CDC warns U.S. is at a pivotal moment in pandemic. CDC says Delta variant is more "aggressive" than other strains. Health care systems strained as hospitalizations spike. Officials consider return of masks and other protections. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rules out masks in Florida schools.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to both of you for this important conversation, Congressman Ro Khanna and Garrett (inaudible). Will -- you`ve got tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams begins right now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 184 of the Biden administration, which is now as you know, racing to control this latest rapidly worsening surge of virus in our country. This spike fueled by the Delta variant and ripping through communities with large numbers of unvaccinated Americans. And so once again, today, the CDC was forced to sound the alarm, calling this a pivotal moment in the fight against this pandemic.
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DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Take the Delta variant seriously. This virus has no incentive to let up, and it remains in search of the next vulnerable person to infect. Compared to the virus, we had circulating initially in the United States at the start of the pandemic. The Delta variant is more aggressive and much more transmissible than previously circulating strains. It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I`ve seen in my 20-year career. Whether you`re vaccinated or not, please know, we together are not out of the woods yet.
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WILLIAMS: Dr. Walensky there, the CDC Director says the seven-day average of new cases in our country is up 53 percent over just the previous week. The areas in red on this map are those particularly hard hits. This is CDC map, portions in yellow and blue have moderate to low levels of infection. Three states Florida, Missouri, Texas are home to about 40 percent of the new cases. Florida continues to lead the nation of course in new cases.
A research group working with the CDC now projects the Delta variant will cause a steep increase in our daily death toll likely peaking at around mid-October. This virus surge is yet again pushing a lot of exhausted health care workers and hospitals to the brink.
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CHRIS RICE, HOSPITAL NURSE MANAGER: If feels like we`re going backwards. And I know that, me and a lot of other people here are just, we are feeling very discouraged, very disheartened, very -- in some cases a little bit angry.
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WILLIAMS: This worsening situation has a lot of people wondering if we`re just headed back to the days of lock downs and other restrictions on life imposed a year ago or more. Today, the White House Press Secretary was asked about reports that there could be new guidance soon on wearing masks.
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JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What I can tell you is that there has been no decision to change our mask guidelines.
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WILLIAMS: Right now, the CDC says fully vaccinated individuals don`t need to wear masks, but those who are unvaccinated should be wearing a mask. President has gotten high marks and national polling, as you may know for his handling of the pandemic and the vaccine rollout thus far. But as new cases creep upward, the administration is under increasing pressure to find a way to quickly control the spread of this virus. Today the president said the White House is trying to get ahead of the situation.
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JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: We follow the science. What`s happening now is all the major scientific operations in this country and a 25-person group we put together are looking at all possibilities of what`s happening now. If you are vaccinated, you are sick, if you`re vaccinated, you have over a 98 percent chance of never catching the virus at all.
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WILLIAMS: The administration is right now surging over $1.6 billion to high-risk areas of our country for more testing, contact tracing as well as vaccinations support getting shots and arms. As Politico reports perhaps the biggest challenge is now in states that have made it illegal for local officials to enact certain restrictions to stop the spread of the virus. Many of those states are the ones seeing some of the worst outbreaks.
Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, which today reported well over 12,000 brand new cases insists he has the authority to cancel local health orders if he thinks they infringe on individual rights. This afternoon he drew a line in the sand over masks in Florida schools even though children under 12 still are not eligible for vaccines.
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GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): There`s been talk about potentially people advocating at the federal level imposing compulsory masks on kids. We`re not doing that in Florida OK.
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WILLIAMS: Officials in Atlanta, Philly, Houston moving in the other direction beginning to recommend and, in some cases, require residents to mask up.
Overseas COVID cases are now spiking in Tokyo nearly 2000 reported just today, the highest there in six months truly is a spike opening ceremony for the Olympics. Now just hours away and so far over 90 people associated with the games have tested positive.
We`re also keeping a close eye on the deepening divide on Capitol Hill over the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 riot and insurrection. One focus tonight is on Republican congressman and Trump critic Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a potential addition to this committee now that Pelosi has turned down two of Kevin McCarthy`s Republican picks. Former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman is also being considered at least as an advisor to the committee. He met with Speaker Pelosi today and her office. And again, today the two-party leaders in the House were fiercely defending their positions.
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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is deadly serious. This is about our Constitution, it`s about our country. It`s their assault on the Capitol that is being mischaracterized for some reason, at the expense, at the expense of finding the truth for the American people.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): At no time in the history of a Select Committee in America and I checked with the historian as what Speaker Pelosi done ever happened before. The idea that she`s going to pick and choose, you`re not going to get an outcome.
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WILLIAMS: Then again, we hadn`t seen a riot like the one on January 6 before. With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Peter Baker, the Veteran Journalist and Author, he is Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Julie Pace, Washington Bureau Chief Assistant, Managing Editor for The Associated Press, and Dr. Vin Gupta, Critical Care Pulmonologist in Seattle who has advised us on public health throughout this pandemic. He`s also on the Faculty at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Which is exactly why I`d like to begin with you, Doctor, only I`d like to change your role a bit in this question and answer from physician more to sociologist, this anti vaccine movement, the attitude is a lot of things. It`s social, it`s in some cases socio economic, and it`s political. But so far, the siloing of our country, blue and red, rich and poor liberal conservative has not worked. The kind of shaming and lecturing has not worked. How would you go about changing public attitudes when lives are at stake?
DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Brian, great to see you. This is what I`ll say. First and foremost, I think the CDC can recommend whatever it wants, indoor masking, if they want to pivot, they can recommend that. And certainly, some people I would encourage people to do what they feel comfortable doing. Ultimately a false state governors like Ron DeSantis state, occupational safety and health boards to enact policy, local officials to enforce it. So, we need to be clear right here about where we`re putting our attention on.
We should be focusing, to your point, Brian, your question, how do we get people to uptake the vaccine as quickly as possible? I`ve been in Fresno (ph) just yesterday. I was in Las Vegas, or in the subgroups around last week, speaking to my fellow enlisted members in the military, when I`ve been on base. And what I will say is that people are reachable. We are putting up the white flag suggesting that people are not that vaccine and rates are plateauing, they`re reachable. They just want to be spoken to in a simple non-judgmental way. They have questions, once we answer them in a non-judgmental way, they`re willing to get the vaccine. I`ve seen that through my own eyes, my colleagues have similarly, so we need to scale that personalized engagement and do more of it in an accessible way. And I think we`ll get to where we want to be debating whether CDC should do X or Y. You just play what Ron DeSantis said, it`s not going to work. People that want to mask will mask, people that don`t want to mask will not mask. We`ve already played this and past is prologue.
WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, indeed what the Doctor just said, this puts the White House in a tough spot. I am guessing they want to be even more aggressive where policies and recommendations are concerned only to watch policies go to Florida to die?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that they understand that there`s a great deal of fatigue, especially in certain parts of the country with the public health measures that have been put in place over the last year and a half. And that simply, you know, reimposing them or re-recommending them by itself isn`t going to convince a lot of people who, in fact, are probably the ones who would be most affected by it in the first place, right? The places where you would want for social distancing and masks again, are the places where people are not terribly, you know, not high rates of vaccination. And other people who, of course, are not listening to President Biden`s advice in the first place. So, it`s a kind of a catch 22 cycle that he`s on where he, the choices are limited.
I think the frustration for Biden, of course, is that he needs to get this virus under control in order to get done anything else he wants to get done, right? If in fact we have another outbreak in the fall is now projected, that will make it, that much harder to get the economy going. And that will get that much harder to get life back to normal, you know, in all kinds of parts of the country. And I think that he will be judged, he knows he will be judged on his ability to get us out of this, you know, the situation we`ve been in for the last year and a half. I think that he wants desperately to make that happen. But the tools are very limited.
WILLIAMS: And, Julie, because we live in the real world, because we live in the age of the requirement to walk and chew gum, especially those in government. What is all of this, this spike and this worry doing to the rest of the Biden agenda? Is it enough to derail or merely distract?
JULIE PACE, AP ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, that hasn`t happened yet. I mean, certainly at this point, the real focus from a policy perspective beyond COVID for the Biden administration is infrastructure. And they`re feeling optimistic that even though this process to get these two separate infrastructure packages, the bipartisan bill and then the Democrat led package to focus on what they call human infrastructure, that that is moving forward.
But I think to Peter`s point, there is now I think, a bit more of a question mark about what the second half of this year looks like for the Biden administration. At a certain point, they really felt like they had turned the corner on the pandemic, like they could focus on other domestic priorities, that Biden could really start to push some of these big legislative packages that he had promised to voters, they still are moving forward down that track. But I think they are watching this closely to make sure that their focus is in the right place. There could become a tipping point, essentially, where he does need to put more of his attention more squarely back on the pandemic, even if that means risking some of these other big promises that he and Democrats have made to voters.
WILLIAMS: Dr. Gupta, I want to play for you a part of an interview on this network earlier today with Dr. Haseltine, the noted vaccine expert, who as you`ll hear takes a hard line. We`ll discuss on the other side.
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WILLIAM HASELTINE, FORMER PROFESSOR, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: I would rather see governments say if -- it`s OK, you don`t want to be vaccinated, but then you can`t go to the movie theater. You can`t go to restaurants. You can`t take public transportation. That`s what they`re doing in France right now. It isn`t that there`s not pushback there. But that is a reasonable suggestion. Yeah, you`re free to get infected and die yourself, but you`re not free to infect other people.
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WILLIAMS: All I got wrong was the network he appeared on, that was during the day today on CNN. Dr. Gupta, what do you make of the sentiment of his remarks there?
GUPTA: Well, you know, Dr. Haseltine is essentially saying that we should mandate the vaccine or have vaccine. And this is a bugaboo word passports or some sort of certification system writ large. I`m of the mind, Brian, that if we do that, for polio vaccine, if we do that, for meningitis, for kids about to enter college, there is no reason we can have that same expectation for the COVID vaccine. It is just a -- this has been -- there`s a lot of noise that has, for whatever reason confused this debate and not allowed us that proper context. I think he`s right, we need to have clear incentives in place, we shouldn`t be talking about going backwards. We should make it really clear to people if you`re vaccinated, you can do X, Y, Z. If you`re not, you`re not allowed to do those things. And we should move towards mandating for certain parts of the population, including school aged children. I think I think you`re going to see that in addition to the military.
WILLIAMS: And Peter, let`s again, take off on where the -- what the Doctor, just mentioned, he used the word noise, which in polite society has come to mean, disinformation and misinformation on the vaccine and on the virus, talk about outreach efforts on the part of the Biden White House, and are they including Republicans in any of them?
BAKER: Yeah, it`s a great question. The White House feels like it`s made some progress in some pockets of the community that have been the larger resistance and communities of color in among younger people, among people who have not had access to information or might have hesitance for various reasons. But one area where they don`t feel like they`ve made as much progress are, you know, ideologically conservative voters who happen to be Trump supporters. There seem to be a real wall there between the Biden administration`s efforts and this part of the American public. And they are, you know, they`re kind of at wit`s end about that, I think, because obviously, those are people who are not listening to Joe Biden.
Now, something interesting has happened the last few days, we have seen more public ends and even Fox News as an institution, at least, you know, taking on the mantle of advocating vaccines to their followers, to people who trust them. You know, you saw Fox News and facts say you`ll put out a public service, you know, ad with a couple of their well-known, you know, personality saying this is a good thing. You saw Sean Hannity said on Monday night`s broadcast, vaccines are good, not everybody on Fox is saying that. There are still those who are playing to the resistance. But it does seem like on the right, there is a growing awareness that this is a serious issue, and that vaccines are one way out for Republicans who don`t want to wear masks and who don`t want to be limited in the way Dr. Gupta is talking about.
WILLIAMS: Julie, Peter raises a great point and writ large it is that polling has a funny way of finding itself into policy and opinions and the public debate. And lo and behold, the latest AP poll on something like infrastructure is what 55/42. The question could rightly be asked, when is Joe Biden, when are the Democrats going to take those numbers out for a spin? The problem is they`ve got recalcitrant members in their own caucus, saying nothing of Republicans. Julie, is there any evidence of movement on this?
PACE: Well, I think some of the Democratic frustration comes actually from the idea that the bills that are on the floor, are going to be on the floor soon don`t go big enough. And that`s the real frustration that a lot of the progressive wing of the party has. They would like to see the investment in human infrastructure childcare, as some of the things that would come that later package be far bigger than what I think Democrats are ultimately going to do here. I do think, though, that Democrats feel like they will be able to go into if these packages pass that they will be able to go into the midterms next year and show not just that Joe Biden was able to sign legislation, I think they`re going to argue something bigger. I think they`re going to try to argue that this is an example of what government can do. This is an example of how you can use government for good. How government can be put forward to solve long standing problems in the country and that this is a theory of the case that they`re going to make to try to convince people, that this is so much more than just roads and bridges. The price tags of these packages be damned. So this is again, much bigger, I think for them than just legislations is about a philosophy of governing.
WILLIAMS: We are indebted as always to our starting line tonight, Peter Baker, Julie Pace, Dr. Vin Gupta, greatly appreciate you starting off our conversation this evening.
Our first break approaches and coming up, Nancy Pelosi says she is determined to get to the truth of January 6, and she may call on more Republicans to help do that. We`ve got James Carville and Tim Miller both standing by.
And later, the former chief of staff for the late John Lewis says he has one goal, ensuring that the memory of the modern day civil rights icon "gets used for good." We will ask Michael Collins about the new book containing the final and lasting words of John Lewis. All of it as the 11th Hour is just now getting underway on this Thursday night.
WILLIAMS: Speaker Pelosi is making it clear the committee to investigate January 6 will move forward even without Kevin McCarthy`s Republican additions. Of course, it was the GOP, don`t forget, that rejected the formation of a bipartisan commission on January 6 in the first place that would have had an even number of representatives from each party.
Here with us again tonight, James Carville, Veteran Democratic Strategist, rose to national fame with the Clinton campaign, co-host of the Politics War Room podcast, and Tim Miller, Contributor to the Bulwark, former Communications Director for Jeb Bush.
Gentlemen, it`s always a pleasure. Thank you both for coming on. James, I`d like to begin with you. And you`re now famous advice to members of your party to own that insurrection every day, hold it up to the Republicans every day. The question is, how do you reckon? They have done so far this week, I noted some genuine surprise that McCarthy was going to in effect pull Benghazi on this, throw up a bunch of distractions. And including but not limited to Pelosi didn`t have enough security on him that day.
JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Remember, McCarthy that pathetic glob of protoplasm. He was panicked out of his mind on January to six, calling the president begging for help and everything else. Then he refuses to have the bipartisan committee. And now he`s doing this. The guy who has no sense of shame, and it just, it`s really unbelievable when you look at the actual facts of what happened. And let me tell you something I know Speaker Pelosi, a lot of people know better than me, and everybody`s judgment is the same. She`s tough as nails and she`s not going to let this go. She`s got in cheek correctly, wants to find out and get to the bottom of one of the greatest criminal acts in the history of the United States. And I think people around the country support this and are just perplexed at how pathetic a human being McCarthy is.
WILLIAMS: Tim, version of the same question, but I`d put this spin on it. Do you think the Democrats realize that they have tools at their disposal to make this, give this even more gravity, make this even more of an investigation, then it looks like on the surface. For example, they could put these hearings on in primetime. And I imagine they would get a pretty substantial audience. Do you think they`re doing enough to James orders with the opportunity they have here for investigation?
TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: Well, how about I come back with a scorecard and a couple of weeks, Brian? I think that right now Pelosi is first move I give an A plus tip. You know, I think that they`re certainly, I`m sure or people in her ear saying that, you know, this needs to have the patina of bipartisanship and let Jim Jordan shirtless -- excuse me, jacketless, you know nonsense continue on the committee, let Jim Banks and then Tucker Carlson`s kid who works for him be on the committee. And she took a hard line and said no, like, we`re not going to turn this into a circus. We`re going to take this seriously. It`s already a bipartisan commission. Liz Cheney`s on it, it sounds like she might add some others, maybe our friend Denver Riggleman, a former Rep, was a Republican. And she played hardball on that.
And so I think that was the right first move. I think it sounds like obviously, some of the pull of the officers who served that day will be testifying. I think that is going to be extremely compelling testimony. I think the next challenge will be how much she`s able to and then the committee and Bennie Thompson and others are able to put the screws to Mark Meadows and others and force them to testify.
Kevin McCarthy might have to testify, anyone with first hand knowledge of the President`s activities that day. So, you know, I think that that challenge is over the horizon. But that her first move was really strong and encouraging.
WILLIAMS: James Carville, as you know, as you`ve watched the what about ism includes the Republicans wanting to investigate the murder of a Capitol Hill police officer on Good Friday and an entirely unrelated case, they want to, as I said, investigate why Pelosi didn`t have more security. But at the height of it, remember, McCarthy didn`t call Pelosi to say call off the dogs. He called the president to say call off the dogs.
CARVILLE: Right. Look, the (inaudible) are shaping up. I mean, Speaker Pelosi is just a lot smarter and a lot tougher than Kevin McCarthy. Right now, I agree with Tim. I`m very encouraged -- I`m not surprised because McCarthy is a not a particularly bright man and a particularly weak person. And I think that Pelosi has a very bright and a very strong person. So, and I think we`re going to want to find out how much cooperation that these criminals on January 6 had from members of their Congress that we`re telling him itself. I know there`s great interest in that. And I think that Speaker Pelosi is going to want that committee to look into that and find out if there`s culpability, because somebody was driving his getaway car.
WILLIAMS: To our viewers, if you had either protoplasm or the image of a shirtless Jim Jordan on your bingo card, take about you`ve been successful. To everybody else, these two gentlemen have agreed to stay with us over this next break.
Coming up, the Republican doctors` caucus held an event today extensively they said on vaccines. However, they wound up talking instead about China and the Democrats, more on that when we come back.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are at risk, you should be getting this vaccine. This vaccine does in fact, protect against symptomatic Delta variant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would encourage people to get the vaccine I have high confidence in it. I got it myself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we want people vaccinated. There`s not one physician, there`s not one doctor here that doesn`t want people vaccinated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: While today`s press conference from the GOP doctors caucus was apparently meant urge people to get their shots. As you heard they also use the event to attack Democrats. New York Times reports at this way, Scalise and other Republicans spent most of their time on Thursday discussing unproven claims that the Chinese had released a virulent human-made virus on the world and charge the Democrats had ignored it. The emphasis on the so-called lab leak theory was something of a surprise given the surge of infections, concentrated in rural strongly Republican regions of the country.
Remaining here with us our guest, James Carville and Tim Miller.
Tim so much comes up here. Number one, let`s not forget that the obsession with Jina (ph) as it was known for four years was chiefly and initially to distract to make us victims in light of a mismanaged pandemic, though China, of course, is on the hook for these questions as soon as we get our death toll under control.
Number two. Tim, I really want to hear you out. It`s been theorized that Republicans have either seen god awful polling, or have realized this is ravaging mostly red states. Both of those options are pretty gross. But something has to explain them knocking each other over to get to the microphone to suddenly advocate vaccines.
MILLER: That, they`re sure Brian. Firs, I`m just going to clear the decks and a couple of things. One, I know it`s bedtime on the East Coast. I`m so sorry about the shirtless Jim Jordan image. I`m throwing myself on the mercy of the court on that that was just a slip up.
Second, I do have to correct Peter Baker from a couple segments ago who said that Sean Hannity was also being responsible in telling people to get vaccinated. He did last night, but a little breaking news tonight. He`s scared of his audience, he had to backtrack and say that he wasn`t telling people to do anything, people should do what`s right for them. So that, you know, active responsibility on the other network lasted about 24 hours.
And thirdly, on the China issue, I just want to say the Biden administration has been so good about this, and Psaki has been so good about saying we do need to get to the bottom of the origins. And this shouldn`t be a partisan thing. And so, I just thought that was worth noting. But as to your question on the doctors, look, I really do think this has to do with numbers. I mean, I`m happy that they`re coming out and say that excuse me, the doctors in Congress, on the Republican side. I`m glad that they gave a clear message that people should get vaccinated today. I`m glad that a lot of Republican elected officials who have been late to the game on this are looking at the Delta numbers and are trying to, you know, at least show a modicum of responsibility. I think that there`s something to that. But I also do think that there`s something to the poll numbers.
Look, the vaccine, you know, getting the vaccine is something that has broad support, even within the Republican electorate. It has the minority support. So if you look at the country, almost all the Democrats want people to get vaccinated. A majority of independent voters want people to get vaccinated, and a minority but a significant minority of Republican voters, particularly older voters are getting vaccinated.
So, the Republicans are looking at this in swing districts, and they are going to run into a disastrous buzzsaw, if they find themselves on the side of this small minority that wants to risk everybody`s lives. I mean, it is irresponsible medically, it is politically irresponsible. And so, I think that this is the chickens coming home to roost for it a little bit. And that`s why you see some of them speaking out. You know, obviously too late, unfortunately for some of their own constituents who have been contracting this virus.
WILLIAMS: James, same question. Both options, gross death, toll, or polling or a combination of both?
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, it`s been available for seven months, seven months after the Republican doctors finally say, hey, we need to take this. You know, Tim, and I`ve been texting back and forth about going to the Rose Bowl on September 4th for the LSU UCLA game. Well, I don`t know if we`re going to have it. This people are pro death in any football, OK, I`m pro life. I`m pro living and pro football. I mean, this is ridiculous. People are now having to disrupt social schedules, I have to move plans around that kind of start closing things again, all because these -- don`t wait until seven months after the vaccine is rolled out to get religion and say, hey, it might be a good idea if you took this.
Well, this is really hurting the country. And it`s interfering with me having fun, and I want to go to the Rose Bowl and compare head dues with count. I tell you now, I think I win.
MILLER: I`m going to the Rose Bowl (INAUDIBLE) --
MILLER: I`m going to so upset James. I`m going to the Rose Bowl, get your shots. Go Tigers. I`m going to be there with the second string tailgaters with James and I`m going to go and this is crazy that we`d have to talk about this right now. It`s crazy. They`re putting it --
CARVILLE: It`s insane. And they interfered with everybody`s life. Seven months after they got credit for saying, hey, this is a good idea. I mean, in Sean Hannity they don`t know which way to turn. I mean, they put out so many lives about this and so many people dead. I wish these people that refuse to get vaccinated refuse medical treatment, because somebody is going to get an automobile accident, have a heart attack, and there`s going to be full of people, stupid people are not vaccinated that hadn`t been taken up spots, they already taken away ICU units in the Lafayette Louisiana Hospital for people that unvaccinated people. I mean, they`re hurting other people and getting interfering with other people`s lives. That freedom is intruding on our own other people`s freedom right now.
WILLIAMS: Well put gentlemen if you`re forming a pro living pro football caucus I`m in and because I believe there should be some suffering in life. I`m a lifelong New York Giants fan.
Ladies and gentlemen, James Carville --
WILLIAMS: Tim, thank you very much for bringing your A game tonight as well. See you guys at the Rose Bowl.
Coming up the former chief of staff for the late John Lewis shares a new collection of some of the congressman`s most powerful last words on protecting our democracy.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN LEWS, FMR CONGRESSMAN: You have a right to protest of what is right. When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to say something, you have to do something.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Late congressman John Lewis in his final days from the recorded interviews used to create what would become his final book Carry On, Reflections For A New Generation. And while they may read like words from the great beyond, these words started life in the here and now. For example, the Congressman`s words, when attacks against voting rights were already underway.
The Civil Rights icon warned us quote, we can`t afford to let democracy slip away. We fought for that right demonstrated with bandages on our heads. We fought to prevent changes to the Voting Rights Act and then to restore it. We were wary, tired, but we have purpose. Don`t take this right for granted. Don`t squander it. Keep building.
It`s why we are so pleased to have here with us tonight the former chief of staff to the late congressman Michael Collins. He is these days special assistant to Vice President Kamala Harris and supervise this project. As books go a lot like the Congressman, it is small in stature, but it`s packed. It`s got a lot going on. And it`s recommended reading.
I have to cut to the chase with my first question. It was almost quaint how little voter suppression was going on when we lost the Congressman. It`s now out loud in the open and virulent. What would he be doing right now? What would he be saying right now?
MICHAEL COLLINS, FMR CHIEF OF STAFF TO REP. JOHN LEWIS: He would of course be speaking, he would not hesitate to let his voice be heard. He would be encouraging everybody, young and old, to get out to speak up, to speak out, to say what was right to set the record straight. The Congressman was a man of integrity, who literally laid body on the line for what we know was bright, and the boat was so precious, it is so precious, and the constant believe that with all his soul, and all his might. And so, he wouldn`t be fighting today. And he would tell everybody to put everything on the tape (ph).
WILLIAMS: There`s a quote in here that I love because it contains a call back to what Dr. King called him. He says I would like to be remembered as a boy from Troy, Alabama who saw something said something and did something about it. I hope that those who learn my story are inspired to take action in their communities. To push, to pull, to fight for the rights of all people.
And, Michael, I hate asking, we`ve become so different seemingly, as a society. There`s a new kind of hard heartedness. There`s a new kind of selfishness and a lot of people are worn down. And do you think we`re he`s still here he would exhort. he would play that role of cheerleader of especially to the base of the parties.
COLLINS: Of course, most definitely. And you knew him well, he loved and respected. He would -- he was the most optimistic person you ever wanted to know. He believed that everything was possible in time. He knew that things didn`t happen overnight, it was going to take time. And then we need to invest in people. And we need to invest in ourselves and believe in ourselves. And the (INAUDIBLE) never gave up. He never gave in. He never gave out. He truly believed that we would come together and do what was necessary. And he was right.
WILLIAMS: Michael, I have to share my favorite memory of him of all the conversations I had with him was at the district office in Georgia, and I traveled there with a producer who was born and raised in Haiti. She is to this day a hugely successful television producer, extremely well educated but having grown up Haitian was not steeped in the struggle was not taught about the American civil rights struggle a nation she would later call home.
She forthrightly made the point to the Congressman, who for the next 45 minutes, without tiring and with joy in his heart, told her the story of the Americans struggle. I`ve seen him do it and having worked for him for 20 years. You`ve seen him do it countless times. He never tired of it. Never inflated his own role in it, always with modesty, but always was such great power. Do I have that about right?
COLLINS: You know exactly right. That`s who he was. And he wanted us to remember that, he wanted us to remember who he was and what he stood for. He wanted us to carry on literally. He wanted us to take a look at what history was teaching us. And he really wanted us to take it in and teach other people and let them not forget, so that we could move on and do what was necessary and do what was right. That was just who he was and that`s what he want for us all.
WILLIAMS: Reading through this book, which again, it`s hard to describe to those who don`t have it in their hands. There must be 30 to 40-minute -- mini sub chapters, all of them beginning as no one needs to tell you with the word on, so on courage, on justice, on character on humility. Is there a favorite to you having known him so well, a favorite takeaway lesson that he left us with in this volume?
COLLINS: Love. Look, I mean, the Congressman was pure love. And he loved everybody and everybody loved him. And that`s what gave him joy and smile. He loved people. He loved talking to people. And spent time with young people, he was inspired by them. Love is truly -- he would say that, love is truly the way. And that`s exactly who he was. He was just an unbelievable man. And we all who had the fortunate to work for him, truly honor that role. Those who were able to walk beside him to know him, just knew that he was pure love. And we will never forget him.
WILLIAMS: And if you`re going to dance, if you`re going to dance with him be ready because he could cut a rug in his day.
COLLINS: That`s right (INAUDIBLE) --
WILLIAMS: -- we`ve been looking forward to having you on, looking forward to this segment. Here is the book again, it is called Carry On Reflections For A New Generation. It is thanks to Michael Collins that it exists and we are able to hold it in our hands. Thank you so very much for being our guest tonight.
COLLINS: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
WILLIAMS (voice-over): Coming up for us. The official kickoff to Tokyo`s delayed Summer Games. It is just hours from now. We`ll get the latest on the many challenges there, when we come back.
WILLIAMS: In less than eight hours after so much anticipation and if we`re being honest, so much disappointment. The Olympic cauldron will finally be led in Tokyo to officially begin the games in virtual silence. It`s been a long and uncertain process up until the last minute.
We get our preview from Tokyo tonight from NBC News correspondent Tom Llamas.
TOM LLAMAS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the U.S. women`s gymnastics team giving the world a glimpse of why they are favored to win gold. Simone Biles showing her power and grace through a run through on the mat and her poise just before nailing this bolt. The team staying united after that COVID scare. Alternate Kara Eaker still isolating after testing positive.
And in softball, Team USA on the road to gold with back to back victories. On the field and in the water, athletes are contending with extreme heat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just got off the water now and I`m exhausted and I`m hot and it`s tough, but it`s part of it.
LLAMAS (voice-over): The Olympic action coming as COVID cases continue to rise in Tokyo, nearly 2,000 infections since yesterday, including two more in the athlete`s village.
Tonight we`re hearing from the American beach volleyball player who tested positive. Taylor Crabb says, he was vaccinated has no symptoms and is devastated to miss the games. And now Olympic officials dealing with a PR crisis.
(on-camera): The director of the opening ceremony here at the Olympic Stadium was fired today just one day before the global event because of past comments he made about the Holocaust that were offensive. Both he and the Olympic organizing committee have apologized.
(voice-over): They say the opening ceremony will go on as planned. First Lady Jill Biden will be one of the few watching in person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re ready to go. We`re ready to walk. We`re excited to experience that feeling in the stadium and I know that all the athletes around here are feeling it too.
WILLIAMS: Hey, our thanks to its correspondent Tom Llamas for that report in Tokyo.
(voice-over): And coming up for us an American tradition will break it 69- year streak tomorrow morning. And you can watch it happen live.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. Just as nothing has felt entirely normal of late tomorrow morning. Sure it won`t, case in point. Don`t go looking for the "Today Show". Because for the first time in its 69-year history through wars and terrorist attacks, on anthrax and a pandemic. For the first time it will be nowhere to be found during it 7 to 9 a.m. time slot. In its place, NBC is going to air the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics live and in real time. That won`t be normal either.
Let`s remember for starters, this was supposed to happen a whole year ago but it was put off because of our out of control pandemic. Japanese spent over a billion dollars on their Olympic Stadium. It comfortably seats 70,000 people but not tomorrow. Not that the event it was built to house instead about 900 folks will be in the stands including the First Lady of the United States, Jill Biden.
There will be some crowd noise piped in to help with the ambient sound at some of these Olympic venues. But that`s always tricky. If you have other plans tomorrow morning and you miss it the whole thing, it re-airs tomorrow night in primetime. There`s so much virus in Japan right now and so many athletes have tested positive and let`s not forget the director of the opening ceremony was fired for comments he made about the Holocaust. And all up to and -- add it all up rather and here`s how the Guardian puts it. An unusual amount of uncertainty hangs over the entire enterprise to which we say how very 2021.
That is on that note our broadcast for this Thursday night with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all of our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.