I share Dr. Dobbs` concerns. I think as we have seen a shift in the media cycle, as we have focused more and rightfully so on the civil disobedience -- the civil uprisings that have taken place, people have lost sight of this very present threat.
Here we`ve seen 192 new cases overnight in Mississippi, five deaths, 1700 - - more than 1700 new cases in the Hinds County which Jackson is in. Jackson is in. Jackson is the largest city by a factor of three. And I would be remiss if I didn`t mention the fact that we are a predominantly black city. And we`ve seen a disproportionate effect on black and brown communities.
And so we have to remain vigilant and we have to take this threat seriously. The city is trying to be as proactive in its response as possible, but in the absence of a uniform policy from the state, it`s essentially akin to being on an island where things are opening up all around you.
TODD: Do you have a sense of this latest outbreak? Is it concentrated? Are you able - do you have the contract tracers to tell you are these many hot spots in many places or is this spread just all over and the contact tracing isn`t helping?
LUMUMBA: We have made endeavors to have a symptom tracker as a city, and out of that we are collecting data and pursuing our own level of testing so that we can better understand where the disproportionate effect is taking place in our community. And we`re doing so to the best of our ability in the absence of data being shared by the state.
Dr. Dobbs has been very gracious in his support of our efforts to collect data, but we are still in a struggle to get a data-sharing agreement and we encourage the Attorney General to support that because the more information we have, the better able we will be to coordinate our efforts to assist.
TODD: I don`t mean to sort of -- so wait a minute, you`re not getting -- the state is not sharing data with you? Explain what data that they`re withholding here. It`s just surprising that this would be data you would assume everybody would be sharing, particularly with the mayor of the largest city.
LUMUMBA: It`s frustrating. We are the largest city by a factor of three, the capital city, but even beyond that we`re the capital of health care. So as caseloads increase, the hospitalization issue will disproportionately affect us. As I have said, Dr. Dobbs has been very generous and helpful to our efforts in the city. We`ve had many discussions with him and we`ve had many versions of a data-sharing agreement submitted but we have yet to be successful to have the Attorney General to submit that and allow us to start sharing this critical information.
It`s not a partisan issue, it`s not a political matter. This is a matter of saving lives. And so information is key. Most things are a battle of information and beside with that usually prevails and so we want to prevail for our community, for our residents and be able to have a coordinated response to where we are seeing the disproportionate effect.
TODD: It`s clear your residents I`m sure just like everybody else has a bit of fatigue, quarantine fatigue, shelter-in-place fatigue, whatever you want to look at it. The Fourth of July weekend is coming. It`s pretty clear this Memorial Day week opening really did hurt particularly in the Sun Belt in general. Are you considering any new restrictions in anticipation of the fourth?
LUMUMBA: It is certainly present in my mind. I have indicated that we won`t hesitate as we`re watching the numbers. Obviously some of the critical factors that we`re looking at is infection rate, our hospitalization rate, the utilization of ventilators, all of those things are very useful data points to make that decision behind. I think it`s also critical that we look at how we message.
While we have been persistent and warning of the threats, I think that we also need to correlate it with things that people find as positive outlets and really suggest that those opportunities will be limited if we don`t adhere to the social distancing and facial covering guidelines.
You know, everybody would like to see football at a certain point. We`re in the midst of the south. Everybody would like to see, you know, children be able to return to school at some point. And we have to make it clear that if we fail to adhere to these restrictions, then we are making it less and less likely that we`ll be able to accomplish those things.
TODD: It`s like dealing with a teenager sometimes. OK, if you want this, you have to do this. Before I let you go, the head football coaches of the two biggest universities, Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin, are now lobbying to change the state flag. The NCAA, the SCC, Conference USA. You`re in the capital there. You know how this legislature is. It`s clear that some people are looking for more political cover to do this. Do you think there`s enough? And do you think that the legislature will do this or they`re going to punt to a referendum?
LUMUMBA: Well, I`m happy to see that there`s a growing coalition in support of the removal of this flag so that we can have more unifying imagery over our state.
A friend of mine Angina Alice (ph), the actress, we formed an organization called the human rights collective five years ago and advocated to take down the state flag. And so, we still want to see that take place. Not only is it a daunting image of the vestiges of the past hanging over Mississippi, it represents a loss in economic opportunities.
The SEC has recently come out and opined that they won`t have certain events with that flag flying. And so, hopefully we understand that if we truly want to be a part of the new south we have to do so and no longer be part of the noose south.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Mayor Lumumba, I`m going to leave it there. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your perspective both on the virus and on the flag, sir. Thanks for joining us.
LUMUMBA: Thank you for having me.
TODD: You got it. Up ahead, revelations of another death in police custody caught on camera. Plus, the vote that`s about to happen on Capitol Hill to try to hold police officers more accountable.
TODD: Welcome back. We want to warn you that we`re about to show video that`s tough to watch. A community vigil is scheduled in Tucson, Arizona tonight after a newly released video shows a Latino man dying while in police custody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground. Get on the ground now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry, get on the ground now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: This happened back on April 21st, more than a month before George Floyd`s death but the body camera video was only released by the police department yesterday. The chief of police is now offering to resign.
The department says the officers arrested 27-year-old Carlos Ingram Lopez. Officers restrained Lopez face down for 12 minutes but they say they did not use a chokehold on him. Lopez told the officers he was unable to breathe. An autopsy shows he had cocaine in his system and that he died of cardiac arrest and physical restraint.
But the officers have resigned from the department while an investigation is underway.
The issues of policing practices and use of force are just part of what`s being discussed on Capitol Hill today as House Democrats are set to pass a police reform bill named in honor of George Floyd.
Our own Capitol Hill correspondent, Kasie Hunt, joins me now. And Kasie, the debate has been going on all day. What have you learned? And I have to tell you, I was really surprised by the report this morning, the White House for some reason really wants to make sure this is a very polarized outcome.
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chuck, I think that reflects the president`s demand for loyalty and it seems as though he`s seeing this debate in these terms. And I would also say that the president is not approaching this issue in the same way that Senate Republicans are necessarily.
The White House has been working behind the scenes very closely with Senator Tim Scott, but the president`s public actions are not reflecting the political realities that the Senate GOP conference is clearly grappling with, which is that people are seeing videos like the one you just played. It`s changing opinions and minds.
There are Republican legislators in Mississippi who are saying, it`s time to take the confederate flag off the Mississippi state flag. That`s just one small indication of the sea change that seems to be under way right now.
And Democrats made the calculation that what Republicans in the Senate wanted to wasn`t good enough by their metrics in the body politic generally and so they said no. And the bill that they`ve put on the House floor. And emotions are running very high, I would say, on both sides.
There is a lot of acrimony. There are some pretty nasty accusations being traded back and forth between the sides. Republicans demanding that Speaker Pelosi apologize for what she said about George Floyd and Republicans being complicit in murder, saying she should apologize to Tim Scott. She has refused to do that. She has been very pointed in her language defending herself and the bill that they have written.
And I think overlying all of this, Chuck, is the bet that the president is more likely than not to lose re-election and that perhaps the Senate is actually more likely than not to turn over into Democratic hands next year, which was not something that we anticipated before. So, if they`re willing to wait it out, they may face a much more hospitable landscape for what they want to do in six short months, Chuck.
TODD: That always comes with risks.
HUNT: It does.
TODD: You don`t want to assume any future. You know what happens when you assume. Kasie Hunt, thank you.
We`re going to have much more ahead on MTP Daily. former Republican congressman and chairman of the Black News Channel, J.C. Watts is my next guest.
But first to programming note, Joy Reid will host a special report tomorrow at 7 p.m. right here on MSNBC. She`s going to talk with members of the Congressional Black Caucus about the path forward. And you can ask a question that could be answered in the show. Just visit msnbc.com/townhall.
TODD: Welcome back. Three police officers in Wilmington, North Carolina, have now been fired after recordings of violent racist conversations between the officers, including racial slurs and calls for a race war were caught on a police car`s video recorder.
Speaking to the press yesterday, Wilmington`s police chief condemned their language saying there`s no place for this behavior in our agency or our city.
I have to tell you, folks, you go read this whole story and the actual conversation these officers had, it is alarming. The firing of those officers come as we mark one month since George Floyd`s death which set off protests in every state in major city in this country in which has led to some of the most concrete steps towards police reform this country has seen in recent memory.
Well joining me now is J.C. Watts, former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, he`s chairman of the Black News Channel and he`s also the son of a police officer. J.C. Watts, it`s good to see you. And I want to start with that perspective that you bring to this conversation.
This story in Wilmington, North Carolina, is truly alarming and it`s an extreme case of racism and bias. But it`s an extreme case at a time when a lot of African Americans will say that`s not -- that is more norm than you think it is. What do you say to that?
J.C. WATTS, CHAIRMAN, BLACK NEWS CHANNEL: Well, Chuck, I believe in systematic racism, but I don`t believe that all racism is systematic. And the way that systematic racism takes hold is if you find situations like this in your corporate culture, if you find police officers in your law enforcement culture, you need to address it, you need to deal with it.
Systematic racism, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, you had people that lost their lives and their livelihood. They lost property. To this day nothing has been filed, in spite of the fact that you had D.A.s that knew about it, you had the attorney general of the state at the time that knew about it, the governor that knew about it, the mayor of the city, the police chief, the sheriff. Nothing was ever done, so that`s systematic racism.
So systematic racism, systematic injustice, those things happen. And if you don`t address these situations, your entire police force will be impacted in a very, very negative way.
TODD: I don`t want to age you, but obviously your father was a black police officer at a time when there weren`t many black police officers. And sadly, it`s still -- we were looking at the numbers in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The racial -- the demographics of the police force does not match the community.
WATTS: Well, and, Chuck, that`s probably pretty consistent unless you`re in a city that probably has an African-American mayor or a mayor of color, that`s probably the case.
My father was the first police officer, was the first black police officer in my little small rural community, population of about 2,000 people when I was there. And if you look at the history of the police forces back in the `20s, `30s, `40s, you know, you know, you had police forces that was infiltrated by Ku Klux Klan members and you didn`t see black police officers probably become law enforcement agents until probably the `70s is when you saw that population grow as black police officers.
And again, I think police chiefs and sheriffs and city managers and mayors around the country recognized that an African American police officer could contribute. I know when my dad was offered a job, they wanted him to be a police officer just in the black community. And his reply was if I`m a police officer, I should be able to arrest anyone that`s breaking the law regardless of the skin color so he eventually became a police officer in my own town.
So, I think, you know, those numbers are still trying to catch up with themselves, but you didn`t see that population grow in terms of black officers probably until the `70s is when I guess it probably started to take root. That would be subject to check.
WATTS: But I think it was probably the `70s when it took root to see black officers really become a part of law enforcement.
TODD: What would you like to see come out of Washington with police reform?
WATTS: Well, I do think there`s obviously reforms. I don`t think that you can look at what has happened over the last four or five years in terms of what happened to Walter Scott in South Carolina, I think Ahmaud Arbery speaks to us in terms of the fact that, you know, systematic racism is something that I would be concerned about there because it was only two -- it was two months after he was shot that that came to light.
I think, you know, -- and I think -- so, Ahmaud Arbery, I think was the tipping point. I think George Floyd was hopefully the turning point. And what we saw, I can`t imagine any of us, even law enforcement, saying what happened to George Floyd and people are saying, hey, check his pulse, he`s not breathing. He`s saying I can`t breathe.
And you had four police officers sitting there as calmly as I would in eating my evening dinner. I think that showed the humanity of the country, even law enforcement agencies around the country, and hopefully Congress can get its act together and perform and come up with some reforms that will be impactful. I think chokeholds, you could start with that.
TODD: Let me ask you this. You`re co-founder of the Black News Channel. Just launched this year. How have you approached covering this moment?
WATTS: Well, Chuck, unfortunately, it has been front and center in our news coverage, as it has been with what you guys are doing there at MSNBC. When we launched the Black News Channel, we felt like we would be a venue for the African American community and we would report on news that was culturally specific to the African-American community.
When you look at COVID-19, you know, I worked on health care disparities with Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Harold Ford, Jr., Donna Christianson who was a medical professional from the Virgin Islands.
WATTS: We worked on healthcare disparities back in the mid-`90s. And had we been taken seriously or had the system really moved the way we wanted them to move, COVID-19 would not have been as big of an issue in the African American community. I don`t think we would have seen the disparity.
WATTS: So obviously, that`s content with the disproportionate impact that police brutality has on African American community, incarceration reform. I worked on that while in Congress.
WATTS: So those things have disproportionately impacted our demographic, which unfortunately gives us too much content. I wish we did not have to talk about the things, but unfortunately --
WATTS: -- we have been, you know, on top of it and they have been front and center in our newscasts.
TODD: J.C. Watts, I have to leave it there. It`s good to catch up with you. Former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma, but you`ve done a lot of other things since then, including what you`re doing now with the Black News Channel, congrats on that launch. And I hope to check in with you soon again.
WATTS: Thank you, Chuck. Thanks for having me on. I miss you guys about that much. OK.
TODD: Come on. You might miss us on Meet the Press a little bit more than that. But that`s all right.
Up next, the question on every parent`s mind. Is it safe to send our kids back to school?
TODD: Welcome back. It`s the question we`re all asking. Is it safe to send kids back to school in the fall? My next guest an expert in exposure says yes, kids should be going back to school in the fall.
Joseph Allen joins me now. So, you made the argument today in the Washington Post that kids can go back to school. That`s not an issue. Now everything I hear about with the kids in school issue is, it`s not the kids that`s the problem. It`s the faculty.
JOSEPH ALLEN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes. So, thanks for having me back on, Chuck. You know, let me tell you how I got to this decision or based on the science that, yes, it`s safe for kids to go back to school and acknowledge that also adults can be protected.
So I`ve been doing forensic investigations of sick buildings for over a decade. And the last question I always ask myself before I let someone back into a building or a school where there was a problem was, would my answer change if it was my kid or my wife.
And in this case, I`ve been thinking hard about kids in schools.
Let me lay out the problem that is often ignored. There are massive costs to school closures that we`re not always talking about. We have virtual dropouts. Take what happened in Boston. Ten thousand kids didn`t log in at all in May. In Philadelphia, 50 percent of elementary school kids had daily contact.
So, we`re losing track of kids. Kids were locked down are more sedentary. Many kids rely on schools for nutrition. Thirty million kids in the U.S. rely on school for their meals. UNICEF says that kids during lockdown are more likely to suffer from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.
Now let`s talk about the good news. The science says kids are lower risk. They`re less likely to get sick.
ALLEN: Less likely to suffer from adverse effects and early evidence suggests they`re less likely to transfer it to adults. And on the adult question, we know there are proven risk reduction strategies that can keep kids and adults safe.
Look what they`re doing in the hospitals with just the basics. They don`t even physical distance. They wash their hands. They wear masks and they control the ventilation in the building and they`ve significantly reduce the chance of infection by healthcare workers.
TODD: So, you believe that on the adult front, even though you can`t keep kids from touching each other and all of that, that, I mean, because one of the concerns is, you know, some kids live in multigenerational homes.
ALLEN: Yes, look. I know we`re all really concerned about this and I take - - I`m on a panel of experts all around Boston including experts in some of the hospitals. And you see we`ve controlled health care exposure risk for healthcare workers in high risk environments.
Through these basic risk reduction principles that we talked out in addition to the op-ed, my Harvard health buildings program release a 60- page report with all risk reduction strategies for classrooms. It says, wear your mask, wash your hands, watch your distance. But also, physical distancing and group distancing.
There are things we can do to keep people safe. We just have to follow a precautionary principle, establish a culture of health safety and shared responsibility.
TODD: Right. You are a terrific final guest for my hour because you summed everything up quicker, quickly, because I needed that. Joseph Allen of Harvard Public Health. Making the case it`s safe to send your kids to school. Let`s home teachers will come as well.
And we`ll be right back.