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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 3/18/21

Guests: Kurt Bardella, Baratunde Thurston, Mark McKinnon


Authorities release new video of Atlanta shooting scene. New video appears to show suspect enters spa. President Joe Biden orders flags lowered after Atlanta shootings. House holds heating on anti-Asian violence and racism. GOP Rep. Chip Roy calls Lynchings "justice" in house hearing. Capitol riot investigation intensifies. Russian president Putin lashes out after Biden calls him a "killer." Biden faces growing border crisis. House immigration bill includes a path to citizenship. Vaccine hesitancy remains high among GOP.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 58 of the Biden administration. Tonight, newly released surveillance video showing what happened outside one of the spas that was targeted by the gunman in Georgia. This was from a business adjacent to one of the spas and Acworth northwest of Atlanta. It appears to show the moment the suspect entered the facility and then shortly afterwards, shows police arriving at the scene. Four people were killed at that location alone.

In Atlanta and across the country, there`s mounting outrage of course over the shooting rampage that took a total of eight lives including those of six Asian women. Tonight, people gathered to remember the victims and to call attention to the wave of violence targeting people of Asian descent.

Today, the president ordered U.S. flags on federal buildings lowered to half-staff through sunset Monday to mark the massacre. He and Vice President Harris will be in Atlanta tomorrow to meet with leaders of the city`s Asian American community.

Earlier today Atlanta police insisted the investigation is far from over.


DEP. CHIEF CHARLES HAMPTON, ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT: We are not done. We`re still working very diligently to ascertain all the facts. So, we can have a successful prosecution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the investigation into a possible hate crime -- is that still on the table?

HAMPTON: Nothing is off the table for our investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any indication the suspect had visited those spas previously?

HAMPTON: It appears that he may have frequent those locations, yes. All we do know is that he did purchase the gun of the day of the incident.


WILLIAMS: On that same line, the FBI is assisting local law enforcement with the investigation. This was interesting. Tonight, the FBI director Chris Wray told NPR, "it does not appear that the motive was racially motivated." The suspect who is charged with eight counts of murder waived an arraignment scheduled for today. The killings have also unleashed an outpouring of anger in Washington, among other places. Today for the first time in three decades, the House held a hearing on anti-Asian violence and discrimination. The mood became tense after one lawmaker`s comments brought an angry response.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): We believe in justice, right? There`s an old sayings in Texas about, you know, find the all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. You know, we take justice very seriously. And we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys.

My concern about this hearing is that it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society. Now we`re talking about whether we`re talking about China, the Chi Comm (ph), the Chinese Communist Party, whatever phrasing we want to use, and if some people are saying, hey, we think those guys are the bad guys. I think the Chinese Communist Party running the country, China, I think they`re the bad guys. And I think that they are harming people.

REP. GRACE MENG (D-NY): I want to go back to something that Mr. Roy said earlier, your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want. But you don`t have to do it by putting a bull`s eye on the back of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids. This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community and to find solutions and we will not let you take our voice away from us.


WILLIAMS: Now after that exchange, Congressman Roy, the rope and tree fellow from Texas later told NBC News that he had, "no apologies for his remarks."

Meanwhile, the federal investigation into the Capitol insurrection, let`s not forget as focusing more intensely on those rioters who carried out some of the most vicious assaults on police officers that we saw that day. As NBC News correspondent Tom Costello shows us the FBI has released new videos in hopes that the public can help identify those suspects and fair warning here. It`s violent and disturbing.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: More than two months since the attack on the Capitol, dramatic new video enhanced by the FBI of 10 suspects, wanting for what it calls some of the most egregious attacks on police officers that day. Among the videos and unknown suspect of trying to pull the gas mask off a police officer in full riot gear, the assailant isolated in photos and videos, more video of an attacker beating officers with a table leg and nails. This attacker is trying to smash his way through glass doors with a cattle prod. Suspect is spraying officers with a fire extinguisher and some type of orange chemical. Another assailant one of her hitting and punching officers here and older man breaks through barricade and charges police. The FBI asked him for the public`s help in identifying all of the attackers. The FBI has already arrested two suspects for assault on Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick, who later died of unknown causes. A D.C. grand jury has indicted both men on 10 counts.


WILLIAMS: Tom Costello with that report. As the White House continues its campaign to get all Americans vaccinated, the President today announced that we`re about to hit his goal of 100 million vaccines in the first 100 days of his administration.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met my goal of ministering 100 million shots to our fellow Americans. In the last week we`ve seen increases the number of cases in several states. Scientists have made clear that things may get worse as new variants of this virus spread. Getting vaccinated is the best thing we can do to fight back against these variants.


WILLIAMS: President will now have more help in his plan to carry out these next vaccination goals as well as his plans to strengthen Obamacare. Today by the narrowest margin 50/49, the Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

It`s a lot to talk about, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The Washington Post, also the author of the forthcoming book, Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, which we`re looking forward to coming out May 11. And Kurt Bardella joins us, former spokesperson for the House Oversight Committee, a former Republican who has switch since - switched and join the Democratic Party, he`s also a contributor to both USA today and the LA Times.

Peter Baker, because of your beat, I would like to begin with you, Biden`s approach, along with his vice president to these Atlanta murders is altogether different for those who have been paying attention, these last four to five years, talk about his effort, something he feels genuinely to fill the empathy gap and go down there and have a conversation about this tragedy?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that`s right. Look, this is a president who is doing what presidents usually do, right, which is to try to bring people together in moments of turmoil and tunnel like this, rather than try to divide them. You know, President Trump, of course, obviously played to racial divisions and was somebody who tended to stir the pot rather than pull people together, President Biden came to office on a promise to unite on a promise to appeal to, you know, better higher virtues. And this is I think, an example of that. He wants to go to Atlanta to demonstrate his concern over the fears that many Asian Americans have given the spike in hate expressions and violent assaults that have experienced in the last number of years, particularly in the last year since the COVID virus, which of course, the last president used, you know, Asian influenced terms to describe, which a lot of people think actually stirred entity rather than, you know, bring people together.

WILLIAMS: Kurt Bardella, your piece in the LA Times about the murders in Atlanta was very direct. You said Trump and the GOP put a bull`s-eye on the backs of Asian Americans today. Kevin McCarthy was asked about his own past comments. We`ll play his reply here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you regret using terms like Chinese coronavirus, and --

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I would wait to see why the shooter did what he does. But if the virus came from China, and I think the knowledge we had at the time and exactly that I don`t think people from the standpoint to go after any Asian from any shape or form and I condemn every action to that.


WILLIAMS: So, Kurt, there`s your Republican leader in the House, who for the record, voted on the side of the insurrection, as we`ve yet to hear from Mitch McConnell at all over in the Senate side on this. The question to you is, are Republicans unable or unwilling to recognize harm from the words they`ve used?

KURT BARDELLA, FORMER SPOKESPERSON FOR HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Well, Brian, they`re unwilling. And the best example of that was today, when Chip Roy at a hearing about violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans thought that that was the appropriate time to quote Toby Keith songs -- Toby Keith by the way is from Oklahoma, not Texas, but be that as it may, to quote Toby Keith lyrics and use the image of lynching and it just shows the ignorance of Republicans about history. Chinese Americans, Los Angeles were the target of one of the biggest lynching in United States history in the 1870s to use that type of imagery, and that type of rhetoric, rope and trees, at a hearing convene to talk about hate crimes, and then to not even apologize for it, but to double down on it when confronted about it after the hearing. It just tells that Republicans they`re not incapable of understanding their rhetoric. They don`t care. They don`t value people who aren`t white, they have made a conscious decision time and again, to use inflammatory rhetoric like Chinese virus, and Kung Fu, to talk about something that has created a situation where people are actively committing hate crimes against Asian Americans, if the situation in Atlanta had never happened, it wouldn`t change the fact that there`s been 150% increase in hate crimes against the AAPI community since March of 2020. It wouldn`t change the fact that just in the last few weeks, we`ve had people attacked on the streets in New York, people spit on and call derogatory comments while eating in restaurants outside in the Bay Area. We have seen time after time incident after incident of hate crimes and hateful rhetoric targeting Asian Americans and it is 100% driven by the rhetoric of the Republican Party.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, absent the Atlanta violence, there was still need for the hearing that was held today. Carol Leonnig, I want to take advantage of your years of reporting on and around law enforcement. How does law enforcement deal with the fact that there is enormous public pressure based on everything we can see about these murders, to name this a hate crime while they`re not comfortable with it yet hitting that mark?

CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I think what is a problem for law enforcement is a certain amount of literalness in their criminal statements of fact. So this with -- this perpetrator, this murderer, alleged murderer alleges that his motive was an addiction. And he did buy a gun in the midst of a, you know, falling a part of his life, his family, kicking him out of the house. And he said that his shooting was basically because of this addiction that he had to these spas that he visited, and he was taking out his violent rage against them. Well, that`s all very literal and fine, but the truth is that the majority of the people killed were Asian women. And you`ve got to have a connection between, you know, viewing those lives as less valuable to this particular perpetrator and hate crimes.

Why did he show up at something titled young Asian massage? Yes, he probably did frequent those or frequent something like it. But it`s the challenge of the law enforcement to stick to the facts, but also see the bigger picture.

And I think I would agree to one element of what the FBI Director said, Chris Wray. It doesn`t appear to be racially motivated at this moment. But let`s see what the rest of the facts are. Sometimes investigations take a little while, and we all should be patient. But it is a wonderful opportunity to discuss the hatred that lots of political leaders have sown. And I think as Peter and also Kurt make so clear, these political leaders have worked this bone and it has been to their benefit. President Trump showed them the way calling something and blaming something on China was very effective. It took it away from having to actually assess his own handling of the coronavirus because in a xenophobic way he could decide to blame some country where a lot of Asians lived. And it`s it has worked like a charm in terms of deflecting a lot of the responsibility. Blaming is a great political tool. And unfortunately, as Grace Meng pointed out, it also puts a bull`s-eye on people. There`s a reason why a man showed up with an assault rifle at a pizza shop. He was urged by Republican conspiracy theorists to believe the Democrats had, you know, a pedophilia ring in the basement of this pizza shop. So the things have a weird through line that I think we need to keep in mind.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, and there was pressure on the left today on social media at the news media wondering why this wasn`t branded the Trump virus from the start.

Peter Baker, let`s rely on a broad area of your reporting for years, the nation formerly known as the Soviet Union, now Russia here is a sampling of the interplay just in the last 48 hours between Putin and Biden.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, Vladimir Putin, you think he`s a killer?

BIDEN: I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what price must he pay?

BIDEN: The price he`s going to pay? Well you`ll see shortly.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: And what would my answer be? I would tell him -- I wish you good health. I am saying it without irony or jokes.


WILLIAMS: Peter, is it because in recent years, we are so not used to a president, not praising the virility and strength of the Russian leader that we`ve forgotten. What, "normal relations" between Putin and an American president look like?

BAKER: Yeah, it`s interesting. The phrase I do is doing a lot of work there, right? This is not exactly a full throated condemnation by President Biden. But it`s so in contrast with President Trump, who, in fact, when asked if Putin was a killer, basically exonerated Putin. Well, which country isn`t were killers here to, you know, and made us equivalent to Putin`s Russia back when he was asked about it. So I think that even that small snippet from President Biden, even that relatively modest, mild comment was seen as a sea change. But in fact, it`s still just words at this point, you know, Russian media tonight is lapping it up. They love it. They`re going after Biden, and making it a big, you know, to do that`s helpful to Putin in his domestic audience, which he`s having trouble in his own country. And I think it`s good from his point of view, to have an enemy to focus on Biden, in the United States has always been a convenient enemy. And his comment there, I wish him good health, of course, is meant to pick up on Trump`s line from last fall about Biden`s age and whether about Biden, in fact, is, you know, lost a step or not. And when he says I say it without irony, if you listen to it, and Russian, there`s irony in his tone, he definitely means that as a jab. Again, this is all talk. So far, the Biden administration has only taken relatively modest steps in terms of sanctions sanctioning Russians, who aren`t likely to come here and don`t have assets here. They say there may be more to come. And we`ll have to watch and see what that is. And whether that genuinely takes the pressure on Russia up from where it had been under Trump, who seemed to be prioritizing being friends with Vladimir Putin.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Kurt, let`s keep it in the world of politics. GOP has been going culture wars of late, but do you think they see genuine traction and this ongoing humanitarian crisis at the southern border?

BARDELLA: Well, it`s kind of back to the future here, Brian, we saw for the better part of the last decade, the Republican Party constantly used the issue of immigration and the border as their primary issue to talk about. Remember when Eric Cantor, the then House Majority Leader lost his seat, and one of the shocking midterm developments of the 2014 cycle, he lost to a guy named Dave Brat who ran solely on the issue of immigration. This has been at the heart of the Republican Party orthodoxy for so long. And when they have nothing else to talk about, and when things aren`t going their way, oftentimes they`ve returned to the issue of immigration. That was the issue that propelled Donald Trump the nomination in first place, the whole builds the wall, all immigrants are drug dealers can go coming here from Mexico to kill us all. And they`re going back to that again.

And really what we`ve seen over time is their messaging on immigration is code for racism. It is just another frontier on their effort to attack people that aren`t white. This time when it comes to the border, it`s that white people have to fear brown people, it`s that they have to worry about them being drug dealers and cartels and gang members that are going to come in and perpetrate violence and mayhem on them. It has nothing to do with the humanitarian elements of this, which are very real. It has to do with them still trying to use this issue and use people of color to scare white people into voting for them. And this is the playbook that we`ve seen so often. And they`re going back to it now because they can`t talk about successes. They can`t talk about a track record that`s done anything positive for the American people. They can`t talk about COVID-19, 500,000 people were dead under their watch. They can`t talk about a booming economy. The economy fell apart on their watch. So what did they do? They go back to culture wars, and this time it`s immigration but it`s really racism.

WILLIAMS: And the last word from Carol Leonnig, it was unprecedented. The media presentation by the FBI today still looking for these 1/6 suspects that again, we`re reminded the idea of American sacking their own capital was pretty unprecedented at the time.

LEONNIG: Absolutely. You know these videos I have to say, Brian, they work. People who are neighbors and friends, this is tried and true. Put out the videos and somebody is going to call that 800 number. It happened actually quite a bit this summer. You may remember the FBI put out pictures and videos of people who are desecrating federal monument. But you know, I`m reminded that when I watch these videos, I`m thinking of the statement that was released by George Bush or made public today actually, he said it in February as part of a presentation. But in this remark, he said basically watching the seas on the Capitol made him sick to his stomach. And some of these videos do that for me now.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, in fact, I want to play that later in the hour. I can`t thank our big three enough for helping along our conversation tonight, Peter Baker, Carol Leonnig and Kurt Bardella, great thanks.

Coming up for us, as our country takes on two stubborn deadly viruses at the same time, one medical the other societal, we`ll talk to two of our favorite guests about beating them both on how.

And later, how would -- why would anyone shoot down the idea of a shot in the arm? We`ll ask some of the vaccine deniers about their reasoning for not getting it, all of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on a Thursday night.



REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): You can say whatever you want on the First Amendment. You can say racist stupid stuff if you want. But I`m asking you to please stop using racist terms like Kung Flu, Wuhan virus or other ethnic identifiers in describing this virus. I am not a virus. And when you say things like that, it hurts the Asian American community.


WILLIAMS: Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California, former guest on this broadcast during today`s anti-Asian discrimination hearing. It`s a lot to talk about and back with us to do that tonight, Baratunde Thurston, author, activist, comedian, former producer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, these days the host of the podcast How To Citizen. And Mark McKinnon`s back with us, former adviser to both George W. Bush and John McCain. He`s now one of the co-hosts thankfully of the Circus on Showtime.

Gentlemen, good evening, and welcome to you both. Baratunde, at a hearing on combating hate and violence just so we get this right, congressman from Texas equates justice and lynching. In real time, out loud, we can hear him say it. It would indicate to me we`re not all on the same page. Would you like to take a whack at how much work there remains to go in 2021?

BARATUNDE THURSTON, AUTHOR, ACTIVIST AND COMEDIAN: Yes, Brian. We`re not all on the same page. And clearly Representative Roy`s mask was not always on his face. He was sloppy in more ways than one. It`s grotesque to cite lynching as evidence of justice. It is inflicting more pain to cite a racialized form of violence in a hearing designed to honor acknowledge the pain of a community subject to racial violence. If there is a resource that people would remember right now, check out stop AAPI This is an organization which has taken it upon itself to document some of the pain, the trauma, the struggles of the community of members of Asian descent in the U.S., for the past year, since the President of United States unleashed a fuselage of ugly upon them by weaponizing and racializing, a global pandemic. And as so many said today, putting a target on the backs of some of our own people here in this country. It`s ugly, it`s sick, it`s sad.

And if I would just add, I know what it feels like as a black American to be excluded, to be overlooked, to be devalued by law enforcement others. And so my own heart is open and out for my fellow Americans who are suffering right now. You are not alone.

WILLIAMS: Mark McKinnon that leads me to ask you, what has become of us? And because we are in a political realm, I have to ask the follow up. How much of what has become of us is because of Republican actions and rhetoric?

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER ADVISER TO JOHN MCCAIN AND GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I mean, today, Roy`s comments, were a great example of just how low Republicans have gone just they`re clawing their way to the bottom. It`s just -- the notion that somebody would go to a hearing that was being held to raise the issues of racial insensitivity racism across America, and then not only being sort of insensitive to the idea of that hearing, but to turn it around and start defending racist practices in American history is, it`s embarrassing, it`s humiliating, and it`s indefensible. And, you know, it`s just -- I work for a guy who, you know, talks about compassionate conservatism. And for the life of me, Brian, I can`t find the compassion and conservatism in Republican politics anymore. There is not.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Mark as a quasar, Republican whisperer on broadcast like this one, explained to me why in the last seven to 14 days, all we hear about now is Communist China. I`m old enough to remember the Cold War. I remember that turn. It went away. It went into a long power save slumber mode. It`s back. I don`t go a day without hearing about Communist China. Where is that from?

MCKINNON: Well, it comes from the same treasure chest as socialism, the socialism trope that the Republicans tried to use against Joe Biden, Joe Biden famously said, do I look like a socialist? No, he`s not. That`s why he got elected. But the China trip, that something that Chip Roy talked about today, which, again, to me, they`re just trying to flip the deck. They`re saying no, we weren`t talking about the China virus. That`s not a racist thing. What we`re really talking about is the Chinese Communist Party. Oh, there`s got to be a Boogeyman for Republicans. There`s got to be somebody who`s scared. And this is page one of Trump`s Republican playbook, right, which is, is others out there coming across our borders, changing our way of life. And I`m here to defend the American way of life. But you know, leave it to the Democrats. We`re going to turn this into you know, you know, an arm of the Chinese Communist government.

WILLIAMS: Well, as both you gentlemen know, around here, we`d like to be a viewers` guide and preview what people are going to hear more of in the coming days, I would call it How To Citizen but that title is taken. Our conversation with both of these gentlemen will continue after a short break.

Coming up, he once praised efforts to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. And now Mark`s former boss is doubling down on that message. We`ll talk about him and that right after this.



GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There needs to be an overhaul. Which means that we need to get politics out of the system and get sober minded people focusing on, A, what`s best for our economy, B, what`s best for our country. Rather than ignore the situation. I think we got to address it. And I do believe there needs to be a path to citizenship.


WILLIAMS: That is a view not widely held by today`s Republican Party. The House today passed a new immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship. Remember that quaint phrase for millions of dreamers among us, just nine Republicans voted in favor, many pointing to the influx of migrants at the southern border.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Part of dealing with the problem is to first admit there`s a problem. And President Biden doesn`t even want to acknowledge it. And then on the heels of this border crisis that is going on right now. There`s a bill on the House floor to create amnesty, to create a bigger magnet saying come to the southern border.


WILLIAMS: Still with us Baratunde Thurston and Mark McKinnon. And Mark, to quote the great Ron Popeil, but wait there`s more. I want to play you a little bit more of George W. Bush. This was on the subject of and we haven`t heard this, his reaction to 1/6.


BUSH: I was disgusted. I can`t remember what I was doing. But I remember feeling a sense of, I was sick to my stomach and to see our nation`s capital being stormed by hostile forces. And it really disturbed me to the point where I did put out a statement and I`m still disturbed when I think about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the election stolen or not?



WILLIAMS: So Mark, that right. There is how people talk and it used to be how Republicans talked. How many Republicans does he represent in those two statements first on immigration, second on 1/6, if he looks around how many men and women are behind him and saying we`re right there with your boss?

MCKINNON: Not enough. That`s the problem. Brian. Had tip to Evan Smith texture beaming forgetting former president of the art studio and in the TV studio because we love to hear him especially on important issues like this.

Brian in 1999 and earlier when he`s running for governor reelect -- reelection for governor in Texas, he drew people like me, independents, and Democrats across the bridge become Republicans because of his message about compassionate conservatism, particularly on issues like immigration, he was very immigration friendly, and try -- and was very, very strong about immigration reform that was needed in this country and ran on that 1999, despite a lot of Republicans saying that he shouldn`t do it. He said, it`s the right thing to do. And we`re going to do it and he fought his entire presidency. Unfortunately, the timing was never right. 9/11 happened and things didn`t happen.

I look back on it now. And it`s been almost a quarter of a century since President Bush tried to push his reforms. And we`re still fighting about it now. But the problem for Republicans is that now there`s no but I mean, Reagan provided amnesty for 3 million Americans, Bush says it should be path to citizenship, but they`re not enough of those kind of Republicans anymore.

And it is a clear to Biden now, because Republicans say we don`t want anybody crossing the border. Democrats are more like our historical motion of saying, you know, bring us your huddled masses yearning to be free.

WILLIAMS: Baratunde a on the subject of immigration, our friend Eugene Robinson was on last night and I neglected to quote the headline from his most recent column, which in its simplicity, kind of bowled me over going big on the border, will neutralize Republicans line of attack.

Eugene is making the simple point that Biden and yes, he`s got a lot on his plate, can go big, can react in a big way, fly down there, mobilize the US military, and so on, and it is in Biden`s hands. It came with the job. How would you critique the job they`ve done so far in this, what is it, 58 days without a transition coming into office?

THURSTON: First, I need to acknowledge the former president George H.W. Bush, I`m not a member of this Americans fan club. I will acknowledge the decency, the basic humanity and the factual basis of his comments. And it is sad that that is worth mentioning, and lauding.

But I also remember the same George H.W. Bush, sorry, George W. Bush, who put us into the Iraq War and the Afghanistan situation, which we still have not extricated ourselves from and helped bankrupt us and put us in a very tight spot, making nationalism and racism more palatable and attractive to the modern day Republican Party. But I can`t let that go unremarked.

As for what`s going on with the border and with immigration, like I am pro treating human beings, as human beings. And I do not pretend that what is happening at our border is a simple fix, either through hateful rhetoric, or the magic waving of some sort of lawn.

I am personally impressed and astounded that people are leaving their countries to walk through treacherous miles of gang runs territory, their economies are wrecked. Climate change is making things worse. And so I don`t think anyone`s coming here because they think it`s actually that great. They`re leaving a place of their own, that isn`t doing so well.

It`s where I give the Biden administration, early partial credit, it`s worth acknowledging that part of this problem will be solved when the countries of Latin America are doing better and to the extent that we can engage with them on helping the situation at home, be more hospitable, that can relieve some of the pressure on our border.

But I distinguish that from what was happening from the people who are already here, contributing to our economy, living by the rules, paying taxes, they deserve a pathway to become full members of society.

WILLIAMS: Baratunde, thank you for all of that to your first point I`ve checked turns out it wasn`t Iraqis knocking those buildings down on 911 after all. Mark McKinnon, Baratunde Thurston, gentlemen, let`s do this again. Good to see you both. Were in your debt for coming on.

Coming up for us, no matter what the doctors we talked to say. There are still a whole lot of Americans who still insist the vaccine. However, a medical miracle is not for them. Coming up, we`ll hear from both sides.


WILLIAMS: Well, this is something. Tonight 23 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. 12 percent of American adults have now been fully vaccinated. Even as the administration works to quicken the pace of this, the issue of vaccine skepticism, specifically among Republicans subset, especially Republican males and a lot of them Trumpers poses a difficult challenge.

NBC News correspondent Alison Barber joins us from Jackson, Mississippi with more tonight. And Ellison, I know you have been sampling opinion there on this vaccine. What have you found?

ELLISON BARBER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brian, yes, we have -- we went kind of all over the eastern part of the state to try and get a sense of what people are thinking here. Look, vaccine hesitancy has dropped in the weeks and months since the first COVID-19 vaccine was authorized with emergency approval in the United States.

So there are still pockets of skepticism nationwide. One thing that we are seeing in polls and continue to see in more recent polls is that vaccine skepticism is stronger and holding steady among one group in particular, and that is Republicans.

So we decided to head to one of the reddest counties in Mississippi, Smith County and then travel east to try and get a sense of what people think about COVID vaccines. Listen here.


BARBER: Do you plan to get vaccinated?


BARBER: How come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because good old country boy. And I drink from water. I don`t need it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I made up my mind 40 years ago, never to get another flu shot.

BARBER: OK. So flu shot, no COVID vaccine --


BARBER: -- not the vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a flu. It ain`t a COVID. It`s a flu.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve just got questions. And I don`t feel like my questions have been answered. We have news media analysts to say one thing and then we have another outlet that says completely the opposite. And you don`t really know the truth in the matter anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just ain`t never got no flu shots. I ain`t plan on getting no COVID-19 shot and I wouldn`t be wearing this him but you got to mainly affect the people just got low immune system so I just like take some vitamins and move on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people think they`re padded and what`s really going down, you know, there -- as far as they`re saying everybody`s fine with it. A lot of people are scared that even though they`re saying they`re fine they`re really not.


BARBER: About 11 percent of Mississippians have been fully vaccinated as of this week. This week, the state also decided to expand vaccine eligibility and open it up to anyone living or working in the state over the age of 16. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Ellison, thank you and your crew for your reporting. It`s important everyone needs to hear it. It`s a part of our world and a part of this very compelling story. Ellison Barber for us tonight.

And now joining our conversation is Dr. Vin Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist out in Seattle who specializes in exactly this. He`s also on the faculty of the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Well, Doc, you heard the voices of those Americans in the state of Mississippi. We all have to live together in this one country we`ve been given, what do we do about what we just heard?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Brian, I think there`s two things up front number one, good evening, by the way, number one, I think there`s just confusion on what these vaccines are do extremely well, regardless of the variant. And essentially everywhere in the world. And they keep will keep you out of intensive care.

That is the critical piece here that we`ve lost. When we`ve communicated about vaccine effectiveness. We delve too much into the vaccine -- effectiveness percentages and numbers that are confusing to people. They`re frankly, confusing to me, when the bottom line here is whether you`re talking about J&J or AstraZeneca, or Pfizer, or Moderna, they all are 100 percent effective, and those who`ve received them in keeping those individuals out of the hospital, and out of intensive care and avoiding death. That`s all that matters.

Number two, I would say to your point and from Allison`s reporting there, if that doesn`t reach people, how do you reach those people. And that`s where I think we need to introduce some friction into the system. Once vaccines are broadly available, Brian, we need to make -- we need to take a page out of what other countries are doing to some degree and say, you know what, the vaccine is available, it`s safe, it`s very effective. If you`re not going to get it and you want to go on a flight or you want to go out to dine or you want to go out to the ballpark, you`re going to have to show us a negative COVID-19 test. And you`re going to have to mask.

We`re going to have to introduce some friction here premise on some degree of personal responsibility at that point. Otherwise, we`re not going to reach where we need to reach which is herd immunity, hopefully 75 to 80 percent of the country`s going to be willing to accept the vaccine. But if we don`t get there, we`re in a really tenuous balance.

WILLIAMS: All goes back to the pictures of Elvis getting the Salk vaccine. We had the head of the Ad Council on this broadcast talking about their campaign. I think that point you just mentioned is when they have to be on the air with a killer public service campaign along those same lines. Couldn`t agree more.

Dr. Gupta has agreed to stay with us just during this break. When we come back, he`ll explain why he says our path to normalcy. And that`s the goal remember, is tenuous may look at times a bit more like a minefield.



DR. DAVID KESSLER, HHS CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER, COVID RESPONSE: We now have enough vaccine available for all American adults by May 31.


WILLIAMS: That is a veteran of public health speaking positive news from the HHS Chief Science Officer. But the world is still fighting against COVID variance and the potential for another surge of infections. Dr. Gupta remains with us for this last conversation segment.

And Doctor, once and for all, it`s a moving target. So I`m sure we`ll talk about this in coming days. What do people need, especially among the community lucky enough to be vaccinated? What do people need to know about the various?

GUPTA: Well, the various posts that thread Brian and we are in a really tenuous spot. I feel complacency setting in amongst all of us. We`re frankly retired one of vacation plan we get it. We need to hang in for a few more months because we`re extremely vulnerable right now. 60,000 cases a day still 1,500 to 2000 deaths a day. Paris ICU`s are now full. Italy`s locking down, Ontario`s thinking about doing something similar.

We are surrounded by chaos and crisis from this virus. We are not immune to it. The most likely scenario is that we come out of it, and that we`re going to be the one the first countries to actually come out of this pandemic after having experienced the worst crisis possible.

But that`s not a foregone conclusion. warm weather, increased vaccine uptake are our friends right now. And that`s great that we`re seeing an increase in vaccine confidence. What`s not good as the variants, more transmissible and what`s also -- what`s terrible is bad public policy.

Governor`s following the lead of the governor of Texas, loosening mask mandates for no good reason, too soon. We are in a very tenuous position here right now, we could lose the end pricer, which is normalcy by July 4. If we do not keep our eye on the prize, which is vigilance until most of us have the vaccine.

WILLIAMS: To your point, a friend of mine in London says they`re over there looking at our Spring Breakers from Padre Island to Lauderdale wondering what has gotten into us and what we don`t understand about this.

GUPTA: Well, and thank you for reminding me. What a disappointing a lack of calling or by the -- by university presidents across the country to say that their students should not be going on spring break. If you`re about to embark on spring break and you`re a college student, please think again twice. Because I`ve seen 18 year olds pass on the virus on unwittingly to vulnerable elderly family members or their loved ones.

This is serious. University presidents and other leaders should be messaging in strong terms that their students should not be traveling right now. Just a few months, Brian, it`s just a few months, otherwise we fall by the way of Italy and France. It`s very tenuous, the position we`re in right now.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Vin Gupta has been our guest again tonight. Doctor, thank you for your time and for taking our questions and for the advice you`re dispensing as important as it is. Coming up for us. Tonight`s reminder that words have consequences right after this.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. The sad shrines that have come to life outside local businesses in the Atlanta metro area to mark the senseless twisted and tragic loss of life and the toll on innocent Asian Americans apparently killed for showing up at work and going about their lives as a great southerner one said trying to make a living and doing the best they can.

While the election may be over, the folks over at the Lincoln project put together a video compilation with an unmistakable message that words matter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spring of deadly shootings at massage parlors in the Atlanta area could be linked to a wave of attacks against Asian Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The disturbing surge of racist attacks against Asian Americans.

TRUMP: The Chinese flu. The Chinese virus. China viruses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And hate crimes surged by 150 percent across 16 cities in 2022.

TRUMP: The China virus. The China flu.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: a man spit not once but three times in the direction of a 25-year-old Asian American woman and her baby calling them quote, the Chinese virus.

TRUMP: The Chinese virus.


WILLIAMS: Powerful message to take us off the air tonight. That is our broadcast for this Thursday evening. With our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.