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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, August 12, 2020

Guests: Murtaza Akhter, Stephen Sample


Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris blasted COVID-19 response by the Trump administration during their first appearance as running mates. The White House issued another set of guidelines for in-person classroom instruction and Trump was confident about sending kids right back into the classroom. GOP's initial fumbling response to Kamala Harris' selection signals there is no clear strategy to define the historic pick. Trump says that he is looking forward to a potential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence saying the vice president will do better against her. Crops in Iowa have been blown down to the ground in the catastrophic wind event that hit on Monday.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: The book is, "It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party became Donald Trump". Stuart Stevens gets tonight's LAST WORD. Thank you, Stuart.

"THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 1,301of the Trump administration, leaving 83 days until our presidential election. And today, we got to see the Democratic ticket. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris together for the first time this afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware. And as close as a pandemic would allow just like the rest of this pandemic campaign season thus far.

It was an unusual and silent rollout, both candidates emerged wearing masks removing them only to speak. Yet when they did, they wasted no time and drawing a stark contrast with the current president for losing control of the pandemic and the U.S. economy.


JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: No real leadership or plan from the president United States how to get this pandemic under control. He's issuing executive orders and making promises because this president says it's not my fault. The governors should thank me more. As the old saying goes, give me a break. We have an economic crisis. Donald Trump is on track to break another record. On track to leave offices with the worst jobs record of any American president in modern history.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESUMPTIVE VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut. More than 16 million out of work. Millions of kids who cannot go back to school. A crisis of poverty, of homelessness, more than 165,000 lives that have been cut short. Many with loved ones who never got the chance to say goodbye. When other countries are following the science, Trump pushed miracle cures he saw on Fox News. While other countries are flattening the curve, he said the virus would just, poof, go away.


WILLIAMS: While these Democrats try to frame this campaign about the virus which is not a reach, the U.S. has now topped 5.2 million confirmed cases. Over 166,000 Americans have lost their lives. Tonight, the Washington Post has this sobering report about the rate of deaths, quote, Wednesday, the country reported its highest number of deaths in a single day since mid-May at nearly 1,500. The country has now seen its seven-day average of newly reported deaths remain above a thousand for 17 consecutive days.

The Daily Beast reporting tonight the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, their projections have been used by the White House coronavirus Task Force, is warning that Baltimore, Chicago, Boston could all be next virus hotspots. None of that mentioned during today's White House briefing which started shortly after the Biden-Harris event. Instead, the president started with praise for the economy. He compared the U.S. recovery to other nations. He again hailed Wall Street's numbers and said it all signals a V-shaped economy as he put it.

Trump also blamed Democrats for stalled relief talks on Capitol Hill. He seemed to threaten to not fund the post office to stop universal mail-in voting. Then he got around to the virus.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many other locations is doing very well. And many locations are really in fantastic shape. Some with very little of any problem, large portions of the United States.


WILLIAMS: Then after re-introducing his new adviser, the Fox News contributor Scott Atlas, Trump was back on the attack against Kamala Harris.


TRUMP: I didn't watch, I saw just a moment of him speaking, a moment of her speaking and it was enough. Look, he made a choice. He picked her. I watched her.

I watched her poll numbers, go boom, boom, boom, down to almost nothing. And she left angry, she left mad. There was nobody more insulting to Biden than she was. And now all of a sudden she's running to be vice president saying how wonderful he is. I thought it was a very unusual pick because you said such bad things.

I think that's probably one of the reasons she was a terrible candidate and was forced to leave the race because she got her facts wrong. You know, she's very bad on facts. We've done the best job of any country in the world and that includes from making ventilators that nobody else could have done. When you look at the job that we've done compared to others, we've done a great job.


WILLIAMS: Earlier in the day, using language and rhetoric, let's face it straight out of another time. He said this on Twitter, quote, the suburban housewife will be voting for me. They want safety and are thrilled that I ended the long running program where Low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it in a bigger form with misspelled Cory Booker in charge.

And he's still pushing hard for the reopening of schools and businesses and for athletes to get back into competition. He talks about college football everyday now. Today, the White House issued yet another set of guidelines for in-person classroom instruction, the emphasis primarily on hygiene, social distancing, advice we've already heard. And today it is briefing Trump was again confident about sending kids right back into the classroom.


TRUMP: Children appear to face the lowest risk of all. It's 99.995 percent of all fatalities are adults. Think of that, 99.95 that is extremely close to a hundred percent of all fatalities are adults. Each of the last five years that flu resulted in more deaths of those under 18. We believe many school districts can now reopen safely. We got to open up, we got open up our schools and open up our businesses.


WILLIAMS: We should look into that fatality rate here with our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night. Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winning White House bureau chief for the Washington Post and co-author along with his very stable colleague, Carol Leonnig, of the best-selling book, "A Very Stable Genius", Shannon Pettypiece, veteran journalist, senior White House reporter for us at NBC News digital, and Dr. Murtaza Akhter, clinical professor at Arizona's University College of Medicine in Phoenix. I'll get it out. He also has expertise in how racial inequality in our society and income inequality affect longevity.

At long last, good evening, and welcome to all of you. Shannon, you're there on the beat and we can't be, is it as obvious to you that the president seems to be casting about for a way to go after this new woman on the ticket that the whole world --

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBCNEWS. COM SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, people inside the Trump campaign certainly knew Harris was a possible candidate. They had a lot of pre-prepared material and videos ready to put out on her. But what they didn't have was a really cohesive message. Instead, they had really a bipolar message between, she is too tough on crime and, you know, was locking up inmates and appropriately as a prosecutor, too. She's too soft on crime and wants to defund the police and will contribute to this narrative they're painting of, you know, crime and law and order being lost under a Democratic president.

You know, a lot of the lines of attack that the Trump campaign has been rolling out against her are the same exact ones they have used against every Democrat for well over a year. And that is trying to tie whoever their Democratic rival is to the far left-wing of the party. And essentially scare independent voters into thinking that they will lose their healthcare, lose their cars, lose their safety if a Democrat is in the White House.

And that strategy could potentially be effective if someone from the far left-wing of the party was on the ticket. But instead you have Barack Obama's vice president and a career prosecutor and senator on the ticket who they simultaneously want to paint as part of this establishment Washington regime. So it's real whiplash messaging, they have failed to really land on a message that can tap into Biden's poll numbers. And at least as of now, they don't appear to have a real cohesive one that is doing any damage to Harris.

WILLIAMS: And indeed, Phil Rucker, Biden and Harris come right out at the president for his calamitous response to the pandemic. And to a viewer in a way, he played into that with his daily briefing which always seems to be a briefing on a pandemic unlike the one we're living.

PHILIP RUCKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, Brian. This is, of course, a president who has been prone to magical thinking throughout this pandemic and in fact has promoted magical cures. But he consumes data that's different than the facts that we all see. We see cases going up, we see deaths going up, we see the U.S. lagging behind so many other countries around the world. And to hear Trump tell the story, you know, he thinks that the response here has been great. In fact, he calls it historic and wonderful that he should be getting plaudits for that.

And that's not what the science shows, that's not what the data show. And that's certainly not what candidates Biden and Harris were arguing today on the campaign trail where they really laid out the case against Trump. And Harris in particular use her skill as a prosecutor to make a very sharp and cogent prosecution against the president that I assume we're going to hear amplified all of next week during the Democratic National Convention.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Doctor, your reaction to hearing the president say that schools should be open because they should open in September. And in releasing the list of guidelines today, mask wearing was number seven out of eight.

DR. MURTAZA AKHTER, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes. I mean, at the very least he didn't -- he wouldn't come out anti-mask, I guess. But encouraging masks is different from requiring them. We know how effective masks are. And we know that if you just tell people that as a guideline they'll often not follow. We've seen this into different states in our country where people have guidelines versus requirements versus do what you want. And clearly, it's not a coincidence which states have the highest case of COVID.

To send kids back to school, I think in some places, OK but we actually have some pretty distinct metrics for when it's OK. And clearly, we've seen the failures of some states including Georgia on controlling this. And so for him to say, listen, everybody, go back to school when we clearly haven't controlled a pandemic is appalling, and not to get too political by his last campaign message was to make America great again, most Americans just want to make America safe again.

WILLIAMS: Shannon Pettypiece, a true QAnon conspiracy believer won her primary in very conservative Georgia district. Lot of folks are saying she is headed for the House of Representatives. The president tweeted out this, "Congratulations to future Republican star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent. Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up, a real winner."

Shannon, this puts him at odds with some in his own party including some leaders on the Republican side on the Hill.

PETTYPIECE: I mean, he's at odds on so many things right now with people in his own party particularly those on the Hill like when it comes to trying to pass some sort of stimulus package. You know, the president is obviously, you know, would like to see Republicans take back the House, that's probably not going to happen despite, you know, it's, you know, this candidate wins in Georgia. The Senate is now at risk, and there is this, yes, balancing act right now between everyone on the Hill about how (INAUDIBLE) to align themselves with the president that no one seems to really figure themselves out at.

So, yes, coming out and openly endorsing a QAnon conspiracy theory supporter, I mean, the president has himself tweeted QAnon conspiracy theories. So it's completely out of line but a certainly one more divide between him and almost all of his own party in the Senate.

WILLIAMS: And at your own risk, we urge our viewers who have never gotten the QAnon thing to look up exactly what it is they believed in.

Hey, Phil, our friends over at the recount have noticed certain sameness to the president's Coronavirus briefings. We'll play this as put together by them discuss it on the other side.


TRUMP: The United States has now conducted more than 66 million tests that's far more than any other country in the world. The (INAUDIBLE) America is the largest at risk population, 1.5 million residents of nursing homes about five times that of other European countries and we were on track to rapidly produce 100 million doses of as soon as the vaccine is approved and we've delivered over 1,800 rapid point of care testing devices to nursing homes.


WILLIAMS: So, Phil, he comes out every day and reads the first part of the briefing, takes a few questions and then leaves. Is it because of this kind of blizzard of by rote facts and quotes that they have been rendered meaningless also in part because Americans, we are all living our reality in this pandemic.

RUCKER: Yes. You know, Brian, when the president resumed these Coronavirus briefings a few weeks ago, he began to be fairly disciplined for him in reading that script. And it's a script that's prepared every day by his advisers in the White House. They want him to get those statistics out there to try to spin, to try to frame the virus is somehow under the president's control and the situation in the United States improving even though the reality that so many Americans are living is not consistent with what the president has been saying.

Nonetheless, he reads that script and kudos to the guys at the recount for showing us that it is literally the same script every day at least pieces of it. And, you know, then he takes a few questions. What we've not seen from him as what we saw throughout the spring which was the angry sparring with reporters at briefings that would stretch for an hour, two hours long, the crazy suggestions like injecting bleach or household disinfectant into your body to cure the coronavirus which a good doctor on the panel would tell us is not actually a cure to the coronavirus. But the president's been trying to be a little bit more disciplined in these briefings and that's because his advisers have told him he needs to do this. He needs to read this script in order to improve his poll numbers.

He, you know, Americans disapprove of his handling of the coronavirus according to virtually every public poll that we've seen. And so these briefings are an effort to try to reverse that trend. And by reading that script that's prepared for him his advisers think he might be able to gain some ground.

WILLIAMS: Indeed. Doctor, the president keeps talking about your state. He has decided, you now have a stellar record on this virus that you've turned it around and suppressed it. What is the reality on the ground? What lessons have you learned? And as one of them, the lesson that mitigation works, works even better before people die?

AKHTER: Yes, that's exactly right. That's one of the things that people are forgetting is that it didn't come without a cost. If you look at our death curve, while the case we're going down, the death curves are going up which is obviously concerning. And I don't know why he wants to laud our state so much. There are states that actually did a good job with this, you could praise them but I guess they belong to the other side of the aisle.

Keep in mind, even though our case are going down and they are and even though it feels nicer in the ER, I'll admit it doesn't feel as bad. If you look at the per capita per child per capita basis of cases that we're getting for COVID and pediatric COVID, Arizona is number one in the country. So again, if you look per capita for children, Arizona has the most per child. And this is before school has even started in person. My wife as teacher, multiple friends of hers are teachers, they are all concerned about it and with good reason.

So you can praise Arizona all you want, this job isn't done, there's a long way to go. And I'm actually concerned it could potentially get worse based on what we're seeing other states that have let schools open.

WILLIAMS: Well, my advice is if you want to feel better about the situation in Arizona, listen to one of these briefings because to listen to the briefings, everything is just fine there.

Our thanks to our big three tonight. To Phil Rucker, to Shannon Pettypiece, and most especially to Dr. Murtaza Akhter out in Arizona. Thank you all very much.

And coming up, Democrats wonder, is this the best they've got after hearing a less than robust case against Kamala Harris by the president and other Republicans.

And later, maybe we're asking the wrong question about reopening schools and maybe the question is this. Do you want your kids bringing back home whatever is in their classroom. We'll talk to a doctor on the front lines of that fight where this hasn't disappeared either just yet.

"THE 11TH HOUR" just getting underway on yet another consequential Wednesday night.



HARRIS: Trump is also the reason millions of Americans are now unemployed. He inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden and then like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground. This is what happens when we elect the guy who just isn't up for the job.


WILLIAMS: You've seen her on those live hearings in Congress. You know, she's a former prosecutor. That was a former prosecutor making the case against the sitting president. For his part, the president today tried a couple of attacks. He said as you heard him say she left the race angry, she left mad. He said she was mean to Joe Biden. And he said again today she doesn't like fracking or fossil fuels.

Fox News Tonight went after her for being part of the swamp though she's a first term senator. NBC News reporting tonight some Republicans are indeed worried about the mixed messaging, quote, Trump campaign advisors and allies are expressing concern that the GOP's initial fumbling response to her selection signals there is no clear strategy to define the historic pick in the weeks ahead.

Well, with us again tonight are two people who were with me live on television when the selection was announced. Claire McCaskill, former Democratic senator from the great state of Missouri, and Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Washington Post.

So, Senator, you've had 24 hours to take it in and today, additionally 24 hours later we saw the rollout granted a muted affair in the middle of a pandemic. What did you make of seeing the ticket together and hearing them today?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, considering that they had a real issue that they didn't have live feedback from an audience, I was very worried that it was going to be sterile and that it was going to be like fall flat. But I will tell you they both did a terrific job today I think. Laying out the case of why they would be a good team for America, and a very strong case about the disasters that have become normal under Donald Trump.

And I will tell you, I am -- the incompetency of the Trump campaign that they can't figure out how to go after Kamala Harris, they can't land a punch. I mean, they just can't land the punch. They are -- they go back and forth, she's too far-left, she's too far-right. She hates cops, she loves cops. She is part of the far-left, she is part of the establishment.

I mean, they are really all over the map and that just shows you that they do not have a good answer to the challenge that Kamala Harris presents with her addition to this ticket.

WILLIAMS: On that exact point, Gene, for those scoring at home and I get paid to do this, yesterday gave us three nastys from the president, today we got one angry and one sad. This is a challenge that they have thrown at Donald Trump and to Claire's point, this boxes him in at least rhetorically and at least a little bit.

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Right. He hasn't figured this out yet, and he may never figure it out. I mean, nasty is just sort of his placeholder installed for strong women challenging him. And so that, you know, he would probably calling my good friend Claire nasty (INAUDIBLE) given the (INAUDIBLE).

MCCASKILL: Absolutely.

ROBINSON: Now, today he went to, you know, angry. And if anything -- I mean, the one thing I do think we will probably see is a sort of him trying to paint Kamala Harris as an angry black woman. And so I think he's going to go straight for the racism and the misogyny in combined, the sort of daily Double. And that's the only play he has come up with so far. He doesn't have any better attack on her and that doesn't seem to take him very far.

So, this is really a portrait of disarray in terms of what the Trump team is messaging right now. And the president just -- I mean, he's not even tweeting, you know. There's his tweet so far about her was just (INAUDIBLE) and said nothing. So we didn't know what to say.

WILLIAMS: Racism and misogyny as the daily double is a quote that may live on after tonight.

Hey, Claire, the president made this prediction about a potential Pence-Harris debate. We'll talk about it on the other side.


TRUMP: I think she's going to be a big failure. And I think I look forward to the debate between her and Mike Pence because I think he'll do even better against her than he did a bet against Senator Kaine which was a total wipeout. So we'll see how it all works out.


WILLIAMS: Claire, I'm guessing your prediction would be at odds with that.

MCCASKILL: It would be. Now I want to be careful here because if we set expectations too high for Kamala, that's not fair for her. But, this is somebody who knows how to make a point quickly and succinctly and powerfully. You know, she's not just been an elected prosecutor, Brian, I want to point out that she was an assistant DA. And when you were in a -- you start as an assistant prosecutor, you get in the courtroom, you learn how to think on your feet. You don't know what's going to come off that witness stand. You don't know exactly how the evidence is going to come out. So you are prepared in ways that people who have not been in a courtroom really aren't and that's who this woman is.

And by the way, he said she's mean, sad, angry, all of that stuff. You know, this is a woman if you think of her speech today, I think of warmth. I think of her smiling, I think of her authenticity just oozing out of every pore in terms of how she explained her childhood and her past to the where she is today. And in her affection for Joe Biden. So I think she'll be able to with surgical precision do some real damage to Mike Pence with a big smile on her face.

WILLIAMS: Our guests are staying with us through this break. When we come back, we'll talk about this ticket. Is there any work they need to do to present a united front going forward as we go forward on this Wednesday night?


WILLIAMS: We are back with our guests, former Senator Claire McCaskill and Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post. And Eugene, this is for you. 1951 called again in the form of Trump's tweet this morning, the suburban housewife will be voting for me. They want safety and are thrilled that I ended the long running program where, wait for it, low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it and a bigger form with misspelled Cory Booker in charge.

And Eugene, as the man on TV says, but wait, there's more. Here's Trump on the same topic in today's briefing.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're going to, in my opinion, destroy suburbia. 30 percent plus are minorities living in suburbia, and when they go in and they want to change zoning, so that you have lots of problems where they want to build low-income housing. You want something where people can aspire to be there. That's something where it gets hurt badly.


WILLIAMS: So Eugene, I don't know if you're aware, apparently these non-white minorities have been seeping into the suburbs to the tune of 30 percent of the population. And it sounds like they're kind of the new caravan they could be arriving in marauding vehicles to take any toys your children leave out in the yard. What is going on here?

ROBINSON: What is going on here is, as you said, 1951 call, but this is -- he's imagining the white suburban America that he grew up with, that he grew up knowing that he grew up keeping families out of his father's apartment buildings, and for which he got sued by the Justice Department. I think 73. That's the world he's talking about.

And he acknowledges but certainly doesn't internalize or understand that the suburbs have changed and that the people in America suburbs right now are not really that scared of Cory Booker. They're really not. And it's, but as I said, you know, racism is one of the things he's going to use. That's just the sort of clearest and it's turning out, perhaps clumsiest but clearest racist appeal that I think I've heard for many presidential candidate since George Wallace. I mean, you know, but more than Richard Nixon and it is shocking, but this is Donald Trump.

This is what he's going with and, and he'll continue to drive that wedge. And by driving that wedge, I think he isolates is smaller and diminishing base away from the mainstream of America, the mainstream of today is America.

WILLIAMS: And Claire that's the question, is the math there even in his wildest dreams, as a matter of demographics, and a country where the American suburbs as Eugene said, look a lot like America.

MCCASKILL: Yes, and you can smell the fear in his tweets at this point. He's in big trouble in the suburbs with women. Now, ironically, he thinks that the suburbs are full of women like June Cleaver, and they are not.

There are a lot of women in the suburbs that are working in both in and outside the home. Right now they're doing double duty. They're caring for parents, they're teaching their children. They are most of them working. So he's thinking that he's going to somehow get women back by making them scared to death. That people of color are going to move into their neighborhoods.

That is not going to work. That is not going to bring suburban women along, especially when he does it with the back of his hand like he did. So, he's in trouble with suburban women. And by the way, Kamala Harris is going to be terrific with suburban women.

WILLIAMS: To all our viewers, welcome to 2020 our thanks to our guests tonight. Claire McCaskill, Eugene Robinson, as always, greatly appreciated.

Coming up for us, back to school, already an emotional time for parents. It's an intensely personal decision. Without politics complicating the picture further, we get an update from Middle America when we come back.



TRUMP: I have a feeling that on November 4th, somebody's going on out schools are open. The country's open, everything's open. I really believe a lot of it's done for political reasons.


WILLIAMS: The President continues to seem to believe it's about him. It is about politics that is keeping schools from reopening and it certainly couldn't be safety concerns about a virus in the middle of a pandemic. Meanwhile, it was just days after this photo appeared on social media showing Georgia students crowded together in a hallway, the school was closed down, and another Georgia school district nearby nearly 1,200 students and teachers are presently quarantining after dozens of positive tests.

And from the American Academy of Pediatrics, a study that dispels the notion that kids don't get sick or spread this disease nearly 100,000 children tested positive in the last two weeks of July alone. It's also fair to point out here that the President's youngest son Baron Trump is not returning to his in-person classes at his school.

Back with us tonight is Dr. Stephen Sample. He's an ER doc at Memorial Hospital and Healthcare Center out in Jasper, Indiana. And doctor, we know you're still having a lot of confirmed cases. What is the situation where you are?

DR. STEPHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Good evening, Brian. Situations about the same here except for one development is we opened schools today in the city. So we had thousands of kids heading back to school today. So, we're a couple of weeks from seeing where this is going to play. Our positivity rate remains about steady. We're about 18 percent positive tests. So we're still flying blind here in our county. Not knowing where this virus is.

WILLIAMS: Because we get to be invited into nice people's homes like yours over time I've seen a couple family members come and go in the background and maybe a golden retriever. That is a way of saying I believe you are a parent and I believe you have had to make this intensely personal decision yourself.

SAMPLE: I have. My youngest daughter Riley is 19 and she will be starting her sophomore year at Indiana University just in a couple of weeks. She's supposed to leave on Friday after night. We thought long and hard about it. And we decided to go ahead and send her. I've prepped her for the fact that she might not be there long, but she's going to go.

WILLIAMS: And what's her mindset? This is supposed to be nerve wracking time, yes, but also a time of great expectations. This is supposed to be the terrific time in someone's life.

SAMPLE: Absolutely, she's completely bummed out, you know, she's in a sorority moving into the sorority house this year. She's following my steps right now on the pre-med track and she has found out from the last week that all of our classes saved one are going to be online.

So her sorority life is going to be severely limited. Certainly no big gatherings. Football season in the BIG 10 just got canceled, which is a big deal. Not so much in Indiana where a basketball state but it's just going to look a lot different. I feel really bad for him. It's tough. It seems small in the scheme of things is a big deal to them.

WILLIAMS: Oh, no, it's very much a big deal. We'll be thinking over and Lord knows the world needs good, talented young doctors. On the doctor front, the President has welcomed in this new part time Fox contributor Scott Atlas.

Meantime, the members of the actual coronavirus task force, the public health experts might as well be in the Witness Protection Program. We haven't heard from them. We certainly haven't seen them standing behind a White House podium. So what's a doctor like you? You're in a public health role in your community, what are you supposed to do?

SAMPLE: Right, so we've kind of been left on our own. Certainly we have our State Department of Health, that gives briefings that we follow. And really the doctors have bonded underground. We're online. We're in Facebook groups, we're on Twitter. And we are putting our heads together nationwide, figuring this out on our own. We're looking at the science. We're ignoring the bad science and the junk that's coming out on Facebook and we're continuing to try to put forward the best information we can to our communities. And that meets varying levels of success honestly.

WILLIAMS: Again, as we keep saying to our viewers, this is where we are in the year 2020. Thank you again for having us in. Dr. Stephen Sample joining us from Indiana tonight. Coming up for us, Russia is already offering a vaccine. Putin says his daughter's already had it. Other countries will probably soon follow. That doesn't mean people will get the vaccine. We'll take a good hard look at that story when we come right back.


WILLIAMS: So we reported on this yesterday. Russia says it's the first nation to approve a coronavirus vaccine but the experimental vaccine has not completed late stage trials designed to test its safety and effectiveness, things like that. Tony Fauci says he has serious doubts that Russia's version is safe or effective. Yet once a vaccine is completely tested, there will still be skepticism here and overseas. NBC News correspondent Carl Nasman has our report.


CARL NASMAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the shots the world is waiting for researchers racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine in record time doing in months what often takes more than a decade. Nearly 200 vaccines are currently in development worldwide including two high profile trials right here in the U.K.

(on camera): And as we get encouraging news on their progress, health officials are starting to worry about the next challenge, how to get people to actually take the vaccine.

(voice-over): In fact, many of U.S. already feeling uneasy when Americans were asked if they would get a vaccine, just over half said no over unsure and growing skepticism in several European countries nearly a third of respondents saying they might refuse.

Professor Heidi Larson of the Vaccine Confidence Project in London says a lot of that unease comes from the speed of development.

HEIDI LARSON, DIRECTOR, THE VACCINE CONFIDENCE PROGRAM: I would say the most common anxiety is all the rhetoric and hype around speed, warp speed, fast, we'll get there quickly. The first sentiment is and we've seen it with a lot. Too fast can't be saved.

NASMAN: That reluctance could hurt the global effort to safely reopen and get the virus under control.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says to do that at least 75 percent of the U.S. will need to be vaccinated, standing in the way a growing community of anti vaccine activists and a digital pandemic of misinformation about vaccines and their suppose the dangers. But doubts surrounding this vaccine go beyond the so called anti-Vax community, and now include people who've had no issues taking vaccines in the past.

STEVE KRAMER, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA RESIDENT: I'm supportive of vaccines for certain. I've always kept my vaccinations up to date. However, I'm skeptical about potential testing, protocols and maybe they're shorter than a traditional vaccine would go through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, go ahead. Please.

NASMAN: With so much on the line vaccines are becoming political, but the message from the President's isn't always clear. Before taking office, Donald Trump spreading misinformation on the campaign trail.

TRUMP: Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child a beautiful job, went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever got very, very sick now is autistic.

NASMAN: Now as COVID-19 continues its U.S. surge, President Trump promoting a vaccine, even suggesting one could be available by election day.

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS: So what's the earliest we could see that, a vaccine?

TRUMP: Sooner than the end of the year could be much sooner.

RIVERA: Sooner than November 3rd.

TRUMP: I think in some cases, yes, possible before but right around that time.

NASMAN: With the administration still struggling to control the outbreak, Professor Larson believes plans for a vaccine rollout need to involve more than just government.

LARSON: We need schools and educational institutions, businesses, transportation sectors. All of them have a vested interest in people taking vaccines and without this whole of society approach, it's not going to work because the trust in government is really wobbling.

NASMAN (on camera): With several vaccine candidates now answering their final phase of testing, including one in Oxford University here in England, any sort of plan will likely need to be ready in a matter of months. Brian.


WILLIAMS: Carl Nasman, thank you for that report from London. Coming up, what we are just now learning about what hit the Midwest this past Monday.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, we have two satellite photos of Iowa, one taken before Monday of this week and the other after Monday. We'll look at the combination again, here's Iowa before and then after what happened on Monday and we have highlighted for you the areas that have turned a different color green. Those are crops that have been blown down to the ground, miles and miles of them in the catastrophic wind event that hit on Monday. That is called a derecho. It moved across the Midwest at highway speeds with winds up to and over 100 miles an hour at times, straight line winds at hurricane and tornado force.

They scarred the earth indeed visible from space and left behind a ton of damage. We are just now learning and tallying up the loss to American farming. And Dave Malkoff of the Weather Channel made his way to an Iowa corn farm.


DAVE MALKOFF, WEATHER CHANNEL (voice-over): Crop after crop, it's all been to coin a phrase 2020.

LANCE LILLIBRIDGE, IOWA CORN GROWERS ASSOCIATION: 2020 is going to be like a four letter word, I'm afraid.

MALKOFF: Lance Lillibridge is with the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Early estimates put this loss at around 10 million acres that is well over a billion bushels of corn. So if a corn farmer can sell a bushel for about $3.40 --

LILLIBRIDGE: Easy math a billion times 3.4 is $3.4 billion .

MALKOFF (on camera): $3.4 billion.

LILLIBRIDGE: . just in the heartland America.

MALKOFF: Lost in 114 hour event.

LILLIBRIDGE: Yes, yes. 20 minutes for us. But yes, yes 14 hours as it made its way across. You bet.

MALKOFF (voice-over): Even before the pandemic, Midwest farmers were already struggling as the trade war with China took away a major market for their produce.

LILLIBRIDGE: Well, then we hit COVID.

MALKOFF (on camera): So you lost the Chinese market. Then you lost the restaurants.


MALKOFF: Then you lost the Meatpacking plants.

LILLIBRIDGE: Yes. And then we lost the ethanol market, when the largest ethanol plants in the nation shut down about late spring.

MALKOFF: So I just think of generational farmers, people whose grandfathers and great grandfather's farm the same land, and that'll end today for some of them.

LILLIBRIDGE: Yes, that's definitely a potential that is going to end today for him because of the precursors of this event. It's very possible that there's going to be a lot of them that are just going to be done. They're not going to be able to do it again. This is a huge crop laying flat on the ground is worth absolutely nothing.

MALKOFF: Cornfields that just last week were well on their way to being worth billions, will rot right here after a storm that came and went in 20 minutes.


WILLIAMS: As whatever this is in 2020 continues to unfold, please spare a thought for our Midwest farmers.

That's our broadcast for this Wednesday night with thanks for spending some time here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.


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