The right-wing media, Fox News, and others continue to pump out COVID hypocrisy. Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning all entities in Texas from requiring vaccines as he tries to fend off his far- right challengers. The Claremont Institute released this statement defending John Eastman after he was rightfully been ostracized for his role in an attempted coup. This weekend, in Kemper County, Mississippi, the eastern part of the state on the border with Alabama, a so-called clean coal power plant was demolished through a controlled implosion.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Culture warrior is tonight`s absolute worst.
And that is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES STARTS NOW.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clearly Governor Abbott knows that federal rules supersede state rules. So, why do you think he did this?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Politics.
HAYES: The latest public health stunt from a Republican governor and the pressure for other states to follow.
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: I think he just want a lot of support, Col. Allen West, certainly for me.
HAYES: Plus, parents now suing schools that refuse to enforce mask mandates for students. Then, the right-wing effort to whitewash John Eastman`s coup memo.
And an end of an era for a fossil fuel boondoggle that was clean coal.
LOUIE MILLER, DIRECTOR, SIERRA CLUB MISSISSIPPI: Clean coal is nothing more than a Madison Avenue adman`s version of reality.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. The story that President Joe Biden likes to tell and it`s one that we like to tell as well probably for the same reasons is about the vaccine policy over at Fox News.
See last month, after President Biden announced a new sweeping plan to get millions of people vaccinated and safely back to work, Fox News started attacking him nonstop for ushering a new era of totalitarian tyranny.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: We can tell you that the shutdown of Southwest Airlines over the weekend was a direct consequence, it was a reaction to Joe Biden`s vaccine mandate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to elect this rotting bag of oatmeal to get a real tyrant.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s not mad at the Taliban anymore, he`s angry at you or at least the 80 million Americans who haven`t been vaccinated.
LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Well, Joe, if vaccine mandates were so popular, why the hard sell? Why the shaming? Why set up the COVID cast system that you`re doing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: But the actual story, the one that Joe Biden likes to tell, is that Fox News, the network, has a stricter policy than he does. Remember, Biden said employers with over 100 employees under OSHA right, which is Occupational Safety Hazard Administration, must require vaccinations or offer workers the chance to be tested weekly. You get vaccine or you get tested weekly.
Fox News requires its employees to be vaccinated or to face daily testing. Their policy is five times harsher than Biden`s. Here is Biden last week mischievously calling attention that fact.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even -- this I always get a kick out of, Fox News. Fox News requires vaccinations for all employees. Give me a break, Fox News.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I have to say, I think it`s kind of funny too because the hosts at Fox News have whined strenuously about vaccine mandates and gone out of their way to celebrate people who left their jobs rather than get vaccinated. And just look at what their own employer is doing.
But perhaps not surprisingly, the folks there were deeply offended by the President, and maybe others have pointed out this hypocrisy, Tucker Carlson who last week said the Fox News superpower is courage, last night tried out the old I just work here routine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Fox News requires vaccinations for all employees. Give me a break, Fox News.
CARLSON: Now, to be clear we just have a show on this channel. That`s it. We don`t run the company and we would never presume to speak for the company. But as a factual matter, what Joe Biden just said is completely untrue. It is a lie, period. We can say that with authority since we work here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Is he -- is he King Lear? What`s up with the we? Who are you talking about, buddy, the Royal We, the editorial? It`s true actually that what Biden said was technically imprecise but Tucker Carlson still seems unclear about the policy of the place where they just have a show.
So, here it is. Fox News employees are required to be vaccinated or get tested every day. I will quote. Kevin Lord, executive vice president of human resources at Fox News parent Fox Corp said in a memo, the company will be requiring all unvaccinated employees to be tested each day not just once a week in order to work in company facilities. Again, just so the folks there understand, this is five times as onerous as Biden`s own policy on vaccines.
We also know Fox News employees wear masks. Just look at this footage from the opening of their newly renovated Washington D.C. Bureau. Every single person is wearing a mask. So, despite all that, Fox News personalities rants and all these grandiose terms about the end of western civilization as we know it, not a single person, not one on the network will actually have the just tiny little scosh, the modicum of courage or integrity to go on air on the show they just have a network to criticize their boss`s own policies, because as Tucker said, they "just have a show on the channel and would never presume to speak for the company. When they sign your checks, they get your silence.
What Tucker can do though is use that show to drive the worst impulses in Republican politics that are keeping the country continuously on a path of sustained daily mass death that is more or less completely avoidable. It is October, mid-October 2021, we still lose 1000 people a day to the virus for which we have multiple effective free vaccines, while a network that is more than 90 vaccinated encourages people not to get vaccinated.
We`re watching the next step of these perverse politics play out in real time in the second largest state in the union, Texas. In Texas, the state`s Republican Governor Greg Abbott has been in the crosshairs of Fox News for being insufficiently right-wing and anti-immigrant. And now, Abbott who is a two-term Republican incumbent has primary challengers lining up to take him on.
The Houston Chronicle reports that in August, a primary challenger named Don Huffines who has appeared on Tucker Carlson`s show to attack Abbott accused Texas`s child welfare agency of promoting transgender sexual policies to Texas youth under a section of its web site titled Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation. Within hours, the web page was gone.
Now, that web page, to be clear, linked to a suicide prevention hotline and other resources dedicated to helping empower and celebrate young LGBTQ people. That has also been taken down because apparently Greg Abbott does not want anyone to get any ideas he runs a state that wants to stop any LGBTQ youth from killing themselves.
Governor Abbott is now basically spending all his time full-time in office fending off this right flank from primary challengers. And it`s not just tough fines. Another one of them is Allen West. We`ve discussed Allen West before, a one-term congressman from Florida, sort of the Marjorie Taylor Greene of his class in 2011, the most extreme, the most reckless in his language.
Almost a decade after he lost that seat sort of looking for what to do in public life, he picks up, moves to Texas, plants his flag in right-wing politics there. Not a dumb idea. Last year, he managed to get himself elected at the state Republican Party. Now, he is challenging Governor Greg Abbott.
Now, the thing is, Abbott already oversees a state that is lagging the national average of vaccination rate with only 63 of the eligible population fully vaccinated. A state that has experienced an awful bout of Delta this summer, something that was largely preventable had more people been vaccinated.
Well, yesterday, the unvaccinated Allen West was in the hospital with a serious case of COVID getting treatment and tweeting, "As Governor of Texas, I will vehemently crush anyone forcing vaccine mandates in the Lone Star State. There are far better protocols that individual citizens can utilize and decide for themselves."
Now, this is for Greg Abbott a political problem. What is Greg Abbott, a fully vaccinated Republican governor to do? How can he possibly one-up the challenger with a serious case of COVID tweeting from his hospital bed against vaccine mandates?
Well, Abbott issued an executive order banning all entities in Texas from requiring vaccines. It`s a step he did not take in the past but now he`s got a more pro-COVID challenger to his right, so he has to move towards the more pro-COVID politics.
Allen West understood what was going on. He tweeted out a victory lap, a link to a far-right web site billing itself as the conservative alternative to the drudge report, which if you`re my age, makes your head explode with the headline, Greg Abbott`s executive order came hours after Allen West said I will vehemently crush anyone forcing vaccine mandates. Tip your cap to the man when he`s right. He`s right. He knew what he was doing.
Now, obviously, there`s a federal mandate issued by President Biden. There`s an understanding, there`s supremacy of federal law under the United States Constitution. Something`s been pretty well established. In fact, we more or less fought a war over the supremacy of federal law. So, corporations like Southwest Airlines and American Airlines which are both based in Texas are saying they`re going to stick to the federal vaccine requirements.
But underneath that, there`s a magnetic pull on the right side of our politics pulling all Republican politicians in that direction. It`s sick. It`s truly sick. But there are people like Allen West and Tucker Carlson who are out there every day working to supercharge that magnet, pull more people towards more sickness and more illness and more mass death just as long as it doesn`t, you know, risk their paycheck.
It`s having a predictable effect as the country is now headed towards 750 000 deaths. More than 100,000 of them just since mid-June when vaccines were widely available when the Delta variant began to surge. So, so many people were dead now because they trusted the wrong people.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo serves as chief executive of the largest county in Texas and Adam Serwer is the staff writer at the Atlantic and they both join me now. Judge Hidalgo, let me start with you as an elected official about what the meaning of this sort of back and forth and the new executive order that is superseded by federal law just means for the many employers, businesses, working folks that are in Harris County?
LINA HIDALGO, JUDGE, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: So, as a county executive, I`m also the emergency manager for Harris County, home to Houston and 33 other cities and I have learned as an emergency manager that when there`s an emergency, a disaster, you use every tool at your disposal.
And what Governor Abbott is doing is akin to taking the water away from firefighters. I mean, it is taking a tool, an important tool away from as its emergency managers and so many others in the community who are trying to do the right thing.
And as something I`ve heard from the community multiple times throughout this pandemic, is one of the biggest challenges throughout has been the mixed messages, the confusion. This decision by the governor is adding another layer, another level of confusion to the situation where you`re putting these businesses in the middle of a political fight without clear guidance and that in and of itself as well makes the fight against the virus against this emergency even harder.
HAYES: Adam, you live in Texas. You write about Texas politics a bit. And what`s striking to me is the desperation and the -- and the kind of the cowardice and weakness that seems to be on display here. And Allen West clearly taking that sort of victory lap, but it doesn`t look particularly like dominant and tough to be chasing around your for your primary opponents and jumping whenever-- you know, saying how high whenever they say jump.
ADAM SERWER, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, I mean, look, something like almost 70 000 people have died in Texas on the coronavirus. We have like something like 260 people in Texas have died, you know, every day over the past month according to the Texas Tribune. But that`s not the problem that Greg Abbott thinks he had.
The problem that Greg Abbott thinks he has is how do I hold on to positive coverage from Fox News and Donald Trump`s endorsement so that I do not lose my primary. And that is the only thing he is concerned with as far as uh handling the coronavirus. He`s not worried about making sure that Texans are not dying of a preventable disease with a widely available vaccine. He`s thinking how do I win my primary? Because this is a conservative leading state, and as long as I survived my primary, you know, the Democrats won`t be able to put up anybody who can beat me in the general election.
It`s really extraordinarily irresponsible. And there`s no question that he knows better. On some level, Greg Abbott is hoping that he loses all these fights over the mandates so that his -- that the dead -- the numbers of dead go -- and hospitalizations go down. But he doesn`t want to be the one -- the one responsible.
And we know this because he played these games with the mask mandates early in the pandemic where he said no masked mandates, but then when city started doing it, when the numbers got really bad, he was like, you figured out you could do that. Well, no, they didn`t know that they could do that, because you were deliberately confusing things as the judge just said.
So, you know, he`s not concerned about how many people are dying in Texas for coronavirus. He`s worried about winning his primary. And that`s why this entire policy is so recklessly -- this entire pandemic is being so recklessly handled by the governor`s office.
HAYES: Judge, you`re nodding your head to a lot of that. One thing that`s striking, one of the kind of ironies of the nature of Texas in this moment is it`s experienced a lot of growth, it`s had a lot of job growth, and economic growth, and population growth. It`s got, you know, in the -- in the census, it`s getting new congressional districts.
That growth has been mostly generated in sort of metropolitan areas in Texas, Harris County being one of them. And the governor and Republicans like to tout that growth as a symbol of the sort of how well the Texas model functions. At a certain point, one wonders, if this kind of policy, the sort of the abortion policy of this governor, the way the COVID are managed telling businesses they can`t require safe working places begins to imperil precisely the thing that Governor Abbott and other state republicans like to tout as the success of the Texas model.
HIDALGO: Absolutely. I mean, you were referencing the new law that functionally bans abortion and puts a bounty on folks, anybody who facilitates an abortion. Right now, anyone practically can openly carry a gun, the attacks on voting rights and now this. It`s a race to the bottom on who can sort of out-trump Trump and who can catch the eye of the former president and who can win the primary.
That does make a more difficult business climate. But you also have to see the position they`re putting this business in. From mom and pop shops to these big corporations, a lot of these businesses have made incredible sacrifices, telework, working to keep their employees safe through policies, smart health policies, supporting us when we need them to have, you know, a mask requirement, all kinds of steps.
And so, now, you`re putting them in a difficult situation once again. So, of course, from my perspective, as someone who wants to see my region and my state continue to thrive, it is concerning not just from the health standpoint but also why are we putting the businesses in the middle of politics.
I`m old enough to remember when the Republican Party was opposed to regulating businesses. And we need to do better than this. We deserve better. It`s same fight we`re seeing in schools. You know, we have an order in Harris County that requires masks in schools and it`s been shown to work, but the state hasn`t opposing order.
And so, the school districts cite one, they cite the other. It`s past time to get all -- get passed through all of these politics and just move beyond this pandemic with the public safety steps we know work.
HAYES: Adam, you mentioned the politics here and it is a conservative state and you ask me like, who`s going to be the next governor of Texas. I would say, the Republican nominee, whoever that is. Like, that`s a safe bet. But I will note that like Abbott`s polling is pretty bad. It clearly has been affected by Delta, A. I mean he was 54 of Texans surveyed just about a month ago so the state is on the wrong track, 45 approval of the governor`s job performance.
It`s also -- look, it`s not a -- you know, it`s not Wyoming, Alabama, or Mississippi. This is not a Trump plus 20, 25, plus 30 state. It`s a -- it`s a Trump plus five state. It`s a conservative state, no doubt. It`s a state where Republicans dominate state government. And I would bet on the Republican nominee. But you know, it`s not completely like in the bag. It`s not like there`s nothing on the other side to worry about politically.
SERWER: Yes, I mean, look, it`s unusual for Abbott to be underwater in his approval in this way. And the reason why he`s underwater is because you know, there`s something absurd about this guy saying you know, in Texas, the government doesn`t tell businesses what to do. And actually you`re not only telling businesses what to do but you`re telling them what to do in order to make their customers less safe or in the case of schools you`re saying, you know, teachers can -- you can`t mandate vaccinations in schools and daycares so you`re putting -- you`re forcing Texan parents to send their children to facilities where they`re -- where they might be at risk simply because you don`t want to get Donald Trump mad at you. It`s an incredible level of cowardice.
And one of the things about Abbott`s prior reputation is that, you know, he was the guy who`s sort of the elder statesman. He was very conservative but he didn`t come off as like a crazy person like Allen West who`s talked about secession, you know, and all sorts of bananas things. He was supposed to be the one who was competent and governed to stay in a conservative but normal way. And you know, now, he`s just doing whatever he has to do to get Donald Trump to approve him.
HAYES: Judge Lina Hidalgo and Adam Serwer, thank you both.
When it comes to the people who tried to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election, there are basically two camps. On one hand, there are those who are digging in their heels fully committing to the bit, MAGA forever. On the other hand, there are those who are trying to tiptoe out of the limelight of Trump fame and kind of re-enter polite society as if they hadn`t tried to subvert American democracy.
The newest entry in the last group, John Eastman, the man who literally wrote a memo on how to overturn the election. But don`t worry. He`s got a great defense. It clears up everything. That`s next.
HAYES: Some of the people most responsible for the attempted coup in 2020 have escaped nearly all consequences and are hoping to quietly re-enter polite society. One of them is a man we`ve talked about before and he`s important, John Eastman. He is a right-wing legal scholar and academic who works for the conservative think tank of The Claremont Institute.
He`s probably best known for aligning himself with Donald Trump`s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. You may remember him as the man behind this memo, a step-by-step guide for Vice President Mike Pence to, well, murder American democracy by ignoring the will of voters and instead handing the election to Donald Trump.
Eastman presented his coup blueprint to Pence in the Oval Office two days before the insurrection. Pence refused to go along with this game. So, John Eastman, along with Rudy Giuliani, tried to pressure Pence into doing it at that January 6 rally where trump incited the insurrection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY OF DONALD TRUMP: He can decide on the validity of these crooked ballots or he can send it back to the legislatures. If we`re right, a lot of them will go to jail. So, let`s have trial by combat.
JOHN EASTMAN, AMERICAN LAW PROFESSOR: All we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at 1:00, he let the legislatures of the state look into this so we get to the bottom of it and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: To be clear, Eastman is arguing Pence should block the certification of the election and let legislators and states Biden won investigate these bogus claims of fraud. We know from his memo that Eastman`s plan was to give those legislatures, and I quote him here, more time to weigh in to formally support the alternate slate of electors, otherwise known as the Trump electors.
Now, Eastman, I have to say, has rightfully been ostracized for his role in an attempted coup. He was removed from his teaching job, has been blocked from some conservative events. But he wants back in which is why the Claremont Institute released this statement defending him, arguing a semantic point about whether he actually wanted Pence or Congress to contest and overturn the election but fully acknowledging the scheme with the state legislatures and missing the forest for the democracy subverting treats.
The only question here is whether or not Eastman was an accessory to an attempt to both sow mistrust in a free and fair election and hand victory to loser. The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes no matter how Eastman wants to spin it.
Rebecca Roiphe is a legal ethicist, former Manhattan Prosecutor, currently a professor at New York Law School and she joins me now.
Rebecca, I wanted to talk to you because I know you do some of your academic work in legal ethics. And this strikes me as a pretty important test case for the legal profession. I mean, a question of like what is -- you know, what is sort of permissible debate about legal doctrine. People have different views people even can advance wacky views in the law.
And at what point have you crossed over to doing something that like fundamentally violates the most basic rudiments of what the code is of a lawyer and the rule of law. What do you think?
REBECCA ROIPHE, PROFESSOR, NEW YORK SCHOOL OF LAW: You know, I think it`s a really great question. And I think these complaints are excellent because they`ve been worded in such a careful way and they`ve gone over the facts in such a careful way that you know sometimes you and I, we are rushed and we have to say something quickly.
They are very careful about going through the facts. And I think it`s important for courts to decide whether or not Eastman stepped over the line. He certainly, as you said, behaved in egregious conduct that was, you know, reprehensible on so many different levels. But whether it amounts to professional misconduct has to be dealt with in a really careful way.
And you know, there`s certainly allegations in there that seem extremely convincing to me specifically no matter what it was that he was concluding, turn these back to the states to turn it over to Congress. In whatever way he was doing that, he was basing those arguments on this fact that he was presenting as a fact that the election was fraudulent.
And by that point, there had been over 60 courts that had determined that that was not the case. And so, how can that statement have been truthful? And if it was not truthful, then that really is an ethical misstep that deserves consequences. You know, I will say I think some of the allegations are made -- you know, we have to be careful about first amendment issues, all of these things are important because you know, what the consequences are for this awful conduct is you know, it`s an open question.
Whether he can lose his license is a question that does in part depend on First Amendment questions. But that lie, if there`s a lie in a legal memorandum made on behalf of a client, then that really does seem like over -- you know, crossing a line that`s not acceptable.
HAYES: Yes, we started to see legal sanction particularly on that basis for some of the President`s lawyers. I should note that you`re referring to official complaints that have been filed to essentially disbar him or suspend his law license that he violated legal ethics and should meet the consequence of that. That`s the sort of policing aspect here.
There`s also sort of more informal mechanisms here. The federalist society which he`s a member of, there`s some back and forth about whether he`ll appear at events. And it did strike me as notable and important that the Claremont Institute felt the need to try to rebut this.
I want to just read their statement because it is slicing the salami very thin as they say. John advised the Vice President to accede to requests from state legislators to pause the proceedings of the joint session of Congress for seven to ten days to give time to the state legislatures to assess whether the acknowledged illegal conduct by their state election officials had affected the results of the election.
This is again all -- this is the kind of the highbrow version of the coup that Hawley and others are pushing, right, that there was this constitutional theory that they were -- they were offering. It wasn`t the like really vulgar stuff that Hugo Chavez`s ghost have turned the election. But it has the same effect ultimately.
ROIPHE: Well, exactly. And I mean, the whole point is without the veneer of a professional making this look acceptable, it doesn`t work. You know, we`re not -- we`re not like, you know, running -- it`s not like in which you know we have the military and you know there`s a big parade. It`s different from that.
It uses the guise of democracy to unravel democracy. And you need professionals and politicians who are a part of the mainstream to back you up otherwise it won`t work. And so, that`s why it is so dangerous and really, you know, that is without question that this is dangerous conduct.
The question that you`re next asking is such an interesting one. Should there be professional consequences, should he lose his license, and if not, should there be professional consequences like he`s not asked back to these you know, you know, federalist society events or, you know, he loses his job. And to me, those are -- that`s an easier question to answer.
I mean, if I came on your show and I said something egregiously ridiculously false, you just wouldn`t have me back. I mean, it`s -- you know, it`s just -- it doesn`t seem like a hard question here. I do believe in open debate, so we need to have people on who are voicing opinions that we do not agree with.
But at a certain point, those opinions are so out there that they don`t deserve the platform. And so, when is that? You know, I`m somebody who says that should only happen when there`s really, really egregious context. But this seems like that kind of -- that kind of case.
HAYES: We should note -- I mean, your point there is really important that we know that Mike Pence was essentially looking for legal validators. He went to former Republican-appointed Judge Ludwig who left the bench to go work his corporate lawyer said no, absolutely not, you can`t do this. So, that was key right in the -- in the formation of this. And then, you have this one guy, the President was like oh talk to this lawyer. He knows. That was a key part and luckily he did not prevail in his attempt.
Rebecca Roiphe, thank you for your time tonight.
ROIPHE: Thank you so much.
HAYES: All right, if you`re a long time viewer of the show, here is a deep cut for you. All the way back in October 2014, seven years ago, we visit a multi-billion dollar power plant that was meant to be the future of clean coal. Well, tonight, the verdict is in. It`s not looking good. That`s next.
HAYES: This weekend, in Kemper County, Mississippi, eastern part of the state on the border with Alabama, a so-called clean coal power plant was demolished through a controlled implosion. It was the inglorious end to an 11-year $7.5 billion project attempting to clean up dirty polluting coal by pulling the carbon generated by burning it out of the smokestacks and then storing it underground.
We actually visited this very plant way back in 2014 to check out the much- hyped project. And even then, it was wildly optimistic and very over budget.
HAYES: This is the $5.6 billion Kemper County energy facility, one of the most expensive domestic power plants ever built and perhaps clean coal`s best hope. ALL IN went to Eastern Mississippi to see it firsthand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s nobody in the world who`s doing more to try to combat carbon emissions in a clean efficient way.
HAYES: When it opens, the Kemper plant is supposed to capture 65 percent of the carbon dioxide it generates, giving it a carbon footprint similar to natural gas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be when it comes online the cleanest coal- fired plant in the world.
HAYES: Ed Holland is the CEO of Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company which has received more than half a billion dollars in federal government grants and tax credits for the Kemper facility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have 250 years of coal reserves in this country. We`re called the Saudi Arabia of coal. We`ve got to find a way to use that coal, use it in a clean way and an efficient way.
HAYES: In November, Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz toured the Kemper facility.
ERNEST MONIZ, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY: The plant of the future. They`re going to need not ten, maybe 100 more of these plants across the country in the future.
HAYES: That`s a lot of optimism for a facility, which is facing significant delays and is now more than a billion and a half dollars over budget. While the captured carbon will be put into the ground, that`s far from the full story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will be actually selling the carbon dioxide to an oil company to help them take more petroleum out of the ground.
HAYES: You heard that right. The carbon captured by this clean coal plant is going to facilitate oil drilling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This plant is dirty. It`s expensive. And it`s unnecessary. Clean coal is nothing more than a Madison Avenue adman`s version of reality.]
HAYES: The plant that was a central feature of then-President Obama`s climate plan and supposed to lead the way on clean coal kept ballooning billions over its original $2.4 billion budget. The timeline for completion kept getting pushed back as the power company tried and failed to get it running.
In 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation to all the costs and delays. In June of 2017, Mississippi Power finally admitted defeat and suspended all coal operations. Nearly two years later, the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the plant. And now, finally, here we are at the end of the clean coal road.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: You got Solyndra. You got all this corruption. You know, you bundle money, you get access, you get taxpayer dough and you can blow it.
MARIA BARTIROMO, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: We see Solyndra and we see all of these stories of these so-called clean energy stories that actually basically blew up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`ve tried this with Solyndra, dumped a whole bunch of taxpayer money right down the drain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: For over 10 years, there`s been one word on fox news as a catch-all for corrupt green crowning capitalism, Solyndra. It`s the name of a solar panel company that went out of business after getting about half a billion dollars in federal loans funded by the 2009 stimulus bill with the help of the Obama White House.
It was a major scandal at the time even though there was never clear what the scandal was. As climate journalist Michael Grunwald points out, the Department of Energy actually turned a profit on the $30 billion it lent to various clean energy initiatives after President Barack Obama`s 2009 stimulus bill with a default rate of less than three percent.
And those investments created innovation and tangible benefits the green tech industry that we`re reaping the rewards of today. Yet, Fox News and the rights still managed to turn Solyndra into this menacing one-word scandal that they are still talking about a decade later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Hearkening back to the Obama administration`s efforts to prop up solar companies like Solyndra by giving them a lot of money.
LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: And we all know it`s going to be cronyism Solyndra style.
HANNITY: It`s trillions and trillions of dollars that get us nowhere. We`ve been down this road. It`s called Solyndra.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: A decade later, Solyndra part of the right-wing anti-green candidate at this point. You just sort of say it. People knows it -- knows know what it means. But ask those same people about the clean coal plant in Kemper County Mississippi, you`re very likely to get blank stares even though Kemper is $7.5 billion government-funded boondoggle that literally just imploded.
As energy writer David Roberts pointed out, "imagine if any renewable energy project lit $7.5 billion on fire for absolutely nothing. David Roberts joins me now. He is the author of the newsletter Volts, has been writing about clean energy and politics for over 15 years. David, great to have you on.
First of all, I have to say, like, even by the standards of these kinds of projects, this one really seems like a complete cluster. Like, you got a DOJ investigation, $7.5 billion. They implode the thing. It never did at all what it was going to do, right?
DAVID ROBERTS, AUTHOR, VOLTS: Yes and they`ve now sheepishly sort of switched the plant over to burn natural gas. They`re like, never mind. The whole thing`s a mulligan. It`s a $7.5 billion mulligan.
HAYES: This also to me embodies a lot of what people have been saying about so-called clean coal for the time that it`s been in existence, that this was essentially a phrase that was created so as to prop up a coal industry that was on its way towards death for economic reasons and also for climate and carbon emission reasons, and that there is no actual way to create clean coal. But this seems like a pretty good example of the proof of that.
ROBERTS: Yes. Well, there`s two -- there`s two things involved. One is the capturing the carbon and burying it. That is an important technology that we are going to have to develop eventually because if nothing else, there will be industrial facilities that are emitting CO2 that we -- that we don`t yet know how to do those industrial processes in a zero-carbon way, so we have no choice but to capture the carbon and bury it.
So, we do need to develop that technology. The idea that you would use it to keep coal plants alive was always a farce. I mean, coal plants are already the just about the most expensive way to get power. If you bolt one of these facilities onto it and miraculously can make it work, best case scenario it`s billions more dollars and an energy penalty of something like a third of the energy the plant creates to run the carbon capture facility.
So, the whole idea of clean coal was always ridiculous, but it does need to be separated out from carbon capture and sequestration which is its own beast.
HAYES: That`s a great point and an important one. We`re going to have to find ways to capture carbon from industrial processes, also take carbon out of the air as we -- as we move ahead. But the other aspect of this that I think is really important is the reason Solyndra was so sticky for the right is that what the story they wanted to tell was look, real energy is fossil fuels. That`s what the market says is cheapest, that`s what`s easiest, and the Dems want to like create these winners and losers and use government welfare to prop up artificially these other sources.
And at some level, that was true at a cost -- as a cost matter for many, many years but it really has inverted now. It`s like, coal is the thing that needs the government support and welfare and the cleanest energy is actually the cheapest right now.
ROBERTS: Yes. All the free-market advocates in the coal -- in and around the coal industry have gone quiet. I don`t know where -- they used to hate picking winners. They used to love level playing fields. And now, all of a sudden, they`re like oh, it`s heritage and jobs and we got to keep these -- you know these poor communities alive. It`s everything but the market now.
I mean, the reason Solyndra went out of business, the reason it didn`t succeed is that plain old-fashioned solar PV, plane solar panels, the flat solar panels that you`re familiar with have been getting so cheap so fast that Solyndra`s sort of fancy pants new technology head had just couldn`t compete.
You saw that with a bunch of these sort of glittery solar technologies around that same era. They just couldn`t compete because plain old solar is just rocketing down the cost curve. And now, it`s in many places in the world, the cheapest way to generate power. And coal is just a distant -- I mean, anybody who`s been tracking the numbers in the energy industry knows that coal is just -- is just a memory now
It`s -- the only negotiation is how fast it dies and how well the communities is located and get compensated, you know, sort of the mechanics of phasing it out. But no one, no one who follows energy markets these days thinks that coal has a long-term future.
HAYES: That is a really important point. I hope that that end comes sooner than later. And I hope those communities do see significant investment and compensation. David Roberts, I always learn from your writing. Thank you.
ROBERTS: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, students test positive for COVID after going to schools that don`t enforce mask requirements. And now, parents are suing. What this means for the future of masking in the classroom, just ahead.
HAYES: Back in May, a school board in Waukesha, Wisconsin got together to vote on whether or not they were going to keep a mask mandate in the schools. Parents spoke out. A lot of them protesting that mitigation effort. And while there were no direct threats to board members, the rhetoric as we have seen in the protests all over the country got heated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter how well-intentioned this policy we have been in the beginning, I remind you, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. You must immediately return to the parents the right to consent to our children remaining subjects in this barbaric experiment. If you won`t tonight, given the current conditions, when can we possibly trust you ever will?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The board then voted 5-4 to remove the mask mandate for students. That was last spring when cases in Wisconsin, as you see at the first line were coming down. That was that period where felt like oh, we`re done with COVID, right? But this fall, cases started to climb up again just as students were heading back to school without masks.
And so, inevitably, students contracted COVID. Now, a mother of a student in the Waukesha County School district is suing after her son wore a mask to school was seated next to a classmate who was unmasked and sick. Two days later, BR, as her son is referred to in the suit, became symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19.
The lawsuit accuses of district of recklessly refusing to implement the reasonable and supported COVID mitigation strategies recommended by Wisconsin health and the CDC. Right now 66 percent of those eligible in the country are fully vaccinated. That does not, of course, include those under 12 years old.
A CDC study in Arizona found the odds of a coronavirus outbreak after 3 1/2 -- are 3 1/2 times higher in the schools with no mask requirement than they are in schools with mask requirements at the beginning of the school year. Mitigation strategies are key to maintaining normal life and healthy education.
Andy Slavitt has been deeply involved in an effort could curb the spread of COVID from mitigation to vaccines up until this past June. He served as the Biden White House`s senior adviser for its coronavirus response. And he jones me now.
You know, my first thought when I saw this news, Andy, was I remember back in spring of 2020 when we were in the first wave of this pandemic. Things had shut down and everyone was kind of their head spinning. You know, McConnell had this obsession with identity -- identifying employers and others on COVID lawsuits.
And I remember thinking like, well, it`s America. There`s probably a lot of COVID lawsuits. And I actually feel like there haven`t been. This struck me is kind of a novel tool for parents who are trying to change policies at the local level. What do you think?
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE`S SENIOR ADVISER FOR CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE: Yes, well, Chris, I think you`re right. And what I think is important understanding this is not a lawsuit where people are after, you know, some crazy settlement. This is --
SLAVITT: This is people suing a school to do the right thing. The thing that`s when their power to do. I mean, two things are true about COVID today that that are important to understand. One is that we actually have the tools to keep kids safe in school. And if they don`t use them, then they need to be calling ourselves to account.
And the second is that every time cases drop, you see the behavior that you describe, which is that people start to behave as if this is the greatest infraction on their freedom, that the things are better, when in fact, we need to be a little more patient, both when cases are up and down and understand we have got to stick with this and take these measures for the longer term.
HAYES: Yes, let`s talk about that because you were talking about this today, actually. And I just say, I understand the visceral and emotional pull of that, because every time a wave recedes, it`s like, OK, can we be - - can this be it? Can we be done? And again, at each -- you know, in each wave, it`s like, we have more and more people vaccinated that it feels like we should be able to suppress this thing once and for all. But you`re pretty bearish on that. Why?
SLAVITT: Look, I think we should rejoice when cases go down. And we should rejoice when hospitalizations go down. Those are -- those are good things. But we -- I think, at this point in time, shouldn`t override that to say that that means that they`ve gone down permanently. So, just as when the stock market goes up, you know, we can have a sense of the psychology of things that it`s getting better but the next day, the stock market goes down, you feel worse.
But just keep in mind that over the long term, to beat this thing, we need to put -- do the long-term things that work, vaccinations, mitigation strategies, masks, the same kinds of things, and then do it globally. And when those things are done, you know, we were sitting here a year from now, when we vaccinated the globe, and we vaccinated other parts of the U.S., we can start to feel good.
But if you sit in the community in Wisconsin, or Texas, or anywhere else with low vaccination levels, just because cases have dropped, it doesn`t mean you`re clear.
HAYES: Yes. And we should say that, you know, vaccinations have been -- they`ve slowed considerably, but they do continue to tick up. It`s slow progress. But I was just looking at the numbers today, and actually, they were a little better I think than I`d remembered. I mean, if you`re talking about eligible population, which is 12 and up, you know, you`re at -- you`re at 77 percent at least one dose of eligible population in the U.S. That`s like -- that`s higher than I would have guessed we would end up back because it really did feel like we had -- we had hit a pause in how much progress we were making.
Some of the mandates haven`t even gotten to effect. How encouraged or discouraged are you by where things stand right now?
SLAVITT: Well, if you peel back those numbers, the area that`s softest is kind of 18 to 30. That lags. And those are people to whom I think mandates and requirements are really potentially the most important for because those generally speaking are people that have frankly, negative views about vaccines. They also don`t believe that they`re particularly at risk for COVID.
SLAVITT: But what they do say in large numbers is that if required in order to gather in crowds and do the things they want and go to work, they will get vaccinated, maybe not with a smile on their face, but they`ll get vaccinated. And I think those requirements are important for those groups.
As you get older, I think most people, the vast majority of people want to be vaccinated. Not as high as in other countries, unfortunately, maybe not high enough in every community, but it`s really younger people still that are -- that are important to keep reaching if we`re going to keep pushing those numbers higher.
HAYES: It was interesting to see President Biden speak about his own kind of, you know, journey on this where he basically said, I went in thinking I don`t want to do mandates. And I think I had the same thought. Like, let`s use persuasion. Let`s use community outreach. What was your experience of that conversation inside the White House?
SLAVITT: Well, look, I think we were -- when I was there, we were going through things. The FDA had yet made -- yet to make a final authorization of the vaccine. It was still in our emergency use authorization. And we were very hopeful that it could get in and talk to people like adults as we continue to do. The vast majority of people will be persuaded to get vaccinated.
I do want to say that we move the needle --
HAYES: That`s true. Yes.
SLAVITT: -- 40 to 70 percent. But there remains a number of people still, obviously, that have not gotten vaccinated and they`ve said that it`s just -- it`s just a matter of making it easier and these requirements I think while not as first choice were things that we needed -- he needed to do to get it done.
HAYES: All right, Andy Slavitt, thank you for your time so much. That is ALL IN for tonight. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.