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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 12/29/21

Guests: Mary Bassett, Peter Hotez, Julie K. Brown, Joyce Vance, Eric Levitz, Amanda Mull, Tim Miller, Donna Edwards


The CDC defends their isolation guidelines amid Omicron surge. Omicron wave shatters U.S. COVID records. India approves new low-cost vaccine made by Dr. Hotez. Ghislaine Maxwell is now convicted of luring young women to be sexually abused by the now-deceased millionaire Jeffrey Epstein.



TIFFANY CROSS, MSNBC HOST: The four-part documentary series Black and Missing is available on HBO and HBO Max.

And time flies. That`s tonight`s "REIDOUT." I`ll see you here tomorrow. ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voiceover): Tonight on ALL IN. Where we stand as we approached year three of the pandemic. As cases explode again, the CDC defends a decision to cut COVID isolation.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CDC: We followed numerous areas of science and making this important decision.

HAYES: Then, a measure of justice in the Epstein saga. The significance of tonight`s guilty verdict for Ghislaine Maxwell.

Plus, a surprising area where Democrats are having success against the push to undermine democracy.

And the truth about the Greek shoplifting freakout of 2021. The state now proposing a bounty for parents who find banned books in school. When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. As we are about to enter a New Year, the third calendar year of the pandemic, take a look at this map put up at the Centers for Disease Control Prevention. It shows the level of community transmission of COVID in America right now. I`m sorry, I`m laughing. It`s sort of a dark joke. It`s a -- well, it`s pretty clear map, solid red in all 50 states, District Columbia, and Puerto Rico experiencing what CDC calls high transmission, which yes, no kidding.

We`re hitting new records as daily case counts across the country soar of the highest level we`ve ever seen. You can see on this chart, the line is just practically going straight up. And as we assess where we are right now, it`s I think important to understand the fact that Omicron variant is just much more transmissible than the previous variants, particularly the early ones. I mean, just on a different scale.

A professor of emerging infectious diseases at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimates that what`s called the R naught of Omicron. It could be as high as 10 which would mean every person infected with it infects on average, another 10 people. That`s just so contagious.

I mean, that`s compared to an average of 2.5 people with the original strain when COVID first landed on our shores. And seven people with a Delta variant, which itself was by far the most contagious variant that we had seen. To stop something that infectious, something with a R naught of 10, you would need essentially 100 percent vaccination. Like -- it`s like stamping out measles. You basically have to everyone to get to herd immunity, and we don`t have that.

And so, short of instituting just extremely dramatic lockdowns, things like we had in March and April or every business and school and all that stuff closes, this variant is going to spread like crazy, and it is exactly what we`re seeing. And so, this moment is in some ways, one of the weirdest the pandemic.

We`re nearing the two-year mark, and all of a sudden dealing with a somewhat different beast in some ways. That comes to the CDC just amended the quarantine guidelines. So, I think the first thing we should be thinking about as we assess what is going on what to do about it is what is the goal here?

If you`re like me, maybe you`re losing sight of what it is in the end. I spoke to Dr. Anthony Fauci last night on this program and about this very question, and I thought he gave a striking and honest assessment.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: Nothing is going to be 100 percent. And this is one of those situations when you`re dealing with a very difficult situation, Chris, that we often say you don`t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good. The CDC feels, and I don`t disagree with them at all, that wearing a mask is ample protection during that second half of a 10 day period.

When you balance that against the importance of trying to get people back functioning in society, the alternative is something that no one wants, and that`s to shut down completely. And we know that`s not going to be palatable to the American public. And that`s something you want to be avoiding.

So how do you get people back to function in society, not with zero risk, but with a markedly diminished risk?


HAYES: Today, Dr. Rochelle Walensky who`s the Director of the CDC echoed what Dr. Fauci told me. She spoke about the CDC`s new quarantine guidelines and how the intention was to strike a balance between minimizing risk and maximizing compliance among a pandemic weary population.


WALENSKY: It really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate. We have seen relatively low rates of isolation for all of this pandemic. Some science has demonstrated less than a third of people are isolating when they need to. And so, we really want to make sure that we had gained. In this moment where we were going to have a lot of disease, that could be adhered to, that people were willing to adhere to.


HAYES: Now, let`s step back for second, all right, and just assess these developments and why we`re at the point we`re at. The most important thing that has changed over the course the pandemic is that now more than 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, nearly 66% of the eligible population. That has transformed the risk level and experience of the pandemic for the vast majority of those people.


And of course, there are still people, many people, millions who are immunocompromised or who are otherwise vulnerable due to age or medical conditions. But for the people who don`t fall into that category, and we`re talking about, you know, 100 and 50 million people, maybe or more, those people who are vaccinated, particularly those who are boosted, you know, the risk, the personal risk of being exposed -- so this went from something that we hadn`t really dealt with specifically like this before in our lifetimes. We hadn`t quite had an illness this infectious and it`s possible to cause serious illness, to something that does look more like the flu.

And the flu, of course, can still be dangerous. It kills tens of thousands of Americans every year, but we don`t orient our lives around the flu. So, that`s closer to the level of risk that, you know, 200 million Americans or less than that are now dealing with. And then when you add in the sheer exhaustion many people feel, and I don`t have to tell you this I`m sure because you`re just feeling this yourself many of you, with the length of this disruption in your lives, obviously the politics of the pandemic are just completely different than they were earlier in the pandemic.

I mean, look, a pretty significant portion of the country also thought the whole thing was BS from the beginning, as we know. As a one conservative writer, Matthew Walter, put it in the Atlantic earlier this month, "outside the world inhabited by the professional classes in a handful of major metropolitan areas, many Americans are leading their lives as if COVID is over.

He may have been overstating the case a little bit. But yes, an enormous swaths of the country, the vast majority of people simply don`t care about it, or talk about it, or take -- certainly take active precautions against it. It just doesn`t figure in their lives.

Now, the hospital workers in those places sure do and immunocompromised probably do. But, you know, across huge swaths of country, tens of millions people from basically early on have been living their lives as if COVID did not exist. And you have a chunk of the country that does care, but is now vaccinated. And the people that care the most I think tend to also be boosted and wants to do things that were difficult for a long time, like get together with loved ones for the following days, or go to dinner, or to a movie, or visit their friends.

And understandably, people feel that those things come with an acceptable level of risk now they`re vaccinated. So, that leads us where we are, which is the sort of politics in the broad sense of like, public opinion, institutional appetites across the nation, our politics of normalcy, a sort of willing things to be normal. People are over it. And I get it, I feel that way too. But then there`s the virus which is just like, doesn`t care. Just a little piece of DNA floating around, and it`s still very much there.

And the most blunt tools we have to contain it like what are called non pharmaceutical interventions, like lockdowns, like shutting things down, they`re just not available as a practical political matter, as Dr. Fauci alluded to, and he`s not wrong. And that all leads us to this kind of strange period we`re in now, which is the muddling through phase, muddling through the Omicron wave, which we know is going to be very disruptive, because that transmission is so high.

I mean, you heard Dr. Fauci acknowledge that in what I thought was striking language, and saying it factored in the CDC`s decision to shorten the recommended length of quarantine. There are going to be so many people testing positive for Omicron that long periods of quarantine could seriously disrupt the normal functioning of our society.

We`ve already seen flashes of that as industries are hit with outbreaks, from airlines cancelling thousands of flights over the last few days, to sports leagues canceling or postponing games. On Monday, a record 96 NFL players tested positive on one day. Broadway shows have been cancelled. City MD clinics in New York City have shut down because of staffing shortages on and on.

The big question is, so how do we avoid the worst disruptions while also minimizing deaths, suffering misery, severe illness? We know there`s a key problem stand in the way of that which is that we`ve got a huge pool of unvaccinated people, tens of millions of unvaccinated people. And we have to some combination of exhaustion, I think natural human process of acclamation gotten used to a truly devastating amount of death, I got to say.

12 to 1300 deaths per day over the past few weeks just churning in the background of our lives. I`m not saying that to guilt anyone. I mean, there truly is only so much time anyone can devote to contemplating mass death. But we seem to have reached a sort of collective decision that this level is tolerable.

Now, of course, not everyone agree. Some people who find it intolerable have been very sharp in leveling criticism at the Biden administration for in their view, tolerating it. And I`m sympathetic to a lot of their critiques but I think it`s worth distinguishing between the things the policymakers can and cannot control at this moment.

We just know flat out there is no tolerance for the kinds of broad lockdowns or non-pharmaceutical interventions we saw in the past. That`s the kind of thing that you could expect to suppress a virus that`s this contagious. It`s probably the only thing. What they`re left with is trying to manage what to do if you can`t do that.

Now, there`s two places I think we`re they`ve really fallen down on the job. One is on boosters, because they had a plan to boost every American. And what happened was they allowed themselves to get bullied by their own public health experts and their advisory committees who muddied the waters on it, and then there`s testing.

I mean, the administration got a lot of criticism for Jen Psaki`s off the cuff remark where she said, well, what do you want us to do, test -- send tests to everyone in the country? And the answer was, yes, you should do that. But here`s the thing. Look at the U.K., OK. That`s a place that has instituted both of those policies. It`s got one of the highest booster rates in the entire world. And it`s got a lot of testing. And that has not stopped in Omicron outbreak.

I mean, look at that chart. In the end, that`s what things look like. When you look at that country that has deployed boosters and rapid testing better than we did, they are still having an insane outbreak. That is the inescapable reality of the contagiousness of this new variant and the world in which we live at least for the foreseeable future.

Dr. Peter Hotez is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He`s also the co-director of the Texas Children`s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, the author Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science. And Dr. Mary Bassett is the Acting Commissioner of Health for the state of New York. It`s a great pleasure to have you both returning to the program.

Dr. Bassett, let me start with you as someone who is a public health official and is sort of had to do the stuff of public health, make policy decisions under conditions of uncertainty, balancing very different interests, how you think -- how you think about the way that I laid out that framework and how you`re thinking about this moment in a state that`s undergoing a very, very severe spike?

DR. MARY BASSETT, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF HEALTH, NEW YORK: That`s true. New York State is undergoing a severe strike. We have -- spike -- and we presume it`s an Omicron strike. We have 60 percent of our variants now are the Omicron variant and 67,000 new cases is the number that we have from yesterday.

So, we have that Omicron pattern that you showed for the U.K., that you described in South Africa. And since I`ve been Commissioner, we`ve done two things. One is the governor has declared what`s called a mask or vax mandate. And the other is we, on December 24th, instituted for health workers the short period of isolation following asymptomatic positive test for COVID.

Our tools are the same ones that you outlined. They are getting vaccinated, which is why the U.K. is not experiencing the kind of mortality impact that that kind of spike might have taken. And we`re also urging people to wear masks. And I know people are tired, but this is a creative and resilient virus. And we have to match its creativity and resilience with the tools that we have.

So, we`ve really been pushing vaccination, and on top of that really rolling out testing which you just mentioned. I hope as we face the end of the year and another surge in this pandemic, that we don`t get away from also the things that made us so vulnerable in the first place as a nation to having one of the worst outbreaks of any wealthy nation.

Part of it has been the role that we played in the world. And the fact that we`ve been unable to push out the kind of global access to vaccines that the world needed and deserved. And the other has been the huge levels of inequality in our own society which made so many people exposed to the virus in the first wave and makes in some ways people kind of cynical about the fact that that government is claiming that it`s -- that the only thing they need to do is roll up their sleeves like that photograph showed you.

People know that they need better working conditions, more housing, better wages. So, all of those conversations need to take place as well. And we in public health shouldn`t shy away from them.

HAYES: You just mentioned the sort of global vaccine distribution. A lot of people have pointed to the sort of pooled COVID vaccination efforts and how far those are behind. Dr. Hotez, you`ve actually been working on a vaccine to use technology to have you produced a technology with no intellectual property control that can be distributed and manufactured across the world. A low cost vaccine that got approval I believe for use in India that you`ve been working on. Can you tell us about that and how important that is?


DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes. So, in our Texas Children`s Center for Vaccine Development part of our Baylor College of Medicine, which I co-head with my science partner for the last 20 years, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, what we do is we develop low cost recombinant protein vaccines that the big pharma companies won`t make because they`re for diseases of poverty.

And ironically, about 10 years ago, we adopted a Coronavirus vaccine program because that on top of our parasitic disease vaccine program, because that had been orphaned. So, all we know how to do is make low cost durable vaccines for use in resource-poor settings. And that served us well when we made a code of COVID-19 vaccine.

So, what we`ve done is we`ve licensed it with no patents, no strings attached. And we help with the code development to India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and most recently, Botswana. India`s the furthest along with our partners Biological E. They`re one of the really strong vaccine producers in India, they now have an advanced purchase for 300 million doses from the Indian government and they already have 150 million doses ready to go. It just got released for emergency use authorization.

And the irony is right now, we`ve just matched the U.S. government commitment to global health equity for vaccines. We`re about the same level. So, you can go a pretty long way. And we need to do this because -- and here`s why. Obvious -- besides the obvious humanitarian drive and because it`s the right thing to do is the fact that look where Delta came out of. It came out of an unvaccinated population in India. And Omicron came out of an unvaccinated population on the African continent.

As long as we refuse as a society to vaccinate the southern hemisphere, we`re going to have other variants. I mean, what did -- what would have happened like if Omicron, instead of being less severe, had been more severe and that transmissible, we`d be having a very different discussion right now.

And the only way we`re going to do that is to vaccinate the southern hemisphere. And we think our vaccine is going to be the one that really can do this especially if we can get some help.

HAYES: Yes, vaccinating the world is the only end goal here and the only way out. And it`s a big world but we can do it. Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Mary Bassett, thank you both so much.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

HAYES: Tonight, a big news. A federal jury returns five guilty verdicts in the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell convicting her for her role in recruiting and grooming teenage girls to be abused by her longtime partner Jeffrey Epstein. Julie K. Brown, the most important reporter on this beat for the last five or six years and Joyce Vance on what today`s verdict means next.



HAYES: Earlier this evening, we had a verdict in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell. That`s the former companion of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who should have been on trial right now had he not committed suicide in a federal prison.

Maxwell was convicted on five of the six counts against her including sex trafficking the minors. And that count alone carries a maximum sentence of up to 40 years in jail. Tonight`s verdict feels like a modicum of justice for the many teenage girls who were preyed upon by Epstein and Maxwell over the many years.

The trial further highlighted Epstein and Maxwell`s vast social circles was comprised of celebrities, royalty, and multiple ex-presidents, including our last President Donald Trump who only this to say after Maxwell`s arrest back in 2020.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just wish her well frankly. I`ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach and I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well, whatever it is.


HAYES: Julie K. Brown is the Miami Herald investigative reporter who brought Epstein and Maxwell`s crimes back into light. She`s the author of Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story. And Joyce Vance is former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, now the co-host of The Sisters In Law podcast. And they both join me now.

Julie, let me start with you. And as I said before we went to break, you are I think single-handedly responsible in some ways for us being at this point thanks to your very tenacious and dogged reporting. In terms of the verdict, what were the cases presented here and were you surprised by the outcome given the difficulty of making cases like this?

JULIE K. BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, MIAMI HERALD: Well, you know, it took some quite a long time. It was 40 hours of deliberations. They asked for about 13 different transcripts of testimony of various people. So, we knew that they were plodding through this. It was a very much of a complicated charge, you know, with the six different charges and there were different elements to each charge. So, they really had an enormous task ahead of them.

So, we expected, especially this morning, they had asked whether they were going to be able to wear, whether the judge was going to ask them to stay over the holiday weekend. So, we thought I think also the defense thought, that this was going to take a lot more time. So, everyone was sort of surprised when they came back with a verdict this afternoon.

HAYES: From a legal perspective, Joyce, I`m curious what your reaction is. Again, a difficult place a case, in some ways, there`s a ton of evidence, but you`re also dealing with people whose memories can be questioned, things that happened years ago up against a kind of statute of limitations. There`s a long time window. And obviously, a defendant who has some means and can hire very, very good attorneys.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA: This was a really difficult case for the prosecution, Chris, and you`re absolutely right to point to the age of the crimes. Normally, federal crimes have typically a five-year statute of limitations. That means you can only prosecute within five years of the events occurring. But there`s an abrogation of that statute of limitations for crimes involving children and for sex crimes involving children.

And that means prosecutors were able to bring these older charges. But that came at a cost with the defense putting on an expert witness who talked about the unreliability of aging memory. So, a very difficult case and a very good result for prosecutors.

HAYES: We should just back up for a second, Julie and maybe you can sketch out. I mean, this is a very strange situation in which Jeffrey Epstein, the sources of his wealth have always been a little bit opaque, sort of, made himself indispensable to a variety of very rich people, became quite rich himself, and then acquired a reputation as someone who in the words of Donald Trump on the record in the magazine profile many years ago, like girls, some of them quite young. This is what Trump told a reporter.

It was a little bit of an open secret. And then he does get charged. And that leads to this bizarre plea deal which you covered that basically lets him off with a slap on the wrist. Remind us what happened there to create the conditions that led to the arrest and trial and then Ghislaine Maxwell`s trial.


BROWN: Well, I think what happened here from the very beginning was that law enforcement that started in 2005 did their job. The local police chief and the detective who handled the case did a great job. They managed to get a lot of young girls to tell them what happened. And they were very shamed and they felt very badly. And it`s not easy getting them on the record. And they -- you know, at least a handful of them were willing to testify against him.

Instead, what happened was the local prosecutors sort of decided he wasn`t going to do anything with the case he was going to let him off the hook. And the police chief went over the prosecutor`s head, asked the FBI to take over the case, which they did. Thinking now he`s finally -- you know, the police are thinking finally, something`s going to be done with this case.

Unfortunately, the exact opposite happens. Epstein called in a lot of really connected lawyers and people who had connections in Washington. And before anybody really knew what happened, Epstein had received this very lenient plea deal. And he was already in jail by the time the victims even realized that this deal had been executed and it was sealed and nobody could understand what exactly had happened until years later.

HAYES: And of course, you`re reporting on the weirdness, the strangeness and perhaps the legal shakiness of that deal because of stipulations they had to inform survivors and victims of it, partly led to reassessment, public scandal, and then the indictment of Epstein himself.

And of course, that`s the shadow that hangs over all of this, Joyce, is that, you know, Ghislaine Maxwell was quite clearly his sort of facilitator in a very, very sick and twisted fashion. But it was Epstein who was the center of this and he managed to kill himself in federal custody before he could face justice.

VANCE: Well, I think that`s the problem here. This is this is a case that involves a lot of people who were predators, who victimized these women. And full justice or at least full accountability looks like all of those people being charged. So, the big question on everyone`s mind right now is whether or not now that she`s facing essentially given her age life in prison, the possibility of life in prison, Maxwell will decide to cooperate.

And if she makes that decision, would she be able to provide testimony? Could it be corroborated? Because now that she`s convicted, she`s somewhat tarnished as a cooperator although still valuable, and whether there will continue to be more justice for the victims of these crimes.

HAYES: That is a really, really good question and one we will continue to cover, and I know Julie K. Brown will as well. Julie and Joyce, thank you very much.

Still to come, despite early expectations, it looks like Democrats might not be getting destroyed in the gerrymandering battle, redistricting battle. But is it enough for them to hold on in the Midterms? That`s next.



HAYES: Right now, there are three primary ways Republicans are actively attempting to undermine democratic representation in this country. They`re pushing to suppress the vote in states they control. The Brennan Center for Justice found that as of October 19 states have enacted 33 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote in just this year.

They`re also trying to sort of subvert and colonize professional election institutions and officials. Like when Trump campaign, the Trump campaign repeatedly attacked to Georgia poll workers leading to death threats against the women. They`re now trying to replace people on election boards and run for Secretary of State. They`re also trying to use gerrymandering in the once-in-a-decade process of redrawing congressional districts to try to tilt the playing field towards Republicans and give them as many representatives as possible.

And it`s frustrating and frightening -- and it`s frightening as all that is, there has been some good news on the last month on gerrymandering. Eric Levitz is a senior writer at New York Magazine where he recently published a piece titled Democrats are doing weirdly well in redistricting, and he joins me now.

Eric, let`s -- this piece has gotten a lot of attention. I think it`s been somewhat controversial. People sort of arguing about what it means to do weirdly well. But let`s start with just like the baseline expectations and what your case is about how things are looking thus far as state by state issues their newly drawn congressional maps.

ERIC LEVITZ, SENIOR WRITER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Sure. Well, so, basically, we`re starting off from a situation where Republicans control a lot more state governments than Democrats do, you know, because the typical U.S. state is more right-wing than the country. And so, they have control over the district lines of more Congressional Districts than, you know, democratic trifectas do.

So, this plus the fact that they have a chance to update their already gerrymandered house map to better fit their current coalition, which has really shifted over the last 10 years, where the suburbs have moved a little bit more towards blue America, and sort of the excerpts have become increasingly densely Republican, they have a chance to adjust the lines to fit that.


So, that plus the fact that a bunch of blue states had kind of unilaterally disarmed in the gerrymandering wars, including most conspicuously California which has 52 districts that it can draw by outsourcing the redistricting process to independent nonpartisan commissions made many think that possibly Republicans could retake the house simply by redrawing districts, keep the vote, shared the same as it was in 2020, and you still get a Republican Congress just because the line is changed.

That no longer looks like it`s going to be the case for a few different reasons. One is that --

HAYES: Let me pause you there. et me pause you there before -- let me pause you there before we get the reason because I just want to say -- so, right -- so, the expert -- so, just to go back through that, right? So, you`ve got very aggressive Republican-controlled states. They control a lot of states.

You`ve got a bunch of Democratic states where there are things like commissions, independent commissions that draw the lines, California, most notably. So, it can`t be a sort of like, you know, machine-oriented brass tacts, like aggressive partisan exercise. And then the third thing which you didn`t mention which we`ve covered a bit, is that you do have some Republican states where you`ve got some sort of like body that`s supposed to be a regulator on this.

That`s true in Ohio. It`s true in Iowa, it`s true in Utah in which Republicans just basically steamrolled. Like, they come back and be like, oh, here`s our fair maps, and they`re like, get out of here with your fair maps, including in Utah where, you know, basically, there`s like an overwhelming state referendum.

So, all of that combined made it look like one side is like, you know, pressing the advantage and the other isn`t. So, why has it not at least cashed out in the worst terms yet?

LEVITZ: Right. So, there are a few reasons. One is that the nonpartisan commission situation has been a bit more ambiguous in its effects than anticipated. There are some California Democrats that I`ve spoken to who believed that actually, we`re getting a more pro-Democratic map out of the nonpartisan commission, because if the party legislators were in charge, there`s kind of a competing interest in redistricting where incumbents have an incentive to make their job security, you know, as good as possible, which means giving themselves a little bit more Democratic voters than they strictly need, even if that comes at the cost of reducing the number of total like more than 50 percent Democratic districts.

The Independent Commission is not constrained by those incumbent motivations and California is pretty darn Democratic. And so you`re getting a really heavily Democratic map out of California, even though it`s non- partisan. At the same time in states where Democrats have trifectas like Illinois and in Oregon, they`re pushing really hard. That they are, you know, internalizing, hey, at the federal level right now our party is trying to make it so that we all just arm that there`s a ban on partisan gerrymandering. But if we`re not going to do that, we recognize how this house map is shaping up and we`re going to try to get as many blue seats as possible.

So, that plus the fact that in some states -- there`s different ways to gerrymander. So, Texas Republicans have really prioritized building up huge walls against sort of, you know, a blue wave is still not going to knock off their incumbents. And also, you know, they`re building out against building in rooms such that if the suburbs of Texas started moving like the suburbs in other parts of the country, they`re still going to be safe.

But the flip side of that is that they haven`t minimize the number of Democratic seats across the state, in the same way, the Democrats in Illinois or minimizing the number of Republican seats.

HAYES: Right.

LEVITZ: You put all this stuff together, and it`s not quite as bad as many thought.

HAYES: We should -- we should note that we`re still -- A, that there`s a federal legislation that would, you know, that would disarm everyone and that`s going to create a more standardized procedure and B, that we`re not fully through this. So, we`ll see where the tally ends up.

Eric Levitz, thanks so much for joining us.

LEVITZ: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: Coming up, the truth behind the great American retail crime wave of 202 and the fact check of the shoplifting panic you don`t want to miss. We`ll be right back.



HAYES: One of the big themes of right-wing media and indeed a lot of media, local news as well, this year has been the narrative that America is awash in crime. Now, it`s not totally detached from some real statistics that are quite unnerving.

Murders jumped by nearly 30 percent, the largest single-year increase in 2020. That`s last year. The evidence we have so far points to homicides continuing to rise in 2021. So, that`s real and really bad. On top of the actual story of a genuine increase in interpersonal violence in America amidst this pandemic and its disruptions and dislocations, right wing media is constantly peddling what is I think, a completely propagandistic story specifically about out of control retail theft.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So many Democrat-led cities moving to defund police are also seeing a surge in crime this year, especially shoplifting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: America`s crime crisis is spiraling out of control. In Connecticut, brazen thieves are caught on camera stealing more than $1,500 worth of goods from a grocery store.

DAGEN MCDOWELL, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: And states like California becoming the epicenter of other types of lawlessness where they have basically legalized death.

GREG GUTFELD, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: This is so strange and crazy to see such brazen crime. And that`s because it`s an internal mutiny of moral and civil order.


HAYES: Now, a reporter I really admire and have for a while named Amanda Mull saw these stories and set out to track down the actual statistics behind those stories for this piece of the Atlantic and found there as well, basically no evidence to actually support it. And Amanda Mull joins me now along with former Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards, and Tim Miller, writer at large for the Bulwark.`

Amanda, let me start with you on your piece which was great, by the way. It is -- you know, part of this is being driven by these viral videos. I think part of what`s happening here, particularly for TV news and particularly for Fox is people can now capture folks shoplifting in a way that they couldn`t before. And then that goes on -- you know, that gets played on TV and it`s like, oh, it`s out of control.

And then you`ve got a lot of these retailers citing these gargantuan numbers of what their retail loss is, and you decided to look into it. And what did you find?


AMANDA MULL, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, I realized that I saw the same numbers being cited over and over again, the same experts being cited over and over again. And you know, as a journalist, when you see that happening, that to me indicates that some sort of media campaign might be afoot, which means that I should look into it.

So, I started digging on these numbers. And as far as like crime statistics goes, I think we`ve all learned in the last two years that when you`re looking at percentage of change of things, it depends what type of baseline you`re looking at. So, in 2020, the crime statistics were unique. A lot of lower-level crimes were just not addressed in the same way. A lot of them didn`t happen at the same rate, because especially in the case of shoplifting, stores weren`t open in a lot of -- especially these large liberal cities for like a huge portion of the year.

People really change their habits and change to their everyday lives. And that includes people who might steal things. And just a lot of those stores weren`t open. So, when you look at 2020 and look at some of the ways that police statistics have changed year on year, you`re looking at Just from like historical lows that are completely unprecedented in the history of policing.

HAYES: Right.

MULL: You are looking at numbers that are not comparable to anything. So, you get these really huge percentages of change that are really alarming. But they`re based on bad numbers. They`re based on like a year of life that did not exist in the same way that any other years of life had existed. So, what happens when you look at this year`s numbers on theft, versus 2019, 2018, 2017, you find that theft is down, larceny is down, robbery is down, property crimes in general are down over what they were before the pandemic. But you have this really weird year of statistics that helps make things look terrifying.

HAYES: Yes, this is my favorite headline than this, which a headline to the -- goes out to the LA Times headline. LAPD warning of crime wave come up, but data shows theft robberies down, which -- oh, that`s actually NBC News. But LA Times had a -- had a sort of similar headline for that as well.

Tim, you know, I think there`s something interesting happening here because I think that conservative media understands the power of those images, A. B, it`s also the case that like there`s -- the rise in homicides is a very real thing and an extremely like upsetting thing that policymakers have to deal with and are grappling with in different ways and cities from Philadelphia, to Atlanta, to Buffalo, to New York. But like, there is nothing that Fox loves more than surveillance footage of particularly Black people stealing a thing, and they will run that 24/7 if they can.

TIM MILLER, WRITER AT LARGE, THE BULWARK: I feel like -- and I think that Fox also sort of benefited by what is kind of a real change in San Francisco, right, which is a city right across the bay from me, that is their favorite boogeyman where there are boarded up buildings and there has been an increase of crime. Some of it obviously blown out of proportion, some of that really concerning.

And you see, you know, blowback from, you know, liberal members of the state council, you see blow back from the mayor of San Francisco, frankly. So, I think Fox has use that as an excuse to kind of extrapolate this into a nationwide problem and sort of tie it back into what you`re just talking about just a real, very real increase in homicides, which is something that`s concerning.

And so, I think that in order to combat that, you know, Democratic politicians, you know, I think the right thing to do is to, you know -- is not to play into it by giving, you know, the Republican side more fodder that can then, you know, play down to voters.

And I think -- I think the New York Post effect is the perfect aspect of this, right? And I think this is why Eric Adams did so well, right? Like, what are people who are not maybe MAGA people but conservatively oriented people who are reading the New York Post in New York, what did they -- what is their perception of what is happening?

Part of their perception is that the narrative in the post, part of the perception is what they`re seeing in their community.

HAYES: Well, that`s --

MILLER: And so, Eric, I think spoke to that perception in a real way that paid off for him well in the mayorship. And I think that doesn`t mean you can`t be for criminal justice reform and all this other stuff, but it does mean you have to acknowledge that as part of -- as part of the political reality.

HAYES: Well, the sort of epistemic question here -- we`re going to push this a little longer then I`ll go to break, control room. But Donna, I just want to get -- as a Democratic Representative yourself, someone who do Democratic politics, this point about perception reality, like before you get to the policy stuff, before you get to any of it, I just find that like, I can`t actually get through, like what`s actually happening because the propaganda is so thick.

So, it`s like, just what is actually happening. And that, to me is part of what`s so sticky about this question here?


DONNA EDWARDS, FORMER MARYLAND DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I mean, no doubt Republicans are actually really good at constructing a narrative that really draws people in, and this is one of those. And so, the danger is that, you know, when you`re basing your policy on bad data. It means that you`re deploying resources in all the ways that don`t actually fight the crime that really is up in some -- in some communities. I mean, namely, you know, homicides and other kinds of crimes.

And so, I just -- I worry sometimes that Democrats get into this, you know, will get into this mode of like arguing on the policy front, but there`s nothing like those videos and pictures that really drive people. And so, we have to be careful on that kind of public policy.

HAYES: Yes, the New York Post effect is very real across the nation. Amanda Mull who did great reporting on this and who`s writing I always enjoy, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you for joining us. Donna Edwards and Tim Miller, you guys stick around. I want to talk to you about this new proposed book banning bill in Oklahoma that has a really surprising twist. Stick around.



HAYES: Republican state lawmaker in Oklahoma recently proposed a new bill that would allow parents to nominate books in their children`s -- their child`s school library to be removed. And if it wasn`t removed, the book remains on the shelves, then the parents will receive $10,000 per day.

Donna Edwards and Tim Miller back with me to talk about this. Donna, this is obviously like, people proposed crazy stuff in state legislatures all the time. But what struck me about this is A, that sort of personal bounty system that was pioneered in the -- in the Texas abortion law being sort of used, copied, and pasted out in other places. But also the fact that the sort of anti-critical race theory movement that started you know, about a year ago is metastasizing in all kinds of ways that start to look very, very familiar to previous periods of American moral panics.

EDWARDS: Yes, it feels like the 1990s all over again. And indeed, I think Republicans are clearly going to use this "education and parental involvement and what`s taught in schools and what`s in libraries" as a mechanism to draw their base voters out for this election.

And I think it`s going to be really important to have a response to that, that is responsible, that it`s about, you know, a local educators making decisions about what happens in classrooms, working in concert with parents, bringing resources into the classroom. And that is going to have to be a counter-narrative to this what is really an underlying narrative about race in our -- in our school -- in our schools and school system.

HAYES: Tim, what I liked about this bill is that in some ways, it`s the logical conclusion of the criticism leveled at Terry McAuliffe for that thing that he said in the debate where he said something like -- I forget what the words were. Basically, parents aren`t in charge of what their kids learn in school.

And people hated that. And I think it was probably politically quite tone deaf but it`s also like descriptively true. In the sense of the inverse of that is just to give every single individual parent total veto control over every single thing taught in school, which credit where do is what this bill does, basically. But you obviously cannot run a school system that way.

MILLER: Yes. Obviously, that was politically forced on him and McAuliffe. But even at the time, you know, I was saying that I think the Democrats could have used -- you know, maybe McAuliffe campaign himself and an outside group coming in to help him and trying to turn this on its head where in the midst of the CRT panic, you were seeing the shirtless guys at the Loudoun County School Board, like getting in fights with people. And some of them -- their kids weren`t even in the district.

And you know, this notion of do you want that guy running your school`s curriculum, right?

HAYES: Right?

MILLER: Like, the idea of parents being involved in the school`s curriculum everyone is for. The idea of the most crazy MAGA person dictating what the Loudoun County school system should be, you know, I think it`s going to get a lot of parents, a lot of you know, Republican Joe Biden crossover voters in Northern Virginia a little bit of pause.

I just think that in general -- you know, this is an area where, you know, the Democrats need to give as good as they get in the culture war side of this stuff.


MILLER: Because what is being proposed in Oklahoma, you know, some of that -- this stuff around CRT is very, very unpopular. You know, I think it was getting mixed up with some other things that I think are more popular among swing voters, you know, but the -- you know, the trigger, MAGA voter trying to ban books is not a winner. And then it`s not a winner, either for them to be dictating your kid`s curriculum.

HAYES: Yes. And that goes -- I mean, I think it does -- there`s two things here. There`s -- one is that there are real -- I mean, there`s a reason that curriculum fights and banned book fights are perennial fights in politics because they are actually sites of real conflict between different peoples with different politics, different conceptions of the good, different visions of what they want their kids to learn in a public system where we have to like, adjudicate that.

And you -- when you said the 1990s, Donna, you know, I was remembering, you know, as a kid in New York City, there was the Heather Has Two Mommies controversy, which was that the kids were getting children`s books about a lesbian couple. And this was an enormous moral panic at the time for sort of the some of the same reasons.

EDWARDS: Well, and it turns out that we have to have an argument that realizes that there is a healthy balance of parents being involved in schools, but also that professionals are making determinations about what is or is not taught in the schools. We got to do this. And if we don`t, we`re going to lose this battle on an important other culture war.

HAYES: Donna Edwards and Tim Miller, thanks for being here tonight. Have a good New Year, if I don`t see you. Who knows, maybe you`ll be back tomorrow trying to get this show on the air.

That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now with Ayman Mohyeldin in for Rachel. Good evening, Ayman.