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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 10/13/21

Guests: Neal Brennan, Maya Wiley


Some former Trump officials say they will defy riot probe subpoenas. James Carville discusses the Biden agenda and his view of spending wars that are hitting the ninth inning in Washington. The Biden administration pushes forward on a vaccine mandate for large companies. Comedian Neal Brennan speaks out. William Shatner heads to outer space.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

We are tracking this new heat on Trump officials who say they will defy these riot probe subpoenas, talk of criminal charges.

And, later, James Carville, the Ragin` Cajun, joins us live on the Biden agenda and his view of spending wars that are hitting the ninth inning in Washington.

But we begin now with the top story, the Biden administration offense against a resilient pandemic, taking measures that Biden himself once hoped would not be necessary, pressing forward on these specific rules for that partial vaccine mandate for large companies in America. They could hit by next week.

Biden is waging a policy war that`s actually unnecessary in many other countries, because partisan attacks on science and vaccines are not as widespread in many other places, just something we should keep in mind here in America. They are only growing more rabid, though, in our country, including on politicized turf, like Governor Ron DeSantis` Florida, where the Trumpian governor has been attacking CDC rules, Dr. Fauci and masks to protect children.

Now, context always matters. You hear about this drama, but most people even in that somewhat conservative state still support CDC safety measures like masks. A vocal minority, though, is turning from very virulent to violent, people making personal threats against school board officials who are just trying to keep the schools safe, one, detailing everything from stalking to direct menacing threats of violence.


JENNIFER JENKINS, FLORIDA SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: I don`t reject them standing outside my home. I reject them following me around in a car, following my car around. I reject them saying that they`re coming for me, there I need to beg for mercy.

They`re also going behind my home and brandishing their weapons to my neighbors, that they`re making false DCF claims against me to my daughter, that I have to take a DCF investigator to her playdate to go underneath her clothing and check for burn marks.

That`s what I`m against.


MELBER: This is America right now.

And let me tell you the exact legal facts. Under the law, people have every right to say and believe what they want and to protest about it. And that includes the right to be wrong. It includes the right to believe things that are not even true.

People do not have a right under the law to menace, to stalk, or to attack others for their work or their beliefs or their rights. That`s why the FBI has already confirmed it`s on the case, mulling prosecutions for people who do cross legal lines in this clash around our nation`s schools, which is partly a response to disturbing incidents like this around the country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Klatt wrote about his family not feeling safe, including an incident where a car sat running in front of his house late at night.

PROTESTERS: Let us in! Let us in! Let us in!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Parents berated school board members in the name of their children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir, this is illegal.

SHIRLEY BROWN, CHAIR, SARASOTA COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: They will follow you. They will take movies. They`re like posting our addresses on social media.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: London writes: "I had a woman tried to run me off the highway at 70-plus miles per hour twice on Friday night."

The person cursed at him and said: "I hope someone abuses your kids and forces you to watch."


MELBER: Free speech is protected. Attacking people is not.

And these kinds of attacks are not coming out of nowhere right now. There are people on TV falsely claiming that following the mask guidance for children is itself some kind of abuse, irresponsibly whipping up anger, ignorance and fear.

This pushback feeds on that virulent opposition that I mentioned. It`s part of why the U.S. lags in its target for wider vaccination. That target, from everything we know around the globe, is attainable in this wealthy nation. And yet it is also, this situation is the sad and baroque backdrop to tonight`s news from the Biden administration, which sees people convening on our public schools and trying to convert them into some kind of sick, politically theatrical battlefield for their cosplay and their COVID wars and their propaganda after losing their elections.

And it`s also part of why Joe Biden shifted from carrot to stick, to the mandates. And we know from the data that other mandates have worked. Local city rules, workplace mandates, they have proven effective, according to the data.

And you have the increasing number of people who are vaccinated under the rules. And here`s the other thing we know about this, because this is public health. This is what the government does. This is what journalists do.


You look at the evidence. If something doesn`t work at all, I would come on the news and say they tried that mandate thing. It`s not even working. But, in fact, it has increased vaccinations. And we have seen that when people are vaccinated, well, their odds of getting COVID crashes to one in 5,000.

And if you get the rare breakthrough case, the vaccine still works to insure against a grave or deadly version of COVID. Studies also show, if you`re interested in the facts tonight, when more people are vaccinated in a given area, which is why the epidemiologists talk about that target rate, it also makes that area safer for the people there are who remain unvaccinated, like children. These are facts.

Many people are being fed lies instead, including -- I showed you FOX News. There`s also a lot of stuff on Facebook. There are posts that falsely link the vaccine to random celebrities` deaths to try to scare people with propaganda out of getting vaccinated.

That`s why you can`t get news, let alone medical advice, from random anonymous liars on Facebook, which is a point Dr. Fauci has made countless times as we go through this epidemic together. It`s also echoed in a wise question from the poet Aubrey Graham.

How could anybody tell you the truth when they misinformed? And to quote another one of his lines, I know the question rhetorical, because this is a rhetorical question. That guy there can`t tell you the truth, because liars can never tell you the truth.

Let`s bring in our experts, former prosecutor Maya Wiley, also ran for mayor of New York, and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "The Washington Post" Eugene Robinson. His new piece asks, "How dumb can a nation get and still survive?"

Maya, your thoughts?

MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: I`m vaccinated. My children are vaccinated. My partner is vaccinated. My godson wants to come over to my house, he had to get vaccinate. And it was because I loved him.

And Teresa Sperry is a 10-year-old girl in Suffolk, Virginia, except she has passed away. And the family had a funeral. And the family says she was asked to be a nurse, to escort kids to the nurse`s office if they were feeling sick.

And that mother had to go to a school board meeting and begged people not to believe the folks that came to the previous school board meeting to say that masks were unnecessary, to say that children can`t get COVID or can`t die from COVID.

So your very points that you just made. Ari, are dead, on as are Eugene`s, which is we are living in a time where some of us are having a conversation about our responsibility to public health, while others are having a conversation about their right to, frankly, endanger the rest of us because they`re angry because they don`t feel like this country has served them. And it`s that simple.

They`re not the same conversations. They`re not the same set of trusted people that we`re listening to, and we should not and cannot forget that Donald Trump said a lot of things about COVID that were not true and also undermined mask-wearing for months, as the president of the United States, as he has also spread lies about voter fraud.

So, all of this ties together in a nation where democracy can only work if we`re willing to have a conversation based on the same set of facts, not made-up untruths.

MELBER: And, Gene, we referenced your work, as did Maya.

I want to read a little bit from it. You say: "COVID-19 is a bipartisan killer. Vaccination is not political at all. It`s a matter of life and death. Why would people not protect their own health and save their own lives? How is this anything but just plain stupid?"

And you raise those questions and you explore this. And maybe your questions were also rhetorical, but some people are misinformed because they`re being lied to and they live busy, difficult lives, and they have got information sources that aren`t very good to begin with, and now it`s catching up with them. My heart goes out to them.

And then other people know better and perpetuate the lies, at the risk of their own constituents, viewers, neighbors, you name it, Gene.


I mean, this is not just stupid. It is insane. And it is tragic. It is really tragic. I mean, like Maya, everybody in my house is vaccinated and boosted, if required, if appropriate. And -- but, in my sort of extended family on my wife`s side, there was a couple, a little bit older than I, in good health who just didn`t get vaccinated.


And their reasons were not political, as far as I know, but they just didn`t do it. Their adult children begged them to get vaccinated. But they didn`t.

And you kind of can guess the ending of the story. They both got COVID, and now they are both deceased. I mean, this happens. This is just -- you are just killing yourselves by not -- here`s here`s a vaccine that keeps you from dying from a deadly, tremendously infectious disease that is pandemic.

Why do you not protect yourself? It is -- and it is -- it is just a tragedy that we see unfolding every day. And you look at those death numbers. The 14-day average is something like 1, 900 again, or 1, 700.

I mean, that`s just ridiculous. It shouldn`t be there. We know how to bring those numbers down, to not zero, but close to it. Everybody, get vaccinated.

MELBER: Yes. Yes, it`s so important.

And I want to say we`re leading off with this. When you look at this, what`s happening out in the country, the overall COVID case count is dropping on a tracking basis. And the mandates are working in some places. So it`s a mixed bag, to be sure, but you just see this level of attack. It`s a big problem.

I will tell viewers here our panel stays as we update on the other big story developments here in the MAGA riot probe. There`s a controversial Trump DOJ official now hit with a subpoena. His name is Jeffrey Clark. He`s facing demands now to face investigators and address allegations he pushed this blatant misinformation while Trump was trying to overthrow those state election results.

He was also Donald Trump`s handpicked ally floated to try to take over the DOJ when Donald Trump was trying to take over democracy. That prompted the threats of masks resignations. The Biden administration today also rejecting Trump`s executive privilege request to try to hide what happened inside the White House in those pivotal times.

And tomorrow is the deadline for two Trump aides, including formerly indicted and pardoned Steve Bannon, to put up or get in trouble. Now, he says he will defy this lawful subpoena, prompting pushback from the riot probe`s most prominent Republican, Liz Cheney.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The committee is completely in solidarity. Every single person on the committee recognizes how important it is for us to make sure that we ensure that -- we enforce our subpoenas and that we do so expeditiously.


MELBER: Maya, as a experienced prosecutor, I`m curious about what you see coming down the pike, with Trump officials not even pretending to negotiate. They`re not even really doing the delay thing. They`re just doing the defy thing.

WILEY: Well, and, remember, I was on the civil side of the U.S. attorney`s office, but I will say, on this one, this is not really rocket science.

I mean, you have got a Steve Bannon, who, frankly, has not worked in the White House since 2017, on events that didn`t have anything to do with a job that he had in government. What that means is you don`t get to have conversations with the president and say: Protected. No one can know what we said.

So, of all the people, he is absolutely ridiculous. At the same time, there`s no way that this committee once impaneled had any, any illusion that they were just going to get complete cooperation with witnesses because it just is what the law demands.

And so of course they knew they were going to be in a situation like this where they were going to have to go to the U.S. attorney`s offices and say, hey, look, here we have a situation. We need you to enforce our subpoena power. We have got it under the Constitution. We`re asking you to do it.

And it`s very hard for me to imagine the U.S. attorney`s office doesn`t say, you got it.



And I think what needs to happen is a criminal referral to the Justice Department, followed by prosecution, criminal prosecution of these potential witnesses who are defying these subpoenas. It is just outrageous. We`re supposed to have the rule of law in this country.

Congress has the right to subpoena witnesses. There is no valid claim of executive privilege. I don`t think there`s any claim about all these witnesses, especially since there would be an exception when you`re talking about criminal activity being planned.


But, setting that aside, defiance of the subpoenas cannot be allowed to stand. It simply can`t be. And I hope the Justice Department, when it does get this referral -- and I think it will -- moves swiftly and decisively.

This shouldn`t go on for weeks and weeks. They should move quickly.

MELBER: Yes, especially if people are laying it out. I mean, fairness is fair, but they`re telling you, hey, this is -- they`re playing their card. Then you got to play it back, you would think.

I want to thank Eugene and Maya, important conversation on more than one topic.

We have a lot in tonight`s show. There is a debate raging inside the Democratic Party. How should Biden handle the ninth inning of this spending clash, when he wants to deliver on promises, but also hold this coalition? James Carville is here live. You know he has big ideas.

Later, we have a very special guest on how to get safety and even some humor in this COVID era.

And what Elizabeth Warren is saying about William Shatner and Jeff Bezos.

Stay with us.


MELBER: President Biden`s pushing ahead on this major trillion--dollar spending set of plans, while his party continues, well, its knack for debating itself in public.

Now, James Carville is our special guest tonight, as promised, on the clash ahead.


I think the veteran strategist is basically a part of this high-stakes debate about going big, without going so big that the plans go nowhere.

So, before I bring in James, let me show you how the political math matters here, liberals arguing Biden has the mandate and the timing to really do something generational here. He did beat Donald Trump by seven million votes. That`s a mandate.

Anyone eying the Electoral College, though, for next time knows it also came down, basically, to three states where the margin there were under 50,000 total. So whether Biden or another Democrat runs in 2024, campaign operatives understand this. A shift of a small number of votes in say, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia, well, then the Democrats would lose.

And you can debate how fair the Electoral College is, but that would be the outcome of who controls the White House, and the Supreme Court nominations and everything else.

Now, Biden`s domestic spending positions right now are popular. But, again, that does not mean that Democrats have some kind of lock on the electorate, let alone a full endorsement of Bidenism yet.

Now, in some Democratic and kind of cosmopolitan circles, it`s common to hear things that say, well, Democrats should always go big and be strong and be more progressive right now, immediately.

Now, this here is the news. This is not a closed ideological circle. And based on the evidence and facts we have reviewed, I can tell you, it looks like a more complex picture across issues and regions.

For one thing, Donald Trump`s extremism rallied many groups together last November. Some of it was as much against him as for one coherent governing plan. For another, Biden may not seem technically exciting by today`s standards. He doesn`t tweet like Trump. He doesn`t meme like AOC.

But, again, when you look at the data, it suggests that might be part of how he kept moderates in the Democratic fold. And one political scientist is now saying many Democrats conversed in a kind of echo chamber that lost touch with working-class voters, adding that swing voters in battleground states are not liberals.

That may apply to places like Georgia and Wisconsin, especially after the Clinton campaign`s rude and rough awakening to its weakness in a Rust Belt that D.C. Democrats used to blithely call blue states. They said Michigan and Wisconsin were blue.

Now, at the same time, liberals are pushing back as this debate trends this week, noting that the party`s history with triangulation is not good, and often look more like just handing the keys to GOP ideas and messaging, including undercutting the very type of liberal spending that Biden now wants, which is done through a robust federal government.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know big government does not have all the answers. The era of big government is over.



MELBER: Now, if that debate presents sort of two different options for Democratic leadership, well, let`s not forget the party`s most popular living leader tried to find a whole different third way, a different lane with a different emphasis, talking up hope, and justice and equality on grand terms, which didn`t really relive the past debates.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s been a long time coming. But, tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.



MELBER: And it could be easy for some to forget in the current world of America`s racist insurrections, but, for a time, people openly talked about some kind of enduring, permanent -- quote, unquote -- "Democratic majority."

And that was especially buzzed about after Obama`s reelection, his second win.


OBAMA: I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda...


OBAMA: I know because I won both of them.



MELBER: The ad lib snap. It`s the hardest kind of snap.

Now, the recent history is a bit more clear. More people did vote for a Democrat in the White House in 2016, but not enough to take the Electoral College along the lines of Obama`s larger coalition. And now we`re hearing that the House does look vulnerable to a Republican takeover.

And that has Barack Obama`s own campaign veterans and strategist warning the Democrats could lose soon at this rate. All of this shapes how Democrats govern, how they campaign, and with the stakes that are -- even if you`re tired of people in the media saying it, there`s evidence that it`s true -- the stakes higher when you`re facing a Republican Party that increasingly embraces authoritarianism to undermine democracy itself as it tries to get back in power.


James Carville, if I know him at all, I know he probably has some thoughts about this. He`s our special guest in 60 seconds.


MELBER: We are back with Democratic strategist James Carville.

We just looked at some of the history, two doors, maybe three. Maybe you have a fourth but your thoughts on a debate that, if we take it seriously and fairly, doesn`t necessarily have to have any malign actors in it, but certainly seems to be pressing Biden and the Democrats on what to do right now.


Look, first of all, your history of the `90s, if I could weigh in on this a little bit, I don`t know what exactly irritated you progressives more, the peace or the prosperity. Was it that people wasn`t shooting at us, that we were making money? What was wrong?

By the way, the largest expansion of children`s health insurance, the largest expansion of family and medical leave, the highest increases on taxes on the wealthy, successfully fighting off Newt Gingrich and all the attempts to cut Medicare and Social Security.

So, my history of the `90s is slightly different than the coffee shops of Manhattan. But we will move on to that.


MELBER: Let me jump in.


MELBER: Let me jump in.

CARVILLE: I know you...


CARVILLE: ... sit around and, like, dream big thoughts and that kind of stuff, while the rest of us are sitting here.



MELBER: First of all, I`m -- wait. Wait.

First of all, I`m just a humble news reporter. You get to break it down.


MELBER: Second of all, I grew up in a gun-owning household out West and this and that. We could get into all of it.


MELBER: But with the facts, James, with the facts, I will tell you this.

I hear you on prosperity. The critique -- not that I`m endorsing all of it, but to take it seriously, was that in the `90s you had Clinton meeting Republicans, they felt, people felt, more than halfway. That`s why we showed the big government is over. I think we would all agree Biden`s pushing big government right now.

But, again, I gave you the ball back.

CARVILLE: Again, I will point to the largest tax increase on the welfare. I will point to the expansion of child health care. I will point to the Human Genome Project.

I will point to the expansion of family and medical leave. I point to the fact that Clinton got along with people, and he -- point to the great speech he gave in Memphis and Oklahoma City and other places.

But that`s not the -- the issue right now is, we`re asked -- Democrats in Congress are asked to do very popular things, all right? This -- it doesn`t take much courage to negotiate prescription drug prices. It doesn`t take much courage to raise taxes on the wealthy.

It doesn`t take much courage to expand health care. It doesn`t take much courage. We just got to -- somebody`s got to get in the room and say, OK, we wanted to do 10 things. We can do five. Let`s do these five and then take the other five and run on them in 2022.

But they have got to understand the reality is, they`re just running around like people in a locker room banging the helmets against the lockers. That`s not going to do you any good. You`re not going to move any further than Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema.

So quit this idiotic protesting and hounding them. And tell President Biden, get them in a room. Get the speaker in there. Get the majority leader. Let`s hammer something out. And what we don`t get, let`s go for it and 2022.


CARVILLE: But this is idiotic strategy I`m seeing.

And these are all popular things. And people all want this.

MELBER: They are popular.

So let me -- so, again, let me jump in. With James, it all kind comes -- it comes so fast, I can barely keep up.


MELBER: But on the point on popularity...

CARVILLE: Look, you`re having me on the show. You and I really, we get along well.

But you throw me a fat one, I`m going to hit it.


MELBER: Hey, we`re here for it.

So, let me show the -- to your point about the popularity, you mentioned the drug prices; 88 percent of the country is with the Democratic or Biden plan on that. Medicare, there you see, 84 percent. The paid family leave, which would build, as you accurately say, on some of what happened in the `90s on the Democratic side, 73 percent. That`s huge support.


And yet I also want your view as a strategist on Americans basically don`t know what`s in the plan. This is polling them when you ask about the items, but 29 percent say we don`t know what`s in it at all. Only one of the 10 people claim to know a lot of specifics.

And I don`t know about you James, but sometimes the people who say they know a lot of specifics don`t. So the real number might be under 10 percent. Is that a failure of Democratic messaging, sir?

CARVILLE: Yes, of course it is.

And they didn`t get out in the country enough. They didn`t sell it enough. We sold process and a number. And everybody fell into the number. Well, Bernie Sanders says $6 trillion, and Biden says $3.5 trillion, and Manchin says 1.5.

And, of course, your mind is numb. And, I mean, if you`re buying something, you want to know what it is you`re buying. And I don`t know. And I clearly support and like this president. I don`t know why they didn`t do a better job of selling this. I don`t know why they didn`t dispatch congressional people and people -- I don`t know.


CARVILLE: The best time to plant an oak tree was 25 years ago. Second best time is right now.

Start selling. Sell. It`s popular. You`re selling popular stuff.

MELBER: So, you have been in the room.

How does that work, whether you`re talking to a President Biden or it`s the speaker or others? How does that work? Because this has come up so many times on our air recently, that you wonder how the professionals aren`t doing it. You said, yes, people want to know more than the price tag. Absolutely.

We were talking the other night that if people are debating restaurants and all you hear is the price and not the name of the restaurant and the cuisine, you don`t have a lot to go on. If somebody says I got a car for you, it`s 80K, and there`s another one that`s 40K, and you don`t know that it`s a well-priced Porsche vs. something else, you could come up with all the examples.

Why do we in this moment in America get so stuck on the prices only?

CARVILLE: Because they lapse into jargon. They lapse into the press, which doesn`t know -- is unclear on what`s going on.

And they get in the meeting and they think it`s beneath them to go out and sell. Well, my mother sold encyclopedias. I believe you got to sell. And you got to say, this is the best, this is the greatest booth to the middle class we have had in America since the New Deal.

This is the greatest boost we have had. This is -- these are not sound, effective, good policies. These are the best policies you have ever seen in your life. These are going to make your life significantly better. It`s going to give your children a better future. It`s going to make life better all across this great country.

And if you do that and you show enthusiasm, and you show some moxie here, and get out there and sell, then people are going to like you. But a lot of people in the Democratic Party is, that`s beneath us to go out there like we`re some kind of selling pots and pans door to door.

Well, you know what? Give me a good pots and pans door-to-door salesperson, and I will show you somebody who can sell a message. That`s me. I`m a huckster. I`m a proud huckster. And we don`t have enough hucksters in Washington.


MELBER: Did your mother sell in a store or door to door?

CARVILLE: No, door to door, World Book Encyclopedia.

And you know what? She believed in the product. And they were good products. She didn`t call them encyclopedias. She called them educational materials. And she was doggone good at it.

She used to bring me in there, and she`d say, James, what is the capital of Vermont? And I would say, Montpelier.

The guy is genius. Look at that.


CARVILLE: But she always called them education materials.

And she sold hard. These are the finest things that you will ever get in your house.


CARVILLE: And they were actually a good product.

MELBER: You know what the final question is?

CARVILLE: Go ahead.

MELBER: When they open the door, did she lead with the encyclopedia or did she lead with the price tag?

CARVILLE: So, she would do it -- inevitably, she would have us look for a bass boat and a bicycle, because she said that shows you that they have children and disposable income.

And so she`d go in and make the pitch and they would bring the man of the house in. This was South Louisiana in the late `50s, early `60s. And he would say, well, Ms. Carville. That`s good. I`m sure we need them, but we got school starting. We got expenses. Maybe you come back in three months.

And she said, sir, I find it interesting that you can afford a bass boat for yourself, but you can`t afford educational materials for your children. Boom. He was dead. He was signing anything.

OK? She could come in for the kill better than anybody. And I learned so much sitting at that woman`s feet. She knew how to pick her targets. And then she knew how to set it up. And then she knew how to crush it.

And I`m proud that I developed that and learned that at her feet. I really did. And we got to learn that. We got to sell.


MELBER: We always learn different things. Bless your mother. I didn`t know that story, but it makes sense from what I know about you that you are her son, with the way that you go door to door your whole life.


James Carville, thank you, as always. I suspect we will continue this discussion.

When we come back: William Shatner blasting into space, but Senator Warren has a view about that about this and economic equality.

And, meanwhile, we have been talking about COVID policy, but what about culture and escapism and learning something as we go along and laugh together? We have a special guest coming up.


MELBER: Most people feel 2020 was quite a strain. And, for many, 2021 still often feels like a much-hyped rebound that never fully arrived.

Now we`re less than three months away from the end of 2021. And, look, COVID is still here, along with its stresses, sacrifices, the endless debates, as we covered in tonight`s lead story.

So how do we keep coping with the way we keep living these days? Culture can be part of the answer. One new hit special tackles life stuck inside. People can relate to that, while another new Off-Broadway comedy show, "Unacceptable," tackles everything from anxiety and mental health to politics and anti-vaxxers.

It`s the brainchild of Neal Brennan, a veteran comic who you have probably seen and whose work you have probably watched over the years. He`s written for Ellen, Chris Rock, and Dave Chappelle. Brennan was the co-creator of the influential and controversial "Chappelle Show" on Comedy Central.

And his comedy plays with rhetoric, culture and assumptions. On a recent coffee trip with Jerry Seinfeld, Brennan talked about a bit he does that criticizes the beloved concept of pet ownership.



NEAL BRENNAN, COMEDIAN: People go, I`m a dog momma.

And I go, you know who else was a dog mom? That dog`s mom?



BRENNAN: Yes. Like, then that`s ruined.

And some audiences don`t like it, that I`m ruining dogs. The only thing I really value in the world, ideas. New ideas are the only thing I care about.


MELBER: Brennan is funny, but he`s actually pretty rigorous about ideas. You might have seen a recent clip where he channels a conversation that many have had to go through these days, where maybe someone you know tells you that they did their research, and they concluded they oppose the vaccine.

He offers a satirical, but firm roast of that entire amateur framework.


BRENNAN: I got a buddy who -- just one of my friends, like, I just think they rushed the vaccine.

I`m like, I didn`t know you`re an epidemiologist.


BRENNAN: I thought he worked in telemarketing.

Another friend is like, yes, I`m not taking it. I go, why not? He goes, I just don`t want to mess up my DNA like that. I was like, Greg, I have met your family. I think you can go ahead and risk your DNA.


BRENNAN: It`s not that -- not -- the DNA, to be honest, is not that valuable.


MELBER: Comedian, writer, and now Off-Broadway star Neal Brennan joins us.

Thanks for being here.

BRENNAN: Hi. Hi, Ari. How are you, buddy? I`m having a hard time.

There we are. Hey. There we go.

MELBER: Take your time.

We talked about life in 2021. It still involves a lot of Zoom. So get comfortable.

BRENNAN: Yes, I still haven`t gotten the hang of it at 18 months in.


MELBER: Yes, well everyone learns at their own pace, Neal.

Let`s start with the anti-vaxxers. When you go at them either in that -- what we just showed or Off-Broadway, in front of Broadway audiences, which are vaccinated, are these based on anti-vaxxers you have found or more people you have just learned about indirectly online and through media?

BRENNAN: No, I know some anti-vaxxers.

And I actually thought of a sketch idea, which would be a white noise machine for when someone you know and respect starts talking about their vaccine theories. And you can just turn a white noise machine on, and then it covers up the stupidity and you can keep respecting them.

No. Yes, it`s been -- the people that come to see me have to be vaxxed and they have to wear a mask. And that`s been -- it`s fine doing comedy for people in masks, because, if a joke doesn`t work, I can just tell myself like, well, that laugh must have gotten caught on the masks.


MELBER: It`s just -- you can`t even catch it. But it was in there.

I mean, Neal, when you look at this debate -- and you have done comedy that`s tackled a lot of America`s problems -- is this exactly what we were headed for? Or does this somehow seem worse and more depressing? And where do you find the funny in that?

BRENNAN: Well, you`re not wrong in that you would -- you think like, well, not this time, and then it just keeps happening over and over and over again, whether it`s the -- America`s paranoid political style or what.

I just think it`s everything`s so fractured. It`s impossible. Like, facts have become debatable. I mean, it used to be two plus two equals four. And then a few years ago, people started going like, no, it`s five now. I saw it on Reddit.

MELBER: I hear you.

BRENNAN: And we all just have to live with that.

MELBER: I hear you. I mean, first of all, I think the viewers care about facts, a lot of the ones I hear from. So I think that resonates.

But, personally, it resonates with me because we`re out here talking about, well, here`s what the evidence shows, here`s what we know, here is what we don`t know. And then you run into people who are like, actually, you don`t know anything, and no one knows anything. And that`s why I can feel what I want to feel.

And I`m like, respect. Like, I`m not here to tell you how to feel. But there are things we know. In fact, if you look at charting human history, the reason that we have like cars to drive or bridges or you can pick any examples is because they`re things that get known. And if you don`t know how to do them, then, right, you wouldn`t go to someone who claims to be a heart surgeon because they said so, but they don`t have the training. I think that`s pretty straightforward.


MELBER: Go ahead.

BRENNAN: I mean, I think I think we have to listen to what Nicki Minaj says about the vaccine. And we have to listen to what DaBaby says about HIV.

But that`s how people have started to think, is that there is no -- there`s no boundary between news and entertainment now. I have even heard of news shows having comedians on, Ari.



MELBER: I was like, oh, where`s he going? There`s where he`s going.

And you`re referring to comments. I mean, Nicki Minaj made some really false comments about how the vaccine works. She also said she was concerned about this and that. And, again, people have the right to debate this stuff in public.

But if -- as you said, if it`s not factual. DaBaby, of course, was making terribly homophobic comments, which was a big scandal in hip-hop.

Mental health. You have a show where you`re sharing a lot of your apparently personal vulnerability, the way your mind works. How much of that is real? How much of that is exaggerated for the comedy you`re doing? Does it matter? And just to make it a harder question, do you think that this might help some people for you to share what you`re going through?

Because lord knows it`s a tough time for a lot of us.

BRENNAN: Ari, it`s about 90 percent made up.

No, it`s entirely factual. And it really -- I know it helps people because they wait for me after the show. And they tell me, and they D.M. me, and they message me on Twitter. And it`s -- it happened with my last Netflix special, "3 Mics," where I talked about depression and all the treatments I have done.

And people still -- in that clip you shared from "The Breakfast Club," Charlamagne said he got into therapy because I talked about it. Like, that`s a huge thing. And if everyone talks about it -- people who were sort of friends and family were kind of like, I wouldn`t talk about this in public.

I knew I was just going first. You know what I mean? I wasn`t -- I will -- it`s like, I will start. Here`s my issues, right? And then everyone goes, you know what? And then everybody else goes.

So that`s kind of the idea. And, so far, so good.

MELBER: Wow, that`s cool. That`s cool to hear your thinking on it.

Neal, we have quoted you on THE BEAT before because some of your punchlines really make interesting political points. They slap, if you will. But it`s nice to have you on. I appreciate you coming on.

And, again, for folks in New York, the show is "Unacceptable."

Thank you, sir.

BRENNAN: "Unacceptable."

Thanks, buddy.

MELBER: Thank you.

William Shatner actually going to space for real, but also reigniting an important political debate about taxing the rich next.



MELBER: The final frontier.

Ninety-year-old actor William Shatner, who everyone knows as Captain Kirk in "Star Trek," actually rocketed up to the edge of space today in a 10- minute flight.


WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: What you have given me is the most profound experience. I can`t -- I`m so filled with emotion about what just happened. I just -- it`s extraordinary, extraordinary.


MELBER: Quite a moment.

This was the second ever flight from Blue Origin. That`s the company from Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos.

"The Times" reporting on this budding space tourism industry, where the wealthy can buy into orbit. Some progressives now criticizing Bezos for the whole thing.

Remember, Amazon gets all kinds of tax breaks worth hundreds of millions of dollars, they don`t really pay the full share that most humans do.

Senator Warren ripping into how giant corporations have had this free ride all the way to outer space, and they need to pay their fair share.

It`s an important debate. Now, we recently heard from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson about this tension, as people struggle with real problems on Earth.


NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST: We vote every year for representatives to then create a budget of things we value, OK?

So there`s art. Is art putting food on someone`s plate? No, but it creates an environment where you want to live.

We can do it all, all. So don`t just say, why are we spending there where we should be spending there? Let`s spend it in both places, period.


MELBER: That`s the cosmic view. Try to do at all. The sky`s the limit, while Senator Warren`s arguing, if Bezos can literally fund other people`s rich space tourism, he and Amazon could pay their actual full tax rate to address poverty and starvation right here on Earth.

Now, what is President Biden`s full report card so far? I got to tell you, someone just pressed me on that very question.

And I will show you an answer next.



MELBER: People get news from magazines, newspapers, TV.

Many still get it from good old radio, which has seen a resurgence, as even local radio shows are streamed nationally, which includes one of the top New York shows, Hot97`s "Ebro in the Morning," Ebro Darden, Laura Stylez and Peter Rosenberg talk culture, music, news and politics.

And I just dropped by their show. We got into everything from Biden`s presidency, to how people treat the vaccine-hesitant, to some music questions. And we just put together a few key moments for BEAT viewers now.


PETER ROSENBERG, RADIO HOST: If I`m watching a news show, I have been watching my guy Ari.

EBRO DARDEN, RADIO HOST: Ari, I watch you so much that I can tell the nights that you are hanging out with Fat Joe or 50 Cent the night before.


MELBER: Can you?

DARDEN: I can.

MELBER: How can you tell, Ebro?

DARDEN: The fact that you haven`t shaven.

MELBER: Joe Biden still has higher approval now, which includes independents and some conservatives, then Donald Trump ever had his whole four years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s great content.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, you played yourself.

ROSENBERG: I have just found myself recently sort of annoyed and grossed out, frankly, by my fellow progressives that their only way they see vaccine-hesitant people is that they`re selfish, they are, for lack of a better word (EXPLETIVE DELETED) they don`t care about anyone.

MELBER: Republicans are saying in public that reforming the legal immunity that police use is off the table. Well, every civil rights leader that we have had on THE BEAT that we talked to said that`s essential.

ROSENBERG: Another issue we`re very divided on in this country, and I think it`s a problem, is an issue that we don`t need to be divided on, because it`s -- they`re unrelated issues.

And that is "Certified Lover Boy" and "Donda."

DARDEN: I know you were going to go there.

LAURA STYLEZ, RADIO HOST: Has there ever been a time, OK, in your show`s history where you quoted a lyric, and you F`ed it up?


STYLEZ: Bye, Ari.

DARDEN: Stay out the club, man. Shave. You know what I mean? All this coming in at 3:00 a.m., knock it off.



MELBER: They have fun.

If you want to see the whole interview, you can visit me online @AriMelber. We will post that video link. You can also just search Melber and Hot97 on YouTube.

And we want to tell you one more thing that might be relevant to New Yorkers. I will be moderating a special discussion with Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman this Sunday, October 17, 7:30 p.m. Go to that link on your screen right now. You can get tickets in New York. They will also stream it online. You can watch it from the safety of your home.

That`s at You see the link to join me and the Nobel laureate Paul Krugman.

As for right now, well, it`s "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID," so you can join Joy.