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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 9/15/21

Guests: Yamiche Alcindor, Stuart Stevens, Stephen Sample


Congressional leaders and top security officials say the U.S. Capitol will be well-prepared for a far-right rally expected for the area. US Capitol Police request DC National Guard assistance ahead of September 18 right-wing rally. Pfizer and Moderna releases new data on COVID breakthrough cases it says supports need for booster shots. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley called his Chinese counterpart twice in the waning months of Donald Trump`s presidency to secretly reassure Beijing that the U.S. would not attack.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 239 of the Biden administration and tonight a new security posture has returned to our U.S. Capitol ahead of Saturday`s planned pro rioter rally. New fencing and other barriers are going back in place to protect the building that was desecrated nine months ago now during that riot that included violent assaults on law enforcement officers.

Just this afternoon, the U.S. Capitol Police confirmed that they have asked the Pentagon for National Guard`s support, quote, should the need arise.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: It will follow the same process that all requests for assistance of the department we`re analyzing it and if it can be validated and supported we`ll do that and, you know, we`ll look at the sourcing inside the department as to what`s most appropriate.


WILLIAMS: Local officials in Washington DC are also on high alert for this coming weekend. All city police officers will be on duty. all leaves canceled. Assistance has been requested from police officers in surrounding areas. There`s an NBC News report tonight that only 700 people are expected to attend the rally. But nobody knows really.

The insurrection enthusiasts have been whipped up into thinking that the 1/6 rioters who`ve been rounded up and jailed are somehow freedom fighters now. The rallies organizer as a former Trump campaign operative and pusher of the big lie who says this will not be a repeat of January 6.


MATT BRAYNARD, RALLY ORGANIZER AND FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STAFFER: We`ve got a largely peaceful crowd. No one`s going to be bringing a weapon who`s going to be part of our crowd. I can assure the police that.


WILLIAMS: About a mile or so from the Capitol, the President today focused on convincing some skeptical Democrats to back his sprawling $3.5 trillion economic plan. Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona were both invited to the White House neither has been shy about criticizing the plans price tag and Manchin of course has called on Democratic leaders to delay voting on it.

Those leaders have some tough times ahead. It should be noted, they have to try to pass the bill plus infrastructure, plus keeping the government running by the October 1 deadline, plus whatever else it is that Congress has to do. The White House is also having to navigate the controversy and golfing our nation`s highest ranking military officer.

This new book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, describes Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, gathering top officers after the January insurrection to review the nuclear launch protocols. They also write he sought to reassure a Chinese general, his counterpart, that then President Trump would not launch a military strike.

Today, in a statement, Milley`s spokesperson did not deny the conversations instead calling them quote, vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict. He added General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution.

Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill are accusing Milley of treason because they can and some lawmakers are demanding that he resign or be fired today. The current president stood by the Chairman.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Let`s go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In your opinion, did General Milley do the right?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I have great confidence with General Milley.


WILLIAMS: General Milley will no doubt be asked about all of this when he testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee next week. Also tonight, new data on the devastating toll of the pandemic. NBC News reporting the virus has now killed one out of every 500 Americans. One out of every 500 Americans, one in eight Americans has become infected.

Today, both Pfizer and Madonna released their new research to try to make a case for booster shots. They warn that vaccine immunity may fade over time. On Friday, the FDA`s vaccine advisory group will review Pfizer`s request to okay booster shots ahead of the administration`s expected rollout of the booster shots, and a footnote here. A lot of people are already getting their booster shots regardless of what the FDA says or thinks.

There`s one other story that`s developing tonight. Axios is now reporting that former Vice President Mike Pence is as expected preparing for a run for president in 2024 and hopes to raise all of $18 million this year. We`ll see what his former booss ahs to say about that before long with that.


Let`s bring in our starting line on this Wednesday night, Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour moderator of Washington Week also on PBS, Peter Baker, veteran journalist, author who is Chief White House correspondent for The New York Times. And John Heilemann, author and journalist, our national affairs analyst, also co-host and executive producer of the Circus on Showtime, executive editor over at The Recount, and in his spare time host of the podcast, Hell and High Water. Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Peter, I`d like to begin with you with the help of these two authors and this interregnum now until the actual release of the book, General Milley has walked right into this trap when a huge distraction was needed by the other side. Is it not true that since the days of the Cold War, people with the rank of a General Milley have talked to their counterparts overseas, by way of trying to keep the world a safer place, and they have maintained that dialogue for years and years?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that`s exactly right. Brian. You and I`ve been around long enough to know that this is not unusual in the sense that a chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly speaks to counterparts in China and Russia and other parts of the world in order to prevent misunderstandings, in order to prevent accidental war other words to say, look, here`s what we`re doing, or here`s what you ought not to worry about with us. You know, right after 9/11, of course, they did that with Vladimir Putin`s Russia because they specifically didn`t want the Russians to think that the build-up we were about to experience in that post 9/11 period had anything to do with Russia. And Russia certainly understood that.

In this case, you had General Milley calling the, you know that his counterparts in China, we understand other countries as well. Basically reassure them that things were going to be OK back here in America. It`s what`s unusual -- what`s unusual is the reason and the context in which he was doing it. We should just say that he had a volatile, erratic president of the United States who was trying to find a way to stay in office even though he had been voted out.

And what General Milley was trying to reassure the outside world is, you know, we`re still here, America is still America. We`re not going to do anything rash here. Stay calm.

Now, you heard Republicans say, well, gosh, General Milley was taking it upon himself to have his own foreign policy. Well, that`s rather remarkable, because as I understand it, what General Milley was telling his foreign leaders is we were not going to go to war with China.

And as far as I understand, that was the American foreign policy unless President Trump had a policy to go to war with China that we don`t know about. General Milley was certainly keeping in, you know, aligned with the policy as it existed at that time, he was simply trying to avoid obvious misunderstanding.

WILLIAMS: Thank you for that clarity on that. And Yamiche, indeed, even though we`re told senator john no relation Kennedy went on Fox tonight, predicting that Biden will eventually throw Milley under the bus to cover for this and the Afghanistan withdrawal. There were defenses today from the White House, from the president, from the podium at the Pentagon. Yamiche, are you aware of any other conversations going on?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, BPS NEWSHOUR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House at this point is really presenting a united front and saying that the President is confident in the leadership right now of General Milley. Now, of course, that is what I`m hearing from my sources. The President said that himself, the White House press secretary said that from the podium.

That being said, of course things can change, but it doesn`t look like anything is changing when it comes to this. The thing to remember though, is that while these were in some ways, I think meetings that people often have at the rank of General Milley. I think it is still extraordinary the actual conversations that were had. I`ve confirmed from my own reporting that General Milley on January 8, two days after the Capitol insurrection was on the phone with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreeing with the fact that President -- former President Trump was crazy. That`s extraordinary.

There are people who are continuing to underscore to me that General Milley is seen as someone who is apolitical who is not focused on Republicans and Democrats. But here he was on the phone with the chief opponent of former President Trump`s, someone who he wasn`t even speaking to at the time, because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi impeached him not once but twice.

So for General Milley to say I agree with everything that you`re saying when she`s calling the president crazy, tells you the level of anxiety and the level of concern that he had other military leaders had when it came to President Trump. And let`s remember, this isn`t just backwards looking. Former President Trump is still the leader of the Republican Party. He could run again. January 6, there are a lot of people who are worried that could be foreshadowing for something that comes next even worse. So I think that this really also underscores the volatility that we`re still living with today.

WILLIAMS: What a great point you make, Yamiche. And John, over to you, we can read what the House Speaker said on the transcription of the phone call.


But let`s talk about the Democrats as we remember that culturally they are Ernest, Student Council presidents, not a wartime council yuri (ph) among them. But what about the potentially vocal democrats reminding the greater world as much as Twitter doesn`t want to hear it just how dark things were. This was a Colonel Kurtz situation that was presented to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in a Pentagon without a senate confirmed Secretary of Defense.

JOHN HEILEMANN, SHOTIME`S "THE CIRCUS" CO-HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Right. And I think Brian, you know, this is not as crazy as it was at that time. And I do think that the main takeaway from if you take the Woodward and Costa reporting, and you match it up with all the other reporting of these other excellent journalists who publish books in recent months on this timeframe, is that we were much closer to the brink of some kind of catastrophe, or at least that that was the perception of many senior, especially national security officials in the Trump administration, in the military, in the non-politically aligned bureaucracy that most of us understood.

And I think a lot of people felt pretty unnerved by what was going on at the time. Trump`s behavior was unnerving. It was subjectively at nerving. I think Nancy Pelosi when she expressed the things she expressed to General Milley, I think he saw her more as the Speaker of the House of Representative third in the light of succession, then as Donald Trump`s enemy or as a partisan figure, and I think he was related to her on that level.

So we`ve all now come to this come to realize that there was a greater degree of peril at that time, that none of us understood at the time. But I will say, you know, this is not an unprecedent scenario, and I believe Woodward and Costa note this. I mean, you know, we all remember at least from history books, if not living through it, that back in the Nixon administration, when Richard Nixon was equally unhinged, publicly unhinged, or at least privately unhinged, and it could be seemed to be unhinged by people around him talking at the paintings on the White House walls drinking excessively at the time that Jim Schlesinger, then the Secretary of Defense to a very similar thing to what General Milley did, which was to go and say, guys, there needs to be a failsafe here. There`s got to be a process, there`s got to be a procedure, we cannot get into any kind of unprovoked or ill-tempered, or certainly deranged, kind of foreign policy conflict. I`m going to take it upon myself to make sure that doesn`t happen.

So this is not even unprecedented. And it`s not even unprecedent in recent history. There`s a very strong echo of the Nixon era and what General Milley did.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, let`s turn to a subject slightly less exhausting. And that`s California politics. A large number of people who turned out to cast their votes against the recall in effect for the incumbent governor listed the pandemic as looming large on their list of issues. Does this splash over to help the Biden White House in any way?

BAKER: Well, look, obviously is being used by the Democrats as repudiation of Trumpism, a repudiation of anti-vaccine and anti-public health messages. But, you know, I think we ought to be careful about overreaching into it, it is California, it`s a very blue state. Governor Newsom won election with a 62 percent landslides a couple of years ago, the idea that he held on today shouldn`t be that much of a surprise. The fact that he was even perceived to be in danger was a sign of how roiled our politics have been in the middle of this pandemic, in which a lot of people blamed him for some of the things he had done. Until, you know, things seem to be getting better at California to get more credit.

Now, today, I think for some of the things to get done earlier on. You know, he obviously had gone the other direction had the Republicans come closer to taking him out of -- actually had taken him out that was seen as a landslide or an earthquake in American politics. But, you know, Democrats are going to obviously use this to the best extent that they can to make some momentum to say that the spirit of anti-Trumpism is alive and that there`s a message here about public health that can be translated to other states.

WILLIAMS: John, Peter knows, and the four of us know that journalists are paid to override the results of every election ever held and apply it forward to the next election in the hopper.

To that end, Peter`s paper writes at this way, the recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year`s midterm elections. The party`s preexisting blue and purple state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office at least when the strategy, here`s the important part is, is executed with unrelenting discipline and avalanche of money and an opponent who play plays to type. John, do you buy that and do you buy it writ large time 535 elected members of the House and Senate.


HEILEMANN: Well, I think the great Jonathan Martin piece that you`re citing there, Brian, I think it`s -- I`m out in California now. I`ve been here all week. As you know, this is my home state and I`ve watched Gavin Newsom kind of fight through this whole thing with a pretty close attention to it.

There`s no doubt that -- I was with Newsome just a couple hours ago. And there`s no doubt that the people around the governor had been saying prior to when Joe Biden instituted his vaccine mandate last week, they were telling Washington, guys, you need to be more militant about vaccines. It`s the right thing to do for public health. And there`s a winning hand to play here politically, that was the message from Sacramento to the Biden ministration.

The Biden ministration, then went ahead and did their vaccine mandate provoked the backlash that we`ve seen in certain quarters. And since Biden was out here on Monday night, that conversation is continued between Governor Newsom and President Biden. And governors continues to try to put steel in Joe Biden`s back and say you must get this virus under control. And in the end, that is the best politics and you can survive some opposition from a small minority. And that`s what they -- that was the case here in California.

And to the Jonathan Martin`s point, I think what Newsom would say and what he did, in fact, say to me, in this interview I just did with him will be on The Circus on Sunday night. He said, yes, it`s true that we played the Trump card that Larry Elder was caricature bill as he kind of Donald Trump, maybe Donald Trump here in California.

But many Republicans fall into that category. That is where the core of the Republican Party is right now on the question of vaccine mandates and on masks and other things. And so that may be a more broadly applicable strategy, that just a blue state strategy or just a California strategy, given where the Republican Party is. And that is, again, I think, what California Democrats are trying to say to the Biden ministration. And to those 535, member -- at least those 535 races to say, Democrats, there`s good politics in doing the right thing on public health. It`s a 75 percent issue. Go for it, be tough. And that, you know, we`ll see whether what happen in California stays in California or no.

WILLIAMS: Yamiche, you get the last word tonight, and I`ll put it this way. I`m curious about the trend line of concern over this rally on Saturday, between now and when we settled down to watch you on Washington Week, as all decent Americans should every week, do you think you`ll be more concerned or less as the week goes on as the event approaches, is it going to fizzle out? Or do you think pick up steam?

ALCINDOR: Well, when I think it`s amazing that America should be watching Washington Week on every Friday, so I appreciate you saying that. In terms of the concern of the rally, I think the real signs that there is a security threat coming to DC is starting to up the ante.

So tonight, we saw fencing guard around the Capitol. And in some ways it`s it gives the city a sort of PTSD because we all remember why that fencing went up in the first place. It was the first rally in January 6, when we saw people break in and chase the vice president nearly and chant, hang my Mike Pence and try to kill and want to kill Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The issue is whether or not this rally will really live up to some of the real fears of people. I suspect that the answer will really lie and just what people actually do once they get here. And I think that that`s the big question that we`ll be talking about on Washington Week, how is the preparation going.

It seems as though now of course, after we had this robust conversation over security, that we`re dealing with a federal government that understands that they need to be over prepared for this they`re not going to be caught blindsided, again, that we hope when it comes to this rally, but I think the real tinderbox of people that are coming with misinformation, who are believing lies, who are also in some ways motivated by the idea of white supremacy based on some of the Capitol Police officers own testimony calling the January sixth rally a white nationalist gathering, all of those things put together that makes it a really volatile situation.

So even if it`s only a couple of people who maybe step out of line that could really go bad very quickly. So I think the closer this gets I think the more anxious Washington DC gets that`s definitely what I get from my sources when I`m talking to people about how things are going on preparations.

WILLIAMS: I feel like I owe Peter Baker promotion. I will say that the superb book he and his wife wrote the biography of James Baker is out and available in paperback. We are much obliged to our starting lines tonight, Yamiche Alcindor, Peter Baker, John Heilemann, thank you friends for starting off our conversation this Wednesday night.

Coming up for us, more on the lessons for both parties after Gavin Newsom easily survives in California. And later, after spending nearly two years battling the virus on behalf of others, one of our favorite physicians around here is blaming the vaccine refusal of others, for the fact that he`s got the virus now.


He will in fact join us from quarantine tonight. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Wednesday evening, with the flags at the foot of the Washington Monument, marking those souls we have lost to this pandemic.



LARRY ELDER (R) CALIFORNIA GUBENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Come on. Let`s be gracious, gracious in defeat. By the way, we may have lost the battle but we are going to win the war.


WILLIAMS: So that right there Republican candidate and ardent Trumper Larry Elder promising to fight on despite an overwhelming number of California voters who seemingly prefer that elder instead spend more time with his family. Charlie Sykes of the Bulwark poses the question this way, quote, the California fiasco will probably not be enough to prompt the sort of introspection that Republicans so desperately need. But as 2024 looms, it provides one more reason for Republicans to ask themselves. Do they really want to do this again?

With us tonight, our two friends Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post. And Stuart Stevens, a veteran of the Mitt Romney and George W. Bush Presidential efforts. He is these days with the Lincoln project. His latest book is, "It Was All Lie, How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump."

And Stewart, indeed, I would like to begin with you to your view of any lessons learned in California that could be applied across the country and a rhetorical question, will the Republicans ever see and recognize and identify and off ramp for Trumpism? Or are they going to just keep going with Trump like candidates in races like this one?


STUART STEVENS, THE LINCOLN PROJECT SENIOR ADVISER: Well, I think the hard thing for a lot of us to accept is the Republican Party`s very comfortable being a Trump party for the most part is not an anti-Trump element in the Republican Party. This is what they want to be.

So what happened in California? I mean, it`s not that long ago, California was the beating heart of the Republican Party, Electoral Citigo (ph), Electoral College. And here you have somebody running with no ideology, no difference, except he was accusing the governor of California doing too much to protect the citizens. That`s like a very strange platform to run for governor on that of a pro-deaf platform.

This is what Republicans want. And I think it`s a good message for the Democrats, they should try to nationalize this race, and make it a referendum on democracy and big stuff.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, about the Democrats, the aforementioned collection of earnest Student Council presidents wearing sensible shoes, do you think they have the discipline to paint every opponent in every congressional race as a Trumper, in theory to try to tie their republican opponents to this party that Stuart just described?

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, you know, Brian, sometimes it`s a long, lonely battle to get Democrats to take yes for an answer, but it`s a pretty resounding yes. There`s a pretty overwhelming the blueprint, actually for how to proceed. And yes, it`s California. It`s a very democratic state.

But, you know, Larry Elder and the Republicans got creamed yesterday. They got obliterated. And the Democrats with discipline, you know, stressed did two things. They ran against Donald Trump in the person of Larry Elder, and they ran in favor of doing a bit of aggressively trying to defeat the COVID epidemic. And those turned out to be very popular things. They were extremely popular positions in California. I think they`re going to be popular in a lot of ways.

And yes, the discipline was important. And, you know, will Democrats be that discipline? I don`t know. But they should have -- they should take this as instructive. This should tell them a lot about how they should proceed for the midterm.

WILLIAMS: All right. Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us. We have to fit in a break. Coming up when our conversation continues, some Republicans are accusing a four star General of treason. Supporter say he was responding to a clear and present danger. It just happens to be a tailor made controversy for the right we`ll talk about it when we come back.



WILLIAMS: The new book from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa called Peril which isn`t out for another week, by the way has already given elected Republicans, Fox News and pretty much all of Twitter something to talk about specifically, the actions of the Joint Chiefs Chairman Army General Mark Milley that he took when Trump`s actions became unsound.

Bloomberg opinion columnist Tim O`Brien says Milley should not have been surprised at what he said to have witnessed, quote, when he warns, the Republican Party continues to embrace and foment Trumpism. Much could still go wrong. And we can`t rely on military leaders going rogue to protect us from rogue President.

Still with us, our friends, Eugene Robinson, and Stuart Stevens. So, Stuart, what do you make of this dust up over General Milley, who truly was encountered with a Colonel Kurtz situation? And whether his enemies want to admit it or not? Was the human guard rail in the Pentagon, which was without a senate confirmed defense secretary?

STEVENS: Yes, I mean, as you pointed out earlier on the show, something similar happened when Nixon was falling apart at impeachment. But look, Nixon on his worst day is Socrates compared to Donald Trump. I mean, this is a guy who was a lunatic.

So what do you do with a lunatic who has nuclear weapons? I think maybe you put the country first. And that seems to me to what happened here. I have absolutely no problem with it at all. And I think the majority of Americans, the idea that there was a stabilizing force at a time when the government itself was under attack by a party and not being defended by the President. I think most Americans will find it reassuring.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, as I said earlier, Twitter users may not like it. But the truth is, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their counterparts overseas have had a running dialogue for decades that has largely kept the world safer. And it`s -- do you think the opposition to this is performance art? Do you think one of Marco Rubio calls for his resignation? He`s also hoping we forget that Rubio was the first person during the campaign originally to warn the nation about giving the nuclear codes to Donald Trump.

ROBINSON: Oh, absolutely. When Rubio does its performance art, and when most of the Republicans who are complaining and the people on Fox News, whatever, yes, it`s absolutely performance. Because as you said, these kinds of conversations at that level, have taken place, often over a long period of time, and that`s exactly what should happen.

And at that moment, it was vital that it happened because President Trump, as Speaker Pelosi pointed out wasn`t even crazy. He was -- we had a president who was unfit, who was crazy, who was desperate to cling to power.


And it was absolutely necessary for someone to reassure the Chinese and anybody else who would listen, by the way, I hope that there were more level headed people were in the chain of command or who had positions of power in this administration, who were not going to run off and do something insane. And given that we had a president who wasn`t saying that`s impact was important. It`s very reassuring to me and it`s not a surprise.

WILLIAMS: We are so grateful for our two friends for joining us tonight. Eugene Robinson and he have the strong Socrates material tonight. Stuart Stevens. Thank you both for making our conversation better and more robust. Coming up for us, one of the doctors who has talked us through this pandemic regularly on this broadcast. Well, that very same doctor now has COVID will talk to him after this.


WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, the major COVID vaccine makers are arguing for booster shots and indeed people are already getting their booster shots but it`s still not clear if the FDA is going to go along. Their advisory committee meets Friday they could vote to approve a third dose for anyone over 16.

But as Politico puts up, the FDA said observational studies don`t unanimously support the suggestion that the original vaccine shots efficacy declines over time.

We`ve also learned one of our favorite frontline physicians has joined the ranks of those with a breakthrough infection, none other than Dr. Stephen Sample, an emergency physician from Jasper, Indiana. We`ve talked to him regularly during this pandemic but for night tonight is the first time he joins us as a COVID patient. He is in his basement and in quarantine and has been kind enough to join us from there tonight.


Doc, around here this has taken on the significance of like, where were you when you learn that Steve Sample had COVID? We are chiefly curious about how you`re feeling, how you`re doing. And are we just assuming you got this from an unvaccinated Hoosier?

DR. STEPEHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Good evening, Brian. Yes, probably, probably an unvaccinated Hoosier. Yes, I just got my diagnosis just a couple of days ago. I`ve been working kind of, you know, in a COVID soup for the last two or three months. It`s been really intense around here.

And I was hoping that it wasn`t going to happen to me. I tried everything I could. I surrounded myself, you know, with a veil of vaccinated people around me. But ultimately, I`ve still got to go to work and take care of patients, right.

I`m feeling all right. I`ve got really a man cold, I suppose. Like, I feel bad enough that I want you to feel bad for me. But really not bad enough yet that you probably should, you know.

WILLIAMS: I don`t feel bad for anyone with shelves in their basement as curated and beautiful as yours. So at least you have that going for you. Even though we can`t let you leave the basement for two weeks. Hey, let`s talk about boosters since they`re now important in your life.

So many -- you`re both in the Air National Guard Reserve, and you`re a health care professional. So both of those categories required and deserved early onset vaccinations. It`s been many months for a lot of doctors in this country. A lot of doctors should be first in line for the boosters. I presume you are pro booster.

SAMPLE: Yes, you know, so I`m watching this with as much interest as you guys are. And of course, you`re seeing scientists, even within the within the scientific community fight about this, which this is it`s super unfortunate that people are watching this happen in real time because as physicians and scientists, we fight about data, and study results all of the time. But you`re getting to watch this happen in real time.

I am certainly pro booster for the people who need it. The data that`s coming in is a little unclear. And I think that people are making that clear. And I know that people with very good intentions on both sides of the argument are looking at this stuff.

Yes, I got vaccinated in the middle of December and early in January. I was literally day one. I lined up. I took my kid. I was like, let`s go. You know, clearly my antibody titers have waned to a certain degree, which is expected. And certainly the vaccines, though they help prevent hospitalization and death. They don`t make you bulletproof. You know, it doesn`t bounce off of you. I read that earlier. And I was like, Oh, yeah, it`s like Superman with bullets bouncing off. But that`s not really the way it works, especially in your upper airway, where COVID likes to take hold.

WILLIAMS: You received, I`m told the monoclonal antibody treatment. For those of us who are civilians, what is it? What`s the process? What does it do for you?

SAMPLE: Yes, so the research shows, the monoclonal antibodies are basically trying to dump a vaccine in you after the fact right, so we get vaccinated, our body sees. We`re trying to trick our body into thinking that we have had an infection, and our body makes all these antibodies. And then, you know, when you see the virus later, you`re ready to attack.

So the monoclonal antibodies are kind of -- they`re laser targeted on that virus hoping that you can diminish the amount of replication. And if you diminish viral load, you know, it`s thought to prevent serious illness and death. And for the vaccinated people, honestly, it`s not entirely clear, at least to me, if I was even necessarily supposed to get them. I`ve been getting them. I`ve been given them to my vaccinated breakthrough cases that meet criteria and I mean criteria just because I carry too much weight in my gut. Frankly, my BMI is above the level for our local stuff.

But I went in this morning. I scheduled yesterday. I walked into an infusion center. They put an IV in my arm. I took a half an hour infusion. I stayed for an hour to make sure that I didn`t have an allergic reaction. While I was there, I stole their computer and caught up on some charting. And then I went home and I`ve been sitting in my basement where my wife kicked me literally 15 seconds after my diagnosis the other night and I haven`t come out since.

WILLIAMS: OK, I`m on her side. Listen to your wife. Binge on the sopranos. Get better. Stay well. Stay in touch.



WILLIAMS: We wish you nothing but the best. Thank you for having us and tonight and all best to you. Dr. Stephen Sample, our guest tonight. He`s also a patient.

Coming up, There are 14 people from planet earth who are not with us here on the planet tonight. That`s because they are presently in space. Four of the 14 are in the news tonight, and we will show you why.


WILLIAMS: Don`t recall Apollo 11 having a live studio audience but whatever that was just hours ago a launch that mark the legitimate start of space tourism. SpaceX owned famously by Elon Musk sent a crew made entirely of civilian tourists into space, there are four of them. They are now way higher up than the relatively modest altitude that Branson and Bezos achieved in their first flights.

In fact, this crew is up twice as high as John Glenn travel during his famous first orbital flight. The SpaceX spacecraft is right now orbiting our Earth nearly 360 miles up a higher orbit than our international space station. They will now circle our planet 15 times every day thereabouts, roughly every 90 minutes for the next three days.

The launch was funded by one of its passengers as they do, a billionaire named Jared Isaacson. The crews been training for this since March. Mission began tonight at Cape Canaveral, Florida where our own Cal Perry joins us live.


So Cal, I was thinking about this tonight early air travel was, at first only the brave and then only the rich and think about space travel at first, only the brave. And now it`s opened up to the rich, but the goal is to make it like Southwest Airlines someday, I guess.

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That`s right and Elon Musk and SpaceX thinks this is the road to doing that they will point to what they can reuse, they can reuse the rocket. The rocket that took these four new astronauts to space has been used twice before to put military satellites into orbit. The actual capsule that they`re using has been to the International Space Station. So that is SpaceX`s answer to how do we make this cheaper? How do we open it up to everybody?

In watching this launch and standing here on the roof and talking to this crew, the way that my generation and I`m old enough to know what a stick of demons is and what the right stuff is, the way that my generation looks at those Apollo missions is the way that my kids are going to look at the shuttle missions.

The idea than a shuttle mission that we used to just dump the boosters into the sea, stick them in a warehouse not reuse them. That is old. That is out. Elon Musk`s SpaceX, like you said, they`re going further and farther than Bezos, they`re doing things that are more difficult. And this is a man and a company that wants to be in the space freight business. They are the way on and off the International Space Station. They can take 50,000 pounds of gear into orbit that`s how they think they`re going to make their money, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Cal, how much real work is this crew doing? And again, to your point readjusting our thinking those of us who are a certain age nice Ridley shout out by the way. We think of you know the astronaut Training Corps years and years and years of preparation. These are for space tourists. After all, how much real work will they be accomplishing?

PERRY: So they went through six months of training so that they can if they need to minorly fly the spacecraft, that is make some adjustments, that is make some tweaks to it. The idea is that this is all automated, controlled from California, Hawthorne, California that you can get on this spacecraft. This is the goal in the future. You can go up into orbit higher deeper than the International Space Station, come back three days later, without touching a button. That`s the goal.

The goal is to open it up so that people with no space training can do it. They can just get on and get off. I still think you`re going to need the bravery though. But that`s the theory. These four if it all goes right, they will need to do anything, Brian, as far as flying spacecraft.

WILLIAMS: Cal Perry, it`s always great to witness a launch from the Space Coast in Florida and I envy you the evening you`ve had down there. Thank you very much for staying up to join us tonight. Cal Perry, our man in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Coming up, a look at what Fox News is doing. And what Fox News is saying to their customers during this pandemic and how very different those two things are.




BIDEN: The vaccine requirements work and more companies are instituting them, even at Fox News that require. And I`m not being facetious when I say that. But it`s interesting that they`ve stepped forward and done that as well.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, the Fox Corporation receiving praise as you saw there from the President, for its diligent efforts to contain the virus behind the scenes among its employees. Fox has a strict policy of demanding all their workers be vaccinated or face daily testing. 90 percent of the Fox workforce reports that they are now fully vaccinated.

Now we should stress that`s Fox employees, the inner workings of the company that the viewers can`t see. But it`s the kind of responsible H.R. measures that companies like Fox are undertaking.

Of course, the Murdoch Empire doesn`t make any money off a good strict diligent H.R. measure. They make their money from the viewership. And that`s a totally different matter on television when they`re speaking to their customers. Fox is fine with being seen as the network casting doubt on the vaccine as a powerful new spot by the Lincoln Project points out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The focus of this administration on vaccination is mind boggling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unless we really have a compelling case, no one under age 30 should be seeing any one of these vaccines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe none of this is really about COVID. Maybe it`s about social control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Control from day one. This has never been about following the science. It`s never been about following the facts and the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about this vaccine was it created intentionally to infect humans?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They still think that parents should trust them and inject their kids with an experimental drug to prevent a disease. Almost none of those kids will ever get sick from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they took that vaccine and they feel safe about it, then they shouldn`t worry about if we had it or not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you want me to get the vaccine, give me an incentive to get the vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if it doesn`t prevent you from catching the Coronavirus, why are we taking it in the first place?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing more anti-democratic, anti-freedom than pushing an experimental drug and Americans against their will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government is purging the military spying on its own citizens because of a virus that isn`t killing very many people anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about.


WILLIAMS: Lincoln Project to take us off the air tonight. And with that that is our broadcast for this Wednesday evening. It comes with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.