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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/27/21

Guests: David Sedaris, Ezekiel Emanuel

Summary

Cases of the Omicron COVID variant continue rising in the United States. Legal pressure builds on Donald Trump. One of the most destructive voices of the year is examined. The probe into Congressman Matt Gaetz is updated.

Transcript

[18:00:45]

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Hi, Ari. I owe you 30 seconds.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: No, I`m going to owe you even more, because I want to ask you something.

WALLACE: Oh, yes.

MELBER: It`s the easiest question.

Well, we ask so many questions around here, and they`re about so many serious things. But I haven`t seen you in a minute. My question for you is, just how were your holidays, Nicolle?

WALLACE: Well, so, I will tell you, honestly, they were harrowing.

I left New York is Omicron surge was sort of -- it feels like this thing that is smothering our city. And it was scary. And I was scared that I was going to bring Omicron out to where my folks live out West. And so we tested. My son sneezed for the first time in 20 months, and I had a heart attack. And we all tested and everybody was negative.

But it was worth it. And I think that the tricky thing is to take all these smart, great scientists and doctors we get to talk to you, and all of them said, if you`re vaccinated, and you test before you go, and your family`s vaccinated, it`s safe to gather.

But it`s still -- it`s still this harrowing moment. And you can`t -- even if you shut off your phone, you`re aware of this Omicron thing just sweeping the country. So it was great. And I`m glad that I listened all the smart people that come, but I have to say it wasn`t without some worry that I was -- I think we spent a lot of the pandemic worrying about getting it.

Now I`m just as worried about bringing it where I was traveling. How about you?

MELBER: Well, thanks for asking.

No, that makes total sense. And I think that`s what we`re all living through here, another one of these holiday seasons, as we look at all the numbers, but then look at the humanity of it.

And thank you for asking. Mine`s good. I got to see family. I tested. I traveled safely, tried to. But, yes, I think we`re all -- this is -- sometimes, we`re all divided by things here. This is something that`s tough. But, in a way, we`re all going through it and trying to do that together.

And for me, five, six, seven days without my Nicolle handoff, it`s too much. So it`s good to see you again.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: Highlight of the program, when I hand it off to you, my friend.

MELBER: There we go.

All right, see you, and stay safe.

WALLACE: Have a good show.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Always good seeing Nicolle.

And good seeing all of you again. I have been out, but I am back. So welcome back to THE BEAT.

We have a lot to go through tonight. And we begin, well, with where we already begun, with what I was discussing with Nicolle. You`re watching this somewhere in America or somewhere in the world, I bet you know what we`re talking about, because the Omicron variant, which has proven to be highly transmissible, is swamping America and many other countries as we go through our holidays.

In fact, there`s brand-new health guidance that`s coming out right now late in the day East Coast time, and I`m going to bring that to you in a moment. We also have an expert standing by.

Bottom line, what you need to know is some of what you already know. The daily case count is exploding. Peaks have been hit. Records are being set in multiple states, surpassing last winter`s pandemic peak in many areas, according to "The New York Times."

So, at the end of the day, if it feels like it is worse than ever in some measurable ways, that`s because it is. The United States could hit a million daily COVID cases. Holiday travel plans are hammered, for the third straight day, over 1,000 U.S. flights canceled because of staffing shortages that relate to surging COVID.

And then that news I just mentioned, in the last hour, the CDC is actually shortening the recommended isolation period for those who are infected with the virus from 10 days down to five, if you`re asymptomatic.

As for those who are fully vaccinated and boosted and have been exposed, the CDC only recommends mask-wearing for 10 days, and removing the quarantine guidance altogether. While there`s much bad news mixed in with all this, those are measurable signs from the experts that the best way forward is to be vaxxed and boosted.

Dr. Fauci also floating the possibility of new vaccine requirements for air travel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: When you make vaccination a requirement, that`s another incentive to get more people vaccinated.

If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that`s something that seriously should be considered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Dr. Fauci is not just freelancing there. When he goes on television and says something should be considered, he`s already considered himself and is trying to encourage the rest of the federal government, the Biden administration, to potentially do it.

Meanwhile, a hospital in Israel today administering a fourth vaccine dose as a part of booster testing. The study will continue, despite some warnings that too many shots could actually fatigue your immune system and compromise the body`s ability to fight the virus.

[18:05:04]

In the U.S., tests are now in short supply, long lines and wait times for people who are trying to get tested. That`s something Nicolle and I were just discussing for those lucky enough -- those of us who are lucky enough through work or other reasons to have extra access to testing.

But, of course, the reality is, the more this spreads, and the more that testing is part of the way we keep ourselves safe, the more we see these long lines to even get tested.

The president concedes that, even with 500 million at-home kits en route, there`s much more work to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But it`s not enough. It`s clearly not enough. If I had -- we had known, we would have gone harder, quicker. But we have to do more. We have to do better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: When it comes to doing more and doing it better, or at least scientifically, we have a one-on-one exclusive right now with Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a former Obama White House health policy adviser, an expert on these issues, including, I should mention, the ethics of rationing and the tough choices that continue to be made as long as COVID is this big a problem.

You know a lot of these areas very well. But, first, let me say, happy holidays and happy new year to you, Doctor.

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: Happy holidays to you. Thank you very much. Take it away.

MELBER: What should we understand, especially for people coming out of the holidays, maybe tuning back into the news about how bad it is right now and what should be done?

EMANUEL: Well, we`re really getting the second peak. Thanksgiving got us one peak. And now we`re getting the second Christmas/New Year`s peak, and that will take us into January.

And, unfortunately, hospitalizations lag a little, and deaths will lag even more. But those, I think, are likely to increase towards the end of January.

This was quite predictable. Many of us in the summer were warning about this and worrying about it and suggesting in August that we really need a domestic travel mandate, so that, if you get on a plane or get on an interstate train or an interstate bus, you have a -- you`re vaccinated and now boosted. That would have helped a little bit.

And I think people have to recognize there still 40 percent of Americans don`t have any vaccination. That is a problem.

MELBER: You mentioned the flight guidance, which could potentially become a rule. That`s what Fauci is floating there. For the reasons I mentioned already, he`s not doing that casually.

The CDC did change some of the isolation guidance. I want to put that back up, because that`s new late today. People who test positive for COVID, but have no symptoms isolate for five days, down from the previous recommendation of 10.

Doctor?

EMANUEL: Yes, that`s on the presumption that the Omicron variant, which is now the dominant variant in the country, goes up, the incubation period is short, it`s much more intense, and then comes down.

I don`t know that we have tremendous evidence of that at the moment. And it`s also matched with the guidance about wearing masks for the remaining five days, which I think is very important. And I think this is another thing that we really need to emphasize much more clearly than we have, the importance of good masking.

Like you, I have been out and about. And you see still lots of cotton masks, lots of surgical masks. You really need an N95 or a KN95 mask, respirator, they`re called. And you need it because the flexible band over the nose and very, very tight cupping around the face. That is definitely the best.

And you need to make sure that you don`t get a fraudulent version also. You can do that by making sure they`re NIOSH-approved. And I think, at the very moment, that`s probably the best thing you can do, especially if you`re vaccinated, is got a really high-quality mask and wear it.

MELBER: Well, you`re doing something that I think people appreciate about you, Doctor, which is, you`re using your platform here. You`re on national TV, and you`re hitting the specifics of what people need to do.

It maybe sounds straightforward, but it`s what you`re doing.

A lot of people were criticizing and urging Donald Trump to do that on the vaccine. I just want to show people the facts, because people can make up their own minds. But, in recent appearances, that`s also what the former president`s been doing. In more than one appearance, he says he got boosted. He says the way to stay safe is to get the vaccine and get boosted.

And he says the people who are dying -- fact-check true -- are the ones who didn`t get vaccinated. He`s gotten some pushback from none other than a right-wing figure who recently interviewed him, Candace Owens.

So we`re going to show some of what he said and briefly her pushback. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FORMER HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": Both the president and I are vaxxed.

And did you get the booster?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.

O`REILLY: I got it too.

CANDACE OWENS, HOST, "CANDACE": More people have died under COVID this year, by the way, under Joe Biden than under you.

TRUMP: Yes, that`s right.

OWENS: And more people took the vaccine this year. So people are questioning how...

TRUMP: Oh, no the vaccine worked.

[18:10:00]

OWENS: Yes.

TRUMP: But some people aren`t taking it.

The ones -- the ones that get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don`t take the vaccine.

OWENS: You oftentimes forget, like, how old Trump is. He comes from a generation.

They came from a time before TV, before Internet, before being able to conduct their independent research.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What do you see here in that pushback by some of the very right- wing figures that the president, the former president consorts with, over him simply saying what you and doctors have said, which is get vaccinated?

EMANUEL: Well, let`s be clear, first of all.

2020, we had about nine-and-a-half months of this virus, and then 2021, we had 12 months, so that more people have died in 2021 is just -- is partially a numbers game of how many months you`re counting.

The second thing I would say is that we began slowly. Now, it looks -- in 2020, it looked like it was just pummeling the country, but it was slow compared to what we have had. We have also had much more severe variants, like the Delta variant and like the Omicron variant spreading.

And the final thing I would say is that we still do have 40 percent of the country unvaccinated. And we know that the unvaccinated are at 20 times the risk of hospitalization, ICU treatment and death compared to people who are not -- who are vaccinated.

And so it`s the unvaccinated who are bearing a very big brunt of the deaths now. It is true some people get breakthrough infections and -- who`ve been vaccinated, and, God forbid, they -- some of them die. But that`s a rare event, certainly rare compared to the unvaccinated.

And we have had, as many people like yourself have reported, lots of deathbed conversions of people who denied the virus potential to kill them and sort of made fun of the vaccine and then, on their deathbed, when it`s too late, urged people to take the vaccine, wish they had taken the vaccine.

Why wait? Why wait for that deadly moment when you can`t reverse it? Just take the vaccine. It is safe. Literally, billions of people around the world have taken it with very few side effects.

MELBER: Hey, I hope people are listening. That`s why we have time for the experts. And today is a new day. Tomorrow`s a new day. If someone was holding back, wishful thinking is one term you used, or just not sure or whatever, OK.

But here`s today. Here`s a new year next week. Get informed. Make up your mind, based on the facts, as you just mentioned.

I`m going to say this, Doctor. And I don`t like to bring your family into it. That`s not something I would ever normally do. But I will say this. When you see the Emanuels and the Trumps agreeing on something, well, maybe that spectrum, which is not a Venn diagram we often see, maybe Donald Trump did listen to some of the doctors.

But pick your poison. It`s blue. It`s red, whatever you want to call it. There`s a lot of reason to get informed to make the decisions.

I`m going to move because I got Neal Katyal standing by.

Doctor, thanks, as always, for joining us.

EMANUEL: Give Neal my best.

thank you, Ari. Be safe.

MELBER: Will do.

Speaking of doctors, we have a programming note. Dr. Fauci, recently quoted, will be on with Joy Reid tonight. That`s less than an hour away. So keep it locked here throughout THE BEAT and THE REIDOUT.

Coming up, we have an accountability check for one of the most destructive voices of the year, based on the evidence and the claims made. Talking about Tucker. That`s coming up.

And by the end of the hour, we`re going to get a little more personal as I share something about the era we`re living through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIG BOY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Was 2020 a hard year for you?

MELBER: Hardest year in news for me, for sure.

BIG BOY: Yes.

MELBER: Very sad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Hard times. We`re going to share a little more of that conversation, along with uplift and the power of facts. That`s with the legend from L.A. radio Big Boy himself.

But, first, the pressure on Trump building, talk of a criminal referral. Neal

Katyal and Katty Kay are here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:17:43]

MELBER: We`re back with Neal Katyal and Katty Kay.

Neal, tell us the latest developments here and what`s on your mind in the January 6 probe.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I think -- Ari, nice to see you.

I think the two things that I`d point to are things that Chairman Thompson, head of the January 6 Commission in Congress, have pointed to just in the last few hours.

One is that Donald Trump called the Willard hotel, which -- and the Willard Hotel was kind of coup central. And Trump called right before the attack on January 6, also the night of January 5. Now, we know there are several calls. The people on the other end of those calls, the coup plotters at the Willard, have -- are all claiming privilege. So we don`t know the substance of them.

But the fact that those calls happened is important. It ties Trump potentially directly to that plotting that was going on at the Willard Hotel.

The second thing that we have learned -- and this was also something Chairman Thompson pointed to -- is that, well, we all knew that Donald Trump took 187 minutes on January 6 to condemn the violence -- or not even condemn it, but -- because he said "We love you" and stuff like that -- but to issue some sort of statement about what was going on.

We now know -- or Chairman Thompson has said that he has learned that there have been prior videotapes of what Donald Trump tried to say, that they had to be re-recorded and the like. That was something reported in Jonathan Karl`s book. But now we have the head of the January 6 commission saying, yes, he`s also understood that evidence exists.

So those two things together are significant. They tie Trump more to the events on January 6 than I think otherwise the record had established us for.

MELBER: Katty?

KATTY KAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, look, clearly the committee is zeroing in on those 187 minutes.

And that phone call is important because anything that we can learn about what was in Trump`s mind, what his intention was, what he would have wanted to say to the people who were attacking the Capitol at the moment, that`s important.

It`s unclear whether the select committee will ever get access to either the records out of the National Archives -- it depends on -- perhaps on where that phone call was made from was. Was it made from the residence, in which case there may not be a records of it in the National Archives? Was it made from the West Wing, in which case there may be?

[18:20:04]

But even if they do, the select committee does manage to get the record, it may just be that all we ever find out about that call is what time it was made and who it was made to. Getting the content of that call is going to be very difficult.

The select committee has an enormous amount of information, but there are still key parts of information missing that would prove an intent to get people to attack the Capitol. And that`s why having this phone call record and the content of it, ideally, would be so important. What was Donald Trump thinking and plotting and planning at that particular moment when he made that call?

MELBER: Neal.

KATYAL: Yes, I agree with a lot of what was just said.

So, I mean, mens rea is kind of the essence of criminal law. It`s what distinguishes what`s a crime from what`s an accident, the law of torts. And so in order to prosecute someone, Trump or someone else, for January 6, you would have to show some intentionality on his part.

And that`s what I think Congress is trying to get out now through all this. And it`s true that, right now, all we may know is that a call took place and nothing more. And we don`t suspect Donald Trump will ever tell the truth to the investigators.

But the key point here is that there were people on the other end of those calls, and, right now, they have asserted executive privilege and all sorts of bogus stuff. But that stuff, that`s not going to fly in the courts, ultimately.

And so that power that Congress has, which we call contempt, the power to put someone in jail, unless they go tell the truth under oath, is going to loom front and center for these individuals. Do they want to tell the truth and avoid jail time, or do they want to be behind bars?

MELBER: Yes, both great points from both of you. And it really speaks to why there`s so much hiding. Why hide the call? Why go all the way to the Supreme Court to hide the records? What else is it that Trump or some of his close confidants know about those fateful days that they don`t want to get out there?

Neal and Katty here, happy holidays, and thanks to both of you.

We have our shortest break now, just 60 seconds, but we come back looking at one of the most divisive voices of this whole year, Tucker Carlson.

I have an accountability check and the facts for him in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: This may be a lot of things, this moment we`re living through, but it is definitely not about black lives. And remember that when they come for you. And, at this rate, they will.

The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that`s what`s happening actually.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: They will come for you and replace you.

This is an elaborate conspiracy theory that is gaining traction right now on the American right. It`s a white supremacist claim, and it is that non- white immigrants will replace the electorate, the presumably more white electorate.

Now, this matters because it`s racist and dangerous and influential, with proponents trying to hide and launder and dress up a hateful dogma in a kind of pseudo-intellectual policy framework, peddling warnings about the replacement of white people as some kind of policy discourse on immigration or cultural heritage.

Now, this replacement theory that I`m going to tell you about right now fixates specifically on immigration. It starts with a claim to an allegedly neutral position, the claim that, well, most countries set limits on immigration, and that can include some type of standards for who is admitted to the country.

OK, true enough. Then it pivots in to white supremacist racism, arguing that countries like France or the U.S. are inherently white, so immigration limits must patrol against any racial minorities or foreigners to stop them from -- quote -- "replacing" the allegedly current white residents.

[18:25:04]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.

MARCHERS: You will not replace us! You will not replace us!

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: This is a purposeful resettlement.

CARLSON: White replacement theory? No, no, this is a voting rights question.

INGRAHAM: It`s going to be millions of illegal immigrants into the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re coming to a neighborhood near you.

We are being invaded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re coming to our backyard.

CARLSON: It`s your country. You own it. You pay for it. You were born here. It belongs to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The people trying to stop these so-called invasions from abroad might be surprised to learn this replacement theory itself is from abroad. As an idea, it`s an immigrant. It`s a non-American concept from abroad.

Now, that`s not by any means one of the largest problems with replacement theory. It`s just an ironic side note.

Conservative writer and right-wing politician Renaud Camus, who you see here, he literally lives in a 14th century castle with a 10-story tower, quite the real estate. You can see his lifestyle right there. And he drew on much of the ugly history I just explored with you to, in his view, warn white people in France or other white majority countries of what he sees as a -- quote -- "great replacement" of their original population with newer arrivals, mostly from Africa, those immigrants that he is afraid of.

This is one face of modern white supremacist pseudoscience, claiming to draw on books or policy, and flipping concepts of human rights and crimes against humanity back into a supposed attack on a white ruling class who he argues, who he alleges, who he warns are about to become the victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RENAUD CAMUS, WRITER: It`s a change of people and of civilization.

Great replacement is the darkest thing which can happen. I think the crime against humanity in the 21st century is the great replacement.

QUESTION: You think it is the crime against humanity of our times?

CAMUS: Yes. Yes. Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Camus, under the First Amendment, has the right to share his words across the United States. Issue is not censorship.

But many are drawing on his words to do crime, hate crimes, violence, murder. Now, we`re deep into this special report with all the history. We have not spent much time on the history of the Nazis and the Holocaust in Europe.

Very few topics are clarified with comparisons to Nazis. But neo-Nazis compare themselves to Nazis. They are the modern Nazis. They say so. They are the ones quoting Camus in their marches. That 2017 right-wing rally in Charlottesville was the moment in America that many people first heard a direct reference to this replacement theory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARCHERS: Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Those neo-Nazis take this replacement hatred literally, as do some recent white supremacist mass murderers, like the gunman who killed over 50 people in a New Zealand mosque in those attacks, or the El Paso shooter who killed over 20 people in a Walmart, and stated that this theory made him target Latinos because the Hispanic community was not the target before -- quote -- "I read The Great Replacement."

Today, some of this can be tracked even more precisely in real time. Google has this mountain of data on what people search. The largest spike in Google trends is this year. It`s right now. It`s after Trump`s leaving office. It`s 2021, the term pushed on FOX News. And if some people had not heard much about it yet or thought much about it yet, FOX anchors are changing that, putting it out of the bloodstream, getting people Googling, thinking, talking about it, deciding whether or not this is something that can justify something.

And then, even though I just showed you most people aren`t aware of it, the same FOX anchors claim that people were already preemptively upset about the term`s use.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: The left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term replacement.

INGRAHAM: This is a purposeful resettlement of -- it`s going to be millions of illegal immigrants into the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: So, the claim goes from the fringe to the hate groups to what passes for mainstream conservative opinion, and then moves into the halls of power, where Ted Cruz and other members of Congress and now some Republican officials are either nodding along or literally invoking the exact theory linked to all this hate.

[18:30:05]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R-TX): The revolution has begun. We are being invaded. And they`re not invited.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re replacing national-born American, native-born Americans, to permanently transform the political landscape of this very nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The challenges are not new.

America and many societies have beaten these ideologies before. There are evil, irredeemable people in this world, as there were in past generations, as there may be in future generations.

But if you look at history, as we have here a little bit together tonight, massive movements that change countries and start wars do not need a majority to act only on racism and evil. They actually tend to do something very different. They tend to build on that core, perhaps, but then offer junk science and other theories and other claims to say that certain groups are inferior, to scapegoat, to use an old word, to say that this or that policy is actually a good thing to protect and improve something good, the society.

And they do that so other people -- some might be in on it, some might be ignorant -- other people come along and start to think, well, maybe this is all OK. And that`s how you really get more people on board.

The ideas and premises matter. If they didn`t, then even the neo-Nazis would not really bother quoting these faraway authors in castles, would they? It is very literally a war of ideas and ethics.

And for those of us who believe in civilization and equality -- and there are many of us, many of us -- it is always better to pay attention, to think, to face it down, and wage and win this war of ideas first to forestall any alternative.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:25]

MELBER: Turning to the criminal probe that remains open and involves MAGA Congressman Matt Gaetz.

There`s been this investigation for possible sex crimes, among other allegations of misconduct gets stretched across the year. It was triggered initially by Gaetz`s link to Joel Greenberg a former tax official convicted of several crimes, which we will get into.

But here`s the latest news tonight. Greenberg now must pay almost $2 million for his wrongdoing. He had pled guilty -- this was last spring -- to several crimes, which include identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and the very serious felony of sex trafficking a minor.

He now awaits sentencing in federal court. Greenberg`s pre-agreement -- his plea agreement requires cooperation with these prosecutors. Now, Gaetz, for his part, denies all allegations. And as the year draws to a close, we will note that some of his allies say the length of this probe, without any further action, suggests that maybe the feds do not have any solid evidence on Gaetz.

For his part, he has tried to distance himself from his former ally Greenberg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I believe there may have been a time where Greenberg swung by the office, but it certainly didn`t have anything to do with any bad acts on my part.

When I became aware of some of Greenberg`s misdeeds, I deeply regretted my friendship with him. I deeply regret my association with Joel Greenberg politically, socially, and otherwise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: After much delay, that was the congressman`s attempt to put this past him.

Whether that regret ends there or whether there will be a more dramatic conclusion to what remains an open federal probe, we will update you on, including if Mr. Gaetz ultimately sees his name somewhat cleared.

Now, meanwhile, we are living through some strange times. We can all be sure of that. "The New Yorker" humorist David Sedaris is one of our favorite voices for making sense of the absurd. He`s here to talk politics next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:41:36]

MELBER: We love getting into culture here on THE BEAT.

And we turn now to a literary and cultural icon, a chronicler and observer of America, our lives, and someone who also happens to be pretty funny. He is a well-known humorist and author, David Sedaris, 11 books to his name, several bestsellers.

Thanks for being here.

DAVID SEDARIS, "THE NEW YORKER": Oh, thanks so much for having me.

MELBER: I have read you for a long time, as so many "New Yorker" readers and fans of your books have.

I want to start with politics, and then we will get to the culture. You were writing about undecided voters. And, in our business at tables like this, we often talk a lot about what they`re going to do and how they make up their minds.

You had a little bit different take. You said: "The flight attendant comes down the aisle with a food cart, and eventually parks it beside my seat. `Can I interest you in the chicken?` she asks, `or would you prefer the platter of `bleep` with bits of broken glass in it.` To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked?"

What do you mean? And does that still apply as we go to these next midterms with a MAGAfied Republican Party?

SEDARIS: I mean, I think so.

I never -- I just never understood. Undecided voters get so much attention during every election. And I would watch them on television or hear them on the radio and I would think, you just want attention. How can you not -- how could you not have chosen between these two candidates?

I just don`t -- and everything is -- everyone caters to them, right? What would you need to see? What do you need to say in order to get your vote?

(LAUGHTER)

SEDARIS: Who are these people? I just don`t -- I just don`t really believe them.

MELBER: You keep it real. That`s I think part of what people like about the wit that you have.

And we have just lived through really a big something here with this with this pandemic. You eschew not only social media, but even Zoom. Why?

SEDARIS: Well, something told me that, if I got Zoom -- if I didn`t get Zoom, which I didn`t get, it would get me out of a lot of fund-raisers. And it did. It really did.

(LAUGHTER)

SEDARIS: But then there were a lot of things, like, oh, can you put together a little video and send out a message of hope to people?

And I thought, there`s still TV. There`s still Netflix, there`s still HBO. There`s actual stuff to watch. I don`t know that anybody needs a chin-up message from me shot in my bedroom.

MELBER: You also do late night. And we have a little bit of you reading some of your humor.

This is -- you`re explaining Easter in a French class doing one of your readings on "Letterman." Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEDARIS: "It is," said one, "a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus."

And she faltered, and her fellow countrymen came to her aid. `He call his self Jesus. And then he died one day on two morsels of lumber."

(LAUGHTER)

SEDARIS: The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEDARIS: I never have -- I have this little thing in my ear. I never listen to myself.

(LAUGHTER)

SEDARIS: I met a teacher a while ago. And he had his students listen to some my essays on audiobook.

[18:45:02]

And one kid said: "It`s the old lady I feel sorry for."

And the teacher said: "What old lady?"

And said: "The one they forced to read that thing out loud."

(LAUGHTER)

SEDARIS: Because when I -- when you started playing it, I thought, who is she?

(LAUGHTER)

SEDARIS: And then I realized it was me.

MELBER: How important is it for you to have that audience reaction, to see whether it plays or whether it`s funny? Because you`re not a stand-up comic, but you`re doing these tours. We saw you there.

Do you need to know whether people think it`s funny? Or can you publish a humorous piece and just see whether people agree that it`s funny?

SEDARIS: No, I desperately need that.

MELBER: Yes.

SEDARIS: And I didn`t feel comfortable.

I mean, the past year-and-a-half, there were a number of things that I had published, but I never had a chance to read them out loud to see for myself if they work or not. So when I do get back on stage, my fear is that I`m going to read those things out loud, and I will realize, oh, I was completely wrong about this and this and this.

So, no, I don`t feel comfortable putting things out there when I haven`t had a chance to run them by an audience first, because the audience will tell you everything.

MELBER: We sometimes do a lightning round. Would you be game?

SEDARIS: Sure.

MELBER: All right, in a word or a sentence, so it`s as fast as possible, reading or writing?

SEDARIS: Writing.

MELBER: Writer`s block is?

SEDARIS: Something that journalists ask about, but something that writers never discuss amongst one another, because it`s really not an issue for them.

MELBER: The best compliment of your work that you have received?

SEDARIS: We read it to my mother when she was dying, and she laughed.

MELBER: Your best advice for a young write who might hope to be like you someday?

SEDARIS: To write, and then stack up the pages and learn from your mistakes, and just keep at it, and don`t expect anything until -- for a good long time.

I mean, I think I have been writing like, I don`t know, every day for like 18 years before my first book came out. It seemed normal to me.

MELBER: Eighteen years before a book was published?

SEDARIS: Mm-hmm.

MELBER: And, finally, the best thing about COVID is?

SEDARIS: There were no tourists in New York.

(LAUGHTER)

SEDARIS: It`s just something I just noticed today walking here.

It was like, why? That`s why I have been so happy for the past year-and-a - - half.

MELBER: I didn`t know what you would come up with, but you came up with something.

It`s so great to have you on THE BEAT. I hope you will come back.

SEDARIS: Oh, thanks so much for having me.

MELBER: David Sedaris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: And, again, the book is the "Carnival of Snackery."

Now, coming up, we want to share something really important with you, as we take in the holidays, the tree, the end of this long year. This is about facts in an era of lies.

I`m going to share that with you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:49]

MELBER: As we face another year of pandemic with no real end in sight, the ongoing stress test continues for facts and science.

It`s as important as ever, Dr. Fauci reiterating that knowing the latest facts can really save your life, something I just discussed in a radio interview with Big Boy, who asked me about keeping up with so many things across the board. And we discussed how it is vital to not only know the facts, but keep in mind what you don`t know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIG BOY: It seems, Ari, like you got to know everything.

MELBER: Yes, man, across the board.

That`s kind of you to say. You wants some big facts.

BIG BOY: Yes.

MELBER: And we`re going to put this on -- we put this on the Internet?

BIG BOY: Yes.

MELBER: This is for anyone listening the sound of my voice whenever you hear this is true in any field.

There`s only two things you need to really know. You need to know what you know for real, deeply, fact-checked, and you need to know what you don`t know.

BIG BOY: Damn, that even sounds confusing.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: If you keep in mind what you know...

BIG BOY: That just sounds like hard work too.

MELBER: Well, it is mental work. But if you keep that in mind, it`s not about ego. It`s not about pretending you don`t know -- you know what you don`t.

BIG BOY: Right.

MELBER: You know what you know, and make sure you really know it.

BIG BOY: Gotcha.

MELBER: And this is the -- I mean, if somebody`s listening right now, and they`re 18 about to try to go out into the world, know what you really know.

BIG BOY: Yes.

MELBER: Your field, your expertise. Double-check it. Do your homework. Don`t post before you know.

BIG BOY: Yes. Yes.

MELBER: Know before you post. And then everything else, don`t be intimidated or overwhelmed. Know what you don`t know.

So, if you`re not a doctor, you might not know medicine.

BIG BOY: Right. Right. Oh, my gosh.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: If you know about hip-hop, but you don`t know about opera, it`s OK to say, I`m a big music person, but I don`t know about opera.

BIG BOY: Right. Right.

MELBER: Know what you don`t know, because there are people out there.

We have more access to experts and fans today than we ever did before. So you can go right now on the Internet. You can find -- on the Gram or TikTok and find the opera people, so they know.

And I don`t know anything about cars, Big Boy. I don`t even own a car. So if I have a car problem, I`m not going to be a guy going, I kind of got it. No.

BIG BOY: Yes. Yes. Yes.

MELBER: No, I know what I don`t know, I don`t know about that. And there might be someone else with different life experience who knows so much about cars that, in a minute, they could -- before even Googling, they could tell me something.

BIG BOY: When we look at what this device is that we have, these phones, and now -- and with social media, everyone is a critic.

Everyone talks about something that I feel like they don`t know. When we look at -- even when you look at the vaccine, anti-maskers, whatever it is, it`s crazy how so many people just say, oh, I don`t trust that. I don`t trust that. I don`t trust it.

And they could be listening to someone that doesn`t know a damn thing. We - - they won`t listen to science, but they will listen to somebody that had a chance to set up something in their mother`s basement.

MELBER: I go back to surgery.

You got people going, well, my friend Roger told me they rushed the vaccine. OK, shout-out to Roger. What`s up?

BIG BOY: What up, Roger?

MELBER: Would you let Roger do open-heart surgery on you or your child?

BIG BOY: Exactly.

MELBER: Because that`s the level of analysis and expertise required.

[18:55:02]

Would you let Roger cut open your child? And if you would, we got bigger things to talk about. You may -- you get my point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Shout out to Roger. Now, that`s just some of the conversation.

We talked news, COVID, law at "Big Boy`s Neighborhood." He is a radio and rap icon. Big Boy has been holding court with artists for many years. So I was excited that they asked me to stop by.

Amidst all the news, I got to tell you we did also touch on music. And before we go tonight, I`m going to show you just some of the impromptu lyrics that may have popped up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIG BOY: Where you always looking to be on television.

MELBER: Well, did Drake not say, treat me like I`m blind, you got to hand it to me?

BIG BOY: Jesus.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: "To live & Die in L.A."

BIG BOY: When they don`t think someone watching, watch him in the VIP lipping it.

Oh, you fancy, Huh?

MELBER: Did Pharcyde not say, if I were president...

BIG BOY: Yes, they did say.

MELBER: ... I would make sure all the money spent...

BIG BOY: On good things.

MELBER: ... on good things?

Did Method Man not say...

BIG BOY: What? What did he say?

MELBER: ... F. a rap critic, he talk about it while I live it?

BIG BOY: This (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(LAUGHTER)

BIG BOY: I`m going to ring that cowbell.

That (EXPLETIVE DELETED) just made my neck hurt.

MELBER: You know you got to protect your neck.

BIG BOY: Yes, that is true.

MELBER: Future is not always relevant to the news, but he did say, F. up some commas.

BIG BOY: Yes.

MELBER: Biden is not on some three comma mess. This is four commas. This is trillions.

Lot of babies in the game.

BIG BOY: I like how you brought that back.

MELBER: You know what I`m saying?

BIG BOY: Believe that.

MELBER: And Drake doesn`t believe in naps. I don`t take naps.

BIG BOY: Right.

MELBER: Me and the money are way too attached to go and do that.

BIG BOY: Hey, man, let me tell you also, I really don`t take naps. I wish I did.

We`re going to do this all day. We`re going to...

(LAUGHTER)

BIG BOY: All righty.

MELBER: It`s like Rick Ross said.

BIG BOY: Yes.

MELBER: When the lights come on, that`s when you see who the real guys are.

BIG BOY: Damn.

And I want to tell you, you just stumped me with that one.

MELBER: Respect.

BIG BOY: You just stumped me. I had everything else.

(LAUGHTER)

BIG BOY: Now I want to come with one back on him.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hit him.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Hit me.

BIG BOY: No, no, no, I`m old.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: I will tell you, Big Boy does not really get stumped when it comes to music.

He has been in the culture for decades, you might say back when it was polos and backpacks, back when Ethan was pushing a Subaru hatchback, man. I`m talking way before hashtags.

So, shout-out to Big Boy.

If you do want to see the full interview -- and why wouldn`t you want to see more of that, all that stuff? You could type "Melber and Big Boy" into YouTube. Or you can go to my social media, which is @AriMelber, on any of the accounts where I have posted the link ,tweeted, I.G. We`re on TikTok now @AriMelber.

And you can always connect with me, by the way, in these holidays. And when I`m in and out, you can always find me at AriMelber.com. Sign up with your e-mail for my free e-mail newsletter. We can keep in touch that way.

Now, we do post a lot of extra stuff. I just showed you some of the Big Boy stuff and the fun. And, frankly, during the year, when the news is so fast, we don`t always get to get into it. Sometimes, there`s more than we can share with you here on MSNBC, on THE BEAT. And that`s where the digital stuff comes in, because, if you may have noticed, including TikTok, where I`m playing around a little more, we do try to do the extra a little more casual, take off the suit jacket, when we have fun online.

In fact, here are some of the highlights of what we`re doing with our guests and BEAT viewers online.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Oh, my God, what time is it?

SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": It`s time to do the interview, Ari. Put your phone is a moment. Come on, buddy.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s a moment. It`s a mood. It`s a vibe.

KATYAL: It`s part of the Trump M.O.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s a desperate man.

MELBER: Michael and Ari. It`s like "Roger & Me."

JEFF GARLIN, ACTOR: Dig this. You ready?

MELBER: What do you got?

GARLIN: I`m at the Emmys. I`m waiting to hear if "Curb" wins or not.

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: What we need most is not ideology. It`s evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Fish, and that`s Chips.

DR. RUTH WESTHEIMER, SEX THERAPIST: When are you going to call me?

MELBER: This week.

WESTHEIMER: OK.

MELBER: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: There it is. You can consider it THE BEAT after-hours.

So, yes, come visit me @AriMelber on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok, which is the last thing I want to tell you tonight.

I don`t know about you, but I started hearing about TikTok more and more and more from friends and family. And we were, to be honest, a little late, but we`re on there now. You can see we added the logo here. You see that way. There we go. We added the logo to the tease page here for digital.

So, you go to add @AriMelber on TikTok. I`m going to tell you, I just posted a new one from the holidays featuring both my parents, digging in the crates, looking at their vinyl collection.

So, that`s not a reason to go in there @AriMelber on TikTok, I don`t know what is. Also, real talk, I`m new there, so I don`t have a lot of followers.

OK, the pitch is over. The info is over.

Thank you for spending time with us. I hope your holidays and new year are going OK, even with everything going on in the world. That does it for me.

"THE REIDOUT" is up next, featuring our friend Tiffany.

Hi, Tiffany.

TIFFANY CROSS, MSNBC HOST: Hey, Ari.

Listen, I have a question for you.

MELBER: OK.

CROSS: I have no idea how to use TikTok, so I need a tutorial.

I`m new to TikTok as well. I have no followers. I don`t even know how to use it, quite frankly.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Well, first of all, tell us your handle.

CROSS: I think it`s @TiffanyDCross, because that`s my handle on Twitter and Instagram and everywhere else.